Friday, December 03, 2010

Blog update

This blog will be moving! in the next few weeks it will become a part of a larger blog/website on WordPress. It's not finished yet, but I've got big plans, including starting a second blog, and yes, posting more often.

In the meantime, you can follow me on Twitter and FaceBook -- and watch this space! 

Thursday, August 19, 2010

Vacations are funny

This is the perfect kind of house for this kind of family vacation. Each couple has their own bedroom and bath. For some reason, Dave and I were given the largest! and I love it. There's a spare room with pyramid bunk beds, but no one is really using that much. Still, it's handy to have. We have a private pool and hot tub, and Dave and the kids, Maddox, 4, and Lily, 11, have been in it for an hour or two this morning. Dave's sister, husband, and niece, are off at a local art show. His mom is lying down, I think. I am blogging and doing a bit of work here and there, as needed.

And that's how it goes. We don't have to move as a pack, although we are a small enough group that we like to. I go to bed most nights around midnight (I watch Buffy on my laptop and Dave watches Six Feet Under on the DVD in our room) after reading a bit. The sun rises around 6:30am but the curtains are thick and heavy and block it all out -- I feel like Buffy throwing back the curtains at the end of season three and almost burning up Angel -- and Dave and I wake up around 8, usually. I make my way upstairs and make a cup of tea, and look out at the horizon, which stretches far in all directions. People gradually make their way up and we make breakfast and chat quietly. I love this time the best.

The mornings are spent hanging around the house and the pool, or going to the ocean or the sound -- we have both a newborn and a senior, so we stay close to home most of the time -- and then we all eat lunch and either nap or swim or whatever. We've gone back out to swim in the afternoon, or for a bike ride, and then someone does a little grocery shopping and starts dinner. After dinner, whoever didn't cook, cleans up. We've played games -- last night was a mediocre round of Settlers of Catan -- and Wii and watched TV, and talked, and hung. We're all pretty zonked at night. I am spending entirely too much time on the computer, but hey, it's my vacation too, right?

And the food we're making is great! After the first night, when everyone got in late and ordered pizza, and the second, when we went out for what was seafood for most of us, we've each taken a night to cook. Sarah made spaghetti, salad, and garlic toast. Lisa and Wes made burgers and pigs in a blanket and salad. Dave and I made rice and beans and burrito fixings. He made his excellent cilantro pesto that wowed everybody. Here's the recipe:

Cilantro pesto, per Dave

1 bunch of fresh cilantro
Olive oil as needed, probably not more than a half a cup
Juice of one lime
Salt and pepper
1 garlic clove

Clean the cilantro and chop off the stems -- just use the leaves. Put it and all the rest of the ingredients into the food processor. Buzz until liquid. Use for tacos, burritos, or put in chili. This freezes well if you put it into ice cube trays.

Kids these days

I'm so tired of hearing about the kids these days -- and the parents that raise them. How we don't have the family of the 1950s, everyone eating together, quietly, one meal, same time, nuclear family, blah blah blah. And I almost didn't read this article because of its lede, which is all about that comparison. By the way, I got this from Alternet but it's originally from Psychotherapy Network.

I think the answer to the hedline, "Does today's liberated, chaotic family work better than the 1950s model?" is a resounding 'yes!' Of course it does. What kind of children do we want? I don't want 1950s children, no offense, I want empowered, involved 21st-century children. These are crazy, chaotic times, we don't have nearly the support and resources that they did in the 50s, and I want my child to be as prepared as possible for crazy chaos. 

I think to me that means, above all, having certain core values, and to be extremely clear about them in daily life. I want her to value love above all. I'd like her to be kind, and have a sense of humor, and to have an idea that we are all in this together, we are all sentient beings, we are all connected. I also want her to have a very clear sense of her skills and talents and interests, and to imagine being able to achieve them, and to have the discipline to try, and not to be afraid of hard work.

Yes, of course I want to have dinner as a family as much as possible, of course I don't want my kid to be online 24/7, of course I want her to read and think and interact with her world. Being a modern family doesn't mean all that gets tossed out the window, although it does mean that it might not happen every single night. Maybe what gets tossed is the idea that anything is permanent, that the game isn't rigged, that you will be rewarded if you perform, or do what you are supposed to. I don't want my daughter to cheat, but I don't want her to be a good girl, either. I worked hard as a fact-checker and my reward was more fact-checking. The boys would come in and be bad at it, and they'd get sent out on the plum reporting assignments. I don't want her to do what I did.

This is an interesting article, once you get past the opening, and get into writer/therapist Ron Taffel's specific observations about how we've entered a new era. The families of the 1950s, he writes, "were stuck in beliefs about how a family ought to be, the way communication should happen; they were committed to outdated formalities between parent and child. So was I! After all, I revered 'the village' of my childhood, but there was a price for that order: many of us now grasp how little our parents knew of us, and we understand how much of ourselves we were unable or unwilling to reveal across the generational divide . . . We must let post-boomer parents and their children, fellow-travelers that they are, teach us where we need to go." 

I like his conclusion, that families today want to be known to each other, even teenagers and parents. I sense that from my family, my child, who isn't yet a teenager and so far isn't very troubled. But I do recognize her in some of these anecdotes, and just like I want to be a 21st-century librarian, I want to be a 21st-century parent. Boy, it sure is hard work.

Me on Emily Bazelon on Phoebe Prince

This article was suggested to me as an alternative view of the South Hadley bullying that resulted in Phoebe Prince committing suicide last January. It's Emily Bazelon writing in Salon, and she posted it about a month ago. There's lots of comments in the blogosphere. My thoughts: 

-- it does sound like the criminal charges are overkill. I have heard anecdotally that the South Hadley schools have turned a blind eye to appalling bullying for years, however, so maybe this will at least get their attention.

-- I don’t know much about the D.A., Elizabeth Scheibel, but she doesn’t come off very well here. Pottygate? Really? C'mon.


-- Despite her protestations to the contrary, Bazelon sure sounds like she’s blaming the victim. Of course someone who commits suicide is unstable! That doesn’t mean she wasn’t bullied. And why all this stuff about how she was chasing all these seniors? They allowed themselves to be chased, they responded, why do they get a pass — he was having a bad break-up, he had had a hard year — and she gets blamed? I think the age difference is significant, that and her newness to town, and her being from a different country, as well. A freshman isn’t equal to a senior.

-- I don't know, but it sounds like Bazelon doesn’t have children. I have felt this way in the past when I read her writing; it’s cold and lawyerly, and there’s very little empathy or humor. I don’t get the sense that she’s ever taught or had responsibility on a smaller scale than Yale. It’s all so intellectual. She says it’s complicated, but she really has no idea. 

Bazelon does a great job reminding us how complicated this story is, and how little most of know about what actually happened. It's a good reminder for me not to sit in judgment of anyone in this story -- well, anyone, period -- until I've walked in their shoes for a time.

Monday, August 16, 2010

Vacation brake job

So we're in the Outer Banks -- no, I think we're in Cape Hatteras, south of the Outer Banks. Waves were huge yesterday so we went to the sound today. But among our party is a newborn, well, two months, so we aren't doing much beaching. Just in short spurts. We are us three, Dave's mom, niece/two sons/husband who just left, unfortunately, and his sister and her husband. We were supposed to include his nephew and girlfriend but he had to work, the bum.

The weather is just outstanding, warm, clear blue, mostly cloudless skies. We have one of those big family reunion rentals and it's really great for these kinds of vacations, although it sure sucks up resources. This things are huge, with tons of bedrooms, each with a king-sized bed and private bath, a game room, a media room, pool, hot tub, decks all around -- you know the deal. The top floor is mostly a kitchen/dining/eating combo. Every room has a TV and DVD, unfortunately, but I've finally figured out how to plug in my iPod, and we're listening to my Hawaiian mix. Nice.

We took two days to get here; that's the other drag: It's very far. We went to visit my friend Mary at her new home on the Eastern Shore on the Delmarva Peninsula (Cambridge), and picked up her daughter at the Bridgeport ferry on the way, where she was coming back from visiting her grandmother on Long Island.

We went out to dinner at Snappers that night, sitting on the deck next to the creek and eating broiled crab and french fries, and drinking endless iced teas with her friends Anne, Terry, and Little John. Lovely! Really nice evening, and we laughed a lot. Anne has been renovating her lovely old home nearby and she had just that very day finished her bedroom. It was incredibly stunning, and you can see what the rest of the place is going to look like when she gets done.

And the next day we hung out, visited, had a great morning, got in the car, stopped for gas--and Dave found a nail in the tire. Okay, no biggie, look, there's Mr. Tire, let's get it fixed. I almost drove past the place and swerved to take the turn. Better safe than sorry, right? A thousand dollars--no, I lie, it was only $990--and four hours later, we finally left Cambridge for our beach rental. It's a looooong drive, I gotta tell you. Our second day in the car, having dropped a lot of money on a brake job we were hoping was necessary and wasn't a rip-off (but what can you do, truly?) we were not in the mood to be driving. Still, traffic wasn't bad, and the rest of the family only beat us by a couple of hours. We got in a little after ten.

And oh, it's worth it. They had pizza waiting, which we devoured, and then all took a splash in the pool at hot tub for an hour, everyone making it to bed around midnight. The next day, yesterday, Sunday, we all slept in a bit, even Lily, and late in the morning we all went to the ocean for an hour or two. It's right across the street and over a small dune. But the waves were enormous and there's no lifeguard this summer, presumably because of budget cuts. Signs all over warn you about rip tides. These waves were crashing really big. We were standing in the foamy white water and you could feel the strong tug of the wave, pulling you back out.

We weren't there long when several emergency vehicles drove down the beach, first a truck pulling a jet ski, then a couple of ambulances. None of us went out very far; no one went into the actual waves. They were really, really big, everyone thought so. We left pretty soon, partly because we had the baby. Dave saw the authorities raising a red flag as he left, indicating a ban on swimming. Later I read that a man had drowned, but that was the weekend before at a different island.

Then we all went home and had a nap. Lovely! We ate out last night, and everyone went to bed early. It's a funny life, this family vacation resort home thingy. It's nice, really. Nice to see everyone, nice to be in such pretty surroundings. Today we went to the sound, which doesn't seem to get more than five feet deep for a half a mile. Maybe not that much, but a long way. Again we didn't stay long. The routine seems to be that we swim a bit, spell Sarah with the baby, and then come back, wash off the sand and salt in the outdoor shower, and jump in the pool for a bit.

Tonight we had spaghetti and garlic bread and salad. If we can stay awake we might play a rousing round of Settlers of Catan (best board game, ever!). Or we might just go to bed. Next the three of us are off to family camp, another really fun time, completely different--three-sided cabins, sleeping bags, outhouses, mountains and a lake. So we'll drive home Friday-Saturday, do laundry, repack, and head north. Phew. Hard work, all this vacationing.

Wednesday, August 04, 2010

A rant about kids and reading

My rule about Lily's reading: Anything she wants. Period. End of discussion. Some of the comments after this Times blog post about summer reading suggest that only "good" books should be allowed. Or, anything they want! (as long as it's age appropriate). Huh?

It's not that I haven't pulled my hair out as she reads (and rereads and rereads again) the Warriors series, or the Clique series -- blech! ugh -- or any of the other yucky stuff out there. When she picked up Twilight at a friend's a year ago, and loved it, and wanted to read the second one, a dear family friend was appalled. "You're too young for that, Lily!" she said. I just shrugged. I don't censor my kid's reading. She can read whatever she wants. Period.

My reading life changed when I was nine and reading (probably the fabulous Laura Ingalls Wilder for the 37th time) in my room late one afternoon when my mother came in and casually tossed Animal Farm on my bed. "You might like this," she said. I read it right then -- it's short -- and it changed my life. I started reading everything Orwell had ever written. A lot of it went over my head, but I loved 1984, (although it was hard to read the torture scenes and I kinda skipped the political treatise by Emmanuel Goldstein), and Keep the Aspidistra Flying, and his essays.

I was also nine when I read a letter to the editor in an Archie comic by a kid who went to a school called Summerhill, in California. I immediately wanted to go there too. My mother told me the original school was in England and gave me A.S. Neill's book, Summerhill. I barrelled through that too -- it's mostly short chapters with short scenes and the theory is written simply and concisely. That changed my life too, and I immediately started thinking about education and open classrooms and tradition versus modernity, and all kinds of things. I told Mrs. Benz, my fourth grade teacher, that I knew what she was trying to do -- run an open classroom -- and that it wasn't working. What a brat! But I was right. When I was 11 years old I read The Godfather, much racier than Orwell or Neill, and while some of it was kind of shocking (and some I didn't quite understand), the story was gripping and the characters fascinating.

In a way, I got so much attention for what I was reading that my ego got wrapped up in what a sophisticated reader I was, and how much I read. And perhaps as a result, around age 13 or 14, I kind of stalled out, I hit a bit of a wall; the thrill was gone. I couldn't quite finish a book because I was trying to live up to this idea of myself as a voracious, adult reader. So I largely read stuff that was either over my head or just not interesting to me.

To make matters worse, I knew what I was supposed to be doing: I remember arguing with a friend's father, when I was a high school freshman, about his 8th grade daughter's reading. He wanted her to read literature, whatever that is, and all she wanted to read was mysteries. I took the position that what she read didn't matter, that the important thing was that she was reading. He got quite annoyed at me, as you might imagine, and I don't think I had any affect on either of them -- I don't think she was ever much of a reader. So thinking back, I can see that I knew the theory, but I found it hard to apply it to myself.

Eventually my mom mentioned something about kids rereading books that are very easy for them, books they had read when they were younger, and that's an important aspect of the process of learning to read, a way of reinforcing reading skills. (Along the lines of what my friend Nick Noyes says, "Before every period of tremendous growth is an equal period of regression.") And that helped get me out of my slump -- that, and I went to high school and had plenty of great reading to do for my classes. Reading Pride and Prejudice in Walter McCloskey's 9th grade English class helped hugely to re-inspire me.

As an adult, I've read less at times, such as when I was in a lot of emotional turmoil, or when I was in college, or my first grad school. But I always read, and after I finished grad school I started a book group. That was in 1990, and it's still going; they read great books. I am in another one here, on my block, which has been around for more than 40 years and the discussions are great. I was afraid being a grad student again would deter me, but nope, it might take me longer to finish a book, but I still read. Right now it's Wolf Hall -- it's incredible, you were right, Mum --  and I read maybe a half dozen other books this spring and summer, both fiction and non-.

To be honest, I do 'fess up to some ego about what Lily reads. When she was very little, like 3 or 4, I was a bit concerned because a couple of her friends were reading and she wasn't. But my mom was clear and firm, gear down, Sash, and so was our dear friend Margaret Furber, who, like my mom, was a former elementary school teacher, and simply said, she will learn to read. Don't worry. True, Lily has always loved books -- at two years old we could put her to bed with a few picture books and say, turn the light out when you're through, kiss her goodnight, and leave. And she'd look through them for 20 minutes or so and then go to sleep.

And once she did start reading the words, I'd get a little wigged out about her reading all those crappy series, like Sweet Valley High, ugh. But I kept my mouth shut, mostly. I'd read aloud to her the books I wanted her to know -- Lois Lenski's Indian Captive, The Book of Three, Laura Ingalls Wilder, Gentle Ben, Tom Sawyer -- and I'd complain to my mom or her teachers about how she read the same books over and over, and they were stupid and not challenging, and they'd quite gently give me the same line: Don't worry, she'll move on, trust the process, stay out of it. Sure enough, she has.

I rarely wig out about Lily's reading now, although I do loathe the Clique series. We try to get to the library often, and when we do we pick the brains of the librarians about what to read. She's in two book groups, one at the library and one at school, which I'm also in, as it's for parents and kids. Plus, we're reading two books for family camp later in the month, well, one is for kids+ (The Hunger Games) and the other is for adults and interested teens (The Spirit Catches You and You Fall Down).

So, if Lily wants to read The Godfather, I say, via con dios. Read whatever you like. She loves to read, she always has a book going, summer, winter, doesn't matter. Dave reads books, non-fiction. We all read newspapers and magazines. We are a reading family. Oh, and about Twilight? Lily started the second one, New Moon, and put it down after just a few chapters, saying, "I'm too young for this. I'll read it when I'm older." That's my girl.

Monday, August 02, 2010

Blog updates

In case you hadn't noticed, I tweaked my blog layout a little:

-- I added my recent Tweets to the side, and there's also a link to follow me on Twitter.

-- I moved my photos into a folder on Picasa and left a link on the site. I'll post new ones in the blog and you can find them at that link.

-- I added a search field. I don't know if anyone else cares but I love being able to go, where was that entry about why we moved? or Ralph Nader? Or Chance? And now I can find it really easily.

-- I also wrote some stuff! How's that for a change? I'm hoping to post every Sunday but we'll see.


So now starts the driving season. Just as the semester was ending in May I was awarded something called the Dean's Editorial Fellowship by the GSLIS program at Simmons. It's quite an honor. I'm hired by the communications and curriculum department to work on their monthly publication, InfoLink, the quarterly Library & Information Science Research, and other tasks. I'll be driving to Boston every Tuesday for the next three semesters, starting tomorrow, and I gather if we all still like each other next summer, it's renewable for another year. That means this is what I'll be doing for the rest of my GSLIS experience.

As I haven't really started I don't have much to say about this fellowship yet, except that it'll be really interesting and educational, and I'm looking forward to combining my journalism skills with my nascent library ones. I like to write, and it's nice to get paid to do it. And I am definitely thinking about the commute. I've been a pretty constant presence in Lily's life since Wondertime closed (wow, that was ages ago! January 2009, two days after Obama was inaugurated) and this will be an adjustment for all of us. But the fam is solidly behind me. We talked about it before I applied, and once I had the interview, and then when I was offered the position (it's always very exciting to be offered a position, even one that's temporary and part-time). Dave and Lily said yes, we can manage, yes, try it, yes, you have to see. I love my family.

Their support reminds me of what I heard once: God doesn't say no, God says yes. "Yes, but not now. Yes, but it won't look like that. Yes, but I have something better in mind." I still marvel at how this whole library thang is working out. I applied on a hunch that I might enjoy it and I knew I didn't want to get my MBA, or become a lawyer; I almost didn't go but then they gave me a merit scholarship; I find that I do enjoy it, somewhat to my surprise; and I am doing well, also somewhat to my surprise. My classmates are great -- varied, smart, with wildly different interests and experiences. Ditto my professors.

I realized last week that in two years I'll have my MLS and Lily will be going into high school and, in fact, although I don't intend to move, we could relocate, if the perfect job appeared. Two years is a long way away, but the nice thing about this program, maybe about grad schools in general, is that I have hope. Plus, it's really fun, and the stuff I'm learning is really interesting. It's great to have a future again.

Take reference first

I've lifted this from my GSLIS blog because I really like it and I don't want to lose it. It's about the required reference class that so many people dread, or hate, or both. I loved it. Take reference first, or as soon as you can. Do not be afraid of this class, it’s really great. But it is a lot of work, so pace yourself. Here’s some advice I got going in, along with a few suggestions of my own:
  • Take reference first. That’s LIS-407 reference/information services to you; I call it the organic chem of library school. You will use everything you learn in all the rest of your classes, and you will make some of your closest friends in this class. Bite the bullet and take it first or very early in your library school tenure.
  • Do not fall behind. The course is front-loaded, which means that most of the homework comes in the first nine or so weeks. If you do the assignments on time, you’ll have the last couple of weeks to cram for the final exam, and you will want that time to make sure you really know the 250 print and databases.
  • When you do fall behind, as of course you will, catch up as soon as you have time. There are a couple of breathers in there, including the mid-semester break. If you neglect your studies you’ll just pay for it later. You can sleep when you’re dead.
  • Get your source system down early in the semester. Will it be in Word? Excel? Zotero? BentoBox? Delicious? Choose your poison and keep it current. Mine was in Word, and I studied by making shorter and shorter lists. Finally I had just a sentence or two about each and that’s what I took into the exam with me. It felt old-fashioned but it worked for me.
  • Write down everything the teacher says about a source and make sure you have it in your source notes.
  • Ditto about the text book. Make sure you read it; it’s very chockfull of source information.
  • Get together a study team, however loose, and study the sources together. Ours kind of fell apart but I had two guys I could always check with and vent to, and they with me.
  • Get to know your classmates. Someone said to me, you’ll be close forever because you went through reference together. Not necessarily true, of course, but I am certainly close to a couple of my reference classmates, and we will always share this bond. Don’t fight it.
  • Less is not more in the reference queries. Our class had six query assignments, 10 questions each, asking things like, “A breathless Simmons student bursts into your library asking for a copy of Hamlet, the one that has John Gielgud in it. What do you do?” I found I got better marks when I fully answered the question, playing out the scenario — “well, Gielgud was in two, does she want the Olivier or the Branagh? Does she want a DVD or a videocassette? We have this one on the shelf now, or we can get that one via inter-library loan if she has a couple of days,” etc. (Was Gielgud even in Hamlet?)
  • Ask questions as much as you need to, in class and out, of the teacher, your classmates, other teachers, other students. Ask, ask, ask. Everyone who has taken reference will be happy to share their experience.
  • The exam goes really fast. You think you have loads of time but in fact you do not. Don’t dawdle. Oh, and you might bring earplugs. I lost valuable moments closing the door of a nearby classroom.
  • Not every library school teaches reference in such a hands-on way, but our teacher told us that after about a decade in the academic library business, she could verify that Simmons grads know their reference sources better than other library school grads. I found that comforting during the ordeal.
  • Stay Zen about this class. Breathe; relax; keep it in the day; take it one step at a time. This too shall pass, little grasshopper.
  • Know that even if you hate reference and never want to see another query again, at the end of this class you will possess and be able to use crucial research skills that will help you get through all the rest of your GSLIS classes.
  • And if you do like it, there’s always the higher-level reference classes, such as LIS-413, LIS-430, and LIS-454, which my teacher referred to as reference on steroids. I’ll see you there.

Ode to the Park Slope Food Co-op

Every so often the NY Times likes to run a snarky article about how controlling and smug the Park Slope Food Coop is. This one is an example, although it's not as whiny as some of the blogs, and sites like Gawker. The folks posting there complain about having to work, and missing shifts, and being suspended, and having make-ups. They often call the members -- always the other members, not themselves -- entitled and self-righteous. The bottom line is that they want the cheap, fantastic, mostly organic food the coop sells, but they don't want to pay for it, in either money or labor.

So I am here to say, I loved the co-op; four years after moving away I still miss it; and in the 15 +/- years that I was a member, it had the largest effect, by far, on what I ate -- in a very good way. The coop's mission is to sell good food cheap, and the way to do that is to buy in quantity and cut labor costs. So it expanded its square footage and it added members. Something like 80 percent of the labor is by members, in other words--unpaid. That's the part some people like to complain about.

But here's the thing they don't understand: Forget its hippy-dippy origins, or any idea of collectivism or cooperatives: The coop is just like Costco. It's a private buying club. Anyone can join, and the price of admission isn't $50 a year, it's labor. The payoff is cheap, good food, much of it local. Apparently 15,000 people think it's worth it. I know I sure did, and in addition to the food, I made friends, had incredible conversations, practiced work skills, learned a lot about grocery stores and my neighborhood and local politics and food politics, and also music, and parenting, and the latest fiction -- all those conversations people have when they're working together. It's a (cooperative) Costco, and if you don't want that, don't join. But if you do, here's some tips toward a more enjoyable experience:

-- Allow me to repeat that: You don't have to join. And if you do, and you don't like it, quit. No one put a gun to your head. Stop spoiling it for everyone else.

-- Quit yer gripin'. In my experience, the people who complain about the place are the entitled ones. They want their cheap food but they don't want to pay for it. They want to stay out clubbing until 2am but not have a hangover in the morning -- or not have to work that 8am shift. Sign up for a 4pm shift, if clubbing is important to you. Granted, some members can be obnoxious and rule-oriented, but that's a reaction to a certain entitled population that thinks it can get something for nothing. When I was there, the office folks could make me crazy with their rigidity, but one of the best things I did was work in the office for about a year; I saw what they were up against. I understand how complicated this thing could get, and I applauded them -- from a distance -- for their efforts.

-- Stop acting like the coop owes you something. Shopping on Saturday afternoon at any grocery store is hell, why should the coop be any different? They don't have your favorite peanut butter that week? You're suspended? Cry me a river.

-- Having trouble making your shift? Switch. There's no requirement to work in the store. Work in the office. If you work in customer service, maybe you want to do something different, write the newsletter, or take inventory, or stock dairy. Among my several jobs, I chose to be a shopping squad leader because I really wanted to practice some of the management skills I'd been learning.

--- Find a squad you can make and a leader you can work for. Not every squad leader was as strict as the stated rules--I never gave two make-ups for a missed shift, especially if the (reliable) squad member called in advance. It wasn't necessary and it chased good people away. If someone was consistently unreliable, well, then, I might give two shifts, as required, or I might even ask them to shape up or find another squad; we're trying to do some work here. I also always gave regulars the jobs they wanted, which was usually check-out. I would kick make-ups off to do stocking or other less-enjoyable jobs. As a result, we had a tight, reliable squad that enjoyed working together.

-- You don't have to work regular hours. You can work on a project, like the monthly meetings, or the newsletter, and keep track of your hours. It means learning a bit about the different jobs, maybe waiting until the one you want is available, and otherwise doing some legwork, but so what?

-- The reason there's all these rules and instructions is because people only work 2.75 hours every four weeks. They forget, especially if they are new, and especially if they are consistently late, or absent. Show up, show up on time, learn your job, do it without a lot of drama, and get your cheap food.

 -- Along those lines, remember that this is a multi-million dollar a year business -- $40 million last year, I gather -- with 15,000 members, it's not a hippy-dippy woo-woo place to get some brown rice. There have to be rules, and a certain rigidity, and apparently it works. It's been successful, as it's the longest continuously running worker-run coop in the country. That's a big deal.

God bless the Park Slope Food Co-op. I haven't been a member since late 2006, and things may have changed. But I'm sure this little bodega is still an anchor to the community, still a model for all of us,  still a crucial response to big box stores, a living, successful example for alternative ways of eating, working, shopping, and living.

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

thank god for swimming

I had the best swimming lesson of my life yesterday and I can't believe how my swimming--and my life--has changed in just those 45 minutes. Kim Bierwert is the coach at Smith College, which is near us, and he's amazing. I've been coached by fantastic, elite swimmers, but this was way above all that. I guess I'd have to go back to the swim training class I took at Wellesley from the swim coach there. She was awesome--this was better.

A little background: Maybe I've written this already, but getting exercise outside of the city is really hard for me. I completely underestimated how much walking I did in New York--and I was a bus and subway junkie--and how alluring a car is here. It's so fast. It's easy. It's cool in the summer and warm in the winter. And dry, did I mention dry? I could get soaked walking around NYC.

I seem to workout in phases. Last year it was months of hot yoga three or four times a week. A few months before that I had a trainer I saw weekly, and we didgym stuff, like weights and treadmill. In my early 30s I ran upwards of 30 miles a week at one point. Central Park is fantastic for running. Working at Sports Illustrated was very conducive to exercise and working out: A group of us ran most lunches: Central Park was just a few blocks away and SI had showers. At one point I took a 10-week speed class at the NY Road Runners' Club, and just running splits for an hour a week cut two minutes off my rate, from 10 minute miles to eight. But then I left SI for LIFE, and I left the Upper West Side for Brooklyn, and it all became a lot harder. I ran a bit in Prospect Park, also an excellent running park, but soon we'd moved a few blocks down the hill, and running around the streets and up the mile just to get to the park was a drag. Eventually I developed a bone spur, so running was out.

I fell into swimming when a friend's sister mentioned her Master's team. For two+ years I left my apartment at 5:30am three mornings a week to ride from Brooklyn to John Jay College off Columbus Circle to swim with Red Tide. We'd get in the pool by 6:30 to swim 3000 yards, give or take. I was always in the slowest lane, but my Wellesley class paid off. Boris, our Soviet-era boy-wonder coach--not an Olympic competitor, but almost--and our other coaches really taught me a lot. Saturdays I'd often go all the way to W. 136th Street in Manhattan to swim with the team at City College. Those were two-hour workouts, and boy was I tired at the end of a four-day swim week.

For those who don't know, Masters swimming was started so people could keep swimming competitively after they got out of college. Today not every Masters swimmer competes, but it always entails regular workouts with quality coaching. Swimming's not like running, you can't just go to the pool and do a few laps. I mean, you can, but the drills and the yardage and the stroke critique you get on a team are essential to being a strong efficient swimmer. You just don't need that to run, although lots of people do have teams and all. And of course lots of people just swim, even strong swimmers. But while a serious runner doesn't necessarily need a coach, the same could not be said for a serious swimmer. (Do you agree, Mike?)

At any rate, then Lily was born and taking two hour-long subway rides didn't work. It was too complicated, what with me nursing and Dave working. I couldn't continue and there were no nearby pools or teams. Eventually they built a YMCA in Downtown Brooklyn and started a Masters team, which I tried for awhile, very excited, but did not like the coach. I quit before he did and then we moved north.

Saturday, July 10, 2010

Buffy P.S.

What I like about Buffy is how she kicks ass, and is vulnerable too. She always gets up to fight again, and yes, this being TV, she always comes back to win again. She's got the witty comeback and she's way strong and fast.

But I realized last night that I've been watching way too much Buffy when we went to see Winter's Bone, a really bleak movie with a very strong young woman trying to take care of her family. It's incredible, incredibly bleak, but also hopeful, and this young actress is in every scene. At one point she gets beat up and I'm embarrassed to admit my first, reflexive reaction was, okay, now kick their asses! and of course she doesn't, and it hurts, and she takes some time to recuperate. Nope, this is reality, this is true; Buffy is a fantasy, and when you get hit in the face most people don't bounce back up with a witty comeback.

Really great movie.

IMDb on this movie.
Wikipedia on this movie.