Hoping to live up to the hype as my co-editor and I work with our tireless agent to sell our next project. In the meantime, I'm still writing.
Writing about what comes to mind. Whether it be books, the writing process, kids or just a nice vent about something that happened on a Tuesday...
It's Nice to be Watched...
Although a tad disconcerting. Earlier this year (and oh my god, I can't believe we are practically at the end of the year) a Portland publication, Go Local PDX, put me on a watch list. Hey - any watch list is great as long as it's not the NSA or a No-Fly list!
Hoping to live up to the hype as my co-editor and I work with our tireless agent to sell our next project. In the meantime, I'm still writing.
The Man Cold: An Ode
Good Lord how is September already?? I'm still in denial that summer is practically gone, but I love Fall, so the mums are on the porch and I'm ready to break out yummy soup recipes and unpack the sweaters and boots.
Do you need a good read this weekend? You can grab an e-copy of Peanut Butter and Naan: Stories of an American Mom in the Far East for less than a dollar through Sunday anywhere e-books are sold. So have at it! Check out all the great reads on sale from She Writes Press while you're at it - my SWP sisters have written some stellar books.
Happy (almost) Fall!
Or so I assume.
I had the good fortune to be interviewed by the adorable Kerri Stewart of My Window last week. I'm glad I didn't read her bio until after the interview tape, because otherwise I would have been hyper focused the entire time on the fact that she once interviewed John F. Kennedy, Jr. when she was a journalist in D.C.
I may have once thought he was supposed to be my husband (along with every other straight, breathing female in the 90s), and I may have derailed the interview by asking other, important questions. Like were his hands soft, yet manly? Did she have a lock of his hair I could have?
Here's a link to the interview, and if you're in beautiful Bend, Oregon this weekend, join me at the Barnes & Noble on Saturday at 2 PM for a reading and signing.
RIP, John John,
How Not to be an Asshole if You Have Money and Write About it: An Open Letter to Polly Phillips of the New York Post
Okay, Polly. Let’s do this. Let’s really do this. You had your chance to write a sanctimonious, self-absorbed, callously materialistic piece in the New York Post for God’s sake, and you blew it.
I wanted to read about how you spent your bonus jetting off to Richard Branson’s island, where you cavorted with Rod Stewart’s former flames and compared the legal wording in your prenups detailing how much sex you have to give up in order to cash in. I hungered to learn about the $30,000 worth of Jean Yu lingerie you keep in your summerhouse armoire, labeled beach panties, or the Vacheron Constantin watch you bought just because it was Tuesday. I wanted choke a little on my Starbucks Lime Refresher after reading how, on bonus day, you and your group of bonus-ees bitched about the maid your best friend/arch nemesis Whitney had to fire because she caught her polishing the crown moulding with the Matouk washrags (well, I did choke a little where you insisted that you are a feminist, right after the part where you refer to your husband as your boss - so there's that). Instead you gave us Burberry? Tory Burch? Tiffany’s smallest possible engagement ring? That may have been your biggest, gaffe, Polly. How can we properly seethe with self-righteous judgment if you aren’t going to at least spend the equivalent of a split-level in Minneapolis on your engagement ring? The very least the Post could have done was get a profile from someone who was really, obscenely rich.
Here’s the thing, Pol. Can I call you Pol? I think I can. Like you, my husband is a top-level executive, who has bounced around One Percenter-Ville (or, more accurately, Lower Richistan) as a CEO or President. Also like you, we’ve lived in different countries and enjoyed the bloated paychecks that come from those cushy overseas executive positions. We’ve been in foreign places surrounded by expats just like you. You know, the kind who text friends wondering if anyone knows a good place to get the Louboutins re-soled.
And hey, Pol (fair's fair: you can call me Jen), I feel you. It probably stung when all those commenters blasted the hell out of you, calling you disgusting and shallow and obnoxious for your gleeful photo ops, for your callous shut the fuck up to Americans who can't put porcini-infused quinoa tartletts on the table. They just don't get it, amiright?
Here, I'll be an asshole for a minute. I'll tell you how my family lived when we were in India for our first cushy overseas executive position. First, my family of seven moved into a 1600 square-foot rental. Admittedly, our over-priced house was near the British Consulate, but we were even closer to a slum, which reminded us every single day how millions and millions of people on this planet live without running water, electricity, or enough food. We lived near people who would only find intrinsic value in a damn Birkin bag if they could eat it. And guess what, Pol? It forever changed us.
What did we do with our extra income while we were there? We gave it away. We spent time with a local orphanage and got to know the 35 children who had absolutely nothing, save for a bed to sleep on and a place to eat and get an education - an enormous step up from the slums from which many of them came. We played cricket with them, fed them, bought them art supplies and painted with kids who had never even held a paintbrush in their hand, much less taken an art class at The Trevor Day School. We made lasting human connections that stayed with us infinitely longer than the thrill of getting next season's "it" bag before anyone else (or at least before Alexandra, who is still on the wait-list, that bitch).
Maybe you don't care how your op-ed made you look. Maybe you just wanted a byline in a popular publication because you are also writing your memoir about the years you had to make due with a closet filled with Ann Taylor Loft dresses and it's going to be really, really good. Or maybe you just need to re-word your post-nup so that the next time you have an overseas move you will be required to live among children who have no choice but to take a shit in the streets.
I hear Tandoori bags are all the rage in Mumbai.
I just returned from France, where I left my daughter to live with friends for the next few months. I was sorely tempted to "lose" my passport and stay with her, but my younger children need me- and besides, my daughter could use a few weeks without her mom (or, "Smother," as she lovingly tells it) there to micromanage her every move. She is about to head to college, after all.
I spent much of my return flight home working on a few magazine pieces, and I made great progress until I landed in Philadelphia. By the time I was ready to clear customs in Philly, something wasn't quite right. My sense of smell was heightened, my stomach was making increasingly loud rumblings, and I had a terrible feeling that I was getting sick. My daughter had contracted "La Grippe" in Paris, and spent her last two days with me in a state of exhaustion from losing her lunch (and breakfast and every bite of pain au chocolat ) in every way conceivable. This happened just after I was feeling nostalgic for her babyhood, feelings promptly squelched after I cleaned up after her for the sixth time.
After a humiliating trek from Philly to Seattle (where I may have filled more than one airsick bag), I was pleased to come home to a new article over at Writer's Digest. Please have a look - if you love to travel and want some tips on preserving the memories - you'll appreciate the article.
As always, happy reading!
It's not that I am terribly out of shape. But, I do write for a living. My shoulders are often hunched up and forward as I clack away on my computer for hours on end. Of course, I take breaks. I suppose you could say they are calisthenics of sorts. I get up and refresh my coffee or tea. I pace. I scroll through my iPhone messages (my thumb logs at least two miles a day of scrolling). I cradle my head in my hands when mired in writer's block. That's stretching, if you think about it. If I'm "stretching" for too long, I'll walk into the next room to watch a good movie; weakly justifying it as a way to gain inspiration. Note: watching The Blind Side on a regular basis doesn't really inspire me to do anything other than search Pinterest for outfits similar to those worn by Sandra Bullock's character.
I walk the dog. Sometimes I bounce while doing this, which I like to characterize as jogging.
I get to yoga a couple times a week.
That's about it.
I have a friend who is not a writer. She is a busy, dynamic woman with the energy of a human being who hasn't yet had children. She knows things about computers. Her house is always clean. And, she exercises a lot. Nearly every day, in fact. Yesterday, I made the grave error of agreeing to join her for her morning workout.
I must have missed the part where she said she does Crossfit. Maybe I thought she said something about being fit. Or cross. Words I use often, just not together. Saturday morning I pulled my car into an industrial row of buildings and groaned a little when I saw the sign. Bold, masculine letters, hinting at the testosterone filled environment I was about to enter. Inside the foyer hung a National Guard banner with inspirational sayings demanding No Man Left Behind! and NEVER Give up! Things you might hear in boot camp; a definite portent that I was entering the tenth circle of hell. I should have sloshed some of my chai tea on my tank top and hoofed it back to the car. But I didn't. Besides, that would have flown in the face of the other signs insisting Don't Give up When You're Tired. Give up When You're Done and Lift Like a Monster.
As an introverted writer who is particularly sensitive to sounds and smells and too much sensory stimuli I was immediately appreciative of my yoga class. Why?
1. Yoga is quiet. There is no talking, unless you count the hushed, dulcet tones of the yogi. The foyer has a small fountain that burbles over an urn filled with round pebbles inscribed with namaste and other gentle affirmations.
2. The lighting is soft. On Sunday nights there is candlelight yoga. Soothing - and bonus: everyone looks ten years younger.
3. Savasana. Savasana is Sanskrit for "corpse pose." In my regular yoga class, we start with this pose, use it throughout the class to reset our bodies after some hard work, and end with it. Basically, you get to lay down. You can't move. You are supposed to meditate and clear your mind. You get to lay down.
4. There is no pressure to compete - only to honor where your "body is at" and try your best. The yogi is supportive and brings my inflexible body blocks and straps and soft blankets upon which my knees can rest while attempting camel pose.
5. My circulation isn't what it used to be, and I usually attend a warm vinyasa flow or hot yoga class. It's like stretching in a sauna and is perfect for someone who hates being cold.
Saturday morning I walked into a warehouse with ceilings as high as a Costco. I was immediately assaulted on every sensory front. Enormously-muscled people were lifting dumbbells with weights the size of car tires and letting them clang to the ground in a jarring cacophony of steel against floor. Eminem blared from the speakers ...Tear this motherfucking roof off like two dogs caged...
There were no candles or Himalayan sea salt lamps. Instead, the ceiling buzzed with row after row of high-definition fluorescent tubes. It smelled like a car parts store; rubber and steel and maybe a slight top note of stale coffee and sports drinks.
The workout was a circuit class replete with medicine balls, straps, chin-up bars, kettle balls, and large metal rods intended to carry enormous weighted disks heavier than all five of my children combined. Thankfully, as a newbie, I was given a hollow PVC tube to practice my "form." This of course, came with the assumption that I would be using this form in the near future to hoist a heavy bar up to my collar bone, crack my chin open, and fall back into a heap of shame before being hustled away on a gurney for my broken spine. Practicing with a hollow plastic tube has rendered my thighs and rear-end useless for things like helping me walk, or getting into a standing position. Crossfit places a lot of emphasis on doing most things from a squatting position. Weight in your heels! Get that ass lower! LOWER. Knees together. Now bring the bar up to your chin and flip your elbows out at a 90 degree angle to your body. Tighten that ass. This, coupled with the three-pound tube, and I am no longer mobile.
At the sit-up station, I attempted the fast, jerky motion required for Crossfit sit-ups in an effort to get as many reps in as short of a time as possible. The shadow of a trainer darkened my quivering body. "Come on! You got this! Tighten your core as you go up."
When out of my comfort zone, I tend to default to self-deprecating humor. I like to think this gets people on my side. "Hah!" I squeaked out. "I don't really have much of a core. I've had five kids, and with the last pregnancy and that poly-hydramnios syndrome..." my over-explanation was cut off. She squatted down in front of me. I noticed her weight was on her heels, her perfectly toned abs dancing and flexing as she spoke, "Stop. First, I don't see five kids as a weakness," she stood back up, revealing a vertical pectoral line above her tiny workout top. "I see it as a strength." She gave me a steely look. "Do you see what I did there? I turned that around for you. Now use your strength and keep going!" She walked away, her backside as taut and round as two bowling balls.
I fumed (as best one can fume when unable to breathe). She really needed to know that my abdominal wall had permanently torn in two with my fifth pregnancy. She should tell me to take it easy, and offer a nice aromatherapy bath salt to take home so I could clear my head of the clutter that comes from forgetting to mindfully meditate. And not once did I hear anyone say Namaste. I assumed - rightly - that there was no gift shop with soy candles in the back.
But, I did finish. If only to avoid further admonishment. If my hands hadn't been numb (can you get a stroke from Crossfit? I'm going to say yes) I would have texted my yoga studio and told them how much I loved them.
My friend messaged me today, asking me to go with her again in the morning. Correction, middle of the night (5 AM for God's sake). I demurred, and she responded with a picture of a woman in yoga pants with a firm backside. It said, "Women who look great in yoga pants do more lifting than yoga."
Forgive me, fair yogis. I quickly messaged back, "Fucker." See what I did there? I left off the Namaste.
The Anxiety Express
If you don't already to subscribe to Brain, Child Magazine - please let this inaugural post be the encouragement to get you over there. Aside from being a stellar award-winning literary magazine that is growing by leaps and bounds, it is a daily source of fabulous writing ranging from poignant, thought-provoking pieces to essays that will lighten your day with a good laugh.
I have the good fortune of being a contributor to Brain, Child and invite you to read my latest essay, The Anxiety Express. You'll either feel really good about yourself for being considerably less neurotic than yours truly, or you may identify with me. Either way - enjoy - and happy reading!
Filling the chinks of time with writing. This is not as easy as it sounds with five kids, but it happens sometimes.