Tuesday, December 3, 2013

Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Dorcas The Explorer

As a writer, I have sinned. This is my confession.

I am working on a deadline and for the past forty-eight hours I have been consumed with something other than writing. Lord, I have met my Waterloo, and Ancestry.com be its name. I'm uncertain how I was led astray. I just know that once I was sucked into the black hole of nothing-else-will-get-done-ness that is Ancestry.com, I was held there by a powerful force field and unable to return to my Work-In-Progress. This was way worse than my Daily Mail addiction. Personal hygiene was ignored. I didn't leave the house. No meals were prepared. At one point my husband came into my office and asked if he needed to get a second job to support my Ancestry.com habit. Yes, it was getting ugly, and yet, I was not deterred.

My father died when I was 24. I don't know much about his family, and now, unfortunately, there really is no one around to ask. (Let this be a lesson to you. Ask!) I do have a hand-written family tree that his older brother prepared in 1990s. Armed with that information, some of which was unclear and incomplete, on a crumpled sheet of paper, I logged onto Ancestry.com and entered a whole new world.

That's where I met Dorcas. She is my great-great-great-great-great grandmother. In the summer of 1761, her parents bought passage for themselves and their four children on the good ship "Hopewell." They ventured into the unknown from Londonderry, Ireland to Halifax, Nova Scotia. (It should be noted here that I don't like driving from Santa Clarita to Santa Monica without my GPS – I can't imagine the bravery of this little family.)

Dorcas was four years old at the time. She was the only one of her siblings to survive the transatlantic crossing.

She and her parents settled in Glenholme, Nova Scotia. It's a mark on the map so small that it isn't there any more, and so remote that Google maps doesn't provide any street views of the area. In my mind's eye it's cold, isolated, rugged and breathtakingly beautiful. It was there in Glenholme that Dorcas grew up, fell in love and married the son of a local farmer. A tall drink of water, I'm guessing, by the name of Alexander Vance.

And the rest, so they say, is my history.

I'm back to the grindstone today. I know that's what Dorcas would've wanted it that way. Becoming an author isn't easy. I feel like I'm sailing in uncharted waters every day. But now that I know that I've got a bit of Dorcas the Explorer in my blood, I will persevere. I will survive. And I won't be afraid.

Thursday, September 26, 2013

The Worst Writer Of All Time

There's been a lot of talk about reviews in my writing group recently. As an aspiring author, my focus is usually on finishing the damn project that I'm working on. The idea that someone might hate all over what I have toiled for weeks, month and years to create hasn't even crossed my mind.

Until now.

Now that I have submitted my first manuscript to my first agency, I'm starting to think about what other people might think about what I write.

I am a great reader, but I have never been a great writer. I am a good writer, but a convoluted storyteller and I often have to unwind the story that's in my head before I can find the beginning and start to tell it.

I am surprised by how easily people criticize the works of others. This week it was Stephen King who earned my ire. When I was in middle school, his books were considered pop fiction and had the same reputation as junk food. When did he become the 21st century's answer to William Shakespeare? Everyone is a critic. How soon we forget…

I read constantly and I seldom say "I hated that book." I don't always finish books. I skim some books. I know which genre of books I've tried before and failed to enjoy. I have my guilty pleasures that I return to over and over. And I do enjoy some books more than others, but that can depend on my mood, the weather, the news I just watched on the television –that's why there are so many different kinds of book genres.

What do you do when you get a bad review? I hope that I take the same approach as this restaurant owner who not only acknowledged a bad review, but he used it as an advertisement to entice more customers. Bravo!

Everyone who a computer and access to the internet has become a professional critic. You might as well keep your sense of humor about what others think about you and move on with your life. Life's too short and filled with too many obstacles. I want to die laughing.

Sunday, September 15, 2013

The Fashion In Me

I am no fashionista. I really like fashion. I'm intrigued by clothes and style. I watch "Project Runway" like it is appointment television, but I don't have a personal style and I don't know how to dress myself to look good. I don't like to shop. I don't like to try  things on in a fitting room. Puh-leze! I can point out someone who knows how to dress with their own personal style and wear clothes that suit their body type. I'm pretty sure that makes my lack of style more even frustrating.

I have been a slave to fashion over my lifetime. I've worn painful shoes and clothes that weren't comfortable just to look like I knew what was in vogue at the time. I once wore a logo tee on a first date. I wore a tea length prom dress to a dance that has since only been worn for a Halloween costume. I frequently wear long sleeves on hot days just to cover up my arms.

I can't say that I'm always drawn to styles that suit me. I love Audrey Hepburn's style. I was a huge fan of Princess Diana and Princess Kate. I should be drawn to the style of Sofia Vergara (who's too bombshell for me) and Christina Hendricks (who often looks too dowdy) but I'm not. I wish I was.

Now and then, I've found some clothes that really work for me. They are wardrobe changers. Sometimes they are shoes (mostly boots), and sometimes they are a sweater or jacket that makes me feel like I've gotten close to pulling my look together. I have an entire drawer full of scarves that I've been using for this purpose, but I've grown to realize that scarves don't look good on women with full figures.

Earlier this year, I decided to cut my hair into a shoulder length bob. I had to beg my hair stylist – but I really thought it was time. She did a beautiful job. I think it is adorable and age appropriate. I have a photo of me with longer hair on my desk and I often pine for my longer locks, but I know I did the right thing.

It wasn't until NYFW (Fashion Week) started this week and I saw photos of Anna Wintour flitting from fashion show to fashion show that I realized that I may finally be on trend. Anna and I have the same hair-do. Now if I can only do something about my style (or lack there of) below the neck.

Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Her Partner In Crime

Helene Hanff is one of my three favorite authors. Jane Austen, Agatha Christie and Helene Hanff are all on my short list. Other authors float on and off my top list now and again, but these three remain at the top of the pile.

I love Jane's wit. I love Agatha's cunning and as for Helene, I love her style. And her joie de vivre. She loved her life. Even when she was being challenged while trying to crash Broadway during the 1930s and 1940s. In the 1950s she started working as a reader for a movie studio in New York City. One  weekend, they gave her the epic JRR Tolkein three-book series to read in 48 hours. She charged them extra for cruelty. It's no wonder that the movies weren't brought to the screen until recently. The movie studio probably kept pulling out her coverage and saying -- I don't think so.

Her best friend and partner in crime in crashing the theatre was an actress named Maxine Stuart. Maxine had all kinds of unorthodox acting and beauty methods. She used to practice her speech by screaming in her parent's bathroom. And she baked her hair in the over. She matched Helene's character step by delicate step.They went to opening night of hit Broadway shows using the "Just Go" method. Everyone should try that method at least once.

Maxine died recently. Her death marks the end of an era. A wonderful era. You should read all about it in "Underfoot in Show Business." I promise, you'll thank me later.

Tuesday, June 4, 2013

This One's For You

I'm feeling a bit more stressed out than usual this week. I lost my watch. And then I found it. I went for a walk and was back at the starting line before I even knew I had left. And then this morning, I got in my car to walk to work and I got rocked by Peggy Lee doing this little number. Some people rock out to Rush. Some people like to giddy up to the boot scootin' boogie. I like a classic. 

Thursday, May 9, 2013

Sweet Georgie Brown

As if you needed another reason to love and adore Mel Brooks. In this interview, he reveals his love and adoration for his wife. He says he "liked her so much, I couldn't get enough of her." And there's a little bit of Judd Apatow. It's all good.

Monday, April 29, 2013

I Am Man Repellant

 UPDATE: Turns out Mitt Romney disagrees with me. I guess I shouldn't be surprised.

I am writing in response to the lovely lady graduate of Princeton who recently admonished young women who were attending that prestigious university to find and marry a man as soon as possible. If they don't they will regret it for the rest of their lives. She did it twice. Once she wrote about it, and then she went and visited the campus and repeated herself in person.

 I disagree strongly. I didn't get married until I was 48 -- almost 49. 

I am man repellant.

I am a woman who lived through my twenties and thirties mostly as a single woman. I had a few relationships here and there. None of them were too important. A couple of trysts I treated as more important than they were, and a couple of affairs I probably should've paid more attention to, but I didn't. 

The truth is that if I had married anyone that I met when I was in college, I would've regretted it for the rest of my life. I wasn't ready to be loved or give love in a way that makes a long term relationship successful. My dad always said that I was a late bloomer. It always got under my skin when he said it, but now that I'm older I'm able to admit that he was right. I am a really late bloomer. 

Sometimes I wish that I had gotten involved with someone enough to have children when I was in my late thirties or early forties, but I know that I wouldn't still be with that person. Or if I was, it would only be for the children. And I don't think that's a good lesson for children. I think you should teach children about happiness by letting them see how you find yours. I think that's one of the most important lessons that you can teach children. 

But what do I know? I'm not a mom. I am not a teacher. I am, however, someone who struggled to find their own path for many years. And sometimes I was lonely. I could choose to regret all those years out in the woods while I was trying to find my own way. But I wasn't completely lost. That's not what it looked like to me. Just as I am now, I was a vibrant and active member of society. I was caring and giving. I learned. I worked. I played. I loved. I lost. I won. I lived. I think it would be a poor decision to regret any of it. 

I'm not saying that I'm a better person because I waited until I was 48 until I got married. I'm just saying that I'm a better me because I waited. I waited for me to be grown up and ready for love and, most importantly, for the right man to stumble into my life. 

And that's when every woman should get married -- exactly at that very nebulous time in her life. When she's ready and she's found the one. And until then, she shouldn't ever feel like she's man repellant. And shame on anyone who calls her that behind her back. For that is what's truly repellant.

Thursday, April 25, 2013

Just Plain Silly

A cat in a shark costume on a  Roomba chasing a duckling. What more do you want?

Friday, March 29, 2013

I Think She's Hanff-ish

And I mean that as a compliment. When I saw the woman that Amy Poehler was a sit-com writer, I was thrilled. That's what I wanted to be when I grew up -- I just missed by a little. And by that I mean a mile or two. Irma acts how I've always thought that my hero, Helene Hanff would act like -- if I had ever met her. Helene is my favorite writer ever. And I think Irma sounds like what I imagined Helene would sound like. She even looks like her. And afte watching this interview, she's my hero as well. And did I mention I love Amy Poehler? She rocks. Go sister!

Wednesday, March 27, 2013

The Age Of Diana

This is a photo of Lisa Vanderpump at her wedding in 1982. She's one of the Real Housewives Of Beverly Hills. Or so I am told. I can't bring myself to watch those kind of reality shows. I have real problems in my real life that I'm dealing with -- I don't want to watch scripted problems be over-dramatized in someone's (well-compensated) fake life. 

I am fascinated with weddings. I love looking at photos of weddings. I love seeing all of the small tidbits that each bride picked out to wear and to decorate their wedding venue. I've never seen one that wasn't beautiful. And you have to admit, this photo is gorgeous. The horses. The guy in tails and top hat. It's all so very elegant and delicious. It's just exactly how I remember Princess Diana's wedding. When Diana was planning her wedding, she went over the top. And then all of the rest of us did too. We fell in love with the puff-shouldered dress. Even those of us who looked like linebackers in puff shoulder dresses wore them for special moments because we wanted to feel like a princess. 

And so I am grateful for several things. First, that I didn't get married in 1982 because I wouldn't have been very selective about the man I married when I was so young. And second, because I would've married in a dress that would've been a (much) cheaper model of the one shown above because I would've wanted to look like Diana on my wedding day. I'm glad I didn't marry until after Kate planned her wedding to William. Kate is a commoner who understands refined understatement. It probably doesn't hurt that her family got rich being party planners either. So when she planned her wedding, she decorated Westminster Abbey with trees and walked down the aisle in a simple lace dress. She saved me from being a puffy sleeved disaster.

Saturday, January 19, 2013

Winter Is Over

It's been really cold in southern California. And by really cold, we mean that we've had to wear coats over our sweaters. Cold is weather in the 30s here. It's not cold enough or likely to snow. And we won't ever be able to match the negative numbers that cities like Minneapolis and Fargo wake up to every morning for month after month. But the one thing we can do is complain about the cold snap just as loudly as they would in the northern climes.

How cold was it in LA? I refused to have dinner on the patio at our favorite restaurant one night. Sure, the heaters there made it feel just was warm as a summer's night, but since I came to the restaurant wrapped up in my winter coat, I wasn't about to eat dinner or sip red wine outside. I wore my Uggs to work several days in a row. And I used the cold and dark night for an excuse not to exercise several nights in a row.

Unfortunately, winter is now over in SoCal. The days are getting longer. It's light out almost until 5pm now -- which gives me plenty of time to exercise outside. And it's going up to 80 today. So I can walk in the sunshine and enjoy the roses that are about to bloom. I also no longer have an excuse to sip red wine and will need to get back on my diet in order to lose weight now that sweater season is officially over.

It was fun while it lasted. 

Sunday, January 6, 2013

Starting Here, Starting Now

So here we are starting another year...and since this year ends with a three, I know that I'm going to be having an "Oh" birthday in October.

Oh no!

At the start of each year, I've always tried to set some goals for myself. Last year they were all about my writing. I wanted to finish a novel and start something new and go to the writer's conferences and pitch my book. I did all that and yet when I look back on last year I think that it was all about different things. Starting a new job, traveling for work, getting married...none of those activities had anything to do with being a professional writer.

And so as we start another year, I wonder if I should set goals in other parts of my life in order to make certain that I will work on my writing this year. I've always wanted to be a writer, and yet it's the one part of my life, the one part of my daydreams that I pay the least attention to. 

So I've been having a hard time trying to decide what to do and what kind of goals to set. And while I've been standing here unable to make a decision, an entire week has gone by. I've got to get a list. I've got to set some goals. But in the time I take to do that, I could be writing...


This could take a while.

Thursday, January 3, 2013

Acts Of Kindness Harder Than You Think

I was horrified when I heard about the shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Connecticut. The first thoughts that flashed through my mind after I heard the news were for the parents. The moms who had probably already purchased and wrapped presents "from Santa" and had them hidden in closets throughout their home for children who would not be there on Christmas morning. I can't imagine their sorrow.

The tragedy hit close to home because my husband grew up in Newtown, CT. I had heard him talk about Newtown. It was idyllic. He had recently visited his childhood home. He showed me photos. His precious memories of Newtown are different from how most of us will remember it now.

I was disgusted every time I heard a newscaster talk about the "26 people murdered" in Newtown. Tell the truth, I thought. They were all babies. Even the teachers who protected those little souls were mostly in their twenties -- their heartbroken parents also in mourning for them. 

I felt so hopeless and outraged that such an act could happen -- and so helpless. So I took on the challenge to commit 26 acts of kindness in honor of those precious angels who lost their lives. I'm sorry to say that as of now I'm only up to fourteen. Turns out I'm not very kind. Or this being kind thing is a lot harder than it looks. I'd also like to add in my defense that I'm not prepared to be kind. I don't carry cash with me, and I don't often go to Starbuck's where I could purchase a cup of coffee for the person behind me in line. 

I have bought meals for the local food pantry. I've given change to a lady at the hair salon who didn't have enough to pay her bill. I've bought a bale of hay for the local animal shelter and contributed money for homeless pets. I've also given money to the homeless man outside of Vons and a kid selling candy in front of the mall. Still, it doesn't all add up to 26 acts of kindness.

I will not be deterred. I guess it's going to take me a little more time. I thought I could complete all 26 acts by the end of the holidays. But I'm going to need until the end of January. I want to honor each and every one of those angels. It is the very least I can do. Until then, can I buy you a cup of coffee?