god permits u-turns.

Prior to my marriage, I was not the best at managing my own finances. I never understood or cared how to set up a budget, or stick to one. In my twenties, I was miserable at my job at a large conservative chemical company and thought quite wrongly that the karmic compensation for being emotionally miserable was that I should be able to spend my money liberally and ‘treat myself’ since I worked so hard. I bought clothes like crazy, I bought a Jeep that was a miserable wreck and a terrible investment (it paralleled my life at that time), I picked up bar tabs for all of my college friends who went to grad school instead of the work force after college, and I got into debt. So, in typical binge-and-purge behavior, I buckled down for about three years, didn’t go out, didn’t buy anything, and paid it off. It was arduous and I swore at the age of 29 that I would never do that again.

Then I got married, and my now ex-husband managed the finances quite efficiently. I never really had a very clear idea of what I was bringing in or what we were doing with it but I knew everything was going well, we were frugal and never argued about money, and never once disagreed about where or how to invest or distribute our assets.

Now that I am divorced, I have to face the ogre of finances. I was falling asleep the other night watching Suze Orman on cable TV and her advice to the folks who were calling in was sobering. She asked basic questions – what is your monthly income? what are your expenses? what is in your liquid savings? what is in your retirement? I realized that while I could answer some of those questions, I was avoiding others. While being divorced forced me (among other things) to figure out my own bank accounts, my mortgage, my budget, I hadn’t quite taken full ownership of my future, my retirement, and set goals.

Today I took a huge step on my road and went to see a financial planner. I thought about cancelling the appointment several times, but I didn’t – I printed out all of my documents, girded my loins, and went in.

It wasn’t easy to see where I have fallen short, and commit to action plans to address the inevitability of the future that is coming, but I have to say that the words I heard on that cable TV show that night really resonated with me – “money is such an amazing teacher: what you choose to do with your money shows whether you are truly powerful, or powerless.”

Taking control of these aspects of my life feels very important, somehow, and very tied into decisions that I will make about how I want to live the rest of my life. I have always felt that for women, working is so important. It’s so important – vital – to know that you can support yourself financially and whatever children you choose to bring into the world. I’m not talking about whether women eventually make the life choice to stay home with their children, because I think that is a noble pursuit, and a separate topic. But in your early life, your formative years, you have to know that you can always support yourself and make it on your own if you want to or if you have to. Not relying on anyone to pay your way is a crucial element in the life choices that a woman can or will make, but it’s a tough thing to take control of. It took me into my ’40’s to fully invest in that concept and feel the impact of that philosophy, and only just now have I stepped reluctantly into the driver’s seat. As much as I may want to find someone, and perhaps be married again, no one is going to drive that bus if I don’t, so it’s time to learn.

After my appointment, I walked over to Miss L’s school and picked her up and we walked home together in the spring afternoon. It was a good day.

spring is coming.

spring is coming.

bullet point blogging and a couple of pictures.

  • My vacuum cleaner died so I have purchased a new one and it has yet to arrive. (I could have gone to a big store and just bought a new one but now that I have Amazon Prime I am thrilled at the variety of things that my lazy ass can have delivered right to my door with free shipping.) It is amazing how gross the floors of a house can get when one’s vacuum is not in working order. Every day that I come home to find no large familiar brown box on my front porch is another day that my house gets closer to complete anarchy.
  • I continue to fight the fitness battle on a strict regimen of no running. This is driving me simply insane. I have long known about myself that limiting my eating is just never going to happen and I just don’t burn the same calories laboring away on a stationary bike or doing Tony Horton 10-Minute Trainer segments. I know that I am staying in shape doing different kinds of things but the lack of cardio is killing me. I will hopefully be back to the elliptical in early April and by the end of April I can start run / walking again.
  • In the meantime, three or four lunch hours a week, I ride the stationary bike in my office workout room. I subscribed to Audible and am listening to “The Buried Giant” by Kazuo Ishiguro during my exercise time, which makes that break in my workday strangely magical.
  • It’s funny how things work. I have also been meditating much more regularly and it struck me that if I hadn’t taken a long break from running, I probably wouldn’t have picked up meditating with such a fervor, or started listening to the book to make a horribly dull and extra long workout interesting. One thing leads to another. I am missing that endorphin rush and have had to make substitutions, which have turned out to be healthy in other ways.
  • I have promised myself a set of wireless headphones, a fitness holder for my iPhone, and a new pair of PowerStep insoles if I can wait until the end of April to start running again. This is no joke. Whenever I get off that stupid bike I look at the treadmill and think, I could just run a mile and I’m sure everything would be okay. So far I have resisted but it is painful seeing the weather warm up and the streets and roads become more populated with runners.
  • Took a trip to Indiana earlier this week to give a presentation about compliance to a room full of people who looked like they would rather be doing anything other than hearing me speak. There was nothing I could do to elicit even mild interest from their stony faces so I gave up trying on the second slide and just pushed through.
03.2015 suitcase cats

They get very passive aggressive when the suitcase comes out.

  • Anyway, it was a great 8+ hour round trip with our Assistant General Counsel who is a fun travel companion. We get up in the mornings to work out together and I made her eat at a Cracker Barrel across the highway from a water tower emblazoned with the words GAS CITY. I should have taken a picture of her to memorialize the event since I doubt she will ever go back.
  • I hope everyone has a lovely Sunday. xo
Yesterday was #caturday on Instagram and Sarge was our go-to guy.

Yesterday was #caturday on Instagram and Sarge was our go-to guy.

about a path

Some weekend mornings I get up and go for a walk. I’m not sure I should be walking very far on my stress fracture at this phase of my healing, but I am very careful every other day and sometimes I need to be outside. There is always the temptation to break into a run but I resist and instead focus on practicing the art of shinrin yoku.

03.2015 river

There is still snow in the woods so the footing is unsteady at times but there is also melting happening and the wild windy sky and buds on the branches.

It was a moving meditation and then I walked up to a barren crest and sat for awhile. Sometimes you speak and other times you listen.

03.2015 path

What you seek is seeking you. -Rumi

in which we give in to the faux bengal, and I mediate.

03.2015 emmett leash

Emmett is the cat who, whenever anyone gets near the front door, immediately rushes over and begins singing the song of his people, demanding to be LET OUT. He bum rushes whenever the door is even slightly cracked and jumps on people coming in and has slipped past our security protocols more than once. The big wide world is fascinating to him and I always feel slightly sad that our belief systems diverge so dramatically on this point – I don’t let my cats out. It is too dangerous out there for them, and for the songbird populations. But I can’t imagine living an entire life inside the same house. Emmett is smart and easily bored and so Miss L and I determined that a compromise could be reached.

We procured him a tiny harness and leash (note the skull and crossbones). And despite the cold weather lately, Emmett has been learning how to navigate with us.

2015.03 emmett leash 2

We don’t stray far, sticking close to the house.

Emmett has adjusted quickly, but he still doesn’t like cold wet paws, or walking on ice. And he doesn’t walk like a dog would walk – he basically roams and explores and sniffs a lot and we just hold the leash and ensure that he stays out of trouble. One of Miss L’s lunch ladies apparently drove by and saw us out walking the cat, and it spread around her lunchroom pretty quickly. The neighbors are completely nonplussed and we get some pretty strange looks when we are out with him.

It doesn’t bother us.

**

In other news, I completed my 40 hours of court approved general civil mediation training yesterday. I was the only non-lawyer in the class of 30 (except for a handful of University of Michigan 3Ls) and  one of my classmates was a circuit court judge. Most everyone had either attended a mediation or an arbitration, and in many cases, had actually conducted them. I worked really hard to keep up, and prepped hard for all of the role plays. I typically detest role playing in a training class but these were exceptionally good and everyone took their role playing very seriously (one of my classmates even wept when she took on the role of a plaintiff in a med mal case who had lost her leg in a botched surgery). My classmates were wonderful and I had a couple of proud moments – the first when one of my classmates announced to the assembled class, “She just proved to me that you don’t need to be a lawyer to be good at this!” and one during my final exam mediation when the well-respected personal injury attorney who was observing me said, “I KNOW this isn’t your first mediation!” (It was.)

One of the 3L’s messed me up during my final exam mediation and I wasn’t happy about it, because we all tried to support each other and help each other succeed in front of the outside coaches and observers, on that last critical day. But I tried to gamely fight through it and ended up mediating the dispute to an inelegant settlement, which was vastly more than I’d hoped for.

I am now at the stage in which, if I were going to pursue it, I would volunteer at a dispute resolution center and observe a mediation, then conduct a couple on my own. Once I complete those steps, I could be added to the court rosters of any Michigan county – you don’t have to be a lawyer to be a court rostered mediator in this state. I’m just not sure I want to take those steps. It’s a nice opportunity, if I pursued it gamely, but it’s also a huge responsibility. And on top of my full time paid job and Miss L, I’m not sure I have room for a third major commitment. But I haven’t finished noodling it.

**

Whenever I write that I am in ‘mediation’ training, in emails or on social media, someone invariably misreads it and thinks I am in ‘meditation’ training. Which is funny because I recently started meditating again, in short increments a few times a week. During the training, the topic of stress came up, and one of my classmates was put on the spot to discuss how he dealt with it. This particular classmate was pretty scruffy looking and when everyone else was in suits, he wore jeans and rumpled blazers and pilled sweaters. Yet he had an undeniable aura of calm, focus, and serenity – it literally radiated when he spoke. So when he said that he meditated, it honestly didn’t surprise me at all. I talked to him after the class and he said he’s been meditating for ten years and it has literally changed his life. He lost forty pounds and was able to stop taking a blood pressure medication based solely on the positive influence of meditation. He goes to a retreat or a seminar once a year, and meditates for thirty minutes a day, every day. And this is a litigator with a successful practice, a marriage, and five children. Clearly, if he can fit it in, I can, as well.

03.2015 meditation

Besides, I have the advantage of an excellent role model.

postscript to catch-up

I’m sure that my enormous readership is on pins and needles about my left shin, which I completely forgot to add to yesterday’s catch-up post. (sarcasm font throughout this entire sentence…)

I called the doctor – it took me a couple of weeks to get into the University of Michigan Medsport doctor that I have used before and really like. While I waited, I kept my activity to the elliptical and sporadic cross-training (read: various unenthusiastic Pinterest workouts combining squats, lunges, ab work, jumping jacks, etc.)

The doctor diagnosed me with a stress fracture, which I wasn’t surprised by. I think I’ve known for awhile that it was more than just a shin splint issue. I couldn’t even muster up any distress about it, instead feeling a somewhat twisted sense of pride that I am such a badass that I’ve been running on a stress fracture for most of the year (again, sarcasm font). She said that I could confirm it with an MRI, but after some consideration, I decided that it wasn’t worth the expense of the deductible, and opted to take her diagnosis at face value. I’m off running for 6-12 weeks and in the interim, have to stay off anything weight-bearing on that leg. So my boot camp activities (jumping jacks, burpees, mountain climbers) are off limits. The doctor said that even the elliptical is probably not a great idea. It doesn’t hurt me, but just because it doesn’t hurt doesn’t mean that it is helping me to heal.

My left side is problematic. When I first started running, I sprained my left ankle, which led to accommodations in my stride that messed up my left hip and put me in physical therapy. Now I have the stress fracture. When I get back to running, I have to take it more seriously – I have to do smart miles, not dumb ones, and keep up plenty of cross-training.

I’ve been off running since January 29 and have decided to stay off until at least mid-April. I’ve gained a few pounds, but am trying to be mindful of my eating. I started a multi-vitamin and calcium / D3 supplement (which is also helping my mood a bit, if I’m not mistaken, during these dark winter days). I’ve incorporated more stationary biking – there’s a couple of crap ones in the gym at work. I dug out my old Pilates DVDs, and acquired Tony Horton 10 Minute Trainer, which uses resistance bands and has a good Yoga segment as well as an Ab workout. I have to modify the workouts somewhat to avoid anything that uses jumps or puts too much weight on my leg, but it’s been a good change. I’m so used to pure cardio that I’m pleasantly surprised at how much my muscles work with more stationary, flex-strength exercises, how sore I am, and so hopefully when the spring thaw comes around, and I’m back out there running, I won’t have lost too much.

mostly catch up.

Every January and February, I lose my voice. I’ve noticed this phenomenon for the past several years. During the long, dark, cold days of winter, I pull back from interactions. I’m not mad or sad or depressed, really, at least not that I can identify; I just seem to need more quiet, alone time to recharge my batteries to get through the daily work. I don’t blog or write or talk to friends or family as much. I am just quiet and waiting for the sun to return, and with it, my voice.

Still, there is a lot that’s happened since the last time I blogged, so here is a quick round-up of life in suburban Elysium, mostly in pictures.

Brutally cold temperatures have forced school cancellations. Cabin fever sets in, and so I try to get Miss L out whenever the weather breaks for a short time. Fresh air, activity. Here is our take on the Stranger in the Woods - we call it Weirdos in the Backyard.

Brutally cold temperatures have forced school cancellations. Cabin fever sets in, and so I try to get Miss L out whenever the weather breaks for a short time. Fresh air, activity. Here is our take on the Stranger in the Woods – we call it Weirdos in the Backyard.

02.2015 kensington

02.2015 chickadee

I’m trying hard to keep my backyard birds fed and watered. I resurrected the old heated birdbath that never had a proper pedestal, and put it on my patio table. It isn’t as popular as I would like, but I do try to make sure it always has a little water in it and it has worked admirably well at keeping it unfrozen, even during the coldest nights here. Many chickadees, finches of different types, dark eyed juncos, a pair of cardinals, white breasted nuthatch, downy and red-bellied woodpeckers, and the usual plague of house sparrows have been spotted.

Kensington Metropark is still our favorite place to wander, and feed birds by hand. One day, we got to see a special guy out for a walk. Ranger is a red-tailed hawk that was injured by a car and now serves as bird-in-residence. He can't be let back into the wild due to his injuries, but they are rehabilitating him. Miss L and I got to pet his very soft feathers. He was quite fond of her hat. I told her he probably thought she was a big rabbit.

Kensington Metropark is still our favorite place to wander, and feed birds by hand. One day, we got to see a special guy out for a walk. Ranger is a red-tailed hawk that was injured by a car and now serves as bird-in-residence. He can’t be let back into the wild due to his injuries, but they are rehabilitating him. Miss L and I got to pet his very soft feathers. He was quite fond of her hat. I told her he probably thought she was a big rabbit.

The winter light is moody, blue, sad, and beautiful.

The winter light is moody, blue, sad, and beautiful.

Fat Tuesday happened, and genuine Hamtramck paczki. My hipster colleague's girlfriend stood in line at the best bakery for paczki and he made sure we had a box.

Fat Tuesday happened, and genuine Hamtramck paczki. My hipster colleague’s girlfriend stood in line at the best bakery for paczki and he made sure we had a box.

02.2015 sarge recovery 1

Sarge scared us to death. Being the quasi-billy goat that he is, he ate something that didn’t agree with him (likely a portion of the rubber floor matting in the basement). Seriously did not agree with him – to the point that I thought we were going to have to say goodbye to our big fluffy bae far too soon. However, 36 hours in the Animal Emergency Center, IV fluids, antibiotics, several rounds of x-rays, and $1,400 later, he came home. He was properly aggrieved by his ordeal and spent several days sleeping.

Miss L took tender care of him.

Miss L took tender care of him. $1,400 was well spent to keep these two together.

After this exhausting month, Emmett & I are looking forward to March.

After this exhausting month, Emmett & I are looking forward to March.

which is somewhat about patience.

The last time I ran was in Florida and I came back feeling discouraged. My left shin felt sore and tender during the run, with periodic needle prickles in my calf; my pace was slow and as I ran, I tried to think back over this injury.
I started with shin splint issues last spring, attributed them to my worn-out Mizunos, and switched to a new pair. New pair didn’t help. I bought Brooks, and the pain in my right shin cleared up; the left, however, lingered. It caused me to say no to my favorite half-marathon in the fall and as I ran around the Florida resort, I realized, after adding up all of this time, I’ve been babying this injury for EIGHT MONTHS.

That is ridiculous.

When I got back to Michigan I called the doctor and decided no running until I can get in to see her in a couple of weeks.
I feel a little stupid that I’ve let this go on for so long. It’s tough for me to give up running, though, and I always felt like it was just a nagging, minor annoyance. I don’t usually think about going to a doctor when I have a minor ache or pain. Time sort of stacks up and then you get used to running with that kind of sensation and you almost don’t think about it, except when you look at the big picture of your progress, where you actually are compared to where you would like to be.

I’m trying not to be bummed about the waiting period. Sometimes taking a few weeks off and doing heavy cross-training helps, so that’s what I plan to do. Squats every day and trying some new things like Pilates might help refresh me.

This week has been marked by snow, cold, and snow days.

02.2015 winter shadows

I thought Crazy Emmett, the master of the constant bid for escape, might learn his lesson if he were allowed to plunge out into the snow and realize how cold and miserable it is. Miss L told me this was a terrible idea and continued to shriek this opinion as I chased him through the porch snowdrifts. He was quite joyful and came in with wet paws, snowy whiskers, and a renewed determination to thwart me at every opportunity.

02.2015 emmett pawprint

In the midst of this arctic week, I ordered my tomato plants, which I will be able to pick up in the spring when they are new little thriving babies. I mixed it up this year, and the only type that I reordered from last year were the trusty Paul Robesons. I added 7 other heirloom varieties and I can’t wait to get my paws in the dirt of my garden. It sleeps under snow now, but in a few months it will be green and growing and I will be a happy girl.

In the meantime, it is almost Valentine’s Day, and I hope you are as happy with your Valentine as I am with mine.

02.2015 valentines