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July 29, 2009

friends

 I wish that more of my long held friends lived near me. Sometimes it seems that even when we are all in the same general place, the logistics of family and children, as well as optimistic ideas of what "close" is ("hey, we're in town! well, we're an hour from you with no traffic, but we're close, really!") keep us from getting together in person.

So we try - to squeeze in phone calls, to work around the schedules of cranky toddlers and exhausted parents, work schedules and time zones. We send emails and photos, check in on Facebook, and do our best to stay connected. I've gotten over (mostly) worrying about "bothering" my friends when I call - they can either not answer, or tell me when I call that its not a good time and I"ll call back again later.

Of course its not the same as being in the same place. Days like today I wish there was someone I could call up and say, "time for a drink tonight?" or where I wish I lived in a neighborhood where I was connected to people, rather than surrounded by transience. Where if I sat on my front stoop or porch, that they're be someone else to talk to, even if it's just a neighbor nodding as she walked by.

But this is how our lives work in these diasporic times, when people move around for jobs and school and life, and particularly in this fair city which seems to make almost a sport of the flow of people through it. Many of us no longer live near those we're closest to, and so we look to media to knit us back together when face to face interaction isn't possible.But Facebook isn't quite the same as facetime, is it? The nuance, the laughter, the conversational flow are all missing, and right now, I miss it.

July 29, 2009 at 11:40 AM | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

July 28, 2009

mixed

It has been One of Those Days. Well, not actually one of Those, but a day when the good generally coexists with the bad, but you focus on the bad anyway.

Hot and sticky weather makes most things seem less bearable, which is no doubt part of it. Made a potentially expensive blunder, had a tough conversation with a friend, and got some advice I'd have rather not heard. The advice was true and well-meant, but the delivery left a lot to be desired, and mostly consisted of someone blundering into a situation to give advice with out really understanding the situation itself. And I bought a watch that I know is ugly out of desperation - watchless, and having worn the dress watch into the shower for the 16th time, hurriedly taking it off, drying it and then promptly forgetting to put it back on, I went and bought a rubbery plastic thing, that can go on runs and in the pool and shower, and which I wont forget - though now I wonder whether that's because its so ugly that"ll never invisibly blend into my daily wear. Though I suspect that even with my previous watches, the blending was only in my mind, rather than in the eye of the beholder.

I am trying to focus on the good things - the mini-moment of office camaraderie when we took our departing research assistant out for smoothies, the sense of accomplishment from moving a project through yet another step on its way to completion. The sense of relief in donating a few bags of stuff and paring down just a tiny bit more, the clutter that sometimes feels comforting but also often burdensome. And the pleasure in spending money given as a gift, earmarked not for bills, or debt or groceries but you.

And the long planned and anticipated vacation, threatened repeatedly with the work-related derailments of two different parties to the trip appears to have been pulled out of its nose-dive by my mother, my grandmother and an old friend from nursery school as well as some creative rescheduling. 

So, like I said, good and bad. And there's really no response to a day like this except for to recognize that you've got blinders to all but the bad and go to bed and hope the ratio of good - to -unnoticed - to bad is better tomorrow.

July 28, 2009 at 11:51 PM | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

July 23, 2009

Living vs. writing about living

I've been wrestling with how to balance writing about life and living it, versus being fully present and cognizant during one's daily experiences. 

On one hand, I do buy the idea that one "write's one self into being," that to write about something, particularly experiences solidifies them and makes them more permanent.

But in this day and age of ever increasing speed and brevity in opportunities to share and write one's life, where does the immediacy increasingly demanded by the medium interfere with the experience itself? I started thinking about this when an acquaintance posted status updates about being in labor. She kept her 500 person network updated through the day with small tidbits, until she finally posted announcing the birth of her daughter later in the evening. And while I enjoyed reading about her experience. I did wonder if perhaps labor and birth might not be experiences that would be diminished by sharing them in the moment of their occurrence? Sort of like the difference between attending a child's 1st birthday party and participating/viewing it from behind the view finder of a video camera versus putting the camera down and interacting fully with the child, guests, cake. There's a similar, but perhaps lesser effect with still cameras, since it's easier to periodically put them back or come out from behind the viewfinder.

That said, I think having pictures/videos of events to use to remember them later are valuable things.

I've also been wrestling with how this question of living vs writing about living applies to this blog. There's a part of me that thinks that my decline in blogging is because of a more purposeful effort at living. (or that there are other, shorter, ways of doing similar things in newer applications). But it comes down to wondering whether if I'm out doing something and while Im doing it, I think about how I'd blog about it, or if I even could, am I some how short changing myself of really enjoying and being mindful of that very experience?

July 23, 2009 at 09:52 AM | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack

July 22, 2009

Retail scenting

In recent years, I've been liking shopping malls less and less. Something about their sanitized, regulated interiors bug me, all marble and fountains and fatty-food purveying food courts.

There is a certain efficiency about malls - the high density of stores can make a multi-item shopping run quicker and require less driving. And in really foul weather (bitter cold, drenching rain) they can be a more comfortable way to to acquire new things.

But a recent shopping run has added another check on the "ugh!" side of the list. I'm not just talking about my Tuesday evening disappointment over finding goods advertised online unavailable in person, or cheap, sheer or unpleasantly colored. (At least the cast iron skillet was available, and on sale. But it seems harder to screw up a cast iron skillet than a cardigan sweater, somehow.) No, my current mall peeve is the store "fragrance." It's pretty clear that stores in the Abercrombie family are now using signature fragrances as a part of the creation of their no-doubt heavily focus grouped "shopping environment."  I walked past three separate stores during my latest mall foray where I was enveloped in what smelled like Axe-body spray scent rejects. Each scent was slightly different (all no doubt part of "positioning" the store), but all gag worthy. It was sort of like realizing that the person 3 cubicles down got what s/he thinks is awesome cologne for his/her birthday and has moved rapidly from use that might be called sparing to what would be more accurately termed "self-drenching."

Admittedly, I'm not a big fan of home or personal fragrance myself - I have a pretty strong and sensitive sense of smell. But If I'm walking 10 feet away from the store entrance and I can still smell it (hell, it's probably angled or even blown out the front door to lure people in), I can't possibly imagine how people work there, let alone shop there.

I know this really means I'm just galloping further and further away from their target demographic, and I have absolutely no doubt that this is all a part of a well researched effort to make more money at those stores. But truly, it will drive me away from enclosed shopping malls, and back into the outdoor shopping districts somewhat more (but not entirely) organic constructed in my fair city. Being nauseated is not high on my list of key attributes in a pleasant shopping experience.

July 22, 2009 at 10:52 PM | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

July 16, 2009

Washing the cats

Neither Daisy nor Oscar has ever had a bath in their lives. Tongue baths from mothers, others and their own fine appendages, sure, but never have they had their bodies doused with water.

That all changed yesterday after I applied a topical pesticide to my cats on the advice of my vet. This was the new version of the stuff I've used over the past few years to prevent heartworm. They don't go outside, but they do have access to a screened porch, and apparently that's enough of a risk that they need an anti-bug treatment.

This year's treatment (Advantage Multi) was said to be a step forward from the Revolution brand I'd used in the past. So I applied it yesterday morning after clipping their claws in a monthly ritual of cat treats and clipping. I was not prepared for their reaction to the Advantage. Despite the fact that I applied it as directed to their skin between their shoulder blades, they can still groom their and quickly licked some of the stuff off their fur. Nearly immediately they started gagging, drooling and foaming at the mouth. Their eyes dilated and Daisy gagged and assumed the Cat Vomiting Position. They were both clearly afraid and uncomfortable. I called the vet, who assured me that it was just "mouth irritation" from the Advantage, but if they vomited I should bring them in. I stayed home and watched the cats for an hour. Oscar settled down, but Daisy couldn't shake the lick, gag, drool/foam cycle, so I faced facts and realized I'd need to give her a bath.

It was a bit of an ambush - She'd never had a bath before and always liked hanging out in the bathroom with me while i showered. So I turned on the water, grabbed a cup and some baby shampoo and plopped her into the paw-deep water. Needless to say, she was less than thrilled, and scrabbled and yowled and tried desperately to get away. I did manage to hold her down long enough to get some soap on her and then rinse her off before she'd finally had enough. I toweled her off and let her sit and groom while I had my shower. And when I pulled back the shower curtain when I was done, she unleashed a meowed litany of what I imagine was cat profanity at me.

Later in the day, I returned home after work to find that Oscar still had the chemical-matted fur on the back of his neck and was licking and scratching it repeatedly, so into the bath he went, too. Unlike Daisy, as soon as Oscar's claws touched the water, he fought like a wild cat, twisting and flailing and jumping out of the tub. I finally grabbed him and compromised with a sink bath, in which I soaped up his neck and then poured a couple of cups of water over him to wash it off. I had a work dinner later that evening, but thankfully I had removed all my work clothes and changed into something more suitable for cat bathing, so when I ended up covered in water, soap and cat hair it wasn't the catastrophe it might have been.

And I definitely hope that we can go at least four more years before anyone needs a bath again.

July 16, 2009 at 08:07 AM | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

July 15, 2009

Birthdays

Daisy hooked a claw into my left butt cheek. Good Morning! Now Get up and feed me. And oh by the way, Happy Birthday.

This birthday hit me like gut punch on Sunday when I was sitting in a Northampton Mass restaurant and finally allowing myself to think about what lay ahead in my life the following week. "staff meeting, yoga, important meeting, birthday, cats to vet..." Well, perhaps less of a gut punch and more of a glancing blow to the kidneys that makes you gasp.  This is a biggish birthday for me, not one of the landmarks, but an ugly straddle between two of them. And for the first time in my life, a birthday really doesn't feel like cause for celebration.

I feel a lot of whiplash about my age these days. There are days when I feel keenly the social pressure to have done things in my personal life that I have not (marry, become a parent) and the vague ooze of pity from loved ones, friends, others, who I sense worry about me in that regard. But then there are times like last night, where I get to attend an invite only dinner - incongruously in the garishly lit backroom of a bad Chinatown restaurant - thick with major policy and government players who get together now and again to talk off the record about things that they're thinking about. At these kinds of things, I'm the youngest in the room (though last night I was the second youngest) and waffle between pride in my accomplishments that got me here, and wondering when I will be discovered as an intellectual impostor and escorted from the room.

These days, I actually have trouble believing that I am as old as I am. Because of my life stage, I tend to spend more of my time with people who are a bit younger than I. Don't get me wrong, I do, often, feel "old," increasing everyday stiffness, slower recoveries from workouts and injuries, increasing likelihood that when I'm sick, something is actually wrong. Its just that it feels odd to articulate my actual age these days, like I can't really believe I'm here.

So I'm not all that keen to celebrate today. This generally mood isn't helped by the Summer Birthday Situation, a chronic problem whereby none of ones friends are ever around for your July birthday - off at camp or Grandma's or the beach when you're younger, and weddings & vacations when we're older. This year it isn't helped by the fact that many of my friends are in transitions - moving out of this fair city to faraway places, launched out on epic, life changing travels, expecting new babies (sometimes for the second or even third times) or wrapped up in the care of newborns and young children. So what celebrating I manage for my birthday will be with a small group of friends. And I think this hits on another layer of my gasping reaction to the flipping of the calendar: I feel a bit as thought I'm waiting to exhale, waiting for the next chapter of my life to begin. Last night, I walked up the dirty stairs to my apartment, and was struck as I fished around in my bag for the keys to admit me through the beaten up wood door and into my apartment, by the thought that I had been living here for more than 6 years. I love my place, but that seems like a long time. All around me, I see friends who found themselves in similar ruts and took steps to pull themselves out.  And so I wonder to myself whether and how I should begin to address this feeling within the constraints of my personal and professional life. I don't know the answers. But I do know, given the melancholy feeling I've got around this day, that it's time to starting looking.

July 15, 2009 at 08:03 AM | Permalink | Comments (2) | TrackBack