Monday, August 31, 2009

My New Project: My Body, My Brain, My Life.

Now, I can get on with my project - moi - now that Isabelle is landed in Madrid, Zan has a job in Houston with Teach for America, my husband is gainfully and happily employed in NYC.

I grew up in a family of human doings - not human beings. I know that is an old joke, but not for me. It is absolutely true. Of course, my father was a farmer. You can't spend your morning with watching Diane and Robin. Stuff dies if you ignore it. Like sheep and wheat and soybeans and corn.

Not only was doing valued, all the women in my family are Virgos - my mother, sister, and me. So, they are organized and earth bound and practical and competent and have a lot of lists. My due date was solidly in Leo (August 8.) I was 2 weeks late so ended up 4 hours into the Virgo sign. But I am rather a shameful Virgo - not nearly as much a neatnik as my mother and my sister, Holly. So, I always feel inadequate. Like I just don't do enough. Like my drawers could be more organized and To Do lists more efficient.

For me to accomplish much, I need to be alone and quiet without distraction. Well, alone and quiet is not what I have had for the last week with Isabelle here. But, now that she is off to Spain for a year, I have no excuse. And I feel renewal and rebirth. I am my new project! I am going to work on both doing and being - to balance extroversion and introversion - yin and yang. This is a profound task for me.

I am going to yoga 3 x a week here in NYC and, even though it is way harder than I might imagine and I have discovered that my shoulder and arm strength is equal to that of a newborn, I am making progress; I am stronger today than I was 2 weeks ago. That is for the body.

Finally, I am going to educate my eyes - with fashion, art, and design. I will bring it to my work and my life. So, there you go...that is my new "Alecia Improvement Project. My body, my brain, my life." Now, time to get to work - It is 8:44 p.m. I'm going to bed to read to work on my brain.

And, then, my life. This is going to take some time. Because I really mostly love my life. But I am insatiable and love nothing more than a new dream to follow. So, who knows what is next?

Could I possibly be any more self-absorbed?

This, just in...8:11 a.m. EDT

Text from Isabelle...

"in madrid."

Sunday, August 30, 2009

Motherhood First - Izzy's on Her Way.


Izzy saying goodbye to friends before she leaves for Madrid. This girl is ALWAYS on the phone.


Last minute adjustments.


Into the car.


On her way to Newark...and beyond.


I've spent the last 5 days here in NYC with my 20-year old daughter, Isabelle, who was in transit to Madrid for a year. Yes, a year. A couple of years ago, I wrote about the drama of helping her find her college "home" - she settled on UW - Madison. It was about my own recognition that "Motherhood" was my default setting - that it trumped everything else in my life, including - maybe, especially, work. And here we are again, two and 1/2 years later as she now heads to Europe for the first time in her life. She is the sun. I am a lowly planet.

Even at 20, when she asks if we can get croissants from EAT for breakfast at 9:00 a.m., I slide into my flip flops, manage my way down the 4 flights of stairs, pad down 81st Street, across Madison, take a left for 1/2 block, then pluck the perkiest, most under-baked fresh croissant from the bin, then retrace our steps and, once home, pop it in the oven to melt the butter tucked within the flaky pastry. It is absolutely divine with the fresh cappucino I have made. I would not be eating it if not for her because I would be too lazy to get it for myself. If only I had some apricot jam.

Every morning for five days, she awakened on our daybed, asking, "What are we going to do today?" I know. This is New York. I am your mother, host, and slave. I am thinking we will pick up the house, go to a yoga class, do our shopping for the day, answer some emails and put out fires related to work, maybe take a nap, then prepare dinner. This is not what she has in mind.

So we go to the MOMA - it is good - and I am grateful that she pushes me. We run her errands, shop for shoes for Spain (is this a good idea since Spain is the world's epicenter for leather goods?) We have our nails done, shop for mascara, a laundry bag, a permanent marker for her clothing, and a coin purse. (No Barney's on this week's schedule. Even though Izzy told me about the clearance sale, I still imagined that a pair of shoes might cost the equivalent of 1/2 month's rent.) On her last night we hunted down the perfect "cheap Mexican" meal (her words) in SoHo - a "hole in the wall" down a few steps off Elizabeth Street. We found it while wandering after our first and recommended choice didn't pan out. A pitcher of Margaritas, a little ceviche, chips and homemade pico de gallo. It was what Lee calls "present time magic."

Then, today comes and she packs and leaves. Indeed, as William Blake has told us, "Joy and Woe are woven fine, a clothing for the soul divine." I feel both joy and woe at her leaving. I am thrilled for her. She will never be the same again. Living in Spain for a year at 20 years old will change her forever. (Spending a month in Italy at 53 changed me forever!) And, I will miss her - I will miss talking to her every few days like I did when she was in Madison, just a casual catching up as she walked home from her last class on a Friday.

But, to be honest, after she had left and I had dried my tears, I "high fived" Lee. We are empty-nesters again. It is a magnificent time of life. All those years of mothering - the nursing, the nurture, the feeding, the tending, left little time for the self. And as it should be. But, now it is time for the Self. We love this time of life and love (and are terrified by the fact) that anything is possible. There are no excuses anymore.

But until I hear she is safe in Madrid, I am a mother first.

Thursday, August 27, 2009

Julie and Julia


The final product - Peeled, roasted peppers on polenta with rosemary and Parmagiano reggiano.



The kitchen during dinner prep.


Izzy seasoning the roasted peppers.

Julie Powell blogs about cooking and gets both a book contract and a movie contract. How good is that! But, because I read Julia Child's book, My Life in France, this year and it was near the top of my list for the year AND because I then read Julie and Julia this summer and felt less enthusiastic about that book, but had to know how and why it did so well, Isabelle and I went to the 4:00 movie here in NYC today. Well, it was just a happy , weepy, laugh it up movie. I just loved it.

I loved:

1. Well, Meryl Streep. How fun is her job!

2. The marriages. How often do we see such delicious marriages portrayed on screen? The last major relationship I recall on screen was Vicky, Christina, Barcelona between Penelope Cruz and Javier Bardem - just the devil incarnate.

3. The kitchens. Small kitchens. Small kitchens that aren't designed by architects and designers. (Be careful, Alecia!) Really, I would actually love to "design" such a kitchen. Could you just find a sweeter moment than when Paul Child is using a marker to trace the outline of Julia's pots on the peg board? I have not used peg board in my projects lately. I think it is time to bring it back.

4. Julia Child's wonderful sense of humor, good nature, and ability to manage her emotions. It was a lesson for me. She was so charming and never seemed angry. I just loved her.

So, above are some photos of our own little kitchen - such a wonderful mess. With Isabelle, my 20-year old daughter cooking polenta with roasted peppers. Wine, bread, Isabelle and Lee listening to Etta James sing "A Sunday Kind of Love." How lucky am I?

Saturday, August 22, 2009

Where's Alecia?

Well, my dear husband would probably like the answer to this question, also. His Alecia has been missing in action....I just spent the last week in loco land - crabby, critical, punishing, weepy, insecure, sleepless, and generally a pain in the ass. Oh, and did I mention, sleepless with incessant thinking, thinking, thinking stupid things that keep me awake.

This happens on occasion and it seems to happen about this time of year if it is going to happen. I have a birthday tomorrow and I always think it has something to do with the trauma I experienced on my 10th birthday when I got exactly the doll I had asked for - then spent the day crying - because I realized I was getting too old for dolls. I was growing up. Childhood was a remnant of a distant past. Now, turning 56, I still have the same feeling. Only this time, I feel like a body that doesn't jiggle is a remnant of the distant past. Eyelids that are taught against the skull are a remnant of a distant past.

Then there is just the whole change thing - the change of seasons - which, for me, means that Lee moves back to wherever he lives and I start my bi-coastal (which may really be more bi-polar) lifestyle. My daughter, Isabelle, goes to Spain for a year next week. A year! My son starts teaching hoodlums in Houston with Teach for America on Monday. (Okay that is harsh, but I like the alliteration.) My life is nothing if not a big ball of change. I've also been ridiculously busy and generally falling apart.

So I had the good sense to call my acupuncturist (Dr. Chris Hafner of Crocus Hill Clinic in Saint Paul, Minnesota and just a gem of doctor - www.crocushillacupuncture.com.) He told me that my chi was pretty strong, but that it was stuck - like too many cars funneling onto one highway - it just backs up. And feelings can be explosive (duh!) and agitated. So, he told me he would give me the Mafia treatment. Now, I am not sure what that is, but I think it is a reference to "a hit." Like, the treatment is like "a hit" to the blockage - just wipes it out. Well, I was very relaxed on the table. And later that night, Isabelle noticed the profound change. "Yeah, you should have seen her a couple of days ago," she said to a friend.

Today I flew to New York with Lee to start his second year of teaching at the Rudolf Steiner School in Manhattan. I tagged along because I like it here and am trying to figure out how to spend even more time here with Lee. And because, quite frankly, I needed a change of scenery. Well, I am so relaxed here in NY that I am concerned Dr. Hafner might have overdone the Mafia Treatment. I can find nothing to complain about. I don't need a thing that I don't have. I am not comparing myself to all the 20-something, chic women I see here on the streets. I was happy to just sit in our little apartment tonight reading after going for a very simple late lunch. I took a nap and slept, which may be the first time I have done that in 10 years. Really. Now, my husband thinks Alecia is still missing in action because he does not know this me, either.

But I'm going to run with it for awhile. I like this me better than the other one.

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

"Good Enough" Living - Lessons from a Stylist

I had one of those days. I heard things. I saw things. Both of which made their way into the musings of my mind. I've been doing quite a bit of scouting for magazines lately. That means I find people who might, for one reason or another, have a cool home - something that might be of interest to a magazine. Then, I call them up and they feel complimented (because someone else has told me they have a cool home and I tell them that) and I get to go see it. I've seen several this week and they all were so wonderfully personal and unique - not cookie-cutter homes.

Today I saw one that is owned by a stylist. I have a special place in my heart for sylists since I am one. It is a lot of work to style a photo shoot or a create a set for a commercial shoot. We are of the theatre, really. Set designers. Jay Bruns was the Director of the Photo Studio for Dayton's back in the 1980's - probably it's heyday, can't you imagine? He is now a freelance stylist (www.jbrunsdesign.com.) I heard about Jay from Susan Gilmore, a photographer with whom I often work. He was described this way, "There is no one like Jay." So, I figure I need to meet the guy - he must have an intersting home.

He was very gracious and invited me to come by - I had a bit of a ploy - I want to do a story on the things we can learn about interior design from the stylists. My hunch was right on. There is so much to learn. Check out these photos of Jay's home. Bingo.


Living Room Detail. PLEASE NOTE a wooden case piece in this photo! That is the lesson from the stylists. Save enough in the budget for a wooden case piece!


The 2nd floor sun room.


Delicious compilation of things that are interesting.


Storing stuff.


The monastic stairwell.

Part Two of the story...I was having a drink with a friend and we are both in the interiors business - lamenting the state of our own homes - you know, the "shoemaker's children." Then she said, "Ya know, I've got a new phrase for the way things are....'good enough.' It's just 'good enough.'" I toasted to that. What a good idea. We don't need things to be perfect. Good enough is just fine.

Somehow, as I write this and look at the photos from Jay's home, I see a theme. His home isn't perfect. It isn't filled with that which is the most expensive, the things you would have seen in Domino or Architectural Digest. Nothing is featured in this month's Elle Decor. But it is "good enough." It is personal and unique and timeless and interesting. That is the real deal.

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

Kids These Days

I was just having my early evening wine with Lee while we watch McNeil News Hour and cast judgement about the state of the world. Then, I remembered what I observed at the beach house in Santa Cruz this past week and had to remind Lee by pontificating.

"You know, I've been a little worried about our literary future - kids spend so much time Twittering and Facebooking and thinking in really short phrases. But, after being at the beach this past week, I'm not worried," I said. " To wake up in the morning and see the kids reading at the table was just unbelievable."

"Yeah, it was," Lee responded.

"Of course, they are Waldorf kids," I said with a suck-up smile. "Maybe I should blog about this. It really was impressive. Will was reading Kafka, for god's sake."

"Yeah, you should definitely blog about that. It is really cool."

So, I am. And here it is:

Will Watson (age 18 and off to Carleton College this fall), his girlfriend, Lizzie, off to the University of Minnesota and little sister, Isabelle, going into 5th grade really were ALL reading - not just once - but every day. They sat at the table and read. They lounged on the sofa and read. The cousins came and they all brought books! At least five different kids, ages 10 - 18 were reading at the beach. When they weren't reading, they were doing crossword puzzles, playing cards, and building sand castles. Childhood as it should be.

I was really impressed. I'm not so worried anymore.

Tuesday, August 4, 2009

Gone to the Beach: Images from Santa Cruz


A friend at the local restaurant - the Pixie Deli.


Lesson time - brrrrrr......


Warming my toes at the beach fire on our last night.


The beach looked like this every morning - misty. It was jacket in the morning weather.


Pure Santa Cruz.


This is pretty much how Lee felt after a couple of days at the beach near Santa Cruz, CA. One of the chilled out sea lions at the pier.


This is how it looked every afternoon. The sun appeared. I didn't know the Pacific in Northern California could be turquoise blue!


The Watson children digging a hole to China in the sand - off our deck.

I've been in California for the last week - with Lee - visiting our dear friends, Joe and Carrie Watson and their wonderful children, sisters and nieces on the beach outside Santa Cruz. It was a family affair and couldn't have been nicer. From the margaritas that land in your hand without so much as asking to Joe's Exceptional Grilled Rack of Lamb and Carrie's Divine Caprese sandwiches, sister Donna's Homemade Blackberry Ice Cream and sister Terry's Garlic and Carmelized Onion-Infused Mashed Potatoes, we ate and drank like royalty. Cheers to our hosts!