Tuesday, May 31, 2011

a sweet summer story (lyn)

Another hot day.  I decide around 3 to go see a $4 play.  Baby It’s You, a musical about The Shirelles.  I buy two tickets.  The play has gotten bad reviews, but everyone who sees it, loves it.  I can’t give the ticket away.  Everyone is either busy, wants to stay in because they have been busy, or hate theater (that would be my son).

The play starts at 7, so I hastily eat only some prosciutto, and a 10-day old apple tart from the farmer’s market.  With some big graduation meals planned for next weekend, I am trying to eat light.

My seat is perfect.  Aisle, about ten rows back.  The reviews were right.  The book is flawed.  But the music, voices and costumes are superb.  Truly, I doubt any non-theater critic would notice the lack of depth in the characters. 

I take the subway home.  In my car is a lovely girl dressed in white carrying a small bouquet, and wearing a white feathery tiara.  Her date is tall and dressed in a nice suit.  They are with another well-dressed couple.  My first guess is prom.  But they look a little older than prom-age.  Next I think graduate school graduation.  But they are a little over-dressed for that.  So I ask.  In broken English I’m told, “Today we get married in Central Park.”  They are on their way back to the hotel from dinner.  They are from Germany, and it has been their dream to get married here in New York, in Central Park.

The train stops, and the small party of four exits.  As they are leaving, the entire car erupts in applause. 

Contrary to its reputation, I believe New Yorkers are a very friendly bunch.

Monday, May 30, 2011

a poor substitute (lyn)

Summer is here.  It’s hot.  The city has emptied out.  And I am pale.

I resolve to get a tan before graduation.  I know it’s bad for me.  I know all the health risks.  I know I should be doing everything to preserve my skin.  But really, I look so much better with color.

I go through my pre-beach rituals.  I put Clarins SPF 15 Sun Wrinkle Control Cream on my face.  I still have two half-used containers from last summer.  I read somewhere that these expire six months after opening.   I once heeded this advice, but lack of money makes me more careless.  Next I apply a presumably expired Clarins 30 SPF Sunscreen Stick on and around my lips, under my eyes, and on my nose and forehead.  This, too, is from last summer.  And finally, I spray all my remaining exposed skin with Coppertone Sport 30SPF (this at least is new).

I pack a bag with money, a big towel, my phone, prescription sunglasses, my book, and a paper.

I take out a little insulated bag for my lunch.  Cold water.  Grapes.  A plum.  A bagel thin, mustard and prosciutto.  15 Pringle Lights, and an ice pack.

It takes me longer to get ready now than it will by August.  By then, I’ll be a pro.

I don’t have a beach chair in the city, but I plan to buy one in the next few days.  Gotta have a chair.  I leave my house, and walk a few blocks to John Jay Park.  The only green there is on the trees.  There is a nice, big, open sprinkler fountain, but no one over the age of five is in it.

I have my lunch in the sweltering heat.  I read the paper.  I stretch out on a park bench.  I last an hour.

I miss the beach.

I buy a skort at BJs (m)

Susan calls and wakes me up this morning.  Do I want to meet her at the mall to get the Pratesi sheets she picked up for me at TJ Maxx this week?

We decide instead to meet at BJs.

We meet, greet and go in together.  I like shopping with Susan because she is independent.  She goes her way, I go mine and we meet by chance at different spots in the store, checking each other's carts to see what's "hot."

Susan recommends the men's LaCoste shirts.  I buy one for my husband.  I recommend the gourmet carrots and Bumblebee prime filet gold can tuna.  Susan buys those.

Somewhere around the tomatoes, I spot a cotton mini-skirt.  What would I do with a mini skirt?  Well, first of all, I'm not tall, so the skirt would probably fall to my knees.  Second, this skirt--if it fits--would solve a lot of problems.  Specifically, what to wear on a 90+ degree day.  I'm sick of wearing pants and shorts ride up on me.  Also, wouldn't this be great to wear over my bathing suit at the beach?  My family hates my Danskin bike shorts in black.  It's a real Jersey Shore look, they say.

The skirts come in royal blue, red, hot pink and white. Anne Klein.  Marked down to $14.99 from $54.99. I pick up a red and a pink.  I try to guess my size and get the next size up just in case.  They look like they run a little on the small side.

There are no dressing rooms in BJs and it's not like Filene's Basement where you can try on stuff in the middle of the aisle. 

I decide I have to try the skirt on before I leave the store.  I look for a low-activity aisle where the odds are high that I won't be seen.  It's a toss-up between the incontinence products and automotive.  I settle for automotive so as not to risk given some senior a shock that could put them in a hospital.

I try the smaller-sized red skirt.  It's perfect.  Hits at the top of my knee.  I actually could wear this out with a long black tee-shirt.  Maybe I'll wear it on the Fourth of July. 

A woman comes around the corner, sees me and looks surprised.  I explain what I'm doing and ask her what she thinks about the fit.  She says to turn around.  I do.  She says it's perfect.  I ask if she's sure and explain it comes in a larger size.  "No, that would swim on you," she says.    I wanted to hug her.

As I'm taking the skirt off, I notice it has built-in panties.  How thoughtfully designed, I think.

Heading to the registers, I run into this woman with whom I used to work.  She checks out my cart and says, "Oh, I see you bought one of those skorts."

I'll be honest, I liked it a lot better when I didn't know it was a "skort."

On the other hand, I just might go back and get the white one next time.

Sunday, May 29, 2011

150 candy bars (m)

Harrison and his friends host an ice skating show to benefit The Hole in the Wall Gang Camp, a summer camp for very sick children.  Since I screwed up the 50/50 raffle last year (I kept the wrong part of the tickets....no names, no phone numbers to contact the winner), they put me on supplying water and refreshments to the skaters.

Go to Costco and buy granola bars, fresh fruit and water.  And a bag of candy--150 pieces of M&Ms (plain and peanut), Almond Joy, Reese's Peanut Butter Cups, Twix, Milky Way and Snickers.  All my favorites which was a stupid thing to do.

The show goes off without a hitch; the kids raise $10,000 for the second year in a row and I clean up the locker room.

They didn't touch the candy.  There I am, alone with a bag of my favorite candies (not counting the Lindt 70% dark chocolate with Orange).  There's no one in the room, no camera to see me.  I have not eaten since noon.  It is 9:45 p.m.

Dilemma, dilemma.

I pack the candy in a bag and reach for a mandarin orange.  The kids want to go to The Olive Garden (the only place open at this hour).  I have ice tea and grilled chicken and vegetables.

There was a time when I would have eaten 15 mini candy bars in less than a half hour.


michael comes home from china (m)

My nephew Michael left for China last August.  He has not been home since.  We assumed when he left that we would Skype with him as we did when his brother was in China.  Michael says he can't get Skype there.  We, however, believe he is being his reclusive self.  Net/net: we haven't laid eyes on this kid in nine months.

Michael is scheduled to arrive in Boston at 5:30 p.m.  His family wanted to throw him a welcome home party, but he nixed that.  How about a little group meet him at the airport?  No.  He said he only wanted to see Sam (my son) and his dog, Charlie (the evil dog who still isn't trained).  He loves his brother and his parents, but he and Sam have always had a special bond.  Sam is the only person who doesn't bug Michael.

Sam takes the Yukon and picks up my brother Phil, sister-in-law Betsy, and my nephew Chris.  They get to Logan and Michael arrives and does not allow any fanfare.  They get in the car and drive to Regina's Pizza, Michael's favorite place.

Meanwhile, my husband decides to horn in on the festivities.  He calls my brother and says we will meet them at the restaurant.  My brother says, "Come at your own risk."

We get to the restaurant and surprise Michael.  He actually seems pleased to see us.  We order pizza and salads.  Michael is like the Soup Nazi......there are rules for dealing with him.  Tonight, he does not want to field questions about China.   We eat our food and make polite small talk.  It's a little awkward.

I brave it and ask Michael if he thinks we've changed since he left (I figured it was a safe enough question since it had nothing to do with him).  He looks around at everyone and says:  You all look better than when I left.

I look around the table.  All of us have lost weight since last August. 

For someone who doesn't talk much, he really knows what to say when it counts.

an unusual dining experience (lyn)

Carol and I meet for dinner at a newish trattoria nearby.  By the time I arrive, Carol is already seated inside.  It is stifling hot and Carol has been waiting 20 minutes for a frozen margarita.  Not a good sign.  There is sidewalk seating and we ask if we can eat outside when we notice a couple of vacated tables.  Our request is granted.

Our waiter, Stefan, is from Romania but grew up in Italy.  He’s reserved and adorable.  I ask about the fish specials.  “I only eat meat,” he responds.  I take my chances anyway and order branzino.  Carol gets a salad and salmon.  It’s 7:30 when we order.  We ask for water.  Fifteen minutes later, our water glasses are filled. 

At 8:15, my entrĂ©e arrives.  Not Carol’s.  “Would you like us to filet the fish?” asks Stefan.  “Definitely,” I respond.  Fifteen minutes pass before my boned fish is returned to the table, but at least Carol’s salmon is now ready too.  My branzino is served with a small salad and roasted potatoes and is excellent.

While we are finishing up dinner, a couple sits down next to us, with their dog, Mickey, a beautiful big white lab.  Mickey is treated as another diner at their table.  True, he is a gorgeous animal.  But really, is pizza even good for a dog?

Our waiter brings the bill, and Carol tells him how disappointed we are in the service.  She’s quick to add, “But it’s not your fault.  It’s the kitchen that is so slow.”  I’m only half paying attention as I am still fascinated by the food that Mickey is being fed from his table.  When he’s not eating, he’s keeping the table clean by licking it.  Then I hear Stefan say, “Well, it’s not just the kitchen.  I’m not a very good waiter.”  At first, I think he is joking, but he’s not smiling.  He adds, “I just started two days ago and I know I’m not very good.” His sincerity earns him a 20 percent tip.

I wonder if Mickey is having dessert?

Saturday, May 28, 2011

lunch with lisa and mike (lyn)

Lisa is beautiful. She is about 5’8”, thin, and toned.  Every time I see her, her hair is a different color, different length, and totally different style.  She is the only person I know who can wear her hair in any color.  She’s ravishing as a redhead, sexy as a blond, gorgeous as a brunette, and stunning as a sandy blond, which she is today.

Lisa is Alexander's aunt, Eric's sister, and my friend.  Although she lives in LA, she has a very close relationship with Alexander.  He adores her.  She is in town for the weekend with her boyfriend of almost a year.  We meet for brunch at the downtown hotel where she is staying, a glamorous boutique hotel called The Maritime.

Lisa is one of these people who is inherently cool.  She knows all the in places in New York, even though she’s been living in LA for over twenty years.  She sends Alexander cards that are so spot-on they must be put in a box and saved.  And she always looks like everyone would like to look.

Today she has her hair in a ponytail and has perfectly shaped bangs.  She’s wearing a chic white blouse that is tight in all the right places.  And her small gold dangling earrings, that used to be her grandmother’s, are beautiful.  Even her iPhone case is more unusual and hipper than most.  Her boyfriend, Mike, is California-cool, and very nice.  I immediately feel as if I’ve known him for years.

This year’s spring was basically two months of rain.  But this week the rain finally stops and summer arrives.  No more jackets.  Sunny skies.  Mid-80's.  We eat outside.  

The food is amazing, and I eat like I’ve never heard of weight watchers.  Coffee with half and half.  Warm banana bread with creamy butter on top.  French toast covered in berries and powered sugar with mascarpone, and an order of bacon for the table.   

We eat.  We talk.  We laugh.  And in a flash, it's time to say good-bye again.  I wish that Lisa lived closer.

my brother phil's diet (m)

When he was a kid, my brother Phil got chubby during puberty and stopped eating.  For weeks.  My mother was beside herself.  Picture an Italian family dealing with a kid who won't eat anything.  My grandmother was called in with the heavy artillery (homemade meatballs, sauce and ravioli) but he wouldn't budge.

I remember eating a Fudgsicle in front of him and he didn't flinch.  It would be like a tourist trying to make one of those guards in front of Buckingham Palace laugh.  Nothing.

Over the years, Phil has generally maintained his weight.  He looks normal, not overweight at all.

A few months ago, he decided to shed a few pounds. 

Now remember, this is the guy who has maintained his weight by eating only every other day.  He decides he has to "change it up" and switch to a new plan.

Hummus. That's the plan.

He eats nothing for breakfast, carrots and hummus for lunch, and hummus and more vegetables for dinner.  If he wants carbs, he'll put hummus on a sweet potato or have hummus on Stacy's Pita Chips.  He's like the father in My Big Fat Greek Wedding who used to spray Windex on everything (from windows to bug bites).  This is the food equivalent of that.

When he came to my house for Easter, he went through a Costco-sized tub of hummus.  Garlic hummus.

Last night, I saw him at my niece's graduation party.  He's lanky.  Tall and thin.  Down 20 pounds in 3 months. 

Hummus.  Who knew?

Friday, May 27, 2011

prom night (lyn)

Alexander’s senior prom is tonight.

Before spending money to rent a tux, we go to my sister’s who could open her own tuxedo rental shop.  Over the years, she has accumulated about seven tuxedos, in various sizes, from her three kids.  We have a plan.  Jacket first.  If that fits (or is even close to fitting), we’ll go for the pants.  My sister is petite, my brother-in-law is average, and their boys have always been big.  Perfectly proportioned, well-toned, athletic, and big.  They are all over six feet today, probably about 180 or so.  Every tuxedo that Alexander tries on is ridiculously large on him.  He looks like a little boy trying on his dad’s clothes.  Finally, he puts on a jacket that we all agree is “workable,” meaning that with a few alterations, he could wear it.  But when we unfold the matching pants, we realize that this tuxedo was probably for one of the boys when they were eight.  Failing this mission, Alexander rents a tux.

Alexander gets ready and looks so handsome.

Later, I meet up with six friends for a gigantic Mexican dinner.  I eat many many corn chips, just a little guacamole (fortunately it is hard to reach from where I’m sitting), and chicken fajitas with sour cream, more guacamole, and rice.  I think it’s impossible to eat light at a Mexican restaurant.  The company and food are great but not the ambiance.  It’s stunningly hot.  The manager’s explanation?  “We just turned the air conditioning on for the first time this year and it doesn’t seem to be working well.”  Outside the restaurant, across the street, is a traffic light.  Every time it turns green it glows on Shari’s face.  But inside the restaurant there is no light.  I share my flashlight app with others just so we can read the menu.  By the time dinner ends, we are all sweating.

Still, it’s a nice night, as we all commiserate with each other on how fast our kids have grown up.

the 2nd nicest compliment I've ever had (m)

When I was at my thinnest, sometime around 1983, I bought a pink blouse that had thin spaghetti straps and beads on the front.  I bought it to wear with black pants.

I tried the blouse on and stood in front of the mirror in my parents' bedroom.  I was so absorbed in checking myself out that I didn't even notice my grandmother who had come around the corner and saw me. 

We surprised each other. 

Nonnie stopped in her tracks and exclaimed, "Ah, M, you look like an angel!"

You cannot believe how many times I've relived that moment in my mind over these past 28 years.  It was the best compliment I've ever received. 

Today, one of my nieces graduated from Harvard.  My brother J held a dinner party for her.  I wore a white skirt, the black Ralph Lauren ruffled top and the sheer black sweater (back from the cleaners) and dress sandals.

I volunteer to pick up Aunts X and Y and get to their home a little ahead of schedule which they never expect could happen.

I ring the doorbell and Aunt X opens the door.  She takesk one look at me and says, "Oh...you look beautifulYou really, really do."

Now, I have two compliments to treasure.

Thursday, May 26, 2011

lunch with caroline (lyn)

I used to work with Caroline.  Actually, I’ve worked for Caroline twice.  The first time was in 1991, when she hired me as head of marketing for CNBC, and the next time was in 2005, when she hired me as an interim head of marketing at a start-up.  Caroline is personable, friendly, warm, and scary-smart.  She knows things about things that most people don’t.  She never flaunts her brilliance.  She wears it casually and unpretentiously.

We haven’t seen each other in a while.  Today we meet for lunch.  Caroline has a meeting at 3, so we meet at 1, thinking that should be more than enough time, which of course it isn’t.  There’s just too much to say.

Caroline is fit and thin and about four years younger than I am.  She wears little makeup, and never ages.  She has no wrinkles.  And honestly looks the same as she did when we met twenty years ago.  We both think of each other as thin, because we have both only known each other that way.

But surprisingly, in the past two years, I have gained and lost 40 pounds, and she has gained and lost 30 (also on Weight Watchers).  We wonder if maybe we had seen each other sometime during our heavy stages and just didn’t notice.  I think when you are accustomed to seeing someone as thin, the residual effect of that visual sticks, even when they are no longer that way.

While in the past we may have ordered burger and fries for lunch, today’s order is a vegetable salad (dressing on the side) for Caroline, and bagel crisps with cream cheese and salmon for me.  Our meal choices may have altered over the years, but our ease of conversation hasn’t.  

breakfast with Mutant (m)

Of all the colorful characters in my life, my friend P is in a league of his own.  Exceptionally bright, funny and off the charts eccentric.  His nickname in college was Mutant because no one had ever seen anything like him.

Sophomore year, there were five of us girls living in a first floor dorm apartment.  F-11 was the room number.  Abby's bedroom was next to the entry way door.  Mutant never bothered with the door.  Instead, he would skulk through the bushes and creep up to Abby's window and scream "ABBA DABBA.....WHATCHA DOIN'?," scaring the crap out of her.

Although he went to a great boys' prep school before college, he disdained preppies.  For them, he devised the Prepometer, an imaginary divining rod that went off whenever some prepster walked past him wearing a Lacoste shirt with the collar turned up.  Mutant would extend his arm with the imaginary Prepometer stick and yelp, "Whoop!...Whoop!...Whoop!"  The kids in one dorm noted for preppies (the girls wore Diane Von Furstenberg wrap dresses to class) soon learned to walk in the other direction when they saw him.

Physically, Mutant had thick, dark eyebrows that knotted in a comical way.  He was slightly chubby and walked a little lopsided.  In other words, the visuals reinforced the persona.

I have kept in touch with Mutant since we graduated in 1977.  We email each other a couple of times per year and I see him once every 2 years or at college reunions.  He's the one I most look forward to seeing (aside from Abby whom I see frequently).

Mutant is in town this week for his son's college graduation.  He will be in Cambridge, would I like to meet for breakfast?

I could think of nothing that would keep me away.

I arrive at the Marriott Hotel in Kendall Square, Cambridge.  I look okay and am grateful that my weight is down significantly since last I saw him.  I even got a good haircut this week (unlike the Shemp-like "do" last time).  I am wearing a blue linen top and nice pants.  The flip-flops are not ideal but I have a blister on my bunion from the new loafers I wore to Fenway on Sunday.  It's Cambridge, land of flip-flops, so it's okay.

Mutant is waiting for me in the lobby.  He's barely recognizable.  So thin, his stomach is concave.  The outline of his jaw is very pronounced.  Is he sick?  I'm a little taken aback.

He looks like a regular citizen with his khaki pants and blue dress shirt and brown leather belt and loafers. 

Who is this guy?

Then he runs over to me and gives me the biggest hug and starts with the crazy-talk.  Okay, he's still in there but he looks like his body was abducted by aliens.

He calls his wife, "I", to come down and join us for breakfast.  I haven't seen "I" in about 20 years.  I remember her as a pretty brunette, minimal make-up. 

"I" is stick-thin.  Maybe 110 pounds.  She is wearing tight gray pants and a silky gray shirt.  No make up.  Brown hair in a page boy.  Sleek as a greyhound.  Well-chiseled arms.

We have breakfast, not in the restaurant, but at the Starbucks in the lobby.  I get an oatmeal with nothing on it and an iced green tea.  "I" gets a Light and Fit yogurt and nothing to drink.  P gets a coffee.  I ask if they've already eaten their breakfast.  "No, but we're going to have lunch today," they say.  Well, sh-t, so am I...the two aren't mutually exclusive. 

We talk for about an hour and it's great.  I miss him so much. 

Their younger son joins us.  It's refreshing to see him with his rumpled hair, ripped sweatshirt, slouchy posture, and baby fat on his face.  Shades of Mutant.

I look back at the parents.  At what point did they put themselves on this ascetic regime?  It's a little intense for me. 

And then I have an epiphany.  You can be too thin.

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

class reunion (lyn)

Before going to Horace Mann, Alexander went to one of the best public elementary schools in Manhattan.  The school he was actually zoned for was a couple of blocks away.  It was a school that allowed no flexibility in its rules.

Alexander’s birthday is in mid-November 1992, and the cutoff date for beginning Kindergarten is December 31.  That means that Alexander would have started Kindergarten at age 4 and would be among the youngest students in his class.  I felt he needed another year of private Nursery school before he was sent out into the less-nurturing public school system.  I set up a meeting with the principal of the school to which Alexander was zoned.  She was unbending.  Rules are rules and he would have to start at age 4.

Manhattan New School (MNS), then only six years old, had already earned a reputation for its creative approach to teaching, its flexibility, and its charismatic founder and principal, Shelley Harwayne.  

Shelley agreed to meet with Alexander and me.  As we sat and talked, Shelley observed Alexander at play.  Fortunately for us, he passed her test.  “Yes, “ she agreed, “he is sufficiently immature to warrant starting school next year at age 5, instead of now.  Have him spend another year in pre-school and then he’ll come to us.”  What a great decision that turned out to be.

Alexander loved MNS, where teachers are known by their first names.  Where correct spelling is not required (until the older grades).  Where no grades and no tests exist.  And where creative expression is encouraged and rewarded.  The parents were involved in the school and a real sense of community was fostered.  Alexander felt safe and happy at MNS.   He graduated in 2004, and tonight is a reunion for his class.  

We walk the few blocks to the school, and already it's reminiscent of a time so long ago.   The basement of the school, where the reunion is being held, looks unchanged, as do the many familiar adult faces.  But the kids.  Little cherub faces have morphed into beautifully drawn adults.  The boys now shave and the girls have sprouted breasts.  But still, everyone is recognizable.

We immediately see Alexander’s second grade (and favorite) teacher, Karen, who later became principal. In fifth grade, Alexander was made principal for the day.  Here he is with Karen then, 

and Karen now.

The food tonight is standard fare Dominos pizza, chips, and cookies.  I eat too much of the pizza and find it surprisingly good.  It brings back good memories of so many events at this school.

Much to Alexander’s extreme dissatisfaction, I bring my camera. Only my son seems to mind my taking pictures.  His good friend Eli corrals Alexander and their mutual friend Matthew to pose.  It was easier to grab their photos when they graduated in 2004 than it is tonight.

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

charity begins at home (m)

I am the chairperson for the annual fund for an educational initiative.  We do about five events per year and tonight is one of them.  A reception for fifty prospective donors at a private home in Milton.

There are two types of people in Boston—South Shore people and North Shore people.  I am a North Shore girl.  I need a compass just to identify which direction is south.

I plug the address into my GPS and head out into the peak of rush-hour traffic.  The VP of Development calls me in advance to make sure I am headed in the right direction.  I like this woman very much but I’m not sure what she thinks of me.  She is very tall, pretty and blonde—your basic nightmare.  When she called me a few months ago to come into the office for a photo shoot for the annual brochure, she said “don’t worry…it’s just a head shot and we can re-touch it.”  Nice.

By the grace of God, I get to the event on time.  I am the featured speaker.  The VP of Development looks me up and down and says, half-heartedly, “Oh, you look nice.”  I am wearing the same thing I always wear.  I just put on a different scarf each time to keep ‘em guessing.

The first thing you notice about this house is that it is deceptively large.  Outside, it looks to be a little bigger than a ranch.  Inside, it’s massive.  High ceilings, all open floor plan.  The outside looks like a park, complete with a gazebo, pergola and a bridge to nowhere.  There are birdhouses and chimes.

I notice the seating in every room looks amazingly comfortable.  Wherever I sit (and I try out a few spots) the first thing I want to say is “Ahhh.”  Bliss.  If I ever had to housesit in this place, I could nap in every room.

The invitation said “cocktails and appetizers” and the event was 6-8 p.m.  I had a good lunch (Asian salad at McDonald’s with only half a packet of the low-fat Ginger Sesame dressing) thinking I would not be eating at this event.  Most of the time, there is one veggie platter at these things.  Tonight, however, is a whole different scene.  Caterers in the kitchen poured out with a bevy of food—lobster on some kind of crostini, spinach and artichoke thingies, a fountain of shrimp cocktail, a huge platter of all sorts of cheeses, a platter of asiago cheese (melted) wrapped in dates, homemade egg rolls with sweet sauce, and sandwiches of tenderloin beef and boursin cheese as well as chicken salad sandwiches.  Oh, and a caprese salad and a tortellini salad.  All huge platters.

A bar stocked with wine, beer and soft drinks is at the other end.  I have Perrier and lemon and a couple of pieces of shrimp with strawberries.

By the coffee station are homemade macaroons and those whoopee pies.  A veritable orgy. 

The hosts, a nice-looking couple, are warm and gracious, greeting each guest personally and spending time with each one.

I can’t get over how comfortable the house is.  I really feel at home here.

As I am leaving, I turn to the Vice President of Development and say, “ I really feel so comfortable in this house.  By the way, what does he (the host) do for a living?”

She smiles at me and says, “He owns a large chain of Big and Tall Clothing Shops.”

I hope it's just the mirror (lyn)

Alexander needs socks.  I get some exercise in and walk to Bloomingdales.  On my way to the sock department, I stop by the Chanel counter to check out the lipsticks.  I actually brought with me a page I’d torn out of People.  To get Kate Middleton’s look, the magazine suggests trying Chanel’s Rouge Coco Shine in Adventure.  I try it on and my lips look nothing like Kate’s.

I left my house with just a little makeup on, thinking I looked fine.  I forget that being thin doesn't automatically translate to looking good.  I see myself in the mirror at the Chanel counter, and feel a bit like used clothing at a high-end resale shop.  Okay from a distance, but a little worn out up close, and on the brink of going out of style.

the boys are back in town (m)

Sam's entourage of friends just finished up at college for the year.  They are pouring in from all over. He's hosting a barbecue and then they are watching the Bruins game.  One came straight to our house.  Hasn't even seen his own parents yet.

The kitchen counter is filled with cooked hamburgers, hot dogs, chips, salsa, guacamole.

This is going to be a challenge.

Monday, May 23, 2011

poof. gone. (lyn)

September 9, 1998.  It’s Alexander’s first day of Kindergarten at Manhattan New School.

I go to sleep, wake up, and it's six years later.  September 9, 2004.  Alexander starts Horace Mann School as a new sixth grader.

And now it's today.  Alexander’s last day of classes.  Thirteen years of schooling.  How did it all go by so fast? 

Sunday, May 22, 2011

take me out to the ballgame (m)

Abby emailed me weeks ago.  She is doing a charity run for wounded warriors called Run to Home Plate at Fenway Park in Boston on Sunday, May 22nd.  She's ordering tickets to watch the game that evening and would we like to join her and her family? 

Abby lives near San Francisco.  If she is coming to Fenway Park, then I think I can make it to the game  too.

We arrange to meet at a pub on Landsdowne Street.  A friend's husband is co-owner of the pub and he gets us a reservation.  Good thing as the lines are long even 2 hours before the start of the game. 

Abby and I order the spinach salad with grilled chicken.  I drink ice tea, but everyone tells me to get a beer...it's a ballgame, after all.  I get something called Blue Moon which is good.  About 8 points.

My friend's husband surprises us by sending appetizers "on the house" our way.  Smoked mussels, potato chips with melted cheese and stuffed potato skins.  Ab's husband and I have most of the mussels.  I have several potato chips with the cheese.  I drink all my beer.  I eat all my salad.  Must be about 29 points right there.

We walk to the bleachers and hike up 28 rows. 

The view is spectacular. 

We start out watching the game but then the rowdy drunks around us start fighting.  Security is called.  People get ejected.  The three nice Chicago Cubs fans in front of us want to start a pool to see who will be thrown out next.  Will it be the man in the blue helmet?  The girl in the pink hat? The Patriots fan who threw peanuts at the Cubs fan in the blue helmet?  The older man in the red and yellow hockey shirt (he was first)? So many choices.

Fans waiting to see who will be evicted

Fenway Park has many traditions.  One of them is that each player has his own "psyche up music" while coming to the plate or the mound.  The big-stud reliever, Jonathan Papelbon fist-pumps the chubby policeman and then, as the gate to the mound opens, they play "Shipping up to Boston" by the Dropkick Murphys.

This makes me wonder what music they would play for me.  There a few songs with my name in them but I think the one that captures me best is "She's a Brick House."  Though after tonight's food orgy, it might be Cheeseburger in Paradise."

Ab and I talk the whole game.  More drunks get evicted.  I field a phone call from my friend Susan.  If there were a quiz at any given moment asking me the score or which inning we were in, I would have flunked.

And yet, it is the best ballgame I've been to in a long, long time.

and I make dessert (lyn)

For weeks now, I have been holding onto a recipe for Creamy Lemon Pie.  The appetizing picture in the weight watchers weekly booklet looks just like a key lime pie, one of my favorite desserts. 

Today I decide to make it.  I buy the ingredients, and even use my microplane grater.  I bought this utensil several years ago after reading an article in the New York Times saying every kitchen must have one.  Today I unwrap it from its plastic cover and use it to create lemon zest.

After my spaghetti squash fiasco, Alexander is skeptical of any recipe from Weight Watchers. “I’m not sure I'll have any,” he tells me before the pie is even made.  “It’s probably one of those recipes that uses tofu as a sweetener for sugar.”  I promise him it’s not. 

It’s easy to make and the end product actually looks good.

Alexander even likes it,  though he'd probably enjoy it even more if he could eat it blindfolded.  The uncut version is far more appetizing.

alexander makes dinner (lyn)

Mother’s Day was two weeks ago.  Valerie’s sons all gave her heartfelt and creatively composed cards. Zelia told me of the Kindle her two kids gave her.  My sister Jeannie got breakfast in bed.  My son?  Well, he gave me nothing.

I was feeling a little bad, until the Monday after Mother’s Day, when Alexander surprises me and says, “For Mother’s Day, I’d like to make you dinner.”  He’s never done this before and I think it’s a wonderful gift.  I hear him on the phone getting the recipe for a favorite dish that his grandmother makes, and I’ve never had.  We don’t have the wok that is needed, and rather than improvise, he actually borrows one.

First I hear, “It’s the end of the semester; I have too much work during the week.”  Then last weekend wasn’t good.  A party on Saturday and a joint dinner with Zelia and her family on Sunday.  “Next weekend, I promise.”

So now it's next weekend. I give Alexander my credit card and tell him to buy whatever ingredients he needs. I promise to stay out of the kitchen, and in return, he promises to be responsible for the whole dinner, through clean up.  He wants everything to be a complete surprise.

He calls me seven times from Agata, each time with a different question.

“Where do they sell the fresh garlic?  How much should I buy if I need two cloves?”

“Which red pepper should I buy?  The one for $4.99/pound or the one for $3.99/pound?  The $4.99 one looks a lot better. (Pick whatever you want).

“What kind of onion do you think I should get?  Yellow or sweet vidalia? (Sweet vidalia).

“Do we have soy sauce at home that is low in sodium?” (No, only the regular one, which will be fine).

Where do I buy the chicken?  (He’s in Agata almost as much as I am.  How does he not know where the chicken is sold? ).  

How much chicken should I buy?  (Ask the guy at the meat counter).

Can I buy the cooked portobello mushrooms from the prepared food section? (No, buy the washed and pre-cut portobello mushrooms and cook them yourself).

Okay, so now I have a pretty good idea of what the “surprise dinner” will be.

Alexander starts cooking around 6pm.  I close my door.  He wants to cook by myself.  That lasts for only a few minutes.

How do you cut an onion?
What kind of oil should I use?
How long do I cook the chicken?
How will I know when the chicken is done?
Hurry, can you set the table?  I'm sorry; I forgot.
Can you cut up the bok choy?
Dinner’s ready.  Wait, do we have a large bowl?  Where is it?
Where are the serving pieces?  
Can you get them out?  Hurry.  This has to be eaten hot.

At 8:10, dinner is served.  And it’s outstanding.  My Mother’s Day gift was well worth the wait.

And I’m so glad that cleanup is part of the gift!

Saturday, May 21, 2011

ice capades (m)

Saturday.  Skating show to support wounded warriors.  The woman who organized the show is a coach whose son was wounded in Iraq.  Todd Eldredge, former Olympic and World competitor is the star performer.

The plan is to leave the house at 12:30 to be in Amherst by 3.  More than enough time. 

I begin the day with laundry. Sam is home from college and the front hall is filled with clothes, bedding, etc.  This was the day my mother loved best.   It was her Olympics.  She would get out stains that were impossible to get out.  Iron more shirts than humanly possible.  Disinfect the memory-foam pad for the dorm bed.  Sort out all the hockey and baseball stuff.  Then clean the garage to make room for the sports equipment.  I am missing her like crazy.

I do 4 loads of laundry by 12 noon.  Enough to make a dent.  I am exhausted. 

Surprisingly, my knees aren't as bad as I thought they would be given the dancing the night before.  The aggressive PT is paying off, I think.

Get in the car at 12:30 and drive the 95 miles to the ice rink.   H and T sleep the whole way. 

As predicted, we arrive an hour early.  I go to the parents' lounge and there are refreshments...granola bars, nuts, water, M&Ms, peanut butter and crackers.  I settle for an oatmeal bar but I'm lusting for the M&Ms.  I've only had about 4 points thus far but I'm saving my points for dinner.

The ice show lasts for almost 3 hours.  The photos I submitted of my father, uncles and T's uncle--all veterans--which I thought would be used in the program book, are projected onto a screen bigger than life and flashed on when H is skating.  Just as he is about to go into a triple flip, he sees the screen and has this "What the ---" expression on his face. They probably should have told us the plan in advance.

After the show, some of the parents ask us to join them for dinner in Amherst town center.  We first tour the college to see if Harrison might be interested.  He loves it.

It's the night before Amherst College graduation.  The lines are long.  We get seated and order dinner at 8:30 p.m.  I'm so hungry I'm dizzy.  I have a margharita (hey, half of mine the night before spilled out before I could drink it).  I finish the drink and guess what?  I'm not so hungry anymore.  Is this why alcoholics are thin?  Hmm.  Maybe a new diet concept.

Have the chicken and spinach salad.  Boring, but on plan.

Head home at 10 p.m. 

Walk in the house at 11:30 p.m.  I think I'm hungry again.

En route to the kitchen, I pass the laundry room.  There are still piles there, including the washed clothes that need to be ironed.

That is enough to kill my appetite.

Go to bed.

new shoes (lyn)

One of my birthday gifts was an exceptionally generous gift card to Saks.  I decide I want to use it on something frivolous.  Something that I would not buy otherwise.  Something I’ve always coveted.  Christian Louboutin shoes. 

I know that my body (in clothes) looks good, and I know my legs could look better.  I’ve been walking more, so that is helping.  And a pair of high heel shoes could help more.

Today I go to the shoe department at Saks, the one that is advertised as having its own zip code.  People are flocked around the Louboutin shoes.  The least expensive pair is $595.  The heels are measured in millimeters.  The very popular 120-mm patent leather pumps are gorgeous.  “Wow,” the sales guy says, “ you are in luck.  Someone just returned the last pair in your size.  These are flying off the shelves.”  I wonder how that’s even possible, in the middle of a recession.  The salesman brings them out and I try them on.  Another salesman enviously says to my salesman, “Where did you find those?  I thought we were sold out.  If your client doesn’t want them, let me know because I can sell them.”  I wonder if this is a ruse to get me to buy the shoes.

120 mm translates to a 4.72-inch heel (I actually look up the conversion).  I stand up.  My legs look good.  Much better than in the flats I’m wearing.  Amazing the difference almost five inches can create.  I feel tall and slim and sexy.  But I am afraid to walk.  I think I’ll topple over.  The shoes are not too uncomfortable.  I want them so badly.

Meanwhile, the seats around me are filling up with other women trying on Christian Louboutin shoes.  This one 20-something looks spectacular in a pair of 7-inch heels.  In awe, I watch her walk in them.  “Aren’t those uncomfortable?” I ask.  “I could play basketball in them,“ she replies. “They don’t bother my feet at all.  I think it’s my super power.  I can walk miles in very high shoes.”  I am so jealous.

I know if I give these shoes back they will be grabbed in a second.  The other sales guy is still hovering nearby.  I really really want these shoes, but honestly, how many times will I wear a pair of shoes that I can stand in but not have to walk in?  I think of the occasions that might qualify, and come up with only one: temple on the high holidays.  I have to pass.

But then I see another pair.  Not patent leather like I wanted, but quite beautiful and unlike any other shoes I own.   “And these are only 85 mm,” the clearly disappointed sales person tells me.  I think my inability to walk in 120mm heels has upset him.

I try these on and fall in love.  And at only 3.35 inches, I can even walk in them.

Friday, May 20, 2011

out of the closet (m)

Friday night.  Big party....one family...50th Birthday, 25th Wedding Anniversary, Harvard College Graduation.

The event is being held in a posh venue in Boston, 60th floor, overlooking the whole city.  The invitation has no dress code.

What to wear?

Because I have recently cleaned my closet, I have some options at hand.  I choose a long, black skirt with a sheer overlay that flounces a bit at the bottom (bought it 6 years ago, never wore it).  Very feminine.  I pair that with a sleeveless Ralph Lauren top (worn once before) with a low cut neckline and a ruffled collar.  Very "in."  Very, very feminine. 

I feel exposed without a jacket but that would kill the look.  I choose a sheer black sweater (bought it last week).  Better.

Add the pearl and diamond earrings.  Lots of eye make-up (okay, concealer, shadow, eyeliner and mascara).

And my grandma shoes. If no one looks at my feet, I look good.

Come downstairs and Sam catches a glimpse of me.  His mouth is open. 

He says I look "tall and slim."  I am on Cloud Nine.

Get to the venue.  The party is on two levels.  I have to climb up a steep staircase to get to the cocktails and hors d'oeuvres.  A mariachi band is playing.  There's a margarita bar.  Empanadas, grilled lime shrimp.  A Mexican theme.  Who knew?  The better question is "Why?".

A few acquaintances come over and comment that I'm sporting a "whole new look."  I don't know whether that's a compliment or not.  Sounds more like an observation.

I take a grilled shrimp.  Plop.  Falls right down my blouse.  Big stain.

I clean up the blouse and sip my margarita.  Boom!  Someone slams into me and it spills on my skirt.

I've been at this g.d. party for 10 minutes and I'm a mess.

We go downstairs for dinner.  The waiters serve me and one other person steamed fish.  Everyone else at the table has steak.  I don't recall having ordered the fish.  My husband tells me he did it for me.  Great.  The one time he takes the initiative to fill out an rsvp card and he gets me a tasteless fish.  I almost stuck my fork in his steak.

I eat half the fish.  It is so bland I decide it isn't worth the effort or the points.

Endless speeches.  Makes sense, after all, we are celebrating three major milestones.  The people went to MIT so you can imagine how dull the speeches are.

Waiters clear the table.  I feel something wet on my shoulder and hear "Sorry!"   The waiter has spilled my husband's plate with the steak juice on my new sweater.  Everyone hands me a cloth with water on it.  I clean up but smell like meat.

The DJ strikes up some music.  I go out with my husband and dance about 6-7 songs.  Earth Wind and Fire, Michael Jackson.  This is my music.  I'm in heaven. 

Around 11:30 p.m. they announce "dessert is served upstairs." Cake and fruit.  I have visions of cake smeared on my skirt.  Better yet, maybe someone will spill the whole coffee urn on me with the way my luck is going.

I decide to cut my losses and tell my husband to take me home.

I never knew a party could be so hazardous.

I look at my fine outfit.  Every piece is marred.

I imagine if my clothes could talk, they would say, "We're never going out of the closet again.  It's dangerous out there."

walking off dessert before it's even eaten (lyn)

Lloyd’s is my favorite place to go for dessert.  For $2.25, you can get a piece of the most sumptuous carrot cake imaginable.  Until recently, there was only one Lloyds.  And that was near Alexander’s school in Riverdale.  So fortunately, I wasn’t there often.

But yesterday, a new Lloyd’s opens in Manhattan on Lexington and 99th.  About 1.3 miles from my house. This morning, Shari and I decide to walk there. Within minutes of making our plan, it starts to rain, something it’s been doing now for days and days.  We don’t go.

I text Alexander and ask him to stop by Lloyd’s on his way home from school.  He calls in response.  “I’ll go there for you, but I want to come home first.  I’m carrying the five graduation mugs you ordered.  I'll drop them off, and then I’ll go back up to Lloyd’s.”  Although this sounds somewhat reasonable, I’m skeptical about the going back part.

Alexander comes home around five.  I suggest we walk to Lloyd’s together.  “Why,” he asks.  “so you can nag me about something all the way there?”  I’m getting a complex about this.  “No,” I say, "it’d just be nice to take a walk together.”  He agrees.

As we are leaving, he remembers something he has to do.  “I need to stop by Starbucks (on 87th and Lex) and meet Rodrigo.  I have to pick up some tickets from him and he'll only be there from 4 to 6, so I need to go now.”  “Okay, you can then just catch up to me,” I respond.  That’s when he get’s a better idea.  “Why don’t you just go?  That way I can come home and finish my Spanish paper.”  This is the Spanish paper that was due two days ago.  The same one that Alexander told me this morning he finished last night.  I  say only, “Okay.”

So, this errand to buy carrot cake, which begins with Alexander agreeing to go to Lloyd’s for me, then morphs into a plan for us to go together, ends finally with my making the round trip walk alone. 

Thursday, May 19, 2011

no wonder (m)

My father's formal education ended in eighth grade.  After that, he went to trade school, followed by four years in the army where he served under General Patton.  That, he said, was his real education. 

My father was intelligent, if not formally schooled.  He read the newspaper cover to cover every day and followed current events.  He had a great sense of humor and terrific people skills.  He was deceptively bright.

One of his favorite expressions was, "You're so smart you're stupid," which he would say to someone lacking in common sense but loaded with academic credentials.

Tonight, my group of alumni interviewers come to my home for our year-end wrap up meeting.  We review the results of our interviewing efforts....how many kids from our area applied, how many got in, how many wait-listed, how many are going, etc.  Straight-forward statistics.  No real reason to meet since this information can be emailed to everyone and requires no real explanation.  It is what it is.

You may recall that this is also the same group that has not said one word about my weight loss, even when the drop was 50 pounds between meetings.  Not a word.

I wear my most slenderizing outfit and put on make-up.  I open the door for the first guest.  She brings me a bouquet of peonies, my favorite flower.  I thank her profusely.  She is overweight herself but makes no comment on my appearance.  Fair enough.  I never commented on anyone's weight loss either when I was at my peak because I just didn't want to touch that subject.  I also, to be honest, was resentful.

Guest Number Two arrives bearing a beautiful yellow orchid plant in a cool pot.  I place it in a prominent spot and we agree it looks "at home."  She says nothing about my appearance.  This woman is super thin and weight-obsessed.  I would have thought she might comment, but no.

Six other guests arrive.  One woman brings name tags, even though we all know each other.  I fill out my name tag and slap it on my left shoulder.  I feel silly with it on, standing in my own kitchen.  It even says "Hello, my name is M" on it (Harrison comes down for food, takes a look at me and extends his hand saying, "Hello, M").

Guest Number Two fills out her name tag.  She puts MY name on HER tag!.  I point out that I'm flattered but she wrote the wrong name.  She changes it.

Guest Number Four writes down Guest Number Two's name on her tag! 

Someone spills cookies on the rug.  Someone else looses her car keys and I have to remind her that she came with a raincoat and perhaps they are in the pocket of her raincoat?  They are.

Someone else hocks phlegm so loudly and says nothing by way of an explanation.  This happens three times.

As I am cleaning up, I tell Harrison about the name tag mix-up.  We both laugh, especially considering these people went to one of the top colleges in the world.

And then it hits me.  They are so smart they are stupid.

No wonder they never noticed my weight loss.

the waiting is over (m)

Cleaned my closet this week.  The goal was to attack the project and get rid of stuff I've been shuffling around for years. 

I come to a section of clothes that I've been holding onto for a while.  Tags still on them.  They didn't fit me when I bought them but I had to have them at the time and hoped it would incent me to lose weight to wear them. 

I am feeling optimistic.  I wasn't far off from fitting into these clothes last summer.  Today should be the day they fit.

I put make-up on and a good set of underwear (Spanx, of course).  Ready.

I try the first outfit.  It fits!  I look in the mirror.  It's horrible.  Wrong color, wrong style.

Second outfit.  Same thing.  I look like I have jaundice.  I take it off before I convince myself I have a disease.

Third outfit.  The color is right but the style looks like something from an Austin Powers movie.  When did I buy this?  Before Sam was born?

Fourth outfit.  A red dress from Marshall's. Norma Komali jersey knit.  Originally priced at $250.  I got it for $49.  Now I know why.  If I extend my arms, I look like a red bat with these dolman sleeves.  How did I not notice this?

By now, I don't even want to try on the fifth outfit, but I do.  Donna Karan pants.  I look like the side of a barn in these.  What possessed me to buy wide-leg pants?  I look like Friar Tuck.

I look at the other clothes.  At least I'm up the learning curve and can detect which ones won't work without trying them on.

I keep one blouse.

If I hadn't lost weight, I would still be holding onto these things, dreaming of the day I would be thin enough to wear them.

I look at my closet.  If it could speak, I imagine it would say: "Took you long enough."

We both are lighter.

holding on (lyn)

It’s 7:30 when I wake up.  Alexander is still asleep.  The bus comes at 7:40.  He has an English test today.  His last test at Horace Mann.  You can imagine the chaos that erupts when I yell, “Alexander, get up.  It’s 7:30.” 

“OMG.  I fell asleep last night.  I didn’t even study for English.  What should I do?  I can’t get a C.”  I’m surprised at my own calm.  I have no suggestions that he can’t figure out on his own.  He frantically calls a friend for a ride.  He takes the quickest shower I’ve ever seen him take.  Within minutes, he shouts, “Good-bye; I love you,” and is out the door.

Wait, he didn’t eat breakfast.
Oh no, how much driving experience does the friend who is driving have?
Maybe he should see if he can take the test a different day, and just tell the teacher he fell asleep last night and is not prepared.
I forgot to ask if he’d be home for dinner.
I didn’t tell him that I’m going to a screening tonight and will be gone by six.

I worry all morning.  Then it hits me.  This is what letting go last night should have been about.  I’m not there yet.  I wonder if I will be by August when he leaves?  I doubt it.  

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

letting go (lyn)

For about ten months now, I have had an event scheduled for tonight on my calendar.  “6pm; Letting Go; Cohen Dining Hall at Horace Mann.  Light supper included.”  We (senior parents) get periodic reminders of this evening, including a beautifully crafted evite.  A few emails even pass among friends regarding what to wear.  It promises to be a special night.  We all expect to cry.

By the time Zelia picks me up, the weather (close to a heavy downpour) and the traffic are both miserable.  But this is a night we both would not think of missing.

Paper tablecloths in the school colors cover the tables, which are sprinkled with silver Hershey kisses.  This is a school that recognizes its discerning audience.  Home baked cookies, nice salads, fruit, and even sushi are typical of the kinds of food served at parent events.  But tonight, for some inexplicable reason, the food-planner must have been on leave from her day job as a party planner for kids’ birthdays. 

The big silver serving bowls with lids mislead us into believing that the food underneath is worth keeping warm.  Pizza bagels, inedible fried dumplings, and pigs in a blanket are offered.  There’s also some cubed cheese and cut-up sandwiches (of fried chicken cutlets and salami).  People are openly appalled.  No fruit.  No salads.  Nothing healthy.  But I’m hungry so I eat.  Two dumplings (Zelia can’t stomach one and warns me; I eat them anyway).  About five mini-pizzas (the ones from Costco are better).  And many many little hot dog things (I like these, despite knowing how bad they are).  Then I eat a cupcake (this is good), some lemonade, and a few pieces of candy off the table.  It’s the unhealthiest night of eating that I’ve had in years.

Following dinner, the evening program begins.  Two short videos created by a talented senior, a short speech from another student, and a reading of a Coleridge poem (Frost at Midnight) from the head of the upper division.  All of these are fine and appropriate.  The headliner of the evening is a well-respected, nationally and internationally acclaimed psychologist with all sorts of fancy credentials.  Her delivery begins and it’s clear she’s never taken any courses in how to connect with your audience, or even, how to deliver a compelling speech.  She drones on about “The Age of Technology.”  Her speech sounds pre-packaged, is uninspiring, and most importantly, is totally irrelevant to the theme of the evening.  Ironically most of the audience texts or twitters throughout the thirty or so minutes she speaks.  At the end, she asks for questions.  There is only one.  It’s from a brave senior girl who asks what everyone is thinking.  “Could you explain how your speech relates to the theme of the evening, Letting Go?”  Many in the audience applaud.  The renowned speaker mumbles something and ends with, “I’m sorry if my speech fell flat,” and sits down.  The discussion part of the evening is over.

The night was scheduled from 6 to 8:30, with the light supper portion ending at 7.  By 7:45 we are in Zelia’s car on the way back to the city.  Everyone agrees that what should have been an emotional and warm evening of good-byes, is instead a night of bad food and a very bad and inappropriate speaker.  This, from a school, that usually gets things right.  It’s a shame they didn’t tonight.