Wednesday, March 26, 2014

Nobody does it better.

Nobody does it better,
Makes me feel sad for the rest.
Nobody does it half as good as you,
Baby, you’re the best.
- Carly Simon

My Dad has always loved James Bond flicks. What’s not to love really? You’ve got a martini-swilling Brit who’s good with a gun and even better with the ladies. There’s intrigue, booze, and the promise of lots of hot sex on mink coats in a car that turns into a submarine.

It was a winning combo for a nuclear engineer who lived in the suburbs with his wife and their four children. I mean, he enjoys his evening cocktail (replace the Vesper with a scotch), and according to my Mom they had lots of sex (cue: fingers in the ears, and sing it with me LALALALALA), but figuring out how to unkink the garden hose was about as intriguing as things got in our neck of the woods.

Yep, my Dad is an OG fan from way back – we’re talking Sean Connery in Dr. No circa 1962 (before I was even a twinkle in his eye). He stayed loyal as Connery left and Roger Moore took the helm, which was a far easier transition to make than the shifts to follow. Timothy Dalton was cute enough, but he was missing the depth of character that makes James Bond so engaging. Pierce Brosnan was a much better choice, and his Bond days were a preview to the dashing character he played so well in The Thomas Crown Affair (if you haven’t seen it, you’re missing out). But the most current 007 – Daniel Craig – is the closest to the early days. He’s got just the right mix of ruthlessness, heartache, and badass.

As you may have gathered, I was educated early on all things 007. Octopussy. Sexy! That huge guy with the weird braces. Scary! And The Spy Who Loved Me. Which for my Dad may have been all about Barbara Bach in a bikini, but for me, it was that Carly Simon song.

In our house, Carly was played alongside Mac Davis, Simon & Garfunkel, and Anne Murray. It was probably a broader play list than that, but these are the ones I remember the most. A Sunday at my house meant listening to the wind chimes through the open sliding glass door, and hearing those 70s tunes come through the 8-track, while a baseball or golf game played (muted) on the TV. The house smelled like coffee and cigarettes, the LA Times were spread all over the coffee table, and the garden hose was kink-free. Saturday mornings were beauty parlor appointments and grocery shopping and the Little League field. But Sunday mornings were chill mode.

Those were good days. The memories from those days are what compels me to shop for wind chimes and listen to 70s music even now.

Especially now.

For Mom, nobody did it better than my Dad. She used to say that he could just look at her a certain way, or reach for his zipper (cue: LALALALALA) and she’d be pregnant. And she said that when he asked, her answer was always yes.

Easy? Maybe.

Frisky? Yep. (Her nickname wasn’t “Pussycat” for nothing.)

Crazy in love? Absolutely.

One wouldn’t necessarily expect all that game from a quiet engineer hailing from South Bend, Indiana, but still waters run deep.

Maybe on those Sunday mornings, before the stereo and golf got going, a little 007 mission was happening behind the closed bedroom door. Perhaps Dad took a sip of his chilled martini coffee, set it down on the cockpit control panel bedside table, and handled his business with the babe in the bikini his wife of many, many years. All I know is they told me they were “talking”, and I found that boring, so I wandered back down the hallway and left them to their “conversation”.

The bottom line is that I grew up knowing certain things were good. Wind chimes. James Bond. Unconditional love. Music on Sundays. Coffee. “Conversations” behind a closed bedroom door.

And I grew up knowing that Mom was hopelessly devoted and happily convinced that nobody did anything better than my Dad. Selfishly, I like to think the last line of the chorus – Baby, you’re the best – applied to her baby. Me.

I’m pretty sure I’m right on that count. And she was right too, of course. That suburban Bond girl was a smart lady.

Suddenly, I have a taste for a martini. Who's pouring?

Monday, March 17, 2014

I'm a dip.

Sometimes I feel
Like I’m a 7-layer dip.
I’ve got tiers, and I’m good,
And I know my way around a chip.

If you don’t care to dive,
You’ll just scoop into the cream.
It’s friendly and accessible,
But down deep is the dream.

The salsa layer is spicy,
The guacamole is a delight.
The cilantro you love or hate,
But the refrieds are the best bite.

Some try to get there,
But their chips bend or break.
Only authentic dippers can reach it,
No beans for the fake.

A little taste might be plenty,
For those who don’t yet know.
But the ones who already love it,
Can leap in - hello!

You know I’m good with a cocktail,
And spirits are the theme today.
So be safe, salty and drunk with me,
And have a great St. Paddy’s Day.

Wednesday, March 12, 2014

I'm barely fine.

At the risk of sounding ungrateful, please don't ask me how I am. And especially don’t ask how I’ve been. I know you mean well and it's a simple, kind inquiry. Or maybe it's just what you say without thinking with a quick smile, as you rush to your car, or the coffee shop, never really stopping your forward motion because you're not actually trying to invite conversation. As the words come out, you’re already nodding and getting ready to say “Good!” You’re expecting just a quick, simple "Fine, and you?" which is perfect because you're cordial, and nice, but let’s face it, you're also in a hurry. Which I get, I'm not trying to give each person I see at Starbucks a full ten minutes either.

Now, none of this applies to those of you who say to me expectantly "How. Are. You." because you've read my heart and you're sitting down with a full cup of tea, ready to hear it. Because you know that question is for you - and to me - an invitation to let it fly. To you, I can say (and probably have said well before 8:00am or after 10:00pm) that I'm doing pretty well as long as I don't have to say out loud "I miss her."; that I'm shredded and raw and puffy, and I can’t stop eating noodles; that I dreamed of her last night because I heard that song on the radio that reminds me of her and I cried, even though I hadn't cried in two days which I thought meant I was past the crying. And you nod, and wrinkle up your nose, and quietly shush your kids and let them watch a little more TV because you’re listening. And I have loved that lifeline. I have clung to it and will continue to do so, even as weeks turn to months and things get "easier".

I can see that while it's been a very, very sad few months (year?), I should be fine. Better than fine. I mean, tomorrow will mark three months now and shouldn't I be fine? Shouldn’t I be better than fine? I haven't lost an arm or my sight. I haven't just sent someone off to fight in a war. Nobody – thank heavens – has been abducted by pervs or aliens or anybody. I know this in my head, and I recognize my loss isn't unique or special in the realm of Life's Lessons And Loss. I get it. You're born, you live, you die. And yet, I'm still stumbling around off balance. I can steady myself as I go but something is off. My world is officially rocked and as one friend’s note described so perfectly, I am untethered.

I read somewhere that our grief is our love turned inside out. That's why our grief is so big and deep, because our love is too. We know loss is coming and yet in one of life's great miracles and mysteries, we love anyway. We love all the way down into our bones, knowing that we will one day lose, and those bones will shatter along with our hearts, and we will desperately long for that which we can no longer have. Ever. 

We run along like children, skipping in the sun, laughing and loving and fighting and gritting our teeth. We make plans and drinks and memories and dinner and babies. And then one day, suddenly, we find ourselves frozen in the dark.

Or maybe it's not so sudden.

Maybe instead it’s realizing the bright light of life is on a dimmer switch you were too busy – or distracted, or dysfunctional, or afraid – to notice until now. Slowly you're able to take off your sunglasses without squinting, and then as it gets darker, you find yourself nearly holding your breath and straining to make out the figures you see slipping away into the purple, dusky distance. And finally it's pitch black and cold and nobody feels like playing or skipping or laughing anymore, least of all you.

Or me, as it were.

I suppose I always knew it was coming, but especially in the last year or so it became unavoidably apparent that not only could it happen, but it would.

And it did.

And I'm trying to be grateful, and cheerful, and pep talk myself into exercise and smiles and an unclenched jaw, I really am.

And some days I'm okay. Some days I'm even better than fine. I'm rolling along, moving forward, checking all the boxes, and then...boom. A huge iron gate slams shut in front of me with a crash and a wall closes in right behind me (thud) and the realization that she's only in my heart and not in my world anymore takes me by the throat, puts it's cold mouth over mine and inhales me out of myself. The sun is gone and I don't recognize myself because who am I if I am only what's left of her. I've never felt more like a lost, trapped little girl and yet I am also now all grown up.

I still can't catch my breath in those moments. I can't look at my feet or hands without seeing hers. I see her in my freckles and nose and in the way I put on lipstick, and I see her in my daughters.

Some days it's so comforting I want to wrap myself up in it and let it warm me through.

And other days, it leaves me barely fine, stuck between that wall and that gate, with only my unrecognizable self, just trying to breathe without falling to my knees, because carpool and homework and making dinner is hard enough without a complete breakdown attached to it. Seriously, 5th grade math makes me want to cry as it is.

And so when you ask how I am, my real answer is so complicated that it leaves me sputtering through an uncomfortable “Well…? I’m…uh…”. You’ll have to slow your forward motion and miss your coffee date, and really, even if you wanted the whole story, it’s way too much for a passing sound bite. Especially pre-caffeine.

So how about I spare you the awkward silence (and the cold latte) and you spare me the question that used to be so easy to answer. Let's instead just switch it up. Throw me a “Hi...nice to see you.” I’ll take a “Hey, great flip flops.” Possibly, “Good morning, you have spinach between your teeth.” Anything but “How are you?”

Just until I can get past those crashing iron gates.

Or, forever.

Whichever comes first.

Tuesday, March 4, 2014

The scoop. (Not for the faint of heart.)

Here's the scoop.

Nobody puts Baby in the corner. I for one don't want everyone to think I'm sitting in a dark room a la Glenn Close, flicking the light off and on, because that's only me part of the time. In general, like I said, I'm rolling along, checking the boxes.

So today I thought I'd share this box with you:

The puppy, in case you've not met him, is 160 pounds of happy. He's on a diet because even for a Bernese Mountain Dog, one-sixty is pushing some sort of limit. Plus, we are in Los Angeles, so you know, image is everything to him, and once he heard about the Beyonce and Jay-Z cleanse, he was like, Sign me up. We support his need to express himself and also I don't want anyone in my life to lose their ability to breathe when he gallops up to them and arranges himself on their lap.

Yep, he's one gigantic hunk of hairy love. A bull in a china shop with a big heart, droopy jowls, and huge paws.

And you know what they say about guys with big feet.

That's right.

Big feet, gigantic...poop. 

(Oh yes, I'm going there.)

I kid you not, on today's walk when he, uh...expressed himself, I heard a THUNK on the trail. Every single one is a double-bagger for me. I need space between me and the poop, or at least two layers of plastic. One just won't do. It takes some serious skill and speed to harvest this crop. I can only hold my breath for so long. Sometimes I need to use two hands. (That's four bags, for those of you who have lost count.) 

Anyway, today after I knotted up the bags, I hung the package from the handy poop bag hook on the dispenser, which is attached to the leash. As we finished our stroll, the tethered bags hit my leg a couple times and I'm pretty sure I have a lavender-and-poop-scented charley horse.

Granted, wrangling his poop tends to be a lot less tricky than the up-the-back situation that infants manage to spring on us. CONFESSION: I threw the poop-up-the-back onesies away along with the diaper. I know children are precious but I didn't want that preciousness in my washing machine.

In summary, poop.

You're welcome.