Friday, November 30, 2007

Greener Grass

I have a friend who is falling blissfully in love with someone an airplane ride away, and I have to say I'm a mite jealous. For one thing, falling in love just seems utterly enviable and exciting. For another thing, long distance seems just dreamy.

Oh I love my family, love my life, wouldn't give it up for anything, blah blah blah, this is all just a thought...

BUT. Imagine being able to work without guilt, put things down and not have them disappear, not have anyone else put things down and never pick them up (that one is huge at the moment). You could eat whatever you wanted whenever you wanted, and get in bed with a book at 7, or stay up till 1 working and then take a nap the next day. AND two weekends or ten days a month, you could completely focus on companionship and romance and all that.

Technology seems key--with email, texting, and unlimited anywhere minutes, staying in touch would be so easy, even if it is the next best thing.

Now, I know the reality. I spent plenty of time in long-distance relationships and they were always couched in yearning and punctuated by infidelity, but back then all my relationships were couched in yearning and punctuated by infidelity. Now I'm mature and grounded and...

OK, so it's just a fantasy. But I still think it's a good one.

Thursday, November 29, 2007

Just What We Needed

Billboard seen on the way to work:

East Coast Big City this is your wake-up call. Caffeinated schnapps is here.

Couldn't you just mix your Red Bull with your Boone's Farm?

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Sasaki Colorstone Redux

Post-Thanksgiving (should have been pre, but we're the type who don't realize what we need till we need it), we just went wild and bought six plum plates and six bowls--two blue, two green, two plum--on Ebay. Can't wait for the next 14-person dinner party! (If you have no idea what I'm talking about, and I assume most of you don't, background is here.)

On to the annual guilt-ridden Amazon holiday order. I know you Christmas folk out there had all your presents before Thanksgiving (or maybe those bloggers don't read me), but Hanukkah is a week out and we have nothing, zip, nada. We barely even have concepts. The only ideas I have are the books, plus I need a bunch of other books, and the totality of the books I need and want is unlikely to be found at a single independent bookstore, hence the guilt-ridden Amazon order. (Actually, it's not true that we have no concepts: there are the books, and there are, well, there are a very few other things, but definitely not eight nights worth!)

Bad Yoga Karma

Several months ago, E and I went to a family yoga class. You can read about it here, if you skim past my yoga whining.

Really, go read it, it's pretty funny.

OK, if you're not going to read it, I'll just tell you that the family yoga teacher pretty much sucked.

And now she's stalking me. Somehow I found myself signed up for her family yoga email list, which is fine, except that we all seem to be inadequate family yoga list members. She's trying to drum up business for a family yoga class this Sunday. I think I've gotten three emails from her, and I've thought about signing up, but after this email, I might have to pass (except E wants to go):


I hope you had a peaceful, joyous Thanksgiving Holiday.
[Start by stroking us and making us feel all yoga.]

This list was originally started because there were a few Moms attending yoga classes who expressed interest in Family yoga.
Based on their input we held our first event on Sunday March 4th 2007 and the event was extremely well received. Many of you have expressed interest in having Family Yoga events on a regular basis. But unfortunately due to various factors, the last 2 events that I produced at the studio were very poorly attended. [Perhaps because the first one was so bad?]

For this reason I decided to bring in an outside teacher who has a fabulous reputation teaching kids and adults. [Yoga Mom], working mother of 3 and a yoga teacher has committed her time to come into [City] (she lives in the suburbs) this Sunday to bring you a Family Yoga event second to none! I am very excited to have [Yoga Mom] possibly as a regular instructor for Family Yoga at [Yoga Studio].
[OK, fine, very nice.]

This event can only happen with your continued support. We need 10 more people to register in order to hold the event this Sunday. It would be a real shame to have to cancel this event after [Yoga Mom] already committed her time on a Sunday to be with us.
[Guilt building: YOU are ruining Yoga Mom's life and livelihood. SHAME on you.]

If you are planning to attend the event - please register ASAP.
If we do not get 10 more people pre-registered by this Friday November 30, unfortunately the event will be cancelled. [And it will all be YOUR fault.]

Without your support I will not be able to continue holding Family Yoga Events at [Yoga Studio]. [YOU! You are ruining my business! You ungrateful yoga faker!]

Pre-registration is simple and easy. We are accepting Visa & Mastercard online. It takes no more than 5 minutes to pre-register and with your support we may be able to build Family Yoga into a strongly attended monthly event at Om City Yoga. [But without your support, everything goes to hell in a handbasket, and it will all be YOUR FAULT.]

Thank you. Namaste.
[I'm calm. Really, I am. I am not going to hurt you, YOU YOGA INGRATE YOU!]

Damn yoga hippies.

Monday, November 26, 2007

In Which I Unabashedly Show Off My Daughter

(I was going to just type these off and send to grandparents and aunts, but why not share with the world?!) (All transcriptions verbatim.)

E's "I Am Thankful" assignment

I am thankful for my family. My sister who plays with me. My dad who takes me to school wet or dry. My mom who takes care of me. My uncles who plays with me and my sister and cousins. My aunts who take care of my cousins. My grandparents who take care of me when my parents are away and all the other people who I did not mention. It is important to be thankful because it meen you have a lot of good things.

E's pumpkin poem (first they "brainstormed" the alliterative words, she told me) (she did not say alliterative)

Pick pumkins in a patch.
Under leaves find them
Make many mavalois Jackolanterns
Put ps o Jackolanterns
Kids kick and crack pumkins
In a wheelbarrow lots of pumkins lay
Naging parents for more not to many

Can You Plagiarize Yourself?

Or is it OK if one piece is published in America and the other in England? When do you think the book comes out? And if she can't manage to get enough material for two DIFFERENT articles, does she really think she'll have enough for a book?

Well, goodness, she's Jane Smiley's daughter. That will help with the book contract. And explains Salon and the Independent.

[Note: I am being snarky. I am assuming she is trolling for a book contract. Really I know nothing about her beyond the links above. The first paragraph is based on a Jezebel post which reminded me of something I recalled blogging. The second paragraph is based on my out-of-control google habit. Neither article is worth this much of my time and attention.]

Literary Tidbits

Recalling our first successful foray into books on tape, we prepared for Thanksgiving driving with a visit to the library. This time we discovered that books on tape are not magic bullets: it all depends on the reader. Since it was our first time, we had no idea that part of the reason we loved Ballet Shoes was the engaging, multi-vocal, dramatic voice of the woman who read it. Little Women, in contrast, was a bust. The reader's voice was not particularly attractive to begin with, and her reading was monotonous at best. We made it to supper after the Christmas play, and that was it. Mrs. Piggle-Wiggle's Farm was a great improvement, even if the dramatic variation occasionally verged on shrill. The book is a wacky commentary on, hmm, I'm guessing either 30s or 50s middle-class motherhood. Looks like 50s. Anyway, the fathers are useless, the mothers are distraught, there are lots of women's clubs and crazy food like peanut butter-sardine-prune salad (I made that one up, but really they are all like that), and Mrs. Piggle-Wiggle, who has no kids of her own, as far as I can tell, is the master of motherhood.


On a lovely hike in a rocky glen, the grandfather, uncle, teenager, M, and I played Quotations--is that a game? If not, it should be. Basically (you knew this ten words ago), one person says a quotation and the others have to guess who said it. We ranged from Archimedes to A Tribe Called Quest, but we specialized in Big Bill, Big Bob, and the Big Bs*, which tells you something about how white, middle-class, liberal, and over-educated our family is. At any rate, it was very fun, and especially fun that everyone was having such a good time and could contribute and participate, and that the rocks of the rocky glen made for such good climbing.


E spent about half a day with Abby Hayes and has now moved on to the Beacon Street Girls. She is in first grade, and the Beacon Street Girls are in seventh grade, or so M tells me, and I'm feeling a bit anxious about this, but it's not like I'm going to stop her. M says the stuff that's too old for her will just go over her head, and I'm guessing she'll give up pretty soon, as the real point is to Do What M Does. She's quite excited, though, pointing out to me how the font changes when there are emails, and that each chapter has the name of a girl so you know who's thinking it. She is becoming very observant in her reading. The other day she told me that some books take you into people's heads, but some books just watch people. I did not take the opportunity to discourse upon omniscient narration, but I did tell her she was right.

*That would be Shakespeare, Dylan, and the Beatles, for anyone who might be wondering.

Sunday, November 25, 2007

Thanksgiving Knitting

Thanksgiving is usually the beginning of my knitting season, but this year the season started early, when K and D visited a few weeks ago while the knitting store around the corner was holding its going-out-of-business sale. I should probably feel sadder--or more guilty--about the knitting store around the corner going out of business, and I know I will rue its absence when I go to my knitting box and discover I don't have the size needles I need for a project (though truly, by now I have so many needles I can't imagine that happening, though of course it will, for I will inevitably choose the one project that uses the one size needles I don't have). But really that store was mainly good for emergency needles: the yarn selection was small and not particularly interesting: they rarely had what one needed for a project, nor did they inspire impulse buys.

But a knitting store's going-out-of-business sale is a knitting store's going-out-of-business sale, that is, something not to be missed, especially if it is around the corner, so off we went, and K got yarn for a baby present and herself, and I got blue striated yarn to make leg warmers for M and purple yarn and red textured yarn to knit together for a scarf. Given the Clapotis road block, I felt the need for completion, so I started the scarf that weekend, 17 stitches on size 15 needles, seed stitch. I finished it on Thanksgiving, really I knitted almost all of it on Thanksgiving, and it is quite pretty and satisfying.

Then I spent Friday night un-knitting Clapotis which was annoying but satisfying. The rest of the weekend I knitted Clapotis, and I am now eight rows from beginning to decrease, which means I'll finish sometimes around next Thanksgiving (especially if I deviate to the leg warmers), but at least I'm back on track.

By contrast, Libby really accomplished something (I cooked absolutely nothing, though I did set the table: truly, Libby has me beat on every front).

Saturday, November 24, 2007

Where (and What) Do You Read?

The couple of times I've tried Virginia Heffernan's new column in the Times Magazine, I've not been so engaged, but tomorrow's (yes, my dear sister, I'm reading tomorrow's paper today) is excellent. I too lurk all over the internet, and I too am skeptical of doom-and-destruction analyses of, well, pretty much anything cultural. Yes, things are changing, but things have always changed: that's how culture works. On the internet, we spend a large part of our time reading. Middlemarch sold about 18,000 copies when it first came out; The Kite Runner has sold 1.4 million copies (not that the two are comparable, and neither are 19th-century and contemporary publishing and reading practices, but I was trying to find an example of popular literary fiction). Look at slash fiction sites, and try and tell me we are no longer literate and creative. Or you could just go lurk on Jezebel. While avoiding reading The Inheritance of Loss (oh, that would be me, not you).

Friday, November 23, 2007

Holiday Observations: Thanksgiving 2007

Icon of the contemporary holiday: person sitting on front stoop, talking furtively or frantically (or both) into cell phone. Spotted several when M and I went for a bike ride. Never got to that point myself, though I must confess to some sotto voce texting.

A guitar and a copy of Rise Up Singing can improve any social gathering, so long as your generations include a certain type of 40something white folk.

Thursday, November 22, 2007

Okkervil River on the Beach

S played a video of Okkervil River’s “A Girl in Port” and I said “we’ve been to that beach,” but it’s an Italian beach in the video, and the beach I’m thinking of is south of Barcelona, and it doesn't look like that after all.

We spent a week in Barcelona when M was two--we were in England and wanted to go on vacation, and it seemed like a good place for a two year old, which it was: a park every three blocks, a zoo, Gaudi and Miro, bird cages on La Rambla, the beach.

“A Girl in Port” is almost unbearably romantic.

I’m thankful for Okkervil River, and the beach, and Barcelona, and Mike Lowell, and the fact that in 424 days we'll have a new president who I probably won't like much but will not like much less than this one.

(And, of course, for all the standard stuff: family, friends [very much so, my friends], work [enough work, finally, more than enough work, and good work!], health--actually, I am truly and alertly thankful these days for all of those things, standard though they may be.)

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Late Decadence in the Reign of Consumer Capitalism

[The title doesn’t corollate perfectly, but I like the way it sounds.]

How can you not love Mike Lowell even more when he talks about why he stayed with the Red Sox?

"I enjoy Boston," he said. "My family enjoys Boston. Secondly, the Red Sox organization does everything it can to win a World Series - for my career, that's a big factor. Thirdly, before this contract I had financial security, so I like to believe that I'm not all about money." [more here]

On the other hand, it’s easy to say you're not about money when you’re making $12.5 million a year.

I was thinking the other day about baseball salaries, stimulated by A-Rod of course. $27.5 million a year? For hitting a bat and catching a ball? Can we just take a moment to acknowledge that this is totally out of control? I mean, I love Mike Lowell to death, and there’s simply no way to justify the fact that he makes $12.5 million a year for doing what he does. As far as I’m concerned, nothing anyone does is worth anything like that kind of money.

I’ve been hanging out with teenagers again. Poor inner-city Black and Latino teenagers. The ones newspaper articles veer back and forth between demonizing and pitying.

In real life, these kids want jobs. The other day one was talking about looking in three different towns and not finding anything. Another was all excited about getting an interview at a non-profit work program, until he discovered that it was for high school graduates. They share tips and grasp at irrelevant straws.

These kids are no saints. Is it possible that they walk into stores, heavy with attitude, ask if there are any jobs, and then leave when told no? Uh, yeah. In fact, it's likely.

S meets a lot of kids like that. He hires a few. Some work out. If a kid has a good work ethic, but no skills, he teaches her skills. If a kid has skills but no work ethic, he's usually gone within a few shifts. If a kid has neither skills nor work ethic, forget it. The rare kid with skills and a work ethic (and there are some) makes everything worthwhile, and he is thrilled to launch those kids into their careers.

White suburban kids have skill and work ethic issues too, but they are more likely to have cultural capital and connections.

When the headquarters of big local corporations leave town because of mergers and acquisitions, they tend, sooner or later, usually sooner, to give up their local philanthropies. No more sponsorship for Shakespeare in the park; no more summer jobs for local kids.

I should be able to connect all this to mortgages, credit, and recent high-level resignations, but, honestly, I don't really get that stuff.

I just know we've got some really big problems here.

My Little Public School Brainwashee

E: We're doing the funnest thing in morning work today! There are these parts of a turkey and we get to cut them out, put them together, and color them!

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Sweet Caroline

This has got to be bullshit. I mean, read the lyrics, for god's sake. But it was sweet of him to say it.

My Favorite Republican Candidate

I'd been thinking of writing a post about Mike Huckabee even before Salon proclaimed him the environmentalist Republican. OK, so he's against global warming because God wants him to be, and he supports nuclear power, but still, compare to Republican currently in office and be impressed.

That's not why I liked Mike Huckabee, though.

I like Mike Huckabee because he is a huge supporter of arts in education. I like this for two reasons. First, because I'm a huge supporter of arts in education (again: compare dude in White House). Second, because it shows he has the capacity to think for himself, not just toe some poll-generated party line (do we even need to go there with the comparison?). Which does, in a way, bring us back to the environment.

I'm not going to look up the rest of his record. I don't need to know his positions on abortion, gay marriage, or even the war. It's not like I'll ever vote for him. I just like knowing he's out there.

Edited to add: For some reason I'm seeing lots of Huckabee references today, and I'm getting an inkling that's he's not so hot on evolution, but I am not going to do the legwork, I tell you, I refuse to give up my illusions of his reasonable enlightenment.

Monday, November 19, 2007

Oh My God! Oh My God! Oh My God!

I was just, not an hour ago, driving home from a meeting, thinking that it's actually kind of nice to be done with baseball, to have all that baseball bandwidth free for other things, and that I was even pretty calm about Mike Lowell, I mean, if he goes, he goes, that's the way it is, or so I thought an hour ago.

Then M just called me from school and told me they'd signed Mike Lowell, and my response is memorialized in the title to this post, though words can't quite capture the squeals. It's actually not quite so definitive (ah, sixth graders and the transmission of information), but it's looking good.

I guess I do care. And I'm really really happy. And so is M.

How About...Being Really Superficial, For a Change?

I've been writing posts in my head about books, movies, economic injustice, E's tantrum-filled weekend, and my achievement of a new state of parental Zen patience, which hopefully will persist till the end of this trial, but I think I'm going with cosmetics.

I have also recently achieved a new state of cosmetic stability, and I am quite happy about it.

I have super-sensitive skin, and for years, like, uh, maybe 20 , I used only Clinique products. Then I got sick of them. So I went to Origins, talked at length with an earnest and supportive beautiful-skinned saleswoman, emerged with a slew of White Tea products, took them home, used them, and was not so happy. But they were expensive, so I finished them, not so happily.

Meanwhile, Lucy's friend K is a famous dermatologist (really, she was in a magazine), and she says Neutrogena is just as good as anything else. So when I started to run out of the unhappy White Tea products, I replaced them with Neutrogena. Now I have Neutrogena make-up remover, toner, face moisturizer, cleanser, and scrub. And they're all great. And cheap. And I can get them at the drugstore.

The best thing is that, all those years using Clinique, I thought I had dry skin. My face was so dry I felt it. I used this Clinique super-moisturizer in a pretty little blue glass tub at night, and it was like giving my face a drink of water. I was positively a Clinique advertisement. But, you know what? Now that I use Neutrogena, I don't even need moisturizer at night anymore. I'm now a Neutrogena advertisement!

Then there's the hair. The hair has never been stable, and while I would predict 20 years with Neutrogena barring unforeseen circumstances, I'm sure the hair situation will change within months. But for now, we're good.

The lice fiasco led to much discussion of my hair, with conclusions regarding dry hair, dry scalp, and dandruff, which led to experimentation, which led to current solution. But first I must explain that I have ridiculous hair. It is quite thick and was once curly, but now it is generally straightISH except when it is curlyISH and then there are the times when it is something in between. In other words, my hair is highly variable, depending on outside variables including weather (mainly), product, swimming, running, blowdrying, and probably things I don't even know about, but wish I did, because then I might be able to control my hair. My hair is also much more of a problem in winter. I also need a haircut because I am totally sick of my hair, but I don't know what to do with it, so I'm taking suggestions.

Currently, though, my hair looks and feels fairly reasonable when I wash it with Grandpa's Wonder Pine Tar Shampoo and use Paul Mitchell Instant Moisture Conditioner.

As for my body, I've used Lubriderm Seriously Sensitive since I can remember, and I don't see that changing.

And if this post doesn't make you question why you read blogs, then you may be too far gone for help.

[Note: there are no links in this post, because those cosmetic sites are complicated and confusing, and I didn't feel like running back and forth into the bathroom to check what I actually have, and I certainly wasn't going to bring all my cosmetics out to the computer, so I didn't have to run back and forth into the bathroom.]

Friday, November 16, 2007


The latest from the purveyor of all things CD is Amoeba Records' Gram Parsons with the Flying Burrito Brothers, Live at the Avalon Ballroom 1969, complete with liner notes by Miss Pamela (and how excited are we to discover that she has a new book? very excited). It's taken from the amazing Grateful Dead vaults--the Flying Burrito Brothers opened for the Dead that night, and what I would give to have been at that show!

It's funny how Gram gets rediscovered every few years, but I suppose he is so fundamental that it's just going to keep happening. You don't need to subscribe to the great man theory of history to say that Gram was a crucial, perhaps the crucial, link in the chain that led us to Uncle Tupelo, Wilco, the Jayhawks, basically alt-country as we know and love it today. This live recording actually sounds super-country to my ears, and the word that keeps coming to mind as I listen to it is "pretty," which I think has become a totally debased word, but really does have something to mean.

Why pretty instead of beautiful? Because there's something light about these songs. Eh, that's not right either, because I don't mean anything flimsy, which light seems to evoke in this context. And I don't want to go down the overworked road of beautiful, lovely, sweet. I've been thinking about this CD for two days now, and I still can't find the words, which is very unusual for me.

I'll just say that it is a total pleasure to listen to, if you have any investment in this strand of music history, but also for itself.

Thursday, November 15, 2007

This Is The Weirdest Day

I started out running at 7 this morning in a long-sleeve shirt over a t-shirt, but the long-sleeve shirt was tied around my waist within three blocks. I went to a meeting in a skirt and top, no sweater or jacket, and boots with no tights. I saw a woman walking down the street in a tank top.

But I just got home and put on jeans, a sweater, and a sweatshirt.

November 15. Craziness.


Pretending to be the mindful parents people believe us to be, S and I are trying to figure out WHY E might be behaving this way (this morning she was delightful again, but I have no faith). We've come up with some ideas.

1. Not feeling well. Yesterday she complained about her stomach hurting, and she farted a lot, so gas could explain yesterday's extremity, though I don't think she's had gas for ten days.

2. A's imminent departure. Her best friend from school is moving three towns away and his last day is the Wednesday before Thanksiving. She talks about this a lot.

3. General minor upheaval. We had guests the last two weekends. I have been working a lot more--and a lot more visibly to her. I have been out more than she is used to recently. She is almost always with S or a grandparent when I'm not there, and both girls like their new babysitter (who has gotten E to bed without tears three times in a row!), but she has passionately expressed her displeasure at my absences. Ironically, S has been working less and home more, but that could still count as upheaval.

4. Swimming. I just have a gut feeling that the physical exertion and anxiety (diving off the block, learning new strokes) of swimming might be stressing her, though she claims to love it.

I guess, cumulatively, all that might make a little girl fussy, though the rest of us are fine with it (M, by contrast, is great these days, and I think swimming is an important part of it).

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Can Mercury Be In Retrograde for Only One Person?

J and J came to visit the weekend of the time change. E stayed up late Friday and Saturday night, and by Sunday she was a basket case. We went for a lovely walk, during which the kids climbed lots of rocks, which usually she loves, and all she did was weep--everyone else got to climb first, nobody was paying attention to her, the world was unfair.

Well, it's been ten days now, and she's still weeping, and the world is still unfair. I am mean and horrible, M never pays attention to her AND gets everything her way, S is mean and horrible for going to work, everything is my fault because I am trying to get some work done, everything she tries to do goes wrong, and NO, SHE IS NOT HUNGRY!

She doesn't want to play, she doesn't want to read, she doesn't want to go to the playground, and SHE DOESN'T WANT ANYTHING TO EAT. She can't do the monkey bars because of her calluses, but she can't not do the monkey bars because they're always there.

There has been much rolling on the floor, weeping, and running into her room, throwing herself on the floor, and weeping.

We're talking ten days now (with, to be honest, some normal periods, but really, it is like this for a good chunk of every day).

Baths are one of the few things that calm her, but tonight there wasn't enough hot water, so the bath wasn't deep enough, so no go. Not for the first time, I've resorted to TV, which is working for now, though I have little faith.

I'm trying to stay patient. I text S regular "updates from the psych ward" to keep my sense of humor in operation (because, truly, her melodramatic agony can be quite hilarious). But at this rate, one of us is going to end up in the real psych ward, and it's not going to be long.

Edited to add: After an hour of TV, she was sweet and loving at bedtime. Maybe I need to start administering TV prophylactically.

This I Love

A-Rod ditching Boras?

Reason #Umpteen That I'm Glad We Live In Town

Today M went to school wearing, in her words, the "typical Town girl outfit": pajama bottoms, a t-shirt, a hooded sweatshirt, and her hair in a ponytail with a thin headband (can you tell she hangs out with the sixth-grade girl hockey players?!). Clearly we do not inhabit the world described in this article about middle school fashion.

(Reason #Not-Very-Big-Number That Living in Town Is Kind of a Pain: My work seems to be taking me to East Coast Big City, where S also works, so there is a fair amount of inconvenient or unenvironmental [or both] commuting these days. But I guess that's the price middle-class parents pay to keep their kids happy in semi-suburbia.) (We're hoping that "semi"will keep our kids happy instead of disaffected in suburbia. Pajamas and all, Town kids do seem generally happy.) (Except when mean girls who should know better don't let them go to the park to play soccer with the boys.)

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

I Know Baseball Is Done

But after a long day, in lieu of meaningful content, I offer you my favorite Red Sox fan line(s) of 2007:

Jacoby Ellsbury is the bomb
I want to be his babies' mom

Monday, November 12, 2007

Bat Mitzvah Chronicles 1

We’ll call that last bat mitzvah post the Bat Mitzvah Prologue. Now we're heading into the thick of it. This weekend, we finally got M’s date, and we went to our first bat mitzvah of one of M’s friends.

About the date, all is good. It’s a morning service, a month before her birthday, with her friend A’s bat mitzvah in the afternoon, but A’s mom is totally cool, and in fact suggested that we plan a visit to a spa for the following week. I knew I liked A’s mom, and now I like her even more.

About the first bat mitzvah…well, what I’d really like to do is start writing bat mitzvah reviews, but I’m afraid my blog ethics won’t let me. Truly, we know very nice people and I’m sure the many bat (and bar) mitzvahs we will attend in the next two years will be delightful, and to review them would only be to reveal the base depths of my nitpicky, nasty self. Plus, the possibility of a bat mitzvah being recognized is just not worth it. So I will have to restrain myself to unobjectionable comments.

This weekend’s bat mitzvah was lovely. To not cavil at the tiny things I might cavil at makes me feel better than caviling would, and perhaps this is the beginning of a brave new me. Except maybe not.

And now for the unobjectionable comments.

I didn’t know the town where the bat mitzvah was had synagogues, and as we followed the directions, it seemed even more unlikely. We passed a lot of churches, and then turned into a dilapidated residential neighborhood, and the address was a dilapidated building, with an odd collection of giant crates in the parking lot (really). But inside it was exquisite. Quite small: maybe 100 seats on benches downstairs, and a balcony around three sides. Glowing golden wood everywhere, with carvings and curves, and shiny white paint, and lots of gold gilt. I felt like I was in a Polish shtetl, and it was such a different vibe from your usual modern or institutional hulk of an American synagogue. If you've ever been to the Touro synagogue, it was like that, except cozy instead of grand. Surely the synagogue was part of what made the bat mitzvah so lovely.

The women at the bat mitzvah were all wearing flowy garments and expensive comfortable shoes. Need I say more? All I will say is there was a time when I expected to wear flowy garments and expensive comfortable shoes when I grew up, but I don’t seem to have grown up that way. I wore high-heeled boots, probably the highest heels in the place; tailored black trousers and a boxy black sweater jacket that together look like a suit; a tight pink t-shirt; and my new purplish-red and black scarf. I did not look like the other moms. Which is OK.

Actually, there was one mom in a fitted wrap dress, and of course she’s the mom I ended up talking to. Her daughter goes to camp with M and the bat mitzvah girl, so we talked about camp, and it turned out we do similar work, and it turned out she knows a good friend of mine from college, so we chattered away. But, you know, I am quite certain that I will never become a brave new me, because I seem incapable of not being my nasty, nitpicking self, and I made two snarky comments to this woman, and they seemed to make her a bit nervous.

One of the comments was uncalled for, but one was about something I assumed anyone sensible would snark at, sort of along the lines of “isn’t the president awful?” which I would never have said to a stranger in No Longer Red State, but is pretty safe around here, but I guess not (that's an analogy--I was not talking about the president at a bat mitzvah, though I suppose one might). Oh, and there was a third moment that made her laugh nervously: when I said that slide shows always make life look perfect--hmm, I wonder if she thought I was insinuating that this family’s life is not perfect and the slideshow was a cover-up, which I was totally NOT insinuating. I don’t even know anything about this family, except that M adores the daughter, I just was truly, earnestly, even wistfully, remarking upon the slide show phenomenon, and how wonderful it makes life look, but I guess if you’ve been snarky once (and at that point it had only been once), you’ve established your reputation. Oh dear.

Note for bat mitzvah consideration: Slideshow?

[This post, which I wrote in Word, because I did not have internet access where I was writing, forced me to add shtetl, snark, and snarky to my dictionary. Clearly, I did not write that dictionary!]

2009 Is Going To Suck

But maybe it won't be so bad if I'm a paraplegic.

Men are unhappiest at almost 50, and women at just after 45. Paraplegics are not unhappier than healthy people. People who live with teenagers are the unhappiest of all. [link]


Can you help me out?

Go to the window in the room you're in and touch the glass. Is it cold? cool? warm? hot?

Now what's the weather like outside? And how's the temperature inside?


Saturday, November 10, 2007


I believe that, aside from the occasional op-ed or book review, the only thing I ever read by Norman Mailer was that story about having sex with that girl (Jenny, help me out, what am I talking about?).

Edited to add: Jenny failed me, and then I had a vague recollection, clarified by Google: "The Time of Her Time." Oy.

Friday, November 09, 2007

The Chimeric Oasis in the Distance

I don't know what it means that Harbin Hot Springs has come up twice in the last 24 hours, but surely it must mean something (like that I wasn't hired to write that article totally sucks, and that the older woman doing yoga in the pool on the Harbin website totally rocks). But this isn't about Harbin, where I spent a delightful day many years ago. It's about Orr.

Hot water is one of my favorite things. Hot showers, hot tubs, hot springs: I love them all, hence that day at Harbin, many more days here than I could afford, countless visits to slightly dank Asiatic-ish hot tub places across the country, lovely afternoons at dammed-up hot springs in the California mountains, not to mention every morning's too-long shower, which I know wreaks havoc with my skin and our oil bill, but I can't help it.

But I have never been to Orr Hot Springs, and that is an issue (that Orr appears to lack a website also seems meaningful).

When S and I lived in the Bay Area and were childless and early in our careers (i.e. had a lot more time), we loved to road trip in Sonoma and Mendocino. If we only had a day, we'd go to Marin, especially Hog Island and Point Reyes, and sometimes we went to Napa, but in Sonoma and Mendocino, there are beaches and forests, wineries and hippie bakeries, beautiful green hills and towering cliffs, and winding roads that you know will eventually take you to either the 1 or the 101, so you can get lost to your heart's delight, which we often did.

One lost late afternoon, heading east from Mendocino with nowhere to stay that night, I spotted a sign for Orr Hot Springs. "Let's go there!" I eagerly exclaimed. But we were already past the turnoff, and though I suggested that it would be easy to turn around, S wanted to keep going. He promised me that some day we'd come back.

Well, I'm sure you can guess the denouement of this story. We had a delightful evening in Hopland, enjoying both the brewery and the inn, but we did not return to Orr, not the next day, not on subsequent trips north, not ever.

I began to think--this was pre-google--that perhaps I'd imagined Orr Hot Springs. And in my imagination it became the perfect place, the hot water that would finally satisfy me, the ideal apex of hot spring nirvana.

And then my sister-in-law started going there. Regularly. Which made it even worse.

Now Orr Hot Springs has become a family joke: a sign for the things you want, that you're promised you'll get, but you never do. Everyone rolls their eyes when I begin my Orr laments.

Someday, though, as god is my witness, with this radish in my hand (get the allusion, please!), I will lie in the water at Orr Hot Springs. And it will be good.

Thursday, November 08, 2007

Can You Say Meth?

I mean, I try to stick up for Courtney, but this is some kind of crazy. (No, I did not actually read it--it's unreadable.) (link, of course, from Jezebel)

Alternative Lives

If I had totally different values and knew a lot more rich people, this would be the perfect job for me.

Transience, Technology, and Intimacy

I have lived in seven places as an adult, counting college and the country.

S has lived with me in five of those places.

B and I met in college, lived together in Washington after college, lived in the Bay Area at the same time. Her father lives in No Longer Red State Capital City, so she was one of the few people who visited us there, and we are often together in the country.

A few friends from college have lived in other places at the same time I have.

Mainly I have left a lot of people behind, or they have left me. Sometimes I think about all the people I once was close to. I can't decide whether I'm sad that we're no longer close, or happy we once were. Probably both.

K and I have not lived in the same place for twelve years.

In the last two days, K and I have exchanged 39 emails, three texts, and a phone call. We have discussed their visit this weekend, dinner reservations, running, her chipped tooth, whether I should keep blogging, my new job, and Amy Winehouse. In twelve years, we have rarely gone a week without some form of contact, unless one of us is out of range.

Local K and I will often text, email, phone, and see each other on the same day. I try to figure out, sometimes, why we do what when, but I can't, really. I just know at the moment which to do.

Eighteen months ago, I had no interest in texting, a sentiment I probably expressed in this very blog. In June, when we got a new phone contract, we got, I think, 300 texts monthly, apiece. I hope this is enough.

It used to be that only S, my parents, and the girls' sitters and schools had my cell phone number. Now everyone has it, and at least once a day one phone rings while I'm talking on the other.

I try to avoid the phone.

Texting is my new means of intimate connection. I text with S, M, my niece T, K, local K, J, C, and Lucy. That's pretty much my core. Except my sister. Her phone is very old. I am urging her to get a new phone. She finally got a new car, so there's hope.

The only effective way to reach T is by text. When I phone or email, I don't hear from her for days. If I text, my phone beeps in response within seconds. Nobody texts faster than T.

T is fourteen. She has 60 friends on Facebook, and counting. She sits on the living room floor, playing games with E, chatting with me, one iPod ear bud in her ear, texting pretty much constantly. She is the next generation. She lives her life at once in private (head bent over texts) and on display (meeting people on Facebook).

E has just discovered texting. She texts her dad and T. She wants to text me, but she's using my phone.

My favorite text of E's, sent to T: "Fighting. Mean M mean."

I wonder how my friendships with the people I've left would have fared without blogs and email. I know there are people I would never have become friends with without blogs and email (they know who they are).

I don't Flickr, Tumblr, Twitter, or Facebook. I have no interest in any of them. I don't want that level of display. But I blog, and eighteen months ago I had no interest in texting.

I used to read so many blogs. I used to read lots of blogs of people I didn't know. But eventually I ran out of time and interest, especially for blogs of people I didn't particularly like, but whose self-display engendered a sick fascination. My google reader now has seven blogs of people I know in real life, one blog of someone I have read forever and quite adore (a great writer), and one person I am slightly sickly fascinated by (a girl can't be perfect).

I seem to embrace new technologies for their potential to facilitate existing intimacies, once the technologies upon which I have relied become too open. This suggests that Facebook is not in my future, but I may be wrong. I may simply not understand yet, as I did not understand texting.

Though I think I still don't understand texting, I just do it.

In the country my cellphone doesn't work. I check my email every few days. When I want to find someone, I walk up the road, or I go down to the lake, or I sit on a stoop, and eventually they show up. We are all very predictable in the country. We know how to find each other.

I'm not making any generalizations. I'm just talking about me: a middle-aged, hopefully no longer transient mom, poised between technophile and technophobe.

Wednesday, November 07, 2007


I have a friend who is a doctor in a rural state. She and her husband, also a doctor, have set up a micro practice. It's just the two of them: no secretary, no nurse, no P.A. They schedule their own appointments and return their own phone calls. They see patients on the hour, so they have enough time to really pay attention, and to do preventative care, as well as deal with the problem at hand. They take Medicare and Medicaid, so they are making available to low-income patients, of which they have many, the same kind of care rich people get from boutique doctors. They already have 450 patients, all of whom they know.

My friend also spends one day a week doing abortions, because they need to be done.

She is one of my heroines, and so is this woman.

Chocolate Oblivion Truffle Torte

I feel about dark chocolate a bit like I feel about knitting (25 years), running marathons (13 years), and yoga (12 years): that I must proclaim to the world that I was on board long before the bandwagon started filling up, because, you know, I am so incredibly cool, avant-garde, and fashion forward.

The last time I actively chose milk chocolate unattached to peanut butter (i.e. Reese's) was in India in 1990 when I ate a Cadbury Dairy Milk every day, very much for comfort rather than taste. These days, if the only choice is milk, I just say no, and we don't even discuss the travesty that is white. But dark, now that is another matter, and apparently the rest of the world is coming around to the same opinion, or at least so says Bill Buford in an article I have not yet managed to finish, despite my commitment to the topic.

Lately, though, the commodification of all things dark chocolate has become a bit much for me. I will say with no shame that I can't tell the difference between Madagascar and Ecuador, and 80% chocolate does not taste good. I go up to about 70%, and then I stop. M, who also prefers dark (E does not particularly care), thinks 70% is too much, which is why we added four tablespoons of sugar to the Chocolate Oblivion Trufffle Torte, which we made with Scharffen Berger 70% Cacao Bittersweet.

We had guests with celiac, which meant flourless cake, so I turned to Nigella, but we had no rum, so I turned to Rose, and there we were. Butter, chocolate, eggs. And the aforementioned sugar. A lot of melting. A fair amount of beating. Some folding. Minimal baking. Chilling.

Totally to die for. Outrageously delicious. I'm not sure why my descriptors are so lacking, because this cake was outstanding, in an out-of-control, dark-chocolate, truffle kind of way, hence, I presume, its name, but this one is a serious keeper. In fact, I think I must go eat some more of it right now. Sorry I can't give you any through the computer, but you might want to go make it yourself, if you have any attachment to dark chocolate and deliciousness.

Tuesday, November 06, 2007

Doing Good, Theo

I am quite happy with Red Sox post-season moves so far. Signing Wakefield was the Right Thing To Do for many reasons, value included. And I know I said I would understand if they let Schilling go, but I'm glad they worked this one out. Truly Schilling is worth as much in team leadership as in pitching capacity at this point, and he is my favorite blowhard Christian Republican, though I hope he never runs for office. I had structured an incentive-based deal that would segue him from pitching to coaching (S even thought it was a good plan), but Theo did not take my calls. I guess he didn't need me.

The likelihood of losing Crisp is a sad but inevitable thing. I will miss his outrageous catches, and especially the way the announcers at Fenway say "Coco Ka-riiissssp," but the guy deserves better than we can give him. So long as we have Manny and Ortiz, Manny will be doing his Manny thing in the outfield; J.D. Drew is not going anywhere with that salary, and hopefully will perform at his post-season level for many years to come; and, well, what can you say about Jacoby Ellsbury (that could be a really twisted Love Story quote if you want, or not). Basically Crisp should go somewhere he can be a beloved starting outfielder.

Still, the fat lady won't sing till the ML and AR situations are resolved. Good indications from Theo (you might have to scroll down), but I don't think the fat lady has even arrived at the ballpark yet.

And now I really should put in some outrageous disclosure that I can then harangue my mom for missing, because she skipped yet another Red Sox post, only I don't think I have an outrageous disclosure. Alas, my boring life.


When I was thinking about whether to leave my job in No Longer Red State, I decided that work, for those of us privileged to have choices, can be righteous, interesting, or lucrative, and the ideal job would be all three, but you should have at least two. Of course this formulation leaves out the work-life dimension. My job in No Longer Red State had some theoretically righteous components and was adequately lucrative, but I found it increasingly uninteresting, and the kicker to all this eh-ness was that I (we) did not like where we were living, so we left. I'm quite sure, though, that if the job had been truly righteous, interesting, and lucrative, or firmly two out of three--or if S's job situation had been similarly compelling--we would have overcome our dislike and stayed.

The first job I had in Blue State was lucrative, but neither righteous nor interesting.

The second job I had in Blue State was righteous, but neither interesting nor particularly lucrative.

I think I have come into work that is righteous, interesting, and, if I change some of my plans, sufficiently lucrative. This seems good.

Monday, November 05, 2007

Alert the Culinary Gods!

E ate half a baked potato for dinner, her first new food since I can remember!

Katie Holmes's Marathon

1. My last marathon, ten years older (than her), I beat her by an hour and 27 minutes.

2. How nice life must be if one has time to train for a marathon with a one year old.

Link, if you need it.

Autumn Notes

Snagged the first clementines on Saturday morning, and the box was gone by Sunday evening (granted, there were eight of us this weekend, but still). They were perfect: tiny, juicy, with that ideal Clementinian balance of sweet and barely tart. Clementines mean November, and the first boxes are always so good, but then they get woody and dry and so quickly nasty and moldy. I think I must get another box this afternoon.

I ran in tights for the first time yesterday morning, and then again today. I ran faster than I've run in months, though I didn't feel any different.

We have not yet turned on the heat.

None of these statements are metaphors, though they seem, somehow, as if they should be.

Sunday, November 04, 2007

Mark Ronson

Thanks to Jackie (for the recommendation) and the perpetrator of all things CD (for the legwork), I am love Love LOVING Version, Mark Ronson's second album. I've had it playing in my car for five days straight, and I just can't wait to drive so I can hear it some more. It's wacko Brit covers, fun dance pop, with some killer guest vocals, and I don't care what the snobby boys at Pitchfork say. My favorite tracks of the moment are Lily Allen and Amy Winehouse, of course, but also "Amy" with Kenna, and, especially, "LSF" with Kasabian which just thrills my blood, I have no idea why.

Saturday, November 03, 2007


I must announce--and I know this is of interest only to grandparents, aunts, and Jenny, though the rest of you are welcome to cheer loudly--that E did butterfly at practice last night. (She is looking over my shoulder and proudly declares, "Eight lengths!") (Actually, she said "Eight laps!" and then we had a little google-solved debate over laps and lengths, revised her declaration, and she now proclaims proudly, "Which could be four laps!") (Shall I continue to quote her? "Four laps! Eight lengths!") (And now she has returned to her french toast.)

Friday, November 02, 2007

This Time I Know What I Think

I shouldn't let Judith Warner get to me. I should roll my eyes, say "there she goes again" with a tolerant smile, let Judy be Judy, and do something worthwhile with my time (and goodness knows I have enough worthwhile things to do today). Except I can't, because just as she is her, I am me. So rather than argue with her in my head, I might as well spew it here, get it out of my system, and go on to my worthwhile day.

So here she goes again with the dire plight of American girlhood. I'm down with the Daring Book for Girls props--it's #1 on the charts at our house, and even S was reading choice bits aloud to me last night. The problem starts when she begins lamenting the fact that nobody else cares about our poor girls, around paragraph 10. I'll spare you my "it's not that bad" schtick, based as it is on dubious anecdotal evidence about the kids I know--oh and, uh, facts like girls graduate from high school at higher rates than boys, girls are more involved in school, Title IX has led to a huge increase in girls participation in sports, etc. (sorry, I just cannot keep finding links, I must get to the worthwhile things I need to do).

Instead, I want to point to two problems with her analysis, both rooted in this paragraph:

Peskowitz, who has a Ph.D. in ancient history and religion, may find it a thrill to apply her professional knowledge to teaching girl readers about “Queens of the Ancient World.” Other mothers may find similar ways to communicate the passions of their lives – poetry, or chemistry, or camping — to their girls via the “Daring” book’s pages. Yet, while all this will undoubtedly strengthen individual mother-daughter bonds, I wonder if it will have any wider effect. What power can any of us – moms and daughters, adrift in the cultural mainstream — have against the hugely seductive, hypnotic machine that has brought us Paris, Miley, Lindsay and more?

First, are we really supposed to believe that only women with Ph.D.'s who are passionate about poetry, chemistry, and camping care about their daughters? I think not. Has Judith Warner has ever talked to a WalMart clerk who desperately wants her daughter to succeed in school? Has she listened to the women in inner cities who are speaking up against violence and begging for alternatives for their kids, girls and boys alike? And for that matter, do you think she has actually watched Hannah Montana? Yes, it's Disney, and I have my Disney critiques, but you can do a lot worse in the role model business than Miley.

Which leads to my second problem, which is about the nature of pop culture and its consumption. It is, I believe, a highly elitist (I know, pot, kettle, and all that) perspective which holds that pop culture is just a "hugely seductive, hypnotic machine," something the ignorant masses simply imbibe without thinking, while we intellectuals watch them, understanding them better than they can possibly understand themselves. From this perspective, if stores are selling revealing costumes for little girls, then little girls must believe that all they are is sex objects. But if you actually get in the trenches with kids and pop culture--hell, with people and pop culture--you will see that the consumption of pop culture is often--not always, but more often than people think--a dynamic event. Kids take what they're given, but they transform, critique, rework, and appropriate--hey, just like smart rich people do, just like, dare I say it, Judith Warner and her daughter might do. Except, maybe not, because they are too busy putting up their hair with pencils and bewailing the state of the rest of the world.

And now I really must get on with my day, which I hope will turn out to be worthwhile.

I Should Care

Last time I said "It doesn't matter who gets elected, let's just get this over with," it was December 2000, and I was very very wrong. And yet I'm still having trouble getting invested in this election. Of course I desperately want a Democrat to win (though I know any Democrat who could get elected will break my heart), but basically I think the Democrats are all bearable and the Republicans all suck. I'm not naive enough to think the overwhelming suckiness of the Republicans means they don't have a chance--Republicans are like the Yankees: they have too much money and they always have a chance. But at this point the question is which Democrat, and that's where I'm having a hard time caring, and feeling kind of guilty about it.

The thing is, in 2007, anyone who could get to the point of possibly being elected president is so different from me that it's hard to get excited. They'll all just say whatever it takes to get elected, they're all in bed with big business, and they're all trying to be as careful and with the pack as possible. You can track the nuances if you want, and you can come up with rationales for one or another, but does it really matter?

And that's the point at which I slap myself across the face and say "don't go down this road again, these things matter," only it's really hard to figure out how and why they matter. Is Hilary too calculatingly unprincipled? Too toxic for a general election? Uh, yeah. Is Obama too inexperienced? Too passively entitled? Um, yup. Is Edwards too out of the loop? Too hypocritical? Probably. Is Richardson too far behind to make a difference? Likely. Are any of these dealbreakers? I have no idea.

At this point, I'm kind of sick of Edwards and leaning toward Richardson, but then would I be once again throwing away my vote? Do I wish I was still young and passionate and throwing myself into campaigns?


For more useful political analysis, try here.

Edited to add: I didn't even realize that I was characterizing the candidates with negatives...that seems to say something about this campaign: it's about who's the least bad. Interesting, too, that my characterizations veer between presidentability (like that one? yesterday I invented protocolian) and electability, though I think that has to do with the lack of differences between the candidates.

Thursday, November 01, 2007

The Idea of Order

A few months ago we seriously considered buying another house. The house had big pluses and small minuses, but when we looked at the inspection report from the previous purchase, we realized it had very big minuses, and just said no. The salutary result of this experience was that we fell quite in love once again with our current house, kind of like when you flirt with someone else and it makes you realize that your boyfriend is the right person for you.

We also resolved to make the improvements that our house needs to be perfect (here's where the boyfriend analogy falls apart, because you cannot make the improvements that a boyfriend needs to be perfect--and truly the house won't be perfect either, but few things are). We have reconceived our renovation plans so that they are more practical, i.e. affordable, and even though we'll lose the big kitchen, we'll gain lots of other spaces and have room for guests galore. (I'm also resolved to make one very impractical renovation and turn the enclosed sunroom into a real porch, which is the kind of backwards thing I'm known for--like quitting a job other people would sell their souls for and moving from one of the most affordable parts of the country to one of the most expensive.)

Renovations are still a few months off though, so for now we're dealing with the little things that drive us--OK, me--nuts. Like the CDs.

I'm not sure you can imagine the CD situation, if you haven't seen it. We have a small sunroom (not the porch-to-be) off the living room which is currently TV room, guest room, and music room (this would make you laugh if you saw it, because really it is so small) (post-renovation it will just be music room, and I can't wait!). It had two CD shelves that held maybe 1100 CDs. But the input of CDs to the house is enormous and unstoppable, plus there is a bad habit (note passive tense) of not putting away CDs, and the result was that the floor and the windowsill (lovely wide shelf-like windowsill) were piled with stacks of CDs. Maybe a dozen stacks? Maybe 30 or 40 CDs per stack? Maybe falling over approximately weekly, leaving the floor tiled with CDs? You can imagine my frustration, disgust, and annoyance, which I tried not to channel at others...OK, I didn't try very hard.

But yesterday the perpetrator of things CD annoying transformed into the perpetrator of CD goodness, bought a new CD shelf (plain, at the unfinished wood store, of course), and put away all the CDs! My joy it is unbounded. Except that, believe it or not (oh, believe it), all three CD shelves are now full, and I fear the cycle only begins again. For the moment, though, I will rejoice in order restored.