Wednesday, October 1, 2014

Whirs and Growls

The helicopters pads are started to fill up again, the blades are starting to whir. The gentle purring of the the tigers is beginning to turn to a low growl and the claws are slowing emerging.

Walt Whitman High School opened a few weeks ago and for the first time in seven years I do not have a student enrolled there.

My children attended the high school about which The Overachievers: The Secret Lives of Driven Kids was written. I can’t provide you with a review. I think my bookmark is still at page 10. My son was about to start freshman year, and the book simply made me too anxious.

Walt Whitman  is known as one of the best public high schools in the country. People move to neighborhoods with the sole purpose of being in the Whitman “cluster” thereby ensuring their children’s academic future. Sometimes they buy houses they don’t even like, but, by God, they are in the right school district. College recruiters light up when they see an application from Whitman. Students get a few extra points just for going there, in addition to the fact that their grades are very high and their SAT scores off the charts. The student body is dense with genius and sparse on density.

I have nothing but praise for Whitman. My children got an excellent education there and made friendships that will last a lifetime.

But Whitman is stressful. Being so smart and self-aware, even Whitman even knows it is stressful and is doing something about it. There is a “Stressbusters” committee for parents; and last year a period of mindfulness was incorporated into several classes.

There is something for everyone at Whitman, drama, robotics, fashion design, computer science, business internships, student government, international community service trips and a range of academic offerings sure to satisfy any brainiac and his or her helicopter or tiger parents. The kids have a tremendous sense of school spirit, and regularly break records for fundraising efforts.

Once in the Whitman community, you receive on average 15 daily emails: did you pay your PTSA dues, did you subscribe to the student newspaper, did you eat at a certain local restaurant to raise funds for x y or z club, did you pay for the parking pass, did you know the boys’ volleyball team is the playoffs, did you get your health forms in and have your baseline concussion testing, did you want to sign up for a trip to France during spring break, have you paid senior dues, returned all your books? Will you go to club night, international night, homecoming, prom, take the spirit bus to support the girls’ soccer state championships? Do you know a good physics tutor, a chemistry tutor, how about a writing coach for college essays? The artistic talent flows in that school just as thickly as IQ points. The annual student-run Talent Show approximates a Broadway production, and can sell out a 1,000 seat auditorium for up to three nights.

The County has developed two tools of torture that can cripple a stress-prone parent. About as much fun as water-boarding, Edline is a program that lets parents access daily reports of every grade in every classroom. It fluctuates wildly like the stock market. This can be a blessing and a curse, there is kind of mother (whirring sound) who checks Edline every day and confronts his or her child about a missed homework assignment or a poor grade OR the kind of mother I became with my second child, unplugged from Edline. He shot my helicopter right out of the sky. I have to thank him, there was a corresponding drop in my blood pressure.

Whitman will host a meeting for parents and juniors on how to navigate the college search process. At this meeting you will be handed a sharp and dangerous tool called Naviance. This program allows you to compare your student’s GPA and SAT to the records of how Whitman students fared in college admissions over the past five years. My favorite moment at Whitman was when I left that meeting and was followed by a member of the Stressbusters committee who drove up beside me on a residential street and raged about why that meeting is always geared to the student with the 3.75 grade point average. I wanted to tell her that’s who the audience is; if a kid who attends that meeting with a parent, there’s no doubt he or she has at least that kind of GPA. Most parents come alone.

When the bell rang on the final day of senior year, I felt as if I had finished a marathon. I felt as if were the graduate, flooded by relief. When I see the WHSS bumper stickers on cars I can only read the acronym one way: Whitman High School Survivor,

Friday, September 19, 2014

How things are different since the boys have gone to college, month one...

These two are in college???
  • There is nobody to ask to take out the garbage...and ask and ask.
  • There is much less laundry.
  • The dining room has never been used again.
  • The dishwasher only needs to be run every other day.
  • There is nobody to ask to mow the lawn...and ask and ask.
  • Savings on water, electricity, food, clothes, gas. Oh scratch that. No savings. Two tuitions.
  • No one plays the piano.
  • There are not six to eight pairs of shoes left in the entryway as admission tickets to what was once considered Bethesda’s Best Basement.
  • There is no reason to buy 2% milk. Only skim.
  • We keep the doors to their rooms closed so that we can pretend they are just in there sleeping.

Today I am flying to Memphis to see one of them. Bet you $100 he has not made his  bed once.

Sunday, August 31, 2014

Ten reasons I [remembered] why I love New York

Ahhh, the chaos

I hadn’t spent time in New York City recently and it took me more than a New York Minute to remember all the reasons I love it. Here are some.

They walk at my pace

The density of primo people watching

Someone on the subway can yell “Shut the F Up” and no one does

Cousin Fred lives there and he is funny. Together we are hilarious. At least we think so.

Cousin Fred

You can measure your morning run by blocks

The US Open is there;  tennis has the respect it deserves

Arthur Ashe stadium

A band of mariachis may appear on your subway car

A crew in your hotel is shooting The Good Wife, you see Julianna walk by

There is often a visiting relative or a friend in town whom you encounter unexpectedly

With California Beisers Frank, Jane and grandson Dean
30 Rock

Frank Sinatra is played loud and often in public spaces

Saturday, August 30, 2014


I’ve been on the road since August 20 and traveled more than 2000 miles in 10 days.

Rhodes College--Franky picked a beauty and so did they

College Drop Off--A 15-hour drive to Memphis  (878 miles

Tennessee is one long state. It's a good thing the Mississippi River is there to bring it to a halt. The bridge over it goes to Arkansas, I was told, a different state. The long drive had a happy ending for the weary travelers. (Weary except for Franky, who true to form, slept most of the day.) We arrived at the soothing Peabody Hotel and were eating ribs at the Rendezvous by 8.

Next was move-in day for Rhodes College. There was a great deal more spirit about this process than we found at Skidmore. On the long stretch of road waiting to get in the main gate there were several groups of kids jumping up and down with glee, shrieking and holding signs that said "Honk if you love Rhodes."

Well, we don't know yet. But we hope so.

Franky's dorm
Franky's dorm room pre-decor

Post decor
My son is in a triple with roommates from Arlington, VA and suburban Memphis. One bathroom adjoins another triple where we met a couple of nice guys from Atlanta. The only thing that makes dropping your child off bearable is the desire to get away from stressed out parents sometimes 10-12 deep in a room designed for three.

He's officially convocated

Trip from Memphis to Louisville (429 miles)

With Carolyn and Paul Williams
I only agreed to drive to Memphis if we could stop and see our friends who live in Louisville “on the way” home.  Was it on the way? Not exactly. Was it worth it? A thousand times. We met these friends who were in the TV news business in Tucson in the 80s. The media in Tucson were tight. We bonded with Paul and Carolyn  immediately and spent a couple of lovely years together during the pre-kids, early-career nonsense days. But then they started moving up the media market ladder, had three children, while we moved to DC and had two. And suddenly 20 years flew by while they lived in the fly-over states. And we hadn't seen each other.  

Together again
Thanks to Joe Rhodes...

,,,Who uses this as his profile photo with me cut out

and Facebook we felt that this reunion was possible after the last child was dropped at college. But we knew we could pick up where we laughed off and we did for two fabulous days. I demanded a tour around Louisville because I had never been there.
And found this important intersection

Trip from Louisville to Bethesda (601 miles)

Let’s skip this 11 and a half hour drive. Let’s just say that about an hour outside of Washington, with the end in sight, the highway was closed, which I referred to on Facebook as a blocked party, and we lost 90 minutes.

Then round trip on Vamoose to New York City to the US Open (464 miles)

So if I did my math right, and I rarely do, so check it, I have traveled 2,334 miles in 10 days. Maybe the nest will launch a travel blog after all, if the first 10 days are any indication.

(US Open deserves its own blog post, look for that later.)

Monday, July 28, 2014

"Dali Really Melted the Clock on this Country"

I was invited to submit a guest travel story to and it ran today:

...Spain runs on caffeine. It has to. Because everyone there walks fast, talks fast, drives fast, and takes high speed trains. Spaniards ignore the night and never eat dinner before 10 p.m. My son reported that clubbing goes on until at least 5 a.m. Because of its time warp, Spain is a great place for travel if you want to see five cities in eight days, and never feel rushed. We saw MadridToledoGranadaCordoba, and Seville and had time to enjoy them all...

Madrid from above

Read the rest:

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Rozita Made Me Do It

Rozita snares customer

Last weekend I did something I never do. I had a makeover at the Lancome counter.

I have been wearing my makeup the same way since my mother marched me into the Fosi Modeling and Talent Agency in Tucson, Arizona.. I don’t know how old I was—10, 11, 12? But I must have been pretty young because I didn't know what the word “features” meant. On first evaluation, Miss Fosi told my mother I had some nice features to work with. I had to ask my mother what she meant. Miss Fosi  had enough makeup on for both of us. She told me that the most fattening thing I could put in my mouth was a grape. By this she meant wine, and I am still not sure why she was saying this to a 10/11/12 year old.

So I learned the drill: a couple of layers of mascara, eyeliner, foundation, blush and lipstick. These were the basics and still are and I don’t leave home without them. No eye shadow because my mother said it the invention of Satan.
When I was able to climb up from the Ponds and Neutrogena level, I chose the Lancome line, sleek and black and French and glam. But in recent years they betrayed me twice. They discontinued my favorite mascara and foundation. So, acting out like a girl who had been dumped by her boyfriend, I took up with someone else immediately—Christian Dior got both the mascara and foundation business. I wouldn't even look at the Lancome ladies as I passed. I would show them. Dior had a Diorshow Mascara (“a big show mascara inspired by models behind the scenes runway trick.”)

Mascara is very important to me...
Lancome pulled me back in me with a rival to Diorshow, the introduction of a big fat stick of Hypnose Drama mascara.  And in truth I had been monogamous with Lancome for so long that it did seem silly to have to go to TWO counters just for some foundation. 

I like my mascara like my humor, dark and black
Then I met Rozita at the Lancome counter. I was charmed by Rosita and she convinced me I should book a makeover. To my surprise I said yes, giving up part of my precious Saturday because Rozita is someone you can’t say no to.

I got to sit in the high chair as I had seen so many women do over the years, but then again, they probably had not enjoyed the childhood benefit of Miss Flossie. It was a bit of a bait and switch because Rozita turned me over to the make-up pro of the day, Odetta from Lithuania.
Odetta: "Questions?"
When I told Odetta I was in the market for white skinny jeans and didn't have much time left, it being mid-July and all, we talked about the ridiculous convention of not wearing white until Memorial Day and after Labor Day. The Lithuanians are not burdened by this tradition. Odetta took about a half hour to make me over, I learned that I must exfoliate, put on the Energy before the base, use a pencil instead of a liquid liner and use eye cream morning and night. At the end Odetta stood back in a very business-like fashion, looked at me and said: “Questions?”

The stuff I am supposed to use
I had fun at the makeover, and it pumped me up to do more shopping...a couple of skinny jeans and a Christina Maldonado dress that I got to model for all of my new LancĂ´me BFFs.

Rozita took my phone number and I will undoubtedly respond to her siren’s call, the next promotion, the next deal. She indeed has me hypnosed.

Wearing my new jeggings at the Nats game. Don't want to get the white ones dirty.

Wednesday, July 9, 2014

The Peabody Memphis has its Ducks in a Row

The Peabody Memphis built in 1925, originally in 1869

There is nothing like a stay at an old fashioned luxury hotel. We just experienced ours at the  Peabody Memphis Hotel. My son is going to Rhodes college in Memphis in the fall and as soon as I found out there was a Rhodes rate at the Peabody I booked it. The desk clerk asked if I would like to upgrade to a superior room. I immediately accepted, as I am wont to do. So we got a deluxe corner room on the 10th floor and could see the Mississippi River from our window.

            The beds felt like clouds with an excess of downy pillows; and the design of the room, well I am sure The Peabody won’t mind if I show you one of their photos.
Room at the Peabody

I just like elevators doors that look like this:

 I like hearing Nat King Cole and Frank Sinatra in the breakfast room.  I like the exquisite service, with staff members greeting me every few yards and offering help. I like getting up in the morning, having the newspaper delivered in a special bag:
and heading to a deluxe health club. I like room service, especially when it rolls in on a cart between our beds.   
I am sure I could live quite happily in a hotel like this, become a modern day Eloise. I promise I would work out every day. There’s a spa where I could get my hair and nails done, there is food and drink and shopping and what in the world more do I need? The occasional trip to the rooftop to get some air and see the sunset over the Mississippi:
Sunset over the Mississippi

 I read that the Peabody's lobby is “the living room of the mid-south" which has been visited by “some of the most influential and famous people of the world.” A Southern historian called The Peabody “the Paris Ritz...the  London Savoy of this [Delta] region.” Well no wonder I loved it.

"The living room of the Mid South"

Just off the red carpet, vogueing
The Ducks
If you have ever heard of the Peabody, you have heard of the ducks. The expression “ducks in a row” may have started here in the 30’s. The duck procession occurs every morning at 11 where they come down the elevator and march in a row on a red carpet into the beautiful marble fountain topped by a flower arrangement the size of a washing machine.
Who gets this floral contract?

There is much pomp and circumstance leading up to the arrival of the ducks, there is a man in a red uniform who tells the legend and history of the ducks. Everyone must be seated in the lobby, no standing is politely enforced and then once the ducks splash in, it is photo opp time. The same ritual goes on at 5 p.m. when they return to their penthouse enclosure.

No Exit at the Gift Shop       
My son needed a sweatshirt so we popped into the gift shop. Let me back up by saying that my son has incredible blond curly hair that has drawn attention from strangers since he was a toddler,-stop-on-the-street attention. So much attention, in fact. that the tiresome question of “where did you get that curly blond hair” forced me to become a blonde. Here it is: 
The famous hair

But never has it attracted as much attention as it did by an employee in the Peabody gift shop who had her hands in my son’s hair in minutes, was raving about it and said it was so pretty she had to put a bow in it. She went behind the counter, cut a blue ribbon and and sat him down and fixed him up. Talk about your Southern hospitality.
Franky Bowed

I pledge my allegiance to the Peabody. I expect to be going to Memphis several times over the next four years and I will stay nowhere else. I will just pack, quack and go. I encourage you to do the same.