September 2004
I Love September

I love September. It has always heralded the coming of fall, which is my very favorite season. The chill, the colors, the cider, Halloween, warmth and fire, a great man under my arm and the perfect afternoon S Factoring. I hope you know that when I speak of "S Factor" I’m not just referring to the workout, I’m speaking more of how you live the "S." I believe S Factor can become a new way of life for all women; "normal" women like you and me who live fully, unapologetically and celebrate their bodies. I S Factor my way through the grocery store, the mall, in the car pool lane, at my son’s school, at work and at play. It’s a certain mindset. Call it ownership, call it pride, call it discovering the joy of moving naturally in my S-curved female form.

As fall approaches, our days shorten and we lose the warmth of the summer sun. Now I’ve always thought the sun is a lot like a man. Think about it. If there’s a man in your life (spouse, friend, father, brother, whatever), just look at the comparisons. Like the sun, a man emits warmth and heat (think of snuggling under a blanket, or the warmth and comfort you feel in a strong embrace). The Sun illuminates things that we may not see in the dark. Under the sun, everything is laid out for you to see, and most men typically live their life by the axiom, "what you see is what you get." We "worship" the sun -- we love the glow it can give us and the way it lifts our mood and spirit.

However, if you expose yourself to the sun for too long without some sort of protection, you get burned. It’s the same way with men. It’s not that men or the sun intentionally mean to burn you it’s just the way they are. They just can’t help it. Now you can protect yourself with sunscreen and live happily in the sun. You can also protect yourself with your sunny man by finding a powerful support system.

The one thing I notice in my own life when things are hard with my man is that it’s usually because I put way too much importance on him and on the relationship, often at great cost to myself and the other relationships in my life. Experience has taught me that a man cannot be the only thing you need in your life, nor can he fulfill 100% of your needs. I’ve noticed that that is a mistake many, many women continue to make. So let’s look at the paradigm. You got a man. He can give you about 60% of what you want from a friend/lover. There’s still this other 40% of stuff that you’re not getting from him and you won’t ever get from him. You fill up the other 40% with "other peoples’ mojo." You cry on the shoulder of your best girlfriend. You go to a sappy movie with your best guy friend. You have a weekly lunch date with your sister. You talk philosophy with your yoga instructor/friend. You talk business with your co-workers and business associates. Whenever you feel "he" is falling short, don’t blame him or accuse him of not meeting your needs. Devote some time to your other relationships, or build some new ones with like-minded folks, and start living a well-rounded balanced life! Sometimes all it takes is reading a great novel or watching a rental movie that YOU want to see (check out our S Magazine Movie Corner articles for ideas) or escaping with your favorite music (in our Music Picks magazine section). Some men stink at talking business with you. Some men, oh who am I kidding, most men HATE shopping with you. Some men don’t like to talk about life and the world. If your guy doesn’t like wine, for God’s sake don’t drag his ass to your monthly wine tasting class. I’m sure you have a friend who would love to go with you. Love your man for who he is and appreciate what he gives us and stop trying to turn him into the one person who must meet every one of your needs.

Try this exercise...take a piece of paper and write down the ten things that you fight about the most, other than money. I bet that you can solve at least six of them by simply taking the pressure off of the relationship and putting on some "man-screen." And when you stop relying on him to meet all of your needs, I bet he will start looking at you differently, and you will start appreciating the warmth of his sun in much healthier doses!

February 2005
Love Your Body

We love our moms, we love our dads, we love our men, we love our lovers, we love our children, our dogs, our cats, our pet gerbil, we even love our dentist, we love friends and sometimes even neighbors, we love to be in love, we love, love, love, love -- but we often forget the love of our bodies. I want to encourage you to have a love affair with your body this month. And I don't mean a sexual love affair; I mean a love affair from the heart and the spirit.

Many fitness programs focus on firming your body, and S Factor can do that, but what really surprises most women about this movement is the affirming of their body that occurs. So I want to share with you an awesome body-AFFIRMING exercise I discovered while bathing with my three-year-old daughter, Miss Ruby. (Yes, the one that inspired Ruby's pose.) One night after eating a big dinner of broccoli and roasted chicken, she started saying how she hated her belly cause it was too (get this) fat. She was three and weighed 26 pounds and was calling her belly fat! Well you can imagine how quickly the hackles went up on the back of my neck. I acted fast. "I love your belly. I love my belly. (I had eaten the same dinner so it was a real challenge looking down at my inflated belly to say that with a truthful tone but righteousness prevails.) Know what else I love? I love my elbow. I love my pinkie finger. I love my knee..."

She and I went through our own bodies together kissing the parts we could get to and touching the others (feet, ankles, back of the neck, etc.). It was such an empowering experience for her that she still does it to this day. She talks about how much she loves her body, how it's beautiful. She talks about how she loves my body (even after I eat a big ol' pasta dinner). She sees her body not as something to be judged but as this extraordinary place in which she lives.

Here's the funny thing...this exercise totally altered MY body attitude, too. Being the media jaded adult woman that I am (and certainly not Madison Avenue perfect), I often would think to myself, "My this is too that. My that is too this."

I instantly stopped doing it. I just stopped judging and being intolerant. I began to look at my body as this glorious vessel that takes me through this glorious, sometimes challenging, life. Look at it this way, you've got one body, one life, this is it. You can choose to criticize it and wished you lived in another body or you can choose to love and pamper and celebrate its unique beauty. This body-affirming game with my daughter became another chapter in this body love affair that began when S Factor came into my life five years ago, and it's going strong.

Still struggling with this concept? Try looking at it this way. If you could step outside of yourself for a moment and look at your body as you would, say, a car, your body attitude might adjust a bit. Think about it. You probably treat your car better than you treat your body. Your car will only take you so far without gasoline (food), why not make that top of the line premium fuel at that. If you flood the engine (overeat) your car won't run well. If you crash it up, bang it up, smash it up -- you best fix it up or it will eventually fall apart. As a car ages it needs tender loving care. A good polish, a nice shine, a regular wax job, a buffing and a good rubdown of the leather interior with oil and lotion does wonders for the overall well-being of an old car. The same is true for an "old" body. A well-loved car will carry you through its lifetime with grace, elegance and ease, and a well-loved body will do the same thing.

March 2005
Lunar Woman

A few months back I wrote a little bit about how men are like the sun. We talked about that wonderful thing called "manscreen," those wonderful people you surround yourself with when the "He" in your life gets too intense. Well, so many of you wrote back telling me how much that helped you and gave you perspective on your relationship. Thanks so much for sharing!

So let's take it a step further. If your man is the sun, then, obviously, you are lunar, baby. Think about it. Women are never the same. Our consistency lies in our waxing and waning, just like the tides. Our moods ebb and flow. Our bodies ebb and flow! In one single month, you go from feeling relatively thinnish (the crescent moon -- OK, it's all relative!) to feeling intolerably overweight and bloated (the ever round full moon), and sometimes you feel emotionally like you're just not even there anymore (new moon). We draw all living things toward us like a magnet (full moon, when we're at our heaviest, go figure) and 14 days later we do it again (again the vacant new moon, see it really doesn't matter if we feel heavy or thin). Wolves (construction workers and sundry men) howl at us when we're feeling most fat (full moon, again what's with that?!). Sometimes we get down so low that we feel like we'll never see the light of the sun again (lunar eclipse). In late fall, it's a cool moon night. In summer, we shine on a very warm summer night all hot and bothered. We don't burn others, just illuminate them with ourselves. Our blue light makes everybody who comes in contact with us look better.

Yeah, yeah, yeah, we're mysterious and elusive and hard to read. Sure. But really the lunar woman is the woman who knows herself so intricately, so purely that she knows she's the complete unknowable, and understands the power she has to affect her world. I'm not going to stop at the moon because when we're not feeling moody and lunar, oh, we are so much more than that, we are simply earthen. Let's talk about the earthen woman next month and focus on the moon coming in to spring and on into summer when we hit our stride and shine all night long and into the day!

April 2005
Who Nurtures You?

I love being a woman. Love everything about it. We are so many things to so many people. Last month I talked about the Lunar Woman, and I promised to follow up this month with the Earthen Woman.

She’s not called "Father Earth" or "Father Nature," now is she? Round, grounded, fertile, arid, wet, unpredictable and peaked, we, like Mother Earth, radiate with warmth, understanding, internal and external beauty, grace, peace, and the push and pull of polar opposites that comes with the waxing and waning of the moon. In this cyclic process, we create balance, stability, and security in moments of chaos and are Mother Nature, or, better yet, mother nurturer to all.

But as I asked of our Los Angeles students last week, who nurtures you? That is the overwhelming question eating away at my mind these days. Who nurtures the women of the world? We came from mothers and fathers and, hopefully, they were nurturing in one way or another. We moved away from home, some of us went to college, some to work. Then, maybe, we found a love, and he nurtured great until...well, his needs overwhelmed yours and you began nurturing him, because you know guys do that sometimes. Then, maybe kids came, or not, but you're still nurturing him and the kids or child-like friends in your life who need nurturing. Work gets more consuming as you grow up and, before you know it, you're nurturing work and him and them, and if you have a pet, you end up being the nurturer there, too. And you're about to fall apart because you've spent every last cent of giving on everyone else and you're tired and you feel empty 'cause who's filling you up? Most days we feel like Mother Earth with our natural resources tapped, our natural beauty disappearing, and our purity tarnished with pollution.

So, ladies, who's nurturing you? Maybe you used to nurture you before him/kids/pets/work/etc. but then you became last in line, and you got used to it, and by the time it was your turn to get your attention, there was nothing left. Who do you turn to? A shrink? Tried that and, although it was good for a while, where was that unconditional love in return that I give so freely? Do you turn to God and religion? God's great, and religion...? Sure, it can be helpful but I need some human touch and nurturing and physical warmth. Do you turn to another man? Tsk tsk, uh uh, no. That's just too damned unreal and too damned destructive.

Do you turn to friends? And in this compartmentalized, insanely busy world, are friends really there for you to nurture you? Hell, they're probably in the same boat as you are, nurturing him/kids/job/pet/etc. So one day, just like Mother Nature you erupt and scream, "Enough!"

You discover that what you are left with is a choice. You cannot be all things to all living creatures if you don't have you anymore. You must put yourself first or all else fails. I believe this fully and heartily and I try to live this everyday of my life. Oh yes, I say no to him, I say no to work, I even say no to the pet until I get what I need, and sometimes, when I’m sure they have what they need, I say no to the kids. It's survival.

And one of the things I need more than anything else in the world is my time at the S Factor Studio or at home S-Factoring on my own. It regenerates me like nothing else. It inspires me. It fires me up and impassions me. And it is all my time. Two hours of pure free time. Two hours of pure me time. Healing time. Resurrection time. It's my unconditional love time for me. It’s the time when I reconnect with the earth and she grounds me. I feel high as a kite and grounded securely to the earth at the same time, connected to the earthen woman inside of me. And when I give her just a little time of nurturing, she begins to nurture me.

Yes, I love being a woman for so many reasons. I love my heels and I love flirty skirts. I love my shit-kicker motorcycle boots and warm sudsy baths with rose flavored bath bombs. I love getting a facial and having my hair massaged with hot oils. I love my curves and even my not so curvy curves, and what I love the most is the earthen woman inside of me who has the power to heal, comfort, nurture, and "S" her way through life.

Think about it. Who nurtures you?

May 2005
Maternal Love Letter

This is a love letter to everything maternal about us. Mother worship, Mother ship, Mother Earth, Mother of Invention, Mother f-er, Mother-lode, Mama's boy -- whether you've ever actually had a child or not, if you're a chick you have some degree of the eternal maternal within you.

Motherhood is a pretty sacred subject, I'm aware of that, so I have to be careful how I say this. First I have to say this -- I think my mother is a saint. Who doesn't? She gave birth to nine of us! She was and still is the epitome of selflessness and unconditional love. If I said to her in passing how much I liked a piece of jewelry she was wearing, she would take it off and give it to me. If I said I was hungry, she would forgo her own hunger and let me eat her food. She did this for nine children. She must have been very hungry in the 60s and 70s. She never got to have her own career. She never got to take off and roam the world with a lover. She didn't get to climb any mountains or be the adventurer that she always dreamed about. She didn't get to go live at the beach, which she yearned for all of my waking life. She loves saltwater taffy and the East Coast smell of the ocean. She didn't get to "sow any oats" that I know of. When she was pregnant with her eleventh child (in addition to nine children, she also had three miscarriages), my father was falling in love with a colleague at work. He eventually ended the colleague affair for my mother out of guilt, but come on!

When I became a mother, I was so humbled at the enormity of it that I wanted to throw myself at my mother's feet and beg her forgiveness for every asinine, bitchy, teen tantrum that I threw; and I vowed to begin a new religion based on mother worship. (It never happened but I'm still young!) I was never so tired, so sad, so lonely, so stir crazy, so frustrated with the endless crying. It was a lesson in instant humility. Some days I was this close to disappearing off the face of the Earth. Let's face it...the job of "mothering" is the most difficult thing I have ever done in my life. And sometimes it downright sucks. There, I've said it. (The TV show Desperate Housewives illuminates it a little and thank God that awareness is starting to increase in public consciousness.)

In what other area of employ do you get pinched, poked, scratched, covered with all kinds of disgusting food items, and urinated on? Sound a lot like a wild animal trainer? Hmmm...if the shoe fits. That's what we are -- we're wild animal trainers! It makes sense. The only difference is that at the end of the day a wild animal trainer can walk away and leave those babies by themselves and have a LIFE! Some of you mothers may ask, "A life? What's that?"

If you don't have human children then this still pertains to you because I believe you're still a mother of a job, a pet, a man, or a series of friends. Some mothers are crazy; some mothers are dedicated, awesome and have no life. And, sadly, some mothers are so wrapped up in the martyr role that their entire life becomes focused on being the PERFECT Mother. What is that even? Perfect Mother? No such thing. So the big question is: How do you maintain a "life," an identity integrated with motherhood, when you decide to procreate?

This is a struggle for so many of the women I know. The greatest gift you can give your children is a mother with a full, rich, passionate, fun, sexy life. Give it to yourself, ladies. Just because you have an exquisite wild animal child or two in your life it doesn't mean you need to lose your hot, your youth, your fire, your meowwww, your roar, your purr. Here's what you gotta' do. You gotta dress yourself up for yourself. You got to take your self out and get your nails or hair or something done. You got to look at that cool haircut, manicure, whatever you had done every now and then and say to yourself, "I'm a cool, hot chick. Not only am I a cool hot chick but I am God-like, I made a human being in my body and birthed him/her out of my VAGINA!" Or for those that have had caesarians like me, out of my ABDOMEN!!!!!

You need to put on some lipstick. Something fiery plum or scintillating red. If you're feeling really ambitious add a dash of blush and blue (yes, blue, why not?) eyeliner. Daily. Do it first thing in the morning, every day. When you catch a glimpse of that luscious babe in the rear view mirror, it'll be you! No more pasty-faced days where you feel invisible, tired-eyed and well, over the hill of delicious. And don't even attempt to put that luscious new haircut up into a scrunchie. Who invented scrunchies anyway? I know, I know, I'm a mother; there are times when you would sell your soul for a scrunchie. The little one is eating some kind of melting syrupy sweet dish and you're holding them in your arms -- scrunchie time. The little one has a bout of the stomach flu and you're holding them in your arms -- scrunchie time. Keep the scrunchie, just know when to rip it out of your hair, let the goddess fly free. The kid's safely strapped in the backseat of the car and there's a great song on the radio? Open the windows, turn up the tunes, and let your hair fly free. Kid's playing left field in a two (yes, two) hour little league game and it's a gorgeous day with a great breeze blowing? Lose the scrunchie and let your hair flow down the back of your neck.

You're not just the "mother of some child." You're not just "someone's wife/girlfriend." You're not just "some company's female executive." You're that wild child from high school, that cocky rebel from your early twenties. Remember her? She's there, just waiting to come out. You can still nurture and take care of your beautiful babies. You can still be the respectable member of the PTA and the ladies power lunch club, but do it with the new haircut and nails. Throw on a pair of heels, honey, and low-slung Joe jeans -- don't lose your badass. Don't lose your outlaw. Don't lose the fiery, sultry woman inside of you who lives life to its fullest with kids in tow, eyes aflame, and hair blowing in the wind.

June 2005
Attention to the Men

Men. Oh yeah, you knew it was coming. Last month we celebrated all things maternal in honor of Mother’s Day. So in June, it’s time to turn our attention to the really cool men in our lives.

I’m desperately in love with my husband, and I love all of the male family and friends in my life. But let’s face it, women, we’ll never understand men for as long as we live, nor them us, no matter how hard we may try. I think it’s just a law of nature. They think we’re complex, multi-dimensional and ulterior in our motives. (That’s just because they can’t understand the more intricate compound of our species.)

When I say, "Does this dress make me look bad/fat/chubby," the answer is (and let’s all say this together), "NOOOOOOOOO, you could never look bad/fat/chubby, baby. You look beautiful! You could make a potato sack look hot!"

Is that so hard? I think not, however, the proper way to answer this question continues to elude men. Instead of reassuring us, they say things like, "Well, it’s not the most flattering thing I’ve ever seen you in," or "Maybe you should try something else."

Little do they realize that you spend the rest of the evening mentally sorting through every single piece of clothing in your closet trying to decide which ones he thinks are unflattering. You obsess silently. You go shopping the next day because you want to look flattering in your clothes. You spend a lot of money, and every time you try something on you ask anyone in the store who will look if that piece of clothing looks flattering on you. Basically you feel exposed. You’ve given your power away because you don’t live in your power the way you need to every day of your life. You’ve given that power to someone else, and that is not okay. So, instead of trying to make him what he is not -- a mind reader and reassurer, otherwise known as female -- never again ever ask him how you look in an outfit. This fact has made me finally come to realize that what drives us mad about men is their simplicity. They always mean what they say. There’s no creative allegory in their relaying or hearing of a story, no elusive metaphors or insinuations (that we ladies thrive on) in their day-to-day conversation. No labyrinth of the mind that engulfs all of us of the female persuasion. As a matter of fact, they’re allergic to insinuation. They have absolutely no idea how to "read" someone’s hidden intention. How many times have you heard a man say, "Just come out and tell me what you want. I’m not a mind-reader."

Simplicity -- it’s a beautiful thing but confounding. How can someone be So straightforward? So basic, so non-circuitous in thought? Our relationship with men is as complex and multi-dimensional as our genetic make-up. Maureen Dowd writes in an amazingly revealing article about men’s and women’s differences, right down to our DNA:

Research published last week in the journal Nature reveals that women are genetically more complex than scientists ever imagined, while men remain the simple creatures they appear. 'Alas,' said one of the authors of the study, the Duke University genome expert Dr. Huntington Willard, 'genetically speaking, if you've met one man, you've met them all. We are, I hate to say it, predictable. You can't say that about women. Men and women are farther apart than we ever knew. It's not Mars or Venus. It's Mars or Venus, Pluto, Jupiter and who knows what other planets. Women are not only more different from men than we knew. Women are more different from one another than we knew - creatures of 'infinite variety,' as Shakespeare wrote. We poor men only have 45 chromosomes to do our work with because our 46th is the pathetic Y that has only a few genes which operate below the waist and above the knees,' Willard observed. 'In contrast, we now know that women have the full 46 chromosomes that they're getting work from and the 46th is a second X that is working at levels greater than we knew.'

Ahhh-Ha! I knew it! Let’s look at this missing chromosome in concrete terms. My beautiful man is deep in thought; his face twisted and contorted wrestling with some great existential dilemma. I sit in awe of him. I ask him gently, "What you thinking about, baby?"

His gaze comes back into the present, it takes a while but he slowly begins to speak, the words coming in jolts, "Yankees, Dodgers, 1977 World Series, third inning."

I wait. There’s GOT to be more. Perhaps the meaning of life, some self-revelation or deep emotional insight into the why of it all. Or at least how baseball is a metaphor for life. Nope. Nothing more comes. He smiles and his gaze drifts back again to that third inning. There is beauty in simplicity. Think of the simple things in your life and how you would never want to change them. A warm towel fresh out of the dryer, the crest of a wave, the nuzzle of a wet canine nose, a ray of sun, one single green banana leaf. There’s an honesty and purity in simplicity. In many ways, simplicity is perfection. To try to take something simple and make it more complex is a crime against nature. Would you want to make any other simple thing in your world complex? A pure clear mountain stream. The sound of a screech owl at midnight. The lazy breath of a child. A warm cozy cat on your lap. That sigh when you relax against your lover’s chest.

So the next time you start to ask him how you look in something. Don’t do it. Don’t give away your power. And don’t blame him for being what he is -- a man. Instead, wear whatever the hell you want to and tap into the secret power of S. Appreciate the beauty of his simplicity. Walk into the room like you own it with a subtle swish of those powerful hips. Walk over to him and breathe in his smell, kiss him on the cheek, and watch his eyes light up.

July 2005
Following "The Rules"

So, I'm at the Los Angeles Tennis club recently with my 4-year-old daughter, Ruby and my 10-year-old son, Gus. (No, I don’t belong to any club but the universal club of women. I’m there as a guest of my brother’s friend.) My children are playing in the pool. Ruby has on her bikini bottoms and no bra top. There’s nothing there for a bra top to cover really. I think she’s looking very Coppertone ad cute. So, about twenty minutes into playing gleefully with her big brother, a very chagrined young lifeguard comes up to me and says, "You'll have to put Ruby’s top on, ma'am."

He knew her name because, well, she’s the most social human being on the planet and just about everyone knows her name if you’ve been around her for more than ten minutes. Ruby overhears him and stops in her tracks. Gus obliviously keeps playing.

Now if you know me well, you know that this is not something you should ever say to me because I'll eat you alive. I’ll devour your very mindless self for perpetuating such sexist thoughts. So, without missing a beat or batting an eye, but quiet enough so that my daughter doesn't hear, I say back to this poor misguided youth, "Would you say that to a boy?"

Silence. Squirm. Then even more silence. His body twitches. He looks as though he wants to melt into the pool splashed concrete sidewalk. Finally, he says, "'aaaaaaam...," as if I should know better, but he knows that I do know better.

I see that he doesn't believe what he’s saying. He has to say this kind of crap to stay employed, so I show the kid some mercy. "You feel like a total idiot asking me to put her top on, don't you? She's four years old." He begins to protest but I continue, "I can see in your face that you think the 'club rule' is stupid and sexist and you can't believe that you have to enforce it."

He looks around to see that his superiors aren't watching. He shrugs his shoulders and nods his head and says with surrender, "They're 'the rules.'"

I, of course, begin my "thing" about women and men and society and ancient puritanical subjugation of women. Ruby takes a step closer because she just knows we’re talking about her. What woman wouldn’t? He's just thrilled that my wrath is no longer directed at him but at the club, society and "the rules." I keep going thinking that if I can maybe change just one person’s way of thinking today, I will have made a difference. His face betrays nothing but embarrassment. Ruby steps closer and I tell her it's time to go to Donna's house and that we have to put her shirt on. I wouldn’t stay in a place that so detests women (even though that's not how they see it). As I'm helping her put her top on I can see a bit of confusion on her face. Why does she have to put her top on if Gus doesn't have to? I fight to not allow shame and embarrassment about her little body into her mind. I tell Gus to please put his shirt on as well. He protests but complies. We leave. Later, I explain to Gus why I wanted him to put his shirt on too. He is an extraordinary human being. His face betrays a bit of sadness for his sister, for it all and he says that he is sorry. I tell him he and his sister need to change the world. He says, "Okay, Mommy."

And his face clouds over with thought. I imagine he's plotting their overthrow.

August 2005
The Heat

The weather is averaging around 85 degrees these days out here in Los Angeles. It's hot. No way around that one. Not much you can do to get away from it, especially when your a/c goes on the fritz. If you can't beat the heat, surrender to it. Turn yourself into a lioness basking in the Serengeti heat. Only don't really go out in the sun. Just pretend. Lay on your screened-in porch in the nude. Of course it's best to do this when no one else is around. God forbid the mailman sashays by and happens to glimpse the naked lioness in you.

The heat of life, the heat of love, the heat of living as a woman in this day and age. When you say about a guy, "He's hot," what do you mean? When I say it, it's a feeling in my gut that lights my belly on fire, "He's hot."

I'm looking at my hub-man and the words just come out of my mouth. And he is...the way he smiles and his eyes crinkle at the edges or the way his brow twitches when he feels deeply about something I'm telling him...the way his butt curves out into the world when he walks. He's hot. He warms my mind.

Now turn that feeling in on yourself. What about you warms your mind?

The 'heat' of you...we all have our own "heat." Whether you're fifteen or fifty, whether you're large or small, black or white, pink or yellow, you have heat and hot and life in your body and soul. Your job as a member of the S Factor online community is to make this month about finding your "heat." Finding your kind of "hot" is all about what turns you on about you. What makes you feel the "it" of you. Here are some questions to help lead you there. Write five things that you're "hot" about. For me that would be:

1. The curve of the back of my knee. What can I say? I like it.
2. Thunderstorms
3. Lancome's blackberry lip stain
4. My black La Perla push-up bra
5. Of course, my black, thigh-high, six inch platform boots (who wouldn't be hot about them?)

Give it a try for yourself. Find some things that you're personally passionate about. What makes your taste buds sing? A favorite spice or flavor that wakens your palette from your tongue all the way to the sensory receptors in your brain...? What colors are you wearing when you look in the mirror with a prize-winning smile? What is that aroma in the air that triggers a romantic memory of divineness? Who do you think of and how does it feel when you remember that "hot" friend?

Is there a certain food? Your favorite piece of clothing? A style of shoe? A scent of a candle? A poem? A friend? The sunset? A Led Zeppelin song? The feel of your hair against your neck? The curve of your bicep into your elbow? What turns you on? 

When I throw a spin and fly unearthed around a pole to a song I love, that spins my mind and I feel hot. When I have on a splendid pair of jeans that hug just enough of me but not too squeezed, I feel hot. When I speak on the fly with passion and vigor about the state of women in the world without losing my femme, I feel hot. When I hold my daughter, on one of my hips with my hair tossed up in a sloppy tail, and my fabulous "blue boy" pants hanging on the other, I feel "hot." When I feel my body move through the world with ease and curve and grace, no matter where I am, I'm my kind of "hot."

September 2005
Elder Counterparts

Summer into Autumn, Autumn into Winter, Winter into Spring and the cycle goes on and on. We're about to be sucked into Mother Nature's Autumn cycle. Can't you smell it in the air? Leaves are losing the bright green of summer and will soon be turning red, orange, yellow and then crinkly brown. Nature and women -- we are a constantly transforming duo. It's no wonder that she's called "Mother Nature" and "Mother Earth." Nature's seasons and cycles are reflected in our own feminine cycles of birth, menstruation, pregnancy, and menopause. Now they've even created a name for that in-between stage where women can spend years waiting for full-fledged menopause -- perimenopause. (And why do so many of the words used to describe women's transitions have the word "men" in them? Hmmm...what is that about?!)

My sister is 52, and she's visiting with us for a while. She's going through "menopause," she tells me. She raises her hand to her forehead and presses the back of her wrist into her third eye in a kind of a swoon. She's dramatic. I sit on her bed on a Saturday morning to wake her up and she says, "I have to go take a shower."

She jumps out of bed. Her body is tight and light and almost nubile but for two stretch marks, one for each son. (They're 25 and 28 now. She birthed young.)

"But you just showered last night," I say, "Like 8 hours ago!"

She looks at me with love but, well, exasperated love, and says, "You really don't understand menopause do you?"

What the fuck does taking a shower twice within a 12-hour time period have to do with "menopause" I wonder? The word feels so foreign to me. final and well, definitive. Like there's life before menopause and there's life after and the two ain't ever going to meet. She whirls out of the room with a swirl of movement, grabbing clothes, a bra, a thong and a brush. She's always been an idol of mine, my big sister. She's tall and beautiful and passionate and wise and a bit on the emotive side, but then that probably explains why I became an actress. She's always been wise 'cause she's always been older. She probably always will be. I think to myself, "She's got wisdom to give me."

Our elder counterparts -- our big sisters, mothers, grandmothers, aunts, friends -- they know shit. It's called wisdom. Yeah, yeah, yeah, we've all heard of wise old people, but let's recreate it. Let's throw the respect and honor back at them 'cause somewhere along the line it got lost. Sometimes this elderly wisdom only comes out as yearnings, reflections, memories. Sometimes it comes out as words of advice, sometimes just a steady, warm supportive gaze. Whatever gift you can garner from the wise women in your life, you need to take it and run with it. Don't ignore it as a mom who is out-of-touch, a crazy old lady in line at the grocery store, a friend behind the times, or the ramblings of an older sister. Recognize it as clues from a "sister" who has been where you have been and seen more than you may ever see. Let her show you about life, lushness, happiness, the changing of the seasons.

Later that same day I tell sis I'm hot. "It's hot in here!"

I fan myself and she looks over at me with a sly grin, "That's how it starts," she says.

"But I'm too young!" I tell her. It is 96 degrees out. "Does it start this young?!!"

She smiles widely, "You've got time, little sister."

So those of us who aren't there yet need more information from you sisters who are there or have been. Your wisdom needs to be passed along to us. The lines are open, let's commune. I eagerly await your thoughts, observations, experiences...whether you're going through menopause, have gone through or are someday going to go through it. Let's hear your thoughts, advice, ramblings or fears.

October 2005
A Tribute To Breast Cancer Survivors: Warrior Women in our Everyday Lives

I love October, and it has nothing to do with the fact that it is my birth month, although that helps. I love the coming of the dark half of the year. The pumpkins and jack-o-lanterns, the cool briskness that takes over the air, and the fact that I get to wear all my favorite sweaters and start the cuddling-up-in-a-warm-chair-and-reading phase of the year. October has always been about anticipation of great times to come: Halloween, Thanksgiving, Christmas, Hanukkah and New Year's, the ski season and trips to visit family. October is also the month of magic and intuition. October 31st, All Hallows' Eve is said to be the time of year when the veil that separates our world from the "spirit" or "otherworld" is at it's thinnest. Enchantment and all things are possible in October. It is a feminine and insightful month and a great time to curve and swerve that body and soul of yours into body/mind bliss.

On a more sobering note, October is also Breast Cancer Awareness month. I'm getting a mammogram this month. October 27th to be exact. I hate them, but I've been told by my doc that they're necessary. I've been hearing about a digital mammogram machine that is even more powerful and better at detecting breast cancer, especially for younger, pre-menopausal, and/or denser breasts. Unfortunately, only 7% of mammogram machines used today are digital because they are far more expensive than the traditional machines. Hmmmm... The scariness is what I dread the most. What if they find something? What then? What will I do? How will I handle it? And that makes me think of all the extraordinary women who have come face-to-face with positive results. My empathic mind tells what they must have felt like. Scared, lump in the throat kind of panic. How does one come up against so great a villain? What in life prepares you for this war?

The true warrior is the woman who has fought the war against cancer -- one grueling battle at a time. I've seen it firsthand. My sister who is a Stage 4 breast cancer survivor is one of the greats of all time. I give her great respect, yet she doesn't act a hero. She's quite an unassuming warrior really, just a seemingly normal everyday woman, mother of two, a schoolteacher in Kingwood, WV. She wears her hair quite short these days in the aftermath. The scars across her chest are large and ragged. She wears them with indifference, they just happen to be there. I remember the days of no hair, the vomiting, the pain. Today, she laughs and likes to drink red wine. She loves blue plaid and anything gingham. But I think of what she has been through. I remember when she was first diagnosed and I looked in her eyes -- there was confusion and fear. She didn't understand the what, the why of it all.

In the United States alone, more than one in eight women will suffer from breast cancer during their lifetime. Breast cancer continues to rob an estimated 40,000 women of their lives each year. Breast cancer strikes everywhere -- it doesn't discriminate. Educated or illiterate, married or single, rich or poor...people of all ages, races, even genders, are attacked by this life-threatening disease. But we've come a long way towards eradicating it, and we will continue to do so, thanks to these fierce women who've faced breast cancer head on and forged new territories within research, treatment and recovery, both physical and emotional. Without them, where would be? We need to celebrate, pay tribute to these incredible, fierce women. They look fear straight in the eye and teach us so much every day, even if we do not realize it in the minutia of our daily lives.

This month is the time to celebrate these women who work to protect us all. We all know someone who has suffered from this disease, my beautiful sister being one of them. Proud survivors range from so many women in our everyday lives to those in the media, who thankfully use their celebrity stature to garner more attention and assistance for the disease.

In honor of Breast Cancer Awareness month, we must take time to really, truly appreciate, celebrate...and, actually, exalt the warrior women in our lives who are soldiers representing us all. And then let's really do something this month (and the rest of the year)...there are multitudes of opportunities that are within reach in October -- fundraisers, 10K runs and walks. The S Factor community is made up of strong, wise, brave women...together, we can make a difference. So let's get on it...write me and tell me what you are all doing or give us info on any opportunities that you know of. And while you're out there paying tribute to these brave women, don't forget the one in your mirror. Get a mammogram. It's important. Totally scary, yes, we know that. But we at S Factor are here for you, your friends, your sisters, your mothers -- we're all here for you.

During my sister's last battle with cancer, I finally saw the fear go out of her eyes and it soothed and inspired me. In her last, most intense battle there was no more fear -- only conviction, fight, and unwavering strength. An "Okay, mother fucker, you want a fight?" kind of power. It made me see her not as a victim of fate but, and I don't use this word lightly, a warrior. Heroic with great shining light and an awesome hip-hop soundtrack, the kind of lighting reserved for Hollywood action movies.

I'm getting a mammogram and I'm going to think positive thoughts. I'm going to meditate the night before. Give my breasts a warm oil massage to get the blood flowing and lymph nodes cleansed. (I actually do this massage now daily.) Not knowing is not an option because not knowing is a death sentence. Don't think because you didn't get a mammogram and don't know that nothing's wrong, that everything will be OK. Get a mammogram. I don't care how young or old you are. Give yourself a fighting chance.

November 2005
"Herstory" -- A Tribute to Female Pioneers

I'm thinking about turkey with mashed potatoes and gravy and yams and pilgrims and pioneers. And what in God's name do we women of the S have in common with pioneers? I hear the word "pioneer" and I think raccoon hat and musket and lots of male energy. That's what I grew up watching on TV -- Daniel Boone and Davy Crockett. But then in an interview with 20/20, the interviewer said, "Sheila, you're a real pioneer in the field of empowerment for women...," and proceeded to ask me a question.

Of course I immediately pictured myself in the Daniel Boone outfit, buckskin fringe pants and jacket, moccasin boots and fox fur vest and, of course, that coonskin hat! Not flattering, not flattering at all. And then I thought about all of you, and if you are reading this, then you, my lovely sisters, are pioneering spirits, too, as we move forward in this gorgeous revolution of retrieving our sexual power.

What's disturbing is that textbooks and history books only touch on a few of these females who broke ground not only for women, but for all humans, all over the world. There is always "history," but where is "herstory"? Classrooms cover the obvious female suffragists and activists, like Harriet Tubman, whose work as one of the most successful "conductors" of the Underground Railroad helped to abolish slavery; and Susan B. Anthony, who helped establish the 19th Amendment, making it possible for women to vote (I wonder whatever happened to those Susan B. dollars?). 

So from one pioneering woman to another, let's talk about carving out the journey. It's November and Thanksgiving is on the horizon. Such a cozy time of year. A time for giving thanks, obviously, but so much more than that. It's a spectacular time to reflect on the women who championed our equality and make our lives easier in so many ways. We are so lucky to live where we do, enjoying the rights and opportunities that so many women fought to give us. Where would we be without them?

However, much information on historical female figures, suffragists and abolitionists is not covered in our children's classrooms, despite their instrumental involvement in the civil rights movement. How will our children know how to honor the women who forged new territories for us in the past and continue to do so? We need to share the information and make it fun and inspiring! It is actually exciting to learn about the brave women who contribute to feminine equality and empowerment. For example, did you know that silver screen legend Hedy Lamarr co-invented a secret communication system in an effort to help the allies defeat the Germans in World War II? 

We all know about first ladies like Hillary Rodham Clinton, Nancy Reagan, and Eleanor Roosevelt...but what about Abigail Adams? The wife of President John Adams and mother of President John Quincy Adams championed the abolition of slavery and rallied for women's rights, petitioning the Congress with a "List of Female Grievances," until her death in 1818.

We have women who rule the finance, business, publishing and entertainment industries -- moguls like Oprah Winfrey and Martha Stewart. Yes, female moguls -- how great is that! In art, there's Frida Kahlo and Georgia O'Keefe, who both garnered attention for creating art with sexual undertones and erotic tension. In film, there was Mae West, one of the first to wear her sexuality on her sleeve. She skirted censorship with sexual innuendo, double entendre and her prolific wit. In 1926, West wrote, produced and directed the Broadway show, "Sex," which resulted in her arrest for obscenity. Her next play, "Drag," was banned on Broadway because of its subject matter -- homosexuality. 

In fashion, thank God for Coco Chanel, whose work is unequivocally part of the liberation of women. She significantly influenced fashion during both the 1920s and the 1950s by appropriating styles and articles of clothing formerly worn only by men, and she incorporated sports clothing into women's fashion. Her style evolved out of necessity and defiance -- she couldn't afford the fashionable clothes of the period -- so she rejected them and made her own, wearing everyday male attire such as sports jackets and ties to the events at which she first climbed her social ladders. 

I could go on and on about female pioneers forever. I am just so thankful for these women who set the stage for all women. Let's re-write "Herstory"...spread the word to our children whenever we can and let them see that women are these groundbreaking, fearless creatures that simultaneously embody femininity. We are these inspiring, incredible creatures every single day. Now that's pioneering.

December 2005
Every Day Should Be A Holiday

Here we go again, down the proverbial holiday rabbit hole into all things Wonderland, swirling down the holiday drain in red and white and green. Family, friends, lots of See's candy, loads of Christmas cookies shaped like various winter animals and oh-so-much cheer and goodness...people get nice during "the sweet time" of year. (As long as you don't get in their way when they're trying to find parking at the mall!) If ever I was to use a phrase to describe the period of time between Thanksgiving and New Year's, it would be "the sweet time" because it's like life's problems are all suspended, or at least seem a bit smaller. You're living in a protective bubble of what pure life might feel like. No work, no responsibilities, no pressures...just preparation, verve and excitement. Surrounding yourself with your favorite people. Shopping for roast turkey and ham and fruitcake and candy canes or latkas and gefilte fish. There's hustle and bustle and it seems that everyone in the world is in a fantastic mood. There tends to be a great elegance during this season. You see life through the eyes of a child again and the world turns scrumptious and sumptuous, creating delirium in one form or another.

I love all the holidays but my heart truly belongs to Santa Claus. It's the tradition that I was raised with...ho-ho-ho, the manger, hot mulled cider, caroling, wrapping gifts, the cold nip in the air and the tree, can't forget the tree. Every year I have to get a bigger and bigger tree. I've also noticed that each year I get my tree earlier and earlier, as if having the tree up and bigger than ever is going to help me hold onto the holiday high. Hmmmmmm...Christmas all year long? That's a delicious thought. Traffic probably wouldn't exist. Everyone would be so happy about not having to work, they wouldn't go anywhere. Just stay home all day and live and love and enjoy.

There are religious holidays like Easter, Christmas, Yom Kippur, Rosh Hashanah. Then there are national holidays, such as the Fourth of July, Memorial Day, Labor Day, and Martin Luther King Day. In addition, we all have family holidays like anniversaries and birthdays. Why do we have to stop celebrating and appreciating life on January 2nd?? How about we carry that stupendous holiday feeling with us throughout the year by creating a calendar of personal holidays? Especially, during that time of year when it seems like nothing "special" is going on. Nothing too fancy or with too much preparation...more like an anticipatory holiday surrounded by the people and things you love. Just imagine the sublime possibilities by creating your own personal holidays...

February 24th -- it's cold, right smack dab in the middle of winter and you're just about to go into a house-bound, stir-crazy rage. How about creating a Beach Day! I know, I know, some of you are sitting in the middle of a snowstorm, snowbound all winter and can't take a week to go to the Caribbean. So what am I talking about? Use your magnificent imagination! Start planning now, you and a girlfriend. Turn the day into a spa day. Allot a 1/2-hour for the sauna, 1/2 an hour for the steam room, and 1/2 hour for the hot tub. Lay out in the deck area of the spa under a heat lamp. For dinner, go to a Polynesian restaurant (if your town doesn't have one, cook a Polynesian meal) and listen to tunes of the islands. Crank the heat up in your car or house, have a Mai Tai or Pina Colada or Corona with lime. Simply bask in the fantasy of it all.

June 13th -- Love Day. Not quite summer, but not still spring. Just a sort of wait-and-see month. Spice it up a little, turn the world on its head. Surprise him or her by booking an inexpensive motel room, bringing an iPod or CD player, some whipped cream, and turn the day into a holiday full of love. Or plan to spend the whole day with the people you love most without interruption, or do whatever it is you love to do most in this world.

October 9th -- French Day! Book a meal at a French restaurant or attend a wine tasting. Rock some fancy French lingerie for the occasion (whether you are single or not -- the point is, you will know you are wearing it) so you feel like a million bucks inside. If you're on a budget, simply buy some nice inexpensive wine and cheese from Trader Joe's, set up a platter, play some classical French music and watch the sunset. Then pop in a beautiful French movie like the classic Cyrano de Bergerac, or Le Retour de Martin Guerre (The Return of Martin Guerre) starring the oh-so-hunky Gerard Depardieu, or the original and amazing, black and white, La Belle et la Bête (Beauty and the Beast) by Jean Cocteau, a beautiful, sensual film about love, inner beauty, and obsession -- nothing short of a magical fairy tale. A day like this will make you feel like a regular Brigitte Bardot!

The year winds down and another is right behind it, ready to take us all into the magical unknown where every and any thing is possible. There may be heartbreak and sadness mixed in with joy and elation and growth but that, I have learned my lovely friends, is the sublime thing we call life. Remember yourself, your body and your spirit in an oh-so-feminine way, make this a year of self-love and celebration. And if you don't want to lose the magic of the holidays throughout the coming year, then look through that calendar of yours and set aside your own personal holidays.

January 2006
Ode to New York City

New York City and me? We got a thing going on. You could almost say I am in love with New York City, The Big Apple, Le Grande Pomme. It has always felt like the center of the world to me. It has a pulsing, throbbing energy like no other city I have ever been to. Just the constant contact with people, the pace, the pulse...oh, New York City has such a pulse. It is just ripe and overflowing with opportunity. The city perfectly epitomizes life itself. That's why it is such a perfect place for us to open our first S Factor on the East Coast. In fact, opening a studio in Manhattan has been a dream of mine since I started teaching six years ago. When I do S, it makes me feel so alive and raw and physical -- it's the same feeling I get when I walk down the streets of Manhattan.

The name Manhattan is said to mean either "hilly island" (not so romantic) or possibly "place of intoxication." I like that -- a place of intoxication, because the city is exactly that -- intoxicating. The crisp air, the ubiquitous and immense beauty, the people from such diverse cultures and backgrounds. It is the perfect microcosm of what America represents -- a true, cosmopolitan melting pot, filled with opportunities and fresh starts. It's the same type of dream I have for the S Factor -- a place for women from different backgrounds to come and express themselves and create new outlooks for their lives.

The diversity the island of Manhattan boasts is simply unparalleled; it's its own mini-world. From Greenwich Village, the Lower East Side, Murray Hill and Soho/Tribeca to the Upper East and West sides, Harlem and Wall Street, there's something and somewhere for everyone. We're opening our first East Coast S in luscious Chelsea, so let's talk about this incredible area for a second.

Chelsea deserves an ode of its own -- in the past decade, it has evolved into a burgeoning haven for artists and photographers and filmmakers. Bordered by Hell's Kitchen, Midtown West and the West Village, it can be accessed from just about anywhere in the city. In fact, if you're trying to get there, you can take the A, C, E line to 34th or 23rd Street; the 1, 2, 3, 9 line to 34th, 28th, or 23rd Street; the B, D, F, N, Q, R, V, or W train to 34th Street; or the F or V train to 28th Street. How's that for some 411?

Chelsea's metamorphosis has resulted in its reputation as an artsy, trendsetting community. Filled with culture and history, there's lots of dancing and acting studios, great restaurants, boutiques, and many cool things to do. It's home to the Flatiron Building, one of New York's famous skyscrapers, named so due to its triangular shape which resembles a flat iron. It was never the tallest NYC skyscraper, but it was the first building to become a romantic symbol in New York. (Fun tidbit: It was featured in both Spider Man I and II as the headquarters of Peter Parker's employer, the Daily Bugle). Then there's Chelsea Piers, once a rundown and neglected waterfront, now a magnificent row of buildings with an open park where you can bowl, golf, horseback ride, roller skate, go to the movies or visit the spa. Let's not forget the famous Chelsea Hotel, where oh-so-many artists, writers, actors and filmmakers have lived and created. It's directly across from Chelsea's newest addition, S Factor NY, where women can be inspired by both their bodies and their surroundings. Complete, utter bliss! We couldn't have picked a more perfect area to create this much-needed sanctuary.

There is just so much to see and do and experience, no wonder the city has such a rapid pace. Thus, our inspiration to open Sheila Kelley S Factor NY. To provide a place of respite to help our city girls relax and rejuvenate, so they can go back into the city with full force.

February 2006
The Mother of All Super Bowls

I was visiting my Mom and Dad just outside of Pittsburgh a couple of weeks back. On the way to their house from the airport, I stopped off at the local Italian deli to get food. There was obviously some kind of football playoff game that day because the store was packed with men and boys in Steelers jerseys buying lunch meats and cheese and bread for the football watching party that was about to begin. I was just fascinated. Not knowing that this was the game that would determine if they were going to make it to THE Super Bowl, I watched in absolute awe. They had on shirts and jackets and pants and hats that were all gold and black (the team colors), and jerseys that had the number and name of their favorite player on them. Their intense "anticipation" pheromones permeated the store. It was as if every cell in their body was chanting, "Something's going to happen, something's going to happen!"

It was a bit intoxicating, I must say. I wanted to be a part of that "something's going to happen" fervor, but I wasn't. Sadly enough, I couldn't care less about the sport. It's not like I haven't tried. I did see the Steelers rehearsing at their summer training camp while I was visiting. I know, I know, it's not called "rehearsing," it's practice, but I gotta have a little fun with it. After all, it's not a religion, is it?! Although, I did grow up in the Franco Harris/Terry Bradshaw/Lynn Swann era of Steelers greatness, so there was a lot of inundation and attempted induction into fandom, which I adeptly succeeded avoiding, wily creature that I am.

This football thing fascinates me, I mean...what gives? Think about it. Just the shape of the ball, for God's sake! What is that about? Sure, sure, I get that it's kind of like a primitive battle or a great chess match, and the players are warriors and all, but I think it goes even deeper than that. I think that the guys sitting on the couch watching it in their living rooms are living vicariously through the players and they themselves feel like the warriors. I think watching football helps men feel a little more male, a little more powerful, a little more tribal. It's kind of magnificent when you look at it that way.

And here's a really odd thing, I don't quite trust a man who doesn't watch football occasionally -- at least the Super Bowl. I'm not sure why. It might have something to do with embracing this primitive male bonding ritual. As much as I don't get it, I will go to a football game with my guy. I like to watch him get all puffed up and intense. He grips the back of the seat in front of him or he screams some primal gibberish at the players as if they can hear him. (It's probably some ancient male speak handed down through the collective unconscious -- yes, I've read Jung.) It makes me smile. Not patronizingly, like "I've got something on him" but, well, proudly. He's this male creature who's being so insanely male and it's kind of honorable.

As much as I love watching him, surrounded by all of this maleness at a football game, it reminds me that I gotta get my femme time in. I am so very happy to have a specifically female space and community like S Factor in my life. It makes me grateful for all of you out there who have a like-minded desire to be unapologetically female, not just in the way we move, but in our mind sets and lifestyles. To be able to travel the world and know that somewhere you're going to run into another one of us S girls, maybe at a masquerade ball in Venice, Italy, or in the Alps skiing, or walking the Great Wall in China. Wherever you go, there will be more and more of us emerging. We're the ones with the perpetual smile like Mona Lisa, hiding an ancient secret. We're the ones with the bare feet and two little ones in the park on a rainy day. We're the ones splashing in the fountain in Washington Square Park in the middle of winter. We're the ones traveling to Mexico with a new lover trying to figure out how you got to Burning Man in the first place. We're the ones working at the paper in Des Moines, Iowa and skewing the article with a female point of view. We're the ones lecturing in a college in Seattle about fairness and lifelong dreams and how you should never let them go. We're the ones curled in the corner of a coffee shop on a real comfy armchair reading some wonderfully trashy novel or Stephen Hawking's "A Brief History of Time." We're the ones driving through snow to hold the hand of those we hold most dear. We're the ones with the laughter that you can hear down the block, resonating off of the buildings. We're the ones walking through S Factor's loading dock door in LA, or slipping around to the back of the Plaza del Oro in Encino, or coming straight out of the A train on 23rd and 6th for a weekly touch of the kick-all feminine with a capital "F."

If we can lift the males in our lives to a place of greatness and grandeur, we can most certainly lift ourselves to those heights, too. If we can herald and appreciate their insanely specific qualities, then we can let ours shine even brighter. So let the men in your life have their Super Bowl once a year. We can experience the mother of all Super Bowls every day, with a capital "S."

March 2006
Advice for Ruby

Okay, so I need some advice. I know I'm usually the one spouting off my points of view on everything from feminist empowerment to which tampon is the absolute best, with little or no leakage, and the cleanest (Kotex, by the way). But this here conundrum has got me stumped. Just about a year ago, I wrote a story about how my little girl, Ruby, who was four at the time, was asked by a deliriously misguided young lifeguard at a private tennis club in LA to put her bikini top on while she was at the pool. She had been running around topless. Well, ever since that incident she has been terribly worried about anyone seeing her bare chest. To say she is being modest is putting it lightly. She could give a cloistered nun a run for her modesty.

So, the other day, as we were riding bikes around our neighborhood, she saw a man running in shorts with no top on. She waited until he had passed us and then asked, "Mommy, why do mens not wear tops like that and womens do all the time?"

Hmmm... I immediately wanted to set off on a political diatribe about how misguided our country and government is; how hypocritical the obscenity laws are; how women have been subjugated for centuries to the whims of a patriarchal, puritanical society; how we allow other forces to dictate our actions and control our bodies who double-standard us with their laws about sexuality, force social morality down our throats and then hang out at the local strip club after work. But I couldn't, she's only five. So, I stuttered. I cleared my throat. This is ME, mind you, female megaphone for true equality and righteous body advocate. So I simply said, "Sometimes life isn't fair, baby. This is something that's not fair and Mommy is trying hard to fix it."

She didn't get it. I could tell because she screwed her face up like a little prune, and then she wanted to talk about the squished worm that was on the sidewalk just under her tire.

I feel like I failed her. What does a mother say to a daughter without making inane excuses for a world gone slightly wrong? I think about this a lot because I know it's going to come back again. Maybe not this year, maybe not next, maybe not until she's 10 or 15, but when it does, I'm going to have to have a better answer! So I started researching on the web and found an organization called Topfree Equal Rights Association (TERA) that shines a big fat spotlight on the subject matter. TERA's basic claim is: Women deserve equal rights. We do not suggest that women or men should go about with bare breasts. That is every individual's decision. We do believe that since men may choose to do so in many situations, women must also be able to at least in the same situations. Without penalty of any kind. 

It's overwhelming this inequality between men and women by our society, state governments and religion. It feels almost insurmountable. It makes even me want to say, "I'll leave it for someone else to battle, someone like TERA. I just want to live my life, hang out with my family, smell the flowers in the garden and maybe sunbathe topless in my back yard."

Oops, wait, that's against the law, isn't it? Which brings me back full circle. I can't walk away and feel truly free in my own backyard. I can't walk away, because then I have to live with my daughter's face, her questions, her body image, her future in this world. This is a bigger issue than a child or a woman choosing to go topless. I want my daughter to soar just as high as I want my son to soar. I want her to own her body and have the same rights in her body as my son does. How in God's name does a mother tell a daughter that her body is considered "indecent" and "obscene" when her brother's isn't? How do I explain why certain laws exist that treat women and men unequally? I need an answer if you have one, and I need your support in trying to change an unfair paradigm.

As I think about her question about the jogging man again, maybe I could have said something like, "Women's breasts are so beautiful and special and private that they're only to be seen and experienced by those that are very special and close to us."

But that's not the whole truth. Or I could have said, "Because women's breasts are too sensitive for the sunlight."

But that's a lie...I think...but how could I know, my breasts haven't really seen the sunlight much...that fact makes me rather sad. But with either of these responses, I would have been making an excuse for an unfair law. It should be any woman's or man's personal choice when to walk around the world topless -- not a government-enforced edict that yet again separates society's fairness between men and women.

Why are women made to feel shame about their breasts and their body from the time they're innocently running around a pool at the age of four, until they reach an adulthood that can sometimes be peppered with arm-cutting, bulimia, anorexia and sexual frigidity? Think there's a correlation at all? I do. Sadly, it all starts with that day at the pool, that blissfully ignorant day running around with the sun and air and light and music hitting your chest in a deliciously free way. Then some adult tells you to cover yourself, to hide your body, and you feel shame as my daughter did. You feel dirty or embarrassed, like you did something wrong just living and playing in your body. That becomes the day you realize that you are treated differently just because you are a girl, and then you won't undress in front of anyone, including your mother, and you scream bloody murder when the straps on your tank top fall off of your shoulders for fear that your five-year-old chest might meet the air again. I can't take back what happened to Ruby. It happens to every single female child in this country. I witnessed the day, the exact moment that it happened and the humiliation accompanying it, and I can never take it back. That is a painful revelation.

I'm going to have to perform some serious female mother/daughter intervention magic. I'm going to have to bring her from her innocence on that day, through her humiliation, into self-righteous consciousness of demanding to be treated fairly. But how? The task is daunting. Tell me, ladies, what would you say? What do we tell our daughters and sons?

April 2006
A Day in the Life

Every day seems like madness. I have to take the kids to school at 7:30 in the morning. Before that, I have to wake them, feed them and get them to dress themselves. The eleven-year-old is okay with that. The five-year-old, being female (and very female at that), is still holding onto the idea that I need to hold her clothes out so she can "step" into her clothes daily. After dropping the kids at school, I have a doctor's appointment at 8:30 in downtown L.A. -- nothing dangerous, just a basic checkup and maintenance. At 10 am, I have my first class of the day, teaching magnificent S to a roomful of amazing women who are also trying desperately to balance their lives. At noon, I have my first meeting out of three -- and that's a light day. Someone is showing me a new product, maybe a lingerie line that she's hoping we might want to carry at the boutique. This meeting ends and another begins, say, at around 1pm. Some guy has a terrific idea for another reality show and they want to base it on S. His idea is to have Pamela Anderson, Tommy Lee and Angelyne be the judges in the same vein as American Idol. Then he would recruit Maxim and FHM magazine models to compete in S Factor empowerment classes with a "strip and pole off" competition where all three judges weigh in and critique their "performances." I have to tell them that we're already doing a reality show with a very cool company. I tell him that it will be about empowerment and body celebration and how S Factor helps change women from the inside out and no, there won't be any "strip off." His eyes dull over at the mention of empowerment.

This meeting is interrupted at 1:23 pm by an emergency phone call from my son's school. Some kind of altercation has taken place and he has to go home for the day. I race out of the office and down to his school, which is about 30 minutes away, and bring him back to the studio. As I'm trying to discipline him and figure out why he snipped off a piece of Emily Bernstein's braid in art class, I get an important phone call from Atlanta. There is a bigwig businesswoman who wants to open an S Factor studio there and would love to talk to me about it. This is something I am dying to do as I get an enormous amount of email from Atlanta. I've done pretty well with my time today, even though I have yet to breathe, but now comes a choice. Do I leave my kid and take the call...or do I finish trying to help formulate a good, respectful human being? Balance. Choices. What the hell to do? I, of course, opt for my child's well-being and have Laurie, my assistant, take their number.

It's 2:38 now and I'm eight minutes late for my meeting in Studio B. I'm being taught by three brand-spanking-new teachers as their final training. I leave my son in my office, run into Studio B and take a class for an hour.

I have a lot to say after the hour but need to run out to pick my daughter up at school, so I tell them I will give them notes tomorrow at 1 pm. I call hub-man to see if he could possibly pick Ruby up and he tells me she has gymnastics/tap and Mary Ann's mom is picking her up today. I have an hour and a half reprieve. I go back into my office, where my son sits sullenly in the corner, all peeved looking, and I start to try and talk to him. My phone call return list is 15 people deep. Some are important calls that I need to return today, some I mark "important but can wait until tomorrow," and then I get on my computer and check my email. 240 emails since last night. Son in the corner sulking, daughter being dropped off at home in an hour now...what's for dinner? Richard is where today? Is he shooting the last episode of The West Wing? Will he be home for dinner? Is my nephew coming for dinner tonight or is it next week? One of the messages on my desk is from a student who needs to talk about her last class and the song that she moved so beautifully to. I'm dying to call her now and hear her great story, but that one will have to wait ‘til tomorrow.

I need to breathe and haven't eaten anything since 7am. My son and I walk over to La Brea Bakery and sit for five minutes. He seems a bit low. Really didn't mean any harm with the snip of a millimeter of hair, he claims. I have an image in my mind of the Norman Rockwell painting of the boy dipping the girl's braid in black ink. Normal American boy or serial killer in the making? Does every mother have these thoughts? Back at the office I start to dig into my emails one at a time. I move through 100 by the end of the hour and then, just before running out the door to try and beat my daughter home, hub-man calls to say he'll be home to meet her. The list of phone calls I need to return is growing, the emails keep coming in, my son has a science project that he needs help with, and I haven't seen my husband in 10 days and get my drift. Life can be all-consuming. Where does a woman find balance? As you can see from the never-ending list that I've just recounted for you, the bottom line is "choices." I have to make choices every day. Which is most important at any given moment and to what do I focus my attention on? Balance. Ever-elusive. Here's what I've come down to. Sometimes you have to say, "no." Sometimes you have to say, "I can't today," or "I'll get back to it when I can breathe calmly again."

The demands have not lessened with time like I thought they would. They've increased. I look for balance. I prioritize. Number one: Children. Sorry, no wiggle room on this one. Number two: Husband, although these days he would beg to differ. Number three: My sanity, lose it daily and by the end of my S Factor class, I get it back. Then there's my baby, the S Factor and all the amazing women that are a part of it. And my friends, who are my life-blood, they keep me in touch with my girl. They also understand that sometimes friendship is based on history and trust, not the hours logged together.

Whether you're a single mother or a career gal or a cramming college student or a retired-but-very-committed social creature, life will sometimes threaten to overwhelm and swallow you. Don't let it. Our job is to keep ourselves in check. Find that one moment in a crazy week that you can call your time. Make it substantial, make it count. Whether it's a hot bath with wonderful smelling salts or an hour and a half with your S Factor DVD, or a long walk in nature all by yourself. Remember, sometimes you have to say, "no," or "later," or "tomorrow," or "call me back," or "I can't." Make choices that matter. Make choices that, years from now, you can live with. And always remember make choices that will feed your soul.

May 2006
The State of Motherhood is a State of Grace

If someone told you that you were going to get really fat and stretch the skin of your belly to the brink of bursting and then produce a person from between your legs while experiencing the most surreally insane pain, and that you were going to have to, basically, live life for that person, would you do that? If someone told you that everything that you've ever known as "your" life was going to disappear and that you were going to have to make that person-who-appeared-between- your-legs' life happen -- meaning feed them, wipe their bottoms, and rock them to sleep every night of their life for about three years -- would you apply for the job?

Mothering. Simply put, it is the hardest thing I have ever encountered. "It," motherhood, is a journey into love so profound that it threatens to overwhelm your every breath -- a journey into selflessness so pure that it could very well drown you in its demands, a journey so challenging of mind and patience that it could very well fray every last nerve in your body and leave you spent in a ditch at the side of the road of life. Motherhood, like being a great warrior, is definitely not for the faint of heart. 

My story of motherhood is not always a pretty one. It was, and is, an epic journey for me. Either I am the most unlikely mom or other women feel this way, too, but seldom discuss it for fear of being judged. I believe every woman's journey into and through motherhood is just that, an epic heroic trip. I don't mean with trumpets blaring, flags waving, and crowds cheering. I mean the kind of journey that is private, visceral and profound, with no easy, simple answers but one that rides the crest of the wave not knowing if, or when, you'll go under.

I got "knocked up," otherwise known as accidentally pregnant, in February 1994, right after the last big LA earthquake. My guy and I were breaking up and we had one last romantic fling before parting. I, of course, got pregnant. This kind of thing happens to me all the time. Not that I get pregnant all the time, but things that I have absolutely no intention of doing in the next five years seem to come to me out of the blue. I was 29, finishing up my last year on the TV show LA Law, and there I was, manless, pregnant and unemployed, with no prospects of a job in the near future. And if you know anything about Hollywood and young actresses, they don't want them pregnant. What's a girl to do? I went to the OB/GYN to discuss my options. He did a sonogram, I saw the heartbeat and that was that. I instantly became fiercely protective of the little, intsy, throbbing peanut full of life in my belly. I decided I would have the baby, father or no father, job or no job. I would make it work and it would be just me and the intsy, throbbing peanut. Single motherhood, here I was, coming fast and furious in your direction, down a hill with no brakes and the windows open, hair a-flying. Nine months later, my baby boy was born. The father of the baby became less of a child and more of a man, and we tried to make it work. Off and on again until our son was 18 months old and we finally fell in love and got married. That would be Richard, my hub-man, and love of my life.

Motherhood took me by its teeth and flung me around like a rag doll. I, obviously, was not prepared. Some people have accused me in the past of being brutally honest, but I can't figure out any other way to get from one moment to the next. There is something that needs to be said, because the world really doesn't want to hear it, but some women live in the misery of the lie and if I can do anything to help them then I will. I only wish I had heard another mother say this when I was alone at three in the morning with a screaming, sick child, vomit all over my shoulder and back, and me with a head cold, sneezing and sleep-deprived for the fourth night in a row. Mothering sometimes sucks. The job is awful. I love my children. They're the two greatest people, bar none, that I have ever known, but the day-to-day actual job of mothering? The hours suck, the isolation is maddening, the mind-numbingly boring hours that spread into days, that spread into weeks, that spread into months, are vacuous. The lack of selfish "get your self together" and "you time" is gone, obliterated from the face of the Earth. And sex? There was just none of that.

In one moment, in the instant of birth, you are no longer your own woman and you will never be again. You belong to that baby. It's as though a piece of your heart broke off in your chest and went into the body of the fetus. You birth a piece of your heart out of your body, never to be whole again. Oh, sure, you can deny it and attempt to continue on with your life after maternity leave. Send them to day care, see them from two to three hours a day but, bottom line, you will suffer for it. There is an incessant ache scraping in your chest, at your heart, constantly pulling you to be somewhere else, doing something else. And it is always somewhere other than where you are. Your drive to achieve your own personal or professional goals don't just dry up. They're still there, and they're also scraping in your chest, at your heart, just as loud as that baby pulling you in another direction. Let's imagine that the scraping in your chest, at your heart, is like two fish hooks embedded in your heart, each pulling slowly but steadily in opposite directions.

Over time you get used to it, the nagging tug, but it never goes away. This is the state of motherhood. The word "carefree" no longer exists because a piece of your heart has broken off and then came out in your child. Your heart is now beating in another person, but it is your heart and it still keeps you alive. If something were ever to happen to that other person, you would feel it as if it were you, no matter where in the universe you are, no matter where you go, you will feel whatever that person that you gave birth to feels. You will never be just "you" again. Here's the odd thing, though...over time, you actually grow to love the aches that are your children and your ambitions. They begin to feel safe, like home, and you begin to fear not feeling the tugs anymore. The tugs are a constant reminder that you are so vividly alive and that, in life, you are actively seeking your bliss as you are so integral to the life of another. The balance between your bliss and your children is a high wire act that only the true heroine can confront. In that precarious balance there is perfection. The state of motherhood is a state of grace.

But Mother's Day is not just for women who produce people from between their legs or bellies, or who adopt children. Every woman on the planet has the eternal maternal in her being, whether she is mothering a child, a friend, a lover, a business, a pet or plant or just her own spirit and soul. The act of mothering is to nurture, to bring towards life fully. We are all creators and, when we give birth to our creation, no matter what it is, we need to honor it.

So, there damn well better be a Mother's Day honoring all things perfectly giving about mothers -- and the mother inside every woman. If you have children, don't overlook the fact that even if your best friend doesn't, she is still a mother and a creator -- and very often helps you be a better mother. Make sure to honor your mother, and all the other mothers in your life -- including the one you see every day in the mirror.

The next time you are at a stoplight as you drive your car home from work, put a hand up to your heart. Feel it beat against your palm and know that somewhere there is a woman who gave birth to you who can feel the heat of your hand on a piece of her heart. Kiss your fingers and lightly touch your heart again and send her the greatest gift she could ever want...your love.

June 2006
How Old Love Becomes New

There’s nothing like heartbeat, sweaty palms and the "butterflies." I don’t know where the term "butterflies in your stomach" came from, because when it happens, it’s more like a swarm of killer bees flying around in there! I know you all know what I am talking about. Love...and that insane rush it gives us, that frenetic, frenzied, intoxicating emotion that throws you for such a loop. We’ve all been afraid of it at one time or another or even wondered to ourselves, "Can I love," or when we’ve been hurt, "Can I or will I ever love again?"

Of course, you can. It’s a natural emotion. But the real question you have to ask yourself is this: Can you love freely with no armor around your heart? Can you love like it was your first love again and again? You know that feeling -- the shortness of breath, the jittery-jelly-bean tummy, the angelic, forever smile-on-your-lips like Ms. Lisa, as in Mona? Those giddy, just-gotta-be-alive moments in life when you’ve found that special someone that just takes your breath away and occupies your every waking moment? It’s similar to that feeling you get Christmas morning, when you get up early and run to the tree, ‘cause you know Santa Claus has been there (or so you hope). That pregnant pause, where you know something exciting is about to happen and you just gotta take that next step for it to come to fruition. You’re sitting on that roller coaster, you’ve just strapped yourself in and it’s starting to take off. Right before you jump out of a plane...or you’re about to catch a wave...or are about to fly around the pole at S Factor. They all cause similar feelings, they’re all examples of adrenaline at its purest, but nothing else truly compares to the feeling of new love.

I’m not only speaking of new love in literal terms -- as love that has just started or is less than a year old -- but I also speak of long-term relationships that still have that new love feeling, that same obsessive yearning. We know how new love makes us skittery and crazy, but how do you make a love that you’ve had for a long time still feel exciting and new? Anyone who has ever been in a long-term relationship knows that it takes work, or sometimes the absence of it (as in your careers), to hold on to or reclaim those original feelings of thrilling, blissful, new love.

I took my man to Vegas last week for his birthday. We’ve been together 16...oh my God...years and, to be frank with you, this last year has not been so great for us. Rocky roads with constant interruptions from our careers, our lives, our family responsibilities and, not to mention, remodeling a home. But I believe in great love. I believe in historic love, and I’ve learned that the only way to achieve that profound love is to build it one day at a time. With work, commitment and the right partner, new love, over time, grows into an epic love. But how do you keep it fresh when there are arrows slung and feelings of hurt and pain? How do you hold onto that same passion for each other when life is layering responsibilities, unmet expectations, bad habits, and a million distractions in your way? That’s the million-dollar question. However, when epic love is fought for, it is worth every tear, every raging fight, every sad almost-break-up. But how do you drop all the tough times and all the challenging fights to find each other and that pure, intoxicating love again?

So there my man and I are in Vegas, watching the craziness of America walk on down the Vegas strip. Inside the casinos, there were slot machines and craps tables and blackjack tables and the new American craze of Texas Hold'em, and there's Richard and I, just watching. Neither of us wanted to gamble, we didn’t want to go to any fancy clubs, we didn’t want to see any fancy people. We were exhausted after a tough year and just wanted to reconnect. We spent almost the entire 30 hours in our hotel room in bed. We played a game that we used to play during our "new-love-I-can’t-get-enough-of-you" phase, which was gazing into each others eyes in silence for about 20 minutes straight. Moment by moment, as you look into each other’s eyes, those layers of defense, those old musty feelings of neglect and the armor of anger just began to slough off. It was like stripping away old layers of paint that had built up and were getting in the way of the real thing. (Did I mention we just finished a major remodel on our house?)

After the first 20 minutes we took a break, walked around the room, jumped into the shower, made love and then we started again with the eye-staring thing. Each time it was like an electrical current that got stronger and stronger, to the point that your entire body starts to tingle, surging from the top of your head to the very tips of your toes. After the third time of doing this look-see thing we started talking non-stop for about four hours. It was cathartic and cleansing and then we stared into each other’s eyes again and there he was. I started to see that guy I fell in love with. The love of new lovers was there under all that crap that accumulates over the years, the fights and kids and disagreements and...well, just life. It was there. The love that first drew us together had never left us. We just needed some time alone together to see it, to remember it, to reclaim it.

Whether you are in a "new" love or an "old" love, or if you are seeking love, there is no greater gift to you and your journey but to try this "love game" of reconnection. If you’re on your first date or your fiftieth, while sitting in a restaurant, take his hands in yours and just look. Look into his eyes, into his heart, into his spirit and breathe. Let his spirit speak to yours. You’ll be able to feel his love as it begins to tingle in your toes, swirl in your belly, shock your heart and elevate your spirit.

The rush of new love is so rich with life and passion that you should never let it go, and you don’t have to. What would life be without it? I would imagine it to be drab, dreary, lifeless. A lifeless life...that is what it would be without love or the search for it. Love your family, your friends, and yourself. Then open up your heart and toss away those layers of defense and embrace pure love. Throw your fears to the wind, let them shrivel and blow away. There is love just have to open your eyes to see it.

July 2006
Let Go And Chill

It's summertime. The air is warm and heavy with yum and I am just chilling on my front porch. It's Sunday afternoon. I've got a Rolling Rock beer in one hand, my laptop on my lap and the only things steaming around me at the moment are my hard drive and the sidewalk in front of my house. It is one warm &%$*ing day. We all know what the term "chilling out" means, but do we all know how to let go and "chill"? Chillin'. Just the sound of it is sublime to my ears. What I discovered in the last couple of months is that "chilling out" is truly an art form and it must be taken seriously.

Chillin' Out: When life has fired me up or pissed me off or is threatening to burn me out (notice the incendiary words), I have to dig my heels deep into the Earth and say, "Hold it, everybody." Okay, so I have to yell it, "HOLD IT, EVERYBODY!" (And sometimes, I have to throw some expletives in there.)

What I discovered about relaxing and chilling is that, as life’s demands grow with work and men and friends and family responsibilities, you literally have to schedule it into your calendar. I know this sounds crazy, but I've been giving it a try over the past four months and it really works. I now schedule my "chilling out" time. Do it now. Open your calendar and pen in four or five uninterrupted hours of cooling down time.

Menu: Once I’ve done that, then I create my perfect "chill out" menu. My idea of "chilling out" is to be outside, feeling the air against as much of my body as I feel comfortable exposing (usually a bathing suit or shorts and tank), hearing the wind floating through some trees. That is big for me. Having a naturally decaffeinated, iced green tea sweetened with agave nectar in my hand is pretty good, too, but not a necessity. A great chair, lounge, sofa, or hammock, definitely something that lays down so I can almost be on my back, is a must (green grass is good too). A blank spiral notebook and a pen is lovely but, again, not a deal breaker. Some otherworldly, unidentifiable soulful music is sweet to have hovering in the 
background of all of this bliss, and that, my girls, is it. I don't need any tickets. I don't have to get into a car and go anywhere. I don't have 
to buy anything. I don't have to meet anyone at a specific time. I'm free to chill out to the best of my ability for four uninterrupted hours. Chilling out is easy; it's like diving into a world of pure, sensual bliss.

Your Turn: Now it's your turn to figure out your "chill out" menu. "Chilling out" is different for everyone. Think about your six senses. What do you want to hear? Silence? Children playing? Movie dialogue? The voice of a friend talking to you? What do you want to feel? Cool in a swimming pool? A steam room? A dry-sauna-like heat? A massage or a warm oil scented bath? What do you want to smell? The salt of the ocean? Home cooking? Night blooming jasmine? What do you want to taste? Something sweet? Sour? Salty? Nothing? What do you want to see? A fire burning in a fireplace? Faces of friends? A body of water? A dark warm cozy room? And last, but not least, what do you want to sense around you? The key here, my friends, is to make this "chill out" menu of yours sexy, indulgent, private and, most of all, necessary. You can create different menus for different moods or times of day. Write them up, print them out on some nice paper, put them in a binder and, when the time is right and the "appointment" is made, leaf through the pages and choose the "chill out" that sounds the best for that particular moment.

It's summertime. The temperature is much higher than the rest of the year and the humidity heavier, tempers are shorter, the kids are out of school and demands for your time can be greater. Just when you think you've had it and your cork is going to pop, get your calendar, your "chill out" menu, and a pen and make a date with yourself to cool down and chill yourself out. I promise, it will be worth it and you deserve it.

August 2006
Rolling A Gutterball

I set my friend Rebecca up on a blind date with my friend, Sam. Cute guy. Nice guy. Not a red-hot, smokin’ babe, but a good guy. A guy you wouldn’t mind hanging onto for a little while. A long-term relationship to Rebecca is four months, and she’s had three of them in her life. She’s thirty-two. Rebecca’s nice-looking. She’s a lawyer who went into the stock market, got out good, and is set for life. Then she decided to learn to play pool and became a world-class pool shark. To call her an overachiever is simplifying the point. She moved to LA to find the perfect man, settle down, have kids and live happily day-by-day. She told me that East Coast men didn’t "get" her. Like most people, she wants a great love in her life. 

So I set her up on this blind date with my very sweet, successful, "nice guy," buddy Sam. It was a double date. We went bowling. Rebecca and Sam have one lane, hub-man and I have the next one. I am bowling with my lover and I am there to have fun and get sexy with him. Hub-man and I are rolling balls, striking and guttering and, generally, just getting turned on by each other. I roll a strike, he rolls a strike, I knock down eight pins and then a gutter, he knocks down nine and a spare. 

When we’re almost done with our game, I look across the lane at Rebecca and Sam. He’s sitting at the score table, smiling. She’s standing there, prepping to roll a ball, and I can see yet another strike written all over her face. He’s admiring her form. She’s driven to conquer. I look up at the scoreboard. She’s got 125, he’s at about 110. He checks her butt out. She rolls. It’s a strike. She raises a fist up to the ceiling like a Maasai warrior. He tries to catch her eye for a congratulatory smile but she's already set on the next set of 10 pins. He stiffens a bit around the shoulders, looks up at the scoreboard, and nods his head a little. I pull her away from the lane, look her in the eye and ask, "You like him?"

"Yeah, he’s cute," she says with a smile, "I really like him!"

I get real somber. "Then it’s time to roll a gutter ball."

Her face is blank. "What?"

"Roll a gutter ball, Rebecca."

"Are you serious?"

I gaze steadily into her eyes, "Never been more."

"I don’t get it," she says. "Why would I do that?"

"Well, do you want to totally emasculate the guy or do you want to titillate him, flirt with him?" I ask.

Rebecca smiles, shrugs off my request and rolls yet another strike, and wip-dee-shit wins the game by a long shot. 

Therein lies everything I’ve ever observed about women and men and the all-around game of missing each other over and over again. You are on a date with a man you like. You think he’s hot. You go bowling with him. You want to "hook up" so to speak. So you kick his ass because you are such a great bowler. For some reason, this means more to you then finding a true love, warm arms and a symbiotic connection. Why the hell do women do this? I would, by the way, say the same thing to a guy friend in the same situation. I would tell him to roll a gutter ball, wake up and see that he’s alienating this woman that he wants to impress. I’m not saying lose the game but make it close, for God’s sake. Tease him with the game, flirt with him through the game, make the game about connecting with him, not winning and losing. There are tangible, physical gifts that we give people we care about in our lives: A watch, a stuffed animal, a nice shirt. There are also gifts that we can give people that are not tangible, but usually more important and more a lap dance, a compliment, a hug, or in Rebecca’s case, rolling a gutter ball. 

I’m not endorsing that anyone should make any less of themselves, but I did want Rebecca to see that the guy she was with wanted to make a connection with her but she was so busy playing a hard game that she wasn’t looking at the signs. She didn’t see him looking at her, checking her out. Instead, she was overwhelmed by her mission to win. Look, there are times to kick some guy’s butt bowling and there are times to use a game as flirting or foreplay. Notice the difference. Ask yourself what you want more, the victory or the flirt? Sometimes you can have both -- they don’t have to be mutually exclusive -- bowl a good game but at least let him see some humanity through the fortress of your athletic skills. "Rolling a gutterball" s a metaphor for living life moment-to-moment and knowing which moments to focus on. It's a metaphor that screams life is this wonderful thing that takes place while you're focused so single-mindedly on something in the future. "Rolling a gutterball" is a statement of, "Hey, you're more important in this moment than everything else."

If you want to take it even further: Are you here in this life to win at all costs or are you there to connect to another human being while having a great time? In that game, there are no losers.

I love men. They inspire us, confound us, irritate us, enrage us, tickle us, frustrate us, elate us, send us to the #$%ing moon and back. I have given up believing I will ever truly understand them. That's okay. I just need to know how to love one. I worship their masculinity. I could snuggle my nose into a man’s chest and breathe in his "scent" for days. I take it as part of my job in life to make my man feel powerful, virile, utterly male and adored. He makes it his journey in life to make me feel feminine, adored -- no, no, no more like worshiped, powerful and divine. 

Two weeks after the bowling date, I see Rebecca and she asks about Sam. She wants to know if he has said anything about her? Yeah, actually, he did. He said he liked her but...I bet it’s something many a man has said about her...she was a little "hard," "yeah, she’s cute but didn’t seem interested," "yeah, I like her but she’s a little, boring," even, "yeah, she’s hot but a little tough - not someone I would want to cuddle up with in a storm."

I soften his actual comment a little with, "Yeah, he liked you but he’s not sure you’re a match."

She smiles tightly, wants to move on from the conversation but forces herself to ask, "What was that thing you said about rolling a gutter ball?"

September 2006
Warriors Weep All The Time, You Just Don't Always See The Tears

Have you ever just broken out in tears in what felt like the most inappropriate place? At the supermarket while trying to ask the produce guy to describe the taste of a kiwi? In front of the television during an AT&T commercial? Or at work, talking to your boss, and you just &%&ing lose it for no reason?

Medical experts say these emotional episodes are caused by hormones -- raging female hormones. Watch out world, we women might very well bite your heads off and devour them for breakfast! The "fear" of our hormones is rampant, shocking and, well, kind of magical and even empowering -- if not for the established culture in this country that labels these free-flowing emotions as "weak" and "irrational." But by whose standards are strength and weakness judged? Eons ago, ok, well 2,390 years or so ago, Aristotle (he must have been some fun kind of dude) claimed that women were the "weaker" sex because women were "physically frailer and emotionally irrational." There's that maddening word again. An ox is physically more powerful than a man, so does that make the oxen a superior being? Hmmmm...well, now that you ask... Seriously, I believe that this "emotional irrationality," these "raging hormones" are nothing more than the deep, profound and everlasting connection that women have to the vulnerability of humanity. Now there's a mouthful. Let me say that a little simpler. I believe women's profound connection to their emotions is more powerful than any ox anywhere. This "irrational" emotionality is empathy and compassion.

em-pa-thy [em-puh-thee] - noun: The vicarious experiencing of the feelings, thoughts, or attitudes of another.

In other words, this "irrational" emotionality is our humanity. To be blessed with the ability to feel what others feel is one of the greatest gifts on Earth. There are times in a woman/girl's life when she is even more connected to the heart of humanity than any other -- and that is most often during her menstrual cycle. I believe that this kind of empathy will be the salvation of our very linear, square culture. Science, medicine, and modern technology leave little room for humanity. It is a very patriarchal-driven, unemotional world -- and that is supposed to be a good thing? The medical community that needs to label everything calls these times in a woman's cycle "PMS." Many women are dismissed at these times, "Oh, she's just PMS-ing."

I hear that a lot around the office. Hell, I use the phrase, too! I have to let my husband know when I'm PMS-ing so that I don't totally terrify him. I grow quite sad at that time of the month. My skin starts to crawl and every one of my senses becomes heightened. It kind of feels like I'm morphing into a superhero with laser vision and hyper-hearing abilities, only I don't look through steel but into people's emotions. Does it make me edgy and a little aggravated? Yes. Hell, I'm morphing into a superhero, what do you expect? I feel everything, and I mean everything. I feel the angst of the mailman dropping a package off at my house. I feel the happiness of the little girl in the wagon riding down the street. I feel a hint of the deep and profound devastation of a mother mourning her lost son in the Middle East...but just a hint. I feel the tickle in my son's belly from the kiss he received on his cheek from the girl he's been in love with since the third grade. I feel it all. I know for a fact that every woman in my S Factor life feels all of these things, too. Whether she recognizes it or not, she feels these things.

As a community, women have such enormous power. Don't you think it's time for us to create our own culture? We maneuver differently through the world than men. We communicate differently. We've tried to communicate their way for so long that we think it's the only way to speak and be heard, but we don't need to be male.

Women move more underground and we can spread our culture through the underground, through grassroots movements, through the wildfire mode of communication. We talk, we remember, we feel. We talk to each other either across a lunch table, a tennis court, a coffee table or across the country, whether we use the phone or email or a newsletter or daytime television. We are heard by each other, and we alter our lives internally and change the world from the inside out. I think of each and every woman who has become a part of the 
S Factor revolution. The "S" alters you in huge ways and you carry that change into the world. You help other women change. We should never dismiss our sensitivity to the emotions of others -- let's respect emotion rather than label someone as "irrational." We need to recreate, unravel, rediscover and explore the modern female culture. The sister culture. The riot girl culture. The badass chick culture. The S Factor culture. A culture where there is a code of honor.

1. Insinuate your place in the world and don't let anyone dismiss you when you're PMS-ing or just feeling "emotional." You are not dismissible. 

2. Don't diss another woman's body, clothes, spirit, personality, or hormonal roller coasters.

3. Don't diss your own. 

4. Don't mess up another woman or hit on her man.

5. Take an S Factor class or some other class that celebrates your curve and helps you carry them out into the world. 

6. Continue to talk and share your secrets with other women. 

7. See the beauty and humanity in all women and honor it.

Ours is a culture of tolerance, a culture of humanity. We can learn from all the mistakes the boys have made in their patriarchal world that we have learned to live in. Isn't it time they learned to live in ours? The culture of the S is that of the curve. Let's move on in whispered translations, giggly revelations, empathetic eyes and shouted elations. Let's just keep talking. Spread the S. Create the revolution and be proud you carry the curve.

October 2006
The Magic of Women

First off, before I say anything, it's Breast Cancer Awareness Month so get those babies checked ASAP. Do a self-exam, make an appointment with a doctor, just make it happen!

Has this ever happened to you? You're about to run an errand, you walk out to your car and realize that you've left the keys to the car on the counter back in the house. You head back inside to retrieve the car keys and, as you come back out to the car, you get this unexplainable sense of dread in your chest. Something doesn't feel right. You can't put your finger on it, you just know you want to go back into the house and have a cup of tea. Instead, due to life's obligations, you get in the car to run your errand and you either: 1. Run into someone you really didn't want to see; 2. Get a flat tire on the side of the road; 3. Get into a little fender bender; or 4. Have to go to five different stores to find what you needed in the first place? Intuition.

How about this one? Have you ever been eating something like blueberries or strawberries and they taste amazing as you're popping one into your mouth after another? Then one just doesn't feel right in your mouth. You think of spitting it out, but you eat it anyway? And in about five hours, you're not feeling so well. You knew, but you didn't trust. Gut instinct.

What about when you're daydreaming and thinking about someone who you haven't seen or heard from in a while. The phone rings off in the distance. You hear it but you're too engrossed in this middle-of-the-day-meditation to answer it. Later in the day, you check your phone messages and there is an important one from the person or someone connected to that person who you were just thinking about? Perception.

It is the magic of being a woman. We all have this thing that we call our "sixth sense" or our "intuition." It's primitive and visceral, a long way away from our linear, concrete, very definable world. It's a bit scary even. It unnerves me sometimes to believe that I might know things that I haven't read, heard or seen with my own eyes or tasted with my own mouth. To make the leap and trust your magic is scary. Think about it. What if you had stayed home that day instead of running your errand and bumping into the wrong person? What if you had spat that odd berry out of your mouth? What if you had picked up the phone in the middle of your daydream? Our intuition is our magic and it is in you. Sometimes, you just need to slow down and listen to be able to hear it. You need to trust those wonderful rumblings in your gut that say "yes," "no," "stay" and "go."

All things magical and fantastic are you and yours. Spread your magic throughout your life. Trust your insight. Give the gift of your intuition to your husband, your friends, and family whenever you feel the need. Tell it like it is. And during October, this most magical of months, tune into what is most magical about you, your heart, spirit and body.

For centuries in history, the "male logic" was always praised, while "women's intuition" was scoffed at, blamed, and questioned. Is it real or a myth? Though it may be difficult for some to define or even believe in, it seems we are at a place where it is often accepted as matter-of-fact and highly regarded. As women, we are vastly more powerful and accomplished than we often realize. If we take this special ability and develop it, we can help to make our lives easier and reach our greatest potential. We can use it to learn how to ride the wave of fate, to surf the moments of our lives like a wave that we know will ebb and flow no matter what. To see ahead that, yes, everything is going to be alright.

November 2006
The Sienna Story

It’s time to tell the "Sienna story." I have to come clean. I was in Italy on vacation this past September. I was having one of the best days I have ever had in my life. I was feeling good in my skin, wearing the cutest cleavage-celebrating tank top that I own. I felt like, "My God! It’s hot and I’m in Italy with my kids and my man...what more could a woman want?"

Richard, the kids and I were having fun walking the ancient cobblestone streets of Sienna. Man, this city was gorgeous and I thought to myself, "God, life is so delicious. It is so good."

I was brought up Catholic. I love churches. Blame my Mother, she goes to church six days a week. She won’t go seven because, in her words, she "doesn’t want to make a habit of it." This is who I was raised by. How she ended up with a troublemaker like me, we’ll never know. There was this beautiful church up on the top of a steep hill, and I said, "Let’s go in there."

Up the hill we climbed in the 99-degree heat. Once inside, it was absolutely awe-inspiring. My hub-man’s learning photography and I am his muse, so he was shooting me over here and over there. The light coming in through the stained glass window was mesmerizing. My kids were silent with amazement, I was really high on life, and we were all having such a good time. My daughter, Ruby, and I walked into a little alcove to the St. Francis statue because we both love animals. We put some money in the donation slot and lit candles as we said a prayer. As I stood up, this very good-looking Italian docent (that’s the name of the person who gives tours of the church), started talking harshly to me in Italian. He was pointing at what looked like my torso. I don’t understand Italian but I could make out that he was saying, "NO, NO, NO...OUT, OUT."

I knew immediately what he was trying to say but my daughter, who’s so delicious, looked up at me and said, "Mommy, what’s the matter?"

So I responded, "I don’t know honey. I don’t speak Italian."

I ignored him and walked into another area of the church, but he followed me and continued his accusatory barrage. It was apparent that he was trying to kick me out of the church. I turned my back on him, took Ruby’s hand and walked toward an icon of the Blessed Mary. He walked away. I started breathing harder and faster. I felt accosted and singled out and...have to say it...persecuted. Ruby was confused and wanted to know why this man was attacking me. I walked around to the main part of the church and saw about 100 tourists, two of which were men in their late 60s, who also had tank tops on (and they had breasts, too!). I couldn’t leave with the anger and hurt that was roiling inside, so I decided to confront the Italian docent. I approached him as he was speaking to a tour group and quite loudly asked, "Excuse me, what about that guy over there? He has a tank top on."

I pointed to one of the older men. The Italian docent turned toward me with a fiery stare and said something in Italian. Furious, I followed him wherever he went, asking, "What about him? What about his tank top?"

As I pointed to two older Italian men in tank tops, my heart pounded. They looked at me like the crazy American woman who somebody had better calm down. The Italian docent tried to ignore me but, when he realized I wasn’t going away, he escorted me to a sign and pointed to a picture on it. (By the way, our relationship, it was very tempestuous. If there hadn’t been a fight, we would have had great chemistry). It was one of those picture signs with rules on it. There was a picture of a dog with a red line through it for "No Dogs," a camera with a red line through it indicating "No Photography," and there was a woman with a tank top on and a big red line across her indicating..."No Women"?

He pointed to the woman with a big red line through her and every ounce of happiness and bliss that I had felt that day was squeezed out of me. Instantly, a primitive emotion took over me like an animal that had been attacked. I looked at the picture of the woman in the tank top with a red line through her and felt fire rising through my body like Mercury. I said again, at a very loud volume, "They have tank tops on!"

I pointed again to the men in their late 60s. The Italian docent looked at my breasts as he grabbed his shirt where his nipples were and pulled it out about six inches (imitating breasts in a very childlike fashion), and said something very condescending to me in Italian. At this point, I let loose and yelled, "You know what? God made these breasts and maybe God wants to see her/his handiwork! My children ate from them. They’re not just for you."

My hands were shaking, Ruby was confused, and my son was slowly burning. My son hates to see his mom unfairly harassed, hates it.

What had started out as such an amazingly beautiful moment in my life, was destroyed by this man trying to cause me shame about my body. The whole time, Richard was trying to get between us saying, "Calm down, baby, it’s Italy. You just have to accept their culture!"

No! I don’t have to accept their culture. "I’m not going to calm down when I’m being attacked," I retorted.

I am not going to comply any longer. It was at that moment that I realized we have no boundaries. In this culture in which we live, our female bodies seem to be owned and operated by everyone but we who live in them. It's not that I think the Italian docent guy was a bad person, it's just that someone, somewhere along the line (our culture) made him feel that it was okay for him to infiltrate the boundaries of women's bodies. I can't even imagine what a man would do if someone assaulted him the way that I was assaulted. I was so thankful that day for the female culture that we’ve created in S Factor. I felt that, united, we have a shot at creating our body boundaries and reclaiming what is rightfully ours. With these boundaries, where no one can tell me that my body is bad or obscene or indecent, I will live a very inspired life. That evening hub-man bought me a cute shrug at a lingerie store across from our hotel. It’s a little sweater thing that goes over my arms and shoulders. He gave it to me and said, "The next time we go into a church here you can just slip that on."

It was as if someone would have handed Rosa Parks a cushion and said, "It’s not so bad in the back of the bus."

I knew where he was coming from. He was trying to protect me. He was trying to calm my roiled spirit. But my response was visceral and quietly emotional. I gently said, "No, baby, I won’t put this on. If a man can wear a tank top in a church and expose his shoulders and chest, than I will do the same. My body carries no more shame than his."

As I’ve lived with this event over the past few months, the realization of the inequity and violation becomes more and more distasteful. I will no longer comply. I have to assert my body and my boundaries into the world. If I let the world rule my body then I am again not a fully realized woman. I can’t do it.

When you hear over and over that your body is obscene or indecent, what does it make you think about yourself? It gets embedded unconsciously inside your body and, all of a sudden, you’re anorexic, you’re cutting your arm and you don’t know why. Or a less extreme reaction, you look in the mirror and say, "My legs are fat," or "I hate my stomach," or "Is my ass sagging?"

We live in a male-centered culture and, when we change that and embrace S Factor’s female-centric culture as our own, we will all see that every single woman is beauty. All women, all sizes, shapes, ages...the turn of an ankle, the swoop of an arm, the curve of a lower back and yes, even the pouch of a belly...every single women is a work of art. I want to give all women their props. I want them to know their beauty and their power.

If loving your body is still hard for you, then try this little exercise I do in class some times: Look at your body as if she were your child. Would you ever let a strange man chase your child out of a place where other children were playing without protecting her? Would you ever tell your child that she’s obscene or indecent or ugly? Think about that for a second. It’s a sobering thought, because this gorgeous vessel that carries you through your life, she’s all you get and she’s delicious. She doesn’t deserve shame or judgment or disrespect. She deserves a chance to grow and blossom and revel in herself just like your child would. She deserves idolization and praise and worship. Create your own body boundaries and don’t comply anymore with rules if they are destructive to you. Live an inspired life!

December 2006
Holiday Giving

Oh, my god! I have 32 Christmas gifts to get this year and it’s already December 1st! What the hell am I going to do? Even if I buy one gift a day for the next 25 days, that’s only 24 presents! I don’t get out that much. I’m screwed. I’m up a creek without a...lost in a forest with only bread crumbs...between a rock get my predicament, 'cause you’re probably in it too, right? Or at least something slightly similar?

I’m going to use my own advice and breathe. I shall let the great S of my life guide me. She’s never let me down yet. I remember my birthday several years an attempt to throw off the normalcy of it all, I bought gifts for my friends and family. It just about flummoxed my hub-man, flabbergasted my friends, and tickled my son to pieces. I was so happily surprised by how good it felt to be Santa on my own birthday that I am recalling that feeling again today to inspire me through this coming holiday season. I want to be Santa so I can flummox, flabbergast and tickle all over again.

Look back on this most incredible year. Relish all the wonderful things life has given you. Find the desire inside yourself to give back and turn gift giving into a way to reach out and extend your love and appreciation into someone’s heart. You're probably saying exactly what I said to myself, "What the hell am I going to get everyone and when am I going to get everything?"

The first step is to write down your list and then, for whomever you are gifting, think of the reaction you want to elicit from them. For example: To tickle, to touch, to surprise, to warm, to inspire, to make laugh, etc. Allow your inspiration to take it from there. It is such a delicious feeling to give someone a present that you know they will truly, sincerely enjoy and cherish. There is nothing quite so spectacular as when your friend, child, or lover rips off that wrapping paper and their face lights up with elation and surprise. You instilled that emotion in them and now it’s time to indulge in the gift of happiness you just provided. That feeling is undeniably priceless.

The most surefire way to get a gift for a like-minded pal is to think about what you love and what you really want when you go shopping. That gorgeously soft butternut cashmere scarf that you’ve had your eye on for oh-so-long is probably something your best friend will also really love. For a man, any man, think about what they surround themselves with in their life and what they love. For example, that plaid, multi-pocketed golf bag (I know, I don’t get it either) that your husband decided was too frivolous...surprise him, take the plunge and get it. Take time to think about what would truly make your friends and family members feel good about themselves. If finances are tight or you simply want to change it up and be different, offer them your time...babysitting, gardening (plant them a special tree or bush that will remind them of you), cooking, a foot massage, car wash...whatever it is that will lift their spirits and give them time to appreciate their own lives a little more. 

You can also be really creative and inspiring by doing something unique with your friends such as a special girls' trip or a sled-riding extravaganza, complete with hot cocoa, to get everyone in the holiday spirit. Or make a date to take all of your girlfriends to coffee and a movie, or to sing karaoke for a night of laughs and relaxation. You could also look at the interests that bind you and your friends together and create a unique gift around that, such as a book or film club or walking group. Even better, sign everyone up for a dance or exercise class (or buy the first class or Intro for everyone). Or if you have a special talent that your friends covet, set up a monthly or bi-monthly time to teach it to them, individually or as a group -- you could teach knitting or crochet, pottery making, baking or even something active like swimming or surfing.

Giving is so much more fun than receiving (well, okay, maybe not more fun, but it’s as good as), especially when you take the time to make gift giving a ritual, rather than an obligation or duty. Let go of that feeling of panic we get during the holiday chaos. Breathe, surrender time-pressured thoughts, and know that this year of gift giving is an inspiring journey that you can relax into and enjoy. Turn giving into an art form, something to luxuriate in as you find a gift that will truly elevate a person you really care about, inspire them beyond their daily routine, and touch them. May the S be with you.

January 2007
Reinventing Yourself

It’s January. Magical, mysterious January when all things are possible, where life and love and living can become an art form instead of something we do just to get through the cold days. My cousin-in-law from Brazil, Vera (pronounced Vaaaarrrra), was in town over the holidays and introduced me to a Brazilian New Year’s Eve ceremony that I want to share with you because it was so fresh and titillating. Just because New Year’s Eve is over doesn’t mean you can’t do a version of this ceremony on your own, wherever you are, to get a jolt of fresh.

GET FRESH: First thing you do is put on all-white from head-to-toe, including underwear. I don’t have a white bra so I came as close as I could, which was nude-colored. I was told this was to signify peace in the world and the newness and freshness of the coming year. Then you write a private note to yourself listing the things you want to rid yourself of...for example, nail biting, smoking, bad attitude, over-dating, being too much of a pleaser, etc. Next, you get lots of flowers: White (again, signifying peace), red for love, and yellow for gold and riches. Take these flowers to the beach, ocean, river or creek (any body of moving water will do) and perform the ritual in the following order. First, find a stone and wrap your private note to yourself around it (on biodegradable paper, of course) and toss it as far as you can into the body of water. The goddess of the ocean, Iemanja, is supposed to catch them and take them away from you. The next step is to get in the water to cleanse yourself -- unless you live anywhere North of the equator as I do and then you do what I did. I rolled my pants up, waded in about three inches, rubbed the water up my arms and splashed it lightly over my torso, head and face, which signifies cleansing. It was brisk and cold and rejuvenating. While holding the flowers, take a deep cleansing breath and concentrate on what you want to send out into the world. If you’re holding red roses, you are throwing love into the world; if you’re holding the white flowers, you are sending out peace, and so on. Then you begin tossing handfuls and armfuls of flowers into the ocean or river. I, being an over-protective mama bear, took the petals off of the stem for fear that a dolphin or shark would eat the flowers whole and get a thorn in the throat. I know! But this is how I think...imagine being me and having these thoughts all day long? I pulled all the petals off of the stem and threw them into the ocean. The entire experience was stunning, beautiful, gorgeous and extraordinary way to end one year and begin another.

GET NEW: We have all fantasized from time to time about what it would be like to transform ourselves in the blink of an eye to become a new, uber fabulous version of ourselves. Here are a couple of fun ways to start moving down the path to a physical metamorphosis. Let’s start simply and experiment with your hairstyle every day for one week. Try slicking it back with gel or olive oil, teasing it up for a bouffant ‘50s feel, pulling it into a ponytail or splitting it down the back for pigtails. Which new "style" makes you feel most different? Which gets noticed the most by your friends, acquaintances or co-workers? Now, let’s switch to make-up. Let your mood dictate the feel of your day...if you’re feeling cocky, make a bold, bright statement with red lipstick. If you’re feeling wild and crazy, how about some vivid purple eye shadow with sparkles? If you’ve been getting French manicures for the last five years, try something new...whether it’s red, blue or a pale mauve nail polish, looking down at a different color will remind you how great it is to actually have options. Let loose and take yourself out of the "safe box" of your norm.

SAY YES: Reinventing yourself doesn’t always have to be about your style or how you look. You can be whatever you believe you can be. There is nothing holding you back. Nothing. Open your eyes and heart and try saying "yes" to every opportunity that comes your way this month. If it is not the "perfect" opportunity, still say "yes" just to see what happens. It may be as huge as saying "yes" to a new career opportunity or to a new hobby or interest that a friend invites you to join. It can be about saying "yes" to that volunteer work you’ve been thinking about for the last couple of years, or to joining a women’s organization that comes your way. There is no more waiting for the "perfect opportunity" because it just may not exist. We sometimes wait for the perfect man, the perfect job, the perfect hairstyle, the perfect time. Forget waiting around for anything...the time is now. The word is "yes." You’re asked out on a date by a guy you just know isn’t for you. Old you says, "No, thank you," and you go home, cook mac and cheese, and plop yourself down on your couch in front of the TV. New you says, "Yes, I’d love to. Let’s do something crazy, wild and fun," and take him to your favorite restaurant or club. Maybe something romantic won’t ever come of it but you moved forward. You made a new friend. You had fun and connected to the world. Saying "yes" doesn’t nail you into a corner, it gives you wings to fly, make choices, and soar.

The most important fresh start is to love who you are and how you are. Accept yourself and your own unique beauty. Take time to pamper yourself with rituals, whether it’s giving yourself a manicure or face massage, taking a long thoughtful walk or spending a day in sheer reflection. These practices are important to the way you feel, and result in an inner peace, which translates to radiance on the outside. If you’ve done S even once, you know what I am talking about. Taking care of yourself and luxuriating in your life is the best way to inject a little magic into your day and reinvigorate your life as a whole. Make it a resolution, a surefire way to guarantee a happy New Year for each and every one of you magnificent, gorgeous women!

February 2007
Gifted Body

Oh, my body, my body, my sweet "girl." The relationship between my body and I was a rocky one almost all of my life, but it has been repaired after a long, hard climb. When your body moves like beauty all judgment recedes. That's what I've discovered through S Factor movement. Love of, compassion for, pride in my body -- something I never imagined I would evolve to.

One person who helped me see my body truly was my hub-man, Richard. He didn't realize he was helping me but, as I practiced for the film Dancing at the Blue Iguana in his office, I would watch him watching me as I swung on the pole or hip-circled the wall or frisked or cat pounced and I would see him experiencing visual nirvana. It was so fascinating. Then I began to notice his eyes watching me all the time...well, watching my body that is. I would be speaking to someone at a party and his eyes would follow my arms and hands as I gestured, describing some story. Then I began to notice men all over the place, out on the street, in the shopping mall, watching women with pure appreciation -- and I mean ALL women. Men would watch women of all sizes and shapes and ages, and there was something of awe in their expressions. Of course, there was that little thing called lust in there, too, but beyond that, underneath it, was the eye of an art connoisseur. 

I remember in college hearing my dance teacher say, "Your body is your temple. Treat it that way," in an effort to get all of us dance majors to eat better. I didn't get it. I mean, I understood intellectually what she was saying but I didn't understand it viscerally or emotionally. I never implemented it 'cause I don't own a temple and wouldn't know what to do with one if I did. A temple? It's too austere, non-breathing, immobile. How can you feel for a temple? How can you nurture a temple? How can a temple breathe and move and, most importantly, dance? So I stuck with my Snickers and Coke for lunch through college (the thought of it now makes me kinda woozy). What I needed was an analogy that moved me. 

As I grew up and eventually started teaching S Factor, I saw each and every one of my student's bodies breathtakingly emerge into the great creatures they were meant to be. I was awestruck. Their bodies were so sweet and beautiful. Each body seemed to breathe on her own, seemed to feel on her own, and seemed to have her own personality separate from that of the woman who lived in her. It was then that I began to see my students' bodies as their gifted children. I grew fiercely protective of their bodies and became their advocate. The great gift I received through the accumulation of S Factor, my students and my hub-man's eyes was that I, too, began to see my own body as a gifted child and my entire relationship with her changed. I stopped saying crappy things about her and even tried to stop thinking bad things about her. I saw the vulnerability of her and grew protective of her instead of hard on her. I listened to my body when she was tired and let her rest instead of push her too hard.

I encourage you to give it a try, to consciously see your body like your very own child. Treat her the way you would your own flesh and blood. (After all, she is!) The change in your behavior might be subtle and almost unnoticeable or it might be earthshakingly eye-opening, which it was for me. Either way, it will affect you.

Forget your bank account, your house, your jewelry. Your body is your greatest asset. She's your girl, your confidante, your best friend, your baby, your lover, your nurturer and your slave. She does things for you that you don't even think about or necessarily appreciate. She houses you, gives you a home on this planet, tastes your food, cries your tears, breathes for you, pumps your blood, hears the good and bad news, smiles for you, communicates for you -- she's vulnerable, your body. She only wants to make you happy. She only wants to keep you alive. She will do anything you tell her to do within her range. She only wants to make you love her. She only wants to make you proud of her.

And what do we do for her in return? I know one thing, we criticize her and we judge her. We stare at her in the mirror after a shower and think how big our bellies are getting or how ugly our cellulite is or how jiggly our butts are. Have you ever done this one? Someone pays you a compliment like, "You've got great legs," and you say "Oh no, they're too thick," instead of a simple thank you and a proud touch to the leg. 

We sometimes keep food from her or shove too much in her, depending on our mood. I know I certainly did. We put things in her mouth to make us feel good when we're having a bad day because we didn't get the promotion at work that we wanted so badly. However, it is those things (doughnuts, coffee, Snickers bars, cigarettes, potato chips, etc.) that ultimately make us feel bad. Worse than that, those things hurt your "girl." If you're pissed off about something, deal with it head on, don't take it out on your body. It's the person who didn't give you the promotion that you should be shoving the cookies at, not your precious body. 

Before you feed her, before you judge her or criticize her, ask yourself, "Would I do this or say this to my child?" 

And if you did call her "fat" or "ugly" or "too skinny" or "too jiggly," consider how it would affect a child. She'd grow up feeling pretty bad about herself, wouldn't she? It's a form of body abuse. Kind of a sobering thought, huh? 

We have gifts to learn from our male counterparts and S Factor, like how to love and appreciate a female body. How to admire it and praise it and nurture it and worship it. Think about it. We, as women, are the greatest empaths, nurturers, lovers, and compassionates. We, who feel so deeply for others, now we need to turn that sensitivity on ourselves. Find your empathy for this glorious miracle of a body that has carried your old soul around this planet for 20, 30, 40, 50 or even 60 to 100 years? Your body deserves a damn medal, woman! Medal of honor, medal of bravery, medal for manual labor (needs no explanation). It ain't easy keeping us alive. 

You run the world, girl, and that body you live in is taking you along for the wonderful ride of life. It's the only body you are ever going to have. The choice is yours: Love her and protect her or stay trapped in the vicious circle of self-judgment and criticism. Your body is a walking miracle, a wild work of art of major proportions. Treat her that way. 

March 2007
The 'Lost Girls' of Sudan

I decided to go to a movie last week. I went to the newspaper to see what was playing. Here's what I came up with: Letters From Iwo Jima (war flick), The Departed (guys-killing-guys-gruesomely-even-though-they're-cute flick), Children of Men (really-cute-guy-saving-a-chick flick), God Grew Tired of Us...hmmm, what was this, I wondered? I read further and saw it was the story of the Lost Boys of the Sudan. Boys were lost in the Sudan? I'm one of those misinformed who have been living under a rock called "children" for the past 12 years, so I read a bit more about the film in an article about its producer, Brad Pitt. So many lost boys, but hey, like weren't there any girls?

Sleuth that I am, I went online and Googled "lost girls of the Sudan," and 20 or so listings came up. Did you know there were lost girls? I guess God didn't know about them or God would have grown tired of them, too, and the movie would have had their stories in there. Don't you think? Just out of curiosity, I then Googled "lost boys of the Sudan," and guess how many listings came up? 919,000. Ah, the inequity of it all. I went back to the "lost girls" on Google. I started clicking on the listings and was sobered by what I read. Sorry to do this to you femmes but I've got to lay some serious stuff on you this month. 

Of the 25,000+ children who left the Sudan as orphans in the late '80s, a little more than half made it to the Kakuma refugee camp in Kenya, four years later. 3,000 of the 17,000 children were girls. In 1999, when the U.N. High Commission for Refugees (never knew they existed but then again my head's been under that "child" rock) heard that thousands of orphans were living together in just the nastiest of conditions at this refugee camp, 4,000 boys were chosen to come to the United States to start new lives. Guess how many girls were chosen? Prepare yourselves...89...89 girls were brought to America to start a new life. Ah, man that hurts. It is a pitiful 2% and is a pretty stunning oversight. So where were the girls? Why did we help so few of them? And where are they all now? 

According to several articles I dug up online, most of the other 2,916 girls didn't have the option of coming to meet the U.N. aid workers when they came to Kakuma. Why not? Well, we've all heard of how crappy things can be for our sisters in parts of Africa, right? Arranged adolescent marriages, female circumcision, familial beatings for whatever pissed the male family member off, and the list goes on. So, being lost girls in a country that doesn't quite elevate the female, to put it mildly, it was thought best that they be "adopted" for their own safety and chastity. Because these girls were now a part of "foster families," our government assumed they didn't need help. In many instances, in these foster families they were treated as servants or sold before their 19th birthdays to much older men to marry. One lovely young woman, illuminated in one of the articles I read (and this one's painful...) was raped during the night in her new foster home at the age of 17. As fate sometimes unfairly has it, from that violent experience she became pregnant. She had the baby, and she and her child live in the refugee camp as outcasts, because in her culture a rape victim takes the blame for the crime. I know, I know, it is maddening. And as I type these words my fingers come down on the keys with such defiant outrage I cannot tell you, but possibly you can feel it through the computer screen.

There are other "lost girls" who remain at the camp and live every day in a culture where women are not allowed to choose husbands, leave home unescorted, or even seek justice against their attackers; there are few chances for these girls to live inspired lives. When you look with an S Factor eye at the existence these sisters of ours have to endure in the refugee camp, and then you hear about a movie that shows how many of the "lost boys" have been given a new chance at life, it kind of breaks your heart. These girls trapped in the camp are never going to have the opportunities that even the boys in their own country have, let alone the freedom and opportunities that they would have in the U.S.

Sometimes from tragedies come stories of profound inspiration. Many of the 89 "lost girls" who did find their way to America are making heroic efforts to give a voice to the ones left behind, and I for one want to listen. There's 24-year-old Veronica Abbas, a single mom of three-year-old Grace and a teacher at a Seattle daycare center. At the age of six she made the trek from the war torn Sudan to Ethiopia to Kenya, but despite the taboos in her culture about speaking her heart, her mind and her passion, she is now letting it rip, devoting her life to making people aware of the suffering of women in her country. At reunions and conferences throughout the U.S. she speaks with journalists and encourages her fellow "lost girls" to help themselves, and to speak out about their experiences. 

"In our culture, freedom is not for girls," says Abbas. "Girls are polite and keep quiet. It is hard to have a good life when you think you don't have a voice." Sing it out girl, let your voice fly, we're listening.

Veronica is just one of many courageous Sudanese women who are educating themselves and using their knowledge to stand up for their sisters. It's not an easy education either. The "lost girls" who have come to the U.S. are finding the transition to a free culture much more challenging than their male counterparts. Many of them simply don't have the tools, don't know how to get a job, open a bank account, drive a car, be independent... If you know a lovely woman from any country where she has not known freedom, reach out a hand, your heart and your spirit to help her.

So while you're Googling "Lost Boys of Sudan," why not do a search for Veronica Abbas? Or Julia Duany? Or Aduei Riak? Or Harriet Poni Dumba? Or Agnes Oswaha? Their stories are a humbling reminder that nothing -- not war, not famine, not fear, nor oppression -- can stop a woman with a vision of a better world. What can you do? Do what we women do about it and communicate. Share this page with someone. Don't let our "herstory" disappear once again. 

April 2007
The Gift of Menstruation

I love menstruating. I love it. Say what you will, but menstruating carries you through the world a little closer to God, a little closer to Mother Nature, and a lot closer to the sisterhood. It reminds me every month of the profound power of my body.

My daughter Ruby has been pretty much glued to me since the day she was born. She follows me to work when she can, she follows me around the house and, unless I pick her up and deposit her outside the door of the bathroom, close it and lock it, yeah, she follows me in there, too. She’s seen it all and is ever so fascinated with menstruation. She is now, at the age of six, an expert on which tampons are best and why, which pad fits best with the least amount of leakage, and how to primp and properly clean the vulva part of the body. I’m particularly proud of these things. Not only is she equipped and ready, but she’s excited about it, because I talk to her about becoming a woman the way a yogi speaks about becoming enlightened. I tell her that being a woman is the greatest gift on the planet. I tell her that becoming a woman is a process and a vision quest. She doesn’t understand the vision quest analogy yet, but she wants to, I can tell. I tell her that God has made women so complex and gifted and powerful that our bodies bleed every month to make way for life. Our bodies make people, and our spirits nurture and love and protect and guide. Then I explained all of the technical stuff such as ovulation, eggs, fertilization, and growing up. How her body will develop, sprout breasts and pubic hair and curve even further into the world. I paint a picture for her of excitement, adventure, and heroics.

I don’t know about any of you, but when I got my period for the first time, it was not a good experience. There I was, sitting in the family bathroom with my sister's Tampax box in my lap, reading the directions and looking at the pictures as I tried to figure out how to use one. There was no "talk" with Mom or any of my five older sisters. Not a word. I noticed my white painter’s pants had a small red stain one afternoon and then, I remembered the movie we’d seen in fifth grade about "developing and growing." There were two movies, actually, and they were the talk of my grade school. One was for the girls and one was for the boys. The boys didn’t speak to any of us girls for a week after they’d seen their film, and I can’t remember for sure, but I believe I didn’t speak to a boy again until I was 22 after I saw the girls’ film. Okay, maybe not 22, but definitely a long time. Those films were scary. Now the fact that my daughter already knows the name of four different menstrual devices is a good thing. I wouldn't want any young female to feel as alone and lost and confused as I did. 

I recently asked my 21-year-old cousin if her mom had prepared her, you know, given her the "talk." She looked at me, surprised and wide-eyed, and said "no." Her mother is on the young side and evolved. I wonder what other stories are out there? Is it just because of my Catholic background, or is there still a serious communication problem from one generation to another going on with us women? 

I want you to try for just a moment to skew your point of view, to see that monthly flow we sometimes take for granted through the curious eyes of a child. Many of us have been told all of our lives what a pain in the ass having a period is, right? First of all, did you even know that the total amount of blood you lose is about three spoonfuls? Within the uterine lining we grow each month, are all these little blood vessels that appear just for the purpose of nourishing a baby? When the lining sloughs off, so do the blood vessels and the blood that’s in them. The pain is just those uterine muscles working hard to flush out everything that won't be used to create life this time around. And yes, sometimes that pain can be emotional, too, for women who are trying hard to get pregnant. For them, seeing that blood means that their dreams of motherhood are not yet going to come true. But for the rest of us, it's nothing to dread. It's an organic cycle, the ebb and flow of nature's tides.

Okay, so it can be painful and messy. So can life! Having and nurturing a baby is messy, so does that mean you shouldn’t have one? Obviously, there's more than one way to look at anything. Find a new way to look at this monthly miracle that every woman on the planet shares. Like I said up top, I love menstruating. I look forward to it. It is my body telling me that I’m okay, that I’m healthy and in sync. It reminds me of the delicate ride my body, hormones and spirit take every month, and it reminds me that I have a profound connection to nature. That sweet, deep pain and warm flow connects me to the earth and to my sisters all around the world. 

I recently read a fascinating book called Blood Magic. It illuminates the difference between the male and female point of view on menstruation in certain societies, such as the Yurok Indians of Northern California. Yurok women are traditionally isolated during their "moontime" in a special menstrual hut, and do not cook or perform household tasks. "Moontime"...I love that phrase. Male anthropologists have explained this by saying that the women are believed to be in danger of "polluting" food or other people during their menstruation. However, the women themselves tell a different story. They believe that, during this time, they are deeply connected to the spiritual plane and should not be bothered with such trifles as daily chores and interaction with the opposite sex. You see, that is the S Factor, the feminine perspective. What a difference a point of view makes!

The Yurok Indians also talk about a "sacred moontime pond" where a young girl bathes and performs a ritual during her first period to acknowledge that "the earth has her own moontime." It’s a glorious message...and what a far cry from the ones we get these days, with new ways of making our periods unnoticed and invisible, even eliminating them entirely. What is that about?!!!

Since finding S Factor, I will never again fight what makes me female. Instead, I will revel in it. As a matter of fact, Ruby and I are going to create a special celebration for her when she has her first menses -- the kind of celebration I would like to have had myself. It’s going to be a celebration with other women, a damned party with streamers and dancing and laughter and fun. Or if we’re in a quieter mood, maybe something intimate and spiritual and beautiful -- scented candles and a bath, or a quiet meal with a few close friends. Whatever it is, it is going to celebrate her "enlightenment" into womanhood. It is going to celebrate her becoming a part of a feminine culture, a culture of women honoring women, openly and graciously. 

In fact, maybe I'll do the same for myself, next month. Give myself the celebration and meditation that I should have had when I was crouching in my family bathroom, staring in disbelief at a tampon box. It's never too late to change the way you view your body, so why not take that special time to appreciate yourself for the life-giving wonder that you are?

May 2007
Motherhood - The Prelude

We are indulged this month to have a guest editorial from a woman who has been a powerful mother figure in my life, Dr. Judith Welles. Please enjoy and make this mother-of-a-month of mothers a celebration of everything creative about you and your gal pals.

Seen in public, you inspire a nearly universal smile of approval and a slew of unsolicited advice. Suddenly famous, everyone approaches you with easy familiarity. You have noticed the quick glances for a while, but now you are showing, and have achieved a cultural celebrity. Your privacy is effaced by the giveaway of your delicate condition.

 Glimpsed in shadow or in silhouette, your rounding outline conjures rolling downy hills and abrupt valleys. You carry tomorrow and sometimes you feel that the rest of you is eclipsed, for now, in this eternal iteration of life. 

Perhaps you welcome this attention, basking in the world's celebration of new life and your new power. Possibly, you have never been so utterly alone, so preoccupied with the primitive internal terrorism of this tiny alien your body wants to reject as your mind and soul scramble to adjust and produce the proper attitude of lifelong devotion. Few of us are neutral in pregnancy; we love it, or we don't. Pregnancy takes some of us by surprise. Some of us suffered lengthy, expensive, and painful procedures to achieve this irreversible state. Some of us had a brutal, terrible decision to consider. Still others, lucky in circumstance, bolstered by support, moved through the stages as easily as through water. Seen in motion, your burden is evident in your shifting center of gravity and a slightly splayed approach. Yours is the beautiful clumsy exit from the seated position. Pregnancy has been glamorized lately, but few of us have the clothes, the lighting effects, the airbrush to match the fecund sexy glamour girls. Our shoes do not fit, our foods do not satisfy, and we'll be damned if we buy any more maternity clothes - we want back the body we had before. You are in the ritual of infinite transformation. This initiation is long and slow. It is decidedly different from ceremonies of confirmation, graduation, and marriage. This transformation is measured in months rather than in hours. As every bodily fiber you once knew prepares itself for the task you cannot know, yet were born to complete.

Those close to you are likewise altered in time with your progress. They try out the names of their new status - "I am an uncle. I am a grandmother." Somehow your abundant estrogen inexplicably inspires in even the baby's father measurable, magical hormonal changes: to become a Father, and to share the weighty mystery you contain. You carry for two, you carry for three.

You partake of the birth ritual, and its crude facts and dark myths become your unique experience and now you know and you, too, will have your own story to tell, and your own approving smile to share. Each of us arrived here by a singular path, and we are the common result. Happy Mother's Day. We salute you. You are one of us. 
- Dr. Judith Welles

My worship of the mother goes far. Let yours spread to the ends of the Earth.

June 2007
Where Are All The Good Men?

For the past few years, I've heard over and over from single women that there are no men left. None. This whole time, I've really believed them. Where have all the men gone, I wondered? I began to question the Census Bureau that says that 49% of America is male, while 
51% are female. 

This made me think, "Well...when women talk about dating, they obviously aren't including gay men, so maybe they're all gay?"

But then I researched and found out that around 5% of men are gay. That still leaves 44% of the population that have mysteriously disappeared. I was worried. Had some alien forces landed on our planet and absconded with all the straight men? 

Of course, what they really mean is, there are no single, straight men. Now, wait a second. Fewer people are getting married these days and, when they do, they're getting married later in life, and divorce rates are there should actually be more single straight men these days than ever, right?

Hmmmm...I had to do a little sleuthing, and we all know how fond of sleuthing I am. What I found! There seemed to be men everywhere I looked: At the grocery store, in the mall, out at dinner, at the baseball game...the list goes on. A lot of these men seemed single and straight. So what were my friends talking about? 

I couldn't figure it out until one day last month while I was shooting a show about S Factor. Needless to say, there was a lot of curiosity from the very male crew. During a break between setups, I went into the kitchen of the soundstage and began to stuff my face with Ruffles potato chips. I love Ruffles -- they have those ridges. I start talking to a rather nice, handsome, African-American gentleman who was around 30 years old. He was quite intrigued with everything he'd heard us say over the past two days of shooting. He told me that he was at the S Factor LA studio two weeks earlier to do a pre-shoot scout, and he asked the "really pretty girl" at the counter out on a date. He said she "shot him down." His exact words. He said he couldn't remember her name and, in truth, he seemed a little embarrassed and a smidgen hurt, so I didn't push any further.

I popped another chip in my mouth, crunched away, and began to feel very odd as I looked around me. I was surrounded by men from the crew -- gaffers, electricians, camera operators, assistant directors, etc. There were about eight in total. They all listened to his story and were hanging on my every word, as if I was about to lead them to the Holy Grail: S Factor women. AI talked to them more, I found out that three others had also asked out some of the S Factor women and, these three other women had also said no. This was just getting more and more convoluted. I told them that countless women in my classes, at the studio, and beyond were always complaining that there were no "good men" left. I'm sorry, I mean no "good, straight, single men." One after another they chimed in, "I'm available," "I don't know if you'd call me 'good', but I'm single," and "Can I give you my number?" 

Now these guys weren't movie star gorgeous. They were all shapes and sizes and ages just like the women of the world. But from what I could tell in my three days with them, they were "good, straight, single men." I asked them why they were all single, and they looked at me as if I had three heads. One spoke up, "I work 12 to 14 hours a day. I go home, sleep, wake up and work again. I don't have time to meet women." Several nodded. So maybe we can assume that what my female friends are really looking for are "good, straight, single, not-too-busy men." 

The following week, I went golfing with my hub-man. I don't golf, but he likes me to watch him golf, and I find that charming. As we're waiting to get on the course, I see man after man coming and going. For every 10 men, there's maybe one woman and, obviously, these guys aren't working 14 hours a day. I look at their fingers to see if they're married, and many are not. Hmmmm. This place is crawling with "good, straight, single, not-too-busy men." The plot thickens. 

After my golf date, I sat down with several women who had expressed the dearth of men, and I asked each of them if they had been asked out in the last year? Yes, they had, and not one of them went out with the guys who asked them out. Why?

"Sari" (not her real name) said exactly these words, "There's a snowball's chance in hell that I would ever go out with the kind of guys who ask me out." 

Harsh. She went on to tell me that she knows exactly what she wants in a man, and won't settle for anything less. For starters, they have to be intelligent. Okay, so I guess what's really missing from the world are "good, straight, single, not-too-busy, intelligent men." 

But "Lani" had been asked out by a computer genius! Why did she say no? "Oh, you know the type," said Lani. "A real geek; he lives at home with his mom." 

Okay, so there are no "good, straight, single, not-too-busy, intelligent, cool, not-living-with-their-mothers men." 

But the guy who asked out "Krista" didn't live with his mom, so what was the problem there? Well, he was "too nice." To make matters more complicated, the other guys who'd asked her out "weren't nice enough." According to Krista, the guys she knows are either complete wimps or insensitive and overbearing. So what Krista is asking is, "Where are all the good, straight, single, not-too-busy, intelligent, cool, not-living-with-their-mothers, nice-but-not-too-nice men?" 

I should also mention that all of these girls said they could tell right away that there was no sexual chemistry with the guys in question. So where are we now? Oh yes. There are no "good, straight, single, not-too-busy, intelligent, cool, not-living-with-their-mothers, nice-but-not-too-nice men with instant sex appeal."

What?!? I don’t know about you, but if I were to see a list like that written about qualifications for women, I’d pretty much want to find the "person" who wrote it and whack 'im upside the head. 

Switch your POV, girls. Give the guys a chance. What's the harm of going on ONE date with a guy who may not fulfill all your fantasies at first sight? Haven't we established that perfection is impossible? That doesn't just apply to you; it applies to men, too. Your man is going to be as beautifully flawed as you are. You can continue shooting down any man that crosses your path because he doesn't fulfill every item on your checklist immediately, or you can choose to worship and adore a man for being exactly who he is. One of these choices will emotionally castrate and alienate him, and one of these choices will make him feel like the best loved, most endowed man on the planet. And when that happens? When a man feels his power and his beauty and his virility, watch the f&%k out world, see you later mom, he becomes indomitable. I know what I want for the man in my life.

So, gals, "good" single men are out there in the world waiting to meet women. They're not going to come get you, you have to go out and get gotten. Expand the boundaries of your usual haunts. The next time you have to go grocery shopping, go to three different grocery stores. Take up a "guy sport" that you've always thought might be interesting: Tae Kwon Do, ice hockey, rock climbing, (the obvious) golf, bowling. Hell, girls, just take a flying leap into the world, and you might find that there are more than enough good men to go around. 

July 2007
She's A Real Mae West

"You mean.....the sluuuuuuut?" The word hissed slowly out of his mouth between bites. 

 About five weeks ago, I was sitting at dinner in a fancy Hollywood restaurant with three movers and shakers, all guys. Two of these men were screenwriters and one was an advertising executive. The conversation veered toward, what else, but last season's American Idol, the various contestants and what we each thought of them. 

At one point, we started to talk about the beautiful girl from New Jersey, only no one could remember her name and one of the screenwriters said, "You know... the sluuuuuuut." 

I didn’t think I heard him correctly, because who in their right mind would say that in front of well, someone like me, a vocal proponent for women? So I said, "What did you say?" 

And again he said, with relish, "The sluuuut from New Jersey." 

He drew the word "slut" out, savored it, as if the longer it took him to say it, the bigger and better he became. Here the conversation came to an absolute dead stop. No screeching, no grinding, no swerving. Just dead silence for a beat, and then quietly seething, I kindly asked "Why would you call her that? You don’t even know her."

He gave the response of someone quite thrilled with himself: "I know the type. She was the girl in high school that 'did' everyone." 

Again, me trying not to sound incredulous because this was a really nice guy who I cared about: "Maybe she liked 'doing' and being 'done.' Some women, a lot of women actually, like 'doing' very much." 

Him, with disgust: "She just gave the guys exactly what they wanted." 

Me: "And that’s...a bad thing?"

Him, with an air of male superiority: "Just makes her a sluuuuuuut." 

Again, he was savoring-every-last-drop-of-the-word. I had to ask, "If you gave me exactly what I wanted, would that make you a slut?" 

No answer. I continued: "What’s the matter with enjoying 'doing it' and, most importantly, what’s the matter with giving someone what they want? Isn’t that like, a form of love or caring?" I inquired. "And when a guy gives a girl 'it,' does that make him a detestable slut?" 

Ah...finally a hint of lucidity behind his eyes. He veered the conversation very quickly away from sex in general. I would like to believe he found a little education in our conversation. I would really like to. When he so cavalierly branded this beautiful young woman a slut, I can't even explain to you my visceral reaction. It was the eruption of a primitive maternal protectiveness. Where did the word "slut" come from, anyway? 

In the five weeks I've been stewing over this, I did a little research. The earliest use I could find of anything like it was from Chaucer in 1386. He used "sluttish" to mean sloppy and dirty (and he was talking about a man, by the way). Yet somehow, in less than a century, the word "slut" became the definition of a "loose and immoral" woman...and only a woman. Funny how that works. So here in 2007, when the word "slut" came slithering out of that screenwriter’s mouth, suddenly it was Salem, Massachusetts circa 1692, and someone had just pointed a finger at a girl from New Jersey and screamed, "Witch!"

Or maybe I didn't travel back quite so far in time; maybe it was just back to my junior year of high school. There was a girl, we'll call her Mary, who got pregnant that year. She was immediately labeled a "slut" by nameless, faceless, high school kids. I remember she used to wear blue knee socks with a lavender skirt to school at least once a week. She was a little quirky that way. She didn't wear a lot of make-up. You would have called her fresh-faced; she had light brown hair down to her shoulders and she didn’t talk much. But she was pregnant, and that made her a "slut." All the other sluts that we'd seen wore lots of make-up and had big hair. So when Mary became a slut we, the good girls of Hempfield High, didn’t know where the next one was going to turn up. We were each privately terrified that it was going to be one of us. Once Mary was labeled a "slut," that was it for her. I remember one day walking toward her in the hallway between classes. She carried her books close to her chest over her slightly protruding belly. Her eyes connected to mine...sweet, gentle eyes. A cheerleader in full cheering regalia walked towards her from the other direction and growled "slut" as she passed. Mary dropped her eyes from mine and kept walking past me, shamed and decimated. The next week, she dropped out of school. I never saw her again. I heard she had a healthy baby boy. To this day, I wonder how she coped, enduring hateful stares, cruel remarks, and mean-spirited shoves in the halls. I wonder where she is now? I’m still haunted by Mary. 

Words are so dangerous. They’re so ephemeral, not really there, yet so deceptively powerful. "Kike," "n&##*r," "chink", "spic," "wop," "mick"...just reading these words makes you cringe, doesn't it? They're unacceptable; they blatantly reek of racism and hatred. And yet the words "slut," "whore," "skank," and "cunt" are used daily without a blink of the eye. Let's face it, words like "slut" are assassinations of the same ilk. They are annihilators of character, verbal prisons from which there is no escape. They are social condemnation; they are obliterators of lives. I’ve seen it. Girls like Mary haunt all of us. Mary was not the first and she was not the last "slut" to be ostracized in Greensburg, Pennsylvania, or in any other town in America. 

Through enormous social and political pressure, racist remarks have become almost a crime, whereas the slut-whore-skank-cunt words have not. I don’t understand how one set of hateful words becomes off-limits under social pressure, yet another set does not. Even more baffling, the use of words to annihilate women has become so deeply enmeshed in our culture that the main propagators are now women! Women attacking women. Isn’t that a recipe for extinction? 


IT’S NOT OKAY ANYMORE! Can you say it with me a little more quietly? It’s not okay anymore. And here’s how we make it not okay: First off, a woman who enjoys "doing it" and having "it" done is a healthy, normal, even wholesome woman. Notice the word woman. I am not advocating for irresponsible sexual behavior or premature sexual activity, but to stop with the abusive hate filled labeling. We all have sexual desires, and that's a beautiful thing. Some of us start exploring earlier than others. Some of us experiment in ways that some of us don’t, and that's okay. No need to negatively label anyone because of how she/we like "it." Maybe there’s a woman who likes to do "it" more often than you or maybe it's someone who made a mistake at one point in their life...we all do, we're human. Instead of judging her harshly, why not admire her stamina? If we want to give her a title, why not take a cue from our male counterparts? Let’s elevate her instead of tearing her down. Let’s Mae West her. She’s a player. She’s a Cleopatra, a Mata Hari, a real gentleman’s woman. 

And men, you want your woman to give "it" to you? If you’ve ever said any combination of the words slut-whore-skank-cunt within earshot of one woman on the planet, then you’ve shot yourself in the foot bigtime. You say it; we'll hear it. You wonder why your woman doesn’t like doing "it" to you? Are you serious? The double standard shuts your girl down hard. You want a fully realized, sexually alive woman in your life? Stop using sexually derogatory remarks. Stop even thinking them. Even if you're not talking about your woman, if you call any woman a slut-whore-skank-cunt, you better believe that the message you're sending is that you think women who do "it" in any way shape or form are disgusting and wrong. You might as well just cut off your own member, guys. 

So, here we have a self-extinguishing culture of women and a self-castrating culture of men, all because once-upon-a-time-down-the-line, someone decided that sex was bad...especially if women were having it. Maybe, guys, if you referred to those of us who give "it" as fine, healthy women -- elevated, loving and profound -- then a lot more women might be willing to do "it," to enjoy "it," and to give both themselves and you exactly what you want.

August 2007
On the Road to Find Out

Sometimes a woman’s just got to go, to hit the open road and ride until the noise stops and all you can hear are the bumps and sizzle of the tires on the asphalt. It’s a mesmerizing sound, like a mind purr, and it gives a great calmness of mind. I’ve got to go, got to hit that road and hit it hard. Don’t know where I’m going and don’t really care, just have to get the body moving through space and into another place. I’ve got to feel the air of another town on my skin, smell the scents of another region, hear the sounds of something other than what my life is every day. 

This happens to me once, sometimes twice a year. Something comes over me. Call it an instinct or a primitive feeling, but I don’t question it, I don’t negate it and, most of all, I don’t ignore it or chalk it up to a childish urge. You know the whole, "Well, I’m a wife, mom, and a professional business woman, I can’t just go on a whim like I used to," kind-of-crap. 

I will always have something wild inside of me. It is who I am as a woman. I am far from tame or domesticated. And that ungovernable thing is not just for the "me" I was in college. As a matter of fact, I’m more prepared now for the wild thing in me than I was when I was 20. Honoring this stormy nature keeps me thriving and alive. It is the whole nature of the primal feminine. I trust it and know that, within two weeks of getting this itch to travel, I have to make it happen. The spirit of a wild woman rumbles inside each of us. It needs to be there. This wild-ass woman sometimes has got to go and feel the edge of life on the brink of the world. Yes, I mean you too. You have her, you may not have felt her urge to move, but, listen hard somewhere deep inside, she may be calling out to you. The signs are obvious: You may be feeling claustrophobic in your home, having a hard time catching your breath, or have an itch you can’t seem to scratch. You may be snapping at those you love or dreading each impending moment of the day...these are signs that you need to get a move on it. This is what I call my "down-and-dirty-get-the-hell-out-of-dodge" travel philosophy. It is my favorite way to travel and the one I’m about to embark on. 

Where am I going? Don’t know. Don’t really want to know. That’s part of the mystery for me. I get a general direction or gut feeling and either grab a map at the gas station down the street or, if where I want to go is in another state, I’ll book a plane reservation and that’s it. I’ll find my way. Sometimes I’ll have an ache to see or breathe the same air that I breathed as a kid. Well, I live about 3000 miles from the Jersey shore, so I’m just going to fly into Philly, find my way into Jersey and have at it from there. Yes, it is a scary and out of control way to explore but that is what is so vivid about it. Life is not planned in this universe but unfolds minute by minute with daily decisions. Do I take a left or a right at this intersection? Do I stop in this town to eat or the next one? You can actually go so far as to not know where you are going to sleep at night. Trust that you will find a bed in a motel/hotel, bed and breakfast, or with a friend. Not knowing where you are going to end up on any given day and finding yourself in the middle of a place you could not have even imagined is the greatest lesson I’ve ever had in trust and the flow of life. Knowing that I have control over nothing is a sweet gift. 

This happened so vividly with me once. I drove across the country from New York to Los Angeles via the Southern route. My car blew up in a little town called Flagstaff, Arizona. I was stranded for three days waiting for a part. When tooling around in a little rental, I found myself gaping into the most unfathomable sight I could have ever happened upon. I was sitting at the edge of the Grand Canyon, gazing down at the magnificence of God, Allah, Jah, the Goddess. I had no preconceived ideas in my mind of what the Grand Canyon was because I had not built up any expectations. Imagine the visceral impact...breathtakingly beautiful, immense and spirit-rattling. 

When you need to, just go. Trust that what you will find is peace of mind. Listen to your wild child inside...know when to go and make it happen, even if it’s just for a day. If you have kids, bring them. Let them taste the flavor of adventure. Stir it up, sister, let her loose...have a vision quest in the mountains, shack up in a motel an hour’s drive from your home, camp beside a raging river, curl up into a warm cozy bed and breakfast in a town you’ve heard about for years but never visited. If you can’t drive, open the front door and walk. Walk until you can’t walk any further. You will come back to your life with freshness of sight and perspective. Things that seemed like such a big deal will no longer carry the weight that they did. The things that are important will emerge and make themselves known. Living life on this edge is inspiring, sometimes even will let you come back to your world and create the life you want to live. 

September 2007
Writer's Block

Ughhhhh! What a fu&$ked up month I’m having. I’m going to take my own advice and just let go and take this strange ride. Chaos is reigning supreme in my life. I have writer’s block. Big, fat f&%k. The four-month-old kitten I just adopted from the pound is trying to kill himself. He won’t eat. I’ve tried everything, including force-feeding. A bit of advice...don’t do that. My hands look like they went through a paper shredder.

Ouch! My daughter has decided she is no longer in need of mothering. She made this announcement to me while trying to convince me that roasted marshmallows, melted over a bowl of noodles, with sugar sprinkled on top like parmesan cheese, was a great and nutritious dinner. My sweet momma has been in and out of the hospital all summer, and it’s back-to-school month to top it all off. I hate to disappoint anyone who might find a smile or a piece of inspiration in my usual monthly writings, but please forgive your ever vocal, feminine-minded friend. I will be back in wild and rare form for October. For now, it’s back to the emaciated, black-and-white kitten and an eyedropper full of warm milk...oh, and thick leather gloves. 

October 2007
The Heroic Life

"Whether I shall turn out to be the hero of my own life or whether that station shall be occupied by another, these pages must show." - Charles Dickens

I think I was 32 years old when I finally understood what Dickens meant in the opening line of David Copperfield. I never read the whole book because I was stopped in my tracks by that line, which continues to propel me through life and all her wonderful challenges. My own hero? Me? Really? Wow! It seemed so simple and yet...I had spent years, a lifetime, trying to get someone else to take that role. Starting with a teacher to teach me, a director to cast me, a man to be with me, an agent to represent me, a career to focus me, a producer to produce me...listen to that phrase "a producer to produce me," as if someone else was making me happen...and the list goes on. After I connected so profoundly to Dickens’ words, I began to change everything in my life. 

How can 26 words make such a huge impact? We read thousands of words a and why these 26 words? I must have been ready for them. I was open to hearing them. It’s as if the words just melted off the page and seeped into my body. The possibility of the words excited me. Set me on fire. My life changed. Metaphorically, I armored myself with real life strength, rode my own white steed in the form of powerful focus, scaled great mountains to get where I needed to go. In reality, I actively took on the search for my own bliss. I bought my first house, I wrote and produced my own movie, and birthed my second child the way I wanted to birth her. I founded S Factor, I made love happen in my relationship, I found my life. There was no more waiting. It wasn’t easy. None of it was easy. I sweated. I labored. I worked hard. I focused. I grew tired and thought, "To hell with it, who needs a house anyway?" Or, "Why make another movie?" 

Then I would remind myself: This is MY life. I would re-focus. It was exactly the sweat and tears of hard work that made me feel so alive. Making endless phone calls to raise money for the film felt like I'd finally conquered a great challenge once I was able to start shooting. I had never produced a movie before. I had no clue how to produce a movie. But I had a passion and a story that I wanted to tell. I took the first step. Whenever I would have that old itchy feeling of "someone else will take care of it," I shook it out of my head. Who is "someone else" anyway? Why should "someone else" get all the glory of a life well-lived? 

What I found in becoming my own hero was I needed to tap into one of my favorite words in the English language: Courage. I love the word so much I had to look it up. Courage -- the quality of mind or spirit that enables a person to face difficulty, danger, pain, etc., without fear; bravery. 

I love everything about the definition except for the last part -- "without fear." How can you not feel fear? Not even a smidgen of fear? It’s when I feel fear that I know I am hovering on the precipice of some spectacular change. Since fear has been an important part of every challenge that has confronted me in life, I now see it as a close friend. Fear is the thing that lets me know that I am pushing through another boundary. Fear is the emotion that grabs my chest and tightens its grip, forcing me to be brave or give up. For me courage is saying "hey" to your old friend fear, acknowledging her and moving through her.

What is the first step in becoming your own hero? There are a lot of ways people embark on this phase of their lives. Some people get an inexplicable kick in the butt like I did, while others do a formal vision quest of their own to get spiritually inspired. Some take on a large physical challenge like a cross-country trek to get them started. Others just simply jump in. No matter how you choose to start your journey into heroism, the important thing is that you identify what you want or where you want to go. Then you take action. Put one foot in front of the other in the direction that you want to go, the direction of your truth. I mean this literally. 

Is there something you have always wanted to do but you’ve been waiting for someone else to come along before you tried it? Or you were waiting for the "right time"? For example, are you hoping to fall in love someday? Listen to the words "falling in love." They’re out of your control. Choose instead to make love happen in your life. You can start today. Go to the pound and adopt a cat or a dog. Show yourself some love, buy yourself a commitment ring or a necklace that has some emotional/spiritual significance for you. Actively seek to make love happen in your life. You want a baby and you have no mate? I know this is a scary thought to some of you, but identify a sperm bank. Take the first step. When you’ve identified one, make an appointment for a visit. It’s just a visit...don’t let fear stop you. Have you tried to have a baby and your good girl, your body, is not up for it? Contact Big Brothers Big Sisters of America and become a big sister to a young girl in the city in which you live. When you’re ready, search adoption agencies online. Is there something you’ve always wanted to do but your good old friend "fear" stops you? You’re a lawyer by day but you want a career as an artist? Take a first step and enroll in a life-drawing class at night. 

What I’m trying to say is, whatever it is that you’re waiting for, STOP WAITING and take just one step toward making it happen. The second step comes next and then the third will come...until you turn around and see your dream has come home to your reality. 

Roll up your sleeves, woman. As I said before, it ain't going to be easy. Who wants easy anyway? If I wanted easy, I would have stayed on the Bunny Hill of life and never gotten the thrill of the Black Diamonds or living in the powder. (These are, of course, skiing metaphors. I’m trying to inspire myself to get on the slopes this year.) The fact that you are reading these words and that you are on this page is a testament to the heroic part of your nature. Prepare yourself as a great warrior would before embarking on her journey. Do what you need to do to make your vision become real. At S Factor, you have already begun your own feminine vision quest. In making yourself complete you are ready to take on the beast, slay the dragon, and grab the Grail. 

November 2007
Find Yourself an Obi-Wan

Last month's editorial was all about becoming the hero of your own life story, taking action and making life happen. Becoming the hero of your own life is a challenging journey and you might not know where to start. Or you might feel as though you’ve hit a dead end. Or you might feel lost. Not know what your next move is.

I hope it doesn't surprise you to hear that we've all been there. Me too, maybe more than most. I’ve been seriously lost FIVE times in my life, horribly lost, not knowing where I was going, much less how I was going to get there. The very first time I can remember being this kind of lost was at the Philadelphia Zoo at age four in front of the elephant cage. When you're four, everything looks as big as an elephant, so getting lost in a zoo is seriously scary. I walked up to a man in a brown zoo uniform who happened to be the elephant keeper, and he helped me find my mom.

During puberty I felt just as lost, if not more so, but there was no friendly elephant keeper to lead me back to solid ground. And in this "zoo" the savage animals of "trying to grow up" and confusion and loneliness weren't locked up in cages -- they chased me all over the place. I probably only made it through by luck, and I carry those hard lessons learned with me even now. 


The most lost I ever felt, though, was the end of my first long-term love affair, which left me a complete and total basket case. Luckily for me, I found a woman -- call her Jude, "Hey Jude" -- who became a great mentor in my life. Note the word "mentor" as this is the thrust of the editorial this month. I had never had a real mentor before. Not one who didn’t want something from me. This was new and wow! How could a woman want to help me? How could a woman give of herself so easily to another, dare I say it, younger woman? She taught me trust. She taught me the power of the united feminine. She illuminated the shadowy places ahead of me, then taught me how to shine my own light in the darkness. She still challenges me and inspires me. She is always one step ahead of where I am going, and I love it. 

When you feel lost or just stuck while on your heroic journey, the best way out is to find a hero-mentor. 

What is a hero-mentor? Well, think Luke Skywalker and Obi Wan Kenobi, Helen Keller and Annie Sullivan, Cinderella and her fairy godmother, Dorothy and Glinda. All the great heroes of the world had someone who had been there before to show them the way. 

Just think about your S Factor classes, those of you who have the luck to have a studio near you. When you show up at your very first class, your teacher is extraordinary. Awe-inspiring, seductive, powerful, confident, brimming over with beauty and energy! (Can you tell how in love with the women who teach S Factor I am?) She is your S Factor mentor. You hide shyly in a shadowy corner and follow her every move, hoping one day you can find in yourself what she has found in herself. She gives and molds and encourages and guides. 

And as the months pass, you gain confidence of your own, and start to realize that your beauty is as inspired as all the other women in the room, including your magnificent teacher. You begin to find your own path, your own groove, your own rhythm. You don't need to play follow-the-leader anymore. As you begin to unleash your personal power, suddenly your sister, your girlfriend, your mom, your co-workers, start looking to YOU for advice on how to be a sensual goddess. YOU become the hero. 

What applies in S Factor class applies in all of life, if you're lucky enough to find a hero-mentor who fires up your personal passion and leads to your own secret stash of hidden power. When you're swimming in new, choppy seas -- when you need direction, protection, and inspiration -- seek out a woman who knows the waters you're navigating. The wisdom of a hero-mentor is priceless...and it's not hard to come by. These women are all around us. You need to open your eyes to the possibility that maybe the woman that you see in the hall every day at work could have answers you need, wisdom you lack, passion you've forgotten. You job is to reach out to her. 

A true hero-mentor lets you stand on your own, pushes you to become your own hero. And once that happens, the cycle continues, and you can become a hero-mentor to someone else. With heroism comes grace. Once you are living the heroic life, you will be able to turn your formidable attention and passion toward something or someone outside of yourself. A sense of inner peace comes over you. You bask in the heady knowledge that you are doing everything you are capable of doing to live in your moment and make the next step happen. 

This month, I throw the gauntlet down for you to pick up. If your journey seems to have stalled, you may need a helping hand -- but it's up to you to find it. So don't be intimidated or shy -- walk right up to that elephant keeper and ask your way out of the zoo. Find your Glinda, your Annie Sullivan, your fairy godmother. She may be closer than you think. 

December 2007
Gifting From The Heart

I love holidays, don't you? Love celebration of the human spirit. Love celebration of life, which I guess is kind of obvious, given that I am an S Factor fanatic. And for someone who loves holidays, this time of year is a feast for the soul. My family and I celebrate everything: A little bit of Hanukkah, a lot of Christmas, pieces of Kwanzaa, lots of Yule, just started a couple years back with the Winter Solstice, and I’ve even got a couple of new ones up my sleeve for this year: Diwali and Soyal. 

So I absolutely, positively adore this time of year -- there's just one problem. Every time the gift-giving season comes around I get all flushed and panicked because I remember once again that I have a man in my life who has absolutely everything he seemingly wants! And has in his opinion, "nothing." Wants everything he sees, and yet wants nothing. Doesn’t like anything. And loves everything. Contradictory, I know, but this is who I have. And when I didn’t have him in my life, when I was a teenager I had someone just like him: My mother. Every holiday season I would rack my brain, soul and spirit to come up with something that she might really love, and it drove me a little nuts every time. You know what I'm talking about, right? I feel pretty sure that everyone on the planet has at least one Richard/mother in their life. 


So, what am I going to get my hub-man for Christmas this year!? Don't get me wrong...when it comes to the Great Gift Hunt I am like Artemis with her bow. I am in my element. I am tireless, and my aim is true. I have ideas for the kids, my best friend, my other best friend, my mother (I finally got her nailed down), my sisters, my assistant, my other best friend, even Ruby’s 1st grade teacher (an S Factor Intro gift certificate!). Every year I find "the greatest gift they’re ever going to open!" And you can quote me on that one. But I start to think about Richard and slam, bang, I’m stopped in my tracks. This is the point where I start to pull my hair out in clumps, but every year I get through it...somehow. 

One year I made up "love coupons." You know, one free massage, a head rub, the greatest reflexology on the planet, a baseball game with me by his side (that one was tough). I think I even shared the idea with you guys. He loved them. Used them all up in a month. And man was I tired. One year, I got him a necklace with his kids' names in hieroglyphics (he never takes it off, never -- cha-ching, a miraculous success!). And of course one year I dudded out miserably with an electric rechargeable scooter. I really thought it was a great gift that he could use around the Warner Bros. lot while shooting, or to tool around the neighborhood, but he used it twice and it has sat in the garage ever since. And then there was the whole body chair massager. That still sits in the corner of his office today. Don’t get me started on that one. So, you can see, I have a challenge ahead of me. 

But gift giving isn't just about checking off everyone on your list, spending a certain amount of money, or fulfilling some obligation "correctly." Sometimes when you get to those really challenging people you have to stop and remember the meaning of giving in general. The point of a gift is not to give a person more "stuff" but to express your love, your deep, intimate knowledge of a person and what brings him or her joy. So, here’s what I suggest for your own personal "Richard" gift-giving challenge (and here’s what I’m going to do). I’m going to create an experience for his gift. I’m going to blow him away and it’s going to cost me hopefully not an arm, leg or torso. 

Step One: Throw away all the magazines and catalogs that you’ve relied on in the past. If you have a true Richard in your life, he isn’t going to be as simple and easy as that. 

Step Two: This is going to take a little chutzpah and research and access to the Internet. Make a list of your Richard’s six favorite things, and get ready to Google. In my man’s case the list goes: Me, his son, his daughter, acting, the Yankees, and golf. He’s already got the first four, so I search-engined "Yankees camp" and up popped a URL for the official Yankees Fantasy Camp. It sounded like exactly what I needed: Six days of playing on the Yankees training field in Tampa, Florida, under the eyes of the Yankees coaching staff and trainers. He’d even get his own Yankees uniform and locker. But Derek Jeter? No A-Rod? Without the real players I wasn’t sure this sounded like something he’d fantasized about. And then I looked at the price tag -- $4995. Ahhhhh, that wasn’t going to quite cut it. Click. 

Step Three: Persevere! Next I search-engined "the best golf in the world," to see if I could get a hit of something inspiring. I still wasn’t sure what I might come up with. I went through the list of forty of the top golf courses. They were all either in another faraway country that would be very expensive to get to, or in America and members-only. Damn! But I kept on clicking, and number 23 turned out to be a gem of a golf course in, of all places, Oregon! Practically a neighbor! And it wasn’t a members-only club! I would just have to call and reserve a tee time for him, and he’d have a magnificent gift. I called and reserved a tee time for March 27th -- right during my son’s Spring Break from school so they could drive up together. I Mapquested a route up to Bandon, Oregon, a mere 865.1 miles that if no traffic ensues could be gotten to in 13.10 hours. Okay, okay, so it’s a long drive, but I’m trying to create a father-son adventure here, and how adventurous (not to mention expensive) is it to fly up to Oregon to golf? I booked a room at a reasonably priced bed and breakfast and voila, his magical mystery tour of a Christmas gift was complete. 

Step Four: Package it up! You can't wrap a reservation, so I printed out the most impressive information I could find on the internet about this apparently amazing golf course. I bought a driving hat that I’m assuming could be worn, yes, while driving the car up to Oregon but also to drive the ball off of the tee (or am I being too femininely literal?). I put the hat in a box with a brand new package of tees, I laid the pages with the reservation tee times, hotel reservation, and Mapquest driving directions on top of the hat, put the lid on the box, wrapped it in the most masculine wrapping paper I could find, bowed it up, and it is a ready and raring to go under that tree. Gotta make sure I have a camera ready to capture his face when he opens it. This time I think I’ve really got him! 

When you take the right approach to giving, there's a feeling that comes from it that's infinitely more precious than the gift itself. You have to remember -- the holidays aren't about shopping. They're about taking the time to stop and think about each person in your life and ask yourself, "What would bring this person joy?" 

Ideally, of course, we'd do this every day of our lives, but we're only human, and frankly this kind of hair-pulling, hub-man-gifting madness year round would probably make us all gray before our time. But we're not asked to do it every day. We do it only once a year, when the nights are longest and we have to make our own light. 

It takes work to be a true source of light instead of reflecting it from a catalog or a magazine, but it's worth it. Celebrate those challenging individuals who remind you the true meaning of giving. Forget about price tags, forget what's fashionable, forget what's "correct." Just be daylight for your loved ones, be sunshine, pour your warmth and radiance into their hearts and watch wild joy blossom there. 

January 2008
Change, change, change...

Change, change, change… Oh boy… if there is one thing that I have learned over the past few years -- and I wish I could say I learned it gracefully, but alas no grace here -- it's that everything changes, whether we want it to or not. Everything. Just not always the way we want it to. Or as my father so eloquently used to puts it, "Nothing ever stays the same, Pixelie (yes, Pixelie)." 

I heard it throughout my life. He said it when my mom chopped off my beautiful rat's nest of a head of hair when I was six. He said it when my third-oldest sister went away to college and left me alone at home. He said it when the pool overflowed in a freak thunderstorm in the summer of 1976. He said it a lot, but I didn’t have time to hear him, because I was busy, busy, busy. I would look around at the world and the way it seemed NOT to change -- you know, things like taxes, the incessant barking of the neighbor's dog, the way my brother always drove into the driveway as if he was out of control and going to careen into the side of the house. 

"Dad, are you crazy?" I'd say. "Nothing ever changes! Can you believe women still make only 77 cents to the male dollar?!" 

All the while, there I was, changing from a feisty little girl to a feisty teenager to a feistier college student to a feisty mother to a feisty S Factor woman. I didn’t see the change in me, but he did. And he’d sit back and smile an enigmatic smile. I know that smile well, now, because I have the same one. It is a smile of tolerance for the rants and raves and ploys for attention from the very young. It’s not until you see the world change that you can really appreciate what you have in front of you. You have only this moment. This moment is rich and full and big and Now. And it is 2008. 

I really didn’t pay any much attention to this concept of "change" at all until the ultimate change hit me, and hit me hard. Some of you were with me on these pages when I lost my brother three years ago. He was there, and then he wasn’t. Yes, there was the six months of illness leading to it, but he was here in this world and then he wasn’t. I had never had this kind of change. It was enormous. I thought to myself -- and still do -- "Are you saying I can’t pick up the phone and call him? Whattaya mean!? He won’t be home for Christmas at Mom's? Whattaya mean!?" 

It’s when this hit me (and I say hit me cause it was as though someone had taken a railroad tie and brought it down hard on my head across my face) that I looked around me and saw change, permanent change, happening. Happening everywhere, but most powerfully in my Mom and Dad and in my two kids. It took my breath away. 

With Gus, first he was a tiny baby and then he was a huge man/boy. First, I could hold him and rock him in my arms and sing lullabies, and now he picks me up and twirls me like a Raggedy Ann doll. First he needed to learn to brush his teeth, and now I don’t even know where his toothbrush is. 

Ruby came out complete and independent, wanting nothing from anyone but the center of your eye on her at all times. She did not need help dressing her tiny little body at the sweet age of three to go to pre-school. She still doesn’t need help dressing her long lean green bean of a body to go to elementary school. 

As I ventured out into the world to become my own person, I left my Mom and Dad and they waved goodbye in the driveway and they were vibrant and strong with dark hair and bright smiles. The image is like a short video that plays in my mind, and in my mind they’re still those same two people. They were going off to explore Ireland after having raised nine (yes, nine) kids over twenty-eight years. I was going off to be a Dance Major at NYU. Now, when I come home and drive down the same driveway, I see these two...old people...weathered, feeble, still happy, still waving, but...changed. I feel like Ebenezer Scrooge having just witnessed Christmas past into Christmas present, and the next step is... What am I thinking!? I still have time! It’s not too late! So I call them incessantly. I Skype them constantly. I lobby to get them to move out to LA with me. I have them. I inhale them. I engulf them. 

I turn back to my kids and I see that what I have are precious moments, strung together like pearls, jewels on that invisible strand of time. I am going to take each and every moment and make it the fullest, richest, most voluptuous moment I can, one after the other. I am not going to rush through life, ever again. But how do we do that? When it's all said and done, what is the secret to looking back over all the changes in our lives without even a hint of regret? 


I think back to the rainstorm my brother and I shared in his last summer. We sat in my mother's end room, he in a pink hospital chair and me at his feet, and we listened to the rain coming down. The door of the sitting room was open to the outside, and the cool summer rain sometimes sprayed in through the screened door. I was busy trying to heal him. Talking to him, soothing him, gently rubbing his ankles and calves. I had inspiring New Age music on for him in the background. I was a busy little beaver of denial, and what do you say to someone who’s dying and doesn’t want to talk about it? Or if he wanted to talk about it, it was only that he wanted to hear how well he was doing. How he was going to beat it. Forty-five minutes into our sit, as both the inner and outer storms calmed down to a murmur, he said in a barely there voice, "Did you hear that?"

"What?" I said. 

He told me a tree had fallen, outside and up the hill. Now, I'd heard nothing. Not a single sound from outside. He was on a lot of medication, and he was hearing things, I thought. I was gentle about it, but I said to him, "No, Ger, I didn’t hear a tree fall. I think you must have dreamed it." 


"Go look," he said in like the calmest most peaceful voice I think I had ever heard a human being utter. Wanting to placate him (because I knew that he was way out of it, and couldn’t possibly have heard something that I hadn’t heard), I got up and opened the screen door. The rain had let up to a soft mist, and the hill behind our house looked like the Scottish highlands, all in a cloud. I walked barefoot up the hillside, and there behind three big trees, about half a football field from where my brother sat, was a huge freshly fallen pine tree. The flesh smelled sweet, like Christmas. 

Excited, I ran back inside to him and asked, "Gerry, how did you hear that? I heard nothing." 

He said, "I was just listening." 

Ahhhh, brilliance. Catharsis. Bells going off. Splendid enlightenment, and yet how simple. A gift from a big brother to his busy little sister. A gift from a dying man to a living woman. A gift from someone who was truly alive to someone who was not. 


"I was just listening." 

I was just watching. I was just being. I was just alive. 

While you're busy planning and trying to force change on every little corner of your imperfect life, life is still happening, one precious moment at a time. Change will take its own course, whether you are ready for it or not and you will have no control over it, and when it does, you'll want to know that you made the most of things the way they were. There's nothing wrong with making resolutions, making goals, but don't be so busy staring into the future that you trip over the present. 

But what you can be is enormous and profound and full of a well-lived life. Maybe you'll lose a few pounds this year, but in the meantime, why not love the person you are. Love the body you're in, appreciate the air you breathe, the food you eat, the home you have. Embrace those around you who you love. Embrace them daily, hourly, embrace them when they are near and embrace them too, from afar. And love those extra curves before they melt away? Maybe you'll find a better job, but why not take the time to really notice those faces at the next cubicle before you leave them behind? Why not clean and care for the house you're moving out of, or the car you're trading in as though it were the one you were going to have forever? 


This magnificent year of 2008 is only coming around once, ladies, so take it for what it is and live it. Live in the moment that you are in. Turn all five of your senses on full steam and surround yourself with the symphony of sorrow and beauty and joy and death and loss and birth and fire and laughter and art and dance and rainstorms and dance and falling trees and the chaos of other people and the bliss of your S Factor body. And just...listen. 


Miss you, bro. 

February 2008
We Can Admit We Have Racial Issues but not Gender Issues

There’s a woman running for president of the United States of America. Let me rephrase that... There is an amazing woman running for President of the U.S. Let me scream that one more time... Hillary, who is opening doors for women everywhere, is running for POTUS! 

Putting your political affiliations and political beliefs aside for a second, let’s just bask in the victory that is here before us. There is a woman running for the highest office in our nation for the first time in history. My daughter can say to me, "Are you voting for the woman, Mommy?"

I understand that voting and politics is a sometimes heated and personal endeavor, so I am not even going to get near it. But as a voice for all things "women," please let me air a little bit of a female perspective.

I have been watching all of the cable network news shows and reading all of the news magazines incessantly. I am struck in these past two weeks by one sorely disappointing thing. When reporting on Hillary, the media either lashes out at her personally or subtly excludes her, even on CNN. The nation's growing fascination with Barack Obama and John McCain’s comeback are very bad timing for Hillary, and could be two possible reasons why we don’t hear about her as much these days. Maybe coverage on Obama gets higher ratings? He’s got charisma. He is a fascinating and brilliant man. He deserves to be fascinated with...but doesn’t she as well? 

Here’re a couple of things you as women should know...

Last week I watched Bill Maher on HBO. There was a touching repartee between Bill and his panel of guests when Bill asked, "Why do people who don’t like Hillary Clinton feel such hatred for her? She’s not a hate-able person?" 

No one could answer. Not the conservative Republican, although he agreed wholeheartedly and said maybe it’s because of Bill Clinton. Not the liberal Democrat who was pushing the Obama ticket. Not even the President of the National Organization of Women, who appeared to be pushing nothing. They all agreed that when one doesn’t like Hillary, it is a strong hateful dislike, but not one person could point to a reason behind this strange phenom. 

I was confused. It seemed that what everyone was afraid to bring up was the big pink elephant in the room. Obviously, she’s a woman. Think about it. There really is no reason to hate her other than the unspoken and poisonous gender issue of misogyny that looms in the background of this election. You might not like her -- but hate her? I asked myself the same litmus question I ask myself daily, "If she were a man would she be treated this way?"

The answer is, "No." I believe there are candidates on the Republican ticket who may not have the greatest likeability factor, but you do not hear people tearing into them with the same ferociousness with which they tear into her. For some reason it is fine to continually bring up the race issue, the Mormon issue, and the ageism issue, but the gender issue is apparently the nasty secret we keep in the closet. 

When the President of NOW finally did say something, she mentioned how amazing it is that the Democratic candidate is going to be either a woman or an African American. Bill Maher unaware of how telling this statement is said, "But come one, we owe a much bigger DEBT to the black community in this country than we owe to women." 

Harsh. I don’t know about you but I’m not electing a president because I feel a debt to her gender or his age or his race or his religious affiliation. What Bill Maher did, once again, was dismiss the female candidate into a less important position than that of the other candidate because she is a female. 

As if the comments on the Bill Maher show weren’t enough to send me reeling, I was reading last week's Newsweek magazine when I came upon an article about a book that has just been released that is a series of essays by women writers -- esteemed women writers. The subject of their essays? "Why you as a woman hate Hillary."

To say that my heart sank as the reviewer illuminated how one intellectual female writer after another attacked this esteemed and intelligent woman ripping into her for -- this may crush you as it did me -- her hairstyles, her headbands, her quiet acceptance of her husband's failing, her not leaving her husband after these failings, her ambition, her (ah, this is painful to write) voice, her lack of sensuousness, her lack of maternal feelings, and the list of petty shredding goes on. According to this review, there were no criticisms directed at her political positions, her actions as a senator, her voting record...the reviewer made a powerful observation that what she left the book with was a sense of the enormous self-hatred that women have for their own gender. I’m not sure how that conclusion sits with me. I’m still absorbing it. 

I’m sometimes afraid that I am overly protective of our gender, but in this case I feel that I am telling a truth that lives in a subterranean consciousness of our country. I am afraid that this issue is keeping people from seeing what an extraordinarily powerful leader she could be. She is dogged and persistent and unsinkable in her convictions. She has as she has put it, "Been kicked around for 16 years," and she’s not giving up. 

I’m not trying to tell you who to vote for. I’m trying to get you to see how she is held to a tougher and more unwavering standard than any of the male candidates. As a matter of fact, I like both Democrats and I also like (I realize by writing this that my husband may never sleep with me again but...) John McCain. I’m still listening to them all. I will listen and absorb and ponder until I walk into the booth on Tuesday. I will not vote for charisma, I will not vote for youth or age or race or gender. I will listen and I will vote for my heart. I want to hear her and absorb her and give her the same ears and attention that I am going to give to McCain, Romney and Obama. 

My point in bringing all of this to light is that we are as a culture bullying a candidate because we don’t really know why we don’t like her. Sad comment on our very conflicted country where we can admit we have racial issues but not gender issues. Don’t even get me started about the blogger who when describing the election referred to Hillary as "the bitter and aging woman" in the race. I wonder if he would say that about a 60-year-old male senator from New York? 

May 2008
Breaking Yourself Free

I accumulate clothes. I don’t wear them, I accumulate them. Like a hillside accumulates snow, no wait, more like a windowsill accumulates dust. My closet is packed, crammed to overflowing with clothes I’ve owned for over fifteen years. And here’s the really disturbing thing, I don’t wear any of them! Okay, I’m being overly dramatic, I wear some of them. Seriously, I wear maybe, MAYBE, and this is me being generous, fifteen percent of my clothes. Why don’t I just donate the rest to Goodwill? What am I holding onto them for? 

I cannot answer this question. Maybe I’m writing this to you to nudge me over the edge and get me to just attack my closet with a vengeance and purge, purge, purge… But then again, maybe not. The thought freaks me out. Every time I pick up a piece of clothing that I haven’t worn in a year, to place in the discard pile, I feel my heart pick up its beat a little faster. Then my brain pipes up and I begin to think, "Awww, I love this shirt-shoes-pants-coat-whatever." 

The fatal flaw. I actually THINK that I might wear this whatever piece of clothing that I haven’t worn in five years, tomorrow. I rationalize, "I forgot it was here." Or, "I will absolutely wear it tomorrow." And I don’t. I don’t wear it the next day or any day after that. 

I have to do something. I have to move things on in my life. I want the waters running, clear, crisp and clean. I want to purge away all the static, stale, non-moving parts of my life and the clothes, as you and I both know are just symbols of the fact that I like to hang onto things. 

I have a box, a rather large box that contains journals I have written throughout my life. Secret, private thoughts on paper. I covet this box as though it was full of emotional jewels. Yet, the last time I opened it and looked through it was about five years ago. But, (there’s that fatal BUT) maybe someday I will. It's that refrain that keeps me circling the airport of getting-free-from-all-this-baggage. I’m a bright woman so I’m pretty sure that to move on with this "purging" (God, that word scares and entices me all at once), I have to involve my rational as well as intuitive side. I need to make a deal with myself and I believe I’ve come up with the perfect deal.

I am going to play a game. I love games. I’m going to create a shelf in my closet that is going to be my donate shelf and from this day forward I am going to wear each piece of clothing in my closet from left to right, whether I like it or not, for at least a half an hour and if it doesn’t feel good on my body for that time period I am going to "retire" it to the donate shelf. Oh my God, what am I saying? This is going to be soooooo tough! I have 468 pieces of clothing, not including underwear and bras: 267 shirts of various styles, mostly T-shirts; 54 scarves (I went through a phase); 22 pairs of pants; 53 sweat/workout pants; 16 pairs of S Factor shorts (I teach a lot); 36 casual dresses; 14 cocktail dresses; 3 formal gowns; and the list could go on but I’ll spare you the painful details. Now, this sounds like a lot of clothes but please remember that these are clothes that span decades. These are clothes that feature things like: Padded-shoulders that would make any NFL player proud, skinny-ankled jeans (ewwww), ruffles (sooooo not me), high-waisted dress pants (think bad Annie Hall and if you’ve never seen Annie Hall run now to Blockbuster and rent it...great movie), culottes that should be outlawed, and again in an attempt to maintain my own pride, I will cease listing. If I wear each piece of clothing as I am planning on doing, it should take me a couple of months to get through the entire "daily wear" portion. Simultaneously, I will begin wearing all the thongs, panties and bras that I have accumulated, and toss them into the garbage if they no longer cut the mustard. Notice how I masterfully distracted both you and me away from the paragraph above this one? 

Those damned journals! Which really means my past right? That's all they are, past writings and thoughts I used to have. I think that if I were to...p...p...pu...pur...get rid of some of them...that I might make room for new ones; I might make room for new thoughts, new movement and discoveries. I might make room for me. Life is about what is happening now, right? Isn’t that what S is all about? Not what happened before or what might happen if I hold onto the past? 

What, oh, what to do with those journals? They’re way too personal to throw away. They’re way too private to have transcribed onto a disc or computer. There’re way too many of them for me to sit down and type into my computer… Bonfire anyone? I could just burn them and melt my past into the present in the form of smoke!

Time comes when you just have to let go. And this doesn’t mean you have to get rid of everything in your life, maybe just get rid of all the "extra" everything in your life. Lessen time and energy spent on the friends who aren’t really. Get rid of the men who aren’t really the right men for you. Purge the clothes that you haven’t and will probably never wear again. Get rid of the junk that you hoard in your medicine cabinet (especially those that have expiration dates). Lessen the cacophony of the extra noise (both aural and visual) of the radio, TV, computer, iPod, cell phone, blackberry...whatever, and let your brain get clear, let your body get clear, let your spirit get clear. Purge, purge, purge your stuff. Take a Sunday and throw things out, donate to Goodwill, have a garage sale or better yet, have a garage giveaway. Clean out your car. Do not let clutter trip you up, slow you down or lay you out. Right now, as you finish reading this page, I challenge you to take an inventory of all your "stuff." Prepare yourself by beginning to think about it, and then take a deep breath and let it go! 

You will be amazed by how light you feel, how free you can be and how simple life really is. 

June 2008
Achilles Mama

Last month (?), my friend Rebecca told me she was pregnant. At first, I was ecstatic for her. She had been talking about wanting two or three little ones for the past three years but no time felt like the right time. Now, here she was preggers and effusive. This friend of mine is a powerhouse. A maverick. A force of nature! She puts others in her career field to shame. She runs businesses like she were running the rapids on the Colorado River. Big Huge Guttural Scream!!! In a business meeting, if some guy challenges her, her face flushes, her eyes turn red around the rims, her hair grows bigger, her entire body seems to engorge and throb. She is the Mistress of her Universe, it almost looks like a wind machine has been turned on and her hair is blowing wildly! She is damn near orgasmic when she’s doing her thing. She is a woman in her element, alive, pulsating and turned the f&*@ on! It’s a thing of wonder... I know a lot of women like Rebecca. Women who are riding the wonderful rapids of life screaming up toward the heavens with a mighty fist raised, "Is that all you got for me!?!?!?"

Rebecca... I admire her... So, it was a bit shocking when after she told me she was pregnant she said, "I may not want to work after the kidney bean comes."

Try to imagine me struggling to hide the incredulous look on my face. She continued, "I may only want to work two or three days a week. I don’t want to miss being a part of my child's life as he (she’s convinced it’s a 'he') grows up." 

First thing I did was keep my big mouth shut and that was hard. Really, really, tremblingly hard. I wanted to say, "What! Are you kidding me???"

But I have two children, twelve and six, and have been around new moms for as many years. I’ve seen some of the brightest, most ambitious women pull up short after their babies are born, dump their careers and devote their lives to being, stay-at-home moms. Some of these women are cool with that, some of them are over the moon with it, but there are some who feel they have no other choice because in our world somewhere along the line, women began choosing: Mother Your Child or Mother Your Career. So, they chose the baby for obvious reasons and ended up isolated in a lonely world of diapers, home stuff, school stuff, PTA drama, bake sales, all the things movies are not made of unless of course it’s that bone-headed guy bumbling about, trying to take the place of a woman in Daddy Day Care or The Pacifier. 

I know with kids your life can get swept out from under your feet in a swoop of fate. You get sucked into the current of primitive maternal urges and bonds. You have no free will anymore. I get that. Yet where does all that exuberant passion for your career, your chosen life path, go? Where did Captain Rebecca’s raging river of business savvy go? 

I’ve seen women try and replace their true life's bliss with motherhood and I have seen it (not always, but too many times for me keep my mouth shut any more) create mothers who have "no life." Mothers who live only through their children. What is the sense in that? Where does their "bliss" go. Not the bliss of motherhood, not the bliss of watching your child grow and laugh and crawl and walk, because there is bliss there too, but HER bliss. The bliss that existed before her child's birth. The bliss of Rebecca. The very thing in life that turns her on. The challenge, the hunt, the gauntlet, the journey, the adventure that is life!

A very successful businessman once said to me, "I find that pregnancy, birth and child rearing is a woman’s Achilles heel in the business world."

I was stunned silent. This shockingly sexist comment resonated a certain truth. I said back to him without batting an eye, "I find that the erection is the male Achilles heel in every part of the world."

He smiled at my irascibility and nodded as if to say, "You’re right." 

Smugly, I crossed my arms over my chest and grinned, but his statement was eating away at me on the inside. Even after successfully defending our female honor, his words haunted me. Could he be right? Could having and raising children be our downfall? I immediately went looking for proof. 

I found that, "1 in 4 women leaves their job around the time of the birth of her first child". And that, "among mothers with children younger than one year old, only 53.8 percent work." I found that, "full-time working women are paid only 77 cents for every dollar full-time working men are paid." I’ve spoken to business owners both male and female who've voiced concerns about investing in female employees because from their experience, female employees "leave." Men stay and contribute to the growth of the company, women leave and don’t come back. 

I was caught by surprise when I got pregnant. I was riding a high wave in my career as an actress having just wrapped my fourth season on the TV show, LA Law. I was in demand in a town where that only happens for about five solid years in a row at most. When I heard the news, I felt as if someone had punched all the air out of my lungs. The day after I found out I was pregnant, I was offered a great part playing a psycho secretary in the CBS movie, The Secretary. And I had to keep the pregnancy a secret. I had heard that they might not cast me if they had to take out extra pregnancy insurance on me or something like that. I don’t remember who told me to keep my mouth shut but it must have been someone I trusted implicitly or I wouldn’t have heeded the advice. And this was pre-S Factor before I realized that I had a feminine voice. 

I had atrocious morning sickness daily so I hired a "babysitter" to hang with me on the shoot, get me to and from the set without vomiting, and help me learn my lines, all the while telling everyone that she was my "acting coach." No one on the set knew I was pregnant. Every day I was terrified that somebody would find out. That I’d be fired or worse yet, fined. The film wrapped, I started showing, and the work stopped coming in. It ended, not just slowed down. Ended. The world began to pull away from me. With nothing to do all day but create a human being, I lazed around the house and watched the OJ saga on TV eating jelly donuts with powdered sugar. Then baby came (beautiful, perfect Gus) and I started rehearsal for a Broadway play when he was two months old. Dammit, I slogged him in a car seat out to the Valley to rehearse, flew him to NY with me for the opening, and pumped breast milk every day twice a day for two months. That was my right, that was my choice, and it kept me alive inside. 

There was a time when we didn’t have a choice. It was, strap the baby on and get on with life or die In tribal cultures hunting, gathering, cooking, entertainment, all of it, happened within the tribe. There was no day care, no elementary school to drop your kids off at. In the Masai tribe in Africa for goodness sake, mothers just strap their baby across their backside and they’re back in the field the day after birth. There's work to do! Life to live! There are no choices about, "Do I continue my career that I’ve trained ten long years for or do I quit and live solely my child’s life?" 

You are hungry; you tie that baby around your waist and pick some fruit and rice, catch and clean some fish, and jug some water. In our modern world we have to find the equivalent of that drive. There are countless organizations out there devoted to helping working mothers remain in or get back into the work force. Some of my favorites are: Working Mothers Network, Women Work!, Working Moms Refuge, Unlimited Mom, Working Women Magazine, and Jobs & Moms. Look at some of the names of these places. Don't they make you feel alive just reading them! There are also many corporations today that are trying out a new "bring your baby to work" mentality, offering childcare and pre-school options. The Parenting in the Workplace Institute is a stellar resource. Another option growing in popularity is the notion of the "entrepreneurial mom." Women who are work-at-home moms, rather than stay-at-home moms! The Entrepreneurial Mothers Association and Cafemom are two sites to check out if you'd rather go this route. 

Unless you identify your want in life and steadfastly make it happen, no one else is going to do it for you! This particular culture that we live in is not going to make our female desires a priority until we make our desires a priority. If you want to keep working after you have babies because you love your career, because it feeds you, because you like making your own money, because you like getting out into the world, because it gives you an adult purpose, because it stimulates your mind, because it fulfills YOUR needs, KEEP WORKING. If the company you work for says they need you for more hours than you’re willing to work than find another job. It may not be easy but you need to set your mind to something and dammit make it happen. It's not meant to be easy. If it was easy I wouldn’t be writing this to you and we wouldn’t have this problem in the first place. Don’t let this happen, ladies. Let’s have our babies AND find a way to incorporate them into our lives. 

You really can live your dream and not miss out on your child’s life. Give your child the gift of seeing a woman surviving, instead of sacrificing. A woman in charge of her own passion, instead of a woman yearning for herself. 

September 2008

My son is a star watcher. My son is a game player. My son is a social recluse. My son is jovial. My son is thirteen. He has dirty blond hair and blue, blue eyes. He’s tall. Last week he just lapped his Dad in height. I believe that makes him around six feet tall. Blow me away, woman. Like just yesterday he was three and falling down and sobbing in my arms. Nothing, and I mean nothing, prepared this woman for the transformation of my baby boy into a pre-man. No pet I’ve ever owned, no doll, no friendship, not even my own journey from kid into adulthood prepared me for this. 

He said to me the other day when I was getting out of the car on the highway to see if I had a flat tire on the rear driver's side, "Go ahead Mom, I’ll watch out for you." 

Like, as if he could...and the freaky thing is, he did. He got out of the car with me, leaned against the trunk, watched oncoming traffic and called out warnings every time he felt a car was coming too near. My son who I have raised, diapered, loved, nursed, fed and devoted a large amount of my life to is now a cognizant pre-man. He is now protecting me from things. Whoa. Hold the heck on! When did it happen? When did he begin to turn into an epically beautiful male with power and strength and integrity and just, wow, like awe-inspiring intelligence? When did this happen? Was I turned the other way cooking spaghetti over the stove? Was I jumping with his sister on the trampoline? Was it in his sleep? Did he just wake up one morning as a "man-ling"? I am humbled almost speechless.

If you believe Joseph Campbell’s sentiment, which I do and I love, "Woman is life and man is the protector of life," this transition from mother protecting son, to son protecting mother becomes even more profoundly, wow. Joseph Campbell (1904 – 1987) was a brilliant mythologist. I've read almost everything he's written. The myths of mothers and sons are primal. It is a magnificent relationship. I can only tell you by living in the middle of one that it is daunting and big in emotion. Really big emotions. 

I’ve had talks with my son about his duty: To use his male energy to protect the feminine, to elevate the feminine. I've read Joseph Campbell to him, much as he will sit through. I got through about five lines before he took off to play video games but they were five very meaningful lines. I've talked with him about respecting his power and his size. (His doctor tells me he will be over 6'2".) Each time I've launched into one of my "talks" about the power and beauty of the masculine, he has sat patiently looking off into some corner of the room or at a tree, or anywhere but at me, but he has definitely absorbed what I've told him. I can tell because even though he's never looked at me or said anything back, he's nodded his head and squinted his eyes as if trying to see the words written in tiny script on his knee. And whenever a situation has come up in which he is called upon to be "male," he has stepped boldly up to the plate. In the midst of countless adolescent changes in his life, he is shedding his baby skin to uncover…an emerging Man-ling… 

Richard was gone working for three months last year. My son became the man of the house. He didn’t announce it, he didn’t shove it into his sister's face, he just did it. He took it upon himself to carry the garbage cans up the driveway every week. He made sure all the doors and windows were locked in the house before we all went to sleep. He turned on the alarm nightly. He silently and with integrity inhabited this role.

We were at the Grand Canyon last Spring. I, of course, was hovering near the edge. My son stood very close to me. As a matter of fact he wouldn’t back more than two feet away from me. Every time I took a step closer to the edge just to feel the glee of danger, which I love, he would shoulder into me as if trying to herd me backward! And then he would say, "Mom, you’re standing too close to the edge, can you back away?" 

And each time I looked up, yes, up into his blue, blue eyes and seeing how seriously he was devoted to his task of protecting the female he loves most in the world, said "Yes," and took a step back. And each time, the adolescent bull calmed. 

This whole transformation thing with him started about a year ago. First, his body started to change, pubic hair appeared, underarm hair shyly sprouted. That sweet little baby boy smell became a muskier male smell. His voice now plays games of ping-pong with him, going up into his head like a babe and then down into his chest like a bear. The up and down sometimes depends on whether he’s been hanging with his friends (down low and cool) or with me (up high). This up and down is the biological shedding of one self, his baby self, and the emerging of his next self, his man. He still tries to climb into my lap sometimes. It's like having a Great Dane puppy climb up onto you; big thick legs hanging off to the left, big thick arms hanging off to the right, his huge male body squishing me into a flattened version of myself. I suppose he still thinks he’s small at times. It’s as though the little boy, the baby part of him is saying his goodbyes to me. Lately, there’s been less and less of the little boy and more and more of the Man-ling. I cherish those moments of little boy vulnerability, this part of him that is piece-by-piece falling away. He is molting his baby skin and underneath something magnificent is being revealed. 

I’m not going to lie to you and say it’s all fine and dandy. Even as I write this, I can’t quite catch my breath, my shoulders are tightening their grip on my neck, my breath is getting shallower, and there seems to be some sort of bug flying around on the inside of my chest wall right around where my heart sits. I am going to be sad when the final pieces of my little boy fall away. I have a feeling it's going to be painful. I am going to feel the burn on the insides of my arms where I used to hold my son in his blankets. I am going to feel the burn on my chest where he used to bury his head every time he got freaked out (Like when the big purple dinosaur known as Barney came waltzing into his second birthday party and scared him.). I’m going to feel the burn under my chin and on my throat where he used to curl up to sleep as I sat in our rocking chair on stormy nights. He used to hate thunder. He still hates thunder but now he calms himself, steady and strong Man-ling. I’m going to feel the burn of his little boy leaving most of all in my heart. I think that one will take the longest time to -- I don’t want to say heal because it is not a bad thing, this change he's going through, it’s just painful...painful and excellent at the same time. Dammit, maybe I should say heal because my heart is going to have to heal. There will no longer be a dependent little boy where once there was one. What am I saying? There is no longer a little boy there in his body. He just doesn’t quite know it yet and I’m sure as hell not going to inform him of it! I want to get every last bit of his little boy smells and sounds and stash them away somewhere where they will live forever. How does one do this? How does a mother let go? Oh, the emotional swings of motherhood, the highs and lows just keep on coming. Sometimes I want to stand up on my roof and scream at the top of my lungs, "Is this all you got for me? Come on, keep it coming!" 

My friend Joseph Campbell talks about a ritual in India that helps mothers let go of their sons. One day around her son’s eleventh birthday, the tribe's medicine man comes to the mother and asks her to give him "that which she values most." She gives him something, like a very valuable jewel and he goes away. He comes back three days later and asks her again to give him that which she values most, and again she gives him an object or piece of jewelry and he leaves. She knows what is about to happen and she is learning to let go. He comes back again, and again she gives him another object precious to her. Then one more time, a week later, he comes and asks her for that which she values most. She hunts and hunts in her home but whatever she offers him he refuses. It is at this moment that he tells her what he has come for is her eleven-year-old son. He then takes the boy from his mother and leaves her with a blessing of love, prosperity and spiritual riches. I am sure he also leaves her with a torn and aching heart. This Indian ritual is meant to help the mother give her son up to the tribe. And thus begins his journey into manhood, but that’s for another talk. 

Does every mother experience this? The pain and pleasure of watching a child change from a child to an adult. An ending and a beginning, a death and a birth. Have any of you? Did my mother? I am going to call her. Here is how I am learning to cope. I focus on what I am going to get when the transition is complete. I’m going to get this friend that is just like me in so many ways. I’m going to get a lifetime soulmate. I’m going to get someone to lift all the heavy things that I hate to lift and that sting my back. I’m going to get a deep thinker. I’m going to get someone who makes me laugh like no one else on the planet, with wit I have no idea where he got. I’m going to get someone to move through life with at the same pace as me. 

What excites me even more about this spectacular change that my boy is going through is, as my boy-child gives way to Man-ling, here’s what the world is going to get... A new kind of man. A conscious man. A man who loves women and respects them at the same time. A man who admires a woman as much as he admires a man. A man who witnessed a revolution in his own backyard, who saw hundreds and hundreds of women becoming whole and unashamedly feminine, creating a new culture. He is my Man-ling and he sees women as human beings who offer things to this world that he cannot offer himself. He sees women as compassionate, loving, nurturing, strong visionaries. He does not disdain the difference between our physical strength and his. He respects his gift of size and strength and recognizes it as a tool to follow his responsibility as a man to protect that which creates and nurtures life. 

What a quest you are on my Man-ling. What divine journey you have ahead and through the woods.