Monday, January 31, 2011

Snow Bored

Although she spends a large portion of her day traveling back and forth between a couch and a comfy chair, my retriever Gracie is by no means your garden variety potato. The jingle of a leash brings this sassy senior to her feet in seconds; the human equivalent of 61, the golden girl is in standby party mode and ready to rock at a moment's notice.

Mounds of snow, bitter temperatures and sloppy, salty roads have kept the diva indoors and put a serious dent in her social life. You would have thought she had made the call when the cable guy arrived to check our service.

 "Hello- I'm experiencing an interruption in the transmission of butt rubs and head pats. May I please schedule an appointment? Between 8 and 11? Yes, someone over the age of 18 will be here."

Understanding that no one thinks your dog is as incredibly cute as you do, I did my best to keep the socialite at bay so the technician could do his work. Although he didn't seem to mind when she opportunistically nosed her way underneath a free hand, I lured her away with a bag of pita chips and hummus. When our issue was resolved, Gracie followed her new best friend to the door, made him promise that he would call and bid a wagging farewell. I looked into her limpid pools and said, "You need to get out more, girlfriend." She agreed.

The list of places to take a dog on a chilly weekend night in January pretty much begins and ends with Petco. So off we went to the pet-friendly superstore so the queen could hold court with her subjects.

Her anticipatory whines rose to a fever pitch as we pulled into the parking lot and she couldn't get through the store's automatic door fast enough. She did a quick survey of her kingdom, planted her lanky front legs and went into a full body shimmy, smiling at the highest setting. "Well, well... Hello Dolly, well, Hello Dolly, it's so nice to have you back where you belong..." Stock boys danced through the aisles, accompanied by cashiers on their registers, while the manager served up a glittering silver platter of  the finest canine haute cuisine. "Bridge that gap, fellas. Find me an empty lap, fellas. Dolly will never go away, Dolly will never go away, Dolly will never go away again!"

The music faded into the background and the spotlight shifted from our heroine to the Petco piece de resistance- the Treat Bar. "We feel the room swayin', for the band's playin', one of your old favorite songs from way back when...  Brightly colored plastic scoops rest atop mounds of biscuits and cookies spilling forth from their bins. I decide that it is a contemporary still life worthy of the old Dutch masters; Gracie decides that it is an open invitation to petty thievery.

 Subtlety is not one of our girl's strengths; she shoots toward the bar like a heat-seeking missile and scores a mouthful while a nearby group of boys  can hardly contain their laughter. I assure them that there is no charge for the entertainment and I attempt to redeem my dog-training credentials by demonstrating one of Gracie's brilliant tricks. A small crowd gathers, and in no time at all, the bandit is the belle of the ball. Perfect-yet another felon catapulted to celebrity status. Pretty soon she'll be
headed to rehab.

Mistaking Grace's audience for a potential onslaught upon her register, the lone cashier called for reinforcements. Basking in the oohs and ahhs of a
 few teen aged girls, Gracie snapped out of her trance long enough to see a familiar figure scurrying towards the front of the store. Darlene, our favorite Petco employee hurried to the aid of her coworker, stopping when she recognized the center of attention. "It's Graaacie!" She stooped down to greet her highness, who immediately demanded a massage. Darlene happily conceded,  golden curls running  through her fingers as she kneaded Gracie's shoulders. "I love this dog-she's my favorite." Like a sidelined stage mother, I smiled in agreement.

Darlene returned to her duties and we finished our shopping. Our social mission accomplished, we made our way to the checkout, where Gracie racked up a few more head rubs and earned a couple of treats. The lights dimmed, and we exited stage left. "Wow, wow, wow, fellas, look at the old girl now, fellas... Dolly will never go away, Dolly will never go away, Dolly will never go away again."                                 

"Money, pardon the expression, is like manure. It's not worth a thing unless its spread around, encouraging young things to grow." ~ Dolly Levi

Top photo- Gracie with Petco employee extraordinaire, Darlene. She is warm, professional, and a huge fan of Ms. G.
Bottom photos- No explanation necessary. 

Thursday, January 27, 2011

Literary Grace

 I'm honored to be part of the virtual blog tour for "Storm of the i", an extraordinary memoir by Tina Collen. Her struggle to make sense of an unfulfilled relationship with her father weaves throughout her creative and personal life, speaking to the unanswered questions we face everyday. Please stop by on February 4, 2011 for a guest posting by Tina.

Virtual Book Tour Announced for

STORM OF THE i: An Artobiography

Her father didn’t speak to her for 15 years and she never knew why.
Then she wrote the book she needed to read.

BOULDER, CO -- January 21, 2011 -- Author-artist Tina Collen will begin a Virtual Blog Tour on Jan. 31 to promote her award-winning memoir, Storm of the i: An Artobiography. This virtual book tour will take the author around the country via ten blogs that include book reviewers, literary commentators, fellow artists and even a Los Vegas stand up comic(!).

"A project five years in the making," Clay Evans wrote in his review for the Boulder Camera, "Collen’s slick, clever, refreshingly unpredictable labor of love, is like no other book you’re likely to read any time soon." Going a bit further, Sara Davidson, TV producer, and New York Times best-selling author describes STORM OF THE i: An Artobiography as "a fabulous hybrid, a memoir that's alive with foldouts, paintings, drawings and a surprising lift-up flap. (There's even a pop-up that hands the reader a fortune cookie with a message inside!).

Beneath the playfulness, however, lies the story of an artist trying to understand her father's lifelong anger towards her. At the pinnacle of her career, an exhibition of her work in Paris, Tina Collen finds herself inexplicably weeping. It takes courage to probe a father's lifelong rejection, but Collen has wonderful tools: her humor, memories and the trail of art she created. (I discovered Collen through her Fleurotica collages. At first glance, I thought I was looking at lush paintings of wildflowers, but on closer examination, I was in the world of the Kama Sutra. Based on the idea that flowers are simply sex organs, Collen created her wildflowers from risqué magazine scraps. She took something forbidden and transformed it into something witty, beautiful and acceptable.) In Storm of the i, she takes a heartbreaking story and transforms it into something witty, beautiful — and unforgettable."

"A reminder—vivid and visual– that the parent-child bond is the bedrock on which lives are built," wrote Stewart Oksenhorn, book reviewer for the Aspen Times.

After receiving an EVVY (1st prize for autobiography) and a 1st place Tech Award (for layout & design) from the Colorado Independent Publishers Association, Collen went to the Benjamin Franklin Awards in NYC—and with her book #3 on the best-seller list at the Boulder Bookstore back home, she walked away with a Silver medal for memoir. The next night she collected a bronze IPPY.

Demand for Collen’s multimedia presentations has been growing steadily. Her most recent author event in Denver was for an audience of 250. At these events, Collen concludes with a shocker—the story of what transpired between her and her 93 year old father after she finished writing the book he never read.

Excerpts of this remarkable work can be seen at

If you're curious about Fleurotica, Images in Erotic Montage you can also see some of the collages there.

Please join us on our tour by clicking the links on the days each review will appear. We hope you'll stop by with a question or comment.


Week 1

1/31/11 - James R. Ament -
2/1/11 - Book Fetish -
2/2/11 - Found Not Lost -
2/3/11 - Sandra's Book Club -
2/4/11 - Doing it with Grace -

Week 2

2/7/11 - Minding Spot -
2/8/11 - CIPA Bookshelf -
2/9/11 - Faye Quam Heimerl -
2/10/11 - Thoughts in Progress -
2/11/11 - Linda Lou, Live from Las Vegas -

For ongoing blog tour information, go to Tina's blog at

Artist/author Tina Collen begins a virtual book tour for her book Storm of the i: An Artobiography on Jan 31, 2011. Collen's book has been described as a fabulous hybrid, a memoir that's alive with foldouts, paintings, and a surprising lift-up flap.

Monday, January 17, 2011

Get It Off Your Chest

A few years ago, my friend's sister and her family made a trip from their home in San Fransisco to New York City. Primarily a baseball pilgrimage planned around a game at Yankee Stadium and a trip to the Baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown, the ladies decided to meet in the city to grab some "girl time" in an otherwise chock-full boys' adventure. Somewhere between the cheesecake and the observation deck of the Empire State Building, they hopped into a cab and made a trip to Linda's Bra Salon on Lexington Ave. Though not on the general public's list of tourist attractions, the salon pampers its clients with personal service and attention to detail. Two very important details, to be exact.

Linda "the Bra Lady" Becker and her bra-fitting team have  matched thousands of women with the proper foundation garments for over twenty years. While attending a mastectomy bra fitting class hosted by the American Cancer Society, Linda was shocked to find out that most women were wearing the wrong bra size and operating under the medieval notion that an uncomfortable fit was acceptable. She has since built a business committed to helping women of all sizes find bras that look and feel great.

My own bra epiphany came in the form of an e-mail lingerie advertisement which contained a sizing calculator much like the tool used to figure out a mortgage payment. By entering the measurements around the rib cage and across the fullest part of the breast, the correct size magically appears with the press of the button. I had become frustrated with my 34A riding up my back, and decided to see if this Internet Ouija board would give me an answer. Note to tiny self- don't ask the question if unprepared for the answer.

Imagine my horror when 36AA popped up in the little box on my computer screen. While I realize we're talking about a bra size and not a jail sentence or cancer diagnosis, as a 50 year old woman I thought I had left the training wheels behind in junior high. A quick online search found few 36AA's that weren't decorated with polka dots or bunnies. I suddenly found myself breaking out in hives before the high school dance. Oh my God! Is that a zit? Really? He said he likes me? Really?

I yanked myself out of algebra class and eventually found an age-appropriate model made by Wacoal, ordered it and blessed them for their sensitivity to the smaller set. When it arrived, I tried it on, took it for a test drive and it's been smooth sailing ever since.

Last week my friend forwarded me an e-mail for Linda's Bra Salon. She and her sister had indeed found the perfect fit on their visit and received regular e-mails from the store. Teaming up with Bra Recyclers, Linda is donating gently used or new bras on the one year anniversary of the earthquake in Haiti. A discount will be e-mailed to all those who donate, the size of the discount depending upon the number of bras sent. Soon a box filled with 34A's will be on its way to Linda and Bra Recyclers, who will in turn make sure they reach the women who so desperately need them. If you'd like to help them reach their goal of 1000 bras, you can send used or new bras to:

Linda's Online
c/o Operation: Bras for Haiti
68 Jay Street Suite 401
Brooklyn, NY 11201

Be sure to include your name and email address so they can email the discount to you.

You can also drop items off at the store at 828 Lexington Avenue between 63rd and 64th streets in New York City. While you're there, you might want to treat yourself to a little attention from Linda and her staff.
Of course, you can always benefit from Linda's expertise by visiting her website at
Believe me, there's nothing like a great fitting bra that knows its place and stays there. I'm proud to say that
soon my 34A's will find their place in Haiti.

Photo- Against the backdrop of my vintage childhood bedspread, Ms. Grace models one of my retired 34A's. I must admit it fits her better than it ever fit me.