August 19, 2013 § 1 Comment
In addition to Beach Reading, we’ve also been doing a fair amount of Beach Watching as we wind down the last few weeks of summer.* And one of the shows we’ve been watching is the second season of Girls, which I kind of love. It is hilarious. And oddly honest. (Although, there is a touch too much “naked time” for my taste.)
My early twenties may have seemed a lot more together than the those of the characters on this show, but I think Lena Dunham pretty much nails it in terms of how I felt on the inside. Every awkward moment. Every “what the hell” adventure. And every swing from “I am BRILLIANT” to “I am SUCH a loser”. It is all there, making me laugh and thank the heavens I am no longer a young twenty-something.
Now, there is a little issue I want to address about the last episode I watched (SPOILER ALERT), where Marni (the “hot but composed, going places one”) tells another male character that what she really wants to do is sing. And he responds that she should do it right now. His reasoning was that there was never a time when she was going to be more beautiful…more desirable…and so, this was her moment. She had better act fast.
The harsh reality — which is one of the reasons that I love this show, it puts it out there — is that from a certain, real world perspective, this is true. Young, pretty women get gigs and records deals. Young, pretty women are viewed by a many young men (and a lot of older ones) as the best “get” in terms of dating. And yet…
How many women do you know that are completely beautiful and desirable and interesting and accomplished that are not in their twenties? My guess is quite a few. I am surrounded by them — and I am not just talking about “beautiful on the inside”, even though they are that, too. So while the scene portrayed a completely authentic exchange, I do think it is important to remember that the notion of “this is the time when you will be your most beautiful” is really kind of hooey. You just probably need to be a little older to realize it.
* Truth be told, there has also been some Beach Working, but when you must, you must.
July 21, 2013 § 2 Comments
I grew up in a rather traditional Italian-American family (surprise!), where Sundays were kind of a big deal. Every week, tomato sauce, meatballs, sausages and other delicious things were prepped before my last Lucky Charm was eaten. And my Grandparents always came over for Sunday Dinner, which was often eaten in the middle of the afternoon and kind of stretched out until the early evening. That was “Sunday” to me. I never questioned it. It was just how it was and it was pretty nice.
When I went to college, there was no “Sunday Dinner” so-to-speak. But I did notice that early in my freshman year, my then-boyfriend and I always went to a very late lunch (seriously, like 3pm) at the same Chinese restaurant every Sunday, where I ordered the same exact thing, week after week, pretty much until we broke up. I suppose I had replaced one Sunday ritual with another.
Once out of college and living on my own, I found myself inviting my friends over for dinners on Sundays, rationalizing that if we didn’t get together, we were essentially tossing away part of our weekends. Another ritual. But that one was hard to sustain on account of Life Events, and everyone eventually becoming too busy to make it stick. And honestly, I didn’t feel like I’d “lost” anything. This was life and things change. Right?
But this past winter I was at a dinner party being thrown by a fellow Italian-American woman and as the evening went on, I was surprised to find myself confessing to her that I actually missed those more special Sundays. And her reply was simple: “You just have to make new rituals.”
Hmmm…that sounded too easy. And while I haven’t yet figured out how to create a Sunday of my childhood, I have noticed that Mr. H and I do have a few Sunday rituals which vary, but still count. One of these is lunch or an early dinner at Almond, which has an outpost by our house at the beach.
There is always a warm welcome to be had here, as well as a delicious mac-and-cheese and something called the B.A.L.T., which is a BLT with avocado and some kind of heavenly spread to which I am thoroughly addicted. They also have that fabulous Scalamandre Zebra wallpaper that I adore, but have nowhere to use…
There is also the Sunday Flower Run which not only keeps the house cheery during the workweek, but can also result in an excellent education in the various varieties and care of the things we pick. (The Watering Orchids session was one of the most useful in my Floral Life.)
And when we are in the city, trips to Larder to make sure we have a treat or two to help us through the week is a pretty regular thing…
As are walks with A+O, especially when we are at the beach, where things are a little slower and we can take it all in…
And watch A-dog flip out over the horses…
And O-dog judge the quality of the plantings…
And then there are days when I simply crave the scent of garlic, tomato and basil in the house. Those are the days, like this one, that I pull myself off the sofa and just make a simple tomato sauce with some pasta and call it a Sunday. Sometimes those are the best rituals of all.
(Photos, including one of this evening’s early pasta dinner: Some Cozy Night and Mr. H)
July 17, 2013 § Leave a comment
Well, the last few days have been sort of like a Double Stuffed Oreo of Unexpected Activities, Unpleasantness (and not just the smell of the streets), and Too Much To Do. Yes, I know. I always seem to have Too Much To Do, but for some reason, it just keeps happening. And yesterday as I was leaving the house for the office, with A+O in tow and in very high suede sandals that were a must with the outfit I was wearing, I noticed that the boxwood at the top of the steps looked really, really dry. Even though I checked the soil on Sunday and it seemed fine. Mild Panic ensued, as I feel extremely responsible for anything that needs to be kept alive at my house.
Now, as I mentioned, I had two terriers attached to my wrist, a tote filled with legal and other work documents — but strangely enough not my wallet, which added to the day’s stress upon discovery — and was wearing extremely lovely but vertiginous heels. And yet, before locking the door, I seriously contemplated watering the boxwood. Did I mention that I needed to be in midtown in like five seconds? Well, I did. Yet still I contemplated. And then I remembered that it was too late in the morning to water* and ran off to work.
The day flew by and my poor boxwood never crossed my mind, especially since I pretty much spent the day running around town sans wallet, to, among other engagements that require credit cards and identification, a doctor’s appointment. (I did manage to get my insurance company to email a temporary card to me. The wonders of The Modern World!) And when finally I arrived home that evening, at the top of the steps stood my boxwood in all its dehydrated glory. Luckily, I was sans-dogs and now in flats — I am always prepared — and I lugged myself up the steps and into the house and then watered the darn thing. Needless to say, I felt much better. A few moments later the revelation hit me:
I cannot do everything.
I know we all say that to ourselves all the time. Or I do, at least. All the time. “I can’t do everything!” But I realized at that moment that what I really mean by this is “I can’t do everything this very moment but I will totally do everything as soon as I can.” Does this seems like a good plan for life to you? Me neither.
But how to eliminate the implied end of my “I cannot do everything” statement? Well, I suppose really letting it sink in is the first step. And for heavens sake, I studied management for like a billion years, so I should be able to apply some of that training, right? A quick review of my overall “getting things done” behavior reveals that I do “outsource” plenty and I excel at prioritizing courtesy of the giant GANTT chart** in my head. BUT…I still wind up managing it all. Not because there isn’t necessarily anyone to share the tasks with, but more often because I don’t ask for enough help. Remember when I said I was working on that in January? Well, so far, FAIL. But hey, there are still almost six months to go, so maybe I’ll call for a re-set and see what happens. In the meantime, I have to water my boxwood again. (No, I am not kidding.)
Wish me luck!
* It is actually bad to water during the warmest parts of the day.
(Photo of my near-death boxwood: Some Cozy Night)
July 5, 2013 § 2 Comments
At last, after three-plus years of ridiculous amounts of work, we debuted our Major Project on Monday and today Mr. H and I were finally able to hit the beach in peace. As I was hanging out this afternoon, I found my mind wandering towards things “I could be doing”…and then remembered that it was really ok to do nothing. Which is what I did. Nothing, that is. And it was great.*
Holiday weekends — and life in general — can put a lot of pressure on a person to have THE MOST AMAZING TIME. But I think the best way to combat this is to try to decide if a given activity (or thing or whatever) is going to make you happy, or whether it is just the idea of it that is beguiling. A lot of times for me, it is the latter. So I try to keep myself in check when I can — total Development Area for me — and make sure that I am doing my best to decide what I am doing in my down time, rather than getting caught up in what I “should” or “could” be doing. A rather freeing concept if you run with it.
*And what better song have floating in my head now than one of my favorite of Fiona Apple’s, “Waltz (better than fine)”, which pretty much covers the topic entirely. If you haven’t heard it, a sample can be found here: https://itunes.apple.com/album/waltz-better-than-fine/id153432152?i=153432346&ign-mpt=uo%3D5
(Photo of my Turkish Beach Towel: Some Cozy Night)
June 29, 2013 § 2 Comments
This post is a small tribute to Marjorie Hillis, former Vogue editor and author of several excellent books of her day, including Live Alone and Like It, Orchids on Your Budget and a number of delightful others. While a few of the titles have been re-issued, I prefer the originals from the 30’s and 40’s, which are easily found on Alibris and other vintage book sites and shops. They are completely charming and rather radical for their time. They are also hilarious.
Ms Hillis was a writer with an intoxicating combination of chic and practicality. Sort of a Dorothy Draper of Living. (In one of her books, she asks her readers to think about whether or not they can “afford a husband”. Ha!!) Given the times she was living in, when women were supposed to be attached and raising children, her’s was a novel idea: be single, be married, whatever you decide, just make sure that you are happy and confident in your choices. Oh, and don’t be a schlub.
So, why all this chit-chat about Ms Hills, the married lady who happened to write about being a single woman waaay before the idea of “Carrie Bradshaw” could have been imagined? Well…for the last several days and for the next few as well, I am on my own at the beach. Mr. H is in the city working on finishing up a major project, and I am here for the sole purpose of having a new dishwasher installed at the house. (I know, it’s all glamour, glamour, glamour with me.) I am also working remotely on said Big Project, but still, I am on my own. And it is reminding me of all the truly wise things Marjorie has to say about living on your own. One of them is that you should always eat your meals at a properly set table — or tray — even when you are alone. No “Soup for One” in Hillis-land!
And so I have been making an effort to do so, including setting the table for myself and choosing some new music to take in while “dining”. I’ve also made sure that I have entertainment between reading copy and approving things, fresh flowers all over the house, and have even gone so far as to make sure that I look less than insane when leaving the house for grocery shopping and dog walks. And I must tell you, it makes the whole Being on My Own much nicer than if I were just kind of being a Sad Girl. A lesson for us all, I think. Even if you aren’t a person who loves their solitude, Living Alone and Liking It is completely achievable.*
* And yes, I still miss Mr. H
(Photo of this evening’s dinner: Some Cozy Night)
May 20, 2013 § Leave a comment
OK, I swear this isn’t a placeholder post, even if I am still trying to get my photos from the beginning of our trip off of my camera. (Who knew the battery needed to be charged to do that?? OK, maybe the people at Leica and those that read the manual, but I digress….)
So, Mondays. I think we can all agree they can be a bit of a drag. Especially the Monday you are coming back after two weeks of (chilly, windy and at times rainy) bliss. I find it very difficult to be productive on a Monday. And for a long time, my mood after work on Mondays was kind of low, feeling like I had simply wasted a day, leaving myself with even more to do the rest of the week. Not a good feeling.
Then one day a few months ago it hit me: Make Mondays about getting other people rolling. So, I decided to make this the day of the week that I meet with each of my direct reports to go over their progress, what they need from me, and give them direction on what to focus on, what to hold off on and the like. And you know what? It works like magic! Seriously, I sit in my office and answer questions and catch up with some of my favorite people all day. And when each person steps out of my door, they leave knowing what to do (I hope), and I leave the office feeling as if I got tons done. That’s a much better feeling.
Now, I know that not everyone has a job that includes direct reports, status meetings and the like, but I think what is really at play here is the feeling that you are being productive by getting things in motion. And if your Monday To Do list is filled with things like “Talk to So-and-So about next steps on X”, it is actually a little easier to accomplish than the line item that says “Renovate House”. “Renovate House” is going to be on your list for quite some time. “Talking to So-and-So” may really get crossed off Monday.
Yikes! I have another meeting.
(Photo: Some Cozy Night)
March 29, 2013 § 1 Comment
Just back from a lovely dinner party with a group of people that I didn’t really know before this evening and had just the best time. This was preceded by a meeting with someone that I’ve known for a long time but finally got to know better today and was so happy to find that she was as cool and easy to talk to than I could have ever anticipated. And on top of that, I could not help but notice what a great team we have at work — they are all so committed and interested in making it right. AND fun to be with. Tonight, I feel lucky.
So, my point? Well, one’s life can be measured in so many “accepted” ways that you wind up feeling as if you haven’t done it quite right. But then there are moments — and even entire days — when you are left with the genuine feeling that there was no other way than the path you picked. In the midst of the Supreme Court hearings of the last two days, the LEAN IN hoo-ha and all the other things in our culture that seem to be designed to draw a line between you and what is “acceptable”, a day like today reminds me that making your own happiness is really all that matters. So, I guess that is my point: Make your own happiness and do what feels right to you. It really is all that matters, even if it doesn’t feel like it most of the time.
January 11, 2013 § 2 Comments
I moved to New York in part for this view on 5th at dusk last night. The sky was an insanely pretty shade of blue and the city seemed ready to light up and do something very, very “smart”.* My choice to move here — at 18, when you know pretty much nothing, which aids the decision-making process — was based a little bit on an impulse and a lot on a vague idea I had of what it would be like: One part Woody Allen, one part Nick and Nora, one part “Who Knows?”. And I knew I wanted to be in that glow. It can be a very hard place to live, but in the end, I don’t know that I would have it any other way. Which brings me to Oprah…
OK, I am not really going to write about Oprah**, but I know that she is all about “lightbulbs going off in one’s head” and I was just reminded one of my biggest moments of that variety today. I was flipping though some photos online (trouble focusing at the office today), and saw one of the designer Cynthia Rowley. No offense to Ms. Rowley, but I pretty much never think about her. Until I saw her photo. Then I remembered that a decade ago, I was on the subway heading to my job at one of the world’s largest media companies where I was completely and utterly miserable. I was deep in thought, contemplating leaving my job to work with Mr. H.
No offense to Mr. H, but this was a tough decision. I had no idea how it would all work out if I left, but was awfully certain that if I played the game right (and learned German…for another post), there was a clear path and it wasn’t shabby.*** The train stopped at West 4th and Cynthia Rowley got on and stood pretty much in front of me. My head still full of “what ifs”, I looked up and realized that someone who took a risk to do her own thing — that worked out! — was literally standing right in front of me. Yes, she looked tired. (If only I knew how tired she probably was!) But she also looked settled in that way that people do when they have accomplished something they weren’t certain they could pull off.
I am not a big risk taker, but I am a big believer in Signs that are Convenient for Me and this one was too good to ignore. Standing right in front of me was the reason to do it. So I resigned, was terrified for a bit and then became quite calm about the whole affair.
Ten years later, Mr. H and I are both still alive, still married to each other and have had some amazing experiences that would have never been possible if I had remained on my previous path. (There were also many more stupid, agonizing and annoying experiences, but I think O would want me to stay positive here.) Which I guess brings me to a point that may seem trite and obvious, but is worth repeating anyway: Life never goes quite how you think it will, so you may as well just try to steer it in the direction of happiness, even if you aren’t sure that you can pull it off. The odds are more in your favor than you think.
xx & one major “O”
* Sadly, I was headed back to the office after a doctor’s appointment, but still, just catching a little of that buzz was enough for the moment.
** Love her in the Liz Lemon way.
*** Unless you think Well-Paid Total Misery is a bad thing.
(Grainy photo: Some Cozy Night)
December 26, 2012 § 2 Comments
Do you like Mr. H’s Christmas Stockings? I certainly did. And the toasty fire made our Christmas morning quite cozy, which was a great start to a lovely holiday. I hope you had a good one, too.
And now that it is all over, we are in the midst of winding down for the year. Mostly I hope to sleep, read, sleep, go to the gym without “squeezing it in”, eat and did I mention sleeping? Well, that is the plan.
I also plan to continue enjoying one of my favorite holiday treats: Panettone
How did I ever find this unappealing as a child? Maybe because it had “fruit cake” connotations? Or perhaps I was just stubborn. Whatever. A friend brought one to our place a few years ago and I am completely addicted to them now. Lovely with a cup of tea or as an indulgent breakfast. And you can get them this time of year in many places. My go-tos are BKLYN Larder (http://bklynlarder.com) and Zingerman’s (https://www.zingermans.com…and no, I do not work for them). Yum.
I see that I have gotten off the topic, which is Winding Down…whoops!
Part of Winding Down for me is actually getting rested and relaxed enough to wind back up again. Another part always involves some thinking about a goal or two for a coming year. You know I dislike “resolutions”, but having a sense of what you would like to incorporate into — or eliminate from — your life isn’t such a bad thing. Just don’t put too much pressure on yourself. (A Development Area for me, sadly.)
So, goals for the coming year…
My first it to meditate more seriously. I have everything I need to meditate: the floor and myself. And you don’t even need a ton of time to meditate, but I can fill up a day so quickly that it is super easy to skip it. And, like moisturizing at night, I really should not skip it. When I meditate regularly, I find my overall reactions to things are much more measured and I am less easily flustered and overwhelmed, putting this in the Very Worthwhile file. So, I am going to try to spend less time reading mindless headlines on the internet and such, and reallocate it to a decent practice. Fingers crossed.
The second goal is a really tough one for me: Ask for help more often. I am a terribly independent person so I find it very hard to ask for help — or even accept it when offered. Since this is so not in my nature, I am going slow. But today, when Mr. H said that he would sweep up some dirt I had tracked inside, it took a moment, but I put down the dustpan and said “sure…thank you”. And to my knowledge, the said dirt has been swept up. Baby Steps, my friends…
But Baby Steps are sometimes all it takes to make big changes in life. So, I am stepping and shall see where I wind up.
(Photos: Mr. H and Some Cozy Night)
December 23, 2012 § Leave a comment
We finally made it! And I am so happy to be out of the city for a spell and to have nothing to do but cook Christmas dinner and open presents.* On the way out to the beach, Mr. H had the radio tuned into a station that was playing nothing but Christmas Carols.**I have a number of favorite ones — “Away in a Manger” and “What Child is This” are two — but had completely forgotten that one of my all-time favorites is “God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen”. (No, I do not know how I could have forgotten this carol. I really don’t.) Naturally it was in the rotation and the phrase “Comfort and Joy” has been swirling around my head ever since.
What lovely things to wish for someone and to have for yourself. So, I am wishing that for you, in whatever form it may take.
*Less happy that our neighbors by the beach seem to have the only construction crew willing to work on Saturdays and in the rain and cold, but whatever. I think I am earning some good Remodeling Karma on that one. We shall see.
** Not to be confused with Christmas Songs, which tend to drive me nuts.
(Photo of the 2012 mantle at the beach: Some Cozy Night)