Saturday, January 31, 2009

Business Travel Is The New Canker Sore

So I have just returned from a whirlwind forty-eight hour trip to New York City. Got in late last night and, despite the fact that I arrived home exhausted and frozen to the bone, still woke up at 7 a.m. this morning. Damn this internal alarm clock, it refuses to let me sleep in.

Let me just start by saying that I love New York City with all my heart. Except in January. In January I apparently have to recite over and over to myself "I love New York, I love New York" in order to not want to flee and never return. Really, that's not fair to either of us. The problem with this trip is it was A) too short and B) planned by others. Now, I have visited Manhattan under a wide variety of circumstances over the years: with a purpose or for fun; alone or with an assortment of companions. She has never disappointed. Apparently, that is because I have never before had to overnight in her bowels, aka the Financial District, with a mere three hour window of time with which to do as I pleased before having to subject myself to obligation.

Compound this with the fact that my business traveling companion - we'll call him Rocky - has not developed the same passion for Her as I have, which obviously can only be because he has not spent enough time there. Yet he has listened to me express my own love for the city enough times that I felt absolutely responsible for justifying it on this trip.

Well, we didn't start out well. For starters, they don't exactly roll out the jumbo jet for the fifty-odd minute flight to LaGuardia. When you have to walk across the tarmac to get to the plane, it's pretty freaking tiny. The mini aircraft did not agree with Rocky, nor did the rather long and turbulent drive from Queens to the bowels. I think he would have preferred that I leave him alone to recover, but I was on a mission. The concierge suggested SoHo for our extremely short leisure time, and off we went.

Maybe we did it wrong. I don't know. But SoHo? Not my favorite neighborhood. I'm at a loss for words here, because I don't want to me, it seemed even more touristy than midtown, and what I didn't want was touristy. Between my inner disappointment, poor Rocky's still weak stomach, and the insufferable January cold, it was not quite the explosion of "You were so right about this city!" that I was hoping for. Defeated.

Everything in between SoHo and my return was obligation-related. Obligatory business dinner Thursday night. Obligatory ferry ride to Jersey City Friday morning to attend obligatory business meeting. It was a bittersweet experience to gaze across the river at Manhattan during the obligatory lunch - a little like watching your best friend laughing at someone else's joke. We took the obligatory car service directly back to LaGuardia after the meeting, which meant far too many hours sitting in an airport. There is little in this world that I dislike more than waiting at the airport. If my travel plans are up to me, I factor in as tight of an airport experience as I can manage. Alas, Rocky and I were on the same flight home as well, and the return car ride was no less tormenting to him than the initial one, so it was not only a painfully long wait but a very quiet one. Poor Rocky.

Oh well. I can only hope I find a way to visit again soon, perhaps with Boyfriend. At least I can now scratch "stay overnight in the Financial District" off my list of Things To Do Before I Die. Oh wait, that wasn't on the list.

Monday, January 26, 2009

Let The Whining Begin

Can I just say? That I really do not enjoy being an adult.

Oh sure, it has its perks, I suppose. For instance, I can drive. I can enjoy an adult beverage out in the open, without having to slide the vodka bottle back under the passenger seat in D's beat up old Subaru while she looked out for the cops. (Probably those two examples shouldn't have been mentioned consecutively, but you get my point...) I can stay up as late as I want. If I feel like eating cheese and crackers for dinner, so be it. What else? I can go to R-rated movies. I can vote. I can get jury duty. I can hold a mortgage. Wait...

As I was saying, adulthood is too frequently not fun. Not fun at all. Like working? Really grating on me. Cooking dinner? Occasionally enjoyable, when done with others or at least not in a mad frenzy. On a daily basis it is highly sucky. Especially the whole cleaning up afterward thing. Hate that part. The thing about being a grownup is you are compelled to clean it up. Can't resist. Must Remove Mess From Kitchen So Kitchen Is Not Eyesore/Health Threat. And while I am reluctantly inflicted with this compulsion, it is glaringly clear that Fifth Grader and Third Grader are not the slightest bit bothered by a mess of any kind, which I really envy.

Also, there is the matter of getting older. Not a fan of the getting older. Don't like feeling that opportunities have been missed. Not enjoying the amount of time I feel like sleeping. Less than crazy about the redundancy of adulthood. Nothing like watching an hour of hip hop music videos - chockful of ripely endowed 20-year-old women frolicking in VIP rooms with extremely buff young men - while I get my nails done to remind me that a whole host of behaviors are now officially wildly inappropriate to my own life.

But at least! least, I think...I am not trying to make up for my own sorrows in life by micromanaging the lives of my children. Oh, how I hope I am not doing that. Because believe me, I see it going on around me. Gymnastics comes to mind. The invitational of this past weekend springs to memory. The incessant, nails-on-chalkboard, no end in sight gabfest between certain other mothers of certain other girls on certain other teams about the minutiae of their daughters' routines and the hours of labor (their daughters' labor, not theirs) invested to perfect specific elements of said routines rings a faint bell. Oh, the despair! The frustration! The blatant pushing! It was eye-opening. And I wanted to tell these painfully disappointed women that they ought to put down their nachos and haul their own tired butts out there on the balance beam and we'll see how exasperating that is to watch...but I did not.

Because I am a grownup.

I have meandered, I know. I have no tidy ending today. Just a simple "I feel much better now."

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

My Week, Jeopardy Style

Answer: Somewhere around two or three, the tossing and turning begins.

Question: What is the hour at which I have woken up every day this week?

Answer: At least once a day.

Question: What is the number of times I have been on facebook this week?

Answer: Um...twice, I think...

Question: What is the number of times I have been on my treadmill this week?

Answer: A giant time suck, served with a large side of photos from the 80s, garnished with "friend" requests - which is code, I believe, for "please give me permission to be a fly on the wall of your life if I feel like it. And in return, here is mine."

Question: What is my take on the facebook experience so far?

Answer: To completely reverse those facebook/treadmill numbers. Permanently. Seriously, people. It's just wrong.

Question: What is my goal next week?

Answer: Praying for J and G's baby, A, who is still on breathing apparatus and in critical (but stable) condition after a week in the hospital with a viral infection. Your prayers are welcome as well.

Question: What is what else I have done with my time this week that hasn't been completely wasteful?

Answer: Watching a gymnastics meet, naturally. And hopefully writing the column that's due Sunday night.

Question: What is how I will keep busy all weekend?

Answer: A fishbowl-size margarita. And a large money tree. And a nap.

Question: What are things that would come in handy right now?

Answer: Seriously, please pray for baby A, and for my friends J & G waiting at her bedside. They need all the help they can get right now.

Question: What is the only thing that really matters in this post?

Sunday, January 18, 2009

Like a Road Trip, Only More Expensive

Yesterday I managed to pack seventy miles onto my odometer, all within a ten mile radius of my house. My tour went like this: Home to grocery store to Y to home to Y to double drop-offs of Tornadoes. Do you see anywhere in there the slightest hint of "this is my day off and so I am relaxing"? No.

Not much could be done about the grocery shopping. It's a necessary evil. Since admitting a few months ago that I'm at the grocery store waay too often, I've made a concerted effort to be more efficient about it. Now I manage to make one gargantuan trip every three weeks or so, and find the need to back fill a few things once a week. Yesterday was gargantuan day. It was also Meet Day for Fifth Grader, which meant we were A) pressed for time and B) required to show up with a food contribution of some kind. The three of us went into the store with the understanding that if it wasn't on sale we weren't buying it, which actually hurried things up quite a bit and yet still cost me $300. Is eating really necessary? Really? Anyway, off to the Y to drop off Fifth Grader for warm ups, store bought bakery items in hand, then home with Third Grader to unload groceries and pack their bags for their respective sleepovers later on. Back to the Y to be rushed by a very happy Fifth Grader who reported that she would be competing on bars for the first time all season, meaning she would finally have an all around score and a chance at qualifying for States and Regionals. Third Grader didn't compete yesterday, but she did ditch me upon arrival to go play the music for the floor routines. Occasionally she returned to ask for money. You know, for food. Again with the food.

Fifth Grader did very well all around but missed qualifying by 0.35 points. The good and bad news? There's always next weekend. By the time the meet ended it was almost five o'clock, and seeing as I had a date last night, I was a bit anxious to get the heck out of there. So I tried to talk Fifth Grader into sneaking out the side door without going through all the normal rigmarole of leaving a home meet. All the cleaning and checking out and not being allowed to check out because there's more cleaning to do: I just wasn't in the mood for it. But the girl wouldn't have it. Fearful of being made to do nine million push ups at her next practice, she insisted on playing by the rules. Even with a sleepover birthday party awaiting, she wouldn't buck the system. Damn obedient kid.

I finally got the two of them situated at friends' houses for the night and myself home again to get ready to go out with Boyfriend. Personally, I would have been just as thrilled to curl up in front of a fire with him and soak up the extremely rare aloneness, but I wasn't about to admit that after insisting all week that we go out. And having said that much, I would rather write another three paragraphs about grocery shopping that invite y'all to the details of my night. I believe I mentioned the extreme rarity of our aloneness. 'Nuff said.

The downside to having a fabulous night is, of course, the next day. The rescooping of the Tornadoes. The finishing of errands that I couldn't squeeze in yesterday. The fifteen dollars worth of fast food purchased in apology for dragging them around to do errands when, it appears, neither of them slept last night at all. Now that we are all home, it's eerily quiet. Overtired quiet. Slightly cranky quiet. Perhaps I will get an evening of peace out of the deal if they both agree to be ushered to bed early. Am I that lucky? I guess we'll see.

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

And How Does That Make Me Feel?

As promised, I have returned to enlighten you as to why I am such a stressball this week. Actually...knowing me, I probably won't tell you all that much. I might allude. I might suggest. But it would be highly out of character for me to put it all out there in plain view. I mean, let's be honest here: that picture over there on the left? Not really me.

Like I said, there are many details. Layers, really. Layers of varying thicknesses of stress. Here's an example of a fairly thin layer: I am suffering from Facebook anxiety. I have heard no fewer than ten times in the past week alone that I HAVE to get on Facebook. Why do I HAVE to get on Facebook, may I ask? I have zero desire to get in touch with that girl from the first grade who grossed me out with her gross yogurt every day. Plus, I hear there is a certain expectation to share things. Like pictures from your actual life. This information only serves to thicken the layer, you know. I much prefer the comfortable distance of an avatar, a pseudonym, a stunt double even. I can't really explain my aversion in any concrete way, but I am going to have to get over it pretty quickly here. Because if I truly am the last person on the face of the earth to not be on Facebook, that's usually about the time for me to jump on board. Much like this past weekend was the first time I have ever created an iPod playlist. Seriously. First time. And it has made my morning run SO much more enjoyable. Who knew? Now that I am no longer suffering through the only FM radio station that comes through on my basement stereo - complete with newscasts and mega commercial breaks - I suppose it's time I signed up for FaceBook, too.

Let's peel back another layer now. This is a pretty substantial one. I am yearning. I yearn. Yearn for what, you ask? I can't tell you. But I will say that it is seriously driving me bananas. I am completely inexperienced when it comes to this particular yearning. And it makes me feel like some kind of lunatic. Try as I might, I can't seem to just BE. And communicating this yearning? I'm sure I sound as pathetic as I feel, which is surely not going to bring my yearning to any kind of satisfactory conclusion, which just compounds the yearning problem. Is there a pill for this?

Okay, a layer in the middle. I hate winter. I almost liked it for a few minutes last weekend when Third Grader and I went snowboarding. That was early on in the day, while I was still in the capable hands of Sarah the Instructor, and not yet repeatedly slamming my body into the ground. In fact, I think I actually said to Sarah the Instructor, "Now I see why people like doing this!" It was unusually chipper of me. Then my lesson ended and the repeated body slamming began. The fact is that I don't like being bad at things, and I am really truly bad at snowboarding. True, I left the mountain full of determination to return another day. And then, tonight, Fifth Grader came home from her first trip with the school program and bragged her head off about taking the chairlift. Whatever. If I try to keep up with her on this endeavor, I will end up in a body cast.

Well, that's all the time we have today. I think we've made a lot of progress. At least, I'm standing a lot closer to the vodka now. That's progress, I think.

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

So This Is Festivus

There's nothing finer to do around here, on a frigid Monday night in January, than haul yourself over to the school gym for a Holiday Concert. Wouldn't you agree?

Well, whether or not you agree, that's what we did last night. Among the myriad of annoyances dropped at our doorstep in December - courtesy of mammoth ice storm and multiple blizzards - was the cancellation of Fifth Grader's Winter Musicale. Third Grader's went on as scheduled, but you'll notice I did not write about it this year. Because honestly, not much to say about it. The school replaced both the music teacher and the librarian/chorus teacher/organizer-of-all things-presentation-related this year, and the newbies don't seem to be quite as driven as their predecessors. So there were no elaborate sets, no overly contrived themes, and no giant raccoon heads to hide my view of my own child. Just your basic singing. Pleasant, but not blogworthy, I'm afraid.

Fifth Grader's concert, on the other hand, had built-in potential. There are instruments involved. And band instructors. You may recall that I have a crush of sorts on the band instructor. Plus, we get to enjoy the awkwardness of eleven- and twelve- year olds who have been herded onto a stage in front of their parents and who have developed just enough self-consciousness to not know, from one song to the next, whether they are enjoying themselves or are completely humiliated by this experience. It's fun.

The best thing I can say about the night, honestly, is at least that's over with. Not that the kids didn't do a fine job. It's just that listening to songs about Christmas lights and Santa Claus and spinning dreidles in mid-January is beyond corny. It's corny enough in the throes of the holidays, but in January? It's just painful. As for the band instructor - well, I won't lie, I was momentarily thrilled. But the key word there is "momentarily", because what I really have a crush on is band instructor's passion for his job, and his demeanor last night fell more in the Decidedly Underwhelmed category. You can't really blame the guy. The moment has passed, you know what I mean? "St. Nick's Salsa" just doesn't pack the same punch after the deadline.

Anyway, the program said there was also some singing, but I can't be sure because I didn't really hear any. I saw a lot of kids up on stage moving their mouths around, and the music teacher waved her arms around quite a bit, presumably to persuade them to be audible, but no dice. The renditions of Good King Wenceslas were blessedly reduced to only two this year from last year's high of five - but again, it could have been twenty for all I know, because you couldn't hear a thing. Apparently this year's batch of fifth and sixth graders are the coolest kids who ever lived. Hence, too cool to sing.

So there it is, my review of this year's Public School Festival of Holiday Music. It's a little flat, I know, but you work with what you've got, people. I'm a bit of a stressball this week - please note the time that I am writing this as evidence of my stressball state - but I hope to be back here again tomorrow. Perhaps I will indulge you with some details of my stress. There are many details. I know you are dying to hear about it, as you are all probably falling a little short on your own stress these days. Because aren't these fun times right now? Right. Superfun.

One last thing: go read my new column. Go. Right now. Don't argue with me!

Sunday, January 4, 2009

Just A Little Something

Here we are, four days into 2009. And I am bored. Bored bored bored. So. Bored.

I don't know about you, but being bored makes me angry. Mostly because being bored is really just cryptic talk for being lonely. And then, once I start making that translation, I find that I am tiptoeing into feeling just a wee bit sorry for myself, which really pisses me off. I mean, really. Why go there? Aren't there so many other people in this world to feel sorry for besides my own pathetic self? Take my next door neighbor, for instance: he is never going to sell that freaking house. How frustrating that must be for him, with his big wooden For Sale sign out there on display and nobody the least bit interested in taking a peek inside. After all his hours of large equipment use and noise pollution to create a personal oasis of landscaping beauty (so I've heard, anyway), the dumb ass is trying to sell his house in the middle of winter. Poor sap.

Then again, that just means he will continue to be my neighbor for the foreseeable future, which, naturally, brings the discussion back to me. Poor, poor me.

Seriously, I've had a nice run the past few days. New Year's Eve was a good time. It definitely felt good to have a house full of people again - as I mentioned, it's been a long time - and I suffered no residual pain the next day, which either means my plan to stick to top shelf vodka really worked or else I simply did not drink enough. I confess that I am one of those people who faithfully, yet annoyingly, proclaims multiple New Year's resolutions each and every year and actually tries to live up to them, but the most I was able to come up with on New Year's Day was a vow to consume all the leftover wine and Sam Adams over a reasonable period of time rather than have to dump any of it out. Yeah, I'm goal oriented like that. Fortunately for everyone, Boyfriend whisked away a great quantity of beer to his own house when he left.

In other news, Third Grader has now reached the Big 9 - a celebratory occasion that we marked by running amok at the Y with thirty-plus other girls overnight (her) and going to the movies to see the Dark Knight (me). I have now gone to the movies by myself exactly twice and I can't decide if I like it. Good points: no popcorn, no bathroom runs, no INCESSANT TALKING THROUGHOUT THE ENTIRE MOVIE. Bad points: back to that lonely thing again. The Official Big 9 Party was held on Saturday at Chunky's Cinema Pub, so I had the opportunity to compare and contrast movie going experiences. What is Chunky's, you say? I assume these types of movie theatres exist under some name in your particular part of the world - I don't exactly live in the epicenter of inventive family entertainment - but Chunky's is basically a movie theater/restaurant. So much more desirable a place to invite nine little girls for three hours than my own recently-made-clean-again house. So how did the experiences compare? I much preferred The Dark Knight over Bedtime Stories, but otherwise it was a draw. Go figure.

I'll skip over the part where I then took the Tornadoes plus one permitted sleepover guest to an indoor amusement center for two hours, as well as the part where I spent my Sunday morning lolling about, reading the entire Sunday paper and six chapters of Loving Frank (a post for another day) over multiple cups of coffee. Which brings me back to my point: I am BORED.

I think there are two possible roots to this problem. Root number one I have already mentioned: a lack of company. I am so sick of my own company I may have to break up with myself. Root number two is it's January, and it's cold, and I'm in the woods. What I wouldn't give for a little city noise right now. What I wouldn't give for some traffic and crowds of people and the smells of a dozen types of food establishments. Or conversely, what I wouldn't give to have someone else right here in the flesh on a Sunday afternoon in January to curl up with and say..."I am so bored."

Hey, nobody can solve everything.

Well, that killed some time at least. Now I'm going to go see what you all have had to say for yourselves lately.