Thursday, December 31, 2009


We came home on Tuesday night, after we realized that staying till Wednesday morning offered no advantage. Great time in Montauk, and on the last night we had dinner at the Palm. Liv and Nick had steak, and I had my long-awaited (10+ years) lambchops. No fireworks, no sign of the heavens opening, nothing. But they were good, I enjoyed them and ate them without consequences. We spent the day in the usual way -- hanging out, going to the gym, etc. When we got back to the hills we had dinner at Baluchi's, which will now replace Tandoor as our favorite local Indian joint. Better location, far better atmosphere and food that was not only as good but tasted fresher.

Yesterday was a catch-up day. Much hubbub at the house -- 2 showings though only one materialized, and a series of calls from an odd broker who claims to have a customer but is really only looking to take over the listing as it expired yesterday (we renewed with Judy, of course.)

Good reports from Matt in the UK, though he's all at sixes and sevens -- the British friend they were meeting was apparently hospitalized with psychosis. All his plans are obviously up in the air, but he sounds sanguine about the whole thing.

Also good reports from Gena about her latest date (per her email she blew off MS guy for Matzo Ball guy -- as much as that sounds like code it actually makes a kind of sense.)

We spent the day catching up, doing errands etc, having mojitos and playing Scrabble. Nick broke my (8-game) winning streak. Tonight we're supposed to go into the city to a bar where there's a Celtic band, but the weather is quite surprising so we'll see. Nick's off to the Island to do his stuff and reclaim Holly, and the roads will be a mess.

Spoke to hip ortho who said he'd been in touch with the rheum (got an email from her too); does't look like any kind of inflammatory arthritis but that doesn't change the need for a hip replacement. As far as my back goes, he says that will continue to flare up and if it continues or worsens it'll be time to bring in Dave (spine guy.) We'll see.

It's very beautiful out now with all the snow (yes, I can say that because I don't have to drive in it.)

Monday, December 28, 2009

Montauk Monday

We left yesterday at about 11 -- me, Nick, Olivia and Holly. A few local stops first to pick up missing toiletries and other necessities, and then we drove about an hour to take Holly to the kennel. She couldn't have been more excited; as we neared the place she was all over the car trying to get out.

From there to Montauk, with a couple of Starbucks stops along the way. Our suite is lovely and plenty big for the three of us. We hung out awhile and then had an early dinner at Harvest, known for its gargantuan portions (the garlic mashed reminded me of the mashed potato scene from Close Encounters.) Then back to the hotel where we played some boggle and watched an episode of Big Love.

We woke late today -- after 9. Nick had trouble sleeping on the rock-hard mattress. After coffee (too strong -- the Starbucks we picked up is way stronger than the Dunkin Donuts we use at home) the three of us headed to the gym. Liv likes the elliptical, Nick did the treadmill and I did the bike (hard on my back and hip but did it anyway.) Also some time on the universal. After showers we went to town for brunch at Anthony's (one of the two pancake houses across the street from each other.) We made a few stops so Liv could take photos, which she's really into.

We came back, watched the movie Big Fish (not bad), took a short rest and in a few minutes will start to get ready for dinner. We had some reading time. Olivia: Atonement. Nick: a Cormac McCarthy novel. Me: a new history of the Second World War.

We're headed to the Palm in East Hampton. Liv will have steak, Nick wants duck and I'll have my first lamb chops in a decade. We decided a few months back that I'm ready to introduce new food into my diet, and of the available red meats selected lamb ("he don't eat meat? I'll make lamb!" -- we've all been saying that since the decision was made.)

Then back here, maybe a few more games, a movie and more reading time. A very relaxing and restorative day, and so great that Liv is here.

Sunday, December 27, 2009

Eventful days

The past few days have been filled with incident. Matt left for the UK -- haven't heard from him yet. Olivia went shopping with her holiday money yesterday and was pickpocketed. She called me in tears and within about an hour I was getting calls from Bank of America about suspicious charges on the card -- including Auto Zone and a Shell station. Clearly no grass grew under the feet of the thief. It was interesting to note the difference in customer service between BOA and Citi. I called Citi, and couldn't get through to a person and didn't have the account number. I used to figure out how to get through to a live operator, which worked, but the experience was less than satisfactory: the person I spoke with was curt, asked me the same questions over and over and seemed to be having trouble with the entire thing. BOA on the other hand was courteous and sympathetic -- asked if Olivia was ok and what else they could do. Big difference.

And she was having such a good day right up to that point. She was with her friends, with money in her pocket. And she was scouted by an Abercrombie employee who was looking for models to work in the store today. But she's under 18, so that didn't work. But it made her feel great, and she floated inside that bubble right up until the moment she realized her wallet was gone.

Nick's girls had their own adventure when they left here and spent the day with their mom. A day of texting that started out fine but then devolved as their day did with issues including their mom's drinking, suicide threats and then a call to the cops.

Gena came over yesterday to hang out, which was great. We got to spend time and catch up, and she did a bit of shopping in my closet (ended up with a couple of really nice things from what I think of as my 2005 collection.)

Then last night we all decided that Olivia would come with us to Montauk, which is perfect. We'll set out in a few hours and take Holly to the kennel. We'll do everything we planned, and Liv is up for it -- reading, working out, checking out Montauk, going out to dinner, swimming and the hot tub. She's selected Atonement to read while we're there; an excellent choice. She even plans to go to the gym.

Right now we're all packing and straightening up and otherwise prepping (save Liv, who's still asleep but not for long.)

I hear doors opening and closing (nothing is quiet in this house) so I'm assuming she's up. This will be a great couple of days.

Friday, December 25, 2009

Christmas day

It's about 8:45 a.m. I was the first one up but I think I hear Nikki stirring downstairs. Yesterday was great. Nick and I exchanged gifts in the morning. I gave him 3 things: an ice-cream maker, a Garmin nav system for his new truck and a gift certificate for a couples class at the cooking school called ICE (formerly known as Peter Kump.) His gifts to me were wonderful. Lots of things to keep me warm: slippers, slipper-socks, PJ's, a hoodie and a robe. A new alarm clock to replace our current one. Why the need? I'm not gentle when the alarm goes off in the morning and I may have been a bit overzealous when trying to turn it off -- now the buttons pop off all the time. My appliances live hard.

But the best gift he gave me was a beautiful gold snake ring with turquoise. He'd remembered a story I'd told him and Liv about a snake ring I'd wanted when I was a kid and we were in Greece. The seller wanted badly to sell it, I wanted it with all my heart but my mom said that the sight of me with a snake around my finger would have been too much for my grandmother. So all these years later I have my snake ring, and it's beautiful.

Nick brought his girls over in the afternoon and we hung out for a couple of hours before dinner. Everyone got along and it went well. After dinner we watched a movie (The Hangover) which was predictably but satisfyingly funny. He tried to use the ice-cream machine but it hadn't chilled long enough so he'll try it again today. We'll wrap up some extra cookies (I made three kinds) for Liv to take to Tessa's later.

This morning Nick will drive the girls home to Eastern LI and then come back.

It's our last day with Matt, who leaves tonight for the UK and who's been really fun to have at home. Liv no doubt disagrees but he's really been fine.

Bon voyage Matt! Have a great trip and we love you.

Thursday, December 24, 2009

I am divorced

As of last night, it's official. I wasn't the first to know; Paul texted me to tell me that he was notified by mail that according to the Honorable Sidney F. Straus we are officially divorced. I spoke to my lawyer who didn't know but who looked it up on line while we stayed on the phone ( and she confirmed it.

It didn't quite sink in at first; we were pretty boozy from mojitos and everything was a bit blurry. But I woke up this morning single for the first time in many many years (21 if you count from the marriage, more like 26 if you go back to before Paul and I met.) Wow. The end of an era. I want to see the decree. I think of it as a single piece of paper, embossed, stamped, decorated and suitable for framing, but Nick tells me it's not like that at all. Still...

So it's done. It took long enough but it's finally officially and irrevocably done. Whew.

Tonight we're having dinner with all the kids. Nick's picking up the girls now. Matt's back from lunch and Liv will be here later. We're serving shrimp cocktail, calamari, lasagne, home-made breadsticks and salad. May order some Chinese food to make Matt happy (Jews eat Chinese food on Christmas, after all.) And for dessert: I made three kinds of cookies: chewy chocolate, chocolate chocolate chip and pecan crescents (made with the pecans Nick's mom shelled and sent.) And as a special treat, homemade ice cream. I bought Nick an ice-cream maker (one of my gifts to him; more on the gift exchange tomorrow.)

A banner day.

Saturday, December 19, 2009

Happy birthday Holly

Holly turned one year old a few days ago. She hasn't evidenced much maturity with the passage of time. She has a new and unwelcome trick: she drags the fireplace grate open enough for her to get in and drag out the burnt charcoal. Face smudged and guilty, she knows she's in trouble but keeps doing it again and again. Nick bought a new gate that's helping keep her in the living room, which is helpful. But she's a Jack Russell -- busy, smart, obstinate -- and it shows in everything she does. I worked from home yesterday and she stayed most of the day in her (unlocked) pen in the sunroom. Nick moved it closer to the radiator and she loves the warmth. The problem though is obvious: she sleeps all day and by the evening is a whirling dervish, vibrating with energy and intensity. She's so damned cute that it makes everything ok. Nice evolutionary turn, I'd say -- her size and appearance protect her. Clever.

Big storm coming

That's what they say -- that we're about to be blanketed with snow. We're ready: Nick did a thousand errands yesterday and we're loaded up with salt and scrapers, firewood and food, just in case. We're having dinner tonight with my parents, and are scheduled to see the last play tomorrow in the Brother/Sister play trilogy, but we'll see what the weather permits.

Olivia and I met with the college counselor the other night. It started out rocky -- they didn't really know each other -- but got better. The good news is that Liv is reasonable and focused; she knows what she wants (and more importantly what she doesn't want). She wants to stay in NY and go to a school with a strong performance program. And we brainstormed some ideas to help her distinguish herself. I love what we collaboratively came up with: a project that combines performance and service. The idea is simple: work with a couple of her performing-arts friends to bring to life children's stories with acting and music. Either live or by DVD this little troupe would bring the stories to sick children in area hospitals. This is a great way for Olivia to combine her strong desire for service with her estimable leadership schools and love of performance. I've gotten in touch with the executive director the Starlight Foundation, an organization we support pro bono which works directly with hospitalized kids, and she sounded open and interested. Nick and I will help her in any way we can, and she couldn't be more excited about this.

Matt got in late last night, and was pretty cheerful, though tired from finals and traveling. He'll be home for a few days catching up on eating and sleeping before he leaves next week for the UK. We started talking last night about healthcare reform and the degree of our disgust and frustration with what's going on, but neither of us had much heart for the conversation, so it's tabled till today.

It wasn't an easy week: travel (I did San Francisco as a day trip, and I don't recommend it), tons of meetings, work, issues and complexity, back/hip pain bad enough to ground me on Sunday and Monday. And no answers in sight on my physical issues. Hip ortho suddenly not returning calls; rheum requested and will be reviewing films and reports, and an overall sense that no one is really in charge of figuring this thing out. I hope to know more next week but I'm not feeling terribly confident about the medical professionals in my orbit and their willingness and ability to look at this situation and deal with it in a rational and comprehensive way.

Saturday, December 12, 2009

Seeing the future

Here's the thing with plans: I love making them. I like knowing that the calendar is full of events and evenings with friends and interesting things to do and see. Weeks in advance of things I can't imagine that I'll be anything but happy with the plans I've made, right until the day those plans arrive. Daniel Gilbert talks about this a lot in his book "Stumbling into Happiness" about the human inability to project how we'll feel in the future. He's right, of course. It's when the day actually arrives that I wonder what I was thinking when I scheduled us for weekday events back to back, or other such complications.

A long work day yesterday that began with a morning client presentation in Connecticut. Then back to the city for work, meetings, check-ins before an end-of-day haircut. Nick met me at the hair place (though was too intimidated to come up to the floor.) I had good news for him: I'd spoken at length to my hairdresser about Jamie's plans to become a stylist. He had not only good advice but a specific plan and offer -- once she has her license she can get a job at his place as an assistant, which includes real training and apprenticeship. I couldn't wait to tell Nick so he could tell Jamie.

After we met -- in the brutal, biting cold -- we headed downtown to the East Village where we were meeting Olivia and Jon. Very nice dinner at a place on East 4th called B Bar. Nick and I got their first and had a drink at the bar, where a blotto couple were asking the waitress to define iambic pentameter. She couldn't. (I could but didn't volunteer.) The kids showed up and we had a really nice dinner. After that we headed down the block to see a version of Carson McCullers's
"The Heart is a Lonely Hunter." It was surprisingly strong and well done, with one breakout performance by the girl who plays Mick. The kids and Nick loved it; it was instantly one of Nick's favorite plays (I'm always relieved when he loves something since I'm responsible for this entire aspect of our lives.) It was great, and when we left we heard a couple say that no play or story set in the American South ever ends well. Too true, so true (as college girls write in the margins of "The Bell Jar.")

Great evening. From there to Penn, where we missed the next train and made the 11:35. Lots of fun.

Today will be about rest and recovery. Someone's coming to see the house this morning, and we have a couple of errands to do. Otherwise this will be our time -- lots of resting, hanging out, scrabbling and mojitos (they made a decent mojito at the place last night but not nearly in Nick's league.) Tomorrow will be abbreviated: I have to leave midday to fly for a Monday meeting. I'll be back Monday night, and then Tuesday morning I leave for the West Coast, back Thursday morning on the red-eye. Should be my last week of grinding intensity before the break, which will be even more welcome than usual.


I was in no mood to see a play Thursday. It was a long day that began with an early client meeting in Connecticut, followed by back-to-back meetings and client calls that lasted past 7. There was no time to meet Nick for dinner; we were meeting at the theater. It was freezing cold that night, with wind that whipped around corners and made all the layers of warm clothes meaningless. So when we walked in to the theater on 55th between 9th and 10th I was -- if not in a foul mood -- not really up to a play I knew little about. I remembered little of the reviews I'd read save generally positive notices.

So glad we went! It was delightful -- funny and clever and witty and quick. The "Or," refers to the ambiguities of time, gender and sexuality. The story itself seemed to be a maguffin, but a terrific maguffin it was -- giving the playwright and the actors a jumping off point to explore these ambiguities. We laughed throughout the play, as did everyone in the audience.

A charming clever play I'd recommend highly.

Thursday, December 10, 2009

developing stories

Got to the rheumatologist yesterday. It was a long visit -- a history, exam and a chat. She gave me a TB test in case I end up on drugs for inflammatory arthritis and explained the difference and the relationship between inflammatory and mechanical (osteo) arthritis. She thinks it's likely to be inflammatory, given the symptoms, the rapid development of arthritis, and family history. The visit turned into an odyssey, as she sent me for x-rays (pelvis, hip, sacro-iliac and hands) and then for blood work (15 different tests requiring 9 tubes of blood.) I won't know anything for a couple of weeks, but of course I'm bothered both by the possibility that I have one of these inflammatory forms and more so by the fact that none of the orthos even mentioned this as a possibility. Even if it turns out not to be (fingers crossed) it's the kind of thing that should be evaluated and ruled out (or in.) It was really because of Jeff's partner's email (the doc I've been emailing with) and my experience with RA via our client relationship that this came up at all. Disturbing. And another example of our fragmented, fractured healthcare system, where there's no systemic coordination and everyone evaluates and treats within their own silo.

Otherwise all fine. Busy week leading up to next week's full-travel schedule. Tonight we're seeing a new play called "Or,", and tomorrow night we're taking Liv and Jon to see "The Heart is a Lonely Hunter." Dinner Saturday with Wendy and Perry. Should be a fun and full weekend.

Liv is excited about her possible path to celebrity via the talent agent, and now we've got to take and collect photos of her that show her more fresh-faced and less made up than in her comp card. Matt's travel plans over the break are shaping up; he sent me confirmations yesterday of his inter-European flights and hostel reservations. He's going to have a blast, no doubt.

So just digging in for the rest of this week and next, which are incredibly intense. But it all ends the week after when the long holiday break starts, which will be great and welcome.

Sunday, December 6, 2009

A snowy Saturday

Our first snow -- it was wet, cold and sloppy -- but at least it felt like weather! We went into the city to see The Brother/Sister plays at the Public on Lafayette Street. It's a trilogy, and we saw two of the plays yesterday. They were very cool and well done -- well written, staged and acted, and an interesting exploration of issues including race and sexuality. Some members of the audience left at intermission; others clearly didn't know what the play was like (or had trouble understanding the dialogue: it did require that your ears adjust.) But we liked it a lot.

Nick is off to the park now with Holly. Yesterday she was voted "cutest dog" -- wonder what took so long! She loves it and spends the rest of the day sleeping to recover from the running, playing, running, playing. It's a Holly's life.

Today will be easy. No one's coming to look at the house (first time in 4 days) so we can relax more. Nick and I both have work to do. Liv has homework -- regular homework, SAT prep (tutor at 4) and a concert report that I'll help her write. Why does she need my help? Because she's writing about the string quartet performance we attended, but she didn't. Whenever she sees something that would qualify for one of these reports she procrastinates (surprise!) and then takes too long to write it. So I'll describe and explain what we saw, and she'll make it her own.

The afternoon will include the football game (Cowboys are playing), reading, Scrabble and hanging out. I may see if I can wrap some of Nick's gifts on the sly.

And tonight a local dinner with Lamia and Mirwan, which is always fun. It's been too long since our last get-together, a function of schedules, travel and in my case, surgeries.

Saturday, December 5, 2009

The week that was

It was an interesting one, and here are some highlights in no particular order:

Scrabble, part 1

The first game Nick and I played on returning from Canada was one of the best, if not the best, we've ever played. Our combined scores were a mere 17 points shy of 800. Nick had one 7-letter (squirms) that earned him 106, and even my two 7's didn't let me prevail. He played a brilliant game. And I promised him I'd blog here about his triumph. Well done, my love.

Scrabble, part 2

The re-match was last night, after I got back from Boston. Nick was winning from the first move and kept up his lead the entire game. He never relaxed (he never does when he's ahead) but as the game neared its close he started to believe the game was his. But I rallied: on my very last turn I did a 7-letter word (insults) which ended the game in a surprise victory for me. Great game, and whew.


Our new season at Carnegie Hall started this week. It's a 3-concert series of string quartets. On Wednesday after a lovely dinner at Rue 57 we attended the first one: the Mendelsson string quartet, which is ending its 30-year run this season. Nick's favorite was the Bartok, mine might have been the Beethoven. Music so beautiful you could week (my eyes filled with tears as soon as the first piece began.) A beautiful evening.


Our soldier sounds down. Clearly everything is wearing on her, and she's homesick and worried about her boyfriend, who is off on a mission. She's now a gunner. Liv and I are writing to her often, and we bought her a couple of really cute sweaters from J Crew that we'll send in the next few days. It was Liv's idea to get her cozy sweaters, and it's a great one.

Friends update

Gena and Peter broke up last Sunday, and we've been talking all week. She's heartbroken and I feel so bad for her; she was so happy right up until the end. Sarah and Toby are going to be moving to a house in the next couple of weeks and they're so psyched. It's a big upgrade and we couldn't be more thrilled for them. Hope to see them and the house soon. Tomorrow we have dinner with Lamia and Mirwan -- long delayed and long overdue.

Our weekend

Today we go to the Public Theater for a matinee of one of the parts of the Brothers/Sisters Play, which is supposed to be great. Unusual for us to go in the daytime, but we're really looking forward to it.

House activity

A sudden burst of interest this week. Lots of lookers and all of a sudden, and people seem to really like the house (this time, this week, no guarantees.) We'll see what happens.

Things medical

Based on Marty's advice (my old friend Jeff's partner, who is a doc) I'm going to see a rheumatologist to rule out RA (rheumatoid arthritis.) Just seems to be the responsible thing to do, given the rapidity and severity of my arthritis. Probably isn't RA (I know a few things about it since we work for a pharma company that makes one of the leading RA drugs) but worth looking into. When I called Jose the ortho to ask about this, I had an exchange with the PA about it. She said that if Jose had suspected RA he'd have addressed it. Given the silo'd nature of our medical care I've already learned that docs stay so tightly inside their own specialties that they don't always think beyond what they know and treat. The PA actually sounded annoyed at my question (which annoyed me); that I might be doubting a doc -- horrors. The return call -- after she'd spoken to him -- was a bit better; he said if I wanted to check it out he'd refer me to a rheumatologist. I decided to go see the rheum my Mom sees, and we've already had one email exchange. More to come, but I'd like to have this evaluated and answered before I go bionic (which looks now like late January.)

Things lost

So I lost my ipod on the plane home from Toronto. Matt sent me his recommendation on a replacement (another nano or the itouch) and I'll order one of them today. And I finally did something about the lost earring. I'd lost one of the beautiful earrings that Nick got me on a plane from SF -- what is it with me and planes? The people at the local jewelry store where he'd bought them were incredibly helpful. Even though the original ones were no longer available I was able to find similar ones and use the single earring as a trade-in. A happy resolution.

Mad Men

DM News ran a 30th anniversary piece on the history of direct marketing (I was interviewed a few months back). They called the piece "Direct Mad Men" and apparently I'm one of them. They misspelled my name, referred to me as "he", but what the hell, it's ink. And I feel privileged to be mentioned in such exalted company.

Sunday, November 29, 2009

Our first party

Yesterday was all highs and lows. The low came early, when I felt a migraine coming on as we were waiting on line in Zeller's to pay for new glassware. Nick and I had gone out early to pick up my repaired boots at the shoemaker ($10 CDN for a complete repair and re-sole) and then get what we needed for the party later. I had the anti-migraine stuff with me, which helped, but I still needed an hour or two in a darkened room before I started to feel ok, which happened by early afternoon. While I was out, Nick and the girls went shopping at Pennington's for some clothes for Nikki (jeans and a shirt) and my kids set themselves up at different stations in the house to do homework.

By the afternoon it was better, and Nick and I shopped for snacks, beer and wine for later. When we got home everyone did their own thing (thang?) for a couple of hours and at about 4 we started to set up. The kids were great -- didn't even need to be asked. They set to work arranging platters, designing how and where the food should go, all cheerful ("a useful engine is a happy engine", or something like that from Thomas the Tank Engine.)

At about 5 everyone started to arrive, and by about 6 they were all here -- everyone we know on the Island. Randy and Alison were first, followed by Gloria and Eddie. Then came Susie, Donna and Norm and finally Nicole. It was great -- we had a blast. The house was full of people and conversation and laughing, and the kids spoke with everyone. We had a great time, and decided to make this an annual event. There was too much food (of course) and everyone who hadn't been here got a tour of the house, with all due accolades to Susie (who Liv adored: "Susie, don't go!) Nicole spent a lot of time with Nikki, Nick and I chatted with everyone, the kids were entirely engaged. We talked about wine-making (Eddie and Randy both make wine), and graphic novels (Donna and Norm's son is an accomplished graphic novelist -- his books are amazing) to clothes and Sex in the City to hip replacements and the Canadian health system to the economy to real estate to Scrabble and the postal service and the need for better restaurants in Summerside. Everyone seemed to enjoy themselves; Nick and I certainly did and the kids had a blast. We'll make plans for Susie to come to NY (hurry and stay with us!) and follow up dinners and get-togethers and all manner of things. A great evening.

When everyone left and we'd cleaned up most of the stuff we played some Catch-phrase -- the youngest (Liv, Nikki, Jamie) vs the oldest (Matt, Nick, me.) Liv's motto: "retards rejoice!" and they won, to our chagrin. Nick and I didn't make it past 3 games, but they kids stayed up and kept playing.

And today we're off. We have a very civilized afternoon flight so the morning will be easy. Quite a difference from the Halloween trip when Nick and I were on the road at 3:30 a.m. We'll be sorry to leave, as always, and will set to work making plans for the next trip.

Adieu, PEI -- we think we will miss you most of all.

Saturday, November 28, 2009

Fun and games

Yesterday's other activity included games. Matt challenged Nick at ping pong. Nick won both games. Nikki, Jamie and I played darts. For some unknown reason I seemed to be winning before I had to quit to tend to the turkey. My good performance was nothing more than beginner's luck, and I passed my darts to Matt (not sure how he did.)

There hasn't been time for Scrabble, and we haven't broken out the Boggle or Jenga, but there's always today. We've had very few whining "I'm bored" moments; pretty miraculous considering the age of our kids. But there's always today.

American-Canadian Thanksgiving

We did it! We had a great Thanksgiving dinner, with all the trimmings. Cooking began at about 9, when Nick and I started to prep. The kids started rolling in according to the usual sequence: Liv, Nikki, Jamie and finally Matt (that's been the order each day.) The kids helped with whatever tasks we gave them.

We cooked throughout the day, breaking only so Nick and I could drive into town and take care of a few errands (paying taxes and utilities, mostly) and only one more quick shopping for things we turned out to be missing (12-inch skillet, for one.) It poured all day, making it that much easier to spend the day inside cooking. The weather rained out the early evening block party that seems to be a tradition, which was for the best -- we had dinner uninterrupted.

Everything came out really well, much to our surprise, particularly the turkey which neither of us had cooked before. It came out well, crisp outside, moist and full of flavor inside. There were 2 kinds of potatoes (of course, this being PEI), stuffing, lots of roasted vegetables, cranberry relish (with pears and ginger) and more, more, more. Seemed like everyone loved everything, and the hope is that they'll love it as much today because we have a breathtaking amount of leftovers.

The kids helped with the cleaning -- some cheerfully, some grudgingly -- but no one was spared and we got it done quickly and efficiently.

After dinner we settled in to play Catch Phrase. Our first series broke by family, and I must say that the Lurries did well. Helps a lot that we share common memories. The girls were all on the same wavelength for anything to do with pop culture, Matt and I could read each other's mind on anything having to do with politics and history. The we broke up into different, non-familial teams to see what that would be like. It was Liv, Jamie and Matt on one side, Nick, Nikki and me on the other. Fun in a different way. Tremendous amount of laughing -- we'll always remember a blind James Earl Jones, the 15th President of the US, boob tubes and mammograms. Very fun, and we played for hours.

It's just after 8 here, and I'm the only one awake. I love the quiet morning here, with no sounds besides birdsong and the tapping of my typing.

Later today we'll go shopping for everything we need for tonight's wine/beer and snacks get-together, scheduled for 5:00. Probably about 10 people plus us, which should be nice.

And then tomorrow we head home. Before we leave Charlottetown we're going to have lunch at the Old Triangle -- the Irish bar we found last time which was memorable for two reasons: our favorite Celtic fiddler Roy plays there on Sunday, and Liv had a Mediterranean penne dish she still raves about. Mediterranean pasta in an Irish pub in PEI -- why not?

Friday, November 27, 2009

planning and prepping

Yesterday was fun -- lots of fun. Nick and I were up early working on menus and shopping lists, while the kids slept. By about 11:30 everyone was up, and hungry, and consensus was reached that going to a dinner for breakfast was the way to go. We found ourselves at Maid Marian's diner, where our group ordered dishes including the Sherwood Forest Special and similarly-themed breakfast plates. Very generous and very cheap -- whole plates of eggs, toast, potatoes (pronounced of course as "padadas") for about $5.

From there to the magical kingdom of Sobeys for the shopping. The kids love it there, and we managed to find everything -- even the more obscure ingredients -- plus the ridiculous number of snacks everyone needs to have at their fingertips.

In the afternoon, everything was put away and we split into groups. Liv and Nikki went to the tatoos place: for Nikki there were some revisions she needed and --horror of horrors -- an empty spot on her back. Liv only wanted her cartilage pierced. Matt and Jamie played games, Nick and I read until we joined them for a pretty funny game of Catch Phrase, which we only stopped because of a drop-by from Randy and Allison, who brought us some homemade candy and got to chat with us and the kids.

Dinner at Lot 30 in Charlottetown, driving through fog so thick it reminded me of nothing but "Long Day's Journey." Dinner was excellent and everyone really enjoyed it.

By the time we got home it was after 10 and Nick and I retired to bed while the kids stayed up and hung out. Don't expect to see them for a few hours. Shortly I'll start the cooking -- I want to do the stuffing and all the sides this morning so we can devote the afternoon to the turkey. It's my first one; even with all the Thanksgivings I've done I've been spared the actual turkey -- my mom and aunt always provided. So we'll figure it out, using the many magazines we've brought here.

Dinner will be interrupted when the neighbors gather at our house for a tradition that includes putting up the holiday signs and a parade which culminates at someone's home for hot drinks. The kids may not join but out of neighborliness we will, and we'll invite them to tomorrow's wine/beer and cheese gathering (downgraded from a cocktail party after we realized that we'd like to do this in a way as nice as possible with the least possible amount of work.)

O Canada!

Thursday, November 26, 2009

Our Thanksgiving menu, in development

Here's what it looks like, so far:
  • Roast turkey
  • apple stuffing
  • baked sweet potatoes
  • roasted vegetables
  • maple-glazed carrots
  • crispy roast potatoes
  • cranberries with pears and ginger
  • salad
  • some sort of pasta thing, tbd (for Nick's kids)
We'll probably just buy bread and dessert. Matt is the most accomplished cook of the kids -- he'll be put to work independently. Liv can help (though her attention span is limited.) Nikki will help Nick (skills rudimentary) and Jamie has offered to help with cleaning, since cooking isn't in her wheelhouse. Lots of potatoes in the meal, as both a tribute to PEI's major crop and the fact that all our kids love potatoes, no matter how prepared.

In a couple of hours we'll head to Sobey's to shop (Liv loves that store so much that we are forbidden to go there without her.)

Should be a fun and unique Thanksgiving.

Matt gets punk'd

We got here without incident. Flights were on time and we managed to have fun during the layover in Montreal -- we perched in a cafe and talked and laughed. Got to PEI by 5, local time, and decided to have dinner at Brothers 2 before we went home. Over dinner, we started to tell Matthew what to expect at the house -- very basic, intermittent electricity ("did you bring candles?"), heat only on alternate days, no laundry, hard water, unfinished construction ("we're hoping it's done by now"), and that really it was best to think of the place as a trailer. As we neared the house we really had him going and he was asking why no one told him this and we said that was simple: he might not have come. He was pretty panicked as we turned the last corner, and we were laughing our heads off. Nick said he'd wanted to tell him but that I stopped him. Matt's anxious response: Nick -- I always liked you best.

Then we arrived, and walked in the front door. He was in equal measure blown away and relieved and immediately happy and at home. He took the tour and then made himself at home. He loved everything and once he relaxed said that he could imagine us spending less and less time in NY. Great fun.

We hung out a while and then the kids went downstairs to play darts and we went upstairs to read. For Nick a new book about infantrymen in the Second World War, for me the new book "Bright-Sided" by Barbara Ehrenreich.

It's about 8 a.m. now, and only Nick and I are up. We'll work out the Thanksgiving menu and then shop later.

It was a good travel day.

Sunday, November 22, 2009

How the pie came out

The Emperor Brutus

The Emperor Jones was astonishing. Brilliantly staged and acted and so intense that when it ended there was stone-cold silence; it took the audience a few moments to collect themselves and start what became thunderous and protracted applause. I loved it. Nick -- not so much, but that was because he was tired (woken by a car crash and concomitant dog barking) the night before, and because the seats were so uncomfortable (they were.) But wow. Wow. Wow.

Today stretches ahead. Nick and Holly are going to the park. I'm working and catching up, and then in the late morning I'll start an apple pie. It's Nick Malgieri's recipe and he's never steered me false. Then a lazy afternoon (during yesterday's lazy part of the afternoon we watched the new "Taking of Pelham 123" -- fun, diverting movie.) After that Liv has SAT tutoring and then we're off to dinner. I've got a running list of topics darting restlessly in my head: Liv's talent agent meeting, Matt's travels over the break and study-abroad plans, Holly, status updates. It'll be fine. If not fun, I'll take fine. I'm the only one among the three of us who isn't nervous. I feel the same way about it than I do about any meeting I attend (once you strip out my belief that any meeting I'm in is my meeting -- hmmm, wonder where Liv gets it from.)

We'll also probably do some pre-packing for Canada, though Nick and I have brought and left so much up there that we can pack light. What a pleasure that is.

Let the healthcare reform debate begin!

Saturday, November 21, 2009

Week's end

So Liv has a meeting with the talent agency on 12/7. She's breathless with excitement, though from her comments and questions it's clear that she thinks this is her meeting, which of course it is not. When I told her she was being seen for print, her comment was: "but I don't want to do print! By the way, what is print?"

By the 7th -- a day we hope won't live in infamy -- she'll have spent some time with Jen to prep her and she should be ready. Timing's nice in that we have our 3-way dinner tomorrow night with her dad and the more good things that happen for her the easier it should be. Maybe, marginally. I'll play the connective-tissue fill-in-any-conversation-gaps role, which isn't much of a stretch for me.

This weekend should be lovely. We were meant to have dinner last night with Lamia and Mirwan, but they had houseguests so we're rescheduled for a few weeks. Tonight we go to see The Emperor Jones at the Irish Rep -- very psyched. And of course dinner tomorrow. I'll be doing as much take-out as eat-in (we're going to Ben's): a sandwich for Nick and a bunch of stuff for Matt, who'll get here Tuesday night for our journey up north.

All the kids are so excited for our trip, which is delightful. We fly Wednesday morning.

I'm circling in on scheduling the hip replacement surgery. We're aiming for mid-to-late January at HSS and I'm waiting for specifics.

And the beat goes on.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

I go to the doctor

We went yesterday to see Jose. I expected a review and conversation about my three options, but that wasn't how it went. He did an exam, showed me the xray from the arthrogram and said I really have no choice but the hip replacement -- that what I have is a very arthritic hip and nothing else will work. He explained -- and this helped me understand -- that the damaged labrum actually caused this arthritis to develop so quickly and so severely.

Before we could even ask questions he anticipated and answered (most of them.) Time in hospital: 3 days. Time out of work: 3-4 weeks. Restrictions after recovery: none except for the most extreme yoga positions. Implant material: titanium and ceramic. Location and length of scar: he showed us. Length of surgery itself: about an hour and a half. Hospitals where he operates: Lenox Hill and HSS, my choice. Length of time the implant will last: 20+ years.

There were a few things he didn't explain and I didn't ask: what the rehab is like, for one, but there will be time for that. The discussion was quick, and most of the info just swirled around me and didn't penetrate. That's happening now. So I'll think about it for a day or so and then call to schedule. I really don't have any choice: the status quo is intolerable and nothing else is guaranteed to work. This is.

Film at 11.

Monday, November 16, 2009

Liv gets a bite

From an agent, who received the comp card from Jen today. It all happened quickly: Liv came to the office, visited with Jen, who emailed the card to CESD (happily also Liv's boyfriend's agent), who liked what they saw and want to schedule a meeting. Liv's feet haven't touched the ground since 6 this evening when we found out.

And Matt's study-abroad efforts are progressing. He's successfully clearing the hurdles of the process, and all signs point to a semester in Shanghai followed by a semester in Manchester. His timing is impeccable, given the role and importance of China in the world. Also very very cool. The timing of his interests has been unerring lately: for a career he wants to work in public policy specializing in education and health care. Could he be interested in anything more relevant?

Both these developments are very cool and very exciting. I'm so psyched for them both. And it should make our upcoming Thanksgiving trip smoother and more cheerful.

Saturday, November 14, 2009

Another week, full and rich

It's been an interesting, meaty week. Very productive, from a work point of view, and busy from dawn til dusk. Some events of note include:

Last night

We had a lovely evening. Nick and I met at a bar called the Carnegie Club for a couple of glasses of wine before dinner. It's actually a smoking bar (Mayor Bloomberg, are you listening?) and once the place filled up it had an atavistic quality. Dark and smoky, the place was inviting. Apparently there's a dress code, and Nick was quietly chided for not wearing a collar. But they were subtle about it, so it was fine. From there we went to dinner at Beacon, a Waldy Malouf restaurant, all about grilling and wood roasting. Quite good. The main event was a production of Synge's play "The Playboy of the Western World" at City Center. We were pleasantly surprised (one review I read called it "ponderous") at how light and witty it was. Nicely done and we really enjoyed it. Overheard a woman next to us say that she was seeing "The Emperor Jones" next week, which was amusing because so are we. We liked this theater. Even though it's part of City Center it's a small, intimate venue (it's Stage II.) This was the first play in a four-play series that also includes upcoming plays by GBS and others, and we may do a subscription for the rest.

Today and tonight

We leave mid-day for NJ to attend a wedding: it's the daughter of someone I work with. Should be fun -- we'll get all dressed up and go play there. Liv has a concert tonight. She's seeing Peaches (who?) at Terminal 5. Tomorrow will be lower-key than the rest of the weekend. We have no plans save a house visit from Linda and a new client. Otherwise it'll be a hang-out day, and instead of doing our usual Sunday night cooking we'll go have Indian food, which Liv has had a poorly-concealed hankering for all week.

Three choices, all bad

I spoke with Jose (hip ortho) on Tuesday evening. This was our first chat since last Friday's x-ray guided injection. For all the subtlety and sophistication of medicine this measure seemed pretty basic -- gross, not fine. If the shot gives pain relief, then the problem is in the hip. If no relief, then not the hip. Hmmm. Jose said I have three choices, and in his words they all suck. They are:

a. do nothing and live with this a while
b. have another arthroscopy and see if there's a new tear
c. have a hip replacement

As aggressive and scary as option c sounds, it has more logic behind it. Option a is a Hobson's choice -- no choice at all. Option b is a half-measure; if there's no tear or anything else that can be addressed arthroscopically it will have been a waste. Option c at least guarantees that the hip pain will disappear, with the hip. I'm going to see him during the week so we can talk it though. I'll probably get another opinion, though that seems to be a fool's errand. Orthopedics follows a protocol which begins with the least aggressive treatment and moves inexorably to the most aggressive, though most people get relief along the way.

And I've done everything -- everything -- that the protocol calls for. This includes the most benign options like nsaids and mild painkillers, to physical therapy. It includes the medium-range options like injections of cortisone, both in the bursa and in the joint itself. And finally I've done the most aggressive of the least-aggressive options (also the gateway to major interventions): arthoscopic surgery. There are simply no other options available. But I'll get another opinion, see Isis (Joe's witch doctor) and do anything else that seems responsible and sober before I make the decision. But like political non-apology apologies, this is starting to seem like a non-decision decision.

More to come.

A military promotion

Whitney got a promotion! She's no longer a private first class -- now she's a specialist. We'll have to address the letters and packages differently, and we'll tuck in a congratulations gift in the next shipment.

Two other things of note:

I heard about this on Countdown, and immediately signed up. At the facebook site I saw lots of people I know, and this was definitely an effort worth supporting.

Nothing tastes as good as skinny feels

I've never even thought about Kate Moss, let alone quoted her, but I saw this on huffingtonpost and found it a pithy way to express how I feel about eating. Well done, Kate.

Sunday, November 8, 2009

Holly's facebook

Here are Holly's friends, courtesy of one of the regular park-goers. He has trouble remembering her name, but here she is with her crew:

Such a beautiful morning

What a joy to wake up this morning and learn that the bill passed the House! I woke up early -- 5 or so -- and started wondering what had happened over night. I couldn't stay in bed any longer because my curiosity got the better of me. It's a great leap forward (use of that Maoist phrase amuses me, but not as much as when I hear a Republican use the words "let a thousand flowers bloom.")

Yesterday was a great day; lots of fun. We got done everything we needed to, including stopping at the jeweler to see if they could replace the earring I lost on the plane to SF two weeks ago. We hung out with Liv and Jon, played much Scrabble (Nick won one game and I won four -- as always he hates it when he wins because of what has historically always come next: crushing defeat.)

Saw a movie we really enjoyed -- The Informant. Very well done. Liv was encouraging us to see Where the Wild Things are, but we went our own way.

I was wrong about the percentage of pain reduction the anesthetic provided. It was one of those "you don't know what you got till it's gone" things. When it wore off and as the doc said I was back to my baseline, I realized how much relief I'd really gotten. Not 33% -- more like 5--60%. Nick is hopeful that what we now recognize as two problems (hip and back) can be addressed conservatively: the hip via cortisone which should make it easier to do rehab for my back. It would be great if he were right, but after a year and a half of this it's hard not to be skeptical. But we'll see.

Today will be fun, just fractured. Nick's taking Holly to the park now, and I'll do some work. Midday he'll leave for the island and I'll meet Sarah. Liv has SAT tutoring early afternoon and then we'll go on the (dreaded) errand to Verizon. When we're all back we'll cook dinner: I'm making the salami rosemary bread Nick and Liv love, and he'll make a great Sunday sauce for pasta. We're packing up stuff to send Whitney, and I heard from our boy soldier, who seemed down because of the mail delays. We'll wait till he gets package #1 before we ship more. Whitney has no problems with mail (and certainly not with email.)

More to come.

Saturday, November 7, 2009

I'll see you in health! (Thanks, Steven Colbert)

The latest? I went to Lenox Hill Radiology yesterday for the hip injection. The place and people didn't have the same warm-bath-you're-in-good-and-caring-hands as some other facilities I've gone to. The big city hospital feeling gave me more of a sense of being processed than cared for.

It was quick -- a couple of small injections (all of which I felt) followed by the larger needles with the anesthetic, the cortisone and the dye. The anesthetic worked instantly, and I walked out of the hospital with less pain than I had when I entered. The doc said that'll last a day (it's already gone) but that the steroids will kick in anywhere between two and five days later.

I estimate about a 33% reduction in pain, which means I suppose that my problem is 33% in my hip, the remainder in my back. This week I'll speak with hip guy, and encourage a meeting between him, spine guy and me. We'll see if they're open to it.

But it's the weekend. We have stuff to do to catch up on errands and to-do's. We may go to a movie tonight, and tomorrow Nick will see Jamie (to tell him what he already knows: that she doesn't want to go back to college but instead wants to go to beauty school and learn to do hair), and I'll meet Sarah for coffee to catch up.

When Liv is awake and alert (which will be many hours from now) I'll talk to her about arranging our three-way get together with her dad, which I want to happen in the next couple of weeks, before Thanksgiving.

No, it can't be because of our gun laws

Horrifically violent week. The tragedy of Fort Hood is beyond comprehension, and then to find that there were two incidents (Orlando, Waukesha) that came hard on the heels of the massacre is beyond imagination.

Whitney wrote me about their take on Fort Hood:

that is madness. the army is now going to organize some time of class that is going to be mandatory monthly to add on to the suicide prevention classes and i'm sure there is going to be a lot of madness going on in the structure of the army too. See whenever incidents like this happen the army takes action but it isn't always the greatest action... it's going to be pointless whatever they decide to do but they will think its going to help. I'm sorry but i don't really believe suicide prevention classes will help to much, if someone has it in their head they are going to off themselves and its not just to get attention, they will do it. Unbelievable that this man just hauled off and massacred a bunch of soldiers who were at an SRP center! I'm dumbfounded and its so terrible that we are hear and nothing that bad is happening but now we have to worry about what nut bags are in the states.

A thorough nightmare. And it was a dreadful week in other ways (if not for us personally.) The teabaggers and their hate, the instant reaction of right-wing talk radio to the tragedy, the rise of the conservative movement and the melding of them with the remaining shreds of the GOP -- it's odious.

The tea party movement reminds me of nothing so much as George Orwell's 1984, always one of my favorite books. There have been Orwellian connections in government and politics for some time, particularly during the Bush administration, with its doublethink, perpetual warfare and the use of fear to unite the country. But it's the hate that brings 1984 to mind -- the way that the party transformed everyone's desires and passions into fear and loathing and then harnessed that hate in service of the state. It's the Two Minutes Hate, all day and night. People on the right are exploiting fear and hate, but let's see what happens: once you've created a mob and whipped it into fury, it's hard to control.

Canada looks better and better.

Friday, November 6, 2009


It's been a good week. Busy on all fronts -- my work, Nick's work, Liv's school -- but productive and with the right momentum. Liv's school concert was Wednesday night at a church near Lincoln Center. My parents joined me for the event, and it was absolutely wonderful. The choruses sang a range of classical songs, peppered with a few traditional spirituals and one pop song (the very cute Build me up buttercup.) All together a great evening.

Tonight we were meant to go see the Royal Family, but my diagnostic hip injection was rescheduled for this afternoon, so I gave away our tickets to my new assistant. It wasn't the play we were most looking forward to (that distinction is currently held by the new production of O'Neill's "The Emperor Jones") so it was an easy decision to make.

It'll be a nice, easy weekend. Errands and other stuff we're behind on because we were away last weekend. Lots of playing time and hanging out time. Liv's going tonight to what she ironically refers to as the world premier of her boyfriend's film -- the movie he and his friends made during their summer program at the NY film academy. Nick is having brunch with his daughter Jamie on Sunday, and I may see Sarah for coffee.

Spoke at length to Matt yesterday, and he sounded better than he has since he parachuted in to Amherst. He got the swine flue vaccine because the school identified him as high risk. He was funny -- said the shot had no side effects save one: he was suddenly filled with undying love for President Obama and a desire to work for him in any way he could. I laughed my head off.

He's much more focused in his academic and career interests: he wants to work in policy on education and health care. I'm impressed. And he's got a girlfriend. Nothing improves your mood like a new relationship. She also has a circle of friends he really likes, who are (of course) politically engaged. So all good on that front.

Sunday, November 1, 2009

How we almost won $30,000 CDN, but didn't

Nick bought Canadian scratch-off games -- we play them here all the time, particularly the Scrabble-like ones. He bought one we'd never seen, based on Boggle. Very confusing but we thought we figured it out. When we finished the ticket and scratched the boxes that seemed to indicate what we'd won, we were shocked. One box said $3 (ok), one said $75 (nice) but the astonishing one was the box that said $30,000. Nick was so excited he could barely breathe. I held my excitement, just in case. I think he was already spending the money in his mind, and we decided to go to the nearest Kwik-way to find out. Our heads were filled with math -- splitting the money, guessing at taxes. The clerk at the shop scanned the card and told us we'd only won the $3 -- apparently we accidentally scratched one of the wrong boxes. It was an exciting 10 minutes, anyway. Nick didn't feel better when the clerk said he'd had a recent customer with a similar experience who ended up winning nothing -- at least we had the $3. The receipt for that win now lives in our memory box, to remind us of our folly. And there was a clue that we missed; if we'd noticed we'd have known we couldn't have won. The ticket said the max prize was $30,000 -- our supposed winnings totaled $30,078. It was all there in front of us but we missed it. We laughed and laughed and laughed.

The rest of the weekend was great. Halloween was fun. Susan came over for drinks, and we had a great time. Then the official trick-or-treat window opened, and we had about 30 kids. We suspect that fear of swine flu suppressed the normal activity. Everyone we talked to was worried about the flu, and in everything we read while we were away it seemed the entire country was obsessed.

We left Sunday morning, on a 6:00 a.m. flight. Brutally early -- that's how our day began. The alarm went off at 3:30 but we were both already awake. Of course we were happy at the other end of the trip when we were home before noon and had the whole day (though we were a little too tired and foggy to really enjoy it.) But a great weekend. We also did some pre-planning and pre-shopping for our November visit. We're going to have a little cocktail party and invite everyone we know (pretty short list, but it's a start) over for drinks and snacks.

Saturday, October 31, 2009

Waking up in Canada

Is lovely. We sleep so well here. It's quieter than home -- much. And our room stays dark till we open the blinds. I think we slept 12 hours the first night and about 11 last night. Yesterday was a great day. Woke up late, and took our time. Then went into town to do errands (mostly prep for the next visit.) We paid our bills in person, went to the bank, which is charmingly old fashioned -- tellers who seem to know everyone's name and most things done with paper and pen.

We saw Susan at her shop, and will get together later today for a cocktail, before the mongol hordes (also known as trick-or-treaters) descend between 6 and 8, which is when our neighbor Donna told us is the witching hour.

Found a terrific new restaurant in Charlottetown called Lot 30. Lovely, sophisticated place with delicious food -- a real find. Today we have a few things to do, and Randy will be stopping by. We decided to do a cocktail party for our friends and neighbors (it's a short list) when we're back in November, so we'll start that planning.

Lots of Scrabble playing (I'm on a winning streak) and lots of reading. Nick is reading Battle for America 2008, and enjoying it. I'm reading two books at once: a linguistics book by Henry Hitchings about how English became English and the new SuperFreakonomics (loved the first one.) Nick and I were talking about what we were reading last night and I think he was mildly shocked when I casually meantioned that English is considered the whore of languages.

Weather is relatively mild, for this place at this time. We'll enjoy our last full day before flying back tomorrow morning. That flight leaves Charlottetown at 6 a.m., so it'll be an early night for us tonight to allow us to wake up at 3:30 (gulp) to make that flight.

While in Sobey's yesterday (our main supermarket) I got a call from Jose, my hip guy. We've been trading calls and messages since I first started trying to reach him early in the week. I thought he was a logical next step on my diagnosis/pain/resolution journey. When I described what's going on (hip pain in my groin so sharp it doubles me over, plus other stuff) he said it's time for a diagnostic injection in the front of my hip. That apparently will tell us once and for all (yes, I've heard that before) if it's hip. The spine doc thinks it's hip impingement, known formally as FAI: femoroacetabular impingement. Fancy name. Essentially I think it means the hip doesn't really fit the joint.

That procedure is scheduled for Friday afternoon, so we'll see.

Ever onward.

Thursday, October 29, 2009

And we're off!

To PEI, today. We leave for the airport soon and start our journey to the North. It's been a busy week. Nick's got over 40 cases for October (a near-record but then again the month isn't quite over.) I was in SF Monday and Tuesday and returned to NY in the middle of the night. I had dinner with my brother in SF Monday night, which was great. Asia de Cuba -- ridiculously expensive, almost offensively so in this economy, but it was special.

Whitney received -- and loved -- the first care package we sent. Most noteworthy items were the peanut butter-filled pretzels (they didn't make it past the first night) and a copy of Vanity Fair (apparently a favorite among the men in her unit.) Nick sent her the next package on Tuesday. She and Liv are happily messaging on Facebook and she and I email nearly every day. Things seem to be heating up in Iraq, which is worrisome. We hear it both in the news and in her emails.

Nothing still from boy soldier. He should receive his first package in the next day or so, so hope to hear more after that.

More to come when we're settled dans Ile du Prince Edouard.

It will be great to have even a few days away, not only for all the usual reasons but because of our horror at Senator Lieberman's antics -- we need some distance and calm, Canadian perspective.

Sunday, October 25, 2009

Creative Drama

Last night was great. We met Gena at the theater (in driving rain, but no matter) and then went to see Circle Mirror Transformation. Really enjoyable -- well conceived, well written, well performed. The small theater was packed and the audience was engaged and appreciative. Much fun.

After we went to bar -- I think it was Le Petit Cafe Un Deux Trois -- for cocktails. French martini for me, and margaritas for Nick and Gena. It gave us time to catch up. Gena and I were reminiscing about plays we used to see when we were first living together in the city after college. I remember some weird performance art production we saw on the lower east side. Tickets were $4, and the only thing I can recall is that the performers cracked raw eggs on themselves. Gena didn't remember that one.

Liv went with Jon's brother Joe on a mission to feed the hungry. It was sponsored by Joe's synagogue, and involved food prep and then driving around to distribute the food. The first text she sent me said that her job at that point was to watch eggs boil (I told her how that sounded strenuous and not to hurt herself.) Sounds like it got more interesting later.

I'm very proud of Liv and her devotion to service. She's always had a tender and generous heart, as far back as I can remember. She is now involved in two clubs at school -- one an established club that works with the Red Cross. The other is a new one she's helping shape, where they will select different organizations and initiatives. She was voted vice president, but found out Friday that the president has mono and the energy in the group is to make her president. She has strong leadership qualities so I'm not surprised.

Today will be fun -- we'll hang out, shop for dinner, see Sarah and Toby for cocktails, then cook (one of two dishes as I haven't decided yet. Either the Syrian chicken or the Vietnamese curry. Nick gets heartburn just hearing about it.)

We like the Sunday evening cooking routine, and Liv loves it. Will see which dish we pick and how it turns out.

Friday, October 23, 2009

Becoming social

It's good to be back in circulation. This weekend Gena will join us when we go to see a new play called "Circle Mirror Transformation." She may move out here, which would be amazing (though knowing the universe -- my universe, not Nick's -- we'll finally get an accepted offer on the house as soon as she moves in.)

And on Sunday we'll have cocktails with Sarah and Toby. Drinks will be early because we all like to cook on Sunday nights, and I also have a super-early flight to SF Monday morning. Liv has requested an old recipe we used to make for a chicken stew with orange, potatoes, raisins and figs. I've got that one ready, but I also found a new recipe for a Vietnamese chicken curry with sweet potatoes. She and Nick can fight it out; I'm fine either way.

This coming week will be intense. I'm out West until late Tuesday night (after midnight.) I'll work part or all of Wednesday, and then Thursday we fly up North to our beloved PEI.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Confounded and vexed

That's what the doc said when I saw him for my 6-week post-op checkup. He also used the phrase "at a loss." Not encouraging words from a surgeon trying to understand why I'm still having so much pain.

What was more disturbing than his confoundment was his suggestion that the problem could be with my hip - haven't we seen this movie? Or the sacro-iliac joint -- wasn't that what sent me into the useless, pointless exercise in x-ray guided injections?

I left there with vague instructions: see how it is in a month and start rehab in the meantime. If there's no improvement, schedule all-new MRI's. This time -- 3 of them (hip, spine, SI) and at HSS, because they are apparently the best at the trickier SI one.

So here we are, in a place I never anticipated, where my docs are flummoxed. Calling Dr. House! One thing I never thought I had was a medical mystery. The docs seemed quite sure at the time they pronounced a diagnosis. It's your hip, says the hip guy. It's your sacroiliac joint, says the pain guy. It's your spine, says the spine guy.

Reminds me of the old story of the blind men and the elephant.

So now what we're thinking about is a meeting, where we'd gather the two main docs, the two of us and all the relevant films in the same room at the same time to talk this through and hammer it out. That's precisely how I'd address a problem like this at work: a focused discussion with all the stakeholders and evidence where we don't adjourn until we have a plan.

So I set wheels in motion -- maybe. I called Jose (hip guy) and left a message. Of all the actors in my playlet he seems the most empathetic and approachable, so I'll float this idea with him. He's traveling, so I don't expect a conversation (let alone a resolution) till next week.

Monday, October 19, 2009

It's a boy!

Our new soldier, that is. His name is Robert, though he calls himself Chris (no idea why -- yet.) He's a sergeant in Iraq on his second deployment, and is currently at Camp Ramadi. Will find out what his MOS is (that's military for "job".)

His emails and Whitney's couldn't be more different. They both play to type. She's chatty and full of questions, writes nearly every day, each note a long one.

Chris's response to my introductory email was brief but touching:

I am at Camp Ramadi. West of Baghdad. First of all I would like to thank you for all your support. It means so much to us over here just knowin that you all care this much, to send us the items that make our deployment that much easier. Saying that I will be happy with whatever you would like to send. Surprises are always the best.

Brevity is the soul of wit. Men are from Mars, etc. Vive la difference. But so sweet in an entirely different way.

We packed up two care packages last night: his and hers. His will go out today, and we'll wait a bit to send Whitney's; she should get the first one in the next day or so. Nick choose the magazines for Chris -- all sports related. The auto racing one looks to me like borderline porn, but what do I know?

Sunday, October 18, 2009

Thornton Wilder

Last night we saw a production of five of his short plays. It was terrific -- they had Wilder's ironic wit and dealt with the subjects that interested him: relationships between people, relationships between people and money, relationships between people and God. Very well done, and very enjoyable. A lovely dinner before in hell's kitchen, though not at the place I'd planned. I'd made reservations online for what I thought was 44 x 10, but I actually made them for its sister restaurant 44 1/2. Didn't much matter, because the restaurant was really good. But oops.

The playbill announced auditions for a production of plays by teens for teens, and we gave that info to Liv -- she's psyched, convinced that her stardom is right around the corner just waiting to be discovered.

We had to do a bit more walking than I'm ready to do, and I feel it today. But since its a dreary rainy day it doesn't matter too much. All we've got scheduled for today is our usual stuff, plus cleaning up before some people come to see the house this afternoon, and cooking.

Holly reached a new level of achievement yesterday. She managed to jump onto our bed, which is no small thing for her. It's pretty high off the ground, and she of course is very low to the ground, and she worked and worked till she made it. Once she did, she was so exhausted that she fell asleep on the bed, until she woke up to throw up, at which point everything was at sixes and sevens.

So Saturday was eventful, in good ways. And Sunday stretches ahead.

Saturday, October 17, 2009

Why I write

My friend Janet asks a good question: how does it feel to write this blog and develop content, and for whom am I writing? She posits the question I've been thinking about since I started.

It began very simply: I'd written an article and wanted to see if I could get broader distribution if I posted it, so that it would show up when people searched for me on Google. But it quickly changed from a distribution channel to a communication one.

At first it seemed like I was keeping a journal, but I made myself remember that while a journal is private, a blog is anything but. And here's where vanity comes in. I'm too vain to be satisfied with writing in private. I crave feedback and reactions to both the writing and the stories.

And I love stories. I love telling them and hearing them. And this is a perfect medium for story-telling. I can write in a quick episodic style or I can tell a long, complex story -- blogs are porous and endlessly forgiving. I now experience the world through the blog filter. As things happen (or don't), as ideas emerge (or don't) I think of them in terms of blog posts.

Of course there are more prosaic reasons to do this. It's an easy way to keep people up to date on what we're doing, which is particularly useful during a busy, active period like our cycling trip. Some of my friends have commented that it's great for knowing what's going on, because our phone calls are necessarily brief and we don't get together as much as we'd like.

Blog on.

Friday, October 16, 2009

Ah...the weekend

All weekends are welcome; this one is even more welcome than usual ("all animals are created equal; some are more equal than others." Apologies to George Orwell.)

Long, intense week though it was both a productive and successful one. Lots of hum and buzz and activity, which is just how I like it.

We sent Whitney her first care package, and today I received an email from the organization asking for more sponsors. They've got far more soldiers than sponsors, and the note included a heartbreaking statistic that 25-30% of soldiers receive no mail. I got the message, and signed up for another soldier.

Nick is buried in work, which is the very definition of a high-class problem. And in two weeks we head up North, to the magical land of PEI where everything is easy and calm and fine. Can't wait. We've been warned by a neighbor that Halloween is quite the event, and she told us to expect at least 100 trick-or-treaters. Sobey's here we come, to pile on the candy.

Tomorrow night we're off to dinner in hell's kitchen before we see a production of Thornton Wilder's short plays in preview. I'm psyched -- I've always been a fan. And on Sunday we're going to attempt to cook a dish from Wednesday's NY Times. It's for homemade strozzapretti (I love that word; it means "strangled priests.") We'll see how it goes.

Other than that it'll be a lovely weekend, regardless of weather. Nick and I both have lots of work to do, Liv will be around, we'll rest and relax and read and play (I'm on a Scrabble winning streak that may be of Nick's creation -- beware the law of unintended consequences -- when he told me that he thought I was slipping.)

Happy weekend to all.

Monday, October 12, 2009

I am wrong

It turns out -- to my delight -- that I was very much mistaken when I wrote that I wasn't from a military family. Apparently, I am.

To wit:

Both my grandfathers enlisted in the First World War. Both were privates, and as immigrants obtained their citizenship through military service. They returned healthy and unharmed after fighting in Europe (Italy and France) for their tours.

My mom's brother Phillip enlisted during the Second World War. Cpl. Phillip Sachs was killed in the Battle of the Bulge in 1944 at age 20.

My dad was drafted for the Korean War, 1953-55, and was stationed at Fort Dix, Valley Forge Army Hospital and Walter Reed Medical Center. He was honorably discharged.

There's more, and I'll look into it further. But I'm happy to set the record straight.

Sunday, October 11, 2009

If anyone else wants to adopt a soldier

Here's the link:

It's free, except what you spend on care packages. Easy to enroll. Totally worthwhile.

Frederick Douglass

We saw a terrific play last night: Frederick Douglass Now, at the Irish Arts Center. A one-man show that's quite incredible. Also brief -- just an hour! The actor/writer was in the lobby afterward, which was cool. Highly recommend it. It's playing in repertory with The Cambria, which we may also try to see.

We've got the care package to Whitney nearly ready to go. We filled a box with snacks, toiletries and magazines, and Nick will take it to the post office Tuesday. Also a birthday card -- she's got one coming up. She's a great pen pal and her emails are really sweet.

Now we're fully engaged in the fall, with lots of plans. I always feel better when we've got lots of plans, so we're now scheduled for lots of dinners with friends, a bunch of plays and the upcoming trip to PEI. Some really interesting plays opening and playing, including rare revivals of Thornton Wilder's short plays (including Pullman Car Hiawatha!) and Synge's Playboy of the Western World. And tickets are pretty cheap, one of the boons of a troubled economy.

Friday, October 9, 2009

Nick goes on a diet, and other updates

Nick goes on a diet

First, some background. Nick's weight fluctuates between the 225-235 range. At 225 he's elated (though worried that an illness -- not calorie reduction -- is driving the weight loss, even though he dramatically reduces his calories) and is ready to eat. 225 is as scarce as hen's teeth, if I'm being honest. At 235 he worries that he's too heavy. All the play is in the in-between range.

When he sees one of the numbers in the danger zone, he diets. What that means to him is that he cuts back on everything -- breakfast, snacks, etc. No surprise -- he starts to feel deprived and therefore deserving -- and the whole thing goes to hell. Sometimes he can handle about a week of the dieting before he caves, sometimes, as in just this week, only a day or two. And he confesses every transgression, even though I don't ask. Day 2 of this week's diet includes a chocolate bar, a large cookie, what sounds to me like a gougere, and a chocolate milk shake with vanilla ice cream.

He'll get back on the scale today, and we'll see where we are in the cycle. The good news for him is that he loses weight with astonishing alacrity; a day or two and he's back to where he wants to be, or close enough.

Why I'm not writing about my back

I'm bored. It's settled into a pattern where every day is pretty much the same. The swelling is significantly down, and now I'm free of all the post-op pain, lethargy and discomfort. What I still have is the old pain. Not the pain I had the month or so before the surgery, but the pain of about six months before -- deep deep in my lower back and in my leg. I go back to the doc in about two weeks and I'll know what the story is: whether this is normal and will disappear, whether this will endure, whether the surgery even worked (there turns out to be a condition called "post-laminectomy syndrome", or in it's older incarnation "failed back surgery." It's more than a little disturbing that unsuccessful spine surgeries are common enough and specific enough to be considered a syndrome.) We'll see.


We're now in daily contact with our soldier. She sent photos yesterday, and today I'll return the favor. Liv and I will do some shopping for her care package, and Nick will send it off this week to Iraq. She's in the military police, doing dangerous work in a very dangerous part of Iraq. The photos show her before she shipped out and then after, in uniform. I'm really glad we started this.


He came in for the weekend, and because of Columbus Day he'll be here till Tuesday. It'll be interesting to see the dynamic this weekend between him and Liv; they will avoid each other to the greatest degree possible. The house is big but not that big, so it'll be quite a trick if they can miss each other completely. He was happy to be home. I'd made Moroccan chickpea soup the other day and he loved it, and we hung out and -- as is our wont -- watched the Newshour on PBS and talked politics. Of course he's unhappy that the President won the Nobel prize. Of course he's deeply skeptical that decent health care reform will pass. Of course he maintains his belief that Hillary would have been a far better president. Ah, to be 20 -- to be doctrinaire and completely certain, to see everything in absolutes. But it's great to have him home.

It's a girl!

We got our soldier, and it's a girl! Her name is Whitney. She's 20 years old (same age as Matt), on her first tour in Iraq. She hails from from Pennsylvania, and this is her first time away from home.

I sent her a note last night when I received her info, and I found a response this morning. She sounds great -- fun and chatty (in other words very well suited for us.)

She has what sounds like nearly unlimited Internet access, so there will be a lot of back and forth. But we'll also send real letters, and I think it's interesting that in this era of technology and digitization few things are as desirable and coveted as actual letters.

We'll also send care packages, once we know what kinds of things she wants and needs. What a perfect project for Liv -- shopping, even if it's just for the mundane. Nick is at the post office at least once a week, so it'll be easy for us to send things (once I figure out the customs forms.)

Very psyched. Liv joined a club at school yesterday fully devoted to community service and she's going to suggest this program as one of the activities the kids could support.

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Rethinking my thinking about the military

For reasons that aren't germane to this post, I've been spending a lot of time with the military. I've met recruits and prospective recruits, NCOs and officers, listened to majors and generals. I've visited military facilities. And it's changing how I've always thought about the military.

In truth, I never thought much about our armed forces. Except for a few tangential relationships, I don't come from a military family. I came of age in the '70s, a time when the military was held in particularly low repute. The films that shaped my thinking -- like MASH, like Catch-22 -- portrayed the armed forces are blundering, inefficient, ineffective bureaucracies. It was the time of that tired joke that "military intelligence" was an oxymoron (was that George Carlin?)I was too young to understand Vietnam, but I picked up the general cynicism and sense of failure. No one I knew joined, and I gave little thought to those who did, save a dismissive sense that they had no alternatives and no ideas.

All that has changed. Getting inside and actually hearing and seeing the military has thoroughly changed my impressions -- of the institution, of the members. It's tricky to anthropomorphize an institution, but I will. I now think of the military as smart, focused and humane. I'm impressed by the people and their heads and heart: their intellect and broad-mindedness, their caring and their humanity. The kids who join know what they're doing, and even if they don't the process ensures that they do.

They're not perfect; no one is. The Pat Tillman story is tragic (all the more so for the administration's manipulation and politicization of the event). Abu Ghraib was a nightmare (though that too is shot through with administration decisions and deceit.) But it is a living, breathing learning organization that changes as needs change. And the people in it are filled with passion and purpose.

But my new appreciation is an impotent thing -- it accomplishes nothing. So I'm going to do something, and I was inspired yesterday by a woman I sat next to at a lunch. She told me about an adopt-a-soldier program that she got involved with a few months ago.

The program matches soldiers who've opted in with individuals who want to help -- via letters, emails, care packages. She is swept up by it, so much so that she carries photos of her soldier and his family. When I saw the photos I was moved to tears.

I love the idea; it lets me help by doing more than just write a check. I'll get Liv involved (she loves to shop, so shopping for care packages is right up her alley.) Nick will help, and he loves the idea. She's sending me the link later, so in the next few days I'll log on, sign up and jump in (which seems an interesting way to upend the old Timothy Leary "turn on, tune in, drop out" and particularly well-suited for this endeavor. I never connected to the '60's and its ethos anyway. More about that in another post.)

Go army.

Saturday, October 3, 2009

Glenn Beck -- the beginnings of truth


The rest

So beyond the fact that the play was breathtaking, we had a great evening. Found two great places before the play, both on Second Avenue near 4th Street. A really nice wine bar (in the spirit of brevity being the soul of wit it's called Wine Bar) and an asian restaurant called Sea. Good wine, good food. Very fun. Great to be out again and doing things, and I felt fine (pain in my back as always but energy and overall sense of well-being were restored.)

Today there are people coming to see the house. Not the usual kind of suspects, but a couple who's been looking since last summer, when they were starting to explore options but still had a house to sell. They've made an offer, which I rebuffed (it was a joke.) They upped the offer and we countered. And that takes us to the current state of play: they want to see it again. Keep hope alive. I'm trying to.

Nick's girls won't be coming over tomorrow because Nikki's starting her new job this weekend at a facility for the disabled. I'll miss seeing them. But I'm in awe of Nikki's strengths as a caretaker. The ability to do that kind of work always impresses me, since I have none of those skills. She's excited and it's great to know she's happy and engaged. We'll find another opportunity to hang out.

But I'll still make the chocolate candy and everything else I promised Liv.


See it. It's playing through October 18th at the NY Theater Workshop, on East 4th Street and 2nd Avenue. Tickets are inexpensive.

Nick and I were blown away. It was eye-opening, moving and intense. The premise couldn't be simpler: it's based on a series of interviews with six Iraqi refugees now living in Jordan. Those six, plus the translator, tell their stories. The six represent a range of different kind of people in different kind of situations: a pharmacist, a married couple who are both cooks, an imam, a theater director and his artist wife, a dermatologist, a Christian housewife. The words are lifted directly from the actual interviews, and the performances are astonishing. For us at least, it gave us a real understanding of what's happened there from our invasion to occupation to ongoing presence -- an understanding that we haven't gotten from what we've read or heard.

We were silent in the cab on the way home. It wasn't anything like the quiet when two people find they have nothing to say, or the tense silence that follows an argument. It was a contemplative silence for us both, where we were just taking in what we'd just seen.

Do you know the feeling when you leave a movie or a play and think "everyone needs to see this?" That's how we felt.

I'll have other updates, but this play deserved its own post. And it wants to and needs to be seen.

Thursday, October 1, 2009

Achieving Friday

Some things have returned to normal: my energy and my brain, primarily. Some things haven't: the swelling goes on (and on), the leg pain continues. I felt fully returned to work, which was a relief. And we'll have a real weekend for the first time in a long time, with theater tickets (Aftermath) and a full Sunday when Nick's girls will come over and hang out. I may bake, but I promised Olivia I'd make chocolate candy.

The candy is easy now that I know how to temper chocolate. I've got all the critical elements: excellent chocolate (Callebaut, in small easy-to-melt morsels), a candy thermometer and new molds (shells, chess pieces and electric guitars.) Should be fun. It's more chemistry than cooking but is a great crowd pleaser. The banana bread and muffins from last weekend were big hits (all the more so because I make them infrequently.) I owe Nick the dinner of his choice as a small thank-you for everything he does for me. He's researching dishes and menus, making choices and doubting himself, deciding and then undoing his decisions -- all the agonies of creativity. I will make one other thing this weekend at Liv's request -- Moroccan chickpea soup. We've made it every winter for the last few years and it's always a hit.

And from a broader view, it's been an interesting week:

  • watching the public option cling to life
  • hearing Lindsey Graham dismiss Glen Beck
  • finding John Ensign back on the front page
  • Michelle Bachmann is as always amusing (sex clinics?)
  • John Boehner's vapid words are always obscured by his preternatural tan
  • Sarah Palin is without question the gift that keeps on giving

Sunday, September 27, 2009


It's starting to feel a lot like normal. Today's plans are in flux; Nick's girls were going to come over and hang out for a few hours in the afternoon, but the bad weather is discouraging the drive, and we also have people coming to see the house early this afternoon.

It's theater season again, and we just got tickets to two plays for October. One is called Aftermath, about Iraq. The other is Cambria/Douglass, at the Irish Repertory Theater. Feels good to start getting tickets again. We're also making plans with friends for the coming weeks. Nick was right when he said we should just consider September to be a lost month. Now that September's winding down I want to make October better, more interesting and more active. And we head to PEI at the end of the month, so we're really psyched about that.

Another sign of the return to reason is that I'm going to bake today. Nothing hard, just some muffins and maybe banana bread, but it signals both the change of season and re-engagement.

Liv starts SAT tutoring today, which she both wants and dreads -- I understand.

We've returned to full-bore Scrabble playing. Nick beat me on Thursday night twice, and in both games I lost badly. He always says that he hates the next game after he wins. And he's right. We've played four since then and I've won all of them.

I feel better. My energy is back, though I'm sleeping longer and later than I have in years. The swelling is still there. It doesn't seem to me to have gone down, but I'm sanguine about giving it more time. What I'm less sanguine about is that this whole mess may have been watershed; that I may just be one of those people with a bad back. I don't like the idea that I'll always have to be careful, or that I'm fragile. I was hoping that after everything I've been through with hip and back I'd be good as new, but that seems unrealistic. Hip ortho said I could expect 70% relief, but that once a labrum is torn it never functions as it used to. And Nick said that back ortho told him (I was either not there or semi-conscious) that I'd always have pain but that it would be easier to control and manage. Hmmm.

Stories in the news that I'm enjoying: Senator Kyl's performance and Senator Stabenow's retort ("your mother probably did"); Rod Blagojevitch on The Daily Show, Eric Cantor at his (only) health care Town Hall (did he really say that poor woman with tumors should rely on charity?), the adventures of Michele Bachmann (really: how was she elected?)

Interesting times.

Friday, September 25, 2009


Adelante means moving forward. That part I knew. What I didn't know, but found interesting is that it was also the name of a a socialist newspaper in Argentina, founded in April 1916 by young leftwing dissidents of the Socialist Party. I first heard it when we were working with a large global bank, which makes the association with socialism that much more surprising.

But I use it in its purest sense, that of progress. I survived the week. I worked Friday from home, but unlike my most recent at-home days this one was actually productive, filled with calls and meetings and other work activities. Much more satisfying. And by the middle of the week I was able to do more consequential things: client meetings, issue resolution, team updates, press interviews (look for a profile of me in the widely-read B2B magazine, coming soon to a newstand near you.) Lots of work to do this weekend, but I don't mind one bit.

There's still this swelling, which stubbornly shows no sign of receding. The idea of having inside me something the size of what he described is quite nauseating. Nick jokes about it -- whether by calling me Quasimodo, or by suggesting that if I eat carbs it'll go away -- and it's all pretty funny.

We'll keep this weekend quiet, though I hope to end the moratorium on socializing soon. So many people I want to see and hang out with. So many new plays opening, music to hear, restaurants to try. Fall signals the resumption of productive activity -- I still think in school year terms -- and I'm nearly ready to re-engage.

We're booked for PEI for Halloween. That's great, and we can count down the days till then. I like the idea of starting to count again; my numerical abilities disappeared with my cognitive and linguistic abilities over the course of this surgery and aftermath.

Much amused me this week. Sarah Palin's jaunt to Hong Kong is endlessly amusing. Watching the Republicans squirm, dawdle and delay is also funny, in a gallows humor sort of way (great piece in this week's New Yorker: "Getting to No.") The odd and somewhat aimless protests ("no global capitalism" scream the Millenials) at the G-20 have their light side too. And I must have missed something, but why exactly was this meeting held in Pittsburgh? Not that there's anything wrong with it, just wondering. Someone at the NYT figured out that there's a correlation between poor sleep and susceptibility to colds. Wow. That was definitely worth the grant money.

Of course, much is deadly serious. The Iranian nuclear threat, the arrest of terrorists in Queens (in Queens!) and Denver. The real consequences of the health care debate.

But I try to leaven the seriousness with humor, however dark.

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Speed bumps and spetsnaz

That's how the doctor referred to my progress when we saw him Wednesday. The swelling has increased, and he described it as the size of a half orange with about 6 ounces of fluid (definition: blood.) He wants to wait it out versus subjecting me to more intervention, which is more than fine with me. Also prescribed a new drug -- an anti-inflammatory used for arthritis, which he promises has none of the weird side effects I had from the others in the constellation of meds. He and Kim were both surprised at my fortitude (their version of how Nick refers to me as a "spetznaz*") in that I returned to work so soon and am taking no drugs.

They did suggest that I lose the high heels for now, and also throttle back on my activity. On the other hand I'm cleared to fly, which works out well since I have two trips on the calendar for next week.

*From Wikipedia: Russian special purpose regiments or Spetsnaz, Specnaz (Russian: Войска специального назначения, (спецназ) tr: Voyska spetsialnogo naznacheniya, pronounced [spʲetsnas]) is a general term for "special forces" in Russian, literally "special purpose". These Russian special forces can specifically refer to any elite or special purpose units under subordination of the Federal Security Service (FSB) or Internal Troops of Russian Ministry of Internal Affairs, and the units controlled by the military intelligence service GRU.

Monday, September 21, 2009

Go dog go

That's the Dr. Seuss book about the dog party -- Go Dog Go. Liv and I looked it up last night, and we both feel much better for knowing. I'm hoping to join Nick this weekend to watch Holly at her fete.

Sunday wasn't the day we anticipated. We expected another languid day but instead had child explosions everywhere we looked. We dealt with them, and we helped each other with our own issues. Ah, the benefits of partnership. We drove out and collected Nikki and brought her home. Matt was here when she arrived, so they got to spend some time, and then Liv got home and they were together.

I went into the office yesterday for an abbreviated session. It was great to see people and be seen, if only for a few hours. Did some catching up so I feel less disconnected. Actually the updates came on so fast and so furiously that remoteness was the least of what I felt. Certain problems, left unresolved will resolve themselves. Others left unresolved stay unresolved until you return to deal with them. The tricky part is deciding which kind of problem is which.

I called the doc for two reasons. First, I was supposed to call Friday for a check-in, and didn't. It wasn't because I forgot; I didn't. I just didn't feel like it. The other reason is that the swelling hasn't dissipated. On the contrary, it has increased. So they want to see me on Wednesday.

Today will be a half-day at home and a half-day in the office. I'll work from home til about noon and then head in. There's a business dinner tonight and I'm hoping to be able to make it. So interesting how expectations adjust to circumstances.

Sunday, September 20, 2009

A better Sunday

I feel more like myself every day. We'll see how many naps I need today as a harbinger of what's to come next week when I (happily) return to work.

Holly and Nick just returned from another triumphant morning in the park. Now they're regulars, not newbies, which is always comforting. Holly's so tired but like a true toddler is fighting sleep. It won't be long till she crashes.

Yesterday was a better day; not only did I feel better and well enough to do exciting things like errands, but we had a 3-game Scrabble match with games among our best. I won the first game, but displayed hubris and so was punished in the second -- Nick beat me by over a hundred points. I could blame my letters (which sucked -- for most of the game I had nothing but vowels and never even the good ones, just u's and i's) but that wouldn't be consistent with the spirit of the game. He played well, the gods were against me and I lost badly. But in the third game I rallied and so I won the day. But it was tough.

Errands went well, though exhausting. I had a disoriented sensation in Trader Joe's, almost as though I were seeing everything through a filter that diffuses. We rested a lot after, and that feeling dissipated. We didn't watch any movies yesterday, though we've seen quite a few lately. Watched and loved Frost/Nixon. I made Nick watch The Miracle Worker -- I was looking for something familiar to watch; re-reading books and re-watching movies I've seen helps me fall asleep. But The Miracle Worker had the opposite effect; it woke me up but put Nick to sleep. We also watched Catch-22 during the week, but we both found it tedious after the first hour and we both nodded off, then turned it off.

Matt's been here for the weekend, which was great. He's adjusting to the new school (even if he won't acknowledge it.) Academically he's happy with the classes and the profs; more so than he was at GWU. He's less happy with the social life, but is starting to meet people at the other schools in Amherst so at least he has people to hang out with.

We decided yesterday to go to PEI for Halloween. It is -- as my dad used to say to my maternal grandmother -- a big yontiff. Actually, Halloween does seem to be a big deal up there. We went last year, and it was over that weekend that we first saw the house we'd eventually buy (even if I didn't know it at the time.) The island was on full alert; we heard on the radio that there were warnings and curfews. Apparently they take seriously the "trick" part of "trick or treat." All the more reason for us to be there that weekend. We're looking into flights today.

Also got a call from the agent who used to list our house that one of her buyers wants to up their bid. Their original bid was low, lower than the others we've received. And these people have been interested in the house for a long time. They came several times last summer but hadn't been able to sell the house they were in. So it was a little surprising that when they finally did they made an offer so low. That's not entirely true; in this market no lowball offer is really all that surprising. I didn't call the agent back yesterday, because I got her message during the drowsiest, dopiest part of the day for me (read: the afternoon.) I'll call her back today. Liv is already skipping around the house at the idea that selling the house and moving into the city edges toward reality.

It's time to go. We're tired of the neighborhood, the commute, and everything else. We've moved past it in spirit, now we need to move past it in practicality. Maybe this time it will happen, and another enormous set of pressures will ease.

Things are moving and improving. Soon we'll be able to socialize again, start going places and seeing things and people. My mind is ready. My body will be soon.