Rob Lowe inspires readers to take chances in Love Life

Skeptics stay with me. I recently reviewed actor Rob Lowe’s new book, Love Life, and guess what? That pretty boy can write.

I chose the book because I’d heard from fellow pop culturites that his first book, an autobiography called Stories I Only Tell My Friends was terrific.

stories i only tell my friends cover on carpoolcandy.com

The critically acclaimed bestseller traced his life from insecure theater nerd living in Ohio to young movie star and 80′s it-boy. He’s candid about his alcohol abuse and the rehab stint in 1990 that changed the course of his life, and led to his continued success in plum TV roles on many hit shows including The West Wing, Californication, and Parks and Recreation. 

I thought it made sense to read both books to compare the second one to the first. I was not disappointed. I’d even read a third!

Lowe is a gifted storyteller who uses humor and self-deprecation to draw readers in, and keeps their attention with fun tales of Hollywood behind-the-scenes.

Love Life is a collection of essays that reveal more about Lowe’s family life and personal philosophy, while still dishing details on show biz. Here’s an excerpt from my review:

Fans who fear he gave up all the good stuff in the first book will be pleasantly surprised.

“Love Life” is catnip for pop culture addicts. Lowe names some names (his torturous kissing scene with singer Jewel, and actor Tom Sizemore’s personal meltdown are two examples) but is coy about other famous “friends” — tantalizing readers with only hints of the players in some juicy stories.

Lowe talks about the craft of acting, offering tips on how to eat, use props, and ad lib on camera. He often reminds readers entertainment is a business, and success is fleeting. That’s driven home in the failure of two shows he produced and starred in, even turning down the part Patrick Dempsey made into McDreamy in “Grey’s Anatomy,” for a series that never got past a few episodes. But every experience helps him grow. “The only time you flop is when you don’t learn something,” Lowe writes.

A contender in movies, TV, and politics, Lowe meets Prince William and Kate, exchanges notes with Bill Clinton, and pals around with scores of A-list celebrities. But instead of just name-dropping, he has a way of making the reader feel like he snuck us in his shirt pocket and took us along for the ride.

As he stares at Warren Beatty’s Oscar at the legend’s home; or turns down Madonna for a dance at the Palladium; or is in the room with Arnold Schwarzenegger as he won the California gubernatorial election, he’s looking over at us whispering, “Can you believe this?!”  

 He manages to make being Rob Lowe somehow seem normal.

To read the rest of the review click here.

Love Life cover on carpoolcandy.com

If you grew up in the 80′s, if you like insider stories about how Hollywood works, if you enjoy smart, funny yarns, you’ll enjoy Love Life.

Both books have several pages of photos of Lowe through the years with his family and notable celebs. That bastard has barely aged a bit.

But don’t hold that handsome face against him.

Would you read the book? Tell me why/why not in the comments.

 

Why these unlikely triathletes are my heroes

Paralyzed triathlete on carpool candy.com

Cristina Ramirez (left) , Kerry Gruson (center) and Liliana Montes their swimming coach

One of the best parts about my gig writing features for the Today show website is the interesting people I get to interview. Last week, I wrote a story about two inspiring women who participated in a mini-triathlon in Florida Sunday. As I said in my lead, they are literally the last people you would ever think could compete in a triathlon, given their backgrounds.

But both Cristina Ramirez and Kerry Gruson are gals who like surprising people. By crossing the finish line Sunday, they probably even surprised themselves.

You can read details of their incredible story here.

Gruson is 66 and paralyzed after an attack 40 years ago. I spoke to her by phone for the story. Her voice is shaky and slow and it was difficult to understand her at first. But as we continued talking, it became much easier to communicate because her ideas and passion are so clear.  I was humbled by our conversation. Her spirit and energy outshine any of her disabilities.

Ramirez was also lovely and impressive. She has a family, trains for marathons and triathlons, and writes a blog called Triathlonmami.com. But somehow she finds time to train with Kerry, which has led to a friendship.

Paralyzed triathlete on carpool candy.com

The two were determined to finish the half-mile swim, 20.7-mile bike ride, and four-mile run and luckily had help along the way. There were several people assisting in Kerry’s transition from boat to bike carrier and many who knew their story cheering them on.

You can see video of the race and their triumphant finish here.

While Ramirez swam through the choppy ocean near Miami, she was tethered to a kayak by a long strap, pulling Gruson, who weighs about 100 pounds. The waves kept breaking over the boat, causing Gruson, lying supine in the kayak, staring skyward, to swallow sea water.

Here’s an excerpt from Cristina’s blog following the race.  You can read the full post and see pictures here. 

“Water rushes into my mouth and up my nose,” Gruson wrote after the race. “It hurts but I pay it no mind. More clearly than ever, I know why I am participating. And if it were easy, if there was no price to pay, this would have very little meaning.”

The two crossed the finish line in 3 hours and 23 seconds. Amazing!!

Paralyzed triathlete on carpool candy.com

I hope you’ll click on Cristina’s blog and read more of Kerry’s thoughtful comments about the race. Her mind is sharp and she and Cristina write beautifully about their experience.

I told my boys (8, 10, and 14)  about Kerry and Cristina and their incredible feat. The hook for them was the race. Any competition gets their attention. I’m hoping the women’s uplifting message that no challenge is impossible sunk in too.

I’ve discovered podcasts, have you?

Last week, I was preparing to go for a run when I realized my iPod had no juice. I’ve been running for 25 years but I still can’t go far if I don’t have some distraction– a friend or music.  Hearing myself huffing and puffing makes me tired, and all I can think about is being done.

I was annoyed because I haven’t run much in months (thanks polar vortex) and I was motivated by the beautiful day. I started to look on my iPhone for Pandora or some radio app and saw my “podcasts” icon.

podcast icon on carpoolcandy.com

I’ve only listened to a podcast once. My savvy friend and pop culture maven Julie told me months ago to listen to a podcast called By the Way, hosted by the actor and comedian, Jeff Garlin. Garlin is best known for his role on Curb Your Enthusiasm and now stars in one of my favorite comedies, ABC’s The Goldbergs. 

Julie flagged it for me because Garlin had had a great talk with my hero Lena Dunham, the actress, writer, and producer of HBO’s Girls. The podcast is basically a recording of Garlin sitting on stage in front of an audience interviewing one person for at least an hour. It’s uncensored, seems mostly unedited, and because of Garlin, unpredictable.

I loved the Lena Dunham chat but after I listened to it, I forgot all about podcasts. I read books and magazines, watch too much TV, try (failing lately) to keep up with movies and spend too much time on social media. I didn’t think I needed to add another entertainment category to my already busy schedule.

By The Way on carpool candy.com

courtesy Earwolf Media

But there I was in my spandex pants with my running shoes double knotted, all hydrated and ready to go. So I scrolled through the By The Way interviews and picked Judd Apatow, the director, writer and producer of TV shows like Freaks and Geeks and Girls, and movies like the 40-Year-Old Virgin and Knocked Up.

Apatow is wildly talented and accomplished, but also is about my age, Jewish and neurotic so he seems very familiar to me. A conversation with Garlin and Apatow sounded very promising.  I started running and within a few minutes I forgot I was pounding the pavement and felt like I was hanging out with two funny guys.

The discussion was completely engrossing. I even giggled out loud a few times, and wondered if people on the street thought I was nuts. Listening to people talking in your ears, and the natural progression of conversation on the show felt intimate.

The two are friends and have some shared experiences so that lends itself to easy rapport, but Garlin is a no-bullshit kind of guy, unafraid of offending people, especially celebrities. Like when he went on a hilarious rant about how much he hates director/producer Michael Bay (Transformers and Armageddon)  and refuses to see his movies.

by the way graphic on carpool candy.com

The guys were still chatting when I finished my run so I stretched and then cleaned my kitchen while listening to the end of the show, when Garlin takes questions from the audience. I didn’t want it to end. One guy asked when was the last time each of them had smoked pot. Their answers were very surprising.**

I’ve always had a fantasy of being friends with Apatow and his wife, actress Leslie Mann. They seem very cool and as normal as you can be in Hollywood. As my week went on, I kept thinking about that great conversation, as if we had all been pals at dinner together. When a friend asked if I had ever tried pilates, I answered no, but wanted to add, “But Jeff Garlin does it once a week!”

So now I’m obsessed with the idea of podcasts. (I know they’ve been around for 10 years but I’m a late bloomer when it comes to tech.) I realized it’s a great distraction on long walks with the dog and on my commute to the city.

But I’m such a newbie, I don’t know any good ones besides By the Way. 

I’m so behind on this so please enlighten me and recommend your favorite podcasts in the comments…… I’m listening.

**Apatow said he hasn’t smoked since college because he did it too much and hated the way it made him feel. Garlin also had not smoked in many years.

Expectations high for How I Met Your Mother finale

How I Met Your Mother promo on carpoolcandy.com

On Monday night, the gang from CBS’ How I Met Your Mother  will drink their final beer at MacLaren’s and say “awesome” one last time before the series comes to an end. I’m sad but I agree it’s time.

Wilson and I discovered the show in its second season after hearing the buzz. It never caught on like Friends, but was just as good, if not better at times. The show is set in New York with a bunch of 20 and then 30 something pals trying to figure out what they want out of life, while remaining incredibly loyal to each other.

The hook of the show and what set it apart was the always-present mystery of who Josh Radnor’s “Ted” would end up marrying and making the “mother” of his kids. Ted is a hopeless romantic seeking out the yin to his yang, and discarding many, many girls along the way.

Every episode started in the year 2030 with Ted narrating a story to his kids about his adventures with best friends Lily, Marshall, Robin and Barney, and many included small hints about the illusive mother.

How I met Your mother mother on carpoolcandy.com

The mother is finally revealed! (CBS)

The first few seasons grabbed us with layered, relatable characters, smart plots, and funny scripts. Not only were we curious about finding out who Ted ends up with, but the writers were extremely creative.

There was the homage to the Seinfeld  “backwards” episode where the plot went from end to beginning, the numbers episode where every scene had a hidden number counting down from 50 to 1, and the mostly sung musical episode.

And who could forget Ted’s 2-minute date with Stella (played by Sarah Chalke.) After telling Ted she was too busy working and raising her daughter to see him, he creates the perfect date in 120 seconds during her lunch break, squeezing in a meal at the cafe next door, watching movie clips at an electronics store, and a 5-second cab ride back to the office.

In addition to wild romantic gestures, ongoing plot points (the mother’s yellow umbrella, Ted’s Halloween bad luck) inside jokes (the slap bet, the Bro-Code, custom high-fives) the show also boasted some big guest stars, including Britney Spears, Katie Holmes, Bryan Cranston, Kim Kardashian, J Lo, and Katy Perry.

But beyond the clever writing and original storytelling were 5 rounded characters. After nine seasons, I know exactly who they are and I’m going to miss hanging out with those crazy kids.

How I Met Your Mother finale on carpoolcandy.com

CBS

Even on the best sitcoms,  the story lines weaken and laughs wane over time, and last season the show lost its luster. But I couldn’t quit HIMYM. 

I’m so glad we stuck it out. This entire last season took place (save for flashbacks and fast forwards) over Robin and Barney’s country wedding weekend. The writers used the device as a way to get back to old plots and characters to wrap things up in one of the best series endings since Six Feet Under.

six feet under promo shot

Six Feet Under/HBO

What makes a good finale is so subjective it’s hard to proclaim which shows nailed it and which made us scream at the TV. Six Feet Under is the most brilliantly memorable: the show about death revealed in fast sequence how each character met his/her end.

But there have been other satisfying and sentimental endings I loved, including MASH, Mary Tyler Moore, West Wing, Friday Night Lights, and most recently The Office.

On my meh list are Seinfeld and Sopranos, and the total copouts include Lost and Friends.

The shows leading up to the last episode of HIMYM have been so promising I’m expecting big, sappy things from the finale. There are rumors the mother has died and Ted’s telling the kids their story after she’s gone, or that she never existed at all. It’s unclear whether Barney and Robin end up together.

I’ll be snuggling up with a box of Kleenex and my Twitter feed Monday night to find out.

Kids, it’s bound to be LEGEN… wait for it… DARY.

For a more complete list of memorable series finales click here.  What were your favs? Which did you hate? Tell me in the comments.

 

Let’s talk about sex…to 5th graders

I got a flyer in my 10-year-old son’s backpack this week, inviting parents to view the film all 5th graders in our school district will see called “Always Changing: A Lesson in Puberty.”

Even I giggled. First, at the word puberty. Then, at the thought of my baby-faced son enduring its awkward changes.

girl boy graphic on carpoolcandy.comI can’t remember why I didn’t attend the parents puberty night when my oldest son (now 14) was in 5th grade but there must have been a very good reason. Of course I’d want to view the film because a) I’m a busybody …. b) I want to know what ideas will be floating around my son’s curious and confused brain after seeing it…  and c) maybe I’ll learn something!

The conversation at dinner the night of the talk went like this:

Me:   I’m going to a talk at school tonight after dinner.

Aden (10):   You’re going to the SEX TALK??

Eli (8):   SEX?! (fits of hysterical laughter)

Me:   Why are you laughing so hard? Do you know what sex is?

Eli:   (still laughing) NO!!

Jacob:   Oh I remember that talk. It’s really boring except for the one part where they talk about getting an erection.

Aden and Eli:   A what??

Jacob:   An erection.

Eli:   (squealing, giggling, practically falling out of his chair) Erection!! Erection!!

Me:   Do you guys know what it is?

Jacob:   (Trying hard to be blasé) I know what it is.

Eli:   (stops laughing) No, what is it?

Me:   (Trying to stay matter of fact and breezy) It’s a physical reaction in your body, when blood rushes to your penis and it gets stiff.

Eli:   (Blurts out in horror) My penis is going to fill up with blood?

Me:   (Wishing Wilson was home) It doesn’t hurt. It’s not as bad as it sounds.

whats happening to me boys pic

Grateful for the excuse to escape, I headed to school for a refresher course in breakouts and boobs.

Something about sitting in the back row of the school auditorium with my friends, taking notes about fallopian tubes brought me right back to adolescence. The short film tries to demystify puberty and explain the body changes kids can expect starting at 10 years old.

It will not win any Oscars for acting but it gets the point across without being too corny. Contrived scenes between teachers, parents, and other caregivers and their kids, explain things like anatomy, body odor, and pimples. The funniest part was when a mother explained menstruation to her tentative daughter saying “You’ll get used to it. Soon, you won’t even notice it.”  Really?!

Boys and girls screen separate versions of the film that pertain to their specific body changes. Then a teacher and the school nurse is available to answer any questions in a safe atmosphere, without being mortified by the presence of the opposite sex. But the film only focuses on puberty, and stops short of explaining intercourse.

They leave that tricky topic to us parents.

Our district addresses the reproductive system and more advanced sexuality issues in middle and high school. Our district’s head of health and physical education led the meeting and complimented our progressive community for allowing many pressing modern issues– including different types of birth control and STD’s– in the high school curriculum. She noted the district has a low teen pregnancy rate, which she hopes is in part due to education and awareness.

I was so nervous and embarrassed about anything having to do with sex and my body as a teen, that it made me uptight about it for more years than necessary. Curious angst comes with the territory, but I want to make sure my boys feel more comfortable with the changes in their bodies and their sexuality than I did.

whats happening to me book cover

My mother gave me “the talk” briefly when I was maybe 10 or 11, but I can’t even remember what she said, nor could she when I asked her this week.  I do remember her giving me these funny cartoon books called What’s Happening to Me  and Where Did I Come From?  which explained a lot more than she could.

where did i come from book cover

I remember specific illustrations and explanations to this day, which is why I bought them for Jacob when he was about 9. He was– and always has been– extremely curious and demanded a sex talk before most of his peers.

He did have several friends who had older siblings who had revealed some — mostly inaccurate– facts about sex and puberty so we felt it was time. We had the talk with Aden a few months ago and he asked fewer questions than Jacob and seemed less interested. (Those hilarious discussions are a whole other blog for another day!)

As the mother of three boys, I’d like them to understand how all bodies work and how we gals think and feel sometimes.  I’m hoping that will make them better boyfriends, husbands, friends…and people to whomever they love.

The puberty film is sponsored by Proctor and Gamble and unsurprisingly pushes Always feminine products at the end. It’s shown in many school districts nationwide. If you want to screen the film yourself, here’s the link. The site also has scripts and resources for parents to talk to their kids about sex.

Watch it and let me know what you think in the comments.

My teenaged son is obsessed with sneakers

As the mom of three boys (ages 8, 10, and 14) I consider myself lucky that I don’t have to spend gobs of money and time on nurturing their wardrobes.

I have friends with daughters whose mood often depends on whether they have the right outfit on any given day. In my testosterone-fueled world, a pair of sweats, and a sports-logo t-shirt is the standard uniform.

boys wearing sports logo tshirts on carpoolcandy.com

But recently, my boys have become fixated on having the right sneakers for every activity. There are everyday school sneakers, basketball high tops, and “dressy” kicks to only be worn on special occasions.

My oldest son, Jacob, began having unrealistic shoe-buying expectations last year, so to avoid arguing over whether spending upwards of $150 for a pair of kids sneakers was reasonable, I told him to ask for Nike gift cards for birthdays and holidays. Once my wallet was off the table, I could sit back and marvel at the absurdity of this footwear frenzy.

For weeks, the family computer had multiple windows up on Nike’s customizing page. Soon Jacob had pulled his brothers into the shoe vortex, and all three were constantly checking for new colors and designs, and readjusting their dream shoes on the Nike website. It was essential that they represent their style on the basketball court with the latest LeBrons, Jordans, or KD’s.

boys Nike sneakers on carpool candy.com
KD’s– a line of multi-colored leather Nikes inspired by NBA star Kevin Durant– run anywhere from $100 to$200 a pair. That’s a lot of saved allowance.

Jacob swears there are kids at school who spend $300 to $400 for these status symbols. Custom Nikes have become the Hermes Birkin bags of the teen boy set: outrageously expensive, rare, and coveted.

The pinnacle of our shoe adventures was Jacob’s unrelenting quest for a pair of Nike KD VI Aunt Pearl’s. Another Nike ploy is to hype up a new pair of shoes and then warn customers there will only be a finite number of pairs sold, so demand is off the charts.

Kevin Durant was inseparable with his late Aunt Pearl who passed away from lung cancer in 2000, the Nike website says. The floral motif on the shoe is similar to the pattern on a robe that Aunt Pearl often wore. For the life of me, I’ll never understand why a boy would think these shoes are cool.

Nike KD VI Aunt Pearl shoes on carpoolcandy.com

Nike is always releasing new collectible shoes –often via social media– and jokers like my otherwise intelligent son jump through basketball hoops to get them.

The Aunt Pearls were going on sale on a Thursday at 6pm and Jacob had a basketball playoff game at the same time. Instead of giving up, he somehow enlisted one of his minions (that’s me) to jockey for him.

He wrote down a list of detailed instructions. He set a timer so I would be on the computer at least 10 minutes before 6pm. He opened his Nike account and entered all the payment and shipping information so none of that would slow me down. He was so worked up, I actually got nervous about whether I could pull off buying this spectacular pair of shoes.

At 5:55pm I was at the computer, trolling Nike’s Twitter feed, waiting for the announcement with the link to buy the shoes. I did everything I was supposed to do and then I waited…..and waited….and waited.

buying Nike sneakers on carpool candy.com

Anxiously staring at the screen reminded me of the old days when I’d wait on hold forever, trying to get concert tickets by phone. Although a pink swoosh stamped on leather sneakers did not seem nearly as motivating as a magical night hearing Bruce belt out “Jungleland.”

But something about the experience was amusing, and I was kind of proud of Jacob’s tenacity. But alas, after about 20 minutes of staring, we got this screen….

buying Nike sneakers on carpool candy.com

And just like that, the dream of Aunt Pearl was gone.

Now Jacob is regularly cruising eBay, negotiating shoe trades for unusual designs. He swears the shoes he’s buying have never been worn, but he’s sold some of his old shoes to fools looking for discontinued styles.

It’s good you can only see merchandise online. If prospective buyers could smell his used shoes, he wouldn’t make a dime.

Do your kids have a crazy retail obsession? Commiserate in the comments.

The best laid plans: when parenting spoils a good time

Wilson and I were invited to two cocktail parties Saturday night, and were looking forward to seeing friends at the adults-only affairs. We got all gussied up (40 minutes for me, 5 for him) and hit the town.

ACHIEVE dinners invitation on carpool candy.com

The night was full of promise

We’re at the point now where we can skip a sitter if we stay local and our 14-year-old, Jacob, watches his brothers, Aden 10, and Eli, 8. The downside is they never get to bed at a decent hour and the house is a mess, the upside is it’s free.

Eli had a sleepover party so if Jacob wanted to hang with his friends at home or elsewhere, the plan was that Aden would be ok to stay alone for the evening.

But as we all know, mom plans and the universe laughs.

Eli came home from school Friday with a temperature and a sore throat. When we took him to the doctor Saturday he had strep throat and laid on the couch all day. Plan B had bitter Jacob staying home with no friends, playing nursemaid to his brother. Part of that job was giving Eli his liquid antibiotic before bed.

I was one and a half glasses into a Sauvignon Blanc, having a lovely conversation about  music with friends when we got the first call. Jacob could not get the medicine bottle open. Apparently child-proof tops only work when you wish they wouldn’t.

We tried to verbally explain how to get the thing open but after a few minutes, Wilson hopped in the car and drove 5 minutes to the house to open it for him.

He was back in a jiffy and we chatted some more before leaving for our next stop. In my old age, I find wine makes me tired if I sip it all night so I switched to a special vodka party punch that was so tasty I downed two glasses in an hour. I wasn’t driving so what the hell, right?

We checked in with the boys around 10pm. Eli and Aden were in bed and Jacob was watching basketball. We could finally relax. The parties were filled with people we love, the catered food was yummy and the candlelit homes were beautiful. It was turning out to be a stellar night.

Then the second call came in around 11pm.

It was Jacob saying Aden had woken up with stomach pains and puked all over his rug. Wilson could hear Aden in the background pleading with us to come home.

kids bathroom on carpool candy.com

The scene of the crime

I was munching on a mini cupcake when Wilson yelled at me from across the room with his serious face that we had to go immediately because Aden threw up. Wilson is very mature and take-charge in these situations.

My first thought should have been, “Oh no, my baby’s sick!” but instead it was “Damn, I’m having a good time and I don’t want to go home!”

It was probably the cocktails talking.

Wilson had car keys in hand and was glaring at me from the front door. I was still in shock and went to get my coat and purse. A few people asked why we were leaving so early (it’s not like us) and I told them about the puke. My friend Mike wondered why we both had to go home to help. One of us should be able to stay and have fun, he said.

For about 3 seconds I thought about tossing down my coat and staying, but a ball of guilt was gnawing at my insides and I knew it wouldn’t be worth it. Like a petulant child, I pouted all the way home.

But once we got there, any resentment or regret was pushed aside by my sympathy for Aden– who was doubled over in the bathroom– and the helpless look on Jacob’s face.

I was where I needed to be.

Wilson and I worked as a special ops team for the next 3 hours, taking turns between soothing encouragement in the bathroom, cleaning up the mess in the bedroom, and rubbing Aden’s back as he lay in bed waiting for the next bout of nausea to overcome him. He was heaving every 20 minutes or so until about 2am.

I had to slip out of my cocktail dress and heels so I could get on hands and knees to rid his room of the smell of puke, which is like kryptonite for Wilson. (I highly recommend rose-water from the GNC to neutralize odors after you clean up.)

rose water on carpool candy.com

Our savior

One extra special moment was when we had to shoo our puppy, Brady, away from going to town on Aden’s spew.

At about 1230am, Eli woke up moaning and crying. He was congested and hot and his throat hurt. I left Aden’s side to lay with Eli and rub his back to try to get him to sleep.

At this point, all that vodka punch and the kids’ wailing was starting to give me a headache. I needed sleep. Somewhere around 315am, Eli’s kicking and sniffling woke me up again and I crept from his room into my bed. When I looked at the clock in my room, it read 415am.

What a perfect night to lose an hour of sleep for daylight savings.

Everyone woke up feeling much better the next day. Brady even let us sleep late before barking to come out of his crate. The events of the night truly felt like a dream in the bright morning light.

As I picked up my dress in a heap on the floor and smelled the rose-water from Aden’s room I smiled. We had survived another sucky night of parenting.

Take that, universe.