Thursday, December 31, 2009

Tavern By the Way Side

Tavern on the Green is celebrating its last New Year's Eve as the magical must-see restaurant in Central Park. Sure some dubbed it a tourist trap with over-the-top decor. To me, it was a wonderland - inside and out. Glitz and glam that everyday folks could partake in. Massive chandeliers dripping in crystal, lighted animal topiaries and fascinating folks drew me back over and over. I could never decide which was the best time - Christmas with its stunning displays or summer on the private garden patio. While the food never seemed to please the critics, I always enjoyed my meals - especially the risotto.

I'll always remember when husband and I had the opportunity to dine between Regis Philbin, his wife Joy and producer Gelman at one table and Ashley Judd, Hugh Jackman and entourage at another. We also meet Hollywood producer and writer Eunetta Boone there that night. During dinner on the patio her adult niece proclaimed, "that bug's butt just lit up!" She had never seen a lightening bug before. It's not pretty when I snarf risotto.

First, The Plaza closed and now Tavern on the Green... Sometimes, I wish it wasn't out with old and in with the new.

Thursday, October 15, 2009

QV...C You Later, Mom

When checking on my mom's house, I found an HSN (Home Shopping Network) package had been delivered to her. The betrayal of it all! I work on air for QVC. My mother is a turncoat, or should I say turnchannel. It appears shopping is thicker than blood. I'm officially up for adoption. Maybe HSN will sell daughters as their value of the day soon. Until then, she's fresh out.

Monday, September 7, 2009

The Politics of Writing

When she read my high school diary my mother justified her invasion of my privacy with, "If you write it, someone will read it." Having recovered from that early trauma, it's a logic that I live by today. Actually, as a professional writer, I pray for it.

I guess you could say I'm an open book. There are those rare times when I'm not sure I should share so much. My husband has just announced he is running for Congress. This might be one of those times.

His campaign began behind the scenes months ago. While I'm more likely to watch E! Entertainment than CNN, his political foray has been fascinating so far. I'm not sure it's prudent to document it. There's been more intrigue than one might imagine and I had a pretty good idea of what was in store.

Political pundit Chris Matthews is my uncle, whose show "Hardball" airs on MSNBC. Uncle Jim is our controversial county commissioner and my father is running for township commissioner. My younger brother Chris was the youngest director of communications on Capitol Hill under Senator Gordon Smith. Over the years, my mother has volunteered her public relations services to political campaigns. (Note to her candidates: hide your diaries.) In college, I was a member of the Young Republicans. My very first published writing was an editorial in defense of then Supreme Court nominee Robert Bork. You could say it is the family sport.

My husband did not grow up with dinner time debates. His was more of a "seen and not heard" household. He was instructed to work hard, do his best and make the world a better place. He has done that for 20 years as a dentist and the next logical step is public office where he can serve even more people. Being exposed to my crew may have given him a voice, but it's his core that makes him a good candidate.

Do they want a good candidate? Well that remains to be seen... and written about. Should I or shouldn't I? You tell me, folks.

Saturday, August 22, 2009

Paper Trail

My name is Susan and I'm a magazine-aholic. I've admitted it. It's the first step. The second step is finding a responsible way to recycle my addiction and the massive amounts of paper I generate as a writer. Our township only picks up bottles and plastics. I just stumbled upon and had to share its wonderfulness. I really am a writer. Type your zipcode into the appropriate box and they'll list tons of drop off sites and charities for virtually anything that is recyclable. Yeah!

Sunday, August 9, 2009

Celebrity Sighting in Aisle 9

During my latest trip to the local grocery, the manager informed me that I was no longer their lead celebrity shopper. I can't say I was surprised. It's really not that hard to outshine my not-so illustrious career - a TV commercial for a local radio station, QVC guest hosting and a not-yet (beginning to suspect never-to-be) released movie. I knew the day would come when my status would be usurped. But by who? Apparently, Jake Gyllenhaal and gal pal Reese Witherspoon have been hanging in my hood and needed some milk. By all accounts they were quite nice and posed for photos. The checkout guys will have something to talk about for months - maybe even years. Now I've got to up my game or find somewhere else to buy my bread.

Monday, August 3, 2009

Trust Your Gut

My cat may be smarter than me. In referring to whether someone is a nice person it is often said that "animals and kids know." Animals rely on their instincts for survival while people tend to dismiss those impulses in favor of logical reasoning.

I recently read that our brains process so much information so quickly that our conscious minds can’t keep up. Our instinctive reactions are based on the accumulated knowledge – not vague or unrelated emotions. It turns out that when we trust our gut, we are really trusting our brain.

You may have seen Gavin De Becker, an FBI profiler, on Oprah over the years. He has built a career and written two books on the subject of trusting our instincts in order to protect ourselves. "The Gift of Fear" and "Protecting the Gift: Keeping our Children and Teenagers Safe" should be required reading for parents. The situations he illustrates are scary, but his advice is practical. While you may never get mugged, chances are your child may get lost in a store at some point.

While safety is most important, this information can be applied across the board in business, everyday decisions and relationships. Embrace your instincts.

I'd love to hear about your instinct experiences. Please share with a comment.

Friday, July 24, 2009

Stop to Smell the Writing

Whoosh. Where did a month go? My husband's Congressional campaign consumed the month of July. I'm considering it time well spent in the pursuit of research. I know there is a juicy book in all this. But now it's time to find a better balance. Less political plotting and more story plotting is on my agenda for August. And my garden needs some serious work, too. Words and weeds here I come.

Sunday, June 21, 2009

Seven Simple Resume Tips

Tis the season for receiving some ridiculous resumes. Recent grads and the growing ranks of the unemployed are flooding a competitive job market. I'm sure shredders have been well fed.

Writing a good resume is a skill, but it's not brain surgery. Google resume writing. Get even more specific and Google resume writing and your field. Better yet, hire a professional resume writer. Don't worry if you've only had one job. They dig deep for good material. It's a small investment in your career. Here are a few free pointers to get you started.

1- Create a new email account. Your college user name doesn't cut it. or won't impress potential employers.

2- Make sure you've formatted properly and if sending online save as a pdf so that changes across platforms don't occur. Also, follow the employer's instructions for online submissions. If you can't do this correctly, why would he or she hire you?

3- Proofread. Have others proofread it. Mistakes, even a typo, make you look careless at best.

4- Use active voice when describing your skills in relation to your current job. For example, “Expertly handles a wide variety of customer service situations with diplomacy and concern" works better than "Handled customer service issues."

5- When writing your resume, imagine you’re the employer. What would you want to see? Why should he or she hire you versus the 1,000 other applicants?

6- Don't be vague. For example, “Marketed a product within a community” sounds like you're selling illegal goods.

7- If you include an objective, make it benefit driven to the employer. No one gives a rat’s ass about what you want. Except me and maybe your mom. We want you to get a great job.

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Who Are You?

While chatting with Archbishop Wood's principal about my speaking on Career Day, she commented on the pressure placed on kids when we ask what they want to be when they grow up. I agreed and offered an alternative. We should be asking them, “Who are you?”

That question gets more to the crux of the matter. Decisions based on personal truths tend to work out better than those based on desire. Our wants can be misinformed and fleeting.

I wanted to be a rock star when I grew up. Never mind that I couldn’t sing or play an instrument. (That hasn’t stopped some.) I've never been one for relentless travel or repetition. So much for worldwide concert tours with night after night gigs. It's no surprise that never worked out.

Who was I in high school? I was curious, communicative and very social. In my spare time, I wrote notes, stories and poems. I’d answer that question the same way today. I do what I am in my job, and not so surprisingly, I’m very satisfied. Do what you are!

Whether you’re an astronaut or laying Astroturf, you can bring yourself into any job. Former QVC host Mike Rowe, who is famous for his show “Dirty Jobs” on the Discovery Channel, once wrote, “Never follow your passion, but by all means bring it with you.”

I think that’s brilliant. He explained it further in an interview for Outside magazine. “If you bring your passion with you, you can apply it to anything that makes sense. If you follow it, you’re going to be miserable until X, Y, Z happens, which might be never.”

Whether you call it fate, God’s plan or luck, life takes many unpredictable twists and turns. The one thing that is stable enough to rest your future upon is you. Who are you?

Detention Diva

I was recently invited to be keynote speaker at my Alma Mater’s Career Day. It’s an honor but more than anything it’s hilarious. I barely escaped with my diploma from Archbishop Wood High School due to disciplinary issues. Don’t get the wrong idea. I wasn’t lighting up in the bathroom or cursing out teachers.

The pink demerit slips were for uniform violations and I was taken down as a repeat offender. It wasn’t that I minded uniforms. They are practical and a terrific time saver in the morning. It’s just that these were damn ugly. Picture if you will a dark green polyester jumper over an ecru polyester blouse with a Peter Pan collar. What it lacked in beauty, it also lacked in breathability. The green knee socks and green and yellow saddle shoes didn’t have me kicking up my heels, either.

Mutiny was mine, but I paid a price for my insurgence. I failed conduct every year. The grade was calculated into my G.P.A. - earning me a spot at the bottom of my class. I was told I couldn’t graduate unless I spent two additional hours in detention for every point under the passing grade. That meant many hours of pulling weeds in the convent garden.

“Disciplinary Difficulty” was stamped in red across my transcripts with no explanation as to why I was a difficulty. That made getting admitted to college challenging despite a decent SAT score. Finally, Penn State accepted me on probation and I promptly reversed my fortune. I was the best-dressed student on dean’s list.

All is well that ends well. I have fond, if not fashionable, memories of high school. I’m thrilled for the opportunity to share my insights on career and choices while not wearing green polyester.

Monday, March 30, 2009

Call Me

Last week's "30 Rock" had me “lizzing” – what the very clever Tina Fey dubbed whizzing while laughing. When her character’s old slutty chat line TV commercial surfaces, I flash backed to when I auditioned for just such a gem.

At age 18, I didn't quite grasp why guys would phone strange women to chat. "Hey Trixie, what's the weather like there?" You could have reached me at 1-800-Clueless. But I wanted to act.

The audition was all about mile high hair, more makeup than a Broad Street hooker and the cheesiest lines ever. I’m sure my sultry come-hither stare looked more like confused anger as I purred, “Call me, call me now” into the camera.

I was devastated when the director didn’t “call me” to say I’d gotten the part. It didn’t occur to me that I lacked the requisite C cup and looked more like pedophile bait at that age. It’s hilarious and scary to remember how disappointed I was at missing the opportunity to humiliate myself. So if something doesn’t work out for you, it might just be a saving grace.

Sunday, March 29, 2009

Decorate By the Book

Homes without books are icky soulless spaces. I only hope these people have worn out library cards. "Books are not made for furniture, but there is nothing else that so beautifully furnishes a house," said Henry Ward Beecher. I agree. Whether you're a big reader or not, books are a must-have decorating accessory to create coziness. Pick up bargains at thrift stores and garage sales.

Turn the page on how you store your books. Ditch the dust covers and let the beautiful bindings and covers show. The metallic ink against matte-colored covers offers an elegant library look to your collection. Vary stacks horizontally and vertically by subject matter to create visual interest and organization. Stash those Harlequin romances and other paperbacks in decorative boxes on lower shelves.

Displaying books in unexpected places adds panache to your home.

"Let books be your dining table,
And you shall be full of delights
Let them be your mattress
And you shall sleep restful nights."
~Author Unknown

That quote inspires a few design options. Consider adding built-ins to your dining room to create a warm library lounge atmosphere. Pass the brandy, please. If that's a budget buster, the same look can be achieved by lining a wall with freestanding bookcases.

Don't just stick to shelves. Let your books be free. Stacking a few larger ones on a short side table can elevate a lamp to the right height for reading all the other books. They can even be piled high to create a table.

My books seem to be giving birth faster than the bunnies out back. Too much of anything creates clutter. Edit your collection and donate the overflow to your local library.

A good book has no ending. - R.D. Cumming
Good decorating has no ending. - Me

Thursday, March 26, 2009

How to Be Super Hot

When notorious playboy Warren Beatty finally settled down with fellow actor Annette Bening after years of womanizing, everyone wanted to know what got the ring on his finger. He was quoted as saying, “She has an amazing capacity for happiness.”

That quality should be on everyone's checklist. Happiness is hot. Sure the moody, edgy person holds a certain amount of mysterious appeal while dating, but that wears very thin in a marriage. As life gets more complicated, you want a partner who can lift your spirits up - not drag you down into the depths of their despair on a regular basis.

Is it fair to discriminate against the chronically unhappy? After all, maybe they were born with the negativity chip or had a really hard life. Countless studies have been conducted and the results are debated. Theories aside, it’s easier to live with a smile than a scowl.

I maintain that one’s happiness is in direct relation to their gratitude. Some people are grateful for the smallest things, and no surprise - they are usually the happiest. So, if you want to be super hot, splash on some joie de vivre.

PS - Clinical depression is a whole different ball of wax. This post is just about happy vs. sad sack.

PPS - Warren and Annette have been married since 1991 and have four children. I know this but not how to do my son's third grade math homework.

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Life Diving

People say I’m brave because I try new things. That’s not really the case. There is a huge difference between bravery and impulsiveness. I usually lean toward the latter. My modus operandi is to jump off the cliff and look for the parachute later. I trust my gut to have picked the right cliff. I don’t always take time to fully consider the possible consequences and my ignorance propels me forward. It's an exhilarating free fall and I always seem to land on my feet. I’m not brave - just lucky.

I tried improv for the first time a couple years ago in front of New York casting agents. Somehow, worry worked a way into my head. I knew full well I could make a complete fool of myself and was terrified I would freeze. But I did it. That was brave. It was a much more satisfying feeling because I had to stand up to a fear. That left me with a sense of pride. I’ll cherish those agents’ reactions more than a hundred lucky outcomes.

Being impulsive is a personality trait, being brave is a choice.

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

I Love New York

Here's my top five reasons for loving New York City.

1. Cab Rides - Why go to an amusement park for rides when you can experience terrifying thrills on your way to meetings?

2. Becco - Drink inexpensive, top-notch wine while eating the best Italian food in the company of the nicest staff ever.

3. The Cloisters - Travel back in time at the Met's medieval collection in Fort Tryon Park. It's a bit of a subway ride, but worth it.

4. Energy - It's palpable everywhere and makes me feel completely alive.

5. People watching - It's a fabulous field trip for writing research. The only place in the U.S. that comes close is Vegas.

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Back So Soon?

Destiny does come crawling back and this time with flowers. Take heart fellow writers.

Tomorrow's blog preview: Why I LOVE New York.

Date with Destiny

When one door closes, break in through a window. That’s not exactly how the saying goes, but it works for my writing career. I’ve got a short attention span for disappointment. Sometimes, all it takes to get me out of a funk is a song on the radio. Last night, it was The Rolling Stones’ classic “You Can’t Always Get What You Want."

I don’t give much more time to professional highs than I do the lows. That might be because either way I’ll continue to write. Not much changes. Also, I’ve found that if you turn despair inside out, gratitude is on the other side. I’m thankful that I’m doing what I love. In the words of Mick Jagger, “sometimes you might just find you get what you need.”

So when you get stood up on a date with destiny, don’t just go home and eat a half-gallon of ice cream. Write a few more chapters and then eat the ice cream. As my wise friend Amy says, "destiny will come crawling back."

Wednesday, March 4, 2009

Homeless Front

In writing my decorating book, I researched the impact homes have on our lives. If having a cluttered or unappealing home has a negative effect, imagine what not having a home does to someone.

In this land of plenty (even in the worst economic times), 700,000 people go homeless every night. The average age of a homeless person is nine - the same age as my son. That statistic will haunt me when I tuck my children in at night. I'm looking into how I can help Habitat for Humanity. I hope you will, too.

Tuesday, March 3, 2009

Joan F*$%ing Rivers

When I got to QVC’s front doors at 2 a.m. during Monday’s blizzard, a tiny figure draped in a chic black coat held the heavy door open for me. It was Joan Rivers.

When people discover that I work on air at QVC, I almost always get questions about her. “Is she a bitch?” “What does she look like in person with all that plastic surgery?” They want some juicy dish and I've got none to serve up.

I have loved Joan Rivers from the moment I first heard her brash brand of humor on Howard Stern 15 years ago. My undying loyalty was sealed when she complimented a suit I was wearing. Where was my red carpet that day?

For the curious, here are my limited professional observations.

1- Brings her cute non-yippy dog to work diva-style.
2- Always impeccably dressed and attractive. (I’ll join her society for preservation.)
3- One of the hardest working people in show biz. Check out her hefty professional history here:
4- One hell of an entrepreneur. (She brings Bergdorf’s style to my price point and makes a tidy profit. Win–win.)
5- Makes QVC entertaining.
6- She’s one classy broad.

Fast fact for writers: Joan Rivers is also an author and screenwriter. And, before her show biz days, she worked as a writer and proofreader at an advertising agency.

Thursday, February 26, 2009

Color Theory

The purple reign of fall and winter is over and hope springs eternal in yellow. It's far from mellow. The color gurus at Pantone chose Mimosa, a bright and warm yellow, as the "it” color of 2009. QVC buyers have responded with jewelry, fashion and home decor in similar sunny shades.

Yellow is an optimistic color said to stimulate communication. Maybe that’s why my living room holds so many lively conversations.

It stands to reason we’d need a happy hue during this time of economic doom and gloom. There may be deeper political reasons at play in yellow's sudden popularity. It's the color of liberalism in many countries, according to color expert Kate Smith. Are we now painting the U.S. “yellow dog democrat?” Hmmm. I’ll stick with decorating theories.

Warm yellows work well with other bright colors and also when grounded with neutrals. Try it out with inexpensive accessories such as throws, pillows and pottery. Other popular colors blooming in spring’s palette include: fuchsias, grays, greens and roses.

Go get some color.

Sunday, February 15, 2009

Missing the G-Spot

I'm no money wiz, but I'm pretty sure our country's economy isn't going to orgasm with this stimulation. The link below is a helpful resource for understanding the stimulus package. I'm a Republican who voted for President Obama. Clearly, I want change. But let's slow down and talk common sense.

Saturday, February 14, 2009

Columbian Romance

Today is the day you'll see many guys pathetically rummaging through the few remaining bent or inappropriate cards, rushing the jewelry counters or trying to make last minute dinner reservations in vain. It must be Valentine's Day.

Here's my advice to them. Be romantic all year long and you might get a reprieve from the over-priced stores and restaurants on the holidays and birthdays that somehow always seem to take you by surprise.

Most women would prefer your daily attention to a box of Godiva. My husband has finally figured it out. He brings me coffee in bed every morning. Now that's a token of affection in my book and a winning situation for both of us. Happy Valentine's Day. XOXO

Sunday, February 1, 2009

SPAM and the Afterlife

What is life's greatest mystery? Everyone playing the board game answered "the afterlife" - except me. I said, "SPAM." Who eats that stuff?

It's denial. I find it difficult to get past the dying part, let alone what comes next.

As a kid I had the whole St. Peter and the pearly gates imagery in my head. It seemed like Club Med in the clouds. No thanks. Lying around with nice folks listening to harp music sounded boring. The devil was offering really cool door prizes downstairs. Besides I liked the heat and was afraid of heights.

Catholic schoolteachers tried to flesh out the concept for me, but there were contradictions. Mr. Nicoletti taught me there was no hell. Maybe not so coincidentally, he is my favorite teacher. A year later in a new school, a nun asked me to explain hell in class. Thinking I was prepared for this trick question, I loudly proclaimed there was no hell. After turning three shades of fiery red, she told me I was headed there. I think that was my first travel assignment.

Confused as a teenager, I read about the Tibetan Book of the Dead and devoured books on philosophy and the occult. My idea of the afterlife was far from tidy.

As a young adult, I was a reporter for a Catholic newspaper and The Philadelphia Inquirer's religion section and interviewed many dealing with death and spirituality. The different perspectives taught me that thoughts on an afterlife are highly individual and can be beautiful.

Now that I've lost loved ones, the afterlife has become a real thing rather than an abstract idea. My childhood notions no longer fit. Now, limbo is just the time spent waiting for an editor to get back to me and purgatory is having my father-in-law over for dinner.

Hell can be right here on Earth. Some create their own and others are damned to an awful destiny of poverty, abuse and more. The unfairness of the latter is life's second greatest mystery.

This brings us to reincarnation. Last year, I read, "Many Lives, Many Masters," by Brian L. Weiss, M.D., a prominent psychiatrist who specializes in past life therapy and hypnotic regression. His research is compelling, but I'm not sure it matters to me if I was a 14th century butcher or will be in the Martian army in the next millennium. The here and now is all I know. This fact makes this life all the more precious.

I believe in a Heavenly afterlife and accept that I'm on a need-to-know basis. And, I don't need to know yet.

One thing is for sure. With it's long shelf life, SPAM will be there.

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Coolest Room In the House

In another bit of sixth grade memorabilia, I found a real prophecy. Sister Francis Michele had a bit of fun guessing what we would all be doing in the year 2000. She wrote that I would be the owner of a rare book shop in London. At first I laughed, but then realized she was pretty darn intuitive. She picked up on my love of reading, but how could she have known about my affinity for British accents?

I do get the warm fuzzies every time I walk into a book store - especially ones with coffee and arm chairs. Libraries are even better. I'll never forget when La Salle High School updated their's with a fireplace and huge comfy sofas. Too bad it was an all boys school and I was already in my 20s.

Back in my reporter days, I wrote a feature on medieval prayer books that got me into the rare books section at the Philadelphia Library. You would have thought I'd gotten tickets to a great game. Well, for me it was the Super Bowl of books. It was thrilling to see the same intricate manuscripts that another woman held in the 1500s.

Writer Steven Levy featured Internet innovator Jay Walker's amazing personal library in the October issue of Wired magazine. There's a man who knows what to do with his money! Not only is it architecturally astounding, it's filled with treasures such as a 16th century book of jousting and an original Sputnik 1 satellite hanging from the ceiling.

We transformed the useless formal living room in our home (everyone hangs in the kitchen no matter what) into a little library. Nothing is better than being surrounded by my favorite books, art and antique typewriter. I think I'll go settle down into that huge leather sofa with a page turner and a cup of tea - no make that glass of wine.

Who needs London?


My mom just gave me a folder of my earliest writing. Nothing there indicated I'd make a living at crafting prose. My grammar and spelling were God awful. However, this limerick from sixth grade was a bit prophetic.

There once was a girl named Sue.
She always had the flu.
She missed school
and played pool.
She always broke the cue.

Wednesday, January 7, 2009

From the Flipside of Holiday Fun

Happy New Year! I haven't blogged because over the holidays I'm either the happy hostess or at QVC. This year, I managed to have two parties at home, while on QVC. I missed my own fun!

The week after Christmas, I am always, and I mean always, sick. But I'm recovered and I've been writing my novel. I may finish it yet. Dare I give myself a deadline? Hmm. Why not? Let's say February 25th. You all hold me to it.

My resolution is to be more productive. So far, so good. I dusted off the treadmill, queries are flying out, pages are being filled and I'm trying so hard not to give in to time suckers. I'm even trying out this thing called sleep. I find it helps me get more done while I am awake.

I will have to forgo my new friend REM tonight, though. I'll be on air overnight and home just in time to get my day started. Only sweet day dreams for me.