Monday, December 29, 2008

I Feel a Holiday Coming On

I was talking to a friend at a holiday party last weekend and we made plans to get together. We’re going to meet for cocktails one afternoon. On a weekday. When the kids are in school and we should be working. Another friend overheard and said, “Are you kidding? You won’t be able to function for the rest of the day!” To which we replied in unison, “Who Cares!”

Just the thought of it makes me smile. How naughty. How decadent. Really, it doesn’t take much. Maybe we should make a holiday of it: National Blow Off An Afternoon Like You Were Still in College Day. Sounds good, right?

If you’ve already celebrated your own afternoon holiday, do tell. You'll inspire the rest of us!

Monday, December 22, 2008

2008 Was the Year I...

The other night my friend Pat hosted our annual writers’ group holiday meeting. Every year she bakes these awesome coconut and chocolate chip bars, and pops bottles of champagne (okay, Prosecco). I love this night, because I love this group and the women in it — and it’s nice to have an occasion to celebrate it and us.

This year we had a hard time coming up with a theme. In the past, we’ve done work resolutions for the new year, work triumphs and regrets from the past year, and things to be thankful for. Ultimately we decided to honor what we’d done this year by naming an accomplishment.

For me, it was simple: 2008 was the year I became a writer. Ironically, I’ve been a member of writers’ group for nearly seven years, but before The List I hadn’t written a thing. I am an editor, I’d tell everyone, not a writer. And until last year, that was true.

Sometimes I wonder why this great group of women invited me to join in them first place; maybe they saw the writer in me that I never saw. Whatever the reason, I know I wouldn’t be a writer without them.

I felt a real sense at the holiday meeting of needing to appreciate what we have — and what we’ve done — this year. Which I think made us all feel more optimistic about next year. There was a lot of accomplishment floating around that room, and a great spirit that made you feel that all things are possible.

Sometimes you need to do a little accounting to realize how far you’ve come, and how far you could go.

Share your accomplishment of 2008. I’d love to hear about it.

Friday, December 19, 2008

Where Has Peg's Mind Gone?

Okay, my friend Peg has lost her mind. She’s driving her 80-year-old father from New Jersey to Florida right after New Year’s. Just the two of them, in a car, for 48 hours. He was going to drive himself, but Peg couldn’t sleep at night thinking about it, so she decided to ditch her own family to save countless others on I-95. She’s Jan 3 and flying home on the 5th in time to pick up her boys from school.

I laughed when I heard this plan. I told her I thought it would be really interesting . . . if nothing else. And then I said (ha-ha) that I should go with her. The minute it came out, I could feel myself getting giddy. What a concept! I could throw a few things in a bag, hop in the back, and drive 1,300 miles to nowhere, stopping every four hours at a Bob Evans or Cracker Barrel. How reckless and irresponsible to disappear like that!

I actually can’t do it, but I’ll be tempted up until the minute she pulls out of the driveway. Who knows—maybe if this trip works out well, she’ll go again next year, and I’ll get another chance. It wouldn’t be nearly as much fun as doing it now, though. Part of the thrill would be the spontaneity.

So what would you do? Would you say screw it, and just go? If that’s what I end up doing at the eleventh hour, I’ll let you know.

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

On the Vine with Sue Guerra

Sue Guerra, the Lister who left a career in sales to start a career in wine, has another new gig: she’s blogging for She started around the time of the wine tasting/book signing that she helped organize for The List. (The blog is called On the Vine; check it out). I ran into her a month or so before she started, and she was nervous about writing in such a public forum. Now she’s a pro. Once you’ve taken a big leap, a medium-sized one is nothing.

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Getting Out: It Doesn't Cost to Look, Part 2

I need to get out more. Not just figuratively, but literally. A few weeks ago, my friend Peg invited me to see the Lincoln Center production of “Dividing the Estate” because her husband couldn’t go. We had a blast. We got into the city a little too late for a leisurely dinner, but found a great Italian place that served us with cartoon speed. We raced to the theatre two blocks away — stopping at the newsstand for Raisinets and Milk Duds — and watched a very entertaining show.

Afterwards, I started thinking of all the times Peg has called to ask if I want to take the dogs for a hike in the woods, and I’ve said I was too busy working. The truth is, I was too catatonic. You get that way when you stop doing things that are fun and hole up in your home with your day-to-day grind.

I don’t want to be that way, so I have to start doing more. I’m not about to go to the theatre every other month; at $125 a seat I’ll be lucky to go once a year. But shaking up your life doesn’t have to be expensive. It doesn’t even require going into the city or doing something entertaining. Sometimes it just requires getting up, and getting out with a good friend. The next time Pegs calls to ask if I want to hike with the dogs, I’ll say yes.

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

It Doesn’t Cost to Look

Forget about cheap thrills — what I want now are free ones. In this economy, things like sailing or singing lessons will have to wait. Just because I can’t buy doesn’t mean I can’t shop.

The other day, when I was feeling a little low, I went online to look at beach houses for sale in Rhode Island. With the economy taking a nosedive, I took virtual tours of million-dollar homes. It felt good — but not nearly as good as the idea of calling a broker and actually inquiring about them. For added fun, I thought, I’d offer cash, sight unseen. I didn’t act on this fantasy (that would have been mean and a little perverse), but I had a great time thinking about it.

Thumbing through The List, I counted 37 shakeups that cost nothing, including a few of my personal favorites: Tell Someone Off; Spend the Day in Bed; and Escape. And there’s the really big shakeup: Switch Careers. I did that already, years ago, when I left my magazine job to go freelance. It was scary, but I’ve done so many great things because of it. I’ve written one book and edited another. I’ve become an adjunct professor. I’ve edited two small websites and written for one huge one.

So what if I switched again? What if I went back to working in an office? Would I be able to find a job that took me somewhere new and exciting — especially these days? Who knows. But I can shop without buying and find out. And it doesn’t cost a thing.

Have you had any free and fun shakeups lately? Let me know.

Friday, December 5, 2008

How to Downsize in Style...Your Holidays, That Is

The New York Times ran a great story over the weekend, “We’re Going to Party Like it’s 1929,” about downsizing the holidays. The writer invited a famous NYC event planner to design a “recessionary” dinner party for eight people — at $30 a head. (I’m pretty sure I could’ve brought it in for $25 a head, but nobody asked me.)

The planner turned the writer’s apartment into a Winter Wonderland using items from K-Mart and the dollar store, and turned out dinner with groceries and wine from Trader Joe’s. He bought quilting batting to use as a tablecloth and served stuffed potatoes as the entrée.

I know this was supposed to be an exercise in frugality, but it sounded like a lot of fun, too. The event planner hit the nail on the head when he said: “The thing about the recession is, it takes the pressure off. It allows you to strip away all the stuff that’s not important and focus on what is: friends, family, togetherness.”

I host both our family Hanukah party and Christmas dinner every year. And while I don’t spend a bundle on either one, I’m thinking it might be fun to put Latkes out on a buffet table with an assortment of meat and vegetable toppings and make it the main course instead of the appetizer. Or take the Christmas ham and make mini sandwiches for an “all hors d’oeuvres and dessert” holiday meal.

Why not?

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

Surviving Amelia

One of my good friends just finished writing a novel, which in and of itself is nothing new, since she’s a professional novelist. But this book is a total departure from all her others, and she took a big leap writing it. The working title is Surviving Amelia. It’s about friendship and how women from different generations come into their own. The common thread throughout their stories is Amelia Earhart.

My friend has a lot invested in the book, and she’s really happy with how it came out. She gave the manuscript to her writing group to critique, and made some changes before giving it to her agent. And then she waited for feedback. It’s nerve-wracking to put your work out there for the world to judge. (More than a few Listers can attest to that — me included!)

This is where it starts. Hopefully my friend will end with up with a big fat book deal (even a skinny one will do). In the meantime, she knows she’s created something great — and she’s not the only one who thinks so.

If you’ve taken a leap and put your work out there, let me know how it went.