Saturday, March 31

peeping tom

From our kitchen I can see several other kitchens, and it fascinates me. When I'm making dinner (or tea or washing the dishes) I often find myself gazing out the window and examining our neighbors. I feel that my interest actually comes from a wish to know them, as our relationship has never gone far beyond wishing each other a nice day.

My report:
Directly across from us is another couple. They look about our age and I think the woman is pregnant. It looks like their kitchen is really big, but I can't tell what they've done with it. Sometimes I am tempted to go over there and knock on their door, to introduce myself. I know that we would be great friends, if only we could meet, though if we did meet I'm not sure what I would say. "Hi, I'm that girl who you see watching you! You know, the one with no curtains who cooks dinner really late? It's SO great to finally meet you! you have a lovely apartment! Where did you get those cool hinged interior shutters?"

Below them are another couple. For awhile their apartment was empty and being renovated. I could see lots of dropcloths around, newly finished floors and the two would appear, admiring their new home. Occasionally a little dog would walk through the view. Now they live there and have put up curtains, which is smart of them because otherwise I could tell you more.

Way down, on the second floor, is a family I saw at the shareowner's meeting last fall. The woman was then very pregnant and she had a little girl with her. Now I can see her making dinner with the baby strapped to her front, which I think is very clever though knowing me I would lean over a pot and burn the baby.

I'm not sure what my point is. I suppose that we all get a thrill out of glimpsing other people's lives (the reality television craze is one example) and living a little vicariously. And I hope that they are more fulfilled than I feel myself.

Wednesday, March 28

the ants are marching

We have an ant problem.

I'm not used to ants. Here in New York City, it's much more common to hear stories of cockroach infestations, or rats or even bedbugs. But ants are a little foreign, somewhat wild or rural seeming. But they came with the apartment, our little roommates under the floor boards.

When we first moved in, we noticed them around the cat food. We put out some ant traps. They disappeared.

But after our party a few weeks ago, they seem to be everywhere. Or maybe we're just more aware of them. I've studied them and I know where they come in. I know where to look now if I think they might be gone.

We could put cinnamon around their hole to repel them. The problem is that there are a lot of holes in our floor, so putting a little spice around one hole won't keep them from finding another hole. I'm also tired of watching them drag large crumbs across the floor. The day after we've had a snack on the sofa the ants can be seen picking up our mess. So we've decided to wipe them out.

Being a good environmentalist, and a pet owner, I don't want to do this with real poison. If you search the internet you can see that ants can be killed by a number of common household ingredients. The problem is, we can't tell if it's working since the nest is somewhere under our floor and there seems to be a limitless supply of ants.

We started with a mixture of Borax and sugar. Christopher made it into a paste and put it near their nest. They couldn't have cared less. Then I read that Cream of Wheat works. They eat it and then it expands and they explode. I put some out and the ants were SO excited. They were swarming over the Cream of Wheat and it was gone quickly. I put out more and that was also carried away. I thought we had done it.

Of course, then we had a snack in our living room and shortly thereafter the ants could be seen toting home our crumbs.

So today I tried option number three: bread soaked in a Borax and sugar-water mixture. The ants once again loved it, unti l had doubts that it would kill them and I dribbled some more Borax-sugar-water on the bread. Then they all abandoned the bread and left.

So we'll see. Maybe they are growing fat on what we feed them.

Saturday, March 24

a day of work

My parents came up for the day today and we got lots of things done on our apartment!

For months we have been wondering how to put a grouping of light switches in a row. The problem was that they are on a column containing a beam. The space between the wall and the beam isn't deep enough for the switches, so the switches were sort of scattered around the column. Today, Dad fixed it, installing an extra layer of drywall, which gave the switches a little more room behind them and they now fit in front of the column.

And my mother spent the day hemming curtains. Christopher now has a gorgeous brown linen curtain to shield his desk (and self) from morning light, and our bedroom curtain no longer drags on the floor.

Christopher and I went to Home Depot and then Lowe's looking for semi-decent ceiling fans as well as some supplies for the column/switch project. I love the Home Depot on 23rd St in Manhattan, but the Brooklyn one is just gross. And their fan selection is really wimpy. Lowe's had a larger selection and we surprised ourselves by getting fans completely different than we thought we'd wanted, but now our bedroom is ready for summer, with a big, dark ceiling fan above our bed.

I have to admit that we're still not certain about our bedroom fan. The wood in our bedroom is dark -mahogony and walnut- so we got a fan with dark wood. Last night it seemed odd to have this dark thing hanging over us, so heavy and taking up so much space. It was threatening. We've decided to give it a week and see if we get used to it. I'm hoping we decide just that it's different, not that it's horrible.

Thursday, March 22

apartment photos

We moved in on September 28. Some people think we've had plenty of time to renovate and others think we've done a lot considering that short time. It seems like time to share some images of what we've done, along with pictures of what it looked like when we first saw the apartment. If you haven't heard, there were 13 people living here, with a family in each bedroom and someone sleeping in the dining area! Needless to say, our downstairs neighbor told me that she's very pleased we are living here now.

Here is the view from our living room past the dining room and to the front door. Yes, that is a bed in the dining area.

Here it is today, with Christopher painting our front door. Any suggestions for a new ceiling light for the hallway?

Here is our "office," an L-shaped room that Christopher and I share. This is the windowless side of it, where I now have my drafting table set up. This is back when it was a bedroom. There was this bed, another double bed on the other side, a crib and a big TV.

yes, it's very messy. Sadly, I haven't been working on anything, so I have mostly been just dumping things there instead of organizing it.

Lastly, here is our living room before.
Yikes! Look at air conditioner in the fire escape window! That's such a fire hazard!

Here it is in January. The walls really aren't so orange. That chair in the foreground is actually white. The sunlight pours in all day though, so in the late afternoon (when this photo was taken) it can look like this.

Monday, March 19

Just speculating

I'm feeling glum today.

I can't really put my finger on it. Yesterday was so glorious. I spent several hours wandering down Atlantic Avenue before taking a left and heading into Carroll Gardens, looking for dinner ingredients and a change of scene. I found a wonderful butcher on Smith Street, where I bought some pork chops and chorizo. The sun was shining, the snow was melting. I had nowhere I needed to be.

Today I woke up well-rested, ready for anything. And I went to my same job, where I spend my day scanning and retouching photos. It is a job where I am a cog. Other people do the same thing as me; we are interchangable as we click the day away with little interaction and stimulation. My mind turns off. It is totally depressing.

On the way home from work I had a seat on the subway and so pulled out my knitting. Knitting is good for my soul, even though with this project I feel like the project could turn into anything. It's supposed to be a lace tank top, but I decided that I wanted it more fitted than it was in the pattern, so I changed some things. I'm not sure if my calculations are right, but the lace pattern is a little skewed. Because of the impatient mood I'm in I've decided to ignore the imperfections and just knit away. Cross your fingers that it fits when I'm done.

Anyway, the knitting was so good that I started wondering what I'm doing with my life. I mean, why am I spending my days at this miserable job? Why can't I make a living at something I enjoy more? Where is my career? Wasn't I supposed to be designing more than less at this point in my life? What other thing could I do that would fill that place, at least temporarily?

In the back of my mind I can't help thinking that being a parent would make all of these questions mute. But that to me would also mean letting go of that design career. I have a feeling that I would be swept away by parenthood, and the career wouldn't matter. I'd be a mother with a part-time job doing who-knows-what.

Saturday, March 17

my virtual world

I spend a decent amount of time on the computer. One of my jobs involves quite a bit of wait time and so I have a bunch of websites where I pass the time. I found a wonderful wedding planning forum last year, and now that everyone has gotten married we've moved over to an unofficial newlywed forum.

I feel a special kinship to these women. I have seen photos of their weddings, their husbands, their pets and renovations. I've heard them complain about their mothers or their in-laws, ask for advice on parties they are planning and recipes. Often there is some drama to be reported: a stash of porn has been found or a couple's sex life has collapsed. There are daily polls on topics running the gamut from what nickname you call your husband/boyfriend to what food you would eat if you were trapped on a desert island. There is even a confession time when regulars write over their handles and anonymously tell their deepest secrets.

There is an intimacy to this world which is somehow made possible by being behind a computer. I don't know these women. I probably wouldn't recognize most of them if I passed them on the street and I don't know their real names, but I still care about them. We care about each other, so much so that virtual baby showers are being planned for several of them.

I'm shocked by how these people's lives touch me. One regular's fiance was recently diagnosed with leukemia, which really frightens me. And on another forum, one frequented by some of our regulars, a poster was killed by her boyfriend. Somehow the murder victim, who I never knew existed before I heard of her death, seemed so real and close to me. She could have been one of my "friends." And then I wondered what would happen if one of us were hit by a bus. How would any of us know?

I know these women are very supportive and giving (some of them have already offered to be tested as bone marrow donors for the boyfriend with cancer). But when I don't know someone's real name, and I don't know where they live, how would I know if they were missing or dead? Would they disappear as anonymously as they already exist on the internet? How real is our connection? Does it extend past the keyboard and monitor, into real life?

Thursday, March 15

our past

I haven't had much time to post recently. I do have some ideas of what to write, just not the time to write it.

Since I don't want to go too long without a post, I thought I'd upload a photo or two. I'm on Christopher's computer and just went through his iphoto album. There was a picture of an iceberg that looked good, but I was surprised to see older pictures too. We scanned a bunch of photos from our childhood for a slideshow at our wedding. Here is one representing each of us.

Christopher with his mother and sister around age 3.

me with my parents at about age 3.

I am continually in awe at how we go from being little children to bigger children to teenagers to twentysomethings to, well, adults. Now people I know, people my age, have children that are 3. The cycles of life just confound me. It all goes so fast.

Sunday, March 11

growing up

About a month ago, with some money we received for the wedding, Christopher and I bought six dining chairs on eBay. Six matching teak Danish modern chairs. Sturdy chairs. Chairs that are comfortable to sit in.

They arrived on Thursday afternoon, and were lining our entryway when I got home from work. They were stacked and looked temporary, as if they were just hanging out until they had to go somewhere else. We tried them out. Christopher said they were uncomfortable; I thought they were great.

We entertained last night and the chairs were put to use. They now pepper our living room, clustered near the sofa or the armchair. There are so many chairs that I have to walk around them to get to the den from the living room. Clearly, we still need to get rid of our old chairs.

The new chairs make me feel very grown up. They match, they blend into our apartment. Our apartment is looking somewhat intentional and put together, and when I sit back and look at it I'm somewhat shocked. I can't really wrap my head around how I got from point A to point B. Five years ago, I was living in a first floor 2-bedroom rental apartment with a roommate. We had loft beds and cockroaches and rats. And now I share a 3-bedroom apartment with my husband. Not only do I now own real estate: I now have a food processor and china and cookbooks and tons of bakeware. I have three loaf pans of different sizes.

Is this a good thing? Is this path taking me somewhere I want to go? I can say that I'm happy here. I like spending my evenings cooking for the two of us, imagining better ways to arrange the furniture. But is this the Mommy-track? Did I make a wrong turn as far as my career is concerned?

Friday, March 9

Do we have an elf?

Ever feel like someone is hiding things?

I spent another day at home today, prepped with a list of things to do. Number one on the list was to update and order my business cards, which were on my old computer and are now on a CD. I swear that the CD was right here on my desk a week ago, but now I can't find it anywhere.

Abandoning my business cards until later, I turned my attention to bills that needed paying, but I couldn't find the invoice for our common charges. Looking for them, I organized several large piles of paper that have accumulated since we moved in. But it wasn't there. To top it off, the piles of paper seem to be multiplying. At least, that's what Christopher says.

And where is my camera battery charger?

Wednesday, March 7

Tutoring the Elite

I work a few hours a week at the writing center of a highly selective university. Earlier this week a senior in her last semester came in for help on her psychology paper, which criticized a study for ignoring the differences among its subjects. This is unfortunate, she wrote in her conclusion, because "without differences we'd all be the same."

I suggested that some of her readers might actually know this without reading her paper. She stared at me blankly. Apparently that was news to her.

playing hookey

I didn't go to work today.

When I quit my job at the end of January, the point was that I'd have a day a week to work on my career: to design, to send out resumes and re-do my portfolio. Of course, that hasn't happened. Another job opportunity came along and I took it. It is also good for my career, though not in the same way as ordering new business cards is.

The man that I work for is too busy to supervise me this week, so I will have two days off. I haven't had a weekday off by myself since I moved in with Christopher in September. It is glorious. Today was wonderful and fulfililing and so good for my psyche. It was my "me" day.

Of course, I didn't send out any letters to theaters. I didn't organize my drawing table either, which has been cluttered and unusable for over a month. I vacuumed and made apple bread though, and I went to the gym. And I took pictures of our newly painted bedroom, but I didn't find my camera battery charger.

Luckily, I have one more day off this week. And I'm sure then I'll be able to take care of the overflowing laundry, sort the bills and order business cards.

Tuesday, March 6

Dirty Children?

A recent column in the Times cites a study claiming that playgrounds and daycare centers are almost twice as contaminated with bacteria as public restrooms (46% to 25%).

"The study also found that in about 86% of cases, the contaminants on a surface were transferred to an individual’s hands, and then, in 82% of cases, to personal belongings."

So here's the Math Problem of the Day: Is touching a kid's hands, or clothing, or sippy cup, or teddy bear worse for your health, or better, than kissing a toilet bowl?

what comes next?

A few weeks ago, I decided that I needed a new winter sweater. After a balmy start to winter, the cold arrived in January and I felt ill-prepared. I have many sweaters but only a handful of really warm ones, and these I wore over and over again, ignoring the fact that some of these sweaters didn't fit so well anymore or were missing buttons or reminded my co-worker of Heidi.

Since I was in the mood for a new knitting project, I started in on a sweater I found in an old issue of Interweave Knits. What I liked about it were the cables, the shape and the fact it was a cardigan. After knitting about 5 inches of it, I realized that I didn't like the rest of it: the color I chose, the seed stich or this weird twist stitch that looks like a mistake. I decided not to continue the sweater, opting instead to start a lace camisole project for summer.

The thing is, I haven't had the heart to tear out my ill-fated cardigan. My plan was to recycle the yarn, make it into a nice red ball that would someday inspire me in more positive ways. But in the past day or two I've had other ideas. What if I made it into a hat? or a short scarf that could button or pin shut? I bet it's really warm, and the cables do look nice. Ideas, anyone?

Monday, March 5

seeking clarity

I go through periods of self-reflection and evaluation, and I feel like I'm on the cusp of that right now. If only I had the time to sit down and sort out what exactly what it is I'm thinkng and where it's leading me.

Recently I've find myself searching the web a lot, looking for a path. For some reason, that path seems to involve buying new stuff for our apartment, or perhaps some new jewelry or a book. Or maybe starting a new knitting project. Of course, most of the time I don't get past the looking-at-the-object-online-stage, because I am the product of a prudent Protestant family who never bought anything if you could find a reason not to.

If I do get past the hurdle of actually purchasing that Object, I know it will change my life. Except that it doesn't. And I get half- way through that book or the knitting project before I become bored and I need something else to occupy me. Clearly I'm looking for distraction from my self-reflection.

We went to Friends' Meeting on Sunday morning. I can't say that either of us really want to go to Meeting. It's more something we think would be good for us, that we could benefit from if only we did it right. We're also there looking for a community, but we're too shy to talk to anyone during the social hour.

Yesterday was different. Maybe it was because I was really tired, or maybe because I didn't have my distractions there to distract me from myself, or because no one rose to speak, but for the first time in a long while I felt able to really center myself. I closed my eyes and relaxed and let my thoughts flow through me. The to-do lists stopped flitting through my mind and instead I just felt a deep, dark conscious peace. The experience reminded me a little of the deep relaxation at the end of a yoga practice, very solitary and personal, although this was longer and deeper. Sort of like being asleep but I was also very aware of the sounds in the room. And in that state I knew that I needed clarity.

In any case, it lasted about 1/2 an hour and then I opened my eyes and was slightly surprised to be where I was, in a room with about 75 other people. And then the distractions began again. They were slow but they were there: I abandoned my inward search and started planning what we'd do after we left, what bills needed to be paid, what phone calls returned, how we'd go to the bank on the way home.

Somehow I need to find more time for reflection, time without the internet or my book or knitting or TV or radio. I need to find time to discover what I'm running away from.

Sunday, March 4

bedroom in progress

The first week that we lived in this apartment, I told a friend that I really wanted to paint the bedroom first so it would start feeling like home. Here we are, 5 months later, and we've just started on it.

Our bedroom has the most cracked walls of any room in the apartment. One gets the sense that if you touch the right spot, the wall will crumble and you will have a gaping hole as well as a big mess. We've held back on the bedroom because there is just so much to patch and sand in there. It's overwhelming.

This weekend we scraped, we pulled out the soft plaster, we patched, we patched again, we sanded, we primed. And we painted two coats of "quiet memories" onto our wall. As soon as we'd cleared the dropcloths, Dinah, our cat, pranced in and made herself at home on the bed as if all the work had been done just for her.

Saturday, March 3

Here we are

Day one of our blog. Navigating this software has been a little bit of a headache... All I want it to do is make it clear that Christopher & I are not the same person when we post. Can we have different typefaces? Different columns? Alas, the blogging software isn't so simple.

For now, I've given up and have just decided to launch this damn thing. So, welcome.

Welcome to The Brown Wall: The Blog.

The purpose of the blog? I'd like to share who we are and what we are doing, how we and our lives are changing after our wedding. What are we accomplishing? What are we up to?

So here is my first post, along with a photo of us a week before our wedding, in mid-October 2006. Our apartment doesn't look like that anymore... but that's the fun of this blog. At some point, we'll post some photos of what it looks like now. Or what we're thinking it should look like. Or what we wish it didn't look like.