Much To My Delight

Much To My Delight

The Mysterious Art of Doing Nothing

 

“You don’t know how to relax.” I was splayed across the sofa when my  husband said it, so the sentence didn’t even make sense to me.

He said he knew it the first time we watched a movie together. We were in Galveston for a wedding ages ago, when we were still just friends, and I wanted to show him Say Anything since he’d never seen it before. I had seen it before, many times, so I sat on the floor and made a scrapbook while he watched the movie with respect and concentration from the couch. Vinny has reminded me of Lloyd Dobbler ever since. I am probably more Diane Court than I’d like to admit.

“Yeah, you can never just sit around and relax. You always have to be doing something productive. It’s just who you are.”

I mean, he’s not wrong. I do have a weird thing about sitting around too long without doing anything. It makes me feel kind of worthless, and frankly, a little depressed. I can do it for a little while, but a whole day of sitting around the house doing nothing but watching Netflix reminds me of having the flu. Vin compares me to a restless, yappy little dog; eventually I need to be taken outside for a walk.

This comes up now because we are officially on day one of our first ever “Staycation”. We’ve had some mixed ideas on how to spend this time. When prompted about what he wants to do, Vin will quickly say, “Nothing. I really want to do nothing.” Doing “nothing” sounds good to me for about an hour or so, but my time off is so precious that if I go back to work next Monday reporting that I did nothing, I’ll feel sad about it. I say, “Sure…yeah, but we’ve gotta do something out of the ordinary, right? Something to break up the monotony of our everyday work lives? Something fun!”

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Staycation Vin

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Staycation Jenn

“Eh, I really want to do nothing. Maybe go to a movie or two.” Movies, unfortunately for my husband, are where I either scrapbook or fall asleep. My suggestions have been horseback riding in Van Cortlandt Park, perusing the Metropolitan Museum before having wine at the rooftop bar, and taking a quick day-trip upstate to go antiquing (immediately vetoed). I want to go somewhere great for Restaurant Week, have coffee and pastries at the little Italian bakery up the street, make homemade ice cream (chocolate malt and sage-lemon), take a crack at duplicating my friend Tara’s strawberry-rhubarb pie, and go bike riding somewhere, anywhere. I have a feeling Vin is going to read this blog post and run far far away.

But hopefully before he does, we’ll get a phone call from my dad, and when Vin is prompted to describe how he wants to spend our Staycation week, he’ll have the opportunity to say, “Sir, I just want to be with your daughter.”

It sounds so much sweeter than nothing.

 

 

 

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A Day in the Life: Saturday in the City

 

7am: My brain says water, but my heart yells coffee.

7-9: Writing at my little rolling desk I’ve set in the yard for the summer. Every morning I go out back with my laptop, a towel on my head and pajamas on. I’ve imagined Hemingway in a similar setup. Every great writer gets his start in drawstring pants.

9: Vinny’s home!! Away in Sacramento for work all week, my long-haired love has just arrived home from his red-eye flight. He looks a hot, tired mess, but I am in no position to judge. We both slept terribly last night and I’ve got circles the size of beanbags under my eyes right now.

9:15: We are never up this early together, so we make the most of it and drive into brunch at a trendy spot in Soho where the food is highly instagrammable. The place is teeny-tiny, and elbows are flying everywhere as people steal their shakshuka’s soul with iPhone cameras. I spot a few couples eating their food in complete silence across from one another, clicking through their phones the whole time. Sign of the times, or sign of the end?

11:00: By the time we’re done eating the line to get in is down the block. It is composed almost entirely of 20-something Caucasian women in small dresses and denim cut-offs. I am waiting for someone to aim the phone down at the gutter beside them, which is teeming with filthy water that looks like diseased swamp and smells like old donkey. #nycsummer

12:00: We still have an hour on the meter, so we pop in a few stores on Broadway. First is Club Monaco where I want everything, followed by Uniqlo where I want nothing, and finally my old favorite Pearl River Mart which is a huge Chinese emporium that sells everything from kimonos and dragon heads to soy sauce and gag gifts. The selection was scarce as they’re going out of business later this year when the rent goes up to $500K a month because life is unfair and New York City is a cruel, heartless, son of a b.

12:30: We drive home, taking a shortcut through Williamsburg which is full of bars and warehouses and artisanal cookie flavors like black pepper and tattooed people pushing Maclaren strollers with little babies wearing flower crowns. Out the window I spot a guy with a pompadour, the kind of mustache that requires wax and rolled denim overalls. I find myself confused because his top half says vintage parisian carnival worker while his bottom half should be in central Idaho digging up potatoes. Still, I’m in a 15-year old Honda with hair that hasn’t smelled shampoo in three days and plastic sandals I pulled out of a convenience store bin, so I’m in no position to judge.

12:35: We are both exhausted, and Vin almost falls asleep at a red light. I punch him in the shoulder and scream WAKE UP so we can make it home not dead.

1-2: Vin and I nap like sunburned children after a day at the pool. The air is warm but the sheets are cool and we drift into a state of almost narcotic bliss. Eating a heavy brunch and falling asleep reminds me of my Texas summer camp, where they’d sedate us with chicken fried steak and cream gravy at 12 noon on a 100-degree day, then send us back to our bunks to pass out for the next two hours. When we woke up, we’d pull out stickers and notecards and write letters home to our BFFs and mothers. Vin is still asleep, so instead I’ll write a letter to you.

Dear Nice Internet Friends,

Hi! How are you? How’s your summer going? What’s the weather like where you are? Is it humid? How’s your hair?

New York is fun but smells terrible. Restaurants stack black garbage bags like pyramids on the sidewalk and then the sun microwaves the old lettuce and banana peels inside them until we all start gagging and praying for trash day. On the upside, most people skip town on the weekends so things are less crowded and there are more ice cream shops than grocery stores here so dinner’s been fun lately.

My husband’s starting to talk in his sleep, so I’ve gotta go eavesdrop. He just mumbled, “oh, you looked so cute this week”, and I’m very suspicious of where his subconscious is going with this because his body was in Sacramento all week. Anyway, he’s probably talking about his cell phone, so I’m not too concerned.

LYLAS,

Jenn 

2:20-3: I hang in the backyard, daydreaming, zoning out, scanning the sky for answers to life’s biggest questions. When will I make my first million? Which borough does God prefer, and should we start looking for real estate there? Why do birds suddenly appear every time Vin is near? Who put the ram in the ramma-lamma-ding-dong? What happens to Tony at the end of the Sopranos?

3:00-5:00: Neighbors begin stirring in their own yards. To my right, the dirtbag who went to jail for turning his 2-family house into 9 illegally rented apartments is banging around the yard, trying to fix it up. On the porch above him, two shirtless guys grill chicken while singing show tunes. Across the way, a mother yells at her children and blasts Celine Dion so loud folks back in Canada can hear, and to my left, I peek over and notice they have unwisely painted the interior of their entire fence a heinous baby blue so it now looks like a nursery school playground in Miami. And then my favorite backyard character steps out on his deck across from my yard, the old Italian man who is always feeding the birds, who waves back at me with two hands.

5:00-6:00: Shower and get ready for night out. Heading to the BBQ/bourbon place down the street. I’ve commissioned a small group of friends to join us out tonight.

6:30-12:00 midnight: This is great. I love hanging out with my friends. They are nice and so funny. They all get an A+. The setting also ranks a high A, the drinks a B (fairly watered-down) and the BBQ, in my opinion, ranks a B- (tender, but criminally under-seasoned).

12:30: It’s Saturday night so my brain says party, but my heart says pillowcase.

12:45: The air is warm, but the sheets are cool, and I drift off into a state of almost narcotic bliss. Some people drool when they’re this tired, but I’m in no position to judge. I’m drooling too.

 

 

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Be True to Your Teeth, and They Won’t Be False to You

I used to be one of those people who feared the dentist. It all started with an x-ray for my wisdom teeth, and ended with me flat on my back on the office floor, surrounded on all sides by a team of alarmed dental hygienists. I don’t know if they still use this torture device, but at the time, they were doing x-rays where the patient stayed standing, inserted their chin into a metal tray, and then had a screen move over to cover your entire face. I was all, “Here’s my chin!” and then my knees buckled and everything went dark.

So I avoided the dentist for at least 7 years after that. Just enough time to develop tons of plaque and plenty of cavities. Then I finally found a place I really liked and my world–and mouth–opened right up.

I got to see my girl Sherry yesterday. Sherry is my dental hygienist, and I love her. A big reason I love her is because she also loves me. She calls me “Sweet Girl” and I become putty in her chair. Instead of handing it to me, she buries that little sample pack of toothpaste and tiny mouthwash right in my purse and says: “We’re close enough for me to do that.” She can’t clean teeth until she’s tuned into Taylor Dane on Pandora, and she has the last known poodle perm on the island of Manhattan. Sherry is fabulous, and I wish she would invite me over for Hanukkah.

Because we’re as close as two people who see each other for 30 minutes every six months can possibly be, Sherry has this habit of pursuing an actual conversation with me while she is knuckle-deep in my molars. On this visit, the main topic was what everybody’s doing for the holidays. Sherry is vacillating between Florida to see her daughter and Pittsburgh with her in-laws. Her first grandson was born six weeks ago, and while he is “yummy and delicious”, she actually finds him pretty boring at this phase and would prefer hitting Florida in 3 or 4 months when he will be guaranteed to be slightly more entertaining and worthy of a trip to the airport.

I have a metal utensil poking around my gums and my verbal skills are pretty limited, so I end up doing a lot of grunting and mhmmmming,while trying not to drool all over her fingers. Thirty-eight years on the job, and Sherry is still holding onto the hope that her patients will magically become viable conversationalists mid-cleaning.

“You’re doing great. Barely any bleeding.” She says, as she attacks my gums with a tiny pick-ax.

“Did you just say it’s good that I’m barely breathing?” I ask, because apparently when my ability to speak is affected, my ability to hear is too.  Of course it sounded more like “mumble mumble grumble droooooool”.

Anyway, I got the all-clear from Sherry and the dentist. No cavities! No gum disease! Barely any halitosis!

And as I packed up my purse, complete with my little plastic baggie filled with waxed floss and Listerine, my darling Sherry said her goodbyes.

“See you in six months, Sweet Lady.”

Sweet Lady. Lady. Apparently Sherry and I have now entered a new phase in our relationship. Equals. Contemporaries. Amigas.

We’re getting together for Mah Jongg next week.

 

 

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A Morning in the Life: The NYC Commute

 

Friday, October 23, The commute

8:oo am: Dry my hair, put on my pants, pack my lunch–the usual morning stuff. I need to get downtown to the NYU campus by 9:25 for a “class” I take on Friday mornings. I use quotation marks because it’s not really a class, it’s a seminar I’m required to take as I supervise two NYU grad students at my agency. The interns are cool 20-somethings, and being around them reminds me that I’m not.

8:20: It is a brisk autumn morning, and so I wrap myself in a big cuddly scarf in warm autumnal colors. I bought it innocently at Zara two months ago, then turned on Instagram and became aware that this scarf is an internet sensation, popular with 20-something cool girls. Its popularity stems from the fact that it’s soft and cuddly and looks like it should be worn while kicking a big pile of crunchy red leaves or running in slow motion through a pumpkin patch. This scarf is truly adorable, but it has these microscopic fibers that pepper your entire outfit when worn, and it’s possible that it’s made with something I’m mildly allergic to. But it’s me against the scarf today, and I’m determined to win.

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<worn presumably without reaction on lemonstripes.com>

8:25 am: Leave house for the train station. Hug Vin and mention in passing: “I think I might be allergic to this scarf, but it’s cute and warm so I’m wearing it anyway.” This is what we call FORESHADOWING.

8:31: Ugh, it’s one of those days at the train station. So many people, so little space. My station has those announcements that alert you to when the next train will be arriving. This brings comfort on some mornings, rage on others.

8:32: The train arrives. It’s packed so tight I feel like I’m back in Tokyo even though I’ve never been to Tokyo or anywhere remotely close to it. I’ve  still got time; you’re not squeeeeeezing me thru zat tiny door. (that was supposed to be the German lady from Willie Wonka saying that).

8:33: “The next train will arrive in seven minutes.” Cue collective groan.

8:35: A cool-looking 20-something girl is eyeballing my scarf. It’s sold out everywhere. I could probably get 60 bucks on ebay for this thing.

8:40: I reluctantly board the bloated train. There are people touching me on all sides of my body. One sudden jolt and this car becomes a mosh pit. I excuse myself, and reach over a young woman’s head to grab the pole. I’ve tried riding freestyle on crowded trains before and it always ends in tragedy.

8:42:  I am stuck in an armpit sandwich. We all are. We are all the meat and we are all the bread. You would think this routine would bond us. It doesn’t.

8:45: Thiiiiiiiiiiiisssss traaaaaaaaiiiiin isssssssssssss ssssssooooooooo slowwwwwwwwwwwwww. My arm cramps.

8:47: It’s mornings like this when my mind wanders and begins imagining other possibilities for my life. What about a cute cabin upstate? Or a McMansion in the midwest? A trailer in the middle of nowhere? All of those options would be cheaper than purchasing a residence in this area, and whatever mode of transportation I’d require to get around my new town would no doubt be more comfortable than shooting myself through a tunnel at the bottom of the river in a crowded tuna-fish can.

8:50:  Damn. I think a fiber from my scarf has lodged itself behind my contact lens. Commence one-eye squinting.

8:51: Shit. This is very uncomfortable. I would like to touch my eye or make a go at removing this scarf but I can’t move my arm. There’s a man on my right who’s standing so close that lifting my elbow would give him a black eye.

8:52: The same song has been playing on my phone for the last ten minutes because I haven’t been able to change it. If I hear Chandelier one more time I might have to lift my arm and give my neighbor a black eye.

8:55: Passengers disembark. I’m able to move over to an area with more space. I’m facing a reflective wall and take a look at myself. Holy hell. My eye looks like a cherry tomato at the end of July. Extremely ripe.

8:56:  My eye starts to water. Not a drip, a gushing leak. My nose follows suit. The first case of Ebola in NY was announced last night. The girl sitting below me is probably googling “Can I get Ebola from a dork’s tears?”

9:05:  I move my sunglasses from the top of my head to the bridge of my nose. It doesn’t make me look cool. A river of eyeliner is snaking down my right cheek. I look sad and twitchy. I want to ask the universe why I am having this reaction to a cool-looking scarf favored by 20-somethings. It doesn’t seem fair.  I wasn’t trying to get away with ripped shorts. I knew I couldn’t pull off crop tops. It was just a scarf, a trendy scarf, and my body rejected it.

9:06: I realize my youth is over.

9:10: We’re only at 5th avenue. There’s no way I’m making this seminar on time. I can’t imagine walking into the classroom with my eye looking and feeling like this. I think I actually need to go back home, throw away this scarf and rip out my contact.

9:20: I get off at Times Square station, nowhere near my intended destination. I’m thinking of going home, but I can’t wait that long to get this crap out of my eye. I crouch down on the floor, take out a tiny mirror and some saline solution and get to work right there. I’m far from a germaphobe, but am well aware of how unsanitary it is to go from touching a subway pole to touching my eye.

9:22: I think I can skip going home, so I head back downtown. My vision’s a little blurry. I take a quick tumble down the stairs into the tunnel, but pull myself together. I can’t remember which curse word I yell, but i’m pretty sure it was the good one.

9:25:  Downtown train arrives. Take a seat. A three-piece mariachi band begins to march through the car. I would rather hear Chandelier for the 9th time than hear mariachi music before 10 am.

9:26:  The seminar starts at 9:30, and I’m clearly not making it. I set the example for student interns everywhere and decide to skip class and take myself out for breakfast. I’ve stuffed my trendy scarf in my handbag, as far as possible from my sweet, innocent eyes.

9:45: I’m at a hip French chain with a nice atmosphere. If I’m going to skip class, I’m going full-on Ferris Bueller.  I count the number of times “organic” is scribbled on the walls. It’s 18.  We get it, your shit is fresh.

9:50:  There’s a big chalkboard wall highlighting today’s menu items. It includes organic kale juice, a quinoa salad and $10 avocado toast. That’s bread, toasted and smeared with avocado for $10. Just make it stop.

9:55:  I order a pot of regular coffee and a plain croissant.

I am done with trends for the day.

 

 

 

 

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Call the mechanic: I think my inner GPS is broken.

 

A few years ago, Vin and I took a trip to Barcelona with my family. Of the six of us, my husband was the only one who didn’t speak a lick of Spanish, which by most accounts would make him the least useful member of the troop. But of course, because Vin is essentially a human compass, the opposite was true. He became the unofficial leader of our travels, while the members of my family–myself included–just followed him around like a pack of sheep. Vin’s sense of direction is so sharp he doesn’t even truly require GPS or maps or a cell phone. I imagine he could just stick a thumb in the air and be able to point himself due north.

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<Vin mapping the route. Aunt and uncle dreaming of tapas.>

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<Me, Aunt, Dad. Strong jaws; weak navigators.>

My kinkfolk are very bright and talented in many ways, but it’s a well-documented fact that none of us can find our way out of a paper bag. I can’t be sure without checking some old records, but it’s entirely possible that a lack of direction is how the first settlers of our family ended up in the state of Texas. They probably had their sights set on California but got frustrated on the journey and said, “Aw, hell. I can’t figger this stupid map out. Let’s just stay here.”

Although I rather hoped it would skip a generation, I definitely inherited the poor direction gene. It is my burden and it is my birthright, and though it is often embarrassing and damn inconvenient, my inability to walk a straight path to any destination is one of many traits that connects me to my clan. I’d rather not share with you how many times I’ve led visitors to the city around in circles (cough…cough…it happened last weekend) or gotten completely flustered while mapping out my path to a restaurant, store, baby shower, or job interview only to arrive at my destination sweaty, distressed and exhausted.

One might think that living in a place for 15 years would orient me to the various trains, bus routes, bridges, tunnels, bike paths and overpasses that connect one section to another, but that is unfortunately not the case. My ability to get lost within my own town is in direct proportion to the times I leave my house. If I haven’t been there before, there is a fairly high probability that I will amble in the completely opposite direction of my destination before realizing my mistake, making a pivot turn and doubling back.

Eventually I will figure out where I am going but it will most likely include any, or all, of the following: heavy breathing, rapid pulse, pursed lips, unsuppressed whining, and noticeable pit stains. Some people find these high-tech gizmos called smartphones and GPS to be useful in their quest to find shit. Some people stop and ask for directions or pull out the old-fashioned paper maps from days of yore. Some people are just beyond help, and can get themselves lost while using a combination of all three. I am one of the unfortunate fools who falls into the latter category, and for that I blame my father.  Out of respect to the man, I won’t tell you all the filthy names my dad has called his car’s GPS system, but I can assure you the apple don’t fall far from the tree. (good thing too. I’d never find my way back.)

***

As I hinted in my last post, the last few weeks have been pretty stressful, and more and more, I find myself needing a quiet reprieve from city life. Vin had to work all weekend, so when an invitation to spend the day in a beautiful leafy town called Cold Spring came around, I couldn’t resist. I was so excited to spend a sunny Saturday with Vin’s brother, his wife and their twin babies that I high-tailed it to Penn Station, bought myself a ticket and hopped right on the train.

To Cold Spring Harbour. On Long Island. I traveled a whole hour on the wrong damn train line. That’s impressive, even for me.

So I didn’t get to spend the day bouncing a chubby baby on my knee or swirling a glass of white while giggling with my sister-in-law; instead I nestled right back into a pleather seat on a city-bound commuter train, surrounded on all sides by 20-something Long Island bros heading into Manhattan for a big night out. Instead of fresh, clean, Cold Spring air, I found myself breathing in stale beer and excessive cologne. I was disappointed, but I can find the humor in it too.

It didn’t turn out to be the relaxing Saturday I had mapped out for myself, but what are you gonna do?  It’s the potholes in the road that keep the ride interesting. If there weren’t unexpected detours and delays, we’d never know that feeling of pure gratitude when we finally arrive where we’ve always wanted to go. There’s a reason for those bumper stickers, the ones that promote life as a journey, and not a destination.

It’s to make dorks like me feel better about getting lost all the time.

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While You Were Sleeping

 

There are two camps of people, generally–morning people and night people. I’m not going to tell you which kind I am, but  I will let you know upfront that some of my very first bras are still defrosting.

I’ve been a card-carrying member of the “morning person” camp since childhood, a fate that drew much ridicule in my pre-teen days as I was always the first one to fall asleep at slumber parties. Sweet little Southern* girls they were, my friends not only froze my bra as punishment, but on separate occasions also threw all of my clothes out a 2nd-floor window, used a mattress-sized maxipad as a kick-me sign, and hurled a small (but very dead) frog in my face. Sweet Southern girls, my ass. Those bitches were ruthless.

But now we’re all grown up and those girls are now women who spend their evenings praying for their small children to go down as easily as their friend Jennifer did all those years ago. I know this because I generally wake up around the same time as all the mommies with young children. They are typically the only people making comments on Facebook at 7 a.m. on Saturday mornings, usually with declarations like: “Dear Baby Jesus, All I ask is for one full night of sleep. ONE NIGHT.” or “Somebody send help. I need an IV of French Roast. Stat.”

So yeah, I still go to bed early and wake up early. Everyday. Weekends too. Call me a drip. Call me a party pooper. Call me an old lady. Just don’t call me after 11 because I will be knocked the eff out. Clearly, all of this will be subject to change if my husband and I decide to make a human, but for now, this is my life. Down by 11, up by 6:30.

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The ritual in our house goes like this: Around 10:20 pm I settle into bed, then at 10:30, Vin comes into the room and reads beside me. I read too, for exactly three minutes until the book falls on my face. Vin removes the book, turns off the lamp, and turns on the big box fan in the corner to keep me cool and create white noise. The white noise is to block out whatever Vin then decides to do for the next four or five hours.

Because when I go to bed, Vinny’s night has just begun.

Born and raised in the city that never sleeps, Vinny burns the midnight oil until at least 2 or 3 every night. The only time I spend those hours vertically on purpose are if my best friend is getting married, the party of the decade is underway or I’m promised a glimpse of a lunar eclipse that only occurs once every 200 years. He goes to bed around 2, and he’s up around 9 or 10. On weekends–much later on both ends.

The man has a good four hours to kill late at night after I’ve gone to sleep, and while I’d never encourage it, if he ever wanted to lead some salacious double-life, he is certainly married to the right dupe. For all I know, he could be spending his late nights bouncing between boobie bars and grimy fight clubs. He could be plotting some great heist or gambling away our savings in Atlantic City. Instead, I’m pretty sure he uses that time to do freelance work, record music at his studio in Brooklyn, play Madden or guitar, watch copious amounts of Sports Center, and make midnight runs to the 24-hour grocery for questionable snacks. Thankfully, I’ve never found a red bra stuffed in the couch cushions or poker chips strewn across the coffee table. I have, however, found several half-eaten Entenmann’s crumb cakes on the kitchen counter. Scoundrel!

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Now, in the morning, I have my five or six hours of “me” time. I’m most productive in the early morning, so on a typical weekend I use the hours between 6:30 and 11:30 am to grocery shop, do food prep for the week, clean house, write or read in the yard, and take the train into the city for a long walk. I cherish this time and find that I don’t really enjoy sleeping in because it pains me to waste daylight hours. My circadian rhythms match those of an 87-year-old man (ie: my grandfather).

It used to really bother me that Vin and I lead such separate lives at the beginning and ends of our days. We both spend so much time at work that it seems like we should spend as much of our off-time together as possible. I’d love it if he were the kind of guy to join me on a 2-hour early-morning hike across the city, and he’d be elated if I joined him at a midnight movie without drooling down my shirt. But the simple fact is, he is a night owl and I am a lark. Unless we both miraculously get jobs that offer similar schedules or we experience a dramatic life change that would require a shift in our basic biological functioning, this is how days and nights are done, with each of us spending hours on our own while the other is sleeping.

And then, out of nowhere, come those sweet little moments that make you realize every cloud in the nighttime sky does indeed have a silver lining.

Jen & Vin at the Bar

 

One night last week, the motor in our bedroom fan completely conked out. Of course, we didn’t realize it was broken until it was 10:30 and I was already tucking in for the night. I kicked the blanket off the bed and wrestled the sheets with my bare feet, my legs poking their way from beneath a cotton tangle so I wouldn’t drench them with sweat. I told Vin I’d stop by one of the variety stores near our apartment on the way home from work the next day. He shut off the lamp, kissed me goodnight, and walked into the living room. If he turned on the TV, he must have had to lean in to hear it. My white-noise machine had officially kicked the bucket, and he always tries hard not to wake me up.

Still, shortly after midnight, he did.

I rolled over in the pitch dark, and through squinty eyes watched Vin remove the broken machine from its perch in the corner and carefully plug in a new fan so I could get a good night’s rest. He’d managed to find one of the only Home Depots that stayed open until midnight, hopped in the car, and bought a replacement. It was such a loving act, and it was one of those moments that reminded me how lucky I am to be married to such a thoughtful and kind person.

I mean, sure, he could have made this sweet gesture right after a quick stop at Cheetah’s Gentleman’s Club, but I really doubt it.

 

 

*(technically, Texans are Southwestern but it doesn’t sound as gentile. Plus, you know I don’t really think y’all are bitches. Love ya, mean it.)

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When you’re married to a really thin person.

 

You ever seen those couples who get up at 6 a.m., put on matching hoodies and go jogging together? They usually “fuel” with some kind of green juice before lacing up, then do some stretches on the edge of a track and run laps side-by-side before exchanging high-fives at the finish line.

Vinny and I are not that couple. I’d like for us to be that couple, to a certain extent. Maybe not necessarily jogging (because I hate it), but it’d be great if we ate well and participated in some type of exercise either separately or together, and routinely. As we get older, I think more and more about how important it is for us to lead a long life together and it feels like if we form some good habits now it will ensure we have energy and good health later. I really like this guy, so I’m hoping to ride this thing out as long as we can.

cake^ Off to a great start! (photo by Jason & Anna Photography)^

If you’ve not yet noticed, I am married to a very slim person. A naturally slim person. The kind of person who can throw back an entire crumb cake without feeling a tug on his waistband, who’s never had to ask himself if a moment on the lips is worth a lifetime on the hips. In the nearly 14 years that I have known him, Vinny has gained weight exactly twice. One time was during a two-month road trip when he spent 8 hours a day in a car seat, stopping only to buy drive-through hamburgers, and the second time was when he broke his ankle in two places and was bed-bound for three months. Both times he gained weight in the exact area that needed filling out, and stayed perfectly trim and hard as a rock everywhere else. This is all to say that Vinny has never worried about weight gain a day in his life. Oh! And in other news that falls under the category of life isn’t fair, his eyelashes are really long and dark too.

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Whereas my husband’s svelte figure comes naturally, my relative thinness is the result of a faithful combination of bargaining, restriction and prayer. I don’t have a fast metabolism, so bad habits catch up to me quickly. I’m not tall, so two new pounds looks like seven. If I was bed-bound for three months, my entire body would turn into spongy mush and my face would be round as pie. I wouldn’t say that I’m fixated on my shape and size, but I’m definitely aware of what it takes to maintain a reasonable weight and healthy body and I really want to do so. As someone in her mid-30s, it’s getting harder to ignore the fact that I should probably be spending my Saturday mornings in a spin class, not the doughnut shop.

That said, last Saturday morning a miracle occurred. I convinced Vinny to lap the entire track of Central Park with me. We walked, of course. Baby steps, people. Baby steps.

And it was great!! The sun was shining, people were happy, frisbees were flying. Dogs were running, babies were laughing, joggers were panting. Seriously, as some of the only walkers on the jogging track, it was hard not to notice how much more effort and energy the joggers were putting into the endeavor. We actually felt bad for them. It didn’t sound fun what they were doing. We spent the first half of our walk amazed by how many joggers there were, and how awful it looked.

Then we got lapped by a guy in his mid-70s and felt extremely lazy.

Up around the northern part of the park, I started feeling stabby hunger pains. I have always lamented the fact that the only food you can find in the park are hot dogs, pretzels and ice cream bars, but this realization actually inspired my business side.

“Why aren’t there any food trucks in the park?” I asked. “Do you know how much money a smoothie cart or a taco truck would make parked right here? They’d make a fortune!” PS: If someone would be willing to back me financially, let’s work on this project. We spent the next part of our walk talking about food, and trying to figure out what we’d grab for lunch. After a few other options were thrown out (Oh! But the famous Levain cookies are soooo close!!), we kept our Saturday virtuous and decided we’d head to the salad bar at Whole Foods after our jaunt.

He looked at me and said, “Sounds good. We’ll do the salad bar.” I began to think we were turning into one of those matching hoodie couples. “But you know I’m getting tiramisu after, right?”

“Of course you are dear,” I said. I told him he was a great workout buddy, and gave him an enthusiastic high five right there on the track.

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A Day in the Life: When Texans visit NYC.

Pardon the radio silence around these parts. I got real busy hustling around the city showing my dad, his wife Angie and my aunt Renee a good time. My feet are still recovering and I’m patiently waiting for my shoe leather to magically regenerate. We hit the city hard Wednesday through Sunday, but Saturday was the New Yorkiest day of them all. Here’s the breakdown of what happens when three Texans visit their New York kids.

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9:30 AM: Our group enters Balthazar, the Taj Mahal of weekend brunching. This is where Leonardo Dicaprio used to dine with his posse back in the late 90s. Where the beautiful people pay $22 for a bread basket and ten bucks for half a grapefruit, thus making it a New York institution (and a place you wait to visit until the folks are in town). But really, it’s just so pretty in there and the food is UNBELIEVABLE. I don’t take photos of meals in restaurants, but my poached eggs florentine with spinach and artichokes and buuuuttttter and so much creeeeeeam was pure, opulent, thigh-swelling MAGIC. Whew, I just got a flashback and it smelled delicious.

10:40 AM:  We hit the subway uptown to scope out some stores on 5th Avenue. The Apple Store is actually navigable this early in the morning, so I pick up a new cell phone case. I buy a customizable one, which means I pick out any photo I’ve taken, send it to the company and they’ll print it on a case for me. I’m thinking about this one from a graffiti wall:

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But Vin continues to push for this:

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Interesting choices, both. However I am also considering this guy:

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11:15 AM:  We go to an uber-fancy store to have a watch battery replaced. It is empty except for the five of us (who plan on buying nothing) and a staff of at least 15 people looking well-heeled and extremely bored. Vin and I amble over to the engagement ring case, just to gawk and watch pretty things sparkle under the spotlights. A very well-dressed gentleman approaches us and coos, “Ahhh, looking for an engagement ring?”.

Vin wastes no time replying, “No, thank you. We’re already married.”

“Congratulations,” he says flatly, and scurries away. There are no other customers in the store, which means he has no other trees to bark up. He huddles in the corner with a coworker, mentally willing some rich people to go shopping today.

Suddenly a scent not befitting such a fine establishment permeates the air around us, and I have finally found the title to my first book. I shall call it “Who Farted in Cartier?”. Works for both humor or mystery.

 

11:25 AM: Sensing a good time to exit, I grab dad and Vin and we stand outside the store while the ladies finish business. There is a man with a sandwich board standing on the corner, trying to direct traffic to a cafe down the street.

“Lunch, lunch, lunch, lunch, lunch, lunch, lunch, lunch, lunch, lunch.”

Dad delights in this very much. I think he giggles a few times.

“Lunch, lunch, lunch, lunch, lunch, lunch, lunch, lunch, lunch…chicken on riiiiiiice!, lunch, lunch, lunch, lunch…chicken on riiiiiiiiice!”

 

12 noon:  Since we’re still full from our French breakfast, we pass on the lunch lunch lunch and journey to Top of the Rock to catch some spectacular city views. Dad jokes that it’s like paying $25 for an elevator ride, but even a jaded New Yorker like me is pretty impressed by this.

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2:00 PM:  It’s one of the first truly beautiful spring days of the season, so we keep the tourist-vibe going by moving up to Central Park. We bring some sandwiches with us, and have a picnic on benches. As far as family activities go, I think this one’s pretty damn cute.

2:20:  Two teenage boys on skateboards spend at least 15 minutes within two feet of us. Their conversation makes my fallopian tubes want to tie themselves into a sailor’s knot.

2:40:  We finish up lunch, then head through the pretty tunnel that leads to Bethesda Fountain. At the base of the stairs is an opera singer who I posit is using her $100,000 Juilliard education to busk for loose change at the park. I give her two bucks and pray she pays off her student debt by the time she has her first grandchild.

 

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2:50-4:00:  The park is bursting with action, and the people-watching is grade-A, top-notch and included the following:  A man on an antique typewriter selling custom poems, two separate acrobatic troupes, a model doing a photoshoot wearing a sari, a model doing a photoshoot in a Marilyn Monroe-inspired outfit, a thousand dogs, a million toddlers and a woman playing violin while swinging a hula hoop around her hips like a ring orbiting Saturn.

4:01 PM:  A girl walks by with a cell phone case that looks like a pack of McDonald’s french fries.

4:03 PM:  A guy walks by with French fries on his t-shirt.

4:04 PM:  I decide the universe is trying to tell us something.

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(Clearly this is an old picture…water in the fountain + green trees= wishful thinking)

4:10 PM:  Walk back to dad and Angie’s midtown hotel to rest for a few hours. On the way, we pass a group of Amish teenagers. I’m pretty sure they’re in the big city while on rumspringa, and are spending a potentially debaucherous year enjoying “English” life before deciding if they’d like to join the Amish church. “Amish teenager on Rumspringa deciding whether to go English or go home” has been my dream client since the minute I finished grad school. I am SO tempted to hand them business cards, but I don’t think they’re allowed to have pockets or handbags.

4:15:  I imagine what an Amish teenager would put on her cell phone case if she had one. Maybe a shoo-fly pie, or something really risque like a cartoon drawing of a pointy heel or a red lace bra.

4:20:  We are trapped in a crowd (typical) next to a guy who speaks curtly to his girlfriend who is trying to move to the less crowded side of the sidewalk. His preference is to walk right on the edge of the sidewalk so that he’s one step away from falling off the curb. He brusquely snaps at her: “This is how I like to walk. I want to be able to see stuff. Don’t walk away from me.”

4:22:  About 20 feet later he plows into a row of newspaper kiosks and almost causes a 10-person pile-up on the sidewalk. “Hey”, I think to myself. “That’s how he likes to walk”. I don’t care for this fellow. I’m blaming him for the fart in Cartier. He wasn’t there, but whatever.

4:30-7:00:  We lay around in the hotel, watching The Man in the Iron Mask. I find myself wishing I looked as pretty as young, long-haired Leo Dicaprio and wondering if he still frequents Balthazar. I bet he doesn’t freak out over $10 half-grapefruits.

7:05:  We rally and head to dinner. It’s in the theater district at a family-style Italian restaurant called Carmine’s. A few sidewalks are roped off for construction, so the crowds are thicker than an average Saturday in Times Square. And by thicker than average, I really mean we are casually strolling through the 5th circle of hell.

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(this is an old picture. Thin crowd + short-sleeves= wishful thinking)

7:10 PM:  A woman still holding a sign from 2010 warns us about the upcoming rapture. Right next to her is a guy covered in banana leaves promoting marijuana legalization.

7:11:  “This is a big hot mess,” my dad says in his thick Texas accent.

At this point, I’m sure he thinks his firstborn child is crazy for living amidst such insanity and is aching for a commute in his car along a road that looks more like this:

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8:00 PM:  We meet up with Vin’s parents and siblings for a big family-style dinner, eating from enormous platters. There’s calamari and lasagna and tiramisu and a huge prime rib served over broccoli rabe and surrounded by a delicious moat of thick, starchy french fries. The universe has spoken. (I don’t have any stock photos of french fries so you’ll have to settle for calamari…).

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10:15 PM:  Dinner ends at the exact moment all the theaters let out. I have lived in New York City for 15 years, and I have actually never been caught in foot traffic that thick. It wasn’t a record I was trying to break and it was exactly like wading through molasses. I keep looking back at the Texans, expecting them to have all broken out in rashes or at least have passed out in a gutter or something.

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10:40 PM: We finally make our way over to 8th Avenue as we try to avoid the bedlam on Broadway. Halfway down the street we are trapped at a crosswalk as an enormous charter bus has tried to go left, but is unable to complete the turn due to a huge dumpster parked on the street. It’s annoying, but I’m willing to wait.

10:42: Vin and my dad begin gesturing to the bus driver to help him back out of the street without hitting 5-10 vehicles.

10:45:  Pedestrians are getting pissed. They’re crossing in front and in back of the bus, as the driver tries to right his wrong. He’s having a hard time.

10:48: Vin and dad step into three lanes of traffic, using their hands as stop signs to passing cars. My father is standing in the middle of 8th avenue with both arms in a V like he’s conducting the New York City Philharmonic. I do some quick mental math, trying to remember how many free shots of Sambuca he had after dinner. It was at least three.

10:49:  My dad is grinning from ear to ear. He looks like he is having the funnest night of his entire life. I hope he doesn’t die this way.

10:53:  The bus driver has finally backed that thing up.  I breathe a sigh of relief, and begin to reflect on our big New Yorky day. I got a cool cell phone case and ate brunch at Balthazar. I saw the city from way up high and felt the sun on my face in Central Park. I spent time with several of my favorite people on the planet. Our families shared dinner around a big round table, and clinked glasses as we toasted to all the good things.  The universe is looking out for us. My husband and father are still alive.

10:55:  I gotta say, today was a good day.

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Throw Away Your Television (yeah…no thanks)

 

Our television is broken.

I want to act like that’s no big deal, but it sort of feels like our kid left for college and the house is suddenly really quiet and boring and we’re left not really knowing what to do with ourselves.

I was never a huge TV person until I  lived alone for the first time 10 years ago. I had just moved to an apartment building in Denver after having lived in New York City, and the quiet sometimes made me feel very lonely. So sometimes I kept the TV on even when I wasn’t watching it to hear another voice in the room. Kinda sad, huh?

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And truthfully, the TV’s not really broken-broken. The sound is still fine, but there’s a huge black cloud that covers everything. It kind of looks like a kid took a paintbrush and streaked thick black paint right across the screen. That’s right–I’m blaming everything on imaginary kids today. Get off my lawn!

So because we still have sound, I have reverted back to my living-single days and have the TV on right now because it feels weird to start the morning without the Today Show. It’s sort of like I’m living in the golden age of radio, when kids would lay down on the carpet and stare down a talking box. Instead of Orson Welles, I’ve got Al Roker.

So today (my day off) will be an interesting experiment. Without the pull of Sex and the City reruns at 1 pm, I may accomplish far more today than I do on a typical Wednesday. I’ll finish an entire book, cook three days’ worth of meals and clean this place from top to bottom.

And if I get really bored, I can always go grab a malted at the Woolworth’s counter.

 

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That’s right. I am a movie star.

 

We spent Sunday afternoon visiting with Vin’s former boss, Ari who lives across the Hudson River. Her town is called West New York but it’s located in New Jersey which makes for a crummy commute but a hell of a view.

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Ari is one of the sweetest people on the planet and one of those women who felt like a Mama years before she ever had children. But now she does have children– ages 6 and 3, both boys–and she’s really hit her stride. The kids came running toward us when we entered the apartment building, even though they’d never met us before. That’s 2 cute points right there.

Like all kids, the first thing they wanted to do was show us their room. I was instantly envious of their two big windows and their crazy insane view. My view as a 6-year-old was a driveway and a cul-de-sac. My view as a 36-year-old is a clothesline and the crap my neighbors have decided to store in their backyard, like ripped-up drywall and spare tire parts.

As I perched on his Spongebob sheets, the oldest kid asked me: “Are you a movie star?” This question officially made him the greatest kid I’ve ever met. He definitely impressed me more than the one who puked all over my office on Friday (true story).

I was very tempted to toss my hair over my shoulder and answer, “Yes darling. It is me– Reese Witherspoon. Should I sign your crafts table or your wooden bedpost first?”.

Instead, I said humbly, “Oh, hahahaha–no, I’m not a movie star.” Inside I felt like one.

“Then what are you?” he asked.

Trying to describe “therapist” to a kid is like trying to give directions to a cab driver in a foreign language. I found myself struggling to word it  simply and precisely so we didn’t end up in a bad neighborhood.

“Well, if people have something that makes them confused or mad or sad, they can come to talk to me about it, and I’ll listen to them.” I explained. I don’t treat kids in my practice, and have not had to explain what I do to one before. I think kids think grown-ups come with three basic jobs: astronaut, fireman and movie star. I guess I don’t look like a fireman.

“Why do people make each other sad?” he asked.

This kid was deep, yo. Luckily his brother distracted him by knocking him on the head with a plane before I had to dive into that one. Sunday’s my day off, kid.

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Anyway, we had a nice little Sunday filled with finger foods, wine and tres leches cake. I even got to pose with their dad’s Emmy, and prepared a short speech in honor of awards season.

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I’d like to thank the academy for this tremendous honor, and one sweet little boy for making a nearly middle-aged social worker feel like a superstar for a day. Thank you.

God Bless America.

 

 

And doughnuts.

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