Monday, July 21, 2014

It's Ernest Hemingway's Birthday!

...but more importantly, his second wife (pictured above) was named Pauline.

Hemingway had all sorts of insights about writing, but was always quick to admit that it's a lonely life. 60 years ago, in 1954, he won a Nobel Prize for Literature and had this to say about the writing life:

Writing, at its best, is a lonely life. Organizations for writers palliate the writer’s loneliness but I doubt if they improve his writing. He grows in public stature as he sheds his loneliness and often his work deteriorates. For he does his work alone and if he is a good enough writer he must face eternity, or the lack of it, each day.

Sunday, June 22, 2014

The iPhone As Personal Time Capsule

Every iPhone I've ever owned has become a little time capsule, because I never bother to transfer data. Instead I start fresh when I get a new one. Today on The Huffington Post, I explore why these little digital boxes are important.

The iPhone as Personal Time Capsule

Friday, June 20, 2014

It's Better To Be Tigger Than Eeyore

optimism New Yorker

Like the song from 42nd Street tells us, every situation has a sunny side. To underscore this point, there's a great post up on the New Yorker about how being an optimist is scientifically good for you.

My brand of optimism may border on Pollyanna-esque, naiveté, but I still think it's the best way to be. Difficult people eventually mellow out, the word "no" is just a jumping off point for further negotiations, and good things come from hard work and perseverance. And then there's always the elusive luck factor. Move to New York City with no job and $400 in my pocket? What could possibly go wrong? (Turns out, absolutely nothing.)

Speaking of things that make me happy, this evening while walking home from exercise class, I came across Cascada's version of "The Chistmas Song." Under normal circumstances Cascada makes dance music, tunes that would likely be popular with the cast of Jersey Shore. But her Chistmas album, which came out in 2012, is wonderful. I don't know why it took me so long to discover it.

There are two kinds of people in this world: those who listen to Christmas music year-round, and those that don't. (I am clearly the former.) Either way, this version of "The Christmas Song" is the happiest and jazziest thing you'll hear all day.

Thursday, June 19, 2014

The Preschool Parent Paparazzi

You may see your kid everyday, but when they graduate from preschool it's as if Beyonce is making a cameo.

The graduate and I. Next stop: Harvard!

Tuesday, June 10, 2014

Shonda Rhimes Is My Spirit Animal

Her shows are awesome (Grey's Anatomy, Scandal, etc.) but Shonda Rhimes wins the Human Being of the Year award for her very candid graduation speech at Dartmouth. Her views on working, working as a mother, the silliness of hashtags and not being an asshole are genius. Well worth the 25 minute investment of time.

Sunday, June 08, 2014

Times Square As A Gateway To Pleasant Things

In New York City, the mundane has a habit of turning into the exceptional, often with no planning at all. Perfunctory first dates turn into all-day affairs or a work event turns into the best time you've had all week.

My little guy Andre has been talking about Ferris wheels ever since he didn't get to go on one at Playland a few weeks ago. At the time it was getting late and no one wants to deal with a four-year-old's meltdown at the top of a ten-story high amusement park ride. So I did what all great parents do: deflect and promise vaguely to do it again in the future.

In the grand tradition of small children, Andre did not forget about my promise to take him to a Ferris wheel. Initially I thought hauling down to Coney Island was the only way to get him on one, but then I remembered Times Square. The Toys R Us in Time Square has a giant Ferris wheel, and for $11 it can quell the savage entertainment needs of any kid.

No self-respecting New Yorker ever goes near Times Square and so I had to get into the right frame of mind just to even deal with the place on a sunny Sunday afternoon. Once there, it turned out to be an oddly pleasant experience. The Ferris wheel was a hit, and the Toys R Us is more theme park than toy store. (They totally get you on the professional photographs with super heroes and dinosaurs -- which are actually reasonably priced and high quality.) The greatest accomplishment was that we left with zero new toys and zero tantrums. Praise be.

On the way home Andre and I popped into Bryant Park to take a spin on the carousel. An afternoon that I thought would be the mental equivalent of an unmedicated root canal (Times Square on a summer weekend) ended in two gentle spins on a carousel while Edith Piaf music played in the background. And 56 photos of Andre lit up with pure joy. Who knew canned entertainment could be so fulfilling?

It was while I was on the carousel that I realized that the earliest memories I have of listening to recorded music are those of Edith Piaf. My parents are giant Francophiles and traveled to France regularly, so the Piaf records were always spinning at Chez Millard.

Milord, below, is one I remember hearing for the first time when I was about Andre's age. It's still one of my all-time favorite songs. Gotta get 'em hooked when they're young.

Years ago, when I finally got to go to the Pere Lachaise, Edith Piaf's grave was the first one I made it my business to find. Always the fan girl.

Sunday, June 01, 2014

The Taming of the Shrubs

I am becoming one of those New Yorkers that has to get out of the city on the weekends. I love what it's been doing to my mind. A day or so surrounded by grass and trees calms me down and the focus I have when I get back into Manhattan is incredible. If/when I pass my driver's test in a few weeks, my excursions may become even more ambitious. I need this kind of Zen in my life.

Luckily, I have an easy out if I need some fresh air. The house I grew up in is well over 100 years old, in West Norwalk, Connecticut. It's right on the Darien and New Canaan borders. Due to its age there are no fewer than 932 home improvement projects that could be done on any given day. Today I chose yard work, specifically mowing the considerable lawn (the house sits on an acre) and attacking a few bushes with the hedge clippers.

There's a lot of talk lately about female empowerment -- Leaning In, Thriving, etc. --- but nothing makes you feel more She-Ra, Princess of Power than taking a pair of hedge clippers (more about those below) and showing a bush who's boss. Today I spent the better part of two hours dismantling a forsythia bush that was many times larger than me. Next: world domination.

After an hour, that bush didn't have quite as much bite.

Today's other takeaway: the Susan G. Komen Foundation will officially put their breast cancer ribbon on anything. Case in point: these pink hedge clippers. It's good to know, though, that if breast cancer decides to hide in shrubbery, it doesn't stand a chance.