So Now What Am I Supposed To Do?

So Now What Am I Supposed To Do?

Well that sure was a curveball.

I have friends who write who have managed to rise to the occasion in the past week. My friend and teacher Jesse Rosen always posts on Wednesdays, so she actually had to come up with something to say the day after the shit hit the fan. And she did, here.

She’s a stronger woman than I.

I just can’t get blood from a turnip this week, you guys. But I love you for being here, for checking in, and for just having it in you to get up and face the day,

and the next four years

of days.

I  attended a service this past Sunday at my beloved, struggling, ass-kicking Unitarian Universalist church. I’m not gonna preach, but let me just say that if you’re looking to get involved in the work that will heal our country, but you’re not sure where to start, try checking out your local UU church. If for whatever reason you’re a little freaked out by the word church, trust me that these are safe places. All are welcome.

The service was just what I needed: full of hope, some tears, but mostly practical advice about what each of us can do to help.

I love practical advice. I fucking love a good hack.

Our minister (who blogs here) also talked a bit about the need for self care during this time. While we are called to step up and pitch in as never before, we are also required to listen to our bodies and souls, and know our limits.

So, in the spirit of practicality and self-care, I decided to look back in the archives and find a blog post that I could use for today.

This one seems like it could work.

In it, I talk about how I sometimes do a little meditation that helps me with fear. A lot of people are afraid right now, and with good reason. As for myself, I might try it with the word “grief.” Because that’s what is heavy on my heart right now.

Then I thought about a different post from a while back, one that dealt with a long held grudge of mine. Like so much else before November 8th, 2016, that old grievance seems unimportant from where I stand today, but I’ll probably be using the meditation a lot in the coming months. Here’s a chunk of that post:

As time passed, and my grudge still nagged at me, I decided to do a little research. Tich Naht Han wrote a whole book on anger. In it, he suggests we “take care of” our anger:

“Anger is like a howling baby, suffering and crying.
Your anger is your baby. The baby needs his mother
to embrace him. You are the mother.
Embrace your baby.”

The idea of embracing my feisty little anger-baby, stroking it and singing it Beatle’s songs, sounded like a nice change, but also kind of creeped me out, though I can’t exactly say why.

I decided to give it my own spin and, with props to Tich Naht Han for the inspiration, came up with this mini-meditation hack for when you can’t let go of being pissed. Feel free to play along:

First, I close my eyes and imagine my grudge. Not the person I’m holding it against, but the actual anger, the whole fiery, dangerous, white hot thing. My grudge is roughly the size of my son’s Nerf basketball, or one of those mini-watermelons that seem like a good idea, but are totally not worth the money. Anyhooo…

I hold it in my hands and see that it is beautiful,

orange and red and yellow.

I feel its warmth.

I don’t try to cool it down or make it smaller.

I don’t try to make it be nice.

I take care of it.

Holding it in my hands reminds me that it isn’t part of me, it’s a thing I am holding:

Anger.

When I do this meditation now, I feel empowered. I DO want to take care of my anger, because it will help get my ass off the couch. 

I’m just not sure about blogging right now.

Not only because there’s so much important work to do, and the time to volunteer and write letters and make phone calls has to come from somewhere.

There’s also this.

 

We all need to do the work that is ours to do. And no one is going to wait, holding the door for me until I have the courage to get on with things. So I’ve been thinking about what work is mine to do.

Sigh. I’m just at sixes and sevens, to use a phrase that I like but have no idea what the fuck it means. (See? I have no business writing a blog. Who says that??)

I’m not sure how often I’ll be posting here, but I do know that I won’t be posting a lot about politics. You don’t need to hear what I have to say on the topic, believe me. Here’s what I do: I think up stories in my head, and write about my regular old life in the San Fernando Valley. And right now, I’m not sure about anything.

Take care of each other.

Peace, friends.

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Eat This: An Election Night Menu

Eat This: An Election Night Menu

Today is one of those days I wish I were a food blogger. 

They are so lucky.

They just have to tell you what to eat and how to make it, but they don’t exactly have to dive deep.

In contrast, personal bloggers are kind of obligated, I think, to take what’s going on in their lives, or the world, and talk about how it feels to be dealing. In exchange for your time and eyeballs, we pledge to be open, and honest, and take what’s coming to us.

The thing is, right now I’m pretty spent when it comes to political opinions, even my own, and I can’t imagine that I’m feeling anything all that unusual. Here, in a nutshell, is my entire inner life, as it applies to the 2016 election:

It’s scary, awful, exciting and just too much. I want it to be over, but only if it ends the way I want.

Not exactly insightful commentary.

Which is why I find myself, on Monday Nov.7, writing my very first Pretend Foodie Blog Post. Why not? 

What follows are a few recipes that are my gift to you, on this historic day. This is what’s for dinner at my house tonight. They are easy enough to make while your mind is on things like the future of the free world, and the ingredients are things you probably have on hand, which means you can skip going to the store and spend more time staging the perfect “I Voted” selfie.

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An Election Night Menu For Hopeful Citizens, plus Me

I know I’ll want a snack, right up front.

It’s a special day, after all, and since I burned all those extra calories standing in line at my polling place, Ima treat myself. If you voted by mail, you deserve an extra snack as a reward for being so together.

My snack of choice, courtesy of my friend Dena who has good taste in everything, is this:

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It’s possible I’ve talked to you about Mt.Tam cheese before. If so, I’m sorry but I can’t help it. I love it so much that my son, 11, has suggested that I marry it.

Now, I know you probably don’t have this exact cheese on hand, and while you can sub something else and still be happy, it won’t be the same. Either way, scratch what I said before about not going shopping, and go buy some special cheese. You will be so glad you did.

Whole Foods sells a tennis ball sized Mt.Tam for fifteen bucks, which is about ten dollars more than I’d normally spend on cheese, but you only elect the first female president once, y’all! (see what I did there?)

Next up:

A Simple Fall Salad With Balsamic Vinaigrette

The world seems to have gone crazy, am I right? It’s times like these that we need to keep our heads screwed on and remember the basics:

  1. Think before you speak
  2. Treat others the way you would like to be treated
  3. Always have something green on your plate

When I look upon The Orange One and fear for our collective future, this list and it’s timeless wisdom soothes me. Plus, FLOTUS wants us to eat salad, so I’m all in.

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Salad:

  • Romain lettuce, chopped
  • red onion, thinly sliced
  • pear or apples, sliced
  • toasted pecans
  • goat or blue cheese (optional, but when given the option of cheese, I vote yes!)

Vinaigrette:

  • 1/4 c. olive oil
  • 1 or 2 or however many you want Tbs. balsamic vinegar
  • a healthy glob of dijon mustard
  • a pinch or three of salt and a few grinds of black pepper
  • half a shot of maple syrup

Mix all the vinaigrette ingredients until it looks good, and toss it with the greens. We are all grown-ups here. We know how to make a salad.

And Now:

Vodka Pasta:

This is one of my favorite dishes to make when I want to please everyone. it is bi-partisan in it’s deliciousness, the Switzerland of dinner items, except, you know, Italian. Also, because it has vodka in it, no one will look at you funny for having the open bottle next to you at the stove. This feature will be important, as the evening progresses.

  • 1/4 c. olive oil
  • 4 big juicy garlic cloves, minced
  • 1/2 tsp. red pepper flakes
  • 1/4 tsp. salt
  • one of those big 28 oz. cans of crushed tomatoes (I like the fire roasted)
  • 2 Tbs. vodka
  • 1/2 c. heavy whipping cream
  • 1/4 c. parsley or cilantro, chopped
  • 1 lb. penne (you could choose gluten free or whole wheat, but when it comes to pasta, like Trump, I make no apologies for preferring white.

In a big-ass pan, sauté the oil, garlic, red pepper and salt. When the garlic is just turning golden (if it becomes the color of The Donald, you’ve overcooked it), take a sip of vodka and dump the crushed tomatoes into the pan. 

Stir it all together and let it simmer on the stove for about fifteen minutes. Meanwhile, boil the penne.

(sip vodka)

Drain the pasta and throw it into the tomato mixture, which has thickened slightly. Toss in the vodka and mix, keeping the heat low for a minute or two. Mix in the cream, then turn off the heat and let it rest for a few minutes, before making it fancy with the parsley.

(Now’s a good time to toast the Suffragettes with a healthy swig of vodka. Bask in the moment.)

Serve the pasta and salad on the same plate, since you will be freaking out enjoying your meal in front of the television, and that’s how we roll in America.

By now, the early results will probably be coming in. I can’t predict what I’ll be feeling, but it will either be something like this:

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Or this:

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Either way,  it’s time for pie.

The thing is, I can’t really tell you how to make a good pie crust. I mean, I’ve tried to make a good pie crust and sometimes it’s ok and sometimes it sucks. The only thing consistent about my pie crust is that I always end up thinking that it’s just not worth the effort. But hey, you may disagree.

And guess what?

***We can disagree and still have pie!***

(PS- See? Women totally need to be running the world)

Ok, for a delicious pie, Do This: (or don’t, it’s a free country. For now, anyway.)

When you go to get the Mt.Tam cheese (did I mention it’s the queen of cheeses?), grab a box of those ready made pie crusts. I know, I know, they’re made with partially hydrogenated lard, but nothing’s perfect, right?unknown-2

And if you can’t have “the perfect” pie crust, don’t you at least want the very good and capable pie crust??? Or are you one of those people who would say, “No, I don’t want pie-crust-as-usual! If I can’t have my pie crust, the crust I think I should be able to have, then I’ll just have a big ol’ shit sandwich, please!”

No, I didn’t think so.

Where were we?

Oh yeah, put one crust in a pan and fill it with a bunch of peeled apples, a few globs of butter, 1/4 c. of sugar, 2 Tbs. of flour, some cinnamon, a little salt and the juice of a lemon. Slap the other crust on top and pinch it together like your Trump pinching a— never mind.

Bake at 425 degrees for about 50 minutes and, wonder of wonders, you’ll have pie.

Alternatively, you could just get yourself a perfectly nice already made pie, and be done with it.

That’s what I’m doing. Pie making is for suckers.

So, there you go. Eat up, enjoy, and leave the dishes for tomorrow.

I promise,

no matter what,

there will be a tomorrow.

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Something Borrowed

Something Borrowed

I have no idea where to even start this week.

I mean, seriously, right???

Like many of you, I have my own story of being groped by an asshole. I might write about it, I might not. There a lot of good writers and bloggers out there doing that, so…

And then there’s the feast of human suffering, always, always. No shortage of material in that department.

And we are all, in this country, getting a bit edgy about November 8th.

We’re pretty sure we know what will happen, but we’ve seen some crazy-ass goin’s on in the last several months, so we can’t exhale quite yet.

Maybe some of us who haven’t prayed much in a while are praying real hard right now.img_0996_lhasa_barkhor

Maybe some of us are gorging ourselves on self-righteous Facebook rants that taste great going down, but now we’re not feeling so hot.

It’s for these reasons, and the fact that I’m deeply grateful that you are here, that I’m using the blogger’s equivalent of “Phone a Friend” and posting something I read that made me

just

so

happy.

The blog is one I don’t know, probably because it is a Christian blog and I don’t usually read Christian blogs. Maybe now I will. In any case, quite a while back she had the good taste and wisdom to post this, from writer Mary Gordon, so I think she’s good people.

Some prayers, for a Tuesday. Don’t be scared, these are good ones 🙂

Peace, you guys.

Amen

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Eight Little Things That Helped Me This Week.

Eight Little Things That Helped Me This Week.

Let’s just get it out in the open:

I’m still in a bit of a funk.

But I gotta tell you, after dreaming about emptying port-o-potties all night, something does seem to have shifted and I feel slightly better, as of this moment.

But I don’t want to jinx it.

So because I had a Not So Great Week, which resulted in a lot of cracker eating and zero blog ideas, I woke this morning with nothing to post, thus breaking rule #1 of blogging: be consistant!

Well, shit.

Lately, the pressure of having to come up with a readable post every Tuesday has made me feel kind of like this:

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Which is why I had every intention of blowing it off this week. I wanted to write in my journal, or work on my other-thing-that-I-don’t-know-what-it-is-but-may-be-a-long-thing-which-I-might-call-a-book-if-it-didn’t-make-me-sound-all-fancy-and-full-of-myself.

But then I had half an idea, and it came to me like this:

Eight Ways To Make Yourself Feel A Little Better When Things Kind of Suck

The following is a list of little things that you can do today, if you’re feeling blue, instead of drink vodka or spend all your money on shoes.

  1. Wash your car. Now, technically, this can cost you money, especially if you live in LA where using water is illegal, but even if you have to plunk down a few bucks, it’s a small price to pay for the lift you get. I took mine in, and the guy even dug out the melted tootsie roll from the back door handle, which revived my will to live, for an entire day.
  2. Make your favorite song into your phone’s ring-tone. I don’t pretend that this isn’t old news to anyone under the age of thirty, but to me, it was a revelation! I knew you could make a song your ring-tone, but I didn’t know that you could use, like, ANY song you want. And I didn’t know that it would change your entire response to a phone call, from an annoying interruption, to a little mini dance break! (Do yourself a solid and find a kid to do this for you. I used tech support, aka, my eleven year old, so now I hear Beast of Burden when my phone goes off in yoga class, which eases the sting of shame.)
  3. Get completely absorbed in a book that takes you somewhere else. You know that thing about “being in the moment?” This is the opposite. This strategy is ripped from my Grammie’s playbook, who may not have been a voracious reader, but she was a big fan of living in denial, and you know what? She seemed pretty happy! Right now I’m reading this, and it transports me to a whole other world, makes me laugh and cry and forget all the shit that needs forgetting.
  4. On the subject of books, put a poetry book in your car. Full disclosure: I actually left the used volume of Anne Sexton poems in my car because I tried to give it to a friend and she was all, “Um, thanks, but I’m not really into poetry,” and so I took it back and left in under the pile of sweaty gym towels and Chipotle bags on my front seat. In doing so, I discovered that the time it takes for my son to go search for his ridiculous $20 water bottle, which I will not replace (do you hear me? I will not!), is just enough for me to read a nice little poem about death.
  5. Clean something dirty and boring. It has to be boring because the last thing you feel like doing right now is thinking, and it has to be dirty because you really need, you desperately need, to feel that you can make at least some things better. I chose to clean the baseboards of our house. By the way, this is something that, at age 50, I have never actually done. I am gross. In my defense, life has gone on just fine, even with dirty baseboards, so if this sounds like something that you have no interest in doing because cleaning shit feels like half the reason you want to eat all the cheese and stay in bed, skip it. I was comforted by seeing my wet rag covered in grime, revealing hope for the future underneath, but you may want to give this idea the finger, which I wholeheartedly support.
  6. Get rid of all your shit that’s broken. I have a necklace that I loved, but which has been tangled up for so long that I finally threw it out. Sure, I could have taken it somewhere to be fixed or buy a new chain, but in the three years it’s been sitting on my bedside table, I never did that. There’s a pair of pants that need new zipper, and a lamp that wobbles so much it falls over every time I turn it on. There’s the hose in the back yard, and my mini-food processor that smells like burning hair when I try to make pesto. Out they go. I had to make peace with the fact that some things just aren’t going to get fixed. That realization alone may have given me my first decent chunk of sleep in a fortnight.
  7. Start back doing that thing that you used to do before, for no apparent reason, you just stopped doing it. I used to wake up and write in my journal every day. I didn’t write anything great and I didn’t write for long, but it was a very civilized thing to do and for some reason I stopped (I blame my dog). So this week I started writing in my journal again. Not blog ideas, not to-do lists, just good old boring blah-blah-blah that goes straight from my heart, down my arm, and onto the page. It feels reassuring that I can go back to something I used to love, and it’s still there. I imagine this could work for almost anything, provided you’re being straight with yourself and you actually liked it and didn’t just wish you liked it. For example, I would never go back to trying to learn how to do this:                                                                                       unknown
  8. Give something up. I am not talking about sugar, or gluten, or god forbid– swearing. Fuck no! I am talking about something you tried on, but that just isn’t you.  Like, I’m giving up having my books arranged by color, as I saw on Pinterest.flickr_color_blocked I also saw it at a very artsy and cheerful friend’s house and I thought, “Oh, how cool! I’m going to do that. I’m going to be neat-o.” Cut to me cussing a blue streak while searching for the book on anxiety that “I could really fucking use right now, but was the cover orange with blue writing or blue with orange writing?!”  You may have something more deep and meaningful to give up, like a whole relationship, but it’s ok to start small, I think. Find something that just isn’t you and scrap it. Its the psychological equivalent of taking your bra off when you get home, and don’t you love that feeling?

Okey-doke, there you have it. Free advice from someone who doesn’t have a single clue what she’s talking about! Why else would you read a blog?

No, wait.

I know why you might read a blog, it’s the same reason I read them, and the main reason I write one: it’s a window. It’s a window into someone’s life, and that can feel kind of nice, or at least interesting. Because we all wonder if we’re super weird, or just a little weird, don’t we? And it’s also a window to see out, to yell across the unkept yard, “Hey neighbor! How’s it going?”

And to answer,

“A little better, today, thanks for asking.”

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This Week,

This Week,

This is one of those weeks.

It’s one of those weeks when I don’t know how I can possibly come up with a post, because something bad happened and I don’t have the words, or the will to find the words, that will make a neat and tidy story of it.

A friend died in a tragic hit and run accident. He was walking, someone hit him with their car, and left,

just like that.

I found out about this on Saturday morning, when I was standing in line at MineCon with my sons. We had checked into a hotel the night before, meeting up with dear friends who live far away, set for a weekend of fun that they had been excited about for months.

I opted not to tell the kids when I found out.

There wasn’t anything to be done, and plenty of time for grief, ahead. Might as well let them have a day and a half of believing the world is built on solid ground and can’t change in an instant, the way we know it can,

from ok,

to complete shit.

Besides, I needed time to figure out exactly what I wanted to say to them. What I had in mind didn’t seem quite right. What I had in mind was something like,

“Hey kids, I sort of forgot to tell you, between bugging you about table manners and the wet towels on the floor, that life, this whole experience that we’re all having, really doesn’t make any sense at all. Blink, and the whole thing looks different. Good luck.”

But I kept quiet.

So, we went to MineCon and I spent most of it with my nose buried in my phone, texting and trolling FaceBook, as a way of feeling connected to the people I love, who love Rob. Accidents like he suffered take a while to compute, and I needed to get it through my thick skull, what had happened.

I ended up with this:

The guy who loved my Grammie’s brownies, who sang my name every time we said hello, who helped direct my son in all those musicals, who played piano and wrote songs and stayed open and goofy in the face of so many challenges, who appreciated my boys and told me exactly why, who has a wife and daughter who absolutely adore him— that guy is gone from planet Earth.

Because he was in the wrong place at the wrong time.

WTF???

Just leave it, I thought. Like rain on clay soil, eventually, it would sink in.

At the end of the weekend, I told my boys about Rob, and after talking and hugging for a moment, we drove the freeway home, my thirteen year old staring out the window in silence.

My husband was waiting for us when we got home, happy to see us.

Then, when I went to get my bag out of the car, I couldn’t find my keys.

I was holding myself together by the most delicate thread and, now, between the car and the kitchen, I had somehow lost my keys and, I thought, this might just be the thing that does me in.

You know those moments.

It seemed to me, at the time, that my husband didn’t understand,

or didn’t want to.

And maybe— I’m sure I saw it (well, pretty sure)— he sighed heavily.

What?!

Why would he sigh heavily, like he can’t believe I lost my keys. Like I’m the first person to ever lose her keys! I thought to myself. Why, at a moment when I, so clearly, am hurting?

And just like that, I am curled on my bed, crying the scrunched up face of crying that feels painful and also delicious.

Why couldn’t C understand how completely on edge I was, after holding in so much and then telling the painful news to our boys? Why had he looked annoyed that I couldn’t find my keys?

I shut the door, hoping my boys wouldn’t come in, and I kept crying.

Like when a magician stuffs a handkerchief into his pocket, then pulls a different colored handkerchief out, connected to another, and another, more things that needed crying about showed up, asking for their due.

First, it was about C. and “why couldn’t he just…”,

and then because I was angry,

and then ashamed,

and then it was about how nothing is the way it should be,

and why are people so blind to each other’s pain,

and then finally,

(oh, there it was)

It was about Rob.

11 came in, his face wet because something wasn’t working the way he wanted it to on his computer, and he was exhausted and frustrated.

Before I asked him to please leave, to give Mom a minute, I remembered,

he had lost a friend too,

so we held hands for a while.

I know I’m supposed to wrap this up into some kind of story, right?

Well, apparently, if I’m a writer at all, I’m the kind of writer who can’t write about the really hard things, which, in my opinion, makes me like a chef who can’t turn on the stove.

All I’ve got is this:

Conditions are foggy here this week,

and since I can’t get where I’d planned to go,

I’ve cut the motor

to have a good long cry

about the situation.

 

 

 

 

Street Ball For The Win! (Ten Reasons I’m Glad My Son Quit the Team)

Street Ball For The Win! (Ten Reasons I’m Glad My Son Quit the Team)

 

My son, 11, has been playing in a basketball league for the past four years.

The poor kid comes from a family of theatre folk and bookish nerds, so when he begged to learn the game and play on the regular, what else were we to do?

Organized Sports are important, right? I  read it somewhere everywhere. As I’ve mentioned before, we’re a homeschooling family, and while this educational path has many advantages, team sport opportunities are not on the list.

So we put him in a league. He loved it. Life went on, (minus our free Saturdays, of course).

Late last Spring, when 11 announced that he didn’t feel like playing in a league anymore, I’ll admit I was sort of bummed. After all, basketball was his thing and, even with the hoop in our driveway,  I was worried that without scheduled practices and games, he’d never have an opportunity to play. 

As parents, my husband and I had a choice: make him play, because team sports have been so good for him and he’ll be glad he pushed through, or let him quit, and find something else that he loves. At times like these, I have this guy in my head, telling me what “the right thing to do” is:

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But part of my problem is that I also have this guy knocking around up there, telling me to take a chill pill and stop with the fascist parenting:

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Together my husband and I decided that it’s basketball, not dental hygiene. If he wants to skip it, fine. Finish out the last few games of the season, we told him, and that’ll be it.

Not long after he played his last league game, 11 asked me to take him to a park, a few miles from our house.

Not much was happening there, unless you count a soccer class for some pre-schoolers, suited up in safety gear like a liliputian S.W.A.T team, a few personal trainers barking orders and flinging kettle bells around, and a D-list celebrity, puffing his way around the track with an iPhone strapped to his arm.

(Oh, LA, how I love thee).

But for a boy with a basketball and an afternoon to kill, not exactly a happening place.

I asked if he wanted to stay, and he did.

I asked if he was ok if I walked a few laps, and he was.

As I made my way around the dirt path, he practiced layups on the blacktop, then free throws, and eventually sat down on his ball and kind of stared into space.

This sucks, I thought.

On my next lap around, I noticed that a couple of guys had shown up. They weren’t 11’s age, in fact, they looked to be in their early twenties. I caught 11’s eye, making sure he was cool and got a thumbs up, my signal from him to keep walking.

By the time I completed one more lap, a fierce game of three on two was on.

Two hours later, 11 and I were both exhausted and happy, and I was convinced. After four years of being a basketball mom, schlepping my son to league practices, Saturday morning games, “shoot outs” (I know what those are now), and trophy ceremonies where “everyone is a winner!”, I became a street ball zealot.

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11 in a typical game of pick-up ball at our park, photo taken on the sly 🙂

The following is a list of  reasons why I love that my son has chosen to forgo league play for the unorganized, untamed, unprocessed pastime of street ball, which can be played at our local city park for exactly zero dollars:

  1. No fair? No problem. One-on-one is fair, unless one player is a seven year old with an eyepatch, and the other is a high school senior with a basketball scholarship and an hour to kill. Que sera sera!
  2. He plays with people of all ages, races, economic backgrounds, and skill levels. You want to play? You’re in.
  3. He risks failure, and by failure, I don’t mean losing. Occasionally, my son shows up with his big goofy grin and his sneakers double knotted and no one is there. When this happens, my son calls it “a fail.” I call it a bonus! Whether asking someone out on a date, starting a business or writing a blog, the good stuff in life isn’t orchestrated for us, and all of it requires a certain amount of risk.
  4. No refs means he works it out, old school. Unlike what I’ve seen with league play, this almost never involve screaming or the throwing of tantrums (and that’s just the coach I’m talking about).
  5. He has a second home. No matter where he goes in the world, if he can find a hoop, a ball, he’ll be in familiar territory. If he’s lucky, he can make a friend. The world can be kinda shitty sometimes and, I say, the more places you can feel at home, the better.
  6. He has to talk to strangers. Again with the risk taking. Here’s how he does it, near as I can tell: he shows up, lurks around, shoots a few layups all casual-like, then asks if he can get in on whatever game is in play. Can you imagine??? Me neither. So cool.
  7. He’s unplugged. I’m always on the lookout for fun that doesn’t include a glowing rectangle in front of my boy’s face. Luckily, we need look no further than our local park. Street ball is analog fun at it’s finest.
  8. No buzzer kills the mood. When things are hopping on the blacktop, games can last way longer than the hour that a usual league game is allowed to go. More play time means more fun, more exercise, more practice, and one more lap around the track for me.
  9. He does it for his own bad self. Not only am I not expected to watch his every move in a pick-up game, but he prefers that I ignore him completely. He probably waves me off because having your mom hang around and beam at you is a little dorky, but I prefer to think it’s because, at the park, he’s playing for his own enjoyment, not for cheers, gold stars, or the requisite post-game snack of Go-gurt and Hi-C that some very together mom always shoves at him. Also, no one has ever received a basketball scholarship for street ball. What a relief.
  10. No trophies! Those of you who have had your kids in organized sports will understand why this is a grand thing. You understand because you too have a box of crappy plastic trophies that your child has been given for just existing, and you are as sick of them as I am. Even my son knows they’re bullshit. Anyway, no trophies will be coming at you for shooting hoops at the park, no sir. For his time, commitment and skinned knees 11 will only receive a slight sunburn (bad mom), and some pretty useful life skills.

Of course it’s possible that 11 will turn around tomorrow and ask to join a league again (kids are weasels, after all). That’s ok. But never again will I buy into the idea that team sports need to be organized. We’ll continue to take back a corner of our park for play, with our own, tiny, everyday act of rebellion: showing up.

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My Plan to Not (always) Plan

My Plan to Not (always) Plan

Happy New Year!

I can’t help it. I’ll always think of September as the start of a new year. Even at my age, I still love a thermos, a sweater, and a fresh stash of #2 pencils right about now.

And also— New Year’s Resolutions!

Some people hate resolutions, but I love them.

Even if they don’t stick, they almost always bring me closer to where I want to be, if only in tiny ways. One resolution to cut out all sugar from my diet resulted only in my cutting out all sugar from my coffee, but that little habit has stuck like glue and I’m damn proud of it.

Baby steps, people.

The nice thing about making new year’s resolutions in September, is that you can ride the wave of back-to-school energy that’s got everyone buzzed, and that can give your new habit some lift-off. Also, it’s kind of like taking it for a test drive before Classic New
Year’s, on January 1st. If you’re doing pretty well at your resolution come January, I say just slap that sucker up on your status update New Year’s day and proceed to crush it!

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If, however, you are failing (as I did with my resolution to keep my inbox clear), then you can just quietly sweep that one aside and do the thing where you resolve write thank you notes or run a half marathon.

As for me, I only have one resolution for the coming year:

I resolve to loosen my grip.

I like that it’s short and snappy so I’ll remember it. It’s also kind of relaxing when I say it to myself, so it can double as a mantra for my daily meditation (which was my New Year’s resolution for last year, and probably the five years before that).

This new resolution has been a long time coming, let me tell you.

I’m a planner, and I’m not super chill about those plans changing. Because of this, I get a lot of shit done, but I also miss out on the spontaneous joys, on account of the anal-retentive side of my nature. People are often surprised when I describe myself that way, maybe due to the fact that I have a filthy mouth and a very casual wardrobe, but trust me, I can be one rigid lady.

Last week I got a text from someone I really like, but don’t know that well, saying she had to go to Target and pick up a few things and would I like to join her, just for the hell of it.

It was a totally retro moment!unknown

She might as well have asked to borrow a cup of sugar or join her for a hand of Bridge and a Virginia Slim.

I stared at her text message and thought about a response, and the fact that I had my day pretty much nailed down already.

Which reminds me, as things often do, of an Ethel Merman quote.

At the last dress rehearsal of every Broadway production she was in, she would announce to cast and crew, “Call me Miss Birds Eye, the show is frozen.”

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Preach, Ms. Merman!

Each Sunday, after I complete my To-Do list and planning ritual (which is almost a sacrament to control freaks like me), I close my beloved date book, satisfied that all The Things will get done, that no time will fall between the cracks, ergo, I will never die.

Or something like that.

But somehow the charm of this young woman’s invitation melted my frosty grip, just enough. I knew that anyone who would suggest such a madcap scheme as running out to Target together would probably make a good friend.

So I did this to my Saturday list:

Pay bills, fill out insurance forms, get dog food, fix leaking hose, pick up glasses
and said, “Sure, let’s go.”

And that, reader, is how I managed to have an unexpectedly fun morning, make a new friend, and buy a box of jumbo paperclips, which no one needs but which make me weirdly happy.

In fact, I got so much happiness mileage out of allowing myself to take a little detour in my day, that I decided I want to do it more often. Friendships, passions, even solitude, need and deserve a little space.

When I was a kid, I used to catch lightening bugs in jars, poking holes in the tops with an ice-pick, to let air in so they would live until I could set them free the next morning (or until I could smash them onto my fingers and earlobes to make glowing jewelry. Sorry, lightening bugs, and God).

In the coming year, I will try to remember to take an ice-pick to my carefully planned days.

To always let in a little air,

so the unexpected

can breathe.

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Do What You Love (and also some stuff you don’t)

Do What You Love (and also some stuff you don’t)

You know how everyone says that hitting midlife is so awesome for women because we stop caring what anyone else thinks and can finally be who we are, without striving to live up to some weird made up standard “out there?”

Well all of that may be true but, as always, I gotta flip that shit over and look at the underbelly, because I’ve got an issue.

The truth is that while I am happy to stop torturing myself over the fact that I suck at thank-you notes and drink straight out of the milk carton (sorry),  some of those old self-imposed external expectations worked pretty well, and I miss them.

Take, for one, staying in shape.

Fifteen years ago, I used to go to the gym regularly and I felt great! It was just a part of my every day, a healthy habit. But make no mistake, it was fueled by the mirror and the x-boyfriend and the stupid asshole size whatever-it-was that I thought I needed to be.

All of that is gone, and I am thrilled.

But what motivates me now? If it’s no longer the fear of not measuring up, then what? Of course I want to be healthy as I age, to be there for my kids and husband, to feel strong.

I get it.

But in the face of a night out with girlfriends and plate of garlic fries, let’s just say they those goals get a little bit fuzzy around the edges.

Garlic fries are so yummy, you guys.

And fifty year old me has been a good girl for long enough.

But just recently, I stumbled into a strategy* that totally works for me, and because this blog is all about helping the world, I will let you in on the secret now.

By utilizing the energy of my largely untapped and renewable resource, anger, I feel like maybe I’ve figured out the secret to bringing about positive change in my life, or at least getting some shit done.

Here’s an example: Yesterday, I knew I should go to the gym. (One thing I will never discuss at length here is exercise. 1. Because there are lots of people who do that and know what they’re talking about, and 2. Because zzzzzzzz…..) Anyway, I knew I should go, but I just didn’t want to.

Like I seriously didn’t want to.

I was pissed that I had to take time out of my busy life of doing things that I can’t explain right now but that are very important (not), VERY important (no, seriously not), and the nagging awareness I had that, at my age, it is more important than ever to stay active just served to make me feel more resentful, and therefor more likely to drink all the wine.

Hold up for a sec —

Before any of you leave comments suggesting I simply find an activity I enjoy, like salsa dancing or whatever, let me say that I’m a grown-ass woman. I lived through Jazzercise and Tae Bo and that dumb kind of walking where you wag your ass around, and it all sucks. But I want to be healthy, so I’m committed to figuring it out. (If the tone of this post is not to your liking, I totally get it. Feel free to skip the rest and go do your Prancersize.) giphy

Anyway, yesterday, for some reason,  I did not do what I usually do, which is try to make myself want to exercise. Instead, I let myself be pissed at a glaring flaw in the otherwise perfect human machine, which is that you have to drag it off the couch and make it sweat and breathe hard if you want it to work right. And even if you somehow managed to do that today, you just have to wake up tomorrow and do it all again!

Intelligent design? I think not.

So I did what I so often do, I vented a little on Facebook:

“Damn you bastard gym! I’m mad I have go to you and sweat in you and smell your stinky smell and listen to your bad pop music and to your grunting hairy guys! I give you thirty minutes. That’s all you get of my precious day.”

Just admitting how I really feel about the whole exercise thing gave me a boost.

This is bullshit, I thought, pulling on my Target sports bra. What a total pain in the ass, I musedas I closed my locker next to a naked water aerobics lady who seemed perfectly happy being there.

Weirdo.

Oh, I kid.

Anyway, before I knew it, I’d done thirty minutes of something that felt like exercise and was free to go! Changing in the locker room, right next to the same lady from before (why does that always happen?), I realized that a good chunk of the negative shit I have around going to the gym is really just me fighting my nature.

It turns out, I don’t have to want to exercise, or go to the gynecologist, or stand and chat with my elderly Republican neighbor with the hair weave who is just a really lonely guy, to do it.

I and I do want to do it. Or at least, I want to have done it. 

Feeling bad about the fact that you feel bad, only makes you feel worse. (There’s some Buddhism in there somewhere, but I can’t exactly find it.)

So, thus concludes the probably one and only fitness tip you’ll ever get from me. Also, I’m not giving up the fries.

(*This might not work for you, especially if you’re a nice person.)

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Back In the Saddle

Back In the Saddle

Well, hello there!

What’s that law that says a body at rest stays at rest? I have come to the conclusion that this also applies to laptops, since it’s been full on forever since I posted here.

I have some reasons for blowing off my blog lately and they go like this:

It’s summer, which means my kids are home, which means more requests to drive them all over the godforsaken universe Los Angeles. barefoot-414385__180There are also more dirty dishes, more brother on brother fights, more late nights, and more sudden uncontrollable urges to pile everyone in the car to get salted caramel frozen yogurt. In other word, there’s shit to do, y’all.

 Camp NaNOWriMo. I signed up, announced it here and (spoiler alert) totally failed at it.

Lucky for me, failing is the new winning! And because I failed at completing my word-count goal for the month of July , I finally learned that I don’t do so well with external rewards and “challenges” to make me do things, even if they’re things I really want to do.

Maybe you’re like that too. To find out, take this short quiz: When someone asks you to join their “30 Days of Tongue-Kissing Selfies With Your Spouse” challenge, do you right away kind of know on some very deep cellular level that those are not your people? If so, you’re like me!

While it might be a very good thing if I would meditate daily, write a screenplay or eat more legumes, signing up for that kind of accountability mind trick is not the way to get me there. Unfortunately, I’m just not that motivated by fear of public shaming. If I was that scared of shame I would never have given myself a home perm or done all that musical theatre in my twenties.

So I failed at writing 30,000 words of a fictional story during the month of July, but I succeeded at writing 16,000. And guess what? No one gives a shit. Yay!

Trump. Unknown-1I’m sure I could just stop right there because you probably completely get why I couldn’t bring myself to write blog posts about my little life in the San Fernando Valley when our country is fucking itself up so royally. Did I spend more time than I should have watching videos like this? Yes. Could I have used that time to write? Does it do any good to watch Trump flaunt his idiocy? Would my time be better used getting active in local politics instead of eating my weight in pickle flavored potato chips and inhaling toxic youtube videos? Yes, no, yes and stop yelling at me.

Black people keep getting shot by police, like, just because they’re black. And yes, some police are  getting shot too. Everyone keeps getting fucking shot, you guys! And  if while all that is happening, I sit around and blog about stuff like menstruation and Facebook  I can’t help but imagine people doing this:

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It’s not that there haven’t been things happening in my life that I want to write about. Plenty of things happened this summer which I might eventually share here, but for now just let me just get you up to speed:

Our family road trip was great, and by great I mean that I saw parts of the United States I’d never seen before, we all still love each other, and only one of us got food poisoning from a  corn dog. Unknown-3

In July, my husband took the boys with him to the east coast for five days and I had the house to myself, which hasn’t happened in, well, ever.

No, wait. Go back and read that last thing again. If you’re a mom with kids, feel free to flip me off for even complaining for one second about the chaos of summer break.

I know, Mama. I know.

Having that time to myself was so great. Now, I could have used that time to write, but did I?

(I think we’ve established that that’s a negatory.)

Instead, I spent the time making these and binge watching all five seasons of Girls on HBO.  I did, however clean my venetian blinds, which took three whole hours, so, you know, props to me.

I also read a whole bunch of memoirs, including Lit, Cherry, Slow Motion and Safekeeping. All wonderful. All make me want to stop writing and take up scrapbooking.

And finally, there’s another thing.

Recently I learned that my dear friend, therapist, and mentor will not survive the cancer that she discovered not even a year ago. (Have I mentioned how much I hate cancer? You too? No shit.)

She is an angel to me and many people I know and, you’ll just have to trust me on this, if you knew her, you too would want to throw in the towel on trying to make sense of life and why it ends when it does.

You’d shake your weak mortal fist at the sky and tell whoever is or isn’t up their that they have lousy fucking judgement! Get it together, would you??! You’d bring wine and food to the family of your dying friend and feel helpless in the face of their suffering. And you’d think about how your own mother died almost exactly a year ago, and how, even though you were there in the room with her when her gaze went fixed and the nurse turned off the machine, you didn’t feel it like this, like you do now.

And the force of what you’re feeling now would pull the memory of your mother up,

up,

by the roots,

like it

or not.

Well, at least that’s what it’s like for me.

So, thanks for reading, and for visiting here again even though I disappeared for a bit. We all need to give ourselves permission to disappear, to have the chips and drop the ball occasionally, right?

There’s your thirty day challenge, right there: Give yourself a goddamn break. It’s ok.

It’s really ok.

 

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Come On Get Happy! Road Trip 2016

Come On Get Happy! Road Trip 2016

Our family is about to embark on an epic road trip where we will explore as much of the western half of this country as can be done in two weeks.

“Now’s the time,” friends have told me. “Once they’re teenagers, it will be a much harder sell.”

Old Faithful!

The Grand Canyon!

Quality Time and free continental breakfasts for all!

It’s going to be great.

Except, you know how some horror movies will begin with, oh, say, a nice family packing for a summer vacation, and it all looks so fun but you KNOW it’s all about to get very scary?

I’m kind of flashing on that, y’all.

First of all, I’ve got two boys, each of whom get carsick on the elevator to their 5th floor orthodontist’s office. Because of this, a road trip feels just a tiny bit risky.

And of course, there’s the fact that they are eleven and thirteen, the age when kiddos really turn on the charm.

(You feel me, moms?)

Then there’s my husband and I.

We have been married fifteen years which he always points out, in Los Angeles, is “a pretty good run.”

Such a romantic.

And while Chris and I are all good with the daily routine, exploring the road less traveled (especially if it’s crammed with tourists in socks and sandals) with all it’s novelty, can sometimes bring out the worst in us.

You know, just a little.

One thing about C. is that he truly wants to make his family happy. (Side note: I am proud to say that, while very tempting, I have never used this to my advantage, as evidenced by the fact that we have neither a chicken coop, nor a manny.)

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I also have a thing about making my family happy, albeit with slightly more of an edge than my husband. Oh yes, I want to make them happy and keep them happy, by god, or die trying!!

In that way (and a few others), we are all batshit crazy.

So a family road trip with us could look something like this:

Four hours into a seven hour drive, one child might whimper, “I don’t feel so good.”

I hand him a plastic Subway bag, to which he responds, “Don’t Mom, you’re making it worse!

They ask how many more miles, and does the motel have a pool.

Four hundred ninety-seven and no, it does not.

T. asks for more room in the backseat, prompting C. to poke his older brother with a fruit roll-up, which inspires T. to fart, then blame the fart on C., forcing C. to retaliate with, what else?

More farting. (Did I mention he is eleven?)

I unroll the windows.

“Look over there!” My husband says then, pointing to an awesome rock formation which looks, you gotta kind of admit, a lot like the last awesome rock formation. “See that??”

Busy licking orange dust out of an empty Doritos bag from three states ago, the little darlings don’t respond to their father, which leads to a very slight tensing of his lower jaw, invisible to to the naked eye unless, of course, the naked eye is my super-human-bionic -mother-eye.

It is then that some very ancient neuron in my brain, buzzing from too many pecan logs and Snapples, fires, and I, for reasons I am not wholly conscious of, set about “lightening the mood” with a friendly game of License Plate Bingo. I crank the audio version One Hundred and One Native American Folk Tales (educational and fun!) and take another family selfie.

#Blessed!

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When both my boys were preschool age, I went to an amazing therapist. (If you read this blog then you know I’m no stranger to the couch.)

I went to her because I was feeling anxious during the long hours I spent alone with my son and newborn baby, and I couldn’t figure out why. Like many new moms, I thought that all I wanted was for my kids to be happy. (This was before Facebook and articles like this that, like a good freinemy, are both helpful and shaming. Now we know better—then, we were totally fucked up.)

No matter what I tried, C. would still have long crying jags in the middle of the night and T. flipped out when riding in his carseat. Everyone else always seemed to be enjoying themselves. What was wrong with us??

“It just feels like someone is always upset,” I said. “I don’t know what to do.”

“So,” she began, all casual-like, “What would a good day look like, for you and the boys?”

I tried to figure out what the right answer was. I knew I needed therapy, but I desperately wanted her to think I didn’t. “Well, I guess if everyone’s happy, then it’s been a good day.”

Nailed it, I thought.

A single mother with two grown kids of her own, she smiled and said, “You might need to rethink your definition of a good day.”

She told me that when you’ve got two kids under five, a day that ends with everyone in one piece might just be as good as it gets.

One kid crying in my arms with a fever while the other watches yet another episode of What Not To Wear in his bouncy seat? Good day.

Honey Bunches of Oats for dinner while wearing our pajamas. (From yesterday?) Good day.

Staying at the fancy Children’s Museum in Beverly Hills for thirty minutes before having to leave with two sobbing kids because C. pooped in his rain boots? Good Day.

My feeling ok had been dependent on their smiling faces and let me tell you, that shit can drive you nuts. Realizing that I do not operate the on/off switch for anyone’s happiness, and changing my whacked idea of what a good day looks like was, ironically, the key to happiness.

My own, anyway.

And it’s probably also the key to

a totally awesome road trip

a super fun road trip

our road trip 🙂

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