Legal

Legal

As you probably know, not so long ago, Californians used the power of democracy to make recreational pot legal. If you’re an Angelino, then you were already used to having dispensaries on every corner, but now you don’t need a legit (wink wink) medical condition to purchase weed, you just need to be over 21 and ready to party.

First, let me admit that I am prejudice in favor of drinking. I’ve mastered it, at this point. I know not to drive, shop on eBay, or try any new hair removal products while under the influence.

Also, I still have some judgements about pot, probably stemming from it’s shady reputation on the legal front, and a lame boyfriend from the early 90s who still owes me money.

But I like to stay up on things.

I’ve got two teenage sons, and while we’ve talked at length about drinking and drugs, the dangers of getting into that while their young brains are developing, and the gigantic screw ups that can happen when you’re intoxicated, I’m not sure they take me seriously. Credibility is everything with kids, and I don’t want to come off sounding clueless.

Which is why I went to pot school.

My friend Wendy and I signed up for the respectable sounding “Plant Medicine: A Thoughtful Guide to Cannabis Use” workshop and showed up with sharpened number 2 pencils, ready to learn.

After signing in at the yoga studio where the event was hosted, we were greeted by our instructors, Jenna and Jenna. (I kid you not.) They couldn’t have been more lovely and, by the looks of it, not stoned.

We took our seats in front of a long table where the Jennas had set up small bowls of “flower”along with bottles, tablets, joints, bongs, and vape pens. Basically, all the stuff you dread finding in your kid’s backpack.

Wendy elbowed me. “Look at all that pot just sitting there.” 

It did seem strange. I looked around, feeling like any minute someone’s mom was going to storm in, with her hair up in curlers, and shut this whole thing down.

Then I realized, (some might say a tad late) oh yeah— we are the moms.

In fact, the room was full of our exact demographic, which actually made me feel pretty good. Forget the white Zinfandel and Andrew Bocelli CDs, sisters, we are on it!

The workshop started off with a brief history of Cannabis and the legal battles surrounding it, which have their roots in racism (big surprise), and continued with a little scientific info ,THC vs. CBD, terpenoids, and something called “the entourage effect.”

We took notes.

We passed a few buds around in little bowls and peered at them with magnifying glasses, sniffing them like a fine wine. It was pretty fancy and so LA.

The Jennas wrapped up class with a lively question and answer period, during which I asked about edibles, sharing that it was these that made me the most nervous when it came to my kids. When I said that being a more informed parent was one of my main reasons for attending the workshop, Jenna smiled and said, “Bless you.” I think she may have bowed a little. #potteacher’spet

We learned that, thanks in part to mistakes made in Colorado, California now regulates edibles (the candies, mints, baked goods containing THC) more strictly than it had when they were only sold as medicine. For this reason, it is now much more difficult to buy the amounts that would likely cause a severe reaction. Even still, the Jenna’s put on their serious faces, pointing to a graphic on the screen that they said was the most important of the day:

“You can always take more, but you can never take less.” 

While strains like Strawberry Cough, Pineapple Skunk, and Champagne Kush are hybridized to produce certain effects, the bottom line is that every body is different and only through trial and error can you really know what works, and what makes you want to wrap yourself like a newborn and hide under the bed for six hours.

I also learned that, unlike alcohol, there has never been a documented case of death or permanent physical harm from an overdose of pot. While it is possible to have too much (see above), and impaired judgement is a side-effect of marijuana use that can definitely lead to disaster, a binge drinker is at risk of dying of an overdose, while a binge smoker is probably only at risk for eating too much Kraft macaroni and cheese while couch-locked. Good to know.

The workshop left us feeling informed and curious.

Time for a field trip!

We decided to visit a dispensary called Urban Treez and strolled in all casual like. After showing our ID to a guy in the front who recorded our info (probably putting us on a watch list of badass hippie types, yo) we went up to the counter and met our young “budtender”, Angel. (You can’t make this stuff up.)

Perhaps embarrassingly,  I told Angel that I’m not that interested in getting stoned, but do have arthritis pain in my toes, and sleep issues brought on by peri-menopause, which I am hoping might be alleviated by a little ganja, so could he hook a sister mother up.

Angel suggested a  THC tincture called “Deep Sleep”, a CBD cream for pain, and a neat little disposable pen simply labeled CALM, which he said I could just “rip on.”

For medicinal purposes (ahem).

“How much?” I asked, holding out my credit card.

“That will be $120.00.”

Wt actual f???

It could be the 30% tax on cannabis products, but let me tell you—that shit is expensive. I imagined what my husband would think, perusing the statement at the end of the month. Let’s just say he might not understand.

“Hold up, Angel. I’m not sure I should put this on my card.”

Wendy and I huddled to discuss which product I should keep, and which I might put on next year’s Christmas list.

“If you don’t want it showing up on your card,” Angel said, “don’t worry. We run it through as Manhattan Clothing.”

Done.

After our products were all zipped up in the nifty child-proof bag they make you purchase ($1.50, but reusable), we said our good-byes and headed home, promising to report back after we’d tried out our products.

It was reminiscent of a Mary Kay party, only with armed security and more guys.

I ended up telling my husband all about it, of course, and he surprised me by being more open than I’d expected. As far as the products I purchased, here’s a quick review:

  • The “Calm” pen gave me a barely noticeable chilled-out feeling lasting about 45 minutes, which I chose to spend in a hot bath listening to the Oprah podcast (it’s still me, after all.) Not bad!
  • The sleep drops tasted like I imagine the Jennas’ bong water tasting, and acted like a shot of Nyquil. OK to have on hand, but not the sleep-aid of my dreams.
  • The CBD cream did nothing for my achey toes but made my feet soft and shiny.

The verdict? Even though I don’t think I’ll be adding another vice to the rotation at this point in my life, I did gain some knowledge and walked away with a more open mind, which is enough for me to call it a win.

Like, totally, dude 🙂

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Resting

Resting

Well, that’s a wrap, people! I went through with the surgery and made it home safe and sound.

Funny thing was, thanks to a really good doctor and the miracle of modern medicine, the biggest post-op hurtle for me was not internal.

(Oh, trigger warning for anyone who would gladly trade a body part for a little peace and quiet and just can’t with me right now. I get it- we have that in common sometimes. Still, you may want to look away.) 

The most challenging thing about the past two weeks has been to do nothing.

Believe me, no one was more excited than I was, at the prospect of endless Netflix and guilt free napping. In fact, when I was making the decision to go forward with a hysterectomy, I had to check in with myself several times to make sure it wasn’t just because I wanted a vacation.

It took all of four days for the fun of that life to wear off, which is when boredom, and boredom’s BFF, anxiety, came a knockin’.

Doing nothing was surprisingly un-fun, and not because I have such a kick-ass work ethic or anything. (Obvs.) Actually, I couldn’t put my finger on what it was that made taking a break in order to heal so hard.

I thought maybe it was Facebook.

You know, seeing all those people out in the world with all their goings on, maybe that’s what was getting me down.  So I made what was, for me, a giant leap, and took the app off my phone. At the risk of being flagged by Zuckerberg’s flying monkeys or whatever, let me just say that, while this turned out not to be the answer to my acute post-op discomfort, it did end up being the single best decision I’ve made in months. (And you know how I feel about Facebook.) It has been nothing short of life changing, but I digress.

One thing that happened was, by cutting way back on Facebook, I had one less place to hide. Same with my daily list of things to do, without it I felt exposed and just, well, uncomfortable.

No, too general. Ok, I felt anxious.

Nope, go deeper. Ok, the truth is that without the wall of distractions I have carefully built, brick by brick, I felt guilty.

It seems weird, but the feeling that I do not think I am good enough unless I am constantly doing shit (driving, teaching, cleaning, trying, working, writing, talking), was so rock solid, and I would bet my last Percocet I am not the only woman who feels this way.

I can’t just be here– Mama’s gotta earn it.

One of the perks of having a hole drilled in your belly button and an organ pulled out is that you can’t get up and run away from the realizations that find you while flat on your back in bed.

Not that I didn’t try.

First, I did some serious online shopping. Pro-tip: If you ever have surgery or an injury or anything else that requires a lengthy convalescence, do yourself a favor and disable Amazon on-click ordering. The irony that, to escape feelings of existential guilt, I would turn to plastic mason jar lids, new underwear, black toothpaste, scented candles, and a spiralizer, thereby plunging me into still more guilt of the money-blowing variety, is not lost on me.

When that got old, I resorted to my go-to remedy for guilt and self-loathing, which is, as you may know, planning!

I planned the shit out of my future life. I planned meals and trips for the family. I planned activities for the kids and wrote out an entire home yoga practice which actually makes me want to laugh, it is such a pipe dream. I signed some online petitions and planned how I might take action on causes like gun-control and immigration.

Hey, that’s a good question, isn’t it?

There I was with all that time, and a deep craving to fill it, so why didn’t I do something worthwhile? Why didn’t I research the issues I say I care about so that my knowledge goes  deeper than a BuzzFeed article?

Why didn’t I write, since I’m always wishing for more time alone to do just that?

Because that’s the joke, y’all. Being “crazy busy”makes it impossible to do deep work. And even though I’m just learning, my suspicion is that it’s no friend to deep love, either.

You know how every yoga class ends with Savasana, or corpse pose?

I always hear teachers saying this is the most important of all the asanas, and also the most challenging. “Yeah, right,” I snort, positioning my little lavender eye pillow and settling back for my version of the pose, where I ponder the perfect shag haircut and consider what I’ll have for lunch.

It turns out that the reason Savasana is easy for me is that I’ve never really done it.

For some of us, being still is hard-won.

For some of us, believing we have the right to be still, to take up space while doing absolutely nothing, is the true work of healing.

Surrender the Pink

Surrender the Pink

You know how sometimes you have a little extra time on your hands? Or maybe you just drive by something you’ve driven by a million times before, but suddenly you’re like, “What the fuck??”

Back in early October, I had one of those moments.

See, there are these pink vans peppered about my fair city, advertising a topless maid business. I’ve driven by them for years, rolling my eyes. Once my boys were old enough to read, they asked a lot of questions about them. From the backseat of our minivan I’d hear, “Mom, what is a hot topless maid?” “How come they’re hot?” “Is that why they take their shirts off?” “Is $99 a lot of money for a topless maid?” 

We had some interesting conversations about sex, politics, and jerks in those tender years. The looks on their shining faces gave me hope. They instinctively understood that the whole enterprise was a little whacked.

As years passed, I’ll admit, we all got used to them. The vans were like roadkill– only disturbing if we stopped to notice, and mostly we didn’t. (It’s kind of scary, the things we can stop noticing, which is maybe how free societies crumble, not to be dramatic or anything.)

Then for whatever reason, one night back in October, I saw one, parked in front of a crappy strip mall not far from my house, and I heard a voice saying, “This is bullshit.”

I stopped the car and left a nasty note on the windshield telling the owner exactly what I thought, signing it “A mother who is your worst nightmare!” Shout out to the random guy who snapped this pic:

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The note stayed untouched for a few days, and I realized that no one was tending to these vans at all, and that whatever message I left would only ever be seen by the people passing by.

So what did I want to say?

Well, here’s what I didn’t want to say:

I didn’t want to blame the women working for this man. I didn’t even want to call into question his right to have this business. It’s a free country (sort of) and this is apparently all legal and legit.

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Time out– just so you know what page I’m on. To me, there’s a difference between nude dancers, and maids who are paid to clean naked. There just is. The number plastered on the side, 1-800-SO-DIRTY, says it all. It’s the power play there that makes this disturbing. While that kind of thing might be fun and a-ok between real life lovers, when money (power) is in the picture, let’s be real.

Oh, and also, the guy with the money (power) in this scenario is a total stranger to the woman. I ask you- What could possibly go wrong???

Even though I am no fan at all of this guy or his business, my goal was just to get him to stop taking up our public parking spots with his offensive advertising, and to start a conversation about the message these vans send. He gets a voice, so I do to, was my thinking.

Free country.

Over the next few months, I had my say:

At one point, photos of the signs were posted on another neighborhood’s Next Door page, and the response was encouraging. That was when I realized that it wasn’t just my friends who were giving their thumbs up. Lots of people responded that they also resented the presence of these vans in their neighborhood.

Then this happened:

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It totally wasn’t me, I swear. Neither was the bent license plate, windshield wipers, or the note on the windshield reading, “Sugar in the gas tank, asshole— more to come!”

This van was gone the next day. The. Next. Day. Gals, it’s possible that our good manners are slowing us down. Just sayin.’

As for me, I played nice.

I made online complaints to parking enforcement, emailed and called my LA City Council member, called local law enforcement, and the Department of Transportation to register complaints. Legally, vehicles can not be parked on public streets for longer than three days, without being moved. Even though every person I spoke to agreed that the vans should go, no one was optimistic.

It seemed like nothing short of spray paint and elbow grease was going to work.

Then, last week, I drove by the spot where one of my vans has sat for months, and saw this:

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Gone. Just like that.

I couldn’t believe it.

I’d become so used to feeling like nothing I do matters, that I was nearly knocked off my feet at this tiny ray of hope. I was on top of the world and utterly proud of myself, for about a whole minute.

After all, the truth is that there is no way of knowing whether my actions had anything to do with the van disappearing. There is no doubt that it took several people registering complaints, and the passage of many weeks before that one van disappeared. When some of my friends congratulated me, I was honest when I said I didn’t think I could claim any credit.

But y’all – it felt SO good to think I had had something to do with it.

Like a lot of women socialized to reign it in, I didn’t like sounding too big for my britches. I didn’t want to sound like I thought getting a van towed meant anything in the grand scheme of community action.

There are people living on the streets, after all.

The thing is, when I feel I can’t make a difference, I stay home. I look away. I hush my mouth. What if calling really did help? What if, very secretly, I let myself believe that I can be heard?

I think it’s worth fanning that flame.

I love imagining the conversations that might be happening in cars driving by those vans. “Mom, what’s misogyny?” is a pretty awesome opener, don’t you think? Fan that flame, sister!

At home, my husband had made the same calls to the city I made, and was feeling his own glow of satisfaction. Ever the buzzkill, I reminded him that that particular block is still pretty shitty, managing to add “but at least now, it’s a little less shitty.”

For now, that feels like a call I can answer. I can just try to make things a little less shitty.

In the words of my anonymous pink spray painting comrade,

“More to come.”

Family Game Night Fail

Family Game Night Fail

It’s the holidays.

I love everything about this time of year, from the cheesy carols and the smell of cedar, to the movies we’ve all seen a hundred times and the uptick in my cocktail consumption.

But I’ll be honest, even if I’m feeling pretty good and life in my house is humming along just fine, there is sometimes a nagging voice in the back of my head telling me that it could should be better.

And by it, I guess I really mean we.

The fam.

This might have started with the Christmas specials we all grew up watching. No one I knew had a family like The Waltons, but that didn’t stop me from feeling that there was something wrong with not at least trying. Clearly, they knew something we didn’t.

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Now, thanks to social media, there’s a forever feed of families holding hands in the snow, laughing while decorating the tree, or enjoying that special cozy feeling you might have heard about called hygge. (Ps- If you don’t know what that is, then you have some serious catching up to do on Pinterest.)

I know, I know, “Never compare your insides to other people’s outsides.” But ask any thirteen year old girl (or fifty year old mom) on Instagram and they will tell you, that is a tall order.

Which is how I found myself sitting down to the worst family game night ever.

Our family of four had been kind of slacking on the togetherness thing. It’s easy to do, especially if your kids are at the age when they would rather be online, with their friends, or in their rooms than hanging out with the grownups.

And I can’t just blame my boys. I’m also guilty of putting family time on the back burner, mostly because we have so much of it. Since we homeschool and my husband works from home, we are in each other’s faces a lot. I’d thought the togetherness box was checked, but something still felt like it was missing.

What about… fun?

Five minutes on Facebook and I see at least a dozen friends having what looks like level 10 fun.

They are at Disneyland.

They are decorating hella Christmas cookies.

They are hiking, and snow-angel-ing, and adopting puppies, and just slaying it in the fun department.

So recently, after dinner and before the boys could disappear into their lairs, I proposed that we all play a good old fashioned board game.

Fun, right?

“Someone choose a game!” I hollered good-naturedly, as I went to put my phone away. (Note: Game night, according to the experts requires a complete focus on fun and comradery, so no screens allowed).

When I returned, C. and the boys had set up Parcheesi.

Now, I am sure that when Parcheesi was invented, back in the fucking stone age, it was a great game, but the fun bar was pretty low back then. Now we have a lot of games to choose from and, in my opinion, almost any game is better than Parcheesi.

Not that I’m blaming what happened on their choice of games, but it didn’t help is all I’m saying.

It started out ok, with each of us rolling the dice trying to get a five. Or a two. Or whatever it is you have to roll before you’re allowed to even begin your epic trudge around the dismal game board.

After about fifteen minutes (but who’s counting), I may have made a comment about not liking Parcheesi, thus breaking The Golden Rule of family game night which is this: stay positive. The success of family game night depends on full compliance and maybe faking. My bad.

Truman, sensing an opportunity, chimed in. “Yeah, who picked this game?”

“You said you liked it,” Chester countered, while rolling the dice.

“I did not.” I felt a kick under the table.

“That was me, Truman,” I said, giving him The Look.

My husband hands me the dice. “Your turn.” Whatever I roll, it is not the right thing.

“Ugh. This game,” I say.

I know, my attitude wasn’t great. But before you judge too harshly, I challenge you to pull out your own Parcheesi board and see how long you can play before wanting to throw the whole thing against the wall and run screaming into the arms of Netflix.

My husband actually hung in there pretty well, but when the kids started bickering, he could maintain the charade no longer. Next thing I knew, he had jumped ship and was chilling with a crossword puzzle in the den.

“What happened to you?” I asked, annoyed that he had broken the fourth wall in our cozy family scene.

“No one seems into it,” he said.

“So?” I answered, a little pissed. Being “into it” seemed completely beside the point of family game night. You plow through, I thought, heading back to have my turn. You plow the fuck through and, eventually, it turns fun.

Or something like that.

I got back to the table, to find only Chester. “Where’s your brother?”

“He left.”

“Why?”

“He said he didn’t want to play.”

What followed was probably exactly what you’d imagine: mild bickering, followed by maternal guilt, teen angst, marital tension, and dashed hopes.

Also, no one had done the dishes.

Normally, the job of dishwashing would go to my husband and boys, but no family game night fail is complete without Mom getting her martyrdom on, so I decided to do them myself.

Loudly.

As I worked with soap and sponge, I allowed myself the luxury of brooding. What was wrong with us? Why can’t we have fun playing a shitty game like other families do? We love each other, it goes without saying. We’ve had lots of great times together and, not to sound braggy, but our family functions pretty well, in general.

This train of thought did nothing to salvage the night, but it passed the time. Like most family stumbles, at least the uncomplicated ones, the only remedy was a good night’s sleep and a new day.

The next night, we sat around the dinner table, same as the night before. I’d made a really lame risotto. It was kind of gluey and had no flavor, probably because I had come down with a head cold and couldn’t taste anything. I’d lost my voice, as well. Not exactly picture perfect.

However…

It’s probably no coincidence that, on the one night that I was forced to listen more than talk, our boys had a lot to say. The food might have been mediocre, but the company was great.

Everyone ate, no one rushed off, and at some point, someone said something, and we cracked up. It was the kind of laughter that feeds on itself, the kind you can’t stop, the kind that’s a choking hazard but totally worth it.

It was the kind of laughter that makes you close. “Carbonated holiness,” as Anne Lamott would say.

At some point, Truman broke the dinnertime rule and pulled out his phone, but instead of checking Instagram, he snapped a pic of me, in full hysterics.

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I love this very unflattering photo of me. If, in the end, my sons remember me just like this, I’ll be a proud mom. Our family may never play Parcheesi together again (#goals), and we are not likely to come caroling in your neighborhood this Christmas, but we definitely know how to laugh.

Enjoy your holidays, in your own weird wonderful way. I wish you peace, love, and a fountain of carbonated holiness 🙂

Staring Down the Dark

Staring Down the Dark

I really did plan to write a cheerful holiday post today. I put the order in and sat poised at the keyboard, ready for inspiration. Instead, here is what came out: that time I thought I might die. Proceed with caution if this isn’t your bag 🙂

When I was a kid, I loved being afraid.

Grocery shopping with my mother, I would be drawn by a force I didn’t understand, to the far end of the meat section, where they stocked the chicken and pigs feet, frog legs, fish heads and tongue, all stamped with bright orange stickers, “Low low price!” I’d creep toward the display and stare at it, shivering.

It was brutal, scary, and weirdly soothing.

I learned then that if I could look long enough at the white belly, the bone, the hoof, my fear would eventually turn to curiosity. By the time I heard Mama calling me, the parts had lost their grisly pull, and although I never wished to see them on my plate, I wasn’t afraid of them anymore, at least until the next time we went shopping, when once again I would wander from the kid-friendly entertainment of the cereal aisle, into the place where nice girls didn’t go.

I remember creating haunted houses in the sweltering attic of our small house, hanging my dolls, bloodied with magic marker, from the ceiling, and arranging bowls of spaghetti brains, broken mirrors, and rubber knives in creepy tableaus.

As I got older, I added to the scene, with death threats scrawled on paper that I carefully burned around the edges, and descriptions like this, next to each installation: “This very baby carriage and it’s human contents was crushed by the axe of a madman!”

It was a little intense for the other grade schoolers in my neighborhood, so usually it was pretty much just me up there, hanging out on summer afternoons, hot as hell and perfectly at home in the dark.

My friend Risa told me that the fact that I wasn’t afraid of the dark was proof that I was The Devil. We were living in the Bible belt, so this was a pretty big deal. After I got over that first rush, similar to getting cast as the lead in the school play, I admit it gave me pause.

I had good reason to think she might be on the right track in her assessment of my character, but in the end I was way too insecure to think I could be the Anti-Christ himself. For one thing, I was having a heck of a time memorizing my multiplication tables, proof, in my own mind, that I would never be tapped for such an important gig.

By fifth grade, I was an avid reader of horror comic books. After comics came ghost stories like The Bell Witch. Later, while my friends were reading Are You There God, It’s Me, Margaret, I read Amityville Horror and Helter Skelter.

I was the kid who was always looking up leprosy in The World Book Encyclopedia, or holding a seance.

My idea of fun was slipping into fear like a pair of comfy slippers and walking around for a while. There were a lot of demons inhabiting my world. For some of us, feeling scared helps us, well, not be so scared.

Once I grew up, my world felt a lot safer, and I mostly seemed normal-ish, at least when it came to my idea of a good time.

Then a few months ago, I decided to address a slowly percolating health issue.

Let me preface this by saying that all the tests have come back clear and I am basically fine. No biggie, as they say. But during the whole biopsy/second opinion process, my entire being was screaming “Are you fucking kidding me? This is a biggie– this is The Biggie!”

Even though I wasn’t conscious of it at the time, looking back now it’s clear that I employed the skills honed way back when, at the grocery store.

I looked.

Not at Google! I repeat: NOT AT GOOGLE. (Please don’t look at Google while waiting for test results. You’re welcome.)

I looked at what was scary.

After meeting with a surgeon who painted kind of a bleak picture, I found myself strolling the aisles of Trader Joe’s, planning my funeral, making a mental list of the friends who I could call on to help my sons and husband once I was gone.

Like a lot of women I know, one of the ways I cope with stress is to share with friends, which I did.

Some friends responded to my news with a big smile and, “Oh stop it– you’re FINE!” They meant only the best, of that I am sure and I love them for wanting to save me from my own dark side, but flipping on the lights isn’t always the compassionate move.

And plus, how could they possibly know I was fine, at that point? I couldn’t know that about them and I would never pretend to.

One friend and I talked about what we could binge watch during my chemo. We discussed the merits of something called “exposure burial” vs. cremation. I instructed her to save my journals but delete my texts, which she totally understood. We laughed about how crazy it was, but we never shut each other down.

She sat with me in the dark.

Although I had been talking funerals, and chemo, and loss, my real fear was of having to go through it alone.

By the simple act of not looking away, she told me that nothing about me was too scary. She would be there, even if/when things got that fucking bad. She would watch t.v with me, and find me banana popsicles, and help me change my bandages.

I’d do the same for her.

There’s an image in my mind that, if it had happened back in 1972, would have made all the difference: it’s of a little girl, at the far end of the meat section. She is shivering from cold coming off the refrigerated cases, and from what she sees when staring into them. She doesn’t want to look away, but feels her friend standing next to her, and knows she is not alone.

They both look.

And they are both afraid, and less afraid, together.

I’m Done With People Leaving

I’m Done With People Leaving

A mom friend and I were hanging at the park with our kids a while ago, when she casually mentioned that she and her husband were looking to relocate. LA had changed too much for her over the years and she was done. She wanted more space, and fresh air.

Just like that? I thought, but didn’t say.

I tried to sound regular. “You’re moving?”

“We’d love to get out of here,” she answered. “We’ve already started looking up north.”

I was shocked. Not shocked at her announcement, I’d already said goodbye to three dear friends and my sister in the past five years alone, losing them to lower housing prices and walkable neighborhoods elsewhere. It’s going around.

What shocked me was my reaction.

I was pissed.

I was pissed that I’d grown even just a little attached to her, this kind-hearted animal -loving urban farm girl. I didn’t want another long-distance friendship kept on life-support through social media.

One of the worst things about my face is it’s transparency. She saw me shut down. Later I got a text: Sorry if I upset you earlier. We are looking to move eventually, but it probably won’t happen for a while. I hope we can still be friends!

Sigh.

My fingers typed what I thought was the right answer: Of course we can. I’m an asshole! 🙂

In Los Angeles, you get used to people leaving and if, like many of us, you moved here from somewhere else with a full set of fancy abandonment baggage, it can be a pretty rough. Over the years I’ve learned that if it seems like someone is just passing through, it’s probably best to let them.

At this point, it’s about staying power.

Back in Nashville, my Grandmother had the same steadfast group of women friends for years. We called them “the Marys” because they mostly shared that name. If you were to run into one of them around town and drew a blank, you could throw out the name Mary and know that you had at least an 80% chance of nailing it.

For years the Marys gathered weekly for their “sewing group.” It was an afternoon of chicken salad, cocktails, and conversation, where occasionally something got hemmed.

They took turns visiting when each other was sick. The few Marys who could still drive at night would fairy the others to dinner parties, and the wedding receptions of  grandchildren. It was a bond forged over decades, a lifeline, as they chartered the waters of their own old ladyhood.

I don’t know about you, but that’s looking pretty good to me these days.

Recently I read the book Life Reimagined, in which the author, Barbara Bradley Hagerty, counts supportive friendships as one of the most vital ingredients in a long and healthy life. The evidence suggests that more than genetics, diet or even excersise, friendships keep us going strong.

It’s medicinal, people.

While the data supporting the link between friendships and our health was new to me, the idea of friendship as a lifeline was not. I’ve written before about how, as a kid, I fed my attachment hunger through close and durable ties with my friends. I may have had a wire monkey at home, but in the homes of friends, I was patched up and found a sense of belonging.

I was hooked.

Which is why when my friend Wendy tells me over drinks at a bar we know so intimately that we just call it “the corner”, that living in LA is just too expensive and that her family may, like so many others, need to pull up stakes, I freeze.

“I mean, look what you can get in Iowa for 300K” She says, handing me her phone. I scroll through her Zillow feed, unsure of the correct response. Happy? Excited? Envious? I am none of those.

I am hurt.

Look, I know it isn’t about me. I know it’s about this friend of mine, who may have to leave her hometown, her world, and move into the unknown, not because she wants to, but because she has to.

But at that moment I am unable see my way to being a grownup.

I pass my finger over the screen, scrolling past circular driveways and sprawling farmhouses with mature trees in every yard. The numbers are so low compared to LA home prices that I think there must be a mistake. But there is no mistake.

Or is there?

Taking a good size gulp of Pinot, I wonder if maybe the mistake is trying to have lasting friendships in a town of transients.

We finish our drinks and split the check. I tell her I’ll try to be supportive, but I’m not sure I have it in me. I don’t want her to leave. She understands and says what everyone says when these conversations have run their course. “It probably won’t happen for a while.”

It has occurred to me that LA would be a pretty hard place to be a Mary. Some days it’s a hard place to be a Maggie, so I can only imagine.

Oh well.

At least when we can no longer drive at night, we can get an Uber in like five minutes, so suck it, small manageable towns with low property taxes.

(Now, normally, this would be where I’d put in a big plug for LA:its beaches, its mountains, its tacos, and weirdos, and seventy degree default temp, and I’ll-never-leave-no-way-this-is-MY-TOWN!)Los Angeles California Skyline

But that would be a lie, at least the never leaving part.

It may be that one day my husband will have to cash out and move to cheaper less crowded pastures. That’s the reality for a lot of us in tinsel town, and other towns too, all across the country.

So where does that leave friendship? If we are all apt to up and move any old time, is there anyone we can count on, and can anyone count on us? Am I wrong to even want that?

This reminds me of the sand mandalas created by Buddhist monks. You know, where hours and hours go into the creation of intricate sand paintings, which are then purposely destroyed as a reminder of the impermanence of everything.

Non-attachment. It’s their favorite.

Maybe in about ten thousand more lifetimes when I am way more actualized it will be my favorite too, but I’m just not there yet.

Of course none of us knows who will stick around and who won’t. It could be housing prices, a bad diagnosis, or divorce, but the truth is that shit happens, especially as you get older. Maybe the dream of my own band of proud Marys is an effort to soothe the anxiety that comes with that midlife realization.

I don’t know how it will feel to say goodbye to the next friend who leaves. I only know that I can’t let myself go on a preemptive strike. As hard as it is, I will fight to stay open to these relationships, even without the guarantee. I will build my friendships not like a sand mandala, but like a Vegas hotel– built to last, at least for now.

We can’t know otherwise, none of us.

In closing, let me quote the often unappreciated genius of this song, made famous by the one and only Ronnie Milsap. I’m actually not kidding.

“I wouldn’t have missed it for the world

Wouldn’t have missed lovin’ you girl

You’ve made my whole life worth while, with your smile.

I wouldn’t trade one memory

Cause you mean too much to me

Even though I lost you girl

I wouldn’t have missed it for the world.”

Feel free to sing with abandon at your next Karaoke night, after a shot of Jager. Now go forth with an open (or open-ish) heart, my friends!

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You Can Write, But You Cannot Hide

You Can Write, But You Cannot Hide

I’ve missed you.

I could give you all kinds of reasons why I’ve been weird about writing for the past several months, but I’ve written a version of that post before, and all the reasons are kind of boring at this point, aren’t they?

So let’s do this: lets just move on.

But there are going to be some changes around here, and I feel like I at least have to warn you ahead of time. The truth is, I got super bogged down with all the cute blogging tricks, and that takes soooo much time, you guys! Like, finding a gyph can take way longer than writing a decent sentence in which you say what you really mean.

I started this blog because I want to write.

I want to connect.

And while funny gyphs, clever photos and SEO friendly titles may encourage a few people to tune in, for me it’s kind of the blogging equivalent of stuffing my bra. That’s not actually who I am. At least, it’s not who I am every single week on Wednesday, in eight to twelve hundred words, rain or shine.

Instead, I am going to focus on writing true.

Ima do it when I can, however I can.

I am going to work very hard to be consistent because apparently that’s important when you want to get better at something, whether it’s writing or taxidermy.

Consistency separates the real writers from the people who use their “Writing Time” to eat scones and read books on writing while taking occasional breaks to cruise Pinterest for sheet pan dinner recipes.

Or so I’ve heard.

The other reason I started this blog, and return to it again and again, is that blogging is fun.

I imagine it’s like photography, in that it kind of gets you looking at life differently. “Oh, look how the light falls on that crust of bread- I want to capture that.”  When I’m into my blog, I see patterns I might otherwise miss. I might still be flinging spaghetti against the wall, but by writing about it, I find meaning in what sticks.

Blogging is uncomfortable. This discomfort is part of what makes it worth doing.

I’ve shared before that I worry a personal blog is, in the words of my twelve year old, kinda cringy.  giphy

Over and over I ask myself, why anyone would care about the minutia of my little life in the San Fernando Valley, yada yada yada. But even if I’m able to get past that, there is a worry that came up after a year or so of posting regularly, and I just haven’t been able to shake it.

If I’m going to write true, then I might not come off looking so great. I talk all big but, in truth, I am afraid of being cast out.

Can you relate?

I have a recurring dream in which I frantically attempt to hide the body of someone I’ve murdered. The killing doesn’t take place in the dream, it’s only the desperate wrapping in plastic, or burying under leaves, garbage, stuffing into a closet. The body leaks and smells and I know I will be found out. I wake in a sweat, relieved that it was only a dream, and that no one will ever know how broken I really am.

So there’s that.

Do you ever feel that kind of free-floating shame?

It can appear as procrastination, perfectionism, defensiveness, and plain old bitchiness. I admit to having these on a steady rotation, and I’m pretty sure they all spring forth from the deep well of shame I have within.

Why would a person who has spent her whole life ducking and covering take up a practice that, if done with integrity, will certainly result in her feeling exposed?

I must just want to stop hiding the dead bodies.

So, on that note, Happy Holidays, friends!

It’s good to be back 🙂