Monday, February 23, 2009

Sean Penn Wears Reading Glasses?!?!

I would like to thank the Academy, for keeping the dream alive.

Once again, the Academy of Motion Picture Arts proved to us that winning the world’s highest honors are within reach of us all (yes, I realize the Nobel Prizes are pretty important too, but can you name the last three winners or tell me who they were wearing when they accepted the award?) (I didn’t think so.)

Last night reaffirmed the beauty of these awards, proving that the Oscars are there for the taking for anyone who dares to dream, even for those who have been married to Madonna before.

(Psst. Guy Ritchie, remember that and keep your chin up.)

We heard from past winners, as they bestowed the gentle judgment of affirmations reminiscent of a Boy Scout Banquet or women’s retreat upon this year’s nominees. And we passed judgment of our own, though maybe not quite so gentle, on every stitch and gem that floated down the red carpet and every word and tear that fell into the microphone.

And, speaking of Angelina’s raiding of the Emerald City Jewelers…

We also witnessed a small miracle last night, when Brangelina and Jennifer sat in the SAME BUILDING for FOUR HOURS and the Kodak Theatre did NOT burst into flames, as many tabloids had predicted would happen should those stars align. In fact, I don’t think very many people even noticed.

They may have, however, noticed Mickey Rourke’s silver tooth. It seems he may need to direct some of that money he’s saving by not buying any hair product into a better dental plan.

We are a far cry from the very first Oscars, held in 1929 over an intimate dinner for 250 guests (none of them named “Miley”) at the Roosevelt Hotel. That first year honored films from 1927 and 1928. “Wings” won Best Picture, the only silent film to do so. “The Jazz Singer” was honored for its ground-breaking special effect – sound. And the ceremony lasted only 15 minutes.

Can you imagine an Academy Awards Ceremony that takes less time than putting on a pair of Spanx?

Of course, the 12 straight hours Kate Winslet and the like spend in their Spanx on Oscar day is a bit beyond my comprehension as well. Personally, I could not wait to peel mine off after just a few hours at an Oscars Party of my own last night at Carrie’s Wine Cellar, which was very similar to the Vanity Fair party, complete with paparazzi, champagne, and a bunch of people who didn’t actually “win” awards but refuse to rule it out as a possibility someday. (Except that at Carrie’s, we could re-adjust our push-ups, girdles, and inserts free from the public eye.)

I was rescued from my Spanx when I had to cut out early to perform a musical number of my own, “Put the Kids To Bed Because We Have No Babysitter Tonight,” a piece I try very hard to keep from looking like a “Mommy Dearest” tribute. My part ended just in time for me to see my friend, Stuart, perform in the Academy’s musical number, lifting up Beyonce for her grand entrance. Watching his left hand disappear into Beyonce’s back side gave a whole new meaning to “Put a Ring on It.”

And right now, he is the luckiest person I personally know, fulfilling a longtime dream of mine that has much less to do with copping a feel of Beyonce and much more to do with sharing a stage with Sophia Loren, Hugh Jackman (who, by the way, I have decided will take the spot on my list previously held by the late Paul Newman) and Zac Efron. Only in my dream, Zac is not sporting slicked-down helmet hair.

Maybe another year went by where my dream of winning an Oscar for something (not sure what, I have few dramatic skills) was out of my reach and I did not get hired on as one of those seat-fillers or statuette-hander-outers. But I did learn something very important last night from Penelope, Sean, Kate, and the fabulous cast and crew of “Slumdog Millionaire,” and it is that the Oscars are not for the complacent. They are for the dreamers.

And so begins another year of dreaming up a short film (my best chance, I figure, at getting nominated for something, but I have got to branch out beyond piano recitals and soccer games), planning that Red Carpet outfit, and rehearsing that speech. Because deep down in me, and I know in you too, is that little voice inside that just can’t help but imagine what it would be like to utter those seven little words:

“I would like to thank the Academy…”

PS For more Oscar fun, hop over to my BFF, Rox, for an eye-witness recap of the night's festivities... Things That Go Pop!

And THANK YOU to Sassy Britches for my FABULOUS award!!!

Monday, February 16, 2009

Mack's Daddy

This past weekend my husband and I not only celebrated Hallmark’s Valentine’s Day, but also the 15th anniversary of our engagement (we were both 14 when he gave me the ring) (obviously, because we are not very old).

Dave opened his card from me, in which I had written something to the effect of, “This wonderful life we have together is exactly what I had hoped for 15 years ago.”

Sweet, huh?

After reading silently, Dave looked up at me and said, “exactly?”

“Yes,” I replied. Four kids? A great life in the best college town ever? What’s not to be happy about?

Exactly???” he asked again, this time pointing to our dog.

“Well,” I hesitated…

Growing up, I had always wanted a dog. But my (very wise) mother had insisted that there was a city ordinance prohibiting pet ownership for families of six or more, so instead of training a dog, my sister and I grew up teaching our twin brothers how to sit, stay, and roll over. Eventually they got pretty darn good at it too.

As I became an adult, a wife, and then a mother with people to raise and carpets to clean, my desire for a dog waned to nearly nothing. “Owning a dog” ranked somewhere on my to-do list between “learning how to change my own oil” and “amputation.”

Dave, however, did not share that philosophy. Growing up with cats, Dave had always longed for a dog. His fraternity had a house dog, a giant, drooling, mess-making Lab named Boss. What Dave failed to comprehend was that owning a 75-pound Labrador in a family home was far different than sharing a frat house with 80 dudes and dog. A dog he, himself, had never once washed, fed, or cleaned up after.

I thought I was in the clear a few years ago when new neighbors moved in with a giant Lab that Dave could play with anytime he wanted and that I would never have to care for. But his need was deeply rooted and beginning to spread to our children until finally, after many years of being shot down by his wife, Dave made one last heart-wrenching plea.

I had given him the book, Chasing Daylight, by Eugene “Gene” O’Kelly. Gene, the late CEO of KPMG, wrote this book in the last 100 days of his life, from the time he was diagnosed with terminal brain cancer until he died. In his writings, Gene illustrates beautifully the importance of spending each day on earth living out your dreams.

After reading the book, Dave came to me with tears in his eyes. Expecting him to tell me how much he had always longed to vacation in Fiji or take the family to Italy, I started mentally packing my bags for the trip of a lifetime. He was ready to start in on his bucket list, and I couldn’t wait to see where we would go.

“This book really hit home with me,” he started, holding back tears, “and the one thing I really want to experience before I die…" a month in Hawaii? cruising the Mediterranean? buying a beach house? “… is owning a dog.”

WHAT? I don’t remember the part about “go buy a dog” in that book! What about attending the Oscars? Going on tour with Cher? Volunteering in an African village with Oprah and Brangelina?

Clearly our bucket lists were very different.

But as the kids circled around me begging and pleading, it slowly sank in that I was severely outnumbered.

As fate would have it, our kids’ school had an auction two weeks later, and a breeder had donated a Labradoodle to the cause. We walked into that auction a family of humans, and (after downing a significant number of chocolate martinis, which made the little white furball suddenly appealing) (kind of like the beer goggles from days gone by, I suppose), we walked out of that auction a family of six humans plus one dog.

Dave’s dream had become my reality.

But I am still standing. In fact, we recently celebrated Mack's second birthday (or what I called, "2 down, 12 to go") (I don’t think I have a heart). And, for those next 12 years, if any child or husband of mine questions whether or not I love them, I will need only to point to the dog living in our home for proof that indeed, I do.

Monday, February 9, 2009

An Olympian, A Televangelist, And A Senator Walk Into A Bar...

This has been a big week for people in the spotlight, a week that has left me perplexed, and I welcome any input you might have on the matter...

Let’s just say for a moment, you are famous. Maybe you are not as big as Ryan Seacrest, but you are still important. And almost everyone knows your name.

Own that one for a moment, and then answer me this: How hard can it possibly be to follow a few basic rules in public?

Maybe you’ve won some gold medals. Eight of them, hypothetically, in a sport like swimming. And, as a result of your careful attention to health and fitness, you’ve been offered a number of spokesperson contracts that turn out to be worth a truckload more than swimming typically pays.

And then a couple months later, you’re out with some buddies, and one of them pulls out a water bong the size of a small child and offers it to you.

And at that same moment, another buddy pulls out his phone camera with the number to the Associated Press on speed dial and says, “Hey, look over here! Hold up the bong, dude! Wait, I can’t see your face… hang on… hand me that bag of Cheetos (your buddy eats Cheetos for the next 15 minutes)… okay… dude, I’m ready now… hold it up… dude, quit laughing and look at me… tilt your head down so I can see your eyes… say ‘Rosetta Stoned!’… no, in English, dude... “

Do you look the camera in the eye while taking a hit or do you hide the monster pipe behind your massive delts and flash that wholesome Frosted Flake’s smile?

Or perhaps you are a Baptist minister. On TV. Who has made a living and won the hearts of many a God-fearing American with your unbending stance against one of the 'N Sync kids, the Purple Teletubbie, and every other homosexual on the planet, most of whom have nothing to with you.

And then, one day, you find yourself alone in a hotel room you drove to and paid for, with a few extra Benjamins burning a hole in your pocket and a gay hooker at your door waiting to help you spend them.

Does it not occur to you that there is a high probability that answering the door would likely land you on a couch next to Oprah two years later, outing your story to the entire world, a world that, quite frankly, would have left you alone had you not chatted it up with Oprah… or maybe not been such a closeted hypocrite in the first place?

Or maybe you are a politician. Charming enough to be a U.S. Senator, bright enough to serve on a Presidential Cabinet.

And you kick off the interview like this, “why, yes, I would be honored to serve on your Cabinet, Mr. President… my records? Absolutely, they are all up-to-date and squeaky-clean… surprises? Nope, I have never even inhaled… No, sir, I have never spent time toe-tapping in an airport restroom... Huh-uh, never cheated on my wife either, what kind of jacka-… Oh… you mean on my taxes… well, there was this one time… “


Have these people learned nothing from the fallen celebs who have tumbled before them?

Gone are the days when a celebrity can confidently hire a prostitute for a little recreational S&M, knowing it will stay private. And the days of being able to drive your car into the river on a Massachusetts resort island and still keep your job in Congress the next 40 years are far in the past.

This is a whole new world we live in. Thanks to YouTube, athletes can no longer party like Matthew McConaughey. Thanks to Karma, homophobic pastors will eventually be caught with their pants down. And, thanks to Facebook (I assume), EVERYONE now has access to your tax records.

Oh, you can try to explain it away if you get caught, but, let’s face it…

“I made a mistake” works fine for people who went to see “Four Christmases” after reading the reviews.

“I used poor judgment” is a perfectly acceptable excuse for someone caught wearing linen pants in November.

“I’m only human” explains well the second glance at the neighbor mowing her lawn in a push-up and stilettos.

… those excuses are not going to cut it for these guys. I know plenty of “humans” who aren’t being photographed smoking an Olympic-sized bong, who have never hired a hooker, and who are fully paid on all their taxes.

So I hope you all will remember this piece of advice from Weekly Jules if you ever spend enough time in the spotlight to earn your own Wikipedia page, and watch yourself. Because you never know who else is.

Monday, February 2, 2009

Honey, Did I Ever Tell You About My Worst Date Ever?

Dave and I had made it 11 ½ years as parents without any broken bones (which I think should be grounds for a freebie with Child Protective Services), a streak that ended when Ellie broke her arm at recess last week.

While waiting in the doctor’s office, Ellie asked me, through tears and sniffles, if I had ever broken a bone.

“Oh, well, I told you about breaking my nose, right?” I replied.

“You told me you closed a window on it once (heave) and that you broke it high-jumping once (sob)” she started, “but what about the third time?”

I looked at my poor child writhing in pain, my sweet tweenager, a beautiful girl on the brink of discovering boys, and decided this was as good a time as any to share the story of my worst date ever…

It was spring of my freshman year of college, and I had a huge crush on my physics lab partner. Let’s call him Mike (because that’s what his parents named him). He was a junior from Oklahoma and absolutely adorable, and after months of sitting in class with him, I asked him out to a sorority date party, a Mexican-themed fiesta.

I was radiant in my new mint-green crew-neck tee and Mexican doll earrings. And we had a blast laughing and dancing and, I will admit, enjoying a beverage or two.

When the music finally stopped, we took the party bus back to meet up with some friends at his fraternity house, a beautiful, pristine mansion with red brick and gleaming white columns. There was also a concrete stairwell along the side of the house leading to the basement; an emergency exit that I assume, from the broken light fixture and debris on the steps, was rarely used. In daylight, one would hardly even notice it. In the dark of night, with the exterior lights missing, one might even trip over it.

That is exactly what Mike did.

As we walked around the side of the mansion, Mike stumbled on the concrete patio. He grabbed the railing of the basement stairs for balance but instead flung around and fell down the steps.

I, being the nurturing and concerned person I have always been, turned to help him.

But the stairwell was pitch black. I couldn’t quite see him, so I took another step forward. Unfortunately, I missed that all-important first step.

According to Mike (I have no memory for about an hour here), he was lying upside-down just a few steps down, when he saw me take a step forward and reach for him, a move that turned into me flying face-first over his entire body, landing at the bottom of the stairs.

(Yes, I realize I am lucky to be alive. Otherwise I wouldn’t be writing about this, as it would certainly not be very funny.)

I regained consciousness in the hospital’s emergency room, lying on a bed with Mike looking down at me, stroking my hair and telling me I had fallen, I had a tiny cut on my nose, but that I looked great.

He said I looked great! Clearly I had suffered a head injury, because at this point, the date seemed to be going even better than I’d hoped.

Then I noticed a needle about 15 inches long coming toward my face.

“It’s just a little bitty cut,” Mike said, “and the doctor needs to sew it up, but don’t worry, you’re going to be just fine.”

Looking up at Mike’s sweet face, I hung onto his every word. And as that needle labored up and down my nose, I dreamed of the day we would tell this story to our grandchildren.

“Your grandfather and I spent our first date in the emergency room, but he was smitten with me, and even the bloody stitches down my nose couldn’t change that.”

The doctor finished, and I decided to visit the restroom before we left so I could freshen up for our goodnight kiss I was certain I would receive.

I slipped into the restroom, looked in the mirror, and could not believe my eyes. A trail of blood ran out of each nostril, around my mouth, over my jaws, down my neck, and had saturated the top of my new shirt. Even my earrings were bloody. My face had swollen and started to bruise, and that “tiny cut” was a deep gash that looked to have been sewn up with barbed wire.

As I stood in that bathroom, horrified by what I saw in that mirror, it hit suddenly me that the goodnight kiss probably wasn't going to happen, and grandchildren were completely out of the question…

“Did you ever go out again?” Ellie asked

“Oh, no,” I laughed. (Though my banged up face added authenticity to my costume for the M*A*S*H party I went to the next night.)

“Your nose looks okay now,” she consoled, just as Dave entered the room, ready to wrap up Ellie’s broken arm.

I smiled. “Yes,” I said, watching her dad get to work on her, “things usually end up working out just right.”