New, Big, Bouncy, Red Ball

Dilemma: I love my new bag. It's candy apple red, and shiny patent leather. Not mention it fits under the airplane seat handily, and holds a laptop. Practical and fashionable.
The problem is that as soon as I started commuting with my new shiny bag proudly upon my shoulder, I noticed that every fourth woman also had a red tote. And other women noticed mine. I got two compliments from strangers on the train. My friend saw the bag and then beat a path to get one of her own that night. (She politely texted me to ask if it was ok if she bought a very similar bag. I was an adult and said 'no problem.') The other bags are not exactly the same, but close: a darker red; a crocodile texture; gold detailing instead of silver; different levels of shininess.

I feel like a little kid who's arrived at the schoolyard with a new, big, bouncy, red ball. A ball that will make all the kids want to play four square with me for all of recess. But as I enter the school gates, I look around and see every classmate with their OWN bouncy red ball. Ack! No, that's my ball!! My new bouncy red ball! (Exit school yard with petulant lower lip thrust outward.)

Maybe this is one of those things like once I bought a certain make of car, I noticed all of its brothers on the road, when I had never paid any mind before.

Has everyone had a red bag?
Or maybe (more dire) I have unwittingly, subconsciously, just adopted the trend of the moment.

I hate that.

But I love my bag.

And to prove a point that I had precedent beyond lemming, fashion-craven behavior, I point to my two pairs of patent leather heels. One bought well over a year ago! (Ok, careful readers will point out that I may have been prescient in the patent leather trend, but neither of these shoes are red. I'm not Dorothy, people!)

I take this to mean that in this case I'm one of those runners at the start of a marathon. I might be mere footsteps ahead of the pack, but there's a hoard behind me.
I don't like feeling like I'm just a face in the anonymous, homogeneous, red-bag-carrying crowd.

But I love my bag, so darn it, I'm sticking with it.
I also love this new bag I got, on sale no less. V. fun and retro (it has the Pan Am logo embossed on it) and it's not red.

When Sinbad is Right...

...and your candidate is wrong, it may be time to reconsider your candidate. *Sigh*
Oh Hillary, why?
I kinda think, if I were really under sniper fire, I might've remembered it. (But I have never been, at least to my recollection.)

Bill Richardson was my early preference, and now he's tossed in for Obama, so with this and other events, I find myself quietly considering where the election (and my general election vote) is going:
- I hated Clinton's lobbying to get Florida and Michigan counted. I couldn't defend the reversal. If you went in agreeing with the Democratic National Party that those states delegates shouldn't be seated because they moved up their primaries, don't change your mind just because you're falling behind.
- I don't like the principal of the superdelegates either. Maybe I don't understand it. Maybe they give a surrogate voice to those states whose primaries are so late that their votes wouldn't normally count for anything anyway (Pennsylvania.) The superdelegate dynamic feels so shadowy and suspicious. 'Whatever the little voters wanted, nevermind, we can decide for them.' (Kind of feels like the Supreme Court deciding against a popular vote.)

This is just getting messy. I am getting disgruntled.
Jason's floating around the house slightly more carefully and kindly than usual, sensing that my candidate's end may be nigh. This might also be because I threatened to start rooting for Michigan the last time he started gloating about his candidate's increasing likelihood of victory.
If the election were held today, I'd stay at home in bed in my flannels, brooding over the last chance to have a female president before I'd become eligible myself. Forget McCain v Obama, my candidate never wins anyway.

Bunny Blog (Easter Recap)

The promised second chapter to my weekend was Easter lunch on the upper East Side with my grandmother. I love how posh that sounds, even if it makes me a little snobby. And since this is an Easter blog, I think it calls for lots of cute bunny pictures, mostly borrowed from Cute Overload.
The idea of 'going to Grandma's' probably brings to mind a picture in each person's head that is distinct. For me it's being buzzed through the double doors into Grandma's building and then looking through the hallway and up the steep marble stairs to see Grandma come out of her apartment to greet us. (This year she is peeved that they put in a drop ceiling obscuring the view downstairs so this peeking is harder.) There's still the same welcome at the top of the stairs that's greeted me for thirty years, a big hug from Grandma. My head used to nuzzle into her aproned waist and my arms barely reach around, now I lean down to touch my head to hers.
As a little girl who believed in the Easter Bunny I was always so terribly impressed that the Easter Bunny knew we'd be in New York City on Easter Sunday morning because we'd come into Grandma's postage stamp size living room and there would be two baskets filled with candy for me and Juliet. That Easter Bunny, so smart! (Except maybe for his affiliation with GWB.)

Even this Sunday Grandma presented me with a small Easter gift, a porcelain pair of boy-girl swans holding beaded flowers. Such a grandma gift, and I have so not a clue where this will fit in my home. But the fact that it's exactly what she has sitting next to her television (which still carries an antenna, that looks like this bunny's ears) endears it to me.

Sunday was also the chance to see my cousin Michelle, Aunt Marion, and Juliet & Hugh; arrayed around the table we were a regular little Continental Congress with 5 states represented.
I was so delighted to see so many important loved ones (those who I'm related to, and those I'm not) this weekend. And I think that deserves another bunny.

Bib Lettuce to Baby Bibs

I had a weekend that could suffice for probably 3 blog posts (and I'm already behind on reporting my previous weeks!)
The unifying theme is about friends and family and coming through on a resolution I made to myself to make sure that my regular travel schedule embraces them both.
Spending this weekend in New York I was able to see friends Abby & David, before they leave the East Coast for a big move to Portland, Oregon. We enjoyed drinks first at Blue Smoke, where I encouraged Abby to put the 'cocktails' back into her Yarn & Cocktails blog. (Because I know more about drinking than I know about knitting.) We then headed to our dinner reservation at Craft (complete with sighting of chef Tom Colicchio, of Top Chef fame.) This was the bib lettuce part of my weekend, although in remembering the meal, I don't think we chose that salad after all. The desserts were YUMMY. Abby & David are the best to dine with. I feel like they are my seeing eye dogs to food and wine, because I'm not always so good at picking the best restaurants, wines or dishes myself. So much better when I let them lead me, except when David suggests turnips.
The next day, I carefully approached the home of college roomie and friend Ellyn, hiding behind the big wrapped present I was carrying, because I was making a surprise appearance at Ellyn's baby shower. In addition to the totally trippy cradle swing that Abby and I went in on for the expectant parents, I was very proud to bestow upon Ellyn the efforts of the past couple weekends of sewing. Yes, I tried sewing! And it seems to have worked out ok.
I made baby bibs, and burp clothes.
I picked fabrics with bright yellow and red, with a little blue in the mix, since even little girls can wear blue. (Why are babies doomed to a pastel-only palette for the first years of life?)

Now if I can't boast on my own blog, I don't know where I can, I will share that even this group of talented women who quilt and knit and those from generations who probably sew a lot more than we do, oohed and aahhed with admiration when I piped up that I made them myself. A real mom in the audience asked if she could see one of the flannel burp clothes. She touched it, lay it on her shoulder, cooing, "Oh, I can't wait for her to be born so I can put her on my shoulder!"
The burp clothes were ridiculously easy, and I highly recommend them as homemade baby gifts. The bibs were far trickier, and when I was done the neck hole seemed really small. I have no baby on hand to try them on for size, but fortunately the cat obliged. He was quite calm about it, which was really out of character, but maybe he'd observed how patient I'd been with the endeavor and felt like he could try it too.

I'll continue the Easter Sunday family portion tomorrow...

I Recommend

There are so many times (more than I can count) where I am eager to blog about something that I have just discovered like it's the newest, best, most novel thing in the world, only to google it and find a reference that dates back to 2003. And I am suddenly deflated...and dated.

So who knows how long the hipsters and trendsetters have known about this, but hopefully some of you are just as far behind as me, because I wanted to mention a new podcast I'm enjoying: The Moth.

Go figure, I heard it first on NPR, with a story by Malcom Gladwell (author of The Tipping Point) about a newsroom competition he had to try to insert ridiculously specific passages into his stories, e.g. "perverse and often baffling," and get them past his copy editor before his reporter colleague.

I am hoping the other stories may help me pass the time on this week's flight to Sacramento.

Not Taking It For Granted

You know how they say how regrettable it is that you never go see the sights of your hometown until you have out-of-town guests visiting? Not so today.
I shall not take it for granted that I live in a town where they dye the river green to honor St. Patrick's Day. Today three friends and I met up by getting on the El from three different stops to head downtown to see the Chicago River dyed green.The video below is likely more exciting than what we experienced. Lucky you, you didn't have to stand outside wishing you'd worn your warmer boots, questioning whether that was a snowflake you just saw float by, and curious about how quickly green dye moves block on water. (Verrrry slowly, not helped much by a team of kayakers mixing it up.)
I did have visions of a flowing river, all green from the lake to past the "corn cob towers." But instead, the dye ends up being targeted to a small two block stretch of the river near Michigan Avenue. It only stays that way for about 4 hours too. That was a little disappointing, but also something I never would have known about unless I'd gone to see it in person.

I also did not know, before doing my pre-work for the day, that this is a privately funded initiative, inspired by dye that a plumber once used to detect waste leaks into the river. The whole story of over 40 years of turning the river green, is here.

Now I can move onto the other hometown tourist activities on my list:
- Jane Adams' Hull House
- Frank Lloyd Wright's Robie House
- Botanical Gardens (yay spring!)
- Shedd Aquarium
- we also need to get ourselves out to the Wisconsin Dells sometime soon. I had no idea that there was pretty stuff up in Wisconsin, and that it's so relatively close!

It's Ok, Please Be Angry

Wow, did Elliot Spitzer find a terrific way to make us stop arguing about the election at home.
I know that everyone on their PR team probably tells them it's the "right" thing to do, but I start to get bewildered when you see the wife stand by her man when these things happen. I dunno, I think it'd be much more satisfying to see her a little pissed off. It's her right, isn't it?
It's beyond believable, turning the corner of ridiculous, when spouses stand there as their husband confesses he's gay and has had a relationship with his aide (Jim McGreevey) or has solicited sex at the airport men's room (Larry Craig.) How embarrassing.
It's a weird day when you're turning to the New York Sun for some honest reporting:
A source close to the governor said Mr. Spitzer and his wife of 20 years, Silda Wall, have spent the day in separate rooms in their apartment. They have emerged from their locations to speak jointly with Mr. Spitzer's lawyers.

"She doesn't want to look at him, and he doesn't want to bear the look that she gives when she does look at him," the source said.

And yes, Hillary was there once too.

Wonkette also offers a humorous comparison of Spitzer and his muppet doppleganger here.

I know these things are somewhat private, (what goes on in a marriage,) but if the wife is going to stand up there at the press conference, maybe she could be allowed to be a little angry. It's so unsatisfying otherwise; sometimes reality on television just doesn't live up to what I've been conditioned to expect from reality television.

Dressing for the Part

It's hard to believe that we're "Springing Forward" this weekend for Daylight Savings Time, especially with the reports of over a foot of snow falling from Jason's relatives in Columbus, Ohio. It's wicked of me to have enjoyed a momentary pleasure that it wasn't happening here. As though she overheard and wished to scold me, it began snowing here a half hour later.
To coax spring's arrival in my mind, if nowhere else, I wandered the aisles of my local department store where warm weather has arrived. Short sleeve blouses, skirts, raincoats and khakis. And winter coats priced at 70% off. Get lost, puffy coats!

The venture was also a way to distract me from pining for a few cute items from Anthropologie.
What follows are all items I knew I should try on before purchase, since they could go either way: adorable... or capable of prompting a comparison to a school teacher. Ladies & gentlemen, just like asking a woman "So when are you due?" when she's NOT pregnant, suggesting that she's dressed like a school teacher is not helpful or kind. (No personal critique to either mothers or teachers.)

I did find a nice substitute shirt dress.
I am also making a foray into navy blue for spring. I have usually figured that navy is so close to black, why not just stick to black rather than buying into a set of clothing and shoes (and purses) in an entirely new palette? And there are the possible comparison to dressing like a sailor.
That's how I felt, until I found this top:

(Not to boast, but I think I actually looked better in this top than the model. I didn't know Kirsten Dunst was modeling for Banana Republic these days.)

Now that both my mind and my wardrobe are spring-ready, do you think it will come sooner?

The Things We Could Have Been Doing

Every day I take the train to and from work. In the morning, the door-to-door journey is 1 hour and 15-25 minutes, usually depending on the suburban traffic that the company shuttle bus has to wend its way through. The way home is reliably an hour and a half.
During one trip home, as the group of us sat on the upper level of the train car, a row of laptops open, a friend started to calculate the number of hours he'd spent commuting. He began to quantify this time in the equivalents to 'work years.' So if I commute 3 hours a day, 3 days taking the train = just over one workday. 52 weeks a year, 5 8-hour work days a week...

I think for me the Excel spreadsheet indicated it was maybe 3 months of work days that I'd spent riding the train. The poor soul who'd inspired this discussion was a guy I don't know who's being taking the same train for fifteen years. His name might be Willie Loman, poor workaday fellow.

Today we considered Chapter 2 of this calculation. In the time that we've been sitting on the train, what could we have achieved?

Sir Edmund Hillary climbed Mt. Everest in 3 months.
Abraham Lincoln freed a people from enslavement in about 2 years, added my friend, calculating the time from Lincoln's election to the Emancipation Proclamation. (History scholars will debate the true effectiveness of the Proclamation, but you get my point.)
The Iditarod typically takes 10 days. (One month commuting and I could have run the Iditarod. I have not yet figured out the mileage equivalent.)I wondered, how long did Brown vs. Board of Education take to win? How many Supreme Court cases could I have won?
How long did it take F. Scott Fitzgerald to write The Great Gatsby? (A compliment should go to Uncle Paul here, who did use his train time wisely: to read the plays of Shakespeare.)
How long to win the war in Iraq? (This may well make even my lifelong cumulative commuting time look brief.)

There is a flip side, the hours spent on the Metra are hours not spent waiting in line for the ladies room; on hold with the airline; folding laundry; taking the cat to the vet or the car to the shop.

The Phrase That Saved The Week

The last few days at work have been remarkably dispiriting. So ridiculous and out of my control that when new dilemmas arrive at my office door all I can do is take them in with bemusement. These events have been so out out of hand that when I come home at night I can't even begin to tell Jason about it. I don't even want to try to find logic in it.
Someone literally yelled at me in a meeting on Monday. In front of 8 other people. And no one said anything, they just stared, dumbfounded.

My boss encourages a philosophical viewpoint. "Be the duck," he says. A duck glides across the still waters as though at perfect ease. Underneath the surface though, indeed, the little flippers are working frantically like a little machine to keep duckie afloat.

After I sent an update to my boss' Blackberry today he e-mailed back the reminder about the duck. With chagrin I e-mailed back, "Little did we know that some team members are avid duck hunters."
And of course this is the same week that my 2007 self-appraisal is due. It's hard to write your own year-end valedictory speech when you're at same an unexplainable low point. But yesterday my boss offered the perspective-granting phrase I needed, "Let's face it: you've had a great year."

A great year? ... A great year! With renewed mojo I came to work this morning and spent an hour on the self-appraisal. It was the phrase that saved the week, and maybe my short-term career prospects.

I must not let these little ten days get me down.

The Walk of Life

A driving factor (...that wording will become ironic in just one second) in our new home search is walking distance to the train station. Jason takes the train south to the Loop; lucky bastard works right near the Sears Tower. I take it ridiculously far north. I think that after I've already been on the train for 30 minutes, when Jason's train passes mine, still in the suburbs, on its way to pick him up. At that point in the morning he's probably just stepping into the shower, while I am adjusting my puffy coat to make a better pillow for napping on the train bench.

At first, when defining our housing search parameters, I guessed that a mile's distance would be reasonably walkable to the train station. Then I started to map out exactly how far a mile is. For us it's like a walk to India: Devon Street, Chicago's "Little India."

Since my uninformed conjecture was so far off, I began to wonder if putting the 'new home' distance in perspective with my all lifetime walks would help. (Google Maps allowing me to do something that I never could 15 years ago.)

How far did I walk to grade school when I was in fourth grade? (0.53 miles, annoyed that even though I was the Big Sister, I was not given official authority to be in charge of Juliet. If she'd run off certainly I'd be accountable, so how was I not in charge??!)

In 7th and 8th grade I walked four tenths of a mile to the El stop, on the way home sometimes stopping to buy a donut at Dunkin Donuts and eating it on the way home.

When we lived in England, Juliet and I walked seven tenths of a mile, including one wickedly steep hill to get on a train and then walk another 0.15 miles to the car park to meet the school bus. This went on for a year until our mother took pity on us and started driving us to meet the bus, and picking us up in the afternoon too. I think this has been by far my lifetime worst on-foot commute.

Being drawn further and further into the challenge, I tried to figure out how far my little second grade feet commuted in Tokyo. It was a lot harder to figure out where our apartment building had been on the Google map, even when I found our grade school. (I had to suppress my automatic surprise when the Google map came up with only Japanese characters; I had selfishly assumed it would be in English!) For assistance I googled my grade school name and I was stopped in my search, pulled onto another internet distraction which made me realize how blithely oblivious a seven-year old can be of their surroundings.
Residing beside our little grade school and the park where we used to play there are: the German embassy, the Iranian embassy, the Argentinian embassy, the Korean embassy. This is when I very vaguely remember that the Argentinian embassy might have been the white building that my mom used as a landmark to have taxi drivers drop us off, so we could walk the rest of the way down our dead-end street. "Please stop at the white building" becoming a phrase that even I could say in Japanese.
This is when I wish my parents were still around, so I could ask them more about what our Azabu neighborhood was like. (No one else I know anymore was there with us, and Juliet was just five.) What an international, diplomatic community!
I guess I could just go visit. Better get Jason to get his passport in order. And plane tickets, since that will definitely be too far to walk.

What Would Aesop Make of This?

Friday night, and we were turtle racing at a local bar. With a group of about 20 co-workers and extended friends, including one troublemaker friend who shows up about every half hour, on the half hour, with a tray of shots that taste like Kool Aid. And I begin to wonder if he's truly my friend, or if this is a case of Alcoholism by Proxy.
Despite the many pitchers of the beer on our tables (you get tickets to race with every drink purchase) I was not assigned a turtle to cheer for. Their names are pretty cute: Chucks, Doozy, Lucky Dan and Jolanda. One friend won a t-shirt because his turtle was first across the finish line, and another won a free drink, because hers was last. A more in-depth explanation of these shenanigans is on this blog, should you like to learn more.
I was talking to our real estate agent earlier this week about setting up some appointments and I explained Friday would not work for us because we were turtle racing. She laughed, she's doing the same thing next week.
Ok, gotta go. Jason's been asked to call his family in Ohio and urge them to vote for Obama in the upcoming primary. I have to cut the phone lines. ;)

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