Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Stairway to Heaven, Sidewalk to Nowhere

Shel Silverstein wrote a poem called "Where the Sidewalk Ends."  Had he visited my suburban Northeastern town (whose identity I can't reveal due to my personal retinue of stalkers who want to do me harm or, at a minimum, tickle me) he would have noticed that there are an increasing number of sidewalks to nowhere.

My immediate neighborhood is sidewalk-less, and I understand that this is considered "upscale."  (Which is pretty funny, because considering someone like me "upscale" means that the word "upscale" is most definitely going "downscale").  However, whenever anyone builds a new house or renovates an existing one, the owner is required to install a sidewalk.  And that owner is required to pay for a permit to gain permission to build the sidewalk that one is required to build whether one wants to or not.

Why wouldn't one want to build a sidewalk (and why am I using the royal "one" so many times in this blog post)?  In my opinion, there is a definite downside to "owning" a sidewalk.  Namely, the owner is bound to keep it clear of snow and ice.  And given the winter that we've just endured, that means many many hours of back-breaking work.  With no assurance that someone isn't going to slip and fall anyway on your cracked, winter-ravaged sidewalk and sue you for whatever little you've got left post renovation.

Since there's no particular pattern to the renovations, it is not unusual to pass a entire row of (upscale) houses without sidewalks and then, just when you thought you were home free, come upon a sidewalk.  From the air, I imagine it looks like the remaining tooth in an otherwise toothless smile.

I was taking a walk the other day in my sidewalk-less neighborhood when I came upon a single sidewalk.  It stretched the length of one modern home and was very white and shiny.  I stepped up onto the sidewalk (because what else was I supposed to do?), took 10 steps and found myself at the other end, at the limit of the property line.  I started to step down....and fell into the abyss.

My luck, I fell onto the sidewalk-less part of the street.  Who am I to sue (or more accurately, whom am I to sue)?  Maybe Shel Silverstein.

Monday, March 28, 2011

Rating Consumer Reports

We are in the market for a new microwave, dishwasher and oven.  Since I have neither the time nor the inclination for research (despite my two decades plus long career as a .....researcher), I am relying on the folks who invented comparison shopping -- Consumer Reports -- to do it for me.

Consumer Reports is my go-to resource when in the market for something more expensive than a pack of gum. I am confident that I can rely on the good people of CR for objectivity, thoroughness and figuring out all the features of an appliance that I would probably never notice, much less use.

What I can't rely on from CR is an intuitive pictorial rating system. Here is the system that CR uses:

The system goes from left to right, with the "best" roducts and features marked with the little red circle with the whitedot  in the middle.  On the other end of the spectrum, the black circle represents the worst.  It's like a Likert scale on colorful steroids.

Why is this system so confusing to me?  Let me count the ways:
  • To me, red says "stop," (except if you're on a pseudo-highway in New Jersey like Route 1), "danger," and "warning Dr. Smith!"  -  not "go ahead and buy this puppy!"
  • Similarly, to me black is "good" as in "being in the black," "black leather" and "black caviar."  Black doesn't conjure up a washing machine that's going to spit soap suds all over the laundry room as soon as the warranty has expired.
  • I look for symmetry in my life (my therapist says I'll overcome this as soon as he has enough money for a down payment on the lake house). Why is there a little circle in the middle of the red dot, but none in the middle of the black dot way on the other end?  This makes me itch.
Because of these inconsistencies, I need to constantly refer to the "key" as I scan the CR ratings. This slows down my research and threatens to make me late preparing dinner.  Which is ultimately not such a big deal as my microwave, oven and dishwasher aren't working anyway.  What goes around, comes around -- even in a black or red circle, with or without a dot in the middle.

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Ode to Winter Weather that Returneth

Oh morning in Edison, NJ - 08820
I awaken to see a white blanket of mush and slush
Covering the emerging daffodils and deer poop on my lawn
Falling silently during the night
While I lay awake, listening to my slumbering husband snore
To beat the band

Why doth thou return when I had thought ye gone?
Must ye torment me with thy glistening reminder
That man is but a meaningless afterthought?
Mother Nature is surely in charge
And decideth when I go to the mall
To take advantage of the Nordstrom twice a year sale
Or not.

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Push "Print!"

I had been doing so well. Resisting when the urge overcame me, looking for creative alternative ways to keep myself busy, attempting mind-body techniques to smother the subtle beckoning.  But sometimes the siren call is too much for me and I give in.  First, just occasionally, and now, more and more.
I'm using my printer again.

When I started this telecommuting new job , I realized that without access to a high speed printer (and an administrative assistant to unclog paper jams, call the printer company, replace printer cartridges and provide a steady stream of hard candies from a bowl on the her desk) I would need to be a bit more parsimonious with regard to my use of the "print" button.  What this meant was that when writing one of my secret papers, I would have to forego reprinting all 20 pages when all I had changed was one or two words:  "oily" to "unctous" for example or "crazy conservative bitch" to "Anne Coulter."

Instead I learned to pull information off my screen and set up two documents side by side to compare edits and changes.  I was proud of my progress and acutely aware of the impact I was making to preserve this earth of ours and fight global warming, one wrinkled 8 1/2 x 11 sheet at a time.

Now I feel myself slipping. It started when I found myself using my "editor's best friend" Sharpie permanent marker directly on my computer screen.  Or "zooming" the text up to 400 times times normal so I could actually read my ramblings.

Now, while accepting my failure, I'm not ready to give up.  I am fairly certain there is a one step program for people like me - those who have failed "Earth Day, 101." I'm going to look it up on the Internet.  And then print out the directions and instructions.

Saturday, March 19, 2011

It's Out of the Box Friday - On Saturday!

My friend Holly Mantell Kalisher is a very talented interior designer operating HK Interiors, based in Florida.  While living in NJ, I can't take advantage of Holly's services, I CAN enjoy her every-Friday feature called Out of the Box Friday.

Every Friday on HK Interior's Facebook page, Holly features a series of unusual design elements centered around a particular theme.  Check out last week's Out of the Box Friday (link below), which I particularly enjoyed.  If you'd like to get notifications of new Out of the Box Friday postings directly, just "like" HK Interiors on Facebook!

Friday, March 18, 2011

The Prince and the Commoner

I just love reading about the Royal Family.  There was a very interesting article by the Associated Press in yesterday's Home News Tribune about Prince Charles.  Apparently Prince Charles is finding himself in an uncomfortable position during this last month leading up to the wedding of his son Prince William and lovely  Kate Middleton.  The Prince is an afterthought, an aging codger, caught between his mother, Queen Elizabeth, who seems destined to be embalmed on the throne and his son William, who is infinitely more popular and hip than Charles ever was.

Finally, a Royal crisis I can relate to.

According to the AP, Chuck (as I like to call him) is seen by some as "slightly potty — a stooping man who talks to his plants and ......relies on a retinue of loyal aides to handle life's more tedious tasks, like putting toothpaste on his toothbrush."

Just like me, except for the "loyal aides" part.

Also, at the post wedding dinner he is hosting he "will be expected to provide the food and the wine and to make a heartfelt toast — and then make himself scarce so the kids can have a good time."

Just like me, except I would wager that Chuck doesn't have to keep checking downstairs every three minutes to make sure the kids haven't stuffed the cat into the toilet weighted down by the crown jewels.

There's one more thing that Chuck and I have in common.  Take a look at the photo in the article.

I wear a dress and carry a purse.  And Chuck.....

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

A Good Sport

Yesterday evening found me making my selections for the NCAA hoops tournament.  I'm in a bracket....or I've got a bracket....or I am a bracket -- I'm not sure which.  My friend's daughter is raising money for the Leukemia Lymphoma Society and it somehow involves choosing which team is going to win a basketball game... and that's good enough for me.

But despite my ignorance of the world of basketball (which, if you could see me in all my "Short People" splendor, you would understand), you shouldn't write me off completely in terms of sports picks.  Many years, I entered into - or participated in - or dove into - the Superbowl pool at work.  The kind where you write your name on a box, someone writes numbers around the margins of the paper, and you "win" the quarter if the numbers surrounding your box correspond to the last number of each team's score at the end of each quarter.  Well, I won the first quarter - $125 worth of dumb luck.  I couldn't believe it - COULD NOT BELIEVE IT. 
Then the next year -- also at work and riding on my winning streak of one -- I entered the NCAA hoops tournament.  And some of my co-workers laughed at me because I selected an underdog team to go all the way to he finals.  Which it did.  It was me and a co-worker down to the last game - with over $500 on the line.  Down to the last minute.  I could barely watch the game.  My team lost by two points.  But only because I neglected to wear my lucky socks and stepped on a crack that morning.

So now I'm out for revenge.  And, using my no-fail system, I'm going to ride my bracket - or work my bracket - or follow my bracket- whatever - all the way to the top.  I''m not going to reveal my method, but let's just say that my favorite colors are winter white and robin's egg blue.

Monday, March 14, 2011

What the boob tube has to do with modern medicine

I figure that if I hadn't watched all the tv I've watched over the past 30 years, I could have completed medical school four times over and read through the entire complete works of Bill Shakespeare and back translated them into Romanian (a language that I don't speak because of all the tv watching).  That's a lot of appendixes that I failed to remove because of my habit.

Truth be told, I love to watch tv. It is my guilty pleasure.  Between the Real Housewives of the OC, Miami, New York, New Jersey, Beverly Hills and DC, The Apprentice (from time to time), Say Yes to the Dress! and Househunters, some episodes of which I have seen three times, there's hardly time to engage in life's essentials, like ordering in Chinese food and thumbing my nose at authority. 

But there's a true social utility to all this tv watching.  For the sake of my career, I need to be able to engage in conversation around the wine water cooler.  Of course, now that I'm working from home, there's only me, but I still like to be able to hold my own when arguing with the bitch myself about plot lines and cliffhangers.

In any case, I've got to go now.  You know why.  And it has nothing to do with a scheduled C-section.

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

See Joan Run! Walk! Stumble! - An Avon Walk for Breast Cancer Special Edition

Today I am introducing a new monthly feature called See Joan Run! Walk! Stumble!  This special column will be a running (hah!) account of my uh, "training regimen" as I prepare for the 26 mile Avon Walk for Breast Cancer which will take place on October 15 and 16th throughout the streets of NYC.

In the interest of full disclosure, let me explain that this is not a walk for breast cancer.  It's a walk against breast cancer, so you can feel very comfortable reading about and supporting my endeavors, safe in the knowledge that I am against cancer, not in favor of it.  And, in the interest of further disclosure, I have a personal stake in this - I am an 18 year breast cancer survivor, and I would conservatively estimate that dozens of my friends and family have also battled "the beast."

But let's get back to the funnies!  I have "done" this walk before and while I was all kinds of messed up at the end of it, I still have eight months to get myself in shape to a) walk 13 miles on the first day, b) sleep badly that night (because I'll be obsessing over how much the hotel room costs) and 3) get up and do it all over again the second day.  And I'm going to take you on the journey to the finish, if you'd like to come along (personally, I wouldn't come along, but that's because I'm bad company, a miserable tipper and whine a lot).

Here's a photo of me in the 2008 Avon Walk for Breast Cancer:

So, yesterday was the official start of my "training regimen." I changed out of my "work outfit" (jeans and a sweatshirt) into my "work-out outfit" (jeans and a sweatshirt).  By then I was so exhausted I wanted to call it a day.  But since I have a goal to achieve, I pressed on through the pain and "felt the burn."  (Never mind that the pain and the burn occurred on my way down to the basement treadmill, when I stumbled over the cat and fell into a simmering pot of chili ).

I will not complain. I will walk until my knees hurt.  I will walk until the blisters on my flat feet split open and start oozing Diet Coke.  I will walk until the next corner, and the next, where I am bound to find a Starbucks and a wireless connection - the only "carbo loading" I need before a race.

Until next month's update, if you'd like to read my story and perhaps make a contribution to the cause (not for the cause, but against it), or just learn a bit more about breast cancer or the Avon Walk, please click through to my personal page.  I promise I won't hit you up again for another month.

Monday, March 7, 2011

Selling My Soul for New York

I wasn't born to live in a "Classic 6" apartment on the upper West side of Manhattan, but I sure have grown into the role.  For the uninitiated, the term "Classic 6" refers to a prewar apartment building with six rooms: a living room, formal dining room, kitchen, plus two full sized bedrooms, and a smaller third bedroom typically referred to as the maid’s room.

Those of you who don't live in the New York City area should know that a Classic 6 can easily cost...oh $2 or $3 million.  Or rent for $10,000 a month.  That's a lot of secret, middle-of-the-night Ebay's sales of DH's old Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles collection.

For years all I wanted was to live in the suburbs in a single family home instead of the apartment in which I grew up. The dream finally came true when my family moved to the 'burbs when I was a teenager.  The suburbs "worked" for me for many years, initially when the kids were small and enjoyed running around in the backyard, when I would lay on a chaise lounge reading a book - actually that last one never, ever happened.  Now my frustrations with the suburbs range from the lack of green grocers within walking the lack of interesting sights to distract me when I (don't) take my daily squirrels chewing through my vegetable garden and occasionally breaking into the garage.

Selling New York, an HGTV show, is my newest obsession.  Selling New York.  It follows the Kleiers, a prominent New York real estate family, as they broker high end apartments all over the city.  Viewers get a glimpse into fabulous apartments, both contemporary and classic, as well as what they cost and the commission that the Kleiers make on each sale. 

I am fascinated. I am intrigued.  I am so jealous I could vomit all over the "traditional crown molding" or "six burner professional grade stove." 

The apartment shoppers on Selling New York get chauffered around in limos and dine with their realtors at 3-star Michelin restaurants.  They dress for a day of house hunting activities in the type of clothing that I would wear to a fancy bar mitzvah, minus the Spanx. When we moved into our townhome, our realtor sent us a dustbuster as a thank you gift.  When we moved into our house, we received a plant.  It died a week or two later.  I wore sweatpants to the closing, leaving my Manolo Blaniks at home to avoid tripping over the threshold of our attorney's office.  I didn't want him to regret representing us in case we ever needed him  to post bail for us in the future.

If I lived in the city, there would always be interesting people to ogle, boutiques to visit and esoteric parades in which to march.  I wouldn't have to worry about squirrels breaking into the garage.

Heck, I don't care if they stick me in the "maid's room" in my Classic 6 (this would actually be very fitting). I just want to be north of a good bagel shop or green grocer.  Where the crown molding stretches as far as the eye can see.

Friday, March 4, 2011

Why March doesn't suck

My friend Lisa is pretty unhappy, because, from what I can tell, it's "only" March and she is sick and tired of any month with more than four letters in its name (unlike May, June and July).  So if, as T.S. Eliot so famously wrote, "April is the cruellest month," then, according to Lisa, March is a veritable sadistic month-fest!

In an attempt to cheer up Lisa (by the way, I haven't seen Lisa in nearly 35 years and I don't believe we were "besties" back in high school either, but I'm benevolent like this and also, she says really nice things about  my blog), I have compiled a list of the reasons why "March doesn't suck."  This one's for you Lisa!
  • Marshmallow peeps in the A&P.  In all sorts of pastel colors.
  • This year, at least, Passover isn't until late April.  Which means we still have a month -- one glorious month called March - until all the family in-fighting, the struggles with tough briskets and flat matzoh balls and the festival of the "Sneaking of the White Bread" starts.
  • Forsythia. 
  • March 20 - National Alien Abduction Day.  I kid you not.  National Alien Abductions Day  I understand it's pretty warm on Mars, Lisa.
  • NCAA Hoops! (whatever the heck that is, but I understand some people get pretty revved up about it).
  • James Madison's birthday on March 16th.  He would have been 260 years old if he weren't dead.
  • I saw some fuzz on the trees today.  Unless those were my Morgagnian cataracts.

Thursday, March 3, 2011

Meet BOW's Thursday Guest Blogger - Dr. Al!

Go ahead, you KNOW you want to ask him a question!  Click the link below.

Ask Dr. Al

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

FAQs - Part Deux

Six months have passed since I started this blog, and I know that my fans, reader mother has been wondering how my new venture is going (since she's given up on the idea of my ever wearing lipstick).   So I thought I'd publish some more answers to your FAQs.  It's FAQs- Part Deux!  There may even be a Part Trois in the future-- it's up to you - send me your most pressing questions.  (In the meantime, here's part 1!  FAQs - the Original

So, do you enjoy writing Body of Work?

  • Indeed I do!  I love the discipline, the creativity and how writing enables me to avoid my real responsibilities, like vacuuming up cat hair, burning dinner and ruining my children's lives.
Has writing a blog opened up any new opportunities?

  • I'm so glad you asked.  My blog has created a veritable media whirlwind to rival that currently being forged by Charlie Sheen. In fact, I've been invited to appear on a number of  talk shows: Dick Cavett, Mike Douglas, David Frost and Phil Donahue, to name a few.  I'm also in negotiations with the George Burns and Gracie Allen show.
How would you characterize your reader, I mean, your readers?

  • My readers are simply the best!  I feel like we know each other, not only as friends chatting over a cup of coffee together, but on a more visceral level.  Together we laugh, we cry and we snort milk out our noses.  It's like having a support group -without the Sanka, powdered milk and cheap name tags they serve up at AA.
Do you have any plans to expand or enhance your blog?

  • I rely on feedback from my readers and am always soliciting new ideas (though I nixed the suggestion from a reader in Vatican City who suggested I post photos of myself in a French maid's costume).  Some of the ideas I am considering include Reader of the Week (contestants to be chosen from those who click the "Donate Now" button), Sarah Says! where we dissect Palinisms for hidden kernels of lucidness and Sudoku for Idiots, which uses only two numbers:  II and IV.

What about your competition?

  • You mean websites like Google and Facebook?  I don't really consider them to be my competitors.  Sure, one out of 12 people on the planet has a Facebook account, but Body of Work has Fahrvergnugen. 
Say what?

  • Goodnight, Gracie!