March 2009


In addition to my shiny new dri-fit shirt, the Shamrock Shuffle swag bag included a lot of ads and coupons.  Most were for things I had no interest in (Chicago Marathon! Indianapolis Marathon! Champaign Marathon! Twin Cities Marathon!  Sweet goodness, how are there so many crazy people out there keeping all these marathons in business?)

But among all the ads for crazy-long runs, there was a coupon for $10 off a $50 purchase at Whole Foods.  Ooh baby.

We live walking distance from a Whole Foods, and while I do go there fairly regularly, I am VERY limited in what I get there.  This may be more than you wanted to know, but I am one of those crazy annoying people who frequents like 4 grocery stores: the little produce market for cheap veggies, Trader Joe’s for cheap snacks and string cheese, Jewel once a month or so for things you can’t get anywhere else, (like Triscuits and pretzel-flavored goldfish) and Whole Foods.  At Whole Foods, I limit myself to things that, to me, are worth the insane markup: chicken and ground turkey in those fairly rare times we eat it; fancypants cheese for company; the brand of hummus we love that’s not available at Jewel or TJs; gorgeous berries when they’re on sale and/or in season; and bulk dry goods, like barley flakes and quinoa, that can be hard to find other places.

So usually, because it’s so close and because I don’t buy too much there, I’m in and out of Whole Foods for substantially less than $50.  But this coupon presents the perfect opportunity to try out some yummy new and/or exotic food items.  You know, something like thai-spiced sweet potato chips, or wasabi-roasted pistachios, or $10 vanilla extract.  Something I would never buy otherwise but which might, just might, be worth the crazy price tag. I could, obviously, just get a bottle of wine, or some stuff from their deli takeout counter, but that doesn’t seem as special.

So tell me: are there any wacky, crazy-delicious food items that you think might be available at my local Whole Foods that I should try?

A few weeks ago, I mentioned that I’ve been training for an 8K.  The annual Shamrock Shuffle is a rite of spring in Chicago: it’s the opening of  running season, a big party, and chance to get outside after a long winter spent pounding out workouts on treadmills instead of sidewalks.

I signed up for the Shuffle with some friends from work, which I highly recommend if you’re the wimping-out sort: by signing up with casual co-worker friends, you will feel tremendous pressure not to bail.

If I’d signed up with really good, lifelong friends, my thinking might have gone something like this: “these people have seen me through thick and thin, they know I’m not athletic, they’ll understand and still love me if I end up walking the whole thing.  Maybe I should just volunteer to pass out Gatorade at the finish line or something.  They won’t mind.”

Since I signed up with work friends, however, my thinking went something like this: “Oh dear crap, I’ve signed up to run 5 miles with people who seem kind of sporty.  I’ve warned them that I am not FAST, per se, and they’ve assured me they aren’t either, but I have my doubts.  That one guy in particular seems like he’s probably fast and fit.  It will be hugely embarrassing if I end up having to let them go on without me because I can’t hack it.  I’d better get my ass in gear.”

So I followed a program and trained for the Shuffle and, lo and behold, I did not entirely hate it.  I still don’t get the “runner’s high” people talk about, but I can go out and run for 3 miles and feel like I’ve gotten a good workout, without wanting to die.  Victory!  I worked my way up to longer distances, I was confident I’d be able to finish the Shuffle without stopping to walk, and I was really looking forward to the race.

A week or so ago, one sporty guy work friend got last minute tickets to London for this week, so he bailed on the Shuffle.  Understandable.  Then, on Friday, other work friend said that she wasn’t going to run it either, because she wasn’t feeling well, and she had to travel for work this week and it didn’t seem wise to push it.

Hm.  Suddenly I was running the Shuffle alone.  Less than ideal.

I called up some old friends who I know are runner types and asked them if they were shuffling.  Success!  They were!  We made plans to meet up.

Sunday morning at 6:45, I got up to get ready.  I walked over to the bedroom window, looked outside, and saw: 4 inches of snow on the ground.

OF COURSE.

At that very moment, my cell phone pinged with a text message from my old friends, who said that they were hard core, but 4 inches of snow was a lot even for them, so they were bailing.

I took it as a sign, and climbed back in bed.

The Shuffle did go on:

How miserable does that look? I just couldn’t muster the will to go by myself to the park to wait for an hour for my group to start, then run through that, then go home on the el by myself.  There was only one way I could see that scenario ending and it was with me sick in bed after contracting a slush-induced fever.

But, see, I couldn’t just forget about it and go back to bed.  I’d already picked up my race day packet, which included a souvenir Dri-Fit tshirt.  I’m new to the world of Dri-Fit tshirts, but I bought my first one a few weeks ago and I am IN LOVE.  I want MORE, and I was really excited to start wearing my new Shamrock Shuffle Dri-Fit shirt, but I didn’t feel right about it because I hadn’t actually RUN the Shuffle.  (I am the same girl who did not play with her Christmas or birthday gifts until I’d written thank you notes.  I’m a little prissy about these things.)  I was also kind of pissed off: I’d trained hard for this thing, and I was proud of how far I’d come.

So yesterday afternoon, I laced up my sneakers, put on my sweats, and headed to the gym, where I ran the 8K (and a little more) on the treadmill.  I know it’s not as hard or authentic as running it on pavement, but it still felt like an accomplishment.  Now, the next time I head out for a run, I can put on my souvenir Shamrock Shuffle Dri-Fit shirt and only feel like a little bit of a fraud.

The route I sometimes run in the morning takes me past several schools, including the largest high school in the city.  (It has 4300 kids.  I went to a school with 3200, so I’m hardly a small-school girl, but 4300 seems mindbogglingly big to me.)  This morning I start work a little later than usual, so I went for my run at about 7:15 instead of my usual 6am.  An unexpected side effect of this delay was that I was running past the high school right as kids were streaming in for the day.

Is it embarrassing to admit that I got a little bit of a high school anxiety flashback?

I didn’t loathe high school, but I certainly didn’t love it.  Like many, I felt nervous and self-conscious and left out much of the time (this despite the fact that I had some truly stellar friends, several of whom I am still close with today, 15 years later.)

Running around the school this morning, in my schlubby yoga pants and sweaty face and slow, plodding pace, I felt that old familiar pang of self-consciousness.  As I passed a group of boys, they burst into laughter, and I immediately assumed they were laughing at me.  (Which = preposterous, as I’m certain that a group of sophomores pays about as much attention to the 30 year old lady jogging past them as they do to their geometry teacher.  As in, not much.)

It’s funny: when I was a teacher, I walked confidently through the halls of the schools I worked in, never really worried about what the kids thought of me.  (Because I knew, for the most part: they either thought I was pretty cool or totally annoying, and I was fine with both assessments.)  Even now, when I’m doing schools stuff for my work, I can walk into the halls of a high school or middle school and feel just fine, even though those kids don’t know me at all.  But something about jogging past them in all my sweaty non-glory made me feel a little nervous and awkward. It reminded me of the time when it seemed like so much could turn on an offhanded comment or a minor mixup or an embarrassing gaffe.  And I was in high school in the mid-90s, when we were all about grunge-y tshirts and baggy jeans, so I didn’t even have to worry about committing social suicide by carrying the wrong purse or wearing jeans by the wrong designer like kids do today.  (Or at least that’s what Gossip Girl would have me believe.)

Around this time of year, as the weather starts to turn and spring and summer approach, I often feel pangs of nostalgia for the old days.  I recall how free it felt to go out, newly-obtained drivers’ license in hand, music way too loud, hanging out with friends on the beach as the weather got warmer and the nights got longer.  I think of awkward, long-anticipated first kisses in parks on balmy spring and summer nights, and the rush of staying out past curfew and speeding home, hoping not to get in trouble.  I remember sitting on the sand with a high school boyfriend, watching a lightning storm roll over the lake, talking about college and the future and the joy of feeling for all the world like someone really got me for the first time.

I usually think of these times a little wistfully, thinking that my adult life could use a dose of that exhileration.  But jogging past the high school this morning, I remembered that it was exhilerating in part because there was the ever-present risk of rejection and embarrassment, angst and anguish.  And so today, as I plodded along in my old-lady sweats, I felt pretty okay with being past all that.

There is nothing more annoying, I know, than someone whining about jetlag. “I’m so tiiiiired,” they complain. “I’ve been on vacaaaation, and now I’m so tiiiiiired.”

It just feels like the worst combination of whining and gloating.

So I won’t do that.

I will, however, gripe a little about our wretched flight home, which featured:

  • middle seat for John, behind woman who kept her seat reclined for the ENTIRE FLIGHT
  • seats in nearly the back row, where we were apparently sitting on the engine, it was so loud
  • strong evidence suggesting that the person who had occupied my seat before me had horked all over the floor, making it less than tempting to shove our carry on bags down there
  • a drinks cart that ran out of diet coke before it got to us
  • an hour delay, plus 25 minutes of slow circling in the air before we landed at O’Hare
  • no movie. (Stupid MD80s. Worst planes EVER.)

All of this is a long way of saying: my hair is a mess, I’m not wearing makeup, and I’m going to work in jeans.  I hope they’ll forgive me.

We’re headed to California this weekend for a family gathering for my grandmother’s 90th birthday. Since I couldn’t quite decide how I feel about this trip, I have made a list of pros and cons:

Pro:

  • 80 degrees
  • celebrating long healthy life of grandma
  • 80 degrees
  • get to hang out with sister, who I haven’t seen much recently
  • shorts and flip flops
  • 80 degrees
  • sunshine

Con:

  • There will probably be golfing. I hate golfing.
  • Grandma in her advanced age has gotten a little persnickety and often does not technically appear to enjoy the company of her family.
  • Drama ensues.
  • We’re going to have to miss most of the first round NCAA tournament games while we sit around the living room chatting.
  • We might run out of gin.

Pro:

  • Did I mention 80 degrees and sunny?

On the whole, since it’s 27 degrees here right now, I think the pros have it. Off to pack spf 1 zillion and wait for the work day to pass so I can hop on a plane!

Last night, in an effort to avoid green beer-swilling crowds, John and I went to an Italian place for dinner. We were sitting at the bar, contentedly munching our gnocchi, when the doors of the restaurant opened and in marched a group of bagpipers and a drummer. They marched into the restaurant playing, stopped in the middle of the floor and knocked out 5 or 6 songs, and marched back out. They were actually very very good, and it was the perfect dose of St. Patrick’s day spirit- fun music, no drunk frat boys. As I turned back to my plate of pasta and my arugula salad, I had to smile. Chicago is a fun town on days like St. Patrick’s Day. Weird, yes – since one would not really expect an Italian restaurant to be on the bagpipers list of hot St. Patty’s day spots – but fun.

Those of you who don’t work in the legal field may not be familiar with AboveTheLaw, a law gossip website. (I know! Dorkitude at its finest! I also read a Supreme Court watch blog!  I am too cool for words!)

Anyway, ATL used to be largely a place where lawyer-on-lawyer weddings were reported, and where law firm sex scandals first broke, or where you could hear the best stories about summer associates getting wasted and doing stupid things.   These days, though, ATL is widely-read by people looking for news of the latest round of lawyer layoffs. While there are doubtless many people who take some pleasure in watching pompous BigLaw associates tumble, I derive no joy from this news.  These are my friends (some of them), and losing your job sucks no matter what your industry.

But it’s not just layoffs.  Many firms are delaying start dates for their incoming class of associates, and this has led to some interesting new developments.  As this story and others explain, many firms are offering their incoming associates substantial sums of money – $5000 a month from some firms, others $75,000 a year – to go work for a non-profit. It’s not quite the $160,000 they’d have made as first year BigLaw associates, but it’s nothing to scoff at.

On the one hand, I think this is great.  Non-profit legal agencies are chronically underfunded, and in times like these the need for their services is even greater.  Programs like this essentially give these agencies much-needed help for free.  Win-win.

On the other hand, and I don’t want to be a total grouch about this, I feel a little miffed.  Getting a non-profit legal job out of law school in ordinary times is hard, often way harder than getting a firm job.  In tough economic times its even harder.  I worked my ass off to get my job, and I know several excellent public service-minded lawyers who struggled even harder than I did in the job market.  It’s hard not to feel a little grumpy that these BigLaw associates, some of whom initially turned up their noses at doing poverty work, are now getting paid (literally) twice as much as I am to do it while they wait for their firm position to open up.

But that’s not the point of this post.  The point of this post is to provide a very few quick tips for any laid-off or deferred law firm associate types who may suddenly find themselves on the public interest job market.  I’ve seen a couple of these resumes already, I will doubtless see more, and I can already identify some mistakes that I’ve seen multiple people make.

Pseudo’s hot tips for lawyers who suddenly find themselves on the non-profit job market:

1. You should probably be able to say why you want to work here beyond “my firm is paying me if I can find some non-profit work.”  We like free labor, we do, but we’d like to see some indication that you are actually at least kinda sorta interested in the work we do.  You don’t need to have lots of experience in public interest (though that’s a huge plus), but you do need to show that you’re interested in learning and doing a good job with the kind of work we do.  If you aren’t, it’s not really worth it for us to bring you on board, free or not.

2. Don’t tell us the name of the fancypants designer who made your suit.  And probably leave the Tiffany cufflinks at home.

3.   Actually, there is no 3.

Really, that’s it!  Seriously!  Not many tips, but you’d be amazed how many people blow it on #1. Please think about the story you want to tell us before you send us your stuff!  Find a way to explain how the corporate for-profit work you’ve done has given you skills that will help us and our clients.  Please don’t just assume that we’ll be grateful to have such a stellar former BigLaw candidate as yourself offering to help out.  Non-profits are often small, people skills matter, and we want to believe you’re not going to be a total pain in the ass to work with.

Good luck out there.

This week is off to an auspicious start after a truly hellacious morning commute.

It was not hellacious in the usual way, however, which involves ill-timed trains and long-stalled red line rides.  No, today’s commute was unpleasant because of the terrible, horrible, no good, very bad, drag queen.

(That’s not what you were expecting, was it?  Me neither!)

For me, the first rule of morning commute is: you do not talk during  morning commute.  Most people respect this.  It is early, many of us are pre-coffee, and it’s just not nice to subject your fellow office drones to your cell phone calls or other chatter before 9am.  On the evening commute I’m a little more forgiving, but mornings are for silence and ipods.  Maybe magazines.

So the first bad sign was when I got on the train and there was a huge amount of noise- commotion, laughter, shouting, etc.- coming from the middle of the car.  I put on my ipod and hoped it would die down.

It didn’t.   I stole a glance in that direction and saw a huge, wild-eyed, still dressed up from Saturday night drag queen, sitting with a similarly-shouty friend.  They seemed to be enjoying the spectacle they were causing- the uncomfortable glances from the business-casual-clad crowd, the nervous shifting in seats from the people sitting around them.  “Whatever,” I thought.  “Annoying, but whatever.” I turned my ipod up a little.

Then, the noise got even louder, and when I glanced over again, things had taken a turn: drag queen was now standing up and leaning over to shout in the face of another passenger.  She was making fun of this poor woman’s hair, her makup, her professional dress.  She kept yelling and mocking and laughing, her face about an inch from the other passenger’s, as everyone sitting nearby looked around nervously.  It got worse and worse, the queen cursing and leaning in ever closer, making fun of this woman, baiting her, trying to get her to fight back.

And I was sitting way across the train car, but I briefly thought about intervening, yelling out “hey, knock it off” or something, ANYTHING, to divert the queen’s attention away from this poor woman.  But I didn’t.

It got me thinking, as these situations always do.  I know, there are lots of reasons not to intervene when presented with these sorts of circumstances: unpredictable people do unpredictable things, and you don’t want them turning their unpredictability toward you.  I get that.  But I also think that most of the time, people engaging in this sort of behavior are getting a cheap thrill out of lording power over some innocent bystander, but are really cowards underneath.  Many times, it seems, having someone call them out and tell them to stop is enough to get them to, you know, stop.

But no one did, and I got off the train before I saw the situation improve any, and now my morning is a little bit soured and I’m left wondering if I should have said something.

I have, in the past, inserted myself into situations like this, particularly when it’s kids/teenagers misbehaving.  (It must be the former teacher in me.  I should note: my friends and family do not love it when I do this, but sometimes it seems I cannot help myself.)  Other times, though, I keep my mouth shut.   I know that, realistically, I was sitting too far away to really do anything this morning, but I could have moved in their direction…  But maybe woman getting the haranguing, who was doing an admirable job of just ignoring it, wouldn’t even have wanted anyone to say anything, for fear it might have escalated things?

Sigh.  There are no good answers in situations like this, are there?  What about you?  Do you get involved when you see stuff like this?  Look studiously the other way?  Does it depend on the situation?

When one is wearing a long-sleeved dress shirt, tucked into pants or a skirt, how does one prevent it from puffing out all weird and creating the impression of a serious beer gut when one sits down?  And how does one avoid having to constantly having to readjust/shove it back down into one’s waistband?  Because I think the whole stand up shove shove shove adjust adjust adjust routine I’ve got going on over here is compromising my efforts to appear professional in meetings.

(No, seriously, how? I need tips! I feel like I have failed some sort of “Professional Attire 101″ course over here.)

So!

Did I mention that I signed up for an 8K?  No?

Remember like months and months ago when I sort of accidentally took up running and said I was going to run a 5K?  And then I never mentioned it again, because I kind of hoped everyone would forget?

Well, a few weeks ago, some friends from work coerced me into signing up for the Shamrock Shuffle.  So it appears that I am running an 8K in a little more than two weeks.  Eep.

Now, I know for “serious runners” (ahem, Nilsa) the Shamrock Shuffle is a laughable little fun run which hardly even counts as a road race.  But when your personal longest outdoor run ever was previously 1 mile, and your personal longest treadmill run ever was previously 2 miles, an 8K is nothing to sneeze at.

In fact, I was pretty convinced I was not going to make it, so I sort of held off on telling you until now.

But! On Sunday I did 4.5 miles, which is almost the full race distance, so I think I might just be able to finish this thing.  Given my newfound confidence, I feel comfortable telling you about my 8K plan, which directly led to the following story:

To train for the Shuffle, I’ve been following a program.  (I know! It’s only 5 miles! Who needs to follow a PROGRAM to be able to run 5 miles?)  (I do!) According to the program, I was supposed to run 3 miles this morning.  I set my alarm for 6am to give myself plenty of time to get to the gym, run 3 miles, and shower before work.

(We can see where this is going, right?)

At 6:58 am, I bolt up in bed and look at the clock.  Shit.  Am a full hour behind schedule.  Cannot reschedule run for after work, as I am going wedding dress shopping with Bird, and then to drink champagne.  (Whee!  My life, it is SO HARD.  I KNOW.)  So I jump out of bed, throw on sweats, and jog to the gym.

At this point I’m running so late that I figure I only have time for a 20 minute run if I’m even going to have a prayer of getting to work on time.

“Hm,” I think to myself.  “What’s a way I could maximize my 20 minute run?…  I know!  Speed work!”

(Do I technically know what speed work is?  Not really.  It’s just a term I hear runner-types bandying about.  But I figure it must mean something like “try to run faster,” right?)

So I set the treadmill to 7.3 (super hard for me) and proceed to pound out 2 miles in 17 minutes.  I am elated! This is my fastest yet!  And I got a good workout in in less than 20 minutes!  I rule!  Am running goddess!

I slow the treadmill down to a stop, and step off to go get a towel to wipe the machine down aaaaaand…..my tired legs can’t support me and my right knee buckles and I completely and totally eat it on the (very grimy) gym floor.  At prime gym-going time.  In front of approximately 143 people.  Awesome!

So: speed work!  Makes you feel good about yourself for about 15 seconds, until you fall flat on your face and remember why you are not so much a runner.

(But I’m still doing the 8K.  Don’t let me wimp out.  If you don’t hear me talk about it on Monday the 30th, call me out, okay?)

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