Time’s Up Sorry I Kept You

1. It’s been a long time I shouldn’t have left you….
I might rename this edition 7days7excuses because I have at least that many to explain why the F. it took so damned long for me to get this blog out. Thank you for being patient.
What can I say? It was a perfect storm of time-sucks for me. Between my newfound status as working gal, the typical gluttony of summer mothering, and vacation at the end of August, something had to be ignored. We needed clean laundry so alas, it was this blog.
Then school began and a whole new batch of excuses arrived.
Blahblahblah. Honestly it’s all just inertia. Once you stop doing something every day, it is that much harder to start again.

2. Distracting myself with time management tactics

There are simply not enough hours in the average middle-aged woman’s day for all the shit she needs to get done. Did I just blow your mind with my perceptiveness? I’m very wise.
The solution is gathering time management theories. I seriously waste so much time reading about how to better manage my time. I just bought Getting Things Done: the art of stress-free productivity (or just GTD if you’re an acolyte). The cover features a photograph of the author smiling with the smug superiority of a man who has just completed a book about how much more productive he is than you. (He gets the finger.) Plus, it’s like 300 pages long with no space-filling diagrams or tables. I don’t have time to read this. I have nothing to tell you about this book, because I’m not kidding. I do not have time to read this.
My friend makes three lists: “Doing Now,” “Not Doing Now,” and “Never Doing Now.” I’m confused by the “Doing Now” list. We apparently write down literally what we intend to do right now. The list should only be one item long, right? Can you call that a list? Let’s give it a try.
Doing Now

  1. Writing a long overdue blog post.

Now, let’s write it again, this time with more candor:

Doing Now
1. Writing a long overdue blog post.
2. Compulsively checking my email.
3. Scrolling through Facebook
4. Reading about Kylie Jenner’s beauty routine
5. Shopping for wide-leg jeans on Madewell.com

This second list is honest, but now I’m swirling in a shame spiral.
I do like what goes on the “Never Doing Now” list… like, alphabetizing the spice shelf. If all forms of media cease to exist, my family abandons me, and I’ve read every word in the house, I might alphabetize the spice shelf. Before this eventuality, it’s unlikely to happen.
I also sampled a free online app called Trello. At first thought “Oh wow this is the best! My new system!” I stopped two days later because it was really just the digital equivalent of writing lists. It was the same enormously effective “write it down in a notebook then cross it off” system I’ve used since 1992, except this time it was an app.
The bottom line is that after years of having too much time on my hands I suddenly don’t have enough. It’s an absolute blessing to have what seems to be a full-time workload, but I need to tighten up my organization game. Time to buy a new notebook.

3. I don’t have time for mascara anymore

Not applying eye makeup is hardly going to recapture hours in my day. We’re talking 45 seconds here. In skipping the eye makeup, however, I have stumbled into a strange consciousness-raising exercise.
In the summer I don’t do it because I can’t stand having raccoon eyes when I swim. I started to wonder why in summer I thought it was OK to walk around town without eyeliner or mascara, but at all other times the concept is akin to me walking out of the house nude.
Maybe I don’t need to ‘pretty myself up’ to run to the supermarket or take the kids to the library. The truth is I’m not a Kardashian (Yes, I really read that article. Why?). Nobody really cares what I look like. OK, I’m sure many of you reading are laughing at how antiquated and silly it is to hear a woman talk this way in 2015. But before you say “Good Lord Alix, read The Beauty Myth for Crissakes! I thought you were a feminist,” think for a second about the things you think are inviolate rules of your appearance. Will you wear a sleeveless shirt? Go to a party with your hair au naturel, not blown straight? Will you wear a two-piece bathing suit? Or don a dress without Spanx underneath? I’m just saying, we all have our fish to fry.
It doesn’t really save me any time but liberating myself from the notion that I can’t leave the house without mascara on has given me a strange hiccup of confidence. It’s sort of counterintuitive, because who’s kidding who — I don’t LOOK better. I look tired and a little washed out. But I feel a little more powerful because I don’t care what you think about it.

4. The old ways are best

My views are quite liberal about voting rights, a woman’s right to choose, and the use of Parmesan cheese, but I’m strangely conservative about vacations. Like notebooks, if it works I say stick with it. My kids like to return to the place they enjoyed last summer, and the summer before that. I used to think they just said “Wellfleet!” and “Michigan!” when I asked where they wanted to go because that’s what they knew. Now I realize that’s what they say because that’s really what they want. They want the familiarity of return. I love how these places really don’t change much either. Same friends, same ponds, same beaches, same restaurants. Maybe these kids change so much in the course of a year, it’s comforting to spend a week doing the same thing they did last summer.
We grown-ups don’t change that much in 365 days. Or do we?
I changed a lot just in the span of three months. I went from being someone who was consumed by stress about how I was going to afford the sneakers my son really needed to someone who was consumed with stress about how I was going to get all the work done (that was going to pay for the sneakers my son so desperately needed.) We are all changing, all the time. It’s nice to have a few things that never change. Like how wonderful Parmesan tastes on top of everything.

5. Small changes can be big

Kids aren’t the only things that change in a year. In Michigan, the beaches were dramatically smaller because the lake was bigger. It froze last winter, and as a result, all that ice and snow makes a bigger lake. A good thing, I suppose, but it made me a little uneasy. Not as uneasy, of course, as the seal blood in the water in Wellfleet. A great white attacked a seal not 15 feet from shore. We were in a thankfully shark-free pond at the time of the attack. The seas are warmer so sharks are way more prevalent in the waters of Cape Cod. Two degrees Celsius of change in the world’s temperature is apparently the recipe for global disaster. It’s a huge buzzkill, but man this climate change stuff is weighing on me. Did you read the RollingStone.com piece, “Point of No Return”? It’s all about how the catastrophic effects of climate change are underway and there’s nothing we can do to stop it.
Well I read it, and I’m here to tell you, skip it. What a total bummer.

Thank goodness for people like Christiana Figueres, and for Elizabeth Kolbert who wrote about her in a recent New Yorker. Figueres is the woman at the UN with the thankless task of convincing polluting nations to change. Her positive attitude and frank optimism is inspiring but I think she’s kidding herself. I hope she proves me wrong.
There’s too much water in Lake Michigan yet the West Coast is as dry as a tinderbox. Listen to me whine about what I call stress, then watch this man’s drive out of his own neighborhood as it burns down. That video scares the shit out of me.

6. Who doesn’t like head lice?

“The men reached into their armpits or groins to take out handfuls of lice, and then pitched the lice into the fire.” Not the sort of description I expected at the start of a fictionalized biography of Rudolf Nureyev, but just my speed. Dancer by Colum McCann starts in WWII on the Soviet front so you know I’m instantly hooked. Roads “paved” with dead bodies, people smoking horseshit, I’m in. Then we get parties in NYC penthouses with Mick Jagger and the carnal stamina of gay men partying their faces off in the downtown baths. Are you kidding me ? All in one book? I’m a devoted fan now, but before Dancer, I didn’t know that much about Nureyev. Baryshnikov was the defecting Soviet dancer of my generation.
McCann is a beautiful writer and he creates these disparate worlds with such texture and emotion, it’s just a treat to read. The structure reinforces how rare and special Nureyev was by telling his story more through the eyes of the people whose lives he touched. In a few places, you see the world through Rudi’s eyes and it’s strange and awesome. The novel is fantastic but Nureyev is the true treasure of the piece. That he existed is really more stunning than people’s frostbit fingers falling off during WWII or men indiscriminately humping like rabbits in the backs of semis parked in the meatpacking district. It’s dizzying to reconcile all the facets of this one person — supremely gifted dancer, pugnacious street fighter, erudite scholar of the classics of music and literature, pianist, cunning millionaire businessman, slutty party boy, devoted friend, heartbroken son — he’s such a rare combination of so many things it’s like he’s a human comet.

5. Two ways I terrified myself in the last two weeks

First, I jumped off the second tower into the pool. It’s 7.5 meters/25 feet — so high I just decided to not even look. I was a good 35 years older than everyone else in line except Jeff, who promised he’d jump if I jumped. I climbed and climbed, waited my turn at the back of the board and then just jogged off the platform into the pool. At the last step when my foot went off the board into thin air, I think my heart stopped. I watched as the world sucked me down. I was in the air for long enough to think “Wow, I’m still in the air.” The relief when I plunged into the water is a sensation I will treasure. My heart pounded for about five straight minutes after I got out. The jump might be one of the most terrifying moments of the last year or so for me, which really just showcases how incredibly lucky, safe and privileged I am.
Secondly, I relented and Julius is now playing football. It’s quite adorable, and best of all, he’s into it. No whining and stalling when it’s time to go to practice. No drifting off into daydreams on the field during the games. He’s so athletic but never seemed to care that much when he played soccer or baseball or basketball. Now, he cares.
To be clear, a concussion is not what terrifies me about Julius playing football. Kids get concussions playing soccer and other sports all the time. Besides, he’s wearing a helmet and pads all over his body. Only Dex’s shins are protected during soccer. His shins do not solve complicated math problems.

It’s more the aggressive culture of football that makes me uneasy. It’s the way we worship this masculine warlike sport in our country and how J elicits a newfound respect from so many of his peers and their dads for just being on the Jr. PeeWee team. Roll your all-American eyes and call me the wooly-headed liberal that I am, but I’m just being honest. How is football going to keep my sweet son in touch with his sensitive side? The other day he told me he doesn’t like cloudless blue days because he finds this boring. “Without a few clouds in the sky, there’s nothing to look at.” I don’t want this boy to go away.

6. Eat summer now

When school starts we all celebrate that summer is over. Truth is, September is still summer. It’s 87 degrees outside, and lots of delicious vegetables and herbs are still growing. I hosted a big horde of revelers on Labor Day for a booze-soaked night of fun and here are some of the delicious recipes I used.
Grilled Eggplant Salad: This is so easy, and I didn’t grill it — I just roasted the eggplant in the oven. Add feta and it’s perfect.
Garlicky shrimp kabobs: The green sauce you brush onto the shrimp, then use as a dip is the kind of deceptively simple thing that makes me love Mediterranean cooking. It’s just a few simple ingredients whipped together in a Cuisinart, yet I feel like we could achieve world peace with something this yummy.
Summer in a glass. Add vodka and Cointreau to basil-infused lemonade. Adorn with a sprig of fresh basil. Get smashed.

7. Then she can spend her own money.

It’s better to be drunk these days, anyway. At least while Trump and his cohorts are on TV. At one point Trump was inveighing against the border babies. He was describing, as he is wont to do, these criminal Mexican women, nine months pregnant, who apparently waddle across the border to have their babies and then “We need to take care of these babies for the next 85 years.” He kept saying that. “Then we’re stuck taking care of these babies for the next 80, 85 years.” Really? These babies never ever stop being babies? 85-year-old babies. No wonder Trump is so upset.

Did you see the part when they were asked to name a woman to put on the currency? Granted, yes, a really stupid question, but a) not even the stupidest question of the night, and b) pretty clearly designed for you to name a historically important American woman who you admire. One guy said Susan B Anthony. Ok, valid, except that she’s already on a piece of currency. He looked downright presidential next to Huckabee who said his wife. That way, he said, “She could spend her own money.” One guy said his mom, which just made me sad. If one of my children ever runs for president and is asked this idiotic question, I really hope they don’t say they want their mommy on the $10 bill. Three of them said Rosa Parks. Sure, that’s a fine choice, but did anyone else begin to wonder if the second two guys were just pulling a “What he said,” since they couldn’t think of another American female historical figure worthy of putting on the currency? Jeb Bush couldn’t even think of an American, which must be why he said Margaret Thatcher. Margaret THATCHER? Really??! Trump said his daughter Ivanka because she’s been sitting so patiently for the past three hours during the debate. Interesting thought. When Trump becomes president, is that all someone will need to do to be commemorated on our currency? Sit quietly for three hours? Some bozo said Mother Theresa. Inarguably a great woman but seems sort of a random addition to the list of people currently memorialized on our money. (No more random than Mrs. Huckabee, to be fair.) I realize it was a light-hearted question, but what the fuck? Loathsome troglodyte Chris Christie said Abigail Adams which I liked, but he’s still a tool. I’m not a fan of Carly Fiorina either but she gave a good answer. Margaret Thatcher. Ivanka Trump. Jesus. Maybe it is time to just let climate change do its worst.

Thank you so much for waiting, for asking “where’s your blog?” and for reading this one! Thanks! Next week, I promise! Love, Alix

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