Monthly Archives: September 2011

Too Much Choice

I like cereal.  I think most people do.  In my house we usually have around seven or eight boxes going at any given time—a few twig-like whole-grain brands for me, some corn-syrup-laden-cartoon-character business for my husband, and a couple of kid-friendly healthy cereals for my son.  Theoretically, we could all eat the same kind of cereal (Honey-Nut Cheerios would probably be the intersection of our collective sweet spot) but there are so many options out there, why bother to compromise?

The other day in the grocery store I counted 164 kinds of cereal.  And I’m not including hot cereals.  164.  Now, I’m all for having choices and I know that I should feel privileged to live in a country where we have the freedom to choose exactly which cereal best fits our individual needs, blah, blah, blah.  But I do think there’s a gray area between, say, abundant choice and piggish consumerist overindulgence.

I think this dilemma of too much choice is the hardest on kids.  Kids today have so many options in a whole variety of things—from afterschool activities and sports to brands of sneakers and energy drinks—that it can be overwhelming at times because all of these choices are SO! DARN! EXCITING!  It’s like being in Times Square and not knowing where to look.

But I think the real problem is, that in a culture of infinite choices, you don’t really need to make a choice at all because you can always try something else on for size.  Download a new song, then decide you don’t like it—move on to the next band.  Think you might love that new Pepsi One then realize you’re more of Coke Zero person—that’s okay, try again.  We’ve added so many options in our consumer culture that the moment of reflection when making a purchase is no longer necessary.  Why bother to think when we can just have?

And I can’t help but wonder if this kind of carelessness has had an impact on other stuff, like divorce rates, or  the mortgage crisis, if we’ve just become so accustomed to making disposable choices, we’ve lost our ability to choose what’s truly right for us.

Don’t get me wrong; I like having options as much as the next guy.  But, I’d be hard pressed to find a reason why any store needs to offer 36 (yes, this is a real number) different kinds of toilet paper.

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The Right Side of the Bed

WATCH THIS to start your day off right.

You’re welcome.

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The Yoga of Writing

In Ashtanga yoga, the term drishti refers to a point of focus where your eyes can rest instead of wandering.  It’s a soft-focus gaze, the point of which is not to concentrate on a specific object, but to eliminate distraction. And just like staring at something and taking in its detail would draw your focus outward, away from your practice, shutting your eyes would draw your focus in, which, as we all know, comes with its own set of distractions.  Like so much in yoga (and in life) drishti is all about balance.

Which brings me to my analogy of the day.

For me, good writing comes from the same place as drishti—you look at your work too hard and you’re lost in the details, you rely too much on the subconscious and your writing’s not grounded.  So my advice to all you writing yoginis out there is to step back and give your writing a soft-focus gaze.  Just like in yoga, it takes practice to find the right balance, but the moment you achieve it, all of the searching and strain suddenly falls away.  Just like in yoga, some days it comes naturally and effortlessly, and other days it does not.  In fact, just yesterday I was in yoga class repeatedly reminding myself to let go of all conscious thought and be in the now when I came up with the idea for this blog post.  ;)

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The Corporate Ha Ha

We’ve all experienced it.  That feeling you get when a mediocre joke is performed live, creating that awkward moment where you, the audience member, is expected to laugh, because you know that whatever’s going on onstage is “supposed to be” funny.  Maybe we do it out of politeness, an attempt to honor the unwritten social agreement that it is better to fake laughter than to do nothing at all.  Others might call it mob mentality.

This experience can also happens in the movies, when you get to the funny part that everyone’s already seen dozens of times in the trailer and on TV commercials.  It may genuinely be a funny scene.  Or at least it was the first four times you saw it—but by now, the joke’s about as fresh as a week-old bagel.  And yet, everybody laughs, because we know that this is the part the filmmakers want us to think is funny.

Which is the problem right there:  thinking.   Any time you find yourself rationalizing the reason why a joke is “funny,” it’s not.  It’s like going to a movie with your mom and having her whisper the major plot points in your ear so you can be “in on it” too.  But if someone needs to elbow you in the gut to explain the joke—especially if that person is the one onstage—the ability to find a genuine laugh is lost.

I call this phenomenon the Corporate Ha Ha.

I didn’t actually see the live bit in the photo above  (assuming it was different than when they did it on SNL) but it just reeks of Corporate Ha Ha.  Only, in this example, if I had seen it live while sitting next my mother, I’d be the one whispering in her ear, doing the translation.  “That guy who’s dressed Mark Zuckerberg is actually Andy Samberg.  Which is funny because…”

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Guess who has a book cover?

Me!  If you would like to see the fabulous new cover for REUNITED, please visit Presenting Lenore, site of Lenore Appelhans, author & book blogger extraordinaire.

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Filed under books, movies, YA, writing, Reunited by Hilary Weisman Graham, writing

Do-It-Yourself Spa Day

We live in a non-stop world and it’s easy to get stuck on the hamster wheel of work, kids, school, laundry, and other Things You Have To Do, and to forget about carving out time for self-care.  And no, busy moms, going to the supermarket without kids doesn’t qualify.

Self-care is about honoring one’s need for relaxation, a word that surprisingly can still be found in modern dictionaries.  For me, sometimes this means going away to Kripalu for a weekend of yoga, other times it’s just a short hike with my friends, or going to get a massage, or deciding to read my book when I find myself with an hour in the house alone, instead of, say, unloading the dishwasher.

This past Sunday, my friends and I had our first annual Spa Day, though some of us now refer to it as our first monthly Spa Day.  Spa Day was inexpensive, easy to organize, and we left feeling relaxed, renewed, and refreshed.

If you have friends and access to a house, you too can create your own spa day!  Here is our recipe, but feel free to improvise.

10 Easy Steps for Creating a Do It Yourself Spa Day

  1. Find a friend to host, preferably one with a lovely sun-filled home, good Pandora stations, and a fire burning in the wood stove.
  2. Ditch husbands and kids
  3. Find a hair stylist and massage therapist to come to the house to offer hair-cuts and 30-minute massages.  Trust me, they do house-calls.  (Sierra and Leah, you are goddesses!)
  4. Get everyone to bring pedicure stuff (including large bowls for foot-soaking, bath salts, and bath stones for a mini foot massage effect).
  5. If you have a friend with a juicer and she’s willing to work it to create yummy concoctions for you, take her up on the offer.  Especially if she has a fondness for ginger.
  6. Get everyone to bring smutty magazines.  If someone shows up with a copy of Harpers or the New Yorker, tell them their kind isn’t welcome here.
  7. Feast on a pot-luck of delicious, healthy, nourishing foods.  (The abundance of local in-season produce we had in our meal made my heart smile).
  8. Don’t forget to move.  This isn’t a training session for the triathalon, but it’s nice to do a little yoga or get outside and take a walk.
  9. Return home to your family (who didn’t actually miss you) and to your work (that didn’t get done, and the world somehow managed not to completely fall apart) a little more sane.
  10. Rinse, repeat.

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20 Awesome Literary Tattoos

These literary tattoos are just too good not to re-post.  I guess some people are just really, really certain which books will be their favorites even when they grow old and wrinkly. Much thanks to Buzzfeed.  SEE THEM ALL RIGHT HERE.

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Lucky Number 7

Some fun for our Monday morning brains.

Princess Bookie’s Contest Craze is in full swing and today The Elliott Review is hosting a mini challenge.
TO ENTER:
  • Open a book you are currently reading.
  • Turn to page 7.
  • Count to the 7th word.
  • If the word is an article (a, an, the, etc), go to the next real word.
  • Type the word into a Google Images search, and select a picture you like.
  • Create a blog post with the following information:
  • Add a link to your post in the linky form at the bottom of this post to enter into to win.

PRIZE:

  • Book of your choice from The Book Depository up to $10.
Here’s my example from Jenny Downham’s YOU AGAINST ME:
7th word on 17th page (there was no page 7):
PARENTS
Picture:

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The Opposite of Prêt-à-Porter – Or – The Time I Almost Went To Fashion Week With A Giant Band-Aid On My Chin

In honor of today being the last day of Fashion Week in New York, I thought I’d share the story of the time I went to the runway shows.

It was the late 90’s and I was working as a producer for a nationally syndicated TV show called Wild Web (think of it as a pre-cursor to Tosh.0, minus the smut). I had just started dating the man who is now my husband, and we were still in what I will politely refer to as the amorous phase of our relationship.

If you know my husband, you know that he rocks the “stubble beard.”  And as much as I love the Don Johnson look, those wiry little hairs can wreak havoc on the face of the person making out with him, especially if you are engaging in this activity roughly 23 out of 24 hours of the day.  The resultant effect:  a chin that had been rubbed raw of its first two epidermal layers.

Maybe no one will notice, I thought as I went into the studio before flying off to New York later that day.  But having your skin shucked off by what amounts to a human cheese grater is the kind of wound that gets worse before it gets better.  The second my co-workers saw my face, their eyes grew wide with a mixture of sympathy and alarm. “Holy crap!” they all gasped. “Did you get into a fight with a belt-sander?”

Naturally, there was only one thing I could tell them.  “ I fell off my bike,” I said casually.  “But don’t worry.  I’ll be okay.”

Deciding what to wear when to New York Fashion Week is never an easy choice.  But in the end, my hardest decision was whether or not to sport a super-sized Band-Aid on my chin. Would it be considered gauche?  Or would my chin Band-Aid spark a trend—the  latest must-have accessory for the fashion-forward?

I interviewed supermodels that day, BCBG’s Max Azria, Donald Trump’s current wife.  And after I’d run through all my questions, they each had one for me.  “Biking accident,” I would nod and smile, wincing only slightly as my finger grazed my open wound.  I still don’t know if I made the right choice baring my disfigured chin at Fashion Week, but in the end I decided that having a jumbo Band-Aid on one’s face was definitely not “ready to wear.”

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Cutting the Cord

For those of you too young to remember, phones used to be stationary items, positioned atop hallway side tables or attached to the kitchen wall.  When you picked up the receiver, you were tethered to the phone’s permanent location by a loop-de-loop cord, which if you were lucky enough, stretched all the way to the bathroom so that you could answer your fifth grade boyfriend’s quiz questions about how much you like him in private.[1]

Then came the cordless, quickly followed by the cell phone.  Oh, the freedom of being able to have one’s most intimate conversations in spaces that did not smell like Head and Shoulders and stale farts.

Of course, cell phones have been ubiquitous for a long time now, an ingrained a part of the landscape for kids today.  This current generation texts so much, some biologists[2] predict it just might speed up the evolutionary progress of the human species as the children today’s teens will someday bear will likely be born with tapered thumbs that end in a fine, text-friendly point.

And at the risk sounding like the crotchety old woman I secretly am, I’m going to suggest that some kids are being given phones way too young.  Take the sexting phenomenon, for example.  If you give your kid a phone, and their first instinct is to stick it down their pants and snap a photo of their junk, maybe it means they’re not ready for the family plan.  I’m just saying.

Popular parental wisdom says that cell phones allow kids be more independent.  How many times have we heard some mother justify the fact that she gave her fourth grader a cell phone because it allows little Billy to “have more freedom” knowing that if she accidentally forgets to pick him up from baseball practice, mom and dad are only a phone call away.  Not only is Little Billy safe, we’ve saved the poor child from the inconvenience of having to figure out how to solve the problem all by himself.

But my real worry about cell phones and the codependence they foster applies less to fourth-graders than it does to the teens these kids eventually become.  I see them in Target using their Blackberries to take pictures of boots because they really need mom to take a look and help them decide.  I’ve heard stories from multiple friends who just one week ago sent their kids off to college and have already received dozens of texts.

But who can blame these cell phone kids for reaching out so often when they always have their parents right there with them in their back pocket, accompanying them to every date and every soccer practice and keg party ever since the moment they shoved their first phone into their jeans, back in fourth grade. And why should these kids bother to make a decision on their own, or learn to find their own way when they’re lost, when they know mom and dad are always just a phone call away?

A note to my teen readers:  Separating from one’s parents is never easy.  Believe me, I didn’t pay my own car insurance (or even know such a thing existed) until the ripe old age of 26.  But unless your idea of a bright future includes living on the futon in your parents basement, it’s an important developmental milestone.  And part of that milestone means learning to navigate the world without your parents help.

Of course, when it’s time for my own son to head off to college, I have no doubt I’ll be a pathetic, sniveling mess, living and dying by the number of times a week I hear from him.  And yet, I want him to leave the nest (someday, when he’s older than 7).  I want him to leave our house boldly and willingly and to go out into the world and forge a good life for himself. And as hard as it will be for us to separate when that time comes, cutting the cord is the only way we are ever set free to live an independent life.  Cutting the cord from our telephones gave us the freedom to talk to anyone, anywhere, at any time.  But sometimes, the most important cords to cut are the invisible ones.


[1] Answer:  B) a wicked lot.

[2] Okay, it’s just me.  But I did take AP Bio in high school.

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