Sunday, July 30, 2006

Summer Frustration

We subscribed to Gourmet again several months ago. We had stopped subscribing several years ago, when the focus appeared to switch--alas, under the reign of Ruth--from food to lifestyle, but M has now become entranced with all things food (shades of Oedipality?), and when the offer of a year for $12 arrived, I took them up on it. That $12 can now be considered well-spent with the arrival of a fabulous supplement to the August issue--I don't know if it's only for subscribers, but if you see it on the newstand, pick it up. It's 15 essays: some of them by food types, like Calvin Trillin; some of them not, like a lovely picture essay on breakfast by the wonderful Maira Kalman; every one that I've read so far is delightful.

But the essay that made me sit up and say "YES!" is one that I haven't finished yet and I haven't even gotten to the food. Ann Patchett is one of those "should" writers for me. No, I haven't read Bel Canto; yes, I know it's wonderful and I should. I did read the Lucy Grealy memoir--I think I even blogged about it. Yup. But she's never really grabbed me. These lines, however, speak my life:

None of this is to say that I do not love my life. I do. But sometimes it is the wonderful life, the life of abundant friends and extended family and true love that makes you want to run screaming for the hills. It is because you love so many people that you end up incurring too much responsibility.

(I would just add to her list: the colleagues one respects and the clients one enjoys.)

Lucky Ann Patchett gets to head for the Hotel Bel-Air when she gets overwhelmed. Me? I take the kids to the pond and hope they will stay out of my hair and I can get in at least a few minutes of reading.


It helped, today, when I reformulated my frustration in a way that is both less hostile and more accurate. It's not that I have to do everything, because I don't, though I do an awful lot. It's that I am always doing something, for somebody. And it's a rare moment when somebody, whichever somebody it is, is not in my face or on the phone or bombarding me with emails, a rare moment when I can do what I want to do, or do nothing.


As always, the thing that keeps sending me over the edge--no, there are so many things that send me over the edge, but this is a big one--is food. Shopping for it. Cooking it. Or, as the case may be over the last several weeks, neither shopping for it nor cooking it, and feeling constantly guilty. In this weather, I have no interest in food. But there are active young beings who must be fed, constantly, and watermelon only gets you so far.

And while we're on this theme, the CSA? Never again. The CSA, it is oppressing me. I forget to pick up the vegetables. I don't want to cook the vegetables. I want to go to the farmer's market and choose my vegetables, not have my vegetables assigned to me. They are beautiful vegetables, but I just want them, like everyone and everything else, to go away. They can come back soon, but for now, just for a little while, could they please go away?

On the other hand, last night I took some lovely organic heirloom onions and tomatoes from the CSA, and some feta from the Greek market on the corner (that had been in the fridge I have no idea how long) and made a summer pasta a la Libby that was delicious and not at all taxing, so maybe if I would just get over my aversions, it wouldn't be so bad.


But while we're complaining, I have decided that if I could choose only two things to add to my lovely home--which I have come to quite love, despite its size (small) and squalor (omnipresent) (though I must remind myself that the squalor comes from us, not the home, for we were squalorous in Red State as well, in a somewhat more substantial home)--the two things I would add, if I could only add two, would be a linen closet and a porch or deck on the second floor (which is our first floor).


One of the saving graces of life amidst summer frustration is neighborhood moms. I don't know how people live without neighborhood moms, and I am truly grateful that in both Red State Capital City Suburb and Town, I have been graced with fabulous neighborhood moms. Yesterday morning I had breakfast with C, and on my way to her house through the backyards A called to me from the porch and made me feel all neighborly, and in the afternoon M (my neighbor, not my daughter) and I did split shifts at the pond and even got to hang out a bit and whine in between my errands and her errands.


But now I am abandoning the neighborhood and heading off to enjoy some more of my lovely life and hopefully shuck the frustration. There will be another full-time adult, and hardly anyone has the phone number, and while our neighbors up the road have wireless, we will only partake once a day, if that. So there will be a cessation of blogging, and then I will return.

Saturday, July 29, 2006

Thoughts on Bathing Suits at Midsummer

There is no reason for a small girl to wear a bikini. Ever. Tankinis; sporty two-pieces: fine. But the ones with the triangles that are meant to hold breasts on someone who has no breasts? No.

I'm not quite sure when boys' trunks sank down to their knees, and it doesn't look so comfortable to me, but then I have never been a boy, or the mother of a boy, so what do I know?

Long-sleeved bathing suits are ridiculous. Put on some sunscreen. Or take a quick dip and then lie in the shade.

Wearing shorts or suits with skirts as camouflage does not work. Ever. Because, aside from ten-year-old girls, who seem suddenly to be wearing tankini-ish two-pieces with skirts (though not my ten-year-old girl), only people who are trying to camouflage wear shorts or suits with skirts. Which means it is obvious that camouflage is being attempted, which only draws attention to that which is purportedly being camouflaged.

At this stage in their fashion evolution, tankinis scream MOM. Not that there's anything wrong with that. Except I don't feel like screaming it. Especially since I hear it screamed so often.

It's OK to wear a bikini. Really. Just make sure it is the right size. And plenty of places sell plenty of well-sized bikinis where you can buy the top and bottom separately so that you are well-sized all over. And, believe me, you will probably look better in the bikini than in camouflage.

Otherwise--that is, if you refuse to take my word for it on the bikini--the best option is a simple tank (maillot, if you're in Europe). The racing-back style works, as does the wide strap/low back option, but I prefer the narrowest of camisole-like straps, with a V or flat neck, like the Danskins I used to wear in high school. Black is boring, but if you must, you must. Colors are good and patterns are fine. Mesh inserts are not OK. Neither is metal. And please, can we not even mention zippers?

Friday, July 28, 2006

Let's Talk About Yoga Some More

This is the summer of tree pose. Everywhere I go--A's yard, the deck, the crazy hot/power yoga class--I am the tallest, strongest, steadiest tree I have ever been. It could mean something about my physical and mental state, or it could just be a matter of good floors.

I realized, on my birthday, when I went to the crazy hot/power yoga class, that every yoga class I've ever taken had been taught by a woman. I realized this, of course, because a man taught the class.

The big yoga gurus, the Rodney Yees and Baron Baptistes, are all men.

Do with that what you will.

My ideal yoga teacher remains my first yoga teacher, in some kind of classic the-first-is-always-the-best kind of way. But she was. It was prenatal yoga and she would walk around the room adjusting us, making the most minute corrections that transformed the poses. I never worried about whether I was doing things right, because I always knew she was watching and would catch me if I wasn't and, most importantly, help me to learn. Also, she wasn't so into the clap-trap side of yoga (and here I betray my yoga priorities). I'm sure that class is why I survived ten hours of induced labor without an epidural and walked a mile a week after M was born by c-section.

In Red State Capital City Suburb, my yoga teacher read us passages from gurus and led us through visualizations and I waited impatiently for actual poses. She didn't correct us much either, but she did do the yoga along with us, and when I was pregnant with E, she adapted all her poses and series for me, and it was Red State Capital City Suburb where there weren't many yoga options, so I got used to her.

I haven't found many yoga teachers who truly help you, the individual you, not just the group you, to get your poses right. But most of the yoga teachers I've had in Town do the poses with us, so we can feel one with them and watch what it is to be right (OK, I know, "right" is not the goal of yoga, and in fact undercuts the yoganess of the yoga, but I'm talking about doing poses effectively, not perfectly, or competitively) (shh, we won't talk about the competitiveness of yoga, because we do not participate in such a thing, ever) (besides, our yoga clothes are nowhere near hip enough to even approach the level of competition).

The yoga teacher at the crazy hot/power yoga class did not do the yoga with us. He corrected maybe two or three students during the entire class. He walked around the room spouting clap-trap, when he wasn't mumbling mumbo-jumbo.

The students all had perfect yoga outfits and much yoga paraphernalia.

I'm actually not such a slouch myself on the yoga outfits and paraphernalia front--I was wearing shorts, because who wants to wear black yoga pants when it's 90 degrees outside and 100 inside? oh yeah, the hip yoga students do; but I did have my regulation tight sleeveless top and my very own yoga mat and my bottle of water and my ponytail. But I was old, so much older than those hip yoga students, and I was OK with coming down from my half moon into child's pose because my leg was tired, and I was OK with doing bridge instead of wheel, though then I did do one triumphant five-breath wheel, my longest ever (not that that matters...).

But here's the thing: I had a great class. The clap-trap, mumbo-jumbo though it was, reached me, occasionally. I mean, it really is true that brave people are scared too, they just move forward anyway. That explains why everyone says I'm brave when I know that really I'm terrified. And if you hold on and push through, you can stay in half moon on the other side and do wheel for five whole breaths. And while I wouldn't do crazy hot/power yoga every day--I'm nowhere near hip enough--it's definitely worth visiting the land of hip yoga every once in a while.

And you should have seen my killer tree pose.

[This one is for Andi and Jenny.]

Thursday, July 27, 2006

The Boy with the Girls

In E's class, as in most groups of five year olds, at least the ones I've known, the boys and girls are all friends, but the boys are best friends with and generally aligned with other boys, and the girls are best friends with and generally aligned with other girls. Except for N. N, a sweet, friendly boy with golden curls, is best friends with a girl, hangs out with the girls, likes the same games and toys as the girls, plays with girls in the playground, and, for games of chase and other such gender-based tormenting, is on the "girls team" (which is not completely outlandish because E and her best friend E are on the "boys team," but coupled with the rest it comes to seem more significant).

This week at school--which is really camp in the summer, and we try to remember, because E is very serious about the fact that it is camp, not school, but sometimes it's hard to keep track--they went to see a children's theater production of Snow White. In preparation, they read and then wrote fairy tales. All the fairy tales are up on the wall, with illustrations. I started to read one, which was about a princess and a prince and a kiss and a wedding, and I rolled my eyes at how obsessed these five-year-old girls are with the princess thing--and then I got to the end of the story and it was by N. Actually, most of the other stories, boys' and girls' alike, were about dragons and puppies and magicians and such; I saw the occasional princess, but nary a prince or kiss, except for N's.

The kids in the class are fully aware that N is like a girl, but they also fully accept that fact--and N. The parents are a bit more...well, I'm not quite sure what they (we) are. We're fine with it, but we definitely notice and wonder. I say "we," because I didn't know if anyone else noticed, but then another mom said "of course he's gay." She also said that his parents are very aware of the situation and that his father will be fine if he is gay but his mother will be devastated (she knows them quite well). I don't know if he's gay or transgendered or just a boy who likes to hang out with the girls, but whatever he is, it's different from the other boys (even as they, of course, are different from each other: there's the funny one, and the frighteningly gifted and badly behaved one, and the goofy one, but somehow the one who is like a girl seems more different than the others).

I spent a fair amount of time earlier this year promoting the Town public schools to N's mom, who was teetering on the private-public divide (E's school is fairly expensive, and this year there was a clear division between those of us who were clearly relieved that the expense was finally over, and those for whom the expense was clearly not an issue, that is, those who were unquestionably heading for public school and those who were in a quandary--or were skipping quandary and headed straight for private). I assured her that N would thrive at his local elementary school, which is a lovely school. But lovely or not, it's still a pretty mainstream public school, and now I wonder if I was wrong. Perhaps this is a case where a gentle, progressive private school might be the better choice.

Wednesday, July 26, 2006

Yes, I'm reading the NY Times at work

in between bouts of working (hey, the project is almost finished, and it's my birthday!).

Justice is finally served for Andrea Yates. I am 100% in favor of this decision.

I can't even get to the nature of this dispute, however, because I'm still stuck on the image of a cell phone in one's throat. Can you imagine?!

This NY Times break has been brought to you by the American judicial system.

The Hierarchy of War Deaths

NY Times, paragraphs 1 and 2:

Israel suffered its worst casualties in southern Lebanon today since the current conflict with Hezbollah started, as thousands of Israeli troops there fought house to house, and village to village, in an attempt to create a buffer zone that Israel hoped would be filled by a multinational peacekeeping force.

At least eight Israeli soldiers were killed and many were wounded in the ground battles, according to unofficial reports from military officers, who were not yet authorized to speak publicly about casualties and had not yet received a full account of the day’s toll.

NY Times, paragraph 8:

Today, Israeli air strikes and ground fire killed at least 12 Palestinians, most of them militants, but also a small girl, according to the Palestinian Health Ministry. Most of the deaths were in the eastern part of Gaza City, and more than 20 people were injured.

I read the article four times and did not see any mention of Lebanese casualties, Hezbollah or otherwise.

This makes me crazy.

Edited to add: CNN is just as bad. I don't dare check out Fox. OK, I dared, and Fox is actually much better. The top headlines on the homepage (which I'm not linking to because obviously it will change, and the headlines are different on the articles themselves) are "Hezbollah Digs In, Israel Battles On" and "Deadly Day in Gaza: 23 Palestinians killed in action." MSNBC has "Israeli army battling sophisticated enemy in Hezbollah guerillas" and "Israel bombing new targets." Interesting.

Tuesday, July 25, 2006


It's only 11:30 the night before, and I've already gotten four birthday emails which is very nice. I've also had a birthday dinner and cake, because tomorrow S will be at work, so there was some preliminary celebrating, though no presents till the morning.

But what I really want to write about is work. And I must start with a story about a very dear friend who once, when another friend said he was going to Hawaii for his honeymoon, said that was great because he wouldn't need an adapter for his laptop. And she didn't understand why we all laughed. OK, that's the story.

I have a few friends who live to work. They work all the time, they go crazy when they can't work, their work gives them enormous pleasure, and some of them reading this know who they are.

I have not really ever been such a person. I at times do love my work, and I love to love my work, and I have made a point over the last year of moving toward more work that I love. But I also love to not work, and I am particularly good at reading novels and, especially, at dropping everything for a vacation.

But right now I am feeling a little vacationed out. And a little childrened out. And a little familied out. And a little errands and logistics and bills to pay-ed out. And I have a lot of work, some of which I just have to do, and some of which I want to do, and some of which I am dying to get to, once I get past the things I need to do. Really, right now, what I most want to do is work--and maybe read a few novels. And do yoga.

So I thought about taking my birthday off, because I can, which is a very nice thing about my current work. But then I realized that instead of taking the day off I could work. And that's what I wanted to do. So that's what I'm going to do. Oh, I'm also going to take a yoga class. And go out for another birthday dinner. And maybe get a few presents. And not balance the checkbook or put away M's trunk.

Then in a few days I'm going to go away again, for a while this time, and then I will finally have time to really work. And I won't even need an adapter for the laptop!

My Little Younger Sister

Me: I think I might give this watch to M.

E: But then she'll have two watches!

Me: Why is your life all about what M has?

E: It is not! My life is about FAIR!

Monday, July 24, 2006

No Thanks to Candy

I met this really cool woman. She was wearing a fabulous outfit that had not a shred of black in it. She had great shoes. She is a color consultant and a designer and a party planner, and while that may sound frivolous, it was incredibly cool because she was just so cool and goes about those things in a cool and meaningful way. And there was something she knew about, I can't remember what it was, maybe a new ice cream place? and she said she'd heard about it through Daily Candy, and Daily Candy was the best.

I'd heard of Daily Candy, because a certain restaurant in which I have a certain emotional investment was featured in Daily Candy the day it opened, and I just can't tell you how cool I thought this woman was, and, you know, you meet someone that cool, and you want their shoes and their haircut and their website, because you want to be cool like them, even though you know you won't be, but at least you'll have the website, right? So I subscribed to Daily Candy for a couple of places that are meaningful to me.

And then the emails started coming. And coming. And coming. And I'm one of those people who has a hard time deleting emails without reading them, even if I don't care. And the thing is, I really didn't care about Daily Candy. Because, basically, and probably everyone already knew this except me, it is just about shopping, except when it is about restaurants, and I like shopping (no, I don't, really, but I like having new stuff that I like) and I like restaurants, but I'm not so rich, like Daily Candy seems to think I am, and the bottom line is, all those places to shop and eat, well, they were just pretty much boring.

Only I don't think the cool woman is boring! I think she's cool! And I still want her stuff! I just don't have the patience for her Daily Candy. Which is probably why I don't have such nice stuff. And am not as cool. And unsubscribed to Daily Candy about five minutes ago.

Oh well.

Weekend Update

M was successfully retrieved from camp. She had a fabulous time.

Through the collective ministrations of her aunts, T was successfully equipped, packed, and delivered to camp. The collective familial fingers are crossed that she will have a fabulous time. (Heck, we'll settle for good.) (Even just OK.) (And if you want to cross your fingers too, we'll take it.)

The B&B was fabulous, the beach was excellent, and the FUNORAMA was loads of fun.

The weather went from abysmal to OK to perfect.

Cell phones are a necessity for extended family vacations. So is alcohol.

I graded the behavior as follows: adults - various shades of A; children - various shades of B; teenager - C-. However, I suggested, as I presented my grades to the other aunts, that if we take age appropriateness into consideration, everyone was pretty much OK. Building on that concept, another aunt gave everyone an A, except for the teenager who got a B (and we all reminded each other that the teenager, besides being a teenager, faced external stresses). But then I reminded her of the whining, and then she agreed that the children just got Bs.

Nonetheless, all in all, a successful family beach weekend in honor of Grandpa's 80th.

Thursday, July 20, 2006


I went to a memorial service in the church at a Fancy University today. On the wall there were the names of all the students and graduates who died in World War II, maybe 650 names. We fought in World War II for four years. We've been fighting in Iraq for three. I wonder how many Fancy University graduates have died in Iraq.

Wednesday, July 19, 2006

Music Post 3: E Hearts Wilco (I Heart E)

If you were at the Wilco concert in the park, I was the woman in the far right corner, before the show, with the little girl in the red, pink, and white Cakewalk dress (details for Dawn) attempting cartwheels and rolling down the hill. Later I was the woman on her feet for most of the show, holding the little girl, her cheek pressed tight against mine, her free arm waving along with the drums. Later still, when it got dark, I was the woman standing behind the little girl waving the blue glow stick that the nice people in front gave us, along with an orange one for her cousin.

The definitive Wilco post has already been written (and it includes M's Wilco encounter with a glow stick, and also makes me marvel again at the consistency of my musical references). About this show, I will just say that for the first few songs I thought "eh, maybe I've seen enough Wilco for a while," and then the Wilco-ness kicked in, and they were great.

But what I really want to talk about is E. As you may remember, E was none too impressed with Bruce. But conditions were more favorable for Wilco. The show was at the park, in a lovely venue, with a stone stage just a few feet high backed with tall pines. All the seating was grass: people stood at the front, and perched on a patchwork of blankets and beach chairs in the back. We purposefully sat quite far back, where there was a little dip, perfect for cartwheels and rolling, until it too filled with blankets and beach chairs. And Cousin L was with us (and her mom and dad), so there was company, not to mention a Junie B. Jones book to read during the boring wait for the show to begin. (Bitty Baby was there too, but I'm pretty sure we took Bitty Baby to Bruce as well--she is one musical baby doll!)

Before the show, I took E down to the stage. I showed her the rug and the stool that said Wilco (she read it, actually) and all the guitars. We saw the sound board and talked about who uses it and why and how, and we looked up at the lights. We asked the security guy where Wilco was, and he told us they were probably on the bus, but he pointed out the catering tent which we could see in the trees behind the stage.

When the show started, E insisted on being held as much as I would hold her, so that she could watch Jeff, and she listened, really listened, to the music. We thought we saw Jeff's kids, too, which was pretty cool. I told her that one of the things about Wilco is that they are sometimes soft and sometimes loud, so she informed me whenever they switched from soft to loud, and sometimes she would make a prediction: "They've been soft. I bet they're going to get loud." And she got into the drums as well, especially when Jeff explained the "Pat Boone Debbie Boone" beat (and if I were a better Wilco fan, I'd know which song it was, and you'd get it, but you'll just have to take my word for it that he was right). She danced, too, when I wouldn't hold her, and sometimes lay on the blanket with her head in my lap. By the end she had a problem: her eyes wanted to go to sleep, but she wanted to hear the rest of the show (she managed to stay awake).

I got home from work the other day and I could hear Wilco loud through the open window as I parked my car in the driveway. S couldn't go to the show (for once he wasn't at work, but he had to work that day and the next day, and the drive out to Country Town and back just wasn't worth it, so we went all 21st-century and held up the cell phone so he could hear the music), and I figured he was having a jealous Wilco fix. But no, he'd picked E up at camp and she'd asked for Wilco. And she was listening. And when I came up the stairs, she pointed out the drums to me. And I asked her if she liked Wilco on the CD as well as the concert, and she said yes.

OK, let's face it: this is basically a look-how-cool-my-kid-is post, and those are basically pretty nauseating. Then again, I'm basically a mom blogger, so I might as well fulfill the cliches of the genre.

Hey, y'all, look how cool my kid is! (And can't you see why I'm so madly in love with her?)

Tuesday, July 18, 2006


You may think you know what it's like, but you don't. Unless you do.

John Updike knows. I once read a passage from his book about psoriasis, and I knew he knew. I couldn't bear to read the book.

If you know that it's best to scratch around the itch, that light fingernails are better than digging, that the best thing of all is a piercing hot shower directed right at it, then you know. If you've ever read on a website that some people cure poison ivy by pouring bleach on it, and thought that sounded good to you, you know. If you have grown expert at gauging the exact moment when pleasure will turn to pain, and you have taught yourself to stop there, wait a moment, and then go on, you know.

If you had a bad case of poison ivy once, or you hate mosquito bites, you don't know.

E knows. She spent her four and a half years in Red State Capital City Suburb itching. She had scaly red rashes in the cracks of her elbow and I could tell when she was about to get an ear infection because she would start to scratch her head. It's been better since we moved to East Coast Big City, but it's bad again in the summer. She likes me to run my nails up and down her spine. I keep hers clipped down to the skin. Still, her mosquito bites are all red and scabbed over.

When I was a kid, it was mainly the poison ivy, and I won't go into the dilemma of whether to scratch when it's oozing. It got bad, though, when I was 22 and after minor surgery developed an allergy to adhesive tape. The white kind. That they use to hold the bandages on.

After that, it was open season on my skin, and I never knew when it would strike, or why. Once I spent days scratching the top of my feet, then looked down and realized the rash was in the pattern of my new criss-cross leather sandals. Strike Bass from the list of possibilities (probably a good thing, fashion-wise). I try to limit myself, strictly, to hypoallergenic cosmetics, but once it was a sample tub of Clinique eye cream. When I gave birth to E, it was the disposable absorbent pads on the hospital bed, and the pain of the rash all over my backside was worse than the pain of the stitches. My first shower was all about the bliss of the blistering hot water on the itch, not the blood washing away down my thighs.

It started going systemic maybe 10, 15 years ago. I'd get the itch, then I'd see the rash, then I'd get nauseous and feverish. And the rash would pop up in other places, places which I knew hadn't touched the sandal or the sweater or the lotion. And the poison ivy, my god, the poison ivy.

The worst is when I don't know what's causing it. Like this time. I suspect it's some liquid soap I let M pick out a few weeks ago, hypoallergenic soap for sensitive skin. Ha. I don't know what else it could be, because it's all over the place. There's a patch on the front of my left ankle, and one on the inside, swollen out around the ankle bone, both of those red, raised and defined. There's a slash down my right shin. It's on the outside of my forearms, just below my elbows: you can't see it there (yet), but you can feel the bumps. I think it's moving down to my wrists, too. And it's on the back of my neck, where I can't see it, but S says there are nasty red bumps. And I'm feeling sick. And it's been hot. And I'm scared it's going to come out on my face, which feels kind of tight.

I took a luke-warm Aveeno bath and felt great while I was in it, then horrendous when I got out. I slather on my current ointment of choice (Aveeno, again, with 1% hydrocortisone--another way to know you know is if you firmly believe in steroids). I guess I won't be going running till it's gone. I guess I won't be getting waxed before we go to the beach. I hope it's better on Friday when I have a long drive. I hope the heat wave is really ending. I hope it doesn't spread to my face. I hope I can sleep through the night. Maybe I'll take an Advil. Maybe two.

Or maybe I'll scratch.

My Little Circus Fish

Yesterday, at the lake in Country Town, E did a world record ELEVEN underwater backward somersaults in a row. Today, at the pond in Town (or do I call it a lake? let's just say, at the body of water wherein we swim), E broke her world record with FIFTEEN--we watched and counted every one--underwater backward somersaults. (A huge advance from last year--and the musical references in that link are remarkably coincidental!)

Music Post 2: The Jayhawks, et al

A nice piece in the Sunday Times about alt-country, that shows why it's kind of a useless term, and in so doing, citing many of my (our) favorites, going back to Gram, and largely via the Jayhawks, whom I (we) have quite loved over the years, shows also why that thread of American music is such a favorite of mine (ours). (Because really, as I hasten to remind any and all, at any and all opportunities, I am a total poseur when it comes to music--except for Carly Simon--and all my musical opinions are courtesy of S, who made me read the article, since I find the Arts & Entertainment section, or whatever it's called, pretty much unbearable, and never look at it, unless he points something out to me.) (Because really, I am the kind of wife who is simply a shadow of my husband.)

Monday, July 17, 2006

Music Post 1: Dave at the Jazz Bar

(In which I am a music snob, the Grateful Dead are mentioned twice, and I don't try to convert anyone.)

Anyone who's been reading this blog for a while knows how I feel about Dave Alvin (even my mother knows how I feel about Dave Alvin) (if you're wondering how I feel about Dave Alvin, I signal my affection here and here, though, oddly, I appear never to have written the definitive Not Quite Sure Dave Alvin post, which would be very sure indeed).

Some bands are meant to be seen in certain venues. While Wilco is great at an outdoor festival or in a club or auditorium, I can't imagine seeing Hole anywhere but a crowded hot club with Courtney leaning out over the mosh pit and threatening to self-destruct at any moment. I never did see the Grateful Dead at Red Rocks, but they were always best outside, and yes, I did see them in California on New Year's Eve, but it still wasn't as good as a summer afternoon in a field.

But Dave Alvin is meant to be seen in a divey California club, preferably the Paradise Lounge, though a divey club in Red State Capital City works fine too. He is certainly not meant to be seen at a jazz bar in a fancy hotel in City, in a corner of the room where he can reach up and touch the ceiling, which he does occasionally, grinning and rolling his eyes at his bandmates.

I can not believe that we are seeing Dave surrounded by this sea of middle-aged white people in khaki shorts. That there are women with handbags. Even a man in a suit. That people are eating hummus plates and sipping white wine at little round tables. That the show started, right on time--we were late of course--at 7:30, and it is still light outside.

Dave doesn't seem to believe it either.

Who are these people? Do they listen to X? Did they hear the new album on NPR and think the Jazz Bar at Hotel is a nice place to see music, so why don't we check it out, dear? They sit still, perched on their tasteful little chairs and bar stools, occasionally nodding their tasteful heads.

PEOPLE, this is DAVE ALVIN, rockabilly/punk/roots rock/guitar god of the universe. He is playing "Haley's Comet" and "Maureen Maureen" and YOU'RE STILL JUST SITTING THERE!

Luckily there is the woman in front who gets it, and the one who has gotten up and moved over to the side of the room to dance. And, most important, Dave, in his Daveness, kicks middle-aged white person ass. The Guilty Men, if you saw them having lunch in the restaurant at Hotel, you would think they were a bunch of tech geeks in town for a conference, but they are still one of the tightest little bands in show business. And Dave, he is still ugly (S says at first that he's gotten less ugly in his old age, but later agrees that he hasn't), but, as I tell S (we are upfront about these things), I would still leave him for Dave in a heartbeat. Dave's guitar sizzles, and Dave's voice goes straight into my soul, and Dave's songs are perfect (Dave does Jerry Garcia, really he does, and it works, but who would have thought it in 1981, when S and I were perhaps the only people on the planet who liked both X and the Grateful Dead).

We have been listening to Dave Alvin for almost 20 years, and the Blasters before that, and, of course, X, not to mention the Knitters and the Pleasure Barons, and don't forget he used to tour with the Skeletons before the Guilty Men. We've seen him play all over the place. The keyboardist he used to tease for being so young is now middle-aged like the rest of us. In the middle of "Trouble Bound," Dave goes into a monologue about we've changed and gotten older, but we've still got the devil in us. And he's right: it's a smoking show, and the good thing about Jazz Club is he's right in the corner of the room, so you can see and hear everything, and I could be in his arms in five seconds.

Maybe, ultimately, the venue doesn't matter.

(Believe it or not, I don't feel all messianic about Dave Alvin. I think everyone should go out and get The Seeger Sessions, and I'm sure you'd like Carla Bruni if you listened to her, but I don't really care how you feel about Dave. I'm not quite sure even why I love Dave so much. Except that he's got that growl of a voice that pierces your soul, and he writes songs like lyric poetry that capture character, emotion, and place, and he specializes in ordinary lives in all their meaningfulness, and he rocks like nobody's business. And if you listen to "Fourth of July" and "Wanda and Duane" and "Out of Control" and "King of California," maybe you'll get it, and your life will be better for it, and maybe you won't, and that's OK too.)

(And in case you were there, I was the middle-aged white chick in the tight shirt, hemmed jeans skirt, and only slightly battered black slides, rocking out like a maniac on the bar stool in the back of the room.)

Saturday, July 15, 2006

Fashion Post 3: Tight

(This would have been Belated Fashion Forward, and it was going to be about tight tops, but then Postacademic mentioned pegged jeans, and I've been meaning to say a few word about leggings, so I thought I'd combine all three under the general theme of tight clothes.)

1. Tops

I'm not quite sure why I've always worn my tops loose and boxy (and preferably hitting just above my hip bones). Certainly it started with being somewhat in the way of overweight, in my early 20s, but that has not been the case for, my god, it's been 15 years. Then it also had something to do with the bra situation (and the situation of what is inside the bra) (or not, depending on how you want to look at it) (or maybe better that you don't look), because the bras were not so good, and there was the nipple issue, and the shapelessness issue (if such an absence can even be considered shapeless). But it was more than that, some kind of aversive, body-unfriendly habit, but also a desire for comfort that I thought was most achievable in looseness.

Changed my mind.

And I'm not quite sure why that either. I have been wearing tight turtlenecks for a while now, the ribbed kind that were preppy back in the day but are now just there, or maybe they're still preppy and I don't care, but turtlenecks are inherently concealing, and mine are always dark colors, which makes them even more concealing, especially around the bra area.

Then I was in H&M a few weeks ago. And the new bras had recently been purchased (did I mention the new bras? the ones from the Target girls department? someone said they were appalled to see molded bras in the girls department when they were buying their toilet-training toddler Dora underpants, but I selfishly, in this case, do not care about the implications for girls, I am just so thrilled to have solved the bra dilemma, thanks to Dawn's sister, and at any rate the point is that the new bras have removed the bra self-consciousness from the tops arena).

So there I was at H&M, and I did my usual try-on-fifteen-items-of-clothing-and-reject-90%-of-them thing, only what I didn't reject, to my surprise, was a snug, V-necked t-shirt which looked just lovely and felt just great, and which I proceeded to purchase in pale green, brown, and fuschia (and H&M sure does have a weird website where I can't even imagine how I might find a t-shirt from a month ago to display to my loyal readers). And with that I have been converted to someone who wears tight tops (even, sometimes, with one of the old not-so-good bras), and I can't imagine what I was thinking all those years.

2. Jeans

I can't do it. It's amazing to me how quickly they looked normal, those skinny jeans like Kate and Sienna and Mary-Kate and Lindsay and all of them are suddenly wearing, how obsolete the boot-legs that fill my closet suddenly appear, and yet, though I am not a particularly large person, there is a distinct largerness to my hips than there is to my ankles, and of course everyone is larger in their hips than in their ankles, but I do believe that to pull off the long skinny jeans look, there must be a certain ratio of hip to ankle or perhaps it is an angle that somehow should approximate a straight line, yes, it is the angle, and mine most certainly has nothing to do with a straight line, but rather forms an inverted triangle of sorts, and I can only imagine that a jean with a narrow ankle will hopelessly exacerbate the widerness of the hips, and I'm just not ready to go there. Maybe I will be eventually, a la the tight tops, but not yet, and right now not yet feels like forever.

Still, I know that Kate and Sienna and Mary-Kate and Lindsay are right, and I am wrong (and don't even go telling me there's no such thing as right and wrong when it comes to jeans, because you know that's not true, and I will accept that right and wrong are relative concepts, dependent upon such factors as age, location, and body type, and perhaps it is my issue that I am in denial about the fact that I am not Kate, Sienna, Mary-Kate, or Lindsay, but that's ridiculous, because I know full well that I am not and do not in any way resemble said females, either in lifestyle or physique, and yet, there is no question that they are better at jeans than I am, and I just need to live with that).

3. Leggings

Here I must beg to differ from the brilliant women of Go Fug Yourself, though in general I bow to their superior wisdom. I think leggings are cute. Not the way we used to wear them in the 80s, with the loose top over the tight leggings, but in the current leggings under mini-skirt/dress look. And not that I myself will be adopting that look (see "Jeans," and cross reference all posts with the words "too old), but as the mother of a fashion-conscious pre-teen I am totally down with it, and M and I have agreed that the major fall purchase must be leggings.

Sorry, folks, but that's it for fashion, for now.

Friday, July 14, 2006

The Photography Thing

The woman wasn't really suspicious, except she wasn't quite right. She was wearing shorts and a tank top, not a bathing suit, and she didn't have a kid with her, and this was at the lake where everyone takes their little kids to swim. She was walking through the water in her clothes, and she had a big camera.

"Excuse me, what are you doing?" I asked her.

"Taking pictures," she said, in a faintly accented, definitely aggressive voice.

"Of kids?" I asked

"Of kids, of the water, of the light," she said, "Why? Do you have a problem with that?"

"Kind of," I said.

"That's the problem with America!" she said.

"Well, it's the reality," I said. "Especially when people are taking pictures of kids in bathing suits."

"No, it's not!" she said, emphatically. Then she asked me whether E was my kid, and I said yes, and she rolled her eyes and intimated that she wouldn't take her picture. Then she went out to a bunch of kids playing Marco Polo and started taking their pictures. They posed happily and she told them what to do and I wondered whether their parents were watching.

It was a mom at the pool in City who made me aware of it last summer. There was a guy taking pictures of kids, and it was just creepy. We told the lifeguard who went and talked to him, and it turned out that he was trying to take pictures of his grandchild, but he stopped, and the other mom and I talked about creepy guys who hang around kids and the dangers of photography.

I kept watching the photographer as she took pictures of some young teenage girls making a sand castle, and then posed them crouched over with their faces close to the sand castle. I wondered if maybe she knew them. I hoped she did. Then she went out to the kids in the water again. Then another mom went out to talk to her, and the lifeguards announced that the beach was closing, and I wrapped E in a towel, gathered our belongings, and left. But my evening was a little ruined.

I wanted to tell her that I'm not that kind of mother. I let my kids run around the house naked and I still change E out of her bathing suit right on the beach. I let the girls play outside till it's dark. I let M go to the park and the store by herself. I'm easy, open, free, not that kind of uptight American.

And yet. The photography thing totally bums me out. I've been in circumstances where people took pictures of kids I know and did bad things with them (not innocent bad things, really bad things). I believe the ease of both digital photography and internet pornography has significantly changed our society's relationship to the photographic image. I don't want pictures of my kids out there out of my control.

And yet. My kids' pictures have been in the newspapers with their names. I sign the permission slips that include permission to photograph without a second thought.

And yet. I hate the idea that my scruples preclude art.

And yet. There was a major mom blogger, I don't remember who, who got in a big fracas with parents at her kids' school who were angry because she posted their kids' pictures, with her kids, on her blog. And I'm totally with those parents.

And yet. Some of my best friends post pictures of their kids on their blogs.

But I'm not not quite sure on this one. I'm sure I don't want strangers taking pictures of my kids. I'm just not quite sure of the context and implications of that knowledge.

The Topic I Hate But Can't Stay Away From

Someone I know is supposed to go to Israel next week with a Birthright Israel trip and we were wondering yesterday if it would be cancelled. Then last night, I suddenly remembered that K and D's son D is IN Israel and I have something more immediate to worry about (the interesting question is why I worry so much more about Americans who are briefly in Israel than my family that lives there--when S's parents go every winter, I am on tenterhooks the whole time--it's definitely not that I care more about them; I think it's just that having relatives in Israel has been a fact of my entire life: I'm used to it, and the worry has settled into my soul and scarred over, because if I kept picking at it, I would never have a moment's peace, so to speak).

The thing that makes me craziest about this new...let's call a spade a spade, this new WAR, the thing that makes me want to smash my head against a wall, or better yet smash the collective Israeli and Arab heads together, is that it is so scripted (and really I want to say it is so FUCKING scripted, because I am feeling very expletive-ridden lately, except the only thing more unattractive than speaking in expletives, which I do way too much and am trying to cut back on, is writing in expletives).

Arabs: We'll kidnap some of their soldiers; then they'll go nuts.
Israelis: They've captured some of our soldiers; now we can go nuts.

Each side can position themselves as defensive.

Arabs: They have been oppressing us, so we are kidnapping their soldiers in defense.
Israelis: They kidnapped our soldiers, so we must invade them in defense.

When in fact, they are both aggressors--and at this moment I don't want to get into relative degrees of aggression, ore the difference between terrorist groups and states, or histories of oppression, or aggression, because we are talking about what is happening at this moment, and my point is: IT DOESN'T NEED TO HAPPEN LIKE THIS.

They could abandon the script. They could choose other means. All of them. Only they don't. And we walk down this path again, for the umpteenth time, in hatred and fear and disaster. And it is all so wrong.

(I will now return to your regularly scheduled diet of fashion and other mundane topics, because I just can't bear this, but know that it is always on my mind.)

Thursday, July 13, 2006

Fashion Post 2: Jeans Skirt

(This is Fashion Backward.) (I'm only writing it because A wants to read it.) (Hmm, maybe I should try blogging by request.)

There are certain staple items in my wardrobe: in winter, boots, turtleneck sweaters, black skirts of all shapes and colors; in summer, a bikini, black slides, a jeans skirt.

Ah, you think, of course those are wardrobe staples, and being wardrobe staples, they are ubiquitous, so why on earth does she think she can get a blog post out of them?

Because, my friends, ubiquitous does not mean satisfactory, at least to me. Although there are many black skirts on the market, and I probably own most of them, that does not mean it is easy to find the perfect black skirt. Let alone the perfect black slides. And, oh my goodness, the perfect bikini? I think not. But with sufficient diligence, it is possible to find perfection, or at least good enough. And once I find it, I stick with it. Till it is very old. And dilapidated. And barely wearable. And eventually unwearable. And then I panic.

Two years ago, in London, I had to replace the bikini I'd had since 2002 (why would I have to replace a bikini in London? because we were going to Portugal). After much marching up and down Oxford Street and various High Streets, I struck gold...hmm, can't remember where, though I do remember that I found the suit on Oxford Street, but not the size, which I found in Oxford. So the bikini problem was solved for the next twelve years.

Last summer I replaced the black slides, though those usually last about two years, not twelve.

This summer I faced the biggest challenge of all: replacing the jeans skirt.

I had a jeans skirt from Old Navy. Maybe half a dozen years old. The waist hit at the perfect point below the belly button and above the hip bone. The denim was a lovely darkish blue that had faded nicely. The length was kneeish, which is how I like my jeans skirt these days. In short, it was perfection. But in London (a pattern here?) I tore it up the side while stepping over a bench in the video room at the Vivienne Westwood exhibit at the V&A (why on earth do I remember that?! because I am me). I sewed up the rip, but it still looked a bit ramshackle. Then it ripped some more. And finally the rip was hopelessly long and the skirt could no longer be excused as presentable, so I cut it off above the rip, as an experimental gesture toward a jeans mini skirt, but the experiment failed, so there I was, facing the fearful task: finding a new jeans skirt.

This year, the task has been particularly loathsome. Because I will not wear a jeans skirt that comes only to the top of my legs. And I will not wear a jeans skirt that looks like only a mom would wear it (no comments from the peanut gallery, please). And I will not wear a jeans skirt that doesn't fit perfectly. And I will not wear a jeans skirt with those damned frayed edges (see "comes only to the top of my legs"), because I am just too old for that shit, thank you very much.

However, this left me very little to choose from. In fact, nothing. Though I certainly looked.

Then we went to Target. We found tankinis for some girls (E: My first tankini! And my first halter!). We found a most excellent tank top for running. And we found a jeans skirt. It was a nice denim (I've finally accepted those whisker things, at least for skirts). It fit beautifully. The length was just right. And it had those damned frayed edges.

So I bought it, brought it home, and sewed up those edges, right along the creases where they had been unsewn in some Asian factory by some underpaid worker. Because that's the kind of Fashion Backward obsessive shopping-hating shopper I am.

Monday, July 10, 2006

Fashion Post 1: Bras

There will be a series of fashion posts, I believe. I had planned one long fashion post, for which I had a most excellent title: A Very Long Post in which I Am Variously Fashion Backward, Belatedly Fashion Forward, and Fashion Befuddled. But I am very tired, for various familial and professional reasons, and I can only handle one topic, which would have been Fashion Befuddled. There will be more later. Perhaps.

S says I have already written a post about bras. I say not really. Besides, you can never have too many posts about bras. So hence and forthwith: a few recent thoughts on bras:

1) When did sheer plastic bra straps come into vogue, and why did I never notice them until last week, and why do I now see them everywhere? And do people really think we're not going to notice? And how could they possibly be comfortable? (And don't you think there are just some people who need to accept that they shouldn't wear halter tops?)

2) Today I saw someone wearing her bra on top of her tank top. With a wide belt around her waist. Over a long tank top down to her hips. I must have missed that fashion directive.

3) I am currently fascinated by cleavage, perhaps due to my new penchant for tight tops, which would have been the topic of Belatedly Fashion Forward, and may still yet, if I ever get to it. Also perhaps due to the fact that I have none. Cleavage, that is, not tight tops. And I think that heterosexual women without cleavage may be the people most woefully lacking information thereupon, because women with cleavage know how it works because they have it, and lesbians and heterosexual men can explore the cleavage of others, and gay men, well, they just know everything. But being a heterosexual woman without cleavage, I don't get it. Like: is cleavage a matter of size or position? Anatomy or brassierology? If you have cleavage sometimes, does that mean you always have it? Is it pleasant to have cleavage?

I'd guess it's more pleasant to have cleavage than to wear a bra with plastic straps, or to wear your bra over your shirt. Then again, one could have cleavage in a bra with plastic straps worn over your shirt. And now my head is going to explode and I must go to bed.

Edited to add: Cleavage seems to be the main area of interest here (come on, guys, plastic bra straps?? or are they just too obvious to even comment upon, and I'm a dork?). My fundamental question remains unanswered, however, perhaps because I didn't really ask it. So here it is: If one has cleavage when clad, does one still have it when naked? General comments still welcome, of course, but inquiring minds really want to know.

Saturday, July 08, 2006

I Am a Tree

I can't believe I never did yoga outside until this week.

It actually began inside. Last Saturday, A and I went to our favorite Saturday morning yoga class, which I never get to go to these days, because S has been working Saturday brunch, which means leaving Saturday morning at 6, so yoga at 8 is out for me. But last Saturday he was working dinner, which means leaving Saturday morning at 10, so I called A at 7:30 and said "let's go," and she had been thinking maybe of staying in bed, but because I was going, she roused herself and we walked briskly in the perfect early morning to the gym, all virtuous and early morning and ready for yoga--and it was the 4th of July weekend (hello? it was the FIRST of July) and classes were cancelled. But there we were, yoga mats, bottles of water, and all, and there was one other deluded would-be yoga student, so we decided to do yoga on our own, which is as unusual for me as yoga outside. We put our mats in a circle--really a triangle--and we took turns leading the others in poses, channeling our yoga teachers, really, but for an hour we did yoga and it was lovely and empowering and everything yoga is meant to be.

On the way home, feeling even more virtuous, A and I discussed how lovely the morning had been, and decided that the next day, Sunday, we would do yoga in her garden. I don't know how the garden came about as part of the plan, except perhaps that it was such a perfect early morning, and so little of this spring and early summer has been perfect, weather-wise that is, and she has done yoga alone in her garden before, and to do it together seemed even better, especially since S would be cooking brunch, which meant that I would not be free, but M and E could play with A's daughter (though as it turned out, M and A's daughter watched a Three Stooges video while E played outside, occasionally coming over to coil herself around one of my poses, which was generally endearing, except when she decided to lie down under me as I was up in Wheel, which was a bit frightening, though she moved immediately when I asked her to).

A has a big garden with vegetables over here and a giant tree in the middle and lots of not-so-mown lawn (because it is the downstairs neighbor's turn, and that is an issue) and over in the back corner a beautiful rock garden with perennials and annuals she had planted the day before, after the communal inside yoga, and a bird bath. We spread our mats in front of the garden and commenced our yoga, taking turns leading the poses. And the thing you need to know about the room where we do yoga at the gym, which is where I do all my yoga, because the point of belonging to the gym, besides the treadmill and elliptical in winter, is that once you belong, all the yoga classes are free--and other classes too, but I am interested only in yoga, when it comes to classes--and if you take three classes a month, your membership is worth it in yoga classes alone, let alone treadmill and elliptical, which are also good in rain, so the gym very much earned its keep until just about a month ago, at any rate, what you need to know about the room where we do yoga is that the floor is terrible: it has a rug over some kind of squishy material and to do Shivasana on it is lovely but to try to balance is horrendous.

But in the garden, on another perfect morning, though not quite so early, and a little warmer, all of a sudden we could balance, and we went up into Tree with hands at heart's center, and then we raised our arms in the air, and we were trees, rooted to the ground and stretching to the sky, and we did not wobble and we did not waver, and I have never balanced so in my life. Afterwards A said that it was because the ground was hard but also bumpy, so it was easy to get a foothold, but I said it was because we were outside, rooted in the ground itself, reaching up to the sky, surrounded by trees, and we were trees, and she thought that was right.

I spent the rest of the week in a house with a deck surrounded by pine trees looking over a lake. Every day I did yoga on the deck, and every day I balanced, like a tree.

Sunday, July 02, 2006

A Post

I was going to write a long post about recent movies, because I saw THREE movies in the movie theater this week, including The Devil Wears Prada ON THE DAY IT OPENED. And I finally saw Lost in Translation a few weeks ago, and loved it, to my surprise, because often those kind of indie-ish movies that everyone loves, I don't love them so much, but Lost in Translation was so original, and Bill Murray and Scarlett Johannson (my new obsession) were so good, and I could so relate to the insomnia and the crazy expat partying and the intense platonic-but-borderline-not connection, though not Japan, which has never particularly interested me, aside from the food, which I can get here, and no, I have not read Murakami, though I suppose sooner or later I will bow to Lucy's will and do so, and I can't quite finesse the grammatical segue to the end of this sentence, so I will just go complex, or perhaps it is compound, and say that I did love Lost in Translation. The Devil Wears Prada I did not love so much. As I said to the internet friend I met in person this week though it seemed like we'd always known each other, it was that normal to hang out with her, "Given how bad the book was, I didn't think it possible to say the movie didn't live up to the book, but it didn't." and "The one thing the movie matched the book in was tedium." The thing is, it had such potential to be great trashy movie made out of bad trashy book, only instead it went all humanizing the bitch, and turning the friend who were meant to be counterpoints into the friends who are friends on Friends, and the only things that were really good were Stanley Tucci who is just the genius of all geniuses and Meryl Streep who extremely brilliantly underplayed the boss, but of course, she's Meryl Streep, and no, the fashion did not excite me. About Cars, I can say that I thoroughly enjoyed it, despite expecting a sacrificial two hours bored in the movie theater to make E happy. Loved the animation, loved the way the cars became characters, loved the working-the-American-movie-cliche plot. And Keeping Up with the Steins was ok, sweet, predictable, but thoroughly uplifted by the final scene which I will not tell you about, but which pretty much does make the movie worth seeing.

And now, in the great American tradition, I am off to celebrate the Fourth of July with recreational activities away from home. S intends to buy fireworks on our way to away from home, and there will be much swimming involved, so see you maybe around the end of the week.