Tuesday, December 05, 2006

This is why we're all slowly but inexorably, going insane

Because we can't keep up. I mean it. We just can't.

It's just begun to register with me that I'm hearing about something called a blueray which is some kind of supercharged DVD. I think. My husband tells me that blueray is one kind of revved up DVD - hi def I think he called it - and they have a competitor, not unlike the old VHS / Beta wars. If you don't remember those you also don't know who Radar O'Reilly is or why almost everyone who watched the final episode of St. Elsewhere was disappointed. (St. Elsewhere was the TV show where Howie Mandel made a living about twenty years ago. Right around the time he did stand-up but long before the bald pate and the Deal or No Deal deal.)

Wait just one minute. DVDs are on their way out and these new guys are elbowing the shleves for dominance? I cannot stand it.

This is why our parents weren't nuts. Because once they welcomed the television into their living rooms - not their family rooms, their living rooms - they had to do little more than upgrade to a color tv set for the rest of their lives. Luckily for them they had things like raising kids, holding down jobs and running households to keep them busy.

I LOVE that. I really do. I wish I could buy technology and forget about it for at least ten years. I guess it's possible; just not easy. I recently tried to get my laptop repaired and was told it wasn't worth the $200. I could buy a new one with five times the power for about $600. When I asked exactly what I was to do with the one in my hands, the clerk offered few options. Sell it for parts on ebay? It's disturbing. Is there no one on the planet who could use this laptop? Is it destined for the dusty techno-heap?

I love that everyone in Hollywood who claims to love the planet and inspires us to be kind of the earth will switch formats faster than Kid Rock and what's her name are getting divorced. Nothing like a good landfill, packed to the brim with old technology, to express your love for Mother Nature, I say.

Soon -

Saturday, November 25, 2006

a mile long and an inch deep

That's pretty much what I believe about my knowledge about our country's policies and where we stand on certain issues. And I think that's the extent of most people's knowledge goes when it comes to some of the key questions we face these days. Most people won't admit that but I do, without shame.

Case in point: about six or seven years ago I used to make several trips a year to San Diego to see a client. Every couple of trips, I would combine the San Diego trip with a drive up to Los Angeles as well. I drove through an immigration "checkpoint" on that Highway 5 I think it is , where theoretically border patrol officers were insuring that illegal immigrants from Mexico weren't hiding in my trunk or back seat. The stops and searches they made appeared to be pretty random. But not unexpected since there were enormous booths you had to drive through to continue on your way north.

Here's what I don't know: what about the rest of the border? Especially the border with Canada? I've also driving and flown into Canada and had to go through security checks. But are there vast expanses of border with no checks? Am I the only person in America who doens't understand how we protect our borders? Aren't there thousands of miles of border with Canada - many of them just open land with few people living right there, right on the premises so to speak and watching out for who goes in and who goes out? What happens there?

I don't get it. Yes, I could educate myself and find out exactly what our options appear to be and how we can insure our safety and what exactly happens along the border of Canada and Washington. I'm guessing not much but I'm not sure at all.

Maybe like most citizens, I have my global view of immigration and what seems to make sense as I see it. But I have little or no real facts to back me up. I also have my own views of minimum wage, tax codes, abortion, welfare and public education. The problem is, so do the politicians and they refuse to discuss anything with any real substance, beyond their own agendas. Their facts, as it were, appear to back up only their own agenda, not the greater good in most cases.

Which is why a mile long and an inch deep is about as far as most of us get before we give up in disgust.

Wednesday, November 01, 2006

Today's puzzlement

Here's what's on my to-do list:

call the music school and try to reschedule the violin lesson
get to the bank and deposit a check
dry cleaners pick up milk and cereal again. stop into the paint store to pick out and buy paint
organize all the receipts in my wallet - collecting in one little pocket for about three weeks now - and record them into the checkbook
figure out where all my money goes every week nail polish - take some off and figure out what to do with my nails, even though I know I won't really like any color I decide to use and will seriously envy the nail color I see on every single woman I encounter, not to mention it really won't matter because they'll all crack or split in about three days send congratulations card to friend who had baby girl 7 weeks ago
call my mom
call my sister
call my friend
paint the bedroom
wallpaper Mom's kitchen and paint
shampoo the carpets
refinish a cabinet
shop for paper goods for the brunch at school
stop into the dealership so they can fix the service engine light that's been lit up on my dashboard for about three weeks
shop for a new washer and dryer since ours are dying and it takes about 8 hours to dry three towels
write emails to teachers about the "(no) progress" reports
change all the sheets on all the beds in the house

And that's just the stuff around my personal life. Don't get me started on the emails I owe people, the column that's due that isn't going to write itself, the miles I'm not putting in on the treadmill, and the projects that are horribly behind at work.

When are all these married couples I'm reading about having sex day and night, night and day???? Who is doing all their errands?


Monday, October 30, 2006

I'm certain I'm missing something

On the rare occasions that I don't have a book with me, I love to read Skymall, the catalog you find on airplanes. Actually, I have a love / hate relationship with Skymall. I am never disappointed when it comes to the products I find it in: I can always find something that completely mystifies me.

The companies selling their goods and services in Skymall run from the very familiar, like The Sharper Image, to those you may have never heard of, like The Brightfeet Lighted Slippers company. You won't be surprised to learn they sell lighted slippers. So you can put them on and walk to the refrigerator in the dark at 3 am. The tiny lights on the front of your slippers shine a path for you. Once you step into them, they automatically light up if it's dark. And when you step out of them, they stay lit for a few seconds so you can safely get back into bed.

Our kids had light up slippers once. The lights lasted for about three weeks before growing ever weaker. I will tell you, however, that the ones they wore were definitely NOT from the Brightfeet Lighted Slippers company.

I usually try to find the most annoying product in the catalog and sometimes it's difficult to make that decision. Last weekend, on a trip back from Las Vegas, I had plenty of time to study the selections. I actually couldn't make a final decision so I had to settle for two products that tied for the most ridiculous and overated items in the catalog.

The first was a trash can that opened as a result of an electric-eye sensor. Because I can't top the copy that accompanied this product, I'll quote the sales pitch here: "Sure, a step on trash can is covenient, but how often do you get frustrated fumbling for the foot control? Free your feet and your frustrations with our stainless steel touchless trash can, a completely foot- and hands-free waste disposal system." I love that: "waste disposal system."

It goes on from there to explain the specifics but I couldn't help but think the following in my head: We have a step-on trash can in our kitchen and I don't believe I've ever missed the foot control - ever. It isn't really all that hard to find or operate. I can name three dozen things that frustrate me on a daily basis but finding the foot pedal on our trash can isn't one of them.

In a tie with the electronic trash can, I found the 'Breakfix Cereal Dispenser.' It's not that I'm opposed to a device that dispenses cereal - although it feels much like dog or cat food dispensers to me - I cringed at the copy that accompanied the product. "...fixing the day's first meal will never again be a messy, time consuming chore."

We're not talking about making eggs benedict here! We're not even talking about microwaving bacon strips. We're talking about 'fixing' a bowl of dry cereal!!!!! We have reached some kind of nadir as a society of thinking, breathing human beings when we can be sold a device with ad copy that calls pouring a bowl of cereal for our kids a "messy, time-consuming chore." If three seconds is time-comsuming, it's news to me.

I love the photo for this product. In the background, we see a young, attractive mom in jeans and a t-shirt, smiling gratefully at her young daughter who is holding what appears to be an empty ceral bowl. I imagine the daughter is saying this with her expression: "My mommy is so lame she can't even pour me a bowl of cereal. I think she resents having to put in such a time-consuming chore every morning to make sure I leave the house nourished and ready for my day. Look at her. You can just tell she'd rather be at the gym than caring for me. But that's okay. When she's ninety, I'll set up an automatic pill dispenser in her ratty little apartment and smile as I leave her when I visit three times a year."

Okay. Maybe she wasn't saying that. But she should be.

Talk soon -

Monday, October 23, 2006

# 4,967 in the list of things I don't understand

I'd like to think I'm not dense or obtuse about most things in life. Don't ask me to explain even one thing Stephen Hawking ever wrote about or how electricity works but despite the title of this post, I feel pretty comfortable moving about on a daily basis; understanding many things about my environment and the people in it.

Except for my latest problem: cell phones. I swear to God in heaven I don't understand what it is with men and cell phones. The only thing I can think of is that a cell phone is kind of like a remote control men can speak into. And since years ago I figured out that a remote control is a polite way for a man to hold himself in a room filled with family or friends,a cell phone is yet another way for him to do it. Except this time, he gets to take pictures with it and set up lots of individual bells and whistles to announce to the world: this is mine! Look at me!

With cell phones, smaller is better - perhaps the only place in a man's life that you'll find that to be true. Cars are getting bigger but phones are getting smaller. So if you're a man who wants to really make a statement about your own conspicuous consumption, drive an Escalade and talk on a chocolate phone. Drive a Hummer and listen to your mini.

Exception: TVs. Thin screen: yes. Small screen: NO. Imagine the man who sits in front of his 6 foot television screen holding his remote and his cell phone. The whole image is scaring me just a little bit.

Women - god help me - will never understand this. Every single thing in a woman's life isn't much more than a placeholder until she can get together with someone face to face. Cell phones, watching tv, listening to music - fine, lovely, fun. But nothing compared to meeting up with a real live person or people to connect in person.

I just can't get excited about new cell phones. It's just not in my DNA. I can fake it - enough to be thrilled for everyone in my house who has a new phone these days -but I don't really get it.

Thursday, October 12, 2006

this is just plain sad

I just realized I am old enough to have been one of Josh Holloway's babysitters when I was young.

It's just a little sad to think that Holloway is ten years younger than I. And that the character he plays on Lost - the character I find most attractive (Sawyer)- really, if you were honest about it - is way too young for me. Had I lived up the street from him many years ago, when I was thirteen years old and he was three, I could have been reading him books, helping his mom get him potty-trained, or doing other useful "mother's helper" kind of tasks, and earning a dollar an hour to do it.

That's the weird thing about age. I guarantee you not one of us imagines getting older every single day - not to mention every single year - but we do. We tend to think of ourselves in some kind of perpetual state of suspended animation; where the rest of the world changes but we're pretty much the same as we were when we were 32 years old.

I mean, short of actually doing the math, what would ever possess me to imagine I'm too old for Sawyer? (I'm of course leaving out the fact that I would never have the opportunity to get to know Josh Holloway in any personal way for the rest of my life. Or that I've been married for twenty years and have three sons. Or that he's married - maybe he has kids. Or that I've never been to Hawaii and have no plans to go to Hawaii where I would have zero chance of runing into him in a 7-11 as he heads to the studio one morning anyway. We're talking imagination here, not reality.)

There must be some "sweet spot" for age - where we think we live and how we think the rest of the world sees us - that we choose for ourselves and never adjust as time passes by. It's the Glory Days Springsteen sings about - those days where we are at our best, with just about everything good in life to look forward to, where we and everything around us, can only get better.

Thing is, even when the Glory Days can arguably be called "behind us," we still think we're in 'em; or even that they're just ahead. I know I couldn't really function at my best if I didn't believe on some level that the best was yet to come in my life, as Sinatra (?) sang many years ago.

But that can't really be true - or it can't be true for a lot of us. I suppose there is that Grandma Moses kind of stuff that happens. You (and the rest of the world) can discover a whole new amazingly wonderful element about yourself after you've spent about seven decades just picking up around the house and balancing your checkbook.

This leaves me exactly no where with my revelation about Holloway and my old age. But I'd love to know what age most people believe they are - what is your imaginary age? We forget the limitations that come with youth - and rely on the standby theory that goes something like, "if I knew then what I know now"... then what? We'd all be brilliant twenty year olds? Doubt it. I'm not a brilliant almost 50 year old. We want to retain our collected "wisdom" (for lack of a better word) that our advancing years afford us. But we want to feel thirty-two. And have the world see us that way, too.

Maybe that's where friends and family come is. As you age together, you preserve the whole fantasy together on some level, right?

Which is exactly the reason I could never really hook up with Josh Holloway. We don't have a past - even a parallel past - to share. When he was playing Little League, I was writing my senior thesis on D. H. Lawrence for college. I can try for a very long time and I guarantee you there is just no way to connect those two events into anything really substantive.

Sorry Josh - I was born too late.

talk soon -

Tuesday, October 10, 2006

Ummmm; how shall I put this?

How about: I don't care.

Or more accurately (I hope): we don't care.

That's how I felt when I read about Runaway Bride - that's how she'll always be referred to forever, it will probably be on her tombstone some day - Runaway Bride Jennifer Wilbanks - suing her ex-fiance for something like $500 million bucks. Honestly, I could barely skim the article so if you want the real story, don't count on finding it here. Something about he kept the toaster and the sofa and the shower gifts - and - oh, yeah - most of the money she made on her deal to tell her story to Regan Books.

Poor R - B Jen. She really needed a better lawyer than whoever it was who set up her book deal and left her fiance - not even her husband - holding all the money. She's the one who did the running - and the subsequent fessing up - and the community service for causing all that angst in her hometown - not to mention nationwide if you'll recall. (I wasn't particularly anxious about her running but many were.) And he gets most of the money, not to mention the fondue pot and cappuccino maker? Is there no justice?

I hate this story. I hate that they made half a million bucks. I hate that we were subjected to hearing about this story for several weeks a few years ago. I hate that she took the money - only to lose it to her ex-boyfriend, when she should have donated it to a women's shelter or some national organization that truly tries to help women who NEED to run for their lives.

Maybe Katie Couric will do a follow up interview and ask Jennifer about how the relationship ended, what she learned about herself along the way and why she didn't have a decent pre-nup in place. I can't wait.

Talk soon -

Friday, October 06, 2006

I have hair gel and I'm not afraid to use it

Before I hear from all the hysterics in the world who write to tell me I don't respect or understand our need for national security, let me save you the trouble. Yes. I do.

But as I passed through security the other day at Dallas Fort Worth airport, I wondered if we had all gone just slightly insane. I had heard about the "carry your potentially dangerous creams,lotions and gels in a plastic bag or else" edict from the FAA. I even told a traveling companion about it in case she hadn't read the news.

I thought I'd be safe (and logical), by zipping up my grooming accessories in a plastic bag designed for travelling, the kind that comes with your luggage and is easy to use.

I was wrong. No sooner did the security officials begin barking out the "show us what you're carrying" orders, than I was under scrutiny by one of the officers at the checkpoint. He picked up bag and my stuff and said, "This isn't in a plastic bag." Me, being a perfect combination of bold and dumb, touched the bag as if to reassure myself that I did recognize the product commonly called plastic and said, "I thought it was plastic." At which point, he jabbed at a zip lock bag on the counter and snarled, "THIS is a plastic bag." He pawed through my things and removed a tiny tube of toothpaste, a teeny bottle of perfume - really teeny - and a 4 oz tube of brilliant brunette styling gel which I had just purchased not so much as a week earlier and was still quite full of the stuff I love to use on my hair. I was furious but what do you do? Nothing.

I wanted to say this (but didn't for fear of being locked up and missing my opportunity to get some frozen yogurt just down the hall by our gate): "I'm so sorry you have a small penis and need to assert yourself in this pathetic way. But - we all have our burdens."

Seriously, I thought it would be pretty funny if I had boarded the plane, gel intact, and at some point accosted the steward...err, flight attendant and held the tube to her head: "I have hair gel and I'm not afraid to use it. I want another bag of pretzels - now - or believe me, your hair will not know what hit it. And if that's not enough, I'm going to start dabbing this perfume on every pulse point on your body." Maybe I would have gotten a round of applause.

I'm positive that in about ten days, the FAA will refine their restrictions and rule that any plastic bag with contents that are clearly visible is acceptable. And where does that leave me? Replacing my confiscated stuff and packing lunches for my kids for the next seven years.

I kind of love the fact that the plastic bag security system has been a great equalizer among travelers. The first class flyers have to carry and reveal their bathroom accessories in zip lock bags, exactly like the rest of us (and the homeless). How soon will it be before Lands End or Magellan or some such higher end company designs and begins selling "name" zip lock bags for their customers? It can't be too long. I want to watch who carries them and laugh.

Talk soon -

Tuesday, October 03, 2006

a satellite visit

Today's brush with greatness - or near greatness actually - took the form of a short interview I had with the news organization at the Howard Stern Show.

Stern reporter Steve Langford called to discuss Sunday's Morning Call column on Howard Stern and the relentlessly bad press he's received of late - most of it courtesy of one particular reporter. The column I wrote did little more than point out the questions all of us should ask regularly about what we read and what the agenda behind it may be. Yes, the column discussed Howard and his current leadership position on satellite radio but the larger question is this: how do we filter the information we get and why do we tend to believe what we see in print?

It's hard to know who tells the truth and who has a spin that twists the facts of the story just the slightest bit. I write an opinion column; I'm not remotely an investigative journalist. But even with opinion writing, I take the time to make sure I'm being as accurate as possible so I don't mislead readers about the "truth" that prompted my response.

I'm kind of stunned that a rumor - with just one published column in the New York Post- could then become a "report" that created an illusion of fact but I watched just that unfold with the Stern story. If I weren't already skeptical of what gets reported as "news" these days, this little incident would encourage that skepticism. It shoud do the same for you.

If you missed the original piece, it's online at www.mcall.com in the opinion writers section.

Talk soon -

Saturday, July 08, 2006

A Replacement Star

I know. You can't stand to read even one more word about Star Jones, late of The View. She turned her "resignation" into a media event and that's saying something - although I'm not sure what. I tired of it too, so this isn't really about Star Jones.

But it is about The View apres Star. The show has already named Meredith Viera's replacement, Rosie O'Donnell. Presumably, she'll bring a different perspective to some of the roundtables that go on during the opening segment of The View. Good for them for trying something sort of surprising and hiring Rosie. I'm pragmatic about this choice mostly because it's immaterial to me - she'll work or she won't and the show will move on with or without Rosie in the months and years ahead.

But now they have to replace Star and that could be another opportunity to do something surprising. Suggestion: hire me. I'll be the voice of the "everywoman" in America watching The View from her family room floor everyday as she chases toddlers, does her crunches, folds laundry or otherwise is not engaged in office life. The one woman on the set - on network television for that matter - who doesn't have the hollywood / television / unreal world perspective that even Elisabeth-with-an-s Hasselbeck (sp?) has by now.

I'm not bringing a lot of television experience to this so I'll make them the deal of the century: they can pay me considerably less than they paid Star and I'll also include in my contract a promise to never charge off a party to ABC. The next logical step here for me is to reach beyond my weekly newspaper column and speak to a larger group. The View works for me.

So, to the intern to the assistant associate producer who has to Google The View everyday and create stacks of web / press clips for the associate producer to show the producer to show the executive producer, I invite you to drop me a note. The last thing The View needs is another mainstream journalist (I use that term loosely give Elisabeth's background as a reality show contestant and Joy Behar's successful career as a comedian) who brings the same old same old to the group. It doesn't need another celebrity. I guarantee you if I were part of that team, I would not only contribute smart, provocative, funny, interesting comments to the topic of the day I promise you that I would also be the one person on the sofa who asks Johnny Depp the really good questions, not the ones provided by the publicists and the movie studio.

I'm sure they already have their short list of replacement Stars - have probably had it in hand for months now. So add me to the list and let's talk. I'll represent the neighbor none of these hosts really have since I live 100 miles from the Upper East Side. I'll be the woman who has real issues raising children because I've never had a nanny in my house. I'll be the person on the couch who can legitimately be starstruck by the appearance of certain guests since I've never once attended a Broadway opening night, a movie premiere or a CD launch party. I can be the voice of the fans watching from the other side of the camera.

It's unlikely. You don't have to tell me that. I have less than zero Q factor. I will bring exactly one new fan to the show - my mother. I can offer The View nothing more than my own personality and perspective - but that's enough if you ask me. I ask you: why not break some rules and ignore the "right" thing to do when filling this space and surprise the entire broadacasting industry by hiring me?

This is definitely worth some consideration and if the assistant associate producer's intern can't see it, I probably have very chance of Barbara Walters seeing it. But it's still worth at least a very good try. So I'm sending this out there - and yes, I can be in midtown at your convenience.

Thursday, July 06, 2006

People hear (read) what they want to hear (read)

After more than five years writing a column that appears in front of more than 150,000 people once a week, I've received a generous number of emails, letters and clippings that made it clear to me that many of those people believe I'm a complete jerk.

Most of those notes come from people who feel compelled to judge every aspect of my being based on about 750 words I composed five days before they appear in print. They have every right to do that I guess, but most of the time, their judgement is flawed. Not because I'm perfect. Because they absolutely missed the point of whatever I tried to communicate in my column. Which means their conclusion is probably inccurate. But it also leads me to doubt my ability to make a point in print.

I've had my favorites over the years. One person writes me (anonymously of course) and points out the number of times I use the word "I" in my Opinion piece. Errr - it is an opinion piece- my opinion at that. How very bold of he / she to leave their assessment unsigned.

Over the years, readers have called me a terrible mother, a cold career women, a blazing feminist, and a throwback to barefoot and pregnant womanhood. I baby my children too much; I'm raising rude brats. I should be ashamed of their behavior. I've been labeled a liberal, a communist, a conservative idiot and an immoral person who should be concerned about the state of her immortal soul.

I'm sappy. I'm harsh. I'm funny. I'm sarcastic. I think I'm being clever but I'm wrong; I'm really just a no talent loser who has somehow found a way onto a newspaper page every Sunday.

It's always eye-opening to discover exactly what people read in my column. Many, many times it's not remotely connected to what I wrote.

And that's been the most interesting part of this whole column-writing experience. While I think I'm being clear and saying one thing, people often read something quite the opposite or irelevant to my topic at hand. That continues to amaze me. I have a love-hate relationship with my email because I'm the worst correspondent in the world. I tend to answer emails about three months after I get them which leaves the people who write to me quite mystified about my response when it finally arrives in their inbox.

Despite everything, including the venom that leaps from the screen from time to time, I love writing the column and I even love the emails, regardless of the content. I often find myself wondering why I'm still writing it, five years in, and if I'll be asking myself that question in another five years. I judge it very harshly every week, when it finally makes its debut to the world. Some days I scan it and wonder why I didn't correct that one overused phrase or fix the comparison I tried to make but did it badly.

All this to say not much more than the blog has been horribly out of date of late and I apologize to anyone who has visited on more than one occasion only to leave empty-handed. Don't give up on it - or on me. I'll try harder to keep it current - filled with the minutia that makes up my life and takes up most of the space in my head.

Talk soon - thanks for visiting -

Tuesday, June 27, 2006

It's the little things. That are sort of annoying and become big things.

It doesn't take much to make you realize that yes, as the title of this blog indicates, you may the only sane person left on the planet. I had that moment a few weeks ago and since I mostly hate technology, except for electricity, it's not surprising that my moment of clarity was prompted by a computer.

As is our habit in my office, we are required to change our passwords on our computers on a regular basis. The screen even gives you a countdown to remind you that "your password will expire in three days. Do you want to change it now?" I never change it until it's expiring in one day or less. Mostly because I always find it painful to come up with new passwords. I know- it's a waste of time to obsess over something like a password but I do.

At least I used to - until I came up with a little system. I decided I would use the first initial and last name of authors I liked as my passwords, based on something that was going on in my life at that time. Example: last fall, my oldest son was in a stage production of A Christmas Carol. My password: Cdickens. When I had to change it, I had just watched the latest movie version of Pride and Prejudice. So here you go: Jausten. It made sense and they were easy to remember.

Fast forward a few months. One day, I had trouble logging on and called my friendly analyst who came to inspect the problem. Turns out my computer was broken. That's what he called it: broken. I needed another one and he'd have it out to me later that morning.

He called and asked my my password, which I spoke to him over the phone and explained my reasoning. He came by shortly thereafter and set me up while I was out of the office at a meeting.

Later that day, I tried logging on several times and was rejected. I was confused about what had happened with the repair to cause the problem. Feeling rejected and confused (my typical state), I called and tried to solve the problem with him. Turns out I should have spelled the password. He added Jaustin when he programmed my login name. Like Austin, Texas not Austen, Jane.

We laughed about it and moved on. Well, I mostly moved on, really I did. Except it's the little things that diminish you just the slightest bit - just a touch - and make you feel like the world is not quite what you hoped it would be. Everyday, when I would type in Jaustin, I felt just a little bit less like myself. I know it doesn't matter except it does.

I know - I can change it. I will. But not before I finish the book I'm reading by Atrigiani. At least that's spelled exactly how it sounds.

Monday, June 19, 2006

You Can't Win, even if You're Playing in Namibia

I can't stand us.

If the news about Brad Pitt's "popularity" is true, I really can't stand us. According to some poll or some celebrity watchers or someone "in the know," it turns out that Brad Pitt's latest starring role as father of the year is doing his box office appeal absolutely no good.

Let's leave aside the 'are they getting married or what' question for a second, okay? I know that's not going to sit well with many people but that's the way it is. It's not enough that Pitt has adopted (or soon will adopt) the third world orphans Ms. Jolie adopted a few years ago. It's not enough that he skipped his latest movie premiere at Cannes to await the arrival of his newborn. (In the same vein, I can't help but compare this to new dad Tom Cruise who flew off to Europe when his baby daughter was about three days old. Priorities become obvious.) It's not enough that this couple (for once) used the sense God gave P.T. Barnum to make a buck off people willing to part with their money, given the right motive. ("Sucker born every minute - and two to take him," is how Barnum put it I believe.) Good for them for auctioning off the rights to their baby daughter's photos and then donating the proceeds to a charity of their choice. I loved that.

I hate that for all these reasons, Pitt's box office appeal has somehow been depleted. I guess the poll numbers tell us that we like our box office heroes but they can't ever act like real people or we don't like 'em that much anymore. We want Pitt to be our Movie Star, not a dad. We want him spotted at La Costa or at Wolfgang Puck's. We want to see him on a red carpet, not within an African landscape, where he is peddling a bike with one of the kids riding along with him.

Well, it won't make a difference but I still like you, Brad. I've liked you since Kalifornia and True Romance. I really liked you in Troy but let's not get into that right now. Prove everyone wrong and be a great dad and an amazing box office draw. We don't have enough of those guys in the movies.

Talk soon -

Tuesday, June 13, 2006

a distant hug

Two years ago, I spent the day saying a last goodbye to my dad. Parts of our relationship – the parts that would never have made a Hallmark card - will continue to fade away and perhaps remain unexamined forever. There are others - the kinder, empathetic, truly love-filled parts - that I will relive and hang onto forever. I think those memories, the good and the not so good at all, make us both flawed human beings, who tried to "do better" and move past the mistakes we made with each other.
My dad was a complex man who held simple beliefs. Knowing that I won’t ever fully understand every person and event that shaped his life, I find myself in a place that tells me none of it really matters. Especially during the last ten years of his life, I found plenty to admire about my dad, including his unwavering faith in God. (He was sort of a poster boy for the story of the prodigal son, if you know what I mean.) His faith transcended his life; it actually gave me some peace when he died.
Here’s what I believe. When my Dad arrived in heaven, he found a place filled with the people he had loved and lost here on earth, people who loved him so much during their own lives. First he found his Mom - and he hugged her and kissed her - it had been 56 years since the last time he did that. He embraced his mother-in-law and father-in-law. He looked around and saw family, friends and neighbors whom he had loved so much during life and missed so much here on earth - smiling and waiting to welcome him into this new place of joy and love and contentment and peace that is heaven.
As he settled down into his little corner of his new home, he noticed he was surrounded on three sides by flowerbeds filled with vibrant blooms, and not a single weed. He found birdfeeders that never needed refilling, that nourished beautiful songbirds like the ones he loved to watch every morning from his kitchen windows. He also noticed extremely well behaved squirrels, who never ate the seeds or scared the birds away. He thought he heard the Notre Dame fight song playing softly in the background, as the team seemed to celebrate championship after championship after championship. And finally, he looked behind him and saw Marine Corps dress blues hanging nearby, just his size, that he could wear on special days. But he decided he’d mostly settle for the Semper Fi cap he found in his pocket, and put it on instead.
I believe that even while he felt completely at peace in his new home, he found himself missing all of us - everyone he left behind so suddenly. Sitting on what felt like his familiar old front porch, watching the world go by on what felt like his old street, something wasn’t quite the same. He watched us pass right in front of him - but when he called his usual, "Got a minute?" no one seemed to hear him and when he gave us a wave, no one seemed to notice. He picked up the phone at his side to call a few friends and say hello but never got an answer.
In an instant, he understood. He’s living in our hearts now, not by our side. He’s alive in our memories of him, not sitting in the chair across from us. We hear his voice and his laugh and his standard goodbye of "God bless" now only in our own minds.
And he smiled - that’s just fine with my dad. He touched many people in many ways during his life - and we touched him. He’s content to patiently wait for us to join him in God’s time. I’m positive he’s sitting on his heavenly front porch, enjoying his perfect flower garden, praying for every single person that meant so much to him in life - maybe even praying that all of us take that one minute of human connection he treasured so much, even once in a while, to embrace the people we love.
The last thing I believe is that my dad saw God and gave him a wave, too - but this time, he got a response. And when Dad softly asked, "Got a minute?" God said, "Before I answer you, let me just say this: Well done, good and faithful servant. And yes, I do, but we have much more than a minute to chat. We have eternity."

Tuesday, May 23, 2006

So which one are you?

Several years ago, I learned about some foolproof quiz women of a certain age could take to evaluate their own self worth. The test consisted of one question, and the answer to that question would reveal all you needed to know about your own psyche, your self-esteem and how you ended up where you were in the world. Ready? Here’s the question: who is your favorite Beatle?

That’s right. Your selection of either John, Paul, George or Ringo would reveal more about your personality than any psychological profile you could take. Turns out the most confident women choose Paul. Women with concerns about their own looks but who have a great sense of humor choose Ringo. The most ethereal women choose George and women who regard intellect as the most important quality in themselves and others choose John.

This is nothing more than a quiz-like extension of the long-held notions of John as the smart one, George as the dreamer, Ringo as the clown and Paul as the cute one, designed to make women feel even less in control of their own destinies if you want my opinion. Despite my misgivings, I suppose it makes for interesting discussion. I'm not sure what the same quiz reveals about men who are fans of the Beatles.

But I do know of a different kind of test for men, though. Years ago I read a book that claimed that the path a man’s life follows is basically decided on the ballfield, specifically during Little League baseball. Turns out an inordinate number of CEOs and business leaders were either pitchers or first basemen as young ball players. Assuming there was any offense at all going on during a game, these two players worked most closely together as batters dribbled out hits and tried to reach first base. Backing up these two team leaders was the catcher, who at least interacted with the pitcher every time he threw the ball. Everyone else on the team was everyone else. That’s what they are as adults too, according to this book.

All of this simply begs the question: what would be the equivalent test for people aged fifteen to twenty these days? Who is your favorite Red Hot Chili Pepper? What character did you like to play in Final Fantasy XI?

Doesn't really work, does it. Or maybe I'm just too old. And indecisive. I couldn't even make a definitive Beatles choice. I'm a mix of Paul and Ringo if you want to know the truth. (Mostly Ringo with a dream of Paul in the background.)

I also think the token you choose to play Monopoly tells more about who you are then almost any other meaningless choice you can make throughout your lifetime but that'll keep for another day.

Talk soon -

Tuesday, May 16, 2006

what girl??

I know it's me but I've about had it with Marlo Thomas. I can't remember the name of her latest book - something about the right words at the right time - but it almost doesn't matter what it's titled.

May I pose a question here? What on God's green earth makes us want to turn to Marlo Thomas for the right words at the right time? Yes, I know she herself turned to others for her inspiration and help in creating this second book on the same topic, but doesn't that beg the question: couldn't any of us done the same?

I'm wondering what exactly were the rights words at the right time on that fateful occasion years ago. The time when she and her husband Phil explained to his wife that his marriage was breaking up; they were having an affair and he was planning to leave her and his family to marry Marlo. What could those right words have been?

I have not one thing against Marlo Thomas except that fact that she "writes" a book and - voila - it lands on the bestseller list. Could all of us try to be a shred more creative when we're out browsing the bookstores, buying our graduation presents? Please?

I really, really appreciate the mascara tips I picked up from Marlo in 1969 while she played Ann Marie on her TV show, That Girl. I do. But the sad fact is that I have invested more money in mascara than should be allowed by law. I blame her.

Yes, she's a humanitarian and a generous benefactress, caring for the legacy of love and compassion her famous father left behind. Great. Lovely. Isn't that quite enough, Marlo? Isn't it enough that you run foundations, probably sit on boards, and have lived a life that has never known financial pain? You have to write books now? I'm betting she didn't accept an advance for her book, or donated it.

Here's an idea. Next time, write your book and self publish it. Donate the proceeds of the sales. Have this conversation with your publisher: Tell them to split the advance they set aside for you among ten unpublished authors and make their dreams come true.

Those could be exactly the right words at the right time.

Talk soon -

Sunday, February 19, 2006

the (bird)shot heard round the world

Remember the solid week - or more - of coverage the news media couldn't resist giving us when Diana, the Princess of Wales, was killed Paris? That evening, my husband and I were watching a movie on tape and learned of the crash once we turned off the VCR and the news came on. I'm certain the news would've have flashed on whatever channel came on but since we were watching a tape, our TV was on channel 3.

I remember watching the story unfold for a while, then going to bed. My husband was obviously more curious than I and watched the coverage until the final word from the hospital, then he woke me and told me she was dead.

Well, that was all I needed. I can't explain it but I felt compelled to watch a lot of Diana news for the next week. At one point, Pat walked into the room, saw what was on TV, and asked, "Is she still dead?"

That's kind of how I felt after more than one week of Dick Cheney and the birdshot heard round the world. Everytime I heard someone talk about the hunting accident and the ailing friend of Cheney's recovering in the hospital, I wanted to ask, "Is he still shot?"

God, I can't stand it. Here's all we need think about this "national tragedy:" it's unfortunate, it's unusual, it's an unhappy time for everyone involved. And here's the thing: I don't care when President Bush found out and I don't care when the "news media" uncovered the story. This isn't a threat to national security.

If this had happened to two anonymous citizens, we would have never heard about it and we wouldn't have missed a thing. I don't care if it was Dick Cheney or Dick Smothers who aimed quite badly and wounded a friend. And the rest of us shouldn't care either.

Talk soon-

Monday, February 13, 2006

I'm not wishing hard enough, I guess.

We're three days into the Olympics and I've about had it.

This feeling began late Friday night when Yoko Ono - Yoko Ono of all the people on the planet - took the stage and gave some sort of "welcome - congratulations - I love you all" - speech to the athletes and the entire world tuned into the Opening Ceremonies. I have no ax to grind with Yoko. I'm just mystified about how she fits in here. I don't want to jump on writer / friend Steve Salerno's bandwagon here (www.shamblog.com) - no one nails this quasi-therapy known as "self-help" like Steve - but are you kidding me? Last time I checked, you have to do more than just dream about the Olympics to actually compete at the Olympics. I don't remember Yoko's exact words but they were definitely something along the lines of the "if you can dream it you can do it" nonsense. Ummm, Yoko? Tell Michelle Kwan. I'm thinking she's been dreaming about this competition for the last ten years.

Then, if that weren't enough, Peter Gabriel sits at this enormous piano, growls out Imagine - there's no other word for it, he was growling - and enjoins us to imagine a world with no countries. Could there have been a less appropriate song for the occasion? Was every athlete and coach in the arema sitting there, looking at each other, thinking, "No countries? Why would we be here if there were no countries??"

The music in general drove me crazy during the opening of the games. Why 70's and 80's American dance music? Here we are, in Italy, the land of opera and hundreds of gorgeous melodies and we're listening to the Village People and Donna Summer's I Feel Love? I kept thinking, why aren't they playing some lovely Italian folk songs in the background as the athletes enter?

Then - when I was about to give up - out comes Luciano Pavarotti and brings a beautiful center and a few moments of sanity to this otherwise scattered effort.

Dear god - I'm sure it's not me.
Talk soon -

Friday, February 10, 2006

vanity unfair

I just read the "news" story about Keira Knightley and Scarlett Johannsen posing on the cover of Vanity Fair. Like all of the most newsworthy VF covers, neither actress wears any clothing in the photo. Fine. Great. Whatever. I don't care how many actresses appear on VF and I don't really care if they're naked. It's not enough that women the world over feel immeasurably inadequate when faced with actresses and models fully clothed on magazines. Thanks to VF and others like them, now we have to see them without so much as a ribbon in their hair, looking smooth and perfect and slim wearing nothing but a bracelet to hide their flaws. Yahoo.

Then again, I'm older than the two of them put together so why does this matter to me? I can't say. The truth is, I didn't look that good twenty-five years ago and I sure don't look that good now. Then again, I wasn't trying to earn a living at least partly based on how attractive I was when I was 22 years old. Maybe actresses treat their good looks like other professional women treat their considerable skills within the workplace. They hone them; they care for them; they make sure everyone recognizes them and they show them off in their best light whenever they can. Why not - posing for a cover without a stitch and getting their names and images splashed around the media is the same as an attorney showing off her skills as a litigator or a teacher running her classroom. Pays better too.

I guess it's inevitable that Angelina will show up in their studios sometime during her "confinement" and pull a Demi Moore on us; and show off her lovely, ripe baby-carrying form on a headline making cover. Fine. Great. Whatever. I love how pregnant actresses imagine that no one before or since has ever carried a child. And that showing us an extended uterus in all its glory is somehow something no pregnant woman - or the man in her life for that matter - has ever seen before. That this somehow makes her unique.

Don't you just wish VF or whoever wants to make headlines over this baby would do something just a little more surprising than an Angelina portrait? Here's a suggestion: if Vanity Fair wants to put a photo on their cover that would celebrate the soon to be among us Jolie Pitt baby, let'em put Brad on the cover naked. Now that would be worthwhile. I might even buy a copy.

Wednesday, February 08, 2006

days of the week

Welcome -

Is it me?

I can't abide the notion of "hump day" every week. I don't know what people call Monday or Tuesday which, to me, deserve much more credit than Wednesday. I mean, most of us drag our sorry selves up and out of the house every Monday morning, and most of us would rather have that option every Monday if you know what I mean. We're not exactly lazy and we're not exactly bored but we would welcome the opportunity to choose whether or not to show up that day at the office. I can tell you that I don't get out of bed on Monday just so I can last until Wednesday, then smile and proclaim "hump day!!" to everyone I pass in the hall on my way to my first cup of coffee in the morning.

I call Monday "brooding day." I spend at least part of every Monday tracing my life, trying to figure out where I made the missteps. Like why I didn't hear about Microsoft twenty years ago or Amazon ten years ago or Google ten months ago. Or why we didn't stretch just a little more on the first house so we would have made a lot more money on the real estate boom going on when we sold our very modest first home. Or why I don't have a trust fund. Why I never got into the habit of trading futures on the market - whatever that means. Why I can't seem to develop that exercise habit that everyone says you can develop after just three months. Why every other parent on the planet seems to know more about what's going on at school than I. I'm usually mostly over it well before my second cup of coffee but it's definitely a part of every Monday.

Brooding day makes a special appearance other times throughout the year, always on the first day after vacation. Which is why I always return to work from vacation on a Tuesday. I'm trying to offset the double brooding cloud that would follow me around for the entire day if it were a Monday and my first day back in the office.

By Tuesday, my brooding has ended. Tuesday is usually "envy day." I look around for hours and envy all the people I know who are richer, smarter, more attractive, thinner, funnier, more creative and far more successful than I. Since there are plenty of them and only one of me, this can take upwards of an entire morning on a good (bad) day. I figure that realistically, there are lots of things I can't know about them which make them less that ideal candidates for me to envy but it doesn't really matter. If it's Tuesday, it must be envy. And it's not only their attributes. I confess to the following objects of my envy: haircuts, jewelry, shoes, boots. Pathetic - you don't have to tell me.

I'm evolved enough to know that with more money - something I envy in everyone who is far richer than I - come choices. But those choices usually involve spending more money which means if you have more money you need more money because you have a lot of places to spend it and a lot of bills to pay. Reminding myself of this, more than anything else, abruptly interrupts my envy and I move along.

I'm guessing my nicknames for Monday and Tuesday will never catch on. No one wants to admit to brooding or feeling envious on a regular basis. That's okay. I'll take the fall for all of us.

Talk soon -

Tuesday, February 07, 2006

here we go....

Hello to all -

If I could just stop playing solitaire on my computer, I think I'd really have something to contribute here.

The truth is, is you want to read anything cogent and somewhat cohesive, you can hop online to www.mcall.com , click on Opinion and Op ed columnists. You'll find my name and assorted columns of mine dating back to early 2005. I've written for The Morning Call in Allentown, PA for more than five years.

If you'd prefer to not tax your brain quite so much and read the random observations of a woman desperately in need of a good night's sleep, stay right where you are.

I don't know much but it does seem that the rest of the world has gone "barking mad" as a colleague likes to say and there is definitely some comfort in feeling not quite so alone in my observations. The newspaper column has given me one forum to do that; this is another.

I hope the people who stop in - share a thought or two - maybe a laugh or a silent nod of thank god I'm not alone - will feel a little more content about themselves when they leave. A little more like they aren't alone in the wilderness of modern life, in search of a kindred spirit.

To that end, I leave you with this small observation. The other day, a friend and I had lunch at a nationwide chain. I picked up their catering menu - you never know when you'll need to order a Monte Cristo platter - and read it while I waited for him to join me. I stopped at what had to be the most interesting option offered: six hot dogs, four servings of macaroni and cheese, and six cookies. Serves 6 to 8. All for $19.95. Let's move past the price for a second. And how six hot dogs serves eight people. Why four servings of macaroni and cheese? What kids don't get the mac and cheese at this imaginary gathering? How do you make that decision? "Well, honey, I know you said you could invite five friends to your party and everyone will get a hot dog. But who should get the mac and cheese? Who do you like the most?"
Or how about a coach handing out the snacks: "Okay, kids, everyone gets a hot dog - here you go. Uh....Tristan? Liam? You've been slouching aroung the outfield; I've watched you boot those grounders. No mac and cheese for you today."
What's this about? Where do we live when a kids meal platter include only enough mac and cheese to serve four people but enough hot dogs for six and claims to serve eight?
That's what's wrong with the world. It's not me, it's you, chain restaurant. Stop it. Just add another two servings of mac and cheese and leave the $20 price tag alone. Don't make me crazy over this.

So anyway, welcome. I wish I'd opened with a post of something a little more uplifting or inspirational but that may have created the wrong impression. You want challenging? Read The New Yorker, the same week it arrives in your mailbox. You want fun, companionship, a little laughter and once in a while, a comment or two that may linger, stick around.

Talk soon -