Girlie Friday

I’m in a sundress waiting for my little birds to come home. My dad will be dropping off Ian from his summer camp. Jonah will be long boarding up the block any minute. (It isn’t a skate board, moooommmm. It’s a LONG board. Eye roll.) And Steve promised he would take an early train home. When the birds are all together, we’re going to find a sleepy restaurant along the side of the Hudson River. A bottle of red and some nice garlic-y mussels.

In the meantime, I have a few minutes for girlie-ness.

I like this dress from the GAP.

I am starting to like the idea of a Fitbit.

My first generation iPad is on its last legs. The Apple iPad mini  is pretty awesome. The other tablets don’t really stack up. Trying to decide if we absolutely need one or should we wait for the bargain prices in September when a new model comes out.

I had a good friend in college who always smelled of patchouli and had an awesome paisley comforter. Because of Lorie, I only put paisley on my bed. I have three paisley duvet covers from Pottery Barn. They are having a sale. Maybe I need one more.

Candlesticks in fun colors.

What’s Hot?

esq-sofia-xlg I can’t avoid this topic. It’s been all over the news this week. It’s dumb and fluffy, but it’s a Friday, so nothing tough here today.

Esquire declared that a woman can be hot and over 40. Whew. That’s a relief. It’s nice that a couple of guys say that I can get out of my mom jeans.

And ESPN magazine says that you can be chubby and hot.

Next week, I want an article on middle aged bloggers who are hot.

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I did about seven hours of driving yesterday. The thing about driving is that you feel like you’ve run on a treadmill for seven hours, but really you just sat on your ass for seven hours. It’s exhausting, but without the calorie burn. I need to hit the gym this morning. Before I go, here’s what I read in the past hour or two:

A delightful Hamptons book talk with much discussion about the hard work involved with maintaining five homes. The first to go after the revolution.

Some fun .gif maps of the middle class in New York City.

Sir Nicholas Winton saved 669 children during the Holocaust.

Parenting an autistic kids who needs his routines.

We love our Urgent Care center. 

The News Blackout of State Politics

Important laws are being crafted at state capitals across this country about things that you care about — gay marriage, gun regulation, abortion, schools, drug policy, and state colleges. In fact, you probably have more opinions and personal interest in things going on in your state capital, than you do in Washington. But you probably aren’t hearing about it on the local news shows or in your local paper. These laws are being crafted in the dark.

Partly, this is because you aren’t reading your local paper or watching your local news. Most of those news sources don’t exist anymore. And you are too distracted with all the other fun things on the Internet to find the weird cable channel that does cover this information.

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Pew has some great statistics on the decline of news coverage of state politics. In the past ten years, there has been a 35% drop in the number of reporters covering state politics.

On average, there are 15 full-time reporters working in each statehouse, but the total varies from state to state. The largest full-time contingent (53 full-time reporters) works in Austin, Texas, followed by 43 full-timers in Sacramento, California. Conversely, the state with the fewest full-time journalists at the capitol is South Dakota, with only two; one of them works for the Associated Press and the other writes for six newspapers. The Pew Research study found a clear correlation between the population of a state and the size of its statehouse press contingent.

Who’s filling in the gap? Students, non-profits, probably some state politics bloggers. But that’s not enough.

Author Stalking, Obsessions and Quirks

I stumbled upon this interview with David Sedaris about his family’s dinner table this morning.  He says that his dad used to spend his post-work hours in his underwear. My grandfather, who was my primary babysitter growing up, lived in his boxer shorts, too, so that memory made me happy. 

After that, I put aside the terribly annoying tasks of the morning and read Sedaris’ essay on his obsession with the Fitbit, while I sat in the dilapidated hammock chair on the back patio. A cup of luke warm coffee on the ground.

A Fitbit is a pedometer that tingles and sends you encouraging e-mail notes when you meet your walking goals for the day. Sedaris quickly becomes obsessed with it, walking further and further, while picking up trash along the side of the highway in rural England. One day, he walked for 25 miles.

At the end of my first sixty-thousand-step day, I staggered home with my flashlight knowing that I’d advance to sixty-five thousand, and that there will be no end to it until my feet snap off at the ankles. Then it’ll just be my jagged bones stabbing into the soft ground. Why is it some people can manage a thing like a Fitbit, while others go off the rails and allow it to rule, and perhaps even ruin, their lives? While marching along the roadside, I often think of a TV show that I watched a few years back—“Obsessed,” it was called. One of the episodes was devoted to a woman who owned two treadmills, and walked like a hamster on a wheel from the moment she got up until she went to bed. Her family would eat dinner, and she’d observe them from her vantage point beside the table, panting as she asked her children about their day. I knew that I was supposed to scoff at this woman, to be, at the very least, entertainingly disgusted, the way I am with the people on “Hoarders,” but instead I saw something of myself in her. Of course, she did her walking on a treadmill, where it served no greater purpose. So it’s not like we’re really that much alike. Is it?

I enjoyed the essay, like most of Sedaris’ work, because he is the patron saint of weird obsessions. I’m too undisciplined to be truly obsessed with anything, but I admire his tenacity. Not that blogging is an obsession. No, no, no. Totally normal in every way.

I also felt that it was important to read this essay this morning, because in August, I’m going to North Carolina to visit my in-laws. They live down the block from Sedaris’ summer home. I need to be prepared to chat about his work, if I should bump into him at the beach.

I might make Jonah pose in front of his beach house for a photograph. I took a picture of him in front of Stephen King’s house in Bangor, Maine last summer. Author stalking might make a really fun yearly adventure.

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Life as a “human prop.” 

Detroit is cutting off the water on people who don’t pay the bills.

The cupcake bubble has burst.

I’m not sure I understand why grad students are still surprised that there are no jobs in academia.

J.K. Rowling writes more about Harry as an aging hipster in Brooklyn. Not really. But she still writing about him.

Millennials and the New Economy

Maureen Dowd’s column is an absolute train-wreck this week. The first three paragraphs are so confusing and tone-deaf that one should avoid the whole thing. But I did read it. At the end, she had some interesting quotes about millennials and the tech boom.

“The 23-year-olds I work with are a little over the conversation about how we were the superpower brought low,” said Ben Smith, the editor in chief of Buzzfeed. “They think that’s an ‘older person conversation.’ They’re more interested in this moment of crazy opportunity, with the massive economic and cultural transformation driven by Silicon Valley. And kids feel capable of seizing it. Technology isn’t a section in the newspaper any more. It’s the culture.”

Ben Domenech, the 32-year-old libertarian who writes The Transomnewsletter, thinks many millennials are paralyzed by all their choices. He quoted Walker Percy’s “The Last Gentleman”: “Lucky is the man who does not secretly believe that every possibility is open to him.” He also noted that, given their image-conscious online life in the public eye, millennials worry about attaching themselves with a click to the wrong clique or hashtag: “It heightens the level of uncertainty, anxiety and risk aversion, to know that you’re only a bad day and half a dozen tweets from being fired.”

Jaron Lanier, the Microsoft Research scientist and best-selling author, thinks the biggest change in America is that “technology’s never had to shoulder the burden of optimism all by itself.”

And that creates what Haass calls a tension between “dysfunctional America vs. innovative America.”

Walter Isaacson, head of the Aspen Institute and author of the best-selling “Steve Jobs,” agreed that “there’s a striking disconnect between the optimism and swagger of people in the innovative economy — from craft-beer makers to educational reformers to the Uber creators — and the impotence and shrunken stature of our governing institutions.”

You know what your problem is, old fart? You need to have the swagger of a craft-beer maker! So, grow yourself a beard and stop whining!

There are a handful of people making a load of money on the Internet with companies that sell preppy belts on Instagram or that help you locate people who want to hook up. There are also a handful of people who call themselves gurus and are suffering from the dreaded fullashit disease. They write books about belts on Instagram and one-night stand software. They make a nice living, too. Good for them!

I don’t know how the new economy is working out for millennials. The Atlantic and their 15-year old writers pump out daily articles about how they can’t buy houses or cars, because they have so much student loan debt. I’m on a ‘secret’ Facebook of 27,000 women writers that complain about working for free. The latest list of most well paid careers went to old-fashioned sort of careers like anesthesiologists. Not German barbecue pop-up store owners in Williamsburg.

Summertime with ASD and OCD

Summer is never simple with a kid with special needs. With Jonah, there were sports camps and town camps and science camps and music enrichment. All sorts of opportunities for him to grow and prosper and keep out of my hair. With Ian, there are very, very, very few options. Almost none of those places take kids with special needs. If they do, it’s with a grimace and raised eyebrows and nose holding.

After I dropped off Jonah at the local YMCA this morning, I drove past the town recreation camp. All the little kids gathered in the shade with matching t-shirts. They were getting ready for swim lessons at the town pool. There were no kids in wheel chairs. No spacy kids being trailed by aides.

After a couple of seconds of anger and bitterness where I contemplated discrimination lawsuits and imagined firy speeches before the town council, I moved on. At least, I have a place for him this year. In the past, he went to extremely lame special education summer schools. Schools are obligated to provide special ed kids with programming in July, but they do a crappy job of it. This year, they wanted to shut Ian up in a classroom for half a day with two lower functioning kids where they would do math worksheets all morning. He would be stuck with me for the rest of the day. Other kids get to have fun, why doesn’t my kid get that?

I went back and forth with the school district about the inappropriate-ness of their summer program. I was fighting with them about it up until the last day of school. We were fighting it out on my cell phone, while I was at the doctor’s office getting Jonah’s wrist bone set in a cast.

For the first time in his life, Ian is at a regular camp. He has a shadow that helps him out as he makes art projects and takes swimming classes. He is around typical kids. He’s active and busy between 9 and 4, every day for four weeks. It’s a pain in the ass to get him to this camp. 4 hours per day of driving. But this was the closest place that I found.

And it’s worth it. Not only is Ian getting his fair share of fun, but he’s growing so much more than if he was shut up in a sad classroom. All that physical exercise is good for his brain. He has to deal with change. He is surrounded by people who are chatting with him. He’s a little stressed out with the heavy demands (he keeps biting holes in his t-shirts), but he’s doing it.

The Cost of Getting Married

Jenni Avins at Quartz breaks down the cost of getting married today using data from The Knot. Adjusting for inflation, a wedding 80-years ago cost $6,481. Today’s weddings cost $29,858. Of course, this data isn’t quite reliable. The Knot’s survey of 13,000 brides focused on UPM brides who frequent that website. Still, that number is astounding.

Our wedding wasn’t cheap even though I cut a lot of corners. I found a seamstress who made my dress for a fraction of the cost of a dress at a wedding store. We backpacked through Europe on our honeymoon vacation, rather than hitting a resort in the Caribbean. We bought our rings from a front for the Russian mafia in the Diamond District. Still, it was costly. We did some dumb things, like hiring a band instead of a DJ. We hired a tempermental artist to take the photographs, rather than a standard wedding photographer. We cared too much about the quality of the food.

It was a great wedding. People had a lot of fun. But, looking back on things, was it really worth blowing all that cash on one night? Some people earn back the costs of the wedding with cash from the wedding guests, but we didn’t. Too many poor, socially stupid grad students in our circle. Many didn’t give us a card.

One friend of mine had a small ceremony with just the immediate family. Her nuptuals were witnessed by twenty people at most. Her father gave her $20,000 — the amount he would have shelled out for the wedding. And she invested it in a Vanguard account.

We’ve made some good financial decisions over the years, and some poor decisions (Hello PhDs). The wedding extravaganza was perhaps a bad one. I loved my pretty dress and the vacation. I would do that again. Watching my husband tear up as my father walked me down the aisle was a perfect moment. But all those guests, the loud band, and the silly hair-do? Should have skipped all that.

Older Women in the Fashion Industry

There are two women in the their retirement era years who are big forces in the fashion industry. There’s Nina McLemore and Grace Coddington.

Here’s a cool piece about Nina in the Wall Street Journal.

And Grace Coddington at Vogue. I flipped through her book, Grace: A Memoir, at the book store the other day. Looked lovely.

Tangent — I just got the insane 17 pound Restoration Hardware catalog delivered by UPS. WTF?!!

Girlie Friday (on a Thursday)

Tomorrow is a holiday, so blogging will be infrequent for the next three day. Much festivities. I’m giving you my Girlie Friday post today.

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Now that school has let out, we’ve caught up on all the chores. Doctor’s appointments done. (And Ian handled getting his shot just perfectly. Yay!) Haircuts done. And new shoes purchased. Last Sunday, we all wore our new shoes and took a picture in the park.

Steve’s wearing his hiking boots for his post-Church hike. He is wearing Lowa Men’s Camino GTX Hiking Boot.

I’ve got Frye Women’s Carson Ring Sling Sandal and a cute skirt from Old Navy.

Jonah thinks he’s a skater dude, so he has Vans.

Ian got his KEEN Newport H2 Sandal (Toddler/Little Kid/Big Kid) on sale at L.L. Bean.

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Things that caught my eye this morning:

Why it is hard to make friends over 30. Is this really a problem?

Executing kids in the Middle East is a special kind of evil.

Tech start ups are a special kind of gross.

Preppy is so back in style. Check out this guy who used Instagram to sell his anchor bracelets and preppy belts. Neat use of social media.

I’m always a sucker for the NYT Home and Garden slideshow.

Indra K. Nooyi on Having it All or Not

Indra K. Nooyi, the CEO of PepsiCo, was interviewed at Aspen about “having it all.” It’s a really honest, insightful interview. Here’s a small bit.

This is about 14 years ago. I was working in the office. I work very late, and we were in the middle of the Quaker Oats acquisition. And I got a call about 9:30 in the night from the existing chairman and CEO at that time. He said, Indra, we’re going to announce you as president and put you on the board of directors… I was overwhelmed, because look at my background and where I came from—to be president of an iconic American company and to be on the board of directors, I thought something special had happened to me.

So rather than stay and work until midnight which I normally would’ve done because I had so much work to do, I decided to go home and share the good news with my family. I got home about 10, got into the garage, and my mother was waiting at the top of the stairs. And I said, “Mom, I’ve got great news for you.” She said, “let the news wait. Can you go out and get some milk?” I looked in the garage and it looked like my husband was home. I said, “what time did he get home?” She said “8 o’clock.” I said, “Why didn’t you ask him to buy the milk?” “He’s tired.” Okay. We have a couple of help at home, “why didn’t you ask them to get the milk?” She said, “I forgot.” She said just get the milk. We need it for the morning. So like a dutiful daughter, I went out and got the milk and came back.

I banged it on the counter and I said, “I had great news for you. I’ve just been told that I’m going to be president on the Board of Directors. And all that you want me to do is go out and get the milk, what kind of a mom are you?” And she said to me, “let me explain something to you. You might be president of PepsiCo. You might be on the board of directors. But when you enter this house, you’re the wife, you’re the daughter, you’re the daughter-in-law, you’re the mother. You’re all of that. Nobody else can take that place. So leave that damned crown in the garage. And don’t bring it into the house. You know I’ve never seen that crown.”

She says that even with a staff and extended family, she isn’t able to give her family enough attention.

You know, stay at home mothering was a full time job. Being a CEO for a company is three full time jobs rolled into one. How can you do justice to all? You can’t. The person who hurts the most through this whole thing is your spouse. There’s no question about it.

Wow.