Tuesday, June 16, 2009

New Site Up

She's Just Sayin' has moved! Come visit me at www.shesjustsayin.com Same great content, nicer packaging!

Monday, June 8, 2009

Moving On

This is the room where we painted over the mint green walls. We hadn’t moved in yet, but we drove over every couple days, each time with new supplies. First the primer, then the paint. It was the dead of winter, but thankfully the radiators in this building make it feel slightly cooler than a steam room. We brought lawn chairs to rest in when our backs got tired from stretching to reach the upper limits of the 10-foot high, pre-war ceilings.

This is the kitchen, where the former owner had installed a mini TV under the counter. We knew it was wrong to fall in love with a place because of owner-owned amenities. But a TV! In the kitchen! We could picture ourselves here, turning from the stove to see just how many supplies Rachel Ray was going to stack into her arms THIS time.

This is the bathroom, where we discovered a host of delights. Recently remodeled, floor to ceiling tile, a style we would have picked ourselves. Better, even. A tub AND a shower? Too good to be true. Towel rack situated over the radiator. Who knew stepping out of the shower in winter could be a delight?

This is the bedroom, what the HGTV and Extreme Makeover: Home Edition folks dreamily call ‘your sanctuary.’ We pored over paint swatches, decided on Glacier something or other. Paired with sand-colored carpet and honey-stained wood blinds, we could pretend each night that we slept in a beach-side oasis. We’ve cracked the windows in winter to combat the hot air hissing out of the radiators. We’ve cranked the ceiling fan in summer, falling asleep to the rhythmic click-clicking of the blades as they spun in dizzying circles.

This is our home. The first day we turned our keys in the locks (yes, locks plural - we live in Queens, New York) we jumped up and down and scratched our heads that we were HOMEOWNERS!!! We held dinner parties here (small dinner parties, it IS an apartment), hosted beery Super Bowl parties, counted down to our wedding, welcomed my parents for long weekends.

Soon this home will be our former home. The market is right to look for a house. Yards and driveways beckon. The scent of summer barbeques tease us. We own a home, but we’re ready to own a house. It’s time.

Wednesday, June 3, 2009

Bitch and Moan. And Smile Too.

What’s chapping my hide these days…

** Why do movie studios presume that we all get dumber when the temperature heats up? I for one am tired of the inane movies that populate theatres each year beginning in May. A quick check of Fandango.com reveals the following winners: Land of the Lost (sorry Will Ferrell, I love you but I will NOT be seeing this trash); The Hangover (nuff said); Terminator Salvation (when will this franchise just die??); Drag Me To Hell (no idea what this about, but the title alone is enough to assure me it’s ridiculous)

[Author’s note – after I wrote this, I noticed that I had misspelled ‘dumber’ above with the brilliant ‘dummer’. So, movie studios, perhaps you ARE on to something!]

** Movie studios aren’t the only culprits in this dumbing down of Americans in heat. Let’s check the TV schedule, shall we? Oh look, "I’m A Celebrity…Get Me Out of Here!" Premise: a bunch of sub-D-list celebrities try to live in the ‘jungle’ for some indeterminate period of time. Apart from the ubiquitous Heidi & Spencer, the ‘celebs’ are so sub-D-list that you have to spend a couple moments trying to understand why these people are considered celebrities in the first place. Enter Patti Blagojevich. She’s famous because? Oh, right, because she’s married to a wacko governor who used up his 15 minutes of fame already, mostly by having tremendously awful hair that would make even the Monkees cringe.
** Can we talk about Twitter for a minute? What’s with people who know nothing about it or how it works getting so angry about the fact that it exists? No one’s forcing you to sign up. Then you have the other camp, made up of people who also know nothing about it or how it works and yet pretend that they do, pretending that they ‘get’ it. Sometimes I feel sorry for these people. After all, they’re trying. But then again, it’s not that hard. Sign on. Write something. Read things. Repeat.

Lest this post become a Debbie downer grouchfest, I’ll leave you with a few things that are making me happy these days.
** Meaningful music that sticks in your head and makes you think
** Making people smile with simple compliments
** No longer needing a coat to walk out the door

So tell me…what’s chapping your hide? What’s making you happy?

Sunday, May 31, 2009

Salute to Summer

Bright light pours through wooden-slatted Venetian blinds. A cacophany of bird chirps announce the morning. Alarm clock is off, there’s no need these days. Sheets are kicked to the extreme corners of the bed, rumpled in a cottony white mass. They cover toes during the night, and occasionally shoulders when a breeze blows through the windows. The windows are wide open, of course, mesh arms outstretched in anticipation of a cool embrace. Car doors slam, engines idle, neighbors talk.

The car is stuffy, the inside of an oven in preheat stage. The windows come down at once, there is no time to wait for the A/C to kick in. Drinks are on ice, resting comfortably in a blue and white cooler, the accessory you won’t leave home without for the next several months. You pull out a can, grimace and grin at the numbing sensation of ice water gripping your fingertips. A pop and a hiss, and you’re on your way to refreshment. Condensation slides slowly down the can. Icy droplets pelt your bare legs.

Dock creaks, sways gently with the tide. Jet engines roar in the distance, slight tang of jet fuel hangs in the air. Makes for a cloying scent, when mixed with the odors of algae and marine life. Boat putters, then stops. Engine is slow to start, out of practice. Motor finally turns over, and you’re on your way. Fine sea spray mists your face, upturned to the blue sky and benevolent sun. Your hair, mostly contained in a weather beaten hat, gradually sends stray pieces into the wind. They whip your face as the boat picks up speed and more wind. You brush the whipping strands back with a smile.

Water dares you not to come in. It’s cool, the current is calm. Come on in.
Off you go!

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

On Conquering My Next Life Goal

I’ve been spending a lot of time lately considering the possibility of writing a book. As I read that sentence over, I can’t help but laugh at myself because, seriously? Writing a book?! It feels a bit like saying, ‘Ya know, I’ve been considering walking the Great Wall of China. Just an itch I’ve been meaning to scratch!’

But the idea of writing a book has been sitting in my brain for a while, one of those long-term ‘life goals’ that you are instructed to jot down late in high school or at some point in college. You then spend the rest of your life wondering when you’re going to suddenly be reminded that you turned out to be a good-for-nothing layabout when that little postcard shows up in your mailbox, the 5 Things I’ll Do Before I Die list. When you look down at the list, from the confines of a dark private corner, of course—lest any friends or loved ones discover your failed potential—what will stare back at you is a cruel reminder of blind ambition exposed to the harsh light of Every Day Life.

Except the thing is, in my case (if I remember my list correctly) many of the goals I dreamed of achieving have been achieved. Moment of introspection: perhaps I aimed too low. Move to New York City: Check. Pursue a career in media: Check. Run the New York City Marathon: Check. Write a book: Stop being funny!

I think when it comes to writing a book you have to pat yourself on the back for the small progresses along the way. Deciding that you might just have the talent to pull it off is pretty huge, for example. This may be delusion on your part, but no matter. Embrace your egotistical self! Deciding that you’re going to make the dream a reality is another milestone. It’s one thing to think about getting off the couch. It’s quite another to pull your ass up and put one foot in front of the other.

The next phase is where it gets difficult. The plot. I have no idea what my book will be about. I’m still in the ‘brainstorming’ phase. Thankfully, my commute to work is just this side of unbearable, so I have plenty of time to stare off into space and ruminate on a plotline that people might actually care about.

I’ll tell you what I DO have. Characters! I’ve encountered so many people in my life who would make fantastic characters for my book. Names will be changed to protect the innocent, of course, but know this: if you find yourself identifying with a character in my book, you are either extremely interesting, incredibly complicated, or royally fucked up in a fascinatingly delightful way!

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Motorboatin' Son of a Bitch

The boat sat parked in the street, resting its hulk upon the old trailer like a whale washed ashore. It took up a good portion of the suburban road, the way RVs overtake the cement driveways of houses out west. You can’t help but wonder, ‘who owns that?’

We do.

A couple months ago Mike and I, along with his cousin and his wife, went in together to purchase Mike’s uncle’s boat. To us, we were getting a fire-sale deal on an investment in summer fun. To his uncle, I think he felt he was finally ridding himself of a thorn that had been plaguing his side.

I have no way to prove it, but I suspect boat ownership is akin to having a child. You dream of all the fun things you’ll do together. Cruising! Water skiing! Tubing! You know that there’ll be work involved, but you’re fairly certain it will be worth it. You know that you’ll part with a good amount of cash, and then some more, and then some more. Those outlays will never be repaid, but you’re ok with it. The joys of boat ownership will far outweigh the hurdles you must leap!

Speaking of joy, is there more joy than assigning a namesake to your beloved? The name you choose is important. It will become a representation of you for all the world to see. The boat we bought was named Roxy, after the beautiful Boxer Mike’s uncle owns. Much as we love Roxy, now that the boat was ours we wanted a name that better represented us. We thought about ‘Four Friends.’ Admittedly not the most imaginative of names, but it was simple and true.

So how to replace ‘Roxy’ with our new name? Surely we’d need to paint over the old name, and paint on our new one. Mike took a closer look at the word Roxy.

‘I think these are just decals,’ he mused. ‘We can probably just pull them right off and then paint our name on.’

He fiddled with the letters for a bit, and then came to a startling conclusion.

‘This is just electrical tape! This will come off no problem.’ As a test, he pulled at the corner of the letter ‘R.’

Sure enough, it came off. And all of a sudden, the new name of our boat appeared.

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Seven Hundred Thirty Days

For seven hundred thirty days, take away a few, I’ve woken up next to the man I call my husband. Day one, the day after we were pronounced husband and wife, I tried out the word ‘husband’ like a little girl wearing her mother’s high heels. “Morning, husband” I whispered, although it may have come out as a question. The word felt so grown up, so adult. And just two nights prior, we had been out until two in the morning dancing at a smoky Bermuda nightclub.

Let’s be clear; day one wasn’t really day one, as far as waking up together is concerned. But it certainly marked a turning point. Being married IS different. You are legally bound to the hairy creature beside you. You are to love him in sickness, when he stuffs pieces of Kleenex up his nose to stop the mucus flow. You are to love him in poverty, when he’s frittered away $1000 on Super Bowl boxes. You are to love him when he’s angry, inconsolable, grieving.

I’ve been to more funerals since I’ve met my husband than I’d ever heard of before in my life. For the longest time, he swore a dark cloud hovered over his head, and that it now hung over mine, by association. He didn’t understand that his presence in my life lit a floodlight in my heart.

Seven hundred thirty days has meant gaining a finer understanding of each other’s breaking points. It has meant knowing exactly what the other one needs, without exchanging a word. In seven hundred thirty days we have fine tuned our post-dinner choreography. In our narrow kitchen, we know where to stand, when to move, who’s washing, who’s drying, who’s taking out the garbage. We still pretend to let that pot soak overnight, waiting for the other to give up and wash it after growing tired of the eyesore resting in the sink.

Seven hundred thirty days marks two years. Just a couple steps along our hopefully long and winding path together. What’s down the road lies beyond a bend that neither of us can see. But what’s behind looks pretty sweet, and today I savor that.

Thursday, May 14, 2009

A Funny Thing Happened

A couple situations I encountered recently that I thought you might enjoy...

I went to visit a good friend of mine recently while she was spending some time at her parents' house. After arriving at her house, I encountered her youngest brother, an 18 year-old high school senior I've known since he was 9. He was clad in only a t-shirt and tight, white boxer briefs.

"Oh, hey Sarah," he said by way of greeting. "Sorry, this is awkward."

___________________________________________________________________________________

I stopped at my neighborhood deli the other morning on my way to the subway to buy a bottle of water for the train ride. I paid with a $20 bill. I will say, the bill looked funny because it was of the pre-redesign era. The cashier, whom I've exchanged transactions with on numerous occasions, took one look at the bill, stopped and said, "this money is no good."

I looked at him dumbly. This has never happened to me before. And by THIS, I mean having someone not-so-subtly accuse me of money fraud (is that the right term for it? see, I really don't know anything about it!). After staring at the man in disbelief for a few beats too many I finally, weakly, mumbled, "But I got it right out of the ATM."

Ding! Magic door opened! The cashier responded, "ATM?" ran a yellow highlighter over part of the bill, mumbled something about "if this turns out to be fake..." and then handed over my change.

Tuesday, May 5, 2009

Shrink, Please!

I’ve been hooked on HBO’s ‘In Treatment’ since it debuted last year. In case you haven’t had the pleasure, the show revolves around a therapist (shrink!) and the patients he treats. There are five episodes each week, each one devoted to a different patient, so you get to know a cross-section of people. I’ve always been interested in dissecting people’s personalities and trying to figure out why they do the things they do. In Treatment allows me to do exactly that from the comfort of my couch, and without all the baggage of having these personalities be those of people I actually interact with.

It’s hard to watch In Treatment, though, and not think about your own strange quirks and idiosyncrasies. For example, I am absolutely horrible about keeping in touch with people. You know when someone moves away, or leaves a job – someone you’re close to – and you both say things like, ‘we’ll keep in touch!’ I want to believe it so bad when I say it, but, sadly, I know that I there's a good chance I'll fail at this promise. It’s not that I want to fail. In fact, I desperately hope that I’ll beat my previous odds and actually succeed for once. Yet time and time again, a person fades from my sight (although I swear not from my mind), and I struggle to ‘stay in touch.’ I’ll spend days, weeks! thinking I should call or even write an email. And then I’ll put it off for later. Before I know it, it’s been an embarrassingly long amount of time, and then I feel so bad about how much time has passed that I’ll retreat not-that-gently into that good night.

I bet Paul (the In Treatment therapist) could explore the whys of this.

My husband, thankfully, has not a shred of this problem. He’ll stay in touch with people from 20 years ago. Just today he asked me if I wanted to have dinner with some friends of ours who moved out of our apartment building last year. He forwarded me an email exchange he had had with them and, nosy as I am, I scrolled to the bottom of the email chain. I saw that he had contacted them a few weeks ago when he started his new job. He wrote them a short, pleasant note simply passing along his new contact information.

Dear readers, this would have been impossible for me to do! Sure, I would think about our former neighbors, genuinely wonder how they’re doing in their new digs. I’d recall that we were supposed to have dinner one night many moons ago, but weren’t all able to get together. And then I would wistfully think that that window of opportunity had passed. I’d be too afraid to email them out of the blue now. What if they thought they were rid of me, only to see I had resurfaced? What if they thought too much time had passed, that we no longer had anything in common? Again, I bet Paul could provide some input on my psyche here.

So what about you? Please tell me you have your own strange idiosyncrasy too. And if not, any tips for dealing with mine?

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Schmearth Day

I had no idea today was Earth Day until I opened up TweetDeck tonight and saw that many people had, err, tweeted about the day. Let me start by being completely honest. I could give a shit about Earth Day. For me, it conjures up images of abrasive brown bags and product packaging and abrasive individuals holding clipboards outside your office, asking you if you have a minute for Greenpeace. No, actually, I DON’T have a minute for Greenpeace. I barely have a minute to pee, let alone run to this here deli to get a poor-tasting panini to scarf down my gullet while I continue to type meaningless words into a document that will likely get thrown out two minutes after it’s received.

Oh! Hey! You’re still there. Sorry, THAT was an embarrassing rant…

Anyway, Greenpeace, Earth Day, not for me. Except, what I find funny about all the clever little things Earth Day preachers encourage you to do is that many of them seem to be things we all used to do back in the day. You know, back in the day when men were men and kids walked to school in the snow uphill both ways. I mean, I think back on all the things my mom drilled into my brain as a kid:

1. No Littering. You know how you’re driving, and someone oh-so-casually rolls down the window to throw out their stale gum or candy wrapper? That makes me cringe. Mom never let us kids throw ANYTHING out the window. Not a gum wrapper, not a popsicle stick, nothing. If there were no available garbage receptacles, TOUGH, we had to keep the trash in our pockets.
2. Brown Paper Grocery Bags. When all the cool kids’ moms were getting their groceries bagged in plastic, my mom was still requesting paper.
3. Tap Water. Bottles of water were never present in my house. My mom never saw the point. We have a tap! We have glasses! These days, we’re constantly reminded about the damage we’re doing to the environment with all the throwing away of plastic bottles. To say nothing about the alleged flesh eating bacteria that will take over our bodies if we use a bottle more than once.
4. Reuse. There were few items in my childhood home that my mom couldn’t find a new use for after their initial purpose was achieved. Are you crazy throwing that jam jar away?! I can use it to house seeds, store buttons, save coins!
5. Actual Dishes. Paper plates? Not something I truly discovered until I was an adult. You see, paper plates are not reusable by nature. And, well, see #4.

So, given the above, I suppose one could argue that my mom was ahead of her time and, as a result, I’m actually a begrudging believer in the principles of Earth Day. Just don’t tell the folks from Greenpeace.

Monday, April 20, 2009

Ring Bell for Service

My palms were sweaty. I wanted this job so bad. I prayed that the interview had gone well, that my hopefully-future boss liked me. That she thought I’d be a competent, capable employee. Sure, I didn’t have any previous experience, but I was motivated and enthusiastic. This was the perfect job for me. It had a short commute, and the hours were flexible.

It was Eckerd drug store. And I was 16 years old.

Of the many firsts we never forget, we never forget our first job. My sophomore year of high school, it seemed like everyone was getting a job. Always among the youngest in my grade, I was jealous of my seemingly grown-up peers and their new after-school endeavors. Some were scooping frozen yogurt at TCBY. Some took CPR classes in preparation for summer lifeguarding. Some folded sweaters at the Gap. And me? Apparently I just wanted to sell enema to the elderly.

No seriously. Of all the products I scanned and bagged during my days at Eckerd, few stick out in my mind as more frequently purchased than Fleet Enema. And Depends undergarments. Many a middle-aged man and woman came into the store to purchase these humbling items for their elderly parents. They usually brought coupons with them, so I suppose the humiliation was two-fold. There would be the clipping of the coupon: ‘Honey! $2 off Depends!’ And then the actual in-store purchase, wherein the customer would pick up the items (in the appropriate size, no less) and sheepishly put them on the counter for all--including the smug cashier, yours truly--to see.

The thing I learned about older people, in general, was that they loved their coupons, and they took them rather seriously. I’ll never forget the man who came in one day armed with a stack of coupons, and about 12 bottles of Dawn dish detergent to match. Dawn was on sale that week, and with all the coupons, well, I can only assume this man was confident that at the end of the transaction, I’D be paying HIM money.

He passed me his coupons after I’d scanned all the items. Right away I noticed they looked a little yellow, like a newspaper that’s been sitting out too long, or a book that’s been gathering dust in the attic. I took a closer look. The bottle of Dawn pictured on the coupon didn’t look like the ones on the counter. It looked like a version from a different decade. I checked for the date printed on the top of the coupon. Mysteriously, the date was missing! The coupons had been carefully clipped. This man was trying to cheat the system! With coupons that were easily 10 years old!

There were customers who would line up outside the store on weekend mornings before we opened at 9 a.m. Come rain, come winds, come winter, they’d be there. Let me tell you, there’s little power in the world more satisfying than being the cashier inside the store before it opens on a cold winter’s day. If I was feeling spiteful, I’d walk down the aisle closest to the door, and then just before reaching the door, I’d hang a sharp left and head for the register.

I recall wondering why these customers had to be there the very second the store opened. Worried you’re going to miss out on that 8-pack of Bounty? The 24-pack of Charmin? Even if you did, we offered rain checks. Would you believe some people actually accepted our rain check offer? And would then COME BACK two weeks later to redeem it?! They most certainly did.

There were some sanctimonious individuals who would wave the flyer in my face when they couldn’t find something.
‘YOUR flyer says Royal Butter cookies. I don’t see any Royal Butter Cookies.’
‘I’m sorry, ma’am. We’re all out.’
‘But YOUR FLYER says you have them!’
The flyers might as well have been placed by Gideon himself, for all the reverence they were awarded. Who had the heart to tell these customers that their precious flyers were created by some poor sad sack in Olathe, Kansas who couldn’t give a shit whether store #0876 ran out of Royal Butter Cookies?

My first Eckerd paycheck amounted to $65. But for life experience, I’d say it was priceless.

Thursday, April 16, 2009

Preparing For Death

There are a lot of things that stick out in my mind when I think back to the funeral service I attended less than two years ago. There was the terrible injustice of being there in the first place – no 29 year-old should have to leave this earth. There is so much left to accomplish. The pastor tried his best to give all of us meaningful, comforting words, but it was obvious that even he was at a loss. One thing he did say, which has stuck with me, was, “even in life we are in death.” I couldn’t grasp what that statement meant, and his explanation didn’t satisfy me at the time. To be fair, nothing would have.

And yet. I’ve been saying that phrase over and over in my mind for the past several days. My best friend Kate is helping her mom through a devastating battle with advanced-stage cancer. What has her awestruck is her mom’s relentless grace. In the face of an endless string of appointments, treatments, pain and suffering, Kate says her mom is, more or less, at peace. She seems prepared for whatever lies in store for her. What a beautiful blessing. Don’t we all hope that one day, when faced with death, we’ll be prepared? But how do we get there?

I don’t believe you’re prepared for death unless you lived your life the way you wanted to. That you upheld your standards, pursued your dreams, treated those around you with kindness, gave those you loved all of your heart. My high school cross country coach, before every race, instructed us to cross the finish line with nothing left in the tank. If you did that, no matter what place you came in, you could be proud that you gave it your all. I think these instructions are appropriate beyond the world of racing flats and tiny shorts. No matter when death calls for me, I want to feel like I’m leaving on an empty tank.

Monday, April 13, 2009

Buh Bye, Newspapers

I came across this article in the New York Times today about hyperlocal web sites springing up in the wake of the collapse of the local newspaper. This evolution of news media should come as no surprise to any of us. While talking heads have been busy decrying the death of the local paper, innovation and evolution have, as they always do, quietly plodded along under the surface. The only difference is that we’re now moving along a new path, rather than a well-trod road.

I was lounging around the couch one recent weekend morning and caught an episode of Meet the Press. Or was it Hard Ball with Chris Matthews? Either way, it was a show no self-respecting 27-year-old should be caught watching, let alone be admitting to the entire Internet. And yet…the premise of the show was the future of newspapers. Specifically, the future of those dry, scratchy hard copies that make your fingers feel terribly uncomfortable before finally covering them in a nasty black smudge. What I found most disturbing about this panel of ‘brainpower’ was that no one on it was born in the digital age. Not one of these people grew up knowing any reality other than one where they picked up the newspaper from the front stoop. Not to mention, all the panelists were media professionals. They are, by nature, obsessed with newspapers! How are we going to get any real insight or diverse viewpoints? Like a doctor who cannot operate on his/her own child, these panelists were just too close to the action to be able to see anything objectively.

The Meet the Press/Hardball panel was terribly worried about who would report on city council meetings once we’ve put our trusty newspapers to sleep. They saw this information – and the coverage of it –as critical to citizens of any upstanding community. All this panel knew and could fathom was the notion of reporters covering local beats as the right of passage into higher level journalism.

Might it be possible that tomorrow’s city council meetings won’t be covered by steno-pad wielding journalists who report for the local Morning Call? What if these meetings are broadcast live via webcam, for all to see if they choose (perhaps the same audience known to watch Hardball on weekend mornings)? Locals could then comment on these meetings via message boards or web sites like the Times mentioned today.

I don’t know what will replace newspapers one day. I don’t think any of us do. But just because something is going away, that doesn’t mean it’s gone for good. Perhaps it’s just that its next iteration is one we haven’t invented yet. It might not be worse. It might not even be better. It may just be different. And I think that’s ok.

Wednesday, April 8, 2009

San Francisco Treat

The last time I was in San Francisco I was so young that, well, I can’t even remember the last time I was there. I simply remember that I was very young, that we walked down Lombard street and that we rode the trolleys (are they called trolleys? It’s been a long day, and I’m blanking on the official name).

Now, circumstances have conspired to have me planning a return trip to San Francisco – this time as an adult! My husband just got a job with a company based there and they’ve asked him to come out for a week’s training. And, my company? Well, let’s just say that I have learned the meaning of the word ‘furlough’.

A few thoughts about furloughs:
1) The word ‘furlough’ is incredibly fun to say!
2) Being commanded not to work is a bit like being a kid and having your mom tell you that you MUST eat another piece of cake. OK!
3) Being commanded not to get paid is a lot like being a kid and having your mom tell you that you’re grounded for absolutely no reason.

So here I am, thinking that my furlough is the perfect time to accompany my husband on his business trip. And, by the by, when did I get so old and grown up that I have a husband who goes on business trips while I am a wife who accompanies him for fun?

So, the question is this: what do I do all week while hubby is at work? I received some great Tweetomendations (my made up word for the wisdom of crowds that is Twitter) today about various museums. And while I would be open to checking out one or two – preferably ones with photography exhibits – I’m going to be honest and admit that I’m not that crazy about museums. So low culture am I!

Of course I’ll go see the seals at Fisherman’s Wharf and check out the Golden Gate bridge. And I’m totally bringing my big SLR ‘I’m A Tourist!’ camera to capture the fog rolling in off the bay.

But what else should I do? Keep in mind much of my sightseeing will be done solo. I don’t necessarily have a problem with that, but a lot of people think solo excursions are, at best, uncomfortable and at worst, strange.

Saturday, April 4, 2009

Lazy Days

What is it about exercise that makes it so easy to start, then quit, then start again, only to quit again? I absolutely love exercise in its purest form – simply being active – and yet I can’t seem to keep it as a consistent part of my life.

As a kid I spent just about every free minute outside. I rollerbladed around my neighborhood, played roller hockey with my brother and the boys, ran cross country all through junior high and high school. As an adult though, my exercise patterns have vacillated between being representative of a 500 lb sedentary sloth and a world-class triathlete (well…that may just be a bit of a stretch).

Back in 2005, I landed a spot in the New York City Marathon, and spent a very hot and humid summer training religiously. 26 miles is not a distance you want to mess with. That shit is hard! During the week I would run up to 10 miles before work; on the weekends, 18 miles before most people had gotten out of bed. I was determined. I finished the marathon with a reasonably good time, and after that I experienced a feeling that I imagine many Olympic athletes must feel following the Games. What now? I had accomplished a goal I’d held since I was 15. And not only had I run a marathon, but I had run one of the world’s premier marathons!

Last year, I got hooked on the Nike+ device. This little gadget tracks your speed, distance and time, and lets you compete with other people who have it as well. A few friends and I set up challenges, and for nearly five months we were fervent competitors. Our Nike+ competitions got me out of the house in the middle of winter, through bone chilling temperatures, in the pitch black (and yes - I know - unsafe) darkness of pre-dawn. The feeling of camaraderie – that we were all in this together – was strong. But honestly? My will to win was stronger. Pride can be so motivating!

This winter I fell victim to the cult following of Jillian Michael’s 30 Day Shred DVD. I got over the slight embarrassment at being one of ‘those’ ladies who works out in her living room. The abject difficulty of the workouts quickly took care of that. In its place I encountered humbling feelings of ‘Holy shit! I can’t lift my arms above my head!’ But once I had conquered all three levels of the Shred, or perhaps more precisely, once our tropical winter getaway had passed, Jillian’s workout gathered dust in the DVD player.

So now what? Spring is here. My Nike+ buddies seem as ‘over it’ as I am. I want so badly to be motivated. And yet. The laptop won’t budge off my lap and my ass won’t budge from the couch.

Tuesday, March 31, 2009

The Moving Finger Writes

My dad has never been a particularly emotional or sentimental person. That is not at all to say that he doesn't care or feel things; however, understanding the ways in which he cares is more about recognizing and deciphering body language and subtle nuances. When 9/11 happened I was in college, at an age where I was still acutely attuned to my parents' guidance and advice. I was particularly curious as to how my dad would react. He is the preeminent student of New York. He’s fascinated by the city and its ins and outs, knows the history of every architecturally significant building here and has a working knowledge of the city’s public transit system that could put the most seasoned MTA executive to shame. The ‘I <} NY’ shirt was truly intended for people like my dad.

On the day of, or perhaps the day after, the attacks I got an email from my Dad. It was a disappointingly short note, with remarks to the effect that he couldn’t help but be reminded of this famous quote from Omar Khayyam’s ‘The Rubaiyat’

“The Moving Finger writes; and, having writ,
Moves on: nor all your Piety nor Wit
Shall lure it back to cancel half a Line,
Nor all your Tears wash out a Word of it”

My first reaction was utter disappointment. This was the first time my family had ever faced something so emotionally fraught, and I had felt sure that the silver lining to this apocalyptic cloud would be that we’d finally open ourselves up and show more depth of feeling. And yet, all I could think was that this quote was simply cold. Was he telling me that we needed to simply shrug our shoulders and get on with things?

Over the ensuing years I’ve thought back on that email and that quote with resentment that has evolved to resignation. These days, I can’t help but think that perhaps my dad was (is) simply a realist. In his nearly 77 years, a lot has happened. And once a thing is done, the world is forever changed. Khayyam’s quote may just be the precursor to today’s (and my most hated) pithy quote ‘It is what it is.’

Jobs are being lost at a frightening rate. Businesses are closing. Our country – and the world – is sliding down a steeply curved roller coaster hill. There doesn’t appear to be an upswing to this bleak horizon. But what are we to do? We can’t change what’s happened. The moving finger has writ. I’m afraid it’s still writ-ing. Our tears won’t wash out a bit of it. Now what? Quite simply, we must go on.

Sunday, March 29, 2009

Hypochondriac

I’d like to simultaneously curse and kiss the creators of those health/medical portals that have sprung up on the Internet. Is it just me, or do you also immediately jump to these sites at the first hint of strangeness occurring in your body? You’re not yet ready to call the doctor so you log on, immerse yourself in the symptom checker and next thing you know you’ve diagnosed yourself with a flesh-eating bacteria that is only minutes away from devouring your body from toes to tongue.

Over the past several days, I’ve been experiencing a consistent amount of tingling/pre-cramping in the muscles of my feet, legs and arms that is slowly driving me nuts. I’ve always had problems with excruciating calf cramps waking me up in the middle of the night, as my college roommates and husband can attest to. In college, these cramps happened so frequently that as soon as I started thrashing around in pain, my roommate would rise up out of her bed, sleepwalk over to me, stretch out my leg to make it stop and then retreat back to her bed without a word. The first night my husband had the pleasure of awakening to one of these episodes, he nearly had a heart attack. For all my screaming and writhing in pain, the only logical explanation he could come up with was that a giant, slobbering psycho murderer had found his way into our bed and was tearing me apart limb by limb. Once the pain subsided I was able to breathlessly explain ‘my calf...cramp.’ This turned out to be an unsatisfactory reply. And yet, with time and a few pointers from my old roommate, dear husband, too, has mastered the art of stretching out my leg while remaining half asleep.

The symptoms I’ve been feeling recently feel much like the precursor to the calf cramps of yore. It starts with a tingling – a vague sort of early warning system that tells me to stop pointing my toes or flexing my calf because damn, THIS IS GONNA HURT. Except this time, the cramp never comes. Instead the early warning system continues on for hours on end. I suppose I should be grateful. The pain of a muscle cramp can leave you hopping up and down, gritting your teeth and hyperventilating from the torment. But this low grade twinge in my legs and arms is frustrating. I’m not yet ready to call the doctor. I just assume that this will pass within a matter of days. In the meantime, I’ll probably convince myself that I have MS, fibromyalgia, or the exotic-sounding Guillan- BarrĂ© (who doesn’t want an affliction with an accent over the ‘e’) Syndrome when in reality what I probably need to do is drink a tall glass of milk and eat a couple bananas.

Saturday, March 28, 2009

Community Building

About four years ago I started a blog at a time when blogs were still unique and not something that every idiot with a computer had. They were the province of early adopters and tech geeks (and I’d like to go on record as the former, rather than the latter).

What thrilled me about having a blog was the idea that I had a place to spout my opinions. I had a lot to say, or so I thought. In those early days, I, web pioneer, talked often about current events and politics. Back then I had the time to read multiple news sources each day. These days, I have just enough time to check in on cnn.com and make sure that there isn’t a 60 pt. font headline and accompanying giant red bar alerting me to BREAKING NEWS.

As time wore on, my real-life career progressed and with it, the time I had to devote to my blog lessened and lessened. I took a job that required me to write all day long, which hampered my desire to do the same in my down time. I posted less and less often, and when it got to the point where I was embarrassed to even log into my site because of lack of activity, I decided to shut it down altogether. I couldn’t take the constant reminder of something that I should be doing – wanted to be doing - but simply was not.

And yet, these days, I’ve found myself drawn back into the world of blogging. This may have to do with the group of blogs I’ve begun following. I’ve collected a list that I check in on every other day or so for updates. Most of these blogs are authored by women about my own age, with an excellent knack for the written word and a sharp wit that I at once admire and like to believe I share. These women have found success with blogging. They post regularly and have cultivated their own little communities of readers who comment and exchange ideas. I can’t help but watch their little blogging worlds and want the same for my greedy little self. I want a community too! A community of people who believe that what I’m saying is worthwhile – whether because they learn something they didn’t know, think about something a little differently than they would have otherwise, or just because I make them laugh every now and then.

There are a few bloggers I follow who delight me so consistently that I just can’t wait for them to put up a new post (All & Sundry, Nothing But Bonfires - I'm looking at you). I don’t much care WHAT they’re talking about, so long as they’re talking. These bloggers are interesting and amusing even if they’re talking about pulling a giant hairball out of a shower drain. But there’s the rub. What to talk about? It confounds me to the point of paralyzation. Should I talk about the four hours I spent at the mall today, and the fact that I could have happily spent four more there if money were no object? Should I talk about how I’m spending a weekend alone while my husband is gallivanting around the bars and restaurants of Dallas? Should I talk about our decision to go halfies with our friends on a boat? Should I talk about the fact that we, along with our friends, might as well just take our money and drop it to the bottom of the Hudson River, for all the headaches a boat entails? I suppose I could talk about all of these things. I just need to get on with it! Stay tuned guys, I’m building our community. I hope to see you around!

Sunday, March 22, 2009

Fetching Some Brunch

The concept of brunch has sort of always confounded me. Well perhaps that's not accurate. I don't think brunch was really on my radar until I arrived in New York City a little over five years ago. Here in New York, brunch is the thing that people do on Sundays. "How was your weekend?" "It was great, we did blahdee blah and blahdee blah and Sunday met up with some friends for brunch..."

After enough time peeking in the windows, eventually you want to go in the store. So today, I suggested to my husband that we join all the other cliches and 'do brunch.' Tired of all our neighborhood haunts, we ventured to the Upper East Side, my first home in NYC. It was a perfect opportunity to return to one of the first restaurants we discovered together, a place called Fetch.

Walking into Fetch is a bit like coming home, throwing on your sweats and settling into your spot on the couch. The head chef greets you with that same warm and friendly smile you see nearly every time you come here. Silverware clatters in the background and neighborhood families chatter in upbeat tones. There are faux fireplaces and mantels adorned with pictures. It feels like the living room of that family you know who is bursting at the seams with love. And then you take a second look at the pictures. Every picture in the restaurant is of a dog. You see, Fetch isn't just about food. They're also about helping stray dogs (and animals in general). They are so serious about this that every table in the restaurant is adorned with a mission statement oulining the restaurant's partnership with a no-kill animal shelter. How many restaurants do you know with a mission statement?

Mission statement or no, let's be honest. The real reason we go to Fetch is for the food. As you might expect, they excel at comfort food. Burgers, mac n' cheese, philly cheese steaks, they do it all and they do it all extremely well. Today, I opted to change it up and try something new, trusting that I would not be disappointed. Being a lover of Mexican food, I ventured to try the Huevos Rancheros. Oh my Lord am I happy that my Huevos Rancheros virginity has been taken from me. And in this case, my first time was far from forgettable! Let's face it, fried eggs are always good. But you pair that with fried tortillas and some guacamole? Hurts so good.

As we sat happily enjoying our mimosas and comfort food dishes, we scanned our surroundings and enjoyed the view. There were extended families catching up on each other's news. There were toddlers in high chairs. There was a one year-old girl clad in an awesome pair of pink Chucks who had already perfected her Homecoming Queen wave. Is it odd to be jealous of a baby? Because I was. Girlfriend had great style and knew how to work a room!

Over the course of the meal I thought back on the days we first discovered Fetch's amazing Philly Cheeseteak eggrolls (YES! Heaven IS on Earth!) and watched the families around me. I was heartwarmed at the thought that this place could be 'our' place for years to come. We could have a framed picture of our family mutt displayed on the wall. We could bring a toddler here (although not before teaching him/her how to work the room). We could 'do' brunch for years to come.

Thursday, March 19, 2009

Just Wondering...

A few things that are keeping me up at night these days...

You know those Viagra commercials? 'Vi-va Vi-AG-ra!' You know those? You know the part where they say, 'Ask your Dr. if your heart is healthy enough for sex.'? Well, just wondering, what if the answer is no? Then what? What's plan B?

Why do we only care about college basketball in March? Does anybody give a flying you-know-what if American University wins a college basketball game in the middle of January? Methinks not.

Speaking of college basketball, when did these guys get all these tattoos? Many of them are still teenagers! It's not like they only have one. Entire beautiful biceps, triceps and delts are covered in elaborate markings. Is it some sort of pre-req if you have any hope of making it to the big dance?

Why a simple McDonald's cheeseburger is the most satisfying thing on earth. That flat, plain bun! The fake cheese dangling off the edge! The general over-doing-it-ness of the ketchup and mustard oozing out the sides! Heavenly.

Why we can only get Girl Scout cookies once a year. You want to teach those girls life skills? Put 'em to work year round!

Why the cooks at 'Fresh Tortilla' are of Asian descent. It seems to me that New York City has a large enough population with the actual crediblity to run an authentic Fresh Tortilla joint. Do we really need to outsource this?

Sunday, March 15, 2009

Hairdentity

There's a picture of myself taken around the age of 5 that sticks out in my mind. Perhaps because it was taken on family portrait day at the church my family used to attend in California, and that is the only family portrait that has hung on the walls of every home my parents have lived in since. So when I remember my earliest 'do, this is the one I remember. And of course, it was a hideous bowl cut.

I've always had freckles and my hair has always been auburn (British genes are some hardy stock!), but in my early years my hair was straight. As I got closer to puberty (GAWD, doesn't even just reading that word make you feel awkward all over again?), my hair grew wavy, and at the height of pube--you know--my hair was a curly mess. Except I didn't quite realize it. Or I was in denial. You see, in high school, every girl wants pin-straight, Sun-In'd hair. No substitutions. No imitations. And I, enlightened though I like to believe I was, fell prey to the same desires.

I would sit in my room, Third Eye Blind playing on my boombox, back propped against my twin bed, and point my red hair dryer straight down at my head, as Seventeen and YM magazine instructed me to do if I wanted to get Stick! Straight! Hair! I bought a paddle brush, as I was also instructed to do, and I slept very carefully, so as not to mess up my 'do. I was convinced that I had tamed the beast. Apparently, I didn't own a working mirror.

It wasn't until I saw my senior portrait that I realized I had only been fooling myself. In a cruel twist of fate, senior pictures were scheduled in the middle of summer, the height of humidity season. Alas, all my blow drying and brushing were for naught. And so, late in my senior year of high school, I began to let my true self emerge. The curls came out, and I did my best to come to terms with it.

With college and all the cliched 'finding yourself' that comes with it, my curls and I came to an understanding. I agreed not to hide them (at least not as often) and they agreed to become an asset of mine. And whaddya know, I began to embrace them as my trademark. People would refer to me as the curly redhead, and I wouldn't cringe. In fact, I began to feel proud of them. I had reddish curls, and freckles. I was unique, and I stood out from the crowd. The curls achieved near corkscrew status, snaked down my shoulder and halfway down my back.

My hairdresser told me a while back that your hair changes every 7 years. I looked at him skeptically. I'm an adult, isn't everything all set? I'm 5'5 and won't ever need to buy 'Tall' jeans. I wear a 7.5 shoe and will never get that beautiful shoe on the clearance rack because 365,769 women before me already got to it. And my hair is curly. I know what kind of mousse I need.

And yet, I had to admit that over the past several years there were slight changes. My hard-to-manage curls had become more manageable. A straightened 'do held its form just a little bit longer.

This weekend I sat in my hairdresser's seat as he busily worked his magic above me. He stopped.

"Sarah?" he asked
"Yes?" I replied
"Is your hair losing its curl?"

It wasn't all in my head? I mean, I had had my suspicions, but here was the expert confirming...what? my fear? Was I actually sad about losing my curls? I had fought the tide for so many years before accepting, and then embracing, my reality. And now that reality is waning and transforming into a new one.

"How old are you?" my hairdresser asked.
"I'll be 28 in August."
He nodded sagely, and went back to cutting.

Thursday, March 12, 2009

What Goes Up

I've always been a believer in that simple concept that what goes up must come down. That a string of particularly brutal winter days will always be met with at least one mild, sunshiny day to remind us all to 'hang in there', things will get better. The power of self correction.

As we watch history unfold before us in the form of a frightening economic shakedown, I can't help but think that this, too, is self-correction.

It was not too long ago that I can remember walking through grocery stores and airport newsstands, wondering to myself, 'do we really need an entire magazine dedicated to cat clothing?' And try as I might, the only answer I could come up with (besides who in the HEEELLLL?) was, simply, NO. We didn't need 16 magazines about golf, 32 titles covering the intricacies of celebrity hairstyles, 9 rags about knitting and crocheting (sorry mom!). We just didn't need it all, and somewhere in the back of our minds, we knew it. Yet we could all squeal with delight at the discovery of a publication dedicated to some obscure interest of ours. I knew it! There are people out there who want to know more about Dungeons & Dragons!

In the not too recent past I recall feeling a growing discontent about the number of banks I would encounter on a daily basis. In this I know I was not alone. Working in Manhattan, where stores turn over at a particularly high rate, I couldn't help but notice that every time an eatery or clothing store would shut down, it was a solid bet that what would pop up next would be a bank. You could walk the entirety of Manhattan, bladder full to bursting, and not find a public bathroom, but you'd have no trouble drawing money out of an ATM or inquiring about (and apparently getting!) a home loan.

And then there was the coffee. Us lemmings would line up inside of Starbucks, eagerly awaiting the opportunity to fork over $4.68 for a shot of espresso and a healthy dose of warm milk. Starbucks responded, giving us what we wanted, and then giving us more, and more, and more. They began to multiply, and at its saturation point one was convinced that an aerial shot of Manhattan surely would be colored in that warm, soothing mixture of green and brown that Starbucks is known for, with a pleasant, frothy steam arising from the city streets.

And so it was. We were all walking around carrying stacks of magazines about obscure hobbies, passing only banks and Starbucks' on a daily basis. And then the crash. Sure, a lot of things happened. A lot more serious things than the folding of unnecessary magazine titles and the reduction in Starbucks franchises. But can I go out on a limb and say some unintended fall-outs of tragic happenings are actually nice? That I find comfort in the power of self-correction? What goes up must indeed come down. And when we go too far, too fast, take on too much, a force--sometimes greater than ourselves--will come into play and guide us back toward a saner reality.

Saturday, March 7, 2009

Coming Up Orchids

What to do on the first unofficial day of Spring? Well, if like me you're lucky enough to have a husband who worked at a florist's shop in a past life, you might consider journeying to the New York Botanical Garden. Their annual Orchid Show is in bloom and oh my, to say it's breathtaking isn't doing it justice.

The Gardens are located in the Bronx, and after making a few wrong turns that got us lost in some rather unsavory parts of said borough, we found our way. And so too did seemingly thousands of other New Yorkers seeking to make the most of today's mild temperatures. We nearly drove around the circumference of the Gardens before landing a parking spot. But no mind, it was all worth it in the end.

Walking through the Botanical Gardens is like walking through Eden. There are wide pathways, sloping lawns and a pleasing lack of noise, save for the shrieking of excited toddlers thrilled at so much grass to hurl themselves onto.

We came upon the entrance to the orchard show, a massive, stately building that anchors a series of equally massive and stately greenhouses. These are not your grandmother's greenhouses! Well, at least not mine.



Did I mention there are toddlers at the Botanical Gardens? It's like a toddler convention up in there. And the kind folks at the NYBG make sure to provide for their needs.





But enough about that, let's get to show, shall we?

This is actually less about the flowers and more about the beauty of the fountain. I love the way the water is streaming off the sides.



Ok, please tell me my husband and I aren't the only dirty minds who thought this next orchid looked suspiciously like lady parts.


Right? RIGHT?!


We captured a lot of beautiful pictures of some stunning orchids, but something about this next shot really thrills me. Perhaps it's the notion of this lone orchid standing alone from all of its orchid friends. Seriously, this little thing is (ALERT! CORNY FLOWER JOKE AHEAD!) no shrinking violet! Ba dum dump! Or, perhaps it's just how dainty it is. Just a little fleck of vibrant color amidst so much green.


Now this? This is just weird. Can you believe nature created this?


And if you can't believe that one, how about this?


Red peppers whose bottoms were roasted? Trumpets?


After nearly an hour of perusing the orchids, we ended up in the 'desert' greenhouse. As you know, delirium can set in in the desert. And it did for us.



We were only too delighted to set up this little optical illusion. I know, it's not that effective. But yes, we are the same people who go to D.C. and take 'that' shot in front of the Washington monument. You know the one.

Snakes in the grass!



And now, I leave you with pure beauty.




Wednesday, March 4, 2009

Love in Unexpected Places

There's a couple that has captured my interest for over a year now. I see them every day. I know their faces, but recognize them first by the way they curl their bodies together to form one entangled web of limbs and love. They keep to themselves, gaze only at each other, speak only to one another. Each morning, as I get off the subway and make my way above ground, I see them knotted up on the same two seats of a four-seat wooden bench. They are homeless.

There's a lot of assumptions I'll admit I've made about homeless people. They lack motivation; they lack morals; they lack commitment. But when I think about it, perhaps the largest, overarching assumption I've made--and made in error--is that the homeless are simply not LIKE everybody else. Yet this couple proves that they are, in fact, 'like' everybody else. Sure, they live a vastly different reality from what most of us are fortunate enough to know. But this couple reminds me that above all the homeless are quite simply human, and thus in possession of the same desire for one of life's most innate needs: love.

At the height of summer, when New York City's subway stations reach temperatures that surely would rival the foyer of hell, I see this couple. In those brutally hot days, just hours after a night spent trying not to touch a single pore of my husband's skin because it's just too damn HOT, I pass these two, clad in sparse strips of clothing, fingers resting on each other, refusing to lose contact. In the dead of winter, when I have no real proof that there are actual people beneath layers of shabby coats and dirty blankets save for the unmistakeable shape of two forms huddled together, I see these two, coiled tight for warmth in single digit temperatures.

It's easy to complain about the hardships we go through within our own couplings, particularly during this increasingly unsettling depress...errr, recession. More and more these days, I imagine couples are wondering how their relationship would weather a hardship such as a job loss, or a house foreclsoure. And yet, I look at this couple. The fears we've all succumbed to expressing at one time or another: "Would you still love me if...'I lost' 'I didn't' 'I couldn't'. It seems they've looked those fears--and perhaps more--in the eye and withstood every test. And is there any truer display of love and commitment than that?

Monday, March 2, 2009

Just a Rat in a Cage

I haven't left the house in two days.

There, now that I've proclaimed to all that I am hopelessly pathetic, shall I try to explain my reasons? Rationalize my motivation for succumbing to sloth? Well, if we're being completely honest, I woke up yesterday morning with a wee bit of a hangover. Oh, right, we're being completely honest. I woke up yesterday morning with a full-on hangover. It was a hangover with all of the classic symptoms. Headache, lethargy, zero desire to bathe and an appetite that would rival Octomom in her third trimester.

But, the day progressed and as the hours slid by, so too did my hangover. By late afternoon I was ready to be up and about, but quickly realized I shouldn't bother as the March 1 Blizzard (also known as the "Gotcha!! Winter Isn't Over Yet, Bitches! Blizzard)was working it's way up the Eastern Seaboard. Sure enough, the first fat flakes started falling yesterday evening and I was damned if I was going to go out and partake. I'm on strike from winter weather.



Fast forward to this morning. I wake up, gently peek through the blinds in the hopes of discovering that this storm had gone the way of past storm predictions and ABC dramas--massively overhyped and anticlimactic. Twas not the case. Luckily my company was compassionate enough to let us work from home--realizing that those of us who do not live in Manhattan didn't stand a chance of getting to work today without arriving ridiculously late and looking like we'd been drug through a Ketchikan car wash. So I perched myself at my kitchen table, fired up my laptop, and hunkered down for Day 2 of self-imposed exile.

Fifteen minutes ago I went to get the mail in the lobby of my apartment building and in so doing, noticed snow shoes deposited outside my neighbor's door. My neighbors have a two-year-old and a newborn. THEY managed to leave the apartment building in the last 48 hours. I am shamed, but still not enough to do anything about it. Tomorrow's another day.