Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Summer's End

I can't believe it's August 31st. This summer has gone by all too quickly. Here are some updates from the last few weeks.

- Hannah and Max finished up the last few weeks of camp, and both of them had a great time this summer. Hannah portrayed a royal window washer in "The Queen Who Always Wanted to Dance" for her Arts Nite. She got to dramatically scream and fall down on stage, which I think she really enjoyed. Her group also danced to ABBA's "Dancing Queen" and both kids had their own dance party to the same song at home the following night. Thankfully, Max was very well behaved for Arts Nite too. I was very worried about the summer for him, as last summer at school didn't go very well. Despite being away from many of his friends in a new class, he seemed to really fall right into the new group and enjoyed all of the special activities at camp, such as a magician and petting zoos.
- Swimming has also been a big deal for the kids this summer. Hannah passed both the 4' and 9' swim tests, and proudly wore her bracelets all summer, even when she was nowhere near the pool. Max can now do "pizza arms" ("cut it, spread it, eat it!") and has complete confidence in the pool, even though he still doesn't really know how to keep himself afloat. I had a great time taking them to the outdoor pool last week, and Hannah had a fun play date there with her camp friend Olivia.
- We also had a fun play date with Hannah's oldest friend, Anais, and her little brother Max and mom Rana. Every time we get together it's like a triple play date, since we all get to enjoy being with someone. The girls have been friends since they were two and started at Gan Yeladim, and while we don't see them often enough, it's always great when we do get together.
- Somehow, I've had the opportunity to take care of myself more than usual in these last few weeks. First I got a much needed haircut, and it's a lot shorter than I usually go. I've been getting lots of compliments on it, but I'm pretty anxious for it to grow out a bit. I used a LivingSocial coupon for a mani/pedi, and tried out a Jelly Pedi. I'm not sure if it made a big difference on my feet, but it was definitely interesting. I also went for a massage, but while I was there I canceled my membership. I have been finding less and less time to go there, and I'm not sure it's worth the money right now.
- We were incredibly fortunate to be spared any major damage during Hurricane Irene, which had been downgraded to a tropical storm by the time it got to us. We never lost power, and only suffered from being stir crazy. I, for one, am perfectly fine with the level of hype the media allowed before the storm, and when I see the devastation it wrought on others (like the mama bird diaries, who I've been reading for years), it shows just what a difference it can make to have taken those precautions.
- Despite a hurricane-delayed start, the kids have been at "Camp Grandma" in Connecticut since Monday, and are coming home tonight. Marc and I have gone out to dinner twice (the Met Bar and Grill and Fiorella's) and saw a movie, and even accompanied each other on walks to the village. The break has been good for all of us, but I am very ready to hug and kiss the kids tonight.

There's just a few days left until school starts up again on Tuesday. Max will be in the same classroom, so hopefully there won't be much change for him, though he'll miss having Hannah at the JCC with him. Hannah starts second grade in a new co-taught classroom, with many of her good friends in the class with her. She's also particularly excited because this classroom is the only one in the building with air conditioning! We will go visit the class tomorrow. We have plans to go to a couple museums this weekend, and Marc is taking me to a Matisyahu concert on Saturday night. I think I'll also be seeing two other movies out with friends, so three movies in one week will probably fill my quota for the year!

I hope you've all been enjoying these final not-so-lazy days of summer!

Friday, August 26, 2011

An Update From The Back

Faithful readers might remember that last spring I decided it was finally time to get myself together and start exercising. I wrote that post on May 8, a couple of months after I began seeing a personal trainer and in the middle of a few hectic weekends. By May 14, The Back was out again.

So after getting The Back as close to normal again and going out to California, in the last few weeks I've begun seeing a physical therapist to help prevent another painful episode. So far, it's been challenging. The exercises themselves don't seem that bad, and yet they end up bothering me. I am trying to strengthen my back so that I can get back to regular exercise without harming myself, but it's also a mental challenge. Twisting is not my friend - it was a bad twist that set off my left side and resulted in two months of not being able to walk. I have a hard time not flashing back to that moment, as it is seared in my memory, and the nerves in my legs and feet remember it well too. So when my therapist added some twists to my routine in the last week, I've really been feeling it. These thirty minutes of exercise are completely exhausting too. I'm not getting that energized feeling from exercising; I'm getting the "oh my goodness I need to go to bed early" feeling.

I have no idea if it's helping yet, but I will stick with it and hopefully see some results. I don't want to spend the rest of my life accommodating The Back in every way - looking for chairs with arms, keeping one hand on the counter as I load the dishwasher, trying to avoid carrying anything at all. It's so draining to be constantly aware of how I could hurt myself, and so I hope at some point I can re-train my brain not to expect pain, but instead to swiftly do the activity as I would have before all this started.

Friday, August 12, 2011

Debbie Gibson and Tiffany: Journey Through the '80's!

Last weekend I got to live out a childhood dream - I saw Tiffany and Debbie Gibson in concert.

Now, lest you think I was a deprived child, I was anything but. I saw Madonna in third grade. The Jets, Paula Abdul, Kenny Loggins, Richard Marx, Dan Fogelberg, Styx, the Beach Boys, Chicago, America, and probably a few others I can't remember at the moment, plus lots of Broadway shows once I got into those. But somehow, I never made it to the mall when Tiffany was in town. I've watched both of their careers from the sidelines over the years, and now they're capitalizing on a wave of '80's nostalgia and touring together.

Helping me to keep up with my zest for all things pop culture is New York Magazine's Vulture feature. They posted this video of the duo appearing on The View, and I went on to post it on facebook (I have to resist the impulse to post a great deal of material I find on Vulture - you really should check it out.) I couldn't find any tour dates at first, but within six minutes my college friend Michael said that they were performing at the North Shore Music Theater in just a few days! His friend had won tickets at drag queen bingo (of course) and he was going to the show.

I'm not an impulse person. Yet the tables turned quickly, and within 24 hours I'd convinced Marc to come with me and found a sitter for the kids. It was all meant to be.

The show was fantastic. I'd never been to the venue before, and was surprised to find out that it was theater-in-the-round, and we had seats in the fifth row. People were dressed in '80's garb, neon and puffy paint, some wearing shirts from the original concert tours. Tiffany and Debbie Gibson first got on stage together, and sang a couple of hits from the '80's, including Toni Basil's "Mickey." Then Tiffany got the stage to herself for a while, and this is when their true personalities began to emerge. Tiffany attempted a Stevie Nicks song, and well, it sounded really bad. But she seemed to know it, and after the first few lines, called out for something to be adjusted and she started again. And she sounded great. She sang "I Think We're Alone Now" and "Could've Been," which had the man in the audience next to me in tears. When a wardrobe change took longer than expected, she explained that she couldn't get her boot on back stage. Everything about her performance felt very authentic, and even enjoyed some of her new country material. I longed to be up there with her as a back-up singer. :)

After intermission it was Debbie Gibson's turn, and the woman is a performer. She had two back-up dancers, several costume changes, and kept up a witty repartee the entire time she was on stage. She sang "Shake Your Love" and "Only In My Dreams" (now an Old Navy commercial) and talked about being a star at such a young age. She did several Broadway numbers from her days in various shows, but my favorite portion of the night was when she pulled out several pages of sheet music and off the cuff played piano and sang along to several classic songs from the '80's, including Belinda Carlisle's "I Get Weak." She talked about texting Richard Marx for his approval to sing one of his songs, and how he promised to feature "Electric Youth" at a future performance. Tiffany joined Debbie back on stage for a few more songs, and they walked the perimeter of the stage, shaking hands with about half of the audience. There were more flubbed lyrics and banter between them, and I loved all of it. They ended with "Don't Stop Believin'" which has to be included in every '80's-themed performance from now until the end of time.

I left with the biggest smile on my face. As we drove home, Marc and I debated who was a better performer and discussed the entire show. Never in the almost 12 years that we've been together did I expect to be discussing Tiffany and Debbie Gibson with him, and I appreciate him being such a good sport and coming with me (but he had a great time, too).

Here are a few pictures from the show - it was HARD to get decent shots. I'm so glad I got to see them! Thanks to Vulture and drag queen bingo for helping to make this happen for me!

Friday, August 5, 2011

Always Wear Sneakers to the Esplanade (Or, "Lessons I Learned From JKL")

Today I rocked the ultra-stylish "white sneakers while commuting" look into the office. But more on that in a moment.

My best friend of fifteen years, Julie, is moving to Florida next week. For those of you who don't know her personally, I am one of many who claim her as their best friend. This leads to bridal parties consisting of eight bridesmaids, with a few groomsmen standing up on her behalf as well, and countless others needing special honors on her wedding day. Julie is a connector. At her goodbye party last week, I lamented the fact that without her around, I won't have an excuse to see the many others in her life that I have grown attached to over the years.

We met on moving in day as freshman at Brandeis University, with dorm rooms across the hall from each other. Both of our roommates got there on the later side of the day, and I think we would consider each other the first official person we met in college. Over the course of the year, Julie spent a lot more time in my and Carol's dorm room than her own, and we were roommates throughout the rest of college. When she left for a semester abroad (remember how L-O-N-G those few months apart seemed then?), she spent hours making me a collage of magazine cut-outs filled with inspirational words and inside jokes. I still have it, and returned the favor years later, making her a 10 minute photo slideshow for her bridal shower.

We've had lots of adventures together over the years, but tonight one of my favorites will be revisited. In the summer of 1999, between our junior and senior years of college, I was already living in our rented apartment for the following school year. Julie had just gotten back from Israel, and we made plans to spend the Fourth of July together. Well, we at least agreed we were getting together, but the "plans" portion was undefined - very unusual for us. Somehow, we started the day at a Christmas Tree Shop (not really for purchasing Christmas trees, for those of you not familiar). We bought fancy plastic cups and a hammock, which we promptly installed in our living room. Because what college living room is complete without a hammock in it?

(I so wish I could track down pictures of that hammock right now. Although I was growing out my bangs then, so maybe not.)

Anyway, on a whim we decided that we would join the masses and head to Boston's Esplanade for the fireworks display. We figured out how to take the T there and when we arrived, the place was already packed. Somehow, we found a spot on a bridge, and sat there for hours with our feet dangling over the Charles River. A very annoying vendor was perched close by our spot, and we endlessly listened to him hawk, "Glow sticks! Get your glow sticks he-ah!" We commiserated with our neighbors about it, but didn't give up our prime location. Suddenly, and I'm still not sure how it happened, one of Julie's new Naot sandals, fresh from Israel itself, dropped into the river! There was a bit of pandemonium, and a small crowd assembled as Julie was forced to wade into the river and retrieve her shoe. We all looked around for the glow stick guy, who had mysteriously disappeared, just when we could have used one of those damn glow sticks to help reach the lost shoe. Julie got fairly wet, and despite hours of sitting in the sun, still had a damp shoe as we shuffled back on the T to go home. We kept looking for signs of radiation sickness from her time in the river, but Julie managed to survive.

Tonight we'll be heading to the Esplanade again, this time with our husbands and Hannah and Max, to watch a movie together. There is more advanced planning involved (we've had it on our Google calendars for months), and I don't think we'll be sitting that close to the river, but I've worn my sneakers, just in case.

Julie, I am so happy for you and Michael, and so excited about the new life you will be beginning together in Florida. I am holding tight to that thought, rather than acknowledging the lump that has lodged in my throat when I think about you being so far away. I think we're going to have to break our rule of not talking on the phone unless it's major news (engagements, babies, a few tragic moments), and I am counting on you getting a job that will allow our need for several email interactions each day. I am so lucky to have had you be such an important part of my life for almost half of my life, and definitely for the many important moments we've gone through together. Marc, Hannah, Max and I will miss you very, very much, and we can't wait to visit you in Florida. Preferably in the winter, when we're sick of shoveling snow.

Love you, Jewel.