Sunday, March 30, 2008

Spring Cleaning

It hit me first thing yesterday morning, that urge to have a good clean-out. The "toothpick cleaning" urge doesn't strike very often, so I have to take full advantage of it when it does. By "toothpick cleaning" I mean the anal-retentive type that is so nit-picky that I break out toothpicks to clean all the little crevices in the kitchen, bathroom, and anywhere else little crevices tend to lurk.

I went crazy - totally rearranged my bedroom, as well as my book shelves (no, I didn't order the books by color). I went though I-don't-know-how-many Swiffer wipes (Bailey's a big, furry, shedding dog, doncha' know), paper towels and Windex, and polishing cloths. I even climbed out onto the fire escape to clean the outside part of the arch at the tops of my windows. Wow!

There's still major work to do in the kitchen and bathroom - when I say major, you must keep in mind the teeny size of both. And you can't really call what I have a kitchen, either. Anyway, not much more to go, and I'm feeling quite pleased with myself.

I love seeing my little apartment through new, spring-clean eyes. Since the past few weeks have been so chaotic and emotional at work, having my personal space clean and organized tamps down the other craziness and reminds me that I can control at least a bit of order in my own little rooms.
Plus, Lil Sis arrives Tuesday afternoon for a few days' visit, so I have an immediate reason to spring-clean. Here's hoping the cleaning-bug sticks with me a couple more days. Not only must I finish up here, I have to pack up my office tomorrow and Tuesday for a big move to 5th floor, as well.

Now, if you'll excuse me, I have a few more Swiffer wipes to kill.

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posted by MaryB @ 8:33 AM  4 comments

Friday, March 28, 2008

A Canterbury Tale

News came down today from the powers-that-be that I have been tapped to attend the Lambeth Conference in July. For those non-Anglicans out there, every 10 years the Archbishop of Canterbury summons all the bishops of the Anglican Communion to England to, well, I don't know - eat, drink, and get to know each other.

Lambeth Conference isn't actually held at Lambeth Palace in London - the place is too small, apparently. So all the hub-bub takes place in Canterbury at University of Kent and that great whackin' cathedral. I haven't been to Canterbury since my first trip to England in 1971, so I'm really looking forward to it. I'm honored to be chosen. Very exciting stuff!

Lest you think I've been elevated to purple-shirt wearin' level (er, no), my assignment is to staff the Episcopal Church exhibit in the marketplace area. I suspect my main duty will be to dispense information and be adorably gracious. As only a Southern woman can be. Meet, greet, be sweet.

Oh, and a warning for Jo, Pete, Chris, Chux, et. al.: Get yerselves ready, pals! I hope to find a few days before or after my Canterbury pilgrimage to bother you. A meal and drinkies? What's on at Ottershaw Players in July?

Now where'd I put my Wife of Bath outfit?

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posted by MaryB @ 6:58 PM  5 comments

Tuesday, March 25, 2008

The Incredible Shrinking Woman

OK. That's a slight exaggeration, but after 9 weeks, I've dropped 12.6 pounds. Not quite a stone, Jo, but I'm getting there.

I hesitate to mention this, since I figure it's the kiss o' death, and I'll start packin' on the pounds again. Fingers crossed, I can stick with it. My clothes sure are fitting a lot better, I tell you.

Now, go find something that weighs 12+ pounds and pick it up. Yep. That's how much dead-weight I've shed since the end of January. Woo-hoo!

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posted by MaryB @ 7:07 PM  7 comments

Sunday, March 23, 2008

Welcome, Happy Morning!

It was a glorious Easter service at the Cathedral of St. John the Divine. I managed to get a pretty good seat, despite the crowds, and just soaked up the music and liturgy. Music was definitely the high point – the choir, the organ, and the two artists-in-residence, Paul Winter and Judy Collins.

Winter’s clarinet solos were warm and rich. The warm part was much-needed, as the temperature inside the cathedral was about 10 degrees cooler than the 30 degrees outside. Brrrr. Judy Collins looked a little frail, but her voice was strong as ever. She sang a solo, then lead us all in singing “Amazing Grace.” Yet another thing I can add to my resume: “Have sung ‘Amazing Grace’ with Judy Collins.”

The only down-side (beside the temperature of the cathedral) was all the incense. Sheesh! Just when the smoke would clear, the guy with the smokin’ purse would swing more my way. Cough-cough. I’m just not a bells-and-smells person, and I don’t come from a bells-and-smells parish. But my walk home after the service cleared all the incense out of my hair, clothes, and lungs.

It was more of a concert than a worship experience for me. I need my Atlanta family around me for that, at least at Easter and Christmas. But I’m very glad I rolled out of bed and made my way over the Cathedral this cold Easter morning.

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posted by MaryB @ 4:21 PM  3 comments

Saturday, March 22, 2008

Top 10 Bunny Countdown

To all the bunnies, rabbits, and hares out there that have made us laugh, cry, worry, fear: this one's for you. The countdown:

10. Bunny (Lake). Is missing. Carol Lynley is frantic and Laurence Olivier thinks she made up the whole thing. He was wrong. Great Otto Preminger film, by the way.

9. Hazel, our hero from Watership Down. We love Fiver, too (but not General Woundwort).

8. Rabbit (Angstrom) from the John Updike novel, Rabbit, Run (1960). And Rabbit Redux, etc.

7. Peter (Rabbit). Not to be confused with Peter Cottontail. This Peter is the invention of good ol' Beatrix Potter. He was naughty and not very bright. But he drove Mr. MacGregor ca-razy.

6. White (Rabbit)/March (Hare). These hallucinogenic bunnies from Alice in Wonderland are a) in a big hurry and b) mad. The big distinction, however, is that White Rabbit enjoyed fame as a Jefferson Airplane song, as well. Bet that drove March even madder.

5. Killer Rabbit (of Caerbannog). From Monty Python and the Holy Grail. Thank goodness for the Holy Hand Grenade of Antioch.

4. Bugs (Bunny). I have a thing for sarcastic, dress-wearin', opera singin' wascally wabbits, don't you?

3. Brer (Rabbit). He loved his briar patch, but not that ol' tar baby. Thank you, Joel Chandler Harris.

2. Velveteen (Rabbit). Or how toys become real. Or how to make a grown man (or woman) cry. Boy, I love this book by Margery Williams.

1. Easter (Bunny). This is a blatant attempt to curry favor with the big furry guy, as he decides who to leave nice chocolate eggs for tonight while I'm fast asleep. If you're reading this, EasterB., I like all kinds of chocolate, jellybeans, and Peeps. And I've been a good girl all year. No. Wait. That's my story for Santa.

Yeah, I left off Roger, Flopsy/Mopsy/and Cottontail, and the boiling bunny from Fatal Attraction. They would've definitely made my Top 20 Countdown. Notice no mention of the Playboy kind of bunny.

Now bring on the chocolate, EasterB. Happy Easter, all!

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posted by MaryB @ 7:02 PM  4 comments

Friday, March 21, 2008

Good Friday 2008: St. Bart's

One benefit of working for the church is that Good Friday and Easter Monday are holidays for us. So, yeah, I have four lovely days stretched out before me.

Lest I forget why I have those holidays, I opted to attend Good Friday services at St. Bartholomew's in midtown, since it offered the noon-3 service I'm used to at home. It was moving and beautiful. It's not Good Friday without the music - "Were You There?," "Ah holy Jesus, how hast thou offended?," and "Beneath the cross of Jesus." After the week I've had, it gave me a chance to settle down, pray, cry, and sing. Mozart's "Ave verum corpus" never fails to bring me to tears, and it didn't fail today.

Believe it or not, I'd never set foot in St. Bart's until today. I pass it all the time, of course, since I work in the 'hood. It's a big old beautiful Byzantine number - odd architecture for an Episcopal Church, but no complaints from here - all dark and tiley/stoney inside. They could do with some new pew cushions, though, I tell ya'. Mine was held together with duct tape, and it had next to no stuffing left. I believe if each St. Bart's family could "Adopt-a-Pew," and personally take care of the oiling, tightening, and cushioning of their adoptee, I b'lieve they could get the job done in no time. Or maybe it's cool to have patched-up-with-duct-tape cushions at such a toney house of worship.

Anyway, that's a minor complaint. It was a wonderful place of rest and refuge for me on this Good Friday. As for Easter, well, my plan (note: plan) is to go to The Cathedral (of St. John the Divine), since it's only a 15-20-minute walk from where I live. They'll pull out all the stops (literally) with the Bishop and choirs and artists-in-residence like Judy Collins and Paul Winter, so I'm thinkin' I need to experience Easter with the big boys (and girls) at least once.

Or, I'll sleep in. We'll see.

A blessed Good Friday to all. (And Liz, only 2 more days in Lent! I've stocked up on some primo chocolate for Sunday.)

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posted by MaryB @ 3:25 PM  2 comments

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

Middle Child Syndrome can turn on you

I like things peaceful. I do not like conflict. I like for everyone to play nice. I do not like to upset people.

Now, I've been told that these are classic "middle child" characteristics, though, truth be told, I was a darn rowdy middle child. And damned proud of it. In fact both of us middle children - older bro David (God rest his soul) and me, the middle two of four - seemed to cause the most ruckus growing up. Be that as it may, while I like a good set-to now and then, I want it to be a friendly, fun set-to, nothing fraught with bad ju-ju.

Alas, this morning my middle child fears were realized here at work. As previously mentioned, we are in the throes of reorganization, and while the official line is that we are to keep doing our current jobs until April 1 and under no circumstances work on "new job" tasks, the fact is that I've been called upon several times in the past couple of months to "work ahead." This at the behest of the Powers-That-Be. Who am I to refuse, eh?

I've diligently done my current job throughout it all, while taking the new stuff home to work on at night or on weekends. Just to keep the peace. So, yeah, I've been working both ends of the system and burning the candle at both ends for quite a few weeks. I've done it because my current boss is not taking this reorganization thing very well. She's very, very touchy about it. So in my best middle child way, I've tiptoed around her and tried to keep any upper-level requests of me out of her sight range.

Bad move on my part.

She found out about one project from a 3rd party (and yeah, I should have told her, maybe, instead of trying to keep the peace), came into my office, closed the door, and went ballistic.

I really had no defense, except that my new bosses (and hers) had gone around her to pull me into these projects. That much was painfully obvious, of course, but I certainly didn't point it out to her. Yes, she has been demoted and somewhat sidelined in the new scheme of things, and she hasn't dealt with it very well (*understatement*). The fact that I didn't get (or need) her permission to do this stuff came across as salt in the wounds. Ouch. The term "back stabber" came out a couple of times.

I was in agony. I love and respect this woman, but I am angry with her at the way she's handled the changes that are taking place (yeah, my problem , I know). I want her to rise to the occasion, and she hasn't. And it's been going on for about 6 months. We're all tired. And frayed. I close my office door and turn up the tunes, or go to lunch with happy, positive friends to avoid dealing with the angst. It makes me sad. That conflict-thing, doncha' know. Ugh. I was crushed by the tongue-lashing. Still. I guess in an effort not to stab her in the back, I stabbed her in the back.

We settle into our new offices in a couple of weeks. Things should calm down then. At least I won't be in her sight-line, though I think we will be working in close proximity.

This "serving two masters" is a tricky thing for a middle kid. Growing up, we could've settled this with a good old fashioned pine cone battle. Sigh. Gin and tonics all round tonight, me thinks.

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posted by MaryB @ 4:23 PM  8 comments

Monday, March 17, 2008

Tea beside the fire: Happy St. Patrick's Day!

Don the green, have a Guinness, and throw Darby O'Gill and the Little People into your DVD player - it's St. Patrick's Day!

New York is home to the biggest St. Patrick's Day parade in the world (no surprise, there), but due to a couple of ill-timed meetings today, I won't be able to sneak out and witness it. Maybe next year. Last year, I was in Africa, remember?

Enjoy the day! I leave you with this Irish blessing:


"May you always have walls for the winds,
A roof for the rain, tea beside the fire,
Laughter to cheer you, those you love near you,
And all your heart might desire."

Mmmmm. Tea beside the fire.

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posted by MaryB @ 7:18 AM  2 comments

Sunday, March 16, 2008

Of Palms, cranes, tornadoes. And a right good potato knish.

Pretty wild couple of days, eh? Tornadoes rip through downtown Atlanta. A whackin’ great construction cranes crashes to earth just a few blocks from where I work. And we’re heading into Holy Week. Is it that time of year already?

As far as I know, Atlanta family and friends made it though the whirlwinds just fine. At least, I know for a fact that Kate did. Haven’t heard from anyone else, but as they say, no news is good news. Good luck with the clean-up down there, guys. Downtown looks a real mess.

I spent yesterday boppin’ around the Lower East Side. Those poor folks in the tenements of old would be surprised at the rise in property values down there. Lots of cute, trendy shops and restaurants. I poked my head into Katz Deli – of When Harry Met Sally fame (you know The Scene) – but it was crowded and over-priced, so I poked my head back out and headed for a little hole in the wall shop called Yonah Schimmel’s Knishes to get in touch with my Jewish side. I mean that figuratively, since I don’t have a legitimate Jewish side (as far as I know). Old Yonah Schimmel’s was comfortingly crowded as well, but I found a spot at a back table and had a lovely knish and a cup of borscht. Yum. Good stuff.

Well, seems that while I was happily strolling around the LES and knishing, a huge construction crane was crashing down into buildings a few blocks from where I work on Second Avenue. I didn’t find out about that until I got home. Can’t imagine the damage if it had happened on a typical work day. Yikes! Four dead, several very serious injuries, and three missing.

A joyous, holy Palm Sunday to all. To me, the lesson of Palm Sunday is, man, how quickly a crowd can turn. One day, it’s all palms and Hosannas; then just a few days later, it’s Crucify! A good study in mob mentality, me thinks, through no one really preaches much about that. Still, a good lesson to keep in mind when folks are waving palms your way.

In spite of all the weekend wildness, it went by 'way too fast. Sigh.

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posted by MaryB @ 9:51 PM  0 comments

Thursday, March 13, 2008

"I can help the following customer"

Can that be right? Shouldn't it be, "I can help the next customer"?

Almost every customer service person in New York uses the word "following" to give the heads-up to the next person in line at the bank, deli, or Duane Reade. Every time I hear it, it grates on my nerves. Is it because I'm not used to that particular use of the word "following," or is it indeed wrong?

Though sometimes my posts don't reflect it, I do have a pretty good command of English grammar usage. Can someone let me know if I'm just being petty and that "I can help the following customer" is completely oakie-dokie? Or not.

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posted by MaryB @ 7:09 AM  13 comments

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

Catching Up is Hard to Do

It's even harder than breaking up (tip o' the hat to Neil Sedaka).

Gee, where to start? How about the Cliffs Notes version:

  • Landed in Atlanta last Thursday and headed straight for The Colonnade for real fried chicken and collard greens. Yum!


  • Taste-tested various wedding cake flavors at three different wedding cake bakers. Lots of buttercream frosting, as well. For more about that experience, feel free to visit The MoBster Diaries.
  • More food indulgences, including steak, Mexican food, and Japanese food. While the food was great, the family, friends, and conversations were even better.


  • Got to see my niece and her adorable kids, Bryleigh and Jaxon. Such cutie pies!


  • Survived the "spring ahead" time change, and managed to make it to church on time to preach (yeah, I know) at the 8am and 11:00am services. Plus teach a Sunday School class. A big "mwah!" to the good folks at St. Mark's, Dalton, Georgia.


  • Only gained .2 lb. after all those enchilladas, fried chicken, and buttercream chow-downs.


  • OK, that's the quickie version.

    On a different note: how stupid is Eliot Spitzer? Geez Louise! It always hits hardest those preachers and politicians who rant and rave about morality and "right," eh? Once you set yourself up as Mr. Moral Crusader, you don't go out and pay incomprehensible sums to high-priced call girls. Seems like a no-brainer to me. And that's why I try to avoid politicians (and preachers) who arrogantly set themselves up as the new messiahs of this or that. I feel extra sorry for his wife and daughters, though. Sheeesh!

    OK. I think I'm sorta caught up now.

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    posted by MaryB @ 1:45 PM  3 comments

    Thursday, March 06, 2008

    Celebrating a decade lost

    Ten pounds. Finally. I've lost about half the weight of our typical Thanksgiving turkey. Jeans fit better. Blouses aren't so tight.

    I'll try to maintain that progress as I travel to Atlanta today, but a couple of things are working against me regarding any hopes of weekend weight loss. For one, I fully intend to chow down on real fried chicken at The Colonnade. Portion sizes be damned. I'm going whole hog - chicken - on this one. New Yorkers are good at lots of things, but fried chicken ain't one of 'em. Not even Sylvia's in Harlem. So. Fried chicken is on the list - that's about 980 points, I reckon.

    For two, Kate and I have a couple of appointments with wedding cake bakers tomorrow. It is my bounden duty as soon-to-be Mother of the Bride to test everything put before me. What kind of person would I be if I didn't make sure that our wedding guests have the most fabulous confection of buttery cake and gooey icing placed before them on The Day? The only thing I won't be able to test is anything involving chocolate, since I made a solemn pact with God and Liz about chocolate and Lent (a couple more weeks to go on that one). Wedding cakes? Bring 'em on!

    Perhaps I can take off Monday and spend the day on a treadmill. Hm.

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    posted by MaryB @ 9:46 AM  6 comments

    Monday, March 03, 2008

    Blah-ging

    Yawn. I'm in a blog slump. This happens to me when real life (vs. cyber-life) is swirling too fast for me to step back and reflect on it in any meaningful or humorous way.

    I like using the blog to brain-dump whatever's niggling at me - from the profound (seldom) to the profane (yeah, that's it). But right now I'm wrapped up in the changes going on at work, and I don't have a lot of witty things to say about the experience. Well, OK, I do, but nothing I'd incrminate myself with by blogging about it.

    Negotiating the workplace rapids has required my utmost attention. Lots of fine lines being walked, if you know what I mean. I love my job and look forward to the new organization. I'm just ready to get on with it. Alas, because a few other people aren't, everyone and everything around them gets sucked into a weirdly depressing vortex. I've been closing my office door and turning up the music to ward off the negative vibes.

    Wow. This is already a "blahg." My blog-writing seems forced and uninteresting. If I'm bored with it, well, I can't imagine that everyone isn't bored, as well. I've been reduced to posting about borscht and pastrami. Please.

    Maybe posting options will improve when I go to Atlanta and Dalton, Georgia, for the upcoming weekend. Believe it or not, I'm preaching - as in, standing in a pulpit and speaking - at St. Mark's Church, Dalton, on Sunday. That alone should be good for any number of chuckles next Monday, eh?

    Till then, you have my permission to nod off . . .

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    posted by MaryB @ 6:25 AM  5 comments

    Sunday, March 02, 2008

    Cold Borscht/Hot Pastrami

    As much as I long for real, honest-to-goodness fried chicken and other delicacies of Southern cuisine, there are some fundamental New York eatin’s that I truly relish. Like cold borscht and hot pastrami sandwiches.

    Last week I discovered Bloom’s Deli, corner of Lex and 40th, on my way to a doctor’s appointment. The beauty of living in a place where your feet are your main mode of transport is that you can make little sparkly findings like Bloom’s as you trudge from one place to the next. Anyway, after my appointment I nipped into the deli for lunch.
    The day was cold, and so was the borsht. Cold and sweet and spicy and absolutely delicious. Craveably delicious. Tiny diced beets sat at the bottom of a sweet, thin broth. I passed on the sour cream dollop because, well, that just would’ve been gilding the lily, and needlessly wreck my diet. God bless the Lithuanian Jews for bringing this dish to Manhattan delis! Mmmmmm. I could become seriously addicted to the stuff.

    So addicted, in fact, that when I came upon Bloom’s near the end of my midtown saunter yesterday, I had to go in for more. The borscht was excellent, of course. I expected nothing less. But I added a classic hot pastrami on rye to the mix. Hey. I’d been power-walking for an hour-and-a-half and needed nourishment.

    Now, a New York sandwich is not built like a sandwich anywhere else. New York completely reverses the huge bun-little piece of meat version offered most places. New York sandwiches are mostly meat – 2 or 3 inches of meat – on regular-sized sliced bread (white, wheat, rye, pumpernickel, etc.). So my hot pastrami arrived stacked high. It was perfect. A little squirt of hot mustard made it more perfect. I had to take half the sandwich to-go, such was the size of the thing.

    And did I mention the pickle bar? Another thing New Yorkers are proud of are their pickles. And rightfully so. A healthy variety spread before you – just take your pick. And lovely cole slaw (not the creamy, gooey kind).

    Cold borscht. Hot pastrami. Pickles. Cole slaw. Hearty food for a late-winter’s day.

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    posted by MaryB @ 11:54 AM  6 comments