Archive for May, 2009

I like to multi-task. So this morning, knowing that the French Open was on and having already walked the dog and watered the pots by ten in the morning, I could reward myself with a little TV time. I parked myself by my computer and turned on Channel 4, thinking I’d I’d clean up my e-mails during the commercials. Well, it just so happened that Roger Federer was playing somebody or other and I knew that it wasn’t going to be much of a match … Federer has been thought of as being the best tennis player of all time … so I got started on my computer.

The e-mail were disposed of quickly and I started to work on a list of books that will be put on the internet on a site I discovered on Twitter. What the site does is ask authors to create a list on a topic and submit a list of books that are about that subject. In exchange, the author gets his own work listed on the site. Fair deal, I think. Oh, the site is http://www.flashlightworthybooks.com

The commercial time for the French Open is really long … I don’t know how many minutes but it feels like about five minutes. So I had time to come up with a theme behind my own book, Becoming Alice and using that as the topic for the list I needed for FLW Books. I mean the theme, not the story.

Federer won handily and then Serena Williams came on to play her match. That is always worth watching, especially since she lost the first set. Even she had to stop for commercials. That is when I came up with some books I’d read by other people who had to face some pretty interesting challenges. How about Black White and Jewish by Rebecca Walker? Or, The Glass Castle by Jeannette Walls. Or, The Audacity of Hope by Barack Obama. The Story of my Life by Helen Keller. The list goes on and on. It made me think about how their challenges made my challenges seem so insignificant. Exept if my family and I hadn’t overcome those challenges, I wouldn’t be here to tell you about them.

P.S. Serena Williams won, as expected. And you can find out more about Becoming Alice on http://www.alicerene.com.


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I’m in Ojai this weekend. What a great place! Of course, having perfect wheather and all the plants in my garden bursting with spring bloom helps to make my mood soar. I don’t know know if all this effects everyone in the same way, but I think it does.

We (my husband and I) went to a neighborhood cocktail party last night and the conversation got around to talking about our kids. In my case, kids means adult midlife-aged “kids.” So naturally, since 50% of our population now can count on having at least one divorce under their belts, my kids are testimony to the fact that the statistic is correct. But, I do have good news. My daughter who has been divorced for about six years has finally met someone special and is planning to get married. Almost in unison, our little social group asked, “How’d they meet?”

“On Match .com,” I replied.

And then I started thinking about how much our culture has changed since I was hoping to meet M. Right. For me and my generation, we had to rely meeting someone at school or at work, or at church. And if all that didn’t work out, we hoped that some relative or friend would act as matchmaker and introduce us to someone they knew. One had to rely on having a whole bunch of good luck.

Fast forward in time to today’s people who are interested in meeting someone. Of course, all the old ways can still be productive but today you can add a really polular health club/gum with lots of single members, or an upscale New York or L.A. bar that the singles have chosen as their hangout, and then there is Match.com. How great is that? You can list yourself on their website and specify exactly what you are looking for. Isn’t that what the scientists are working on right now in terms of finding a way for parents to engineer exactly the color eyes and hair and even sex of the babies they plan to have. Brave New World, I say! And good luck to all of you out there looking.

And then I think back on how frustrated my poor brother was as a young man looking for a girl friend and then bride. Perhaps you read about it in Becoming Alice, A Memoir. No wonder he had four marriages. So, good luck to all of you who are out there looking. Any which way that works is good, I say.

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LA Books Examiner: Becoming Alice: an Interview with Author Alice Rene

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Country Life

I spent a week in Texas, half of which was in what they call “the hill country.” Coming from the west I was looking to see something like our Sierras in California or maybe the Cascades in Oregon, but that was not to be. I scaled down my expectations to see perhaps something like the Santa Monica Mountains, but even that didn’t work. Finally, I found a little undulation in the road and realized that anything that is not completely flat as a board is considered a “hill” in Texas.

That was okay. It was cattle country and the cattle were interesting. They were black with a white stripe around their middle. Never saw anything like it. They are called Belted Galloways and are imported from Scotland. I have a picture of three of them standing all in a row and I swear they look like a giant stripped poisonous snake.

I learned something else on my trip. I took a vacation from my computer and discovered that I am not addicted to it after all. It was wonderful to take the time to do a little writing on a new work. Now that it is started I wonder if I must take another vacation to get any more pages written. I also learned another thing. After a few days of this bucolic life, I start to scratch around for a Starbucks, or Macy’s, or Trader Joe’s, or Barnes and Noble. I know where I belong.

Another observation: Other than the tourists, the locals seemed to be so much like one another, dressed alike, spoke alike with the same drawl, and surely if their bumper stickers were any indication, all vote for the same candidate in their elections. Perhaps that fact struck me so profoundly because in California we have a smorgasbord of peoples from all over the world who look different one from the other, who speak all kinds of languages, and who probably don’t think alike on any one issue altogether.

Oh, what I wouldn’t have given to be like everybody else as a kid when I first went to school in America. It took me a couple of decades to become comfortable in my own skin. And now, fast forward some decades again, I take pride in the fact that I don’t just meld into the crowd and have my own identity and individuality … good or bad, depending on who’s looking.

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Last week I  sat on the porch of a two story farm house with an enormous balcony that has been turned into a B & B. I was in Stonewall, Texas … I wonder where the word stonewalling came from. There was nothing to see except miles and miles of grazing land, flat-as-a-pancake grazing land. And there were striped cows. Yes! They were black with a white stripe around their middle. Never saw anything like it. They’re called Belted Gallaways and they come from Scotland. Learn something every day.

And there’s lots of time to sit in an old rattan rocking chair on the porch and think. This time I went to thinking about “self esteem” because I’d been speaking so much about that during my book signing at the L.A. Times Festival of Books. One young girl asked me how I changed from being the shy, introverted insecure girl without any self-esteem to being the woman I am today, seemingly quite different now.  I certainly hope so. So I got to thinking, how does it work?

I guess your mom is the first person to look at you, touch you, hold you, and tell you that you’re the most wonderful thing in the whole wide world. If you’re lucky, that is. But that doesn’t last long. Pretty soon you’re in nursery school and you begin to be tested. Some other kid is sure to take your toy away from you, or push you down, or call you a hurtful name. What do you do? Grab the toy back, push him down, call him bad, ugly, stupid? Do you sit down and cry? Do you shrug and walk away? Whatever you do then will begin to process whereby you build up your self-esteem.

That never stops. In high school you worry about how you look, if you can get good grades, if you can get a girl/boy friend, if anybody/everbody likes you. If you answer yes to any one of those attribures, you build self-esteem and if you say yes to them all, you’re way ahead of the game.

Later on in life you have to add on the caliber of your spouse, the amount of money you make, the achievements in your career, etc., etc. By then it gets more complicated because you begin to question your ability to fulfill these expectation, namely self-confidence.

Self-confidence is entirely different from self-esteem, yet so intertwined. I had to think about that later … dinner was being served at the B & B.

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