It’s been kind of a big week

April 1, 2011 at 4:37 pm (future, in my head, It's all about me, On dating and mating)

There are days weeks months when life throws things at you–sharp things, mean things, exciting things, wonderful things–and expects you to grow seven hands to catch it all…or at least shield your soft parts. During those thing-slinging hours, I retreat into busyness. I take on more work, sign up for a class, go to the gym, and watch TV while surfing the net while reading a book while texting a few friends. It’s a frenzy of sorts, my manic avoidance. It’s exhausting and inevitable. Until, in a moment of strength, I let the quiet catch me. Quickly, before it’s gone, I ask “why?” Why is this relationship failing? Why am I unsatisfied at work? Why do I feel inferior/scared/confused? And then from somewhere deep inside, a quiet voice develops an answer. The answer doesn’t have to be new or even brilliant, as long as there is one. If I understand why, I can move on and let go.

Introspective has always been my style, so it comes as no surprise that over the last few months, while applying to grad school, I’ve been thinking even more than usual. There were the info sessions, the pre-requisite classes, the studying, the standardized test taking, the essay writing, the applying, and the interviewing. And then there was the waiting. To sum up the waiting, it sucked. I am not patient. In fact, when they asked for my biggest weakness, I said, “impatience.” Really, I did. But I learned through my waiting, through this whole process really. I learned about myself, mostly, but also a few key life lessons. I learned enough to realize that The Man and I were not to be. So, yes, this is an upbeat post about ending a relationship and getting into graduate school within the span of four days. Like I said, life throws things. She’s petulant that way.

What I Learned

1) I am an emotional non-eater and non-shopper. On the other hand, all I want to do when something grand happens is go out for a lovely meal and buy entire departments at Nordstrom.

2) It takes time to remember that you’re single. No more blatant elevator eyes for the tech dudes on the train with the excuse that if they look back you’re taken.

3) Yup, still have a thing for redheads.

4) It is not possible to tell someone too often that you appreciate him/her. The support and confidence of family and friends (and The Man, still) has been invaluable through this process and will mean even more as I face the prospect of working full-time AND going to school.

5) Lists will save you. So, on occasion, will cheese, music, Josh Lyman, or whatever makes you unreasonably happy. Indulge. And then get your ass back to that desk because those data sufficiency problems aren’t going to solve themselves.

6)¬†“One’s ability to succeed is always proportional to one’s willingness to fail.”

What have you learned lately?

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Technology Twinkies

August 25, 2010 at 5:33 pm (in my head, It's all about me, plays well with others)

The liberal mainstream media (the sarcasm, it is dripping) has made a big deal lately of this retreat/research trip/getaway in which several elite neuroscientists went off into the wilderness of southern Utah to see what happens when people¬† stop being polite and start getting real. Wait, sorry, wrong experiment. While I’m sure there were arguments about walking around naked or puking in the pool, this group was actually studying the effect of technology on our brains. It’s fascinating stuff, though more entertaining, I think, in this version than this one mostly because the NPR audio combines elements of Matt Richtel’s follow-up story. But, I’d like to point out, I was totally there first. Remember that whole thing about bringing back Shabbat? However, one of my favorite ideas to come from Richtel’s work is the comparison of technology to food. It’s good, it’s necessary, but you really don’t want to consume yourself to death. There are technology Twinkies and technology brussel sprouts. Below, I’d like to break down the categories for myself.

Brussel Sprouts-type technology for me includes email, the ability to receive voicemails as emails, personal computers, and, generally, the interweb*.

Foursquare, smartphone games (yes even Words with Friends), and Twitter are Twinkies. I know someone is going to argue with me about the classification of Twitter as sugary crap capable of withstanding a nuclear winter, but I hold firm that you must be able to use good grammar and punctuation in order to classify as remotely technologically nutritious.

I think, though, that there should be a third category. Something akin to ice cream. Or homemade pizza. I want a category for the technology that has some redeeming value, even if it’s mostly time-sucking poop. A category for blogs** and Facebook. Because while I spend a good chunk of my time on Facebook complaining venting, spying, or praising California, I also credit Zuckerberg et al*** with bringing me closer to family. Through Facebook my cousins know the regular me. The me who shows up when they’re not around. And that has made it infinitely easier to be me when they are around. Plus, baby pictures. ‘Nuff said.

*The interweb with the exception of the UPS site that told me there was a UPS store in a shopping center when there is not a UPS store. (There is, however, a fabulous bakery in said shopping center so I was forced to buy a mini fruit tart. Damn UPS site.)

**Note that a) I write a blog and b) I’m not calling the content poop. Also c) ALWAYS take it as a compliment if I compare you to ice cream. (Oh! and d) I might need to rethink this as blogs provide for the exchange of ideas, a community of sorts, and a dialogue that can aid in stress relief and the creative process.) And finally e) No, I take back the rethinking as I’m talking about how I use blogs (namely for entertainment and distraction) not how someone else may use, say, Feministe.com.

***Have you seen? There’s a movie. Though the trailer makes it look like a cross between Sneakers and Hackers, I’m pretty sure I’ll just be annoyed by the portrayal of a time and city (and, to a certain extent, a culture) I lived through.

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Obsessed

August 12, 2010 at 5:24 pm (in my head, It's all about me, present, shopping)

Below, my recent obsessions.

1. The Man’s cat was bleeding late last night and mewing with big sadkitty eyes, so we ended up at the emergency vet’s past midnight. This morning, after what I can only assume was a harrowing night of shaving, draining, and cleaning a ruptured abscess, the poor guy looked like this:

Kitty John tries to look dignified

And I realized that this is one of my favorite adorably pathetic (pathetically adorable?) things. Furry animals in cones!

2. Furniture with silhouettes of turned legs made out of industrial materials.

This was on Etsy, but apparently someone else was obsessed with it too as it has disappeared.

Image from IKEA

3. Approximately 1/3 of the items in the Christie’s Interiors, South Kensington, June 22 auction catalogue including these girly chairs with upholstery that looks like kitchen towels, these Greek key handled silver salts, a pair of Arts and Crafts menu holders, and all of the Ronald Searle cartoons.

Image from Christies.com

4. Super pig and other whimsical meat sections art.

Super Pig, drywell art by alyson on Etsy

5. This dress-me-up/dress-me-down silk georgette Shoshanna maxi that should arrive next week. Particularly with gold accessories and a salmon silk wrap.

Image from bluefly.com

6. “Slow” everything, but particularly this Slow Home Manifesto from Department of the Interior.

7. My new fun little scarf/wrap that is big enough for the beach and light enough to wear through a San Francisco fall.

8. Maceo Parker at Stern Grove.

9. OPI’s new Swiss Collection, especially Ski Teal We Drop.

Image from eBay (cleopatrastyle-usa)

10. Burpees. I effing hate these things, but if the (free to me) personal trainer tells me they’ll boost my metabolism in a hurry, then I’ll push on through and learn to love them.

Image from marinesmagazine.com...I think

11. The facade of the Paul Thiebaud Gallery in North Beach. Talk about announcing your visual brand language from the sidewalk!

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Friends

July 30, 2010 at 10:03 am (in my head, It's all about me, plays well with others)

There is this thing (attitude is not the right word) in New England that drives folks to be somewhat insular. I don’t say this to be insulting, I simply say it as an outside observer. Perhaps it’s the weather–all of those freezing months followed by the kind of humidity that would make a Buddhist monk cranky–or perhaps it’s derived from the same kind of heartiness that makes them prefer icy ski slopes to fresh powder. In any case it takes a while to make friends. There are no casual invitations, no trying people on for size, no “the more the merrier.” People actually say that they have enough friends. Like out loud.

In many ways, this is superior to the “California invitation” whereby “We should get together sometime,” actually means “I didn’t really know how to end the conversation with you and move on to someone else,” but for a time it was a challenge. It felt exclusionary. It felt like that Harvard party where they let me in because I’m female and flat out told my guy friends, “We don’t know you, get lost.”

It took time, but I got used to that mindset. And took it home with me to San Francisco.

Enter The Man. It is rarely possible to go somewhere in this city without running into someone who knows my boyfriend. He buys beers for out-of-work Irish stonemasons he meets on the street. He remembers the name of the guy working the front desk at our favorite mountaintop retreat. He knows at least 10 people at any given Giants game. He gets greeted by name often. And so it doesn’t surprise me that many new people have become part of my world. What I love is how many of them are downright awesome.

His niece and nephew are two of the smartest most adorable kids ever (and I’m not just saying that because they washed my car for me while I stored it at their house for a week). His cousin and cousin-in-law were the most amazing dinner hosts last night. His friends with whom we spent time in Yosemite are funny, easygoing, and truly welcoming. The people in his life are people I am eager to have in mine.

So I’m dropping my New England attitude and proclaiming instead that you can NEVER have enough friends. Even when you’re triple-booking yourself on a Thursday in order to fit them all in.

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Why I will not be that whiny, angsty singer-songwriter whose name I can’t remember

July 12, 2010 at 5:00 pm (in my head, It's all about me)

“What I would like,” I explained whined “is a job, no a career that I can love. And then I think the money would come.”

Very kindly, very politely, my friend told me that concept was bullshit.

“You can’t have it all,” she said, “so you have to decide what’s important and pursue it. Make that which matters possible.”

She’s right, you know. And not just about finding the right job*.

There are so many things I would like to do or be. I would like to be the kind of mom who will always put her kids’ towels in the dryer on fluff so they’re fresh and warm after a bath. I would like to be the kind of hostess who offers flowers in the guest room and a personalized selection of magazines at the foot of the bed. I would like to be the kind of wife and partner who isn’t bothered by awful, ugly, outdated jeans (*cough* evil Carharts *cough*) because his style is not a reflection on my own. I would like to be the kind of friend who remembers every birthday and anniversary with a handwritten card. I would like to be the kind of woman who looks polished in jeans and flip flops. I would like to be the kind of employee who can run a meeting, take criticism, and make it happen no matter what. I would like to be the kind of cook who always makes pie crust from scratch and uses a mortar and pestle for pesto. I would like to be the kind of homeowner who accumulates antique finds and pairs them perfectly with contemporary pieces and elegant personal touches. I would like to be 31 flavors and then some.

I know all too well that I cannot be these things. Not all of them. Not even most. But as my friend said, I can focus on what’s important to me and do that. Even…sometimes…do it well.

I can’t set out fresh flowers (or even offer a guest room), but I can leave a bottle of bourbon and two glasses on the kitchen table of my in-the-center-of-it-all-and-yours-for-a-night studio. I can insist on cookie dough from scratch, every time. I can answer the phone at 4am and listen through the night to a friend in need. I can take a stunning photograph and make it mine with an off-center mat and a casual lean instead of a formal hang. I can tell The Man, honestly, that I don’t mind the scruffy (and temporary) beard. I can be considered neutral, diplomatic, and calm in the face of raging colleagues.

It’s important to observe and appreciate my strengths, but it’s absolutely crucial to forgive myself my shortcomings.

*We learned that it applies to wedding planning as well, but that’s a subject for another post.

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June 18, 2010 at 12:05 pm (future, in my head, It's all about me, On dating and mating)

I’m getting cold feet.

Before you all start buying me wedding presents or worry that my absence has been due to some wild elopement, know that I’m not talking about marriage. I’m getting cold feet about leaving the City. Not the Bay Area (because really, I love this place more than Jesse James loves inked-up strippers), but San Francisco. The move is not imminent…or even planned, but it’s coming. I can feel it.

I’m starting to settle in to things like dishwashers and garbage disposals and yards and laundry. I’m deeply in love with coming home to meat and vegetables already on the grill. The dog-wanting is pathological. The Man has me sort of sold on Marin.

But I’m not quite ready yet. And so, I’ve begun to look at all things urban the way you look at a brownie sundae the day before starting a diet. WANT. And want now. And want more of it than I should have.

I cleaned my entire apartment last night (in preparation for a visit from Mom today) and loved every sound coming from the noisy street below. I put a youparklikeanasshole.com sign on an oversized SUV this morning and enjoyed a full 5 minutes of a cheeky, self-satisfied smile. I’d like to try a new restaurant every night, have cocktails while wearing impossibly high heels*, and sit in coffee shops writing stories in my head about other patrons. It’s like one last fling. Even if it may last a couple of years.

And that might be one of the reasons I am deeply, deeply in love with the condo The Man owns, but where he does not live. I can’t afford the rent (let alone the mortgage), but it could not be more perfect for me if I’d picked it out myself. It’s all exposed concrete beams and wall of industrial windows. All galley kitchen (with brand new stainless steel appliances) and open floor plan. All cool colors and warm wood. All walking distance to one of our favorite bars and one of my favorite coffee spots. It is the kind of place I never thought I’d be able to live in. It’s a dream, truly, I’ve never felt I could voice. It is just the kind of urban chic spot I want for my next three years. It’s somewhere I could imagine my last fling with the city, last memories of unmarried, untethered life before settling into porches and wine and slow-dancing in the kitchen. It is that impossibly hot bartender pouring tequila shots at my bachelorette party. Except that having my way with it wouldn’t ruin my relationship…which makes it that much more dangerous and enticing.

How does your current living situation fit into where you are in life? And has anyone else fallen in love with a space in this way?

*Bloomingdale’s sale + my own personal ’70s moment = I can be six feet tall if I want to.

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I didn’t have to go to church to learn from a pastor

March 22, 2010 at 12:15 pm (in my head, plays well with others)

I spent the weekend at my parents’ house largely to attend a remarkable Persian New Year celebration with a whole slew of family friends including the women of my mom’s book club. Our hosts managed to fit 40 people into their home for a seated dinner, complete with festive spring place cards. After some mingling, I found my card at a table with a high school acquaintance’s mother and stepfather and our family accountant. Immediately to either side of me were names that made me wary. To my right, a well-known local pastor in his 70s. To my left, his wife.

My parents have been very clear that at age 29, they consider me an adult in every sense of the word, capable of determining when to hold my tongue in a town full of bigots and sexists and small-minded ignorant fools. These days I tend to speak up 99 times out of 100 because it’s who I am, but I also know that this pastor and his wife come from a different era, so I steeled myself to bite my tongue. I expected to be preached to. I expected to be talked down to. I expected closed-minded evangelical jargon. I was being a hypocrite.

I assumed the pastor would tell me that San Francisco is a hotbed of sin. Instead, we talked about his favorite restaurants and running routes. I assumed the pastor’s wife was a homemaker. Instead, I learned that she’s a stockbroker and has been since before it was a common profession for a woman. I assumed they left the South unwillingly. Instead, I learned that they fled from congregations whose members threatened him if he even contemplated integration. I assumed the pastor would have something negative to say about dining in a Muslim home next to a Jew. Instead, I learned that he represented the union of churches at the dedication of my childhood temple.

It was a valuable lesson and one that is still bouncing around my head and heart. I judged people based on what little I knew, just as I assumed they would judge me. It will never happen again.

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Letting Go

February 15, 2010 at 12:58 am (in my head)

Right now, on Valentine’s Day, here’s what I love:

My shirt smells like campfire.
My vegetable drawer is full.
My legs look like I’ve been dancing.

All things being equal, I choose my life.

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How green is my grass

February 9, 2010 at 5:32 pm (in my head)

I wrote something that would be password protected and I was about to post it when I noticed that all of the old password protected posts are openly accessible in my RSS feed. Does anyone know why this happens? And, more importantly, how I can fix it? I have things I need to share!…with those of you who email me for the password.

For only the second time in my life, I took my hair down from a hastily wrapped bun and had perfect beachy waves. If I wake up bare-faced one morning and look like I’m wearing perfect makeup-artist makeup, I will have made real the two most annoying cinematic beauty myths. I’m not going to hold my breath.

While we’re talking about things that have made me happy, I got some very real praise in dance class last night and it has put a little spring in my step. I guess Dirty Diana just speaks to me. Well that and I grew up in a studio where praise didn’t happen. Ever. Unless we lost weight. Which, come to think of it, was not unlike working for my first boss.

Also, what the heck is up with American men? From “news” coverage and Superbowl commercials it would seem that they’re in the midst of a deep existential crisis. Maybe they are, but I don’t buy it. I refuse to think that little of men. Or, to put it in terms the men portrayed in these clips would understand, dude! sack up.

And finally, the financial crisis has, as we knew it eventually would, hit close to home (no, no, not me!). A friend is now out of a job. As selfish as it sounds, I’d spent a good part of the last two months 80% happy for her and 20% jealous that she found Mr. Forever. This turn of events (which she resoundingly DOES NOT deserve) has been yet another reminder to appreciate what I have. And to buy her a beer.

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Jewish

January 28, 2010 at 1:49 pm (in my head, plays well with others, the fam)

Dancing Roommate and I went to a favorite bar last night for a drink. Despite bone-deep fatigue and my own certainty that I’d regret the outing when my alarm went off at 6 am, I was having a good time. DR chatted with a slightly slow Tom Hanks-type and I made friends with the 6’7″ manboy to my left. I can’t say I was interested, but he seemed to be checking his Blackberry in a way that made it obvious he was uncomfortable at a bar alone.

We sat, we chatted, Tom Hanks bought us a second round. The manboy proceeded to get drunk.

Somewhere after his fifth beer (sixth? seventh?) he began to joke with the bartender and other patrons. Suddenly he busted out a “Don’t be Jewish about it, man” to someone, somewhere.

Now I grew up where this is typical. My high school boyfriend AND my high school best friend required some teaching to correct their ignorance, but in a stranger? I don’t handle it very well. That many beers in, I doubt manboy felt the icy chill coming from my direction (which only intensified when he proceeded to make fun of a British woman a few stools down for having “English teeth” — complete with a chipmunk-face immitation), but I didn’t see any reason to either address it or continue my conversation with him.

An hour later we were ready to leave and I called over the man behind the bar.

“I never paid for my first beer,” I said. Because preying on a bartender’s distraction is stealing.

“You’re so honest!” manboy interjected with a tone of incredulity.

“Well, it’s how I was raised,” I replied.

What I should have said was, “It’s because I’m Jewish.”

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