Friday, August 11, 2006

What'll I Do?

Confession: I had a little crush on Mike Douglas. Handsome, funny, kind, great voice. Yeah, I know he was a square, but I was surrounded by people like that in my Eastern Washington hometown. He was one of us! Only cooler.

Where Merv's set was dark and sparse, Mike's set was bright and cheerful (love those asterisk shapes!). Merv had the erudite Arthur Treacher, but Mike changed his co-hosts every week. My only regret? He gave a job to the venemous Roger Ailes. If only he had known...

Here's a great obit at the New York Times.

And now go to YouTube, search "Mike Douglas" and find lots of clips with such rare creatures as Shirley Bassey, John Lennon, Tom Waits, Frank Zappa, and Gene Simmons in full KISS regalia. were awesome. Sleep well you sweet Irish tenor.

Sunday, April 16, 2006

I'm Tupper-Crazy!

It's been brewing for a couple of months now, but I have decided to become a Tupperware Lady!

The main reason is to get rid of some credit card debt, but also because
Who Doesn't Love Tupperware?

I have an emotional connection to Tupperware that I can't completely explain. Throughout my childhood, my mom collected so many pieces, there's not a page in the latest catalog that doesn't remind me of a family experience. There's the hamburger patty maker we used to prepare for potluck barbecues. I used the marinating dish until I accidentally melted the lid on a hot burner. My sister-in-law covered up my big yellow bowl with wrapping paper because she thought it looked too tacky on her table. And my brother and I drank so much Kool-Aid from the plastic tumblers, I'm surprised we didn't contract diabetes by the age of 10.

But most importantly, Tupperware has symbolized empowerment for women that was hard to find when it started in the 1950s. Like the GI bill for men, Tupperware became the female ticket to the middle class. So, I'm excited to join the ranks of all those who have gone before and strive to meet some financial goals myself.

I also think that Tupperware can change the world, but you'll have to check out my website to find out why. I'm ready to party!

My Tupperware Website
Tupperware! The PBS "American Experience" Episode
Super Saleswoman Dixie Longate's website

Saturday, April 15, 2006

Happy Birthday to Me!

Tax Day has always had special meaning for me -- it's the proud day of my birth, making me a bossy, outspoken Aries.

For the past 20 years, I have enjoyed my own tradition for the big day:

I dress in grey and pink (in honor of Miss Audrey Hepburn's performance as Susie the blind woman in the classic thriller, "Wait Until Dark" when she wore a chic grey skirt and pink turtleneck while battling evil drug smugglers). Then, sometime during the day, I eat pizza and watch "Breakfast at Tiffany's." I just assumed everyone knew about this movie, but last year I watched it with some younger friends and I realized "Breakfast at Tiffany's" was more than 40 years old! Most of them had never even heard of it, which did not bring joy to my enlarging middle-aged bones.

This year has been especially fun. My beloved brought a new pair of eyes to my birthday ritual. He noticed the set design, imagery, color was wonderful to see what I had never noticed before. Truly, I never gave Blake Edwards that much credit -- and I should have.

So this year's birthday brings something that everyone should have as they enter middle age: a fresh vision of our most familiar and precious experiences and a wonderful person to share it with.

Mazel Tov!

Monday, March 06, 2006

Hollywood Nation

"...the 'Hollywood doesn't reflect mainstream America' argument is one of the oldest and phoniest in the playbook."

Read a great piece by James Wolcott

A Real Man

And finally, I would say that, you know, we are a little bit out of touch in Hollywood every once in a while. I think it's probably a good thing.

We're the ones who talk about AIDS when it was just being whispered, and we talked about civil rights when it wasn't really popular. And we, you know, we bring up subjects. This Academy, this group of people gave Hattie McDaniel an Oscar in 1939 when blacks were still sitting in the backs of theaters. I'm proud to be a part of this Academy. Proud to be part of this community, and proud to be out of touch. And I thank you so much for this.

A Real Woman

And I want to say that, my grandmother was one of the biggest inspirations in my life. She taught me how to be a real woman, to have strength and self respect, and to never give those things away. And those are a lot of qualities I saw in June Carter.

People used to ask June how she was doing, and she used to say -- "I'm just trying to matter." And I know what she means. You know, I'm just trying to matter, and live a good life and make work that means something to somebody. And you have all made me feel that I might have accomplished that tonight. So thank you so much for this honor.


Those tasteful arbiters of Oscar style -- Joan and Melissa Rivers -- told Al Roker this morning on "The Today Show" that everyone at Sunday's Academy Awards looked "too perfect."

"The stylists have taken all the fun out of the Oscars," Joan said.


Did they SEE Helena Bonham Carter? Or does she get a pass because she looks WAAAAY better than her husband, Tim Burton?

And what kind of "fun" are they missing? They don't get to make hysterical fun of anyone who looks LESS than perfect?


You might have to find a new hobby, ladies.

Sunday, March 05, 2006

My Oscar Stuff

  • Awesome set.
  • Jon Stewart was good -- not great, but good.
  • LOVED the "gay cowboy" clips!
  • "Campaign ads" were hilarious.
  • Ben Stiller in green unitard? Priceless!
  • Reese Witherspoon? For "Election" maybe. Felicity Huffman was robbed.
  • "Crash"? Are you serious?
  • Kudos to Philip Seymour Hoffman honoring his mom.
  • Make-up gag with Steve Carell & Will Ferrell was too funny!
  • George Clooney -- so damned handsome. Great speech. He's bringing a social conscience back to his little corner of Hollywood.
  • Montage this! Sheesh! If this years' show was intended to demonstrate the greatness of film shown in its original glory of theatrical release (rather than a personal DVD player, a Blackberry, or cell phone), it failed. But it probably convinced viewers how boring those fucking montages can be!
  • Best dresses: Charlize Theron, Michelle Williams, Salma Hayek, Jennifer Lopez, Reese Witherspoon, Uma Thurman.
  • Second Oscar for Costumer Colleen Atwood! Woo Hoo! She's just a girl from Quincy, Washington for God's sake! How cool is that?
  • What's the whole Jessica Alba thing about?
  • My beloved compared the Academy's recognition of "It's Hard Out Here For a Pimp" to them finally honoring rock 'n' roll in the early 1980s. Ooooh... cutting edge.
  • Where the hell were Don Knotts and Darren McGavin in the "In Memorian" roll call?
  • Sharon Stone is on her way to becoming the Sally Kirkland of her generation

Grab the Crown

Oscar nominee Terrence Howard made an enlightening appearance on "Sunday Morning Shootout" with the two Peters (Guber and Bart). First, he made eight films in 2004 and he was paid a whopping 12 grand to play the role of a pimp in "Hustle and Flow." For "Crash," he flew himself out to L.A. and paid for his own hotel room during the audition process. And he only got a shot at it after Forest Whitaker and Don Cheadle passed.

When he said it was a "happy accident" that he got the role, Peter Guber said there are no accidents, only "coincidences that are meant to be." He told Howard that his diligence and preparation made it possible for him to play the role. "Put yourself in a place to say 'I deserve this'. It's your birthright," Guber told Howard, who quickly agreed.

Turns out Howard studied biology and engineering and while in school, it occurred to him that being born is an accomplishment in itself: a half a billion sperm race toward one egg in a blind marathon; the boys have only 24 hours to get there and the girls have 72. Whoever wins the initial competition should be considered a champion. "If we can just get to life, then everything else is just kudos. This is what we deserve," he said.

"Like Oprah says," Howard continued, "The crown is there, you just have to bend down, grab the crown, and put it on your head. It's waiting there for you. You've done it. You've done it."

No matter who won the Oscar, Terrence, you grabbed the crown. Long live the King.

Friday, March 03, 2006

Is it Gonna Kill Ya?

Many years ago, I got incensed about how a letter to the newspaper editor rebuked a buddy of mine. So, I looked up the writer's number and called him to tell him what I thought of his frigging letter.

But before I could call, I had to ask myself a question: "What's the worst thing that can happen here? Can he kill me?" Not unless he can find my house. " can survive anything short of that." I took a deep breath and made the call.

I think I was shaking all the way through the conversation, but he didn't know that. I don't think I was brilliant and I probably didn't make much sense, but the bottom line was, when I got off the phone, I felt great.

And I didn't die.

It's kind of amazing how small our world can get. Picture a bull's eye. This is your life. Now, envision a really wide center circle. That's where we spend most of our time doing routine, predictable stuff with a bit of room to try some new stuff while stakes are low.

There's a thinner outer circle on your bull's eye and that's your "risk" area. We don't go there very much. This would be like learning how to ski, sky diving, changing careers, falling in love, starting a business, going back to school, etc. It takes energy and courage but no real physical harm can come to you. And the remaining edges are "death" where we truly can lose everything (I'm thinkin' bungee jumping).

Notice a couple of things about the circle:

First, the rings are next to one another and although it appears that we can easily slip from one zone to the next, most of the time, the chasm feels impossible to cross. Risk is hard, scary, and usually comes with a cost. It's so much easier to turn on the Home Shopping Network and light up a fattie. Or...stay in the marriage for appearance's sake and get so busy you don't notice how unhappy you are.

Second, we may have no idea which ring we are in at a given time. Twice a day, I get on the freeway for a commute and, in theory, I am risking my life, but it seems routine to me. What might actually be "living on the edge" feels predictable. So, the whole concept of risk being separate from our daily routine might be an illusion. It might be closer than we think.

When the challenge looks scary, I have two good strategies that seem to work. The first is to breathe my way through it ("in" through the nose and "out" through the mouth). The second is the "can it kill me?" question. 99.9% of the time, I figure I'm not gonna die if I do it. When it's over, I feel brave and every time I do something scary, I become more convinced that I can depend on me. Hot dog!

It might all be in my head, but it beats getting stuck in the middle of the bulls eye forever.

Thursday, March 02, 2006

Put Away the Mortarboard

Here's what I'm learning about teachers. We REALLY like to be smart. This makes sense, I guess. We chose teaching because we liked school, right? Surprisingly, many of us were TERRIBLE students. And some of us are trying to take another crack at the whole thing by going back to teach. One of my former "nightmare" students came back to teach at his old high school and became a talented, enthusiastic colleague.

But for the most part, we all have experience being smart, having answers, coming up with the right quip. And here's the unfortunate part of that. Since we tend to be learn-ed, we go into most situations wanting to share that TEACH, not to LEARN. But when we are trying to connect with people and strengthen relationships, it's best to LISTEN and LEARN. By staying in teaching mode, we ensure that the other person knows how SMART we are, but that doesn't mean they want to spend time with us.

Ever since I figured this out, I've become painfully aware of those times when I share absolutely RIVETING factoids like why cashews never have shells or what the Teapot Dome scandal was all about...How could anyone NOT want to know those things? And wouldn't they think I'm GREAT for sharing?

I think we see information as our currency and we like to show it off. When we can't, we can become paralyzed. It's tough for teachers to risk being ignorant or appear "stupid." Yet that's when people love us the most -- when we share our vulnerabilities and risk failure.

More than a decade ago at a teacher's union convention, I was walking down the long, long lobby of the New Orleans Convention Center and it seemed that everyone I saw was overweight. REALLY overweight. Stress. A sedentary lifestyle. No time for self-care. I know there are a lot of reasons for teachers to be overweight. But I came away with the feeling that their extra pounds were also a form of armor, protecting them from pain, risk, and, unfortunately, other people.

Hey! I've been there. As a fat kid, I used my intelligence and humor to fend off attacks and, later, teaching gave me an outlet for my passion for learning. It also gave me a sense of control, responsibility, and authority. Not bad ingredients for a career, but useless for building relationships.

Genuine connection means taking off the armor, getting close, being open, humble, and even foolish. That's no easy lesson to master.

Tuesday, February 28, 2006

What's Your Set-up?

So, this guy wrote a book about happiness called "The Happiness Hypothesis" and he says you shouldn't mistake pleasure for happiness.

Pleasure comes in things like candy, shiny Christmas lights, sex, reading a book, skiing, etc. But true happiness comes from setting up your life in a way that brings you balance and fulfillment. To put it another way, you can't go out and "find" happiness, you have to discover it within your life.

First step? Surprise! Find out what kind of "creature" you are. OK...that's already too much to ask for a lot of people. Most of us avoid that kind of self-examination but to make things more complicated, we actually possess a lot of "selves" which interact with our home, family, work, and society. What do each of them need?

Your job then (if you choose to accept it) is to create the conditions that help you find that purpose and balance. Can you set up a life that is coherent and integrates all your "selves" successfully? In other words, can you create a life for yourself that makes you comfortable and satisfied with your home, family, work, and society? If so...Eureka! You might have found the formula!

You + love + work + connection to something bigger = Happiness

The Happiness Hypothesis: Finding Modern Truth in Ancient Wisdom, Why a Meaningful Life is Closer Than You Think by Jonathan Haidt

Monday, February 27, 2006

Off-Center here's the deal.

I knew I was moving away from who I was several years before the divorce. I had established a fairly firm core before I got married and early on, things were good. I didn't particularly LIKE being married at first, but I got used to it. Mostly, it was a process of surrendering. When I told my colleagues that I felt like a wimp for "selling out" and getting married. One of them looked me right in the eye and said, "But that's the human condition!." She was telling me that it is perfectly natural to want to partner with someone and that I wasn't being weak.

So, I dug in and we established a warm place to be together. For a while. But, as my OTHER wise colleague told me: "Stuff just happens between people." And instead of using some badly needed relationship floss to clean out the gunk, it just kept building up until eventually even a power washer couldn't get rid of it all: the resentment, anger, disappointment, unreasonable expectations, lack of communication.

I scrambled for ways to ignore the gunk. I got REALLY busy with my career and my hobbies. I joined him in HIS interests. I even moved away from home for awhile to pursue a degree. And all of this running moved me even further away from the core I had worked so hard to find. Moving back to center meant shifting my whole world. I'd have to let go of the house, the status, some friends...

My self discovery had been deliberate and hard-won. After years of spinning my wheels in dead-end jobs and dead-end boyfriends, I finally found some mo-jo and I became determined to move forward. Back in school and studying for a teaching certificate, I had a lot of time to ponder: who am I, how did I get this way, how can I not be this way anymore, what do I really want to be, how would I act if I were that person. A total reinvention. And the best thing I ever did.

By the time I got married, I knew exactly what I wanted and who I wanted to be. Ten years later, I was just trying to be civil and holding my life together with paper clips and twine. If my self-hood were one of those carpenter's levels, the bubble of me wouldn't even be visible.

Since then: separation, crying, other relationships, crying, more getting ridiculously busy, crying, new job, crying, new city, crying, eating waaaaay too much, crying, going out too much, putting up with stupid men, crying, new apartment, crying, divorce, new relationship, more crying, ex getting married, therapy, long hot baths, fighting guilt, crying, days spent in pajamas, reading good books, turning off the phone, learning to say "no."

And out of all that...something cool is starting to happen. I'm catching glimpses of the core again. The bubble is moving closer to the black line. I'm making fewer moves out of desperation. I'm feeling sensible again.My beloved and I are weaving our own relationship floss and boy, does that stuff work! I'm starting to see myself again. Not the old me, but a new vision enriched by all the aforementioned events.

It's not a perfect picture, but it's moving closer to center.

Sunday, February 26, 2006

The Incredible Mr. Knotts

I love this picture of Don Knotts.

Believe it or not, he was ALWAYS successful with women. Which is more than I can say about Sylvester Stallone or Jeff Conaway or....Robert Blake.

Five years on "The Andy Griffith Show," 5 Emmy nomination, 5 wins. A helluva record.

He was RARELY out of work and when he was, he called his friends. The best call was to Andy Griffith when he asked him, "Do you need a deputy?"

Andy Griffith told Larry King that he was bereft when Don left his show for a movie deal at Universal. He said it might sound odd for a man to say about another man, but Andy missed Don every day. They were best friends.

When I was 10, I went to see "The Ghost and Mr. Chicken." I was so scared, I had to go sit in the lobby until the scary organ music stopped.

Miss ya', Barn.

Links: NYT Obit
USA Today Obit

Tuesday, February 21, 2006

A Full Life

"There's a hole in the bucket, Dear Liza, Dear Liza..."

Every time I hear the word "bucket," I think of that summer campfire song. It starts out as a silly ditty, but if you are a Type A personality like me, it turns into a nightmare as the hapless Henry can't seem to fix the bucket, water keeps running out, and I'm sure Liza has better things to do than tell Henry how to fix the damn bucket! In the meantime, there's no water! Whew!

But the metaphor of a leaky bucket has captivated me because until recently, mine had gone bone dry. I don't know if there was a hole in my bucket or if it was just evaporation, but the water has slowly disappeared over the past few years as I forgot all about keeping it full and focused instead on, well, I guess, how shiny my bucket appeared to everyone else.

It's something that can happen at any time, not just to busy adults who try to climb the corporate ladder while struggling with with mortgages and shuttling kids to soccer practice. I mourn for the empty buckets of those kids who run from soccer practice to music lessons to SAT prep class with a cell phone in one hand and a bag of fast food in the other. Adolescent hours spent in my room, playing the guitar, writing in my diary, listening to records, and basically staying away from my brother filled my bucket UP. And my most interesting friends did the same thing, only with comic books. All that time alone to ponder, reflect, and refresh kept our batteries charged and powered our imaginations to pursue some far-flung interests that created a rich, interesting youth-hood.

Since then, I've gone from drought to tsunami, depending on the status of my employment and relationships. The more time I have to myself, the fuller my bucket. The more I try to please everyone else, the more it is drained.

Here's how it happens:
  • Take a long hot bath with a good magazine = Add one quart to the bucket
  • Entertain a house full of uninvited, unexpected guests = Drain one half gallon
  • Pursue your favorite hobby = Add one cup for every hour spent
  • Late hours at the office to impress your boss = Drain one pint per evening
  • Go to the beach with your family = Add a gallon per day
  • Create a delicious, interesting meal = Add a quart
  • Go out with friends to avoid hurting their feelings = Drain a quart
  • Go to bed early with your favorite book = Add a pint
  • Take 10 minutes to call someone because you feel guilty = Drain a pint
  • Take 10 minutes to check in on a friend in need = Add a cup

And so on...

There is nothing LESS fun to be around than someone with a drained bucket. And it's even worse BEING that person. Eventually, if you don't want to keep running on empty, you gotta build yourself a very sensitive water meter that you trust to tell you the truth. When the meter says "full," you can operate at optimum performance and even do a little more -- for others, for the boss, for the kids. But when the meter starts to drop (you can't afford for it to go completely dry), you MUST listen and take the time to refill. Even if it means saying "no," turning off the phone, risking criticism, or appearing selfish (gasp!).

And if there's a hole that refuses to be patched and keeps on draining, get yourself a new bucket -- one that's big enough to hold your passions, your joy, and your heart's desire.

And let it overflow.

Wednesday, February 15, 2006

Dis Bum Was Robbed

My beloved and I enjoyed a divine evening a few weeks back when we watched "Cinderella Man." Go figure.

Our expectations could NOT have been lower. I kept my finger on the stop button for the first ten minutes and slowly put the remote away completely. Eventually, we looked at each other in disbelief and shook our heads at how wrong we had been in our judgement of the film.

What happened?

Close on the heels of another amazing boxing picture, "Million Dollar Baby," "Cinderella Man" opened in early 2005 to low box office numbers. Throughout the year, producer Brian Grazer kept trying to sell the movie to a resistant public. First with money back guarantees and later by re-releasing it to find a new audience. Felt like whipping a dead horse to us.

But try as Grazer might, he couldn't get us into the theater. The trailer made it seem like a million other "underdog" movies and every clip we saw on the talk show circuit looked even worse -- predictable! dropped off our radar screen completely.

It was a quiet winter night when we selected it from our "On Demand" cable menu last month. For some reason, we painfully decided to fork over the $3.99 and risk disappointment.

What we saw was FAR from what had been marketed to us. It was NOT predictable, it was NOT full of cliches. It was an inspiring, engaging story rich in history with an original take on the Depression, boxing, and redemption. Even though we knew what was ultimately going to happen, we had NOT seen this film before. It was a refreshing experience. Too bad it was so ignored.

A worse shame is that between last January and now, Russell Crowe and Renee Zellweger were forgotten by acting award voters. This might be partly due to their (dark) days in the sun last year: Russell and his unfortunate "cell phone incident" and Renee's marriage and divorce from Kenny Chesney. And the picture didn't sell. That's a formula for being overlooked. They were lovely together and should NOT have been ignored. Paul Giamatti's performance has received kudos (this could be pay-back for his losing the big awards last year as the star of "Sideways" but he deserves this years' accolades even so). Giamatti did a very hard thing: he made me believe boxing is something you can actually get passionate about.

But YOU should get passionate about seeing this movie if you haven't already. It's a gem that deserved more than it got. You won't be sorry.

Tuesday, February 14, 2006

Big Girls DO Cry

Disclaimer: This blog entry is NO comment on Valentine's Day. I hope you have have a lovely one, now matter WHAT your relationship status may be. Have chocolate if you can. And champagne.

This is getting to be pet peeve of mine: people who are ashamed of crying or see it as a sign of weakness. Now, I'm not talking about crying at work or school to get attention or because you just lose it. I'm talking about the really good, therapeutic, multi-hanky, boo-hoo, sometimes gulping, purge-your-soul crying.

I know, crying sometimes feels like when you are sick and you know you'll feel a lot better if you just barf. But you don't want to barf cuz that feels yucky. That's what therapeutic crying is like: you just have to give yourself over to it and you will feel a LOT better after. What's the worst that can happen? You have to re-apply your make-up and buy more Kleenex? Big whoop!

It may seem strange to give yourself permission to revisit some pain or yearning that still calls out for attention. Letting the tears flow and is precious to your well-being. Especially if you ask yourself "What am I feeling right now?" You may not like the answer, but that's not the point. The point is you ARE FEELING it. Most of us eat, smoke, drink, sleep or stay busy, ANYTHING to keep from feeling those feelings. Afraid they might hurt us or kill us. But they won't. And once you learn that you are stronger than your feelings and you CAN bear them, your personal power becomes unlimited.

I once heard a guy on "Oprah" say if he cries, that means the villain won. Let's be real about this. Crying takes courage. Hell, it takes balls! The world tells you not to do it, so to FEEL something and be able to express it. That's brave.

I think I cried for three years straight when I went through divorce. But I figure, hey, that must mean it was a significant event to let go of. Life is like a sponge and the older you get or the deeper the connection, the bigger your sponge. It can take a while to wring out a really big sponge and it's worth every drop if it means you can move on. Otherwise, you're just adding up more miles on your emotional treadmill.

Nowadays, if something hits me hard, I just let the tears go, no matter where I am. And it's sometimes at the strangest places and times when they come. Rarely is there someone there to stop me or tell me not to cry. I think people get it that we all have pain and we all have to let it go sometimes. If they don't, that's THEIR issue, not yours.

So turn on the waterworks every once in awhile. A few tears never hurt anybody.

Monday, February 13, 2006


Cher's voice fades in...
"I'm standing on the edge of nowhere...
There's only one way up."

The message on the screen reads: "There's more than one woman who thinks she's the fattest woman in the room." The pretty, plus-size woman in the ad is wearing a BEAUTIFUL black beaded halter dress and the only unattractive thing about her is her frown.

Yes, it's this season's Weight Watchers commercial, sung to the tune of "Song for the Lonely" -- nice message to overweight people. Makes me want to grab my wallet and run for a pint of Ben & Jerry's. Because I'm fat, I'm lonely, huh?

During New Year's week, Katie Couric walked up to Richard Simmons, stuck a microphone in his face, and asked him why Americans are getting so fat.

Richard's face became deadly serious and his voice dripped with sincerity. "Self worth," he intoned,"People just feel worthless." No mention of increasingly sedentary lifestyles, less and less time to cook and take care of ourselves...

One of the current spokespersons for the L.A. Weight Loss Clinic extolls how different her life is now that she has lost weight. Why, she's even met the perfect man and they're getting married! Frankly, I prefer the other spokeswoman who is simply thrilled about wearing a belt. At least she's not promising a flawless future without fat.

Make a list of 20 things that will make your life fabulous if only you were (fill in the blank -- married, thin, smarter). Then, go find someone who IS what you want to be and ask them how many of those 20 things are in THEIR life. My guess? They have the same number of frustrations. Just ask my step-sister the New York model who appeared to have everything -- money, fame, looks. But she never had a decent man in her life and never found a decent career after modelling was over. She ended up killing herself. Must be nice to have it all, huh?

Getting thin DOES remove the old familiar excuse of "when I get thin, I will..." and that's too much for some people to bear. How do I cope with not getting that job if I can't blame it on being too fat? You mean he didn't like me for who I am? Shit! It was a lot easier to blame my hips!

And focusing on dieting certainly keeps your mind active, blocking out anything WORTH thinking about, like, how to improve your community, what kind of hobby you would enjoy, or the plot of a book you've always wanted to read. Or maybe where you can find a dress that makes you LOOK as cute as you FEEL when no one else is looking at your butt.'s what I want to SCREAM at that woman in the cute black dress on the Weight Watchers commercial (right after I find out where she bought that dress):

Don't Wait!
Be Fabulous Now!

I swear, if she did, she would NOT be going home alone like in that commercial. A little confidence, some well-choreographed eye contact, touching, a smile and she could get LAID in a heartbeat!

As the wise author Jessica Weiner says, life for someone with a dieter's mentality always starts on Monday morning. But the subtitle of her new book accurately notes: "Life doesn't begin five pounds from now." These days we can re-name the Beckett play (where no one shows up) "Waiting For Monday Morning." Same result.

I'm not advising that you throw in the towel by not taking care of yourself. Yes, you should get enough sleep; yes, you should try to move around a little; and yes, you should eat healthy food. Get to work on time, take care of your kids, etc.

But no matter how much stuff you have to do, DON'T wait to be FABULOUS.
    Fabulous doesn't record the number on the scale
    Fabulous doesn't need expensive clothes
    Fabulous doesn't require the right pedigree
    Fabulous doesn't expect the proper education
    Fabulous doesn't look at your resume

Fabulous just needs you to own it. Look in the mirror and claim it. Shake your head and declare yourself to be fabulous as you walk out the door. Anyone who disagrees should just "mind their own beeswax" (see previous blog entry).

Fabulous is waiting for you to grab it NOW.


Be Fabulous Now!

Sunday, February 12, 2006

My Hare-Brained Theory

I remember the moment I decided to change my life.

I was taking a sick day from my waitressing job, wrapped up in a quilt on my parents' couch. Two years out of college, I had grown disappointed at my job opportunities and even more bummed about my ability to find interesting work that might lead to a career.

In the mid 1980s, the ABC line-up of soap operas was IT on a STICK. Remember Luke & Laura on "General Hospital?" and the Phoebe Wallingford/Erica Kane wars on "All My Children?" Well, when the rich ranching Buchanan boys rolled into Llanville, Pennsylvania on "One Life to Live," things definitely perked up and got REALLY complicated. Domineering and rich patriarch Asa brought his two handsome sons: Clint & Beau. Woof!

The grande dame of "OLTL" has been -- as long as I can remember -- Victoria Lord, played exquisitely by Erica Slezak (daughter of the famous actor Walter Slezak). Ms. Slezak seems to look younger every frigging year and she has NO apparent evidence of a face lift, which is more than I can say for Barry Manilow and Lynne Cheney. YIKES!

By the time the Buchanans moseyed into town: Viki had been through a lot: molestation as a teenager, a domineering father, four marriages, two rapes, and a split personality (the bad girl part of her is named Niki) and much much more. When Clint Buchanan came to work at her family's newspaper, The Banner, they eventually fell in love and ran the paper together (that was the high speed version of the story).

Anyhoo, as I lay on the couch and watched Viki and Clint running the paper as a team, I noticed Viki was wearing the GREATEST suit. And I realized: I want a job where I wear a suit to work. I don't want to be a waitress for the rest of my life. I want to become a professional...ummm...SOMETHING. And the gravy on the potatoes would be a man like Clint Buchanan who would share my passion for the truth and integrity. Yeah, that's it...THAT's what I want!

And then I came up with my hare-brained theory about why soap operas are important in society: they offer role models for people who may never see any other kind of success in their lives. Quickly, let me clarify a couple of things: first, my parents were fine role models and second, I realize there is a lot NOT to admire on soap operas (see my earlier blog entry about minding your own beeswax, for one example).

But what "OLTL" did for me that day wasopen up my imagination to something I hadn't considered for myself even WITH a college degree: me in a job, wearing a suit, in a marriage with a responsible grown-up (very different than the hopeless alcoholic I was involved with at the time).

And trust me, I've seen enough wasted potential to know that we can use all the inspiration we can get. Each of us knows too many people with talent who chose to hole up in their home, stayed planted in front of the television, or stockpiled booze or prescription drugs to numb their lives even more. On a recent Dr. Phil episode, an entire family described how they were slowly circling the drain as both parents and children sought escape in pornography.

Is life really all that hard?

And wouldn't we be more miserable if we didn't try to squeeze a little juice out of it before we die?

Those of us who are out there trying to DO something should pat ourselves on the back for our efforts. Apparently, it's not as easy as it seems. And grab your inspiration where you can.

Friday, February 10, 2006

Better Than Xanax or Chocolate Covered Cherries

Let's face it, Valentine's Day is RARELY what it's cut out to be. And for some of us, it can be a cold winter night. While TV commercials hawk overpriced diamond necklaces and local drugstores overflow with boxes of chocolate, the reality of the "Big V" is a general lack of imagination and expensive, overbooked restaurants. And worse, this year the best day for sex falls on a week night. Can you say "past my bedtime?"

But there's hope. this year, the Big Red Holiday overlaps with one of the coolest annual events: the Westminster Kennel Club Dog Show. Oh man . . . NEVER has more fun and love been packed into two nights on the USA Network. Big dogs, little dogs, fluffy dogs, and nearly naked dogs. Every breed you could ever dream up will be there. I DARE you -- single or married -- NOT to fall in love with at least one of these tantalizing canine Casanovas. Those lips, those eyes, that FUR! RRRRROOOOWRR!

To prepare yourself for the big event, you can rent the movie "Best in Show" over the weekend. It's a hilarious spoof directed by Christopher Guest (and his usual cast members from "Waiting for Guffman" and "A Mighty Wind"). FUNNY!

Then, grab yourself TWO boxes of bon bons (one for each night), put on your favorite jammies (this is a great excuse to buy those cute pink flannel PJ bottoms covered with red hearts or the blue ones with the puppies on them), and smile, smile, smile.

Don't worry that you don't know anything about dog competitions. The perky voice of the show's long-time host will tell you EVERYTHING you could imagine including "little known facts" about the breeds. Never will you see dogs so focused. The announcers will make you think they LOVE to show off, but the truth is, they're dogs and they like food and their trainers have little pieces of sausage or chicken in their hands. If you've ever seen the deadly stare of a dog near the dinner table, you understand where they get that determination. Dogs are no fools. It's a good thing, too, because the contestants NEED to be distracted by something when the judges examine their teeth and what's under their perfectly poised tails (having your heinie checked out by strangers on national TV has gotta be rough). These dogs are true professionals.

But be prepared to have your heart broken. You can never predict the winner no matter which dog you most admire. I'm still bitter about how the (way over-poofed) Standard Poodle stole, yes STOLE the title from the adorable Cairn Terrier three years ago. But justice returned to the universe the following year when Josh, the enormous black fluffier-than-everyone Newfoundland, savored a well-deserved victory during his gallumphing vicotory lap around the ring (he could have cared less about the trophy).

As awesome as this show is, though, it could use a few "tweaks" that might boost ratings, the most obvious being that the female handlers really need stylists. There's at least ONE woman every year who feels compelled to wear white flats with dark hose and that just looks gross. C'mon ladies, working with dogs does not have to mean "dowdy." Oh My God! I just had a thought. What if we could do a crossover show with next year's "Project Runway" desigers? They're always looking for a tricky challenge. And the potential for matching doggie outfits! Oh my GA-AWD!

But the very BEST part of the dog show is that you don't need a man OR a woman to enjoy it with. You've got a Madison Square Garden FULL of "man's" and "woman"s" best friends to keep you company. And like they say, there's nothing better than a warm dog on a cold February night. Isn't it romantic?

Wednesday, February 08, 2006

Mind Your Own Beeswax

Had a bit of an epiphany recently that has changed my world view. Frankly, I wish someone had told me this sooner -- or that I would have listened better when they did.

I was sitting at a reading by Jessica Weiner of her new book, "Do I Look Fat in This?" and a very brave audience member asked the following:

"I get up every morning and sometimes I hate myself and sometimes I don't. But what I really struggle with is the anxiety I feel when I think people are looking at my big butt or whatever. What should I do?"

And the very wise Ms. Weiner responded:

"Well, I'd like to talk about how you hate yourself sometimes, but here's what I think about other people's judgements and I suggest you use it: My body is none of your business."

A) How many times do I wish I had said that to people who thought I was entitled to their opinion of my appearance?

B) How many times should I have refrained from passing judgement on someone else's?

And most importantly, what bigger ideas in the world were there for me to ponder than A & B?

In the time I have spent either fretting about my weight or fretting about someone else's, I KNOW I could have earned a couple more Master's Degrees or maybe trained for the friggin' Olympics (Winter AND Summer!).

So "mind your own business" has become a bit of a mantra for me lately and it's powerful. Like Bill Clinton said, sometimes you just "don't have a dog in that fight." Was that Clinton? Anyway, sometimes you don't and it's just best to stay out of it. I mean, nobody likes the office "prairie dog" who's always popping up over your cubicle to offer an unwanted opinion. And unless they ask for it, your relatives don't want to hear from you either. It's been a major life lesson for me to learn that the world really does not need my opinion about everything. Go figure.

And something cool happens when you mind your own business -- you stop judging yourself so harshly. I mean, if the ground rules are that everybody minds their own business, you don't have to be self-conscious anymore and you can relax. Judgement becomes THEIR problem. THEY'RE the ones who are out of line. THEY are behaving badly and you have nothing to be embarassed about. Your ownership of yourself rests completely in your hands. Damn! That Jessica is on to something.

Here's a blog entry from Jessica during her book tour with a little more of her thinking.
This is my suggestion for a comeback line if you find someone telling you about your body - applying a label to you (whether thin, fat, ugly, pretty) if you do not wish to engage you can simply say "My body is none of your business". Of course with a comeback line like that you have to believe it is true and say it with conviction - but it really does sum it up - doesn't it. It really isn't any of our business to comment on race, sexuality, or appearance. The first two we are more aware of in this world (and def. should be!) but the latter is a hard one. Everyone thinks they can comment on another person's body. Perhaps because we see our bodies as fair game in the media, on reality tv shows, and in advertising. Perhaps because our families have commented on them ad nauseum and we don't have any good boundaries around us. But they are our bodies. And you must treat them with respect and demand that others do the same. We will never be able to control what others think, feel, or say about us. But we can control how we use our voice in those uncomfortable situations.

"My body is none of your business."

Enough said!

Tuesday, February 07, 2006

Safe Harbor

"The greatest thing
You'll ever learn
Is just to love
And be loved
In return."
Nature Boy by Eden Ahbez

Dr. Phil calls it your "soft place to fall." Home. Family. A relationship. The place in your life that is the emotional equivalent of a thick down comforter. No sharp edges. No sharp tongues. No judgement. Just love. Acceptance. Peace. And maybe hope.

It's so easy to turn up your cynical dial when this kind of conversation starts. More than once, I have rolled my eyes when I have heard Nature Boy performed at a jazz club. I mean, come on..."the greatest thing you'll ever learn?" Not Einstein's Theory of Relativity? Not Quantum Physics? Not a Mozart Concerto? Not an Emily Dickinson poem?

That's in my head. But my heart needs something else.

Growing up feels like a long walk through the desert, dodging prickly bushes that threaten to deflate your ego and puncture your spirit: harsh critics, nasty peers, jealous strangers. Frankly, I'm amazed that any of us make it out alive. We're not supposed to complain, right? I mean, we had a warm bed, a roof over our heads, food in our stomachs. What in the world do we have to complain about? Huh? What?

So...we spend the rest of our lives with our wounds, healing some, accepting others, and ignoring the ones too painful to consider. Launching ourselves onto the waters, we try our best to steer a sensible course. Lao Tzu says the best way to live is by letting the waves take you and to avoid forcing your way to either shore. But we usually ignore Lao Tzu and spend years grappling with a combination of our goals, fate, dreams, and ego.

If we're lucky -- or if we are wise -- we reach safe harbor. Where there are no more eggshells to walk on, land mines to avoid, emotional booby traps to dodge. Just a comfy spot where you don't have to wait for the other shoe to drop. It's OK to be. Just be. Ridin' the waves with Lao Tzu.

But even in safe harbor comes a little pain -- yearning for that idyllic childhood that you missed but you're not supposed to complain about. It's easier to see what might have been when you're in paradise. And so you try your best to accept it all and eventually stop mourning and revel in all that was (and is) good.

And that's what the Nature Boy meant. And he's right. It is the greatest thing. Ever.

Monday, February 06, 2006

Freedom From Fear

"The feelings we refuse to feel rule our lives."
-- Rhonda Britten
"When we run from our feelings, they follow us. Everywhere."
-- Martha Beck in O magazine
"A great deal of talent is lost in this world for want of a little courage."
-- a quote I saved in my wallet from an old copy of Glamour magazine
The other day a friend said he was glad to see my blog back after a month's vacation. I was flattered until he added, "I hope you put a little meat back into it."


When last we saw my blog, I was becoming, quite frankly, a blog whore. After enjoying some HUGE spikes in readership around the time of Hurricane Katrina, I started checking the number of blog hits several times a day. When things slowed down, I posted a Maureen Dowd column -- she has a HUGE readership. In the end, my blog stopped being about my perceptions as I posted more and more NYT columnists. Lest you think I was a total slut, let me remind you that I NEVER posted Thomas Friedman! I do have SOME standards.

But here's the deal. The new year brought a new focus. We kicked it off with wishes for the best of luck for everyone we know. We ate pork, black-eyed peas, collard greens, almond cake, drank champagne. EVERY possible good luck consumable I could think of. Our friends received "blessings bracelets" and as the fireworks exploded on the Space Needle, we kissed 2005 GOODBYE and GOOD RIDDANCE and high hopes for 2006.

So far, the new focus is bringing good things. My beloved has enough work to keep him out of trouble (not out of the bars, just out of trouble) for a few months and my therapy seems to be finally kicking in. I'd still like to know where the hell this extra 60 pounds came from, but that's for another blog entry (and maybe another year).

The point is, I'm trying to focus my time and energy on making this the best year EVER and the blog is gonna have to work WITH the process, not IN ADDITION to it, regardless of the hits I get. Nobody needs me to remind them one more time that the Bushies are corrupt evil faschists. I'm going to do my bit for the 2006 and 2008 elections, but in the meantime, I gotta get my own house in order.

So for now, I'm writing about stuff that may seem meatless to some, but nourishes me. No more fear about whether anyone's going to read my blog or think it's stupid.

And speaking of fear, (you can tell by this smooth segue-way that I used to work in radio, can't you?) I have become convinced that the most dangerous force holding us back -- even worse than the Bushies -- is fear.
  • Fear of what people think about us keeps us from speaking out.
  • Fear of what people might say about us keeps us from doing what's right.
  • Fear of change depletes us.
  • Fear of scarcity keeps us from being generous and tolerant.
  • Fear of losing our house or job keeps us from asking for justice.
No matter how scary the terrorists might be, we can't be brave until we are ready to fight for own lives. Martha Beck wrote an amazing article about how we let fear shrinkwrap our worlds in this month's O magazine. It starts with this line:

"Becky's life was shrinking like a cheap blouse
in an overheated dryer."

Come on. An opening sentence like that deserves a read!

Something else to check out: The Best Year of Your Life website

Sunday, February 05, 2006

A Few Precious Words From Harper Lee

She never gives interviews, even with her recent portrayal in the film, "Capote." But the New York Times caught up with reclusive Alabaman Harper Lee. She's a hoot! I'd like to meet her 94-year-old sister who's still practicing law!

Thursday, February 02, 2006

No Wonder We're Messed Up!

The cover of this month's Family Circle magazine perfectly captures why women verge on insanity when it comes to food and body issues.

The largest headline says WALK IT OFF: NEW WAYS TO LOSE WEIGHT FAST perched just above an unbelievably delicious-looking chocolate cake that fills most of the cover. The icing is in such clear focus, you can almost dip a finger in for a lick. YUM! A smaller headline says something like THE MOST DELICIOUS CHOCOLATE CAKE YOU'VE EVER TASTED.


Here's what goes through a woman's mind when she sees a cover like that. No doubt staring at it while waiting in the grocery line, she becomes mezmerized by the chocolate cake, but also predictably sucked in by the promise of fast weight loss. She is convinced that any other woman who looks at that cover has more control over her desires and feels nothing while looking at the cake. No...those other women don't care a whit about desserts. They are checking out the weight loss/walking article instead. They have discipline. They have no trouble being thin. They are better than her. She feels weak, ashamed, and hungrier than ever. That cake...she can hear Homer Simpson moaning in her head: AUGHHHHAUGGGGHAUGGGGGHHHHHHHH!

That's a complex mini-drama playing itself out in just a few minutes in the grocery line. And it is CRAZY MAKING!

In a PBS Frontline entitled "Diet Wars," one doctor declared amazement that anyone in this country (where eating is ALWAYS socially acceptable and life gets more and more sedentary) can EVER maintain a healthy weight. And this was a show without the plethora of food commercials that inhabit the average television show. Has anyone else noticed this phenomenon? About 6 years ago, I videotaped a bunch of children's commercials on Saturday morning to examine gender roles portrayed in kids' advertising. Lots of great comparisons between Hot Wheels and Barbie, toy dogs and light-up weapons. Just one year later however, the same effort was almost impossible. There WERE no toy ads. Commercials had become a repetetive blur of sugary juices, candy, and fast food. Eventually, I figured, our kids wouldn't have any gender traits at all. They'd all just turn into big puffed-up blobs that look alike, sitting and eating, sitting and eating.

So, if I were a subscriber to Family Circle, here's what I would do. I would sink my teeth into some of that cake. And then I'd probably go out for a walk. God knows I'd need the air to clear my head.