Tuesday, March 30, 2010

A revelation

Listen up, because I'm about to tell you some shit that will blow. your. mind: going to bed earlier makes it easier to wake up in the morning.

I'll allow you a moment to change the pants you've surely just soiled.

Last night, true to my word, I performed my evening ablutions and packed it in at 11 pm almost on the dot. I was asleep not long thereafter. And while I woke up at 6:45 this morning because the dog was snuffling in my face, I was able to get out of bed, do a little puttering around, and even get in some yoga without any trouble at all.

So now, at 34 and change, I realize that what I tell my children all the time -- that just going to bed earlier would make them feel so much better in the morning -- is actually true. It's enough to make me want to re-examine the whole "wind is trees sneezing" theory. Unfortunately it doesn't get the first floor cleaned up (although Peter did do some nice work in the kitchen last night, which was a pleasant surprise this morning) or the laundry put away, but it's driving home the notion that I really, actually, truly do require 7 1/2 - 8 hours of sleep a night, and there's no getting around it. So maybe it's not laziness that made it so difficult to wake up early without going to bed early. And maybe it's time to accept that and plan around it instead of fighting it so damn hard. You know...like I tell my kids.

Monday, March 29, 2010

Week 13: Time to put your bookmark in, Mr. Brady

This was me at about 12:15 am on Sunday. I was at a party. (I know my hair looks terrible, I'm getting it cut this week. DON'T JUDGE ME) I had been throwing down vodka tonics for about two hours, counting down the minutes until midnight (although at a few points I was fairly certain time was moving in reverse.) At about 11:50, I headed out to the 7-Eleven a couple blocks away. I updated my Facebook status as I walked, in order to not waste time. Selected a Big Gulp cup, filled it a third of the way with ice and then my one perfect love, Coke. Paid for it, headed out, and about half a block into the walk, the clock struck midnight and I took a sip. It...was...delicious. I think I stumbled a little, but I don't know if it was from delight or drunkenness. You can see in the photo my last vodka tonic, ice melted, rejected in favor of the Coke. I chugged that bastard like there was no tomorrow.

It was a blissful reunion until my insides exploded up into my esophagus. I hadn't had much to eat besides popcorn before I started drinking, so I think artificial butter plus vodka tonic plus 32 ounces of Coke = burny. No barfing, but I had to contort myself over an armchair for a while trying to twist into a position that didn't make my chest feel like it was full of angry alien when a Jay Baruchel lookalike in pleated khakis (see also: Peter ten years ago) came over to chat. It's tough to be charming and pleasant when you're in esophageal agony, but maybe being bent backwards over an armrest with a leg in the air makes up for lack of conversational aplomb because he stuck around for a while. Eventually the acid roaring in my torso settled down to a dull fizz, and I was able to stand upright again and return to insulting my husband in front of his friends.

We headed home after the party and didn't get to sleep until maybe 2:30 or so, only to have to get up for a fundraising meeting at noon. I woke up around 7:45 and couldn't go back to sleep, so I took a long shower then went back to bed. Still couldn't sleep, but I didn't want to get up either, so I just burrowed under the covers until about 9:30 and we went to get the kids from my mom's. A couple of very fine friends were willing to watch Hannah (and Ollie!) while we were at the meeting, so we dropped them off and headed to the meeting. Now at this point I fully expected to be back on the Coke wagon, but after the ass-kicking I'd received a few hours before, it just didn't sound that appealing. What I really wanted was a big ol' glass of water. Of course, once food was in front of me I went ahead and ordered a Coke (well, Pepsi) anyway, but I only drank about a fifth of it. At home later that evening, I had a can of Coke and I didn't finish that one either. Is it possible that the threat of wicked heartburn is enough to dry up my Coke lust? I don't know, but I do know that I haven't had a Coke yet today.

The residual effect a boozy and burny Saturday had on my Sunday was that I was painfully low on sleep. I was able to catch about a half-hour's nap later in the afternoon, but I was still dragging ass most of the day. Thus, borne of convenience and a strong desire to sleep, I resolved to make week 13 bedtime week -- I must be in bed by 11 pm every night. I don't have to be asleep, but I do need to be in bed. We don't have a TV in our bedroom so I can't cheat by catching up on TV into the wee hours. I could read in bed but I'm only good for about half an hour of reading at night while lying down before I get sleepy so it's not to my sleep total detriment. I was in bed by 10:45 last night, asleep by 11, and man, was my body was grateful for it this morning. Eight and a half hours in happy sleepy land. I'm sure this'll put a damper on weekend activities but it's all for science. An 11 pm bedtime on a Saturday isn't the worst thing in the world, is it?

Friday, March 26, 2010


Look, I'll be honest: I was not expecting this change to stick. But I was really hoping that by day 6, the craving would be gone, or at least abated. Yeah...it's not. It is ever-present. There is, as the guy from Naked Eyes once said, always something there to remind me. There is one can of Coke in my fridge at home, and I see it every time I open the fridge -- and without drinking Coke, there is a little more fridge-opening happening these days. There are at least three billboards advertising Coke on my way to work.

And yesterday at Potbelly's, there was this business in the refrigerated case. I know it's on a can of Diet Coke, but still -- I felt like Coke was sending me a message. Letting me know that it still thinks of me and loves me, and when I'm ready to come back, it'll be waiting for me. Maybe it's too soon to call it, but it might be time to face it: I will never be free. Coke will always be a part of me. I am making up for its loss by appropriating crappy songs, which might be worse than the disease.

Maybe it is the lack of caffeine, maybe it's the last gasp of winter, I don't know, but I have to admit to getting a little discouraged about this project right now. Nothing I'm doing seems to be doing much for me in the end.  Last night I was presented with a batch of photos from my brother-in-law's birthday party during a trip to Texas a few weekends ago and LORD. I look massively bloated, especially in the face, my hair is stringy and gross despite my efforts to get it to look decent, and I just...ugh. I hate photos, because as my dad liked to point out, they don't lie. I just got a report that my blood pressure isn't exactly stellar (120/78) --so what's all the fucking exercise and vegetable eating doing for me? I'm still heavier than I'd like and it's not even netting me any health gains as far as I can tell. And then the house stuff -- well, some of it's stuck but when it's often just me fighting the tide of paper and clutter, it's easy to get behind. With gardening season fast approaching, I just don't know that I have the time or energy to do all the things I need to do, much less any of the things I want to do. I know, I know: there's a club for that, it's called everybody, and they meet at the bar. Well, I guess I will see everybody at the bar, then. This weekend, at least. But, I'm still on the horse.

Thursday, March 25, 2010

Where's Extreme when you need them?

A very thoughtful co-worker left a can of Canfield's raspberry sparkling seltzer water on my desk this morning. No calories, sodium, caffeine, artificial sweeteners -- perfect for a bubbly morning drink. The sparkle is certainly there, and the flavor is crisp and nice. So, I like it, and it's smoothing out the morning Coke jones pleasantly. But...I wouldn't say it's better, Manny. Better FOR me, definitely. But better than Coke? Tough sell.

It's funny. Coke has left holes in my teeth and possibly my stomach lining, but it seems nothing can fill the hole being Cokeless has left...in my heart.

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

I even gross myself out

Meet The Big Cup. It's large -- maybe 24 ounces -- and has orange pears printed on it and every morning around 9:30 I fill it with ice and Coke, and it makes me happy.

See that 1/2" of brown liquid at the bottom? It's the dregs of last Friday's Coke. I haven't thrown it out yet because I find it comforting that if I get horribly desperate this week I can always sip that foul ounce or two and totally put myself off Coke for a while. It's the same idea as thinking of a horrific ashtray full of butts and yuck for smokers. By the end of the week it'll be reduced to sludge at the bottom of my cup. Maybe that'll hold me over 'til Sunday. Only 85 hours to go.

The fountain

In three days' time, I've gotten over the caffeine withdrawal -- no more headaches or fogginess -- but I still want a Coke every morning. I actually think about it in the car on the way to work, like, oh, yum, Coke! And then when I remember I can't have one I drive off the overpass and plunge to sweet, sweet death. It's happened twice now.

Since I can't drink one, I will run down the best places to get a fountain Coke. In this time of political upheaval and dissent, the one thing we can all agree on is that the soda fountain is the purest, most delicious form of Coke dispensal available in this great land of ours. If it were in a Texas schoolbook, surely there would be a chapter on soda fountain exceptionalism. Come to think of it, the only way I can think of improving upon a soda fountain Coke is to use real sugar in the mix instead of corn syrup. Lord amighty, I would snap a neck to have a Mexican Coke right now. I'm getting off track here. The point is, all soda fountain Cokes are superior to canned and most bottled Cokes, with the exception of kosher/Mexican/Ghanian Cokes occasionally available in the corner markets. And some soda fountain outlets are better than others. My personal top five:

5. Burger King: generally a good mix although from one outlet to another there's less consistency than I would like. When it's off, it tends to err on the side of too syrupy, so you have to up the ice content to compensate. Not the worst thing in the world, and overall pretty dependable.

4. Subway: I'm not sure why exactly, but the Subway Cokes I get tend to go flat faster than from other places. Otherwise on a flavor basis they're a strong candidate, which is more than I can say for their food.

3. Jimmy John's: I'm basing this on a very small sample size, but the three or so JJ's that I've frequented in my time have surprisingly good mixes. The only knock I can give them is that the refrigeration seems to be slightly lower than optimal, leading to melted ice and a watery Coke if you don't drink it fast.

2. 7-Eleven: as a person who has downed her share of Big Gulps, I can say that 99% of the time the mix is flawless. Of the hundreds of Cokes I've gotten at 7-Eleven maybe three have tasted off -- and not so far off that I didn't drink them. It is rare indeed that I stop at a 7-Eleven and don't get a Coke.

1. McDonald's: the gold standard of fountain Cokes. The mix is always perfect -- the perfect temperature, the perfect syrup balance, perfect carbonation. I have never been let down by McDonald's Cokes, not once. It makes sense that in a place where you know exactly what you're getting every time, you can count on their Cokes being crisp, fizzy, and refreshing every time too. You know how everyone likes BK burgers and McDonald's fries? If I were to live that particular dream I would also have to pull a Coke from the side of the arches.

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

I might be a little punchy

Coke, I'm Gonna Miss You

(and don't pretend your ass doesn't know the melody. Yes it's Milli Vanilli. Don't judge me. I'M IN NO MOOD)

If I knew from the start
You would break my heart
I'd've drunk Diet Coke and we'd never have to part
You wrapped me 'round your pretty plastic bottle
And your sweet brown taste
It made me think my love for you was not misplaced
You put a spell on me
You took my thirst away
But when every can I drink makes my ass a joke
You just can't stay
I'm gonna miss Coke

All the love I feel for you
Nothing could've made me change
To Mountain Dew
Oh Coke...I'm gonna miss ya baby

Given all the love I feel for you
Couldn't make me change
To Mountain Dew
But I'm leaving
Now I'm sitting here drinking water
It's still better than Mountain Dewwwwwwwww

It's a tragedy for me to see
The dream is over
And I never will forget the day we met
Coke I'm gonna miss you

Never caffeine free
You made me so perky
But now I can't erase this potbelly
Multi-meal appeal
You are so unreal
You even go with a bowl of hot oatmeal
When you had a taste of paradise
It's even better with
a Coke on ice
I'm gonna miss you
I miss you


It seems to me today that I'm losing a lot of hair. It could be that my hair is longer than it's been in a while and I'm consequently noticing it more, or it could be that the secret formula of Coca-Cola was all that was keeping it in. Coke kept me from going bald, and now I'm turning my back on it. I'm a monster.

I'm drinking an Arizona Green Tea with ginseng and honey. It's not doing the trick, but it's something, I guess. AJ recommended what he and his friends call the Arnie, which is the Arizona half-tea half-lemonade endorsed by Arnold Palmer. I took a sip once and found it pretty blah, but it's all the rage at Lane. And that's your beverage endorsement for the day.

Monday, March 22, 2010


Went to the gym a little while ago. I marveled for a time at how much better it made me feel, and then remembered that my customary post-gym Coke cannot be. Grumpy again.

Week Twelve: I picked a hell of a week to stop drinking Coke

I'll tell you right off the bat none of this is going to make sense because I'm all out of whack. Week Eleven, sadly, is still not over. I still have two days of waking up an hour early that I haven't accomplished. Because waking up early sucks. It sucks, it just...sucks. I know, I'm really eloquent. For some reason it's easier on the weekends -- maybe the promise of a quiet couple of hours while everyone else sleeps is enough of a motivator, or maybe it's just that an hour early on the weekends is 8 am, not 6:30. But during the week, I just cannot make it happen without a very solid reason on the other end. And really, the benefit was nebulous...well, except for being able to sit calmly with Hannah for a half-hour instead of rushing around. But it's got to come down to a sleep issue -- I'm just not getting enough. Next week I think I'll give getting to bed on time a shot and see how that changes things. I had actually considered doing that this week but in a fit of pique decided to go in another direction. I'm unsure now if I was ready for that direction.

I was flipping channels while doing the dishes on Saturday morning, and happened to tune in to "Change Your Brain, Change Your Body" on my employer's station just as the host launched into a discussion of drinking your calories. This is a subject that spoke directly to me. There was a point in my life where I was drinking two 20-oz bottles of Coke at work a day and then a couple of cans at home. On a weekend I'd drink half a dozen easy and then get a fountain Coke with lunch or dinner. Or breakfast. So I felt like getting it down to one or two or even three cans a day was pretty good -- from that perspective, it was pretty good. But that was before I started experiencing the weight creep of the 30s. And now that I'm paying attention to calories, holy shit. Coke adds life -- and ass, and hips, and potbelly. A can is 140 calories. Two cans a day over a week...my Cokeless brain is working slowly, hold on...that's 1,960 calories. That's over half a pound a week, or more than, what, 25 pounds a year?! With an aging metabolism I can't see maintaining that kind of habit without a Lark mobility scooter being in my future.

Problem is, I don't think that I can adequately explain how much I love Coke. It's not just part of my daily routine, it's something I look forward to. It's one of the first things I think of in the morning, and one of the last things I imbibe at night. The caramelly sweetness on my tongue, the fizzy bitterness at the back of my throat, the will to go on living it gives me, the tingly bubbliness on the roof of my mouth...except for the tooth rot, calorie bomb, esophagus ulceration and elevated triglycerides, it's the best thing in the world. Drinking Coke is like smoking to me. Smoking crack.  If I could rinse with Coke after brushing my teeth, I would. If it wouldn't go flat sitting at my bedside, I would have it there. I'm a little surprised it didn't come out of my nipples when I nursed the kids. If it had, I probably would have given myself a shot every now and again if I could rig up something to chill it.

And listen -- don't even talk to me about Diet Coke. Just don't. It's SWILL. It is foul and disgusting, and the sad slice of lemon they give you at restaurants does nothing. IT DOES NOTHING. Oh, I'll get used to it, you say? Well, I'd probably also get used to getting kicked in the face twice a day, but then I'd have no teeth to stop the Coke from attacking the tender flesh of my inner cheeks instead.

Coke Zero isn't bad, though. It's not good -- it has the same weird aftertaste, just less -- but it'd do pretty well right now. I'd punch Grandpa in the sack for one of those right now, in fact. My eyelids are heavy, my head is pounding, and this PMS is so much fucking worse without caffeine I can't see straight. Yesterday was even worse: from about 2 pm (a solid three hours after First Coke on a normal Sunday) to about 6 pm, I was pretty close to homicidal. Everything ached in a tired, post-death-march way and I just wanted to lie on the couch and hate people. So that's more or less what I did for a little while, until my family made it clear they expected me to act like a human being. I don't know how much of this detoxing is from caffeine withdrawal and how much is from sugar, and how much is from the deep emotional loss I'm feeling minus my beloved morning Coke, but I do know that even a bright, sunshiny day and the prospect of gardening aren't improving my outlook.

Today, Hannah is home with another ear infection, so at least my co-workers are spared this second day of detoxing. They are luckier than they realize. Fuck this, I'm taking a nap.

Friday, March 19, 2010


Even though I went to bed at 11:30 last night, waking up this morning at 6:35 was surprisingly not-difficult.  I wouldn't say it was exactly easy, but it by 6:45 I was out of bed and headed downstairs to do about 45 minutes of yoga before getting dressed and ready. Miracle of miracles, Hannah woke by herself and at 7:50 I found her all cutely morning-rumpled and hair askew while sitting in bed and playing with a little stained glass piece that hangs on her window. By my lights, there's not much that's cuter than a little kid in the morning. Unless they're screaming, or barfing, or their feet are in your face. We shared oatmeal and an episode of Mickey Mouse Clubhouse, then with some wardrobe adjustments (noooo, the FLUFFY skirt, Mommy! The FLUUUUFFFFFY ONNNNNNNNE gaaaahhhh...) headed out the door. I was not appreciably earlier in my commute, though. Funny how that works out.

Seven hours kind of feels like my sweet spot. Let's see how it goes, though.

Thursday, March 18, 2010

A Very Erica Thursday

First, some background.

Last night, I took AJ for a drive. Rather, he drove. I had to get cash to pay my nephew for scooping a winter's worth of poop out of the yard, so we had to hit the Walgreens ATM about a mile away and then go over to my mom's and give Anthony the cash. It was about a fifteen-minute errand, perfect for driving practice. Since I only needed my wallet, I took it out of my purse and put it in the pocket of the sweatshirt I was wearing. At the end of the drive, my fuel light came on. (This happens from time to time...I just don't check it as often as I should.) AJ suggested we stop for gas right then, but I told him he needed to get back to study for a geometry test so I'd just do it on the way to work in the morning. After all, I should have a good thirty miles left in the tank, right? Never mind that we already had to replace my fuel pump once...anyway. Cash retrieved and handed over, home again, jiggety jog, everything's jake.

This morning, my nephew called the house to see if I could leave him keys so he could use our computer. We don't have an extra set (AJ lost them) so I left mine in the mailbox, assuming that after he used the computer in the morning he'd drop them back in the box. I toodled off to work after dropping of Hannah, having forgotten to get gas (the fuel light didn't come on until I was a block away from work, barely on time.) I decided to get gas on the way to a lunchtime errand, and then I'd head to the gym. I dropped off the things I needed to drop off (flyers for a nonprofit event I'm planning) and then went to the gas station. Opened my purse and...no wallet. And exactly $1 in cash in my purse. Shit. Shit shit shit. I considered for a moment getting the 1/4 tank that the dollar would buy, but couldn't take the humiliation, and wound up heading home to retrieve my wallet from my sweatshirt and then get gas, making the gym an impossibility, although I probably sweated off a bunch of calories anyway furiously wishing for the gas fumes to get me there.

I pulled into my driveway and ran up the stairs to retrieve my keys from the mailbox. You guessed it...not there. I scratched and scraped at the bottom of the mailbox a few times just to make sure, and then called my nephew to see if he was in the house. No answer. Tried the house phone. No answer. Shit. Shit shit shit. Called over to my mom's to see if Anthony was there...nope. But since my mom is only a few blocks away, once she was through laughing at me she offered to give me some cash to get some gas. A few minutes, a mile and half's drive, a borrowed $20, and a lot of fevered chanting later, I was on my way back to the office. An unremarkable afternoon followed.

I laughingly recounted this tale to Peter as I left the office in the evening (on the phone, but not in the car, for the record.) He sighed appropriately. Oh, that Erica. Picked up Hannah, got home and realized I couldn't find my merely days-old cell phone. Rooted around my purse, in pockets, no dice. Shit! SHIT SHIT SHIT GODDAMN. As I came around the side of my car to check the passenger seat, my phone chirped with a text -- it was stuck inside my goddamned coupon organizer in my purse, which is why I didn't see it. Sweet relief! And then, I glanced in the car as I was closing the door, and under a reusable shopping bag I caught a glimpse of a corner of a familiar business card. I lifted the bag.

It was my wallet. It had been there the whole time. It was then that I remembered coming home the night before from the drive with AJ, taking the wallet out of my pocket, and putting it in my purse -- because I didn't want to forget my wallet at home in the morning. It likely fell out during one of my complete, non-rolling stops at stop signs.

Let's recount the things I did "right":

1. I replaced my wallet so I wouldn't forget it in the morning
2. I put my phone back in my purse rather than in a random pocket or on the seat
3. I came to complete stops at all stop signs
4. I use reusable shopping bags and leave them in the car so I'll always have them when I need them
5. I use coupons...
6. ...organized in a little holder expressly for them that I keep in my purse so I'll always have them when I need them.

The problem was, I assumed I behaved stupidly on the first two counts. Usually this is a solid assumption. And then everything else conspired to get even stupider. This time, it was stupid to think I was stupid. I can't win.

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

7:40 FAIL

How much sleep do you need? How much do you actually get?

I ask because apparently, I'm a child. I'm a four-year-old child fighting going to sleep even when I know I need it. At least I was last night. I knew I was tired at 9:45, but Peter had a late night at the office -- didn't get home until 10:30 -- so we stayed up to watch 24, and then I had to shower, and then we had to look for some computer files, and and and. The point is I didn't get to bed until aafter midnight, probably didn't get to sleep until almost 1, and when the alarm went off at 6:30 -- no. Just no.

So now I have to face it. I will just have to deal with the "early to bed" part of the equation if I want to wake up early. Which more or less leaves me in the same place as before. An hour tacked on at the beginning of the day or the end of the day will be equally productive, but I guess I was hoping that I could do both and not miss the sleep -- that I'd be one of the 1-3% of people that can function normally on less than eight hours of sleep a night. I get something like 7 1/2 hours on your average day, I'd say, so...I'm probably not one of those chosen few.

At the gym yesterday I read a Women's Health article about Ashley Judd, who admitted to needing 10 1/2 hours of sleep a night to function well. I was repulsed by that -- it seems so grossly decadent. Who besides an independently wealthy person or trust fund baby can sleep away nearly half their day? And why would you want to? I love sleep as much as the next person but truth be told, like time spent in the car, it seems like such a waste to me. I resent having to do it, and so I fight it.

I also read about a study that suggests people who get less than eight hours of sleep daily have a harder time losing weight and tend to crave carby, salty, sugary, and fatty foods more. As someone who has trouble resisting distinct and particular cravings for those very foods, ...well. Maybe I should just get more sleep.

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Out of steam

It's not even 10 yet, and I can feel my body winding down. This is not normal for me. I don't typically get those sleepy chills until 11:30 at the earliest. It's not fair! I haven't even watched any decent TV tonight!

7 am

Technically, I was awake at 6:30 this morning. I was still under the covers, but I was awake. I wasn't allowed to go back to sleep even if I wanted to, because there were four-year-old feet on my neck, a dog's paws on my back, a klaxon-like alarm blaring in my left ear from Peter's side of the bed, and a chirping alarm in my right from my side. Around 6:50 I gave it up for lost and finished reading I Capture The Castle about 60 years after it was written. I still liked it. Finally, I very reluctantly dragged myself up and out at 7. Once I was out of bed, though, I was fine. Cold, a little, but awake and ready to get going. I went downstairs to use the toilet because even though we're married, I still will not pee while my husband is in the bathroom. In the interest of maintaining marital privacy, I will leave it to the reader to suss out whether he feels the same way.  HINT: he doesn't. Anyway, going downstairs re-introduced me to the mild mess that was left last night in what we call the Harold and Maude -- it's a sort of general family area next to the kitchen. So I picked that up and started the dishwasher, and then I went into the bathroom and performed some sorely-needed maintenance on the facial hair. I hate it when the villainous curls at the ends of the my twirly moustache get all droopy...really puts a damper on the look. And then I had plenty of time to fix up my hair (which will last until I go to the gym, at which point it gets Cathy-style frizzy again, but we do what we can) and put on makeup. Somehow I still ran over five minutes, but my lunch was made, the house was reasonably picked up and I didn't have to futz around with anything on my person except putting on tights.

Hannah had obviously had a bit of a rough night, since she came into our room at some point in the early hours, so it was tough convincing her to get out of bed too. I had a secret weapon, though -- Mickey Mouse Clubhouse. She's gotten a bit tired of Curious George lately, so I started recording MMC since she loves Minnie Mouse so very, very much. Once I turned that on, she was up and at 'em and we enjoyed my favorite part of the morning: snuggling on the couch watching cartoons. And this time, I could actually just sit and watch, instead of sitting for a minute then jumping up to find socks or fix a lunch or pick up last night's art project, like most mornings. It was a pleasant way to start the day -- even if she did give me some guff about getting dressed and I wound up five minutes behind anyway. What is it with kids that kvetch about going to school in the morning like it's going to the gallows, but can't get out of your arms fast enough once you actually get to the school? I'm glad she likes her school, don't get me wrong, but I wish she'd remember she likes it about half an hour earlier in the day.

Monday, March 15, 2010

Week Eleven: The Early Bird

UPDATE: The fucking ice cream was in the FREEZER. I almost keeled over and died when, as I was digging around in the bottom basket for frozen rosemary, AJ leaned over, glanced in, and said, "I do believe I've found it." It was in the back of one of the slide-out baskets, sort of wrapped under a ziploc bag of frozen sage. Holy mary. Do you know how many times I looked in that damned freezer? How did I miss it fifteen times over?! WHAT IS WRONG WITH ME?!

Drive Safely week kind of ended with a whimper. I didn't do much driving at all on Saturday, which is out of the ordinary since weekends tend to be packed with errands. You want to know what my biggest issue with avoiding driving distractions was? The radio. Obviously it's not against the law to change radio statinos as you drive but it is a distraction, so I just resolved to leave it where it was until I was stopped. This was tough because I am a frequent station-switcher -- I can't stand to listen to music I don't like, but I also like the unpredictability of what gets played. And, I listen to NPR a lot but last week was pledge and as much as I like Gabriel Spitzer and Ira Glass, I get mightily sick of the pleas and finger-wagging, so there was a higher proportion of music radio in the mix than in non-pledge times. The point of all this is, while leaving the radio dial where it was occasionally resulted in a pleasant surprise (I hadn't heard "Still of the Night" in a long time, and that right there is babymaking music) for the most part it just meant I had to squirm through some shitty Steve Miller song or another (and let's face it, they're all shitty) until the next red light. There were times I was praying for a red light or a stop sign with no one behind me so I could be put out of my aural agony. I will say that it came in handy to be so virtuous, since AJ was doing quite a bit of time in the driver's seat over the past few days and it reminded me to set a good example when he was on the passenger side.

Sunday morning I drove to Andersonville to pick up a gossip bench from a Craigslister -- with the time change and the early hour, the roads were largely empty. I have to be honest and report that there was little residual effect from the week prior -- as soon as I was able I hightailed it up Irving Park at a solid 15 miles over the speed limit and was less than conscientious about the three-second rule at stop signs. But, I did think about how normally I would consider using that time on the road to call someone and chat -- that to me, time in transit is "dead" time that could be used quite nicely keeping in touch with people, and keeping in touch with people is something I'm not so good at. Instead, though, I enjoyed the quiet time alone...and paid attention to what was in front of me.

Speaking of quiet time alone, yesterday's early awakening marked the beginning of week eleven: wake up an hour early. Given my near-constant state of panic about finding time to do this, that, and the other, as well as my tendency to lateness, it seems pretty obvious that one solution is simply to wake up earlier. Bingo: more time to groom in the morning, more time to fix and consume breakfast, more time to exercise, more time to get out of the house and to work on time. More time to myself. The only problem with this lovely, elegant solution: I hate waking up. Considering my lifetime of experience (and hopefully, continued experience) waking up, I am very bad at it, especially when it's for a nebulous benefit. Yes, I could wake up, do yoga, eat breakfast, get all pretty and not feel harried...but I could also sleep more, and just not do yoga or eat breakfast or pretty up. And sleep is a convincing little whore. Yesterday's early morning was a little bit easier because I was getting a very tangible reward -- a vintage gossip chair to repaint and reupholster, which I have wanted for quite some time. And it was a Sunday, which meant I could take a nap to catch up in the afternoon and thus not have to go to bed early. If I want a decently clean house, unfortunately, going to bed before 10 pm is just not an option. Basically, I'm just looking to cram an extra hour in the day somehow in the hopes that it'll force efficiency elsewhere. Totally sound principle, I promise you.

This morning...I did get up early, but "early" is subjective. I normally set my alarm for 7:30, and then flop over in protest and half-sleep until 7:50, then throw on makeup and jump into clothes and fetch Hannah for her part of the routine at around 8. She eats and watches Curious George, and then gets dressed and ready to go. But there's a lot of creep inherent in this -- if I'm five minutes over on my end, it often winds up being ten minutes spillover because I'm running around like a chicken with its head cut off and forgetting things, and then we're not leaving the house until 8:45 to make a 25-minute trip, and then I'm ten minutes late to work. I regularly squander the small cushion of time I should have built into the routine by just not getting out of bed. Anyway, so last night I set my alarm for 6:30 and went to bed -- but since I was up picking up the house or running out to get cash for AJ or whatever until past midnight, I didn't get to bed until about 12:30, and probably didn't fall asleep for at least another half-hour. By 6:30 I was really just getting into a good sleep groove, and my ass was not getting up. It just wasn't happening. I didn't wake up for enough time to rationalize staying in bed -- I just cracked open my eyes, slapped off the alarm, and went back to sleep. I did actually get out of bed at 7:30 this morning, though, so it was "early" in that it was "not late" -- which did help the morning run more smoothly, for what it's worth. That works -- right? Right? Yeah, I know. I'm not giving myself a mulligan here, but I wish I could. Maybe I need to enlist backup on this. Peter gets up an hour before I do...maybe I need a nag.

Thursday, March 11, 2010

The disorganized mind

As if you need further evidence of my dingbattiness: I lost my wallet yesterday at the grocery store. So that means that in the span of a week, I lost half a gallon of strawberry ice cream (still unaccounted for), my cell phone, and my wallet. If only I'd committed to doing another buy-nothing week this week -- like having no cell phone temptation while in the car, with no wallet, it'd be a cakewalk.

Last night, as Peter was making all the credit-card-cancelling calls (I hate the phone and get really impatient with this sort of thing) he had to put me on the line to talk to the agent and request a new card myself. As he handed me the phone, and I thought to myself, "Yeah, that's how it was last time too." And then I thought -- how many times have I lost my damn wallet?! The answer is: several. And several phones, too. A couple of highlights -- I dropped one phone onto the train tracks, and one Hannah dropped in the toilet at a park. My detritus is scattered all over the place -- and across at least two states.

I just asked Peter whether, should I suddenly become super-responsible about my possessions and never lose a personal item again, he would miss it. I think on some level, I hope my absentmindedness is part of my (limited) charm, like an idiot character in a sitcom: "Erica lost her phone again!" ::sad trumpet:: "Oh, that Erica!" ::laugh track:: I eagerly anticipate his response.

UPDATE! Peter's response: Honestly? I would love it if that went away. I don't find it charming, I find it frustrating.

And what I told him is, it's like my frequent lateness at the office: it's lucky I'm awesome in so many other ways. I'm great, but I cost. Still. I'm working on it, chief.

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

You were wrong, Mommy

On the way to Hannah's day school, there is a right turn at a stoplight I make -- and nine times out of ten, it's a right on red. Which, for the record, is perfectly legal at this particular intersection. But try explaining that to a four-year-old who suddenly has become acutely aware of driving practices. As is required by law, I came to a full stop at the red, checked for oncoming cars, and proceeded to turn right -- at which point Hannah yelled, "Mommy! YOU WERE WRONG! The light is RED! MOMMY MOMMY YOU WERE WROOOONG!" She kept arguing with me until the next light, where I guess I redeemed myself by turning left on a green, because she said, "Okay, NOW you're right."

Speaking of kids driving, AJ and I went for a little training drive last night. He's driven a couple of times before, but this is the first time we've done it when he was officially permitted, so it was the first half-hour in his required 50 hours of pre-license driving time. He did really well, but I did remind him that he needs to come to a full three-second stop at stop signs -- and even he seemed surprised at how long three seconds actually is.

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Three minutes to the Edens

I was explaining my week's challenge to my boss a little bit ago, and I think we're in agreement that Foster Avenue ought to be exempted from my challenge. I drive the mile-or-so long stretch from Foster and Cicero to Foster and Bernard in the mornings, and the reverse in the evenings. This is a long straightaway that has a technical speed limit of 30, but normally I'm hitting 40 on the emptier stretches as well as whipping around turning cars with probably the briefest of turn-signaling. Going 30 this morning on Foster felt painfully slow. Going 30 tonight will probably feel worse, since all I want to do, along with everyone else, is get the hell home. I won't exempt it, of course, but I wanna. What I found particularly interesting is that my boss does the same thing I do -- times segments of his drive home. Like, my trip from St. Louis to Cicero should take four minutes; Foster to Pensacola should take eight; and it usually takes two minutes to make a left turn from Pensacola onto Milwaukee. And if I'm being honest, should the whole trip take more than fifteen minutes -- literally, if it takes sixteen minutes -- I'm a mite annoyed. Not, like, ruin-my-evening-annoyed or shooting-spree-annoyed, but just sort of piqued. I feel robbed of my time.

Really, that might be the root of the problem for both Peter and me with respect to driving habits (particularly using the phone.) I resent the time I have to spend in the car with relatively little control over how long it takes to get from place to place. I'd rather be at home, you know? I don't think I'm some sort of maniac driver, or even a particularly aggressive one, but I do get impatient with drivers pretty quickly because I feel like I'm always in a hurry, even when I'm just heading home with no particular need to get there at 5:30. I have to remind myself that flooring it to get through a yellow light is not going to buy me all that much time -- not even at the heinous Milwaukee-Cicero-Irving Park six corners, where if I miss the green I have to wait through TWO lights for it to come back to me. TWO LIGHTS PEOPLE. I get so excited when I hit all green lights on the way to Hannah's because I can make the trip in four minutes, but even when I hit all reds, like this morning, it takes only six minutes. I'm freaking out for two minutes' time, which feels like an eternity in the morning, but jeez, I'm running late every goddamned day. Taking two extra minutes isn't going to sink my productivity for the day, but when I'm in the car it feels like forever.

But, it was kind of worth it today because through my goody-two-shoes rule-following I did experience the brief thrill of thwarting an asshole driver today on the way to the gym. This toolbag in a white SUV was tailgating me for a couple of blocks (and while I was doing only the speed limit of 20, it was in a school zone, so I felt mighty justified about being poky.) He tried doing the pull to the right at a stoplight, then speed in front manuever, but wound up getting cockblocked by a slow group of pedestrians, so he sped right up to kiss my bumper again at the next block, where there is a stop sign. I duly performed the full three-second stop. I may have stretched it to four, actually, because a nanosecond after I came to a stop he was laying on his horn. I've never rolled so slowly out of an intersection in my life. I could see the guy in my rearview getting red-faced and apopleptic with veiny, murderous rage. It was delightful. This is probably the opposite the spirit of this challenge, but it sort of made my afternoon.

Monday, March 8, 2010

Week Ten: 9 and 3 o'clock

A couple of updates: as of this day, I have not found the strawberry ice cream. Neither, presumably, did my mother, who looked after the animals while we were out of town. And the gym's #2 television's closed captioning is no longer stuck on "take off your shirt", but now is stuck on "increasing in areas of". It's a nice change.

And on the Perfect Hygiene week, which officially concluded last night, I have this so say: fuck it. Fuck it fuck it fuck it. Listen, keeping lip gloss on is just not worth it. It takes too much of my mental resources. And my hair is just hair. It's JUST HAIR. It's not, nor will it ever be, a crowning glory, without either significant chemical intervention or a minimum fifteen minutes of attention every day and touch ups in between. Throughout the week I also failed to accessorize, which, let's face it, is necessary in the whole looking-pulled-together thing. I do like my nails being done, and I appreciate the difference it makes when I expend three minutes ironing rumply clothes, though. But some of the stuff, it's just too much to keep on top of. Except flossing. I am proud of the twice-daily flossing I accomplished.

I have to think there are some people for whom it requires a lot of work to look polished all the time, and some people for whom it is second nature. And this certainly isn't a knock on women who do make sure they look nice going to the grocery store -- it's just beyond me. It's not on my radar, and I have a hell of a time putting it ON my radar. I like to look nice, and I do put in the effort for work and date night and whatnot, but I guess I have a "this and no further" limit in my head of how much is reasonable. It occurs to me now, though, that maybe I should do a makeupless week and see how that goes. Some days I feel like I look okay without makeup or with minimal makeup; some days I think I'm a hosebeast without the warpaint. Hm. I will give that some thought.

For now, though, I begin Week Ten: Obey All Traffic Rules. This was something I had on my list before, but it was pushed to the top of the list by AJ, who today is receiving learner's permit. About a week ago, after watching some films on the subject in Driver's Ed, AJ basically lit into Peter and me for using cell phones while driving. And he's right, he's right. (I really do try to avoid it, but not nearly as much as I should.) I promised him that I would not do it at all anymore -- no excuses, no "but I...", nothing, I won't do it. Luckily for me, I'm a moron who doesn't have her shit together and so lost her phone while traveling this past weekend, which makes avoiding the temptation much, much easier.

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

I've lost it

You might wonder why I care whether I look put together or not. Well, here's why: because I lost a half-gallon of strawberry ice cream somewhere in my house sometime in the last three hours. Hannah and I stopped at the store after I picked her up and we bought three kinds of ice cream -- two pints of Ben & Jerry's and a half-gallon of Breyer's strawberry. The strawberry was for Hannah. We got home, put the ice cream away, gave Hannah an antibiotic for her infected finger. It's pretty gross. Then I made dinner, and we sat down and ate. After dinner, Hannah asked for ice cream. And I...can't find it. I've checked every room, every cabinet, both refrigerators, both freezers, the trash, the pantry, the car, the porch, the grill, the washing machine. It has disappeared into the Bermuda triangle that is our home. And it's actually pretty clean right now. This kind of shit happens to me all the time. ALL THE TIME.

I would love to BE together and not just look it. But I feel like at least looking it is a step toward being it. And people that have it together don't have half a gallon of strawberry ice cream melting...somewhere...in their houses.

This makes no sense.

When am I off the clock?

Listen. We all know one of those women who always looks beautifully turned out. Hair in place, neat makeup, lipstick always on, outfit matching and neat and clean and not an elastic waistband to be seen. That is the type of woman I am aspiring to be for at least a week. Problem is, women like that wouldn't dream of leaving the house in, say, grey paint-splattered yoga pants under a cherry-patterned nightgown, a fleece half-zip pullover and tan shearling boots with no socks. With wet hair in a half-assed bun. Like I did last night, when, after showering and performing nighttime ablutions, I realized AJ needed money put on his bus card for the next day. Naturally, I managed to time it so I was at the card machine just as the 10:30 pm Irving Park bus unloaded two dozen riders transferring to the Blue Line. Hello, Chicagoans! Why no, I'm not wearing a bra! Yes, that is a nightgown! That white clot at the corner of my mouth may or may not be toothpaste! Of course I remember you from 9th grade biology...how nice to see you again!

I am debating whether or not that little escapade counts against my goal for the week. It was late! And dark! And...late!

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Lipstick on a pig

I don't know what's going on, but I just cannot get out of bed these days. And I'm usually a pretty sound sleeper, but I've had really fitful sleep the last couple of nights. What I'm getting at is, I woke up late again today, and wound up late, again, to work. But by like two minutes less than yesterday, so there's progress! Luckily for me my bosses aren't sticklers for timeliness. Luckily for me most of my bosses haven't been. And, you know, luckily for them, too, I guess. Because I'm great, even if I cost.

But I had my hair did, and my nails did, and my makeup did, and even though my ensemble was pretty low-key, it was neat and cute -- grey pants, a dark grey knit boatneck top and cardigan with black flats. My main problem for the first half of the day was keeping lipgloss applied. That shit needs to be reapplied every fifteen seconds, I swear -- within the first ten minutes of the morning there was lipgloss all around my water (okay, Coke) glass and, inexplicably, on my right elbow, but none on my lips. I really dislike the dry, cakey feeling of lipsticks, especially long-lasting formulations, is the thing, so I guess this is just the way it is when it comes to lipcolor. Unless anyone has a product suggestion.

The other problem I have is the gym visits on my lunch break. I'm not much of a sweater, even when I'm really exerting myself. My makeup doesn't really budge much, so I don't wash my face when I shower after working out -- which means I don't have to spend ten minutes reapplying it all. But this seems to be to the detriment of my skin; I've been breaking out a lot more recently. It's just, I don't have the time to devote to reapplying an entire face's worth of makeup if I'm going to make it back to work in a reasonable time frame. So my choice is either keep doing things the way I'm doing and live with the consequences, or to pare down my makeup ritual significantly in order to save time. And then there's my hair -- no way am I washing, drying, and styling it mid-day every day. That's, what, another fifteen-twenty minutes? I'd just be going to the gym to shower, at that point.

My third problem is the large fellow gym-goer who has taken to eating tuna sandwiches (not a euphemism) in the locker room buck naked, perched on a bench, with nothing but a sheen of sweat between her and the bench. I don't really know if there's anything that can be done about that, though.

Monday, March 1, 2010

I enjoy being a girl, I guess

I picked a hell of a morning to pay attention to shit. I don't know if I'm coming down with something or yesterday's yoga kicked my ass waaaay more than it should have, but all of my muscles are sore and achy, and combined with a very restless night, this resulted in a very difficult morning. I had planned to get up about ten minutes earlier than usual to allot time for hair-doing, but instead got up ten minutes late. I still managed to get it all done -- even ironed my sweater and skirt -- but it was harried and I ran late a few minutes, which meant I ran late a few minutes waking Hannah up, which meant we ran a few minutes late getting out the door, so I was late to work. The price of relative beauty? I dunno.

After work, I stopped at my usual place to get my eyebrows and ::cough:: moustache threaded. Figured I may as well go whole hog, right? And it needed doing anyway. The girl who I get 80% of the time was available, so I hopped right in the chair. This place, Mario's, is staffed mainly by people of Middle Eastern descent, which I find comforting because let's face it: Middle Easterners know themselves some facial hair, know what I'm saying? The Vietnamese ladies at the nail salon like to offer their eyebrow waxing services all the time, but when it comes to handling the Dukakises and the Pancho Villa, well, I want to go with someone who understands my particular high-follicular-density situation. I mean, Asian people are not exactly known for their hairiness, now, are they? Anyway, as she was hacking away at my eyebrows I thought about how much getting my eyebrows done by this particular lady is like going to a strip club. Besides the shame inherent in walking into such an establishment for embarrassing procedures, she also ends every sentence she speaks to me with "honey". I'm fine with her not knowing my name -- I can't remember hers either -- and I guess there's some intimacy in having breasts pressed against your cheek while a job is getting done, but being told, "Take a look, honey -- you like that, honey?" makes me think I should be stuffing her tip into her pants. A point in her favor, though: when I walked in and sat down, she said, "You look nice today, honey!" So thank you, eyebrow lady, for noticing!

From there I headed down to the nail salon. I get my nails done maybe three times a year, so while it's not like I'm walking into Cheers or anything, I also should not feel awkward getting them done. But I do, I always do. It's such a weird procedure, having someone cluck over your feet while cleaning and decorating them. I selected my nail color and sat down in the spa chair next to a little girl, maybe five years old, who was propped up in her spa chair, which was miniaturized and had a creepy pink bear head where the headrest should be. She looked way more comfortable with the whole process than I did -- she pecked at a pink PSP covered in Tinkerbell stickers on her lap as her tiny, airbrushed hot-pink toenails dried. Once in a while she'd glance up at her mom, who was having her acrylic nails filed down with a Dremel rotary tool. I don't know how I never noticed before that that's the tool manicurists use to do acrylic nails, but it is. When power tools are involved with cosmetic procedures, maybe we've taken things a step too far?  It also makes me think maybe I could take a belt sander to my heels between visits.

But I digress. I had some serious winter toe action going on, I must admit. When they're going to be cooped up in boots and closed-toe shoes all winter, why bother spending the money to make them pretty? So what if the peeling skin catches in your athletic socks when you take them off and your toenails look like what's left at the bottom of a Fritos bag? No one but my family sees my feet these days, and I see their underwear in the laundry, so they better not start in on my feet if they know what's good for them. The Vietnamese lady who looks a lot like my mom started the foot bath going, and I realized that this salon is running WAY low on crappy magazines. Um, I would like to learn about Fergie's bikini waxing preferences, please, while you minister to my feet? And because I had left my book in the car in anticipation of delightfully trashy magazine consumption, I was screwed. I had to entertain myself by watching two male employees try to install a DirecTV box. It actually wound up being pretty entertaining because they insisted on reading every screen aloud in thick Vietnamese accents. When said screen is "Almost there...please wait a few seconds" it's a stereotyper's dream up in there.

My Vietnamese mom came back to the chair a few minutes later hauling what looked like a tool kit for replacing the carburetor in an '84 Camaro. This bucket was full of cleaning implements, saws, drills, scrapers, razors, Bunsen burners, you name it. Then we began the little pedicure polka, where you take one foot out, she scrapes or scrubs or gouges or clips or files for a minute, then she puts it back in and scrapes or scrubs the other foot, and then she pulls some other gadget and accompanying ointment out and does it again in a slightly different way. Or maybe they just do it for me and my hillbilly feet. Either way my feet were as clean as a whistle by the end of it. When she started scraping off the calloused skin at the heel and under my big toes, though, I had to concentrate really hard on this weird poster promoting body waxing so I wouldn't squirm. I have very ticklish feet.

Actually, let me describe this poster, because I...don't get it. Imagine the backyard of your standard Midwestern suburban ranch home, full of greenery and brick paths. The presumable owner of this home appears engaged in getting things out of the back of his black SUV, which is parked in the driveway to his garage. But unbeknownst to him, there is a possibly Asian, definitely naked woman watching him from the back hedge. We see her from the back -- she is glistening with moisture of indeterminate origin, and her hair is shiny wet and hanging down in a clump between her shoulder blades. Her right foot, clad in a red, strappy, patent-leather pump, rests Captain Morgan-style on a large boulder. Her posture is upright so that at first glance she appears to be merely observing Bob Smith there unloading his Costco purchases, but there is something about the tension in her body that suggests she is ready to pounce on her prey. To the right of her head in graffiti-style lettering reads: BODY WAXING. In my experience most of the body waxing women engage in involves the front, not the back of the body, so unless this woman is actually a Yeti, it doesn't really display the establishment's waxing prowess. So I can only assume that there is some cultural reference to guerilla warfare that involves body waxing, and I'm just not familiar with it.

Anyway, two hours later I am cleaned up pretty decently, although I took a pass on their offer of eyelash extensions, since I like to make my own out of dog hair anyway. My fingernails and toenails are a deep shade of wine -- I figured it's the last time for a while that I can wear a nice dark winter color, which I like because they hide dirt better. And my heels no longer make a scraping sound on our hardwood floors. I'll call this day a win, even if it did cost me all that time. We'll see how I feel about it tomorrow.