Mary Chapin Carpenter, Tavis Smiley and Goodwill

I can’t really storytell, as I’d like to, so I’ll give y’all a rundown of my day yesterday. It was quite a day.

I started, as usual getting up a bit before seven, breakfast and lunches for the kids, and then driving them to school at 8. By 8.30 I was back home making beds, cleaning up breakfast, and getting ready for my day.

I had a most extraordinary brunch (yes BRUNCH on a Wednesday… I know my life is perfect) with a woman who is ten years older than I am.  I am 39, she is 49. My daughter is 11, her daughter is 21. My son is 8, her son is 18. My husband is ridiculously handsome, hers is too. They are both very old. She and I, we will change our definitions of old, as needed.

I learned a few things from my new friend. The kids are going to start setting the table. Right now, they clear it after dinner and I enjoy the washing so I’m okay with that, for now, but I’m not setting the table any more. They’re old enough and it’s a quick chore. We’ve also had a few issues with Jane and her adolescence, basically Jane is changing, and my husband and I are standing in the middle of it all with our eyes closed, fingers in our ears and we are singing la la la la la la while trying not to cry. Clearly, we have a handle on the situation.

Jane wants to read Breaking Dawn, we are not permissive parents. This house is not a democracy, and though I value my children’s opinions, it’s my house, with my rules and I say that without wavering. Breaking Dawn is the fourth book in the Twilight series and there’s sex in it. Jane is begging, and I think I’ve reached a compromise with her wherein I’ll read the book and yank out the pages that are simply “too much”. She is happy with that.

Please do not comment about book burning, censorship and whatnot. Jane is my child, I get to mess this up as I see fit.

My Brunch date (who can see clearly 10 years into the future) suggested letting Jane read the whole book. My stomach lurched. Then, she went on to explain to me that Jane would self censor, as her children had. Jane would probably not read the parts that made her uncomfortable.  I tried to not sound shrill, “but what if she does read them?” I asked.

“Then she’s ready for it.” Was the sage reply.

I don’t know where we’ll land, but eleven is a funny age. Jane isn’t a child and she certainly isn’t a teen. She is a bright, willful, articulate and strong girl. She is everything I ever hoped for, and every step toward independence is a step away from me. I am hearing the words, I have no decisions.

From brunch, which was delightful, I hopped in the car and sped to Pasadena.

The Television Critics Association has their annual whatever there, and PBS invited me to attend. I like PBS. I like everything about it, from the shows to the mission to the lack of advertising. NPR is my constant companion in the kitchen. Most often when large companies invite me somewhere, I stay home. When PBS calls, I run.

I got to PBS just in time for lunch. Yes, lunch. I plop myself down with a table of Mom Bloggers from Los Angeles and the staff of PBS’ Digital Nation. They’ve got some great projects, and it’s fun for me to see what people outside my tech bubble think of technology. Whenever I’m in a room with mainstream media there’s always a sense that they think we’re stupid, and we think they’re dinosaurs. Both sides are right. I will not elaborate.

After lunch there were more sessions, I can tell you that PBS’ lineup looks great. I have access to a few of the shows, and when I have time to watch some of them, I’ll let you in on what I loved. I must warn you in advance. I am not a journalist, I am not a television reviewer. I’m a chick with high speed Internet and a blog. I have already seen Food Inc. Watch Food Inc with your whole family. When I tell my children that I’m not taking them to McDonalds because I love them, well, Food Inc shows them just how much.

Tavis Smiley interviews Hilary Rodham Clinton and asks her some tough questions. He was very tight lipped about her responses, but he promised we’d be surprised. He said that he noted that he was the only person of color in HRC’s press pool, and that Hilary Rodham Clinton’s response to that was “disappointing”. I cannot wait. It airs on January 22nd.

Jamie Lee Curtis was quite the actress while talking about the movie Dirt. I’m sure it’s a great movie…. well, I think it might be. I’m going to watch it. Hopefully there’s a screener in this bag they gave me.

There’s an interview room, and I went up there quite late, after 6pm to give a little interview. As I sat (collapsed really) in a chair outside the room I realized that Tavis Smiley was inside giving his interview. Did I forget to mention that I am a huge fan of Tavis Smiley. As his interview wrapped two of the the most stunning women I have ever laid eyes on walked out of the room. Publicists. Apparently women who are too beautiful to be runway models are publicists. I am a heap of short fat and Jewish wrapped in cashmere and sensible shoes and the eight foot tall winner of the DNA lotto says, “would you like us to introduce you?”.

I said something, I don’t really know what it was, but I stuttered and he didn’t. Apparently Mr. Smiley is not in awe of Mommy Blogging goodness. He was nice and gave me a sideways hug. Because he is tall, I basically fit into his armpit nicely. I didn’t have a camera handy but it looked like this.

I blathered a little, the publicists smiled the familiar smile, and I did my interview.

Post interview was dinner, drinks and Mary Chapin-Carpenter. Dinner was nice. I got to be the third wheel on Laura‘s date night with her husband. Laura is fantastic. Then something happened. Mary Chapin-Carpenter was interviewed for us all. We were in a tiny room, maybe 100 people and a stage?

MCC answered all the hard questions, starting with the “seeming” incongruity of growing up in Princeton, New Jersey, graduating from Brown and then making it big in Nashville. She spoke honestly, and without guile, everyone loved her, even those of us who had never seen her before. Ms. Chapman talked about music in advertising being a great way to pay the bills for a young band who needs to, she clearly has watched American Idol, and said that it’s existence cannot ruin a musician’s career.

And then she sang. Something happened that I haven’t seen in a very long time. I found myself smack dab in the center of a big group hug. The room loved Mary Chapin Carpenter and she loved us back. There was a palpable energy, and I became a fan. Forever.

I don’t have words for it, but I know it exists, like oxygen. Mary Chapin Carpenter gave oxygen to a room that didn’t know it required any. She gave of herself to the audience, without holding back, with great honesty and frankly, there was a mistake or two. She generated such goodwill with her words beforehand that we were giving back to her.

Humility, goodwill, talent. That’s what I saw at PBS.

Facebook Comments


  1. For not being a storyteller you just did a beautiful job of bringing your readers right there with you. Thank you for sharing such a rich day. Setting my DVR now for the Tavis Smiley/Hilary Rodham Clinton interview. Until then maybe a little Mary Chapin Carpenter to fill the air.

  2. Dez

    Great story, but you forgot the part where you deposited the paycheck before heading to Pasadena for the night. I think I might start tuning into PBS since I’ve lost interest in watching most TV shows during the week.

  3. I enjoyed the story, but have to admit that there is something endearing about the stick figure drawing. If I ever meet Tavis this will give me something to talk to him about.

    One more remark, I noticed that your stick figures don’t have any hands, feet, eyes or hair. I “blame” my five-year-old daughter for this. She is going through a phase in which she draws pictures for me and insist that I critique them.

    Anyhoo, even though she is younger than Jane, I can see having that same discussion with her in not so distant future. These kids grow up far too quickly.

  4. Mary Beth

    Hi. Delurking. Love MCC! I am glad you got that experience. Your art made me smile. I have met JLC & am wondering about depiction of she & Tavis.

  5. You did an amazing job of recounting the day … and Mary Chapin Carpenter’s performance. And I’m not just saying that because you called me fantastic. :) It was great to see you, and it was definitely like a huge group hug.

  6. PBS rocks – and it’s nice to know about *other* successful Brown graduates.

  7. You had me at “Jane is my child, I get to mess this up as I see fit.”

  8. I love this story: I love PBS. I’ve seen Tavis Smiley speak and he is wonderful. I have a little crush…

    And it’s not censorship because you aren’t the government. Well, you are in your house. But as you said: it’s not a democracy! (If I had a nickel for every time I said that to my son…)

  9. I’m so bummed I couldn’t make the PBS event! Sounds like it was great.

    As far as Jane goes, I’m sorry to say, she already knows more than she tells you. Once you let them out of the house for school, all bets are off. Sylvia has surprised me with her knowledge of things I thought her ignorant. But if it makes you feel better, and if she’s okay with the pages ripped out, then by all means…

  10. I am so envious of it all except for Tavis Smiley.

    The only thing that can make me change the dial from NPR? Tavis Smiley.

    The only thing that makes me turn the channel from PBS at night? Tavis Smiley.

    I respect your adoration of him but his interview “style” of adopting the interviewee’s speech pattern drives me bananas and I loose respect for him anew every time I hear him!

    • I’m so guilty of that. When I talk to someone I end up imitating their speech pattern. I’m trying really hard not to.

  11. Wait a minute. Mirroring of body language is supposed to be a good thing during conversation, especially if it is unconscious. It shows interest and enjoyment.

    But is matching speech patterns not good? It would probably depend upon whether it is also unconscious. And if the accents or dialects or patterns are SO very different from your own (think: Sarah Palin chatting with Queen Elizabeth) that any attempt at mirroring could be perceived as mockery.

    Fun topic.

  12. Missa

    I am sure your daughter already knows much more than you want her to – when I was eleven, I had already gotten my first period and had already sat through two or three sex ed health classes.

    I remember a girl becoming pregnant the next year after consensual sex. A few more people had become active by 13. None of their parents had any idea that they even knew what sex was, let alone HAVING it. They too ripped the pages out of books and clipped naughty pictures out of the magazines.

    What I think the point I’m trying to make is, if you acknowledge its existence, you can better talk to her about her body, appropriateness, the value of waiting, and consequences of early sexual behavior, as well as have her trust you enough to have a dialogue about it when she is older.

  13. ah, the twilight series. the way i saw it is, my kids learned about that in school during family life. also, if it embarrasses them too much, they skip the pages. i learned that from my son who, when he was in 5th grade, read a book from the fantasy genre that turned out to have a little bit of sex in it. he didn’t like that. but he liked the book. so he skipped those parts. smart, i thought.

    i’m a big HUGE fan of pbs and npr. always. it’s my dads fault.
    the stick figure drawing. classic.

  14. First of all, you know that I burst with pride when I see you use the word “y’all” in a sentence. It makes me happy to see the LA native using Southern slang.
    Second of all, I can’t believe you got to have drinks with Mary Chapin Carpenter, who is one of my favorites. You.Are.Amazing.

  15. Gina

    Thanks for writing about your experience. Wish I could’ve heard that interview. MCC is my favorite singer/songwriter. I like how you said she gave oxygen to the room…. Nice! She will be here in Savannah in 2days! v. excited

  16. Jay

    American idol is trash. the gud lady MCC is an artist

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