american idle

The season 1 cast of Grey’s Anatomy

It’s not from too much drinking.  At a certain point, usually toward the beginning of the week, someone will inevitably ask, “How was your weekend?”  Small talk, mostly.  Polite.  Cubicle speak.  Maybe they really want to know.  Maybe they have their own fun kernel to share and are asking simply to give us a chance to get a word in edgewise.  Or it’s a conversation starter, something to make work more tolerable.  I’ve noticed, though, that lately my response is a faded, “I don’t remember.”   

My days smear together without an office job.  Every day feels like the weekend without the ramped up excitement of its approach.  TGIF?  What’s that anyway?  There are no more meetings called at 5:45pm.  But along with that tragic loss, there are not nearly as many plans being made.  I used to have a calendar.  You know, with stuff on it.  Events.  Openings.  Meeting this one for sushi.  Those girls for drinks at Angelo’s & Maxie’s.  A wine tasting.  A knife-skills class.  A photography lesson.  Watercolor class.  Figure drawing.  It got to the point where I’d have to decline things, certain to carve out a bit of down time. You know your days of the week when you live that life, a life without television. 

And it wasn’t a case of too busy to notice.  Too busy being busy.  Ignoring your issues or life, filling time.  Passing time.  Piling on the plans to avoid something deeper.  Frightened of what you might hear if you sit in silence, doing nothing.  It was a creative busy.  I’d go by myself to watch an open-mic night, see a friend perform.  Go to a free reading at a bookstore.  I never complained of being too tired. 

It was hard to wake up.  But my job was accommodating, and I somehow got away with rolling into the office at 11:20 am each day.  David, Gary, and I would then make a Fourbucks run.  I’d get two fried eggs and a buttered bialy. Gary would be hungover from Patron shots.  “Steph,” he’d say shaking his head, and I’d wait for what came next.  “Not good,” he’d eventually say, still shaking his head.  Dave would laugh.  I loved it.  I miss it, the companionship, the company, the office.  Sometimes I wish I could live it again, but I’m careful with my wishes and really don’t wish I were back to punching someone else’s clock. 

Some of my co-workers spoke of their lives in television shows.  They had to get home to watch 24.  How could I not watch it?  They wondered.  I was too busy for TV.  I was photographing red carpet events (then scurrying home to label and color-correct the images), writing, and most certainly, dating.  Trying new restaurants, attending performances, and almost always there was a birthday party, where, undoubtedly, I’d need something new to wear which meant shopping after work.  There wasn’t time for romance with a regularly scheduled program. 

And now I find that regularly scheduled programs are the only way I know what day it is.  It’s become my evening activity.  Mondays were The Bachelor.  Tuesdays Gilmore Girls (I still cannot believe it’s over.  Not just the season but the series, that I’ve watched for all these years, and they end it with Rory working at some zine?  Just kill me now!  Why?  Why end it with that?  What crap.  And Luke and Lorelei kiss, and we’re supposed to believe she doesn’t sabotage it this time?  Come on).   And then, there’s idle time spent watching American Idol.  Wednesdays used to be Studio 60 on The Sunset Strip, which just upped and left without saying so.  Or Top Design.  Or Top Chef.  That top hair show, Shear Genius, did nothing for me.  And then we’d see who was offed Idol.  Thursday was the powerhouse of my week.  I tolerate Ugly Betty because I like her, not the show. And it set the tone for Grey’s, the absolute jewel in my week.  And then life pretty much stopped.  Friday became the day of the week I knew nothing was on.  Friday we’d get a babysitter. 

Let me just say this: the season finale of Grey’s left me distraught.  I mean I seriously had to be talked down.  “Phil, I just can’t take it!  Please help me through this!”  What is wrong with me?  We imagined ideal endings to assuage the blow.  “But why did they have to make everything so bad?”  Now there’s Meredith’s half-sister, the one Derek flirted with at the bar, stepping in.  So they could kill off Meredith now and still call it Grey’s Anatomy.  And it’s upsetting.  Again, what is wrong with me?  Why am I so invested in a television show?  I’ve become devoted and am rooting for Meredith and Derek to work out, but I’m frustrated with the writers.  One week they show Derek blowing off Meredith because she poses a threat to his career as chief.  The next week, she’s busy being Miss Communicative in an over-the-top-go-away-now kind of way.  And then tragedy strikes her and she seeks comfort in her friends, and he turns things around and tells her he wants more.  But just two weeks ago, you wanted space.  You weren’t returning phone calls.  Meredith got in your way.  It’s not steady.  And I’ve gone on far too long about it.  But why?  Why did they have to make that finale filled with only bad things?  It left a bad taste in my mouth.  It made me angry, right there on the border of yelling at the television screen.  What has become of me?

Now that the season is over, I’ll need to start fresh with new TV relationships to carve out my nights.  Or, I can just give it up.  Not out of principle, not as a stand against poor writing or programming or the violence, the misogyny, but as an attempt to be far more productive.  To read instead of zone out.  To engage new things.  For more art.  To enrich my life and my relationships.  To spend my life as a participant not an observer.  But it’s like dieting.  It’s hard to diet without a supportive family who stock the cupboards with fattening, sugar-laden, favorites.  For it to really work, the house needs to be, not completely free, but certainly tv-limited, and Phil won’t agree to it, not even for a week. And I understand, absolutely, the need to unwind.  There is a difference though between spending a couple hours thumbing through a magazine and watching a game on TV and making a night, almost every night, about what’s on. 

I want to lead by example.  I do not think TV is evil, but I do know that I have allowed it to take up too much room in my life.  I’ve walked away from the dinner table to watch TV or check email, to entertain myself.  I want to be an active family who does things together, while we can, before soccer, gymnastics, and guitar (way cooler than violin) schedules take over our lives.  Of course they’re still too young, but when is it too early to begin to adopt new habits? 

The first thing I do when I come home should not be “check email.”  We’re too accessible, to everyone but ourselves.  I don’t want to use the television as a babysitter to keep our children busy and entertained.  I want us to do more things interacting as a family and less time in our zones, at our laptops.  I’d like TV to be on occasion, with some popcorn, as much of an activity as anything else we do.  Not the background to everything we do.   I want a rich life, a creative life, filled with variety, with new experiences.  An active life.  I’ve made a list of alternatives, things I’d like to do in lieu of the internet and television.  Mostly, I scoured the internet (oh the irony) for goings on about town, specifically what’s repetitively available to us locally.  Though I also made an effort to include things that wouldn’t require us to go out.   The list was meant to motivate us to do more active things together as a family.  Here is what I emailed Phil:

Going to see the bats at the South Congress bridge and then picnic dinner outside
Have friends over for a pot luck dinner, where everyone brings something to eat, hence the whole mention of "pot luck."
Try dancing lessons, maybe at a time when someone watches the kids, and we can practice at night at home
Play some board games.  You know, other than upwords, where you know I'll kick your ass.
Spend the night creating our own children's story or children's book for Lucas and Abigail, where we come up with stories, and then do some easy drawings to illustrate it.
Spend the night reading aloud, as a family.  Perhaps I read one chapter aloud, you read the next, etc.  Though I'm not sure there's much more to that etc.
See a movie outside, on a lawn, at an event spot.  "Movies in the Park" at Republic Square Park.
Have a picnic in Zilker Park
Go for a walk around town lake in the late afternoon, after work, then come home and cook together.
Learn new card games and play them
Bake something together
Create a piece of artwork, together, to be displayed somewhere in our house
Make a fire, make s'mores, listen to music and give backrubs (or head massages since you don't like massages)
Spend the night taking photos of the kids, then sorting through them and figuring out which photos to print and frame.
Creating a video with our camera, then cutting and editing it together with software to create an online video to share with our families.
Do a big cook one night, making foods we can freeze for future use, like big batches of fresh summer tomato sauce, tray of lasagna, etc.
Put together a scrapbook together, writing things to our children, including photos and letters from mom and dad.
Shoot hoops outside, making it a fun game where you only get a chance to shoot if you answer some trivia question correctly or something like that… but not trivia cause I'll never get a chance to shoot.  But something like that.
Wash our cars by hand outside, including vacuuming
Do a photography project together, where we do an assignment, whether it's shooting white objects on a white background, or walking around photographing shadows… we'd pick an assignment that interests us both and then do it!
When it's hot out, have a water fight, with actual water guns and water balloons. Then dry each other off and make love not war.
Listen to a book on cd-rom
Playing tennis, one watches and gives pointers as the other hits with ball machine.
Go bowling
Attend any of the free concert series in Zilker park
Carlos'N Charlie's on Lake Travis, free family-friendly movie nights and a place we should definitely check out. Also, closer to us, "Splash Party Movie Nights" at Deep Eddy pool, where there's swimming and a movie. 
Go to the people's gallery at city hall to see local artwork from over 100 local artists, and maybe find one we like and get a piece for above fireplace
Take a free walking tour with a baby strapped onto each of us
Thursday nights there's unplugged at the grove. Performances are acoustic and outside on the patio so we could bring the kids. 
Trapeze classes are offered on Wednesday afternoons and Aaturday evenings.  One could watch the kids while the other goes up, and vice versa (and bring video camera!)
Wimberly Market Day (the first Sat of the month) over 450 booths line paths winding over 16 acres.
BEST IN TEXAS FESTIVAL (may 25-may 28) we should go.  Texas music, arts, cook offs, carnival rides, etc.
Austin Wine Festival at Republic Square Park on May 26 – May 28 (sat-mon)  It's outdoors, so we can bring the kids. 
Austin Symphony Concerts in the Park, each Sunday (starting June 3).  We'll make a picnic and bring our cameras.  It's on Red River St. 
Blues on the Green, alternate Wednesdays, free music on outdoor stage
Teach me to play guitar



  1. I stopped watching television a few years ago and it's changed my life in so many ways. The internet, though, works as a kind of substitute and sometimes I have to check myself; I can youtube for hours and it's basically the same as watching TV like an addict except there's a certain good element of interaction and choice involved (not to mention hardly any commercials and that's fantastic.)

    Anyway, about television… After starting my TV ban, I can testify that it's worked exactly as research suggests. I can genuinely say that now I pay more attention to people around me, strangers included; that violence makes me shudder in any way shape or form, physical or emotional; and that I'm absolutely, positively more empathic than I was before.

  2. Stephanie – you should check out the Art School at Laguna Gloria. It is run by the Austin Museum of Art. They have great adult and kid classes (for when the twins get older).

  3. Lorelai is the relationship saboteur? I beg to differ.

    I've been working more or less alone for 7 years, and while my husband works with me, we keep different schedules, and the work requires little interaction. It's like kids parallel playing as opposed to playing together. Except we make money; kids don't. But I digress.

    My only real co-workers are my cats. I hope to never go back to the world of pantyhose, commuting and 5:45 PM meetings, but having had human (well, semi-human) co-workers my entire adult life (20 years with only 6 months off for birthin' & babyin' daughter) until 7 years ago, there are times I truly miss the interaction — dysfunctional as it usually was — with people who were neither friends (though some turned out to be) nor family, yet whom you had to spend most of your waking hours with.

    I could have written "Then We Came to the End" about life in an ad agency, but I've been too busy commenting on blogs and watching Gilmore Girls.

  4. I grew up in a mostly tv free household–we were limited to one show during the week. It meant that I played outside a lot, explored the city on my bicycle, and read tons. At the beach, where of course there is no tv, our family does charades and board games. Thought I'd add charades. I actually love "game night" and playing other similar games with groups of people. That being said, I was also upset by the Grey's Anatomy finale. The Lexi and Derek thing was cheap. I was really upset that it didn't work out btw Christina and Burke. The whole thing made no sense, except that maybe it was a bit more like real life for surgeons? I don't know.

  5. You just gave me a great to-do list for the summer!

    We went to Deep Eddy Friday before last, and the water was FREEZING. I love that it is unchlorinated… or some parts of it anyway.

    And, Phil doesn't like massages? What?!?! Hopefully he likes giving them though!

  6. My live-in boyfriend, like Phil, manages a hedge fund, and for a long time, he would sort of zone out in front of the tv for an hour or so on weeknights. My father used to do the same thing, and I think it's a way, as you say, of decompressing and getting out of one's head. But when we moved from London back to New York, we just didn't get one — and we're not planning to. Instead, we've been out more, to readings and plays, to the gym, to meet friends, to get reflexology foot massages in Chinatown, to the farmer's market before cooking dinner. When we want to see a movie, we go to a movie theater. I'm not saying that life without television is superior — only that, should you choose to take a break from it, you probably won't miss it. It's the great time thief.

  7. How true! When I was single and lived with girlfriends we didn't have tv. Then I moved in with the mister and it's all tv all the time. At first I couldn't adapt. I remember an actual day when I tried to sit on the couch and watch something I was like what am I doing and immediately went out. And he won't limit the TV at all. I even had the cable cut off saying I didn't like the service and we should look around for a new provider before reconnecting service and he called Direct TV. The next day. I just made it worse, now he has the NFL and MLB package, ahh!!!
    And I too was extremely upset at the Grey's Finale. And I did yell at the tv.

  8. The only TV I watch now is Lost and Grey's (and Top Chef when it comes back!), but as K said, the internet is my substitute.

    I don't know a single person who liked the Grey's finale. They definitely short-changed their viewers. Were the writers all too busy writing new episodes for the Addison spin-off to devote any actual though (or sense?) to the Grey's plot? I hated it. And I love that show.

  9. 10 months into coupledom I have been wondering what we can do to avoid sinking into evening routines. Lately it's been a little like that, we finish dinner and we don't know what to do, because he works so much so he's tired. Lately he decided to learn to play guitar, and I know a little, so it's been so lovely to practice together, show him the rythms, the chords. Yesterday he finally learned Come as you are, and he was so happy. I sang because he can't coordinate the singing and playing yet, but he learned when to change chords and not to chop the rythm.. it was a wonderful evening.
    We tend to think that activities involve going out to theatres, bars, restaurants etc.. but if you just look around you'll find something sitting there in the corner just begging to be played with!

    Board games are really cool too. Do tournaments, the first to get 350 points through a series of games buys the other dinner.
    Cleaning out junk is fun, I took some pictures with his old boy scout t-shirt, old halloween masks, ridiculous 80's outfits.
    Fruit salad in the park
    10 buck indie concerts

    The goal is not to set routine set in!

  10. Wow. Great timing. Right now I'm thinking about going freelance with my design and I was thinking about the negative aspect of not having contact with other people every day. This of course could be a positive aspect too. I think I still want to do it though. The freedom involved is so enticing.

    And you're totally right about Shear Genius. It does nothing for me either. Let's hurry up and get past it so we can have some more Top Chef, even if I did hate how last season turned out, that show always inspires me to get in the kitchen.

  11. How does Phil feel about your current lifestyle? Does he also think you guys need more time away from the t.v. and should start doing things together?

    The reason I ask is, if he's happy with the current arrangements, it's going to be very hard to change his perception or motivate him. He might be perfectly happy with the status quo.

    I didn't realize how completely different my ex husband and I were in lifestyle behaviors until after we were married. He was a complete t.v., computer, movie addict and I was a lot like you, wanting an authentic life that I (we) lived with in reality. It was a huge disappointment to me, and was eventually one of the things that pushed us apart and contributed to our divorce.

  12. You can do what I've done – give up Grey's Anatomy. I was so disgusted with the season finale and the way the season turned out as a whole. The magic of the first 2 seasons is gone, and I have no desire to see these careless writers tear down something that was originally so good. I'm done watching – it makes me sad, but I'm done.

  13. Nice one! I am a freelancer as well and can so relate to the "How was your weekend" thing! Second place goes to the "Wow, finally a holiday" (public holiday, not trip to some nice place, I still looove these :-) !) phrase.

    Phil really does NOT like massages?????

  14. Great post!

    TV rules for me: 1. no TV in the bedroom, 2. no cable (just rabbit ears), 3. if I can't find anything in my 6 channels that truly intersts me I turn it off and get up.

    Your list of things to do in Austin is fabulous! I am going to use it constantly, I'm sure. I'm single (but with a prospect!) and am living that authentic life. And, being much older than you, I hate thinking of the years I've spent glued to the tube instead of looking at art or working a craft.

    Thanks for the reminder.

  15. Oh my goodness, you watch(ed) Gilmore Girls too. I have been a devoted follower of the show for 1/3 of my life. That means I started watching it at 14, as a freshman in high school, with my mom, and I am now 21. When I realized that I had been watching it for 1/3 of my life, I was even more saddened that it was ending. It was my thing with my mom, we watched it together, even after I went to college 4 hours away. The ending was such a disappointment. It was supposed to go on for an extra year, but the CW canceled it because they're evil and mean. I try to avoid thinking about never seeing a new episode ever again, because I get a little mopey thinking about it.
    And then Grey's? Oh my gosh, I am a recent devotee, and I guess it will have to replace my allotted time for gilmore girls (only time for 1 show per week in college). But I have no words for the ending. Why? Why? Why?

    PS. Spending time with a TV isn't bad specifically. I am forced by a school work load schedule to limit my time, and you have babies to watch grow up. But picking your favorites, limiting yourself to that, and then filling your other time with that list is a decent compromise. Sometimes you just need to wind down from school work or babies and chill out by getting angry at Meredith for being so aggravating! (Really, someone who graduated from Dartmouth Med School shouldn't be so thick skulled. It doesn't make any sense.)

  16. I almost NEVER watched tv until i got married. my husband is a tv junkie, whereas, i enjoy reading and piddling around the house. In fact, during law school, cable was such a waste of money, my roommate and i cancelled it. Instead, we would come home afer going out (back in those does, going out was every single night of week…)and while totally loaded..we would watch the movie "Shrek" together for the 500th time. I know i had other movies, but for some reason, we just loved that scene of Donkey on pixie dust…hee hee.

    Now, there are a few i enjoy:
    1. Studio 60 (which returns tonight, by the way)
    2. No Reservations on the Travel channel
    3. cooking shows
    4. History channel shows
    5. Discovery channel shows

    I do like House, but all in all, i hate getting caught up in that silly need to watch something that isn't real. life is too short to waste it on all that, but I do do it, and that really makes me feel like a loser sometimes.

  17. hi- great post. can relate.

    typo = it's hard to diet without a family… sugar…etc

    or it's hard to diet WITH a family…

    no biggie.


  18. i haven't been yet, but there's a culinary school that serves dinner. it's supposed to be great, and less expensive than your average restaurant, and the setting is completely different. might be worth trying.

    there's also $1 tuesdays at the austin museum of art. i don't have children, but i don't think they're ever too young to take to a museum and stimulate their eyes and minds. AMOA also has a great kids' room.

    then there are summer movies at the paramount. tonight i'm going to a double-feature 'to have and have not' and 'casablanca.' for the price of one. you can't beat watching classic movies in that gorgeous, historic theater.

    finally, you mentioned shady grove's thursday nights. wonderful time – but with two kids, get there EARLY! it gets crowded.

  19. I'm guessing Phil just hates all this and doesn't want any of this planned stuff. He just wants to chill and hang and watch TV and play with his children. "Wash our cars by hand outside…"

  20. Maybe you should join a gym. Taking an hour a day for physical activity will do wonders.

  21. Four on the Floor offers dance lessons. It's just for an hour, but it is a nice way to get out of the house and do something together. My boyfriend and I just finished swing and are going back nest month for more!

    One evening activity we do is go browse big stores and make up challenges – pick out the items we'd use if we had to decorate our home from just this store, etc.

    We also play lots of writing and drawing games where we take turns adding a sentence or a line to a piece and end up making something together.

  22. I don't know if you've ever seen Gordon Ramsey in action, but Hell's Kitchen is the next great reality show up for the summer! Starts Monday, June 4th on Fox. Love him…but he's such an a-hole!

  23. my sweetie and i have netflix, but no other reception, so when we do tv, it's something that we plan. we are also very into games, including the faboo "lost cities" board game, and learning all sorts of card games and …mahjong!

    mahjong is so fun, and because it's also beautiful, it can really lead to a very satisfying, non brain rotting obsession. we have japanese sets, american sets, chinese sets, novelty sets, vintage bakelite sets. it's made for 4 people, but 2 (or 3) can play just as easily. if you've ever played gin rummy and enjoyed it, you'll enjoy mahjong. just make sure the beans don't eat the shiny pretty pieces.

  24. That list sounds great. I cancelled our cable over a year ago but then 6 mo. later got back the 'basic' package only because my son was in a Mazda commercial. You know I just HAD to see that. I ended up only watching Grey's (& yes that was a disappointing ending) & the odd real estate/home reno show. They are even getting tiring. We do watch movies however, but at least there are no commercials. We read, play scrabble, dance & go for walks. Now it is gardening season so that keeps me busy. Enjoy all those wonderful things on your list.

  25. sometimes i wondered if i'd still connect to your writing now that you're in a different place in life. don't get me wrong, i still love it and definitely love the photos of the twins, but i'm a girl in her 20s who saw the way you used to live as a more fab version of my single city girl life. what i realize in posts like this is that no matter whether you, or anyone for that matter, have grown up/changed/shifted priorities, the basic idea of the wants/needs/issues we have pretty much stay the same.

    i moved back in with my family a few months ago to clean up my financial irresponsibility. all my money pretty much goes to bill collectors and a student loan payment, add that to the suburb that is the state of california and it results in me, watching too much t.v. and being dull. thanks for listing, which is a nice kick in the ass for me to do so as well.

    by the way, i hated greys at first, but then i rewatched it and read the writers blog and it made sense. this season kind of reminded me of season 5 of sex and the city, not very many people liked it but it had to happen in order for season 6 to be the way that it was.

  26. my husband appears active but it was at some point years into living in manhattan that he didnt really care about doing all the urban things that i did. now that we are in the burbs with a child, he is great at playing with our son but never thinks of going somewhere – like a museum etc. we are moving closer to a real city shortly so ill make sure we start doing more of that stuff. but the benefits of really trying to do this are endless: it's healthier, for one. it makes for a stronger family and happier kids and fends off depression, especially if you are in an environment that is slower-paced. once the kids get bigger you'll want to do all these things with them and you'll need to find activities anyway. but my husband still has to be pushed to do something out of the ordinary.

  27. I totally missed that Meredith's sister was the "yeah you should be worried" girl.

    Freakin' little sisters!

  28. Great post, thanks for the ideas-definetely made me feel like I/we should be spending less time on my arse on the sofa. As the true procrastinator I am, I will most certainly try to implement some of your suggestions as soon as the NBA playoffs are over. I am a lifelong Spurs fan, so I cannot throw in the towel just yet. Gotta win a championship first. BTW, when's bingo night?? And how's Linus??

    FROM STEPHANIE: Ooooh, bingo night. I almost forgot! I'll have to get a babysitter. Would people be up for it on a Friday night?

  29. For me, Gilmore Girls -the wittiest tv show ever- ended when the Palladino Team (Amy Sherman & Daniel) abandoned the project. The last season was just awful with no exceptions…

  30. You were a Gilmore Girls fan, too?

    I have been wearing black since they cancelled it so suddenly. My Tuesdays will never be the same. It was my favorite show.

    From your also in her 30s, also divorced and remarried and had a baby with the 2nd husband, also Gilmore Girl loving reader who also understands, especially with a baby, that "weekend" no longer makes a difference, the baby doesn't really let me take the day off,

  31. For all 13 years I was married, my ex didn't allow television, saying it was evil and would cause our children to be stupid. Because I was young, weak, hopeful, and committed to the marriage, I didn't fight it. My babies were born into a tv-less world, and by 3 years old, were reading. By 4 they were already accelerated academically.

    Then the divorce – 7 years ago. And the first thing I did? Got 3 tvs and signed up for cable. But no tvs in the bedrooms. And still – the darlings are academically gifted and accelerated.

    Now, I *LOVE* tv – and I don't apologize for it. The darlings and I get home from school/work at roughly the same time. We do homework together, I make dinner – we eat as a family. I work in the garden for an hour or we take a stroll, they play in the sunshine or read under the apple tree, or seek me out to tell me quietly about their personal teenage angst.

    And THEN, when all the business of the day is taken care of, and we're all safe, patted, fluffed and cared for – TV time. We call it VIT. Very important or very inane television. And we embrace it. Usually 1-2 hours – we all get in our individual papasan chairs, with our individual beverages, our own personalized lap blankets – Tivo and the remote – fireplace on…and veg.

    So there can be both. I can't WAIT for summer TV – Big Brother, Hell's Kitchen, On the Lot – it's all good.

    You'll find your way – everyone's is different.

  32. Studio 60 is taking over ER's time slot tonight and for the rest of its season. It's not coming back next year but at least we get to see an ending to this one beautiful season. Man, do I love Aaron Sorkin.

  33. I don't have a problem with TV, never have, but TV to you is like Internet to me. That's what I have been needing to cut back on. My husband and I started doing a media fast once a week and we will be adding a few days per week as time goes on. Our rules for it are: no news (unless major event occurs), no internet (except for necessary reasearch, erreands, etc. but no reading blogs or online news or online magazines and so on), no magazines, and no TV. Music is fine but silence is good too and movies are fine as long as they are not used every week in an attempt to make up for the lack of TV and Internet. I give myself about 30min. of online time in the early part of the day and that's it.)

    The media fast is absolutely blissful. We are using the extra time to work on our place, to go out, to eat dinner at the dining table instead of in front of the TV and much more. For people like me who have trouble creating their own structure, following the media fast (which I got from the book Apartment Therapy) makes the process much easier and actually enjoyable.

    You could choose one or two days a week where you go out for food or get take out or cook together or even rent a movie or go for a walk or read or whatever you want. No TV on those nights. It becomes a weekly routine and I bet you'll both start really looking forward to the peacefulness you find you feel on those days/evenings.

    I totally agree with you that especially with kids it's important to get in the habit of doing and not just sitting (watching TV or playing video games). As a former high school teacher, I've seen the mass effects of that kind of lifestlye on kids and it isn't pretty.

    I hope you find a way to turn the TV off more often that works for you and your family. For me, if my husband wanted to watch and I didn't, I would just go to another room (now that we are no longer living in just a studio apt.) or go out alone or whatever but I know every situation, house, and family is different in how well they can manage to do that. I've been lucky though that he wants to do the fast with me. I hope you can give it a try too; you can just make up a version of it that works for you. That's what we did.

  34. Everything on your list sounds like something you would enjoy, not Phil. I wonder what his list would look like. You should have him write one and then you can go through it together and try to match stuff up. Just a thought.

    FROM STEPHANIE: Yes, I know. I've asked him to come up with a list as well.

  35. Thanks for the inspiration to get out of the house and actually do something this summer. I hate the thought of wasting away my days on the couch watching television. I think I'm going to have to look up when our concert in the park season starts here where I live, too :)

  36. Wow, these are such great ideas! I love this – coming up with unique ways to enjoy life and relationship. I hope you end up doing every single one!

  37. I am still mourning the loss of Gilmore Girls and I too disliked the Grey's ending it is starting to smell of an always discontent Ally McBeal. I suggest Canasta for a card game lots of fun!

  38. first off, i felt the same way about grey's anatomy! come on. it left me feeling depressed.

    secondly, i love that you said you wanted your children to learn to play the guitar.

    and thirdly- your list!, is great. swimming and a movie, simultaneously?!?! wow.

  39. Where do you go for bingo?? It'd be so fun.

    FROM STEPHANIE: I'm looking to put together a bingo night here in Austin. There are a few bingo places, kinda hardcore. I'd pick a spot and announce it on the blog, and hopefully all Austin readers would come join in. A fun way to make new friends for summer. I'm thinking a Friday night. Perhaps sometime in the middle of June.

  40. This post could have been written by me… almost all of it (not the Ugly Betty part, can't stand that show). And if you change the Austin locations (which I miss so much) to Dallas locations you've pretty much got where I'm at in a nutshell. I find myself wondering what I'm going to do with all this time on my hands this summer. I might get so bored I might actually attempt to exercise!

    One project that we've started is redecorating/remodeling the house. We moved in our first home a few months ago and we're trying to make it ours now.

    I'd totally come to your bingo night if I were in town. When I was in college, we went to this bingo hall up off Anderson Lane in north Austin… I think it's near a Chinese Buffet? Anyway, I had a blast playing for fun and people-watching. Didn't win anything, but it was still fun.

    When your new book comes out, you should come up to Dallas and do a reading!

  41. Count me in for bingo night. A Friday would be good. Call it Bingo and Bellini's? Tried to stretch for a drink beginning with a b besides beer but who knows what is served at a bingo parlour. :)

  42. So if that's the way you feel about television, how can you, in good faith, write a television series? Just curious.

    Also, can't belive you left SXSW off your list. For that reason alone I am jealous you live in Austin.

  43. I love tv. It has brought our family closer together, we often watch and comment – it helps teach the kids how we view the world that comes to us via tv. They don't get poisoned, tainted or lazy. What they see there can spark an interest in doing something or going somewhere they first saw on tv. Too much tv gets a bad rap, in my opinion.

    Gilmore Girls — I liked the last episode quite a bit. It left loose endings, and started as it began, with Lorelai and Rory and Luke in the diner. I hate it when everything gets wrapped up neatly, that's not life, and that certainly was never the Gilmore Girls! We have some of them on dvd, and that's a rerun worth watching.

    Someone mentioned an abhorrence of routines. I used to feel that way. But now I find them comforting — it happened after 9/11. The people in the towers were going about their morning routines when they were blown to bits. Drinking coffee, checking email. So I have come to appreciate the routine, it helps to keep this crazy life in some kind of order.

    Finally, your list made me want to take a nap. It's like a to do list of chores. Just more pressure, as I see it. And in the time it took you to research and type that up, seems to me you could have actually done a couple of those 'fun' things!

  44. Turn off the tube! I turned mine off about a year ago and it is fabulous. I cook more creative dinners because I'm not trying to get it done in time to watch my show. I have more time to paint, play music, read, play with my dogs, etc. You will be amazed at how much more time you have when you stop watching tv. The problem is when you watch one show, you get sucked into the next one because the tv is already on. It is ironic that you are trying to pull yourself away from the tv at the same time you are writing a tv show.

    Defintely get out and do some of the things Austin has to offer. I spent 5 days there in March and had a blast. I can't wait to move there (as soon as the house sells – the market is horrible here in Tampa).

  45. Am writing from the UK…please don't spoil the next season of Grey's for me! We just finished Season 2 and am still recoiling! I love that show and is about the only bit of TV I do watch over here. Thanks… :)


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