Category Archives: People I admire

Cannot Believe This Question to Advice Column!

“Ask Amy” is the syndicated advice column that replaced “Dear Abby.” Today, I read a question that blew me away!

A 22 year-old woman has known her boyfriend for nine years, dated him for two. Of course, they live together [see my previous post: LIVE TOGETHER?  NOT IF YOU WANT TO MARRY HIM]. She wants to get married; he doesn’t. Typical scenario, so far.

Now, here’s the twist:  he’s pressuring her to have his children without marrying her.  She asks, “Am I wrong to want to be married before having kids?  Am I crazy for wanting him to propose?”


Wrong for wanting two parents? Wrong for wanting marriage when you’ve been dating for two years? The world’s gone mad when a young woman questions her own desire for a “nest” for her babies.

The columnist gives her a typical, politically correct response:  “I wish I could offer you 20/20 clarity about what pushing someone into marriage tends to lead to…” Give me a break — it leads to marriage, a marriage as likely to work as any other, as likely to end in divorce as any other, but with legal obligations from the father not always afforded by living together.  In contrast, people who live together before marriage have a higher divorce rate than those who don’t.

Amy goes on to advise, “Talk to peers…who are married with kids — or unmarried with kids — to see what their lives are like.”  What?  Nothing about the woman being only 22 and NOT wanting kids before marriage?  Nothing about the selfish, immature desire of her guy to procreate without commitment?

By taking wishy-washy, politically correct advice, this 22 year old has a big chance of ending up a single mother struggling to make ends meet, trapped by a circumstance she wanted to avoid.  What about bolstering her resolve to provide a two-parent home for her kids?

The advice columnist is so worried about pressuring someone into marriage…what about pressuring someone into the irrevocable decision to have kids?  Amy, you really messed up on this one!

If Dan Wrote Fiction, We’d All Be Out of Business

Dan Neil is the car reviewer for the WALL STREET JOURNAL. He is one of the best writers alive, in my view.  His prose soars, swoops, and puts you there…wherever there is.  A racetrack in Germany, the Autobahn, the Concours d’Elegance in Pebble Beach.

I’ve never been interested in torque, horsepower, or wind resistance, but Dan makes these interesting.  He’s a genius at depicting sensation when he loves a car. And when he hates a car, you’d better not have liquid in your mouth because he’s so hilarious, you’ll either spit it out or snort it up your nose with laughter.

Here’s what we other writers can learn from him:

1. Description without superfluous adverbs or adjectives

2. Simile and metaphor without clichés.

3. Depiction of sensation — the man transports the reader.

Here’s a link to his review of a Honda hybrid.

But if you’re a writer, you should see his review of the Aston Martin Vanquish.  Is this guy great or what?  If he wrote romance, the competition would be in big trouble.

The Last True Gentleman? Why My Husband Loves Project Runway’s Tim Gunn

It all started with Heidi Klum, the former Victoria’s Secret Model who hosts Lifetime’s Project Runway.  I wanted to watch the show, so I convinced my husband to watch it with me because I told him he’d enjoy all the gorgeous models.  As a graduate of the Fashion Institute of Technology, I wanted to see the designers at work.  My husband didn’t care much about the process, but he said he would watch the show with me…hmm, not sure why.

The drama between the designers, as well as their wild and creative runway fashions, kind of caught my husband’s interest — and thoroughly absorbed me.  But who really fascinated us most was Tim Gunn, the designers’ mentor and top dog at Parsons School of Design.  Tim Gunn, from the first, struck us as an incredibly nice, thoughtful, and intelligent man.  At each new season of Project Runway, Mr. Gunn further impressed us with his diplomacy in handling temperamental, often catty, designers.

Another unique trait of Mr. Gunn’s is that he always wears a jacket, tie and slacks.  I believe I’ve only seen one episode in which he appeared in casual attire:  a race in Central Park.  Otherwise, whether he’s visiting a designer at a California beach, a Mississippi tract home, or an Ohio farm, he sports formal business attire.  With so many grown men dressing like four year-olds, this is refreshing!  What’s more, he carries it off without appearing snobbish or uptight because his warmth just shines through.

I think my husband recognizes Mr. Gunn’s extraordinary goodness and compassion because he shares those traits [see previous post MY HUSBAND SAVES LIVES].

“What a gentleman!” we marvel when Mr. Gunn smooths over a hissy-fit between two designers without appearing to take sides. His graciousness, his deep concern for people, his kindness, and his sense of honor are all on display in each show.  Could it possibly be an act, we asked each other?  Well, we had our answer today when we read an interview with him in the New York Times.  It’s not an act.  He’s every bit as wonderful in person, according to what I read in an interview.

Tim Gunn is 60 years old now.  I am sorry to hear that because I haven’t seen many gentlemen like him, either in person or in the news, and I wish there were even one 30 year-old to give me hope.  Is there a successor anywhere in the world to this sort of kindness, grooming, taste, diplomacy, intelligence and grace?  Is there anyone else out there without a common, vulgar, or mean bone in his body, but who tolerates the faults of others with such kindness?

Tim Gunn, in your interview, you say you would like to have a platonic companion with whom to grow old.  You don’t care if the person is male or female, and you don’t want the sex, but you want the friendship.

I have an idea:  my husband and I intend to retire in Hawaii, where most houses have separate in-law pavilions (ohana) or guest houses.  We invite you to come and live with us, or at least be our next-door neighbor.  You can split the time between Hawaii and your New York place.  What about it, Tim?  We can’t think of anyone we’d rather be friends with.  I envision lovely gatherings on the lanai, photographic expeditions, Srabble games, reading, and beach picnics (you in your suit and tie?)

Well, in case you don’t take us up on our offer, let me say that I am so glad that we have had the chance to “meet” you, that the world has had a chance to meet you.  I hope others will follow your example.

Here’s the link to the Tim Gunn interview

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My Husband Saves Lives

My husband and I had just put a contract on a new house when my elderly mother, back in Maryland, got lost driving to a place she’d been many times before. I tried to talk her into moving into our Colorado home with us, but she didn’t want to impose. So my husband got on the phone with her and talked her into it.  Then, he packed her decades of belongings and brought her to our new home just 10 days after we, ourselves, had moved in.


My mother, the rabble-rouser

My mother and our younger cat

At first, my mom seemed to have her sharpness, perspicacity, and sense of humor intact, but she was almost 90 years old, and her memory wasn’t what it had been.  My husband never gave up on her, though. He would stand in front of her while she sat on the couch and lead her in a little dance.  Really, it was chair aerobics, but it kept her sharp because she had to follow his changing moves, and it got her heart racing.  Most important, it would make her laugh and she loved the attention.

My mother passed away one day before her birthday in 2011, and I believe my husband played a huge part in keeping her alive and relatively healthy for as long as she was.  Her doctor said he’d rarely seen a woman of her age so well cared-for.  She didn’t have a bruise, scratch or rash on her, no breakdown of her skin, and she was coiffed, manicured and pedicured.

No sooner had my mom passed than, in early 2012, my 13 year-old cat developed diabetes.  He drank water non-stop, was ravenous, and peed non-stop, too. He withered away from a plump 14 pounds to 9 pounds.  His hind quarters bent under, as if from arthritis, and he would often fall backward when trying to jump on a chair or table.  He was failing, and I thought he’d be dead in a year.  I was heartbroken.  This cat has been my companion longer than my second husband (my first died in a car accident in 1997 [see COINCIDENCE OR PARANORMAL ACTIVITY this blog]).  My cat obeys me as a dog would. Each morning, he jumps on my bed to snuggle and wake me up.  Each night, he does the same.  When I say, “good night…go lay down,” he jumps off the bed and exits the room.

We began giving him insulin shots.  I should say that it was mostly my husband, as he was more able than I to keep the cat still.  My husband gave him treats after each shot, and he experimented with food in an attempt to make him regain his weight.  My cat has always been an indoor cat, but now that he was so weak, we knew we could leave him on our second floor deck — which has no staircase — without fear of a kitty escape.  The cat loved being outside.  Soon, he was able to jump up on a short stone bench at the end of the deck, and roll around on the sun-warmed stone. Both my husband and I would set aside time each day to take the cat out.

imgp0610[1]Soon, I noticed a change in my cat.  He began to seek out my husband, to sit on his lap, or next to him on the couch, something he had only ever done to me.  And each night, when it was time for his shot, the cat would come and sit at my husband’s feet — not for the shot, but for the treat afterward.

My cat began to gain weight, he became more animated and playful.  He was easily jumping onto my lap again.

Now, when we’re on the deck, we have to keep a careful eye on him because he’ll jump onto the four-inch wide railing and walk the length of the house in perfect balance.  His hips are no longer bowed under.  His coat is thick and silky.

This weekend, my cat demonstrated the full extent of his recovery when he chased our younger cat around the house.  Her escape has always been to jump on a 40 inch wall that separates our upstairs hall from the stairs leading to our lower level.  Well, she jumped, all right, but then so did my 15-year-old male!

My husband, my hero.

For another fun article for cat lovers, check out WALL STREET JOURNAL sports page, A MANAGER AND HIS CATS, about baseball’s Tony La Russa,10/8/2013

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Love Boot Camp: Listen to Your Mama

Chapter 10 Listen to Your Mama

Up until now, I’ve told you about the dating experiences of my friends. Now, I’m going to tell you about mine.

My late mom could size up a person’s character in five minutes.  She was never wrong.  Never.  I dated men of many colors and nationalities and my mother never made judgments based on culture or color.  That’s not to say that appearances didn’t count.  If a man was polite, well-groomed and well-dressed, he got extra points.

She correctly predicted who would be reliable and who would dump me: her version of, “He’s just not that into you.”  She knew when a guy was lying or making excuses and when he was sincere.  She would say things like, “I just don’t trust him,” or, conversely, “He’s a good boy.”

When I met my future husband, Michael, he immediately began hot pursuit of me.  I just wasn’t that into him.  He wasn’t my type.  My mother knew that my type had thus far proved unreliable and, in her opinion, unworthy of me.  By the time I met Michael, I was 24, and had never really been in love.  I had certainly wanted to be, and had tried to convince myself that I had loved one long-term boyfriend.  The truth was, though, that I was a complete stranger to being in love.

My mother at once recognized that Michael was different from any man I’d previously dated.  He called when he said he would, was always on time, and invited me out often with plenty of advance notice.  I toyed with the idea of breaking up with him because I wasn’t that attracted to him (even though he was handsome.)  My mother said, “Just give him a chance.  You don’t have to marry him.”

She had been right about so many other men that I took her advice.  Michael was a gentleman  and I knew he wouldn’t rush me into a physical relationship, so he unknowingly — or perhaps knowingly — gave me the time and space to grow my feelings for him.  For the first couple of dates, he didn’t even try to kiss me good-bye at the end of our date.  Then, on our third date, we were at the grocery store shopping for a picnic and he gave me a peck on the lips.   I wasn’t expecting it and I was surprised at how pleasant it was.

Well, we went on our picnic.  We kissed in earnest, and I literally seemed to hear bells.  I knew I could love this man, or at least be wildly attracted to him.  His kindness and patience — and his passion for me — made me fall in love with him.

We were married for 14 years, until he died in a car accident (see blog post COINCIDENCE OR PARANORMAL ACTIVITY).  I cannot imagine a happier marriage.

My mom adored him, and she was right.

The fact is, our parents have met many more people than we have.  They’ve been burned, disappointed, cheated and delighted more than we have.  Their experiences make them better judges of character.  So unless your parents hold racial or cultural prejudices for no logical reason, they can probably judge a man’s character better than you can.  At least listen with an open mind.  They could save you plenty of heartache.

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Love Boot Camp: Manners Do Count!

Chapter 9 Manners Do Count!

My friend Kate, age 32, is attracted to bad boys, as are so many women.  A little scraggly, a little shady, her boyfriend, Rob, can be mysterious in a spicy way.  He can be loving on rare occasions, but is aloof much of the time.  He’s often unreliable, but reliable enough to keep her hooked.  He smokes, of course, dresses in jeans, old T-shirts and a leather jacket.

Sounds like a typical 20-something, right?  Well, Rob is 41 years old.  He has a cool job as a sous-chef, which means plenty of late nights, lots of drinking, rough language and more than a little misogyny.  There’s a certain glamour to that picture, isn’t there?  At least there was until Kate took Rob home to meet her folks.

His devil-may-care, slicked back hair just looked greasy.  His ripped T-shirt looked sloppy.  His rough language made her parents cringe, and Kate couldn’t ignore the shock and disapproval on their faces.  All of a sudden, she was excruciatingly aware that he smelled like an ashtray.

To make matters worse, he had bad manners.  He nodded upon being introduced to her parents, rather than shaking hands.  He sunk into her father’s easy chair without waiting to be invited to sit down.  He ignored the glass Kate’s mother brought for his beer and drank from the can.  He began eating before his hostess, made no comment on the food, and did not offer to help with clean-up.

Seen through her parents’ eyes, Rob — for the first time — seemed repulsive.  Her parents didn’t need to voice any criticism.  Kate realized for herself that Rob would never fit in with her family. Maybe his demeanor would have been perfectly acceptable in another family, but not in hers.

It’s not so much a matter of  good vs. bad manners, but about having compatible ideas about manners.  Kate never met Rob’s family, but if they were like him, they might have found her uptight and pretentious.

If you’re not comfortable introducing your man to family and friends, then he’s simply not a good fit.  Unless both of you are up for a makeover, best to end the relationship.

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How to be Interesting on Twitter: I Have No Idea (Hashtags Intimidate Me)

When you’re watching a show you like on TV, does it really enhance your experience to have the bottom couple of inches of screen obscured by a comment like, “@TV show ‘Way to go…awesome!'” As my teenagers say, “Really?  I mean, really?”  That was the insight you were looking for?

I’ve managed to avoid social media for  the past few years, remaining on the sidelines when everyone else jumped in. Sometimes people would ask me to “Friend” them, so I started a half-hearted excuse for a Facebook page that I never looked at.

Then I uploaded my two novels onto Kindle.  How was I to get the word out and generate sales?  Only people who knew me personally were aware of my project.  Not having an unlimited advertising budget, I had to learn about social media.  I turned to my cousin, Danielle, an LA casting agent (@DanielleCasting).  Danielle has some 20,000 Twitter followers and has maxed out her Facebook page. Danielle is interesting, Danielle is funny, Danielle is accomplished.  She’s my model for how to use Twitter, not the “awesome” Twitterers who impose on my TV shows.

A couple of weeks ago, Danielle posted a Tweet asking her friends to follow me, as I was brand new to Twitter.  I asked Danielle, “Does this mean I have to think up interesting stuff to Tweet every few minutes?”

“Pretty much,” Danielle said.

How the hell am I supposed to do that?  I don’t know, but I’ve gotten a few insights from Danielle’s friends who were kind enough to “follow” me.  At first, I just thanked them for following me, then Tweeted info about my books. Something interesting happened. In trying to understand the context of their Tweets, I’d open up the “expand” comments file.  A lot of Danielle’s friends are actors or casting agents — a world utterly foreign to me.  They’re really interesting people.  I began to look at their photo galleries, their videos, their Facebook pages.  One of her friends is an expert in a skill I once enjoyed.  Another friend posted on her FB page a photo of a man with whom she’s making a movie.  He’s one of the handsomest men I’ve ever seen, but never heard of.  Yet another friend lives overlooking the Pacific (my goal) and likes cats, as I do.  I’ve had fun exchanging Tweets with an actor who enjoys one of my favorite TV shows and who made some interesting comments about the participants (@JeffreyAJordan).

In my second week on Twitter, I’ve used the “Discover” button to find sites that specialize in my industry:  women’s fiction, romance, publishing, book reviews.  Now, in addition to my cousin’s followers, I have followers — and I’m following — other writers, reviewers and publishers.

I’m discovering that it’s not up to me to think up interesting stuff just about me.  What’s interesting  about social media is the work, photos, and conversations of the people I follow. I love it when people post interesting quotes or videos (check out @MeetRobynThomas, @sesever, @Lisa2LA). They make me stop and think, and I can retweet them.  I don’t have to be interesting 50 times a day as long as the people I retweet are interesting.  And we all like to be “favorites” or “retweets.”

Maybe when I delve into the daunting world of hashtags, I’ll discover even more interesting stuff via Twitter. I’ve clicked on a couple of hashtags, and kind of got lost in the world in which I landed.  I haven’t dared use a hashtag myself in case I do it wrong.  My expert cousin, Danielle, tried to explain it to me in an email, using #FF as an example.  She may as well have been speaking Russian.  I’ll figure it out.

So, to return to the title of this blog, it wasn’t false advertising.  Everything I say in the title is true. What has changed, however, is that I now understand why people are interested in social media.  I’ve gone from indifferent to fascinated.  Does that make me fascinating?  No. It just puts more fun in my life.

Oh, and about the books: Be sure to click on KINDLE EDITION for $3.99 or you’re apt to see a wacky used book price!