Saturday, June 13, 2009

Four Years

I'm wondering who's been reading since the beginning of this blog. Libby and Dawn, I'm sure (Dawn, you haven't blogged since Tuesday--I'm the one who's supposed to be giving up on this, not you!). Maybe Jackie? Andi? Anyone else?

Who has been reading since we moved? Does anyone remember the four years?

Oh my goodness, it looks as if I did not blog the four years!! Well, does anyone who knows me in real life remember the four years?

A few months before we moved, when we had no idea where we'd be living or working, I applied the girls to the private school I attended, so that at least one thing could be certain. At their applicant visiting day, which was my first inkling of what it would be like to move back home, I met a woman who turned out to be the wife of the Deadhead who assistant-managed the fruit and vegetable store where I had my first job. They had moved back from California five years earlier, and she told me that when they moved, her step-mother-in-law told them it took four years to feel like you really had a life, and that was indeed how long it had taken.

Ever since, we have held to the mantra of four years.

Today, it has been four years since we moved.

This morning I lay in bed, basking in the recently-rare sight of blue sky and sun through my no-longer-quite-so-new skylights. I went for a run and moved the hostas I'd been thinking about moving for a year and a half. S went to work, and the rest of my day was pretty much about the driving--one bat mitzvah, two birthday parties (three, if you count the slumber party I picked E up at on my way back from driving M to temple), one bat mitzvah party--and then the chatting with my moms along the driving way (plus a general socializing at Lucy's daughter's birthday party). We hit the seventh grade scene, the second grade scene, the temple scene, and the family friends scene.

I'd say we have a life.

Really, we were well on our way to a life by a year. (One year was our other mantra, because I promised M that if she did not have a friend by one year, we would move back to No Longer Red State. Even M laughed about that one on the first anniversary of our move.)

But it still seems like an appropriate moment to assess the results of our move, and I'd say the step-mother-in-law was right, and I'd say that after four years, I'm feeling pretty good about our life.

House: Renovated and almost perfect (still miss outdoor space, but have plans).

Community: Very much so: temple, family friends, school moms, kids' friends everywhere we turn, boards, volunteer work, and so forth.

Kids: Absolutely thriving. I'm sure they would be fabulous kids if we lived in No Longer Red State, but they have flourished here in so many ways--from children's theater to urban independence--that simply weren't available for us there.

S's work: He's a rock star, in kitchen and community.

My work: I thought, for a long time, that this was the rub, because my work situation has been a rocky path. There were some disasters and some triumphs, and though what I was aiming for after four years was a great job I loved, I've ended up with this freelance/consulting path, which has me doing a lot of different things with a lot of different people (and making as much money as I would in a real job, if not more). It's sometimes too easy for me to see this as failure, i.e. to think of it as not having achieved what I was aiming for. But I am doing great work with great people; I am well-known, well-connected, and sought after (hmm, why did I put a hyphen in the first two and not the third? can that be right?); I have the flexibility I want; I am very much working in the fields I want to be in; and, the fact of the matter is, I am here as a result of choices I have made, at every step of the way. Although I am not infrequently dissatisfied, I have been in some way dissatisfied at every stage of my working life. In other words, in four years, I have achieved a work life, but I remain myself, and perhaps that's a project for the next four years.

Edited to add: I believe there is no hyphen because, unlike "well," "sought" is not an adverb modifying "after."

Thursday, June 11, 2009

I Had a Very Nice Day Today

Life has been quite crazed around here. There is the usually childrenly crazedness of the end of the school year, augmented by the overlapping of the end of E's soccer season and the start of her summer play rehearsals, not to mention the bat mitzvahs and birthday parties. Then S and I have been beset by events and meetings, which everyone seems to think are good to schedule in June. Finally, I have (very happily) finished up with one of my long-term clients and started with another, but the two overlapped, and at the same time I have had several quick jobs to complete, which has left me working pretty much all the time when I am not at meetings or driving to bat mitzvahs.

One of the (many) nice things about this work transition is that I am shifting from two days a week on site, to work at home (with potentially some very glamorous travel). So I had envisioned peace and tranquility, only it had not happened yet because of various meetings and events. But today I hit the platonic ideal of consultant working motherhood.

After I took E to school, I worked at home pretty much straight through the school day, completing three projects. Did not clean, did not even run, which would usually be a sad thing, but today was ok, because I have been fighting something which has had me in bed at 9:30 every night and feeling a little wobbly every time I walk up the stairs.

I finished my work in time to go to the bank and library, picked E up from school and went to the Verizon store where they fixed my BlackBerry, picked M up from school. I will insert here that I did no work for the rest of the day--ok, a few emails when we got home, but nothing substantive--which was highly unusual and very delightful, and what I would like to aspire to, though I know it will be an aspiration infrequently achieved.

Then we went to City and shopped for presents. We were three bat mitzvahs behind, and this weekend has one bat mitzvah and four birthdays, so I knew if we didn't shop, it would be hopeless, so we shopped, and it was a wild success, and not only that, but everything was purchased at local stores which were a pleasure to patronize. Craft store, new bookstore, used bookstore, toy store, stationery store, Tibetan store. And delicious pizza with butternut squash sauce!

We came home. I fed M and E sushi rice and edamame, cleaned the kitchen, and picked up the living room--all the housework that needed to be done. M and I took E to rehearsal and went to our favorite cafe for a Girls Reading Party, then to the library because the book I got this afternoon made me feel compelled to get another book, both of which I expect I'll be reporting on soon enough. We also had pleasant conversation, and it was thoroughly delightful.

So that was my day, and now I am happy, and getting into bed to read my book, and hopefully will do it all again tomorrow, except for the shopping--mainly what I hope to do is work productively during school and then be a relaxed mom. Except, oh dear, I have to go to E's play at 9, and I have a conference call at 3:30 and...well, at least it was nice to have one day of life under control.

Old School Becca Blogging

Julia Roberts is adorable. Kate Gosselin is horrifying. And Letterman discussing Palin is quite funny.

Monday, June 08, 2009


I think all there is to say about today's Times is this.

Sunday, June 07, 2009

Speaking of Shakespeare

My first Shakespeare, or at least the first Shakespeare I remember, was a televised production of Much Ado About Nothing set just after World War I which I absolutely adored (could it be this? the hair looks right), though I did wonder for an embarassingly long time how a turn-of-the-17th-century writer could have set a play in the early 20th century (I really did). I was perhaps 9 or 12 or some such age.

M's first Shakespeare was the Northern Ballet Theatre's Midsummer Night's Dream at Sadler Wells, which set an impossibly high standard for both Shakespeare and ballet--it was her first ballet as well, and it was sublime. She was 7, and she prepared by reading the play, and I believe it was the actual play, not a children's version, though I may be wrong about that. I do recall that she would read it aloud on the Tube, which was quite darling, though it could have been pretentious in the wrong hands.

E's first Shakespeare was Much Ado About Nothing last night. Or rather, Much Ado About Nothing last night was her first live Shakespeare. She has been quite entranced with this children's Shakespeare for a long time now, and on Friday afternoon, she and G were taking turns reading Romeo and Juliet aloud to each other, inspired, I believe, by Taylor Swift (the song that will forever remind me of bar mitzvahs, Hebrew school carpool, H, and second grade girls in the back seat).

Unfortunately, the book does not include Much Ado About Nothing, so we hied to the library, where we discovered there is not much in the way of accessible Much Ado About Nothing, which strikes me as odd, because, confusing as Much Ado About Nothing may be, it is no more confusing than, say, The Tempest, which is the most outrageously confusing Shakespeare there is (and, dare I say, overrated?). Anyway, we ended up with this, which had a serviceable plot summary that we read together, and then we read the plot summary in the program together too, and by the time the play began, she was enormously excited, spurred on, no doubt, by my own Much Ado About Nothing excitement.

The production was incredibly fabulous--creative, inspired, brilliantly-acted, funny, and so linguistically sensitive as to make you feel the genius of Shakespeare. I know, that sounds like too much of a cliche to even write, except that it is a different thing to read Shakespeare and to watch Shakespeare. To make an audience at once feel that they are watching real people with real emotions--which is surely the goal of naturalistic theater, broadly speaking, of which Shakespeare is surely a progenitor--while at the same time highlighting the thematic richness of the language, well, let's just say it is not always done well, but last night it was.

Except for poor E, who was lost pretty much as soon as they opened their mouths, because, rich as Shakespeare's language may be, it is also decisively turn-of-the-17th century, which, for a second grader--and even, sometimes, for a seventh grader--is rough. She worked hard to follow what was going on, as I whispered a rapid-fire translation/explanation in her ear, and she loved the physical comedy, but it was a lot of work, and eventually she put her head in my lap and went to sleep (it was also kind of late).

So this got me thinking about the essence of Shakespeare. Despite the importance of Shakespeare's language, he is probably the most bowdlerized, abridged, revised, summarized author we've got, and in all those forms he has always been popular. As a reader, I've gotten most of my Shakespeare from the page, and it's been largely about language, probably more than plot. E, too, has gotten her Shakespeare from the page, but it's been about story, with hardly anything to do with language. Perhaps that's the point: what makes Shakespeare such a permanently powerful presence is that both language and story hold their own, and together, in a production like the one we saw last night, there is pretty much nothing better.

Wednesday, June 03, 2009

Television 2 (Sorry, No Tom Verlaine Here Either)

On the other hand...

M has been sick since Sunday (she seems finally to be getting better, thanks), which means pretty much constant television, much of it in my presence, since sick in our house seems to entail Advil, blankets, pillows, a glass of water, and Mommy, not to mention any and all food and drink you desire, especially when you are starting to get better, and lack of nutrients seems to have become an impediment rather than a side effect. But I digress.

There's been a lot of Zack and Cody and Hannah Montana and Food Network, which we're used to. Then there's been The Ellen Show, which is just a total delight, only to be enjoyed on sick days, given timing issues (if loving Ellen makes me banal and mainstream, I'll take it). Then there's reality TV.

Oh. My. God.

What Not to Wear is fine--stupid and hegemonic, but at least the protagonist gets some clothes out of the shame. Ditto with Ace of Cakes, and the like, which at least involve people doing things which are of interest to some other people. But have you watched reality TV on MTV lately? Here I betray my sheltered television ignorance, and I am shocked, shocked, I tell you, by the likes of Parental Control, where the parents who hate the kid's boyfriend or girlfriend send the kid out on dates with people of their choice, while they sit home with the hated boy/girlfriend and watch the date by video, fighting all the time in the trashiest of manners, and then the kid chooses between the boy/girlfriend and the parentally-selected dates.

Hello? These are real people?! I mean, obviously it's scripted and people behave according to the norms they've learned from other reality shows, but, my God, this is Rome fiddling while Nero burns, the extreme sign of decadence and degradation, the antithesis of Gilmore Girls. I tell you, we are doomed, and television is at once the engine and the representation of our doom!

And, no, I have nothing to say about Jon and Kate!

Television (Not a Post About Tom Verlaine)

The two things people are most surprised to learn about me are that I don't eat meat and I don't watch TV. They are surprised because we are such a food family and I am such a pop culture maven, but they are also surprised because I keep these facts pretty quiet. See, people who don't eat meat or watch TV can tend toward the sanctimonious, and you should know by now how I feel about the sanctimonious. Plus I am truly not sanctimonious about either of these things.

I don't eat meat because I haven't eaten it in 30 years and I'm just not interested, but I'm fine with you eating meat (except for veal--those poor baby calves...). I haven't watched TV--except for the Red Sox, the occasional awards show, and a lot of background Hannah Montana and Zack and Cody--for about a dozen years, first because I didn't like the way baby M's eyes strayed to the TV, and then because I haven't had time. Or rather, I have chosen not to make time, given the competing pull of work, books, magazines, and WordTwist. And then, of course, there is my completion compulsion: I can't bear the thought of missing an episode, so I prefer not to watch at all. I know I've missed a lot of good TV--Sopranos, Weeds, Gray's Anatomy, yeah, yeah, yeah--but that's been fine with me. And, as with the meat, I'm totally fine with you watching TV.

Then we started watching Project Runway. M and E had actually been renting episodes for a while, without me really noticing, and then one day I got drawn in, and, you know, it was totally fun. But what was really fun was watching with M and E. The watching was fun, and then the discussing, and the speculating, and the joking...really it was just an all-round family entertainment experience. So we watched an episode a night of two full seasons of Project Runway (the one with Laura and the one with Christian), and then a friend came to visit and said we should watch Gilmore Girls.

Since now I was all open to the familial TV experience, we rented the first disc of the first season of Gilmore Girls, and of course we loved Gilmore Girls! Mom and daughter, grandparents, romance, quirky neighbors, Austen and Kafka references...what's not to love and discuss and speculate and joke about? (I took the What Gilmore Girls Character Are You? quiz, protesting the whole way that none of the answers applied to me, and I came out as Luke. Luke! I am not Luke! But M was Rory, and she is so totally Rory.) So now we watch a Gilmore Girls episode every night, and we're kind of bummed we can't just start in with the new season next week, but, you know, there's still that completion compulsion and all.

So, yeah, TV! Or at least, TV on DVD!

(And speaking of pop culture, is Kate Hudson truly so desperate for publicity that she needs to fake a relationship with A-Rod? Kate, you're a hippie chick. Chris Robinson, Owen Wilson...and A-Rod? Something is not right.)

Tuesday, June 02, 2009

To Gardasil or Not To Gardasil

I have been in a bit of a tizzy about Gardasil, the HPV vaccine. As anyone who knows me knows, I am generally pro-modern medicine from a personal standpoint (hooray for successful emergency appendectomies!), and pro-vaccines from an ideological standpoint (the only reason you can get away with not vaccinating your precious little Artemis is because all the rest of us are vaccinating, so Artemis is unlikely to be exposed to any of the diseases we are vaccinating against) (i.e. herd effect).

So I was all set and good to go with the HPV vaccine, and then one of M's good friends had the vaccine in November and has been terribly ill ever since, with no other diagnosis or cause. Then the physician parents of another of her friends said they were not vaccinating their daughters, because they've heard of a few such cases. And, really, I do not usually go for this kind of anecdotal anxiety, but I just felt, in my gut, that I did not want to vaccinate her. But that feeling was very odd in itself, because it was so counter to my usual position.

Luckily, today I was saved by our fabulous pediatrician. She said that there is no reason to consider the vaccine until a girl is sexually active, which means we can--and should--wait (the reason the public health recommendation is to vaccinate at 10-11 is because many girls do become sexually active at that age--which I know is true--but that recommendation is moot when it comes to individual girls) (that was really hard to phrase, but I hope it's clear what I mean). Since the vaccine is only five years old, a few more years will generate significantly more data. So we are definitely waiting on this one, and I am shelving my tizzy, for now.

Monday, June 01, 2009

June 1, 2009: Cars

Here's a political litmus test: What are you most upset about today, Dr. Tiller or GM? Here's an...intellectual? ideological? oh, let's just call it another litmus test: What are you blogging about today?

My automotive history:

Toyota Starlet
Honda Civic
Ford Escort wagon
(Honda M5)
(Mazda 3)
Subaru Outback wagon

S's cars are in parentheses, everything was bought used except the Escort, and this list pretty much tells you everything you need to know about us, demographically speaking.

I never in my life considered buying a GM car. (I had to look up GM even to know what they are. And I had to look up Jeep too, which turns out to be Chrysler.)

I did love my Ford, once I got over my status issues and decided it was a cool indie car. I would have bought another, when repairing the first was no longer justifiable, but by then they had stopped making Escorts, and though I thought the Focus was pretty cute, my mechanic was strongly against it.

I totally get the horror of GM's bankruptcy for workers. Totally. But it's hard for me to mourn the brand. I'm of the "American automakers should have heard the music and read the writing on the wall a long time ago" school. Capitalist though I'm not, I think a company has to make viable product to survive. As far as I can tell, they didn't, and now their workers are paying the price.

Really, though, it all seems very far away, which tells you even more about me, demographically speaking.

I'm upset about Dr. Tiller too, though I must admit that too seems very far away. But mostly, I have lost any interest or faith in the viability of blogging as political action, and I've lost most of my interest in the sound of my own voice, especially when it simply parrots my demographic.