Monday, August 31, 2009

This Woman's Work

As I was scrubbing our stairs yesterday as part of my marathon cleaning session, I started to sing "The Work Song" from the Disney movie Cinderella. You know the one:

Cinderelly, Cinderelly
Night and day it's Cinderelly

Make the fire, fix the breakfast

Wash the dishes, do the mopping

Quite catchy, isn't it?

I was having a brief moment feeling sorry for myself for a) not keeping things tidy enough to avoid spending four hours on an otherwise glorious Sunday afternoon cleaning and b) having so many rooms to clean (wouldn't wish 2.5 baths on three different floors to my worst enemy), when my mind wandered to some of the books I've read recently. Vivaldi's Virgins, about an 18th century violin virtuoso and Church ward who searches for her birth parents; A Thousand Splendid Suns, about strength and friendship amidst tragedy in Afghanistan and The Girl Who Played with Fire, about a lonely Swedish hacker who has been used and abused by all the men in her life, including the ones meant to help her.

No coincidence that I gravitate toward books with strong female characters (I'm definitely not one for moony teenage drivel like Twilight), and what struck me reading these books in succession is how similar these characters really are, in spite of generation and location. How women continue to be defined by their gender, by their relationships with men, by their sexuality and by their predetermined roles in life. And it made me extremely grateful to be scrubbing my own stairs, in my own home, knowing that I am neither confined nor defined by it.

Monday, August 24, 2009

Closing Time

As I sat at the bar on Saturday at what was previously one of my favorite restaurants, watching an aged frat boy juggle a margarita in one hand and a baby in another while a gaggle of shrill, slurring women cackled at his every word, it hit me--I'm old. The music at my favorite coffee shop is too loud, the acoustics at my favorite trivia locale make me want to invest in a hearing aid and in general, drunk people are not amusing unless you are one of them.

My husband and I tipped our favorite server well, while she rolled her eyes in acknowledgement, and we retreated for the quiet environs of home and hoped for a quiet nightcap on our rooftop deck. Which was interrupted by a neighbor's noisy bash, complete with more squealing drunk girls and booming music.

So we walked down the stairs, shut the windows, brushed our teeth and crawled in to bed. At 9:30 p.m. This my friends, is the real life of a weary publicist:

Sunday, August 16, 2009

Morning Grace

I HATE mornings. Even as a baby, I slept until 9 a.m. Throughout my school years (and this includes high school), my mom literally rolled me out of bed onto the floor to get me moving. In college, I rarely took a class before 10 a.m. Even now, getting out of bed by 9 a.m. is a challenge.

So, of course, I had to pick a hobby (running) that requires me to get up at an ungodly hour every Saturday morning. I usually set my alarm to go off about an hour and half before I need to leave, in the hopes that I may actually wake up and get out of bed on time.

Yesterday morning, the alarm was set for 6:30 a.m. I was meeting my friends at 7:45 a.m. The alarm went off as scheduled--and I promptly turned it off, pulled the covers over my eyes and went back to sleep. Until 8:05 a.m.

Like most mornings, it was tempting to sleep in. To shade my weary eyes from the sun, to leave my tired limbs--already aching from 12 miles run in the previous four days--where they were. I really, really didn't want to get out of bed, let alone run 12 miles. And then I looked down at the pink bracelet on my wrist, and I bounded out of bed, threw on my running clothes and was out of the house in under ten minutes.

I'd worn this bracelet for two years and one day--starting the day of the Team in Training kickoff meeting for the Rock 'n' Roll Arizona Marathon, and the day I met Kate. This bracelet--worn by not just by me, but my my teammates and dozens of Kate's family and friends--is inscribed with the words "Kisses for Kate," and is our way of showing solidarity and support for Kate and her family.

And yesterday was the day we were celebrating the fact that Kate--at the tender age of seven--had survived two years, two months and three days worth of chemotherapy to kill the leukemia that ravaged her little body. And survive, she did. With grace and strength and charm beyond her years.

It was not a day to sleep in, but to celebrate Kate, her journey and her triumph. And for me, that meant running 12 miles--gratefully, joyfully, humbly--in her honor.

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Who Needs a Corner Office?

Last week, Del Jones wrote a great piece for USA Today about female executives and their mentors. 33 of 34 women interviewed said that a male mentor had made the biggest impact on their career. Not surprising, really, given the numbers (even today, it's rare to find a woman in the executive suite, so how can a woman champion you if she's not in a position to do so?), so kudos to those brave men who bucked the system and gave women a seat at the table.

I'm lucky in that I've had a number of male mentors in my career--a manager who took a chance on a fresh-faced graduate student, an SVP who gave me the opportunity to write for the very accounts I managed, the journalist turned firm partner who told me my writing was on par with the best in the business. Meanwhile, the majority of my female bosses seem to have taken a page straight from The Devil Wears Prada-autocratic, demeaning, bitter and threatened.

I know it's been a tough road for our foremothers in the business world, so I'm willing to cut them some slack. But I can't help wondering if they have been striving for the wrong thing all along--now that we've made it to the corner office, is it what we really want?

The corner office--along with the power suit, the expense account, the personal assistant and lavish pay--are symbols of a soon-to-be bygone era where individualism, greed and deception reign supreme. A hollow existence, if you ask me.

So, if not the corner office, then where to? How about the home office, the virtual office, the shared office, the neighborhood office? Places where you can connect and collaborate with likeminded individuals, pursue work that simultaneously challenges your intellect and feeds your spirit and have a direct and positive impact on your community. I'll take that over a gold name plate any day.

Sunday, August 9, 2009

A Place Where I Belong

My friend Laura Benjamin is an amazing songwriter (shameless plug alert: check out her music at, and one of her many gems is a song called "Yankee Girl." In it, she sings about her journey from suburban New York City to Atlanta, and it contains two of my favorite song lyrics ever, "It's been a long, long time, but I think I've found my voice" and "I've finally found a place where I belong."

I was pondering both sets of lyrics on a ten mile run yesterday. I think most of us search for that place where we belong. In high school, I was the shy, smart music geek who secretly wanted to be the pretty, popular cheerleader. In college, I was still--quite shockingly--the shy, smart music geek, and spent entirely too much time trying to fit in with the "right" sorority and the "right" people that I missed out on some great friendships and experiences. And while I found moments of belonging in graduate school, Ohio isn't exactly where I wanted to put down permanent roots.

As I was running along the Chattahoochee yesterday, it hit me: I was at home. Not necessarily in that location (though it's one of my favorite places to run in all of Atlanta), but in the act. Running is my home, my community, my passion and my joy. Whether I'm nodding to a new mom pushing her baby in a stroller, waving at but secretly hating that 60 year-old guy with the beer belly whizzing by me or screaming "Go Team" at other purple-clad people at races around the country, I feel like I'm surrounded by family. Crazy people like me, who find abundant joy and happiness in the ritual of simply putting one foot in front of the other.

Tuesday, August 4, 2009

My Legacy

As I was writing the story of my parents' lives to submit to the local paper (they'll celebrate 40 years of marriage on Sunday--congrats, Mom and Daddy!), I thought about what my own life might look like 40 years from now. I've always heard that it's a good exercise to write your own obituary--sort of the ultimately in visioning, if you will--but I have always avoided the task. Maybe because it's slightly morbid, maybe because I'm scared of failure, maybe because I have no idea where this journey called life will take me. Or perhaps all three.

After struggling with the details surrounding my death (we all want to die in our sleep--so far, my Grandpa Andy was the only one lucky enough to draw that card) and whether or not my husband would still be around (Dear Lord, can we both just die in our sleep? Together?), I got down to the facts. Well-respected publicist, author, avid runner (Boston Marathon finisher--a girl can dream!), volunteer, animal lover, mother of two fabulously named and fabulously talented children. And then I realized that I was getting bogged down in accomplishments. Will it really matter fifty years from now what books I did or did not publish or which races I did or did not run?

So, I decided on this: Laua was beloved by friends and family for her laughter, wit, compassion and generous spirit.


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