Watching Babies and Gardens Grow
Published on July 22, 2012 by Sara Foss

Over at the DG, I write about my three-month-old niece, Kenzie, and also my unruly garden.

Here's an excerpt:

"I spent some time with my 2-month-old niece Kenzie over my vacation, and here’s what I can tell you: She has really bonded with the chandelier in my parent’s living room.

Every time she saw that thing, she gazed at it and smiled and made funny baby noises. With the exception of my mother, she seemed far less interested in her human relatives, refusing to look my father in the face and becoming increasingly distraught whenever I held her. I’m trying really hard to make this kid like me, but she seems bound and determined to resist my charms.

And I’m already getting blamed for the baby’s bad behavior. At one point, Kenzie was acting particularly cranky and stubborn and my sister said, 'She gets this from her aunt.' Which didn’t seem quite fair to me. From what I can tell, the baby is way more interested in lamps and windows than anything I ever do. And she clearly has a mind of her own."

Click here to read the whole thing.

Can a Vacation Be Too Busy?
Published on July 15, 2012 by Sara Foss

In my column at the DG, I continue pondering whether people are too busy, this time by reflecting upon my sometimes-hectic vacation.

Here's an excerpt:

"I spent my weeklong vacation at my parents’ house in Maine, and when I set out for my trip it seemed like I had all the time in the world.

Of course, this was something of an illusion: About an hour after I arrived, I dashed off to a barbecue for a bride-and-groom-to-be, and then on Saturday I attended their wedding in Portland, which was followed by a very nice reception where I got to eat Taiwanese wedding cake for the first time. Which is, by the way, the best wedding cake I’ve ever had — like angel food cake, but lighter, with a lot of whipped cream and berries.

On Sunday I got up early and went to church, which was followed by the world’s best lobster roll, from Red’s Eats in Wiscasset (the hour wait is worth it), and a stop at the nearby botanical gardens. Monday was spent hiking in New Hampshire, but on Tuesday the schedule relaxed a little. Until I glanced at Facebook and noticed that an old high-school friend, who lives in Miami, was also vacationing in Maine. We exchanged messages, and around 5 p.m. I set off for York to see my friend, meet his 6-month-old baby and eat lobster. The next morning my parents and I traveled to Rye, N.H., for a Fourth of July party with friends I hadn’t seen in a long time.

The rest of the week was, thankfully, free of events."

Click here to read the whole thing.

Graduation Reflections
Published on July 8, 2012 by Sara Foss

In my pre-vacation column at the DG, I reflect upon graduations, which I generally enjoy.

Here's an excerpt:

"I once considered my high school graduation the happiest day of my life.

'You’re beaming,' my friend Amy observed, as we waited for the procession out to the football field to start.

It’s true: I was beaming.

I just couldn’t believe that the day I’d been looking forward to for four years was finally here.

The ceremony itself was hugely enjoyable, as was the build-up.

There was the obligatory quoting from 'Oh, the Places You’ll Go!' by Dr. Seuss, the controversy over whether there should be a prayer (there was), the celebratory letting off of balloons, which some of us refused to do because of concerns over pollution and the potential harm to wildlife, the signing of yearbooks and the vote for class song."

Click here to read the whole thing.

A Fear of Getting Busted
Published on June 25, 2012 by Sara Foss

Over at the DG, I write about my fear of getting arrested for crimes I didn't commit, for crimes I didn't even realize were crimes, and for crimes that aren't crimes now, but are likely to becomes crimes in the future. 

Here's an excerpt:

"I’ve always feared being accused of a crime I didn’t commit.

And I don’t think I’m the only person with this fear.

There’s an entire subgenre of films devoted to this fear — thrillers such as 'North by Northwest,' about an innocent man who, mistaken for someone else, is pursued across the U.S., and 'The Fugitive,' about a surgeon wrongly convicted of murdering his wife. And the list of convictions overturned as a result of DNA testing continues to grow.

Deep down, I know my fear is ridiculous.

I’m a law-abiding citizen, for the most part. My greatest crime is speeding, although I did drive around for nearly a decade without a front license plate. I don’t steal, and when a cashier accidentally gave me an extra $10 in change the other night, I gave it back. I pay my taxes, and I make sure that my car is inspected each year and that the registration is up to date."

Click here to read the whole thing.


Open Season on My Apartment
Published on June 18, 2012 by guest author: Tatiana Zarnowski

I'm moving out, which means real estate agents and potential tenants are tromping through my apartment daily.

And my resentment about these encounters runs higher than the January utility bill that they're always asking about. I've been in their shoes, the tenants looking for a new place. It's stressful and I don't blame them for the irritation I feel at having people enter my home.

But I do feel territorial about my space.

I'm a mediocre housekeeper, preferring to ignore mess and dirt until it becomes borderline offensive. Who wants to clean up every day? Certainly not me. But I feel shamed into doing it now, wiping up the sink daily and taking out the garbage before it starts to smell and vacuuming faithfully each week.

But sometimes I rebel against it with passive-aggressive defiance, leaving a few cat hairs in the sink rather than rinsing them out, or ignoring living room clutter or dirty dishes in the sink. I reason that these people are inconveniencing me, so I'll show them how unimportant they are to me.On the occasions when I think rationally, I realize that if I made the apartment look really nice, someone might take it and then everyone would leave me alone until I move out. But I haven't worked up the motivation to do it yet; instead, I've found reasons to justify my anger.


Idiot Hour
Published on June 17, 2012 by Sara Foss

Over at the DG, I write about what happens when idiots strike.

Here's an excerpt:

"The other night I got home from work in time to go for a bike ride, and I immediately headed down to the Corning Preserve, where I picked up the bike path that runs along the Hudson River.

As usual, the path was crowded with walkers, in-line skaters and bikers. Most of them seemed decent enough, with the exception of two young men who made hostile barking noises at everyone who rode or walked by. 'What is wrong with these people?' I wondered. On my second trip past, I was tempted to stop and ask them why they were barking at people.

'Why are you making barking noises at everyone?' I imagined myself asking. 'What’s the point?'

For a brief moment, I wondered how the young men would answer the question. Would they make an attempt to explain themselves ('We’re jerks, having fun at other people’s expense'), continue barking or react violently? I couldn’t tell, and so I left them alone. My bike ride continued in relative peace until I reached the amphitheater, where I got to see a group of knuckleheads unleash an aggressive-looking dog on one of the Corning Preserve’s many rabbits.

'What is wrong with these people?' I once again found myself wondering, as the terrified rabbit bolted into the trees by the riverbank, the dog hot on its heels."

Click here to read the whole thing.

Wearing Different Hats
Published on June 11, 2012 by Sara Foss

In my column over at the DG, I write about gardening, biking, astronomy ... and wearing different hats.

Here's an excerpt:

"The weather fascinates me, maybe because it’s one of those things people have absolutely no control over.

You can do all the planning in the world and have it all come to naught simply because of weather. I’ve been to outdoor weddings where everyone was in a panic because of storm clouds gathering on the horizon and missed many a fun winter event due to snow.

However, my feelings on the weather have evolved.

Now that I have a garden, I understand that bad weather is sometimes good.

Let me back up.

Last Saturday I was as irritated as I’ve ever been with the weather, because showers throughout the day forced me to cancel a hiking trip. I still managed to get in a long walk late in the afternoon, but it failed to satisfy my urge to stand on top of a mountain."

Click here to read more.


Old Haunts, Old Friends
Published on June 3, 2012 by Sara Foss

Over at the DG, I write about my college reunion.

Here's an excerpt:

"Over Memorial Day, I attended my 15-year college reunion.

Well, technically it was my 14th.

My alma mater holds reunions in clusters, which means that the reunion for my class — 1998 — coincides with reunions for the class of 1996 and 1997. This approach makes sense: Getting to northeast Ohio presents something of a logistical challenge for many grads, and combining reunions ensures that more than 15 people show up. My friends in Denver and Seattle decided not to make the trip this year, largely because of the expense.

Of course, there are plenty of people who just aren’t into the whole reunion concept — who don’t want to go back, or don’t see the point of it. I respect this point of view, but have a much different perspective: College was one of my more formative periods and I can’t imagine never setting foot on campus again."

Click here to read the whole thing.

A New Face in the Family
Published on May 29, 2012 by Sara Foss

Over at the DG, I write about the birth of my new niece.

"There’s something very relaxing about having a baby fall asleep on your chest.

Last weekend I got to see my new niece, Kenzie, for the first time.

Born on a Wednesday morning, she was 4 days old when I finally got to spend some time with her. She weighed less than my cats but fell asleep just as easily, her tiny and delicate little body rising and falling with each breath.

When my sister and I sat down for a lobster dinner, we propped her up on my lap, draped a lobster bib across her body and took her photograph next to the boiled crustacean.

This activity failed to rouse her, but she began stirring in her Moses basket when we sat down to eat, as if sensing that something exciting and meaningful was taking place without her. There was some speculation about what she wanted — was she hungry? Did she need to be changed? — but as soon as my brother-in-law, Tom, picked her up, her cries ceased. All she wanted was to be held."

Click here to read the whole thing.

So Now I'm a Gardener?
Published on May 20, 2012 by Sara Foss

Over at the DG, I write about my unlikely new hobby - gardening.

Here's an excerpt:

"I’ve never been interested in gardening.

To me, gardening sounds a lot like work. Sure, you get some vegetables, but I can buy those fairly easily — at the store, the food co-op in Albany or one of the region’s many farmers markets. Whereas gardening takes real effort. The vegetables don’t just grow. You have to plant them. And water them!

Nevertheless, I can see the appeal of being able to walk outside, retrieve some vegetables from your garden and eat them for dinner. And I’m sure those vegetables taste better, because they’re fresh and you grew them yourself. But how much better do they taste? I bought some asparagus the other night, and it tasted pretty good sautéed with garlic and olive oil, despite being from New Jersey.

So I’m a bit of a gardening cynic, although let me clarify this a bit by saying that my cynicism mainly concerns my ability to maintain a garden. I’m perfectly fine with other people gardening, especially when they give me vegetables. I generally think growing your own food is a good thing because I generally support activities that allow people to avoid going to the store and spending money, and because I think it’s probably better, for both the earth and our bodies, to eat food that wasn’t transported to our dinner plates from 2,000 miles away."

Click here to read the whole thing.

Grown Up Dress Code
Published on May 14, 2012 by Sara Foss

Over at the DG, I write about my sense of fashion ... or lack thereof.

Here's an excerpt:

"The other day it was raining pretty heavily, which prompted me to do what I usually do when it rains: wistfully think of my old umbrella.

I can’t remember what happened to that umbrella, but I know where it came from: My good friend Matt gave it to me because I was wandering around without an umbrella. “Here, take this,” he said.

Even then it had seen better days: The metal tips were poking through the fabric, which was faded and frayed, and I worried about accidentally stabbing someone.

I seldom remembered to take the umbrella with me when I left my apartment, but I found it moderately useful on those rare occasions when I did. It was nice to go for a walk and not be dripping wet by the end of it. Still, I never came to regard the umbrella as essential, and when it disappeared I didn’t replace it. It rarely rains all that hard, anyway. The other night, I went for a walk in the rain and managed to protect myself just fine by wearing a hooded sweatshirt."

Click here to read more

Reflecting on the Passing of Two Unlikely Mentors
Published on May 13, 2012 by guest author: Adam Rust

There is truism out there that says that people dies in threes. I must confess that I have succumbed to agreeing. Just this week, three famous people died. Each made their mark in the arts, beginning in the 60s: Horst Faas, Vidal Sassoon, and Maurice Sendak. As a child of the 70s, I can remember when my mother read “Where the Wild Things Are” while wearing a bob.

Two people that made a bigger impact in my life died this year. I knew both for only a short while, but they were people who helped me through some hard questions. While their memories have remained in my mind, the news of their deaths was the first time that I had spoken about either of them in years. This story is both a recounting of my own history but also a warning for a reader – you should realize that you can have an impact on a person that you barely know.

I met Dave when my parents hired him to remodel their bathroom. Dave was about 35. In spite of his age, he was just starting his own carpentry business. He had lived a hard life. He learned to be a carpenter during his two-year stay in a rehabilitation clinic in the Bay area.

He worked in our home for about three weeks. My parents were expanding their bathroom into the last seven feet of their bedroom. Looking back, I wonder if my parents realized that this carpenter-in-recovery was also going to be a counselor to their son.


Saying Good-Bye to Your First Car
Published on May 2, 2012 by Sara Foss

My first car was a 1995 Ford Escort that I acquired during my senior year of college.

The engine blew at 150,000 miles, and I left it at a garage in Tarrytown, N.Y., called Stiloski's.

(Meanest garage in the world, by the way. Don't ever go there. Someday, in a small act of revenge, I'm going to write a novel that features a villainous character named Stiloski.)

Saying good-bye to a car is weird. It's kind of like the end of a relationship. You spend all this time with the car, and invest a lot of energy and time into, and then one day you basically leave it for dead. This year, I got rid of my 1997 Subaru Legacy. As I was driving to the dealership to turn it in, the song "How It Ends" by the Denver band DeVotchKa came on the radio. It was pretty bittersweet, and I almost cried.

Anyway, today The Awl ran a nice piece titled "It's So Hard to Say Goodbye to Your First Car."

You can check it out here.


More! More! More!
Published on April 29, 2012 by Sara Foss

Over at the DG, I write about my insatiable greediness.

Here's an excerpt:

"The other day, I set up a new CD rack to accommodate my ever-growing music collection.

My CDs now span an entire wall — albeit not a very big wall. And the racks are only a few feet high, so this isn’t as excessive as it sounds. But my CD collection is likely to keep growing and at some point I’ll need to get another rack, and then what will I do? I’m running out of room for my CDs. And the situation is only going to get worse, not better.

One option, of course, is to stop buying CDs altogether and stream everything on my computer. I’m not quite ready to make that step, despite eye-rolling from friends who are opposed to things like clutter. I happen to like having a large CD collection, and I’m always updating my list of music, both new and old, that I want to acquire.

Years ago, my mother questioned the size of my CD collection. Which is funny, because it was so much smaller back then. She said, 'Don’t you think you own enough CDs?' My mother might as well have been speaking another language. The idea that there was a limit to how much music one could, or should, own just didn’t make any sense to me.

Click here to read the whole thing.

The Storm Comes Around
Published on April 26, 2012 by Sara Foss

I'm afraid of tornadoes. My grandfather died when an F-5 tornado hit Massachusetts in 1953, and my mother, grandmother and uncle were all injured. I've covered the aftermath of a tornado that hit Tuscaloosa, Ala., and I'm worried about friends in the South when subsequent tornadoes have hit.

Which might explain why I appreciated John Hawbaker's essay about living in tornado country at The Morning News.

Click here to read it.

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