Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Lumbering man beasts

Misogyny in advertising is nothing new. Sex (as in sexy women, of course) is used to sell everything from shampoo to vodka. But if you watch many commercials, you may have noticed that men aren't exactly presented in the best light, either. Let my beloved Sarah Haskins explain it to you:

Monday, November 9, 2009

Square pants

Let's be perfectly honest: Despite what Huey Lewis may think, it's never, ever been hip to be square. And I am hopelessly square. Don't believe me? The evidence:
*I listen to Billy Joel unironically. I especially love "Allentown," and sing along to it loudly and cheerfully, as if it weren't about a depressed blue collar steel town.
*I think Twilight may be the worst book ever written. And Robert Pattinson is not even remotely attractive.
*I didn't watch Titanic until four years after it came out, after everyone else on the planet had seen it. Hated it with a burning passion (although I thought Kate Winslet looked great).
*I've never watched a Mad Men episode.
*I don't have the slightest clue who "Kings of Leon" are.
*The Halls commercial with the mom and her son's roommate suckin' down on shared mouth drops makes me laugh every time, although apparently some people don't find it so funny.
*That last one reminded me: Can we stop calling older women cougars? It's insulting and stupid.
*Even though I use them -- grudgingly -- I absolutely hate Twitter and Facebook. But all the cool kids are doing it, so...
*All my favorite films were made before 1950.

I could go on, but I think my point has been made. At 35, I'm no longer considered hip by the people who decide these things and even when I was young I had the taste of a much older person (I've been a Pink Floyd fan since I was 6 years old and sang "Another Brick in the Wall" to my horrified first grade teacher. We don't need no education, indeed.) Of course, I also play WoW and watch cartoons, so I obviously have the taste of an older person who lives in her parents' basement.

I wish I could say it didn't matter to me that I am hopelessly uncool, but sometimes I wish I wasn't quite so contrary. I wish I enjoyed Lost as much I enjoy Mythbusters. I'd like to be included on the conversations about the latest music or whatever the hip crowd is reading (as for me, I'm reading Pullman's "His Dark Materials" trilogy. I think that might be cool in some circles, though). Sometimes, I'll admit, it's not even that I don't like these things or don't understand them so much as I don't want to, since that would make me a follower. I'm very averse to tagging along with something because everybody else is doing it or likes it. It's a stupid reason to not even learn about some things, and I think I veer dangerously into self-righteous territory when I sniff, "I don't watch vampire movies that don't feature Nosferatu and/or subtitles."

Perhaps the problem isn't that I'm hopelessly square, but hopelessly snobbish. 

Saturday, November 7, 2009

Weighty matters

I seem to be fighting an eternal battle with weight loss. After being at a healthy "fighting weight" for several years, I started gaining again about two years ago. Not to make any excuses, but I'm pretty sure my on again/off again relationship with anti-depressants (and finding the right one in the first place) plus an extraordinarily stressful job plus suddenly getting migraines for the first time in my life were factors. Getting laid off in February meant I didn't have nearly as many places to get dressed up and go to -- and lot more reasons to lie on the couch and watch endless episodes of NCIS.

I've lost count of how many times I've gained more than 20 pounds and had to struggle to lose it. I'll be 36 in January, and this stuff just isn't melting off like it did in my twenties. To make matters worse, I am starting pretty much at square one again with fitness, when I used to spend three hours a day at the gym. Yeah, it was a bit excessive. But I ran, and easily did 200+ lbs. on the leg press machine and took step classes, Pilates, kickboxing and burned up the elliptical for at least an hour a stretch. It was exhausting, and I was hungry All. The. Time. I was in the best shape of my life, but holding on to it was almost impossible.

Now I'm doing like 30 minutes on the treadmill, and about 10 minutes of Pilates. I feel like the biggest couch potato. I'm trying to ease back into it, avoid injury and not go overboard. I'm still in the beginning stages of my plan, but I've found some great motivation and advice from other people who've gotten back into shape in a realistic way. Here are some sites I'm finding helpful right now:

On Losing Weight, Slowly
7 Rules
Couch Potato to Gym Rat
Cranky Fitness
Does This Font Make Me Look Fat?

Friday, November 6, 2009

On goal setting

To the three people who read this, thanks for dropping by! As I said in yesterday's post, I'm just not feeling inspired to blog, probably because I'm busy writing about childhood trauma (just kidding, Daddy, who is one of my three readers) for NaNoWriMo. But I've committed to blogging every day this week, and I'm happy to say that I have so far.

I've never been a goal setter. I'm a list maker, which is different. I make endless to-do lists, which never get done, but still I make them obsessively. It's a strange habit, especially because I seem unable to stop doing it. Mild OCD? Anyway, this week I thought I'd try setting some goals -- easy ones, so I wouldn't set myself up for failure -- and I posted them on a giant Post-It on the wall next to my computer. My goals this week were to blog every day, exercise every day and take a multi-vitamin every day. These are things I need to be doing, and can't seem to do with any sort of consistency. I wrote down my goals, and under them drew little boxes for each day this week. Then I checked off each day if I kept to the goal.

I didn't make my goals super specific -- like, "exercise for 30 minutes every day" -- for a reason. To get into a habit, I think you need to give yourself as much leeway as possible in the beginning. Changing behavior and adopting new habits is difficult. By beginning with some easy goals, I gave myself every chance to succeed and didn't set myself up for failure with too lofty goals. This way, I was psyched every day when I was able to check off another day. It kept me motivated to be consistent.

Next week, I'll keep going with these goals, and add one more. This is such simplistic stuff that I'm a little embarrassed to be writing about it. Most people that I know seem to be able to do these things without the prodding of a bright yellow sticky. But if you've been struggling with a new goal -- whether it's working out or eating right or whatever -- write it down. I find it a lot harder to weasel out of a goal if it's in my face reminding me every day.

Thursday, November 5, 2009

Pithy title here

Now that I'm working feverishly on my "novel," I don't seem to have a lot of juice left for blogging (I couldn't even think of an appropriate title for this blog post). I'll spend some time this weekend thinking of something to say. Meanwhile, I'm up to 6000 words for NaNoWriMo, and boy is it getting tough. I'm writing about my first marriage... I'm still pissed off about some stuff. This is so much cheaper than therapy!

Wednesday, November 4, 2009


Jeez, I'm feeling uninspired today. I wrote a little for NaNoWriMo, but coming up with an interesting blog post was just beyond me. Unfortunately, one of my goals this week is to blog daily -- and I am all about taking  my goals seriously right now. So... how about some cat pictures?

This is Benny. He weighs about 18 pounds. (He's much prettier than this, and has amazing green eyes but my husband takes crap pictures.) We got him about four years ago. My brother found him outside a convenience store, sick and starving, and kids were throwing rocks at him. My mom called me and asked if we needed a kitten ... and yes, we did. I was going to get Benny from my parents in south Mississippi on Labor Day weekend... but then Hurricane Katrina hit on August 29. For over a week, I couldn't get in touch with my parents, who had lost power, water and phone service. Is it wrong that, while I was worried about my family, I was sick with worry over my tiny (seriously, he was little then) kitten? As you can see, he not only survived, he thrived.

Here's Niblet. Poor, poor Niblet. Until about two weeks ago, he had this thick, luxurious coat that was strikingly beautiful -- and almost impossible to groom. I was sick when his grooming appointment rolled around so Royal took him -- and you can see the results here. Not his proudest moment, is it? (Royal's, not Niblet.) Can you believe what he did to my baby?! He looks utterly ridiculous and knows it. What you can't see in this picture is his tail, which makes me choke with laughter every single day. It's the classic lion cut "puff" and he is definitely not the breed for this particular cut. He tries to wrap his anemic little tail around his body for warmth, so we've taken to covering him with a corner of the blanket when he sleeps on the bed. Niblet is already a strange, strange cat (climbs walls, cries like a baby at random and you can never figure out what he wants) but this haircut has not helped his self-esteem one bit.

Fred is one of our new babies that we "rescued" from Laurel's frat boy neighbors. This is another bad picture (dang it, Royal!) but isn't he cute? He has a twin brother, and we named them Fred and George, after the Weasley twins in Harry Potter. Yes, we're nerds, why do you ask? Fred likes to dry nurse me, but only me, and he likes to be carried around like a baby. He's not quite as gregarious as his brother George, but he is so sweet and affectionate. I need to upload a better picture of him so you can see his fox-like face. He's really adorable.

I'm sure you can guess why I saved this one for last. Yes, he fell asleep on the toilet lid. Doesn't your cat? Totally normal. George is quite rambunctious, so we had to wait until he was sleeping to get something that wasn't a complete blur. He did not disappoint in his choice of sleeping area. His absolute favorite place to sleep, however, is snuggled up to his surrogate mother, Benny. Benny is resigned to this fate, and will even acknowledge his presence with some half-hearted licking on occasion. We think George is going to be a handful -- he already is -- and he is the reason I sometimes question my need for four cats. But what a cutie pie! I wouldn't trade any of them for well-behaved, pedigreed cats. All my kitties are rescues -- if you need a furry baby, visit your local rescue organization. Every kitty needs a warm, safe home.

Tuesday, November 3, 2009


Yesterday, I signed up for National Novel Writing Month, or NaNoWriMo. I've thought about doing it for years, but would forget it was going on until, say, November 29. Since you need to write 50,000 words and most days I'm lucky if I write 200, this is a huge challenge for me.

The impetus to sign up was mainly from reading Art and Fear by David Bayles and Ted Orland. Seriously, this book is an ass kicker. If you're a creative sort, you will either be completely astounded by this book or you are already so awesome that we cannot be friends. It's the kind of thing you read and think, Of course! and feel stupid you never thought of it before. But it's truly life changing for someone like me, who is such a perfectionist that I can barely get anything done.

One particular anecdote in the book has completely changed my view of writing.There's this pottery class, and the teacher divides the class into two groups. Group A will only be judged on the quantity of their work, while Group B will be judged on the quality of their work. At the end of the semester, the teacher will weigh Group A's pots, and they will receive an A for 50 pounds of pots, a B for 40 pounds, and so on and so on. Group B only has to produce one pot -- but it must be perfect. At the end of the semester, something surprising happens. Group B has barely produced anything -- and certainly no perfect pot -- while Group A has created many perfect pots. I'm not exaggerating when I say this was like one of those Oprah lightbulb moments, when everything comes into sudden focus and I see what I'm supposed to do with perfect clarity (and no, I'm not starting a girls' school in Africa). I immediately put the book down and ran to my computer to start writing. Ok, maybe not ran, but walked with a renewed purpose.

Are you laughing at me yet? Right, this is elementary stuff. The more you write, the more likely you'll write something worth reading. It's practice. Just like, when I studied piano, I didn't expect to be able to play Rites of Spring* until I practiced and practiced and learned the easier stuff, I can hardly be expected to write The Great American Novel while writing 3 or 4 tweets a day, and maybe a Facebook update. (*I never learned to play Rites of Spring. Are you shocked?)

After running walking purposefully to my computer, I remembered NaNoWriMo and signed up. And I must say, it's going beautifully. I am writing the most shit-filled, mind-bogglingly awful stuff I think I've ever written. And I couldn't be more excited about it. Because, surely, once I get all this crap out, there must be a jewel in there somewhere.

Monday, November 2, 2009

My (un)sentimental journey

At book club last week, the conversation turned to childhood – what was important to us, what we kept and these kids today!, etc. etc. Many of the women still had dolls they received as Christmas and birthday gifts as girls. Some of them still had papers and artwork from elementary school, poems they had written at the tender age of 6 and letters from first loves.

I contributed very little to this conversation – except to lament the passing of my beloved Charlie's Angels treehouse, which my little sister sat on and destroyed not long after I received it – because I never kept anything. Neither, to my knowledge, did my mother. I don't have old love letters or report cards or newpaper clippings or even photos, for that matter. I have an album with some photos I took in high school with my own camera, but hardly any of me before age 15. I don't have stuffed animals or dolls given to me by friends, family or boyfriends. (Actually, Royal made the mistake of sending me a stuffed teddy bear for some reason in our early stages of courting. I was touched by the underlying emotion for the gift, but quickly informed him that I was not a 9-year-old girl, and from now on all gifts should be chocolate-related.) In fact, I don't have a single thing in my current house that shows I even existed before the age of 30 or so.

I'm fine with not having these things. I don't have them for many reasons, one of which is that I don't like clutter. But another reason is that I'm just not that sentimental. “Stuff” holds no emotional value for me. Here's the problem: Should I be more sentimental? I think it says a lot about me that I'm not attached to things, but maybe it's not a good thing. Are people who hold on to old mementos living a richer life, or are they stuck in the past?

I have wondered if my opinion might be different if I had lost one or both parents, or even my grandparents. Would I have kept that awful music box with the ballerina that my grandmother gave me at 27 if she had passed away soon after? I know the answer: no. Besides being a little insulted that I got the same gift as my 12-year-old cousins, simply by virtue of being the last single woman in the family over the age of 18, that music box didn't represent anything to me. It was just a thing. It didn't cook a pot of chicken and dumplings for me, or let me eat all the cheesecake I wanted or hold me in its lap on the front porch swing. Those were all things my grandmother did for me growing up and I'd never, ever forget them. Same with my parents or friends or husband or anyone else I've ever loved. I don't need a letter or a teddy bear to remember why these people or certain experiences in my life were important to me. The best thing I can do, to make sure I continue to remember, is to write it all down. Every wonderful, awful, exciting, life-changing episode so I can remember it always.

Maybe I am a little sentimental -- I just don't measure it in stuff saved, but in words.

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Seeing things

I see ghosts. Not ghosts like vague apparitions exhorting me to get out of the house or asking me to help solve their murder, but a more sinister kind. These ghosts are all in my head.

For at least 15 years -- and maybe my whole life, my doctor isn't sure -- I've been having hypnopompic hallucinations. When I start waking up, I see things that aren't there, but they are so real I feel I could reach out and touch them. Most of the time, I see innocuous things -- balloons around the ceiling of my bedroom, gently bobbing in the breeze of the ceiling fan (I groggily wonder, "Is it my birthday?"); beautifully elaborate patterns on the wall, like something on a palace wall in Marrakesh; hieroglyphic-style writing on the wall, sometimes in a lime green ink; damask wallpaper with roses; huge cracks in the ceiling.

But sometimes these visions are of people. And even if they're friendly people, it's so out of context as to be disturbing. The first one I remember, from college, I woke up to see my roommate standing in my doorway in a white nightgown. I wasn't scared to see her, just peeved because she hadn't even knocked. She was a little spooked later when I berated her about it, only to find out she doesn't own a white nightgown.

When I started living on my own, the hallucinations became almost unbearable. I saw ex-boyfriends looking in windows, would-be burglars with ski masks lurking over the bed. But the worst were when I saw angry men with knives or guns advancing toward my bed. I would blink rapidly, telling myself, They're not real, but they wouldn't fade for maybe 20, 30 seconds. So then I'd start screaming my head off. My neighbors probably thought I was insane, and I started to believe it, too. Sleep did not come easily most nights, because I dreaded what I'd see. And who knew when I'd blink my eyes, only to have the vision not go away? I took to sleeping with the light on.

Almost two years ago, I finally mentioned this weirdness to my doctor and she told me I probably had narcolepsy. I doubt I do, but I won't know until I let them do a sleep study on me (and my insurance being what it is, it won't happen any time soon). I don't have any of the other classic symptoms, so I think my hallucinations are part of something else, maybe my depression. Whatever the underlying cause, over the last two years they've become less and less frequent. The weird thing is, I miss them. Not the terrifying ones, but the gentler hallucinations with balloons and pretty wallpaper. It was almost exciting, not knowing what I'd open my eyes to any given morning. And for a few brief seconds, my ordinary, practical world became strange and wonderfully unusual.

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Pants on fire

Most writers are good liars. Or exaggerators, if the word "liar" gets your undies in a bunch. It's just part of storytelling, that little extra fudging on the details, or the outright fish tale that hooks your audience from the first word (see what I did there? Perhaps I should blog about my love of bad puns). Truth truly is stranger, and more interesting, than fiction, but sometimes it just needs a bit of help.

I am not always a good writer, but I'm a pretty talented liar. I can make a random trip to the supermarket sound like I inadvertently joined the circus, just by changing up the details a bit. On occasion, I've told an "enhanced" story at a party, only to have my Dear Hubby sputter, "That so did not happen!" or "There were no ninjas at Publix!" I had to have a little talk with him about outing me in public, plus I explained that This is What Writers Do. Hell, I have no idea if all writers do this, but once you start lying you really can't stop.

I'm sure I told some whoppers as a kid, but for the most part I always knew I'd get in trouble. Not so my little brother Scott. Not only could he lie practically from the moment he opened his mouth, but his lies were so extravagantly detailed, we figured they had to be true. When he was about five, he told my father than he and Mom had broken down on the side of the road on the way to the store and this nice man named Johnny Monson had come along and fixed the car. Johnny Monson drove a blue pickup truck. My mother swore to Daddy this had never happened, and she couldn't figure out why in the world he would need to make up such a story. A few weeks later, the whole fam is in the car driving a few miles from home when Scott points out the window at a house and says, "That's where Johnny Monson lives." Sure enough, there was a blue pickup truck. My parents wre a little freaked at that point, because not only did he remember the lie he remembered the details. That is gold medal lying.

I'm not that good. Now, my lies are not of the "I did not have sexual relations with that woman" or "I was hiking the Appalachian Trail" variety. They are innocent, told to embellish a story or just to have a little fun with people. But as I get older, I find myself forgetting most of my little exaggerations and getting busted by my friends. I'm not ashamed of it, I just hope these friends continue to trust me.

But if I tell you something's a fact, I won't be offended if you need to Google it.

Monday, October 12, 2009

Halloween Spooktacular

Halloween, my favorite holiday, is a few short weeks away. Be prepared with some of my favorite ideas for food, costumes and decorations.

Mental Floss - Creepy Halloween Food
The brain cupcakes look gross, and probably taste delicious. The Melting Head Cake makes me want to vomit. That's a good thing, for Halloween.

Trix Your Treats

Creepy Cocktails

Lady Gaga
Let's hope it's warm enough on Halloween for no pants.

Kate Gosselin Wig

How to Create a Jon Gosselin Halloween Costume
Easy: Just be an Ed Hardy-wearin' tool.

Bubblewrap Jellyfish
Strangely gorgeous.

Ideas for Pumpkins

Ghoulish Gourds

Tampon Crafts
I couldn't resist. Cuter than it sounds!

(Re)finding motivation

Above my computer, I have a large yellow Post-It with the Zig Ziglar quote "Motivation follows action."

If only it were that simple.

Some people are people of action. Doing things come easily to them, and they don't have to sit and ponder an action for an interminable amount of time. They just do it. Other people -- like me -- are people of words. I like to talk a problem to death. I can talk for hours about why I have trouble writing or exercising or flossing or any of the other things that I don't do as often as I should. But I still don't do them.

The solution? Find a routine and stick to it, no matter what. When I was working in an office, a routine was a snap. I got up at the same time every morning, worked out (usually...), ate breakfast, got dressed and headed to work. Once at my desk, I made myself a cup of tea, perused the day's headlines and checked e-mails. Around 9 am I was ready for actual work and meetings, and I felt like I'd had enough time to warm up to the day and didn't feel stressed -- or I didn't if there hadn't been a pile-up on 65 North that morning. Sometimes there were hiccups -- like when my boss would convene a 7:30 am meeting and throw off my whole day. So flexibility was also key. But my schedule helped me focus for the day and get down to work without feeling rushed.

Now my day looks a lot different. I get up when I feel like it, which some mornings could be 6 or 7 or as late as 8:30. I may or may not eat breakfast, depending on my mood. Some mornings I just must have a certain thing for breakfast, and as I'm trying to lose weight, that thing is usually not in the kitchen. So then I'm grumpy because I have to eat oatmeal. I watch an episode of Golden Girls, lie on the couch long enough to become deeply bored and finally turn on the computer around 10. Then I'm online all day doing... not much of anything. I play around and waste time until it's the afternoon and I have to pretend I've been busy all day when Royal comes home.

Is it any wonder I don't feel motivated? I've trained my mind and body to do as little as possible. Now, I'm all for periods of laziness, and I think it helps to recharge the batteries and refocus. But the human body and brain isn't built for extended periods of extreme ennui. After a while, you kind of stop trying any more. I realized yesterday I hadn't brushed my teeth all day. That's going a bit far, I think. When you work from home, it is absolutely essential to treat each day like a regular work day. Otherwise, it's easy to let the monkey mind take over and sabotage everything.

So, once again, I need to force myself into becoming a person of action. It seems like I go through this over and over again, and it's true. One of these days it's going to stick, I just know it.

Sunday, August 16, 2009

Sunday bloody Sunday

I, Tina Hatch, lover of Bette Davis movies and kitten videos, really like to see things blow up. And cars fly off tracks and into crowds, and sharks swirling in tourist-infested waters and dinosaurs munching on dishonest corporate attorneys.

There, I said it.

I sometimes pretend to be high brow, but my closest friends know the truth. I may get on my soapbox about using only real, aged Parmigiano Reggiano (for the love of God, not the pre-grated stuff in a can!) but I still like grilled cheese sandwiches with squishy white bread and American cheese. I may rail against the idiocy of movies like Transformers and G.I. Joe, but I actually went to see Undercover Brother in the theater. And loved it.

I spent most of today watching dino movies, Destroyed in Seconds (where horrible things happen and by far the best show on TLC) and nature movies that showed landslides and torrential flooding in endless instant replays. There is something exhilirating about watching scary, bad, catastrophic things happen and know that you are safely ensconced in your living room on an otherwise lackluster Sunday. Or is it the thrill of knowing that at any moment, my life could be in danger? I could be trying to cross the street, and above me on the overpass a truck hauling thousands of pounds of lemons could overturn and pour onto the street. Who wants to die crushed to death by lemons? (This actually happened on Destroyed in Seconds today. The guy wasn't crushed to death, but I was amused by imagining his obituary if he had been. I am sick.)

I am not an even remotely violent person. I'm a pacifist (unless it's a kung fu war, then I'm down) and I hate seeing people get hurt. Once I saw an elderly man fall down on the sidewalk and he was clearly more embarassed than hurt, but I almost cried for him. But if that elderly gentleman had flipped his truck and it exploded and he got out and walked away, unscathed? That would have been cool.

Monday, July 20, 2009

Short answer: Yes

Longer answer to previous post:
I spent the weekend thinking about my last post, what I was really trying to say and what lay behind those feelings of frustration. The conclusion I came to is that I am not writing because I. Am. Bored. It is extraordinarily difficult for me to write without stimuli. After some serious "what do I need?" soul searching, I now know that I actually thrive when I'm around other creative people, even if bad shit is going down in the office and we all have letter openers to our throats as we weep openly at our desks. I am not a loner who can sit in a quiet room all day with no company except the cats and churn out interesting prose.

Honestly, this is a revelation!

Writing is a lonely profession. It requires you to be inside your own head for sometimes dangerous amounts of time, and you can get lost in there (I know I do, and often). If you're lucky, you have an understanding and talented writing group to bounce ideas off of, but most of us toil in solitude. Or, like me, you think about toiling but then go find something to watch on TV because the house is just too damn quiet to write.

I've gotta get out of this house. My concern with not spending money has kept me in a virtual prison since February. I have to draw the line somewhere, and that's my sanity. So, I'm going to start saying yes to all those Facebook invitations (well, not all of them), take some classes and just get out there and find something to write about.

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Am I a writer?

I've always made my living in writing-related industries. I started out doing mindless data entry at a newspaper, because I respected the role of journalism in our society and hoped to be a journalist myself one day. Then I got hip to magazines, and that magazine writing paid more (most of the time). After almost five years of that, I moved to another country and when I came back, I couldn't get my foot back in the door of the old company. So I started writing ad copy, which was insanely easy for me to do. But I hated myself for it being so easy, if that makes any sense. Then I quit and started freelance writing. Fell into it, actually. I didn't have to look for anything, because all my clients were word-of-mouth or friends of friends. I also didn't make much money because I wasn't willing or able to do the hard work involved in finding and keeping clients.

While freelancing, my portfolio (pretty from working with so many great designers) caught the attention of someone who put me on the short list to edit a new magazine. I'd never been a "real" editor before. I felt up to the challenge. But then I hardly ever got to write anything. Wasn't that what I really wanted to do?

This is where I'm stuck right now. Isn't writing what I'm supposed to be doing? Everyone thinks so. Any time I bring up my frustration to my mom, she says, "But you're such a talented writer!" to which I wonder, when was the last time she read something I wrote? Can I spin a yarn about my early years or highlight the absurdity of my former in-laws or reveal embarrassing details about myself? Sure, because I was born into a family of natural storytellers. And I was born in a weird place in Mississippi (all places in Mississippi are weird to an extent, but Foxworth is special) that has all the elements of Southern Gothic with more absurdity and without any of the highbrow literary leanings. Everybody's got a hundred funny and/or morbid stories.

But a talented writer can weave a story out of thin air. I cannot do this. My mind starts out in high gear but quickly shuts down when I see the illogic in what I'm going to say. I think I would have made a better lawyer than writer, because I can argue against myself and win every time. I shoot down my own ideas and nothing, nothing is ever good enough.

So, fine. I have high (-ish) standards. Most good writers do. But here's where good writers and I part company: They work at their craft. I don't know what has happened to me, but I can barely make myself tweet something and I certainly don't write in a journal any more. I'm not sure if it's just the physical nature of writing -- it does require you to be pinned down, sometimes for hours at a time, and often with little to show for it at the end -- or the fact that I feel like my imagination and creativity have been completely dessicated. I don't really have "ideas" any more. I have random, fleeting thoughts ("I wonder if the neighbor who never comes out of the house during the day is a drug dealer") but I don't act on them. I don't jot dialogue down in a notebook I keep in my purse (I used to do this). I don't write.

I have managed to make a bland blog post about my frustration, but is that writing? The ability to string words together does not make you a writer. Having a blog does not make you a writer. A writer can't imagine doing anything else but writing. It's both a career and a lifestyle. Is it possible that I ended up in a career by circumstance when I should have been doing something else? How does anyone ever know that the path they're on is the right one?

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

Burning love

I have only truly loved a few TV shows in my life. My first crush was Seinfeld, which I still quote in conversation and think was the best TV comedy ever. Then came the original Law & Order with its strangely hot ADA Jack McCoy and wise Detective Lenny Briscoe. My college roommate and I never missed the new episodes and would frequently lock the door and unplug the phone (oh, those grand days before cells and social media!) so as not to be disturbed.

More recently, I came to love that geriatric mainstay, CSI. For the first four seasons of CSI (the original, not those paltry also-rans CSI: Miami and CSI:NY), I was completely obsessed. Royal and I could usually guess the true killer's identity before the half hour mark, but the true draw of the show was Gil Grissom. He was a modern day Sherlock Holmes who was unabashedly nerdy, and quite open in his attitudes about sex. Rowr. Once the show started focusing on him less and the other (less interesting) characters more, our attention waned.

Then last week, we watched a marathon of Burn Notice episodes. And now I am in complete lust with this show. Jeffrey Donovan plays Michael Westen, an ex-spy who's been "burned," fired and deprived of his resources so he can never work again. Everyone seems out to get him, and he's out to find who burned him and why. He's been dumped in Miami, a city he left at 17 to escape a bad childhood and dysfunctional family (Sharon Gless plays his mother Madeleine). His only friends are Fiona, his gun-toting, former IRA ex-girlfriend (played by the gorgeous Gabrielle Anwar) and former military intel officer and current FBI informant Sam (the always wonderful Bruce Campbell).

A lot happens in any given episode. Things go boom, Fiona and Michael may or may not make out, Sam drinks mojitos (this show makes me crave alcohol something fierce) and Michael gets one step closer to unraveling the puzzle of his past. It is not the type of show I would normally find interesting much less completely absorbing, but the witty dialogue, likeable cast and intricate plots keep it from being a typical action show. Oh, and did I mention the hotness of its three main stars? This show is sizzling, and a lot of fun.

I really, really like Fiona. I love that she is played by a 39-year-old actress, and not a 20-something with little to contribute besides looking foxy in a bikini. Not that Fiona isn't foxy: this woman is incredibly lean and taut with freakin' 12-pack abs. But she's not a stock character or just a pretty face. She is deeply in love with Michael and her vulnerability with him obviously pisses her off. I like that she's tough and talks smack. BUT, in a scene in the second season, Fiona and Michael get into a fight as "foreplay." She's hitting him in the face, kicking him, throwing him down, but when he hits her he immediately freaks out and is all, "Sorry! Sorry!" Obviously he's bigger than her and she's ticked off that he hit her, but is it OK to hit a man, especially a man you love? I guess it's part of her complicated character, and we're supposed to see this as the main reason she and Michael couldn't make their relationship work. She's not a soft, anxious, behind-the-scenes girlfriend. She will kick anyone's ass who tries to mess with her man, her friends or even women she barely knows (a couple of episodes showed her getting enraged at men who had abused women) so I like that she's strong in that regard. But physical violence as foreplay... I don't think I can get behind her on that one. Still, Fiona's a great character and I can't wait to see what the next episode brings for her and Michael.

Wednesday, July 1, 2009

"This lady doesn't have a job"

While I was getting my hair cut today, the stylist and I were making the idle chit chat you make in salons.
"So what do you do?," the stylist asks while lathering my hair.
"Well... um, I used to work for a magazine."
"Oh, really? Which magazine?"
"Lipstick? You probably never saw it..."
"No, I remember that magazine! I know somebody who worked there. Actually, she still works there. Her name is [says name of person who didn't work at Lipstick]."
"Um, actually she works at the News. She didn't work for Lipstick."
"Are you sure? Because I remember her telling us she was working on the magazine. She talked about it all the time! She's got long red hair?"
"Well.. I was the editor, and she didn't work for Lipstick. And she's blonde."
"Oh... So what are you doing now?"
"Freelancing." I said this with a straight face.
"That's good. Hey, did you hear about one of the radio stations doing a show where you call in your resume and they help you with it?"
"Oh, really? That sounds interesting," I say, mildly interested.
"Hey, Tammy!" my stylist yells across the salon. "Do you know that show on the radio you call in with your resume and they help you with it?"
"I don't listen to the radio," Tammy says.
"Oh you know what I'm talking about. The one on 102.5? The one with Dollar Bill and the girl who replaced Patti?"
"You don't call in your resume, you post it online where everybody can see it," Tammy answers, a tad impatiently to my ears. "Why do you want to know?"
My stylist yells back, "This lady doesn't have a job and I thought it would be good for her."

Fortunately, this is a small salon and there were only 7 or 8 people in it at the time. Still, I was embarrassed. But why? It's not exactly a secret -- or a humiliation -- that I don't have a job. I probably should tell everyone I see that I'm out of work. And also that I'm creative, hardworking, a good typist and work well alone or in groups. You never know who might be the next Mark to my Rachel, with the perfect job at Bloomie's.

With so many people unemployed right now, I think there's no longer the stigma of being jobless that there once was. People understand, and don't judge you for it. That doesn't mean I don't judge myself. I still go through scenarios in my head where we could have hung on to Lipstick. I think, If only I had been a better salesperson and a better manager and If only we had had the support we needed and about a billion other "what ifs" that don't matter now and probably wouldn't have salvaged the thing anyway.

The thing is, I've never been laid off. Well, once, but I was 21 at the time and got hired back less than two months later. It was never a reflection on me because that job was just a job. I did it to have drinking money and because my two besties worked at the same place. But Lipstick -- that was not just a job. It was the culmination of everything I had ever worked for or wanted. And to have it fail felt personal and final. So it's not just that I'm out of a job -- I'm out of the job I thought defined me as a person. Now I've got to find some other way to define myself.

After my stylist got through telling everyone my business, we actually had a lovely chat about Michael Jackson, Larry Langford, why everyone in Alabama is nuts about football, how Birmingham is like Gary, Indiana and our plans for July 4. She did a fabulous job on my hair, too.

Monday, June 29, 2009

Asleep at the Keyboard

Where the heck have I been?! I wish I had a good story for you...

When you only interact with cats all day, it takes a toll on your blogging abilities. As cute as those Daily Kitten kind of blogs are, nobody wants to read about how I had to pull some string out of my cat Niblet's butt or how Benny slept beside me on the couch for two hours so of course I couldn't get up and work out because I didn't want to disturb him.

Seriously, that's my whole day most days. Life, where did you go?

Monday, May 11, 2009

5 things I'm loving right now

1. The new Star Trek movie.
I gave in and went to see it to be nice to my husband, but I am so glad I did. It's awesome and fun and I don't think they said "dilithium crystals" even once. And ladies: Spock is hot.
2. Country Living. My mother-in-law gives me old issues every month, but most of the magazine just never appealed to me. Until now. New EIC Sarah Gray Miller has transformed the publication into a budget-friendly, fun and lively read. I usually tear out pages that interest me, but I started tearing out so many I decided to just keep the whole issue. I'm a huge Sarah Gray Miller fan. She was editor of my favorite magazine of all time, Budget Living, AND she's from Mississippi. We're like best friends already.
3. Kashi TLC Original 7 Grain crackers. These are old news, but I wanted to proclaim my love for them in a public way. They are so tasty that I don't mind the whole grain goodness. It also helps to balance out all the pimento cheese I like to eat them with.
4. John's City Diner. Last week, I got a nice letter and a $10 gift card as a thank you for my patronage (it was the regular lunch hang out for the Lipstick crew). I haven't since shortly after the layoff, but now I have a good excuse to get my ration of their amazing mac and cheese.
5. Starting over. Sometimes (okay, often) I get frustrated and throw in the towel. Whether it's writing consistently or working out or just being productive, I get discouraged when I don't feel I'm making progress and fall back on the bad, depressive habits that comfort me like overeating or ignoring my blog. It's hard to keep having to start over, but it's nice to know I can and that things will get better, and easier. Small, daily steps will help keep me on the right track.

Thursday, April 9, 2009

Is that your final answer?

This is what it's like to pick somewhere to eat in the Hatch household:
Royal: "What are you hungry for?"
Me: "Hmm... I don't know... What are you hungry for?"
Royal: "I asked you first."
Me: "Well, I picked last time so you pick this time.
Royal: Sighs. "How about Arby's?
Me: "Ewww, not Arby's."
Royal: "Mexican?
Me: "Had it for lunch."
Royal: "Hamburger Heaven?"
Me: "I worked out today, so I probably shouldn't."
Royal: "I can call Baker's and get a pizza."
Me: "Pizza feels so heavy. I don't think I want anything heavy."
Royal: Begins rummaging around in the fridge. "K. Let me know when you decide. I'm going to eat this block of cheese in the meantime."

A couple of weeks ago, we were debating a lunch spot and had narrowed our choices down to Tip Top Grill (we live just a couple blocks away, and it was a lovely day) or Mr. Chen's (I had just read Susan Swagler's review and it sounded delish). I told Royal to pick. He chose Tip Top, so I said let's walk there.
So we're walking, and it was kind of hot that day, and I was getting grouchy about how tight my pants were. We're like a hundred yards away and he says, "Why are you so quiet? Is something wrong?"
I say, "I really wanted to go to Mr. Chen's..."
I had to chase him down the sidewalk after he started walking back toward home in a huff. I told him I was just kidding. But I wasn't.

It isn't just food that is impossible to pick for me. We have had a plywood floor in our kitchen for three years because I can't decide on the flooring. Linoleum? Too institutional. Ceramic tile? I tend to drop things, so probably not a good idea. Wood? Too expensive. Cork? Ditto. Bamboo? Maybe, but I like the lighter colors and they look weird with our cherry cabinets. Then I'll see an article in one of my favorite shelter mags about these awesome new Marmoleum tiles and I'll think, "Maybe..."

Sometimes I imagine that this cycle will continue, until I'm on my deathbed. There, I'm surrounded by my nearest and dearest, who have gathered to see me into the great beyond (of course, I am dying quietly and painlessly, and I look fabulous). I will beckon to my husband, who, though still handsome and agile, will never remarry or even think of another woman because I was just that awesome. As he leans in, his face full of love, I will whisper my final words, "Tiger-stripe bamboo."

Wednesday, April 8, 2009

Drum roll please...

In my previous post today, I wrote that I would try to sit down and write until I found my purpose in life, as instructed by internet writer and reformed klepto Steve Pavlina. Here's what I've got so far (he says to list things until one makes you cry, so I'll stop on that one).

My purpose in life is:
1. Total world domination
2. To make people laugh
3. To make people cry
4. Enjoyment
5. Writing a runaway bestseller
6. Writing emo poetry no one reads
7. Writing blog posts no one reads
8. To serve as a warning to others
9. To make up for sins in a past life
10. To become one with the universe
11. To overcome depression and write a runaway bestseller about it
12. To be bigger than Oprah (not in that way, idiot)
13. To live a full, interesting life and die in my sleep (almost a tear? Er... nope)
14. To actually feel good about myself (we're getting warmer!)
15. To conquer my fears, become secure with the essence of who I am -- warts and all -- and to help other people do the same (hmm... think I'm on to something)

Ok, seriously, I think there might be some merit to this method. Once you get out all the crap, the snarky cliches and such, it's hard not to start coming up with good reasons. I'm just not quite there yet.

The purpose-less life

Yesterday's Oprah was about the four "blue zones" of the world, where people are more likely to live to be 100 -- and still be healthy and happy. I wasn't all that interested in the topic because nobody in my family seems to die before 95. I have a great uncle who still drives himself to his favorite fishing spots, and he's at least 99. I've got practically immortal genes.

Anyway, so Dr. Oz and his sidekick Dan somebody are listing tips from each of the blue zones: Eat a small dinner, get daily physical activity, drink red wine, blah blah blah. We've heard all this a million times from a million different gurus (including Oprah). But then they said something like "and have a purpose in life. A reason for getting out of bed in the morning."


Huh, a purpose in life, you say? This kind of threw me for a loop. I don't really want to live to be 100, but I can't fight heredity (although I am trying, with my sedentary lifestyle and eating nothing but white foods), and I certainly don't want to be miserable for the next 65 or so years.

I haven't ever thought about my purpose in life before. Until watching Oprah yesterday, I didn't realize I didn't have one (or that it was all that important, honestly). When I was little, my purpose was to get through school, so I could be a grown-up. At 20, it was to finish college and find a job. Once I got my first real job, my purpose (if I even thought of it as such back then) was to work my way up and have a true career.

But a job isn't a purpose. So what is it? According to Steve Pavlina, it's "the very reason you exist." That's kind of serious.

(Who is this Steve Pavlina? Well, his web bio states that he's "widely recognized as one of the most successful personal development bloggers on the Internet, attracting more than two million monthly readers to his website." But the best part is this: "Arrested for felony grand theft at age 19 and expelled from school, the full weight of responsibility for his life came crashing down upon him. In an attempt to overcome his out-of-control kleptomania addiction, he decided the best course of action was to go to work on himself." Now this is a guy I can believe in.)

Steve also says you can find out your life's purpose in 20 minutes. Yes, 20 minutes! And to think some of you are paying a therapist for this. Steve says to sit down and type out (or write, if you're a Luddite) what you think your purpose is. Once you get to the reason that "makes you cry," that's it!

As ridiculous as that sounds to me, I'm going to give it a shot. My next post will be my, hopefully short, list. And my newfound purpose in life!

Wednesday, April 1, 2009

Snippy lives

Finally! After weeks of sweat and toil, Snippy has successfully launched. There were some hairy, tense moments with domain mapping (now there's a phrase I've never used before). But after some sobbing at my computer at 6 am and some "pointers" from my husband — none of which helped, mind you, but he gave me somewhere else to focus my rage — everything seems to be working. Please check it out and tell me what you think.

Sunday, March 29, 2009

The Book of Dahlia

I've been AWOL from the blog for far too long, but I don't have a good, long post in me. Yet. What I do have to share is my love for The Book of Dahlia, which I bought today at 2 pm and finished at 9:30 pm. I read it at my computer when I was supposed to be working, and I read it in the tub until the water was cold. Dahlia is 29 and dying of brain cancer. But wait! It's not that kind of book — the one where the dying protagonist lives life to the fullest and inspires others through her graceful death. Dahlia is a self-described "fuck up" who wonders if anyone will mourn her "wasted life." She is one of the most interesting characters I've ever seen in modern fiction. It's gritty and harsh and funny and heartwrenching and you must add it to your reading list.

Saturday, March 14, 2009


Last Wednesday, I got together with Laurel and Michelle at Oak Hill to talk about Snippy. Andrew Yeager from WBHM interviewed me about moving on after Lipstick, my first ever radio interview. I hope I didn't stink too badly. It is really difficult to give serious, thoughtful answers when two women are across the table from me with "oh shit" faces, hanging on my every word with dread. They were both so relieved at the end that I hadn't humiliated them! Bless their hearts, I did try.

Nadria, Nancy B., Bradford K. and Jane L. all stopped by to find out how they could help with Snippy and give us their input. They had some outstanding ideas, and I'm excited to see how the site will take shape. I may not be blogging much (not that I've been that much of a regular) as we get the site moving and all my creative "efforts" are focused on that.

Stay tuned!

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Letting fingers do the talkin'

I was flipping channels this morning and stopped on Headline News as they were talking about the new trend of tweeting in church. Apparently, some megachurch is encouraging its younger worshippers to use Twitter to keep their friends in the loop about how "cool" religion is.

I'm pretty sure this is not a good idea. I grew up attending a small, rural Southern Baptist church. I don't know if this is true in every congregation, but in ours the youth (the 13-18 y.o.) sat in the back. One particular Sunday morning, we were drawing tribal headdresses on the photos of deacons in the program and writing insults to pass back and forth, as we usually did every Sunday morning. (I actually still have one of these notes, probably from when I was 15 or so; It was from my friend Jamie and says "You are a big dog. You are a slobbery, rabid dog, too." Only "rabid" looks like "rabvi" for some reason.) Anyway, something happened that morning that was so totally funny that people were falling out of the pew around me, snorting and doing that silent crying thing you do when something is so funny and you're in a place where you're not supposed to laugh. So then I started laughing at the reactions, still not knowing what was going on, and that's when the pastor stopped his sermon mid-sentence.

"I want to know what's so funny back there," he intoned, red-faced.
The entire back three pews froze as we realized he was talking to us, man. That's when 200 pairs of eyes swiveled from the pastor's face to ours.
"I said," the pastor bellowed, "what is funny about the word of the Lord? I see you snickerin', Tina Bennett..."

I don't know if he said other names because my entire world went into slow-mo, and that's when my daddy stood up from about 20 rows in front of me and crooked his finger at me, to silently say, "Come down here right now."

Has your father ever crooked his finger at you? When mine does it, it is not a good thing. It means I cannot believe that you are my child and if I could tear all the skin from your body with a switch I would do it. When the finger crooks at you, you do not hesitate, for fear of death.

After Daddy's finger-crooking, I slunk up to the front of the church in silence. I could feel the fury radiating off both my parents so I sat as still as possible and kept my eyes on the pastor the rest of the interminably long sermons. The urge to die out laughing was intense.

So as I'm thinking of these kids thumbing their iPhones and Blackberrys and what-have-you, I'm imagining my dad, at the front, crooking his finger at them. Don't make him do that, kids.

Monday, March 9, 2009

5 completely random things

Today was weird. I wasn't bored, exactly, but my mind had drifted off somewhere else. I hope wherever it went, that it was getting lots of sun and umbrella drinks. Anyhoo, I never could think of anything profound to blog about today. Then it hit me: no one blogs about the profound. Who would read that? So here are five completely random things that I thought about today, for those who are keeping score at home:
1. Are newspapers dying? Are magazines? Will people even know how to read in 50 years or will all our necessary info be downloaded in microchip form (or whatever is more sophisticated than a microchip in 50 years) so we can put forth no effort whatsoever? I read a few articles today about the death flop of print media, because I like to torture myself and my choice of profession.
2. My cats, Niblet and Benny, are masters of manipulation and mind control. They can see that I am focusing all my attention on my little screen, so therefore they wail and twitch and run about until I stop what I'm doing and follow them into the kitchen where they stare pointedly into their bowls. This will continue ad infinitum, between naps of course.
3. Ellen DeGeneres is really funny.
4. Tai chi looks like it would be a relaxing thing to learn, but man, is it boring. I made it 30 minutes into the DVD and she hadn't even started teaching the steps to the form. She did talk a lot about how master tai chi instructors' upper bodies "are soft like butterfly wings." That sounds nice.
5. This weekend I watched some Muppet Show episodes with John Cleese, Peter Sellers and Dudley Moore. I keep thinking about John Cleese being forced into costume complete with maracas as the Muppets sing "Impossible Dream" and laughing to myself. The cats just narrow their eyes, suspiciously.

Wednesday, March 4, 2009

Who you callin' Snippy?!

Since we all got laid off February 13, Laurel, Michelle and I have been tossing around the idea of starting a new website that has the content we really want to do. Strong personal essays, interviews with our favorite women, book reviews, lists (we love lists), etc. And one where we are free to cuss and carry on like the jezebels we are.

Last week we decided to go for it, but then came the hard part — what the hell to name it. "Vagina Dialogues," though intriguing, was out. So was "The Dish," because there's already a cable gossip show called that (and hosted by the girl who played Topanga on Boy Meets World — I hope she gets better material soon). We considered "Zelda," as an homage to Montgomery-born Zelda Sayre Fitzgerald, who was known for thumbing her nose at Southern social mores of the time. Her story's a bit too tragic for her name to be the title of an uplifting (we hope) women's site, so we passed on it, too.

Then at lunch today with Laurel, inspiration struck. We were bitching about past workplace indignities when I mentioned being called "snippy" whenever I spoke up about something. "That's it!" Laurel said. Laurel's standards are higher than mine, so if she liked it I figured I better jump on board, too. I'm actually pleased as punch with the name, and although it's a bit inside joke-y, I think it sums up pretty well what our site's voice will be like. We will often say things that would get us in trouble at a corporate-owned magazine. I'll write more about it once we launch the site April 1 — snippyonline.com.

Monday, March 2, 2009

The Hatch house, frosted with snow

I felt too bad to enjoy the snow on Sunday, but my wonderful mother-in-law Doris captured this image. It makes our weird little house look almost cute!

The painful truth

I woke up Sunday with a headache, a really bad one that started at the back of my head and radiated up and out until my whole head throbbed. I must have taken 10-12 Advil during the course of the day (including 3 Advil Migraine tablets) but it never even took the edge off.

Around noon, I went back to bed. When I wasn't sleeping — fitfully — I was doing some not-so-pleasant thinking about why I felt so bad. See, I wake up almost every morning with a headache. Most days they fade not long after breakfast, but sometimes they stick around for the rest of the day, or even days. I've seen my doctor about it and she's prescribed Treximet, but the pills are incredibly expensive. But she also told me something I didn't want to hear — I'm fat and out of shape and I won't feel better until I do something about it.

Just writing that is embarrassing, although I can't imagine that anyone who's ever seen me would argue (and if you would, that is very sweet of you, but it's not honest). Since I moved to Birmingham 10 years ago, I've struggled with my weight. Well, "struggled" wouldn't be the right word since that assumes that I actually put some effort into it. I did try to work on it for a couple of years, going to the gym for 2-3 hours a day, drinking Slim Fast and falling into bed every night before 9 pm, exhausted but hungry. It was hard, hard work and my tantrum-throwing inner child would show up at least once a week demanding a cheeseburger and cocktails, which I would overindulge in and ruin my progress for the week.

I achieved nirvana while Royal and I were in Germany for a year. Bored, I spent lots of time at the gym. We only had one car, which Royal took to work, so I walked everywhere. We ate the good, hearty German food with gusto, but I managed to lose weight from all the activity. I came back to the US lighter than when I'd left (and, for the first time in years, quite infatuated with my toned body).

Unfortunately, it didn't last. Our first meal back in Alabama was at Hamburger Heaven. You just can't get a good cheeseburger in Germany. Then I had to have Mexican about four nights in a row, as that's not popular in Bavaria, either. A few months of this and no activity later, and I was back in the fat clothes.

Fast forward a few years, and things have only gotten worse. I no longer even pretend to eat healthily. When I have a craving — which is often — I dispatch Royal to the Pig for our crack of choice, Little Debbie snack cakes. We can polish off a box of Swiss cake rolls or fudge rounds in a matter of hours. Royal is definitely an enabler, but only because I allow him to be. He only wants me to be happy, bless his heart. And being unhappy is what got me to this point in the first place. I have been depressed for many, many years and was officially diagnosed last summer. I am taking Wellbutrin, which helps tremendously, and seeing a therapist. But while those things give me the tools I need to make a change, they can't actually make the change for me. I have to do the work. And that's where I've been stuck ever since.

Anyway, confessional blog posts like this always make me cringe a little bit, but if everyone in the world — or, the five people who occasionally read this blog — knows about my problem, then I can't pretend there isn't one any more. I am not so vain as to worry about the number on the tag inside my jeans, but I do worry that, at 35, I'm experiencing the pain and discomfort of someone 20 years older (and also out of shape). It's keeping me from doing the things I want to do and it has to stop. Today.

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Pity poor Gwynnie

What is it about Upper East Side-educated, Oscar-winning, musician-marrying Hollywood A-listers that makes everyone so testy? I have been reading about the GOOP backlash for a few weeks, first with amusement and then with growing irritation. Even The New York Times got in on the act recently.

For those of you who don't spend all your time on gossip sites, GOOP is the brainchild of actress Gwyneth Paltrow. It's a lifestyle site that sends you a weekly newsletter with tidbits like "Police your thoughts." I had never visited it until today and what I found, though hardly groundbreaking, wasn't as insidious as I had been led to believe. Yes, Gwynnie is a very rich, very fortunate and very famous woman. And no, she doesn't necessarily have the qualifications to be a lifestyle guru, or a gym owner, or a food show host, or (and I'm being mean here) an Oscar-winning actress (come on, Cate Blanchett and Meryl Streep were both nominated that year!).

But since when has a lack of qualifications stopped anyone from blogging?

I can't believe I'm saying this, but cut the poor girl some slack. If we had to be qualified before we were allowed to expound on a subject, there would be no Internet. If there's one thing I can count on every day, it's that I will read reams of information from complete know-nothing nobodies who are convinced that their opinions are sound and not to be questioned. This is the entire foundation on which conservative talk radio is based! To mouth off on matters of which you have little knowledge or experience, this, my friends, is what it means to be an American.

Monday, February 23, 2009

Ticking away the moments that make up the dull day

One of the four or five good things about having a full-time job is the demarcation of time. You know you have a long and probably boring week ahead of you but, eventually, Friday will come. You might spend the whole week planning for it, talking about it and daydreaming of it rather than actually getting any work done. The anticipation is painful, but delicious — and makes your Friday night happy hour seem all the more deserved.

What happens, then, when there is no 40-hour work week? How can you anticipate the weekend with any fervor when it looks the same as, say, Tuesday? This thought hit me on Saturday morning, as I was waking up and poked Royal in the shoulder with my usual Saturday, "Hey, what do you want to do today?" His anticipated stock answer, "I don't know. What do you want to do?" bothered me more than usual. What did I want to do?!

You would think, given that I had my choice of things to do, that I would come up with a thousand creative and fun things to keep us occupied. But exactly the opposite happened — I was completely paralyzed by the options. I had already cleaned the house, done the laundry, shopped for groceries and paid the bills for the week, so we had none of that usual last minute housekeeping to do. Nothin' but time and my imagination. Unfortunately, I have the former in droves and the latter not at all. The things I really wanted to do — go try a new restaurant, see a movie, drive to Atlanta for the weekend — involved spending more money than is feasible at this time. So that left cheap/free things, none of which come easily to mind in Birmingham.

I spent most of the morning fretting about fretting the hours away, while Royal played WoW and generally feigned sympathy at my plight. He's fine not doing anything. Not doing anything is like his favorite thing to do. But it makes me feel lazy and unproductive and then I feel even worse come Monday.

Finally, at around 1:30, I declared we were going for a walk, and not around the neighborhood either. So we drove the mile or two to the little gravel lot outside Moss Rock, and walked the winding trail into the neighborhood. It was cold out, but the sky was breathtakingly blue and the exercise was invigorating. We talked about things we wanted to learn — Royal wanted to learn Spanish and brush up on coding, I wanted to learn origami which he mocked me for — and stopped to pet a friendly dog on the trail. Afterwards, we stopped by The Purple Onion for gyros and drove home sated and spent.

I am slowly learning that it's OK to not have anything exciting on the agenda. I just need to learn to turn that phrase "we have the whole weekend in front of us" into something a little less panic inducing. I do expect this unemployed stint to be short-lived — and I should enjoy frittering away time while it lasts.

Thursday, February 19, 2009

Quotidian joys

I'm not accustomed to being home during the day. This week I've been trying to create little daily rituals to make each day seem special — and not an endless slog until I find my next job. I've been exercising as soon as I get out of bed and get fully awake (and as soon as Royal has left so he doesn't have to endure my singing and wheezing on the treadmill), then eating breakfast while watching The Golden Girls. [I had forgotten how good that show was. Ridiculous? Yes. Dated? Definitely. But this was the first show that let older women actually have sex lives!] Then I putter around the house cleaning and Febreze-ing. I now understand my stay-at-home mother much better, as a clean, fresh-smelling house makes the whole day easier, even if that day is spent updating Facebook and watching Law & Order reruns.

So something I noticed today was how good these tiny little things were making me feel. I looked forward today to going to my neighborhood Pig and buying a few things, stopping off at the post office next door to pick up a package and cancelling my gym membership (actually, I didn't enjoy that one as it was awkward for everyone involved). I cleaned out my car and hand washed things that have been in my car for two months, intended for the dry cleaners. Then I snipped some forsythia branches from the hedge and placed them in vases around the house.

For the record, I am not a woman who enjoys house cleaning or hand washing or flower picking (maybe a little). But when the whole day is spread out before you and you don't really have anything planned, even the smallest, most everyday task can be a pleasant experience. I am taking more time to appreciate these little things because, well, I have the time. Now all I need to do is remember this feeling when I get a job and time is all too fleeting.

Time flies like an arrow. Fruit flies like a banana. ~ Groucho Marx

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Frosting delivery system

While searching for the ultimate cream cheese frosting recipe (the one on the Kraft site is good, but you can't go wrong with mixing cream cheese, butter, vanilla and powdered sugar until you get the consistency you like), I found the phrase "a cupcake is nothing more than a frosting/icing delivery system" in dozens of articles online. I couldn't imagine that so many disparate food blogs and publications (even the esteemed magazine The Atlantic uses the phrase) would come up with such a witty turn of phrase all at the same time. After some preliminary investigation (ok, looking up more recipes), it looks like Ina Garten, food goddess, coined it. In her honor, here is her recipe for Peanut Butter Frosting. Top chocolate cupcakes with it or, you know, just eat it out of the bowl with a spoon.

Peanut Butter Icing
from Barefoot Contessa
1 cup confectioners' sugar
1 cup creamy peanut butter
5 tablespoons unsalted butter at room temperature
3/4 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
1/3 cup heavy cream

Place the confectioners' sugar, peanut butter, butter, vanilla, and salt in the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with a paddle attachment. Mix on medium-low speed until creamy, scraping down the bowl with a rubber spatula as you work. Add the cream and beat on high speed until the mixture is light and smooth.

Another reason to not go in the water

This article scared the bejeezus out of me:
What Invasive Species are Trying to Tell UsLink

At right: a lionfish — beautiful, resourceful and a harbinger of the impending apocalypse

Monday, February 16, 2009

Farewell, Lipstick

Thanks to Media of Birmingham and The Terminal for getting the word out about Lipstick folding. If you've come here from either site, here's a bit more info.

The Birmingham News launched Lipstick in November 2007 with high hopes (and a low budget). Our staff included art director Michelle Hazelwood Hyde, managing editor Laurel Mills, administrative assistant Nadria Tucker, and myself as editor in chief. All of us were laid off on Friday. According to the News, it was strictly a business decision. We had to make money to survive, and in this economic climate it just wasn't happening.

For what it's worth, the News was always supportive of our editorial content. Nervous, but supportive. We established a somewhat irreverent voice early on that was a challenge in a city as conservative as Birmingham, but we had a loyal, vocal following. I am so grateful for the opportunity to serve the women (and men!) of Birmingham in whatever small way. I look forward to the next chapter.

Big, big thanks and hugs to Anne Glamore, Catherine McCarty, Kim Hildenbrand, Chianti Cleggett, Helen Grebe, Abigail Millwood, Cindy Riley, Melanie LeMay and so many others I'm probably forgetting for writing such fantastic essays, profiles and articles. I wish you all the best in your journeys.

Meanwhile, please pick up the March issue of Lipstick! It will be on racks throughout the city around March 1. And if you're upset the magazine is going away, drop a line to the News and let them know. :)

The eternal to-do list

Now that I have some extra time on my hands, what with being laid off and all, I figure there's no time like the present to get started on my "life list." I like to think of it as a really lofty to-do list. Only instead of looking at it morosely right before bed and realizing I have done nothing on the list all day, I can look at this in the nursing home right before death — and regret not having done anything on the list for decades. I'm just being realistic.

In no particular order, here are 10 of the things I want to accomplish this lifetime:
-Learn Spanish. In college, my Spanish IV professor told me I had a natural ear and should consider a job as a translator or interpreter. Now I can barely order a chimichanga at Hacienda Grill.
-Learn German. I know what an ausfahrt is and how to order spaetzle, but I bet there are more important things I can learn in German. Like cursing.
-Write a novel. Autobiographical, of course. I've been talking about this for at least 10 years and have yet to set pen to paper (er, keystrokes to screen? I am such an old person). A few of the integral people in my story have died, so the threat of lawsuits is diminished, at least.
-Learn how to use power tools appropriately. This may seem trivial addition, but I would really like to know how to use an electric drill without fearing I will bore through my hand.
-Learn to make bread from scratch. I have a bread machine, but it can't create the crusty exterior, chewy interior of my favorite artisan breads.
-Knit a sweater I'd actually wear. The reason this one is worded this way is that I can actually knit, but everything comes out misshapen and malformed. I made a "hat" for Royal once that I later had to turn into a totebag. It was about 20 times too big for his head. And Royal has a really big head, y'all.
-Take dance lessons. Now, I took bellydancing classes a few years ago, so I know I'm not completely uncoordinated — but I'm pretty close.
-Pay off credit cards. Who doesn't have this one on their list? If you don't have credit card debt, you are clearly a better person than I am.
-Work on a political campaign. I really, really, really wanted to work on the Obama campaign, but it didn't pan out. Not that I applied or anything.
-Plant a garden. I grew up with a huge vegetable garden in my back yard, and I really wished I had paid attention. Yes, Mom and Dad, I know you told me so.

Saturday, February 14, 2009

The first post is always the hardest

Today is Valentine's Day. I got laid off yesterday. My husband and I made homemade red velvet cupcakes with vanilla buttercream frosting (verdict: meh) and spent the rest of the day playing WoW. We had good intentions to go hiking today and Royal was going to teach me to play tennis, but I felt like today needed to be as unplanned and relaxed as possible. Yesterday was hellish.

The worst part? I knew it was coming. I just didn't know when, and that was making me sick with anxiety. I couldn't decide if I should start looking for something else — or fight harder. The magazine was so special and so beneficial to a lot of people... It doesn't feel real yet that we don't have it any more.