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.