Megnut

Life

Four resolutions for the new year

I've never been one for making New Year's resolutions, mostly because I think if you want to make a change you should just do it, no matter where you are in the year. But maybe because I'm older, or in a more reflective phase, or maybe simply because a few changes have occurred to me and it happens to be the start of a new year, I'm making some resolutions.

Resolution #1: Write fiction.
Write more fiction, and by more I mean, write fiction. After lots of creative writing in the eighties and early nineties, I drained my fiction well, or something, because I haven't written a story since about 1994. But I've been remembering how it felt to write stories, how I'd disappear into the world I was imagining. And I want to experience that again. Also I have ideas for stories bubbling.

Resolution #2: Write for Megnut.
I've fallen into a variety of traps that have kept me from writing here. Aside from the lack of time (which is really a lack of prioritization), the other excuses will be ignored and overcome.

Resolution #3: Have Wants Driven By Need
More production is countered by less consumption. I've noticed that a lot of magazines and websites I visit show me things to buy. Mostly they are things I didn't think I wanted or needed before I saw them in the pages of Martha Stewart Living (as an example, because I find it so blatant there lately, and in stark contrast to how the magazine used to be). I like to buy a thing because I need it. But it's hard to resist the lure of such pretty stuff highlighted in all the design blogs and magazines, and the curating sites like Svpply and Pinterest. So no more reading/subscribing to media that makes me want stuff I don't really need (or probably don't even want, except for in the fleeting moment that caviar sounds like a good idea, or some lovely La Lune print can be imagined hanging over my bed...)

Resolution #4: Read More Books
As I try and escape the magazines and blog posts, I discover I've lost my reading muscle. Sure I can handle a gripping tale like the Lost City of Z but there's plenty of good reading out there that takes a bit of work, effort I used to be able to put in. But I'm lazy now, easily sated by 140 character tweets and 500 word articles. My mind drifts reading a longer book. But no more! I'm reading books this year, as many as possible, until I get back into reading shape.

Is there a Resolution #5? Probably but then I'd get into the usual, all the time resolutions that I live with daily: enjoy time with kids, smell the flowers, get to the gym daily, eat healthy food, cook more, worry less, etc. etc. That's like my to-do list though. So I'll start with these four resolutions. Here's to a year of making more. And desiring less.

Saying goodbye

Ollie and his great-grandparents

My grandmother died quite suddenly on Veteran's Day. Since she was "only" eighty-eight, and the youngest of my four grandparents, all living until 2009, I wasn't prepared. In retrospect it seems ridiculous to not be prepared when someone's eighty-eight, but that seemed young, especially because she was so active and energetic.

Ollie was very close to her, his "GG" (great-grandmother), and as I frantically made plans to visit with her one final time, Jason and I struggled to explain what was happening. It's been hard for him to comprehend, and it's led to lots of awful questions and statements.

Ollie and GGPa

Now my grandfather, after losing his wife of sixty-six years, with his health already in decline, is nearing his end. We've had more time to warn Ollie of what's imminent and about once a week I sit with Ollie to talk about it.

Ollie's not entirely clear on the concept of marriage, so often he'll ask my father if my mother is his "friend", and sometimes he'll say she's his special friend. I like this idea of marriage.

The other day Ollie and I had a talk about GGPa. I told him GGPa's old body wasn't working anymore, and that very soon he would die. I started to cry.

"It's ok, Mommy," he said softly, looking at me, "because when he dies he can go in the same hole as GG! And they'll be together, because they're special friends."

Somehow that's the most comforting thing I've ever heard.

My Grandma & Grandpa

Sexism under the hood

Sexism under the hood

Took apart my stove hood this morning for a thorough cleaning and found this little message. If I were a Ms. Electrician I'd be pissed.

Pain and Birth and 2000 Meters

My freshman year in college, a former rower stopped by our boathouse following the birth of her first child. At that point in my life, and in the lives of all the women I rowed with, a 2000 meter race was the most intense pain any of us had experienced. We were quite certain nothing could top it, though some workouts and erg tests came close. So of course our first question as we huddled around her: "Was it as painful as a 2000 meter sprint?" I'll admit I was pretty sure she was going to say no.

She replied it was much worse.

Worse?! You could just see the fear on everyone's face, the quick dashing of plans for children in that very moment.

In the years that followed I carried that information with me, along with memories of rowing pain. There were times in some races where I was quite certain I would die, right there, on the spot, and fall out of the boat. I remember thinking, "I guess I'll keep rowing because everyone else is still going, and I don't want to let them down and if I die, I'll just die. And then I'll be done rowing." And that thought seemed pleasant.

Tufts Crew

Over the ensuing years I've done physically grueling things: hikes, weight training, intense spin classes, swims in a rough ocean, even a marathon. Nothing comes close to the pain of rowing. Nothing.

So when I got pregnant with Ollie I knew I wanted a natural childbirth with no epidural. After all these years, I'd be able to see how something could possibly be more painful that rowing! Because Ollie was overdue, I was induced and I managed 13 hours on Pitocin, all through the night, in agony, before I succumbed (in tears) to an epidural. Ollie was born two hours later.

With Minna I was determined to avoid that situation, and worked with a midwife throughout my pregnancy and planned for a home birth. I labored in my living room, watching the Giants vs Cowboys, then paced, breathing and counting. The counting's a holdover from rowing, when we'd do "10s" for power, or technique, and you'd just do ten strokes to focus on pulling ahead of another boat. I do 10s when I run, or whenever I face a physical challenge. I count through the pain.

Jason filled the birthing tub and after a few hours I decided to get in. Instantly the contractions slowed and the water felt fantastic. The midwife had arrived and the three of us actually just hung out and chatted, and I'd pause to do some deep breaths when a contraction arrived. Since Ollie's birth had taken so long, I assumed I had hours to go in the tub when suddenly I felt the baby and needed to push. I gave two excruciating pushes. My midwife checked the progress.

"Do you think it's five more pushes?" I asked her, hopefully.

"Oh I'd say two, maybe three." she replied.

My heart leapt!

"Well I can do five!" I said, in some kind of crazy counting birthing delirium.

I didn't need to. Minna popped out after two.

In my list of pain, it currently stands:

1. Minna crowning. Intense but very brief.
2. Ollie labor on Pitocin. Hours of long immobilizing agony.
3. Crew race of 2000 meters. Intense. Horrific. Still the worst concentrated seven-to-eight minutes of my life.

Way way down that list, everything else.

In rowing we used to always throw around the saying, "Pain is temporary, pride is forever." I get to look at my two great kids every day. In a box in the closet is my gold medal from the 1992 New England Rowing Championships. If it wouldn't be weird to wear it around, I probably would.

Grandma's Silver

Silver

For a long time I've been trying to use the good stuff, trying to enjoy the nice things I have rather than save them for some far off "better" time when they'd be appropriate. I learned this lesson the hard way after saving a vintage bottle of Champagne for too long. It was spoiled when I finally opened it for a special occasion. Thing is, drinking that Champagne makes the occasion special, not the other way around.

When my grandmother died, my mother gave me her silverware. When I think of eating at her house, even when I was very little, I do not think of this silverware. I think of some stainless flatware that sat in the kitchen drawer next to the sink. I don't ever recall seeing this silver, and why would I? It was the good stuff, stored out of sight, wrapped carefully in soft flannel to protect it from scratches, tarnish, and ultimately, use.

I'm sure she used it. Sadly, I'll never be able to ask her when, or hear stories about it. But after I got it and looked through it all, marveling at the shape of the soup spoon, and the weight of the fork, I packed up my stainless. And I filled our drawer with the beautiful silverware: the little butter knives and the salad forks with funny cuts in the tines.

We now use the silverware every day, for every meal. We wash it by hand, we take care of it. But we use it. And whenever I hold it, I think of her.

4 Stages of Seeing Pregnant Women

Walking around Manhattan the other day I realized there are four stages of "Woman Seeing Pregnant Women on the Streets."

Stage One: You don't see them at all. You're pre-kids and you don't even notice things like pregnant bellies, even though you're surrounded by them.

Stage Two: "Oh I wish that was me!" You pine.

Three: "Hey! You're pregnant! Me too! Her too! All of us! Gosh, she looks big! Do I look that big?" You're there! You're surrounded by your pregnant sisters everywhere you look!

Four: "O.M.G. I'm so so so so so so so so happy I'm not pregnant."

Needless to say, I am at stage four.

Trouble with sunscreen

My hate-love relationship with sunscreen has taken a turn back to hate. Until I discovered Neutrogena's Sport Sunblock (and then their UltraSheer) I simply couldn't stand the stuff. But oh Neutrogena! It was weightless, it didn't even feel like you were wearing anything. For years I slathered myself happily and regularly.

Recently my father sent me a link to the Environmental Working Group's Sunscreen Guide. And I discovered that my beloved sunscreen had a terrible rating! Worse, I felt horrible about putting it on my kids. So I bit the bullet and switched to some brands they recommended, all of which use physical barriers (as opposed to chemical) to block the sun's rays. Guess what? YUCK. I applied sunscreen yesterday morning and I swear I'm still coated in the stuff! It does not budge, not even with a loofa and body wash scrub-down.I'm totally bummed because I know this is "better" but the other stuff was so nice! Once I'm done breast-feeding I'm tempted to switch back.

The importance of first aid

red_cross.gifA little over half an hour ago, I was walking home down Seventh Avenue after doing some errands. As I neared the supermarket, I saw a small crowd gathered around what appeared to be a person lying face down on the sidewalk in a pool of blood. I stopped and asked if I could help out. Someone was on the phone to 911, another told me the elderly woman had just tripped on the sidewalk and fallen face first down to the ground. I told her I was certified in first aid and asked if I could assist her. I sent someone into the supermarket for a first aid kid. I asked her name, her age, her address. She didn't want help, she said, she wanted to walk home. She said she was fine.

But she wasn't. Emily was 81 and she was alone. She was bleeding all over the place, but from where? A cut on her head? Her nose? I asked her to stay with me and we talked about her routine of getting groceries, about what she'd bought. Anytime she realized we were waiting for the ambulance, she tried to get up and said she just wanted to go home. So I asked her to sit with me and tell me about her weekend, and how she was managing in the hot weather. People brought out ice packs from the gym, water and paper towels from the market. I'd put on the gloves from the first aid kit, and cleaned her up a bit, but mostly I just talked to her and held her hand.

Two doctors happened by which made her nervous again. They tried to check her out a bit and we got her sitting up and then moved to a bench, only because she kept trying to stand on her own. We really wanted her to stay where she was. Finally after ten minutes the ambulance arrived (outrageous really, as St. Vincent's is only two blocks north!) and I was able to talk to the EMTs and they took over. I picked up my bags and walked home, hoping that Emily would accept their help, wondering if I should have stayed to take her home.

It's kind of crazy, I was certified in first aid and CPR for years back in the eighties and early nineties and never used it once. I got re-certified a little over a month ago and it sounds weird to say, but I'm happy I was able to use it. I'm happy I was able to arrive in the crowd and know what to do. Walking home, I realized being certified isn't necessarily about providing the aid. I didn't stop the bleeding, though it subsided on its own. I didn't try to examine her. This was in part because she refused my help initially but also because I knew the ambulance would be along soon. Mostly it was about providing comfort to someone in a difficult situation, helping them feel ok, and letting them know they weren't alone. The certification gave me the confidence to do that: to kneel on the sidewalk, holding an old woman's hand, and to help make those scary few minutes hopefully just a little bit better.

If you're not certified in first aid, I can't recommend it strongly enough. It takes four hours of your time at your local Red Cross and with what you'll learn, maybe you'll be able to assist someone like Emily one day.

It's strawberry time again

Three years later, strawberries are going strong and we're headed up for some picking, eating, and jamming. Ollie can't wait, and neither can I!

A little life update

Over at the New Yorker, Rebecca Mead revisits You've Got Blog and our lives since then.

On to 2006

As 2005 winds down its final ten hours for me here in Northern Vermont, I am both happy and sad to bid it adieu. The 2000s in general have been very difficult years, and 2005 didn't prove to be any different, except perhaps in its extremes. Some of the lowest lows ever and some of the highest highs to be had in a lifetime. It was definitely a year of transition, which perhaps is appropriate as we slide well into the second half of the decade. Good, bad, and ugly, life is rolling on. Matt Haughey, from his recent musings on Advice, had a wonderful quote:

[M]aybe life isn't a journey to uncover new truths in far off places, but instead to simply gain enough experience to understand what is all around you, all the time.

Indeed. I am looking forward: to 2006 and to life's journey, to all its ups and downs, adventures and changes; to being a year older (tomorrow!) and a year wiser (hopefully!); to gaining more experience and understanding and to observing the close-by truths all around me, all the time. Happy New Year!

My four things

Ok, this has been going around for a while now, and Jason's tagged me, so I'll go:

Four jobs I've had:
1. Pie baker
2. Ice cream maker
3. Management consultant
4. Canoeing counselor at girls summer camp in VT (I worked very hard on my tan that summer)

Four movies I can watch over and over:
1. Old School
2. Office Space
3. Star Trek II: The Wrath of Kahn (KAHN!!!!!!)
4. Ocean's Eleven

Four places I've lived:
1. Buffalo NY
2. San Francisco
3. Cuernavaca Mexico
4. Nearly every neighborhood in "Boston", including Somerville, Medford, the Back Bay, JP, Brookline...

Four Two TV shows I love:
1. American Experience (PBS)
2. Six Feet Under

I really don't watch that much TV. I used to like Seinfeld, but that was a long time ago...

Four places I've vacationed:
1. Kauai Hawaii
2. Nantucket MA
3. Winter Park CO
4. Zipolite Mexico

Five of my favorite dishes:
1. Bread pudding
2. Potato pancakes
3. Lasagne (no meat, no veggies, just cheese, noodles, and sauce)
4. Thomas Keller's torchon of foie gras
5. Nantucket bay scallops

This list is ridiculously short! Five dishes? I could go on to twenty-five, np!

Four sites I visit daily:
1. kottke.org
2. Yahoo! most popular
3. www.flickr.com
4. www.google.com

Five places I would rather be right now:
1. Someplace I've never been, like Italy or New Zealand
2. Jogging through Sanford Farm and Ram Pasture on Nantucket
3. Paris (of course!)
4. Vermont, skiing at Mad River
5. The moon

Four bloggers I am tagging:
1. My running amigo DJ
2. My mom
3. G-Trap
4. You! If you feel like doing this, go for it!

Take that Kottke! "too old school" my ass!

Snowy snow snow snow!

I opened my eyes this morning and looked out the window. Snow! It was snowing outside and the tall evergreens outside my windows were covered in white frosting! I leaped out of bed and ran to the window, waking Jason in the process with my spazzy movements and excited exclamations, "It's snowing outside! And it's sticking!!" Then I threw on some clothes, grabbed my camera, ran outside, and took some photos.

First snow Snowy detail #1 Snowy detail #2

There's something about the first snow that's still as magical as when I was a kid.

Remembering November in Paris

Empty chairsIt is hard to believe that three years ago today, Jason and I landed in Paris for a month-long visit between our move from San Francisco to New York. [Insert "time flies" regrets here]. I looked through my posts from November 2002 and memories of the trip came flooding back to me: eating warm chestnuts while walking along the Rue de Rivoli (and discovering I didn't much care for them and then throwing half the bag in the trash bin), having my first successful "conversations" in French at the BHV, mixing warm milk with melted chocolate to create the most delightful hot chocolates ever tasted, and just walking the streets and parks as the dried leaves rustled beneath our feet. And oh, those pain au chocolat sold at the boulangerie across from our apartment: nearly every morning they were warm when we purchased them, oozing chocolate from their crisp buttery folds straight into our mouths!

Married

Married

Back to reality

Ghosts in Mexico

We're back from our honeymoon in Mexico and it was totally excellent. Though this photo is a bit weird, I kind of like it so it's the first one I've posted from the trip. I took a bunch of long exposure night shots, just for fun. This is a portrait I took of us on the deck of our cabaƱa. Those specks of white are stars. More details about the picture at Flickr, just click on it to see. Now that I'm back, there's lots to do. Mostly though I just feel like looking through my photos and remembering the great time we had.

Some photos from Mexico

Self-portrait in new sombreroUnlike other trips (e.g. Ireland and Asia) I have stopped obsessing over my photos and decided to just go ahead and throw some up on Flickr so that others can actually see them! Honeymoon photo set on Flickr is now available for your viewing pleasure. I don't feel like the photos turned out as well as I'd hoped, and I also didn't take as many as I wanted to. One thing that's missing is some sense of the small town of Tulum, near where we stayed. But every time we were there it was either a) night or b) too hot to walk around and take pictures. So the collection is lacking a lot of what our daily experience was, and a sense of that general Mexican town. Perhaps with another trip, I'll be able to capture more of that.

A total French spazz!

If you've met me in person, you know I'm quite the gesticulator when I speak. And I also have a strange tendency -- which my brother has as well, so I can only imagine it's something we developed as children -- to make sound effects to accompany my actions. For example, if you and I are walking towards each other in a narrow hallway, and I skirt to the side to avoid a collision, I will also utter, "yurreeek," or some sound to approximate a skid and/or close call.

While in Paris, I added a whistle to my communication style to indicate something that I didn't have the vocabulary to express in French. For example, I'd be saying, "And then I went..." and with my hand I'll make an up-and-down-and-over-the-hill motion, and I'd make a long whistle sound to accompany it. Or if I wanted to say, "He had to go," I'd simply say, "He" and then shoot my hand out to the right and make a short whistle sound.

While this was very effective in making myself understood when French failed me, I've discovered it's permeated my English interactions as well! So now I'm eeking and whistling not matter who I'm talking to or what I'm saying. Truly I'm becoming a human beat box. Or a crazy lunatic. You decide.

Returning to tech? Sort of...

Last September I wrote an entry on this site, From geek to chef, announcing my transition into the world of cooking. I wrote, "[m]y interest in the web and tech was always more about people...But something was always missing, and I've realized that was true passion for what I was doing..." I spent the last few months of 2005 working in a restaurant, and I loved it. But in January I moved to New Hampshire and my schedule became more hectic, too hectic to take another kitchen job.

Working in a kitchen is a full-time commitment, and by full-time I mean 9+ hours a day, six or seven days a week. And as much as I love cooking, I still love other things too, including technology. The more time I spent away, the more I realized that perhaps my lack of "true passion" was a lot of burn-out. I knew I was suffering from some burn-out, but wow, I think I was WAY WAY more burned-out than I ever realized.

In early February I spoke on a women entrepreneurs panel at NYU's Stern School of Business, and I recalled how much I enjoyed creating companies. Then I traveled to Munich, where I was invited to speak about weblogs and met all kinds of smart and wonderful people. And then I headed to San Diego for the O'Reilly Emerging Technology Conference, and my interest in all sorts of new and geeky things was piqued.

Since then I've attended two more technology conferences and many people have asked me, "What happened to the cooking? Are you back to doing tech?" and I realized I had been very open and clear about departing the tech world, and very unclear about whether I was returning to it.

Since I wrote From geek to chef, it's become clear to me that my interests are varied not only within the sphere of technology, but outside it as well. I love to write; I love to cook and work in kitchens; I love programming and fiddling and inventing; I love building things, from sauces and meals to applications to teams and whole companies; I love traveling and speaking and meeting new people; I love going a hundred miles an hour doing a hundred different things. So I'm going to refrain from making absolute statements like, "I'm done with tech!" or "I'm done with cooking!" and instead say only that I will pursue things that interest me for as long as they continue to do so.

Right now that means: speak at conferences; cook as much as possible in my own kitchen; continue to learn as much as I can about food and its history (e.g. The Food of France by Waverly Root); learn Ruby and play with Ajax and build more little web apps; consult and guide people around issues that matter greatly to me, such as the role of women in technology. Most importantly, I will remind myself that it's OK to change your mind, and it's OK to change it again.

When you're beyond nouveau riche

Ever since I read this article, Old Nantucket Warily Meets the New, the other day, the term "hyper-rich" has been rolling off my tongue. It's only fitting since I'm on Nantucket right now and signs of the hyper-rich abound -- such as the Hummer loaded for a beach assault with stacks of beach chairs and fishing rods on its roof and a cooler mounted to its front grill. During a visit to France, a friend told me that the kids were using "hyper" and "giga" (pronounced with French accents, of course) as superlatives, e.g. "hyper bon" for really really good. My mother knows this, so today as I told her how I keep using the term "hyper-rich", she proposed "hyper-riche" as an alternative. I plan to pronounce it as Frenchly as possible (eee-pear reesh) as the Hummers drive over me on their way to the beach.

Older Entries