Thursday, February 28, 2008

The Price of Success

My family and I went to see The Spiderwick Chronicles movie on Saturday. I was excited to go because one, it was a change in the routine, and two, I like fantasy movies - I don’t care what age they’re meant for, I’m going to see it if I can. My son and I had read the books, but no one else had. As it turned out, the non-readers enjoyed the movie and my son was okay with it, too. Me? Well, I had a hard time with it. I kept expecting to see certain things happen, but they either didn’t happen or were completely changed. Example: How they meet the griffin was not at all like how it happened in the book. And the ending took place in the house, not in that other place. If you read the books, you know what I’m talking about. There were many more changes, as well, so I’m not getting all hepped up about just two. I’m not that big of a baby.

Close, but not quite.

I wonder how the author, Holly Black, felt about the changes? She apparently like the movie, though I’m pretty sure she wouldn’t have told anyone if she hated it. And actually, it wasn’t a bad movie. I imagine that if I had watched it first, before reading the books, I would’ve liked it better. However, being that the books were fresh in my mind, I just couldn’t separate the two. When the movie world and the book world didn’t jive with each other, I ended up feeling frustrated, which I don’t like. I get enough of that from my children.

But that’s life, I guess. Maybe I should just teach myself not to expect anything, not get my hopes up or get excited. Naahhh! Anticipation can sometimes be the best part of the experience, as well as the reminiscing afterwards.

At any rate, it was a nice break from reality, even if I couldn’t quite cope with the changes. The popcorn was good. And it was the same as always…yummy.

Monday, February 25, 2008

You Can't Just Be A Writer Anymore

It’s a sad truth. The days of sending your book in and letting the publisher do the rest are over. Whether you are self-published, going through a small press, or have struck it big with a major publishing house, it’s still the same story. You can’t just be a writer anymore. Even if you have the backing of a major press, you are still going to have to do things on your own to market your book, like giving interviews, doing book readings, running workshops, or - gasp! - even giving a speech. And if you are self-published or going through a small press, it’s even harder.

What’s that? I think I hear someone having an anxiety attack.

I can relate. If you’re anything like me, you find simply speaking to another person to be a challenge. I have said things that I don’t even believe simply because I’m so nervous that my brain has frozen, but my mouth has not. And this is just in everyday conversation. Imagine being put on the spot, being expected to do and say all the right things or your book will die a long, lingering death because everyone thinks you’re a bonehead who couldn’t possibly put two words together.

Then there’s the whole dignity thing. I can pretty much guarantee that you’ll end up doing things to bring attention to your book that you never dreamed of doing, like juggling rutabagas (juggling squirrels, however, is okay). Or you might find yourself saying, "Did that just come out of my mouth?" Because, of course, you don’t really believe that your romance novel will bring about world peace simply because your heroine, Charlene, learned to how to love again. This should make you feel better. Dave Barry once made armpit farting noises on a radio talk show to promote his book. You’re going to do things like that. It’s a fact of life - just more likely to be recorded forever in posterity. But you’ll live.

Being a marketing monkey doesn’t have to be the end of the world. Here are some suggestions for handling this strange new world. First of all, draw your own personal line in the sand, and then don’t cross it. I say personal because there are just certain things you won’t do that someone else might. Selling your soul might rank up there for you, but others will actually gift-wrap and send it overnight express. Along this line, but on the opposite spectrum, give yourself a break. You’re human. There should be some gray areas around that line in the sand. For example, making armpit farting noises might not end up on the ‘highlight of your life’ reel, but if you do something like that, it certainly isn’t something to be ashamed of. Fart sounds are funny. End of story. My second suggestion? Be polite and courteous to others. It’s that simple. If you don’t like what salespeople do to you, don’t do it to other people. Say please and thank you. These people have lives, too. They were not put on this earth to cater to you. Third, don’t come across as desperate, even if you are. That’s a tough one. Begging is so easy to do, but it apparently turns people off. Can’t imagine why. Fourth, be yourself as best you can (unless you’re a jerk, then you’re just going to have to pretend). If you make mistakes, so be it. You can typically make up for them. If not, well, remind yourself that you can’t please all of the people all of the time and try the next one on the list. Finally, have a sense of humor about all this. If you can’t laugh at your own mistakes, why should you expect others to?

In my blog, Conquering The Shyness Within, I give some ideas on how to overcome your natural shyness. Check it out if you’re feeling anxiety about the idea of mingling with the rest of the species. These are all methods I have used myself, and still use. I’m still rather awkward in conversation with people that I don’t know, but I work at it and have gotten better (those of you who know me will say, geez, you must have been pretty bad, then).

In conclusion, there is hope, shy writers! You have to have a different mindset than they did in the days of Jane Austen, but once you adjust to the idea of marketing yourself, you’ll find that it’s not all bad. You see how easy that was? I just marketed marketing.

If all else fails, try the armpit thing. It’s actually not so bad…

Sunday, February 24, 2008

Februarys and Mondays Always Get Me Down

Ah, yes. It’s February…the shortest month of the year that also feels like the longest. Why don’t I like February? Is it the cold? The fact that it’s a hard month to spell? The rats? Did you know that this February is going to be worse than most? It’s leap year, that’s why! That means twenty-nine days of February, instead of the typical twenty-eight. Sorry to be the one to tell you that, but I thought you might need time to prepare yourself.

Here’s a question that nobody’s asking: Why can’t we add that day to April or June, which only have 30 days in them? They’re nice months, let’s keep them going. There’s even room to take on another day. How come nobody has thought of this? You’d think they had other things to do, or something!

And what’s with all these Mondays we keep getting? This Monday was President’s Day so the kids didn’t have school. That means my Monday was even more fun than usual (being a stay-at-home mom, I don’t get President’s Day off, or any other day, for that matter). Not only did I have to readjust my sleeping pattern, which makes me cranky, and then do several chores I’d put off over the weekend (e.g., shower and change my underwear), I had to do them while my kids turned the house into a disaster zone. Apparently, the President heard the bad news and is coming out to tour our house this week. We might even be eligible for Federal relief.

I’ve also been getting a lot of bills this month. Not from Christmas. Those came in January…another month I don’t like. No, these are medical bills. If you’ve been a follower of my blog, you know that my husband messed up his wrist last Fall. I was convinced he had broken yet another bone. I was right. They had to do an MRI to find it, but find it they did. It was this teensy, tiny bone that people who break every bone in their body never break. The doctor, who has specialized in wrists for thirty years, wasn’t even sure if this bone had a name. And my husband broke it. I’m so proud! I think they should name it after him.

Then my middle child, who has inherited his father’s penchant for doing strange things to himself, tripped on the blanket he was wearing over his head at the time, cracked his skull a good one on the piano stool my husband was sitting on, and now sees colored spots all the time. Of course, we didn’t realize the head injury had caused this problem. He cried, my husband put ice on it, he seemed fine. No throwing up or weaving around or passing out. We didn’t think anything of it. Maybe a week after that he told us that he was having trouble seeing at school. We gave him the third degree about it and decided the poor kid must be very nearsighted (he told us he thought it began when school had started, when you actually have to look at something far away). Okay, so we set up an eye appt. for the end of January. Turns out, his eyes are fine. We asked him again. When do you think this started? Oh, when I hit my head, he says. My husband and I just stared at him for several seconds. Hit your head? We had forgotten about that. Why didn’t he say this a month ago? So we started to freak out. We’re imagining the worst. He’s been walking around with a cracked skull for a month. Or maybe it’s bleeding in there. Or brain damage has short-circuited his visual cortex! We called a nurse. She goes over his symptoms with me. Nothing severe stands out so we agree to get him in on Monday to see our family doctor. That was Friday. Next morning. I notice that his pupils are uneven sizes - not a good sign. We call the doctor. Turns out when you get your eyes dilated, that can happen. But…she says, you better bring him in. So we bring him to the ER. Someone who works there was going over the paperwork and said, "They’re bringing him in a month later?" She didn’t realize I was standing there. So, the poor woman taking information from me had to hear the whole story. We weren’t being neglectful! We didn’t realize this started when he hit his head. She was appropriately sympathetic. Anyway, he ends up getting a CT-scan and it looks okay. Good news, right? In a way. No cracks, bleeding, damage or tumors. So why is he still seeing spots? What the heck is going on? Well, we get to go see a pediatric neurologist in April to find out. Yes, I said April. I hate trying to get into specialists.

But that’s another blog.

So we have bills up the ying-yang, coming from everybody, even if they just looked at him. I think someone in the waiting room even sent us a bill. And now we get to pay those bills. In February. I think I’ll just put them on the credit card and deal with the whole thing in March. March is still cold and dreary, but there’s hope because April is around the corner. I can handle things better then.

On the plus side, things continue to go well for my book. People are still buying it, anyway. If you feel any inclination, I’d appreciate it if you gave me a glowing, 5-star review on Amazon. You might as well do my book, too, while you’re there. But probably only if you’ve read it and liked it. Also, if you have the power, a movie deal would be nice.

I have finally finished editing book two of the Chronicles (The Return to Anaedor) and have moved onto editing book three (The Lost Ones), while continuing to finetune The Return. Plus, I’m 150 pages into my next series. I’m using my three boys as characters, only older. I think, though, that my youngest is going to get the short end of the stick, character-wise. He’s three. I’ve yet to separate the three-ness of him from what he’s actually going to be like when he’s older. But I’m trying. At the very least, I’ll make him quirky. I don’t think that part of him is going to go away. In fact, all my kids are kinda quirky. I didn’t realize how strange they were until I put it down on paper. I wonder where they get it from?

Anyhoo, to those of you who hate Mondays and Februarys like I do, there’s only 9 more days left in February, and only one of them is a Monday. Hang in there, keep your chin up, and find ways to get through it! I suggest baking cookies, and then sending them to me.

Monday, February 18, 2008

Procrastination Makes You Put Things Off

When I first started to write books, I found it awfully hard going. I think that I’m a decent storyteller, but I’m not a natural writer - I really have to work at it. In the beginning, it didn’t take long for me to realize that getting all those grand ideas and visions of mine down on paper wasn’t going to be as easy as I’d thought. What sounded so good in my head didn’t always (okay, rarely) translate into print. Not like I’d imagined, anyway. This difficulty is why I think people put off writing, or quit after a few attempts.

That and the million other things going on in their lives.

But here’s the deal. As with any big project - cleaning out the basement, looking for a new job, getting in better shape, deciding to start a family - there is never a good time to start. There might be some times that are better than others, but generally, there is no good time to take on a big challenge. It’s now or never, my friends. So how do you do that? How do you get started?

Well, I’d like to share a few pointers with you about what I’ve done to get myself motivated. When I first started graduate school, if I had said to myself, before I am finished I am going to have to take four years of classes, write a master’s thesis, a doctoral dissertation, teach classes to other students (learning how to teach on the fly), learn how to be a therapist (once again, on the fly), take a two-day test that covered my entire four years of classes, plus four years of journal articles from four different journals (and if I don’t pass, I don’t graduate until I can try to take it the next year), and do a year-long internship (that some don’t get their first time around, better luck next year), not to mention building my resume by taking on other career-related jobs and being on committees, and all while trying to support myself on a salary that put me below the poverty level…If I had said all that to myself, I would have gone screaming into the night. I would have quit right then.

But I didn’t quit. Here’s what I did instead…I pretended that none of that other stuff mattered. I’m quite good at denial, actually. That first year I focused on getting through each day and trying to pretend that this was all there was to it. You are never going to take on something big if you understood the reality of what it encompassed. It looks too huge for one person to do. So why even bother to start? The minute I gave myself permission not to have to worry about everything, it made the whole process less stressful, and therefore doable.

The same goes for writing a novel. Baby steps are important. Break up that project. For example, tell yourself…Today I just have to write the first line. Or, today I just have to outline the first chapter, or maybe just develop a character. Don’t edit anything, just get something on paper. The moment you start accomplishing something, you will feel the weight lifting off your shoulders, and that frees you up to be more productive. If you have to go back and edit later, fine. Just try not to edit too much (if at all) when you start out. It bogs you down.

How do you avoid the bogs? One thing I do is put a little symbol in spots where I am having trouble remembering a word or phrase (or what I’m calling someone), or to remind me this is important information I have to get back to later. This also works well when you’re editing. The minute I get slowed down too much, I put in one of those signs (I use the # sign). Then, when I do a search, I can easily find those signs at another time. Maybe by then, I’ll have thought of the word, or be reminded that I have to talk about this issue later, which might actually trigger where you need to go next in your book.

You don’t want to spend a lot of energy focusing on the little stuff (at least not when you’re starting out). Put in your little sign and move on. You’ll get back to it later. Writing that first page isn’t so overwhelming if all you’re expecting of yourself is just to fill it. It doesn’t have to be perfect, or even all that sensical. I think I just made that word up, by the way…didn’t want to get bogged down looking for the right one. I don’t recommend you do that too often, but it is rather freeing! In my opinion, the first 25 pages of a novel are the hardest to write. If you can get past that barrier, I believe the writing gets easier. At least, that’s how it worked for me.

The positive thing? The more you write and edit, the easier writing gets. You know the rules better and apply them automatically. You think of words more quickly. You have a better sense of where you’re going. It takes time and practice, but all that does pay off.

So, in summary,

1. Don’t view the project as a whole. Break it up into pieces.
2. Denial is a beautiful thing. Don’t dwell on your mistakes. Get back to them later.
3. Take baby steps. Don’t think of yourself as writing the great novel on your first try.
4. Related to that, lower your expectations of yourself. When you’ve done this writing thing for a while, raise them back up again.
5. Dream about what your life will be like when you accomplish this task. Your dream may not actually come true, but it’s a lovely motivator.
6. Don’t let others rain on your parade. People can be real downers. They think they are preparing you for the disappointment, but that can really make a person not want to do anything!
7. Finally, this does get better and easier with time. Just like anything in life when you put enough effort into it.

Good luck and remember, Life is really, really short. Don’t put off what you want to do simply because it seems overwhelming. There’s always time somewhere in your life. You just have to find it. As I always say, Dream Big! But then find a way to make those dreams come true!

Thursday, February 14, 2008

"A Dream Within A Dream"

"All that we see or seem is but a dream within a dream…" Edgar Allen Poe.

I love that line. Good old Eddie was quite the writer, don’t you think? A little morbid, but he sure knew what he was talking about. Don’t you get that feeling some time? Like your life isn’t really real? That maybe you’ll wake up and realize, "It was all just a dream." What if that really happened to you? Would you be happy to leave the dream and start fresh, or would you feel sad and lost? I’d be sad. Don’t get me wrong, there were, and still are, times when I would’ve preferred to walk away from what was going on in my life. But not right at this moment, even though it’s pouring freezing rain outside and I’m expecting the electricity to go out any second now.

I’m a dreamer myself. I have a lot of dreams - both kinds, conscious and unconscious. When I’m awake my mind never stops spinning with alternate realities…made-up conversations where I am quick and clever, fantasies of saving people or winning the lottery and giving the money to those who really need it (like myself), of becoming successful so I can buy my own castle (yes, I know I’ve mentioned this a few times in other blogs, but I really want a castle, people!). I love my waking dreams. I think that if I were to stop dreaming them, I’d have to be dead.

The dreams keep going at night when I’m sleeping, but they get wackier. I’ve heard some people say that they don’t dream. I think they’re really deep sleepers and just don’t remember what they’ve dreamt. I’ll bet they have a whole world going on inside their head and they don’t even know about it! I happen to be one of those people who sleeps lightly so I get to enter that hidden world all throughout the night. Sometimes that’s a good thing, sometimes it isn’t.

There are many theories out there about why we dream. One theory says that our dreams are random and unrelated to our lives - they’re just brain synapses firing in different areas of your memory. That’s why dreams, these theorists have postulated, can seem so disjointed, jumping from one thing to the next without logical sequence. Well, I’m here to go on record that I totally don’t buy into this theory. I prefer the much more interesting symbolism theory of dreams - totally unscientific of me, I know, but I don’t care. I have found again and again that what I dream about is nearly always related to what is going on in my life at the moment.

For example…

When I am stressed out, I have this awful recurring dream. I dream that I’m back in school again. It might be that I didn’t take a certain class, or I just haven’t yet graduated. The problem is, as I enter the dream I come to realize that I haven’t been going to any of my classes all semester or taking any of the tests. I’m totally failing, but it’s too late to drop the class. Being a bit of an overachiever, I spend the rest of the night trying to rectify the situation. It is my own personal nightmare. One time, I even dreamed that I was back in Kindergarten, but still my current age. Egad. Sitting at those desks was murder on the hips and knees and I just had this feeling like I didn’t belong, that there was something very wrong with this situation.

Well, eventually, I realized what it was. After sitting in that tiny chair and working on my stupid coloring exercise (I hated coloring when I was 5 and I still do), I said, "Hey! I already graduated. I’m outta here!" Of course, now my next dream will be about them taking my diplomas away because I defied them, or maybe because I danced the funky chicken while dressed like one when I was a sophomore in college.

The good thing about these anxiety dreams is that I have learned to take some control in them. I’m not always successful at becoming aware while in my dream and making a change, but I’m getting better at it. The interesting part is that I am starting to do the same thing in real life - becoming aware of the problem and taking control, that is (not the funky chicken while dressed as one, though that would certainly be fun to try).

Depsite the bad dreams, I still like dreaming because I have great dreams, too. My flying dreams are my favorite. Well, actually, it’s more like jumping high into the air and doing flips before landing smoothly and with great agility (there are no chickens in this dream). If I can’t do it in real life, I shall do it in my dreams. I think these dreams have inspired some of what I’ve written about in Anaedor, where the characters can do things most of us only wish we could do. It’s a very powerful thing to be able to turn your dreams into something concrete, even if it is only the written word.

My husband has dreams where his dad (who passed away) tells him what to do, what directions to take in life. He isn’t bossy about it - he never was in life - just wise and gentle. One time my husband had a dream that saved his life. Seriously. He saw his own death, when it was going to be (in 2 days), and what was going to happen (he was going to plug in a huge printer that can only be plugged in when the power is off, but it wasn’t and he was electrocuted and died an awful, horrible death). On the day of his supposed death, he went to work (I ordered him not to plug anything in) and about halfway through the day, his dream kicked in. He actually started living his dream. It started simply enough. His co-worker asked, "Will you plug in that printer?" And my husband, of course, said, "What did you just say?" Because he was experiencing major deja vu at this point. The guy repeated himself and my husband told him, "I can’t. It’s live." The guy denied it, but my husband stayed firm and refused to give in - I think I might have been dead by then, sometimes I can be such a sheep. Finally they tracked down a service guy who could go check on the power. Sure enough, the power was on. Someone had tested the printer the day before and forgotten to shut the power off. Spooky, huh? Needless to say, once the power was off, my husband made sure he was the one to plug in the printer - he figured he had to to break the cycle and end the curse…or something like that.

Okay, this blog ended up a lot longer than I’d planned. But dreams fascinate me and I just couldn’t help myself. I’ll leave you with this thought, then: If our lives are but dreams within dreams…who’s doing the dreaming?

Monday, February 11, 2008

Developing Your Story Idea

I wish I had a dollar for every time someone has told me that they would like to write a book someday. I’d have at least a $100 by now. My question is: Why wait? Do you have an idea? Do you have an idea, but have no clue where to start?

Personally, I’ve never had too much of a problem coming up with story ideas. My head is filled with them (perhaps overfilled, one might say). Most writers are the same way. We just can’t turn our imaginations off. Maybe that’s why people look at us funny. Our minds are so stuffed with characters and ideas from our fictional worlds, that sometimes these things just start slipping out. On occasion, my husband has to say to me, "Come back, Kristina. Come back!"

Okay. I’m back. So you’ve got lots of ideas. Now what?

1. Buy a notebook. Make it a nice one, cool or pretty - whatever turns you on - and start considering it as another appendage to your body. In here, you are going to make a list of your story ideas. While doing this, make sure you leave plenty of pages for adding to each idea. Come to think of it, you’d better make it a big notebook.

What’s next…?

2. Pick out an idea that you really, really like. Then figure out if this is a story someone else might care about. The trouble in this day and age is that most of us have to cater to the almighty dollar if we want to get published. Will your idea sell? Will people want to read a book on the topic you want to write about? Yes? Then keep reading. No? Then pick another one.

Special note: I don’t want to discourage you from being innovative and groundbreaking. So if you think you’ve got a unique idea, develop it and don’t worry about the money. Vincent Van Gogh only sold one painting in his lifetime. Yet look at how we revere his work today. Of course, he didn’t have much to eat and he cut off his ear, but he’s considered a genius now!

Seriously, you should write what you love. At the same time, you might want to avoid putting out the same old stuff that is already out there. I sort of ignored that advice when I wrote about Anaedor. I love writing fantasy, but in these days of Harry Potter, everyone else seems to love it, too. I did try to make my story somewhat unique - the angle, the characters, the setting. Yes, I tackled a genre that is filled to the gills with J.K. wannabes, but I tried my best to do a unique take on it. Whether I succeeded or not will be up to the readers. Basically I didn’t follow my own advice, so maybe you shouldn’t even be listening to me.

3. Okay, so you’ve picked out an idea. Now, do your research. See what’s big out there. Or not big and needs to be filled. Here’s a freebie… When I search for books to read to my kids I’m always on the lookout for ones that fit their interests. My one son is a natural-born inventor. But there are not many books aimed at a 5-year-old budding scientist, though maybe for good reason. Another one of my sons loves to cook (he’s 3). But I can’t find anything on that kind of thing, and certainly not for a 3-year-old (yes, he’s the same one who lost my measuring spoons).

If you want to write children’s stories, question parents with young children about what they’re looking for (library storytimes are a great place to find such parents). Or, go to Amazon and type in a genre…see how many books pop up on the subject. Too many? See if you can narrow it down to a unique slant on the genre. For a wacky example, let’s say I want to write about action/adventure. You will discover that there are thousands of action adventure books out there. But how many of them star a rock as the hero? None. Same genre, unique slant. You get to do the area you’re interested in, but are making it sellable by being different.

4. So how do you develop an idea? I spend a lot of time thinking about my stories. Some writers say they will spend years developing an idea. They are writing other books, in the meantime, so don’t use that as an excuse to delay getting started! Think about your idea while you’re showering, while lying in bed, while you’re driving or taking a walk. Imagine yourself in the story. Who do you meet? What’s the conflict? When does it take place (past, present, future, different plane of time)? Where does it take place? Do research on your topic. That’s the beauty of the internet. Get online and type in your idea. There’s so much information out there, that it should stimulate your creative juices. If it doesn’t, consider yourself a hopeless case.

Additionally, I create a special document just for notes on my book. My latest is 80 pages long, almost a book in itself (though a lot of it is cut and paste - just don’t plagiarize the stuff, please - consider the information merely a tool for writing your book and stimulating story ideas). It’s actually quite fun to do and at the very least, you’re learning something.

5. Now that you have a general outline of what you want to do, it’s time to get more specific. Take each character and describe them (what’s their favorite food? If they were to vote, who would they pick? Bad habits? Unique physical characteristics?). Make a map of your setting (whether it be a house, a town, a world, or all of the above). Be as detailed as you can. I actually draw pictures. I’m terrible at drawing, but it helps me to visualize things. Oftentimes, you can get tripped up in your book because you don’t have everything set out. You could end up with a river that flows upstream (which is only okay if you wanted it that way). Or, you might end up with all the characters having similar names - not good. Readers will confuse them. Maybe your main character has green eyes at the beginning and blue eyes by the end. Details matter!

6. To sum up, you develop your story idea by immersing yourself in it and living it. I think the best way to do that is to join that world and be that world. This may cause problems in your real life - you might start confusing fiction with reality, something I often do - but this should be temporary. Until you start working on the next book, that is!

So that’s my take on developing story ideas, for what it’s worth. I hope this blog helped and if it didn’t, then I don’t know what to do for you. I sweated blood writing this blog. I have nothing left to give. Make my efforts worthwhile…get started on developing your story idea!

Thursday, February 7, 2008

Like What You See

My husband sent me a link yesterday that I thought was just great. I sent it to everyone I know. You might want to do the same. Here’s the link:

This is a short movie clip that shows a woman getting transformed by makeup, followed by computer enhancement, and ending with this quote, "No wonder our perception of beauty is distorted." Those words are absolutely perfect. You’ll understand what I’m talking about when you watch the clip yourself. I was astounded. I’d always heard that they airbrush models for ads, but I didn’t know they enlarged eyes, stretched and sculpted necks, hollowed out cheekbones, and made countless other changes to ‘perfect’ this woman.

All to get you to buy a product that can never do the same for you!

You’ve seen the ads - how could you miss them? They’re everywhere. Perfect women, flawless skin, laughing and having a good time, surrounded by other good looking people. All because they use whatever it is that they’re selling. Yeah, right! The crazy thing is, we buy into it. We think that somewhere out there is something that will make us look better, and thus, feel better. Well, I’m telling you…it won’t happen.

It makes me mad that even in this supposedly enlightened age of ours, girls and women (and now, more and more, boys and men) feel badly about ourselves because companies continue to bombard us with images and messages implying we aren’t good enough the way we are. When I was younger, I was completely convinced I was a hound. I ‘read’ a lot of beauty magazines back then and after staring at those women for hours, then studying my own reflection just as scrupulously, I decided that I couldn’t compete. I actually believed that these women represented most people. Since I didn’t meet these standards of beauty, I thought I must be the ugliest person on this planet. I had pimples, bad hair days, a funny nose, and an ear that sticks out (I still have all this). I was the proverbial ugly duckling. Sure I had hopes of becoming the swan (I’m not the only one - they made a show on the subject), but not high ones. I figured I’d need a miracle to measure up.

Even as an adult, I feel the pressure. I see pictures of women (actresses, models) who I know are my age, and they look amazing! No dark circles, no tired eyes. No dry skin, no wrinkles. What the heck? I have all of the above. I must be the exception to the rule! I actually look my age!

But that isn’t true. I’m not the exception. I look like most of my peers (okay, there’s always the rare looker who will age gracefully and never look bad, but they’re very rare, so I’m not going to count them). Look around you. How many people do you know who look like models? I know none (not even myself). At least not how models are portrayed. Because that woman in the clip…if I’d seen her picture on the billboard, and then passed her on the street as she was before all that stuff was done to her…I wouldn’t recognize her. That was two different people, my friends. A real one, and a made-up one. You’ve seen the models/actresses without makeup pics. Not so hot, huh?

Now, if you’ve read my blogs, you know I’m all for fantasy. I like beauty. But it’s not the end all, be all. Our society should not strive for it at the expense of our dignity, nor should we do that as individuals. There’s a theory that when something bad happens to you, you need to incorporate it into who you are rather than always trying to take it apart, fix it, make it go away. The same should go for our bodies. As I said earlier, I have a funny ear. But I have decided it makes me look unique, a bit uneven, but still unique. I have no chin (not literally - I do have a chin, it’s just not very pronounced). Well, then (this one’s harder), I guess there’s less space for food to fall onto.

We all have our funny bits. EVERYONE…even the lookers and models. Get used to them. Embrace them. And most important of all, be realistic about them. Nobody else seems to notice my ear. I don’t think anyone could care less that I don’t have a chin. What’s the saying? "You don’t want to know how little other people think about you." People are busy. They have things to do. One of them is probably worrying about their own appearance! Life is so short. Don’t waste it hating yourself because you don’t match up to a standard that even the beautiful people can’t meet.

Keep in mind that I’m not telling you to forego make-up or to stop styling your hair or to give up showers. Most of us humans are naturally vain creatures. That’s just who we are. I’m saying, don’t let your appearance rule your life. That’s all I’m saying. Well, not all. Because then this would have been a much shorter blog.

‘Bravo’ to Dove for putting out this clip, for using real women as models, for trying to make a difference. Yes, I know this is another form of marketing to get us to buy their product, but it’s a good kind. It’s a risk to go against the established norm. They took it and I hope they succeed at it.

So, in conclusion, remember this: When you love yourself, it’s easy to love everybody else…

Monday, February 4, 2008

Patriots Nation Is In Mourning

The Superbowl just ended and I’m typing this blog. How pathetic is that? But I have to. The Patriots lost, which means I am lost. More like, stunned. Yes, they weren’t playing all that great toward the end of the season. Yes, Tom Brady had a shoulder injury and a sprained ankle. But still… They’ve pulled it off at the last minute so many times, I just thought they might do it again. Even with 10 seconds left on the clock and on the Giant’s 20-yard line. I really believed they could make it happen. Of course, I like to believe in fairies, too.


I started out this year not watching the Patriots. You could call me a fair weather fan, I suppose. But I just couldn’t hack it. Last year, I ended up with an aching jaw for two months, which, funnily enough, went away not long after the Patriots’ season ended. Coincidence? I think not. Watching them play stressed me out to the point that I was clenching my teeth more often than not. And since I like to eat, this year I had to just walk away…not tune in…only take sneak peeks or have my husband update me.

You see, every time I watch the Patriots play, I lose years off my life. And I’m not even one of those huge football fans. I understand the rules, I generally know the players. But it’s not my life, not like some of those fans (I’m talking the poor, half-naked guys who stand out there in the bleachers in 20 degree weather, who apparently can ‘t afford shirts because they spent all their money on tickets to the game). I guess when I root for a team to win, I get too passionate about it. It’s just a game, right? I know! So why the dramatics? Why the huge highs and lows? You got me. Maybe it’s the primitive in me coming out. Big guys beating other big guys. Oh, yeah! If my team beats your team, and every other team in the country, then that means I’m better than all of you. Ha!

This year, the Patriots were really winning their games big. So I figured, maybe I can start watching them again. Of course, that was about the same time that they started having closer games. Add a decade to my life for those, thank you very much. I am now an old woman. Might as well start digging my grave. When I told my dentist about my aching jaw, he advised me to drink a glass of wine while watching the game. I took his advice. It didn’t work.

I only wish that Tom Brady would have talked to me before the big game. Here’s the deal…I just had this feeling he was slipping into a funk. Those two weeks off, spent with a supermodel, that’s gotta hurt. But I’ve been there (well, not with a supermodel). I’ve seen the lows. I know how to get out of them. I’ve got the training, I even played high school basketball. I think I could’ve helped. But Tom didn’t look me up. I guess he was busy.

Well, Giants fans, enjoy this one. We’re coming back next year, and if the Patriots are as smart as I think they are, they’ll ask my opinion more often about what play they should run, how to keep motivated, what kind of pants to wear. I’ve got the answers.

In the meantime, I shall mourn…and maybe watch the Pro Bowl next week. Perhaps Brady can win this one. If not, I’m hoping the commercials are as entertaining as the Superbowl’s were. I mean, the one where the little bug gives a tiny scream. How funny is that? And the guy braking his car when he sees an animal in the road and the guy from Kiss, and then speeding up when he sees Richard Simmons. Don’t get me wrong…I like Richard Simmons. He’s one peppy guy. I just don’t like it aimed in my direction.

Anyhoo, I feel bad for the Patriots. And for the big Patriots fans, too. I feel bad for me. I really like winners and although the Patriots were winners 18 times this year, they didn’t win the big one so why did they even bother? Actually, that’s me mocking the sportswriters and sportscasters out there. I think it’s a great accomplishment and I shall remember it. Of course, I shall also remember that Belichick didn’t have Gostkowski attempt that 49 yd. field goal and we could’ve been tied and maybe gone on to win in overtime!

Sigh. LIfe is just so hard!

Okay, I’ve gotta wrap this up. I’m starting to get worked up again. In summary, the Patriots lost, another Manning won, and I think my jaw is broken.