Friday, December 22, 2006

The Scoop, Sort of

Twenty-four hours from now, if all goes as scheduled, I'll be standing by a baggage carousel, looking for the two largest, brightest bags I own to emerge. I'm going home for the holidays, for what I hope will be a good break, because don't we all know I need one? Yes, we do.

Monday marked six months here in Connecticut, and I do believe I've earned the right to sleep in forever and ever until the end of time. Amen. Also maybe halleluljah. Can I get a witness?

I'm very much looking forward to spending time with family and friends over the holidays. Kansas City folks, I'm so sorry I neglected to send out an e-mail as of yet warning you of the need to reschedule your lives so you can see me, but here are the details: Saturday, December 23 through Monday, January 1. Christmas Eve and Christmas Day are mostly taken. New Year's Eve is shockingly void of actual plans, so if any of you would allow Jarod and me to impose on you for that holiday, we would be most grateful. I might even bake something to bring along. Other than that, I'm just looking to hang out. If you are in Kansas City and you would enjoy hanging out with me, possibly drinking large quantities of caffeinated beverages, please do give me a call or shoot me an e-mail or leave me a comment or however it is you'd like to get in touch so we can be in touch.

Happy, Happy, Happy Holidays!

Wednesday, December 20, 2006

Plenty of Reasons for Hateration

But I'll just give you three. If you hate me for one of these, you are totally excused, and you don't even need to apologize. You can even shoot my profile photo a surly look if you want to. And I'll understand! I won't blame you!

1. I was done with my Christmas shopping sometime between December 1 and 3. I don't remember exactly, because, frankly, that was a long time ago! Like at the beginning of the month! Since then I've picked up a few extra gifts for people just because, you know, I saw something I thought someone might like, but all the necessary shopping was done way back when. I always do this. In fact, most years I'm done before Thanksgiving.

2. I've lost weight this holiday season. I also lost weight last holiday season. Unintentionally. (You can throw rotten things at me for that one, actually, and I will so totally understand.)

3. I have a habit of happening upon conveniently located empty parking spaces that still have substantial amounts of time left on the meter. While everyone else is digging through pockets and purses to find coins to pay, I am already slipping blissfully into the shops to pick up whatever my little heart desires. Because, as mentioned in number one, my holiday shopping was done a long time ago.

Let the hate begin. Merry Christmas.

Sunday, December 17, 2006

Saturday in the City

I spent the most wonderful day in the city yesterday. Every time I have a good time there, I post the same words about this time being the best time yet, but I really mean that. This time was even better than the last best time I had.

I had a post all done up for you over at flickr because I thought it might be nice to put the photo in the top right corner like it does automatically for me, but for some reason that didn't work out, and I lost it. Which is maybe better anyway because it wasn't saying what I wanted it to say exactly. So I'm going to make a list for you instead of all that mumbo jumbo I was trying to put together before. It's a list of what I loved about yesterday.

1. wreath and man waiting

2. Edward Hopper at The Whitney. I was blown away by his work, much of which I didn't anticipate. Included in the exhibit were paintings, studies he'd done in Conte crayon and charcoal in preparation for those paintings, illustration work he did to make ends meet when he first started out, and notebooks filled with his notes and sketches. I forgot how moving it is to stand in the room with great art, to see a lot of one artist's work in one place, to get a feel for who they were and what moved them. I am enamored of Edward's handwriting. I wish he would write me a love note.

3. Picasso at The Whitney. His works were paired with the works of American artists he inspired, and I must say that his brilliance overpowered all the rest. While Max Weber and Roy Lichtenstein can hold their own, and one of the Jackson Pollock works made me rethink him entirely, many of the rest looked simply rudimentary. I don't know that I'd truly understood before what made Picasso great, but now I get it.

4. The display of stuffed Snoopy dogs in the window at Macy's. The crowds around the Macy's displays nearly drove me to my knees in agony, but no one was crowded in front of the Snoopy window. So I stood there by myself and looked at all those stuffed Snoopys, wishing that I needed something that cost $35 at Macy's so that I could acquire my own stuffed Snoopy for just $14.95 while supplies last. My wish didn't come true, but perhaps you need something that costs $35 at Macy's? I'll pay you back the $14.95 for the Snoopy if you'll help my wish come true. (I'm serious.) (I really want one of those Snoopys.)

5. Tristan Prettyman at The Beacon Theatre. The woman next to me kept saying how she'd never heard of her before, but wasn't she good? She is good. I bought shirts, one for me and one for Jarod, because I want her to do well this tour. We have plenty of shirts, but I think that our Tristan Prettyman shirts just might make us even cuter than usual.

6. Ray LaMontagne at The Beacon Theatre. He hushed the crowd and then filled up that silence so beautifully. I don't know any other musician who can do that quite so well. It was an excellent way to end the evening.

Friday, December 15, 2006

The Upside to the Stomach Flu

Is that the stomach deflates like an old mylar balloon. I don't think I've had a stomach this flat since the Reagan Administration. I'm not the type to voluntarily experience a lot of suffering for Legendary Abs of Steel (read as: not a girl who'd be willing to abuse laxatives), but if it happens, it happens, and I'll admit to standing in front of my mirror a long time this morning, gazing on in wonder. Like, whoa, DUUUUUDE, this is, like, not even my stomach. But it is my stomach! For about 48 hours, I'm guessing. I've already resumed my former ways, which would include digesting my food normally and being able to eat more than a half a piece of toast at a time. (Moment of victory today: Five cookies for lunch!) (Except maybe most of you wouldn't call that victory; it would very much be defeat.) (I guess you just don't love cookies the way that I love cookies.)

I'm grateful to be feeling well again. I don't know about the rest of you, but when I've been sick, particularly when the sickness involved a pretty good deal of pain, just feeling mostly okay is cause for celebration. Feeling back to normal? Party. Time.

Mostly I'm just relieved that I'm well again in time for tomorrow's venture into the city. I've been waiting for this day for a long time. I've got a quick errand to run straight off, but then it's off to The Whitney to see the Edward Hopper and Picasso exhibits, and then I've got a date with Tristan Prettyman and Ray LaMontagne at The Beacon. I've been looking forward to this day for a long time, and it would have been a shame to feel anything less than well.

I guess all I'm saying is: It's so good to feel good.

Happy Weekend, Internets.

Wednesday, December 13, 2006

I Would've Blogged Sooner, But I Just Wasn't Feelin' It

What I was feeling, however, turned out to be the stomach flu. But far be it from me to actually admit up front that I'm getting sick.

I should have realized something was up on Sunday when I wasn't hungry by the time I reached the checkouts at IKEA. I'm always hungry by the time I reach the checkouts at IKEA. Then there were the stomach pains Sunday night, which continued all day Monday, plus the decided lack of hunger which also held over from Sunday. But I pressed on, undeterred by what couldn't possibly be illness, because I don't get sick, and even if I do get sick, I can totally tough it out and do everything I normally do anyway.

Well.

Yesterday morning I felt, I don't know, a twinge or something, but I brushed it off and went running, after which I did this yoga/calisthenics combo I've been trying out as means of being both more flexible and also having actual muscles in my arms. I felt the twinge again, accompanied by lightheadedness, in the middle of the walking lunges, and then again in the middle of the plie squats, but did I quit? Of course not! Because I'm no quitter! And I'm not sick! Even if I do have some other symptoms that normally indicate illness!

Ahem.

By three, when I waited what seems forever for Al to retrieve the lunch bag he'd forgotten in his classroom, I realized that, huh, well, uh, maybe I am not so well. In fact, maybe it's hurting me to just be upright. I drove us home and told the kids' dad that my stomach seemed to be a bit upset and painful, and maybe I needed to lie down for a minute or two. He let me off for the rest of the day, I went upstairs and did a face plant into my pillow, and proceeded to sleep for three hours straight without moving. After which I sat in a recliner for the rest of the evening without moving. I went to bed early and slept as if someone had knocked me on the head with something quite heavy.

I guess, after all, I really was sick. And also kind of a moron.

Sunday, December 10, 2006

The Great Napkin Indecision of '06

I spent three and a half hours at IKEA this afternoon, the bulk of which was spent going back and forth between the napkin section and the candle section because I kept changing my mind about the napkins, and then about the candles, and then about the napkins, and then about the candles, and so on and so forth. In my IKEA, the napkins and the candles are at opposite ends of the first floor, which made it even better. Then, to really throw me off, they also placed some napkins and some candles near the checkouts. I nearly caused myself a brain aneurysm from the strain. It's fairly ridiculous how many times I can change my mind. I really shouldn't be allowed in IKEA without a chaperone.

But I do love IKEA with the entire part of my heart reserved for home decor at cheapish prices, no one could keep me away. No matter that I had to park five thousand miles away from the entrance or that I wasn't even hungry for one of the fifty cent hot dogs when I actually had fifty cents in my pocket to purchase one (unlike last time, which was a hunger tragedy of fifty cent hot dog sized proportions); I had a fabulous time nonetheless. I came away with a wish list to beat all IKEA wish lists and a host of recommendations for savvy shoppers considering IKEA furniture purchases. If you need to know anything at all about the comfort level of various couches or the ease of drawer openage for assorted dressers, I'm so totally your girl.

Thursday, December 07, 2006

Is It Wrong That Sometimes I Pretend I'm Annie Sullivan?

And that Al is Helen Keller? You know, in the beginning, when she was grabbing things off people's plates and then Annie had to break her of all her bad habits and make her behave like a human being already?

It was a doozy today, kids. I won't get into it because that would be, well, wrong, but I will tell you that I got a lot of knitting done while enforcing an early bedtime.

Also I will tell you that Corinne Bailey Rae makes me feel better. Thanks to Mark and Amy for the iTunes gift card, which made this listening session possible.

Wednesday, December 06, 2006

Here's How Serious My Television Problem Is

Tonight while watching America's Next Top Model, I sent the following text to my boyfriend:

I really need CariDee to be America's Next Top Model. The only reason that Melrose could win is because she made a deal with THE DEVIL.

And then when CariDee was, in fact, named America's Next Top Model, I got a little emotional.

I love me some awful television, that's for sure.

Tuesday, December 05, 2006

Now That NaBloPoMo is Over, I Feel a Little Empty Inside

But also relieved, as holiday travel and blogging every day don't mix well for me. Still, I kind of miss being forced to blog every day. Now I have no compelling reason to give you anything except that I feel like I owe you something at least once a week or so.

...

What I really need are jeans that do not contain stretchy fibers, yet also do not restrict my thigh type area so much that it feels like circulation is being cut off. Is that really too much to ask?

...

For the record, I do not like playing wall ball. In fact, I pretty much despise it, nearly as much as I remember despising walking beans (you farm kids will know what that is--the rest of you can try The Google to figure it out). Please don't tell Al. He'll have a very hard time taking the news.

...

I like to do that whole thing where I "listen to my body" so I can "give it what it needs," but do you know what it's been asking for? Iced lemon loaf from Starbucks. Also whipped cream.

...

I had this goal to knit something other than scarves this year, but, um...how about 2007 for that one?

Saturday, December 02, 2006

The Myth of Potential

I'm sure you've heard it said before, "He has so much potential," or "She's just not working up to her potential." It's an acceptable statement, and one that causes other participants in the conversation to shake their heads in a show of "Oh, dear, how unfortunate" support. So much potential, so little use, how can the world go on if it's not realized? I'll admit to joining right in and agreeing. Such a shame, such a waste, how heart-breaking. And most often we've been talking about children, adolescents, or college students.

When I was in college, I remember distinctly the moment that I realized that, were I to work hard enough, I could graduate summa cum laude, with highest honors. There was no way to lay claim to a 4.0 at that point, but I had summa cum laude potential. I looked hard at the figures on my page. I thought about what it would take. And then I decided to aim lower. To shoot for summa would be to put immense pressure on myself; to go for magna would be much less stressful, not exactly comfortable in terms of lack of challenge, but comfortable in terms of how it made me feel on the inside. I knew I could do magna. I knew I could finish the courses and still feel as if I had a life that I could somehow manage. I knew that when it came to potential, I needed to not live up to mine.

Our whole lives are full of potential, both positive and negative. We can't live up to every single potential that exists. We must choose, and we must do so for ourselves, knowing that each choice will eliminate some others, and that this is the way life works. Though our culture may put emphases on certain potentials as being more desirable than others, that doesn't necessarily mean that they are more right or healthy for us. I have the potential to eat a lot less and be a size two, but I choose to enjoy food. I have the potential to go back to school and get my PhD, but for now I choose to be a nanny. I have the potential to spend all my earnings on items from Boden, but I choose to continue paying off my debt. I am making the choices that are good and right for me. Finally. It's been a long time coming, and I'm sure it will continue to come as it has for the past ten years, slowly and deliberately, as I come to better understand who I am and who I am meant to be.

Becoming a nanny in this area of the country, serving this particular demographic, has opened my eyes to the huge problem that focusing on certain potentials is creating. I've just begun reading The Price of Privilege, and I am blown away by the magnitude of what I've been observing day by day here, which Madeline Levine has researched thoroughly. The gist is that the parental pressure towards working up to certain potentials is hijacking the ability of children, particularly of affluence, to develop a strong sense of self. They grow up trying to live up to everyone else's idea of what they should be, and they end up feeling a vacancy inside, not knowing who they really are and what they really want. I believe this is an injustice and a tragedy. While parents mean well for their children, and are doing their best to allow them to gain every advantage they think their children should have, ultimately it leads to problems of a far greater magnitude than a child not getting the best grades possible for them.

I have noticed in many children the prevalence of academic success paired with an inability to deal with the basics of life, bright minds paired with emotional issues. Simply put, they can do very well on tests, but they just can't handle their lives. The smallest things cause emotional turmoil; there is no ability to cope. They feel overwhelmed, but they have no way to recognize that or to ask for a way out. And if they do recognize a problem and ask for a way out, that same ode to potential is sung out again, sometimes with great force. Success, to many Americans, does not include the development of compassion, of self-control, of a sense of well-being. Those things, we think, come with achievement of the academic and monetary sort.

But I, for one, am not buying it. I would much rather see an average report card and a face of joy, so-so results in sports and a healthy attitude about losing sometimes, moderate standardized test scores and a genuine concern for others. I don't know how to get there exactly, how to gently but firmly let parents know what risks their children face if the pressure to achieve stellar results in certain areas persists, but I do know that I'd like to try to reach a place where that's possible, where I'm not so afraid of the consequences to me personally that I fail to say something that could ultimately do a world of good for the children I know and love.

I'm going to be working on that. If you feel so inclined, you can say a little prayer for me as I do my best to figure it out.

In the meantime, if you'd like to know more about the problem, I encourage you to pick up The Price of Privilege. Just reading the inside of the cover will give you an idea of what is going on in this area, of the obstacles that those of us who are concerned about this problem face.