Saturday, January 29, 2011


I am a commitment phobe. Whether it is a playdate or a professional endeavor. I am not a commitment phobe for all the ordinary reasons. I am not waiting to see if something better comes along. I am not leaving my options open.

In my case it is about declaring your intention publicly, and then a fear of public failure.

I KNOW that a public commitment itself makes your chances of success greater. And yet, I would rather work quietly, silently, appear out of nowhere, and if it works I will be totally open--Hey, I poured my heart and soul into this and it is all I cared about. It is not like this was effortless. I am not a liar. I do not pretend whatever it was was not hard.

But failure. THAT is hard for me. If I might fail, I would rather silently undertake, and silently fail. If I do, I will silently retreat and silently lick my wounds and no one will ever know and life will go on.

But commitment is important. To me, and to all around me. And in most things, it is the commitment that gets you over the hump. Because 99% of most endeavors is fear.

Practically speaking, I Knew that any day the marathon could sell out. There is no final countdown when it gets close. It is just done. No more spaces.

So I signed up for the marathon. Officially!!!! No refunds. No transfers. I am in.

I was going to wait until I finished this weekend's run, a 15 miler, which scares the bejesus out of me. Thirteen made me sick. Or I got sick. And I have a strange superstition around these distances, because I injured myself last time around 14. I guess I wonder if my body is just not designed to farther than 13. It falls apart here. But is anyone's body designed to go farther?

I took a week off. I am better. I pulled back. I modified. I went off the schedule. And I still think I can do it.

I committed.


Are you scared to commit? What makes YOU scared?

Spill it HERE!

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Yes. This is What It Has Come To.

I loved Obama's speech last night.

As Jonathan said to me afterwards: "He was talking to us, too."

Yes, he was. We need to re-invent, re-invest, innovate and educate.

Many things touched me (because I am feeling all weepy and vulnerable) but the thing I woke up thinking about this morning was the woman in her Fifties from the Midwest. At fifty-something she was going back to school to get her biotech degree. She said she was doing it to inspire her children and show them that education matters.

These days, thinking of what my boys will think is the only thing that moves me forward. Otherwise I might just lie down and go to sleep.

When I am tired, or lacking confidence, or feeling like I would rather engage in some escapist activity like reading or seeing a movie, or scrolling through housing swap sites looking for a perfect apartment in Paris, or staring at the ceiling and feeling sorry for myself, I think of what message I want to be sending my boys. I think of what I am modeling.

I don't know the answer to that. But I want to model a person who is brave, who works hard, who is a leader in the community, who stands up for what they believe in, even on little things. I want to model a person who dares to dream, even when things are tough, and they are worried. I want to model a person who is humble, and will buckle down and learn what needs to be learned, even if it is totally new, and someone that age should really be successful and set up for life. I want to model someone who is not a victim, but an opportunist (Thank GOD they have Jonathan as a model on this one no matter what, because this may be hardest for me.) I want to model hard work and determination towards a goal that is larger than just me.

Believe me, I point out other people to model and admire. But I know that in the end it is those closest to them who make the biggest impact. So I am trying.

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

State of the Union Picnic

We set up our MacGregor tartan tablecloth and set the table on the floor of the TV room.

We had a State of the Union picnic, and watched our president speak.

"There's Obama, there he is," they shouted, as he came down the aisle to the podium.

What is the economy? What is the government? Who is that man? Why do so many of the people look angry? What is a Democrat? What is a Republican? What is he talking about?&^%$$%???

I could barely answer and listen.

Still, I hope they remember. I hope they remember to listen, to care, to be informed, to take action.

Monday, January 24, 2011

Make Beauty

Sometimes we are just a conduit for the brilliant words of others. Today, that is me.

I went to City Yoga today after school drop-off because I had to do yoga to stretch out from running, and I wanted to see if Sally Kempton, meditation guru, is really coming to teach a workshop there (She is, and I will do it.)

I am a 100% Y-yoga girl these days. The teachers rock and it is free. I love it.

Today I was in class with Anthony Benenati, founder of City Yoga. We sat in a gorgeous tree house of a room, that floats above Fairfax, all wood and brick and windows and light. It is a perfect room, on a perfect day in Los Angeles.

He told us to make beauty.

He told us not to sit around and bitch about dirt and garbage and shit in the world (my words, not his) but to do something. Make some beauty ourselves. Mostly, he said, that involved stripping down, and seeing clearly. And of course, a lot of hard work, and mess, and wasted energy, until it all kicks in, effortless and beautiful and self-sustaining.

OK, I am really summarizing here. I am sure the master would want to edit me, but you get the idea.

But it was a beautiful message, so beautiful I wanted to pass it on.

My beauty for today? I think I will hang two pictures and pick a flower. And try to write some beautiful things, and move forward on my newspaper, which I believe is a beautiful idea.

You, too.

Go make beauty.

You ARE beautiful.

Green Eggs and Ham

Our brilliant school principal always reminds us that for all the hours and methods teachers spend to learn to try to teach children how to read, no one knows exactly how it happens. It happens between ages four and seven, and different children really do learn different ways. But what makes it all finally click? Educators do not know.

It is, I suppose, a kind of miracle.

The craziest part is we usually return to our own childhoods as a check and reference point. But try asking any adult about when they learned to read. Most adults do not remember learning. And a lot of adults do not remember not being able to read. Only that suddenly they could, and the world opened up.

Theo's world has opened up.

Benji is standing on the threshold, wanting it more than Theo ever did, because he knows it is something his brother can do that he cannot. He knows it is so close, but he cannot quite do it yet. Oh, how he wants to.

I am mellower this time around. I know it will come, and I know he will be brilliant. Even though he is so different than Theo in all things, in this I have absolute faith.

Last night we read Green Eggs and Ham. It was the end of a long day at the end of a long weekend. I tried to make him read a little. At least the words he knew. We could read it together. He resisted. He said he didn't want to. He said I said he didn't have to read any more after page four. I pushed a little more. But I was worried I was going to traumatize, so finally I pulled back, and only made him read words like "the" and "a" and "I." His so-called popcorn words, because they "pop" out everywhere. (Even on our walls, embedded in giant pieces of popcorn his teacher has made.)

I put him to bed praying I was not pushing him too hard, and into hating reading.

But a strange thing happened.

This morning he crawled into my bed at 6:55 fully dressed, clutching Green Eggs and Ham. I was not even awake. He got into position and started to read. He read through page three, then four. He stumbled sometimes, on words like "would" or "could," and sometimes he asked for help.

But he read that book right through. He said his throat was so dry he could not go on. I was worried he was going to get a brain aneurism from effort. But he persevered, right through until the end.

I was astonished.

Where had that come from? I felt his synapses bending into shape as he read, making connections. I was witnessing the miracle of reading.

His grin was so wide it could have wrapped around his head. Oh, was he proud. He jumped out of bed, and ran to tell Theo (still sleeping.) He said he wanted to call Jonathan (away.) He ran around with the book.

I had seen it come together.

Will it be there this afternoon? This evening? Tomorrow? I don't know for sure.

But he did it. It is in there, and he knows it and I know it.

He read. He really read. And I was there in the moment it all really really came together for the first time.

It is a wonder.

I am awed.

By him. By our brains. By how this happens.

Thursday, January 20, 2011

You Heard It Here First!

Hello, Friends. I am announcing it here first, to my three loyal readers. I am going to start a community paper. I am modeling it on my friend's great product, and I think I can do it. I have been shadowing, thinking, procrastinating and learning for months. Now it is time to out myself and make myself accountable.

Much easier to say I am doing the marathon, than this.


Fear. Excitement. Desire. Caring too much.

I wish someone would write up a schedule for me, just like Hal Higby did for the marathon. Week one, do this Hilary. You may be feeling this, but move on. Week two, Up the Ante. You can skip one little task, but you have to do the big one. Week three, pull back. You are right on track, give yourself a little rest. Congratulations.

I am realizing. I always think it is the doing that matters. But I am realizing, it is the plan that matters even more. And planning is not my forte. OK, this is a procrastination effort in and of itself.

I am determined to do this.

Send me power, and wishes of success.

I want to write great stories, cover my forgotten neighborhood, train new young journalists, and advocate for what needs to be done. I also want to make some money, and I think I can.

Yes, you heard it here first!

Sick Day

I feel like a dog. My chest his heavy, my cough is bad, my head hurts and my ears ache. Oh, yeah, and I have a sore throat so bad I take aspirin so I can swallow. I have been in a holding pattern, hoping it will go away. It hasn't.

In an hour I go to the doctor.

I am so American. I want the doc to just say, "Take this pill and you will feel like a million bucks. In an hour."

I hiked a mountain with J to talk about our future. It was a hard talk, with lots of issues and no resolutions, for now. He was great. But mid-life in a recession is scary. Lots of opportunities. Lots of room for fear.

I am so strong due to my marathon training that I motored up the mountain like a billy goat, and my super perceptive husband couldn't even detect my illness. He still doubts. He is slightly incredulous. It is like a strange disconnect-of a sort we rarely have.

Couldn't he see I didn't want to jump in the water (I always do!) Couldn't he feel that I was waaay better at listening and a little blue? (Maybe I am always like that!) Didn't he notice that I did not lead him up the hardest path to the top, but only went that way after he suggested it (usually I do not even ask).

I burned dinner because I was so busy trying to self-diagnose. The house smells like charred broccoli.

I went for a massage on Tuesday and my sports-massage woman scared me. She said if I do not get better and take care of my illness I am stressing my body so much with marathon training that my cough, etc., could drag out for months. I had not thought of this as being related to/bearing upon my training. I don't want to drop out because of my undiagnosed illness.

She recommended an acupuncture tune-up. My husband diplomatically did not comment.

What to do, what do to?

Doctor first. Then decisions.

Monday, January 17, 2011

Half Marathon!

Yesterday I ran 13 miles. That ties my all time distance record. I am a little sick, with heaviness in my chest. And I was nervous. I had to keep telling myself, you are so slow this is like a two hour hike. Just keep going.

I did the distance.

But it was a LOT harder than 12 miles. My toes felt calloused. My toenail wore a hole through a new sock in a single run (I have since clipped that primitive nail-blade). For my final mile I listened to Raam Das, because I felt I was in some altered state. I took a bath then fell into bed.

It was hard.

No great insights. No great breakthroughs. All I can really say is: Mission Accomplished. And thank GOD this is a pull back week.

I did think this, though. Running a long distance is like peeling back the onion layers of your psyche. First few miles I go out too fast, and I have to really really really try not to go too fast, because the experience will not end sooner if I run faster, I will just run out of gas. Hard for me.

Then I start setting weird masochistic goals for myself: drink some water every two miles. You can't go to the bathroom until mile 5. No headset while you run by the drumming circle. Once I get to half way I know I will make it, one way or another. Then I just run for awhile. That is the best part. Then, around mile 9 I started getting really really tired. I can't listen to music. I can't think. All I can say is, "Go. Go. Go."

But, since this challenge is all about the metaphor, it is working. I do have too much energy when I start out. I do need to learn to pace myself. I do play a lot of mental games at the beginning. And in the end, it doesn't matter how I finish. It just matters that I put in the miles and cross the finish line.

May that happen!

Feeling OK on Monday.

Thursday, January 13, 2011

Coming to Terms with ME

I am sitting down, coffee cup in hand, to fill out an application. It is all on-line, with boxes to describe your life. The part before kids is all neat and cool, and fits so well, so impressively in the boxes. THAT was a high-achieving person. I like her. I would pick her.

The part since kids does not fit in the boxes. She has done so much, and all with such passion, but it does not fit, and there is no room to explain. And if there were, who wants to read it anyway. (There is an essay portion below where I can eloquently and elegantly weave together the narrative of my life, as one continuous strand of emotional and career growth).

And I am faced with this: Do I deny the motherhood part in the "your resumee as a series of boxes is your life" section? Do I just pretend it is not there? (That is what I am asked to do. That is how our society counts it. You can do it, but if you do, hide it, write around it, make it invisible.)

Or do I take it on, and put, right at the top: Motherhood, Self-employed, CEO, CFO, COO. In charge of a team of four employees. Laid out a vision, ran corporation (at a financial loss, but with a lot of long-term investment), trained and developed new get the idea.

I don't know what I will do yet. But I do know this: It is just brutal to turn from the cocoon of motherhood to re-entry, where none of what you have done, however important in the larger scheme, counts for anything at all. I am happy with my choices. But confronting my life as boxes (someone else's boxes) is an exercise in pain, discomfort.

That is the life of making your own choices, following your gut, being unconventional, in even a small way. But on mornings like this, as I obediently fill in the boxes to try to make some team of judging and evaluating people far away like me, I second guess myself. Or at least I wish I had operated with the looming boxes waiting for me out there in mind.

I guess all I can do is tell the truth. No massaging, no pretending, no kissing ass to tell them what they want to hear. Or what I wish I could tell them.

(Hilary continued to get double digit raises, write incredible, life-changing and award-winning stories, nurture her husband and her marriage and raise amazing, well-adjusted children. She also paints giant canvases and performs at Disney Hall in her spare time and has led volunteer efforts throughout the community. She really is a modern-day superwoman.)

Ok, I was never even close to that person.

The truth. I will write the honest truth. I never fit in the boxes anyway. Nobody does. Here goes.

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Zlateh the Goat

Two nights ago, as I was tucking Theo in, he said, "Mommy, read this story. I like it a lot. I want you to read it and tell me what you think."

He passed me "Zlateh the Goat," a short story by Isaac Bashevis Singer. The book itself is a gift from his poet, intellectual cousin Susan.

I opened the story so curious. He has told me about stories, before, and asked me questions. But this was different. This was like when you are older, and you give a story, or a music tape to someone you love. You are telling them, "Read this, Listen to this and Know me. Hidden in these words, this music, this art, is something very important to me that I cannot put into words. Also, I love it and I want you to love what I love."

The story was beautifully written. Several cuts above most children's modern literature. It is a touching story about a Russian boy who must take the family goat he loves to be slaughtered, because his father is a furrier, the weather has been warm, no one wants fur coats, and they have no money. The whole family loves the goat, but the boy most of all. And it is he who must lead this animal he loves to his death.

So the beginning is awful. You know the goat is going to die. And you know the boy's heart is going to be broken. And the goat is going along so happily, trusting the boy completely, because it is his very best friend.

But shortly after they set out for the next village a horrible blizzard arises and they get lost and they have to take shelter inside a haystack. They are there for three days and three nights. The goat eats the hay, the boy makes the hole. The boys finishes his food, but then the goat lets him drink milk from her udder, which the boy squirts right into his mouth. They survive. After three days the storm stops and the boy digs out. He has made up his mind. He returns home with the goat. HIs family had given him up for dead, and he is alive, and the goat gets to live, and because of the snow his father gets lots of furrier business and all is hunky dory.

It is a very moving story.

Still, I asked Theo what he liked about it. He said he liked the adventure. He said he liked the surprise in the story, that it did not turn out the way you expected. And he said he liked that you thought the boy was going to save the goat's life, but instead the goat saved the boy's life.

All true.

It is hard to put into words. But I do feel like my emotionally enigmatic boy shared some deep part of himself with the story.

I am grateful.

Has that ever happened to you?

Marathon Advice

Week 8 and I am hanging in. Truth be told my twingy knee is doing better than before I started. Maybe my leg is getting stronger and I needed to be running. Maybe I am getting lighter and my body is happy. Maybe I am always sore so my knee doesn't stand out as much. Anyway, I am so delighted my body is holding up, and I have now run farther than I have since I was 33.

Here are tips that wise friends have given about how to keep going without getting injured:

Alison Shore-Lopez: Don't do too many miles. I did too many miles and I was completely addicted, and I did not need to run that much and I did not get to do the marathon. Postscript: Alison, an amazing runner, is still suffering from a pinched nerve or some such and trying to recover. She is tough, and my cautionary tale.

Goldie at the Y: Eat lots of protein. I did two marathons on carbs and one on protein, and my body broke down much more slowly on proteins. Always drink water. I was so dehydrated when I was training I started just drinking all the time, even when I was not thirsty. (This happened to me, and her advice made a huge difference). Run hills. Then when you hit a hill in the marathon you will not mentally collapse. (Don't need hill work for the LA marathon, but still great advice). Swim for an hour a week. It makes a huge difference.

Doug: Don't run too much. I ran the New York Marathon and people were limping across the finish line like it was a war. It was not good. My bad leg held up (he broke his leg as a college student) but my good leg, which had never given me trouble, freaked in the race. It was really really hard. This is not really advice, except to say, do not injure yourself.

Tired today, so I cut my run a little short, but I am hanging in!

Weather is beautiful and warm and clear, and the sunlight was sparkling on the reservoir, the path smelled like warm pine needles and the Sierras. I love being outside.

Saturday, January 8, 2011

Barnsdall Lives!!!

After a year of up and down, budget cuts and not, endless meetings and rallies and letters and begging and crying and weeping and nashing of teeth, the good news is, the Barnsdall Art Center lives. Classes are offered this winter session, starting January 22.

If you have not partaken, these classes are one of the L.A.'s great treasures. Classes are held in East Hollywood at the Barnsdall Arts Center, willed to the city by Aline Barnsdall, independent woman, thinker and lifelong supporter of the arts. Her Frank Lloyd Wright Hollyhock house is right next door for inspiration.

Classes are affordable, come in manageable 6-week chunks, and are taught by truly top of the line, working artists.

Today was registration day for kids classes. I arrived exactly when the flyers said to, at 8:45, and I was last in line. The hard core Korean mamas had been there since 5 am, camping out with fuzzy blankets, Ugg boots and folding chairs. I heard in the past the line has gone up and around the block. But with the center under seige for the last year, the public has grown confused. Lots of people don't even know classes are underway again.

So I am putting the word out. Sign up. For the foreseeable future Barnsdall and all its amazing teachers are here to teach us about what they love. Art will make you happy. I promise.

Try it.

Friday, January 7, 2011

A Little History

The following is excerpted from Time Magazine, 1938, about Guild Strikes:

Southern California journalism is dominated by two aged titans, William Randolph Hearst (Los Angeles Examiner and Herald and Express) and Harry Chandler (Los Angeles Times'). A lonely liberal voice in the midst of this die-hard desert is the little Hollywood Citizen-News, published by a pious progressive from Minnesota, Judge Harlan Guyant Palmer. Publisher Palmer likes the New Deal, dislikes the utilities.

Read more:,9171,771095,00.html#ixzz1AO92Te4M

I love it. And I love the gorgeous art-deco building. I long to be inside it.

Let the tradition continue.

Thursday, January 6, 2011


Three days from the end of the year my billy goat child was leaping down stairs in the Skirball garden when he landed wrong and fell hard. He broke his ankle.

I heard him and sprinted across the landscaped riverbed to my boy's side. It is hard to explain what that cry of pain from a child is like to a mother. This was different than any cry before. I got there and he was crying and crying, but also rocking back and forth. All he could say was: "I wish I could go back in time. i wish I could go back to one minute ago. I wish this never happened."

So true.

At the time we thought it was a sprain. My father told him to walk on it. The security guard gave him ice and we sat in the lobby with his ankle on ice and his head on my lap. An old Jewish man who looked like he had survived the Holocaust was working as a docent. He had a soulful kind face so open it felt young again. He comforted Theo, then turned to me like an oracle. "You will dance at his wedding," he said.

We went to the doctor and got an X-ray, all family members in tow. They could not see anything. That night Theo crawled to the bathroom on hands and knees, never complaining, and in the morning he hopped around the house on one foot. We took him to an orthopedist who felt him and said it was broken. Not shattered. A hairline crack so small she can't even see it on X-ray. But the way he jumped out of the chair when she touched it she knew it was broken.

On went the cast, a little boot wrapped in green. But then he could walk again. Already he can run and hop so fast I bet he could beat half the kids in his class across the playground in a race. And he is still trying to leap off things--with one foot!!! He spins around on the bottom of his cast like a ballerina, delighted with himself. So fun! At night his foot swells up inside and he cries.

But the doc says it will heal. At this age she said it is better to break than to sprain. A hairline break like this in his growth plate will heal completely. Ligaments never really do.

Couldn't write about it until now. But it stirs you up somewhere deep when your child is injured. I cannot even imagine with something permanent, or possibly permanent, or whatever.

He is OK. That is all that matters.

"Maybe he will stop leaping around like a madman now," Jonathan said. "He needs to learn. To be more cautions. To know he can hurt himself."

Maybe he will stop. Maybe he will not.

I don't know.

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

Right Under My Nose

For Christmas my mother gave me this book:

Written by Charles Fleming, it lays out 42 walks around Los Angeles, up and down historic steps. The day after Christmas my mother and I did a walk that starts a half mile from my house. I take pride in knowing my 'hood, knowing the secret staircases, and knowing the local history. I did not know ANY of this. We did walk #35, Temple Hill, 45 minutes, two miles, 2.5 difficulty (out of five). The walk went right by our piano teacher's house, a street I drive every week, but most of what I saw was new. Or else I got a story I have been searching for, but never found.

The walk begins with this explanation:

This is a most spiritual walk, a hillside stroll without too many stairs through an area once dotted with temples, monasteries, retreats, and church buildings.

I won't give it all away, you have to buy the book and do the walk yourself, or come and do it with me. But what joy, to finally find out what all those houses with the onion domes were from (Theosophists!) or to walk into a tiny incense-filled chapel practically under the freeway (Vedanta!). Walking, rather than driving, these hills I could feel the spiritual energy. The power is as strong as Ojai, Sedona, Esalen, Big Sur, and other places in the West (you know them, if you live here, you have been). I drive it, I move through it, and most of the time I am blind/unmoved to/by it. But when I got out and walked, I felt it. I wondered if that is why I am drawn to this place, as to the others. I am not even conscious. But I feel the pull of the earth, and its power.

I am in a sacred place.

We can pave it, cover it with neon, but the power is still there.

This morning after my run I dropped by the Monastery of the Angels and bought some pumpkin bread, baked by Dominican nuns.

Not fresh. But I toasted it and nibbled while I drank my Illy coffee. Yum.

Happy 2011

I just KNOW 2011 is going to be great. I do not feel this every year. I did not feel this last year. But this year I feel it.

Each year everyone in the family puts their resolutions/goals/dreams in a dream box I made years ago at the Skirball Noah's Ark exhibit. We write them in January, the check them in December. All of us do it. Last year I had accomplished fewer of my goals than I could remember in recent history. It didn't feel so great. There were reasons. Benji was bored out of his mind at Canyon School. It was the end of an era and I felt nostalgic. I began laying groundwork for things that will happen this year, but have not happened yet so they do not feel complete. Check off-able.

This year I hope I will run the LA Marathon, start a community newspaper, and take my boys to Italy--because they are the age I was when I lived there. And the place changed my life. The light, the food, the spirit is in me, and I want it to be in them, too--even if in a different way. I also hope we will travel to Baja to see the baby whales. It is a big trip, a time-consuming trip, and under the current political and economic conditions, perhaps a dangerous trip. But I want to drive to the end of the world, set up a tent, go out in a little boat with some Mexican naturalists, and watch the mama whales nudge their babies up to the boat. For me, this is one of the great wonders of the world, like seeing the Monarchs in Morelia, and I want to go before the world gets too polluted and sick to support the whales anymore.

I am the kind of person who scours the world for inspiring quotes. Because words, music, art and nature are the places from which I draw my inspiration. I can return to them when I am sad and they give me such strength. So here is my quote for 2011, cribbed from another web site (the happiness project) where it was excerpted from an interview with a British author, who quotes his favorite Japanese psychotherapist (who knew there WERE any Japanese psychotherapists???):

"Give up on yourself. Begin taking action now, while being neurotic or imperfect, or a procrastinator or unhealthy, or lazy, or any other label by which you inaccurately describe yourself. Go ahead and be the best imperfect person you can be and get started on those things you want to accomplish before you die."

--Shoma Morita

Perhaps this quote is appealing to me because I am a) a perfectionist b) feeling all my imperfections and c) now in the second half of my life, so I think about the end-point.

How about you, brilliant readers. Do you have a quote to hold onto for 2011? Will you send it to me? Will you share? What gives you strength when you are stumbling, moving forward, dreaming, acting?

Share your wisdom. Post your quote here!