Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Gimme a New Year With Soul

I'm gonna ask Mr. Billy Preston to bring in my new year because I want to do this dance every day of 2010. I can twine and jerk, yes I can.

Give it to me, Agent Double O Soul. (This clip is from a movie so I urge you to stop watching after 1:40. That just me.) Ok, sock it to me good, Double O.

Ug, that's too good.

I offer some emotional fodder for those of you who are feeling and needing other things for 2010. Commonly, we need similar things in a fresh year; change, letting go, renewal, love, hope, simplicity. We might need them at different times, but our themes, I imagine, intersect. This is why even when these aren't my particular themes for the year, I feel deeply for them. I feel your paths, friends. They are often my path too. This song below was a lifeline for me during my Adventist days -- my christian stint as it were -- when I was 17, 18, 19. This song saved me more than getting dunked did, though the entire experience was unbelievably worthwhile. This song was solely about surrender, for me, and I didn't know to who or what I was surrendering, but I just needed to lay down my troubles somewhere for a while. I appreciated the help, more so than any of the church members would ever know. This song was sung in my church very similarly to this version and I'd sit in the wood pew, alone; I'd slump down and cry my eyes out. (You'll notice in the video that two of the singers become overcome with emotion in the end). Back then, I needed so much. I needed help then, so much, I didn't know where to start or who to ask, and this song let me set it all afloat, for a little time at least. On me, suffocating me, it was too much, but drifting away, it seemed more manageable. Though I don't subscribe to fundamentalism now, I'm still all for giving in to something bigger.

Needing change is a big new year theme. I don't feel this personally this year, but usually change comes anyway. This song is for you needing it. It's hard to beat Sam Cooke's version, but my girl Lauren stabs me. I miss her, but I honor however singing conventionally tortures her. She's done plenty for me in her short career.

My themes this year are about simplicity; the soulful renewal of all things simple. It's also about giving more. I figure I have to work on that one, every year, until it's all given away. Oh and I'm gonna work on my running game; maybe tighten up my music game.

As a good faith downpayment for my tightened music game, I offer the amazing Bebe and Siempre Me Quedará (I'll Always Keep)

Happy New Year, my friends. Here's to socking it to ourselves this year.

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Merry Christmas

I'm not one for religious exclusionary-ism, but I have a soft spot for the term Merry Christmas. And I mean that in the most simple and old-timey ways, when saying it was like a personal, sincere wish for all blessings to gush down on the listener's head. Like, an earnest Merry Christmas was a present wrapped in gold-leaf with a maroon velvet bow and the receiver's heart melted and humanity was restored. Man, the simplicity of Christmas moves me; that melancholy warmth -- what is that, that thing that intensifies in a darkened room pulsing with the multi-colored glow of lonely lights. It's the reflection of Christmas that gets me, the slowing and the thinking.

My mother was very susceptible to the holiday blues. It's understandable, really, especially for her, but I fought that even when our Christmases were the most spare and grim and she had fallen below the surface, unable to claw back up. I couldn't raise her up either. We have always been so disconnected, which is extraordinarily regrettable since it was just the two of us. So, I fought this particular brand of blues; even overfought if for years, which is an empty way of dealing. Eventually I found a place right atop the surface; between the cheer and the blues. I realize that ache is not necessarily painful, nor does it have to act as an anchor around my neck, but it is simply reflection. I think we also feel a collective opening of the human spirit, more so than usual, and this gives off a universal feeling of vulnerability. We unwillingly mirror the collective vulnerability and that connection seems too much, so unknown. I know it's good. I do.

But part of the sadness, I think, is caused by an instinct to shirk this raw motion toward kindness. We want it organically, but maybe we're too out of practice. Or maybe we succumb to it happily during the holidays and then we feel disenchanted if we've convinced ourselves that the feeling is fleeting, temporary. Back to the bustle, folks.

I love to drive around at night and look at the Christmas trees in windows. The very small, lopsided ones placed in apartment windows pang at me the most. A struggled gesture to be part of the spirit; to raise their own spirit possibly. I look way too much into these things, but that's why I love to drive around and speculate. Mostly, I just suck it in, the care taken, the prettiness; that damn, sad warmth. It turns me over inside.

I believe in miracles. Maybe not in the most literal sense, but isn't it all a miracle if you get right down to it? And I'm sucker for a Christmas miracle story. The words Christmas miracle kinda choke me up. I'll watch all movies built around the predictable Christmas miracle. Feed it to me with a spoon. I love it. My kids are too old to be in holiday plays now or sing in the little pageants, but wow, would those kill me. Once Maya was in a pageant at her old, beautifully eclectic and creative school and she sang, with other five year old voices, Iz's version of Somewhere Over the Rainbow. They signed the words with their hands as they sang so heartbreakingly pure. And it took every single fiber of me not to wail loudly during the performance. It was overwhelmingly beautiful. They were tapped into something beyond our recognition. I'm teared up thinking about it. That song was a miracle. Those kids rained down something perfect on us that moved us in ways we were not even aware of.

That song is like Christmas; an intense version maybe. It's so sweet, it hurts. It's hopeful, but possibly unrealistic. It's ideal and what does ideal have to do with reality? Unless you believe in miracles.

Merry Christmas, and I mean that in the way where a torrent of blessings is dumped on your head and the warmth is overwhelming in a soul-clearing kind of way and the beyond-the-woods clarity of the universal thread motors your boat and brings you the best of things like love and acceptance and more love and peace and kindness. Cheers to the vulnerability, man.

Wednesday, December 09, 2009


Husband called his dad a couple days ago to check on him. Big Papi said, "Just sitting here watching the game with Mom." And that's all he said about that. So Husband called Mama Luz the next day to get the full scoop and she said, "I told that fucking bitch from the laundromat to stay away from my man!"

And both sentences -- watching the game with Mom and I told that bitch -- mean the same thing: We love each other very much and we're working this out. Big Papi could have easily said, "Still in the car." And Mama Luz could have easily said, "I told that bitch she could have him," but they didn't. We're encouraging them to talk it out instead of glossing this over. They said they are. They said they want to visit us in February and we're jumping up and down to make that happen. We're just waiting to hear when the school year has a break for Mama Luz. She drives the school bus.

* * *

Monday was the anniversary of Mama's death. The date - Dec 7 - burns lows at the bottom of my psyche, like an eternal last light of a dying kerosene lamp. That date is kind of like my birthday, like, when I randomly hear someone say my birth date, I get a jolt of recognition. I get a current from Dec 7th too, the mention of it or anything related. I said to Husband, "My grandmother passed away today." He said, "I'm sorry, baby." I calculated the years. "It's been 27 years now. That's weird. 27 years is a long time." He said, "I'm sorry." I said, "But 15 is a hard age to lose the only person who liked you." I laughed. He said, "We like you, baby. You have big fans in this house!" I said, "Oh, I know, papi. Thank you."

For the splitest of seconds, I thought maybe Mama had something to do with bringing Papi and me together though, really, I don't believe in that. And I believe in a lot of wonky spiritual, unseen shit. I believe our cherished dead can protect us in subtle ways. I believe in the power and spirituality of nature. I believe in god, a flowing energy that connects anything living -- including plants and animals -- externally and internally. I really believe in that form of god. I believe in prayer even if its sole power is to make us feel better. I believe in good and bad luck, to an extent. I believe in the santos for the same reason I believe in prayer. I believe in not crossing other people's god because not only is that disrespectful, it's bad luck. And their god is probably from the same source as your god anyway. I think karma is overrated and misunderstood. I think karma just happens and it's ironic and missing the point to strive for it. You do good to just do good and you don't do bad because it's hurtful and bad. Then karma might happen. I believe in doing good. And I believe in the power of myself because I'm connected to that god source, and this is why I don't think Mama had anything to do with bringing my husband and me together. I did that. But she did teach me how to love. I love him well because of the smallest amount of time I got to be with her. And because of me, of course. Man, it was so short though, that time with her. It was a fraction of my big life and I am still so affected by the infinite spec of love she poured over me. I admit that most times I think of the absence of her, especially our painful seperation when she was alive, and I was wracked with a child's panic caused from being apart from her. I starved for the attention she gave me and felt quietly gutted out when I couldn't get it enough. I resorted to sad, old-soul tactics – and being an old soul is overrated too because a child is only told that when they dig too deeply into themselves to extract what they lack on the outside, what they need so badly, so they dig to tap into that god source for self comfort and this makes the eyes immediately age. So as I kid, I believed I could talk to her in my mind; I caved over the panic to calm myself down and I made it into a glowing pool, a bright and secret source of love. I stored it, and waited. I waited until a ton of years later when I was able to dump it on my girls, my Husband. Turns out, the pool keeps going, it doesn't run out. Just grows and grows. I did that.

Thank you Mama. Thank you for starting the pool-source and for teaching me that kindness and gratitude never run out either. I miss you so much.

Wednesday, December 02, 2009

Ancient Lessons In Coupledom

I thought a long time before writing this because it hurts. And it's not my story. But in a way, it could be and is often any couple's story.

Mama Luz kicked Big Papi out of the house a week ago. She called us to tell us that they were done; it was over after 33 years. To say that we were floored is sparkles and sunshine compared to how we felt. We were stomped and pinned, breathless. Tears exploded out of us. They had been a united, anchored boulder in our eyes. They were not perfect, but perfect for each other certainly. They championed each other, for god’s sake, and this idea of championing is so comfortably key to a relationship. Not long ago, friends had put that notion to words and we believed it so fiercely, didn't we? From the just-married, to those seeking love, to me who has been married almost 12 years. I absolutely believed it a cornerstone. But it was not enough. It is not enough.

Husband's and my faith in love, in coupledom, in foreverness diminished greatly in the wake of her words. How does anybody make it, we thought. We looked at each other and with no hesitation clung to each other, said I love you's a hundred times as our understanding of a solid relationship crumbled and slid away from us. I suppose we could have questioned ourselves, but even more we felt, fuck it, we'll be the last couple standing then. In our instant and gut reaction to each other, we didn't know many details of their demise. All that became important was that our belief in each other was real because nothing else was, it seemed.

All the grown kids -- Husband, his sister Baby Luz and me -- have taken shifts on talking it out with them, mainly with Mama Luz because she's more vocal – lord, is she vocal. We take turns relieving the high-pressure steam that is her volcanic emotion, and Husband works on luring the petrified and frozen and near non-existent emotion buried so deeply in his dad. Husband is chipping away in a way that makes me well up with pride. He is a progressive and well-adjusted man saving his father. It's so beautiful it hurts. At the surface, there was an indiscretion. This time by him. In the past, by her. But the thing that drew the line -- a line which has cracked into a gapping chasm after decades -- is the most simple and complex of couple problems; communicating real feelings. She bulldozes. He withdraws. Both styles hem each other up. Over the years, they've glazed it all over with pleasantries and the mundane day to day. He retreats to the TV and she fixes the house. Talk of intimacy, of appreciation, of basic and deep love became cemented and trapped under the glaze. I think many couples are just a few quiet nights from getting here; a few sexless weeks, months, years and then it seems too hard to go back. Each year made it harder on them. Until last week when he decided to get shit off his chest in what he felt was a strong way -- a putting-the-foot-down kind of way -- and it came out so rusty and awkward and hurtful, like he was vomiting sharp rocks. And that sparked her to come back with her raw force, so hurtful and fierce. He tried to match her thunder, but that's not his strength because he was usually the balance of calm and love. She's the action and passion. They don't weave their strengths together anymore we found out.

What is the championing worth if after we've beaten back the hurtful world we can't tell each other how wonderful we make each other feel, how beautiful they look, how sexy they are, what do you need mami/papi, I love you. I'm crying typing this because it hurts to know they've gone so long without this.

Big Papi is sleeping in his car, in the NY winter. We cancelled our Puerto Rico trip to help them (I know -- more on that later. In short, it seems ridiculous to spend all that money on a vacation when family is in severe crisis and needs help.) We were ready to pay for a motel for him, but he refused. We stopped insisting when we realized he was punishing himself. And he knows her well because it's been the only thing that has cracked her so-tough veneer. Her conversations go from fuck that motherfucker, which we expect, to "At least he took his blanket," and "At least it's not that cold tonight," which almost brings us to tears. Old fashioned penance is working some sort of magic on her. And our hearts are breaking each time we talk to them and realize how much they still love each other. But they’ve mistreated each other; their silence the biggest abuser. If they can only crack the glaze, move mountains of resentment, forgive, talk, weave, love again. I'm not sure they'll get there yet, but there's hope. When I was talking to her a couple days ago, when she was spewing F bombs and yelling shit to me that I didn't ever want to hear about him, I told her that she didn't deserve to feel this hurt and I know she was angry, but we had hope for them; we knew there was love, that they need to talk it out more, get counseling. She said she'd cut him if he came by - sigh. It was the first seed planted about hope and she went bananas on me, screaming, "I DON'T KNOW HOW YOU DO IT OVER THERE, BUT WHY THE FUCK WOULD YOU EVEN TELL ME TO THINK ABOUT GOING BACK TO THAT MOTHERFUCKER?? IF YOUR HUSBAND DID THAT TO YOU---" And on. I don't take this personally because I know that's just how she communicates, but I know I had to get forceful back. I yelled back that Hell yes, I'd be fucking angry and all his fucking shit would be on the lawn too, but I would want someone to tell me to just consider the years we've had, consider talking it out. To my surprise, she got quiet for like one second. Then I broke the news that he was sleeping in his car. And she quietly said, "Good."

My husband has been a hero. He had to track his dad down to talk it out. Big Papi is mortified by the whole thing, reeling in confusion, wishing he never opened his mouth or strayed. He wishes it would all go away now. He wants to come home; he wants his wife back, but Husband told him he can't have it like he had it. He shouldn't want it how it was and it will take a lot to work it out. My husband gave him such sound advice on how to be a fully realized man. The role reversal, son teaching father, was emotional. He was a beacon of light, a savior to a man who could have easily cocooned himself and faded away to crushing loneliness, poverty, sadness, nothingness. He said, "Dad, I'm your only son and I need you. I need you to talk more. We need it. Mom needs it." And Big Papi bawled his eyes out and so did Husband. The last conversation was a gem too, but more in a get-your-shit together kind of way. I heard things like, "That's your woman. Go get her, and treat her like your woman should be treated." I was like, goddamn, baby.

Anyway, it's all broken down to be built back up into something better and much more solid and loving, if they're both willing. There's so much shit through which to traverse though. I don't envy the work ahead of them if they wish to take it on, but god, we hope they do. The thought of them losing their loves while in their sixties is painful. But in the end, it is not our relationship to save. We can help them see some light, some hope, help pay for counseling. We can let them know that we want them to fight. Husband gave tremendous advice, but it will be their work that saves them. I can only work on loving my man the best I can, talking to him, appreciating him, staring at him like he's the last biscuit on a desert island, and of course, still championing him until the wheels fall off.

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Fun Is Fun

Man, am I smart. First, I put myself on this unprocessed food regiment, and whoa, I'm feeling super fly, in mood and just general, all-around flyness. Secondly, I elbowed my way into having some fun last weekend and that was a wise, wise decision. Thanks to Husband too for his surprise attack of romanticism and caretaking. Believe me, he got all kinds of hook ups for that stunt. I dug up and dusted off and packed a fire red corset that I haven't worn in years. I thought about bringing a fun adult accessory for laughs, but the thought of getting my bag searched at the airport sorta mortified me. I feel fly, not invincible. One time my friend and her girlfriend went to Hawaii with a toy . . .let's just say it was double headed and rhythms with big-ass bildo. On the way back home, when the bag went through the scanner, the customs people started a murmur that had to do with sugar cane. "Excuse ma'am, you know it's illegal to bring sugar cane back from Hawaii? We'll need to search your bag." They were like, "UHH, IT'S NOT SUGAR CANE, BELIEVE US." After another careful look in the scanner, they sent them on their way with winks and giggles.

Husband's tennis team is so fun, and each of them pulled me aside and said they were so glad I was there, and everything was so much more fun because I was there. Yah! They were pumped to have a great time on Saturday night too even though they had to be back on the courts at 7:30 the next morning to, you know, play in the nationals like they had worked so hard for.

We hung out in a suite, had some drinks, laughed a lot, then took our party to the streets. A big mixed martial arts fight was happening that night so we all counted the number of TapOut and Affliction tshirts adorned with elaborate crosses in iron-on foil. There were too many to count. We tried to guess the circumference of men's necks. But I told everyone to keep it down, because these dudes were strutting the casinos high on testosterone. I was worried that seeing the professional fight would inspire a hair-trigger rage. "We are non-violent people!" I told the tennis crew. They nodded and whispered. While waiting for our dinner rezzies at Nobu, a yummy, fancy "asian-fusion" restaurant, I played blackjack for 20 minutes and won $100!

Here's Papi and me, waiting to eat. Couple things: Isn't my hair shiny!? Dudes, I know what Mina's talking about now. When you get a great picture of yourself, you gotta tell somebody. I don't know if I really look like this, but I'll take it! Also, when I get dressed up and wear anything that remotely pushes up my boobs, they look humongous. Seriously, they didn't look this big in the mirror when I dressed. I look at the pictures of the night and I'm like, goddamn in an embarrassed sort of way. It's a little much, if you ask me -- you might already know about my cleavage shyness -- but it was Vegas so boobs away.Rochelle, Page and I waiting for dinner, still sober. Then we got to drinking sake, and it was all good. Page took this unscripted photo of Papi, which came out unintentionally and hilariously coy, as you can see.Then Page made us all pose for our modeling head shot. Here's her most excellent portrait.Here's Ron's, the team's oldest player. 25 years ago, he was the face of the Valentino print ads. No lie. He wishes he hadn't told us that because we brought it up a thousand times.Here's mine with my boobs pelted with edamame. Since I never really show them off in my real life, they couldn't stop talking about them either, or throwing things at them. Here we are up in the club. By this point, Husband left to go sleep for the next day's match because he's sensible like that. We carried on for him.The drunker Clint got, the more his face looked like a chipmunk.How YOU doin'? Time to go home, it looks like. What about tennis you may ask. Our team went to Vegas representing Southern California in 10.0 mixed doubles. This is one level below players just getting off the tour or college players that hold the one or two spot at a divsion one school. Our team is good and this level of play is exciting and competitive. One of the women on our team -- but not in our party crew -- is from France and went four rounds at Wimbleton in her day. She won the Italian Open in singles for god's sake! Page was a top player at Stanford. She's no joke and is one of the best on our team. The best part about mixed doubles is that if you haven't played a team before, you can't guess who the weaker of the two players are. It's stupid to assume the woman is weaker because then a ball is roaring back in your ass after a weak shot is hit to her. Most every woman on the other team on Sunday morning was the power house player. They were treeing off monster forehands and picking off volleys at their shoeslaces in miraculous plays. It was fun to watch Page and her female opponent try to out muscle each other. Husband and his partner won easily, but our other two teams lost in final set tiebreaker/hearbreakers. Here are some tennis pic's.

Husband and Clint waiting for first round matches on Saturday morning, before I came out.
Husband warming up on Saturday. He's hot.Papi serving it up on Sunday. More hotness.
After his win. Yay, team! Anyway, though the food changes have been monumental, the fun prescription was really just as important. Because fun is fun, y'all!

Friday, November 20, 2009

I Whined My Way To Vegas and Use Skills for Good, Y'all

I told you that my husband has gone to Mexico for work three times in the past three weeks. Well, now this weekend just happens to be when his tennis team was scheduled to go to Las Vegas because they made it to nationals. So he was leaving, again, and while I was excited and proud that he made nationals, I was having a hard time suppressing bitterness. I was tired of holding it all down, plus work has taken such a serious upswing that I can hardly see straight. Not to mention that I was jealous that he was going to Vegas to yuck it while I'd be holding it down, again. So, being the mature and understanding and loving partner that I am, I text him, in short, "What am I? The help?" I mentioned other things that translated to me feeling like the frumpy caretaker while he jet sets, which is hardly the cast, but you know, hyperbole is my friend. Whatever. So, I crossed my arms in a HHMPF and waited for his text to tell me to chill or to say, sorry, out of my control, Mami, but he text, "Look under your mouse pad." And under the my mouse pad there was some cash and a note that read, "Please come to Vegas tomorrow. I miss you! I love you!"

Ok, so I felt a little stupid and ridiculous, but those feelings certainly didn't trump my feeling of Yipppeeeee! I'm gonna have some fun! And I need some grown up fun right now. A sister needs balance, y'know? Balance seems so fleeting though, but still, the entire weight of my world eased up off me the second I knew I had some spontaneous fun coming up. I leave this afternoon. Yippeee!

Mina and I had some fun last weekend. I took her and her BFF to see the junior division of the LA Derby Dolls and I gotta say it was the best time I've had in a long time. I had been a fan of roller derby as a kid in the 70's, when Skinny Minnie Miller was a star and the games were scripted like the WWF. Women's roller derby has made a big surge in the last couple years and now it's treated like a true sport where points are scored legitimately. The camp factor aside, these women are athletes and I got oddly teary-eyed when the intro music was blaring and the skaters were rolling around the rink in a warm-up pack, crouched and bouncing. Man, any kind of empowerment chokes me up every time. The skater's names were hilarious: Anya Handsanneez. Cherrylicious. O. Hellno. Eat-It Piaf. If it was raunchy or violent, it was incorporated into a name. Of course I spent most of the game coming up with my own name when I become a derby star. Here it is: Celia Cruzinforabrusin. Best name ever, right? Don't lie. I shouldn't have posted this! Don't steal it! Anyway, Mina and I were screaming at the skaters by the end, and she was begging me to join the little girl league, which starts at age 8. I'm seriously thinking about letting her do it, but dang if that's not one more thing on our plates. We got this terrible picture of her and her favorite skater, Slammin Amazon from the Hells Belles.
Speaking of Mina, I had her parent-teacher conference this week. I got good and bad news. The good news is that she's doing pretty well in school! She's learning how to juggle more and more balls and all in all, she's doing well. Tests scores are average, but again I got a comment regarding her thought process. Like, she was the only kid that mentioned the overall message of the book in their big book report project; she didn't just summarize facts. I do influence her to think like that, but she still processed it and put it in her report by herself. When making her auto biographical poster, she was one of three kids only, when asked what they'd do with a million dollars, who said they'd be charitable with it. She said she'd give half to the schools and spend the other half traveling the world, helping kids. Gulp. So proud. So, the bad news? Mina decided to get in a good amount of trouble on the playground the day before my conference. Demerits and all, which demerits really don't mean shit compared to the trouble from me when I heard the news. Mina is drawn to a particular girl who is doing poorly in school, but has the sharp, mean wit of a 30 year old. Who doesn't love that type? She's hilarious, but I told Mina that if this girl influenced her in a negative way, it would be lights out on the friendship. They had been doing well. We had even taught the friend a few manners when she was up at our house; she seemed new to those. But last week the friend decided during lunch that she didn't want another girl to be on the handball court and she instructed Mina to throw a ball at the girl to drive her off. There are not many kids in school, girl or boy, who can hit a kid with a ball on command, but Mina can. Her arm is laser-like in precision and impact. So Mina does it and the friend then demands that Mina throw it again, but harder. The victim tries to duck and hits her head on the handball court while doing so. The teacher told me she knew that this is not Mina's nature and that when Mina got caught, she welled up immediately, but still my jaw dropped a little and all I heard for the rest of our meeting was: My child has used her powers for evil, not good. She was a follower-pawn of evil. That and, ooo I'm gonna whoop her tiny ass when we get home.

I'm not one to get mad about many things. The girls can push me around to a certain extent as long as they're not nasty about it. As long as their school work is their priority and they are kind-hearted, good people, I pretty much lay down for anything. If they're slipping in grades or school work, that can be worked out, y'know? But when I hear that they have shown signs of maliciousness and bullying, that unglues me. That upsets me to no end. Fuck some algebra if you can't be a kind and decent person or can't have a mind of their own. If they use a great athletic talent to hurt and scare someone, that's when they see a mami they don't ever want to see. I don't get ragey. That's not my style, but I did spank her, which I haven't done in a long time, and honestly this upsets me enough to make me teary so when I gave her the big-picture, universal talk about thinking for herself, not being a robot and most importantly being a kind person, I was on the verge of crying, and that cut in her like a sniper bullet. Choked up, I told her that she was a great person, that I knew that like no one else did, "So, be great," I told her. She cried and we hugged hard for a while and that was that. She was back to being great. Oh and she can't hang with that friend anymore, which is a bummer because the girl was growing on me.

Here's her 5th grade school picture. When she gave it to me she said, "Aren't I BEAU-ti-ful?" She was beaming over the picture. I said, "You certainly are." She said, "My hair is so shiny and perfect, dang." Man, I laughed. I said, "You have a beautiful smile, Mina." She said, "DON'T I?" I said, "And I dig that necklace you picked out." She said, "I KNOW!" To say that these girls have extra helpings in the confidence department is the understatement of the year.
Here's Maya showing her confidence before her first, high school Homecoming dance!Now, give me a goofy dance move for good measure.
Now, work it out with AW. Off to Vegas, y'all!

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

I'm Back. Pretty Sure of It.

I'm feeling pretty good. Thank you all for your fantastic comments and support. I felt the love. Thank you.

For seven days, I've eaten only fresh, whole foods; food not processed, purer food like fruits and veggies, obviously, plain brown rice, plain potatoes, raw nuts, plain beans. It's been about 60-70% raw. The only processed items I've eaten has been soy creamer and coffee, a cup in the morning. Breakfast has been dick-like fruit with raw nut butters and berries. Lunch has been huge salads with the homemade flaxoil dressing and beans. Dinner has been more raw veggies, some steamed plain veggies, brown rice. Fresh fruit for dessert, which I've never been able to say with a straight face because fruit as dessert has always seemed like a fantasy standard that I've never been interested in adhering to -- until now. I'm not fucking around.

If this were about my weight, I would have blown this off on day one. I woulda had a fair amount of real desserts by now. But dudes, I felt so badly the last 2-3 weeks. I don't want to feel that way again. Every-day stress and a super busy life aside, I feel that food is the the culprit as well as the cure to a great many things. Just like my friend's mom thinks that teatree oil is the cure for everything. Or that movie where Windex was the fix all? Whole food is that for me. When the girls feel badly, I run through this list: What did you eat at school? Have you eaten a fruit or vegetable? Why not? Have you had enough water? Did you sleep well last night? Within these questions, I think I can solve anything. Sprained ankle? Ice it and drink some tea. Heartache? Sleep. Tired? Water and more fruits and vegetables.

The majority of the time, I eat whole and healthy. But now I'm traipsing through purer territory where I believe most everything is too processed. The quality of packaged foods is so poor, but I can't say that I haven't mindlessly eaten vegan shit food. I go through periods where I don't realize how much, like recently.

People I know, but don't know very well, have anointed me their food parole officer some how. When they find out that I'm vegan and that I strive to be a healthy vegan, they like to blurt out what they eat or haven't eaten or how little cheese they consume a day, like I'm reporting back to Vegan Headquarters. I feel badly when they do this because this obviously isn't about me. Maybe it's a justification/defensiveness to decisions they feel might not be so good for them. Or maybe they think that I'm judging every morsel they consume when usually I'm the one that gets the tone and looks like, Great, she thinks she's all better than me with her fucking salad. I gotta say, it's strange. If I'm with a group at dinner, someone around me will tell me why they've ordered what they did or "I never usually eat like this," when I'm thinking, I don't give a shit. The thing is, I don't want to make anybody feel badly for whatever stage they're at with their food awareness or for any choices they make, period. If I positively influence someone, cool. If someone thinks I'm an uppity so-n-so, well, damn, that sucks, but fuck it. The dangerous territory is when I'm asked advice, which I'm hesitant to give. Unless I know the person really well, my advice is very general. One of Husband's friends asked me recently what kind of program he should go on to lose weight? This guy lives a bachelor life, fast food, drinking, not as active as he used to be. I told him to maybe go through the drive thru less and eat more fruits and vegetables. Maybe? Then I flinched for the resentment, but he was cool.

I really don't want to eat the majority of food that's out there in the market or in restaurants. I've felt that way for a long time and my body and psyche are wanting that more now too. But I feel that with this more limited way of eating, I'm taking another step towards being a bigger pain in the ass socially. Ultimately I will do what feels best, but I kinda think, ah man, nobody pay attention to me when I order or don't eat so much.

Seriously though, I'm not fucking around. I can only think about how I felt, and that's such driving motivation. I'm so serious, in fact, that I'm trying to coin a clever word for what I'm becoming. Wholefoodegan? That's lame,right? Help me. Freshian? Wholer? I feel better every day that I'm a simpletarian. I take little slides in my mood here and there, but I understand the detox process. I also understand the mourning process of mindless eating. I'm aware of the comfort in that, and the rebellion. All these things I'm trying to mourn properly. Wish me well in my more radical, pain in the ass step.

* * *

So, Husband had to leave again tonight for Mexico. They told him midday today. He just got home Friday. I'm taking it in stride. He is too. Where TeaCake at? Get the bed warm, buddy.

My sister in law is getting married in late January. In Puerto Rico! We were all so excited when we first heard, but as the weeks have rolled on, the financial burden of a trip for four weighed us down, squeezed out all the fun. I prepared my mind to not go, but last week, Husband got a bonus for working so hard. Out of the blue! And it was about exactly what the trip would cost. Things divine have the most impeccable timing. Thanks so much, Universe! And Papi.

I'm going to Puer-to Ri-co. I'm going to Puer-to Ri-co. In honor, here's a little video for you that plucks at the blood strings of every boricua no matter how faint or faded or mixed. "Hijos de liberdad!" Where Poundpapi at? I need an amen. I don't care what anybody says about Marc Anthony. I love him, and this song gets me every time. Nothing beats singing it at Madison Square Garden either. At 3:12, choked up, by 4:00, full waterworks. If you think this is cheesy, keep it to yo'self!

Thursday, November 05, 2009

Bringing the Upswing

I can't seem to shake this blasé dissatisfaction. I'm stuck in the in-between of a near upswing and tumbling way down. Something deadened my heart a little, y'all, and ooo I'm trying to shake it out, off, away.

Complaining upsets me. Because my life is a series of choices, right, and I've made all of these choices to be where I am now. And I'm sifting through my choices, thinking where the change needs to come and I like and am grateful for most of it, and I'm frustrated by only a part of it. So, who am I to complain, y'know. Then I settle back into the in-between.

Well, I just cried on the phone to Husband. He's in Mexico, again, for work. This is the second trip in two weeks. Actually we texted. I cried while texting. Don't judge. I express myself better when writing and I’d be close to mortification if I were to complain verbally; I'll gladly, toxically swallow it all away rather than say it out loud. But not when I'm justifiably angry though, or when clear boundaries are crossed or when it comes to the kids -- but this personal, unknown space of beat down and tired and robot-ness and random, unwarranted feelings of failure. These things I can't say out loud. Don't make me. I don't want to. Let me text them.

Husband and I don't often have emotional heart to hearts, just when absolutely needed, which is fine with me. I’m not sentimental in that sense; I want it parceled organically, in extreme moments. This way the talks feel magnified and hugely meaningful. We soften and are all-attentive, all-important, kind, melting. He stops the world for me, and tells me bottom-of-the-soul stuff. I rarely need that, but today I did.

And I feel better. Because the basics make me feel better; a base of love, cherishedness. Back to Maven's vows -- and it really is the base of a rock-solid relationship -- championing each other. He said, to my money worries, "Rich or poor, I don't give a shit. I just need you. We've been piss poor before. I just need you." So, that's the basics. That's all I need. Nothing else matters.

I will say that when I was younger, I wouldn't have allowed myself to feel dissatisfied. Not that that's healthy or better. I do feel that I'm way more in touch with myself, which brings awareness to the good and bad within. I allow that now. I realize this is progression. But, I think back on my young hardness to any bullshit emotions (I believed) and I realize that this is just the way it is for the downtrodden, the ones who have to really pound it out to survive. When I had real stress about a beater car or no car or the rent and gas money or food money, I felt I had no right to complain about a job or two jobs, or how long it took to get there or the hours I put in . That would have jinxed it all for sure. Just hustle and make that rent, and hope it gets better. It was a servant mentality. I asked nothing from my bosses, just tap danced as hard as I could, and hoped for the best. I'd get choked up at good reviews, when given a raise. The trabajadores of the world feel no sense of entitlement. We just hustle. And my life is far from that now. I shop at health food stores most of the time for fuck's sake. I have a buttery apartment in the greatest city, so what with 2 bedrooms and crumbling kitchen cabinets. I have lazy-ass, spoiled dogs! And really, my young self would be embarrassed. I mean, she'd be happy that all that she put in led to my life now, but she would be embarrassed that anything makes me feel failed in any way or sense. I'm sorry, young self. You did so stellarly with your half of life with hardly anything.

God, my husband made me feel better. And my tattoo makes me feel better. And my girls make me feel better no matter how much time they demand. And my cat, TeaCake, when he sleeps in my absent husband's spot on the bed at night, that makes me feel better. And my new favorite breakfast, pictured below makes me feel better. I have to admit that though I felt kinda low for a couple weeks prior, the Halloween baking/testing and pie eating really pushed my head under water more. It must be tiresome to read about my sugar darkness yet again (though they get farther apart), but to be honest, it didn’t occur to me (yet again) until a couple days ago. I have sugar amnesia. Or after the low feelings fade, I convince myself that I’ve hype up the sugar blues more than they are. But god no, I really don’t. Eating it is impossible. Anyway, after kicking myself again, it’s back to the food basics too. Starting with:And this picture makes me laugh.
And this song by Los Tijuana Five makes me feel better (posted by Lisa on her FB)

And you guys make me feel better. Thank you.

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Resisting the Cave

So, there I was, laying down my parental wisdom (again) on my girl, Maya; giving a fab speech about high school drama. She's been in the thick of it lately with crushes & breakups -- her own and in the middle of her friends'. I was telling her not to get caught up in what other kids say and not to tell them too much of her own business because this only becomes fodder for them to exploit, and then Maya stopped my speech and said, "Mami, you don't like ANY drama at all. But I like a little bit of drama." This stopped me in my tracks for a minute because I've spent 14 years teaching her to have her own mind, and I admire her for taking me up on that piece of sound advice, but for a second I was bummed that her own mind was separate from mine -- just for a second I felt that. I'm allowed, right? I did not express that to her, of course. Then I was proud of her for being so honest and self aware.

And then I felt lonely.

I can't express enough how parenting is an all day, every day, every minute venture. It takes a type of dedication that wins medals and cash money and nobel prizes outside of the parental arena. And I'm getting to that stage of parenting where we are supposed to know how to gracefully pull back the intensity. Where we give them space to be themselves, ease up on our gas and so delicately not dump any of our own shit full-load onto their heads. We are told to be prepared for all of this and it's just supposed to be so seamless to shift gears and watch them drift away. I mean, I know we want this. I know it will happen. But ain't that a bitch?

It's that I like them so much. The three of us are joined together and do so much together. And it's time that I peel away from Maya a little, unnoticed, and let her text out her dramafied scenarios by herself and hang out in her room with her ipod, while I take up something else that will fill that intense parental-focus hole. Cage Boxing, maybe.

In the scheme of all things teenage, Maya really is a breeze. I'm fully aware and thankful. We've just had a series of independent baby steps lately. I shouldn't be surprised by how lonely it makes me feel. I'm just very attuned to how loneliness feels, I think, and it doesn't necessarily panic me, but makes me shrink back a bit. Like, loneliness or aloneness is supposed to be my natural state. Like, I come out of a cave to connect with people just a little bit and then burrow back down into my mind. Husband is out of town too and his work, in general, is beating him down big time, so with that, I feel exposed to how much emphasis I put on the girls especially when Maya and I go through these natural and smooth baby steps towards independence. It makes me question the time I've put in. Like, was/is it too much. Obviously not, but I guess it's natural to question every step we've made as parents. I second guess, sometimes, making their emotional state at all times the golden number one. It wouldn't have happened any other way though.

Objectively, I gladly sling shot these kids into the stratosphere and without a trace of my bullshit smeared on them. And I know, too, that it's ok to feel how I'm feeling even if it’s quietly (other than the blog!) and even if I want to fight the loneliness for once.

Friday, October 23, 2009

Begone Woe Tattoo

Hi Friends,

I've crossed over. I am the tattoo lady. I'm sleeve bound perhaps.

But this, this put a high bounce to my step when lately I've had a hard time catching a rhythm or any kind of spark. Here is my Begone Woe tattoo, right on the inner forearm. No hiding it now. Behold:

Bye woe, with her lil kerchief.
A petal on the bike wheel! Heartgush.

The details slay me. Look at the hem of her dress and her precious face, and the sash and the jewlery! I love her so much. And the details of the bike; the itty bitty shield thing on the frame. Happy Friday Familia. Feels good to be on the upswing again. Begone Woe! Come, Hope.

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Impossible Motherhood

A couple days ago I read an article in the LA Times about a book called Impossible Motherhood by Irene Vilar. The title of the article was: Memoir of a former abortion addict. The by-line: In 'Impossible Motherhood,' Irene Vilar, now a mother of two, writes of what led her to have 15 pregnancies ended.

Vilar writes of her fifteen abortions.

I was sort of stunned when I read the title because as an adamant pro-choicer and a feminist (are we comfortable with this word yet? I am) I still felt squeamish and light-headed by this notion.

Before reading the article, I tried to imagine what would lead Vilar to this level of self-abuse. Standard and societal judgments leapt to mind. It's easy to dismiss someone as careless, ignorant, which I could not keep myself from initially feeling. When I stopped myself from this sort of judgment, I considered that we fight for rights period, right? We don't fight for rights to then judge the extent by which they are exercised.

Then I read the article. The complexities of Vilar are so entangled that simple judgments of her are trite, insignificant. I have not stopped thinking about her. One publisher -- one of the 51 who had first rejected the book -- said that the memoir was too painful to publish. The reason the book finally did get published was because it is intelligently written even if her story hangs in the balance of an undeniably complicated issue.

Vilar's abortions were a protest of sort; self-abuse as revolt. That is my interpretation, and this thought hurts me. Much of Vilar's revolt seems subconscious, a sickness that she was unable to stop for a long time. She explains it like another other addiction. When I learned more of the complexity of her rebelliousness against her ex-husband (she was 16 and he 50 when they met; he insisted they have no children) and even more compelling, her familial and cultural history, Vilar's story became a multi-generational, gender-encompassing tragic flood.

Vilar grandmother was Lolita Lebron, the Puerto Rican nationalist who moved to NY in the 1950's - leaving behind her family -- and then shot up the U.S. House of Representatives, wounding five congressmen. She was convicted of trying to overthrow the US government and served 25 years in prison. Lebron left behind Vilar's mother in PR, an infant at the time of the shooting. Vilar's mother eventually killed herself by jumping from a moving car while 8 year old Vilar tried to hold her back. Several factors contributed to Vilar's mother's severe depression: Being abandoned by Lebron, her cheating husband, and a coerced, unneeded hysterectomy at age 33.

Here's a passage from the article:

"Puerto Rico, at the time, was a living laboratory for American-sponsored birth control research. In 1956, the first birth control pills -- 20 times stronger than they are today -- were tested on mostly poor Puerto Rican women, who suffered dramatic side effects. Starting in the 1930s, the American government's fear of overpopulation and poverty on the island led to a program of coerced sterilization. After Vilar's mother gave birth to one of her brothers, she writes, doctors threatened to withhold care unless she consented to a tubal ligation.

These feelings of powerlessness -- born of a colonial past, acted out on a grand scale or an intimate one -- are the ties that bind the women of Vilar's family.

'If there is something that is intersecting across generations -- my grandmother, my mother and me -- it's the issue of control," said Vilar. "I chose a very private drama to show my problem of control, my mother chose a personal one, not as intimate as mine, and with my grandmother, it was the ultimate political control.'"

I'm so heavy-hearted about the depth of this story especially as the book starts to kick up a duststorm for the Pro-Life movement. They use Vilar's story as an argument for them, an example of how we women cannot control ourselves. Women must need governmental parenting. The push for their own agenda demeans any significance in relation to our historical damage. This is not to say Vilar has nonchalantly experienced her abortions. Many were followed by suicide attempts. If she is brutally honest about her experiences, she is also very humbled by the feminist movement which kept abortions safe and legal in the US. She is alive because of the movement, she says, because she would have aborted anyway, by any means. Her addiction and struggle with self-determination and control may have been a painful revolt, but they were still exclusive from the positive gains that the feminist movement championed. Vilar's revolt was strictly personal, yet it still makes me think of our long history of oppression. I feel it so deeply with her story.

Anyway, I wanted to tell you about the book because I think it will be kept pretty low key, except by Pro Life advocates, which is unfortunate. Pro Choicers seem to be fairly mute on Vilar's story, but I could imagine that the basic battle to keep abortion laws in place is difficult enough without having to debate Vilar's situation.

Here's the LA Times article here if you want to read a bit more.

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Gonna Ramble Myself Out of a Rut

John Wooden was a little ahead of my time though I still bow down to him as the basketball god that he is. He turns 99 tomorrow. He might be waiting around for another UCLA championship, but he'll be well past the century mark if that's gonna happen. Though Wooden is rightfully revered, Chick Hearn was the old basketball dude who I loved. I pretended he was my grandfather when I spent plenty of nights alone, watching Laker games of the Showtime era on our thirteen inch black and white TV that got three channels. And one of those was channel 9! Thank god; home of the Lakers and home of the voice of Chick Hearn, my fantasy grandfather and long-time Laker announcer. Inches from the screen (because that shit was still kinda snowy) I'd eat toasted almond ice cream by the bowlful, enraptured by the drama that was playoff basketball of the 1980's. Man, I would laugh at Chick's sayings (THE JELLLOOO'S JIGGLING!) and whoop at the TV when the Lakers kept my hope buoyant. Chick Hearn was the only celebrity that got a tear from me when he passed. He was good company for a lonely kid.

Hope, my specialty, is kinda waning lately. I'm not sure what it is. I mean, I kind of know, but it's the kind of know that I'm not good at talking about. If I talk about it or complain about it or let it in too much, then what? I dunno. Good, healthy complaining is not what I'm good at. I get frustrated and embarrassed. I get self conscious. I feel weak. Suck that shit up, y'know, because then what? I take a road so high, I'm out of sight. I'm on high, lost road. Where am I?

I took the girls to a couple more writing workshops at 826LA over the weekend. They were split in different groups on different days this time; more in their own age group. Mina's was back in Echo Park. While she wrote about Creatures of the Future, Maya and I went to the second-hand store across the street and browsed. I tried to convince Maya to get a navy corduroy jacket from maybe the 80's that had a huge sew patch on the back of the University of Wisconsin Eau Claire. On the front, in yellow, the name Andrea was embroidered and underneath was her title (I don't remember it now) in the Agricultural department. Then I tried to convince Maya that bowling shirts used to be the main reason we went to thrift stores back in the day. I held up a shirt for her to try on, and she said, "I can't wear that shirt. It says Lorraine on it." I was like, Yes! That's -- you want to -- Lorraine! It says Lorraine, dude. She wasn't having it. But she did go for the old blue Boy Scout shirt with the many patches. So, I got through a little. On Sunday, Maya's workshop was called "Secrets & Lies." Nice! It was about telling truth through lies through dialogue. How cool is that? This workshop was at the Venice location, in an upstairs office of the SPARC building. SPARC is the creation of Judy Baca. Baca has been the premiere, political muralist of Los Angeles for three decades. This is the building my mother worked at for years in the late 70’s, early 80’s. SPARC used to be the old jailhouse in Venice and I remember as a kid loving that some offices were actual jail cells, with bars and everything. While Maya was in workshop, I wrote a bit. But then I wandered the halls of a closed SPARC, swearing it used to be bigger and still awed by it. I didn't have my camera, but I took a few photos with my phone. Baca's work is still so relevant and interesting and phenomenal. She exudes power, mainly. Power in dissent. Power in cultural and gender self acceptance. It's the feeling I had there as a kid; these halls makes one feel powerful:

Here's some outside:

Usually, I would feel waves of inspiration from these, but I don't. I feel a warming, a homecoming, a deep resonation for sure, but I'm worn out. I wanted to curl up at the foot of the Goddess Tree painting and feel nothing. I guess the comfort was good. But inspiration is lost on me right now.

It's raining. We've waited for rain since June around here. There has been no rain since then, and the anticipation of the cooler weather and the bluster -- and the rain -- was temporarily uplifting. The rain is nice, but not as good as dancing around the house yelling, "Rain is coming!" It's been a long time since I've heard the syncopated clank of the roof drains and the constant ringing of Molly's wind chime. It's nice. I don't feel much more.

We watched a movie called Chocolate. It's a Thai movie about an autistic teenage girl who could pick up martial arts moves just by watching them -- then it was time to avenge her mother! It was awesome. The movie had some of the best fight scenes we've seen in a long time. The film was on the cheesy side - it's martial arts flick -- but seriously, that girl kicked ass, Muay Thai style. Mina watched it twice. One of the best fights, though one of the shorter ones, was between the girl and the bad guy's pawn who was more severely autistic for Battle Autism. The boy fought in a series of unpredictable twitches and B-boy moves. He wore Run DMC glasses and an Adidas track suit! The girl was taken aback until she picked up his moves - because that's her power! She was so good.

Writing a novel jammed in limited amounts a time -- and in the time that is the leftover dregs of the day – feels a tad futile and insignificant. It feels rushed and tangled. But maybe I'd think that with all the time in the world too. Plugging away . . .

I'm getting a new tattoo in a couple weeks. I'm excited, but because of how I'm feeling, I'm worried about it too. Like, maybe it's too much money to spend on fancy skin decoration. But it's going to be super dope. But as I get older, is it lame to keep getting tattoos? Don't answer that. I know how I would answer that, but still. I dunno. Then I think, maybe I should get a full-body tattoo because I think that looks better than old lady skin. I dunno.

I'm ok. I'll feel better soon. Got to, right? Where my high road at?

Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Queen of the Setting Sun

That's the third line from my high school anthem, where Maya goes now. I went to Back-to-School night there last night, and though I experienced much trepidation when visiting her/our middle school, I felt energized on the high school campus. I do have very fond memories from the place. I didn't exactly realize that until the class reunions, and now, spending a fair amount of time on campus and reliving it through Maya.

All of Maya's teachers are great, but I'll make special mention of her honors English teacher who is young and smart and funny and puts literature on a golden pedestal. I almost begged to audit his class for the year. I wanted to hear every discussion about the books they'd read. Of course, this is Maya's time to sort out and discuss and fall in love with it all, which will certainly happen in this class. She and I are going to read some of her assigned books together so we can talk about them. I say it's to discuss together, but really rereading these classics has been so joyful for me. I told you how I felt about recently rereading To Kill A Mockingbird. Now I'm reading The Great Gatsby and man, it's so good. Why was it not this good before? Oh, it was? My mind just hadn't busted through its young fog yet? Maya's teacher is a leading authority of Steinbeck's work; he gives lectures across the country so, whoa, cool. He's going to be great for her, just like my high school literature teacher was for me.

Did I tell you Maya made the freshman basketball team? That experience has been pretty magical in itself. I don't think you can beat the whole budding-into-adulthood-team-bonding experience. Maya's thrilled about it all and so far, the girls have been great. Maya's jockeying for the JV team already, which I heard from the head coach. He said that Maya told him straight up she wanted to be on JV. And I threw my head back and laughed. I told him, "Good for her." He nodded, "Yea, I liked that." The JV coach told Maya, "Someone's gonna be a leader of my team pretty soon." And Maya said, "Oh yes I will be." Haha, man, I love hearing about the bravery of my girls from other people.

The high school football games have already been seriously dramatic for Maya. She attended the first game of the year, her first game ever, and she was jazzed by the whole experience of rooting with her friends. Tragically, during the game one of our players was seriously hurt. His neck was accordioned in a tackle and he lay motionless on the field for 30 minutes as the paramedics took their time getting him carefully onto a gurney and rushed to the hospital. It's been three weeks now since it happened. He's still in ICU, his breathing tube just recently removed, and they aren't saying much about the long-term effects. That does not sound good, but we can only wish him the best of thoughts. The whole school rallies for him; this is obviously very impactful on the students. The USC football team and Pete Carroll have called him, encouraging him. Last week, Maya went to the football game again. It was a close one against a long-time rival, and right after the game, outside the stadium as kids filed out, a non-student was stabbed by another non-student. Cops were already there monitoring the exit of crowds and the kid was immediately arrested; the stabbed boy will make a full recovery. It was gang related, apparently. The two towns, ours and the opposing football teams', have always had a latin gang history. The cops and the school acted perfectly. Their presence already there during the incident, but still, another big-life/near-death incident for these kids to ponder and secretly stress about.

* * *

During Back-to-School night last night, the parents had to file into the auditorium to hear, I'm not sure what, because I jetted - ditched the entire meeting -- when after looking at the night's program I realized that my favorite teacher of all time, my literature teacher, still taught at the high school. By the light of my cell phone, I saw his name in the program and I ran out to find his class as the choir was singing a lovely rendition of the national anthem. When I found his class, I knew he'd be alone because all the good parents were in the auditorium still.

I remember him as a little hemmed up, soft-spoken but with a dry, tight humor. His neck was potmarked and his mouth smaller than most people's, so were his eyes actually, but he laughed easily. He was probably in his early 30's when he taught me and he wore brown corduroys and brown oxford shoes and buttoned-up plaid shirts and horn-rimmed glasses. His age was only revealed in his hair, which displayed a youthful wave. He probably was unaware of the good bounce to his hair. Most importantly, he loved literature and he displayed a thoughtful and kind examination of it that unlocked my own unique and thoughtful examination. He read things similarly to me, obviously on a more advanced, less foggy level, and he held out his hand to me to pull me deep into the full and meaningful view of literature; not always the straight-on perspective. I had him every year for English because I picked his classes as electives too, which included Mythology and Folk as Lit and Bible as Lit. He also ran a lunchtime ping pong club that I frequented. This ping pong club also ran a few games of pickup basketball in the park. I never missed those. He still runs the Ballroom Dance Club at the high school. See? He's perfect.

Last night, when I found his class, I spied into his room from the hall. He was standing over his podium, reviewing papers, and I felt a sudden crash of sadness. His hair was gone, shaved to a too-close buzz cut. And I was sad because he was older and I didn't want time to pass for him. I wanted him vibrant and perfect still. I said his name walking into the room. I was wearing my glasses which is an instant disguise for me. Hardly anyone recognizes me with glasses, even people I see regularly. Though his hair was gone, his face looked very much the same, effected only by a bit of a time sag. His attire, his glasses, his small features and potmarked neck, all the same. I said my name and his tiny mouth smiled in surprise. I hugged him though he wasn't really prepared for that and his voice jump started into an easy excitement. We reminisced fondly. I told him about Maya, and he shook his head. I looked at his hand for a wedding ring and saw none. The school rumor back in the day was that he lived with his parents, a man-child with never a love interest. He told me his parents had died a few years ago. I didn't ask about a wife or a partner. We did not have that type of relationship. I was sad again for him. He walked over to his class filing cabinet and without effort pulled out a file and sorted through some papers and 8x10 class photos. He pulled out the photo of my entire 10th grade Lit class circa 1983, and I laughed hard when I saw myself looking earnest, trying not to smile, trying to look scholarly but it was just a parody of that look. I was wearing a bandana on my head, 1940's style, and I was holding a ping pong paddle in my hand across my chest, pledge-like. He said, "See? You were a stand out." I knew not to say, "I was?" because when I was younger he had made me feel like all my comments had been insightful and ahha! worthy. He asked me what I did now. I said, "I'm in technology, but really I'm a writer." He said, "I knew it." Just then a parent came in with a student forcing us to end the reminiscing. I got his email address and went on to Maya's first period on a high, but mad I didn't get a chance to tell him, You were the best. You were my favorite of all time. You encouraged me to love things how I love them now. But I have his email and believe me, these sentiments will get to him soon enough.

I honestly believe that Maya will feel the same about her young and vibrant Steinbeck scholar. She has already cried to me about the ending of Of Mice and Men, and I'm already forever grateful to her teacher for that.

We’re in month one of high school, people. It’s going to be a profound ride as it was for most all of us.

Monday, September 21, 2009

826LA Echo Park

For those of you with school-aged kids, do you know about 826 started by Dave Eggers? It's a free tutoring program, usually language-arts specific, for all-aged kids. The original is in San Francisco, but they've branched out to many major cities. The building he originally rented for the tutoring/publication space was a retail-only space, so he had to come up with a shop idea, as a facade. They turned the front part of the building into a pirate supply shop. They sold handmade peg legs and evening-wear eye patches, all types of funny and clever pirate things. The store is really just a front to the meaty, inspirational stuff that goes on in the back, though the store does very well now apparently. Eggers' old Brooklyn neighborhood then demanded an 826 center, where one then sprouted with a super-hero supply store facade. The one in LA, in Echo Park, has a Time Travel convenience store front. I've posted a TED clip of an Eggers lecture about the whole deal at the bottom of this post. It's long (20 min), but definitely worth it, especially if it will help you steer your kids in the direction of a (hopefully) local 826 center, which are all around the states now.

So, as Maya is getting more interested in writing and Mina has been overly worried about the level of writing now demanded of her in fifth grade, I signed them up for an 826 workshop last weekend. The fantastic workshops are also free. This one was called Writing for Pets, where kids of all ages wrote a story specifically for an animal. In fact, volunteers brought in two dogs, a cat and fish as inspiration. Kids read their stories directly to the animals. I chose this particular workshop because it boasted that even the shiest of writers would feel inspired, and this was most important considering Mina's building anxiety about her ability to express herself well enough on paper. But 826 was right on the money. Mina bounced out of the workshop squealing and pumping her fists. Oh my gosh, I was over the moon. The workshop was a little young for Maya, but she still enjoyed it and we all got a huge kick in the pants about the time travel mart. Here's an online sample of what they sell there. It's all so thoughtful and hilarious.

While the girls were in workshop, I went next door to the cozy Stories Books & Cafe where I scored a $4 used copy of Mrs. Dalloway illustrated with a great 1970's cover, complete with coffee-ring stain. I love it. I then wrote for over an hour until a group met in the cafe planning how they were going to fight some Medieval Renaissance battles around the Echo Park Lake. Not even kidding. I saw velvet costumes on hangers.

I snuck back over to the kids' workshop and they told me I could listen in on the last of the readings. I heard pip-squeak voiced kids reading tales of Jonesy the Dog and whispers of fish adventures. Pure heaven. After workshop, the girls ran to me rattling their stories so I'd read them right away. I wasn't allowed to stand up until I had read every word. Their stories were funny and great. Mina was relieved and pumped. Here are the first few lines of her story:

Once there was a princess cat named Lucy and she lives in China. Lucy loves to torture any animal that lay foot in her castle. One of the things that she does for torturing is to make the dogs dance a hard dance or clean the castle until it is cleaner than her.

Maya's was about an Egyptian cat that became a detective to solve mysteries of the pyramids. Both so great!

After mulling around the time mart, we headed across the street to a thrift shop and I scored a light grey men's suit vest. It was made for a small man and it had pockets high and low. Maya got an owl t-shirt, and Mina tried on 80's crocheted dresses. As much as I love the Echo Park neighborhood, it was one thousand degrees on the street so we headed home, towards the ocean, for lunch and to plan which workshop they'd take next.

Check out Eggers' awesome talk about 826.

Friday, September 11, 2009

Me Like Daughters

Only two things are certain right now: School and Writing.

1. School has started. And this means a rigid schedule is back in effect and it's putting the screws to everyone. Holy shit, it's tight! We've been very graceful about it considering because we've pumped up the Start of School for weeks. Maya's a high schooler! This is huge and wow is she good at it already. She's so responsible and getting in her groove. She’s equal parts maturity and goofiness. So great. Mina's a fifth grader! This is also huge because she's ruling school this year. She's the big cheese. I did not tell you guys that I received her state test scores in the mail a couple weeks ago. We all know the Infamous Second Grade Debacle, how she was tagged as remedial and "not cut out for school" and I, shocked beyond belief, was all, the fuck she ain't and you just don't understand her is all! and I'll take matters in my own hands thank you very little . . .For fourth grade Mina tested advanced in math and just shy of advanced in language arts. It was her best year yet. I rubbed the test paper all over her when she came home. We sang “You did it! You did it!” for days. She was thrilled with herself.

So, anyway, school . . .it's all consuming. Riding their asses is exhausting. Keeping them engaged, very tiring. But seeing them rocket on their own has been transformative for me. You hope it will all pay off but really you can't think about it too much, you just have to do it no matter how it will turn out. They'll still have to make decisions on their own. But honestly, they really are amazing people.

2. Writing. I'm writing so a bunch of other balls have dropped. I get obsessed and then whoa, I wonder if plants need water to live and if so, why haven't they figured out how to do that on their own? Or is toast a legit dinner? I like it. But is it good for everyone else? It's not like I'm at the computer 10 hours a day writing this novel. It's more that I'm thinking about it 10 hours a day so tasks that require, oh, remembering stuff or too much cognitive awareness is challenging. Some of the things I'm still able to do while I'm internally piecing together a plot are: cleaning/laundry, walking the dogs, cracking a homework whip, uh, let's see what else, working (it's robotic work anyhow), buying food at the grocery store though haphazardly because the meal-plan side of my brain is a little soft right now, working out. That might be about it. Everything else is shot.

My blog writing is kind of shitty too today. I should've just written Me Like Daughters and called it a day. Bear with me. I'm sorting it all out. Just wanted to say hi.

Sunday, August 30, 2009

This & That

God killed my patio garden. Though I'm sure, as usual, god can't take all the blame. I left the garden to go to Squaw and when I came back, it wasn't the same. The garden was well cared for by my neighbor Molly, but this didn't relieve the abandonment issues the garden was apparently harboring. All the leaves turned a celery-yellow, and all the snap peas came in while I was gone -- cheap shot, Garden. When I left, zucchini were budding, about three good-sized ones. I was excited to harvest them when I got back, but all evidence of them had been erased when I raced to the garden to check their progress.
I asked Molly how the zucchini were thinking she had plucked them off the vine and enjoyed them, and she said, "What zucchini?"
I said, "The zucchini disappeared?"
She said, "What zucchini?"
I shrugged and said, "See? I know absolutely nothing about gardening."

It might have been Mina's tutor who dog-kitty-house sat for a couple days, but she has since flown to Paris on an exchange program and it seems silly to ask her about three zucchini gone missing when she's all Eiffel Tower and Champs-Élysées and shit. I don't need to embarrass myself to that extent. It really is about making sure I'm not completely hallucinatory and/or a completely incompetent gardener. I may never know. Secretly, I think god killed the patio garden so I'd stop fucking around and write the novel already.

Just like god gave my bike a flat tire and gave me an intolerance to baked goods. Well played, god! I'm on it.

The tomatoes survived the trauma of my absence and they are fantastic. Thank you tomatoes. And the bell peppers were kind enough to stick around. It looks like I have some pole beans and cucumbers still coming, but the supporting plant, the leaves and stalk and such, look so sickly I'm not sure what the outcome will be. I stare at the garden like it's a mystery, like what will unfold has nothing to do with me.

* * *
I bought this Ecco Bella Lotion in Vanilla. I stole the idea from Lisa because she had it at Squaw and she was kind enough to let me get a squirt. She called it her pastry lotion because that's what it smells like, sweet, flaky pastry. Uh, it's intoxicating. I told Lisa that I was going to steal her scent. After I slathered it on at home, I asked Mina, "Don't I smell like a glazed donut?" And she said, "No, you smell like PlayDoh." Motherfu--- what does she know about smelling like pastry! I do think Mina meant it as a compliment and her comments have not kept me from smearing myself twice a day with the stuff.

* * *
LA's burning down. It's scary. Every year we know we're going to get fires in California and we only pray that the damage will be at a minimum and that they won't last long. But the heat is not helping. They are burning in every direction. Yesterday I told Husband it feels as if California is on the constant verge of catastrophe. Like when we rode our bikes on a stretch of bike path that goes under the pier yesterday; when we were directly under the gigantic wood pier, it creaked from cars and pedestrians above. I looked at the support columns and thought, if an earthquake hits now, forget it. My husband looked at me -- we were in the pier's shadows -- and I know he was thinking the exact same thing.

We rode down to the beach as monstrous smoke clouds billowed behind on the horizon near the mountains. We parked ourselves on the sand and I marveled at the waves which were as reflective as glass; I haven't seen that in a long time. It was such a contrast to the smokey skies and the ash rain, how the waves of the ocean were extra clear, shiny and perfect. It was perfectly LA, where everything feels at conflict; paradise on the brink of disaster. So, I was on the sand thinking of fires and earthquakes, when I see fifty yards from the shore three dolphins threading in and out of the water just beyond the small break. Mina was in the water, closer to them, and she yelled to us to look. Her body was silhouetted against the glass water and fins cut up, just above her head in my line of view. More dolphins looped passed, about ten in all, and then they turned around and came back. They lapped back and forth for a half hour. I didn't take my eyes off of them once. I watched them the entire time.

Wish us well, sibling states.

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

On Our Sexuality

I'm not going to write about my mother in this post. Because she could easily take it over, and though I sat witness in the sidelines of her sexuality as a kid and suffered near-blackout discomfort about it, I interestingly developed an independent and relatively healthy sense of sexuality despite that. Almost. Actually, hearing the sounds of sex makes me light headed, nauseous from swirling embarrassment. It is instantly horrifying. Any porn I've ever watched has been on mute. Sexy breathing, even, in music or jest will give me hot flashes of rage. But god has been kind in that any noises I personally make, I am deaf to. Man, that's merciful.

So, I won't write about my mother here. Or not too much.

In my forties, I find it fascinating, and sometimes funny, remembering my history of sexuality with its accidental buoyancy and occasional pitfalls. I'm fascinated most about the whole concept of female sexuality; and I do mean concept because I'm not one of those women from say Real Sex who would go on a masturbation retreat or swing unabashedly with the neighbors. I don't even sleep naked. I don't write this post to put my sex life on display, past or present, either, but to express that my main interest in women's sexuality is purely in relation to our empowerment, our sense of freedom, our comfortableness, our confidence. Isn't this connected to our sexuality? Or more, isn't it related to not the overemphasising of it, but our lack of self consciousness about it?

This has been dangerous territory for us, hasn't it? Since the beginning of time? Because our sexuality and the appropriateness of our sexuality has always been open for judgement, which, in general, is fucked.

This grows in interest to me not just because I feel so comfortable with myself at 42,but monumentally as my daughters bud into their own. And oh lord, there's the rub; here's where the entire history of sexuality, personal and worldwide, becomes overwhelmingly important because I'm determined to make them feel at ease. And confident. And beautiful. Mostly, I want to obliterate the shame. And all this without embarrassing the shit out of us.

Handling menstruation was a first step. I mean in the mechanics of it all because the first steps start from the second they observe you, as a baby even, and they do watch. I mean, we did, right? We watched our mothers and aunties and grandmothers fumble around about themselves, sometimes gracefully and more often not. But when crushes start and they attract attention and when their flow beings, a hands-on approach goes to a new level. So, when Maya started her period, no matter how much I emphasised the shamelessness of it, Maya still felt it. I can't block the outside world and waves of perceptions, you know, which is why even the most well-adjusted kid has to be armed constantly with our reassurance. Especially in terms of their bodies and sense of self. It never ends. I knew this going into motherhood. I'm in the thick of it. I can't say I always feel prepared, but I will say I never back down from it. I can't trip on my own issues. I'll hollow myself out and get pummeled with every personal fear, secretly, to help them build their own foundation stronger.

So, tackling menstruation was not so hard, but their looming and unstoppable sexuality is on the horizon, and I'm honestly not too worried about it because it is unstoppable, it will come whether I'm of help or not so my nervousness lies more in preparing them enough. Strengthening their base enough. Eliminating enough of the shame no matter how much everything on the outside wants to injected it back in. And it started with: No, menstruating is not nasty or evil and it is what it is and you tell me what boy in school is giggling, tell me if his mother doesn't get her period. Then we'll be interested in what he thinks.

My boobs went from budding cute to god-damn! in a matter of months, the summer I turned seventeen. It was like that Skipper doll where you pulled down her arm and her boobs grew ta-dow! and then she was Barbie? That entire summer I was selected to work for a mini Peace Corp-type project on a West Indian island. The first time our group went down to the beach, I rocked a white bikini and one of my group mates, Will from the Bronx said, "I'm gonna take a picture of you for the boys back home." Unashamed, I said, "Knock yourself out." I didn't pose or look coy. I stood there, impatiently, because I wanted to get into the water. That summer I also lost my virginity, on the island. It was the influence of the sun and island breezes and the remoteness and my body bursting into curves which were photo-worthy, apparently, though my want of touch was completely an internal decision. Nothing was put upon me. I had zoomed in on a man I liked, a 23 year old from the island, who helped tour around our group. He did a double take on my interest and we connected. I did not want to be his girlfriend. I wanted the connection and the experience with him. And it was the ultimate empowerment to go after what I wanted and have the exact experience I wanted. I look back on it -- not him exactly, but the experience -- with great fondness.

That was all by accident -- or more by absence of thought or conditioning -- because on that island I was not my mother's meek shadow of a girl. I was not shackled by her overt and desperate sexuality, nor hindered by the few violations I had experienced, experiences that were not completely life-depleting, like what many of my sister-friends have experienced. I don't mean to downplay the violations against me because had they happened to my daughters I would've ripped somebody's fucking throat out, but I do know worse things have happened to so many girls, my friends included. Anyway, on the island, all that stuff fell away like cracked egg shells and I stepped out a beautiful woman, lit with a self-piloted desire.

Maya's boobs are growing. Bigger than mine at fourteen. She is unaware of how beautiful she is and unaware, for the most part, of the womanliness of her shape. She wears old tank tops where her boobs spill out and I blurt, "Dude, they're not little anymore. Might want to cover them more." And then I wonder if that embarrassed her. Or am I teaching her self respect. I do say those things in the name of self respect. Then I wonder if the whole concept of self respect (for women) is sexist.

Maya is not self deprecating because that's never been allowed in our house, and she's not very self conscious for a fourteen year old. She just Is, which makes her all the more radiant. That's not to say that's the ultimate type of beauty -- this unconscious beauty -- because Mina, at only 10, knows exactly how beautiful she is, and it is a gorgeous quality as well. She is confident and a tad wicked. I feel they are both coming down the shoot, y'know, on a tight rope and I have to teach them to stay true to what they naturally are, and let them know they are beautiful no matter how that beauty manifests which is every which way in terms of women as far as I'm concerned, and that they are just as smart as beautiful, and strong, and they don't have to be one or the other because as women we not only can have it all, but we simply ARE all. Period. And I have to do all of that when most of our outside information, and sometimes our inside information, is conflicted and jumbled and telling us otherwise.

Growing up in the center of the first-wave feminist movement, I was hardly ever told I was beautiful. That was not important. Our strength and our mind was important. And I did believe that only those things were important until I wondered if I was desirous at all or appreciated in a full spectrum kind of way. I don't believe that's solely a woman thing either because I tell my husband constantly, sincerely, how fucking beautiful I think he is, his body, his hair, his smile, and he says Thank You shyly, but I see how it revs his engines even when he appears to be the most confident dude on the planet. Our partners want to know they are desired and wanted, and so do we. So, as a kid my mother didn't like people telling her how pretty I was, which I understand in theory. At fifteen, a grocery store clerk told my mother while looking at me, "You are in such trouble in the coming years." And my mother said, "Why?" though she knew exactly what the clerk was getting at, which made the situation awkward. I laugh about it now because I did like that about my mother sometimes, when she just cut people down awkwardly, against the grain of normal thinking. But mainly, I didn't know I was beautiful for a long time, which might have been a good thing. I'm not sure. See? Confusing.

Being among the feminists of the 1970's, I did learn that whatever women wanted to wear was fine no matter what, army pants, ties, cowboy boots, but the conflicting part was their judgement against women who wanted to wear anything revealing or wanted to express their sexiness in more conventional ways. It was perceived as sexist and degrading. I told you the high heel story; how I was told high heels were invented so women couldn't run from rapists. I've never been too much of a high-heel person, but when I have worn them, I generally feel bad-ass in them, not victim-like. But when they hurt my feet, then fuck that, why wear them. Comments about how good our legs look in high heels have never had an effect on me. I feel no pressure from shit like that. Men sound like fools to me when they say things like that.

That's not to say I can't strut when I want. It's a conscious switch to my hips that makes me feel theatrically sexy. It's not to say that I can't lower my head when I walk into a room and split the air, leading with a sonic-like vibe. I don't always turn it on like that. The 70's feminist voices nag at me, about using anything physical to get attention. "What if it feels good to me?" I fight the voices. I don't think it's different from when a man knows how to stand in a room or sit in a chair with his sleeves rolled up and lower his head and split the air and fully look at someone he's attracted to in big swallows. So, I've made peace with strutting and splitting. But not while showing too much cleavage because I can't get the feminist voices out of my head about that.

I witnessed the ultimate convergence of strong feminine sexuality at an art fair once as a kid. She was a hippy type who straight-lined passed any perceptions to honest earthiness and she oozed free-spirited love. She was all hair and brown shoulders and boobs and hips in flowing skirts, but mostly she was true smiles and sparkling eyes free from judgement of herself or others. She was all acceptance. That was ultimate beauty for me as a kid.

Her, and Brigitte Bardot.

I rented And God Created Woman during high school and couldn't believe this film and this woman was not on the lips of everyone. Granted, the film was from the 1950's so most likely it was talked about then. I thought I had discovered my personal guide to sexuality, which included free dancing to live drums! and rebellion against men AND women, in all forms I knew. I wanted to be Brigitte Bardot. Inside at least I did because I was not even close to being that rebellious. I didn't share this with anyone because I wasn't sure it was ok to admit that I wanted to be sexy. My friends were athletes. My mother, a conflicted feminist. Would the feminist counsel say that the Bardot-level of sexiness was degrading? I kept it to myself, deeply buried, until I landed on a West Indian island a few summers later.

As a mother, I know that expressing ones sexuality is not the safest of endeavors, emotionally or sometimes physically. It is an exploration of dicey waters, fine lines and murky definition even though the other side, when it all connects, can be phenomenal and soul deepening. Not that I'm encouraging them to express it anytime soon obviously. I know they'll have to figure out most for themselves no matter how much I hope for nurturing and healthy experiences for them. Most of all, I do hope for that. I want them to feel good for themselves and love all aspects of being loved. I want them to cherish their role in that love. I can only think that building the base is the thing. A balanced and strong base of their womanhood and every aspect of that, inside and out, around and through. To know that the sexiest women are the ones with their shoulders back, with self-lit smiles and the eyes that spark all acceptance. Or however else they want to be.