Friday, June 14, 2013

My Week as a "Lady of Leisure"

I dubbed Week 2 of my three-week break between jobs my Lady of Leisure week. As an employee of an elite private school (which my children also attended) I was greeted each morning by throngs of mothers who came in dressed in workout gear, $5 Starbucks ventes in hand to drop off their children. They looked happy and relaxed, ready to step back into their freshly Armour-All’d, six figure SUVs to start their day. But what did they do? I have always had a full time job (sometimes two), ever since I was a week out of college. I have never known this lifestyle of luxury. But this is what I imagine they do during the day:
  • Take a Pilates class or tennis lesson to work on an ass to keep husband proud
  • Get a post-workout massage or pedicure at the club spa
  • Head to Fresh Market (or Whole Foods or Trader Joes) for a fresh baguette and some $16 pomegranates to garnish tonight’s healthy homemade dinner
  • Take a leisurely shower at home, where no one storms in on you to ask if you can tie their shoe or put their hair in a ponytail (because that’s totally convenient while you’re in the shower)
  • Prep a delicious dinner so it’s ready to put in the oven when everyone is home
  • Write or read a blog post
  • Briskly say hello to the maid and offer her some ice water as you watch her change bed sheets, dust shelves, fold laundry and mop floors on your way out the door
  • Meet some friends for lunch at the hot, new outdoor café
  • Have at least one glass of wine at said lunch
  • Run a few errands during one of which you will buy yourself something special because you deserve it
  • Volunteer for an hour at fill-in-the-blank
  • Quietly read a magazine or a couple of chapters of an awesome book as you wait in car line to pick up children from school

I’m sure some of my SAHM (Stay At Home Mom) friends will laugh out loud at this list. Most of their days might be more hectic. But I would bet my house that they get to cross off at least ONE if not two of the things on this list each and every day, giving them time for self away from husband and children, even if brief.

Don’t get me wrong, it’s not that I don’t love my husband and children and love to spend time with them—I do. Immensely. But as any married, office-working adult (man or woman) will tell you, it is uncommon to have a moment of true alone time. Rare is the hour when you are simultaneously without spouse, children, co-workers, family or friends. I need those moments, as I assume everyone does.

Soooo… last week, while my husband was out of town on business, my children were in camps from 9am – 2pm and I was unemployed, I decided to assume this lifestyle. I would be a Lady of Leisure for one whole week. I was totally alone for five hours a day, free to do whatever I chose. I had recently earned some money from freelance work, so I had cash in hand to boot. My biggest hopes for the week were that I would exercise in a chi chi class, lose some weight, eat healthy, write some blogs, read books, catch up with friends, watch a TV series in its entirety, stay up late (because I have no job to get up for in the morning!), drink some summer cocktails and accomplish some Pinterest projects that have been on my to-do list since I started pinning last year.

Biggest challenge: how to stay up late watching Season 1 of House of Cards (recommended as a “must watch”), drink wine, and get up the next morning not too hungover to take a run or work out. But this was a challenge I was ready to accept. First world problems, right?

Here’s how it panned out, written a la Bridget Jones’s Diary.

122.5 pounds;  hours exercised 0;  pedicures 2 (mine and my daughter's);  alcohol units 2; episodes of House of Cards watched 3;  Pinterest projects completed 2

BEST: Watching the excitement on my daughter as she sat in the big massage chair at the spa for her pedicure (her first). Everything on her face said, “My mom is so cool for taking me to me do this.” Loved that moment.

SECOND BEST: Completing two Pinterest projects in one day.
1) Shopping store-to-store to collect items for a Pinterest-inspired birthday present for a friends’ child--a “fort kit” made of a sheet set, some clamps, a head lamp, glow sticks and a bag to put it all in; the perfect summer bday gift for a 6-year-old boy.

2) Pinterest-inspired pork enchiladas in the crockpot topped with salsa verde, sour cream and jalepeños--complemented with half a bottle of Pino Grigio, ‘cause starting today I’m a Lady of Leisure. And nothing says classy like enchiladas and $13 Pino.

122 pounds (down .5 pounds thanks to a healthy poop, I think);  hours exercised 1.5;  alcohol units 1;  lunch with friend at chic outdoor cafe 1;  episodes of House of Cards 1;  Pinterest projects completed 0

BEST: Met with a dear friend for lunch at Bodega and had the most delicious pollo asado sandwich with jicama “fries” and a chelada (Corona + ¼ cup of fresh squeezed lime juice over ice in a salt-rimmed glass). From lunch I visited my local library to check out a bevy of books I intend to read over the next two weeks, including one in audio version to listen to in the car (Blood, Bones & Butter: The Inadvertent Education of a Reluctant Chef by Gabrielle Hamilton). Great memoir!

WORST: I woke up, ran 3 miles, dropped the kids at camp, then attended my first Above the Barre fitness class. This class is a combination of ballet (which I never took as a child) and Pilates (which I never took as an adult). The isometric movements in this class are difficult enough for any first time attendee—harder still after running a 5K. What was I thinking? I was thinking this: Surely after 2 hard workouts I will weigh less tomorrow. I would be sorely disappointed.

122.5 pounds WTF?!;  hours exercised 0.5;  blogs written 1;  vintage shops visited 7;  lunch with friend at chic outdoor cafe 1;  alcohol units 8;  home spaces organized 2;  episodes of House of Cards 2

BEST: Central Avenue, a long stretch of restaurants and shops that has recently undergone a hip resurgence in this town, has been calling me for the past year. There are so many art studios, consignment shops, antique stores and tattoo parlors, all of which I’ve been dying to visit. Nothing thrills me like a bargain hunt. On this day I found two prizes:
1) A pair of vintage orange and blue Kinos sandals (go Gators!) for $16
2) A gorgeous, thick-textured vintage alligator skin clutch priced at $85 that I bargained down to $58 because I deserve it.

SECOND BEST: High on retail therapy, I ate lunch with a friend at Taco Bus: Corona, tacos and witty banter on a TUESDAY. Wheeee!

WORST: After dropping the kids at camp I headed straight to Starbucks for the writing-my-blog-on-a-Mac-while-drinking-a-latte experience I always dreamed about. Discovered that neither Starbucks coffee nor its patrons are my cup of chai tea. Moving on.

121 pounds;  hours exercised 1;  alcohol units 0;  blogs written 0;  episodes of House of Cards 4 (damn this show is good!);  Pinterest projects completed 0 (Pinter-slacking once again!)

BEST: Back down on Central Avenue I shopped yet another artsy vintage store, bought some gifts for friends, family, and for myself, because I deserve it. Met with a tattoo artist to consult about a cover up tattoo I had planned the following week.

SECOND BEST: The instructor at today’s Above the Barre class sounded like the radio ladies in that SNL “Schweaty Balls” sketch. It was hard to take her seriously when she panted, “Now lift, and squeeze, and hold hold hold. And there we go.” Still a solid workout.

Pounds unknown--decided not to give a shit today;  hours exercised 0;  hours worked 5.5;  alcohol units 1;  blogs written 1;  other blogs read and commented on 6;  episodes of House of Cards 3 (Season 1 done!)

WORST: Today was the one day during this Lady of Leisure week that I was scheduled to work, consulting at my old job to train one of the girls who replaced me. This was not part of my original plan for the week, but my old boss and co-workers needed the assistance and I felt obliged to give up one of my days to help out.

BEST: I CAME HOME FROM WORK, AND MY KIDS LET ME NAP!!! I can’t remember the last time I slept for an hour on a weekday (or weekend, for that matter).

122 pounds. Still. I give up. Maybe it's all the alcohol?;  hours exercised 1;  blogs written 0; alcohol units 3;  books finished 1 (In Spite of Everything: A Memoir by Susan Gregory Thomas—loved it!)

BEST: My children and I were invited by a friend to the local country club pool for dinner and a movie. Every Friday over the summer, this club puts up an inflatable movie screen by the pool and plays a family-friendly flick that the kids can watch in the water… while the parents sip their mojitos poolside, talk smack and watch the sun set over Tampa Bay. It definitely doesn’t suck, and I am definitely feeling like a Lady of Leisure, just in time for the realization that...

WORST: This was the last true day of my Lady of Leisure week.

* * *
I spent the Saturday doing a little more shopping for myself, spending a whopping $150 on several new summer outfits because—say it with me, friends—I deserve it.

I did get one more nap in (that’s two naps, two days in a row!). And I did have one last dinner out with a friend with whom I shared an entire bottle of Meomi Pino Noir (while my children were at a birthday party and a sleepover). Got home just in time for my husband to return from his business trip at 12:30 a.m. Sunday morning, the beginning of my final week off before my new job begins on June 17.

I am truly excited to start my new position, but much like Spring Break 1993, I will not soon forget the sights, sounds, smells and feelings of this Lady of Leisure week.

Friday, June 7, 2013

The Best Invention of the 20th Century

Delightfully, while I am in between jobs, I have a three-week respite. It feels right to have this interval to allow me to breathe in the future as I exhale the past. I began this breather with a short family road trip to Savannah, Georgia, a darling city I visited with my mother about four years ago on one of our mother/daughter trips
There are plenty of places to stop as you drive into or out of Florida, and we took advantage of this on our way to Savannah, exploring St. Augustine on the way up and Micanopy on the way back.  
In 2015 St. Augustine will celebrate its 500th birthday. This city rich in pirate and Spaniard sagas began with Ponce de Leon's quest for the Fountain of Youth in 1513.  But my favorite site is more kitschy than historical. It’s the Alligator Farm, an attraction that has barely changed since I frequented it 30 years ago as a child. 

Me at the Alligator Farm in 1984:
My son at the Alligator Farm in 2013:

Just look at this albino gator! What a clutch or pair of boots he would make!
Sorry, lost myself there for a minute.

* * *
Like the Alligator Farm, Micanopy (where the 1991 flick DocHollywood was filmed) seems also to have been frozen in time. The soundtrack of Main Street is only the whisper of Spanish moss tangled and blowing in the limbs of centenarian oaks. Musty antique storefronts and white-bearded men rocking on porch chairs seem otherworldly to this Miami girl. Crazy, when you consider Micanopy is only a five hour drive from Miami.

And when it comes to Savannah, despite the charm and history,

the architecture,

the food,

AND drinks (vodka and sweet tea? yes, please!),
the hospitality,
and the ghost stories, the thing that enthralled me most on our trip came from this century:  the power of our almighty GPS.
I can remember traveling by car when my parents moved us from Richmond, Virginia, to Miami, Florida, in 1984. Most of our long rides in our even longer pale yellow Pontiac involved arguments at a heightened pitch over wrong turns and missed exits, easy scapegoats for my parents’ failing marriage.
Once we settled in Miami, most of my pre-teen and teenage life revolved around summer road trips up and down Florida’s East coast via I-95 as my parents drove me (and sometimes my brother) to visit my grandmother in Palm Coast. These summer getaways with my grandparents were freedom personified because my grandmother, like me, loved road trips, drove with a lead foot, and wasn’t afraid to go anywhere alone.
I saw most of the state of Florida from the front seat of my grandmother’s bronze Buick, and later her gold Chrysler (my grandparents only bought American cars). No matter our end destination, our first stop was always the local AAA to get a highlighted map with exact directions to our destination:  St. Augustine, Jacksonville, Daytona Beach, Orlando or Silver Springs, to name a few. It was my job then to navigate these maps, decipher detours and sit on high alert for exit signs. I took my job very seriously.
Fast forward to last week as our family of four breezily walked the Squares in Savannah. I would type the address of our destination into my iPhone—no starting address needed, just a tap on Current Location—and we followed the blinking blue blip that represented us in real time as we walked or drove our path. British-accented voice reminders audibly instructed us where to turn and when so that when we were driving I never even had to look up from my Real Simple magazine to tell my husband where to go next. No straining to see street signs. No screaming. No arguing about “No, I’m pretty sure it’s this way.” So civilized, see? Look how happy we were! Gettin' cuddly and crackin' jokes.

Some scholars will pontificate that the most significant invention of the 20th century is birth control. Or the remote control. Or even the iPad (which I still manage to live without).  I, however, would argue that the most valuable invention—or, at least, the one that has stopped the most arguments and saved the most relationships—is the GPS.
Our trip was such a pleasure and required far less advance planning, guessing and second-guessing. Google maps allowed us to focus completely on the road ahead of us, the sites around us and on each other.
Getting to our destinations with ease allowed us extra time to wander unplanned, the true joy of travel, if you ask me (those unexpected locations and restaurants you just “find”). 

What a blessing, the GPS. Now if they could just invent a GPS that tells you which is the correct direction to take at each of life’s personal and professional turning points. Then again, sometimes it's the wrong turns that get you where you never knew you wanted to be, but were meant to be.