Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Ode to the List

I love lists. The idea for this post came from a conversation with my friend about organization and keeping lists. We both agreed that lists are the only way to go. They are the only way to keep track of all of the things we need to do every day. I don't remember when I started making lists. I guess it came about in high school when I had to write down my homework every night. But I remember the moment I started to use the list as a working tool. It my first year out of college, working at my first corporate job and one of my bosses was coming back from a week-long trip. She had left a list of several things to do, that I was unable to finish due to unforeseen issues that came up in the office. She was not pleased and the conversation went something like this:
Boss:"GEM, I thought you were going to file all my catalogues"
GEM: "I couldn't get to it, I didn't have time"
Boss: "I don't understand, what were you doing?"
GEM: "Umm... I had this and that and umm.... (weak, I know, but did I mention I was 22?)
Boss: "I just don't see what could have taken up your time, I didn't leave you that much to do, I expected you to have this done, I don't see what took up all of your time"
GEM: "Ok, I'll do it now" (run to the bathroom to cry)

Ok, so maybe this doesn't seem so traumatic in retrospect. But this was the first time in my professional career that I had disappointed someone I was trying to impress. And what was the worst part, I had been REALLY busy. I had A LOT to do that week, but I just couldn't remember it. I hadn't written it down. I just stuttered and sounded generally useless. From then on, lists have been my life raft keeping me afloat in the working world. At first they were simply to document my time, but increasingly to keep track of all the small things and get them out of my head and onto paper. I make lists daily. I have special list paper. Sometimes I rewrite the lists so they look pretty. I just love them. Watching a person try to recount in their head the things they need to do makes me nervous. It's right up there with people who don't keep calendars. SDM, you know who you are:)

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Back To School

I have to say, this post began last night and I was feeling a little more optimistic and a little less overwhelmed than I am feeling today. Needless to say, it had to be reworked.
It is back to school time! While it may say August on the calendar, this week marked the official start of my 8th school year at Girls Prep with preseason and faculty meetings. I started the week off excited, I love the fall, I love crunchy leaves, I love crisp air. I love my wool sweaters. These are the fun things that I think of when I hear "back to school". What I seem to forget, is that "back to school" also means BACK TO SCHOOL: Meetings, and schedules and class work and more meetings and then some more meetings.
It's good then, that I was doing something else in the summer. I very much needed the change of pace and the change of atmosphere (little campers vs. high school girls). It gave me a chance to breath, relax and get some distance during which time I romanticized it all and made Fall into a pretty rose-tinted bubble that has now popped over my head. I was in meetings from 8:30-10:00am, 10:30- 12:00pm, 12:00-1:00pm (race home for 10 minutes to walk poor Petunia) and then 1:00-1:30pm and then 1:30-3:00pm. They are interesting meetings for the most part, all discussing important items, but as you can see, very little time in between to get anything else done. Because of course, as all of you know, you don't just get to go to the meetings and then walk away. Meetings almost always end with some sort of action plan and to-do's that you need to then....do.
Which brings me to my apartment right now at 5:15pm. After going back to my office at 3:00pm, checking in with my boss and with the students, and running home to feed Tuners (who didn't get to eat before because I was too late for the meeting), I came home at 5:00 to breathe. I need to go back over at 6:00pm for a dinner and then Target for some office shopping... then tackle that pesky to-do list.

Friday, August 20, 2010

Book Challenge

As you may have gleaned from my previous blog, I love to read. I enjoy reading all kinds of books for the most part: bestsellers, historical fiction, chic lit (although I like those less after the annoying genre name was created). I also love classics. I am on a personal mission to read lots of classics. This secret obsession for classic books has pushed me through Gone with the Wind (I think I was 15 when I read it), The Portrait of a Lady, Crime and Punishment, and others. But this week, while on vacation, I have embarked on perhaps my most ambitious read ever.It was given to me by my mum, who got it from work from a woman who couldn't even stand to hold it, let alone read it. I understand,it's a very heavy book. A Suitable Boy. 1500 pages about finding a husband in 1950's, Post-British, Post Partition, India. There are an unknown number of characters (all connected in some way) that I keep track of with a family tree chart. I started it on Sunday, August 15 and currently I am on page 320, I give myself to Christmas to finish it....

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Beach Bikes

The last bike I owned was from when I was about 8-12 years old. It was pink and said "Miss Sassy" on the side. I installed a basket (Strawberry Shortcake, from my older bike) in which I shuttled around my guinea pig, Jingles. I would bike around the block (on the sidewalk), or around a parking lot at the end of my street. Occasionally we would ride on the Minuteman Bike Path, other times on the Mystic River Bike Path. Maybe once or twice a summer our family would go to Maine or the Berkshires and we would ride bikes on quiet roads. These are my biking memories. All very safe, all very conducive to bikes and bike-riding. Since I haven't had a bike since then, I tend to get a little nervous about them. I know how to ride one of course, but am still attached to kids bikes. Bright colors, fat tires, and pedal brakes. The biggest problem I have with bikes these days is the hand brake. It seems totally foreign to me. If I want to stop my feet, why would I use my hand?? Shouldn't it all be related?? Shouldn't my feet control what my feet are doing?? I will definitely still ride on "grown up" bikes, but it just makes me nervous. And biking on the road makes me nervous, probably because I don't feel very stable. All of this leads up to a very happy surprise this morning. I am in Nantucket this week, dog-sitting a lovely Irish Setter named Maisy. Bikes are a pretty standard mode of transportation in Nantucket, so I knew I would be on one at some point. But we are in Sconset, and it is summer, and it is crowded so I was also dreading having to clumsily maneuver myself around lots of big huge cars. This morning was the first test, we open the garage, see several very cute beach bikes with baskets (Petunia is not as malleable as my guinea pig was, she won't get in). I take a deep breath and get on, and LO! Pedal Brakes!!! Hurrah!!!

A lovely, breezy, scenic bike ride along the Sconset Beach followed. How relaxing!!!

Friday, August 13, 2010


I was going to write about something else today but I just had to change it...

Today I realized that I have a problem with books. Sounds ridiculous... what could be bad about books? Nothing is wrong with the books themselves... It's my compulsion to buy them. I love them and I collect them. I'll get them from the dorms at the end of the school year, from the Wellesley Book Exchange (aka the Dump), I'll buy them on clearance from Barnes and Noble. I tend not to buy them full price, but I buy them just the same. My dream is to have a massive library with books lining the walls and I have read them all. Awhile ago I paused my purchasing so that I could catch up and read the ones I had. Then I started again and now have dozens of books to read. I was shuffling through my stacks today looking for ones to bring on my vacation. I noticed one hardcover title, Run, by Ann Patchett. When did I get that? Oh yes, I read her Bel Canto and loved it and picked this one up at the Dump. But then I noticed it again. Hardcover twice. I stared at the two identical books trying to figure out what had happened... When did I get the other one? The Booksmith on sale? Hmmm... not a big deal I guess, I can give one away.... then my eyes fell on the paperback copy....

3 copies of the same book!?!?

No more buying books!!!

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Needy Dog

As many of you know, my dog Petunia has quite a personality. She is a teeny Boston Terrier (only 12 lbs!). She likes to walk on the left side of you. Always. She also is very sensitive to the weather. She doesn't like the cold or the heat or the rain or the snow. And she'll let you know when she is unhappy. Her ears are so expressive you feel like she's actually talking to you. She has a couple of different stink eyes. One is a slow turn that tells you how obnoxious she thinks you're being (usually its when you're too loud, or you move too much and disrupt her spot). Another is more of a squint that she'll shoot you when you've taken too many pictures (see above). There is also the disappointed frown which will stop you in your tracks. She is staring at me right now. I don't know what she wants!

But apart from the judging, she is one of the most lovable dogs ever. She is constantly next to you, she snuggles with you on the couch, sits on your lap, anything to be close to you. The smaller the spot the better - her favorite is to be behind you while you sit on the couch. Earlier while I was typing this, I had my legs up on her like an ottoman and she didn't care. Her loyalty and concern for our (my and SHM's) safety is adorable and endearing. Anyone who is not us is a threat who she must alert us to immediately and urgently. Today was no exception. Since the office is slow, I brought her in so she wouldn't be lonely. She spent 95% of the day on my lap with her head on my desk and her paws almost on the keyboard. The other 5% she spent barking at anyone else coming into the office. The times I had to put her down when there were no intruders, she would simply stand next to me and cry and shake (she is a bit of a shaker). So I had to bring her up again, or as was the case by the end of the day, just hold her, like a baby on my hip, and so she would stop. She is a funny little dog.

Sunday, August 8, 2010

Random Acts of Kindness

Yesterday I went into Boston to get my hair cut. I left early so as to get a parking space and low and behold, the entire block of Newbury Street between Clarendon and Dartmouth was open. Amazing? Does arriving in Boston before 10am really reward you with such bounty of parking? Well, yes and no. I park IN FRONT of my hair salon (unbelievable I say to myself), get out of the car and receive my random act of kindness: The Meter Maid is standing there waiting for me to get out, to warn me that I am in a loading zone and if I don't move I'll get a $55 dollar ticket. If I just back up one spot, she says, I should be fine. I admit, I had to play the role of naive suburbanite because she was definitely speaking to me like I was one: "Honey, you have to read ALL the signs". But in the end, I decided that didn't matter. She was still saving me $55 as I definitely did NOT read all the signs and would have parked there and gotten a ticket. There is a man in front of me in the same predicament. As I back my car up, he asks me to back up one more space for him. Feeling kind, I say ok, back up, he gets out with his delighted little daughter and they walk off hand in hand. SO cute and I feel good to have helped a little. Then I look more closely at my own spot and see one of those pesky construction signs. And then realize they line the whole street, except for the space I just gave to the man and his daughter. Ooh. So I am back in my car driving around for spots, starting to second guess my overly confident self that maybe I should have just taken the train, when AHA! parking at the corner of Clarendon and Newbury. Hooray! Such a pleasant and friendly morning on the streets of Boston :)

Friday, August 6, 2010


I have just sent off my very last camper after 6 weeks!!! It was been six weeks, three sessions, 104 children under 14 years old and it's done!!! Tra la la!

I am now officially in vacation mode! What to do, what to do... First on the list: dinner at the Rents. Second: Haircut and Manis/Pedis on Newbury tomorrow morning. Third: Dinner with SHM at the Essex Country Club on Sunday. Then WHO KNOWS!!! But whatever it is, it will not be before 10:00am, and I will not be wearing a polo shirt with shorts. I will not play dodgeball or capture the flag. I will not eat chicken nuggets, or try to herd 15 children from one activity to another:)


Monday, August 2, 2010


If someone were to ask me what I take away from my camp experience at the end of each summer, I would answer with one word: energy. Kids have a lot of energy. Kids even have energy when they don't have energy. When adults are tired, or grumpy, a lot of them (not all!) tend to take themselves out of situations, sit down, maybe even go to take a nap if they are lucky. If they had a choice, they would definitely, at the VERY least, stop running. Kids seem to do the opposite. The kids at my camp never stop running (I know I established this already). Not only that, today they never stopped jumping. One of our last activities of the day is free swim and there was a group of boys who LITERALLY (and I mean LITERALLY, not the Gossip-Girl-literally which means figuratively) jumped off the blocks for 45 minutes without stopping. In and out, in and out. Sometimes changing up their jumps, sometimes grooving to Justin Beiber and then jumping, sometimes pretending to dunk like their favorite Celtics player, but always continuously jumping. You think this would be enough, right? Not quite. After this, we have snack, then dodgeball. Dodgeball is optional. They don't have to play. But they insist on playing. They NEED to play. They are, of course, exhausted but they don't sit down- that would be too easy. They keep jumping, running, throwing balls. Sometimes all at the same time. They get grumpy and cranky, but as soon as you mention "hey bud, why don't you sit down, take a break" they are back in action, jumping higher, running faster, throwing harder. It's quite a spectacle of human endurance.

Sunday, August 1, 2010

Lazy Days

Lazy days are endangered. Already they are not as common as they should be. I get a lazy day maybe once every three or four weekends. As I have now hit 30 and the idea of children is not so much "down the road" as the "next stop", I am very aware that I only have a precious few lazy days left. These are the types of days that regenerate me for the week ahead. Today, for example, SHM was up and out early to play golf. I stretched myself out of bed around 9:35, got dressed and got the dog out for a walk.
[Sidebar: This is the same dog you see in the picture with the bib and the wine. She obviously enjoys the finer things in life and usually sleeps later than I do. But she will be the topic of her own post shortly.]
It is a beautiful day, a rare cool, non-humid morning. On my travels down the path and around the block, I see some friendly Girl's Prep neighbors sitting out on a picnic table. So I wander over to say hello and end up sitting for an hour and half, chatting, drinking coffee and eating this amazing pastry, fresh-out-of-the-oven, that seems to be mostly made of pie crust. It doesn't get much better than this! Now I am back in my apartment, sitting at my kitchen table, with Petunia on my lap, ready to get my book out and enjoy the soothing morning sounds of John Mayer... By now its 11:40 but I think I will have my morning last all day:)