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New Year’s (nonbinding) Intentions

We’re not going out tonight to some fabulous dinner party; we’re not going to a bar to drink and yell across the crowds to our friends; we’re not standing in Times Square with eighty gazillion people from out of town watching Snooki drop from a (stripper’s) pole at midnight.

I’ve given up on reverb10, despite the inner voice telling me I shouldn’t quit; the prompts were sort of variations on a theme and I’m out of ways to be interesting about writing more and bitching less?

Because basically, when you get right down to it? Those are my twin intentions for 2011.  Granted, it’s not up there with world peace or curing cancer, but hey – no less an expert than Gretchen Rubin, the Happiness Project lady, says that you should “start small” when you’re making resolutions.  So I’m starting small: I can bitch less, right? I just have to…not bitch.  Tucked into “not bitching,” though, you’ll find: be patient; find compassion; trust; breathe; let go.

And write more? Well, I can do that too. I can write in the morning before doing my email; I can write at night instead of watching reruns of “Burn Notice;” I can write instead of sitting on the couch and eating cookies – which is, truly, one of my favorite winter (and spring) sports.

I think 2011 will be filled with adventures and changes – Husband turns 50, Liam graduates from 5th grade, Caleb seems to be learning how to multiply (in first grade), and me? Well, if I believe my own reverb10 posts, I’m going to write a ton, learn to juggle, and do a lot of yoga.

I can do that, right?

Happy New Year!

Read full story · Comments { 2 } on December 31, 2010 in family, reverb10

Reverb10: Ordinary Joy

Dec 27 prompt: Ordinary joy. Our most profound joy is often experienced during ordinary moments. What was one of your most joyful ordinary moments this year?

When I first moved to New York to start my graduate degree, my plan was to get the degree and move the hell away. Who could live in this filthy, expensive, loud, expensive, chaotic, expensive, cement-bound city?

That was in 1988.

I’m still here. And with a family no less. And because of a significant design flaw, wherein giving birth to a child does not automatically also produce a full-time nanny, New York life did not get simpler with the addition of children.

I’m not one of those New Yorkers who insist that New York is the only place I could ever live – I have this fantasy about living in a small town in a warm place by the sea (with, of course, great schools, a good library, politically liberal people, and a few fab restaurants. Too much to ask?)  Sometimes I even think that living in LA would be great – and then Husband points out that we’d have to drive everywhere and I hate driving. To which I respond that it’s my fantasy, thanks, and in my fantasy, we live in West Hollywood or Silver Lake where I could ride a bike around and not have to spend every waking minute behind the wheel of a mini-van. Husband mutters things like “mudslides” and “earthquakes” and “the Valley” and then we stop having the conversation.

All of which is to say that my daily life in New York is not an unbroken romantic engagement.

This prompt reminded me of a day last summer, however, when I had a “wow I love this place” moment – an afternoon of ordinary joy, I think you could call it, because it started with something very simple: a bike ride.

I ride my bike in the city a lot; it’s the most sensible way to get around, especially if you have to go anywhere on a diagonal. I ride in all kinds of weather and even until I was about seven months pregnant with Caleb–can I tell you what kind of stares a hugely pregnant woman gets as she sails by on her bicycle?  I looked like Miss Gulch after over-indulging at a pig roast.

This particular bike ride was in the late morning on a weekday, during those glorious weeks in June when the boys are still in school but my teaching semester is finished. I rode west and then south, along the river, where I sat for a while and eavesdropped on the conversation this guy was having about the relative merits of small versus large dogs in NYC apartments.  His own dog seemed barely contained by his wee swim suit:

Further south, then turned east and cut across near City Hall, through the lunch-time crowd in City Hall Park:

There were about six chess games going on, each with its own audience. These guys were so intent I think a bomb could’ve dropped and they wouldn’t have noticed.

Then over to the east side, and turned north, along the East River, where I wondered yet again why the East River parks languish while the Hudson parks gleam with glossy infusions of hedges, flowers, and shade trees.  I stopped under the Williamsburg Bridge and considered Brooklyn, where I lived for twelve years before moving across the bridge.  Typical of my pattern, I left Brooklyn just before it became the “it” locale. Every neighborhood I lived in, in Brooklyn–Fort Greene, Williamsburg, Greenpoint, Park Slope–became wildly popular just after I moved away.  Whether that means I’m wildly ahead of the curve or that I’m so unhip nothing can happen until I leave, I’m not sure (though I tend to think the latter).

Under the bridge:

I liked this view so much, I took it twice:

I didn’t see anything extraordinary on my bike ride – just the constantly evolving stream of New York.  Sometimes it’s overwhelming but sometimes? Sometimes that stream of life fills me with joy about the fact that I get to live here, that all of this abundance is available to me.

Read full story · Comments { 1 } on December 30, 2010 in NYC, reverb10, street notes

Reverb10: Food?

Prompt for Dec 26: Soul food. What did you eat this year that you will never forget? What went into your mouth & touched your soul?

For any number of reasons, I’ll be glad when reverb10 is over. These prompts are starting to wear me down, although the discipline of writing (almost) every day feels good, just as it did in November doing NaBloPoMo.  Plus when December is over, it’s January and we can start counting down the days till my birthday…you might want to beat the rush and start shopping now.

Food? You’re asking me about food?  I love food – I love to eat; I like to cook; I like to think that I have a fairly balanced attitude towards food and eating; and I think that sharing a meal with a group of friends is one of the last civilized pleasures. The food section of Wednesday’s New York Times is pretty much the reason I get the paper delivered.

That said, I don’t remember any one particular food that touched my soul, although a good Manchego gets pretty close.  Instead, what comes to mind are various meals and conversations shared with people I care about: the great Cuban sandwich and amazing house margaritas I had with my brother at Rye House; dinner with Joe and Kent at Pizzette 211 in San Francisco, as part of my now-annual Mommy Goes Away Without the Family trip–and also the delicious lunch Susan and I had on our drive north out of San Fran to Indian Springs. Husband and I celebrated a dear friend’s birthday at Craft where I had potatoes au gratin so good I’d trade my kids for a bigger bowlful. There was an anniversary dinner in Chicago’s Millennium Park with Husband in August; and then of course there was my discovery of brussels sprouts–as prepared by David Chang–which I never would’ve tried if Bridget hadn’t suggested it at our lunch last winter at Momofuku Ssam Bar.

So here’s to lots of good food and conversation in 2011–I’m going to cook more, I’m going to start giving my kids cooking lessons, and Husband and I will be “date nighting” at restaurants more often. Those are my food-related vows for 2011.  Let’s get started: anyone have a good suggestions for where Husband and I should go to celebrate my inching ever closer to fifty?

Read full story · Comments { 1 } on December 29, 2010 in food, reverb10

Reverb10: Photo

Prompt from Dec 25: Photo – a present to yourself. Sift through all the photos of you from the past year. Choose one that best captures you; either who you are, or who you strive to be. Find the shot of you that is worth a thousand words. Share the image, who shot it, where, and what it best reveals about you.

I’m sitting on a dune in The Empty Quarter, Rub’ Al Khali, in the early morning. Here’s the initial thought process that happens when I look at this photo:

–dear god woman do something about your hair because that ponytail loopy thing does not work. or if you’re going to insist on that particular hair arrangement, then let’s do something about the increasingly nixonian jowl.

–while you’re at it, let’s work on the backfat, too, shall we? and you should perhaps overcome your loathing of bra shopping and find one that fits. And then while you’re shopping for a bra, why don’t you also see if you can find a replacement for that mangy white t-shirt that clings so attractively to every ripple of your late-mid-forties mid-section.

–nice sneakers, too. is it so much to ask that you dress like a grownup?

And that, my friends, is why I hate pictures of myself. That particular feedback loop gets really tiresome–and occurs very nicely on its own, even without visual stimulus, thanks very much.

But now I’m going to try a paradigm shift and look at this picture more generously–as a “present” for myself.

–This picture was taken by Husband during a magical walk that we took on the dunes with both boys, who were delighted to be playing in the biggest sandbox they’d ever seen. All of us, in our own ways, were feeling the enchantment of the desert; we spent more than an hour running and climbing and, yes, sitting quietly taking in the silence.

–I’m holding a camera, which reminds me that a long time ago, in a faraway land called “youth,” I loved taking photographs and sometimes even took a few that were quite good. I’d like photography to be a bigger part of my future life.

–I’m outside, in a beautiful place, and that reminds me that getting out of the city–even if only to the Hudson Riverpark–makes me happy.

–I want to remember the peace of this place–the silence, the infiniteness–for those moments (hours, days, weeks, the entire month of February) when the apartment walls start to close in.

–And, finally, this picture reminds me that adventure is good for the soul.

Read full story · Comments { 4 } on December 29, 2010 in me my own personal self, reverb10, Travel

Reverb10: Everything’s Going to be Okay

Prompt for Dec 24: Everything’s OK. What was the best moment that could serve as proof that everything is going to be alright? And how will you incorporate that discovery into the year ahead?

First of all, where do we stand on whether “alright” is one word or two? I am in the two-words camp, which means that, like the misplaced “it’s” in a previous prompt, I look at this prompt with a little inner “grr.”

But. That grr notwithstanding, my response to the prompt:

Husband traveled a lot this year as part of his work in Abu Dhabi and neither of us, I think, at the outset of his journeying, knew how hard it would be. I mean, we knew the logistics would be tough (for the person who stayed home –oh wait, that’s me) and that jet lag would be exhausting, and that he would miss out on stuff happening in the boy’s lives blah blah blah…But neither of us quite realized that there would be intangible difficulties too: simple things like trying to catch each other up on the day’s events, for example, weren’t simple at all, because of the nine-hour time difference.

After each trip it takes a few days for things to settle back to normal, but last summer, after Husband had been gone on a two-week trip, we had more than a standard-issue squabble. We had A Big Discussion. Without divulging any secrets, let’s  just say that things got heated and then got very, very cool. As in cold shoulders and even colder silences.

Neither of us is particularly good at staying angry–well, okay, I am a lot better at it than Husband, actually, but I get tired of being the only one In A Fight–so our typical pattern is to let a big fight fade, let it slip silently under the water of daily life to become part of our marriage’s subterranean landscape–the sharp rocks we step on when we’re not looking.

Last summer, though, instead of giving in to sheer inertia, we carved our way out of our interpersonal Arctic zone. We got to the root of what we were arguing about (which was not, of course, the ostensible topic on the table), and found a solution. A resolution, an answer, a plan.

Would that I could write a happily-ever-after paragraph here, in which I state that as a result of our resolve this summer, we’ve been living squabble-free ever since. If you’d like to believe that, please stop reading here.

In real life, the Bicker McBickersons still visit us each time Husband returns from a trip, but their bitching doesn’t carry much bite these days. Our resolution this summer shows me that, all bickering aside, everything is going to be all right.

Read full story · Comments { 3 } on December 28, 2010 in marriage, reverb10