(above) Kristin Chenoweth singing Home from The Wiz on Glee
Yesterday I put together a playlist of my favorite Broadway songs. I couldn’t believe how many there were. I know the lyrics and tune of every song. As I keep telling everyone I meet, I’ll be fifty this weekend. When I think about the first half century of my life, three things define me: family, books, and music. My family—both of birth and the one my husband and I have created—all wish fervently I didn’t have quite such a deep love for bad 70’s songs and for that oft derided genre: the musical. Continue reading
Last weekend I went shopping with my 14 year old daughter. We were at the outlet mall and went into Banana Republic, J. Crew, Off Fifth (Sax’s outlet retailer), and the Gap. It was way more work than it needed to be. At each store both of us had to try on items we liked in several different sizes. At Banana Republic, I was a size eight. At the Gap, I was a six. At J. Crew it depended on the item–in pants I was an eight, in shirts I was a twelve. The worst was Off Fifth, a store that carries many different designers. I was a fourteen in one dress and a six in another. I put on jeans that varied from a 29 to a 32.
In fact, the only sizing that was consistent was in shoes. I tried on shoes at several different places–Reebok, Nike, Off Fifth and Nine West and, in every store, I was an eight. The entire experience made me crazy. Why oh why can’t the fashion industry come up with somewhat consistent sizes? I understand that, with all the variation in women’s bodies, that exact sizing is not, on a large scale, possible. But surely the industry could have a set of measurements that all retailers use. (Don’t even get me started on Chico’s at which I, who have size 14 jeans from the 1990’s that still fit, am a zero. If that’s not pandering, I don’t know what is!) Continue reading
A few weekends ago, my husband and I spent a gorgeous Sunday on the National Mall in Washington, DC. I’ve been all over the United States and the National Mall is, for me, the very best of America. The Mall houses the Smithsonian museums, the National Gallery of Art (the only museum not part of the Smithsonian), the Capitol, the Washington Monument, the Lincoln Reflecting Pool and many other memorials and gardens. It’s visited by 24 million people a year and hosts rallies, presidential inaugurations, festivals, parades and performances. Over the course of my life, I’ve probably spent a full month of days visiting the mall and I am always excited to go back. Why do I love it so much? Well, for many reasons, but here are the most salient.
For starters, all the museums are free. Free! In America, this is increasingly not the norm. And who knows what those whacky kids in Washington will do next? But for now, every single museum and monument is free to enter. I love that all that the Mall and its museums have to offer is available to everyone equally. Rich or poor—anyone can walk into the Museum of Natural History and see the fabled Hope Diamond or the fabulous new Ocean Hall. Art that previously graced the walls of America’s most wealthy now hangs in the National Gallery of Art for all to admire. The wealth of treasures housed in the Smithsonian museums—currently there are eleven with a twelfth slated to be begun in 2012—is nothing short of astonishing and it’s proffered to anyone and everyone to see.
Recently, the Tiger Mom approach to child raising has been the topic of many a discussion in my town. For those of you who don’t know what I’m talking about, it’s an approach outlined in a bestselling book by Asian mom, Amy Chua, in which she articulates the philosophy behind the stereotypical Asian child’s achievements. (A disclaimer: I haven’t read it.)
I live in a town with high ranking schools and lots of high performing kids. Many of our students begin taking AP classes as freshman and sophomores and spend hours a night on homework. 75% of the families have parents with college degrees and many homes have parents with graduate degrees. (My home fits the latter model—my husband is a physician and I have a Masters degree.) So, when Ms. Chua’s book came out—along with the documentary “Race to Nowhere” which presents the polar opposite approach to kids and their education–, it made me think again (OK, worry again) about what is the best thing I can do—and American society can do—for our college bound kids. Continue reading
A younger cousin of mine recently got married. I am very fond of this young man. He used to come over and play ping-pong with sons when they were younger and I was exhausted. (It is a rule of parenting that the parent will always tire of a fun activity before the child.) He and his new bride are, of course, registered. There are options from department stores and specialty stores. If I were the sort who wanted to make sure I’d bought the couple something they said they definitively wanted, I had a plethora of viable options. I, however, wanted to buy to the beat of a different drummer. I wanted to give the couple something I was sure they wouldn’t get from anyone else. And, of course, I wanted them to like it. Continue reading
I am fascinated by names and am from a family that routinely gives uncommon family names to their too-young to argue babies. (My grandmother’s name was Pocahontas, sadly, everyone called her Pokey.) My name, Dabney, is unusual and has never made the list of top names chosen by Americans for their progeny. How do I know this, you ask? Well, each year the Social Security Administration posts a list of the top ten boy and girl names for the previous year. Currently, the website is showing the names from 2009.
If you were a girl born as a US citizen in 2009, there’s a good chance you were named Isabella; a boy, Jacob. Isabella is the first girl name NOT to start with an E that’s held the number one rank in the past fourteen years. For twelve of the past years, 1996 to 2007, the top girl name in the USA was Emily. In 2008, it was Emma. If you were a boy born as a US citizen in 2009, there’s a good chance you were named Jacob. In fact, if you were a male born any time in between 1999 and 2009, you might be named Jacob. It’s held the number one spot for the past ten years. And if you’ve noticed a lot of young men out there named Michael, that’s because, with the exception of one year, 1960, when American parents went for David, Michael held the number one spot from 1954 to 1998!
When I got married, I semi-seriously decided that to be a successful American couple, my husband and I needed to start collecting something. We knew couples who collected art involving cows, books about colorful birds, beer cans from all nations, even one who collected whole sets of expensive china. We decided we’d collect refrigerator magnets. That worked well for years—my favorite one said, “A gossip is someone with a great sense of rumor.” But, then, we moved into a kitchen with stainless steel and began to live magnet free.
For a few years after we moved, I didn’t collect anything purposely. (I think buying shoes, for example, isn’t collecting, even if one has, oh let’s say, 60 odd pairs.) However, about five years ago I changed my habits and began seriously collecting small religious/spiritual artifacts from many faiths and from all over the world. Continue reading
I haven’t seen the movie The Bucket List, but I get the concept. We all have a limited time here on earth and, if we had to pick, what do we want to see or do before we die? For me, one answer is art. I keep a running list in my head of all the museums I haven’t made it to yet and, at almost 50, I do worry I’ve not enough time to see all the world’s great artistic creations.
Google, it turns out, feels my pain and wants to help. To that end, they have created an extraordinary site that offers anyone with a computer the ability to explore many of the world’s most famous museums. The site is called, simply enough, Art Project, and can be found at http://www.googleartproject.com/. Log on and you can–virtually–walk through Versailles, the Hermitage and London’s National Gallery (among others) without ever setting foot on a plane. Continue reading
When I was little, my favorite movie was The Sound of Music. I still know every song and scene by heart. In junior high—that ages me!—our school put on Lil’ Abner and I was the understudy for Daisy Mae. I loved musicals then and I still love them today. One of the great joys of my adult life has been seeing musicals performed—I try and get to New York at least once a year to see a show and have season tickets to my very good local performing arts center. Recently a friend and I went to go see the Tony award winning In the Heights. I thought it was excellent. The play covers three days in a mélange of characters’ lives in the northern Manhattan neighborhood of Washington Heights and was nominated for thirteen Tony Awards in 2008—it won four.
Seeing In the Heights got me thinking about my favorite musicals. When I was growing up the musicals I loved were those I saw on television: My Fair Lady, Mary Poppins, Fiddler on the Roof, Funny Girl, The Music Man, West Side Story, Grease (still the highest grossing movie musical of all time), South Pacific and my beloved Sound of Music. (Trivia fact: a woman named Marnie Nixon sang the parts of Eliza in MFL, Sister Sophia in SoM, Maria in WSS, as well as Anna in The King and I.) Continue reading