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Monday, June 29, 2009

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On the Road

Well, this is an experiment in mobile blogging from the road, so forgive any formatting irregularities. The Great (North) American Family Roadtrip is underway, and we are zipping up I-81 into Virginia. Pretty country!

We set out yesterday morning, and though it makes me THAT mom, I have to crow over how amazing the kids were all day. We haven't driven more than a couple of hours at a stretch in years, so I had no idea what to expect. Honestly, Patrick and I argued more than the boys did, and that was for all of two minutes (over some minor point of automotive safety.)

We got into Knoxville, Tennessee in time for supper and a swim. Patrick's best friend from college brought his family and joined us. They hadn't seen each other in 20 years. I'm already thinking of this as the vacation brought to us by Facebook. Several items on our itinerary are owed to renewed connections there.

Remember how fun hotels were when you were a kid? Give them a swimming pool and a luggage cart, and it's as good as Six Flags. "Swim their hinies off," a veteran road warrior mom advised me. Great advice: they were asleep moments after lights out.

We're so far managing to eat reasonably healthy. Lunches and snacks are out of the cooler. Patrick teased me for all my list making of the past few weeks, but this morning he chivalrously ate his hat, marvelling over how well our little ship is run. Example: our clothes are packed, one day's worth at a time, in giant, numbered ziploc bags, stowed in the clamshell rooftop carrier. At check-in, we just grab that bag, and return it as laundry in the morning.

It's bound to all go to hell at some point, but so far, we're wondering why we don't just live on the road.

Okay, the pilot just announced that I am missing some tremendous scenery. Next stop: Pennsylvania.
Sent from my BlackBerry Smartphone provided by Alltel


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Wednesday, June 24, 2009

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The Great (North) American Family Roadtrip '09:
Preparing for Take Off


Telling people you plan to make a 5,000 mile road trip with three kids is like telling people you plan to have three kids. Those who haven't been there/done that, think we are nuts. Those who have been there/done that assure us it will be the time of our lives.

I like to think they are both right. It's not exactly the first crazy journey Patrick and I have taken together. We've always loved being on the road, and the children are finally at an age where traveling with them doesn't feel like a kidnapping gone bad. I'm confident we're in for a great adventure.

We head out Sunday across Tennessee, and then head north. We hope to roll across the Canadian border on Canada Day, and should pull into my mother's driveway on the Fourth of July. I'll be seeing my sister, her husband, and their kids (one of whom you see pictured above on my kitchen wall) for the first time in four years. I've got a high school reunion to catch. And lobsters to eat. If the van ran on anticipation, we really would be flying.

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Sunday, June 21, 2009

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The Meeting Place

Two lifetimes ago, a generation and thousands of miles apart, two boys set out to be men, along paths that were in no way parallel.

Patrick's father:


and mine:


They met each other, as men, one time.

They dwell together, in spirit and in flesh, every day:


In memory of PawPaw and Poppy, on Father's Day.

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Thursday, June 18, 2009

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Put that Cosmo quiz down!

And take this one instead, brought to you by the sparkly brilliance that is the collective mind of Kirtsy to test your fluency in social media:
    A. When you hear the term social media, you think:
  • It should be followed by the term optimization.
  • Greatest thing evah!
  • I love Page Six!
  • I have no idea what you’re talking about.

  • B. When you see things like ‘twitter’, ‘flickr’, ‘etsy’, ‘vlog’, ‘flagr’,and ‘dopplr’ you think…
  • They’re all soooo 2008…I’m now beta testing things you’ll hear about sometime in 2010, if you’re lucky.
  • I could not live without these things. Please don’t make me try.
  • Where are all the vowels?
  • When you make up words that aren’t really words, you just seem silly.

  • C. When I say RSS, you say…
  • Meh.
  • Yay!
  • Umm…
  • Stop.

Check your answers and count up your numbers.
If you or someone you love scored between 9 and 12, well then it’s time for some serious hands-on learnin’. Don’t be scared. It’s painless. And super easy.

I love those girls and everything they do. They are a wild party. Even our conference calls involve feather boas and clinky drinks. So I was thrilled when they emailed to say they wanted to bring Hands On Social Media training to Little Rock, with me as the presenter. And when the fabulous Capital Hotel stepped up and offered to house it, well, I kissed the Capital Hotel full on the mouth.

If you come, I promise to show some self-control. But inside, I will be very, very excited. Did I mention it's FREE, thanks to a sponsorship by Microsoft?

It happens this Saturday, June 20th at 10 am, and again at 2 pm. There are two offerings of the same, two-hour session. Registration couldn't be easier. Go here for all the details (scroll down to Little Rock). Please note that the Saturday night cocktail party has been postponed to a later date (tba). Instead, why not come meet me and get a gander at who's who in Little Rock social media at tonight's TweetUp, at the Capital Bar and Grill, 5:30-8? There are drink specials and free valet parking. Not twittering yet? No worries. Come anyhow. Most of us are amazingly normal.

Just find me. I will tuck you under my wing, and provide translation services if needed. I look like this:


See? Perfectly normal.

P.S. I have more 'splainin to do on THV's This Morning show Friday. Watch my twitter updates for the time.


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Monday, June 15, 2009

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I should have started work an hour and a half ago, but Mondays...what are you gonna do? So a quick update before I get down to it.

Summer is officially underway. The kids got out of school June 5, and their nanny started last week. She shows up at 8 every morning, and I run past her to one of several coffee shops that are serving as satellite office space this summer. I write all morning and come home at noon. Leaving aside the utter lack of financial security or benefits, crushing pressure, and strangling attacks of self-doubt, I have to say that it totally beats a straight job.

Any of you keeping up with me on twitter know that we have made our vacation plans: we leave in two weeks to drive 5,000 miles to Newfoundland and back. It's utter madness. But it's been thirteen years since I left home, and there's a part of me that wants to feel the distance, know the revolutions of the wheel and the distance spanned. Something feels right about making this trek while I'm writing my way back to the beginning of my American life.

Expect stories. And send survival tips.

Back to it.

P.S. I'm giving away a wonderful summer book for girls of all ages on Noteworthy this week. Go enter.

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Monday, June 08, 2009

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You'll have to have read this blog last week to understand what this means:


Thanks for the push. xo


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Sunday, June 07, 2009

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Role Model: Jean Kerr

After "Mommy Wears Prada" came out last summer, I was approached by several literary agents wondering if I had a book.

"You could be Erma Bombeck," one told me, in a gross (if flattering) oversell.

"No disrespect to Mrs. Bombeck," I said, "but I'd rather be Jean Kerr."

Actually, I'd rather just be me. But if you haven't heard of Kerr, or read her book, Please Don't Eat the Daisies, you're missing out on some very smart and funny writing about motherhood. Kerr was cultured without posing, witty without snarking, warm without being saccharine. If Mommy blogs had been invented sixty years ago, she'd have been the Queen.


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Wednesday, June 03, 2009

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Can you hear me NOW?

I guess I'm going to Memphis. Because of the 3X rule.

The 3X rule is this: if I get three unrelated nudges about something, I sit up and pay attention.


Nudge one: I caught a sale online the other day for restaurant gift certificates. It was such a great deal, I broadened my search beyond my own postal code, and wound up buying one for a sushi joint in Memphis.

"WHY?" said Patrick, when I boasted of my scoop. "We don't live in Memphis."

Well, I had noticed.

"We might," I ventured. Memphis is two and a half hours from Little Rock. We used to go all the time before kids, but the last time I drove across the Mississippi was two summers ago.


Nudge two: later that day, I had a message from a Facebook friend in Canada. She's going to be in Memphis for two weeks this month, and would love to see me.

I'd love to hang out with her, too, but we are going on vacation ourselves at the end of June, and my schedule is tight. I said I would try.


Nudge three: I wrote the previous post this morning, about the saga of trying to buy my new macbook. Two of you told me I should go to the Apple store in Memphis.

I came home and placed an order with instead. Called my bank to be sure the debit transaction would clear. I hit "send order."

A freakishly sudden storm came up and blew out our internet at that precise moment.

What part of GO TO MEMPHIS do you not understand, exactly? said the universe.

Alright. Okay. I get it.

Not really. But a full explanation up front isn't part of the 3X rule.

So I guess I'm going to Memphis sometime pretty soon. I'll let you know what I find there.

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Promissory Note to Self

I don't know if you remember this time last year when I admitted I'd been writing all this time on a laptop that was missing several letters of the alphabet and punctuation marks, including the first vowel, and the exclamation point. The latter was no biggie; I don't much care for exclamation points. But having to paste in an 'a,' even though I'd gotten pretty fast at it, was probably not the most efficient way to type.

That was two feature articles and one book deal ago. God knows how many blog posts.

Would you believe I am still using that laptop? Like, right now?

Someone caught me using it the other day, and called me out on it.

"It just seems like there's always something more important to spend the money on," I said weakly.

She wasn't having it. In her best school marm voice, she told me I was to go get a new laptop. Not just any laptop, not the one on sale, or the one that isn't exactly what I want, but will do.

"This is your tool," she said. "You go get the one you really want. "

I looked at her uncertainly. She and I have both survived some lean and scary times in pursuit of authenticity and fulfillment. It's been worth it, but there are places within us both that can throb with fear sometimes like an old war wound.

In response to my last post, some of you shared how hard it is to claim a creative profession in the world with conviction. I grew up in a family where a life in the arts was what was expected, and I want to tell you, it's hard for me too. What does it communicate to my fingertips everytime they have to go the long way around for the vowel I need to use most often? What is the message that is tapped out like Morse code, hundreds of times a day, through the nerves of my hands, into my brain? What does it say my work is worth?

I honestly tried to get my new macbook the very next day. I really did. I wrote the check. Twice, in fact,because the clerk at Best Buy messed up the first transaction, and the automated check clearing service decided a second check in the same amount meant someone had stolen my checkbook, and shut the whole thing down. The people at Best Buy shrugged and asked the next customer to step up to the checkout. I swore I wouldn't spend another dime there.

I know I can order one direct from, and I tried that, too. But the electronic red flags hadn't cleared yet, so that transaction didn't go through. I didn't exactly think the words, maybe I'm not supposed to have a working 'a' key, but I kind of let it go after that.

That insane surge of activities that come with the dying days of the school year has put me a couple of chapters behind schedule. I woke up this morning determined to make it up. I had to run a snack to my son's class, get groceries, and take the car into the shop (next book deal, I am asking my agent to negotiate a complete halt to spinning of the world on its axis until "The Work" is completed).

I put the car in the garage, ran into the coffee shop across the street, and pulled out my ibook, the usb keyboard and mouse that is my other, bulkier vowel workaround, and saw that I'd forgotten my power adapter. Did I mention that the battery on this computer will keep about a 30 minute charge, tops?

I can't go on like this. Except, I probably can. My friend is on vacation, so I don't have to fear her catching me working on this old clunker and kicking my ass to kingdom come. So I'm letting you catch me.

Believing in ourselves is really hard, isn't it? Even when it looks like it ought to be easy by now. Sometimes it takes a boost, (or a kick in the ass). So here's the deal: I'm going to Best Buy today, to suck it up, and buy a macbook. The macbook. You leave a comment declaring some action you're taking, or need to take, to telegraph the message to your own brain that your dreams are important. Let's all make some kind of a down payment on them today, however small or large.

Because if it's okay for you to say you're worth it, maybe it's okay for me, too.

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Monday, June 01, 2009

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Forcefields Down

It was just she and I in the waiting room of the optometrist's office. We sat down one seat apart and pulled out our mobile devices, electronic umbilici, connecting us to our children, mothers, mates, friends, colleagues, calendars. The connections we've chosen to nourish.

What if we were stuck here by ourselves, I wondered. Just us, the receptionist, and the Bass Angler spring catalog strewn on the chair between us? Would we make contact? Small talk? It was late in the afternoon. Small talk with strangers costs energy. I was glad not to have to spend any. I checked my email, mapped my son's bike route to a playdate, read Facebook updates.

"Okay, Kyran, come with me." I startled. I am old enough to have grown accustomed to being called by my last name in waiting rooms. It felt too intimate. Fresh, was the word that came to mind, followed by, who are you, the Queen Mother? Get over yourself. But I was cool to him, trying to patch the hole in the wall before it got larger. PLEASE TURN OFF CELL PHONES the sign in the pre-exam room said. Forcefield down.

"You're a writer," he observed cheerfully, looking at my chart. There's about a three minute script that follows this opening statement, and I should get down on my knees every time and praise Jesus, Allah, Shiva and William Randolph Hearst for my lines in it. Today's performance was so lackluster, I should have been sacked on the spot, and an understudy brought out from the supply closet.

"I'm sorry," the assistant said finally, after a series of one-word answers. "I just think that's so interesting."

"No, it's okay," I stammered, totally chagrined. "It really is. It's a great gig." I peeped out through the hole in my wall and smiled, but the pre-exam was over.

"The Doctor will be with you in just a second."


"Is this better? "This?"

Dr. So-and-So didn't mention the writing. Usually this means they don't know/don't care. Sometimes it means they already know everything. From time to time, I encounter a stranger whose end of the conversation is so conspicuously absent of certain standard small talk questions, I know they've probably read the blog.

I doubt Dr. So-and-So has, but I wondered, because his conversation was pointedly political. Bookended by discussion of summer vacation plans, punctuated by refrains of "this better or this," he let me know exactly where he stood on the automobile industry bailout, taxes, Mexico, and government in general. Did he know he was talking to a bleeding heart liberal? Because it sort of sounded like maybe he did.

Earlier today, I posted a twitter update expressing my alarm over extremist elements in this country breeding hatred and violence, prompted by yesterday's murder of a doctor in his church, allegedly as an act of protest against abortion. Depending when you read this, that thought may still be displayed in the sidebar. It's hyperbole to suggest that events leading up to the Rwanda genocide in 1994 are comparable to what's happening here with ultra-conservative broadcasters, record sales of firearms and one, deranged act of violence. You could argue I was spreading a little terror on my own.

The fact is, I don't listen to those radio shows. I don't read those websites. I don't know personally know anyone, pro-life or pro-choice, arms or no arms, who thinks socialists are coming for their guns and that a person who shoots someone like that is anything but unhinged. I don't hang out, online or in the flesh, with any of the people referred to as the "subculture."

I don't like that word, "subculture." It's too close to "subhuman." It's the dehumanizing of others that allows events like Sunday's murder, and genocide, and all of man's cruelty to man, to happen. And our marvelous electronic umbilici that connect us ever more with those we choose, keep us ever more apart from those we don't choose. Make them ever more "other."

Someday soon we won't have to go to an office to have our eyes examined. We won't have to make small talk with strangers in the waiting room, or the assistants, or doctors. We will be buffered even more than we are now from people whose appearance, mannerisms or beliefs make us uncomfortable. We won't have to push through our own pre-occupations to smile and connect with someone we don't know. We won't have to be confronted with the humanity of someone whose politics are threatening to our own values. We won't have to realize that they still love their families and take vacations and crave lobster like we do. There will fewer and fewer occasions for us to stray outside our chosen communities, to question our own certainties, to find what binds "us" to "them." Unless we try.

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