Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Express Yourself!

Barbara: So easy, right? Just say it. Be confident, be honest. People will listen. They will get it. Right?

But what if it’s not so straightforward as all that???

The other day I was trying to explain something to Deb. (Okay, it was about how to link our blog to her Facebook account. And you already know how the FB is making Deb freak a little bit. So I wanted to be deft.) Now, I’ve worked very hard to learn how to express myself as clearly as I can. You who know me only from the blog can’t really appreciate just how tangent-y and convoluted my spoken word can be. I know I can be obtuse here, but at least I have the luxury of reading, re-reading, and editing to help me get as close as I can to my intended meaning. But all bets are off when I am in full ramble-mode.

So there’s me trying to explain something technical to Deb. I'm not good with the technical, so I was nervous. Keep it simple, I remind myself. Be clear. So what do I start with?: “There’s this glitch and I have no idea how to fix it.” These were literally the first words out of my mouth. I haven’t even told her what to do yet and already I’ve planted this very loaded piece of information in her head. So I ramble on: “Click on the Facebook link,” “find a good thumbnail,” “delete the comment,” “add a headline,” “click share”. Well, Deb—quite naturally—is still trying to wrap her mind around this “glitch that has not ever been solved". She wants to help figure it out, you see, or find someone who can. But I keep trying to sweep over this glitch business (“Why is she worrying so much about it? It’s not that big a deal.”). And then I realize—or rather, Deb explains to me—that I have set up our whole conversation around the existence of a relentless, irritating, unsolvable GLITCH. Who wouldn’t worry about it?! I started all over again with my explanation (sans “glitch”) and all ended well … but it got me thinking.

This whole conversation reminded me how easily we needlessly complicate things when we speak to each other. Warning people about dire consequences before I’ve put anything in context is my thing, I know this. But I think we all have our things.

A big one I’ve noticed (and of which I am also guilty) is OVER-EXPLAINING. The human mind is incredibly resilient. After a life long of reading––whether it’s books, newspapers, magazines, Facebook messages or email––we are very adept at extrapolating information from a few key words. But many of us (yes, me me ME!) over-explain because we don’t trust this process. And also because (I think) we’re so worried we won’t be heard or trusted or understood.

So, yes, we have to express ourselves. But we also have to keep honing this tricky skill too, don’t you think?

Deb:  This happens to my husband and I all the time. We are each clear about the intention of our point and yet we find ourselves bonking heads. Each of us trying not to say to the other either “am I crazy here” or “are you nuts?” I think it’s because we both have our line of thinking mapped out for us and we do not want to be swayed for fear that we lose our train of thought. Barb kept saying, “No wait, let me go over it again,” assuming I did not understand, instead of looking at the big picture of her statement, “There is a glitch that we can’t solve,” which is what I was focusing on.

I am also guilty of over explaining. I will say to someone, “Oh sorry I can’t be at the meeting because you see (bla bla details)(bla details reasons)( bla reasons excuses bla). Lately I am trying very hard with a good deal of success to stop that. “I can’t be at the meeting, sorry.” Feels so good.

But in your case, Barb, you were over explaining and repeating because you thought I honestly did not get it, which is a sweet reason for over explaining. Because, well, you are sweet.

At any rate, I got it, thanks to you. And what I would normally say here is, “Oh thanks for explaining because you see I just didn’t understand the (bla bla) and I couldn’t (more useless facts) because you see I (extraneous details) and so I (bla bla friggin bla). But instead, I’ll just say “Thanks. I get it now. xo”

Monday, March 28, 2011

Can't Get Started

Deb: This isn’t the first time I’ve sat down to write a blog uninspired or tired.  There are other times when I sit down with a whole blog mapped out in my head only to find my fingers typing something else. Actually those are usually my faves.

But today is a new one. I’ve started three blogs and I just can’t find my angle. I am uninspired with me today. The facts of the stories are just facts, although each experience was really interesting and/or fun for me. 

But I sit here expressionless.

So today’s blog is my bloggie version of a movie trailer, a coming attractions if you will. Maybe one will be a huge Blog-buster hit, or maybe they’ll all go straight to video. So here they are, coming this spring??? (or not) to a Middle Ages Blog near you:

1. A Model Performance

The other night I walked a runway for the first time in my life.  No surprise there, as I hardly have the body of a model. Five-foot tall, hourglass shape is not what they seek to sell clothes. But thanks to charity––in this case, the Heart and Stroke Foundation––I was walking the walk. And for the first year ever, they included men, so my sexy husband walked too. Each participant was matched with a designer who then made a custom dress for each of us and we had the requisite fittings and changes, nip and tucks. My designer was Karamea and her instruction from me was just this: “I WILL NOT SHOW MY ARMS!

To vote for more of “A Model Performance” vote MP1

2.  A Record of my Past

My husband and I just came home from a record show. Cash only, bartering welcome. We went down just to see what was what and to make a few purchases. Nothing gives me more joy than popping a disc on the record player. Slipping the vinyl out of its sleeve, blowing the dust off, and gingerly placing the needle on the thick grove at the edge. Then comes the lovely scratch of anticipation and, boom, instant time machine.  When I was a kid, records were my pride and joy. I would actually carry around a fave album at school with my books like it was a baby. I remember Led Zeppelin 11 actually having the grooves of my handprint on it. So did Lighthouse’s One Fine Morning.

To vote for more of “A Record of my Past” vote ROMP2

3. Face-to-Face with Facebook

I tried the Facebook many years ago and did not like it one bit. Rather I should say, it was not for me. It felt my face, the Facebook. I guess I did not really grasp its purpose, as the fact that it was in my face came as a big shock to me. So Barb tried to convince me to go back on Facebook for, If nothing else, the sake of our blog. She felt it would help to get it out there.  Well, that made perfect sense and so I resigned myself to try it again.

So I am back on the Facebook and I just can’t face it. Facebook has already––ONE DAY IN––sent me a warning and cut me off from accepting friends. And the sad thing is, I do not know what I did. So within 24 hours I am in the FB penalty box.

To vote for “ Face to Face with Facebook” vote FTFWFB 3

And if the snippets are enough for you, please vote BTTODB (Back to the Old Drawing Board).


Barbara: I, for one, am thrilled and inspired by this idea, Deb. I love it when we shake it up a bit here on the blog. Just so you know, I’m not gonna vote as I’ve heard the stories. But I can say this: they’re all classic Deb.

Friday, March 25, 2011

The Game Changer

Barbara: You know when you read something and it sticks with you and then you try to quote it back later in conversation and you can’t for the life of you remember what it was? I know we sometimes roll our eyes at people who pluck quotes out of midair and repeat them back verbatim, but I’ve always secretly coveted this trait. Oh, to reference Shakespeare or Sartre or Sontag with perfect recollection. Not for the intellectual kudos, mind you, but for the accuracy. The POINT of what they said.

I was trying to recall a quote for a friend recently and I paraphrased it so badly I may have changed the meaning entirely. And I was so frustrated with myself that I ran up to find the book, flipping maniacally through all the pages, until I found it. The irony was not lost on me that this was AFTER I’D ALREADY QUOTED IT! Still, I needed to see how close I’d gotten. (I was miles off, of course.)

That said, the quote is really so GREAT that I decided to blog it. I would love to know if this idea resonates with you as much as it did with me. I was reading Tony Hsieh’s autobiography, Delivering Happiness––he’s the CEO of––and he talks about all the stuff he learned though years of ups and downs and ups. At one point he makes an analogy between playing poker and running an effective business (aka, living life). He says (and I quote): “I’d realized that whether in poker, in business, or in life, it was easy to get caught up and engrossed in what I was currently doing, and that made it easy to forget that I always had the option to change tables. Psychologically, it’s hard because of all the inertia to overcome.” And here’s the clincher (*caps are mine*): “WITHOUT CONSCIOUS AND DELIBERATE EFFORT, INERTIA ALWAYS WINS.”

Isn’t this true??? I mean, from a very early age, I recognized this. And hated it. Why, if I had so much I wanted to do, felt compelled to do, didn’t I do it? Well, Tony put his finger on it: it’s Inertia’s fault! I’m all, I gotta get out there, conquer the world, and Inertia’s all, Nah, it’s cozy here on the couch with the TV on, fuggedaboudit.

No, kidding aside, I’m a super-hard worker. Pretty much everyone I know is a super-hard worker. There’s ALWAYS more to do than there are hours in the day. I want desperately to get my shit done, to feel a sense of accomplishment. Inertia doesn’t hold me back at all in the “doing” regard. BUT. I like understanding that if I don’t make a deliberate effort against inertia, if I don’t make myself uncomfortable from time to time (and routine, however busy, can also get “comfortable”), then I will get stuck. And that stuckness will echo through every facet of my life.

So, while I capped Tony’s inertia/winning quote, I will also try to remind myself—and any eye-rolling listeners of my fumbled attempts to accurately repeat a quote––that the key is actually in understanding the need to regularly “change tables”.

And how have I changed tables, you might ask. Well, in the last year, certainly blogging and going on Facebook has changed my game significantly.

What’s next? I’ll tell you when I do it :)

DebI can certainly quote anything verbatim from a 1960’s Mad Magazine, so there. Take that! 

You can always change tables. How do I love that? And I have the same as you, Barb, Facebook and blogging are huge committments for me. It was very hard to change that table. Writing and developing shows was another table changer but I always looked over at that table and there was never an empty seat and the players were drunk. 

This has soooooooooo resonated with me. I am going to always keep my eyes open for another table, another game. Not blackjack though. I’ve tried it. The other players yell at me.

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Spoiler Alert: We’re All Going To Die Someday

Deb: Do you ever sit and think about your death? I don’t mean how or when, but the fact of it––the fact that you and I are going to die. And we don’t know when.

Woody Allan certainly does. It is his lifelong obsession and I am quite sure he sees the irony in that. It is what makes him all at once a brilliant comedian and a full-time psychiatrist patient.

One of my dearest friends has fought this concept in her mind all her life. If she even thinks of it for a second, she is gripped with fear and pain and disbelief. My mother, who is one of the most insecure people I know, said to me one day, “I just can’t imagine the world without me”. It was said in a most honest way, not with ego or self-importance. She just could not imagine it. I loved her for this statement. I guess we all feel this way deep down.  We just cannot imagine the world turning without us.

But do you think about it? Really think about it?

The other night during that glorious and cozy full moon, I sat in our window seat marveling. I am a moon-gazer and have been known to sit for hours at a time enthralled.  And because the moon was so close to earth, it felt like Moon had just dropped in for tea.

As I was keeping company with Moon, I started to think about the friends we have lost in the last few months and how much I was missing them here with us on the planet.

Then I started to ponder the idea of my own death. Not my death exactly, not the hows and whys and wheres and whens of it. But the fact of it.

I stared at that moon and thought, “There will come a time when I cannot stare at the moon, because I won’t be here. I won’t be on this earth. I might be in some other place or I might be nowhere, but I certainly won’t be here, as me, as Deb. I didn’t feel gripped with fear or with pain. But I felt ripped off. And a little jealous of the moon, I don’t mind telling you. Even if it was just for this single moment, I could use infinity lifetimes.

And I know people say that is why we have to live each moment to the fullest. But what if we do try to live each moment to the fullest? What if we do adore and appreciate and revel in each and every second? Shouldn’t there be a points card system? Fill your card with joy and get another life? And I know, I know. If we did, we would not appreciate the life we have. But still. What a rip.

So I said “Goodnight Moon” and went to bed deciding that from now on, I would make every single solitary minute second count. And the next day, before I knew it, I was watching “Cake Boss”. Life.

Everybody has got to die, but I always believed an exception would be made in my case. ~ William Saroyan

Barbara: Oh, Deb, such beautiful agony! I actually haven’t thought about my own death much. Weird, huh? I mean, I really really avoid any and all thoughts in that direction. But if I must ponder it, then yeah, I guess I get your mom’s innocent wonder at the incomprehensible possibility of a world without me. One where stuff keeps happening and it no longer affects me (or me it). Just mind-boggling. But I guess if I go down that slippery slope then it’s equally disconcerting that a whole bunch of stuff happened before I made my illustrious debut.

It’s true, there is nothing quite so magical as those rare moments (like pondering a perigee moon) where you feel just transcendently, spectacularly alive. And yet, if only I knew how to convince whoever’s in charge that I’m sure I could summon that appreciation if allowed to live for all eternity.

Monday, March 21, 2011

Does Love Complete You (or is it just a nice bonus)?

Barbara: I might be opening a kettle of fish with this question (and I guess I want to), but if you come along for the ride, you could end up helping me a lot.

Here’s the scoop. I’m currently working on a screenplay (it’s an adaptation of a novel) where the heroine enjoys a lot of personal accomplishments, but finds that she is missing true love. Because of this void, she feels somehow less whole.

The reason I’m throwing this question out to you is because I want to fully commit to the truth of my character’s emotional arc. And if you share your own stories and thoughts with me here, you could get me closer to an essential and universal truth. In other words, my personal experience is not necessarily enough to answer such a big question!

At some point in our lives, we’re all exposed to the literary or idealistic conceit that a significant other is our “other half”. “The two shall become one,” “You complete me,” “My better half,” “The yin to my yang,” etc, etc. I don’t think anyone will argue that love is wonderful and beautiful and enriching. That our lives are more abundant if we are fortunate enough to have any form of reciprocal love in it, preferably in many different forms. I certainly believe that. But would I feel less complete if I was working and creating and socializing, loving and living a rich life, if I didn’t also have my “other half” along for the ride?

My husband and I have been together for 31 years, since I was 16 (I know!). In that time, we have gone through an incredible amount of personal and relationship change and growth. We have mined depths of love that I feel incredibly blessed to have experienced (and depths of pain I feel incredibly lucky to have survived). I also know that as a result of such a long-term connection, we both had to go through times where we desperately needed to find ourselves—not as a new-age expression, but as a truthful part of our personal development. Where does he end and I begin? What do I love because I LOVE it or because he loves it? What are my dreams, what are his dreams. what are our dreams?

I know my situation is very rare. And some of you will find it wonderful and sweet and some of you will shudder in your shoes at the very thought. I, of course, couldn’t be happier that my life has worked out this way. But if (god forbid) my situation were to change, would I feel less complete?

I want to say, No. Absolutely, no-holds-barred No. I am my own person, I follow my own dreams, I make my own decisions. I love my life. I don’t need another person to fulfill me. Instead, I am lucky that I have a loving partner. But that said, I speak from the viewpoint of someone who is lucky enough to have a loving partner. If he were to walk out the door tomorrow (again, god forbid), I might not need another experience of this kind because I have known it already. But if I had never EVER known it, would I always be wondering what it was like, feeling the void of it, desperately wanting to have it? Even if I had all the other things I currently have?

I know I’m asking a lot because there are so many variables (kids, economic security, emotional needs, etc), but all things considered, surely you all must have an opinion on this question. And if you do, I would be deeply, eternally grateful if you shared it with me. xo

Deb: This triggered thoughts that have been hiding in the broom closet of my brain. Thoughts that have arisen from my dear friend losing her husband recently at a young age. Through her loss and pain, I could see what she was facing and it raised many questions in my soul.

I guess speaking for myself, I would safely say that I am totally my own person with my own likes and dislikes and my own sense of self. I do not need someone else to complete me. I have worked very hard over the years on self-improvement and plan on staying that course until my time to die. And yes, it will keep me busy!

But––and here’s the thing––I want to share it with my husband. Over time I couldn’t even tell you which of us liked what first, or if something was his idea or mine, or even where the line was drawn. I love that the line is murky. That is what a good partnership is for me. The fact is, we have influenced each other because the respect for each other’s opinion is so strong in each of us. I respect his taste and he respects mine. And maybe without his valued opinion I would not have tried something new and foreign to me. But I did and I do. And I am so much richer for it. I hope he is too. I am lucky enough to have another set of very loving eyes from which to view the world. I take what I like and the rest falls under “agree to disagree” category.

But that is the crux of it for me––his and my point of view melding together to make the marriage the multi-faceted union that it is. And it is a union. And there are all sorts of wonderful types of unions. But ours is a legal union that we needed to make. The instant our wedding was over, we instantly felt like family. It was one of the nicest feelings I have ever had.

I have always felt in my heart, and especially lately, that I would not seek out a new love if Colin died (God forbid). I feel secure in the knowledge that I am such a strong person, such a lover of life, that I would go on in new and different directions alone, having had something special that I could never top. The love that we have now would carry with me alone into the world and I would be happy for its company. 

Friday, March 18, 2011

No Good Can Come Of A Naked Troll

Deb: With all the talk of nudity in our blog last week, I felt it was the perfect time to trot out my “nudie tale.”

When my husband and I were first married, I had an arsenal of “characters” that I would pull out when I wanted to make him laugh. Unlike my husband who just always makes me laugh. There was a myriad of subtle and varied characters, which included Willie McGee and Grip Woman. Yes. Grip Woman. One particular favourite was my troll.  Name: Troll. I would pull a sweater over my head, covering it and then, well yes, I would speak like a troll. I would say troll-like things. For example, I might say something like:

“Mighty is my hunger today, husband. Omelet will I chose to satisfy the pangs.”

Yes, I know you are judging me at this point. Go ahead. But in my defense... yeah, okay  go ahead.

What can I say? It was the silly kind of things newlyweds do.

Well, if the Troll wasn’t nuanced enough, you can only imagine what pregnancy did for it!  As I got bigger, so did the antics of the troll. I was hormonal, you see, and decided to become the Naked Pregnant Troll. So picture if you will, me, all five feet in height, weighing 95 pounds when our son was conceived, and at this point of the pregnancy, tipping the scales at 150 lbs. (I would go on to gain almost 80 pounds!)

So one afternoon, I am feeling particularly Troll-esque and bursting with a craving that I had from the moment we conceived till the baby was a year old: “Fetch for me, oh husband of my heart, a pudding dense to feed our unborn offspring and satiate me.” Or something to that effect. Did I mention we had only been married a couple of years???

Anyway, my doting husband set out on his quest for Jello Chocolate Pudding Mix, and I set to work. Naked as a newborn, I lay in wait under my bridge with Troll-like patience for my mate to return, my sweatshirt clutched in my puffy hand.

Suddenly I heard the key in the door and I chucked the sweatshirt over my head and proceeded down the spiral staircase in our apartment.

“Have you returned successful from the hunt, my mate?” Silence.

I move a little further down the spiral stairs, tilting my naked preggo self to and fro as befits a pregnant troll. “Have you returned successful from the––”

Suddenly I hear a man’s voice. Not my husband’s. Then a second voice. Not my husband’s either.

I pull the sweatshirt off my head and down to cover most of my nakedness, only to see the Superintendent and the air-conditioning guy. Flushed, awkward, and struck dumb as they face the great Troll.
I will not say I ran up the stairs because running was no longer an option. But I sure as shit waddled faster than anyone who has waddled before.

When my husband returned, he found the Super and the air guy in the living room going about their business and me in the bedroom, now COMPLETELY covered and laughing so hard I thought I would give birth. So if anyone ever asks why I don’t do the nude thing...

Barbara: OMG!!! Laughing out loud. Truly. Tears running down my face!! Deb, only you would seduce your husband impersonating a netherworld creature with bad hair.

I’m racking my brain for my own story of this ilk, but really everything just sounds lame compared to Naked Troll. But, strangely, this racking recalled another funny Deb "seduction" that I HAVE to share.

Shenanigans about to unfold...
Several years ago, our families went on a ski trip together. The kids would’ve been in their mid-teens. At the end of a glorious week on the slopes, we were getting ready to leave. The van was packed, the kids were in the back row, Deb and I were in the middle row, and the two guys were strapping the skis onto the roof. The doors beside Deb and I were open as the guys balanced on the sills to attach the straps. Deb was in a playful mood and, after a while, decided to tickle her hands up Colin’s belly as he worked. This playful hand-tickle was accompanied by the requisite singing of, “Doopy, doopy, doopy, do!”

Deb's boy toy
But all of a sudden, Colin’s face appeared next to the belly being fondled. Then we all realized: it wasn’t his belly at the mercy of Deb’s nimble fingers. In fact, it wasn’t a belly at all. It was lower. Yep, that low. Phil’s disembodied voice confirmed the case of misplaced affection. He wondered if Deb was trying to give him a “happy ending”.

Thankfully, this story also had all of us rolling on the floor with laughter. Even the kids. Still brings tears to my eyes. (Well. Maybe Colin didn’t find it so amusing…) 

Deb: OH GOD, I LOVE THIS STORY. And I am howling with laughter at the memory. My husband knows well enough that I would not add another lover to the roster. Who has the time? 

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Worried Sick

Barbara: Susan Sontag wrote a famous essay about “compassion fatigue” (I couldn’t find the essay itself, but this is an excellent article that discusses it). If you don’t know it, she talks about how there’s a real danger that we can become immune to the tragedies around us because we are so inundated with images depicting them. She calls this phenomenon “compassion fatigue”.

I don’t know about you, but I am not in danger of succumbing to compassion fatigue; I’m at risk of collapsing under the weight of fatigue brought on by my compassion.

I am virtually vibrating with my concerns and fears for Japan right now, never mind that those concerns are piling up on top of recent worries about New Zealand and renewed ones about Libya and Haiti, and on and on. I try to drown myself in my work, which helps in the moment, but I come out of it exhausted and inexplicably weepy. I feel powerless. I feel impotent.

Lori Landau posted an interesting article yesterday about her own thoughts on this. Lori suggests that in order to take care of the world, we need to take care of ourselves first. This is such a simple and powerful logic, I have to repeat it here. We’ve blogged a lot about personal trials and tribulations and how to lend a helping hand in times of need. But a unanimous consensus among us is that in terrible times, we are bound to “hit a wall”. This is when we most need a break to recuperate and heal. For each of us, this process will involve something different. Lori recommends meditation. Her point—and rightly so—is that through meditation, we can also increase our communal energy. And that communal energy can bind us together and give us an exponential healing power, even in the worst of times.

Now I am terrible at meditating. I’ve tried it to little avail. But I can see the beauty and truth in joining spiritual forces and BELIEVING. If there is one thing that exemplifies the best of the human spirit, it is our ability to prevail, adapt, and grow. We can’t give up now. We have to believe in ourselves, in each other, in good. Let’s not get so fatigued that we succumb to it, that we settle, that we give up. “Believing” might not be meditation in the classic sense, but it’s the kind of meditation I, for one, can grasp. It gives me energy when I most need it.

Deb: Barb, wonderful food for thought. I too have been struggling with this. I look at the photos and it looks exactly like a disaster movie. It looks unreal and surreal and as a result, it is hard to grasp. So I find myself instead focusing on the individuals.

I was struck by a photo in the newspaper of a little boy. He must have been around three or four. He was standing in front of a man in full radiation gear, as the man waved a wand over his tiny self. His eyes were wide and his little arms and legs were spread-eagle. He looked not terrified but aghast. At least as aghast as a tiny boy can look. And I sat staring at the picture of his sweet face and thinking that no matter what happens in the rest of his life, this is the defining moment. He will never ever ever forget this moment. It will shape who he is, and who he will become.

I have meditated since I was twenty. I kept it up for years and years. I picked it up during menopause and it was a great help, but since then I have strayed again.

So Barb, you have inspired me to slip into my Transcendental Meditation and send loving thoughts of peace and hope and healing to the Japanese people. And as I repeat my mantra, I will think of them, one human at a time, through the face of one tiny little boy. 

Monday, March 14, 2011

Deb and Barb Have A Three-Way (nudity might be involved)

Deb and Barb Have A Three-Way With Hart

Deb and Barbara met Hart through her excellent, thoughtful and spirited blog, Confessions of a Watery Tart, which explores lots of "real life" stuff, but focuses mainly on her journey as a writer. Hart has a mind-blowing amount of stamina: not only does she work full-time, raise a family, write her novels, and blog everyday, but she is an ardent, generous reader and supporter of dozens of other people’s blogs, including ours. And we love her.

The Aging Nudist

Hart: Before I get going, I really want to thank Deb and Barbara for having me. I adore these two: the honesty, the energy, the fun... all things I aspire to. In honesty, though, there are things I don't talk about much because... they're embarrassing...

Oh, I hear you. Anyone who knows me is convinced I embarrass myself all the time, but that is the intentional buffooning to throw attention off the... buffoon. But I thought maybe here was a good place to get naked...

See, I've been a nudist most of my life. At age two I refused to keep on the wet swimsuit because WET CLOTHES are UNCOMFORTABLE! (And I had a point, ne? They're MISERABLE!  Mom said I was easy to potty train, though, so I suppose that is the other angle to the naked toddler in the front yard.)

Two years later I gave up nightwear for good... (it gets TANGLED!), and at sixteen I finally started recruiting... you know, spreading the word about how much more COMFORTABLE it was!

But here's the thing... at sixteen, or twenty, or twenty-five, I could legitimately say I looked better naked *cues Chris Isaacs song*. Video here  (note, it is the 1:07 mark where he says 'you're the kind of a girl who looks better naked'). I'm a bit Amazonian... have always hopped the line between the high end of normal and overweight... not the kind of girl to compliment the latest fashion (particularly anything straight-legged—even at my thinnest, I've always had ample thighs), but my parts were firm and smooth... they held in place... so long as I made a point of getting some exercise and some sun, it worked well.

Jump ahead 20 years... past two pregnancies... four or five significant weight losses and regains... and frankly... it isn't pretty. I still walk A LOT (about 25 miles a week)... there is solid muscle coating my legs, top and bottom... erm... under a layer of lumpy stuff... the tummy sags a bit... in fact when I bend, it folds into rolls... lovely.

I don't have many mirrors in my house and it takes quite an effort to see one’s lower half (like standing on something). And it takes the hand-mirror to see much of one’s backside.  I never really thought about this until my last hotel stay when it was all too easy to see that time just was not being nice.

Instead of giving up the Nudism and embracing an age of modesty, though, which goes against all that I am, I've decided to embrace the opportunity to practice a little self-acceptance.  I see older women who look GREAT and that is great—good for them and more power to them. But I also see older women who are trying far too hard to hang onto something that just isn't happening—lovely, young curls on a face of wrinkles doesn't have the same kind of grace as gray curls.  And makeup doesn't hide it—in fact, it just settles into the creases and looks tacky.  Ton of eye make-up?  HELLO, CIRCUS ACT.

Hart's tatoo
And at least I can be content in my knowledge that I really DID know what I was doing when I chose my tattoo location... upper central back... that moon will neither wrinkle nor sag, no matter what happens to me.

Barbara: First off, LOVE the tattoo! Second, one of the things that drew me to you and your blog, Hart, was your deep commitment to honesty in all forms. That comes across in your writing, of course. But there was always something about the nudism angle that seemed to support that honesty even more (symbolically and literally).

I WISH I had this kind of freedom, I really do, the kind that says “free me of my shackles, I need none of them”. But, sadly, I am not a nudist at heart and never have been. Well… there was this one time…

Honeymoon pic. Yep, nekkid under the hat :)
When my husband and I went on our honeymoon (obviously back in the “young bod” years), we found ourselves on a topless beach. I was intrigued by the idea of nude sunbathing. But I was also wracked with nerves at the idea of taking anything off. Finally, though (okay, with some prodding from my new hubby), I decided to go for it. It was exhilarating, no question, to have the nips out in the fresh ocean breeze. My husband jokes that I went from, “Please, no, I can’t possibly take it off,” to “Weeeee, let’s play topless beach-ball!”

Did I find my calling? Um, no. As much as I loved it, it’s not like it ever happened again. But now that I’m older and the older parts are showing? I don’t know. Would it be less likely… or more??? After all, I care less now about what people think. And I also think I’ve accepted the aging process with some amount of grace. But the truth is, maybe I’m just not a nudist at heart.

Should we be hiding our lumps, or showing them off?

Deb: Ahhhh, Hart, you are my HERO! I have always wanted to be that person. Free as the birds, age of Aquarius, flappin’ in the wind kind of gal. But alas and alack, I am clothed. Fully clothed. Don’t even like to go barefoot. Very similar to Barb in that way. And funnily enough I went topless on the island of Santorini on my honeymoon too. Well to be honest, it was the first honeymoon, first husband––does that count?  And... I have the pictures to prove it. I won’t lie to you. I had a kick-ass body from the age of ten (yeah, ten, sadly, too too young) to the age of 52.

I remember the day it all ended.  It was a February day, a little overcast and breezy, high of minus two, when the bod years died. One brief glance in the mirror and I knew the bod years were history.  But even in the day, the “days of the bod”, couldn’t do the bare naked. I even get out of the shower and cover up when I am alone in the bathroom, for crying out loud! Don’t know why exactly, but I suspect it had something to do with having a woman’s body at such a young age. I spent many early years trying to hide it and cover it up. Hence... I guess... the covering up.

You work it, girl. God invented the body, we invented the clothes. xo

Hart Johnson (aka:  Alyse Carlson and The Watery Tart) is a super-secret social scientist by day. At night, Hart writes suspense, YA and adult mainstream books from her bath tub.  She is currently writing book 9 (the second as Alyse Carlson). Alyse writes Cozy Mysteries for Berkeley Prime Crime––a series to make its first public appearance in June 2012.  The Watery Tart is responsible for most mischief you will ever encounter.  She's incorrigible.

Hart can be found at her blog Confessions of a Watery Tart, at the blog of her Writer's Group Burrowers, Books and Balderdash or at the Burrow website.

Friday, March 11, 2011

Quick, My Car Needs To Be Somewhere!

Deb: My car has a very busy life. In addition to taking me safely thither and yon, it has its own agenda. I can’t believe it has time to fit extra chores in, what with my packed schedule, but clearly it does. Or at least, it tries.

I was on my way to the Danforth the other day (which is a neighbourhood in midtown Toronto), but it turns out––without consulting me, mind you––my car had another appointment downtown. So off we went. Just as my car was getting to her destination, I realized that I was going to be late for my appointment so I made a u-turn and doubled back. Yeah, I feel bad about it, but what are you going to do? I hate to pull rank on my car, but I am kinda the boss. I guess because I didn’t pay cash, my car thinks she has the right to do her own thing. Maybe she’ll stop making her own frivolous plans when I have her paid off. But for the time being, she’s a gal on the go.

I cannot tell you how many times we get somewhere and I slam on the breaks and say, “Where the hell am I?” My car’s not telling.  She does it on a whim.

I have talked to friends and they say that this has happened to them … this, this, this usurpage of power, this mind-screwing-“hood” trip. They, too, have found themselves late and confused, asking the same damn question, “Where the hell am I?” Lately, it’s a good month if my car doesn’t go off halfcocked at least once. But even on the good days, I know she’s making plans, we’re not fooling each other. At the end of the day when I’m heading up to bed, I can see her sitting there bathed in streetlight, plotting our next detour.

Where are we off to next, I wonder, and how long will it take me to notice this time? God only knows.

Barbara: Ack!! I had no idea where you were going with this, Deb, until about halfway through … and then the lightbulb went off!!


It is the weirdest phenomenon. La-di-da, all happily driving along, then, oops, totally wrong side of town (and let me tell you, folks, in a city the size of Toronto, these car-propelled detours are no small inconvenience). At least now I know who to blame. It’s my car, gosh-dangit. And she has a mission of her own.

Okay, Deb, next time this happens, I will calmly pet her soft little dashboard for her silly shenanigans rather than smashing my head repeatedly against the steering wheel! 

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

A Blog Slut On Women’s Day

Barbara: Being a blog slut and a proud woman are not mutually exclusive, are they? You see, I discovered I was a blog slut coincidentally on the same day as I was celebrating International Women’s Day (yesterday). How did this happen, you might ask. Well, let me tell you…

First there is the blog. This has become such a wonderful place to “hang out” for me. You are such an amazing bunch of people: passionate, empathetic, thoughtful. Through you I have developed a whole online life that a short year ago I would never have thought possible. Where once I protected my privacy with a vengeance, now I can’t wait to throw off my clothes and walk bare amongst you. (Okay, not literally. Haven’t crossed that line yet. Although next Monday’s 3-way guest, Hart, may challenge that :-) ) I look forward to your take on things, your positive twist when dealing with the worst, your stories. Yesterday, I was on Facebook and found myself surrounded by a group of online friends––many of whom are regular readers of the blog––when an interesting discussion turned into a blatant display of mutual respect and love from one “virtual” friend to another. It just spiraled around each one of us like a feminine dervish. It was generous and abundant. It was uplifting. It was intoxicating.

I really did feel myself get all slutty with love.

We are goddesses. Lori said so. But Amy says it too. And Melody and Hollye and Cheryl and Kathleen. So many of you feel that we can turn the tide of hate and apathy and destruction if we choose to focus on the good and true and positive. And women, as Melody said, are the perfect vessels to push that tide. Who wouldn’t be seduced by that idea? By any idea that brings with it the hope of redemption and joyful living?

I remember when I was a new parent and utterly committed to raising my kids the best way I knew how. I loved that time in my life. But I also remember viscerally the sense of loneliness that pervaded the everyday. It wasn’t all-consuming, but it was … depleting. It was like I was hopscotching from one island of relief or joy or happiness to another, with stretches of indefinable abyss looming between them. I am a people person, no question, and not being surrounded by them regularly impacted the quality of my life. I have discovered that having daily access to people either here or elsewhere within the online community buoys me incredibly.

And then I celebrated International Women’s Day, which brings with it the stories of the many extraordinary women who have changed our world and changed our place within that world. We are still a long ways away from that change being universal, but when I consider how much has been accomplished in such a relatively short time, I can’t help but imagine that great things are still going to happen. And if women’s issues can be tackled with so much courage and grace and determination, well then why not world hunger, poverty and peace?

I am a proud and hopeful woman, slutty for the love you show not just me but each other and our world. 

Deb: Oh dear, do I have to be a downer? You know I’m not a downer. I am never with the downing down of something. And I agree that we have come a long way, baby. But I also see sooooooooooooooooooooooooooo much room for growth, change and respect for women. We are still the bottom feeders as far as the planet reaches and as close as our next-door neighbour. I saw it first hand in the Congo. But I do have hope. Always hope. And I love being a girl, but please watch the attached for some startling statistics. Barb, your bloggy joy was palpable and I pray we rise on its wings. 

Monday, March 7, 2011

When Hate Comes In Waves

Deb: What in the name of God is going on? Mel Gibson? Biting the hand that feeds you, Mel? Charlie Sheen? Yes, Charlie, it was anti-Semitic! John Gallianno? You love Hitler, do you, John?

Beyond my incomprehension that this is going on. I guess what really upsets me is the media response. There are tons of columns discussing the sordid ravings that are Charlie’s life and his addictions, and the details of his “Goddesses”. There is a lot of coverage about Gallianno and who will replace him at the House of Dior. Even more articles about Mel and the ponderings as to his future in Hollywood.

But where is the media outrage about the common denominator: anti-Semitism?

I am constantly struck––and always have been since I was a child––by the beauty and art and influence the Jewish race has brought to this world. Frankly, I am loath to think what we would be without them. Even Christmas––and of course we all see the irony in that––would be less joyful without the myriad of Christmas anthems penned by our Jewish brothers. I am not going to start a list here naming all the Jews who have enriched our lives, because this blog would have to be a hundred pages long. For me, off the top of my head, my life would be less fabulous without Chagal, Paul Newman, Woody Allen, Sally Field, Leonard Bernstein, Jack Benny, and Groucho, just to name a few. This is a teeny little sample of ONLY the well-known people from the Jewish community who have touched my soul.

When I was a little girl, my Dad, a passionate lover of the Jewish people, took pride in pointing out numerous Jewish people whom he loved and admired. My house was a lesson in racial harmony thanks to my parents and they would sing the praises of Negro (it was the 50’s and 60’s) and Jewish accomplishments louder, knowing that it needed to be louder. My Dad loved pointing out when I would admire someone aloud, “He’s Jewish, you know”.

Recently, much to my chagrin, I have had more and more occasion to visit hospitals. The one common thread throughout each and every hospital is the list of Jewish donors. And I am not speaking of Jewish hospitals alone. I am talking about every clinic, and every single hospital I am in. The selflessness of this community is saving the lives of so many people, some anti-Semites among them, I’m sure.

I have pondered this often, as many smarter people before me have, and I have no answers. Okay, maybe I’m grasping at straws, but is it the “chosen people” thing? Sounds silly I know, but are others jealous of this age-old label? Do they envy their accomplishments? Jealous of their ability to rise above centuries of sickening tragic circumstances? What? They exemplify the human spirit and yet they are punished for it again and again. I don’t know. I’m only ever left with questions.

Mr. Sheen, Mr. Galliano and Mr. Gibson, shame on you. I hope you are being ostracized. You deserve to be. It is not my business how you harm yourselves, but shut your racist mouths! And as for the media, speak the frig up! Fill our papers and our news and our heads with the shocking news that this type of thing is happening everywhere and all the time. It is our right to know the extent of it and it is our duty to show our disgust and disdain.

After all they have done for this world, it’s the very least we can do.

Barbara: Deb, I am as shocked and taken aback and, frankly, confused as you are after these series of unbelievable public remarks. Honestly, I wish we had no need to discuss racism at all anymore. But it seems that in the modern world of 2011, we still do.

The very idea of identifying people’s faiths when faith has nothing to do with the discussion at hand makes me really uncomfortable. If we’re talking about religion specifically and how it affects people’s lives, then of course religious background might be pertinent. But if we’re using religion to randomly insult and dismiss people, it’s just ludicrous and demeaning to us all.

So why racism in general and anti-Semitism specifically? Why target a whole group of people who have done nothing to hurt you? What purpose does it serve?

My first guess is that these outbursts come from a toxic kneejerk impulse to blame someone else for their own problems, to find a scapegoat. I mean, come on, how is Judaism relevant to train wrecks like Charlie Sheen and Mel Gibson? Did Chuck Lorre interrupt his set and force everyone to memorize the Torah? Did he divide his cast and crew between the “chosen” and the “un-chosen”? I don’t know Mr. Lorre—he might be the asshole some people say he is––but I’m gonna go out on a limb here (*sarcastic eye-roll*) and suggest his faith has nothing to do with how he behaves. Even less so the demure diners in that French restaurant sitting next to a hate-spewing John Galliano. Hats off to the grace of the innocent victims here: they didn’t sink to the same vile depths as their attackers to retaliate. No, they did what our parents always tell us to do: ignore them and they will go away. Or, better yet, post it to Youtube.

I think it’s time now for us to join hands with people everywhere in solidarity, not mouth off about the incidental things that keep us apart. Hate a specific person if you must, Mr. Sheen, but for godssake, for God’s sake, don’t blame the Messenger. 

Friday, March 4, 2011

Myself Through Your Eyes

Barbara: The receptionist at my gym thinks I’m a bitch. And you know what? She’s right.

We’ve all experienced that moment when someone reveals how they perceive you. Sometimes their revelation is flattering, sometimes it’s surprising, sometimes it’s … complicated.

I remember once my sister told me that when we played games, I was very competitive. I was dumbfounded. I’d never felt myself to be competitive. I mean, I always took the game-playing seriously. I love the puzzling, the need for quick wits, the mind calisthenics. But winning isn’t really super important to me. At least it doesn’t feel like it is. Don’t get me wrong, I enjoy winning. A lot. But I’m never upset when I lose. Never get mad. It’s just part of the deal. Later my sister admitted that she might have been projecting her own heated battle over the Scrabble board.

Years later, I was invited to try my hand at curling as part of a festive gathering. Yes, some Canadians apparently have a thing for curling. I am NOT athletic, but I was determined to get a handle on this weird and difficult sport. We were divided into haphazard teams (pity the team who was saddled with me), and I gave it my all. I was bad––very very bad––which made any half-decent “throw of the rock” pretty darned exciting. There may have been ear-piercing squeals of delight. A few days later, the girl who organized the event told me that one of the players (who had never met me before) remarked how “very competitive” I was. “Very competitive” again. Me. My excitement and exuberance had been mistaken for something else. You hear me: MISTAKEN.

But back to the receptionist at my gym. She’s been working at the club for about a year now. Before her arrival, I had been (what I consider to be) a cheerful member for 15 years. But there was a change of ownership last year and since then a million new, annoying, redundant, expensive rules have been implemented. Every time I go to the gym, I get more and more annoyed. And this receptionist is usually the bearer of the bad news. Problem is, she tells me these rules in that grating (to me), officious tone that implies rules can never ever be broken. Or gently bowed. Not even for loyal, paying, long-term customers. She isn’t helpful or kind or sweet about it. Not to me anyway. And so now, as a result, I am cold and unsmiling to her. Bitten and shy (not once/twice, but over and over). We do the whole gym check-in––wherein we exchange all the necessary cards and towels––but we are mutually terse and cool. That essential part of my social self (my usual warmth) goes into hiding. Then—to emphasize, I think, just how much of a bitch I am––when other gym members come in behind me, she’s all smiles and cheerful greetings. The other day, her name and photo had been hung on the wall as “employee of the month”. Huh. Well, in her world, I’m the bitch.

As for impressions, I will say this: sometimes you’re right … and sometimes you’re wrong … and sometimes it’s not me, it’s you.

Deb: Let me say for the record, I have never seen a competitive streak in you at all. You are a team player in every way and I will compete viciously with anyone who says otherwise:-)

I don’t blame you for being pissed by the changes, but more about the way she executes the information. I am going through a similar thing with the receptionist at the dentist. She is sweet and always smiling, but she harasses me on the phone and in person about my husband and his appointments. I tell her time and again that I do not want to speak for him or book for him as he may have his own preferences as to time and day. Started out really nice with her and then the calls came fast and furious until I found myself being clipped with her. Felt badly about it, but I thought at least it’s over. Got to the dentist yesterday and she said, “Oh, Ms. McGrath, can we book your husbands appointment?” I mustered up every nice bone in my body and said, “I’m really not comfortable booking for him,” and she said, honest to Pete, “Oh it’s just that I hate to harass him." WTF? ... Sometimes it’s not me, it’s you.  You speak the truth, Barb!

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

History Of A Tooth: part one

Deb: I am ten-years-old and my new front teeth are just a year old. I am at that beautiful Bunny tooth stage that preteens enjoy. I am out with my friend Carol Ann on our bikes. Before I know it, I can see out of the corner of my eye a long stick hurtling toward me. As suddenly as I catch it in my peripheral vision, it is jammed in my tire spokes and I am flying through the air toward the curb. My new tooth is now half a tooth.

It would turn out to be the first time I would ever see my Dad cry.

And sadly, the young boy was so upset because he truly did not mean to hurt me. I felt that myself as I witnessed his upset at the scene. And even at my young age, I knew that it was not fear that drove his tears, but regret.

He and his buddy were throwing branches under car wheels to see them crushed. (Yeah, I know, but in all fairness they were nine-year-old boys.) When they threw the branch under my tires, it did not land at the bottom. It jammed that bike with split second timing.

Our dentist at the time put me through 5 painful surgeries and insisted to my parents that he could not “crown” the tooth. As a result I had a partial front gold tooth all through my teens. But “whatever”. We didn’t know that I could have had a nice white tooth until much later. What a thing to do to a teenage girl!

Fast forward ten years and I am sporting that nice white tooth. But now I have to have emergency throat surgery. They do not make a “plate”, hoping for the best, but sure enough, I wake up in recovery only to find my tongue moving its feelers across my shard of a front tooth. And ... it wasn’t the original broken tooth. So now I have TWO broken front teeth. They are filed to points and replaced with a bridge.  Before the bridge, I tried implants twice, only to find that my body rejects any and all metal objects (the IUD surgery is a whole OTHER STORY).

So I had to get a bridge made and I survived quite nicely for years … until we went skiing five years ago with Barb and her lovely family. I had a skiing accident and I had to rush to a local dentist who had to temporarily cement my broken and un-repairable bridge. Oh, and just to give you the “ski accident” details: I broke my bridge by biting into a breakfast bagel. But be honest, you were impressed for a second there, weren’t you?

Well, my dentist back home solved that disaster and although he said the bridge was a ticking bomb, it was hanging in there for all it was worth. Until....

Cut to: before Christmas 2010. I am shooting and we are doing the photo galleries and my tooth is loose. Like baby-tooth loose, like I-am-playing-with-it-with-my-tongue loose, like I-am-making-the-sibilant-s’s loose. So the driver rushes me to my dentist who cements it in and all is well. Until...

Two weeks ago and clearly my tooth is trying to commit suicide. So my dentist and I decide to do a four-tooth bridge and add veneers to the rest of the top teeth for vanity reasons. After all I am an actor and my teeth are greying and my career is having to play fake smiley characters so...

So, five hours, $10,000 and 12 needles later, I left the office wearing a hideous temporary bridge and a single false crowned tooth that still needs to be veneered.
Lisping and closed-mouth smiling, I make my way to our gig in Vancouver where I have to spend hour upon hour displaying the closed mouth smile. All was well. Left Vancouver and was sitting on the plane and my single tooth came out.

Well... experienced trouper that I am, I popped it into an Advil bottle and sucked it up. Cancelled an audition that I was to have Monday as the role did not call for a hillbilly. And called my dentist to arrange for it to be glued back in. They fluffed me off until Wednesday, although I was calling at the crack of 8am Monday. My dentist is on holiday and the fill-in dentist clearly does not give a damn.

So here I sit, Hillbilly Deb, dreaming of the 8th of March when my new teeth will go in. I won’t lie to you, I have looked better. Much better. Waaaaaaaayyyyyyyyyy better. But there you have it. And my lesson. Laugh. Always laugh. What’s the alternative?

Barbara: Oh god, Deb, I feel for you. Only one question: where are the photos???