Monday, August 23, 2010

A Decade of Emme

Ten years ago and about eight months ago, I remember feeling nauseous and patting my stomach, saying, "Come on, Emmeline. I know you're in there." I'd had her name all picked out for years -- it was my grandmother's grandmother's name, one Emmaline Cree, born August 16 (my own birthday) in the 1800s in Sailor Springs, Indiana. Naturally, when I found out that my due date was August 16, too, I felt obliged to honor this connection with my ancestor and made a slight update to the spelling of her name, ready to welcome the reincarnation of dear Emmaline.

Well, my Emmeline had ideas of her own. She waited and cooked and hung out until August 19th, sidestepping other family birthdays on the 16th and 18th, choosing her own day to be born (but still within the August Leo zodiac dates, a family tradition). After all of the care I took to choose her name and link her to my own family history, she prefers to be called by her nickname Emme, which suits her sunny, funny personality even better. And for her birthday, she chose to be surrounded by just two of her best friends, her sister Serena and me, going on a late afternoon trail ride up Old Topanga Road.

I should be sadder about my oldest child turning double-digits, but look at this kid. She is so happy and growing up so beautifully... how could I hold her back, even if I wanted to??

Happy Birthday, Emme!!

Creepy Crawly Nature

This is the creature that my kids saw on the street in front of my house. It's a tarantula.

I don't know about you, but when I think of tarantulas, I think of the fuzzy kind, like the one that crawled that menaced the Brady family on their big Hawaiian vacation. That kind, while venomous, has a kind of stuffed-animal appeal, almost like you could stroke its fur and it might become a pet. But this one, which I only deigned to see in a photo, looks like an alien head attached to limbs. It might even be pregnant and I shudder to imagine all its creepy crawly babies sneaking into any open doorways or windows while I sleep...

Years ago, at a yoga retreat in Ojai, I made peace with my fear of bees and my husband even jokes at how I can sit peacefully while they buzz around me, saying, "Hey there, little fella." Even looking at this picture of a gangly spider (taken by my 9-year-old girl, no less) makes my skin crawl, and I find myself wondering if, years from now, I'll have made the same pact with spiders and snakes as I've made with the bees.

Bees make honey, though. What have spiders done for me lately??

Friday, August 20, 2010

Lord, Give Me Strength

I love this photo. You'd think Raf was praying for strength and courage, asking God or the Great Divine Inspiration for something to help him through this insanely hard time of learning to live without Max. And you might also think, from the way that the sunlight is shining onto his shoulder, that the Divine Being were, at that exact moment, listening and answering, spreading light and love.

But no. Raf was waiting for me and Emme and her friends to get back from riding horses on a trail up Old Topanga, thinking, Jesus, when are they gonna be done??

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

The Game of Life

When I was a kid, I loved to play the game of Life.

At the ripe old age of 8, it was so much fun to tool around a little board and acquire your education, get married, have kids (tiny pink or blue pegs that just drove around in your plastic convertible, never asking, "Are we there yet?"), change careers, make a little money, lose a little money, and then tally it all up at the end. Sometimes you'd win, other times you'd lose, but you could play again and again, choosing a different path or a different card the next time.

As a grown-up, I'm not convinced that we aren't still playing at the game of Life. The only problem for me is that I don't know if I'm winning, or losing, or if there will ever be a winner or loser. And I don't think I'll ever really know because when the game ends, I'll be... you know...dead.

Raf and I have had so many conversations about life and death this summer, trying to make sense or come to conclusions about either one. And this is what I'm thinking: maybe there's nothing after death. Which leaves me with the desire to only do what I want to do and be with the people I want to be with. Even the concept of the rat race -- striving to make money and leave a hefty inheritance for your ancestors or to achieve fame and success on a grand scale -- seems foreign now.

I have always had the desire to be a published author, to have my name written in reviews or to do book signings and speak about my inspiration for the characters on the page. With a bittersweetness, I am letting go of that desire. I'm not saying it won't happen and I'm not saying I won't keep writing and learning and working toward that goal some day, but I'm finding that I don't want to define myself by that goal anymore. There's a part in "Eat Pray Love" (I'm sorry to reference it... you know who you are, my dear one) where an Italian guy asks Liz Gilbert for one word to define herself. She says "writer," and he says, "That's what you do for a living, but it doesn't say who you are." And so I find myself going internally, asking that question over and over, Who are you? Like the caterpillar in "Alice in Wonderland," which I loved in the original storybook and again in the crazy Tim Burton film.

Who.... are.... YOU?

I've decided (for now, because you know we can always choose again... and again...) that I'd rather make sure that Raf is okay, that the girls are growing and learning well, that our house is a sanctuary, that I'm traveling and being inspired and creating art on whatever scale I can, rather than try so hard to become something. If I'm taking an honest look at my life up til now, it's been a surprising journey but one that shows a clear path that leads right to the tips of my toes right this minute. So I'll continue following that path, stepping onto each brick as it appears under my feet.

And the "me" that I am... well, that's who I'll be.

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Box City

This is my garage. Since we moved, I have been saving as many of the cardboard boxes as possible, so that my garage could be turned into a Box City for a brief, shining moment. There were boxes from new toilets, a new dishwasher, wardrobe boxes (complete with metal rods to hold clothing on hangers), book boxes, long and thin boxes from pendant lamps, and many, many more. I'd been waiting until our girls' friend Maile, an accomplished artist in the realm of Hobo huts and recycled materials, to visit. Finally, when she came to stay with us for a whole weekend, the boxes came to life in the form of Willow City.

The girls have Hobo aliases -- Gibble, Derk, Chille, and Milli -- which seem to allow them to fully inhabit the spirit of the boxes, bringing forth the mysteries that are pressed into the corrugation and dried tree pulp. As I showed them the boxes I'd been saving, Maile/Gibble thoughtfully listed the additional tools that they'd need: heavy scissors, strong tape, sharpies. Eyeing a pile of plastic sheeting and bubble wrap, she said, "Can we use those, too?"

"All yours," I said. And then they went to town.

Once the Hobos created their own dwellings (Chille's apartment had an outer garden with a fence and chalk-drawn flowers), they decided to create a City Hall in the middle. Gibble taped boxes together to create a stately building and then a clock tower to its right. There were tunnels with skylights/look-out stations connecting the various buildings. It was as well-planned and executed as any city I'd seen in real life, only Hobo-fied.

The girls worked for hours on Willow City, and wanted to sleep in it, which didn't happen. They played there all day Saturday, breaking only for food and swimming and trampolines, then several hours on Sunday. The kids worked so hard on Willow City that I'm reluctant to dismantle it, even though Emme said it's fine to let it all go. I guess some forms of housing are meant to be temporary, as our Hobo friends show us. Sometimes, it's the simple fact of creating that is important, not the holding on.

I'll let go of Willow City. Maybe tomorrow.

Brotherly Love

Don't judge a brother by the cover.

This is a hilarious shot of my brother that I found on good ol' Facebook and appropriated for my own use, to commemorate his 40th birthday. So it's not the nostalgic image that I wanted to portray, but it'll do. You see, my brother has a very silly, ridiculous side that counteracts his highly intellectual brain and serious job as a network engineer in D.C. And that dichotomy is why he's such a mystery to me.

Bruce and I are Irish twins, exactly a year and 8 days apart (which means that I'm technically 2 years younger this week because my birthday's not for another few days!!). We live an entire country apart; he's utterly right coastal and I'm entirely left coastal. He's a red state sort of a guy and I'm all blue all the time. He and his wife are ex-military, card-carrying NRA members, upstanding citizens in every sense; I tend to waffle on good citizenship, preferring to be a good human in the world over the idea of "right" or "wrong" in the eyes of the law, but I will admit to a visceral thrill when I shot my brother's sniper rifle on the range in Texas.

What I'm getting at is, though we were super close as kids, even dreaming the same dreams some nights, we are not as twin-like since we became adults. But every time I see my brother, I remember why I adored him so much as a kid. He's the nicest person you'll ever meet, so funny, a fantastic and loyal friend. He adores his wife and kids. And that's the best thing I could ever want, isn't it? A good guy with the same genes as me.

Over the weekend, our good friends were in Vegas and we had their 10-year-old daughter and 12-year-old son stay with us. Watching their closeness and the easy way that they took care of each other reminded me of when Bruce and I were young, a fitting way to celebrate his 40th birthday.

Happy birthday, big brother. Here's to never really growing up!

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Hangin' with the Big Dogs

Marlowe's BFF is one of my dear BFF's kids and both are the youngest of three kids, so we call them "The Littles." I decided that it would be awesome to take them to Pacific Park for Serena's party, too, and they seemed game for just about any of the rides and attraction.

This picture shows The Littles post-roller coaster.

Okay, so maybe they're still little.

Nina's Nine

My Serena ("Nina") is nine years old. This is what she looked like yesterday with her girlfriends at Santa Monica Pier (2nd from right in 1st pic, then in the middle of the next pic), riding a bunch of rides and partying 'til it was too cold to party any longer. So long, 8, but 9 looks awfully fun...

Scenes from the Breakfast Counter

Marlowe's BFF slept over last night. Here's what I heard this morning, after they went on the trampoline in their PJs and requested breakfast:

"Hey, Rach, let's sit on bubble wrap while we eat waffles."

And so they did.