Photography

Selling point

It’s the phone that seals the deal.

Did I mention we forgot to light our Menorah on day one? It’s because we were so busy…

Our neighbors down the block have had their tree up since before Thanksgiving, and a house just a few steps from there has had lights twisted through their porch hand railing since 1274 AD.  Ruby knows this habit of displaying holiday accoutrements of any kind, outside of the month in which the holiday they celebrate takes place, is against my by-laws.  She therefore screams as we drive down the street, “A CHRIS! MUS! TREE!?! IT’S NOT CHRISMUS YET, STINKY!”  Someday, she’ll swear like I do—something more like, “IT’S! NOT! FUCKING! CHRISTMAS! YET! DIPSHITS!”—and I will applaud her.  It’s comforting to know my neurosis is being successfully embedded.

So patiently did my child wait through that long last week of November—excited and yet, forlorn that other people were breaking the rules and she couldn’t—that we broke down and went for the gold last night, on December 1st, about two weeks before we normally procure our Noble Fir (and, as it happens this year, on the first day of Hannukah, which consequently took a back seat for these Jews. Or perhaps I should say, “Jews”.)

To set the mood, I put on a little Sufjan Stevens holiday music, Ruby had some hot spiced cider, Sam and I enjoyed hot toddys and then we went to work. I always seem to forget during the other 11 months of the year, that putting up a tree is a lot of work.  And with a five-year-old assistant, things tend to be a little skeewompus:  Beads don’t gently droop like dew drops, but strangle like string around a brisket; many branches remain empty, while others bend with the weight of six precariously hung ornaments; and all 40 candy canes are positioned within arms reach of a 47-inch person.  This type of disorganization drives me batty, as I like my tree to be Just. So.  But dang if it doesn’t look pretty when I’ve taken out my contacts.

Thank the sweet baby Jesus that this only happens once a year.  And believe me when I say, come New Years Day? That thing will be naked and curbside while our neighbors cling to their decorations through Valentines Day.

What–exactly WHAT?!?–have I been doing?

Oh, this poor little languishing blog. Every time I think I might have some time to write, be it something Momentously Important to the Survival of Humanity or the teensiest of posts, I am yanked in another direction. And (sheesh this is boring, stop me now!) the worst thing about not sitting down to write—besides not sitting down to write—is that not doing so breeds a stupefying lack of inspiration and even more refined methods of avoiding putting my ass in this chair. The less frequently I type, the more terrifying the blank screen and blinking cursor.

It is true, however, that there is a lot going on in Belferland, a lot that isn’t diaper changes and feedings, but is almost equally as interesting. Silly me: I was under the impression that having a child in grade school would free up some time, but it turns out the exact opposite is true. And just when there are additional demands on my time, I’ve been trying to juggle…some other stuff I can’t really go into now. Anyway, in the midst of doing a bunch of distracting, borderline-procrastinatory stuff, I up and launched a new blog. Because…you know…the upkeep of this one is going so swimmingly. Besides, when the work piles up on my plate, I tend to prioritize pedicures and baking.

So if you have a sec, go check out my latest venture, the Sartorialini.  She is open for comments.

Thanks, Joe.

What She Wore

I love fashion. It’s not a secret. But I’m not very good at putting things together in a creative or original way. I actually suck at it. Quite magnificently. When I go shopping, which I don’t care for at all, I tend to buy the same thing over and over and over again. I don’t mean to do it, I just gravitate to what’s safe: I have thing for jeans—though a reasonable argument can be made for never having too many pairs of jeans—which pile up higher than my stack of unread New Yorkers. And frequently heard comments from my husband include the back-tracking winner, “Oh, you bought another sleeveless, solid-color jersey t-shirt with ruching. It’s super cute!”

Thankfully, I’ve found a few websites to help me think “outside the box,” a phrase I dislike almost as much as “ah-ha! moment” and more than dressing room lighting, which is saying something.

Anyway, last Friday, I found and fell in love with a new-to-me website and subsequently gave over hours of valuable writing time to perusing What I Wore. The hostess, Jessica Schroeder is darling and very, very good at what she does; I would urge any woman who is looking for ideas to visit her site. I want to be her when I grow up, except that she’s probably 15 years younger than I am. There is no turning back the clock, but I can covet and borrow, which is the whole point of her website.

By Friday afternoon, I was inspired enough to dig out the only scarf I own. If I do say so myself, I think I looked just a little bit more fashionable this weekend as I cheered on the US men’s soccer team from my couch.  Look at me, breaking out of my normal norms and trying some thing dangerous and new:

Okay, so maybe I look a little silly with a scarf tied in my hair. But I tried it! And the influence stretched beyond me.

He puts rabid soccer fans to shame.

Alright, if Sam and I can’t successfully translate Jessica’s ideas, then perhaps we should look closer to home for someone who can…

When:
June 13, 2010

What:
Dress: Target
Yoga Top: Target
Leg Warmers: Hannah Andersson
Socks: The Children’s Place (one purple, one pink)
Shoes: Target
Flower in hair: A stranger’s garden (she only took one!)

Where:
Breakfast at Brian’s and the Hillcrest Farmer’s Market

Why:
Because she can’t not. It’s in her DNA, which obviously is not mine. I have much to learn. The question is, can it be taught?

There will be words to go with this very soon

The Big Blue Boy Scout

Our neighbors had a yard sale this weekend, providing a spontaneous photo op. And, of course, there was a natural evolution.

Summer in April

Everything changes. Of all the many things about which I am uncertain, this is not one of them. The only thing we can count on in life is that everything—and I do mean everything—will change. Nothing stays the same and I hold onto this knowledge when life is darkest. It is the philosophy which has helped me make it through some very bleak times. And it is the same philosophy which compels me to embrace, acknowledge and celebrate when things are good.

I have no idea what tomorrow will be.

But today, right now, things are really, really good.

(First and last photos, like bookends, by Sam.)


Naked


Every Wednesday at 5-o’clock, Ruby has swim class. Once her thirty minutes of floating, leaping, belly-flopping and retrieving pink plastic rings has elapsed, it is our routine to head for the locker room and change her into her “soft pants.” This has proven to be a giant effort because while I’m trying to get her wet clothes off and her dry clothes on, she is involuntarily frozen in place like a zombie, transfixed by three 8-year-old girls who are also changing—secretly, beneath towels pulled around their bodies like cocoons—at the same time each week following their swim team practice. Oh, how her eyes swirl when these little girls tramp through the locker room in their swim caps and racer-back suits, dripping wet, shivering and hugging themselves on the way to the showers.

Ruby stares at them as I wiggle her swim suit over her bottom, around her hips and down to her ankles.  She stares as I dry her naked body with the mostly wet towel, as I coach her like I might an invalid to step into her underwear (if I remember to bring them) and then into each of her pants legs. Meanwhile, the girls completely ignore her—with the exception of a slight smile offered by one on the very first day of lessons—while they gossip about other kids and prevent any accidental exposure of their privates.

As I’m pulling Ruby’s clothes across her sticky skin, watching her rapturously watching them, I’m aware of the already-in-full-bloom body image issues being modeled not 6 feet away from my daughter. And I’m reminded of 7th grade gym class. And my teacher, Mrs. Allen.

At nearly 6-feet tall, Mrs. Allen was an imposing figure. She wore white tennis socks, white leather athletic shoes and pleated navy blue Bermuda shorts, always with a cotton tank top, usually white. She might wear a wind breaker or warm up pants if it was cold, the kind that made a wooshing noise as she walked.  She was big boned and thick-kneed with a voice like ball bearings and short, curly brown hair that looked like it had been plucked from a mannequin head circa 1977. I used to watch for wig confirmation, to see if it would slide around when she scratched her head, something she did often when she wasn’t handling equipment or managing fitness tests.

Whatever our activities, each day at the end of dreaded gym class, we were required to take a dreaded shower and then, to prove it. Mrs. Allen would lean against the doorway of the shower room with a clipboard in her hand, inspecting each girl for shower evidence. I don’t know where I’d learned to be self-conscious but, like the other girls in my class, I wasn’t about to get naked in front of anybody, which of course makes it fairly challenging to shower. But, like the other girls in my class, I managed my way around the requirement quite well.

I wrapped myself in a white towel, tucking it at mid chest like I’d learned from my mother, and I did the hokey-pokey in the communal shower like the rest of the troops: Stick one leg in, then the other. Stick one arm in, then the other. I’d splash some water on my chest, shoulders and face (sure, actual showering would have been less effort but this was equally convincing and less…nude). Then I’d show Mrs. Allen the necessary proof to be freed for a day. I was 12 years old.

Later, as a dance major in college—a situation that sometimes required full costume changes not just backstage, but in the wings—I had a very difficult time unlearning the don’t-get-naked-in-the-locker-room rule that had defined my self-loathing since junior high. I’d hidden and hated my body for a long time and that didn’t just magically come undone. And now my four-year-old is learning, from girls only twice her age, that she should be embarrassed and ashamed of her body.

Raising a daughter is treacherous. Short of stripping off my clothes in the locker room every Wednesday, I’m not exactly sure how to combat this message or if anything I say will be half as cool as what those girls do.


Rounding corners

I woke up this morning and declared that I have diabetes, given all the weird symptoms I’m suffering since coming home from Positano. Sam took that moment to laugh in my face and remind me of the severe jet lag I’m experiencing. He could be right, I suppose: I have been drinking rivers of water to make up for the mere 3 ounces I consumed over the past 10 days. And I thought red wine, Prosecco and limoncello would hydrate me and make my skin glow. Instead, I have puffy eyes, dry mouth and have to pee 17 times each night. It’s sexy, I tell you.

My goal had been to post photos every day while I was gone, but I took so many of them that trying to process and then find the time to post was just too much. So I’ve worked on organizing my favorites and have put some on Facebook. I will upload all of those (and more) to Flickr when I have time later this week. In the meantime, I can’t help but offer a few more glimpses into this sigh-inducing place.

I went sauntering as often as I could and it was the many nooks and crannies I loved the most. The ceramics and cobblestones and shockingly green moss made this very old place so vibrant, it hummed.

There was beauty in the smallest details.

And in the kind, generous people.

As Ron Carlson might say, “How many views are there of Positano? About a jillion.” And each one is more heartstopping than the last. Some feel like a proclamation.

Others feel like a secret whispered by a lover into the curve of an ear.

Is it any wonder I found myself weeping—at times, sobbing—several times every day?

I’m supposed to be a writer, a person who can use language to describe a place. But I find myself lingering over clichés, falling into a wind-blown, head-thrown-back, one-shoulder-bared Harlequin trap. And this is to say nothing about John Steinbeck, who already wrote about it so brilliantly as to render my meager attempts an embarrassment. The delete key has been my good friend these last days and for now, my pictures will have to tell you how I feel about Positano.

But I will say this: Magic doesn’t describe this place. I think accurate description requires the invention of a new word.  Any suggestions?