This Week: Significant Others
Hosted by Jeanne Marie Laskas
Special to the Washington Post
Tuesday, May 27, 2003; 1 p.m. ET
Jeanne Marie Laskas's Significant Others column -- about people, places, pets, parents and predicaments in her life and all of ours -- appears each Sunday in The Washington Post Magazine.
Laskas was online Tuesday, May 27 at 1 p.m. ET, to field questions and comments about the column.
Laskas is the author of three books. Her fourth, "The Exact Same Moon," is to be published this fall.
A transcript follows.
Editor's Note: Washingtonpost.com moderators retain editorial control over Live Online discussions and choose the most relevant questions for guests and hosts; guests and hosts can decline to answer questions.
Frederick, Md.: Jeanne Marie, I love your column! Thank you for sharing your life with all of us. I've noticed that you seem to be on vacation about every other week -- is this a new schedule that I need to get used to? Like I said, I love your column, and I look forward to reading it every Sunday. On those Sundays that it's not printed, my paper reading just doesn't feel complete!
Has Sascha started wearing a tutu all the time like Anna did? Your description of that was absolutely precious.
Jeanne Marie Laskas: Well, I'm so glad you enjoy the column. Thank you for letting me know. Vacation every other week? Sorry if it seems so. To set the record straight, I write the column 44 weeks a year, so there are a few "dark" weeks. As for the tutu question: YES! Sasha is wearing a sparkly pink number these days--but only when big sister Anna will allow it.... (yeesh!)
Silver Spring, Md.: In one of your columns you mentioned last year you read the best books ever. What were they?
Jeanne Marie Laskas: Oh, dear. I'm afraid I have a different "best book" every week. Last year I was big into Maxine Hong Kingston and Richard Rodriquez, two of my favorite authors. Also, Annie Dillard, a longtime favorite of mine.
Falls Church, Va.: I read the article about your middle of the night trauma. Glad your husband is okay. It was nice seeing photos of you so I can finally put a "face" on your column. I enjoy it every Sunday. THanks.
Jeanne Marie Laskas: Thank you! But I think Alex and I both looked kinda puffy in that photo... (The article was in Good Housekeeping Magazine and told the story of how Alex almost died last summer from a horrific bleed....Poor guy has so much of his life out for public view. Word to wise: never marry a writer!)
Alexandria, Va.: The new book -- fiction or nonfiction? What's it about?
Jeanne Marie Laskas: The new book is called The Exact Same Moon. It's a sequel to my previous book which told the story of leaving the city and moving to the country. The Exact Same Moon continues the saga of life in the country, but takes a serious turn as Alex and I decide to adopt a baby girl from China. Well, it's still funny, though. Or it's supposed to be...
Gaithersburg, Md.: This week I am moving to Washington County, PA (Venetia, Peters Township). This is a "return to roots" move, for I grew up near there. One of the down sides is that I won't be able to read your column in print anymore (will have to go to the electronic version).
No questions. Just thanks for writing so well and making happiness and hope so vivid on the page.
Jeanne Marie Laskas: I hear from so many people--all over the world!--who read the electronic version. This is one of the things I love about our digital age--staying connected. Hope you stay with us! Best wishes returning to the roots....
Washington, DC: Could you talk a little about your writing process? Do you free-write, keep a journal, a tape recorder? How long do you work on a piece till you feel it is done (enough)?
Jeanne Marie Laskas: One of my favorite subjects, especially since I teach a lot of writing workshops now, and I love to hear how other people write. I begin as a kind of madwoman at the computer. No structure, no form--just a tiny idea I want to pursue. With the column it's usually a question: what made me scared this week? Or what made me laugh? Anything that evoked an emotional response. I start writing about it, then I keep asking: why? Or, what was THAT about? Pretty soon I have a story, a narrative. Then I get serious and start revising, revising, revising and the madwoman turns into a neurotic scientist trying to get every word exact. Takes me a few days to write each column.
Washington, D.C.: I love your column, especially the stories about Anna and Sasha, since I just adopted a little girl from China. You helped me get through the long wait from dossier to referral! I wondered if you could share some information about your girls' language delays, since my daughter has been in the U.S. for two months, is now 20 months old, and her only English words are "bye-bye" and "Mama." Everyone tells me not to worry, that the language will come, and I should wait to get her tested, but I am worried, and it sounds like you didn't wait.
Thanks so much!
Jeanne Marie Laskas: I would say: Don't worry. But that is so presumptious. As a mother, I know motherhood is ALL about worry. We got both our girls tested at about 24 months. Ask your pediatrician about the "Early Intervention" service in your area. They come out to the house (for free!) and, at least in our case, were very helpful.
Pittsburgh, Pa.: I know we're all eagerly awaiting the new book this fall (at least I am!), and I understand that this one is the second in a trilogy. (Right?) Not to jump the gun or anything, but do you know yet what #3 will be about?
Thank you so much for sharing your writing with us. I've given "Fifty Acres and a Poodle" to everyone I could think of, and still keep a few copies on hand in case I find I missed someone.
Jeanne Marie Laskas: Yes, it is the second in the trilogy. And now you're giving me a panic attack with this question!! I find writing a book to be the most difficult and exhausting thing in this life and I'm sort of enjoying a break right now before I begin #3. I write so much about my life, it feels wonderful to be able to live a little without...taking notes. So glad you enjoyed Fifty Acres. That means a lot. A real labor of love, these things.
Sacramento, Calif.: You might want to give your husband Joan Didion's "Slouching Towards Bethlehem." In the intro she stipulates that "a writer is always selling somebody out."
Jeanne Marie Laskas: I LOVE THAT BOOK!!
Silver Spring, Md: Thank you for writing another book! Can't get enough of your writing. Will you be in the Washington, D.C. area for any book signings?
Jeanne Marie Laskas:
Yes, this fall I officially reenter my "shameless self-promotion" stage as I go about talking about the book. I plan to be in DC a lot. I love the DC audience more than any other, I must say...
College Park, Md.: I LOVE your column! As the adoptive mother of a six-year-old from Latvia, I have empathized (deeply!) with your columns about adopting your daughters. Mostly, I wanted to thank you for putting into words the complicated thoughts and emotions that are part of adoption -- most recently, your column on Sunday about Sasha's speech delay (been there!). One of the most moving columns to me, though, was the one where you wished you could only have been there when she was abandoned so that you could have brought her home sooner. That's one of the immensely complex emotions of adoption, and one that not everyone will understand.
Thank you! Keep up the great work!
Jeanne Marie Laskas: Thank you! It's always great to hear from a fellow adoptive mom. Adoption has been such a glorious experience for me I find that I want to write
(and talk) about it all the time. So I do sort of bite my tongue a lot. Your child is from Latvia! Wow! My family hails from Lithuania, and I've traveled through the area a few times. Beautiful country!
Norfolk, Va.: I've spent all morning trying to think of an intelligent question for you. I'm a frustrated writer who's terrified to write - how in the world did you get started? After I read "Fifty Acres & a Poodle," I sent it to my mother who said she could hear my voice as she read it -- an incredible compliment that made my day for weeks! You're the first thing I read every Sunday morning -- ask my mom and sisters who usually find your column in their e-mail box by 6 a.m. Sundays -- thank you.
Jeanne Marie Laskas: Well, now you just wrote this note to me, so that's something! Build on that! I totally understand being terrified to write. I am terrified of it EVERY DAY and I do it every day. So my advice to you is simply: realize it's scary. But only for a few minutes. Honestly, if you can get the courage to just throw a few words up on the blank screen, pretty soon you get interested in the words and you forget all about your fear. It's only those first few words that are scary. I swear!
Arlington, Va.: Hi Jeanne Marie -- I love reading your column, it's always very touching and humorous. This is a very personal question, so ignore if you don't feel like answering, but -- was your decision to adopt based on infertility, or had you always wanted to go down that road? I know you've written about the actual adoption before, but was it difficult and frustrating both times, or surprisingly easy?
Jeanne Marie Laskas: Gosh, I write about so many personal things I can hardly steer away from personal questions. Now, I could use this as opportunity to sell my new book (shameless self-promotion stage, remember) which tells the whole story, but instead I'll just say that our decision to adopt was based on both. We wanted to adopt AND we wanted to have a biological baby. The first worked out, the second didn't. The adoption process itself was not difficult, but I think mainly because there was always the image of Anna at the end of that road. I just had to get to Anna. I didn't much care about the logistics of the trip.
Silver Spring, Md.: How is your mother doing? Did she make a full recovery?
Jeanne Marie Laskas: Thank you for asking! We just celebrated her 80th birthday yesterday. She's doing wonderfully. She had about a 90% recovery from the disease that struck her a few years ago, Guillane-Barre Syndrome, which causes paralysis of pretty much the whole body. Just a terrible ordeal. She's such a hero to me.
Arlington, Va.: Hello Jeanne Marie. I am a huge fan of your column and look forward to reading it every week. Your writing is touching, often humorous, and very memorable. The column about Mr. Rogers moved me to tears and now hangs on my refrigerator at home. Keep up the great work!
Jeanne Marie Laskas: Thank you. Fred Rogers had such a profound influence on my life--as he did for so many people. I was weeping as I wrote that column. A very difficult good bye.
Kensington, Md: I just wanted to thank you and let you know how much my friends and I have enjoyed your stories. We have been reading you in the Washington Post for years. How many years have you been contributing to the Washington Post Magazine? How can I find any articles you have written in other magazines or sign up for one of your workshops?
Jeanne Marie Laskas: Thank you! I have been writing for the Post Magazine for about ten years, and the column for about six. (I think!) My other magazine work is mostly in either Esquire or Ladies Home Journal these days. Plus my books. My writing workshops are all at The University of Pittsburgh.
Arlington, Va.: Hi Jeanne,
I just wanted to say how much I enjoy your articles in Esquire magazine. I started stealing them from my boyfriend and now have my own subscription. The Korey Stringer piece was wonderful and poignant.
Jeanne Marie Laskas: Thank you. The story about Korey Stringer, Minnesota Vikings tackle, was great fun to write because he was such a happy man. Sadly, he died from heat stroke at training camp about a week before the story hit the stands. It was a terrible tragedy.
Washington, D.C.: I keep a copy of one your columns in my wallet -- the one when your friend Beth was unhappy with her life -- personal life, weight, etc. I always think of the line "If you always do what you always did, you'll always get what you've always got." How is Beth doing?
Jeanne Marie Laskas: Funny you should ask! I am just about to write a column about Beth. She is so wise--and yet I sweat she has no idea how wise she is. She just comes out with these zingers now and again. We were talking the other day about how email has changed her life and she says it's making her feel very lonely. I want to write about that. But basically she's doing well. A good boyfriend. Good hair. And a new convection oven!
The Plains, Va.:
I read your "50 Acres and a Poodle" when I moved to my 30 acres with my collie. Lovely book. Some of the parallels with my situation were eerie.
Jeanne Marie Laskas: Thanks! I hear so often from people who "escape" to the country. We ALL seem to have the same story. Our barn is collapsing again and right now I've got about six pick-up trucks of men out in our driveway talking about it...
Chevy Chase, Md.: Thank you so much for your wonderful columns. As difficult as it was, I saved your 50 acres for my labor/hospital stay last May. It made the process (at least the early part :) much more pleasant.
I'm so envious of your wonderful network of girlfriends. I have such trouble with this, and still remember the one where you where nervous to go up to someone who looked nice.
Thank you for all of your universal experiences.
Jeanne Marie Laskas: Well, congrats on the baby!
As to girlfriends: I have a hard time with this, too. I think once we get out of college, it's hard for all of us. We have to seek each other out! I really cherish my network of friends.
Downtown Washington, D.C.: Some of the columns of yours I have most enjoyed are the ones about your single friends and their adventures in the dating world. Any updates on their journeys?
I have to admit I have stolen your friend's use of the terms BN#1 and BN#2!
Jeanne Marie Laskas: Well now if I haven't mentioned any of the dating adventures lately it's only because I'm kind of under a gag order by some of my single friends who would prefer only GOOD news be told. So I'm waiting for some good news!
Jeanne Marie Laskas: Uh oh. I think our time is up and maybe they're going to kick me off here. Just wanted to say thank you to everyone who stopped by. So sorry I didn't get to all the questions but I really loved being able to answer the ones I did. Thanks again! Jeanne Marie
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