Wednesday, October 19, 2011


There's nothing I hate more than checking into a hotel I frequent as a business or personal guest to no amenities.  I like to know that loyalty is honored rather than familiarity breeding contempt.  A note, a flower arrangement, cookies for kids - all are greeted with great enthusiasm.  Fruit plates, on the other hand, can be a mixed bag.  Consider the grapefruit, for instance.  A grapefruit, in my mind, is perfect for squeezing fresh juice.  It may also be useful when sliced into supremes and put in a salad.  Less oft, though certainly admired, is the grapefruit halved and sectioned at the breakfast table.  But rarely, rarely does one think of the grapefruit as a delicious option for a fruit bowl.  Unlike the handy apple, the grapefruit cannot be picked up and walked away with.  Its peel is unwieldy, often thick and overly pithy.  Unlike the banana, the grapefruit has massive seeds one can't carry as one piece and deposit politely into nearby rubbish.  And unlike the fruit-bowl friendly grape, a grapefruit is drippy and messy even after peeled and pithed.  So why, I wonder, do hotels bother to put such a daunting fruit in a basket meant to serve as hospitality?  Well, is has great volume, I suppose.  It might take two apples, a trio of apricots and at least two dozen grapes to fill the space taken by one juicy grapefruit.  And unlike its soft-skinned cousins, the mighty citrus lasts (or at least gives the appearance of lasting) a good long time.  No mushy edges, no spoilt centers - the grapefruit can go on for weeks looking fresh as the day it was picked.

So a fruitbowl, I imagine, stands for hospitality in the modern age. Long gone are the days of truly personal touches - a favorite cookie or preferred flower.  To be honest, I'd even prefer a fresh fig or apricot or representation of anything seasonal in its stead.  But grapefruit we get and so grapefruit, it seems, we shall endure...

Tuesday, October 11, 2011


Those of you familiar with Sig Other in worlds either virtual or real know that he is the true originator of the phrase, "What about me?"  It is the name of his future auto-biography.  And it is his daily credo.  But the apple, it turns out, doesn't fall far from the tree.  My return to the blogosphere after prolonged absence was greeted by a call from Child One who chided, "I saw you wrote on your blog today."  "Yes," I said, "how did you know?"  "I check it all the time," said she, and continued, "but I was surprised you didn't write about me.  I mean, its been a big year, with me going to college and all the change."  She paused then and continued, "Why didn't write about that?"

In truth, I've written a great deal about that - about how difficult her summer between highschool and college was, about the loss Sig Other and I feel with her absence, about the profound shift in all of our lives as she's transitioned, rather ungracefully, into adulthood.  But none of it felt appropriate for publication. None of it, that is, except this short piece written at the request of my friend Nicola who created the 10Q (  So here it is (for you, my sweet Child One) - evidence that I really do think (and write) about you...


It would be easiest, I suppose, to go straight to the obvious – the empty bedroom down the hall, the closet missing half its wardrobe, the usually messy bathroom now standing idle waiting to be made a mess again in a few months.  The easiest thing – the most obvious thing to point to, when asked to think about a major milestone, would be the matriculation of our daughter to college.  She is gone.  The house is emptier, the world a little quieter, the days a little less full, because K is 3000 miles away experiencing a whole new life without us.

But in fact, that monumental event is NOT the thing that comes to mind when I think about a major milestone of this year.  In fact, what I think about is the text I got from K one day this summer.  It read: “…how glad I am to have a stepmother who yells at me for parking her car badly.”  I am that stepmother.  And for years I worked at NOT yelling at anybody for anything.  For years I did what most steps do – I twisted myself into a pretzel to do the right thing, to cook the right thing, to say the right thing so the children would feel safe and comfortable and loved.  And I kept my mouth shut about things I felt were wrong for fear of being disliked.   

But as K neared college, I realized that her ability to cope in the adult world – in the world outside our home – was far more important than whether or not she liked me.  And I started telling her what to do.  I told her to pick up after herself, to knock before she entered rooms, to close the cabinets she left open and yes – to park her car straight in the driveway.  We spent a lot of time alone together, she and I, in the months leading up to her departure.  And those months were fraught for her – full of anxiety and fear and depression and angst.  We talked about more than just parking straight and separating whites from darks when doing laundry.  I said some tough things and had to hear some even tougher.  And in that time, I felt a shift in myself.  I felt as I stopped trying to win, stopped trying to be loved, stopped trying to be the coolest stepmom on the block. I felt as I stopped caring about me and started caring about her – what was best for her, what would serve her, what would help her cope in a world far less cozy than our home. 

For the record, I have never yelled at either of my stepchildren.  And in this particular case, I’m quite certain I didn’t even raise my voice.  But I did give a sharp directive. And K has never parked sideways in the driveway again.  And THAT may be the major milestone of our year.

Sunday, October 2, 2011

Take that, Bill Maher!

Pardon my absence from the blogosphere but I’m slightly superstitious.  The world being what it was in the final weeks of summer – financial disaster in the US, riots in the UK, protests in the Israel and various domestic unrest in households near and far – it seemed best to keep my head down and forge quietly ahead.  LBJ famously said, “Being President is like being a jackass in a hailstorm.  There’s nothing to do but stand there and take it.”  My friend’s father, a colleague of LBJ, had his own Texan take on the phrase and would say to his little girl, “Sweetheart, sometimes you have to be like a jackass in a hailstorm – put your down and wait for the storm to pass.”  I’ve been waiting for the storms to pass and keep looking for blooming flowers amidst the burning ash. 

But the other night, I couldn’t find a flower anywhere.  I was home watching Bill Maher and feeling useless.  There was Bill, all witty and fabulous, interviewing intelligent people who had written books or started life-changing organizations.  His guests included a former governor, a civil rights activist and a world famous author.  And there was me, sitting on the couch with a bowl of pasta after a week of work at a job where I save no lives, change no political policy, influence no major governments.  Useless.   

I spiraled then, and thought about all I hadn’t done.  The world is on a scary path: economic disaster, failed education systems, escalating worldwide racism, sexism, anti-semitism.  There is spring during autumn all over the Middle East, the behemoth that is China is lumbering out of its deep sleep and toward epic change and our own country teeters on the edge of insanity steeped in dark crazy tea.  And I’m sitting on my couch doing nothing.

I told myself I do nothing because I'm not smart enough, didn't major in the right thing, haven't focused my energy in the right places these past several decades. And for the most part that is true. I didn’t invent a computer chip that changed the world. I have not written a book on world politics. I am not clever enough to be invited as a guest on Bill Maher and hold my own.  The truth is my knowledge of world events is limited to what media I consume in the pre-dawn moments before my day jolts into full swing or the bits and pieces I catch after hours.  And while I’m not the least informed of my circle, I’m hardly the most.  

But today I got jolted out of my useless blues.  Today I did the thing that still gives me joy, despite the fact that its part of my job and I do it time and time again.  Today, I went to the movies.  It seems a trivial thing really – two hours in a dark box with a big screen shouldn’t really change your mood.  But it can.  And today it did.  This thing we do – this magical, wonderful and terribly ethereal business of making movies – this world that can be so frustrating, can seem so ludicrous at times, can also be profoundly affecting.  True – its rare.  And most movies are crap.  I’ve worked on as many bad movies as good ones (ok – more).  And truly great movies are a scarcity beyond comprehension.  But they happen.  And when they do, when a movie can make you laugh and cry and feel and go on a ride that feels like fifteen minutes even if its been three hours – THAT is when being in the movie business feels like something substantial. 

I chose this job – this career in movies - in part because the idea of pursuing a PhD in political science seemed really exhausting 25 years ago.  But in part I chose it because I love it.   I love that I interact with some of the most talented, most inspiring artists alive today.  I love that these artists work in a medium that has the potential to have a reach far greater than paint or ceramic or even words on a page.  And I love that every experience with every artist is unique and a true education all its own. 

But mostly I love that today I went to a movie theater and for two magical hours got swept up in someone else’s life.  I entered someone else’s story – I saw what the director wanted me to see and heard what the director wanted me to hear.  But the experience was uniquely my own.  For the moments I laughed, as well as for those I cried, I was in the soothing hands of a master filmmaker and I went down the path he created for me – though I’m sure I saw the path slightly differently from the man on my right or the woman on my left.  This is the beauty of film.  This is the magic and strength and power of a well made movie.  And this is the world I have the great privilege to be part of. 

I am not a writer.  I do not direct movies.  But I do rely on a gut instinct to evaluate material and I do use that gut and a good bit of passion to push to make movies that make people laugh and cry and think and just get away for two magical hours in the special box we call the movie theater.  They may not always work – in fact, mostly they don’t.  Great film is harmonic convergence.  But when it works, when a movie is really firing on all cylinders - and you get that two hours of pure joy, of a story that makes you think about the world in a slightly different way - isn't that worth something?

I still wish I were clever enough and well-educated enough and worldly enough to have written a book, or run for office or created a policy that would make me fancy and cool and smart enough to be a guest on Bill Maher.  But I’m damn grateful for my two hours of bliss today.  And damn lucky to do what I do.