Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Snow and Fog


"Merlin's Beard! It's been a long time!"

As I trudge through mental snowdrifts, the beginning of a white out, images emerge as the flurries begin to settle and subside.

It's only weather.

It's only ever weather.

But there's no temperature in here. It's all in here.

Trudging through the swirling white, seemingly in no direction, it's only in looking back that I can see any small measure of the path behind me.

Thoughts waft through one ear and dissipate out the other. A fleeting reminder to …get the milk, really must respond to, cat medicine time… I feel my body pulling me through a tube…dimensionless…hovering…watching…waiting. It can wait. I let go. It's gone.

Sailing through this time period, neither asleep nor fully awake, I am equal parts in motion, in contemplation, in creation, in the doing, or in the resting from it. There is no perspective here. It's neither good nor bad. Just. Moving. Along.

Thick blankets of fog have enveloped me for months now as I sometimes poke out in anger, in regret, in sadness, in frustration. But it's not all bad; I also rise up in laughter, in compassion, in caring, and in joy. All is quiet now on the western front. Quiet and serene.

I keep waiting for the thing to bubble up, so obvious, like, look mommy, Pinot has a boo-boo on his eye, he needs to go to the doctor.

I need to know who I am, what I am supposed to be doing.
I need to know what I'm passionate about. Where's my passion already?
I need to know how the hell I will know, when, hey, shouldn't I already know?
I need to know what I am feeling. Is this working? Are we working?
I need to know what the hell is wrong with me. Nothing's feeling right. Right?

I realize there are a lot of things that are loose right now. And more than Miss S's latest tooth.

If I just bide my time, it will all be revealed. All in right time, I tell myself. Right?

Am I making mountains out of molehills, or molehills out of gaping mountains so vast that I cannot see them?

Am I about to fall into a bottomless chasm, or free-falling, ascend instead into the sky?

Either outcome would be preferable to this limbo-like fog.

I bake cookies, almond croissants. I make a standing rib roast, Yorkshire pudding, and the unctuous horsey sauce as if by Braille. I invent delicious cocktails and fry off some latkes just to prove I still can. And the roasted pears in tempranillo sauce….with the delicate smattering of shaved cheeses…it's all lovely. Lovely. Who can be angry after a meal like this? Fear doesn't stand a chance near that thick gooey caramel of a burgundy reduction...if I can just bottle it...

Skip the end-of-year top ten book list.* I'll take the top ten meals. Or better yet, I'll settle for 10 moments of clarity.


*Thanks Carrie.













...and for a musical interlude, check out the next post...

Sunday, December 28, 2008

Holiday Cheer

Here's a bit of holiday cheer going out to all my faithful readers...some frosty cuts for the frosty air. Hope your down time is filled with peace, and well, more peace. May the New Year bring you all good things!

Enjoy!

(After years of ambiguity, in a burst of self-confidence--or is it self-importance?--and in the interest of giving credit where credit is due, the following songs were written, performed, produced, cover art directed, not to mention uploaded at ungodly hours of the morning for your listening pleasure... )


Holiday Cheer

Thursday, December 04, 2008

Creation









Sir Walter Raleigh, the Adventurer:
"Can you imagine what it is to cross an ocean?

For weeks, you see nothing but the horizon, perfect and empty.

You live in the grip of fear. Fear of storms. Fear of sickness on board. Fear of the immensity.

So you must drive that fear down deep into your belly, study your charts, pray for a fair wind, and hope. Pure, naked, fragile...hope."

Queen Elizabeth:
"Go on, Mr. Raleigh. You were… hoping."

Raleigh:
"At first it's no more than a haze on the horizon. So you watch. You watch. And there's a smudge. A shadow on the far water.

For a day.

For another day.

The stain slowly spreads along the horizon taking form until on the third day, you let yourself believe.

You dare to whisper the word

…land.

Land.

Life.

Resurrection.

A true adventure coming out of the vast unknown, out of the immensity, into new life.

That, Your Majesty, is the New World."

--From Elizabeth: The Golden Age
Woman • Warrior • Queen
www.elizabeththegoldenage.net


Sunday, November 23, 2008

Hiatus

Been kinda absent
as far as Bloggerville goes,
but I feel my time away
is coming to a close.

Stay tuned for recaps and updates...

love and miss everybody.

GoMama

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Results are in…













Update: The above recent expression of Miss S's seems to tie in with the following topic. She also wondered out loud what her job used to be. You know, last time around.


So many of you have asked. And waited patiently. And now, without further ado...

Miss S's Questions (and Answers) To God:

Who was the 1st one alive?
Boy that's really hard. Fairies. Because fairies are magic. They can come whenever they want. And they can leave whenever they want. They can die and then come back the next day, as the same person with the same job, or a different job.

Was the first person living a boy or a girl?

Half boy and half girl. A little bit of both.

How were their bodies then? Were they different?

It was the same.

How did the world come about?
I'm watching a mini-clip in my head. When I'm done I'll tell you. I know. I think I know…. Um, well, there was a space fairy and there had been no planets in the space. So the space fairy decided to make earth. And she had a special wand and with her special wand she said, "draw the earth and make it come true." So with her wand she drew the picture of the earth and then she filled some people in, and she filled the water in and planted trees, grass and plants. She thought that everyone could be friends.

How did she know what things looked like?
Well, she had it in her imagination. And then, she met the Building Fairy. She was the one who built everything in the whole entire world. She went from planet to planet building things after the Space Fairy made other planets. The Builder Fairy started to build houses for everyone and places to go. And then the people started to have babies and the babies grew up very fast. And everyone loved it on the planet, so did the fairies.

What did the 1st house look like?

It was very pretty. It had a garden out back and there were two trees in the front yard and in between the trees they made a hammock, and there was a little light hanging over because they had built a top for it so you wouldn't get wet in it, in the hammock. They made a very pretty bouquet of red roses tied very tightly to the door. It was a white house made out of wood, and the top/roof was made out of brick. Inside there was an upstairs and a downstairs. Over the dinner table was a white chandelier with fake red berries wrapped around it.

Who came up with languages?
A boy and a girl. The boy said, I think we should come up with a language. A lot of different ones too. The girl added, that's what I was thinking. They had been talking in sign language.

How many other planets and earths are there?

Quite a lot.

How did the 1st person get here?

Gravity has to be everywhere so nothing falls.
That's a really hard question.
What I think that God I think. What I think I think that God I think. (laughing.)
By magic. The first person got here by magic.

How many people will ever live in the world, from beginning to end? (God will know when it stops)

(We skipped this one. Too hard.)

How long will people stay alive?

A very long time, I mean not a very long time, quite a long time.

Who lives the longest?
Santa. He never dies.

How did God make people's bodies?
It was magic.

PS. Don't be sure to not think about it.

---
I particularly like the last PS she insisted on tacking on.
That, and also the "what I think that God I think" thing she was sort of chanting.

Mind you, she's 6.

Cheers!

Thursday, September 18, 2008

The Trail...

Thanks to Jerri, today I discovered Kelly Rae. In addition to her amazing work, what struck me when going deeper into her story was the literal trail of steps she put forth in her life, chronicled right there on the page. If you look at her news page, you can see that over the course of the last 2 years she literally shifted her life from dissatisfied social worker to creative (and successful) artist whose work inspires many, by a continual opening to and focusing on her inner stirrings, her soul purpose. The map is right there.

As we put our focus on those things which move us, inspire us, light us up with a rush of passion, if we highlight those, put the magic juju on expanding those things in our lives, we can actively move towards calling forth an authentic life expression.

Going back and putting the steps up in bullet points, month by month, one can see a virtual trail of commitment to the work, universal support, doors opening, and opportunities rushing in to support her. It's right there.

I am inspired to go back and look at the trail of nuggets in my own life and put them up in a sequence for my own reflection. Those moments of open doors, opportunities, connections, shared inspiration. What I think I will find is that although at times I fight it or am fearful or overwhelmed, truly a path has been unfolding for me this entire way.

I'm pretty sure the writing piece, ignited by a certain memoirist, meeting all of you in the virtual circle, feeling the support and encouragement of women at my back, getting on the "wrong" committee, agreeing to write up the notes, the Guidebook that wouldn't go away, the school thing, the speaking, the social activism piece, is all significant and has led me here.

The part where it doesn't stop with what I am doing but includes passing the spark to inspire others to light up their own lives and communities is the empowered part of this. It's bigger than me. It's universal current. Rapidly contagious. Light upon light. Quantum shifting.

I also love that she calls herself a possibilitarian. Brilliant. Rather than challenges, choose to focus on possibilities. As if life is just one giant exploration. No right. No wrong. Just is. Can always create something else. No limits.

Abundance abounds.

Onward and upward!

Saturday, September 06, 2008

Light Travels

Been far away yet hovering close by. Been unplugged yet still plugged in. Been on forced vacation yet rarely left my home.

Been traveling in light years, inner dimensions, tracking waves and subtleties of light. Surrounded by ruby-red crystals I anchored down to the earth and met with divine intervention.

Due to my back situation, a herniated disk, I was forced to stop, do nothing, unplug. Due to another health situation, I was forced to stop, heal and rebuild. The message was clear: no carrying the family load, no summer writing project, limited computer time, no toxic input, no stressful save the schools, no taking on big government or its dysfunctional governmental systems. I was mandated to let go, release what wasn't working, surround myself with support, and rebuild my system.

I get it. Stop. Do not pass go. Do not even think about "doing." It's about un-doing. Not doing. Just. Being.

Hhhhhhhhhhhh.

How many years I've been go-go-going, burning the candle at both ends, burning the midnight oil, burning through my reserves, bottoming out yet still somehow going…for the sake of something, for the sake of my family, for the sake of the school, for the sake of the community, for the sake of the bigger picture.

Not now.

The results came back from my adrenal-stress index and I was off the grid. Literally. Off the grid. The doc showed me the lovely curve of where one ideally would be. Another lower curve of what was "acceptable," and then my pathetic markings well below that and plummeting off the chart. I wasn't even on the chart. I was at Zero. Nothing. No production. Failure. I was in adrenal shutdown.

Hellooooo.

So you see, aside from all my symptoms, there I saw it, crystallized on the page and in no uncertain terms, MY LIFE HAD TO CHANGE.

The day before my mysterious back "injury" although I recall no sudden movement or injurious undertaking that might have produced a herniated disk, I remember feeling maxed out, stressed, pulled, resentful, screaming at my husband, "things have GOT to change. I can't go on like this!!!"

Bless the universe. It really does listen. Even when it seems no one else does. I guess it really, really likes me. :)

I spent the last two months at casa de mia on retreat, on a cleanse, with daily juicing, vitamin reinforcements, bio-identical hormones, adrenal support, frequenting the local farmers markets, eating fresh young coconuts, homemade almond milk and a dairy /gluten /sugar /caffeine /alcohol-free diet. I spent time with my family, without my family, with my healers, with my kitties, surrounded by love, immersed in light, in the depth of surrender, in deeper gratitude. What one might have considered a set-back, I considered a gift. A bigger offering: Non-doership. Healing. Going deep with it. Going home.

I turned off, plugged in, expanded my inner-vista. I put a moratorium on school business and self-imposed deadlines, and imposed severely selective internet time. If it wasn't raising my vibration, I was shutting it off.

What a feeling to just stop, nurture myself, return to the one. Surrounded by light, living in light, merging in light, I am a clear and direct channel. I see light everywhere, even in darkness, in bright little twinkles or diagonal slashes or ripples of reality. Is it just me or are colors unrealistically vivid, fluid and pulsating, jumping off the palette, a lifeforce of their own. It comes to me the enormity of it, what I'm being shown, and I can't help but follow. Expanding the vista, I live from the center, radiating outward and inward, the source of all there is.

Amazing what a difference a lifetime makes.

Or even two months.

As I float myself back, raised and buoyant, I am poised to have a stellar year. How can it be otherwise. It's all up from here.

Friday, August 15, 2008

Origins

Lately The Divine Miss S has been contemplating some pretty open-ended questions. Perhaps it is because her little girlfriend down the street is attending Bible camp and some dialogue has naturally spilled over. Perhaps she is looking for her own sense of this world. In any case, without us ever really having the "G" discussion, here's what recently spilled out of her mouth. Transcribed word for word.

Miss S's Questions To God:

Who was the 1st one alive?

How did the world come about?

What did the 1st house look like?

Who came up with languages?

How many other planets and earths are there?

How did the 1st person get here?

How many people will ever live in the world, from beginning to end? (God will know when it stops)

How long will people stay alive?

Who lives the longest?

How did God make people's bodies?

Next week, we'll sit down and transcribe her answers. From God.

Stay tuned.

Wednesday, August 06, 2008

"Uncle!"

I bumped into a friend at the farmer's market the other day, another uber-mom former booster club president-community doer-creator-mother of 3-fabulous woman who also happens to design gorgeous jewelry which was displayed all over her booth, and she asks me, "So T, what are you working on this year?," well-aware of the goings on at our little school.

I startled to rattle off only my top priorities. "Oh, you know, coordinate the professional development sessions and teacher mentoring, write the monthly newsletter, project manage the Studio Program's garden art installation...you know we won that grant I wrote for it, prospective parent tours...."

I stopped for a moment and said, "This year I'm working on Boundaries."

Two More Reasons To Stay Home...







































These little guys, rescued brothers, balls of joy and playfulness, unexpectedly found their way home with me a few weeks ago and have been faithfully doing their job of adding levity to all of us ever since.

Next time around, I'm coming back as a cat. Eat. Sleep. Drink. Play.

And Purrrr.

Pure joy.

Now that's a job!

Thursday, July 24, 2008

Flat On My Back

Three days after my "Surrender" post, feeling extremely taxed yet pressured to accomplish some writing goals during my daughter's limited camp coverage hours, with the hubs working away "in the box" every waking moment on an ongoing deadline that left him feeling angry, pissy and undervalued, (feelings I echoed in my own "work" minus the paycheck), I reached my breaking point.

This isn't working, I insisted, meaning the whole lot of it.

Things have got to change.

I can't go on like this!

Later that afternoon, as I reached for some hair accessories to go with Miss S's costume for her camp play, I felt my back seize up.

Wow, am I sore, I thought as I did some gentle stretches, which effectively did nothing to unwind the tightening knot in my lower back.

Cut to the middle of the night where I wake in agony, screaming, unable to move or find any acceptable position that doesn't cause me searing pain. Three Advil's later, leaning on my husband like an invalid, I make it off the bed and to the hallway floor--the closest firmest place I can think of-- where I endure the rest of the night on an ice pack, exhausted, with a leg propped up on either wall. Seems it's the only position that will give some relief to my lower back.

I suppose if I had a kinky sense of humor, with legs propped up and my T-shirt spilling down around my waist, one could view this as some "money shot" angle, but I assure you, this was no laughing matter.

Turns out, I had a herniated disk.

I spent a good part of the next 8-10 days camped out on the living room floor flat on my back attached to revolving ice packs. I couldn't drive, I couldn't sit at the computer, I couldn't water the seedlings in the garden, I couldn't go grocery shopping, or make dinner for that matter, I couldn't do drop offs and pick-ups or baths or tuck my daughter into bed or most of the things I do around here. I couldn't write. I couldn't even drink cocktails, which I was told would aggravate the already inflamed inflammation. I could barely sit long enough to answer a few emails.

That writing project that's already a month late?

Not gonna happen.

All I could do was rest and repair. And get driven in to see the blessed Dr. A, every 2-3 days for adjustments.

I get it, a moratorium.

Mandatory vacation.

Do Nothing. Go Nowhere.

Stop.

Do not even think about passing Go.

So when the doc confirmed that I wasn't going to be able to go up to that long weekend lake vacation with the rest of the band families, that the drive alone would be brutal, inwardly I smiled a deep smile of relief. I would get to stay home. Home. The whole house. Alone. Do you know how rare that is? To be swaddled in peace and quiet and stillness…that's just about the most blessedly perfect vacation I could ask for. Everything I need at my fingertips, all the space, yet without the constant noise and distraction or relentless schedule.

Thank you, I thought. This is perfect. My own personal retreat, right here in the sanctity of my own beautiful, (and recently cleaned) home.

It occurred to me to use this time. Go deep with it.

Intuitively, I began a cleanse. An elimination diet. I juiced. I meditated. I rebalanced my chakras. I cleaned my aura. I worked with energy in and around me. I grounded myself to the core of the Earth herself. I listened to inspirational messages aligning me to my highest Self, calling for my destiny to unfold, to create on purpose, in passion, while the rest fell away. Things like this, and this, and this inspired me.

Immobilized, I read words that resonated about the journey while my own journey unfolded before me.

My house has never felt so high. This space was flooded with silence and palpable light.

In some ways, though injured, I haven't felt this good in, well, ages.

Within a week my disc was already astoundingly better.

As I continue to follow this cleanse, my body is lightening up.

I am in such a state of surrender. This back "injury" has turned out to be the greatest gift. I truly and honestly feel blessed for the experience, and for the time to heal.

Along with the immediate care of Dr. A, I have been working with a team of docs here, (I swear it's the actual inspiration for the Grey's Anatomy spin-off, Private Practice.) Hopefully, we're about to get to the bottom of the laundry list of bodily symptoms I'd been experiencing. Tomorrow we'll see the results of all my recent blood, (6 vials!), thyroid, adrenal, and hormone testing I've done, and come up with a plan.

I trust that wherever this leads, I will be right where I need to be. And the work that flows out of me, whenever it shall come, will be right in time and exactly what it needs to be.

Sunday, July 06, 2008

Surrender!

I know, I've been awfully quiet lately. Online, that is.

It’s summer break for chrissakes. I want my summer break!

It's two weeks into summer break and we are just now, within the last few days, actually getting to the break part. Drawing the line.

While others may be floating in a pool somewhere, drink in hand, delighting in a colorful scenic vista with friends and family near to them... we’re up debating and strategizing, holding emergency meetings, writing letters to district superiors, orchestrating a mass-signature gathering campaign, going to mandatory mind-numbing neighborhood council board meetings, all on behalf of the little school...while others, perhaps even some of you are off floating, drinking, relaxing, bbqing, you know, enjoying your summer break!

When did it all get so all-encompassing?

I used to quip "sleep's for pussies!" or "I'll sleep when I'm dead!"

But lately and not so cavalierly, after years of chronic sleep deprivation combined with an over-arching take-care-of-everything attitude, I realize sleep's for me! I need to sleep or I'll BE dead!

I went to the doctor recently with a full menu of bodily concerns: recurring nosebleeds, debilitating physical exhaustion--not just the I'm so tired sensation, but the I-will-fall-to-the-floor-right-now-if-I-don't-lie-down kind of in my bones exhaustion-- migraines, and more recently, heart palpitations, never mind the annoyances of low-to-no sex drive and intermittent nausea.

OK. I get it. I'll go float in a pool somewhere.

But then someone else is going to have to take care of all this, she said, waving her hand in the general direction of the mountain of life surrounding her…the bills, the deadlines, the expectations, the issues, the repairs, the mess, the muck, the myriad of mire….

Responsibilities like so many strips of paper swirl through the air and free-fall to the ground.

Surrendered and airborne, she realizes she has absolutely no idea what she's supposed to be doing right now. Or how to do it.

Mainly, things have got to change.

Mainly, I'm taking a break.

Too much going out. Nothing coming in.

Been that way for far too long.

I surrender!


Tuesday, June 03, 2008

Disarming the ARM Conference: Rocking The Public Schools

After taking some time to re-group, I would love to share a brief recap of my recent trip to NYC where I was selected to speak on a panel on Motherhood and Social Activism for the ARM Conference on Feminist Motherhood, held during the Mamapalooza Festival.

Flattered to be included in such wonderful company, my panelists included:
-Shari MacDonald Strong, Sr. Editor of Literary Mama and Editor of the upcoming anthology The Maternal Is Political featuring essays from Nancy Pelosi, Anne Lamott, Susie Bright, Anna Quindlen, and of course, the brilliant Shari MacD.
-Helaine Olen, co-author of Office Mate, freelance writer for LAT, NYT, WSJ, Salon and the Washington Post and contributor to The Maternal Is Political
-Alana Ruben Free, Editor of Mamapalooza’s literary publication The Mom Egg, and creator of her one-woman show, “Beginner At Life

-Our panel was chaired by Harvard Lecturer and Psychologist Paula J. Caplan, PhD, author of Don’t Blame Mother.


My piece, "Rocking The Public Schools," began by sharing the state of public education in California, what it was like to be a mom up at the State Capitol lobbying against the pending budget cuts, then shared the story of our little neighborhood school’s community-building and revitalization efforts, viewed as a snapshot of a much larger underground revolution of parent and community activism that can be seen bubbling up at public schools all across the Westside of Los Angeles, and perhaps around the country. I closed with a call to action, hopefully inspiring others to use their collective voices to be part of the change they want to see in their own communities.

It was a thrill to be a part of such an incredible collection thinkers and writers, and it had also been nearly a decade since I had been back to NYC, a town I used to call home for almost 10 years.

Good I went first, first thing in the morning so I wouldn't have time to think (or over-think) what I was about to be doing. Seeing as I had pretty much written the entire thing (7 or 8 pages) over a 32-hour period before nearly missing my flight east, there was no time to think. Just to do it and go for it. So that's what I did. My presentation sparked a fantastic dialogue and people approached me afterward from all over the country wanting to hear more about our story. Public school revitalization seems to be a very timely topic these days...in NYC as well as LA, Ohio, Wisconsin, Maine and elsewhere.

Other inspiring panelists I had the good fortune to meet during the conference were:
Amy Richards
Lisa Chiu
Joanne Minaker, PhD
Raye Tibbetts
and of course, the Grande Dame and mastermind behind the entire ARM soiree, Ms. Andrea O'Reilly.

I am sure this is just the beginning of more to come, but for now here's an excerpt:

Rocking the Public Schools:
How a Community of Mothers Take Back Their Neighborhood Schools
By Tanya Anton

(Excerpt)

Education isn't a sexy topic. It isn't as devastating as war, or as immediate as an economic recession or as hotly contested as the presidential candidates.

But it does affect the future of our children.

In Los Angeles, one of the wealthiest states in the nation if not the world, our public schools are ranked near the bottom of the country. We're 46th in terms of per pupil spending. As mothers, we will not tolerate it nor will we stand idly by and do nothing, waiting for some shift in district power, or a handful of Republicans to make up the 2/3 majority vote in order to restore our school budgets or fix our broken system.

It's 4am pitch dark outside as slip into my black power suit and heels, doing my best not to wake my sleeping husband and child down the hall. In lieu of sleep, I've been cramming key players and issues, committee members and faces for the last 48 hours in preparation for something I've never done before. Lobby the state capitol.

Heading south towards the airport, streets are eerily void of traffic as I meet up with my team of local parent leaders to fly up to Sacramento with the UTLA, the LA teacher's union. There's only one goal: to fight for our public schools.

This is taking parent participation to a whole new level!

Let me be clear. I'm a mom not a politician. My daughter's barely through Kindergarten at a local public elementary school and I'm mad as hell.

I, along with many others, have worked tirelessly for the past several years, speaking to hundreds of stressed-out parents, trying to raise the profile of our neighborhood public schools. To explain their public school options. To get the public back into the public schools again. To reinvest in them and revitalize them instead of flee them. To share ideas and resources, and steer others into the fold.

We have made much progress in our little Westside communities. Some of our schools are downright thriving with the influx of new energy and new ideas. Parents are throwing their hearts into organizing community drives, fundraisers, work days, book fairs, volunteering in the classroom, writing grants, writing to their district leaders, painting murals, planting trees, whatever they can do to make their schools a better place for their children.

You can feel schools popping all over neighborhoods in Los Angeles.

The Mother Shift

It wasn't until I became a mother that I began to think in terms of "we" instead of "me." I began to think in circles, rather than dots. I began to connect with other families virtually and in my community, to build a network of support since we had no extended family close by to rely on.

This sense of community we forged, through our babies, borne in the trenches of the messy life-altering transformation that is Motherhood, became the vital thread of inter-connectedness that had been missing in my life. Surrounded by the support and nurturing of other mothers allowed us to not only survive, but thrive, individually as well as collectively. And it wasn't until I began looking at the world through my child's eyes, and through the wider lens of the community of children around me that my sense of civic responsibility and longer-range vision developed. This wasn’t about me. This was way bigger than me. This was about our children, and they deserved better.

Perhaps it's because I'm older now. Perhaps as a mother I feel a need and a responsibility to contribute to the community, to improve our society, to be involved and hopefully make a difference. Or perhaps I've been through so much now, that I just don't care what other people think. If I see a way, I'm going to go for it.


The Call to Activism - What Happens When You Are Called?
(excerpt)

When I first got involved at Walgrove, it seemed daunting. I was in way over my head. Everywhere I looked, we needed something. We needed leadership. We needed funding. We needed inspiration. We needed tangible examples to draw from. We needed help. We needed a spirit of unification, of inclusion not of separatism. Not us vs. them, but us and us.

Part of me resentful, tired, I ask myself, who am I to solve this? Who am I to carry this? Who am I? Why me??? This little school has been sinking for years, why did I think I could help save it?

And yet…and yet…

…you seem to be called forth, puny little you. You, with no qualifications or obvious background. You, called out of the fog, the veritable haze of denial and inefficiency around you. Because you can SEE it.

Little you (or is it the bigger you?) sees a way…a path...the thing you must do…the right thing to do. And you aren't afraid to just go in and make it happen, because, after all, you are a doer, a make-something-from-nothing kind of person, a person who doesn't fear the blank page but instead knows that through a combination of inspiration and perspiration, anything can be achieved because as a creator, you've already been witness to that process hundreds and hundreds of times, and as a mother, you know the process of creation, so you know it IS possible. Anything is possible. And, it is necessary.

And you also, instinctively know, that if enough people believe, and you rally them to join you, mountains can be moved, perceptions can be shifted, transformations can occur so incredible that even the thousands of district employees and hundreds of previous families and tens of teachers and all the drive-by lookie-loos, combined with those who ran screaming any which way they could, the same ones who couldn't see fit to make things happen, the ones who couldn't solve their own problems, who didn't know how or didn't care enough to try, all fall by the wayside, and now YOU are a part of the change.

YOU are making change happen. You are bringing it in. You are facilitating it, orchestrating it, nudging it along, gathering strength, collecting the team, drawing them in, reinforcing their abilities, they reinforcing yours, rocking the old systems, forcing improvements, even though you haven't been paid a dime, and frankly, you may have actually paid for it dearly with your marriage, your finances, your well-being, your sleep, your ability to be frivolous and social and devil-may-care, or self-obsessed on career advances and bringing in income and finding paths to affluence so we too can run screaming to the better district up the hill…the one where the streets are lined with gold and the academics, the programs, and enrichments are so glittery and shiny that it's painful.

It starts with getting angry. All change has to. You can't fix anything if you are smiling and nodding and saying things are fine, good enough, no worse than anywhere else. That's just taking it. That's just being afraid. Afraid to change. Afraid to grow. Afraid to take risks! Being fearful and small.

No! Small-mindedness is not growth. It's denial.

As we begin to see ourselves, as we transform our selves, our families, and the way we parent, so too will our schools, and our communities transform by the very bodies and energy and spirit of those who inhabit them.

But still, what can I do, you ask?

Something shifts when we realize that each one of us has power. As an individual, as a neighbor, as a resident, as a constituent, as a parent, one who has influence in the home, locally and collectively, guiding our children, our classmates, our community, the future of the country. We can no longer look at ourselves as isolated, alone, unimportant. We have a voice, and together, it is all-powerful. We can no longer stay silent. We ARE no longer silent. We ARE the change. We ARE the future.

© 2008 Tanya Anton

Friday, May 23, 2008

Time Being

As I wrote before, it feels like I stepped on an escalator a few weeks back and the pace kicked into high gear. Perhaps more like an elevator, as I blasted through a glass ceiling and found myself in a whole new arena with a different air and altitude to adjust to. I am thrilled. I am humbled. I am inspired. I am empowered.

I am also exhausted.

Can't quite seem to keep time.

Adjusting to a whole new operating system, installing the drivers, new applications, re-formatting, re-selecting preferences, this is the post part where, staring at a blank doc in the wake of a meteor, I can't quite seem to be able to extract the words, let alone detailed nuances, to describe what I've just come through.

Mainly, I just want to linger over the pot of chicken soup, stirring, stirring, as warm steam wafts up into my weary bones, the smell of love and nurturing and all its heartiness extracted from left-over frozen carcasses and bones and lowly root vegetables immersed in a rolling bath of herbaceous water, transforming into a kind of magical goodness while pervading my entire wrung out self.

I know people are waiting to read reports. There are those who are still waiting for follow-ups on my experience lobbying up at the State Capitol, let alone the recent Motherhood and Social Activism panel I presented on in NYC or Wednesday's District Budget Town Hall meeting. There are action plans, and business strategies, updates and school activities that for the time being anyway, I'm afraid will have to wait. For the time being.

Right now it's about nurturing through the adjustment. Sweats, a glass of wine, and a big pot of chicken soup. Some crusty, rustic style Pain Rustique slathered with butter and sprinkled with Celtic sea salt. Curled up on the couch with a good book. I've got a good one I'm into now, drawing me into its quarters. Such a luxury to take in, not put out.

Then it will come.

After I spend some time being.

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

I Heart The Big Apple!
































Haven't had time to write about my trip. Yet. Been navigating a dead computer, installing a new computer, problems with the new computer, trouble-shooting and finally, a new new computer.

God I love the Big Apple.

Turns out I love Apple as well.

In the meantime, these pix will have to suffice...the city that never sleeps....the mom who never sleeps. Big Apple...Apple....Moms Who Rock...Rockin' Their World. I'm starting to see patterns everywhere.

Be the change and the change is reflected right back at you.

There's so much to catch up on...




Thursday, May 15, 2008

NY, NY

Need I say more!

It's been nearly a decade since I've been back and two since I left here. What a freakin' treat to walk by my old buildings and see in some cases nothing has changed, and yet everything has.

Speech tomorrow. Will post more later.

Cheers all, she says lifting a giant cocktail and taking a sip on life...


Thursday, May 08, 2008

Smell The Roses


Our yard is exploding with fragrant color right now. Roses, varying degrees of red-pink-crimson, who've been here longer than I. Perhaps decades.

The pace these days is so accelerated I can barely remember to eat, let alone sleep or wax nostalgic over the deliciousness hanging in the air. Maybe these photos, silent visual beacons, will help me remember to slow down--if not stop, and smell the roses. Transport me from flurry into transcendent beauty.

Do we remember delight? Deliciousness? Frivolity and just because it pleases?

I stepped on an escalator recently and haven't stopped. Capitol, senators, assemblypeople, rallies, plane trips, talks, speeches, lunches, picnics, meetings, doctor appts, teeth wigglings, school functions, a speech to write, accommodations to procure, birthday parties to plan, Playbills and laminates to create, talking points, spreading info, a dead computer, Genius Bar, Dead Motherboard, the dreaded dead computer replacement purchase, extracting data, losing data, recovering some data, new operating platform, new systems, new installations, new touch, adjustments to make, transitions, lost time, lost sleep, flying by the seat of my pants, elevated platform, elevated expectations, elevated worries, no time to worry, just enough time to do, dead debit card, loss of access, to money, to internet, to files, to info, dead food in the fridge, rebooting, re-authorizing, reconfiguring, taking out the trash, cupcakes to bake, speeches to write, revisions to write, new frontiers to venture forth in....

Tonight I cleaned up the counters and cooked real food. A meal. A solid meal. More than a meal. (More about that another time. If I find the time.) I've always said food is more than food, more than taste. Good food heals. The food itself is almost irrelevant. It's what is done to it, and then transformed, what it does to us. That's its magic. Aroma, color, texture, taste. Love. Ahhh. Exhale. Enjoy. While I can.

Did I mention that my daughter counts her years on both hands now? Six. Half a dozen. More than half a decade.

Mom to me is now like a pair of broken-in jeans. She's in there like cupcakes between the tarragon chicken and Lacrima Christi Bianchi and high heels and power suits and lip gloss. As she grows, so do I. In ways unexpected.


The Mom Clogs have been hurting my feet lately. Plus they just look so dowdy. Time for a new pair of shoes. Not sure what suits me these days, or even where to go to find it, but I've been looking. Something between being comfortable and being a presence. Might need to look in not the usual places. Might need to venture farther...

Damn those are beautiful roses! Been blooming every year for decades. Long before I got here. Long after I leave. Remember to notice. Put a few in a vase so I can see them and take in their powerful magic, their wisdom, their fragrance, citrusy and voluptuous, abundant and abundantly clear. It gives me pause.

Smell.


Not like I've had much time to do just that, just thought it'd be a good reminder.

Friday, May 02, 2008

Spiritual Approach To Lobbying


















Or more appropriatel
y,

Novice Approach To Lobbying
As Parent Activists Join the UTLA To Lobby the State Capitol Against Pending Budget Cuts

What did it feel like to be a Mom on The Hill?

I could talk about getting up at the crack of dawn, (actually pre-crack because at 4 in the morning it's still pitch black outside), and what it feels like to drive through LA without seeing any cars on the road. Kinda freakish actually.

I could talk about what it felt like to absorb as many names and faces and their respective committees into my brain as I tried to cram highlights of key players from a whole new universe into about 48 hours pre-flight. Brain freeze.

I could talk about what it felt like to don an expensive black suit and heels instead of my usual faded ill-fitting jeans and soccer mom clogs, the smooth black leather bag on my shoulder stuffed with a portfolio of notes and strategies, targeted State Senators and Assemblymen, and how it made me feel elevated, more grown up, and somehow more officially capable, even though I am quite the imposter in both scenarios.

I could talk about the feeling I got when I realized I had already pegged the "dog and pony show" we walked into two days before we even got there, (this being my first capitol hill experience), and the sense of victory I had when the research I stayed up collecting paid off for us since we ended up ditching the union's intended schedule and instead bushwhacked our way through the halls, knocking on doors, seizing any face time we could grab with the other side, exiting with the brilliant "leave-behind" flier my colleague created of the four of us highlighting our Herculean in-the-public-school-trenches grassroots-building efforts, our websites, our contact info, our mission, and most importantly pictures of us with our kids, because as parents-- not professional lobbyists or union agenda drivers--we were there fighting for the hundreds of thousands of kids and families we represent.

I could talk about what a relief it felt to have all my expenses paid for, for a change…airfare, shuttles, meals, everything…knowing that we would just show up and everything would be provided for us, (thank you UTLA), and that the good work we were doing, for once at least, wasn't costing us money.

And I could talk about the way I felt when surrounded with equally passionate, articulate, thoughtful peers, brilliant leaders whose work makes mine pale in comparison, where the inspired conversation flowed easily and effortlessly and I felt refreshingly smart and insightful, on par and in my element, not further along nor struggling to keep up. Where one person's insight spurred another's and on and on…like firecrackers, popcorn, little jewels exploding with light.

Lobbying up in Sacramento against pending budget cuts? Who would have ever thought I'd be here. A mom on a mission. Surrounded by equally passionate visionaries.

To say the least, it was a heady, heady experience. Quite out of body, yet we were fully in our element….making something happen where we had never gone before. Going for it assuredly, fearlessly, intelligently. And as a team. That is a high I want to stay in.

Here's the deal. The state's run out of money. We're in a budget crisis. It was put plainly to us that there will be no quick fixes this time.

As of August 1 there's no more state cash. The latest figure straight from the halls of Sacramento is that California is $20 BILLION DOLLARS IN DEBT! And the incoming tax revenues will be lower than expected. California. The 6th wealthiest economy in the world can't get its economic shit together. You know, incoming, outgoing, staying within budget, long-term planning, Economics 101.

All this to say that we've gotten ourselves between a rock and a hard place financially speaking.

California, 6th wealthiest economy in the world. California. $20 Billion dollars in debt. Governor. Calling for The Year of Education. Governor. Ready to slash $5 Billion dollars in public education funds. $500 million dollars in our district alone.

The Dems want to find income streams (progressive tax reform, fees, raise taxes, create new taxes, close tax loopholes) so they can keep funding public services, and the Reps want to be fiscally responsible, won't budge on new revenue streams, and want to slash 10% of all state-funded services across the board, (lateral cuts as opposed to prioritized cuts), of which education is a biggie.

Then there's Prop 13, about to "celebrate" its 30th anniversary, which severely limits the amount of home assessment/tax valuation which configures property taxes, therefore greatly reducing income for the state. So a million dollar home bought 10 years ago for 275K is still only taxed at 275K, thus allowing the long-term homeowner, particularly the elderly, a way to afford to stay in their homes. (Under this Prop, property values never assess at market level until time of sale or a major remodel, and this tax assessment is inheritable.) With our housing market tripling in the last decade, this is surely an important issue for state income.

Back to the Budget Cuts. Dems have a pact to not cut education. Reps have a pact to cut spending ie. public services including education, and to not raise taxes. Neither is budging from their party solidarity. We need a 2/3 majority vote.

We started our first scheduled meeting with Democratic Assemblyman Mike Feuer. Schools are his priority. His kids went to Castle Heights Elementary. He doesn't want to make cuts, but we're in a tough position, he said. It was preaching to the choir, as was to be expected. No point lobbying to the converted. So then we got out our list and kamikazed a few meetings with Reps. Gotta say, they had a point about not wanting to keep funding a broken system. I wouldn't buy a cheap product over and over if it kept failing me either, especially if I was going broke doing it. They politely listened to us. We listened to them. We saw the complexity. We at least were received. We made our points.

Back to rock and a hard place.

This is where we changed tactics. Since we were non-professionals, yet were the conduit if you will to thousands and thousands of families (never underestimate the power of being a layperson with a brain), we turned things around.

How can we help you? We can reach the people. We are part of a groundswell of grassroots activism with our own issues with the district, even with the teachers union, but nonetheless working hard to make things better in the public system. How can we work on this together? This will be where we might make some headway.

Pulling back the focus, I see the conflict: I've got something you want but am not going to give it. You want what I have but you can't get it. You want to raise taxes. I want to cut spending. You want to pay for everybody including those who can't help themselves. I want to reward those who worked hard and made their pile already, those who don't need my help not those who suck me dry.

Elevating higher, beyond the play yard politics reminiscent of a preschool toyfight, I see the game. The roles. We all have our piece. We all play our part. It gets dramatic. Billions of dollars and livelihoods and lives are at stake here. Human lives. Neighborhoods. Cities. The future of our country, our children, our teenagers, our future workforce, our future tax burden, our future economic fallout. Cycles.

And yet, it too is illusion. We are all part of the One. All creating this drama for some higher intent. If you look in a non-detached kind of way, its all ants scurrying around a picnic table fighting over crumbs. Not enough to go around. Hear me, what about me, what about this, did you think about that, don't cut that, cut this, not me, them, how can I convince you otherwise, what do you need, what have you got, what can we trade, buzz, buzz, buzz, scurry, scurry, scurry….

Old systems falling apart. Old archaic systems long outdated. And somewhere in all this, this too shall rise. This too shall elevate.

And so my take away is this. There was a special opening for the four of us to be there, myself included. We represent local change, big picture ideas, light, healing, building bridges. There's a lot to digest. It was thrilling. It was eventful. Surely this is the beginning of more to come. But I am full. I shall rest now until next steps present themselves. This is the only way I know to walk onward since I've bushwhacked far into the woods. But there's a reason I've made it this far. And I'm not alone.

Oh, and there is still a speech to write for my upcoming NYC trip. Motherhood and Social Activism: "Rocking The Public Schools."

What a blessed, incredible opportunity.

I am grateful to feel so full.


The LD 3 Parent Team:
Kelly Kane, President WPEF
Bill Ring, Dir TransParent and all-around activist
John Ayers, Uber-FOB Dad
me, founder GoMamaGuide.com

Monday, April 28, 2008

Off to Sacramento

I will be getting up at the crack of dawn tomorrow morning to fly to Sacramento with 3 other amazing parent leaders from my local district and a select group from the UTLA (teachers union) to lobby the State Senate and Assembly against pending budget cuts in education. This is a whole new terrain for me, but clearly exciting and much-needed work that needs to get done.

Say a prayer for the political novice....

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Moms Everywhere READ THIS!

I had the great pleasure to meet Martha Beck at a Woman and Words conference a few years ago where she was signing copies of her memoir Expecting Adam, her transformational self-help guide Finding Your Own North Star, and breezily chatting about her life, her books, and the crooked path that led to where she is now. I found her to be funny, refreshingly candid, and gave-me-goosebumps inspiring. A perfect combination.

When this piece of hers hit the CNN homepage the other day, I knew I had to share it. Again. I say again because it already "aired" in O Magazine years ago.  Moms, we need to hear this. Until we KNOW it and no longer feel bad about ourselves and our lives, this concept should be shared again and again.

With many of us experiencing serious burnout not to mention deep feelings of inadequacy from the constant demands of juggling Motherhood AND our unmet career, personal, marital, and community goals and expectations, combined with SERIOUS SLEEP DEPRIVATION, the following is a point I want to scream from the rafters! But Martha does it so much better.

Go Here.

But I understand. You're too overtaxed to click through...so I've made it easy for you. Read this:


In Defense Of An Unbalanced Life
By Martha Beck

It's five o'clock in the morning. I've been awake for about 23 hours, having struggled vainly to fit in writing between yesterday's tasks: getting the car fixed, taking the dog to the vet, answering e-mail, going grocery shopping, driving my kids to music lessons, seeing clients, picking up deli sandwiches for dinner and cuddling a 12-year-old through some of the horrors of puberty.

I finally sat down at my computer around midnight -- and looked up just now to see the sun rising.

Understand three things: 1) I don't have a job. I freelance, which means I procrastinate and get away with it; 2) my children are not young --they walk, talk, bathe, diagnose their own viruses; and 3) I'm kind of supposed to be an expert at combining career and family.

I conducted years of sociological research on the topic, wrote a big fat book about it. Plus, I'm a life coach. You'd think I could live a balanced life as a 21st-century American woman.

Ha. In fact, having done all that research, I can tell you with absolute assurance that it is impossible for women to achieve the kind of balance recommended by many well-meaning self-help counselors. I didn't say such balance is difficult to attain. I didn't say it's rare. I said it's "impossible."

Our culture's definition of what women should be is fundamentally, irreconcilably unbalanced. That's the bad news. The good news is that the very imbalance of our culture is forcing women to find equilibrium in an entirely new way.

The Joy of Being Unbalanced

If someone condemned you because, say, you failed to prevent Hurricane Katrina, you wouldn't dissolve in shame or work to overcome your inadequacy. You'd probably conclude that your critic was nuts, then simply dismiss the whole issue.

That's the wonderful thing about seeing that our society makes impossible demands on all women. You free yourself to ignore social pressures and begin creating a life that comes from your own deepest desires, hopes and dreams. You'll stop living life from the outside in and begin living it from the inside out.

Women describe the moments when they really "got" that the expectations they'd been trying to fulfill were unfulfillable. They say this epiphany was terrible because it meant relinquishing the goal of total social acceptance. But it was also the beginning of freedom, of learning to seek guidance by turning inward to the heart, rather than outward to social prescriptions.

If you feel trapped by contradictory demands, you may want to join this gentle rebellion. You can help create a new cultural paradigm, one that replaces conformity with honesty, convention with creativity, and judgment with kindness. That, in the end, is the gift of the disequilibrium that society has bequeathed to all of us.

Being forced to seek balance within ourselves, we can make our unsteady, stumbling days feel less and less like disaster and more and more like a joyful dance -- the dance of a wildly, wonderfully, perfectly unbalanced life.

By Martha Beck from "O, The Oprah Magazine," April 2003
reprinted at CNN.com 9:13 a.m. EDT, Tue April 15
, 2008

Here's to the dance, ladies! Dance out loud!


Tuesday, April 15, 2008

15 Ways to Lose A Tooth

By Miss S & GoMama

(in no particular order)
  1. Pull it really hard with your fingers
  2. Push it from behind with your tongue
  3. Wrap it in dental floss and pull
  4. Wrap it up with string, then tie it to the doorknob, then slam the door as hard as you can
  5. Bite into cold, hard apples
  6. Yank on it
  7. Yank on it with pliers
  8. Get punched in the mouth/tooth
  9. Tie a string from the tooth to Daddy's skateboard and tell Daddy to ride away!
  10. Chew on a bone, a steak, or a stick
  11. Wiggle it to death!
  12. Stick your foot in your mouth (after a bath) and kick your tooth
  13. Chew on really hard carrots
  14. Chew on a pencil
  15. Bang it with a hammer
Dang, it takes so long to lose a tooth!!!!!

Ok. What are your favorite tricks?

Wednesday, April 09, 2008

Moms Who Rock Will Rock NYC!






Just wanted to let the fine folks out there in cyberland know that I have been invited to speak in NYC at the ARM Conference on Performing Feminist Motherhood during the Mamapalooza Festival on May 16th. For the complete ARM Conference schedule, go here.

Specifically, I will be part of a panel on Motherhood and Social-Cultural Activism, which will include presentations from the editor of Literary Mama, the editor of Mamapalooza's The Mom Egg, and a scholar from Toronto's York University. It's an estrofest of mamativity!

Here's a taste of what I'll be presenting:

Rocking the Public Schools:
How a Community of Mothers Take Back Their Neighborhood School


Education isn't a sexy topic. It isn't as devastating as war, or as immediate as an economic recession or as hotly contested as the presidential candidates.

But it does affect the future of our children.

In Los Angeles, one of the wealthiest states in the nation if not the world, our public schools are ranked near the bottom of the country. As mothers, we will not tolerate it nor will we stand idly by and do nothing, waiting for some shift in district power to fix our broken system.

My essay will tell how motherhood birthed not only our children, but the growth of a renewed sense of community awareness and civic responsibility, and a vision to collectively invest in and revitalize our failing public schools.

In particular, I will show how one team of mothers gathered together with the school's principal to work to bring the neighborhood back to the "low-performing" neighborhood school. This is the story of a growing team of mothers swarming the wound, nurturing and repairing it, demanding and initiating change through extensive outreach, shared ideas, endless fundraising, campus beautification, community building, perception shifting, and by funding an innovative educational approach supported by professional mentoring.

Some view this wave of parent activism as an underground revolution that can be seen bubbling up in schools all across Los Angeles, and perhaps around the country.

As we transform our selves, our families, and the way we parent, so too will our schools transform by the very bodies and energy and spirit of those who inhabit them.

***

I hope those of you who can, will join me! For those who can't, I will raise a toast (oh yes, you can bet cocktails will be involved!) to Moms Who Rock day in and day out everywhere!

Monday, March 31, 2008

The Mission Fig













Although our kitchen has been updated to an open, inviting space, for some reason I still like to sip my morning coffee out on the stoop. A little low-rent perhaps, or maybe just a die-hard habit from leaner times, it's my way to take in the morning. Butt on the top step, my feet on the next, the "stoop" is now a small deck built out of sustainable Trexx during the recent renovation with a view that surveys our bountiful backyard, a veritable kaleidoscope of greens and blues and yellows, underscored by the sounds of insects buzzing and water trickling off slabs of flagstone as it cascades into the lily pond.


Hard to believe this back yard was once a slab of cement.


Hard to believe that last year the fig tree, now bursting with buds, actually fell over. To the ground. Was it going to make it or not?


Heavy with fruit, perhaps over-burdened and under-attended, it seemed to be leaning a little bit more to the left last fall. Were we just imagining it? Could this mature tree, planted almost a decade ago, actually be… moving? Couldn't be.


But next day it seemed to be leaning a little bit farther over, then later, almost precariously to the left. By sundown she actually gave way, falling all the way to the ground. A 9-yr mature fig tree with arms spanning 10-12 feet wide lay there, prostrate on the ground.


The tree had been a baby, a mere 4-foot stick when I'd found her and planted her in the first year we bought the house. In fact, amid months of flying construction debris, a veritable war zone of rubble and changing landscapes, that little Mission held her own, determinedly took root, and soared.


Something about the California sun, the desert and her timeless offering of peace, she spoke to me as an iconic symbol of maternal wealth and abundance. I knew she belonged here with us. I planted her among the rubble, a silent reminder amidst continual change.


Through the years, she grew to provide a delightful canopy of shade, offering a welcome spot for mama and baby to rest under her sweet-scented lacey green cover. It was the place to hold court with a blanket and a picnic, a stack of toddler books and a few games, or a blow-up pool and some beach towels, providing a much-needed respite from the monotony of the same 4 walls of caregiving and the glaring California sun.


Her voluptuous and magnificent bounty provided us with fig jam, fig-marsala ice cream, figs over arugula with balsamic glaze and crumbled stilton, pork chops with fig shiraz sauce, fish fillets steamed in fig leaves…unending possibilities, culinarily speaking.


Perhaps my deepest joy was watching my toddler grow to be able to reach up and pluck out her own fleshy treats, independent of mama, crushing them sweetly against her pink lips, giggling at her ability to procure her own delightful nourishment.


But as the years passed, due to overwrought schedules and unforeseen stresses leading to un-harvested fruit and an un-maintained yard, she became neglected. Without meaning to, her generous bounty became more of a burden than a benefit.


Weighted and embarrassed by such a gross display of unused riches, her fruits dropping and rotting on the ground, exhausted from holding herself up so long unattended and unadmired, she finally bowed over, weeping in surrender.


It's a feeling I might know something about.


My husband was sure the root ball had been severed and it was just a matter or time before it died. He was more than happy to get rid of it, chop it out, since the decomposing fruit droppings and ever-widening branches had for some time now been challenging his ability to mow even straight rows in the lawn underneath.


But do we discard her in search of a perfectly manicured lawn without branches or rotting fruit to contend with? Unable to keep up with her offerings, do we then ignore her? Abandon her? Or do we instead shower her with gratitude and thanks for providing us with her company, her shade canopy, her gorgeous abundance of ripe fruit, her not one-but-two harvests per year bounty, all the family memories shared, her incredible tenacity and resilience to continue to survive and grow after hardship…the shear grace of her presence? Doesn't that count for something? How do we value that, quantify it? By chopping it down?!


I said let's wait and see how she does, willing to let go of her if that was what was meant to happen, but silently rooting for some sort of comeback.

The tree had offered us so much over the years, I couldn't face hacking her down, erasing her memories for some perfunctory carpet of grass.
What is it with men and their vision of perfect green lawns anyway? It's not like they ever bend over to pull out a weed mind you! They just mow right over them, propagating them further, determined to own a perfectly manicured green.

With ropes and our neighbor, the three of us managed to pry the thing back up, wedging 2x4s under her vulnerable side to keep her propped up. I plucked off as much fruit as I could find, offering her treasures to neighbors and friends before pruning her back severely to lighten her load. Come November, she dropped all her leaves and went under for long, long sleep.


Still dormant, during the holidays we decorated her bare branches as we always had done with crystalline snowflakes and glittery icicles, watching them twist and sparkle in the wintery sun.


It could have gone either way.


So imagine my surprise when out on the stoop sipping my morning cup of joe, I notice the reemergence of life unprovoked. Despite hardship, despite apathy, despite abandonment, there she grows, fingers reaching upward, refusing to be deterred, refusing to be defeated!

Teeming with buds, damn if she isn't a fine display of tenacity and resilience. A symbol of resurrection. Proof of life itself.


I raise my cup and my heart to her today… inspired by the ultimate surrender followed by a burst of brilliance.


Mission accomplished.

* * *


The Mission Fig: a photo essay

Baby Pictures...

























...amidst the rubble:



















* * *



Ten years later...
Signs of life after near death experience:




































Two more weeks of growth
:













Resurrection:


Wednesday, March 26, 2008

Sunday, March 16, 2008

Cloud Jumper












I assure you I don't deliberately sit around noting clouds. In fact, my eyes are usually so far in front of me onto the next task, I rarely look up to differentiate them. But today, as Miss S and I walked out the front door on our way to the library, we both couldn't help but notice.

These clouds were so vivid and so immediate, they seemed to be jumping out of the sky towards us, invading our reality. So intensely surreal, they were almost too real. So close you could get up and jump on them. Gloriously springy gobs of puff so 3D, they were 4D! Not way up in the sky but right there, over the rooftops, an arms length away.

"Wow. Look at the clouds Mom," she said reading my mind.

"I know!" I said running back in to get my camera....

Boing! Boing! Boing!

And all blue above that.

Fun!

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

Haze

Next week I predict gale force winds….

No truer words were spoken. But I won't bore you with the particulars, the checklist of tasks undertaken and delivered within mind-squeezing deadlines. No, that would just sound like I'm arrogant and self-important, overly ambitious, and foolishly over-extended I might add. Don't wish to embarrass myself that way. Suffice it to say I have been cranking out and delivering for the little school, for the wider community, while I try to understand where all this is heading for me personally.

Meanwhile, I can take away great satisfaction in jobs I've executed on time and to my high standard. But after so much output, I feel like a sponge that has been wrung out. I'm in some sort of post car crash haze.

WTF? Where
am I?

The lyrics of a Chris Whitley song drift into my consciousness and describe my mood perfectly…

"…out on the edge of some canyon
where I just forget and you can't recall
no you can't recall…"

Grey matter. Fog cover.

Haze.



















Clouds streak the cobalt sky in tractor-wide trails of cottony fluff. Billowy streaks, deliberate channels then bleed into smoky dissipated edges like some runny watercolor. Partially defined. Partially blurry. Blue. White. Blending. Lightening the blue. Illuminating the white. A bit of both.

I sit, focusing on my perch.

Focus eludes me.

Am I centered, or moving? Active or silent?

I wait for a sign. The steady movement of the stair-climber acts as a distraction.

I have been that one, racing up the stairs, heart pounding, pushing as fast as I can, determined to challenge my body, my time, my productivity. I've used the stairs to burn fat, to harden thighs, to breathe deeply, sweat, center. It feels good. It brings clarity. Momentum. Purpose even. And now, I sit watching him. Observing that method calmly, resolutely, immobile. It is one way. It is one practice.

Yet somehow the stillness, now possible by his exit, also feels good. Another kind of practice.

So much can be lost in the movement. So too, much can be lost in only stillness. There it is. Two truths. Lying side-by-side.

I usually know what I want and go after it. I am fairly clear on my opinions about things. Not lately. Mostly I feel a bit numb, dazed, no compass needle pointing the way.

I won't move until I know where I'm going. Without clarity, I'm not moving. So, race your races, good you know where you're going.

Me? I'll just be sitting here, taking in the view for a while, recharging after navigating a political and territorial pissing ground, grateful for a respite. Waiting for next steps, which haven't presented themselves yet.


In the meantime my dance card, as they say, is fully punched.




Sunday, March 02, 2008

Cupcakes, Cupcakes

What's the big deal about cupcakes?

With the rising popularity of designer cupcake shops in LA like Sprinkles, Toast, Crumbs, Vanilla Bake Shop, not to mention the Magnolia Bakery in NYC, it seems that there's a high-end cupcake shop opening up in every neighborhood these days, along with some sort of hypnotic I-will-wait-in-line-for-over-30-minutes just to buy a waaay over-priced round of sugary fluff. It's mass-hysteria in my opinion, another craze following the same trajectory that Pinkberry did for frozen yogurt, or Krispy Kreme did for hot sugary glazed donuts.

What's the deal? I mean, they're cupcakes, folks. Cupcakes. Buy a $2 box of cake mix and bake 'em off in muffin tins, or bake your own recipe, but c'mon. Cupcakes. Not. Rocket. Science.

I have no big pull towards them personally. I mean, I think they're ok, if not just a big mouthful of overly-sickly sweetness, but my daughter loves them. Reveres them. So, being the devoted mother and wonder baker that I sometimes am, occasionally I indulge that desire for her. Like yesterday…

What to do on a dreary, gray Saturday? House-bound and bored...

I know.

Bake.

Cupcakes.

With an assorted rainbow of sprinkles. (Decorating's her thing.)

Donning aprons with hair tied up in ponies, we got to mixing and baking, licking and scraping, and soon we had ourselves a batch of fresh vanilla cupcakes with buttery vanilla frosting. (I tried selling other flavors, such as chocolate, black and white, orange blossom, or rose water decorated with candied rose petals, even adding some freshly grated Meyer lemon peel to the frosting, but to no avail. Miss S loves the classic: vanilla, vanilla.)

Vanilla it was.

I laid out all the decorative sugars, sprinkles, and candied rose petals for her to decorate her little heart out, somewhat uninspired and disappointed we weren't creating a more magical "fairy blossom" flavored frosting at the very least. (She's waaaay into fairies these days. She's even writing and illustrating her very own "Fairy Book.")

Then, inspiration hit me. She could sprinkle away, but I was going to try something different.

I had a box of Dots and some leftover Tootsie rolls, (dare I say that they might have been from Halloween?) I took my extra sharp Shun Santoku knife, rubbed a little oil along the blade to prevent it from sticking, and sliced each Dot into 5 or 6 thin nearly transparent wheels of stained-glass candy color. Perfect little petals. Then I sliced and rolled "stems" out of the Tootsie rolls, and discovered that pistachios would form perfectly green-tinged "leaves."

Magic fairy flower cupcakes. As pretty to look at as they are to eat.





And here are the Divine Miss S's creations:
(Even she got into the flower power eventually.)