Sunday, March 30, 2008

"The Hills" are alive with the sounds of empty heads

So "The Hills" is back, and I feel more stupid already.

The season premiere was last week and of course I watched, it may be completely silly, but that's what makes it so highly entertaining.

The season kicked off with Lauren and Whitney (the two blonds on the left) in Paris for their faux"jobs" at Teen Vogue.

We got to see the L.A. girls traipse around Paris in designer gowns, in smoke-filled clubs being hit on by locals. Personally, I thought their driver was the best-looking guy there.

Lauren went for a late-night Vespa ride with a musician named Mathias who seemed to perpetually have a cigarette in his hand or mouth. You gotta love those Parisians and their smokes. I just wouldn't want to kiss one.

The other storyline was of course, the Spencer/Heidi drama. Whenever I see Spencer Pratt all I can think of is a weasel. Not that he acts like a weasel (which he totally does) but that he looks and sounds like one. He has to be the most unappealing man (and I use that word loosely, I think he's more of a boy) I have ever seen.

When we left off last season the engaged couple had decided to take a break, and Heidi headed back home to Colorado (I think so they could get lots of shots of picturesque Crested Butte in the snow) and of course, douche that he is, Spencer shows up uninvited (sad-looking red roses in hand) and well, drama ensues! I actually think these two empty-headed idiots deserve each other.

So, why do I watch this crap? Who the hell knows. So I can feel superior that I have an IQ over 70? Perhaps. Or maybe it's just after a long day of writing it's a vacation from thinking. I could of course watch Keith Oberman (whom I have to admit has become my nerd-crush) but then I'd have to focus and process information. "The Hills" is entertainment without brain-strain, there's no danger of having a serious thought during that show. Unless you count thoughts like: Why did Brody Jenner shave his hair off? And how come he's so rarely on his father's (Bruce Jenner) family's reality show, "Keep Up With the Kardashian's," is there a rift? Is Brody worried about over-exposure while he builds his career, I don't know what he does other than go to clubs and smile - nice work if you can get it!

There is a part of me that wonders why I have information about any of these simpletons in my brain. Whitney and Audrina seem like pretty sweet young women, but good Lord, the don't seem to have the combined brain power to light a 40-watt bulb.

The sad thing is I will be setting my DVR to record it. It's like an accident I can't turn away from. I kind of want to see if they can top these life-changing lines:
"Jeans can be really addicting. New ones come out and you have to have them." Gee Whitney, maybe you can join a 12-Step program!

"And all I hoped for was a drama-free New Year's kiss." It's nice Lauren is keeping her life-goals very simple.

I truly think that if I could adopt a "Hills" view of life things would be so much easier for me. No more worrying about making ends meet or doing well in my career. I think I'm going to try a day looking at things the Lauren Conrad way:

"Now my only problem is figuring out what to wear!"

If only it were that simple...

Wednesday, March 26, 2008

Clowns are so not my favorite

I just know everyone in the world is going to think I am completely crazy, because yes, I have yet another thing I'm afraid of to confess. It's clowns! I hadn't thought about clowns for a while, all right, maybe a day or two, until my friend Laurie told me she was going to the circus on Saturday, and I felt a shudder. I admit it, I do not like clowns. Or mimes. And I'm not real crazy about magicians either. Though I'm not scared of them, I just find them kind of annoying.

I heard the above Ingrid Michaelson song, "The Way I Am," months ago in an Old Navy sweater commercial and liked it, and put it on m iPod. I really liked it, until I saw the scary video which features, you got it - clowns. How they could ruin a perfectly good song with clowns I do not know.

I don't know where the clown phobia started, but I do remember being upset at the circus, and throwing up once at the Ice Capades because the smell of a woman's perfume who was sitting near us. Hey, cut me some slack, I was like 5-years-old.

Throughout my childhood I would tense up whenever clowns were around, they were so not happy to me! I know I'm not alone in my coulrophobia. My friend Laura says she suffers from it too and I know there are many more of us out there.

I Googled "clowns are scary," and 390,000 pages came up. I found everything from videos of scary clowns to one Web site that had an "I hate clowns" store that has mugs, T-shirts, hats and more. I especially loved the shirts that said, "Can't sleep - clowns will eat me." They even have an "I hate mimes" T-shirt as well. See? I am SO not alone!

My kids, no longer small children, don't seem particularly fond of clowns either, but this is probably my fault, as is their disdain for the "Wizard of Oz," because yes, that scares me too. Hello?! Have you seen that witch?! I don't know what scares me more, the witch or those freaking flying monkeys. They were pretty equally terrifying for an impressionable small child, who grew up to be an apparently very impressionable woman. Wow, I really am kind of a mess, aren't I?

The good news is the older I get, and the older my children get, the less clown-centric activities I have to deal with. I don't attend many children's birthday parties, I don't frequent the circus or grand openings of car dealerships (for some reason they think this will bring in customers, I so beg to differ) and living in a small town I don't run into many street performers (i.e. - mimes!). So my life is pretty much clown-free.

If I could just convince musicians to not put clowns in their videos, things would pretty much be perfect.

"Smiling's My Favorite!"

The Will Ferrell movie, "Elf" is a holiday staple in our house, we usually watch it several times over the Christmas season, but the quotes go on long after the Christmas tree is down. Most popular - "Smiling's my favorite!" Which them becomes, "Coffee's my favorite!" "Sunshine's my favorite!" Well, you get the idea.

I got thinking about this because my daughter is home from college on spring break, and I never laugh as much as I do when she's around.
I find that when left to my own devices, I don't smile or laugh nearly as much.
We went on an unsuccessful adventure yesterday trying to find her some cross-stitch fabric because as she said, "I'm living like a 70-year-old woman," and she wanted to cross stitch some pandas - doesn't every 22-year-old?
We struck out at every store we could think of in our area, and for some reason every failed attempt just made us laugh even more.
By the time we got to a store called, "The Town Ho," yeah, you can only imagine the jokes that ensued from that, we were ridiculously silly. We stopped at a small market to buy a lottery ticket (because I am nothing if not a great financial planner) and we were so silly that I was afraid people would think I was some awful mother who gets high with her daughter. That's just the way we get when we're together.
I think there's something about being with my daughter that allows me to shrug off my day-to-day seriousness and ambition, just for a short while, that lets this silliness out. It's not something I am able to tap into very often on my own. At 22 my daughter doesn't have the same pressures and responsibilities in her life that I, as her mother have. She's about to graduate from college, so that is probably going to change a bit as she goes into a responsible job and live away from a college dorm.
I always promise myself after spending time with her that I am going to remember that feeling of pure silliness, but I think you kind of need a partner in crime to help get you there. I chuckle to myself and think, "that's what she said," when I hear openings for that punchline, but it's not the same when it's not shared. Just a glance, knowing what the other is thinking is sometimes all it takes.
Maybe the lesson for all us grown-ups to take away from all of this, is realizing how far we let ourselves get from being silly. A natural silliness un-enhanced by drugs or alcohol, an ability to tap into that side of us that is there, if we just let it out.
It's not surprising that we get bogged down - just watching the daily news is enough to smack the silly out of any of us. But I for one refuse to let it all get me down, I am careful about how much negativity I expose myself to, and I make sure to try to see the funny in everyday situations.
And I make sure to remind myself quite often that smiling truly is my favorite.

Monday, March 24, 2008

Being here now:Maybe when I'm done multi-taking

Like millions of others around the world, I have been reading Eckhart Tolle's book, "A New Earth"and trying hard to practice what I'm reading.
I've always been aware of how much I am in my head a lot the time, but reading this book is making me see I'm ALWAYS in my head - listening to music, the TV, on the phone and always, always several steps ahead of myself - so not being in the moment.
So this weekend I tried to do something different. Instead of listening to music while I was in the shower, I was just quiet, and tried to keep my mind just on what I was doing. I focused on feeling the warm water on my body, the way the shampoo felt in my hair, the roughness of my little bath scrubby as I lathered it up. And it actually worked for a couple of seconds at a time. I don't seem capable of not getting ahead of myself and into the next thing on my list for more than a couple of seconds.
I'm assuming I'm not alone, given the fact that about 700,000 people have signed up for the online "A New Earth" class with Oprah. Every week hundreds of thousands tune into their computers and watch the live version of this discussion. Thousands more boot up their computers and watch the recorded version throughout the week.
Why do I even care? What I'm doing is sort of working for me, so why try to change? I think I see that all too often I'm not in my life, I'm living some future version of it. See, I am sort of a self-help junkie, and as a former life coach, I've done my fair share of reading and encouraging of others. So I've been trying to balance this "be here now" philosophy with the law of attraction way of thinking. You know, the visualizing, affirming and speaking about how you want things to be (always keeping it present and affirmative- got it? Yeah, it's not easy).
So for now I'm walking the tight rope of trying to be where I am at any given moment - and allowing myself to feel where I am and what I'm doing, and balancing that with letting myself visualize where I want my life to be. Yeah, it doesn't make a lot of sense to me either. But I figure as long as I'm trying to do better it's got to help a bit.
I must admit that there are times in my life where it makes things easier to not be completely present, and I actually think it's an intergral part of being a writer. I do some of my best thinking when I'm doing something else. Vacuuming is a perfect time to try to figure out a writing challenge - that white noise thing. And the fact that I come up with story ideas or solve a writing dilema while I'm cleaning the cat litter makes that job a lot less yucky. I create scenes for my book and write dialogue in my head while I'm on a treadmill at the gym. When I walk outside I even carry a pen and paper in my pocket in case something wonderful pops into my head.
The more I write this the less I am seeing the benefit for me to be more present. Maybe the solution is taking moments here and there to be here now. Like in the shower. I think I can handle that. At least for a few seconds.

Saturday, March 22, 2008

Creepy Crawly Critters and More

Yesterday I got up and like I always do, I groggily shuffled into the bathroom. When I stood up, pulling up my purple, fleece Hello Kitty jammie pants, I looked at the toilet and saw lurking under the seat, some spindly legs that I knew were from a daddy long legs. I freaked that I had just been sitting there, and Lord knows what that spider could have done to my exposed backside! After I stopped yelling, "Ew!" like a little, well, big girl, I calmed myself down, sort of.

This incident did set in motion some neurotic spinning (how about that pun?!) and checking my bottom for teethmarks - not easy to do my friends. I managed, despite the trauma to go on with my day, but I have to admit that every time I forayed into the bathroom I checked, and rechecked the seat before I sat down.

So, now you know, spiders are not among my favorite creatures. I have nothing personally against their right to exist, and I know they do a lot of good, I just don't like them in my space. They should stay in their space and I'll stay in mine. You don't see me hanging out in their webs.

Unfortunately spiders are but the tip of the paranoid iceberg with me, and after this incident I got thinking about the other things in my house that freak me out.

Number one would be the basement. I am not fond of my basement. It's too...well, basement-y. It's dark, dank and just downright creepy. I only go down there to check my oil tank, and now with oil prices at record highs, there's a whole new reason to fear that place. I almost always go down there when I'm on the phone with someone -just in case. In case of what I don't know, but I just need to know someone somewhere would know if I had a problem. I don't think that's weird at all.

I'm also not fond of hurricanes (or the threat of them) and blizzards. Three years ago we had something here called a "microburst". I was home alone when it hit and I was freaked out. So now I wonder, will it happen again? Every time it snows I wonder if I'll be snowed in for days and be eaten by wild dogs (it's a recurring theme) and relentlessly check for amounts expected, and curse at the computer and TV when they're wrong.

I really don't consider myself that high maintenance -but maybe that's part of being high maintenance - the denial of who you really are is in itself part of being high maintenance. I think I've hit a philosophical cul de sac:do you have to believe you're high maintenance to BE high maintenance? Yeah, probably not. It's probably a condition better spotted by objective bystanders. My children don't count - they're so not objective. My daughter is always telling me I'm irrational, so I think I know where her vote would land. But I really don't think my list is that exceptional, even when you add bees, (and their counterparts - wasps, yellow jackets and anything else stingy) coyotes, foxes and of course, snakes.

So I guess you'll never see me on "Survivor" or "Fear Factor" but I don't think that makes me less of a mature, rational woman capable of handling sticky situations. I will stick my hand in a raw chicken (not for sport but for purpose) clean up cat vomit and plunge a toilet (as long as there's no spider there). So I refuse to feel bad about the things I'm afraid of. I actually like to think by being so open about my own fears that I'm helping others. I'm betting several people who read this will check their toilets before they sit down. A simple thank you is plenty of payment.

Thursday, March 20, 2008

Single Lens Reflex

I was awake in the middle of the night fretting, and I decided that I can't do it all. I know, it's shocking, I always thought I could. Somehow I'm sure I'm the only one who did.
This occurred to me after having sat at my computer yesterday (save a break here and there to make some tea and have something to eat) from 7:30 in the morning until 9:00 last night. I had a deadline, and the story was giving me some trouble.
My bed never got made, I did run the dishwasher, but didn't wipe down the counters or do any other household chores. I briefly talked to my brother and my mom, and fed my cat, but that was about it. I truly couldn't fit anything or anyone else in and make my deadline.
I've been thinking more about this since it was brought to my attention that I don't seem to be willing or able to make time in my life for a relationship. It sounds crazy, but I really don't know how you do it all. How do you make room in your life for someone who has every right to want time with you, when you're trying to make the near-impossible happen? My goal: To become a successful published author with many books to my credit. That doesn't happen without tremendous commitment, effort and time.
My friend, best-selling author Claire Cook , does it all well. But I think it helps that she was already in a long-term marriage when she began her writing career so she wasn't trying to date while birthing five novels. She's also married to a great guy who is incredibly supportive and proud of what she's doing.
My daughter is coming home tomorrow for a week. I will admit that my children are the exception in my workaholic ways. Though that said, I get up early and write while she sleeps, and anytime she's doing something else I'm right back at it. She is also the reason I will file my story, (soon I hope) drag the vacuum out and finally fold the two loads of clean laundry piled into a basket on the floor.
I used to pride myself on being an award-winning multi-tasker, and I've seen I'm not anymore. Possibly because you can't write and do dishes at the same time. If I come up with a way to do that, it might solve a lot of my problems. But for now I have to make choices, and the house is second to work. As is trying to factor in any kind of relationship apparently.
For now I think I just have to be singly focused. It's not forever, but for now. And after an adult lifetime of putting my three children first, I think it's not such a bad thing to put what I want to achieve at the front of the line. At least until one of them needs me, then all bets are off.

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

The Vah Jay Jay Chronicles

All right, so yesterday I had a busy day madly seeking sources for a story, pulling together a non-fiction pop culture book proposal, mailing it off to a publisher, and trying to decide if I want to open myself up even further (pun soon to be revealed) and enter a competition I was asked to participate in.

Now I'm as competitive as the next writer, well, kind of, but the topic gave me pause. This is for a show to be performed in New Jersey (that's not the reason for the hesitation, though in the middle of summer on Cape Cod I often have many unkind thoughts about the good folks of New Jersey). The topic of the competition was something I'd never explored. At least as a writer.

The competition is writing monologues for a show called "Viva Vagina." Yeah, not my usual beat.

I went through my files trying to find something that I remembered writing a few years ago, but I couldn't find it, so I began noodling around with some thoughts. My leaning was more toward something happy, fun, sexy and not super serious - that's better left to writers without my light voice.

As I typed, deleted and typed again I couldn't find the right rhythm (sorry, they just keep coming, oops, there I go AGAIN!) or voice. Everything I typed sounded like something from a bad Harlequin Romance or cheesy soft-core porn. Suddenly I found myself with a new-found respect for those who can write steamy prose and not sound like a ho. How I wished I had the writing chutzpah of Diablo Cody, but I found myself blushing as I tried to, in a funny way recount an incident in my fairly recent past.

I happened to be e-mailing with my ex-boyfriend while I was doing this and told him about the contest. I immediately got an e-mail back asking if he could read my monologue when it's done. So the pressure is on. As a fellow writer his input (uh huh) could be quite helpful, but it's a little weird to think of him reading this piece, far more disquieting than a panel of strangers judging me. This was a person who was there, he'd know the truth, not my gossamer remembrances, and his memories may be far less kind. This is seeming like such a not-so-good idea as I write this. I think I should stick to pop culture.

But I love a good challenge as a writer, and I am sort of excited (oh yes, I went there) by topics that push my comfort zone a bit, and this is certainly doing that. I figure I have nothing to lose. My adult children never read anything I write whether it's this blog or a newspaper or magazine article, so I'm safe from humiliating them, and if I did per chance win, it's not going to be here where my mom or friends could see it, so that's good.

So I'm going to spend some time today writing about something extremely personal in hopes that maybe in some weird way it will empower other women over 40 to realize they're still hot and sexy. And in all seriousness, the mission of the now-classic "Vagina Monologues" was to take away the shame women felt about their bodies. Yeah, I'll focus on that while I'm blushing at my computer.

Sunday, March 16, 2008

That's What She Said

I am at that time in life where all three of my kids are off on their own, and I have to say, I miss them more than even my overly verbal brain can say.

But yesterday I had a chance to see two out of the three, and it was the best day I'd had in weeks.

My daughter is a senior in college, getting set to graduate in just a couple of months, when she will then be moving far away for a exciting new job.

Yesterday, as I sat on her bed in her dorm, looking around at all the Hello Kitty paraphernalia, books and clothes strewn about, I found it hard to believe that my baby will soon not be a couple of hours drive away, but will be a drive, hours in an airport and a long flight away from me.

She fell down this week, slipping on the icy wintry-mix that had landed on the sidewalk as she made her way to class, and she called me from the infirmary while she waited to get her knee cleaned and bandaged. The second I heard her voice I knew something was wrong, and I knew if something was really wrong I could get to her. I have not yet reconciled in my mind how it will be for each of us knowing that I won't be able to get to get to her, or her me at the drop of a hat.

So yesterday I tried to put aside my sentimental feelings and got to have a day full of laughing at her highly inappropriate, yet very funny, "That's what she said" jokes, and her incessant teasing of me. After leaving her, my friend I had gone up with and I ventured into Cambridge to bring her daughter home, and to connect with one of my sons.

I mostly see my son when he's here, on the Cape, but as we walked the streets near his apartment in Cambridge, I really saw for the first time, this is where his life is now. And it was bittersweet. We sat in a cafe for a while, then we had a comical adventure involving lost and gained parking spots, an unfulfilled search for pie, his having to move a bureau for my friend, and eventually parting at a red light on Mass. Ave where I crawled out from the bureau -stuffed back seat, hugged him, and jumped into the front. While my friend and I sat at the red light, I watched my boy, now a six foot two inch young man, walk into the crowd on the sidewalk and back toward his home. Not my home, but his own. And then he was gone. The light changed, and we headed back to the Cape.

I'm not sure I'll ever fully get used to them not being under my roof all the time, but I think the fact that they're all doing good things, and that they're finding their way will make the letting go a little bit easier.

Thursday, March 13, 2008

Let Freedom Ring

When things happen in my life one of my coping strategies is listening to music. Last night was an evening where I felt the need to go searching for music to help me deal with something I was trying to figure out. Sifting through my iTunes list for just the right song to go with how I was feeling, this is what I chose, "Freedom" by George Michael. No, I'm not trying to not-so-subtly come out of the closet, it was the chorus of "freedom" that I was attracted to. And no one was more surprised than me that I was drawn to that particular song.

See I had a misunderstanding/miscommunication/mishap with a gentleman friend and it brought up some things for me that I didn't even realize were there.

I did not become single by choice those many years ago, I was dragged kicking and screaming to singledom. I believed in marriage for life, and could not imagine a life without a spouse. Married at 20, first child at 21, two more to follow a bit later in my 20s,I had spent my entire adult life married and mothering. I enjoyed my Martha Stewart/June Cleaver life, though I wasn't always completely fulfilled creatively.

I got pretty used to being single in those early years, buffered from too much solitude and loneliness by children who kept me very busy.

But, they grew up, as children are wont to do, and initially it was very hard to be alone. But somewhere along the line something changed, I changed. After caring for other people for as long as I could remember, I didn't have to do that every day anymore. I got to think about who I really wanted to be and what I wanted my life to look like. And subtly, without my even being aware of it, I embraced a certain freedom.

I know I can be extremely driven, bordering on compulsive at times about achieving what I want in my life. It occurred to me last night that I had kind of become a bit of a guy - (not that women can't be high achievers too) independent, can't make time for a relationship, focused on making money and my career. Somewhere along the line I lost the gene that drove me to be Martha or June, and I don't know if I will get it back or not, or if I'd want to.

Now no one was asking me to bake a pie or scrub a floor, but I found I had a very visceral response to the thought that my freedom was being usurped in any form or fashion. And it really made me see something that when I was married I never got: You can get very used to being alone, and it's not all bad. I can, like I am now, write at 1 o'clock in the morning, leave a towel on the bathroom floor (oh my God, I AM a guy!) and not have to think about what someone else might want from me. After years and years of always factoring in other people, it's a new experience to not have to.

Of course there are the times it would be very nice to have someone - big bugs and scary noises leap to mind, but yes, I know there are deeper reasons as well.

I just find it all so interesting, I never expected to become someone who would be at all reluctant to give up any bit of freedom or space, but here I sit having become someone I really like, but who seems to have developed some boundary issues. I'm no longer panicked at being single, but now I've become so comfortable with it that I've gone the other way.

It's always something, isn't it?

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

Stand By Your Man? Yeah... maybe not so fast

Once again we're getting to see a pained looking woman standing next to her politician husband, Governor Elliot Spitzer, while he admits how he not only betrayed the people of New York, but deeply hurt the person he was supposed to love more than anyone.

We saw it with Hillary when she declared she was not, "Tammy Wynette standing by my man." We saw it with New jersey governor James McCreevey as his wife stood there while he announced to the world he was gay. Oh wait, not just gay, a gay AMERICAN. What does that mean? I don't go around declaring myself a straight American, I just found it odd. Maybe he hoped glomming on to some sense of patriotism would save his ass in a post 9/11 era.

I've wondered what I would do in that situation, and I don't know. It's easy to sit back and say you'd never stand there with cameras rolling while you're subjected to the humiliation, but if you've got kids and a life it's hard to say. I have thought about what I'd LIKE to do in a situation like that, but who knows what the reality would bring forth.

As I watched Silda Spitzer standing next to her prostitute-frequenting husband I wondered what was going through her head. Betrayal within a marriage is tough enough, but on a public stage it has to be overwhelming. I cannot begin to imagine what it would be like to find out your spouse has been frequenting high-priced hookers, though it might explain why he asked you to turn down the heat and start buying generic ketchup.
I find it interesting that McCreevey's ex-wife, Dina Matos has become the poster-girl for wronged political wives. She was trotted out yesterday talking about why women don't just walk away, or, mid-press conference scream out, "You mother f*&%er, how could you do this?!" That is MY fantasy of what I would do.
I have never heard an answer to the question of why women stand there that satisfies me. I think it's pressure from aides, the husband spinning out of control, a sense of duty and shock. After spending years being the woman behind the man you're probably very well-schooled in what your role is.
This is why I would never become a political spouse. Not because of a fear of my mate frequenting hookers or coming out of the closet, but because I have way too many of my own thoughts and opinions to ever take a back seat to anyone. I would be a politician's nightmare. I'm probably many a person's nightmare, but that's a whole other post. And lots of therapy sessions.
"I am deeply sorry I did not live up to what was expected," he said today during his resignation.
Wow, talk about an understatement.

Monday, March 10, 2008

Freeze baby freeze

I woke up this morning - always better than the alternative, got out of bed and headed to my computer. As I sat there checking e-mail I felt a little colder than usual. My heart sank. I reached over and felt the nearby baseboard which was cold. I got up, went to check the thermostat and saw that while it was set to 64 degrees it was 59 in my house. I ran downstairs to the basement to check the oil tank, and sure enough, the little floater was hovering on empty.

I do this about once a year. All right, sometimes twice. It's dangerous to gamble on memory when it comes to things like this, but it's the least expensive way I've found to manage my home heating needs. I knew it was four weeks to the day that I had gotten oil and had planned to check it today. A day too late apparently.

I have done this often enough in my years as a singleton, that the driver knows me. He lectures me every time he comes, and then charges me $15 for purging my oil burner. So basically I pay this man to make me feel bad. Well, maybe if oil wasn't $3.52 a gallon I would be full of oil and have it toasty warm here all the time, but as things are I eek along doing the best I can. I did get a smile from him last year when I ran out on Valentine's Day and was baking cookies - so I gave him a few for the road and hoped he wouldn't be mean anymore. Needless to say I baked a batch of chocolate chip today -partly so I could stand near the warm oven, but mostly because I'm a big wimp.

As I write this I look a lot like Mort from the "Bazooka Joe" comics with my sweater up to my nose, can barely type since my sweater sleeves are down around my fingertips, am sitting on a heating pad and wearing a hat. It's down to 55 in here and it's getting chillier by the moment. He should be here soon to rescue/shame me, so I'll finally be able to take a hot shower and take off a couple of layers.

I keep reminding myself that I love being a writer. I love being a writer. Lots of up and comers have had their struggles before they hit it big. For instance J.K. Rowling was on the dole when she wrote the first "Harry Potter," so I think this must mean that big break is right around the corner. And when I stop shivering, I'll look at it that way.

Saturday, March 8, 2008

Love, dating and all the crap in between

There was a great line in an episode of "Sex and the City" where Carrie Bradshaw says, the best way to get a date is to have a date. It's kind of like a dating cul-de-sac I fear.

Like any singleton I go through floods and draughts in my social life. There are times when it's like I've been doused in pheromones and am attracting every stray man and dog within 20 square miles. Other times, it's like tumbleweeds are rolling down the road and there's not a person in sight. I think it's just the way life works.

I think the happier you are with yourself the more attractive you are. Not just physically, but figurtively as well. People want to know someone who appears in the world as confident and happy. So I would tweak the SATC theory a bit and say the best way to get a date is to be content by yourself. There's a reason they say there is no scent worse than desperation. I know, it feels counter-intuitive, but sometimes the harder you try to grab on to something the more you push it away.

I went into a bit of a self-imposed hibernation for a time, and I think I pretty much had an invisible, but highly detectable sign flashing loudly from me that said, "Don't even think about it, bucko." But, as I have re-entered life in a more open way, the sign has since been replaced with, "Well maybe... we'll see." It's a step in the right direction, and a little less adversarial. Just a little, I'm still not easily had - no one should be, we're all worth some effort.

I was telling another single woman at my gym that I had two dates coming up on the weekend, and the first thing she asked was, "Where did you meet them?!" When one single person hears another one has a date that is always the first question. Everyone is looking for that elusive spot where all the wonderful eligable people are stashed. Unfortunately there is no such place. Believe me, we've all looked.

The supermarket at 6 or 7 o'clock? Yeah, it's just full of tired, cranky, hungry men who are pissed that they have to make themselves some dinner. All those fantasies of meeting-cute over reaching for the same French baguette are quickly replaced by grumpy-guy cutting in front of you with a bag of chips, some dip and a frozen pizza.

The coffee shop? Nah, it's full of either couples, people engrossed on their laptops, the java-flies - these folks are similar to bar-flies, but their drug of choice is caffeine, and while a step-up from alcohol, you still want to be careful about someone who can spend hours a day sitting at a small round table nursing a latte.

The gym. I've never met anyone other than some lovely women friends at the gym. Maybe it's where I live, which is the retirement mecca of the East coast. Just about every man I see there is at least twenty years my senior (not so bad when you're the 28-year-old girlfriend of 46-year-old George Clooney, not so great when you're talking a guy one step from going from treadmill to walker).

Basically I think it's all a big crap shoot. As cliche as it sounds, I think the most important love affair to have is with yourself. And if you find yourself freaking adorable,(as my daughter would say) chances are someone else will too. It's a total win/win as far as I can see - either way you get to spend your life with someone spectacular.

Thursday, March 6, 2008

A rose by any other name...

The other day I was sitting at my desk and suddenly became aware of this sickly sweet smell. I could not for the life of me figure out where it was coming from. Like a dog with something stuck to my tail, I stood up, turned in circles and assumed I'd find some stinky perfume ad from a magazine stuck under my seat (chair that is). Nothing. I sat down, tried to work, but the wafting scent kept distracting me. Finally, I figured out what it was - it was me!

See, when I went to the supermarket and bought some new deodorant, they were out of my usual Secret Regular scent and I had to buy Powder Fresh. It sounded innocuous enough. Ended up Powder Fresh is code for really stinky. So now until I get to the store I am stuck smelling like a fruit basket laced with cheap perfume. The problem is there are so many choices, and they all look the same, so I assume they're all sort of the same. Ends up, not so much.

This life-impacting problem led to a scintillating conversation with my brother/writing partner about mistakes we've made in purchasing personal products. Yes, we are just that close. And no, he's not gay, he just seems that way.

He told me about his recent purchase of some Arm and Hammer toothpaste which leaves a slick silicone-like coating on his tongue, and has a grit that feels like sand, he hates it. But since we were raised by a single mom who takes frugal to a new level, he says he'll use it till it's gone. Come on Mark, you're worth $2.89 - throw it away! I dare you!

When I was telling him about my not-so-Secret scent problem he said I should get the mineral salt type he uses. I explained to him that I went down that road one time with horrible results. Try rubbing a salt stick on a just-shaved arm pit - the expression, "Salt on an open wound" is derived, I think from a woman who actually (and inexplicably) put salt on her freshly shaved arm pit. Painful barely begins to describe the sensation, and the red rash left behind was oh-so charming. So, I will stick to the brand names, stinky or not.

I have a bathroom counter littered with hair products I just had to have because they would make my hair bouncier, shinier, softer and more blond. It is a good thing there is no Sephora on Cape Cod because I would have to add on to my bathroom for all the products I would buy. And I would just want to hang around there because it's so pretty. But the problem is, half the time I don't end up liking what I bought. Like the hair paste, or cement, or whatever the hell it is that I bought a few years ago (that's still on the counter) to give my hair that edgy, choppy Meg Ryan look. I just looked in need of a good shampoo.

I am a total beauty product slut and I know it. I am not quite as obsessed as my daughter, (her collection of hair conditioners alone is impressive, as is her hair) but I do my share of supporting the billion dollar beauty business. I don't feel bad about it though, I am admittedly a girly girl, but I am going to try to do better in purchasing things I actually use. At least until something sparkly and pretty catches my eye, then all bets are off.

Tuesday, March 4, 2008

My cat is more high maintenance than me

Okay, so a week ago I blogged about my cat Sashi and his urinary problems - yes, this is the most exciting blog ever on the Internet. Seriously, where else can you read about cat pee AND George Clooney?

Anyway, Sashi has made a complete recovery, for which I'm very grateful, but I think that the winter doldrums have set in with him and frankly, he's driving me crazy.

I'm really not one of those crazy single ladies with a cat. Sashi owns no clothes (unless he's hiding a stash from me somewhere) and while I admit that I do talk to him, I will firmly say that he never talks back. Almost never. The thing is, when you have an indoor cat they never go anywhere so you never get a break from them.

Every morning I pad down to my kitchen and give him some food - which he generally looks at in disdain - and then I go check my e-mail. Sashi hates this. He will meow and meow as I sit at my desk, so I will take a break and play with him. He loves to play fetch with some little furry mice, so we do this for as long as I can stand it and then I attempt to go back to work. And, he will then hound me some more to play.
I understand that I am his world, save the birds and squirrels he watches through through the windows, but it's hard being my cat's built-in playmate while trying to work 10 to 12 hours a day as a writer. If he didn't absolutely hate other cats I'd think about a playmate, but he is not welcoming to other felines in any form or fashion.
So once in a while I do think how nice it would be to open the door and have him go frolic outside to play with someone (or something) else, but I live in an area with lots of coyotes (they got my last cat) so inside he will stay. I have found myself wishing I could find him a hobby, but the lack of opposable thumbs keep him from learning to knit or do Sudoku (you know, he couldn't hold a pencil!). I've tried music, (thinking he might like the whole wimeweh chorus in "The Lion Sleeps Tonight") letting him watch DVDs, "The Lion King," and "The Aristicats," and encouraged him to clean - which he rebelled against - I won't even tell you what he did with his food dish. I am out of ideas.
I realize I wanted a pet, and am certainly willing to give him time and attention. I just didn't realize what a total attention whore this particular cat is. He and I will work it out I'm sure. All relationships go through rough patches at one time or another.
I have to go now because Sashi is staring at me and making me feel really self-conscious about how long this has taken to write. Boy, he's worse than any editor I have ever worked with. And that's saying a lot.

Monday, March 3, 2008

Writing is hazardous to my butt

I am convinced that it's difficult if not impossible for me to focus on two different areas of my life at the same time and do them both well.

Case in point- my absence from the gym over the last few months while I have been doing a major rewrite on my novel, blogging and writing for a newspaper. My butt, which I fear is a bit softer these days, has been plunked in front of my computer for hours and hours a day, and has not been doing lunges or trekking on an elliptical machine.

I've never been good at balance. Four years ago I went on a tear and was at the gym 6 days a week. I realized maybe I'd gone overboard when I began scheduling my life around my workouts, stressing when an interview I needed to do conflicted with an aerobics class. I was just a little bit nutty.
I've haven't been doing nothing (she said defensively) I do walk and do some yoga, well, sometimes. We've had a really cold and wet winter so it hasn't exactly been conducive to lots of long walks outside. And the yoga? Well, I get writing in my pajamas many mornings then panic when I look at the clock and realize it's embarrassing that I'm still not showered and dressed and skip the yoga as I rush through a shower.
I realize this may be a bit of a time management problem, that if I just got up and exercised BEFORE I got caught up in research and e-mail that might solve the problem. But common sense has never been my strong suit, and there's something about slowly waking up while I answer some e-mails. Unfortunately this often leads to seeing if TMZ caught any exciting celebrity hijinks's overnight that I just have to know about, or seeing what's on sale at the Gap this week.
Now that spring is on its way I have decided that I have to emerge from my soft-tummied cocoon and get back on the stick, well, treadmill and start firming up again. I am absolutely convinced that there is indeed a way for me to create some balance - that I can work really hard AND find time to work out.
And I'll look into that right after I go read Jezebel and file my next Be Green column. As soon as I do that I'm going to go exercise.
I'll let you know how it works out, or if I really do.
Update: I DID go to the gym, and I even exercised more than I chatted. Well, at least it was pretty even.

Saturday, March 1, 2008

The High Price of Success

Writer Diablo Cody has had quite a week. Not only did her film "Juno" win big at the Independent Spirit Awards, she also won an Academy Award for Best Original Screenplay.

"Juno" is Cody's first screenplay, so this is an amazing success story. Contrary to the press, who loves a salacious story, she was not a down-on-her-luck stripper when she wrote "Juno," she was actually already an accomplished writer who had tried her hand - briefly - at exotic dancing, but she herself says she's always been a writer.

As a writer who aspires to a bigger pond, I have followed the success of "Juno" with excited hopefulness, seeing that it truly is possible for an "outsider" to make it big. I don't resent her success or feel the need to tear her down because I haven't, as yet, gotten to have what she's having, but apparently not everyone feels that way.

As a pop culture columnist I spend a lot of time checking out blogs, and have been very disturbed to see a Diablo Cody-backlash of sorts forming this week that is both personal and ugly. This is a part of human nature I've never quite understood - the resentment that seems to inevitably set in when someone finds big success.

Seen as a "rebel" and "free-spirit," people are now speculating that Cody will sell out, that perhaps "Juno" was a fluke and she'll never match that success etc etc. Given the opportunity, I would happily take on projects sent my way, and why is it a bad thing to take advantage of opportunities that come your way after working very, very hard? And you know what? If she never matches that success again she still has a freaking Oscar! How many of the pathetic haters posting angry comments on blogs can say that?!

A lot of the criticism has been levied around the fact that she refused to wear a very pricey pair of Stuart Weitzman shoes to the Oscar ceremony, and then wore some much simpler ones.She had accepted the offer of the shoes, not realizing it was a publicity stunt for the famous shoe maker, said she didn't want to be part of that, and for some reason she has now been labeled a "diva."

I don't think this is a gender-specific problem, though I do think the criticism of women at the top of their game tend to take a more personally vicious tone than they do for men. My hope is that eventually people will realize one person's success doesn't mean they too can't accomplish amazing things in their lives. This year three of the nominees for best original screenplay were written by women - a very exciting first. We women should be hoisting each other up on our shoulders and shouting "woo hoo!" not tearing each other apart.

My advice is for folks to stop hating on people who've made it, and instead look to them for inspiration. And I would love to see women treat each other better, to stop calling each other whores and sluts, and see that when we work together we can accomplish anything.

I may never get an Oscar, but I am absolutely ecstatic for Diablo Cody's success. Candy on the Cape is not quite as sexy as her blog, The Pussy Ranch, I certainly know some Hollywood honcho won't find me on the Web while searching for porn, and as the mom of three I'm thinking that's just as well. I am positive my children will be pleased that is not the route I have chosen. Though for the right amount of money... No! I will not change who I am.

I know I won't ever have the same career experience that Oscar winner (get used to it Diablo - that's your new first name) Cody has had, but I'm not supposed to, I'm supposed to have MY career experience which will be all mine and just as wonderful.

I'm sure in this world of short attention spans that the folks who love to hate will soon move on to someone else doing well to despise, unless of course they finally realize there truly is enough success to go around.