Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Yes, and...

Can we just take a moment to acknowledge how perfectly gorgeous Tina Fey looked at the Emmys on Sunday?

Good gracious.

I've been spending a few minutes here and there over the last few days trying to figure out how I could justify putting this picture up here.  While I'd love to just be able to put up pretty girls on here for your viewing pleasure (and mine), I feel like I need a reason.

Not having Tina Fey on my TV every week has not made me forget about her, but I don't think about her as much as I used to, but seeing her in this form-fitting blue dress has left me with little else to think about. There is one part of Bossypants that always sticks with me and it's when she's talking about doing improv, and how one of the main rules is that no matter how the scene starts, your job as a fellow improv player is to say, "Yes, and..."  So no matter what world your partner is creating, you have to agree to it and add something to it.  I remember her talking about how this has helped her on every level of her life, from her professional to her personal life.  I re-downloaded the book on my iPad this morning so I could search for this section and find out exactly what she had to say.  It is more fitting to me now than I even remembered:

"To me, YES, AND means don't be afraid to contribute.  It's your responsibility to contribute. Always make sure you're adding something to the discussion. Your initiations are worthwhile."

This comes as I'm a little bit more than knee-deep (maybe thigh-deep) into a journey of trying to find my way back to writing, trying to figure out why it is that I write... or more appropriately, why it is that I don't write, and why it is that I want to write.  A lot of little things I've been coming across lately speak of "responsibility" - to yourself, to the world, to your artist. I'll now add this to the list.

I am certainly not one to argue with Tina Fey.

Saturday, September 21, 2013

Do the right thing

Once Maddie came to stay with us full time, parenting went from a Very Manageable, Enjoyable Job to High Stress, High Stakes Career.  Isabella had been such an easy kid - very mellow and adaptable, somewhat ornery at times, but overall, a breeze.  She had a set bedtime and she rarely woke up before 6:45 in the morning.  Gina and I thought we were getting away with murder, basically - we had this cute kid who admittedly arrived with a bit of trauma but who seemed unaffected by said trauma.

Maddie alone is a tough kid - beautiful and sweet but with a temper running in her bloodline she sometimes can't control. Alone, both kids present their own challenges...toddlers are difficult, as a rule. Together, they are maniacs. They are lunatics in adorable little-girl bodies. 

Parenting two children this young is not something I would have ever avoided on purpose; however, it is also not something I was prepared for.  Would it be different if the new child that had arrived had been a newborn?  I'll never know.  And I don't have time to think about it - my life is now full to the brim with transitioning the girls to the next part of the day: asleep to awake, morning at home to morning at daycare, daycare to car, car to home, home to dinner, dinner to bath, bath to bed, mommy to Jack Daniels, and so on.  These transitions are never consistently seamless, despite our best efforts.  Our daycare provider suggested bringing something to entice them into the car so that we could avoid the screaming fits from one or both if she couldn't open the door, or shut the door, or climb over the other's car seat to get to her own, or buckle herself in (ISABELLA HELP YOU!  ISABELLA DO IT! - News flash, you'd help me a whole lot by SITTING THE EFF DOWN and letting me BUCKLE YOU IN LOVE YOU MEAN IT OKAY?).  So one day when I had a little extra time, I ran home before going to get them and I secured some pretzel sticks for them.  They are ravenous little beasts right after school and I thought maybe a small snack would help.  It turned into Isabella having some pretzel left that Maddie wanted, and Isabella wouldn't give it to her (even though she wasn't eating it), and Maddie didn't regain control of her wits until about an hour and a half later. And then there is bedtime, which admittedly is getting better (Maddie is starting to fall asleep to songs and rocking instead of Rizzoli & Isles), but it is such a process, and there are no rules, and Gina and I end the night barely awake at 10pm, wondering what we are doing wrong, if we are doing ANYTHING right, and if we are ever again going to have a life that doesn't include trying to console a 3 year old because her 2 year old cousin flushed her poop without her written permission.

It's hard.  There is yelling.  Lots of yelling.  By me, by Gina, and by them.  I don't want to yell at them, I know yelling is my temper tantrum, but it usually WORKS and it makes me feel better.  I say stuff to them, try to reason with them, in a way that makes absolutely no sense.  I ask them insane questions - "Why would you do that?" Answer: I am 3 or I am almost 2 (depending on the kid), I make no sense whatsoever, haven't you figured that out yet, you fool?  And then my favorite is when they have a case of the "MINE!s", we are both known to say something like, "You know what?  NONE OF THIS IS YOURS!  It's all MINE and I let YOU play with it, so calm down!"

We both have college degrees, you guys.

They say you should be the person you want your child to be.  I'm not there yet, and I can see it when Maddie plays with her babies and gets right in their face and says, "Stop it! Nap! Quiet!" in the sternest voice a three-year-old can muster.  I can see it when Isabella looks at her milk (HER MILK) and says, "Stop it, milk!" in her quiet, authoritative voice.  And I can see it in how they talk to each other, when Isabella tries to shut the door (there is a no-shutting-the-door rule in our house (lest fingers get caught) that is broken every six seconds), and Maddie goes up and grabs her by the arms and says, "NO, Isabella, no shutting the door!"  It's in moments like this that I know I'm just screwing them up, and they will grow up talking about their mean mommy/auntie, and by then, therapy will be like $2000 an hour.

Inevitably, the tears come.  You get to a point where you are too angry and too tired to even yell, and the tears start falling if for no other reason than your body forcing you to just CLOSE YOUR EYES for a minute.  About 30 minutes after we got them home from daycare on my 35th birthday a few weeks ago (a birthday I was NOT looking forward to), I hit my wall.  They were fighting and screaming at each other over I can't even remember what, and there was still dinner to give and a kitchen to clean and baths to administer, and I had nothing. left. and I just put my head in my hands and let the lump in my throat evolve to tears, because just like yelling, tears make me feel better.  They stopped fighting and just looked at me.  Maddie came over to me and put her hand on my arm.  "Aunt Katie, so sad?"  I said, "Yes, I'm sad."  And then, as though it were scripted in a movie, she rubbed my arm, and then leaned her head on my shoulder and said, "It's okay, Katie.  I got you.  No sad.  I got you.  Ssssh.  I got you."

I guess we're doing something right.  Maybe they can get away with bi-weekly instead of weekly therapy sessions?

Monday, September 02, 2013

Autumn and The Method

It's that time of year again. Fall! Well, not technically. But September brings all sorts of fall feelings out in people and I'm no exception.

Fall is the only time I find it hard to live in Los Angeles. Fall has always been my favorite season. Growing up in the Midwest, I used to love everything that it brought... School, football (marching band), my birthday, and the start of the Holiday Season. I love the smell of the trees changing. By the time September rolls around, you might not be ready for winter, but you're ready for a bit of crispness in the air.

In Los Angeles, September means the start of fire season. Just when you are ready for that break in the heat, the heat becomes more relentless; October is often the hottest month of the year. You start to realize that chill in the air you're waiting for isn't coming for another couple of months, and you start to long for the bitter (yes, bitter) cold that comes in January. 

You have to be a bit of a "method" actor in Los Angeles when it comes to seasons. The calendar says September, so you send the kids back to school, you watch football, you buy the pumpkin candles, you order the pumpkin spiced latte... You play the Autumn Game, and eventually, it does start to feel a little like fall, at least in your mind. You buy Halloween stuff and then you get ready for Thanksgiving, and finally the weather starts to cooperate in December, bringing the Midwest fall temperatures you had been waiting for.

And then, when the rest of the country is digging themselves out of snow, you don't feel so "left out" of the whole seasons thing. I'll take a late fall over an Ohio winter all. day. long. 

(To make the lack of cool temps a little easier on the soul, we are headed to the beach today. Fall in LA isn't that bad...)

Tuesday, August 20, 2013

We'll miss you, Frost.

It's Rizzoli & Isles Tuesday, which is usually a highlight of my week. The best is when I forget it's Tuesday until on my way home from work and then I remember, and then my heart! It SINGS! 

I admit my feelings for this show are extreme, and aside from the obvious reasons for my obsession... true love for this show is hard to explain. I like A LOT of television, but I love this show with the fan-girl fervor of a 12 year old. I admittedly follow (and tweet to) @JaneRizzoli and @MauraIsles on twitter. THEY ARE NOT REAL PEOPLE. BUT I LOVE THEM. 

When news of Lee Thompson Young's suicide showed up in my twitter feed, I felt my face go warm and my stomach drop. Young played Jane's partner, Detective Barry Frost. 

This picture makes him seem like a serious character, but in the show, he's funny and goofy and sarcastic.  He's the Computer Guy - can hack any cell phone in Boston. He also loses his lunch repeatedly at homicide scenes, which is a running joke because, well, he's a homicide detective. 

He's not the lead, but he's a constant. Jane looks out for him like he's a little brother. And now he's gone, by all accounts, without warning - no note, just a quick self-inflicted gunshot. 

I allowed myself to be shocked but wouldn't allow myself to be sad. And then I had to tell myself (and hear some friends tell me) it's okay to be sad. In this world of connectivity with celebrities, we are all so quick to say things like "you cry for a drug addict but not for a soldier." I call bullshit. You cry when you cry. You're sad when you're sad. Sincerity is not for suckers or chumps. I think we need to remind ourselves of that.

So tonight, I mourn for his cast mates and all of his co-workers. I mourn for his mother. And I mourn for a man who everyone said had such a positive attitude and an infectious smile, but who underneath was clearly deeply unhappy. 

And I mourn selfishly for the loss of my untarnished happiness at Rizzoli & Isles Tuesdays. I hate the thought of any sadness penetrating this one little bright spot of my life. Sure, my life won't change that much. I didn't know him. I don't know Sasha Alexander or Angie Harmon (although I've had several dreams that beg to differ). But because I allow them into my living room every week (and sometimes EVERY DAY), I feel a connection to them that I refuse to belittle. I'm allowing myself to be a little sad, to say a little prayer for everyone who knew him, especially his mother. And I hope that the show can still be fun and a bright spot on my week, after everyone has had time to mourn and heal. I think it's what Frost would've wanted.

**Call the Suicide Prevention Hotline if you need help: 800-273-8255**

Thursday, May 30, 2013

A little bit country...

My music tastes haven't varied much from high school.  I've maybe leaned a little more toward rock and way from pop in my advanced age, but I still love a good Justin Timberlake or Britney Spears song as much as I ever did.  I'd say my favorite band currently is Muse, but I also love most of the KROQ playlist - Imagine Dragons, Mumford & Sons, Foo Fighters, Nine Inch Nails, Vampire Weekend.  I also still love Dave Matthews Band and Indigo Girls - good lyrical guitar stuff.

But every once in a while, something happens and I just get the urge to listen to A LOT of country.  Sometimes I feel an intense dislike for the genre, but other times, something happens where I crave it. I'm there now (as of a few days ago) and I've been trying to pinpoint what it is that makes this happen, or at least what attracts me to those songs.

I think there's just something about being told a story in a song that sometimes I need.  Sometimes I need to just hear a simple tale that involves a Chevy pick-up and a girl in jean shorts and cowboy boots, or a strong man who can't dance and loves his wife.  I need to be reminded of dirt roads and bonfires and acres of land, of running barefoot in the sunshine, long summer days, hot summer nights, houses with big front porches and enormous shade trees, gravel driveways... a small world where you know the people with whom you share your town, and there's no traffic or helicopters or sirens or public transportation, and you can drive with your window down without breathing in the exhaust of 7 million other cars...

I'm sure it's all of this, but above all, it's probably the fact that sometimes, I just need a little Tami Taylor and Tyra Collette in my life.

Sunday, May 12, 2013

I'm a Real Mom!

The only constant in my life has been my desire to be a mom.  It's the only thing I've always known I'd be good at. Career ideas have come and gone, but the motherhood itch has been there almost as long as I can remember.

The past few Mother's Days have been kind of difficult for me, because for several years, we were in the thick of a fertility struggle.  Mother's Day would come and I would have to remind myself to concentrate on celebrating my own mom (who is AWESOME) as opposed to dwelling on my inability to start a family of my own.

Now that I am a Real Mom, Mother's Day is surprisingly anti-climactic.  And I've been wondering why that is.  I'm starting to think maybe it's because I felt like a mom for long before Isabella came along.  I'm not sure when it started.

It could've started when I first held my first baby sister, Jessie, the summer between my 2nd and 3rd grade year.  That is definitely when I first understood that I wanted to be a mom some day.

But I think more likely, the day I really became a mom was the day Madelyn was born.  She's not my own kid, but I truly had never before felt love like that, and she completely changed my perspective on my entire life, just like any kid of my own would have done.  I also knew I'd probably be caring for her temporarily, so my body responded in flooding me with all sorts of Mommy feelings.

Some people say that fathers become fathers when they first see their baby born, but mothers become mothers the minute they conceive.  In that case, I became a mother in December 2010, after our first and only successful round of IVF.

I know for sure that a notch on my ladder to motherhood is taken up by going through a miscarriage at 12 weeks in a hospital bed.

It seems I would mark my "becoming a mom" as the day I found out that I'd be Isabella's mom, which was two days before Mother's Day last year.  But we hadn't even met her yet, and nothing was definite, and I was busy researching Fetal Alcohol Syndrome, as the social workers said there was a chance she had that.

Maybe the day I met her was the day I became a mom, but we didn't get to bring her home for another month after that.

Maybe the day we brought her home, June 15, 2012 was the day I became a mom?

Or the day we adopted her?  December 17, 2012?

Whenever it was that I became a mom, what strikes me about this Mother's Day, my first Mother's Day where the world finally recognizes me as a mom, is not necessarily what I feel... it's more what I find myself not feeling.  I don't feel hopeless, depressed, jealous, angry, bitter, or disappointed.  I feel the same way I feel every day - lucky, loved, and happy - and at moments, tired, weepy, and annoyed - and I think this is exactly how being a mom is supposed to feel.

Saturday, April 27, 2013

My Coffee Date with Jennifer Carpenter

Since I left Hollywood and moved to Northeastern Los Angeles (like many non-wealthy wannabe-parents-turned-actual-parents), I don't get to see as many celebrities out and about as I used to.  Living in Los Angeles for 13 years has significantly diminished the adrenaline rush that comes with spotting a famous person living Just Like Me, but every once in a while, I'll spot a star and will get stopped in my tracks, and I'll be reminded of just how much I'm enamored with the business of making television and film.

This happened on my date with Jennifer Carpenter at Starbucks yesterday.

I haven't dated much in my life, but my date with Jen (she likes when I call her Jen) went much like any other date I imagine I'd experience.  I was caught off-guard by how HOT she was, which rendered me speechless.  She looked annoyed and completely ignored me.

That's a date, right?

Truthfully, she was walking in as I was walking out.  She wore big shades and an irritated grimace, but she looked stunning.  If I had found the words, I would've said, "Hey! You're fantastic, I love the show!" Maybe if I'd had a few drinks in me, I would've added, "What you're doing with the complexities of your character is fascinating and ridiculously fun to watch." Maybe with more than a few drinks in me, I would've continued.

"You are HOT."

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

On Jodie Foster

Someone I know only through facebook posted this on her page Sunday afternoon: 

"This morning I'm thinking about sincerity—how deeply seductive it is. This is particularly true in a time in which so many of our social exchanges are constrained by irony and detachment."

I haven't been able to stop thinking about this thought since then, and it's been especially loud in my mind since seeing all of the negative reaction to Jodie Foster's Golden Globes speech.  I called my friend Kathleen, whose opinion I value, and she insisted that I write about my feelings on the speech.  So here goes.

I'm downright pissed at the negative response the speech has received.  Granted, I've been a pretty big fan of Jodie's for a long time, but my anger doesn't come from me being fan.  It comes from me being compassionate.  A lot of people labeled this as Jodie's coming out speech.  Truthfully, she mentioned her partner by name in a speech at an awards luncheon in 2007, so really, among the gay community, she was out.  But unless you're gay or live in Los Angeles, you may not have heard that, so to you, this might have been her coming out speech.

People are calling her a coward, a hypocrite, a lunatic.  Her speech was rambling, people say.  Was she drunk? people are asking.  On meth?  (Because meth is hilariously fun to joke about.)  What was with her?  And what's the big deal, coming out on that stage in 2013 when being gay isn't a big deal and she should've come out a long time ago when everybody else did!  And there's the other storyline of the speech, where people are saying she's a hypocrite because she talks about valuing her privacy.  And still, there are those that talk about how that stage wasn't the time or the place to say the things she did. And on and on and on.

The piece that really got me going is this one  on Huffington Post by Deb Baer.  I feel like she's expressing a lot of what other people are saying.  "Why am I so angry? Because I'm roughly the same age as Jodie, and yet I had the courage to come out exactly 20 years ago."  OH, right.  Your life is just like hers.  You guys are the same age, so you should have the same level of courage.  Because you are the same age, you have the same life experiences and insecurities.  You deal with them exactly the same way.  You both have the American public at large interested in your private life.  

Oh wait.

You guys - everybody is different.  People come out when they are READY to come out and not a moment before.  It's not like Jodie Foster was parading around married to a man.  And even if she had been, it's no one's business BUT HERS.  Everyone is fighting their own battle.  Yes, we should all be out and proud to show America's youth that it's okay to be gay.  But we're not all there at the same time.  We don't all arrive at that place just because you think we should.  A lot of gay people don't want to "come out."  They want to just BE.  They don't want to hide who they are, but they just don't want to have to have that conversation with anyone.  Can you imagine having to have it with the whole world?  This reluctance to have that conversation oftentimes doesn't have anything to do with the fact that we are ashamed of being gay.  It's just a dumb thing to have to tell people out of context.  And for me, I don't want that to be the first thing I'm identified as.  I'm way more than that, as is every gay person everywhere.  

And then there's whole issue with her talking about how she values her privacy.  She is a successful Hollywood figure - there WILL be interest in her private life.  I'm pretty sure she wasn't saying there shouldn't be interest.  All she was saying was that she's not interested in sharing it.  "Well, she's famous, we pay money to see her movies, and she makes a lot of money, so she has to be willing to lose her privacy."  Well, no.  She has been acting since she was 3 years old.  She became famous in the '70s, before Perez Hilton, before TMZ, before Honey Boo Boo.  Do you think she had any idea what she was getting herself into?  Do you think she had any notion what fame would become?  She clearly HATES all of that.  She's allowed.  And you know what?  If you have a problem with that, don't go see her films.  Sure, she could quit acting, she could leave Hollywood... but if it's just this one thing that she hates about her career, why would she walk away from it if there is so much she loves?  Plenty of people love their job, but still complain about it.

And finally, there are the people that are saying she was incoherent, rambling, and her speech started off with an un-funny SNL joke.  I see her as someone who has taken herself so seriously her whole life, has had to do that, and someone who is maybe uptight, but someone who is older now and wants to let loose, wants to be goofy because she's at a point in her career where she can be.  Clearly, she's not great at comedy.  Can't we just look at her at someone who is maybe terrified of being this personal with millions of people, this goofy, but she's doing it anyway?  Why do we need to ridicule that?

After the response this speech has received, can you blame her for waiting this long to publicly address the gay thing?  And Deb Baer thinks she should've come out sooner so she could've saved some kids' lives.  But Deb Baer isn't really helping matters by ridiculing her for coming out "too late."  What are we teaching the kids we say we are trying to help?  That sincerity is for suckers.  That unless you are courageous at the right time, we will mock the hell out of you for telling the truth.  

Can't we just be kind to one another?  Can't we just support this woman who just did something that was difficult for her, even if we think she's silly to be that afraid of it?  Can't we just celebrate that she finally feels okay to talk about this, that she's finally comfortable enough with herself and her life to share it a little bit?  What becomes clearer to me every day that passes in my life is that above everything else, we just need to take care of one another.  

I'm starting to think maybe I should just quit the internet.