Monday, May 31, 2010

The Man Cave

These are men. This is their cave.

Leaning on Newton's Third Law of Motion, which states that every action has an equal and opposite re-action, I believe that the Man Cave is the male version of Virginia Woolf's "room of one's own." Just as women/wives need an area cleared of home and household items (this list includes children, pets and cleaning supplies), so do men need an area clearned of home and household items (which includes children, pets and "honey-do" lists). But whereas women may tend to need an area for crafts, scrapbooking, reading, sewing, mosaic-tiling, painting or just goddamned resting, men need a comfy couch, a few cigars, HD TV with pay-per-view, good ventilation and a fridge for beers or Perrier (for the metro man who happens by the open garage door).

The cave above, owned by my husband's good friend (who is the husband of my good friend), was photographed a few years ago; I was there last night and it has been redecorated, with a large king's throne-like chair in the corner and a couch blocking the entrance from aforementioned unwanted pests and rules. You gotta really want to be in there and, as a wife, sometimes I just steer clear, preferring the bright lights and action of the main house and kids on trampolines.

But last night, I kinda "got it."

Once you get past the smoky air and the low lighting (provided by the glow of an old neon beer sign glinting off various sports trophies), there's a certain charm to the Cave. For one thing, the kids are scared of it, so it's quieter than the rest of the house. And the men are relaxed, peaceful, free of stress. My husband actually smiled at me and put his arm around me while we took in a Will Ferrell movie marathon. Though my friend and I crept inside tentatively to offer pizza to the men, we were welcomed to stay a while, soak up the testosterone, laugh at inappropriate jokes. And, after a loooong weekend with kids (and a morning of crafting with the ladies), it was a welcome re-action to all of the feminine actions in my daily life.

I'm never going to expect my husband to see "Sex and the City" with me or understand my obsession with glitter Mod Podge. But as long as he respects my need for a "cave" of my own, I'll respect his. Heck, I'll even buy the first six-pack.

Sunday, May 23, 2010

Circle of Life

Life has a way of reminding you that it is a circle, not unlike water flowing up and down a fountain. It may trickle a bit, it may seem like it will actually stop flowing occasionally, and then it will start back up like a flood. But it keeps going and changing.

Today, our family went to the wedding of one of my husband's younger cousins, a darling girl named Kazia. Her new husband, Sharon (pronounced "Sha-row-n"), is clearly besotted with her and it was like watching electricity form between close-moving clouds whenever they were near each other. The love and the magic were palpable.

Between the wedding and the evening reception, we had a few hours to relax, so we went home. As we gathered our things and hustled the kids to get ready for the next event, my cell phone rang.

The voice said, Hello Erin, you don't know me, but I have some sad news to tell you. Do you have a moment?

The news was short: yesterday, my therapist had a heart attack and passed away. I thanked the caller and we ended the conversation quickly, me saying something about how I knew she'd been on vacation and that I was glad she had been somewhere she loved, blah blah.

You are in shock, I'm sure, the caller said. If you need some help processing this information, please don't hesitate to call me.

But I don't want to call her. I want Nancy, who has been my counselor/shaman/Buddhist teacher/Dalai Lama/surrogate mama/champion/no-bullshitter/holder of all my secrets and monsters/intellectual Gandhi for more than 12 years. When I started seeing Nancy, my mother had been hospitalized for schizophrenia; I felt broken, even though I had just met my husband and had so much going for me in other areas of my life. In the ensuing years, I had been in therapy on and off, learning from childhood hurts and reinventing myself as a strong, confident woman, wife and mother. Truth be told, even though I still got a lot out of my bi-weekly conversations with Nancy, I knew that our time together was coming to an end because her insight had led me to such a good place in my life. But I never imagined that she wouldn't be there, if I needed her.

And life goes on. Flowing up and then down again, a marriage here and a death there. The trick, I suppose, is to keep flowing as long as you can, acknowledging the reality that all of us must stop flowing one day.

Monday, May 17, 2010


Sometimes, it's okay to be clueless.

When my friend Kendra asked me to lunch -- with a few weeks' notice -- I just figured she was busy and, with three kids, had to plan it out a little.

When she asked me to text her when I was on my way to pick her up, I thought maybe she was ready to go but was maybe going to throw in a load of laundry before I got there and needed a hint of notice.

When I said, "Cute dress," and she said, "Oh, I figured it was good for a garden party," I didn't think twice. Was just happy I'd worn a dress too, instead of the work-out clothes from my morning walk.

When she said, "Hey, before we go, I wanna show you this cool thing I got for our patio," I took it at face value. I mean, she's a designer and always adds a fun new feature for the summertime: fire pit, canopy, fountain... I was excited to see what she had gotten (and what I'd be copying soon!).

But when I walked around the corner of the garage and saw a group of my closest girlfriends standing there waiting for me... I nearly fell over. So much love. So much gratitude.

Even though I'm only moving 20 minutes away -- and will still be in the 818 area code, thus technically still a "Valley mom," even if it's of the West Valley variety -- it was so touching to celebrate this big move with my girlfriends. Thankfully I'm at an age where I don't lose friends easily - it takes much more than a freeway drive to sever these ties. I know how I feel about these women, but I was so lucky to feel the mutual affection yesterday.

And what a send-off it was. Everyone had brought a dish to the potluck that I have loved: Barbie's famous kugel, Michal's hummus & pita, Natalie's salad, Nicole's chocolate-dipped strawberries, Kendra's Chinese Chicken Salad... We talked. We laughed. We crafted. We enjoyed the sunny Sunday afternoon in the 'Oaks.

The only other surprise was that I didn't cry.

Sunday, May 9, 2010


I just got my first rejection email for a story. I know, I know... it happens to everyone, you'll get over it, etc., etc. And I *know* this stuff. I've said this stuff. But holy shit, it hurts when it really happens.

At first, I read the very constructive criticism and I took it very, very well. "Yes," I thought, "they're right! I can fix that!" Then, quickly, I slid down the rabbit hole into a dark, crying place where I vowed never to write again.

This is one of those moments when you think, "Later, I'll laugh about this..." Right?

Sunday, May 2, 2010

The Gravitron

Heaven help those who dare to ride the Gravitron. For the uninitiated, it's the carnival ride that's shaped like a space ship (round). You get in and stand against the wall, and it spins really, really fast, until centrifugal forces lift you up and away from gravity's pull.

I think it should be called the Vomitron. And my kid (bravely holding on, post-ride, whose face is the same color as the pole) agrees. She bounced around the school carnival with her two best friends and sisters, practically leaping into the Gravitron after several rides on the Twister and the Zipper and a plunge down the big, curvy slide. "It's no big deal," she smiled. And, judging by her success with the other rides -- and her general lack of motion sickness -- I took off with my uber-large bag of Kettle Korn to peruse the silent auction while my husband waited outside the Gravitron door.

Well, you can tell by the photo what happened next. She wobbled over to a shady bench and held onto this pole while her sisters rode a few more crazy rides, until she was practically horizontal and begging to go home. I guess sometimes, as much as you want to ride against gravity's pull, your little body just can't take it.

Stay on the ground, little rider. Stay on the ground.

Scenes From a Yard Sale

Now, I love bargains and yard sales as much as the next person, but if you're stupid, it's gonna cost ya.

As I may have mentioned, we're moving soon... this week, in fact. Since we've lived here for 12 years and my husband grew up here, we had a lot of stuff to get rid of. One thing about being in the storage biz is that you know what happens to all the "stuff" that people accumulate over their lives: it grows out of your house and into a storage unit that you pay for, for years and decades, until you finally die and your kids have to go through it and sell it. And, to boot, you never enjoyed it because you couldn't even see it while it was packed away in storage.

We are not hoarders or pack rats; my neighbors have told me that they look forward to our semi-annual dumpster days, when we have a garbage bin deposited by the curb while we purge the garage and house. I do keep sentimental mementos (kids' artwork and cards, photos, yearbooks, my old Duran Duran and U2 LPs, that sort of thing) but most of the "stuff" (antique furniture, dishes, knick-knacks) is meaningless to me. I'd rather sell it to someone who needs/wants/will buy it than keep it in my house. I've even started to classify some items as "aspirational purchases": those things I buy in the hopes that I'll take up a new hobby and become a master of it, like my soldering iron or scrapbooking supplies or breadmachine. They become reminders of failed attempts and I have no more need for them.

And thus, we had a garage sale. Everything on the driveway and in the garage was for sale. Piano, couches, filing cabinets, mugs, fabrics, clothing, old surfboard and wetsuit, Christmas junk, Hanukkah lights, children's Haggaddah for Passover, miscellaneous crap... it was all for sale. You could make us any offer and we would entertain it.

Unless you were a clumsy negotiator.

I've lived in Italy and that's where I learned to barter. As a shopper, you tend to know what something's worth to you and whether or not you'd buy it at the listed price - if so, you'd offer the seller about half the price and see what he/she would negotiate back. And then the seesaw began until a good price was agreed upon. I did this with some vintage Chinese pieces in Chinatown, too, and the old man who ran the warehouse smiled as he pretended to stick a knife in his heart. "Oh, you killing me! You killing me!" he howled. But I got my chests for a steal... and he even loaded them into my SUV for me.

Back to the yard sale. Knowing how the art of the deal happens, I was surprised by how some people have no game when it comes to bartering. I had a pair of gently used Calvin Klein slingback heels - I bought them new at their retail price of close to $100 and they are gorgeous - and I was offering them for $10. One woman wedged her meaty foot into them and offered me $5. I said $7 firm and she waddled away. Now, if she had expressed any interest in the shoes, I would have wheeled and dealed - and may have landed at $5 eventually. But she didn't really care about the shoes. So, like the Seinfeld "soup Nazi," I was like, "No shoes for you!"

Similarly, a man picked up a French textbook that we bought last May for about $80 - it's in rough condition but has its 2 CDs still intact. He had some sort of a scanner for books - it's clear that he buys and sells books, raping yard sale sellers in the process - and he showed me that the book was "only" worth $16 on Amazon. I had had it listed for $10, so I shrugged. "What do you want to pay for it?" I asked. "$1.50," he said, and to my amazement started to list all the costs involved for him if he buys the book - listing it, shipping it, blah blah. As if I don't know that the buyer on Amazon actually pays for shipping. Dipshit. I took the book out of his hand and put it in my house, then crossed my arms and waited for him to leave. (I later listed it on Amazon for $14 and the buyer will pay the shipping. Dipshit.)

One woman tried to tell me that my 9-year-old had told her something was "2 for a dollar." Are you kidding me? My kid has no idea that that even exists! I finally got her stuff totalled up -- $13.50 -- and she tried to hand me a hundred dollar bill. I said I wouldn't change it for her, so she asked me to hold her stuff on the porch. After an hour or two, my husband put it back out and we sold most of it. When she came back, she said, "But I promised I'd be back!" Like the $14 of crap would have made her life better. I said, "I don't even know you, why would your promise mean anything to me?"

"Because I'm human," she said, picking up an old Boggle game. Turning it up and down, she said, "Oh, I use these for therapy." (Huh?)

Good thing. Seems like she could use it.