Thursday, December 30, 2010

Guidelines for planning a fabulous 2011 (Part 1)

As I said on Tuesday, I’m psyched out of my mind about the year ahead. Oh, the possibilities! I’m convinced that the best way to make those possibilities a reality is to create a written plan of action. The process of writing forces you to articulate how you’d like to see the next year unfold. The clearer you are about what you want, the easier it is to make it happen. Writing things down increases the chances of actually manifesting them.

Planning the year ahead is going to take some time (a couple of hours) and a lot of thought, but don’t resist. If this were a project someone gave you at work, you’d do it, right? Well, this is one project you should actually care about!

Here is a goal-setting structure that I’ve used for several years. Like everyone else, over time I tend to drift away from my plan, but it’s better than nothing. On New Year’s Day, I’ll post the second half. In the meantime, start putting some thought into what you’d like to achieve in each of the following areas.

Health and fitness. Forget about what you’d like to weigh—that’s not the focus here. Think more about your overall health. Your body is the vehicle that gets you around on this earth—do you really want it to go to shit?

Write down some concrete steps you can take to improve your health, and I mean stuff you’ll actually do. If you’re like me and can’t bear the thought of going to a gym, for God’s sake, don’t put that down. Be realistic, and be specific. If you like to walk, can you commit to walking a half hour three times a week? Good. Make that part of your fitness plan.

In your calendar, pencil in reminders in the appropriate months for your physical and blood work, Pap, mammogram, eye, and dental appointments. Make and keep those appointments. What could be more important than your health?

My recommendations:

Find a fitness buddy—you’ll be much more likely to walk, run, work out, or whatever you want to do.

Buy yourself a pedometer, and I mean a good one, not a piece of crap. The more you spend on it, the more likely you’ll be to use it. I got this one from Brookstone for Mike for last Christmas; he loved it until he forgot it in the wash. (Guess what I bought again this year?)

If you’re looking for an exercise video that kicks ass, get the Original Buns of Steel DVD. Don’t buy this through Amazon; it’s a lot cheaper if you go through instructor Greg Smithey’s website. Tell him Linda Lou sent you, but don’t say I give him the finger during the hard parts.

Work and professional. How do you feel about your professional life? Does your work bring you joy? If not, do you at least have entertaining co-workers to help you get through the day? If work is a source of stress or you can’t frame your current job in a positive way, it’s time to move on. Work takes up a big chunk of your life, and life is too short to be miserable.

If you haven't already, now is a good time to identify your God-given talents. What do you excel at? What do you do better than 90 percent of everyone walking on earth? Does your work allow you to let those talents shine?

Maybe work is going fine. What can you do to make it better? What would you need to do to get a promotion?

Make a list of the concrete steps you can take to advance yourself professionally. Identify the skills that would make you more marketable and commit to obtaining those skills. Take a continuing education class through your local community college. Look into the online courses offered through Update your resume. Join a professional association and network with people who are doing what you’d like to do. Do whatever you need to ensure your source of income brings you joy!

Activities and personal growth. Okay, maybe your dream job isn’t making the best use of your God-given talents, but the pay is decent and it doesn’t drain every last bit of your energy. That’s cool. But you still want to make the most of your time off the clock, right? And maybe find a way to share those talents with the world?

You wouldn’t believe how many people tell me they should write a book. Or do stand-up comedy. I usually respond with a matter-of-fact, “So do it,” which is invariably met with the deer in the headlights look. Yeah, yeah, yeah—it’s a lot easier to be a blowhard saying, “I could do this” and “I could do that” than actually taking the steps to make it happen.

But why not take the freakin’ steps and do it? Don’t know where to start? Do some research! Could the Internet make it any easier to learn about anything? You have to start somewhere, and when you walk in the mist, you get wet. Start walking in the mist!

Personal and creative projects always go on the back burner. That’s because nothing will go wrong if they’re not done and there’s generally no sense of accountability. No one’s asking, “Hey, are you done with that painting yet? When can we hear that song you’ve been working on? What have you been doing lately to overcome that fear of public speaking?”

It’s up to you. Make a list of personal goals you’d like to achieve and list the concrete steps you can take to help you achieve them.

Travel. Make a list of the day trips, long weekends, and vacations you’d like to take in 2011. Again, be realistic; if a trip around the world isn’t feasible right now, don’t put it down. Pencil these trips in on your calendar. Consider the gift of travel for a special birthday or other occasion. Taking a trip with a loved one creates memories that last far longer than any present or gift card.

You should have plenty to think about for now. On Saturday, I’ll give you the other eight areas to plan for in 2011. Isn't this fun???

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Your life in 2011... How does it look?

Are you psyched to be starting another new year?

I am. Back in the day when I used to keep a paper appointment book, I loved to scan the blank pages at the beginning of the year, imagining how they would be filled. Looking at an empty Google calendar on a screen doesn’t quite have the same sense of romanticism, does it?

Nonetheless, the year ahead is like a blank canvas that can be filled in however we wish. The possibilities are endless, but you have to be proactive about setting things up so you’re living the life you want. For most people, that’s the hard part—figuring out what it is that you want.

The good news is, once you know what you want, all you have to do is devise a plan to make it happen. And once you start taking the steps toward your goal, I guarantee that like magic, the right people and circumstances will come into your life to help nudge you along on your path to greatness.

But you must make a conscious decision to get on that path! Why live aimlessly, accepting whatever life gives you, when you can live with determination? You know how people say life is a journey? Well, I took two cross-country trips in the past few months—do you think I had a map with me? Of course!

Now is a great time to put some thought into where you want your life to go in 2011. On Thursday, I’ll give you some guidelines for creating your road map. In the meantime, start thinking about your destination!

It’s all so exciting…

Saturday, December 25, 2010

Merry Christmas to all!

Hey, look...

They live just a short drive from my sister's house outside of Albany.  Who knew?

Hope you all have a wonderful Christmas! 


Thursday, December 23, 2010

Here's to a lucky 2011

Here I am back in Albany. After a nice reunion with my work buddies yesterday, a bunch of us headed to the nearby pub for some team bonding.  They're wonderful people; I'm so lucky.  Afterward, my friend Mr. Mockery dropped me off at a Starbuck's near my sister's house, where a nice man struck up a conversation with me.  You know I'm going to love anyone who thinks I look like Demi Moore, and Walt was awesome.  He said he'll be 80 soon, so maybe the eyesight isn't what it used to be. 

At any rate, we talked for quite a while.  Having such an engaging conversation with a stranger reminded me of this old post from July 2008.  I never repost, but I figure I had about 10 readers back then, so it's unlikely you've seen this.  With the New Year almost upon us, I think it's particularly timely. 

Why not invite some good luck into the year ahead?

How to Attract Good Luck

Last Sunday morning I was floating in the pool reading How to Attract Good Luck, a book written by A.H.Z. Carr and published in 1952. God knows where I picked up this little gem, but I know I bought it second hand; it still has the $2.00 sticker on the cover. I want to share some simple principles from Chapter 2, “How Zest Exposes Us to Luck.”

According to the author, in order to attract good luck, we must first be exposed to it. Carr states that most of the time a lucky episode occurs when somebody says something important to us, and that a high proportion of luck comes to us through strangers. “Between ourselves and those who cross our path,” Carr says, “chance throws out an invisible thread of awareness, a ‘luck-line.’ It is not too much to say that any new acquaintance to whom we throw out a luck-line represents a possible gain in our future luck and happiness.”

Carr goes on: “To say that to expose ourselves to luck, then, means in essence to come into healthy human relationships with more people.” This means the more luck-lines you throw out, the more luck you’re likely to find.

The author contends that “unexpected friendliness” is the secret of much of the luck of life and offers this verse from Edwin Arlington Robinson:

“There came along a man who looked at him
With such an unexpected friendliness
And talked with him in such a common way
That life grew marvelously different.”
Unexpected friendliness. Are you leaving yourself open to it?

I often say that writing is a lonely endeavor; the overwhelming majority of us are soloists. But think of the luck that could happen if instead of writing at home, we move to a café or other public place.

Unexpected friendliness. Are you offering it to others? That's the key, if you ask me. You're really, really lucky when you've been able to make someone else's life "marvelously different."

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

It's time to rejoice, so rejoice already!

I'm leaving for Albany this afternoon on the 4:35 flight.  I can't wait to see my family. It's been over 7 weeks since I left there; I imagine I'll see a big change in baby Hazel.   

Last week my adorable blogger friend and new author, Mandy, of Mandy's Life After 30, started a new blog post with this:
So many wonderful things are happening lately. I'm a bit afraid to talk about them here, scared that I may somehow jinx them from coming true.
I'm feeling the exact same way these days.  My kids are doing well--their band, The Blackwell Sinners, just did a live set on WRPI last Saturday and had a gig on Sunday.

I'm feeling my own creativity coming back, too; I've even started to work on my next book (thanks to a few of you who gave me the nudge I needed) and I've done three sets of comedy in the past couple of weeks.  My job situation is awesome; I love working from home (and how lucky I am that "home" is Las Vegas) and my boss and co-workers are a freakin' blast.  I can't wait to see them tomorrow when I'm back to raising hell in the cube farm.  And on top of all that, I am so jump-on-Oprah's couch in love, it's almost too much to bear. 

But isn't it nutty that we're almost afraid to acknowledge our happiness when things are going our way, for fear that we'll jinx ourselves, as Mandy said?  That's insane.  Life has its ups and downs; there's a natural ebb and flow to the universe.  How crazy are we to refrain from basking in the joy of the good times because we're afraid our celebration will trigger the onset of a pile of shit dropping into our lives?

Last week I had a mammogram.  I swear, I was going mental thinking wouldn't it just figure that right now when life is so awesome that it would come back with a problem?  Yep, breast cancer (which can suck you know what) is on both sides of my family and every time I turn around another friend or acquaintance is putting up the cancer fight so wouldn't it just figure the C word would tap me on the shoulder right when I'm at the top of the ferris wheel? And during a time when I'm actually kind of at peace with my hair?

Thank God the mammo came back fine, but seriously, I was driving myself insane. 

Let's not do this to ourselves, huh?  Let's just rejoice when times are good.  So go rejoice!

Saturday, December 18, 2010

What's your porn star name?

I feel sorry for the children in Las Vegas.  Not because the education system seems to be abysmal or because they have to walk through smokey casinos to go bowling or to the movies.  No, I fear for their future because they live on streets with names like "Las Palmas Entrada Avenue" and "Le Arte Drive." 

Why?  Because someday when they're working in a worldwide conglomerate like GE, goofing around with their friends instead of toiling away at some boring project flow chart, they're going to realize they have crappy porn star names.

You know how to arrive at your porn star name, right?  Take the name of your childhood pet combined with the name of the street you grew up on.  It's fun to compare porn star names with your work buds--  right up there with identifying feeble or reckless celebs for the Ghoul Pool, naming the celebrity you'd choose for yourself if you had to be gay (or if you're already gay and had to be straight) or playing a relatively new game to make the scene:  F**k, Kill, Marry.  (Take three random stars and categorize them according to what you'd do with them.) 

Little time wasters on the corporate clock.  I can always tell how cool a new work environment is by my co-workers' willingness to play along.  Yes, I'm the one who always starts it, but that's why I'm Ms. Freakin' Congeniality in the cube farm.

Getting back to porn star names.  Fortunately, I was blessed with a great one:  Ginger Lincoln.  If I ever decide to write erotica (instead of actually living it on a daily basis) (schwing!), I would definitely use that as my pen name.  Some porn names of my friends include Coquette Ramsey (excellent!), Buddy Kent (sounds more like a comic, no?), and Lucky Manning.  My father's porn name?  Tabby Lancaster.  One of my co-workers from GE grew up on the east side of NYC; her porn name was Man 79.  Sounds like an AVN winner in one of the more, um, distasteful categories.  

Anyway, I fear for the future of the children of Las Vegas.  Pebbles Sevilla Heights and Chester Aura De Blanco are not going to cut it.  Poor kids.  They'll actually have to get some work done.

How about you?  Were you blessed with a good porn star name?  What fun games do you play with your co-workers?


Friday, December 17, 2010

Oil and Water and Other Things that Don't Mix -- Buy this new anthology and help the Gulf Coast

Just out this week!

Look for excerpts from Bastard Husband: A Love Story in Oil and Water and Other Things That Don't Mix. This anthology includes stories, poems and recollections from award-winning authors and journalists, published authors, as well as talented new authors making their debut. All proceeds from the sales will go directly to charities helping those affected by the Gulf oil spill.

I’m very proud to be a part of this project for a good cause!

Buy it here on!

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Linda's rules for clean living

My two grandmothers couldn’t have been more opposite. Nana, my father’s mother, was a real “Judy Friendly.” She was extremely outgoing and would talk to everyone she met. Granny, my mother’s mother, pretty much kept to herself; all she needed was her soap operas and she was quite content to be left alone.

Like Granny, I certainly loved my soaps (R.I.P. Guiding Light and As the World Turns), but on a social level, I definitely take after Nana. That’s about where the similarities end; I’m so much more like Granny, especially when it comes to being a germ freak. Granny was a freakin' nut--hello, she stored her vacuum in a plastic bag so it wouldn’t get dirty. Although I’m not quite as bad, I am enough of a pain in the ass that after 6 weeks of living together I think I’m driving Mike insane.

Whatever. Personally, I don’t think my rules about germs are that hard to live by, but I want your opinion.  And don't think Mike is guilty of these--God knows I wouldn't be with him if he were--I'm just more aware of my neuroses now that I'm living with somebody.

So here goes...
"Linda's Rules for Clean Living"
1.  Never stir something, taste it, and then use the same spoon to stir some more. Hell, no! And don’t tell me the heat from cooking kills the germs. That's bullshit.

2.  Never put bare food on the countertops, even if you just washed it. Put it on a plate, napkin, or cutting board.

3.  Always wash your hands after going to the bathroom. Guys, that "But I didn't touch anything" excuse is so not going over.  Wash 'em.

4.  If you wipe your nose and then flush the Kleenex down the toilet, you still have to wash your hands. You just touched the same toilet handle people use after they’ve taken a shit.

5.  Always wash your hands before you cook, eat, set the table, or empty the dishwasher.

6.  Speaking of... use the freakin’ dishwasher, even if you live by yourself. I’m sorry, but there’s no way dishes get as clean when washing them by hand. The water in the dishwasher is hotter and there’s no nasty "all purpose" rag.

7.  If you do wash a pot or glass by hand, don’t dry it with the same towel everybody uses to dry their hands. Or more likely, the towel they use to wipe crap off their hands instead of washing them.  There should be two separate towels: one for hands, one for dishes.

8.  Don’t wipe your nose (or, God forbid, blow it) while you’re eating and then look at it.  There's nothing worse than eating with someone who's looking at their own snot, as fascinating as you think it might be.

9.  Don’t wipe your nose (or, God forbid, blow it) while you’re eating and then put the Kleenex on the table. I was on a date once and the guy did that.  Needless to say, there was no second date.  That's one of the reasons I tip so well in restaurants.  Those poor waitresses.  I've even seem people blow their noses into cloth napkins. Positively revolting.  Which leads me to…

10.  Handkerchiefs should be outlawed. You know why.

Do you see why I refuse to participate in pot luck gatherings?  Why I can't eat food from people's kitchens unless I know them?   Huh?

What do you think?  Do you have anything to add?  Or am I as nutty as Granny? 

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Going hiking in Vegas? Bring money!

Man, we are enjoying some fantastic weather here in Las Vegas!  Here's a picture I took Sunday out at Lake Mead.

Beautiful, huh?

I'll never forget the first time I brought my brother, Steven, and brother-in-law, Russ, out to the lake.  We parked in the lot near the trail head, and before we locked the car I asked, "Do you guys have money on you?"

They gave me quizzical look. "Money?"

"You need money to hike in Las Vegas," I deadpanned. 

They shrugged, put some cash in their pockets and we got on the path to the Railroad Tunnel trail.  We walked along for a while, enjoying the scenery, and when we reached another path leading up a hill, I said, "Let's go this way."

Of course they followed me--hey, I'm the local--and soon they learned why I suggested they bring money.  Because what do you think was at the top of the hill?  Huh?  Remember now, we're in Vegas.  Yup...

Gotta love it!
Here's one of me on the trail leading up to the Hacienda Casino on Sunday.  (My legs look weird in this picture, but they're not in real life.)

You know what else you gotta love?  Wearing a cute little skirt and tank top on freaking December 12!  God bless us, Las Vegas is a wonderful place!  I am so in denial that in a mere week, I'll be freezing my ass off in upstate New York.  And I'll be there for two and a half weeks--yikes!  Good thing I'll have these two to warm my heart.

That kid's love for his little sister blows me away.  Feeling very lucky these days...

Saturday, December 11, 2010

Four generations then and now

Hey, take a look at these pictures.

Four generations then...

That's me sitting on my grandmother's lap.  Mom is on the right; her grandmother is on the left.  Since I was born in October of 1957, I'm guessing this was taken in late 1958. 

And four generations now...

This was taken on October 29, the day before our road trip back to Vegas.

Take a look at that first picture again.  My mother was 24--okay, that I can believe.  But my grandmother was only 46, and my great-grandmother was in her late sixties

In the second picture, Courtney's 31, I'm 53, and my mother is 76.  We're all about 7 years older than the mother, grandmother, and great-grandmother in the first picture!

Are people in general aging better these days, or do black and white photos make them look old?  I think we're definitely aging better.  What do you think?

Friday, December 10, 2010

In case you missed me on Hannity last night...

OMG, I never thought I'd utter those words!  I'm at 1:06.  Trust me, I have no clue what I'm talking about.  I just wish I'd had to balls to add, "Babba-Booey, Babba-Booey!"

Thursday, December 9, 2010

Politics? No clue.

From time to time over the past several years, I've  participated in a variety of focus groups here in Las Vegas.  This market research company sends me an email with a qualifying survey, and if I fit the profile they're looking for, they tell me when and where the group will be held.  I show up, give my opinion on stuff, and at the end of a couple of hours, they hand me anywhere from $75 to $200, sometimes more.  It's quick money and you know me, I value my own opinion so I'm especially happy to get paid to impart it.

So last week I got the query email and answered a bunch of questions about my political affiliations and how often I watch the news.  They said this was going to be a televised focus group and I'd get a hundred bucks if I'm selected to be one of the 25 participants. 

Well, I must have answered the questions right because they chose me.  As soon as I arrived last night in the ballroom in Mandalay Bay (where they were filming) and one of the guys running the thing asked me how I felt about Obama's recent tax blah-blah-blah, I knew I was in over my head. 

You know why I never address politics in this blog?  Because I don't know what the eff is going on.  But the other 24 people in the group are right on top of things.  And they're passionate about political stuff.  I started to panic a little; they warned us in the acceptance email that we wouldn't get paid if we don't participate in the discussion.  What intelligent contribution could I possibly make in a conversation about politics?  Years ago I had a line in my comedy that went, "I like Tony Blair, but he was a lot funnier when he was in Monty Python."  Let's just say I haven't progressed much since then.

After they sat us in three rows on the stage (thank God they put me in the back), they told us we were going to be televised live at 9:10 EST on some Hannity program on Fox News, and we'd be taping segments for future shows, one of which will air tonight.  Wait.  Live?  On Fox News?  I turned to the man sitting next to me and confided, "When I said I watch  CNN Headline News five times a week, I should have specified it's because of Joy Behar and Showbiz Tonight." 


As it turns out, I did come up with some inane shit to spout off whenever they put the mic in front of me, thus earning the promised hundred dollars. At one point, I lifted a line right from my book:  "You can't tell anybody anything; we're all talking just to hear the sound of our own voices."  I have a feeling that one won't be aired on national TV.

All in all, it was a fun experience.  And in a mere three hours I earned enough money to buy my entire Spring 2011 wardrobe at Ross.

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

The path of least resistance

Two weeks from today I head back to Albany for the holidays. Of course, I can't wait to see my kids and precious grandchildren (is there any other kind?), but man, I hate to even think about leaving the pleasant Vegas weather we've been having.  It's been way up in the 60s lately--I'll take it!

Hey (this is boring), I've lost about 5 lbs. in the four weeks since I've been back in Las Vegas.  God knows I don't have the willpower to diet or give up dark beer, but right now my life is structured in a way that's conducive to losing weight.  Mike and I both work at home, and every day at "lunch" (which is 9 a.m. since I follow East Coast time), we take at least a three-mile walk.  Would I walk by myself if he weren't around?  Hell, no.  But because we both structure our day to allow for that walk, we do it together and it's actually fun.

It also helps is that I'm not eating out as much. Over the summer at my job in Albany and when I worked in my old job here, more often than not I'd have lunch with co-workers in a restaurant or pizza place.  Big portions, lots of calories, right?  Now I'll have some cereal in the morning (how I love Trader Joe's Organic Morning Light!), a little snack around noon, and usually I make an early dinner around 4:00.  I think that's better than eating a heavy meal later at night.  
Okay, that was boring shit, but here's the part you should pay attention to:  your ability to achieve your goals depends a great deal on how your life is structured.  I really believe that.  Energy follows the path of least resistance, right?  So when you set up your schedule or structure conditions in your life in a way that facilitates the attainment of your goals, you're just about guaranteed to realize them.

As I write this, I'm wondering how the hell I'm going to prevent gaining every friggin' ounce back during the two-and-a-half weeks I'm in Albany.  My structure is going to be way different--it'll be too cold to walk and I'll be back having lunch with my work buds in the office-- and all the holiday social gatherings are going to be full of temptation.  I gotta figure this out.  I might just have to start again after the new year.

Yep, a new year is approaching, and I have a million things I want to achieve.  You, too?  Structure is going to be really important.

Saturday, December 4, 2010

My love/hate relationship with performing stand-up comedy

I’ve mentioned my love/hate relationship with performing stand-up comedy many times. I love it when all the conditions line up perfectly: when the room has no bleed-in noise from the bar, the sound system is good, the host is professional, when I’m not the tenth comic up performing to an exhausted crowd, when my nerves are in check and I’m not consumed with stage fright, when I don’t feel fat and have a acceptable hair day, when the moon is in the seventh house and Jupiter aligns with Mars… you get it.

Of course, rarely do those conditions unfold just so, which is why I’ve said a million times that I really don’t enjoy doing stand-up. So why do I do it? Why put myself through that?

One reason is because I usually do pretty well. Every comic has off nights, and I’ve certainly done more than one set that seemed like the longest 5-15 minutes of my life. But overall, I do okay. If nothing else, I always feel my material is solid; I'm a good writer.

My set Thursday night at the all female G-Spot comedy show went well, which is a miracle because I was in a miserable mood. Before the show, I was backstage with the three other comics. One, my beautiful friend, Dareece, is relatively new to the scene; she’s been performing less than a year. The other two gals, Lynn and Shelley, have been around for a while. They’re both from New York and have a super confident, brash, and in-your-face style reminiscent of Joan Rivers. Shelley laughed about how she performs her material to anyone who’ll listen, including fellow riders on the bus. Lynn beamed as she told us how much fun she has performing and that she can never wait to get up on stage.

My blotchy neck and I sat over to the side, and as I nervously went over my set list for the umpteenth time, I felt like a person who hasn’t surfaced in ages: I felt like little Linda Haber, the 10-year-old shy and quiet bookworm of my childhood, studying her notes before an exam.

As anyone in Albany can tell you, little Linda Haber was not particularly funny. And there I was, about to present myself on stage in front of a room of people for no other purpose than to make them laugh. Out loud.

Why aren’t I more like Lynn and Shelley? I thought. When am I ever going to actually enjoy doing this? What’s the matter with me?

It was weird feeling like that, and I really wanted to run off and forget about doing comedy forever. But I couldn’t; I had to go on and act as if I were enjoying myself. And so I did.

My set went smoothly and my new material was well received. And as I watched Lynne’s and Shelly’s performances, I realized that yes, I have an entirely different style than theirs. I’m more subdued, but there’s nothing wrong with that. There's no one "right" style to do comedy; look at the differences between Lewis Black and Stephen Wright.  Or Joan Rivers and Rita Rudner.

Furthermore, it would be wrong of me to try to mimic Lynn’s and Shelley’s style; that’s not the authentic me.  And while “acting as if” is a great technique to psyche yourself up, you have to balance it with authenticity. The further you are from being the most authentic version of yourself, the harder life becomes—no matter what you’re trying to do.

I learn something every time I get on stage. That’s why I have to keep performing, and in time, maybe I’ll even start to enjoy it.

Thursday, December 2, 2010

Thursday odds and ends

Random stuff for today... no real theme.

First, Happy Chanukah to all my Jewish friends. 

(Okay, not the best image.)

As you know, I'm a big fan of the Jews.  Big fan.  And evidently, so is my mother.  Yesterday I saw a comment Mom made on Facebook in response to my quirky lesbian aunt Joyce's post announcing she bought a new car--it said "Mazel Tov!"  Well, at least I know where I get my wanna-be-Jewness from.

You know who I bet doesn't love Jews?  Walt Kowalski.  That's Clint Eastwood's racist character in the 2008 movie, Gran Torino.  Mike and I watched that Tuesday night, and I can't believe how much I dug that film.  We were more than just a little surprised at how funny it was.  You kind of feel bad for laughing (especially at this one racist as hell "Three guys walk into a bar" joke), but Walt's character is so well developed that you can see what a good man he actually is.  Really, I was blown away by this movie.  I have a hard time watching violence--and I did have to hide my eyes at one point--but man, this is a gem.  I highly recommend it, but if you're like super politically correct (then what the eff are you doing here?) you might find it offensive.

Next, here's a beauty tip:  Want a lip color that lasts forever and doesn't make a friggin' mess of your coffee cup, boyfriend, or whatever else you've got your lips all over that's totally not my business?  Try Revlon ColorStay Ultimate liquid lipstick.  You know me--I don't get the mail without putting lipstick on first. This is a great product.

What else...

Oh, yesterday I heard from a woman whose resume I did.  She said Tuesday night she responded to some postings on, and on Wednesday she was already in salary negotiations with a potential employer.  You know I'm full of myself, but I do know how to create a kick-ass resume.  Email me at if you want me to work my magic on yours.

And finally, don't forget I'm doing a set tonight at 8:00 at Choices Pub, 6720 W Cheyenne here in Las Vegas.  Stop by if your parents let you go out on a school night.  I'm going to be trying out some new material--hopefully it won't suck.  Fingers crossed.

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

A great place to visit in L.A. where you're only six feet away from the stars!

So, last weekend's trip to L.A.

Have you ever been?  For the longest time I resisted, thinking I'd be the fattest, oldest, ugliest person there.  Seriously people, I'm a solid size 8--I thought for sure I'd be publicly stoned for presenting myself as such an atrocity. 

Oh, pull-eeese.  It's nothing like that at all.  I've been there a few times now and have never felt that vibe one bit.  (I bet some people wonder the same about Las Vegas--believe me, I don't think it's at all pretentious.)  L.A. is a blast! As I mentioned in my last post, my friend Nina is a tour guide, so she knows all the in's and out's. 

Nina lives in a high-rise apartment on Wilshire Blvd. with 24/7 valet service--swanky, eh?  

It's in the Westwook section, where UCLA is located.  Westwood is cool, with lots of shops and restaurants, and she's also a short drive to Beverly Hills, Santa Monica, and the beach.

Last time I was there (pre-blog, unfortunately), Nina showed me all the stars' houses in Beverly Hills, Bel-Air, and the Hollywood Hills.  That was so much fun.  This time, she again took me to a place right in her neighborhood where the stars hang out.  Kind of.

Yep, we did a little tour of the Pierce Bros. Westwood Memorial Park.  It's exactly like the Coon Dog Cemetery I've been bragging about in northwest Alabama, except instead of coon dogs, it's full of famous people.

Look, there's Archie Bunker!

Nice that the Odd Couple are together for eternity...

What's Jack Lemmon in these days? Oh, the ground.

(Side note: I know Tony Randall's dead, but wouldn't Jack Klugman make a perfect "Dead or Alive" question? I vote alive.)

A lot of people had funny stuff etched on their tombstones.

Hey, guess who Merv's next door neighbor is?

(Sniff.) Nothing funny there.  But if I were Farrah, I'd have "God damn you, Michael Jackson, for dying on the same day and stealing all the grief that should have been mine."

Lots of other people you know are there.

Marilyn's not in the ground; she's in a drawer in a wall, just like Dean Martin.  I also saw the final resting places of Natalie Wood, Bob Crane, and so many more.

I thought this one was funny...

If you're like me, you're wondering who the eff is David Moran of Beloit, WI?  (And did he ever hear of using commas?)  I have no idea.  I even tried looking for him on Find a This is a super cool site that you'll want to browse for the rest of your work day. 

The only thing is, I'm pissed about who I didn't know was there before I went.  Like I totally missed out seeing the graves of Roy Orbison, Jim Backus (a.k.a. Thurston Howell III), Sebastian Cabot and Brian Keith, Frank Zappa, and Jonathan Harris--freakin' Dr. Zachary Smith of Lost in Space. "Oh, the pain..."

I am so going back. 

(And see, that's one place where truly nobody cares that you're a size 8.)

Sunday, November 28, 2010

Great weekend in L.A. and an upcoming comedy show

OMG, I had a fantastic time in L.A.!  What a fun place to visit.  As you can see, the weather was gorgeous. My friend Nina (the real-life "Mona" in my book) is an L.A. native and works as an actual tour guide schlepping tourists around, so she knows all the hot spots.  I took this of her on Rodeo Drive.

I'll tell you more in Tuesday's post, I promise.  It was a blast.

In the meantime, I want to let those of you in Las Vegas know that I'll be doing a set as part of an all-female comics' showcase Thursday night at 8:00 at Choices Pub, located at 6720 West Cheyenne.  I've never been part of an all-girl show (schwing!), so I'm really looking forward to this. 

If you're in town and can go out on a school night, be sure to check it out!

Thursday, November 25, 2010

Happy Thanksgiving!

If you've been following my blog for a while, you know I'm not big on Thanksgiving (and even less big on Christmas, which is a post for another time).   Don't get me wrong--I'm aware during most of my conscious moments how lucky I am.  I'm thankful every day--period. You know how people refer to New Year's Eve as "amateur night"?  That's how I feel about Thanksgiving. Plus all that food makes me nervous. 

Damn, I'm such a Scrooge.  But I really do hope you've all enjoyed the holiday!

Thanksgiving time in Las Vegas
I'm not going to be able to post on Saturday; I'm driving to L.A. tomorrow and will return on Sunday.  I'm going to visit my friend Nina--the "Mona" character in my book.  Hopefully I'll get a chance to post something Sunday night. You know me--I can't get enough of the road.

Enjoy your long weekend!

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

When life is good, is it less interesting?

Remember I told you about my daughter, Courtney, and her "30 Days of Happiness" project on Facebook?  Check out Day 18:

Isn't it fun to play with your shadow? I think so, and the house made the perfect pallet. I stood there for about 15 minutes playing with my shadow and imagination. I was in my own little Courtney land and I created a story in my head and acted it out with my shadow. I feel as if I have... been in a creative slump lately as far as my music goes, but this little imaginative, mental escape gave me an idea for a new song! Wow, what 15 minutes of carefree, imaginative alone time can do! I'm going to reserve that time for myself every day! How refreshing.
Oh, how I need to do something like this!  I've been in a super creative slump lately--aside from cheeky little tidbits on Facebook, I feel it's been ages since I've said or written anything funny. Or meaningful.  Maybe it's because, like Courtney with her beautiful new baby, in recent months I've been really happy.

Which begs the question, does contentment stifle creativity? 

Sometimes I wonder.  Hell, I wrote Bastard Husband: A Love Story during the most depressed time of my life and it's definitely the most creative and well-crafted piece of work I've ever done.  When times are tough, we have to cope somehow, and our creative juices provide a soothing and productive outlet.  But when life rolls along perfectly, we just roll along and enjoy it.  There's no need to make sense of things through literary expression, or in Courtney's case, by writing a song.

When I wrote my book I was "so miserable even Jesus would cross the street if he'd seen me coming," but it's also the funniest thing I've ever written.  God knows I'm friggin' full of myself, but I still crack myself up when I read some parts.  During that same bleak time, I also started doing stand-up comedy.  That's because without things going wrong, nothing would be funny. 

So when life is good, is it less interesting?  

People often ask about my next book.  I'm still working on my How Am I Normal? anthology, but that will be a collection of essays by other writers. As far as my own work goes, part of me hopes my life will be sailing along so well I'll have nothing interesting to write about. 

No, I'll find something.

Saturday, November 20, 2010

I'm a "Glamour Don't," but even I wouldn't wear these

I'm the first to admit I know nothing about fashion.  As you know, I can spend fifty bucks in Ross Dress-for-Less and be all set for the season.  And most of the time, I think I look totally hot.
I have one fashion rule:  I wear whatever makes me look the thinnest. And from age 15 to 35--when I actually was thin--I wore Danskins literally every day.  Remember Danskins?  They weren't just for ballet class; I wore them with Levis, skirts, overalls (wince)... I had them in long sleeves, short sleeves, tank tops, scoop necks, turtle necks, V-necks... and in every color imaginable. 

And I'm talking real Danskins--the kind with no snaps at the crotch, not bodysuits.  It was an art form pulling a Danskin over to pee, right? And a source of frustration for the boyfriends; Danskins were the next best thing to keeping the goods under lock and key.

Okay, so who am I to talk about fashion?  But every once in a while, I see a trend that's just plain wrong.  Have you been in a shoe store lately? Have you seen all the open-toe winter shoes and boots?  Yes, open-toe boots!  They might work in Phoenix and Southern California, where the winters never get below 60 degrees, but for the rest of the country, I'm like WTF?  Seriously, what is the freakin' purpose?  If it's cold enough to wear boots, then why would the toe be open?  What am I missing, people?

This is the stupidest trend since those freakin' half sweaters they tried to push on us a couple of years ago.

Are you with me on this?

Thursday, November 18, 2010

The daily walk through our 'hood and Las Vegas: its future isn't what it used to be

Oh, how I love the Vegas sunshine!  As I mentioned before, every morning at 9:00 Mike and I walk three and a half miles through the neighborhood.  I'll take you along with us...

Here's what 90 percent of the neighborhoods in Las Vegas look like. Not too exciting, but thanks to the (sometimes dreaded) home owners' associations, they're well kept.  Especially where we are in the Green Valley area.

I never get sick of seeing palm trees--they make me feel like I'm on vacation.  This is an intersection we pass near Green Valley Ranch casino. 

If I didn't have to get back to work, I'd be trying to talk Mike into breakfast at the Original Pancake House in there. If anything can send you into a diabetic coma in no time, it's their delicious chocolate crepes!

Sometimes, not often, the Strip gets a little smoggy.  A good wind will take care of that.

This is a typical scene: an empty lot that was once a twinkle of prosperity in someone's eye. My guess is, it will still look like this several years from now.

Unfortunately, this is what a lot of strip malls around here look like these days--half empty.

Las Vegas is hurting, people.  From what I hear, the Strip is still hanging in there, but the impact of the Vegas economy is really felt in the locals' quality of life.  The locals' casinos have cut way back on offering live music, my favorite casino cafe was replaced with a Denny's, and grocery stores that were once open 24/7 now close at 11 p.m.  Even my favorite biker bar, the Pioneer Saloon down in Goodsprings, had a single guy playing a guitar because they can no longer afford to pay an entire band.

Some of my friends, like Hurricane Mikey, have left; others are leaving soon.  A few would like to leave, but are tied to their houses or some other aspect of life here.  Even I wonder sometimes, is the bloom off my beautiful Vegas rose? 

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

So what would YOU do if you went on a date and the guy sat there playing with his i-Phone?

So last night Mike wanted to take me out to dinner.  Beautiful.  On the way out the door, he says, "What would you do if you went on a date and the guy sat there playing with his i-Phone?"

"Why, I'd take his picture with my i-Phone, post it on my blog, and tell the world what an asshole he is."

A half-hour later... voila!

Don't try to hide, Michael.  We know it's you.

And he wonders why I would totally dump him for Louis CK. :)


Okay, I'll come clean.  When I took this, Mike was actually looking up something we were talking about.  At least he wasn't killing zombies like he sometimes does in bed. OMG, DID I JUST SAY THAT?

Seriously, Mike is awesome.  And lucky that he's extremely good looking...

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Courtney's "30 Days of Happiness"

Besides in the looks department, my daughter Courtney and I are alike in many ways.  One of the things she inherited from me is my sunny "everything is perfect; the universe unfolds in divine order" outlook, which is my typical M.O.   Except when I'm a crazy bitch.

Anyway, recently Courtney started "30 Days of Happiness" posts on Facebook.  Every day she writes a little something about what makes her happy along with a photo.  This is one of my favorites.
30 Days of Happiness: Day 2

The simplest things can make me so happy. Like, socks! I have about 47 pairs of them. There is nothing like tossing some cold piggies into some wooly socks. Hazel, however, prefers to take her socks off. Usually about two to three times in one hour. I caught this shot just in time!

How freakin' cute is that?  And yes, that's actually the color of Hazel's skin.  Whitest. Baby. Ever.

Courtney's Facebook friends are loving her posts; I look forward to them every day.  In response to her comments, Court recently wrote this:

I decided that for 30 days, I would document the simple little things in life, that are often just looked over. I encourage people to do the same. It truly does make my soul feel better and it makes me appreciate every day, just a little bit more.
I love it!

Monday, November 15, 2010

Need a resume? Now's the time!

Yesterday I posted this on my Facebook page.
Hey, Facebook friends! I don't know how it happened, but I'll have some extra time this week to take on some freelance work. Need a resume? I'll make you look so good, you won't believe it's you. I'm not cheap, but I'm totally worth it! (That works on so many levels...)
As I mentioned in Saturday's post, I have a little more time on my hands these days, and I'm in a resume-writing mood.  If you read my book, you may remember that I worked for many years in corporate outplacement, and between that and my background as a tech writer, I can crank these things out in no time.

By the end of the day yesterday, I received this message from a Facebook friend whose resume I'd written.
I LOVE what you've done; you truly are a miracle worker... You've definitely portrayed things differently than had occurred to me, and I love that. You are my missing piece :)
Resumes are so important and I get a lot of personal satisfaction from writing them.  If you need a resume or want to give your existing resume a facelift, email me at and we'll take it from there.

Sunday, November 14, 2010

This pic made me do a double-take

I keep forgetting to post this pic. 

During our road trip, my daughter Courtney texted me this picture of herself. When I looked at it I thought, holy crap, is that kid looking more and more like me or what?  People always tell us how much we look alike and neither of us see it.  But now I think there may be something to it.

Saturday, November 13, 2010

The joy of working from home

I absolutely love working virtually from home!  I did it for two weeks in September and last Monday I started working virtually on what will be a regular basis at least until the end of the year. To stay in synch with my office in Schenectady, which is on East Coast time, usually I roll out of bed just before 6:00. I take an hour break at 9:00, when Mike and I walk about three and a half miles around Green Valley, and then I get back to work until 3:00.  Awesome.  

There's a real cost savings to working virtually.  Over the summer I commuted a good 250 miles a week, which on my car is about three-quarters of a tank of gas, and I spent close to $40 a week on lunches. 

Work clothes?  Forget about it.  Even though my office was business casual, we're still talking clothes I wouldn't normally choose to buy.  I realized that as I moved my stuff from my luggage to the closet this week.  Now all I need  is play clothes and going out on the town clothes.

I also have more time.  A 40-minute commute translates to almost 7 hours a week of sitting in the car. That's almost a whole other work day I now have to myself.  I need that time--who doesn't?  I have a million goals to pursue and a couple of projects to work on. 

While I understand that not every profession is suited to working virtually, I don't know why more employers don't offer workers the opportunity.  As far as productivity goes, if anything, I think virtual workers feel more pressure to have something to show for themselves at the end of the day.  And a major advantage is that a happy employee is going to be a loyal employee who's going to be less likely to jump ship.  Once you've experienced the joy of working virtually, why would you ever want to go back to getting all dolled up and schlepping yourself to the office?

It seems like a win-win situation to me. 

How about you?  Do you work at home?  Would you, if you could?  Do you think your employer would be open to it?

Friday, November 12, 2010

Recent piece on me in the newspaper

I meant to post this link earlier this week.  This piece on me was printed in the Albany Times Union last Sunday.  As far as I know, the local NPR radio station still hasn't aired the essays I recorded--I'll have to look into that.

Happy Friday!

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Surprises along the road

I've talked before about the importance of travel--you get to bond with your traveling companions and create an unforgettable experience, your world becomes a little bigger, and invariably you learn something along the way. 

I definitely learned a few things on our cross-country road trip, in addition to the fact that there is actually a cemetery exclusively for coon dogs and that if you stop at rest stops but don't put gas in the car, you will eventually run out.  (We will never live that down.)

Here are a few other things I learned.  First, did you know there's an Amish community in southern Tennessee?  Instead of driving the interstates, for much of this trip we drove the side roads, which are always more interesting.  We saw this guy riding along on Route 43 in Ethridge.

I feel a little bad posting this because according to this article on Amish lifestyle, the Amish people don't like having their picture taken. They believe photographs violate Biblical teachings.  But evidently I don't feel too bad, because here I am sharing it with you.

BTW, I think I would make a terrible Amish woman.  Can you imagine?  Call the TV execs, I smell a reality show!

Another thing I learned is that the "land of cotton" extends far beyond Dixieland.  You would not believe all the cotton fields in west Texas.

We also saw some in New Mexico.  As a result of this trip, I've decided I will integrate "Now wait just a cotton-pickin' minute" into my lexicon at every opportunity.

I also learned it's possible to get authentic Italian food in the middle of Texas.  Yeah, you'd think we'd have opted for a hunk of Texas beef or maybe some Tex-Mex, but our hunger kicked in during a stop on I-20 in Eastland.  The only place around was this one, so we thought we'd give it a try. We didn't expect much until we were greeted by a handsome Italian man from New York.  Aaahhh--delicious!

One more thing.  We learned that down South, it's impossible to get a cup of hot tea.  Mom's a big tea drinker, and when she asked for a cup of hot tea, they looked at her kind of puzzled.  Then they said, "Well, you don't have to put ice in it," meaning you can have iced tea without the ice.  This must have happened in four or five restaurants.  They totally did not know about making tea with a tea bag and boiling water!  It was like she was speaking a different language.  I got the same reaction when I tried to order a sub with Russian dressing out West.  No such thing.

But at last, in Valentino's Mom was able to get a cup of tea.  See how happy that made her?

Thank God, cuz when Mama ain't happy, ain't nobody happy!

How about you?  What has surprised you during your travels?

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

The Rattlesnake Saloon in Tuscumbia, Alabama

 One of the many highlights of our nine-day road trip was our visit to the Rattlesnake Saloon in northwest Alabama.  We were driving in the middle of God knows where on our way to the Coon Dog Cemetery when we passed a sign for the place pointing down yet another back road. 

"The Rattlesnake Saloon!" my sister Lori hollered, practically driving off the road.  "That's where we're going next, Mom!" 

Mom started to protest, as if dragging her to a freakin' graveyard for dogs in Deliveranceville wasn't proof enough of her good sportsmanship.  But we all know one of the benefits of getting older is that you reach a point when finally, finally you become the boss of your parents, so all she could do was silently pray we'd forget about it after we checked out the cemetery. 

No such luck (for her).

As (our) luck would have it, there were two other women (who arrived separately) checking out the coon dogs' final resting place.  We struck up a conversation with one of them, named Pam, and somehow she and Lori got to talking about the Rattlesnake Saloon. 

"I've always wanted to go," Pam said.  "My girlfriend's been there. She said they take you down a hill to the saloon in a pick-up." 

Mom started to blanch, but that's all Lori needed to hear.

"Follow us!" Lori told her after we'd paid our respects to the departed canines.  And so began a two-car caravan to the Rattlesnake Saloon.

We found it no problem, but alas, the sign said the place was closed.  Mom breathed a sigh of relief, but Lori, our new friend Pam, and I were bummed.  Then a minute later, the owner, a big, beefy Alabama hunk of manliness named Danny Foster, drove up and offered us a private tour.

"Get in my truck!" he bellowed.  "I'll take you down."

The three of us climbed in.  Danny Foster drove us down a steep incline, and there at the bottom was the Rattlesnake Saloon.  Check this out. The saloon itself is built into a cave.  (Believe me, pictures don't do the place justice.)

It's really nice on the inside, don't you think?

Isn't this sign funny?

This is where the band plays. You can't really tell, but it's kind of in a cave, too.  So cool.

There's also a couple of outside bars and a giant deck that overlooks a pond.

Danny Foster was so awesome; we were so appreciative to get a private tour. Mom thought it was fantastic--and oh, how we wished it were open.  You could tell it would be a swinging place to party.

And how about our new friend Pam?  How cool is she for going to the Coon Dog Cemetery all by herself on her day off and then following a family of Yankee women to a biker-friendly bar?

Man, those people down south are nice. 

If you ever have the chance to visit Tuscumbia, Alabama, make sure you go there between Thursday and Sunday so you can enjoy the Rattlesnake Saloon.  And don't forget to go to Helen Keller's birthplace and the Coon Dog Cemetery. 

Jeez, I should be a tour guide.  As I always tell my mother, "I take you to the best places."