Tags: New Year's resolutions 2011
You know I love New Year’s resolutions. Two years ago, my resolutions were clearly defined and yet highly unattainable. Last year, they centered around simply finding happiness (hot showers, more wine, more yoga…). I understand why people eschew resolutions in that they set unachievable expectations, leading to disappointment, etc. etc. Looking back over the past two years, it’s clear that I’m not one who makes resolutions and actually sticks to them, but I do get a lot of pleasure out of making them (in that I set up some sort of idealized vision of the future?). This year, I’m less able to articulate my New Year’s resolutions — I have some vague ideas about living more simply, lowering instead of raising my expectations, and trying to exist in some sort of more tempered universe. Of course, in the back of my head is a little voice saying, “Run more! More yoga! Spend less money!” but at the end of the year that included birth and death and health issues and lots and lots of sleepless nights — and somehow, in the midst of it all, a growing sense of contentment — I’m going to resist the urge (at least publicly) to enumerate my Resolutions.
Instead, my friend Lindsey had a fun and introspective little survey/questionnaire on her blog this morning, which I’m going to adopt. I’m answering these less thoughtfully than I otherwise might (blogging, as I am today, in the short window of Little O’s nap!) But maybe that will make my answers more honest.
What did you do in 2010 that you’d never done before? I spent seven months as a stay-at-home mom. I took a weekend trip to Florida with my college girlfriends. I participated in a competitive blogging challenge. I went three (almost four — since September 1, basically) months without running. This last one sounds like a crazy thing to list, but it actually imparted to me an important lesson. I used to think I needed to exercise for weight-maintenance. Eleven months of nursing, however, took care of that for me, and I realized that running in fact gave me much more than the ability to wear skinny jeans. If I have any resolutions at all for 2011, it is to remember that running keeps me sane, not thin.
Did you keep your new year’s resolutions and will you make more for 2011? Of course not. And of course — albeit with a more measured approach, I hope.
Did anyone close to you give birth? Yes! I did! But also my sister. And several close friends and seemingly half the tax department at my firm (literally — nine women in my relatively small department had babies this year!).
Did anyone close to you die? My great-uncle. And, just last week, a close family friend.
What countries did you visit? None. Sigh. Again, if I do have a resolution for 2011, it is to “remember Italy” (a metaphor and theme in a striking book I read recently, This Is Not the Story You Think It Is by Laura Munson — see Lindsey’s interview with her, here) — although in my case, it would “Remember Paris.” More on this in another post.
What would you like to have in 2011 that you lacked in 2010? Patience. Acceptance. Faith. Confidence.
What was your biggest achievement in 2010? Having a healthy baby would have to be it. But I’m also proud of myself for going back to my job. It wasn’t clear I was going to, but I do think it was the right choice, and perhaps the first time in my life I’ve done something truly rational, career-wise.
What was your biggest failure? A few work-related ones come to mind. But mostly I regret the times I’ve been short-tempered with Little Bug and a less-than-present daughter, sister, friend, and wife. I didn’t put down my iPhone/work email enough to stay focused on my family.
Did you suffer illness or injury? I feel like I’ve been sick a lot this year — an immune system no doubt compromised by severe sleep deprivation and preschool germs.
What is the best thing you bought? My iPhone and Pilates. (Am I a yuppie or what?)
Where did most of your money go? Starbucks and J. Crew. Ha ha, just kidding. Sort of.
What did you get really excited about? My girls’ weekend in Florida. My husband would tell me that I’m being all “Joy Luck Club,” but oh, god, there was something so refreshing and invigorating and inspiring about spending three days with the women who were with me when I became the woman I am, the women who have been there for me for the biggest hardships and greatest joys in my life, the women with whom I speak an abbreviated shorthand language and who can finish my sentences. And now, at this stage of our lives, the women with whom I can discuss my career, daycare, siblings, husbands and parents. Even though they may not be part of my day-to-day life, the are a part of the foundation of my life.
What song will always remind you of 2010? Have I listened to so little music that I can’t answer this? Probably, however, something country (since that is all Tim and I seem to listen to these days). I really like that song Welcome to the Future by Brad Paisley, though I suspect that was not released in 2010. OK, so, maybe I’ll make another resolution: listen to more music. It makes me happy — just as Glee made me so so happy this year.
Compared to this time last year, are you:
— happier or sadder? Happier
— thinner or fatter? Well, as I was eight months pregnant, this isn’t really a fair question!
— richer or poorer? It’s probably not a good thing that I can’t really answer this literally, but I imagine that since we spent most of 2010 paying two mortgages, poorer!
What do you wish you’d done more of? I wish I’d written more — here on this blog and elsewhere. I have a great idea for another blog, but I can’t seem to find the time to make it happen. I wish I could let myself go with my children — really play with them, focus on them wholly, without thinking about what’s next (be it cleaning up lunch, or what’s for dinner, or how much work I have, or even who has posted what on Facebook).
What do you wish you’d done less of? I wish I had spent less time agonizing over my job — both preemptively before I went back and then also on a daily basis once I was back. I think it affected my relationships with my family. It’s just a job. It’s not the greatest, most important job in the world, it’s not the end of the world, and I’m not a victim. I have to remember this.
How did you spend Christmas? As we do every year, in New Jersey, with my whole big crazy family. We snuggled in during a blizzard and took Little Bug in to New York City to the Museum of Natural History the day after the blizzard — rather ill-advised when it took us 4.5 hours and four different trains to get home!
Favorite TV program? Glee and The Good Wife.
Favorite books? I actually had a lot of time to read and finished more books than I have in years, both fiction and nonfiction. In the former category, the three books that stand out are: Dear Money by Martha McPhee, Cutting for Stone by Abraham Verghese, and Major Pettigrew’s Last Stand by Helen Simonson. They weren’t earthshaking, but I just loved each one. In the nonfiction realm I really liked No Ordinary Time by Doris Kearns Goodwin (the Roosevelts on the home front in WWII) and The Gift of an Ordinary Day by Katrina Kenison.
Favorite films? I only saw one movie in the theater this year — Eat, Pray, Love. (But I loved it. Sue me for my questionable taste!) Recently, I’ve seen The Town and The Kids are Alright on OnDemand, and, surprisingly, liked both (as you know, my taste in movies runs towards the saccharine, e.g., Eat Pray Love…)
What did you do on your birthday and how old were you? I can’t even really remember my 36th birthday! Luckily, I blogged about it. It was spring, and I was still home on maternity leave, and Tim took me to a local Italian joint for dinner because I was craving a real Bolognese.
What one thing would have made your year more satisfying? Just knowing from the start that I was going to go back to my job and that it would all be OK.
How would you describe your personal fashion concept in 2010? I have to divide this in to two parts: January – September and September – December. In the former, it was black yoga pants and spit-up stained black t-shirts. In the latter, it was black Theory pants or skirt and cashmere cardigans or blazers.
What kept you sane? Red wine. For reals. And phone calls with my mother. Daily, sometimes twice a day. Also, emails and texts from my hilarious friends.
Tell us a valuable life lesson you learned in 2010? You are not your job. In fact, I suspect that nobody really cares what you do except for you. You’re not a victim of some amorphous FIRM that is out to get you (a la John Grisham?) — you’ve made your choice and you can unmake it at any time. You’re not trapped. Also, even though you may get frustrated that your husband doesn’t like to hash out the nuances of your day, he is listening. More important: baby boys may not sleep and pre-school girls may whine, but it’s all doable. You can be much happier being grateful for what you have than wanting more, more, always more — this easier said than done, of course, especially for me, but slowly, slowly I feel like I’m on the verge of grasping this. I haven’t actually grasped it yet, but at least its a tangible concept now, something I can turn over in my mind, rather than something completely inaccessible.
Tags: the Boston Ballet, the Nutcracker
The owner of my very large office building treated his tenants to a production of The Nutcracker at lunchtime today, featuring actual dancers from the Boston Ballet. The fountain was shut off in the lobby of the building and a giant stage erected in its place. A live pianist accompanied the dancers, and though the performance was only about 40 minutes long, it featured the highlights: the Snow King and Queen, the Marzipan dancers (above), and the finale with the stiff dolls and the giant bear (see below). I called Janet and told her to walk down with Little Buggy, who, as I expected, was mesmerized! She clapped and said “Yaaaay!” and bounced up and down and wanted to jump up and dance.
Of course, her face-to-face meeting with the giant bear (below) was the highlight (yes, that’s her — you can tell by the bow on the upper right side of her head). I thought she was going to lose her mind.
Tags: a capella, a cappella
Yesterday I took the Little Bug to Hill House in Beacon Hill because I had heard there would be holiday a cappella (a capella? The spelling of this word has eluded me since 1993). I love Christmas carols (indeed, Christmas is just about the only time of year I go to church, for the sole reason that I can sing carols), and I love a cappella carols. This group, Noteworthy, was from Emerson College and they were quite good! Certainly the Tigressions never could have pulled off “I Don’t Want a Lot for Christmas” complete with a beat box. So it was sort of shameless self-indulgence for me, but the Little Bug — not all that surprisingly — loved it. She was mesmerized, and once she got over her shyness, walked right up to the singers and started dancing the middle of them. Of course, they loved it and were singing right to her. A wonderful, snowy afternoon topped off with hot chocolate at Cafe Vanille with Kara and Will and Auntie Meg.
Tags: baby music, country music, Johnny Cash
I was downloading some music for the Little Bug today. She loves Johnny Cash. Not kidding — she hears a baseline goes starts bouncing and going “Ch ch ch ch.” I ended up going on sort of a country music binge. So here’s today’s running mix, entitled “Country running.” I’m about to go test it out — we’ll see if you can actually get motivated by all that slide guitar. (There are a few non-country songs just to keep it interesting.)
Ready to Run — Dixie Chicks
Where the Green Grass Grows — Tim McGraw
Me and My Gang — Rascall Flatts
Convoy — C.W. McCall [old school!!]
She Thinks My Tractor’s Sexy — Kenny Chesney
Chattahoochee — Alan Jackson
Beer for My Horses — Toby Keith & Willie Nelson
Indian Outlaw — Tim McGraw
Last Name — Carrie Underwood
What Hurts the Most — Rascal Flatts
Apologize — OneRepublic
All I Wanna Do — Sheryl Crow
Rockstar — Nickleback
Someone to Love — Fountains of Wayne
A Change Would Do You Good — Sheryl Crow
Save a Horse (Ride a Cowboy) — Big & Rich [even if they did perform at the Republican Convention]
I Hope You Dance — Lee Ann Womack
Live Like You Were Dying — Tim McGraw
Ok, so the end of the playlist isn’t as strong as the beginning: this might not be a very long run…
Update: It might have been the time of day (just before dusk) or that I needed to run out some anxiety, but this playlist produced an excellent run — the kind where you tack on an extra half-mile just because you feel too good to stop. For any runners reading this, I highly recommend you download “Me and My Gang,” “Beer for My Horses,” and “Last Name” as soon as possible!
Tags: Coldplay, starting work as an associate, white wine
I got uncharacteristically weepy last night. I spent the rainy afternoon indoors with the Little Bug, dancing to the Dixie Chicks and cooking dinner for us (Tim was coming home late, so she and I noshed on butternut squash ravioli and blueberries — doesn’t it sound like an In Style party re-cap?), while simultaneously trying to keep her away from the unprotected electrical socket and out of the toilet. The song “I Believe in Love” came on (by the Dixie Chicks — the Coldplay came later), a beautiful song made melancholy by its minor harmonies. I just held my Little Bug (and she let me, putting her little head on my shoulder) and wiped away the (my) tears. My time being home with her is almost over. For the past year, except for some crunch times around exams (and the bar), I’ve spent at least some part of every day with her, mostly in the afternoons, strolling around Boston or hanging out playing at home as we did today. I’m not second guessing my decision to be a full-time+ lawyer, but perhaps finally (and perhaps necessarily) I’m feeling acutely the close of this rather wonderous year.
After she went to bed, I opened the Sauv Blanc and put on Coldplay (a combination which just screams “Warning! Warning!”) and organized the kitchen cabinets (not kidding.) When I finished, I realized that I’m now also done with all of the reorganization/cleaning/redecorating/shopping I meant to do in my post-bar/pre-work hiatus. Now I just have to sit around until Monday. And, again, tears. This larger, three-year period of my life also is coming to a close. These three years when I moved out of my longtime holding pattern to what I knew my life always could and should be. I’m very much at peace — surprising for me — with where I am in my life. And, yet, I’m again a bit blue at this crossroads. I loved law school from the very first day; then I met Tim and pretty much loved him from the very first day; then, of course, there was the Little Bug. And in between, the intellectual stimulation of classes, the camaraderie of my classmates, and a deepening and strengthening of my existing friendships as I began to find my footing again. It was a whirlwind, and still it was incredibly grounding. And this interlude in my life is now over.
So, onward (although first I shall spend the next three days drinking wine at lunch, sleeping in, and reading every trashy magazine I can get my hands on!)
Tags: Chris Martin, Coldplay, Pax Arcana, Radiohead, Viva La Vida
It’s Gwyneth or me, baby.
There was a rather bleak period in my life (pre iPod/iTunes), when I’d get in my car and drive around listlessly just so I could listen to Coldplay over and over and over and over and over. I believe my sisters were worried about me (perhaps rightly so!) and ultimately had an intervention. To no avail. You see, Chris Martin got me. He felt my pain, he really did. And his voice was so beautiful and the piano chords progressive and haunting. Those songs were a baseline soundtrack for a dissipating, confused, empty, sad transition for me, and I rode those piano escalations as if I were clutching a life vest in a cold ocean. Not to get too dramatic about it or anything…
Coldplay’s last album, X&Y, did not merit the same constant-play status as did Parachutes, A Rush of Blood to the Head, or even their live album. The lyrics were a bit too rhyme-y, the emotion a bit too contrived. So I was nervous about their new album Viva La Vida or Death and All His Friends — would I be forced to abandon Chris? Fortunately for him and me both, that seems not to be the case. I’ve only downloaded the two songs iTunes will allow me to so far — “Viva La Vida” and “Violet Hill.” But I have had them, yup, on constant replay. These two tracks are far from heartbreaking; in fact, they have an undercurrent of defiance while still embracing that Coldplay sense of longing. I know that Pax Arcana will make fun of me, but I urge him to listen.
Speaking of Pax, as my source for all things hip and musical Pax Arcana recently enlightened me that Radiohead got with the program and is now finally selling its individual songs on iTunes. (I can’t find the post, Pax — send it to me and I’ll link to it here!) So, thanks to the “happy studying” present/bribe iTunes card I received in the mail from Uncle Ropes, I spent the weekend downloading, along with the two Coldplay singles, some Radiohead (I’ve been too nervous to use Limewire anymore for illegal downloads). The result is an achingly mellow, satsifyingly gloomy playlist perfect for an equally as gloomy Monday spent outlining BarBri lectures. Enjoy(?):
Driving Sideways — Aimee Mann
Stolen Car — Beth Orton
Violet Hill— Coldplay
Hear Me Out— Frou Frou
Viva la Vida — Coldplay
There, There— Radiohead
Falling Slowly— Glen Hansard
If You Want Me— Glen Hansard
Why Georgia — John Mayer
When Your Mind’s Made Up— Glen Hansard
Maybe I’m Amazed— Jem
All at Sea— Jamie Cullum
Jerusalem — Eddie from Ohio
Silent House — Dixie Chicks
As I noted before, I don’t like movies that are suspenseful, scary, violent, or downers. And so therefore I didn’t see many of this year’s Oscar nominated movies. Last night, however, we watched Once, which won the Oscar for original song, and whose tagline is “How often do you find the right person?” (which right there makes it my kind of movie!) Here’s what else makes it my kind of movie: it is a surprising love story in that by not being a typical love story it’s all the more poignant and heartbreaking; it’s Irish and is set in Dublin; it’s about music; and, both physically and musically, the main character is a cross between Damien Rice and Chris Martin (check and check check check). My sister and her husband (who met through their Middlebury a cappella group and who dabble in the guitar) recommended it, so after the first few minutes (a long scene of the main character busking on a Grafton Street sidewalk), Tim was skeptical (“They probably liked this only because they’re musicians…”). But I was already hooked, and soon enough, Tim was too. We have, of course, already downloaded the soundtrack.
What was most touching to me, however, was a more subtle revelation about the artists. A quick recap of my day to set the mood in which I watched the movie: I took the MPRE in the morning (and still feel like I may have failed it), and Tim immediately picked me up so we could trek to the Babies R Us in Everett to buy some childproofing stuff for our about-to-be-quite-mobile 8-month-old. I find huge stores like that enervating to begin with, and the driving rain and traffic didn’t help. In other words: not a good way to relax after a tough and important exam. So, despite a lovely bottle of Chateauneuf du Pape that we were saving for a special occasion, I still hadn’t completely unwound from my self-induced yuppie stress. Back to the movie: the story is about a musician who sings on the streets of Dublin, but lives at home in the suburbs, helping his aging father in his vacuum-repair shop and a young, Czech émigré who sells roses and cleans houses, and who ducks into a music store on her lunch hours to play their floor model pianos. She helps the singer with lyrics and harmony, and he decides to record a spec CD to take to London to get a record deal. He asks some other buskers who perform down the street from him to help out on the tracks – another guitarist, a basist, a drummer. All five of them practice in John’s tiny bedroom and spend an entire night in the studio recording. What gave me goosebumps was the transforming effect of the music. The characters were no longer a vacuum-repair guy, or a housecleaner, or street buskers. In a poignantly powerful detail, one of the guitarists even wears a tie into the recording studio. It was worth it to them to live a relatively meager quotidian existence for the chance to do their art: music was that important. And, in the movie at least, this passion was tangible and authentic.
A few years ago, in a fit of despair and clarity (the former often brings on the latter), I thought I might run off to Rome and sweep floors in a well-known yoga studio to pay for my classes there and to support myself freelancing. I’m totally serious. It sounds terribly romantic and naïve, but I felt I’d be forced to be true to myself and, by giving up material comforts, might finally become the “real” writer I’ve always wanted to be. And yet, here I am, just months away from become a big-firm attorney. It would be easy to say that materialism and things won out, but, of course, real life is more complicated: this was, after all, just a movie that I watched last night. Still, I have a deep and almost soulful admiration for true artists who put their music or their writing or their painting first and let that art sustain them more than creature comforts. After taking the MPRE yesterday I thought, almost happily, that if I failed it and couldn’t sit for the bar, I’d have a whole summer to write a novel (which would, of course become so successful that I wouldn’t have to take the bar and be a lawyer anyway). Oh, the irony.
The winter flu season has inevitably struck down our wonderful babysitter, who, her other employer tells me, has never missed a day of work due to sickness in four years. So when Janet said she was feeling sick on Tuesday, I told her to head home immediately. Everyone in our house is finally healthy, and I’m a big believer that when people start to feel sick, they should get in their own beds before infecting everyone else. So I’ve had a few bonus days with the Little Bug. I was going to get two papers written during this Winter Break week, but that’s obviously not going to happen (was it really going to anyway?) Instead, I went to music class yesterday — for whatever music class can really be worth to a seven-month-old. Actually, she was totally engaged with the other babies and bouncing to the music. And I really don’t mind spending how ever much I’m spending so that she and Janet can wave some jingle bells around and do the hokey pokey every week. After watching a 60 Minutes segment on Sunday about a brilliant young composer — how he was inspired by his early violin lessons and the passion he now brings to classical music — I called my mother to ask where and when and how I was first exposed to music. I know that we had a scratched, hand-me-down, upright piano (that probably was never truly in tune) in our family room, and by the time I was four I was clamoring to learn how to play it for real. Those four-year-old lessons didn’t work out so well, but the next year I tried again and was hooked, taking lessons through my senior year in high school and then even for a semester in college (what?). Music at some points has been a consuming passion (like, in high school? When I locked myself in my room and made mix tapes featuring deep, deep songs by Billy Joel and Pink Floyd?) and other times has been one of the main focuses, for better or for worse, of my extra-curricular life (Tigressions). I do know that my parents sang to us all the time: we used to joke that we could name a word and my mother could come up with a song for it (“Mustard! Try mustard!”), and my father taught us to harmonize in his beautiful baritone. I want to give my daughter the exposure I had — singing around the house, music in the car, a piano to experiment on — so that she can choose for it to someday infuse and enrich her life as much as it did (does) mine. They key word here, though, is choice. I don’t want to force it on her, but just want to provide the environment that allows her to discover and hopefully embrace it on her own. I think that’s why it stuck with me: my parents never forced me to take piano. But music was in some form or another always around me. After I started lessons with much enthusiasm and success, they did insist that my sisters take lessons, however, and I think that’s why they rebelled and didn’t last more than a few years. Although Jennifer, who took lessongs much longer than Erin, did end up in an a cappella group in college, as well. (I also remember one car ride when a three-year-old Erin tried to sing “ABCD” and we were all horrified — horrified — that she couldn’t sing it in tune (how awful is that?)) I’m not really sure what my point is, other than to immediately contradict myself and wonder if maybe a little direction actually might not be so harmful. If you have to start by forcing the issue, perhaps you can open a child’s eyes to something they might eventually enjoy? Isn’t that a theme of parenting in general?
Anyway, one of the (many) things I love about my husband: while he may not have been in an a cappella group (or even close to it!) he, too, loves to sing and sings around the house (and, in fact, it is he who finally got me to watch American Idol after years of protesting in principle). Most sweetly, he sings to our daughter, making up songs just for her.
Someone once asked me: if you had the choice between either only television or music in your home, which would you choose?