Monthly Archives: August 2010

Some thoughts

  1. I’m holed up on the couch with some sorta flu. Watching JF host the Emmys is kinda helping, but not to the extent I expected. It might be his horrific spray tan.
  2. That movie, “The Town,” looks really good. Even though those people in nun still-life costumes are probably going to induce nightmares.
  3. Speaking of nuns, a psychic at the Ballard Farmer’s Market this weekend told me that my grandma and I were nuns in the same convent in a past life. A life in which I died at the age of 21. She claims this was in “France or Ireland” or some other country where I have no ancestors. She also told me a bunch of other stuff I think is horseshit.
  4. This post on Orangette makes me happy and drooly. Think I’ll need to whip up some berry cobbler before summer ends. The jam was clearly just a warm-up routine.
  5. I’m so fascinated by this Temple Grandin landslide at the Emmys that I went and added it to my Netflix queue. What an amazing woman who overcame so much to make such a difference in the lives of both people and animals. But couldn’t someone get her a stylist for Emmy night? I mean it was her birthday for G’s sake. You’d think just ONCE she could set aside the lesbian Roy Rogers get-up. I’m just sayin’.
  6. Claire Danes is awesome and I’m thrilled she won the Emmy for her portrayal of Temple. She’s one of my favorite actresses, not to mention style mavens. But my most favorite thing about Claire’s life might still be Hugh.

I’m just sayin’.

New tunes of goodness

Must share two of my favorite musical finds of 2010: The Features and The Like. (Apparently I got a thing for bands who include articles in their name).

The Features opened for Kings of Leon at the Gorge…Annesha and I both loved them after their first song! They’re sorta like KOL meets The Fratellis (another fave of mine). Here’s how fabulous they are live – excuse the random Bonnaroo hipsters and the slight boppity-bop-bopping of the DP:

And a super boogie-worthy song by The Like. I’m digging their whole retro Twiggy vibe, but again with the annoying hipsters! It’s like they cast this video by tagging people along Bedford Avenue. People like this actually exist!!! Over the top Alexa Chung-ness. Barf. But the song kicks it.

Dudes Who Rock Part II: Arthur Caliandro

Here’s where I manage to go from Chris Rock to a Reformed Church minister in 3.4 seconds. That, my friends, is called Embracing All Sides of Oneself.

First, let me clarify that I am not some super religious zealot out to preach the gospel to y’all. In fact, one of the things I love most about Arthur – and his former congregation, Marble Collegiate Church – is the lack of preachiness. I never became a member of Marble, but because of its warmth, openness, and acceptance of all people, I went to church more often during my four years in NYC than I had since leaving my parents’ jurisdiction (at least legally, if not geographically) at the age of 18. People of all races, religions, ethnicities, and sexual orientations flocked to Marble, were welcomed at Marble, were loved at Marble. Even Muslim and Sikh cab drivers would park along 29th Street and stop in to hear Arthur speak. It was a wonderful respite for so many people from a city that’s often cold and isolating. And Arthur was the center of it all. When he retired on February 1, 2009, I was buying my house in Seattle and was unable to attend his final service. I was so saddened by this, but was determined not to miss it, so I set my alarm for 8:00 a.m. (on a SUNDAY…yes, ME) and watched the entire thing via streaming video on my laptop. And filled an entire wastebasket at the Alexis Hotel with Kleenex. An ENTIRE wastebasket. Because this man’s words reached into my heart every. single. time. I knew I was going to miss his presence immensely – even if only virtually via streaming Sunday sermons.

When Arthur announced his retirement, the church elders sent a letter to everyone in their database, asking us to consider writing a letter to Arthur, telling him how he had touched our lives. I’d never met Arthur personally, but I knew I had to write to him. During that final service, he was presented with over 1,000 letters in a beautiful wooden box. Given that volume, I never expected to receive a personal response from him, but I did. Nearly nine months later, along with an explanation that he initially felt he couldn’t possibly reply to everyone who had written, but then knew it was something he had to do, because these people had taken the time to do the same for him. I was floored. And touched. And in awe yet again of someone who was such a powerful force in my healing during those years in lonely, bizarre NYC.

And with that, I turn him over to you so you can judge for yourself – make sure you listen to at least one of his sermons before you scroll through the “read” options. I think you’ll find he’s among the greatest storytellers of our time. Even if God isn’t really your thing, I hope you can look past those references to see the larger, more compassionate message in every word he delivers. The man is a wonder, he is a force, he is a dude who rocks.

  • Listen (scroll down to the bottom of the page for Arthur’s sermons…”Forgive and Move On” is one of my faves)
  • Read (so many good ones here from the last few years of his tenure at Marble – through January 2009)

Dudes Who Rock Part I: Chris Rock

His special, “Kill the Messenger,” was on the other night. OMG. I forgot how much I love this dude – he calls it like it is….and he ain’t apologizing. Laugh yourself silly.

I got an idear

Beware. While left to my own devices “on vacation” for three weeks, a LOT of ideas – some good, some harebrained – tend to brew. I’m not sure which category suits this latest brainstorm, but here goes nothin’.

Remember Show and Tell when you were a kid? And how FUN it was to bring something from home that you thought was super awesome – a new toy, a new gadget, your dead parakeet (I didn’t, but I thought about it…I know, very Wednesday Addams). I loved telling stories about things that meant something to me, and I also really grooved on hearing what made other kids tick. Having someone select an object and share why it means something to them is a wonderful way to get to know a person. People’s stuff speaks VOLUMES, especially when they tell you WHY it speaks volumes.

So what if there were Show and Tell parties for adults?! (Not THAT kind of Show and Tell – jeepers, get your noggin outta the gutter). For the most part, it’s just a theme party to give people an excuse to come over and drink, but it’s also a) a fantastic way to get to know them (especially new people, if there are folks at the party you haven’t met) and b) some people may bring some really awesome stuff that you might wanna get for yourself (like, say, if I brought my George Nelson bubble lamp….oooohhhh….ahhhh).

I got to thinking that this is sort of how The Moth’s storytelling series got started – people gathered and told a story based on a pre-determined theme. Now storytelling is rampant everywhere, most notably NPR.

I could be totally frazzle-brained from an entire day outside in the 104-degree heat of the desert. It’s also quite likely that, even if this is a good idea, come Monday, when I get all wrapped up in writing open enrollment materials for Puerto Rican manufacturing employees, any hope of executing on it will go AWOL. But I thought I’d throw it out there.

All in favor, say “I.”

Cute, smart, funny

Hell no, I ain’t talkin’ ’bout myself! ;-P

Rather, I’m referring to this cute, smart, funny video that Christy (aka CD) just sent me – from our Rififi pal, Jenny Slate and her beau, Dean Fleischer-Camp. Talented gal, that Ms. Slate. Even EW (!) thinks so.

As for me, Marcel just makes me feel all warm and googly inside.

Vodpod videos no longer available.

Two Chicks strike out on their own

OK, I admit it – I’m quite the Dixie Chicks fan. I know that shocks all of you who think my allegiances lie only with grunge gods Pearl Jam, Nirvana, and Soundgarden (or, along those lines, any bands involving Stone Gossard, Dave Grohl, or Chris Cornell), but there’s a little country in there with my rock-n-roll. So imagine my complete, utter, and total delight when I learned that two of the Chicks – sisters Martie Maguire and Emily Robison – started a band of their own, Court Yard Hounds. Their first single, “The Coast,” is beyond lovely….and is serving as my theme song for the Palm Springs solitary sojourn that begins tomorrow. Even if I’m off to The Desert instead of The Coast…the sentiment’s the same.

Enjoy. 🙂

Now read THIS

It took me a long time to finally dive into Committed, Elizabeth Gilbert’s follow-up to Eat, Pray, Love. When the book was released earlier this year, I came across it at the airport, while passing time waiting for a flight to SFO. Having loved and so strongly identified with EPL, I was eager for Liz’s next book, but when I picked it up off the shelf at SeaTac last January, I nearly broke into a cold sweat.

Committed? Couldn’t she have come up with a title that isn’t also synonymous with checking oneself into a mental institution? And how about the subtitle: “makes peace with marriage.” Is THAT all there is? And, more importantly, why wasn’t there another Twilight installment to distract me from reality?

Then last Friday, I saw the EPL movie, which was an emotional tornado for oh-so-many reasons. (I was prepared with an entire roll of toilet paper in my purse – so chew on that metaphor.) But it helped me purge a lot of mental baggage and convinced me it was time to finally face my demons. For years, I’ve been writing about divorce and dating, processing divorce and dating, talking about divorce and dating. Frankly, I’m tired of it. I also think it’s keeping me mired in the past and it’s time to move forward. If I don’t do some hard thinking about how I feel about marriage and what I want from commitment, how am I ever going to get there?

When I walked out of the Majestic Bay on Friday evening, bleary-eyed and sniffly, I headed straight to the bookstore for a copy of Committed. Then I picked up some summery comfort food (clams and chips at Lockspot – holy yumminess), went home, uncorked a bottle of vino, decamped to the patio, and started the journey. And what an eye-opening trek it’s been so far. For one thing, there’s nothing like personal narrative interspersed with sociohistorical data to serve as literary porn for the writer/behavioral scientist (a la….ME). If you’re looking for another Eat, Pray, Love, look elsewhere. But if you’re looking to ask yourself some tough questions, Ms. Gilbert’s got your number.

Love lessons

The heart has its reasons which reason does not know. – Blaise Pascal

From the moment I set foot in my first corporate job – in 1995 – I knew I wanted to work for myself. I couldn’t exactly articulate why – I just knew. Of course, it took 10 years, a lot of detours, and a fuckload of courage to do it. Though I’ve told anyone who’ll listen that the reason I finally made the leap  wasn’t so much about courage as it was that I’d lost everything else in life and was truly not in my right mind when I did it. I’d also just watched three friends – all under 35 – become widows. Three friends deliver stillborn babies. I was reeling from my divorce, my father-in-law’s passing, my own father’s three brushes with death, and my mother’s battle with cancer. My life was by no means tragic, but I’d become painfully aware that it was horrifically short. Even if all of the struggles weren’t mine, it was foolish to not heed the lessons each imparted. There’s something about surviving – or witnessing – the upending of life that makes you realize how very little is permanent or predictable, and suddenly you don’t want to waste time. You become very much about “Why not?” – or as we improvisers call it, “Yes, and.” You stop questioning and start nodding. Stop analyzing and start moving. Stop fearing and start living.

For me, the greatest lesson was divorce, which is as much – if not more – about shattered expectations and the loss of a dream as it is about the loss of a person, a relationship. You feel completely disillusioned: “What? I thought this was supposed to be forever.” Here was someone you swore – in front of God and everybody – you’d stick with ’til death, for better or worse. And suddenly, the worst has happened and you haven’t kept your promise. And you feel like shit and a liar and completely naive for believing there was a guarantee.

But there are no guarantees. EVER. Because, even in marriage, despite the ceremony and the vows and the marriage certificate, it’s all a choice. Relationships are a choice. EVERY DAY. You have to actively wake up each and every morning and choose this person. Someone once explained to me why she hadn’t married the father of her children, with whom she’d been in a relationship for over a decade. Until that point, I’d always thought people like that were really weird and commitment-phobic and fucked up. But her point resonated with me:

“I think people get lazy when they’re married. Like once everything is signed and sealed and tied up with a bow, they stop working at the relationship. They stop choosing each other. It’s very easy for me or my partner to walk away because we’re not married. Every day, we HAVE to choose to be here and work on it.”

Upon hearing this, I realized I hadn’t continued to make that choice in my marriage. And although I’m not sure perpetual cohabitation is an option for me, I now understand the importance of choosing to be with someone, whether you have a ring on your finger or not.

And who should that person be? How do you determine the qualities of a suitable partner? Years ago, I spent a good deal of therapy sessions talking about what I wanted in a partner, making note of my “must-haves” (intelligence, ambition, work they’re passionate about, integrity, dark hair) and “dealbreakers” (mental illness, substance abuse, no life or friends or interests of their own). Then one afternoon, my friend Jill looked me square in the eyes and said:

“Nicole. All that matters is how someone makes you feel.”

Oh. RIGHT. How do you feel with someone? Do you feel happy? Do you look forward to seeing them? Do you think of them often – and fondly? Do you feel – dare I say it – safe? Jill told me that her boyfriend “feels like home” to her. None of these descriptors are particularly sexy, but really – this is all that matters. When a friend of mine was clinging to a woman he wasn’t really into – going through his checklist of what was good and not-so-good about her, I finally said to him, “How does she make you feel? Do you like her? Do you like being with her? Stop overanalyzing and check in with your heart.”

One of my dearest friends is twice-divorced and has been with her current partner for six years. I once asked her – after having been married to two very different men – what she believes is the #1 ingredient in a relationship. Her response?


Not necessarily “tearing-your-underwear-off-with-my-teeth” passion (although, really, who can complain about that), but passion for the other person. Strong feelings of respect, admiration, love, and desire – desire to be with them, near them. She said, “Without that, it becomes very difficult to work through tough times.”

Relationships aren’t a careful calculation of qualities and traits and hobbies and likes and dislikes – as the fucked-up smorgasbord “perfect person is just a click away” world of online dating would like us to believe. Every site out there tries to convince us they have the ideal formula for helping you find your soulmate, when the real challenge is to just trust your feelings – and then make a choice. It’s not anything that can be measured or explained. It’s how someone moves you – rocks you to the core. It’s knowing the difference between intuition and fear, which is another little inside voice that sounds a lot like intuition, but isn’t. It’s False Evidence Appearing Real. So how do you make the distinction, especially when it comes to love? There’s lots of kumbaya shit out there about how to “go inside yourself” and “get quiet within” in order to distinguish between the two. If you’re like me, you’re too hyper and impatient to crunch on that granola. So here’s a simpler solution, in the wise words of my friend Janya’s father near the end of his life:

“Don’t choose someone you can live with. Choose someone you can’t live without.”


There are more lessons coming in posts I’m writing. For now…this.