Monday, December 5, 2011

Photo Card

Well Wishes Holiday
Click here to browse Shutterfly's holiday card collection.
View the entire collection of cards.

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Abs Start in the Kitchen

In late summer, my husband and I started a new diet called the Belly Fat Cure. One of the baseball moms lost 30 pounds doing the diet only - no exercise - and the change was noticeable. Belly fat is unfortunately my problem. I don't know if you know this but you can have a butt the size of an aircraft carrier and be relatively healthy. But fat around your belly is a killer. It's basically fat surrounding your vital organs, the ones you need to live. And in the end, your vitals need some breathing room or they will suffocate.

So my husband and I both started this diet because we both have the same body type. Thin legs and belly fat. Much less than me in his case, but some. The diet is a modified Atkins plan. You can have small amounts of carbs and sugars but it's pretty limited. For example, you can have 15g of sugar per day. My oh so healthy greek yogurt with fruit was 17g. By breakfast, I'd had my entire day's allotment of sugars.

You can however eat sausage, eggs, and use half and half in your coffee. No fake sugars though. That was eye opening. No blue or pink or yellow ones. Instead we use something called stevia. It's a "natural" diet sugar if there is such a thing. Stevia has also come under scrutiny but so far has not been shown to cause cancer in lab animals. We have to drink these sodas called Zevia that you can only buy at Whole Foods for a mere $5 per six pack. Obviously we are drinking limited amounts of Zevia.

By the way, I am still planning to walk into Whole Foods and ask for Velveeta.

My husband has obviously lost weight on this diet. His pants are too loose, he has to cinch his belt tighter. I, on the other hand, seem to have lost weight in my ass area. As I've said before I already have my Uncle David's ass, sliding downhill as it were. That's okay, I'm fine with having a smallish butt, BUT I thought I was going to lose major belly fat. That's what the book said. In that department I've seen less change and I am definitely not cured. I have noticed some improvements like my arms seem to be shrinking? But I still have a belly and it's staring at me like, "What the heck? How much more stevia do I have to endure?"

My husband works at a digital advertising agency. One of the big ones. I've only seen the place from a distance. But I'm guessing it's pretty hip and cool and sleek, etc. The atmosphere at work is like the show Entourage except my husband is in his 40's, not his 30's. And this agency is in Connecticut, not LA. Still everyone who works there must be glib, wear metrosexual clothes, be proficient in snark. Knowing flash or HTML is on the list too but not as high as glib.

One of the men who works with my husband is an MMA guy in training. He's twenty-something, single and on a mission to be buff. He's already there by the way - as far as I can tell. But he wants to be more buff. He wants an 8-pack or a 12-pack, as many visible ab muscles as a human being can have. My husband has conferred with him about our diet and exercise - I'm not exercising at all so that was a very short convo. And joy of joys, the MMA guy has agreed to put together a workout program that won't require us to go to the gym!

I'm picturing us befriending the local butcher so we can punch meat before sunrise.

My excuse for not working out has been I don't have time to make it to the gym. And what a beautiful excuse it's been. I've used it for about a year now. Coincidentally around the same amount of time it took me to grow this belly that I now need to cure.

On vacation this week, I'm showing off my belly. I used to hide it from the sun. Then I started traveling and I noticed how many people outside of the US just let it all hang out. Sometimes the women are topless and their bellies and boobs become one big area. That's my plan now. Let it all hang out. Every once in a while I'll say something in the limited German I remember from sixth grade to pretend I'm not from here, and it's okay for me to wear a bikini with my belly on display.

Haben Sie einen krankenschwester? Was machten Sie? (Do you have a nurse? What are you making / doing?)

Wait. Sorry I got distracted again. Okay so coming full circle back to the name of this blog, Abs Start in the Kitchen. As we were sitting by the pool this week I asked my husband what his MMA friend would say about my belly. And he said, "Abs start in the kitchen."

And then my husband said, "I bet you're going to write a blog about this, aren't you?" And he was right.

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

A Very Short Blog About Osteoporosis and Brad Pitt

As part of my annual physical, my doctor ordered blood work to check on all my vitals. I was pleasantly surprised to learn I am in good health with one exception. I have a slight Vitamin D deficiency. I assumed this was the result of living in a semi-permanent state of sunshine deprivation. Apparently it is also an indicator of potential problems with bone density.

I am trying to be mindful of my posture so I don’t end up hunched over as I get older. But I don’t know that I am winning the fight.

This past weekend I saw an older man I see all the time who takes a vigorous walk along a busy street here in town. He walks very quickly and he carries a short stick that pumps up and down as his arms swing from side-to-side. He’s the picture of health except for his posture. He’s got the distinctive curve in his back that is a sign of osteoporosis.

I was driving down that busy street with my husband when I saw the older man. I said, “Look, it’s a glimpse into my future. You know, when I get older.”

My husband said, “I’m not getting older.”

“Really,” I said. “That’s interesting.”

My husband said, “Look at me, hon. I’m Benjamin Button. I’m getting younger.”

And that, in a nutshell, describes the difference in our worldviews.

Monday, September 19, 2011

Like Fingernails on a Chalkboard

This blog inspired by Deb (the motivation to write, not the mother involved)

About two weeks ago, I went into the City to get a facial. I can't say that I see much of a difference or any difference for that matter, but it was nice to go in on the train and have some quiet time to myself, or so I thought.

It was late afternoon on a Saturday.The ride in was quiet. I read an old Oprah magazine I'd bought like two months before and hadn't read. There was a great piece about Emily Mortimer the actress from Dear Frankie, Lars and the Real Girl and regrettably the new Pink Panther series. She's wonderful and it's a great story about shyness and overcoming insecurity even as an adult.

I had a lovely facial, nothing painful or smelly. Just a nice quiet hour of relaxation. Then I got back on the train to come home. Two very cute kids entered the car I was sitting in and their mother followed. She looked pissed. Granted she had two little kids and an infant seat and a stroller and two bags and quite a few extra pounds - but she looked pissed.

The father arrived with the baby and they all took their seats on the train. The boy looked to be about my son's age - maybe 12. He had a very sweet face, big dimples and long hair. He was reading a book when his mother started to fixate on his fingernails. "Oh my God, would you look at your nails?" And it just kept going and going and going. "You can't finish your book until you cut your nails."

One thing I've learned as a parent is to choose wisely the lines you mark in the sand. Because kids will test you. So you better feel strongly about the point you are arguing. This mom kept hammering. "Luke, cut your nails. Do it, or I'll do it for you. And you don't want me to do it for you."

It's one of those stock lines parents use that doesn't actually make any sense. As a kid I would be thinking, I don't want to do this. You're volunteering to do it for me. Sounds like a good deal.

With that threat lingering in the air, the mother stood up and walked to the bathroom. The son turned to his father and said, "Did you ever argue with her even when I was young?"

"You're being a fresh kid."

"I hate when adults say fresh."

It's hard to explain but this next part was actually kind of sweet - a father and tween son bonding over swear words while the overlord was in the bathroom.

"Okay, how about I call you a douchebag?"

"I'm not saying you have to call me a douchebag But I'm not 5."

Mother returns to son picking at his nails with a piece of paper. "What is he doing? Picking his fingers with a piece of cardboard?"

I watched and wished I'd sat anywhere else on the train. My fleeting "me time" coming to a sudden halt. I felt really sorry for this little kid being bullied by his mother over something so silly as fingernails. Really?

But I also felt for the mom . I've been there. Fat and wearing unattractive stretchy pants. Loaded down with so much crap you feel like a pack mule. Food on your shirt. Exhausted from not sleeping. Wanting to control something. It's unfortunate that the one thing she chose to control that day was her son, and his nails and his reading.

I felt like saying, "Lady if your kid is reading anything, you should be grateful. Your kid has a sense of humor. Your kid is healthy. Your kid is bright. Give it a rest."

But I didn't say anything. I hope her son grows Howard Hughes fingernails the minute he turns 18.

Monday, July 18, 2011

How Not To Do Social by Netflix

How Not To Do Social Media by Netflix

This summer Netflix announced they would be restructuring their pricing plan, raising prices by 60% for those customers who have both the streaming media and DVDs by mail plan. In a breezy blog post from Netflix VP of Marketing Jessie Becker, they explain the pricing increase as follows:

“Why the changes? Our selection of TV episodes and movies available to stream has grown dramatically, and as a result most members want us to deliver unlimited TV episodes and movies two ways: streaming instantly over the internet plus DVDs by mail. The price increase will allow us to continue to offer the popular plan choice of unlimited TV episodes and movies streaming instantly along with unlimited DVDs.”

What Netflix failed to mention, or perhaps notice, was a) the majority of their customers use the DVD option (approximately 80% according to Tony Wible, an analyst with Janney Capital Markets) and b) their streaming media library is limited. For example, a customer can watch all the episodes of seasons 1-4 of Psych via streaming, but the final season is only available via DVD.

No Comment is Unacceptable in Social

Customer reaction on social media was immediate and deafening. Once highly popular with its 22.3 million customers, Netflix saw firsthand what happens when a brand comes under attack via social. Comments on Ms. Becker’s blog post exceeded the 5,000 maximum in the first day and they ranged in tone from disgust and anger to expletive-filled rants. Comments like this one were everywhere:

In this economy, you opt to increase the price for my current subscription by this much? Well hey, guess what? Unless you seriously upgrade and update your streaming content, you'll be losing a long-term customer. And I'm sure I won't be the only one!

Contrary to social media rules of engagement, Netflix both deleted comments and did not respond to comments. Nothing. Nada. The sound of crickets.

On their Facebook page, it was more of the same, with nearly 70,000 comments along the lines of:

Dear Netflix,
After 3 years, I'm sorry but it's over. If I switch to Blockbuster I will have a greater streaming selection, with newer movies, plus games, and it will cost me only 75% of your new rates. It’s been great, but it’s over. It's not us, it’s you. Enjoy the bankruptcy.

Again Netflix responded by deleting comments. Customers took it as a challenge, and began posting the CEO Reed Hastings’ email address. The comments kept coming, apparently faster than Netflix could delete them. And still no response.

On Twitter, Netflix became a trending topic. Tweets were flying like “Dear Netflix: Are you trying to save Blockbuster?" and “Netflix customers see red after price hike (via @cnn).” Still nothing from Netflix.

Losing Sight of Your Customer Base

In the meantime, Netflix stock prices rose and fell as the market tried to figure out what would happen. Blockbuster jumped on the bandwagon by touting lowered prices to the media and customers. And Redbox looked more and more like the way to go.

Surely Netflix will survive, but their brand has been tarnished. As one angry customer posted on their Facebook page,

How sad that after years of holding a subscription and being a walking advertisement for Netflix, that we are stopping the use of your services. Greedy, greedy, greedy. Way to show your long term customers, who helped pave the way for your extreme success with a higher price. BRAVO to whoever had this brilliant idea. Goodbye Netflix, HELLO REDBOX!

In stark contrast that same week, another brand stood out as a shining example of how social media should be done. Actress Mila Kunis, star of Friends With Benefits, accepted a YouTube invitation to the Marine Corps ball from a soldier stationed in Afghanistan. The video, posted by Sgt Scott Moore with 3rd Battalion 2nd Marines, received 3,246,366 views in the first week.

When you are fortunate enough to have customers who are “a walking advertisement” for your brand, it pays to engage and respond to them on social media sites. Take note from the mistakes of Netflix.

Friday, July 15, 2011

Death by Spanx

I read recently that Oprah has an entire closet filled with shapewear. I own a few pieces that I rely on heavily to keep everything sucked in, at least between the hours of 9 and 5.

For the past couple of weeks, my back has really been bothering me. I think it's partly due to stress, partly due to lifting Daisy our new puppy, and now, I'm beginning to think, it is in part due to Spanx.

I mean if you think about it, wearing Spanx is no different than foot binding or corsets. Sure there's no whale bone involved in today's version. But you're applying pressure for long periods of time, a practice that could almost certainly lead to back pain. Or front pain. Name your poison.

Of course the alternative is unthinkable. A life without Spanx simply isn't worth living....

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

My 13 Year-Old Loves a Refreshing Cocktail

Here's how it happened. As best I can recall. Our son is 13 this year and has led a kind of sheltered life. You really cling to the one, when he's the only one.

At any rate, my husband and I decided this summer, pretty much out of desperation, that Will needs to have more independence. He needs to take on some chores. He needs to have more room to roam about. He needs to stay busy because both of us are working full-time.

So I gave him a mission and a little cash, and sent him to the grocery store to pick up some of his favorite drink from his trips to Savannah - a bottle of Arnold Palmer. An Arnie Palmer is a mix of lemonade and iced tea. Very popular in the South / hot places.

Will rode his longboard to Stop and Shop and bought two big bottles of this concoction.

Then there was something about a lady yelling at him for riding his skateboard in the store. He couldn't remember exactly.

Moving on.

He made it home and brought my change back to me.

Mission accomplished! Well done!

AND he even remembered to put the first bottle he drank on the kitchen counter in the recycling area / next to the microwave. As I was taking the empty bottle out to the garage, I noticed the label read Arnold Palmer Cocktail Mix.

Cocktail mix?

Apparently Will didn't read the label closely or he would've seen he had a choice between the Arnie Cocktail just add one part vodka - and the Party Pitcher with 8 ounces of vodka.

On a positive note, it does contain 6% juice!

Friday, May 20, 2011

Steven Seagal Kicked My Ass

This is my fave of all my Steve Seagal blogs

My brother called to tell me there was a film crew setting up shop in nearby Stamford and they were looking for help. They'd put up a huge sign in the window of their temporary offices with contact information. I've been writing a screenplay and taking film classes and I'm dying to work on an actual film set.

My brother gave me the phone number and then sent me a link to a classified ad on Craigslist. Results, the ad included an email address so I wouldn't have to make an embarrassing phone call. At 43, I'm guessing I'm not your typical intern / production assistant applicant.

I sent my resume and a cover letter to the email address in the ad. Maybe I shouldn't have used the phrase, "I know this sounds crazy, but I'd love to work on a movie and I'm a huge Steven Seagal fan."

Yes, it's one of my secret shames. I love Steven Seagal movies. I don't know why. They are idiotic and he is really just plain ridiculous, but there's something about him and his never-changing formula that I love. When he shows up wearing a full-length leather car coat or quasi-Asian smoking jacket, I know somebody's going downtown.

The working title of this movie is Marker. When it's released, it will probably be something like Death Marker or Death Comes a Marking.

My brother called me again. "Did you call them?" he asked.
"No. I emailed my resume."

"You have to call them. They're not going to respond to email."

"Fine, I'll call them."

Ring, ring. Someone picks up the phone.
"Hi, my name is Becky and I sent my resume in yesterday. I understand you guys are looking for help on your movie."

"How did you get this number?" she said, sounding very paranoid.

"My brother gave it to me. He sent me a link to your Craigslist ad." Just a thought. If you're trying to keep something a secret, you probably shouldn't hang a big sign out your window and put an ad on Craigslist. "I sent my resume to you yesterday," I said.

"What's your name?"

"Becky Risher," I replied.

"Right, yeah, I remember you," she said, now leaning toward smug.

"Why did I scare you?" I asked. "I mean, I'm not a stalker or anything."


"Well do you still need help?"

"Have you ever worked on a movie?" she asked.

"No, but I can do lots of things."

"Like what?", she said. I thought I heard her typing in the background or perhaps whispering something to a co-worker.

"Well I can type. I can make coffee. I'm really good at finding things because I'm a researcher."

"You know, I think we're good for now. But we'll call you if anything comes up."

"What was your name again?" I asked.


"Meriwether? Like Lee Meriwether?"
"Lee Meriwether. From Barnaby Jones."
"Who's Barnaby Jones?"

Forget it. I knew I was sunk. I was just thinking how I might've played it differently. I was embarrassed to be blown off by a 20-something smugster named Meriweather.

Still I am compelled to watch Steven Seagal movies. There's something about him. I went to his official website when I started writing this blog to see what he had to say about himself. The home page states that Steven is an accomplished actor, musician, martial artist and philanthropist - a man of many facets. He's also just completed filming Marker and a critically-acclaimed blues album called Mojo Priest.

You're my Mojo Priest Steven. I don't give a damn what Meriweather says.

NB I think if I'd gone on to explain the Lee Meriweather reference, that the show starred Buddy Ebsen during his sexy years before he became Jed Clampett, well I think Meriweather would've peed in her pants laughing. Laugh all you want Meriweather. You'll pee in your pants plenty after you have a baby.

Tuesday, May 17, 2011


When I was a kid, we moved a lot. My dad worked for IBM and we definitely lived the I Been Moved life.

The second-to-last place we moved while I was still at home, was a small town called Westport, Connecticut. Today, Westport is one of the wealthiest communities in the country. In 1978, it was still a place where a middle-class American IBM family could live and prosper. Sure there were the occasional Paul Newman sightings -- but he was just out grocery shopping at Hay Day or grabbing a beer at Ship's.

Moving to Westport was a tough transition from sunny Southern California. We didn't have the right clothes. We didn't talk the same way. It was fricking freezing during the famed Blizzard of '78. It's a long story that I tell in detail in my blog Middle School Blues.

My first day of school I was sitting in the office and a boy walked by and winked at me. I thought to myself, "I am not in Kansas anymore." Or Cali. These kids were going to be tough. And they were tough.

There was a kid on the bus named Jeb. He was older and popular and cool. And I was none of those things. Jeb started calling me "afterbirth". To this day I don't know why. Worse, I didn't know what it meant. And we didn't have the Google back in those days so I just sat there wondering.
Now I know what it means. I have firsthand knowledge since becoming a parent.

Yesterday I was on Facebook where my now Facebook friend Jeb posted the sweetest picture of himself comforting his son who had a rough at-bat in a baseball game. I couldn't stop thinking about that picture and how much we've all changed as a result of growing up, getting married, having kids, getting divorced, losing a parent, losing a friend.

Good for you Jeb. Way to grow up and become a good man.

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Can You Go Home Again?

Next week, we're going to Austin for a long weekend. I lived in Austin briefly as a child. My brother was born there. My dad went to the University of Texas. We're going to get the lay of the land, see what's what, check out the bats, etc. The last time I was in Texas was in September of 2010 I was in Arlington, Texas where I was born. I was there to attend my grandma's funeral. My brother and I made a very quick trip home to Texas.

We were living in Austin when my dad left grad school before finishing his PhD. With two little kids he needed a real job and he found one with IBM. I Been Moved. And we did. We moved a lot. At first, we moved in and around Texas. In a way, that was okay because we always had our grandparents living in Arlington. We went to Arlington all the time. I remember the towns on the route from Houston to Arlington. I knew we were getting closer when I heard those names - Ennis, Midlothian, Waxahachie.

Then we started moving out of Texas to Raleigh, North Carolina; San Marino, California; Westport, Connecticut; and finally Weston, Massachusetts. My last year of high school was in Weston, Massachusetts. That was a tough one. After high school, I went to Tulane University for college. I even moved during college - spending my junior year in Paris, France. Then I moved back to Weston, back to Westport, on to DC, back to New York, Raleigh again, and now I'm in Fairfield, Connecticut.

When you move as often as I do, you don't really have a place to call home. But I dream of a home. Some place I could go back to, eventually. Because I don't think Connecticut is it. I hope this isn't it. This can't be it, right?

My current home, Fairfield, is a cool little town.We're close enough to the City to take advantage of City life. We've got live music, some decent restaurants, a downtown and several beaches. I use the term beach loosely because here in Connecticut the beach is on Long Island Sound. It's rocky and the water shimmers with pollutants. But it's pretty from a distance. We lived here in Connecticut for almost 4 years when I was a kid. That was a long stretch for us. So I have many friends here, and I run into old friends all the time.

In September when I was in Arlington, I had this strange feeling about being in Texas. It felt familiar, like I think home must feel to people who lived somewhere all their lives. It was hot, the streets were wide and you could see everything because the land is so flat. Six Flags looked different, kind of small and run down. There are strip malls everywhere, not my favorite. But the feeling was familiar.

I was traveling with my brother Clay, the one from Austin. Clay spent the formative years of his life in Boston, going to high school there and then on to BU. Clay is not a patient person. I think this may be the result of the whole Boston thing. Angriest drivers on the planet, but that's another story.

In my haste, to keep up with Clay and get out out of the airport rental car place, I left my bag of travel sample beauty products in the rental car bathroom. When we got to our hotel, I made a quick trip to the nearby Walgreens to replace said samples. A lady working at the cosmetic counter asked me if I was going somewhere. I explained that I was traveling here to Arlington for my grandma's funeral. She came around the counter and gave me a hug. Let me tell you, that would never happen in Connecticut. Not in a million years. Not if we were being attacked by aliens. And for a minute, I sort of freaked. It was so strange to me that people could be so sweet.

But that's how people are in Texas. Not all of them. And they may not mean it. But they say hello to strangers, they hold the door, they let you pull your car out of your parking spot without blasting their horns. And that feels familiar.

At Granny's funeral, we had the usual assortment of distant relatives, some of them examples of the worst of what a poor education, lack of job options, and growing up in the South can do to a person. But there's my Uncle David in his Wrangler jeans and cowboy hat and boots. Also a product of Texas.

It's kind of a funny story about Uncle David. Uncle David is my mother's brother. My mother that my dad is no longer married to. But Uncle David showed up to his ex-brother-in-law's mother's funeral, drove a ways because he lives in Grandview now. He drove up because that's what decent people do. We were all happy to see him, including my dad.

At the last minute, he became a pall bearer. My dad has replaced all his major joints at this point so David took his place when his knee started to falter, and he carried my grandmother to her grave. After the funeral, we said our goodbye's. David got in his huge truck and drove off. And my brother and I got on a plane back to New York, and back to Connecticut.

I don't know where I'll end up, but I hope I find home some day. Maybe in Austin. We'll see.