December 18th, 2009 § Comments Off on Complaints § permalink

You know those days when everything runs so smoothly and perfectly, and things just get themselves done? Yeah, I’m not having one of those days, either. I’ve been having the kind of days where I manage to squeeze in a hair appointment before next week’s trip (Pie was kind enough to say, “Mommy, show me your gray! Yep! There it is!”) only to leave my earrings behind. To call the Pie’s school frantically because I sent in a peanut butter sandwich but forgot to label it (they segregate the kids with peanut allergies from the kids who bring in peanut butter). I left a message but called back to make sure they got it… only to be told that I had labeled the lunch. I went to three stores looking for wooden swizzle sticks for treats I was making, only to abandon that. I fought my son on homework–our teacher conference last week determined that the boy can do schoolwork (and quite well); he just chooses not to. I fought my daughter on… well, just about everything. The whine is back.

On a side note, Pie and I are watching Eloise at Christmastime. That poor girl is going to be in serious therapy over separation anxiety!

Anyway, today was one of those days when Pie and Jasmine had a playdate that not only gave me no free time, but left me threatening to end the playdate if they couldn’t get along. At Pie’s dance class, I was stuck listening to these, these… well, let’s just call them Mothers and leave it at that. They had a conversation about cleaning uncircumcised p*enises (and yes, they’re husbands are also uncircumcised!) and other lovely crunchy topics. And then another mother came in with a Happy Meal toy she’d found in her car. Her two girls were playing with it and one asked, “What is it?” The mom responded, “Hmm, I don’t know. It’s really a boy’s toy. Why don’t we give this to a boy we know?” Grrrrrrr.

I still have dinner to cook. I still have packages to mail. I still have treats to make and crafts to finish. There’s no point to this post, really. I just felt like bitchin’. Too bad for you.

All the People Who Died, Died

September 14th, 2009 § 2 comments § permalink

I recognize that this is a very introspective (read: masturbatory) blog–the outside world doesn’t generally intervene here unless it relates to something amusing/maddening/strange a family member did.

And in a sense this is also a self-indulgent post. Because it’s all about how it relates to me. But for a few moments, we shall turn to the world outside of Adam, Doodles, and Pie.

Once upon a time I was a graduate student. I studied creative writing at the University of Washington. It was a magical two years when the only thing I had to do was write. And read. And write some more. My whole life revolved around writing. I read slush for the Seattle Review. I helped bring authors to come read at the university. I dated poets and fiction writers and English lit Ph.Ders. And I wrote, if not well, at least prolifically.

Every year, Seattle has the most marvelous of festivals, Bumbershoot. Bumbershoot is this amazing amalgamation of music, art, film, literature, food, and general fun. Bumbershoot, to me, is the epitome of Seattle. In my day, that meant putting on your Carharts, flannel shirt, and Tevas and heading out for a day of hearing “the coolest band” and mocking that “total sell-out” on the next stage. Of course, no one ever agreed which was which.

My second year in Seattle, two of us grad students, me and a poet, Laura, were offered jobs at Bumbershoot. And what a job it was. “Literary Escort.” Yes, it sounds like something out of a Woody Allen story. And, frankly, I thought it sounded kind of hot. I’d read the line-up of authors coming. “What, I get to sleep with Exene Cervenka?” No, I was told. I got to drive her around. Well, okay. That would be a close second.

So I took the job. It was just for the weekend. I was one of a team of escorts. We picked up literary greats at the airport, brought them to their hotels. Took them from their hotels to their readings at Bumbershoot. Take them back. Drive them to the airport again. We could attend the parties. We had backstage passes. We got walkie talkies to use. We got paid. Pretty f’ing sweet.

On my list? Exene Cervenka. Tobias Wolff. Patti Smith. Jim Carroll. A few others you probably haven’t heard of.

They were quite nice. I got into a car accident with Tobias Wolff. Actually, a bus sideswiped my van, but it suitably freaked me out, and Tobias had to calm me down, assuring me it was in no way my fault; I was stopped at a traffic light. Patti Smith was way more domestic than I would have guessed. Exene Cervenka was as cool as you’d think she’d be.

And Jim Carroll? Jim Carroll can only be described as a trip. From the moment I picked him up at the airport, he was high maintenance.

“Hello, Mr. Carroll, I’m Jenny. I’ll be driving you around this weekend.”

“Call me, Jim,” he told me. And so I did.

In the car, he immediately became chatty. And I ate it up. The original name dropper. “Yeah, did you know that last time I was in Seattle, I got a call from Eddie Vedder, wanted to hang out. Asked me to sing. Oh, is Patti here yet? You need to get me in touch with Patti….”

We got to his hotel. “Um, I think I forgot my i.d. Can you come in with me just to make sure I get checked in okay?”

Uh… okay. So I go in with him. And help him solve all his problems. “There’s no room service? Well, what’s the restaurant down here. Will they deliver to my room? Can someone get the food to me? What do they serve? I don’t know if I’ll eat that…”

I finally left, promising to call him a half hour before I was to pick him up. “Hi Jim, it’s Jenny. I’m leaving now to come get you….” Then I’d call him from the hotel, which in these days before the abundance of cell phones, meant my parking the van on a crowded Seattle downtown street, getting out, going into the lobby and using the hotel phone. “Hi Jim, it’s Jenny. I’m downstairs ready for you…. Hi Jim, it’s Jenny, I’m still downstairs waiting for….”

I took him to the parties. I took him to his reading. I lent him my Cartoon Network watch to wear onstage because he forgot his. Forget the rest of the other writers. My whole weekend was “Hi Jim, it’s Jenny. I’m waiting for you….”

His flight back to New York was at 9 a.m. “I’m always nervous about making my flights,” he told me. “I’d like to get there at least two hours early.” Note, this is years before 9/11.

“Um, okay.”

“And could you call me with a wake-up call? I don’t trust the hotel. Call me at 5:30.” 5:30. Of course now, 5:30 in the morning is par for the course. But in those days, 5:30 was an hour in which I might be falling asleep.

“Of course,” I told him.

So I called him. “Hi Jim,” I said, trying to hide the groggy from my voice. “It’s Jenny. It’s time for you to get up.”

“Could you call back in a half hour, make sure I’m still up?”

Half and hour later. “Hi Jim, it’s Jenny. I’m heading out now to get you.”

The ride to the airport was magical. I asked him all sorts of questions, growing bolder as we spoke. I asked and asked. I asked about the “people who died,” about who he dated, about heroin, about his fear of AIDS, about, about, about. All the way to SeaTac we chatted.

We pulled up to the airport. Before he got out, I nervously pulled out my copy of Basketball Diaries. “Would you sign my book?”

He gave me the most charming smile. “Of course!” he said, and he took the book. He signed it. I saw him drawing a tiny picture of the space needle before he handed it back to me. He gave me a great big hug and headed back to New York.

I give you this, my final one: “Hi Jim, this is Jenny.”

I still have the book. I’ll keep it forever. I look at it now. It’s Jim. So Jim. Jim inscribed it as only Jim would. He wrote, “For Laura, with love and all my thanks for your help. Jim Carroll. Seattle ’95.”

Rest in peace, Jim Carroll.


Shopping with Pie

November 20th, 2008 § 3 comments § permalink

So as a completely biased, totally subjective, blinded-by-love mom, I can state with absolute certainty that my son is the most adorable five year old ever created and my daughter is the most beautiful thing on earth. I’m fine if you disagree with me. In fact, I expect you to.

The thing is, people tend to fawn over Pie a bit. The girl is unquestionably a fashionista and whenever possible, she will dress as if she were going to a black tie event. Today, though, after her ice skating class, we headed to the mall to make a dent in our holiday shopping (and, Peter, if you don’t tell me ASAP what you want, you’re getting this). We went straight from her ice skating class, so she was donned in her “dancing” outfit–a pink leotard with a flower skirt (over a turtleneck and tights). We could not walk more than 50 yards without an “Oh, isn’t she adorable! [Person standing next to her] Have you ever seen someone so darling?” I worry what it’s going to do to her, all these folks telling her how pretty she is. I mean, I’m her mom. That’s my job. Honestly, I think it was the outfit. But the message is questionable.

But we made it through shopping. We went to the mall because I had bought Doodles a pair of gloves that was size 4-6. Those things won’t fit him until he’s 12. Seriously. He looks like some (very good looking) robot thing when he has them on. So Pie and I headed to the mall after skating class. I got a holiday gift for my brother- & sister-in-law. I got some lovely Hanukkah bowls for my family. I got Eloise for my kids as we’re going to NYC for Thanksgiving and I thought it would get them in a New York holiday kind of mood. A couple of other holiday gifts were taken care of. And the mittens? The mittens that were the sole purpose of my trip to the mall? I remembered those halfway down the Middlesex Turnpike on my home. So, kindergarten, here comes robot-boy!

While I was at the mall with a most agreeable shopper (seriously, that girl loves to shop especially if there are samples. Any kind of samples. Food. Lotion. Lip gloss), I figured it was nigh time I bought myself a lipstick. I own a lip stick. It’s very pretty. I got it for my wedding. Six and a half years ago. I figure it’s time to update my collection. I’ve also been meaning to do this crazy thing I’ve been hearing about: washing my face at night. Yep, I never got into the habit. I stopped by Sephora.

I needed help. Really. So I asked for help. “I need a lipstick. Not expensive.” And it was actually helpful because I ended up with a lipstick in–I think–a not hideous color for under $20, which I figured was fine. I mean, according to the New York Times sales of lipstick is an indicator of the economy (which may be a myth, but who cares?). I’m just proving the economy is in the crapper. The woman said to me, “Do you want to try another product?”

“Sure,” I said. “I’m game.”

She proceeds to pull out some skin stuff. “Are you wearing makeup now?”

“I’m wearing makeup never,” I told her.

“Okay,” she says and she goes into her spiel about this great new skin product. It’s a foundation! It’s a concealer! It’s a powder!

“It’s how much?” I ask.

“$57,” she said.

“Yikes!” I replied. “A bit much for me.”

“It’s really economical,” she assured me. “It takes the place of your foundation and your powder and your concealer–“

“Yes, but since I don’t use any of those anyway, it’s really not saving me any money, is it?”

And I left her speechless. From the look on her champion saleswoman face, I’m guessing that doesn’t happen too often. No comeback. She had the good grace to let me go quietly.

The woman in skin care was more my speed. “I don’t wash my face. Really. When I do wash it in the shower, I use plain old soap. But I’m forty. And there are wrinkles. I won’t spend a lot. Do something for me.” She steered me to a (relatively) cheap face wash and loaded me up with samples. “Use one pump twice a day.”

“Really?” I said. “Because if I remember to use it once a day, I’ll consider myself really well groomed.”

So now I have a lipstick. And a face wash. And it’s exciting. Which means that the transformation to suburban haus frau is complete. I went shopping. With my beauty pageant daughter. And then I blogged about it. Tomorrow’s post will be about how to remove those stubborn coffee and tea stains from your white mugs (sneak preview: baking soda!).

It’s a good thing.

Guilty Admissions

September 26th, 2008 § Comments Off on Guilty Admissions § permalink

Okay, I admit it. I almost hope the debates are canceled tonight, because I really, really, really want to watch the Grey’s Anatomy I Tivoed. Yes, I am a bad American. Deal with it.

40 Years of Me

June 25th, 2008 § 4 comments § permalink

Those Peace Lovin’ 1960s
June 25, 1968: I was born. Flower and Fifth Hospital in New York City, although my parents at the time were living in West New York, New Jersey.This causes three decades of debate (it wasn’t an issue that first decade) of whether my home state is New York or New Jersey.
1969: TV enters my life, in two notable ways:

  1. My father props me up to watch on TV the first moon landing/walk. My father says that he wanted me to witness such a monumental moment, but really (he claims), my sister got the better show, because he let her watch Hank Aaron’s 733rd home run. “Lots of people will walk on the moon,” he told me. “I don’t think anyone will break Hank Aaron’s record.” Dad, meet Barry Bonds.
  2. My mother discovers the wonderful world of Sesame Street. My father claims this is the root of all my problems. “Your mother heard about this great new show for kids. The problem is, she heard about it after the first day it had aired. You started with the letter B and the number 2, and you never caught up.”

Those Wild and Crazy 1970s
1970: Family lore states that I attempted to kill passers-by by tossing blocks off our 22nd floor balcony. My mother ran downstairs, saw some dented cars and a very angry doorman and pedestrians. She acted shocked and indignant that someone could be so irresponsible as to let her child do this and she retreated upstairs. I never saw those blocks again. Also, my best friend was Feefer, I sucked on a LaLa, and apparently, I liked apples and was “scared cows.”
1971: We’re movin’ on up, movin’ on up, to the ‘burbs: The Brown family migrates to Westchester Country, and all hopes of my having any pretensions of being a city girl are shot. And, oh yeah, my sister, the Tweedle Twirp, is born. This is significant because from here on out, she protected me from the cows.
1972: My family makes the move from Briarcliff Manor, New York, to Miami Lakes, Florida, and thus my identity as a Miami girl begins its formation.
1973: 1973 was the year of the gun. Already told you about it; no need to repeat myself.
1974: From Miami Lakes to South Miami. A play house in the front yard, built by my mother out of–why?–railroad-ties. A front walkway, laid by mother built out of–why?–railroad ties. These railroad ties always turned my feet orange and were a nuisance to walk on barefoot. In the house: Halls with orange and brown stripes painted by my mother. An orange metal fireplace in the living room that us children were not permitted in under punishment of death by my mother. I remember being allowed by my mother to watch TV at dinner for one event and one event only: Richard Nixon’s resignation.
1975: I get in trouble for fighting with the boy down the street. My mother tells me that violence is never an option. My father tells me, If someone hits you, you hit him back harder. I decide my father’s philosophies are more in tune with my own. I get in trouble a lot this year. But only with my mom.
1976: The whole country is celebrating the bicentennial. I’m mourning the fact that I am the youngest person at Pinecrest Elementary School–possibly even Dade County, possibly even all of South Florida!–to ever get braces. A full headgear. To be worn twenty-four hours a day. Yes, I know my teeth look great now. No, it was not worth it.
1977: I’m looking at my diaries. 1977. None of it’s ringing a bell. End of third grade, beginning of 4th grade. Not a memorable year in any way.
1978: Was the headgear not enough? Let’s add glasses to the repertoire. Farrah Fawcett-style. Tinted, partially, a gray and blue. My initials are in gold foil on the corner of one of the lenses. This year, I also take my first trip abroad.
1979: How to torment an almost-eleven year old? Uproot her and move her across the country. To a land where there are no Jews. To a land where this strange white stuff falls from the sky and where the snazzy jean jacket her mother bought looks nothing like the space-age parkas everyone else wears. A land so liberal and crunchy that her father’s new job, as the president of a company that turns animal poop into gas (hey, thanks Carter years!) is actually considered cool by the kids in her class. Bye Bye, Miami. Hello, Boulder, Colorado.

Like, Gag Me with a Spoon! It’s the 1980s!
1980: From my diary, Nov. 11, 1980: “The world is going to shit! The Presidental [sic] Election is today. I want Carter to win. Of course he’s losing. Reagan has 252 electroal [sic] votes so far. Carter has 15 & Anderson has 4. Even Anderson would be good. Reagan is against E.R.A. & abortion. This country is falling apart. Between Reagan & the hostages in Iran.”
1981: From my diary, a selection of things I received for my 13th birthday: bicycle helmet; 2 cassettes: Pat Benatar’s Crimes of Passion, and Styx’s Paradise Theater; 2 tube tops, pink and blue & white striped; 2 books: Petals on the Wind and If There Be Thorns; a “gorgeous” card with a unicorn on it. I also recorded a description of myself: “I have a volunteer job at North Boulder Rec Center. I help teach swim classes. It’s great! I’m going to try to describe myself: braces, plastic rimmed glasses, a bit of acne, tan on my nose that stops where my glasses start, dark eyebrows, fairly dark brown eyes, dark brown hair that parts on either the middle or side depending on my mood, small (real small) bust approx. 32 inches (really 31 but…), A cup (ugh) so I hardly ever wear a bra, I’m 4 feet 11 3/4 inches. I’m 13 and I still don’t have my period!”
1982: And little did I know… the beginning of my running career. I joined the Casey Junior High Track Team. However, I had a dismal coach who did no coaching and who neglected to tell me that when running the mile, I should hold myself back, and not try to sprint the entire way. Despite my $45 Nike shoes (my mother asked my father, “How much did you spend on running shoes?!?”), I consistently came in last place in every track meet.
1983: Deep sigh. Nightmare over. We return to Miami Beach. In my Colorado years, I made exactly one friend (hi, Karin!), learned how to roll a joint, and almost flunked out of Algebra. I pretend the previous four years never happened.
1984: The future is now! But I’m still stuck with an old Atari and we still don’t have MTV in the house! I sneak General Hospital after school (no TV allowed) and I spend more time grounded than not. Life pretty much sucks, but in your normal, I’m sixteen-years-old sucks kind of way. On the plus side, I do get a driver’s license. But also a serious curfew to go with it.
1985: I GET MY MTV! And use of a car (a a manual Volkswagen Rabbit) to drive to school. I force the Tweedle Twirp into 1) waking me up 2) making my breakfast peanut-butter-and-jelly sandwich, and 3) having my Diet Coke ready to go. She complies because 1) She cares about getting to school on time, 2) I don’t, and 3) see #1. I grudgingly drive her but do insist she move to the backseat when I pick up my boyfriend, Greg.
1986: Who are we? Wild and sick! Senior Senior ’86! Whoo hooo! I’ve got Hi Tide Pride! Go Beach High!
1987: Hook ’em horns! One semester at the University of Texas lets me know that 1) I would never be the president of Chase Manhattan Bank 2) I will never get the bows in my hair to stay that neat and pretty and 3) Texas, well, let’s just say, me and Texas, not such a good fit.
1988: Bye-bye bowheads. Hello city that never sleeps. Film school NYU. Much better fit.
1989: My first solo trip–three weeks in Europe. I’m hooked, starting a decade-and-a-half obsession with travel.

Grunge It Up, Girl. It’s the 1990s
1990: After working for a glamorous nine months in the world of advertising, I discover I hate advertising. I become an editorial assistant for the glamorous pay of $14,000. I share a one-bedroom apartment (my share is $450) on the fifth-floor of a walkup on 11th, between Avenues B & C, where the front door doesn’t lock and the light on the third floor landing is always out, which means stepping over the men sleeping in the hallway. I survive by dating for the free dinners and swapping the free books from my publishing job for the free concerts and movie tickets my friends get from their jobs.
1991: I leave the lucrative publishing job for a stint as an assistant at a talent agency. This job pays the even more astounding $11,000 a year (to be raised to $13,000 at the three-month point). It was not a good fit. I’m not perky. I can’t stand Off-Off Broadway theater. My movie tastes ran that year toward Delicatessen, Barton Fink, and Thelma and Louise; the agency cast deodorant commercials and soap operas. I never made it to that raise. I retreat back to publishing.
1992: I test the waters of adulthood. Steady boyfriend. Job that has potential for a career. A decent (well, for New York) apartment. Testing. Testing. Testing…
1993: Nah. Not for me. Which leads to 1993. I remember nothing of 1993. Well, I remember getting the phone number for that door-to-door pot delivery service. But other than that, 1993 is a complete blank.
1994: Time to try a new tack. I pack it all up and head west. Onward to U Dub for grad school. But first, a three-month cross country road trip. My mother is so freaked out about the idea, she leaves me a letter the morning that I am to leave that reads in part: “It’s 5 a.m. and I haven’t been able to sleep. As usual these days, I’ve been worrying about you…I keep wondering how I could live with myself in the future if you’re dead (a very distinct possibility) from some mishap on this trip, and all I was was be ‘supportive.’ … Sylvia Plath aside, I have no romanticized notions of the young, dead writer. I don’t thinky our father or I could function after having buried one of our children. … I want you to live to have the experience of being a parent so you’ll know exactly what I mean….” I can report that I survived the trip, with nothing more harmful than one speeding ticket, a new boyfriend, and enough material to get me through two years of a Creative Writing master’s degree program.
1995: Write. Read. Write. Read. Write. Read. Write. Read. Write. Read. Write. Read. Write. Read. Write. Read. Write. Read. Write. Read. Write. Read. Write. Read. Write. Read.
1996: My degree is done. I have two choices: Find a job, marry my boyfriend (different one from 1994), think about procreating. Or, run away. I choose run away. I head for a kibbutz for six weeks to work in the kiwi fields.
1997: Six weeks somehow became six months plus a couple of months trekkin’ through Eastern Europe. I return back to Seattle, and begin the glamorous life of freelancing, as a proofreader and copyeditor.
1998: A friend says to me, “Hey, have you heard of that little Internet bookstore? I heard they are hiring copyeditors.” I apply. I get a job. My father, the Certified Financial Planner lectures me, “Take this job if you like the job. But don’t take it for the stock options. This company is worthless and you’ll never make a dime.” I bitch and moan and th
en ask him to tell me what a stock option is.
1999: I cash in my worthless stock options. I take my sister and my best friend on a bike trip from Vienna to Prague. I undergo Lasik. I get a DVD player. I buy a house.

Bring on the Minivan! It’s a New Century!
2000: My father says, “The stock is at the highest it’ll ever be. Cash it all out now.” I ignore him. I lose thousands upon thousands of dollars. My father continues to remind me of this fact even now, eight years later. In other news, there’s this guy. He’s kind of cute, but rather arrogant and when I asked him out, he simply said, “No.” Assohole.
2001: Got engaged to arrogant guy.
2002: Got married to arrogant guy. Let arrogant guy drag me across the country so he can attend the most arrogant school in the country and become arrogant MBA guy. Should I procreate with arrogant soon-to-be MBA guy? No let’s not procreate. Instead, let’s go to New Orleans and spend the entire time drunk off our asses. Oh, what’s that? Too late? The genesis of Brown Brown occurs amid the primordial haze of hurricanes and Cajun martins.
2003: Bye bye martinis, hello breastmilk. Little do I know that I’m about to spend the next five years either pregnant or with a child at my breast. Brown Brown enters the world, and formally becomes known as… Doodles.
2004: I think life is tough with a baby. I think it’s impossible to get any writing or work done. I think that I’m exhausted. But it turns out I know nothing. But this is easy compared to…
2005: Welcome to the world, Pie!
2006: I breastfeed. And cosleep. And breastfeed some more. And cosleep. Did I mention the breastfeeding? There was quite a lot of that going on. And a bit more. Yes, I breastfed this year. Boy, did I breastfeed.
2007: For 11/12 of this year, I continue to breastfeed. But then, miraculously, children leave my breast. They sleep for longer stretches of time. They enter school programs and make friends with whom they can be dropped off. Visions of not necessarily my old life, but some sort of life begin to emerge. Which leads me to…
June 25, 2008: I turn forty years old. Happy freakin’ birthday to me.

Yom Ha’tzmaut

May 7th, 2008 § 2 comments § permalink

Warning: This is one of those long self-indulgent posts probably most interesting (or not!) to family.

So today is the 60th anniversary of Israel’s independence, which isn’t normally a topic I’d blog about (as I, last post excepted, do tend to shy away from anything political int his blog), however…

Our synagogue had a big shindig tonight (and guess–out of the hundreds of people there tonight–who was the absolute first on the dance floor? Can you say Dancing Pie and her buddy Dancing Jasmine?) and I submitted some photos for the slide show that are just way too embarrassing to not share with you guys. Actually, this first trip was in a good phase. One of the few. That’s me and my cousin Oliver in Sfat. That trip was–gasp!–thirty years ago, and it’s easy to remember because we were there for Israel’s 30th independence day (and for those doing the math, I was not quite ten at the time). Oliver and I traveled with my grandparents on a UJA (United Jewish Appeal) trip that was done in a first-class kind of style. I can’t be sure, but I do seem to recall staying at the King David hotel, which was pretty fancy shmancy. Before the trip, my grandmother deemed that my fashion sensibility was lacking, so she insisted that we go to Jordan Marsh for a complete new wardrobe. Even then I wasn’t a fan of shopping and I didn’t completely get why my clothes all had “G”s on them (my grandmother apparently was a fan of Givenchy at the time). Things I remember most about the trip: taking turns with my cousin wearing my grandfather’s gold necklace; being terrified on a camel ride, which my grandfather found humorous; a man on the street in Sfat making a tin picture of a deer for me and my grandfather tipping him and telling me, “Nothing’s for free in this world”; getting a plastic hammer that made noise when you bonked people on the head with it during the independence celebrations, but I was too short and I hit someone–hard–with the plastic part; dancing the hora in the streets with my grandmother; and the way my grandmother would smile coyly and say, “Oh no! I’m not their mother. I’m their grandmother,” as if she didn’t know people would be confused by the fact that we called her Ema, which is Hebrew for Mom.

Oh dear lord, there it is!! Yes, I did dress like this as a sixteen year old (that’s me on the left). The scary thing is, even dressed like this, I never had a problem dating. Or maybe it’s because I dressed like this I never had a problem dating? Who knows? [Side note: I recently had reason to go through my high school yearbook. Dear God, we were a John Hughes movie come to life!] Anyhoo, when I was sixteen, I convinced my grandparents to send me to High School in Israel (not that it was all that hard–my parents are well known for their Jewish apathy and my grandparents were desperate to get to us grandkids any way they could. I distinctly remember my grandfather saying to me at Oliver’s bar mitzvah, “You know, if you had a bat mitzvah, you could get all these presents, too! You’d get a lot of money if you had one”). I have extremely mixed feelings in retrospect about the High School in Israel program: there was a more than fair amount of brainwashing involved, however, it was one of the first school programs to truly engage me. I’m sure you’ll all be shocked to hear that I was not a stellar student as a youth (my best buddy in high school, Eric, who I should say went to Princeton and is now a cardiologist, wrote in my yearbook [as I just rediscovered] “Sometimes your frivolity annoys me and sometimes your irrational moodiness drives me crazy, but I love you anyway,” but I digress), and High School in Israel was the first time I realized that studying could actually be interesting. Some of what I remember about the trip is: the eggs. The damn hardboiled eggs. I was a vegetarian, and those stupid eggs were pretty much all I could eat. I remember Shlomo who sold falafels from a cart out back, but they weren’t always in the budget. I remember not quite grasping my budget because at the time the Israeli currency was spiraling out of control and something that was 100 shekels at the beginning of the summer was 500 shekels at the end. I remember the cute Israeli soldiers who lived on campus who seemed so old to me; thinking that the hike up Masada was incredibly long and hard; going out with my twentysomething cousin to a bunch of bars and parties (no drinking age in Israel) and while we were on our way to the umpteenth party at about 3 or 4 a.m., telling him I just couldn’t take it and I had to go to sleep, and his surprise and disappointment at having to go home early; sitting in the desert and having a teacher tell me, “This is where Abraham buried his foreskin”; and the Zionist zeal that I was indoctrinated with, to the point where I returned home and told my parents that I was going to grow up to become an economist and save the Israeli economy.

Shall we flash forward twelve years? I’m not an economist. I didn’t save Israel. I do have an MFA in creative writing, a boyfriend who thinks we should become engaged, and no real prospects for an actual paying job. So what’s a girl to do? Run off and join a kibbutz! Well, not exactly join, but volunteer at for four weeks. Hmmm, make that six weeks. As long as I’m here, let’s just make that two, no four, okay six and a half months. That trip was a whirlwind and not something easy to summarize here. It’s been the fodder for plenty of writing (one of my favorite essays on it appeared here). I picked kiwis, managed (almost) irrigation lines, decided that the boyfriend was not for me (aren’t you happy I went on that trip, Adam!), drank lots of beer, realized just what babies those Israeli soldiers are, gave up being a vegetarian, traveled, wrote, figured out my life, and generally had the Israel experience I was looking for.

And now? Now even that trip is eleven years past. Now I’ve shed the glasses (yea, Lasik!), lost the hummus-olive-oil-labanah pounds (yea, Weight Watchers!), married, procreated, and am planning my fourth (but never final!) trip to Israel, this time with family in tow. And who knows? Maybe for Israel’s 90th independence day, Pie will be posting on her blog: “And this is from my first trip to Israel, when I was three. I was in a good phase then, still with the curly hair and chubby cheeks…”


April 16th, 2008 § Comments Off on Hooked § permalink

Okay, you people. I joined Netflix again (and I’m not sure how this works but this apparently “friends” me), just so I could watch the flicks you’ve recommended. So far, so goodUshpizin? Loved! Next on deck: Wordplay and Juno.

Thanks for the Memories

April 16th, 2008 § Comments Off on Thanks for the Memories § permalink

So Robin is encouraging her fellow bloggers to write a post today, Blog Reader Appreciation Day, in honor of their readers. She pinged me to give you guys a shout out and to thank you for sticking with me.

Well… c’mon folks. You’ve been with me long enough to know that that’s not really going to happen is it? It’s more like:

  • thanks for making me drag my sorry ass to the computer when I really didn’t feel like it, because I knew if I didn’t, there’d be harassing e-mails in my in-box on Thursday
  • thanks for putting up with me (particularly Carly, Kara, Meg, Beth, and Steffanie) when I alienated just about every other HBS spouse in the school
  • thanks for spying in on every inane conversation. every moronic act of bravado, and every insipid thought that passed through this obviously genius brain of mine
  • thanks for witnessing the fact that my husband isn’t the put together, brilliant, almost-young manager his company seems to think he is, as you’ve heard every inane, insipid, and moronic thing he does
  • thanks, in advance, for backing up my kids when they go to their therapists to complain about our parenting (too many incidents to link to here)

So, yes, all you people, a big fat thank you. Or not. Whatever.

Viewer’s Choice

March 19th, 2008 § 10 comments § permalink

I have a to-read list a mile long. I’ll never get through it, but I still always add new books to it. I have no shortage of books.

But movies? I have no clue about movies. Odd that I was once a film major, huh? I couldn’t be more disconnected from the movie scene. I feel like every week I stand, paralyzed, in the video store. What to watch? What is any good? I don’t see movies in the theater anymore and I don’t read reviews. So I’m stuck. All I see are names and DVD covers.

I love, love, love documentaries. I’m a sucker for a good romance or romantic comedy. Straight drama and comedy also do it for me. I’m not so hot on action, sci-fi, or horror. So tell me, dear reader, what is out there? What should I be watching? What have I missed? Tell me what I should be watching! Pretty please?

From the Does the World Really Need Another Blog? Department

March 5th, 2008 § Comments Off on From the Does the World Really Need Another Blog? Department § permalink

Once upon a time, I had a writing teacher make me keep an Observation Log, a journal in which I recorded one tiny fact of my day. Something seemingly minor. It’s a habit I’ve followed in fits and starts throughout the years and something I always mean to do more of, as reading back on those observation logs, those tiny details remind me so much more of a moment than my often rather-bland diary entries. For example, from the journal I kept eleven years ago when I was abroad for eight months:

  • In Plovdiv, Buglaria, “I saw a child alone in a bumper car–driving around and around with no one to bump.”
  • On the kibbutz, “When I spray the kiwis, I put a plastic tank on my back, like a knapsack. It holds about 15 liters but I only use 10. I put in 200 ccs of a chemical, a capful of another, and 10 liters of water. I put most of the water in first so it doesn’t foam up. The black straps dig into my shoulders. A black bar protrudes from the left side and it needs to be pumped to make the sprayer spray at full blast. I look like an exterminator.”
  • “To me, the cutting shears resemble a trout, which is strange considering I don’t actually know what a trout looks like.”

These are much more evocative for me than the “Today I traveled with Ivan to Jordan.” Those tiny thoughts bring me directly back into the moment.

Now, to make what will appear to be a digression: As you probably all know (if you know me in person, that is) is that I heart my iPhone. Oh, iPhone! I’d marry you if it weren’t for that evil Adam already living in my house. The thing I love best about my iPhone is… well, there is no one thing. I love checking my e-mail during the kids’ swim class. I love always having my music next to me. And I love, love, love the photos it takes. I take lots of photos on it.

Let’s combine the two. I’ve started documenting my life through my iPhone photos. One photo a day. The tiny details of my life that would otherwise get lost. Right now it’s just photos but I’d love to start including observations, a la my grad school log. We’ll see. Anyway, I have a separate blog I’ve started for this purpose, which you are welcome to check out every now and then, should you so desire: jphone jenny. Yes, more self-indulgent crap on the Web. Did you expect more from me? Well, you were wrong.

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  • Who I Am

    I read, I write, I occasionally look to make sure my kids aren't playing with matches.

    My novel, MODERN GIRLS will be coming out from NAL in the spring of 2016.

    I mostly update the writing blog these days, so find me over there.

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