Marathon On

April 21st, 2014

Last week they began to construct the viewing stands for the Boston Marathon Finish Line, 2014.

It brings back so many memories, good, bad awful.

I make myself walk the block.

I feel claustrophobia at the pinch points, behind the bleachers, where I feel compressed by the wooden walls. I remember this from last year, how I knew where the bombs had gone off, at points that felt like this.

This is part of Boston, for now and forever. The memories, these feelings, are everywhere. And I wasn’t injured, or running.

You see it wherever you go, reminders, exhortations. We are getting ready, to ‘Take Back the Finish Line.”

Even the pansies outside the public library are Boston Athletic Association colors, Marathon colors.

As the week progresses, store windows fill with equipment and mementos.

There are celebratory pots of daffodils appearing in the windows, and at the doorways, of every business and home in the Back Bay. A gift from Boston Strong…

On Saturday Copley Square if filled with people. And runners.

The annual 5K. There are many teams running to honor the memories of those killed and injured.

They stage an invitational high school milers competition. It is so great to see these strong young runners flying over the Finish Line.

The city is ready, and has been.

We are ready.

Marathon Day. We all run Boston.

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Resolutions? Resolute.

April 17th, 2014

We are well into the New Year now.

I guess it’s just the regular year after January, isn’t it?

Did you make some New Year’s Resolutions? What were they, do you remember? To eat better? Exercise more? Lose weight? How are you doing with that?

And me? Yes, I made some resolutions. Sort of life changing. To get back to work. Full time. For pay. Outside the home.

How and why?

I applied to an innovative new program called reacHIRE, which is “creating a new path for exceptional women who have taken a career break to transition back to work.” Yes, of course I’d like to think I am exceptional….

I applied to reacHIRE in December, was interviewed, and accepted into just the second ‘cohort’. I joined twelve wonderful, able, ambitious and committed women, my classmates, all determined to get back to work, and back to something approximating the professional careers they had enjoyed. We started our classes in the freezing cold of January, on our three phase journey back to professional presence.

“reacHIRE offers a systematic approach for professional women to re-enter the workforce. Its unique 3-tiered system of technical, management and executive skills re-training, career coaching, and paid project assignments assures that women have the latest tools at their fingertips, have focused career objectives, and are confidently able to re-enter the workforce armed and motivated to create tremendous value.”

We worked on our elevator pitches, our resumes and our LinkedIn profiles. We visited Microsoft for a refresher course on Office, with special attention to new features of spreadsheets, and pivot tables. (Me neither.) Behavioral interviewing preparation and techniques. Emotional intelligence. To Google for search engine optimization, Google Analytics, Google Drive, and the future as Google sees it, through Google glasses and driverless cars. Internet marketing, CRM, and project management – Agile, anyone? Presentation skills, and our own PowerPoint presentations.

We stressed. We grew. We rediscovered ourselves.

Following ‘graduation’ I was contacted about an interview for a six-month paid placement at a major corporation… and off I went, with my professional toolkit newly refreshed and resharpened. Two days of interviews, follow ups on the phone, and there I was, going back to work.

Here.

It’s been two weeks now, me back at work, with a new boss, a new team, and new projects.

A new old me.

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Done and Dusted

January 4th, 2014

Least.Favorite.Day.of.the.Year.

Taking down the Christmas tree.

It doesn’t look so pretty now, does it? And no one is coming to gather around the tree, not again, until December 2014.

No one is coming to help with this job either.

The lights are off, the glass ornaments are tucked back into their tissue, and their plastic bags, and their layers of felt, and safely stored away in their battered cardboard boxes.

The mantles are swept bare.

Bare looks good in January.

The denuded tree will finally exit down the back stairs on Sunday, with help from The Boy. We are still barely dug out after Winter Storm Hercules, so it won’t help anyone in our neighborhood to add an over sized pine tree to the giant snow piles in the back alley.

What I will keep is the amaryllis. Yes, I purchased this sprouting bulb at the beginning of December, so that it would be in full crimson bloom by Christmas Day. No dice.

But the budding amaryllis looks fresh and green and full of promise at the start of this New Year.

Maybe it will bloom for Valentine’s Day?

The tree.

Done and dusted. I am going out to play in the snow.

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First Night, First Snow

January 2nd, 2014

It’s been cold. So c-c-c-cold.

I walked around on New Year’s Eve, before the parade, to visit the First Night ice sculptures in progress. Carving ice in this weather, with a power saw. Brrrr. RRrrrr.

I’m not sure I was won over by this year’s entrants. Buffy: “N’ICE PUPPY”. What do you think?

There was an important (if not artistic) memorial to the Boston Marathon and the terrible bombings during this spring’s running.

The Boston Common Christmas Tree was still looking handsome too.

This year the ice sculptures will be with us for some time after First Night. Frozen, in this cold. And now, dusted with snow.

First Night, followed quickly by First Snow.

Welcome winter of 2014.

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It’s Always Something….

December 29th, 2013

After Christmas… but still the holidays.

I am waiting to take down (okay, procrastinating about) the Christmas tree. My least favorite day of the year. And anyway, it’s too soon to take down the tree, especially if you aren’t going anywhere else on vacation over New Year’s.  It’s just awkward that this year the weekend falls between Christmas and New Year’s Eve… Gives you too much time to think, and enough time in your own home to come down with a touch of cabin fever.

It is still the holidays, did I say that? Because there is New Year’s Eve to celebrate, with all its special activities. First Night Boston, with its wild and wacky Parade, for instance. And we’ve got an adult party to attend on New Year’s Eve. But for all that, by this time of the year, four days after the peak of Christmas fever, you’re walking a fine line between holiday fatigue and protracted enjoyment.

So you clear away the Christmas clutter that can be cleared without wrecking the remainder of the holiday. Because what if the kids decide to come for dinner again? They will be disappointed that you’ve swept away all of the magic prematurely. They may not be tired of all the decorations yet.

The wrapping paper is long gone, and the cardboard, and the ribbon and tags. Presents have been removed from the living room, off  to people’s rooms, or to your grown children’s apartments elsewhere. The refrigerator is still full of assorted leftovers. Prime rib, roast onions, Christmas Pudding, a smidgen of Rigatoni al Forno…. Not yet time to start the cleansing regimens of the New Year? (You’re just going to eat fruit and salad, right?) Again, what if your grown children decide to stop by over the next several days… They love leftovers.

As you tidy what you are allowed to tidy, you find something you forgot.

Christmas crackers for the Christmas table. Drat.

But wait… That’s not the pattern you chose for this year’s Christmas table, is it?

No, it’s not.

Looks like you forgot the Christmas crackers this year – and last.

Arrrgh.

It’s always something, isn’t it?

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Christmas Eve Is the Longest Day….

December 24th, 2013

We’ve finished making the rum punch. And the cheese straws.

Oh my, the smell of that first cut lime was indescribable. Wish I could add a scratch and sniff, right *here*.

As The Girl said, we were aiming for the Christmas trifecta of heavenly smells: pine from the Christmas tree, baking cheese straws, and citrus.

Perfect.

The Girl has just finished her Christmas wrapping. I think My Husband has too.

The Boy will come over later this afternoon to wrap. Well, he couldn’t wrap his gifts any earlier, since the UPS man has just delivered them. The Boy is an Amazon Prime member: his packages were guaranteed two-day delivery, even on Christmas Eve. Why shop any earlier? His presents will be really fresh this way.

I set the wrapping table up in our bedroom some time ago, and it will stay there for now… (Yes, my gifts have been wrapped for days now.)

The Eldest? He’ll be on a train home later this afternoon. He may well be wrapping presents on Christmas morning. It’s happened before. I gave him a button in his stocking one year for Christmas. It read “If it weren’t for the last second, nothing would ever get done.”

My sister reminds me that Colin Powell was famously making corrections to a presentation moments before he walked his daughter down the aisle. How does she know things like that?

No matter. The Eldest likes to give his gifts out last anyway.

The Girl has carried her wrapped packages into the living room, ready to set them out under the tree.

This brings The Dog into the living room too. He loves Christmas. He loves opening presents. Just a little bit longer now.

Just a little bit longer. Ah yes. The Eldest, The Girl, and The Boy will all be here tonight.

Oh, the anticipation.

For The Dog and me, all our preparations made, Christmas Eve can be the longest day….

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Christmas Rush

December 21st, 2013

Costco US homepage

I found myself at Costco this morning, as you do around the holidays, stocking up on the things I felt we needed for the weekend’s planned Christmas activities: making the family’s famous rum punch, and baking cheese straws.

I was there at opening time, hoping to get a jump on the crowds on this my second to last, I hope, shopping excursion before Christmas.  So I entered the cavernous hall clutching my shopping list, which included Cheddar cheese (for the cheese straws), oranges, lemons, limes (for the rum punch), Bacardi White Rum (ditto), and just a few more items. I was prepared to make a swift trip of it.

Not so fast, girly.

What is it about these super stores? It’s like entering the Twilight Zone. You have your list, and your best intentions, but reality changes as soon as you enter. You show your Costco card to the attendant at the door (yes, you have to be a member to enjoy these privileges) and process into the wide avenues of shopping-dom. The space is huge, the ceiling is twenty or more feet above your head. You are dwarfed, everything in the universe is dwarfed. Suddenly a four gallon detergent-sized jug of olive oil, or a two foot high box of cereal, looks like it will fit in your kitchen cupboard. Fool.

Great American Consumer Stuff everywhere you look, and your shopping cart is so, so big…. A wide screen TV? There are aisles of them. And what’s the price on the Kitchen Aid mixer? Wow. Maybe you need one in a new color.

On your way to the cheeses you get into a panic. Should you buy your standing rib right now, instead of waiting for your next (and last) shopping trip before Christmas? What if they sell them all?

Relax. They are not going to sell them all. They’ll make more.

If they do sell out, there’s always the beef filet…

You do in fact find the citrus fruit mountain. When did we learn to shop for fruits warehouse style?

You can’t pass up the raspberries, great price…. You’ll get to them just as soon as you’ve sampled the European smoked salmon the lady is setting out in paper cups on a tray at the end of the aisle. Hmmm, yes, maybe add some European smoked salmon to the shopping cart. Where were you? Oh, raspberries.

Another sample is being offered by the Vitamix demo man.

You already have a Vitamix, since you saw it being demonstrated here last Christmas (and you do use it, yes, the margaritas and the sorbet are amazing), but that doesn’t mean you have to pass up the free paper cup sample of spinach-orange-pineapple-lime juice. Yum, good. You might have to try that combo at home.

More anxiety on the way to the dairy products. Maybe you are starting to hallucinate.

Could you use some Duraflame logs? Would that be fun at Christmas?

Does The Dog need a new bed?

They are offering samples of mozzarella sticks in the next aisle. They’re great.  You should have had breakfast. Everyone loves mozzarella sticks. Would they be fun at Christmas?

Luckily you still have the wit to ask how many mozzarella sticks come in a box (like that box would ever fit in your freezer!). Two packs, of forty-four each. Eight-eight mozzarella sticks? I don’t think so.

You make it safely past the wall of Lindor chocolates. They are blurring before your eyes.

Through the staples aisle.

No, seriously, you are not going to do that much baking. You’ve got to get out of here; you’re suffering delusions of grandeur.

You take stock, and realize there appear to be several hardback books in your cart, along with the citrus, and the cheddar, oh, and the raspberries, and, um, the European smoked salmon.

And anyway, the aisles are starting to fill up with ginormous shopping carts, many of them piloted by careless drivers distracted by Duraflame logs and mozzarella sticks, and it’s getting pretty competitive for the free samples of food and smoothies. You are not going to stand in line…. Luckily you’ve already had your Vitamix pick-me-up. It’s definitely time to hightail it to the checkouts, and get yourself out the door.

Before the altered reality gets you, and you make any really silly decisions…..

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A Child At Christmas

December 15th, 2013

The old song says that everyone’s a child at Christmas.

I am glad to hear someone else say that.

This year (and, okay, not for the first time), I wondered, while getting out the worn and battered boxes that store my decades-worth of Christmas decorations, whether it was time to grow up about my Christmas decorating.

I mean, I began my Christmas collection that first year we were married, in Palo Alto, when we did not have the vacation days or the financial resources to come ‘home’ to the East Coast for Christmas with our families. We stayed put and had our first Christmas, and our first Christmas decorations.

I started decorating the stair railing in the first house we owned, when we suddenly had a staircase. I came up with a scheme of green garlands, hung with gingerbread and peppermint ornaments. The children were still in early single digits ages then, back in the early 1990’s. Are we too adult for these themes now?

Is there a maturity curve to Christmas decorations?

And my Christmas dining table… Hmmm. It generally starts out as a small forest of mini Christmas trees, and as the Day approaches, it is increasingly populated by reindeer, and Santa, and Mrs. Claus. Have we outgrown the North Pole centerpiece?

Around the house, there are Santas and snowmen on the powder room vanity, a sleigh and reindeer atop the living room desk, polar bears with bells peeking out from under the front hall table plant….

Well, I have collected Christmas decorations with more gravitas over the years as well, a grim-faced Nutcracker with a stylish fur hat,

a seriously elegant Russian Santa dusted with just the perfect frosting of crystal glitter,

and an outstanding collection of Christopher Radko ornaments for the tree and the mantelpieces.

Is it time to discipline myself to these more restrained and adult decorations?

Last weekend the ‘kids’ helped me put up the tree, and I kept on decorating. Since then, I have been wondering.

Then, this past week, December guests have been coming to the apartment, committee members for an event planning meeting, and friends stopping by to pick me up before heading out, then My Husband’s cousins and our children for a festive weekend lunch.

And they all oohed and aaahed, over the table centerpiece with its reindeer, and my matching reindeer napkins, over the Radko bedecked tree, over the Santas tucked into corners of the desk, and even those on the counter in the powder room.

The ‘Children’ have visited, and they have sat in the armchairs by the Christmas tree, the ones with the holiday needle point pillows,

checking emails and text messages on their phones and tablets, but also taking stock of and remembering our family Christmas history, through the decorations.

And I realized that they all, friends, family and children alike, love my ‘childish’ holiday themes, and my aging collection of Christmas ornaments and decorations. They enjoy being in my house, a holiday decorated house, soaking in the ready-for-Christmas spirit that ornaments and decorations and hospitality (and a little Christmas baking) can genuinely create.

There are very few things that I miss about life in the suburbs, but being in other people’s decorated homes before Christmas is definitely one of them. Hosts and Hostesses in the suburbs are really good about holiday parties in their own homes. In the city, people tend to share the holidays in more public spaces, attending Christmas parties in clubs, enjoying seasonal events in hotels, or actually making trips to family homes to enjoy the Christmas decorations – in the suburbs.

In the city you can still enjoy other people’s decorations, just on the outside of their houses.

I bet you love them too, other people’s decorations, I mean. The friend who has a collection of over a hundred Nutcrackers to display on her mantles and windowsills, or the friend with Santas of every possible description on her bookshelves, sideboard and living room tables, maybe the home with a collection of secret Santa mice tucked away everywhere for you (I mean, the children) to find. In my memory one of the most fabulous experiences was always my friend Erika’s mythical Radko tree, almost two stories tall, which she decorated from a scaffold every year. It was laden with glass garlands, and tree toppers, and glass balls, and ornaments of every possible description. It took your breath away. An heirloom tree.

So here I am, back to my decades worth of child-inspired Christmas decorating. A house full of ornaments, and Santas, and faux-peppermint candies, and whimsy, and history. A house to welcome guests, and family, at Christmas. It turns out it’s a nice gift to be able to share.

The holiday spirit, for the child in all of us, at Christmas.

‘Tis the season.

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We Need A Little Christmas…

December 12th, 2013

Thanksgiving came and went.

Just like that.

Menus, shopping lists, overstuffed refrigerator, cooking, cooking, cooking, overstuffed me.

Grandmummy here to visit. Check.

Tour of all the local museums. Isabella Stewart Gardner, Museum of Fine Arts, ICA.

Check.

Take a breath.

Get ready for Christmas.

Christmas Tree? Check.

Poinsettias? Check.

Boxes of Christmas ornaments? Check.

On your mark, get set,…..

Christmas!

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Red Sox Romp

November 3rd, 2013

It was Boston’s day.

Unseasonably warm, a blue summer-ish sky overhead, clouds like cotton balls. Below, the streets were filled with crowds of delirious fans, inebriated high schoolers, patient dogs in Red Sox t-shirts, seasoned campaigners

and boys in full regalia,

all waiting for the home town team, the 2013 World Series Champions, the Boston Red Sox, to parade by in a blaze of glory.

Remember, I lived in London for twelve years, so I am still catching up on my American sports teams, and the particulars of fan celebrations….

There were many great Red Sox t-shirts on parade too.

“We own the Parade,”

“Fear the Beard” (frequently worn with own-growth beard, and Jonny Gomes army helmet and goggles…),

and “#GetBeard.”

Then there were the signs,

“Bearded Champs,”

“Big Papi for Mayor,”

and “Duck Boat Dynasty’”

Even fans in, well, red socks.

Yes, Boston was in a darn good mood.

All this despite the highly visible security, with helicopters thrumming overhead,

and legions of police at the scene.

I guess you can’t have a parade without heavy security these days, following the April Boston Marathon bombings.

But this parade was about setting things to right, and healing a once wounded city. As the parade made its way from Fenway Park up Boylston Street the fleet of Duck Boats carrying the champions stopped at the Boston Marathon Finish Line on purpose to honor the victims and heroes of that traumatic day. The crowd chanted “Boston Strong”. Followed by a soul stirring rendition of “God Bless America.” Yup. You can’t make this stuff up.

The Duck Boats paraded,

The crowd screamed and chanted.

the trophy was displayed,

along with a giant red duck boot….

The Dropkick Muphys even sang from a flatbed truck,

heralding the arrival of the confetti guns,

and the man of the hour, 2013 World Series MVP, David Ortiz, aka “Cooperstown” (because they’re convinced he’s headed for the Baseball Hall of Fame), aka Big Papi.

The crowd roared. The confetti fluttered down, translucent in the autumn sunshine.

Confetti. It makes a parade.

Just ask the kids screaming from the balconies overhead.

I love a parade.

And Boston earned this one.

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