Taking A Break

My brain is fried.

Therefore, I am taking a week off from blogging.  I need to recharge my batteries and get a fresh start.

See you all in a week!!

LA

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Happy 17th

Today is my daughters birthday- which basically means, I know exactly what I was doing seventeen years ago today…

When you have a child (whether it be biological or adoptive), you can’t hope but have dreams and expectations of what your child will be.  When they’re really little, you look at baby books to watch them hit the milestones, see if they’re crawling and saying words when the book says it’s appropriate. Then you watch them take their first swings, or kicks and you think about their athletic prowess. Or you see them at science fair and think Doctor or engineer. The school play makes you thing- ‘watch out Meryl Streep’, and the concert makes you think about being their date to the Grammys. We take our child, and we see the future, what can be….all the good stuff. And these things are all good- they’re great in fact. To be a success at anything requires brains, perseverance, hard work…and sometimes we forget that those are the goals we should be hoping for our children.

Now, you all know I am immensely proud of my daughter.  She has a room full of trophies and plaques, a binder full of certificates, copies of published writings, a school record that is nothing short of outstanding. And yes, I am proud of all these accomplishments. And frankly, a bit astonished, because I know her lineage…

When I first jotted down notes for todays blog, I was going to very smugly give parenting tips highlighting how you can help your child be a high achiever.  But then of course my daughter had to show me up.

As you may know, she is co-captain of her school tennis team, and has been for three years. Last week she came home with an envelope from one of her teammates, a Freshman. In short, the note thanked my daughter for being such a great teammate. She wrote that my daughter helped make the transition to high school so much easier, and that she was grateful for the support my daughter gave her. My daughter smiled when she read the note.  I teared up.

And that’s when I came to my big realization. Out of all the hopes and dreams I have had for my kid, I sort of forgot about hoping that she becomes a good person. And yet, lo and behold, she has become a pretty good person. (not without fault…let’s get that straight….)

What’s the message for today?

Well, obviously Happy 17th to my daughter.

And…

Try to remember to teach your child to be a good person. Think about it like this: how great would the world be if we all tried to make one persons life a little better? Just one person, helping one other person. And… if we tried not to make anyone’s life worse…

Talk about a future filled with possibilities…

Gratitude Saturday November 10

I’m off my game this week: here’s to recharging the internal battery…

  1. Buttered popcorn
  2. Having buttered popcorn with a side of salad for dinner because no one else is home
  3. scarves
  4. Patience
  5. Spotify
  6. Plays that make you think
  7. thermal mugs
  8. dry erase boards
  9. books that you can get lost in
  10. conversations with friends that remind you that you’re not totally crazy or off base

The Lifestyle

I am a huge fangirl of lifestyle books.  I like to read about capsule wardrobes, and unique organizing systems.  I love to read about how to make your home chic, and how to throw an amazing dinner party. I love to read about beauty routines, and how people pamper themselves.  I may not actively choose to do all these things, but the joy in reading about them…priceless.

I recently read “Living Forever Chic: Frenchwomen’s Timeless Secrets for Everyday Elegance, Gracious Entertaining, and Enduring Allure” by Tish Jett (2018- Rizzoli). I want to be elegant everyday!  I want to enduringly alluring! I don’t want to entertain, but I can skim that…. So you see- I went into this book with certain expectations. I went into page 1 as a lump of clay, and I expected to come out as a beautiful and unique sculpture. And I as sit here writing in my bathrobe and fluffy slippers- I don’t know if I’ve succeeded…

L’art de vivre is loosely translated as the art of living. But can you teach someone the art of living? And more importantly, do people need to be taught how to live?

I get sucked into the philosophy of these books because I am always trying to live my life more minimally and simply. And this book does do that..to a certain extent. The capsule wardrobe is explored- have ten or twenty great pieces and manipulate them to form many different looks and outfits.  Buy quality over quantity.  Alter clothes so they fit perfectly. Stick with a neutral color palette.  Accessorize, accessorize, accessorize. This is truly my goal: I want to own no more than ten articles of clothing per season, and just be able to take five minutes to pick out an outfit, yet look fabulous.

Yet, here’s where they start to lose me: the author advocates always being “dressed”.  She writes in slacks and loafers.  She puts an apron on over her good, expensive clothes when cooking.  I just don’t think this is practical. I write in my bathrobe, or in my gym clothes, or in sweats and a t shirt. When I begin to cook dinner I change into a gross t shirt (I am not the neatest cook in the world). I am a true believer in comfortable, junky clothes. If I’m watching TV at night, I don’t want to be in slacks and a blouse… So does this mean I’m not effortlessly elegant?

And let’s delve into the household aspect for a second.  I do not iron my 8000 thread count sheets and spritz them with lavender water. I know.  You’re wagging your finger at me, asking me how I can exist like this….here’s a secret- I own very nice sheets but they are by no means the equivalent cost of a mortgage payment… I wash my sheets…I put them back on the bed…I sleep fine.  But I guess not elegantly.

I also do not have an armoire filled with table linens and different baskets and things that can be used as a centerpiece on my tablescape.  I have a vase that I fill with flowers. For Thanksgiving I throw a couple of gourds in the middle of the table.  At Easter I put some plastic eggs…You’re beginning to get the idea of how I entertain…Elegant? Not even a bit…

I don’t make my own potpourri. Apparently, there is no way I can master l’art de vivre without drying petals…Here’s the thing: I am all for a simple, sophisticated lifestyle. But once I need to start making my own potpourri, I’ve lost the simple. It starts to veer off into territory I don’t want to explore…

Then there’s the charm part.  I am not Princess Charming.  I am Queen Sarcasm. I don’t know how to “small talk”. I do not know how to start conversations with strangers.  I am great with people that I know- I can talk to them for hours.  But put me at a cocktail party with people I don’t know….I freeze. I revert to “Wow- can you believe how windy it was today?” I can read books about how to talk to people, but that doesn’t mean I can actually do it…Elegance….fail.

So….

Am I more elegant or alluring since I read this book? No.  Probably not.

Did I enjoy parts of this book? Yes.  Very much so.

Did some parts of the book make me want to throw my ipad across the room.  Yes.

And I guess that’s the thing about lifestyle books: we read the parts that are important to us, and we skim over what doesn’t work. No one lifestyle book is going to work for anyone because we are al unique people: we are not one size fit all.  We all have things that work for us, and we shouldn’t change it just because a book, or website or blog says that we should.  The art of living is when you figure out a way of life that fits you, brings out the best in you, makes you feel confident and at ease. It makes you internally elegant and alluring. So write your own art of living book, even if it’s just for you.

What We Learn

School: the place where we learn reading and writing and arithmetic. Sometimes we need to memorize things. Sometimes we need to do things in a specific way. But we always need to learn how to use all the facts that we’ve accumulated in our head. That’s the point of school, to learn the basics and then expand our knowledge base.

Recently, my daughter gave her an opinion on a subject.  She was told “I don’t like what they’re teaching you at that school.” I shared an anecdote about something my daughter said and the person responded ‘Wow- I can’t believe Mr. C taught them that in class.” And in both cases I responded- “That’s not what she was taught.  Her statement is how she interprets the facts presented before her.”

See, here’s the thing: everything is up for interpretation.

I think somewhere along the line we’ve forgotten what the purpose of school is. Learning has been diluted down to how well someone does on a standardized test. If you fill in the box correctly, if you’ve successfully figured out the rubric, you’ve learned.  You know things if you get a certain score.

And we’ve forgotten that learning isn’t about regurgitating information.  We’ve forgotten that learning is about forming an opinion, taking something to the next level, trying to figure out how to break new ground. Figuring out that there are options and possibilities beyond what’s on the page.

We’ve forgotten that learning is not confined to the classroom. Learning happens all around us, all the time.  Every time you read a blog, you’ve learned something.  Every time you watch something on TV or the internet, talk to someone, walk down the street or drive in your car, you’ve learned something. And you take all those experiences, add them to the facts that are floating around in your head, and you form an opinion, or a hypothesis. Then you make a statement to someone, engage in a discussion.  And hopefully the person will think about what you’ve said, and come up with an intelligent response.  (FYI- an intelligent response is not- I don’t like what they’re teaching you in school)

So, here’s your lesson for the day: Don’t repeat facts that you’ve heard. Form your own opinion.  Think about all the evidence and interpret it any way you see fit.  There isn’t a right opinion or a wrong one: it’s all about how you interpret the flow of information set before you. And remember: the most important thing we learn in school is how to think.

 

The Tale of a Woman and her Errands

The Scene: Women sitting at vanity in her small Manhattan bedroom, blowdrying her hair.

Protagonist smells something noxious.

Protagonist immediately shuts off blow dryer, looks at it suspiciously, and unplugs it from extension cord. She immediately goes through her apartment, smelling things in an attempt to find source of smell.

Unable to trace the noxious smell to its source, she assumes its blow dryer related and pulls extension cord out of wall, and shuts the switch that electrifies this area of the apartment.

She begins to feel the wall to see if its hot, even though she rationally knows that the wires and such are coated because this is a high rise and has to meet certain safety standards.

Not satisfied with her detective work, protagonist calls up building handyman to make sure all is right with apartment.

He patiently tells her that yes, as the blow dryer uses a lot of power, it probably shorted out the very cheap extension cord that it was plugged into.  He checks everything, and flips the switch to restore power in this area, and tells woman to get a better extension cord.

Which protagonist immediately does.  She goes to the hell that is Home Depot and stands blindly in the aisle that contains extension cords, cursing the Gods that her one friend that actually speaks hardware is not available for a consultation. She ends up with the Mercedes of extension cords, because more expensive must be better, right?

Now meanwhile, as the protagonist was making the fifteen minute walk to Home Depot, she started to not feel well. But she needed to get a new cord.

After she utilized the self check out, she continued on her errands.  Our protagonist had a list.  The protagonist must follow the list at all costs.  She was already off track due to extension cordgate.

As she continued to Sixth Avenue, she started to feel worse. But alas, she really needed to buy a beauty blender, black leggings and a canvas container from container store. Remember- this was her to do list for the day. These things could not possibly wait till next week.  Blasphemy.  She needed to have the beauty blender and she needed it now!

So she trudged on.

And promptly got sick at Bed Bath and Beyond.

After she left the bathroom, she briefly considered going to Old Navy…

But she relented and began the fifteen minute walk home.

And all she could think about on that walk home was how she accomplished nothing of what she set out to do that afternoon.

Our protagonist (I’m not going to call her a hero) was perfectly willing to make sure that the electric and her apartment building were safe, which she should. But she was unable to recognize that maybe she should listen to her body when it’s telling her to stop. She immediately went into action when it was about others, but pushed it aside when it was about her.

And our protagonist can’t help but wonder how many others are just like her- taking care of the needs of others but not listening to their own bodies and minds. And she hopes that maybe at least one of them will listen to this cautionary tale….

A Tale of Two Aunts

Last week I lost my Aunt M, wife of my Father’s brother.  My Husband also lost an Aunt- the wife of his Mother’s brother.

When my parents found out about the death, they talked to my two cousins, sent a fruit basket to the house, and figured out if it were feasible to get from New Jersey to Louisiana.  When my MIL found out about the death, she asked the children of the deceased to pay for her plane ticket from Florida to New Jersey.

Let me backtrack: I have never met my Husband’s Aunt, nor the cousins, nor his Uncle when he was alive.  Obviously, it wasn’t a distance thing because they only live an hour away from us.  I never met them because my Mother in Law hadn’t spoken to her brother in about twenty years.  They reconciled about eight years ago, sort of, and then he passed about two years ago.  But to be clear, the relationship was contentious.  And now, well, now there’s no relationship again.

See, oddly, the family of the deceased did not take kindly to my MIL asking for a plane ticket. After my MIL’s third email about the trip up from the funeral, the daughter of the deceased called up screaming.  And my MIL hung up on her.

When Husband relayed this story to me, I just looked at him and said- “everyone remembers that your cousins Mom just died, right? That even though it was expected, it’s still hard and she’s raw? And that the “job” of those around her is to make her feel a little better about her loss? Not to aggravate her?” My husband just shrugged his shoulders.

If I wrote this story in a book, people would say I wasn’t being realistic, that this would never happen in real life. But as we all know, truth is stranger than fiction.  And people act in mysterious ways. I’m sure when my MIL relays this story to her friends she will undoubtedly make herself the victim (let’s face it, we all spin stories so that we show that we are wronged)

So the moral of the story is: think about what you’re saying and what you’re doing.  Think about how your actions affect those around you.  Consider for a brief moment what they are going through. And try to act in a way that is true to yourself, but considerate of those around you. And don’t hang up on a person who is grieving because they’re not doing what you want them to do.

 

Looks do Matter

I’ve told you all about my daughters “special day” breakfast.  When she has a big event, test, law team, match, she gets what she refers to as the breakfast of champions- egg and cheese on a roll with a nestle chocolate milk from the corner bodega. And I always get this for her- she tells me what time she needs it and I plan accordingly.

We had this all set up for the day of her college interview. I had gone to the gym and I was getting dressed (for the record- I know exactly how long it will take me to get dressed) After my make up was on, I was blowing out my hair.  In my bathrobe.  My daughter called to me that mass transit was screwed up and she needed extra commute time- could I get her sandwich early?

Sure. I threw on the clothes closest to me- which were my writing clothes.  Now, I have specific writing clothes- they are comfy.  And by comfy I mean loose.  By loose I mean at least one size too big.  Really big sweat pants.  Really big flannel shirt. And my scruffy dog walking shoes. I grabbed six dollars out of my wallet and ran across the street.

I ordered my sandwich from the same counter guy who has worked there forever. I heard him say $2.95 to the cashier.  Before I paid, I realized I forgot the chocolate milk, so I ran to get it.

Again I approached the counter and said to the cashier- egg and cheese- pointing to the sandwich. She rang it up.

“6.80$” she said

I’ve been buying this combo for nine years.  I have a pretty good idea what it costs.

“How much is the sandwich?” I ask.

“$3.95.”

“Really?” I look back to the price board

And then the cashier starts to back track. She says what’s the sandwich and starts blubbering all the things people say when they’ve been caught out.

See- I’m pretty sure she thought I was homeless.

So she tried to take advantage of this.

So here’s my message for today: Don’t judge people by what they wear, or how they look.

Week in Review November 4

Now that the stores are full on Christmas…as well as TV channels…

To Read: Ghosted by Rosie Walsh.  I thought this was an interesting love story- not without fault, but a slightly different twist on love and fate.

To See: Beautiful Boy- movie in theaters. This is a tough movie for parents as it deals with a teen sinking into the depths of addiction, but I thought it was well done.  Apparently the book written by David Sheff is even better

To Listen: I put this weeks playlist on shuffle and these are the first five things that came up:

  1. La Boeuf sur la Toit Op. 58 Milhaude- beautiful piece
  2. Nine Inch Nail- Ahead of ourselves
  3. USA for Africa- We Are the World
  4. Madonna (Timberlake) 4 Minutes
  5. Rufus Wainwright- Going to a Town

To Read: Living Forever Chic: Frenchwomen’s Timeless Secrets for Everyday Elegance by Tish Jett. I sort of love these lifestyle books.  I’m going to do a blog about this for anyone interested in what I learned and what I interpreted from this

To Do: New York Botanic Garden- Kiku- There are Japanese chrysanthemum that only bloom for about two weeks a year, which happens to be now.  Spectacular.  I will be doing a picture blog this week about them.

To go to: Morgan Library: It’s Alive! Frankenstein at 200.  Fantastic exhibit if you are a fan of Frankenstein and the genre it’s created.  This book is especially timely in todays environment, and the movies are just fun.

And that wraps up my week!

Shalom