Thursday, August 23, 2007

Please don't watch this tv show . . .

I haven't been blogging much for a variety of reasons. I've been busy with a new job but, more importantly, I started becoming more concerned about my kids' privacy and safety. Because of their more or less public extra-curricular activities, having personal information about them on the Internet becomes more dangerous for them. Plus I've been feeling ambivalent about my stagemotherness - I don't really care how it might reflect on me but I care how it reflects on the rest of my family. So I decided that when I start blogging again, I need to try to steer clear of more personal things.

So what topic has brought me out of my blogging stupor? My anger at CBS about its upcoming reality show, Kid Nation. (I refuse to link to CBS' website for the show for reasons that will become clear).

CBS took 40 kids and plopped them in a "ghost town" in the middle of the New Mexico desert without running water or electricity for 40 days and asked them to "build" a new society. The parents weren't allowed regular contact - most, if not all of them, were not even in New Mexico during filming (none of the kids were residents of NM). It's no accident that - until recently - New Mexico was the only state without child labor laws. It's also no accident that none of the kids in the production are from California or New York - two areas where parents are more savvy regarding the child labor and safety rules. (And, of course, none of the kids were in the union so union safety and work hour rules didn't apply). This was (apparently) billed to the parents as an experience akin summer camp. Except with cameras on 24/7. And no camp counselors. And no state oversight/permits/inspections.

Here's a recent article from the New York Times about some of the controversy surrounding the show and the contract the parents and kids were made to sign. If you're interested, The Smoking Gun has published the entire contract here. Warning - if the idea of signing away your child's privacy, safety and life story ("in perpetuity and throughout the universe") bothers you, don't read it.

CBS claims the kids weren't "employed" and therefore no work permits were required and they weren't required to follow work safety rules. At least not for the kids. The crew was employed by CBS so presumably their unions had jurisdiction and all safety rules were followed for them. They didn't have to work 24/7. They didn't have to sign away their privacy rights or their right to say whether anything bad happened to them on the job.

CBS also claims that there were plenty of adults around to ensure the kids' safety and well-being. But the main job of every one of those adults was to make good television. All of those people were on the payroll of CBS. None of them were required by law to report signs of child abuse (unlike teachers and doctors). And since the families signed away their ability to talk honestly about their experience (or be liable to CBS for $5 million for breaching their confidentiality agreement), we'll never really know what happened during production. CBS can claim all it wants that nothing bad happened and no one with any first hand knowledge can contradict them without subjecting themselves to significant financial risk.

These kids were out of school for eight to ten weeks without a set teacher or other tutoring. Don't we have mandatory schooling laws in every state? I'm all for the idea that life experiences are as important (if not more important) than classroom learning. But how could parents have known in advance that this experience would be a good one? Sure, it could be a good experience but isn't there a significant risk that it would be a bad experience? Would you take that risk?

One of the reasons this bothers me so much is how it makes "stage parents" look. Just because we allow and encourage our children to act, doesn't mean that we would go to any lengths to get our children on TV or make them "famous" at all costs. Most parents of acting children take their child's safety and mental/emotional well-being very seriously. But these parents signed away their children's rights and their own parental responsibility just so their kids could be on TV. If this show is successful, it tells production companies that the public doesn't care about child safety and welfare on set as long as it's entertaining television. It tells them that it's ok to look for loopholes in the law and union regulations. It sets back children's rights on set immeasurably.

You'll see people compare this to summer camp or boarding school but those are very different. Those are ostensibly in business to educate children in one way or another. In most cases, parents aren't prevented from seeing or speaking to their kids. The kids do not sign away their right to privacy or their life stories. This was a TV show. The purpose is to sell advertising time and make money for CBS and the producers. These kids were exploited - whether they feel that way or not.

CBS is currently casting the second season. From what I understand, the child labor/safety laws in every state (now that New Mexico changed their laws) would prohibit CBS from filming the show (at least the way they did the first season). I don't know where they plan to film the show but they've asked those who are auditioning to bring their passports. Unfortunately, there are still places in the world that allow child exploitation. I'm sure the CBS execs will have fun jetting around trying to pick just the right one.

Wednesday, June 20, 2007

I fell for their beauty . . .

but my feet are paying the price. My nine year old warned me before I went shopping at the Nordstrom 1/2-yearly sale (LOVE that sale). She said "Remember - don't fall for the beauty of the shoes!" (That's her code for "I know you like totally impractical shoes with ridiculously high heels but those aren't good for your feet so be practical and get something comfortable." Or maybe it's code for "Act your age, not your shoe size." I'm not really sure.)

Unfortunately, I can't be trusted to shop on my own. But she's in California so she doesn't get to supervise my shoe shopping.

But tell me - are these not totally pretty shoes! I got the white patent leather. The pictures are deceptive. Note that the heel is 3 1/2". Um, yeah. That's a bit high. But I swear they didn't feel that high at the store yesterday. Really.

Ok, I gotta go soak my feet before they rebel and refuse to take me to work tomorrow.

Sunday, February 25, 2007

Santa Barbara

I'm in Santa Barbara and this is the second time I've been here. I'm not sure how it happened but I actually forgot how incredibly beautiful this place is. The last time I was here (about two years ago, I think), we stayed at San Ysidro Ranch and this time we're staying at the Four Seasons Biltmore. (One of the very few perks of my job is getting to go to these "off site" meetings at super nice resorts.)

The Four Seasons is a beautiful place and, for some unknown but very welcome reason, my room got upgraded to a suite. I have two rooms, a king size bed, two flat screen TVs, a balcony that looks out over the ocean (but first it looks out over the entrance to the hotel but who's complaining) AND the bathroom has a steam shower and a warmed tile floor. The only thing that could make this better is having my husband here with me. Oh, and not having to spend most of my time in a conference room.

One thing I haven't been impressed with here is the food. At dinner last night I had a $40 piece of salmon that I couldn't eat. It was supposed to be "lightly smoked and slow-cooked" which really meant heavily smoked and dry as a bone. And the garnish was awful - too salty eggplant slivers, weird tasting black potatoes and some other unidentifiable vegetables. I also had mushroom soup which was okay but the mushroom soup in our office cafeteria is equally as good (seriously) and a heck of a lot cheaper. Plus, one of the waiters spilled a carafe of hot soup on one of the other diners in our group. Right down the guy's back! And they originally gave us the wrong menus. I think it's reasonable expect better from a place where the bill was over $500 for six people. But the wine was good. We got a bottle of Pinot Noir from Hitching Post Winery which is the place from the movie Sideways. So, that was cool but not cool enough to make up for the bad food and the equally bad service.

This afternoon I had time to take a walk. I actually brought my iPod with me but when I thought about it, I realized that it's one thing to drown out the nerve wrangling sounds of the city with my own personal soundtrack but it's just ludicrous to drown out the calming sound of the ocean. So I walked and actually listened to the sound of the ocean and the sea birds and the screaming of kids running away from the waves on the beach. And the sound of my own thoughts (which is something I do way too little of). Actually, I spent most of the walk composing this blog post and I'm not sure what that says about me.

I ended up walking into town, or what seemed like "town" because there was a boulevard, with parking and lots of little shops. It reminded me a little bit of Port Clinton Square, a sort of in-town walking mall-type area in Highland Park, IL where I grew up. Except this is prettier, smells nicer (because of the gardenias) and has lots more high end real estate agencies. And as it turns out I had walked into Montecito which is really a suburb of Santa Barbara. I ended up walking farther than I planned so I had to stop for refreshment on my way back. I stopped at Coffee Bean & Tea Leaf for the best Chai Latte I've had (yes, even better than Starbucks). It kept me warm for the rest of the walk back. (I know, I have no right to complain about it being cold here when it's a heck of a lot better than the weather my family is suffering through in Chicago.)

For dinner, a few of us went to Downey's which is apparently one of the best restaurants in Santa Barbara. It certainly lived up to its reputation. For an appetizer, I had crab toast with curried fruit. Sounds weird but tasted awesome. Then I had a salad with garlic and Stilton cheese dressing followed by a lamb loin with green beans and mushrooms. But the kicker was the dessert - I had their version of Mille-feuille (I totally had to look that up). Freshly made pastry filled with creamy white chocolate mousse and fresh raspberries. Yummy. Oh, yeah and we had some terrific Santa Barbara wine. But not too much.

The only bummer of the night was that I missed the entire Oscar telecast. It's one of my favorite TV shows of the year so that sucked. As we finished dinner and headed back to the hotel in a cab, the CEO of my company used his Blackberry to look up the winners. Thank goodness for technology.

So now I need to get some sleep. Did I mention that I have a king size bed? Nighty night!

Tuesday, February 20, 2007

Too little time

Work is (again) kicking my ass. I'm getting ready for a Board meeting that starts on Sunday. Yes, Sunday. The good part is that the meetings are in Santa Barbara and L.A. And I'll be staying at really, really nice hotels. The bad part is - well, there are several bad parts. I won't be with my family. I'll be sitting in conference rooms most of the time and won't get to enjoy the California sunshine. Also, there's a reason they call them "board" meetings. (ha, ha - I totally crack myself up). Did I mention that I won't be with my family?

My little family is the only thing that keeps me going some days. I hate like heck being so far away from them.

So now I better get back to work so I can go home at a reasonable hour. To watch American Idol. I hate to admit it but I love that show. Watching it is one of my guilty pleasures.

Sunday, February 11, 2007

Car trouble - Blogging for Books

Here's my entry in the February Blogging for Books contest. Jay says we have to write something about a dream we had - either waking or sleeping.

As a kid, I was a sleep walker. I also talked in my sleep. A lot. According to my parents and my bunk mates from summer camp, I was capable of having whole conversations, although none of them made much sense. I never remembered any of it when I woke up which, I guess, is par for the course.

I don’t do much sleep walking anymore but there are times when I wake up standing next to my bed wondering what exactly I’m doing standing next to my bed. Sometimes I wake up thinking I need a glass of orange juice even though I rarely drink the stuff (and we don’t even have any in the house). More often I have dreams that a spider is swinging down towards me from the ceiling above my bed and I wake up swatting at it. That used to freak me out but now I’m able talk myself out of an imaginary spider-induced panic. Most of the time.

As annoying as they are, these night wakings don’t usually hurt anyone. But a few years ago I had a dream that there was a shelf above our bed. On that shelf was a toy car – a big one that a child can ride in. Suddenly the shelf tilted and the car started sliding down and was going to land on my husband. Being the good wife that I am, I tried to protect him. I’m sure he would have appreciated my heroics if he hadn’t been sound asleep and if I hadn’t punched him in the nuts in the process. Lucky for me, he’s still willing to sleep in the same bed.

Friday, February 02, 2007

More from the stage mother

I've written a lot about my stage mother tendencies. I think I'll always struggle with that aspect of my personality. I'm so damn proud of A Girl - not because she's a good actress (and I mean that in the most non-stage mothery way) but because she's a good person. She's focused and hard working but she's also a really nice kid. She has fun with what she's doing even though her schedule would challenge the most driven Type A personality you know.

Despite her success and the fact that people often say super nice things to her, she's still down to earth. This is due primarily to my husband's influence. As I've said before, he has always maintained that acting is merely an extra-curricular activity for her. He's tried to help her see herself not as an actress but as a kid who likes to act. He doesn't want it to define her because if it does, she's more likely to be crushed when (if?) the work dries up or if she doesn't get a role she wants.

I whole-heartedly agree with his approach but I struggle to keep myself from being too invested in her success. Part of it stems from my own childhood desire to be an actress. Part of it stems from plain old mother pride.

She's currently in a show at a theater near our apartment (very convenient). They've been in rehearsals since the day after Christmas and they open on Saturday. The rehearsals in the three or so weeks prior to the open are called tech rehearsals - that's when they rehearse on stage and work out all the technical aspects of the show - lights, sound, costumes, stage set. During the last two weeks of tech rehearsal, they have shows that are called previews. These shows are basically dress rehearsals that people pay a discounted price to see. At this point, they don't have all the kinks worked out so previews can often be a bit rough around the edges.

Last week I went to pick A Girl up after one of the first preview shows. As I was walking into the theater, the last of the patrons were walking out. As I walked past one couple, the woman said "Well, they do one bad show a year and this one is it." I felt like someone kicked me in the gut.

Rationally, I know it's not a big deal. There is no reason for me to take that personally but I did. I know and respect all the actors, the director, the crew. I know how hard they've worked. I like the script (but I haven't seen the show all the way through) - it's a funny and heartwarming story. My husband and I have talked about how we would handle it if A Girl got a bad review. He's always given her great advice about this - "Don't believe all the good things people say about you because then you'll have to believe the bad things, too." We're prepared for that if it happens. It just never occurred to me, until that moment on the theater stairs, that anyone would dislike the show as a whole. I wasn't prepared for that.

The show she did this fall was controversial to begin with. When the show was performed in New York, there were people who left at intermission. The same thing happened in Chicago. And although it was a critical success there were lots of people that didn't like it. But because I was prepared for that it didn't bother me. But A Girl didn't have a large role in that show but in this one she plays a lead. It just feels more important.

I still feel a twinge when I think about it but I've pointed out to myself that there are plenty of shows - at this theater and others - that I haven't liked. This was during previews so her dislike of the show might have been due to the roughness of the production. In the end, it is what it is - one person's opinion. Even if the show's a flop and even if A Girl never works again, it's not the end of the world. I truly believe that this work shouldn't define her. Not just because she's too young for that. Being successful in show business depends so much on external factors - how other people view you, whether you're lucky enough to be in the right place at the right time - it's not healthy to invest your self esteem in that.

That's all easy to say and easy to believe. It's just hard in practice for me to separate myself emotionally. Thankfully, A Girl seems perfectly able to maintain that healthy separation so far. I just worry that my stage mother tendencies will somehow make her think that I'll only be happy as long as she's successful in "show business." And nothing could be farther from the truth.

Tuesday, January 30, 2007

The kid's gotta eat

I've been out of the breastfeeding business for five years now so I haven't read much about breastfeeding lately. I was really surprised when I read this article talking about problems that nursing mothers are having with breastfeeding in public. I find it so funny that people make a big deal out of mothers feeding their babies just because it involves boobs. As someone says in the article, people are so overly focused on breasts as sexual objects that they tend to forget their practical and very important use as a food supply unit.

I breastfed both girls - A Girl for well over a year and M Girl for a year - while working full time. I have such wonderful memories of that time with them - even though it was a hugely painful struggle at first and even though I had to lug a ridiculously large and heavy breast pump to and from work everyday. (Of course now they have these small yet powerful pumps that get stowed in a cute black backpack. They also have maternity clothes at The Gap when all I had was the mu mu crap from Motherhood Maternity that I could only find at sprawling suburbans malls. But that's a rant for another day.) I fed them in public many times without incident. Of course I didn't make a big deal out of what I was doing and I tried to be discreet.

One time I fed A Girl at the table while we had dinner with friends at a busy restaurant - and no one noticed. Our table was right next to the hostess table so there were people all around. A Girl was in her stroller, pulled up to the table. She got fussy so I picked her up and managed to get her latched on without lifting my shirt all while carrying on a conversation. When she was done, I put her back down and my husband (who is the most observant person I know) said "Don't you need to feed her?" Granted, it was fairly dark in the restaurant, which helped a lot. And to be fair - A Girl and I were a veteran nursing pair by then. I couldn't have done that within the first three or so months. The point of the story is that it's possible - in many situations - to be discreet about breastfeeding.

The article talks about a woman who was kicked off of a plane because she refused to cover up while she was breastfeeding. I always had a blanket or shirt or towel draped over my shoulder. It's not because I was ashamed of breastfeeding but because it's polite to at least try not to offend the people around you - even when you think they shouldn't be offended. You can't tell from the article but I wonder how exposed she was and why she didn't cover up when asked. Even if the flight attendant was being prudish and stupid, why make a big deal out of it? It's not like they were asking her to feed her baby in the plane's bathroom. Frankly, the stress on the mother (and the baby) of fighting about it was probably more of an issue than just putting a damn blanket over the offending boob and being done with it.

Friday, January 26, 2007

Food follies

While waiting in the cafeteria line, I glanced at the packets of condiments on the counter. I'm all for truth in labeling but I found it odd that the Hellman's mayo packet was announcing, with a big zero in a noticeable red circle, that it had zero grams of carbs. I don't know about you but I was never really worried about the carb content of my mayo. Fat content, you betcha. Carb content? Not so much.

Apparently the packaging design people think consumers are going to say "Wow! I'm worried about my diet so I'll choose this awesome mayo with NO CARBS! Slather it on!"

I can't really blame the food companies for packaging stupidity. People want to have their cake and eat it too (pun intended) when it comes to eating junk food. They'll grab on to anything to make themselves feel better about eating crap (myself included). I've said before that I think Snack Wells and their ilk have contributed to the obesity epidemic in this country. Somehow, people have gotten the idea that they can eat as much low-carb crap as they want without gaining weight. Trans fats are the new carbs - every snack food that can get away with it screams about having little or no trans fats. Guess what - if you fill up on junk (with or without trans fat, low carb or otherwise) - you're going to gain weight. There is no such thing as a free bag of chips.

On the subject of blaming everyone but ourselves (read: food manufacturers and fast food companies) for our obesity, I read an article this week about an interview with supermodel Gisele Bundchen. She was discussing the recent trend of fashion shows refusing to allow underweight models to participate in runway shows. There have been recent accusations that the use of too-skinny models is leading to anorexia. She said it's not the fashion industry that causes anorexia, it's screwed up families that cause anorexia. Although I'm not ready to let the fashion industry off the hook completely, she has a point. But the best point she made was that modeling is all about genetics. There are certain people (like herself) who have the right genes to be a model. If you have to starve yourself in order to have the "right" body, you don't have the right genes and maybe you should think twice about your choice of profession.

The same is true of professional sports. Although there are legions of young boys who want to play in the NBA, there's about a million to one chance that any one of them will get there. For the most part, they won't have the genetics. Regardless of talent and no matter how hard you work, if you aren't very tall, you aren't going to be a professional basketball player. Play the game for fun but make sure you do your homework - don't count on that multi-million dollar contract to support your family.

I guess the bottom line of this post is that people don't like facing the simple fact that you can't have everything you want and sometimes the things you want aren't good for you. You can't eat all the junk food you desire and be healthy (or thin) - even if the junk food you eat has no trans-fats or carbs. You can't be an NBA superstar unless you're born with the right combination of genes. If you need to starve yourself to death to be skinny enough, you shouldn't try to be a runway model.

And if you don't like the media images of too-skinny models, stop buying clothes from designers who promote that kind of body image. Stop buying the magazines that sell those clothes. Or do what I do, refuse to go clothes shopping until you have nothing to wear (except horrible 1980's era suits with shoulder pads). It doesn't help anything but it gives me something to bitch about.

Monday, January 22, 2007

Mouths of Babes

Every once in awhile M Girl (our six-year old) asks for a baby sibling, even though I've told her that it ain't gonna happen. This time she said she wanted me to have a baby so she could go to the hospital and see how the baby gets out. (This isn't unusual since she always wants to see for herself how everything works). I told her that even if I did have another baby she probably wouldn't be able to be in the room when the baby was born. To her indignant "Why not?!" I explained that it can be scary for kids to see that because as wonderful as it is, it can be painful and she might get upset seeing mommy in pain. We talked a little more about the birth process which fascinated her (especially the part about how the baby gets out through such a small opening).

Later as I was telling my husband about that conversation, she said "Daddy, I really want mommy to have another baby. Can you make that happen?"

Monday, January 15, 2007

Dear Diary

January 8, 2007 - Ok, Blogging for Books is on for January. Diary, I swear I'm going to stick with my resolution to write more. I'm definitely going to write a B4B post this month. The topic is great - you have to write about something having to do with "time". It's a nice, broad topic - I can just run with it. And I will. Right after I catch up on all the episodes of Without a Trace I have on TIVO. Can't let the TIVO get too full or it might not record all the episodes of American Idol. And besides, I have a whole week to do it. Plenty of time.

January 10, 2007 - Has it really been two days since I've written? What with work, catching up on my TIVO backlog, doing the dishes and spending quality time with my husband and kids, I haven't had time to write my B4B post. So - what should I write? Maybe I should do some fiction. Here's a thought - I'll write about this guy who's retired and has no family left so he's got all the time in the world but he always complains about not having enough time to do what he wants. That's great and I'll get to it as soon as I finish making blueberry muffins. Can anyone really write excellent fiction without good muffins? I didn't think so.

January 11, 2007 - Diary, I had another thought about that B4B story. What if the guy was always late to everything his whole life? I can hear his mother yelling "Sammy, you're late for school!" and then his wife yelling "Sam! You have to get up for work!" He never really learned the importance of being on time. I think I'll run with that. As soon as I get home from work. After all, I can't let blogging interfere with work can I?

January 12, 2007 - Damn. I can't believe it's the 12th already and I haven't really started on my B4B entry. Ok, getting down to work. Now. Hmmm. I don't think that idea about Sam who's always late is going to work unless I have some other conflict. Maybe he's late for work one day and he gets into an accident, killing someone. Now his being late isn't just an irritation to his family, it's impacted other people in a horrible and irreversible way. And then he gets depressed and stops going to work. His wife leaves him. His family won't speak to him. Man, this is depressing. I need a drink.

January 13, 2007 - Two days to go - I better get to work on that B4B entry. So, where was I? Ok, Sam has killed someone and lost everything. Has he learned his lesson? Let's say we meet up with Sam when he's a cranky old man. He yells at the bus driver because the bus is late. The bus driver guns it and make Sam spill all his shopping bags on the floor of the bus. What does Sam do? Think, think. Sigh. Oh, look - the shower curtain needs to be washed. If I don't get that done, I won't be able to concentrate on writing. I'll be right back.

January 15, 2007 - Whew! Cleaning that shower curtain was hard! Took lots longer than I thought it would. Shoot - I only have the rest of today to write my entry. Damn. I don't have enough time to do a really good post. I can't figure out how to end the story. I'll never get in the semi-finals. I'll never be a writer. I'm doomed to a life of mediocrity. What's that you say, diary? Maybe if I didn't procrastinate so much, I would have written a decent post? Well, I don't know about that. I mean, I have to work, right? And I couldn't possibly concentrate on writing without having a clean shower curtain. And unless I finished my daily Sudoku. And, of course, what kind of wife and mother would I be if I didn't spend time with my family? And who asked you anyway?

Next month. I swear, diary, next month I will submit a kick ass B4B post. It'll be the best post ever!. This time things will be different. I've changed. I mean it this time. Really.

Thursday, January 11, 2007

Funny phishing

I got an email today (on my WORK email no less) that was supposedly from Bank of America. It was "About your accounts with us!" (Hyperbole theirs). In addition to a link that I wouldn't ever click without a gun pointed at my head, there was this amusing tidbit (word for word):

"Following these, the cycle would start again. administratrix congressional But oh, Mr Rancho Grande!

(PILINGS its PILINGS there are TWO okay there are two fine now just hush just you know hush shhhhhh) and made it seem gone for awhile. You'll mend faster when you're working, I'll bet! She turned and walked toward the pantry. "She hugged him. After he did, he grayed out again. "she screamed, her mouth yawning wide, and he was suddenly looking into the dank red-lined pit of the goddess. Her hands had begun to spring limberly open and then snatch closed again, catching air and squashing it. denature"

I think my new favorite phrase from now on with be "But oh, Mr. Rancho Grande!"

Monday, January 08, 2007

Decisions, decisions

I'm in a meeting (I spend the better part of my life in meetings) but I feel the pull to write. Maybe I should adopt a motto: Never let work interfere with blogging.

A Girl is in rehearsals for a theater production and I was able to watch them run through the second act yesterday. I doubt A Girl understands how lucky she is to be working with professional, experienced actors within an established theater company. There is so much "small" theater out there but there are few such established companies and very, very few good roles for children. She is one lucky kid.

As I was watching the actors yesterday, it struck me that several of them are supporting families while working as actors. (Well, most of them have "day" jobs - as teachers of theater or other theater-related activities. But they work pretty regularly as actors.) This particular ensemble has been around for 20 years - it started when the founders were in college together and many of the founding members are still regularly involved. That's some serious dedication.

As I watched them work I thought how lucky they are that they can pursue their passion. For the most part, they don't have to go to an office (and sit in unending and very boring meetings about the accounting treatment of various investment products). They get to do fun stuff like play different characters, learn a new dialect, and perform for an audience.

But the reality is that I don't have to sit in those meetings either. I'm free to pursue my passion, too. I'm also free to tell my family that we can't afford our mortgage or school tuition. Because for most actors (and people in the arts generally), that's what it means to pursue your passion. It means you give up what you can get from a more practical (but far less creative) job as a lawyer or accountant. Although I didn't think about it this way at the time, when I decided to leave the commercial production industry to go to law school, I made the decision to take a more practical road. I didn't do it because anyone was telling me I had to. My parents were as supportive as anyone could hope for. I just didn't have it in me to live in a studio apartment smaller than a postage stamp any longer. I was at the point where I would have needed to work freelance in order to move ahead and I couldn't see myself living job to job.

I'm sure my husband will agree (probably a little too whole-heartedly) that I often don't use a very good decision-making process. I'm a "wing it" person who makes emotional decisions which drives him nuts because he's a logical planner. (Before I continue, let me fully acknowledge for the record that going the "planner" route is generally far more successful than going the "wing it" route.) I bring this up because many of my life decisions - including leaving a creative job for law school - were not very well considered. It was an emotional decision brought on by fear and by the high level of comfort I thought I had with what it meant to be a lawyer. My dad was a lawyer. My mom was a legal secretary. All my friends' parents were lawyers (or doctors or accountants). I knew what to expect from going to an office every day. I knew that I would be able to afford the lifestyle I grew up with. I didn't know what to expect working freelance as a production coordinator except that if I didn't work regularly I would have a hard time paying rent.

I'm not saying I made the wrong decision. Maybe if I had thought about it a bit more and considered all my options, I still would have decided to go to law school. But I wouldn't then look back (as I sometimes do) and wonder what the hell I was thinking.

One thing that A Girl will have is an understanding of what it means financially to be an actor. And to give credit where credit is due - this was my husband's idea. He has explained to her that most actors (particularly those in theater) don't make enough money from acting to support themselves and that they have to do other things (wait tables, do TV commercials, have a regular day job) so they can pay the rent. She's learned that to be a successful actor it takes a combination of talent, hard work and luck. Too many people think that if they're talented, they'll be successful but the world is full of talented, but unemployed, actors. Even hard work doesn't get you very far if you aren't talented AND if you aren't lucky enough to get the right opportunities.

My husband and I believe that it's important to encourage our kids to follow their dreams but it's also important to help them understand the realities of certain career/life choices. I had unrealistic expectations of a career in the arts and when things didn't turn out as I thought they would, I cut and run. I'm not complaining - I have a really good life. But there is a part of me that wishes I would have had the guts to stick with a more creative career path. Whatever our girls decide about their careers, I hope their decisions are made based on a reasoned analysis of their numerous options and not based on illogical and hormone-driven emotion.

In other words, I hope they take after their father.

Thursday, January 04, 2007

Picky, picky

In the two spare seconds that I have to post today I decided that I had to write about some coffee related topics.

First there was the woman in front of me at Starbucks who ordered a venti, no foam, soy latte at 140 degrees. Seriously - who orders a drink at a specific temperature? What would happen if your latte was only 135 degrees? Or - god forbid - 143 degrees! And who orders a "no foam" latte? The whole point of a latte is the foam. It's NOT a latte if it doesn't have foam. It's espresso with warm milk. Yes, I'm a Starbucks geek.

I'm sure there are people roll who their eyes at me when I order my 1/2 decaf grande non-fat latte. They probably think "What's the point of getting decaf? Isn't the whole point of coffee the caffeine?" They also probably say "Who puts non-fat milk in their latte?" Or something like that. People are so judgmental (she says without a hint of irony).

The other thing that made me go "Hmmm" today was an advertisement I saw on the bus for a coffee grinder/brewer that also gives you the weather. Why the weather? Why not the traffic report or headline news? The tag line for the ad is "I could have told you to wear snowshoes." Seriously - does anybody really need a coffee maker to tell them that it's snowing?

Tuesday, January 02, 2007

It's the Best Post Ever!

I've really been struggling with this post (which means I've typed and erased about 100 lines of text - one at a time) because I feel like my first post of 2007 should contain profound wisdom, thought-provoking ideas and/or really funny stories. But the pressure is too much for me so we'll all have to settle for my usual ramblings.

It's all about expectations and mine have always done me in. I'm a dreamer; my imagination and hopes unconstrained by reality. But when fantasy collides with reality, reality almost always wins. That's why I stopped trying to have the "best holiday ever" every year. (For those of you who have Spongebob fans for children, you might now be hearing that catchy ditty Best Day Ever from a recent episode. It'll probably be stuck in your head for a week or two. You're welcome.)

When I was single, I was always worried about being alone on New Year's Eve. Or worse, being a third or fifth wheel with my hooked-up friends who pitied me and let me tag along. When I was living in New York the pressure was especially intense. Partly because everything in New York is especially intense. Partly because I was there in the late '80s when everything had to be bigger and better and more fabulous all the time. But mainly because I had reached an age where I expected to be married or at least on the road to being married. I hadn't yet met anyone I was remotely interested in marrying (unless you count this guy but since he was never interested in me I don't think he counts) but that didn't stop me from feeling like a failure at the tender age of 23. Each new year that came and went in my mid-20s was a harsh reminder that my reality wasn't matching my fantasy.

I read recently that if the map doesn't match the ground, the map is wrong. Like my favorite gender-difference example - if the clothes don't fit a man, he gets a tailor but if clothes don't fit a woman, she goes on a diet - I always figured that if my map didn't match the ground, I just wasn't reading it right. I thought I should be married by 25 and if I wasn't, it was my fault. It never occurred to me that the goal itself was screwy. Of course, once I stopped expecting to find my soul mate, I found him. And it was in a place and at a time that was totally unexpected. No pressure. Funny how things work.

So now I just try to take the holidays in stride and not expect too much. We try to keep things simple - we don't need grand plans and big parties to feel like we've celebrated. Since I learned to manage my expectations for the holidays, I've avoided putting pressure on my family to meet my unrealistic fantasy and everyone has a much better time.

Now if only I could manage my expectations about keeping my (unrealistic) New Year's resolutions . . .