Monday, July 25, 2011

I Won't Stop Believin'

Birthday parties are tricky.  As a mom, I sometimes worry excessively about providing the right touches and getting everything "perfect."  More than anything, I know myself... and I know the strange feeling of disappointment when you've expected something more from that particular, special day that marks your birth.  Usually, it strikes me mid-day on my birthday, coming from the very center of my unconscious, a desire for this day to be filled with fireworks and magic and that intangible something special that I may not even have words to express.

As I've learned to be "in the moment" and express gratitude for the specialness of every day, this feeling has subsided somewhat for me because I realize that I'm in control of my own happiness.  But for my kids, I still worry that I'm helping them to have the best birthday possible, whatever that might mean for them.  I want to help them celebrate their special day, the day that I was able to bring them into their own existence, the day that changed my life for the better.  A little bit of pressure?  You think?

The thing is, when they were little it was more about taking something they love and just theming the hell out of their parties.  If they loved Toy Story, then I hired Cowgirl Jessie to come and round up the lil' pardners.  If they loved superheroes, I made supergirl bathing suits and capes for them to wear in the pool.  But now, I have to really listen to them, understand what they really need to feel good in the world, and try to figure it out.

Which brings me to last night.  For Serena's 10th birthday - double digits! - I had suggested that we take just two friends and her sisters to see a Journey cover band at the local park. Some swimming before and after.  Pizza.  Cupcakes.  Glow sticks.  She said okay, and we planned it, just a little.  And then I worried.  Would she be happy?  Would she feel satisfied?  Would it be enough?  

And then a few more of my friends came.  A picnic happened.  I talked Serena's grandma into joining us for at least a few songs.  The girls ate kettle corn and sno-cones.  By the last song -- "Don't Stop Believin'," of course -- everyone was on their feet, like a real concert, and there was Serena, hanging on the stage, starstruck, glowing from head to toe.

As we walked back to the car, emblazoned with our glow stick necklaces and headbands, I overheard Serena talking.  I didn't catch all of it, but I did hear this:  "best birthday ever."

And that made me glow brighter than all 10 candles on a single cupcake.

Monday, July 18, 2011

My (So-Called) Organic Life

I recently read a book that changed my life.  Okay, so the change was about 10 years in the making, but when I read Crazy Sexy Diet by Kris Carr, it was like a lightbulb clicked on.  I bought the book on my Kindle, I was so excited to read it, and I finished it in two days, then ordered the hardcover version to keep in my kitchen.  I'm not saying it was the book itself that changed my life and I'm not even recommending that you read it, unless you are searching for a way to a more organic, veggie-based life.  

More than anything, I think I responded to the way Kris spoke to me in that book.  Like a good girlfriend calling me on my shit.  Saying, "Hey, you know that you are what you eat, but yet you still ignore labels on your food.  You still buy your produce in the grocery store without asking where it's grown or what pesticides and fertilizers are used.  You support big-box retailers blindly.  You eat meat and dairy without wondering about the care of the animals.  You put anti-aging creams on your face and use suncreens and shampoos that contain ingredients that are known to cause cancer.  And now that you know it, what are you gonna do?"

As I mentioned, this choice has been a long time coming.  When Marlowe was a toddler, she had a terrible skin rash, red bumps all over her body.  Her pediatrician said it was probably the laundry detergent, so immediately I changed to a fragrance-free option.  But that didn't seem like enough, so I sought out greener alternatives and my kids loved how much cleaner their laundry was.  I got rid of the bulk of our chemical cleaners and bought a big ol' bottle of vinegar. But when it came to the way we eat, I didn't want to rock the boat.  I chose to ignore a lot of information, thinking that the radical "green" activists were just lunatics.

Case in point: I had read the vegan manifesto "Skinny Bitch," and hated it.  The Che Guevara rebel pose of that book was off-putting, to say the least, although it lured readership with the words "skinny" and "bitch" (emphasis on the "bitch").  I think I actually threw the book away and drove to In-n-Out for a Double-Double.  But "Crazy Sexy Diet" approached me in a "you can do this, you can change your attitude about eating and living" sort of a way.  It made me feel like I could experiment with juicing and eating greener foods and just see how it made me feel.  I could tip-toe my way in.

And you know what? It feels great. I have not given up on a lot of things because I am only a month and a half into my "new" life; therefore, I still drink coffee (mostly fair trade and organic) with cream (organic), still eat fish occasionally, won't kill myself if I eat sugar (though it's tasting sweeter to me as my tastebuds change) or alcohol, still eat dairy (though I like buying organic, range-free eggs from local farms) and if it comes down to buying non-organic produce, I will (with a list of the "dirty dozen" in my purse).

The only thing is, now that the more I know about where our food and "health" products come from, the more challenging it is to live moderately.  What I mean is, I can't just pull the wool back over my eyes.  When I drink a frosty Diet Coke from a can - formerly my favorite beverage in all the land - I can't ignore the fact that it's been made from chemical sweeteners that cause both carb cravings (bad for a "diet" drink, no?) and cancer, and I also wonder about the aluminum can... where did it come from? How will it be recycled? 

Diet Coke is an easy one because I rarely drink it anymore, but when I checked out my cosmetics on Skin Deep, I was horrified.  I pride myself on my skin and am religious about my sunscreen and eye cream, but both of those (as well as my beloved anti-aging serum) are high in toxic ingredients... And what's a girl to do?  Give up on her youthful appearance to save the planet?  I'm being dramatic here, but my point is that my eyes are opened and I can't shut them. Acknowledging that I am still taking baby steps into this new lifestyle, I am going to do my best to find organic, vegan, cruelty-free alternatives to my favorite products.  

I won't go crazy with trying to get other people on my bandwagon, nor will I slap a Diet Coke out of a friend's hand - that's not at all who I am. In fact, from time to time, I may ask for a sip or a can of my own.  And I still drive an 8-year-old SUV, which I will keep until it dies and then I'll buy a more fuel-efficient car.  But being conscious makes me wary of lame articles like the one in Self Magazine's latest issue, "Detoxify Your Life," which suggests "easy" fixes for becoming more chemical-free.  I think we are far too accustomed to living the "easy" way.  It's okay to challenge ourselves to be more active participants in our health, from the way we eat to the way we clean.

I'm still experimenting, so I won't go all out and say I'm green or organic or vegan. But I feel radiant.  And that's where I wanna be.

Sunday, July 17, 2011

Passing the Torch

Raf, Lola & Nina at Zuma

Raf & Lola check the waves
It can't be easy for my husband to accept that he's the father of three girls and married to a rather frilly woman.  Raised by a macho Israeli dad in a sports-obsessed family with a strong older sister and two younger brothers, he must have imagined that he'd raise a basketball team of boys rather than a parade of pink princesses.  There's only so much apologizing I can do; after all, it takes two sets of genes to create a child.  And we've long since determined that we're done having babies - there comes a time when you need to be grateful for the children you've been blessed to welcome into the world, and to set your intentions on raising them rather than having more kids.  Contrary to what our extended relatives may like to say when we see them once a year, we're not holding out for a son.

Still, I'm sure he feels a pang to teach a son how to be a man.  How to pee on the side of a road.  How to kick ass in a worthy fight. How to play basketball. He's never said as much, but I see how he studies my relationship with the girls, the way we bond over clothes or make-up or teen heartthrobs. It's different.  I'm sure he sometimes feels like a lone wolf in a sea of pink frippery.

But an interesting thing has happened.  Our youngest daughter, now 6 and three-quarters, asked him to teach her how to surf.  Over the past few months, he's taught her how to balance on a board in the swimming pool, bought her a wetsuit and a boogie board, hoping that she'll learn the basics before she's actually on a wave.  Today, he took us all to the beach so that the girls could jump on their boogie boards.  She took a few tumbles in the whitewash, coming up with sand in her hair and her nose, but she refused to get out.  Instead, she went back out in the waves, again and again.  She inspired her older sister, too, and we had a hard time getting them to leave the beach after a few hours.

"She's a natural," he told me, but his smile and the way he can't form the words to tell me how proud he is, is louder than words. 

Happiness is a Sunny Summer Day at Zuma

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

The Magic of My Dining Room Table

Last week, I had the pleasure of hosting a workshop called "From Blog to Book," featuring my writing coach, Erin Reel (aka "The Lit Coach").  I don't know that I had any idea what to expect, but I definitely wanted to share Erin's point of view and inspiration with my writer friends.  In fact, I made a point of inviting friends who were either not bloggers or didn't consider themselves writers... because I felt as though the workshop might offer them the little push they needed to jump-start their creative juices.

And boy was I right.  Not only did we learn a lot from Erin (who did a little creative "off-roading" in the interest of serving our very chatty, funny, and engaging group) but we learned a heck of a lot from each other.  A few of the attendees had met before, but many hadn't.  It gave me the opportunity to be a "connector," one my best talents, and put like-minded souls next to one another to collaborate and innovate.  

I sat back and enjoyed the magic of this group sitting around my dining room table.  Women sharing stories, sharing ideas, recognizing their own talents and seeing the value in their individual perspectives.  It was dazzling to participate in such a stew of creative process and appreciation.  From that table, inspiration grew like Jack's magic beans, circling the room and bursting through the roof.  In the week since, I've had the pleasure of reading many new blog posts from the women around that table.

And yeah, I've been a little smug, a little "I told ya so." 

Check out the blogs:

  • Erin Reel - The Lit Coach's Guide to the Writing Life - essential info for writers of all genres
  • Deirdre Lewis - A Walking Carnival - personal, thought-provoking, laugh-out-loud essays
  • Kim Tracy Prince - House of Prince - observations on the world and parenting, plus so much more
  • Kendra Pahukoa - Craig Olsen - home design tips and inspiration from one of LA's most glamorous designer showrooms
  • Christine Rose Elle - Dollybelle's Peepshow - a delicious cupcake of fashion, frills and inspiration
  • Mia Villarins - And I s'Wear - frugal fashion finds (and how to put it all together) by a fun mama

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Baby, You're a Firework

The other day, our family was at the beach and I commented to Emme that I wanted to get a tan on my stomach (which hasn't seen the light of day since I birthed three kids... and multiple stretch marks).  

I said, "Maybe I should get a bikini..." and then I spied a woman in a black bikini who was larger than me and not your typical Baywatch babe in a bikini.  "Or not."

Emme didn't even blink.  "She looks like she's happy," she said.  Then she shrugged and we talked about something else.

And that's the lesson, isn't it?  It won't matter what you wear, as long as you're happy.  That's what counts.