30 March 2011

Embarrassing

I sometimes commute with a neighbor, whom I will refrain from naming because of the lessons of last week.  But I will say, for the benefit of my young female readers, that he is young, straight, single and good-looking, and headed for a successful career as a lawyer someday.  He also has a great sense of humor, which came in handy this morning.

He and I were riding on the downtown A train, and someone's music was blasting.  This is not all that unusual; occasionally someone's headphones come unplugged and they don't realize that they are sharing their morning wake-up music with the rest of New York City.  In this case, the music was not particularly loud, but everyone could hear it.  At first, we all ignored it, but after a few moments everyone started making faces, and then we all started looking around to see if we could identify the careless culprit.  Around 125th Street, people started becoming noticeably annoyed.

My friend checked his iPod.  "It's not me," he said, with a measure of relief.

"It sounds like U2," I said.  Future Lawyer agreed.

We rode along for a few more minutes, saying nothing.  The song ended and another song started.  "Now it's the Police," I said.  Proud of my quick identification skills, I added, "I should go on Name That Tune.  I'd be a zillionaire."

The people around us laughed.  My friend said he thought the music sounded like the stuff they play in doctors' offices or spas to relax people.  "At least it's not gangsta rap," offered a man standing near us.  "It's sort of old-lady music."

"Right," I agreed.  "This could be my iPod."  Pause.  "But it's not," I assured him.

Still, the music was familiar.  It was all stuff that I really like.  A light bulb went off in my head.  Wait a minute.  I reached into my pocket and made a horrifying discovery.  It was my iPhone, inadvertently turned on and blasting from my pocket.  I held it up so that everyone could see the hi-def picture of an angst-ridden Sting, hands gripping his hair in frustration because every little thing his woman does is magic, but he doesn't have the courage to call her and propose marriage in some old-fashioned way.

Fortunately, it was a pretty nice crowd, and they all laughed as I turned off the music and ducked out of the train at 59th Street.  It's no big wonder to me sometimes that people don't want to be identified as my associates.  I'm beginning to get it.

Still, I hope you have a great Wednesday, with lots of relaxing music playing in the background.
Jennie

29 March 2011

Alligators

Except for my years away at college and law school, I have lived my whole life in and around New York City.  I have always found the big city exciting and energizing.  It's noisy and crowded, but it's home.

Once my family swapped houses for a few weeks with a family from rural Germany.  Though we enjoyed the change of scenery, our guests did not.  When we returned home, we found they had left us a letter in which they complained about every aspect of their visit.  The thing that puzzled me most was that they complained that they had trouble sleeping because the traffic was so noisy.  They admonished us to warn future visitors of the intolerable noise level.  I kept thinking, "You came here to vacation in a city of eight million people, one of the most exciting places on earth, and you were surprised by the noise?"

Yes, it's noisy, but there's always something going on.  For example, New York seems to be in a constant state of producing entertainment.  Every day, something is being filmed on the streets.  You'll know when it's coming - there will be signs posted along the side of the road warning that the usual parking rules have been suspended for a certain number of days because Law and Order or Gossip Girl or some such is being filmed.  The tourists gather and gape at the catering trucks and the roadies with walkie-talkies.  Those of us on our way to and from work simply step over the extension cords or walk around the action.  Sometimes (but rarely) I catch a glimpse of a star. My office is just a block and a half from the Ed Sullivan Theater, where David Letterman's show is taped, and sometimes late in the afternoon, I have to weave around the lines of people waiting to get into the show.  It's sort of fun, and sort of amusing, and never boring.

When I was a kid, I longed to stumble onto a movie set and get Discovered.  Now, I just want to get to my office and home again with a minimum number of detours.  More than once, I have noticed something unusual going on at the train station or on the street, and then later, in a movie theater, I have seen the scene again and recognized that I had been a witness to its filming.

This afternoon, Broadway in the low fifties was its usual bustle of tourists and businesspeople, hot dog vendors and joggers, motorcyclists and panhandlers.  As I left my office and headed for the subway, you can imagine my surprise when I saw an alligator crawling out of the sewer, right in front of my building.

I stopped to snap a photograph.



Pretty real-looking, don't you think?  But it turned out to be a fake alligator and a fake manhole cover.  Both had been placed there by the lovely people at The History Channel, who were filming an episode of their series Swamp People.  When I looked around, I saw the trucks, the roadies, the yellow FILMING IN PROGRESS tape, and the guy with the walkie-talkie, standing a few feet away, watching over my alligator in a protective sort of way.  But there you have it:  right in the middle of midtown Manhattan, at rush hour on a bright, cold spring day, there were fake reptiles crawling out of fake sewer holes, and people stepping around them, hoping not to be delayed.

I love this city.  Always have.
Jennie

26 March 2011

Learning


“Good writing is always about things that are important to you, things that are scary to you, things that eat you up.”

—John Edgar Wideman

I learned this week that not everyone is thrilled to be mentioned in my blog, even obliquely and not by name, and even in posts that appear to have been read a total of three times, by people in Singapore and Jordan.  I am humbled and grateful for the important lesson.   I never stop learning, and everyone I meet teaches me something.  Sometimes the lessons are very painful and come from unexpected sources.  Being a writer is not about making friends or pleasing people.  It is about something deeper and more important than that.

Tomorrow, a dear friend is hosting a benefit bake sale for her home country of Japan.  I puzzled for a short time about what to contribute.  I asked the young boys who happened to be hanging around my house what I should make, and I was greeted with shouts of "Stained Glass Window Cookies!"

And so it is with great pride and no humility that I introduce you to the Japanese version of these delightful treats.



Here is the recipe.  I make no claim to originality; it's just basic sugar cookie dough with a crushed-candy design in the middle.  But, as you can see, it can be adapted to any situation or occasion.

Jennie's Stained Glass Window Cookies
(makes a couple of dozen, depending on size)

1 cup butter
1 cup powdered sugar
2 tablespoons milk
1 teaspoon vanilla
2 1/2 cups flour
hard candies (I use Jolly Ranchers), sorted by color and crushed to coarse dust. I do this with the back of a spoon in heavy-duty plastic sandwich bags. Good job for small boys...noisy and destructive...

Beat the butter until softened; add the sugar and beat until fluffy. Add the milk and vanilla and blend. Gradually beat in the flour. Form the dough into a disk and chill for about an hour.

Roll the dough out on a lightly-floured surface and cut into the shape of choice (a 2" round biscuit cutter works great). Using a smaller cookie-cutter, cut a hole in the middle. (For Christmas I use a star; for Valentine's Day, try a small heart. You get the idea.)

Note: for Japanese flags, I used a credit card and a spice jar...

Place cookies on a sheet lined with Silpat or aluminum foil. Fill the hole in the middle of each cookie with about a half a teaspoon of crushed candy. Bake in a 375-degree oven for about 8 minutes.

Cool about 10 minutes on the cookie sheet at room temperature and then transfer to a cooling rack. Enjoy!!

I have been trying to figure out how to increase my readership.  It seems that sending my URL out into the world by means of Twitter, Facebook, and comments on articles and blogs that I enjoy is helpful.  I also applied to join a major blogging organization yesterday, though I think I am probably too new to qualify.  I'd like to shout out to that reader who clicked on one of my ads yesterday and bought my friend Karen's book for their Kindle.  I think I know who you are, but I think I know a lot of things that it turns out I don't really know at all.

A shout out to my readers in Singapore and Jordan, too, and to whoever is reading me in Sweden and Australia.  I am intensely grateful for your interest.

Have a good weekend.  Keep learning.

24 March 2011

The Best Part

This past week, celebrating the milestone 1,000th post on her "Motherlode" blog, the New York Times' Lisa Belkin published a guest blog entry by Anna Quindlen.  The entry was entitled "The Best Part of Parenting."  It is beautiful, and I encourage you to read it when you have five spare minutes.

In case you are very, very young, or spent the eighties and nineties under a rock, Anna Quindlen is a former New York Times columnist-turned-novelist.  She spent many years documenting her life as a mother of three in her Times column, and as a result, she has been hailed as the mother of all mommy-bloggers.  (My husband disputes this; he claims Erma Bombeck got there first.  I will concede this point out of great admiration for Ms. Bombeck.  Because Ms. Bombeck came a generation before Ms. Quindlen, however, I prefer to call her the grandma of all mommy-bloggers.)  Anna Quindlen is one of my literary heroes.

"The Best Part of Parenting" recounts all of the wonderful phases children go through as they grow.  Most of these struck a chord with me.  I too count myself as a survivor of the snuggly newborn, the tantrum-prone toddler, the long nights and haggard mornings associated with constantly virus-ridden preschoolers, the elementary-school math homework, the middle-school bullying and angst, music too loud, skirts too short, nights too late, skin issues, body issues, parent-teacher conferences, long nights of drama rehearsals at the high school, SAT classes, driving courses and crushes.

It's exhausting again, just thinking about it all.

But Ms. Quindlen concludes that it's all worthwhile, and now that her children are grown, she believes she has reached the best part of parenting.  Having three polite, educated, engaging adults at her dinner table, the result of all that hard work over the decades, gives her the greatest thrill of all.

Many times over the years, I have thought that I had reached the best part.  The day the previously-nonverbal toddler suddenly said, out of nowhere, "I love you, Mommy."  The day the musically-talented child passed the audition and was admitted to the prestigious school.  The day the one with dyslexia finished reading a novel and told me how enjoyable it had been.  The day the grade-schooler made dinner for the family, to surprise me after I got home from my first long day back at work.

I know now that I am nowhere near the peak.  I suspect that Ms. Quindlen is not, either.  Someone will graduate.  Someone will get married.  Someone will land a wonderful job.  Someone will buy a house or apartment in a wonderful location.  And maybe someday someone will give me a grandchild.

I suspect, Ms. Quindlen, that that will truly be the best part.

*************
Please read the blogs I have posted links for at the right and at the bottom of this page.  In addition to the New York Times' Motherlode blog, you will find some very entertaining and inspiring stuff there.

21 March 2011

Subway

There was a violinist playing Vivaldi's "Spring" this morning at the Columbus Circle subway station.

Oh, wait, there I go, starting in the middle again.  Let me go back to the beginning.

I have been riding the New York City subway every day for years and years.  Most mornings, my husband drops me off at the A train at 175th Street.  I take the A to Columbus Circle (59th Street), where I can switch to the B or the C local train.  Either of those drops me within a block of my office building.

This morning, the first full day of spring in New York, dawned cold, wet, and rainy.  In fact, the rain kept switching back and forth between real raindrops and very wet, heavy snowflakes.  The calendar and the crocuses say it's spring, but the sky still needs to catch up.  Last week, we had a seventy-degree day, and I almost put my snow boots and my heavy coat away for the season.  This morning, I was glad that I had not.

The subway is often a less-than-pleasant experience, but it is a necessity of life in New York for commuters like me, who have to travel a long distance in a short period of time.  There is no faster way to get around.  When I commuted in high school, I often took the bus, because my parents worried about my traveling alone below ground at age 14.  Now, however, I always opt for the subway.  A bus from 59th Street to 175th Street could take over an hour.  It's fifteen minutes on the A train.

The subway is filthy and in disrepair.  On days like today, it's especially crowded, and water drips and puddles right where I need to stand.  People almost always push and shove; today I got shoved around a fair bit, and with a broken shoulder that's more painful than annoying.  It is rare to get a seat, even when you are nine months pregnant, sporting a cast on your foot, or juggling a briefcase and crutches.  Crazy people rant, sometimes disturbingly enough to make me get off the train and wait for another train.  One afternoon last week, a woman lifted up her skirt and urinated right next to me.  I literally had to jump out of the way.  Teenagers squeal.  Preachers threaten.  Break-dancers spin.

And musicians play.

I imagine that this morning's violinist woke up, saw the weather, and decided that the best place to make a few dollars would be underground.  He probably ran his hand through his dreadlocks, packed up his instrument, and headed for the station.  He positioned himself near the end of the train (most riders gravitate toward the front or the back of the train, to be nearest their most convenient exit at their destination).  When the doors of my A train opened and I stepped out, he was tuning up, and then he launched into Vivaldi's most famous refrain.  Spring.

There is a rule for living in the city.  If a street performer makes you pause, you owe him a dollar.  I opened my wallet and found that I had about $1.50 in small coins.  Juggling my bag, my sling, and my umbrella, I poured the coins into his violin case.  He smiled appreciatively and kept playing.  He could not have been more than twenty-five years old.  His fingers moved so fast on the strings that they were sometimes blurred.  He did not miss a single note.  This is a big city.  I will probably never see him again.

*******************************************

What's in the crockpot:  chicken thighs, cubed butternut squash, a can of vegetarian baked beans, a can of diced tomatoes, a coarsely chopped onion, a handful of basil and oregano, and a sprinkling of salt and pepper.

It is extremely difficult to peel and cube butternut squash with one hand.  Who appreciates the small acts of heroism that go into every day?  Whether they involve a vegetable peeler or a violin, they are there if you are looking for them.

My daughter Becky is 14 today.  I have always appreciated the symbolism in the fact that she was born at the beginning of the season of renewal.  Happy birthday, Rebecca Claire.  May all your dreams come true.

Jennie

16 March 2011

Doctors

I posted a status on Facebook a couple of weeks ago that caused a pretty serious reaction.  I complained about how unaccommodating doctors, and most particularly their receptionists, were.  I'd forgotten how many doctors I count among my friends and family.  And I managed to offend many of them.  They told me that they worked hard, almost never saw their families, and always gave their patients top-notch care.  I deleted the exchange from my Facebook page as soon as I got home from work, but the scars remain.  I am developing a real anti-doctor sentiment here, and it is soon going to require treatment.

Let me back up and explain a little.

When I returned to work after my ski vacation, with my right arm in a sling, I was under strict orders from the doctor at the ski resort to keep my fractured right shoulder immobile.  I was also instructed to contact "my" orthopedist as soon as I got home for follow-up care.  ("My" orthopedist?  I don't own an orthopedist.  But okay, whatever.  I would get referrals; I would find out who was best in the area.)

The inquiry went out.  Names were collected.  The calling of the doctors commenced at 9:00 Monday morning from my desk at work.

I called five doctors close to my home and asked whether any of them could see me early in the morning (before work), in the evening (after work), or on a weekend.  None of them could.  I was told that there were no evening or weekend hours and that I would have to be flexible.  (I would have to be flexible?)  One receptionist told me that, if I really were as injured as I said I was, I would surely be able to get time off from work to deal with it.

I ended up making a 4:30 pm appointment on Wednesday with a doctor who came very highly recommended.  I explained to my boss that I would need to leave work early to get to the appointment.  My boss, for all his faults, is a very nice guy, and sympathetic to my injury, and he agreed without hesitation that this was something that took priority over whatever else we were doing.

At 3:30 on the afternoon of the appointment, I dashed out of the office and took the subway up to the George Washington Bridge, where my nanny picked me up (I can't drive yet) and whisked me off to the doctor's office.  I made it just in time.  I went in and gave the receptionist my insurance card, my x-rays, and the medical history paperwork that I had prepared in advance.  I was instructed to have a seat; the doctor would be right with me.

I sat for an hour in the waiting room, and then another half hour in the exam room.  The doctor came in, heard my story, and looked at my arm.  He re-x-rayed my shoulder and noted some improvement.  He instructed me to continue to keep it still and to make a follow-up appointment in two weeks.

On my way out, I asked the receptionist whether I could schedule my follow-up appointment.  "No," she said.  "We're completely booked.  We'll have to call you and let you know when you can come in."

Maybe these guys are really popular because they're so great.

Yesterday, the receptionist called and wanted to know whether I could be there at 9:00 this morning.  "No, I work during the day," I said.  I also had an important meeting to attend this morning.  "Do you have anything late in the afternoon?  Or on Thursday?"  I thought maybe I could talk my boss into more time off, if I had a little advance warning.

"That's the only appointment we can offer you," she said.  "Thursday is completely double-booked, and then the doctor is leaving for a three-week vacation on Friday.  So it's tomorrow at 9, or you'll have to wait until mid-April."

"Maybe there's another doctor in the practice who could see me?"

"No.  But I'll call you if we have a cancellation."

I thanked her and hung up.  And got back to work.

Late yesterday afternoon, I was able to secure an appointment with the doctor who performed my dad's Tommy John surgery.  (My dad is not a major league pitcher.  He swims, however, which, over time, can have similar effects on your shoulder.)  Dad's Doctor is pretty far from my home, but he's willing to see me at 7 pm, and that made all the difference for me.  Just before hanging up, his receptionist warned me that Dad's Doctor does not accept insurance.  Because of the flexible hours he keeps, he is in high demand, so people are willing to pay whatever they need to pay to see him.  I expressed concern.  "Can we talk about what this is going to cost?"

"The doctor will discuss your circumstances at the time of your visit and will work with you on the issue of payment," she said.

I conjured a mental picture of myself sitting on an examining table in a sling, trying to negotiate a fair price for the removal of said sling.  It wasn't a very pleasant image, but I felt like I was stuck.  I really do need my arm back at some point soon.

My husband and I are both lawyers.  We both take calls and e-mails from clients at all hours.  My husband, whose practice focuses on criminal defense, routinely meets with clients and potential clients early in the morning or late in the evening - whatever their schedules require.  He has been known to answer calls in the middle of the night and rush off to the police station or to court, only to return in time for breakfast.  People get arrested when they get arrested, and they need help then and there.  It's part of the job.

Now, I do not mean to condemn all doctors.  I know many personally, and they are generally a pretty selfless, hardworking bunch.  They are also witty and fun to hang out with.  But just trying to get an appointment with one of them outside of my working hours - which, by the way, are pretty cushy for a New York City lawyer - has been unbelievably difficult.  I understand that office hours are only a small slice of an orthopedist's life.  Surgery and hospital rounds also take up big chunks of the day.  But does it have to be that difficult, in this day and age, to get simple medical care?  This is not a life-threatening injury.  I understood from the doctor who treated me at the scene, though, that it's pretty common.  And I can tell you that it's painful, too.

Everyone needs time off.  If I were a doctor - or any professional who sees people on an appointment basis - I would work at least one weekend day, or a weeknight evening or two, and then take my time off in the middle of the week.  What are your thoughts?  Doctors?  Lawyers?  Patients and clients?

15 March 2011

Giveaway Results

Dear Readers, Followers, Blogophiles,

It's the Ides of March, which means among other things that it is time to announce the results of

Jennie's First-Ever Crockpot Giveaway!

Let me explain how I did this.  There were twelve eligible comments on my "Giveaway" post (the one comment made by me was, of course, not eligible).  I think that's a pretty crappy response for such a great offer, but such is life.  (How do people get hundreds of entrants in these contests?  How do they get so many readers?)

I went to Random.org and used their "true random number generator" to pick a number randomly from one to twelve.  I can't figure out how to cut and paste the actual results here, so you will have to take my word for it that the number it generated was

12.

Congratulations to Dr. Nalyn, the twelfth commenter and the best chiropractor in Bethlehem, Pennsylvania (and maybe on the entire East Coast).  Nalyn is a working mom of a fabulous teenage son, and I know her new crock-pot is going to come in very handy.  It's on its way!

I have much to say, but only one hand to write with, so please bear with my short and very unexciting posts.  The sling may come off my arm, at least part-time, tomorrow, so I hope you'll hear more from me then.

Thank you for following me and for encouraging me to write.
Jennie

14 March 2011

Giving

A reminder:  tomorrow morning, I will select the winner of my first-ever Giveaway.  To participate, please click on the right to follow my blog, and then comment on my "Giveaway" post.

We all give, every day, in many ways to those we care about.  Please remember the people of Japan in your thoughts and prayers.  And if you are in a position to give, please do so, in any amount you can.  There are many worthy charities on the ground and ready to help.  Here are just a few links (and you can find more by Googling "Japan relief efforts"):

Doctors Without Borders; The American Red Cross; Episcopal Relief and Development; The UJA Federation's Japan Relief Fund; Catholic Relief Services; and Save the Children's Emergency Fund.  All of these organizations are legitimate, well-established, and well-run, and will take donations of any size, large or small, to help our neighbors in Japan.

(Remember that the government and people of Japan offered substantial assistance to the U.S. during Hurricane Katrina and to Haiti and New Zealand during their recent earthquakes.  We are all neighbors in this ever-shrinking world, and we all help however and whenever we can.) 

I'll post the giveaway winner tomorrow.  Good luck, and much love.
Jennie

10 March 2011

What I Ate Wednesday

There is a funny little blog called Peas & Crayons that hosts a "What I Ate Wednesday" party.  (Apparently bloggers host parties a lot.  You are supposed to do something silly.  For example, post pictures of your grandparents and list their favorite foods, or create a step-by-step tutorial on the spray-painted decoupaged binder-clip holder that you made for your aunt last week.  Then you are supposed to link back to the blog that instructed you to do so.  In return, your blog might get a little more traffic from people who are interested in what people ate in the City of Newark, New Jersey, a hundred years ago.)

I stumbled on Peas & Crayons this morning (and, in the interest of full disclosure, I did not read the blog in its entirety, so I am not endorsing it in any way).  Apparently the Peas & Crayons lady wants people to post, on Thursday mornings, what they had for dinner on Wednesday night.

What a brilliant idea.  I'm in.

Yesterday, as you may or may not know, was a major Christian feast called Ash Wednesday.  It marks the beginning of a 40-day penitential season, known as Lent, that culminates in the very joyful holiday of Easter.  (If you have your calendar out and you are perplexed, please be advised that Sundays do not officially count as part of Lent.  It's 40 weekdays and Saturdays.  I could explain this to you in more detail, but we're talking about what I had for dinner last night, remember?  Try to focus.)

So all day yesterday, the faithful flocked to the churches of their choice to get that little telltale smudge of ashes put on their foreheads, to remind them that life is transitory.  Remember that dust thou art, and to dust thou shalt return.

My new church has a 7:00 pm Ash Wednesday service, so my husband and I sped out of the city after work, unto a tiny hamlet near our home, put on our pious faces, and dashed in through the back door at approximately 7:04.  The service had begun, and our children were already there, sitting with their aunt and uncle a few pews ahead of us.

After the service, everyone went upstairs, and here's where we (finally) get to what I had for dinner last night.

It is apparently a tradition in this particular parish, on the second-most-somber day of the year, to have a pizza party.  I am not making this up.  Fifty people, all with filthy, smudged foreheads, chowing on pizza, soda, and, wonder of wonders, homemade desserts.  Yes, one of the ladies had spent her day making brownies and chocolate-chip cookies for fifty.  Forget that fasting thing.  This is about people who have dashed home from work and are hungry.  The priest was not totally comfortable with the whole thing, I could tell, but there was nothing to be done about it.  It's a tradition.  You can't mess with traditions, especially when they predate you.

And here's the kicker:  there was beer, too, brought by one of the guys in a little cooler, and handed out to the other guys with a wink and a nod.  Beer on Ash Wednesday.  My husband doesn't need to die.  He was already in heaven.

So that's what I had for dinner last night.  And I want you to know, dear blogosphere, that while it was loaded with fat and calories, and while I had more of it than I should have, and while it in no way demonstrates to the other bloggers how creative and health-conscious I am, it absolutely hit the spot.  Like most people, I go through times in my life when I doubt the existence of God and wonder whether all of this religion stuff isn't a big waste of effort.  Last night was not one of those times.

So there you have it.  Back to work before I get fired.  It is my hope that you will hear from me again before the weekend, but if not, have a wonderful weekend.

Jennie

08 March 2011

Giveaway

I have decided (1) that I don't have enough regular readers and (2) that a good way to get more is to offer a bribe.  So, in that spirit, I hereby introduce

Jennie's First-Ever Crockpot Giveaway!

One week from today, Tuesday, March 15, one lucky follower will be selected to win a brand-new 

Hamilton Beach 33967 Set 'n Forget 6-Quart Programmable Slow Cooker.


This beautiful baby is state-of-the-art, essential equipment for the otherwise-occupied cook.  It has all the bells and whistles you need to look like you slaved, when all you did was fill it up, turn it on, and dash into the house twelve hours later, huffing, puffing, and starving.

To win, you must take two steps:  publicly follow my blog and comment on this post.  Next Tuesday, I will select one commenter at random to win.  Winner will send me, by private e-mail, his or her shipping address.  U.S. shipping addresses only, please.  (Legal stuff:  I am not being compensated in any way by Hamilton Beach or by anyone else, but I am not above that sort of thing;  I make no guarantee as to performance of this fine gadget once it's yours; and I reserve the right to make a reasonable substitution if circumstances warrant.  I'll let the winner know in advance if that is the case.)

It won't help your chances any, because I intend for this to be a completely random raffle, but if you have your own blog or website, you can help boost my readership by linking to my blog.  Grab my button on the right side of this screen, or just paste a link to my blog somewhere on your page.  If you don't have a blog or website, just talk me up at your next cocktail party or something.

My next goal is to top 100 followers, and I'm thinking this will help.  Thank you for reading and good luck!

Jennie


06 March 2011

Flowers

I am still having a great deal of trouble typing because of my shoulder injury, so I am going to keep this week's post as short on text and long on pictures as I can.  The novelty of wearing a sling on my right arm has worn off, and now I am sick and tired of not being able to do anything I want to do.  It hurts to bathe, dress, write, and type.  Lifting things is completely out of the question.  When people try to hug me, I scream in pain.  (I did this to my husband today and scared the daylights out of him.  Now I am afraid he's never going to touch me again.)  This just isn't fun.  I am trying to be upbeat and a good sport about it, but my inner complainer is starting to show through.

Well, enough of that.

This weekend, I went to Philadelphia (about an hour and a half from here by car) with my big sister and my mom.  My sister had members-only preview tickets to the International Flower Show.  She has been going to this event every March for about ten years or so, and this was my first time accompanying her.

My sister knows the City of Brotherly Love pretty well, since she married a Philadelphian twenty-five years ago and, at the beginning of their marriage, she spent a lot of time driving back and forth to visit her mother-in-law at the holidays.  I don't know the first thing about Philadelphia, so I reverted to my three-year-old self and just followed my big sister around for about twenty-four hours.

Here are Mom and Patty at the entrance to the show.


I have a coworker who will be a bride in June, and she asked me to be on the lookout for white roses and hydrangeas.  Of course, I saw every flower and combination of flowers on earth EXCEPT for white roses and hydrangeas.  Here are some of the flowers I did see:

 Scotch Broom

 Orchid

 Another orchid - isn't this one spectacular?

Sunflower

There was also a beautiful vegetable garden which I found quite inspiring.  I am hoping my shoulder will be better by April, because I have now caught the gardening bug, and I am eager to get some seeds into the ground and get my summer salads growing as soon as I can.

The best part of my weekend was seeing my childhood friend Tavis, who lives in Philadelphia and was gracious enough to get a babysitter so she could meet me, Mom and Patty for breakfast on Saturday.  I hadn't seen Tavis in about thirty years, and we picked right up where we had left off in eighth grade.  The hug she gave me was one of the best hugs I've had in years, and it didn't hurt at all.



It's been a cold and rainy Sunday back at home.  We're all a little sad, because my Uncle George (actually not a blood relation, but my brother's godfather and a very dear family friend) passed away very early this morning after a rough battle with Alzheimer's.  We went to church today and, in accordance with late-winter Anglican tradition, we "buried the alleluias."  The kids wrote "alleluia" with brightly-colored markers on strips of paper, and then they hid the papers away.  Lent, our somber season, begins on Wednesday, so there will be no more "alleluias" until Easter.  Not that anyone feels like uttering that word anyway, with Uncle George gone.

I don't want to end on a sad or depressing note, so I will tell you one quick encouraging thing:  the yard is full of signs of winter being over.  Everywhere, there are little snowbells and tiny inch-high sprouts of crocus leaves.  Their reappearance has me thinking about the pervasive role flowers play in our lives.  They are the first heralds of spring.  They are a symbol of joy for a bride and of comfort to a mourner.  And sometimes, their mere presence can be an excuse to reunite old friends.

Have a good week.
Jennie

01 March 2011

Connected

On Friday, February 18, 2011, at approximately 4:30 AM, I lost my phone.

I spent my last moments with my phone as follows.  I was in Newark Airport, about to board the morning's first flight bound for Houston.  I was sitting near the departure gate on something that resembled a radiator.  I took my phone out of its black leather case, opened it up, and checked in with work, Facebook and, possibly, Twitter.  I may have sent a text message or e-mail to my at-home helper, who was dogsitting in my absence.  I carefully tapped "settings" and put the phone into airplane mode, and then I closed it and tucked it away somewhere.  My purse?  A pocket?  It doesn't matter, because an hour later, it was gone forever.

The flight crew searched the plane carefully for it.  The TSA denied having seen it at all.  Continental Airlines - well, don't get me started about Continental.  They are about to be swallowed by United, and I take that as a sign that there is some sort of justice in the world.

My phone was a Motorola Droid, about two years old.  When I got it, it replaced a Blackberry and was just about the hottest thing on the market.  It integrated perfectly with my Gmail, played Pandora Radio on my bedside table, woke me with a pleasant alarm each morning, and kept me connected to both my office and my family.  Its ringtone, a silly robotic voice that said "droyyyyd" every time I got a text message, sent everyone around me into giggles.  I caused a sensation in my office by being the first person to make the leap from Blackberry to Something Else. 

My husband also got a Droid at the same time I did, but he didn't like it.  I, on the other hand, embraced it.  Sure, it was different, and hard to learn at first.  The touch screen is a little temperamental.  But I love gadgets and am always up for a leap into a new technology.  I was the first person I knew, for example, to have a Kindle.  I carry a netbook almost everywhere (even in my knitting bag, if you can imagine such a marriage of high- and low-tech hobbies).  I love my iPod; in addition to listening to podcasts and music, I use it to play Scrabble on a daily basis with a former colleague right here in New York and a friend who lives an ocean away.  I'm on both Twitter and Facebook, and, as you know, I keep a blog.  In short, I feel that, for a woman of my age, I am fairly well up-to-date.

Imagine my devastation at having lost my phone.

At first, I panicked.  I made everyone stand there and wait in the Houston airport while we scoured the plane.  My purse is one of those L.L.Bean "healthy back" quasi-backpack deals, with a big outside pocket from which my phone could have easily slipped.  How would I stay in touch with my office?  Keep track of my kids?  Chat with my husband?  Delegate tasks to the nanny?  Obsessively check my e-mail for dispatches from my mom?

My mom.  Here's a woman, bright, professional, and well-educated, surrounded by people who love her, active in her community and connected to her family, and only just learning to send e-mails.  Here's a woman who raised four children without benefit of ATM card, cell phone, Facebook, or text messages.  No Peg Perego convertible double stroller.  No extra set of sneakers at the gym.  No Weight Watchers iPhone app.  Her best friend lived down the street, and when she needed a chat, she actually got up, grabbed her keys, and headed down to Susie's house for a cup of coffee.  (When Susie moved away, my mom wrote her letters.  Letters.  On paper, with a postage stamp.  Imagine.)  There was no nanny.  There was Grandma.  There were also the other ladies on our street:  Mrs. Burton next door, Mrs. Colldeweih on the corner, Mrs. Lundberg down the hill.  They all had cookies and Band-Aids and backyards.  As far as I know, none of them had cell phones.  And yet, they managed to communicate, and to look out for each other's kids whenever necessary.

My mom probably doesn't know this, but she is an inspiration to me in many ways.  I went more than a week without a phone.  I checked my work e-mail only once, from a laptop, and, in my absence, the company had neither gone under nor experienced any crises that could not be handled by the people I left behind.  I managed to make lunch plans without text messages or phone calls.  (I sat on a couch with my knitting, and someone actually walked up to me and asked what my lunch plans were.  "I don't have any - shall we walk downtown and see what the soup of the day is?"  It was that easy.)

But then I returned home.  I went back to work.  School started again.  There were errands and e-mails and voice messages and texts from the kids, and I was missing a lot of it.  After work, my husband and I stopped at the Verizon store to get me a new phone.

I was surprised to learn that, after two years, I was eligible for an upgrade in equipment. 

I am now the proud new owner of an iPhone.

I spent about an hour last night configuring it, loading my music onto it, setting up both of my e-mail accounts, selecting a suitable background photo, and figuring out how to use the phone as an alarm clock.  It woke me this morning with a pleasant ring called "Xylophone."  The dogs leapt to life at the sound, just as they had when the Droid went off every morning.  As though nothing had changed, and all was right again with their world.

Have a wonderful day, and stay connected.
Jennie