Thursday, December 1, 2011

Sometimes You Hear Something...

Sometimes you hear something so beautiful you want to cry.

Theo has been singing in chorus for two years. It seems they work on the same songs for years, and, if I am totally honest, they don't seem to get much better. They sing fun songs. They try to do harmonies. It is never quite good enough to pull off for the concerts. So why does he keep doing it? I love the chorus teacher.

Plus, Theo loves to sing. He wakes up singing every morning and he always has--even before he knew any songs. That is just how he opens his eyes to the world.

But yesterday he sang "Ben," the Michael Jackson song. I never knew it, or had even heard it. But it is an incredibly beautiful song--and happens to have the name of my second son.

Theo began to sing in the sweetest voice I had ever heard him sing with. He sang this sweet sweet song about a boy named Ben--but he might as well have sung to his brother.

It was beautiful. So so, soooo beautiful. Michael Jackson would have cried. I swear to you.

I wish you could hear him. Right here.

I Wish My Name Were...

The other day Benji, first grade, had a fun assignment. Come up with a name for yourself, and say why. They were looking for He-who-runs-to-the-top-of-the-mountain, or He-who-eats-spinach, or He-who-scores-goals. Something Indian-ish. Instead, Benji wrote, "I wish my name were Eliot, because it would be fun."

He has never known an Eliot, met an Eliot, seen an Eliot. How did he even come up with it?

Jonathan poitned out he actually has a half uncle (who none of us have ever met) named Eliot.

i have been wondering about it for two days. Where did it come from? And why?

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Into the Deep Middle Ages

Yesterday I turned 45.

Just when I felt I was getting used to the Forties, I am heading towards 50.

I loved 44. I am a double digit girl and always have been. Double digits bring me luck and they run through my life like a magical current. I was born in '66, graduated from college in '88, and until a few days ago I was 44. (And yes, I loved 11-11-11, and it was a very good day).

It was a good year. A lucky year. A year of fruition after lots of years of slow, quiet and important growth. I ran a marathon, got two of my best magazine articles ever published (and the ones I am proudest of), hiked the Grand Canyon Rim 2 Rim 2 Rim, got a new job that is cool and different and doing some good for kids and schools, and am making the most money I ever have, when I wondered if I would ever make real money again.

I am growing, I am learning, I am lurching a little.

I am tired, I am excited, and I love my life.

A strange astrologist trained in an arcane system of Indian astrology told me in a small garden tea hut last January that my life would start getting better and more productive in the spring. Or at least new things would start happening. And that is true. He predicted a super productive five years (as long as I wore a moonstone on my wrist to balance my energies, which I am not doing).

I am still here and glad to be alive for one more year on this sweet earth.

For my birthday we went to Yosemite, the four of us, and spent two nights in a little tent cabin in Curry Village, with a heater and a single light bulb. We worried we would freeze, but ended up hot. The boys threw snow balls of dirty left over snow and prayed for a blizzard, and the Valley smelled like fall. On Saturday Benji said he felt like the next day would be Christmas. We hiked up to Vernal Falls and then Nevada Falls and my boys were so amazing they became celebrities on the trail. We ate dinner at the Ahwahnee, in the grandest dining room I have ever seen-one that bears an uncanny resemblance to Hogwarts.

Yosemite is one of my favorite places in the world, and after a weekend of hiking and climbing and soaking in that beauty my bucket is full and I am ready to forge on and do my best in the world. I will post a picture here, I promise.

This year I hope I will start my newspaper--for real!--fix my bike at the bike kitchen and do a triathlon, take guitar lessons and become really good at guitar, and go somewhere amazing I have never been before with my husband and boys. I hope Jonathan and I will start some amazing and bold venture together--something creative and different that will grow and do good and make us a good living.

To all who make my life rich, and sweet, Thank You. I am grateful.

Signing off for now, from the Middle Ages.

Sunday, November 6, 2011

Follow Your Jealousy

Joseph Campbell tells us to follow our bliss. I believe in that--but sometimes I also believe you should follow your jealousy. If someone is doing something that makes you crazy with jealousy, with longing, that makes you agitated and restless and like you need to go running or DO SOMETHING!@#$#@! then maybe, just maybe, you should be doing more of that yourself.

I like my life. I do. I am grateful for so much.

But occasionally pricks of other realities come poking through and I have a glimpse of roads not taken, things not done, passions not pursued, lives not lived. An alternate Hilary universe.

This week it happened twice, and it was most uncomfortable.

First, my brother and his family went to Naples, Italy, where we lived when we were young. After a lifetime living in a villa on the Bay of Naples, our godparents (I claim them as mine, but really they are only godparents to my two siblings) will most likely leave their home (and our fantasy escape) forever and move to New Zealand. All three of us are filled with memories of Naples so deep and evocative that you can see that Italian influence laced through all three of our lives in different ways. Me, I live in a home that looks Italian on a hillside looking out on another hillside full of twinkling lights like a Neapolitan cliffside. The neighborhood is even slightly chaotic and dilapidated, like the Naples I knew as a child. At night, the smells are similar to a Neapolitan evening, and the herbs and plants and lizards that grow here are like the Italian city that seduced me for good when I was young, and left me searching for them ever since.

I am so happy for my brother, that he took his family to our beloved place. That his girls danced and explored and played hide and seek and pretended to be Roman statues just as we did. I love knowing that the taste of Neapolitan pizza and Italian gelato and Pompeian adventures is now stuck in their heads, too. When I saw his girls playing where we had played I was so happy it is hard to convey. I want that for my boys, too. I want them to eat zucchini pasta on Capri and to climb the Phoenecian steps. I want them to skip and run over Roman ruins and to see vespas with handsome men, beautiful women clinging to their waists, screaming up cobbled streets. I want them to look at Vesuvius looming over the Bay and to know what a real Neapolitan pizza tastes like.

Then, last night, Jonathan invited over a BBC correspondent and his new wife. They had moved here from Thailand, where he was a correspondent, and she was some sort of diplomat. They were wonderful, smart, worldly, curious and well-traveled. I guess they are what I was once--and what I thought I would be. And they still delighted me. I felt the jealousy surge--wasn't my life supposed to be like this? Full of tales of Thailand and Libya and celebrity and adventure?

I lived that life for awhile. Then stopped.

And here I am.

I can still go to Italy, and I will take my boys. I hope they will fall in love with Italy the way my brother's girls have. But the life of a foreign correspondent is dead to me--an option that has been truly shut down and put to sleep. I may travel again, and live abroad, but my former profession is dying and I would not put myself in danger with kids.

I love my choices. I love my screenwriter husband, my Hollywood life, my boys. I love California, the national parks, the sound of Spanish in this my unlikely, but adopted home of Los Angeles. I love our charter school and the life we have created here.

Still, for one week, as I approach my 45th birthday (eek!) I felt the surge of not-quite-regret, but of some slivers of dreams lost, choices made, options closed. Not forever. I can break them down and try to pick out the parts I want. But I guess it is a part of middle age that you come to terms with where you are, you do not lie, or fool yourself with promises of what can be. You look with cold hard eyes at what you have. Then you thank the world for all the things you have (and I have so much!) and figure out the essence of those things you wish you had, the source of those pricks of jealousy.

And you take them, and work towards them, to make them happen, before you die!

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

In the Land of the Zombies

The days are getting shorter, the mornings darker. Still, in a feeble attempt to keep my sanity I rise at 6:30 and try to run a couple of times a week before work. It keeps my nerves in check, and my breathing steady. I dread getting up, but it makes me happy.

When I started the day was bright, the sun up. I could see downtown when I crested my final hill. Now, I set out in the pitch black. I am running in the moment when the street lights have gone out, but the light has not yet come.

I run across the Hollywood Bowl parking lot, under the freeway underpass, and across into a sweet little neighborhood called the Hollywood Dell full of cute houses, lots of hills, and, early in the morning, coyotes, rabbits and sometimes deer.

But as the economy gets worse, and the mornings darker, I am seeing other wildlife. I am there when all the homeless people rise from behind their bushes and rocks and park benches. I am there when they come out of the woods and parks dressed in black, with their hoodies still pulled tight over their heads. They are half-awake, just like me, stumbling out of strange places to begin the day.

I do not scare easily. But the other morning, I suddenly felt I was in the land of zombies. All these people, who feel groggy and half-dead, and invisible to the world most of the time, were awake, with me. Alone on the streets.

Is this why zombie movies are so popular right now?

Because when you are awake when the rest of the world sleeps, this is the world you see?

Monday, October 10, 2011

Fiber Arts

Necklaces, bracelets, hats, ropes. My boys have been compulsively finger-knitting, competitively finger-knitting, for every spare moment. During quiet time, on the sidelines of their soccer games, early in the morning, in their rooms late at night. They have knit long enough tubes to go across the San Francisco Bay--or at least to stretch from upstairs, down the stairs, around the corner and across the living room. It is competitive, it is creative, it is fun!

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

This One's For You, Ruth!

Here is the new do!

And another view!

Ruth, I hear the man in your life does not love your hair as much as I do. Well, the men in my life don't love my new short, sassy do either. But I did it for me! I cut my hair as a metaphor for change and a sign that things are going to be different and I embrace that--with my hair!!!

This was in the salon, the day it was cut, blown out and cute. I felt good.

Since then my hair has flipped out--it does not know what to do with itself. I look wacky and weird and have strange lumps after I sleep. Still, I am happy. And I saw your hair, and I like yours, too.

Across the ocean, we are receiving similar hair messages--cut it short, swing it around, be a sassy, smart woman.

You look cute, sweet niece. Send me another picture of you and I will post it here, on my blog!

New hair for a new life! That's my motto!

Saturday, July 2, 2011

Vacation! After Just Two Days!

We broke the news to the boys that I would be going back to work about three weeks ago. They were vaguely interested. They know I write stories sometimes, and am preoccupied. Perhaps they thought it would be like that. All out, then quiet again.

So on the second day, (a Friday) Theo said:

"Are you going to work again?"

"Yes," I said. "I am."

On the third day, (a Saturday) he asked again:

"Are you going to work today, too?"

"No," I said. "It's the weekend."

But I realized, for him, my work is a brief sprint, when I seem distracted and absent, and then, soon, it is over.

This will be different. I cannot even bear to tell him how different.

Not yet.

One day at a time.

Thursday, June 30, 2011

Back to Work

Today was my first day at my new job: I am chief of staff for Tamar Galatzan, School Board Member. I am thrilled to be working for her. She is smart, a clear-thinker, wants to do good, and cares. She is also tall and strong, an Amazon like me. She is cool. You can read more about her on her web site.

The job came about through a series of coincidences so bizarre that though I never intended to go down this road, I swear I felt I was being sent a sign from God. I care deeply about the issues, the pay is good, Tamar is awesome, and this is a chance to learn about LAUSD from the inside out. Oh, the access! It is a journalist's dream! I am, officially, classified. On a completely classified floor, in fact. Security feels tighter than the Pentagon. I kid you not.

It is a chance to effect change, in a completely different way than as a journalist. But I will use many of the same skills, too--writing, investigating, asking questions, getting out in the field and finding out what is really going on, then fighting for that cause, through writing, attention, diligence, truth-telling.

My heart is a little twisted, and lurches here and there. I am excited about the job, thrilled in fact, but also emotional about leaving my boys for so much of the time. What will it be like? How will my heart handle it? I have been such a full time mother. Withdrawal symptoms will be severe. And though I wish it were not so, I happen to believe the greatest kids do have someone who loves them in an extraordinary way around most of the time.

I am also, for the moment, suspending my dream of starting my community paper. This caused me so much distress I took to bed for a week. But I have vowed to myself that I will keep forging ahead with my dream, and try to launch more slowly on line this fall, with no ads, build a reputation, and then be ready in the future to take it out in print. I have a logo, dear readers, and soon I will post it here. Remind me of this dream, devoted readers, fellow writers, all lovers of stories and news. Because beyond this immediate job, I feel starting this community paper is something I am meant to do in this life. I just need to help our family achieve a little financial stability in these tumultuous times. And to have a little money socked away for me to put up those initial investment costs without panicking. You know what I mean. I know you do. But I beg of you, hold me to my promise.

I will try to write still, yes I will, indeed writing here may be even more important than it has been. But perhaps this blog was a record of my time at home, my time with my boys, a journal of the quiet moments of motherhood that are not glorified by society, but are so beautiful they can make your heart ache. It was a record of both the joy and the loneliness of making the choice to be a stay at home mother in a society that does not value motherhood.

Or perhaps this blog will be a place to record what it is like to go BACK to work, after being off.

I am not sure yet.

I do not know.

But I will keep you posted.

Right here.


Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Happy Birthday Benji!

On Guard!

My boy is 6.

Here he is, KIng Benji, armed with his magic sword.

He had his party on Sunday--with his entire kindergarten class and parents and siblings. No lines. No exclusion. Just for one day, all were invited. It was a castle party and they came as queens (I was the Queen Mother), princesses, knights (Theo and many boys), jesters (Jonathan) and other royalty. They bounced in a medievil castle bouncer, and we played Castle-themed games (What Time Is It Mr. Dragon?, Treasure Hunt, Jump the Moat, Capture the Flag, Dress-Up relay race -- Magicians vs. Jesters), canonball (water balloon) toss.

He was delirious with joy, even if, at the end of the party, he went and sat alone and exhausted in the Mini with all his gifts, crown still on his head, sword in his hand. It had been his day, for once, and it was his mountain of presents, for once.

It was hard for Theo, who has had many large parties (and wanted them, Benji was too shy). Theo came up with most of the games, but then could not stand that this was not HIS party. Ah, to be the oldest child on a day like this. So hard to give up the power, the attention, the gifts. And for once, Benji got gifts Theo wanted. It was a test for the big boy, and he did not do well.

But to my boy, today is the real day.

We had crepes and nutella for breakfast, and one gift, just one, and a Happy Birthday banner in the breakfast nook.

He was so happy.

And I am so happy he is here.

I love his sweet, sweet heart, his giant puppy feet, his little lisp, his crazy belly laugh, his 6-year-old earnestness, his guts (he will try anything), his freckles, his blue eyes, and his blond eyelashes. I love his snuggles and his self.

Friday, May 20, 2011

Parking Karma

This is one of the entries, influenced by reading too much Haruki Murakami--of a life where things are so placid on the surface, but underneath you imagine great heaving changes, and a whole other strange world of curious characters and destinies.

So all my life I have never had great parking karma. Not bad. Just not good. And I don't really are. I don't mind walking a bit. I don't usually use valet. I have gotten my share of tickets, for sure, and I tend to push the limits of legality--a trait I inherited from my father.

My father would circle blocks praying: "Oh, Lord, please help me find a parking spot." When he did, he would always lecture us about how God cared about even the smallest thing, if we would just ask. I wondered why God would waste his energy on helping my father find parking places when there is so much to be done in the world. I would never waste a prayer on parking.

So it went.

But parking has started to become a major issue in Los Angeles. Street parking is expensive, hard to find, and now the meters have sensors telling the parking dudes when to pull up and just WAIT until the meter ticks over to zero. Jonathan just sets an alarm on his cell phone telling him when time is up. But me, I just wing it.

That is the backstory. Never had bad luck, never had good, never really cared.

But suddenly, what a change. I have found miraculous parking places day after day, with an hour right on the meter. I have had people open gates for me, let me in, then shut gates behind me.

I do feel the parking Gods are looking over my shoulder and taking care of me.

Not significant, but what a boost. And it feels like movement, good luck, heading my way.

The universe is aligning with me, pushing me where I want to go, just like a character in a Murakami novel.

Thursday, May 19, 2011

Three Things

Here are three small things that never, ever fail to bring me joy.

1) FRESH VEGGIES: My farmer's market basket that arrives at school every Wednesday filled with fresh, local produce of the season. "Benji, Theo and vegetables," the principle says into her walkie-talkie in the car-pool lane. I dig in, inhale the dirt and green and fruit, and then I put my hand into the produce grab bag like a pirate to see what surprises, what treasures lie within.

2) HARUKI MURAKAMI: Every time I pick up one of his books, and disappear into his strange, bizaare Japanese detective novel/psychological thriller/journey into the unconscious novels I am thrilled and all my love of life, of mystery, of Japan, is restored. He never, ever lets me down. For me, he is the perfect novelist.

3) MY BOYS: Watching them go down the steps in the morning, their backpacks on their backs--Theo gripping his wand and the Harry Potter tome du jour, Benji just skipping, checking his strawberry plants, and looking at the sky. Then all of them piling into the little red mini with Jonathan like clowns, and zooming off down the road listening to the Beatles and doing math challenges in the car.

Tuesday, May 17, 2011


Sometimes it feels like the world is on fire and everything is happening at once in every direction so fast you can't even keep up but you are scrambling and trying and it is good, so good, and you just keep running and praying you don't fall down.

That was last week.

Sometimes everything slows so completely to a stop that it feels like the world has died, everyone you know is asleep, and you are on hold, alone, forever, outside of time, outside of place, in a place where nothing ever happens at all.

That is this week.

Monday, May 2, 2011

Too Dry!

After a winter and spring of wet it is dry, unbearably dry, in Los Angeles.

Everything is still green and lush--for maybe a week more-but the air is so devoid of moisture I wake up every hour at night with my throat parched and sore, reaching for water.

The weather is beautiful, with cloudless blue days and gorgeous golden light, but my lips are chapped and my nose keeps bleeding.

I long for Maple trees and blue lakes and green places, where I think my body might be happier.

I am not meant for the desert.

Thursday, April 28, 2011

Checking in with My Gardening Muse

It's year two of my garden and I feel less fear. I have also given less attention.

But I do feel different; I have faith the plants will grow, some will die, and most of it will not be my fault as long as I turn up and water. That is just the cycle of things.

I tried not to overcrowd my plants, because last year I crammed so many plants in each box that the plants had to grow OUT of the boxes seeking sun, and some died beneath the leaves of others.

I had compost this year to use for planting. A year of vegetarian trash has been converted into deep, loamy soil filled with earth worms. I was amazed. Jonathan really could not believe it.

Also, after two years at LCW and gardening classes, Theo really is confident in the garden. He knows what he is doing, and he does it without fear. He shakes out the roots and plants them tenderly. He grows potatoes and plants seedlings. He could work in a nursery. He just inspires confidence.

I put in peas and tomatoes (a big variety, no neurotic heirlooms) and squash and cucumbers and eggplant and zucchini and three sweet caroline watermelons (a weakness: sometimes I pick my plants just for the poetry of their names)

I went up to visit my fledgling garden on Sunday and nothing seemed to have grown. Animals had dug holes, and a few plants had lost their lives. It was neither exciting, nor depressing. But I was nervous to show Jill Tanner, my gardening muse.

But today I invited her up for a look. She climbed up the terraces in her stylish black top, designer sunglasses and black flats, and praised me and encouraged me.

Oh, I lapped it up like child.

"Your garden looks great!" She said. "Great job with the compost! Oh, your plants look so healthy. Your peas won't survive, you need some new watermelons, plant them in the other corner for more sun, and I would err on the side of overcrowding. Yes, I will give you a sungold seedling (our most favorite tomato--so sweet it tastes like candy). Oh, you are doing so well!"

I felt like an initiate. Still a beginner, but more confident. I can do it.

This weekend, watermelons, pole beans, and some wacky strains of cucumber (last year I fell in love with an Armenian cucumber, all prickly and lemon-flavored).

I feel proud. Very proud.

Pictures to come. I promise.

A Thought...

If I pushed myself as hard as I pushed my boys, if I planned for myself as much as I plan for them, if I practiced something myself as much as I work to make them practice, if I did as much homework on something every day as I make them do, what would happen?

It is only fair that I should try. Don't you think?

Recession Gourmet

I love to cook.

This does not mean I am a great cook, but I do love to cook. I love to be in the kitchen, surrounded by people I love (a restless husband, children drawing or doing homework, or girlfriends sitting at the table and telling me great and funny stories.) I like to sip a little wine, crank up some really great music to annoy my neighbors, throw open the windows and doors so the late afternoon spring sunshine streams in, and offer tastes along the way to all the hungry people waiting around. (boys, friends, husband). That really does make me happy. Like I am feeding the world.

At least my little world.

When I first had people to cook for (first a husband, then some boys) I was so happy I probably went a little crazy. I could no longer live on yogurt and aglio and olio. I had people to cook for! To nourish!

Back then, when cooking for people still felt new, I loved to pick exotic recipes and then hunt down the crazy--and obscure--ingredients--from all over L.A.. It was a great way to tour this town of ethnic districts. Indian spices in Atwater. Fish in Glendale. Weird Asian vegetables in Thai town. Expensive European ingredients, Whole Foods and the Mayfair. Armenian specialties, my corner market.

It was my own personal city-wide scavenger hunt.

But I am more tired now, and poorer. I can no longer approach each meal as an excuse to travel from one side of this sprawling city to the other and spend extravagantly on hard to find ingredients from high end cookbooks.

I have to be creative, and make do.

A note on this: my mother was creative, and made do. In some ways this was cool. She grew vegetables, made yogurt from cultures, made jam (that never really hardened, but tasted soooooo good), and could open a refrigerator of nothing and create something delicious. Sometimes I was filled with wonder. Sometimes fear.

She was so frugal that often her eighteenth century approach to saving everything to make something else could go wrong. Like the time she made two giant containers worth of homemade chicken broth and froze them in our basement refrigerator. One turned over, and leaked out onto the floor, and began to putrify. We could not identify the source of the horrible stink in our house. I think our dog found it.

By the time we did find it, the smell was so awful that my father and I had to put handkerchiefs over our mouths like we were running through tear gas, run and get the plastic pitchers, run them outside, dig a hole, and bury them under two feet of dirt. I could not eat chicken broth, or chicken, for twenty years. (Is this what made it so easy to be a vegetarian???)

So you can see there was some trauma in the creative use of food.

But now, with a family of my own, and less money, I have to do some of the same things (minus the rotten chicken broth). When I make a chicken, two days later I make chicken soup. When I cook vegetables, a few days later I dump the leftovers into spaghetti sauce, or risotto, or soup. Often the first round was wonderfully spiced so the flavors travel onto the next dish like a secret hidden spice capsule--hard to detect, but there.

This is a work through the leftovers week, so I am thinking of all this, and how I have changed.

I still love my scavenger hunt for the perfect ingredient. But I also love pulling something leftover from the refrigerator and making it the base of something totally new. I mean I get turned on! I want to dance around the kitchen and cackle! I feel gleeful -- like I pulled one over on somebody.

Today I took our perfectly spiced easter lamb leftovers and threw them into a pot to make harira, the ramadan staple, made of lentils, chickpeas, lamb and other spices. The only ingredient I had to buy was saffron.

I feel so delighted with myself. So resourceful and creative and frugal--but also gourmet.

And I think, this is probably how those women in Morocco felt when they made their harira. They were not running from store to store across a city a million miles wide to get each ingredient. These were ingredients in their house they could pull down in a pinch and slow-cook to deliciousness while they went about their work.

It is a private pleasure--no one can really appreciate but me. I don't want to brag about my frugal creations. But it is a wonder--to create something magnificent out of something that was nearly ready to be thrown away.

And I wonder what my boys will think of me, and my cooking. I mean I know they love it--they cannot help it--it is home. That is a perk of the (mother) job.

But will they remember the scavenger hunts (those can be so fun) or the frugal recreations?

I'll get back to you in 20 years and let you know...

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

What is YOUR Heroic Symphony?

Last weekend we went to one of the fabulous children's concerts at Disney Hall, put on by the LA Phil. These concerts are so wonderful that last year Jonathan and I were practically in tears over the beauty of the music.

So last Saturday we went again (with the boys still dressed in their new baseball uniforms).

The day's theme was "Heroic Composers."

It began with Beethoven's Heroic symphonies, but then highlighted four "heroic" pieces composed by students who had been studying composing on a special two year program. The students seemed to be college age or just past. Or just before. Young.

Each piece had a well-thought out theme, which the conductor explained before it played so we could listen for it. Then the conductor told us what to listen for. For example, the first piece was based on a Nordic creation myth, about the Gods bringing two pieces of driftwood to life. The piece began with "woodwinds," the Gods were represented by magical metallic sounding rhythms and melodies, and "life" was represented by drums--which slowly grew into a hearbeat.

The second piece, written by a video game aficionado, was about an oppressive ruler, an oppressed people, a strain of a folk-song that kept their souls alive, and finally a rebellion. You could hear those things happen!

The third song was about a hero trying to hear his own melody, his own soul, among all the distractions of life, and the modern world. So the beautiful melody was often drowned out by the cacophony, frenzy, allure of the loud, full symphony. But the hero's melody kept coming back, gradually finding itself, and growing. Nice. It reminded me of Jonathan and Theo.

The final hero's journy was about a regular person/hero. This piece was about a hero who had a series of adventures, all separate, barely linked--at least in no obvious way. They were simply movements, separate, beautiful, only vaguely connected. At the end, the "hero" is dying, and at last finds peace, as he looks back at his adventures.

That felt like me!

I know that storyline is in all the myths, but it was so good to hear it as a symphony. That is how I feel about my life. It is composed of a series of adventures. I know they are supposed to build off each other, feed into each other, reflect some larger, well-laid plan. But for me, that has not happen. I have had many "chapters" or "adventures," and the only thing that seems to link them all is me. But I love them all--all my chapters, my adventures--I would not trade one of them in.

I exhaust myself sometimes, looking for some pattern that I hope is there, that I believe is eluding me, and will only emerge later. But for me, I think the only common thread is a sense of adventure, of my own desperate attempt to experience all the world has to offer--in whatever way I can.

And that is enough.

I do not need to find a thread of meaning.

I hope that I, too, when I lie on my deathbed, will feel peace about my adventures.

I also hope I never stop having them.

I say that, because I feel like I am transitioning to a new adventure right now. Funny. This adventure is not grand. There is no leaping from a cliff, climbing on an airplane, growing a baby and birthing it, involved.

But I feel I am on the cusp of new things, new challenges, new ways of being. A new chapter.

And I feel like I need go out and find my Heroic symphony. I will not hold myself to actually writing it--but at least some piece of music that I love, and that seems to speak to some part of my soul.

Perhaps Chopin. Perhaps Mozart. Perhaps Stravinsky.

I will let you know when I find out.

What about you?

What is your journey? What piece of music tells your story? What is the soundtrack of your life (as they say at KCRW)?

Tell me, please!

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Musings on Mothering

My mother was a good mother--mostly--there are many things I am grateful for: her creativity, her intellect, her curiousity about the world (if not about us).

But I also often felt ignored. Like nothing I did mattered. Like my mother was either overwhelmed by my astonishing energy level, or tired of being an (often) single mother, while my father was out at sea, or like she just didn't care. Even now I am not sure if my mother is deeply interested in anything I do. Except my children. She cares deeply about my children (and for that I am grateful.)

But as a parent, I do want my kids to feel loved, like someone is interested in them, like someone sees them, their talents, their gifts, their soul.

The thing is, I have no healthy model.

I was allowed to pretty much run free. There were high expectations of a vague sort set (get the highest grades, be polite, don't be vain, be helpful like a girlscout). There were no real life goals (and I still lack them in some weird sense) and no real personal attention. If anything I think I bored my mother.

I cannot let my children run totally free. That is impossible in the world I live in, or I suppose, I have chosen to live in. And I care deeply that they feel cared for, and seen, as individuals.

But how to do that?

Take today. It is vacation. They are home. I have cooked them a great meal, played chess with both, done a little work on paper mache puppets, done their laundry, and read one of my favorite books to them.

But still I wonder, is it enough? How much is enough?

I have friends whose mothers worked full time who felt seen and beloved, and others like mine whose mothers were home, always there, but did not feel seen.

But where is that line?

As I try to find my line, how much time I am ready to work, I struggle with these questions. No doubt, time itself with children matters--whether passive or active. Maybe not in any IQ type way, but definitely in a sense of self, comfort at the core, I am not wracked with a weird kind of anxiety way.

But then, don't kids just deal with what they have to deal with?

As for me, how do I ever know I have done enough for them. Or is that just motherhood. The loveliness and the trickiness of it. You can let it take over your whole life, and later feel devastated it is over, or you can do bits of this and that.

I have no answers. I just wonder if, for some people, that question of how much is enough, is easier.

OK, off to clean a little, and cook a little, and love a little. I hear a child building behind me, getting ready to ask some questions.

Sunday, April 17, 2011

A Day for Me

Yesterday was my day.

All mine.

I meant to get up and edit a story I was working on. I failed.

I drank two perfect cups of Cuban coffee with cream, dressed in nice clothes, and headed to Beverly Hills for a haircut with my favorite Antonia. She has cut my hair for 11 years and I love her. Just walking into her salon--even if it is only every six months--makes me feel well-groomed and high-maintenance. I love it.

I walked out feeling like a million bucks--my hair blown dry, my split ends long gone. I swished my hair and imagined all the men of the world falling at my feet as I strode by the bistros of Bev Hills.

I hopped in the little red mini and zipped away. Already I was getting pangs of withdrawal. I am such a full-time mother that when I actually have time to enjoy myself, without a list of tasks and must-do memorandae I feel lost, and a little sad. I broke down and checked in. Baseball practice was good and the boys were heading to a friend's house for a dip. The brisket was bought and J had hunted down the sole I needed for my French dinner.

I drove downtown along Sunset, watching the neighborhoods change, through all my favorite parts of LA--Thai Town, Los Feliz. I stopped at Yuca's -- a tiny taco stand I read about in a book about cooking by a British artist--and ate one perfect carne asada burrito and a coke in she sunshine, pouring on so much picante hot sauce my lips were on fire. Ay qhe ricco!

I cruised downtown, my lips still tingling, and found free street parking (Yes!) a few blocks from the Dorothy Chandler Pavillion. I stashed my computer out of sight, and walked Grand Ave.-Eli Broad's dream creation, a stretch of magical architecture consisting of an amazing charter school built by a world famous German architect, Moneo's cathedral, the music center, and down at the corner, Disney Hall. The school is a travesty--a million dollars a classroom in a city where teachers are pink slipped every year and there are over 40 kids in some high school classrooms. But it is beautiful! I had never been so close. It is inspiring. I would have killed to have gone to high school in such a soaring, imaginative, creative space. It changes you.

I walked to the music center, and all of black LA and I were there to see Alvin Ailey. I got a ticket on-line through Goldstar. I have made a decision to honor my great loves. Not just for me (which is hard) but to teach my children to do that, too. I love dance. I love doing it, I love watching it. Deep down I feel I was meant to be a dancer--I love movement, self-expression, music. A psychic once told me that was my intended destiny. That resonated. To me, dance is one of the most beautiful arts.

I sat in my discount orchestra seats and listened as the black audience went crazy like a Gospel service. They were rowdy, appreciative, on fire. The dancers were so beautiful I cannot describe it here. I felt refueled.

I drove home near sunset, L.A.'s best time, and walked into my stocked kitchen and cooked asparagus wrapped sole in a tangerine buerre blanc, with ingredients and a recipe from my farmer's market bag. The dish was so good I shocked myself. And Jonathan. Our kitchen was like the best French restaurant in LA for one perfect meal. I was possessed by a great chef for one evening.

I sipped my wine, put my boys to bed, lay in my bed with the windows open, and listened to the sounds of Rod Stewart and Stevie Nicks wafting through my window from the Hollywood Bowl.

I know I appreciated the alone-ness because my life is so full. If that were my life always I would be slightly sad. But it is different--and wonderful--to move through the world alone sometimes. To see differently, to feel differently, to follow your own loves and impulses in the moment, with no negotiating with little people, no shepherding of boys, and no sales pitch to a sometimes reluctant husband.

I am grateful. Now ready to dive back into all that must be done.

Friday, April 15, 2011

Advice from Someone Better than I. Please.

I have someone in my life who is hard for me to deal with.

She drives me crazy, in fact.

The way she drives me crazy is inappropriate on my part. She should not. But she does.

A wise person once told me, after listening to me rant, that the problem was mine, not hers. I needed to learn how to deal.

And I do.

But I cannot. Or I have failed so far.

My normal response would be to walk away. Because having her in my life is not my choice. But in this particular case I cannot. I can minimize contact, but complete avoidance is not an option.

I try to summon compassion, because compassion is needed--for her, and for myself. But those flashes of gentleness only last for 30 minutes or so.

I am mystified, and also curious. What is it that drives me so crazy? Is it that I am rejected? Is it that I cannot deal at all? It is not much time.

Too little detail, I know. But if anyone, anyone at all out there has some deep wisdom on how to deal with someone you want to avoid, but cannot, please, please, please send it to me.

I am open. And desperate.

Too Much?

This year we have two weeks off for spring break, and for me, it does not feel like too much.

I know, if you are working it is a royal pain. And yes, I had plans, magnificent plans, of all I was going to get done during this period, and need to get done during this period. And will not get done this period (each night I must console myself and tell myself it is OK, I cannot write stories, interview people, edit a magazine story and care for boys all at the same time).

But my boys are tuckered out.

I could feel our engines on low.

I could barely get the boys to do homework or practice piano the weeks before break, and I was getting tired of riding them, too. The math homework doubled right before break and I thought Theo was going to go on strike. And he loves math.

We skiied for three days, that was our super duper extravagant wonderful treat. And now, the boys do not want to do a thing.

They do not want to go on adventures. They do not want to get in the car. They do not want to go to the library, see exhibits, or even go to the park. They are cool with things that we can walk to. But they just want to draw, play chess, sit around in their pajamas, stay up late reading, cuddle and play endlessly with legos and magnatiles. Sure, they get feisty at the end of the day when they have not done enough.

But their need to be bored, to stay still, to not move, to be lazy, outstrips their need to do anything at all.

So I am giving in. Which is hard for me.

We are recharging.

In our pajamas.

Spring Break

Chess in pajamas and underwear, 24/7. That is spring break, 2011.

Thursday, April 14, 2011


Tuesday night we drove back from Mammoth in the dark. The sun set, the road was two lanes and narrow. There were no lights, except cars shooting toward you in the opposite direction. The great dark hulk of the Sierras lay to the right like a sleeping monster. Driving took concentration, and we still had a long way to go.

So Jonathan came up with a game. The boys would come up with the elements, and we would tell the stories. Jonathan asked questions: Funny, funny-scary, or scary? (funny-scary, said Benji). Real or unreal (unreal, said Theo). Fable or fairy tale or science fiction? (fable, said I).

Then you are on. You have to think on your feet and keep weaving your tale, judging your audience reaction by giggles, complaints, and sighs of pleasure and satisfaction. When the story goes off track the audience chimes in to complain. (That is not a fable! or That is not very funny!) Because the goal is to pass the time, you also have to keep the story going as long as possible, so the miles fly by, and hopefully, boys will be lulled to sleep. Jonathan's was great, about a strange visitor, who makes all sorts of wonderful things happen, and solves all the family's problems. But in the end he was not real. The moral: You cannot wait for a stranger to solve all your problems. You have to figure it out yourself."

None of us saw that coming. We were disappointed. The imagination part of the story was very alluring.

Then it was my turn. I got three words: Weird (Theo), Ocean (Benji) and cat (Jonathan). I got to suck in my breath, imagine a setting, then dive in. It is like a strange sort of mental exercise--perhaps the way improv goes if you are really good. I started, and Theo yelled out (you are copying a book, and I know which one!). Harsh audience!

But I wove my tale, about a blue cat who takes to the sea, and eventually saves his mother. There is a lot more to the story, and I will not bore you with it here.

But in the end, I got the most gratifying reward.

I finished, and Benji let out a long, perfect, contented sigh.

"That was good," he said.

Oh, it was the perfect gift for a night-time storyteller. I had cast the spell and he was smitten.

"Did you like Blue?" I asked. (Blue was the name of the sea kitten).

"I want to be Blue," he said.

Oh, be still my beating heart.

No amount of money could compensate me for that perfect appreciation.

Teacher Conferences

It is that time of year, when parents meet with teachers to see how their children are doing. Of course we hope our children's teachers will see the essence of our children's souls, will recognize their brilliance and uniqueness, just like we do.

Things went smoothly. Our children are good students, well-behaved, well-liked, a delight. And even with 22 kids in a class, since our school keeps children with the same teacher for two years, teachers really do get to know your child inside out, and witness their specialness, their unique way of learning.

We were proud of our boys.

But I was surprised. For Theo, the thing that made me proudest of him was not that he is brilliant at math and reading, which I already know on some level (though he does not seem to know...). What made me happiest were a few choice details I could never know without a teacher telling me.

One was that he loves reading so much now that he always has a book in his hand now at school. Every transition, every wait for other children to be quiet, every minute when he finishes his work and has a few seconds to spare, he whips out his book of the day and starts reading. Other children told on him and complained, but the teacher said it was fine. Let him read. That was a sign he was quiet and ready.

Once the teacher said that a movement began. Now there is a group of students who walk from one place to another with their noses in their books, never lifting their heads. Just the idea of it makes me giggle.

The other thing that delighted me was that Theo is the class problem-solver. The teacher, Cassandra, said she throws out problems, and asks the kids to come up with solutions. She said mostly the kids just whine and complain. But, she said, Theo always sits and thinks, and throws out a solution that really helps. The evidence of his solutions was all around the classroom. She showed us lines of tape on the floor with student names--a solution Theo came up with to keep people in an orderly line. Or a solution to who should be the line leader (make it the newly elected student council members, that is fair!)

Cassandra said that if Theo were not there to try to solve the problems she does not know what she would do. Now he is always looking around the classroom for new problems to solve, like a little Ben Franklin looking for ways to improve his immediate environment.

May he always be that: a problem-solver, rather than a whiner.

(p.s.-I am not ignoring Benji here--he is just still less academic--)

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

My Boy

My boy is a cipher.

Not just to me. To everyone who knows him. And loves him.

I am talking about Theo, here, my highly articulate, hyper-intelligent, wise-beyond-his years, highly intuitive child.

It is not that he does not talk. He does talk. About space ships and clone wars and things he wants to build. About magnatile constructions and contraptions and stories he has read. He can talk and talk for hours. But the times when he actually opens up and reveals an emotion are so rare I could count them on one hand.

When he does, they are so powerful I am left reeling--either because he has held all that inside, or because his thoughts are so sophisticated.

Fine, you say. Why worry?

I don't know.

I know he is happy. I know he knows he is loved. I know he is surrounded by friends and family who appreciate him.

I also know he is highly sensitive. When we talk about powers that the boys have (and make them like superheroes) Theo will say: Benji has a super nose, and I have super ears and super-emotions.

"What do you mean?" I asked him. It was such an unusual superpower. Nothing you see on TV or read in a comic.

"I can tell what people are feeling," he said simply. And that is true.

But no one can tell what he is feeling. I worry only because I want him to have somewhere to turn. I want him to know that talking can make him feel better. I don't want him to hold all his worried and fears inside his eight-year-old self. I want him to practice talking and knowing others are there for him. When he is sad I want him to tell me what is bothering him so I can help. I am close to having super-emotions, too, so I can tell when he is down. But most of the time he will not say what it is that makes him blue.

Sometimes I worry that Benji gets all the loving. We still cuddle him like a baby and he asks for it, indeed demands it. Theo cuddles in the morning, but he is older and we let him go off and read. But when I do go to him and cuddle him, or hold him and hug him, he is happy, but he does not say a word.

This morning, overcome with worry, at 6:45 a.m. I snook into his room and slipped into bed and cuddled him. He slipped right into my arms but did not wake up. Then he lay there until about 7:10 when he rolled over and I suddenly realized he had been awake all, if not most, of the time, just pretending to be sleeping in my arms.

"Were you awake the whole time? I asked.

"Yes," he said. "I just wanted to keep cuddling. You are so cuddly."

And that is so him. He loves it. He needs it. He wants it. He wants it so much he is afraid if he says he is awake it will disappear. But he will not ask. And perhaps I do not give enough.

I must watch myself.

Jonathan says this quality in Theo will make him a great actor. He holds so many emotions in his eyes you cannot tell what he is thinking. He has layers and layers there. You could look in those brown eyes forever and be uncertain. They are shifting and moving and ultimately unreadable--but not closed. Inviting. Just right when you think you have nailed what you are seeing he shifts, and he is something else.

But for me, his mother, I just wish I knew what he was thinking.

I want him to feel safe. Loved. Ok.

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

My Paper

Did you know the Wright Brothers published a newspaper? And Ben Franklin did, too?

I am telling you this because I am going to get my paper up and running by this summer. Wherever it leads, wherever it takes me, whether this is a stage, or a class in the college of life, or a resting place, I am going to do it, too. My ideas are evolving. At times my terror/excitement rises to a point where I cannot sleep. But I am meeting with local businessmen, talking with my amazing, talented, stylish designer, and moving forward.

If I ran the marathon, I can do this. If I have to learn on the fly, I will.

If I stumble along the way, that is OK.

I am going to do it.

Stay tuned.

I am a Walking Billboard for my Beliefs...and for Alix!

One thing Jonathan and I have thought a lot about is where our money is going, and what we are supporting in the world, both consciously and unconsciously. For example, I know that my money in the stock market is going to companies whose goals I do not support. I try, on a lazy, not very informed level, to steer clear of the most egregious abuses by corporations. But I have no idea where my small stocks in emerging economies fund at USAA is putting my money, or what I am really supporting. I sometimes find this unnerving.

Add to that that my sons are constantly being given or receiving clothing that asks them to advertise. I try not to let them wear it, but it takes determination on my part to keep company logos off their person.

Still, I try. I try to support things I believe in, and promote them, and to steer clear of bad things that make the world worse. Hard.

I have a dear friend named Alix, who I have written about before. A silversmith who trained in Israel, she runs a jewelry company and transforms found objects into whimsical and beautiful jewelry.

I have given her work to many people. And I always think that she should come out here and sell her stuff. Her intelligence, whimsy, style and eco-consciousness would appeal to the L.A. demographic.

So yesterday I received a box from Alix filled with jewelry. There is a swizzle stick bracelet made of swizzle sticks from all over California (and Doug's auto body shop!), there are necklaces and a charm bracelet and earrings made from used counter tops (counter culture). I am overwhelmed by her generosity. But also believe deeply in her products, in what she is trying to do, in her approach to art and life. I love them!

And so, I have committed, for one month, to wear a piece of Alix jewelry every day. Of course I will go into stores I think would love to sell her stuff. But I am going to be a walking billboard for my friend, and I am going to carry her cards in my wallet. I am going to wear clothes that show it off to advantage, and wear my hair back so you can see the earrings.

I am going to talk about it, and sell it.

Click around her web site. And if you have any questions, ask me. I am a spokesperson, too!


Gratefulness Journals

People swear by them. Happiness scholars say that keeping a gratefulness journal can significantly boost happiness. The reason is, it shifts your mind from a focus on what is lacking, to a focus on what is good. You remap your mind.

There are studies supporting this thesis. And following my cancer therapy experience (for my not yet scheduled to run story on an integrative cancer center at UCLA that is doing groundbreaking and fascinating things) I kept one to try to manage my underlying anxiety.

It feels like nothing for the first few days. Someone like Jonathan could never do it. The only rule is: you cannot say the same thing every day. It has to be specific and thoughtful. I could not write each day: I am grateful for Theo, I am grateful for Benjamin, I am grateful for Jonathan. Even if that is true I must write something specific and evocative of that day.

Here is what the exercise does. Or at least what it did for me: it showed me what really makes me happy. I think that what makes me happy each day is my ambition, my perceived achievements (or lack thereof), how much money I have, or other cliched but also true, eternally human concerns.

But what really makes me happy are the feeling of the spring breeze on my face, hearing my boys sing Dear Prudence, listening to Benji read Little Bear, playing the piano myself, badly, playing chess with Theo, hearing my boys laugh really really hard, sitting while Jonathan cooks dinner, or planting my garden.

This is empowering, because I realize that most of the things that I savor every day are simple, accessible, do not require money, and no one can take them away from me. And the simple fact is, no matter how much I want to be successful, or not have financial worries, or write the best story ever, or publish my newspaper, these little moments are what make my life rich.

And they are always there if I pay attention.

That is liberating.

What about you? Where do you stand on the ubiquitous idea of gratefulness journals? Have you ever kept one? What did it do for you?

I Am Healed

My body is recovered. My blisters have peeled away. My mango rash has subsided. Only my black and blue toenails remain as evidence of my marathon madness, but this week I will go and get them painted at my local nail salon and I will look almost as good as new.

And a confession: I still have no desire to run a marathon EVER again...but my body wants to run. It is strong, it is addicted, and now that spring is here and the hills are green my body is saying run, run, run.

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Monogamy Waltz

If you swapped cars with your husband for a day, slipped into the driver's seat, looked across to the passengers side and saw an unprofessional looking CD called, the Monogamy Waltz, what would you think?

If you turned on the car, the stereo came on, and said unprofessional CD was playing those monogamy waltz's, where would your mind go?

I scanned the package. No names I recognized. No reasons. Nothing.

What is going on with my husband?

This feels two steos awat from the promise keepers.

I will keep you posted...

Mango Rash

When I first tasted a mango, I fell in love. I lived in Seattle, was shopping at the PCC, came across it, cut it open and sucked it right out of the skin.

It was, quite simply, the most amazing thing I had ever tasted. I plunged my face into that fleshy fruit and ate it and sucked it and devoured it.

Twenty four hours later--or less--I developed a strange rash all around my mouth. I made no connection. But I looked really weird and contagious--like a sick clown.

When I went to the U Dub clinic they said I had mango rash. Unbeknownst to us of the colder climes, mangos have a toxic agent in their skins like poison ivy. If it touches your skin--or at least the skin of sensitive people like me--it causes a rash, just like poison ivy. Only on your lips. Horrific!

The doc called in the residents and they all stood around me and stared and probed and looked. Amazing. What a mango can do.

That should have been the end of mangoes for me, but I love them too much to steer clear.

And now my boys love mangoes. I hate peeling them, and I always tell them the story of mango rash, and I cut them far away from the skin, because they, too, have sensitive skin. Especially my fair-haired Benji.

So the other day we went a little crazy. We had two or three mangoes. The Mexican and the Indian, the yellow and the red. We compared and savored.

And today, as I woke up and licked my lips I felt the tell-tale itching around my lips.


So itchy. So awful. And I still don't think I could turn down a mango if someone handed me one.

(I will NOT show you a photo).

Friday, March 25, 2011

Today I am Tired

The endorphins carried me through Thursday. My body is no longer sore. I did yoga this morning and stretched out. But I am tired. So tired.

I feel like I could go to bed now and not wake up til Sunday.

Recipe to Beat the Blues

If you are down, or beat, or blue and need to get out of your funk, I invite you to come to LCW for morning sing.

There, every Friday morning, 88 kids will sing with their wacky/cool music teacher Matt. Parents line up along the back and sides, sipping coffee, holding younger siblings, dragging visiting grandparents, and they try, they just try NOT to sing.

The children sing Willie Nelson, Miss Piggie, and A LOT of Beatles.

When you hear a school full of five to nine year olds belting out "Dear Prudence, won't you come out to pla-a-ay" you cannot be sad. You sing, too. And the world just feels sweet.


Affection was one of Theo's spelling words this week and though he spelled it correctly, his sentence showed he was confused by the meaning. Perhaps he thought it meant "infection"?

I looked at his sentence and asked, "Do you know what affection means?"

He said, "I don't think so."

He was sitting in the nook, doing his homework at the kitchen table. I said, "Slide in."

I said,"This is affection."

I put my arm around him, snuggled close, and kissed him all over.

I said, "Do you understand?"

He said, "I am going to say I do not understand what it means so you will keep doing that."

So much like Jonathan! It could have been Jonathan.

Now that he has mastered the meaning (along with the spelling) he has put it to good use. He asks me at night before bed, and in the morning before school, and when something get him down (like losing his second student council race...): "Mommy, can you give me some affection?"

I say, "Spell it!"

And then I give him some loving.

Thursday, March 24, 2011

Good-Bye Elizabeth!

I never knew you in your rapturous heyday, I was too young. By the time I came of age, you were just tabloid fodder on grocery newstands.

But I love your passion for life, love, food, men, and your gorgeous lavendar eyes.

And I love these two quotes, which I feel from the heart, and absolutely plan to adopt as my own:

"Enough is never enough."

"My personal philosophy of beauty is to always believe something wonderful is about to happen."


Marathon Aftermath

I was going to upload a picture, but too gross.

First, I was going to upload a picture of my marathon toes. One black and blue. Then a huge blood blister on another toe. And a third that just looks inflamed and sad. But I will spare you.

Then, I was going to upload a picture of my running shoe.

After the marathon as I sat in the car and the rain poured down, flooding the streets, I asked Jonathan if I should take off my shoes. No, he said. Don't.

But my feet had been in soggy shoes for nearly five hours, so I took them off. My left sock was bloody, but so wet I could not find the source of blood. Later I realized I had a huge blister on my heel that rubbed til it bled. But seriously, it never hurt. I guess my body, while ranking all the various pains, said, that blister bleeding on your heel is nothing. Nothing compared to your muscles your chafing torso, and the rest. You know how that is, sometimes you are so in the zone that it is only afterwards that you look down and see the wear and tear on your body. Shocking.

After the race I put my shoes outside, in hopes they would dry. It has really never stopped raining since Sunday--not for more than six hours--so my shoes are still heavy like lead. This morning I decided I would put them in the dryer. They are special shoes now, marathon shoes.

I lifted them up.

My left shoe--the one with the blister and the bloody sock--is so disgusting. It looks like someone wearing the shoe was shot in the leg. The entire back of the shoe is drenched in dry blood. Red, caked, and a lot of it.

They are like dead man's shoes.

Incredible I could run through that.

I think I will take another day off to rest.

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Pick Yourself

Ok, I am secretly addicted to the blog of Seth Godin, a new-age, rah rah, smarty pants publisher/entrepreneur. I do not even know what he is exactly, but I like his blog, his wisdom, and his big bald head, which you click on to get to his blog (this delights me every time). For where I am right now, he speaks to me.

Yesterday (or sometime in the last couple of days) he wrote this.

It was exactly the topic Jonathan and I have been discussing endlessly these last few weeks, as we did our taxes (how depressingly low our income is!) and assessed our life (we are so happy, but we need to make some serious changes!)

We have always been picked. Picked by the teachers, picked by our friends. We have been picked for great colleges and picked for great jobs. We have been picked for scholarships and honors and friendship. We are grateful. But perhaps being picked keeps you passive.

No one is really being picked right now. If you are waiting to be picked, no matter how talented you are, you could be waiting a long time. You could write books, have a child, train for a marathon, learn a language or an instrument, in the time it might take you to be picked. It didn't used to be that way. But the old institutions are dying, no one knows what is going on, or where the world is going, or what the next model of ANYTHING is going to be, so all the traditional pickers are frozen, unable to do any picking.

This can make you feel really bad about yourself if you are waiting to be picked.

And it is hard to change, if you are used to being adored, courted, told you are smart. If you are used to sitting and waiting for someone to say, "I want you!"

Those days are over. If you want to do something, do it yourself. If you want to make something happen, start now. If you want to be picked, pick yourself.

Seth Godin says it better than I do. But maybe if I write it twice, and you read it twice, we will all do it.

Monday, March 21, 2011

Just in Case...

You didn't see, here is my Op-ed (no opinion, no editorializing, I promise) about my marathon training.

And, though I never saw them, here is the inspiring story of the two winners.

And just in case you fear I exaggerated the weather conditions on marathon day, check this out.

But if you were here, you know.

Monsoon Marathon

This is me, Mile 16, shot by Erika Quinn, who then jumped in and ran the last 10 miles with me and saved my life!!!!

I finished. I did a marathon. My time was slow, I was so wet I weighed about 800 pounds, and I started crying when I crossed the finish line--combined with some strange emotional asthma attack. But who cares? I finished and I will never do another. I am checking that off my bucket list. Done! I am wearing my marathon medal right now as I type. I think I will wear it all day...even if I go grocery shopping.

The day was insane, from the minute the clock ticked over to 12:01 a.m..

Jonathan returned from a day of writers guild negotiations, and two crazy birthday parties at 12:30 a.m.. At 1:30 a.m. Benji came into our room, stood beside me in the dark and said, "Theo is crying, Mommy."

I went in and Theo was crying in his bed, saying his belly hurt. He is tough, so I knew he hurt.

At 2 a.m. he vomited up three servings of my carbo-load dinner--that is acres of spaghetti, all over his room. I was scared to touch it, because I was so worried I was going to catch a virus in the night.

We cleaned him up, put him to bed by the toilet, and went back to sleep. At 5 a.m. I got up and put on my marathon clothes. J rose with me and drove me to Dodger Stadium in the dark. There was a traffic jam at 5:45 a.m.. He dropped me off and there I was, standing in the chilly pre-dawn darkness with thousands--all of us trying to go to the bathroom one last time!!! J handed me some pepto bismal and I took it. My nerves were out of control.

A woman beside me who had run so many marathons she would not even reveal the number (at least 10, because she rattled off a bunch) said she had decided to run on Thursday to raise money for the Red Cross in Tokyo. How cool. Apparently a bunch of Japanese people were supposed to run a marathon in Japan last week, but with the tsunami, they did not get to run, so Honda, who sponsored the marathon, paid for more than 100 Japanese runners to come to LA to run. They must have thought the tsunami followed them to California when they ran through that deluge. I hope it did not trigger panic again--it was so much rain and cold.

The woman told me to go out slow, and stay conservative until mile 20. Then if I felt strong, go.

The race started late. Then, right as they shot off the gun, the rain started to fall. Big huge drops. Some people shed their Hefty trash bags, so we were running and tripping over them. I kept on my sweatshirt and my big, blue poncho, fished from my ancient bag of backpacking stuff. It was so big you can put a backpack underneath it. It could also function as a sail. We ran down through downtown, China Town, Little Tokyo. It was starting to rain harder, but all of us believed it would end soon. We were happy, and full of energy. There were supposed to be bands and entertainment all along the course, but I think the big bands were afraid they would be electrocuted--so a lot less than was promised. Still, the people who were out to play for us were so amazing it brought tears to my eyes.

On Olvera Street a mini Mariachi band played, all squeezed under a tiny tent. At the top of the hill by Disney Hall a huge band of Kodo drummers slammed out their magnificent rhythms. In the middle of Little Tokyo a strange eccentric man set up his own stage with weird instruments and contraptions and pipes--and played the pipe and the drums and the organ in the rain--belting out "You are my sunshine!"

And the people. They were amazing. The support from all these Angelenos. Of course there were the official volunteers--who were amazing. But there were also all the other people. At Senora de Los Angeles--basically the church for the poor down on Skid Row, people you knew were homeless or barely not, stood and handed us all water. I was so moved.

In Echo Park Latino women chopped up a gazillion oranges as fast as they could, put them in big cooking pans, and stood in the middle of the street handing them out. It felt like pure love.

In Silverlake Jill and Dave and Vivian and Violet came out and cheered me on. Energy!

At Mile 8 I stopped to go to the bathroom. The men went anywhere, on walls, on Dorothy Chandler pavillion, in highway underpasses--but women had to stop, and you had to wait a long time. It was raining harder and harder. When I got out of the bathroom--my enforced 15 minute break--I saw two guys who had started next to me. They were running a mile, then walking for a minute, my exact training schedule. So I latched onto them and we ran.

In Hollywood my beloved husband came out and handed me oranges and ran down Hollywood Blvd. It was starting to rain harder and harder. By now, mile 10, it was getting to be a joke. The rain went between really hard, and torrential. When people threw their cups down after drinking, they would slide into the water and rush along the edge of the road like they were on a river. Just running down Sunset you had to cross pools of water it was so deep it felt like you were fjording a stream in the wilderness. Every drop of us, down to the deepest layer, was wet. My phone wouldn't work--or only intermittently--because it was raining so hard. And J said the entire marathon web site crashed, as millions logged on to try to check the course, and the location of loved ones.

But Erika Quinn, the amazing Erika, jumped in at Mile 16 and ran with us. Now we were four. My running buddies--Rick and Brian (don't know their last names) and Erika. We ran on. She infused us with new energy. She had done a marathon before--but also stayed up til 2 in the morning singing karaoke at a party I had skipped.

On and on and on. My newly forged running buddies said that if we could just make it through the VA hospital grounds at Mile 20 we would be home free. But that place, they said, is the equivalent of LA's heartbreak hill. Just long, slow, uphill, right when you are most exhausted. And it was. We took an extra long walk break there, after the final uphill. On the grounds were what looked like a bunch of semi-deranged vets in camouflage, mostly helping out. But one, who looked especially fierce, saw us, and yelled. "No walking on VA grounds. You gonna walk, get off my property." He was so serious, and so intent, that we started laughing and began to run again.

At Mile 21 I started popping Cliff shots--these weird gummy bear like cubes that are packed with caffeine and who knows what. They are a dangerous, radioactive looking blue. But they did the trick. Erika was supposed to leave (her husband was waiting, trapped in a car in the rain, with three kids five and under) but she was worried J would not make it to the end, so she kept running with us.

At Mile 23 miracle of miracles, Jonathan found me, just as he had promised, without phone or tracking device, and ran the final three with me. Rick ran ahead to beat his time, and Brian, our steady pacer through the whole race hung right behind. We were so close. I knew I would make it. I could feel it. The wind was getting stronger and stronger and stronger.

There was no Mile 25. No marker. No water. And so, for the last two miles, everyone yelled out, "One more mile." But they said it for so long, I began to think I was hallucinating. I was going to be trapped in Mile 25 forever. No matter how far I ran, people were still yelling, "One more mile!" Brian disappeared. Jonathan disappeared. I was alone, and people were still saying, "One more mile!" One guy said, "800 meters!" I could have kissed him. But then the next people were all yelling "One more mile."

The Gods were laughing at me. I was going to die at Mile 25. Worse yet, the rain got harder, and the wind was like a hurricane on the final straightaway.

I finished. I just started crying and had some weird asthmatic attack. All my people were gone. But I did it.

Even now, almost 24 hours later, I cannot believe it.

I guess these were the most insane conditions for any LA marathon ever. It really was like running a marathon through a hurricane. It has never rained this hard for this long. Jonathan said that when he and Benji drove over the Sepulveda pass to Santa Monica it was raining so hard they could not see, and the two of them just starting laughing at the absurdity of it. I ran through that!

I came home. I could not take a cold bath to freeze the lactic acid out of my legs. I was too chilled. J made a fire. I took a shower. I crawled into bed with my sick child, and I lay there, as the rain poured down, and Jonathan cooked barley soup downstairs. I have never smelled anything so delicious in my life. I smelled each ingredient as it went in--mushrooms, garlic, sherry.

I do not know the names of my running companions--but it turned out that the three of us were on KTLA's marathon broadcast. (The boys saw me at home and Benji waved at the television!) By slowing the frame down on Tivo, I was able to get Brian's number--22755. Maybe I can search him down like a detective. Or maybe they can find me through my op-ed piece in the LA Times.

I never saw Gonzalo. I pray he finished well, and that someone he knows sees the story about him and tells him to read it.

As for me. I am basking in my accomplishment. I have never done anything that feels so complete. Usually, when I accomplish some goal, I think, "I want to do that again." Or, "I could have done better." Or, " Next time..." But this time I feel like I did my very best, and I am done. I am moving forward to the next thing. But I regard it as one of my great accomplishments. I NEVER feel like that.

My feet are blistered, I have chafing blisters all over my torso from wet clothing, my body is sore, and I have stuck temporary heating pads on my ankles and knees to relieve pain, but I am proud!

I ran LA's first monsoon marathon!

Thursday, March 17, 2011

All Out Body Freak

At the end of a yoga class last week a man warned me: Your body does crazy things in the final week before the marathon.

He said the week before his he ate carbs, felt bloated and off, and basically felt worse than he had during his whole training period. I will be different, I thought. My body just needs a break.

But here I am. I have done my last training run. There is nothing else I can do. My only job is to rest. And my body is freaking out. Or is it my head?

I have a stomach bug that keeps me up and makes me feel slightly nauseous. I can barely eat. Daylight savings time was last week and I can't sleep, no matter how early I crawl into bed. I can't get up in the morning, either.

And after four months of my knee never twinging a bit in the tearing meniscus region today it started feeling weird. I can't !@#$#%# believe it?

Can my hyper-imaginative head with new extra energy be causing these problems? Am I hallucinating? Or is pulling back actually allowing my body to break down--like when you fall apart after exams because your body is done.

Is my body giving out too early?

I haven't run yet!!!!

I will keep trying to eat good food, go to sleep early, take aspirin to keep swelling in my knee down. Perhaps I will just wear running shoes everywhere I go.

I am flummoxed. But there is nothing I can do but rest.

The germs, the knees, the training--it is out of my hands.

Send me good vibes. Oh, please, let me finish this race! (In one piece, not permanently damaged...)

Three Days to Race Day and What Do I Eat?

Three days to race day and I am panicking. I did not do as I was told and practice eating various powerful, chemical substances to power me through my superhuman quest to finish the marathon.

There is much disagreement about what to eat, but the one thing EVERYONE agrees on is this: do not mix it up on race day. Stick to what you know works for you or things could seriously backfire and you could have who knows what running down your leg.

Our supersonic babysitter, who is a nutritionist, actor and two-time marathon runner suggested going natural. She said drink coconut water, eat dates and oranges. The natural sugars will convert to energy fast. She said after 90 minutes you need something. I tried her recipe on my 20 mile run. It was the first time I had eaten anything and what a difference it made. I felt great. For my next few runs I stuffed dates into my jog bra and munched a date a mile for the final five or so.

Oranges are good, too.

But when I quizzed her more she admitted that she never actually ran a marathon on all natural substances. That was before her high nutrition days and she ate power bars as fuel. If she did it now, that is what she would eat. Untested.

Everyone else I know eats gu, or some chemical gel loaded with caffeeine. Even my internist, who turns out to be a marathoner, told me caffeine shots can improve your time by 7-10%. I was starting to panic.

So last weekend I bought a huge supply of Gu. I slipped gu into my new running fanny pack Sunday (my final long run), with six little elastics especially designed to carry gu. When I reached for the gu at mile six it was gone. I think it fell off my belt before I left the house.

So Tuesday morning on my second to last run I decided to try it pre-run. I ripped open the packet and squirted the tri-berry caffeine gu into my mouth. The taste was so awful it made me gag. I almost threw up! I literally cannot get it down.

Now I was scared. What if I start to collapse and I cannot consume these chemical substances that keep everyone going? What is wrong with me?

In rising terror I messaged my cousin, who has done more marathons and triathlons that I can count. He responded by writing me this hilarious and clever poem.

I will carry his poem with me when I run. I will read it to my fellow runners at the starting line. I wish I could post it on the LA Marathon web site.

I have a stomach bug now, so all I can eat is coke and crackers. ARGHH.

But at least I have a poem. And some wise advice.

Thank you, Michael.

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Love at 5

Theo found his soul mate at Canyon School, when he was three years old. He can still see that girl all these years later and they have some deep bond that no one can touch. It is as if they knew each other in another life. We adults all step back in awe. When you see it, you cannot deny its existence.

But Benji never had a soulmate like that.

Until now.

This year in kindergarten he found Avery. She is so cute that everyone who sees her is smitten. Teachers, parents, other children, every boy in her class, and the principal, too. She is half-Filipino with red red cheeks a heart-shaped face. She is quiet, but then smart and intelligent like an adult.

Benji says she is his best friend. And yes, she says he is hers. They sit beside each other at their table, and on the carpet.

She has come over to play a few times.

She came over Friday, and I got to see my proud son in courtship mode, showing her everything that matters deeply to him.

"These are our plants," he said, showing her our herb garden. "Do you want to water with me? I will water the strawberries. You can water everything else..."

Then, as they sat eating popsicles Benji finished first.

"Would you like me to play a song for you on the piano?" he asked her. He laid out all his music books on the floor and asked her to pick one. She did. And the serenade began.

"Mommy, sing with me," he shouted imperiously, like a night club performer. So I stood behind and sang. Then Avery sat perched beside him on the piano bench like a Forties film star, legs crossed, sitting almost side saddle, leaning into him while he played.

They finished off playing with Benji's remote control car. Benji would control it and try to catch her, chasing her around the house with his remote control dune buggy. She shrieked for joy and laughed uncontrollably.

Love at 5.

It is the sweetest thing ever.

I swear, it nearly broke my heart.

May he always be so free and open with his emotions, sharing his plants, his music, and his remote control technology!

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Words of Comfort from Dr. Seuss

(stolen from Theo)

"You have brains in your head. You have feet in your shoes. You can steer yourself, any direction you choose."

"Today you are you, that is truer than true. There is no one alive who is youer than you."

"From there to here, and here to there, funny things are everywhere."

"Don't cry because it's over. Smile because it happened."

"Today is your day! Your mountain is waiting. So...get on your way."

"If you never did, you should. These things are fun, and fun is good."

"I meant what I said, and I said what I meant. An elephant's faithful, one hundred percent."

"So the writer who breeds more words than he needs, is making a chore for the reader who reads."

"And will you succeed? Yes indeed, yes indeed! Ninety-eight and three-quarters percent guaranteed."

"Sometimes the questions are complicated and the answers are simple."

And, if you want to do the assignment...which do you like, and why?

Words of Comfort from My Hubbie

"Sandra Day O'Connor took five years off to be with her kids. Enjoy it."

Monday, February 28, 2011

Marathon Memories

Sometimes I feel like running this marathon is fate. It is a fate I have tried to deny, but in the end it won out.

And, like everything for people of my generation, I waited until the last minute, until the window of possibility was almost closed, and now I am going to try to tinker with nature and sneak through that closing window...

I waited until the last possible minute to get married, and the last possible minute to get pregnant. I have tried to leave every option open for as long as possible, until the option itself is about to disappear.

I am the daughter of a a man who ran before running was hot. My father started running in the early Seventies so he could eat butter. He wore flat shoes that wore out fast. He has had yellow runner's toenails for as long as I can remember. As a child I rode beside him on my bike as he ran through Mystic. He would push me up the hills when I got tired.

Amby Burfoot, the legendary runner, whose words now appear as a blurb on every real runner's book, used to run by our house in Mystic when I was a child. He had won the Boston Marathon and he would sprint down Noank Road in bare feet, with nothing but a pair of skimpy seventies running shorts, with a big beard. He looked like the Indians we heard used to live in the woods around our house. He had a long, beautiful stride and we would rush to the edge of our yard and watch him go flying by. A clump of slower runners, less beautiful, with shoes on, would come huffing along behind him.

When I was still in elementary school my father decided he would run a marathon. He was still on a submarine, on land for only three months at a time. So he started training on board the submarine, running in place in some grey corner on his submarine. I imagine him trying not to bump his head or his six foot frame on the pipes and doorways inside the ship. When he got home he trained for three months, then ran.

I did not go to the marathon itself. But I remember my mother driving him home. He lay prone in the back of our Vega station wagon, his legs sticking out the back like a big corpse. He could not walk for days. He is in the camp that believes if you cannot run a marathon in the threes, why bother.

Then there are my Ironman Aunt, Uncle and cousins. My Aunt and Uncle co-created the Hawaii Ironman Triathlon. Doing grueling long distance events seems to be normal for them. They are slow. But they keep pushing it.

Every cool friend I have known, practically, has done a marathon.

And Wellesley, my alma mater, was the half way point for the Boston Marathon. On the way to college my mother and I sat beside a man on our transcontinental flight. He asked where we were going.

I said, "Wellesley. You probably haven't heard of it..."

And he said, "Wellesley.." I thought he would go off about the brilliant women who had graduated, how his mother had gone there, all the things that people who know Wellesley say.

But he said, "I love Wellesley. It is the half point of the marathon and those women have saved my life. They are young and beautiful and at mile 13 they surround you and cheer for you and it is so incredible it keeps you going to the end..."

I ran the half marathon for two years after that, just to experience that Tunnel of Love. It was like a hallucinogenic experience. One year I was on such a high after the screaming, beautiful women that I kept running and forgot to stop for two more miles.

I digress. But the point is, though training for this marathon has taken far too much of my time and life, to the point that I am ignoring some other important things--I do feel like I have been working towards this point for a long time. A lifetime.

And it feels so good to be back at the top of my game, doing something I have never been able to do before. At 44.

Whatever happens now, and I pray my body holds strong, already this training, these miles, have been a victory, a gift.


I triumphed over the fears and fatigue. I ran my 20 miles. I did not die. And I can walk.

I was scared so I asked advice of everyone I knew. And I got a lot of good tips.

My mantra as I ran was: Don't get injured. Finish.

Everything else was beside the point.

It was a perfect day, clear and gorgeous and clean. On the way over I saw Gonzalo running down Los Felix Blvd in his red running shorts. I honked and shouted his name but he was in the zone. Still, it felt like a good omen. My running sage was still going. Maybe I will run into him on race day. That would be so cool.

I stashed a little container of sumo mandarins (my new favorite fruit) behind at wall at what would be my mile 6 and my mile 14. I carried dates on my person, plus a map and my music.

This time I did not listen to music. I had played the Lion King in the car and I sang to myself mile 1-10. After that I was quiet. I stopped more. I stretched a lot. I ate dates and oranges like fuel, and I stopped at every drinking fountain I saw and I drank. I did not experience euphoria in the drug-induced endorphin sense. I did not feel universal love, or one with all runners. But I did start crying as I crossed the street at the final traffic light.

Now I know I can do it. I was slow. Slow as a snail. But I know, even if I have to walk, I will finish.

Half-way through my return trip in Griffith Park I saw a woman wearing a T-shirt that said: 20 miles. Race Ready!

I want one!

I soaked in an ice-bath post run, per the advice of my super athlete friend Doug Robson. And I feel OK.

In bed all night my legs tingled. Not a bad tingling. Just tingling. And when I closed my eyes I was still running--the way you are still skating when you take off your skates.

All I have to do now is taper, and I know I can do that!!!

Friday, February 25, 2011

Some Things I Have Noticed

Running makes my head clearer, my skin clearer, my cravings more healthy. It makes me sleep better and it makes me appreciate my life more. It allows me to be truly still, something I can rarely do. (Even when my body is still, my mind is still running...)

Running so much also makes me tired. I realize this is a vanity project of sorts. I am pushing my body beyond where it wants to go to prove to myself that I can run 26.2 miles. I am not doing it for charity, as my sweet sister in law suggested (why ELSE would you do it? I am sure she thinks). I am not doing it for health reasons, really.

I guess I am doing it for a boost of self-esteem.

Today a guy in my yoga class told me that right now in my training I should be at a place where I am on the cusp of injury. That is right, but it also means I have to be really really really careful. If my body starts twinging this weekend (yes, I am obsessively nervous about the 20-miler) I should stop. I should not be afraid to walk. Whatever I do, do not push through injury. At this point I have no time to heal.

I am at the cusp of injury. Fine. but on the edge of fine. I can just feel it.

Today I promised myself that if when I am running, on the actual day, I am really hurting myself, I will stop. I will not risk a life-long injury for a day of glory in my own mind. This could be my biggest challenge of all. I am good at pushing, but not so good at pulling back.

It is a lot to balance in a mind.

If you have any marathon wisdom, please forward it here.

Daily Tune In

Yoga teachers always say to tune into your body at the beginning of class. It will let you where you are.

True. Sometimes I am strong, ready to try any arm balance, even if I smash my nose onto the floor and want to cry. Other days I am stiff, and can barely raise my body off the floor for a backbend. Sometimes I feel invincible. Grateful. Wow!

But this is even MORE true for running. My daily (or semi-daily) run is the ultimate check-in. If I drank the night before, My God that run is a slog. If I rested, I feel light and happy on my feet. If I feel blue, it will take two miles to get me out of my funk. If I didn't eat enough I will run out of gas part way through.

If I eat fruits and vegetables and greens and nuts, I really do feel better.

Running so much has also shown me that my blueness often starts with my body, not my head. Interesting...

Of course I know that food and sleep affect physical performance. But to tune in daily and see what that really means in an endeavor that I cannot coast through is astounding. It all matters. It all matters more than I want to believe. It matters sooooo much. If it matters that much I am a fool for not paying attention. Even when I am not running.

Don't you think?

I need to pay attention.

My body is trying so hard for this endeavor. I need to respect it and help it out. No more martinis the night before a long run.

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

One Thing That Is True

I feel better when I write every day.

How about you?

The Mythology

We are a nation dissatisfied.

Our entire nation, our entire economic system, is premised on cultivating dissatisfaction, and then commoditizing everything that could make you happier.

I am aware of this.

Still, the rivers run so deep. And the lies.

This past Sunday I flipped through the Sunday New York Times Magazine. There was an article by a Dad, who cooked for his family. Healthy food. Every night. After he got home from his high powered job writing food columns, I guess. This article was his swan song, his chance to say his true thoughts on the subject, before he said Goodbye to us, the readers, forever. You can read it here.

I read it. I liked it. I pushed it to Jonathan.

In it, the author, confessed that once he had been a good cook, even wooed and won his wife with his spectacular kitchen cooking skills. But he confessed that cooking joyfully for his kids and wife, at the end of a long day, in a household with two working parents, was pretty impossible. He got home late. He still had to get ingredients. Sometimes his kids were crying on the floor in hunger as he dipped his filet of sole in egg, then batter.

He confessed that, although he wrote this column encouraging parents to cook healthy meals every night, (and probably making a lot of people feel really bad in the process) that it was hard, close to impossible, and he advocates more healthy instant meals.

So when I read it, I thought: Thank you. I am not even a working parent. And I appreciate that on a typical weeknight in today's world, it is hard to cook a perfect healthy meal every night, and even the simplest meal does take time. Probably at least 45 minutes. And with kids and homework and exhaustion, that can be a lot to ask. Not including the time to get the food...

I was grateful that he came clean.

But Jonathan was enraged.

He saw the guy as a hypocrite, who made his money making other people feel bad for not living up to this standard that he promoted, only coming clean in the final column that he could barely make it work himself. J saw it as one more step in a society that creates these impossible standards to make everyone feel bad, and promotes them (in this case, not even as an ad, but as a professional journalist).

It made me think.

I guess I am at a place where some friends are struggling. They are struggling to do everything that society tells them they are supposed to be able to do: raise great kids, all in the 99th percentile of everything, have a fantastic loving marriage, on five minutes a week, have two parents working full time at jobs they love with no commute, home for dinner every night, have a wonderful circle of loving friends, and working out daily and eating healthy food.

Hopefully doing a little social service for the causes you feel passionate about, too.

And the truth is, I believe in all of these. They are my standards. But when you cannot do them all, you feel so bad.

And so I got J's point to the author of the offending column. Don't promote and celebrate a lifestyle that you yourself cannot maintain. Don't pretend this is possible, when it is not. Live truthfully. 'Fess up. Be real. Break down the mythology and help people out with some compassion.

In the end, I agree.

What about you?