Tuesday, January 29, 2013

I don't spend much time on my bike beyond riding on nearby paths to run the dog, so maybe that's why I was so interested in a New York Times article about people commuting from far-flung suburbs into the city. It's the hour - some at 4:45 a.m. - they leave; it's the conditions - dark, ice - they ride in; and it's the distances - 40 or so miles one way - that got me. I pride myself on getting out of bed at 7:00 each morning and walking my youngest daughter to school a quarter of a mile in 40 degree weather. Ha! What about the group that leaves from Ridgewood, NJ, at 5:30, with a shift at 6:30 "for the lazy people"? And the commuter who starts off alone in Chappaqua, NY, and is met in Hawthorne by a family of coyotes that trots alongside his bike? No complaining tomorrow morning or ever again when my alarm goes off.

Photo by Mikael Colville-Andersen via Flickr

Fabulous and funky

Monday, January 28, 2013

The Sartorialist: Closer
It was still bitter cold and gray on Saturday, so the bookstore seemed like a good outing with my daughter Kate, who's 13. Kate's a shopper and lover of anything fashion, so I knew exactly the aisle she'd head for. She also had a gift card with her.

I thought for sure she would choose kate spade new york: things we love, and she was awfully tempted. But in the end, she made a different choice. Earlier this fall, we were supposed to go to a book signing but had to change plans at the last minute because one child wasn't feeling well or another needed to be picked up - I don't remember now. I just know that street photographer and blogger Scott Schuman was in town to read from his new book, The Sartorialist: Closer, and Kate was mad she missed it. So she bought the book, and last night when she was sleeping, I took it for myself.

I didn't expect to like it as much as I did. It's a little quirky, with commentary on bullfighting, cowboy boots, and even a Mennonite girl on Route 45 in Pennsylvania. But that's what's best about it, I think. It's not just about fabulously and funk-ily dressed people on the streets of New York and Milan, though there's that, too. In the introduction, Schuman says he now wants to understand the people he shoots more than he once did, and for this book he tried to photograph a greater variety of people. That's why, he says, there are pictures of house painters, bartenders, fashionistas, and nomads "just to name a few."

More than what they're wearing, I love the faces of the people in this book. There's one photograph of two girls sitting on a sidewalk in Paris. Their arms are crossed over their legs, and they're leaning forward. They're smiling, and I feel like I know them. They're probably 17 or 18, but they remind me of a certain 13-year-old.


Friday, January 25, 2013

The temperature rose to 15 degrees today, an improvement over the rest of the week, but so, so far from Spring.

I decided to pretend, though, in West Elm. With the wood-handled garden scoops, paper flowers, and even bags to carry it all in, it wasn't hard. There was that moment of remembering that it gets better.

I hope you have a wonderful weekend. Stay warm.


Thursday, January 24, 2013

It's funny about money, and it's funny what you remember. I remember my father's comment long ago that my mother had a very hard time spending small amounts of money but a much easier time with large sums.

I'm the opposite. I can spend and spend, as long as the amounts are very small. I've even been known to buy only one of something when I really needed two, only to come back the next day (or a few hours later) to buy the second. And if I buy a few things at one grocery story, a few more at another, and go to a third for the last items on my list, then I feel OK. I've only spent a little in each place.

All of this to say that large purchases are hard for me. Even when those purchases are important. Like a new mattress for a boy who's been sleeping on his aunt's hand-me-down since he moved from his crib to a bed nine years ago.

So, no more new socks for me for a little while; fewer chewy sticks for the dog; a moratorium on leggings for one daughter; and not as many peppermint hot chocolates from Starbucks for the other. Only a new mattress for this boy. It's time for me to become more like my mother.


Wednesday, January 23, 2013

I set the DVR the other night to record Oprah's two-part interview with Lance Armstrong. Technology is not my strong-suit, to put it mildly, so in the process I ended up taping all of Oprah's other interviews (and upcoming ones, too, I'm sure. Stay tuned.).

So last night I sat down to watch Oprah talk with funny, down-to-earth, totally refreshing Drew Barrymore. Who knew? That's not entirely true: I knew a little bit. I knew she was wonderful in "ET." I knew, very generally, that she had a difficult childhood and was in rehab by the time she was 14. I knew she ended up being a successful actress who seemed a little quirky and definitely likable. And I knew she is now the mother of a sweet baby girl named Olive.

Oprah asked Drew, because of her experience growing up with parents who did very little parenting, what she would do differently with Olive. And she said: "I will be there at 3:00 in the school line waiting to pick her up."

I watched the Lance Armstrong interview, by the way. I listened to him apologize for doping, for lying for years about his doping, and for being a bully. But nothing in that interview moved me the way Drew's statement did. That she would be waiting for Olive. That she would pick her up at 3:00. Because she never had anyone waiting for her, and every child should.

There was the usual mix of grownups on our school playground this afternoon, everyone trying to stay warm. There were nannies, grandparents, fathers, older sisters who had walked over from the Middle School, and mothers. All waiting for 3:00.


Tuesday, January 22, 2013

I finished the wonderful book Wonder last night. It took me a while to work up the courage to read it in the first place. I worried that the subject - a boy with facial anomalies - would be too disturbing. Now I think it should be required reading of all pre-teens and teens, mine included, as well as their parents and their teachers. The author, R.J. Palacio, has called it a "meditation on kindness," and certainly we all need more of that.

The story is told first from the perspective of 10-year-old August Pullman, who up until 5th grade is homeschooled. Later, when August starts "real school," his friends, his sister Olivia, and Olivia's boyfriend Justin tell their side of the story.

At one point, Justin is mulling over someone's comment that the universe was not kind to August. "What did that little kid ever do to deserve his sentence? What did the parents do? Or Olivia?" But then he thinks about it more: "No, no it's not all random, if it really was all random, the universe would abandon us completely. And the universe doesn't. It takes care of its most fragile creations in ways we can't see. Like with parents who adore you blindly. And a big sister who feels guilty for being human over you.... And even a pink-haired girl who carries your picture in her wallet. Maybe it is a lottery, but the universe makes it all even out in the end. The universe takes care of all its birds."

I agree (and I think you'll love this book, middle-schooler or not).


Friday, January 11, 2013

In my life before children, I was a writer and editor for a daily newspaper. One of the things I liked about that job was being able to start over each day. As the mother of three children and one almost-always wet dog, I try to remember that. I can make a mistake but then do better the next time if I choose. I love that. Some other things I love? Design magazines. Design blogs. Anything design. Books I can't put down. A mailbox stuffed with catalogs. Great packaging. Paper. Dogs running off-leash. Children, even the 13-year-old, unpredictable kind. I'll write about these things here. I hope you enjoy.

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