Month: November 2013

8 Charities We Love and Why We Give

Most of us have at least one, if not a handful, of charities that we contribute to. All of them provide wonderful services, but some are particularly special as a result of how we relate (or are related) to them. We asked our trusted TueNight contributors to share some of the causes that are close to their hearts.   1. The Liz Logelin Foundation “The Liz Logelin Foundation was started by blogger Matt Logelin, who lost his wife 72 hours after she gave birth to their first daughter, Madeline. Logelin took the outpouring of support for him and his newborn daughter and turned it into a nonprofit that helps widows and widowers with young families in need.” –Rachel Kramer Bussel [hr] 2. Head for the Cure “Inspired by a loved one who died of brain cancer in July 2013, I volunteered at two Head for the Cure 5k fundraisers in the Kansas City area. Contributing to the non-profit helped me through the grieving process, and donating money to help find a cure is one way …

In the Middle of the Night: Two Friends, Two Babies, Two Phones

  Christina and I had babies two days apart, and we went through the exact same thing at the exact same time. Even when babies are a just month apart, there are already variances—especially when they are newborns. There is not a shared sensitivity of what is happening right now. Christina shared everything I was feeling, especially in the wee hours of the night.   I don’t think anyone ever impressed upon me just how lonely and long nights can be when you’re the only one up, nursing and bouncing and rocking your fussy, lovely, crying, wonderful baby back down. When most of the world was sleeping and our men were snoring beside us, Christina and I had our babies in one hand and our iPhones in the other. And because we were bent on breastfeeding on demand in the beginning, this meant we were up 2-3 times a night. l was so bleary eyed, crazy tired, falling asleep while sitting up in bed holding on to my blob of a newborn. I am not sure how it started really, …

How I Stay Sane On Turkey Day: A Chef Shares Her Secrets

  Kim O’Donnel is a trained chef and author of The Meat Lover’s Meatless Celebrations  Here she shares six tips for staying sane in the kitchen during the holidays. 1. Don’t Fret. It’s a waste of energy and emotion to work yourself up into a pre-party lather. Before stepping into the kitchen, I actually meditate and/or practice a bit of yoga, or go on a solo walk. 2. Everyone Gets a Job. It doesn’t always work out perfectly, but everyone who comes to our house for a big holiday meal gets a job: Setting the table, dish duty, carving the turkey, making gravy and so on. I’m done with the days of being the maid and not enjoying the meal. 3. Feed the Cook. Have a grilled cheese sandwich or a fried egg around noon for the cook; a little stove top nosh to keep up the energy level and provide a brief respite from the work. 4. Shower Zen. Allow time to rinse off in the shower before guests arrive. Sounds obvious, but it’s another way to get a “time …

6 Tips for Putting on Your Face (Why I’m So Grateful for Makeup)

When I wake up every morning, always after several snoozes, I drag myself to the bathroom, pee, wash my face, pat it dry and take my first look in the mirror to say good morning to myself. But if I’m honest, the first conscious thought I actually have at this moment is: “Thank GOD for makeup.” Because it’s all I need to go from this: To this: I have been genetically blessed (both sides of my family have always looked about five to seven years younger than their actual age, myself included). But I am getting older, and I see it in under-eye circles, crow’s feet, forehead crinkles, a hazy, cranky glare…. you get the idea. Oh and let’s not forget the 10-plus years I spent abusing my body by drinking heavily, staying up late, sleeping very little, smoking cigarettes on and off (and on again) — all of which I’m sure have added to these delightful new facial developments. Don’t get me wrong — I know I’m still a young(ish), vibrant, sober 38-year-old who …

Thanks Patricia, Ellen, Danyel and Sue

  The black and white photocopy is riddled with thumbtack holes, pinned to various bulletin boards over the years. A photo of four women music journalists: Patti, the punk poet, Ellen, the trailblazing New Yorker critic, Sue, the one who dared write about rave music and Danyel, who grabbed your arm and took you along to a hip-hop concert. The image illustrated the 1992 Village Voice article by Evelyn McDonnell, “Feminine Critique: The Secret History of Women in Rock Journalism.” When that article came out, I was a devoted music writer and “listings editor” for the City Paper, a Philly alt weekly. For me, the photo offered — and offers — hope, inspiration, a reminder to be myself. The variety of faces and scenes (from Bleecker Street to a bedroom) suggest that great writing can come from anyone, anyplace, anytime, with any approach. Which kind of had nothing to do with being a woman, and yet had everything to do with it. Your voice, your point of view, might be intertwined with gender but it …

Manju and Me: Finding Gratitude in an Unlikely Friendship

Her name was Manju and she’d come to us on a rainy afternoon from an employment agency that specialized in hiring out domestic help. She wore a faded orange ‘salwar-kameez,’ the baggy pants and tunic that are the everyday dress of scores of women across India, and she’d covered her head to protect it from the spattering rain with an even more faded ‘dupatta,’ or scarf. She wore chunky-heeled sandals, her toenails were painted red, and although she looked tired, she smiled, her eyes sparkling. It was the summer of 2006 and I was over the moon about moving to India, the country of my birth, to spend two years during which my husband conducted his doctoral research. But I was also terrified. I had visited India many times, but I’d never stayed there for more than six weeks at a stretch, I’d never run my own household or managed — dare I use the common Indian term —“servants.” The word itself made me cringe, but in India, servants are part and parcel of most …

Agatha Christie: Hercule Poirot and the

Mysteries, Christie and the Love of Books

One of the things I’m most grateful for, naturally, is the ability to read — and for that I thank my mother, who not only helped me learn to read, but kept me supplied with library books for years. It’s because of Mom that my heart still beats faster when I see card catalogs (on Etsy, repurposed as recipe-card files… I do have to live in the modern world!). But it was my mother’s sister, my Aunt Mary, who turned me on to the “hard stuff” — mystery novels. Back in the day, when we didn’t have a plethora of YA fiction, I was constantly searching for new books, authors and genres. It was Aunt Mary who had the idea of letting me read Agatha Christie’s output, when I was around 11. She gave me Ten Little Indians, and before long, I was reading every battered hardcover and worn paperback of Dame Agatha’s on our library shelves. Yes, these books are formulaic, but that was perfect for a young adolescent. Trying to out-sleuth Hercule Poirot …

If Wishes Were Horses: Letting Daisy Go

Daisy came from an old farmer friend’s stubbly hay field. We bartered her for a stone retaining wall my husband built. She was the second-to-last filly to come from a quiet mare named Cricket, one who had been over-bred by any stallion that jumped the barbed wire. Daisy was, what fancy-horse-people call: “backyard bred.” I had ridden plenty of horses in my life, preferring a challenge to a lazy plug any day, but I stood now wondering exactly who had control over whom. I had no idea how to train a horse from the ground up. “Give her friendly lessons,” my husband said. I began simply by brushing the burdocks out of her matted mane. Over seven years, Daisy blossomed into a fine-boned, brave beauty of an event horse. A dapple brown bay with long, delicate legs, she jumped anything we put in front of her, loved a good flat-out gallop across the neighbor’s cornfield, and judging by her misbehavior in the ring, she agreed with me that it’s like running on a treadmill. We …

Four Novelists on Their Favorite, Worst and Unintentionally Funny Tweets

In his contribution to The Guardian’s “Ten Rules for Writing Fiction,” Jonathan Franzen listed this one: “It’s doubtful that anyone with an Internet connection at his workplace is writing good fiction.” And sure — who among us hasn’t lost a few good hours to looking at the vacation pictures of someone you hardly remember from high school? You could have banged out a few pages in that time. Still, I have been surprised to find some very talented novelists who show up regularly in my Twitter feed. They write that Twitter is something to be grateful for, rather than distracted by, because of what it brings across their desks: laughs, ideas for stories and essays, and good, quick chats with clever people. And I in turn am grateful for their tweets, which are nearly as interesting and funny as their fiction. I rounded up four of these authors and asked them their thoughts about Twitter. [hr] Megan Abbott is the author of six novels. Her latest, Dare Me, is a mystery that explores the dark side …

Thank You Squash! A Recipe for Thanksgiving

We understand if winter squash has been on your “avoid” list — you practically need an axe to pry it open. But there’s no need to give up on these beta-carotene bombs entirely; there’s a thin-skinned, quick-cooking option and her name is Delicata. Shaped more like a mini football than a turban or a pumpkin, the delicata squash usually comes in shades of deep yellow, frequently accented with very stylish hunter green stripes. Unlike its cousin the acorn squash, the delicata actually has flavor, a delightful mash-up of corn and sweet potatoes. Ingredients 1 ½ cups water 1 cup Bhutanese red rice (Plan B: long-grain Wehani; cooking times and liquid amounts may vary) 3 to 4 delicata squash (about 1 pound each) ⅛ cup olive oil, plus extra for brushing ¼ teaspoon salt, plus more to taste Freshly ground black pepper ½ cup fresh flat-leaf parsley, chopped ¼ cup unsalted shelled pistachios, chopped (Other options: walnuts, almonds, or pecans) ⅓ cup dried cranberries or cherries, chopped 1 teaspoon fennel seeds 1 teaspoon peeled and minced fresh …

My Shed: 120 Square Feet of Happiness

They say if the universe shows you a door, walk through it. Well, the universe showed me a shed. Specifically, a 10’x12′ “modern shed,” like one you might see in Dwell magazine. One I discovered online and bookmarked during an absent-minded Google search, on a particularly rough day at the office. I then wistfully stared at it on my computer for about six months, during conference calls, morning edit meetings and lunch breaks. It was the image of this small, fantastical oasis that calmed my racing pulse when my inbox topped 100, cut through the din of office drama and temporarily un-furrowed the brow that had, over time, become so… scrunched. I’d spent more than 15 years in digital media, climbing the ladder, watching my physical surroundings improve and grow with each new gig — from well-appointed cubicle to panoramically viewed Midtown Manhattan office to the most immaculate, modern space in all of Beverly Hills. Each upgrade seemed to be a sign that, clearly, I was making it. Each Herman Miller chair was evidence that …

Poop in Pop Culture: Top 10 Moments

It’s alleged that All in the Family was the first series to break ground (or is that wind) and actually flush a toilet during prime time. Since then, potty humor has become a staple of book, movie and TV giggles. Here are 10 of our most memorable poop-culture moments. We’ve even given them “stinky and offensive” ratings to give you fair warning before watching the link. Our #10 was so bad, we couldn’t even link to it. That’s what Google is for people. Did we miss some of your stinky faves? Share them in the comments below! 1. David Sedaris – Big Boy A hilarious tale of the turd that just won’t flush — everyone’s worst nightmare. “The tank refilled, and I made a silent promise. The deal was that if this thing would go away, I’d repay the world by performing some unexpected act of kindness. I flushed the toilet, and the beast spun a lazy circle. “Go on,” I whispered. “Scoot! Shoo!” I claimed a giddy victory, but when I looked back down, …

Rehab Antics: Saved by the Nude Pooper

It was a freezing-cold December and I was trapped in a rehab center in the middle of Wernersville, Pennsylvania. The facility was nice enough, but still, it was WINTER in where-the-hell is WERNERSVILLE, PENNSYLVANIA. I had already been to two 30-day inpatient programs and relapsed, so clearly there was something I wasn’t getting. But I was still horrified when faced with the fact that I had been recommended for “extended care.” Thirty days was one thing — 90 more on top of that seemed INSANE. In hindsight, it was the best decision I ever made. I needed that time to really understand how sick I was and how much work was involved if I truly wanted to stay sober. But I wasn’t happy about it at the time. None of us were — quite a few of the friends that I made in primary care were subjected to the same fate, and we were all terrified of what the next three months had in store for us. Would torture be a part of this new phase of …

Why Poop Has No Place On Social Media

When I started STFU Parents, a user-submission-based website highlighting “parental overshare,” I didn’t realize that I was signing up to look at so much shit. Literally. At the time, my definition of “oversharing” did include mannerly updates about potty training, but never in my wildest nightmares did I think parents would post pictures of their children’s actual fecal matter — or long-winded descriptions of said fecal matter — on Facebook. Having been aware of the explosion of “mommy blogs” at the time, I figured if you wanted to post about your child’s diarrhea, you’d probably do so on a personal blog rather than blast a digital telegram to your friends, relatives, neighbors, former teachers, and bosses. Boy, was I naive. I quickly discovered that many parents are delighted by their kids’ poop and think that all of their friends actually care. I filed away hundreds of these submissions in a folder titled “Bathroom Behavior,” and over time I began noticing bizarre patterns. I created sub-folders for various topics pertaining to children’s poop, such as “painting with poop,” …

When Having a Colonoscopy Feels Like a Vacation

Don’t get me wrong. I was dreading my colonoscopy, for obvious reasons. But in the back of my mind I kept thinking, “How bad could it be? Katie Couric had one done on national TV! Although I am seven years shy of the recommended age of 50 for getting a baseline colonoscopy, I scheduled the procedure for two reasons. One, I have a family history of rogue colon cells, and two, my college BFF was recently diagnosed with stage II colon cancer. (She now has a clean bill of health, I’m so happy to report.) So I took my cues from the universe — and my mother’s GI doctor — and made an appointment for a Friday in mid-August. [pullquote]Mom said she’d make me some Jello and that she’d just bought the second season of Homeland on DVD. Call me crazy, but it sounded a little bit like heaven.[/pullquote] It’s true — on a day when most Americans had planned either a vacation or at least a long weekend at the beach, I opted for …

You, Unplugged: 6 Steps to Healthy Bowels

I’ve always been prone to painful poops. Growing up, my mom gave me tall glasses of prune juice to get things moving. By the time I was a teen, I popped Correctol any time my movements slowed down. Even into adulthood, romantic getaways and weeklong vacations created a digestive gridlock that rivaled LA freeways during rush hour. But it wasn’t until I was pregnant with twin boys that severe constipation, complete with bloating, cramps and excruciating pain, consumed my life. Surging pregnancy hormones relaxed my muscles (including my bowels). Add to that a daily iron supplement to compensate for anemia, myriad constipating meds to manage pre-term labor and immobility due to physician-prescribed bed rest. My gut became a waste product traffic jam. Unfortunately, advice for how to unplug isn’t exactly clear-cut. The doc told me to load up on fruits, vegetables and whole grains without explaining that certain foods within those categories can exacerbate the pain (think bananas, apples and potatoes). Granted, my case was extreme — I took twice daily stool softeners to keep …

Witchy Poo: A Cautionary Tale

One Halloween, when I was about 11, my Mom sewed me a killer witch costume: floppy, pointy hat, black cape and all.  I looked awesome and fearsome. The year marked one of the first times we kids could go door-to-door by ourselves. Yes, at 11 years old. These days? No way. This was maybe five years before the razor-blades-in-apples scare (which was so not even a thing.) Gathering up my friends Anne, Kathy and several others, we prepared to become sugar terrors in the quiet, preppy neighborhood of Chestnut Hill, Philadelphia. Our aim was to get as much candy as we possibly could. We were unleashed by ourselves, no parental supervision. We OWNED this damn Halloween. So without any sense of boundaries or discretion, we’d knock on our neighbors’ doors, reach into the giant bowls of wrappers, and lunge at the pile of candy like ravenous baby bears. Maybe we were more polite and choosy than that, but I’m pretty sure we were bloodthirsty. I kept an eye out for my favorites: the long since …

What the Labyrinth Taught Me: Meditation is Possible, Even If You Hate It

When I first learned that prayer and meditation were paramount to getting sober (via a traditional 12-step program), I knew I was doomed. That alone was enough to make me flee from AA meetings eight years ago. (Though I’ve since returned, it took a while.) I grew up in New York City. I’ve always felt comfortable in chaos. Silence scares me (or it used to, at least), so I was none too eager to sit in that silence, for who knows how long, in an effort to find my “inner peace.” Honestly, I was afraid I’d find out what I was pretty much already certain of — that it didn’t exist. As a kid, religion was not a part of my life. Neither of my parents practiced or taught me any particular beliefs. Though I’ve always felt that there is something bigger than us making the world go round, I didn’t think there was any need for me to tap into whatever that something was. Quite frankly, I believed it was none of my business. …

Away From It All, Underground

I love my subway ride. Love it. I like to say it’s the only alone time I get all day. (Other than locking myself in the bathroom occasionally to hide from my children.) I look forward to it so much, my purse is practically dedicated to my subway activities. I almost always have my Kindle. A 25-minute ride is enough time to read a few chapters (just finished Allegiant by Veronica Roth), and who gets to read these days? Pure luxury. I also carry a print book on occasion. It has to be really special, since it takes up so much room — and I need to secure a seat for reading with two hands — but if my Kindle is a cozy sweater, a real book is cashmere. Like every other human in New York City, I also carry my smartphone. This is for when I’m feeling practical or anxious. I’ll add items to my to-do list, review my calendar for the day, answer email or read from the New York Times app. Or if I’m feeling …

Going Solo: Spending My 38th Birthday Alone in Albuquerque

This Sunday, I’ll be turning 38. And I’ll be spending it in a city I’ve never visited: Albuquerque, New Mexico. I’ll be traveling by myself, and that’s exactly what I want for this birthday. It’s the first birthday where I won’t be getting a call or card from my grandmother, who passed away in January (though her card likely would have already arrived). It’s a birthday where the blaring biological clock warnings feel like they are all going off in my head at once. So I decided to escape to somewhere warm where I hope to recharge and replenish myself and find a way to make peace with this new age that feels scary for many reasons. “Is your boyfriend going with you?” several people have asked when I told them of my plans. He’s not. When a couple that we were having dinner with the other night asked, I said, “I invited you,” to my boyfriend, only partly joking. “No you didn’t,” he protested. “You just said, ‘This is what I’m doing on my birthday.’” …

Looking Back: The House of Saint Fannie

It was located on a familiar, winding, bumpy road that held the memories of youth. There was always a flurry of activity in our house growing up, along with the daily traffic that cut the tree-lined suburban street and turned it into a raceway. Each driver navigated the sharp curve as if they were Mario Andretti, minus the looks and money that went along with that type of fame. A 1950’s split-level, the house sat a stone’s throw from the center of the universe (Manhattan) and it gave off the feeling that anything was possible. I lived with my mother and my grandparents. My grandfather stood out as the only truly present man in our lives, and his moral center was paired with Saint Fannie, my grandmother, the matriarch who cooked a mean eggplant parmesan and was my favorite person on earth. As a child growing up in 1970’s suburban New Jersey, nothing could touch us. Life was good — golden, in fact. I had no siblings, so it was always just the four of …

6 Moments of Shush: How TueNight Tunes Out

What’s your moment of Shush? That time when all feels quiet, calm and still. Perhaps you can breathe a little better. Or maybe you forget about the crazy day ahead and instead feel completely present in the moment you are in. It’s not easy and it doesn’t always come naturally, but it’s possible — and can be incredibly rewarding. We asked six TueNight contributors and friends to share some of their own Zen-esque experiences. 1. The Paintbox: “I’m a set designer, and sometimes I get up really early and go to the theater to paint. I get hours of complete silence. Nobody comes in until at least eight a.m. or later, and by that time I have gone home to wake my kids up. Getting up in the middle of the night has become my best source of privacy. #BenefitofNightSweats.” – Molly Eness 2. The Daily Pause: “After the hideous alarm clock goes off (and the subsequent snooze alert 10 minutes later), I try not to bolt from bed. Instead, I take a few minutes …

If the Spirit Moves: My Not-So-Successful Séance Experience

The Albany Shaker Meeting House is a sanctuary of purity and simplicity, with the exception of the 747s from the Albany International Airport that fly overhead, and the Trader Joe’s that’s located around the corner. I am here for my very first Halloween séance. I don’t have any expectations, frankly, but I am a very willing participant. I am open to feeling the energy that comes from a group of people suspending disbelief and possibly tapping into something outside ourselves. And if I am being totally honest with myself, I am also hoping to receive a message from someone on the “other side.” From outside, the Shaker Meeting House is milk-white and austere with triple hung windows and wide pine wainscoting painted an evergreen color. Inside, there is a clear-span building the size of a small gymnasium, which is lined with built-in Shaker benches. On the floor, they have set up about 100 white plastic chairs in three concentric circles around each other. I count about three men in attendance. The rest of us are …

The Case for Not Looking Like Hell

Last week I broke my rule. I had just come from the gym and had to dash to the Upper West Side and take care of some business. Instead of stopping home for a quick shower, change of clothing, and a touch of mascara and lip gloss, I decided to go “as is.” As soon as I got off the train, I saw a TV producer I had been hoping to re-connect with and pitch some ideas. In my big wool hat (hiding my crazy gym-hair), sloppy sweats and sneakers, let’s just say I was not ready for primetime. I looked like hell. I slipped past him. I am a firm believer in leaving the house looking pretty good, I won’t lie. For me, that doesn’t mean a fully tarted up face and heels, but I always want to look decent; because it’s true, as I was just reminded the hard way, you never know who you might meet. I grew up with a Georgia Peach of a mom who didn’t leave the house without …

Masking It: The Night I Started Hiding Alcohol

After a six-month, self-imposed period of abstinence from alcohol, drinking crept back into my life — while I was in costume. It was Halloween night, 2009. I was dressed up as a hippie, with a long, blond, knotty-dread-ish wig (topped with a colorful tam) and a floor-length, swirly patterned dress. My husband (then fiancé) matched me as my mate in his own wig and Grateful Dead tee, and we brought along my old Cabbage Patch Kid to complete our peace-and-love family. After dousing ourselves in Patchouli oil (the scent of which stayed with us for days — don’t ever do this), we were ready to attend a party that one of our friends was throwing. But before heading out, I grabbed a vodka-filled water bottle and stashed it in my hippie sack. (I know, I know, how very Lohan of me. Trust me, she didn’t invent this trick.) What can I say? I was in a party mood — perhaps inspired by my peace-drugs-and-love costume. I really wanted to have a few drinks that night, …

Mom, The Costume: When My Daughter Wants to Dress Like Me

Dressing up is one of my daughter’s favorite pastimes. In her seven years, she’s logged a lot of sartorial hours. It started with Princess gowns, because when isn’t it a good day to be royal? Then came Halloween – kangaroo, fairy and vampire are her faves. And of course there’s The Dressup Bag.  A jam-packed pink canvas number that holds the aforementioned Halloween costumes, plus boas, scrubs, leotards, pearls and at least four tiaras. It’s a winner for almost any playdate. But it’s the Mommy Costume that always gets me. When out of nowhere trots in my little 4-footer donning one of my dresses or sweaters or nighties, invariably with a pair of very high heels. Sometimes there is also a hat. Occasionally, lipstick. It’s really, really cute. And, in my wistfully analytical moments, it’s a good reminder, too. For her, “being me” is fun. It’s still something to aspire to, up there with princesses and gold medal gymnasts. In those moments my heart aches just a little, because I really hope she always thinks …