Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Road Trip with the Dale Girls! Part Four.

Mom's packing list:
  • The little wool bathing suit. It should fit Melissa this year. Even though we are heading for Miami in July, the water is sure to be a bit chilly.
  • Sandy the Seahorse. Remember not to let the girls see you deflate him. We don't want those nightmares starting up again.
  • Shovels and pails so the girls can play in the sand.
  • Cream cheese and olive sandwiches to snack on. Maybe some ginger ale in case of car sickness.
Our packing list:
  • Crayons. Store in the back window of the car during the day.
  • Plastic tubes with little plastic balls that travel down a maze and make a teeth-rattling racket. Loads of fun. One for each of us.
  • Shovels and pails so we can dig booby traps in the sand. If we're lucky maybe we will catch a kitten. Use Melissa as bait.
  • Popsicles to snack on. Hide in glove compartment.

Sunday, December 28, 2008



Mom and Dad did a concert tour in Europe. They said they had a great time, though it is hard to tell from their faces. Maybe this was back in the days when you were not allowed to smile for pictures.

Our happy little troll family. Notice the stunning wardrobes! A note on the back of the photo says "all are trolls" which, come to think of it, is an accurate statement.

From left to right: Karen, Melissa, me. Judging from the look on my face, we had just finished locking Monica in the closet.

The four of us ... The local paper did a story on our family, though I don't remember why. The poor photographer took picture after picture, with one or another of us closing our eyes, yawning or generally looking goofy. Finally they got smart and said, "Here! The three of you look at this book! Cute one in the middle, look at the camera!"

I have no idea who these boys are, but there is a strong chance that they were scarred for life from this day forward. The prison-like building in the background was our elementary school.

Saturday, December 27, 2008

How to Write: Part Two

Today's topic is: How to make your clients think you are the best writer in the world

If you want to build a successful writing career, you really don't have to be the best writer in the world. You just have to make your clients think that's what you are.

Tip # 1: Use impeccable spelling and grammar. Most people have terrible spelling and grammar (just read the Christmas letter from your college roommate and you will see what I mean). But most people recognize good spelling and grammar when they see it. So proofread carefully. And consult a spelling and grammar expert such as your 7th grade English teacher when necessary. She will be thrilled to hear from you.

Tip # 2: Use your client's words whenever possible. For example, a client may send a creative brief that says: "This postcard needs too convinse our cusstomers that this free checking account can help them save money and manage the stresses in there lifes and be more sucessfulll at everything they do. It may even save there mairrage. Lets really sell it."

Your job is to pick out some key words and use them in your copy. In this case the client did include one rational thought, so you could talk about helping people save money. In other cases, the creative brief will consist entirely of 6 words: "Checking accounts. Need something really catchy." Now you're in trouble. There are no key words to pick out, and you have no idea what "really catchy" is supposed to mean. So it's time for Tip # 3.

Tip # 3: Don't be afraid to ask for clarification. In the case of the 6-word creative brief, you could simply send an email requesting some more details. What does "catchy" mean to them? Do they have examples of previous "catchy" projects they could send? Did they have some copy points they would like to include?

Chances are, you will receive an answer something like this: "You know. Catchy."

So there you go. Just write something up. I guarantee that they will send an email that says: "This is not at all what we had in mind. We asked for a contemporary, sales-oriented headline with light and humorous body copy emphasizing the fact that we do not charge a monthly fee for our checking account. And why didn't you mention the sweepstakes?"

Before you explode, take a minute to read Tip # 4.

Tip # 4: Don't take anything personally. This is the hardest part for a perfectionist like me. I mean, if I had known they wanted light and humorous copy emphasizing the fact that they do not charge a monthly fee, I would have given it to them! I would have been happy to explain their sweepstakes!

Over the years, I have learned that the best course is not to send the irate email I typed up within 6 seconds of receiving their email. The best course is to repeat my copywriting mantra: "Don't take it personally. Don't take it personally" ... until I have calmed down. Next, I take a few handfuls of Cheetos and do a quick review of the project I wrote in 2003 which won an award even though, ok, the award was not specifically for the copywriting but still it lets me claim to be an award-winning copywriter which at this particular moment is very important to my fragile ego.

Whew. Now I can tackle the checking account project anew, giving the client exactly what they want, making the copy nice and catchy and using as many of the client's own words as possible.

Then I will send my invoice, grab some more Cheetos, turn on Deal Or No Deal, and remind myself that, even if I am not the best writer in the world, I really do have the best job in the world.


Topics for discussion:
Do you have certain clients who just drive you crazy?
Have you developed strategies to deal with them?
Have you ever dropped a client because they were so difficult?

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Dear Santa

... Santa's reply - 1959 - (age 5)

Dear Lesley:

Thank you for the nice note. I will bring you some presents, because I hear you have been a good little girl. I'm afraid the dolly at Stop 'n Shop is a little too high for me to reach, so don't hold your breath on that one. And I can't guarantee that your Mommy's new baby will be a girl. I'm sure if it is a boy you will love him just the same.

Love, Santa

... Santa's reply - 1962 - (age 8)

Dear Lesley:

Thank you for the long and detailed Christmas list. It is always helpful to have the page numbers and reference codes from the Sears catalog. I don't think I will be able to exchange your younger sisters for two kittens. Sorry about that. The exchange policies are pretty strict here at the North Pole.

Love, Santa

... Santa's reply - 1964 - (age 10)

Dear Lesley:

My goodness! You are certainly a very devoted Beatles fan. I didn't realize there were so many items available with Paul McCartney's picture on them. Please keep in mind that the Beatles' "music" is insipid and lacking in all intrinsic value. My reindeer and I will be happy if you listen to Bach or Mozart instead.

Love, Santa

... Santa's reply - 1966 (age 12)

Dear Lesley:

Thank you so much for informing your little sisters that I do not exist. I can certainly understand why you do not want to hang around with dopey girls who still believe in Santa. I'm sure your motives were pure.

I have to say, I am encouraged by the fact that you still took the time to write me a letter. Perhaps when you are a little older you will find a way to reconcile your practical side with that little glimmer in your heart that urges you to believe in someone who sees you when you're sleeping, knows when you're awake, and loves you just the same whether you are naughty or nice. Perhaps you will realize that it's the gift in the manger that really matters, not the gifts under the tree. Perhaps you will even appreciate the priceless gifts bestowed on you by your quirky parents and your unbearable sisters.

In the meantime, even though you are clearly too intelligent to believe in me, please feel free to keep writing. I promise to answer, every time.

Love, Santa.

Monday, December 22, 2008

How to not write a book

I could never write a book.

Everyone else in my family seems to write books with ease. Which is the first reason why it will never work for me. Growing up with 3 brilliant, beautiful sisters, I learned early on that no matter how good I was at something, someone else (usually under the same roof, if not in the same bedroom) could do it better. Karen was a better pianist. Monica was a better dancer. Mel was better looking. And all three of them have published books, which are undoubtedly better than whatever I would come up with.

Now, if you are one of my sisters reading this, please don't feel bad. It's ok. Really.

See? Did you catch that? That's reason number two why I could never write a book. I would inevitably make someone feel bad. And then I'd never forgive myself, no matter how many times I begged.

You see, all the interesting stories in my life involve someone else who was at fault, plus me, the innocent victim. So writing down these stories would make somebody sad. Or mad, which is even worse. I just can't risk it.

I also read too many books. That's actually the main reason why I can't write one. Because I don't just read. I gulp. I devour. I become totally absorbed in the speech patterns of the writer. I may even start to talk with a foreign accent, which causes my husband to roll his eyes and hide the Merlot. I'll be halfway through a book and start to think, "I could write like this." Which, of course, is the problem. Somebody ELSE already writes like this. And undoubtedly better than I would. Plus, all the good titles are taken.

The good news is, I can write a blog. And who knows? Maybe some famous literary agent will stumble upon my humble blog and think "Eureka! Here is the phenomenal writer I have been looking for my entire career! Let's turn this humble blog into an international best-seller!!"

Or maybe Stephen Colbert will happen by and think "Eureka! Here is the new head writer for my show! Let's fly her out to California immediately!!!"

Or maybe ... a friend or a sister or a total stranger will take a few minutes to read my silly ramblings. Maybe they will recall some funny moments from long ago. Maybe they will leave my little blog with a smile and return when they need a little cheering up.

I kind of hope that's how it works out. I'd like that.

Sunday, December 21, 2008

Road Trip with the Dale Girls! Part Three.

Driving Directions from New London, CT to Miami, FL:

1. Back out of the driveway and proceed to I-95 S ... 1.6 Miles

2. Go straight ... 1409 Miles

3. You have arrived at your destination. Kiss the ground.

Estimated distance: 1410.6 miles
Estimated time: You don't even want to know.

Of course, MapQuest makes these directions look quite simple. Don't be fooled. For some inexplicable reason, MapQuest left out the most important part:

The 250 billboards advertising a charming tourist attraction called "South of the Border."

Just imagine ...
250 tacky billboards
250 reminders that we had miles and miles and miles to go
250 opportunities to bounce up and down and yell "OH PLEASE OH PLEASE OH PLEASE!!!"

We loved em.

I mean, what's not to love? Just look at this clever humor:

Not to mention the phenomenal facilities!!!! It was the chance of a liftime!!!

It was even EDUCATIONAL!!!

I don't think we actually had any idea what might await us at South of the Border. As soon as we got within 1/4 mile of the place, the car suddenly zoomed ahead at 90 miles an hour and Mom pointed frantically out the passenger's side window - "Look, girls! I saw an armadillo! Oh my goodness! Keep looking! No, no, over here!"

Fortunately, the helpful folks at South of the Border were on our side, with one last sign giving us one last chance to yell and scream and bounce up and down:

"Back up Amigo! You missed it!"

For some reason, I couldn't find any pictures of this particular sign online. I suspect that it was removed in 1962, shortly after being rammed by a crazed college professor driving a station wagon with Connecticut license plates.

Just a guess.

To be continued.

Saturday, December 20, 2008

How To Write: Part One

One of mom's favorite sayings was: "Make yourself useful as well as beautiful." In an effort to be a bit more useful, since the beautiful part is pretty much a lost cause, I am starting a series on "How To Write." Most of my tips will relate to copywriting, because that's what I do. But of course most of the posts will be silly and rambling, so even if you don't give a hoot about writing, you may want to read them anyway.

My impeccable writing skills actually began back in 7th grade, with a phenomenal English teacher named Mrs. Clegg.

I have very fond memories of Mrs. Clegg. She was totally devoted to her work. She cared deeply about the difference between a colon and a semi-colon. She ripped apart our essays, lamented our run-on sentences, and grieved over every dangling participle. Everybody else hated her. But she became my role model.

Now that I am gainfully employed as a marketing copywriter, however, Mrs. Clegg's rules are out the window. Some of them, at least. One of the most important tasks for a copywriter (or a blogger, for that matter) is to determine which rules are made to be broken, and which are set in stone.

No-no's that may be OK:

Sentence fragments.
I use sentence fragments all the time. Why? Because that's how people talk. When you write, especially if you are writing ad copy, you really should write the way you talk. (If you are a boring talker, you have my permission to write like me. But only if you follow my rules.) Short, concise sentence fragments can help keep your copy moving.

Simplified punctuation. Mrs. Clegg may know the difference between a colon and a semi-colon, but trust me. Nobody else does. Stick to periods, commas and exclamation points.

No-no's that are just plain bad:

Run-on sentences.
There is just no excuse for a run-on sentence. I sometimes use long sentences in an attempt to be humorous, but if you look hard enough you will find proper sentence structure in there somewhere.

Spelling and/or grammatical errors. This is one of my pet peeves. Nobody seems to know when to use "it's" versus "its" or "there" versus "their." Wasn't ANYBODY paying attention to Mrs. Clegg except me???

Long paragraphs. Unless your name is Nathaniel Hawthorne, your paragraphs should never be more than 4 or 5 sentences long. And if your name IS Nathaniel Hawthorne, you might want to consider making your paragraphs shorter. There is a reason why nobody ever reads your books voluntarily.

In keeping with the rest of the blogging universe, I think I will invite comments and questions throughout the "How To Write" series. If you have no comments or questions, please feel free to leave a note on a totally random topic. Or just tell me how wonderful I am. That will work, too.


Topics for discussion:
Do you have memories of a favorite teacher?
Do you have questions about the world of writing?
Just how wonderful am I?

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Let's play!

I always get a little dismayed when I realize that our childhood toys, books and lunch boxes would now be called "memorabilia" - from the Latin root "memor" meaning "you are so old, you really should be dead."

But that's ok. Our childhood toys are not likely to be listed on ebay or sitting on shelves at antique stores. Because like just about everything in the Dale household, our toys were a bit unconventional.

Since there were 4 girls in the family and no boys anywhere in sight if we had anything to say about it, you would think that our little pink toy boxes would have been full of frilly dolls and fluffy tutu's and sparkly magic wands. You would be wrong.

Our favorite, extra-special, can't-live-without-em toys were ... trolls.

(Aren't they cute?)

We had a troll house. We made troll clothes. (step one: cut a rectangle of fabric. step two: cut two holes. done!) We played with them for hours on end.

We did have some Barbie dolls, but they just didn't have the charm of our little trolls. So we cut off their hair and made them the teachers. I'm not sure why the hair had to go. But it did help with the transformation from Skinny Supermodel to Deranged Teacher of Trolls.

Even though we were pretty happy with our little troll world, I remember coveting another toy with all my heart. I knew it was futile. I don't think our family was really poor, though Dad frequently told us he should have been a plumber. And yet, I knew that this lofty, exalted, glorious toy would never be mine. What was it? A baby doll with her very own bathtub, wrapped in cellophane and displayed on the top shelf of the grocery store.

Every time we went to the Stop 'n Shop, that beautiful lifelike doll drew my undivided attention. I longed to take her home and cradle her in my arms. I dreamed of giving her a bath, and wrapping her in a clean blanket. But alas, it was not to be. Mom and Dad were just too mean, too selfish and yes, too cheap to grant the one and only wish of their tragically-ignored little daughter.

Fortunately, having the attention span of a mosquito, I forgot all about the baby doll as soon as we got home. I was perfectly happy to get out my troll, cut some more fabric rectangles, and go back to a world of our own invention, where spunk, personality and creativity were the most important qualities a troll could possibly have.

Come to think of it, that's the world I still inhabit today. And I wouldn't have it any other way.

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Nothing to fear

I don't know about you, but as for me, I'm tired of feeling scared. Or maybe I should say, I'm tired of being told that I should feel scared.

(Yes, uh oh, this is going to be a political post. No more light-hearted banter. I am in a serious mood. If I was any more serious, I would go change out of my pajamas. That's how serious I am.)

"Zo, Mrs. Morrison, ven did these fears begin?"

Well doctor, I think it began around 9/11. That was such a scary day. It was like the rug was pulled out from under all of us. ("what do you MEAN people hate us?? why would they hate us??") After that, we were all a little shaky. So it didn't take much to spook us again.

We quickly directed our fear towards Osama Bin Laden. Soon, we were told that we should widen our sights and start worrying about Saddam Hussein. There were lots of terrifying words thrown around, like "mushroom cloud" and "chemical weapons." Our knees started trembling. Do something! Anything! Shock and Awe! Yes, that's it!

The 2004 election played on our fears perfectly, with catchy campaign slogans like "Vote for me or the terrorists will get you." And recently, it's only gotten worse. The 2008 campaign had catchy slogans of its own, like "Vote for me or a terrorist will be in the White House. Or at least someone who has a name that is vaguely terroristical."

And the economic meltdown! Yikes! We were just starting to feel maybe a little secure, maybe a little un-terrified, when someone who-shall-remain-nameless-but-whose-middle-initial-is-quite-well-known came out of the White House and said "THE ENTIRE GLOBAL ECONOMY IS COLLAPSING!!!" In the ensuing months, we have seen puzzling statistics indicating that Americans are no longer spending money, enjoying vacations or buying McMansions. No duh. SOMEBODY TOLD US THE ENTIRE GLOBAL ECONOMY IS COLLAPSING! We are terrified.

(I do apologize for my serious mood today. Perhaps I pay too much attention to the biased liberal media. I promise my next post will be more fun. Pardon me while I go get some cheetos.)

In the past few weeks, I have to admit my terror has shifted a little. It seems there is a fine line between fear and anger.

I feel fear when I think about the possibility of my husband losing his job, which depends in large part on the auto industry. (I trust that God will provide for us. He always does. And yet, I can't help but wonder how we will find affordable health insurance and whether we will ever get our retirement savings back.)

That fear shifts to anger, however, when I see politicians playing power games instead of truly seeking solutions.

I feel fear when I think about terrorists and the very real fact that there are people out there who hate Americans and who are willing to kill innocent people to make a point.

That fear shifts to anger, however, when I hear a high-ranking official who-shall-remain- nameless-but-who-once-shot-a-friend-in-the-face defend blatant acts of torture, and respond to the concerns of Americans regarding the Iraq war (dare I say it? perhaps we, also, have killed innocent people to make a point) with a shrug of the shoulders. "So?"

"Zo. You are getting agitated. Take another handful of Cheetos."

No, doctor. I'm fine. In fact, I'm feeling a little better. Because I know I'm not the only one who is angry.

I'm not the only one who cast a vote for change.

I'm not the only one who is paying close attention to who says what, and why.

I'm not the only one who is rooting for our country, hoping for better days, and praying that we might all catch a vision of a stronger, kinder and wiser America.

And I have just one message for the politicians, red or blue, who think they have been elected to play the political game, not to serve the little guys who cast those meaningless things called "votes" - and who think the best way to advance their agenda is by yelling "boo" -

Be afraid. Be very afraid.

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Road Trip with the Dale Girls! Part Two.

Step one of our marathon road trip is finished. Our plans are in place.

We have our Trip-Tik (a turn by turn map, kind of the ancient equivalent of a Garmin but without the British accent). We have our Tour Books with the pages bent down and the swimming pools circled and the Tourist Highlights listed on a separate piece of paper so Dad can pull off the highway in plenty of time (fat chance). And we have our schedule.

Speaking of the schedule, this may be a good time to explain why it took us a whole week to drive from Connecticut to Florida. It's simple, really. Mom and Dad could only stand to be in the car with us for 4 hours a day, max. Why, you ask? Silly you. Read on.

The daily schedule looked something like this:

8 a.m. - Breakfast at the hotel. Tell the girls not to eat that huge stack of pancakes.

8:30 a.m. - Hit the road.

9:00 a.m. - Pull over so one of the girls can throw up the huge stack of pancakes she ate.

9:05 a.m. to noon - Drive as fast as possible while trying to ignore the ruckus in the back seat. Not to mention the smell.

Noon to 8:00 p.m. - Swim in the pool, get snacks from the vending machine, run up and down the stairs as fast as you can, play hide and seek in the elevators, beg mom and dad to order room service so we can be like Eloise at the Plaza Hotel which is one of our FAVORITE books and we just want a roll and some milk and maybe some spaghetti and OH WHY NOT, WE NEVER GET ANYTHING WE WANT!!!!!

8:00 p.m. to 8:00 a.m. - Peace and quiet. If you're lucky.

To be continued.

Saturday, December 13, 2008


Mom is a little harder to sum up than Dad. She was a complex person, which I mean in a completely flattering way. In fact, she was so complex, it would take several paragraphs to sum her up in one word. So here goes.

The first thing that comes to mind when I think of Mom, is "ahead of her times." I mean, here's a woman who grew up in a teeny tiny town in Oklahoma, and who went off to Yale at the age of 18 like it was no big deal.

"Oh tra la, I've been accepted at one of the finest music schools in the country, hundreds of miles away, where I don't know a soul. I guess I'll pack up and go! Toodle-oo!"

Now, she did do the traditional thing 4 years later. She got married and had children. But she got that music degree first. And she stayed ahead of her times.

When she got pregnant, she had a female doctor. (This was the 1950's, remember. Female doctors were about as common as 2-headed cows. And probably about as popular.) She had natural childbirth, which she insisted was a wonderful, almost spiritual experience. (I think she was probably delirious from the excruciating pain, but she was quite insistent that it was wonderful, so ok.)

She was a working mother in the days of June Cleaver. She was a political activist at a time when many woman didn't even drive, let alone vote. She voiced her opinions, and shared her ideas. (though she had to wait until we were in school, otherwise she'd never get a word in edgewise)

Naturally, the four of us had no appreciation for Mom's skills, projects or opinions when we were kids. We were much more interested in her quirks.

Mom was the slowest eater in the world. So we helpfully timed her meals and counted her chews, snickering and rolling our eyes all the while.

Mom had some funny sayings, like "really so?" and "toodle-oo." So we mimicked her endlessly while snickering and rolling our eyes.

Mom was great at focusing on one thing very intently, while ignoring little distractions like the peas that were burning in the kitchen. So we whispered "hey Mom" over and over, knowing full well she would never hear us, snickering and rolling our eyes and not once thinking that maybe one of us should go turn off the stove before the house burned down.

Yes, Mom was quirky. Mom was complex. And Mom was definitely ahead of her times.

When we talk about her now, I have to admit we still snicker. We roll our eyes. And we wish we could have her back, even for just a day.

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Road Trip with the Dale Girls! Part One.

Here's my idea of a vacation:
A week on a beach. A week on a cruise ship. Or a week at home, doing nothing.

Here, apparently, is my parents' idea of a vacation:
A week in a car with four little girls. Then several weeks at a relative's house. Then another week in the car with the same four little girls, newly energized by their fun vacation.

I know, it sounds more like "torture" than "vacation." But at the time, for the four little girls, it was exciting! whoopee! who-needs-relaxing-let's-go!!!

Before we can even discuss the itinerary, let's look at the planning process.

Since this was the 1960's, there was no MapQuest.com. You had to actually call AAA and request maps, Trip-Tiks and Tour Books. Then you had to drive to AAA, stand in line, wait while they searched for your stuff, take it all home, and pore over it for weeks and weeks.

Believe it or not, this was great fun!!! Especially the Tour Books!!!

Since we were traveling from Connecticut to Florida, we got approximately 8 different Tour Books, which described the hotels in each city in incredible detail. (If you've been paying close attention, you're probably thinking "It takes a week to drive from Connecticut to Florida??" I'll explain in another post.)

So anyway, we have these Tour Books, one for each state, which equates to two for each exuberant little Dale Girl. Each Tour Book was approximately a million pages long. And each page required exhaustive research.

"Hey Dad! There's a Howard Johnson's in Schenectady with FREE breakfast for kids!!! AND a pool!!! AND magic fingers!!!"

... side note about magic fingers ... in this day and age, it sounds vaguely obscene, but magic fingers was a coin-operated vibrating bed. That still sounds obscene. Really, it wasn't. You just put the coin in and bounced up and down, alternating loud laughter with "AAAAAH" sounds that came out all wiggly because, of course, you were bouncing up and down. Loads of fun.

Being helpful, cooperative and extremely detail-oriented children, the four of us folded down pages, highlighted hotel entries, and made long lists of all the Howard Johnson's along the way and other hotels in random locations, with double-stars for pools which of course were SUPER exciting!!!

"Hey Dad! There's a FIVE-diamond hotel in New York City! There's a pancake buffet in Valdosta! There's a kids pool AND an adult pool in Savannah! Hey Dad! Hey Dad! DadDadDad!"

"Where did Dad go?"

"I dunno."

"Hey Mom! Hey Mom! MomMomMom!"

To be continued.


One of my earliest memories is of my dad sitting on the side of my sister's bed, telling us a bedtime story. I was probably 3 or 4. Every night he would come in and sit on one of our beds, and make up a story about Buffin Bear.

What would his students have thought if they could have seen the distinguished, articulate and reserved Professor Dale sending his little girls into hysterical giggles by describing Buffin Bear's latest antics in the grocery store? What would his colleagues have thought if they heard him patiently repeating the same silly story he had already told three times in a row? What would his concert audiences have thought if they saw him gently reassuring us that we could hear the same story again tomorrow night, if we would just go to sleep for now?

They probably wouldn't have been surprised in the least.

Monday, December 8, 2008

Working at home

Everybody wants my job. At least, everybody thinks they want my job. They don't even care what my job IS. When somebody asks where I work, I say "I work from home" and before I can even get to the tedious and boring explanation, their faces light up.

"Oh really??" they say. "I've always wanted to do that. How did you get started?"

"Well," I say, "I started as a copywriter at a small marketing company - "

"No, no," they say. "Skip that tedious and boring part. Just tell me how I can get a cushy gig like yours, working at home!"

You see, people have this glorified vision of what "working at home" is really like. Ok. Yes. It does have its good points. But really, it's not for everyone. Let's look at what it takes to succeed as a telecommuter/freelancer/pajama-clad-slouch.

Just a sec, gotta get some Cheetos.

Ok. Requirement number one: You must have a very short attention span.
If you enjoy sitting in one place and working continuously for 8 hours, you might as well get an office job. That way at least you'll have a chance of getting decent health insurance. There are times when I work 10 or 12 hours in a day, but it's usually broken up into 10-minute segments. Maybe 20 minutes if there's nothing to watch on Turner Movie Classics.

Requirement number two: You must enjoy your own company. A lot.
Think about it. You will be by yourself all day, every day. That may sound wonderful in theory, but in reality your social skills will gradually be eroded until you become the quirky lady who wears floppy hats and clunky necklaces and stands just a little too close to people so everybody ends up warning their children not to accept candy from her.

Requirement number three: You must find a job that lets you work from home.
This, of course, is the tricky part. There are lots of "jobs" that are listed in all-capital letters online, that deceptively claim to let you work at home. Do not fall for these ads. Nobody will pay you $1000 a week for stuffing envelopes. Nobody even USES envelopes any more.

Probably the best strategy for finding an at-home job, is to ask somebody who already does it how they got started. Make sure you are asking somebody who is successful and helpful and experienced.

I will let you know if I meet somebody like that.

In the meantime, I hear TMC is airing a Bette Davis marathon.

Gotta go.

Sunday, December 7, 2008

It's The Economy, Stupid - or - It's Stupid, The Economy - or - The Economy? It's Stupid

Today, we turn our attention to a serious subject: the State of the Economy. I hesitated at first to write about something that might actually be important. I figured there were other writers out there covering the story who were more informed than I. But I was wrong.

I started performing my usual extensive research, looking for news coverage on the subject (google: Economic crisis ... google: Financial meltdown ... google: AGHHHHH) and I quickly realized that there really is no "news coverage" any more. There's just bloggers, like me.

The nice thing about bloggers is, you generally know where they stand within the first few words. Here are a few examples from actual blogs. As Dave Barry would say, I am not making these up.

- Republicans caused this financial crisis ...

- Democrats caused this financial crisis ...

- Greedy lenders are at the root of the financial crisis ...

And even,
- Did your Representative cause the financial crisis? (I didn't read any further, but I suspect the answer is "yes")

And wait! This one is even funnier:
- Did anti-depressants cause the financial crisis? (and if not, can we all have some please?)

It's interesting to see how the bloggers reflect society as a whole. I think if you put us all in a huge metaphorical blender and whirred us around for a minute or two, you would come out with a fairly accurate representation of society as whole. Although of course we would still be wearing pajamas.

The blog headlines do seem to reflect the general tone of the nation, as exemplified so bravely and eloquently by our leaders, George "Can-I-Please-Go-Back-To-Dallas-Now?" Bush, and Hank "Good-Lord-We're-All-Doomed" Paulson.

Here are a few examples, which I did not make up for the most part:

- The World As We Know It Is Going Down

- A Crisis Unmatched Since The Great Depression

- The Politics Of Despair

- What Do We Do Now?

- Where Did Our Money Go??

- Who ARE All These People Who Bought Houses They Couldn't Afford, And Why Are WE Stuck Paying The Bill When We Worked For Years And Played By The Rules, I Mean Dang We Should Have Bought A Million Dollar House, At Least We'd Have Something To Show For It.

As you can tell, these political blogs get a little intense. But fortunately, there are lots of other blogs to explore! Like:

- Spread The Love

- The Grocery Cart Poet

- Brain Dump

and, if those are still too intense for you -
- The Real Housewives of Orange County: Vicki's Family Drama

I would love to get into the intricacies of credit default swaps and the nefarious plotting of the hapless homeowners who conspired to bring down the global economy by having the audacity to think that they might actually deserve three bedrooms and a bath-and-a-half. But I really do need to read Vicki's post about Lauri's magical wedding, which was so intimate and romantic and princessical and - hold on, I need a tissue - and sure to be the start of years and years and years of complete happiness that is probably over already because I hear they got into a huge argument during the reception and I just can't believe it but I think - wait, one more tissue - they may be getting a divorce!!!

Gotta go.

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

Who you callin' Grandma?

(I originally wrote this on July 3, 2007, when Riley was 2 months old.)

I'll be the first to admit that I'm old enough to be a grandmother. I grew up in the 1960's. I remember seeing the Beatles on the Ed Sullivan Show. I remember the "miracle" of color TV. And I earned every one of the wrinkles I'm planning to have Botox'ed out of my face as soon as I'm convinced that there won't be any pain involved. But still, my daughter's happy announcement of our first grandchild presented a dilemma. What would I be called?

My own grandmother came up with the term "G-Mom." I remember my mom saying it was because she didn't want to be known as Grandma, which as a sensitive child made me feel a little guilty. I told myself I didn't feel the same ambivalence, though I was at a loss to explain how we went from the 1960's to the 2000's so quickly. Anyway, G-Mom was out.

There was a "Granny" on my husband's side, who took feisty-ness to a whole new level. (Note to self: Feisty is good. Extreme feisty-ness is just an excuse for being ornery.)

"Mee-Maw" sounds hick. "Nana" sounds like the dog in Peter Pan. And "Grandmother" would make the poor kid sound like a member of the royal family. The choices were getting worse by the day. Rather than waiting for me to decide, my daughter wisely went ahead and had the baby.

Even though I knew little Riley Nichole wouldn't be able to call me anything for quite a while, I felt a renewed urgency to pin down the perfect name. I reviewed my options on the way to the hospital. Grammy? Grams? Nonnie? Each one sounded corny and hopelessly old.

I got more creative on the elevator ride up to the maternity ward. MomMom? Mommy Two? Then I turned ethnic. Opa? Bube? Grandmere? I was searching my brain for celebrity names that might fit (Oprah? Goldie? Clearly I was way off track) ... when I stepped into room 3014 and saw her for the first time.

What struck me first was the fact that my daughter was holding a baby. That probably shouldn't have surprised me, considering the fact that she'd been pregnant for the past 9 months. But still. My daughter was holding a baby. Her baby. I've never seen her happier. She looked up at me proudly and pushed the blanket down gently, so I could see Riley's perfect little face. But something else already had my attention.

Poking out from the other end of the blanket, I saw two feet. Notice I didn't say "little" feet. Riley was only 20 minutes old, but she had the feet of a 2-year-old. Her toes were double-jointed. Her arch was amazingly high. From two sturdy ankles to ten long toes, her feet formed perfect triangles.

They looked just like mine.

I joked with my daughter about how the doctor would need legal-size paper to take her footprints. I told her those toes would come in handy for picking up Cheerios. But deep down, I already knew that those feet were a sign of great things to come. I knew little Riley would have a firm foundation to stand on. I knew she would make her own path, and walk with the assurance that she is deeply loved. And I knew she could call me whatever she wanted.

Just pictures!

"I thought you said never talk to strangers!!!"

Riley: "Wanna go shopping, Dolly?"
Dolly: "Rrrg arrg you're strgrgrangling me"

She's a star!

This is the best kind of snow! (the warm kind)

Tuesday, December 2, 2008


Do they have clocks in heaven? I think they do. At least, for the people who are inclined to like clocks. And I think, at 5:30 on the dot, every night, my mom and dad sit down for dinner.

We had a very consistent dinner routine when we were kids:

4:45: Mom or Dad starts cooking. The four of us are upstairs, behind various closed doors. We are, of course, quite busy with assorted important projects. Like making troll clothes or writing our names on things so nobody can steal them and claim them for their own. (If not for this annoying habit, my collection of Beatles cards might actually be worth something today.)

5:30 exactly, on the dot: Mom goes to the foot of the stairs and rings the dinner bell - usually singing "Din-ner" at the same time. Doors burst open, and we all tromp downstairs like a herd of wild elephants.

5:31: Mom calls us a herd of wild elephants. We all roll our eyes.

5:32: Conversation begins.

Mom: Bill, how were your classes today?

Dad: Well, I -

Us: Let's play I Spy! I spy something plaid! You can't say plaid, it has to be a color! What are you, the I Spy boss? I'm just saying, that's the rules! There's no rules for I Spy, you just spy whatever you want to spy! Well plaid is a pretty dumb thing to spy! Why, is it too hard for you?

Mom: GIRLS! Can we eat in peace, please? Who wants to tell us about their day at school?

Us: Hey, I'm gonna tap a rhythm on the table, and you guys guess what song it is! That's not a song, you're just tapping! Nu uh, listen closer, wait, I'll tap louder! Jingle Bells!!!

Mom: Bill, would you like more -

Us: What's red and black and red all over? You said that wrong! I mean white and black and red all over! Everybody knows that one! I knew that one when I was in NURSERY school! Oh yeah? Well you still ARE in nursery school! Oh yeah??

Dad: I'm going upstairs. Good night girls.


Mom: sigh.

..... So. That was dinner. I do kind of wonder why it had to be right at 5:30, on the dot. I also wonder why the dinner bell was necessary - I mean, at a certain point they could have just told us all to be downstairs at 5:30. It's not like it was a big surprise every night.

And now, I wonder if Mom and Dad enjoy peaceful dinners together, with the exotic foods they loved and a nice glass of heavenly wine. I think they do. And I think they reminisce about those noisy, silly dinner times when the food they prepared so carefully was practically ignored, the topic of conversation went in at least 4 directions at once, and the concept of "table manners" was completely out the window.

They probably shake their heads and laugh, and recall friends whose children knew how to sit still and put a napkin in their lap without making an origami ballerina out of it first. Looking back, I think they know how important those rowdy dinners were. I think they know they were right to let us babble on (and on and on), even when it drove them crazy. I think they know that their 4 little perfectionists needed freedom more than rules.

I think they knew all along.

Monday, December 1, 2008


Those of you who are old enough to know what a Studebaker is, are thinking, "Why would she name a blog after a car?" And those who are not yet approaching antiquity are thinking "A Studebaker is a car???"

So yes, a Studebaker is (was) a car. And yes, it's a great name for my blog! Why? Because it's funny.

My sister Karen and I could collapse into gales of laughter simply by saying the word. Of course, being quite small at the time, we also thought "toilet paper" and "underwear" were hilarious. And don't even mention "poopy" - oh my gosh! We might start crying and gasping for breath.

I guess my family was probably unusually verbal, right from the start. When I was almost ready to be born, Mom and Dad asked Karen what they thought my name should be. Thank God they didn't take her advice. Our last name was Dale, and she thought a perfect first name would be "Diarrhea."

Kind of a lyrical choice for a 2 year old. But disturbing, nonetheless.

Karen and I were joined by Monica and Melissa within the span of a few years. We all thought Mad Libs was the funnest game ever. We all talked a mile a minute during dinner, which helped forge our sisterly bonds and filled in a lot of silence from the parental sides of the table. And we all have experienced success in the grown-up writing world. Three of us are published authors, and the 4th (me) makes a living writing cheesy hype. Er, no, I mean, writing marketing projects for a variety of commercial clients. Ahem.

Words are important to all of us - not just me and my sisters, but all of us. A word can encourage. A word can injure. A word can change a relationship. A word can change the world. Just take out your Bible, and read the first few verses of John. You'll see what I mean.

Most of all, for me, a word can bring a smile. It can remind us that life is not so serious, really. It'll be over before you know it, so you might as well enjoy it while you can.

As Dave Barry says, "Never under any circumstances take a sleeping pill and a laxative on the same night." (I realize that is totally irrelevant, but I wanted to make sure my first post included at least one genuinely funny sentence.)

So there you have it. Studebaker. A word to make you smile. A word to make you wonder. And a word to remind me of my unusual-but-wonderful childhood with my unusual-but-wonderful sisters.

Studebaker. Think of it the next time you need a reason to smile. But don't say it out loud. It takes a lot of explaining.


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