Your Magic is Missed

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My mom, the early 1970’s, Waikiki.

She was in her mid-twenties, married, and already had a couple kids. She had style, grace and beauty. She was strong, funny and kind. I am in awe of what she accomplished, how she lived, and the challenges she survived. She was amazing. I know that more than ever now that I have a family of my own.

Today is her birthday. I spent it with my husband and kids at Universal Studios. I watched my children walk around the Wizarding World of Harry Potter, wearing their Gryffindor robes, waving their wands, surrendering to the magic, and soaking in the fantasy. I thought about how much fun my mom would have had with them today. She loved make believe. She was a hopeless romantic and she was a HUGE movie fan. She is responsible for MY love of film, and the passion I cultivated for it strongly influenced my career choices early on.

My mom was an all around creative... a writer, a photographer, an organizer... an orchestrator of plans and parties and life and fun. She was a sensitive and beautiful soul who loved to create, and who lived to give to and connect with others. If I possess even a fraction of the talents that she had in spades, then I like to think I inherited them from her.

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She would have been 73 today. It’s hard for me to picture her as a 73-year-old grandmother. She never lived to be one; and she was still so youthful when she died. But if I try to picture her like that, there with us today at Universal, I imagine her dressed in full Gryffindor garb, with a wand for herself, walking between my kids like they were the three musketeers, chatting about their favorite Harry Potter characters or which movie was the best.

What a beautiful fantasy. What a magical thought. I wish they could have had that moment with her. I wish she could have had this day with us. I know that her spirit lives on in me and my kids; but it’s hard not to miss seeing her smile, hearing her laugh, and being on the receiving end of her hugs.

Happy Birthday, Mom.
Your magic is missed.
✨🥀

#happybirthdaymom #hiltonhawaiianvillage

*Originally posted on Instagram and Facebook


Sliding Doors Closed

The view from the house at which I stayed During My birtHDaY getaway this year - sailboats at Crystal Cove, Newport Coast, CA - May 27, 2019

The view from the house at which I stayed During My birtHDaY getaway this year - sailboats at Crystal Cove, Newport Coast, CA - May 27, 2019

Sliding Doors. A metaphor for alternate realities.

For the last six years, I have created an alternate reality for myself while away for my birthday, escaping my real life circumstances to frolic and play in the coastal towns of Orange County each year since 2014.

Sliding Doors is also a feature film starring Gwyneth Paltrow in which this metaphor is rooted. The film is centered around this concept of alternate realities… the “what if’s” of a hypothetical life that we usually don’t get to explore in the linear narratives of our real time lives. The film jumps between two storylines, following two possible paths the main character's life could take depending on which side of a subway train’s sliding doors she ends up during one life altering day.

In my previous birthday getaway posts, I have mentioned this concept of sliding doors a few times, and the proposed alternate reality in which I began to indulge while away on these weekends. Spending my last six birthdays in towns adjacent to Irvine, CA, the city in which I graduated from college twenty five years ago, lent a whole host of what if’s to surface over the years; and each year, I explored various ones in my mind and heart.

This year’s getaway in May, my sixth consecutive, was the culmination of all that I have realized through my previous glimpses into the parallel life I imagined during these visits. It was the longest trip yet - five days, fours nights - and by the end of it, I emerged from the other side of the sliding door with a clearer sense than ever before of how to move forward in my own reality.

Top: In 2002, I was working in the Feature film department At the Walt Disney StudioS in Burbank, CA,, and was dating the man who would become my husband in 2005.  Bottom: In 1992, Ten years earlier, I was a junior at UC Irvine, had just declared my film Studies major, and was a member of the Women’s fraternity, Delta Gamma.

Top: In 2002, I was working in the Feature film department At the Walt Disney StudioS in Burbank, CA,, and was dating the man who would become my husband in 2005.

Bottom: In 1992, Ten years earlier, I was a junior at UC Irvine, had just declared my film Studies major, and was a member of the Women’s fraternity, Delta Gamma.

I attended The University of California Irvine from 1990 to 1994. During those highly impressionable years, I made pivotal decisions about my life and career, as most college students do, between the tender ages of 18 and 22. These decisions steered my life in a specific direction that brought me to where I am today. Yes, stating the obvious, I know; but the path on which I expected to be then, and the one I actually traveled down, ended up being very different.

I left Irvine after graduating in 1994 with the solid intention to work in the Hollywood film industry. Not as an actress, but as a creative… a filmmaker - a member of the visionary creative teams that make movies possible. And that is what I did, at least for the first ten years.

When I returned to my college stomping grounds for my first birthday weekend getaway in 2014, my life looked starkly different from what I envisioned twenty years prior. I was married, had two children, was no longer working in film, and had just begun my journey as a writer who shares her writing with others instead of keeping it hidden in a journal or in a file on her computer.

That first visit changed me; and I have since come to realize that in some ways, over the five years of birthday weekends between that first and this last one, I had been intermittently chasing the feelings I experienced that first transformative weekend away, trying (at times, in vain) to replicate them.

I have never been one to chase ghosts. I tend to look ahead with hope for better tomorrows rather than pine away for the past. But when I was down there - in Newport Beach, driving the stretch of Pacific Coast Highway between the Balboa Peninsula and Crystal Cove, running along PCH and Balboa Island, and walking around Fashion Island, Pelican Hill, and Newport Coast… or in Costa Mesa, shopping South Coast Plaza mall and spending time in the parks, hotels, and neighborhoods… or in Irvine, roaming the campus of my alma mater and visiting the dorms and greek housing where I lived - the smiles and excitement and hurts and faces in my most vivid memories of these places would materialize, often without effort or intention.

Every time I returned, memories of the past, both distant and recent, would come to the forefront, and I would either bask in them or dread them, depending on how I felt in my “real life” - my present reality back home. I was reminded of the actions I had taken and decisions I had made, both twenty five years ago and five years ago, that shaped who I was going to become… and who I was now. Some good, some not so.

I think what I was doing by going down there each year was exploring an alternate path that my life could have taken since college, when my “grown up” life had just begun. I wasn’t trying to go back in time. I was entertaining a fantasy - the “what could have been” of my life had the stars aligned in a different pattern. Had the years unfolded differently. Had I made different choices.

This may sound like I regret the decisions I did make that led to the life I currently lead. Honestly, over these last few years, I have sometimes felt like I did… like I wished I had known myself a little better to choose better, and wished I had developed a healthier mindset that didn’t allow fear, hurt and insecurity to guide those decisions that end up shaping one’s life.

But if I really am honest, in my heart, I don’t see any of the choices I made as bad or wrong. This is a hard one to reconcile, as we all have some things we have done that we wish had played out differently, or rendered vastly different results. It’s okay to have hoped for alternate outcomes that never came to be, while still believing everything that’s happened has happened as it was meant to happen.

My choices have made me who I am; and after a lot of inner work, healing and acceptance, I like who I am today. ALL of my choices (even the presumably regretful ones) put me here, in this beautiful now. They have brought me to where I am, how I think, what I have, and who I love, in my imperfectly charmed life.

But aside from the good in it, my life has never been, and will never be, free of hardship. No one is immune to bad times. There are experiences survived, mistakes made, and lessons learned that are gifts. When it’s hard and things feel bad or overwhelming, they certainly don’t seem like gifts, but they are. Even the biggest mistakes are gifts. Those actions taken and words said that make us feel initial regret, guilt or shame… those are the greatest gifts of all because they make us human, and teach us what we want and don’t want in the future. They teach us who we want to be, and who we don’t want to be. 

So, had my life been the alternate reality I had often envisioned on my birthday weekends in Newport Beach or Costa Mesa, I know I would still have had hardships. I don’t know what they would’ve looked like, or what difficulties I would’ve faced, but it’s possible they would have been less desirable than what I grapple with now. Who knows… maybe I would’ve wanted to escape to Malibu for my birthday weekends and dream of a life like mine.

It is the unknown - the possibility of what “could be” or “could have been” - that beguiles us. It is safer to dream or hope for something that, in our minds, still has the potential to be better than what we already have than to accept and enjoy what we do have, even in the most unfulfilling moments. Keeping your head and heart in a fantasy temporarily protects you from facing the disappointment that what is real is not perfect. Reality will always pale in comparison to the fantasy unless we change our perspective on our lives, and alter how we interpret the challenges and perceived barriers to happiness with which we are presented.

2014 was the year it all started; and every birthday since, I anticipated with excitement, and a sort of desperate desire, to relive or recapture the feeling of renewal I felt that first year. Now in 2019, it doesn’t serve the whole of my life to look forward to one weekend a year to be a person who wants to lead a different life. Now I am looking to integrate that weekend into my life in a way that doesn’t dishonor my current existence, but rather enhances it. To have an experience that strengthens me, rather than one that elicits me to look back with longing.

The me that I am is the only one I can be. I may not ever be that college student who has the chance to pick a different discipline and start my life with a different career. I may not ever be that sorority girl who has the chance to date a boy in college who changes how I see the world, and thus alters the trajectory of my life. I may not ever be that twenty-something young adult who has my whole life in front of me, with infinite options from which to choose, and the chance to find my passion and true calling twenty years sooner.

But I can be the woman and the writer I am now… with all the knowledge and love and wounds and growth and wisdom to stay on and enhance the path I did choose, not because it is my only choice (it’s not), but because it is what I want for my life right now.

Life doesn’t present choices only when we are young and starting out. It continually offers us opportunities to compose and edit our own story. We often don’t get to decide every detail of the outline, but we always get creative control over the content of our minds and hearts. We choose who and what we let in, and of whom and what we let go.

There comes a time to say goodbye to phases and feelings and circumstances that no longer fit. To end a chapter. To close a door. To move on... This is mine. The only thing left to do is to say thank you. Thank you Newport Beach, Costa Mesa and Irvine, and all that I enjoyed there. For the roles you played in my life. For the joy you brought me. For the love, excitement and possibility I got to feel. For the escapism, the relaxation, and the reconnecting of myself as a woman. And for all you taught me.

Sliding doors closed.

POSTSCRIPT: A little backstory for those new here, or those who have not yet read any of my previous birthday getaway posts…

I have written about and reflected on my annual birthday weekend getaways every year since 2014 (except for 2015). Staying in either Costa Mesa or Newport Beach each year, I have walked down memory lane in many ways on these trips, re-visiting places I lived and loved as a college student and alumni, both in Newport Beach and on the campus of my alma mater, The University of California, Irvine.

2014, the first year I escaped to Orange County for my birthday, was the catalyst to many important changes in my life. With a 7-year-old daughter and 3.5-year-old son at the time, I experienced a taste of freedom from being a wife and mother that I had never felt before. Having sacrificed so much of myself for my children those first seven years, I had unwittingly abandoned who I was and ignored my needs as a woman and individual to the point of desperation, with an overwhelming desire to reclaim my autonomy and a sense of myself that I had lost along the way. I wrote Saturday Night Live(s) while I was away that weekend, and Beautiful Mommy in reflection upon my return.

In 2015, I had just completed an intensive yoga teacher training and certification in March, away from home alone without my husband and kids for nine days while in Davis, CA. I also enjoyed a 10th wedding anniversary trip with my husband to the Pacific Northwest that April; so a big birthday weekend getaway in May was not in the cards for me that year. I did go down to the OC for one night that weekend anyway, visited with some people, and got a massage. I guess I didn’t feel the need to write about it, because I didn’t. Life was good.

In 2016, I wrote Birthday Weekend Away. In Short. Gratitude. in a stream of consciousness, with excessive punctuation. That year I was feeling especially nostalgic, in conjunction with the many challenges I was dealing with back on the home front.

In 2017, I used no punctuation at all when writing mind body soul truth self love attraction birthday wishes and hotel beds, after being challenged by a friend to write in the opposite form from the year before. Feeling especially strong and confident that year, I enjoyed my stay in Newport Beach at the Island Hotel immensely… that weekend was the most like my first year away in 2014.

In 2018, my written reflections on my weekend away in May weren’t completed until September, when I shared No Mom Is An Island, as well as a poem I composed entitled Forty Six.

And so this was my entry for 2019, four months after my sixth annual birthday weekend getaway during the memorial day weekend in May. As mentioned in the piece, I’ve decided that this year’s getaway was to be my final one spent in Orange County. I have already made plans elsewhere for my birthday getaway in 2020!

This is 47

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In bed reading last night in the last few hours of being age 46.

In the year while 46, I had to help save a family business from financial ruin, preserve my father’s professional legacy, and prepare him to retire after 60 years of performing on stage... evacuate from the worst fire on record in my Malibu community, live in a black and burned disaster area for months with mudslides and power outages, all the while nursing a child back to health with multiple fractures in her jaw and rehabilitating my own body from the worst physical injury I have ever suffered... say goodbye to my favorite aunt who passed away at age 62, write and deliver her eulogy, and bury her alongside my mom... and through all of it, find my strength, not give up hope, persevere, and just feel it all (and cry a lot).

In the same year, I also smiled thousands of times, laughed with my sisters and husband and children and loved ones, enjoyed wonderfully meaningful talks with siblings and friends, took my kids to the Wizarding World of Harry Potter for the first time, read profound, life changing books and learned more about the world and myself, wrote and wrote and wrote about what was in my heart and soul, was educated and gained newfound wisdom on a wide facet of topics regarding humanity, mental health, spirituality, mortality and overcoming adversity, saw Hamilton on stage two times, kissed and hugged and cuddled and said “I love you” to the ones I love as much as I could manage, and was inspired by the innate goodness of people and our shared intrinsic desire to bring joy and hope and love to other humans.

Today is my 47th birthday. This year in which I will gracefully age into 47 will also be one filled with challenges, most that will look and feel different than those of last year. Yet I am determined to also make it a year in which I let go of any fears that could paralyze me, embrace the unknown, learn and grow more, lean into vulnerability (more than I already do), love myself and others more deeply and authentically than ever before, and trust in what I know on the deepest level possible.

#thisis47 #youknow #trustyourintuition

*Originally posted on Instagram and Facebook

Smells Like Tween Spirit

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From birth, she had the most expressive eyebrows I had ever seen on a baby. Not that I paid any attention to babies’ eyebrows, or to babies, for that matter, before I became a mother. I was not someone who ever dreamed of having kids. The closest I came to enjoying the company of children as a young adult was when I worked as a camp counselor during the summer between my sophomore and junior years of college.

My counselor “nature” name was Brook, and the six and seven-year-olds with whom I played at camp endeared themselves to me with their wide-eyed innocence and wonder for the world around them. They would yell out “Brook!“ and smile when they arrived each day, happy to see me, giving me a glimpse of how intoxicating it was to care for them. Once I got to know the subtleties of their precious vulnerabilities and experience how much they began to rely on me for their safety and comfort, it was hard not to get hooked… at least for the summer.

The experience reminded me of the joys of childhood, the possible joy of parenting, and how it may be fun to spend some time with little ones once in a while. But that was as far as it went. I babysat kids in Newport Beach here and there while attending school at UC Irvine; and their young parents, who must have been in their early thirties, looked so old and mature to my twenty-year-old self (yet ironically, they were probably much younger than I am now with the same aged kids!). When I arrived to relieve them of their parenting duties, the moms and dads always seemed like they couldn’t wait to be free of their children. I didn’t understand then that it was most likely their date night, and they needed the break from parenting to stay sane and keep their marriage together. From my naive perspective, there wasn’t much joy in parenting for them, as it seemed more of a burden from which they were looking to escape, even if just for the night. This observation stuck with me.

After graduating a few years later in 1994, I dove head first in my career and didn’t give kids a second thought. Even having a boyfriend wasn’t a priority to me those years in which I worked fifteen hour days and slept in between. I didn’t see how kids would fit into my life with the big career I had originally envisioned for myself… back when I thought I was going to make movies for a living.

Twelve years later, after many memorable experiences, life lessons, and stark realizations, I was married and pregnant with my first child… this child, whom you see above, the one with the tween attitude and the expressively arched eyebrow. She came into my life by surprise, not by plan, and the expectation of her arrival was the biggest thing that had happened to my family in a while. She would be the first grandchild in my first family, an unexpected gift we all couldn’t wait to receive. But this big thing that was about to happen got eclipsed by an even bigger thing. My mom died. The woman whom she was going to make a grandmother didn’t survive a car accident and left this Earth just three months before she was born into it.

2008

So when she was delivered to me, under a cloud of grief, her huge blue eyes, single cheek dimple, and raised eyebrows soothed my hurt and gave me purpose, when all reason and sanity seemed to have abandoned me. She smiled and laughed and furrowed her brows, and she showed me how much joy one person can bring into another’s life, even in the worst of times.

I didn’t know what I was doing, I just knew she was the most important thing in life. I knew she needed me, but I didn’t realize then how much I needed her. My life felt out of control, like all of its biggest decisions were being made for me without my input, and I was forced to just ride the ride, regardless of whether or not I was a willing passenger. Without my mom there to support me, or to assure me everything was going to be okay, I felt lost as a woman, but found as a mother. The void my mom left was dark and deep, and I don’t think anyone, not even me, understood how much losing her would change me. I wasn’t sure of anything except that this little girl needed me to love and take care of her. I knew I could do that, I was going to do that no matter what, but I really didn’t feel like I could do much else.

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Once again, twelve years later, and this child turns twelve years old… today.

She is bold and she is beautiful. She is shy and she is stubborn. She is like me in so many ways and nothing like me in so many others. I see my mom in her sense of humor. I see my dad in her blond hair and blue eyes. I see how being my child has shaped her. I see her strong sense of identity rearing it’s head out from under her childhood innocence, and I see the baby I once knew still very much alive in her big eyes.

I am not ever one to say, “Where did the time go?” I have not said or written that statement, not once. I know where it went. I have spent almost every day of the last twelve years with this kid, and these twelve years have been unforgettable. They have been a mixture of happiness, sadness, and feeling a love never known before. There were times I felt content in the life I have built, and other times I struggled with unrest and wanderlust when my autonomy felt sabotaged by motherhood, and when my individual desires and personal aspirations got the best of me.

But regardless of the phases I have gone through, there has always been intense gratitude for the privilege of getting to watch this beautiful creature live, learn, evolve and grow.

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She has been a joy, a challenge, a heartbreak, and a saving grace. Sometimes she makes me feel on top of the world, and sometimes she wounds me to my core and momentarily crushes my soul. The way I feel as a person and as a woman affects how I relate to her, and the wounds I carry from my own childhood affect how I behave in some of her childhood circumstances.

There is so much I wish I had done, worked on, or figured out before I had her. There is so much I wish would have been different before she came into my life, the most significant thing being having my mom here to be a part of it. But mainly, I wish I had figured out who I was a bit more before motherhood made it’s mark on me.

I have been sharing my writing on this site for almost five years now, trying to better understand who I am, what I feel, and where my greater purpose lies beyond motherhood. This does not lessen my commitment to being a mother, nor does it reflect a dissatisfaction for being a mother. But as I watch my daughter grow, and see all the possibilities for her life that are coming around the corner for her, I want her to experience the best version of me, and I don’t think I have found it yet.

But above all, what I try to remember, however hard it is to keep at the forefront of my mind, is that nothing will ever be perfect or ideal, and no one ever is truly ready to become a parent. Even if you think you are ready, you don’t know what you are in for when a child takes over your life and your heart. I know I never could have imagined this kid.

She is innocent, but she is wise beyond her years. She’s been called an “old soul” so many times by so many different people who all see the same thing in her eyes. There is something intangible there that makes her seem like she knows more than she logically should at her age. She has the normal tween angst, hormonal mood swings, and irrational attitudes that a typical twelve-year-old girl does; but there is an added layer to her.

I sometimes think that her awareness to inherently know things that she doesn’t quite understand yet, or have the emotional capacity to process at her age, casts a cloud over her head. She is more pensive and somber than most of her peers, and doesn’t consistently possess the carefree nature and lightness that they do. As such, I have wondered if that cloud she walks under was formed soon after her birth, during her first few years in which she was with me every day as I was dealing with a lot of sadness and did a lot of grieving.

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There is no way to know for sure. What I do know though is that she is still the most important thing in life.

Along with her brother, she brings an elevated purpose to my existence…

She brings eternal hope to my heart…

And she brings so much joy to my soul…

Even if she crushes it occasionally.

💖

Happy 12th Birthday to my sweet girl. Thank you for choosing me to be your mom. I am eternally grateful.

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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.

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

In Seven Years Time

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I hosted my son's Lego birthday party today to celebrate him turning seven. And now is not the moment when I state any variety of, "Where did the time go?, The years are going by too fast!, or Slow down time!" No, I don't subscribe to this mode of thinking that most parents do. I feel the opposite. I believe that it's all happening at the right speed, in due time, with my close awareness and full presence.

These seven years have gone by as they should. They have been lovely, hard, joyful, painful, inspirational, challenging, uplifting, heartbreaking, euphoric, devastating, and hopeful. They have been seven years of my life. Of my son's life. Sometimes lived by me to the utmost and fullest, and sometimes lived less wisely than I would have wished.

There have been moments that have been some of the best of my life, and there have been moments that have been some of the darkest. My son is the gift I received seven years ago; but along with this precious gift, I also inherited the challenge of parenting two children, dealing with an often volatile sibling dynamic, and precariously juggling my time mothering two souls, all the while trying to find time and space for my own self care and self preservation.

As I have written about before, I lost myself a bit a few years after having this child, and then I found myself again three years ago when I began to share, through writing, what being lost meant. So life - for me, for my son - is happening as it should, as it was meant to. When people say "It's going by too fast," I think they may really mean that they want more of their time to play out in the ways they want it to play out, or that maybe they haven't been using their time to its fullest potential.

Yet who really does? Who can? At least, who can do so every second, or every moment. Life goes on, for all of us... we live it, we feel it, we thrive, we falter, we triumph, we make mistakes, we make the most of it, we waste time, we celebrate it, we have regrets, and we do our best with what we've been given. That's it.

This day has closed. This time is done. We will wake to a new day, with more life and more time; and we will spend it foolishly or we will spend it well. What will you choose?

#whatwillyouchoose

 

*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

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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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A Better Ten

The last time I posted on this blog was on the 10th anniversary of my mom's death back in October. Since then, I have continued to write, but have only shared a few of those words on social media, not finding the time or inclination to write anything of substantial length or significance to post as a full blog entry.
The close of 2016 was challenging for me, as it was for many. Over and above dealing with the U.S. presidential campaign and subsequent election, as well as the sudden loss of a few of our most respected artistic icons, I myself suffered the loss of both a dear family member and a long time friend and neighbor at the close of the year. I also had much to contemplate, reflect on, and work through regarding my family, the holidays, and both my internal and external life as a woman and an individual.
Sometimes it is necessary for us to do this kind of work on our own, without an audience, and without certain external influences or opinions muddling up the process. This, of course, does not bode well for a writer who mostly writes about her life's journey and experiences.
My proclivity to share my opinions and feelings through writing on this blog stems from my inherent longing to connect, relate, comfort, inspire, and provoke dialogue. So suddenly not having a strong desire to do so was troubling. What I did post on Instagram and Facebook during the last few months was always short and spontaneous, and seemed to be all I wanted to comment on or delve into at that point in time.
Now, a new year is upon us, and I thought it apropos to follow my last post about the 10th anniversary of my mom's death with a new post about the 10th anniversary of my daughter's birth.
It is definitely a better ten to celebrate.
I still plan to share some of the things I wrote during the final months of 2016, most likely in the next few days; but for now, this first entry back is all about balloons, birthdays and blowing out candles... and the hope and promise for the future as my little girl enters double digits.
Originally posted on  Instagram  and  Facebook  on January 14, 2017

Originally posted on Instagram and Facebook on January 14, 2017

Party in progress at our house right now. My daughter turns ten today and her three best friends are over for the small, exclusive birthday party she requested.

As all of the girls were dropped off, there are no other parents here, and my husband took my son out of the house to give her the freedom to be with her friends without her six-year-old little brother in tow.

So here I am, in the kitchen, icing her chocolate cake and getting ready to write a big, purple "10" on the top of it, while four nine and ten year olds are out on the deck... chatting, laughing, snacking, taking instant selfies, and decorating photo albums.

It is quite peaceful in here, away from the action; but it is also a strange new reality for me, after nine years of kid parties at which a deluge of parents, babies, toddlers, relatives, nap breaks, bibs, sippy cups, diaper changes, and tantrums all previously played significant roles.

Very strange.

Well, better get back to the cake. Here's to TEN. The dawn of a new decade, as well as a new era of parenthood.

Originally posted on  Instagram  and  Facebook  on January 19, 2017

Originally posted on Instagram and Facebook on January 19, 2017

It had been blustery and rainy for the better part of last week, and strong winds were still howling on the morning of Saturday, January 14th, my daughter's 10th birthday. We weren't sure if we were going to be able to use the deck for her party and were prepared to relegate the festivities to the indoors if the wind persisted and the rain returned.

But as the party's start time approached, the sun warmed the air, the winds calmed to a gentle breeze, and the ocean swayed and soothed for a much needed rest from the stormy tides it had weathered the previous few days.

I set up our outside table with the craft projects we planned and looked out at this view with a grateful heart. Not just for the weather cooperating or for the breathtaking panorama, as I am grateful for that every day, but for the soul that was born to become my daughter ten years ago that day.

Someone could naively suggest that the weather cleared up especially for her party by some stroke of divine miracle; or they could even go as far as to say my mom made it so from up above, a gift to her granddaughter who arrived on this Earth only days after she herself left it.

Yet as idealistic and romantic as I am, I don't believe in these kinds of notions. What I do believe is that life, along with the weather, is unpredictable; and we, for the most part, don't know exactly what's going to happen from one day to the next.

Losing someone you love without warning teaches you this; yet to a certain degree, so does parenthood, marriage, and simply living daily life. As much as we want to believe otherwise, we are only in control of our own actions, our own mindset approaching what we do, and ultimately how we respond to what unfolds beyond our control.

This day unfolded beautifully... my daughter officially turned ten at 3:19pm, and she made her birthday wish and blew out her ten candles just before the party ended and the sun set over the ocean out front.

Originally posted On  Instagram  and  Facebook  on January 20, 2017

Originally posted On Instagram and Facebook on January 20, 2017

I wouldn't say it was lonely... just, different. Weird. Unchartered. Last Saturday, I hosted my first kid birthday party as the sole adult in attendance. My nine-going-on-what-feels-like-eighteen-year-old daughter was blissful and carefree when her friends arrived for the party that day; a refreshing departure from the potent mix of drama, melancholy, and defiance she has consistently been the last year.

She smiled from ear to ear all day long... laughing, posing for selfies, and basking in the sweetness and silliness of her girlfriends' happy birthday song rendition before blowing out ten candles on her homemade chocolate birthday cake.

I watched all this transpire with joy in my heart and my own smile on my face, yet was feeling like more of a spectator than participant of the party, and noticed the stark contrast from her past birthday parties at which her dad, brother and I were always at the center of the action. Being alone and observing her and her friends from the sidelines this year made me realize that a change was happening that I didn't know was coming, at least not this soon.

I know as my daughter gets older I will have to relinquish my role as the primary creator and orchestrator of her life's events and memories. This is vital for her to bloom and grow outside the constructs of my nurturing and protecting. Yet it's new for me (and a tiny bit heartbreaking) to let go of so much of what has defined me as a mother since I became one ten years ago.

It's all going to be okay though. I have my own game of life to participate in, one in which I am not a spectator. And no matter what... I will have a front row seat to witness her beautiful life as it plays out; and I will be her most enthusiastic and loyal fan. She may continue to ask me less and less to participate in her life's game as the years go by; but I will always be there to guide, support, uplift, and love her as her mom. And THAT role is one I will never relinquish.

Dear Mom

Dear Mom,

Today would have been your 70th Birthday. But you're not here to celebrate it. The weirdest part of that fact is that I don't know how you would have looked or how you would have lived as a seventy-year-old woman. Since you died the day after your 60th birthday, ten years ago tomorrow, you never got the chance to grow older and wiser, to right the wrongs, to make your peace, to hold your grandchildren.

You never got to see me as a mother. You never got to retire, reinvent yourself, become the cool grandma, sit and cheer at my daughter's soccer games, or come over to watch my son blow out his birthday candles.

You were cheated of all of it. You were cheated of the chance to realize you were the woman you actually were all along. A strong woman, beautiful, fierce, talented and amazing to her core, who just got lost for a while and mistakenly let others define how you saw yourself... let others make you feel less than... let others treat you in ways that didn't honor the kick-ass woman you really were.

I am mad at you for this. I am mad at you for not valuing your life enough to take better care of yourself. I am mad at you for not clicking your seat belt just minutes before that drugged up woman crossed the yellow line and plowed her truck into your best friend's car and killed you. I am mad at you for not thinking of me at home, pregnant with your first grandchild, and not doing everything in your power to get yourself back home safely so you could be here to see her be born. To know her. To let her know you. To love my son. To let him love you.

I am mad. Ten years later and I am still sad. Mad, sad. One in the same. As I read somewhere once, "anger is just sad's bodyguard."

I didn't get to say I love you. I didn't get to say goodbye. I didn't get to say how much you meant to me. I can only write this letter and send it out into the universe and believe that you knew how I felt. That you know how I feel. To make peace with the fact that I don't get to talk to you again or tell you any of this.

When all is said and done... despite the anger, the sadness, the regret, the disappointment, the dashed hopes, the alternate reality I have had to accept for my life, despite it all... you were loved. You ARE loved. By me. By my children who never met you. By all the people whose lives have felt the void of your presence these last ten years. There are many of us. We all feel it. We all have had to go on somehow without you.

So what do I say now? Happy Birthday? This isn't really your birthday anymore. It was your birthday here on Earth, but since you haven't walked this Earth for ten years now, the fact that you "would have been" seventy is pretty much irrelevant. What good does it do us? What would have been. What could have been, if only. What never will be.

You are now just a memory. A gravestone to visit. A photo in an album. A feeling. You are energy, you are spirit. You are the stars. You are the sunsets we see over the ocean. You are the laugh in my daughter's eyes and the mischief in my son's smile. You are the passion in my heart, the perception in my mind, the strength in my soul.

You are part of us all, even when we don't recognize it. You are remembered. You are missed. You are lost. You are found. You are us.

You are loved.

Your daughter,

Lisa

Soulful Six

Malibu Bluffs Park - Malibu, CA

Malibu Bluffs Park - Malibu, CA

My son turns SIX today. A gentle and kind soul wrapped up in an energetic and hilarious character, he is a kid who likes to shock and amuse just as much as he likes to cuddle and love.

He possesses a depth and a soulfulness way beyond his years; yet he is raucous and rambunctious, needs to be told to use his inside voice constantly, and tires out his mama on a daily basis.

One minute he is leading our blessing at dinner, expressing how he is "grateful for companionship, the Earth, and everyone in the world, even the people he doesn't know, or who aren't alive anymore" (that last one being for my mom). The next minute he forgets all proper table manners to joyously revel in his ability to make uncouth bodily noises at will.

He is the yin to his big sister's yang, loves to pick flowers for me any chance he gets, and never ceases to surprise, bemuse and fascinate us with his remarkable capacity to elicit smiles on our faces and laughs in our hearts.

#thisissix

 

*Originally posted exclusively on Instagram and Facebook.

Sister On

When I was eighteen years old and my sister was twenty, our mother took us on a whirlwind trip to Europe for three weeks in the summer of 1990. We bounced around Italy, France and Spain to see all that Rome, Florence, Sorrento, Pompeii, Piza, Naples, Capri, Venice, Nice, Monaco, Monte Carlo, Cannes, St. Tropez and Barcelona had to offer. From climbing hundreds of stairs to the top of the Vatican dome, marveling (staring) at the gorgeous and otherworldly statue of David, sunbathing (with tops) at a topless beach along the Riviera, to witnessing a Spanish bullfight and getting a sneak peek at the 1992 Olympic Village two years before its global audience experienced it, my sister and I explored Europe with our brash and brazen mother as two young girls still discovering who we were and what our place in the world was destined to be.

Our mom was wild at heart, to say the least, and my sister and I each had (and still have) a touch of that tumultuous part of her within us, although it was expressed in vastly different manners.

While I was outspoken and opinionated in my inner circle, I was much more conservative around people I didn’t know. There was always (and still is) an unbridled passion and fire in me, one that intimidated me when I was younger to the point that I overcompensated by keeping it buried inside and hidden from most, leading me to maintain a much more shy and innocent external demeanor.

On the other hand, my older sister (being the middle child) was the more quiet presence and peacemaker within our family dynamic; yet she blossomed into an artistic, free-spirited, social butterfly when out and about in the world. Although it's true that she and I did put on our share of amateurish dancing and singing acts for relatives in our youth (and even sometimes for our father's captive audiences of his shows while we visited him on tour), it was around our peers that my sister often seemed to express herself much more freely that I did.

She was vastly more comfortable and gregarious around complete strangers than I, and she was always (and still is) a very dynamic and charismatic personality to behold and enjoy. She was the unwitting piped piper to my cautious follower, and I wished I had more of her unabashed ability to entertain and delight those in my presence as she so often seemed to be able to do in hers. Yet she did manage to bring me out of my reserved shell part of the time, often lovingly (and sometimes not so) bullying me to become Ethel to her Lucy, leading me to do things I would never have done on my own.

Our European adventure that summer of '90 began in Rome, where we stepped out for dinner at the swanky Jackie O’ Ristorante one of the first nights there. Mom asked this random Italian man to pose in a photo with us, her young and relatively innocent daughters who were new to this city and just a bit apprehensive of what rollicking and risky predicaments our mother was going to get us into this time. Of course, my sister charmed and relaxed into the moment, in her usual style, as I stood awkwardly by, not feeling entirely confident in that same moment, nor in my young, eighteen-year-old fair skin.

My sister and I with an admirer at the Jackie O' Ristorante, Roma, Italia - August 1990

My sister and I with an admirer at the Jackie O' Ristorante, Roma, Italia - August 1990

And so it was for the remainder of our vacation in Europe, as well as in our life's journey for quite some years after... my sister vibrantly posing in front of monuments, performing perfect arabesques in the middle of the ruins of the ancient Roman Coliseum, and subsequently dancing, adventuring, exploring, working and discovering more of the world on her own unique terms, thus encapsulating my mom’s adventurous spirit in her own unique way.

Traveling out of our native Los Angeles, beyond California, and outside the U.S., she danced and entertained as a member of a modern dance troupe and then later worked as a sports photography editor at some of the most internationally prestigious sporting events around the world, while I joined the other spectators around her to revel in and marvel at her confidence, expressiveness and talent.

Today, my sister and I are closer in proximity, lifestyle, and mindset than we have been most of our lives. As our mom has since passed, leaving us nearly ten years ago on the eve of us both becoming mothers ourselves, we have been left to raise our children without her here to help us with whatever it is mothers do for their adult daughters while raising their kids. We now lean on each other for counsel, guidance, support, and friendship as we navigate these years of adventures, adversities, and anomalous achievements in mothering and spousing and womaning... sometimes not knowing what the hell we are doing but doing it anyway, always grateful to know we at least have one another to go through our successes and struggles together.

 As I sat down this morning to write a quick anecdote about my sister on her birthday today, this is what came out of me instead. I originally wanted to share just a short story about her that I could post with the photo of us in front of the Jackie O' in Rome on Instagram, but it seems I had much more to say than I thought. I'm just going with it.

We are not only sisters in blood, sharing the same childhood memories and adulthood realities that connect us; we are also sisters in a larger sisterhood, sharing a friendship and kinship with one another, and all women, as we work and fight and love our way through the varied stages of womanhood, motherhood, and adulthood. A lot of 'hoods going on, I know, but the best of them is the sisterhood that binds us.

In the words of Glennon Doyle Melton, our sister in this collective sisterhood...

Sister On.

And to my sister today and always... I love you. Happy Birthday!

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.

I Grew These Feet

To my baby girl (and her feet) -
Today is your birthday. You are now nine. Or at least you will be at 3:19pm this afternoon. I know you are a stickler about that fact, declaring to your dad when he wished you a happy birthday this morning that you aren't actually nine yet.
I thought I'd share with you what I wrote last year on your eighth birthday. Only a handful of people have read it because, as you know, I hadn't yet widely shared my writing back then; so not many people know I wrote this... not even you. Now, as a year has gone by and more readers are reading what I write, I am sharing this with them, and you, on your birthday this year so they, and you, will know how I see you.
I say how I SEE you rather than how I feel about you because how I feel about you is a given. It is obvious and expected that I love you as a mother loves her child; and it is obvious and expected that I think you are great and perfect and wonderful because you are my daughter. But what is not obvious and expected is how I see who you are so clearly... more clearly than anyone else who knows or meets you, and maybe even more clearly than you see yourself.
One year later, what I wrote below is still true today; yet, even more so. Your awareness, insight, forethought, sensitivity, complexity, and understanding of things way beyond your years astounds me on a daily basis. I know I just used a bunch of words to describe you whose meaning you may not yet fully understand, and that this may lead you to break out your dictionary to look them up (which I love about you). So, I will put it simply... you think, feel and know more and deeper than I, or anyone, would expect you to think, feel and know at your age; and this simple fact sets you apart when all you want to do is fit in.
I wish I could convince you that being different and unique and not blissfully unaware of things is a good thing; but that is something you will hopefully come to understand and embrace as you get older. So for now, to the nine-year-old whose complexity renders her unlike most of her peers, I will just say this... Trust that you are exactly as you were meant to be. Know that you fit in your life just as you should. Be YOU. Believe that the you you are is beautiful, and the you you are becoming is even more so.
On this day, I wish for you to see what I see... to see the you that I see.
Happy 9th. I love you, my gal.
Love, Mom
 

I Grew These Feet

Originally published January 14, 2015

When my daughter was a baby, I loved her feet. Of course, I still love them today; but when she was really little, I couldn't get enough of them. I would kiss them and squeeze them and pretend to gobble them up, all the while exclaiming, "I grew these feet!" over and over again in gleeful animation. She would smile and laugh, delighted by my silly musings, not fully comprehending what I was saying; but nonetheless, highly entertained by me, her personal clown.

As she got older, I continued to playfully declare how I grew her feet, along with the rest of her, in my tummy. I liked to see her face fill with wonder at the thought of this, as I myself was in awe (and frankly, still am) that her beautiful little feet exist on this earth solely because my body fed, nurtured and protected them until they were ready - until she was ready - to leave the safe haven of my womb and be born, on this day, eight years ago.

It wasn't an easy day, to which I'm sure most mothers would attest. However, I have never once proclaimed it to be "one of the best days of my life" as I so often hear other mothers declare about their kids' birth days. I definitely can think of many actual better days. Take my wedding day... now THAT day was the best day of my life, hands down. The way I felt on that day - from the moment I opened my eyes, excited to get married, to the moment I closed them, as a blissful new bride - was nothing short of pure joy, unbridled love and overwhelming happiness, for about 12+ hours straight.

This day, back in 2007... not so much.

Extreme discomfort, tense anxiety, and complete exhaustion defined it... for about 12+ hours straight. And all this in advance of the baby actually being born. Afterward, once the fleeting moments of relief and elation subsided, a different variety of discomfort, anxiety and exhaustion followed, and for many more hours before the day was finally done.

So, even if the hours that made up the day my daughter was born didn't deem it an actual best day of my life, all those laborious hours put together did result in giving me one of the best gifts of my life.

Now tonight as I sit here, having just put my winsome eight-year-old girl to bed after a lovely birthday evening of dinner, homemade chocolate cake, and presents ranging from a pink ballet-themed glittery nightgown to a suction cup bow and arrow set, I am filled with gratitude for this most precious gift.

Possessing a temperament that's a perfect balance of level-headedness and devil-may-care brashness, my daughter cannot be easily summed up in a narrow label of “girly girl” or “tomboy”. Instead, she's a cool mix of contradictions: a voracious reader and dauntingly sharp mathematician who also practices ballet and plays the violin... a beach girl that spends hours at the seashore boogie boarding who also loves camping and dirt bike riding in the dry desert... a devout fan of classic Hollywood movie musicals and science/nature documentaries who will also watch motocross and surfing videos with equal interest and enthusiasm... a mighty girl that asserts she wants to be a scientist when she grows up who also identifies herself as an artist today.

(Yes, when I say "dirt bike" I do, in fact, mean motorcycle. And no, I have not lost my mind... yet. The fact is, I am married to a highly competent motorcyclist whose inherent talent and ability to ride has seduced her to follow him down the dusty trail. Although it does make me a bit anxiety-ridden, I still can't help but be abashedly proud of her and her determination to attempt it, not to mention the fact that she is actually quite good at it.)

I am also surprised that I find it exciting, rather than terrifying, to watch how the contrasting influences her Dad and I have exposed her to are rendering a complex and intriguing little girl. It seems that she has been bestowed with the best parts of both of us - those parts that made us initially fall in love with one another. Imagine that.

This little girl is also a complicated creature, as all females inevitably are... a fact that I don't believe is necessarily a bad thing. But as females go, our beautiful one challenges us with her stubbornness, beguiles us with her wittiness, and inspires us with her innate goodness. She is truly one of the most decent, kindhearted, and generous people I know; and I am so very proud and honored to be her mom.

 
 

Happy Birthday my sweet, sweet girl.

Would Have Been 69

My mom would have been 69 years old today.

Random thoughts on her and her life have been flooding my brain since I awoke this morning. I decided I would tune into them and write down whatever comes to mind, and then post them on my social media accounts throughout the day along with old photos as a tribute to her on her birthday.

As an artist, photojournalist, and journalism major, she would have LOVED this. I do it for her.

Happy Birthday, Mom.

(Here is what I ended up posting via Instagram and Facebook on this day...)

October 9, 2015
10:27am

My mom would have been 69 years old today. I can just imagine the jokes she would have made about that fact. Happy Birthday, Mom. ‪#‎photojournlist‬ ‪#‎happybirthday‬ ‪#‎missyou‬ ‪#‎memoriesofmom‬ ‪#‎wouldhavebeen69‬

 

October 9, 2015
12:58pm

My mom would have been 69 years old today. She got married, graduated college and had her first child, all in '69. If she was here, she would have been sure to make that correlation and would have reveled in the memories of that year. Happy Birthday, Mom. #1969 #touring #ontheroad #thesixties #happybirthday #missyou #‎memoriesofmom‬ #wouldhavebeen69

 

mom tribute 3.jpg

October 9, 2015
2:48pm

My mom would have been 69 years old today. She was most happy when she was with all four of her children. Here in Napa, on what was to become my dad's vineyards, she was elated. Traveling, on vacation, adventurous road trip, time with her kids, and wine... for her, it couldn't get any better than that. Happy Birthday, Mom. ‪#‎napavalley‬ ‪#‎happybirthday‬ ‪#‎missyou‬ ‪#‎memoriesofmom‬ ‪#‎wouldhavebeen69‬

 

October 9, 2015
5:37pm

My mom would have been 69 years old today. She was the editor of the yearbook in both her high school and college, and she earned her Bachelor's Degree in Journalism. Being groomed by her mentors to set the NYC magazine publishing scene aglow upon graduation, she shocked them all and instead chose love. It is because of this choice that I exist. I know she would have loved seeing me grow as a writer, and I guarantee she would have been my writing’s most devout follower. Happy Birthday, Mom. #editor #journalism #writer #happybirthday #missyou #‎memoriesofmom‬ #wouldhavebeen69

 

October 9, 2015
10:35pm

My mom would have been 69 years old today. She had me at 25 years old, an age when I was off working on film sets and still figuring out who and what I wanted to be. By then, she was a wife and a mom of three and she already knew who and what she HAD to be for her family. It was not easy. It's only now - as a wife and mother myself - that I fully understand that. Happy Birthday, Mom. I love you. #motherlessdaughter #happybirthday #missyou #‎memoriesofmom‬ #wouldhavebeen69

happy birthday, phenomenal woman

 
It’s the fire in my eyes,
And the flash of my teeth,
The swing in my waist,
And the joy in my feet.
I’m a woman
Phenomenally.
Phenomenal woman,
That’s me.
— Maya Angelou
 

celebrating birthdays these years, in this age decade, is unlike previous ones. they are not celebrated in the same way or for the same reasons as they were before. whether your traditions stay the same year after year, or they’ve slowly changed over the years, each year the experience of your birthday is different, because YOU are different.

you are one year older. three-hundred sixty-five days of acquiring knowledge in some things and eliminating ignorance in other things. always a good thing. you have experienced one more year of tremendous joys, and one more year of painful heartaches. a year of changes is a year well lived.

growing older is interesting. the wisdom gained with age is invaluable, yet letting go of certain states of being that we are, or once were - the ones slipping away or already lost - is challenging.

you are a woman loved for your vibrancy, beauty, youth, vitality, spark. a woman respected for your talents, work ethic, and passion for all you hold dear. all these things and more are who you are. age alone cannot change the essence of you, unless your attitude toward aging allows it to. revered by others for what you are and have been to them, it is a new and exciting journey to step outside the box of your perceived self and begin to redraw the parameters within which you choose to be seen, respected, accepted, and loved.

you are more vital and beautiful than ever. all former personas or earlier stages of youth don't compare to the woman who now exists. with marriage and kids, your mind, body, heart, and way of life has been forever changed. you cannot change them back; but you wouldn’t want to even if you could. appreciating all that these years have given you is much more your style.

you embrace it all… sometimes smoothly, sometimes begrudgingly, but you do it... every change, every transition, every lesson learned. you recognize and accept what comes with humility and gratitude. you are thankful for all that life has taught you. for all you’ve been honored to experience. for all the strength you have found within to surmount the bumps in the road encountered.

sure, there are moments. fleeting thoughts of "remember when” and “if only" that will surface, especially in times of difficulty. those times of utter exhaustion and sheer overwhelmingness that life serves up to a wife, mother, daughter, sister, woman. these can elicit notions of a quiet and lovely escape from it all. i know.

continue to welcome it all. continue cultivating gratitude for it all. and as for your birthday, celebrate it in your way, as you don't owe anyone anything on this day. take it and make it what you will. or at least take a portion of it, just for yourself. after all, no woman’s an island. it seems more often than not, we are the anchor.

celebrate you. celebrate us. all phenomenal women. all born to live, learn, grow, and fulfill our own unique destinies.

yours is still being written. so is mine.

happy birthday to you, phenomenal woman.

i love you.

The inspiration for this post was my cousin's birthday. She is a phenomenal woman and doesn't need me to tell her that, but this was my substitute for a greeting card. I actually sat down to write her directly for her birthday; yet as I wrote this, I realized that I was speaking not only to her, but also to and about the other phenomenal women in my life, including myself.
So if there is a woman or women in YOUR life who could benefit from hearing these words - be it a family member, co-worker, friend or neighbor - forward this on to her and show her some love. The women of this world could use as much love and support as we all can get from each other.

I Grew These Feet

When my daughter was a baby, I loved her feet. Of course, I still love them today; but when she was really little, I couldn't get enough of them. I would kiss them and squeeze them and pretend to gobble them up, all the while exclaiming, "I grew these feet!" over and over again in gleeful animation. She would smile and laugh, delighted by my silly musings, not fully comprehending what I was saying; but nonetheless, highly entertained by me, her personal clown.

As she got older, I continued to playfully declare how I grew her feet, along with the rest of her, in my tummy. I liked to see her face fill with wonder at the thought of this, as I myself was in awe (and frankly, still am) that her beautiful little feet exist on this earth solely because my body fed, nurtured and protected them until they were ready - until she was ready - to leave the safe haven of my womb and be born, on this day, eight years ago.

It wasn't an easy day, to which I'm sure most mothers would attest. However, I have never once proclaimed it to be "one of the best days of my life" as I so often hear other mothers declare about their kids' birth days. I definitely can think of many actual better days. Take my wedding day... now THAT day was the best day of my life, hands down. The way I felt on that day - from the moment I opened my eyes, excited to get married, to the moment I closed them, as a blissful new bride - was nothing short of pure joy, unbridled love and overwhelming happiness, for about 12+ hours straight.

This day, back in 2007... not so much.

Extreme discomfort, tense anxiety, and complete exhaustion defined it... for about 12+ hours straight. And all this in advance of the baby actually being born. Afterward, once the fleeting moments of relief and elation subsided, a different variety of discomfort, anxiety and exhaustion followed, and for many more hours before the day was finally done.

So, even if the hours that made up the day my daughter was born didn't deem it an actual best day of my life, all those laborious hours put together did result in giving me one of the best gifts of my life.

Now tonight as I sit here, having just put my winsome eight-year-old girl to bed after a lovely birthday evening of dinner, homemade chocolate cake, and presents ranging from a pink ballet-themed glittery nightgown to a suction cup bow and arrow set, I am filled with gratitude for this most precious gift.

Possessing a temperament that's a perfect balance of level-headedness and devil-may-care brashness, my daughter cannot be easily summed up in a narrow label of “girly girl” or “tomboy”. Instead, she's a cool mix of contradictions: a voracious reader and dauntingly sharp mathematician who also practices ballet and plays the violin... a beach girl that spends hours at the seashore boogie boarding who also loves camping and dirt bike riding in the dry desert... a devout fan of classic Hollywood movie musicals and science/nature documentaries who will also watch motocross and surfing videos with equal interest and enthusiasm... a mighty girl that asserts she wants to be a scientist when she grows up who also identifies herself as an artist today.

(Yes, when I say "dirt bike" I do, in fact, mean motorcycle. And no, I have not lost my mind... yet. The fact is, I am married to a highly competent motorcyclist whose inherent talent and ability to ride has seduced her to follow him down the dusty trail. Although it does make me a bit anxiety-ridden, I still can't help but be abashedly proud of her and her determination to attempt it, not to mention the fact that she is actually quite good at it.)

I am also surprised that I find it exciting, rather than terrifying, to watch how the contrasting influences her Dad and I have exposed her to are rendering a complex and intriguing little girl. It seems that she has been bestowed with the best parts of both of us - those parts that made us initially fall in love with one another. Imagine that.

This little girl is also a complicated creature, as all females inevitably are... a fact that I don't believe is necessarily a bad thing. But as females go, our beautiful one challenges us with her stubbornness, beguiles us with her wittiness, and inspires us with her innate goodness. She is truly one of the most decent, kindhearted, and generous people I know; and I am so very proud and honored to be her mom.

 
 

Happy Birthday my sweet, sweet girl.

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