Friday, December 14, 2012

More Love

I am shaking with horror at the images from the Connecticut elementary school where an asshole decided to shoot at young children, their teachers and other staff who love them. Normally, I don't love to swear in this blog, but I am stunned. Those could be my kids, or yours, or perfect strangers - it doesn't matter. They are *all* our children. We are all connected. 

In that vein, I'm just taking a moment to remind all of us to LOVE more, every day, every hour and minute. Do what we love. Love who we want. Be the people we mean to be.

Monday, November 5, 2012

A Poem for Monday

Sometimes change happens because outside forces cause us to change the way we live. Other times, it happens from within, like a light that gradually bursts out of our bodies like a wildfire. In the midst of contemplating the very nature of change in my own life, I dutifully went to Monday morning yoga.  And I was rewarded by this poem, which my teacher read at the very beginning of class:

Archaic Torso of Apollo

We cannot know his legendary head
with eyes like ripening fruit. And yet his torso
is still suffused with brilliance from inside,
like a lamp, in which his gaze, now turned to low,

gleams in all its power. Otherwise
the curved breast could not dazzle you so, nor could
a smile run through the placid hips and thighs
to that dark center where procreation flared.

Otherwise this stone would seem defaced
beneath the translucent cascade of the shoulders
and would not glisten like a wild beast’s fur:

would not, from all the borders of itself,
burst like a star: for here there is no place
that does not see you. You must change your life. 
Rainer Maria Rilke

Wednesday, October 31, 2012

The Honor System

In honor of Halloween, I'm posting this very scary picture, taken two years ago. No, it's not a cute costume or a trick-or-treater or a spookily decorated house. This is what happens when two moms see an "honor system" candy bowl and no one's around to say, "Hey! You're too old to trick or treat!"

And tonight, when the moon is full and my little goblins are out scaring the candy away from unsuspecting neighbors, I will keep my eyes peeled for more unattended candy cauldrons... If you see any with Reese's peanut butter cups or Junior Mints, let me know...

Sunday, October 28, 2012

Swimming with Sharks

We took the girls to Heavens, just north of Malibu, and found an empty cove. The girls wandered over the rocks to a tide pool while Raf and I read our books, listened to our iPods, observed the random daytripper and shell-seeker. We dreamed about going to Spain and Italy next summer, discussing what the kids would eat, where to stay, lowering our expectations to simply a string of days on foreign beaches interspersed with Gaudi and gladiators. 

A pod of dolphins swam past the rocks. I counted them silently, wondering if the girls noticed them. One... two... three fins! 

"At least they're not sharks," I said to Raf, who took one earphone out and clicked off his iPhone.

"Yeah, I didn't tell you this," he said, squinting under his dark glasses, staring out to sea, "but a surfer got attacked by a shark last week, north of Santa Barbara. Guy my age."


Raf doesn't sugarcoat things. "Ate him. He washed up on the shore."

I didn't say anything at first. I blinked under my own dark glasses, searching the horizon for  answers. I wondered aloud if maybe the food supply for sharks has been affected by global warming or some other environmental illness, and maybe that's why we're hearing about more shark attacks closer to the shore.

"It's the first time a shark has killed a surfer in Southern California in 11 years," Raf said.

A few paddle boarders and kayaks sailed by the cove. My life with Raf flashed before me, glorious beach days like this one combined with the future I imagine for us, filled with traveling and surfing and weddings and grandbabies and growing old, really old, together. 

"I haven't told the kids," he said. "They'd never go back in the water."

"Or they wouldn't want you to go back in." I held my tongue though I wanted to add, Please don't get eaten by a shark... please don't get hurt ever...

He laughed. "Like I'd stop surfing because I'm afraid of sharks."

I let some time pass, considered the glint of sunlight on the glassy green surface of the water. "I don't know what I'd do if anything happened to you," I said, trying my best to keep my voice flat, unemotional.

"You'd be okay."

"Yeah, but -- "

"You'd be okay. That's one thing we know, unfortunately. Life goes on." 

I saw the girls rounding the top of the rocks again, waving, pink-brown skin and bikinis, big smiles, beach hair. Max and death and Isaac and sadness and the Great Unknown swirled above them like the banners that soar behind small airplanes over beaches on sunny days. The ocean lulled below them, lapping softly at the barnacles on the rocks. Understanding seeped in, and I let it sit with me.

We swim with sharks.  And life goes on. 

Saturday, October 27, 2012

We Can Be Heroes

Emme and I saw "The Perks of Being a Wallflower" together today. Frankly, I was a little nervous about taking my 12-year-old to a teen coming-of-age movie - I've also had reservations about allowing her to see certain parts of "Moonrise Kingdom," so maybe I'm just overprotective - but it turned out to be an incredible moment of understanding for both us.

The movie is based on a bestselling novel by Stephen Chbosky and explores the "dizzying highs and crushing lows" of growing up (text from the film website). But it's so much more, in the same way that "The Breakfast Club" and "Garden State" and even "The Big Chill" were much more than the sum of their celluloid frames. Within its quiet joys and even quieter heartbreaks, "Perks" said so much to me about my own life and the girl I was in high school, in part because it's set in the late 80s/early 90s and is filled with music I loved (the Smiths, David Bowie, even Camper van Beethoven).

Seeing it with Emme felt like a full-circle moment. On one level, I understood the characters and their struggles because I lived in their world at one time and was influenced by the same culture and music. But Emme understood them just as intimately, because she observes the same desires in herself and her friends: the need for love and acknowledgement and acceptance. And, maybe we even share the same questions, right now: Will I be okay? Will I make it through? Am I good enough to be loved in the way I want to be loved, fully and without judgment?

It reminded me that we are not actually the same age as our last birthday. We are *every* age we've ever been, made up of every moment we've ever had, and even though we can never go back, sometimes we can touch our fingertips to those younger selves and make contact.

And in that moment, I swear we were infinite.

- Stephen Chbosky

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Random Thoughts While Driving

I have been on a long blogging hiatus and I'm only peeking out for a moment now, just to say hello and check back in. When I follow my friends' blogs, I always enjoy the feeling of closeness I get from knowing what they're doing and hearing the complexity of their inner worlds, the chaos and joy of their lives. I used to feel the same way about Facebook, but since I've taken a month-long FB hiatus, I don't miss all the extra noise. I check on certain friends as I think of them and that's about all I can handle. No offense to the pet lovers, but I've had my fill of adorable kitten pix to last a lifetime.

I took the picture at the top of this post while driving (I know, I'm wicked, Muriel) and of course it's blurry but it was one of those perfect autumn sunsets on PCH, windows cracked to let in the ocean breeze, a smattering of surfers savoring the glassy waters of Surfrider, and I didn't mind how long it might take for me to get home. As I drove, I considered the life I have now, the life I used to have, the lives of my children...

It's hard to pinpoint exactly when life changed, when I grew up, when I began to truly feel my age... But I feel all of these things now, all of a sudden, even though the feelings crept up gradually and I watched them cover me like fog rolling over a mountain. The strangest realization is, I don't mind aging. I don't mind getting older. I don't mind being called "ma'am" because, frankly, I'm not overly concerned about what strangers might think about me. (That doesn't mean I don't care about them or the rest of humanity; I just don't have time to be all things to all people anymore.)

What I do care about is being there - truly there - for four people: Raf and the girls. In the past few years, something clicked and I finally understood the importance of creating the world and life I wanted, rather than waiting for it to magically occur. And, almost as soon as I had this epiphany, I looked around and noticed that the people I loved most - my immediate family and closest friends - were similarly creating the lives they wanted. I also noticed that many of the people who presented major challenges to me - I couldn't deal with being near them, their "energy" was tough for me to handle - were not actively pursuing or creating a life they loved. And that was a huge revelation.

I guess the main thing I thought, as I drove home in the orange autumn glow of that Malibu sunset, was: when we're actively pursuing our dreams, there's not enough time to contribute to the drama and challenges of the world. 

And that's a good thing. Instead of ruminating on negativity, we can choose to focus on the steps we need to take to achieve our greatest dreams. Maybe we get to the "finish line," or maybe we find a new path in the middle of our pursuit and we change direction, following a new passion...

I thought about Frances Mayes recently, the author of the lovely Under the Tuscan Sun books. I met her twice on a single trip to Italy a few years ago - by chance, in two separate cities - and I remember thinking, "Wow, she's got it made. House in Italy, published author. She's set for life." A lot of people/writers may have continued writing only about Italy, continuing the same series about daily life in Cortona. Which she does, of course, but I've been inspired by how she's continued to live the way she wants and contribute to the world by following her passions, with cookbooks, poetry, travel books (about wandering and roaming away from the Tuscan sun), literary fiction... This is not a woman who was content to fall in love, buy a house, fix it up and write about it. Life goes on, new passions present themselves. What is supremely interesting or significant this season may be replaced by a new hobby or passion next season. And, with so many limitless possibilities, there's just no time to waste.

I must go back to the deadline I've created for the "completion" of my current passion, but I hope you're busy enjoying the fruits of this season, and that the next season will bring many more...

End of Summer

One of the only "up" sides to the end of summer (which happens in autumn here in SoCal, which is why I'm mentioning it in late October) was finally draining our Shrek-green saltwater pool so we could have the surfaces acid-washed and start fresh. I couldn't wait to get it drained, get it cleaned, and get sparkling new water in it. 

But the girls could have kept it empty for much, much longer.

Thursday, August 23, 2012

What I Like About You

This is Kendra.

She just turned 39. (I know, right?) She blogged about it here, but I just had to add my two cents. In 39 years, this girl has managed to live a life that most of us can only dream of. She found the love of her life in high school and allowed him the honor of marrying her (lucky guy!!), then had three gorgeous kids in her 20s when the rest of us were navigating our messy love lives. She has built a successful career as an interior designer and gets the craziest kick out of transforming spaces from unusable and unlivable into beautiful rooms and homes that showcase her clients' (and friends) own style. She's volunteered at her kids' schools countless times and raised money to build a computer lab during the recession - I'm not even kidding. She works full-time, drives a Suburban and has a backyard full of pets.

And she's done it alongside her own creative, full, rich-with-love-and-friends-and-family life.

To say I love KP is an understatement. She is a mentor, a wealth of knowledge, a fashionista, a baker extraordinaire, a bubbly and entertaining writer (who manages to sneak in a lot of good info within her blog posts), a walking encyclopedia of People magazine and pop culture, always on-trend with her awesome nail polish and shoes, a phenomenal friend and the best person to invite ANYWHERE. She can crash a wedding easily (even in a coral dress and red lips) and comfort a friend in need. She can fix a boo-boo and bake a lemon cake at the same time. A gathering is not a PAR-TAY until Kendra shows up. And I have never laughed as much as I do with Kendra, on a regular basis (my face will hurt, my belly will ache, and my kids will be all, "What did she say? Well, why is that funny?").

Happy 39th, dear Kendra. I can't wait to see what you do next!

(And here's your quiz... can you even tell which picture of Kendra was taken 7 years ago and which is new?  No! Because the girl doesn't REALLY age!!)

Tuesday, July 10, 2012


dreams are like stars

Images and text from Christine Rose Elle via Pinterest

I am a big believer in dreams. 

Most mornings, I wake up and consult my dog-eared copy of The Dream Book by Betty Bethards, to see what my subconscious was trying to work out while I was sleeping. This practice has not only helped me curb my real-life irritation at my real-life husband over things his dream likeness may have done, but which my kids are starting to adopt.
One of my go-to songs at the local open mic night is “Dreams” by Fleetwood Mac, for the symbolism as much as the melody and Stevie Nicks’ boho growl.

I collect cute images, like this one, on Pinterest and elsewhere, reminding me to live my dreams. In fact, this very second, I’m looking at one that’s pinned in front of my laptop that reads:
The future belongs 

to those who 


In the beauty of their dreams. 

And I want to believe it, I do.

My summer has been one of struggling to complete a project that I started about five years ago. FIVE YEARS. My project could be going to kindergarten in the fall. It continues to be daunting, even though my silent, observing self can see that it is progressing, and I’m just trying to get it done by the end of the summer.

This is a long way of saying to you “THAT’S why I haven’t been blogging lately!” I have things to share and say and show to you, but they will have to wait until I’m done with this project. I am trying to say “no” to more things/invitations/fun stuff, all for the greater good of my own dream: to finish a book.

However, if you’re missing some good blogging this summer, I have a few great suggestions. These are some of my best friends AND some darn good writers:

Kendra Kay - A super-hot celeb interior designer who just so happens to have three kids and a hilarious perspective on life. Plus, super cute DIY projects. You will LOVE.

Christine Rose Elle – The grande dame of glamour and sparkling well-being. One moment, she’ll weigh the pros and cons of eyelash extensions and the next, she’ll help you face your fears of being the most awesome gal you can be. Plus, it’s a damn fancy, pretty website, like cotton candy for your eyes.

Deirdre Lewis – The “David Sedaris” of Los Angeles, if David were straight, had three kids and reported his findings on each morning’s dog walks. It is like nothing else you’ll read. I am constantly amazed by her blog posts – each one will make you laugh out loud AND want to cry. Wicked, irreverent, so well written.

I don't miss a single post of any of these blogs, no matter what. Deirdre and Christine are also avid Tweeters, so look 'em up... And YOU'RE WELCOME!

Here's to the beauty of all our collective dreams.


Thursday, May 17, 2012

Getting to Know Me...

I’m not real big on doing what I’m supposed to, especially when it’s online. I will generally not forward chain emails, which means I’ve probably had all sorts of voodoo placed on me from the internet gods.  It also means you will likely not have to wade through a bunch of recipe exchanges or “oh my god, there was a granny luring young girls into a dark van at Target” emails from me; if I forward something to you, I have hand-selected you from my friends because that particular email may mean something to you…or else it’s spam and you can just delete it.

But my super good friend Kendra posted this on her blog. Of course, I avoided it for a week, but now I’m ready to play.  If you have a blog or a Facebook account, feel free to play along.  (But please know I won’t be checking in on you or waving a wand and putting a whammy on you if you don’t!)

The rules:

1.  post these rules.
2.  post a picture of yourself and 10 random things about yourself that people may not know.
3.  answer the questions set from the original post.

4. create 10 new questions and tag people to answer them
5. go to their facebook page or their twitter and let them know you've tagged them.
10 random things about me:

1. I love Taylor Swift songs. They sometimes also make me cry, which is really lame in my workout class during final stretch, I assure you.

2. My deepest desire in a parallel universe would have been to move to NYC and become a rock journalist in the vein of Cameron Crowe.

3. I drink green juices or smoothies every day. You know what I mean by green? Kale, spinach, avocado, parsley, ginger… I love ‘em. And if I don’t drink one, it sorta throws me off. I would actually rather drink one of those than coffee… and that’s a big deal, y’all.

4. I sing at an open mic night near our house. I’m not super good and sometimes I’m so nervous I can barely remember the words, but I still look forward to it.

5. I don’t feel like I’m 40. I guess I don’t know what exactly 40 is supposed to feel like. Maybe I’m just not good at it yet??

6. One of my greatest talents is connecting people. I wouldn’t hang a shingle on my door as a professional networker or anything, but if I hear that someone is looking for something specific, I will generally know the right place for them to look… or else the answer comes to me a few days later. It’s a mysterious talent.

7. I don’t regret not having a son.

8. Kendra had to teach me how to wear high heels a few years ago in Vegas and now I’m addicted. Thank god my husband’s tall.

9. When I visit my parents or go to Austin, I kind of lull myself into believing that I actually grew up in Texas.  And I didn’t.

10. My favorite smell in the whole world is citrus blossom – lemon, orange, tangerine, lime… Yum.

1. what is the most important quality that you look for in a friend?

2. what is one thing you regret-big or small?
not applying to more than one university.

3. can you stand up in a crowd and give a speech?

4. coffee or tea? when was the first time you had it?
I love coffee, but I am becoming a tea fan, too. I lived in Italy when I was a teenager, so that was probably when I first had coffee…

5. your all time favorite movie and why?
“The Darjeeling Limited”… We saw it after my father-in-law died and the themes of the three brothers feeling lost after the death of their father hit very close to Raf’s heart.  Plus, it’s India, Adrien Brody and Wes Anderson with Kinks songs… I can watch it over and over.

6. if you had to choose between wearing a dress everyday or wearing heels everyday which would it be?
heels for sure

7. favorite dessert?
ice cream in any form – gelato, sorbet, coconut ice “cream”…

8. whats in your purse right now?
red wallet bought in France, checkbook, three pens, a sharpie, a gift certificate for a massage, a coupon for a facial, a list for Target, two spin pins, a tampon, a Michael Kors lip gloss/perfume combo stick

9. who was the last person you laughed with? what did you laugh about?
Raf... and who knows why? Kids, life, dog… there’s a lot to crack up about.

10. when was the last time you were so excited you couldn't sleep? why were you excited?
When I’m on retreat in Ojai, I usually can’t sleep at night because I’m so excited about spending days on end with my yoga friends AND I’m nervous about over-sleeping and missing meditation. I just don't want to miss out on anything!

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Sweet Dreams

I went to my yoga retreat in Ojai last weekend, as I do twice a year.  After four years, I've observed that each retreat seems to take on a sweetness of its own, a shared thread that binds each of the participants to the others.  This one seemed to take on the shape of a tempest in a bottle, a little spark of lightning housed in its own vessel. By the time it was over, my feelings of sadness and bittersweet desire to go back in time were overwhelming. 

But I also recognized the glorious special-ness of retreating only once in every 6 months. If it were more often, we might take it for granted or remember each step of the process so well that we react to it like adolescents who recite every line of a favorite movie.  There are things that you cannot predict, no matter how many times you've done the same ritual. The alchemy changes, the mood shifts, the emotion hits you in ways you didn't expect, your age and experience brings you up the mountain with new eyes each time. 

And then it is over.

Prospero's monologue from "The Tempest":

Our revels now are ended. These our actors,
As I foretold you, were all spirits, and
Are melted into air, into thin air:
And like the baseless fabric of this vision,
The cloud-capp'd tow'rs, the gorgeous palaces,
The solemn temples, the great globe itself,
Yea, all which it inherit, shall dissolve,
And, like this insubstantial pageant faded,
Leave not a rack behind. We are such stuff
As dreams are made on; and our little life
Is rounded with a sleep.

(Thank you, Julian Walker.)

Monday, March 12, 2012

We're All Made of Stars

I hate late night phone calls. There comes a point in your life when late night phone calls aren't drunk-dialing friends or booty calls from your FWB or an alert that your bestie is in labor.  They won't call you after 10 o'clock at night to say you won the lottery or that you have been chosen for Dancing with the Stars. 

On Friday night, I was brushing my teeth when the phone rang. I didn't know the number, so I let it go.  Minutes later, I noticed a voicemail.  Listening, I could hardly comprehend what was going on.

My dear friend is dealing with the "worst case scenario" that all of my married girlfriends fear.  Her husband is going to die. Today.  At 12:30. And she's the one who has to say "yes" so that it will happen.

Here's the thing: he shouldn't be dying.  He's only 50, perfectly healthy, and he went to Saint John's in Santa Monica for a knee replacement surgery last Monday.  It was successful. He went into recovery and spent the next day there, in a lot of pain but doing well, and Bren said good night to him on Tuesday, planning to see him the next morning. He was given an Ambien, on top of pain meds, and went to sleep.  The nurse checked on him at 1:30, then took his break. When he returned at 2, Steve had flatlined.

They revived him, but he never regained consciousness, stuck in a state of paralysis while they assessed the damage to his body (so much brain damage, liver and kidneys shot). Their best guess is that he had a sleep apnea episode, something blocking his airways, then went into cardiac arrest.

That's the physical part of this story.

I spent hours with my friend on Saturday afternoon, watching her smile through sad eyes and talk to her husband lovingly from his bedside while the beeping machines help him breathe and keep him alive.  She's being asked questions like, "Where will the funeral be?" and "What will you do with his stuff?" while she's looking right at him, clinging to his remaining hours on this Earth.  She wants him to wake up and help her navigate the details - they have a will, of course, but it doesn't tell her how to teach her son about astronomy or drumming or how to deal with waiting through the entire weekend until they can take him off the beeping machines and allow him to die in peace.

At one point while I was there, the neurologist told her, "It's best if can start to get on with your life."

A week ago, if she'd been told that, she would have reeled from the insensitivity. But now, she understands. There's only a little of her husband's energy left in his body.  He needs to be let go and she's the only one who can let him go.

Her birthday is next month; she'll be 40. He's only 50. They got together the same night that Raf and I did.  We were college friends, but we also lived next door to each other in Hollywood after that.  On the way out to LACMA on a Friday (a weekly ritual for our apartment "family"), she told me about this guy at work that she'd invited to meet up with us, and then she said, "I know it's crazy, but I think this is the guy I'm gonna marry." And we met up with our neighbors, and her husband-to-be, and Raf was there, and we all went out to the Snake Pit later (where another neighbor looked at me and Raf and pointed to herself and said, "Bridesmaid?").  Clearly, it was the night everything changed for all four of us, the very beginning.  We married, they married, we had kids, they had a beautiful boy.  I always observed how deeply in love they were, how she never had a mean thing to say about him, never complained about their life because she was so happy to have "her guy." 

Steve was an Eagle Scout and an amateur astronomer.  He took a group of us to Joshua Tree in the year before Raf and I got married - the first and only camping trip my husband has been on - and led us on a hike that lasted HOURS in the desert.  It was crazy, hilarious, wondrous, unforgettable. He was a drummer, a rocker, an encyclopedia of rock-n-roll and pop culture.  He knew a little somethin' about everythin'.

And he had a spark. You know what I mean? That twinkle in someone's eye that says, "There's so much more to me than I can ever even tell you."  The thing that makes you say, "Okay, fine, but can I sit down and just listen for a while?"

There's a song by Moby from several years back called "We're All Made of Stars." Thinking of Steve and his connection to the stars, to the world beyond this one, I began to think... Maybe it's true. Maybe we *are* all made of stars, of the same crazy, cosmic energy as every other thing, each of us miracles wrapped in a flesh-and-bone package, suffering through the human condition as we make our way back to the cosmos.

This post doesn't make as much sense as I'd like, but I wanted to write it to affirm that our lives are happening now.  We may not get another chance.  We may not make it to retirement.  We may only get a string of moments to say "I love you" and hold each other tight and lay our heads on each other's chests while watching bad TV at the end of the night. And when that's done, I hope we all make it up to the night sky, linking ourselves together into a constellation that wraps around the universe.

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

More Collective Compassion

When I open up my email on my laptop, I first have to wade through the "news" that AOL deems appropriate for its subscribers.  Often, it takes a few seconds longer for my mail to load than it does for a few grisly news items to pop up on the Huffington Post feed.  And often, I'm lured into stories that I cannot seem to turn away from, like a train wreck.

That is my challenge: to ignore the push of gore and hatred in our media.  Everywhere, they're in our faces, pushing horror stories like drug dealers with candy-colored pills.  I see it on the morning news, I see it on the front page of every newspaper, and I'm subjected to it through my email provider. All the while, as they spill the blood-letting details, they say, "Isn't it awful? Look at that child's mother crying. Aren't you glad it's not you?"

I remember that Eckert Tolle called for us to stop the perpetuation of hatred and ugliness by choosing our thoughts wisely. If we are allowing ourselves to read ugly stories and watch horror movies and let those thoughts seep into our consciousness, then we are actively promoting these acts of violence in our society. Why? Because...

Thoughts become things. 

If we want to break the cycle of hatred and violence, then we have to break our cycle of interest in these things, too, even the seemingly innocuous act of taking a peek to say, "Gosh, isn't it awful?"

Here's to more compassion and a self-regulation of media that doesn't serve to better us unless it's making money.

Monday, February 6, 2012

"Date Night" version 2.0

Thanks to my dear mother-in-law, Raf and I had the opportunity to get away last weekend for a quick overnight trip.  Now, one thing I've learned since having kids is that any time away from the needs of other people - particularly those that you've created yourself - is a vacation.  So, from the moment we shut the garage door behind us and made our way down the hill of our driveway, I was on vacation. No matter that we only went 45 minutes north.  No matter that we would be home exactly 24 hours later.  It was time away from our usual daily routine and that seemed like a vacation in itself.

After we'd checked in and gotten used to the lovely luxury of our room, we sat by the fireplace for a good long time, staring into the crackling red flames, growing increasingly attached to the quiet.  We didn't talk for a little while, just settled into the comfortable contented quiet of being alone with someone you know so well that you don't need words to be together.  I thought we might feel a bit out of sorts - you know, we're so used to being 100% available to our kids that being away from that "job" might seem weird - but it was really rather... amazing. 

At some point, I looked at Raf and thought, Yeah, this is what it's all about.

People can say all they want about marriage taking the spark out of love and attraction, but I don't buy it for a second.  It occurred to me as I sat there that one of the worst things for married people is "date night" - not the idea of getting away, really, but the idea that you can leave your house and pretend that you are dating again, that you're the people that you once were, when you were both single and giddy and had energy and didn't really know what else you wanted from your lives.  

For one thing, we're not the people we were when we were dating.... and I don't want to be. We like to talk to each other about our kids. We actually  look forward to getting back home again, even though we know it will instantly be as chaotic as it was when we left.  I love getting away together - for an hour, a day, whatever - because it reminds me that we are both still there, together, as the people we've become, with the life that we've built together. 

So long, old date night. Hello, version 2.0.

Friday, January 6, 2012


Four years ago this month, in a darkened hall of a religious center in Encino, I nervously tiptoed into a gathering of writers who met once a week to write together for a few hours.  It was not a workshop; there were no expectations or obligations, you didn't have to lug home someone else's shit to read and make notes on, you didn't need to critique anything, and you didn't have to sit through other people's "constructive" feedback (which, in some workshops, has proven to simply halt my work, progress and general spirit).

Instead, this was a gathering of people who were busy and just wanted a safe place to write freely and try ideas and sometimes find a new thread for a character or plot, and sometimes just make a list of whatever showed up in their heads that night.  And then go home.  

It seemed too easy to work, really.  We all brought writing prompts to share and then, after one was presented to the group, we'd all scratch out ideas for 10 - 15 minutes, then go around in a circle and read our stuff, then move on to the next prompt.  Two or three cycles later, we'd end with a 5-minute list-making exercise, read it, then chat a bit and go home.  And it went on like this, for nearly 2 years, until we all got busier and less able to commit to a weekly gathering, though every single one of us found ourselves waxing poetic about those cold winter evenings in the belly of the Ba'hai center, thoroughly engrossed in our writing, codependent for each other's progress on the page.

On Tuesday I received an urgent email: WRITE WITH US THIS THURSDAY!  I had a billion excuses: too far, too late, school night, blah, meh... But a tingle of excitement shuddered over me as I typed back: Okay, I'm in. And then the reality of the evening settled in last night, the beautiful relief of gathering together around a table, sharing our words, laughing, letting time slip away... It was like magic, like no time had passed.

As on that very first night four years ago, I had to suppress a deep down feeling of awe at the writers gathered around me.  When I hear the words that they've written -- for the very same prompt, in the same paltry amount of time as me -- I fear that I am an impostor, a hanger-on, that there's no way I should be sitting in the same room as these thinkers.  You call yourself a writer? the inner voice pesters as, one after the other, these writers immerse me in the fully realized worlds that they've created right there, sitting next to me.

And yet... I'm grateful for the gathering, for the opportunity to sit surrounded by greatness, to muster my own courage and use my own voice and to be heard and received, to hear about the lonely struggles of other observers and add to the overheard conversations of daily life.