Book Group - Hollywood's and Mine

I was excited when I read that the movie "Book Club" was coming out, especially when I found out it starred Candice Bergen, Diane Keaton, Mary Steenburgen and Jane Fonda. Oh boy! 

Full disclosure - I haven't seen the movie yet. But I did just watch this trailer. Oh. My. God. A bunch of 70-something women, not a wrinkle among them, giggling like school girls over dating, men and sex. The book they are reading? "50 Shades of Grey." 

The script writers have given them high-level jobs, plenty of money, and even a scornful reaction to the book selection, which apparently leads them all to explore their own sexual frustration. Over the decades they've moved from Erica Jong's "Fear of Flying" to "50 Shades," fueled by a lot of wine on the way.

Really? What a let-down. My book group has been together for almost 25 years now.  We've read dozens - no, hundreds  - of amazing books. Over the decades, we've shared more than literature, of course.

Our kids were in elementary school when we started. Now they are adults. We fretted over middle-school language placement, kids' drinking and drugging and dating in high school, college applications, kids looking for work, their first apartments, kids who are gay,  kids who are depressed, kids who got sick, kids who got married, grandchildren, etc. etc. We compare notes on aging parents, home health care aides, nursing homes and death. We lament our own lapsing memories - once we chose a book we'd already read.

Not to mention charting our own careers - triumphs and setbacks, layoffs and promotions. Five women in my book group (of 12) have had - and survived - breast cancer. 

And yes, we've discussed our own marriages, the joys and frustrations. Sex? Occasionally, but not in a giggling, school-girl kind of way. I do remember one conversation about lubricants, and our hostess saying, "Really? During dessert?" (We have pot luck dinners, and unfortunately that night we were eating pudding.)

I'll probably see "Book Group" and I hope it's better than it looks. This afternoon I've got "RBG" on the docket, so to speak. Nothing silly about her.


Ghost Writing

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I'm reading "Sing Unburied Sing" by Jesmyn Ward and two of her main characters are ghosts. One appears regularly but remains silent, disapproval registering on his face. The other is less physically solid, but he speaks - in fact he narrates a few chapters.

In the last year, I've lost my beloved father, my little brother and one of my best friends. I have no visions, unless you count dreams. But it amazes me how often the three of them pop up in my writing now. They show up in pieces that seem utterly unrelated to any of them.

One writing prompt - kind of a complicated assignment involving old photograph negatives - brought up a scene of trying on maternity bathing suits while my friend Missy watched. She  laughed and laughed as I struggled to shove my ungainly body into the spandex. The dressing room was hot and crowded and I felt faint.

Missy gave me most of her maternity clothes. Today I'm having lunch with her daughter, who looks so much like her that I catch myself staring at the curve of her cheek.

When Dad and my brother Bill come in dreams, they are always healthy and well. And every time, while I'm dreaming, I think, "How did Dad get so much better? I can't believe how well he's doing." I'm confused and delighted with his come back.

 

 


Make. It. Stop. Make. It. Stop.

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All my life I've been a news junky. I was in the biz. I never watched much TV news, but I was a newspaper hound. I still subscribe to The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, The Washington Post, The Journal News (my local Gannett paper) and I get highlights from several other publications, including the London Times.

But at this point, those subscriptions are as wasted as a hastily purchased gym membership. It's not the fault of  journalists.  A great deal of quality work being done. It's the emotional damage from absorbing the content. News should come with a warning label: "Consuming this product may be harmful to your mental health."

This is no joke. Numerous studies have made the link between news consumption and anxiety and depression.

My news aggitation wasn't doing much for my marriage either. For the last year plus,  I thought I was scanning the headlines silently. But evidently, I was constantly spewing, "Oh my God!" and "UNBELIEVABLE" and "Just when I thought it couldn't get any worse..." in a loud voice until my husband asked me to kindly keep my commentary to myself.

My husband actually reduced his news diet before I did.  And yesterday, I had lunch with two of my best friends - super-smart, informed women - and they, too, also have cut way back on  reading/watching and listening to the news.

 I feel like a bad citizen - democracy runs on an informed citizenry. But right now,  I just can't....

 


Magical Thinking and Anxiety

 

 

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When I was a kid, I used to stand on the second floor landing and watch my  parents' car pull out of the driveway. I believed that the longer I kept their tail lights in sight, the greater their chance of returning home. My small face would be mushed against the window glass, angling for that last view.    

    I'd like to tell you I grew out of this, but just now I found myself at my dining room window, watching another set of tail lights snake down the driveway, down our small road, and out of sight. This time, my son and his wife were leaving. I wave frantically while keeping the car in sight, to improve their chances of arriving back at their apartment safely.

    When I thought about reviving this blog, I toyed with the idea of re-naming it "Anxiety Girl." Alas, someone beat me to it, and hers is linked to support groups, literature on anxiety, etc. But if I'm going to be real here, you need to know that I grapple with worry all the time. Like when the kids were little and their school bus pulled away, I would picture it in flames, their own tiny faces plastered against the bus windows, helpless to get out. (Too much information?)

I'm somewhat better now. Therapy helps. Now, when stuff like that happens, I realize what I'm doing, and say, "Wow, Kate. Great imagination! I just love how cinematic your images were and the colors were magnificent. Very creative. Now let's get back to real life, shall we?"

Anyway, I'm sure my son and his wife will be just fine. Besides, they know they need to text me when they are safely home.


Block by Block

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This 3 inch x 3 inch book contains 786 writing prompts. With a nod to Julie Powell, who plowed her way through Julia Child's "Joy of Cooking" (and walked off with a book contract and a movie deal),  I am thinking of working my way through "The Writer's Block" book, one prompt a day. But with no illusions of doing anything with it other than exercising my writing muscles.

I began on page one yesterday, with the prompt, "Describe Your First Brush With Danger." This led to a short piece on having scarlet fever as a baby. Of course this is a story I was told, not one I remember. The version I've heard is that no one noticed I was sick, until the pediatrician came by to attend to my older brother, who had a cold. The doctor brushed by me (I liked the double meaning of "brush" with danger and the doctor "brushing" by me) stopped, and say said, "This baby is hot. She has a fever."

Anyway, the story was always told as evidence of my sunny disposition - I was pretty ill, but too sweet-natured to bother anyone. (Those of you who know me now - please hold back your snorts.)

One more thing - though I am committed to this one-prompt-a-day exercise, I won't write about it here every day. I promise. And thank God, because I just turned the page, and the next prompt is the word "Diet." 

 


Ch ch ch ch Changes!

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It's been so long since I've posted on this blog, that I couldn't remember where it was hosted, let alone the password. Found it!

Next, I googled "Writers Block" to see if the name was taken as a website. (It is - owned by a company that produces wooden blocks that say...guess what? Yup. Writer's Block.) It's a cliche, I know, but Holy Cow, am I struggling. 

My last bunch of posts were all about promoting my book. It's been 5 years. Okay six. Since then, full disclosure, I have started and abandoned 3 book projects - a novel, a non-fiction book and a memoir. I'm wondering if public confession will help motivate me. Right now, it just feels shameful.

To any new readers, I am a writer. Really. I wrote for The New York Times for more than 20 years. I published a book with a division of Penguin. I had six days of fame, if you count fame as appearing on NPR's "All Things Considered" and "Fox & Friends" (God help me on that that last one.) 

And now...now my lovely daughter has told me to stop wallowing (my words) and get writing again (hers). I'm going to start every day with a writing prompt. And I am jump starting my blog again. And I am NOT naming it "Writer's Block." Encouragement and reality checks are welcome.

 


Psycho Mom Returns!

When I talked about "The Mama's Boy Myth" on NPR's "All Things Considered," they introduced the segment by playing a clip from "Psycho" - with Norman Bates saying, "Well, a boy's best friend is his mother." It was the ultimate illustration of the worst kind of Mama's Boy stereotype. 

UnknownWell, it's back.....I just found out there is a series coming out next month on A & E called "The Bates Motel." Here's the tagline: "Fans will have access to the dark, twisted backstory and learn first hand just how deeply intricate the relationship with his mother, Norma, truly is, and how she helped forge the most famous serial killer of them all." 

Hoo boy. Here we go again. Because we all know that behind every serial killer is an over-bearing mother.


And now a voice from the other side....

Images Today I want to give a shout-out to a father who took the New York Times to task for an article that included this throw-away line stereotyping dads as bumbling and incompetent: 

"Fathers misplace their children at the supermarket; mothers miraculously transform tofu to make it palatable to 3-year-olds."

Here's his response ( especially love the last dig): "This is an appalling statement, a profound insult to the many fathers who work tirelessly and competently to raise their children. Maybe next week's Times can offer a column examining how a sentence like that could make it through the editing process. Now if you'll excuse me, I have to go look for my kids on the Interstate embankment where I dun left 'em."

Bravo to Scott Tobias!


Sugar and Spice and Everything Nice....

Unknown-2The debate on boys' school performance is heating up again. Check out the opening of this letter to the New York Times, written by a retired male public school teacher: "Even in the late 1950s, educators sensed that girls had advantages over boys. They're verbal, orderly, quiet, submissive and cooperative. Boys? Polar opposites: outgoing, active, loud and unable to sit still."

Gender stereotype much?