Monday, June 28, 2010

Today's fun fact: men still don't get it.

Okay. That's a bit of an exaggeration. Some men get it. And the ones who do are lining up right there, outside the theater showing the the triple feature showing Pride and Prejudice, Bridget Jones' Diary and Dirty Dancing, with an added bonus, Sleepless in Seattle + The Holiday. See them there? All seven of standing outside the theater??

I know. I'm exaggerating. (There are only six in line.)

But honestly, isn't it about time we call a halt to the relentless and, so far, fruitless, quest for the new miracle drug, the "female viagra" that will address and resolve women's seemingly pervasive sexual dissatisfaction?

I'm not saying the idea isn't worth study. I'm saying that maybe the answers (and solutions) would be found if men (and researchers) would concentrate on a different part of our anatomy.

All that said, here's today's column in The Daily Caller. I'd love to hear your thoughts, especially if you have a plausible argument to today's fun fact.


Friday, June 25, 2010

It's the most realistic moment in the movie. And I know just what she means.

In 1995, I walked into a darkened theater, no doubt holding hands with a little boy, maybe one of my four-year-olds, maybe my five-year-old. We didn’t know it then, but like millions of families, we were about to enjoy a soon-to-be classic children’s movie, Toy Story. At that time, Pixar Animation launched brand new digital technology into the entertainment world that brought a unique, charming and moving story of childhood to life on the screen.

In 1999, we made our way into the theater again to see Toy Story 2. Once again, these adorable toys and their story of loyalty and love captivated us. Sure, a little time had passed since the last Toy Story film, but I was still the mother of three young boys, and they still needed me. And trusted me to be there. And knew that they could count on me, in almost exactly the same way they had just a few years earlier. We were all a little older, and just slightly rearranged in mind and body from where we’d been in ’95.

Eleven more years makes a difference in almost every life and it’s made a difference in mine. I’ve undeniably entered “middle age” and have celebrated the birthday that everyone seems to take comfort in calling “the new forty” although I can’t explain why. I’ve lost and mourned some people very dear to me in that time, but celebrated the arrival of a dozen new family members through marriages and births. I’ve felt successful; I’ve felt like a failure. I’ve questioned everything from my faith to my marriage to my career choices to my sanity. But I never questioned this: my boys and my relationship with them.

Which is exactly why I knew we would see Toy Story 3 together. And we did. On Monday night, in a theater filled with people who all appeared to be in their late teens and early twenties. In other words, people who grew up right along with Andy in the movie. People who were out of high school, or soon would be, and like Andy, were very likely finding their way into the world. My husband and I were the oldest people there.

I’d heard about the final scene of the movie, and that if you’re inclined to such things, you would find yourself tearing up. Forget about that. I could barely make it through the opening, when you see a home video camera view of Andy as a young boy, exactly the kind of images you have of your own kids on hours of videotape. The kinds of images that captivate me whenever we dig up our tapes and relive our lives. It’s not possible that we were that young or the boys so small.

Twenty years. Just. Like. That.

Whatever the future holds for the Toy Story franchise, the story arc seems to have come to a tidy little ending at just the right time for my family and me. Like Andy, my boys are college guys now. Most of their boyhood toys have been given away; others packed away, possibly for other boys to come; possibly to eventually find their way out of our home and into the hands of children who will love them.

It’s fifteen years since we first entered that theater playing Toy Story, but even when we’re not in the dark, I still reach for their hands, and am rarely disappointed. All these years later, they slip their own hand comfortably into mine – or more accurately, they cover mine with theirs. They still trust that I’m there for them but now, these days I’m also trusting that they’re there for me. We count on each other for different things now, and I’ve learned to value and accept the unique approach each of them takes to life, to the people around them, to the ideas they hold dear. I’m positive they’ve discovered a different perspective on me, too. While I may not have the same energy or outlook I had at 36, I hope they’ve accepted a more realistic view of a flawed person who above all – despite the moments we’ve lived through that will never, ever find their way into a Pixar film - loves her children.

At the end of the movie, Andy’s Mom – I love that we don’t know her name – gets caught up in the moment of his departure and says something like this: “I wish I could always be with you.” I know just what she means. And on my better days, like when I'm sharing Toy Story 3 with two nineteen-year-olds and a twenty-year-old, I like to think I will be.

Thursday, June 17, 2010

Thoreau was wrong. We're living lives of strident desperation.

Once again, I shouldn't be surprised by the story behind the story these days. In a matter of days, we were media-anxious (which is light years away from personal-anxious but still...) about the fate of one Abby Sunderland, then relieved to find she had escaped injury (or death) and then - if you're like me - jaded and thinking more along the lines of "what the..." when you read the story about her family and the reality show that was, then wasn't, to be.

As a friend so colorfully expresses frustration, "Christ on a bike." Is everyone craving that much validation? Have we all given up our lives of quiet desperation for something more outlandish?

Every bit of me hopes that's not true. But you knew I'd have to write about it, so here you go. Today's Daily Caller column. Written with love and great admiration
(really) for the young men who inspired a great deal of it. And inspire me daily.


Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Multitask your way to paralysis.

Check this out of this and see if it sounds familiar.

You’re at your desk. Phone to your ear, headset on or wearing that little android earpiece thingie; and from the corner of your eye you watch a new call come in and check the phone number or name that pops up on your screen. “What’s does Todd want?” or “What now…” or “Rats – I wish I could take that,” or “Who is calling me from Baltimore (or Chicago, or San Diego or Texas)?” or any number of thoughts that race through your already distracted brain for just a few seconds as you mentally wander away from the call going on right then to breeze through the possibilities about the call you’re missing.

Then, even as you try to concentrate on the call at hand, you make yourself crazy watching the blinking red light blink that indicates the voice mail waiting for you.

As you return the call, you read an email or two or ten and start to answer one in particular just as your call gets answered. Do you then say something like this? “Hold on…just want to finish this and hit send…hold it… wait just a second … okay. Now – you called me?”

Or how about this: while you’re talking to someone – over the phone or in person - and you’re trying to concentrate on the subject at hand, you watch emails flash onto your screen and even open a few, or purposefully ignore a few and once in a while even shriek at a few.

Then you hop onto Twitter, or Facebook, or your two other email accounts, check your text messages and then browse the Times, the WSJ headlines, and any number of enewsletters that enter your inbox hourly.

All while you’re composing a Powerpoint, running a P and L, drafting a proposal, reviewing an agenda and reading a document that needs your feedback by 9 am.
Welcome to your office in 2010, or what I like to call a whirling dervish of rudderless activity that masquerades as progress.

I know this is not new. That we’ve all been walking this wireless tightrope of progress and efficiency and availability for years now. It’s just that it seems that with every new gadget, we get yet another way to be accessible.

What we’ve lost in all this new-found technology is the concept of manners. Nothing makes me crazier than talking to someone – even over the phone – and knowing that they’re not really talking to me. (I do it, too – don’t get me wrong.) But I hate myself for it. I really hate it when I do it to my Mom – who says something like, “Oh, honey...just call me back when you have time. You’re busy….” She can hear me typing, or typedissing her if you ask me.

A colleague and I discussed this very thing and he suggested someone should develop technology that darkens your screen when your phone rings. Or maybe it could lock up your keyboard. Some new gadget that forces us to pay attention. That’s kind of pathetic if you think about it. We need gadgets to distract us and now we might need something to stop the distractions.

Wait a minute. We might already have that. It’s called an on / off switch. Or a log off button. Or even just one unwired moment for God’s sake.

Maybe we should create rules around technology and stick to them:

Monday: Please Pay Attention Day. No typedissing while you talk on the phone.

: LYLOD or Leave Your Laptop at the Office Day.

Wednesday: Black-bury Day – bury your blackberry at the bottom of your purse or bag, especially when you attend a meeting, seemingly to discuss topics that need your attention and good thinking.

Thursday: It’s 10 PM – do you know where your brain is? Day - Read and compose no email once the sun goes down.

: Turn It Off Day – Take one evening a week with no cells, blackberries, laptops, ipads, iphones, itouches or any other i-thing that takes you out of the real moment, filled with real live people and real live conversation.

Would love it if some company were to adopt even one of these rules – or some version of them – then measure employee satisfaction six months later. I have a feeling productivity would be up, courtesy and respect would be on the upswing and people would experience a feeling of overall worthiness. Any takers out there?

Thursday, June 10, 2010

Unlike Debbie, I don't want to do Dallas. I want a do-over in Dallas. At Gate 35E. For the DFW to PHL flight at 5:35 pm.

I’ve taken five flights and checked in and out of three hotels in the past two and half weeks. And believe me, if the trips I took had been to exotic and stunningly beautiful places and full of moments of true relaxation and rejuvenation, you wouldn’t be hearing a peep from me.

They were all work related, hectic and mostly made up of some very long days but truth be told, they were also full of some wonderful people who are delightful colleagues and friends.

But this wouldn’t be worth writing about if something didn’t irritate me, right? So here you go.

I’m waiting in Dallas to board my flight to Philadelphia. Wait – let me back up a bit. I had previously flown from Allentown to Philly to Dallas. The 18 minutes in the air from ABE to PHL were the worst flying minutes of my life. The WORST; and I have to admit I’ve flown a fair amount over the past twenty years. The flight was constantly, relentlessly, spectacularly turbulant. It bumped. Jumped. Dropped. And swayed. It was horrible and the weather out the window looked perfect.

It took me about ten seconds to decide NOT to fly back to ABE on my return trip. Instead, I’d get transporation home from the Philly airport. The timing worked, too. Even in a car, I’d be back in Allentown right around the time the Allentown flight was scheduled to depart from Philadelphia. Perfect. Done.

So – back to Dallas. I’m at the gate, waiting to board the flight to Philadelphia, fully aware that I was not going to fly the final bit although I held a boarding pass for that trip in hand. Then the gate attendant announced my favorite thing; that the flight was checked in full and it was unlikely there would be overhead space for the bags that absolutely everyone was wheeling on board. “If you are seated in Zones 4 or 5, please come to the podium and I’ll gate check your bag for you.”

Nice. No fee; they’ll gate check the bag, you pick it up in Philly as you depart, and off you go. No need to visit the baggage claim. I checked my boarding pass, although I had a sinking feeling about what I’d find there: Zone 5. Super. So go ahead – gate check. Perfect. Like a good, obedient, accommodating air passenger, I walked up to the attendant and told her I would gate check my bag. She scanned my Philly boarding pass and – what’s this – a warning screen came up and indicated I had another pass as well – one that got me from PHL to ABE. I explained that my air travel was ending in Philly that evening and couldn’t she please gate check the bag through that far.

No. She couldn’t. Absolutely not. I’m ticketed through to Allentown.

“I know. But I’m not flying into Allentown tonight. I’ll just pick up my bag on the jetway in Philly.”

“No. I can’t gate check you to Philadelphia, ma’am.”

For God’s sake of America. Here I volunteer to gate check a bag and make it easier on everyone managing that overhead space. And by the way, isn’t the point of a gate check – correct me if I’m wrong – that your bag is just checked through to the next stopping point? And that the guys on the ground will haul your bags off the plane and place them on the jetway or at the bottom of the stairs as you depart?

That’s what I thought.

She was adamant. So –I gave up. Told her I’d take my chances storing the roller bag on board.

Boarding time comes. We finally get to Zone 5 – after nearly every single person in the terminal boarded the flight – and she stopped the few of us with roller bags and insisted we gate check them. We’d never find room on board.

Once again, I got the warning screen when she scanned my pass and we had another round of her insisting to me that I was checking through to Allentown and me insisting to her that I was doing nothing of the kind. It ended when I snapped at her – I admit it, I did – and walked away into the plane, wheeling my bag behind me.

The overheads were completely full. Of course they were! I explained the situation to the flight attendants who said they’d get my bag checked to Philly – not to worry. They’d get it done.

A few minutes later, one of the attendants came back to me and sort of incredulously admitted: “She won’t give it to us either. I’ve never seen anything like this. I’m so sorry – but we may have to send your bag to ABE.”

At this point, I was tired and too cranky to fight anymore. I thanked the attendant and told her I’d get hold of the bag somehow once I got home. “The gate woman really hates me. But thanks for everything and thanks for trying. Just check it to Allentown. I’ll work it out.”

Then – surprise! – she stopped back again and said they found room. Up front. I could just stop by and pick up my bag on the way out.

Victory! Hurrah! Was that so difficult?

Honestly, if I hadn’t been so aggravated by the gate attendant I would have said something like this to her instead of storming off in a huff, wheeling my bag behind me:

“Hold it, hold it, hold it - just one minute. You’re telling me you can’t gate check a bag to my midway point because of the rules? The rules that say you have to follow my entire itinerary to print out the label? Then explain to me how I was on board a flight on this very airline [US Air, by the way] and witnessed several flight attendants as well as several regular old passengers STANDING while the pilot landed the plane? What about the rules that say you must have you tray table and seat backs UP during takeoff and landing and you must have your seat belt fastened low and tight across your lap?? Then how is it possible that I saw people standing during the landing? Hmmm? What about that?

What’s that? You’re telling me you can’t gate check a bag to Philly because I have a boarding pass to Allentown? Please. Don’t waste my time. Just check the bag, please.”

Don’t believe me? You can read all about the previous standing while landing incident here. You can't make this stuff up.

Wednesday, June 09, 2010

Jack McCoy never saw this coming.

Yet one more reason I wish Law and Order were still on the air, "ripping stories from the headlines" like this one.

Maybe it's me - okay, it's definitely me - but I'm positive that if I were up on 24 counts of law-breaking related to various misdeeds that took place while I held a pretty responsible public position in government, the last thing on my mind would be "tweeting" everyday about the hours I spent in Court.

The question is: are the tweets protected? Can the prosecution use them? Isn't this akin to trying your case in the court of public opinion?

Adam Schiff would never stand for it. And he'd never, ever use the word Tweet.

Hope you enjoy today's column.

Wednesday, June 02, 2010

Stories like this convince me I'm not quite as insane as I usually think I am.

If anyone reads this blog regularly - which is certainly open to debate - they will surely bear witness to the fact that I have issues. Lots of them.

Not the least of which is the self-doubt and nagging thoughts that plague me about how I've irreparably damaged my children, through my own insecurities, incompetence and just plain old mistakes I've made over the years. On my worst days, I truly believe they don't have enough hours left in their lives for the therapy they'll need to overcome my "parenting."

Then - just when I'm about ready to weep, I read something like this and it cheers me up considerably. I may have made mistakes - in the thousands by now - and I may have lost it from time to time, and I may have said or done some things I regret, but by God I never once thought about the fashion statements my children were making with their diapers. Not once.

That has to count for something, right? Score one for me?

Here's the link to today's Daily Caller column. And if you buy and love these diapers, I really want to understand why. I've clearly missed something here.