October 2008


Tonight we leave town for the weekend, off to the far eastern exurbs of Los Angeles to hang out with John’s family, and to celebrate his grandmother’s eightieth birthday.

I know there is a lot of stuff on the internet about how stressful and difficult people find their inlaws, and I want to say for the record: I am really fortunate. John’s parents and siblings are warm, welcoming, loving people, and they have made every effort to integrate me into their family. I love them.

But is it possible to love them and still have a jangled nervous feeling about the prospect of a visit? The purpose of the visit- grandma’s birthday – means there will be a large gathering of extended family. John’s family is large, (very large), and much of it is conservative, (very conservative), all of them are vocal, (very vocal), and several of them find my chosen career path and noticeable lack of offspring perplexing (very perplexing). I am feeling A LITTLE ANXIOUS about spending the weekend before election day amongst a very large very conservative very vocal crowd which is very perplexed by my life choices.

I plan to address this anxiety by self medicating the best way I know how: with my mother in law’s super creamy spinach artichoke dip. Also cookies. And leftover Halloween candy. I can only hope my mother in law stocked the bowl with Baby Ruths this year.

When I first started working here, the IT guy, who takes his job EXTRAORDINARILY seriously, set up my voicemail for me.

“Pick a secret four-digit code that will be difficult for people to guess,” he said. “Memorize it. Don’t write it down anywhere. This is your voice mail passcode, and it should be known only to you.”

Dude, it is VOICE MAIL. This hardly seems like the kind of thing that merits this level of seriousness. I do not work for an agency that is in possession of nuclear secrets. Most of my voice mails are from (a) my boss, asking me if I’m done with that memo yet, (b) my other boss, asking me if I’m done with that other memo yet, or (c) my mother, asking if I’m ever going to call her back and what if she had fallen and were lying on the floor incapacitated and ended up having to have her leg amputated because I had failed to call her back? What then?

But fine, the guy takes his job seriously, so I played along. I made up a four digit number that was difficult to guess, memorized it, and used it as my voicemail password. Things continued happily for approximately six weeks, until one day I tried to check my voicemail and was told that “for security reasons,” it was time to reset my password to something new. And it should be hard to guess. And I should not write it down.

So I picked a new number, slightly less obscure than previous number, went about my day.

Six weeks later: same deal. This time I picked date and month of my birthday as new password because frankly, my capacity for coming up with and then remembering random four-digit passcodes is pretty limited.

Six weeks later: new password. Used bank ATM Pin.

Six weeks later: year of birth.

Etc etc etc.

Which brings us today, when my mother-loving phone demanded AGAIN that I change my password for security reasons. OH MY GOD MY VOICE MAIL IS NOT THIS SENSITIVE.

IT guy, your overzealous commitment to password security has officially backfired. If you’d let me keep my original passcode, I would still have something comparatively hard to guess. Instead, this morning I picked the only new code I could come up with at 8:54 am when I needed to check my voice mail before I went to a 9 o’clock meeting.

My password is now 1111.

There, terrorists. You now have my voice mail password. Happy snooping. If you wouldn’t mind calling my mother back and telling her that no, I haven’t forgotten about her, I’m just busy, that would be swell.

There is currently someone sleeping in every single room of my house, which is great for all of them except I have to go to this pesky thing called work, and each component of that process – ironing day’s blouse, eating bowl of cereal before departure, typing long-overdue post – involves stepping gingerly around/over a sleeping boy.

Yes, folks, it’s college reunion time again here at Casa de Pseudostoops.

John’s friends are lovely guys, and it’s great to have them visiting (though sad that the reason they chose this weekend in the first place, which was potential Cubs World Series Home Games, ended up not happening).  But when all of them are taking the day off work and spending it exploring the city and eating out for lunch and drinking in the mid afternoon, it makes me insane with jealousy.  When they are doing all those things AND they need the car to do them, thus requiring me to take a bus, a train, and a mile-long walk in the rain to get to my first meeting of the day, that jealousy veers dangerously towards grumpiness.

Fortunately, I have a strategy for days like this, and that strategy involves mochas.  Probably twice a week I go to this awesome coffee shop near my office and get a small drip coffee- no latte, no cappuccino, nothing too spendy.  But they have these punch cards, which they punch with any purchase (even a small drip coffee) and when you get ten punches, you get a free drink.  I’ve noticed that most patrons of this coffee shop seem to redeem the free drink card right away, using it to purchase “the usual.”  I, however, hoard these fully-punched cards like  a freak.  I save them up for days just like this, days when I need a little pick me up, days when going up to the counter and ordering a large dark chocolate mocha and watching the $5 price tag ring down to zero when I whip out my punch card gives me a little moment of much-needed joy.

I sometimes feel a little bad, using my punch cards on such a luxurious expensive drink when I earned it by buying the cheapest item on their menu.  But they don’t seem to mind, and I always stick a buck in the tip jar when I use one, and have you HAD a dark chocolate mocha?  Even if they did mind, even if they rolled their eyes dramatically at me for such clear abuse of the punch card program, it would be TOTALLY WORTH IT.

Am I the only one who does this?  When you have some benefit coming to you (a free coffee, a gift certificate, a Target gift card) do you use it right away on whatever mundane thing you happen to buy next, or do you save it up for a special occasion?

I took two days off at the beginning of this week. Monday I had a million unexciting errands to do and was coming back from out of town and our vacation days don’t roll over from year to year so I just took the day off to get all the laundry, grocery shopping, cooking, etc done.

Tuesday I had to go to the dermatologist to get a bunch of stuff hacked out of my skin. Wheee for possible skin cancer!

When I left the doctor’s office on Tuesday, the nurse told me that I am not allowed to work out for two weeks. Six months ago, this would have been awesome news: a medically-endorsed reason for my persistent couch-potatodom! Wahoo! Except in the past several months, I’ve really gotten into a good habit of actually being active every day. Often, it’s just a 20 minute workout dvd (apparently, for me, the actual getting out of the house and too the gym is too much when the couch is right there, beckoning, offering snacks) but I’ve even gone so far as to try a spinning class. I take exercise Very Seriously these days, it seems, if I’m willing to endure an hour with a chipper 22 year old barking “sprint up that hill!” into a microphone while I attempt not to die on my stationary bike.

So I was displeased at this instruction from my doctor. Sure, for the first couple days when I’m sore and grouchy it makes sense. But I know myself, and I know that two weeks of “off” time is more than enough to reestablish a serious lethargy habit. So I pressed the nurse on it, and she said “well, it’s mostly for cosmetic reasons, because if you pull at your stitches the scar will get bigger, and you could bust a stitch which would be very bad, but… I guess if you MUST, you could go for a jog. But nothing else. Jogging. That’s it.”

Ew. Jogging? I hate jogging. LOATHE jogging. I don’t even like the sound of the word. (Side note: my friend Tribecca, the fittest person I know in real life, insists that “jogging” is an evil word – the proper term should be “running”. I agree.) Years of asthma have taught me to believe that I am bad at jogging, that jogging causes pain and wheezing and a strong feeling like I need to stop and lie down. But, I AM trying to be healthy, plus my brother in law moved in with us two weeks ago and I have come to count on my workouts as a brief reprieve from our suddenly-crowded house, so yesterday I put on some sweats and a hat, and went for a run. Outside.

And you know what? It was kind of horrible. (Sorry, were you looking for a heartwarming story of how I conquered my fear of running, and it wasn’t that bad, and I got a huge endorphin rush? No dice.) I still, as it turns out, hate jogging. But my fitness efforts of the past several months seem to be paying off, because I was able to run for 22 continuous minutes, and when I got home and calculated my distance on gmaps pedometer, I learned I had run for 2.6 miles. 2.6! I feel like a superhero! 2.6 miles is almost a 5K!

So in an effort to keep things interesting on the fitness front, I’ve decided that I’m going to aim to run a 5K. I have yet to identify what race I’ll do, but I figure by putting it here I’ll keep myself a tiny bit accountable. Plus, I may or may not have volunteered to train for a half marathon with Nilsa (paging Crazy, party of one!) so it’s probably a good idea for me to, you know, get started on that. Wish me luck.

The other day I was reading a magazine (Real Simple if you must know, and I don’t care what you say, it is AWESOME,) and I encountered a feature on makeup. Not exactly groundbreaking stuff for a magazine, I realize, but this one had a twist: “show our makeup artist all the stuff you already own and she’ll take it and show you how to create a new look without buying anything new.”

This was kind of a refreshing change- how often does a magazine feature a story that doesn’t subtly (or not so subtly) encourage you to go out and buy new stuff? One of the women featured in the article liked natural looking makeup- I can relate- and she was very pleased with her “after” look, particularly because it was fast/easy. “I could do this on the train on the way to work!” she said.

And I didn’t think much of it, because no one actually DOES their makeup on the train to work, right? That’s just a way of communicating how easy/fast/simple/not involving a lot of specialized equipment the process was, right?

WRONG. This morning, on the train on the way to work, I watched a (young! beautiful! totally not needing this much makeup!) woman go through the most painstaking, involved, multi-stepped makeup routine I have ever seen on someone who wasn’t getting married. It involved: concealer, some sort of “Brightening” product, pressed powder foundation, loose powder blush, bronzer, liquid eyeliner, two colors of eyeshadow, three coats of mascara, two coats of lip gloss, and some sort of loose translucent powder to finish.

Did you catch all that? Especially the part about the loose powder blush? And the liquid eyeliner? ON THE TRAIN, people. If I tried to apply loose powder blush and liquid eyeliner in the comfort and relative stillness of my own bathroom, I would come out looking like a clown- I cannot fathom how one would do it on the train.

This is not the first time I have seen unusual train behavior. Others strange things I have seen people do on the train include:

  • Eating soup
  • Clipping fingernails (ew)
  • Clipping TOENAILS (different time; double ew)
  • Yoga
  • Putting on tights
  • Wearing a chicken costume
  • Having sex (unconfirmed; I averted my eyes QUICKLY)

What about you, fellow commuters? What’s the weirdest thing you’ve ever seen someone do on the train?

These days, I often feel pulled between conflicting objectives.  Just yesterday, for example, I felt torn between my recent efforts to be healthier and avoid high fructose corn syrup and my very serious desire to buy a bag of Tootsie Rolls from the Halloween candy aisle at the grocery store.  (Improbably, the healthy lifestyle beat the Tootsie Rolls.  I rewarded myself for my good behavior by eating three packets of M&Ms I’d swiped from work as soon as I got home.)

Or take, for example, the constant tug of the more stuff/less stuff battle.  I’ve been trying hard to keep clutter to a minimum, to stop accumulating so much, to keep closer tabs on my spending.  I’m trying hard to be more mindful of what I actually need, or really want for reasons other than just “ooh! shiny!”  Shoes and books are my biggest culprits- we definitely do not need a single additional shoe or book in this house, yet I find myself consistently eyeing a new pair of heels or boots, and I can’t seem to walk out of a bookstore empty handed.  This has led to a lengthy list entitled “Shoes I covet but am not allowed to buy” (actually exists on my computer), and a strict “no bookstores” policy.

(What, you want to see an example?  Fine.  Here you go.  Aren’t they beautiful? )

As part of this “accumulate less stuff” campaign, I’ve also started trying to waste less food by meal planning.  This does not always work (see, eg, last Thursday’s steep descent into fiscal and culinary irresponsibility via Homemade Pizza Company) but it’s helping, and it’s gratifying to use up all the groceries I buy in a week without letting the veggies go slimy in the drawer.

Sometimes, though, being such a frugal and waste-free consumer is a major bummer.  Case in point:  I made some blondies from a recipe that looked really delicious the other day.  They smelled awesome, looked awesome, and tasted….not awesome.  But they weren’t terrible, either.  Therein lies the problem.  If they were truly wretched, I would have been able to overcome my reluctance to waste food and throw them away.  But since they’re merely average, not awful, my “waste not want not” ethic is butting up against my “be healthier” mission, and I’m stuck.  Because I really don’t want to undermine my health efforts by eating a bunch of high calorie, less-than-fully-delicious blondies, but I can’t justify making a new batch of more-delicious goodies until this current batch is gone.

You would think, perhaps, that this would be a good thing: uninspired by current treats, but with no other treat options in the house, I would forego treats entirely!  Break the sugar cycle! Become the kind of person who doesn’t crave desserts!

You would be wrong.  Last night I ate 12 jumbo marshmallows from a bag that was leftover from a camping trip.  A camping trip we took in August.  Yes, clearly this “avoid high fructose corn syrup” thing is going swimmingly.

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