Books Movies & TV Relationships Women

Ode to Oprah

Today is Oprah’s last show, and I hope you will all watch it, because Oprah is my friend.

Oprah went global two months after my fabulous daughter was born. I’m not sure when I started watching, but I’m pretty sure it was close to the beginning. At that time there was no such thing as TIVO, so I didn’t tape it. Let’s say I watched five times a month. I don’t remember any of those shows, but I do remember she was a part of my life as far back as the birth of my fabulous daughter. I also remember that I never discussed watching her with anyone. It wasn’t until the last few years that I came out of the Oprah-Watcher Closet and demanded that those I care about take a look at some of her shows. Many of them looked at me like I was nuts, but I didn’t care.

I’m not alone. Some of Oprah’s stats boggle the mind. Oprah’s audience is predominantly female, white, and over the age of 55. Nationally, 7.4 million people watch Oprah daily—about 2.6 percent of American households. Four percent of American women (about 5.7 million) watch her daily, compared with 1.2 percent of men (1.7 million people). Overall, 2 percent of Americans age 18 to 49 watch Oprah—more than 5 billion people over the last twenty-five years.

She has sold millions of books, propelling unknown first-time authors to the New York Times Best Seller List and bringing some of literature’s classics to those of us who would never have read them. As a kid, I was a voracious reader, but somewhere along the path to adulthood I’d forgotten to pack books, and she reminded me that they needed to be a part of my everyday life. I remember the summer she said, “Let’s all read War and Peace together.” Here is what she said about it. “War and Peace is not so much difficult as it is long. Dig in, though, and you’ll quickly see why Tolstoy’s exuberant opus—set in the years just before, during, and after Napoleon’s invasion of Russia—is arguably the greatest novel of all time. Within these pages, you’ll find family drama, trenchant social observation, military history, brilliant discourse on the question of free will, and a love story for the ages.” I loved that summer, and War and Peace was one of the reasons why.

She has dealt with politically hot issues, including race, incest, bullying, and pretty much anything that has more than one passionate point of view. If topics like these hurt the heart too much, I sometimes have to look away, but she always does it with compassion, humor, and intelligence; and I can honestly say, I have never looked away or turned off an Oprah show. That’s a testament to her greatness right there.

I have watched some Oprah shows with Ms. Sarah, daughter extraordinaire. And, while Sarah sometimes rolled her eyes when I asked her to watch with me, generally she was transfixed after the first few minutes. She and I sent contributions after some shows. We laughed at Oprah and Gayle’s cross country drive, and at least I was imagining Sarah and me making the same trip as they lovingly bickered their way cross-country. I am closer to Sarah because of Oprah. Thanks, Oprah.

Oprah was born poor and black, deep in the south. Her mother left her with her grandmother when she was a baby. When she was around five, she was sent back to her mother. She was darker skinned than her sister, and when she arrived at the house her mother lived in, the owner of the house made her sleep alone on the porch outside because she didn’t want her in the house. Oprah was terrified out there. Alone and frightened, she invited an imaginary angel to sleep with her to keep her company and to keep her safe.

Her mother was on welfare, and one Christmas she said there would be no Christmas presents because there was no money. Oprah was saddened by this, mostly because she didn’t want to have to go to school and say they didn’t get gifts because there was no money. Nuns arrived on Christmas Eve and brought gifts, and Oprah received a doll. She was relieved because she could now go to school with a present to share. But, she also says that what was truly extraordinary was that she mattered to someone. She said she felt as if she was really somebody who was worth something to someone, or why would the nuns have brought her a gift?

Ok, last story, I promise. Her grandmother was hanging clothes to dry in the backyard of their house and she told Oprah that she wanted her to learn how to do it well so she could get a good job with a nice family when she grew up. Oprah was four. She remembers thinking, even then, that she was destined for something better and that she was not going to be hanging anyone else’s clothes on any clothesline.

I think Oprah’s pain and her experiences are what her shows relevant to her viewers. Been there, done that, and lived to share it with you, audience, if you just hang in there with me. And, isn’t that true for all of us and our friendships? Our shared experiences of our different lives are important to our friends, and sharing those experiences bring us closer.

There are Oprah-isms that have stayed with me through the years. Let me share a few of them.

Aha Moments. I have a lot of them, but not until she taught me to stop for a moment and notice them did I realize their value. I write them down now, and pass them on to my child and my friends. I like aha moments. They enrich my life.

God has a bigger dream for you than you have for yourself. While I don’t believe in the traditional God, Oprah and I have found our own God-voice over our years together, and I often go to that place that says I can do more than I dreamed. And while the journey to that end is slow indeed, I’m still striving toward it because I believe it.

You are enough the way you are. This is the hardest one of all. It’s hard to remember to view yourself through your personal mirror rather than out the window that shows your reflection through the eyes of others. It still eludes me, but it was brought to my attention by my good friend Oprah, and I thank her.

I should point out that I am not actually Oprah’s friend. She doesn’t know I exist, and that’s ok with me. Oprah is my friend. Her secrets are mine. Her glass, which seems always to be half-full, is my glass. When I am going through a difficult time I often think of her and remind myself that each of our journeys are a part of someone else’s journey, and that I need to remember that. So, I don’t really care if Oprah goes off the air. I have a lifetime’s lessons from her already inside me, and my friendship with her has nothing to do with seeing her every day, but rather with our mutual experience and attitudes over the past quarter-century. So, I bid you a fond farewell, old friend. It’s been a pleasure.

Books Financial Politics

Tax Time, General Electric, and Me

So, it’s tax time again, and I’m getting ready to add up what I paid in taxes and then evaluate the return on my investment in my country. I always get excited about doing that. I know it’s not all about me—I’m a Democrat by nature—but I like to list the pros and cons on paper to make sure I don’t want to move to Monte Carlo, where you pay no taxes and your country doesn’t enter into wars that bog down good humor and take the lives of your countrymen and reduce your stature abroad. But that’s another blog.

So, there I was, getting ready to do my annual review of my investment in the US, when I found myself reading about the fabulous General Electric Corporation, which we all know brings good things to life. (Great slogan, don’t you think?) So GE made a profit of 14.1 billion dollars. Good job, GE. Well done. Then I read the next line. GE paid no taxes. Huh? I read on, and come to find that $5.1 billion of their profits came from US operations—and they had a tax bill of $0.

Listen, I would like to state for the record that after all my expenses, and a total income substantially less than GE’s, I paid almost 50% of my GROSS revenue to the United States. And, judging from what I read, GE had a lot more to say about how my money was spent than I did. After all, the CEO of GE is Obama’s representative to the business community. Yep, he advises the business community on our government. Please tell me he is not advising them on how not to pay any taxes? That would just be the final straw.

I have Republican friends who read my blog, and whenever I write something like this they bombard me with how I’m really a Republican but just don’t know it. Well, I’m really just someone who would like to take five minutes of the precious time of GE’s accountants to ask a few pointed questions about what I’m doing wrong. Here is what the New York Times wrote about their tax department:

Its extraordinary success is based on an aggressive strategy that mixes fierce lobbying for tax breaks and innovative accounting that enables it to concentrate its profits offshore. G.E.’s giant tax department, led by a bow-tied former Treasury official named John Samuels, is often referred to as the world’s best tax law firm. Indeed, the company’s slogan “Imagination at Work” fits this department well. The team includes former officials not just from the Treasury, but also from the I.R.S. and virtually all the tax-writing committees in Congress.

I don’t wish to become one of those bitter Americans who feels that the government is out to get them, or worse, that the government is corrupt beyond repair. I don’t wish to believe that GE has connections because they hire former IRS agents to work in their tax department. For Lent this year I decided to give up saying mean things about anyone, so I am crimped a bit in what I can write here, but I will say that GE needs to start re-evaluating its investment participation in our country. Otherwise I will stop buying their light bulbs, and then where will they be?

As I write this, I’m doing research to find a tax firm made up of former IRS agents. Why didn’t I think of that a long time ago?


Huckleberry Who?

There is no rewriting in American Literature because we don’t like the words in it, just like there is no crying in baseball. This is America for God’s sake, and we are the ones who protect the accuracy of history. Or at least we are supposed to, and like it or not, the N word is part of our history.

Now, to be honest, I never read Huckleberry Finn. But I love Hemingway, who said that “All modern literature comes from Huckleberry Finn.” Hemmingway was very smart, and he didn’t say, “All history comes from Huckleberry Finn, but there are words in there that need to be changed.”

Here is what surprises me a bit. Where the heck is the literary world? Jason Epstein, stand up and be counted here! Andrew Wiley, are you kidding me? These are the masters of what we have read in recent years, and they all need to stand up and be counted before it’s too late.

Now, shallow me is thinking about what else should be changed? Should Pretty Woman be a lady of the night rather than a hooker? I don’t wish to be flippant, but please.

Should we change our fabulous American Bible, the Declaration of Independence, to read, “All people are created equal,” because it may be offensive to me that it mentions only men? Actually, it doesn’t bother me a bit, to be honest. I don’t need them to mention me; I know I’m equal. I see it every day in those I deal with, but let’s leave that alone for now.

Listen, writers: stand up for your words in the future.

Books Movies & TV Science

My New TV Rules and National Geographic’s Hawking’s Universe

Not that I have a TV problem mind you, but I came to realize that living alone, I do turn on the TV when I get home at night. I have talked to other single home dwellers who say they do the same thing. It’s company. But, if I sit down to watch, I can sit there all night. Or an entire weekend afternoon. And, what’s with me watching the same movies over and over again? Can we talk about Pretty Woman, which is on at least once a week and I watch maybe once a month? Or Silence of the Lambs? Or You’ve Got Mail? (I only like the last half of You’ve Got Mail.) So, if I watch one or two movies a week that I have already seen once, that’s four hours a week, times 52 weeks, that’s 208 hours a year, or a final tally of more than 8 full 24 hour days, or 16 ‘waking’ days, or one half a month, or 1/24th of my life watching something I already know most of the words to. After running the math (I’m such a math whiz since working at a big company), I decided I needed to take control.

Rule #1 I, Christine, will only watch one movie a month that I have already seen.

Rule #2 I, Christine, will watch only one reality show a season. (Hard choice between Biggest Loser or American Idol.) Good news is that Rule #2 does not                                     begin until the fall season because I’m already ‘in’ more than one of those shows.

Rule #3 I, Christine, will look at the TV Guide on Sunday mornings and plot my television course for the week which must include one interesting show where I                   actually learn something I didn’t know, and one talk show. (I hope I go with Rachel Maddow, not Oprah – I’m getting over Oprah.)

Rule #4 TV goes off by 9:00 pm (I Tivo everything and watch it on tape without commercials). Reading or walking Luke will take over from 9:00. Or writing.

Those are the new rules and I like them already.

This leads me to National Geographic’s Hawking’s Universe, which I watched a few nights ago. You all remember Stephen Hawking and the book he wrote, A Brief History of Time. He also suffers from ALS and has lasted years and years longer than anyone thought possible by his sheer determination to see his theories become truths. I, like the rest of the country, bought the book when it came out, but I never actually read it. Nor, I suspect, did most of the other people who bought it.

So, here is his book’s content on National Geographic where they explained it all in the kind of layman terms that even I could understand. It was fabulous. For the first time I understand what a black hole is and what causes it. I get what gravity really is and how it’s not as strong as we all thought. I sort of understand the string theory of additional dimensions, and just writing these things down makes me feel smarter than you already.

I was at dinner with friends last night, and I was telling them about the show. Victor (you remember my friends Victor and Cathryn. Cathryn is the one who keeps maple syrup in her car for when she stops at IHop.) Well, Victor is very smart, and he actually read the Hawking book cover to cover but pointed out to me that it was very difficult for him, and he needed to really focus when reading it. What he was really saying was that I shouldn’t bother buying it again. I told him I had no interest in reading it.

Here’s the thing. I’m 57 years old and I don’t want to read his book now. It’s not a topic that totally spurs me on to greater knowledge, but I’m so glad I now understand what a black hole is and what causes it. And, all that in one TV show for one hour. Who knew? And, without my ‘rules’ I would never have watched it. If we are totally honest here, I watched it thinking it was more about the man than the theory, but who cares what led me to the Kool Aid, because what matters is that I drank it. And, if I had watched Silence of the Lambs one more time instead, not only would I still not be an FBI agent, but I wouldn’t understand black holes either.

So, the long and the short of this lesson is that rules are very good for you. Set some.


Jane Eyre

I like books on tape. Over New Years I was heading to Palm Desert to visit friends and thought I would pick up a book for the ride. Jane Eyre was on sale, and I bought it. It was the unabridged series, and it was 14 disks, so you can imagine how long it is; something like 64 hours. I have been listening to it ever since and finished it this past weekend. Six weeks. One book.

I forgot what it’s like to read, see, hear something that takes longer than an hour. Actually on TV now, it’s only forty minutes because with Tivo I skip the commercials. There were a few times I wondered if it would ever end, but mostly I just wished I could weave a tale so brilliantly, so smoothly with sentences like “I have difficulty in believing you any other than a mere voice and vision; something that would melt into silence and annihilation as the midnight whisper and mountain echo had melted before.” And, she penned it. No computer keys for Jane. How many times did she rewrite that page? Was her finger covered in ink?

Half way through listening, I ordered an old copy of the book on the Internet and followed along a bit. I have marked some of the passages and find myself looking at them, staring at the words wondering how she wrote them. Did she sit down and just write it? Did she rewrite over and over again the way I do?  Did the prose flow, or was it painfully slow?

Then there was Charlotte’s sister Emily who wrote Wuthering Heights. Charlotte wrote one book about love and her sister another and it appears neither of them had it themselves. I love them both. I love the way they patiently tell their stories without fanfare, without drama. Even the most dramatic parts don’t feel like shrill drama. So, the sisters living together wrote parallel books, one with a happy ending and one where the protagonist dies a sad death. Did they argue about the different endings?

In today’s world we would know these things. These amazing women would have been interviewed on television and in magazines, and we would know. I’m not sure that’s a good thing or not. Maybe it’s good I can’t get an instanteous answer.

I am so grateful these women lived and gave me the gifts of their imaginations. It makes me want to use mine more often. And, I will tell you a secret. I like Wuthering Heights better than Jane Eyre. Don’t tell Charlotte.


Book Review: All Things at Once

I have to begin by saying I can’t stand Mika Brzezinski on Morning Joe. So, to review her book without my preordained prejudice calls for more fairness than I am able to muster. With that full disclosure, I can honestly and fairly say the book is terrible.

What is with all these people who rise to the top of media without credentials but rather with the name their parents have branded, and then they present themselves as if they actually paved their own way? It’s beyond my comprehension. Her book, and her belief in her rise to success, is no exception. The point of the book is to say that you can have all things at once. Well, let’s get real. If you look good and are on a show where the guy has such a big mouth you don’t need to do any evening homework to be articulate because you never say anything, then, yes, you can have all things at once.

Her story is not remarkable. Nor is mine I might add, or probably yours. But if we wrote our story we would know that it’s not remarkable. She writes the book the way she presents herself on TV, as if there really is something to say when there isn’t and she isn’t saying it.

She speak of her feminism, and then has a man be her book’s co-writer. You can’t make this stuff up. And, the fact that she is on the best-seller list shocks me. It really does. I figured she was on TV because men like looking at her as she ribs the guys around her. But I think women are actually buying the book and looking to her to show them the way. Yikes, are we in trouble!

She talks about how she stretches herself too thin. Oh, I get it. You have a a full-time job that calls for travel and hours that make being a mother who matters close to impossible. So, what do you do? Take time to write a book all about…you? Let’s guess when this book was written. During Morning Joe’s commercials maybe?

I know I sound bitter, and it’s not that. I just hate that women like her represent my gender on the news and are not expected to be well-read at the same time. Do we need to talk about Barbara WaWa again and her inability to ask a follow up question or leave herself out of the interview even once?

Bottom line; leave the book alone and do your own reading on world events and how to get to the top of a man’s industry.


Book Review: The Five Love Languages

In case you were wondering, the problem with your love life is that your partner may not be expressing his or her love in the language in which you need him or her to express it. And, all will be well in the love world if you just find out what your partner’s need is and do it. Thus says Gary Chapman’s The Five Love Languages, how to express heartfelt love to your mate. I was at a business office yesterday talking to a co-worker. There on his desk was The Five Love Languages with a bunch of post it notes sticking out of it. First of all, if I chose to read this book (not so much), I would never bring it to the office and second, I looked at him with greater interest. A guy who is interested in better expressing love to his mate? Hm mm (spell check told me that is the way you spell hmmm. Who knew?). So, he explained the whole book to me.

Here are the choices you have for love expression that you can hear.

Words of Affirmation. “You are fabulous! Oh, my God, that is the most brilliant thing I ever heard. Every other girl pales in comparison to you!” I don’t know, I fear I would find that disingenuous. I’m better with, “Are you kidding me? What were you thinking?” Or, “Go in and change that outfit? Are you nuts?” I just feel so much more at home with that approach. Alas.

Quality Time. An hour a day, staring at me and all is well in the world. Doing something together every weekend will solve our problems. Could you limit the quality time to one hour increments? That might work for me.

Receiving Gifts. Speak not to me, no problem. Send me great gifts and I will feel secure in your love. Let’s see, I’m thinking Bill Gates? Not a touchy-feelie guy, but sure could send fabulous gifts? I have determined that I have too many things already. I am not great with thank you notes. I don’t know. This one just doesn’t move me.

Acts of Service. Give a girl a finished Honey Do list on the refrigerator door and complete it, and she will feel your love. That could work. My vision is he waits for me in the car downstairs, I get in the back seat and make calls while he drives me around. Do you think that’s what they mean?

Physical Touch. Max (not his real name, I need to protect him) looked up at me and said, “This doesn’t just mean sexually you know.” I looked back at him and said, “Only men would need that explanation. Physical touch to a woman never just means sex. You are such a boy.”

Ok, here is the thing. There apparently is no option for someone who needs all of them, or some of them. Could this be why I don’t do so well in long-term relationships? When I asked him about needing more than one, he looked at me like I was nuts. I get that a high maintenance girl like me might be more than he can handle, but are you telling me that this is a multiple choice with just one correct answer? And, what if you are willing to give all five, but would be bored out of your gourd if you had to repeat one of them over and over again during a fifty-plus year marriage? I realize that I tend to dissect a bit, I get that, but really? Does anyone out there actually think they would be satisfied with just one of the above? And, if so, I hope it’s the gifts one. Just kidding.

I am not buying the book, but I felt the need to share. The best part of it all was seeing it on a guy’s desk with notes sticking out of it. I hope his wife reads my blog. She should express her pleasure to him by touching his arm, handing him a new Rolex watch in a box, telling him she is washing his car this weekend, after which they will have quality time having a six-course dinner she is preparing herself (I’m sure he’d rather have sex) and then telling him that he is the greatest man to walk the planet.


Best of Freesia Lane 2009

Is it self-serving to put your first book on your blog? I feel awkward but am pushing through that…

The Best of Freesia Lane 2009 is on Amazon. It’s a small book, sixty some pages of what was deemed the best blogs I did this year.

If you need a stocking stuffer, or a small gift for a friend, I hope you will click on the link below and order it.

Thanks in advance for this amazing year of blog growth for me. I’m truly grateful.

My best to you all during the holidays. Christine

Order the Book Here


Books Politics

Sarah Palin’s Book

51HZsoscAXLI’m sure you will not be surprised to learn that I’m not a Palin fan. She reminds me of the worst of me; that woman who finds it easier to look outside myself for the reasons why something went wrong. “The press didn’t treat me fairly.” “The McCain handlers made me do it.” The Couric interview was “supposed to be a light piece, and she made it into a ‘get Sarah’ question and answer.” And, “the campaign made me keep doing it even though I knew it wasn’t going well.” For someone who touts herself as a strong, independent – you can count on me to do what I think is right, not whatever wants me to do – she sure didn’t behave that way in the campaign, and that’s her excuse for every single problem she brought to the table.

But in the interest of my blog, I made myself stand in line yesterday to get it. It was marked down to $9. Nine dollars! That should tell you something. The day after it was released, it was marked down 70 percent. I felt that said it all. You get what you pay for, you know what I mean?

Here is what you pay for. Chapter after chapter of looking out the window of her life rather than in the mirror. As a protective mother, I find her putting her kids in the forefront of it all and the tour she is now weaving throughout the country is the most egregious act in the book, and the way she lives her life. She talks in the book about a call she got from her pregnant daughter, exposing yet another private moment to the world from one side of her mouth and then complaining that her kids were not off limits during the campaign from the other. I must say that I don’t see Obama exposing his children in that manner.

But here is the thing. It’s full of juicy backroom antics, which may or may not be true. One thing we know about Sarah is she talks fast and hard, but facts are not always part of what comes out of her mouth. It’s written in flowery language that works with her style – and style she has. Her voice in the book mirrors her own. As the underdog she weaves a fabulous tale from the mouth of a stunning face and aspirational presentation. Every downtrodden, middle class woman wishes she looked like her. And, when Palin talks, that same woman feels like she is her – misunderstood, put upon and the underdog. No wonder lines are long to get the book.

That said, like her meteoric rise to adored political icon, Going Rogue has nothing of substance. “I don’t believe that God put us on earth to be ordinary.” That statement opens her book, but every paragraph inside speaks to nothing outside of ordinary other than being the choice of a stupid McCain group of handlers who were rolling the dice  in a very high stakes game of craps which they lost when they chose her.

The book has no substance. It scares me that neither did the choice of her as the possible next President of the United States. She was very close to that heartbeat away from the President point of view that helped turn the tide against her. You know those scary nuclear stories we hear about submarines almost causing World War III years after they happened? I feel a bit like that with Sarah Palin. The book does nothing to dispel that because there is nothing about her insides in the book.

I would not buy it, although if you wait another few weeks it might be down to a $1, and that is about what it’s worth.


Book Review. Highest Duty by Capt. Chesley Sullenberger

I was walking in the sunny mall in fabulous, sunny LA last weekend with my dear friend Cathryn. You remember Cathryn. She is the one who keeps maple syrup with her at all times on the off chance that she stops at an IHop.

“I want to stop at Barnes and Noble and get the new book by Sully.”

“The guy who landed in the Hudson? He wrote a book? About what?”

“He wrote a book about his life. What do you mean? He’s an American hero. I want to read it. You are so negative.”

I started to rail on him. She fought back hard. I felt guilty that I wasn’t buying into the fabulous book that will clearly lead us all to our better selves. So, of course, I bought her Highest Duty and myself a copy as well in the hopes of being a better person because of his life’s lesson. Birds hit plane. Plane lands on Hudson. Lesson learned. But, I was still disquieted. (I love the word disquieted.)

Here is the thing. A hero puts themself in harm’s way knowing there is danger and they might not live to tell the tale. When I was five or six, I saw my father run into a burning house to see if the wife was home. I remember everyone in the neighborhood say he was a hero. Sully, while an amazing pilot, who kept his cool when faced with a situtation that could have cost a few hundred lives, is not a hero. From what I’ve seen, he’s calm, cool, an amazing controller of a large massive piece of steel. But hero? Would he have chosen to pilot that plane if he knew what was going to happen?

It is so American to take a fateful incident and make it into something else totally. It’s such media hype, and it makes me mad. I read the book. It took about an hour because he really has nothing to say.

He’s not a compelling speaker – or writer. Jeff Zaslow, according to the acknowledgements, probably wrote the book, and Sully spends a good chunk of time saying things like, “For my wife and daughters. I love you more than I can put into words.” See that’s the thing; he’s not a word guy. His life does not have a message. I am not going to feel guilty for being disappointed that he didn’t go back to his honorable, simple, decent life instead of cashing in on his five minutes of fame the way I would have done – and he did. I expected more of him. I might even ask Cathryn for the money I spent on her book because she made me feel guilty.

When this all happened, Sully was a humble, hard-working decent father, husband and pilot. What was so extraordinary about Sully was that he wasn’t like me. He was humble, simple, solid and kept his head together for fifteen minutes over the Hudson River in New York City when I would have told the co-pilot to keep it as steady as possible, run outside the cockpit, opened the door of the plane, squatted down and jumped out just before it hit, hoping to save myself, all the while screaming to everyone in the plane to remain in their seats and calm. The only exception to this plan would have been if my daughter was with me, and then I would have had her squatting next to me.

But, that’s me. And, I loved that he was better than me. And, I liked admiring him from afar and knowing that there are people like him flying the unfriendly skies I hate to habitate. All that is lost now. So, do not buy the book and try to keep in mind the quiet guy on 60 Minutes before he really let ‘them’ use him to the greater glory of financial gain, and went to the dark side like the rest of us.

Let us put perspective back into things and celebrate moments and let them be just that – a moment in time when something incredibly lucky happened. Extending those moments past that really demeans them. It doesn’t make them better.