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#StreamTeam Showdown: Tig vs. Tso

Netflix Stream Team

I am a member of the Netflix #StreamTeam and will be happily sharing monthly tips and stories about how my family uses Netflix on a regular basis. (Okay, that’s an understatement. I should say CONSTANTLY. We use Netflix CONSTANTLY.) This post is sponsored by Netflix, of course!

I have been looking forward to watching Tig Notaro’s documentary ever since I heard (back in June) that it was going to be released on Netflix. The problem was, it was available for streaming on July 17, which was smack-dab in the middle of the BlogHer conference two weeks ago. I was going to have to wait.

It occurred to me yesterday afternoon that last night would be a great time to finally sit down and watch it (especially because I had yet to write my July #StreamTeam post), so when Jim came home from work I asked him about it. He had other ideas.

Netflix Search for General Tso

The look on his face when he suggested we watch a documentary about the origins of one of the most famous dishes served at Chinese restaurants in America was that of a trouble-making little boy, and in the spirit of his Netflix discoveries usually being pretty awesome (like last month’s “Supermensch: The Legend of Shep Gordon”), I was all in and “Tig” was out, at least for the next hour and eleven minutes.

“The Search for General Tso” was actually pretty interesting as documentaries go.

Full disclosure: Chinese food is “fine” but not my favorite. In fact, the two main dishes I would absolutely eat on a regular basis (like NOM NOM NOM NOM), are sweet and sour chicken and beef with broccoli. I suspect, after watching this movie, that those dishes–like General Tso’s Chicken–are among the more Americanized offerings and have nothing to do with tradition.

The biggest takeaways from the movie were
1) Most of the Chinese people (cooks, restaurant owners, etc.) who appeared on screen would never eat General Tso’s Chicken because it was created as an Americanized dish.
2) General Tso’s Chicken was introduced in NYC in the 1970’s and became such a popular offering in American Chinese restaurants because the kind of chicken they use for it is extremely inexpensive.

Overall, I thought the movie was pretty good. That said, as soon as the credits rolled I looked at my watch and said, “Tig now?”

Netflix Tig Notaro

So “Tig”, we did. Oh my gosh, how I loved this documentary. I first saw Tig at the BlogHer conference in San Jose last year, and she was absolutely hysterical. They didn’t video record her performance there, but BlogHer co-founder Elisa Camahort Page interviewed her after her set and you can watch that HERE. I became an even bigger fan after watching her bit about Taylor Dayne (click HERE but only if you enjoy laughing) on “This American Life”.

So the documentary–which talks about the four-month period in which everything fell apart for her (C-DIFF diagnosis, her mom’s sudden death, breast cancer diagnosis), her stand-up routine at the Largo (which was audio recorded and then later, sold on Louis CK’s website at a viral rate), the blossoming relationship between Tig and her girlfriend, and her return to the Largo–was amazing and one of the best things I’ve watched in a long time. In fact, I’ll probably queue it up again this weekend to watch again, with J.

So there’s your Friday gift from me: two documentaries to stream on Netflix! Come back and let me know what you think!

Next up, for my August #StreamTeam post? “Wet Hot American Summer: First Day of Camp,” which was released today. I’ll be binge-watching all eight episodes tonight and tomorrow!

Have a great weekend!


Life In The Fast Lane Surely Make You Lose Your Mind

It just hit me on Tuesday evening, right after I dropped Liz and her middle daughter off at the airport (how much I hate goodbyes could be a whole other post, ugh), how much I had done/accomplished/enjoyed in two weeks. It made me dizzy, and perhaps piled on more exhaustion, on top of my exhaustion. It also made me smile. The last two weeks of July just might have been the busiest two weeks of my entire life, but I’m not complaining. It was a blast.

First there was the BlogHer conference in NYC. I went into it exhausted; the weeks leading up to conference weekend are crazed for our entire staff. I slept on the plane, thank goodness, but we work hard and play hard all weekend so I kind of wish I had gotten about one thousand more hours of sleep before I arrived in Manhattan.

In addition to working all day and being around many of my very favorite people in the universe 24/7, I was in the audience for excellent keynotes with the likes of Opal Tometti and Patrisse Cullors (two of the three #BlackLivesMatter movement founders), Melinda Gates (Co-founder, Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation), Soledad O’Brien (Chairman of Starfish Media Group), Anna Maria Chavez (Girl Scouts of America CEO, who I got to meet and who was just as friendly in person as she was on stage), Gwyneth Paltrow (Oscar-winning actress and founder of GOOP), Christy Turlington Burns (model and advocate), Brianna Wu (game developer) and Ava DuVernay (award-winning director). And those are just the “famous” people. We had some awesome 10X10 presentations by some spectacular speakers who aren’t known the world over but were no less dynamic.

At night, there were parties and other opportunities to hang out, the most epic being the McDonald’s closing party featuring Boyz II Men, DJ Spider, and Nick Cannon.

My inner circle and I were on the dance floor for three straight hours, can’t stop won’t stop.

On Sunday Liz and I dragged ourselves to Penn Station and took the train back to New Jersey where we had something to eat and then headed right for the beach. Monday she worked from home while I hung out with the kids, and then Tuesday she dropped Heather and me off at the airport so I could show her around Chicago and beyond.

Since I made a gorgeous, rainbow-colored Google doc to keep all of our plans straight, I have no trouble looking back and listing for you everything we did on her very first visit to Chicago (I couldn’t have remembered it all, otherwise!) Ready? Here we go:

1. Portillo’s for lunch immediately after dropping our bags off at my house.
2. Lou Malnati’s (Chicago deep dish pizza) for dinner with Jim, J, and J’s girlfriend.

3. Millennium Park
4. Maggie Daley Park
5. Chicago Cultural Center
6. Chicago Riverwalk
7. Walk up Mag Mile, stop at Zara and TopShop
8. Garrett Popcorn
9. Lunch at Castaways, North Avenue Beach
10. Stand in Lake Michigan at North Avenue Beach for 30 minutes, water halfway up our calves, while holding our purses and shopping bags
11. Walk south on the Lakefront Trail to Oak Street Beach, then train home.
12. Visit pet store where J’s girlfriend works, play with a Golden Retriever

13. Roadtrip to Milwaukee, Wisconsin
14. Lunch at Cafe Benelux in Third Ward area
15. Shop in Third Ward (Milwaukee Public Market, West Elm, various others)
16. Roadtrip to Madison, Wisconsin
17. Check out the state capitol building
18. Walk up/down State Street, checking out shops
19. Hit the Union Terrace at UW-Madison; enjoy cold drinks in the hot sun while listening to live music that was a little more country than we prefer
20. Dinner with D, introduce Heather to fried cheese curds
21. Drive home same day

22. Train to Chicago
23. Sears (I won’t call it Willis) Tower, do Skydeck Chicago

Skydeck Chicago

24. Check out The Rookery and get a wealth of info about it from the most knowledgeable security guard ever
25. Art Institute, where we checked out favorites Seurat, Monet, Degas, and Chagall

Chagall windows

26. Lunch at Eleven City Diner
27. Shedd Aquarium


28. Water taxi from Shedd to Navy Pier to Union Station, best decision ever for many reasons

Skyline from lake

29. Train home, dinner at our favorite Middle Eastern restaurant

30. Pick up Liz at airport, woot woot!
31. Portillo’s for lunch, ten minutes from airport
32. Stop at Ulta, grab some Shea Moisture shampoo we learned about at BlogHer15, meet up with Jen
33. Pick up cupcakes at Smallcakes Naperville
34. Dinner out
35. Improv show at local comedy club


36. Train to Chicago
37. Drop bags at new Loews Hotel (more on that soon)
38. Hang out at North Avenue Beach
39. Walk Lakefront Trail to Oak Street Beach
40. Lunch at Pick-Me-Up cafe in Lakeview
41. Blue Man Group (more on that soon)
42. Dinner at Wildfire
43. Dylan’s Candy Bar
44. Swim at hotel
45. Cab to Buckingham Fountain for light show

46. Early morning swim at hotel
47. Pedway tour with my friend Margaret from Chicago Elevated
48. Foodie Dream Lunch at The Purple Pig
49. Another stop at Zara


50. Shoreline Sightseeing Architecture Boat Tour
51. Train home

52. Downtown Naperville
53. Naperville Riverwalk
54. Lunch at Portillo’s (don’t judge)
55. Back to the pet store to play with another puppy
56. Airport (sad trombone)

I shocked Heather with this news:

44 miles

And that, all of that in two weeks, is why I’m working in my pajamas today, recharging my body and mind. I thrive on traveling and having big plans more than the average person, but I sure do love the balance of my day-to-day routine. Today it feels nice not to be running running running.

That said, if Liz and Heather told me they were hopping on a plane back to Chicago tonight, I’D BE ALL IN, grabbing my keys and sprinting to my car so I could pick them up again before I even finished this post.

(Miss you guys!)


Delayed Re-entry

What day is it again?

*checks calendar*

Ah yes, Thursday, July 23. Time flies when you’re having fun!

This may be my most epic July ever. In fact, I don’t even have time to write an actual, well-thought-out post because I am about to get in my car and head up to Wisconsin for the day.

The last couple of weeks have been crazy and fun, crazyfun. Last weekend was the eleventh annual BlogHer conference, in New York City. I say every year that BlogHer weekends are some of my favorite weekends ever ever ever, and this year was no different. In fact, the fun of it (and being around so many of my friends all at once) practically made me forget about the blood, sweat, and tears we staff put into conference prep.

There was A LOT of this:

Momo Melisa Liz
(I stole this picture from Momo’s Facebook page. Thanks Momo!)

And a good amount of this:

Boyz II Men BlogHer15
(Yes, that’s Boyz II Men, performing at the McDonald’s Closing Party. They were even better than I thought they’d be!)

And then after a whirlwind conference I headed back to New Jersey with Liz where there was some of this:

Melisa and Liz Sandy Hook
(She loves the beach, I love the beach, we both love the beach.)

And then after two days there I stole my best friend’s middle daughter (with Liz’s blessing of course I mean REALLY) and brought her back to Chicago with me for a week, so we’re doing a lot of this:

Melisa and Heather Bean

I have a full itinerary for us this week that is all outlined in a spectacular, rainbow-colored Google doc, and we’re having a blast already. I love showing first-time visitors around Chicago, and this visit is extra special because she is extra special.

I am effectively delaying the horrible, can’t-keep-my-eyes-open post-conference time period that we all call “re-entry”, by about a week. I’m hoping that by staying busy and having fun, maybe re-entry will forget about me and next week I’ll be just as bright-eyed and bushy-tailed as ever. I’ll let you know how this works for me.

Anyway, gotta go. Wisconsin is waiting!

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Help ConAgra Foods Give Kids A #HungerFreeSummer

I am thrilled to work with ConAgra Foods® in collaboration with SparkFete this summer to help combat child hunger. This is a sponsored post; all opinions expressed are my own.

It was just a little more than a year ago when I worked with ConAgra Foods® and Kid President to promote a Hunger Free Summer. (By the way, ConAgra Foods and the ConAgra Foods Foundation have been pioneers and leaders in the fight against child hunger for the past twenty years, partnering with some of the largest nonprofit organizations dedicated to child hunger.)

Last June I got to check out the Greater Chicago Food Depository’s (GCFD) Lunch Bus. The Lunch Bus is a mobile meals program that delivers nutritious lunches to children under 18 years old in priority Cook County communities during the summer months. This program is invaluable, because kids can’t be kids when they’re hungry, and the Lunch Bus can take away some of the stress for these young people.

Lunch Bus

One thing that I learned that day that stuck with me, as in made a HUGE impact on my brain and heart, was this: only one in nine kids who are eligible for the Lunch Bus actually use the program due to a lack of awareness.

Fast forward to today. I’m back working with the same guy (Kid President and I are likethis), because guess what? There are still LOTS of kids spending long summer days without enough to eat, and awareness in general is still a problem. In fact, Kid President is working even harder this year: he recently conducted a Tell-A-Thon to inspire people to get involved with the cause. The Tell-A-Thon came about as a result of conversations with kids, who said that a telethon happens when “you tell someone something”. GENIUS, right? The goal of the Tell-A-Thon is to get people of all ages to “tell” about the issue of child hunger all summer long.

Here are some fast facts:

~ 22 million kids receive free or reduced price meals during the school year. During the summer, more than 80% of those kids are at risk for hunger because they don’t have access to school meals (source: 2013 U.S. Department of Agriculture/Food & Nutrition Service).

~ More than one in five children and more than one in four Latino children in the United States may not know where their next meal is coming from, and nearly 16 million children in the United States are food insecure–meaning they don’t know how long the food they have will last, or whether their family will have resources to buy more.

~ 23 food banks across 15 states will receive Hunger Free Summer grants, funded by the ConAgra Foods Foundation, to start new or expand existing summer feeding programs. These grants–ranging from $20,000 to $40,000–will provide healthy meals to more children throughout the summer.

~ New this year, the ConAgra Foods Foundation is also investing in a new initiative for child hunger and funding Hunger Free Summer Grants for three additional food banks. These food banks will receive $225,000 over a three-year period to evaluate the summer feeding landscape in their community and take action with programs that will increase access to meals for children and their families during the summer months.

It’s so easy to make a difference. There are countless ways that you (and your kids!) can spread awareness and also help more kids be kids this summer.

For one thing, you can keep the Tell-A-Thon going. Share it (or make your own video message to share) with your friends and family to spread the word and help reach 22 million people by the end of the summer. Make sure to use the hashtag #HungerFreeSummer. Tag friends and family to encourage them to keep the message moving, like an old-fashioned game of telephone. Or Tell-A-Phone. See what I did there?

Another super-easy thing you can do is support the cause by looking for the red pushpin and code on specially-marked ConAgra Foods’ products. For each eight-digit code entered at Child Hunger Ends Here this summer, ConAgra Foods will donate the monetary equivalent of one meal to Feeding America, up to three million meals. On every Friday between now and July 31, 2015 there is a special treat, 1 code=1 meal plus one bonus meal! Look for a special message from Kid President on Hunger Free Fridays.

Talk with your kids and come up with some other ideas on things you can do together to make it a #HungerFreeSummer. Donate or volunteer at a food bank, perhaps? Getting up close and personal with programs that directly benefit the hungry in your community can be an eye-opener!

Oh, and watch this video that I’m proud to be a part of, along with a bunch of my friends. It’s got a lot of information about the #HungerFreeSummer initiative and a step-by-step on how to make those eight-digit codes benefit Feeding America, not to mention a pretty cool “passing of the pushpin”. You need to see it.

Follow ConAgra Foods on Twitter, Instagram, and Facebook, and while you’re at it, follow Feeding America on Twitter and Instagram.

Please don’t just read this and go on with your day. It’s so easy to do that but the fact is, while awareness is key, actually taking action is even better. This is a great time to help one kid…two kids…MORE KIDS…have a Hunger Free Summer.

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Find Hidden Treasures on Netflix! #StreamTeam

Netflix Stream Team

I am a member of the Netflix #StreamTeam and will be happily sharing monthly tips and stories about how my family uses Netflix on a regular basis. (Okay, that’s an understatement. I should say CONSTANTLY. We use Netflix CONSTANTLY.) This post is sponsored by Netflix, of course!

As you may recall, we haven’t paid for cable/satellite in two years. The television antenna we use only brings in our local ABC channel reliably; other than that we stream movies and shows. (Yay Netflix!)

We’re always keeping an eye out for new releases on Netflix; for example, I just jumped for joy this morning when I found out that Jennifer Aniston’s movie “Cake” is available (Action: I put it on my viewing list immediately). New releases rock.

That said, did you know you can be a very successful treasure hunter on Netflix? One of the many things my husband is good at is finding the Obscure. His viewing list (because all four of us have our own, thanks to Netflix’s allowance of individual users on an account!) includes all kinds of things I have never heard of. This is a guy who reads Wikipedia for fun (and read Encyclopedia Britannica for fun as a kid, of course!): he randomly chooses an article and then follows the links within down the rabbit hole until he’s not reading about anything remotely close to where he began.

I’m pretty sure that’s how his viewing list on Netflix ended up with so much randomness; he follows the “recommended title” links and reads all of them.

The other night, we were trying to decide what to watch and he queued up “Supermensch: The Legend of Shep Gordon”. I had never heard of this (even though it was released only last year!), but was up for it when he told me it was a documentary produced by Mike Myers of “Saturday Night Live” and “Austin Powers” fame about his friend, the legendary manager of Alice Cooper. (Fun fact: they met on the set of “Wayne’s World”.)

Supermensch: The Legend of Shep Gordon

This documentary was FASCINATING. And FUNNY. I absolutely loved it and will likely watch it again soon because there was so much in it, I’m certain I missed some things.

Here are just a few totally random facts about Shep Gordon:
1. He has a close friendship with the Dalai Lama and is a “JewBu”, a Jew who also practices Buddhism.
2. Another famous client of Shep’s was Canadian folk singer Anne Murray, who he once strategically placed in a picture with John Lennon, Alice Cooper, Micky Dolenz (the Monkees), and Harry Nilsson in order to give her career a boost (it worked).
3. He dated Sharon Stone.
4. He adopted the four grandchildren of a former lover when they were orphaned.
5. He is one of the main people responsible for “celebrity chefs” in the post-Julia Child era, as well as the Food Network’s growth in popularity.

Just based on that short list, don’t you want to watch this movie?? (Say yes. You won’t regret it!)

My husband inspired me to find some obscure titles for my own list. Treasures I found that I’ll watch in the near future include: “Inside LEGO” (yes, the building bricks that we’ve all stepped on), “American Masters: Johnny Carson: King of Late Night”, and “Eminem AKA”. Oh, and “Supermensch: The Legend of Shep Gordon” because now that it’s on my own list, it’s only a click away!

Have you found any treasures on Netflix? Tell me in comments so I can add them to my list!

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Thoughts From This Morning’s Walk

Roxie walk

I hope I don’t get rained on.

Why does Roxie have to bark at EVERYTHING? I need someone to walk a block ahead of me, warning everyone that she’s a loud barker but harmless.

I love that I can listen to music on my iPhone while walking. So grateful for Steve Jobs as well as those who invented the Sony Walkman before him. Walking with a boom box would’ve been way harder than this.

I really need to make time to file the 1500 read emails that are sitting in my inbox. I’ll feel better after I do that. Maybe tomorrow.

It just occurred to me that I take really long strides when I walk. I wish there was a way to reflect that on my fitness tracker because REALLY, I’m probably covering 30% more ground than people who walk with average-length strides and therefore more steps. I should get extra credit. I wonder if someone has studied this. I guess I’ll have to research that.

To THAT end, technically Roxie should get double steps, because she has four legs. And wow, she has to go really fast to keep up with me. I bet she gets four or five steps for every one I get. CRAZY. I feel a little bad about her having to work so hard. Wait, no I don’t. She needs to burn off that energy. This is good for her.

I wish I could put a fitness tracker on her without her pulling it off. That would be interesting. I wonder if anyone has ever put a fitness tracker on a beagle. I guess I’ll have to research that, too.

Ugh, this dog. Why does she have to poo when we’re so far away from home and/or a trash can or dumpster?? Wait, I think I wrote about this when I first started blogging in 2007. (I did, here.)

I love Pitbull. He’s my favorite walking soundtrack. So bouncy!

I should probably take some pictures for the BlogHer Instagram account. Nah, not today. I’m sure I have pictures I can use.

I’m hungry.

Don’t check Facebook while you’re walking. Don’t check Facebook while you’re walking. Don’t check Facebook while you’re walking. It can wait!

I’m gonna check Facebook real quick.

It’s always a good walk when Roxie ends up trailing behind me or walks right next to me like a good pack member should. Tired Roxie is my favorite.

Ugh, I guess walk time is over. I should do this again later this afternoon.
Haha! I crack myself up. I’m not going to walk again this afternoon. Unless I go to the mall for a while. That counts, doesn’t it? Sure it does.


New Week, New Frame of Mind

Last week was a TERRIBLE week around here.

Specifically I’m talking about personally, in this house. It started with the basement flooding and went downhill from there.

basement flood

Yes, downhill. ARGH.

That said, I can’t gloss over the fact that, way outside of my house, the church shooting in Charleston happened last week. It broke my heart, not only because of the cold-blooded murder of nine people and the fact that this was, without a doubt, a racially-motivated hate crime and not only because it happened in a place of worship where people are supposed to feel (and BE) safe–our temple has police supervision outside during the High Holidays and I know this is where some Black churches are headed and it’s terribly sad–but mainly because it makes me sad sad sad about the state of our country in the 21st century. Are we really still in a place where there is THAT much race-related hate? Yes, we are. Please read this and this and this. There are lots more where those came from.

Don’t like reading much? WATCH THIS.

So, getting back to my personal week last week? Well, that’s over. My basement is dry again. The other issues that came up are either fixed or in progress. I have a new frame of mind for my own little world this week, and things are much, much better already around here.

As for the bigger picture in our country? Things haven’t changed yet, of course. (I WISH.) Our country has a long, long way to go in order to get to a point where race relations isn’t a volatile issue, and it’s not going to happen if we sit back and do nothing. I’m hoping that this post might inspire you to write about it, have a conversation about it, and stop being quiet about it if you’re waiting for a signal to get a new frame of mind and/or a plan of action. THIS IS IT.

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This Is A Recording.

I’ve been listening to a piece of my childhood this week. I’ll get to that in a minute.

First, I want to talk about how it’s a truly special thing when an entertainer can impact one generation of people in a positive way. Two generations? Even better. Three? One word: WOW.

I have been watching the new Netflix Original show “Grace and Frankie”, which stars Jane Fonda and Lily Tomlin.

Err, “WATCHED”, since they released the entire season at once and I devoured it. Past tense.

Anyway, I was sitting there watching it one afternoon and J, who is twenty, walked into the family room and suddenly stopped as his ears perked up.

“Is that Ms. Frizzle??”

“The Magic School Bus” was a staple in our house when the boys were younger. Big-time.
In fact, when D turned five, we had a science-themed “Magic School Bus” birthday party for him.

MSB cake

Tomlin’s Ms. Frizzle made such an impression on J’s young mind when he was a toddler that, fourteen-ish years after he stopped regularly watching, he recognized her voice.

Rewind to the late 1960’s/early 1970’s. My parents (especially my dad) were fans of Rowan and Martin’s “Laugh-In”, a trippy sketch comedy show that launched many careers, including Goldie Hawn’s and one Lily Tomlin. (My dad still uses the most popular “Laugh-In” catch phrases today by the way, including “It’s Sock-It-To-Me Time”, “You bet your sweet bippy!”, and “Is that a chicken joke??” STILL FUNNY.)

Lily Tomlin was always a favorite of my parents, and eventually of mine. I LOVED her characters, especially Ernestine (the sassy telephone operator) and Edith Ann (the little girl that sat in a huge rocking chair and finished every monologue with “And that’s the truth!” *raspberry*).

At some point, they purchased an 8-track tape (get my cane!) of Tomlin’s “This Is A Recording”. It was a 45-minute one-woman routine, all Ernestine sketches with Tomlin interjecting a few seconds of her real self here and there, to make commentary and give background information on Ernestine. It was HYSTERICAL. It also won a Grammy for Best Comedy Recording, and Tomlin was the first to win it as a solo female.

Lily Tomlin This Is A Recording

By the way, 8-track tapes were popular before record albums and after reel-to-reel tapes, which we ALSO had in the house. Man, I’m old.

Anyway, my sister and I listened to that Lily Tomlin 8-track from 1972 until the early 1980’s, and then the movie “9 to 5” became a family favorite and my latest Tomlin obsession. Much like I gravitated towards Kate Jackson’s smart and well-put-together character Sabrina Duncan on TV’s “Charlie’s Angels”, I was drawn to Tomlin’s Violet Newstead, who was similarly a leader-type. (Hmm. Analyze me.) We watched that movie about a hundred times over the years and it’s still a favorite, just like Lily Tomlin herself.

Fast-forward to last week. I had just finished season one of “Grace and Frankie” and suddenly remembered that Ernestine 8-track. I’m absolutely certain that my mom still has it somewhere in her house, but I have no way to play it so I did what any savvy 21st century girl would do when she wants to own and play a recording: I purchased and downloaded it from Amazon.

The first time I listened after so many years, I was amazed at two things:
1. How much of it was still so familiar after all these years
2. How funny it is to listen to it as an adult: there is a much higher level of understanding, obviously. With segments called “The Marriage Counselor” and “Bordello”, you can imagine that, back in the day when I was a youngster, most of it went right over my head.

Besides the obvious warm and fuzzy feelings of nostalgia and the true enjoyment of the classic comedy I get from “This Is A Recording”, it’s also a time capsule of sorts. There was the working-in of late 70’s legends FBI Director J. Edgar Hoover, writer Gore Vidal, and actress Joan Crawford (who was CEO of PepsiCo at the time); the sketches are full of hilarious “conversations” with these people in addition to the everyday folks Tomlin created as silent participants on the other end of her line, but the cultural history lesson goes even deeper. Tomlin brings up the following things in conversation:

1. Back in the early 70’s, calls from a pay phone cost a dime. If the call took too long, you would have to add nickels.
2. If the phone “ate” your money you could call the operator and ask for a refund.
3. Back in the early 70’s, pop/soda from vending machines ALSO cost a dime.
4. It used to be commonplace for housewives (who were mostly the ones home back then) to offer food and drink to repairmen when they arrived to fix something.
5. Because of the elaborate switchboard systems (and landlines) used, telephone operators had the ability to patch themselves in to a phone call and eavesdrop.
6. “Ma Bell” refers to the phone company as a whole when AT&T had a total monopoly over phone services. There was no competition until 1982 when the government forced the breakup of the part of the company that provided local services.

Listening to this little slice of the olden days made me wonder what kinds of things my boys will remember fondly about the early 21st century, when they were little. I can’t even begin to guess. These days, things move so quickly. They’ve grown up with technology. What will they remember (in a decade or two) about their younger years and be amazed at how antiquated it seems? Will something Lily Tomlin has created (or face it, will create!) entertain a fourth generation in our family, somehow? While I’m in no hurry, I can’t wait to find out.


Three Bags Full

I used to have a really hard time getting rid of stuff. I remember spending weekends in the first couple of years we were married, crying about things Jim thought we should drop off at Goodwill. The reasons behind that could fill a whole other blog post so I won’t go into detail, but suffice it to say that over the years I have become much better at letting go of extra stuff and now I enjoy being surrounded mainly by the things I love.

Still, I look around my house and know that I could get rid of more. Clutter is the enemy of my mind, and affects how much work I can accomplish here at home. Over the past couple of years I’ve written a bunch of posts about my attempts to purge and organize various areas of my house, and each little episode has made me feel like I’m baby steps closer to where I need to be. Even so, I have a way to go.

You may remember last year’s desk renovation?

Desk before

Desk after

I LOVE feeling organized. I LOVE making plans to get even more organized.

When I recently started seeing status updates on Facebook about a book called “The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up” by Marie Kondo, I was intrigued. The KonMari Method involves cleaning and simplifying everything in your home by category rather than doing it in the piecemeal way most of us favor, which can keep us busy for a lifetime. Kondo says if you do it her way ONCE, you’ll never have to do it again.

After reading an article about the book, I downloaded it to my Kindle (ahem, a hard copy would be counter-productive in my quest to clear the clutter, don’t you think?). I read the first twenty-five pages on Sunday night and decided that I was already excited enough to:

A. Get started


B. Make my OWN kind of magic and meet Kondo halfway. Six weeks before the BlogHer conference is not the time to start ripping apart my entire house, so I’m slowing my roll.

Kondo recommends that, instead of cleaning and organizing rooms, one should clean and organize in categories. Last night I decided to tackle my clothes and shoes. I gave myself fifteen minutes to go through my closet and dresser and in the frenzy, kept asking Kondo’s question: “Does this item spark joy?”

I didn’t ask the question out loud but oddly, my inner voice was screaming the question every time. I guess it’s because I gave myself a limited amount of time and a “do-or-die” approach. Let’s get ‘er done.



At the end of fifteen minutes I had three garbage bags full of clothing items and shoes that definitely no longer spark joy for me, but might spark joy for someone else. I can’t wait to fill up my trunk with more bags.

I’ll say it for you: “Weirdo.”

It’s all good. This weirdo is going to continue reading Kondo’s book over the next few days and plan a bunch of marathon fifteen-minute purging/organizing sessions for who-knows-when and even though that sounds rather ambiguous, right now that’s what is going to work for me.

And if I have to do it again in a couple of years? I’ll make the time.


Invest In Others! Here’s Why.

About six weeks ago I wrote about my chance meeting with an old friend. We talked about how she wasn’t happy at work anymore and really preferred to get herself onto a different career path but had no idea how to get started. I offered to help her figure it out but, just as I predicted (sadly), I never heard from her.

There are all kinds of reasons why people don’t reach out for help. Sometimes it simply seems easier to stay in the unhappy place than to get out. Instigating life changes is hard work.

I would guess it’s almost always worth it, though.

I was recently inspired by the Moxie Conference (“Nerve and know-how for emerging leaders”), which was produced and hosted by the YWCA in Madison, Wisconsin. I attended with my LTYM friends Ann, Taya, Alexandra, and Jenny, and we had a great day of learning there.

My favorite picture, err collage, from that day, with Ann and Taya. Our smiles were equal parts ice cream, sunset, and being together. (No filter on that sunset, either! WOW RIGHT?)

My favorite picture, err collage, from that day, with Ann and Taya. Our smiles were equal parts ice cream, sunset, and being together. (No filter on that sunset, either! WOW RIGHT?)

One of the best parts of the day was the lunchtime presentation of the Women of Distinction Leadership Awards, “to women who represent outstanding achievement in their field of endeavor. Women of Distinction’s achievements are supportive of the YWCA’s work to close the leadership gap and support equity for all.”

I didn’t know anything about these women before I sat down at the table, but quickly scanned their biographies and settled in for their acceptance speeches.

First, I was blown away by the sheer power that took the stage in the form of the six recipients. What they have accomplished, wow!!

Second, each and every one of them had my complete attention and I shed more than a few tears, hearing their background stories and what they’re doing to help others.

Third, and most importantly for the purpose of this post, there was a theme:

If more women "got" this, the world would be a much better (and likely less dramatic) place.

If more women “got” this, the world would be a much better (and likely less dramatic) place.

ALL SIX of those women talked about how they didn’t get to where they were without the help of other women.

THAT is what gave me the warm fuzzies as I listened to those amazing women speak, surrounded by a couple of my own mentors who have given me so much in my life. THAT is perhaps the biggest thing I brought home from the conference, something I already knew but got it engraved in my head and on my heart over a one-hour lunch break. Women can cover so much ground and advance so much further merely by helping each other.

You already know that’s what I’m all about. I wrote about how I love helping people (who want to be helped!) at the end of that post six weeks ago. I ended that post asking you to invest in yourself.

Now I’m also asking you to invest in others which, as it turns out, is an investment in yourself! (Funny how that works!) Think about it. Do you have information you can share with someone that will help her reach a goal? Do you have time to meet someone for coffee (or tea) and let her talk through their plans with someone who is willing to listen? Are you able to make a connection (in person or email) that will assist someone with her next steps? Sometimes the tiniest gesture can mean the world to someone, and that hug or excited phone call you’ll receive down the road will make you swoon even more than average because you’re the one who reached out first. Do it. I challenge you.

And then tell me all about it. I love happy endings!