Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Autumn.

It is cool and gray and a little rainy outside and I love it. The cooler, damp air is soothing after hot, dry days that leach all the water out of my hair and skin and make my eyes ache from the brightness. The weather today is like a cozy, dewy cloud all around me, and excites me with the prospect of the upcoming season of day after day of snuggly gray sweaters.

I ducked into Peet’s at lunch, and the smell of freshly brewed coffee was warm in the air. People were clustered around the few small tables, huddled over their coffee cups and talking animatedly about subjects of apparent great interest. You know me – not content to take in the scene on its face, I was instead transported back to the perpetual autumn of London and the pleasure of ducking into its coffee shops, pubs, wine bars and tea rooms for a little bit of cheer to brace oneself against the bite of yet another gray day. Perhaps because it is so often cold and rainy there, the British seem to have gotten coziness down to a science. It’s largely as simple as the use of warm lighting that spills out of picture windows into the chill of the street, but there is also something about the d├ęcor. For example, this is a picture of the bar in my favorite hotel in London, the Cadogan.














In the winter, by 5:00 pm it is solidly dark outside, and this room glows with the warmth of the lamplight on the polished wood and the small, silver dishes of nuts and crisps. My mother and I settle back against our cushions, usually with various shopping bags at our feet: Waterstone’s, Cath Kidston, Selfridges… always a good day. The bartender brings my mother her whisky and ginger ale; the small pleasures factor amplified by the use of Schweppes American ginger ale – a ginger ale with less sugar and a stronger tang of ginger than one would ever find Stateside. A champagne cocktail for me; a rough sugar cube dissolving under its iodine splash of bitters, merrily spinning thin ropes of the tiniest bubbles towards the surface. Really, that is my idea of heaven.

Do you ever just completely disappear into your mind? Writing that, I was practically there, ready for a fun conversation with my mom. I’m sure we’d be discussing the books we bought and whether we wanted to keep our reservation at whatever happening new restaurant I had painstakingly researched from the comfort of my office or just walk over to the Enterprise.

But then I snapped out of it, and guess what: here I am at work and the sun is back out and I have a conference call in 30 minutes and then it’s home to a teething baby and another sleepless night. But that is what vacations are for, right? To give you memories to trot out when you need them most.

Thursday, August 13, 2009

Mom Jeans (and Everything Else.)

Have I mentioned to you that I am doing “Body for Life”? Probably not, because it’s queer that I’m doing it at all, plus I’m only doing a sort of half-assed version that handily avoids the dietary deprivation and focuses instead on the weight-lifting and cardio program. Which undoubtedly means that I will continue to sit here 20 pounds above my desired weight for another 5 months, but at least I will have rippling muscles underneath the flab, the wrinkled belly skin, and the map of spider veins across my legs. Sweet!

(Yes, yes, I am feminine beauty incarnate and amazed at “what my body is capable of” bearing two gorgeous, healthy children; hear me roar, blah blah blah. Give me back my perky boobs.)

The Body for Life book includes lots of pictures that are supposedly taken at the beginning and the end of the 12-week journey. The sad-faced, lank-haired couples limply holding hands between their rolling hips and doughy bellies are replaced with dynamic, muscle-bound specimens with big grins and small swimsuits. The floppy skate wings and hairy ham hocks that were their arms are replaced with sleek, toned triceps and stringy biceps; the Pillsbury Dough Boy tummies with rock-hard abs. One can only assume they are now having loads of athletic sex. Twelve weeks to this kind of change seems exceedingly unrealistic, but the book makes the claim that it IS possible (if you only believe, Virginia).

I haven’t taken a “before” picture of myself because I feel a little too much like those sad sacks in the book, and I don’t really care to have that memorialized. If by the end of my own cookie-popping 12-week journey to physical perfection I have that kind of miraculous transformation, I will, however, don my skimpiest bikini and flaunt it for you. I can say this because I know there is no chance in hell that’s going to happen. I don’t have the will power to swing serious exercise AND a diet. Oh, let’s just face facts; I can NEVER swing a diet. The moment I tell myself I have to eat a certain way, I rebel against myself and start loading the sweets onto the conveyor belt to my stomach. I can’t stand this ornery, self-defeating quirk about myself, but try as I might I have yet to find a way to outwit myself.

I don’t really want to have to start hosting Denver Fashion Week for Moms, though, so maybe I need to figure this one out.

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

While I am away.





Downbeat in America.

Is there really any good news in the world right now? All the headlines are such a downer, from the state of our economy to the Taliban to the typhoons in Taiwan. Bob Herbert of the New York Times writes an especially upsetting editorial today: American unemployment is an even bigger issue than is being reported, and will ultimately lead to an unraveling of the domestic fabric. Apparently the unemployment statistics for young people are even higher than for older workers, meaning that

“When joblessness reaches these kinds of extremes, it doesn’t just damage individual families; it corrodes entire communities, fosters a sense of hopelessness and leads to disorder.”

How on earth can all of this be solved? What’s going to happen to the large number of young people who are losing traction in the job market? How are they going to establish careers or even steady jobs? Are people who do manage to get good jobs or even cling to crummy ones going to pass them by for the long term? How will they feed their families? How can this not result in higher levels of depression, of crime, of suicide?

God knows I don’t have an answer to any of this. It’s frightening. I know if I lost my job I’d be in a very scary place indeed, even though I tell myself that as a well-educated lawyer I’d certainly find something somewhere, sometime: “Hi, can I get you started with a venti sugar-free, fat-free, no-foam, extra-dry, extra-hot caramel latte?”

When we drove to Aspen a couple of weeks ago for our misguided stay in a lovely condo just off the slopes in Snowmass, we stopped for lunch in a little town called Fairplay. Fairplay is like lots of other rural towns across the country that haven’t been able to capitalize on any kind of charm; there’s not a lot of money there and it shows in the landscape and on the faces of the people who live there. The only place we could find to eat was a Pizza Hut, so in we went. The room was pretty dumpy, and there was only one young waitress tending to the two or three families who had stopped on their way to somewhere else.

Our waitress could not have been nicer, and she fawned over Ian and Alex. It turned out she had two children at home the same ages as they are. Once I learned that it was all I could think about even as I ordered diet Coke for me and milk for Ian; as I cut the tasteless, cardboard pizza into Ian-sized bites. Here we were, blowing through town on our way to Aspen, of all places, and here she was working for what couldn’t have been more than $50 a day in tips. We both had the same mouths to feed and needy, soft-skinned little bodies to clothe. Not for the first time, I marveled at how the luck of the draw affects us all. I had the good fortune to be born into a well-educated, reasonably financially secure family, which gave me the ability to create the same thing for myself (you know, until the downward spiral of the economy whips me into its vortex), and now hopefully to provide that same foundation for my own children.

If you start at an educational and financial disadvantage from birth, what are the odds you’re going to end up fulfilling your potential? Obviously, some people do, and conservatives like to make much of pulling one’s self up by the bootstraps, but overall I think it’s fair to say the deck is pretty well stacked.

Monday, August 10, 2009

Travelogue: Saturday night in Denver.

I reread my last post last night and I actually cringed. Talk about overuse of foul language! I’ve long been someone who swears like a sailor, but maybe having to temper that around small children has finally had a positive effect on me. When I was younger, my mother (at whose knee I gained all I know about language, foul and otherwise) told me once that the danger of swearing too much is that it can limit your ability to come up with other, more apt or creative words when called upon to do so. She was right, not that I stopped cursing. It’s probably better for the world that I am not a broadcast journalist. I would be the one pursing my lips and rolling my eyes when I disagreed with someone, crying about all the highway accidents and abused kittens, and of course, tossing in frequent instances of “fuck that.”

But unlike the Kate of yore, who had no such compunction, now seeing “shit” and “fuck” over and over again in one paragraph just looks like kind of cheap. Perhaps, at 40, I am becoming a lay-dee.

As if. I even hate the word “lady.”

How was your weekend? I have little recollection of mine, other than I had an actual date with my husband on Saturday night. First we went to the Mayan for a movie, (500) Days of Summer, which was delightful not only for the movie but because they treat you like a grown-up and sell you wine in a real glass that you can take into the theater! They even had reasonable selections; it wasn’t all Corbett Canyon or some other dross I wouldn’t even cast a glance toward at the wine store. [See, normally I would have said “shit” or at least “crap” there – dross is instead a delightful 50 cent word; baby steps.] After the movie, which wasn’t as good as I had expected but was still pretty cute, we walked down the block for a drink at a quirky place, Beatrice and Woodsley. It’s sort of fairy tale woodchopper meets girly cottage in the forest. Finally, we moved on to Sushi Den, which as I’ve mentioned before has the best sushi I have had in the U.S. It’s odd that should be true in a totally landlocked cow town, but the owner’s brother has another restaurant back in Japan and so twice a week chooses fish from the markets there and has it flown here. I assume they have another good source somewhere since otherwise by day 4 they wouldn’t be a very popular restaurant. Then it was back home to pass out from lack of sleep. So romantic!!

Friday, August 7, 2009

Self-indulgence.

So I tried again today with the Rue La La – I had a nice credit for my return of the misguided Marc Jacobs bag. Today was Vera Wang Lavender, and I bought these 2 delightfully discounted pieces:




















I really wanted this:




















But where is a 40 year old mother of two with a pretty non-existent social life going to wear it? That could make me a little sad in concept, but for the fact that I’m not sure I ever had a social life that would have given me occasion to wear this more than once a year anyway.

R. and I have halfway decided (okay, 7/8) that next March or April we are going to dump our kids with his mom and sister in North Carolina and jet on down to the Caribbean for a few days. Just saying “jet” sets me off in my fantasy world where I choose an overly expensive resort and justify it because (1) it’s only 4 nights, not the usual 7, and (2) we’re so tired and in need of romance that we deserve it. Sure, “deserve it.” Why not? People starving in Africa and a few blocks away from us, but we deserve a luxurious trip to Anguilla or some such. Putting liberal guilt aside for a mo, a pampered beach vacation sounds fabulous.

Now for the trouble of figuring out where to go. It takes a long time to research those pesky islands, trying to find the magic combo of fabulous beach and reasonable airfare. Why does it cost so much to fly to the Caribbean? Once you factor in the last 10 miles of sea plane or speedboat or whatevs, it’s really quite prohibitive. That’s presumably why those of us in this half of the nation who have to consider budget usually just go to Puerto Vallarta. The one time I went to the Caribbean on a budget (aka the only time I’ve ever been to the Caribbean), I ended up at a semi-dump in Negril, and I’ll just say it wasn’t to my liking. White plastic pool chairs and non-stop requests that I either buy pot or give up my watch because I’m a rich American = less than satisfying experience. This time, I’d like to experience the plantation shutters and 4-inch thick chaise cushions of my fantasies.

OK, back to reality, or at least to August. There was a piece on Colorado Public Radio this morning about a conservative group that is demonstrating against the “stupid” proposed health care changes espoused by our president. Many of the comments were made by old people already receiving government assistance who think that benefits should not be extended to others: “it’s not an entitlement.” OK, so, give it up, then, you old bat, is what I have to say about that…. I especially enjoyed this comment from one younger woman: “To think that we can make these kinds of changes to health care is a fantasy… like global warming.” Ah yes, that old saw. I swear to god; do these people know how greedy and/or ignorant they sound?

Which reminds me, on CNN last night they were showing the results of some poll that says Americans give Obama about a C for his first 200 days in office. Are you fucking kidding me!? The man has been working non-stop since his first day in office to make significant changes in government policies and programs to better Americans’ lives, and is measurably improving the way in which we are perceived by the rest of the world. I’m kind of dumbfounded that the populace thinks that somehow a new president is supposed to be a Superman who can eradicate overnight all the shit perpetrated on this country in the last 8 years. There is a LOT to clean up. And then there’s the pooh-poohing of his actual governance; Christ! Not only do I support a lot of the choices he has made, I also give him a lot of credit for daring to forge ahead with politically difficult issues like revamping health care. I just appreciate so much having a thoughtful, measured person in office; someone who I genuinely believe can make this country better. I wish the frigging Republicans in Congress would sit down and shut their goddamned, showboating mouths and let some shit get done.

Tuesday, August 4, 2009

Home sweet home.

Mmmm. I just scarfed down a satisfying lunch of cottage cheese and blueberries. I’m trying to think of it more as a kind of prototypical 1970’s country club luncheon menu selection than as the dietetic soul-destroyer it really is. Yes, that’s me with my kelly green, knit shirt dress, hair caught back in a brightly patterned, pink Pucci scarf, daintily forking tiny morsels of the pale, blobby mess from betwixt the folds of the watery iceberg leaf on which it was served. It’s really all I need, darling, as long as you pour me a gin and tonic to wash it down.

Meanwhile, it seems like quite a few bloggers are on hiatus here in the dog days of summer. It’s vacation time, or at least it used to be before I had kids. Around this time every summer, I’d be gearing up for the annual trip to Hilton Head – planning what novels I would take, making sure I had a thick Dell book of variety puzzles and a blue ball-point pen, adding another bikini to my collection. Oh, how times have changed. Vacation this summer was a long weekend at my mom’s (which was fabulous – no kids meant I slept and read and drank wine before 8 pm) followed by a nonsensical three-day trip to Aspen with R. and the kids.

I say three day; that means an entire day to make the 4 hour drive to get there, one day there, and another day to make the drive home. And could I really tell you much about Aspen now? I could tell you there’s a nice playground a few blocks away from the main downtown area, and that there is a pizza place in the Highlands area that has NO customers in the evenings, which sadly made it perfect for us. I think that pretty much sums it up. It turns out that when you have 2 kids under 2, it’s really better to just stay at home and save your shekels. At least at home one has all the paraphernalia necessary to deal with the constancy that is small children; on the road there is inevitably something missing. In our case it was both a crib and a pack-n-play, meaning that Ian slept in the king sized bed with Daddy and Mommy, until Mommy had to move to a twin bed in the guest room around 4 am to feed and snooze with Alex.

It was too bad; our condo was really nice and Aspen looked like it would have been lots of fun if R. and I had been on our own. I could happily have filled my day with perusing the blandly extravagant shops and hanging out at any of the cute restaurants with outdoor patios; as it was, we just wheeled our land yacht of a double stroller right by them and sighed.

Now we are home and today some good news – the Zoning Board granted our appeal for a variance. Our house can be built as R. designed it! Now comes getting the plans finalized for the actual building permit, getting financing, finding a place to rent, packing up and moving out for 6 – 9 months, and finally moving back in to our fabulous, modern home. The fireplace in our room will make up for not seeing Aspen again for at least 5 years, right?