Tuesday, January 31, 2012


"Mama, what do you want me to be when I grow up?"

"Happy. I want you to be happy, baby."

That response just flies out of my mouth whenever Nine and Seven ask me that question. I know they are probably asking me for some sort of career guidance, but honestly, I don't care what they do or where they go with it. I just want them to be happy. And safe. And strong. And smart. And clever and soulful and fair and healthy and respectful of themselves (and others) and brave and loving. So I guess it's not just happy I want them to be, but that's at the top of the list. 

Which is why I wonder if I am living by example. Do I bring them enough joy every day? Do I show them how to live life with glee in their hearts? Not sure. What I am pretty sure of is that me doing the dishes and hollering at them to HURRY HURRY HURRY UP AND IF I HAVE TO SAY IT AGAIN I'M GOING TO PASS OUT doesn't inspire great joy, nor does it make me seem particularly happy.

I am happy though, and I do respect this life as my only one, and I do know that every day - be it good or total crap - is a gift and that it's far superior to the alternative. But when we aren't necessarily living the dream as we'd imagined it, how do we teach happy? Is it by our living a happy life in whatever form that life has shaped itself into? How possible is that on a daily basis? I try to slap a smile on my face whenever I can, but maybe that's not enough. Maybe I need to be my own student of happy, so that I can lead by glowing example. Is my stress level weighing them down too, just because they are near me? Do I need to do a better job of hiding it all, or of actually not letting it affect my own happy? Yes, probably on both fronts.

Note to self: Exude great joy at laundry and dinner and repeating myself 100 times a day to no desired result. It's still better than the alternative. What if I didn't have those little pumpkins to holler at? What if my life was quiet and clean and devoid of dog hair and backtalk? Would joy seep from my pores then, or would I want what I didn't have? 

The trick is that the things that do bring us joy aren't always what fills our day. My girls love cookies and movies and play dates, but their daily allowance of fun is doled out in tiny portions, given to them in between big, time-consuming things like vegetables and homework and please finish up in the shower because you've been in there so long that I'm dehydrated just thinking about the water that's being wasted. And my joy comes from relaxing with family and music and catching up with friends and writing and taking class and laughing with my husband. But those seem to be the little glittery dust particles that float in and out of the spotlight that's focused squarely on the hours spent driving and planning and cooking and cleaning and saying no and teaching lessons and making lists of things to do and then doing those things and repeating and repeating and repeating myself.

But I look forward to those shiny bits. Remember I said once that Thursday is my favorite day of the week and Thanksgiving is my favorite holiday because both of those things hold promise of what's to come? I can get through all the muck of the day because I love anticipating the special moments that I know are just a phone call or a tickle or a laugh away. Just knowing that joy is going to be found can bring the happy around. Just knowing is the silver lining in each day.

Granted, when Nine and Seven are bickering, and then one of them starts repeating "NO! NO!! NO!!!" louder and louder to the puppy as he innocently forages in their room for shoes and pencils and socks (i.e. his happy), and the shower is running (see aforementioned cause of drought), and the oven starts beeping because I'm burning the roasted brussels sprouts, and then my husband's phone rings, interrupting our 30 second chance to catch up on the last three days...well, sometimes it's hard to find that silver lining. But I know it's there. I should tap into that content feeling. The peace of knowing joy is around the corner, even when the corner is blocks away and in order to get there I've got to walk barefoot, uphill, in the snow.

Some people don't have happy waiting for them. I do. And my girls do. They have happy woven into every day of their lives and waiting around the corner. And they need to have happy waking them up each morning, and happy taking them to school and happy helping with homework and happy loving them to sleep at night so they realize that even though life is crazy and Mama is crazy and the puppy is crazy, we can all still be happy.

Hence, I've decided to be outwardly happy. As much as I can. I'm going to joke instead of yell. I'm going to smile instead of frown. I'm going to say "I love you" when Nine says "no" to me for the umpteenth time, and when Seven whines at me about homework/chores/dinner/bedtime/brushing teeth, I will hug her. 

Time for Mama to walk the walk and talk the talk. Time to give happy and grow happy and teach them how to find their own happy, in - and sometimes in spite of - their lives. Maybe it's as simple as acting like the dog (apart from the innate desire to eat poop). He seems to find great joy in very simple things every day.

So I will be more like the puppy, except laughter will be my stolen slipper. Because "when I grow up" is happening right now, every day, all around us. I can't slow it down, but I can infuse it with as much joy as possible. And hopefully one day, when growing up turns to all grown up, they can look back with eyes that sparkle with happy memories, and joy that lights up their hearts. Which will set my own heart afire.


Wednesday, January 25, 2012


My brother (let's call him "B") and I were born nineteen months apart. I'm May, he's October. He was born at 12:53am, I at 12:53pm. Our older sister had brown hair and brown eyes. Our older brother has blonde hair and blue eyes. But B and I, we both have brown hair and green eyes. Hazel, most of the time, really, just like our Dad.

When B and I were little, my Mom said people asked her a lot if we were twins. We weren't, of course, but she said we did have our own language. Some sort of toddler banter that clearly meant something to us, because we babbled with great purpose and enthusiasm.

We grew up tight, as some siblings do. And by "tight" I mean he used to tease me until I screamed, then I'd get in trouble for getting our Mom all bunched up and he'd laugh until he peed. Or he would sit on me, pin my arms down, and tickle me until I wished I could either pass out or shout "Wonder Twin Powers - ACTIVATE! Shape of...ICE! Form of...FIRE!", in which case my superpowers would kick in, making him freeze and then burn into nothingness, and then I could never be tickled again and I would get my own room. I remember Batman spray soap in the tub and waking each other up on Christmas morning, and I remember kneeling in front of the couch with him as he taught me how to read. I remember us streaking through the living room while my parents tried to watch the news, and I remember him hitting his knee and falling down, which of course made me laugh until I peed, because I laugh when people fall and get hurt. (Stop it. You do too, and if you don't, well then, there's one thing we don't have in common. Because I think that shit is laugh out loud funny, every time.)

B and I came up through the same elementary school, middle school and high school. We went through times where he secretly dated my friends, then not-so-secretly told his friends never, ever to date me. We went to the same college, though we didn't overlap much during those years, but by then it didn't matter. I knew him better than anyone and I loved him absolutely.

We lived several years like that, not connected at the hip, rather at the soul. We still spoke that language our Mom talked about. Sometimes one look told a whole joke. We were on each other's team, unconditionally and without a doubt. I stood in his wedding; he stood in mine. He gave his only daughter my middle name, and he gave his middle name to his only son. Watching the two of them was like watching ourselves as kids.

And then more time passed. Hearts were broken. Happy fantasy twisted and morphed into harsh reality. Life changed. Sad things that happen to lots of people happened to him too. But rather than recover from those things, he let rage and defeat in, and he let them win.

He is not the boy I grew up with, or the man I watched that boy grow into. He is changed. I spent a lot of time and energy trying to pull him back, make him laugh, remind him of who he still is, and who still loves him, and what life has to offer in the short time we get to enjoy it.

And then, 267 days ago, I stopped trying. I remember it because it was the day before my birthday. Five days before the anniversary of our sister's death. Six days before Mother's Day. An emotionally charged week at best. I stopped trying, because in his last communication with me, his words scratched at my surface until I was raw, and hurt, and mad as hell. I can't seem to heal. Still, when I close my hazel eyes, I see his. And I still feel I know him. It's a bad connection now, with damaged wires, but if I'm really quiet I can still hear his voice.

I can't decide if that makes it better or worse. I can't decide if I'm delusional or if I really do still know him underneath it all. I can't figure out how to let go, or if I should.

What I do know is that I feel like I've now lost not one, but two siblings. And I am filled with double the regret, double the heartbreak, double the void. Every time I think about how I feel, I consider how my parents feel. Then I think about how all three of us feel like we gave everything we are and everything we have to someone who set it all on fire and threw it back in our faces with a great big fuck you to top it off. 

Maybe if I were a guy, I would just go over to his house, knock on the door, and sock him in his eye. But I'm not. I'm a girl, a woman, a little sister. The ovaries tremble with this one and it makes things complicated for me. It's harder to move on because I've already had to say goodbye once before and everything in me says to fight harder for this one.


I can't seem to find the ribbon I need to tie this one up with a pretty bow. And I hope reading this isn't like trying to work a jigsaw puzzle in the dark for you. I realize there are a lot of missing pieces and shapes that only I know how to fit together. I'm sure I'll touch on the subject of B again down the road, but for now, I guess I'll say the silver lining on this one is still buried under a hula hoop and a half-eaten volleyball in the backyard.

Maybe when Spring comes around things will look brighter. Maybe I'll forget about time lost. And maybe, just maybe, I will get the chance to forgive words spoken from a broken heart and start speaking that long lost language again instead. It could happen, right? Spring is totally a time of renewal, plus all those April showers are sure to wash the debris in the yard away and let the silver lining shine through. 

It's a new year after all. And 267 days is a long time, but I'm a patient girl. Speaking of girls...what did Nine say again? My 2012 mantra? Maybe if I write it, it will start to feel true.

I have hope! I believe! 

Friday, January 20, 2012


Yes, I was on the phone for close to two hours with AT&T today, and yes, I got disconnected before getting my issue resolved.

Yes, I got so frustrated this morning while trying to explain division to Nine that I slammed the dishwasher on my finger, and yes, I got a blood blister.

Yes, it's raining, and the husband is working late so I will miss some of my evening plans, and yes, the dog has tracked mud into every corner of the house (the parts he hasn't eaten yet, that is).


Today, after 51 days away, my Mom went home. Tonight, she will have dinner with my Dad, and afterwards they will doze on the couch while they "watch" TV. Eventually, Dad will mosey into the kitchen to tidy up, and eventually, Mom will wander into their room, where her side of the bed has been turned down and waiting.

And tomorrow morning, after 51 nights apart, they will wake up side by side, and continue their 51st year of marriage under the same roof, starting with a cup of coffee. Together again.

As I type this, ironically, the song that just shuffled itself on is "Marry Me". The good men of Train said it best, and it fits this moment, just like it fit last year as we played this exact song in celebration of their fifty years of marriage.

Forever could never be long enough for me to feel like I've had long enough with you. Together could never be close enough for me to feel like I am close enough to you. 

Welcome home, Mom.


Wednesday, January 18, 2012


Is talent a gift or a curse? And is it still a gift if you're the only one who knows you have it? I think talent is only a curse if you don't see it as a gift. Use it or lose it. One chance at life. And all that.

I think about this a bit. Being from Los Angeles, I was frequently surrounded by a lot of people who felt like knowing someone made you someone. But really, I'm of the mindset that knowing someone just makes you someone who knows someone. And you can tell yourself that because you once had a martini two feet away from a household name that you're all up in that bitch, but really, if you talk about it and have to name drop, you're still just a crusty barnacle.

Now certainly, there are a lot of gifted people in L.A., but what makes someone "someone"? Every famous person you know is only famous because other people in powerful positions shouted "This person has a gift!" from the studio rooftops. That's what being "discovered" means, right? Carrie Underwood would still be milking cows in Oklahoma if Simon Cowell had never said on TV that she was going to be somebody. And Simon Cowell would probably be living the life of Hugh Grant's character in Notting Hill (minus the getting married to Julia Roberts part) if he hadn't been discovered, and so on, and so on, and so on.

There are, of course, gifted people everywhere who aren't making $10 million every three months. You just don't see their airbrushed faces on the sides of a bus, or along the walls at the train station, or on the movie screens. So my question is this: Are they any less gifted because their adoring audience is smaller? Would Brad Pitt still be all sexy smoke if he was running the best drama program his local high school had ever seen? (Maybe that's not the best example. Because obviously, yes. He can sex it up no matter where he is. But you know what I mean.) 

Do gifts need louder applause and more visibility to be bigger? Do higher ticket sales make Adele a better singer? I think she's going to rock the house whether she's at Staples Center or in the shower. But what if nobody believed in her? Would she still have the voice of Ella Fitzgerald + a Brit angel? She would.

So is it our gifts that lift us up, or are the people who appreciate the gifts doing the heavy lifting? Is talent a gift only if lots and lots of people say it is? I think some of us can identify our gifts, and some of us need someone else to identify them for us. That's one thing. As parents, it's up to us to help our kids see themselves and to believe in their strengths. But whether we are singing at a church in town or on the world's biggest stage, I guess what's important is that we feel buoyed by our gift and that we share it.

I'm no Simon Cowell, but here are some recent examples of extraordinary shared gifts I'd like to shout from a rooftop blog:

A friend who always says to me when I beg her for a favor and then thank her profusely for saying yes, "I'm just happy you asked me.".

A handful of friends who generously donate their time and tireless energy to teach my daughter and the rest of the Brownie troop she is a part of how to be kind, respectful, open-minded young people. They do this by patiently holding a mirror up to each of these girls - in the form of lessons and discussions and outings and crafts - and then standing steady until they watch each one recognize the unique gift they see in their own reflection.

The skinny friend who not only told me how much weight she's gained in the last year, but who then lifted her shirt to show me.

The physical therapists, nurses and doctors who have worked to put my Mom back together again, and who have managed, day by day, and week by week, to give back to us a woman who is somehow stronger now than she was before she landed in their care. Not to mention the friends who have kept my folks company and their refrigerator full over the past several weeks.

Some friends who read my blog entry about a very dry Monday night indeed, who then responded with offers to bring vino, pronto. And the one friend who wrote a note, tied it to a pretty bag holding a bottle of wine, and drove it over today to leave it on the front step. My porch has never looked better.

The glimpses of kindness I've seen in my daughters towards each other, towards me, and towards others.

The friends and family - old and new, near and far - who have taken time out of their days and nights to email/text/comment on this little blog. The writing feels good to me but the connections it's made to a bunch of pretty wonderful people is the real gift to me.

So thank you. Looks like the only curse I have to worry about is the one that comes each month and then leaves my bathroom looking like a crime scene. And stop with the Oh. My. God. You knew I'd go there, it was only a matter of time.

Stay tuned. :)

Monday, January 16, 2012


Things That Make You Go Hmm. 

1. Why don't the good people at Miss America surrender the fantasy and slap an elastic strap on that crown already? Bobby pins are to USA crowns as the first two little pig's houses were to the big bad wolf. No chance. Miss Outgoing could just snap that strap right under the toned, tanned chin of Miss Incoming and that pretty lady can strut her stuff and avoid looking like Dirty Drunk Prom Queen with her running mascara and her precarious tiara. Other suggestions: Make it curved so it sits on her head like a fancy banana? Hot glue it to her extensions? Staple gun? I'm just saying, there's gotta be a better way.

2. Why is it that once a month, when I get The Curse, I also break out like a teenager (and start to eat like one)? Doritos and leftover pizza, anyone? Isn't that a triple whammy? How come each time we're reminded we can give the gift of life, we aren't also given a luminous complexion and a calm, flat tummy? Instead, I look and feel like I've been eating burritos three times a day and not washing my face. WTF, uterus?

3. Is it just me, or do you need to beg your kids to get out of bed on a school day, and then on Saturday and Sunday, when all you want is for them to sleep until 9:30, they're up at 6:15 staring at cartoons? (If your kids have ever slept past 9:00am keep it to yourself. Next you'll launch into how they "slept through the night" at three months, and then we won't be friends anymore, so just shh.)

4. Is it unusual that sometimes, even after a great day, come 6:30pm, I'm wondering if I can figure out how to switch all the clocks forward two hours, so I can put the girls to bed now instead of later and enjoy a quiet, clean house before I pass out?

5. Is it wrong to tell the kids that you know it's already past bedtime, but you need to pile into the car right quick and run up to the Kwik Mart for butter (or some other pantry essential), when what's really happening is you've realized you've got no wine and you reeeally want some? It is? I think sometimes "wrong" is just another way of saying "well played". Because running out of wine is unacceptable, she types wistfully, from her wineless couch in her wineless house, on what has turned out to be a very dry Monday indeed.

Sunday, January 15, 2012


I'm not a doctor and I don't spend the graveyard shift saving lives. My kids don't have the flu (although by writing that, you know I'm jinxed), and my puppy has issues, but not explosive ones that require me to clean the floors more often than most. And yet, yesterday morning I still felt a little put out by the situation I found myself in.

The husband has been traveling. A LOT. And I'm used to it because it's his industry and we've been together for a hundred years, so I get it. When he's gone, life falls to me. A lot of things get easier when he's out of town. There is less laundry, less food to cook, less parental banter (read: bickering) about the kids and the puppy. But overall, it's more work for me. So in addition to my day job and my teaching on the side, it's up to me to make a meal plan, get groceries, keep track of the hot lunch/play date/Brownies/snack/birthday parties/child care/field trip and class party organization/laundry/sign ups for ballet and piano/et-freaking-cetera.

Who am I kidding? The man does a mean load of laundry (folding not included), and he's way better than I am on the grill, but the rest of the above ends up on my plate whether he's home or away. But sometimes, after all the solo multitasking, mama needs a break. Don't get me wrong, I'm happy he's home again, and in our bed, and there for us all, but I still want a little reprieve.

So the other morning I thought, let's go crazy. I'm going to take a class and then have coffee with a dear friend. Nuts, right? Living life right on the edge. I made it to class and afterwards could almost taste the coffee, when I received a text message asking me to "just come home". Wha?? Come home?

No. I don't want to come home. What I want to do is spend an hour or so jumping off the high dive with a friend into a vat of coffee, and swimming around with all the good stuff that she shares about her life. I don't want to come home and talk about 1) why the puppy is acting weird and 2) why the kids are acting weird and 3) why his job is weird enough that he has to start answering text messages at 6:00am on a Saturday and 4) why I'm acting like a salty, complaining, weird cherry on top. I already have those answers: 1) He barfed a SOCK on Friday night, 2) They are hormonal, bored, and enjoy torturing us, 3) Football people aren't like regular people, and 4) BECAUSE I DIDN'T GET TO GO HAVE COFFEE WITH MY FRIEND.

Seriously, right?


I broke the plans to get caffeinated with my gracious pal, and came home. And man, was I salty.

Because in my mind, I'm thinking, I have been doing it all, alone, for days on end. And the load, she isn't light. We've got things to handle on a daily basis. Kids and parents and that sock-eating puppy and all the rest. When he comes home, I want to throw him the keys, run fast in the other direction, and be gone for at least a couple of hours. I don't even care what I'm running towards. I'll drive back and forth on the freeway, as long as I can get a chai latte on my way and listen to the music of my choice. And by "my choice" I mean almost anything except for the Bieber Christmas CD or sports talk radio.

In the husband's mind, I venture to guess, all he wants to do is reconnect and talk about what is too much to text about when he's on the road, and co-parent for the short time he's here before he has to leave us again.

See? Now I feel like a huge bitch. And I don't even like that word when it's aimed at me unless I'm on the dance floor with friends, in which case we're all up IN that bitch.

You may be asking, what's my point. I actually have no idea, I'm just blogging it off my chest. Again, I never promised this would be fascinating.

All I'm saying is that today, when I went to the grocery store, I picked up a chai latte on the way, and when I had to make three stops instead of one, I was almost giddy. I was alone, finally, and just in time because he leaves town again tomorrow. So I just sipped my tea and I spoke to nobody except the checkout people. And yes, I made eye contact and offered a smile. Why wouldn't I? I was happy as a farm-raised clam.

I didn't rush home, either. Nope. I took my sweet time up in that bitch. 


Wednesday, January 11, 2012


Revelation. Today it became clear why when people run towards roller coasters, I run towards the snack stand. Okay, I walk to the snack stand, but I do it with a great deal of purpose. You understand the reference, and if you don't, read "Five".

This morning I came across what I thought was a giant dog hair dust bunny, only to realize it was DOLL hair, not DOG hair, specifically the hair of a very expensive American girl doll. I can't blame the puppy. I'm sure that dolls provide sheer chewing ecstasy, and it's not like he levitated to the top of the closet. He found the dolls on the floor. I spend my days and nights repeating myself to Seven and Nine, i.e. "Put your dolls away so the puppy doesn't eat them.". So much so and to such little desired result, that I'm no longer convinced I have a voice that humans can actually hear. Maybe I have a higher pitch than I think, and only dogs can hear me. Not my dog, of course, but other ones. Perhaps I speak muskrat, and if so, I can't blame the kids or the dog because apparently, only Captain and Tennille* can hear me.

Back to the subject at hand. When I want a thrill, I want what I don't already get in my daily life. At this point, nearly every day is filled with little highs and lows. Happy, relaxed moments (Hi puppy...), nice (brief) moments of peace (...aren't you sweet...wait a minute...), and the inevitable, gut-sinking drop (...is that a $100, half-bald doll on the dog bed next to a school library book with a freshly devoured back cover?!?).

When I want respite, I don't think, Hey, let's go have groundhog day, but let's do it strapped to a metal, topless car with a bunch of screaming strangers who smell like funnel cake. No, this girl wants complete silence, in a room that smells of cucumber water, with soft music playing while a trained therapist pretends not to be able to see my body, while simultaneously making it feel like butter.

Then I want a warm bath, a cold Chard, and more silence. Trifecta.

Each morning, I wake up happy (and by "happy", I mean wishing for four more hours of sleep). I remind myself "I am alive. I have a precious human life.". Not to mention a 100+ pound canine life, who needs to go outside and say good morning to the morning, if you know what I mean. So, I get up, and I gleefully wake the precious children from their restful sleep. See me strapped in, click, click, clicking up the coaster, birds chirping, all giddy anticipation? 

And then there I am, in a breathless pause at the top - or in my kitchen, as it were - smelling the coffee in the French press, quietly checking email on my phone, and telling myself the girls are getting dressed for school. What they're really doing is wearing their pajamas and watching a video on their iPod over and over again, but I pretend my instructions are being followed.

After a pause...here we GO. I hear screaming from the other room because someone said something to someone else, who then said something back and now it's a full-blown little girl hissy fit, complete with one kid crying and the other one screeching like a howler monkey. The puppy is eating the house, his appetizer of choice today being the moulding around the window. And suddenly, viciously, I'm ripped from my Paris dream (the French press might be as close as I get so just let me have this one) to focus once again on the empty, cracked pots on the back patio, the spider in the corner of the bathroom, the dog digging a hole in the backyard (seriously, who said getting a puppy was a good idea?), and so on.

It's all whizzing past me as I stomp into the bedroom, hair flying, arms flailing, to tell the kids to QUIET DOWN AND WHILE I'M IN HERE LET ME JUST SAY ONCE AGAIN THAT DIRTY CLOTHES GO IN THE HAMPER, NOT ON THE FLOOR, and then I stomp outside to try and explain to the dog in great detail that the lawn is not for digging and American girl dolls are not for eating, and neither, for that matter, is poop. By the time I slow down and grind to a halt, my coffee is cold and the clock tells me we're late for school. Again.

So you can keep your Boomerang and Corkscrew, your Dragon Wagon and Colossus. I've got equal thrills and spills right here: doll hair, howler monkeys, and the shards of wood under the window where the sill used to be.

I want to roll in hot to a spa retreat, but for now I'll take the 30 seconds I get each morning in my Parisian cafe, where they serve a great cup of coffee and a killer funnel cake. (Dog hair is on the house.)

*Young 'uns. Google. You'll see.

Sunday, January 8, 2012


What is the restless feeling I have lately? It isn't that I want to be somewhere or someone else, but more that something is missing. And then to compound the confusion, a feeling that I shouldn't be feeling this way. I know I don't get enough of the people and things in my life that I love, but it shouldn't make my temper quite as short as it seems to be. Patience used to be my thing (that, and eating really slowly), but it's more of a visitor than a virtue these days. As far as eating goes, what I still lack in speed, I make up for lately in frequency.

Why am I motivated enough to create pretty little vignettes around the house, but not especially moved to do the big stuff, like put the Christmas decorations in their bins so we can open the door to the extra bedroom and actually enter the room? I have these cookbooks that I love reading, and yet, I never seem to have the mind space (life space?) to actually cook from them. I know so many women do so much more with less, and yet, here it is. As I type, I think, really? This is what you're "restless" about? Poor you, can't motivate to clean all of your holiday decorations out of your extra bedroom? Asshole.


I wonder if something soothing to drink might help. To that end, do I want to make a chai tea or pour a double triple Chardonnay (or a Pinot, or a Zin...really, those who know me know that the answer to "Red or white?" with me is nearly always "Yes, please.").

I'm not a complete train wreck on a daily basis. I do glimpse the peaceful me sometimes, like when a favorite song comes on, one that moves me to breathe into the music lyrically, as music so often used to do to me when I spent my days and nights choreographing. (Did someone say dance party? What?? I said patience used to be my thing, not focus.)

But then there's that restless feeling again, driving me to extremes, which for me these days means I either go on a cleaning frenzy (take THAT, Christmas decor, and guilt regarding the aforementioned), or I climb into bed and hope to find a chick flick circa 1997 on TBS, and then another, and maybe another, until suddenly it's 2:30am and OH MY GOD, is it too late to order hot lunch for tomorrow because there's no way I'll get up in time to pack lunches now.

Sometimes I feel like I'm trying to keep my eye on the horizon and enjoy the sunset or the sunrise or the clouds...really anything...because when I look down, I get the impression that my life raft is somewhat held together with duct tape and super glue. I have to keep my chin up, otherwise, the downward glance can begin the downward spiral that can eventually capsize the Good Ship Amy. 

I hesitate to throw this out there, but here it is. I don't think it's material things (or lack thereof) causing that restless feeling, but I do struggle with the inherent ugly American in me, that girl who occasionally wants more. More stuff, better stuff, different, pretty stuff with big price tags and big wow factors. You know, like a shiny new life raft with espresso-stained oars and a matching yacht, complete with a new family wardrobe, college tuition funds, and bi-yearly vacations abroad. Also, I'd like to meet Ina Garten and Adele because I get the sneaking suspicion they would both want to be my bestie.

Ick, right? I know. It feels dirty coming out of my fingertips. I have stuff aplenty. I write this knowing full well that kids across the world (heck, kids across town) have no food, let alone new Fall boots. Hello, hypocritical feelings...you're rather prickly, aren't you?

Before you close the window in which you read this, having cleverly decided I'm either crazy, or that this blog has taken an unfortunate turn and isn't worth reading anymore, be honest with yourself. Have these things never crossed your mind? Or maybe your list of "Pretty Things I Want" is all check, check, chiggity-checked off, but you still feel restless and neither chai nor Chardonnay is the remedy. We all have to put one foot in front of the other, and true, some of us follow the yellow brick road, and others of us stumble our way down a dirt path, but as long as we just buck up and keep moving, we'll get there. There hopefully being the place where we can put our collective feet up and wish for nothing more for ourselves than another day, and then another, and another, with the sun rising and setting smack dab right where we are.

And really, where I am is right where I choose to be. I do have everything (and everyone) I need, and most of what I want. And I wouldn't trade what I've got for what I don't. Except for the chai I'm drinking now...I would trade that in for a Chardonnay in the blink of an eye. See? There it is again. Restless. Selfish maybe, but restless.

In any case, tonight I think I will leave the extra bedroom in it's unattractive post-holiday state, and leave the laundry to languish (aka wrinkle) in the dryer. I'm going to take my warm chai, and put myself in my warm bed, with my big, warm puppy, turn on the TV, and watch with my chin up, grateful that I'm smack dab in the middle of this moment, this place, this life.


Thursday, January 5, 2012


Prologue: Going forward, at least until they have birthdays, our youngest daughter is going to be referred to here as "Seven" and our oldest one will be "Nine". You with me?

The other night, I was tucking Nine in after Seven had fallen asleep (they share a room by choice, if you can believe that). Nine told me that a couple nights ago, she had a hard time falling asleep, so Seven, in her very serious seven-ness, climbed out of bed clutching her lovey, and sat on the edge of her sister's bed.

She put her free hand on her sister's back and started rubbing gently. As she did this, she quietly said, "Inhale. Outhale.". After a few zen-like repetitions, Nine started giggling, which usually infuriates Seven, but she just kept going.

Inhale. Outhale.

On a seemingly unrelated note, although I was born and raised in Los Angeles, I'm not a huge fan of going in the ocean. Here's the thing. Look around where you sit right now. Consider that everything you see - buildings, cars, doors - exists in the ocean, except bigger and with eyes and teeth. Probably some pokey things. And potentially several sticky arms. It's just not for me.

In conversation though, the deep end is where the good stuff is. It's all fine to sit and talk politely about your new, custom-designed white leather ottoman, but not for 30 minutes. I'd rather dive into your family, or what you love to cook and feed people, or why your kid's report card was scary instead of frame-ready. You don't have to completely lay it out on the line, but let's at least try to connect. I don't have time to pretend to be interested in something shiny on the surface for a long time. I want to gaze at that for a few moments, appreciate it, and then take a deep breath and dive under again.

Now in life, it's the really heavy things that live at the bottom, because heavy things generally sink. Mentally, several times a day, I inhale, hold my breath, and dive down to contemplate all my heavy things. I check in, I look around, I take note. But I don't have a scuba suit or enough oxygen (or time in my day) to stay down for long, so I rise to the surface, put a smile on, and outhale. Up there are a bunch of other things that are gleaming in the sun. And by "gleaming", I mean mocking me. Like the overdue and begged-for playdate that needs to be scheduled, the dishes that have to be put away, and holy Lord are we seriously out of dog food again? Which leads to what time is it, when does the vet close, can I make it there in time and get dinner on the table before bedtime (Answer: No.), etc.

Then a phone call or email comes in, or a thought crosses over the task at hand like a cloud covering the sun, and it's inhale, dive, and tend to the octopus that is my family, or the beautiful coral that are my friends, the ones I can only glimpse occasionally because they are rooted where they live too, and like I said, I can only dive down occasionally. I stay as long as I can, then it's up and away again.

I realize in this deep sea scenario, that I could be rising and falling among some much bigger waves and tides, and I'm not. My ocean could be littered with scary medical terminology and empty rafts, but it isn't.

I look around, and whether I'm squinting in the glare (creating more wrinkles, obviously), or struggling between my time in the deep sea and my internal need to be above water, I'm grateful. My rafts have my people in them and my coral may be far away, but it's mine, and I get to hug my girls before they go to bed tonight, tucked in right next to one another.

And after they fall asleep, I will sit with them and quietly time my breath with theirs. 

Inhale. Outhale. Inhale. Outhale.


Tuesday, January 3, 2012


When I lived in Green Bay, Wisconsin, I learned a thing or two.

I learned that when people stare at you, it's not usually in an effort to assess what you drive/who you know/what you do for a living, as can so often be the case in my (original) hometown of Los Angeles. They stare in the hopes they will eventually make eye contact so they can say hello. I was genuinely shocked when I finally decided to meet someone's gaze, only to find that the answer to my silent nagging question ("What are you staring at?!") was a friendly greeting. Ever since that day, I've tried to slow down and consciously let that simple joy pay itself forward.

Moral: humanity can show it's kind face at the Piggly Wiggly. Who knew?

I also learned that a clear, sunny day can go hand-in-hand with a -20° temperature. So when you go to a Packer game in December, you bring the Sunday paper to place under your feet. That way, the icy blast lurking in the foundation at Lambeau Field doesn't come right up from the concrete through your boots, warmers, and snow socks into your unsuspecting feet.

We left Green Bay after three years, and since then, I've come to realize that whether you live on frozen ground or with your head in the clouds, it's the foundation we stand on that determines how we feel, what we see, who we are. Certain experiences we have can imitate that icy Wisconsin winter and chill us to the bone, others can warm our souls through and through. But every brick we add helps to build our own unique architecture.

My best friend (who going forward, I think I will refer to as "Chicago", because continuing to describe her as "the one who's kids think I'm a voice in the phone" is just depressing) told me years ago, that each experience we have - good or otherwise - adds up to who we are, and who we are is perfect and beautiful. (Obviously I'm never letting her break up with me, she's my touchstone. Another blog entirely, but it will come.)

When I carry on that midwestern lesson, and make eye contact with strangers, it occurs to me that they are standing on their foundation too, and that it's condition affects their perspective. If it's unstable, or incomplete, or if someone or something has come along and blown it to bits, they're probably trying so hard to just stand steady that they can't see their way to putting one step in front of the other. Even when it's rock solid sometimes it doesn't occur to us to offer a stranger a smile.

As I start the first layer of my daughters' foundation, I hope I'm creating a space where they can always find a good sense of balance, of humor, of perspective. That they are steady enough to be compassionate when people come at them with a dark heart, and then wise enough to walk away intact.

I may be all stressed and verklempt, and I cry at commercials, and I usually forget to give everyone a napkin at dinner. But I stand on the solid ground of two parents who love me (and each other), a devoted husband, and healthy kids. Every time I wonder if I can handle any more of the crazy that surrounds me beyond that, I hear about a friend who isn't quite so lucky as me.

Moral #2: The crazy can always get more crazy, and instead of wondering what I can handle, I should spend my time wondering why I'm so blessed.

So I slow down again, make eye contact, and offer a friendly hello. That simple gesture just might give someone some solid ground to stand on, even if just for a moment.

And if "Chicago" is right, each moment counts, so get to grinning.