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I’m a fan of Emma Stone’s. If I’d stayed an actor, hers is the career I’d want. Smart, witty, easy-going, confident, gorgeous. (Fingers crossed) A good role model for O and Ro.

Being completely transparent, I kinda wanna be her now. Especially after that Oscars bit. Who can make Ben Stiller the straight guy in the schtick? Emma Stone, that’s who. Brilliant.

She has other fans–fans like Jim Carrey. But my admiration is not quite so… “out there.” I just think she’s got a rare talent, so you, Jim, and I will be seeing much more of her in the future. (Cue: Jimmy’s squeal.)

Part of her appeal for the male set, I hear, is that deep, husky voice of hers. (Jimmy?) It sets her apart from other 20-something starlets and makes her memorable.

In an interview of the Emster with David Letterman, Stone says she suffered from colic as a baby, telling Letterman, “I was screaming constantly in discomfort, and I think my mom really had a lovely time with that.” Yeah, I’ll bet.

But all that screaming and crying caused scarring on her vocal chords, thus Stone’s husky voice. Her wailing as an inconsolable infant created an imperfection that is now unique to her. It makes her special. It’s “Emma Stone.”

What was once a huge problem created an asset. Which makes me think about myself. How life’s worst leave their mark, but that’s not necessarily a bad thing.

Just ask Emma Stone.

Or Jimmy.

Or you. Got any scars that make you shiny?

The first time my mother saw my father watch a Penn State football game, she took off her engagement ring, threw it at him, and promptly left.

My father Wilson is a sweet, humble, kind, fun-loving, jovial man. So wonderful is dear old dad that when my mother continued dating other fellas back in the day (they met when they were teenagers, those kids!), my Grandma Cora told her daughter, “Go ahead. Date who you want. You’re young! But we’ll never love or welcome anyone into this family like we do Wilson.” Mom got wise soon after that.

Dad is so loving and accommodating that he has answered to any name even remotely like his own–as not to put anyone else out. Wilson, Will, Bill, Billy, William, BILLY JACK–you name it, or him, rather. Dad would never want YOU to feel uncomfortable.

But Penn State football takes the ease out of my easy-going father. Always has. He truly has a love-hate relationship with all things Nittany Lion. It’s a messy one, folks. Imagine that.

Needless to say, I grew up knowing Joe Paterno’s name–the one synonymous with some other not-so-nice names in the heat of the moment. At the same time, it was clear that Paterno was to be respected, as were his Nittany Lions. “We are… Penn State!,” after all.

We were (and are) a football family. Dad coached. My brother was a star player and even played college football. He attended football camps (though not the one in question) at Penn State. I can remember crying in the end zone the night by brother’s high school team lost their district game senior year by a two-point conversion. I was in eighth grade. To this day, I know what we’re all doing on a Saturday during football season, though we rarely get to spend them together anymore. Dad and Reid are no doubt watching “the game” (my brother may have even traveled to State College for the event), and Mom is out doing what she’s done every Saturday since marrying my father–shopping. Hey, if it ain’t broke…

I fought attending Penn State as a college student. It was so expected as a Pennsylvanian, you know? So, off I went to two other schools before transferring my junior year. Penn State is where I (finally, Dad would say) earned my undergrad degree. It’s also where I finally discovered a rich college experience. Happy Valley became my happy place. (Well, specifically, The Creamery did.)

Penn State is a truly great school, both academically and in its traditions. But you can’t separate it from football. And you can’t separate the football from the Paterno. He’s been there for over 60 years, 46 as head coach. HE’S the real school mascot, people. Paterno is the institution that built a collegiate institution. Generations of faithful fans have worshiped him for over half a century. He’s the winningest coach in football history. We should all be so lucky as to build a legacy like Paterno’s.

And yet… he’s only a man.

Paterno made a grav, life-altering mistake with regard to assistant coach Jerry Sandusky. He fulfilled his obligation, yes, but there is no getting around the fact that he could’ve done more to help stop Sandusky from violating other kids. He knows it too. While announcing his resignation, the 84-year-old legend said, “This is a tragedy. It is one of the great sorrows of my life.With the benefit of hindsight, I wish I had done more.”

My heart is broken. (Hey, if I can cry over Mel Gibson and Robert Downey, Jr., ,you know this PSU alum is shedding a few tears.) Penn State football is a big part of my childhood, my college experience, my family. If you didn’t grow up in the tradition of loving the game through blue and white lenses, you do not understand. You couldn’t. There’s been no one like Paterno. Period.

But this scandal is not so much about Paterno, or even about Penn State University. (Nope. I promise–though the media would have you believe otherwise.) It’s about a very sick and disturbed man whose illness has threatened to ruin the lives of children, many of whom are now men. Those victims (Who knows how many?) have had to deal with the tragedy of Sandusky for years. They’ve had to redefine who they are and try to navigate relationships. They’ve had to work to move beyond being violated as children and to find another name for themselves besides “victim.”

The mother in me wants justice (NOW, already!). The alumnus in me wants truth. The Christ-follower in me wants mercy, and healing, and grace, and redemption. I want something that will make these things right. Someone who will make those boys, those men, whole.

There are so many whose lives and stories have no doubt been ruled and “ruined” by Sandusky’s sickness. He himself has been living in a sick, twisted, and deluded world for decades. A world of dark, evil, and exhausting secrets.

He has a wife. Did she know? Didn’t she know? (I so hope the latter.) Regardless of when she found out, imagine the humiliation as a wife. The fury as a mother–that is, if she had any fight left in her. Together, they’ve adopted six children and even been foster parents to three.What about them? Sandusky has been in the presence of thousands of kids. (Blood pressure is rising…) And here’s what’s crazy: His programs have somehow managed to help many of them. All while ruining the lives of others.

Did I mention this is messy, folks? That it’s complicated?

Sandusky will get his. He will face justice and take up residency in prison very soon. University president Graham Spanier has been fired. Paterno fired himself, essentially, still hoping to finish the season. The Board of Trustees felt that wasn’t enough and got rid of him with one swift phone call (yes, phone call) last night.

As an alum and a lifetime Penn State fan I am distraught. My feelings are not clear-cut because I don’t have all the facts (though, they might not fix how I’m feeling). I hope we get them, but frankly, we may not. This case has been shrouded in secret for years. Secrets grow in silence. They isolate those involved. Secrets lie to us and try to say we can’t tell the truth.

This is messy, folks. And the investigation is just getting started.

Last night, PSU students rioted. They’re young and impulsive. (Here’s hoping the Board hasn’t been as rash. I honestly don’t know.) Now, in my thirties, I don’t have those luxuries of time and naivete. This is messy, after all, and complicated. Therefore, my response is not black or white, but a very heavy, uncomfortable shade of gray.

And blue. Nittany blue.

We (still) are… Penn State. We just have to figure out what that means without Paterno, merely a man whom we never should have deified to begin with–regardless of his career record, and now, faults. The name “Penn State” will have to take on new meaning. Now, we’re charged with redefining what that name means.

Signed,

One tired, confused, and deeply saddened Penn State alum

P.S. JoePa, I’m sad and disappointed you didn’t do more. Your name and power would have had more weight than you know. You could have made a difference–you certainly have with the rest of your life.

P.P.S. (On a personal note) JoePa, thanks for being so understanding that day when my little Ford gave you a little “love tap” on the leg that one time in that intersection just off campus. I know you apologized for stepping out in front of my car, but let’s be honest: I shouldn’t have been eating a burger while driving.

Lesson(s) learned.

Maybe it was the fact that my twin girls O and Ro woke up chattering and partying at 5 a.m. (The entire fam fell back asleep by 6:30–I did not. But the bath tub’s clean due to my insomnia. Score?!) Or maybe it was the fact that as a celeb blogger I feel some major remorse for covering his personal woes of the past year. Or perhaps it’s because I’ve been a huge fan of his work for as long as I can remember. Regardless, I was moved to tears (for longer than I care to admit) over a news story that’s been running today on Mel Gibson and his friend Robert Downey, Jr.

Last night in Los Angeles, Downey, Jr. received the American Cinematheque Award amidst his peers. He requested that his friend and colleague Gibson be the one to present him with the award. It would seem that Downey, Jr. not only has a white hot career, but also a soft spot for a fellow actor/addict.

Both actors have quite publicly struggled with substance abuse. In case you were wondering how Downey, Jr. got a second chance when no one was hiring him as he was uninsurable a la Lindsay Lohan, it was in fact Oscar-winning actor/director Gibson who gave him that opportunity, paying his insurance to appear in the film “The Singing Detective,” a Gibson-directed project. Incidentally, the role had been developed for Gibson himself, but he chose to give it Downey, Jr. instead. And so we have the second act of the “Iron Man” actor’s career.

According to Entertainment Weekly, on stage at the ceremony, Gibson said of his decision to work with Downey, Jr. when everyone else had written him off, “You are my friend. When I saw you all those years ago and got all those warnings, I just thought, ‘There’s nothing so much wrong with him. You’re a good dude with a good heart.’”

Here’s the part that’s got me all mushy: Downey, Jr. is now paying it back around to his blacklisted friend. Upon receiving his award from the mastermind behind “Braveheart” and “Passion of the Christ,” Downey, Jr. said, “When I couldn’t get sober, he told me not to give up hope and encouraged me to find my faith. It didn’t have to be his or anyone else’s as long as it was rooted in forgiveness. And I couldn’t get hired, so he cast me in the lead of a movie that was actually developed for him. He kept a roof over my head and food on the table and most importantly he said if I accepted responsibility for my wrongdoing and embraced that part of my soul that was ugly – hugging the cactus he calls it — he said that if I hugged the cactus long enough, I’d become a man.”

The result is plain to see; Downey, Jr. is once again beloved by both Hollywood industry types and the audiences who pay to see all of his well-received films. He added at the ceremony, “I did and it worked. All he asked in return was that someday I help the next guy in some small way. It’s reasonable to assume at the time he didn’t imagine the next guy would be him or that someday was tonight. So anyway on this special occasion and in light of the recent holidays including Columbus Day, I would ask that you join me, unless you are completely without sin in which case you picked the wrong f—ing industry, in forgiving my friend his trespasses and offering him the same clean slate you have me, allowing him to continue his great and ongoing contribution to our collective art without shame. He’s hugged the cactus long enough.”

Love that–”hugging a cactus.” And I’ve wondered about Gibson so much over the last several months, especially after watching him in the Jodie Foster-directed “The Beaver,” a hauntingly touching film about a husband, father, and successful toy executive dealing with severe depression. Parallels abound throughout the film. Yes, I have found–and still find–his anti-Semitic rants disgusting. Yes, he did rough up his girlfriend (to what degree, who knows?), but I’m challenged by the idea of forgiving him–as if I know him personally. In the court of public opinion, which all celebrities enter into, Gibson has been tried and found guilty many times over, a fallen and broken man.

The truth is, I miss his work. I really do. I’m grossed out by some of his public behavior, but I wonder where his career would be today had he not “messed up” so hugely. But shame on me for judging Gibson so harshly. I shudder to think what people would think of me should the spotlight fall directly on my vat of shortcomings and missteps (especially should I struggle with addiction). The way I can hurt people. The thoughts I can have. I am so, SO far from perfect.

What I’m confessing now is that I really, really, really want Mel back. Is it too soon? Does it mean there’s something irrevocably wrong with me for “forgiving” him his racist rants, for being willing to pay to see his work again? I mean, Tracy Morgan made some super off-color homosexual comments right here in my hometown of Nashville (at the Ryman!), and I’m still tuning in to “30 Rock”–anyone else?

I doubt Gibson needs my forgiveness to get on with his life, but I wonder what it says about me if I can’t give it to him. I talk about faith and redemption and how I desperately need them both. Just because I’ll never meet Gibson doesn’t mean I shouldn’t be willing to offer them to him.

What do you think? Should Gibson get a second chance? Would you pay to see his work again? Or am I simply a sleep-deprived mother of twin toddlers? I’d honestly like to know what you think.

Photo: Entertainment Weekly

First, it should be said that I go for pictures first when I look at a book, so it only makes sense that I looked for a pic for this post prior to writing it.

Second, it should be said, in full disclosure, that of those “cyclist” pics, some were of nude yet body-painted folks. This seems so awfully wrong.

Third, also in full disclosure but absolutely no nudity whatsoever, I just learned to ride a bike earlier this year. YES, really.

Fourth, it should be said, in defense of my parents, that they did try to teach me, but the former kid actor in me was always afraid I would break a leg literally before breaking a leg figuratively before my next show.

Fifth, it should be said that really, if I’m, like, really, REALLY honest, I was probably just super scared I’d fall and break that literal leg.With me, fear is a great demotivator.

Sixth,… well, not much has changed (I’m still scared), but I did actually ride a bike.

Seventh, even now, if you can ride a bike out among other people, bikes, and cars, I commend you and tend to think of you as Lance Armstrong himself walking in my midst, for I, in my 30s, am still self-relocated to the church parking lot down the street.

My husband, however, is not. He just rode 120 miles in two days in the MS Society’s Bike to Jack and Back (that’d be the Jack Daniels distillery, which, most ironically, is located in a dry county.) Does anyone else consider it a colossal foul to mix extreme athletics with alcohol? Anywho, I’m super duper proud of my hubs for lots of things, but especially so because I think any bicycler (that’s what they’re called, right?) is Lance Armstrong. Naturally, my husband is only slightly existing below the supernatural level now.

The hubs is really getting into cycling: the embarrassingly tight gear, the insanely veined calf muscles, the lingo. He tried to explain to me why teams in big races like, say, the Tour de France (not exactly my idea of “touring” France, but whatevs) travel in packs–and no, it’s not because they wanna hang out and catch up (ahem), like some non/novice bikers might suspect.

Apparently, they take turns being “the puller,” leading one another against the wind’s traction. The rest of the team falls back behind to benefit from the person cutting through the wake of the wind. (Not sure something like “the wake of the wind” exists, but as a newbie, I’m going with it.) Yes, everyone’s legs are pumping, but the puller is breaking a bit of the resistance for his teammates.

And, because I tend to make everything a metaphor (My parents call this “dramatic”–Duh! I have an acting degree, which you paid for!), I thought this was a great illustration for friendship. I like to think I can sometimes manage to be “the puller,” breaking wind–

Wait. That came out wrong.

Wait. So did that.

If you catch my drift–Wait!

What I mean to say is, I think we all need someone to carry some of the burden from time to time, to meet up with some of the resistance on our behalf. To enter into prayer on our behalf. To help unload and offset the crap coming our way.

Please ignore all the potty humor. I am, after all, just a girl who is learning to ride a bike, and humbly hoping to do so alongside the people I love and who love me so well.

When did you learn how to ride a bike? Ever break a leg? Wind? Both?

When Apple co-founder and technology genius Steve Jobs passed away on Wednesday, October 5, the world responded via the devices he imagined and created. I’ve already written about his passing, but my thoughts are still resting on the life and too-soon death of Jobs. Why has his story impacted so many of us so much? In the end, what I’m left with is that while Jobs was certainly a creative visionary in his field, he also seemed to possess a vision for what makes for a good life. To keep pushing, forcing every ounce of possibility into fruition.

His now infamous commencement address at Stanford University indicates that Jobs has always had a keen grasp on the finite nature of this lifetime, and so he made every effort in both his professional and personal life to be certain his time here had a residual effect.

In that address to the newly graduated, Jobs admonished, “… For the past 33 years, I have looked in the mirror every morning and asked myself. ‘If today were the last day of my life, would I want to do what I am about to do today?’ And whenever the answer has been ‘No’ for too many days in a row, I know I need to change something.”

Who does that? Who acknowledges on a regular basis that his time may be winding down and doesn’t respond by turning down a dismal self-absorbed spiral? It’s as if somewhere deep in his gut, Jobs knew he wouldn’t get a lot of time to do finish everything. Proving that point, we now know he left plans behind for a new “spaceship-like” Apple headquarters building he would never enter and, according to the U.K. Daily Mail, there are “at least four years worth” of new and updated Apple products “in the pipeline.” So, the gift of Jobs will just keep on giving.

And while his bout and battle with pancreatic cancer ultimately claimed his life, I’m guessing his disease probably made him an even better husband, father, leader, and creator in the end. No, Jobs was not in any way lucky to struggle with cancer, but there is something to be said for deep pain that can spur us on to even greater life–in Jobs’ case, even in the face of his death.

As someone who’s struggled with autoimmune disease for years now, I’ve learned the hard way that pain is a wake-up call. It’s a harsh slap in the face that our days are numbered, and nothing we can do can ultimately change our allotment. Pain like that can be frightening and debilitating. It can keep you from actually living out the days you have been given, unless you can manage to see something on the other side of it. Unless you can learn to lean into that pain and fear and find something more than yourself and much, much bigger than your sickness. I think that’s why Jobs’ death, and now the story of his life, are rattling me so. I am in no way saying my lot is as bad as his, but this is where I find him most inspiring: not in all he’s created, but in his pain and in his struggle and in his humanity.

Jobs told those Stanford kids, “Almost everything — all external expectations, all pride, all fear of embarrassment or failure — these things just fall away in the face of death, leaving only what is truly important. Remembering that you are going to die is the best way I know to avoid the trap of thinking you have something to lose. You are already naked. There is no reason not to follow your heart.”

Yes, I celebrate the genius of Jobs, but I also celebrate his humanity. May we all live life so fully and so fully follow our own hearts.

Photo credit: digitalization.wordpress.com

Recently, I landed a gig writing content for the Blue Zones Project. This is honestly a dream job for me considering I’ve touted Dan Buettner’s bestselling book “The Blue Zones” on this here blog more than once. It’s such an interesting read, and I’m really loving the opportunity to delve more into the subject of living longer, better. You can read more of my thoughts on the longevity hot spots across the globe where people live the longest, healthiest lives at Magazines.com. Clearly, I’m a fan.

For those who might want the quick version of the book before committing to reading it (Dad, I’m talking to you!), you might want to check out Buettner’s TED talk on the Blue Zones: “How to Live to Be 100.” I promise it’s fascinating stuff, and it’s changing lives right here in the U.S.; Iowa recently announced it’s adopting the tenants of the Blue Zones in its Healthiest State Initiative in which it hopes to become the healthiest state in the country by 2016.

Since I’m immersed in all things Blue Zones these days (Don’t worry: I’m not all “serious” these days. In fact, I’m writing about the Emmys right after this, I swear–long live faux tans and red carpets!), I’m always hearing of new ways to improve my lifestyle now in hopes that I might buy more time with those I love the most. I guess being diagnosed with an autoimmune disease puts a spotlight on that fighter instinct; I am forever looking for ways to improve my health. EVERYTHING is on the table.

Sure, I’ve read “The Blue Zones”–twice–but Buettner’s TED talk reminded me of the importance to live in community. Yes, we all need a “tribe” to keep our social-emotional health in tact, but Buettner stresses the importance of walking through life with other people, saying, “Isolation kills.”

I don’t know about you, but language like that sticks with me. We literally stand to gain years of healthy life if we allow other people in to our joys and sorrows and let them help shoulder our burdens. Nowadays, we certainly take pride in being able to “fix” ourselves, but that pride could be getting in the way of our health now and in the future. I don’t know, folks, it’s almost like we were built to do this life thing together.

“Live together, die alone,” just took on a whole new meaning, huh?

Photo credit: Tom Sanders Photography

As I sit in this cafe working and typing away, I am at once a spiritual dichotomy. Go figure. I’m happily writing away, hammering out words without distraction. Currently, Muse’s “Starlight” (the anthem accompanying that “Crazy Stupid Love” trailer–can’t wait!) is playing overhead:

Our hopes and expectations
Black holes and revelations
Our hopes and expectations
Black holes and revelations

Yes, in general, happy. Until those “hopes and expectations” (a.k.a., “black holes” sapping my joy) aren’t exactly met with ease. Hmph. Yep, there it is again. Tiny punctures of discontent, wondering, worrying, planning and plotting. Never completely content. Not quite satisfied. No matter the gifts. No matter the blessings. There’s still an itch there that won’t be scratched–at least not this side of heaven.

In short, my insides tend to groan a little something like this:

Is it just me, or do my offspring totally look like Mick Jagger here? Observe:

I’ll say it: WEIRD.

C.S. Lewis got it right (as he’s prone to do) when he said, “If I find in myself have a desire which no experience in this world can satisfy, the most probable explanation is that I was made for another world.”

Here’s to being extraterrestrial. At least I find myself in good company–that Mr. Lewis was a pretty all right fellow.

Photo credit: (above) yours truly, (below) popcrunch.com

This past Saturday, the hubs and I (and nearly everyone we know) headed to Vanderbilt Stadium to see U2 play in our hometown of Nashville. It had been 30 years since the Irish rockers had come back to Music City, dare I say because this town is notorious for it’s tough crowds filled with career musicians. Bono intimidated? Yeah, pretty hard to fathom.

The city was a abuzz with talk of the concert (my fourth and the hubs’s fifth) for weeks. Who knew the most U2 trivia and could give us new tidbits on our (corporate) fave band ? What would the set list be like? More “Achtung, Baby” this time? Word. We were no longer known by name–just by seating section. P-43-8? Absolutely.

U2 Set

For me, the band just gets better with age and time. There show was incredible. The set amazing and the fans devout. In so many ways, U2 shows seems like a church service to me. All these people united by music that transcends circumstance or situation. It’s not an escape, really, but an inspiration. And my purse got doused with beer on multiple occasions. Hey, at least it was Guinness. How fitting–the Irish beer.

One of the most fantastic moments of the show (and there were many) for me was when old video footage of the band from decades back was shown on that rockin’ set. And then the obvious hit me again: These guys have been together FOREVER. They’ve known each other since high school. There haven’t been rotating band members. They’ve been to one another’s weddings and been there for each other as their families have grown.

But the thing, is these guys have been in another successful marriage all these years–with their band. There are stories of how Edge, Larry, Adam and Bono have supported their brotherhood, of how they’ve literally and figuratively been willing to take a bullet for one another. So, while their music is… AWESOME, their story is legendary as well.

Imagine what they’ve seen and experienced together! How glad they are to have stuck it out together. Knowing how flawed we human beings are (ahem), it’s remarkable that they’ve maintained so many deep lifelong relationships.

Yes, U2 is one of world’s highest-paid musical acts. Of course, they’re stinkin’ rock stars who are filthy stinkin’ rich. I’d be lying if I said I don’t sometimes wish for a windfall and mad skills to put me in that stratospheric echelon. But at the end of the day–of this lifetime–I would absolutely love to have been as rich in relationship as the Brothers U2.

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