Tuesday, May 24, 2005

The Object of his Affection

After watching Monday's episode of Oprah, I can't get two questions out of my head--

Has Tom Cruise lost his mind?

Will Katie Holmes flee in panic?

Cruise spent his hour with Oprah singing the praises of his new love Katie Holmes (while he wasn't plugging his new movie "War of the Worlds.") He was positively goofy and giddy, jumping on the couch, and repeatedly going into a strange arm-flex, knee-bend stance. He kept gushing about how extraordinary, talented, and giving Holmes was.

For a minute it was cute, then when he kept going it was over the top, then it all got a little weird. They've been dating for about a month.

Holmes told Seventeen magazine that she "used to think I was going to marry Tom Cruise." Fantasies are safe because they don't come true. (Harrison Ford was my dream man for years, but now that he's ditched his wife to hook up with someone close to my age, that seems pretty tacky.)

What would it be like to step through the looking glass and have this fantasy become your reality--with Tom Cruise practically dropping to his knee to propose on national TV?

Dating the most famous man on the planet, getting married and becoming stepmom to two his kids, integrating yourself into a power couple where Tom will always be the most famous half? Who knows. He could be wonderful, but it doesn't sound like an easy job to me.

Monday, May 23, 2005

Revenge of the Sith--sound and fury, hold the emotion

When we went to see Revenge of the Sith, we were treated to a few minutes of thrilling, magical moviemaking--that is, the preview trailer for The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe, coming out this December. I predict that it will become the film that fills the place in my daughter's imagination that Star Wars filled in mine.

As for Revenge of the Sith, it got the job done, and wasn't nearly as unwatchable as the first two "new" movies. Our neighborhood theater managed to show it out of focus, which was a shame because the visuals were stunning.

The story was confusing if you haven't seen The Clone Wars cartoons (which I hadn't). The acting was awful at times--poor Natalie Portman had almost nothing to do except worry and die. Padme Amidala is no Princess Leia! The biggest problems, though, were #1, that in many scenes there was a flurry of fighting, but I had no idea what was at stake, and #2, in a prequel, suspense is lacking because you already know who is going to live. Any battle with Anakin and Obi-Wan was anticlimactic because you knew they couldn't possbily die.

For now I'll put my cinematic sense of wonder on hold until The Chronicles of Narnia comes out!

Sunday, May 22, 2005

Unleashing my inner Princess Leia

As the media has built up to the release of Revenge of the Sith, I feel like we've only been getting one side of the Star Wars story this week--the boy's perspective. I've been a huge Star Wars fan ever since the summer of 1977, between 3rd and 4th grade, when I was first swept away by George Lucas' vision. Star Wars was the first movie that ever truly transported me to another universe, and I was the exact age to appreciate the magic of the first trilogy with fresh, uncynical eyes. I can also peg my life's timeline to the various movies. I wonder how many other women my age can pinpoint the exact moment they entered puberty to the day they realized that Han Solo was actually cuter and cooler than Luke Skywalker. (When The Empire Strikes Back first came out, I was upset that Leia chose Han over Luke--no one knew they were siblings then--but by the end of the summer of 1980 I'd been won over by Han.) And forget Princess Leia's much-discussed slave girl outfit. The first kiss between Leia and Han was the highlight of the trilogy for me.

The three-year wait between movies was agonizing. At age 14 I actually worried that I'd die before Return of the Jedi came out and I'd never see Han get rescused from carbonite deep-freeze. Recently Harrison Ford has been quoted as saying he tried to convince George Lucas to kill off Han Solo. I am thankful that he didn't get his way. I'd still be in therapy recovering from that one.

Despite Star Wars' huge marketing machine, they didn't make it that easy for girls to play, too. The small action figures didn't interest me that much, though one of the first purchases I ever saved up for with my own money was a 12" Princess Leia doll (which I still have!). I had a very cool Art of Star Wars book that I hid in my closet. I even hid my prized possession, my autographed photo of Harrison Ford that I received in response to the only fan letter I've ever written.

I wish now I didn't feel like I had to hide those treasures. I can't say now exactly why I felt embarassed by them. These days in my office I unabashedly display a composite photo of my husband Michael and myself digitally doctored to make us into Han and Leia.

I have lived in a different state when each film was released up until the two most recent, when I lived in North Carolina for both. The new movies don't interest me nearly as much. The Phantom Menace and Attack of the Clones were objectively bad to my adult's eyes, but I can understand how a new generation of kids would get swept up in them. We're going to see Revenge of the Sith tonight. I'm afraid of being disappointed, but at the same time I'm eager to see whether George Lucas can at least build a bridge that will allow our kids to enjoy the original saga.

And Princess Leia, you'll always have #1 fans in Gen X.

"Done" is better than "perfect"

My life has a lot of moving parts these days, and it's a constant struggle to get everything done that I want and need to do. I frequently find myself putting things off because I am waiting for the ideal moment to do a task "perfectly." Well, to no one's surprise, that ideal moment rarely arrives, so some important things don't get done at all.

My computer screen's border is framed with a series of Post-It notes scrawled with ideas for blog entries that I haven't written yet. Over the next week my goal is catch up on some of those commentaries. When my daughter was a baby, a scrapbooking consultant taught me the incredibly wise motto "DONE is better than PERFECT." That advice can apply to so many things in life. Keeping those words in mind frees me from the self-imposed pressures of impossible-to-live-up-to perfection.

There's still the challenge of getting my butt in the seat and getting started on writing each day. That was my secret of finishing graduate school, by the way, making myself show up to do the work. Not a glamorous strategy, but effective!

So keep an eye out on the Mojo Blog this week as it fills up with less-than-perfect musings.

Friday, May 06, 2005

Sympathy for the Runaway Bride

Missing Bride Jennifer Wilbanks is alive and well--let the punishment begin!

In Mojo Mom I encourage women to learn how to express their honest emotions rather than holding them in and stewing in silence. Anyone who wonders why honest expression can be so difficult need look no farther than the story of Jennifer Wilbanks, the so-called Runaway Bride. Wilbanks has been all over the news since her disappearance and resurfacing last week. Today the headlines proclaim "Runaway Bride Apologizes." What is she sorry for? Making a false abduction and sexual assualt report? Yes. Perpetuating stereotypes against Hispanics? We sure hope so. Sending her town into a frenzy of worry? Of course. But Wilkins also makes a point of insisting that her flight was not prompted by cold feet, telling us that "Those who know me know how excited I...was about the spectacular wedding we planned, and how I could not wait to be Mrs. John Mason....I was simply running from myself and from certain fears controlling my life."

It burns me to know that she has to say this in addition to the other apologies she's making. I can understand having a breakdown while planning a huge spectacle with 600 guests and 14 bridesmaids. That would make me positively loopy. Our culture has gotten way out of control with the money, time, and attention lavished on the wedding day, instead of focusing on a lifetime of marriage. How many times have we heard that it's much better to call off a wedding rather than go through with it hesitantly, and face a divorce later? While Jennifer was missing, how many people said they would thank God if it turned out that she had cold feet rather than being abducted or murdered?

Now that she's back, and we found out that she had the nerve to run away just before her impending Bridezilla spectacular that everyone was counting on, slinging mud in Wilbanks' direction has become the new national pastime. Jokes and eBay souveniers abound. The Mommy Wars have morphed into the Bride Wars as the media frenzy takes over with online polls set up to allow all of us to "vote" for John Mason to dump her or for Wilbanks to face criminal prosecution. (Good thing these polls are conducted with online clicks rather than hurled stones.)

Punishing women who have the gall to challenge our romantic ideals of wedding days and "nice girl" behavior is nothing new. Anna Applebaum of the Washington Post has an interesting commentary asking Why Did the Runaway Bride Strike Such a Nerve? that compares Wilkins to Charlotte Bronte's literary heroine Jane Eyre (Jane also experienced a critical backlash in her day).

A wedding is such a powerful symbol in our culture--gender roles, religion, community and family politics wrapped up in one chiffon-garbed pageant. Anna Quindlen, herself a Catholic, was writing about women's assigned roles in Catholicism when she quoted Randall Balmer, a professor at Barnard who is an expert on evangelical Christianity, as saying "There's a sense that the world is out of control and chaotic, and that if we can control our women the world will be a safer place." I believe this is a powerful social force at work, on many unconscious and conscious levels.

We can't control Iraq or Al Qaeda. Thank goodness we can still come down hard on fragile brides.

Thursday, May 05, 2005

Strengthen your support network with a babysitting co-op

I've heard a lot of questions about finding ways to develop a support network of women who are willing to help each other out. How can you find time for yourself if your spouse works or travels a lot, and you don't have $10 an hour to spend on babysitting on a regular basis?

Maybe a babysitting co-op is the answer. In a co-op, you form a group among trusted women and trade babysitting in an organized and fair way. Imagine being able to ask a friend to watch your child while you take a yoga class, go on a job interview, or attend your own doctor's appointment without an antsy toddler in tow.

How can you get started? I've found a resource that promises to lay out all the details for you--The Smart Mom's Baby-sitting Co-op Handbook.

Author Gary Myers says that "This handbook has everything you need to start your own co-op after one meeting with three friends. Moms all over have discovered how best friends make the best baby-sitters. If two are three sitters are good, ten or twelve are even better."

Wednesday, May 04, 2005

Jazzed about Quail Ridge Books!

I had a great time reading at Quail Ridge Books tonight. All week I was anxious about the turnout, not because I thought it would be low, but because as a writer I get used to having the universe bend to my will as I have total control over the world that unfolds through my keyboard. Now that my book is becoming my life story, I can no longer write the next chapter all by myself! So I was curious to see if I could draw a crowd in Raleigh, the next big city over from Chapel Hill.

I was thrilled to have over fifty people turn out. My confidence was boosted a notch each time the bookstore manager brought out more chairs to fill the space as people filed in. I had the pleasure of talking with an eager and receptive audience. One thing I noticed was that as I talked about the challenges that different generations of mothers have faced, groups of Gen X or Boomer women would nod in recognition.

My teaching Mojo was definitely satisfied by talking and signing for an hour and a half! I felt completely drained today, but thrilled to know that I am on my way.

Sunday, May 01, 2005

3...2...1...We have a book launch!

May 1 has finally arrived, the offical publication date for Mojo Mom. The past few weeks have been so much fun, yet overwhelming, getting ready for the big day. I haven't had as much time as I would like to sit back and reflect on the experience and appreciate the fact that my book is really done!

I have two book-launch events planned this week in the Triangle area. On Wednesday, May 4 at 7 pm, I will be reading and signing at Quail Ridge Books in Raleigh, a top-notch independent bookstore. This is an excellent opportunity for me and I have to thank WUNC, North Carolina's public radio station, for co-sponsoring the event.

On Saturday morning, May 7, at 9 am I'll be giving a mini-seminar at Belly Blossom Maternity in Durham. I'll be revealing Twelve essential secrets for preparing for your new life as a Mom (that even your best friend may not tell you!) The day before Mother's Day should be a good day to look beyond the birth day to the rest of our lives.

Mojo Mom is newly listed on Amazon.com now but they will currently be slow to deliver. Orders through MojoMom.com ship within 1 business day. Of course I think that the book makes a great Mother's day gift! (Please indulge me for one moment of blatant commercialism on the blog--this day has been two and a half years or hard work in the making!)