Thursday, February 25, 2010

Dreaming of Paris

Ok, I have been dreaming of Paris since I was 12, and my theatrical French teacher would rap her chalk against her teeth and shout out that French was the language of love! But lately my fantasizing is getting out of control. It is becoming unhealthy. My secret addiction is taking a toll--and yet I do nothing to move forward. Forward, that is, to actually BEING in Paris, rather than just dreaming about it. (Which is really my favorite thing to do, because I am, by nature, a dreamer).

In the last few weeks, I have given in.

I no longer try to hide my strange draw to Paris. It is a cliche, I know. But I have to face that. And so, I have been eating at french bistros and cooking crepes for breakfast. I walk the aisles too many times in Monsieur Marcel at the Farmer's Market waiting for a nice French man to give me a madeleine. I listen to my French Cafe CD over and over and over. I know Carla Bruni's Quelq'un M'a Dit by heart (but still can't spell it. Sacre Bleu!) I watch French movies and I am reading a French novel (in translation, bien sur!)

I started reading the boys The Little Prince. And each night, as they climb in to hear the story, I make them say a few words in French. They imitate my bad French accent.

Me: "Le"
Them: "Le"
Me: "Petit"
Them: "Petit"
Me: "Prince"
Them: "Prince"

Each night I add a few wacky words: Croissant. Bonjour! Oo Lala! Ou est la piscine? Le Hot Dog!

And, each night, I was spending more and more time cruising around on home exchange web sites. It was out of hand. I was like a gay man looking for sex.

A friend had told me last summer--if you do the home exchange web sites you have to do it early. By the end of September the Europeans are back from last summer and ready to plan their next six week vacation. So when September passed, October, November, December and January, I knew that I was making sure my Paris dream would stay a dream.

This week I finally joined the home exchange. I paid my money for my three month membership, and sloppily described our house. I didn't even have time to post pictures. But this morning my first request came over the transom. I almost spilled my coffee!!! I am so excited I cannot sit down. I have not even responded yet. Do I dare to hope? To move after all these months towards making this a reality?

It sounds so perfect! A flat in the 10th arrondissement belonging to a family with two kids. C'est magnifique!!!

Time to read some Proust! Get out a map! Post my pictures! Sign up for French conversation lessons! And yes, tell the people we want to come!

Keep your fingers crossed for me.

Friday, February 19, 2010

Wisdom from Edith Wharton

For anyone, anywhere, who is sitting down to write this morning, as I am, here are words to think on, to inspire, from Edith Wharton:

The use of dialogue in fiction seems to be one of the few things about which a fairly definite rule may be laid down. It should be reserved for the culminating moments, and regarded as the spray into which the great wave of narrative breaks in curving twoard the watcher on the shore. This lifting and scattering of the wave, the coruscation of the spray, even the mere material sight of the page broken into short, uneven paragraphs, all help to reinforce contrast between such climaxes and the smooth effaced gliding of the narrative intervals; and the contrast enhances that sense of the passage of time for the producing of which the writer has to depend on his intervening narration. Thus the sparing use of dialogue not only serves to emphasize the crises of a tale, but to give it as a whole a greater effect of continuous development.

Does this speak to you?

For me, who struggles with dialogue, brilliant!

Cuts in LA

Everything I love is being cut.

I am an involved citizen. I vote. I care. I make phone calls to public officials occasionally, and watch as Jonathan corners them in public places demanding attention for potholes, or whatever.

But I had never really written to save my life.

Now, in the past month I have written a slew of letters. Not because someone asked me to (though they did) but because it seems that everything I care about is being cut.

First they cut our groundskeeper at Canyon. He is the only thing that keeps our little patch of grass in the middle of drug infested, homeless person mecca of Hollywood from turning into a mini Hooverville. Even now we find needles in the underbrush, the occasional human feces in the garden out front, and drunk homeless people passed out in the parking lot where you nearly run them over. But Marcus always greeted us with a smile, protected us from cursing untreated mentally imbalanced homeless and kept the school and senior center clean. Beautiful. An island of sanity in the middle of insane Hollywood. It makes a difference. We wrote letters to save him. To no avail.

Then, two weeks ago, the city said they were going to cut all the classes and programs at Barnsdall, the cultural and arts center left to the city by Alicia (?) Barnsdall to promote culture and art in this city. The classes take place on the grounds of the Hollyhock House, a gorgeous Frank Lloyd Wright creation on its own island of a hill in the middle of Hollywood, with views in every direction. Just going there is inspiring. But more importantly, Barnsdall offers incredible classes by supremely talented working artists at affordable prices. These are not graduate students, but people who work as sculptors, painters and collage artists. That they teach the public at a place like this, for affordable prices, available to all, is a miracle. I wrote letters to save Barnsdall. Everything is on hold.

Yesterday we heard that our favorite librarian, Hilary St. George, had been cut from our local library. Libraries in LA have become like daytime homeless shelters, with lost, lonely people sleeping on tables and sitting at the computer. These librarians, who love books, have become the social workers of our city, taking care of these people with no place to go. That makes other people not come. But Hilary St. George, with the help of some supplemental funds from a very active community group, almost single handedly brought programming, energy and passion to the children's program at the library.

She has story hour and singing. She has reading programs and treasure hunts. She is approachable, young, beautiful, warm.

On paper, to some budget slashing bureaucrat downtown, she is young, inexperienced and easy to cut. But she has changed that library. So I will write again.

And as everything I care about is cut, I wonder what I am getting from this city and state I pay taxes to. The roads are rutted and filled with potholes that are now so deep Jonathan jokes the mini will fall in and never come out. Driving around the city and dodging the potholes is like careening down a washboard dirt road in Death Valley at 45 mph. Libraries, art programs and park budgets are being cut. Anything that breaks is not fixed. The city is going to privatize its parking garages--something that every other city seems to be able to make money at.

And the city talks of installing more red light cameras to raise revenues. Oh hooray.

So what ARE we getting?

We get our trash picked up. A street sweeper drives 100 mph down our street every Monday leaving a wet track. But does it really clean the street?

I don't know.

I am not an angry Tea Party type, but I am frustrated when I pay taxes but everything I care about is being cut to ribbons, but the union of calligraphers for the city is keeping their job.

And don't even get me started on California and the way it is treating public schools...

How is the recession treating your city? Your state?

Thursday, February 18, 2010


This past Monday we drove to the snow. Since the mighty rainstorms that have hit Los Angeles, the mountains have been white and majestic around Los Angeles. The city looks more like Salt Lake or Seattle, and I feel a lift in my heart every time I see the snowy peaks.

So on President's day we joined a group of parents organized by Stephanie Hubbard, mother extraordinaire who invented Green Sundays and is committed to getting Larchmont kids out into nature to feel it, live it, smell it and be in it. I love her endeavor.

She chose a spot called Frazier Park, up the five past Gorman--away from all the snowy peaks we had seen all week. We drove for 45 minutes up into the grapevine and did not see a speck of white. I was starting to get worried. But we pulled off the freeway, wound through a forgotten California valley and the snow was there, almost to the edge of the road. We bought our adventure pass and started up the mountain. There were pines everywhere, and feet of snow. We had our cheap plastic sleds in the back, and a big carrot in case we decided to make a snowman.

The boys could barely contain themselves. Every few minutes they would cry out: Let us just get out and touch it! Just for a minute! We want to feel it! Benji--who has a snow obsession -- kept saying, "It doesn't look real!"

We drove for what seemed like forever until we came to a parking lot on top of the mountain. There is no ski resort, and no restaurant. Not even a vending machine. Just woods, and trails. There were miles and miles of cross country ski trails, snowshoing families, and a log cabin that said "Nordic Ski," but was closed.


We got on our snow clothes and pulled out our cheap tobaggans. We went up a little way, then a little more. Benji was riding backwards and the rides were fast. There was a huge mountain of plowed snow to stop you at the bottom, but I felt like at high speeds you could fly right over the snowplowed pile and launch into the air, to land on a car in the parking lot.

I should add, that in the last two years, two of friends sons have had horrible sledding accidents. One boy ran into a tree stump and smashed up his face, the other--I don't know--ran into a tree?

Both are OK, and they are young, so they have grown back beautiful.

But sledding here is not like the East Coast. You are sledding in slick, icy conditions on new fast sleds that have no real steering capabilities. We were all novices.

One cool mother took herself and her twin girls up high--the highest any of us had gone -- on our little baby slope. The slop was so slick you could barely hold the sled to get on. They all got on and let it fly. They were heading for the trees at high speeds. This was not an Olympic video. This was real. The mother's head whipped around and missed a pine tree by inches. We parents on the slope were still recovering from the close call when she ran over my first son. He got bonked and rolled to the side. I was running to get him when she ran into Benji, 4.

The sled rammed into him, he rolled under it (it is not blades, but slippery rubbery plastic) He rolled, banged against the ground, then got dragged about 30 feet on the slope. The sled stopped and my boy was still. I ran. I ran to him. I felt sick. I pulled him up. Was he broken? Braindead? I prayed he was OK.

I sat him up. He was not crying or unconscious. But his eyes were shooting off to the right, not quite rolling back in his head, and he wasn't speaking. Oh, I felt sick. I cannot describe the feeling. His pupils were tiny, not dilated. Then he started to cry. To cry and cry and cry. But that was good! We held up fingers. He could count.

I took him back to the car and made a little nest in the sunshine and fed him food. He was like a tiny wounded woodland animal. Did he have a concussion? Was he brain damaged? It didn't seem like it. The woman who had hit him was just sick.

He was OK.

That is the upshot. And within the hour he was back on a mini slope sledding again. With me checking every course this time and helicoptering like I never had before.

That was the first close call.

After lunch we went to a new spot, a beautiful meadow away from the parking lot. No trees. Just a big bowl. It seemed like nothing could go wrong. But I was not going to leave things to chance this time. I walked the course, and calculated how far a toboggan could go. It seemed safe. I talked to some people. Benji had his courage back and I wanted to encourage him. He begged to ride a little yellow saucer so he could spin. Some Dads said if he went down he would stop at the bowl at the bottom. He could not go farther. So I took him part way down the hill, put him on the saucer, got him criss-cross apple sauce, and let him go. He flew.

He flew so fast it scared me so I started running after him. He started going backwards. He was picking up speed. He was not stopping in the bowl. He swished around, I was sprinting, sprinting through the snow. There was a tiny dip, then another trail through the woods I had not checked out because I did not want him to go down. He flew down backwards and flew over the lip--with me in hot pursuit. I tripped and flew through the air and landed spread-eagled on the ice, my sun glasses somewhere in the woods. My son was gone. I felt like God was punishing me. I felt weak.

I raised my head. A line of parents looked up. "He is OK!" they shouted. He had gone over the lip into a chute and fallen off.

I grabbed him and held him so tight. I cannot explain the feeling.

I took Theo down one more time, and we did the chute. In the end, it was fun, and nothing could have gone wrong.

But California sledding is different. The snow melts then freezes. The new sleds are faster and impossible to steer. It is crazy.

In the end it was the most beautiful day. The forest was glorious, the snow magical.

Benji sat at dinner and said he was grateful for sledding, and asked when we could go again.

So he is not damaged. Perhaps only me. The mother who almost lost her boy twice in one day.

This is a fun fall.

This is a happy boy.


Because that is how I feel right now.

Jonathan was away last weekend seeing friends on a glorious trip to Jamaica. I was jealous. But he brought me back a picture I love, and I got some blessed time to myself.

As I read my self help books, worked on my novel, played with my children and cooked crepes, I realized I am depleted.

If I were a field of grass I would be a dry, tired, hay-like patch with dirt showing through. The kind of patch where you wonder if anything will ever grow there again. Something might--with water and sun. Or, it might be too far gone, over-traveled and worn out and unfertilized and barren.

For years now I have nurtured others. And, it has been a surprise to find this out about myself, but I like nurturing others. I like finding the hidden part of people's souls that needs to be nurtured and loved and drawn out, and pulling out of people. I like being the soul prospector who can see the beauty and help people, at least in some small way, along their way. And that is what I try to do for my husband and my children.

I am not perfect.

But I watch for flashes of brilliance, of interest, of exhaustion, of light, and I tend and encourage and nurture.

I do this freely, because I know that I know how to nurture myself. I know what I need to feel alive, to feel happy, to feel nourished.

I need to ride waves and dance with abandon. I need to cook with spices and have crazy wonderful sex. I need to travel and take in new places with all my senses wide open. I need to write and write and write. I need to sing and be around music. I need time alone.

And I find now, after years of taking care of others, that I am in the same depressing place as a million women who have come before me. I am losing myself through neglect.

I have chosen this path. I have chosen to be home and witness my boys as they grow. I love watching my husband becoming a better writer, and seeing my boys develop into incredible little people. Some of that is me. My time. My love. My being there.

But I find myself dreaming of someone who will swoop in and nurture me. Who will pull me back up on my feet, and feed me the food I need to eat. Who will look at me and say, you need to jump in the ocean, write a book, climb a mountain, paint a picture, do some belly dancing. Let me cook you something wonderful. I want someone to tend to my soul!

But I am a grown up. I know the only person who can do that for me is myself.

Still, I wish.

And as sun returns to the earth and the days grow longer again (thank god!!!!!) I feel a need to cut my hair and reinvent myself. So perhaps this sadness, this feeling of barrenness, is just the slow growing, germinating, quiet time that will explode into wonderful things.

In the meantime, for today, I blog to nurture my soul.

To say: I am here!

Sunday, February 14, 2010

Happy Valentine's Day

My true love is away, frolicking in Jamaica, where pot wafts through the air, wherever you are.

I am here, romancing myself.

Yesterday I bought myself the most beautiful tulips.

This morning, the boys snuggled with me under my big exotic print comforter, then we went downstairs and made crepes.

Here was the morning favorite:

That is chunks of ghirardelli dark chocolate melting in the pan. Yum.

Then, a little espresso, a sweet card or two from the boys, and some patterned pajamas from my far-away husband, delivered by his boy.

Love to you on this day of love!

Why We Blog

If you are looking for beautiful images to irrigate your imagination, check out the English Muse.

Always gorgeous. It is a blog by a stylish former LA Times reporter.

But I particularly loved the comments on this one--about why we blog. Scroll down and these cyber-scribbles will make you think.

Some people blog for friendship. Some to keep a journal. Some to be like pamphleteers. Some to believe they exist. Some to inspire--because they feel like traditional media is too dark and depressing, but the blogging world offers hope, inspiration, positive stories and thoughts.

What are you?

Why do you read? Why do you blog?

For anyone who loves writing--and reading--this is fascinating.

Skinny Jeans

I can't post a picture, because it would be too small!

Yesterday I shocked myself. I bought a pair of skinny jeans!

I do not believe women my age should wear skinny jeans. I think it is obscene. I went in to buy new jeans because it has been years since I bought jeans. The hot young sales girl, with no prompting from me, pulled down eight pairs of jeans to try, and half of them were skinny. I took one look and said, I will not fit in those.

Just try, she said. So I did.

Half an hour later I walked out with two pairs.

Half of me thinks, protect the world from this crazy mama! The other half thinks, I look so cool and hot in my skinny jeans, my sexy top and my black boots. I needed an image makeover. I went out alone last night to try it out.

I like it.

It is always good to experiment with who you think you are!

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

The Spaces Inbetween

Yesterday our yoga teacher told us to focus on the spaces in between. Between the poses. Between the breath. Those places that no one looks at, but are so important. I thought about it--probably because yoga is the only place I can think.

And I thought, those places are interesting. We never look at those places--they are the void, the invisible--and yet it is where so much happens. Mostly everything, in fact.

I thought about a figure drawing class I took. One night the teacher challenged us to draw our figures in reverse; Instead of forming the figures out of shapes, we formed the figures out of the shapes that were not there. The figures still appeared on the page. Sometimes more real than if we had just focused on the figure herself.

I thought about my life. I am in one of those places in between. I am between jobs. Between working and not working. Between being the mother of a small child and the mother of two kids who are pretty independent. It is a strange, still place that is both wonderful and infuriating. I am neither here nor there. I am hard to define. I am growing, but unevenly and in what direction I cannot yet clearly see.

I want something to happen, and yet this time is so precious as it is--wide open, not rushed, full of possibility, with time to dream and experiment. And, I realized, it is the most interesting time. The spaces in between are when new things are born, when new ideas take root, when transitions silently, under the skin, take place.

For now, in this time before spring, I will appreciate the space in between.

It is just so hard.

Monday, February 8, 2010


Far too many nights, Benji climbs in bed with us. Usually he is just a big cuddly heat-seeking baby--as he has been from the minute he arrived on this earth.

The other night it rained and rained--so loud it woke us up, over and over again. Not gentle rain that puts you to sleep, but violent rain that sounds like your house has sprung a million leaks.

He climbed in and said:

"Mommy, I have been dreaming. Bad dreams."

"It's OK," I mumbled.

"What are dreams, Mommy? Are they just pretend? Are they real?

"Dreams are stories that happen in your mind when you sleep," I said. "They are not real."


Thursday, February 4, 2010

Lucky Trapeze

Yesterday was a career day for me. A day to get back on track and ramble and walk and talk and hike with my hubby and try to figure out just where the ^%$#%% I think I am going with this crazy life. Hiking makes me pant, so I can't feel too sorry for myself and I breathe through fear. I also get about a mile to just talk about other things, before I dive into revealing the deep meaty dreamy parts of my soul. And while I am hiking single file I can't see anyone's face. I just hear Jonathan grunting behind me. Usually with encouragement. At least that is what I imagine.

Our tradition is to go to Santa Barbara, but yesterday was an abbreviated day, so we headed to Fryman Canyon, off Mulholland Drive. It is a beautiful trail in the Santa Monica Mountains, and yesterday was clear and perfect. As soon as we got on the muddy trail I felt my spirits lift, though I have been feeling blue.

We hiked down under the oaks, past a jeep that rolled hundreds of feet down an embankment from a curve in Mulholland Drive above--now full of dirt. We got views of the Valley, and even snow-capped mountains. We had no idea where we were going or where we would end up, which is always a great feeling on a hike.

We rounded a curve and there was a trapeze, hanging in the forest. It was connected by chain, then rope, covered with a plastic sleeve, to a big oak branch, about thirty feet up. The tree was on the side of the trail, which dropped off steeply into a ravine on the right. We were hiking down the side of a mountain. This meant that you could pull the trapeze in with a rope, stand on your tip toes and grab the trapeze, and then swing out so you were waving about thirty feet in the air above a ravine. It looked scary--and irresistable. There was no water. If you couldn't hold on you would crash down into the mud and roots of the ravine and break an ankle, if not two legs.

It had been awhile since I had held onto anything to see if I could really hold myself up. But I could not resist. Jonathan did not say a word. He just put out his hand to hold my sunglasses.

"Just catch me when I come back," I said. If you do not get off on the trip back in, you will still be left hanging over the ravine.

I grabbed on, adjusted my hands. I was scared.

I got up on my toes, then let go.



I swear, I had not had that much fun in a million years. At least not since we swung into Bass Lake last summer at Point Reyes.

My shoulders felt OK. My hands didn't slip. I grabbed and did it again. Oh, that feeling, to soar out and up and up and up. It is the best!!! All 43-year-olds should do it! It just changes your life!

I got off, Jonathan handed me my glasses, and he gave it a swing. He whooped from fear and joy. He did not break his legs either. We hiked to the bottom of the mountain, then came back up and did it again.

I highly recommend it for anyone who needs a jolt, some joy, or who has forgotten what freedom feels like.

I went to sleep last night replaying that feeling in my head--of swinging out, out out into space--free, kicking or in free fall, turning or not.

For 10 seconds, I was the daring young girl on the flying trapeze. I miss her so much.