Sunday, January 25, 2009

O, My!

I swear I had no intention (this time) of writing to Oprah, but somehow my search for information on her site about this kid ended with me answering the question, “Are you too old to be on Facebook?” with a link to this story.

Now, having written to Oprah dozens of times in the past 20-some years and never yet stepping foot in Harpo Studios, I had little reason to give it another thought. So you can imagine my surprise when, just a few days later, I found the following email in my inbox from Oprah(‘s assistant producer) herself:

“My name is Allyson and I work on a production team here at The Oprah Show. I read the email you submitted and I'd love to ask you a few more questions if you have a moment this week?”

I could hardly breathe. Oprah(‘s assistant producer)? Wanted to talk to me?

I left her a voicemail saying I would be available to chat the next day. And the next. And the next. And any day after that for the rest of my life.

And in less than 24 hours, my phone rang again.

This is it, this is what “The Secret” is all about, I thought, ready to charm the socks off that lady. Allyson was about to be blown away by the quick wit and charm of Jules, yes she was. I envisioned the limo pulling up to my house, Nate Berkus greeting me at the door holding a monster bouquet of fresh flowers to liven up my home and confessing his secret crush on me. Maybe Bono would be on the show that day too. In fact, maybe I would get to help Bono set up a Facebook account of his own!

I let it ring one more time, not so much because I’m cool like that, but because, after one more glance at the “Harpo Studios” on my Caller ID, I suddenly felt light-headed.

Uh-oh, this cannot go well.

I answered anyway.

“Hello?” I said with a smile as my heart raced, my face flushed, and my pits ran with sweat.

“Hi, is Jules available?” Allyson asked. She sounded young. Very young. What if she thinks I really am too old for Facebook? What if she thinks I am too old to even watch TV, much less be on it? Wait---that’s ridiculous. I’m almost 17 ½ years younger than Oprah, and she’s on TV. But she’s Oprah. Of course she gets to be on TV. Wait, did she just ask me a question?

“Yes, this is Jules,” I said.

“Hi, Jules, this is Allyson from the ‘Oprah Winfrey Show.’ Did I catch you at a good time?” she asked.

No! I’m completely and totally freaking out, and you aren’t even the real Oprah! You are one of her many assistants... with the best job ever!

“Absolutely! How are you?” Good move, Jules, ask a question, put the ball in her court. Make her work for you.


Bad move. What if she doesn’t want to work for you? What if she just wanted you to say, “Yes, and I’m 100% ready to be on the show, I’ve even picked out my outfit. What time will the limo be here?” What if she decides to move on to a more cooperative old person who uses Facebook?

“Great,” her perky voice cheered. “I got your letter and I have a few questions for you, if that’s okay?”

“Of course!” I said… Allyson, I’ll fold all your laundry and wash your car if it means I get to meet Oprah. And Bon Jovi too, if he’s available for lunch or dinner or whatever that day.

She proceeded to ask me a number of questions which I easily nailed, and, just when I thought I was doing great, she asked me if I update my “Facebook status” daily.

“Oh, I do… ” I humbly started, “but I don’t like to be too literal. My friends and I really just use it as a way to make each other laugh.” I am so clever!!

“Really? What are some of the funny updates you’ve listed?” she sounded interested.

Ahh, this is my moment to stand out. My moment to shine, to show this gal we old people can be hilarious when we want to! Which is the exact moment early-onset dementia kicked in. I drew a blank

“Oh? Well, uh," Snap out of it and speak, Jules!

“What are some things you and your friends post for each other?” she merrily pressed on.


“Movie references from the '80's?” I started, “um, pop culture stuff… TV theme songs... ” I replied with a wince, kissing my opportunity to sing Motown up and down the Miracle Mile in the back of a limo with Gayle King goodbye.

She gave me one last shot. “Like, what do you have posted right now?”

“Ummm… ” I replied, racing to the computer to find out. Get it together, Jules, before she decides you're just another James Frye! My tongue swelled up, my lips turned numb, it was as if I had just swallowed a vial of botox-injected collagen. I tried to rattle off my last few updates from the computer, but I’m pretty sure nothing else I said to her from that point on made any kind of impact. Or sense, really.

So if Allyson finds herself with a severe shortage of potential guests and I end up spending a night in Chi-town, drinking in my New Earth from the All-Suite Omni Hotel and having brunch in the Harpo green room, I will be sure to fill you in. But after her very polite, “I'll be in touch if I have anything else for you,” I am not holding my breath.

Unless it makes me look slimmer on camera, of course.

Sunday, January 18, 2009

A Winter Scene

Last week the Midwest experienced sub- sub- sub-freezing temperatures and raging Arctic winds. Because I am morally opposed to being exposed to any temperature colder than that of a pinot gris, I spent most of my days last week curled up fetal in my home and crying.

By the end of the week I had a full-blown case of what experts call "Seasonal Affective Disorder," or what I call "It's So Flipping Cold I Want To Hurt Myself.”

My doctor, likely tired of hearing his wife (me) whine to him about the weather, recommended - no, demanded - that I seek medical help to replenish the serotonin my body had lost at the cruel hands of Mother Nature. So I made an appointment with a specialist. In sun therapy. At Tropic Thunder Tan and Tango.

Now, I had not been to a tanning salon since the week before my senior prom, but I was desperate for warmth and light.

I made it to the salon (four miles in blistering winds, uphill both ways), where a well-bronzed young girl showed me how to work the tanning bed. She told me I could wear as much or as little as I wanted under the lights and that the piped-in Jimmy Buffett and sun-like rays of the UV bulbs toasting my body would soon have me feeling, for my eight allotted minutes, that I was one salt-rimmed glass away from Margaritaville.

Hoping to add some color to my midsection (darker shades are more slenderizing) and even out my faded tan lines up top, I opted for bikini-bottoms-only. Because the salon’s front doors opened directly to the parking lot, the tanning rooms were all about 59 degrees, I stripped down and donned my goggles, flipped on the switch and hopped right into that giant Panini press for my eight minutes of tropical dreamland in record time, ready to take my medicine.

It was like lying naked on a sheet of ice.

“$#!t” I yelped under my breath – which, by the way, you could see. I instinctively balanced my whole body on my heels, bikini-clad buttocks, and the back of my head. I checked the monitor. Power was on, timer had started, lights were glowing, but I was shivering.

Who DOES this? I thought, resorting to Lamaze breathing and trying to figure out what to do next. I tried to let my right shoulder blade touch the bed. MOTHER OF MERCY! I picked it back up.

I was stuck in an Arctic sandwich-maker, and needed a diversion.

I closed my eyes and imagined myself on a warm beach, trying to turn the hum of the cancer bed into the sounds of the ocean. But all I could feel was a cramp in both hamstrings.

I looked at the timer. Six and a half minutes left.

Think about the homeless. Think about the mailman. Think about all the people forced into the cold all day long, I said to myself.


“Is everything okay in there?” I heard the attendant ask.

“Um, I think so,” I replied, wondering how she had overheard the conversation in my head, “it’s just a little colder in here than I thought it would be.”

“Oh, yeah, I guess you’re the first person on that bed today. I probably should have let it warm up,” she said. She was a genius.

Just then, the bed started heating up. I slowly dropped my shoulders, then my back, and finally my legs. It almost felt toasty. I relaxed a bit. I’m pretty sure I even smiled a little and began soaking in the warmth, pretending that, on the other side of my bug-like goggles, was the radiant sun wrapping its loving kindness around me and holding me close to the warmth of its---


The timer was up, the machine turned off, and a burst of polar air swept across me, standing every hair on end and instantly turning my lips blue.

I opened my icy coffin, got dressed with the speed of a firefighter being called to a burning Playboy Mansion and was back home under a pile of blankets before you could say “Bahamamama.”

I still have 42 minutes left on my “Winter Blues” tanning package, which I plan to save for the next Arctic blast. But I’ve been doing some thinking, and I believe next time, I will leave the bikini bottoms at home and fake-bake in my Snuggie.

God bless America, and her Snuggie, too.

Sunday, January 11, 2009

Hold Onto Sixteen As Long As You Can (An Interactive Revelation)

I’ve discovered a terrifying phenomenon in music that has nothing to do with American Idol’s search for the next David Archuletta. Did you know Huey Lewis and the News get regular airtime (unbelievable in itself)… on the OLDIES station??!!

The first time I heard it, it may have made me sad. The next time I heard it, it may have made me mad, but I’ve heard “Power of Love” three times now, and I have yet to be glad.

In my mind, to be considered an “oldie,” a song needs to be at least 21 years old and sung by people who are now card-carrying members of AARP. “Oldies” debuted on the 8-track; they are the songs my parents listened to. From Anka to Zepplin, their only social agenda was to help some guy in a leather jacket get to 2nd base with a girl in a cardigan. Aaah, the magic of the Temptations...

So I’m just not sure anyone who ever had an MTV video should get airtime on an oldies station, including Huey Lewis. The artists from MY generation are far too young to fit in to that category.

Take Van Halen. Dave and I just saw them in concert last year, and I’d hardly refer to them as “oldies.” I mean, Eddie and pals recorded their first album just – uh – okay, 32 years ago. But that was with David Lee Roth. Sammy Hagar’s Van Halen is only – oh – I guess that was 21 years ago. Now that I think about it, I’m pretty sure Sammy is older than my mom. WHAT!?!? (My husband just told me Eddie Van Halen’s had a hip replacement)

Okay, bad example. How about Duran Duran? I vividly remember watching them sing “A View To A Kill” -- fairly recently, I might add -- on MTV during a sleepover at my friend’s house and squealing with delight at the end as Simon revealed he was “Bon. Simon le Bon.” Sure, that might have been a couple 007’s ago, before I had kids and a husband… a college degree… a high school diploma… a driver’s license… alright, alright, so Duran Duran was 23 years ago.

I got it, let’s look at Bon Jovi. He’s still “relevant” as Randy Jackson likes to say. Jon’s not old. Not too old to put on a good show, anyway. He just had a #1 album, and he’s only been doing this for – crap! Over 21 years. At this point I suppose he actually has seen a million faces and rocked them all.

So when did this happen? When did my music get as old as my parents’ music? How is it possible that I am old enough to have bought cassette tapes well before this year’s class of college graduates was born? Especially when I am just a young (material) girl myself? Hmmm…this explains the look on my babysitter’s face when I told her we were going to a Billy Idol concert. But if Huey Lewis is old enough to sing the “oldies,” exactly how old is Keith Richards?

Maybe time’s marched on to a quicker beat than I’d realized. Maybe I should have clued in the first time I explained to my kids that Slash is a real person, not just a character on Guitar Hero.

But there’s a lesson to be learned here for anyone under the age of 23: Enjoy this time. Enjoy the relationship you have with Billboard’s Hot 100 now, because in 20 years Billboard will have moved on and Taylor Swift and T.I. will be rockin’ from their rockers – as will you. And you, too, will find yourself wondering how everyone around you got so old while you have stayed exactly the same.

Need something else to laugh at? Check out Tova Darling's Totally Awkward Tuesdays!

Monday, January 5, 2009

Run, Wheels, Run

I’m not a runner. Or a biker or a swimmer. I do like sitting by a pool, though, particularly when a cabana boy is involved. And I’m very competitive, too. But I don’t think they hold triathlons for sitting, sipping, and sunning.

But still, I find actual runners do, sometimes, have something worth-while to contribute to the world, which is why I’ve asked my BFF, Wheels (an actual runner) to guest blog for all of us this week.

Wheels, whom I’ve mentioned before during my escapades in Chicago, hasn’t always been an actual runner, but she has always been one of the funniest people I’ve known. She has killer legs too, which probably has a lot to do with running, but I’m not interested in testing that one out personally.

Here is her story, I hope you enjoy. I’ll be back next week with one of my own...

In college, I had a roommate who smoked like a chimney, drank like a fish, and couched like a potato [Jules here, clarifying I’m not the roomie of which she speaks]. One day, she decided to go for a jog. Within the first four blocks, she was hit by a car. Upon learning of her escapade, my only response was, “That’s what you get for going running.”

Ten years later, then, it should come as no surprise to anyone, that the only reason I owned a gym membership was to eat brunch there on the weekends.

But in January 2006, I had an epiphany that would inspire me to frequent the gym more often, when I realized that not only did my gym serve the most heavenly (and healthy) brunch every Sunday, but my gym also had FREE daycare. Having started the year off a newly single mom with an Autistic Preschooler, a toddler, a newborn, and no income, I decided to hit the gym during the weekdays too, to cash in on that free babysitting.

And so we began a daily trek to the gym, simply so I could have an hour alone. And in that hour, I treated myself to People Magazine, coffee from home, and a long, hot shower.

After a few weeks of lounging in the locker room, I decided to emerge from the sauna just long enough to add the treadmill to my gym regimen. After all, Oprah was on, and I was going to watch her anyway, so I might as well watch her while walking on a treadmill. Turns out I wasn’t alone. Four rows of fifteen treadmills, and all 60 screens were tuned to Oprah. It felt very “Brave New World.”

One day, I noticed that the people on the other 59 treadmills were all running. They were blazing, and I was shuffling along like some 33-year-old idiot mall-walker. One of these things was definitely not like the others, and something had to be done.

First step, ditch my SAS super-soled walking shoes just like the ones nuns wore and get some Nikes crafted by Achilles himself. If I had real running shoes, then I was a real runner who could really run, right? Unbeatable logic, if you ask me.

Except that it wasn’t. I couldn’t even run a mile without walking for most of it. I had voluntarily put myself in a position to feel like a tremendous loser, incapable of doing something simple enough for 59 other boneheads to do. And some of them were running and reading a magazine AND watching Oprah at the same time. Incomprehensible!

For whatever reason (a-hem, single mom with three small kids looking for free babysitting), I kept showing up at the gym, wearing my superhuman shoes and trying to transform my steps into strides. Those were trying times on the treadmill, but mostly because Oprah was a series of re-runs, and I had to watch Regis and Kelly instead. Very irritating, indeed. But I carried on, and soon I became one of those people who actually used her gym membership for exercise. After about a month, I looked at the treadmill monitor and realized that I had just run an entire mile.

And that is the day I rushed home from the gym and pulled the “How to Run a Marathon” pamphlet the shoe salesman had given me out of my Nike bag. Delusional? Probably. Crazy? Definitely. But those marathon coaches convinced me they could train me to run a marathon in six months, even if I could barely run a mile. I didn’t believe them. Liars, liars, their Adidas pants were on fire. Still, when the weather warmed up, I left Oprah, the gym, and my 59 other treadmill twins behind and took to the streets, (okay, not Oprah, I still had TiVo) running one mile at a time.

Six months later, I ran 26.2 of them. In a row.

A lifetime away from my own couch potato days, I had run an entire marathon. And that newly-discovered stamina would come in handy too, as just a week later my youngest two sons would also be diagnosed with Autism Spectrum Disorder.

I ran another marathon the next year, and another one the next. And, for the rest of my life, adversity will not shake me, because now I can say, “Screw you, I ran a marathon. I can do anything.”

Apparently, that’s what you get for going running.

In addition to marathons, Wheels has added triathlons to her resume and has raised over $8000 for the Organization For Autism Research by fundraising for Run For Autism. This weekend she will compete in the Goofy Challenge, a marathon-and-a-half.

She inspires me in many ways, though not in any way that will result in me running.

Follow this link to find out how you can help carry her across the finish line in her current effort to run for Autism: