I love my job! I was invited to sit down with actress and screenwriter Nia Vardalos–the writer and actress from My Big Fat Greek Wedding. She was so friendly and gracious and nice. She hugged me when we said hello. Then we sat down in New York City to talk about her amazing new book, Instant Mom.
With her trademark wit and warmth, she detailed her journey from Hollywood success to infertility and eventually adoption through the foster care system. She talked candidly to me about her 10 IVF treatments, the day her daughter arrived, how she does it all and what she’s working on next (a new movie!).
Here’s the scoop from our chat:
KK: Did you really have just a few days before your daughter arrived at your house? NV: I had 14 hours.We got the call (from foster care) at 11:30 p.m., and she was there the next morning. Ian (Ian Gomez from Cougar Town) went that morning and got everything and by late afternoon, she was there. She was almost 3 years old.
KK: You write that the transition was hard for her–can you tell me about that? NV: Even though her brain and body were not formed, her emotions fully were. She came with a full set of personality and pain and feelings of betrayal. My biggest job now (Ilaria is 8) is that she knows that she was not abandoned. Two people who did not stay together chose to do the right thing and place her in foster care, and that’s a good thing.
KK: You unveiled yourself, in a way, for My Big Fat Greek Wedding. But you unveil yourself in a different way for this book. NV: Tula is obviously an extension of me, but that screenplay is mostly made up. But the base is from my real marriage–my husband (Ian Gomez) got baptized. But this book, it’s all real. We’ve already gotten calls about making this a movie. It’s already started. But I think it makes a better book because the words are exactly how I want to describe it. So once again, I’m just staying in the moment. I’m not thinking about it. I’m just trying to get through the interviews without crying.
KK: You went through so many hard years. How did you keep going after 10 IVFs? NV: The years of infertility… I felt so alone. My advice is not to stop what you’re doing. Instead, I think that each person knows when it’s time to keep going. And there are so many successful IVF stories.You know when you’re in a relationship with a bad boyfriend? You take it and take it and take it. Until one day you sit down and tell your girlfriend, and you hear it for the first time, that’s how I felt when I sat down with the adoption facilitator. When I said what I’d been through, that’s when I realized it. That’s when I also knew the best thing I could do is take some time off and process it. That’s the best thing I did that led me to my daughter.
KK: Did the press ask you nosey baby questions? NV: Constantly and just when you least expect it. One guy I remember saying to me at a party, ‘Yeah, my wife and I were just talking, now that you got skinny, there’s no that you’re going to get fat with a baby. You’re going to hire some kid to have it, huh?’ His wife went on to say crazy things, too. I would’ve traded all the success of My Big Fat Greek Wedding for the simple chance to have a baby. It was a terrible time to go through it. Now, I wouldn’t trade one minute of it because it led me to my real daughter. I’m at peace with it, and that’s why I can talk about it without crying.
KK: Did Ilaria read this book? NV: I don’t think she’s going to read this book until she’s about 16 or so. Because there are adult topics in it. From the infertility to the victim crying in my front yard.
KK: Was it hard to write about the horrifying attack you experienced in your front yard? NV: Women have this thing where we feel like we can’t exhale because then the other shoe will drop. That is a fact, whenever you think, ‘Now I’m done,’ something else happens. That’s why I kept this part in. If anyone was going to exhale, it would be me after the adoption was finalized. And then that peacefulness was taken away from me by a selfish stranger. It happened very soon after the adoption was finalized. I kept it in because people need to carry pepper spray and look behind them when they’re on the street.
KK: Tell me about your lovely babysitter, Anna. NV: She’s our babysitter, and Carmen became our housekeeper. They come about two or three hours a day about three or four days a week. I acknowledge it because I don’t like when actresses pretend they do it all on their own. Come on, you don’t make your own pesto, your chef did! So I’m just saying out loud, the whole ‘Can we have it all?’ Well, sure–with some help.
KK: What do you think is the one message you want to get out overall? NV: The thing that touched me the most was the kindness and compassion of women. The mothers I met at the park who had children the same age as mine and saw the dismayed and confused look in my eyes as a new mom of a 3-year-old were so comforting and welcoming for me. They never dug for secrets, but they were curious and kind. That’s how I realized by the end of the book that we’re all Instant Moms. None of us are prepared for this. The uniqueness of my story is that I had an almost 3-year-old child furious at us that she was living with us on Day 2 and sleeping only on two-minute increments.
KK: I heard you’re donating the profits for this book.
NV: The money will go directly to people trying to adopt or people who need help to defray the costs. I found an orphanage in another country, I met the man who runs it, and I’m going to give them some money. That’s what we decided. We’re going to just share the proceeds.
KK: What are you working on now? NV: As soon as I finished Instant Mom, I was proofing it, recording the audiobook, and then I started writing a script for Paramount. Then I flew to New York City to film an episode of SVU. Ian was off from Cougar Town, so he told me to get out. I came for 10 days. I went back to Los Angeles and turned in the script. It’s for Paramount, and it’s called Leftovers. It’s an anti-romantic comedy romantic comedy. I’m trying to fill the large dearth of films out there for men and women who are single and are happy about it. It’s about all of the myths we’ve been fed, and are they for us or not? Usually not. If everything goes according to schedule, it would be out in about a year. I’m starring in it and producing.
KK: You’re super busy! NV: I always wonder, does something have to give. And I think, ‘Yeah, a little bit.’ So what if I gained six pounds, let it go. Who cares? If I didn’t return that mom’s text about a playdate, that’s okay. I think I just allowed myself to be much more fallible than I did before. The only thing I won’t do, is I won’t hand in a script late. I am on time!
Nia is very easy to love, and I wish her much success with her new book and movie. Check out Instant Mom. It’s great for anyone who has been through infertility–or knows someone who has.
Today, April 2, is a big day for new releases. I wanted to let you know about some cool stuff that just came out and wish the following awesome authors Happy Book Birthday! Really, these are all great reads, and I have reviews and author Q&As coming up on some of them.
Just this morning, I got to meet Nia Vardalos, the writer and star of My Big Fat Greek Wedding. She’s got a sad, helpful and funny new book out about her journey through adoption. I’ll write up my interview on Instant Mom this week. I love her–and her warm and honest book made me adore her all the more.
And Glennon Doyle Melton of Momastery? She’s been all over the talk shows this week–and she’s an amazing person. Props also to my friend Christina Baker Kline who wrote Orphan Train, an Audible and Target pick of the month. Want to laugh? Check out STFU, Parents. You must do so right now.
Happy Book Birthday to:
by Nia Vardalos The gist: Nia goes through 10 IVFs, and then finally her daughter comes to her through adoption.
Carry On, Warrior by Glennon Doyle Melton The gist: An extension of her candid, truthful blog that everyone I know adores.
by Christina Baker Kline The gist: Between 1854 and 1929, so-called orphan trains ran regularly from the cities of the East Coast to the farmlands of the Midwest, carrying thousands of abandoned children whose fates would be determined by luck or chance. Word on the street: This book is lovely.
The pads of my fingertips are wearing off this week. I reply to every single Sheryl Sandberg hater on my Facebook feed and ask them one simple question: Have you read her book? Lean In by Sheryl Sandberg is fantastic, and I’ll tell you why.
The criticism baffles me. Apparently, she’s too rich to offer advice on being successful. She has household help, so she couldn’t possibly inspire our gender. She went to Harvard, so she can’t know how to help a state school grad (forget about a high school drop out). See where I’m going? This is nonsense. Do we read advice from Warren Buffet on money and finance? Do we devour books by Dr. Phil McGraw? Does it matter if these men have personal assistants and fancy houses? What about the bestselling diet book Shredby Dr. Ian Smith? He went to Harvard; he’s famous and well-off. I do not hear moaning and groaning about the above men’s qualifications to advise us.
I hereby declare the Sheryl Sandberg debate bull hockey.
Here are three reasons why people–mostly women, BTW–are ripping Sheryl Sandberg apart. First, hating on a working woman is, sadly, a popular thing to do. Second, attacking a book and creating a controversy generates web traffic for bloggers. Third, women love to hate on women and it has to stop. Just one example: I recently wrote a blog post about my extreme morning sickness in regards to Kate Middleton. I suffered through my ordeal–really suffered–and I got hate comments. A few days later, my husband wrote the exact same story about my morning sickness, and he received warm, encouraging words. WOMEN: WHAT ARE WE DOING TO EACH OTHER?
All I ask, in the case of Sheryl Sandberg, is that people read the damn book before they post diatribes like this one: “I may need to take a moment to reflect on all of the hoopla surrounding Sheryl Sandberg’s not so innovative ideas. What is so impressive about an Ivy grad getting an Ivy grad position at a top company? NOTHING.” I respectfully disagree. A woman from any background in a powerful top position glows impressively.
Sheryl should proudly step up and take her rightful place as role model. I haven’t been this excited about a feminist book since I read Susan Faludi’s Backlash in college. Why Sheryl? She’s awesome, flawed, inspiring and brilliant. Here are the top 10 things I love in the book Lean In:
1. I relate to her. I haven’t worked at a full-time job since 1999, and I’m currently in yoga teacher training. But I still like her and would love if she’d be my friend. She embodies hard work and drive–but with flaws and vulnerabilities that are just like mine. For example, we both entered doomed marriages when we were 23. Learning from our mistakes, we chose more compatible partners the second time.
2. She offers plenty of a-ha moments. “Ask a man to explain his success and he will typically credit his own innate qualities and skills. …A woman… will attribute her success to external factors, insisting she did well because she ‘worked really hard or ‘got lucky’ or ‘had help from others.’”
3. Mentors don’t matter that much. Women have a hard time finding mentors in managerial positions because of the lack of women. That shouldn’t stop us from forging relationships with people–at or above our positions–for help. Mentorship is reciprocal questioning and answering, and everyone will be invested in and learn from that. (What a huge relief.)
4. Despite what you might have read, she encourages all of the choices women make. “There are many powerful reasons to exit the workforce. Being a stay-at-home parent is a wonderful, and often necessary, choice for many people. Not every parent needs, wants or should be expected to work outside the home. In addition, we do not control all of the factors that influence us, including the health of our children. Plus, many people welcome the opportunity to get out of the rat race. No one should pass judgment on these highly personal decisions. I fully support any man or woman who dedicates his or her life to raising the next generation. It is important and demanding and joyful work.”
5. The advice is unparalleled. I entered the workforce at age 21 without even wanting kids but planning for them anyway. I aimed to be a freelancer before I even started–limiting my salary options dramatically. Here’s what Sheryl has to say about that: “Anyone lucky enough to have options should keep them open. Don’t enter the workforce already looking for the exit. Don’t put on the brakes. Accelerate. Keep a foot on the gas pedal until a decision must be made. That’s the only way to ensure that when the day comes, there will be a real decision to make.” Where could I be–where could I go now–if I didn’t see childrearing as a career-halt?
6. Let your partner help you. “Whenever a married woman asks me for advice on coparenting with a husband, I tell her to let him put the diaper on the baby any way he wants to as long as he’s doing it himself. And if he gets up to deal with the diaper before being asked, she should smile even if he puts that diaper on the baby’s head. Over time, if he does things his way, he’ll find the correct end. But if he’s forced to do things her way, pretty soon she’ll be doing them herself.”
7. Equality around the household equals a better sex life. “Couples who share domestic responsibilities have more sex.” She cites a study. I have anecdotal evidence to support this assertion.
8. Women can’t do it all. She dropped her daughter off at preschool and then had to take a flight to the East Coast to give a TEDTalk. Her little girl was upset that Sheryl wouldn’t be home for bedtime, and it tore them both apart. Sheryl added it to her speech because other women were going through the same thing. “Women and men [need to] drop the guilt trip, even as the minutes tick away, The secret is there is no secret–just do… the best you can with what you’ve got.”
9. Little girls aren’t bossy. We should call them “future leaders” instead.
10. Women, start leaning in to other women. “The more women help one another, the more we help ourselves.”
What have you read about this book? If you had a negative reaction, was I able to get you to reconsider your position?
How can that happen? You have to be that special person who can move your (many, many) fans to pre-order. And that’s just what Melton did. Read her thoughts below on how her gangbuster week has been going. And listen to her wise advice: She thinks we moms should Forgive Ourselves Everyday. Melton is brilliant. Don’t miss her wit and wisdom below:
KK: Congrats on your pre-sales! How surprised were you at your early success? GDM: I was shocked and awed. The Monkees of the Momastery (my readers) are mountain movers.
KK: What are you doing to celebrate? GDM: There are two rugs on my bathroom floor that my dogs have peed on. When I heard that Carry On, Warrior hit the Amazon top five bestseller list, I drove straight to Target and bought two new rugs. I brought them home, laid them down, and my dogs immediately peed on those. Now I have four peed on bath rugs, which I suppose is what I deserve for celebrating so excessively.
KK: How do you juggle your writing (blogs, books) with motherhood? Do you have any advice for moms of young kids who are chasing their own dreams? GDM: I am one of those really bad jugglers who keeps hitting other people and her own feet with the balls. I juggle poorly and clumsily and I make a hundred big and small mistakes every day. I disappoint people and I forget birthday parties and I miss deadlines. Motherhood, whether I’m with my kids all day or not, is just impossibly hard for me. I don’t think that means I’m doing it wrong, though.I think it’s just hard. Thankfully, we can do hard things. My advice is to forgive yourself over and over again forever and ever.
KK: In two sentences, what is your hot new book about? GDM: Carry On, Warrior is about what life can be like when we come out of hiding and become shameless truth tellers. It’s about how brutal and beautiful are recovery, marriage, parenthood, friendship and faith.
Want to jumpstart 2013 with positive thoughts, new goals and increased happiness? May Cause Miracles may do the trick for moms who enjoy self help books and can devote 5 to 10 minutes a day to this project. (That’s really all it takes–I’ve been reading right before bed, and I get all calm and relaxed.) I’ve completed Gabrielle’s Days 1 and 2, and she’s inspired me to face my biggest fears–and not be so scared of them. I can’t tell you if it’s going to work until I do 38 more days, but I’m digging it. Who doesn’t want to kick anxiety to the curb? Or add a little happiness to life? Count me in! I’ll totally drink that water.
My husband loves when I get on these kicks. He abides by the most basic rule in the universe: When Momma is happy, everyone is happy–and vice versa.
What’s so successful about May Cause Miracles is its accessibility. Gabrielle takes complicated, multi-layered philosophical ideas and breaks them down so they make perfect sense. Her easy, friendly style makes her relatable and irresistible. She’s grounding her advice on old but sound psychological and metaphysical ideas, especially a program called The Course. She writes that our fears are just limiting beliefs. “They’re just smoke and mirrors, a bit of mental sleight of hand that leads us in the wrong direction in life.” In order to create everyday miracles (meaning positive thoughts, a can-do attitude and happiness), we need to label what scares us, be willing to change our beliefs, to surrender to to a higher power (God or your inner self or whatever inspires you), to practice and to forgive. “Finally, there is love,” Gabrielle writes. “Where there is fear, there is no love…living with an open heart and embracing love as our true purpose is essential to living a miraculous life.”
Gabrielle just started a live class in NYC last night, but it’s also available online, and you can download yesterday’s lesson. She’s personally presenting and teaching from her new book in this May Cause Miracles Live Course ($178). But the book is only $12.99 (see the May Cause Miracle trailer below), and there are also affordable meditations on the website. I love her fun and reassuring Spirit Junkie app, especially because it’s $1.99.
How I adore you, self help. This is a hot category right now (definitely check out Help, Thanks, Wow), so at least I know I’m not alone in my devotion. Are there any books that got you jazzed up recently?