Friday, February 28, 2014

Carrie'd Away

I confess. I wasn't a Sex and the City fan when it first came out.

I could be smug and say "Yeah, because I had a life." But, really, I had too much of one. I had a toddler at home and a more-than-full-time job an hour's commute away. Not a lot of discretionary time for cosmos or shoe-shopping. To top it off, we didn't even have HBO (despite many years working for the cable industry); we never sat down together, so it really wasn't worth it. But, that's okay.

The show eventually moved to basic cable (minus some of the nudity and language), and it wasn't hard to catch up. There was a while there, actually, when back-to-back episodes seemed to be playing non-stop on E! and the Style Network. I caught a few and caught the bug. The writing was clever, the girls' adventures were enjoyably over-the-top, and the whole series, all six seasons, was really an epic poem in honor of my beloved hometown.

Soon, my pre-teen daughter wanted to watch. I've always believed in speaking honestly about sex and sexuality. As you can imagine, the series gave us lots to talk about. (Before you call Social Services, remember we were watching the PG-13 version, not the original.) 

My daughter had an interesting perspective:

"Which of the girls do you think you are, Mom?"

"I don't know. Which do you think I am?"

"Carrie because you're a writer ..."


"... and Miranda because you're a workaholic."


Let's stick with the writer part (although, to be honest, I always loved Cynthia Nixon's performance as the compulsive achieving lawyer turned single mom, and bonus: the talented actress went to my high school). When I started my blog nearly three years ago, some people joked about it. "You're the real-life — midlife — Carrie Bradshaw." Very funny. But, had the show been created 15 years later, I have no doubt that Carrie would have been a blogger.

Over the years, people also encouraged me to publish Lovin' the Alien as a book. At the end of 2013, I finally did. It was a bit of a dream come true. My first book, The New Marketing Conversation, was well-received, but not exactly light reading.

Lovin' the Alien, on the other hand, had everything you could possibly want: drama (oy! such drama!), romance, drama, timely topics, drama, sound advice. Oh, and did I mention drama? Successfully raising a tween girl (or trying to) clearly resonated with many moms. The response to the book, like the response to the blog before it, was terrific. Sales, yes, but even more exciting, I received fan mail. Most of it was very positive ("Your book is like a virtual support group."). Some ... um ... not so much. ("You are a pushover and you are spoiling your daughter.")

Hey, I never said I knew what I was doing. I just invited you along for the ride.

Nevertheless, my book is out (in three formats: hardcover, softcover, and for those of us with a pair of reading glasses stashed in every room, large print). And, this past month I reached another milestone. 

My first bookstore reading.

Unlike Carrie (who, if you remember, had to share the podium with canine author Mr. Winkle), the whole event was about me, me, me. It was pretty cool, I have to admit. My daughter even attended and (despite genuine fears earlier in the day) didn't die of embarrassment. I welcomed people. I read three essays from the book. The store sold some copies and I signed them. That was about it. We would have had champagne afterwards, but there was homework to do. C'est la vie.

So, for one evening this month, I was Carrie Bradshaw. More or less. More less, I guess. Less hair, less lovers, less shoes. 

Lovin' the Alien is my story and my daughter's. It's certainly not Carrie Bradshaw's. After all, there's no sex yet ...

And very little city. 

If you enjoyed this post, I invite you to order a copy of my new book Lovin' the Alien at   

Tuesday, February 25, 2014

Selfies Are A Lousy Way To Take A Picture

I've been a mother for sixteen and a half years and we have never had lice. 

Quick, give me something made of wood so I can knock on it!

I'm not one of those snobby people who thinks lice could never ("neveh, neveh, neveh") happen in my emaculate home. This is the real world. Sh*t happens; so does lice. And, believe you me, we've had close calls. A voicemail from daycare, a notice sent home in an elementary school backpack, a veritable epidemic at gymnastics camp. I've bought the skinny-toothed nit combs; I've examined the scalp. (I've even experienced the psychosomatic itching.) But, to date, thank-you God, we have not had a single louse in the house. 

Amen, sister. 

What we have had our share of are "selfies," the ubiquitous self-portraits that today's teenagers take (and take and take). These get posted on Facebook; they are Instagrammed and Tweeted and Tumbled and who know what else. "Here I am in my room." "Here I am with a bowl of Doritos." "Here I am with my new haircut." "Here I am trying on Sophomore Semi-Formal dresses." "Here I am." "Here I am. "Here I am."

Old-timers like us don't know from "selfies." I'm not sure whether it's because shooting a self-portrait with an old-fashioned camera (remember film?) would be awkward, or because we had nowhere to show them off. My husband (a high-tech professional, but an analog guy at heart) once told me that he was about to take a "facey" because there was so much snow out front. I, being slightly, but only slightly, more fluent in mobile lingo, knew what a "selfie" was, but not what a "facey" was. I thought he was about to fall on his face.

For those of you who weren't born after 1990, basically the "selfie" drill is this: you pose, you point, you post, you wait for all your friends to hit "Like" or make insightful and original comments like "U so pretty."

My daughter isn't vain about her looks. (In fact, if anything, I think she underestimates how pretty she might be to the opposite sex, which makes my husband very happy.) But, she certainly puts up her share of "selfies." I know this because whenever I help backup her iPhone, I get to see all her photos. I try not to make a big deal out of it. So far, they've all been nice, smiling, fully-clothed.

That's the issue, isn't it? Between Justin Bieber, Amanda Bynes and Anthony Weiner (really, could the man have a more unfortunate name?), it's painfully obvious that "selfies" can get you into quite a lot of trouble. People, please. Put your junk away. No one really wants to see that.

And now there's something new to worry about. According to several stories in today's news, taking "selfies" is contributing to the growing cases of lice among teenagers.

Altogether now ... "Ewwwwwwww!"

Yes, the popular plural version of the "selfie" (a bunch of besties crowding together for a group self-portrait) seems to be the culprit. According to Marcy McQuillan of Scotts Valley's Nitless Noggins (a place I will never work), “I’ve seen a huge increase of lice in teens this year. Typically it’s younger children I treat, because they’re at higher risk for head-to-head contact. But now, teens are sticking their heads together every day to take cell phone pics." She goes on to warn that "Parents need to be aware, and teenagers need to be aware too. Selfies are fun, but the consequences are real."

On behalf of mothers of teens everywhere, thank you, Ms. McQuillan. Just what we needed, right? 

One more lousy thing to worry about.

If you enjoyed this post, I invite you to order a copy of my new book Lovin' the Alien at   

Sunday, February 23, 2014

Mother-Daughter Book Club: Divergent

A few months ago, my teenage daughter and I saw a "coming attraction" trailer for a new movie called Divergent. In it, a young girl comes of age in a future society in which people are assessed and put into one of five factions based on their personality traits. As with most of these set-ups (Hunger Games, anyone?), the system is corrupt, the people (especially those who still need acne medicine) are exploited, heroes arise, authority is challenged, much mayhem ensues. The whole things ends on one mother of a cliffhanger and we all wait breathlessly for part two.

"We're totally gonna see that!" my daughter proclaimed, as I knew she would. But she then added "I have to read the book first."

Sniff, sniff. As you can imagine, I was proud. Very proud.

For Christmas, my daughter had asked for (and received) a new dressage saddle. Ka-ching! It was understood there would be no other presents. (Of course, it was also understood that I would break my own rule and get her at least a handful of other lesser gifts so we could still have our joyful, cluttered Christmas morning.) I looked for Divergent and found that in the not-always-logical world of shopping online, I could buy the 3-volume hardcover set (Divergent, Insurgent, Allegiance) with free shipping for less than the softcover versions à la carte. Well, I thought, I hope she likes it.

Major understatement.

My daughter devoured Divergent. The novel, an ambitious first by a fairly young author Veronica Roth, weighs in at 496 pages, although the type is fairly generous in size. Still, I was impressed by how quickly it was completed. Even with my daughter's attention necessarily distracted by William Shakespeare's Julius Caesar for Honors English and post-revolutionary France's Louis XVIII for AP World History.

"You have to read this, Mom!"

Under her supervision, I had already read all three Hunger Games books (not to mention all four Twilight — now, there's a week I'll never get back). Meanwhile, I'm two thirds through my own Dickens curriculum (self-inflicted — don't ask), so I welcomed the diversion of Divergent. Aside from the actual writing (which is engaging and fast-paced though hardly a work of literary fine art), here are some pros and cons:

The hero is a girl. A petite (as we are told ... um ... like a thousand times), but an enormously brave and determined one.

This girl (Tris), along with the other girls in the faction she chooses (Dauntless), doesn't seem to mind getting the sh*t kicked out of her on a regular basis. I was reminded of Katniss Eberdeen, but at least in The Hunger Games, Katniss had a bow and arrow between her and her opponents. In Divergent, it's all about the cracked ribs, the broken nose, the sliced ear, the gunshot wounds. Lots of blood, lots and lots of blood.

And, the girls get beat up just as much as the boys. There is no special treatment, no dispensation for the weaker sex. Pummel or be pummeled.

Equality at last? (Um, no thanks.)

There is a convoluted logic to the whole thing. This is really the key to dystopian fiction. With its roots firmly planted in 1984 (which, happily, my daughter will read later this year for school), Brave New World, and the later Handmaid's Tale, the genre takes societal attitudes and laws to the extreme, but in a way that feels somehow plausible. In this way, it's like really good science fiction but without the aliens and genetically engineered creatures from the black lagoon.

And, as I mentioned earlier, Divergent moves; it moves fast. You do care about Tris. She may not be Elizabeth Bennet, but she's a voice of immature reason in a grownup world that's deeply out of whack.

So far, so good, right? Onward to my objection then (there's really just the one).

All in all, Divergent sounds like a fairly feminist book whether you want to drink the dystopian Kool-Aid or not. Unfortunately though, my single biggest issue with it (aside from the unapologetically mercenary use of formula) is that Roth falls back into swooning heroine territory every time Tris notices or is (gasp!) noticed by her hunky trainer Four. We've just read (suffered through) several pages of brutal hand-to-hand combat in which tiny Tris gets her head served back on a juicy platter. Then (gasp!), Four looks her way. She turns to mush. Then (gasp!), Four touches her shoulder. She melts completely. Truly, this resilient little fighter goes gaga at the mere idea of the much older (she's sixteen; he's eighteen — gasp! gasp!) boy's attention to the tune of:

"As he reached for the target, his hand brushed the inside of my wrist. A tremor of electricity ran up my arm. I didn't know what was happening. I was terrified, but I liked it."

All right, I'm paraphrasing, but you get the idea. One sideways glance from the hero and our heroine's bosom is heaving pretty quickly. I'm not sure whether to be happy that some semblance of romance still exists in Tris's kick ass or get your ass kicked world — or to roll my eyes. Sheesh.

Divergent and all the other YA titles like it lend themselves beautifully to the movies. The phenomenon of The Hunger Games franchise is no accident, and I have confidence that Tris and Four will share similar success on the big screen. I admit, the genre will never be my favorite (give me some Jane Austen and a lovely "cuppa" anytime), but I'm not the target audience. Nevertheless, my daughter is reading when she could be texting. She's talking to me about a novel when she could be sulking in her room. 

So, thank you, Veronica Roth. "May the odds be ever in your favor."

Oops, wrong book.

"The future belongs to those who know where they belong."

Peace, out.

If you enjoyed this post, I invite you to order a copy of my new book Lovin' the Alien at   

Tuesday, February 18, 2014

Back-Up Plan

Correct me if I'm wrong. Isn't technology supposed to make our life better? Faster, easier, more convenient. In my recent experience, this is not the case.

So not the case.

I'm no stranger to the digital world. I run a virtual ad agency. My husband is a high tech product marketing consultant. Most significantly ... we have a teenage daughter.

Between DSL, WiFi and Fios, we have taken our poor little antique house and rewired it within an inch of its life. Suffice it to say that the founding families of our colonial town didn't anticipate our need to get into walls and under floorboards.

Back to my earlier — apparently incorrect — assumption. I thought technology was supposed to enhance our lives. Not drive us crazy.

The past week was particularly hectic and stressful at out house because we were about to leave for a family vacation. You know the truth about vacations, don't you? You work twice as hard the week before and twice as hard the week after in exchange for a week off. Some quick math and you'll see that you're actually netting an extra week's worth of work. Hmmmm.

The first thing to go? Our WiFi. The east coast has been through some severe weather recently, so we figured service was down. But, nooooooooo, according to our good friends at Verizon, the issue was not theirs. It was ours. Our router was toast; they would send us a new one. No problem. It would take 3-5 business days to arrive. Problem.

I was anticipating a slippery drive (or a long walk) through blizzard conditions to the nearest Starbucks, when my handy husband pulled off one of his minor miracles. A touch test confirmed that the router was overheating. So, he pulled out and positioned a small but powerful fan. The WiFi still wasn't working, but we could connect our PCs via Ethernet (don't bother to look it up; just take my word for it) and ... ta da ... Internet access was restored. For a few hours, anyway, until the router overheated again. We gave it a rest, restarted and were in business again. Rinse and repeat.

Just when we thought it was safe to go back into cyberspace, it was our daughter's turn. Where to start? Her iPhone was bugging (texts wouldn't text, photos crashed, the vibrate mode had a mind of its own). Any Mac user knows that the answer is to sync. But, noooooooooo. She couldn't sync because her MacBook startup disc was full. We deleted some (a lot!) of files. Then, she was told that she couldn't sync because her iPhone was full. She couldn't delete anything from her iPhone without syncing. She couldn't sync without deleting. Which came first, the chicken or the egg? Total. System. Meltdown.

Total. Teenage. Meltdown.

I thought I had saved the day (yeah, right) when I discovered a rogue ghost iPhoto library on the admin drive of her laptop. A couple of years ago, her system was wiped clean by a lovely young "Genius" at the Apple Store. At the time, a new iPhoto library was established. Turns out, the original library was still on there. All 38,254 images. 

Thirty-eight thousand, two hundred fifty-four.

Startup disc full? Well, duh!

They say that the solution begins when you recognize you have a problem. Houston, we had a problem. But, not one that we could solve. The iPhoto library was locked. We could delete and delete and delete and delete until our fingers bled (not really, but doesn't it sound dramatic?). As soon as we restarted iPhoto ... hello again, there they were.

Our only option? The Apple Store. Stat.

Have I mentioned that we were having a white-out? Have I mentioned we were getting ready for a vacation? Regardless, there was simply no way my daughter could leave town without access to her electronica. OMG. WTF. So, the martyr mother swung into action. I spent the bulk of my Saturday backing up all of my daughter's files onto my system and onto a set of CDs for safekeeping. I made two back-to-back appointments at the nearest Apple "Genius Bar." (A word to the would-be wise: they will only address one device per appointment.) I picked my daughter up at the stable and we drove through a veritable winter wonderland to the mall several towns away. As usual, the "Geniuses" saved us. We had to delete photos (Genius Two somehow unlocked iPhoto), then (under the supervision of Genius One), we had to do a manual backup, then reload all the iPhone software. 

I was wary about doing all this at home (where, no offense to my family, "Geniuses" are few and far between), so we grabbed some counter space and went through it all onsite at the Apple Store. Guess how long it takes to reload iPhone software? 65 minutes.

But, it worked. Phew.

When we finally left the mall, the blizzard was upon us in earnest. It was a white-knuckled, rather squirrelly drive home. The ABS kicked in not once but five times. The icy snow under my wheels seemed to chant a mantra to my daughter "You owe me, you owe me, you owe me."

Thank you, Apple Store. We left for our vacation on time and with all our technology intact. (Hopefully, the new router will be waiting and WiFi will be restored when we get home.) My daughter is happy. There's only one thing ...

My startup disc is full.

If you enjoyed this post, I invite you to order a copy of my new book Lovin' the Alien at   

Friday, February 14, 2014

Swimsuit Competition

Happy Valentine's Day.

Did you know that the average person spends between $90 and $100 on Valentine's remembrances? Candy, jewelry, cards, flowers, swimsuit issues.

Yes, this is the week that Sports Illustrated's famous (or is that infamous?) swimsuit issue hits the stands.

I've never really understood the whole swimsuit issue thing. Oh yes, the magazine may argue that the girls are athletic. But, all I see is long hair, white teeth, big boobs, skinny thighs and a whole lot of flesh. In many cases, the swimsuit is hardly there. In some, it isn't there at all. A fairly recent titillating trend is to paint the suit onto the model's naked body. Suffice it to say, there's not much left to the imagination.

What's the connection? In theory, I guess, a woman could wear one of the featured suits to swim or surf or play beach volleyball.

In reality, the magazine is catering to its audience. After a 51 week diet of hard-core sports coverage, they deserve a little dessert.

Still, the timing seems off. Not only because it's a holiday that's supposed to be about romance and true love. But really, isn't there something a little more sports-oriented going on this week? Like maybe ... oh, I don't know ... the Winter Olympics. Hello???

So, as usual, when I heard that this year's cover was being unveiled, I rolled my eyes. (My teenage daughter has taught me well.) "Which bodacious blonde will be the cover model?" The anticipation was killing me.

Turns out, the cover nodded to another male fantasy: the threesome. Not one, not two, but a trilogy of girls and their — shall we say — admirable assets on display for all to see. The models look about 19 years old. What else is new?

I was about to get on with my work when a sidebar story caught my eye. 'Turns out there's an alternate cover and an alternate, much older, cover girl.


Wow, why didn't anyone think of this before? It's a match made in heaven. 

Barbie is plastic
Barbie is busty
Barbie has an unrealistic (dare I say unnatural) figure
And under all that blonde hair, Barbie's head is empty

Actually, Barbie as swimsuit model is a lot more believable than most of the other careers Mattel has given her over the decades. Maybe I'm guilty of reverse discrimination. Surely it's possible that a woman who looked like Barbie could be a pilot or a veterinarian, a racecar driver or an astronaut. To underscore this point, Mattel asserts that Barbie herself is the victim of a massive smear campaign, focusing on her looks. The theme is "unapologetic," as in "I'm Barbie and I ain't gonna apologize for my 52 inch chest and 14 inch waist anymore, dammit!" Get over yourself, girl.

Oh. Sorry, Barbie. 

Don't get me wrong. We had plenty of Barbies in the house when my daughter was little. She called them "Mommies" (and yes, some tiny little part of me was flattered by that, although I did find out later that she needed glasses). The smaller Kelly dolls were the "Sweeties." 

Well, as you can imagine, people take their swimsuit issues (and their $3 billion fashion dolls) very seriously. 

According to Mattel, the clever cover celebrates "some of the world's most famous swimsuit legends — like Barbie — who have gone on to break boundaries, build empires and shape culture ... Barbie is in great company with the other legends, such as (actress-models) Heidi Klum and Christie Brinkley, to name a few." 

As if this explanation weren't enough, Sports Illustrated adds that Barbie fits in with the swimsuit issues' "message of empowerment" for women.

Now I get it. The swimsuit issue is all about empowering women. I thought it was all about arousing men. My bad.

I'm a feminist by anybody's estimation. I could get all hot and bothered about body image and objectification. But, I'm not going to. Barbie and the Sports Illustrated swimsuit issue; the combination doesn't bother me. I actually think it's funny. 

Or a little bit redundant.

If you enjoyed this post, I invite you to order a copy of my new book Lovin' the Alien at   

Wednesday, February 12, 2014

Teens Stressed? Duh!

Last night, my teenage daughter had a bit of a meltdown. She had returned from the stable (practicing her driving there and back) and was getting ready to embark on what can only be described as an unreasonable load of homework plus prep for a last-minute math test. Her iPhone was acting funky, and — for several agonizing minutes — it appeared that all of the photos she had downloaded in the past year (concerts and friends and Photography 2 assignments) were missing from her laptop. OMG! I was able to find the pictures, but the damage to my offspring's nervous system had been done.

Quite simply, my daughter was stressing out. And, for the record, when she's stressed, we're all stressed.

So, this morning, when I saw the headlines reporting the findings of a recent "Stress in America Survey" by the American Psychological Association, my immediate reaction was ... "Duh!"

Teens More Stressed Out Than Adults, Survey Shows

America's Teens Outscore Adults On Stress

Teens Are Stressed Especially During School Year

New Study: Many Teens Report Being Under Stress

Teens Feel The Stress — And Many Don't Manage It Well

I repeat. "Duh!"

We all tend to romanticize the carefree (high technology-free) days of the past. I know this. But, I am absolutely positive that my high school days were less stressful than my child's. I was a high-achieving kid in a school full of high-achieving kids (when I say the girls in my graduating class were "rocket scientists," I'm not using the phrase as slang; I'm being quite literal). I had after school activities. I applied early-decision to a very selective university and got in.

Bottom line? I was no slacker.

But, I just didn't have to manage the same level of pressure.

These days, in communities like ours, students start taking AP courses sophomore year. The top performers are in a constant battle with each other for the kind of through-the-roof transcripts they need to get into Harvard, Yale or Princeton. Remember when a 4.0 was enough? Welcome to the world of weighted GPAs!

Add to this the pressure to perform athletically. The pressure to participate in resume-building community service activities. The pressure to keep up with each other — constantly — via social media. 

WTF? There'd be something wrong with our kids of they weren't stressed out.

Last night was a bit of a wake-up call for me. And it was underscored by the APA's survey. 27% of teens describe themselves as "extremely stressed." 34% expect that stress to increase. 40% report feeling irritable or angry; 36% feel nervous or anxious. Most react to the stress by eating, going online or "snapping at their friends." Very few turn to positive outlets like exercise or meditation. (Not surprising; very few adults do either.)

Teen girls are more stressed out than teen boys. And, finally, stress is associated with depression, anxiety, sleep disorders and eventually chronic illness.

So, here's what I'm going to try to do. Lay off a little. Just as my daughter is under pressure to perform, moms like me are under pressure to push their children further, faster, higher. We see the problems, but we worry about easing off and thereby keeping our kids from reaching their full potential. We are also caught up in the race to the top. Our high school has become so focused on "student outcomes" (state and standardized test scores, admissions to elite schools) that the curriculum and individual education is suffering. The place is like a pressure cooker.

In fact, my daughter's mental and emotional and psychological health would probably be better if she were homeschooled.

Except the stress would probably kill me.

If you enjoyed this post, I invite you to order a copy of my new book Lovin' the Alien at   

Monday, February 10, 2014

Do Over, Pls

Last week, I finally caught up with a dear friend of mine. Like me, she lives about 40 minutes outside of Boston. But, I live to the city's northeast; she lives out west. Do the math (and for good measure, add in husbands, full-time jobs, two dogs and three kids), and you can see why our get-togethers are less frequent than I'd like.

I had an assignment to write a movie review (Gloria, which I highly recommend) and as luck would have it, the film was playing at an art house close by my friend's. We met at her place first for a quick drink and snack. And to catch up.

Her oldest son is away at college. I remember meeting him at the hospital when he was less than two days old. I remember helping my friend make a tiny Superman (Superbaby?) costume for his first Halloween. I remember swimming with him at our club's kiddie pool. I remember his bar mitzvah. Most recently, I remember his high school graduation party.

How can he be in college? Weren't we just in college? 

Her younger son, in junior high now, is suddenly taller than she is. He's changed from an adorable little boy to a handsome young man. She told me, proudly, that he's getting all A's.

Meanwhile, my girlfriend was having the same "OMG, how can we be so old?" moments with regard to my daughter. She's tucked neatly between the two boys in age, and on more than one occasion they were coerced into attending her princess and mermaid and magic fairy birthday parties. (Good sports, both.)

While we reminisced (and kvetched about the stress of raising tweens and teens and suddenly adults), we agreed that all we wanted was a "do over."

Don't get me wrong; we've both done pretty well. Our kids are fairly successful, healthy, decent young people. No one's flunked out of school or been incarcerated. They still talk to us. Most of the time. We seem to have somehow covered all the big stuff.

No, what we were wishing for was another shot at all the little moments that flew by while we weren't paying enough attention. All the time we wasted commuting to work or running errands. "It goes by so fast," older wiser mothers warned us. They were right.

For posterity, and while they're fresh in my mind (heaven knows I'll be moving on to something "really urgent" any second), here are some of the do overs I would do over if I could:

• Our bath and bedtime routine  

• Walking with her snug in the Snugli

• Watching one of her (any of her) Elmo videos

• Playing with her Barbie and Kelly dolls 

• Going to see her in a dance recital 

All right, that last one was always fairly painful — three hours of other mother's girls, three minutes of mine. Still, I'd be there if I could. I'd grin and bear it if I could.

I'd do it over. If I could.

If you enjoyed this post, I invite you to order a copy of my new book Lovin' the Alien at   

Friday, February 7, 2014

Snow Day

The little town we live in prides itself on being rough and ready. Nearly 250 years ago, our fishermen not only fought the British for independence, but they were the ones who rowed General Washington across the frigid Delaware, effectively changing the course of the American Revolution. 

Historically, this is not a town that's afraid of a little weather.

Talk to my husband or anyone from his generation, and they'll tell you that in the 1960s and 70s, "snow days" were virtually unheard of. Kids were made of tougher mettle. They trudged through blizzards to get to school, uphill, both ways. Yada yada yada.

Well, not so much anymore, I guess.

These days, our district (like all the towns around us) seems very quick to cancel school. Granted, we've had some extreme weather this winter. And, there are probably cost and liability issues. But, it seems like some of the cancellations we've had were unnecessary.

The night before a potential snow day, my daughter and her friends use all of the social media at their disposal to buzz about it. They text and tweet and tumble and twitter. They check the school district website incessantly and tune in to the WBZ Storm Center to watch the crawl of schools that have already announced their plans. In some tribute to its hardy past, perhaps, our town is typically the last in the area to make the call. The high school students rejoice. And then the phone calls start.

Our automated system accommodates multiple numbers for each family. First the home phone rings, then my office phone upstairs, then my husband's mobile, then mine. And while I may complain that the district is a little too quick sometimes, it's even worse when they wait until the last minute.

This week, the phones rang at 5:00 a.m. Say what?

Thanks so much for the wake-up calls. NOT!

When my daughter was little, a snow day was a special treat. At that point, I was still working for an ad agency in Boston, an hour's commute away. No school meant that I would be "WFH," working from home. (These days, with my office on the third floor of our house, that little acronym has lost its allure.) We would bake cookies, do art projects, play games, maybe pop some corn and watch a movie. 

Now? Well ... first of all, my daughter, like teenagers everywhere, never seems to get enough sleep. So, as soon as the snow day was officially called, my husband snuck in and turned off her alarms. Both of them. When she finally did appear a few hours later, a little bleary-eyed in her flannel "Phineas & Ferb" pajama pants, she curled up on the couch with her phone. And that's pretty much where she stayed.

Let's see. She watched several episodes of "How I Met Your Mother" on Netflix. Then, she switched over to syndicated reruns of "Dance Moms." (I can't really criticize this; it's a guilty pleasure of mine too.) She was bored, but not bored enough to get up. Any suggestions I made ("Clean your room," "Read a book") were met with lackluster eye rolls. When I bothered to observe aloud that maybe, compared to long boring hours on the couch, there was something to be said for going to school, she looked at me with an expression bordering on the pity one might feel for the mentally deficient. I left her alone.

Despite my best efforts — I recently bought some SAT prep flash cards on Amazon — I'm no Tiger Mother. If I were, my daughter could have used the snow day to practice her violin. Or study calculus. Or read Proust. In French. 

Instead, we used the snow day to prove the second half of the theory of inertia:

A body at rest remains ... a body at rest.

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Tuesday, February 4, 2014

My Daughter, The Fipster

The other afternoon, I was sitting in Dunkin' Donuts, working on my laptop while my daughter rode her horse about a mile away. (I've never been a big loyalty club member, but with all the time I spend in Dunkin' Donuts, I should be earning something. It's the closest WiFi to our stable, and I'm there ... well ... a lot.) There were four teenagers sitting at the table next to mine.

"Yeah," said one. "My brother's all over it now. But I didn't get a phone 'til I was eleven."

"He doesn't need it. I didn't get mine 'til I started travel soccer."

"I got mine when my mother forgot me at daycare."


"No sh*t."


The interesting thing was that as these teens were sipping their massive frozen coffee drinks and carrying on an enthusiastic (if rather shorthand) conversation, what were they doing?

Texting. Four teenagers, four smart phones. They never looked up, even as they spoke to each other. Maybe they weren't texting. Maybe they were SnapChatting, Instagramming, Tweeting. Who can keep track? Regardless ... they didn't miss a beat.

The last time I looked for a job (nearly two decades ago), I'm sure I presented myself as an effective "multitasker." And, in the adult scheme of things, I am one. But, by my daughter's standards? I am SO not. Anyone my age doing multiple things at once — we're talking amateur night compared to today's teenagers.

My daughter almost always (as in always, always, always) has her phone with her. The only times she doesn't is when she's actually riding her horse (never fear, it's close by in a pocket or on her tack trunk) or when she's asleep. And, the only reason we get away with that last one is because we made the rule years ago, when we were still in charge. Luckily, it was during her cell phone honeymoon phase when she would agree to anything.

We would never get away with it today.

My daughter's phone is more than a phone. It's an alarm clock. It's a camera. It's a reminder. It's a stereo and a record collection in one. It's a tool for homework. It's her connection to every friend she has, and — believe me — they expect her to be there pretty much 24/7. This makes it difficult to lay down many laws.

No phones at the dinner table?

"But, I'm waiting for so-and-so to get back to me about the English homework."

"But, whatshername is thinking about going to a different school; she needs me."

"But, the auction for the Imagine Dragons tickets ends in five minutes and I have to make sure I get them."

"But, but, but ..."

You see my point. 

My daughter is an exceptionally gifted multitasker. But, it does rub us the wrong way sometimes. My husband finds it even more aggravating than I do; in fact, he's coined a term for the phenomenon. "FIP" meaning "face in phone." As in, "I asked her a question but she didn't answer; she was fipping."

I don't like it either, but I do understand. This morning, I left for my walk and realized, about a quarter of a mile away, that I'd left my phone. I had the most minuscule moment of panic; I honestly considered turning around. Then I decided to keep going. After all, it would be great to forget about emails and voicemails and just enjoy the beautiful morning. It snowed a bit yesterday, and our seaside town was still encrusted in sparking white.

I walked down to a small beach and suddenly saw two magnificent swans floating in the tide.

"Damn," I thought. "I wish I had my phone."

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