Saturday, April 12, 2014

SoCal Author Sandra Tsing Loh Gives Us the 'Loh' Down on Life and Her New Book

Sandra Tsing Loh
Sandra Tsing Loh is mad -- well, a Mad Woman at least. In her latest memoir, The Madwoman in the Volvo: My Year of Raging Hormones, Loh reveals the dark side of being a woman ... and a wife and a mother.

Loh, who is both hilarious and thoughtful, will be speaking this weekend at the Los Angeles Times Festival of Books, and she took time to speak with L.A. Story about her new book, what it's like to go through menopause, some advice she's saving for her two daughters (ages 12 and 13) and where she likes to take her girls in L.A.


Tell me a little about your book, The Madwoman in the Volvo: My Year of Raging Hormones.

The book is my memoir of menopause – “meno-memoir,” I guess. It’s based on this piece I wrote for The Atlantic Monthly on menopause called The Bitch is Back, and it won the Best American Essay in 2012. This is an extension of that. It’s a book about a year in the life of a woman transitioning into menopause. It’s actually perimenopause, when the hormone levels are just swinging wildly up and down. You don’t know what’s happening to your body or your mood or your brain cells or anything. It’s a pretty wild ride.

It’s also a memoir of other things. I also had a midlife crisis, I had an affair in the middle of my marriage. I blew up my marriage, and I ended up in this little bachelor cottage, and I had too much wine and Ambien, and then my right side became a paralyzed claw. So everything that could go wrong went wrong.

Perimenopause, I've read, can start in your late 30s, which seems kind of scary. Were you surprised by the onset of perimenopause?

Yes, it can start in the late 30s, but it can last between 4 and 14 years. I was surprised myself—in my book it describes just driving along the freeway, coping with a bunch of stuff and then suddenly my mood fell, just dropped through the car and into the Earth. And it’s hormonal. It’s like where you go, “I am losing my mind.”

We all have too much on our plates, and I think especially the sandwich generation, and we all have our little ways of coping and getting through the day, where suddenly your little coping mechanisms -- your little jazz station, your half sandwich, your glass of Pinot Grigio at 6 -- are not working at all and you feel really black and dark, and that’s how it felt to me.

And my mom had been very depressed and actually ended up getting early Alzheimer’s, and you’re going, “Oh my gosh, am I reliving my mother’s history?”

How did you treat it?

In the book there’s this speech by the gynecologist -- the wonder gynecologist -- and she said, “You know, there are two kinds of girls: the Chinet girls and the paper plate girls. The Chinet girls, you can pile a lot on their plate and they don’t crack, and the paper plate girls, you can put a carrot on there, and they’ll just shatter to pieces. And so it’s a combo platter where she says, “I think at heart you’re a Chinet girl, but you’re going through a lot of physiological stuff right now and having an emotional response, so you can do two things. … And I finally went to the doctor after a year because I so didn’t want to be weighed. and I got a little better advice.

When these waves of either emotion or sadness or grief or rage come over you, know that it’s part of what your body’s doing right now. You can either just watch it happen and then start the next narrative to say, “Oh my God, I’m going crazy.” Just let it happen, and you can take a little bit of antidepressants, low level for a while or a little bit of estrogen or hormones for a while to balance you out, and you can also take stuff off your plate.

So you strengthen the plate, and you also start taking stuff off it. If you’re the PTA president, step down. If you’re worried about getting your Christmas letters out in March, just don’t do it at all. Nobody wants them anyway. Just to really give yourself a break across the board, and if you want to stay in bed all Saturday and set a record for spending the longest period of time in bed, stay in bed. I think that women, we all have too much stuff and we’re all trying to wear too many hats -- being a good wife, a good mother, a good this and a good that, while our hormones are imbalanced. Even when they are balanced, we shouldn’t because it’s just too much.

You’ve written candidly about your life. Is there anything you would say is off limits, that you wouldn’t write about?

I think when memoirists have to write, I think they should be careful if they have relationships with family and with friends because if the people around you haven’t given you explicit permission for you to tell their story, then it’s not fair to. I wrote the book, I’m implicated in doing a lot of bad stuff, but the people around me are basically fine. When we write memoirs, we kind of choose some of the details to tell the story of specifically our own stuff, but we might change some of the identifying details of the other people to protect them.

I never write about sex. I don’t write about it very well. That’s never going to be the book I’m going to write.

Do you have any special mom advice that you’ve given or are saving for your daughters?

Having gone through such a roller coaster of mine in terms of marriage and divorce and all of that, I’ll have lots of advice for them when they get older, but there not at that place now, in terms of maritally.

I had a very good relationship for 20 years, and I still honor that, and I wouldn’t do that differently, but I think that I no longer really hold people to the standard, or judge them if after 20 or 30 years their relationship needed a change. We live a long time.

For my daughters, it’s interesting because in my book I have broken down a lot in front of my daughters but have survived and then they’ve helped me out a bit and they’re very balanced now. And it’s sort of how we’ve gotten through life. I think, since my divorce and blowup, that we have a harmony and sensibility about being together. Everybody’s fa├žade has cracked, and now we’re actually more friends and it’s great. It’s very comfortable.

But wisdom…girls, for them to be whoever they want to be and be interested in what they are and not try to live up to the various roles that people will put on them or the ones they’ll put on themselves. That’s so true. It’s always true with women.

You're an alum of USC's Master of Professional Writing program. I graduated from that same program. What do you think about USC's recent decision to end it in 2016?

I think that’s really sad. It’s just sad, and it came as a huge surprise. It’s such a special place in Los Angeles for people to be not just movie and TV writers but also prose writers and poets and playwrights if they want to. Students have come from all over the world to Los Angeles, and they really found a home in that program, and those relationships will have continued long after they’ve been in the program. It’s really sad.

Where do you like to go with your kids in L.A.?

In Van Nuys, there’s something called the 94thAero Squadron, which is this themed restaurant at the Van Nuys Airport, and it has a World War II theme, and it’s really hilarious. For dinner it’s really funny.

The great thing to do is go to the Huntington Gardens. It’s beautiful—the kids can run around and mom can appreciate it also.

Now that they’re 12 and 13, it’s thrift stores. In Pasadena, where I live, there’s one called Acts, and all of the new Goodwills are awesome. They’re so trendy and cool, and there’s like a shirt for $2. It’s really great. For tween girls, they almost don’t remember that you can buy retail clothing.

Thursday, April 10, 2014

Coming Attraction: Legends of Oz Express Tour


A little bit of Oz is coming to L.A.!

To celebrate the upcoming animated film Legends of Oz: Dorothy's Return, Dorothy, Toto and their new friend Wiser the Owl will be touring the country to bring the magical world to kiddos.

Making their appearance at Hollywood & Highland on Sunday, April 13, Dorothy and friends will entertain families as they enjoy fun activities such as making friendship pins at the Tin Man's Friendship Club, make arts and crafts in the Scarecrow's Workshop and show their courage by performing on the Lion's "Mane" stage.

Kids can also visit "Candy County" at the Legends of Oz Express Tour, where they can hear the story that inspired the film Dorothy of Oz, written by L. Frank Baum's great-grandson, Roger Stanton Baum.

Families can also bring a book -- or books -- to donate.


The movie, which hits theaters May 9, stars Lea Michele as Dorothy, who according to press notes, wakes "to post-tornado Kansas, only to be whisked back to Oz to try to save her old friends the Scarecrow (Dan Aykroyd), the Lion (Jim Belushi), the Tin Man (Kelsey Grammer) and Glinda (Bernadette Peters) from a devious new villain, the Jester (Martin Short).

Sounds like fun!

Legends of Oz Express Tour
Sunday, April 13
1:00 PM – 6:00 PM 
Hollywood and Highland Center
6801 Hollywood Blvd
Los Angeles, CA 90028

Wednesday, April 9, 2014

Coming Attraction: Los Angeles Times Festival of Books

Parents, get your little readers ready! The annual Los Angeles Times Festival of Books will be arriving at USC this weekend, and there are tons of fun events for kids and parents.

Yes, parents, too! There's even a "date night" option for those looking to get literary after dark.

On Saturday, April 12, notable names such as actor LeVar Burton, chef Giada de Laurentiis and author Chris Raschka will be taking over the Children's Stage to present books and other fun presentations for the kiddos. The Natural History Museum will even bring a little dino magic to the stage.

On Sunday, April 13, author Jon Klassen, actor/director Diego Luna and Lucky Diaz & the Family Jam Band will be on hand.

You can also catch conversations with famous moms, including Mayim Bialik, Sandra Tsing Loh and Alicia Silverstone.

And for the first time, parents can engage in the Festival After Dark (time to call the babysitter!). This Saturday night event features Wits, a public radio comedy program that incorporates comedy, conversation and music. Margaret Cho and Superchunk will be there to entertain you.

Hope to see you there!

Los Angeles Times Festival of Books
USC
April 12 (10 a.m.-6 p.m.) April 13 (10 a.m.-5 p.m.)
Admission: Free (except for Festival After Dark, Book Prizes and indoor Conversations)
Buy tickets here.

Sunday, April 6, 2014

PBS Kids Launches 'Explore the Outdoors!'

CC gets into the PBS Kids "Explore the Outdoors!" spirit!
Earth Month is upon us, and PBS Kids has teamed up with the National Recreation and Parks Association for Explore the Outdoors! -- special outdoor-themed programming from some of CC's favorite shows. Yay!

Starting tomorrow, April 7, PBS Kids will feature special episodes of Arthur, Caillou, Dinosaur Train, Martha Speaks, Wild Kratts and WordGirl!

CC got the chance to check out some episodes a little early -- as well as plant seeds, thanks to Arthur and PBS Kids. Of course, she went straight for WordGirl and Wild Kratts, two of her favorite shows. This girl loves animals and the outdoors, so this is the perfect month to learn more about the world around us.


In Bugging Out, the Kratt Brothers don their creature power suits and learn all about spider webs and "tree-eating aliens!" This show is the perfect way for kids to get excited about animals they might never see otherwise.


In WordGirl, our heroine has to save Earth Day from an out-of-control girl who takes it for granted in a big way.

CC also got to plant beans and decorate her planter. It was great to get hands-on with nature! Can't wait to see how they grow!

CC decorates her Arthur planter.

Wednesday, April 2, 2014

Launch Party: Jennifer Love Hewitt Debuts Her Maternity Line at A Pea in the Pod


Jennifer Love Hewitt at her maternity line launch party at A Pea in the Pod in Beverly Hills
I almost wanted to be pregnant again last night, when I attended the launch party for Jennifer Love Hewitt's new maternity line, L by Jennifer Love Hewitt, at A Pea in the Pod in Beverly Hills.

The new mom to 4-month-old Autumn James looked lovely while mingling and talking to reporters. And she wasn't the only famous face. Jenna Fischer from The Office, reality star Kendra Wilkinson and Smash star/Broadway lady Megan Hilty -- all of whom are expecting! -- checked out Hewitt's adorable designs.

Here are some fun pics from the party, which also featured tasty mocktails!

Read my mom.me interview with Jennifer Love Hewitt here.

Jenna Fischer from "The Office"

Kendra Wilkinson
L by Jennifer Love Hewitt at A Pea in the Pod
Mocktails!

Monday, March 31, 2014

James Turrell at LACMA: A Must-See

"James Turrell: A Retrospective" at LACMA (Photo courtesy of LACMA)

I wish I could've taken pictures.

CC and I visited the James Turrell exhibit that's currently on view at LACMA (only until April 6!), and it was amazing. Amazing!

Turrell is a California-born artist who works with light and perception. His work is like nothing I've ever seen or experienced, and I wanted to take CC, too. After all, when you get the opportunity to see something truly magnificent, I believe involving your kids is a must -- as long as it's kid-friendly, of course.

CC and me at LACMA
The exhibit features light from different perspectives -- some works are projected shapes against a corner of a gallery, creating the illusion of depth. Some are immersive, and you literally walk into a dark, hazy room and observe a wall of colored light.

One of his exhibits, the Ganzfeld, is truly immersive. (I mistook it for a simple white room with a large magenta square on the wall. Boy, was I wrong.)

And that's where he experiments with perception. What you're seeing might not be what you think you're seeing at first.

For CC, it was admittedly less transformative. I mean, she is 7.

While I could tell that she was interested and enjoyed looking at the different expressions of light, she was quick to move to each next room. She did ask questions and point out the different shades of light. She also loved the holograms.

And while I was happy to just sit/stand and take in art work someone created that I never would have conceived of, CC was happy playing tag in the light posts or weaving her away through yellow tubes.

Yay, LACMA, for having those, too.

CC at LACMA

Friday, March 28, 2014

Friday Finds: Mommy's Magic Kit

Mommy's Magic Kit
How awesome is this?! A magic kit for moms!

Not only is it a cute little clutch, but what's inside is perfect for moms of little ones. It's called Mommy's Magic Kit ($25) from Bella Tunno, and it holds everything from crayons to play sticks to sunscreen to a disposable diaper pad, bib and placemat!

So, don't worry about hitting the restaurant with your toddler! Bella Tunno has it covered!

Even better?

For every product you buy, Bella Tunno will provide a meal to a hungry child in the United States.

Brilliant!
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