Saturday, December 3, 2016

Commuter Train

Like me, the woman next to me is wearing earbuds, though she’s also reading a book. When the train lurches, she reaches her hand out and touches the metal handrail that we’re both standing beside, and I am repeatedly stricken by her perfect pink manicure. I don’t stand on the commuter train that often, so I’m taking my cues from her, perching on the short stairway of the double-decker train. It’s a good spot I’ve snagged: second step from the top, affording me the ability to look out the train window to my left, or take in all the other standees in what I like to think of as the train-car foyer to the right below.

The woman is close enough to me that, even with my music on, I’d be able to tell if she were talking. And she wasn’t. Not for the whole 40-minute trip. Until the very end.
   
“It’s an aphrodisiac,” she says. Not to me, but to the guy standing on the other side of her. He seems small, probably because he’s in the “foyer.” His slick black hair makes him look more Queens than Jersey – though admittedly, that distinction is often a fine one.

She hasn’t said a word to this guy the whole trip. She hasn’t glanced in his direction. Does she even know him?

He says something and then she says something and I can’t hear enough of any of it for my liking, but I’m sure the topic is aphrodisiacal in nature.

I pull out one of my earbuds, half of “Uncle John’s Band” now dangling at my chest.

“Who is this man?” I want to say. “What aphrodisiac?”

I am very good at eavesdropping, but now the woman’s back is to me and I can pick up nothing. I pull out my second earbud. They’re voices are too low. The train pulls into the station and they walk onto the platform.

I cannot bear the thought of going through my day not knowing whether they know each other. I cannot comprehend the possibility that they don’t, but the commuter train is a world, the way a dance floor is a world, and the dog park is a world, and I want to understand the culture of this world in a way that right now feels extremely urgent.

I catch up and ride behind them up the escalator (we’re three in a row), trialing them like Harriet the Spy for the 30 seconds it takes for the two to fall into a comfortable step beside each other and for me to become satisfied that he was not a stranger.

Phone calls on a park bench, waiting for the light to change, talking to the butcher, on line at the bank. Are we all always listening to each other? Or is it just me?

Friday, June 10, 2016

Seven Words I Cannot Say... (NYT Piece!)

This morning I said to my 16-year-old (a.k.a. SIXTEEN), "Do you want to read my essay? It's running in the New York Times today!!!"
HIM: Is that the one I read the other day?
ME: Yes!!!
HIM: Did you change anything?
ME: No. But it's in the Times!!!
HIM: In the actual paper?
ME: Well, no. It's online.
HIM: Mom. I read it already.

In case you're even slightly more interested than SIXTEEN, here it is: (!!!!)

The Seven Words I Cannot Say (Around My Children)

As always, thank you so much for reading.

xoxo

Tuesday, April 19, 2016

The Good Egg in Full Grown People

One of the reasons I don't post much here anymore is that you cannot publish something that's been published anywhere else -- even on your own little blog. And there are some pieces that I just want to be out in the world in a slightly bigger way. The essay I'm linking here is one of those, and I'm really delighted to have it up on Full Grown People.

It's called The Good Egg, and it's a story about a boy who egged my house. (More or less.)

As always, I'd be honored to have you read it.

J


Wednesday, October 7, 2015

Date Book Change - Another Whole Life Challenge Parable

Last month I changed my schedule book. I’ve never been able to use my phone or google calendar for scheduling – I need to write things down and see them in my own handwriting in order to know where I need to be and when.

I’ve been using the same Filofax system since maybe 1990. It’s in a brown leather case and the page spread shows an entire week at a time. (I need to see the whole week at once!) But, the pages are not that big, and as a result, the days themselves don’t have much room. And Saturday and Sunday are jammed together to occupy the same space that Monday through Friday each get on their own.

In July, once I started working more regularly, I needed more room to write things in (and I work on the weekends, so that minuscule amount of space just wasn’t cutting it). So I went to Staples, a store that, to me, holds the same kind of life-changing promise that other women find in a shoe store, and I found a scheduling calendar that seemed perfect. More space on each day, and Sat and Sun are treated like every other day of the week. Plus it’s light and attractive, and it started in June. An 18-month calendar that runs from June to the following December. This was huge – I could start my transition immediately.

It was a lot of work to transcribe the initial few weeks of meetings from my Filofax into my new planner, and as I did, I noticed something: Wednesday was not in the same place visually as it had been before. It used to sit on the bottom left, now it was on the top right. I suspected this was going to screw with my head, and it did. I couldn’t keep track of what was Wednesday and Thursday at a glance, so after trying the new book for two weeks, I went back to my old, familiar, too-small, inadequate planner. The one that I’d outgrown and that no longer served me at all.

I thought maybe it would somehow rise to the occasion, but it didn’t.

So in September, I tried the new book again. I still don’t like that it has Wednesday in an unfamiliar spot. And when I say I don’t like it, I mean I really cannot get used to it. But everything else about it rocks. Every single day I notice how much better my life is just from this crazy little calendar. And for now, I’m just writing WEDNESDAY in red to remind myself where it is -- I’m pretty sure after a few more weeks I’ll forget I was ever vexed by it.

Or I won’t. But I’ve committed to the new system…and this I know: it’s not going to get any better simply because I’m focusing on how much I don’t like where Wednesday is.

I know this new calendar is not perfect, but it’s so much better for me than my Filofax (sorry, Baby…we had a good run), so I'm going to figure out a way to make it work.

If this seems like another Whole Life Challenge metaphor, that’s because it is.

Monday, September 21, 2015

My Son's Green Smoothie (or A.M. Prep for W.L.C.)

It’s 8:40 a.m.  I just spent the last 40 minutes in the kitchen. I pulled out all the fruit and vegetables I use for my son’s green smoothie. (I know that sounds obnoxious, that my son drinks green smoothies, but he just started last year and, at 15, those may have been the first vegetables he’d ever eaten in his life. I don’t know how or why he agreed to try a green smoothie, but he did, and now I get to say “my son’s green smoothie.”)

Into the smoothie goes apple, cucumber, avocado, carrot, lemon, OJ, spinach, frozen strawberries, chia seeds, and, today, celery (because it was going to go bad).

My green smoothie, which I will have later, is similar (water instead of OJ, and I add ginger and protein powder), so I cut up extra of everything and put it aside so my smoothie will take 30 seconds to assemble rather than 5 minutes. I also cut up even more of all that stuff for tomorrow morning’s smoothie – just because I had it all out already. And while I was cutting, I decided to make some quinoa, which takes 15 minutes, and hard boil some eggs (also 15 minutes) and to cut up some broccoli and marinate some chicken breasts which I will throw in the oven for dinner.

I did all of that, including vacillating about using the cucumber because of the salmonella recall and cleaning up, in 40 minutes and I now do not have to worry about pounding nuts all day because there’s nothing in the fridge ready to eat.

After I write this, I’m going to make some quick egg salad with some of the hard boiled eggs. The others are going to be thrown, with some chopped veggies (cucumber, tomato, celery, olives, avocado) into the quinoa for lunch.

I do not do this every morning, but I wish I did. I have a day today that will start with a meeting at 9 a.m. and end after a meeting at 9 p.m., and it is jammed with work (and a necessary hair appointment) for pretty much every hour in between. I absolutely believe that the 40 minutes I spent doing this is doing more for my health than an exercise class. If I get a 30-minute walk in later, I’ll feel great.

I’m telling you all this because I am not organized, I don’t like to cook, I don’t ever feel like I have enough time in my day, and I go through many periods of every day feeling like I just want to sit down and have some delicious food to settle me. And this is how, on some awesome mornings, I deal with that set of circumstances.

And (except for your son drinking green smoothies, which I cannot promise), I’m pretty sure you can too.

Thursday, September 17, 2015

A Whole Life Challenge Parable

Once upon a time, I went to a nutritionist. I was sent to her by an acupuncturist whom I was recommended to by a chiropractor. I saw all these people because I was having recurrent pain and tightness in my back.

The nutritionist asked me a lot of questions, some of which made me cry – not because they were particularly probing, but because once upon a time almost any question about anything made me cry. 

After an hour and a half together – time spent listing all the foods I ate each day and taking a lot of blood, she suggested I might want to consider varying my diet – namely, having something else for lunch besides my daily tuna salad on a bagel.

“I’d rather die,” I told her, and at the time, I meant it.

I’m not sure what it was about tuna salad on an onion bagel in 1995, but I could not imagine a day without it. I had a great bagel store in Hoboken and the bagels weren’t huge but they were really dense and doughy. I looked forward to my tuna-salad bagel from the moment I woke up and upon taking the last bite, I started pining for the next day’s lunch so I could do it all over again.

“We often feel that way toward foods we’re ‘addicted’ to,” she said. “Those foods we really crave are usually the worst for us.” She was talking about the bagels and I felt my eyes start to sting again, a typical response to my being told I shouldn’t be doing something that’s not good for me.

“That’s just bullshit,” I said, and I left her office armed with a few vitamin supplements and absolutely no intention of ever giving up bagels.

I now cannot remember the last time I ate a bagel. It has surely been years. I mean, I can’t remember the date, but I can remember the experience: plain bagel, cream cheese and capers. As I was eating it, I was pretty sure it was the best thing I’d ever had in my entire life. It’s like I got high from it and I thought, Why don’t I eat these all the time!?

I also cannot remember when I started moving away from bagels as a staple in my life. I’m sure it had something to do with wanting to lose weight, but even when I’d “diet,” I’d manage to find ways to maintain the foods that soothed me in my diet.

And that’s what bagels do. They soothe me. Bagels are like a nice big dose of Xanax – they simply take the edge off everything.

For a bit.

And then I need another hit.

I don’t know how much I’ll be blogging about the Whole Life Challenge this time around, but it’s starting on Saturday (9/19) and if I do, be forewarned, most of the things I have to say about it will probably fall into this category:

If we are not happy with our energy levels or our health, it probably has a lot to do with how we are or are not taking care of ourselves. And if we’re not taking good care of ourselves, it’s probably because we’re partaking in things that may not serve us, but that soothe us. No one is asking anyone to go around unsoothed – that’s not a good plan – all I’m suggesting is try going for a day, or two days – some teeny tiny amount of time – without your usual “bagel” and just see how it feels. Keep a bagel nearby just in case it’s intolerable. If it turns out not as bad as you thought…that life really is worth living, even without a bagel for lunch, see if you feel like that the next day. No pressure. Just see.

There's never a good day to give up bagels, so you may as well try it today.

If you’re reading this thinking, oh I wonder if this is some message to me because I said I haven’t been feeling good lately but I'm also not “ready” to give up the things I need to give up in order to do the challenge, the answer is: yes. It is.

Saturday, August 8, 2015

Ungrounded

I am so unspeakably excited to have another personal essay run in the New York Times. As always, I'd be honored to have you read it. This was a hard essay for me to write and even harder to put out there. I'll say this: the comments in the Times have blown me away.

The link to the essay is here:

Ungrounded

Thank you for reading, responding, supporting.