Friday Pix: Recommended Reading For The Weekend

July 30, 2010

Every Friday I point you to some worthwhile reading around the blogosphere:

1. In light of ongoing attention to the Special Relationship between the United States and Great Britain, here’s a little video gem from The Guardian about other paintings Barack Obama and David Cameron might have exchanged.

2. The International Herald Tribune recently ran two fabulous op-eds on what it’s like to travel in this day and age. Click here for Alex Beam’s glorious taxonomy of Americans abroad. And here’s Bob Greene explaining what hotel gift bags tell us about our obsession with sleep.

3. The ever-reliable Nicola Morgan of Help! I Need A Publisher! Fame pointed me to this post by A. Victoria Mixon, Editor about six personality types who will succeed as writers.

4. One of my favorite British bloggers, Jennifer Howze – (whom some will know as the founding blogger of the Times On Line’s Alpha Mummy blog) – has launched her own blog. Please stop by and visit Jenography, a blog about “kids, London life and the world beyond.”

5. Finally, in the department of weird things you must see, please check out the new tattooed LEGOs over at Bit Rebels.

6. You will also want to take in country flags made from that country’s favorite foods at Good blog. (Hat tip: Communicatrix)

As always, please do follow me on Twitter.

Have a nice weekend!

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Coping With Exes In Adulthood

July 29, 2010

Breaking up is hard to do. So said Neil Sedaka in that 1962 Billboard classic.

It was as true then as it is now, whether you’re in your teens or in your forties. So how do you actually move on after a broken heart?

Sometimes, time really does heal all wounds, and you’re capable – over time – of becoming friends with a former lover. I’m still close with one of my exes. So is my husband with one of his. These are people we exchange holiday cards with, make a point of visiting when we’re back in the States and even count their spouses as friends. In both cases, these exes form part of a larger social circle that helped to reinforce the transition to “friend.”

In another case, an old boyfriend contacted me out of the blue last year to give him some marital advice. Miraculously, it worked. He now credits me with playing a key role in keeping his marriage together. Somehow the act of helping him out in an impartial way enabled us – many years after the fact – to reunite as friends.

Of course, it’s not always that easy to make the jump to being friends. One friend of mine has solved this problem by continuing to sleep with his ex-girlfriend of 20 years ago well into his forties. In keeping with that old college adage that “It doesn’t count if it’s an ex” (Oh, to be 21 again!), he simply hasn’t moved on. For what it’s worth, this is also the strategy employed by business partners/sometime lovers Mikhael Blomkvist and Erika Berger of Dragon Tattoo fame. In the Stieg Larsson trilogy, Berger’s husband knows all about it and doesn’t mind either. (It is Sweden, after all.)

Alternatively, you can go the route of writing a letter to your ex. By expressing – longhand – all the things you still feel towards him or her, you can sometimes expunge any last traces of desire or remorse still swirling around inside your belly. This was the tactic adopted by my Politics Daily colleague Andrew Cohen, in a much-trafficked love letter to his ex earlier this week entitled “On Her Wedding Day: Saying Things Left Unsaid.” Whether you should go public with such a letter – or, as my colleague Suzi Parker suggests, “put it in a box and set it afire in the bathtub” – is ultimately your call. (If you want a quick primer on why you might want to think twice before publishing said missive, click here, here and here in that order, and then run for cover.)

You can also cyber-stalk your ex by “friending” them on Facebook to keep tabs on them from a safe distance.  My colleague Sarah Wildman has a terrific piece on why that’s quite possibly not the best idea either, despite the appeal on some emotional level. It’s not just because casual On-line relationships can easily lead to the real thing. Rather, it’s because, as Sarah concludes, “some doors, however easily unlocked, are meant to remain closed.”

So where does that leave us?

I’ve often found that music works well if you want to “go there” without really “going there,” if you get my drift. At different points in my life, I’ve listened to Simple Minds’ Don’t You Forget About Me, The Grateful Dead’s Looks Like Rain and Silvio Rodriguez’ Mi Unicornio Azul when I wanted to cry into my beer.

At the end of the day, as I’ve written before, acknowledging the road not taken is just one of those bitter truths of adulthood. Sometimes you end up loving the wrong person. Or maybe – to quote that curl-up-in-a-fetal-position Dire Straits classic, Romeo and Juliet –  “it was just that the time was wrong.”

Either way, life goes on.

How have you coped with a love that wasn’t meant to be?

Image: Love Letter by Wolfsoul via Flickr under a Creative Commons license.

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Tips For Adulthood: Five Grown Up Beers To Drink

July 28, 2010

Every Wednesday I offer tips for adulthood.

I’ve always been a beer drinker. In my youth, when quantity tended to weigh more heavily on my mind than quality, I wasn’t terribly discerning about what I drank. Budweiser…National Bohemian…Coors Light – it was all the same to me.

As I’ve grown older, however, I’ve come to be much pickier about what I drink. This is partly a function of my growing awareness that hangovers in adulthood aren’t nearly as much fun as they used to be. I also suffer from  migraines, and – for better or for worse – I can no longer drink anything but beer (and only one at that), unless I want to bring on a bad headache. And, let’s face it. I didn’t want to be another one of those middle-aged women drinking to excess.

But here’s the good news. Now that I’m confined to only one type of alcohol – and very limited quantities therein – I am far choosier when it comes to what kind beer I’m willing to drink.

Here are five “grown up” beers that I can recommend:

1. Kasteel Cru. This is actually a champagne beer – (not to be confused with Miller High Life, the so-called “Champagne of Beers.”) It’s made of champagne yeast that comes from malted barley. I sampled it the other night when my husband and I went out to celebrate our anniversary and we wanted to try something different. It’s got a clean, elegant taste and if you love normal champagne but it doesn’t love you, this is the beer for you. It’s also the ideal alcoholic drink for those of us who can’t decide if we’re really high-brow or low-brow in our tastes.

2. Badger Golden Glory – Admittedly, this sounds like some kind of moonshine you might get from your distant uncle’s farm in Appalachia. But it’s actually a quite refreshing premium ale subtly flavored with a hint of peach. And amazingly enough – despite the peach extract – it doesn’t come off as at all fru-fru. One of my more “manly” guy friends recommended it and I’ve been sold ever since.

3. Corona – Here’s a beer that never goes out of style. When I first began drinking it as an adult, I used to feel horribly guilty – like I’d never quite outgrown that Spring Break in Cancun during my junior year in college. (Yup, been there; done that; got the tee-shirt.) But when it’s like 100 degrees outside and you need a cool pick-me-up, there’s nothing better than a Corona with lime. Click here for easy instructions on how to put the lime into a Corona. If nothing else, you’ll score lots of “cool points” with those who’ve never seen this done before (speaking of not growing out of Spring Break…).

4. Daas Blonde – I love Belgian beer. But this one – which I was recently introduced to via my organic grocer – is a real gem. It’s a premium organic Belgian beer that uses fresh Wallonian spring water, organic wheat and barley and is certified organic by the Belgian and UK Soil associations. Because, really. If you’re going to consume all those calories, you need to know that it’s also good for the planet. But, seriously folks. Delicious.

5. Beer Ice Cream. OK, I haven’t actually tried this one yet. I only learned about it last week when my colleague Joann Weiner talked about it on her post about the unusually relaxing week she spent in Washington, DC and beer ice cream made a cameo. I’ve subsequently learned that beer ice cream has been around the U.K. for seven years now. I’m terribly excited to try it. As someone who loves ice cream *and* beer, I don’t think I’ve been this excited about a twofer since they invented the Fluffernutter sandwich!

Image: Hefe Weizen (Wheat Beer) from DOS82 via Flickr under a Creative Commons license.

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Mel Gibson As Metaphor For What Ails America

July 27, 2010

OK. Here’s my guilty summer confession: I can’t get enough of the Mel Gibson scandal.

Let me preface this post by saying that I’m hardly one for celebrity gossip. I have no idea who Justin Bieber is. I don’t care whether Jennifer Aniston wants kids or not. And despite former Politics Daily colleague Emily Miller’s compelling argument for why we should all be taking The National Enquirer more seriously, I can’t stomach tabloids.

Still, when it comes to the ongoing Mel Gibson saga, I can’t look away. And I suspect I’m not alone. And that’s because — Australian accent notwithstanding — Gibson embodies a whole bunch of different ills plaguing America right now, which we’re trying, as a nation, to figure out. And as we do that, Gibson provides a convenient foil for examining our worst fears about ourselves as a country.
Read the rest of this post at www.PoliticsDaily.com

*****

While you’re there, you may also wish to check out my post on the growing trans-Atlantic tension over the BP-Lockerbie hearings this Thursday in the United States Senate.

Image: Mel Gibson by kjd via Flickr under a Creative Commons License.

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Friday Pix: Recommended Reading For The Weekend

July 24, 2010

Every Friday I point you towards some recommended reading for the weekend:

1. As someone who writes for an Online magazine, I really enjoyed Gene Weingarten’s thoughtful (and amusing) take in the Washington Post on the challenges facing old-school journalists as they struggle to adapt to the *new* journalism.

2. I also laughed out loud at this interview with Stephen Colbert in the Online literary journal, Wag’s Revue. (While you’re there, be sure and look at Wag’s “about page.”)

3. What’s in a title? This post on what makes for a good novel title by Kristin Bair O’Keeffe really got me thinking.

4. Speaking of good titles, an excerpt of Stephanie Dolgoff’s soon-to-be released memoir My Formerly Hot Life: Dispatches From Just The Other Side of Young is included in the current issue of Self magazine.

5. All writers will deeply appreciate this post on Novelists, Inc. about the top 10 things not to say to a writer. (Hat tip: Sarah Fain Has Starfish Envy.)

6. Finally, in the Department of “Just for fun,” try your hand at this fabulous website – Ultimate Flash Face – which lets you build your own Wanted poster. My nine year-old had a field day. (Hat tip: Very Short List.)

And, as always, be sure to follow me on Twitter, where I link to great things in the blogosphere all week long!

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Stress Management: Can I Rent A Wife?

July 23, 2010

My colleague Joann Weiner recently wrote a post on Politics Daily in which she described the blissful, stress-free summer week she just enjoyed in Washington, D.C., while her family was out of town. She exercised . . . she went out to dinner . . . she tried beer ice cream . . . she even — gasp — took time to smell the proverbial flowers.

I’m happy for Jo. Truly I am. It’s just that after I read her post, I took one look at the way I’ve spent the last seven days and thought: What’s wrong with this picture?

You see, I’m having a different sort of week. I call it a “Calgon” week.

Don’t remember Calgon? Among other things, it’s a line of bath and beauty products. When I was a kid, there was this marvelous commercial in which this harried housewife in a pink bathrobe stood in the middle of her kitchen overwhelmed by various demands: the kids . . . the dishes . . . the dinner . . . the telephone. She’d throw up her hands and shriek: “Calgon! Take Me Away!” and, presto! She was magically whisked into a soothing bubble bath.

Pink bathrobe notwithstanding, that shrieking lady in the kitchen pretty much captures how I’ve felt this past week. It’s a week that’s featured, in no particular order: a major schlep to and from son’s camp located in absurdly difficult-to-access section of North London (Remind me, again, why we decided not to get a car?), reduced work time due to said schlep, husband on deadline whose frazzled hair increasingly resembles Albert Einstein’s, acute case of hostess anxiety brought on by not having entertained in four years because we lived in a closet, but somehow managing to schedule two events at my new apartment in one week (Should we do Red? White? Fizzy? And what is a tapanade, anyway?). Oh yeah. And did I mention the pink eye that’s now making its way through the house?

Read the rest of this post on www.PoliticsDaily.com

*****

I’m was also over on Politics Daily this week talking about David Cameron’s revolutionary approach to ending big government in the U.K.

Image: Calgon, take me away! by yourFAVORITEmartian via Flickr under a Creative Commons license.

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Tips For Adulthood: How To Be Less Impatient With Your Kids

July 21, 2010

Every Wednesday I offer tips for adulthood.

Last week, I offered suggestions for how not to over-parent. This week’s list addresses a different parenting dilemma:  how not to lose patience with your kids.

Because we’ve all been there, right? Those ready-to-pull-your-hair-out moments are the very stuff of raising children. Your daughter won’t eat a thing at dinner. Your son refuses to practice the piano.  She won’t wear anything in her closet. He’s chronically late. As parents, sometimes we’re tempted to throw our hands up in despair and just…scream.

In our household, the latest please-don’t-let-me-strangle-you issue is bedtime. I recently read about a study which found that what matters when putting your kids to bed isn’t so much what you do (e.g. nursing, telling a story, reading a book) as how you do it. When the mother did those actions while feeling warm and positive, the baby slept well, on average; when the same types of things were done by a mom who was irritable or brusque or distracted, the children were more likely to sleep poorly.

But lately, because my kids have had some trouble adjusting to the new house…the heat…the sunlight…the everything, they haven’t been going to bed easily. Which has made me, well, “irritable and brusque” might be putting it mildly.

That’s not the parent I want to be. So here are five strategies for not losing patience with your kids when they aren’t doing what you want:

1. Tell yourself it’s a vacation. When you’re on vacation, anything goes. You stay up late. You lie in bed. You read novels and eat tons of food. The normal rules don’t apply. That’s precisely what makes it a vacation. Lately, I’ve tried employing the same strategy when my kids won’t go to bed on time. Even though they’re still in school (British schools have a different holiday schedule than the U.S.) I tell myself that they’re already out of school so that I don’t get tense when they’re up past their bedtime. Because if we’re already on vacation, who cares if they’re up late? (I used the same strategy when I took a week off of blogging to send my novel out to agents. I treated the week “off” sort of like a sick day so that I wouldn’t feel guilty about not blogging.) The idea is that by changing your expectations, you change your behavior.

2. Leave the room. Literally. Or the house, if another adult is there. This is a particularly good strategy if you feel yourself losing your temper and don’t want to blow your stack. Go into another room and give yourself a time out. Or go for a walk. The distance itself will help you cool down.

3. Change the incentives. This follows directly from Gretchen Rubin’s 8th Happiness Commandment, “Identify the Problem.” For a long time, my kids used to eat breakfast right when they woke up. That was fine, except that it meant that when we went upstairs to get dressed, something invariably went wrong (usually with my daughter, who’s exceptionally fussy about what she wears). And so we’d end up barely managing to get dressed, brush teeth, brush hair and get out the door to school without a major blow-up. Then one day a light bulb went off. What if they got dressed first? And they wouldn’t be served breakfast until they had their clothes on? Boy, did that minor tweak in our morning schedule change behavior. My son now flies into his clothing so that he can dive into that bowl of cereal. My daughter still takes way longer to get ready, but rarely so long that it makes us late. And I’m much less irritable as a result.

4. Count backwards from a four digit number. This is a new one to me but a friend swears by it. You pick a number – any number, but it has to be four digits  – and count backwards by at least five. It’s sort of like the proverbial “count to ten” rule one often hears with regard to managing children’s tantrums, but apparently the complexity of the numbers and needing to go backwards makes it more effective.

5. Identify with them. Sometimes when I catch myself being frustrated by my kids’ behavior, I try to remember an instance where I behaved similarly in my own childhood to see if – by identifying with them – I can feel less annoyed. This is obviously a tough strategy to implement when you’re in the thick of a conflict, but it can be profitably employed when you sit back and take a long-term view of a situation. My son’s been going through some peer-pressure related stuff of late and I found myself getting exasperated and just wanting to go in and “fix” his social life. And then I remembered a time when my parents expressed dismay about my friendships and how frustrated I’d felt that they didn’t understand where I was “at” at the time. And once I did that, I immediately felt much less impatient with my son.

How about you? What strategies work for you when you want to be less impatient with your kids?

Image: a sleeping kid by mitikusa via flickr under a Creative Commons license

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