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Internet, would you be so kind as to weigh in on something for me?

You see, my husband and I are at opposite ends of an issue, and I’m not sure if it’s one of those things where there is a definite right and a definite wrong, or if it’s one of those things where there’s a fat grey area in the middle, or if it’s one of those things that no one really cares about at all.

But I care. I really do. And I need you to tell me if I’m caring meaningfully… or if it’s one of those things like “all of the sudden” vs. “all of a sudden,” where I feel Very Strongly about one way, to the point where the other way grates on me a little (I just finished a book that gave me a LOT to think about, and filled my head with horrible images and the woe of a hopeless, heartless, cruelty-filled world, and yet one of the things I remember the MOST is the author’s [incorrect, I maintain!!!] usage of the phrase), even though I am 90% certain that it’s simply a matter of preference or a matter of regional variation rather than a matter of right or wrong.

(See also: the difference vs. “flick off” and “flip off;” and the difference between “pants” and “de-pants.”)

Lest I get riled right off the subject, let us move back to my original request, which is for you to weigh in on something.

Specifically, I’d like you to weigh in on food temperature.

I’ve touched on it briefly before. But I want to discuss it again, and there’s a practical reason behind my request: I’ve recently joined a breakfast-making club at my new job (my policy at least for the first few months will be to say yes to everything, because I want to become part of the team as quickly as possible, and plus, who says no to a breakfast-making club?) and so even though my assigned Breakfast Day is a few weeks hence, I am already fretting thinking about what to bring.

(Let me assure you that I have no idea whether I used “hence” correctly back there. In fact, I’m leaning toward not correctly. But I like the way it sounds there, so there it stays.) (Behold! The deterioration of the English language is before you!)

(I would also like you to know, apropos of nothing, that I am making dinner while writing this post. I’m making tacos, if you must know, because they are easy and delicious. And I am pausing in between sentences to eat freshly grated extra sharp cheddar cheese. My husband and I are at odds when it comes to cheese, too, just to be completely forthright with you. He prefers sharp while I prefer extra sharp, despite the fact that I shredded up some extra sharp for our chili last week and he didn’t know the difference. I even TOLD him that I’d done it and he ADMITTED that he didn’t notice the difference, and yet he still maintains that not only is sharp superior in flavor to extra sharp, but that it melts better, too. I am choosing to see this as very charming instead of infuriating and so have shredded two piles of cheese on the cutting board for tonight’s tacoing. The extra sharp is for me.)

(Perhaps this post would stick a little more closely to the point if I weren’t constantly pausing to stir the taco meat or stuff my face with cheese.)

So: food temperature.

The other day, I was thinking out loud about breakfast foods I could bring for my first breakfast-making club assignment, but I kept hitting on one major issue: heat.

My office is a good 30 minutes from my house, so I ruled out anything that needs to be eaten whilst piping hot. Which is… everything. Bacon. Eggs. (Ack. Especially eggs.) French toast. French toast casserole. Pancakes. Waffles. Grits. Oatmeal. (Gag.) (Are there… other breakfast foods?)

Because I firmly believe that food-that-is-meant-to-be-hot should be hot. HOT. Not warm. Not lukewarm. Not room temperature. Not cold. HOT.

That is why I do not eat cold pizza or take bites of Chef Boyardee ravioli from the can. (Double gag.) That is why I prefer to heat leftover soups and spaghetti on the stove rather than in the microwave. That is why Thanksgiving is so stressful for me: so many meant-to-be-hot items that all need to be ready (and hot) simultaneously.

But my husband avers that I am in the minority when it comes to food temperature. He, after all, doesn’t need a bowl of soup to be visibly steaming in order to enjoy it. (How? HOW does he enjoy it?) And he thinks that I am wrongly – stupidly, even – ruling out a whole list of food that most people would find completely palatable at room temperature.

To that I say ew.

(You are beginning to feel sorry for my breakfast club, aren’t you?)

But I am willing to acknowledge that my food quirks are not universal. And if I AM in the minority, well, why should my entire breakfast-making club have to pass on some perfectly good lukewarm French toast casserole just because I believe it needs to be hot or not at all?

Anyway, what I want to know is, how important is food temperature to you? Is there a range of acceptable hotness? Do certain foods have a wider hotness-spectrum than others? Which foods MUST be served piping hot and ONLY piping hot? You can extend your answers to non-breakfast food, if you like – I’d be interested anyway.

And, as long as we’re thinking about food, what would you like to eat at work on a Friday morning? (Gluten free suggestions and links to recipes would be VERY welcome.)

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Some of the discomfort-causing aspects of the New Job are expected: I don’t know the people I’m working with, so I’m trying to get used to them. I don’t know how to work in an office, so I’m getting used to that. I don’t really know what I’m doing (it’s a new field and a totally new way of writing and communicating with the target audience), so I’m trying to learn as much about my new company as possible.

But many of the discomfort-causing aspects of the New Job are unexpected. And rather silly.

For instance, meetings. For many of the past umpteen years, I never had more than two meetings a week. (And those, of course, were typically over the phone and with people I knew, about subjects I understood.) But my new company is meeting-heavy, at least so far. It makes sense for this company – there are multiple moving parts and it’s critical to understand what’s going on in other departments. I’m telling you that because it seems like you might be shaking your head and tsking softly and thinking to yourself that meetings are stupid. I tend to agree: meetings are usually stupid. But so far, I haven’t been to a meeting that didn’t seem useful.

But there are so many aspects of meetings that are unusual to me. There’s a special meeting-scheduling program that this company uses, and so I’m learning to use that. And even though the scheduling program’s purpose is to find open slots in the schedules of multiple people, I feel weird and intrusive scheduling a meeting in a spot without at least asking the other person if it’s okay. And it seems weird to just assume that we’ll meet in someone’s office. Shouldn’t I ASK, before I just say, “Hey we’re meeting at this time whether you hoped to have time for a bathroom break between meetings or maybe some time to do actual work and by the way, it will be in your personal space”?

And then IN the meetings, I never know what to do. Is it okay to bring a bottle of water? Sometimes it seems that other people do this; sometimes they don’t. I can’t determine what the beverage-bringing rules are.

And if you’re meeting in someone’s personal office, is it acceptable to set something on her desk? Like, your notebook? No? It’s not okay, right?

And using the phone? So weird. I haven’t used anything but a cell phone for… a decade, I’m pretty sure. Plus, it seems so very strange to talk on the phone when other people are trying to work no more than a few feet from you. (Also, they can hear your entire conversation!) But something else that’s a little hard to get used to? The cube-to-cube calling. You told me – which was VERY helpful – to pay attention to the other people and figure out what’s acceptable and what isn’t, and I have paid attention: and people call each other when they could probably hear each other if they simply raised their voices a little. Okay, okay – I know raising one’s voice isn’t conducive to a working environment. And I get that sometimes two people need to be able to look at their own computer screens simultaneously. But it’s just… new and interesting, is what I’m saying.

There are other quirky little things that have been throwing me off balance, but I can’t seem to remember them right now. (Oh! I just now remembered one: the delete key on my office computer is in a different spot than the one on my laptop. Weird! Unbalancing!)

And, of course, there’s the big thing: wanting to prove to my superiors that I was a Good Hire, but feeling like I’m trying to learn a new language while walking on my hands. Underwater.

Okay, it’s not all that bad. But it’s a teeny bit stressful, this New Job thing. (And lonely. Lonelier than being at home. But I’m hoping that will change.) (It will change, right?)

I’m also hoping that I’ll eventually stop being so exhausted that I can stay up a little later than 8:00 pm.

 

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Let’s get this right out in the open:

There will be no space travel anytime soon, Internet.

Okay, so perhaps you are all, “So?” Or, “Oh yeah, you made a big deal about That Whole Thing for quite a while. I had totally forgotten.”

Or, “Who are you again?”

But in my HEAD, I feel like you are staring at me – you know, in that surreptitious way, looking away quickly when I turn around, pretending you are staring into space and Thinking Deeply or waving at someone over my shoulder or engrossed in the details of the ceiling directly above my head – and wondering What Is Up.

So, whether you are wondering or not: there is nothing up.

On purpose.  For an undetermined time period.

Because…

Well, because I got a new job.

!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

It’s very exciting because it’s AWESOME. Seriously awesome. I’ll be writing, still, but for a non-profit. And it’s an organization that does work I feel passionate about and proud of. Everyone I’ve met is smart and dedicated and passionate, and I can see myself really making a difference, which is great. I feel positively giddy about the whole thing.

But I am, also, a little nervous.

You see, I haven’t started the job yet. (And of course, now that I’ve published this, I am a teeny bit worried that it will evaporate or I will find that it was All a Dream.) Anyway, I am not scheduled to start for a few days. So I am spending my free time thinking about how different it will be.

The biggest difference between this job and what I do now?

It is an Office Job.

Which means, I am sure you’ll understand, that I’ll be leaving my house each morning, and driving to an office, where I will stay – in the office – with other people – multiple other people – for hours at a time, day after day.

One of the big reasons I first considered this job – apart from the fact that it just seemed like too good an opportunity to miss – was that I need to be around people more often.

I love the work I’ve been doing for the past seven years. But… Seven years is a long time to be cooped up in a house by one’s self.

Being able to do my work from anywhere in the world has been a fabulous gift. Most importantly, it’s allowed me to maintain steady income despite the impermanence of my husband’s training.

But now that we’re staying in this lovely city, it’s time for me to put down roots. Not just by buying a house… Not just by trying to make friends… But by becoming an active, contributing member of our community. And taking an Office Job is a good way to do that.

(I know you didn’t ask me to justify why I am switching jobs. I guess I just feel a little sad to be leaving this part of my life behind. Excited, of course, but a little sad.)

So – to circle back (I seem to do a lot circling back, don’t I? I suppose that means I do too much circling away. Perhaps I need to hire some sort of tangent sheepdog to keep me in line.) – one of the reasons I’m so excited about this new venture is that I’ll get to interact with real, live people every day.

But… I’m also a teensy bit scared.

Not of the job or the people. But of no longer working from home.

Because I’ve never really HAD an Office Job before, Internet.

Sure, I worked in a doctor’s office a couple of summers. But it was my DAD’S office, so I’m sure that’s a different experience than most people have.

Then I worked for three months in a ministry, which wasn’t technically an Office Job because a) it was in the basement of a church and b) there was no real sitting and officeing – just mostly working one-on-one with the clients we served or the volunteers who gave their time. (I don’t know – maybe that DOES count as an Office Job? I am realizing that perhaps my understanding of what constitutes an Office Job comes from unreliable sources, like The Office.)

Then I worked for another summer in the marketing department of a big company. So I guess THAT was an Office Job.

But the thing is, that last one there? The most recent Office Job experience? That was in 2003.

So I am WAY out of practice.

This is where you come in, Internet!

I need you to tell me what to expect from Working in an Office. The Dos and Don’ts, if you will.

You see…

When I’ve visited clients, I’ve had to do SOME work in an office.

And it always seems so awkward to me.

Simple things… Like, do I send an instant message or an email to the Marketing Manager? If I were at home, I WOULD do that… but now she’s only three feet from me, so it seems weird and unnecessary.

But then again… the alternative is to either get up from my desk and go over to hers (is that okay?) or to speak to her out loud, where the whole office can hear.

Neither of those things seems better. They seem kind of… interruptive.

And what if two people are talking near me?

When that’s happened at a client’s office, I just tune it out. But frequently, I’ll then find out that someone was trying to bring me into the conversation, and now he’s mocking me because I am so focused that my ears don’t work.

But if I try to be constantly aware of what’s going on, well… that’s exhausting and sort of hampers my productivity.

So what’s the ideal way to deal with people when you’re all smushed together in the same space?

And lunch.

Here at home, I make whatever I want for lunch. Wedge salads. Stir fry. Tacos. Nachos. Whatever sounds good, or whatever I can heat up from last night’s dinner.

When I go visit clients, I either go out to lunch with a few of the staff members… or I pop out to a nearby restaurant and bring something back.

But I live too far from the office to come home every day. And eating out obviously isn’t doable every day.

Also, I don’t want to be That Girl who brings something stinky and grosses out the whole office.

Also also, I am picky, so it’s hard for me to make lunch on a good day, when I have my whole refrigerator at my fingertips.

So… what does one bring for lunch when one works in An Office?

(I have spent a LOT of time thinking about this, Internet.) (I am being 100% serious.)

And while we’re on food… I am pretty accustomed to being able to go to the fridge and grab something at any time. Twenty times a day if I choose!

But I’m guessing employers/coworkers frown on that in an office setting?

Can I bring some almonds and an apple and a granola bar to snack on throughout the day? Or is constant munching going to lead to a Weird New Girl label?

And what about the bathroom?

I drink a lot of water, Internet. Is there, like, a bathroom trip limit I need to be aware of?

What if there are other people in there? I don’t think I can do inter-stall conversation. I really don’t think I have it in me.

What else?

Is there REALLY a water cooler, and do people ACTUALLY discuss things around it?

Basically, I’ve figured out that I should probably wear some real clothes instead of yoga pants and a tank top. But other than that, I really don’t know what to expect.

So if you have ANY TIPS about Successfully Working in an Office, I would love to hear them!

 

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And we’re jumping right in today, Internet! Monday, bullets-style!

– Since my tentative declaration Wednesday that I had seen no silverfish since Monday’s extermination, I have seen TEN SILVERFISH.  They seem to concentrate themselves heavily in the master bath area, so you can imagine the intensive inspection process my towels go through before each shower.

The consequence of seeing so many – TEN, in four days! As opposed to one or two a week! – coupled with the exterminator’s Words of Doom hanging over my head means that I am a nervous wreck. Every time my foot itches, my heart rate jumps into the danger range and I scrape violently against the nearest surface. I feel Ghost Tickles as I imagine dying silverfish crawling up the insides of my pant legs. And every speck on my floor makes me leap onto the nearest chair or husband. And my floor has a speck every few feet, Internet. (We’re talking speck of dirt here, not the kind of speck you’d find on an appetizer plate.) (LOL – lame attempt at trendy-cured-meat humor!) Perhaps I need to invest in a robot broom.

– Before you become embroiled in this bullet, allow me to warn you: This is an “update” that you likely a) won’t care about and b) won’t remember the original “date” in order for this feel like and “up” or anything but a boring. Yes, I just used boring as a noun right there. I don’t know if the nounage is working so well, but I’m too tired for real English. ANYWAY, back to the non-update… To catch you up to speed (a slow stroll in this case), I once noticed a cat saunter through our yard and I asked y’all if a cat’s appearance in our yard meant it was our cat.

So! The cat came back! So I tried to go out in the yard to pet it, or something – I really can’t remember my EXACT motivation. I guess I just see a cat and I have to go over to it, much the way tweenagers react in the vicinity of Justin Bieber. – and it ran away.

If you are thinking, “Wow, that was TRULY the most boring non-update I’ve ever read,” just wait! It gets slightly less boring! Or not! Just please withhold your judgement! The cat came back the (very) next day – two sightings! In two days! – and I tapped on the glass door and it flopped down at the far end of the yard and looked at me. So I took it some milk in a Tupperware.

It ran away.

The next evening, I saw the cat walk right past the sliding door out to the yard. RIGHT PAST! As in mere inches from my living room! So I put some turkey out on the step to sort of, well, LURE is not the right word… let’s say ENCOURAGE it to come closer so I could pet it.

The very night that I put the bait gift turkey on the step, I looked outside and there was a BABY BUNNY just chilling right outside my living room!

Here – look at the baby:

And I suddenly realized that the cat was not interested in ME. He was interested in having a nice fresh bunny mignon for dinner.

I no longer want to encourage the cat to stay in the yard, even though I DO. Because obviously I cannot have the untimely demise of a BABY BUNNY on my hands. But I want a kitty to pet and to hold! It’s like Sophie’s Choice over here.

– They just sort of APPEAR places. And since they’re mostly dead (“He’s just mostly dead.”) I have no idea how they GOT to where I find them. Do they know how to apparate? Oh, by the way, I’m back on the silverfish.

I haven’t seen any of them MOVING, is what I’m saying. Even if I (cruelly) poke at them with the edge of a toilet paper wad before I smush them and toss ’em in the toilet. So they must be trying with their last breaths to escape the poison (gah. Now I am feeling SORRY for these buttercuppers!) and end up dying out in the vast unconquerable open space of the bathroom floor. But… I can’t see any HOLES from which they could have arrived.

Okay, here’s where I stop you Internet. If you have any knowledge of where insects DO come from, I don’t actually want to know. I SWEAR.

– You have seen this, right? The Ricky G. one kills me.  He looks like David Bowie’s non-sexy teenage twin.

– One of the best parts of moving to this house is the excuse to explore a new neighborhood. And our neighborhood has a lot to offer, especially in the way of locally-owned businesses. Well, and there’s a Dairy Queen within walking distance of our place.

One of the local businesses is a little Italian bakery. INTERNET. The tiramisu they sell is phenomenal. It comes in squares that fit into a cupcake wrapper and the mascarpone cheese part of it is so light and creamy and perfect and the lady fingers are so perfectly moist with coffee liqueur and there are chocolate shavings on top.

As if that isn’t wondrous enough, the bakery also sells homemade pizza dough for $1.50 a bag. Now, I’ve been buying the Betty Crocker kind in the bag. You know – just add water. It’s about the same price and it makes perfectly adequate pizza. But this Italian bakery dough? It’s REAL pizza dough! I can get at least two pizzas out of it, and it’s SO GOOD.

Clearly, with this bakery in my life, I am going to be needing some more generous pants.

– Speaking of pants, I went to J. Crew the other day to look for something for that horrible mid-range of clothing. You know. The stuff that’s dressed up enough for a casual workplace but not so dressy that you look stuffy. The stuff that’s casual enough to wear shopping for more mid-range clothing but not so casual that you’d feel uncomfortable doing brunch at an upscale restaurant. I have NOTHING in that category, and so always feel either over- or under-dressed and wholly inappropriate.  Especially in the shirt area.

Hence J. Crew. Just past the tables full of underwear-length shorts and Betty Draper dresses was a stack of pants. The Minnie pant, a sign declared. The pant that makes EVERYONE look fantastic, it boasted.

Ha! I thought. No way in hell this teeny pair of pants will look good on me. Skinny pants are for skinny girls.

I bought two pairs.

–  My husband’s last rotation had him doing overnight stints in the intensive care unit. Leaving me alone and, well, bored out of my skull. And that kind of boredom can turn the corner quickly into melancholy. So the best part of my weekend was reading your When I Fell in Love/When I Knew I’d Marry That Guy stories. I even got EMAILS that were long and detailed and WONDERFUL and oh! such fun. Thank you for sharing. If you haven’t done so, please do! Or at least go read the other stories. So lovely!

 
– In addition to the cat and the bunnies, we have a possum.  Do possums eat bunnies? Hot ham sandwich I hope not. I can’t deal with hosting a Hunger Games in my backyard.

 

Well, there’s no arguing that THIS is a very lackluster post, Internet. I mean, it only has EIGHT bullets. (It’s driving me crazy, too, I promise.) I am deeply sorry for disappointing you. But I must don my middle-range clothing and go forth on a business trip.

Please, tell me something random about yourself. Especially if it involves the magic Perfect for All Occasions wardrobe or possums.

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Hello Internet!

Thank you SO MUCH for jumping in and helping me before the baby shower. I took ALL of your baby shower advice and the shower was smooth and (dare I say?) even fun. I credit the fun to you, for giving me the confidence that I was Doing It Right. Well, and a little credit should go to a) my book club, who all showed up, so I didn’t have to stand in a corner and b) to the mom-to-be’s sister, who planned the shower and made sure it was speedy and painless.

As I am sure you are dying to know, the book I ordered for the shower (to take, as instructed, in lieu of a card) was The Runaway Bunny, by Margaret Wise Brown of Goodnight Moon fame. I have such fond memories of this book from when I was a kid. It’s about a bunny who tells his mother that he wants to run away from home and become various things (a tree, a cloud, a fish – I can’t remember exactly, but things that aren’t really realistic for a bunny.) (A bunny who can talk and has an imagination. So, huh, I guess realism isn’t really a goal here.). The mother assures him throughout that no matter where he goes or what he does, she’ll be there to watch over and care for him. It’s a little stalkerish – but very sweet. The illustrations are fun, too, at least when you’re a kid and not quite as adept at spotting the bunny dressed in fish garb.

Anyway, I wrote a nice inscription in the book… Well, I thought it was nice. It was about how I hoped the mom-to-be and her little bunny enjoyed reading the book as much as my mom and I did when I was a kid. That sounds really corny, typing it out here, but what can I say? I AM A CORNY PERSON.

Side note: I ordered the book from Barnes & Noble – along with The Gift of Fear – over a week ago. We have a Barnes & Noble membership, which means we get free two-day shipping. And yet, I have NOT received my books yet. Worse, when I canceled my order of The Runaway Bunny – since I needed it for a specific date – I got an email saying I couldn’t cancel the book because it was too late. And yet, NO BOOK. STILL. What the eff, Barnes & Noble?

I did reserve a copy of the book at my local Barnes & Noble (listen, I support local booksellers as much as anyone, but there aren’t any within an easy driving distance, and B&N is on my way to the grocery store so LAY OFF) (hmmm… guilt, much?) and picked it up there. I decided at the last minute to get the board book rather than the paperback. I know you care very deeply about all these details.

Per your overwhelming opinion, I did NOT get another present. I DID print out a photo of the present and put it in a card and attached it with (Christmas) ribbon to the book.  This worked out well, because the minute I walked in the door, the mom-to-be hugged me and thanked me for the present I’d sent, which she’d already received. (Confidential to Barnes & Noble: You have a lot to learn from Restoration Hardware Babies when it comes to ACCURATE and QUICK shipping.)

The mom-to-be, by the way, is one of those tall slim women whose shape doesn’t change at ALL when she’s pregnant. It simply looks like she has a basketball (or whatever ball is the size of a pregnant belly – I certainly don’t know; I’m not a ball size expert) (hmmm… that sounded unexpectedly dirty) beneath her non-maternity shirt.

The shower was really nice. We only had to play one game – which was Guess the Wrapped Up Baby Items – while the mom-to-be speedily opened gifts. (I scored 7 out of 10, Internet, and I only cheated on one question.) (Seriously though: who knew that babies need both HAIRBRUSHES and NAIL FILES?)

Oh! I wore the grey dress with belt and boots, and it seemed to fit right in with what others were wearing. There was wine – I had a glass with lunch – and cider and coffee and lots of food.

We did have to write on little cards a piece of advice for the mom-to-be, which was a little nerve-wracking. I have no advice. So what I ended up writing was that she was going to be a great mother, no matter what.  I think it came out sounding both a little depressing – like, you are going to feel like motherhood sucks – and a little aggressive – “you better remember you’ll be a good mom OR ELSE” – but what do you expect? I know nothing about babies/motherhood/advice.

Turns out in the end that everyone else made the cards out to both parents. Which sort of makes sense, if you think about it. But I have only met the father once, and only briefly, so he really didn’t enter my mind.

Internet, I miss you, and I wish I could devote more time to posting and reading YOUR blog. But work is busy busy busy and I have a work-related Christmas party this Friday, so I’m preoccupied with working and trying to make the agonizing decision to either wear an old dress or buy a new one. Of course, I’m leaning toward buying a new one since new dresses are fun. But old dresses are cheaper and take less time.

I will also admit – with deep shame and embarrassment – that I have yet to buy a SINGLE Christmas present. So I need to get on that.

In the meantime, I wish you a lovely Wednesday and I hope you’ll say hello and tell me whether you would wear a) the same dress you wore to this very Christmas party last year, hoping that no one will  notice or b) a dress that may or may not give you armpit fat.

If you choose b, please tell me the best way to disguise armpit fat. “Arriving at the party sufficiently late that all the other party goers will be to drunk to notice” is unfortunately not an option.

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Oh Internet, I cannot remember the last time I went grocery shopping.

Well, okay, I suppose I can. But it was a reaaalllllly long time ago.

My husband I have been busy. Like the kind of busy where you might contemplate trying to fall down a flight of stairs just so you can have an excuse to rest. (Oh crap. I’m going to fall down the stairs now, aren’t I? Well, good thing I never leave the apartment! In your face, FATE!) (Please don’t kill me.)  And we have just been too plain exhausted to think of things like shopping and cooking and so all semblance of normal meals has gone right out the window.

Yesterday? I had a 100-calorie pack of Cheez-Its and a Diet Coke for lunch.

(My husband, however, had a PB&J sandwich that I made him on Monday! And froze! In the freezer! Per Jen’s genius instructions.) (It was a test sandwich. And as the time of this posting, I have not spoken to my husband to get his thoughts on whether the test was successful enough for us to do a full-scale roll out. But I will report back.)

We have been depending on things like Chipotle and take-out sandwiches and microwave meals and frozen pizza and rotisserie chicken for nourishment. Because anything requiring more than opening a microwave, oven, or our mouths requires too much time and effort.

Aside from Failing at Eating Well, I have gotten very behind in anything resembling Normal Sleep. (Stress keeps me from falling and/or staying asleep. Whoo!) So I keep digging myself deeper and deeper into a hole of So Much Work and Not Enough Energy Slash Wakefulness to Do Said Work. Which you really don’t care about, but I am telling you because it has severely limited my blog activity. In the areas of both blog reading and blog writing. And even though you likely did not notice at all, I am SORRY.

If I may try to swing this unwieldy tangent back to the ACTUAL subject of this blog post… Back when we were only on the front edge of busy and we actually had time to shop and also Make Stuff, my husband and I came across an interesting little recipe in Bon Apetit. It was a recipe for Chickpea Salad with several variations. And the recipe was so tiny and unassuming – just a little sidebar in a longer article, not even a sideBAR so much as a sideSQUARE – and it was written in such a breezy, careless, wholly unthreatening manner that I thought “Yes! We could do that!”

It really was quite charming, Internet. It was the recipe equivalent of that friend you have who can throw on an old pair of faded slacks and a wrinkly shirt and, like, a vest or something and look effortlessly and flawlessly stylish and beautiful, but in a way that makes it clear that she didn’t even have to TRY to look stylish and beautiful, that it took really no effort at all (hence the “effortlessly” descriptor, I suppose), but not in a bitchy way – no, more in a collegial “Hey! This is so easy! You could totally look like you stepped off the pages of Abercrombie & Fitch too!” sort of way.

Now, before I get to the recipe I want to warn that it is for a salad, which means it is cold. And I’m telling you this up front because I decide to eat or not eat some things based on their temperature. Usually I would NEVER eat a chickpea that wasn’t hot and also smothered in some sort of cardamom-flavored sauce and accompanied by naan and some fluffy basmati rice. But the charm of the recipe won me over. And I ate the chickpea salad, even though it was cold, and lo! it was delicious.

So delicious that on a recent trip to the grocery store – not to SHOP, because, as I already mentioned, we do not have time for SHOPPING, but to grab some super-quick pre-cooked or super-easy-to-cook food (we have to EAT even if we are busy) – I grabbed some extra lemons so we could make some more. Alas, there was no basil, so we don’t actually have ALL the ingredients. But that’s okay because, even though this salad is easy (effortless!), we still do not have any time to make it.  (Cheez-Its and Diet Coke – that’s all the “cooking” I have in me, Internet.)

You are probably wondering about the ACTUAL recipe, and are feeling, as you read all this irrelevant back story, that I should just get ON with it. So I shall.

Chickpea Salad with Lemon, Parmesan, and Fresh Herbs

(adapted from Bon Apetit)

Ingredients:

1 15-oz can of chickpeas (Bon Apetit would like you to know they are also called garbanzo beans. In case you didn’t know.)

2 Tbsp fresh chopped basil

2 Tbsp chopped fresh Italian parsley (Or not. Parsley will not set foot in our home. NO.)

2 Tbsp fresh lemon juice (From lemons. Even if, as your husband points out, you have a huge Costco-sized bottle of “real lemon” lemon juice in your fridge.)

4 tsp EVOO (Have you ever noticed how Rachael Ray almost always says “Ee vee oh oh” and then specifies “extra virgin olive oil,” just in case you don’t know what EVOO means? Seems to me that doing so kind of negates the usefulness of the acronym, doesn’t it?)

I small garlic clove, pressed

1/4 cup red onion, finely chopped (This is the “adapted” part, as it was not part of the original recipe.)

1/3 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese

Coarse kosher salt (Or low sodium salt. From a jar.)

(It doesn't look like much, Internet. But do not let my poor salad photography skillz or chickpeas' lack of photogenicity deter you from trying this!)

 

Directions:

1. Open your chickpeas. We used two cans (and then doubled the rest of the ingredients). Pour them into a strainer and rinse them.

2. Combine your chopped basil (and parsley, if you must), fresh lemon juice, EVOO, red onion, and garlic in a medium bowl.

3. Add grated Parmesan cheese.

4. Toss gently to blend.

5. Add salt, to taste.

Do you see how easy that is, Internet? And it was DELICIOUS. I mean, how can you go wrong with garlic and lemon and EVOO and basil and Parmesan? YOU CAN’T. It’s just not possible.

I could totally see myself making this for company, or taking it to a pot luck, or eating it on the porch this summer while sipping a glass of wine.

Here, verbatim from Bon Apetit, are some variations you can try:

“For a spicy version, add some sriracha sauce. Try swapping out the lemon juice for lime juice and use feta cheese instead of Parmesan and mix in some chopped fresh cilantro and chopped red onion or shallot. For a curried chickpea salad, leave out the Parmesan and add curry powder to taste, dried currants, sliced green onions, and shredded carrots.”

Tastes delicious immediately and even better once it’s been sitting in the refrigerator overnight.

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*** Before You Read: Be warned. This post makes me sound like a spoiled, whiny, self-pitying brat. Plus, it’s not particularly well-written. (OH THE IRONY.) So if you are uninterested in joining my poorly-rendered and VERY long-winded pity party, please come back tomorrow for your regularly scheduled frivolity. ***


While I’m not sure if it’s my impending 30th birthday (it happens FRIDAY, ya’ll), or just a general sense of winter-induced blues, I’ve been feeling very anxious about My Life Path lately.

A full-on existential crisis been brewing for a few months now. Probably ever since my husband – with his usual effortless grace – turned 30.

I think it really came to a head recently, when I interviewed an applicant to my alma mater.

As expected, this applicant blew me away. But as I doubt I’m supposed to discuss these interviews, I’ll hurry ahead to something about our conversation that’s been kicking around my skull for weeks.

This applicant had a life motto. (Based on an Albert Einstein quote about miracles, if you want to look it up.) Bright-eyed, brilliant, and more mature than most 18-year-olds, the applicant asked me if I had a motto.

And I was stumped. (I honestly think I’m just as nervous as – if not more nervous than – the applicants in these interviews.) Something tickled at the edges of my brain, but I couldn’t get to it through the fog of nerves and trying to be the kind of ideal ambassador my university would want me to be.

The thing is, as this high school senior stared at me expectantly, I felt small. And inadequate. And fraudulent.

As though, perhaps, my whole life was some sort of farce.

Now, as much as I’d like to blame a high schooler for my problems, this barrage of upset was not the applicant’s fault.

Obviously, I have Deep-Seated Issues that simply bubbled to the surface in the face of this person. This person who is, for all intents and purposes, Me of the Past.

(Actually, she’s Me of the Past Now with Super Extras! including More Experience! and Better Grades! and Fluency in a Foreign  Language!)

The thing is, I am nearly 30. I am eight years out of college. (EIGHT. GACK.)

And when I look at my life, I see failure.

 

* * *

 

When you’re a bright-eyed teenager, 30 seems so old.

Everything will happen by age 30, you think.  (And yes, I know that when you are a kid, you pick some arbitrary age out of the air that has no basis in reality.)

But 30 seems like a milestone. One that I’ll meet in a few days without having Achieved Something Big.

 

* * *

 

Objectively, I know I haven’t “failed.” I found my life partner. I do work that challenges me. I help support our household, financially and emotionally and kitchen-ally. I have a bachelor’s degree from a prestigious university under my belt. I’ve earned a Master’s Degree from one of the top programs in my field. I like to think that I am a generally kind, helpful person.

These aren’t the ONLY markers of success, certainly. (In fact, I think “success” and “failure” mean different things to almost everyone.) But I think it would be hard for people to look at me and categorically say, “You are a failure.”

But the thing is, I have had one goal my entire life.

And I’m not anywhere near reaching that goal.

 

* * *

 

Have you ever felt as though you were simply treading water?

I’m not saying it’s necessarily a bad thing.

Maybe you even LIKE treading water.

After all, it’s good exercise. It keeps you from drowning. It allows you to look around the pool for hot lifeguards and sharks. It gives you a chance to watch the Michael Phelpses around you and get a sense of their skills and style.

But despite all of those benefits… You’re still treading water.

Which means you’re going nowhere.

 

* * *

 

I feel the need to clarify something: I don’t do my work half-assed.

On average, I work six days a week. When I’m absorbed in a project for a client, it consumes me. I think about it all the time, even in my off hours. I’m fully invested in the project’s success. I give 100%.

But I’ve been feeling lately – as this milestone birthday approaches – that I’m not doing what I’m meant to do.

My Something Big – the one thing I’ve wanted to accomplish for as long as I remember – is to write books.

Books of poetry. Books of fiction.

Books that wrap people up. Books that transport you. Books that open up a common subject in a fresh yet utterly familiar way.

Books that – above all else – make you feel something.

Yes, I write for a living. But I’m not writing for myself.

 

* * *

 

Listen, I don’t want to seem ungrateful. I feel truly thankful to a) have steady work and b) do work I truly LOVE.

I have amazing clients. They are brilliant, driven, inventive. Each of them has a vision of how to improve others’ lives. They are all generous with their knowledge. They challenge me and inspire me.

I am very, very fortunate.

 

* * *

 

Once I got away from the terrifying college applicant, I was able to think clearly. And I realized that I do have a motto.

I don’t think I’ve ever consciously thought of it that way – in terms of a motto – but there it is.

It’s a quote attributed to Socrates, sometimes translated as: “The unexamined life is not worth living.”

This phrase comes from Plato’s Apology, from a section also stating that the best thing a person can do is to converse about virtue on a daily basis.

But I think, like many famous quotes, the meaning of the excerpt itself has expanded beyond its original context.

I do a lot of navel gazing. A lot a lot. This website is proof of it.

I do it in other ways, too. My work, for instance, requires me to gaze at others’ navels… To imagine what they are thinking… What moves them… What worries them… What drives them to improve themselves… What incites them to buy.

But – while the stuff I write here is often (okay, mainly) frivolous and silly, and the stuff I write for work is persuasive and motivational – I also write about what I consider Deeper Matters.

Love. Loss. Happiness. Fear. Life. Death.

I think about these things a lot. In isolation. As related to one another. As two sides of a single coin.

It’s important, I think, to take a deeper look at these things that drive us… that affect our decisions and our lifestyles and our life’s work… that hiss and sputter deep down in each of our cells… that make up the core of what we call humanity.

To examine these things, hold them up to the light. To gain a deeper, fuller understanding of ourselves and each other. To use what we find to better ourselves and improve the lives of others.

This is what I love about my favorite books. The Count of Monte Cristo. The History of Love. Incendiary. Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close. The Namesake. Love in the Time of Cholera. The Time Traveler’s Wife. The Handmaid’s Tale.

They examine life. They put a chunk of The Human Condition under the microscope. And in doing so, they illuminate something in a new way. When I read them, I find myself overcome with agreement: “Yes, that is how I feel. Yes, I recognize that in myself. Yes, I could never put that into words before.”

Sure, I could go through life without these things. I could work each day, come home, watch TV, eat, sleep, and someday die. I could refuse to delve into the shadowy corners of my mind. I could bob along on the surface, basking in the sun, ignoring what’s swimming in the depths.

It’s possible that I could get a great deal of enjoyment out of living this way. I would probably experience a lot less worry, a lot less angst.

But that’s an unexamined life. And to me, it’s not worth it.

 

* * *

 

Let us delve briefly into the existential part of this crisis.

Right now, my work is personally and financially fulfilling.

But it’s not satisfying my soul.

I’m not saving lives. I’m not moving us closer to world peace. I’m not feeding the hungry or housing the homeless. Or doing – in my work – any of the other countless things that seem to Give Life Purpose.

And guess what?

Writing novels does none of those things either.

Yes, yes, examining life blah blah blah.

Maybe you’d say Nabokov or Melville or Foer made your life better. Maybe even helped give your life meaning.

But come on. When it comes to Making the World a Better Place, I don’t think novelists are at the top of the list.

And let’s face it: I’m no Nabokov or Melville or Foer.

Sometimes I feel like my purpose in life has no real value.

 

* * *

 

For Christmas, a friend gave me a book.

It turns out that this book was written by a classmate of mine. I didn’t know him very well, but I knew of him.

Instead of feeling grateful to my friend for sending me the book, or being impressed that this book had been written by a person I know, I became consumed with jealousy.

Isn’t that the ugliest of all emotions?

And yet, there I was, hating on this guy for Making It when I haven’t. I couldn’t even read the stupid book because I kept having sour thoughts about the quality of the writing. Justified? Maybe. But maybe just the product of my envy.

There’s a little voice in my head that thinks I lost some sort of competition. “What have you been doing all these years when you could have been writing a book?” it demands. “What are you waiting for?”

But there’s another little voice – one that’s fearful and strident – that says, “But I can’t just drop everything and write! I’ve got responsibilities!”

 

* * *

 

“Writers write.”

Instead of whining about this on my blog, shouldn’t I be writing my book in my spare time?

Something is better than nothing, right?

The fact is, I DO write in my spare time. I contribute a paragraph here, a line there to the two “novels” I have started.

I devote even more time to thinking about them… Dwelling inside the minds of the characters… Turning over plot points and motivations in my brain.

But it’s not enough to be called Real Writing.

I write every day for work. As much as I enjoy it, it drains me.

Sure, I can dash off a silly little blog post. (Although some of them, admittedly – and I feel sort of pathetic telling you this – take weeks of tweaking until I deem them “publishable.”) (I KNOW.)

But the kind of writing I want to do requires immense amounts of emotional and creative and intellectual energy.

At the end of the day, I just don’t have that kind of energy to spare.

And if I do… well, I feel like I should devote it to the kind of writing that pays the bills.

 

* * *

 

One of the other big causes of my existential crisis is money.

It’s difficult to contemplate the huge financial burden Writing a Book would put on my husband and me.

Now, my parents have been super generous about this. They have offered to help. More than help, really. Which means more to me than you can possibly imagine. I mean, not just the relief about money… But the incredible gratitude I feel that they BELIEVE in me.

Plus, there’s my husband. Who said to me the other day, “My goal is to make enough money so that you can stop working and write.” Which made me all teary. What have I done to deserve such kindness?

Seriously, I wouldn’t blame you if you are rolling your eyes right out of your head. How can I be fretting about ANYTHING when I have such an amazing family who supports me so fully?

But with their generosity comes guilt.

How could I possibly take my parents or my husband up on their offers?

It seems selfish… and irresponsible, somehow, to allow them to bear the weight of my flight of fancy.

I mean, what if it turns out I am a terrible writer? What if I can never publish a book? What if it’s just a big waste of time and money?

What if I disappoint these people who love me so much?

 

* * *

 

The thing is, I have no idea if I can write a book.

And, if I can, who knows if I can make it be what I want it to be?

What makes me think I have anything to offer people?

What makes me think I can differentiate myself from all those other millions of authors out there?

What makes me think anyone – editors, publishers, let alone the reading public – will want to read what I have to say?

Oh the doubt! Internet, it is eating me alive!

And yet, I am so sure this is what I’m supposed to do…

(Of course, if you’ve ever seen American Idol, you know that all the applicants are so sure that singing is what they are meant to do. Even the ones who sound like lovesick seagulls.)

What if my writing sounds like a lovesick seagull?

 

* * *

 

Of course, the flip side of the coin is:

What if I disappoint these people who love me so much?

Because if I don’t write a book… If I don’t at least give it the old college try… Isn’t that the real failure?

If I let my fear and doubt and sense of familial and financial responsibility prevent me from even trying to accomplish that goal, well, what kind of person does that make me?

A fraud.

And then I’m right back where I started: Staring into the clear, expectant eyes of an eighteen-year-old, telling her that my alma mater is the place where dreams begin… And yet I haven’t moved more than a few thousand words toward my heart’s desire.

 

* * *

 

When I told my mother, a few weeks ago, about this existential crisis, she was full of kind words and wisdom.

When I look at my mom, I see a woman who has accomplished anything and everything she wanted. She had a successful, high-powered career for decades. When it stopped fulfilling her, she retired.

She raised two kids who – not to toot my horn or anything – are on the whole Good People.

She dedicates a large portion of her time and money and expertise to helping people in need.

She’s traveled the world.

She’s also extremely artistic, and prolific in her painting and writing.

I admire her so much. So when she talked me through my crisis, I listened. And her take on the situation helped.

My sense of crisis hasn’t fully subsided.

Sure, I no longer feel constantly on the precipice of tears…

But I still feel… incomplete. Stuck in some liminal space between Fanciful Child and Responsible Adult. Left to tread water for the foreseeable future.

Still, I’m beginning to learn how to live with that. To remember that 30 is an arbitrary finish line set up by a naïve teenager. (A teenager who was certain – CERTAIN – that she’d never in a million years get married or even entertain the IDEA of having kids.)

My mom reminded me that even if I’m treading water, I’m learning. I’m growing. I’m gathering fodder for my writing. And all that is useful and worth something.

Plus, I’m getting something out of this. Maybe I’m not working toward my goal. But I’m challenging my brain. I’m working with people I respect. I’m learning how to be a better, more persuasive write. I’m contributing to my family. I’m supporting my husband as he works toward his Something Big.

Not too shabby, for a nearly-30-year-old.

Maybe this isn’t the only thing the universe has planned for me. Maybe I’m not doing exactly what I’m meant to do.

But – god willing – there’s still time.

 

* * *

 

I recently read a quote attributed to theologian Howard Thurman: “Don’t ask yourself what the world needs, ask yourself what makes you come alive. And then go and do that. Because what the world needs is people who are alive.”

In moments… bits and pieces scraped up in times of quiet… small bursts of inspiration… I feel that Aliveness, bubbling inside me… It may be hibernating, but it’s there, breathing quietly, just below the surface.

Three decades is a long time to wait to join the ranks of the living.

I hope it doesn’t take me another 30 years to get there.

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