Friday, November 21, 2014

I know not what the future holds, but I know who holds the future

I've been all wrapped up in the bombshell that Rolling Stone dropped this week about rape and rape culture at the University of Virginia.  Letters of outrage and petitions and laments about what the fuck is going on at our school.

My letter to the University president and other members of the administration can be found over at my friend Theresa Pileggi-Proud's site, You Are Here.  One of the things I talk about is the prospect of sending my own daughter to UVa. when she decides to go to college.  If she were going today, I wouldn't send her there.

But knowing what a problem campus rape is at many schools around the country, I don't know where I would want to send her.

And it's not just the issue of sexual assault.  I look back on my time at college, and while I loved it, socially, the mores were so fucked up and antiquated, particularly within the Greek system.  My best friends from UVa. are my sorority sisters - I am still in contact and very close friends with a significant number of them.  I love them and they are incredibly important to me. But when I look back on the Rush process - with its snap judgments and all night voting sessions that were breeding grounds for cattiness, tears, and fractured friendships - not to mention bronchitis, which I got every single year during Rush - it turns my stomach.  It is exactly the opposite of how I would encourage Josie to approach her friendships and interactions with other human beings.

Then once you're in, there's so much focus on landing a cute guy and being accepted by the right group and having a date to the football game and getting invitations from the "good" fraternities to have mixers.

Ugh.  It's fucking nauseating to think about.  And from what I can tell, not much there has changed.

And who knows.  More and more, I wonder about the value of college at all.  The world is changing so much.  In 13 years, when Josie is 18, the model for preparing yourself for the working world and beyond might have evolved to the point that apprenticeships or similar work/study arrangements are the key to success and upward mobility.  An expensive four-year college education, as the experience currently exists, might be obsolete.

It blows my mind that Zeke will be in high school in eight years, and Josie in nine.  If we stay in the same house, they might attend East High School, which is about 4 blocks from where we live.  I pass it on my way to work sometimes (depending on my route).  It's a beautiful, majestic building.

I just hope by the time they get there, I've imparted enough wisdom on how to be self-confident and tough, yet also kind and empathetic, that they can navigate the social hell that is high school (and beyond) with aplomb.

In the meantime, I'm signing Josie up for martial arts lessons.

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Color me happy, and why it's good that painting doesn't involve sharp objects

As part of my "dealing with the utter shittiness that has been 2014" campaign, I've been painting the interior of my house (I'll do the exterior next summer).  When we bought it, we painted the hallway and the dining room because we reconfigured the walls, and we painted the bathrooms when we renovated them, but everything else has stayed the way it was when we bought it.  I decided to repaint the walls, one room at a time, on the weekends that I don't have the kids.

The colors upstairs - or lack thereof - were particularly depressing.  My bedroom was the palest, most barely noticeable shade of light light blue-ish grey ever, which meant that the room simply looked like someone painted it white a million years ago and left it to get dingy and dusty.  Plus there were spots where the plaster walls had cracked (or had lost chunks), so I had filled them in with spackling plaster.  It was seriously fugly.

So I started with my room.  I chose a beautiful turqoise-y blue called "Cloudless," because it looked like the color of Emma's room.  I wanted something that reminded me of her, but in a cheerful way.

The difference was astounding, and made me astoundingly happy.

See what I mean about how it wants to be white, but just looks dirty?

Ahhhh... so much better.
I adore the way it looks now.  It gives me feels.  I wake up and look around and am instantly in a good mood.

But of course, it's like getting a tattoo.  Once you start, all you want to do is paint more more more.

My room has an adjoining smaller room/alcove.  I had a chaise longue in there and a painted chest that my mom got me in Romania, but I never used it (the room, not the chest).  So this past weekend, I decided to turn it into an office.

I picked out a beautiful yellowy green color called Citron that I thought would look amazing against the blue.  I moved everything out of the alcove, put some college football on the TV to listen to while I worked, and started painting.  It was freezing and snowy out, so it was the perfect day to stay in and warm up the walls of my house.


Love.  The color doesn't actually look that neon-y in the light of day - the overhead light is causing that effect.
The view from my bed in the light of day.
It's so, so beautiful to me.  It feels happy and cheery and home-y.

But wait...


What's that spot on the floor near the door?

Oh, you mean the spot on the carpet that is the same color as the walls?

Yeah, that.

Oh, right.  Funny story, that.

When I painted the main part of the bedroom, after I had done the entire room, I waited a couple of hours and then went over the walls looking for spots where the coverage wasn't great, maybe because I had missed a spot with my brush or didn't press down hard enough with the roller or whatever. There were a couple of spots above the entrance to the alcove that needed some touching up, so I put a little bit of paint on the underside of the lid of the paint can and went up the ladder with my brush.

Of course, at this point, I had mostly cleaned up, including putting away the drop cloth.  The paint can was resting near the base of the ladder.

As I came back down, I wobbled a little bit and put my foot back abruptly to catch myself...

and ended up stepping backwards into the can of paint.  While wearing socks.

It took me a couple of seconds to figure out what had happened.  Why did my foot feel gooey?

Then it was a flurry of me pulling my paint-soaked foot out of the can, sloshing paint on the carpet, pulling off the sock and throwing it in a panic into a big cardboard box that I was using for trash, and then sitting on the bed trying to figure out what the fuck to do about the fact that there was bright blue paint all over the floor.

The answer, of course, was "nothing that would make a damned bit of difference."  I scrubbed and scrubbed, but it's unsalvageable.

But the truth is, it's shitty carpet and I've wanted to replace it anyway, so now I have an excuse.

Right after I finish painting the other rooms upstairs.

Thursday, November 13, 2014

When it's cold outside there's no need to worry cuz I'm so warm inside

The problem with this ridiculous cold snap, featuring temperatures that we don't generally see until January or February - and even then for no more than a week or so - is that it caught me totally unprepared from a sartorial perspective.

Usually, Colfax Avenue is bustling in the morning.  Today it felt like a ghost town, with almost no one else sharing the sidewalk with me.
 I have a bag or box or something that contains all of our ski pants and super-warm hats and all of that, but I have no fucking idea where it is.  This weekend I will have to excavate our cupboard under the stairs where I suspect it is all buried under a pile of other stuff I haven't looked at or thought about in dog years, but for now, I'm scrambling.

So I'm spending my lunch break shopping for mittens and hats and scarves.

But another issue is that the kids don't get to spend much time outside - they keep them inside at school when it's like this, and it's really too cold to go to the playground or anything like that.

They need an outlet to burn off their considerable energy.  So last night, I put in a workout DVD to get some exercise, and they both joined me.  I turned off the sound on the disc and put in some fun music and we all danced and jumped around with Shaun T.

We are in a good place right now.  The kids are both happy and healthy and behaving (for the most part).  We had an amazing weekend, going to the zoo and the park and the pool.  Having movie night with popcorn.  On the nights that they are with me, they draw me pictures and we play and read books and watch the Neil DeGrasse Tyson series "Cosmos" (their latest obsession).

They chose animals next to each other so they could hold hands while they rode.
I'm very grateful for my life right now.

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

Big fat fluffy flakes

On Monday morning, it was about 60 degrees and sunny.  But because of the altitude, when it's sunny in Denver it usually feels about 10 degrees warmer than it actually is.

By the time I went home from work, it was 24 degrees and snowing.  It hasn't stopped since.  When I took the kids to school this morning, it was dumping snow and 0 degrees (Fahrenheit, so about -18C).

At this point, we are generally unfazed by this weather, except to admire it for its beauty.  We've got parkas and scarves and gaiters and mittens and snow boots.  When the kids look outside in the morning and see snow on the ground, they get all excited.  Their only lament this morning is that with the temperature so low, it will likely be an "inside day" at school (anything over 20F and they get to play outside).

I walked most of the way to work, until my thighs were so cold and numb that I caught the bus for the last half mile or so (strangely, the rest of me was comfortable - given that my parka goes down to my knees, I'm confused by this).

I love the way the snow makes the city look.  The snow makes everything glow, and insulates the sound a bit so it feels quiet and peaceful.

Plus I'm totally geeking out about how the ski resorts must look right now.  Josie has decided that this is the year she wants to learn to ski, so in a couple of weeks we'll go get the kids' season ski rentals, and hit the slopes after we get back from Thanksgiving.  Josie is a bit of a daredevil, so I'm curious to see how she does.

Cheesman Park
Walking up the steps to my office building

Tuesday, November 11, 2014

I need a miracle every day

On my walk today, I listened to Spotify radio based on the Yonder Mountain String Band, a Colorado-based bluegrass group.  A bunch of Grateful Dead songs came on, and it took me back to being in college and going to Dead shows with my sorority sisters.

I wasn't one to follow the Dead around or camp out for tickets or anything like that.  You would never catch me twirling around during Drums and Space in a dingy prairie dress and moccasins and employing leather string as jewelry.  But I enjoyed the music and the experience of going to a show. I remember dancing in a warm summer rain at RFK Stadium as the band played Box of Rain, and feeling totally blissed out.

I thought about that night as I walked this morning past a group of people camping out for tickets in front of the Fillmore Auditorium.  I don't go to listen to live music much anymore (thought I would really like to, especially after the amazing time I had in Charlottesville two weeks ago), and certainly am beyond the point in my life when I would consider camping out on the sidewalk for tickets (or anything, really).  But I smiled as I passed them, admiring their dedication, particularly in the 10 degree weather, and feeling slightly envious of their youth.

Monday, November 10, 2014

Cause Baby I'm a Star

This morning was a total shit-show.

I was taking the kids to school when I remembered there isn't any school today, and that they were supposed to be going to day camp (for which, thankfully, I had remembered to sign them up).  So I drove them up to the school where camp is being held, and discovered once I got there that I was supposed to have packed them lunch.  My money was still at home, so I had to drive back home, get all of my stuff together, drive to the grocery store, pick up some lame prepared kids' deli lunches (enjoy your Doritos, kids!), drop the lunches at camp, and then drive to work, for which I was already late.

Meaning I missed my daily walk to work.  The best I could do was to park in a lot that's about six blocks from my office, and get some walking in that way.

I love the dark blue sky (no filter on this baby), and the juxtaposition of the red in the parking signs against the grays and blacks of the buildings in the background.  And I needed to capture the beauty and relative warmth of the morning, because we're getting a wicked cold front this afternoon that is going to push the temperatures below freezing by tonight.

Friday, November 07, 2014

Amazon Prime would ship it free, right?

I like this guy's face.  There's something gentle and hopeful in his expression.

Also, now I want lion statues in front of my house.

Thursday, November 06, 2014

At ease, boys.

Vintage gas pumps as urban art, displayed at the side of an apartment building's parking area.  They reminded me of young soldiers, standing at attention.

The bright lights of Denver are shinin' like diamonds, like ten thousand jewels in the sky

Even thought we ended up here kind of by accident, as the result of a crashing economy and a desperate need to get out of Hawaii before we ended up homeless, I have come to love living in Denver beyond anything I could have anticipated.

I have lived in a lot of places in my life, and I have cherished many of them - India, Israel, Atlanta, Charlottesville.  In my mind, each is imbued with its memories of friends, romances, trips, heartbreaks, song fragments -- it is impossible for me to separate the place from the overall sense of what my life was when I was there.  I would love to go back to India, for example, but India to me is totally wrapped up with the experiences I had while I lived there - being a senior in high school and having the amazing friends that I did, the nights out at the Gunghroo, the trips to Rishikesh and Goa and Bhubaneswar, being an extra in a BBC miniseries with my friends in Allahabad, shopping on Jan Path and Saroji Nagar.  Going back now would feel so different.

But I think as a place unto itself - the combination of location and lifestyle and culture - Denver is my favorite place I've ever lived.  I love my neighborhood, right in the city.  I love how there is so much focus here on getting outside and playing in nature - hiking, biking, skiing, climbing, camping.  The mountains are so extraordinary.  They inspire action and achievement and greatness and happiness -the kind of happiness that comes from effort and exertion.  I love how friendly people tend to be.  I love that it's an amazing place to raise kids.

I've written about how the big hike I did the weekend before Emma died was sort of transformative, and awoke in me this intense desire to be outside and walk.  I've been walking as much as I can, to and from work (though with the end of daylight savings, I probably won't be walking home in the dark very much, though I might occasionally), during lunch, around the neighborhood with the kids, in the various state and federal parks that are an easy drive away.

I read an article recently about the benefits of walking, and the author talked about how walking is one of the most fundamental, essential, and defining activities of human existence.  It's good exercise,  it allows for clearer thinking and problem solving, it improves mood, it's a mode of transportation - when you are walking, you are experiencing life as a human being on so many levels.  That idea really struck me, and I'm realizing how true it is.

I firmly believe that it has been an essential part of my grieving process, both relating to Emma's death and to the end of my marriage.  Particularly during my morning walk to work, it's solitary time to think and reflect, which is so important.  But it's solitary time to think and reflect while I am also out in the world, seeing people, looking up at the sky, noticing beautiful buildings or interesting signs.  I get to be alone in the sense that I can put in my headphones and listen to music and not talk to people if I don't want to, but I'm still out in the world, experiencing it.  I get to process my grief while my muscles are working and my blood is pumping and the crisp air puts roses in my cheeks.  It gives me a sense that life goes on, and is worth living, and that the world is an amazing, beautiful place, and that there is still plenty of joy and love and adventure to be experienced.

When I walk to work, I walk west, toward the mountains.  I start out walking through urban neighborhoods, and then more commercial areas.  So my view is this incredible combination of city life and funky architecture and the hustle and bustle of a weekday morning and the dramatic view of the Rocky Mountains suddenly rising up from the flat of the plains.  Mt. Evans directly ahead, Longs Peak to the north, and on a clear day, Pike's Peak to the south.

Like many of the old intown mansions, this grand dame is getting some much needed TLC.  I liked the way the bare trees formed a veil in front of the house, as if modesty prevents her from showing herself until she feels she's presentable again.
We could use more "thoughtful management" in the world, don't you think?
I love the way the dome on the State Capitol Building looms up over the grit of upper Colfax Avenue.
That white snowy peak in the background is Mt. Evans (one of Colorado's 53 "fourteeners'), which I climbed last summer.
I started taking pictures, and have decided to post them dailywith the hashtags #walktowork and #dailydenver (follow me on Instagram or Facebook, plus I'll post them here).  I'm hoping that they will inspire people to get out and walk, think, look around, be in the world, and live.

Tuesday, November 04, 2014

Grab the joy

A few months ago my friend Jen was posting on Facebook about how Sam Bush was going to be playing in Charlottesville (where she lives).  I love Sam Bush, and commented that when I was 17, he and the other members of New Grass Revival (Bela Fleck, John Cowan and Pat Flynn) had come out to India as part of a USIA cultural exchange, and that after playing a show at the Maurya Sheraton, they all came over to my house for a chili dinner.  After much back and forth, I checked my calendar, saw that the weekend of his Charlottesville show was on a kid-free weekend, and bought a plane ticket.  Music, reconnecting with my sorority peeps that live in Charlottesville, a weekend away - perfection.

As the time drew closer, I was excited to see my college friends and go to a show, but was lamenting the fact that it's a lot of travel time and plane tickets are expensive and I've got so much shit to do around the house.

But oh my god I'm so glad I went.

It's so amazing to reconnect with old friends from college - we all keep in touch and have been to (or in) each other's weddings and celebrated births and career accomplishments, but we don't get to see each other in person that much.  As with my India friends, there's something so special about being with people who have known you and loved you forever.  You reminisce, you revive old jokes and stories of crazy college antics and catch up on who is doing what.  You laugh and laugh.

Saturday we saw an incredible photography exhibit at UVa.'s art museum and then had lunch at a restaurant at which we had once used fake IDs to buy beer.  I bought a University of Virginia car decal at Mincer's, which has been selling (overpriced) Virginia paraphernalia since before my dad was a student there.

The University is so beautiful, even on a cold, cloudy fall day.

Saturday night was the Sam Bush show.  I had stayed at my friend Nica's house on Friday night, but went to Jen's on Saturday because Nica wasn't going to the show and Jen lives within walking distance of the venue, so it just made sense.

It's a great gift to have the realization that you're experiencing an epic night while you're experiencing it.  By the time I fell into bed at 1:45 in the morning, buzzing from tequila and dancing, I had been smiling and laughing for approximately 5 hours.  It started before the show, at the apartment of one of Jen's friends, where I met a bunch of wonderful new friends and fell in love with them immediately.

It continued at the Jefferson, where Sam Bush and his band put on an amazing, high energy show that had me jumping and dancing and grinning from ear to ear.  I do love bluegrass music beyond all sense.  More than any other genre of music - and I pretty much love them all except maybe death metal - bluegrass makes my heart feel like it's flying with joy.

We ended up at the Whiskey Jar, where one of my new friends bought me tequila.  We giggled about life and men and music and sex, and we could not stop guffawing over the dude who thought that my Notorious RBG shirt was about Biggie Smalls rather than Ruth Bader Ginsburg, and who proceeded to rap toward the general vicinity of my boobs until I patted him on the shoulder, said, "ok, buddy, that's enough," and sent him on his way.

It's been a rough year, particularly the last couple of months.  But I can't function in a perpetual state of grief and sadness.  I still grieve, and I'm still sad, but life is for the living, to be savored.  There is so much beauty and goodness and fun in the world.

Sometimes you just need to cut loose and dance and giggle and drink too much and stay out too late. The shit will still be there when you wake up the next morning.