Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Stick to the eye

I walked the dog to the park today, as per usual. At the end of a long day (shepardizing cases for an emergency motion to stay a deportation & taking the heartbreaking affidavit of a Sudanese refugee), all I wanted to do was get home and lose myself in a sudoku puzzle. So when I raised a stick in the air for E to jump up and grab, of course he jumped too soon and knocked the end of the stick directly into my eyeball. And of course, as I'm panicking and envisioning my eyeball being dislodged from my socket, I go running over to three complete strangers on a park bench to ask if my eye is still there. In my mind, the whole thing was nothing short of a medical emergency. I couldn't understand why they were all just sitting there, and why the one woman kept talking to my dog about how, "sorry, mom said you couldn't have any treats," like in the midst of being blinded for life I'm going to change my mind and allow her to give my dog a greenie. The man looked in my eye and said it looked fine. I wanted them to walk me home. I couldn't open my eye! Instead, I took E and stumbled across the street to Best Woman's apartment. Thankfully, she was home. She let me in, sympathized with my discomfort, did not make me feel like an idiot for being freaked out, gave me eye gel and walked me and the dog back to my apartment. What a good neighbor.

In other news, my best friend just gave birth to a healthy baby boy. El bendito was born at 11:47 p.m. on Sunday, June 27th, 2010. I am over the moon and I haven't even met him yet. Mother and baby are doing great!

Saturday, June 26, 2010

The race

It's a marathon, not a sprint.

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

The Five Steps and other shrinky-dink advice

Pardon the self-help speak, but it so happens that I'm a big fan of lay cognitive psychology. Internet and armchair mental health diagnoses have helped me through some tough times when I didn't have access to or didn't think I needed an MH professional.

It was this old bag of tricks that I found myself turning to this afternoon, in a moment of panic and anxiety over an incident that occurred just as I was preparing to leave work and threatened to ruin my entire evening.

Allow me to present to you the Five Steps.* This is a trick that helps during those times when your world feels like it's caving in on you. It helps you to move past overwhelming emotions that threaten to paralyze you. I used to have this problem a LOT more, before I was diagnosed with PMDD and got treatment. But from time to time (i.e. today) it helps to remember ways to get past a tough moment.

So... the scene is this: I'm headed to the back of the office to drop off my case files for the day, when I run into my supervising attorney, signing out for the day. He catches my eye and, with a mouthful of food, says, "JE, come see me tomorrow afternoon so we can talk."

"Sure," I breezily reply. "What's up?"

And then The Very Fleeting Moment. He averts his eyes, pauses midbite and kinds of shrugs. I quickly jump in.. "Oh, okay. Just...stuff, right?" He immediately nods his head. "Yeah, just to talk about a few things."

Now, we just got together yesterday to review all my cases, so I know this isn't about what's going on with my case load. I went into his office to drop off my files, and saw the lastest assignment I'd turned into him, sitting on his desk with scribbles and notes all over it. For a split second, I thought about scanning over it, but his door was open and another attorney would've had a full view of what I was doing.

Nope. I was just going to have to wait. And stew. Thoughts immediately began running through my head, but they were incoherent. They took the form of a dark cloud appeared over my head. I messed up. Hiring me was a big mistake. He's terribly disappointed with the caliber of my work. I spent too much time with the FIFA games streaming on my computer. I'm not dressing appropriately. I shouldn't have called his cell phone (to tell him I was going to be late... I panicked!). I bug him too much. I don't communicate enough. I'm the worst intern they've had in a long time... on and on. You get the picture.

Enter: The Five Steps

Step One: HALT

Am I Hungry? Angry? Lonely? Tired?

Well... yes, I am kind of tired. Later it turned out that I was hella tired, because I fell asleep for two hours after I got home. But at the time, I mostly just felt weary from a long day at the office. Not hungry, not lonely and not angry. It's possible that my exhaustion was exaccerbating my emotions, but I doubted it...

Step Two: Define the Problem

The problem was that ever since my boss told me that he needed to talk to me tomorrow and I realized that he had reviewed my assignment, I felt really anxious and inadequate because I knew that the product I turned in wasn't in the format he wanted it and it still needed a lot of work, so I was panicking and I was petrified of how I would feel in the meeting tomorrow.

Step Three: Think of (Exactly) Three Courses of Action

Okay... One, I could think through my feelings and then talk back to my twisted thinking (e.g. "I can't do anything right!... Wait, that's not true. I was complimented on my research skills by ED yesterday.") Two, I could wait until T got home and then talk to him about it. Three, I could distract myself and push the thoughts out of my head.

Step Four: Pick One Course of Action

I really wanted to spend more time thinking about what was bothering me. I also wanted to just forget all these uncomfortable feelings altogether, but I suspected that would just make me feel worse in the morning and I'd be cranky all night. So I picked #1, and decided that if I still felt bad, I would also do #2.

Step Five: JUST DO IT!

Well, I was riding on the bus when I was working through these steps, so I couldn't exactly write down my thoughts. But I did go through them silently to myself. I won't bore this blog with the innerworkings of my mind (anymore than I already have), but I will say that after spending some time when I got home identifying my twisted thinking and working to untwist some of my thoughts, I fell into a deep sleep. When I woke up, I felt 95% better! And that's good enough for me.

* I didn't come up with this. Please see this website for more information and tools for panicky, reactionary minds. All the concepts mentioned here come from there.

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Country music & me

I guess I go through phases. I was definitely one of those kids who grew up proudly declaring that I like "all kinds of music...except country and rap." Can anyone guess what two kinds of music I immediately scan the radio for when I'm in a car? And in particular, I listen to a lot of country lately. Usually, I come home from wherever I've spent the day, open up my radio laptop to either K95 or, especially on commercial-free Tuesdays, 98.7 WMZQ. The Big (Northern) City doesn't have a real country station... there's one that occasionally comes in on the car radio if I'm in the southwest corridor of the city, but don't expect to find someone who admits to listening to it. I couldn't even tell you the call letters.

K95 is the station I listened to when we were in Richmond. Even though I succumbed to enjoying country music well before then, it wasn't until Richmond that I discovered the healing principles of Nashville nostalgia. Mostly because they didn't play any of the good hip-hop I'd gotten used to in Durham, I switched to Kenny Chesney, Tim McGraw and Billy Currington on my afternoon commute. When we finally decided to leave Richmond for bulldozed pastures, I was surprised to suddenly realize how ubiquitous that southern musical twang really was down in the capital of the Confederacy. You'd walk into a 7-11 and it would be playing in the background. On a hot day, step into a local BBQ joint for a limeaid and it was crooning from the outdoor speakers. City festivals? State fairs? Children's Day at the museum? K95 was there.

So yeah, I listen to it a lot these days, because it reminds me of home. And because it's just so damn fun to sing along to. Don't believe me? Click here. Or here. Or here. And I even enjoy the commercials, which may be a little sick, I know.

On a completely different note, I came home from work today feeling emotionally draining, with that lingering sick feeling that comes from having heard or seen something very disturbing. I sense that I'm going to have to spend some time working through the internal distress of being exposed to some triggering situations. But now's not the time to write about that. Especially after spending 5 minutes having fun looking for country karaoke on youtube!

Sunday, June 13, 2010

Let it be known...

I just watched the video for Miranda Lambert's new single, "The House That Built Me," and I have tears streaming down my face. Literally. WTH. I like the song, and I like the video (it apparently has real home footage from her childhood), but I wasn't expecting the reaction I had. Oh, hormones!

Anyway, here's the video if you want to watch:

What I love about Sundays

12:30 p.m.

I have cleared the table of all the dirty dishes, junk mail and sticky placemats. I have wiped down the surface with cleaner so the table is a brilliant white once again. I have paused to reflect on the lovely craftmanship of the table, a birthday gift from T last year, and of the lazy susan that sits in the middle, constructed by my dad as a wedding gift and cake stand last summer. I walked the dog to the market and bought milk.

The coffee machine beeps just in time. I pour my cup of piping hot Breakfast Blend, leaving enough room for the milk that will lighten my coffee from black to caramel. Add a teaspoon of Splenda. Pour myself a bowl of Post Raisin Bran. Plug in the computer so it sits on the lazy susan. Pull up the Washington Post. I bring my bowl and mug to the table.

My phone buzzes. A text message from T. "Good morning. What is your shoe size, my dear." I smile. "7.5, handsome. And good morning to you too."

The only sound is the faint whoosh of the air conditioner. I have no place to be, and second cup of coffee waiting for me in the carafe. I can't think of a better way to spend a Sunday. I don't even try.

Friday, June 11, 2010

El mundial is upon us, yo.

Once again, I am left to my own devices for a weekend. T has gone down to Richmond to take care of some business and celebrate our dear friend A's birthday. Even though that makes for three out of the last four weekends out of town, I would've liked to have gone with him to hang out and celebrate summer, VA-style, but it wasn't in the cards. Instead, I will be helping to do a final drive for TPS registration at a Haitian church somewhere here in Big City, as part of my new summer job.

The summer job. Yes. So, this summer I am working for an immigration legal services organization, and it is a *big* change from my last job both in terms of the work place and the area of law. Where I was once working in the wishy-washy, creative argument-requiring area of employment law, I am now in the form-filling, by-the-book world of immigration law. Except that makes it sound boring. To the contrary, this is gripping stuff. As the head of the organization said today, immigation is all about three questions:

1. Who gets to come here?
2. Who gets to stay here?
3. Who has to leave?

And instead of practicing my McDonnell-Douglas burden of proof gymnastics, I'm learning the perils of trying to get or stay legal in a post-IIRIRA world. In other words, I'm working out my knees, learning to beg the government for relief for my poor wittle cwients (because in order to get any relief, you gotta talk about how Terrible and Heart-Wrenching your client's life is, compared to everyone else's). Ok, I've only been on the job a few days, but this is the sense I'm getting. Did I mention I'm loving it? Cause I am. I feel at home, like I'm finally doing the work I came to law school for. I love a good ol' memo on the elements of a claim, discerning principles from case law and applying new fact patterns to common law rules as much as the next student. Really, probably more. But at the end of the day, I want to be in the thick of the fray of immigrants trying to save their azzez from deportation, trying to bring their families over, trying to parlay their work with the men in blue into a green card. Yo quiero ser una abogada del pueblo, yo.

And none of this is what I sat down to write about, but it's what's coming out. Probably because to sit and think too long about the World Cup, and where I was four years ago (or the four years before that) is a little too heavy for me on a Friday night when I've already put on my pajama pants and walked the dog in flip-flops and fed my husband macaroni and cheese with pretzel goldfish and oreos for a send-off dinner. Yes, it's true that four years ago I was living the second half of my time in Durham, had the door to my little house perpetually open so that the neighbors and friends could wander over at their leisure to watch the games on my t.v. which had the best reception on the block. It's true that I was surrounded by Mexicans who were pumped about the Mundial, and it's true that my community felt like a Community, and it's true that I miss that sometimes (i.e. now). But it's also true that four years ago, I was missing waking up super early and driving in the fog of twilight over to my friend M's house to watch the games at 3 in the morning in our pajamas, and I was nostalgic for those days then. In short, the World Cup is a chance to Make Memories to the umpteenth degree. It comes around once every four years, and like that short story where the girl gets locked in the closed when everyone else goes out to see the rain for the first time in their lives, it's not something you wanna miss out on, cause this is Real.

Oh, but I said I wasn't gonna go there, didn't I? This is what's happened when I'm left alone in a house by myself, pumped up and ready for a weekend of soccer, soft clothes and snacks on a sofa.

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

drinks in the city

It's Beer Week here in Big City. Which means fun activities all across town and excuses to feel like Mary Tyler Moore, dancing down the street and makin' it after all.

Or more specifically, it means drinking "Mole Grog" with a girlfriend from school after bumping into one another on the busiest street corner downtown, as we're both walking home on our respective foot commutes. And it means watching grown men swing at a pinata with a pipe, making jokes about torts exams as the pinata explodes after three blows. It means scrambling for loot and coming up with a plastic valve of some sort only recognizable to home brewers. And, of course, Beer Week means walking out of the bar with one sombrero more than you walked in with.

I can't wait to see what merriment the World Cup will bring.

Monday, June 7, 2010

...it was beautiful.

When people think of "Northern Virginia" (at least out here on the east coast), they usually think cookie-cutter, faceless developemnts, mini-mansions, strip malls, SUVs, cultureless suburbia... Or maybe that's just what those of us who grew up in NoVa think of Northern Virginia. (Even those of us who have grown up to buy our own SUVs and mini-mansions in suburban developments.) As a child, my neighborhood was all I knew... I dreamt of growing up and living in the Big City, running away to some urban paradise. As a teenager, my mind was fixated on all the changes taking place... the trees being cut down to make way for new housing developments, the houses of childhood friends being sold to new families, with new children. As a college student, I hardly recognized the place that I'd come from... I certainly didn't recognize myself in it.

So imagine my surprise when, one summer day, on just another trip home, just like all the other return trips I'd made since I left for college in 1999... I pulled into the driveway of my parents' house to discover...it was beautiful.

The branches of young saplings, overcome by their own green growth, bowed gracefully before me as I made my way to the front door. Chipmunks, cardinals and rabbits scampered across the backyard upon my approach. White flower petals from the dogwoods were strewn across the lawn as if to welcome me home. And I realized: nothing had changed. It was beautiful and it has always been like this. Or had it?

These days, one of T's & my favorite ways to welcome in the summer is to load the dog into the car, jump on 95 and drive until we pull up the hill and into my parents' driveway. We call it our summer home. We call it E's summer camp. It feels like a getaway. We make pots of coffee, sit on the back porch, watch the blue jays and the woodpeckers cautiously approach the branches above our heads. At night, we play cards, drink beers and watch hockey. Sometimes on Sundays it gets late and we postpone going to our home, we start a fire in the firepit and listen to my dad tell stories about his brother.

This past weekend we were there. We stopped in on a Friday, spent the night and left the dog so we could attend a friend's commitment ceremony near Charlottesville. Saturday night, we danced in the humid Virginia summer air until our clothes were drenched with sweat and the ice we used to cool ourselves down, until our feet no longer supported our legs. Then we drove back, to my parents' and our dog, where we tumbled into the bed, conked out like little children. In the morning, we slept until the dog woke us up, ready to play.


I was recalling to my mom how I used to refuse to kiss my Tio goodbye as a child. How I used to be petulant and sulky and stubborn, and how he used to act like his feelings were hurt, and I hated it. How I was probably very difficult.

"You little brat!" my mom said, laughing.

It stung.

When she said those words my face fell in the way it tends to do sometimes, because I get stern with my parents. I always have. She knew I was upset. She rolled her eyes. "I was just joking!" she said. I told her that now, even as an adult, it hurt to hear her say those words. Because we had just been talking about how she called me some names: Brat. Pill. Bitch. Sadist. (As a 10 year old, I thought she meant "satanist," which I took to be a grave insult, since it was coming from my fundamentalist Christian mother). "Fiiiine," she groans. "When you have kids, I won't call them names."

It's ironic. She has often recalled this one incident from when I was little where we were in the car and Iwas sassing her and she just slapped me. I have no recollection of it whatsoever. Not because it was traumatic, but because I was really little, like 4 or 5. Whenever we get to talking about my childhood (read: whenever I start bringing up unpleasantries from my childhood), she remembers the slapping incident and talks about how sorry she is, how bad she felt. She asks, "Did I scar you for life?" And I say, "No, Mom. I don't even remember it!" and I groan like she did. But when she jokingly refers to me as a brat... that's when it hurts.

Kids hear messages about themselves enough and they begin to believe them. Like if you're told you're mean, you're rude, you're too sensitive enough, you start to believe it. If you get angry and your parent always acts disgusted with you for it, you start to believe you are disgusting when you feel angry. But then, I know that one day I'll have my own kids to whom I can be a terrifically imperfect parent. And I'll screw up a lot, and I can only learn and feel and then let go. As my mom says to me, when I remind her of X, Y or Z thing I wish she'd done differently, and as her mother said to her, I'm sure one day I'll be saying to my own kids: "Jeez, did I do anything right?"


I'm sitting on the couch at home with T sitting in the little green chair I inherited from my grandparents' apartment, and we are both on our computers, typing, surfing silently. Sometimes I think it's these peaceful interludes, just being together in the same room, that I'm sure I'll remember most vividly. Remembering them from some future house, some future present day, remembering when.

Friday, June 4, 2010

Quick hit

I just wanted to say that I've been back on the running program, and this time I got T on board. I gave him crap for complaining that I was going out for a run the other night, and apparently I talked him into tagging along. So now, it looks like we might be running buddies! There is something exhilerating about coming back in from a run. I think the tricks are to:
1) Just do it (cliche or no, it's true)
2) Set a goal ahead of time (1 mile)
3) Make it reasonable (alternate between walking and running)
4) Make it into a project (spend 30 minutes mapping out your tiny route ahead of time)

Can't wait to tell you, dear diary, all about my new job! But for now, sleepy time.

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

Summer jobs: 2nd time's the charm?

So tomorrow is the first day of my 2L summer job. I'll be working for an immigration...firm? Legal services organization? What do you call it? I really don't know. I should check their website for a better description, cause that issue ain't gonna stop coming up until I figure it out. I don't want to live out this scene from my current favorite television show on Netflix Wii.

Anyway, I'm starting tomorrow and I am nerrrrrvous!

I haven't heard from the hiring attorney since the job offer, except for a quick email back during finals when he asked me and the other intern to bring in our laptops on our first day. (They have a space issue.) I think I'm going to wear a black skirt from a skirt suit that I got for Xmas (yay! grown-up christmas presents!) and a pair of black pumps I just picked up at Target for $19.99. The problem is the top. I just sent most of my work appropriate clothes over to the dry cleaner for their annual dog-hair removal day. But they won't be back until late tomorrow afternoon. I have a dressy-ish tee that I just picked up, but that may be too casual and too long. I've got a cute blue top but it's sleeveless - big no no. The nice sweaters I have are just unbearable to think about in the humid 90 degree weather that has placed a curse over Big City for the past few days. What to do! Have I mentioned I have outfit anxiety?

The other big question is how I'm going to get to work. It's a good 12 city blocks to my west and about 8 or 10 blocks north of here. I could walk to work with T; he does it every day. But his job is about 6 blocks closer to home than mine. There's the bus that goes north, the bus that goes west... I could walk to the train and transfer... Oh, my. It's a not-fun Choose Your Own Adventure!

And, crap, I just told T I'd clear the table for our 9:35 p.m. Spanish-style late-night dinner. Gotta run now. Be back after it's all over.