Who’s Using A BlackBerry?

That’s not the real question, of course.  We know lots of people who use BlackBerries, including President Obama, and we’ll probably learn during the  wall-to-wall inauguration coverage whether he’ll get to keep his, what with all the security concerns.

Switching from a regular cell phone to a BlackBerry is a big decision for me.  Could a BlackBerry be my new tiny dream machine?  Here’s what I hope it’ll do:  Handle most of my communications needs while I travel a lot this year.

I don’t love my clunky old laptop and in a hotel I use it mostly for emailing and looking up addresses on the Internet.  I’m told a BlackBerry can handle these duties and then some.  If I get a BlackBerry, is there a model with a screen big enough so I can actually read the Internet display?

Texting is another quandary. I’m not a texter, but might be if I can actually find the letters of the alphabet.  Since a BlackBerry has a keyboard, that might just do it. 

The dilemma is – which model to get and how much do I need to spend to get the features needed?

I hope to avoid buyer’s regret – or future BlackBerry lust –  by knowing which features I’ll wish I had, if only I’d paid for them at the start. 

Help me please.  I’m suffering from BlackBerry-Indecision-Paralysis.

Ó Anita Garner 2009

Naturally Curly

“She has naturally curly hair,” my mother would say with great sadness in her voice  when she spied a young person with curls.  She made it sound like a curse.   Mother had curls of the type that sprang in tight spirals directly from the scalp and she hated them.   She did battle with her hair daily.  Her own mother urged her to wear her hair cropped short and just be done with the whole thing, but mother craved shoulder-grazing styles.  

She was born at the wrong time for her hairstyle to be considered stylish.  The only curls my mother’s mother wanted to see were the tiny half moons that women plastered to their foreheads while the rest of the hair was smoothed into a bob.  Those little spitcurls in front my grandma called “beau catchers” and they were meant to lay there dutifully and not pop right back up like mother’s did.  

Mother was a performer and hours before every appearance  she could be found fighting to hold down her fluffy hair with Vaseline or other goop.  She was often in tears as we traveled through the humidity of the deep south.

During my high school years, once again, naturally curly became an epithet.  A yearbook reveals row upon row of girls with hair freshly flattened (ironed) and plastered as close to the head as possible.

“Naturally curly” was a good thing again years later, “natural” I guess,  being the blessing, instead of the perms we felt we had to get in the 70’s in order to make our hair big and frizzy.  We carried picks in our purses instead of combs or brushes, in a futile attempt to simulate huge Afros.

My granddaughter has naturally curly hair.  It’s not like her great-grandmother’s.  This little girl’s hair starts out silky and then waves and curls at the end.  Instead of stopping in tight spirals just above the shoulders, the way mother’s did, the little one’s hair comes nearly to her waist.   The four year old loves her curls.  She treats her hair like a dear companion.   There’s the occasional griping about sitting in the tub while her mommy conditions it, but overall, she likes and accepts her hair just the way it is.

We clip it back  so the hair doesn’t fall into her cereal, and she removes the clips and expertly tucks the hair behind her small ears.  She’s in control of her own crowning glory.   For school we put it up high in ponytails because there’s so much hair we fear she’ll get caught up in playground equipment.  But negotiation is required – about what color the ponytail holders and clips will be and how long they must stay in.

It’s good to see a little girl with no negative hair issues.  In fact, so far we see no appearance issues of any kind.  One day she wants to wear jeans and a tee shirt with a picture of construction equipment on the front, and tiny black “biker” boots.  Another day it’s a dress over leggings and princess shoes.  But always she prefers her hair floating free.

Curls are all around me these days.  Women of a certain age are sporting silver and white ringlets.  Some are worn short and bouncy while others are wild and long.  All are beautiful. 

There are whole books and plays and intellectual treatises about the significance of hairstyles through the ages, and what each one means.  Women have come a long way thank goodness, and the way we’re choosing for ourselves how to wear our hair (without my mother’s tears)  is another way we can see our progress.

Ó Anita Garner 2009

Can We Save Lipstick Jungle?

There’s talk of canceling Lipstick Jungle. Please let’s keep it.  It’s one of the few shows I’m committed to.  I don’t feel a bond with legal shows and police shows and dark prison shows and killing shows and medical shows.  I only invest in relationship shows. 

 

I sit down with my coffee and remote and turn on that dvr and I’m transported into the latest goings-on within the group I’ve chosen to care about.

Lipstick Jungle is fun.  It’s as good as Sex And The City – maybe better. These women are grownups.  They achieve and then they stumble. They have their triumphs, some on a grand scale.  And then they have some of the same problems as – well – mostly nobody else I know has the same problems as these three women. 

One of the three main characters is a parent.  This parenting is done in a gorgeous loft in NYC.  Another wants to parent but can’t yet.  And, to put this all into perspective, one is dating a handsome billionaire. So – maybe there’s no common ground and maybe that’s why it’s fun.  

They look good.  Really good.  The show is beautiful to look at and yes, it does look expensive, but where’s the problem?  We don’t expect television shows to come cheap.  Entertainment should sometimes be lush and well-dressed.  I’ve had enough gritty.  Surely NBC can figure out how to cut corners somewhere else and spare this one.   

Lipstick Jungle is made for looking through the window at someone else’s life and choosing the parts we’d like to have and the parts we wouldn’t want. The best part about the show is the friendship.  These three ladies love each other.  They disagree and then they make up.  Most importantly, they show up for each other. 

I’m having trouble finding another relationship show to bond with, so please NBC, let’s bring Lipstick Jungle back for another season. 

Ó Anita Garner 2008

 

Paperwhites – Bloom Where You’re Planted

My southern-preacher daddy often advised his congregation from the pulpit to “Bloom where you’re planted.”  He meant it in terms of doing good works, no matter where life takes you.  Another meaning of the phrase was evident in all his sermons as he exhorted the church to quit complaining and get on with what you’re put here to do.  

As a masterful gardener, daddy had an aversion to forcing blooms.  When pressured by mother, he’d cut flowers for her and bring them inside, one bloom at a time, in a small vase.  But he refused to buy hothouse flowers because of what he considered their unnatural growing conditions.  His theory about blooming where you’re planted was at odds with an industry’s need to “force” plants.

The root (sorry) of his aversion to cutting flowers may have been the fact that his family were farmers by occupation.  Some of them were sharecroppers and at other times they grew vegetable gardens and sold produce for a living.  Daddy gardened with his own daddy in order to survive. There was never time or space for recreational plants.

When we moved from the deep south to southern California, a new world grew outside.  Birds of Paradise.  Avocados.  Camellias.  For the first time, he had a pleasure garden and he delighted in tending plants that nobody had to have.  

At first he was apologetic about the rows of irises he planted around his vegetable patch, but soon delicate pansies lined the driveway out front.  He was fearless.  He’d try anything.  He coaxed to giant size some plants that shouldn’t have been able to thrive in Glendale, and later Palm Springs, California. 

To the end, he resisted indoor plants.

Daddy had been gone for years by the time I began putting narcissus bulbs in a pot on the windowsill during the winter. This year my small granddaughter helped pat the soil around the bulbs and give them a good long drink.  Every day we watch the shoots grow taller. 

I can’t wait to see her face when the first lacy white bloom pokes out.  Who am I kidding?  I plant these for me, for no purpose other than the pure enjoyment of watching them send up green shoots and then those blooms with the intense fragrance. 

If this is a kind of sinful excess, it’s one I intend to commit every year that I’m lucky enough to enjoy the winter light.  If Daddy were here, if he’d had a chance to meet his great-granddaughter, I’m guessing he’d make an exception.  He might find a way to include our windowsill garden in his definition of blooming where you’re planted.

Ó Anita Garner 2008

TV Shows That Feel Like Home

Ever take a walk at dusk and look into lighted windows?   From the outside looking in, things seem warm and cozy. That’s the feeling I look for in a favorite TV show.  Not a particular house, but that feeling.  My favorite shows all have that in common.  

Favorite shows from the past took place (present-tense on many of these because they’re available on dvd anytime we want to re-watch) within a set that became as familiar as my house. Those of us who watched The Waltons every week feel we know every nook and cranny of that two-story farmhouse  – and the outbuildings as well.

Little House had not only the iconic cabin, but an entire town built from the minutiae in Laura Ingalls Wilder’s books and the imagination of Michael Landon and his co-creators.

A favorite Britcom, As Time Goes By, features a flat in London that feels like a place where I can stop by for tea and gossip. 

Food Network shows take us into some of our favorite kitchens.  True, many are sets built to simulate a home environment, but some actually take place in the homes of the cooks – Nigella Lawson in one of her London kitchens, Paula Deen in her home in Savannah, and Jamie Oliver from his country farm.

On Friends, the apartment is crucial to the show.   Ditto Sex And The City. Which fan of Frasier hasn’t memorized the placement of each and every furnishing and accessory?

But home isn’t only a place.  It’s also a feeling.  Mash  took place in wartime Korea in unfamiliar settings, yet because of the characters’ need to rely on each other, somehow it felt like an odd out-of-time-and-space home every week.

More than one show that generates warmth and a home-style feel took place in a bar.  Cheers comes to mind, but  there have been many others.

I’m looking for some new favorites, shows that feel like home because the characters seem to belong there – or belong to each other.  Any suggestions?

Ó Anita Garner 2008

Holiday Newsletters

I love the newsletters that come in the mail this time of year and I don’t understand how they ever got to be the butt of sitcom jokes. I was worried that email and websites might slow the flow of information that comes inside Christmas mailers once a year, but so far so good.  They’re arriving on schedule and to me they’re irreplaceable.

This year  I received a letter from a family I used to babysit for.  The parents of the kids I tended are now great-grandparents and they took their entire family – thirty something of them in all – on a cruise to Europe and then toured several countries.  This letter is worth keeping just for the group photos of all those relatives in one family who work together in the family business all year and still have a great time traveling together. 

I have two letters with stories of construction projects.  One is from a Dad who spent months at his daughter’s house fixing it up so she can sell it because a divorce is on the way.  One is from a couple whose home was severely damaged in a storm and they’re working to bring it back to life.

One letter this year devotes more than half of the page to a photo and stories about a beloved pet who passed away. 

There is always at least one very glamorous letter.  Sometimes it’s a grown child of old friends who undertakes an unusual line of work and brings all of us along, in the space of the one-page missive, into a world we wouldn’t have otherwise visited.

Then there’s a former boyfriend who’s kept his looks and his ambition and his intellect and his compassion intact and he’s made a glorious life, quite a photogenic life, with a beautiful wife and children and grandchildren.  Their newsletter includes a photo of him and his wife on a yacht.  Their letter also contains pictures of little ones romping around the family home in New England.  I am most impressed with how very important those little ones are in the text written by the glamorous couple.

There are letters from several people I’ve worked with in broadcasting, and the news isn’t generally good this year, since broadcasting is re-inventing itself and cutting back jobs.  Here’s a letter, though, listing all the things one friend plans to do now that he no longer needs to show up and talk into a microphone every day.

It’s still a few days before Christmas and other letters will arrive, I’m sure.  There does seem to be a certain increase in sad news this year, and it might seem odd, at first glance, to choose to tell these stories inside a holiday greeting.

I’m grateful for each and every letter and every story and every insight into how people are handling the ups and downs in their lives.  I love these once a year outpourings because I’m fond of letters in general – the kind we can hold in our hands – and getting a letter once a year is better than getting none at all.

Ó Anita Garner 2008

Christmas On The Radio

I’ve spent much of my  life on the radio, playing music.  Every year when the Christmas songs started, the radio station staff revolted.  Here’s a scene from a typical radio programming meeting, where on-air people wrestled with the Program Director (in the days before a computer picked the music – and before every city had a radio station that plays continuous holiday music starting at Thanksgiving.) 

PD:  So guys – and Anita – you’ll notice on your playlist that we’re rotating one Christmas song each hour starting…

ME: …Couldn’t we play more than one per hour?

EVERYONE ELSE:  No!

PD:  And then by week three of the season, we’ll play four an hour.

ME:  Couldn’t we play more than that?

EVERYONE ELSE:  Shut up!

ME:  Could I have more Christmas music on my show?

ON-AIR PERSON:  I’ll be calling in sick.

ANOTHER ON-AIR PERSON:  You can’t call in sick, because I’m scheduling all my dental work now.  I’ll be gone for a month.

The foregoing is only slightly exaggerated.  I haven’t met many radio people who like Christmas music as much as I do.  For me, it can’t start too soon. Give me a couple of songs and three lights that twinkle and I’m happy.

After years of being on the air,  I had the opportunity to host a nationally syndicated show.  Something Special aired on stations around the U.S.  I was also writer and producer for this weekly four-hour radio magazine and we began making our Christmas show while the weather said it was still summer. 

Show prep (a rather unimaginative term that means exactly what it sounds like) included knowing a lot about the music we’d be playing.  No problem here.  I love Christmas music and in addition to the music sent over by the record companies, I also have a big personal collection.  We knew many of the artists who performed the music and had been pre-recording their holiday greetings all year when they were in our studio.

John Schneider was the guest co-host for this Christmas extravaganza.  He’d become a friend through my daily radio show in Los Angeles. Generally the new show featured a celebrity guest for only the first hour of each week, but at Christmas John would be with us for all four hours. 

John arrived with one of his ever-present dogs – maybe it was Smudge or, God rest her soul, Gracie.  Cathleen (my daughter worked on the show) baked Christmas cookies and brought in a small Christmas tree. John contributed warm apple fritters he picked up at that place he knew in Burbank.  We took our positions at the microphones.  

We sailed right along.  I don’t remember any re-takes.  It’s one of my favorite radio shows ever.  I play it again every year by the light of my plug-in-desktop tree with the twinkle lights. Sometimes I play it in the middle of summer, or whenever in the words of a favorite song, I “need a little Christmas.”    

Anita Garner 2008

Should We Teach Kids About Failure?

We’re willing to do just about anything to prepare our children to be successful adults.  We encourage, cajole, spend, discipline and then spend some more, yet the one thing we can’t buy is a guarantee that any of it will contribute to their eventual well-being when they leave our care.

In the past few decades, there’s been a shift to a completely child-centric way of life. The self-esteem movement now pretty much dominates child raising. There’s a whole vocabulary to support it. 

When my granddaughter and I go out, she picks up something and hands it to the person who dropped it.  A young mother passing by says “Good helping.” I reach for the little one’s hand to cross a street. She wants to walk alone.  I firm up the tone in my voice and insist. She reluctantly takes my hand and a nearby adult says to her, “Good listening.” 

This language came along after my daughter was raised.  It’s specific wording that evidently everyone agrees to use with children. I like it fine.  It’s nice and friendly, but I’m thinking there’s a step that could  follow, after the praise.   We congratulate children for everything.  We give them prizes. We celebrate their progress in all areas. This works with some and backfires with others – kids who aren’t motivated without a tangible incentive, who believe they are so special that they have no grounding in the real world, where they will encounter other kids who feel even more entitled.   Does our attempt to cushion them lead some to believe the outside world will be like home?  I wonder if the constant polishing of self-esteem has gone a bit too far.  We can’t keep our kids from stumbling, from pain, from self-doubt, just as no one could have kept it from us. We want them to have everything, including the undeniable joys of self-expression.  But we may be waiting too long to tell them about the forces in the world that seem to exist just to puncture balloons. Should we talk to them about the possibility of failure?  I mean an individual failure, not an overall giving up.  Would it be wise to ladle in a bigger dose of reality earlier in their lives, even if it hurts us more than it hurts them? There must be a way to mix into our child-raising concepts the idea that a failure is not the end, that keeping on keeping on is sometimes as important as starting out in the first place.    

I have mixed feelings about telling kids they can do anything. On the one hand, we want to them be courageous and take leaps of faith.  On the other hand, it’s simply not true.  Not all of us are great at everything we’d like to do.

We don’t spend much time preparing our kids to handle disappointment.  Maybe we could think about introducing them to the notion of postponing certain dreams and pursuing a more practical course, one that will help guarantee their survival.

Where’s the balance?  I don’t know.  That’s why I’m asking.

Ó Anita Garner 2008

  

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

It’s Never Too Early For Christmas

While everyone is talking Thanksgiving turkey, I’m putting out my favorite Christmas decorations, stacking up Christmas music, lighting holiday incense and soaking in the sights and sounds and smells.

 

It’s not because Thanksgiving comes a week earlier this year.  We’ve always played Christmas music during Thanksgiving dinner, but by now my music and dvd collections have expanded so there isn’t enough time between Thanksgiving and Christmas to hear/see each of them once.  So I started earlier this year.  

 

I love everything about Christmas.  There’s no frenzy here.  I don’t love shopping, never did, but gathering a few things to give as gifts isn’t a hardship.  I do much of it online, but I also go to malls on purpose during the season, just for the festive look of it.  

 

Making fudge and apple cake with a Christmas glaze for my neighbors is nice. (Christmas music plays while we cook.) 

  

I love church during Advent season.  The faces of the acolytes who carry the light down to the altar candles always look like Christmas  – a bit shinier than usual and quite reverent.  As the kids walk slowly, jeans poking out below the white robes, they resist the temptation to jostle each other and I imagine their parents watch and wonder, who is this child, so somber?  Surely this is not the kid who had to be reminded (threatened) to get here on time.

 

You won’t find me griping about the commercialization of this event, because for me it never has become that.  If all I ever had of Christmas were the sights and sounds and fragrances, and if that could last for months, I wouldn’t complain.  

 

Ó Anita Garner 2008

Putting On A Show

Getting a play onstage is taking a lot longer than I thought, even though I’d been warned repeatedly that it’s generally years from genesis of idea to actual performance.  Colleagues tell stories about the development process, about rewrites and readings and workshops and more rewrites.  But it’s my first play and I’m only now feeling the truth of their words. 

 

Add into our process the fact that both parties involved are also working on other things at the same time – and I can see now how a a play could hang around for years before debuting onstage. 

 

Since mounting this play occupies so many of my thoughts and nags me constantly, even when I’m doing something else, it seems like a good time to chronicle some of the “making of.”

 

The play is called “The Glory Road” and it’s recently been revised (again.)  We’ve whittled down the cast size and focused the action on just one main story (You don’t even want to know how many storylines were woven through earlier versions) and now we’re talking with theatres about moving forward to an opening date.

 

The “we” in this story is me and the director, Greg Zerkle, who’s been with this project for years and is responsible for urging me (I’m the playwright) to trim and focus and simplify staging and timelines and make all manner of efficient, dramatic changes.  I only follow his advice when I agree with him (it is my story after all) but it’s surprising how often, after arguing my point for hours, I do eventually agree and we come up with a compromise that we both think enhances the play.  This is no accident.  This happens because Greg is, I believe, a genius with a vision.

 

Greg’s a multi-faceted theatre talent.  He acts and sings and directs and is performing right now in a show at Laguna Playhouse.  A few days ago he closed in a revival of South Pacific in southern California.  So we work between his rehearsals and the rest of our endeavors.

 

Greg’s wife, Cindy Marty, another multi-talented actor and singer, is gracious about the amount of time Greg spends on The Glory Road. Cindy performed at our most recent reading in Los Angeles and knocked our collective socks off.

 

So far the “making of” is fascinating.  I never thought something as painful as editing could prove to be so satisfying.  Maybe I’ll post as we progress, and we’ll all find out together whether the end result was worth all these years. I’m hopeful. 

 

In the meantime, if you’re interested in background information on our subject matter, see www.thegloryroad.com.

 

Ó Anita Garner