It Reminds Me Of…

PBS used to do a show “The Bletchly Circle” about women who had worked as codebreakers during WWII. Loved it. I recently found out that there was a new version with some of the British characters but taking place in San Francisco. Unfortunately it is only available on BritBox, a 6.99 addition to Amazon…seriously- I don’t pay enough for Amazon already? But…they did have a 7 day trial…and my family was away for four days…

So I binge watched British murder mysteries for four days…

After I finished Bletchly, I tuned in to the Jane Hickson Miss Marple series from the 80’s. I am a huge fan of Marple. Those were the first Christie books that I had ever read, and I have an affinity towards the working of the Marple mind. I remember watching these adaptations when they first came out and thinking that Hickson might be the quintessential Marple. And after rewatching them, I know that she was.

I will watch any Agatha Christie show in any form- movie, mini series, PBS…I even recently saw an off Broadway production of “Death on the Nile”. If there were an all Agatha all the time channel I would watch it (as long as I didn’t need to pay 6.99 a month- I mean- I have my limits) By now, I have become a connoisseur of sorts. I know my Marple.

Since the Hickson series of the 80’s, PBS has had a few other actors play Marple. Geraldine McEwan in the early 2000’s, followed by Julia McKenzie. Both are wonderful actresses. I have no problem with either of them being cast as Marple. What I do have a problem with is the actual interpretation of the sleuth.

The beauty of the character Miss Marple was her brain- she had a great intellect for deducing things. Marple didn’t crawl along floors or hide behind curtains to solve crimes. She used her own brand of logic. Her particular specialty was her ability to draw comparisons. She was a great observer of people and their habits: she was able to figure out a person’s character rather quickly. Whenever she met someone knew she would come up with a comparison  with someone from her village- “Oh yes that Tom chap- he reminds me of the nephew of my neighbor, always seemed to be way too flattering of the neighbors flowers, turns out he was stealing from them” or something of that sort. Marple was able to see through to someone’s true nature and character. She was observant and a solver of puzzles. The Hickson interpretation showed this clearly. The other versions did not show this at all. The writers simply eliminated these personality traits from the series. There were no more references to crosswords, jigsaws or chess. No more folksy comparisons. I’m going to have to rewatch the other series to see exactly how Marple solved the crimes. (but not for 6.99 a month)

Why do writers eliminate parts of a character that actually make up the character? Why would you take out the essence of a character?

I realize that people want to modernize things. I know that things need to be brought up to date, and a screenwriter has the license to adapt something any way they please. But if they eliminate the main trait of a character, why bother doing the adaptation at all? Why not just adapt something else? Or start fresh?

So- have you ever watched a recurring character and see a screenwriter change the major parts of a character? Have you ever seen a character you loved in a book brought to screen and you just want to scream “No! That’s not how it’s supposed to be?”

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Eliminating and Melding

I love books.

I love movies.

I don’t always love books made into movies.

One of my biggest pet peeves is when characters are eliminated or melded together. I understand why it’s done: keep production costs down by reducing headcount, keep storyline cleaner, save time. I understand the practicality- I am all about the practical. But….

The first time I encountered this daunting character thing was upon reading Gone With the Wind. SPOILER ALERT: In the book Scarlett has three children, Bonnie is her third. The movie adaptation of this book only has her having one child.

Blasphemy.

Even at twelve, I was incredulous that this had been allowed to happen. It was a 9 thousand hour movie, with 8 billion people in the cast. Really? They couldn’t cast two kids? The additional kids were a great way to really look at Scarlett’s character as a whole person. Being a Mother changes you, or should change you? Did we miss integral parts of the story because they weren’t included in the movie? Did the premise change? How much of the integrity of the book was compromised by cutting out these characters?

Not long after my disillusionment with the movie/book dilemma of GWTW, I encountered another slight- “Rich Man, Poor Man” (SPOILER AHEAD) In the movie there is a sister character and a girlfriend character. In the mini series, these characters were combined.

What? Combine a sister and a girlfriend to make one character? Madness…

Now, I admit that RMPM is not a classic of literature- it’s a page turning soap opera of a story. But you take any lesson or value or literariness out of the book by melding these two characters together. If the book had melded these characters it might not have gotten published- that’s how strong the need is for there to be two separate characters. Nature/nurture was a strong foundation of the novel, and it was completely reduced to cheap and tawdry in the mini series. But I guess even back in the seventies we just wanted cheap and tawdry…

So- which book/movie adaptations annoy you the most regarding eliminating or melding of characters? These were the ones that came to mind because these were the first time I recognized the phenomenon.  Which characters were integral to the storyline of a book but ended up in the vast black hole of unused characters?

 

Tempty Nesting: The Wrap Up

My Daughter arrives home late tonight. Judging from the pictures, a good time was had by all… Here’s some random thoughts from my week:

  1. Evening went by rather quickly. Saturday we spent the day at the Morgan Library. Sunday was Easter- we were at my parents. Monday- we went out to dinner. Tuesday he had a work dinner. Wednesday he played tennis and then we watched TV. Thursday I went to the theater with my Mom. We are going out to dinner tonight. Coexisting time successful.
  2. There is something to being able to do things spontaneously. Husband was supposed to go to Met game on Monday but he bailed because of rain. Tuesday he was supposed to be home but got invited to something at last minute. My Father was supposed to go to play with my Mom but wasn’t feeling well. We were able to pick up and go because my Daughter wasn’t even a consideration. It was a weird feeling.
  3. We did not watch as much TV as I thought we would- that’s what many empty nesters tell me happens- TV viewership goes up
  4. But- we have two TV’s in our apartment: one in the living room and one in my Daughter’s bedroom. I did find myself going in my daughters bedroom to watch TV at about 10:30 because I could not face any more hockey or basketball.  I can see the whole TV thing coming to fruition. Her bedroom makes for a really nice den.
  5. My Daughter texted me on Tuesday or Wednesday “Do you want to talk to me?” I responded “Sure. But why?” and she wrote back- “well, everyone has called their parents by now. I feel bad that I haven’t called.” To be fair, we had texted each other randomly throughout her stay- more housekeeping than anything else. I figured she was having fun. I didn’t need to talk to her. Funny she felt guilty though.
  6. However- I did keep my phone out at all times in case she tried to reach me. Will I ever not keep my phone out when she’s away? Will I ever not want to look at “Where’s my iPhone?”
  7. My dog got into my garbage twice this week. And proceeded to spout out of both ends. Considering college for my dog.

I know that this was easy to get through because it was a short period of time and the weather is nice. I realize that in a few months it will be a much different experience. Packing up her clothes and computer and guitar will be much harder. Knowing she’s gone will be daunting.

But I’ll survive….

I am the Most Boring Person Ever

I had a busy day yesterday and when I got to read the comments I noticed that many of them were of a similar thread. So instead of answering everyone individually I am writing a post addressing some of the comments. If I missed your comment/query, don’t worry- there’s always tomorrow…

  1. My worry about empty nesting is not about being bored. I have lots of hobbies that I love. I have absolutely no problem exploring a new interest. I don’t think I’ve said the words “I’m bored” since I was 17.  I’m not worried about the seemingly free hours ahead of me.
  2. Though I love to travel, finances are a consideration. College costs a lot of money.
  3. My Husband and I have been doing “dates” for years. We go out at least one evening a week and usually spend at least one day/afternoon together on the weekends.
  4. Husband and I do theme things: he loves food and I love exploring different neighborhoods, so we meld this together. Over the winter we did our own ramen tour. We found a list (Thrillist) of the best ramen places in NYC and we tried a whole bunch of them (not all on the same day- we did one a week). We would find a theater or exhibit or something fun in the neighborhood of the ramen shop, and make a day of it. Previously we’ve done sandwiches, hand pulled noodles and pizza.
  5. We get along really well. We are not the couple at the restaurant who just stare at one another. We talk. In fact we talk a lot. We laugh. We have fun. But is that enough?

My concerns:

  1. I am a very different person than the one I was 18 years ago. I no longer like hanging out in bars. For the record, if there is trivia, or arcade games, live music or tastings involved, I am right there. I do not like to sit at a generic bar and drink. My husband has friends that love to do this. I mean, this is their idea of a fun night out. To be clear, I am bored after five minutes.
  2. I have become a day person. I like to get out of the house- but I greatly prefer being home at night. Again, my husband is sort of the opposite.
  3. We do not have many couple friends- I have friends and he has friends, but our groups don’t overlap. How do you make couple friends?
  4. We’ve known each other for 25 years- how much more is there to talk about?
  5. My daughter is not a buffer, yet she is. It’s just the way life is set up. She’s at the dinner table with us. She’s on vacation with us. She asks for help with things. It’s having a kid and being a parent. We’re a family- a unit. When one leaves the dynamic shifts.

So…

What’s the secret to long term relationships? What makes some couples work and some implode?

And you know I’m going to overthink and analyze this, so….

Am I the Most Boring Person

Dear Abby,

I am about to embark on empty nesthood and I realize there is nothing I want to learn or do or anything of the sort?

Am I the most boring person in the world?

Yours truly,

Dazed and Confused

When I talked about book clubs yesterday, many suggested that I should do something that I’ve always wanted to do but was unable to do because of parenthood, or what ever.

Here’s the thing: there is literally nothing I put off doing because I was a parent. There is not one thing that I have the absolute desire to do.

Part of it is because I was 37 when I had my daughter. I had a lot of years to take classes and lessons and do things. If I had an interest, I explored it. Scuba. Check. Mountain biking. Check. Skiing. check (and trust me- I hate skiing- I didn’t get on ski’s the past 17 years because I really don’t like it)

And as my daughter got older, I started adding things to my roster. I took some writing classes. I volunteered at my daughter’s school for YEARS. I held positions and raised funds did whatever her various schools needed. NYC has some tough restrictions for kids volunteering (and adults for that matter) so I chopped vegetables along side her for years at a soup kitchen. We all know I’m a culture vixen and I go to exhibits and plays and concerts all the time. I love to cook, and I probably try five new recipes a week. I’ve been taking photos every day. I took an embroidery class and I’ve been playing with that. I bought some canvases and paint and I’ve been dabbling with those things. I’ve always wanted to write, and though it’s taking awhile, I am working on my novel, and that will definitely take up even more of my time once she’s gone. I already do the things I’m passionate about.

I don’t want to learn how to dance. I mean seriously- whenever I hear someone say that they wished their partner wanted to go dancing, or just mentions a club I break out into hives. There is really nothing I hate more than shuffling my feet to the beat of music. If I ever needed to write a dating profile it would definitely say “Dancers need not apply”

I’m OK with my very bare knowledge of French and Italian. It gets me through a restaurant menu. Rosetta Stone is not in my future.

If I have an interest in a subject I pick up a book or go to a lecture or go to a class. I have always done these things. Even having a child if I wanted to learn something I just did it.

So- either I just tackle things that interest me…or I am the most boring person in the world, because there is just nothing I “can’t wait to do.”

I already feel pretty satisfied with my actual. personal life…I am personally fulfilled. I am not really worried about filling up hours in my planner.

My worry is how do I learn to live with just my Husband. We haven’t been alone in 17 years. What comes next with that?

 

The Bookclubs

As you may know, I belong to two book clubs: one in my building that meets monthly, and one with my tea club that meets five times a year. You also know that I set a yearly reading goal of fifty books, so my aim is to finish one book a week. We can assume that I love to read, and I love to discuss books that I’ve read

Recently I found out that two lower Manhattan book stores hold book clubs once a month.

Can you see the lightbulb flashing?

I’m considering joining these two book clubs.

One of them meets at my local Barnes and Noble and reads new and hyped books. The May selection is “Lost Roses” by the same woman who wrote “Lilac Girls”. What do I think about the book? Well, that’s a secret I’m going to share at my first book club meeting…

The other book club is at an smaller more eclectic book shop. They focus on literature in translation, and the first book is a biography about some French person. I’m fifty/fifty as to whether I start out with this book this month.

Why am I considering joining two new book clubs?

Well, that’s easy: I know I need to fill up some of my evenings. Empty nest=empty evenings. And while I do chill to a certain extent, in the beginning it will be hard to adjust to not having my daughter in the apartment. I’ve gotten used to be asked to review an essay or quiz her on something- this has been my life for twelve years- assistant to the student. At 11, I usually sit in her room with her for a few minutes. We both sip tea and discuss our day that just passed, or out day coming up. This has become our ritual. And I know come August 23, it will abruptly end. Many of my rituals will end.

The thought of not having a routine is unsettling.

I am the Queen of routine. I have routines and patterns and spreadsheets for literally everything. I need to start integrating my new routine into place before she leaves…I need to integrate in many new routines.

Can you feel me hyperventilating?

Breath. Focus. Logic.

The problem with my book clubs is that they happen to meet on consecutive evenings: first Monday of the month for one, the first Tuesday of the month for the other. Do I want to have book clubs back to back? Can I walk into one of them and ask them to change the date? No? Yeah- I guess that’s taking control to a whole new level…

The other problem is that I don’t love certain genres. I’m OK with the club that reads the hyped books: I’m probably reading them on my own anyway. But the other? I have no idea if it’s going to be a bunch on non fiction. I don’t love discussing non fiction books in book club. I mean, what do you say? She shouldn’t have done that with her life? What can you actually discuss about a biography other than reiterate what the author said in the book…And again, I can’t dictate what this club should read…

And finally- if I belong to all these book clubs, will I have time to read the books that I just want to read for my pleasure? I realize that I will have more time, but… Do I want to make my yearly reading goal 75 books?

Now I get that book clubs are just a way to hide behind the loneliness that I will experience, but we all need something to hide behind for a little while, until we get out feet back on the ground. And a book club is relatively inexpensive, and not exactly bad for you. I’m already addicted to books as it is. What’s a few more?

Tempty Nesting: The Beginning

At 9am this past Saturday morning, my Daughter and her four closest friends were on a plane to the Caribbean. Making me the proud owner of a temporary empty nest.

Spring Break. Woo Hoo.

So how did out temporary empty nest start out? Well, after I put my daughter into a car at 5:45, I went back to sleep for an hourish. Yes, I like an early start to the day. But having gotten up at 5 to talk to my daughter as she got ready was even pushing it for me.

Then I read the paper.

I went to the gym.

Then we went to an exhibit. Kim- this will be of interest to you: The Morgan Library in New York is doing a Tolkien exhibit- drawings, letters, family photos. Very cool, and very crowded exhibit. And they are doing a themed lunch! So my husband and I split Shire food- eggs not broken, peppered beef, twice baked honey cafes, mead. I am a lover of cider so I became a big fan of mead. I’m looking forward to walking into a bar and asking for a tankard of their finest mead…..

When we were done, it was 3pm. My Husband looked at me and said: “What do you want do to do now?”

And so begins the tale of what our life will be like in August.

I said that I would be perfectly happy going home, reading, maybe find something to watch on TV. Chilling out. Husband asked- “Do you want to go out tonight?” And I could think of no compelling reason to go out. I knew I wasn’t going to be that hungry for dinner. There were no movies that both my Husband and I would enjoy. I didn’t want to go out for the sake of going out…

But what do empty nesters do at night?

I normally go out one night, maybe two a week. My Husband is often out more. He’s not a stay at home sort of person. And back in the day, I used to go out most nights. I used to like it.

Now?

I realized that part of the reason I don’t go out at night is because I have had a kid in the house. But part of the reason is that I just don’t want to go out at night all that often. I like reading. I like writing. I learned how to embroider this year and it’s pretty fun.  But is this going to be enough to keep me occupied for the rest of my life?

So we stayed home Saturday night. I made a simple and light dinner. We watched a silly murder mystery show on TV. And it was fine.

But will it be enough?

Is There Something Wrong With Me

A few weeks ago my daughter and I were sitting in the living room. I was writing in my planner, she was watching an episode of “The Office”. She paused the show and began a conversation:

Daughter- Is it odd that I like being by myself as much as I like being with my friends?”

Me (to myself)  Gee- You’re asking ME if it’s odd to want alone time?

Me (out loud this time)  No. Not at all. We’re introverts. We need solo time to recharge our batteries.

Daughter- But why does it seem like everyone else always want people around? I mean, I was studying, but now I’m not, and instead of reaching out to someone, I decided to watch TV.

Me- Everyone is different. Some people feed off the energy of others. Some get zapped by too much external energy. Sometimes your brain needs a rest.

Daughter- But is it normal?

Why do introverts always feel like they are odd?

For some reason, society has decided that being surrounded by people at all times is superior to being by yourself. If you see a someone dining alone, most people feel bad. They think- oh- that poor person has no friends. It’s so sad that they are by themselves. We assume they are upset. But we don’t know this. We automatically thing: they’re alone. They’re losers.

We judge.

My daughter has a lot of friends, including the same best friend since second grade. She doesn’t get into catty dramatic situations. She is a good friend and can be trusted, and has sought out friends who do the same. She is going on Spring Break (woo hoo) with them beginning tomorrow.

She is not a loner.

In elementary school she was the girl who hosted sleepovers with ten girls. Just imagine a room littered with sleeping bags and giggles. And middle school saw her Friday afternoon pizza parties where eight kids would be around the TV playing video games. And high school saw Sunday brunches with friends and mega Instagram events featuring six duck faced girls.

She likes people and is a good friend.

But she also likes to study. And she likes to read. And she likes to binge watch TV shows. All by herself.

So why does she wonder if she’s normal?

What is normal anyway?

And why does society think wanting to stay home alone on a Saturday night and study is weird?

People also have weird responses to her habits. She doesn’t have a boyfriend and has never harbored a desire. There have been no crushes in her teen years. There’s just been a lot of tennis and law team and drama club and newspaper. There’s been a lot of writing and reading. Yet…people have told us that she Definitely has a secret boyfriend. She’s just not telling us. Because it’s more normal to think a teen is lying than just not interested enough in dating. Dating is normal. Not dating is……weird

And then the same for parties. My daughter has never attended a traditional high school party. She doesn’t like the idea of them. And they tend to get raided by the police and there was no way she was screwing up her record and ruin her chances of a good college. Yet people insist she sneaks out to parties- that she just doesn’t tell us she’s going. Why? Because it’s normal for a teen to attend parties. If you don’t, it’s weird…

So why do we judge kids who aren’t the loudest in the room?

Why do we judge those who don’t like a heavy social scene?

Why do we judge those who like to spend time alone?

 

 

Because I’m Not

I have spent three days talking about how much I love being alone, and how much it nourishes my soul. I said to my friend last week, “I think I was meant to be alone.” Of course I was basking in the afterglow of a jetted bath, face masque freshly washed off, tea in hand and the property brothers on the tv in front of me. I was in a unique and blissful and perfect setting. It was an amazing moment to relish.

But it wasn’t reality. It was a fantasy twelve hours in a hotel suite. I got to pretend to be single and childless for a few hours. And that’s the exact word: pretend. Because being alone is not my real life, so a few hours with nothing to do and no one to please was a treat.

Do I really want to be alone?

I think we all long for a respite from the day to day. People with no kids often love an afternoon with nieces and nephews but are more than relieved to let them go after a few active hours. Parents with small children often look forward to sleeping in, no matter how much of a morning person they are. I think everyone needs a vacation from their actual lives.

But do we want to change places?

Do we want that opposite life?

I loved my alone time. I love alone time. But I think I have a spouse and child for a reason. I think I have a small but well cultivated social network for a reason. I love having a family and friends AND I love to spend some time alone. Unfortunately, sometimes the balance gets shifted. When you’re a parent and/or have a needy spouse, you sometimes fall victim to the martyr syndrome: you do what you need to do to make everyone around you happy, but sometimes forget about yourself.

Cue the teeny tiny violins. Woe is me with my family and my friends while all I wish  for is solitude…

We adapt to our environments. We make the best out of whatever situation we find ourselves in. But it does get easy to get into the “grass is greener” mindset. It’s easy for me to talk about alone time because I don’t have to worry about being alone: I’m not. And conversely, someone who is single can crave family time and want it because they know they have the opposite.

So while I wax poetic about my two weekends alone, do I really want to make that 52 weekends?

 

Sometimes a Bike is Just a Bike

I think you know that I am about to be an empty nester. My Daughter will not be living in her bedroom anymore- (yeah- breaks and all, but really- she will no longer be a full time resident at Chez LA)

A somewhat empty bedroom….

Hmmm….

I’ve been looking at her bedroom with an appraising eye- if I get rid of the desk which is mainly broken,and cabinet next to it, which contains school paraphernalia, I will have room for a piece of exercise equipment. A nice stationary bike. Or maybe an elliptical.

I explained this theory to a friend of mine, who happens to be a writer/editor. And his first response was “Are you sure you want to cut out your guaranteed outside connection to the world? You know, when you are inside writing all day…”  He was looking at it as being alone too much. Lots of me time without benefit of other voices. That maybe it wasn’t good to be by myself for that much time. If you’ve read me this week, you know I’ve been reveling in alone time. I had two weekends in a row where I had serious alone time. And I loved it. Unapologetically loved it.

Is my desire to be alone too much?

Is wanting to quit the gym and get a piece of equipment for my house too much alone time?

Here’s the thing. I don’t consider my gym time to be particularly social. I go to the gym, I work out, I come home. Period. True, I say Hi and briefly chat with the regulars who are there at the same time as me always, but honestly, I don’t hold any actual connection to these people: I don’t even know their names: I know them by what equipment they favor- bike guy, stairmaster woman, guy who grunts when he lifts weights, woman who preens to much as she stretches. This isn’t interaction. This is just seeing people who have the same schedule as me, like seeing the people who take mass transit the same time every day. My daughter recognizes her bus driver, but no one is calling that social.

So is getting a piece of home gym equipment a step towards turning into a recluse? Do I want to get a stationary bike so I can avoid social contact?

Well, in a word, No.

I am not thinking about exercising at home because I want to be alone.

I’m considering it because my gym fees are almost usurious. I shouldn’t have to pay a monthly fee because I want the ability to exercise indoors. This is really about cutting cost.

And of course, convenience and efficiency. It will be so nice to wake up, throw on sweats and walk across the apartment and just do a workout. No dodging raindrops, tramping through snow, getting annoyed if the guy opening the gym is late. I can make my own hours, I’m not tied to a schedule. I can throw in laundry, exercise, throw it in the dryer and exercise some more. It’s brilliant.

So sometimes there is no deep seeded reason to an issue. Sometimes it just is what it is.