Monthly Archives: October 2009

Wisdom on Your Face

laughWhen my mother turned 50, I sent her a card that declared joyfully “Congratulations, you are now officially a crone!” like she’d been reaching for that moment her entire life.  She was horrified. She felt as if I’d labeled each one of her wrinkles with a proper name; but I, on the other hand, believed the word crone to be the most flattering thing to call a woman. As a child, I couldn’t wait to escape ingénue-hood for when oh when could I be that crone, an old woman who oozed grace and insight from having lived a life, a real gritty passionate life. I once dramatically confessed to my friend Maria, “I can’t wait to be old,” to which she responded in 7-year-old solidarity, “I can’t wait to wear lipstick.” She didn’t understand that “old” for me meant wise.

In pursuit of wisdom, I grew up trying to define it. I assumed that it looked serious–a solemn face furrowed in Deep Meaningful Smart Thought and often staring into the grassy distance. When I spotted people like this, I gazed upon them like a dutiful servant, terribly impressed by what they might know about the world, but never particularly soothed.

As I step into my 30’s (and therefore become supposedly wiser, though I’d trust a toddler’s insight over anyone’s my age), wisdom is begging for a new wardrobe. Be-gg-ing for it.

What I’ve noticed is that the people I respect the most do one thing consistently… Continue reading


Filed under Orienting

Lining Up Pennies

I am naturally organized. It’s one of my superpowers.

As a toddler, my parents once found me methodically pulling clean diapers out of their box, lining them up along the wall in the hallway, and then placing all of my stuffed animals in a diaper, one by one. As a pre-teen, I would empty my big container of collected pennies and line them up on the carpet in order of their year. Now, I take great satisfaction in a well-constructed Excel spreadsheet, and even my writing talismans on my desk-side table sit in a specific arrangement. I moderate Crucial Minutiae’s comments without second thought, and took deep satisfaction from re-organizing the weekly columns.

When I started meeting professional writers in my early 20s, I noticed that many of them, especially the most commercially successful ones, were naturally disorganized. They are brilliant writers and thinkers who, when they go deep into the writing process, seem to lose all sense of their physical world.

Continue reading


Filed under Art, Beauty in a Wicked World, Writing

A Woman AND Man's Nation?

I contributed to the recent media darling of a report: A Woman’s Nation (co-produced by Maria Shriver and the Center for American Progress). After speaking on a great panel with Michael Kimmel and Stephanie Koontz last week, I couldn’t stop thinking about the need to reframe this issue so that men feel like they can really own their own stake in making work policy more flexible, family-friendly, and generally honoring of the fact that we are all more than drones. Here’s an excerpt from the column I penned on this topic:

For all of our progress on framing the issue, however, one challenge remains largely unmet. We have yet to figure out a way to tag these issues as critical to both women and men. We have to stop using “work/life balance” as coded language for “working-mom stress.” Despite ample evidence that men are served by investing more time and energy outside the workplace and “coming out” as fathers while in it, there are very few men who are taking on this issue in a substantive, political way.

I’ve been getting lots of emails from men, in particular, who are excited about my argument, but no one seems to be suggesting a new framing, new language. Any ideas from the CM audience?

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Filed under General

Live Blogging the CDC

My cohort at Emotion Technology (and husband) Christopher Gandin Le is live blogging for the CDC at the National Environmental Public Health Conference: Healthy People in a Healthy Environment.

Majora Carter, a genius and one of my favorite speakers on this subject, is speaking at this conference along with many other great minds. You can enjoy the highlights of a conference on a vital topic from the comfort of your own computer!

Check it out via Twitter

You can also register to watch a free live webcast here.

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Filed under Environment, Science & Technology

Brag Round-Up for Monday, October 26

The first brag round-up since August! Our Crucial Minutiae writers have been busy.

Jennifer Gandin Le

Courtney Martin

Cristina Pippa

  • In August, Cristina gave (calm) birth to Francesca – the first Crucial Minutiae baby!

Kate Torgovnick

  • Kate’s book CHEER! will be made into a TV show for Warner Bros. TV. Read about the show at Variety.
  • “Is Your Friend Toxic?” on New York Post.

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Filed under General

The Killing Season

snow“The Killing Season” is not a spoof television show–it’s an eerie phrase used by Mongolians who live on those grassland plains called steppes. It’s not hard to imagine which season exactly is the killer. These nomads usually lose half of their herd (of camels, yaks, sheep, horses) during the brutal windswept winters. Since their herd is their livelihood, the death of the herd is a kind of death of human existence.

I don’t depend on a herd, but I am anticipating living in a cold unlike any I’ve experienced, partially because I’ll be living in a yurt. Winter blasted into Montana the first week of October with 1° temperatures, a foot of snow and icicles hanging like daggers from homes. The snow has melted and left us some semblance of fall, but aspens and cottonwoods never had a chance to turn golden yellow. The leaves froze into a mottled purple color; now they flutter like strange ghosts casting a strange purpley hue in the valley.  

A friend of mine hates summer. I love summer. Maybe for her, summer is the killing season, a killing of some piece of her, but I’m not sure anyone reading this blog or using a computer (like me) can understand what a killing season actually entails.


Filed under Environment

For the Show

I know, I know. You’re tired of reading about Balloon Boy. I just wanted to take a moment and ask: Remember when you were that trusting? Someone older and supposedly wiser told you to do something and you went along with it because you yet hadn’t accumulated years of experiences, good and bad, to give you insight as to when to follow directions and when to say, “Are you kidding me?”

I remember. It was when a freckle-faced girl named Alice told me that I should eat the “blue Hawaiian ice” from the toilet in our pre-school bathroom. This was back in the days when you had to go to the potty with a buddy. While mine was a year older, she wasn’t much of a buddy– inasmuch as she nearly poisoned me with toilet freshener. Luckily, a teacher was suspicious about how long we were in there and saved me from an early death before I took that first bite.

It’s been a few years since I’ve taught theater to young kids, but I’ll never forget the discussions we had about the difference between make-believe and lying and between a show and real life. Some parents had clearly put deep-seeded fear into their children about the dangers of deception. Other kids found story-making and trickery to be second nature. I wonder what will become of Balloon Boy. Will he decide that he likes the limelight and continue to do things “for the show”? Or will he realize that he was manipulated by his own parents and never be able to trust anyone again? The trust of a child is so freely given and so easily lost.

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Filed under General, Generation Overwhelmed, Pop Culture