Navigating the Middle

through adolescents, menopause, aging parents & other flying debris


June 2014

Day 5: Second Fortune Cookie

So if one fortune cookie is good,
two must be better, right?

Here’s the message inside the second cookie I split.

photo 2 (13)

“Your whole family are well”…as in

Your whole family are well-accustomed to lousy fortune cookie messages.


Day 6: First Fortune Cookie

We’d all like to believe in the message we find inside a fortune cookie. It’s as if we think we deserve a reward for having dessert. (If you can call it that.)

With approximately three billion fortune cookies made around the world each year, is it too much to ask for at least some of those messages to offer valuable insight into the future?

At least that’s what I think every time I break a cookie in two. And tonight’s message did not disappoint:

photo 1 (12)

“You have a deep interest in all that is artistic.”

TRUE – I did attend a performing and visual arts high school, where I majored in dance.
TRUE – My undergraduate degree is a BFA in visual art.
TRUE – I plan to celebrate my birthday at a Cezanne exhibit in Philly.

Yep, I am pretty lucky. Wonton Foods (Brooklyn, NY) really knows how to write a fortune.

(Please continue to Day 5 entry.)

Day 7: You Inspire Me

dedicated to Bethany Hamilton, Malala Yousufzai, Garth Callaghan, Rashema Melson,  Aung San Suu Kyi, Chris Rosati, and countless others

You are an inspiration. And you may not realize it.

Your walk, your testimony – to you, it’s simply “you being you”.

But you inspire in ways you never imagined.
Whether you’ve stared into the eyes of evil or
fought your way back from the stench of death,
you evoke within me the spirit to survive.

What seems insurmountable to most, is a powerless obstacle to you.
You are an over-comer.

Because of you I choose NOT to allow fear to paralyze me.
I get up,
go out,
and do what must be done, although I shouldn’t be able to do it.
I defy the odds because you’ve already worked through the equation.
Your strength, your courage become my own.

You make me believe:
I know I can; I know I can.

You are my inspiration…a modern-day dragon slayer.

I see you.
I have learned your stories, and I cheer for you.

You inspire me.


Day 9: Look Who Turns 50 This Year

With my birthday quickly approaching, I thought it might be fun to take a look at some of the “others” turning 50 this year.  Here are twelve of my favorites, ones for each month of the year.

lucky charms    cereal_lucky_the_lepHere is a picture of

the original Lucky Charms cereal box. Back in the day, the Leprechaun would urge moms, “laddies” and “lassies” to buy Lucky Charms, a “most exciting cereal.”

diet pepsi

Ever see the “Mad Men” episode with the Bye-Bye Birdie theme for Patio Diet Cola?
That (actual) drink was the predecessor to Diet Pepsi.

Gilligan's Island

I loved watching “Gilligan’s Island” everyday after school.
The tour boat left from Hawaii, another “50th”.

The Munsters

I preferred The Munsters over the Addams Family, which premiered the same year.


My cousin’s G.I. Joe was MY Barbie’s boyfriend. She preferred him over Ken, who was just too effeminate for her. (Sorry Ken. You know it’s true.)

civil rights

 The Civil Rights Act of 1964


Who didn’t love (and covet) this car? My uncle had a black one.
It wasn’t a ’64, but it was one of the first-generation Mustangs, built until 1973.


The original Pop-Tarts weren’t frosted and were available in only four flavors – strawberry, blueberry, brown sugar cinnamon, and apple currant. Now there are 29. I always wanted my mother to buy these, which she rarely did.

Cassius Clay

My dad was a HUGE Cassius Clay fan. Here he is in an upset against Sonny Liston for the World Heavy Weight title in 1964. He changed his name to Muhammad Ali after the win.


A Fistful of Dollars was my introduction to Clint Eastwood spaghetti westerns, thanks to my dad. He introduced me to the trilogy, including For a Few Dollars More (1965) and The Good, the Bad and the Ugly (1966). The latter was our favorite.


Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. received the Nobel Prize for Peace at the age of 35.
He was the youngest man to have received the award, but was not the first African American.


Finally, who could resist the stop-motion animation of “Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer?”

There’s a complete list at MySA. 

Day 10: What I Miss Most

Over the years, my sisters and I wrapped an assortment of obligatory Father’s Day gifts: ties, socks, shaving kits, books, and coffee mugs. (Daddy always seemed to be harder to buy for than our Mother.) But the framed, fill-in-the-blank “World’s Greatest Dad” certificate that hung on his bedroom wall, must have been his favorite. It hung there for decades.

I have difficulty recounting most of the Father’s Days we spent together. Not because he wasn’t around, but because Father’s Day 1981 was a watershed moment. The Sunday fell on the day right before my birthday. My mother thought it would be cute to bake a cake, so that we could celebrate the two occasions together. Apparently, my father didn’t think so. He accused Mother of “really” baking the cake for me, and only claiming it was for both of us. After that day, I knew he would never be the “World’s Greatest Dad”.

But in 2005, there we were, gathered at our family church in Houston to celebrate Daddy as “Father of the Year.” He was all smiles as he stood center stage, holding an engraved plaque, surrounded by his wife, kids, grandchildren, sisters and extended family. A photographer snapped a picture. My father seemed pretty pleased, but later admitted that he received the award only after the church had nearly exhausted its list of dads. (He laughed about it; so did I.)

Daddy could make almost any story sound funny. Like the time he was visiting a (white) friend, when another (white) guest walked in, complaining that he’d tried moving from his neighborhood into another neighborhood, “But niggers is everywhere.” Or the time he rode the segregated train from college in Louisiana to Texas. Instead of going to the back of the train, he sat in the WHITES ONLY section, along side his buddy P., who could “pass.” (If you are imagining correctly, my father has brown skin, curly hair and brown eyes.) But that combination of charm, cockiness, and a football player’s frame gave Daddy the courage to remain in the south, long after others fled.

Not that I always appreciated his stories. Daddy admitted that he wasn’t prepared to get married or have a child at the age of 20. (Considering that I have an older sister, I doubt he was ready at 18 either.) But that’s who he was, a chronicler of life’s events for those who wanted to hear them, and those who did not.

It would take years before I could fully appreciate his skill for spinning a yarn. Friends would point out how funny Daddy was. I dismissed them, initially. But with the passing of time, I realized that I’d almost missed one of the best parts of my dad. He could take the most benign event and twist it into something wickedly funny or slightly inappropriate. He was an excellent storyteller.

It’s been almost five years since I’ve heard my father’s voice or any of his stories. He isn’t gone; nor is he completely with us. Yet I can still see him on Father’s Day, standing over a charcoal pit, smoking meat for the better part of the day. It’s the place where we talked, shared a beer, and swapped stories.

…stories that now belong to me.

Stephen Hawking

Day 11: However difficult life may seem, there is always something you can do and succeed at. – Stephen Hawking


I ain't beaten yet wop logo 3Hey y’all! In my career I’ve met a lot of achievers, both famous and not so famous and I loved collecting their stories. One thing they all had in common was an absolute blind refusal to give up when the load became too heavy.
The ability to pick oneself off the ground…(yet again!) and dust off the seat of our pants is in all of us. If you are experiencing tough times this little series of stories is for you. For some folk, who seem to have been handed it all on a plate, their stories will surprise you!


WHO? : Stephen Hawking

IS? : Professor, Physicist

SAID? : ‘I have had motor neurone disease for practically all my adult life. Yet it has not prevented me from having a very attractive family, and being successful in my work.  I have been lucky…it shows that one need…

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Day 12: We’re Pregnant


Finally someone has addressed the misuse of the words, WE’RE PREGNANT. Pregnant, as in the development of one or more offspring, known as an embryo or fetus, in a woman’s uterus. Where’s the “we” in that definition?

I’m unsure when this phenomenon took hold. Maybe it was started by an overexcited mom-to-be who wanted her husband to be more involved with her pregnancy. Or it could have been a nervous father-to-be, who was trying to empathize with his 8-month pregnant wife. Whoever, whenever, wherever it started, it needs to stop.

There is a better way –

A woman says, “I’m pregnant.”
A woman says, “I’m expecting or we’re expecting,” (as in expecting to have or adopt a baby.)
A man says, “I’m going to be a dad.”
A man says, “We are expecting.” Notice, he doesn’t say, “I’m expecting.”
A man, however, cannot lay claim to, “We’re pregnant” because “WE” are NOT pregnant.

There is no embryo or fetus developing inside of his uterus because he doesn’t have a uterus. The woman having the baby is the one who is pregnant. HE impregnated her. See how it works?

Perhaps I’ll let my friend Mila Kunis explain it. She did a really great job on Jimmy Kimmel Live last night.


After watching that, I feel totally validated.



Day 13: The Good Wife

People sometimes ask me what’s the key to remaining happily married. Jeff and I have been married nearly 19 years. We’ve been through a lot together. Now I could tell them that marriage is more than a contract, it’s a covenant between you and God.  Or I could tell them that marriage isn’t about your feelings or someone else making you happy; it’s about you making your spouse happy.

But the one thing I like to point to, is the plaque that hangs in my laundry room. It is rumored to be excerpted from a 1950’s high school home economics textbook. Maybe you’ve seen it before. For those of us who may have missed that class, here is marital advice to live by.

How to be a Good Wife
HAVE DINNER READY: Plan ahead, even the night before, to have a delicious meal on time. This is a way to let him know that you have been thinking about him and are concerned with his needs. Most men are hungry when they come home, and having a good meal ready is part of the warm welcome that is needed. (‘Planning ahead’ is key. I once served Jeff  microwave popcorn for dinner. In my defense, I opened the bag and poured it into a bowl.)
PREPARE YOURSELF: Take fifteen minutes to rest so that you will be refreshed when he arrives. He has just been with a lot of work-weary people. Be a little gay and a little more interesting. His boring day may need a lift. Greet him with a smile. (If I were a little “gay,” I’m sure I ‘d also be a little more interesting.)
CLEAR AWAY THE CLUTTER: Make one last trip though the main part of the house just before your husband arrives, gathering up children’s books and toys, papers, etc. Then run a dust cloth over the tables. Your husband will feel he has reached a haven of rest and order, and it will give you lift too. ( We have two teen-aged sons and a preteen. Enough said.)
PREPARE THE CHILDREN: If they are small, wash their hands and faces and comb their hair. They are his little treasures and he would like to see them playing the part. (See prior comment.)
MINIMIZE ALL NOISE: At the time of his arrival, eliminate all noise from the washer, dryer, or vacuum. Encourage the children to be quiet. (So, you DON’T want me to clean the house?)
SOME “DO NOT’S”: Don’t greet him with problems and complaints. Don’t complain if he is late for dinner. Count this as a minor problem compared to what he might have gone through that day. (Question: When do I get to complain? If you couldn’t tell – I’m complaining right now.)
MAKE HIM COMFORTABLE: Have a cool or warm drink ready for him. Have him lean back in a comfortable chair or suggest that he lie down in the bedroom. Arrange his pillow and offer to take off his shoes. Speak in a low, soothing voice. Allow him to relax and unwind. (Why don’t you just say –  and get undressed.)
LISTEN TO HIM: You may have a dozen things to tell him, but the moment of his arrival is not the time. Let him talk first. (Or  enjoy the sound of crickets chirping.)
MAKE THE EVENING HIS: Never complain if he doesn’t take you to dinner or to other entertainment. Instead, try to understand his world of strain and pressure and his need to unwind and relax. (Better to make the evening ‘his’ than the ‘Evening News’.)

Okay, I actually agree with that last one. That is my  goal. The other recommendations are more like fantasies.

Day 14: My Hairstory

Two stories managed to catch my (albeit short) attention (span) this morning. One was about college senior, Brinton Parker, who documented reactions to a selfie she posted, wearing different amounts of make-up.  The other pictured Beyoncé and Jay Z’s two year-old daughter, Blue Ivy’s hair. In both cases, people critiqued their appearances and judged them, based on how they thought each one should look.

Reading their stories made me think about people’s reaction to my hair over the past few years. Here’s a little show & tell.

photo (28)

Chemo Head: I refused to leave the house like this for fear of what people might say. (Incidentally, this is the first time I have shown this to anyone beyond my inner circle.)

photo (30)

Pink Hair: My friend Edie mailed me this Japanese party girl wig. I was thrilled to have something besides a hat or scarf to cover my bald head. I wore it whenever I needed a lift. Not sure what people thought about this, but I thought it was fun.

photo (31)


TV Hair: Since I host a TV show, and didn’t want the audience to “know,” I wore a wig. I loved it, initially, but found myself feeling like someone else when I had it on. I sacrificed authenticity for the comfort of others.


 photo (32)  But eventually, I got tired of hiding out.

I remember having lunch with my friend, Claire. The waiter did his best to avoid looking at me. He was polite, but definitely uncomfortable. I didn’t win that day.

photo 1 (11)  photo (33)photo (35)

 By the time my hair grew to this length, everyone was pretty relaxed again.

But then, I went ahead and did this –

photo (36)

 Looks like I don’t care what you think about my hair, and I never should have.


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