Juicy Olive

The quest for “the good life” should never be complete but it should definitely begin now.

Family Fun – No Force Required August 21, 2009

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My sister and brother and I had dinner last night at Terzo Piano – the lovely restaurant attached to The Modern Wing of Chicago’s Art Institute. A prix fixe meal, each of us selected beautiful appetizers, entrees and desserts. David and I split a bottle of a crisp Gruner Veltliner, which paired perfectly with the food. The meal was delicious, the service entertaining yet refined and the ambiance was open and airy.

What made this meal in particular so remarkable, however, was not my heirloom tomato, watermelon and fresh feta salad or the plump mussels floating in a chili-spiked broth festooned with fennel and grilled corn. Nor was it our server, who seemed to have a witty yet quirky quip whenever visiting our table. In fact, even though we were able to see the celebrated chef Tony Mantuano from across the room, it wasn’t being in a room with greatness that took the night to platinum.

For the first time in longer than I can remember, my siblings and I sat down together – sans parents – and were able to catch up properly. We weren’t rushing from one family holiday party to the next. We weren’t laying around the den stuffed to the gills with chocolate sheet cake while watching Coming to America (a Walker family holiday tradition…don’t ask.) We weren’t cheering on the Razorbacks with a load of crazed Arkansans. It was just us – plain and simple. Telling stories, sharing updates, laughing, offering advice and catching up in the true sense of the words.

It’s rare Caroline, David and I are free at the same time and in the same city to orchestrate such a gathering, but I’m so glad we were able to do it last night. We had a splendid time – no morsel of food or work of art could match it.

 

Relationship Request – DENIED! August 19, 2009

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The Claudias and I were talking the other day over a lovely bottle of vinho verde. As the summer sun warmed our faces, we swaped stories of life’s recent highlights. As these conversations go, travel, food, work and fun certainly rank among our favorite conversation topics. But without fail, we always return to that time-honored analysis of the opposite sex.This naturally leads to dating, which may forever confuse us all.  One woman had finally come to grips with the fact that he was NEVER going to leave his wife – ever. Another was mending a broken heart, as her sweetie had decided to relocate – and not take her with him. Still another, years after standing proudly in Singledom following a complicated divorce, had decided to enter the dating world again. For my part, I had decided to part ways with Paul after picking up far to many signals that he wasn’t that into me and finally realizing I wasn’t that into him either.

So there we were, slightly buzzed, cheeks pink from the sun, our voices rising as we lamented just how complicated the dating world had become. And much like a scene from a recent movie, when Drew Barrymore complains about how the technological aspects of romance were exhausting her, our conversation was saturated in perjorative mentions of Facebook, Twitter, texting and email.

How is it that this has become the de facto way to court and be courted? And yet, it’s true. Take, for example, non-committal Fred. He was terrified of being in a relationship because, for whatever reason, he wasn’t “ready” for one yet. Understandable and perfectly respectable. However, he had no problem to committing to sending perfectly inane emails day after day. Even when Claudia told him that, to her, an email did not a relationship make, she continued to receive messages from him. This would be fun and a nice way to get to know each other while still taking things slowly, except Fred’s emails consisted of things like, “just had an apple from the farmer’s market – wasn’t as good as I hoped,” or “the sun today is intense – lots of sunscreen for me.”

How is it that this pseudo relationship had boiled itself down to a series of status updates? And how is it that poor Fred thought that was actually a means of connecting? By the umpteenth useless email or text from Fred, Claudia had had it. She simply stopped responding, and Fred eventually got the picture. It wasn’t Claudia’s proudest moment, but how do you reach someone who has clearly no ability to connect on a personal level?

Is this what technology has brought us? Hope not.

It’s not all Fred’s fault, though. I heard from one Claudia that her main squeeze had become so into Twitter that when he broke up with her – OVER EMAIL – the entire Dear John letter was just shy of 140 characters! It barely made sense, but Claudia was clear that courtship was finished. Or what about Keith, who texted “miss u babe – talk later” to someone else while he was out with my friend? Stupidly, he sent it to my friend by accident. One friend has never actually talked to her boyfriend on the phone – they only text. How about the moron who invited a gal to be his Facebook friend; while he had neglected to tell her about his girlfriend the night before, she was able to learn he was “in a relationship” as soon as they e-connected. And while less-than-confident guys are hiding behind these tools as a way to still be in touch, ultra-paranoid girls have been known to cyber-stalk their suitors. They’ll figure out what bands a gentleman likes, where he’s been on vacation and try to determine if he’s dating others — all in a few keystrokes. Even worse, there are people who are perfectly comfortable conducting their relationship via these applications. How often have you read one person’s passive-aggressive G-chat status (“sigh”), only to later read his S.O.’s equally obtuse Facebook post (“where do broken hearts go?”) to realize there’s trouble in paradise?

e-date 2

Anyone who knows me understands that I’m a huge proponent of experimenting with all of the new, fun technical applications out there. But none of these tools can become a replacement to human interaction, especially when you’re trying to form an intimate bond with someone.  Abusing the information available to you is futile – you’re either going to connect with this person or not. But, like the Claudias and I were saying, you’ll never be able to test that chemistry if you’re getting status updates from Fred. We’re thrilled that he “likes gelato – yum” but really need to know if he likes us.

 

Report Card

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If there was a panel to assign grades to bloggers, that group of esteemed individuals would have given me an “F-minus.” When I started this blog, I had committed to posting to it twice a week – and up through late July I had honored that committment. Somehow recently, I’ve been derailed. And like the vacationer who can’t bring herself to diet in the real world after weeks of indulgence in paradise, getting back on this horse has been a mental hurdle for me.

The good news is, that while I’ve flunked this period of blogosphere 101, I’ve been getting good marks elsewhere:

  • Friends –  I’ve been doing a great job at finding balance in socializing with them (my favorite subject!) and finding time for myself.  Of course, within that balancing act, we had a fantastic weekend at the lake in Galena – too much food, too much wine, lots of sun, late-night Rumikub…what more could we ask for? Also, my friend Amy is going through a particularly rough patch with a recent breast cancer diagnosis (compounded by being 8 months pregnant!), and I’m proud for the support I’ve been able to offer her.
  • Family – I’ve actually been able to see my dear brother more frequently. I’m bowing to the medical school gods, who have finally released their death grip on his schedule to afford him at least a bit of spare time. My sister and I have been in touch a lot recently, and she’s even coming to visit today! We’re headed back to the Quad-Cities tonight for some QT with Mom, Dad and Granny.
  • Romance – I’ve made good decisions recently in the dating department. This has meant doing some spring cleaning to get rid of the dusty ol’ hangers-on, setting boundaries with those who are in the “just friends” department and opening the door to someone new. We’ll see what happens. As you know, it’s always an adventure with me.
  • Work – I’m busier at last! Enough said.

Sure, “excuses, excuses,” you’re probably thinking. And, you’re right. I’ve let the rest of life trump this journal for a while. But, I’m back and willing to work my way up the ladder again.

With this mea culpa complete, please allow me to get back to the Juicy Olive way…I’ve got a fabulous story to tell you! Check back in about an hour for the goods.