Sunday, December 24, 2006

Holiday Wishes

"Some day… there will be a story you want to tell for no better reason than because it matters to you more than any other… You'll stop looking over your shoulder to make sure you're keeping everybody happy, and you'll simply write what's real and true… That's when you'll finally produce the work you’re capable of."
-JD Salinger to Joyce Maynard
excerpt from At Home In The World : a memoir
by Joyce Maynard

On the eve of Christmas, as I review the past year's work, progress, hopes and dreams, the above quote I just stumbled upon seems even more timely, more appropriate to hear and absorb, even though I had originally clipped it several years ago.

As I work on my craft, the turning of the wheel, reviewing and refining my point of view, the frame to my story, may I also find the very same courage and fearlessness that is necessary to write authentic work without worrying what others may think.

So with a holiday blessing in mind, I share this thought with you. May it help to reveal the core of who you are, your essential self, and may you live and work from there as well.

Happy Holidays!

Abundance and good things to all….

Wednesday, December 20, 2006

Updated not Upgraded

It's not like I haven't been writing. I have. I just haven't been posting. And I haven’t much felt like converting to a Google act either. Call me stubborn, (wouldn't be the first time), but can I just say that I am soooo sick of things changing on me.

Yeah, I know. Life, right? Yeah, I get it. It's just that if the banks aren't being bought out and changed 6 times in 5 years, then my email acct is being bought out and changed (thanks Time Warner), and now I can't post comments on Blogger until I update to a Google act. Then my cellular service recently called us all in to replace ("upgrade" they called it) to their new battery power system. Well the damn thing doesn't hold 1/7th of the charge it used to. Progress?

Even our local drugstore was bought out by another national chain. Frankly, I don't need to be wowed with diagonal maze-like aisles and fancy lighting. If I'm stopping in to the corner drugstore, I just want to know that my 1-2 buck items are handy and accessible. It's just a drugstore for chrissakes.

Then there's the updated versions of every tech thing I ever use, from browsers to applications, cable to digital tv, even learning the difference between convection bake or broil and conventional bake or broil, I mean, I just want to heat something up in the oven, does it have to be so damn complicated? Do they have to reinvent the wheel every few months? Do I have to study another manual? Do I need an ID and a password for every thing I do?

(F@#k, was this one all letters or numbers or some of each? How many IDs and passwords can one brain retain already? And when you factor in acct #s, we're all making ourselves dizzy with digital strings. I'm going to need a password for all my passwords!)

Whine. Moan. I know. Sorry for the long digression. I think I'm suffering from saturated learners curve syndrome. I don't want to learn how to use another god-damned thing for at least another 2 weeks, 'cay? I got enough to do around here right about now.

Wow. I do feel better for having gotten that off my chest. Thanks for listening.

(Perhaps I'll submit to the new Google acct soon...I miss everyone....just not tonight. My brain is full.)

Saturday, December 09, 2006

Results 102

Feet touch the earth, connecting, anchoring down. Sunlight pours into the top of my head, receiving, purifying, expanding. An imaginary vortex of carwash-like scrubbers wash me clean as I jog along the sandy path today. Energy shifts. Aura brightens. Thoughts drift by like birds on wings. Sweat trickles down my arms, my ribs, pushing toxins out.

How could I question this?

Sunlight dances on the water sparkling, merry, delightful. Just past the California Incline, I can see the longshot of the ferris wheel and the rollercoaster on the Santa Monica pier jutting out into the Pacific Ocean. It's a classic shot. I've seen it so many times I don't even notice. Except today I do. The beautiful coastline.

This is California. This is LA. This is why I moved here.

The ocean. The expanse. The positive energy radiating from a sun that shines year round. The feeling that everything is possible and it's happening all around you. I am already moving when my feet get caught up on a horizontal escalator. Effortless motion. Journey full-speed ahead.

It occurs to me to experiment with what it feels like to run downhill. To let go. To stretch the legs using different muscles and receive the blessing of going WITH gravity, not against it. Flow, yes, but more.

It's the rush of momentum, forward movement, easy, effortless motion upon motion, gaining
speed, without so much as a thought of conflict. No going uphill, going upstream, fighting resistance. Instead, aligning with the current, with the wind, down, down, down, faster and faster, using different muscles, foreign muscles, non-resistant muscles, doing less but gaining more, until a new muscle memory is built that is as familiar with utilizing ease as it is breathing. Second nature. What a concept.

In the middle of December, 70-degree sun beats down, crystallizing the sweat on my arms,
healing me. I feel happy. Legs stretching, lungs open, body moving, gaining speed, a meta-physical cocktail in motion, uniting earth with cosmos, turning dark cells to light. I am pure energy. With and without form.

This is Prana. This is Life.

This is MY life.

I am alive.

Anything is possible.


Friday, December 08, 2006

December 8th.

Ben's Birthday.

Wonder where he is. Wonder how he is.

I was the last one in the family to see him.

It's been 11 years since I last laid eyes on my older brother when he drove off in his red Budweiser truck, navy blue uniform and matching hat, a hug and a "see ya!" between us, and 6 years since he deliberately dodged my occasional calls by changing his number.

I suppose any connection to the family is too painful a reminder of our past, even though I can't fathom what evil I did to warrant his silent treatment. Just that I came through that same tortured womb he did.

Unfortunate for us that we couldn't at least bond against darker forces, together building a fraternal solidarity, a united front . But no, that would be a behavior we didn't see modeled anywhere near our family dramedy.

Like missing an arm, it's weird to think he's out there, somewhere, living his life, a lone survivor, an island unto himself not needing connection or reattachment.

I know little of his adult life.

Does he know he's an uncle...again?

He knew about my sister's baby 23 years ago, but he doesn't know about mine. He doesn't know Miss I'm Never Getting Married is now married. He doesn't know Miss You'll Never Catch Me With A Child now has a 4 1/2-year-old. He's never seen her wavy blonde tresses, or heard her delightful laughter, felt her squishy bear hugs, or experienced her maddening willfulness. Maybe he thinks it's better that way. Any connection to the past might be a gateway too fragile to broach.

So today, December 8th, the day he was born, my thoughts scan and return to honor his memory.

How does one close such a chasm, suture such a wound?

What would I say if he would take my call?

I hope you are…well.
I wish you…well.
I wish you…peace.


Happy Birthday, dear brother, wherever you are.

Wednesday, December 06, 2006

Experiment 101

Seems like a no-brainer but I guess I had to try it out for myself.

Sensing that pre-holiday emotional vortex of unmet expectations, unrequited emotional yearning, sadness and disconnection in my upcoming horizon, coupled with an exaggerated sensitivity and a professional rejection, the downward spiral pulling at me was inevitable, without me putting up a good fight.

Hmmm. Maybe I AM working too hard, maybe it's NOT worth the effort, maybe my "practice" IS unnecessary, I thought, succumbing to my inner self-defeatist leanings.

I know, let's see what happens when I fall off all self-discipline, add in gratuitous doses of caffeine, wine and cocktails, sugary treats and baked goods, chocolate, excess refined carbs and bread products, along with no running, no meditating, no writing, and still, so little sleep when there's TIVO to catch up on.

Why not prosecco AND Bloody Marys. Martini AND wine with dinner. Banana cake AND pain au chocolate. Espresso AND milky, sugary Lapsang Souchong tea. French fries for lunch AND pasta for dinner. Who cares? Fun, right? C'mon T, indulge a little. You NEVER treat yourself. Don't be such a hardass I convinced myself.

OK little experiment. You're on!

Of course, 2 weeks later, I say in my unceremonious French, "F@#k that shit!"

For those keeping score, here's the results:
Restless nights, more insomnia, more exhaustion, bloating, gas, weight gain, particularly in the middle. ( I like to call it my 3 Ring Circus - top abs folded over middle abs folded over C-section scar with the bulge under that.)

Emotionally I felt depressed, unmotivated, stuck, snippy - well, OK, angry, sad, vulnerable, useless, and defiant. Spiritually I felt disconnected. In fact, I wanted to disconnect physically, emotionally, socially, and isolate. Not be seen. (Of course, that didn't happen. Too much to do.)

What I didn't feel was motivated, balanced, optimistic, enthused, willing to persevere, be adaptable, stay on track.

So, after reviewing the results of my little experiment, I find I must return to my unceremonious French, and say, "F@#k THAT shit!"

I started taking my Jarrow Bone-Up Calcium/Magnesium at night to sleep better and my B100s during the day for energy. I added back salads at dinner and a reduction in carbs. Today I went running again after a 14 day hiatus. Baggy shirt over baggy pants. Instead of pounding, I went easy on myself: jog at a comfortable pace, walk a little, jog some more, steps. I didn't beat myself up. I didn't berate myself. I didn't think, "God, you're fat. God, you're ugly. Man, you really slipped. Now look how far you have to go."


Instead, I just noticed, "hmmm, interesting experiment. Well obviously THAT doesn't work for me. Let's get back to work, m'kay?"

So, easy does it, I center myself, tune in and begin again. I spin out the cottony haze surrounding my aura, ok with having been somewhat vulnerable and needing to be hidden. It's alright, I'm still here.

I am Love.
All I am is Love.

Love still loves when it seems love's gone missing.
Love can never leave you.
All lessons are lessons for more Love.
Love is all around.
Love never ceases.
I AM Love.
I AM That.

* * *

As I pass the knotted tree, I contemplate its form and this time I don't see knots at all. This time, I see beauty and a knowing kind of grace; a spirit who through moving and turning around obstacles, traumas, challenges, grew compassion, wisdom, beauty, humanity, divinity in its rich complexity. Surrender to what is, yet never stop striving.

As I contemplate the palm tree - skinny trunk shot straight up 30 feet unhindered, ending in an explosion of palm fronds, I realized my life would never be that. Not A to B, fast track to external success, showy in its ability to sprint upwards and bear fruit. No, I am the twisted tree, complex and individual, able to withstand inclement weather, gathering options, turning and turning to find the sun. I may not go in sequence, I may only reach 6 or 7 feet tall, but what a blessed journey.

Friday, December 01, 2006


Thank you ladies. Your support means the world to me.

I like to think of myself as the strong-willed, strong-minded, self-motivated bulldozer type who is impervious to rejection or criticism, but the truth is that as strong as I am, I am also at times weak and have my moments of doubt.

I am learning to embrace the totality (brokenness and wholeness), go gently with myself, and realign with the inner-truth that propels me forward.

The truth is that inspiration (alignment) and breakthrough can occur at any moment. And so, onward we go...hand in hand…

Wednesday, November 29, 2006

Personal Reflections

Perception is a tricky thing. One minute I'm heavy, exhausted, bags under my eyes, hair wadded up in a ponytail holder, last night's tee shirt still rumpled around me after noon, feeling like a misfit, a loser, an unaccomplished wanna-be. The next minute I splash some cool water on my face, revitalize a bit, dab on some under-eye concealer and lipgloss, rip out the hair binder, shake myself loose, step into some well-fitted clothes and voilá, minutes later I feel different, more alert, self-assured, accepting, excited even of all the possibilities, of my capabilities, of the new alliances and collaborations that have been revealing themselves to me. With a twinkling of an eye, and a shake of the head, suddenly, things are possible, new directions are opening, ideas are flowing, and I don't feel so alone or so stuck or so limited. I actually feel quite good, quite capable and downright excited about future possibilities.

Tricky thing this perception. And what is it about confidence? How can some of the most confident, capable women in the world feel so inadequate at times?

We might not be able to have everything we want, or all at the same time, but we surely always have exactly what we need, even if we can't always see it.

As I watch the proliferation of millions of predominantly women-mama bloggers with their comments in the double digits and subscriptions in the hundreds and thousands, as others go through their gratuitously open lovefest, supportfest, rising popularity and cross-bloginating jump on the bandwagonfest, I start to question my voice, my reasoning, my raison d'etre. My POV. (Point of view.) Why am I blogging?

And as for my writing, the book, I ask myself where's the angle? Where's the framework? Where's the ladder? Quick get the wading boots.

My tendency is to stop, reflect, pull back, rather than glom on. I never have won any popularity contests. I never was trendy. I never did grab the brass ring. I did always, however, have an opinion. I did always speak my mind. There was, always, my heart of knowing, my truth. Perhaps I never was reaching for the brass ring afterall, perhaps I was striving for gold. Platinum. Perhaps my victories will be small, personal, hard won, luminous.

While out walking today, this little bauble presented itself to me:

"It is not so much your words that offend, but rather, your silence."

I took that as an answer to the question, why do this, what's the point? To mean carry on, tell your story, don't worry so much about it being perfect, or agreeable, or popular, or accepted, or validated. It is the silence, especially women's silence, the silence of shame and struggle and victimhood, the "I'm fine I can manage all by myself thankyouverymuch," which cripples and keep us in the dark, isolated, unknown, and unhealed.

Yet it is the very assertion that I am valuable, my pov is valuable, I have a right to express my life and my story, there is a place for me, there is value in it, perhaps even universality in it….and the telling of it releases the secrecy, the inner struggle...and already I am healing. I am becoming my own light of knowing.

And so, like that inflatable punchbag clown who keeps popping back up, I pick myself up, dust myself off, and keep going.

Today's "Mama Moment" brought to you by Bozo the Bop Bag, a brisk hilly walk and an ice-cold cup of water.

Thursday, November 23, 2006

Happy Thanksgiving

Wishing everyone a happy and abundant Thanksgiving.

As I sit down to relish this year's feast, I am reminded to take a moment to be thankful not only for the family I came from, but also for the new family I've created and the many wonderful circles in my online writers circle, the families in our preschool circle, the local moms circle, and mamas across the internet felt but not seen whose presence and collective consciousness have guided and supported me throughout my own journey.

I am grateful to be included in such ever-growing, ever-connecting circles and am awed by the care, compassion and support you've all shown me. I wish you a joyful peace as I bid you a heartfelt thank you.

With gratitude and many blessings to all,


Friday, November 17, 2006

Threads Of Compassion

As I back up against the decision, the almighty decision weighing heavily on my mind these days, I see with either outcome the bell jar will drop, rendering instant death or suffocation of a dream…a dream so close I can almost taste it at times.

I am not a have-it-all kind of woman. Not yet anyway.

I have been in the backyard of my dreams. So close. On the property even, yet hidden behind gates and fences of limited resources, time, exposure. Let's face it, I have become the thing I had always been taught to despise. The dirty word.

"If you can't cut it, why don't you move to Connecticut and have babies!" my professional dance teacher in New York would swagger if someone couldn't retain his excruciatingly long chains of choreography.

Even the musical A Chorus Line, (a show I toured with for several months), has the Diana character longing to leave the business, have babies, and finally get fat.

My mother Alison disdainfully referred to them as housewives. Housewives--useless, spineless, brainless women who couldn't carve out a life for themselves, women who relied on a man's security and identity. Mrs. Henry P. So-and-So. Ack.

I suppose she was bitter because she had to go it alone. She got to do it all. She couldn't rely on her husband's security. He basically divorced then deserted us until we were grown.

Housewife. Mother. Smother. It conjures up the smell of coffee and coffeecake, surface conversation about the weather and gardening, and the joys of those darn little ones! Brainless needy dependents.

I hate boxes. Don't box me in. I will struggle and resist and break down those walls…

OK, I am a housewife and a mother.

There. I said it. I am a backyard woman whose dreams and aspirations haven't materialized…who is essentially supported by her man while raising the baby-child. And with each passing year, the time to make choices is running out. My fertility. My ability. My business plan. Which do I choose? But denial doesn't work where age and fertility are concerned. This is do or die time. Am I really a failure? Have I failed to launch?

With this emotional revelation, I have untangled one long vermillion thread, a main artery that runs the length of my own intricate magic carpet.

I begin to pull at a tangled mess of collective history of loss and grief, sadness and pain…and the death of my self, for there is surely a death of sorts, of freedom and autonomy, in becoming a mother…and then there is the death of the babies I've already lost…three of them.


Like the three of Alison's children, the bell tolls for each one. Each loss marked…

my brother,
my sister,
and I.

I slip away.

* * *

My dad left when I was three.

My mother was in over her head with three.

Our nest was damaged and broken, not only by his absence but by her inability to cope and nurture.

After my third inexplicable loss, through the cottony haze of numbness and disbelief, hot sprays of shower water run down my swollen breasts and fully vacant belly attempting to wash me clean of defects. An overwhelming intuition prevails, shocking in its boldness, announcing that my soul had decided to take it on. I chose to bear the grief of our three childhoods lost with my own three losses. My role, my destiny was to heal our family. Surely she wouldn't do it.

But why would I agree to that? Why would I take that on? Why carry Alison's burden after all she put us through? Who did I think I was? Child-mother to my mother?

I cannot say why I would make such an agreement to carry this kind of karmic load, or if any of this is even true, but the awareness is there just the same. Haunting. Loaded. Devastating.

I try to wrap this idea around my brain. It slithers snake-like, around and around, without rest. Incomprehensible.

I, the baby, am pallbearer to our three lost souls...with sacrificial offerings…each of my three dead babies…return the weight to zero.

A psychic once told me that the first two miscarriages were the same soul trying to download, but not being able to complete the transaction. She said the soul was in agreement with this plan. She didn't speak of the third one at that time, as it hadn't happened yet.

A Maori healer told me last summer that I had created this blockage in my womb, but that it was released and healed now and that "the apples would come when the tree was ready."

Would I ever be ready? Could I attempt another journey so intense?

What had I done? Had I blocked the threshold of the womb? Was my uterus defective? Was the thought of stepping aside for 2-3 more years to raise another baby just unbearable to me? Had I really created this? We were not infertile. In fact, conception was never a problem. It was keeping the baby. No amount of testing could explain why they kept slipping away. They found nothing.

Perhaps I was aware of the realities of motherhood this time. I was already broken, no longer naïve to its personal toll. The joy, the love, the divine magnitude of the gift--yes-- but the price…the personal price of motherhood, especially to one with dreams and ambitions, and limited resources in an escalating cost of living.

Could I even attempt this again? And face a potentially fourth loss? Or, had I paid my debt to my mother and this time it would be fine?

Then there's the laundry list of issues…the age thing…the fear thing…the labor thing…and the grief thing. Oh yes, and the body thing. And the sleep thing…or lack thereof. I am already stretched pretty thin. It is already more than a lot. Where did I think that reserve was going to come from? Dare I suppose I can step it up a few more notches, and take on more, as in another baby? Do I have more surrender in me? That is, were we to be so lucky to come to term this time?

Who's to say there's one more chance anyway? It would surely have to be a miracle baby, a magic child to get through this fine web.

But as my husband put it and I agree, one of the things we do well, perhaps even best, is parent. Look at our daughter. She's incredible. To be able to bring another soul forth like that and watch it blossom would be so amazing. Godly.

My determination to persist is there. I am not afraid of hard work. I am not afraid of being broke.

I AM afraid if it will all be for naught.


Sadness washes over me with the realization that underneath it all--all my fighting, scratching, and clawing to "make it"--in addition to being validated, and perceived to be valuable, is my need to be totally independent.

As I dig a little deeper, under that…is the need to need no one. To trust no one.

Aha! That's my mother's fear. That's HER projection.

It is hard for me to sit still and be dependent, especially with the idea of another baby, for that means I'd really have to slow down and trust him, at least initially, huh? Trust him to provide for me, to feed me, shelter me, protect me while I nurture another baby. It's hard to feel that I would be worth protecting even, without having to be productive or prove worthy, without contributing my financial independence to the familial kitty. I've always had to earn my value, my keep. I never got a free ride.

It's such a great feeling to never feel quite OK enough just in your own skin, for who you are, that you always have to be more in order to be accepted.

This is far too great an entanglement of needs and desires to unravel in one session. But the thread is there hanging. I have uncovered it.

One strand…blood red and pulsing…dangling. If I pull it, will it result in a disembodied unraveling of my tightly woven security blanket, sending me tumbling into a downward free fall…?

Or instead, could it be the ripcord to my golden parachute?

Either way, it will be quite a ride…and a certain death as well…whichever I choose.

I have no clue.

I don’t see a clear solution. I'm not sure there is one. I will have to trust in the higher powers to untangle these knots.

* * *

Saturday, November 11, 2006

It's A Groove Thang

I have a very complex, love-hate relationship with music, more specifically, the nature of the business of music and what it takes to "get over" these days. Sort of echoes my take on that last post. Sometimes thinking about it all just makes my heart feel, well, heavy.

My relationship with music runs deep and wide. It's complicated. It has been my joy, my passion, my escape and my blood. Perhaps also my curse.

Both my parents were classical musicians. From the time I could toddle I was singing. Supposedly I walked up to a piano in 1st grade or something and played through Silent Night with chords having never had a lesson before in my life. I studied cello and played in string quartets, youth orchestras, sang in choirs, ventured into show tunes for a brief foray into musical theater, then got my first record deal doing techno dance-pop in the mid-80s before going on a quest to find my own singer-songwriter thing. My musical influences were all over the map. I was diverse. Where my own tunes were concerned, I eventually evolved into more of a rootsy, pop-rock sounding chick, but that was then.

Cut to now. I haven't been very interested in making my own style of music much lately. Not post-kid. Not post-9/11. Not post-remind me why I'm going broke banging my head upon a closed door being just another chick-singer in a sea of chick singers kind of thing. The fire seemed to have drained out of me. For a long time I would just as soon listen to silence. Seemed like a luxury post-kid.

In defense of my tuning out, LA is well-known for its bad radio, repetitive formulaic playlists and celebrity talk. Talk, talk, talk. Hey, I have enough talk going on between what's been banging around my brain and my non-stop preschooler. I don't need more mindless chatter about who's doing who, who's about to come out with what, or what bullshit someone else is getting rich hawking…

Spare me the drive-time radio crap and stupidity. There's not enough room to squeeze much more into my already full and under-slept brain. I don't need it.

What I DO need is groove. Music that makes me feel gooood. Especially this morning.

This morning, on the way to the preschool, what I need is to wake up! I need some Tunes because that cup of coffee I chugged on my way out the door just isn't cutting it.

Part of the problem is that darn CD changer in the trunk. I know they put them back there so they won't get stolen, but it's just that I never seem to remember to actually go back there and change it out. For 6 months now, those same 6 CDs have been sitting there. 6 months! I can't listen to them anymore! Yet every morning it's the same. I still pile into the car with my daughter, despite my only 4 or 5 hrs of sleep, and have to get it up to get her across town to school.

Today I was particularly groggy.

Looking for inspiration, anything, I start flipping around the dial, er, bandwidth, seeking something other than drive-time sketches, commercials or talk radio. But no one is playing music. No one. Come on! Work with me here, people. I need something. I need a lift. I need more than that mindless chatter.

Miraculously, yet quite by accident, I stumble across Hot 92 Jamz…mega-old school and today's R&B.

(He, he.)


Then, after a few beats, it occurs to me…I feel good…I have a smile on my face…

I am actually…

(wait for it…)

…startin' to feel HAPPY!

I am gettin' a groove on to Earth Wind & Fire's Shining Star. You gotta feel happy hearing that. Even Sienna is listening. "Shining star for you to see, what your life can truly be…"

Then, Atomic Dog starts up. Ooh, "bow wow wow, yippee yo yippee yay, bow wow, yippee yo yippee yay!" P-Funk, can ya believe it. How long has that been?

The Dazz Band's Let It Whip gets to whippin'….whip it all night! C'mon…you gotta be happy now!

Just thinking about Rick James and Give It To Me Baby makes me laugh out loud.

"Mommy, what are you laughing about?"

"Oh, nothing. Just some songs from when I was a kid."

It occurs to me that what we need is to dance. DANCE. I used to dance. No, I used to dance non-stop for hours. No one ever dances anymore. Not in my world. Not any more. Not since music became just about making money.


Groove, people.

Shallow, pointless lyrics all intent on you gettin' a groove on. Party over here.

Shakin' my thang in the carseat, I bookmark my new groovin' station. I don't care if it's before 9 am folks, I feel good. And that is a new kind of alright.

As I'm driving around town doing errands and listening today, I let out one righteous shit-eatin' grin from ear to those ass-grinding grooves and visions of my lily-white bubble butt bumping and grinding my way through my past, fill me with joy…

Prince: I Wanna Be Your Lover.
Earth, Wind & Fire: Let's Groove Tonight.
Cameo: Word Up…"Wave your hands in the air like you don’t care, glide by the people as they start to look and stare…"

I am fully laughing at the thought of codpieces and sculpted hair. Is anyone with me here? Word Up!

Then they hit me with Harold Melvin & The Blue Notes: If You Don't Know Me By Now. Wow, now that's a song!

See… Life IS a buffet…something for everyone…room for all types of grooves and personalities.

We really should dance more. And laugh more too.

"How ya gonna do it if you really don't want to dance, by standing on the wall, get your back up off the wall... Get down on it, get down on it, come on and get down on it, if you really want it…"
-Kool & The Gang

I'm a non-partisan music lover.

"whoa, whoa, you got the best of my love, whoa, whoa, you got the best of my love…"
- The Emotions

I'm not cool...I'm Old School.

(…at least for today…that is, until another mood strikes.)

Tuesday, November 07, 2006

The Escalation Of Cool Commentary

A GoMama'ntary:

Hey everybody, Andi Buchanan's just posted her fantastic piece called "The Escalation Of Cool" which she presented as part of a panel discussion about memoirs and women writing their way through motherhood at the recent ARM Conference up in Toronto. She comments on the proliferation of the new "bad mother" tone and the edgy, hard angle one seems to need these days in order to get their writing published, and what that may be doing to constrict the identifiable definition of motherhood even more than being a "good mother" did.

In some ways I feel it dovetails with some issues I've struggled with while hearing about other writer's childhoods, thinking that the ante of horrors one has to survive in order to compellingly write memoir is so "upped" now, I really should just shut up already. If it isn't a freakishly hellish life, then maybe it isn't interesting or "competitive" enough a memoir for the marketplace. I don't know.

And then that multi-faceted gem we've been tossing about, what is memoir, what is nonfiction, what is truth, what is literal, what is artistic reinterpretation or "heightening of the story," seems to rear its complex head again. Perhaps we should just blow all categories out altogether…"here's a story…fact or fiction, you decide"…and force everyone to sharpen their own truth or bs detectors.

Props to Jen at tomama who likened the whole thing to fashion, saying that "bad is the new black." It's much harder to push grey, or knotted, isn't it? Authentic and real has always been a tougher sell. It isn't sexy. But as I said before, perhaps like a pot that is about to simmer over with trendy "hip" marketing strategies, once those boil off, it's the real and authentic that endures.

Not wanting to hijack Andi Buchanan's comment section, I thought I'd post my commentary here and widen the dialogue. Feel free to jump in anytime.

Here's my take:

So what if it's funny, it's edgy, it's hip, or it's untrue? It sells, baby. It gets optioned. It makes the bucks. So what if it is over-dramatized, re-slanted for publication, non-representative of the mass reality? Who cares? We love a good story, right? We just as giddily lap up the Desperate Housewives' soap-opera for the same empty, glamorous thrill it delivers. Real depictions of women? No, it's candy. Not even smart candy. But we, as a nation, eat it up.

Just to get something off my chest, one of the books cited in Andi's piece, at least the excerpt "Prenatal Guru To The Stars" from Brett Paesel's Mommies Who Drink, is creative fiction. Now I don't know Brett, I haven't read her whole book and I certainly don't wish her any ill-will because she seems like the kind of smart, sassy woman I'd love to hang out with, but I also happen to live in LA and recognize the "yoga guru" she writes about. I was in "Rananda's" pre and post-natal classes every week for almost 2 years. She's the one who personally recommended Pema Chodron's When things Fall Apart to me when I needed clarity. Except for the graham crackers and tea presented, much of the ensuing star name-dropping dialogue is completely out of character and nothing that "Rananda" would actually say, but hey, it's a funny read. Yeah, I laughed. I even laughed knowing who she modeled the piece after. But was it true? Not really. More like fiction. Very loosely based on a real situation.

I haven't read all the other books on Andi's list, but I can't help but believe Christie Mellor's Three Martini Playdate was written with tongue firmly planted in cheek. This wasn't classified as memoir or nonfiction. This was comedy, right? Had to be. C'mon, no one really took her seriously when she instructed you to teach your child to make and fetch cocktails for you, that we should revert back to the seen and not heard era of child-rearing, did they? Are we to believe she was completely serious?

Perhaps publishers need to come up with some new book classifications. Perhaps people need to start to think between the lines and define their own personal truth.

Maybe what we should be asking instead is what is the truth and what is entertainment? And then, who are the truth police? How do we as people, specifically as mothers, determine what rings true for us personally?

I think the difficulty comes in trying to fully identify oneself within the mainstream any arena. I don't look to the media to tell me who I should be. We as people are unique, complex people, and cannot be defined by labels, facades, or stereotypes. Just because I might not resonate with being represented as the hip, cool, bitchy, hot, drunk, depressed mama as suggested in recent books and printed media, doesn't make my experience as a mother any less authentic. I might identify with some of those experiences at times, or I might not at all. Either way, my experience is valid, even if it isn't accurately represented in the media.

If anything, we should be media-savvy enough by now to know how much of this is manipulated and driven by the bottom line. This is capitalism, the free marketplace. Once we understand this concept, we can stop looking for our identity, acceptance and validation externally, and can refocus on what is true or authentic for each of us.

I like to think of it as a buffet. There's all kinds of sh$t out there, from twinkies to cognac-infused flaming duck a l'orange. There's something not just for everyone but for every mood. We each get a plate and can choose whatever we want. But it's up to us to choose wisely, and to feed ourselves well.

In my circles, I feel that there's plenty of authentic, non-extremist writing being done via blogs, smaller online mom e-groups, and literary magazines which do embrace the whole messy experience and attempt to build virtual support and community for one another. Maybe they aren't getting published as loudly or as much in the traditional way, but the voices are out there for those who seek them.

Perhaps replacing the "good" perception with the snarky, the drunk, or the "bad" one is just another step in the right direction of shattering ANY one-noted view of motherhood, or life for that matter. It's personal. It's profound. It cannot be encapsulated into a mask. We can write and talk about it until we're blue in the face and we still don't get it quite right. Like love, or survival, motherhood continues to surprise me…its an uncontainable evolution; its ramifications are far-reaching for myself, for my family and for our collective future.

Until we can embrace our uniqueness, our perfectly (human) imperfectness, and still collaborate together instead of pit one against one another through judgment and shame, we will not be progressing.

Good, bad, indifferent, hands-off, or hands-on, I say, there's room for us all.

What do you think?

Friday, November 03, 2006

On The Down Low

I seem to be coming across more and more cases of "the writer doldrums," sometimes combined with a mysterious yet unidentifiable case of the "blahs" (for lack of a better word), and a downright complexity of moodiness across the blogoshpere….here, here and here.

Is it the weather? The seasonal change, fall giving way to winter? Are we overworked? Burned out? Is the reality of motherhood taking its toll? For those without kids, is the reality of writing, gasp, a book, not just any book, but a deeply personal one, terrifying the Bejesus out of us? Is it real or imagined? But more importantly, is it contagious, because I seem to be battling a touch of it myself these days.

Thank you ladies. Good to know I'm not alone.

I wasn't going to post about this but since it reflects a current mood, I'll add my own echo and observations. Add to that a big ole mug of chicken soup, or beef phó, or soba noodles in dashi. Whatever works. May it bring comfort.

* * *

Bills due. Library books due. Essay due. Life due.

Today was work. Work getting up. Work getting out. Most definitely work doing the work-out. I feel as if I'm hitting a wall. Definitely feels like resistance and those all so familiar streams of writerly self-doubt…an LED display across the Times Square of my inner psyche:

…"What are you doing this for again?"…"Remind me why it's so important?"…"Didn't so and so already cover this?"…"What's so special about your story?"…"How is your voice relevant?"… You know the drill.

I know this is just the sound of my inner critic…thank you for sharing…NEXT!, but I seem to be having a hard time focusing. I seem to be gaining weight, despite all the workouts. I seem to be accumulating writing, but not on my project. I seem to be spinning. I feel lost, as if the thoughts are draining out of my head quicker than sand through a fishing net. Can't seem to stay anchored. Can't seem to catch any fish either. And I'm always tired. Tired.


Perhaps if I wasn't so damn tired, I could combat this fear streak more effectively.

Recently I was doing some research on adrenal fatigue --a rather common occurrence for mothers of young children. Think of it as being in continuous crisis mode…No, don't touch that! No, put that away! Be careful! Don't make a mess! OMG, I'm coming, hold on…! Not to mention serious sleep deprivation, hyper-vigilance and constant noise.

See what I'm saying?

Being a mother of young children puts one under enormous risk for depleted adrenals because we are living in a constant state of crisis aversion, management, diversion, organization, and cleanup with limited rewards and unlimited interruptions. Yet the adrenals are only supposed to kick-in in extreme situations for short periods of time. They are a reserve tank meant to offer a burst of energy via adrenaline, for a life or death situation, for fight or flight response, not to be siphoned from as a way of life. To continually deplete this energy reserve is not ideal, and frankly, it is dangerous to your health. Yet we do it, we continually do it, I most certainly do it, and it becomes a vicious cycle of unending exhaustion and reliance, leading to more of the same.

There is a connection between sleep deprivation, fatigue, overreaction, moodiness, gastro-intestinal issues, weight gain, low immune response, and the spikes in cortisol resulting in other hormonal imbalances the body creates in order to combat every type of emotional, mental, physical and environmental stress.

Look at it like this. Your adrenals are responsible for maintaining your cortisol levels, among other hormones like DHEA, which is the precursor to estrogen, progesterone, testosterone. When they become overtaxed, hormone production can get all disorderly resulting in some of the following symptoms. Ok, play along with me…

fatigue - check
insomnia - check
weight gain - check
depression - check
poor immune function - I'm getting stronger though
moodiness - check
hormonal imbalance - check
decreased sex drive- hate to admit it, but check
skin problems - not so much
autoimmune disorders- that was last year
intolerance to cold - pretty much
reliance on caffeine/stimulants - check, double check
(are cocktails stimulants? I thought they were depressants?)
craving for sugar/carbs - oh absolutely!

Bingo! What do I win?

Why, adrenal fatigue, hormonal imbalances and burnout.

Hormonal imbalances post-pregnancy are to be expected, and again for a few months after breastfeeding ceases, but in my case, post 4 pregnancies in 3 years, a serious case of insomnia and a history of intermittent depression, it's whack. How do I get the balance back?

I'm having a crisis of self-doubt lately. Oh, just snap out of it I tell myself, as my thoughts disperse, focus averts my concentration and points elude me.

Take a nap. Walk in the sunshine. Read a book. Just relax. Go to bed early for once, my husband nudges.

Man, I wish I could. I really do.

But the productivity expectation meter is pegged! Must. Be. Productive. Must. Grow. Business. Must. Grow. Income. What. Will. I. Do? How?


Meanwhile, it's not all bad over here. Sienna is turning into a lovely little whipper-snapper ballerina-fairy-princess with a mind of her own. Bedtime routine no longer a 2-hour ordeal, she helps clear and set the table for dinner now, and with a wee bit of coaching will even do precursory exercises in straightening her room. She puts her dirty clothes in a pile over there, books on their shelves, shoes in the closet, markers in the pail. So it's not all bad. In fact, a lot of the time it is quite delightful actually.

These are the squishy years I'd heard about.

Why, just the other day she made paper crowns for all of us--even the cat--and we played The Royals of Colonia….

"Ladies and Gentlemen, introducing The King, The Queen, and dat, da, dat, da…Princess Sienna of Coloniahhhhh." And the crowd roars.

Princess Sienna was stunning in all her pink tulle finery. We had a procession around the halls of our house. I looked quite glam in my burgundy throw, er, cape. She even brought us fancy shoes to wear, even the King. The King must wear Kingly shoes, not sneakers, Daddy.

"These are King shoes," she said, handing him the black dress shoes from his closet. It was all very serious. It was a lovely respite from the churning my mind's been doing lately. I was lapping it up by the royal saucerfull.

As for writing as well as life, energy can't help but transform. That is its very nature. To expect anything else is, why, naïve, unreasonable, and damn near impossible. There is inspiration, the idea, followed by thought, conception, gestation, et voilå, manifestation. Gestation might include repeated visits to the drawing board, revisions, a sharpening of focus, throwing out what doesn't work…is anything working here…and inspiration might come only after a period of dormancy and self-reflection.

Still, we expect the height of manifestation and productivity to be sustained forever at such a high rate, yet it cannot. Eventually, anything shot straight up into the sky arcs, and reverts downward. It's the pull of gravity. The nature of a wave cannot continually peak without first crashing and rolling back out to sea.

Every person eventually needs to sleep, to restore, perchance to dream again.

I am on the down slope of the wave. I feel it today. I feel it lately as the season turns to crisp, crackly leaves scuttling across the early morning sidewalks. The air is starting to chill. The summer fire that raged in my belly has become glowing embers of memory, as I long to cuddle up with a glass of wine and a good book by the hearth of my soul, tending to those internal fears and insecurities.

So much could be solved with adequate rest.

Snuggle buggle. Safe as a bug in a rug.

My daughter, in my arms, wrapped in love and security, her love fusing with my own... Warm. Safe. Needing rest.

Hold me close while I recharge.

I wish you all peace.

And rest.

Monday, October 30, 2006

The Economics of Motherhood

School's been out since last Tuesday afternoon due to staff retreat. As a result, it's been a long week of surrendering into the role of full-time mommy, my other work be damned. Activity lists help me stay focused on potential things to do during my tenure as stay-at-home mom, otherwise I am at a loss. Instead, pumpkin patches, carving jack-o-lanterns, costume festivals, library outings, movie-popcorn nights, ice cream cone excursions, Halloween decorating, drawing and more drawing, roasting pumpkin seeds, pumpkin muffins, window shopping at the pet store, cleaning out her too-small clothes, looking for slippers that fit, trying samosas together, perfecting the handstand…these were only some of the activities we did together over the last 5 days.

By the time "the drop" came, and by that I mean the post-what's-for-dinner, who-needs-a-bath, time to get your teeth brushed and pjs on, let's read another chapter of Ramona or Henry Huggins, OK goodnight, I'll come back and check on you in five minutes, and five minutes after that, but only after I clean up the dishes and let the cat in…I was blotto. Empty. Vacant.

It was I who dropped.

Freedom finally mine, it was all I could do to flip around the tube for some back episodes of Top Chef, or worse, my newfound disciplinary guilty pleasure, The Dog Whisperer. (If only my daughter could be trained like that!) Thoughts of writing in the evenings after she went to sleep vanished like a deserted can of tuna fish around a hungry cat. The stink and an empty can were all that remained. Even the memoir I was reading, The Liar's Club, the one I had been waiting to get to, held little attraction as my eyes would sink, words all blurry after a mere page and a half of attempted reading. Thoughts escaped my uncontained brain.

I was spent.

As thanks for my (insert gratuitous flattery here) motherly devotion, a sentence he himself managed to escape due to various meetings, deadlines, and evening agendas, my husband generously offered to take us all out to breakfast this morning. A nice Sunday brunch.

Sounded good to me.

Sienna was thrilled.

We chose a lovely Westside place, known for their fresh food, homemade coffeecake and mismatched shabby-chic garden tea-party-on-acid décor.

I should have known something was up when the only table the host would seat us at in the near empty patio was butted up next to an already seated two-top who's Sunday Times was scattered all across our table and chairs. Apparently no other table was "available." Also, he informed me they were no longer "doing" the coffee cake. The cake they were known for. Hadn't for about a month or two.

Another bad sign was when my cappuccino finally did arrive, it came in a mug labeled Starbucks. (Need I say more?)

When I excused ourselves to take my 4-yr-old to the bathroom, something that always seems to happen as soon as we get settled in somewhere, the host watched us as we wandered around looking for it, didn't offer any directions, but when I finally asked, informed me that it was right across there but I couldn't cut through the wait station where he was pointing. I would have to go all the way back around. Don't do me any favors, please.

I was already feeling too old and too tired, too un-hip with child, to fit into this attitude-ridden young urban hang. My week had been work. Unpaid work at that. I didn't need to work at having breakfast too. I was supposed to be being treated today.

Back at the table, I study the menu. My daughter is already clamoring for crayons and paper, and getting restless. The crayons are sitting at the host station in little jars, clearly visible, but none are making their way over to our table.

This might not work, I begin to think. Visions of previous restaurant extractions float in my periphery.

I scan the prices. $12-15 per brunch item. I see no simple menu choices for a child. No pancakes, no plain French toast, no side of scrambled egg, even the side of sausage looks like it might be one of those highly seasoned varieties she won't touch. Although I love the food here, I quickly do the math…this will be a $60 breakfast if it will be a dime.

I'm starting to hedge, getting angry.

The waiter comes over to take our order. She confirms my suspicion, no plain items, no half-order concessions for kids, but she graciously informs us we can order from the "sides" for our daughter, which, when cobbled together will cost us about $18-20, for a meal she will most likely not even touch. Add to that the "restless factor," and I am thinking this is such a great end to my very long and unproductive week. Not.

Wish I could for a moment be like one of those fancy moms in our fancy preschool, where dropping $60 for a breakfast that is only nibbled at and left behind is considered no big deal. Seriously, I used to work for a client who took out $5000 cash every weekend for "play money" he called it, "pocket change."

Now the thing that really pisses me off is that I know food costs. And I know that to make a plate of f-ing French toast--and I don't care how damn good your French toast is--is nothing more than bread, eggs, milk, and sugar, and if you're really fancy some apples sauteéd in butter, brown sugar and cinnamon poured over the top. But twelve bucks? I could make it for about $2/plate, and that's if I'm using some high-end French or Challah bread and organic Granny Smith apples with Korintje Cassia cinnamon. That's some markup.

But even more than that is how tired, and old, and I hate to say it, cheap I am feeling. Like I don't fit in anymore. Like I can't even afford my own neighborhood. Like if I'm going to spend that kind of money for a meal, dammit, I would rather spend it with my husband and enjoy it, not spend it chasing my kid around back and forth to the restroom, trying to find something she will actually eat without throwing good money away, and trying to pretend we've got it all together enjoying an upscale breakfast when in actuality keeping her contained when she wants to be in perpetual motion is making my blood boil. We can't enjoy this. We can't afford this. This is ridiculous. It is another nail in the coffin of my vanishing youthful, flush independence.

Not only that but the truth is, neither my husband nor I need to be eating a high-calorie starch-laden breakfast. We just don't. Neither waistline needs it, frankly. I am finding myself quite contrary by now, adding over-weight to my growing list of judgments.

We decide to abort. Exit stage left.

As we pile back into the car, I realize just how cranky I have become. I am furious for so many reasons. I haven't run in 6 days. I haven't been able to write. I haven't returned phone calls. I have been exhausted and run down by being practically the sole childcare-meal provider during this time. I am so tired, always tired, and yet I also battle insomnia. Add to that, lately, some garden-variety depression. It's not a good combination.

I ask my husband if he'll just take me home. They can go somewhere and have a nice Daddy-daughter breakfast, (where eggs and pancakes cost about $5-6 per plate), and I can go for a run. I really need it. He agrees.

As soon as I'm home and into my running shoes, I already feel better. I miss my routine. I miss my life. I miss the balance solitude gives me.

I take off up the hill and allow my thoughts to unravel. This is how I work them out. As my body moves, sweat pushes the toxins out of my skin. A Pigpen-like cloud of negative judgment begins to disperse with each repetitive strike of feet hitting the pavement. Ahhhh…heat. Free me. Release me.

My issues, one by one, lift up for viewing. The roots are deep and gnarly. The most difficult one is economic. This ties in with self-esteem and personal success, or in my case, my perceived failure.

I have put the roof over my head since I left home at 17. Not being taught to capitalize on one practical skill and make a good living at it, I was encouraged into a liberal arts education…to be "well-rounded" was my mother's goal for me. Business school? That was for Johnny one-notes who couldn't think.

"We used to have to conjugate verbs in Latin. They don't teach that anymore." She'd say, feeling so superior.

I studied philosophy and religion, theater and French. I played cello and piano, I danced ballet and jazz, did plays, shows, musicals, videos, acted, gardened, cooked, catered, chefed. But what the hell good is all that? Where has it gotten me in this capitalistic, consumerist society? A well-rounded peddler of art? Unprepared for the challenges we face in our current economy.

I am an idea person. I create with expression. The medium is secondary. I can produce something out of nothing. I connect people with people. This is the perfect town to be in for that, as we are all just a glimmer away from our ideas making us a fortune. But I am worthless until I am branded and marketed. Until my content and intellectual property is bought and sold. I have yet to make my mark.

So far all the mediums I have worked in are disposable and not lasting. Like food that is tossed at the end of the day, my "art" is passed over for hotter trends. I search for relevancy in my too tight jeans and tired middle-aged face.

Somehow, I tell myself, this sunny external disposition hiding torrential internal thunderstorms will eventually collide with the marketplace, revealing a blazing rainbow of unlimited light and abundance…

We moved into this neighborhood 8 years ago. I was working as a private chef back then as I worked on my record and did live gigs around town with my rock band. I also sang on studio sessions for the occasional jingle or tv show. My husband and I split the mortgage and expenses, even though he made much more money than I did as a composer/producer. Still, we were a two-income partnership.

Now, post 9/11, post shrinking music budgets, post needing to use union talent and the ubiquitous almighty "buyout" (i.e. no residuals) form of payment, work is not as lucrative or prevalent. Post-child, my image, my body, my energy, my time, and my desire to climb the pop music media ladder is almost non-existent too. In fact, except for some occasional publishing royalties, session payments and straggling residuals, I don't contribute much money at all now. Instead, I am a mom. That is my primary contribution. How hip is that?

I don't like how that makes me feel…like some sort of emasculated choirboy…relegated to the raising of our child at the expense of my abilities. Remember, I have been financially independent since I was 17. I relied on no one. Taking time off to be a hands-on mom who's also making a leap-of-faith into this whole writing game has been both artistically and financially daring. Not to mention personally consuming.

Do I still believe in my ideas…enough to make them happen?

On the plus side, our real estate value has nearly tripled in the last 8 years. It's weird and a bit unsettling. Although we live here, we couldn't afford to buy our own house now or live in our own neighborhood if we were just starting out.

I really should just get a job. That would solve a lot of these economic struggles. Then I wouldn't feel so bad about buying 2 or 3 plates of overpriced food that my daughter won't touch. Then we could hire a babysitter now and then, and wouldn't blink at paying the $12-15/hour for help so I can get a break. Then maybe we could buy a 2nd car which would allow us the freedom to get around this town without the scheduling tango of who has the car and who has the daughter. Then we could work at reducing this accumulated debt. Perhaps that is the most logical option. But I have a dream…we both have a dream…and businesses to build…

I think we both thought we'd be further along than we are by now. I think we thought we'd have attained a certain financial security…both of us, by now.

When I justify my choice of staying at home to raise our daughter, working in the cracks, staying up all night writing and being perpetually exhausted and broke, I wonder if the sacrifice I made to her is worth it? What price this extraction? Is it worth my soul? My sanity? My self-worth? And on the other side of a full school schedule and me able to work more, will I still be relevant in the marketplace? Or will I have to reinvent myself all over again in this transient world of trends?

As we read through some of the old chapter books and examine childhood and parenting in different eras and cultures, it is remarkable how extremely hands-off child-rearing has been in the past. I wonder if all this stay-at-home coddling of the children, encouraging the development of their ability to learn and reason, socialize and problem-solve, will actually serve them? Is there any way to know for sure if this dedication of time and energy will be worth it, or will it backfire resulting in needy, spineless, dependent adults with broke grandparents?

What price motherhood?

Monday, October 23, 2006

I Am That.

"The ocean, in all its greatness, can rise up and strike with the ferocity of a tidal wave or tsunami when called to, can push past levees and wipe out entire cities, can run as low as the depths allow, and swallow whole whatever comes in its way.

Other days, it just smiles and sparkles, sunlight dancing across its fingertips, tickled and caressed, content within itself, reflecting beauty and joy to those who might gaze upon her surface, knowing full well what lies beneath."

I Am That.

I Am that capacity. I am everything I need to be, when I need to be it.

I am infinity…of the ocean meeting the horizon in one continuous stretch of blue.

Form. Formlessness. Water. Atmosphere.


* * *

It occurred to me that in terms of this writing thing, it doesn't have to be so difficult. We just make it so. Figure out what it is you're trying to say, and then say it. Distill it down to a few sentences, the core message, and then write it. We make it hard. We are the critics. We put up the roadblocks. The impediments are self-imposed.

It doesn't have to be hard, or complicated…unless we like it that way.

* * *

The Steps

190 up...190 down.

One set = 380 steps.

Three sets = 1140 steps. That's one-thousand-one-hundred-forty steps straight up (and down) a nearly vertical hillside! I do this in the middle of a 2 or 3 mile jog.

I was halfway up the 2nd round when I started to think about the sheer numbers of steps I was attempting, how steep they were, how my calves and quads were feeling tired, worked. I started to observe my breath getting more labored, more challenged. I thought of how hard it was on my body to do these steps and how I'd never finish… Maybe I'd just delete that last set and only do 2 rounds today. Then I started to stumble. I saw it clearly. My thoughts were deliberately attempting to pull me off focus and my body was following its command…I began to trip.

I recognized the "mental detour" and quickly re-connected myself. I anchored my breath back into my center, pulled up the abs, resumed my balance, and stopped counting or predicting the extent of my stamina.

Back in the here and now, I just stepped.

Step, step, step. Calmly, evenly, on track.

Don't look up, don't look down. Just keep stepping.

It reminded me about motherhood. In the throws of such challenges as teething, sleep disturbances, potty training, battle of the wills--any of the challenges, really-- you think it will never end. You think you will never make it. You're so tired, strained, it feels like you can't possibly give one more ounce of nurture, or patience, or even kindness. It feels like you won't be able to last one more minute of it. So much of motherhood can seem so overwhelming, impossible. You don't know if you can do it.

And yet, although we are challenged to our very core again and again, we survive it. We grow through it. Each stage, when looking back, was really so fleeting. In it-- it feels like it will never end. After it-- it's just over. You did it. You survived it. Moving on to the next challenge. (There is always another challenge.)

Mothering is great training. Other than to do your best and show up, there is no goal per se. The goal is always changing. And we as mothers are asked to grow and change along with it, even if we can't possibly see or know how. Yet we do. We do.

I believe we are capable of quite literally anything. Tapping the collective inner-feminine: wisdom, power, tenacity, possibility...we really can achieve anything we put our minds to.

Bythe way, I finished the third set of steps before jogging back.

And this whole book thing? No big deal. Just write it out. It's just thoughts on a page…

Friday, October 20, 2006

Today's contemplation:

I wonder if the ocean ever contemplates the nature of itself, if it ever has days where it just feels…so…wet. So formless.

I wonder if it ever wishes it could just escape itself, and become as tall as a skyscraper, or feel what it feels like to be on fire?

I wonder if it ever wishes it could grow legs and march through the city, or fly through the air?

Does it ever fight its own nature? Resist it? Wish it were something new or different perhaps? Does it ever wonder how it will pay for itself, or what it'll be "when it grows up?" Does the ocean ever aspire to greatness beyond what it is day to day? Or is it content within itself?

I was jogging along the bluffs of Santa Monica today watching the sunlight dance across the still, serene ocean. It was calm. Sparkling. Dare I even say it, happy.

Was it at peace with itself, I wanted to know?

I'm not. I rarely am. I fight my very nature constantly. I always have. Trying to grow up fast as a child, escape from my house as a young adult, wanting to get out in the world and "be somebody." Wanting to push ahead of myself, despite myself.

As if who I was, was so inconsequential. So small. So useless. So not enough. There were mountains to climb, roads to take, experiences to sample. I wanted to go places. I wanted to do things. I wanted to feel more alive, be more fully me.

I am still like that 20-some odd years after I left home. I don't know if I'll ever feel like what I've done with my life is worthwhile, valuable, profound, enough. I feel like I'm nowhere. Still haven't carved out an identity, a stable income, a career path, a contribution. You don't look at me and go, "Oh yeah, Tanya…she's the one who dat, dat, dat."

Yeah, yeah, you can give me lip-service about surviving my past, creating a home for my husband and child…putting meals on the table, herbs in the yard, clean laundry in the drawers…being a mother is the most important job in the world, yada yada…I've heard the speech.

It's just that I don't feel so important, so connected. I don't feel so alive, so worthwhile. I don't feel like I've done anything yet with my unique skill-set. I'm still waiting for it. I'm still in development, but how much time do we have here? What's it gonna be?

When the hell will I grow up and BE already? When? When do I get there?

When does it get to be OK? Enough?

When we're not always worried about the mortgage and the heavy debt, where I'm not always one step away from throwing in the towel, breaking down, dropping everything, where I'm not always striving, but actually thriving, where things are cruising and we're ok? Better than ok? When I can finally rest a little?

We're always building, building, growing, nurturing over here…this something from nothing kind of life…it's exhausting!

Where's the bloom? Where's the harvest? Where's the heady scent of fulfillment, of result, of contribution? What have I done with my life all these years? What price chasing after illusive dreams that go poof.

There are few places in this world for idealistic thinkers like me who "never made it." If I keep reinventing myself…I will never be caught…I will never arrive…I will never stand still…I will never allow myself to bloom…

This "yank" pattern was established very early in my life…as a young child at the hands of her mother's whim. I can see the trail of breadcrumbs leading here…."no, it's your sister's turn, no you're too young, no, I'm tired of that place, no, I'm not driving you anymore, no, figure it out yourself, no, you don't deserve it…too bad!"

Yet it is a negative pattern that doesn't serve me now as I falter in self-doubt, as I size up my meager accomplishments in life. Unimportant. Second-fiddle. Unclear. Foot soldier. Never the captain. Passed over. Invisible. Broke. Unworthy. NEXT! Step down.

I wonder if the ocean has a mind. And if it does, does it serve itself well? Or, is having a mind a tricky part of the illusion, unique only to being human?

The ocean, in all its greatness, can rise up and strike with the ferocity of a tidal wave or tsunami when called to, can push past levees and wipe out entire cities, can run as low as the depths allow, and swallow whole whatever comes in its way.

Other days, it just smiles and sparkles, sunlight dancing across its fingertips, tickled and caressed, content within itself, reflecting beauty and joy to those who might gaze upon her surface, knowing full well what lies beneath.

My spirit hasn't felt like dancing lately.

Tuesday, October 17, 2006

Quick Learner

"Daddy, Daddy!"

Sienna is so excited to see her Daddy pick her up from pre-school, she is bursting with uncontainable joy. She does a running dive hug into his arms, squeezes him as tight as she can, then pulls away long enough to gather up her pink hoodie, purple lunch box and "go fast" sneakers.

Meanwhile, little Bobby Romano--half thug, half game-show host--vying for adult attention cuts in and begins to fake shoot at Daddy with his fingers…pop, pop, pop.

(For those just joining the story, back about a month ago Sienna announces she would be marrying this little punky preschool friend despite his known tendency for hitting, kicking and pushing.)

Sienna, having none of this, shouts back at him, "Don't shoot my Daddy!"

Bobby is clearly not listening.

He keeps shooting. Shooting and grinning. Pop, pop, pop.

"Don't shoot my Daddy!"


Determined to get his attention this time, Sienna announces,

"I'm not marrying you! Hmph!" she says, spinning on her heel, chin out, arms across her chest, walking away.

"Sienna, how come you don't want to marry him?" Daddy asks as he catches up to her.

"We tried it, it didn't work!" she snaps, as she runs towards the gate.


Sleepus Interruptus

My daughter gave up her afternoon nap right around the time she turned 2. All the other children would be napping and she was just...up. That’s been well over 2 years now folks.

For those of you doing the math at home, that made for a very, very long day home with a toddler. A marathon day. I had to work to manage my already low energy reserves just to get through the day with her, just to keep up with her. I truly earned that drink come happy hour. It never occurred to me until recently that she might have been one of those “highly spirited” children. Maybe that was why I was so exhausted all the time.

Now that she’s at preschool, it’s really the teachers who have to manage her while all the other children are resting. I am grateful for the break. But then, we pay for it in the nighttime routine. The endless nighttime routine. There is no free lunch, as they say.

Up until only a few months ago, it used to take 2 or more hours to get my child to sleep at night. Seriously. I kid you not.

I think it was brought on by the separation anxiety caused by her first year at preschool, because prior to that we didn’t have this sort of problem. Suddenly, she just refused to go to sleep. She wouldn’t close her eyes. She was awake.

We had to start
sleep training her all over...reading to her, lying next to her, rubbing her back, making her feel secure. It was a slow progression to sitting on the bed, then sitting on the end of the bed, then sitting on the chair next to the bed, then across the room while reading my own book with a little booklight and trying to ignore her yet giving her the security of staying close. This went on for almost a year.

And then came the laptop discovery.

The laptop threw it’s own light, and I could get a bit of work done while still being in the room with her. A solution. Suddenly I wasn’t so resentful of all that precious time spent putting her to bed. I discovered that the sound of tapping out emails meant that I was seriously minding my own business and not hers, and she would ultimately, finally, give in and drift off to sleep. One night when I didn’t have any emails to type, I opened up a letter and wrote this story instead. Anything to keep tapping.

I came across it recently in my drafts folder. I had forgotten about it. I share it with a mixture of nostalgia and relief. Relief that she finally goes to sleep on her own again.


Once upon a time there was this very lovely child. She had blonde hair and a crooked smile. She was beguiling.

This is her story. The story of her life as we knew it. The story of how she came to bed. The story of so much love for life that she couldn’t stay awake, yet she didn’t want to go to sleep either. She was caught between the awake and the asleep...waking night, dawn of twilight, leaping, twirling, enchanting mistress. Lost sleep. Lost hours. Always awake, never tired. Never resting, never rested. Drove her parents to despair as they tired quickly of trying to tire her out.

Sienna was, in general, a good little girl. She had a big heart full of sunshine, and love. And many, many thoughts. She talked incessantly from the time she woke up, until the time I insisted she stop talking and lay her weary, un-weary head on the pillow.

“Close your eyes” I soothed.

She did for all of 3 seconds. They blinked open, arms waving, legs still rolling from side to side.

“No, close your eyes “ I repeated, as I ran my fingertips lightly down her forehead, over her eyelids, down her nose and cheeks.

“You can do it” I said with certainty.

She giggled.

“It tickles” she said wiggling again.

I sigh. “Go to sleep. It’s bedtime.”

“Again. Do it again, Mommy.”

“Go to sleep.” I tell her as my jaw clenches. I try to breathe deeply, the breath of an ocean, but my blood is boiling.

We go through this every time, every night, even after very long days, early, late, in-between. This is the drill that we know. Nothing is working. Perhaps the sound of my typing will lull her to sleep I hope longingly, as I anticipate my exit strategy getting closer. I also anticipate the nightly routine getting shorter, and so perhaps, it might. So it might.


One of these nights.

One can only hope.


The other afternoon when I went to pick her up from preschool, the teacher told me Sienna had actually taken a brief nap during rest time. She had actually fallen asleep.

“What? Not my daughter.”

“Yes,” the teacher nodded, smiling.

“For real?”

True story.

I think I'm going to cry.

Monday, October 09, 2006

The Practice

Lately I have been using running as a metaphor, a practice, a meditation, a way to heal the body, repair the emotional scar tissue, and deepen the connection to the spirit. It is self-guided. Intuitive. I sense its effectiveness because the personalized instruction that comes from within feels so spot on. Combined with the intuitive writing that follows, I feel I am being delivered my destiny in every session, flowing forward in some inevitable journey to self-actualization. At least, I hope so. It feels that way.

I don't "set" an intention, but one usually comes to me anyway. I just get out there and try to remain open to whatever my higher self wants to communicate. I tune in. I turn off the noise. I listen. This is why I like to do my practice in silence, and although I love company, I do my practice alone. I really want to "hear" what knowledge will be revealed to me as I jog along. There is wisdom there, I know it. In this way it is like meditation. Moving meditation. The inner-connection is strong even if the body isn't yet. The form of practice itself, in this case consistent jogging, is irrelevant to the practice. Jogging just seems to be working for me right now as a way to connect my body, mind and spirit.

I suppose any repetitive physical task would work as a means to connect to the deeper source. But right now I need to feel my body really move. I want to feel my sweat push the toxins out of my pores. I want to challenge myself physically as I attempt to untie the knots in my brain. I want to combine something physically taxing for my body, while inviting the inner calm of spirit. I want to build stamina inside and out. Running, contemplating, and writing, at least for now, at least for me, seems to be the magic combination.


As I jog up the hill behind the airport, I am aware of newfound strength in my legs. As my feet press off the pavement, I focus on the area where the back of my thighs push against my glutes with each stretch of leg behind me. I am aware of the extra bubblewrap there, the layers of flesh and flab, touching, pushing against each other as I move, acting as my own personal protection plan. I can "see" my inner body, hiding out underneath, the bones and muscles tentatively beginning to get stronger and reveal themselves.

Pretty soon, I will not need the padding anymore. Pretty soon, I will be strong enough to let it go. I know that day is coming. It is coming both physically and mentally, as I continue to get closer to my goals.

I am aware of the feeling "I am gorgeous inside." I laugh to myself because first, it sounds so ridiculous, so vain even, and second, it reminds me of a sign with that very phrase on it, tacked across a "For Sale" sign a few blocks from our house. The realtor must have thought, hey folks, I know the outside isn't much to look at, but please, consider the inside. Desperate maybe? Or a metaphor for life.

So one Sunday, we decided to check out the "I'm gorgeous inside" house just for fun. We walked the whole house in under 10 minutes and left shaking our heads. Gorgeous? Ah, that was a stretch…inside and out.

Obviously the buyer thought so too. No sooner had it sold, but the whole damn thing was razed to the ground. The "I'm gorgeous inside" was so gorgeous it was demolished! Not a scrap was saved. Not even the uninspired HGTV Ground Rules "concept garden" in the backyard. Nope. No landmark there. And true to the growing trend in housing these days, a brand new 2-story McMansion is currently being built to replace the awkwardly laid out 1-story dwelling. Next. Step down.

Now I'm not saying I'm not worth saving or ready to extinguish myself. No, not in the least. But not unlike that realtor, I am thinking that through all the layers of padding, there IS a lovely body and spirit in there. She just needs to be coaxed out. Renovated. I can pull the lumps of flesh away from my body, particularly in the middle and feel the muscle underneath. It's in there. Same with those padded thighs hitting my protruding ass. If I could just slice those cheeks in half, I'd be fine. More stairs, please.

As I run down the stairs, bobble, bobble, bobble, I intentionally loosen all the flesh in my legs while I go down each step. Shaking off the excess, feeling what's underneath, I try to connect to that part. I imagine that being the "real" me. The part I am trying to get to, coax out, reveal. It is that part I communicate with, that hidden potential of strength, as I push back up the incline two stairs at a time. The rest is a false sense of me. An illusion. A space suit. Unnecessary extra protection. What am I protecting anymore anyway?


Being sore from doing 2 workouts in a row due to my sporadic "routine" of late, I reduced the number of stair laps overall and on the return, slowed my pace down enough to do the sets while maintaining deep breathing…just like my fireman did, described in a previous post. Not in any hurry. Not huffing, not jogging, but slowly, evenly, consistently climbing. Barely breaking a sweat. Knowing my body already had the strength within itself, and then, just allowing it to execute the stairs effortlessly. Assuredly. Knowingly.

(Like writing. Knowing I already had the story, and then effortlessly, assuredly…letting it out onto the page.)

I'm not sure what my connection is to the LAFD or firemen in general, as prior to just recently, I never even paid them any mind at all. I guess ever since Les' daughter passed away and our block was lined with 3 trucks, I have become a little more aware of them. They seem to be everywhere.

The other day, we pass two uniformed firemen crossing the searing hot parking lot at the Rite Aid, while my daughter and I return enjoying our deal-of-the-century 99-cent ice cream cones to cool off.
(Not bad for drugstore ice cream.) Perhaps they had the same idea.

A long red fire truck lines the yellow-paved no parking zone at the local Albertson's where we sometimes shop for groceries. Must be chili cook-off night back at the station.

Then, Sienna latches onto an old childhood book of her father's called "The Fire Cat." It's about a rather mean alley cat named Pickles who ends up becoming a fire station mascot and a very good cat indeed. She insists we read it again and again.

Today as I was jogging down the back of the airport, I happen to look up just in time to catch another fire truck, engine #5, passing by…

Huh? What is it with fire trucks? And firemen?

And moving vans, for that matter. They seem to be everywhere these days. Is everyone suddenly trying to cash out of this crazy housing market before the inevitable crash? It seems every third house or so is on the market now, at least around here in the reportedly overpriced SoCal housing market.

Perhaps both trucks remind me of the inevitable… Passage. Change.



Make of it what you will. I'm staying strong.

Thursday, September 28, 2006

The Who Am I Exercise

Many of you have been inquiring how the writing's going, what I've been working on, and so forth. Some of you know I have been reflecting on my body of work overall, what I wish to pursue specifically, and what motivates me to do this work as I pull together writing samples and prepare an application for a writers-in-residence program. Tough and thought-provoking questions.

If you know me at all, or even slightly, or only by my blog, you would know that I do not take these kinds of questions lightly, but rather, for the last few weeks I have been in the thick of immersing myself in profound reflection...Who am I? What do I have to say? How is it relevant? What is the message? How can I impact readers? What is my point? Where am I heading with all of this? Why?

It is this very peeling back of the layers that makes this such a profound, disorienting, yet ultimately clarifying exercise, not unlike writing one's personal mission statement. To do this once a year, as I am now doing, and reflect not only on where I am currently, but also taking into account where I was last year when I asked myself the very same questions, is both breathtaking and revealing. To see progress, a refining of goals, a broadening of vision, an expanding collection of work is, well, both affirming and inspiring.

This I know to be true:
I write my truth. I share my struggles. I examine the past, attempting to heal the future. I try to stay present. Peeling back the layers…connecting the dots…gathering awareness. Sometimes I have more questions than answers. Sometimes I doubt where I'm going. At the same time, something inexplicable and forceful commands me onward. And so, I go. Page by page, not knowing the final destination, I am taken on a wild adventure, picking up clues, revealing secrets, uncovering mysteries, sometimes deadends, but hopefully illuminating understanding while growing compassion along the way. I hope my writing and speaking out will continue to spark dialogue around the globe. The whole purpose of sharing my story, particularly how motherhood is healing me, is to inspire others to heal and transform the brokenness of their past as they influence and parent the next generation.

Ok, that's all. You can go back to your cup of coffee now.

The Closing

As part of my unearthing process, an awareness came that begged to be recorded. As I sat down to write it out, I realized I may have written the closing of my book. Very exciting discovery. On further examination however, I believe it is more suited to be the preface, the call to action.

Either way, I share it with you.

The Closing

Like the slow closing of a clamshell, the turbulence of new motherhood with all its unsettling shock and upheaval, quietly, almost imperceptibly fades, as we adjust and get on with our lives, now one soul larger. The monotonous tone envelops us like an internal wave, smoothing away the rough edges with repeated lashings, erasing, forgetting, hypnotizing, surrendering; "it was nothing…I felt nothing…I remember was fine…everything's fine…"

Before the journey, you have no idea. After a few years, you can't remember. In the crest of the ride is the heart of the truth, achingly, maddeningly, lovingly present.

I write to remember. I write not to forget. I write for other women who ask and get glazed, hypnotic, glossy non-answers to the questions they seek: "it's the world's most incredible gift." "You are just glowing." "Aren't you so happy?" "Mothering is natural, instinctive." "You'll know what to do." "I survived it, so can you."

I can see why I got nowhere asking what it's like.

No, WAIT! I think out loud, as I recognize the lid closing in on my experience. Wake me from this trance. Keep my mind sharp. Keep my memories in tact. Fight to stay alert, alive, conscious. Write it all down. Document the journey. Shout it from the rooftops. Don't succumb to the lie. Break the code of silence. Our lives are at stake here women.

My introspection starts with my daughter. As I watch her grow, I reflect on my own inner child, and the influence of my mother, then of her inner child, and the influence of her mother, and how she learned, and how she mothered me, and how I learned, and how I mother my daughter, and what she'll learn, and take out into the world as she interacts with others, perhaps one day becoming a mother herself. The golden spiral curling forward and backward, ties us all, intricately, together.

This is the work of life, of building bridges, of healing the past, of awakening the present, and of growing the future. It is the telling of our true experience. It is the silent women's work of ages past, and ages to come.

Monday, September 25, 2006

Writing My Way Out Of A Paper Bag

I am trapped. Brown all around me. I see no windows, no doors, no view past the brown. Brown at my feet, brown at the top, encircled in scrappy brown.

I close my eyelids. I open them again. They might as well be glued shut. Or peeled back. Either way, it changes nothing. I cannot see. Confusion reigns.

I reach out ahead, grasping at nothing. Exhausted, the strength is drained out of me.

A fan spins overhead, whipping up a dust storm. I am enveloped in the stench, clogging my nose, filling my mouth, reaching my lungs. A windstorm of brown dust. Engulfed in brown and more brown. I hate brown. I wish it would go away. It doesn't.

It's hard to breathe. I curl into myself in some feeble attempt at self-protection. All I have is what's on me. All that remains is what's in me. I know nothing for certain. I can't find a vantage point.

I thought writing WAS the point.

What are the lessons then?

Or is it excavating our truth that is what's important? How do you define truth? What proves it to be so? Why? Why the re-telling of things passed?

I am afraid. Fearful. I can't remember. What is true? What's the point? Why go there, again? Does anybody really need to hear one more hard-luck story? Why? Tell me why? What's done is done.

I put that spinning wheel of a book back on the proverbial shelf and pull down a dictionary. Ah, words defined. Meanings. Concise.

I rummage through the book. I look up a few words. I don't find myself. I'm not there.

Nothing about my life is definable, except maybe gender. Certainly not identity. Not capability. Not possibility.

Child, woman. Woman, child. Some might even say childish woman. They might be right.

I write. I process. Thought, brain, hands, relief. That's all that I need. Is that radical? Dangerous writing? Subversive thought?

Battles rage over words. THE Word. MY word. YOUR word.


Are we dissidents then? Those who might dare to take a different perspective? Those who might shatter the status quo? Those who might disturb tea? Ruin appetite?

So sorry. So sorry. Carry on, then.

As I question my motives, my meanings, my point, I begin circling myself like some primal captive animal, wolf-like, sweet yet stealthy, eyes of steel, salivating, jaws capable of murder and mutilation. Shredding the flesh. Peeling it back.

I distort the facts. I distort the truth. The truth exists in my mind, made grotesque by hallucinogenic fixation. My mind is a spinning trap. Can't trust it.

This is not truth. Brown all around.

For a moment, it comes. I remember. Don't focus on pain--you only get more pain. Focus on love. Focus on healing. Focus on transcendence. Focus on what's present. Don't forget who you are. Don't forget where you're heading. Create what you want. Create well.

I hurl myself at the brown walls. Full body weight slams. Fist first I dive into it, breaking the spell, ripping the enclosure, tearing away the illusion.

Though it held me captive, it was paper-thin.

Glorious light streams in and surrounds me, warming my shocked body. Suckling me back to health.

I've been hiding all along.