Wh(oops) Here It Is....

Gina very gently pointed out that I omitted about two thirds of her meme. Clever of me, no?

Here's the rest of it. Phew.

16. Last person I was in a car with: My husband.

17. Last time I ate at McDonald’s: A few months ago with my children, who know that the only time they're likely to eat there is when we're on a road trip, and therefore are likely to agree to long drives in hopes of a Happy Meal. Dido is trained to quickly assert, any time McDonald's is mentioned, that although it tastes good, it's not healthy, and In 'n Out Burger is much better. Amen to that.

18. Last thing I bought: groceries.

19. Last person I saw: My husband and kids.

20. Last time I cried: Monday morning at Odessa's funeral.

21. Last time I laughed: Last night watching an episode of "The Sopranos."

22. What is the temperature outside? 17 F. Brrrr.

23. What time of the day did I get married? Hmm. Good question. I think around 5 p.m., maybe a bit later. June 27, 1998.

24. What did I do two nights ago? Watched a documentary, "Helvetica", about the typeface. Better than it sounds,not as good as it should have been.

25. Whose birthday is coming up next? The H's.

26. What time did I go to bed last night? Around midnight.

27. What was the first thing I thought this morning? The dog needs to go out.

28. What are my plans for this weekend? Canvass for Obama in Hudson; friends to dinner; maybe a playdate or two for the kids.

29. Lemonade or iced tea? Iced tea.

30. What do I dislike at this moment? The chaos on the desk in front of me.

31. What did I dream about last night? Something about children, but I don't remember what.

32. What’s the last TV show I watched? "Sopranos." We're watching the whole series, in order, on DVD. God bless Netflix.

33. What is my favorite piece of jewelry? Tough call. Maybe the earrings my husband gave me for my 40th birthday, or the heavy modern bracelet my mother in law gave me that used to belong to her mom.

34. Am I a dancer? Yes, but the H is not, which is a bummer. As a result, I don't dance much anymore, and it makes me sad.

35. Have I ever cut my own hair? No.

36. What is my favorite treat? Good heese. Dark chocolate.

37. How many piercings/tattoos do I have? Pierced ears; one of them was triple pierced but I'm pretty sure the extra two holes have closed.

38. Where’s my favorite place to be? Paris, Kona Village or Big Sur.

39. Is there someone I haven’t seen in a while and miss? Yes.

40. Who was the last text I sent to? Leslie.

41. Do I care what strangers think about me? Sadly, yes.

42. Last person I talked to on Instant Messenger: Rebecca.

43. Last person to make me cry: The H.

44. Who can I tell anything to? My best friends.

45. What am I doing tomorrow? Hopefully having a visit here from Leslie; spending some fun time with the kids, since they have a half day at school.

46. Do I have alcohol in my home? Sure.

47. Do I like ketchup? Yes.

48. Do I think I will be on a vacation this summer? No, but where we live is like being on vacation all the time anyway.

49. What colour is my master bathroom? Ugly minty green. Someday, it will be a different color.

50. Do I wear a bikini at the beach? Not bloody likely.

51. Have I ever been to the Grand Canyon? Only flying over.

52. What is my favorite fruit? Mango. Or maybe a really, really good peach.

53. What did I really want to do today? Knit.

54. Am I always cold? I used to be, but not so much as I get older.

55. Does it annoy me when someone says they’ll call or text, but don’t? Not really. I am so often guilty of this myself, that I would be a giant hypocrite to get upset with someone else about it.

I tag: all bloggers who read this. If you don’t have a blog, please feel free to answer in the comments section.


Here we go again

images-31.jpg A writer meme, via Susan, who's here....

What’s the last thing you wrote?

Other than blog posts, I wrote two book reviews for a regional food/dining magazine. I am finishing a third.

Was it any good?

I think so. The editor didn't like my first draft of one of the pieces at all, so I had to rewrite it and it took me forever because I kept second guessing myself, but by the end, I was happy, and so, it appears, is the magazine.

What’s the first thing you wrote that you still have?

Somewhere, I'm sure, my mother has saved the stories I wrote when I was really little--second grade or so. I have old papers and stories from high school buried in a box in the basement.

Write poetry?

Yes, as a child, and secretly but infrequently as an adult.

Angsty poetry?

Nope. Observational poetry, if I had to describe it.

Favorite genre of writing?

Creative non fiction; superior novels.

Most fun character you’ve ever created?

Probably The H.

Most annoying character you’ve ever created?


Best plot you’ve ever created?

I haven’t created a plot I’m fully happy with yet. This, I believe, is my weakness. Maybe once I get a handle on this, I’ll finally write a novel. Yes, I’m scared of plot. Let’s not talk about it, okay? (I stole this nearly verbatim from Susan, because it’s exactly how I feel.)

Coolest plot twist you’ve ever created?

I said I don’t want to talk about it! (ditto, Susan)

How often do you get writer’s block?

On non-fiction, almost never. On other stuff, I live it.

Write fan fiction?

I don't even know what that is.

Do you type or write by hand?


Do you save everything you write?

Almost everything. If I trash something, it's usually accidental.

Do you ever go back to an idea after you’ve abandoned it?


What’s your favorite thing you’ve written?

This essay for culturecloud.

What’s everyone else’s favorite story that you’ve written?

I have no idea.

Do you ever show people your work?


Did you ever write a novel?

No, but I think about it a lot.

Ever written romance or angsty teen drama?


What’s your favorite setting for your characters?

Upstate New York, the American South, or Southern California.

How many writing projects are you working on right now?

Not as many as I'd like.

Do you want to write for a living?


Have you ever won an award for your writing?

Maybe as a child, but certainly not since.

Ever written anything in script or play format?

Married to a screenwriter. Need I say more? Seriously-- no. I've thought about it, have ideas for screenplays, but I find the form daunting. (Again with the plot problem.)

What are your five favorite words?

I loathe "favorite" questions.

Do you ever write based on yourself?

Do I ever not?

What character have you created that is most like yourself?

My autobiographical protagonist who has experienced everything I have (stolen, verbatim, from Susan.)

Where do you get ideas for your characters?

People I observe as I move through my life. Sometimes people I know, but not often.

Do you ever write based on your dreams?

I don't think so.

Do you favor happy endings, sad endings, or cliff-hangers?

Who gets as far as endings? That requires plot, you know.

Have you ever written based on an artwork you’ve seen?


Are you concerned with spelling and grammar as you write?

Yes. I'm obsessive about both.

Ever write anything in chatspeak (how r u?)

Only if I'm text messaging, and even then, rarely.

Entirely in L337?

Beg your pardon?

Was that question appalling and unwriterly?

No idea.

Does music help you write?

Sometimes, but it can also be distracting.

Quote something you’ve written. Whatever pops into your head.

A pigeon stretches one red leg.

Part of a poem I wrote in middle school and always really liked.

I tag all writers!


I know, I know, there's a lot to choose from lately. After reading this story a week ago Sunday, I inadvertantly threw the New York Times magazine across the room in horror. Be forewarned--this will likely disgust, disturb and profoundly upset you, particularly if you have daughters. If anyone out there has ideas about what to do about this, I'd love to know them.

Then there's this fine bit of news about our darling president and his liberal interpretation of his responsibility to this country's laws.

I want to scream.


An acquaintance who I hope to someday call friend, a fellow California transplant to the northeast, Gina Hyams, tagged all her readers who blog with this meme.

She's a good writer (real books!) and has a wonderful new blog, so check her out. Meanwhile...

1. Spell my name as it sounds: Paje.

2. Am I a worrier? Yes.

3. What’s my favorite CD? This is one of those impossible questions. Anything by Tom Petty? Patti Scialfa's "Rumble Doll"? Lately, the soundtrack to that Todd Haynes Dylan movie that I always blank out the name of, even though I listen to it all the time....

4. Favorite colour(s)? My children say it's red. It might really be green, but lately I have purple and pale blue and even pink running around, so who the hell knows?

5. Does my home have an attic? Yes, but we finished it to make offices for ourselves--which does, in fact, make me the madwoman in the attic. (Or maybe that's the H, since he tends to go to his office first, and then get tense if I try to go work in mine...please, strike, end, so he can get an office out of the house again!!)

6. Have I ever been to Canada? Yes--my dad and I drove through Canada once on our way to Exeter. We saw Niagara Falls, which was lovely on the Canadian side, and deeply depressing on the American side. I hear the Canadian side is now pretty awful, too.

7. Have I ever gone fishing? Yes. Somewhere my mom has a memorable picture of me and my best friend at age 3 or 4, Alan Standefer, proudly displaying our catch. I don't think I've really been fishing since, though I did sort of try in Mammoth last summer...

9. Have I ever been on a motorcycle? Yes.

10. How much money do I have on me right now? Hmmm....my wallet's downstairs. Maybe $40 or so?

11. How many cars have I owned? Counting co-owning, eleven or twelve.

12. How many jobs have I had? I can count eighteen, but I'm pretty sure I've forgotten some...

13. How tall am I? 5′7″

14. Last person to call me: My friend Rebecca.

15. Last thing I yelled out loud: "Come brush your teeth. NOW!"


Praise II

A few people have asked about this morning. These are the notes I used as the basis for what I said. People at the service, including Leslie, seemed to appreciate it. I think I captured what I knew of her mom as well as I could.

    For the last twenty years I’ve been lucky enough to call Leslie my best friend. I met Odessa shortly after Leslie and I graduated from college, when I moved to New York for the first time, and Leslie moved home.
    I should admit, that in my case, like many of Leslie’s college friends, my first affection for Odessa came through her cooking--specifically, her transcendent, superior, delectable green beans.
    Over the coming years, Leslie and I would become best, best friends, and I would come to consider Odessa practically my second mother. When Leslie and I spoke about Odessa, she was always, simply, “Mommy.” “How’s Mommy?” “When is Mommy coming to L.A.?” This was the perfect way to refer to a woman whose life, in many ways, was defined by that role.
    Odessa loved her food. Her nephew Reggie, visiting with Leslie after Odessa’s passing, called her “Auntie Zagat.” And she earned that nickname. In trying to explain Odessa these past couple of weeks to friends who did not have the privilege of knowing her, I’ve talked about her as the consummate New Yorker, a woman who rode the bus all over town, an adventurer, an explorer, in large part to try new restaurants. From homestyle cooking to fine French cuisine, Odessa tried it all. Leslie, by her own recollection, only ever introduced her mother to one favorite restaurant. Ever other place she brought up to her mother, Odessa had already tried. Odessa was always the first person to have tried someplace new, someplace hot. She loved this city, and explored and enjoyed it to the fullest.
    But as we all well know, her greatest love, beyond anything else, was her darling, brilliant, beautiful daughter, Leslie.
    My knowledge of Odessa is defined, simply and utterly, by her relationship to Leslie. Motherhood, mothering Leslie, was everything to Odessa. I have, simply, never known a mother and daughter who were closer, more intertwined, or more sure in their love for one another. A few minutes after Odessa died, Leslie called me to let me know. She said, and I hope she won’t mind my repeating, that she felt as though there were a hole in her, a hole that might never be filled or heal. And that makes sense, because Leslie and Odessa were that close, that supportive, that loving of one another.
    Odessa was the type of parent who supported her child without indulging her. Everyone here, I’m sure, knew Odessa as a woman who was unafraid to speak her mind or her heart. She was that way with Leslie. Leslie always knew exactly where she stood with her mom, good or bad. Last week, in the hospital, Odessa was quick to mention her feelings about he state of Leslie’s hair. (You’ll all notice that it looks beautiful today, and I’m pretty sure Odessa’s looking down and muttering about the fact that it took her memorial service to get Leslie to the beauty parlor.) But Odessa supported Leslie through the hard times and the good. Odessa loved Leslie fiercely. She encouraged her to move to Los Angeles 18 years ago, to go to graduate school, even though it must have been incredibly difficult for her to see Leslie leave New York. Odessa loved Leslie unconditionally. When Leslie and her wonderful partner Natacha faced struggles, as we all do, with the responsibilities of home and children and work, Odessa was there for them both. Odessa loved Leslie completely.
    I always knew how proud Odessa was of Leslie and her accomplishments, but I never saw Odessa as a sentimental person. Last week, though, as I sat with Leslie in Odessa’s apartment after her death, I learned differently. Odessa saved everything from Leslie’s baby pictures to a recent press release from her architecture firm. In looking through one of Odessa’s albums, I found Leslie’s school evaluation from the 1st grade. In it, the teacher praised Leslie to the skies--her intelligence, her sensitivity to others, her perseverance, her delight in achievement. But then, the teacher did something I’ve rarely seen: she also singled out Odessa, her dedication and empathy to her daughter. And as I think about the person I know Leslie to be, this all makes sense. Leslie is her mother’s daughter. She has the same feisty spirit as her mother. She has the same loyalty and pride, the same acute intelligence, the same ability to appreciate and befriend people from all walks of life.
    The hole that Leslie felt in those moments after Odessa’s passing, she will continue to feel in the coming weeks and months as she grieves for Odessa. As the people who love Leslie, and who loved her mom, it is up to us to help her get through the pain that she will surely feel. But I think we also have a duty to remind Leslie that that hole, is, on some level, an illusion. Even without Odessa here, in the physical world, her legacy to Leslie is very real. Her legacy of love, of courage, of humor, and of persistence will, in time, fill up the emptiness that Leslie is now feeling. Her mother’s gifts will always be with her--they made her the person she is, Odessa’s daughter, and her mother would not have it any other way.


Praise You

In psyching myself up this morning for speaking at Odessa's memorial service, I started thinking about the Fatboy Slim song, "Praise You." I don't keep music on my computer--too much music, not enough space--so it's all on an external drive that I didn't bring with me to the city. I wanted to listen to the song, so I googled, and this is what I found. It gave me a much needed laugh this morning.


Blogging Lite

I've lost my blogging mojo. Don't know why. I feel that I just don't have much to say at the moment. But since we're going to be in NYC for a few days starting tomorrow (all of us, even Vous; god bless the friends who are so graciously loaning us their apartment!) and then Leslie's mom's memorial is Monday, the posts will by necessity be short and sweet anyway. Maybe some city pics or audio blogs...Everything will be via iPhone or Utterz, so pithy will be the order of the day. Hopefully.


Blog 365 Be Damned

I probably should have audio-posted from the train home yesterday, but I was busy fighting with the H via text message, and one thing led to another, and no posts were recorded, written or frankly, even thought about until last night when I was nearly asleep in bed, nearly asleep for the second time, since I fell asleep first at 8:15 in the Babe's bed when I was trying to get her to go down. Dido came into her room around 9:00 wondering where the hell his bedtime lie-down with Mommy was and woke me up. I was so out of it that I thought it was morning...then managed to fail to awaken this morning (which never happens--I wake up between 6:30 and 6:45 every day with no alarm; it's a curse) until 7:18. Arrggh.


we're calling this Monday, damn it

I am cozy in NYC with my dear Leslie, remembering her mom and, hopefully, helping her get through the day. I'll be back to the blog for real soon.


Can't sleep

So why not fix a broken link. Try this, for the fantastic Suzanne Goin cookbook that provided our menu: braised short ribs, potato puree, swiss chard with two kinds of baby onions. Yum.


My blogging streak, and my heart. My dear, dear, dear friend's mother died tonight. I am off to New York in the morning to be with her.

On a note that now seems totally trivial. for all that have asked about last night's dinner, it went swimmingly. The food was delicious and everyone seemed to have a great time. The menu came from this favorite cookbook, and here, and in addition, here.

More later.


I want to blog, I do

But I am fried. Let's just say this. Tomorrow night, I am hosting a fundraising dinner for a local arts organization at my house. A bunch of people host dinners, the Academy sells tickets and hosts a big cocktail party, and then people pan out across our little corner of the world to different homes for festive meals. Ten people to dinner, a lot, but not scary. I've done bigger though not recently, it's true. In any case, everyone who's coming is a friend, and all but one of the people coming have eaten here before, at least once, some more. But that one person, who has not eaten here (though her husband has, a couple of times) is, as the H observed, one of the only people he's ever seen completely intimidate me and send me flying, gracelessly, tumbling, ass over teacup, off my ladder. She's got a big job, but I know lots of people with big jobs (I even had one, sort of, kind of, once--although it really wasn't so big, actually, lots of people pretended it was and kissed my behind, so the effect was similar, and, to be fair to myself, I actually did have a lot of responsibility and many projects and people and budgets to manage. But I digress into self-flattery.) She's a writer, but I know lots of them, too; most of my friends here, as it happily turns out, are writers or artists, and successful ones. But let's just say this--it's like some combination of Julia Child, Craig Claiborne, Nora Ephron and your older brother's impossibly cool girlfriend is coming to my house to dinner. I am insecure about a LOT of things. My cooking is not one of them. I know it's really, really good. But I am a little nervous. And I don't want to be.


Mobile post sent by talesparkside using Utterz Replies.  mp3


When worlds elide

When this post started, it was going to be about last night's moon, which was a half moon, hanging low in the sky above the northwestern horizon, blazing a bright, fiery red at one a.m.; about the magic of Portuguese vocal music, which, perhaps because I don't speak the language, sounds like every word is melding and mixing with the next (we were listening to Ceu in the car today--check her out); about the way that events bump against one another and produce effects (that whole wings of a buttterfly cliche) that cannot be foreseen and are often unknown...but I'm too tired. With any luck, I'll hold the train of thought and get back to it tomorrow. If not--who knows?


When I'm not blogging

Really, is there anything else?

Today, the anything else was two children who refused to go to school (only one succeeded in staying home--feel free to guess which one), a trip to the pediatrician, amoxicillin, immodium, a trip to the hospital lab, a trip to Dunkin Donuts as a bribe to get [possibly sick child] to go to the hospital lab and have blood drawn, having blood drawn, a trip to school to pick up the well child, a brief lovely hiatus while the children, sick and well, played with Vous while I --gasp--WORKED! ACTUAL WRITING!--until the H came down from his office, pale and stricken, to announce the death of a woman he's known his whole life and who we both adored. She had a full, long life which we celebrate, but I can count on one hand the times I've seen the H cry. It was wrenching. He'll be headed west for the memorial this weekend.

I tend to move through life thinking (foolishly, I already know) that I am one step, one unsolved problem, away from getting everything organized, under control, running with the efficiency of some Operations case I skimmed in business school. Not so. HBS should write a case on motherhood, family and home management, because I'd like to hear what those smarmy balding 30 year old frat boy motherf***ers I went to B school with would have to say about how to do it better, when chaos is always waiting to disrupt the house of cards I call my plan. (Can you tell how much I liked B school? Mike, if you're reading I don't mean you.)

This all sounds terribly selfish, self-involved and needlessly self-pitying as I read it over, which makes me feel ashamed. Just last week I was doing some gloriously beautiful drive or other and thinking about how unbelievably great my life is. And trust me, it is. In ways I never anticipated. It is decidedly not, as an old friend wrote me last night after, I think, reading this blog for the first time, all "The Ice Storm" and "Away from Her." Ok, maybe once in a while, on the really bad days when the H loses his shit and I follow suit. But not much, not really. The things I don' t like about my life are largely things that I don't handle well, places where I fall down, disappoint myself or others, drop out, fail to perform or provide. So that's the question--how do you do better, knowing that life will always provide earthquakes just when you think the ground is steady? How do you keep everything running?


Snow and Sage

Once again, school was called off due to weather, but since Dido is on his antibiotic-fueled, post-strep mend, he wouldn't have gone today anyway, and the Babe had zero intention of attending without him. It's bad enough, this school every day plan, without the security blanket of her protective and doting big brother...so we breathed a joint sigh of relief when email revealed our reprieve.

I was restless last night, maybe got four or five hours, so the whole day wore that haze of fatigue that manifests more as slow than sleepy. Luckily, I spent the morning cooking--a butternut squash soup from a recipe given to be my dearest L.A. cooking buddy, and the whole house was perfumed with roasting garlic and simmering stock scented with sage. Lovely.

This batch of soup used up the last of a bundle of dried sage I carefully gathered from our house-before-last, our first home in Hollywood, perched high on a ridge with a jetliner view of downtown Los Angeles. The house was medium sized, a 1960s long and low box, nothing fancy, but its rear was walls of glass that made people gasp when they entered the front door, not so much, I like to think, from sudden feelings of vertigo but from appreciation of the beautiful, sparkling city laid out below, cleansed by darkness and distance of its grime, and the hideous traffic turned into magic, moving decoration.

The hill below the house was steep, and just scrubby when we moved in, covered in weeds and thoughtlessly-planted eucalyptus: though the trees are pretty, they are a dreadful fire hazard, and discouraged--highly--in the fire-prone hills of L.A. We always thought that someday, we might turn that lot, large by Angeleno standards, into something usable. Finally we saved some money and before bothering to remodel the kitchen or baths (all of which could have used some, um, freshening,) we leapt into reforming the earth outside.

We found a brilliant landscape architect who alternately infuriated and infatuated me, and who I quickly learned was more of a sculptor whose medium was things growing than a designer of walls or gardens. We pretty much put ourselves entirely in his hands, and within months, the hillside had been not tamed, but definitely calmed: it had a path, and a secluded deck with a magical view, and great swaths of native (read: low water need) plants, including a host of wild sages that we picked out together one day at an esoteric nursery.

Rob was the last person we told that we were selling that house, partly in fear that if he knew we were abandoning his work, he wouldn't want to finish some outstanding small tasks, but also because on some level, it broke my heart to leave that wild garden. It smelled divine, and to see that arid, ugly hillside accept and nurture a green and silver and red living carpet was moving in a way I never expected. Before we left, I wandered among the sages and clipped an enormous bunch of leaves, which I tied together with a silk ribbon and dried in my new kitchen. Whenever I needed sage for a recipe, I'd pinch it from the bundle and fly into nostalgia. Eating the last of it today felt a bit like savoring the last taste of my California life; and even though that life is still so present for me in my friendships and my memories, I know that like my fragrant, sage-y hillside, memory is where it now resides.



Snow is predicted for tonight; six to twelve inches. I was relieved when I heard this; part of me feared we'd have to live through the rest of the winter with just the cold, without the beautiful white blanket that makes it worthwhile.

Not much else to report. Tonight we are in bed with our laptops, which is worse than the couch. Such is the exhaustion of life with two small kids, one of them down with strep, feverish and peevish, nearly ten years into this adventure we call marriage.




on my couch. Laptop in hand, the H next to me, with his laptop similarly esconced. This is the fate of the middle aged when they don't have cable. Truly, truly pathetic. We're so boring that our au pair would rather watch "Titanic" on TV (she has cable, in her room only) than hang out with us.

I am glad to be home. Leslie's mom had surgery today and seems to have weathered it well. Her recovery will be long and hard, but Leslie sounded ecstatic to have it behind them. It's a cliche, but old age is not for the faint of heart. Odessa, Leslie's mom, is one tough lady, and she will need every bit of her iron will to get through the next few months. I was really glad to be there for them both, and loved being in the city (I haven't been since we went for the "Mighty Heart" premiere in May, which was fun, sort of, and stressful, lots of--this trip was intense, but also wonderful, and didn't involve midtown, which is always a plus.) I rode the bus and the subway, saw my darling friend, and went to Zabar's on the way home. Perfect.


Sitting in a railway station

Actually, already aboard Metro-North, en route to NYC. I realized last night as I was explaining my hasty departure to the kids how lucky I am to almost never spend the night away from them. True, I do complain bitterly sometimes about exactly that--but what a luxury,really, for us all. I am headed to Manhattan to be with my dear, dear friend, whose mother is very sick. Send good thoughts their way, please; in this situation, all anyone wants is to be home.


Ponder this

Courtesy of Garrison Keillor, and the divine Writer's Almanac, consider this:

Philip Levine said, "In a curious way, I'm not much interested in language. In my ideal poem, no words are noticed. You look through them into a vision of... just see the people, the place."


Me and my blobby

I've got lots of ideas churning through this big head of mine (literally, big--lots of "one size fits all" hats will not fit on my noggin, and it's not just the big curly hair--and when the H makes fun of it, I retort that it's due to my oversize brain. Ha.) but they're not all going to make it into the 'sphere tonight. A couple of friends and readers directed me to the Gloria Steinem New York Times editorial about Hillary Clinton, and I have some reactions, but not the bandwidth (mental, that is--so much for that big brain theory) to process them tonight. Politics will have to wait until tomorrow. I am planning a dinner shindig (a fundraiser for a local arts group) and the menu mulling has made me reconsider my abandonment of my food blog, so I may try to resurrect that (althought not before I turn in my long overdue book review, ahem. It's almost presentable. I swear) but again, not tonight. Tonight, the only thing I can write about is that dread 1950s concept--the hobby.

The H was all at sixes and sevens today (just to keep the geriatric idiom flowing.) He was tense, bored and a wee bit cranky (and I was anxious about another bad morning drop off scene with the Babe, so my mood was keeping his company.) We went out to lunch together and talked through some of what ails him, and a lot of it, frankly, is being on strike. He was missing L.A., feeling like his career is perhaps, in some impossible to define way, being hampered by our move. I countered that right now, if anything, it would be worse to be in Hollywood, where it's all strike talk, all the time, than to be here, where we can take a walk, look out the window, or run to the post office and see nothing, no reminder, of the Industry and its toll. But, I told him (and I've said this before), he needs to have other interests. To limit his life to his family and his work (which is what he does) is limiting his possibilities for fulfillment and contentment. In short--the guy needs a hobby. He doesn't exercise, doesn't create outside of his job, doesn't cook, garden or fish--you get the idea. He works. He parents. He husbands. C'est tout.

"You don't have any hobbies..." he said to me, munching a cheese steak. Long, long pause.
"Well, I guess you knit."

Ahem. And I cook, and I meditate, and I practice yoga, and I (less frequently lately than I'd like) work out, and I care for my beautiful egg laying chickens, and I am a once and future silversmith...and I blog. I realized, as we talked about it, that this little blog o'mine has become, dare I say it, a hobby. An avocation. And I'm not sure how I feel about that, especially given some input I've had recently, in an email from a dear friend and simultaneously in this post, from a (former?) blogger I've loved reading, about the need to see ourselves not by ourselves, all on our own, self-defined, but instead the images reflected back from others.

And on that possibly profound note--I am off to watch Sopranos (Season 2--we decided to rewatch the whole shebang on DVD) with the H. TV before bed might be considered--his hobby...more on mine --and this--later.


Let's get political

Back in the days BW (Before He-Who-Shall-Not-Be-Named--let's face it, he and Voldemort have a lot in common) I used to post political musings. A lot. I got dispirited after the Kerry loss. And it's taken me a long time to decide who to support in the upcoming election. I like the idea of a woman president (what woman doesn't? Ok, don't reply. I know. A lot don't, but that's sad) but the woman running doesn't have a platform that meshes with my views, though I think she's a brilliant person and a consummate pol. From a pure policy standpoint, Edwards is more in line with my beliefs, but I don't think he'll go the distance. I'm not sure Obama can either, but I'm sure going to love the attempt. To finally be inspired by a politician is an experience that is so shocking that I am still processing my reaction to his post-Iowa victory speech.

I found this post on today's HuffPo enlightening. Not only is it an education in desperation politics, it also quickly clarifies some of Obama's positions, if you're not familiar with them.



After last week's violent cold, the world --our corner of it, to be specific--is growing warmer. We've been hearing the steady drip of melting snow and ice since yesterday afternoon, and when I pulled into the garage after the morning school run the sound of our neighbor's rushing creek was so loud that it stopped me, as I wondered if that much water could be running hundreds of yards away and make as much noise as I was hearing. Yes, is the answer. We are months away from mud season, but about, it seems to enjoy a preview. It's confusing to us as newcomers, so I can only imagine how the poor plants feel.

Today begins the Babe's first full week of preschool. She didn't want to go this morning; that was about the third thing out of her mouth after she climbed into our bed at 6 a.m., after, "Mommy! Daddy! I AWAKE!" and "Where my other be-be? Oh, here it is." and the ensuing contented slurpy sucking. (A "be-be", for those not initiated into Orloffese, is a pacifier, and the Babe, like her brother before her, is an addict.) Mondays are always hard, so I kept gently pushing everything forward this morning and we made it out the door and to school on time, with time to spare for the sorting and stowing of all the stuff.

But her tears started as soon as she saw that I meant business; her entreaties to come home with me and "have more mommy" were falling on ears that, while definitely not deaf, weren't exactly receptive. Or at least, that's what I pretended. The Babe is such a rock most of the time that for her to break down like this was really, really hard to see; as I told the H later, during a morning walk down by our creek and barns and checking in with the chicks, I expect protest and tears from Dido; he's sensitive, and dramatic, and prone to highs and lows. The Babe, on the other hand, lets you know when you've displeased her, but she's tough. Much tougher than me, for sure. So to see her really crumpling this morning was brutal. Her teacher gently guided her away from me and into the classroom before I had a chance to cave. I saw them hugging through the window as I walked back to the car.


Good company?

I followed a lead from the Happiness Project to this site, and poking around, discovered this.

I always thought I was alone in feeling burdened by the tiniest things--mundane but necessary tasks, like, say, washing your face, or flossing your teeth: the sheer regularity of having to do something every single day seemed unbearable--not painful, but like a burden you cannot lift not because it's too heavy but because you simply cannot stand to raise your arms out of sheer boredom. When medicated, I generally feel less overwhelmed, but even with better living through chemistry, I sometimes feel unbearably put upon by flossing.

Few things I've discovered I have in common with others have surprised me more. I really thought I was the only person who is this nutty, but it's comforting to now know of at least one other.


At the hearth

One of the great weekend joys around here is a morning fire in the kitchen. Our kitchen is enormous, one end a big seating area with couches and a stone fireplace. While it's perhaps not the old-fashioned kitchen fireplace of my fantasies--some dear friends here have that in their much older house--the kitchen itself is right up there with anything I could dream up. The H became an accomplished firebuilder in our old house, which had a six foot wide hearth. Now that we have solved the dire problem of the crappy firewood, which, of course, I bought, and we have the much more expensive good firewood, we have fires a lot, but only on weekend mornings. Weekdays are just too pressured, since we have to be out the door by 7:30 in order to make it to school on time.

I slept in this morning--or, more accurately, stayed in bed with my eyes closed trying not to hear the erupting chaos of a typical morning--and the H got up with the kids. This is not the normal order of things, evidenced by our delayed exit for school on Thursday, when I snapped at both kids repeatedly, even though we were late not because they were uncooperative but because I allowed them to stay up too late the night before and because I failed to pre-pack the seven hundred things needed for a winter school day (1. snow pants. 2. hats. 3. mittens. 4. jackets. 5. lunches in lunch boxes. 6. snacks in snack boxes. 7. change of clothes for the Babe. 8. Napping blankie for the Babe. 9. Napping love object (HaHa, the horse--her choice) for the Babe 10. Dido's work folder. 11. Dido's learning log 12. Bag of cleaned eggshells for use in some Montessori lesson...ok, that's not seven hundred, but you get the idea. It seems less intimidating all typed out like that than it did at 7:15 Thursday morning.) Anyway, once we finally got on the road, Dido, trying to be supportive, I think, and jolly me into a good mood, said "How come Daddy always stays asleep in bed? How come you have to get up and do everything in the morning?" Good question. I had to laugh. And on weekends, I do occasionally get to be the one who pulls the pillow over her head and practices active denial of her responsibilities and the escalating decibel level.

I finally got up when I heard the H's voice rising in tension, and came down to playing kids, roaring fire and husband ensconced with coffee and internet. After playing short order cook (four poached eggs, two pieces of toast, one chicken quesadilla) I sat down to drink my own coffee and read email. Two friends have let me know of late that they have started blogs of their own. Another blog reader wrote to tell me of the travails she's facing with her own husband. A fourth thanked me for our lunch yesterday, which inspired me and filled me with gratitude (the lunch together, not the email of thanks, though that was nice, too.) Another let me know that she'd love for me to drop off some fresh eggs, long promised, this weekend. The fire was not the only warmth I felt early this morning.


School Days

Today marks the end of the Babe's first "week" (only yesterday and today) of honest to goodness preschool attendance. (I'm not counting the two practice days before Christmas, for no good reason other than that I think of them as practice days--in fact, there was no practical difference between those days and these, but this kind of arbitrary and irrational distinction is a mother's prerogative.)

I have been worrying about how I will use the seemingly endless daytime hours without a Babe to care for, while also knowing that each day will disappear so quickly that I'll barely see the minutes evaporating in front of me. Yesterday, after a relatively trauma-free drop off, I went out for coffee with a fellow school parent and friend, then sat in the coffee shop working, ran some errands, worked some more and picked up the kids. The day, indeed flew by, and I was exhausted when I got them home around 4.

Today, I took the children to school (where the Babe had to be pried, crying, from my arms and carried into her classroom,) the H to the train station for a quick trip to the City for work (interviews for his Independent Spirit Award nomination.) then ran more errands (where do all these errands come from, anyway?) and lunched with a friend before racing back to Lenox to pick up the kids again.

Now I've left Vous in charge of the kids, who are rebelling against my absence and intermittently intruding to whine, cry, cajole and stomp about my meanness, lack of love for them, and general failure to keep my work from intruding into their need for me. All this to say--the work and the errands and the Things That Must Get Done will, I fear, always expand like Macy's Thanksgiving Day parade balloons to fill every available cubic millimeter of space, and I have only my own self to carve out of these every-inflating responsibilities the room to move, create or be still.


Down to Zero

I woke in the still dark this morning (after hitting snooze once or twice) and pulled myself out of bed to let Pasha (the puppy) out for her morning ablutions. Cold air slapped me in the face before I could get the front door closed. When I checked the thermometer outside the mudroom window, I knew. Winter is now really, really here. That gauge read 0, and when I finally got the kids into the car to set off for school, I watched the car thermometer plummet--the low was -2.
This is the cold I remember loathing when I lived outside of SoCal before: the kind of bone chilling, skin freezing, inescapable assault; the stuff that makes you think you may never again be able to expose skin to air without feeling in danger of being immobilized.

Both kids asked if we could have a fire when they come home from school. No doubt.


No leaving out the handsome six year old

But he says his face is too cold (from sledding) to smile.

Blogging with a two and a half year old

Looks something like this.

Or this.


She likes to type with her feet, but only when I'm trying to blog, send an email, pay bills or shop online. Only those times.

"Vacation" ends tomorrow. Not a nanosecond too soon.


Perfect Days

I wanted to photograph everything I saw yesterday on my drive to and from Hudson, to take Shi (probably to be renamed Vous, or maybe Tu, at my dear Rebecca's suggestion) to the train for her Times Square hellride New Year's eve celebration. I decided to focus on driving instead, but I did manage to capture an image or two to share. That's the road that leads from us, more or less, to the nearest major "highway", which is a four lane, no commercial traffic allowed, FDR-developed, billboard-free beauty. The au pair keeps asking about the highways we use to get from one place to another, and I keep trying to explain that the Taconic Parkway and the Mass Pike are it. I guess it's confusing for someone whose frame of reference for American roads is more suburban than rural. (Hell, it was confusing for me after sixteen years of ten lane California freeways.)

But I digress. Yesterday was, other than the drive to Hudson, a low key, at-home kind of day. I am not much for the pressure and inevitable disappointment and self-loathing surrounding New Year's resolutions, but I did start thinking about happiness (also thanks to my old friend Gretchen's Happiness Project, which I encourage everyone to check out, in spite of her New Year's resolution advocacy) and what creates it for me, in the context of how to have a day, a single day, that feels successful and satisfying. This led me to the idea of a perfect day, and the immediate realization that it is, of course, unattainable. But an asymptotic approach is, I think, entirely realistic.

1. Physical activity, preferably strenuous. It could be a great vinyasa yoga class, or it could be snow shoveling and hill climbing (yesterday's activities of choice and necessity.) I am infinitely calmer, stronger and happier on days where I really exert myself.

2. A sense of accomplishment at some activity. Could be mundane--yesterday I ironed and starched a bunch of white dinner napkins. I've never bothered to do that before (my new focus on mechanics of successful ironing, evidenced by my recent google search for "ironing hacks," is probably really sad, but I have an excuse--the laundry/dry cleaning around here is so far sucky and expensive--not that I ever sent my napkins out anyway. But I got tired of them being rumpled and grungy, and, and and...) Or the accomplishment could be larger in scale, like the day before, when I rewrote (again) my book review for a local magazine.

3. Learning or appreciating something new. Since we can't get the New York Times delivered here (my single least favorite aspect of where we now live--really) this often comes via Garrison Keillor (who I always thought I loathed--it's often good to be wrong) and his Writer's Almanac, to which I am completely addicted.

4. Peace at home and with myself. Feeling like I am in control of my life and treating myself and others with kindess and respect. For something so simple on its surface, this one's complex. No need to explain further, I suspect.

5. Cooking something wonderful for other people. (Remember this is a perfect day--this doesn't happen every day, though it does happen a lot, because I am me.)

6. Some time alone, whether indulgent or simply quiet and solitary. I tend to think I need this so much because I am an only child, but maybe we all need it--maybe in order to achieve number four, above?

There are probably more things, but these are the ones that came to me first. What would your perfect day include?