No Pause Button

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We grow. Birthdays are celebrated, or missed.

We love. Anniversaries tally up (today’s my 14th wedding anni.), or cease.

We live. Spring break trips bring joy and make memories (as they have for us over these last ten days).

Yet amidst all the simple pleasures, life milestones, and fun adventures, heartbreak can still live inside us, and tragedies can still happen.

My aunt was admitted into the ICU on March 7th... my mom’s only sister, a stand-in grandmother to my kids, and the woman who made my annual birthday getaways to Newport Beach more memorable.

The month of March was hard. She was very sick, and none of it should have been happening. Family banded together. Friends offered support. People cried, others prayed. Life’s tough challenges reminded me (again) of who and what was important to me.

In the midst of hardship, life continues on and we continue along with it as best we can. Despite a desire to stop time and integrate my feelings on what was happening, before moving forward and facing it, life was moving on relentlessly, with no pause button. So we do our best to make the best of it. We keep the plans we’ve made and make more plans for the future.

While I’ve been out of state on vacation for my kids’ spring break this past week and a half, my dear aunt passed peacefully away back home in California last Saturday, April 13th. She was only 62.

It’s devastating and sad. We loved her. She was the last link to my mom. She loved us. My kids will miss her, as will I.

I have so much to say to her and about her. I have so much to feel about what happened.

But for now, this has to be it. I’m still out of town and my kids are waiting for me to rejoin our vacation adventures right now. When I return home, this all will still be waiting for me. The grieving. The service preparations. The time and space to reflect. The writing about her. The laying her to rest. The peace. Life continuing. Life moving on.

#nopausebutton #wegrowwelovewelive #movingforward #lifemovesprettyfastifyoudontstopandlookaroundonceinawhileyoucouldmissit #ferrisbueller #artinstituteofchicago #chicagomuseums

*Originally posted on Instagram and Facebook

Newport Coast Golden Hour

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#fbf to when I was down in Newport Coast visiting my Aunt Jan on 10/5/14, four years ago today. I started publishing my writing on my new website earlier that year, so that new creative outlet and my new lease on life really helped fuel me to stay fit. I had been doing a lot of running and yoga, and my body was feeling and looking better than it had since I had the kids. (They were four and seven then.) When you have strong motivators, they can make you focus and thrive in ways you never expected.

It was an amazing time for me. Yet there was some bad that came with all that good. I hadn’t been as attentive a mother as I had usually been, and my passion for writing and all the feelings that consumed me at that time led to some selfish choices. (I wrote about this in my piece “Write On.”) There is a small part of me that wishes I could snap my fingers and go back to that year and do things differently going forward; but the larger part of me, the part that knows time travel is impossible, tells me to take all that I have learned over the last four years and use it to inform my choices over the next four years and beyond... For without the risks I took and effort I made that year, I would not have yielded all I have written thus far. Without the mistakes we make and heartaches we suffer in the past, we would not know what better choices to make in the future. 💪☀️ 👙 🙏💕


#ilooklikeiminacomicbook #newportcoast #crystalcove #goldenhour

*Originally posted on Instagram and Facebook

Forty Six.

a poem inspired by my birthday weekend getaway in May 2018

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Leaving town,
Can't get out soon enough
Traffic building,
Too late, it already sucks.

Made this trip many times,
Know the drive by heart
University visit,
Walk the campus
Memories materializing,
Time is gone.

Where I slept and lived,
Freshman dorms
I was so quiet and shy
A transformative year.

Up the hill to Greek housing,
I hardly recognize
So much seemed to have changed,
Yet still it’s exactly the same.

Sorority house there,
Fraternity next door
Visions of boys flirting,
Forgot all names but one.

Sisterhood outside of family,
Bonds made, anchors grounded
Then lifted up and floated away
To our separate lives,
To chase diverse futures.

It went by in a blink,
Never thought about it then
That I’d miss it once it was gone.
How hard those days were for me
In relation to that time,
Yet they seem so easy
Now that I’m living this adult life.

I was out of place, in my skin
and in that large circle of friends.
I sometimes wish for a do-over
If what I know now, I only knew then.

Leave the past behind,
Time to start time for me
Hotel room unpacked,
Autonomous feeling
Shoulders are relaxed,
Raise a glass to freedom.

High floor,
Bird’s eye view
Breathing in the solitude,
Just me, no sign of you.

Late at night,
Quiet, so quiet
In bed with book in hand
In heaven reading about
A founding father without a father.

Wake to 46. I’m 46.
What does it mean?
Not good nor bad,
But indifferent maybe.

Am I older, wiser, more evolved?
Or am I living the same life
As I did one day before?

Hotel bed,
King size all for me.
Buttery white sheets,
My favorite delicacy.

Don’t want to get out
I could stay here forever.
Am I avoiding life,
or living my best one ever?

Birthday wishes,
Coming at me from all sides
Playing weekend plans by ear,
Yet suddenly, I am deaf
As a time warp draws near.

In a different place, but similar feel
A different year on the calendar page,
Still unable to make an escape
From the plans I didn’t make.

Embrace by instinct,
Shielding me from the truth I know
Hard to trust the feelings,
That led me astray for years.

A garden walk instead of a run,
A birthday wish I thought I wanted
Giving up what I should have done,
Not satisfied and nothing won.

Why go back to the played out fact,
Like a vinyl album with a scratch
Skipping, skipping, staying on the same track.
I want to change the song,
I need to change the song.

Hope for the unattainable,
Desire for what doesn’t exist.
Disconnect. Accept.
Compose a new tune to hear,
Find a new direction to steer.

At least I keep his eyes in my life.
RISE UP. WISE UP. HAMILTON.
Art that breathes life,
Life that affirms good.

Food, love, music, rest, indulgence,
Why don’t I do this more often?
Heartbreak, frustration, tears, and anger,
Why’d I think that while away
These things would soften?

More love than I know what to do with,
So much it suffocates me
I want to break free of it at times,
Cut it loose, let it fall away and fly off.

But I am tethered to it,
like an oxygen tank
Needed to breathe,
And crucial for survival.

Wishing it was quiet uptown,
While I’m going through the unimaginable
Wishing I could in fact rise up,
And stop the cycle I’m caught in.

Nautical dinner, birthday treat
Sharing stories of pain and love
Family and friend alike,
Repertory and a playwright.

Drama, Art, Passion, Life
There’s so much to see
To be,
To flee.

Sun, sweat, water, swim
Can I stay a little longer?
Delay my departure north,
Not ready to go home yet.

Dinner, sweets,
Late night movie
I Feel Pretty,
But not really.

Who cares anyway,
Beauty comes from inside
Good message with which to leave,
It’s time to get back
To the life that I lead.

It’s far from gone,
I’m alive and awake
There’s a million things I haven’t done,
Just you wait.

*To read the piece I wrote about this year’s birthday weekend getaway, and why I am posting it four months late, see: No Mom Is An Island

No Mom Is An Island

Poolside 5/28/18

Poolside 5/28/18

For the fifth year in a row, I went away alone for my birthday weekend. It’s my ritual, and usually, my saving grace. In previous years upon my return, I have felt renewed, light, free, and more connected to myself as a woman, rather than exclusively a wife and mother. Traditionally, I have written about my thoughts and feelings after these getaways, having done so three times before in 2014, 2016, and 2017. I didn’t write about my 2015 trip; I’m not sure why.

As for this year, I am having a hard time finding something positive to say about it. I honestly would chuck it and not write about it this year, leaving it to fade into my past and memory, if only I hadn’t begun the habit of documenting these annual trips in writing. I’m sure no one else would miss it if I didn’t write about it; but I would be disappointed if I didn’t at least try.

I felt like escaping more this time than ever before, wanting to head out somewhere that wasn't necessarily going to be better, but was going to be at least a relief from that which I wanted to get away. Since 2014, I had spent my birthday weekend each year in Orange County, staying in either Newport Beach or Costa Mesa, seeing various people down there and experiencing various situations that made memories, changed perspectives, and left indelible marks on me.

Should I go to the OC again this year, just out of tradition? Why? I had been contemplating this for weeks, not sure if there was anything left for me there after four years in a row. It seemed some people had moved on, and other people had moved away, and I pondered what my motivation would be this year, going back to the same place. Living and breathing in my current, resigned reality, I couldn’t find any excitement for it, any good reason to rehash the past or try to replicate what I had experienced over the last few years. I needed a new reason to go there this time, and I just didn’t have one.

So I asked myself what I’d like to do instead. What would be the thing I would want most, in experience rather than in people or material gifts? The idea that instantly popped into my head was Hamilton. I had missed seeing the musical when it came to Los Angeles last winter, so I wondered if there was any possible way I could go somewhere for my birthday to see it; that is, short of flying to New York to experience it on Broadway, which was not in the (monetary or time) budget.

Maybe if it was somewhere close enough to California, I could go there, finally see the show, and have a change of birthday venue. It was a long shot, but I did a quick Google search to see if Hamilton was still touring the US; and if so, where they would be during my birthday weekend… just to rule out my farfetched, pipe dream of seeing it.

To my surprise, the company was in the western United States, and not only were they going to be in California for my birthday, but in Orange County, playing a limited run from May 8th-28th at the Segerstrom Center for the Arts - in Costa Mesa. I couldn’t believe it. I had my new reason to go back there… down to the area where I not only attended college and earned my degree almost twenty five years ago, but where I discovered many truths about myself, my soul, my loves, and my life over the last four years of birthday getaways.

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I bought a single ticket to the matinee performance of Hamilton, snagging a seat in the center orchestra near the front, for the afternoon of my birthday, Saturday, May 26th. I booked my hotel, then proceeded to make zero plans to see anyone in the area I had previously seen for my birthday in the past.

This was intentional, as I needed to free myself from the confines of what usually transpires: A long massage, meeting a friend for a chat over lunch, dinner or drinks, getting a glimpse into my alternate reality on the other side of a sliding door - the life I might have lived had I settled in the area after graduating from the University of California, Irvine.

Sounds crazy, I know, now that I write it… passing up on a massage! Weird, but I just needed a change. This year, I was determined to break free from my set routine, and Hamilton was just the experience that I thought would do that.

Before I left, my eleven-year-old daughter was upset with me for going. She laid the guilt trip on thick, as she couldn’t believe I was going to leave her alone to be “ganged up on” in a house full of male influence and energy… namely, her seven-year-old brother and her dad. Neither of them were the picture of sensitivity and empathy in her view, at this drama-filled stage of her tween angst life.

I’ll admit, this made me want to leave town even more. I needed a break from parenting, and from my kids, who relied so much on me to be their emotional safety net. By design, my birthday weekend had become the most significant stretch of time for me to have a respite from the draining demands of motherhood and my life in general; and I couldn’t get away fast enough, or long enough. However, drama, angst, and life still seemed to find me that weekend, as I would soon find out.

I drove down in massive Memorial Day holiday weekend traffic, but still made an early check in at the Westin South Coast Plaza, next door to the theater where I was going to see Hamilton. After dropping my bags and changing into running gear, I headed to UC Irvine for a run around the tree lined park that lies in the center of the campus. It’s always a little strange for me to return to my alma mater, but when I’m in the area, I don’t seem to be able to skip a visit there.

After my trip down my collegiate memory lane, and a nice hot shower, I spent the evening cocooning in king size comfort alone and reading. I have shared my reverence for hotel beds many times before in my birthday posts, and reading a book for hours tucked away in one is a getaway tradition I happily kept in the repertoire. I read for hours that night and the following morning, trying to get through as much of Ron Chernow’s Alexander Hamilton biography that I could before seeing the show. I maybe read a third of it before showtime, but it didn’t matter; the musical Hamilton was otherworldly. I can’t go any further on that topic because I will get off track and this will turn into a long exaltation on it’s brilliance; so I’ll just say it was the best piece of art I have seen or heard, ever.

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In contrast, I saw a non-musical, two-act stage play at the South Coast Repertory theater the following night. Despite what seemed to be a miscasting of the lead actress, the play was enjoyable, and I was grateful to meet up with my husband’s cousin to accompany me to it. We shared a Chilean sea bass dinner at the nautical Water Grill restaurant adjacent to my hotel before the show, and I was treated to a birthday dessert with a candle upon which to wish. Oh, what a wish.

The following night, I saw I Feel Pretty at the movies; and I liked the film for its commentary on inner beauty and female self-worth.

I was grateful for the opportunity to see and hear three forms of art, music, drama, and comedy on stage and screen for those three days in a row; as those three theatrical performances were the highlights of my trip.

It would have been great if the theatrics had remained inside those three theaters that weekend; but it didn’t. Although I began my trip hopeful to have a relaxed, autonomous existence and trouble-free weekend, that dream was short-lived. During the first 24 hours away, I received texts and calls that forced me to confront issues I was hoping I would be free of that weekend… they were communications from people I love, but ones from which I was trying to take a break. Contact that interrupted my peace and solitude, and that reminded me of my love and anger, desire and hope, hurt and loss… contact that reminded me that I was still a woman who was not indeed free of the confines of her existence, still in a challenging marriage, and still a mother.

I found myself unable to bask in the autonomy and solitude as I had done previous years on this weekend, or see and experience people on my own terms. Failing to be immune from complicated issues infiltrating my vacation left me feeling like I hadn’t gone anywhere or taken a break from anything. No matter how mesmerizing Hamilton was or how lost I got in that show (or how much I wanted to go back to that theater day and night to watch its awe inspiring cast of characters sing and perform)… I was me, and my life was it, and there was no escape.

No mom is an island.

I had turned 46. It is not old, but it is not exactly young. I feel younger inside than I am in biological years, and I have come to discover this reality is common for many at my age; and further that it shocks the hell out of most people when they get here. It shocked me, and truthfully, kind of depressed me. Being an adult and growing older are not things most of us revel in. It is a transition we all have to make, and one we can't avoid or delay, no matter how hard some of us try.

As teenagers, we naively anticipate adulthood, as we see the impending perks of age as isolated “adult” prizes: independence, autonomy, freedom from parental limits on our behaviors, eating what we want, and staying up as late as we want. Spending money as we wish. Having sex whenever and with whomever we want. Having successful (possibly ego-driven) careers. Drinking alcohol and going bar and club hopping. Enjoying all those luxuries and irresponsibilities that we crave when we are naive, immature and primarily selfish kids posing as young adults who think they know themselves and what the world is all about.

But once we settle into adulthood, and have lived here for some years, we realize we didn't know why the hell we were so excited. The sentiment, “Can’t Adult Today,” is printed on a t-shirt my sister gave me, and that pretty much sums it up. Sometimes being an adult sucks. Sometimes doing the right or responsible thing is no fun, and sometimes our desires - to break the rules and live like we have no allegiance to anyone but ourselves - get the best of us. Sometimes we get a harsh reality check that forces us to reign it in and accept we aren’t islands… we aren’t, never were, and never will be autonomous beings.

What we do deeply affects others. Our actions, or inactions, hurt people. Our habits, our words, and our behaviors shape our relationships with one another; and whether we want the responsibility or not, what we do and what we say, and to whom, has a profound affect on them. It affects their lives, and in turn it affects ours, as well as many others’ lives in our world, and exponentially in the world at large.

No mom (or man, woman or child) is an island, not even if she claims to be one for a birthday weekend getaway during which she expects to be self-indulgent and pampered. Instead, life infiltrates, issues bombard, and people come into the fray uninvited to force her out of her fantasy world of problem-free bliss.

No mom is an island, especially when she is called upon to comfort her crying child on the phone, for what seems like an eternity, on her birthday night, instead of enjoying room service, an in-room, on-demand movie, and a bubble bath.

No mom is an island, when she realizes the uninterrupted peace that she desired for a few days could only be claimed at the cost of others’ tender needs… that is, if she ignored those needs and went ahead and claimed her peace. (She didn’t.)

No mom is an island, when she rises up to the responsibility of her life, instead of fighting it, to comfort, console, and put her child’s needs before her own wants, no matter how much it may frustrate or disappoint her in the moment, and no matter how sad it makes her for a little bit afterward… as she wishes things were different, but doesn’t know how to make it so.

This is not hero behavior. I am not claiming it to be that. This is what a mom does. A mom who loves and comforts, whether she feels strong enough to handle it or not. A selfless mom who sometimes gives too much, at the detriment of herself. A selfish woman who sometimes takes too much, at the detriment of her family. A flawed human who resents, and suffers, and regrets, out of weakness and poor choices and from her own wounds and limitations.

But all is not lost. Sometimes this mom finds a way to gather strength from the kind souls surrounding her, who don’t abandon her in the most challenging of times. Sometimes she finds inspiration in the feats of adversity she sees others accomplish.

And sometimes she is able to summon the last vestiges of courage inside herself… to cultivate gratitude for what is right and good, to learn acceptance for what is not the way she wishes it would be, to find peace for what will never be again, and to raise hope for what is possible in the future.

She may not be an island, but she is a piece of a continent that is beautiful, and one that is worth keeping together.

She (me) has also adopted a more realistic goal of existing as a peninsula of that continent, instead of an island, next year for her (my) sixth birthday weekend getaway in 2019. ❤️

No man is an island,
Entire of itself;
Every man is a piece of the continent,
A part of the main.

If a clod be washed away by the sea,
Europe is the less,
As well as if a promontory were:
As well as if a manor of thy friend's
Or of thine own were.

Any man's death diminishes me,
Because I am involved in mankind.
And therefore never send to know for whom the bell tolls;
It tolls for thee.

No Man is an Island - a poem by John Donne, 1623

POSTSCRIPT: I began writing this piece in June after my birthday weekend trip at the end of May. I was not feeling completely optimistic at the time; and what I had written reflected that. When it wasn’t shaping up to be anything worthy of sharing, I abandoned it altogether. I never shy away from sharing hard truths when I write; but I also don’t like to just spew negativity and offer it up to my readers as some sort of self-indulgent, pity party.

I began writing a poem instead, thinking that might come out better, or at least more entertaining to read. (I was determined to write something to honor my tradition of birthday weekend posts.) But the poem wasn’t any more positive; so I just left it be, and figured it wasn’t going to happen this year.

Then I had a shitty summer, in which I was faced with some new challenges that occupied most of my waking time, having to do with relationships, business and personal, both mine and other family members. Phone calls, emails, and lawyer meetings consumed my life, as I struggled to be a good parent and somehow give my kids some semblance of a summer vacation.

The stakes were life-altering high, and the little down time I had consisted of sleep, commiserating with my sister on the day’s events that she was going through with me, wine drinking, and binge watching British baking shows, Queer Eye, and other Netflix originals… anything to take my mind off the stresses of the day. Regretfully, energy for physical exercise and mind space for creative writing was at an all-time low.

Since then, although things are not completely resolved, the load has been lightened and shifts have been made, enough to get on with the writing (and physical fitness) part of my life. I have much to do, pounds to lose, a lot to write, things to heal, people to love, and help to give. I am (still) blessed to live this imperfectly charmed life in perceived paradise, and for me to try to claim otherwise would be fallacious and wholly ungrateful.

The culprits behind the challenges I was facing consist of a laundry list of the usual suspects: parenting woes, hormonal imbalance, and marital conflict. The origins and details of these challenges are just as important as the shifts that have been made since then, and I plan to write about them in the future. There are important lessons I have learned that may help others, especially women (and the men or women who love them) who deal with any severe level of hormonal imbalance issues.

As my sister would say, “To make a long story endless…” When I revisited both this piece of writing and the poem months later, I was able to finish both. Trying to find a positive note to end them was easier now, at what seems like a lifetime later, but the hopeful ends don’t conceal the victim-y, self indulgent negativity that fueled the beginnings of them written back in June.

They aren’t my proudest examples of writing, or living; but the negativity and sorrow in them document what I was feeling at the time, and that’s an important part of my journey as a writer and a human, if not for anyone but me.

My birthday poem is entitled Forty Six. You can read it here.

Purr Purr...

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Three months away from turning eight years old, and my son still takes the liberty of crawling onto my lap to cuddle whenever his heart desires.

He likes to nestle in and rub his face on mine, his mop of hair blinding and tickling, while he says “purr purr” like a kitten looking for pets.

He’s heavy and cumbersome, invades my personal space, and periodically checks me with his flailing limbs, unaware of his size, and unfettered by the fact that he is no longer a baby or toddler.

And yet... these displays of love and affection compose the air I breathe and give me life when life is trying to suffocate me with challenges and heartbreak.

His raspy voice uttering “purr purr” is the sweetest and most life affirming sound in my ears these days; and my gratitude for him and his love knows no bounds. 🙏⚓️💙

#sometimesyoujustneedacuddle #breakfromlife #staycation

*Originally posted on Instagram and Facebook

If I Only Knew Then What I Know Now...

Standing in front of my university’s library right now, and memories are rushing back.

I walked in and out of this place for the three and half years it took me to earn my Bachelor’s Degree in Film Studies in the School of Humanities here at the University of California Irvine.

I spent countless hours in this building, studying for tests in Statistics and Spanish, researching and writing my film term papers. I remember so clearly walking the paved circle of this campus... young, shy, bright, often anti-social, a bit insecure when it came to my status of social acceptance, yet confident about my academics, my skill for writing, and my knowledge of film theory and history.

This library was one of my safe havens... my main refuge away from the scary and awkward world of youth, college life, infatuation, fraternity boys with hormones on overdrive, and sorority girl drama and competition. It was exciting, terrifying, exhilarating, and dreadful, all at the same time.

All I can think right now is, if I only knew then what I know now...

#everybodysaysthat #hindsight #25yearslater #classof1994 #fifthannualbirthdayweekendaway

*Originally published on Instagram and Facebook

Charlottesville

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Somewhere in California, a father helps his daughter learn to ride her penny board at a gas stop during their family's summer vacation last week.

This father fell in love with his wife seventeen years ago, married her, and had two children out of that love. This daughter was born healthy, beautiful, and graced with the privilege of living with both her parents in a serene city by the sea, a golden state with mountains, deserts and beaches, and a sovereign nation granting her the freedom to dream of a life of her choosing.

This family of four wanted nothing more than to enjoy a fun road trip last week, create new memories together, and be nurtured, loved, accepted, and safe in the bosom of their extended family.

While away for seven days, this mother did not post to social media, was free of influence and distraction, and experienced what most moms do on a vacation with their kids: a mixture of relief to be away, excitement for adventure, exhaustion from all the packing, and grateful appreciation of time with her beloveds; intermingled with listening to whining, arguing, and annoying "Are we there yet?'s," and feeling the chagrin of an exasperated parent refereeing the chaos and attempting to orchestrate the calm, at times wishing she could escape to read a book... or write one.

Yet she, I, was also unexpectedly disrupted on our trip by the news of the intolerance and racism that was violently displayed a few days ago in Virginia, in this present day world that should be well past such an archaic ideology. A dangerous, ignorant, and irresponsible doctrine that so many Americans fought against (including my grandfather) and so many other Americans and citizens from many nations died fighting in a World War.

Not a small thing and not something ANY American should be so disrespectful of our violent history to blatantly ride in the face of, disregarding what America went through, fought against, and strongly reviles as not only anti-American, but anti-humanity. To denounce any human as less than because of their skin color, race, ethnicity, religious beliefs, or sexual orientation is a human rights violation of the tallest order.

I am sickened by the news from Charlottesville; yet I am emboldened to continue to live a life of worth and purpose and cause, and to raise my children with knowledge, intelligence, empathy, and decency so they can carry on the virtues of acceptance, inclusion, compassion and love.

I was fortunate to have been born of a family who taught kindness and love over violence and hatred. My kids are fortunate to have been born into a life where, so far, they have been safe from daily harm and live in a place free of social unrest and dangerous persuasions. Yet, wherever you are and from whomever you were born, we are all humans who have love at our core. Humanity unites us.

Abject evil, ignorance and fear cannot and *will not* win if we, who chose love, expand our reach of compassion and solidarity with decency, equality, conscious humanity, and perseverance to uphold all that is right and good in this world.

#charlottesville

 

*Originally posted on Instagram and Facebook

We Call Her Bean

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She was born on August 4, 1977, when I was five years old, all chubby and delicious, with big blue eyes and a whisper of thin blond hair as golden as straws of wheat. She was an unplanned surprise, like all of us were really, but she was the best one our family had seen in a long while. Up until her birth, I had been the youngest, a little sister to my older sister and brother, the three of us born in the short span of a harried four years for our mother.

So when she came, a lengthy five years later, we were all excited for the arrival of "our baby." I welcomed my new role as big sister, and didn't so much mind relinquishing my old post as the baby of the family, especially because now I had a baby I could call my own... a real live doll, one to kiss and care for and love.

She was the cutest baby I had ever seen, of course, and was an even cuter toddler. My brother dubbed her "Bean," I'm not exactly sure why, but I think because she was chubby and plump like a jelly bean or something similar to that he envisioned in his head. As strange and obscure as it was, like so many other words and phrases our brother came up with, it is what we, her three siblings, all inevitably began to call her.

Although I know I definitely bossed her around at times when we were kids, in some of the normal and expected ways a big sister would, what I most remember is wanting to protect and include her, more than antagonize or exclude her. (Yet, I wonder if she would agree with my recollection.) She was the first person I mothered, before I became a mother myself; and it was a role didn't know I would want to play, but one I took very seriously.

Halloween 1978. a one year old bean on my lap with my clown makeup and costume removed.

Halloween 1978. a one year old bean on my lap with my clown makeup and costume removed.

Apart from being my little sister, she was also my playmate, and my friend. I played Barbies with her A LOT, even when I was supposedly too old to play Barbies. We both loved Garfield, playing music and watching TV sitcoms. We played house, rode bikes, and swam in our pool. We were the last two kids in the house together with our Mom, once our older sister and brother went off to college; and although we had very different personalities, with a five year age difference that felt more vast the older we got, we were bound by sisterhood and always found some common ground to hang out and have fun together while at home.

When it was finally my turn to leave for college, she was only thirteen years old. I felt a pull to stay, like I didn't want to go too far and leave her there alone with only my mom to influence her. She needed her big sister, I hoped, to help guide and protect her; and I didn't want to leave, blink, and find her grown up without me witnessing it or being a part of it. So I came home from school many weekends over those four years at UC Irvine, just to be there sometimes. To see her grow through her teenage years. To just not miss it. I felt an obligation to her, like she was still my baby just as she was when I was little. My baby sister. The kid I looked out for and took care of in one way or another since she first became that little chubby Bean. I didn't want to relinquish that role, or shirk the responsibility I felt, and the desire I had, to be a presence in her life.

I think I have always felt this way, even through her and my adulthood. It only lessened slightly when I had children of my own; and has had to lessen even more since she has shown less of a need for my support and counsel; as you can't mother someone who ceases to need your mothering. But it is still there, even in the times when she's doing amazing and thriving in her life and career. That desire to watch over her is in me. Wanting to protect her, and to make sure she is okay.

It will probably always be there, in my heart, even until we are two old ladies, wrinkled and gray, (hopefully) chuckling about how we once were so worried about life and how things were going to turn out for us in the end. And how I once called her Bean. Who knows, I probably will be calling her that even then, as it's still what I call her to this day.

This day, in which I am hurriedly trying to write about her between refereeing my kids squabbles, is the day she turns forty years old. This baby of our nuclear family - the one who is also considered the baby of our whole extended family, as the youngest child, sibling, grandchild, and cousin of 25 first cousins, born to seven children of which our dad is the youngest - is now 40. I would venture to guess that all of those older cousins of ours who may be reading this are probably standing in disbelief of that fact.

But really, whatever about 40. It is only a number. The only reason I mention it here is as an indication of the passage of time. As a reference point to how far we've come in life and how much time we've had together on this Earth. My siblings and I have been, and will always remain, the closest people to one another, even in the absence of time spent together or distance spread between us; as we have gone through so much together that no one else can fully comprehend other than the four of us. So much I won't even begin to touch on here, as that is a different piece for me to write on a different day in time.

So for today, on my little sister's 40th birthday, as we are far from being those wrinkled and gray old ladies, with the end of our lives nowhere near upon us (God willing), and still not knowing how life and things will ultimately turn out for us in the end, I have many wishes for her...

I wish for her the absence of worry for those unknowns. I wish for her the faith that her life's journey is unfolding just as it is meant to do so. I wish for her to always find peace in her heart, joy in her soul, love in her life, and (my ever loving favorite) HOPE ⚓ in her life's daily adventure. I wish for her the knowledge of her power, her strength, and her resilience; and I wish for her the confidence in knowing that she already possesses all that she needs to live a fulfilling life. It is, and has always been, inside of her.

This child, who was a gift to our family, has grown into a beautiful woman; and I am proud to call her my sister. She is now, and will forever be, our Bean.


Happy Birthday, Bean. Thank you for coming to us, making me a big sister, and brightening our family with your light and love. And thank you for being my friend, then and now. I love you!

mind body soul truth self love attraction birthday wishes and hotel beds

The idea of traveling to Orange County to spend my birthday in Newport Beach, Irvine, and Costa Mesa came to me in 2014. I had attended college and earned my Bachelor of Arts degree in Film Studies at the University of California Irvine many years ago; so I had a lot of good memories from my time there and wanted to revisit some of them.

After seeing Fleetwood Mac live at the Hollywood Bowl and staying at the Luxe Sunset Boulevard Hotel in Los Angeles on my birthday in May 2013, I decided to up the ante and escape for an entire weekend away to celebrate my birthday the following year.I got a much needed break from being a mom that weekend away in 2014 (as chronicled in Beautiful Mommy); and thus began my ritual of returning to OC each year for my birthday and then writing about it upon my return.

I wrote Birthday Weekend Away. In Short. Gratitude. after my third getaway last May, a stream of consciousness composition written with a period. after. almost. every. word. A friend challenged me to write about this year's birthday trip as a counterpoint to that piece, one without any punctuation at all (nor capitalization or paragraph breaks).

I took on his challenge, along with a lot of creative license, artistic expression, and a stream of consciousness approach once again. I expect it to create some sort of visceral response for you, the reader... although I'm not sure if it will invigorate or exhaust you. Regardless, I hope it provokes thought, elicits feelings, and, at the very least, entertains.

headed south on a thursday to start my annual birthday weekend a bit early and i couldnt wait to get it underway as soon as possible and reach the island hotel in newport beach on the dot of their check in time because i didnt want to miss one minute of my stay yet it seems the 405 freeway and its slew of accidents and infernal congestion had another plan for me so i arrived an hour later than desired but aint nothin gonna break a my stride nobody gonna slow me down oh no i got to keep on movin up to the valet i breathed a sigh of relief and elation that i was finally there and into my hotel room on the eleventh floor i went where i opened an alternate sliding door to my life like gwyneth paltrow did in that movie as well as the sliding door in my hotel room that led out to the balcony and looked out at the ocean to breathe in the same sea air i breathe at home now just 70 miles down the california coast where the islands in front of me arent the channel islands i see from my deck in malibu but balboa island hugging the newport coastline and fashion island just below me which really isnt an island at all but a big concrete slab with a forest of palm trees where neimans nordstrom and bloomingdales anchor an upscale shoppers paradise encircled by the circular newport center drive providing me with a much different view of the blue sea than i am used to yet i still find it beautiful because it is here and i am alone and loving this place already so i shed my sweater down to my tank top and move my breath and body through a few yoga vinyasas to shake off the impatience and anticipation of my arrival yet the sweater is not the only layer i shed as the cloak of my daily life as a mother wife and caretaker begins to peel off me like a snake breathing and stretching out of its old skin to allow further growth and reveal its fresh new luminous scales that had been waiting patiently below the surface to break out just like my autonomous woman slash mom on vacation skin begins to see the light of day and i feel a bit different now as a door opens and i embrace and breathe in my mind body soul and see this beautiful version of me reflecting back to me through love gratitude and connection with so much to honor and feel and be and so much energy in my body releasing and more wanting to be released but cant so i go for a run to release it by heading down below to the circular road around the man made pleasure island and watch the sunset as i move and feel the gratitude of this day and how fortunate i am to be here to feel as i do to run as i do and love as i do being who i am now glistening with endorphins walking into the gorgeous airy lobby to get snacks gratis at the marketplace before riding the mirrored elevator up to eleven to sink into my lovely room on this first night of freedom with a hot shower and soft white hotel robe enveloping me kindly while i settle in my chaise to lounge and look out at the view of the ocean now dark behind the lights of the city drink my rose kombucha eat my ranch kale chips and reflect on the wonders and gifts of the day and melt into the cloud of a bed before me to read my book until my eyes get heavy and its time to sleep dream and awake to my 45th birthday with gratitude in my heart sunshine birthday wishes on my phone and dreams of kisses cuddles and morning snuggles filling my head that are not to be while here alone in this bed still this bed is oh so heavenly and this day is free open and full of promise for whatever adventures i want to create whatever impulses i want to amuse whatever feelings i want to indulge and whatever reflections i chose to contemplate so first things first i decide to stay cocooned in my yummy sheets with my book open and my body engulfed in the pillowy softness while i read until my hearts content and my stomach calls for nourishment that can be found on a short walk across the street to the island of retail therapy where a whole foods market will curb my hunger and enliven my body with food and drink promising energy vitality immunity and wellness for a small fortune before i return to my now favorite room of all time to my beloved bryan kest yoga session cued up on my ipad so i can breathe deep and fill up with calm and peace while challenging my strength and suppleness with sensuous stretches for my body my muscles my mind and heart yet i cant help but get back under the covers after an hour or more of heat and yoga and body loving tlc to read a bit more of my book im loving about longevity of life science of aging biology of strength privilege of time and blissfully immerse myself in that bedding which smells so fresh and feels so good and tempts me to take a nap right then and there and i think i may have done so for a minute or two before i shake myself up get out of bed and lace up my running shoes for a run on pch to explore the town by foot challenge my body to go further and my mind to let go even further before i pass a store that makes me smile and flash a memory that makes me sigh and finish up my run on the actual legit island of boats yachts slips chocolate covered frozen bananas and world famous balboa bars where i stop my runners pace to a walk and stroll up to balboa beach company where that old bbc logo on the sign outside beckons me in and i find a white logo cap i must get and an anchor ornament i convince them to sell me and a sweet and cute sales boy at least twenty years my junior fumbling over his words to expose his attraction to me his interest in why im in town and his desire to know what i was doing for my birthday that night when i graciously share that i was going to do whatever i felt like doing as the feeling came to me and although it was probably odd and strange to him as it would be to many younger childless lovelies that i would chose to spend my birthday night alone when i could be with people music drinks fanfare and flirtatious men i didnt mind what he may have thought as i knew what i wanted and what i didnt want what i could have and what i couldnt have and remembered what i already have had in spades before for years pre marriage and even in marriage and how the freedom to be me individually for a few days has trumped it all these last few birthdays as i have thankfully gained the wisdom to now be a woman who loves herself enough to no longer let flattering attention define her self worth since even though a sometimes fragile ego gets a nice boost when someone shows they find you desirable vivacious and mysterious the truth is you still ultimately are left with yourself and what is inside your mind and your heart your love and your truth that no one can take away so i smiled and bid the cute and sweet boy farewell with my bbc cap and prized wooden anchor in hand and took a photo of myself right then and there on the streets of balboa island to remember my entry into 45 not the nightmare commander in chief but my birth years knowing there was going to be no one to pose for in front of a cake candle and camera later that night or a song sung while a wish is made even though i discovered a surprise birthday dessert awaiting me back in my hotel room compliments of management which i didnt eat but still appreciated so before eating dinner i decided to finally enter the mecca for shoppers across the street to buy a pair of shoes as a birthday gift to me and then return to my room to place a order for in room dining before taking another heavenly hot shower and re entering the white spa robe i cant get enough of just as my grilled salmon and veggies were delivered on a silver tray courtesy of the oak grill downstairs wow it was beautiful so i dove in voraciously as i was famished from my five mile run and then contemplated watching a movie or soaking in a bubble bath for a while but didnt do either since after applying a lot of eucalyptus mint lotion and slipping into something more comfortable yes yes i mean that divine bed ive grown quite fond of since the first sweet moments i spent on it the day i arrived so i read a few more lovely birthday messages and then a few more pages of my book before drifting off to sleep in a sea of white sheets with miles of empty real estate surrounding my small frame with no one to share it with except in my dreams and in complete contrast to the reality at home where a six year old often infiltrates my space to sleep close to his mama before the sun rises and unwittingly smacks her in the face with a flailing arm while tossing and jolting me out of my slumber to find myself pushed to the edge of the bed so god yes this nights sleep on my birthday night in my island of a bed and on my island of solitary existence was a dream compared to typical nights and those dreamy dreams i continued to have all night were followed up the next morning by no less than two hours of deep tissue massage deliciousness as i was pampered in oil and restorative touches that stimulated every inch of my body to open up and surrender its tightness and lull me to a near sleep before the session was up and my masseuse who is one of the most generous and kind people i know took me to lunch for my birthday at eat chow my favorite restaurant in these parts where good conversation grilled prawns and ceviche were consumed and full stomachs were enjoyed along with a bond of friendship that i am more thankful for with each visit and as i was leaving i realized this weekend was going by way too fast for my final plans were upon me so i ran back to the hotel to wash off the scented oils that had lubed me up good and where i wished i had time for a bubble bath but didnt since a quick change is all i could manage before getting on the road to laguna niguel to see my two childhood girlfriends and eat some amazing food at hendrix a hot new spot just opened and talk laugh and share our lives for hours until its time to bid farewell and drive the winding pacific coast highway back up from laguna beach through dana point newport coast corona del mar then finally back to my room at my island paradise where there was still no time for a bubble bath darn it as i was so sleepy and so on goes my nightgown and off go the lights as i collapse in bed reflecting on my time here with still more birthday wishes to read with gratitude before falling into a quiet and peaceful sleep until early morning when i awake to my last few hours in this place wishing i could stay and knowing that i couldnt since i had to check out by nine to head back to los angeles and dodger stadium where a little league team day parade was taking place with my daughter and her softball team as part of it and their coach my husband me and their unofficial team mascot my son who wore his coach pitch t ball uniform to be a part of the action on the field walking slow behind the girls holding their team banner feeling the excitement of the stadium from below for only a few precious moments before it was all over and then climbing several mountainous flights of stairs to our relief of shady seats in the stands to watch the dodgers play the world championship cubs in an exciting game filled with hits and home runs that i wasnt able to experience fully along with the rest of the fans standing and screaming as i remained seated holding my almost seven year old son limp and napping in my arms while recognizing clearly that my birthday getaway weekend was officially over even though it was only sunday and monday is a holiday yet my time was again becoming their time as my kids began to behave and need and nestle as children do to cause my cloak of motherhood to creep back up onto me to cover my new skin as i knew it had to as i returned to usual life and i then realized i hadnt officially made a birthday wish despite the wish i wished in my heart on my birthday in the hotel so maybe now it was time to wish upon the night sky the wish i will wish forever and a day right along with another lovely wish i know will be realized one day because i believe wishes are dreams that come to us through the truth we feel and are fulfilled through our actions and intentions and since my intent is strong my focus is clear and my hope runs deep for all that i desire for my life i know it will come to me as we all reflect what we are we see what we want and we attract what we focus on so chose to focus on hope light destiny kindness friendship positivity tenderness empathy and love always love because love is the greatest gift we have to give and receive so make sure to give and receive it with your whole heart and your mind body soul will be yours and the reflection in the mirror and the one reflected in those you love and who love you will reveal the authentic you beauteous as my mom would say and more filled with hope positivity perseverance the three things my tattoo symbolizes brighter lovelier truer than you ever imagined before

period.

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The Gift of Burden

It is the afternoon of Wednesday, April 19th, a couple days after my twelfth wedding anniversary, and I am trying to play catch up on all the outstanding tasks and residual clutter I had put aside for two weeks while we were away on spring break and anniversary celebrating vacations.

I sit at my home office desk trying to rid its surface of what's suffocating it... Kindergarten school work brought home before the break, health insurance paperwork, clipped box tops for school fundraising, and health and fitness coupons, race flyers and vitamin samples from the swag bag I received for running a 10K race just before leaving town.

My computer screen displays the results of the doctor search I had done a couple hours ago on the provider finder of my new health insurance company website. Now a couple minutes after 2:00pm, I can finally call the doctor at the top of the list... surely they'd be back in the office from lunch by now.

I retrieve our landline cordless phone from its stand to make the call, and as I walk back to the desk with it, my cell phone sounds nearby with a notification alert. It's a familiar and comforting chime, the one assigned to the Facebook Messenger app; one that has brought me fun chats and enjoyable interactions with friends and family so often in the past. Yet this time, it's not a link to a good article sent by my sister or a short but sweet note from an old friend checking in on me.

No, today it brings me the opposite kind of news... word that my cousin Christine died this morning, having succumbed to the breast cancer she had courageously survived a couple times already over the past three years. I sit down to read the words written by her brother, "my beautiful and loving sister passed today around 11:30," and immediately break down crying.

I cry for a few minutes before I respond to him with my condolences, and then I cry some more. Through my tears, and still holding my home phone in my hand, I look up at my computer screen at the name of the doctor I was about to dial listed under the specialty I searched this morning: gynecology. The timing was unbelievable.

My annual mammogram was due in March, and I had been avoiding scheduling it for a couple months already because it was going to be a bit of an ordeal... you know, one of those cycles of actions that is more annoying than hard, with so many steps to make it just inconvenient and time consuming enough to want to put it off in favor of things quicker and easier to check off your to-do list.

I had to search for a gynecologist close by, with good recommendations, who is taking new patients, and who accepts my new medical insurance (since the OB-GYN that delivered my son six years ago now does not), make an appointment to get a checkup, pap smear, and prescription for a mammogram, and then schedule a mammogram at the lab to take afterward.

I find that anything to do with health insurance and its confusing coverage is always cumbersome to deal with and makes me wish I had a personal assistant to tackle the minutiae of these tasks. But since it's all me, all the time, I had to take care of this cycle of annoyance myself; and I'd been a bit anxious the last few weeks over the fact that I had delayed in getting it done. Especially since my cousin's words had been replaying in my head, imploring me and all the women in her life to get our annual mammograms each year on time. Since her breast cancer was discovered on a mammogram taken one year after a test that was clear, she wanted to ensure that we all knew how vital early detection was. I had been diligent with my tests ever since; that is, until now.

So it was at the top my list of to-dos for this week; and there I was to-doing it at the very moment I found out breast cancer had claimed her life. I was in shock, not only from the sad news, but from the fact that I received it at the exact time I was finally taking these long overdue steps in my own breast cancer prevention.

After my crying ran its course, at least for the moment, I was determined to call the gynecologist on my screen right then, stuffed up, crying nose or not. I secured the next available appointment for Monday, May 1st, and then called the lab to schedule a mammogram for later that same morning.

There, it's done. I handled it - for myself, and now, strangely, in honor of Christine in this sad moment of unhappy coincidence. So many thoughts swirled around in my head... of sadness, anger, injustice, and fervent opposition to just how incredibly unfair this reality was. Yet I had no time to sort these thoughts out, as I had to leave and pick up the kids from school minutes later. Life was still moving on, and my desire to stop, grieve, and reflect did not surpass my responsibility to take my daughter to her softball pitching clinic or sit with my son and help him with his reading.

I wanted to write. I wanted to get out and process my thoughts on this travesty. I had so much anger to express toward cancer... about its incessant presence in our lives, its suspected causes that could possibly be eradicated if our society was just better aligned with what actually keeps people healthy and less susceptible to contracting it, and its relentless siege on so many people I care about - the latest being my cousin Christine, but also my ex-stepmother Julie, who died of lung cancer just last month, and my neighbor of fourteen years, Karen, who lost her battle with pancreatic cancer last November... three of my people in six months.

But the words didn't come, my head and heart still muddled in grief and indignation. The next few days were full of the usual duties and responsibilities of my life; yet, they were also full of the usual gratitude for my life, so I decided to focus on the good and the grace, and attempted to replace my anger with acceptance.

When I thought more about Christine and the day of her passing, I considered what a gift the burden of my looking up doctors and making a few phone calls was compared to what she had to bear that morning... taking her last breath and saying goodbye to her children, parents, siblings, and entire earthly world up until that moment. I knew her burden was much greater than mine, and was not the gift that mine was - the gift of life, of possibility, of health, hope, and living and breathing to see another day.

But the more I contemplated it, the more I wondered if maybe her burden was a gift, in an entirely different way. Maybe being free of the pain she had been suffering was a gift, more than I could ever understand. Maybe surrendering and not having to fight anymore to live on this Earth was also a gift to her. Maybe ceasing to endure more chemotherapy, chronic discomfort, hair loss, unrelenting sickness, and emotional turmoil was the absolute greatest gift she could have received that day... a precious gift, all wrapped up in the burden of grief felt by those she was leaving behind.

me with my cousins Christine (far right) and her sister & brothers - 6/28/14

me with my cousins Christine (far right) and her sister & brothers - 6/28/14

I was unable to visit Christine while she was sick. Time, distance, severity of her symptoms, and honoring her wishes for privacy made it so. The same was true of my ex-stepmother Julie and dear neighbor Karen... both of them also choosing to share their experience of illness and dying with only their closest inner circle during their hardest days and most delicate moments.

And who am I, or anyone, to protest these wishes? Unless you are the one lying there, the circumstances around death don't come on your terms. As a bystander (however distant or close a friend or family member you may be), death doesn't follow your course of action or wishes for what you would like to see happen before it arrives. It comes when it comes, and those of us left behind must accept the terms of it, whether we like it or not. Sometimes in death, we don't get to chose what we say, don't say, hear, or don't hear. We aren't the ones dying, so we don't get to call the shots.

It's only in life, in relation to our own life, that we are truly granted the opportunity, choice, and power to say what we feel, express what we believe, and experience moments in which we get to hear and feel what we want, if we are lucky. We are mere spectators of other people's lives, unless they invite us to participate; so it is up to all of us to seize those moments and opportunities to intersect and connect with each other, and make our time here as full and fulfilling as possible. Indeed, there is no doubt we are all connected, but as we come into this world alone as our own being and entity, we also leave this world alone, free to go where our energy takes us.

When I received the details of Christine's memorial service, I discovered that, ironically, it had been scheduled for the morning of May 1st at the very time I had made my overdue gynecologist and mammogram appointments. Of course I've changed them to attend the funeral; but when I finally get to them next week, I will be thinking of Christine. I will remember how much she loved her life, and how she fought for it until she could no longer do so. I will remember her spirit, her determination, her loyalty, her dedication to her family, and the enduring legacy of love she left with them.

And when I get my annual mammogram each year after this, I know I will also think of her and remember how this test, however bothersome to schedule or painfully uncomfortable to go through, is another one of those gifts of burden I will happily bear to live this life I'm so grateful to live.

 

🙏   Rest in Peace Christine, Julie, Karen, and all the beautiful souls we have lost to cancer.

While Away

On the last day of 2016, my family and I visited the Sequoia National Park up in the southern Sierra Nevada Mountains of California. As we drove over thirty miles up a windy mountain road, the air temperature dropped from an already chilly (by my California coast standards) 49 degrees at the bottom of the mountain to a brisk 31 degrees at the point where we stopped amidst a winter wonderland.

We attempted to sled and saucer our way down hills so deeply covered with fresh powder that we immediately sunk down into the pillowy white snow instead of gliding atop the surface of it. This was a spontaneous day trip up the mountain, so we hadn't sought out a groomed tube park or any kind of designated sledding area. We simply stopped off the road when we saw some open space to explore and forged our own path to play in the woods where no one else was around.

This type of scenario is commonplace in my life with my adventurous husband, so I have learned to expect the unexpected over the years. As such, these natural snowy conditions were less than ideal for our planned activity. None of us seemed to mind though... we were having fun and were content to let the green of the trees and the white of the snow envelop us in their pure and pristine beauty.

The air was so crisp and fresh and the snow fell from the sky so soft and silent that, as I looked around, I felt as if I was watching a beautiful nature film with the sound turned down. Although I live in a rural mountainous area, it is temperate and always in motion, the coastal breezes and ocean waves providing us with a constant soundtrack. This frost covered forest was, in contrast, cold, quiet, and still; an environment to which I wasn't accustomed.

While my husband and kids were still trying in vain to get some speed and traction on the hills behind me, I stood alone in the middle of an open field, the blanket of white around me untouched except for the path of my footsteps. Entranced by my surroundings, I just stood there as the snow floated down and lightly settled upon me, not doing or thinking or being anything but present. I was just me. Me in that moment. Me in my mind. Me in my body. Me in my soul. Just ME.

A feeling of acceptance, peace and gratitude washed over me and I took it all in with a deep breath of cool, clean air... acceptance of myself, peace with my place in the world, and gratitude for my journey - past, present and most especially, future.

The sound of my kids laughing in the distance slowly came back into my perception, as if someone had turned the movie's volume up; and I realized they were calling for me to rejoin the fun. It seems I was being summoned back... Back to being a mom. Back to being a wife. Back to being a woman loved and needed by the same two eager and excited little humans as I am every day of my life. And most rewardingly, back to my position as the missing and vital puzzle piece that completes our family portrait.

2016 would be over in a couple of hours, and I was happy to see it go. It had been a year of examination, discovery, reflection, letting go, seeking resolution, and recommitting to dreams and goals that had always been there, but had begun to get lost in the shuffle along the way.

As I mentioned in my last post a couple days ago, I shared some things exclusively on Instagram and Facebook that I wrote during the final three months of 2016 in lieu of posting anything here on the blog at that time.
I am sharing those words and images below with you now to wrap up and bid farewell to what was a challenging and transformative year...

Milking It

Pacific coast Highway - Santa Monica, CA

Pacific coast Highway - Santa Monica, CA

A two and half hour, traffic laden drive from the OC to LA warrants all windows down, sunroof open, bare feet, music playing, and a leg up while driving (even when wearing a dress). I drove down to Costa Mesa this morning for a dear friend's father's funeral, a fitting end to an already emotional week for me, after the tenth anniversary of my mother's death a couple days ago.

I drove most of the way home to Malibu on the clogged 405 freeway in silence and quiet reflection, thinking about life and how those we love will all inevitably leave us at some point on our life's journey, and how I knew that this was only one in a long procession of memorial services that I already had begun to attend, as my friends and I continue to lose the beloved people that came before us and reared us into this life. I also partly dreamed about just staying down there for the rest of the day, hanging out at the beach alone or calling a friend I hadn't seen in a while to meet for coffee, a smile, and a catch-up chat. Wouldn't that be lovely, I thought.

When I finally made it to the 10 freeway, traffic opened up, and so did I... shaking off my daydreams, I took a deep cleansing breath to remind me to stay in the present and seize the moment to enjoy the cool coastal breezes that were now rushing through my open car windows. As I emerged from the McClure tunnel onto Pacific Coast Highway in Santa Monica, traffic slowed to a crawl again, and I noticed a couple people in the cars around me craning their necks and doing double takes at me.

Now, I am a 44 year old woman in a black funeral dress in an SUV on my way home to my husband and kids, not a 22 year old freewheeling chick in cutoffs and a bikini in a sports car heading to the beach; yet, I was getting some looks. I can only guess that I must have looked slightly strange and oddly comfortable with my bare leg exposed and leaning on my door while wearing that conservative black dress. My black heels were kicked off under me and my wind blown hair was no longer in its neat little bun.

I didn't care how it looked - it was as free as I was going to feel today, and I was milking it for all it was worth.

Posted on Instagram and Facebook, October 14, 2016

Strength of Heart

Happy Kids Dental Planet - Agoura Hills, CA

This is the parking space I landed in today at my daughter's dentist office...

Seeing it reminded me that when we open our hearts, and then entrust them to others for safe keeping, we render them vulnerable to other people's insensitivity, carelessness and mistreatment. The most challenging part of recovering from the hurt and injustice done to us by others is to not close up our hearts as a means of trying to protect ourselves from additional pain.

True strength of heart hinges on our ability and willingness to keep our hearts open, kind, giving, and forgiving, despite the risk of being hurt again. It's much easier said than done, I know, but I think it's one of the most important virtues to try to honor and live by.

Posted on Instagram and Facebook, October 17, 2016

Start Doing

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We are so good at saying what we feel, touting what we think, and preaching what we believe that the actual doing of it all sometimes gets lost along the way.

We promise the moon and then don't deliver it. We plant the seed then forget to water it.

Talk, talk, talk... words are our cheapest commodity. The real value is in our action and follow through.

Stop talking. Start doing.

  #actionsspeaklouderthanwords #talkischeap

Posted on Instagram and Facebook, November 4, 2016

Vote

Here we go...

#vote #election2016

Posted on Instagram and Facebook, November 8, 2016
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Be Here Now

Pantages Theatre - Hollywood, CA

Pantages Theatre - Hollywood, CA

Date night out to the theatre last Friday night. I snapped this pic before the show began but didn't share it instantly, as I didn't feel it was worth taking even one second of my attention away from my date or the beautiful architecture of the Hollywood Pantages Theatre to do it.

It's how I felt in that moment... just an overwhelming urge to remain fully present. After all that transpired last week, and the palpable uncertainty and anxiety about the future pervading the air since the election, staying present is what felt best. (And truthfully, still does.)

The show that followed this pic was an assault to the senses - so raw, so emotional, so tragic. It reminded me of how alive you can feel, how much pain you can endure, and how, no matter what you have been through or are presently going through, there is still hope for a better day, a new start, a brighter future.

Allowing ourselves to feel alive and in our tangible reality is SO important. Yes, we all have big plans. So many of us work so hard to ensure a safe and prosperous future for ourselves, our families, our world. Yet we get so caught up in it all sometimes that we forget to live. Forget to breathe. Forget to enjoy what is right in front of us. Finding gratitude for the here and now and choosing those moments to be fully present today, without an ounce of worry or concern for what's coming next, is what energizes us to face all that lies ahead and galvanizes us to do and accomplish what we need to do tomorrow. If we don't, what are we doing it all for anyway?

Posted on Instagram and Facebook, November 16, 2016

After The Rain Has Fallen

Malibu, CA

After the rain has fallen
After the tears have washed your eyes
You'll find that I've taken nothing, that
Love can't replace in the blink of an eye.

After the thunder's spoken, and
After the lightning bolt's been hurled
After the dream is broken, there'll
Still be love in the world.

-Sting

Posted on Instagram and Facebook, November 28, 2016

Don't Walk Away

Sunset over the Pacific Ocean and the Channel Islands - Malibu, CA

Sunset over the Pacific Ocean and the Channel Islands - Malibu, CA

From my bedroom balcony, I watched this evening's stunning sunset unfold. With each passing minute, with every second even, the slightest shifts occurred, and the sky morphed from light blues and soft oranges to deep purples and intense pinks.

Although the changes were slow and subtle, they came in such a continuous progression that if you walked away for even a minute or two, you'd miss the whole thing.

There's no pause button. You can't walk away and come back to experience it when you're ready. It will happen whether or not you are watching.

I think the same could be said about life. Walk away, busy yourself, indulge in distractions, or simply take for granted life's pure beauty, with all its subtleties and fleeting nuances, and soon discover you're missing it... one minute, one day, one week, one month, one year at a time.

It's your choice. It's your life, and the only one you're gonna get on this Earth. Don't walk away. Don't sleep, swipe, surf, zone out, binge watch, or social media numb your way through it.

Please don't. Love it. Feel it. Breathe it. Live it. Just pay attention. It is worth it. Look up from your phone and see what's in front of you, live and unfiltered, in vibrant colors.

#nofilter

Posted on Instagram and Facebook, December 20, 2016

It Gets Joy

New years Eve 2016-17

This was the first New Year's Eve my son managed to stay awake until midnight.

Since he had never been a part of the festivities before, he didn't quite understand why we were all at his grandparents' house wearing silly hats and holding bubbly drinks.

We explained it to him by saying that when a new calendar year begins, it is kind of like the Earth having a birthday - just like how he celebrates his birthday every year.

He took a couple seconds to ponder this idea, then said quietly, "So instead of the Earth getting presents, it gets joy."

Yes, sweet pie, that's exactly right.

#insightfulbeyondhisyears #wiserthanmostadults

Posted on Instagram and Facebook, January 3, 2017

Happy New Year to you all. I hope you will join me here often for the interesting journey that is sure to be 2017.

It Gets Joy

This was the first New Year's Eve my son managed to stay awake until midnight.

Since he had never been a part of the festivities before, he didn't quite understand why we were all at his grandparents' house wearing silly hats and holding bubbly drinks.

We explained it to him by saying that when a new calendar year begins, it is kind of like the Earth having a birthday - just like how he celebrates his birthday every year.

He took a couple seconds to ponder this idea, then said quietly, "So instead of the Earth getting presents, it gets joy."

Yes, sweet pie, that's exactly right.

#insightfulbeyondhisyears #wiserthanmostadults

 

*Originally posted exclusively on Instagram and Facebook.

#likeagirl

Butterfly Beach, Montecito, CA

Butterfly Beach, Montecito, CA

My daughter is growing and changing, like she always has, but these last couple months seem different somehow. Her growth from little kid to big kid feels much more pronounced than that of her transition from toddler to little kid; or maybe now that she's nine and a half, I simply can't believe she will soon be ten years old.

Nevertheless, the changes in her over these last few months have been transformative. Fears are slowly being overcome and more risks are being taken. Opinions are growing stronger, arguments are more defiant (God help me), and emotions are more volatile; yet all with a level of understanding and maturity that is much more refined.

These long summer days, chalk full of beach play and the freedom from classmate influence and school pressure, have bred a more confident and determined girl. She is beginning to leap into life more, when before she had tread more carefully.

As such, she now enters the ocean more confidently too, approaching the tumultuous surf like a warrior into battle. She has learned to wait for, catch, and ride the waves with both courage and elation, and she no longer seems to get so scared and discouraged when she is tossed about in the salty brine. Tears and quitting have since been replaced with dogged determination to get back out there and try again.

I am hoping this newfound resilience in the ocean will translate to her life in general, and that it will mirror how she takes on the tides of life when they toss her about. If it does, she will be unstoppable.

#likeagirl

*Originally posted exclusively on Instagram and Facebook.

June Gloom

junegloom
Here in Malibu, we have a weather condition called June Gloom. It's when the inland heat traveling over the mountains meets the cold Pacific Ocean at the beginning of summer, resulting in cloudy, overcast skies and cool temperatures.
This past month, this website has suffered its own variety of June Gloom. It's when the end of the school year meets this mom's especially overloaded schedule at the beginning of the summer, resulting in the absence of new blog posts.
It's not that I didn't write. I write all the time... In my head, via voice activated notes on my phone, on my tablet in bed at night, and in saved drafts on this website. God knows I always have more than enough to say and write, as my mind seems to always be going, thinking, and contemplating.
The kids have been on summer break for three weeks now, and it's been an unexpected and insurmountable challenge to meet my original goal of posting (at least) one new blog each month. And although I have a laundry list of reasons why this has been, it's not a list comprised of "woe is me" excuses; nor is it filled with reasons for which I want or expect to garner pity.
Most of these reasons are common to us all, as they are what make up the summation of LIFE... of simply being human. Of being fallible, vulnerable, imperfect, and alive.
Of having kids that don't want to do summer camps but rather want to play freely with each other (and me). Of goodbyes to best friends moving out of state and husbands having birthday/fathers day trips planned. Of family visits and friends' tragedies. Of past connections disconnecting and other relationships blooming.
Of mass shootings, troubling presidential campaigns, and a global state of unrest. Of major work deadlines prompting working late nights to meet them. Of marriage trials, emotional tribulations, and parenting travails. Of women needing women, female uprisings, and true friendships being recognized as more vital than ever before.
Of life presenting itself in all its glory, all its suffering, all its possibility, all its hope.
Of all of it.
There's so much to say, think, feel, and do about it all, and not enough time to effectively do so - especially when your kids and their emotional well being are your first priority; and when you believe that there are certain times when people and relationships must come first - and matter more - than personal aspirations.
Even though the writing happens, as it is an inescapable part of me, the sharing of it has to take a back seat sometimes.
Therefore, in lieu of a well-crafted new blog piece, I am sharing some quick posts I made to social media in the month of June.
Love and light to all...

 

June 30, 2016

Here's an early post in the life of this blog - part memoir, part ode to running, and part self reflection on the harried life I was living when I wrote it (and who are we kidding, still live today to a certain extent). So, in the absence of any new posts I have been challenged to finish with two kids home for the summer, why not read this one!

The Road to You

When I was a kid, I wasn’t much of an athlete. I never participated in any team sports, nor did I have any kind of athletic goals. I think the reason was the not-so-unique combination of shyness, insecurity, and a fear of taking risks. Yet these qualities only reared their ugly heads when I was around people I didn't know. As I was often under close observation in public as a child, seen by many but not heard by most, my shyness was in direct correlation with the pressure I felt to be perfect and the feeling of being sized up and judged by others.  Read more>>

 

June 21, 2016

Celebrating International Yoga Day:

This photo was taken when I was in an elated state during my intensive yoga teacher training.

If you haven't visited my blog website, and have only seen "@happyalongthebu" as a social media handle, then you may not know that H.A.P.P.Y. is really an acronym. (I am definitely not "Happy in Malibu" all the time, as it reads without the periods!)

The H.A.P.P.Y. in this blog's title actually stands for Hope, Awareness, Positivity, Perseverance, and Yoga.

And even though Yoga is last in line, it is just as vital to me as the four other states of mind and being to live the life I want to live. #internationalyogaday

 

June 21, 2016

A piece I wrote on the power of yoga and the man who inspired me to make it a vital part of my life 19 years ago. ‪#‎internationalyogaday‬

bryankest&I

Bryan Kest: The Man Behind The Power of Yoga

So I decided I was going to write about Power Yoga innovator Bryan Kest... and then, I couldn't.

I was so compelled to comment on my eighteen years as a student of his classes in Santa Monica and online, as well as on my recent experience completing his Power Yoga Teacher Training Intensive, that I thought the words would just pour out of me; so much so that I would have a hard time editing them all down to an approachable, readable post. But when I sat down and put fingers to keyboard, no cohesive thoughts came out.  Read More>>

 

June 20, 2016

Went camping, SUP (Stand Up Paddleboarding), and boating with the family for five days, all in celebration of my husband's birthday and Father's Day. No internet at our campsite in the middle of the dense forest meant no email, texts, or social media read, answered, or checked... no snapshots shared instantly, and no check-ins made. Just the four of us alone, vacationing together as a family, like in the days of yore. I'm sure I'll have more to say on the subject when I finally sit down to write, but only after emerging from this huge pile of campfire-infused laundry. #‎nofilter‬ ‪#‎shaverlake‬ ‪#‎unplugged‬ ‪#‎offthegrid‬ ‪#‎familyvacation

 

June 9, 2016

I turned 44 years old exactly two weeks ago. Palindromic birthday years have always been turning points in my life...

At 11, my parents got divorced, we moved out of my childhood home, and my love for (and escape into) movies began with my first viewing of Gone with the Wind. At 22, I graduated college, landed my first job on a major Hollywood studio film set, and got my heart dutifully broken for the first time. At 33, I was newly wed, bought my first home, and became pregnant with my first child.

What does 44 have in store for me? Although the significance of this year is still yet to be determined, I think this birthday's first weekend (the details of which I wrote about in my latest blog post below) was definitely a good start.

Birthday Weekend Away. In Short. Gratitude.

Going out of town solo for my birthday weekend has become kind of an accidental tradition. I've gone away on a birthday trip each year since 2013, either venturing inland to Los Angeles or trading the shores of Malibu for those of Newport Beach, always seeking sanctuary from the challenges of my hectic, kid- centric life for a day or two... or three.  Read more>>

 

June 7, 2016

#kissthevote #californiaprimary2016

kissthevote

 

June 6, 2016

From my front deck, I can hear the sound of my five-year-old boy and nine-year-old girl laughing and chanting in play as they jump in unison, holding hands, on the trampoline together around the side of the house. As the soundtrack of these siblings' lives is often fraught with conflict and discord, their age gap seeming to get more and more expansive as they grow older, it is music to my ears to hear such joy and harmony between them; and maybe a little bit magical... so much so that I tried to capture a snippet of the audible magic while it lasted. #brothersisterlove #siblinglove #freeplay #bonding #bestfriends #bffs #malibu #windy

Birthday Weekend Away. In Short. Gratitude.

Going out of town solo for my birthday weekend has become kind of an accidental tradition. I've gone away on my birthday each year since 2013, the first year for only one night in Los Angeles, and then down to Orange County for the weekend since 2014, trading the shores of Malibu for those of Newport Beach, always seeking sanctuary from the challenges of my hectic, kid-centric life for a day, or two... or three.

A few months after creating this website in the Spring of 2014, I wrote about that year's memorable trip in my two posts Saturday Night Live(s) and Beautiful Mommy. It was a transformative time for me, as I began to reclaim my identity outside marriage and motherhood; and my inspiration for writing not only helped me find my voice again, but guided my heart to where it now lives.

This past weekend, I made a similar birthday trip to the same place, visiting with some of the same people. This place holds great meaning for me, having both lived there in the past and visited many times thereafter. My two days there were jam-packed with activity, and proved to be too short to fit in all I wanted to do, see, be, and feel.

Yet, however fleeting, I found it to be an exercise in being present, being grateful, and being aware that life's journey is a gift, an opportunity, a lesson, a continuous story... constantly unfolding, teaching us what we still need to learn, showing us how we can live better, leading us to ourselves, and to our own authentic truths.

Birthday Weekend Away. Time to pack. Escape. Plans. Can't wait. Overpacked. Oh well. Typical. No worries. How I roll. Kiddos. Goodbye kisses. Hugs. Will miss you. On my way. Down coast. Overcast. Holiday crowds. Already here. Beach. Traffic. Turn inland. Drive freeway. More traffic. Music. Always music. Forever music. Freeway clear. Sailing along. Almost there. Finally. Exit toll road. Before tolls begin. Familiar road. College days. Recent days. Along the coast again. Different coast. OC style. Different vibe. Memories percolating. Slowly. Miss. Sigh. Love and light. Be here now. Gratitude.

Arrive. Say hello. Hugs. Kisses. Smiles. Unpack bags. Chat. Refreshment. Discuss. Dress up. Head out. Dinner. Nice booth. Comfy pillows. Appetizers. Martini. Champagne. Wine. Toast. Entree. Make a wish. Blow out candles. Savor the sweetness. Thank you. Drive back. Night. Kick off shoes. Call kids. Miss you. Love you. Say goodnight. Get in PJs. Brush teeth. Wash face. Climb in bed. Clean sheets. Soft. Buttery. Hotel-like. Pampering. Eye mask. Rest. Dream. So dreamy. Gratitude.

Wake up. Relish silence. Linger under covers. Need to get up. Got to. Breakfast plans. Get dressed. Take off. Up Coast Highway. Down memory lane. Again. Every mile. Memories flood. Turn onto peninsula. Old stomping grounds. Pass old house. More memories. Park. Knock. Dear friend. Hug. Kiss. Chat. Catch up. House tour. Birthday card. Gift. Rip open. New book. Love. Writers. Kindred spirits. New book smell. Ahh. Nirvana. Thank you. Gratitude.

Leave house. Hat on. Walk boardwalk. Different beach. Same holiday crowds. Unfazed. Engrossing conversation. Restaurant. Long line. Put name in. Wait. More conversation. Engaging. Enjoying. Wait more. Chat more. Finally seated. Order fast. Sweet and savory. Split plates. Bloody Mary. OMG. Amazing Bloody Mary. Share stories. Struggles. Anecdotes. Life lessons. Food arrives. French Toast. Eggs Benedict. Potatoes. Ketchup. Eat. Talk. Yum. Full tummies. Take plates away. Please. Save us. Pay bill. Thank you. B-day treat. Gratitude.

Roll out. Stuffed. Potty break. Mom speak. Old habits. Hard to break. Walk to pier. Bustling. Chai lattes. Warm and sweet. Tasty. Confide. Connect. Counsel. Sip. Walk. Holiday weekend. Buzz. Energy. Farmers Market. Browse. Impulse buy. Necklace. Birds=Kids. Love. Fun. Laughter. Gratitude.

Getting late. Where did the time go? Boardwalk. Power walking. Past bikinis. Rollerbladers. Bicycles. People on patios. House parties. Memories flood. Again. College. Flashback. Parties. So many parties. Ragers. Keggers. Drinking. Frat guys. Water polo boys. Crushes. Remember feeling pretty. Some of the time. And feeling insecure. Most other times. Flirting. Kissing. Good times. Gratitude.

Present. Back to house. Say goodbye. Boo. Friendship. Soul sister. Wish we lived closer. Promise to do again. Hug. Leave. Coasting the coast. Familiar places. Passing so many. Sliding door. Memories. Damn memories. Reflect. Accept. Sun breaks through. Open sunroof. Shine. Music. Life's soundtrack. Uplift. Inspire. Gratitude.

Homestead. Return. Change. Swimsuit. Cover up. Greet guests. Pour a glass. Chaise lounge. Beach towel. Sunhat. Sunglasses. Glamorous. My attempt. Not really. Just be. Lie back. Deep breath. Warm sun. Cold drink. Read book. Heaven. Gratitude.

Sister arrives. Hug. Kiss. Flowers. Glad she's here. Appetizers. Conversation. Reminiscing. Beach songs. Loud music. 50 Ways to Leave Your Lover. Laughter. Fun. BBQ. Sea Bass. Kabobs. Artichoke jalapeño dip. Ridiculous. Addictive. Good wine. Santa Margarita Pinot Grigio. Yum. Satisfied. Evening. Sunset. Peaceful. Lovely. Birthday cake. Candles. Singing. Make another wish. So many wishes. Blow. Gratitude.

Late night. Fire pit. Warm blanket. Talk. Politics. Yikes. New perspectives. Open minds. Challenging ideologies. Good company. Fading fast. Long day. Fun. Sun. No run. Heated spa. Too tired to soak. Need that bed. Buttery sheets. Sleep. Dream. Wake. Bathroom break. Back to dream. Slept late. Don't often do. Must be that bed. Those sheets. And no kids around. Gratitude.

Wake. Breakfast. Eggs. Farm fresh. Toast. Sourdough. Butter. Chai tea. Chat. Laugh. Wish I could stay longer. Pack up. Swim? No time. Load car. Say goodbyes. Kisses. Hugs. Parting gifts. Spoiled with love. Generous hosts. Gratitude.

On road again. Appointment. Spa. Birthday treat. Body scrub. Massage. Deep tissue. Two hours. Best masseuse ever. Good friend. Relaxed. Lubricated. Elated. Hungry. Get Lunch. Usual place closed. Holiday. Bummer. Mexican instead. Happy hour. Margarita. Rocks. Salt rim. Guacamole. Conversation. Life. Realities. Journey. Truth. Gratitude.

Goodbye. Kiss. Hug. Vacation ending. Drive home. Freeway. One more stop. Alma Mater. Reflect. Better not. Enough memories stirred for one trip. Need to get home. Miss kids. Bedtime approaching. Long journey. Music. Always good music. Alone with thoughts. Me. Myself. I. Good company. Gratitude.

Home. Greeting. My girl. Big girl. Excited. Missed me. Tight hug. Sweet kiss. Sweet soul. Old soul. Proud. Other kid. Toddler. Pouty. No welcome home. Missed me too. I can tell. Just won't admit it. I hug. Hold. Kiss. Resistance melts. Cuddle. Hands entwined. Happy to see. Both Mom and son. My guy. My little. Beautiful Boy. Beautiful Mommy. Still. Always. Gratitude.

Life. Back to it. As per usual. Remember. Connect. Disconnect. Miss. Wish. Accept. Refreshed. A bit. Melancholy. Another bit. Feel it. Acknowledge it. Shake it off. Move on. Just Keep Livin'. McConaughey. Ha. Alright. Alright. Alright. Reflect. Write. Photos. Proof read. Done. Post. Share. You're here. That's it.

Gratitude.

Fun with Hubs in the Pack-En-Dub

Quick trivia lesson: The Pacific Northwest (the region comprised of the states of Washington, Idaho, and Oregon, along with the province of British Columbia) is sometimes abbreviated to simply "Pac NW" and pronounced "Pack- En-Dub". Maybe you already knew this, but I just learned of it because my husband and I recently returned from a trip up there. Our ten year wedding anniversary is this month, so we decided we were going to take a trip somewhere to commemorate the occasion. We first thought of going on a cool couples adventure retreat, where we could mountain bike, trail run, do yoga and eat organic meals for days on end. We also considered taking a spa getaway somewhere secluded to indulge a bit and rekindle our romance.

Then reality hit us. Realizing we had to fit a trip in during the kids' spring break three weeks before our actual anniversary and accepting that we better do it somewhere close so we didn't waste too much time on travel, we resolved to stay on the west coast. And who are we kidding, our youngest is still only four and I wasn't jazzed at the thought of being too far from him for too many days in a row. Mama has separation issues, I admit.

So we settled on the "pack en dub" and dropped the kids at the grandparents' house in central California before heading up for a short six day jaunt. Not the grand anniversary trip I had pictured in my head months before, but it was time away nevertheless. Any break from the norm is therapeutic, and spending time essentially masquerading around as a carefree, autonomous couple, one unhindered by school schedules or bath and bedtime rituals, was a pleasant departure. We galavanted around cities we had never seen and explored places we had never been with the freedom and abandon of teens without a curfew... or at least that's what I envisioned we were doing. In reality, it probably didn't look quite like that. 

   

To start, I had a terrible cough, so bad that we seriously considered canceling the trip just a few days before we left. Although it seemed to get progressively better as the days rolled on, it still put a damper on enjoying an anniversary trip during which your husband apprehensively kissed you between hacking coughs for fear of catching it himself. Wildly romantic, I know.

Second, as we have such different ideas of what constitutes fun these days, we were hard pressed to find activities we both were equally excited to participate in. While I am the art museum type of tourist, a seeker of local culture and historical landmarks, curious and excited to explore the sights, sounds, eats, and haunts a locale is known for; my husband likes to exist on the fringes, be the anti-tourist, and runs in the opposite direction of the traps that attract most visitors, looking to forge a new trail off the beaten path, usually somewhere in nature and outdoors, with no plan or idea if the direction he is going will be worth the effort or will be a complete waste of time. The planner in me found this very unsettling, and the adventurer in him felt my desire to stay in the city and not explore the unknown (and risk wasting any of the limited time we had on this trip!) was confining and made him very restless.

We went to Seattle first, and both loved it more than expected. We arrived there early in the morning, like 8am early, after waking at 4am to catch our plane, and our first stop was inevitably Pike Place Market where we happily discovered The Crumpet Shop, proceeding to stand in a crazy long line out the door for a well worth it breakfast. Walking the market was amazing, with all its levels and hollows, and impossible to explore in its entirety. We strolled by the original Starbucks and found the sidewalk in front of it was so crowded with lookie-loos and the inside of it was so packed with tourists that we both agreed (yay!) that that was one place we could live without experiencing. Instead, we got coffee at Storyville Coffee Pike Place - a cozy nook we loved so much that we went there twice in our short two days in Seattle. Yes, the coffee was yum, but what sold us was sinking into the comfy, cognac leather chairs in front of a warm fireplace while sipping it. Heaven. I also met up with a dear college friend of mine at Storyville, whom I hadn't seen for over twenty years, for a coffee, a sweet, and an hour long chat. That lovely hour was nowhere near long enough for us to fully catch up, but seeing her was a wonderful perk to the trip.

At night, the market emptied out and the streets were wet and glistening after being hosed down from a day full of visitors, fresh fish and floral sales. It was peacefully quiet when we finally wandered into Matt's in the Market for a late dinner and were the last to be seated for the night. Looking out the restaurant's huge arched windows at the looming Public Market Center clock and sign lit up in bright red neon, we thoroughly enjoyed this quaint yet classy eatery, dining on the most incredible halibut and sea scallops we had ever tasted.

The final attraction of this first city in our two-city romp was the Space Needle, despite his trepidation and resistance to visiting it. Once we were at the top, watching the sun set over the water and looking out at that spectacular view, he was slow to admit that I was right and it may have just been worth the trouble of behaving like a tourist and waiting in a line to experience it.

We then took a three hour train ride from Seattle down to Portland and stayed in the Southwest section of the city, smack in the middle of the bustling downtown. Walking around amidst intermittent rain showers, where I swear no one carries an umbrella, we gazed up from below the colossal Portlandia statue, stood in the long line of hipsters and vagrants at VooDoo Donuts to sample pastries covered in Oreos and Butterfingers, witnessed the fire and flair of a theatrical Spanish Coffee order at Huber's Cafe, and enjoyed an extravagant Peruvian dinner at Andina in the hip Pearl District. But above all, one of the greatest treats during our three days in Portland was visiting with two of my oldest and dearest childhood friends who have both lived there for over twenty five years. They were kind enough to give us the grand tour of their city, and we were grateful they took the time out of their daily schedules to be such gracious hosts.

Most unexpectedly, we next found ourselves bearing the freezing cold temps (i.e. freezing cold to this wimpy So. Cal. girl) and spraying mist of Multnomah Falls in the Columbia River Gorge. We had to rent a car and drive thirty miles outside the city of Portland to do this, and that took some convincing on his part to get me to agree to it. As we're in the car so much at home, I was looking forward to a week solely on foot and not having to ride in a car at all, other than an Uber lift from the airport. But despite the bit of driving, it was now my turn to concede that his detour out of the city - with its fresh air and lush green scenery - was a welcome reprieve from the grit and noise of the downtown cityscape.

   

My nagging cough be damned, I was determined to get in at least one yoga class while in each place, and before we left home, I had already picked the very studios I wanted to visit. In Seattle, hubs and I took a power flow class with Chandra at Yoga to the People, a donation-based yoga studio that originated in New York City and has expanded to Seattle, Berkeley, and San Francisco. The class was full and Chandra was a kind, effective instructor. After class, our appetites guided us to look for food right away, and we were fortunate to find a fantastic lunch at Chaco Canyon Organic Cafe. Then in PortIand, I alone took a power yoga class at Yoga on Yamhill, a small, donation-based studio in the heart of downtown, right next to the MAX Blue Line light rail. Studio owner Paul Terrell and I have a common bond as students of Bryan Kest, and it was lovely to attend his class and enjoy the familiarity of a kindred yoga practitioner.

All in all, it was a short, yet fun, excursion; and being able to recapture a bit of that pre-kiddo vibe and enjoy a somewhat carefree vacation was well worth the weeks of pre-planning and incessantly hacking and coughing my way through the Pac NW. Truth be told, it was not a trip free of conflict, as we had a few arguments that I could have done without. Nevertheless, we put forth our best efforts to make it special, and to celebrate still being married after ten years of, well, marriage. It seems six days in two bustling cities full of attractions and distractions was inevitably not going to be a magic pill that transformed us back into the starry-eyed newlyweds we were on our ten day honeymoon. It was, however, a welcome reprieve from the whirlwind that is parenthood - of PTA meetings, little league games, spelling tests, toddler potty mishaps and early morning wake ups.

It was also a lovely introduction to the Pacific Northwest, and what I know is only the tip of the iceberg as far as seeing this beautiful region. We can't wait for our next trip up there and take the opportunity to explore the Oregon coast, Washington's Orcas/San Juan Islands, and maybe even the Canadian cities of Victoria and Vancouver. Now that will be a trip the kids won't want to miss.

Beautiful Mommy

As I mentioned in my previous post, Saturday Night Live(s), I went out of town alone this past weekend for my birthday. Three mornings in a hotel to sleep in as late as I wanted, two long days in the middle to do as I please, and three relaxing nights to spend however I wanted to spend them. I had a wonderful time, being pampered at a spa, practicing yoga, going for a run, shopping, and being taken out to lunch. It was blissful and exciting, with some unexpected surprises... everything a birthday should be!

Upon my return home, however, it was a challenge for me to confront the reality of my responsibilities as a mom, and even harder to step up to the task of loving and nurturing my kids. I know that sounds terrible, not being able to muster up these feelings after a few days away from them, when only a few short days before, all my energy was focused on doing just that. But after those few days of feeling like me, JUST me - not a mom, not a wife, not a daughter or a sister, but a woman with her own wants and needs being met independent of any necessity to fulfill others wants and needs - I didn't want it to end. 

I had liked being called "Miss" instead of "Ma'am" by people in stores and restaurants, and enjoyed having others notice me as an attractive woman, rather than someone's "looks like she'd clean up pretty good if she made the effort" mom. It's amazing what a somewhat-sexy outfit, carefree smile and the absence of children as appendages of your arms will do for your appearance - how it drastically changes how people see you… and how you see yourself.

Lunch at the Coliseum Pool & Grill - The resort at Pelican Hill, Newport Coast, CA

Lunch at the Coliseum Pool & Grill - The resort at Pelican Hill, Newport Coast, CA

I enjoyed feeling alluring and appealing during my shopping and lunch outings, as feeling that way these days most often has been relegated to an isolated date night out or the occasional holiday party for which I dressed up. So I didn't want to give that feeling up just yet. Especially since I could expect that my next shopping trip or lunch out would involve a 3-year-old and a 7-year-old attached to my arms once again, and the impending "Ma'ams" would follow, as the sales people would resume addressing me with that "respectful" designation.

So not being ecstatic to see my kids again felt troubling, as they were so happy to see me the first few seconds of our reunion. Yet, promptly, and I mean literally within minutes, both of them individually broke down into piles of sobbing kid messes, creating an overwhelming energy that was so pervasive to my temporarily autonomous being that I wanted to turn around, drive back to my hotel, and stay there forever. Although I could easily attribute these weeping jags to the overall anxiety they must have been feeling, coming out of a weekend absent of their regular schedule, rituals and routines that make their lives comfortably structured… that didn't make it any easier for me to take.

After all, it's a tall order... shifting gears from carefree days ripe with possibilities for exciting things to happen, to the challenging grind and convention of the school week. Tough for both the kids and me. While away, I felt alive in a way I hadn't in a long time, and I couldn't help but feel guilty for feeling so good.

My hotel room at the Marriott in Costa Mesa

My hotel room at the Marriott in Costa Mesa

So after the anticipation of a relaxing and fun-filled weekend, the actual pleasure of the events I enjoyed, and the climax of three days of feeling like my own person again, the weight of my life fell hard on me that morning of my return home. Upon my arrival, I was thrusted back into my routine, not totally the picture of the satisfied, refreshed and revitalized woman I expected to be.

It was the freedom - I had tasted it, and I wanted more. More time there. More of a break from this routine of school lunches and dirty socks thrown on the floor by the front door.  

But it was not to be, and I had to face it.

It's easy to get so caught up in a certain feeling or circumstance that for a moment you forget that there is still joy to be had back in the harried world you left… it's just a starkly different kind of joy, and you just got to be ok with that, or you're sunk.

Nevertheless, on that day, the joy I usually find in my kids alluded me, and I wished I was still on the other side of the sliding door, on my dreamy escapade, where an alternate reality was possible, if only for a short while. Was it better to have tasted it and then miss it, or would I have been better off not having it in the first place?

The next morning, both kids left for school and I was left to myself again, at least for a few hours. Now… I had a choice. I could let my desire for what I had this weekend overcome me and leave me wanting; or I could step up, accept the present, and focus on what is good right here, right now.

After all, what choice did I really have? The only choice available to me was the attitude to adopt. It is fascinating how powerful your thinking can be on your behavior. It has the opportunity to be equally destructive or uplifting. That morning, I chose uplifting. I found the trick is to channel those strong emotions so they flow, not erratically, but calmly into a state of acceptance and light.

My favorite book to read to my kids, and myself, these days.

My favorite book to read to my kids, and myself, these days.

It is a very Zen concept, and one that I am in love with these days… one of acceptance for what happens in your life, without placing judgment on it as either good or bad. The idea is that, since no one really knows what's in store for them next, predicting whether something will either render them a good or a bad result is futile. It is of greater benefit to you to approach things with an attitude of acceptance, all the while honoring what you are feeling and not judging it according to what you think "should be."

This line of thinking would have benefitted me greatly if I had employed it more effectively the previous morning; but alas, I just wasn't as mindful that morning. Maybe I should have meditated in my hotel room before checking out.

As I sit here now, I am struck with the idea that there is no reason I couldn't meld these two alternate realities together so that I can experience both simultaneously. Have the best of both worlds, as it were. Why the hell not? I can be a hot, attractive mom even when I'm out with my kids... I can feel free and excited for the possibility of what today could bring, even on a Monday while I prepare school lunches. All it would require is a little discipline, some forethought, and a positive attitude. 

I am not the victim of my circumstances, but rather the navigator of my future. I am not a mere passenger on the journey of my life, but rather a competent driver of my own destiny.

That evening, after pajamas were on and teeth were brushed, I read my son his bedtime book and settled him into bed. Before I could ask him which song he wanted me to sing out of my extensive bedtime song repertoire, he looked up at me, caressed my cheek softly, and sang a verse of one of his favorite songs that I sing, changing one word to fit: "Beautiful, beautiful, beautiful... Beautiful Mommy."  

That did it. That single, simple act brought to the forefront what is precious and amazing about this reality. I knew it was always there, it just got buried under the dirty socks by the front door for a day. And that little voice singing to me… it gave the sales clerk at the mall calling me "Miss" a run for his money.  

I smiled and then I sang the same song back to him in its entirety, changing one word to fit:

"Close your eyes,
Have no fear,
The monster's gone,
He's on the run and your (Mommy's) here...

Beautiful,
Beautiful, beautiful,
Beautiful Boy...

Before you go to sleep,
Say a little prayer,
Every day in every way,
It's getting better and better...

Beautiful,
Beautiful, beautiful,
Beautiful Boy...

Out on the ocean sailing away,
I can hardly wait,
To see you to come of age,
But I guess we'll both
Just have to be patient,
'Cause it's a long way to go, a hard row to hoe
Yes, it's a long way to go, but in the meantime...

Before you cross the street,
Take my hand,
Life is what happens to you,
While your busy making other plans...

Beautiful,
Beautiful, beautiful,
Beautiful Boy..."

"Beautiful Boy" by John Lennon

Saturday Night Live(s)

Saturday night. I am away for my birthday alone in a hotel room and loving the fact that I have absolutely nothing I have to do tonight, nor tomorrow morning when I wake up.

Not particularly the vision of how I expected I would want to spend a Saturday night during my birthday weekend, say, 15 years ago.

When you're single at a certain age, and you're looking for something to do, and someone to do it with, on a Saturday night, you might have the desire to find that special someone with whom to spend all of your Saturday nights. And when you find that someone, you might sit with them and long for the time when you will have babies together, that you expect will fill your days and nights with purpose and wonder. 

Then, you may be where I am now... married to that someone with two small kids… In the thick of it, when Saturday nights are often not much different than any other night of the week.

After years of that, when your kids leave the house, having grown up and moved out, you will become an empty nester who talks about how much time you have on your hands, so much so that you don't know what to do with it all. Someone who would welcome a day where their house was full of noise and kids and ruckus again. You may even go so far as saying you "miss" the commotion of a life with small children in it.

And as for Saturday night? Watching the nightly news or Saturday Night Live may be the highlight.

This is a paradox. And there's a severe imbalance in it. It's feast or famine. Why are there long periods in life where you either have little to no free time (a.k.a. parenthood, years 1-18) or a lot, and maybe even too much, free time (i.e. all other periods in your life)? There is something out of whack in this somehow. I can't imagine missing this chaos after being free of it. I am hoping, in the future, I will fill my days with the things I love to do that I don't have much time for now; but I guess I will just have to wait and see.

So to review… before having it, you want it; while having it, you often want to escape it; and after having it, you miss it and want it back.

How f'd up is that?

This would also mean that I am supposedly in the EXACT place that everyone else wants to be in: I've got the spouse, got the kids, and am living the dream of a full family life with crammed and endless days of activity and bedlam.  

And here I am, in a hotel room alone, by choice, as a gift to myself for my birthday... the gift of time, including this very Saturday night, all to myself to do whatever I will with it. 

Go figure.

I'm not even going to delve further into this one… after all, I'm on vacation.

An Imperfectly Charmed Life in Perceived Paradise

As a mother of two and wife of one living for the last thirteen years in Malibu, California - "the 'Bu" as I never actually call it, but as many affectionately refer to it - I spend my days driving up and down the coast highway to and from school, ballet, violin, soccer and cartooning classes, with food market, public library, state beach and park visits sprinkled in.

I have two littles that are by my side for what seems like 99% of my day; and although I love them fiercely in spite of myself, I have an ever present desire to escape from the encompassing chaos they have brought to my formerly organized and efficient life.

I earned a degree in Film Studies and worked both amateurishly and professionally in the Hollywood film and television industry for ten years. I traded the insane hours and surrealistic existence of film sets and working in the vacuum of the studio environment for the cool coastal breezes and flip-flop mentality of beach living, a surfer husband, and the unique opportunity to help launch a surf/lifestyle company. My life and career made another drastic shift as I took on motherhood (enter the chaos), and I realized that parenting is a challenge that made my years as a single, career woman in the male-dominated film industry seem like a cake walk.

Born in Hollywood, California, I was raised in the suburbs of Los Angeles County, the daughter of a notable musical entertainer of the 1960's and 70's, spending most of my time in the swimming pool to escape the blistering heat of the San Fernando Valley, riding my bike, and running around our ranch property barefoot. I traveled to Las Vegas as a child as often as the members of the Rat Pack did in their heyday. My father headlined the main showrooms of all the major casinos along the Vegas Strip, and my siblings and I spent our time there swimming in the hotel pools, playing carnival games at Circus Circus, and wreaking havoc backstage in the halls and green rooms before the show. Making our own Shirley Temple cocktails and collecting autographs of the revolving acts of comedians and lounge singers opening for my dad's group, we were certainly a unique sight. A kid in Vegas in the 70's was like a nonsmoker in Vegas in the 70's - you didn't see many. It made for a memorable childhood; one ripe with drama and dysfunction juxtaposed with glitter and glamour... and sequins.

ranchkids.jpg

In my youth while back in LA, I recall driving along the Pacific Coast Highway (PCH) in Malibu on long treks in the family station wagon from the valley over the canyon through the mountain tunnels to spend the day making sand castles at Paradise Cove or playing in the waves at Zuma Beach. For me, then and now, the drive along this PCH was and is a wholly sensory experience, with sights, smells, and sounds that only the coast offers... the sharp horizon where vivid blues of clear sky and glistening water meet, the salt water scent in the air, and the seagulls cawing in the ocean breezes.

For many, the idea of Malibu sparks visions of palm trees, movie stars, and lazy days by the pool of a sprawling mansion, martini in hand... long sessions down at the beach, surfing the waves and lying in the sun... everyone here just "living the dream" in paradise.

This artwork, "Along the Malibu", by retro-realism artist Kerne Erickson, seems to perpetuate this concept of Malibu as a place of carefree amusement, breathtaking views, and extravagant luxury. In it, an elegant woman and her dog on the back patio of the historic Adamson House in Malibu is depicted in the foreground, and surfers at the world famous Surfrider Beach alongside the Malibu Pier can be seen in the distance.

This general perception, or shall I say misconception, of what Malibu unequivocally is like, isn't the whole story, especially not for this small beach community's year-round, non-gazillionaire residents.

It is also not what this blog is, or will be, mostly about. I don't live on a large estate, I haven't had any plastic surgery, and I don't regularily dine at Nobu with Sting (although I wish that last one was true).

These days, as I drive along PCH, I am not a young girl wearing a swimsuit and coverup (usually a ball cap and Uggs) blasting tunes on the radio (unless it's the kids' "Jake and the Neverland Pirates" music), or anticipating a fun, coconut suntan lotion-scented day on the sand (let's just say the scents in my kid-filled life are not of the tropical variety).

Instead, I am a woman who lives and travels daily along the 27-mile winding strip of Malibu coastline between the mountains and the sea, running errands, shuttling kids around, and doing my best to survive an imperfectly charmed life in a place perceived as "paradise" by those from the outside looking in. 

My life is, and has always been, far from perfect, despite how it may appear to others. We all have our challenges to surmount and certain circumstances to cope with; and the hope is to somehow find the grace, fortitude, and strength to take them on every day without giving up or cracking up.

Trying to create or keep up with the illusion of a "perfect" life is something that I have no interest in doing. So, I don't. Not in my life, and not in my writing. I had a big helping of that "need to be and look perfect" ideology thrust upon me in my childhood, as I often felt as if I lived in a fish bowl, and had to play a part that made me often feel seen but not heard; so much so that I perpetuated my perfectionist tendencies into young adulthood.

It took a while for me to finally learn that this way of life does not serve me well. But thankfully, I learned.

This is only my fifth post on this blog so far, so as I write, and as you read, I aim to always be as authentic, candid, and real as I can. It's the me that I am these days, for better or worse; and so that's what you're gonna get.