Friday, October 30, 2009

messy thinking

Last night, as Iz and I were chatting before bed, talking about organizational skills and school, she told me she was having a hard time because she's a messy thinker. Wow. WOW. That stopped me (not to mention the conversation) in my tracks. Messy Thinker. What profound insight for a kid. What a fantastic name for a book about creativity. What a cool concept. And so, as we started talking about what a messy thinker is, I realized I'm one too.

It's hard for me to stay on a linear path when thinking. Or talking. It drives Jon CRAZY, how I can have 7 threads of a conversation going and wrap it all up neatly in the end. I think that's more a woman thing. When hanging with friends, new topics keep getting introduced, but we always make it back to where we started. A shout out to my friend Mim, who proceeds new subjects with, "ok here's a non sequitur," we take tangent after tangent, but in the end, all has been thoroughly discussed. And that's the way I work too. I don't go into a project with a grand plan, which can be challenging. Hey, sometimes it sucks. I wish I could start off with an organizational chart, an outline, a map of how things will play out. I try. I bought a red notebook last night to keep track of all the FLOW stuff that's starting to happen. I'm not sure I'll ever crack it open. My computer is highly organized—I have folders within folders for everything, email lists for every possible listing and occasion, and yet, I often end up scrambling for what I need. An example: yesterday I was looking for a photo of me to send with a blog interview. I have an "Elissa Stein" photo file. I also have photos within my FLOW file. Separate photos for my website. I've got other photos in iphoto, plus another file of photos altered for various online uses. Scarily, they're all almost the same.

Collaborating on FLOW put the way I work into a harsh spotlight. Explaining my process caused panic to people who are more conventional writers. I had lunch the other day with a friend who just had a book come out and I mentioned that I don't consider myself a writer. She basically told me to shut up. She's right. At this point I am a writer. It's just that it wasn't something I set out to do, I've never taken a writing course, my creative path so far has been, well, messy.

I think in design—it's the way I see the world. Whenever I start a new project I acknowledge the constraints, but don't have a master plan in place. I work until I know I'm done. Pieces fall into the places they're supposed to be. And my writing career grew out of design. It's the marriage between images and words which is my way of storytelling. At my portfolio review, just before graduating from School of Visual Arts, after killing myself for a year on design projects, my teacher told me to go to graduate school and be a writer. I burst into tears. But he was right. It's combining words and images that is my path.

That's how I approached FLOW. In fact, when I first had the idea, years and years ago, it was more about the images, the advertising, the packaging, and how those visuals, tag lines and text shape how we think and feel. But, there was so much more to say. And that was incredibly challenging for me. When I've done my other pop culture icon books, I'd start with the art, and the story fell into place. This time the manuscript had to be shaped first, the art relegated to second string. While I was writing 24/7, pulling together a 5000 word chapter a week for months, living in front of my computer with towers of books and notes consuming my living room, I felt like I was in a black hole. I craved the pictures that would dictate my story. How can you write about advertising without actually looking at ads? I survived, barely, coming out the other side a better writer, but knowing that how I create is unconventional. And that it works for me.

I'm a messy thinker. Thanks Iz, for that validation.

Day 31 is introspective.

fighting a bloody battle, social media style

Forgive the graphic title folks, but the claws are now officially out. I woke up this morning to find this brilliant REDBOOK parody posted on my facebook wall. It was created by people I literally met the day before yesterday.

This, to me, sums up the power of social media. That RB snub (for those of you not in the know, RB suggested to their readers that instead of buying FLOW, they should pick up enough ice cream for a 3-5 day binge) was posted on a blog (Society for Menstrual Cycle Research), which I came across during one of my many FLOW google searches. f it wasn't for them, I don't know that'd ever have seen that dismissive snip-fest. People aren't all all that quick to bring negative press to my attention. In fact, I have a feeling my mom read the review—yesterday she tried to say something about FLOW but stopped herself. Now I get it.

But, back to the story. By the next day I was hearing from women at the forefront of the menstrual awareness movement. It was that slap in the face (sorry, another menstrual reference, this to the Jewish custom of slapping a girl when she gets her first period), that prompted people to reach out and be in touch. Seriously funny women, writers whose work blows me away, people who have been fighting this fight for openness and conversation far longer than me. And all I can say is HOW COOL IS THAT?! While FLOW may be ignored by traditional media, it's not the end.

Being me—at this point you must all know that means grappling with self-doubt and angst—I've been feeling like FLOW, which has the power to change minds, break through silence, teach every single person who picks it up something they don't know, would quickly disappear. While I'm surrounded by (and I'm ever grateful for) friends and strangers, who believe this book will be big, that's been really hard for me to hold onto. And so I'm even more BLOWN AWAY by the edgy humor and creativity of people motivated to turn RB's snub into a powerfully funny statement. My knight's helmet off to Chella at

There's more. Yesterday two facebook friends separately contacted different NPR shows, suggesting that I'd be a great guest. Someone on twitter edits these posts for me every day, sending messages letting me know what mistakes I need to fix. People forward my thoughts, my rants, my FLOW pitches. Strangers (and friends) read this blog and are really open about what they think/how they feel. People are sharing this journey with me. I feel like, at any moment, I could slip into a sugary sweet filling-the-world-with-togetherness-and-love conclusion, but that's not my style.

So thanks folks. You make this all worthwhile.

Day 30 is starting with gratitude and a really good belly laugh.

Thursday, October 29, 2009

temper tantrum residue

Yesterday morning I had a temper tantrum that rivaled any 2-year-old screaming at the top of his lungs, face down on the street, with his exasperated mother looking on in horror. I'm not sure where it came from. Things had been fine. I woke up at 6. Wrote. Got Iz up at 7, with the daily tears and despair about being overtired. Got her out the door, with the usual last minute insanity of outwear choices, shoe options (I refused to let her wear rain boots and then carry sneakers AND flats to alternate during the day), making sure she had her phone (that I charged) and her homework (some was left on the table). Then, it was Jack's turn. He's been staying up super late lately, coming out close to 11 to give me lovely good night hugs and kisses, but that missing sleep leaves him exhausted and cranky as all hell the next day. Yesterday I just couldn't wake him up. So, I stopped trying for a bit. I was also in the basement loading up monster loads of laundry, which set me back time-wise.

So, in the end, Jack had 20 minutes to get out the door. And of course, all his pants were in the laundry. He had nothing to wear. That's not quite true—he had 3 options, but none of them were apparently remotely considerable. He was tired and started to freak out. Time was passing and as he carried on about pants, the breakfast he had no time to eat, and what a horrible mother I was for not getting him up on time, I lost it. LOST IT. Screaming at the top of my lungs, I stalked off, slammed the door to my room and started throwing things. Pillows. Laundry. Blankets. Ripped the shower curtain down. Jon got Jack dressed, squeezing him into a pair of too-small pants by cutting open the waistband. At that point I was past caring that they were brand new and I had been planning to return them. And then, still fuming, I still had to take him to school. The faster I walked, the slower he moved, trying to dry his eyes so no would would know how upset he was. I got him to the school's front door 7 minutes after school started, but apparently not late enough to need to sign in.

I got home, burst into tears, threw myself on the couch, slamming my head against the arm with no cushioning. There's now a sizable bump towards the back of my skull. I realized later on, in yoga, as I was lowering myself to the floor from plank pose, and a pain shot into my hand, that my elbow was swollen, and a huge purple bruise was covering the back of my arm. This morning my palm is puffy and my entire forearm is tender to the touch. All the result of a slammed door that whipped back at me.


So, what happened? I had never lost it like that before. I was literally stamping my feet and shaking by the time I was done. Fortunately, no one saw me at my worst. But I scared myself for a moment or two. I think I'm handling things so well. On the surface everything is getting done. Homework's finished. People get to where they're going (almost always) on time. All my work is turned in on schedule. We've got food, clean clothes, regular bedtimes. I'm making FLOW contacts every day, keeping on top of PR as much as possible. I'm making films, tweeting, posting, emailing. I volunteer at 2 schools, practice yoga, even made fresh whipped cream at 7 this morning for Iz while Jack got up early to test run his new bubble bath.

But just under the surface—I think you'd barely need to scratch it—I'm shredding apart. This last ramp up to FLOW's release is fraught with anxiety and doubt. I have to get up and talk in a couple of weeks at a book launch party. What will I say? Will anyone come? What will I wear (that's the one that's troubling me most at the moment)?

Will people buy the book? Will anyone pay attention? Will I get to do another project? Will I have the energy and desire to go through this again?

I DON'T KNOW. And I hate not knowing.

I think I figured out where the tantrum came from.

Day 29 will be all about breathing.

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

REDBOOK hates women

As I was googling FLOW (obsessive tendencies pop up when I'm anxious) last night, I found Redbook's dismissive November review scanned and posted on the Society for Menstrual Cycle Research's blog. Now I was certainly expecting people to find FLOW offensive—we don't hold back when it comes to the derisive stance religion's taken towards women, the terrifying outcomes because of lack of input from the FDA and drug companies who didn't bother to research whether hormone replacement drugs caused cancer or birth control pills caused strokes. Then there's the VAST amount of landfill created by endless femcare packaging . . . I could keep going on about the mindsets and companies we shed light on, but that's not why Redbook dissed us—the title of their piece was "One to Snub." They told women not to bother reading the book at all. Not to form their own opinions, not to learn something new, not to examine how they felt about their bodies and their cycles, not to educate themselves. They told their readers not to think. Not to question. Not to participate in a conversation about something every single one of them experiences countless times over their lifetimes.

What they did tell their readers? Go buy 3-5 days worth of ice cream. Leave the book on the shelf and binge on sugar and fat.

That was what society told women for eons. Fatten yourself up so you'll fetch a substantial dowry for your father when he marries you off. At the turn of last century (not that it was all that different from almost any other time in recorded history) women were discouraged from higher education because diverting blood to the brain from the reproductive organs would result in fertility issues and damaged children. Truly.

And here we are, in 2009 and a woman's magazine, a magazine FOR WOMEN, whose readership is women who are reading to learn something (actually, I don't believe readers of that magazine actually expect to learn anything but I'm on a roll), a magazine that's a vehicle for advertisers, that has an active role in the messages put out for women that shape the way we think and feel about ourselves actively encouraging their audience to continue doing what women have been forced to do for too long. Shut up. Shut down. And don't bother thinking.

No wonder our society is in an every growing battle with obesity and psychological problems. Look what's being shoved down our throats. By a self-help magazine.

Does Redbook really hate women? No. They just don't want us to think for ourselves. We're not important enough to hate.

Day 29 is rather disgusted.

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

waiting is the hardest part

I think Tom Petty's song is my new mantra. I'm waiting. 2 more weeks of waiting until the book comes out. As if FLOW's on sale date holds some sort of magical appeal. Like the sun will rise, with crimson streaks flooding the sky. People all over the world will double over with honorary cramps. There will be a marked rise in unexplained bloating and breakouts. Chocolate sales will go through the roof. An unexplained eclipse will appear midday, and all will be forced into bookstores as a giant circle obliterates the sun. There will be a cosmic shift and everyone will only be talking about FLOW.

Slightly grandiose? Absolutely. But I'd prefer spinning insane stories, to the actual reality. A friend, who's a well-known writer, calls this pre-publication holding pattern the wait before the wait. I know this part. I've been here before. This is when I'd love some blind faith. That good things will happen. The universe is on my side. That putting positive thoughts out there brings back positive result. When I was a kid I was impressed by, and also jealous of the whole Christian mindset. Pray for what you want and you'll get it. Confess your sins and you'll be forgiven. There's the benevolent guy out there just waiting to listen to you and make your problems go away. The whole Jesus thing seemed so cool to my 10-year-old self. But it was the belief, implacable and rock solid that I yearned for. I'll be honest here, it was that and Christmas trees. Easter candy. Oh, and getting to miss part of school on Ash Wednesday and then walking around all afternoon marked, as if you were part of a cool club.

I'm still yearning a bit. Embracing the unknown sounds great, but honestly, I'd rather have a clue. Just an inkling that things will turn out all right in the end. It would be great if I had a vision (yes, I know, more grandiosity), a dream, an angel appeared, a strange man knocked at my front door (actually, the doorman would buzz him up first) with a prophecy. Hey, I could visit an oracle. Have my tarot cards read. A quick aside: I love having my cards read. The most memorable statement I've heard so far was from a reading when I was pregnant with Iz. The woman told me that I would eventually have a boy and that he'd be a dentist. My mother was thrilled at the thought of a professional in the family.

But, back to the yearn. I have to be ok with no answers, no guarantees, and just keeping putting myself and my ideas out there. You never know.

Day 28 is reservedly hopeful.

Monday, October 26, 2009

Just say no

I have a lot of trouble saying no. Part of it is my freelance background. I never know when the next project will show up so I can't turn anything down. This has created some periods of feasting that were too much too handle. A few winters back I got the green light on 3 Chronicle projects (literally 3 days in a row) all due 4 months later. I ended up in the hospital halfway through, laptop bedside, working the whole time. Another part of me hates disappointing people. There's my need to be liked. And then the hard-to-shake anorexic mindset that I can do everything. With no help.

So saying no last night to an intriguing opportunity was exceedingly hard. My ego is having a field day, in fact I think it hired a cheerleading squad to pound my failure into me. I knew it wasn't a realistic situation to pursue. It would have been a huge time committment working with people I don't know on a project that hadn't been thought out based on a point of view I didn't quite get.

I've learned serious lessons this particular go-round. I have to believe wholeheartedly in what I put my energy into. I have to work with people I like and trust. Professional relationships should stay just that. I don't need everyone to like me. I have a far stronger backbone than anyone gave me credit for, including myself. I fight, hard, for what I think is right.

And my skin is still thin.

I sent a couple of gracious emails to those I declined and they weren't received particularly well. I know I'll be spinning that, along with the thought that this was the last opportunity anyone will ever give me for anything for at least the rest of the day.

Sigh. Day 27 is fraught with self-doubt.

Sunday, October 25, 2009

ego smackdown

This morning, while in a 9am yoga class, working through the remnants of last night’s mini margarita, a song came on that my very first yoga teacher used to play in class all the time. While I’m sure it has a proper name, on my ipod it’s known as Joe Yoga 3 and has the ability to take me back in time and space. As the music flowed I felt my body let go and grace take over. I’m not naturally a graceful person, but sometimes, in a class, the movement, the music, the poses come together and I’m not myself anymore, I’m part of something bigger, greater. I know, that sounds ridiculous. But occasionally it shows up and I float in the moment. My ego, normally very involved and, well, egotistical, is forced to twiddle its thumbs and do something else for a bit. As I walked home, this post evolved so perfectly in my head that I’m sure I’ll screw it up as I write it out, but stick with me for a bit.

When I turned 40, I started to panic. Was this it? It seemed my entire life centered around being a mother and as my kids gained independence, where would that leave me? I felt washed up, over-the-hill, not relevant. I had no optimism, no enthusiasm, I slipped into a black hole of despair that lasted for 3 months. Towards the tail end I found a yoga teacher at my gym who was just this cool, challenging, thought-provoking guy with awesome playlists. It didn't hurt that he was super cute. And I thought, that perhaps the answer to feeling better was to get into amazing physical shape. Even though I still went to the gym on a slightly obsessive basis, my commitment had seriously slipped from my anorexia-driven workout mania. We did conventional training for a few weeks—my gift to myself—and then I tried one on one yoga. We'd go through an hour of poses and then talk for an hour after. He gave me books to read, forced me into corners examining how I felt/what I thought. It was uncomfortable and unnerving, but I was thinking again. He left for India and I fell apart for a bit. The sterile gym floor, bench presses and stair masters, just didn't do it anymore.

I took a deep breath and headed out to find a yoga studio. I've been happily practicing at Laughing Lotus ever since. And then new projects started coming my way. FLOW will be out in 2.5 weeks. But in the past 5 years, I've done 8 other projects with Chronicle Books. Looking back, it's hard to imagine that I was so sure my life was over, when I was on the edge of yet another beginning. I'm feeling that way now. FLOW's done. What next? Will I ever do another project? Will anyone pay attention to this one? Will it just slip away into used book tables at the Strand? But this time, the ego spin doesn't have as much of a hold as it used to. I'm sure being 45 has something to do with it. Being more grounded. Taking things less seriously. I know yoga's made a difference. I can't obsess and panic when attempting side crow, my body balancing precariously on my upper arms, as I try to lift my toes off the floor and then (and this has actually happened once or twice), my legs extend out to the side. My ego's still in the running, as I was fought thinking all this during class. Staying truly present will always be a challenge. But those moments when it all comes together?

I get it Joe.

Day 26. Amazed. And pretty damn proud of myself.

Saturday, October 24, 2009

after psycho knitting

I'm thinking about starting a FB fanpage for myself. Egotistical? Perhaps. Actually, yes, of course it is. Who am I kidding. It's a blatant rallying cry for people to come and pay attention to me. Then again, so are all these social media outlets. Much of it seems to be an online popularity contest. How many followers you have. How many friends you've amassed. How many retweets you get. How many people subscribe to your blog, your youtube channel your fanpages.

It's been easier because I've had FLOW to hide behind. All the spin, promo, these news flashes to let people know the book's coming out. Only it'll be in stores in 2 and a half weeks and then what? Daily shout outs of how long it's been on sale? That's insanely boring, even to me. Amazon ranking updates? I do check somewhat obsessively, but that's not something I need to share with everyone. And hopefully, after the book is officially out, there will continue to be super cool things to write about—but I have no idea. The book launch and subsequent parties are concrete. Real dates, real info. I'm working/hoping that reviews, articles, events will continue to flow in our direction. Again, we'll see. (Ah, there I go, that automatic nay saying, so that if things don't work out the way I want, I won't be too crushed and disappointed. I need to work on that).

Which leads me to the thought that inspired this post at 6 this morning. Connecting. With friends. Somehow these days, and I don't think it's just me, it's far easier to sit at a screen to stay in touch. Real life is frantic, running, getting people places, getting jobs out on time, homework, laundry, my constant juggle . . . it's not often I find time to be with friends anymore and just catch up. For the past few years I've had two steady friend gigs: pizza nite and psycho knitting that now are (tragically) no longer. Thursdays, for eons it seems, a bunch of families would head uptown from after school and congregate at Pizzeria Uno on 6th Avenue, which always cracked us up as living in NYC there are endless restaurant choices, but this worked best. Anywhere from 2 to 5 families would meet up at 5:30, the back table reserved for us by Juan, the endlessly patient waiter who took care of us and is now a friend. Let me clarify the table situation (this was the best part): the kids got the back booth. Grownups sat 2 rows over and for a couple of hours we'd drink cocktails, talk film and politics and very occasionally parenting. Last year we cut down to once a month. But now that many of our older kids are at different schools, it's been almost impossible to get everyone together for pizza nite reunions.

And then there was psycho knitting. A few years back I thought it would be great to get people together to hang out on Friday mornings. Since knitting was involved, it became an industrious get-together. I find it's not easy take time to just be. So this was a perfect combination. At first we met in people's apartments, which got a bit challenging when some people never left. Fortunately, before long, a cool coffee shop opened right across the street from school. A big couch was in the back. It was spacious enough that anywhere up to 10 could sit and chat and knit (although, by this point, very few ever pulled yarn out of a bag). Some would come for a few minutes before work. Some would come even after their kids moved to different schools. It was a raucous, rowdy group, with a real sense of belonging to something cool. But, the coffee shop closed 3 weeks ago. And now that I have kids in different schools, my mornings aren't as one dimensional—it's far harder to even remember sending out the night before reminders (I'm taking a break RIGHT NOW to organize the next pizza night).

I'm back.

And I miss my friends. I miss the regularity of knowing we'd get together (those who know me in the real world know how much I CRAVE things staying the same). I miss being a part of an ongoing social scene. The comfort and familiarity. Not needing general niceties, knowing each other so well we could launch into conversations that had been started ages ago. And knowing, no matter how quickly we had to rush off, or how long we lingered in the twilight by 8th Street, there would always be a next time.

Can social media fill that void? No. But it's a way of being connected when the old ways disappear.

Friday, October 23, 2009

first FLOW review!!!

Last night on twitter @KeriStevens mentioned FLOW's great review in Body & Soul magazine. What?! I had no idea anything was out there yet. I ran to 2 newsstands, but the guys behind both counters shrugged that no, they didn't carry it. I searched valiantly online but came across nothing. It almost reminded me of the time I got a message saying that my amnio (with Jack) was fine, to call back if I wanted to know the sex of the baby. I got the message at 4:50. The office closed at 5. But no one answered the phone. Nor did they feel compelled to actually pick up at 8 the next morning. It was the longest night of my life. Ok, so waiting to see the FLOW review wasn't quite that dramatic, but after we got everyone off to school, Jon and I hit the big newsstand on 14th Street and found a copy. It is fantastic. Striking. POSITIVE. People must be seeing it because books are selling at amazon (yes, I check).

This is it. It's starting. It's been strange and edgy knowing FLOW's been out there, but having no idea if anyone noticed. But, someone, at a Martha Stewart magazine no less, did.

As my mother would say, may this be the first of many.

Day 24 is a happy wrap.

Thursday, October 22, 2009

getting over myself

Yesterday someone left a slightly scathing message after one of my blog posts. I had been writing about the seemingly endless things I do and they posted, "oh please, get over yourself." Short. Snappy. Snarky.

I've been trying to write about it this morning, but while these blog posts usually flow easily, I've been stuck. And I just realized, I don't want to play into someone else's negativity by playing out the whole scene again. I already did that. Last night. I let myself get caught up in self-doubt and flagellation for awhile. The thing is, I don't need someone else to send me there, I do quite a good job of it myself, thank you very much. I was brought up with a not-so-healthy dose of Jewish superstition, in which thinking positive thoughts could bring destruction in their wake. My mother, who learned it from her mother, would say "kenahura" and spit after any particularly constructive statement, as if to ward off jinxes that would spiral you and your happy thoughts to the pit of despair. For me, it's automatic. Instead of seeing a glass half empty or half full, I was brought up to worry about knocking the glass over and breaking it. I was trained never to voice things like, "I feel great," or "I know I'll get this job" because vocalizing those statements would unleash a chain of vengeance to put me back in my place, or worse, punish me for even having said them. I used to imagine almost harpy-like creatures, just waiting to teach me a lesson about being too over-confident.

But, that's a really horrendous way to go through life. It's basically the opposite of "The Secret" and all those new put-positive-thoughts-out-into-the-universe-and-everything-you've-ever-wanted-will-be-yours books. So, I'm working toward a middle ground. Not puffing myself up so much I resemble the Michelin man, but being open and acknowledging what I do, in a good way. Which leads me to this thought—women, particularly mothers, don't get to do that very often. So often what we do is wrapped up in other people. Their accomplishments or failures, projects and temper tantrums. I've been writing books for years now, but most people in my day to day life have no idea. I have design clients and projects, but kept that all very quiet. I efficiently compartmentalize my life, making sure nothing from one part spills into another.

Last year I invited a friend to come with me to my yoga studio—it's a big part of my life that no one else knows about. And it was really, really strange. It's a completely different set of friends. I'm a different person there. Blurring those edges wasn't easy. And now, I'm blurring all over the place. FLOW is forcing me to break down the walls between various parts of my life, hey, of me, and start mixing and matching. It's hard. I'm generally a very private person, who doesn't share much of myself and here I am opening up all over the place. And that opens me up to criticism.

So. Bring it on ps41 parent. And anonymous for that matter. It's all part of my learning curve.

Day 23. Introspective but with a positive ending.

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

ego changes

I used to spontaneously wake up ridiculously early, full of energy and drive and pep. Honestly, it drove my husband crazy, as he's just not a morning person. But I've been finding lately, neither am I. No, that's not true. I have more motivation at 7 than most people do and can seriously pull it all together, but it's not as automatic anymore.

I have two theories. One. I'm getting older. Which doesn't really fit because I've always thought that when you get older, you need less sleep. Two. I stay up too late. That's logical. I never get to sleep before 12 these days, so suddenly 6:30 comes way too fast. Three (oops, so much for my two theories . . . see? My brain's not clicking yet). It's hard to get up and go before the sun's come out and the floor's are freezing. Could be seasonal. And four. I'm less anxious than I used to be.

That's an interesting theory. How can I be less anxious? I have this huge (hopefully) book coming out in less than three weeks. I juggle more than I ever have before. I'm putting myself, on purpose, into the spotlight, something that's always made me unbearably uncomfortable. But I'm not feeling the pull of that inner whirl the way I used to. There always used to be that extra voice in my head, commenting, on my every move. Hey, on my every thought. Not in a Sybil kind of way, in an ego kind of way. That voice has generally negative, judgmental, it filled me with doubt and thrived on angst. It was the driving force of my eating disorder—that voice would beat me up for eating extra lettuce or having another can of diet Pepsi before the scheduled time. This is the part of me that would put on clothes that were too tight, just to prove how much of a failure I was. The voice that expressed my fears and doubts, anxiety and shame.

Yesterday in yoga, my teacher asked what thoughts hold us back. I just realized that my inner voice holds me back—grasping tight to all those negative mindsets and wraps me up tight in them. And it's losing power. At least in the short term.

Maybe I'm evolving. Maybe the years of yoga are sinking in. Maybe I just too tired and busy to process it all. It's nice though, to not judge myself so harshly.

Day 23 is short and sweet and now it's time to get back to regularly scheduled programming.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

who am I?

I ask that, not from an existential place, not from a "where do I fit in within the greater context of the universe," but more from the challenge of having to find five appropriate tags to attach to my name for a twitter search. Mundane yes, but it led to an evening of soul searching.

You'd think finding five words to describe yourself would be easy—and if they were looking for adjectives, I'd be ok. Talkative, funny, outgoing, ridiculous, anxious, empathetic, creative, gregarious, even effervescent I've been told . . . but that's not what the search was about. The program picked five for me so I started there.

Author. Yup. That works. I am one. But author doesn't really cover what I do. Yes, I write. Conceptualize like crazy. Research both facts and visuals. Art direct. Publish books. Create print and online promos. And now market my book and myself as if that's my new full time job.

Design. I do that too. But look around. Everything you see has been designed by someone. Your coffee cup. The dashboard of your car. The pattern of your socks. It's a pretty vague term.

Blogger. This is my 22nd post in a row, which is fabulous for me. Blogging has become my new morning routine and I'm finding, every day, that people have actually read what I've written. My brother for one (that was quite a surprise), and people I've never met who somehow found me and find what I have to say resonates with them. A quick aside—when you pick a term on this site, it shows how many other people list themselves in that category. "Blogger" had more than twice as many listed as any of my other descriptions.

Mother. I was torn over this. Parenting is what I spend the vast majority of my time doing, but it seemed like a lame thing to list. And then I got pissed at myself. Being a mother is just about the most important thing I do. But the word "mother" doesn't cover it. I negotiate, mediate, organize, schedule. I discipline, feed, educate, engage. Soothe, cajole, entertain, support. I make great hot chocolate and just implemented a communication system for a middle school with 1000 kids. I organize after school classes, arrange play dates, help with homework (except for 6th grade math). I reassure when things are rocky. I hold tight when tears start falling. I set expectations and work to help my kids meet them. I am a dictator. A therapist. A rock. A friend.

Which brings me to number five . . . and I have no idea what I put. HA! So much for the angst I was going through for that list last night. Which got me thinking about how we all try so hard to categorize ourselves as this or that. When I was growing up, parents were generally just one thing. My dad was a doctor, my mom a housewife. It never changed. Looking back, my god, how limiting. How restrictive. How painfully boring. To be one thing and have no expectations that it could, it should change. But, as I write this, I'm thinking I could sum up what I do as one thing. I'm a student. The more I learn the more I know how little I know.

And day 22 is done, wrapped up and tied with a bow.

Monday, October 19, 2009

who's shaping how we think?

Whenever I'm working on a project, it completely takes over my life. Most of the books I've done have a significant art bent, so along with outlining, researching, and writing, I'm searching for the appropriate visuals to illustrate the story. That, for me, is the fun part. I love nothing more than perusing vintage magazines, getting a glimpse into a particular moment in time through a specific window. I can't imagine being a housewife in the 1950s—there's no way I'd ever look that put together while I mopped the kitchen floor, or cleaned my oven. In heels and pearls. The ads for Campbell's soup, for Jello, for stockings, for toothpaste . . . my fascination never wanes as to how we've been targeted and marketed at for decades.

How many slogans pop into your head, just by thinking of a brand? Even tag lines that haven't been used for years?

Coke is It
Campbell's Soup is Mmm, Mmm Good
Don't Squeeze the Charmin (Mr. Whipple always scared me)

It's too easy to get lost in the picture collection at the New York Public Library, or the stacks, in the same building, where they have shelf after shelf of bound magazines dating back decades. Ebay is a treasure trove—people have created careers of selling vintage ads. Part of that is tragic to me—all those amazing time capsules ripped apart with razor blades. But, being able to search "cheerleader" or "beauty queen" or "feminine hygiene" has made my finding art so much easier. And from there, my stories evolve.

I never set out to be a writer, I'm a designer by day, but am finding as my 10th book goes on sale next month, that I've found a way to marry concepts and imagery to tell stories the way I see them. We are such a visual society, constantly being bombarded with images on TV, online, on billboards, in subways, sides of buses, in magazines, that it seems impossible to recount history, evolving cultural developments and mindsets, without showing the images that shape how we think and feel (whether we accept that as truth or not).

Try it. Try thinking of McDonalds or Macy's or Cheetos without seeing an logo or image in your head. I'm betting it's automatic. We've all been conditioned. Without having been offered a blue or red pill (from a fascinating twitter conversation a couple of nights ago).

Now try this. Think of a store, a restaurant, a project without those innate preconceived mindsets. Can you? Please let me know how that goes.

Day 21 is in the bag.

Sunday, October 18, 2009

the pandora's box of cyberspace

Last night I came across a facebook post from a young family friend basically accusing her mom of lying. No, actually it stated clearly in black and white: "xxx's mom is a liar." I immediately started typing a mean mom response, reaming her for disrespect and telling her to take it down and go apologize. I didn't get far though, realizing that my angry rant would be out there for all her friends to see. Did I want to do that to her? No. I thought about sending her a direct message, but didn't know if she checked them. I wanted to make sure she took the post down before her mom saw it. And then I stopped and thought about what I'd want if my daughter posted something like that about me.

I need to take a moment and fill in some relevant information. These aren't all-adults-are-idiots-and-I-know-more-than-they-do snark-filled teenagers. These are not yet 12 year olds. Just started middle school. Asserting real independence for the first time. Exploring boundaries. Testing rules. Pushing buttons. But blatant disrespect in a very public forum was too much. For me anyway.

This is one of the many reasons why I don't friend the under-age set on facebook. I don't want my wall filled up with endless quizzes, with inane posts saying "blah" and "blah blah blah" and "I'm so boredddddddd." Are you more bored if you use extra letters to stretch it out? Do those extra letters represent that you have more "hommmmeewwooorkkkkkk?" And honestly, if you're that "tirreeeddddddd," go to bed. Plus, not all my posts are rated G and I don't want to censor what I'm thinking. I made 4 under-age exceptions: my kids (so they could take over my Farmville account), our friend R, who's a sophisticated adult masquerading as a 7th grader, and this girl. While I get other requests, I respectfully ignore them.

I also respect that there need to be boundaries between parents and kids. As they get older, I can't (and shouldn't) constantly monitor them. I struggle with that now. I can't be the one to fix everything, make it all better, manage time. Friday I was at my daughter's school and ran into her English teacher, who said Iz's doing great except that her notebook is a disaster and is negatively affecting her grade. My first thought was to run home and restructure everything, but what good would that do? So, she's going in early one morning this week, to work with her teacher to work out her own organizational system.

As they get older I know grown ups, especially parents, will become the enemy—I remember how stupid I thought my parents were. For YEARS. How they frustrated me, didn't get me, made stupid rules, refused to see things from my point of view. But while I could rant in my diary, spew venom over the phone, or whisper angrily to my friends in school, there was just no way potentially hundreds of kids, and adults, could share my rage. And that goes for grownups too. Cyber communication has opened up a pandora's box of sharing too much information. It's amazingly easy to post, tweet, blog about the most personal of topics, almost as if we're writing in a diary. But we're not. This is a very public forum we're all a part of and once you put something out there, you can't take it back.

I got into trouble a few months for just that—frustrated with FLOW's progress, I wrote a less than constructive blog, not bashing anyone personally, just venting about how things were (not) going. And within minutes, it got ugly. There was bullying, threats, guilt, and apologies. I learned my lesson. Write whatever I want. But now I think REALLY hard before I hit the post button.

Not everything is for public consumption. And it's my job to teach that to my kids.

Day 20 is a wrap.

Saturday, October 17, 2009

loving strangers—an ode to twitter

Thursday night I spent over 2 hours on the phone with a total stranger. Well, not a total stranger—we'd been exchanging tweets (140 or less character posts on twitter) for a couple of months. She's a PR person and gave of her knowledge, expertise, and time with thoughtful generosity. I was blown away. From these mini-exchanges we'd become cyber friends and here she was, helping me out with no hidden agenda, no secret sales pitch, just sharing advice as a great friend in the know. She's been following my FLOW plugs, rants, panic and sent me her phone number, with the offer to talk it through with me. @scout66com is an angel—this is just one thank you honey!

It's hard to explain twitter to people not using it. The initial concept is simple. You follow people, they follow you. That is, if they choose to. You can amass thousands of followers while only following a few back (I follow the whale at the Natural History Museum but it's not mutual). There are tons of spammers out there—followers and posters selling ways to make money at home, business opportunities, porn. With every new follower I get, a porn link shows up on my follow list. They all have the same graphic photo and mention Britney Spears. Twitter is a universe to entrepeneurs (many of whom I can't figure out exactly what it is they do) life coaches, health motivators, bloggers, marketers, spiritual gurus, celebrities, people at home with time on their hands. There's inspiration, edgy humor, witty banter—I spent one night last week coming up with names for a FLOW inspired nail polish line. It was brilliant.

It's a total time suck, as statements, questions, links by strangers fly by on a post wall that changes every second. I can go days without seeing tiny yet familiar photos and I suppose it's not that those people aren't online, it's just hard to keep track in the deluge of information. And how do you choose who to be "friends" with? You see a miniscule photo (my favorite at the moment: a strange swirling brown abstract mass that when you blow up is a female torso baked from bread with cinnamon decorations (@BluePomGirl, one of my favorites). You can chat back and forth for a few days and then the person disappears forever. You can become friends on facebook, exchange emails, talk on the phone. I "met" @SusanPowers the other day, truly one of the nicest, most talented women I've come across. She's a raw food guru, working on a book proposal and I'll do whatever I can to help her.

There are bunches of interesting, thought-provoking, witty folks I'm happy to follow who delight me when they write back. And then, there's @scottfaithfull. I've had a crush on his avatar for month. He is a talented photographer, master personal marketer, and has taken FLOW (and me) under his wing. We both starred in a promo video he made a couple of weeks ago. And the postcard he sent of one of his beautiful photographs is hanging by my computer.

My family thinks I'm nuts, to spend time typing to strangers, keeping tabs on people I don't know. But what's "knowing" someone about these days? Technological communication has changed the world in dramatic ways. The people you "know" most can be ones you've never met.

That's it. Day 19 and I'm almost halfway done.

Friday, October 16, 2009

blood, sweat, tears, and cramps

During this personal 40 day blog challenge, I've been waking up knowing exactly what to write about, hitting my computer while it's still dark out and typing away before anyone else staggers out into the living room. But today, 2 ideas are floating in my head that I think will eventually come together in the end in an almost Curb Your Enthusiasm sort of way (hopefully with far less whining).

So, here it goes.

This morning I got my period. 8 days after I thought I would. So, it's been 8 extra days of edginess, heightened anxiety, nervousness, feeling bloated, losing my temper. Noticing my hair looking wavier than usual . . . I could go on and on. For years, after becoming a mom, my period had settled into a super regular, not particularly intrusive pattern. It showed up, it went, no drama. But 2 or 3 years ago, it sped up. Instead of averaging once a month, it arrived every 23 or so days. Now let me just say, that's TOO MUCH. It's not like I have a choice (well, I do, but I'll get to that later), so I deal. But then a year or so ago, it arrived with a first day of the most MIND BLOWING CRAMPS EVER. Excepting childbirth. Although, I have to say, these are remarkably similar. Same thing's happening. My uterus is contracting to push stuff out. Blood, baby, it doesn't care. It has a job to do. I spend several hours every first day wrapped around a hot water bottle, popping way too many advil, fighting waves of nausea. The upswing is that my now almost monthly menstrual migraine (I just learned that's what I've been having), starts to lose it's vise-like grip of my left temple. Oh, and aside from the intense pain, I'm enervated, enthusiastic, in fact, pretty damn happy. The fuzziness is gone and I'm ready to kick ass and accomplish things.

While at the doctor this week, I mentioned the crazy cramping and without missing a beat, she suggested going on a low dosage birth control pill for a few months, to give my body a break and then hope, after I stopped, the cramps wouldn't come back. It was a full circle moment. FLOW was inspired, 15 years ago, by a doctor blithely handing me a pack of birth control pills without figuring out what was wrong with me. Not that I think anything's wrong with me—this is how my hormones are affecting my body as things change. It sucks at times, but I can handle it. I don't want/need drugs to flatten out my moods. There's something to be said for feeling things full tilt and learning from the experience. Oh god, I'm starting to sound a bit deranged. Back to the story at hand . . .

What I need to figure out is, why is this happening? Is it perimenopause? I'm 45 and things are changing. I think I had my first hot flash. It was actually like a mini panic attack that left me flushed and sweaty. I'm on the fence about whether it was "official." Is it stress? And that leads me up to my second story thread. FLOW is out in 3 and a half weeks and everything is completely out of my control. Finished books arrived this week—people all over have been sent copies, hopefully to review. Who knows what's going on, how they're responding, what they think, if they'll even open the packages. Is someone following up? Does anyone care? I DON'T KNOW.

I just realized, literally while writing this, that these sped up periods which knock me flat, preceded by the blinding pain in my head corresponds with how long I've been working on FLOW. It's been the most outrageously intense, personally stretching, overwhelmingly hard (at times too painful to bear) project I've ever worked on, with a rock hard veneer of stress candy coating the entire experience. And scrounging for PR is just about the hardest part for me. My innate insecurity and self-doubt come flooding back as my efforts are met with a wall of silence. My ego takes every non answer as a personal rejection. I don't know enough to even know what to expect so I'm scrambling in the dark. I know that tweeting, blogging, updating my websites, making these mini films isn't even making a dent, but I have all this energy and drive and need to do something.

Last night I spoke with a PR person I met on twitter, who spent 2 gracious hours with me. She asked what my PR/marketing strategies, timelines, goals are. I DON'T KNOW. Do we have a plan? Again, I don't know. Do we have reviews yet? What kind of responses are we getting? Sigh. Don't know that either.

But now I know why my period was 8 days late.

I'm off to fill up my hot water bottle.

And day 18 begins.

Thursday, October 15, 2009

you are (quite sadly) what you eat

Yesterday I had my annual checkup. Actually, the last time I had a physical was in 2004, so I can't quite count it as a yearly visit. I faithfully go to my gynecologist every year, am pretty sure I'm up to date on mammograms (I tend to block those out), and see various doctors should the need arise. But, I've been feeling so exceedingly tired lately, sometimes slammed with a fatigue that's so intense there's nothing I can do but lie down and sleep, too groggy to talk or even hold my head up. It's been happening more frequently lately and my sister, who's got thyroid issues, suggested I might too. Going over a list of hypothyroid problems, I certainly had many of the symptoms. But the dry skin, cold hands and feet, and fatigue could certainly be something else. My mother thinks it's because I "DO TOO MUCH." Not the skin/feet part, but the overwhelming exhaustion. She's right, I generally have more on my plate than I should, but it's certainly nothing new, so why am I falling apart now? Meanwhile, she's got thyroid issues too and as it's genetic, it was worth checking out.

As the doctor drew blood, she asked me what I had eaten that day. It was around 5 and I went backwards from then. A couple of slices of whole wheat toast with fresh mozzarella and olive oil (which was particularly yummy). Some pineapple. A luna bar. A pop tart . . . I was so mortified at that point I didn't mention the orange, brown and white ghost-shaped marshmallows I had scarfed early morning, to the point I had Jon hide them so I wouldn't eat more. I realized, in that moment, that I pay just about no attention to what I eat anymore. So way too much sugar and processed carbohydrates are now regulars in my diet. Some days I'm so busy I eat leftover pasta, cold from the fridge, just to make it through the late afternoon, as I hadn't had a chance to eat yet. I rarely get hungry—a holdover from years of anorexia.

Part of being in this dismissive place about my diet is actually healthy for me. After years of minutely cataloging and analyzing every morsel I consumed, and berating myself over an extra bowl of lettuce or bowl of plain brown rice, it's a positive thing to not obsess about food. I've recently started eating butter again and know what? Butter really is better. I munch on the banana chocolate chip muffins I bake that for years were only for everyone else. Food tastes delicious. Half and half in my decaf? It's like a caribbean vacation for my tongue. Warm and sweet and rich. And yes, I've rediscovered pop tarts. Nothing can match a brown sugar cinnamon straight from the toaster, gooey on the inside with the frosting crackling up top. I'm making myself hungry just thinking about one.

But what is this doing to my body? Maybe this complete lapse of nutritional attention is causing my malaise. My lightheadness, my inability to concentrate, these insane mood swings. Maybe my period being off track is my body's protest against the processed sugar that's now a regular part of my diet. Can I blame skin breaking out and frizzy hair on it too? Hey, why not. Maybe it's time to take responsibility and start paying attention, at least at bit more, to balancing what I eat. And sadly, I don't think chocolate fudge pop tarts will make the cut. As for butter? Don't know that I'll completely give that up.

Day 17 . . . in the can.

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

to mom or not to mom, that is my question

My conundrum: FLOW is having a fancy, grownup launch party next month at Rizzoli's on 57th Street in NYC. An upscale, beautiful, slightly intimidating book store that specializes in fabulous art books. I actually have 2 potential outfits, which is unheard of for me. I do casual funky really well, ranging from hot pink and purple lotus t-shirts to outrageous 60s hawaiian dresses. My front closet is chuck full of vintage coats—everything from faux persian lamb to floor-sweeping rockstar groupie, 18 or so in all. For my party I have a simple black 60s sheath with a slightly swingy skirt and just bought a pair of black mod boots that are perfect. I also found a stunning black with brown lace over nude satin dress, very 60s cocktail party, 3/4 sleeves and it's beautiful. Shoes for that are a challenge—I'd love calf hugging pointy boots but haven't found them yet. But that's not my dilemma, the outfit or the boots. I don't know what to do about my kids.

They want to come to the party. And I would love them to be there—this is a really big moment for me that I want to share with them. They've lived every step of this book. And I'm used to being pulled in different directions all the time. But. BUT. This is my night. People are coming I haven't seen in years. I don't want to be the center of attention with someone grabbing my arm to let me know they're hungry. Bored. Tired. Want to go home. Forgot to do their homework. I don't want to be distracted by bickering, whining, complaining, fighting. I don't want to worry about kids getting wild and running around the store. I'd really prefer to be a grownup for 2 hours and enjoy my party.

That's not unreasonable is it? So why do I feel so guilty?

(day 16 and counting)

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

books that (should have) changed the world

Forgive me while I spend a moment or two on a Flowmercial . . .

FLOW is smart, funny, edgy, shocking, fascinating, eye-opening. It's impossible to read without learning something and has the power to shift people's perspectives on history, government, religion, big business, education, women's bodies, not to mention menstruation. The story fascinates, the art rivets, the book itself is stunning. FLOW should change the world.

Will it? Who knows. I would bet the vast majority of people putting stuff out there feel just as strongly as I do that their book is what people will be talking about. I'm hopeful but skeptical (which is generally the place I live my life from, optimistic with a twist of that deeply rooted Jewish jinx fear mixed in).

I've also been through this enough times—FLOW is my 10th book—to know the giddy anticipation, the fantasy of endless press, new opportunities, fame and fortune that ends up flat-lining in the end. So yes, I'm jaded. This truly is this book that should change my life. Not to say it hasn't already in many ways. I've come out of this a much better, more serious writer. I've never worked so hard, months and months of nothing but research, outlines, writing with no feedback. It was like a nightmare college term paper that never ended. I've made remarkable contacts, am getting far more comfortable with self-promotion (shockingly so at times), have established professional work boundaries, and am embracing projects with a far greater scope and depth than ones in the past. All life-changing. And hopefully, it will continue to be so.

But, this pales in comparison to the anticipation I had before my first book came out. I truly believed, with all my heart, that Chunks: A Barfology would be my ticket to the big time. Yes, I believed whole-heartedly that this vomit anthology would reverberate around the world. That it would be a must-have for every college student in the country. That the animated series my friend Kevin and I conceptualized starring Chunky and Ralph—two shape shifting aliens who, in every episode, became mundane workers to avoid capture and return to their home planet—would be picked up by Comedy Central and whose royalties we'd live on for years. We actually did send them a proposal. They wrote back saying our humor was too "low brow" for the station. Next year they aired South Park. MTV used to show animated films and they invited us to submit a finished film for consideration. We didn't actually want to spend months creating a 2 minute stop action short. We wanted a substantial financial payoff for our brilliant idea.

Didn't happen.

What did happen is that Chunks got lots and LOTS of drive-time radio interviews. Every day for months I'd receive emails and phone calls from my publicist who'd booked us on more shows. Kevin wasn't all that comfortable with these so, in the end, I'd spend my mornings chatting with DJs and their listeners from all over the country. Often starting at 6am, I'd throw on my pea soup green velour shirt (for good luck) over my pajamas and tell vomit stories. And it wasn't just my rendition of my college friend Peter losing it in that spinning centripetal ride at Rye Playland. By the end, I could tell that story, and make people laugh, in my sleep. But no, every DJ had a story to tell. And then they'd invite their audience to call in and share. By the time I'd end my 3rd or 4th interview of the day, I'd heard so many stories my anti-gag wall would be crumbling.

We were convinced, beyond a doubt, that "Son of Chunks" was inevitable, so we wrote up all the stories we heard. We had a website, Cyberchunks, where hundreds of people posted their own tales. We had enough materials to put together a 5 volume regurgitation boxed set. There was no end in site.

Only no one was interested. No one bought the book. It never caught on. Disappeared quickly from bookstores. And once our morning drive time popularity waned, I was back to square one.

I've come so far since then. And am hoping beyond hope that FLOW will be my breakout book. But, I'm tempering my enthusiasm with a healthy dose of reality.

And now my friends, day 15 of my 40 day blog challenge is complete.

Monday, October 12, 2009

changing the way we think

Last night at dinner at a lovely old school Italian restaurant on Thompson Street, we were deep in discussion about what Jack should be for Halloween. We've been through Jesus Christ (might make people uncomfortable), a Buddha (covering his entire body in gold paint might not be the greatest idea), a baked potato (I don't know that I'm up for that costume challenge), John Lennon (but last year's Slash wig was really uncomfortable), a flapper (I think he'd look a bit too good) and Mario (this hasn't been completely written off yet). He wants something instantly recognizable and we were throwing out ideas to see if anything hit the right note: Paula Abdul, Mario Batali, a character from Sponge Bob, when Jon said, "How about a tampon?" I told them about a friend of mine, years ago, who came to our Halloween party with a 3 foot tall Tampon hat on her head. A tube of white cardboard with stuffing out the top and a braided string hanging over her shoulder. She was a great photo op at the Greenwich Village Halloween Parade, which was happening downstairs. When the laughing died down, Jack took it in, paused a second, and replied, "Would it be bloody?"

There was a moment of silence. And then we all completely lost it. I doubled over, fighting back tears, noticing other diners looking our way as the hilarity at our table was impossible to ignore. I was blown away—Jack's comeback was edgy, witty, relatively gross, remarkably funny . . . and this from an 8-year-old boy, not the typical person for that kind of response.

That's the FLOW difference. Jack's been listening to menstrual chatter for almost 3 years. He does tell me I talk about Flow way too much (although I am sure that it's not as much as when he obsesses about something like the Sims 3, his latest heart's desire). But all that talk has made it a topic of conversation that's now just that, a topic of conversation. Growing up, I don't know that my brother even knew what a period was and I did everything within my control to make sure it stayed my super private secret. I remember stashing pads as far back in the bathroom cabinet as possible, artfully arranging extra roles of toilet paper and hair drying equipment in front, so no one could possibly notice the box. The first few years my periods were brutal, with cramps that kept me in bed for 2-3 days month, clutching a heating pad to my lower belly, popping tylenol like m&ms. But I would never, EVER, let people know what I was suffering from. I'd say I hurt my back or had a stomach ache.

But these days at my house, cramps are cramps. PMS is PMS. Heavy days are heavy days. It's not always easy for me to be so open after so many years of stringently keeping everything mysterious and hidden. But the fact that my kids can question, wonder, discuss, make rockets from tampons, watch vintage menstrual education films noting differences in facts and presentation, and even come out with exceedingly funny, if not questionable rejoinders is one of the reasons I wanted to write Flow. To start conversations. To take away the stigma. To let people feel comfortable talking about a completely natural process.

It's working.

(day 14 is a wrap)

Sunday, October 11, 2009

30 days out

30 days until Flow is officially on sale. Last night, while thinking about this post, it seems like a good time to write about how the book came to be. But, I've already written that story. There's something about blogging that makes me want to examine new topics and thoughts, not recycle what I've already put out there.

Which leads me to . . . how much information do I feel comfortable sharing? FLOW came about because I was too ashamed/scared to talk about my period. It had stopped for almost a year and while I was terrified that something was terribly wrong with me, the fear of discovering I had a deadly illness, combined with talking about menstruation (which I NEVER did), was like a gag order. Better to suffer in silence, desperately hoping each month I'd find blood. Not a great surprise here—jewish angst runs deep.

It turns out that there was nothing wrong, at least nothing that the stereotypical doctor-in-a-white-lab-coat-with-grey-hair- and-reading-glasses could find in a sonogram or blood tests. He patted my knee, handed me a birth control pill pack with a "honey, we just need to jump start your hormones" and sent me on my way. The problem: I was anorexic and chemically "fixing" my cycle didn't actually fix anything, it just obfuscated (I get extra points for that word) the problem. Then again, I hadn't officially admitted to myself I had an eating disorder. It took years in therapy before I could get past the dramas of every day life to acknowledge what I was doing to myself. And man, the lightbulb that went on for that realization blew my mind. I remember calling my father—our relationship was tenuous at best back them—and telling him about my disease. He said, "Of course you're anorexic. Just look at you." A bomb dropped. My family knew and didn't say anything? Didn't confront me, challenge me, try to get me help? It wasn't just me living in denial.

Around that time, New York Magazine ran a story exposing the false claims of countless low/no fat snack places that thousands of women relied on for sustenance. With a muffin on steroids gracing the front cover, the lid was blown off of calorie counts and fat content. Tasti D-Lite, my main food group for years, was a major culprit. On one hand, actually having more calories than they claimed probably kept me out of the hospital. But I had been betrayed and wrote an outraged letter to the editor, which was printed the next week. It was the first time my name had ever been in print (aside from dance recital programs and yearbooks) and I was thrilled. My mother was horrified. "I am a recovering anorexic" was my opening line and she was only afraid people she knew would see my letter and discover my secret.

And now my book about menstruation is about to be out in the world. The subject that wrapped me in silence will be all that I talk about. Objectively, that's fine. I can analyze advertising and discuss cultural history for hours on end. But my own experiences? I'm cool with impending menopause and embarrassing stories (like my leak onto white carpenter pants in 8th grade woodshop). In FLOW I wrote about nightmares I used to have about my bat mitzvah and my impending period, and my experiments with alternative products. I found though, that sex is another story altogether. We did an interview last month, for December's Marie Claire, and the focus was menstruation and sex. My co-author cavalierly shared stories about ex-boyfriends and personal preferences. I shut up.

Maybe that's my next book.

Day 13 is a wrap.

Saturday, October 10, 2009

a momentary loss

Usually Saturdays are pretty mellow at my house—everyone wants to just crash and relax (Jack's favorite weekend word) after a long week of work and school. But today was different. Iz had a friend here, I had a meeting about a new project, Jack had a play date at a friend's house, I squeezed in a yoga class, took the girls out to their favorite pizza place in the east village, and am heading out for a pedicure date in twenty minutes. I made sure there was always a grownup around, to drop off, pick up, hang out. Very structured and organized from beginning to end.

Except that when Jon got Jack to his friend's house, no one answered the buzzer. When someone finally came to the door, they were shocked to find Jack standing there. The mom had NO IDEA there was a play date on the books. Meanwhile, I vividly remember the email exchange—making sure Jack's friend's older brother would be there, that one on Saturday was a good time, they had something in the evening and invited us to join them if we were free. Only I can't find that email. I've searched my computer, my phone, gmail. Have done every word search I could think of. Narrowed down dates, even found preliminary messages talking about getting the kids together. But NOTHING about today. Absolutely nothing.

So. Am I losing my mind? Did I dream the plan and wake up believing it was real? Have I been so distracted lately that I made the whole thing up? It's marked on my calendar. I can't imagine I took time to mark down a figment of my imagination. Sigh. I think this is one of those situations I'll never find an answer for, no matter how fanatically I search. I just have to let it go.

After one more obsessive search through my trash . . .


And day 12 is done.

Friday, October 9, 2009

connecting overload

Flow goes on sale one month from tomorrow and at this point it feels like I'm on the going up part of a roller coaster ride, creeping along, knowing something's going to happen but not knowing what it is. Having said that, I hope something dramatic DOES happen, that I'm on a crazy wild, state of the art coaster, not the kiddie one at a fair. Not knowing isn't easy for me. Neither is having no control over what may or may not happen. So, I've been connecting like mad. Twitter, facebook, blogging, youtube, email . . . it's hard to imagine that anyone I've ever met doesn't know Flow's going on sale next month.

And then, another opportunity popped up in my inbox. A friend invited me to connect with her at Linked In. While I write and design for a living, I do both in my living room, at coffee shops, and while sitting in my car during alternate side parking days. It's been more years than I can remember since I worked in an office. Just thinking about how to professionally describe myself, compared to those out there, was daunting. I set up my profile (although no matter what I add, it remains 45% completed). And then I invited people.

I was amazed at how busy my mailbox was yesterday. Email after email of people saying yes. I didn't recognize all the names, but didn't really think about it—I was feeling quite popular. Then my mother-in-law accepted my invitation. Hmm. I knew I hadn't invited her. Several people I knew from years and years ago got in touch, explaining why they weren't saying yes. And then two people I'd had horrendous experiences with on a project, who I thought had been exorcised from every recess of my computer's memory popped up as new connections. With a pit in the bottom of my stomach I realized that apparently, I invited EVERY SINGLE PERSON in my address book, even those I thought I had permanently deleted.

We'll see what today brings.

There is an amusing side. Last night I got yet another yes (I'm up to 104) from a friend who recognized a connection on my list—it was the person who had hired him for his current (quite prestigious) job. I had NO IDEA who this person was. It hit me, was I also inviting complete strangers? How was my computer accessing these addresses? I went into my account, looked up this profile and STILL didn't know this person. I was hysterical. While reading his info, I realized he took over a project I did some design work for this summer. We spoke on the phone twice and he had my invoice paid. It was lovely that he connected with me, but I'm betting he has no idea who I am either.

But, now he knows about Flow. And yes, folks, day 11 is a wrap.

Thursday, October 8, 2009

scented handles

I opened a generic pack of Target razors this morning and was hit by a cloying flowery smell. It turns out that the handles were scented. I checked the package and yes, there on the back, in small type, was "scented handles." I have to ask, WHY ON EARTH would someone think to scent handles? There must have been countless meetings about whether or not to "scent." Endless discussions about what possible advantage there would be to having a smell-able product. Users could find their razors in the dark perhaps? The odor would stick to their hands the rest of the day, subtly reminding them to shave again? Once the product designers decided to go ahead with it, people must have worked for months on picking the right floral notes that suggested bathing suit revealing smooth legs. Someone created the chemical additives to mix into the plastic. Copyrighters had to spin the fact into package copy. And this was for a generic store brand, which was basically ripping off the "technology" and marketing features of name brands (let me name Bic here).

I purposely bought generic so I wouldn't be confronted the overpowering stench my Bic Soleil's gave off. But, now I've got four more razors to get through until I make my next purchase. Call me a Luddite, but I just want plain razors that effectively do their job without extra bells and whistles. I hate that there are so many options available—purchasing a simple item now requires far too much analysis and thought.

Which brings me to Oreos. I remember when double stuff Oreos hit the market. What a brilliant concepts. I was already making my own—I'd take two, eat the cookie side off each, then smoosh the cream sides together. Heaven. And now they came, ready made (I have to confess, I made my own quadruple stuff Oreos, but that was a bit much). But now, Oreos have their own section in the supermarket. There are regular, chocolate cream, mint cream, peanut butter cream, "special edition" strawberry cream, golden (vanilla cookies) with both vanilla and chocolate cream, Oreo Cakesters in regular, chocolate cream and golden, Oreo Funsticks (cookie tubes with cream inside) also in chocolate and vanilla, Oreo minis in boxes, round containers that are for "on the go," and 100 calories pre-packed servings. It turns out that I can't just buy Oreos for my family, every has a strong allegience to a specific kind.

Someone actually made buying Oreos stressful. How sad is that?

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Spiralling out of control

This morning everything was progressing nicely. Iz got up to do her homework only halfway in I realized that while she could easily recite the definition of a metaphor and simile she had no idea what they meant. No wonder homework had been a disaster for 3 straight nights.

With five minutes before she had to leave she remembered she had gym but hadn't bought the uniform yet. Her sneakers were falling off her feet. And her schedule was missing. With 3 minutes to go we're scambling through piles of clean laundry both throwing on clothes and I'm now heading to school with her, unexpectedly, to sort things out. Jack's family morning is in 10 minutes. He was still sleeping when I left the house.

Day 10 is off to a stressful start.

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

the war between 2 worlds

Flow (for those of you who don't know . . . FLOW: the Cultural Story of Menstruation, the book I've been slaving endlessly over for 2+ years) will officially be on sale one months and 4 days from today. I'm more anxious than excited, nervous than thrilled. The book is beautiful—I'm so inordinately proud how fabulously it all turned out. The pain of putting together such a comprehensive project, the sleepless months, constantly feeling inadequate and in over my head, the misunderstandings, the black holes of silence, have, for the most part, faded. Now is the wait. Wait to see if anyone will pay attention, if people will talk and discuss and spread the word and buy.

I've been saying all along that 2 months out I would devote myself to Flow, that it would be my full time job every day.

Nope. Not even close. And that's my 2 world battle. I'm too busy coping with time management for an 11 year old. Supporting, cajoling, helping, getting supremely pissed off. Someone else's homework has taken over my life. Only it's not just that. It's having 2 kids, 2 schools, organizing drop offs and pick ups. Afterschool, laundry, dinner (the thing I HATE organizing the most). Long pants. I have long pants on my list as Iz refuses to wear anything but stretchy yoga pants and all Jack's are shredded at the knees. And when did we run out of paper towels? And toothpaste?

I volunteered to be on the PTA at Iz's middle school and it's truly starting from scratch—trying to build a communication system for kids, parents, and the school which they, and I, so desperately need. The bottom of her backpack is filled with scrunched balls of paper, some nothing, some REALLY important notices. Last week, along with all communication, I took on having plastic folders imprinted with a school logo (that I have to design), to give to all students, solely for that school/home purpose. And out of 9 other board members, no one's gotten back to me yet, but we want them for next week.

I'm supposed to be designing and producing a line of school t-shirts too. A direct appeal campaign to raise money. Posters for a bake sale that's now been banned by the NYC Department of Health.

Yesterday had at least 20 emails about a pot luck for Jack's class—I'm a class parent there. One of 4 and the one in charge of all "creative" projects. I read that as the job that needs the most time and effort put in.

On my plate today - a early morning trip to Target (I get there as close to 8 as possible so I can get back in time to get a parking spot on the street), designing a book launch poster for a Flow party they're throwing for me at my yoga studio, I'm finding it close to impossible to create something that celebrates me. Working on a kid fiction book that is wonderful but I've lost touch with for the past 2 weeks. Tracking down unpaid invoices. Getting the laundry I left in the laundry room yesterday. Yoga (a bright spot) and then the gruesome homework grind.

Flow? No time. No enthusiastic, expectant energy. Part of me feels like it'll come out and go, barely registering in my daily life. We're having a launch party at Rizzoli, the one thing I'm really excited about, but my kids want to come and I know that will take away from it for me. They'll be miserable, or arguing, or wanting to go home. But they're so excited to come - how do I leave them at home.

Being a mother who does something else is almost impossible. Those extra things keep me sane, let me retain myself instead of getting lost, like my mother did. I was terrified being someone's mom and that it would happen to me—I think, underneath it all, that's part of what drives me to put other things out into the universe. But man, does it make my every day harder.

(and now, day 9, is done)

Monday, October 5, 2009

the other side of motherhood

I realized yesterday that from many of my blog posts I sound like an overwhelmed, ungrateful, dissatisfied mom. Which is entirely untrue. Yes, there are moments and that's when posting really helps. Writing gets it out of me in the way talking to a good friend over coffee (or some decadent cake like they used to have in the Golden Girls) would, but at ridiculous hours of the morning, or in the middle of a heated battle, it's not easy to pick up the phone and chat. So, I come here and vent. And as with many people, it's far easier to share when the emotions are negative—perhaps it's because I need to process them and get them out of me.

But, I could never imagine not being a mother. Motherhood profoundly changed me, in ways I couldn't have imagined when I started out. I was anorexic for years and years before I had kids. My life was totally about control and denial, rigidly scheduled with no time or space (or desire) for relaxing, taking it easy having fun. I never, ever gave myself a break. But when you have a baby, control goes out the window. Someone else's every need is suddenly more important than mine. I actually grappled with that during pregnancy, but that's a story for another day. I had expected that I'd be a tightly wound, controlling, anxiety-ridden mom but somewhere at the beginning something in me let go and I learned to relax. Not right away. When Iz was just weeks old (and 5 weeks early so she didn't follow developmental milestones) I thought she was blind, my brother thought she was deaf. I'll never forget standing over her with a flashlight, trying to get her to track the beam while Dave dropped piles of books on the floor, trying to startle her. But, eventually, I got used to things like being peed on and having to give (and sometimes take) multiple baths a day. I met amazing women. the Mummies, and we shared the ridiculousness of it all. We'd get together every Friday, drink Bailey's Irish Cream and help each other through the confusing dark parts.

To celebrate Iz's first birthday I went all out and bought myself a flowered dress. Taupe, mauve and beige sprinkled with microscopic blossoms—perfect pattern for a grandmother's couch. But for me, this was huge. For years I only wore black, head to toe. Hadn't had on a skirt or dress in more years than I could remember. A flowered dress? Huge. Next birthday party was a pink and purple strappy sundress. And at this point I've built a collection of the most over-the-top in-your-face outrageously patterned BRIGHT vintage dresses and revel in the ridiculousness of what I wear. Black? Almost never. My evolving dress fashion is a direct reflection of the newfound comfort in my own skin, the ability to be silly, to laugh at myself, and be at ease in my life.

Aside from what motherhood has done for me, nothing can equal the joy that washes over me because of these kids. To feel joy and pride at someone else's accomplishments is almost indescribable. This past spring Iz starred in her school play. It was thrilling and nerve-wracking every time she was onstage. As the cast come out for their curtain call, Iz walked out, dripping in sequins, and the entire audience stood up to give her a standing ovation. I still get chills thinking about it. I don't know that I've ever seen such pure joy consume someone's face. She radiated as she stood there and my heart raced, thrilled beyond words for her.

A month earlier Jack, who had been struggling with reading, asked if we could stop at a bookstore on our way home from school. He picked up a copy of "Diary of a Wimpy Kid" and sat down on the floor, wondering if it would be ok to hang and check things out for awhile. A few minutes later he said he wanted to read me the first page and he did. I had tears in my eyes, watching his finger work its way across the page, seeing how proud he was that he could read it on his own. I offered to buy the book and when we got home he curled up under a blanket on the couch and read by himself until he finished. It was a much quieter moment than the play applause, but equally as important to me—sitting back and watching my child revel in a life-changing experience.

Yes motherhood is hard, exhausting, challenging . . . but those moments of bliss balance me.

(day 8!)

Sunday, October 4, 2009

levels of exhaustion

This morning I saw a super early post on Facebook from one of my favorite people (yes Sar, I'm talking about you) wishing people were up to chat with. I knew she wasn't up before 6 just for fun, it's because she has a new baby and had no choice. She mentioned she was grateful that at least Three's Company was on and I had a flashback to the countless episodes of The Nanny I watched when Iz was a baby and we were both awake but I was too tired to do anything else besides blindly stare at the screen. I was always exhausted when she was little. Waking up to feed her every 2 to 3 hours during the night and then trying to maintain any semblance of normalcy during the day was a joke. I remember a friend coming over one day, during those early months, too tired to change out of her pee soaked t-shirt. She knew as soon as she put on something clean, she'd get hit again. Sometimes I'd have food and my hair for hours and not notice until I got home at night. 6pm was my witching hour. Iz and I would curl up in a chair until Jon came home, watching The Nanny over and over until that grating theme song played in my head through my dreams.

It was the most tired I had ever been. I didn't realize having the luxury of lounging around for an hour was something that was unique to a mother of just one. After my water broke, for Jack's birth, and I was doubled over with contractions, I was making peanut butter sandwiches in cute shapes before leaving for the hospital. Suddenly, mid-morning naps for 2 were a thing of the past. Sitting still for an hour? Impossible. I had thought being a new mother of one was the most tired I could ever be. But having a newborn and a toddler? Looking back into that haze, I vaguely remember walking home from preschool, Iz collapsing, Jack napping in the stroller, me having to carry her in one arm while pushing the stroller with the other. Her school was straight across town, a bit over a mile and my arm would be burning by the time we'd get to our building. Jack would wake up as we'd walk through the front door and, desperate as I was to collapse in a heap on the floor, I'd have to make lunch for everyone and continue the day. I then knew that was the most tired I could ever be.

Now that they're older, the exhaustion's shifted. It's more an emotional depletion, after hours/days of begging, pleading, complaining, whining, listening, negotiating, organizing. Worrying about their relationships, or lack of friendships. Advocating to make sure things are working out at school. Figuring out what 2 picky eaters who won't eat the same thing will eat. Dealing with the extreme ups and downs of 2 kids who apparently have inherited my anxiety. And, at this point, knowing my ability to make things better is slipping away. I can't fix the hurt of mean girls or make pimples disappear, or explain why someone's not invited as many birthday parties as other kids. The emotional drain is far more brutal than the physical.

When Iz was a baby a mother of older kids said to me, just wait, it only gets harder. I couldn't imagine how life could possibly get harder.

She was right.

(day 7 and still going)

Saturday, October 3, 2009

twitter love

It seems almost impossible that on Twitter, this anonymous moving web wall of posts 140 characters or shorter, one could forge supportive, nurturing, encouraging relationships, but that's just what's happening for me. There are these exceedingly cool women and men all over the world who make me laugh, share my work, give pertinent feedback and sometimes help me just waste time.

Last night was a first—this very talented photographer (with the ultimate avatar photo) featured me and Flow in a short video he made: I was blown away. This total stranger is so motivated to help promote Flow and share it with all his friends. Being a guy doing this deserves a double shout out.

Some others:

This just appeared 10 seconds ago: Greetums RT @obsrvationalist: @elissastein may your PR wave be a Tsunami

@Kdpartak @elissastein Amazing that in 2009 there is no good "basic language" book about a womans cycle. If no ones said it yet, Thank you!

@lifecruise Are you going with the "flow" with my nice, smart and funny friend Elissa @elissastein

elissastein RT @SusanPowers @elissastein When and where can we see the #flowfilm?

@butterflyhaikus: @elissastein your book promo video is fabulous! i can't wait for your book, FLOW, to be out.

@NovelHelp If I were you I'd go with the FLOW and #FF #followfriday @elissastein who is an incredibly hard working author and a great tweeter to have!

@ponet RT @elissastein @ponet My new FLOW film! #JUSTPURESHENIUS #ELISSASTEIN:

@libraryshade Vacuums and vaginas? Read about the not-distant period-past from @elissastein and

The amazing thing is that this goes on and on. I truly adore these strangers who have become friends and am grateful to have met them all.

And now, day 6 is done.

Friday, October 2, 2009

let's do the time warp

This morning, while waiting for a classroom to clear so we could start our middle school PTA meeting, I was talking to another mom—while I've only known her for 3 weeks I saw the strain etched in her face and knew things were bad. She looked so tired and stressed and in 2 minutes I knew she was trying to survive the endless thankless juggle I know so well. I asked if she had a day job, besides being a mother. The answer was no, she'd been out of work for awhile but couldn't imagine finding time to return. A parent was in the hospital battling dementia. She had 2 kids in 2 different schools and had issues and challenges with both. It had been a particularly hard week she said. It's a story I think most mothers these days relate to. Always taking care of someone else, our needs/wants/desires are last on the list, if ever met at all. One small example: this morning at 4 Jack woke me up to tell me he had to go to the bathroom. What could have been a decent night's sleep now became one in a long line of interrupted evenings. Nothing is sacred when it comes to me. My nights, my showers, my work, my free time.

I told her my fantasy. To stop time for everyone but me, so that I could breathe for a little while and not have life fall apart around me. My time stop fantasy would include a massage and steam room but should you want to hop on the fantasy bandwagon, feel free to personalize. When time resumed, after a week or a day or an hour, there wouldn't be added pressure to get homework done, emails to answer, people to pick up, phone calls to return that build up so quickly whenever I take a moment for myself.

I realized, as I was pondering this post running from that PTA meeting to my next stop, that the moment of space is why I practice yoga. I'm not on a spiritual path (I'm too jaded for that). I'm not interested in hand-standing in the middle of a studio (not like that would ever happen anyway). Yoga gives me a way of opening a window in a very busy life and breathing fresh air for an hour. My phone is off. The spin in my head slows down and while it never entirely stops, it's a much welcome change from the endless list making, problem solving that occupies my thoughts. I know there's a side benefit to my practice. I'm calmer than I used to be—it's hard to maintain my former level of constant anxiety after sweating and twisting to music in a hot pink and orange room with endlessly high windows and sunlight dripping through cracks in the velvet curtains. I am grateful to have this other life that's separate from parenting, from work, from laundry, where I can escape and be just me for a little while. I wish that sort of space for all the other mothers out there, who get lost in everyone else.

And now, day 5 is complete.

Thursday, October 1, 2009

more People not loving People

I can't let go of this quite yet. A friend on twitter pointed out the People happily accepts ad dollars from femcare companies—by that I mean manufacturers of tampons and pads. They also feature ads for menstrual suppression drugs, which, in a former life were called birth control pills. How easily that goes down when you refer to The Pill by another name.

This is exactly the conundrum we talk about in Flow. How can we have honest open conversation when society works REALLY hard to keep talk at a minimum, thus making it easier to hawk products that encourage us keep everything a secret? This People diss is a perfect example. Don't educate, just sell like mad.

Come on now people. How long do we have to live by someone else's rules? I challenge everyone to talk about Flow today. The book, your own, what your mother's PMS was like. Start a conversation. Ask a question.