Monday, December 31


I've been trying to avoid all the pitfalls of worry that loom large in this whole pregnancy thing, but it's starting to freak me out that I haven't felt the baby move yet. It doesn't help that I just got a postcard from a good friend who is due a week before me, and she writes about how active her little fetus is being.

I know I'm only 17 weeks, and most movement is felt between weeks 15 and 22. Intellectually I know this. But I'm still worrying. I feel little weird things every once in a while, but nothing like "butterflies."

I can't wait for my January ultrasound to resolve this.

Saturday, December 29

Do this--no this

I have begun to dig into the avalanche that is parenting advice books, and it's giving me a headache. Never before did I realize what amount of thought goes into such simple considerations.

Do you allow your crying baby to self-soothe so s/he is a better sleeper as an adult, or do you comfort it immediately so it is reassured of your constant, loving presence? Do you breastfeed on a schedule so it knows consistency or do you feed on demand so his/her attempts at communication are acknowledged?

Every book you read tells you something different. This article does a good job at explaining the frustration and confusion that accompanies this kind of reading.

Friday, December 28

Sit down for your rights ... or stand up?

A mother with four children in the 5- to 10-year-old range got on the subway during the evening commute. It wasn't particularly crowded, being a holiday week, so the kids all found spots next to each other, which was next to me. The mom went to sit before she realized they were a seat short, and momentarily looked at me before bracing herself against a pole.

I felt like saying, "I'm sorry, but I'm four months pregnant underneath this winter coat. Otherwise, I would give you my seat." But I didn't say anything, because I hate the idea of pregnancy being an excuse (my nausea was the real reason) or a condition that I should apologize for. Still, I felt uneasy the whole ride because I'm not sure if that seat should have been hers or mine. In the end, I probably should have stood up. Her hands are more full than my uterus.

I guess you could always blame the person sitting on the other end of the kids.

Thursday, December 27

Mommy Advice I Hope's Not True

Apparently this is the time of year when all the lists surface. Top Ten Blogs, 12 Worst Hairstyles, whatever. So I'm stepping on the bandwagon and making a list: Mommy Advice I Hope's Not True.

And no, I'm not going to do it a la Letterman.

1. "You will never be able to read a book in peace again."
2. "Everything changes." Really? Everything?
3. "Good luck sleeping through the night."
4. "You haven't known worry until you've had a child."
5. "Sex once a month is a higher batting average than most." Can we play a different sport then?
6. "Become a mommy, lose your sex appeal." Ahh, the good old Catch-22.
7. "Make time for dates; otherwise, you'll never see each other again." Is that why the average American family size is only 2.14 now?

And my list is only 7 long. Because you don't have to have 10, 25, 50, or 101 things to write to make a list.

In the mood to make New Year's resolutions? Check out this list-crazed site. It made me add "see the Northern Lights" to my own life list. For my birthday this year, a friend gave me Listography: Your Life in Lists. I haven't written anything in it ... I'm not ready to put it in ink yet. Does that make sense?


I could get used to this three-day work week thing. Why save it just for holidays? Let's make every day a jolliday.

Not only is having four days off, three on nice, but so is the pace. Everyone seems less rushed -- even the notoriously bad Boston drivers. I actually heard an "excuse me" out of a businessman's mouth when he hit me with his umbrella. Wouldn't it be lovely to capture this feeling of relaxed spirit and spread it throughout the year?

I wonder if the lower concentration of people in the city affects moods in a positive way. Certainly having open green space has a positive impact, and that could be related to space in general. Or it could be related to quality of air, the physical possibility of escape, and a variety of other things. I know I personally feel more comfortable and relaxed when I have a little more space in my environment than I actually need. I'm not talking about McMansions or even today's standard American house ... but sitting every other seat on the subway is much nicer than being crammed in like sardines. I've noticed I pay more attention to proxemics than most people I talk with, so perhaps this is just me.

I'm listening to Oscar Peterson play on YouTube. I'm not a big YouTube fan, but it's a classy little number.

Monday, December 24


Every Christmas Eve as a child, our family would gather around the lit tree and sing "Silent Night." It was a quaint tradition, one that produced many eye-rolls when we were teenagers, but I remember it fondly now. The comfort of tradition and that time spent with family is something we are left without this holiday. Of course, I have my husband to celebrate with, but we haven't developed any holiday traditions yet. We are baking some goodies and watching a movie tonight, but I find my thoughts drifting back to apple cider, Christmas excitement, and that old song. From there, I wonder what traditions will delight and be fondly remembered by our baby in the years to come.

Sunday, December 23

'Tis the season

Without the spirit of the holidays but with hope for a shift in future consumption patterns, I bring you this stunning array of artwork via CoolPeopleCare. May we all think before we buy.

Saturday, December 22

Anthony Flint lecture

Wednesday night we went to see Anthony Flint speak at the Boston Public Library. I was interested in learning more about smart growth and New Urbanism, so his presentation was a little disappointing. He gave a basic overview, much of which I already knew: a restructuring of land use as an important tool for combating climate change; careful regional planning in addition to city planning (even so-called "mega-regional" planning, like the area from Boston to DC); retrofitting buildings and old first-suburban neighborhoods as LEED-ND; and mixed-use zoning. He did provide great examples, but I would have loved to hear more in-depth analysis. I suppose I'll have to read his book.

All of this smart growth strikes me as basically advocating this: let's do what the European cities have been doing for centuries -- build people-centered communities in our cities, where your social, financial, material, and dietary needs can be met within walking distance. Or at least biking distance. And I agree.

There were about 100 people in attendance, and the highlight by far was the question-and-answer session at the end. One woman asked how it was feasible to expect a resurgence to the city when all of the Boomers moving in kept bringing their cars with them. "We don't have the space for your car," she exclaimed. "We need that space to make the city livable!" His response was so trite that I can see why she left soon afterwards; Flint explained that although they are bringing their cars to the city, they are using them less while they're there and mass transit more, so it's still a good thing. He didn't even address the issue of space. Perhaps if Boston were a smaller town, a slow-city movement could work here. Still, what do you do when people hold on to their past when you're trying to advocate change? This applies to moving people into smaller spaces like cities as well as shifting consumption patterns for the green movement, and I thought her question was excellent, and needs to be explored.

Notice all the links in this post. Two reasons: I have paid time off right now and so more time to research, and I read this advice on why linking is important. I realize I may have gone a little overboard, but this topic excites me and I read about it a lot.

The whole lecture did reconfirm we should try as hard as we can to not sprawl after this baby is born, but we'll have to figure that one out. Boston and affordability haven't found their mix yet, so the nearly century-old wisdom that sprawl is more affordable still holds for this city.

Thursday, December 20

Oh yeah ...

.... And we got another six inches of snow today. Don't worry, Val -- I opened my parents' timely holiday gift last night: a pair of Earth boots. No more sliding down hills on my butt for me!

I heart potatoes

This morning served up a prenatal nutritionist appointment. My parents were surprised that seeing a nutritionist is standard practice nowadays. It's interesting how much prenatal treatment changes from one generation to the next.

The nutritionist actually squealed once I had reported my weekly intake of all the food groups. Apparently I'm amazing. Playing with her fake foods was the highlight of the appointment. The salmon looked like cat puke. All of the portion sizes, the real reason behind the fake foods, were surprisingly small. She said everyone says that.

They also weighed me, and I haven't gained any weight in several weeks. Kind of odd, since my belly is ever-enlarging and I've been more interested in food since the nausea has improved. I'm still in the healthy range for being at 16 weeks, though, because I gained so much the first trimester (I still have no idea how, with all that vomiting).

She asked about fried foods, oils, sweets, caffeine ... none of which I've had except homemade french fries and olive oils. It's OK to eat the once-a-week homemade french fries, she said, since I'm eating well otherwise. The mere mention of it made me want it for dinner, of course, and I've thought about it all day. Mhmm, veggie burgers and fries!

Tuesday, December 18

Still icy

This is going to be quick, since our homemade pizza is almost done cooking. Mhmm tomato sauce smells good. I'm enthusiastic about certain foods now, if you haven't noticed.

Several holiday cards have arrived in the mail over the past few weeks, and more in my inbox. I wonder how the people who sent cards feel if they don't receive one. Some holidays I send cards, but most I don't. I like the sentiment behind sending it, but not the waste of paper. Emailing a card is the easy answer, but I find it more impersonal so harder to justify the time for.

Ooh pizza's here. Tofu, zucchini, broccoli, onions, and red peppers. And vegan cheese and Parmesan. I get a lot of questions about vegan cheese. No, it doesn't duplicate the taste of all the cheeses. Yes, it definitely depends on the brand you try. And yes, the easier to duplicate cheeses taste good. Oh, and the question I get most often: no, I don't miss it! (Or the similar question, is it hard to eat like that? No!) That's kind of like asking a born-again if they miss being agnostic. Once you believe in something, you follow through naturally.

Now that I've managed to finish a slice while typing, I best get back to full-time pizza concentration.

Sunday, December 16

Oh, the weather outside is ...

Thursday's snow accumulation was about a foot, and it's snowing another 4-8 inches on top of that right now. Plus some sleet and rain expected later today, just to make things nice and slippery. The dogs love it. They're both adopted and previously abused/neglected, so they thoroughly enjoy the absence of people snow creates. Plus it's good times to jump in huge snow banks and lick the ground while they race. When the snow plow goes by, though, it's a different story. One of our dogs, Onnie, gets so scared that we have two leashes and a harness on her (the gentle leader kinds, not chains or chokers or anything), and she'll still manage to slip out of all of those when the plow goes by.

I have a friend that uses one of those shock collars for barking. I think that's so cruel. Barking is a completely natural reaction, and if it needs to be controlled, you can do that by voice command.

We're having grits and faux-sausage for breakfast. I have been craving grits, and the weekends mean more time so that equals grit-making! I need to think of a code name for my husband like BerryBird's SodaBoy. That's a good one. Constantly referring to him as hubby is not anything I would do in real life. I call him hubby here because I'm making fun of the word, but then I realize that might not be apparent.

I'm fairly new to blogs, so I'm slow to realize the etiquette and speak that goes along with it. I still don't know what a meme is.

Thursday, December 13

Snowy footprints

After leaping out of one snowy foot imprint and into the next, I finally made it home in a 3-hour commute that usually takes 45 minutes. It started snowing around lunchtime, accumulating about 1 1/2 inches an hour, and it hasn't stopped yet. I can still hear the neighbors scraping away with their metal clunk-clunk spoons for snow. At least now they're clearing some of it up. I'm amazed at how far in advance the city knew about this weather storm and how little preparation was put into the clean-up effort. It's like the way the West practices medicine: all treatment and no prevention. Not that they can prevent snow, but hiring a few temp workers to drive the dozens of plows that are just sitting in the state's parking lot might be a start.

We had our staff holiday party last night and I ventured out for a non-work, non-medical reason for the first time in two months. I'm proud that I made it through the whole night, too. We were floored by the fancy-schmancy restaurant, and a little surprised that the server, who knew with our reservations that we were vegan, told us the chef had specially prepared fish for us. First of all, I don't expect everyone to know what vegan is, but I would think a famous chef and perhaps a few on his/her restaurant staff would have a clue. Secondly, if you don't know what I can eat, why don't you just ask? And finally, that disgusts me that you wasted food like that. I certainly hope the dishwasher got to eat "our" grub.

That makes it sound like a bad night, but really it was nice. I enjoy, for the first time in my life, all the people I work with. One of the bigwigs even made a toast over how much she is enjoying the high value we place on our families and that there is a work-life balance cultivated that puts family first. She pointed to me and one of my coworkers as an example. My coworker brought his 5-week-old baby girl to the dinner! She was soooo adorable ... and I got to hold her! She looked up at me from her sleep a few times and I thought I was melting. I've thought about her all day today. I guess I've got a bit of a baby bug. :)

I was happy to hear the bigwig's speech, especially since I've been looking into alternative work options like flextime. I don't know what I want yet, specifically, but I do know that I'm going to go for it. It never hurts to ask, right? I read this blog on Gen Y work predictions today and it made me feel like figuring out what I want and asking for it may help someone in my shoes later. Like I can pave the way for future mothers and their work environments. That's exciting!

Speaking of shoes, I need to get me some winter boots.

Tuesday, December 11


I have to leave my desk for lunch, and I certainly enjoy every last second of my full hour. Most of my colleagues, however, just sit at their desk and apologize when they run next door for a burrito. It seems unhealthy to not take a lunch, or at least a longer break. Staring at a computer screen for eight straight hours with minimal nutrition seems like the type of thing health experts would advise against. I think I've read some studies on that before, which ideally I would link up here for you, but I'm tired and lazy tonight.

I realize this whole I-can't-take-a-lunch thing could easily be seen as them just having too much work, and while that's the case for some people, it's still a choice, especially in light of all the time they spend at the "water cooler." The problem reinforces itself with their behavior ... the more people that don't take a lunch, the harder it is to work up the nerve to take one when you want to. I avoided that trap by taking a lunch every day since the day I started. Of course, I still feel guilty -- maybe even moreso because they don't even get a lunch and here I am, luxuriating in mine!

I found the best spot on the fifth floor - a cushy deep orange couch. I take a good 45 minute nap. Well, I don't actually fall asleep (I'm a light sleeper), but it's a glorious rest. I started it when I returned from disability leave, and I'm thinking I just may continue it for my pregnancy.

See what these people are missing out on? Naps!

Monday, December 10

Fall down, go boom

Ice storm hit last night. The walking and road conditions were just terrible this morning, but by mid-day were manageable. Unfortunately -- or fortunately, as the ice were -- I got sick in the am so crawled into work around 10:30 am instead of the usual 9.

My supervisor left early today to pick her husband up from the hospital: as they were leaving the house for their morning commute, he says "Be careful, it's slippery," and proceeds to fall down the steps and break some bones in his hand. Yikes. Double poop since he's an artist owning his own business and it was his right (dominant) hand. It's scary walking up and down the hills in these parts with the ice the way it is. Especially after hearing stories like that.

There are salt stains on my dress pants now from walking downtown ... not too cool since this is one of the last pairs that fit my growing mid-section.

Homemade pasta fagioli's on the menu tonight. I can't wait!

Saturday, December 8


I'm doing some online holiday shopping today, partaking in more consumption than I probably do all year. I try to keep the gifts handmade, through iGive, or edible. And I definitely try to minimize the number of gifts I buy, for financial and environmental reasons. Luckily, I've managed to convince my fairly large family to do a Secret Santa with a $30 limit, so we've had that going for a few years now. It seems to make everyone's lives easier, even the people who enjoy consuming like there aren't any tomorrows.

Ahh, back to finding a used CD for my brother-in-law.

Thursday, December 6

Shea butter

I have the best hubby. He bought some pure shea butter for me today and now he's rubbing my feet with it. Ahhhh. Simply the best.

Another mail merge work day. I also got to start on a trillion InDesign award certificates. It's kind of sad how impersonal the whole award thing is. Yea, you won, good job, now let's "personalize" last year's template with a click here, copy, paste there, and look at that. A piece of paper you'll keep for years.

I just saw a Tampax commercial promising to donate tampons to Africa's poor. I'm sure that's just what they need. Why not throw in some Chia pets and gold-plated rims for good measure?

My feet are greasy.

Reading the nice people who post comments on my blog makes me smile. Thank you.

Wednesday, December 5

Chilly chili

I just finished a big bowl of steaming hot chili, a relief after crawling through the slush-covered blocks downtown on my way to the crowded subway. Thankfully I nabbed a seat despite the bulky winter jackets taking up an extra half seat by themselves. The woman next to me played a video game all the way to Davis Square. I still find it too funny how everyone is everywhere but where they are.

Mail-merge work day, and now kitty is pitter-pawing on my lap.

Tuesday, December 4


The four inches of slush on the ground is my reminder to buy some winter boots.

Vomity morning today, not fun especially when there's nothing in your belly to come up. It is a strange sensation to be simultaneously hungry and sick to your stomach. I am feeling more and more pressure to return to work full-time. My disability coverage ran out on November 15, and our savings is running out now. I'm lucky to have had time off, especially since this job is only a few months old. I just wish I felt better.

My single, childless friends don't seem to know how to handle this pregnancy concept, and certainly not feeling sick. One of them keeps asking when I'm going to go out. Not anywhere near in the mood for bars and smoke and late nights, thank you! I'm not sure what they don't understand about the phrase constant vomiting, but I wish they'd hurry up and understand. I feel guilty, like I'm ruining friendships by being sick. I know I shouldn't, but I do. I guess I feel the same about my job.

My parent-friends, however, seem even more excited than I do sometimes. As one of my co-workers wrote in a congratulatory note, "Welcome to the club!"

A little more snow and a thick layer of ice has covered over the slush from Sunday/Monday. It has made for some weird car sounds outside my window. I'm not sure what it's like to walk in, being sick, but it certainly looks dangerous. So far most of the neighbors haven't cleared their sidewalks at all. I wonder if that's another symptom of this Boston rudeness. I live on a fairly steep hill and will have to walk it to get to the bus ... scary for a pregnant woman due to the risk of falling. Not looking forward to that.

Back to my previous post on sprawl ... wondering how to avoid moving further out. There isn't anything to really downsize or sell ... I've always paid attention to urban design and affordable housing issues, but it seems that having an article addressing that the issue of families moving out of the urban center is as far as they get. I still think moving to a cheaper city is the best solution so far, but will have to wait at least a year for that. I'm not planning to spend buckets of money on the baby like the industry would prefer (I've always been of the mind that a good child's toy is an empty pot to bang on or some trees to swing from), but I still realize we'll need a little more moola. Hell, even now we're spending a bit more money simply because I'm hungrier, doctor co-pays, etc.

Speaking of frugal and simple lifestyles, there's the issue of a baby shower. My mom didn't realize that oftentimes it's in her corner, but now that she has, she's talking about a shower near my IL hometown. Problem is, I don't know if I actually want all that stuff. I do need basic items, yes, but not necessarily new ones. Also, I've been to enough baby showers to realize that you don't really get the things you actually need (diaper wipes, breast cream), you get the things that are fun to buy (elaborate outfits, plastic toys with flashing lights that probably cause ADHD). Although I'd like to celebrate the baby coming, I'm not sure I want to contribute to all that buy-buy-buy overconsumption, let alone travel across the country to do so.

I should probably tell my mom this soon - before she invites all her friends I've never met.

Sunday, December 2

Pondering, wandering thoughts

I'm sitting on our make-shift couch (three cushions atop a headboard) waiting for the predicted gallons of snow and listening to classical music. I'm not much of a classical music fan: I find it pretty but it just puts me to sleep. I'm also not, as you may assume, listening to the music for Fetus; it's all hubby's doing.

He's making black bean burritos and he's the one responsible for putting on this Modest Mussorgsky. What a name.

I may not totally buy into the classical-music-for-baby hype, but it is pretty neat to know his/her ears are developed now and it is beginning to hear things in the womb for the first time. I wonder if those first few noises are scary? Is it even capable of being scared or feeling emotion now?

It has been interesting telling everyone we're expecting. There were the normal reactions, of course, but then there were some surprising questions and tidbits of advice, too. Like, "was it an accident?" Well, we weren't abstaining, obviously ... Or, my favorite, "were you celebrating something?" As if you need a celebration to have sex, and furthermore how do you possibly feel you have the right to ask that question?? Privacy continues to go by the wayside.

The snow is still not here yet. The weatherperson predicts it will hit around 9 pm and continue through mid-Monday. I've found the Boston weatherpeople to be wholly unreliable, though, so I'm thinking ounces, not gallons, and Tuesday, not Monday. If it snows at all. Seriously, though, the weatherpeople out here have no idea what's going on and their forecasts seem to change from hour to hour. I don't know why I bother paying attention anyway. I kind of appreciate the fact that nature will do its thing, and it should be a surprise other than the oh-look-at-those-clouds-rain's-a-comin' type of common person's predictions.

I have so far been amazed at the number of pregnancy books willing to "tell you everything no one else will" (they all confide in me that I will fart more) ... and yet I have found only one book that deals with an expecting couple's emotions. All of the other books dismiss the whole thing into a sentence like "you may experience some 'baby blues,' but rest assured this is normal." Postpartum isn't the only time you experience fetus/baby-related emotions! And the wide range is astonishing.

Mhmm I smell food.

Saturday, December 1

The Nest of Arlington

I live outside of the Boston/Cambridge area in an inner suburb that realtors still consider "hot." The Boston Globe recently published an article toting this tidbit. It's not that surprising, considering its proximity to the city. Having recently moved here, I can say I'm relieved to be living here and not where we were before, now that I'm pregnant. This town is very family-friendly. But as much as that's a relief, it also concerns me. From what I can tell, as the town becomes more affluent, the typical results surface ... rich, white neighbors with moderate or conservative values. This certainly isn't Wellesley, but it's also not very us. And it's getting more expensive by the minute, in an already overpriced city and housing market. When the baby comes, we may have to move again. And it may be further out from the city. This is not the pattern I value, this sprawl. But as long as it takes my husband to finish his degree, we have to be near Boston, and with a child, that might mean further out. I keep dreaming, as I have for years, of going more rural, having my own organic veggie garden, raising our kids on nature and sunshine and friendly neighbors without any serious worries about money or having a traditional job. All of this preferably in a contemporary, sustainable small home in the middle of a beautiful wooded area but near enough to neighbors "just in case." And now that this baby is coming, I feel this dream even more strongly. I want this nest to be ideal, and ideal isn't a cramped, expensive attic-floor apartment near public transit.
I also have an overwhelming desire to find some secondhand furniture. How can we bring a baby home when we don't even own a couch? Silly I know, but that's how I've been thinking. And I've been researching places like Marlboro, Vermont; Madison, Wisconsin; Asheville, North Carolina; Fort Bragg, California; etc. like a madwoman. Especially mad since hubby has at least a year and a half left of school.

Wednesday, November 21

OK, here's my big excuse ...

I'm pregnant!

Unfortunately this has meant more than five weeks of complete bed rest, constant vomiting, and insurance company-induced headaches over disability coverage. It's also, as you may well imagine, an extremely exciting, nerve-filled phase of adjustment. Neither the adjustment nor the vomiting has ceased, but it's gradually becoming more bearable.

Hubby is making a Tofurky roast tomorrow, complete with mashed potatoes, gravy, cranberry potato dumplings, and stuffing. He's also starting a pumpkin "cheese"cake. Despite all this "hypermesis" junk, I've been so hungry. If I don't eat every hour and a half or so, I get cranky and even more nauseous. Pretty much the only thing that's helped is consistently eating ... and maybe the ginger ale.

Hope everyone enjoys their Thanksgiving, and has something or someone to be thankful for.

Thursday, October 11

Strangers staring

I was riding home on the subway today and doing my typical people-watching. The guy across the aisle from me caught my attention several times because he was an older teen and had that trendy cut that's basically ripped from British 70s pop stars. In an effort to call attention to this, or perhaps to shake the flies from his dirty locks, he kept swinging his head around like a dog shaking off water. Not only was I watching because that's what I do, but also because, well, he was moving a lot and he looked an awful lot like pictures of my older brother from the 70s.

A few minutes after my attention had focused elsewhere, I noticed a low grumbling that sounded distinctly like meanness. Meanness you know has a sound; it's that low tone with an evil level of volume meant to infiltrate your ears to the point where you hear it but you're not sure you heard it correctly. And the meanness was coming from Dog-Boy. At this point I was growing tired and had my eyes closed, but these are trashy tidbits I heard:

"... What the f@#k are you looking at? If you were ... "
" ... some people just have problems ... staring ... bitch!"
"Open your eyes, go on, so you can see the disrespect in my eyes ..."

Ahhh. Nice, right? I did nothing, just kept my eyes shut. I suppose this was a way out, but I was also thinking: What makes him so mad that someone was looking at him? Why is he so defensive? This must be that self-esteem issue everyone likes to use as a psychological answer. And, more importantly, didn't I use to feel like that when I caught someone looking at me? Don't I still feel that way sometimes?

Why do we feel like that when someone is watching us? What harm is there really if someone is watching us? I know that answer really depends on how you interpret the person watching, but then why should that matter?

So this Dog-Haired Boy made me think, and he also made me a little, well, defensive. I have every right to look. Especially when you're sitting directly across from me. I wasn't staring. I was watching. And, of course, I came up with comebacks to all of the little side comments he made. Which also made me angry. Why side comments? Why not just say it? And, again, but I do that sometimes too. Why do we do that?

It seems to me that it's all about fear.

Tuesday, October 9

Autumn dawdling

Three-day weekend every weekend? I wish!

I didn't get as much done as I had hoped. We saw the Honk Fest at Davis Square (a street band extravaganza) and afterwards had cupcakes at a new bakery, Kickass Cupcakes. I'm glad they offered one vegan variety, but it wasn't as good as the $3 it cost. Recipes from Vegan Cupcakes Take Over the World are much more yummy.

Took the dogs out for a long walk in Menotomy Park, a decent-sized wooded area that supposedly has a lake, although we didn't find that. It's gorgeous out, crispy fall weather that makes me crave potato soup, warm casseroles, hot apple cider, and toasty mittens.

The leaves haven't changed much yet; it's too dry. We're behind almost 4 inches in rain, including the showers we got yesterday. Not to mention the fact that's been like summer weather around here. The trees must be wondering. Or perhaps they knew well before we caught on ...

Another nice thing about having a three-day holiday weekend? A subsequent four-day work week!

Saturday, October 6

Flash, boom, woo

I haven't fully adjusted to the new apartment or my new commute, but I could definitely get used to three-day weekends. It makes me feel more relaxed just knowing that I have an extra day to look forward to.

Hubby worked a Steve Vai concert this week ... apparently his fans are quite rude. One of hubby's coworkers asked an audience member on the balcony to stop taking pictures, and the man said "OK, thanks," and put his camera right in the employee's face, taking a flash picture. Of course this blinded the coworker and he had to stumble around to find his way to safety. What a jerk. It sickens me the way some people treat others. Really, I feel ill.

Took two extra hours to get home on Friday ... there was an explosion on the Red Line (no one was hurt), so I had to take a bus to another subway to get to the commuter train, to walk to another bus, and then take that to another bus, and then walk home. Whew. Of course I chose that day to take home an armful of paperwork and files.

Monday, October 1

End result

I am so sore that it hurt to press the elevator button this morning. Typing isn't much better, so: you mean I have to unpack now?, new commute, dogs are confused, cat is exploring, can't believe I moved in without seeing it first, not much of an impression yet since we didn't finish until after midnight.

Oh yeah, that reminds me: I absolutely hate U-Haul.

Friday, September 28

Big plans

I for one was not TGIF, or however you want to say it, today. Guess what I get to do this weekend? Move. But first I have to pack! This past week has been a whirlwind: leave old job, enter new job, birthday, move.

I'm looking forward to getting back to a more normal routine. It's funny how sometimes routine can be so boring, and yet sometimes it's so comforting. It changes back and forth like that for me, unlike some friends who enjoy strictly routine or strictly change. My preference is more about what's going on in my life at the moment. I tend to favor a few changes at a time -- this past week felt like too many changes crammed into too little time, with the end result being not enough time to process what's going on. To be aware. Kind of like talking on the cellphone while riding the subway and listening to an iPod in complete oblivion of what's going on around you. I prefer being in the present - or being present, period.

Ehh, back to packing.

Wednesday, September 26


I'd like to change the proper office rule from 'we "do" lunch' to 'we "grab" lunch.' I think this is as popular as it is because it makes you sound more busy, and thus (I guess) more important. I can't possibly finish all this paperwork and call these people back and go to this meeting on time on top of "having" lunch -- guess I'll have to grab lunch.

You ever notice how it's like a competition around this country: who's busiest? Me, no me, no no me! I've noticed the folks that are the fiercest competitors -- the Busiest people -- are usually the ones who aren't busy at all.

I guess they have to waste time somehow.

Tuesday, September 25


Went out to eat at a vegan restaurant (T.J.s) in Allston tonight with friends from my old work. It was good to catch up, but man when they started talking about work ... let's just say it's nice to not deal with that place anymore. Every job has issues, but that job had a few too many. Anyway, I had a "chicken" and pineapple pizza with a pumpkin blondie for dessert, and even my non-vegan friends loved the food. I'll probably return even though it's quite a hike (four buses and a subway)!

Gearing up for the big move this weekend. We reserved a truck but there's still so much to do. It'll feel nice to be able to have a day off instead of a day packing ... or I should say a day thinking about packing. I should really just buckle down and finish it all, given all the time I waste worrying about what, when, how I'll do it.

I wore jeans to work today. Jeans! These people let me wear jeans! I mean, they're the nice, dark trouser-type variety, but jeans nonetheless.

Monday, September 24

A Mover's Lament

I am surrounded by mounds of crinkly paper, boxes stacked up high in every corner (and not-so-corner) of the house, and packing tape and scissors everywhere I look. Grrrrr. Moving again is not fun.

Saturday, September 22

Last day, first day

My coworkers and bosses were so nice to me on my last day, I actually questioned my decision to leave. Vicki made vegan cupcakes for me, and my friends chipped in and bought me a beautiful Kazuri necklace for my upcoming birthday. It was so nice to be surrounded by support that it made me wonder why they didn't attempt to have that atmosphere in there all along. If they could sustain a supportive environment, they'd retain a lot more employees. Isn't that Management 101?

My first day at the office reinforced what I never should have questioned: I made a good decision. My coworkers and bosses are a super-nice, intelligent bunch, and I'm enjoying the collaborative, non-hierarchical environment there. It has been - and will be, I believe - a strange transition from retail to office. I'm slowly compiling a list of rules to fit in at the office.

Rules to fit in at an office:

1. Substitute the word "boss" for "supervisor."

2. Invest in cardigans. Especially if they're black ones.

3. We don't "eat" lunch. We "do" lunch.

4. Don't leave when your day's work is over. Compete with your boss, err, supervisor, with who can stay latest.

5. Don't drink coffee. Inhale it. The more, the better.

6. If you fail to CC your supervisor several times a day on matters completely unrelated to him/her, they will eventually forget you exist.

7. Live for Fridays, and be sure to leave early on this revered day.

Tuesday, September 18

A simple "good job" would do ...

A new secret shopper report came out. Most of the comments are mediocre: bathroom okay, selection okay, service okay ... save one. It describes help finding a Christmas gift as "friendly, warm, and kind. She really made me feel at home, even in a store. Wonderful!" And as with all secret shopper reports, the shopper gave a physical description of the employee, whose physical attributes match mine: same hair and eye color; same approximate weight, height, and age; same clothes; same time I was in that department.

So what does my boss do? He strolls over to R., a 55-year-old, chunky woman with short, dyed blond hair who sucks up like a champion, and says adoringly, "This must have been you."

Glancing over the report, R. looks up at him and says, "Boss, that's my day off. But thanks for the compliment!"

This isn't the first time, either.

Besides the fact that no one at work looks remotely like me, what else would he ask that for but cold-hearted meanness?

Well, that and sheer stupidity.

Sunday, September 16


Yesterday, as we were counting the day's money, my boss says to me, "Have you ever noticed men's names are always other things?"

I paused in my penny count and looked up quizzically.

"You know," he continued. "Like Bill is a bill," he said, smiling and shaking a dollar bill. "You makes good marks. You get there in the nick of time." He smiled widely, proud of his epiphany.

"Huh. I guess I never thought of it like that," I respond slowly. I have to be careful; if he's not right, he's angry.

"What's your husband's name?" he asks, eager to prove his point.


He holds up an imaginary microphone and smiles even wider. "See?"

"I guess men's names tend to be more action-oriented," I half-agree.

"Well, I don't know about that. But they're almost always objects or things," is his smart reply.

I've thought a little more about what he suggested. It's true that a portion (certainly not "always" or "almost always") of names typically given to men are action-oriented or physical, concrete objects. The feminist in me wonders if this is another subtle reinforcement of socialized gender through language. Are women's names then usually more abstract, relationship-oriented?

I took a look at the top names for babies in the U.S. and found this:

Top 10 Baby Names of 2006


1 Emma 1
2 Madison 3
3 Ava 10
4 Emily 2
5 Isabella 6
6 Kaitlyn 4
7 Sophia 5
8 Olivia 7
9 Abigail 11
10 Hailey 13


1 Aiden 1
2 Jacob 2
3 Ethan 3
4 Ryan 6
5 Matthew 5
6 Jack 8
7 Noah 16
8 Nicholas 4
9 Joshua 9
10 Logan 19

If we stick to using current data like this (found at BabyCenter), then by my count, Jack is the only male name that is also an object. I suppose you could count Matthew if you use Matt for mat, but that seems to be stretching it. For the girls, it appears that Madison is also a city, which is a thing. So far it seems we're even. But what if we go back further, to more "traditional" times?

In the U.S. in the 1950s, the most popular names were:

Boys' Names


Girls' Names


It would seem that a number of boys' names are also objects, especially if you include the nickname: John, Rob, Will, Mike, Rich, Chuck, Don, etc. For girls' names, I find a few also: Pat, Barb, Sue, Sandy, etc. So it seems that in the days my boss grew up in (and thus the names he would be most familiar with), his theory partially holds up, at least in comparison to the contemporary baby names. It does seem that the majority of his theory is based more on nicknames, or what the person is commonly referred to as. I wonder if this has a more simple explanation: we use and hear these objects all the time, and incorporate those objects into names we call those we're close to. A sort of familiarity complex.

I also wonder if his theory is indicative of the way he views others: as objects, i.e. things which he can control with little or no social value.

Whew. The lengths I will go to just to prove my boss wrong.

Saturday, September 15

Her birthday

Today is my mom's birthday. I can never remember how old she is, exactly. 58? It's strange to watch her life evolve from being a mother of five to an empty-nester. The youngest, my sister, just moved out in June.

Of all her kids, my sister is the closest to home. She lives about 45 minutes away. The rest of us are spread out: Chicago, Arizona, Boston. I like being mobile, meeting new cities, but it has been strange. I've never even met three of my four nieces and nephews. You get a lot, but you give up a lot too.

So today's her birthday and I'm not there. We've never been particularly close or anything remotely close to that, but it's a reminder. Another instance where I'm here, not there. Not that I wanted to be there when I was there ...

It's a rainy day, so my thoughts are running down the sides of windows too. It's beautiful to let chaos win sometimes.

Friday, September 14

Food plates and the mistake stakeout

Only three more days! Not that I'm counting or anything ...

They usually take out full-timers on their last day for a business dinner, but not me. I suppose I haven't put in enough time to count, and frankly I expected that they wouldn't take me out. It's funny, though, because a group of my coworkers are taking me out anyway.

My boss has been avoiding me and searching desperately for any mistakes I might make. Today, for example, I unpacked a huge shipment. It took me all morning to finish, but I delayed lunch until 2:30 in the afternoon, so I could return and design the display. After I finished unpacking and before I went to lunch, however, I quickly stacked all of the merchandise out onto the display so it was buyable even while I was at lunch. I mentioned that I didn't design it, just stacked it, to a few people on my way out the door.

Sure enough, when I got back my coworkers were all laughing. "Boy, did you call it," they told me. The boss had come out of his hiding spot, errr office, shortly after I had left and looked around at my department.

"Oh," he told them all snootily, "I guess this is how she merchandises when she's leaving in a week."

I knew he'd do that. His favorite thing in life is to uncover mistakes, and yet I have never seen him find one. I'm way too conscientious for his schemes.

The merchandise I put out today was dinnerware with Chinese characters on it. We had a few Chinese tourists come by right before the end of my day and they were laughing hysterically.

"What?" I asked the two woman. "What does it say?"

They kept laughing and pulled out their digital cameras, shooting pictures of my display. One of the women pointed at a platter and said "Meat!" The other pointed at a bowl and said "Vegetables!"

In the end, I held up a "Food" plate and posed manically for the camera. I wonder how that'll turn out when they arrive back home. "Look at what these stupid Americans are trying to sell us! Plates that say 'food.'"

We really do sell anything.

Thursday, September 13

Wednesday, September 12

Can you take this?

Oh, it'll be nice to leave ...

Business has been so slow lately. For the past few weeks, there have been more employees than customers. Never a good sign, and today was no exception.

I'm in the midst of redesigning an old display, with a bottle of window cleaner in my hand and used paper towels crumpled up around the floor. I'm standing about 50 feet away from the nearest cash register and there are about three dozen dinner plates stacked up to my right and 24 coffee mugs and boxes of dishtowels to my left.

A customer approaches and barks, "Can you take this?"

I look at her thrusting two small items toward me and contemplate whether I should put down the cleaning solution and hold these items for God knows why or if I should I ask what the hell she's talking about. During that brief pause on my part, she snarls, "Or do I have to take it to another register?"

Oh. So being the farthest person in the entire store from a cash register, and seeing how there are no lines at any of the other six registers and the sales people are absolutely not busy, you've chosen me to be your victim. I have to admit, I'm guilty - I am wearing a nametag.

"Uhh, I guess I can take you over there," I say, and begin the long and ardous process of hiking over the moutain of my displaced display toward a cash register.

She says nothing, and at the end of the transaction, I thank her and wish her a wonderful day. "Yes," she replies, clutching her plastic bag and heading for the exit.

No excuse mes, pleases, thank yous ... I was raised in the Midwest, so let me ask you New Englanders out there: is most of the Northeast rude or is it just a Boston thing?

Monday, September 10

In the last week-ish ...

In the last six days, I've accepted a new job doing administrative and editorial work for B., gave my two-week notice to my current supervisor who received the news with less than professionalism which more than reinforced my decision, and toured a number of hopelessly pathetic apartments in and around Boston up until yesterday, when we applied for a one-bedroom place on the top floor of a middle-aged, friendly, jazz-playing couple's home.

Just in case you were wondering: that's my excuse for not posting!

Oh, and: Kingfisher, Indian lager, pretty good but not so good after more than one; Rapscallion Creation, dark "wine-beer," smooth with an airy flavor, similar to Newcastle but not as strong.

Tuesday, September 4

Laborless Day

Headed up to Ipswich on Cape Ann yesterday, where we visited Russell Orchards and Crane Beach. We took the amiable Ipswich/Essex Explorer, a CATA shuttle from the train station to various points of interest, and learned this car-free method of accessing the North Shore may succumb to, you guessed it, government funding. Apparently those groggy folks in government can't see the benefit of removing thousands of cars from the streets and parking lots -- let alone the air -- in addition to the boon to local businesses. We learned all of this from a volunteer who coordinated the shuttle services, and we're looking to join the lobbying effort to keep the shuttle up and running.

Russell Orchards was quaint yet bustling. They had organic garlic for 95 cents per bunch, which we gobbled up, and delicious cold apple cider. It's probably a gorgeous destination in autumn, with hayrides, pick-your-own apples, and hot apple cider. We attempted to pick our own blackberries, but wound up a little confused at which were ready to be picked (city folk!). Tasting fruit wines (uck) and buying cheap dutch apple preserves was a bit more down our alley, although I had mixed feelings about supporting a farm that supports itself in part through butchering animals.

Crane Beach was relaxing, in spite of the crowds. We waded in to absolutely freezing water: it took 45 minutes to move myself from water at my feet to water at my shoulders. We didn't get a chance to learn more about the piping plover's rehab efforts within Crane's, but we will. We'll be back, if the CATA's funding cooperates.

Oh, and dinner: homemade vegan pizza with crumbled tofu, fresh pineapple, broccoli, and onions. Mhmmmm.

Sunday, September 2

Bugged beer

We celebrated the arrival of the much-needed long weekend last night by popping into an Indian restaurant in Arlington. The ambiance was a bit forced while the food and service was above average. I had aloo mutter, my favorite thanks to Krishna, and M ate an eggplant and chickpeas dish whose name I've forgotten. It was so enjoyable to sit and just talk for an evening.

I discovered a small bug swimming in my beer, and was a bit concerned when the waiter tried to tell me that was a result of the foam. I was given a new bottle and all was well, even if I did peer into the glass suspiciously after each sip.

We keep saying we should keep track of all the beer and wines we've drunk because we like to try new kinds, but when it comes to ordering, I can never remember which we've tried/liked/spit back out. Even on simple domestic beers.

"Did I like Beck's Light?" "I don't think you've had it." "Have you?" "I don't remember." "Well crap ... May I have a Beck's Light please? ... Ehhh. It's o-kay, I guess."

There's a few standbys I remember, of course: Magic Hat 9? Goooood. That blueberry ale at Pig's? Goood. But in general I don't seem to have the noggin for these things.

Friday, August 31

An apartment hunter's lament

Still. Looking. For. Apartment.

It's unnerving to know the real estate sector is steadily sinking and yet those fine landlords keep those prices up, up, up. Only $1100 for a studio! No sink but toilet works! A real must-see.

And why oh why are dogs outlawed in Boston's interiors? Yeah, so maybe it'll pee all over the floor once or twice a year -- so might I. Big deal.

Must. Go. Back. To. Craigslist ...

Wednesday, August 29


Yes, I admit it: I'm reading the Harry Potter books and enjoying them. It has taken me how many years to catch up with the times in this category (in the other categories, I'm still in the 90s).

A coworker (I almost wrote "a coworker at work") is obsessed and I thought it was about time for me to read the series before I groan about those crazy fans. I have noticed an abundance of criticizers who have never read the book and I don't think that's fair. So I read. And now, a few short days later, I'm almost through with book two. I'm finding it to have an imaginative plot, likable although stereotyped characters, and with some neat twists. It's certainly not the best writing I've ever read, but it's a fun one.

I guess that was my book review, a decade-ish late.

Monday, August 27


We stopped by a farmer's market at Scollay Square today to pick up some produce and bought the most beautiful yellow onions I have ever seen from Silverbrook Organic Farm in nearby Dartmouth, MA. The onions just shone. And they were (certified) organic. And they were affordable, $2.50 for the bunch. They are lovely and we're making veggie burgers and fries tonight, so I'll be sure to use a few rings.

Unfortunately, though, like most things Bostonian, the clerk could have been a little more polite. I usually cut some slack for customer service jobs, being in one myself, but this guy was just too much. You know when you have to prompt the clerk ("Thank you and have a great day!") to say anything or even look you in the face ("Uh? Yeah." was his reply I believe)? Yeah, that's not great service. It's a pity, because that's part of the appeal of farmers' markets ... conversation around food, meeting those whose hard work provides your nourishment. I overheard one woman repeatedly asking which apple was "crispest," and barely getting a glance of acknowledgement.

On a related note, this is for the foodies.

Saturday, August 25

Boxed and tagged

This didn't happen to me, but to a co-worker. Seeing as how we love to discuss the intricacies of bizarre customers, here goes it.

Vicki is ringing up a customer buying a $18 blue ceramic bowl.

Vicki: "Did you want a box for this?"

Customer: "Yes, please. It's a wedding gift."

Vicki: "Oh, okay." Proceeds to peel off price tag, wrap the bowl in bubble wrap, and place into white box. Box bulges noticeably in one corner. Vicki holds up box. "Um, is this okay? The bowl's too big for the box but this is the largest box we have."

Customer: "Eh, that's fine." Pauses, and then adds: "I might be concerned if this was her first or second wedding, but it's her fourth."

Thursday, August 23

Bad sign?

On Tuesday morning, our landlord strolled by to casually announce that he decided to sell the house we're living in. Furthermore, he has already accepted an offer. Basically, we're out of a house. Which could be a good thing, seeing as how the heat doesn't work ("try to turn it up, man, I want you guys to be comfortable"), the electricity was shut off in the common areas (who needs a light to see a keyhole at night?), and, of course, the recently discovered patch - no, forest - of mold growing in our bathroom that doesn't seem to concern him in the least. But seeing as how this is Boston, land of high rent, where we don't have much money and have a pet or two, well, no, actually three -- it's a bit difficult to find a place right quick.
Which brings me to today. We searched all over craigslist and found a few that fit our limiting criteria. One man e-mailed us back of the several, and we set up an appointment for 7:30 pm. As we arrived, we noted the proximity of the train tracks (backyard), the screaming and fighting neighbors, and the presence of a pitbull. Still, we sat on the cracked post by the front door and waited. And waited. And, yes, we waited. He was a no show. Is that a bad sign?

Wednesday, August 15

Ahhh ... crap.

The boss had off today, so I happily came to work in my sneakers. Ahhh, comfort can never be overrated. Then guess who walks in? The boss's boss. Damnit!

Tuesday, August 14

The Long Lost Art of Listening

Listen up, read up, reach out.

The Forgotten Art of Listening

Shipment day. We were pretty busy, which tends to coincide with rude customers - and today was no exception.
A woman and her friend are looking at plates about 15 feet from where I'm quickly unpacking boxes.
"Do you know what this is made out of?" Woman #1 blurts out. (Notice the lack of excuse me, hello, or any other greeting to let someone know you're addressing them specifically in this crowded place.)
"It's a piece by --" I begin, only to hear
"What time do you close?" demands her friend, Woman #2.
I look pointedly at Woman #2 and continue with "by Anne Ross, and it's --"
"What time do you --" Woman #2 interjects, again.
"What is this made out of?" Woman #1 begins (ahh, now I see why they are friends).
"And it's made out of --" I attempt, bravely, for then I hear
"What time do you close?" Woman #2 asks, unwavering.
I give up. "We close --"
"What is this made out of?" Woman #1 wants to know.
"Glass. Five o'clock," I blurt out as fast as I can.
The two women look at each other.
"What?" they both demand.
"It's made out of --"
And I kid you not, that Woman #2 interrupted and guess what she said?
"What time do you close?"

Monday, August 13

Mozzarella Witches

Spent Sunday in Salem, Mass. The sun was shining, the art exhibition on Joseph Cornell was enthralling, the Goths were thriving, and the overabundance of commericalized history was, well, overwhelming. And quite cheesy, in a Mozzarella kind of way. We did, however, find an indie coffee shop and drink my chai soy latte I did. We followed a red line to a secluded bench by the waterfront and watched seagulls pick up stones, fly high in the air to drop it down upon the rocks, and then zoom down to unearth their tasty mussel morsel. Either that or they were dropping the clam upon the rocks; it was hard to tell. Clever.

Friday, August 10

"The Impoverishment of American Culture ..." by Dana Gioia

I read this article when it was sent to me by my friend Melanie, and I wanted to share it.


The Impoverishment of American Culture
And the need for better art education.

Thursday, July 19, 2007 12:01 a.m.

There is an experiment I'd love to conduct. I'd like to survey a cross-section of Americans and ask them how many active NBA players, Major League Baseball players, and "American Idol" finalists they can name. Then I'd ask them how many living American poets, playwrights, painters, sculptors, architects, classical musicians, conductors and composers they can name. I'd even like to ask how many living American scientists or social thinkers they can name.
Fifty years ago, I suspect that along with Mickey Mantle, Willie Mays and Sandy Koufax, most Americans could have named, at the very least, Robert Frost, Carl Sandburg, Arthur Miller, Thornton Wilder, Georgia O'Keeffe, Leonard Bernstein, Leontyne Price and Frank Lloyd Wright. Not to mention scientists and thinkers like Linus Pauling, Jonas Salk, Rachel Carson, Margaret Mead and especially Dr. Alfred Kinsey.

I don't think that Americans were smarter then, but American culture was. Even the mass media placed a greater emphasis on presenting a broad range of human achievement. I grew up mostly among immigrants, many of whom never learned to speak English. But at night watching TV variety programs like the Ed Sullivan Show, I saw--along with comedians, popular singers and movie stars--classical musicians like Jascha Heifetz and Arthur Rubinstein, opera singers like Robert Merrill and Anna Moffo, and jazz greats like Duke Ellington and Louis Armstrong captivate an audience of millions with their art.

The same was true of literature. I first encountered Robert Frost, John Steinbeck, Lillian Hellman and James Baldwin on general-interest TV shows. All of these people were famous to the average American--because the culture considered them important. Today no working-class kid would encounter that range of arts and ideas in the popular culture. Almost everything in our national culture, even the news, has been reduced to entertainment, or altogether eliminated.

The loss of recognition for artists, thinkers and scientists has impoverished our culture in innumerable ways, but let me mention one. When virtually all of a culture's celebrated figures are in sports or entertainment, how few possible role models we offer the young. There are so many other ways to lead a successful and meaningful life that are not denominated by money or fame. Adult life begins in a child's imagination, and we've relinquished that imagination to the marketplace.

I have a reccurring nightmare. I am in Rome visiting the Sistine Chapel. I look up at Michelangelo's incomparable fresco of the "Creation of Man." I see God stretching out his arm to touch the reclining Adam's finger. And then I notice in the other hand Adam is holding a Diet Pepsi.
When was the last time you have seen a featured guest on David Letterman or Jay Leno who isn't trying to sell you something? A new movie, a new TV show, a new book or a new vote? Don't get me wrong. I have a Stanford MBA and spent 15 years in the food industry. I adore my big-screen TV. The productivity and efficiency of the free market is beyond dispute. It has created a society of unprecedented prosperity.

But we must remember that the marketplace does only one thing--it puts a price on everything. The role of culture, however, must go beyond economics. It is not focused on the price of things, but on their value. And, above all, culture should tell us what is beyond price, including what does not belong in the marketplace. A culture should also provide some cogent view of the good life beyond mass accumulation. In this respect, our culture is failing us.

There is only one social force in America potentially large and strong enough to counterbalance this commercialization of cultural values, our educational system. Traditionally, education has been one thing that our nation has agreed cannot be left entirely to the marketplace--but made mandatory and freely available to everyone.

At 56, I am just old enough to remember a time when every public high school in this country had a music program with choir and band, usually a jazz band, too, sometimes even an orchestra. And every high school offered a drama program, sometimes with dance instruction. And there were writing opportunities in the school paper and literary magazine, as well as studio art training.

I am sorry to say that these programs are no longer widely available. This once visionary and democratic system has been almost entirely dismantled by well-meaning but myopic school boards, county commissioners and state officials, with the federal government largely indifferent to the issue. Art became an expendable luxury, and 50 million students have paid the price. Today a child's access to arts education is largely a function of his or her parents' income.

In a time of social progress and economic prosperity, why have we experienced this colossal cultural decline? There are several reasons, but I must risk offending many friends and colleagues by saying that surely artists and intellectuals are partly to blame. Most American artists, intellectuals and academics have lost their ability to converse with the rest of society. We have become wonderfully expert in talking to one another, but we have become almost invisible and inaudible in the general culture.

This mutual estrangement has had enormous cultural, social and political consequences. America needs its artists and intellectuals, and they need to re-establish their rightful place in the general culture. If we could reopen the conversation between our best minds and the broader public, the results would not only transform society but also artistic and intellectual life.

There is no better place to start this rapprochement than in arts education. How do we explain to the larger society the benefits of this civic investment when they have been convinced that the purpose of arts education is to produce more artists, which is hardly a compelling argument to the average taxpayer?
We need to create a new national consensus. The purpose of arts education is not to produce more artists, though that is a byproduct. The real purpose of arts education is to create complete human beings capable of leading successful and productive lives in a free society.

This is not happening now in American schools. What are we to make of a public education system whose highest goal seems to be producing minimally competent entry-level workers? The situation is a cultural and educational disaster, but it also has huge and alarming economic consequences. If the U.S. is to compete effectively with the rest of the world in the new global marketplace, it is not going to succeed through cheap labor or cheap raw materials, nor even the free flow of capital or a streamlined industrial base. To compete successfully, this country needs creativity, ingenuity and innovation.

It is hard to see those qualities thriving in a nation whose educational system ranks at the bottom of the developed world and has mostly eliminated the arts from the curriculum. Marcus Aurelius believed that the course of wisdom consisted of learning to trade easy pleasures for more complex and challenging ones. I worry about a culture that trades off the challenging pleasures of art for the easy comforts of entertainment. And that is exactly what is happening--not just in the media, but in our schools and civic life.

Entertainment promises us a predictable pleasure--humor, thrills, emotional titillation or even the odd delight of being vicariously terrified. It exploits and manipulates who we are rather than challenging us with a vision of who we might become. A child who spends a month mastering Halo or NBA Live on Xbox has not been awakened and transformed the way that child would be spending the time rehearsing a play or learning to draw.

If you don't believe me, you should read the studies that are now coming out about American civic participation. Our country is dividing into two distinct behavioral groups. One group spends most of its free time sitting at home as passive consumers of electronic entertainment. Even family communication is breaking down as members increasingly spend their time alone, staring at their individual screens.

The other group also uses and enjoys the new technology, but these individuals balance it with a broader range of activities. They go out--to exercise, play sports, volunteer and do charity work at about three times the level of the first group. By every measure they are vastly more active and socially engaged than the first group.

What is the defining difference between passive and active citizens? Curiously, it isn't income, geography or even education. It depends on whether or not they read for pleasure and participate in the arts. These cultural activities seem to awaken a heightened sense of individual awareness and social responsibility.

Art is an irreplaceable way of understanding and expressing the world--equal to but distinct from scientific and conceptual methods. Art addresses us in the fullness of our being--simultaneously speaking to our intellect, emotions, intuition, imagination, memory and physical senses. There are some truths about life that can be expressed only as stories or songs or images.
Art delights, instructs, consoles. It educates our emotions. And it remembers. As Robert Frost once said about poetry, "It is a way of remembering that which it would impoverish us to forget." Art awakens, enlarges, refines and restores our humanity.

Mr. Gioia is the chairman of the National Endowment for the Arts. This article is a condensed version of his June 17 commencement address at Stanford University.

Friday, August 3


I'm utterly amazed at the number of people who believe their question or concern is more important than anyone else's. When we're busy, like today, customers repeatedly will interrupt the person I'm currently helping. For example: I was removing a product from the display case for one customer when another woman came up as I was handing the product to the first customer, who had begun to say something, but was rudely interrupted by the second customer, who had a complicated question (not the where's-the-bathroom variety). As I attempted to continue my conversation with the first customer, I tried to address the second customer's question when a third woman banged across the counter and yelled out, "Is this where you get rung up?" I spun around, said yes, returned to the second customer and told her I was with another customer but I'd be happy to help her in a moment, and turned back to the first customer. Of course all three customers are irritated by this, and it's usually all my fault no matter how I try to handle the situation. Hit repeat over and over again, and that's my day. Please, please don't interrupt others! You're not any more important than the next person, and I will get to you. Eventually. In the meantime, if I'm taking too long, tell the manager to get over his payroll:profit ratio and hire enough workers to satisfy these customers.

Saturday, July 28

An entry, for entry's sake

Oh today was a long day. Many grumpy customers, working on my feet for more than nine hours with just a 30-minute lunch break, and my boss was in a bad mood. I'm worried he found out that I applied for another position. I'm so glad I have tomorrow off.
Thursday we went to the ICA, listened to some music, watched the waves, and looked at some art. Good times.
Can you tell I'm tired?

Wednesday, July 25


Outside Davis Square this afternoon, a group of protesters in orange jump suits held signs out at the busy intersection calling for cars to honk to impeach Bush and Cheney. While I had to smile at the hundreds of honks heard ringing through the square, and while I certainly encourage alternative forms of protest, the irony of automobiles honking to impeach the oil industry's most beloved ambassadors did not pass me by.
This past Sunday, I was walking down the street as a woman was rushing around to unload her three children out of a minivan. She looked up at me and suddenly stopped what she was doing. "C'mere, guys. See that woman's shirt? It says 'Hug your kids' ..." and she proceeded to hug each of her children. I'm not sure who had the bigger smile: me, her, or the kids.
Alternative forms of protest ...

Tuesday, July 24

So much fabric ... (I spare you the obvious)

I walk through fabric stores like I do bookstores: like a kid in a candy shop. It's almost overwhelming, to be surrounded by so many choices, but in a delightful way. I want it all. That sort of notion ("oceans of notions!") leaves me guilty every time. Guilty of spending money, wasting resources ... it's hard to be creative when I'm forever competing with my guilt. I'm still figuring out how to solve that one. I went to a fabric store in Arlington and couldn't decide, so we ate some Thai food (hey, inspiration can come in many flavors), browsed the arts and crafts section at the library, and then headed back. I ended up with three fabric choices: yellow with 1920s-ish red dots, yellow with muted sunflowers, and yellow with multiple flowers in a 70s style. Mike can't believe that I buy all that fabric without having a clue what I'm going to do with it. I want to make some quilts, pillows, maybe a purse ... but his shock made me feel guilty again, i.e., I spent too much and I don't even know what I'm going to make. I'm using all this cotton without having a real purpose in mind! What if it just sits there, unused? And so on and so on, my brain repeats. Christina wrote on a post-it note last week instructions for the remote control: "Just press repeat. :0)" with a little arrow pointing upwards. I put it below my calendar at my workstation. Ain't that the truth.

Monday, July 16

The ocean view

Mike is feeling much better. His fever broke, and his midterms are almost over. Yesterday we spent on the oceanfront. I could watch the waves and the water for weeks. It's so relaxing, comforting, thought-provoking ... Like coffee in an armchair. All of the small particles becoming one with the others, and back again. Life.

Saturday, July 14

Movie (sans popcorn)

Usually I'm too tired after work to go out (standing on your feet for 9 hours straight'll do that to ya), but today I had an intern working with me so Mike and I saw Everything's Gone Green. It was a nearly empty theater but a pretty good film, one of those feel-good ones that I usually despise. This wasn't overcooked, though, and had a good dosage of humor. I was expecting it to be eco-driven, but I misinterpreted that one ...

Wednesday, July 11

My Sick Man

Hubby is learning how to knit so he can teach me. He's good at learning from diagrams, and I'm more of a tactile learner. We have gotten several looks, especially at the RMV. It's probably more shocking that he's a metalhead with needles than a man.
He went to the doctor for the first time in more than a decade (thanks, no health insurance!) yesterday and today came down with a fever - the first time he's been sick in probably a year or two. He says he's dreaming of yarn connecting secondary dominants. What a cute, sick composer.

Tuesday, July 10

The Two-Second Lightning Rule

In the morning meeting, His Highness read out our most recent secret shopper report.
Did we greet the customer? Yes. Did we mention specials? Yes. Were we dressed professionally? Yes. So far, so good. Did the cashier ask if you were a member? Yes.
... Any additional comments? My wife and I were delighted at the spectacular (yes, spectacular) service we received. Not only were the cashiers, Allen and his young female coworker, professional, they engaged us in a jocular and amusing conversation, making the entire trip worthwhile, entertaining, and pleasurable. Outstanding!
And while The Head Tomato read this commentary out loud, the more he read, the more I knew that "young female coworker" was me. I had been covering lunches for sales associates that day, and I remember joking with this older couple and Allen about membership. I asked if they were members, they said no, and then they said, "This membership thing must be a big deal; everyone keeps asking us that!" and I told them we reserve the red carpet for our members - we even hire fake papparizzi to run around and take their pictures as they enter our store. Everyone laughed and it was a good time.
After Big Boss finished reading the secret shopper dodah, I said, "I think that was me; I remember ringing that couple." And everyone at the meeting was silent and just looked at me like yeah, right. Of course it was you. But it really was!
Boss said, let's all congratulate Allen when he comes in ... this was the best report I've ever seen since I started here 12 years ago. We usually get a secret shopper once a month, so being the best report out of 146 others is quite an ordeal. I know, I know, my position is managerial, so I should rank that high anyway and just be happy for Allen, but hey, credit due where credit's due! I felt jipped.
I casually brought it up later by asking if Power Hungry Man could look up the transaction and see who was ringing, but he claimed he couldn't. That's BS for sure; every manager I've ever worked with can look up transactions and who rung what. That's why we have to log in every time anyway ... so they can kick our asses if something goes wrong! So now that something went right, he all of a sudden lost his ability to look up crap?
Of course this whole scenario just reinforced Assistant Power Hungry's view that I think I'm wonderful. Did I tell you that story? I was joking around my second week, turned around to Assistant Shithead and said, "I'm just so awesome!" Well, apparently he took that literally, and henceforth started rumors that I think my shit don't stink. Off subject. But I can just hear him thinking. Of course she thought it was her. She's so wonderful it had to be her. What a princess.
So back to the wonderful, glowing review of work that's mine that no one believes is mine. Following that tasty morsel of I-can't-look-up-good-things, Head Shithead says to me, oh I've been meaning to ask you: do you look up if items are coming before you ask your buyer (who is yet another one of my bosses) if we have any? Of course, I'm not stupid.
Then he says, well your buyer told my boss (General Manager or GM as the folks say) that you call her too much. Huh? I've never called that woman in my life. I don't even know her phone number! And she told the GM that I never look up SKUs first, which is more BS! Just last week I e-mailed her and said the computer says we can order more of this, we sell it very well, but we've been out for two weeks, can you please order more (all of which is HER job)? And she thanked me for noticing, complimented me, etc ... for looking up SKUs, basically.
I told my Head Shit, "Well that's odd. I always look up SKUs first and I never call her." And he nodded his head in the same motion as earlier this morning: sure you do. I don't believe a word you're saying. He paused in the nod, and said, "You shouldn't be so defensive." Well shouldn't I be defending myself if I didn't do that?? Of course I kept my trap shut.
Immediately after he walks away, a customer service associate comes over and says my buyer's on the phone. Yeah, SHE called ME. And guess what the first thing out of her mouth was? "Wow, it's been a long time since we last spoke."
"Yeah, it has," I replied. ?! I looked around with my mouth in shock mode. Isn't there a two-second lightning rule somewhere?

Monday, July 9


On Saturday night, I went to a local indie bookstore and picked up my first knitting how-to book ... and finished reading it the next day. Today I'm stopping by Windor Buttons to pick up a ball and some needles. Yah! I've always wanted to learn how to knit, crochet, etc ... but my mom isn't a crafty person and both of my grandmas lived thousands of miles away. I had a neighbor, Nancy Bonkowski, who taught me how to sew when I was about 7 years old. I have random memories of sitting in their attic with my old best friend Lisa and sewing. It was dimly lit and my neck hurt from bending over my work, but I loved it. Later on, in middle school's Home Ec class, I sewed on a machine and made a black canvas bag. My older brother didn't believe me when I showed it off proudly at home. "Somebody in China made that," he sneered. "You're a liar." I could have cried or punched him in the guts, I don't remember, but I still have that bag and that memory.

Sunday, July 8

Time to Clock Out?

My current meanderings at work have found me in the children's department. I'm certainly aware of the fact that my hormones have been screaming at me for the last two years or so, but never did I picture myself staring at titles of children's books and holding back a sniffle for some odd biological reason. And when you get it in your head, you really do notice all of those little ones, their little braids, tiny fingers, funny coos, crazy cowlicks ... oh don't get me started. I'll be looking for a tissue in no time. What is happening to me??

Thursday, July 5

Fall down, go boom

Apparently you have to experience fireworks on the Esplanade at least once in your lifetime. Or at least that's what the two dozen or so Bostonians have told us in the last two weeks. So last night found us bidding our poor dogs (tail-between-the-legs, are-you-really-leaving-us-in-this-weird-thunderstorm poor dogs) adieu for two hours for the "best fireworks display in the nation." The hype and the hordes of people were beckoning my inner skeptic, but I followed along the throngs of glow-sticks nonetheless. It was on again, off again raining, which pleased my introverted side. We were expecting trouble finding a spot, but we quickly staked out a space and listened to the TV broadcast blaring from a box labelled #22. Heralded by all the news personalities as "spectacular" so many times, I began to set myself up for major disappointment. The usual dance: have hope but don't set your expectations too high or you'll be disappointed so if you have hope, have fear that your hope might be too high for reality and subsequently be prepared for both awe and disappointment; seeing as you're prepared for the two extremes, it'll almost always fall somewhere in the middle, which means it was really nothing at all so what did you get so worked up about to begin with? Last night, however, proved to be the exception: it actually was exceptional. The fireworks were nearly perfectly synchronized with the music, and each show (or song) outdid any and every finale I've ever seen. The rain managed to fall right into my eyes as I watched, but then again, without the rain, there would have been twice as many people.

Saturday, June 30


It must appear slightly pathetic for a newbie blogger to have skipped the last week and a half, but don't worry, I have plenty of handy excuses (work, matron of honor duties, parents in town, et al.). And seeing as how catchy my take on interactive blogging has become, I've come up with a Question of the Day, courtesy of my day job:
Woman who wears red lipstick: "Honey, can you suggest a little something for a friend of mine? He's a full-blooded Italian."
Me, cleaning cheap Egyptian toys: "A tie?"
Woman who still wears red lipstick: "Thanks anyway."
Me, determined to make a guess at what a full-blooded Italian desires: "Does he like the Red Sox?"
Woman: [Speeds up her walking away]

Sunday, June 17

Let's give this puppy a whirl ...

So here we go ... short description of what you imagine their life was, is, and/or will be. No real names or real stories if you know this person ...

Name that Life

Got to work nearly an hour early today. I took a different bus/subway combo than usual because of some construction, but obviously I overestimated the amount of time it would take. So I sat outside - Boston had beautiful weather today, finally! - and sketched a bit. Some of those pesky little red spiders crawled around on me and I ended up with sunburnt shoulders, but it was nice to have some down-time. As usual, though, it got me in the art-mode rather than the retail-mode, so I spent more time than I should have flipping through books on knitting and sewing.
Closed the store today while the other managers counted the drawers ... it is ridiculous how poorly most people perform when no one's watching. The general manager'll be in first thing tomorrow morning, so the store had to be perfect for Her Majesty's arrival. I had six associates straightening, plus myself, and after they left, we found about 8 displays that were just wrecked. (Note to shoppers: please, if you can't put it back where it belongs, don't make up a spot for it! Give it to the cashier and apologize!)
I wonder if that's a retail thing, employees needing babysitters, but I have a hunch it's not. Retail might have more of those employees, though, because sales associates are hired with a fairly low amount of required skills and education. You'd be surprised at how many sales associates, servers, and night supervisors are college grads, writers/artists/musicians/creators, second job-ers ... it becomes a melting pot of creativity and underemployment more often than not. I think that's part of the reason it's so frustrating when the customers assume you're an idiot.
Thinking about posting pictures of people and having readers submit short descriptions of what they imagine their lives to be like ... interaction and imagination, yummy!

Saturday, June 16

The Stitch Dreams

Spent the afternoon wandering around the Cambridge Arts Festival. Entertaining, especially for kids, but I was surprised by the lack of crafters' booths. Lately I've been interested in fabric and craft artists like Terese Agnew, Abby Glassenberg, et al. My ceramics teacher in college, Aurora Hughes Villa, had some influence on me in that regard. And for the last two years, I've concerned myself with what I call nesting, so imagery of birds, nests, etc. has covered my sketchbooks. I need to take one thing at a time, though, and learn more of the how-to before I come up with yet another idea. That's always been my problem.

Friday, June 15


It's sickening to see the amount of packaging thrown away every day in retail. Sure, there's all the statistics, 100 tons of this, a million pounds of that ... but when you have to confront it face-to-trash, it really hits home. This morning, for instance, I received a shipment of 16 small glass bud vases. The packaging alone filled two 60-gallon plastic garbage bags. We - and all the other retail joints I've worked at - throw away bags stuffed with bubble wrap and tissue paper on a daily basis, and in the meantime we're using brand-new bubble wrap and tissue paper to wrap our customers' purchases, also overly packaged in general, and place those packages in neat little plastic bags. Being a proud environmentalist already, I have made numerous attempts to get the store to reuse that perfectly good bubble wrap that has only been previously used once (and stored inside a cardboard box at that!). I've also tried convincing them of something like this. So far, no luck. Any suggestions?

Thursday, June 14

Eight hours of happy feet

No manager today, so I wore sneakers guilt-free. Ahhh, the pleasure, no the luxury, of hamstrings that don't scream at you as you try to hobble home from the subway.

Tuesday, June 12

The Raging Teapot

I'm beginning to wonder if retail does this to people, or if this is a normal workplace issue.

Today was pretty busy at work and I had a list of things that needed to be done before The Big Boss came in at 5. I asked Kathy, a friendly and seemingly harmless customer service associate, to polish the silver teapot set if she had time.

"Sure, no problem, I'll do them one at a time in between customers," she told me.

I smiled, thanked her, assured her it wasn't a problem if she couldn't find the time to complete the favor, and whirled around to finish the list of 99 red balloons, er tasks, that must be done lest The Head Honcho give me that horrific I-can-see-the-dust look.

Two hours prior to the arrival of said Store VIP, Vicki, a yoga-fanatic who smiles better than she listens, is sent to replace Kathy at customer service. Seeing that the teapot still has a devastating sliver of tarnish on its expensive-ass body, I ask her to polish it if she has time.

"No problem; where's the polish though?" Vicki asks, pausing in her breathing to reflect upon her breath.

"Oh, just ask Kathy," I said, apparently naively, and turn back to my oh-so-demanding managerial duties.

Five customers and minutes later, Vicki arrives full-force at the front counter and it's obvious from her wrinkled brow that she hasn't been concentrating enough on her ohmming.

"What's wrong?"

"Well, I asked Kathy about the polish ..." she says, trailing off.


"Um well, based on what she said, I didn't do it," Vicki answered, avoiding my eyes a bit.

"Why? What'd she say?"

"Well she kind of went off on me. I mean, she was ... here, come 'ere," Vicki said, dropping her voice while simultaneously raising her eyes to mine. "I asked her where the polish was, and she just went off. She said ... (pause to smile at customer passing by) ... 'I'm not doing the damn silver! How can she tell me what to do when she's only worked here a month and I've been here for a hundred years!' ... So I kind of just left."

At this point, things like I asked nicely, why do people make such a fuss over such small matters, and oh yeah I'm in a supervisory position anyway popped into my head, but of course, being myself by default, I was hurt. Why would someone think I would disrespect their tenure with the company? What did I do that would make her interpret my actions as coming from a sour place? Certainly Vicki's response helped, in some sense: "It's okay. Just breathe."

It all ended with me dashing around to perform a life-altering ten-minute cleansing of tarnish followed by The King Himself arriving to announce that he noticed I had moved some coffee mugs and this dramatic change had his ever-strived-for stamp of approval (a.k.a. a nod).

Let's gain some perspective here, people: Teapots will not tear the house down.