Month: September 2013

Give It Up for the Giving Circle

It’s hard to believe how long it’s lasted. We may not have given away millions, but we’ve kept it going. Shortly after Hurricane Katrina struck in 2005, I reached out via email to fifteen friends I knew from different spheres of my life – my fellow elementary school moms, friends from church, old college buddies who lived nearby. “Between Katrina, Rita, the earthquake in Pakistan, the melting polar ice cap, the war in Iraq and, and, and … I’ve been feeling kinda gloomy and hopeless.” I wrote. I knew my friends did too. I wondered, in the email, if they might want to join me to set up a social meet up once a month, where we would pool our funds—the suggested donation was whatever you would have spent on a girl’s night out—in support of a non-profit organization selected by the group. Pretty simple. We had no bigger ambition than to spend time with friends and throw a tiny bit of good karma back into the world. Those first few meetings were rough. In …

My Edited Life: Moving Day Identifies Real Treasures

At last count I’ve moved 15 times, including the first cross-country move from Philadelphia to Seattle. I was on a tight budget, so most of my bulky belongings were purged via a series of stoop sales. What remained were my treasures: all of the art anyone has ever made me, photos, a decade of my design work for the City Paper, art school projects, all shipped to the West Coast  via UPS in a handful of boxes. And later, my stereo, records and tapes arrived, driven through the mountain passes by a brave friend. (The ultimate nod to “When Music Was a Thing”). I was happy to spend money on new hangers and spatulas, so long as I had my special trinkets surrounding me. Then, after a decade plus in Seattle, it was time to return back East. This time, the technology of moving offered up an option to store my goods in a moveable pod. I could have loaded all my things into a bin the size of a tractor-trailer. But, I had to ask …

How I Lost (And Regained) My Handstand

When I lost my dream job, my life went topsy-turvy — so much so that I also lost my handstand. I’m not talking about a gymnastics-style handstand — the kind where perky and muscular athletes like Nadia Comaneci or Gabby Douglas walk around on chalky hands to win Olympic medals. I’m referring to the yoga handstand, often done with the help of a wall. Known in Sanskrit as Adho Mukha Vrksasana, this handstand is my favorite yoga pose. The benefits include increased blood flow to the brain, which is obviously very helpful when it comes to thinking on your feet, once you’re upright again. Typically, this handstand is one of the poses you do toward the end of class, after you’re a malleable and sweaty pretzel. You’re now all warmed up and your shoulders are nice and loose, so your body is perfectly prepped for that handstand. I’m by no means a crazy athlete, by the way. But being able to pop myself into this handstand was just one of those karmic things I could …

The Wishful Hobbyist: Finding Time and Space to Be Crafty

I have a confession to make: I live a secret life. No, no, not like that — though that would surely be interesting. I’m talking about an imaginary life in which I do hobbies. The hobby projects themselves are actually real and fully formed in my mind: making a beautiful scrapbook of my son’s first years, stringing together hundreds of 5mm labradorites to craft a dramatically long necklace, sorting through the collective family photos of three generations and making photo books for the Morrison clan. But I haven’t actually done them. At least not yet. I have all the raw materials, carefully and painstakingly researched and collected over many months and years. (My son is ten, for crying out loud. I bought the scrapbook before he was born.) I have drawings and plans and dog-eared references. I have carefully stored raw materials and neatly aligned good intentions. I want to be a person who actively does hobbies! I come from hobby stock. My father built model trains (H-scale, if you know these things) for a weekly …

The Consequences of Play

Reading today’s bestsellers can lead you back to more great books. In this installment, I’ve got a great pair of reads to help us all consider the consequences of what can start out as “play.” My au courant pick is The Husband’s Secret by Liane Moriarty, a deliciously rich batter of a novel studded with deceit and menace, instead of chocolate chips and other sweet things. The Australian author set her story in a leafy suburb of Sydney and centered it on three families with ties to a small Roman Catholic school. Wait, don’t say you’re yawning! Within this suburban bastion of Tupperware (sold by perfect wife-and-mother Cecilia Fitzpatrick) and macaroons (a vice for school secretary Rachel) lurks the unsolved murder of Rachel’s daughter Janie, which occurred decades earlier in the 1980’s. There’s also a sealed letter from Cecilia’s husband John-Paul, and Rachel’s growing suspicions that PE teacher Connor Whitby may have more to do with the murder than anyone else knows. Meanwhile, recently returned woman named Tess, fleeing marital problems in Melbourne, gets more involved …

I’ve Become a Non-Alcoholic Craft Beverage Snob

When I drank (especially toward the end of my “drinking career”, as they often say in AA) the quality of the spirits was of little meaning to me. Sure, I loved fancy Manhattans and extra dry Ketel One martinis, but at the end of the day, a bottle of Old Grandad or a pint of Absolute did the job just fine. And to be frank, I was a vodka girl at heart  — all I really needed was a chilled glass, some ice, and olives. Eventually, I didn’t even need the ice. Or the olives. And eventually, I didn’t even need the glass. So when I’d go out to small gatherings, and my craft-beer-loving buddies would offer me their favorite brews, or my wine connoisseur hosts would kindly offer a glass of their top-tier red, I graciously accepted. But I honestly didn’t give a rat’s ass about the robust, hoppy flavors or woody notes. I just wanted to get drunk. [pullquote]So here’s the kicker. I think my sobriety has transformed me into one of those drink …

If You Play Chess with a Six-Year-Old, Plan on Losing

I can’t imagine having more fun in an afternoon than losing a chess match. Really. And I’m not a loser. Here’s the game: Find the nearest six-year-old and challenge him to chess. Not checkers. Chess. It doesn’t matter if he has any experience playing the board game or not. He’s still likely to beat you. And that will be fun. And therapeutic. Here’s how I know: One spring day in Sonoma, a six-year-old named Oliver appeared on my doorstep with his Dad, who was my friend. With a full head of tousled hair, Oliver wandered around my home, scouting a spot for entertainment. He took little notice of the big screen TV and even the energetic, eager-to-play Labrador, complete with ball in mouth. He was looking for a game — a chess game. “Can a six-year-old play chess?” I asked, laughing. “Of course!” Oliver’s dad insisted. So Oliver and I headed off to the outdoor picnic table with game in hand. Initially, Oliver looked disinterested, but this was clearly a poker face. He quickly set …

Football & Me: Where is the Love?

It’s that time of year again. Every year, around Labor Day, a virus creeps into my household (and 99.9% of America’s households), settling into its primary host: a television screen. In an effort to try to understand this phenomenon, I’ll occasionally stand in front of this screen, watching colorful dots of moving, huddling figures grouping to the left, then to the right and then to the left again. Accompanying this is a persistent, roaring noise that crescendos as the swirl of dots mash into each other or break-off from the pack. Usually this culminates in a piercing whistle. “Honey, can you please move, I’m trying to watch the game.” Football season. The time when my husband deeply considers the value of buying an NFL Sunday Ticket (access to every single football game). A time when the couch becomes something to be negotiated. And as hard as I try (ok, I don’t try that hard), I can’t seem to follow the game or understand why it holds so much all-consuming passion for so many people. My …

Dad Introduces Daughter to The Breeders

It started with a spat. My husband and I were listening to music while cleaning the house together when I noticed that all of the songs coming from his iPhone were sung by men. I made a snarky comment about how the father of two daughters has an obligation to expand his playlist. He snarked right back that he’d be happy to play all the female artists I could provide him. Raised eyebrows on both sides. Later that night, he posted a request on Facebook for suggestions of “solid female music” and struck a chord. He got 95 responses, most with multiple suggestions: Aretha Franklin, Tori Amos, Joni Mitchell. Some people even posted several times throughout the day as they remembered more: Liz Phair, Neko Case, Aimee Mann. People shared the post with their friends and the list grew. Stevie Nicks, Lucinda Williams, Etta James, Joan Jett, Patti Smith, Pat Benatar, Marianne Faithful. A friend who works at a radio station WBKM was inspired to do a ‘Ladies’ Night’ on his show. We read the lists together, amazed, talking …

Late-Blooming Bride: Globetrotter Finds Love Right Under Her Nose

He: A white high school quiz show champ from Kentucky, separated from his wife, wearing a shiny new cancer survivor medallion on his lapel. Me: A serial man-eater with a preference for dark-skinned men from various corners of the globe, and trips out of Dodge always in the works. Embroiled in an on-again, off-again, decade-long love affair with the son of an erstwhile political revolutionary from South Africa, where I was planning to relocate and become a first lady of sorts. Mr. Kentucky and I sat a few hundred feet away from each other in the newsroom at washingtonpost.com, where he ran business and technology news and I wrote food and travel stories. He may as well have worked on the other side of the world.  If it weren’t for his shiny bald head, the result of chemotherapy, I may not have noticed him from my cubicle. And yet, as John Lennon sang, and many other famous people have publicly observed: Life is what happens to you when you’re busy making other plans. Along with …

On the Event of My “Canniversary”

My boss slid two manila folders across her desk. “Well, you’re probably not shocked about what I’m going to say.” I had an inkling about what she was going to say, but it didn’t mean I wasn’t shocked. One week after returning from
 my 10-day honeymoon, I was getting the axe. * As we celebrate (ok,
 we don’t celebrate) the 5th anniversary of the 
2008 economic collapse, I celebrate (and yes, I celebrate) the 
moment I was laid off from my last full-time job — my 
”Canniversary.” Credit for that term goes solely to my friend Maura
 Johnston, who announced, on Twitter, her one-year Canniversary of being 
”shit-canned.”  (However if
 you look up canniversary in urban dictionary, it 
has a whole different meaning) For me, it was first time I’d
 ever been let go from a job. Ever. I’d always been that
 sit-in-the-front-row, hardworking, sleeves rolled, do whatever it
 takes kind of worker. I’d been promoted at every job I’d ever had. 
But in this particular digital editor gig, I had a b personality conflict with my boss and …

Why Intervention Was the Worst Show for This Alcoholic

For this former active alcoholic, Intervention (which ended its 13-season run in 2013) was the best show ever. Not because I identified with or cared about any of the fellow addicts I saw on the screen. Rather, it served as a wonderfully effective way to justify my drinking. I could point to those live-action bottom-hitters and say “Look, ma! They’re WAY worse than I am!“ This trick worked well, especially on my husband, who didn’t understand the disease and fell victim to every manipulative trick a drunk can play on a loved one. Once he even noted that I wasn’t nearly as bad as these people were and that my sister was going overboard when she insisted that my problem was serious. A sly grin spread across the face of the scheming, sauced-up Susan inside me. I had him. Tighten my grip. Essentially, the reality show helped me legitimize my status as a “functioning alcoholic,” and when I purposely decided to become outwardly “dysfunctional” (my dad died, my intake doubled and I did little to …

The Next Magic Mike, Coming to Your Computer (Yes, We Went There)

Television is over. According to the 2013 US Digital Future In Focus report, Americans watch nearly 40 billion videos each month. If big-budget streaming series like Netflix’s Orange Is the New Black or House of Cards whet your appetite, be sure to check out lesser-known hits like The Misadventures of Awkward Black Girl, The Trivial Pursuits of Arthur Banks, Husbands, and F to 7th. Now, Brooklyn-based filmmaker Tahir Jetter brings us Hard Times, a new webisode project chronicling a broke personal trainer’s experiences as a male exotic dancer. The New York University Tisch School of the Arts graduate’s short film Close. premiered at the 2011 Sundance Film Festival, and he expects to release Hard Times online in November 2013. While stories about men who pay female sex workers are as old as an expired condom, stories about men selling their schtick are less prevalent. Nothing short of courageous, such storylines include oft-ignored women who pay men to strip and much more. If there was any question about the audience for this film, strip flick Magic Mike hauled a 73 percent female audience …

Why FOMO Made Me Move to New Jersey

Fear of missing out — aka FOMO* — made me move to New Jersey, that is. FOMO is a term coined by Dan Herman, to characterize the sense that, and to paragraph Mindy Kaling’s memoir title, everyone is hanging out without you. You’d think someone with FOMO would want to stay in the city that never sleeps, rather than leave it for a far sleeper milieu, right? Let me explain. When I first moved to New York City at age 20 to go to law school, I fell in love. Not with a person, but with the city itself. Having moved from the Bay Area, where BART stops running around midnight, I marveled at the 24/7 subway service, art galleries right down the block from my Mercer Street dorm, and being in proximity to clubs like Tramps, Brownies, The Bottom Line (RIP, all) and Mercury Lounge. I loved the Big Apple’s cultural offerings so much that I threw myself headlong into anything and everything that could occupy my time — except studying. Back then, I …

The Picture At My Desk: Mom and Dad

I have a lot of little photos at my desk, all around me. Actually, they’re Stickygrams, those awesome mini-magnets of your Instagram photos. But the most important photo at my desk isn’t a Stickygram. Because I don’t have an Instagram photo of my parents. They died before Stickygram was invented. Before Instagram, even. They died four weeks apart in June and July of 2010, both of sudden, unexpected illnesses that punched a huge hole in my life, never to be mended again. But the photo doesn’t make me sad. The photo makes me think how made-of-awesome I am. That love that parents give their children makes me think about how much my parents meant to me, that I, as an unnecessarily independent person, didn’t even realize until they were gone. Turns out, you don’t feel the floor under your feet until you’re falling. One day a few months ago, I was sitting at my desk, doing that funny daydreaming thing that leads to writing, and I was once again feeling that curious sense of empty, …

Quitting Booze Made My Beauty Products Work Better

Clearly, by writing this column, you can see that I’m open about being in recovery. In fact, let me properly introduce myself to you: “Hi, my name is Susan and I’m an alcoholic.” Nice to meet you. For the past 21-plus months, after many failed attempts to get sober (including three stints in rehab — luckily I’m still below the Lohan count, I believe), I feel like I’m finally on my way. I feel like I’m finally starting to understand what this sneaky beast of a disease can do, and has done to me (and my family), and what I need to do, each and every day, to keep it in check. To put it in the simplest of terms, I finally realized I had to stop drinking or I would die. And right now, sobriety is starting to suit me. It’s a constant emotional rollercoaster — between AA meetings and group therapy and one-on-one therapy and time spent with my sponsor — sometimes I just feel like a raw walking wound, stripped of my …

Gay Is The New Brown

It was “obvious” to most and “not a big deal” to others, but it took me almost a decade to figure out that I was not the person I thought I was. A pivotal moment came in 2008: I was with my then-girlfriend on my way to work, and we stopped in a posh little West Village coffee shop. A few important facts: – I don’t live in the West Village. – I’m not a posh person. – I wasn’t “out.” So when I ran into two former colleagues from Conde Nast, I was terrified. These were two of the highest-level executives who knew me, and knew that I didn’t live in the neighborhood. So why was I getting coffee with a woman at 7 a.m.? My girlfriend expected to be introduced and acknowledged as my lover. I was trying to avoid the “guilty, I’ve been outed” look. These were the same two people who, almost a decade earlier, had accused me of being gay when I was adamant that I wasn’t. I believed that …

Being Authentic, Cue Diana Ross

“I’m coming out. I want the world to know, got to let it show.” Since 1980, Diana Ross’s rallying cry disco hit has been one of a series of earworm-y songs running on a loop in my head. (Just added: The shamelessly addictive soundtrack to Kinky Boots. Make it stop!) In our third week of TueNight.com, “Coming Out” has re-entered my brain playlist. I think because I want this site to be a sort of a coming out: a culmination of who I am, who we are as mid-life/ gen-x women, and what we love to do/ read/ experience/ share. Something like the actual conversations I have with my friends. As we progress in life, it can become harder and harder to be authentic, or our true selves — not to sound all Deepak Chopra, but it’s true.  We navigate worlds by playing multiple roles, shifting and adjusting our voice. Today I’m a financial analyst, in three hours I am a mom, tomorrow night I am a drinking buddy, consoling my recently-divorced pal. As in …

What I Learned From My Stalker

I may have the word “open” tattooed on my back, but I consider myself overly cautious. By nature of being a sex writer, many people think I’ve offered myself up for explicit, inappropriate conversations, and that’s forced me to keep my guard up. Normally, I don’t answer my phone unless I know who’s calling. I vet strangers I’m meeting extensively online beforehand. On a recent flight, I even took my laptop to the bathroom rather than leave it unprotected in the seat back compartment. My caution is what stopped me from contacting a man I met on my flight to Dubai after I let him borrow my phone charger; I didn’t want to give him the wrong impression. I was excited about this trip to Dubai, and announced it on my blog, Twitter and Facebook in case friends had recommendations or knew people there. The primary purpose of my trip was to find the world’s first and only Hello Kitty Spa, which had recently opened (yes, I was 36 going on 13, and am more …

Baby Steps to Bravery: How I Finally Became Courageous

I left my husband after eleven years of marriage. We lived a comfortable life with money in the bank, good jobs, a nice house, a dynamic circle of friends, all within an interesting and livable town.  But I walked away from it all and when I did, people said I was brave. I came clean about my sexuality in the midst of leaving. Bisexual would be the culturally understood term to describe who I had known myself to be since I was a teenager, but that cold and lifeless word didn’t quite fit the heat of my reality. In truth, I was just plain sexual with people of any gender that I found interesting. But while walking down the street with my girlfriend, I was called brave. People thought I was crazy, but said I was brave when I quit my full-time job that provided me with a modest income, health insurance and most importantly, credentials. I could read it on their faces. Or perhaps those looks were a reflection of my own feelings about …

A Random Timeline of Brave Women in Literature

My father, a good ’70s feminist type, was always very conscious about providing me with examples of fierce women protagonists.  He wanted me to see role models who were strong and courageous. He took me to see Sigourney Weaver in Alien (Of course I was traumatized; I was eight.) He gave me a copy of Robert A Heinlein’s Friday.  He made sure I knew that girls can change the world, and that I should plan on it myself. I was a bookworm, not an activist, so I ended up bonding with some brave literary characters in my reading life. Here are a few of my favorites in chronological order: 1599 Rosalind: As You Like It, Shakespeare Elizabeth I was on the throne, and Shakespeare wanted to impress her — who didn’t? — so he wrote one independent female character after another. One of the most audacious is Rosalind, a young woman banished from court after the exile of her father. She flees with two others to the Forest of Arden and disguises herself as a …

The Magic of the Mixtape

Picture it: New York City, 1988. I was 13 years old, browsing Nobody Beats the Wiz for the best pack of four, 90-miniute TDK cassette tapes that I could afford. Because I had a big weekend ahead. A big weekend of mixtape making. I had one to make for my best friend’s birthday, one for my “boyfriend’s” return from camp (who, I was soon to learn, found a new “girlfriend” at said camp — had I known this, my tape would have taken on an entirely different tone), and one for my sister, who I loved to impress with (and introduce her to) new, “in-the-know” tunes, since was she’s 11 years my senior. A quick side note for those who are already feeling me: Cassette Store Day is on September 7th. Check out the events and locations and get ready for some serious nostalgia (and swapping, if you still have some of your old mixes). But make sure to ask yourself first, are you truly willing to part with that piece of personal history? The …

Day Job: Radio DJ

Who: Maria Milito What’s your day job? I keep people company on air. I’m a radio DJ for the New York classic rock station, Q104.3. My shift is during the workday, 9am until 2pm. How long have you been a DJ? I’ve been at Q104.3 for 17 years. I’ve been DJing a long time. You don’t like to share your age? It’s funny, I have like 20-year-old listeners who think I’m hipper than their parents and their parents are actually younger than me. And then I have people who listen to me and think they listened to me when they came back from Vietnam. But I can’t tell them that I’m not that old. So that’s why I’m always pretty generic about it. Where did you grow up? Hicksville, Long Island. My family is from Brooklyn and they did the big Italian exodus in the ’50s to Staten Island, New Jersey and Long Island. How did you get into radio? I got a Bachelor’s degree in Communication Arts from New York Tech in Old Westbury. …

Dog, Divorce, Do-Over: Meditations on Momo

A year after I got married, rather than having a baby, we got a puppy. Momo. A Miniature Australian Shepherd. Momo was the first dog I’d ever raised on my own. I’d grown up with cats, I’d inherited a rabbit named Mr. Bunny, I’d lived with dogs before. But Momo was the first pup who was all mine. A year later, we got another puppy, Dailo, also a Mini Aussie. My husband didn’t really want Dailo, but I went ahead and got him anyway. Funny enough, Dailo turned out to be a guy’s dog. And Dailo and Momo got along famously. They were like a cute little couple. And then, six years later, my husband and I got divorced. Irreconcilable differences. I decided it was best to just start fresh with a clean slate. Perhaps if we’d had had kids, we would’ve tried harder to make it work, but no matter. I made the decision and I got to keep Momo and Dailo. Divorce was sometimes difficult. What happened? Maybe I should have just stayed? Why …

Then & Now: Your End-of-Summer Mixtape

Discovering bands that are fresh for your end-o-summer playlist — and actually good to listen to — can be tricky and time-consuming. And you have to know who to trust (“But Aunt Margit, Carly is AWE-some!”) To that end, we’ve compiled a few bands  you might like, based on some old sounds you probably already know. Our picks aren’t all brand new, but a few have gone under the radar, and we insist you listen: 1. Slightly sappy, ’70s singer songwriters Then: Seals & Croft, “Summer Breeze.” Now: The Autumn Defense, “Back of My Mind.” While their album Once Around (2010) isn’t new, we can’t get enough of these two ex-Wilco bandmates and their California, easy, breezy pop groove. “Back of My Mind” is a standout for September.   2. Edgy, unclassifiable R&B Then: Erykah Badu, “On & On.” Now: Lianne La Havas, “Forget.” Is Your Love Big Enough (2012)  is a melange of jazz, pop, R&B and rock, and this 24-year-old’s emotional debut album is a stunner (and woefully overlooked.)   3. Peace, love …

How I Became an Empty Nester at 43

When I was busily raising a human being, I didn’t have time to consider she would eventually be raised. And here we are. My 16-year-old daughter, Cleo, will live in India for a year and attend her senior year of high school while staying with a host family. When she returns, Cleo will head off to college. Well-meaning friends and relatives ask me what I’m “going to do” when my daughter leaves. I’ll be alone for the first time since I married her father when I was 24. My answer: I don’t know. When Cleo was a newborn, her father and I moved to Kansas “temporarily” so that we could live near relatives and I could start my career. When I pictured my future, I saw myself standing in fields by a picturesque farm. I envisioned living in a cute little white house with a porch swing, big garden and a pygmy goat named Piglet. Instead, I’m divorced. To be exact, I’m twice divorced. (Even worse, I divorced not one, but two bald drummers.) And …

Secrets of a Second-Career Intern

When I left my last magazine job in 2008, it seemed there were exactly zero print publications left worthy to work for. I had devoted 20 years of my career to the magazine industry, but it was no secret that the field was going down the tubes. Also, If had to edit one more piece on why blueberries are a superfood, there was a good chance I would slide under the desk into a fetal position and never come out. I was burned out and my well of work ideas had run bone dry. So when a friend told me about the jumpstart she got from her career coach, I went to see him. One of the first exercises he gave me was simply to muse about my job: Turn off the censor in my head, and make a list of the places I would love to work. The first name that popped in my head was WNYC, the public radio station in New York City. I’d done a slew of radio interviews during my …

Artistic Endeavors as Sung By Billy Ocean

I spoke to the fine people of the Big Traveling Potluck in April 2013 about how to invest in their creativity — with some tips from 80s pop/R&B sensation Billy Ocean. It was a long talk (near 40 minutes). I spoke before Ree Drummond. Yeah. Her. And after Matt Bites, someone I’ve obsessively followed online for at least 5 years. So, no small pressure to make the magic happen, HJ. Here’s a portion of my presentation: Get out of my dreams and into my car. And by car, I mean, into your best creative work. And here, by your best creative work, I mean, consistently creating images, moving pictures and words in combination to publish on the internet. It’s no small responsibility, to have the chance for the world to bear witness to your work. It’s no small disappointment when no one seems to take notice. It’s strange too, in all of human history; we didn’t have this kind of work. We worked in small groups satisfying our basic needs. And now we’re alone, bearing witness to our perceived …