Monday, June 30, 2008

A Day In My Big Fat Life

I lead what I consider to be a fairly small, not terribly interesting life with moments here and there of excitement.

Today has been a prime example of just how strange a day in the life of a freelance writer can be.
I started off my day deciding that since my dump sticker expires today that I would gather up all my trash and recyclables and head to the dump, rather, "Transfer Station."
I did a quick sweep of the fridge and discovered in the back some leftover fish dish my daughter had made a week ago. Yum!
I dumped it into the garbage bag (I know I should compost), threw it and several others along with my bins of glass, papers and cans into the back of my car, and headed to the dump, a five minute or so drive.
By the time I got there the fish juice had leaked all over the back of my Subaru causing my car to now smell like the bay at low tide. No, worse. The bay at low tide while a septic system next door overflows. To the best of my ability, with Kleenex and and some lemon scented Wet Ones I tried to sop up the smelly mess. I took care of the trash and tried to get the fishy smell off my hands for the drive home.
I had to hurry doing all this because I had to be here and ready to interview actor/producer Anthony Michael Hall at 10:00 for an upcoming story for the paper. He's in the new "Batman" movie.
As I scrubbed and scrubbed to try to rid my hands of this odor, and cleaned the back of my car, the absolute dichotomy of my life could not have been clearer: I am on one hand this single mom who does things like get covered with stinky fish juice, gets poison ivy mowing my lawn, and cleans up cat vomit, and on the other, I get to laugh and joke with people like Michael Hall. It just doesn't seem to add up.
I always pictured women who wrote about and interviewed celebrities looking like Hedda Hopper, pictured above. Now does she look like a woman who would haul trash? I don't think so!
I have interviewed lots of famous people and have never done it wearing pearls or a jaunty hat. I know times have changed since Hedda Hopper and Louella Parsons dished about celebrities, but my life is so far from theirs it just doesn't seem right, so I came up with some rules for how I can be more like the columnists of yore:
1.Don't try to sandwich in a gross task before a big interview. This includes cleaning drains, ovens or cat boxes.
2. Dress the part. No longer will I wear pajamas or workout clothes while I do phone interviews with celebrities. I will put on a cute dress and heels. Well, maybe the dress, the heels just get kicked off anyway.
3. I will not multitask and while a celebrity hems and haws pay my cable bill online. Hedda Hopper probably didn't pay bills at all. She had "people" who did that for her.
4. I will not drink luke-warm tea from my Bank of America travel mug while doing interviews. Only china tea cups for me.
5. Since I don't wear fur I will have my cat lie across my shoulders (this will come in handy come winter when I cannot afford the $4 a gallon heating oil) so I look fancy. This will work until he bites my head. Don't ask how I know this.
My interview ended up going very well. Michael and his entire family are all lovely people, and I enjoy them very much. I've interviewed his mom, sister and dad and think the world of them. It was a lot of fun.
But, now the fun is over and I have to go figure out what that thing my cat left under the dining room table is. I'm hoping it's only a fur ball. Believe me, I've seen worse.

Sunday, June 29, 2008

Writers Are My Favorite!

I adore the movie "Elf" which I've written about before, and one of the best parts for us is the "Smiling's my favorite!" line. We use it for everything, "Chocolate's my favorite!" "Coffee is my favorite!" Well, you get the point.

As a writer it's no surprise that writers would be amongst my favorite people in the world. I've been lucky in my time as a professional writer by how many writers have been so kind and generous (no, you don't have to start humming the Natalie Merchant song here) to me.

One of the most supportive for many years now has been a woman I am proud to call a friend, author Claire Cook.

I met Claire several years ago after interviewing her for a story and then studying with her at the Cape Cod Writer's Center. I always found her to be not only incredibly enthusiastic and hardworking, but amazingly generous as well.

Claire has always encouraged me whether it's through writing for magazines or getting my novel out there to just keep going. Her support has meant so much to me, and has helped me keep plugging away when I didn't really want to.

Claire has published five books: "Ready to Fall," "Must Love Dogs," "Multiple Choice," "Life's a Beach," and the newest: "Summer Blowout."

Her work ethic and total appreciation for her success is something I try to always remember. Even when I don't feel like writing I know I won't get anywhere if I don't.
When I studied with Claire a few things in particular really stuck with me:

1. Write every day. She commits to at least 2 pages a day.

2. "This may be the story you want to tell, but is it the story anyone wants to buy," she said one day. It's a good reminder that publishing is a BUSINESS!

3. Always send thank you notes - even when you get turned down, because...

4. "Karma is a boomerang!" Whatever you do will come back at you - so always put good thoughts and deeds out there.

"I know how easy it is for this to not happen," she has said to me more than once. And she's right. I live in a world of writers. We all want the book deals and the movies made from our books, but it doesn't just happen, a lot of hard work goes into each page.

So, I just wanted a chance to say thank you Claire. Even when you're crazy-busy writing and promoting your book you take the time to ask me if I've heard from an agent or tell me about a contact who might help me. You will never know how grateful I am for your "pay it forward" attitude. You so deserve every success you've earned.

Thursday, June 26, 2008

I'm Not Sure Anyone's F***ing Matt Damon Anymore

What the heck happened to "Sexiest Man Alive" Matt Damon? You give a guy an award for being hot, and he just lets himself go.

Apparently Matt put on some weight for a movie role, and he's not looking quite the same way he did in the "Bourne" movies.

As I'm sure most of you will remember, last year Sarah Silverman surprised her boyfriend, Jimmy Kimmel with a very special video about how she was "F***ing Matt Damon."

I'm thinking if Matt doesn't adios the weight he will never be able to compete with his buddies, Clooney and Pitt for multiple awards.

In case you didn't get to see the original video, or if it's been a while and you just need a review, enjoy.

I guess one good thing is he doesn't look like the scary anorexic he did in "The Talented Mr. Ripley." But right now he's looking a little bit too much like the guys I see when I'm going about my everyday life in my small town, and believe me, that's not good.

What I've Learned From "The Bachelorette"

All right, so this is Graham - don't know his last name. Up until this week he was the guy that "Bachelorette" DeAnna Pappas was really falling for.

But... there were problems.

See, Graham is one of those "emotionally unavailable" guys. This is fancy code for: he will never be what you want him to be. He won't be able to really open up or be present.

And for me, and many women, that's like catnip.

DeAnna has several other guys to choose from, guys who are showing up and letting her know how they feel. But it was Graham she really liked.

On a trip to his hometown he initially was effusive and outgoing. He was open and so happy to see her. As the day went on he shut down and wouldn't talk to her about what he was feeling. She was understandably disappointed, and his mother telling her he never dated anyone longer than four weeks, and that he was a loner sure didn't help.

So, when it came time for the dreaded rose ceremony she decided to let Graham go and kept Jesse, Jeremy and Jason.

As she tearfully walked him out and said goodbye I thought about how I, and many other women I'm sure would have thought, "I can fix this!" And that's when I stopped in my tracks and thought, for someone on a reality show that DeAnna is very smart: she didn't let her feelings override her common sense. Something many of us don't do.

I've been reading a lot about George Clooney's break up with Sarah Larson and have been amazed at how stunned so many women writing these blogs are. Hello! The man says he NEVER wants to marry - how clear is that?! But we don't listen! Many think - "I can change him!"

As Graham sat there, welling up as he was being sent home, I did wonder if he got it at all. He could have gotten the girl if he'd been able to be present and actually let her in. But he couldn't do it, so he's gone.

DeAnna was a smart cookie. She saw the handwriting on the wall and saw this guy was who he was, and wasn't blinded by feelings. No amount of trying to change someone will EVER change them. People are who they are.

I never thought I'd learn anything from trashy reality TV, but that night I did: just because you find someone attractive and have all these feelings about them, you can't ignore what they are showing you. It reminded me of my favorite quote from the wonderful Maya Angelou:

"When people show you who they are, believe them."

Sunday, June 22, 2008

Letting Go is Very Hard to Do

I have never been good at letting go of my kids. I was always the mom at the nursery school or bus stop holding back the tears - often quite unsuccessfully.

My problem is I not only love my children, I really, really like them. They are my favorite people to be with.

Today my daughter leaves for a new job that will take her 3000 miles away from home and I'm not thrilled about that, thank you very much.

Don't get me wrong, I'm thrilled that she's done so well, and proud beyond belief in all she's accomplished. I just wish she could rule the world from her bedroom at home. Impossible wants have always been an issue for me.

My ex-husband and I adopted her from Korea when she was three years old. She has always, from day one been an amazing girl. I can well imagine if you've been uprooted from everything and anyone who looks familiar you get pretty good at adapting.

I was thinking yesterday as she and I hustled around getting things done, that when my children are around life has more color. Everything feels brighter and happier. Some of it may be that my kids are all incredibly funny, but they all have an amazing light that makes life better just being with them.

My daughter is more than my daughter, she's my best pal. Not in any icky let's-get-drunk-together-way (I don't even drink alcohol, so our sharing would more likely involve sugar) But she is my favorite person to shop with, to see movies with, and get sillier than I ever do with anyone else with.

Thanks to her I can never hear something like, "I'll be in and out real quick," without thinking, "That's what she said."

She does not like it when I wax emotional, hence this post which she may or may not read. But I wanted to tell her, and the world, that no mother could be more proud of her daughter than I am of her. No matter where she was born, she was meant to be my daughter. People look at us and do a double take sometimes, but I know she could not be any more my daughter if I'd given birth to her. She is truly one of the biggest gifts I've ever gotten in my life. She would argue that she's a bigger gift than her two brothers, but as mom, I say they are ALL equal in my heart. But she has the sparkly, Hello Kitty filled spot.

I know I am going to shed my share of tears (and many other's share as well - I am a weeper) as I adjust to her being in a different time zone. I'm consoling myself that she's not going to Beijing where she spent five months last year, but it's still hard.

My house will not feel as happy or light without her bouncing around, but it is time for her to go find her way as a young adult.

I just want to tell her, and proclaim it to the world, that I love you, Em, and no matter how far away you are, you are always close. You can't get rid of me that easily. It will take more than miles and airplanes to separate us because I love you more than anything in the world.

This is very hard.

That's what she said.
Mommy xoxoxo

Saturday, June 21, 2008

"Juno": You Got a Lot of Explaining to Do

There was an incredibly troubling story in Time magazine this week about a supposed pact made amongst a group of Gloucester, MA high school sophomore girls to all get pregnant and raise their babies together.
I'll be honest, I was a big fan of the movie, "Juno," but I had no idea of the possible impact it might have on teens. Combine this with an entertainment industry that embraces unmarried celebrities having babies and raves about "baby bumps" all the time, and well, you've got girls thinking this looks pretty darn fun.
For any of us who are mothers, we know that having a baby isn't always fun, and is not something that your typical 15 or 16-year-old is anywhere near ready to undertake.
In my mind this is such a tragedy because obviously these girls didn't feel the limitless options for their lives that girls that age should feel.
I wrote a few weeks ago about my daughter graduating from Wellesley College. When I heard about these girls from Gloucester I wondered what separates these young women from the ones I know who just graduated with my daughter: Women who are going off to law school, to teach in China, to vet school, or like my own daughter, a big job in corporate America. Almost none of these young women I met come from wealthy families, we all sacrificed, took out loans and prayed every summer for good financial aid packages to help us get our daughters through this pricey college.
Maybe it's that by doing those things we showed our daughters we believed in them and their futures, and that reinforced their belief in themselves. That combined with the message they got every day at this famed women's college taught them that as wonderful as marriage and children can be, they are complete all on their own. In a school that is run by women they learned there are no limits to what they can do.
I am very happy with where I am in my life, but I wanted more for my daughter. I do not live with regret, but after getting married at 20, having my first child at 21, and divorcing at 40, I wanted something different for her. I now see the danger in banking your security and future on another person because there is no relationship safe enough or secure enough to ensure your future. You need to count on yourself, and have the education and skills with which to do that. Don't get me wrong, I would not trade my three kids for a corner office anywhere, but I want my daughter to not struggle in her 40s to pull a career together out of thin air after being a stay-at-home mom for 20 years.
It makes me very sad that so many girls seem to think all they're are capable of is having sex and getting pregnant. I believe in making sure birth control is available to girls who are determined to have sex, but along with that I think we should be offering ways to increase the self-esteem of teens in our country so they don't think the only way to be loved and feel good about themselves is to make babies.
They may look at famous teens like Jamie Lynn Spears and think having a baby looks SO fun. What they don't see is a future where most likely the relationship she is in will end, her mother will end up doing a lot of the parenting and that unlike them, the family has millions of dollars at their disposal to support her. These girls from Gloucester will probably never be able to attend college now, and they will spend their lives struggling. Teens don't have brains that are full formed enough to see into the future and make mature decisions. As parents we need to be there to guide, and help girls especially to see their value. A value beyond getting a boy to want them, and making babies.
"Girl power" is more than the battle cry of the Spice Girls, it's something we need to instill in the young women in this country, if we don't we're all going to suffer, especially those children they are no where near ready to raise.
So Hollywood? How about instead of the plethora of films glamorizing getting "Knocked Up" you start making movies that show girls all the things they can be and do. It's the least you can do for the future of our youth,don't you think?

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Michelle Obama Is a Wife and Mother, Not a "Baby Mama"

I am not just a huge fan and supporter of Barack Obama, I am also a big fan of his wife, Michelle.

I'm scared for her though. I know the GOP hate machine is getting geared up and she is going to be in for a hell of a battle.

Yesterday, Bonnie Fuller in the Huffington Post wrote a great essay about just what she will be in for during this election process, and it isn't pretty.

Already we're seeing racist buttons and products, like a sock monkey named after the first African American presidential almost-nominee.

I found it extremely shocking when I heard (on Fox News of course) that Michelle Obama was referred to as Barack's "baby mama." Have you EVER heard that term used for a Caucasian candidate's spouse? Cindy McCain may have been called worse by her husband, but not by the media.

The icing on the cake had to be when the couple did an affectionate fist pound upon his becoming the presumptive Democratic nominee.

I like to think that the media and the GOP will take the high road, but that would be too much to ask. The GOP has already hired the same person who did the famed "Willie Horton" commercials that derailed Michael Dukakis' presidential campaign back in the 1980s, so I expect that we will see lots of mud slinging.

That means it's up to us to see through the rhetoric and find the truth amongst the lies. I just hope that we're all wise enough to see what's true and toss aside the rest.

Monday, June 16, 2008

I Think I May Have a Problem (only one you ask?)

I was tooling around the Internet last night and came across a story from Wired about how the bible of the psychiatric profession, the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, is pondering adding Internet Addiction to their list of various diagnoses.

Upon reading this I had to e-mail my dear friend Laurie, and all I wrote to her was "Uh oh, we're in trouble!"

She and I often joke about how if we're away from home and can't check our e-mail how itchy we get. I did not however realize that my jonesing for my e-mail and Internet access was cause for concern and might eventually lead me to a life of 12 Step Meetings and making amends to those injured by my Internet Addiction.

I did a little research and found I do meet some of the protocols for an addiction: I was justifying my addiction this morning by telling my son I HAVE to be on the Internet for work and research. I sometimes sneak to the computer while my kids are waiting for me to leave just to see if any new e-mails had come in before I leave. When I go away I bring a laptop in case I find some WiFi along the way.

I like to think as addictions go, I'm pretty lucky if this is my only one. That said, I'm sure there are people who are seriously in a bad way because of their time spent on the Internet. For folks who view porn for hours, or avoid interacting in the real world or with their families to instead stay cloistered alone with a computer, it's not good. But for folks like me and my friend Laurie, we're very much present in the real world and don't let ourselves get too swept up in an online world.

If however you're spending more time with your friends on Facebook or MySpace than you are with your flesh and blood friends, maybe it's time to reevaluate your lifestyle.

In the meantime I am going to go online to see if there are any Internet Antonymous meetings near me, just in case I see myself slipping into a bad place. Hmmm... I wonder if that's against the rules? If I can't go online how will I ever find out where to go for help with my Internet Addiction? This is becoming way too complicated. I am just going to admit I am powerless to the draw of the Internet and suffer the consequences. After all, I have to find out if there's any truth to the rumors that George Clooney was dating someone else before he broke up with Sarah Larson!

Saturday, June 14, 2008

Go get'em, Tim

I was out running around all afternoon yesterday and wasn't in front of my computer or a TV when news of the death of Tim Russert was released. When I got home I opened up my e-mail and there was a news alert from the Boston Globe:"Tim Russert Dead of a Heart Attack at 58."
I audibly gasped when I read that and immediately turned on MSNBC to see what was happening.
My daughter, Emma hasn't really watched TV during her college years, so she wasn't well acquainted with the venerable newsman, but I was, and I sat there, misty eyed and choked up, shocked that someone I watched all the time was gone. Just suddenly gone.
I've become quite cynical about the media in the last several years. This may seem disingenuous coming from someone who makes their living writing for newspapers and magazines, but being a features writer is far different than being an investigative reporter. My job is to amuse and entertain, theirs is to inform and question the status quo. Somewhere along the line the line between entertainment and news became blurred and news started mirroring entertainment a bit too closely. When Britney Spears' meltdowns are lead stories on the evening news, something very Alice-In-Wonderland is happening.
Tim Russert was one of the few standard bearers around. He was a man of incredible integrity. He asked the tough questions, but he was also a gentleman and kind.
I always respected his thoughts on political issues, and was inspired by his passion for what he did. He made white boards and delegate counts exciting for goodness sakes!
But more than all the career accolades I admired his commitment to his family. As I've sat here choked up listening to Matt Laurer, Tom Browkaw and Mike Barnicle talk about him, I've tried to figure out why I am so sad about someone I didn't even know. I have two thoughts. One, when you watch someone on TV all the time they become a part of your world. No, you don't know them personally, but Tim Russert was someone who let you see who he was, not common amongst news people.
Secondly, he was a man who seemed unparalleled in his devotion to his family. He wrote two books about his dad, "Big Russ and Me: Father and Son:Lessons of Life," and "Wisdom of Our Fathers: Letters From Daughters and Sons."
It's seems doubly cruel that this man who adored his father and his son would pass away on Father's Day weekend. As a woman who grew up fatherless, I have always sort of collected father figures in my life, often fantasizing about the type of dad I wished I'd had. My father, long absent from my life, died last December, and many times I would hear Tim Russert wax so happily about his son and thought, how lucky is that young man to be so adored? I am equally passionate about my children, but it seems so rare to hear about a dad who is so besotted with their children, I found that so refreshing and delightful.
This upcoming election is going to be missing a very important voice. I counted on Tim Russert to ask the questions I wanted answered, and to ask the ones I never would have thought of.
I cannot imagine the ache his wife Maureen Orth, a writer at Vanity Fair, and his son Luke, who just graduated from Boston College are feeling today. My daughter is the same age as Luke and when Tim would talk about the sadness of leaving his son at college, I knew just what he was talking about. When he glowed with pride about the upcoming gradation of Luke, I also knew what he felt.
My hope is that after the dust settles from this tragic, sudden loss, that news people everywhere will ask themselves the question, when faced with a tough situation, "What would Tim Do?" Striving for that standard alone would result in news that truly would be "fair and balanced."

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

George Clooney's Apparently Not A Big Boob

As it is in any celebrity break up everyone is now speculating that the reason George Clooney broke up with girlfriend, Sarah Larson (picture to your left) is because she had breast augmentation surgery this spring even though he thought she looked just fine and didn't want her to have it.

That (possible) fact made me like George even more - imagine, a man not obsessed with big breasts? A guy who thinks it's better for a woman to love herself just as she is? As a not-so-well-endowed woman I applaud him!

What I found interesting (besides the fact that this is most likely a pretty lame and not true reason for the breakup) is what bloggers have done with this "information."

I have found on some sites blogger writing that this just adds fuel to the fire that George MUST be gay. Yes, because to be a "real" man you must love big, fake, plastic breasts.

I've always hearted George Clooney, but if this is true I think he's a great guy. Sarah is a tall, very thin woman, big breasts don't usually come in that package. Thankfully there are men who find that attractive. Not everyone finds this attractive. And thank God for that.

Saturday, June 7, 2008

Harvard Grads Need To Get Over Themselves

I was pretty amazed to read this week that several members of the Harvard graduating class of 2008 were not pleased to have had mega-successful "Harry Potter" author JK Rowling as their graduation speaker. Many of them thought they "could have done better."

Really? Hmm... I pondered this because I truly could not believe that anyone could be snobby enough to think that a woman who truly by her own wits and imagination had pulled herself from poverty and become one of the most powerful and successful women in the world wasn't good enough for them.

When JK Rowling wrote the first "Harry Potter" book she was a divorced single mom working a not-so-high paying job at Amnesty International while she worked hard to make her dream of becoming a writer come true.

Now as the mother of a young woman who just graduated from Wellesley College I know like us, not everyone who goes to a prestigious and expensive college is wealthy. Many families like ours were blessed with financial aid that put this great education within reach. So I had to check myself and not react by thinking, "What a bunch of snobby, spoiled brats." But I have to admit, it is what I thought.

I can't think of anyone more inspiring than a woman like Rowling who had a dream and brought it to fruition. Anyone who soley characterized her as a "children's book author" needs a reality check and a swift kick to the head.

Hopefully once these complainers get out into the real world, the one beyond the ivy covered halls, they will see that what Rowling has accomplished is beyond anything most of them will ever do.

As a writer I have complete respect for others who like me, can't not write. To see someone make it to the level Ms. Rowling has is humbling. Anyone should be thrilled to listen to what she has to say. Maybe she didn't go to Harvard, but she created Hogwarts, and that ain't too shabby.

Tuesday, June 3, 2008

George Single Again?!

So it's been all over the Web for a week now - George Clooney and Sarah Larson have split after almost a year of dating. I shouldn't have been, but I was kind of surprised.
There's something flawed in me that always believes that with the right partner a man who doesn't commit, will. It's pretty judgemental of me - I tend to think the only way someone can really be happy is to be in a committed relationship and that's just not true.
I try to put myself in George's place (not easy for a writer/mom from Cape Cod) and imagine that his life is pretty darn perfect. Why should he "settle down" with one person, he's freaking George Clooney! He has his posse of guy friends, a family he seems to be close to, millions of dollars, homes around the globe, an Oscar and he's incredibly handsome.
I was reading a piece on Jezebel yesterday about being single, namely about a new book, "So Why Have You Never Been Married?" by Carl Weisman, and what he discovered is that these life-long bachelors are more afraid of being stuck in a bad marriage than being alone. Interesting. When I read that I kind of got it. Especially for a man in Clooney's position, there's no such thing as an iron-clad pre-nup, so not only are you risking your heart and happiness, and you're also risking a fortune you've spent your entire career amassing.
After having been single for over 10 years myself, I kind of understand the Clooney state of mind. In many ways it's kind of nice to not have to factor in someone else in your decisions (though I have three kids, a mother and brother who I certainly factor in). Not everyone wants to be married and have kids. And that's okay!
Rumors have swirled that part of the reason for the breakup was that over time Clooney felt they had little in common. This took a year to figure out? There's a reason I wouldn't want to date someone twenty years younger than myself - I want similar life experiences and a sharing of cultural references.
Who knows, maybe if George actually dated a grown woman he'd have better luck, but if the hypothesis of Weisman's book is correct - that men don't want to commit for fear it won't be perfect, then it doesn't matter how old someone is.
So as I drive around and around this cul de sac two opposing thoughts come to me - no relationship is going to be perfect - there's always compromise involved, and, on the other hand, being single isn't the worst thing in the world either. Just look at Clooney, he seems to be doing just fine.