Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Talk! Talk! Talk!

Being off of work this week, I see the growing trend for 2011. Just as Oprah is leaving her talk-show after all these years, the "panel" talk-show is taking over the airwaves. Now this is nothing new - The View has been doing it for years and there was even a male version of that show that didn't quite take off, but there seems to be a boom of them now. The Talk has taken on CBS (with a different collection of female views.) Chelsea Handler does it to start her show, but only to have comics sitting around talking about current events. Bill Maher has done it for years on his show to discuss politics. (Even Oprah did it on her Friday live shows.) But now, even the 30 minute entertainment shows are giving us panels to talk over each other...I mean give their opinions. Chit-Chat took over Extra (to let us know they have an online version we can check out) and The Insider has different people sitting around a table to discuss a topic for about 15 seconds at a clip. (It's hard enough to let one person report during that time, try having five different opinions wanting to be heard.) 
I do look for this to continue into the new year and I suppose Barbara Walters should feel honored to be copied, but I wonder if it's producers not wanting to take the chance on a single person or if the public is really calling for this. It seems to add to the overall attention span of our country. We need multiple stimulation and how better to get that on a talk show than by having people scream over each other to get their point of view across? I long for the day when Donahue could do an entire hour on his own and hold our attention. But in an era where many of us get our news in under 30 seconds from an online source, I suppose going from one loud voice to another to be contrary just for the sake of ratings is the sensory overload of 2011.   

Monday, December 27, 2010

The Snow Can Go

New Jersey backyard
My age is starting to show. I'm not as forgiving as I used to be. I don't enjoy the loud booming of music from cars that I pass on the road. And most importantly - my bones can't take the cold. Now you would think someone with as much padding around their bones as the namesake of this blog would always be warm (and I do run hot when inside my warm house), but I just can't take the bitterness outside. I've lived in the North now for 23 years and with each winter, I turn to my other half and beg to migrate south. We talk about it, we dream of other places - but we've yet to make that huge move. Now I know that if I were somewhere in the South, I'm certain I would complain about the hot summers, but with the wind chill in single digits this morning - that sounds like heaven. I noticed as this ' After Christmas Blizzard' they were calling for started to become a reality yesterday that my mood changed drastically. And I became...well...sort of nutty. Call it seasonal mood swings or whatever you will. All I know is that while others could see the beauty of God putting a white blanket over everything (and yes - for a split second, I saw it), I was thinking about the feeling of being trapped by that cloak. The thought of shoveling it all out. The cold that pierces your body while you have to be out in it and the amount of time it takes to warm back up. And how hard it is for this fat man to breathe in the layers of clothes and strenuous work of shoveling. Perhaps I should see it as an opportunity to use the winter months to shed the 60 pounds I need to lose. But I'm sure if I did, winter would still be the time of the year that I'd love to visit at a log cabin someplace, but not live in. 
Happy digging out Tri-State and New England. Those that live here have been used to the ritual for years.   

Thursday, December 23, 2010

Looking Back

I know it's time to be having parties and enjoying the holidays, but I can't help but use it as a time of reflection too. Eight years ago this past weekend, my father passed away from heart disease at an early age. I think of how much has gone on in our lives since then...and how much he's missed. I have a brother serve a tour of duty in Iraq and get married during that time, a mother who has moved into a new home - done some traveling even after two knee surgeries and continues to work daily, a sister who raised two girls through their teenage years beautifully and who has followed her own dreams of constantly performing - and I have had several changes in those 8 years as well.  
           In '06 I completely switched careers.  In '08 I got married and started down the path of fiction writing after years of writing musicals and managed to get about 12 stories/poems published.  Every day I look in the mirror I see my father. Yes, I have my mom's grandfather's nose - but I see my dad in how my hair wants to part, the amount of chins I have managed to get, and the small dark spots that pop up around my neck (thanks, Dad!) :-)  I know how proud he would be of all of us if he were here today. 
           Instead of looking at what I constantly have NOT achieved (which I am so good at doing) - this season I want to think about all that I have accomplished and how much more is left for me to do. Time for me to be more positive in my endeavors and take time to enjoy each victory that happens. I challenge you all to do the same and have a very Merry Christmas with your family and friends!

Sunday, December 19, 2010

The Christmas Star

Two years ago, I wrote this piece for the online magazine Rancor'd Type and it is still listed on the site Home & Holidays, but I wanted to share it again this season. We were asked to recall a Christmas memory and this one stuck with me for years.
So many people can recall their first Christmas pageant - re-enacting the nativity scene right in front of the entire church congregation.  Everyone vying to be the angel, one of the wise men or the true leads: Mary or Joseph.   I was only in second grade, but I knew I wanted a large role.  And God would forgive me for having used our plastic Mary & Joseph – you know, the ones that live on the front lawn through all of the Christmas season – for the previous holiday, Halloween.  Yes, a simple sheet over both of them and a rope made for amazing ghost hanging from the tree.  But here we were standing in front of the woman who had volunteered to direct the motley crew of children through the monumental task.  

As she passed out roles to all the children, starting with those whose parents were deacons or gave the most money to the church, I watched as the good parts all dwindled away: past the shepherds, the angels…and even the animals.  No, I was assigned to carry the star that would lead the wise men to our savior on his birth. 
Though my initial reaction was angst over losing out on a juicy character role, I soon came to realize the magnitude of importance that had been bestowed upon me.  The angel may be leading the shepherds to the baby, but I was the one leading the angel on her way!  I set out working with my parents on the most amazing star you had ever seen.  Rolls of aluminum foil were wrapped around and around a cardboard cutout that was then attached to a broom stick so that my star could ride high in the sky as I walked down that aisle of the church.   I would carry that star down the street to practice the length of the church to make sure my seven- year-old arms wouldn’t get tired.
Then came the big dress rehearsal where all the children were called in to rehearse together two nights before the program.  That was the moment my world came crashing down. Little did I know there were two other children assigned to carry the star and a bigger, three-pole-star had been created so that each of us had a stick to hang on to.  I was crushed. Not because I wasn’t alone, but because we would not get to use the star I had created with my parents.  They assured me this was better to carry it with two other boys so that we each could burden some of the load.  These boys weren't in the pageant to be serious. They were there to play.  I was placed on the middle pole and the two of them would let go of their stick, walk along the side of me…sometimes singing, and sometimes not.
This star outweighed my small foil star by pounds and pounds, but I struggled and made sure that star made it to the manger and that those wise men knew where they were going – even if my fellow star boys didn't seem to care if the gifts ever made it to Jesus.  You know, it was probably then when I realized that when I grew up I would want to be a director.  I wouldn't surprise my cast with last-minute added poles on a star and I would make sure everyone carried their own weight when on stage.   I do remember the feeling of pride I had from the church congregation applause as we walked the aisle and a spot light shined brightly on the top of our star.  And every time I now direct a show as an adult, I think back to that endless role of aluminum foil and wonder what kind of work my actors must be doing to create their own characters at home.  

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Driving the Internet

The "Superhighway"

It’s finally happened. A recent survey by Forrester Research, Inc. has shown that the past five years, the amount of time Americans spend on the internet has doubled and now ties with the television in actual hours spent doing both. While I’d love to get on a soap box and be able to say “what has happened to the old days when we actually did more physical activity” – I really can’t say that. Those that read this blog know the most activity I get is walking from my car to my office desk. Yes, as I child I would go outside and play in the yard with the neighborhood kids, but I also can name you just about every television show from the 70s, proving that I spent many an hour in front of the big box as well.  And now, as an adult – I am always on the internet. (I’m there now typing this blog.) I do my banking online. I do shopping. I interact with family and friends. I buy theatre and concert tickets. I get my news sent to me on my iPhone before I ever hear it on the evening television news. I research numerous topics for stories and books that I write. 

While the survey shows the two in a tie, I’d probably have to say that I spend more hours on the internet than I do in front of the TV. Technology has truly changed our lives. I spent thirteen years in Corp America – in the IT department - creating computer applications to assist others in doing their jobs more thoroughly. I can recall my first computer and waiting for the dial-modem to connect. Now I get impatient if it takes more than 2 seconds for a page to load. And it’s hard to even think of a time before cell phones. 21 years ago today, my oldest niece was born and I was at a production of The Nutcracker in NYC. But there was no cell phone in my pocket on vibrate waiting for a call. I was going to an actual pay phone checking in to see if she had arrived and actually called Texas at intermission to talk to my sister. 

Our lives have changed so much over the past twenty years. It’s sometimes mind-boggling to think of how quickly it has all gone. Makes me think that watching Buck Rogers in the 25th Century and all those movies “set in the distant future” back when I was a child really wasn't that far a stretch.  Every day technology takes us one step closer to that reality. What we used to call the information superhighway is a very, very busy place that more and more of my generation is finding a place to cruise rather than getting in a car and going somewhere. (And at the gas prices today: who could afford the drive?)

Friday, December 10, 2010

Will a Unibrow Make YOU aware of your favorite Cause?

I am just as guilty as the next person (if we want to use the word guilty) of bringing attention to different causes in strange and unique ways. I changed my Facebook profile picture to a cartoon last week for child abuse awareness, I've worn red on Worlds AIDS day, I drive with an autism ribbon on my car, I've signed up on many anti-bullying websites - and yes, I even do the tried and true and give money to different organizations. There is literally a color, logo, or slogan for just about every organization, disease or campaign one could imagine. 

While some of the things out there can be categorized as silly/fun games (women's status lines on Facebook about where they like it for breast cancer awareness or their bra color) - others are genuinely smart marketing tools to bring attention and focus to any given cause that is near and dear to people's hearts.    
Last month I thought the mustache growing exercise for men was a cleaver way to raise awareness AND money for prostate cancer. But now, December has brought us one that screams someone has too much time on their hands. The unibrow for women.  They haven't even attached it to a cause - choose a cause they tell you! Just stop being feminine and grow that bush on your face.

While I applaud creativity of all kinds, sometimes I think people need to evaluate their reasons for doing something. Is it just to say "check out my great marketing skills" or is it really to give people insight into a cause they may know little about?  

Monday, December 6, 2010

Books As Children

I love to read writer's blogs: the trials and tribulations authors must endure to get something published. It makes me feel as if I'm not alone in this vast sea of the publishing world. People will ask the old question "do you write out of love or do you write to get published?" I always thought I had just had one story in me - a story that took me years to finish. My original goal was to simply publish that one on my own and call it a day. But an editor who worked on it told me in no uncertain terms to not self publish. He believed in the piece and still feels someone out there will not shy away from the subject matter.  

But after working on that story, another grew from my mind and another and another until I'm looking down at four different novels on the hard drive of my computer, collecting technical dust while they await finding that perfect person that will say "I must publish this!" Granted, only two of the four have seen the light of day and made their way out into the world, but I continue to work on the others while the first two children have left the nest in search of a home. And at times, story ideas will pop in my head that are right for a short story and I'll write those and send off to some magazine or literary place that publish such a thing. But it is the children - the four that speak in their own voice and have taken on personalities of their own that I still feel most proud. And like a parent, I can't choose one over another. They each speak to a different place in my life/my mind - and hold a dear place in my heart. 

I often wonder if/when I do get them published, will it all seem strange to me because the writing process on each will seem like a lifetime ago or will I feel a fresh renewed surge in their lives because people will start to see and critique my children. I guess I can't answer that question until the day arrives - and every day I say a little prayer that I'm getting that much closer to the day my kids will graduate.

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

World AIDS Day

As the world sets this day aside to bring attention to the global epidemic of AIDS, I still think about how it continues to play a huge part in the lives of Americans living with HIV every day. Sometimes it seems as if the media and others have grown weary of the disease and choose to no longer report on those adults and children still fighting the disease and the scientist who are working to eradicate it. Each time I hear of someone else we have lost to the disease (yes, people are still dying from  it) I myself find it hard to believe it has been a part of the fabric of our lives for so long. But it's not over. Keep it vocal on more than just one day. 

I wrote this poem a few years ago - but it still rings true today.  

One day.

One day of 365 to ponder
This deadly disease.
A disease that has grown
Over a twenty-five-year life span.
Many still dying an inhuman death,
While others live
With a daily reminder-
In the form of multi-colored pills.
Stigma severely secured to those
Who can afford the medication
As well as the numerous people
That do not have the money
To pay for this life support.
Labels attached to each person
Who fights the battle-
Secretly or out in the open.
Hatred has not subsided
For those who now call it
A “manageable disease.”
They still live with
Stares and misunderstanding.
One day.
One day of many in the lives of those
Living and dying.