RSS Feed

Monthly Archives: May 2015

Make My Menu Month: Prelude

Posted on

Yay!  Tomorrow I get to start the Make My Menu Month challenge!  And already there’s a time I’m going to have to pull the “my friends are inviting me out to dinner” card – tomorrow night after work!

No matter, though – the biggest challenge for me is usually lunch.  There’s a sandwich place and a pizza place in my lobby, and it’s gotten a little too easy to pop in there and grab either a baguette or a couple slices.  Especially if I’m in a rush in the morning, and packing a bag lunch would involve a little too much work.

But! It’s due to rain today, so I made a quick grocery run and got a bunch of staples, and then spent a couple hours cooking up some quick grab-and-go items that I can use to throw a lunch together – I roasted up a couple pounds of chicken wings, hardboiled a half dozen eggs, parboiled a whole package of green beans and new potatoes.  I also made these amazing-sounding snack bars out of cereal, peanuts, and a peanut buttery-caramel sauce.  In a bit I’m going to make up some cold Sichuan noodles with the rest of the peanut butter.  And all of that, plus a couple of other random odds and ends in the pantry and the fridge – canned tuna, a handful of olives, a bunch of radishes, cucumbers and grape tomatoes – and I’ll be able to dabble and mix and match and pack and go.  And I’ll probably be just starting to run out of a couple things by Saturday, when I get my first hit from the CSA and start living on 75% plant matter.

….The irony, however, is that I had originally planned to spend the rainy day indoors writing.  Oh well.

Announcing: Make My Menu Month

Posted on

Recently, a Facebook friend bared her soul about something.  She has two kids, see, and a busy job, and between the job and taking one kid to band practice and another to cheerleading practice it just got hectic, and so, she hit up a McDonald’s Drive-Thru window rather than making dinner.  “Vegetables and salad tomorrow, I promise,” she wailed.  I indulged in a little of the kind of talking-trash that only the single and childless can get away with and say that I’ve never had to do that, and wouldn’t dream of such a thing, tsk tsk…

But then I was wondering – how true is that, really?  I mean, I do tend to avoid fast food, but could I really say I make all my own meals?  No matter what?

So I’m gonna try to earn that smugness, with something I’m calling the “Make My Menu Month” challenge.  Which means: for the entire month of June, I will be making all of my own meals myself.  All three meals, every day, for the whole month.  No TV dinners, no takeout, no nibbles at a restaurant – basically, if I have to pay someone else to prepare the meal for me, it’s off limits.

Okay, I am allowing myself a couple of very specific exceptions:

  • If I’m spending the day at a museum or public garden that won’t let you smuggle food in.  If I’m at the Botanic Garden for the afternoon, I’m not going to go all the way home just to make myself a sandwich and then go back.  But by the same token, if I am going somewhere that will let you bring food, I gotta pack it.
  • If I’m out on with friends and that involves food.  A bunch of friends saying “hey, let’s go get Thai food” is always going to win.
  • If I’m on a date.   Yeah, I could cook for the guy myself, but that’s a particular talent I like saving for later.
  • I’m also allowing myself no more than two lazy brunches at the place on the corner.  I’m also going to be getting a scoop if I’m anywhere near Ample Hills ice cream but that’s not a meal anyway and it totally doesn’t count so shut up.

Other than that, it’s all on me – breakfast at home before work, brown-bagging it to lunch, and actually preparing a complete meal for dinner, every night, for the whole month.

To be fair, this actually isn’t too far off from how I eat anyway.   In summer I have a habit of stocking the fridge with big bowls of different salads, precisely so that dinner becomes a matter of just grabbing a little each of a couple options and dishing them up – they’re cold, they’re tasty, they require no thought, perfect.  If I want something with more heft, I’ll roast a chicken leg or something.  And the same bowls feed the lunchbox I take to work.  Plus in mid-June, my roommate will be taking off for a concert gig in California and will be gone for a month and a half, leaving the whole fridge at my disposal – all the more room to stock up.  And my CSA will also be starting up the first weekend of June – and it’s probably going to be way easier to always make myself good food when I’ve got several pounds of fresh produce dropping through the window every week.  And yeah, I’m also aware that cooking only for me, as opposed cooking for me-plus-husband-plus-a-couple-tweens-maybe puts me at a definite advantage.

But….I do sometimes fall off the meal wagon.  Sometimes it’s just plain easier to get a sandwich from the Pret a Manger in my office’s lobby or get a street cart hot dog or something; making all my own meals, even the snacks, is going to be a commitment.

But that’s it – I’m still going to.  If for no other reason than bragging rights.

So starting June 1st, it’s on.  I’ll check back in with progress every so often.

Aaaaahhhhhh…..

Posted on

gi self portrait

 

So my favorite spot in the entire city is open again.

Governors Island wasn’t even a place I could go when I first moved here back in 1988 – it was still a Coast Guard base back then.  But then it closed in 1996, and stayed in a weird sort of limbo for five years or so; there’s a nationally-landmarked fort on one end of the island, so someone had to maintain it, but the other end had some nondescript buildings no one wanted, so it wasn’t enough to justify the whole island being taken over.  The back-and-forth went on until 2003, just long enough for all the buildings to get a properly picturesque level of decay before New York City took it over, opening it up as a seasonal park; the ferryboats to get you there only run from Memorial Day through to the end of October, and at first they only ran on weekends.  Last year they started running every day.

I think I first went out in September of 2010, and fell in total love with the place.  It sits smack in the middle of New York harbor, with amazing views of Lower Manhattan on one side, Brooklyn on another, and the Statue of Liberty off to the south.  Back then the  there was a tiny picnic area on the southern tip, with a few freestanding hammocks scattered throughout; I was there on September 11th that year, and managed to snag a hammock and spent a long afternoon lying there, rereading E.B. White’s This Is New York and gazing at the Statue of Liberty.  I got back a bit sooner in the summer in 2011, bringing my bike that time and exploring a bit – peering through the windows of old officers’ houses at the north end, exploring the forts, and doing laps on my bike, free from the need to dodge cars.  I also got a kick out of how some of the old buildings were being repurposed into arts spaces,  with other pop-up public art projects scattered across the island – a mini reading room here, a minigolf course there…

More and more stuff has been added over the years.  There’s a small boutique that opens a pop-up shop out of one of the houses each year, the New York Historical Society has been getting into the act, and twice a summer there’s a jazz party which lures people in 1920’s cosplay. There’s a vintage rules baseball club that uses a corner the old parade grounds for its home games, and there’s even a small teaching farm with an active vegetable patch, a flock of chickens and a huge composting system.

My kayak club has made a few trips back and forth; paddling from Red Hook out around the island and back is a decently low-level adventure, taking just a couple hours or so, depending on how heavy the current is running along the west side.  We also once were specially commissioned by the farm to ferry some of their vegetables to the mainland.  Mainly it was just a photo op, but about ten of us made up a small flotilla of kayaks who paddled over to the island, where we were met by a team of people armed with boxes of kale and Swiss chard and a lot of bungee cords and they strapped the boxes to our prows, and we paddled back across to Red Hook, where a lone guy took pictures of us all storming ashore and then they gave us half the food.  We’ve also made regular trips for the annual City of Water Day, with some of the club opting to stay overnight – it’s the only time the park allows people to camp out each year, and you have to be part of a pre-approved boat club to do so.  The one year I did, we paddled across in the morning, our gear carefully stationed in our kayaks through the day; we gathered with the other clubs in the late afternoon, all of us patiently waiting for the last of the day trippers to leave.  When the last ferry pulled away, and we all started unpacking our gear, the most insane stuff started coming out of everyone’s boats – huge coolers, entire cases of beer, a whole slackline set….I swear I saw one group had managed to smuggle on an entire roast pig.   Technically we were also supposed to stay in one spot, but I managed to slip past the ranger and had a long moonlit walk across the empty parade ground.

The southern half of the park is undergoing a major renovation, and that first tiny park I went to was one of the first things to go – but they’ve moved the hammocks up to a new spot, planting a score of trees around them.  But the trees are a little too short still and the demand for hammocks has always been a little too great, so last year I hinted loudly that I wanted a hammock for Christmas – specifically so I could pack it on my trips and find my own quiet place to string it up.

I swear to God I would live out here if it were zoned for that.  Sadly, it isn’t – there’s a little problem of the plumbing system not having any potable water, and most of the residence buildings being just too damn old.  Plus I’d have to take some kind of ferry boat back to the mainland for 99.9% of anything.  But it could have the plumbing switched right back on and a couple of shops and services hooked right back up, and I would quite happily adjust to having to row to shore for shopping, I promise.

A Poem For The Day:

Posted on

I meant to do my work today,
But a brown bird sang in the apple tree,
And a butterfly flitted across the field,
And all the leaves were calling me.
And the wind went sighing over the land,
Tossing the grasses to and fro,
And a rainbow held out its shining hand,
So what could I do but laugh and go?

-Richard LeGallienne

 

….Okay, in my case it’s more like “but the laundromat was closed today and a sale at Ikea was calling me”.  But still.

The World Spins On

Posted on

Of course one of the biggest bits of good news I’ve heard in a long while is happening on a day when I am deep in the throes of Summer Brain.

I’ll have formed more thoughts in a few weeks – hopefully, just in time for the Supreme Court to rule in favor of marriage equality here – but in the meantime I’ll say good on ye, Ireland.

Sun In A Bottle

Posted on

In my 30’s I went through a seriously big, and super-changeable, crafty phase.  Every spring I’d be idly reading some kind of craft book, or see some DIY idea on a web site or see a kids’ crafting kit in a store, for something I’d not tried before.  If it sounded kind of easy, I’d try it.  And more often than not, it’d be way easier than I thought.

And then I’d spend the next several months going flat-out bazoo over it, cranking out one after another craft project with whatever my new hobby was; glass painting, fabric painting, soap making, natural dyes, wood craft, paper craft…I’d be all into it all summer, and then by fall I’d usually come to my senses and see that I’d amassed a huge pile of this….stuff that I never would be able to use up all by myself, and then I’d spend the next couple months gradually unloading it onto friends.  Maybe, now and then, I’d dabble back in, but not to anywhere near the extent I’d done before.

One time the year’s hobby was making liqueur.  Which was actually a little out of character, because I don’t drink all that much as a general rule.  But something about liqueur seemed so genteel – they’re not things you chug, you sip them, preferably on a shady porch out of antique crystal glasses only just big enough to give you the tiniest sippet of something, the facets in the glass showing off the clear jewel tones of the drink itself.  And of the things I’ve tried, this was hands-down the easiest of all – most of the recipes I found involved simply dumping things into a jar full of vodka and leaving them alone for several weeks.

My friends really liked that craze, eagerly snapping up my bottles of spiced rum and homemade amaretto and blackberry wine, and my friends Colin and Niki even found something to do with a weird banana-mango thing I made, using it as the “secret ingredient” in their sangria pitchers for the better part of a summer.  But I still had a lot of little bottles of random liqueur left over, and after a while the labels started to fall off all of them and I got uneasy about giving them to anyone without knowing what they were and they gradually fell further and further back in a closet until I finally just dumped them all out.  They weren’t getting drunk, and they couldn’t possibly be any good, I thought.

But now and then the urge still hits.  A couple years ago, on a trip to Italy, I bought a tiny little bottle of limoncello from a market stall somewhere in Florence, something just big enough for me to get onto the plane home.  I was going to save it for a summer party or something.  But then my first day back to work after my vacation I was laid off, and came home a half hour before my then-roommate – who’d also lost his job that same day.  I figured we needed a double-dose of comfort and broke into the limoncello, digging out a pair of tiny cordial glasses that my grandmother had owned.  I forgot all about it until the next time I had a job-related tragedy, and was home wondering “now what” and saw the limoncello bottle still had a good amount left inside and poured myself a glass.

That bottle became the house “emergency job shock soother” for the next two years, until just last month, when I was facing a return to unemployment.  I finished out the bottle, telling my current roommate that well, if I was about to be unemployed, I would go out in style.  I washed out the bottle to save as a bud vase, and started to accept my fate.  But then literally the next work day, I was offered a full time job after all.

The thing is, though, I’ve now kind of gotten accustomed to having a small bottle of limoncello in the house.  But it’s going to be a while before I can get back to Italy again, and I’ll probably be springing for salame or pancetta to bring home instead.  However…I can make it.

There is now thus a big jar lurking in a corner of my kitchen counter, full of the contents of a whole bottle of vodka and the zest of eight lemons.  The entire apartment smelled absolutely gorgeous, and it took on a beautiful sunny yellow color after only a couple days.  But I need to leave it there for another four weeks still, and it’s starting to look like old pee.  But that’s part of the process – four weeks from now I just play with some filters and add some sugar and water, let it age some more, and then in early August, right when I’ll be wanting a cold apertif anyway, it’ll be ready to drink, preferably out of antique crystal glasses on a shady porch.  Or, more likely, from a flask smuggled into a park during an open-air movie or something.

But I don’t think I’ll be saving it just for job-related emergencies this time.

I Give Up

Posted on

So today at work I asked someone what I thought was a simple question about a task.  Fifteen minutes later four different department heads were in a side room yelling at each other in an attempt to work out the answer.

I’m not leaving the house for the rest of the night.  I’m clearly a bad influence on people.

Other Mothers

Posted on

If you think about it, a lot of us have actually more than one mother.  There are the neighbor ladies who keep a subtle eye on us when we’re playing outside, or the teachers  or mentors we look up to.  Or there are the mothers of our friends – they have a natural shine to us, because we’re friends to their kids, and so sometimes they end up passing some Mom Wisdom on to us as well.

For example.

JANE P.

Lisa and I lived across the street from each other when we were kids, and were near-constant playmates.  One thing we did a lot when we were bored was bake, in either her family’s kitchen or mine.  I credit both mothers for teaching us how to cook, but Lisa’s mother and my mother had very different supervisory styles.  When we were at my house, Mom would stick close by, offering advice from the sidelines and reminding us to clean things up if we spilled them.  Maybe she’d step away for a minute or two to catch up on an errand, but she would pass in and out of the kitchen a lot, checking in on us.

Lisa’s mom, though, was almost completely hands-off.  She’d vet our recipes first, checking for any tricky steps; but then she would just ask Lisa if she remembered where the fire extinguisher was, and then she’d say “alright, give me a call if you need me” and then she would turn us loose.  Sometimes she’d be outside in the yard, sometimes she would leave the house entirely and visit a neighbor.  And Lisa and I would then go on to make an utter mess of her kitchen – ignoring spilled flour, dripping batter on tables, digging everything out of the cabinets.  We’d wipe up any spills on the floor so we wouldn’t slip, but otherwise we would save all the cleanup until after when we were done.

We screwed things up plenty of times.  Once we had the bright idea to put three different kinds of chips in a cookie recipe (chocolate, peanut butter, and butterscotch), but forgot we would need to keep things to the original quantity of chips, and ended up putting triple the amount in and making some vaguely cookie-laced burnt chocolate things.  Lisa learned the hard way that a quarter cup of butter was only half a stick, not the whole stick; and I once overfilled the coffee machine and caused a small, yet aromatic, flood.  A few of our sessions ended with us frantically dumping smoking things in the sink and running through the house swinging towels to fan smoke away so Lisa’s mom wouldn’t notice when she came home.

The trust she gave us was liberating.  Some of our experiments didn’t work, but we felt free to make them in the first place.  We were free to screw up and figure out our own way out, free to color outside the lines, free to leave a mess sit for just a few minutes if we were in pursuit of a thing.  I cook a lot now, and I cook with that same freewheeling chaos that Lisa and I had in her kitchen – things splotch on counters, ingredients are eyeballed if I feel like it, and sometimes I’ll experiment.  If I screw up, no big deal – it’s just food and just a mess, and I’ll clean up later.

Lisa’s mom taught me that creativity is sometimes messy, and always should be exuberant.

EIBHLIN

I first visited my Irish pen pal Cliona when I was on a college spring break.  She didn’t have her break at the same time, so a couple mornings she had to go to class and I was left to myself; she was still living at home, so I was usually entertained  by either her mother or father, or one of her two brothers.  One morning, the plan was to meet Cliona at noon, so her mother offered to let me sleep in and she’d make up a full Irish breakfast (“so ye can see what that’s like”) before sending me along.  She made up a smaller plate for herself, and we ate together, me tucking into everything greedily – the egg, the sausage, the thick cut bacon and fried tomato.

But I cringed a bit when I saw she’d rounded things out with a grapefruit.  I’d only had grapefruit once before, when I was very small and found it much too bitter.   I kept up the polite chat as we ate, but the whole while I was frantically trying to think how to break it to her that I didn’t care for grapefruit.  She noticed about midway that “you haven’t touched your grapefruit yet,” and I just made some kind of noise, and kept eating, subtly trying to nudge the grapefruit a bit further away from my plate.

Then everything else was done, and we were lingering over the table, making polite chat.  She observed that the grapefruit was still there.  “I…actually don’t care for grapefruit,” I said, blushing.

“Really?” she said, eyebrows raising.  “I find it quite refreshing myself.”  I just shrugged, and we talked about something else for a few minutes.  “Are ye sure you won’t be having your grapefruit?” she asked again.  I blushed further, and stammered out something about how it was so kind of her, but I’d tried it once before and it wasn’t quite to my taste, and I’m sorry, but there it is.

And then she fixed me with the Queen of all Mom Stares.  “…Will ye try it, at least?” was all she said.

I blinked, then meekly said “yes, ma’am” and reached for my spoon.

….Turns out I like grapefruit after all.  Eibhlin said something about how maybe I’d just not put enough sugar on it before, or gotten a bad one, and otherwise made no further comment.

Years later I had a similar moment when I got some beets in my CSA.  I didn’t like beets, I thought.  I’d tried them once as a kid, I already knew I didn’t like them.  But then when I was puzzling what to do with them, I suddenly thought of Eibhlin asking “will ye try them, at least?”  and swallowed hard and looked up beet recipes and learned that huh, I guess I like beets after all.

Cliona’s mom taught me to revisit your opinions – at least with food.

CAROL

I only met Colin’s mom a couple times; they lived in Florida, and usually when they were visiting they were caught up with Colin and his girlfriend Niki.  But one time they came up to help Colin and I with a benefit party for our theater company; one of their friends had a lavish garden apartment overlooking Tompkins Square Park, and had generously offered it as the venue for a cocktail party to benefit the company.

I lived about ten blocks away and offered to make all the food, planning a lavish, elegant spread – cheese puffs, little toasts with three kinds of spreads, an Italian pizimonio hot dip.  I did a lot of the prep work at home, then decamped to the apartment an hour early to do the final cooking stage for everything.  Colin met me there, parents in tow – they’d offered to come along and help set up.  They all turned to the chairs and table setup while I hit the kitchen.

One thing I was making was suppli – little cheese-stuffed balls of risotto, deep-fried.  I’d brought the risotto in one big tub, and had only to scoop out the balls and deep-fry them.  But it was taking a bit longer than I thought, and the approaching arrival of all our guests had me a little flustered, and I splashed one of my fingers with some hot oil.  I ran my finger under cold water for a few seconds, then decided I couldn’t wait and got back to work as best I could.

Carol came into the kitchen at some point to offer help and saw me gingerly trying to keep one finger as far away from things as possible.  “Oh, did you burn your finger?”

“A little bit,” I said.  “Just a drop of oil.  I’ll be fine.”

“Oh dear….do you want some ice for that?”  she said, heading to the fridge.

“I’ll be fine, really.”

Carol hesitated, then gave me a Mom Stare to rival Eibhlin’s.  “….I think maybe you should have some ice for that.”  I froze, then meekly stopped and came over to let her take care of my hand.

Colin’s mom taught me that even when you’re on a deadline and in the midst of chaos, you can stop to take care of yourself if you need to.

PELDA

My friend Richard and I actually started out as a couple.  So meeting his mother had me a little nervous.  And then Richard told me that she had multiple chemical sensitivity, and explained that I couldn’t wear makeup, hair product, antiperspirant, lotion, or anything that had any kind of potential fragrance – I could have a shower with plain soap and water, wash my hair with Johnson’s baby shampoo, and that was pretty much it.  So I was going to be looking ungroomed on top of everything else.

I don’t know what I was expecting, but it wasn’t the elegantly thin woman with bright red lipstick who welcomed me in to her apartment with a handshake and a big smile.

I think I hung back most of that first meeting, letting the two of them carry most of the conversation – she’d been a single mother most of Richard’s life, and Richard her only child, so they doted on each other.  But time to time that warmth got turned on me, and I was soon talking with the both of them, bonding with her over Richard’s ridiculous jokes.  Sometimes I’d sass Richard back, and I think she actually clapped at that.  She was so welcoming and vivacious that I totally forgot about the chemical sensitivity.

Richard and I only dated a year, but stayed friends for many years after – and Pelda stayed in touch too.  Every couple years she would send me a Passover card, along with a poem she’d written.  A couple times I even got invited to the family Seder – usually it was just Richard, Pelda, and a couple Pelda knew, and Richard sometimes got sick of being the youngest person there, and invited me so he wouldn’t have to always be the one to  ask the traditional Four Questions from the Haggadah.  I think Pelda knew I’d be a little uneasy at that – growing up Catholic doesn’t give you much exposure to Passover- and found a small sort of “Passover 101” book for me to follow along with as we went.  She even encouraged my fumbling attempts to recite the Four Questions in Hebrew.  Towards the end of the first Seder I spent there, she brought out small gifts for everyone – and presented me with a small gold necklace, with a charm that depicted the famous Robert Indiana “Love” sculpture done out in Hebrew characters.  I had nothing myself and felt guilty, but she waved me off – she wanted to share, that was all.  Same with the cards – I once told Richard I felt guilty I often didn’t remember to send her a Passover card, and he just shrugged and said “that’s more about her wanting to share something with people.  She doesn’t expect anything back.”

Richard’s mom taught me the importance of generosity and hospitality.

JANE W.

I couldn’t have learned anything from these other mothers if I hadn’t been open to them.  And that’s where my own Mom comes in.

Mom is a pretty observant Catholic – she attends Mass every week, still observes Lent, and she was in the church choir when I was a kid – so some people think that she holds everyone else to that standard.  Richard once asked me, while we were dating, whether she had a problem with the fact that he wasn’t Catholic.  And at my sister-in-law’s wedding shower, she took me aside at one point and asked if Mom was okay with the fact that she and my brother weren’t doing a traditional Catholic wedding.

I told them both the same thing – “no – her attitude is, she’s Catholic, but that’s just her. Whatever you do is also cool.”   Mom was always this way – sometimes when I was a kid a friend would invite me to a sleepover on a Saturday night, and Mom would say sure, you can just go to church with them, whatever church that is.  So I got to sit in on a Protestant Mass and a Quaker meeting as a kid.  When I got home, Mom would curiously ask me what it was like – and would find it fascinating or beautiful rather than weird.

There are also connections between all these other mothers and my own Mom.   Lisa’s parents befriended my own, and when I was about 15 they invited my parents over to help them make pierogis, and so Mom had a taste of the merry kitchen chaos herself – and surprised me by diving right in.   On another trip to Ireland, Eibhlin had to nurse me through a case of food poisoning after I ate a dodgy kebab; she let me call Mom the next morning after it was all over, and Mom spent a few minutes chatting with Eibhlin and I think they traded a couple letters or cards themselves after.  Carol and Mom both painted, and I’ve noticed similarities in their styles.  And as for Pelda – she passed away last year, and I had the sad task of helping Richard clean out her apartment.  He said I could take anything I wanted, and I saw a couple books about Paris – Mom had just been to Paris, and asked to take them for her.  Richard is fond of my own Mom as well, and the fact that she has them has been a comfort.

But my own Mom taught me that the fact that other people do things differently from you doesn’t make them weird or different – it’s what makes the world rich.

Happy Mother’s Day, with love, to Carol, Eibhlin, Pelda, and both Janes.

Like A Boss

Posted on

So I started a new job yesterday.

I don’t have an office as such, so I can’t quite hide an art print of Dream of the Fisherman’s Wife behind the door or anything.  The extent of my decor so far consists of one X-Files mug, which I bring to the coffee maker in the morning.  And technically this is a limited position – in six months I find out whether I can stay longer, and I also have the option of switching somewhere else within the company before that six months is out.

But on the other hand – it is not a temp job.

I have been living on temp jobs for years now.  In my mid-30’s that was by choice – I was sustaining a theater career and told myself I needed the flexibility, and the extra money from theater did make up for the diminished salary.  Theater was also giving me a “something to live for” and somewhere to channel my outside-of-work energy.

Then the recession hit approximately two and a half hours after I decided to retire from theater.

For the past nine years I have been living with a subsistence-income mindset – not that I really had a subsistence income; in fact, I made enough as a temp to not just get by, but to put tiny bits of money into savings and to take great whacks at a credit card balance.  But the only way I could manage that was by watching the minute, day-to-day peaks and valleys in the cash flow – working extra hours in advance of all my three-day weekends, so my wallet could absorb the hit of not having paid days off.  Timing the piddly few vacation days I had allotted to me to wrap around weekends, so I could get extra time away – and also so I wouldn’t have a break in income (two partial weeks was better than one unpaid week).  Not using my sick days unless I absolutely had to, because one day off for sick leave was a day I couldn’t use for vacation time.

That much attention to your day-to-day income makes anyone crazy.

There was a year and a half when I did have a job, but it was longer-than-average hours in a profession I hated, and I accepted it mainly to knock a big dent in debt.  So while I did use the vacation time, I’d still already channelled most of my money to debt and had to scrape things up to pay for my fun.  And I also had to scrape up the mojo to even enjoy myself after having been wrung out by the job itself; one vacation week I simply stayed in my apartment all week, watching Law and Order reruns.

However.

A year ago I started a temp gig at a place I realized I really liked. And, they really liked me.  And when the temp gig was about to run out, and both the plans that both my other bosses hatched to keep me around full-time either got delayed or ran dry, a third department stepped in and brought me on board simply to keep me around.  It’s different work than I’d been doing – instead of secretarial work, I’m doing a lot of data-entry form-checking type of busy work and paper processing.

And I love it.  It is coming across as a mental break – everything I do is either a yes or no answer, and when I cannot deliver one, then there is nothing I can do but punt to someone else.  It’s taking a huge mental weight off my mind.

But on top of that, I already had ten sick days when I walked in the door; I have paid holidays; and over the course of the next six months, I will be accumulating ten vacation days.  And I’m even getting a teeny-tiny baby little raise, which I will not have to hover over and nurse into anything because I will have those paid holidays, already.

And what this means is that finally, for the first time in a very long time, I will be able to have the time, the headspace, and the funds available to actually take care of myself.  If I’m sick, I can take the time off.  If I want a day off, I can take it, and still have the mental energy to go do something with it.  If I need something, I can go get it without worrying how to pay for it.  And best of all, I can regather the energy I’ve spent trying to just survive and turn it back towards me, towards the kind of mulling and self-reflection I need to actually grow my own self.

My position is basically entry-level where I am, but from where I’m sitting, I’m feeling more like I’m finally my own boss than I have in a very long time.