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.

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

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

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

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

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

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

period.

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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.

Beautiful Mommy

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

My hotel room at the Marriott in Costa Mesa

My hotel room at the Marriott in Costa Mesa

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Beautiful,
Beautiful, beautiful,
Beautiful Boy...

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

Beautiful,
Beautiful, beautiful,
Beautiful Boy...

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

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

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

"Beautiful Boy" by John Lennon

Saturday Night Live(s)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

How f'd up is that?

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

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

Go figure.

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