Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Bare Bones

An excerpt from my current read, Sophie's Choice:
"She was so chaotically in love with Nathan that it was like dementia, and it is more often than not the person one loves from whom one withholds the most searing truths about one's self, if only out of the very human motive to spare groundless pain."
I think one of the greatest challenges of adulthood is trusting that the people you love will still be with you when all your scares are laid out before them.

But, then again, I think that's what makes love so valuable, enjoyable and rewarding - that we are able to embrace the people we care for, regardless of their "searing truths."

It just requires faith, that those whom you care for want to know you as deeply as you want to know them.

Sunday, December 28, 2008

What's to love about winter?

For the first time, I'm starting to find out!

This year, I've made the effort to switch my thinking about winter. And here's what I've learned I like about this time of year:

1. I don't feel guilty relaxing at home, in our apartment on the weekends.

2. I enjoy cooking more, since it isn't (1) 120 degrees in the kitchen and (2) still light outside while I'm preparing food.

3. Now that I've learned how to dress (i.e. hat, gloves, scarf, long johns), it isn't too bad once you start walking out.

4. Michael and I have enjoyed a lovely winter Saturday routine, including a matinee movie and some walking around the city.

5. I don't start sweating two seconds after stepping outside.

6. The sun still shines in the winter! In fact, sometimes it is stronger.

7. I don't feel like I'm missing out on life if I stay at work a little later than usual.

8. It's the perfect light to wake up to in the mornings.

Not the Right Direction

Good move, Republicans!

Saturday, December 27, 2008

Top 10s: Books

2008 was not "The Year of the Book," that's for sure. I enjoyed about half the books I read this year, with the other half feeling much more like a chore than anything else. That said, here are the top 7 of the year - an odd number indeed (prime, in fact!), but the only ones worth highlighting.

7. Stoner by John Williams --- Of all the short books I made it through this year, "Stoner" was one of the few that really came to life. Brief, spare and beautiful.

6. In Defense of Food by Michael Pollen --- My personal philosophy, articulated clearly, succinctly and engagingly.

5. On Chesil Beach by Ian McEwan --- Another stunning book by McEwan. Short, but still thought-provoking. McEwan's writing is masterful, and in this book he was able to discuss marriage, naivety, anger, love, passion and all of life's most profound emotions with great insight and skill.

4. Unaccustomed Earth by Jhumpa Lahiri --- Always a winner, Jhumpa's new book of short stories was worth the wait.

3. The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao by Junot Diaz --- Despite all I had heard about this book, I was still surprised by how much I enjoyed it! The narrative voice was funny and compelling, the characters rich and relatable.

2. War & Peace by Leo Tolstoy --- Just for sheer length of time I remained committed to this book, it had to make my list. Tolstoy is definitely my favorite Russian author, and while "War & Peace" was no "Anna Karinnina," it was still amazing. I loved the arch of this book, the way we grow up with characters. When this book begins, we're with the main characters in their childhood. When it ends, they are in late adulthood. We see how they change, mature, grow. Not until I finished the book was I able to appreciate how much I had grown to love these characters, and that's what makes "War & Peace" worth the effort.

1. The Post-Birthday World by Lionel Shriver --- I feel somewhat ridiculous for calling this the best book of 2008 (especially considering the other award-winners I read this year), "The Post-Birthday World" was just that! This was a literary version of the Gweneth Paltrow movie "Sliding Doors." Early in the novel, the main character has to make a decision - whether or not to cheat on her long-term boyfriend and kiss another man. The book splinters into two parallel stories based on each outcome - in one universe she's kissed him, and in the other she hasn't. Shriver crafts two beautiful, if at times terribly painful, realities and her craftsmanship is absolutely stunning. Perhaps this was just the right book at the right time, but I found it utterly engaging and thought-provoking. The main character is a woman who almost always believes, "the grass is greener on the other side." But what the book highlights is how it isn't - that everyone struggles, that there is joy in every existence. I loved it.

Oh Chris!

Thursday, December 25, 2008

The Joy of Christmas

Napping on a Thursday at 4:30, after a busy day of eating and socializing, in preparation for another round of food, family and fun!

Monday, December 22, 2008

Saddened by the Script

I miss the pre-scripted version of The Hills... but I still love it!

13 Degrees

This morning we woke up in an icebox!

When I left for work, it was 13 degrees outside. In preparation, I blow dried my hair, wore long johns, put on snow boots, a hat, a scarf, and gloves. Despite the cold, it was a beautiful morning! The sun was shinning, the wind was under control, and after three days of snow, sleet and clouds it felt great to be outside in the bright, sparkling day.

On Friday, just before the snow began, I had the chance to walk through the botanical gardens in Central Park. In the spring and summer, this small snippet of the park is full of color and life. Walking through this barren space on Friday was still a wonderful experience! Winter is an important time of the year and I am learning to love it!

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Top 10s: Photos

It's cliche, I know, but the period between Thanksgiving and New Years is a serious time of reflection for me.

This past year has been particularly dramatic, physically, emotionally, in my personal life and in my career, with almost all aspects of my life going through significant change. Michael and I returned to life as professions, departing the comforts of graduate school. Between the two of us, we've had four jobs in twelve months. We visited family and friends all over the world, from my mom in Armenia to my sister-in-law in South Carolina. I made new friends, fought for old ones, and did my best to do right by those I love. I worked hard to be a good wife, a good daughter, a good sister, a good friend - succeeding sometimes and failing others. Michael and I celebrated the marriages of our dear friends and the births of a host of beautiful children.

What's remarkable to me is that change as dramatic as this year has been the reality for the past several. For the last six Christmases, I've had a lot to reflect upon! And when I think about our future, about Michael and I as parents, I think about how our lives will no longer be marked by our own challenges and triumphs, but by those of our children (whenever they arrive)...

In any event, all of this reflection lead me to sorting through my pictures from 2008, to identify the highlights of the year. Here we go:

10. New York, NY. Obama! What joy!


9. Armenia! This picture is from a fabulous night with my mom, brother and husband. It isn't the most flattering shot for any of us, but it represents much of that trip - smiles, snow, cold, and walking uphill.


8. In Maryland at Mona & Ashesh's wedding. Laura & Michael, having fun and laughing together. Laura officiated the wedding, Michael and I cheered it by dancing all night. Very fun!


7. Naples, Florida. Enjoying sunshine and seafood in the middle of winter with Michael's lovely grandparents.


6. Angkor Wat, Cambodia. My husband in his adventure pants, Cambodian sun-protecting scarf, climbing, adventuring and getting tan.


5. Koh Tao, Thailand. Seeing Michael in his element, passionate about writing.


4. Koh Tao, Thailand. I've already talked about this night, but it was magical. I thought about how wonderful it is to be in love, to feel the sun, to share a life with someone. I thought about the children we might have some day, how I hoped that they would be lucky enough to know the joy I felt at that precise moment, how life can be perfect sometimes.


3. New York, NY. Celebrating Michael's birthday with fabulous friends, good drinks and some serious karaoke. Two people well matched for one another.


2. Sapa, Vietnam. Hot, sweaty and climbing a mountain.


1. New York, NY. Happy and home after the adventure of a lifetime. Tan, happy, my husband nice a scruffy. Happy to be together, happy to be by the water on a perfectly sunny, warm day in New York City. A feeling I won't soon forget.

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Snow! Again!

video

Congratulations!

Check out this article on Betty!
Mr. Podesta, who was Mr. Clinton’s last White House chief of staff, said it was only natural to call Ms. Currie back to service once he took over Mr. Obama’s transition operation. “Of course I asked her because in the 30 years we have worked together, I have never known anyone with more grace, dedication and public spirit than Betty,” he said. “And she has one mean rolodex.”

Recommended

I think Eugene Robinson has it right in his op-ed piece today.

Sunday, December 14, 2008

Celebrations


A weekend in South Carolina celebrating another exciting and well-earned family milestone.
A helping hand, or 10, to transition from one life to another.
A deliciously exciting new life in a handsome bright apartment.

Congratulations, Kelsey!!

Thursday, December 11, 2008

The Lucky Ones

It's cold. It's wet. And it's New York.

Some days, you're the person who successfully battles the rain. You're wearing rubber galoshes that protect your legs from knees to toes. You're holding an umbrella that actually keeps you dry. You're able to keep spirits up and smile as people struggle to keep themselves safe from the rain.

Other days, you're the people who resort to this:


Today, I was one of the lucky ones.

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

Morning Trauma

It's only 9:37 and the following things have happened today:

* Our alarm went off at 6:15 so that we could attend a weight training class (the one that used to be lead by our favorite, Arnold, but has been taken over by a sub-par instructor - last week we left the class having not broken a sweat). Turns out, Michael had already been lying awake for at least an hour! His back has been hurting him off and on for the past month, and last night it was definitely on. We decided to skip the gym. I pulled out the heating blanket, put him on top of it, and attempted to get another hour of sleep.

* For the next hour, I dozed off and on, waking every five or ten minutes to check on Michael. When he was asleep, I would close my eyes restfully. When he was awake, I would close my eyes guiltily.

* I got out of bed at 7:15, brewed my first cup of tea, and read my book for a solid 30 minutes. The highlight of the day so far.

* I got into the bathroom at 8 to learn that there was no hot water. So no shower. No heat. No fun.

Now I'm at work, feeling gross and not yet awake. I took a shower last night at 9, so I shouldn't feel so bad. But a morning shower is as crucial to a good day as a cup of tea... It's going to be a rough one, folks.

On the plus side, today is my father-in-law's birthday! Happy birthday, Marty!

Sunday, December 7, 2008

Randomness

Saturday: lounging in bed, errands that included stops at Old Navy, the Gap, the farmers market and Chipotle, baking chocolate chip cookies, purchasing two needlepoint kits to make our stockings for next Christmas, a lovely night with John & Anna (including dinner and "Frost/Nixon"), and a coke and some cookies with SNL.

Sunday: waking quickly, a brief enjoyable chat with Mom, an exhausting sweaty workout at Equinox, "Australia" with Jordana, cooking dinner, wine with my husband.

This weekend was freezing! But it felt more and more like Christmas! Our neighborhood music school (doesn't everyone have one?), decorated for the holidays:


A Christmas-y dinner with John and Anna (and all the old people on the Upper West Side):


And finally, when I went to purchase brown sugar at the grocery store on Saturday, an adorable 3-year old was helping his father by pushing a mini-shopping cart around the store. It was too cute, so I attempted (but did not succeed in taking) a photo. Here he is, right in front of the butter and yogurt:

Saturday, December 6, 2008

Comfort

Disclaimer: the things I am about to say make me sound about 30 years older than I am.

I love tea. It is an absolute consumable comfort - the heat, the sweetness, the milky, bold taste make it the perfect way to wake in the morning, relax in the afternoon, or unwind after a long, cold day. By necessity, I've become rather adept at filling my tea kettle and putting the heat on without really waking up. Within about fifteen minutes of climbing out of bed most days, I have a warm cup in my hand, my eyes slowly fluttering open.

At work, we recently uncovered an electric kettle that had been hiding in the depths of our rather dirty "kitchen" cabinets. It was a sensational find, because until then if were we to try to make a cup at the office, we had to heat water in the microwave. As any good black tea drinker will tell you, this method is simply acceptable. Instead, I was stopping at Starbucks each morning for my cup of Awake, because that water is PIPING HOT.

With the discovery of the electric kettle, a friend of mine and I have started afternoon tea. Around 3:30 we put water on for our second (or third, sometimes forth) cup of the day. We'll often have a sweet to go along with it - a cookie or piece of dark chocolate. Heaven.

Here's a recent piece from NPR about tea and all its goodness:

Thursday, December 4, 2008

Crash Into Me

On my way home from work today, I witnessed two car crashes! It was the strangest thing - one minute everything was hunky-dory, and the next there was broken glass and scratched metal all over the place. I paused for a minute to make sure everything was okay, then continued my way home.

As I walked past drivers and passengers left to clean up the mess made on a Thursday night, I said a quick thanks for my car-less existence. And I also marveled at my walking coma --- I've done this trip so many times now, in the rain and snow, sunshine and freezing winds, that I barely notice where I am or what's going on around me (except, of course, for the mornings when I walk by John Stewart's house - I'm always looking out for him!). It took two car accidents to snap me out of my haze today.

I hear a lot about meditation, about its mental and physical benefits. This evening, I began to see my walks as a form of meditation. Sure, I usually have my ipod on, listening to NPR or Taylor Swift, or I'm talking to someone on the phone. But it is a rhythmic experience - not only is my physical movement the same, but the path I take is repeated twice a day, five days a week. I pass the same markers, the same people, the same shops and the same traffic lights. I keep a steady pace as I walk, moving just ahead of the strollers in Tribeca. I like my route, which (despite tonight's experience) is fairly free from major streets and traffic.

The walk gives me time to reflect, relax, unwind or prepare for whatever lies ahead. It is soothing, comforting, and indeed meditative.

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

Recommended

Taking organic a little too far? Or a bold and daring attempt at health? Check it out.

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

Recommended

How cool is this?!?

Lunch

In an effort to eat healthy and save money, Michael and I have been "brown bagging" our lunches for the past several years. The longer we do this, the larger our lunches seem to grow. At first we were taking a sandwich, coke and a piece of fruit. Then we added a yogurt. Now some more fruit. And often a cookie or two...

This, in and of itself, wouldn't be a big issue. But in combination with my environmental guilt, the results are insanely overwhelming. Since plastic bags are banned from our household (generally), the ever-expanding quantities of tuperware are rather cumbersome... Here's an example of how ridiculous its growing: