I love the interweb, I really do

So, some of you may have noticed that a month or so ago when I posted about the star-studded wedding we attended in San Diego, neither Justin nor Leo stopped by my blog to acknowledge my comments or even say a quick hello. I was ok with that; I know they're busy.

So imagine my delight and surprise when Margaret Roach (lately of Martha Stewart land, now of her own beautifully written, gorgeously designed gardening blog) stopped in after I posted about the ways her blog (and her advice via its forums) have been helping my baby steps into a greening life. I'm sorry, but that's kind of cool. It's nice to know you're being read (that is part of the reason we do this, after all) and even neater to know that the people you're referencing care.

Now, if only Justin, Leo, and Jai-from-Queer-Eye would pay more attention to THEIR Google alerts.


Are you there Margaret? It's me, Paige.

Today didn't start out with so much promise, even though the kids woke up, went downstairs and entertained themselves for at least 45 minutes without coming to let us know that, as the Babe likes to say, "It's MORNING TIME!". They were able to ignore us so successfully because Dido now knows how to turn on the television and put on a DVD; we have D'Artagnan, Athos, Porthos and Aramis to thank for the brief quiet of the early morning.

When they manage to vidiot themselves in the morning, it's often difficult to motivate the kids to do anything else. (Surprise!) Today was no exception. The morning involved glue on the coffee table, Sharpie on the counter, and lots of shouts of "N.O." from Dido. Big fun.

After lunch, I finally managed to drag the two of them out of the house; I needed to pick up wine for the fundraiser I've been helping to organize, and I wanted to visit a local (plant) nursery to pick up some pansies and possibly some roses for our front flower beds.

For those who don't know me--I am not a gardener. I routinely tell people I have a black thumb, and it's true that historically I have been a plant-killer, just as it's true that prior to my becoming a mother, any time I attempted to hold an infant, it would start to scream. Perhaps these uh, qualities, are related.

In any case--while I am not a gardener, I have a longstanding affinity for the kind of domestic artistry promoted by the legendary ex con M. Stewart. I am not much for her recipes, but that crafty homekeeping, project stuff really turns me on. I read the magazine, even though every year I swear I am not going to renew my subscription because the content has become either repetitive or arcane. (Just how many uses for quilling paper can you come up with? I thought so.)

So let's just call my relationship with Martha love/loathe, and leave it at that. But I am intimately familiar with Martha, her mag, her writers and on and on. So when I learned that Margaret Roach, the former editor of MSL, apparently took an (early) retirement to return to her country house, which is, you guessed it, here in Columbia County, I was intrigued. Margaret, before taking over as the Martha mouthpiece, was a garden editor in New York, and she's gone back to her (forgive me, pun haters) roots up here, starting a (really wonderful) blog all about her (kind of obsessive) gardening interests, knowledge and practice. For an idiot like me, it's a godsend.

Yesterday, Margaret's recommedation sent me to an amazing local nursery. The kids LOVED it. If we'd had more room in the car and less caution (mine alone) we'd have come home with a trunk full of plants from succulents to ferns. Instead, I bought two flats of pansies and a fern Dido couldn't bear to leave behind.

When we got home (after a detour to the town playground) we got our hands really, really dirty, and planted a sweet pansy border along our forlorn (yes, UGLY) front flowerbed. We had a blast. Is it possible I'm going to begin to understand this digging in the earth thing, now that I have so much earth to dig in?


Dire predictions unwarranted, sort of

In spite of my early morning irritation--hence yesterday's snarky, somewhat anti-child post--yesterday with the kids was lovely. We went to their favorite local museum, they got to eat forbidden fast food for lunch, and then the Babe passed out, Dido played, I napped (a hideous case of insomnia the night before left me wiped and, no doubt, cranky) and then we set out for Dido's violin lesson.

The day would have been perfect if only I hadn't gotten yet another speeding ticket. That's right, folks, watch out, Leadfoot Loretta is on the loose. Ack. 45 in a 30. In my defense, I thought it was zoned for 40, but--I was wrong. The cop was sweet (they all are here, which is a huge difference from L.A.--of course, in L.A., I had two experiences being stopped in sixteen years, neither for speeding...) but really. What the hell? In addition to everything else I have to work on, over in the crowded self-improvement section of my brain, apparently I also now must confront my crappy driving. Ok, universe, I get it! I'm paying attention! Thanks to the diet (and yes, Gina, I will blog about it--it's pretty great, overall) I am mentally more acute--so I have no excuse.

Today's agenda with the short people is still TBD--at the moment we're watching an old Charlie Brown baseball cartoon--but we got good news last night that Friday, we can scoot down to the city for the day and see some dear friends who are visiting from L.A...


The Trick is in Not Minding

I think it is safe to say that it's not often that you'll find me paraphrasing the words of a Watergate co-conspirator.

But then, not every day is the first day of spring "vacation."

Sederless Spring

Holy moly, where do the days go?

I don't know where but the how lately has been divine--we've had three or four days now of surprisingly SoCal-like weather, sunny, 70s, dry and clear, with a lovely cool breeze. It's been an idyllic taste of a fantasy summer, with no humidity and very few insects. All we want to do is sit on the porch, look at the view, and sigh.

In spite of the paradise that surrounds me, though, I've been in a bit of a funk. It's not just the tease of the weather (yes, I know it will get cold again; the ground is likely to frost several more times, and neighbors knowingly warn us of past May snows.) That's not it. It's the holiday. We're used to celebrating Passover every year with our dear, dear friends. (Yes, we are godless and not Jewish. We like Passover. So sue.)

I miss brisket (which I wouldn't be eating these days anyway, thanks to my unbelievably strict, but making-me-feel-better diet) and tzimmes and matzoh ball soup and...ok, not gefilte fish; but we always had lovely sole instead, chez C & D.

One of my favorite pieces of (my own) writing celebrates Passover, our dear ones, and their awesome seders. It pretty much says it all. The only thing it doesn't say-- it sucks that we didn't get to do it this year.



It's here. It wasn't just the flock of robins on the hillside last week--there are bugs, and frogs, and salamanders, and green shoots everywhere. So enough navelgazing. Pictures to come.


The end of the (massage) story

Is here. Since I started writing it days ago, saved it, and only just finished it, it posted with the date it was begun, instead of today's. So if you've been anxiously awaiting the end of my self-flagellating confession, it's here. Enjoy. And don't forget to go to the Breast Cancer Site.


Happy, Happy

Happy bookday to you, happy bookday to you, happy bookday dear Rebecca, happy bookday to you!

My dear friend Rebecca (you know, the one who's saved my sanity--as much as anyone can-- since I left all of my Angeleno peeps behind) wrote a novel. She wrote this novel in between caring for her baby girl (Dido's girlfriend, sources tell me) and helping her husband build his medical practice. She wrote this novel stealing time sitting in a local cafe, a cafe that was so wed to her success that they hosted a book party.

And the novel itself? It's lovely, moving, sharply observed, extremely funny, utterly relatable, and beautifully crafted to boot. And it's on bookstore shelves today. TODAY.

So do yourself, and me, and Rebecca a favor and go to your favorite local independent bookstore and ask them to sell you (or order for you, if, by some hideous error, they have not stocked it) Nice to Come Home To. You won't regret it. Or, if you're the instant gratification type, click
here, and Jeff Bezos and his elves will send it your way. If you're not in the area (you know, Berkshires/upstate NY) visit her website to find out how to get a custom made (really beautiful) bookplate signed by Rebecca to adorn your new read.


All Gob, No Action

I would like to come up with some good excuses for why I haven't written the end of the massage story, but...ah ha! This is, it seems, the crux of the matter. Making excuses.

I have a bad habit of, well, bad habits. I am often late, as I was to the massage. I try to do one more thing before I race out the door to take the kids to school, or to pick them up from school, or to meet the person I'm having lunch with, or even, god forbid, someone I have to go interview for a story. I am easily overwhelmed. Sometimes I take it out on the people I love most, like my kids--snapping at them because I feel anxious that we're not going to be on time, keep a plan with someone and so on. This horrible behavior manifests in other ways, too. I am notoriously bad at returning phone calls, and even emails. Thank you notes? Only recently have I gotten a bit better at getting them written, but often, gifts have gone unacknowledged, too. Are you my good friend? Did you have a birthday? I may well have not sent you greetings, let alone a gift. This is terrible. I know better. The excuses I make to myself are all variations on the same theme: I am swamped. I am overwhelmed. I have trouble finding the time to [have a conversation] [type a response] [mail a gift.]

I compound the anxiety I feel about not responding promptly by...not responding belatedly, stressing out all the while. I know to whom I owe calls and emails and birthday wishes or thanks, but I feel so crappy about not having communicated on time that I delay and delay and delay until I make a small situation into a monster. And all the while, I have that little devil on my shoulder who stomps his feet, and gets angry at others' presumed expectations of me. (Of course, their expectations are no more demanding than my perceptions of what I should be doing--even as I am failing, miserably, to do it.)

This was an issue for me when I was working, too. A big part of my job was responding to ideas that people submitted to me. I received way more submissions than I could have ever hoped to say "yes" to, which meant that hours every week had to be spent saying "no." Sometimes, it was hard to work up the courage, so I'd delay...and you can guess the rest of the story.

So what does this have to do with the massage? In that moment, where Rebecca gently and humorously chided me for making us both late for our appointments, I realized: I do this to myself. I am the one who decides to squeeze in one more webpage view, one more errand, one more something instead of tackling the task that needs to come next. I don't know why. But this habit makes me feel pressured, overwhelmed, unable to cope, and results in my showing up late, or not at all (literally and figuratively.) This habit has caused me to lose friends, infuriated family members, and made me perform not as well as I could at work and at home.

An Aussie friend I was speaking to the other day described someone (else) as "All gob, no action." And though I'm not "no action", I am often "wrong action." Meaning, I prioritize poorly. I am trying to find ways to deal with this, and I welcome suggestions.

A couple of things that I'm finding helpful:

The Happiness Project I love this site, started by a college friend of mine. She's writing a book about her experiences trying out a bunch of different "prescriptions for happiness" and blog details things she'd found actually work. A lot of it boils down to knowing yourself, and doing what you know to be right in the moment. Check it out.

Nozbe I just started using this web-based project management tool, which is aligned with
the "Getting Things Done" philosophy. This is a way of approaching tasks to minimize wasted time and maximize productivity; it seems to be very much a Fast Company, Silicon Valley phenomenon (i.e., the province of 30 year old guys,) but it works. This particular tool is easy to use, has a fantastic iPhone interface, and it's free (at least the basic version, which is perfect for me.) You categorize the different projects (mine include my grocery list, a catch all to do list, my writing work, my film work) and then enter and prioritize the tasks in each. It's better than the million scraps of paper uh, "system" I sometimes use by default, and even better than the "carry a notebook with you everywhere system", which I like, and still try to do--sometimes you want to write, not type, especially when you have only a phone and no laptop with you-- but my kids tend to think I'm carrying that notebook so that they can have drawing paper at a restaurant, so it gets filled up fast.

A birthday book When we were leaving L.A., we asked just about every friend we could think of to tell us their family members' birthdays. (Fascinating, by the way, to see who gave us the year they were born--and who didn't.) In any case--one year later (ahem) I have (finally) transcribed them into a little red book, so that I can turn to April, say, and see who I want to send cards or gifts to. This doesn't mean it will always happen, or be on time (sorry, Willa! It's on the way, promise!) but I'm getting better. I actually already have purchased presents for three family members whose birthdays aren't until next month, so I'm feeling pretty cocky.

What do you do to keep track of your life?


Ahhh, April

In a few days (and, truly, I don't know exactly which day--kick that Freudian football around a bit, why don't you) it will be the anniversary of our move east...at least, mine and the kids, because the H, as friends and loyal readers may remember, stayed behind in L.A. a bit longer to finish recovering from back surgery. Meanwhile,the kidlets and I decamped, along with our former nanny and her son, both of whom saved my a** for ten days while we got moved in, kind of unpacked, and a tiny bit settled. I could write reams about the glorious Ruth, my dear friend, the best person I know, the woman who taught me how to be patient and light with children (not that I always succeed, but boy oh boy, did she show me how. ) But I'll save that for another time. Tonight, stuck at home thanks to sick (again!!) girl and under-deadline H, when I should be here, with my dear friend, I am thinking about some other things.

Lately, I've been thinking, a lot, about the way I live my life. Not, like, where I buy my groceries, which jeans I am comfortable wearing, what magazines I buy subscriptions to versus those I only buy on the newsstand, why I love lipstick and white cotton shirts or why I feel ok about letting my daughter paint her finger and toe nails, but the way I move through my life and specifically about the way I relate to time, and to the people I consider my loved ones and friends.

A few weeks ago, the lovely Rebecca and I arranged a massage date at our local yoga retreat/spa/new age academy--a place where, as my mother in law said when I took her there last month during her visit (and I might be getting this wrong, because I think what she said was more incisive) you could immerse yourself in the "muck of metaphysics", and where, she observed, it became clear that all the people into the same stuff look kind of the same all over (she is way into that stuff, so she wasn't being snarky or judgmental, just observant.) Our kids were off school, so we had a sort of complicated transaction arranged whereby her kids and their sitter would come to my house, hang out with my kids and Vous, R and I would dash back to Lenox for our massages, and so on. She was a little late getting here and when she arrived, I was immersed in something (I don't remember what) in my office, didn't have on my shoes or sweater or coat (for you Angelenos, you need outerwear to go out here--really!) and I felt a big need to drag her up to the third floor to show her the new chairs in my office. All of this took time. She was kindly stressed, wanting to leave but trying not to make a big deal of it, and I was blase--"We can get there in 25 minutes, no problem."

When we finally left, I noticed that I was driving a lot faster than she was (we went separately, for reasons that aren't worth mentioning, but it was important at the time) and I also noticed that no matter what, we were, in fact, going to be ten minutes late. Parking at Kripalu is a nightmare, and you have to sign in, get upstairs to the massage area, and so on. My phone rang as I was nearing the parking lot. It was Rebecca: "Of course you can get there in 25 minutes! You drive like a bat out of hell! [she probably said something more original that that, because she's an original thinker, a think-on-your-toes, always-find-the-right-comment kind of girl.] Do you always make yourself late to massages, so you can be as stressed as possible when you go in?" She was laughing as she said it, and seemed less angry than bemusedly annoyed, but that last part stopped my brain dead in its willful little tracks, and started a chain reaction that is still unfolding.

Stay tuned for Part 2, "You go about in pity for yourself..."