Friday, September 28, 2012

Kristian Orozco- Trying to Raise Boys

I sat down with Kristian Orozco to gain some insights on raising my crazy 9- and 11-year-old boys, and he put it to me straight, albeit sympathetically.

"The difficulties we have with our children often stem from our own personal 'lacks and gaps,'" he said.

I laughed. I'd come to this conclusion myself, although I hated to admit it. I'm not consistent, I love to live on the fly, I hate to set limits for myself, I hate to sit still...the list of my flaws that show up in my children go on and on.

With his organization, The Boyhood Project (, Kristian hopes to foster an environment in which people can "raise emotionally intelligent boys to transform the world."

Emotional intelligence starts, of course, with parents' recognition and admission of our own contributions to the home environment.

Kristian says clearly, with great sympathy in his eyes, "We have to realize that our own emotional shortcomings make up our parenthology. Sometimes we don't realize that  a child's behavior is a reflection of our own belief system."

The Boyhood Project is all about creating what Kristian calls a "center column" between the strict, punishing ways of the last generation and the often too-permissive ways of today's parents.

"Where did we get the crazy idea that to get kids to do better, we have to make them feel bad?" Instead of just praising kids, which makes them dependant on your approval, he suggests we stop hovering and controlling our children and "start letting them know they are accountable for their own success."

Parents taking responsibility is the first step toward raising kids who take responsibility.

"It's hard," Kristian said, again looking at me with big, sympathetic eyes. "But we have to try."

Gold star to Kristian for trying and for helping others, including me, do the same.

Thursday, September 20, 2012

A New McCarthyism

What I saw in Andrew McCarthy's eyes and the set of his mouth many decades ago in Class is what shone through last night, as he read from his new memoir, The Longest Way Home.
Listening to Mr. McCarthy and, later, in the middle of the night, reading the words he put down for the ages, it was clear he possesses that most rare thing, the thing that separates true artists from others: a vulnerability and an openness, a strange twisted lack of fear about expressing one's fear of relationship.
I giggled as he spoke, bold and slightly sheepish as usual, about coming to terms with the paradox of loneliness even in the midst of love, his book's main theme, downstairs at McNally Jackson on Prince St. I was as unabashed looking deep into his eyes as I had been looking at them on so many screens as a teenager.
I came clean in the Q&A: "I loved you in all your movies," I said. "There was something so different about you, something that came through, which is why I guess you got so many roles." I asked him how he chose, how he knew how to act like himself, like the person he said he'd found when he first played the Artful Dodger from Oliver in a school production at 14.
He balked slightly at the question, offhandedly pegging his too-early success on a series of actions over which he had little control.
"We all really stumble through..." he said. "We don't choose our stories so much as our stories choose us." But still, he acknowledged, staring upward in thought, "When I look back at those movies, I can see it: the essence of me was so unguarded."
The ability to let down one's guard with others and still maintain one's sense of self requires an intense effort of the kind Mr. McCarthy has travelled the world alone to try to figure and put forth. It is not easy, as he shows, to open one's heart wide and let in the people who can take us the places we want to go.
"Fleeting connections that that may seem unimportant and transient at the time can have a huge affect on one's life," he said.
I felt vindicated and happy by the evening, by finally being able to figure what it was that had drawn me to Mr. McCarthy all those years ago. I handed him a big gold star as he penned his name illegibly inside my copy of his first book, his tale of "One Man's Quest for the Courage to Settle Down."
He smiled that sexy sideways smile and put it on his belt. "My daughter will be excited I got a gold star," he said, with clear love in his eyes, unguarded as usual. With such honesty, it is clear that this Brat Pack heartthrob will most certainly succeed in his great second act as a writer.    

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Small Business, Large Hearts

When I walked in to the LLL Deli on Love Lane in Mattituck, New York, I was hopeful. I wanted a turkey and swiss sandwich, just like I'd make myself at home if I'd had the time and energy.

Handwritten signs promised I could get just that: simple tasty affordable food in exchange for cash. Tina and Kevin Langer open their doors Monday through Friday at 5:30 a.m. It made sense, then, the sign that made me laugh:

Good Morning...Let the Stress Begin!

"I like your sign," I told Tina with a smile.

She just shook her head slowly. "It's like that, every day. You get up, and you're just not ready for a while."

"But then it gets better?" I asked hopefully.

"Yep," she said with a slight affirmative nod as she spread mayonnaise on my roll. "It does. You wake up."

There were pictures on the wall, many of the day USA Network's Royal Pains was being filmed out front.

"It's supposed to be set in The Hamptons, but..." Tina and I both laughed. The North Fork, where we were standing, is the far less fancy and expensive of the peninsulas that jut out from the East End of Long Island.  

"They had a catering truck, but some of 'em were nice, like the main guy, he'd come in and buy food from us," Tina said.

I smiled. I'd met the "main guy"-Mark Feuerstein-once. He went to school with my husband at the "tony" Dalton school. He is one of those gracious successful people. They exist here in New York as they exist everywhere. It is nice to hear tales of people from different places and different circumstances seeing through to one another.

The Langers were lovely. They made me a great sandwich and I gave them cash--and gold stars.

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

New Beginning

Every year at this time it is the same: I have to remember anew what I forgot. I have to remind myself to remind myself of all the things I learned before, all that I figured in great moments of epiphany. I am a writer so as to record all those thoughts that seem so crucial when they arrive. But then I cannot quite put my finger on where I might have written The Answers, in which notebook, in what computer file. I must figure and write them anew, these musings on what might be The Way, or at least My Way. I must not be embarrassed that I am attempting to determine this thing called Life every day as if for the very first time.

As the warm air grows cool, and the birds practice their flight skills for long journeys elsewhere, I am charged again with how to move forward in good mental and physical health, how to help my family and friends and neighbors do the same. The lazy restful days of summer are a distant memory, replaced by schedules and homework and grand schemes for projects that (cross your fingers) might actually see the light of day. It gets harder and harder to jump out of warm covers into the chill dark mornings and rev up for what needs to be done. But then I hear the birds, so alive and singing their repetitive songs, and I am shamed into rising to search for my own proverbial worm, to try in whatever ways come to me, in whatever ways I can.

I tell myself:

This is the year that I will reward my own valiant efforts, no matter what the outcome. 

This is the year that I will reward others' valiant efforts, no matter what the outcome. 

This is the year in which I vow to judge myself and others less harshly, the one where I will learn to pay attention and appreciate and expect the best, but not be angry and disappointed if the best is not achieved as I'd imagined. 

This is the year I will attempt to place a shiny gold star in as many people's hands as possible to remind them that trying hard is all they can do, and that it is enough. 

Thank you for all your love and kindness and patience. Remember anew every day to reward yourself and others for trying.