brad’s status–a lot of us can relate, i’m sure

brad's statusWe might all learn a thing or two from the new film Brad’s Status. The movie explores middle-class discontent and the way comparing ourselves with others in this world of ubiquitous reminders via Facebook posts and Instagram stories can drive us to be miserable, when most of us are way more fortunate than we think and maybe more than we deserve.

In the movie, the middle-class Brad Sloan (Ben Stiller) contemplates/overthinks what he deems to be his boring, unassuming life. On first look, Brad has it pretty good. He runs a nonprofit and his wife, Melanie (Jenna Fischer), is likable, smart, and has a decent, busy career herself. His son, Troy (Austin Abrams), is not only a good kid, but bright enough and musically talented enough to be applying to and interviewing with top-notch East Coast universities, including Harvard. Brad lives in a tidy Craftsman home in a nice neighborhood of medium-sized Sacramento, California. So, what’s not to like about all that? Let’s ask Brad.

The audience learns through Brad’s voice overs just how unhappy he is. To Brad, his life pales in comparison to his college buddies’, one a successful movie producer featured in Architectural Digest for his lavish home; another a hedge-fund owner with an equally wealthy wife, four blond, rambunctious kids, and one private jet; a third who made it big in the dot-com craze and is now retired and living with two young girlfriends in Maui; and a fourth who is a successful pundit and author who is pulled in many enviable directions.  What’s prompted Brad’s over analysis is his and Troy’s East Coast trip, where Troy is to tour and interview at some of the schools on his radar, including prestigious Harvard. We learn that Brad hadn’t been accepted into his first-choice school, Yale, and see that he’s surprised (and envious) that Troy has a good shot at Harvard.

On the trip, Brad finds out how out of the loop he has become. He wasn’t invited to his L.A. friend’s opulent wedding, for one, and he feels his status, already teetering,  has not plummeted.

Of course, our Everyman does get a rude awakening, when he, of course, discovers that his friends’ perfect lives are really not so much. But the slap in the face comes late and one gets the sense that Brad may end up dipping back into the pool of despair on occasion but, for the most part, will stay on dry land.

A show of hands on who can relate to this scenario? Although we are witnesses to how good Brad has it–for God’s sake, he should be happy alone that he has just one kid to worry about and one college education to fund–we can see where he gets off feeling in the dumps about his life. Haven’t we all scoured Facebook pages, drooling over photos of our friends’ European vacations, their kids’ graduations from great schools and with exemplary grades that got them a choice of several jobs to turn down in order to take the one with the most amazing pay and benefits, and the new house/grandkid/car/kitchen–fill in the blank–that we wish we had? I know I have. Looking at my life as a married, college-educated homeowner and parent of four healthy and good kids, I think quite a few people would be envious, but the way you hear me talk of it on occasion, you’d think I lived on skid row and had a mountain of insurmountable problems to climb up and over each day. Truth be told, if we have a roof over our heads, our good health, and someone to love and be loved by we’re doing OK, my friend.

If we’re to learn anything from Brad’s Status it’s this: Be happy with what you have, be thankful for what you’re given, and stop envying those you think have it better than you. Everyone has his or her own problems or internal demons to work through even if on the surface they look like gods and goddesses.

 

 

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he who shall not be named won the presidential election; what to do now?

I’ve woken every morning since the day of the election that shook me to the core Sad Woman Looking Lostwondering how I can live through four years of a presidency run on hatred, flimsy policy promises that a fifth grader could have spoken, and a possible cabinet that I heard Sarah Palin might be appointed to. Only in America! To say I’m in a bit of a depression is like saying the pope is a little bit Catholic. So what to do now?

I guess we all carry on and hope for the best. And if that isn’t happening, we speak up and get noticed. I feel sorry for a lot of the voters who chose Trump because they are angry and looking for a savior. I think they will be surprised that the man who they hoped would look out for the little guy (and how they thought a premade, not self-made, billionaire could do that is beyond my comprehension) will be the first to take away their health care, cause the rate at the Fed to rise and behind it costs of loans on things they don’t have the money to buy, and put their tax dollars into the military because we will need to be even more vigilant at our borders and in the air and with nations who will despise us because of what our leader has said.

How did Hillary Clinton lose? How did she not break the ultimate glass ceiling, which should have been broken long ago? Tim Kaine, for one. He brought nothing to the ticket–no progressive voters or people of color, as far as I know. Being a Clinton, for another. This was the year of change, for how many times did Bernie Sanders have to speak the word “revolution” and mention that his campaign, one that swept the nation, was built on contributions averaging twenty-seven dollars apiece? And for the Democratic Party to turn a blind eye to the gift of enthusiastic voters was insane. The Republican Party only did so reluctantly. But once the momentum was going the way of their “outsider” (a man who has changed his party affiliation more times than most people change addresses), I think conservatives had to let the wave crest and roll to the shore. And it did, like a tsunami.

I don’t worry so much for myself. I’ll be OK. I worry about my kids and the disadvantaged, the poor, the families who may be torn apart. Mostly, I worry that health care will be taken away from people who for the first time in their lives can have it and can afford it. I worry about a vehemently antiabortion VP (I honestly don’t think Trump gives a hoot about the topic personally) and what that might mean for the country. I wish there was no such thing as abortion. I’ve had four kids at times that were not ideal, so I think it can be done–and should be done. But taking away health care from women and then forcing them to carry to term, paying for their own maternity care, which is astonishingly expensive, is so, so backward. If you want women to not have abortions, then please, please make it affordable for her and the newborn as well. Don’t take away their health care or force them to not have it. More women will be having babies with problems and, for people who want to look at it in monetary terms, the rates for the rest of us will go sky high to pay for those noncovered moms and children.

My husband and I have had to pay for private health insurance a good part of our marriage and I can attest that about fifteen years back, during the Bush II administration, nearly all big health-care companies took maternity coverage out of their policies or made the premiums so high, it was unaffordable.

After my fourth child was born, for instance, we had to pay for private insurance because my husband nor I had a job with health-care benefits. The premiums were around one thousand dollars a month and we didn’t have the option of maternity coverage. I prayed that I didn’t get pregnant during that time, because maternity care is about ten thousand dollars and that’s if there are no complications. When the Affordable Care Act came along, it forced insurers to put maternity coverage back onto their policies and be affordable. It also prevented insurers from excluding people with preexisting conditions. So people who have an illness, a disease, or a disability cannot be turned away or be forced to pay higher premiums. People in the middle of cancer treatments, for instance, who maybe changed a job with a different health-care provider, could still be covered for the remaining treatments. My friend, for instance, who passed away a couple years ago, had to switch insurers because the one she had been on did not allow for experimental drug treatment. She was able to move to another plan and was then put on a brand-new drug, which extended her life a bit longer. It was a miracle, in my eyes, that she could do that. Never would that have happened if Big Health Care and Big Pharma hadn’t been forced to allow people to switch providers and policies and not be turned away.

So Donald Trump is our president in a year we should have been celebrating our first female leader and our first male “first lady.” Maybe next time. (Elizabeth Warren, are you listening?) For the time being, let us all say a little prayer and hope that Mr. Trump’s presidency isn’t the gloom and doom we think it may be. After all, four years isn’t that long. I hope the time flies.

 

 

meet me at luke’s diner in stars hollow on wednesday

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Lauren Graham and Alexis Bledel aka Lorelai and Rory Gilmore in an autumn scene from Gilmore Girls

 

It’s like a TV miracle. One of my all-time favorite shows, Gilmore Girls, which died years ago, has been resurrected! Reborn via streaming services (namely Netflix), the mother-dauther/quirky-small-town dramedy brought in a huge following post mortem and will soon return to a TV near you. I’m giddy with excitement. Another reason to live another day! And to get a taste of what rubbing elbows with Lorelai and Rory, and Luke and Jess is like, small coffeeshops all over America are transforming themselves into Luke’s Diner this Wednesday, offering free java to customers. Can life get any better?

I was a Gilmore fan from the beginning, watching every season on the WB and then the CW, when the rest of the family and the majority of U.S. residents tuned in weekly to see who would become the first American Idol. I never saw a minute of season one of AI, never saw how Kelly Clarkson reigned over her competition, because I was too engrossed in the saga of a bunch of kooks in wacky, fictional Stars Hollow, Connecticut. What I loved about Gilmore Girls was not just its witty banter, and there was a lot of that, but its warmth. It was like checking in on your friends, cozying up to them in their living rooms (or the local diner), and catching up on the latest. I’m a huge fan of small towns and wished I could transport myself to this one, especially when life got tough.

On November 25, 2016, thanks to Netflix, we fans will get to do what fans of TV shows of the past have rarely been  able to do: We will get to see what has become of our favorite characters many years after the show went off the air after seven seasons. In four ninety-minute installments spread over the year and coordinating with the seasons (GG always featured the changing seasons in its episodes, which added a bit of warmth and authenticity to it), Gilmore Girls will revisit the lives of our friends from Stars Hollow and environs–Sookie and Michel, Lane and Mrs. Kim, Dean and Jess, and Emily but sadly no Richard (Edward Herrmann passed away on New Year’s Eve 2014).

As a warmup, this Wednesday I’ll head to the pop-up Luke’s in my hometown, pull up a mismatched chair at a ’50s style table, and order a cup of coffee and a donut, just as Rory and Lorelai used to do. Maybe I’ll rub elbows with the girls themselves, see what job Kirk is working at these days, or check out what’s on special at Doose’s Market next door. Whatever I do I will be filled with some great memories of times past and times to come.

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The cast of Gilmore Girls (in foreground) “Rory,” (second row) “Dean,” “Luke,” “Lorelai,” and “Jess,” (back row) “Lane,” Michel,” “Paris,” “Richard,” “Emily,” “Sookie,” “Kirk,” and “Miss Patty”

if you film it, they will come

I went to the movies last Friday. This is not unusual. I try to get out to see something good every month or two or more depending on the movies that are playing. There have been dry spells in which nothing to my liking was playing and there have been times when I have the pick of the litter.

This past week a new batch of films came out but the one I wanted to see had been in the more arty theaters and was now in widespread release. It was Hello, My Name Is Doris, with Sally Field and Tyne Daly. It was appealing to me because of the quirky lead character and a story line I could get behind. Doris is a sixtysomething, single, working woman with some issues. She lives alone now that her elderly mother has died and because she had never moved from the house she grew up in, she has a huge attachment to what it is, what it’s meant, and what belonged to her mother, which has resulted in a hoarding habit. Because she lacks social awareness (which reminded me of someone I’m very close to, by the way), Doris falls for and fantasizes about a life with a new young executive at her workplace when she mistakes his kindness for something more.

Hello_My_Name_is_Doris[2]

The movie got great reviews and with Sally Field at the helm I expected there to be some people in the theater with me (yes, I have at times been the only one there!), but I was taken aback by just how many folks came out to see this film on a day with much more popular films hitting the theaters for the first time, namely The Boss, with Melissa McCarthy (which I’d like to see; I’ve been a fan of hers since Gilmore Girls),  and others that have mass appeal, like Batman vs. Superman. I had to move over twice so my row could accommodate additional people. It was a smaller theater, but every row had at least ten people in it and some folks were forced to sit in the rows closest to the front.

So who was in the audience at this matinee? Mostly older people, either couples or senior women in groups. I thought it was telling that a movie with a longtime revered actor like Sally “You really do like me” Field, as well as a grown-up story line and some humor and warmth, can sell tickets. Hyped-up, big-budget fare like Batman vs. Superman, which got mediocre ratings, or the new Star Wars film, which is supposed to be good but which I’ve yet to see, are not the only films that will draw in viewers. And sure, the majority of filmgoers last Friday at the Doris screening did not fit into the typical 18-35 age group, the group that advertisers love because they’re the big consumers, but that’s my point exactly: If studios make mature, good films, they can bring out a wider audience and sell those precious tickets. And that’s refreshing news.

i don’t know how she does it

I had to get the oil changed today, so after dropping off the car at the Sears Auto shop, I parked myself in the food court with my cup of McDonald’s coffee and got some work done. As a freelance editor, I sometimes have the ability to take my work with me and so my errand was partially paid for by my flexible career (although the fee for just that one oil change surpassed the amount of money earned from my hour or so of work).

Still, I’m fortunate to have the option to be able to do not only this (working just about anywhere, although not all my assignments are so pack and go and days so free on time), but also to work my schedule around my kids’ school drop off, pick ups, and other events in their lives. In fact, while at the mall and after finishing with the work I had brought with me, I was able to take in a movie (or most of a movie) before rushing out the theater door and down the mall corridor to pay for the maintenance and retrieve my car before picking up my son from school. If only the pay I receive for the work I do were as desirable as the flexibility, but this is the dilemma a lot of working parents face.

In fact, the movie I saw, I Don’t Know How She Does It, hits upon this dilemma of balance. The movie stars Sarah Jessica Parker as the harried working mom, Greg Kinnear as her usually understanding husband, and Pierce Brosnan as a business cohort whom Kate (SJP’s character) works with and nearly falls for.  The topic drew me in–in fact, I remember having checked this book out of the library some time ago, although I couldn’t find the time to finish reading it–so I thought I’d check out the movie.

On some levels I could relate to Kate in that there never seems to be enough time in the day to get everything done. I also could relate to the lists she draws up in her mind. What mom/working woman/wife doesn’t lie awake at night ruminating on, hyperventilating over, dreading the events of the upcoming days and the shortcomings of her life?

On other levels, however, I couldn’t relate . . . at all. I’m referring to things like having a nanny, living in a Pottery Barn-inspired home, having a career that is so satisfying and fulfilling that you just know that if she were to take it down a notch or maybe even ten, she would indeed be able to juggle her high-paying working life with mothering and being a wife. She’d still stay busy, but she’d be more present for everyone, including herself, which (forgive me, but as I explained, I had to run out before the closing credits), I believe is what she ultimately decides to do. I think every woman would love that dilemma–being a loving mom and wife and having a fulfilling career that allows for all the good things in life. But nothing is perfect. Something’s gotta give. Either you are present for your kids’ first haircuts, first steps and first smiles and are actually able to bake a pie from scratch for the school bake sale, or you’re out cornering a lucrative deal while making incredible pay, wearing sharp clothes, and padding your 401(k) for what will obviously be an amazing retirement. Either way, there are tradeoffs.  In the grand scheme of things, I guess we should all be thankful for the little things that do go right–the work that comes in, the home that is comfortable enough, and the family that is usually happy to see you. Oh yeah, and being able to occasionally sit through most of the show.

hard not to hate kate plus 8

Would someone please get this woman some help? And no, I’m not talking about nannies and bodyguards here. Kate Gosselin, that mother who started out on TV as someone to admire as she juggled raising two sets of multiples, the younger ones being just infants, but who on the path to stardom transformed into a bleached blonde, fake-tanned version of Mommy Dearest, definitely could use some help–the psychotherapeutic variety. And I don’t say that to put the woman down.  There are plenty of people who do things impusively and compulsively who aren’t bad people. There are even entire TV shows devoted to them (Hoarding: Buried Alive comes to mind, as does Celebrity Rehab).

But when someone is loathed even by the people who once loved her, there’s something wrong here. On the last couple episodes of Kate Plus 8, the TV series on TLC that morphed from the original Jon & Kate Plus 8 featuring Kate when she was still married to the docile husband who eventually escaped servitude, Kate “takes her family camping” in two RVs to the West and southwestern United States. Along for the ride are Ashley, the babysitter/nanny;  Jamie, Kate’s best (and, I assume, only) friend; and Jamie’s three normal kids. Oh, and there’s also Steve, the bodyguard, an entire film crew, and two drivers for the RVs. See? Just a normal family vacation.

The concept is fun, but the smiles soon melt like butter on hot pavement because . . . did I mention Kate Gosselin is along on the trip? Needless to say, the number of cringe-worthy moments in these episodes is enough to make your face stay that way. The final episodes were titled “RV Breakdown,” and even though three RVs need replacing or repairing along the way, I think the producers were going for the double-entendre with that one, for here are some of Kate’s breakdowns:

 1) Kate throws a foot-stomping, whiny fit when her bodyguard is handed a slice of pizza barehanded (OMG!) by one of Kate’s own daughters (the one who usually throws the foot-stomping, whiny fits. Hmmm, wonder where she gets that from.).

2) Kate throws a second foot-stomping, whiny fit just seconds later when Jamie suggests that the bodyguard eat mac and cheese or salad instead of the pizza. “He DOESN’T EAT macaroni and cheese or salad. That’s for the kids.” (Seriously, Ashley and Jamie, do you expect a grown man to eat adult food?)

3) She throws a fit when bodyguard Steve agrees with the nanny, Kate’s friend, and eleven of the eleven children present that pizza is a fantastic idea for dinner after pulling into a campground late in the evening and having no grills to cook the “hundred dollars’ worth of chicken” (her words) Kate had planned for dinner. (One of the production assistants eventually assembles two small grills to no avail.)

4) Kate throws a fit when she finds out that the best friend and the nanny hadn’t followed her exact orders by putting the kids’ swimsuits in two mesh bags instead of in their duffle bags, because damp, brightly colored, patterned clothing is so difficult to find when mixed in with the other stuff.

5) Kate throws a hissy fit when she enters a raft and refuses to sit on the hot seat in her hotpants/denim shorts, even though all the kids are already seated on those same hot seats while wearing thin trunks or swimsuits. She then throws a second fit when the raft guide douses the seat Kate will be sitting on with river water to cool it. She ends up not sitting down until the seat is dry. She also refuses to get wet on the raft. (Apparently bright-yellow river rafts and camouflaged submarines look too much alike to assume both are not watertight.)

6) Before the RVs even hit the road and while Kate is trying to load the duffle bags and suitcases in the luggage compartment, she says to the cameramen/producers/assistants something to the effect of, “OK, there comes a time when we have to stop playing filming a TV show and help.” (Huh? Since when is it their jobs to do anything other than film a TV show?)

7) Kate throws a fit when she goes over to the “party bus,” which is what Ashley and Jamie have labeled the RV they are riding in with the older kids, and chastises the women for not doing whatever it was she had asked them to do this time.

8 ) Ashley, the nanny (although Kate never uses that word; she prefers “babysitter,” because it sounds like mommy’s helper and not actually the woman responsible for raising the kids), walks off the show and flies home, but instead of taking the blame for causing Ashley’s uncharacteristic reaction, Kate instead turns it inward in a typical poor-me moment: “Eventually, everyone leaves me.” (Geez, I wonder why.)

9) Kate complains that she is the one “masterminding” (aka “controlling) the entire trip while Ashley and Jamie sit back and watch a movie with the children in their air-conditioned RV.  I’m sorry, but I thought part of the job of a “babysitter,” was tending to the children, but I may be wrong.

OK, enough examples. I could go on and on, but the point has been made. If those eight children turn out without therapy bills up the wazoo or without having robbed a convenience store by age 14, I’ll be surprised, because it’s become evident that Kate isn’t the only one who needs help.