Saturday, December 31, 2011

Things to Do in 2012

...Or Not.

After extended deliberation, I have compiled my annual list of actions to make the upcoming year extra-awesome.

Note: Over the years, I've found it helpful not to include overreaching items such as "Be a nice person" and "Live within budget." No one tells you this, but these kinds of vague, pie-in-the-sky goals are basically impossible to achieve.

(I can tell you from personal experience that it's a real buzzkill to wake up on January 3rd only to realize you've already blown items 1-14 on your yearly to-do list. Let's just say some lessons were learned.)

Anyway, I'm happy to share my 2012 list with you, and feel free to peel a few items off for yourself!

Here goes:

In 2012, I will:

...bring back the phrase "in full effect." For example, when dinner is ready, I will say something like, "The tuna noodle casserole is in full effect."

...perform a set of lunges thrice a day - at 9:00, noon, and 4:00 - no matter where I am.

...use the word "thrice," like, all the time.

...perform some kind of community service. And, by the way, just because it's court-ordered doesn't mean I'm not feelin' it. my best when either of my children says, "Guess what?" not to respond with "Chicken butt!"

...get that thing with the stuff looked at.

...knock off the flute jazz.

There you have it, folks - wish me luck!

In the meantime, I wish each and every one of YOU a happy, healthy and prosperous new year.

And, as always,
thank you for stopping by here week after week - that truly means the world to me.


Friday, December 23, 2011

Lefler Holidaytastic Reloaded

Because the Jingle Never Dies

In the spirit of keeping the blogosphere green, I am recycling a disturbing holiday video post from last year.

And also, after watching Morticia do spin control after it went viral at her middle school (long story), I couldn't resist giving it another whirl this season. Heh.

And so, with this sketchy offering, I wish each and every one of you a plush, sequin-covered, unicorn-fresh holiday of your choosing!

If you can't see ye olde video, please click here.

Thursday, December 15, 2011

Opening Doors

I spent some time a few weeks ago in the Portland International Airport - or PDX, as we world-savvy travelers refer to it. (Okay, I admit it. I just learned that abbreviation.)

Through a series of miscalculations (mostly having to do with the fact that I live in Los Angeles and am used to allowing an extra hour or two for traffic snarls), I ended up at the airport three and a half hours before my flight home was due to depart.

Oh, great, I thought as I staggered out of the security line and found a bench where I could put my shoes back on, slip my belt back through the loops on my jeans and cram my laptop back into its slot in my briefcase. Now I get to spend the afternoon in a molded plastic chair, listening to some self-important businessman bark into his cell phone while the person on the other side of me coughs on my shoulder.

Boy, was I wrong.

Ten minutes later, I was settled into a window-side table in the pleasantly cavernous main lobby of the terminal, sipping a steaming Starbucks triple latte as my laptop gorged on free WiFi. Nearby, a lithe young woman tinkled away on a grand piano, accompanying herself as she sang in what turned out to be a lovely voice. (She was overly partial to those soul-crushing Adele songs, but still – the girl could sing.)

As I sat back under my indoor cafe umbrella and watched the late afternoon sky outside begin to color, it occurred to me that I’d been on vacations that were less relaxing than my current circumstances.

I began to unclench, to catch my breath, to reflect.

That morning, I had done my first television talk show appearance to promote my book – on the local morning program “AM Northwest.” I had flown up the night before in order to be at the studio at 8:30 am (another appointment for which I was ridiculously early thanks to my LA conditioning).

Overall, it had been a lovely experience and well worth the trip. The folks at the station were warm and gracious, as were the show’s hosts. In the green room, I made friends with other guests: a woman who specializes in taking photographs of pets, a local dentist, and a journalist/author who just released a book on the infamous D.B. Cooper. We shared coffee in paper cups and conversation in varying degrees of nervousness.

Before airtime, the producer walked me through the studio to the set, showing me where I would sit and explaining how it would all work. A few minutes before my segment, one of the assistants instructed me to run the mic cord up under my sweater so she could clip it on the neckline.

Before I knew it, my portion of the show was over and I found myself back in the green room. There on the monitor was my new friend the pet photographer, sitting in the chair I’d just vacated and critiquing someone’s photo of an oddly washed-out Labrador. (Turns out you should never use your flash when taking pet shots. Who knew?)

The day’s TV experience – my first – was over. I had managed to talk with logical progression, to make the people in the booth laugh (the hosts are pretty much required to laugh, but the people in the booth – that’s authentic), to get my message points about my book across and – most importantly – not to throw up on myself on live television.

Mission accomplished.

The CHICKtionary is my first published book and so this is my first marketing push for my own work. In my previous life, I worked in public relations and marketing, but when the product is yourself, it’s a whole different experience.

For most of this year, I have been cloistered in my office at home, writing. Writing writing writing. And editing. And more editing. (You’ll notice that the word “housekeeping” is conspicuously absent from this paragraph. The less said about that the better.)

The transition from the solitude of the creative process to the “Hey, look at me!” blare of the promotions process has been an interesting one so far. I find that, although I consider myself an extrovert, I can only be all the way out of my shell for short bursts of time before I need to retract and recharge for the next round. I first became aware of this when I was doing standup comedy, but I didn’t realize it would be the case for less-extreme types of exposure as well.

From the creation of this book through its current launch, this has been a year of unintentional learning about myself – a process which I expect to continue. I never thought of myself as a person who would be spending time in a green room or smiling into the dark, round eye of a television camera. It’s rare for me to travel without my family, but in the last two weeks, I've made solo trips to Northern California, Phoenix and New York City - and I've got another one this weekend to Indianapolis (see below). I find myself handing postcards about my book to people I barely know, like salesclerks and cab drivers.

None of these things “feel” like me, yet here I am.

And there I was in the Portland airport, watching the sun sink over the Alaska Airlines plane I would soon board for the trip home, thinking about the many doors I had passed through – and would be passing through in the coming weeks – all of which were opened by those months spent alone in my office…writing, writing, writing.

The Bob & Tom Show

I'm very excited to announce that on Monday, December 19 I will be live in studio in Indianapolis with Bob & Tom on their nationally syndicated radio show which runs 6am - 10am EST. (Here's how to find your local station.)

It's going to be fun and funny and wicked cool and I'm already freaking out about what to wear. (Yes, I know it's radio, but you can hear plaid.)

I hope you can tune in!

Sunday, December 11, 2011

I Love the Smell of Frankenword in the Morning


I love Frankenwords – new words that are created by mashing together parts of existing ones. I love it even more when I am present at the birth of one of these little monsters, such as this one:

Shoebris, noun (shoe + hubris) - Extreme pride in one’s ability to repair shoes.

Here’s how it happened:

Recently, I bought two pairs of boots, both of which were so slick on the bottoms that they were like wearing stiletto buttered banana p

“You’re going to need non-skid soles,” the salesman said as I bear-hugged the full-length mirror, feet churning for traction on the marble floor. He recommended a shoe repair store in Beverly Hills, just a few blocks away.

The air in the store had the tang of shoe polish
mixed with the yeasty scent of leather. Behind the wooden counter were rows of shoes with tags tucked into them. I was fascinated by the variety of footwear on display – the formal, the utilitarian, the hammered, the flamboyant, the sexually ambiguous.

As I scanned the rows, a startlingly petite elderly woman appeared behind the counter. She wore an outfit that appeared to be made entirely of lightweight black sweaters, including the slacks. Her wispy, silver/blonde hair was held in a small clip.

She did not smile.

“Good morning,” she said.

“Hi.” I began to pull the first pair of boots from their box. “I just bought these and –”

“You will need the rubber.”

“I’m sorry?” I said, looking up from the boot.

“For not slipping.” She reached below the count
er and pulled out a thin piece of textured rubber, slapping it on the wood like a butcher discarding inferior bologna.

“Yes,” I said, staring at the flap and trying to place
her accent. It was vaguely Eastern European, but as my knowledge of that part of the world is based entirely on spy movies, I categorized it as “James Bondian.”

She watched me pull the other pair of boots fro
m their box. Without breaking eye contact, her hand whipped out of sight and – slap! – another piece of rubber landed on the counter, this one a perfect match for the camel color of the boot’s sole.

“This will do, yes?” She cocked her eyebrow, daring me to reject the flap.

“Um, sure.” Didn’t she ever blink? I began tucking the
boots back into the layers of tissue as she observed me, her eyeballs no doubt parching with the passing seconds.

She reached for a pad of thick yellow tickets and a ballpoint pen. “Name?”

“Anna…” I began.

“Phone number?”

I gave her the number. “Don’t you want my last name
?” I wasn’t signing over the deed to my vacation home in Gstaad, but they hadn’t exactly been giving those boots away, either.

She looked up from the pad. She said nothing, but seemed to be considering my question. Finally, she replied. “I will take first letter of last name.”

After writing an elaborate L on the ticket, she placed the pen on the counter. The she folded her hands across the ticket and studied my face without speaking.

What was this? Was there some element of the transaction I had overlooked? I ran through the process in my mind again to be sure, but it seemed p
retty straightforward to me: retail tradition dictated she needed to give me that yellow ticket and then I needed to leave.

She cocked her head five degrees to the left, eyes narrowing. “You are living in Beverly Hills?” She hit the first syllable hard. BEVerlyhills.

“No, um, I live in Santa Monica.”

“Pffft.” She looked away, then back again. “Wher
e you take shoes in Santa Monica?” She said the town’s name with the same inflection that often accompanied the word “gonorrhea.”

“Ah, you know, I don’t remember. I guess I don’t have a regular place.”

She named several shoe repair stores, none of which were familiar to me. At which point I realized that I was being interviewed. Intervie
wed as a potential boot-leaver. And I don’t know what this says about me, but I very much wanted the job.

“I have a confession to make,” I said with an ingratiating laugh that came out like bronchitis. “I probably don’t give my shoes the attention they

Tell me something I don’t know, her expressio
n telegraphed. She took a deep breath and straightened her shoulders. “You must understand that Excelsior is the best at repairing shoes.” She paused, then seemed to remember something. “And by best I do not mean BEVerlyhills. I mean WHOLEcountry.”

“Of course!” I said. “That is what the shoe salesman said, too.” I eyed the ticket under her fingers. Had I passed the oral test?

“You tell this Santa Monica person the name Exc
elsior, he will know my store.”

“Oh, don’t worry, I’m never going back there again!” I considered spitting on the floor for emphasis.

She tore the ticket from the stiff little pad. “Anna L.,” sh
e said and held it out to me. “It was pleasure meeting you.” I took it and smiled. “You will be exceptionally pleased with the work,” she said and folded her hands on the counter once more. “No doubt.”

“None at all!” I said and tucked the ticket out of sight in my inside purse pocket. “Thank you very much!” I waved goodbye and within seconds was b
ack on the Beverly Hills sidewalk, an odd sense of triumph bubbling in my chest.

I was in, I thought. In at Excelsior!

[Note: the name of the store has been changed to protect myself...and my boots, which won’t be ready until Saturday.]

Just a Reminder...

I'll be signing (and reading from) The CHICKtionary this Monday, December 12 at 7:00 pm at the Barnes & Noble on the Upper West Side in Manhattan. (I'll be the one who's bloated from all those honey roasted nuts on the plane.)


I'll also be on Jane Pratt's Jane Radio on Sirius on Monday at Noon (EST). The show is run several times during the week, so there are multiple opportunities to catch it!

Thursday, December 8, 2011

NYC Book Signing 12/12 - Now With Mannix!

Who Knew?

It's always a thrill to discover that someone likes your work
, and it's doubly so when that person is endowed with the sheen of TV celebrity.

So you can imagine how thrilled I was to learn that Mannix is a diehard CHICKtionary enthusiast!

Oh, you don't believe me? Well, then, allow me to direct you to the irrefutable photographic evidence below:

Mannix reaches for The CHICKtionary with a knowing look.

Mannix battles his way to the bookstore men's room
with his copy of
The CHICKtionary tucked safely
into the pocket of his shiny rayon slacks.

And there you have it.

So let's hope (fingers crossed!) that the Man(nix) himself will make an appearance at the upcoming NYC signing at Barnes & Noble on December 12th at 7:00 pm!

Then again, maybe it's better if he doesn't show, because that way we can skip the whole paparazzi crush and there will be plenty of seats available for YOU!

Which Barnes & Noble, you ask? Why, it's the luxurious, holiday-scented and fully modern building located at 82nd and Broadway!

Oh, I can't wait to see you guys there - and thanks in advance for coming out!

In the meantime, here's a little something I've been obsessed with for days now. Feel free to sing along...and see you Monday night!

Monday, December 5, 2011

In Defense of Immaturity

Or: I Know You Are, But What Am I?

I’ve never been a fan of numbers. Don’t get me wrong – I love math and always have. No, it’s the practice of attaching a number to everything that makes me squirm. And, beyond that, giving those numbers significance, as if they have irrevocable power over us.

I say fight the power! They’re just numbers, after all. And, in my opinion, this goes double for the number most likely to mash you under its quantitative thumb: your age.

What is this voodoo that the digits do, anyway? It seems that as you approach the end of your twenties, each age is laden with some kind of meaning, especially the ones that end in zero and five. And, I think for most people, that meaning is negative.

I remember years ago when one of my girlfriends mentioned that she had started wearing a heart monitor to the gym. “Why, is something wrong?” I asked, startled. “No,” she replied and looked at me as though I were being dense. “But now that we’re in our thirties, we can’t be too careful.”

I could have pinched her head off, I was so disgusted. What kind of attitude was this? And what accessory would she be sporting the next time we met for coffee – a walker? I was 32 at the time, and I remember thinking, I don’t know which thirties you’re in, but they’re sure not the thirties that I’m in!

Looking back now from my perch in my mid-forties, her comment seems even more ridiculous. More than a decade later, it would never occur to me to strap on a heart monitor for a routine workout, any more than I would consider asking someone to drive me to the store to do my weekly marketing. The more I think about it, my approach to life, health and, well, pretty much everything hasn’t changed much in the last 25 years.

Why? Because I’m totally immature.

Now, before you tsk-tsk, let me say that I pay the bills on time, floss every morning and night and keep my children’s vaccinations strictly up to date. I’m not irresponsible, I’m immature. There’s a diff.

Wondering if you’re immature, too? Ask yourself these questions: In the last six months, have you quoted a line from “Wayne’s World” to the grocery store cashier? When you stop at a red light, do you see other drivers looking around, trying to locate the source of the thumping bass? Have you ever taught the other moms at the PTA meeting how to make that armpit-fart sound?

If you answered yes to any of the above, then congratulations! You, too, are in complete denial about your biological age. And, while I’m not typically a fan of denial, this particular type is, as Martha Stewart would say, “a good thing.” After all, what’s the alternative - embracing some kind of personality or outlook shift that is “supposed to” accompany your age? (There’s that pesky number again, bossing everyone around.)

No, I’m not willing to stifle or snuff out aspects of myself to fit some prefab set of age-appropriate expectations; that would feel fake. And, while I will go to my grave with my authentic gray hairs masked under a layer of artificial salon color, the notion of acting fake is simply unacceptable.

I should warn you, though, that being your authentic immature self when you are, in fact, mature (chronologically, at least), can make your peers uncomfortable. They will let you know it, too, with words like “crazy” and “silly.” (I get that a lot.) Once they see that they aren’t dissuading you from eating a jumbo box of Junior Mints while perfecting your Dougie, however, they usually lose interest and go back to reading the Wall Street Journal or oiling the teak patio furniture or whatever it is that emotionally mature people do.

It’s cool.

In my opinion, the point is that we should all be ourselves throughout the decades without regard to any stereotypical notion of how a person should behave in their forties, fifties or beyond. In my case, for better or worse, part of that package is the irresistible urge to applaud when someone drops a plate in a restaurant. You, too? Well, come on over and pull out a chair. You’re always welcome at my lunch table.

Two Bay Area Appearances This Week

I'm excited to say that I will be in Northern California later this week and will be reading/signing books at two outstanding independent bookstores. If you're in the area, I hope you'll stop by so we can chat it out in person. (And who knows? There might be a free foot sander in it for you...)

Thursday, December 8 - 7:00 pm

A Great Good Place for Books

6120 LaSalle Avenue - Montclair Village
Oakland, CA 94611

Friday, December 9 - 7:00 pm

Book Passage
51 Tamal Vista Boulevard

Corte Madera, CA 94925

(NYC-area friends: I'll be at the Barnes & Noble on the Upper West Side - 82nd & Broadway - next Monday evening 12/12 at 7:00 pm. More about that later this week!)

And: I've Suspected This All Along

My very talented and funny friend Robin O'Bryant's new book KETCHUP IS A VEGETABLE: AND OTHER LIES MOM TELL THEMSELVES is out! It's already hit an Amazon Kindle bestseller list and the 5-star reviews are racking up all over the place. But don't take my word for it:

"A book about motherhood that will make you nod with recognition, while simultaneously reminding you to schedule a hysterectomy." -Jenny Lawson, The Bloggess

Robin is graciously giving away a copy of KETCHUP IS A VEGETABLE to a lucky LJKGW reader! Simply leave a comment before 5:00 pm PST this Friday 12/9 to enter the random drawing.

Congrats, Robin! I can't wait to read the copy I just bought...

Monday, November 28, 2011

My Blog Away From Blog

Or: A Smallish Open House

One of the things I've always wanted to do on the Web is
open a mail-order meat business have a real website. Nothing too fancy, of course, just a nice two-bedroom ranch-style with a good climbing tree in the front, mirror-foil wallpaper in the powder room and a nice, long driveway for roller skating.

This summer, after much searching, I finally found the little place of my dreams. It's on a cul-de-sac over near the middle school in that neighborhood with all the trees (the ones that drop those sticky blossom things that stain the hood of your car).

Of course, it wasn't exactly in move-in condition. Oh, yes, there was work to be done, so I spent several months making the place "feel like me." Nothing major, just adding a water feature in the breakfast nook, installing an electrified perimeter fence and building a custom platform for my submarine-themed waterbed.

You know, the usual.

Then, after completing that work, moving all my stuff in and finally getting settled, I forgot to tell you that the place even existed. I know: LAME.

So, in the spirit of better-late-than-never, I'm officially inviting you all over to check out my new pad:

In case you're wondering whether I'm giving up the lease on this sweet patch of Internet turf (a.k.a. the LJKGW doublewide), fear not! Nothing will change here and, for better or worse, you can expect the same "quality" posts as always, delivered into your mailbox or RSS feed at intervals that may appear to be sporadic but are actually super-strategic and calculated to the fifteenth decimal point.

No, the new place is more of a repository of my writing an
d comedic pursuits - a literary Death Star, if you will, to which all of my posts and essays scattered throughout the Webosphere can be called home and to whom they owe ultimate allegiance. (I don't know what that means, either, so let's just move on, shall we?)

Anyway, you can find lots of stuff in the new place, including:

* A second blog, called "Bride of Frankenword," which is more on the writing side of things

* A schedule of upcoming appearances and events

* Links to favorite essays

* Some standup videos and videos of readings

Nude photos (It's true! Underneath my clothes I am completely nude - go see for yourself!)

Anyway, you're welcome to stop by and, to sweeten the deal, I just opened a fresh can of dip.

(I'm also willing to act like I don't know you're rifling through the medicine cabinet when you use the facilities.)

See you over there - you can park in the driveway!

Fresh-Baked Posts

The book blog tour for The CHICKtionary is going strong! This week I have two brand-new guest posts coming out:

Thursday, December 1 - The lovely ladies who run "Chick Lit is Not Dead" asked me to write about my "5 Loves and a Dud." So I did.

Friday, December 2 - "Silver and Grace" will publish my guest post about immaturity. (Spoiler alert: I'm in favor of it.)

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

The Devil Wears Mom Jeans

That's the Title...

...of the guest post I have up over at the amazing Scary Mommy's place today. (Thank you so much for having me, Jill!)

I hope you'll click over there and read it and - while you're there - read about Jill's jaw-dropping spontaneous outreach effort that raised more than $20,000 to provide Thanksgiving dinners for families in need. I said she was amazing, right?


Thank you to KATU-TV's "AM Northwest" morning talk show for having me as a guest on Monday. I had the best time talking with Helen and Dave about some of the words in The CHICKtionary and assuaging Dave's worries that he might have ladybutt. (No worries, Dave. You're good.)

You can see a clip of the segment here.

And cheers to you, Portland!

But Most Importantly...

I hope that, when you take time to consider your blessings on this weekend's holiday, you discover that there are too many to list. I know that when I think about the things in my life for which I'm grateful, you will be among them.

Sending huge Thanksgiving hugs to each and every one of you!

Now go tie on that feedbag and, this year, really put your back into it!

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

When Will the Doughnuts Be Ready?

And Why Won't They Unlock the Doors?

Before becoming a mother, I was not a morning person. Okay, that’s an understatement. Before becoming a mother, I soaked up every hour of sleep I possibly could, fiercely guarding those precious moments of early-morning slumber before the alarm clock would force me to crack open my crusty eyelids and face the workday at the ungodly hour of, say, 7:15.

The situation was more extreme in my teens. Without effort, I could sleep in on the weekends until 3:00 pm, at which point my dad would stomp in, snap open the blinds and announce, “Enough is enough!” Having grown up in a farming family whose early-to-rise ethics verged on marsupial, he was deeply offended by my lack of interest in making hay – or even a peanut butter sandwich – while the sun shone.

In college, I lived like a nightclub owner, staying up until the wee hours most every night, knowing that I would recoup my REM losses the next morning. On those few occasions when I had no choice but to take an 8:00 am class, the excruciating morning reveille would disturb my entire week, turning me into a cranky, scatterbrained wreck – someone who, now that I think about it, bears striking resemblance to the person I am today. (All hail the circle of life! Hakuna Matata!)

Much later, after years of working in an office under what I thought was a crushing regime of having to be at my desk by 9:00-ish (the sleep enthusiast quickly learns the value of “-ish”), motherhood arrived. Within a week, my circadian rhythms were crouched in the corner of the laundry room, weeping and tugging at their eyebrows. By week two, they had moved out altogether, leaving me to face the patchwork 24-hour days in typical, punch-drunk, new mom fashion.

And, although it seemed the milky netherworld of new-babydom would be my home forever, things stabilized and at some point I found myself – for the most part, anyway – awake when it was light out and asleep when it was dark.

Fast forward to the near-present (earlier this year), when to my immense happiness and excitement, the book deal for The CHICKtionary materialized. The publisher envisioned this book as an ideal holiday gift, which meant it needed to be written on an aggressive timetable in order to be in stores in time for the seasonal shopping spike.

“Can you do this?” my agent asked.

“Yes!” I responded without pause with the word that has gotten me into more than a few hundred challenging situations in recent decades. In the words of the immortal Tim Gunn, I would “make it work.” [Note: Tim Gunn also said, “I’m troubled by your jumpsuit,” a phrase which, although I have not yet had occasion to use, I no doubt will in the near future.]

Once I knew the exact parameters of the project, I was forced to do one of my least favorite things: pull out a calculator and make a plan. A plan with numbers on it. As someone who gauges correct inflation pressure by how poufy the tires look, this process caused some discomfort, particularly when the cold, hard data came in. (That’s the thing about numbers – they have no “-ish.”)

There was no way around it. In order to finish the manuscript by the deadline, I was going to have to carve out extra writing time, and plenty of it. But from where? I already spent the child-free portion of my day writing, and once they were home from school, it was a breathless sprint through homework, dinner, baths and assorted domestic crises. Where was this “extra” time stashed?

Perhaps I could slack off the housework. This, of course, begged the question: could I phone it in any more than I already did? Doubtful. What about cooking? I wasn’t sure about this, but I had the nagging feeling that, before I could back away from that activity, I would have had to embrace it in the first place.

I was running out of options.

And then it hit me. I was going to have to [gulp] sleep less. As in get up earlier. What madness was this? There had to be another way. I smacked the calculator buttons again. And again. There was no arguing with these…these numbers.

That night I sat on the edge of my bed and watched the LED digits of my alarm clock roll over to their new set point: 5:00 am. I winced. Surely nothing good ever happened at that hour.

And so began my seven-day-a-week ritual of rising before the sun, brewing a giant cup of scary-tough coffee and settling at my desk to try and be funny, all while doing a very convincing Bride of Frankenstein impression. I won’t say I was grace under pressure, especially that first week. One of the nice things about being up before the rest of the household, though, is that no one hears you cuss.

After a little while, my body grudgingly acclimated to the new schedule and I got into a bit of a groove. I began to (well, almost) savor the slice of morning time that was mine alone, and to (somewhat) enjoy watching the dawn light change through my office window. On my calendar was marked my deadline – the day after which I would reclaim my title of World’s Greatest Sack Hound.

The weeks passed, my word count grew and, just as the calculator predicted, the magical day arrived when I submitted my completed manuscript.

The next morning I woke at 4:30 am.

Whee, I thought, relishing the sensation of rolling over to slide back into blissful sleep. Hugging my pillow, I closed my eyes and waited, but instead of the downy tunnel back to dreamland, my mind’s eye produced a razor-sharp image of the to-do list sitting on my desk. What the hell? Go to sleep, I told myself, and was rewarded with an inventory of the items I was to gather for our school’s silent fundraising auction.

I flipped over and stared wide-eyed at the ceiling, which I could not actually see because it was 4:30 in the friggin’ morning and the bedroom was as black as the inside of a sheepdog. I had heard of this before, I thought, raking a hand across my forehead. Morning people, they were called. The kind of folks who waited outside Dunkin’ Donuts, looking at their watches and stamping their sensible shoes until the first shift finally unlocked the door to start the day. At 5:00 am.

Stay cool, I told myself. It’s the first day off. You’re in transition. You’ll be able to sleep in tomorrow. Somewhere deep in my brain stem, however, I knew the truth.

I was broken.

Cut to: months later, present day. I have adjusted to my new lifestyle pretty well. Most mornings I slap the alarm off before it sounds and am padding around the kitchen by 5:15. Shortly after that, I’m at my desk, replying to emails and dipping into Twitter where my East Coast friends are already chirping away. (After a couple of frosty exchanges, I broke myself of the habit of calling local friends to share vital information from Facebook such as witticisms or warnings about computer viruses known to be going around.) By lunch, I’m on my third coffee and jonesing for a second wind. By 4:00 pm, I’m wondering if it’s too soon to slip into my jammies.

After all, it’s bedtime somewhere, right?

Speak Out Against Domestic Violence

You may have noticed the new "Speak Out" badge over in my sidebar. I learned about the Speak Out campaign from my blog friend Kristin at Wanderlust.

On November 18th, bloggers all over the world will post, tweet, share, and encourage people to “Speak Out” against domestic violence and provide direct links to domestic violence (DV) resources. The event date is strategically set to lead into International Day for the Elimination of Violence Against Women on Nov. 25.

I hope you'll take a moment to click over and learn more about the campaign and the ways you can participate. Thank you!

Monday, October 31, 2011

The Pumpkin Stays in the Picture

I grew up on television. (Shocking, I know.)

I grew up watching TV back when it consisted of a mere handful of channels. I watched on a medium-sized black-and-white screen that teetered on a rolling metal stand and atop which was perched a pair of wilted rabbit ears. One of the rabbit ears always had a tin foil appendage springing out from it at an impossible angle, giving the whole set-up the air of a feeble, irritable robot, doing its best to flip off our family with its lone, Reynolds-Wrap digit.

Of course, this TV had no remote. I had heard of TVs with remotes, but had never seen one. Certainly no one in my neighborhood had such a fancy rig. If you wanted to change the channel, you heaved yourself off the sofa, fought your way through a couple yards of shag carpeting and flipped the dial with an audible thunk. Of course, if the other channel was at commercial, you stood there and waited to find out what showing. As a result, one of the biggest factors that determined my young viewing habits was laziness. A show had to be really awful for me to go to the trouble of getting up and changing the channel, which explains why I still can quote large passages of dialogue from “The Rifleman.”

Once every so often, though, something magical would happen on that little screen in the family room. It always began with the urgent pounding of kettle drums, followed by a clarion crescendo of French horns. This fanfare heralded one thing and one thing only: A CBS Special Presentation. Everyone in the house would run to the family room like travelers responding to a airport gate change announcement.

Regular programming has been interrupted! Something is about to happen!

And, if it were about this time in October, the CBS Special Presentation was “It’s the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown.”

From the downbeat of Vince Guaraldi’s signature score to the last “Good Grief,” it was the perfectly satisfying Halloween treat. It was for me, anyway. I sat each year on the floor in front of the TV, arms wrapped around my knees, absorbing every moment and nuance of the show until it became imprinted on me like a farmer on a duckling. Keep in mind, this was decades before the DVR. I got to see the show once a year. Period.

It sure stuck, though.

I watched it through elementary school’s jumpers and knee socks. I watched it through junior high’s breakouts and retainers.

“All I got was a rock,” Charlie Brown moans. I know how you feel, I think.

I watched it through two cross-country moves, during which we bought a new TV set and the Peanuts gang blossomed from shades of gray into color. I watched it through the heartbreaks and discoveries of high school, never failing to find comfort in Charlie Brown’s enlightened acceptance of the rock in the bottom of his trick-or-treat bag and his relentless refusal to believe that that was all he would ever find there.

Keep ringing those doorbells, Charlie Brown, I think. Maybe next year.

In my adult, pre-mommy years, the show became Halloween for me. If I got any trick-or-treaters at my West Los Angeles apartment, they were long-gone by the time I got home from work and dropped by briefcase inside the door. I could curl up on the sofa, though, and, through the miracle of my VCR, spend Halloween crouching among the vines with Linus and sharing his zealous hope that this was the year his pumpkin patch would be recognized as the most sincere.

Life has changed quite a bit since then, just as television has changed. We have hundreds of channels available and the technology to record multiple programs automatically then view them later at our leisure. Already my children have watched a number of Halloween programs – animated and otherwise – that they’ve harvested from the DVR.

The kettle drum and French horn fanfare that electrified my household in the 70s would be lost among the thumps and shouts of today’s crowded kid-show marketplace. That’s all right, though, because my children know that each year there will be one evening, very close to Halloween, when I will reach into the back of the closet and pull out the same, single DVD as the year before. Then, feeling very much like a kid myself, I will light a spooky candle, turn down the lamps and pull my children close to me on the sofa, so happy that my dear, old friends have become theirs as well.