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!

Picking Him Up

Wearing a robe ready to jump in the shower, I was confronted with a distraught four-year-old, his arms reaching up and crying, "Mama, pick me up." Now almost five, I hadn't seen him this way in a long while. As I scooped him up, he buried his face in my neck and clung to me tightly. I remained silent, allowing his tears to flow, gently swaying from one foot to the other. After a few minutes, his cries slowly began to subside, but his grip remained tight.

I then caught our reflection in the mirror, and I was transfixed. There we were, as we had been countless times before - mother and child, giving and receiving comfort - yet this time he wasn't the tiny armful of chubby deliciousness he once was. Now over half my size, a boy with gangly limbs and a head full of curly hair was clinging to me. And although my eyes could see how big he was in that mirror, my arms could feel how little he still was in that embrace. He was my baby. The baby I have held onto since he was born.

And in this moment captured, I was reminded... my body knew that he needed me, my heart knew that he loved me, my soul knew that he was a part of me, and my mind knew that, no matter how much he grew, "picking him up" was something I was going to have the honor of doing for many years to come.

Jamie Oliver is a Revolution

Since he first appeared on his debut televised cooking show, "The Naked Chef," I have adored Jamie Oliver. His infectious enthusiasm for food and his no fuss, simple to make recipes defined his appeal; while his unique food lingo and one-of-a-kind food prep demonstrations kept both me, and the world, wanting more.

Fifteen years later, he is that same guy. Nothing has changed... nothing except now Jamie Oliver is a one man, global juggernaut of restaurants, cookbooks, websites, food awareness, food advocacy, and food education... a FOOD REVOLUTION.

Today is Food Revolution Day, an annual campaign founded by Oliver in 2002. This global event provides a special opportunity for people around the world to ignite change in food awareness and food education throughout their own communities and a mobilized world community via the internet.

This year, the campaign includes Jamie's petition on change.org to enlist millions of people to fight for food education by creating a movement so powerful that all G20 governments will be forced to take action. The concept is to inspire government to do the right thing and mandate compulsory practical food education in schools worldwide - education that could make a huge difference in the lives and health of our kids and that of future generations.

People around the world are joining in and spreading the word, urging their family, friends and co-workers to sign and share the petition through hand written signs - literally, signs written on their hands. I too am showing my support and advocating Jamie's petition here on my website and through social media, and decided to create my SIGN IT, SHARE IT pics while my four-year-old was playing in the bath last night. I hadn't yet closed the Photo Booth app on my computer before he appeared at my side... wet, naked and wearing his hooded towel, curious why I had words on my fingers and anxious to pose in some of his own pics. While I pressed the trigger a few times, he proceeded to basically run amuck and pose for his shots. The result? See for yourself...

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Juxtaposed with my originals, it's funny how my son so obviously took over and consumed the former blank space to my right. A perfect visual metaphor for how kids fill up our lives with fun, laughter and chaos. It is also absolutely fitting that he appear in these photos because, after all, this campaign, this petition, this DAY, is a revolution that was started to also benefit his future - in food, health, and happiness.

Thank you, Jamie, for being the revolution you are.

For more information on Food Revolution Day, to get involved, or most importantly, to SIGN and SHARE the petition, please visit foodrevolutionday.com.

Bryan Kest: The Man Behind the Power of Yoga

photo ©Bryan kest power yoga

photo ©Bryan kest power yoga

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

I was so compelled to comment on my eighteen years as a student of his classes in Santa Monica and online, as well as on my recent experience completing his Power Yoga Teacher Training Intensive, that I thought the words would just pour out of me; so much so that I would have a hard time editing them all down to an approachable, readable post.

But when I sat down and put fingers to keyboard, no cohesive thoughts came out.

How could this be? How could writing about this man, whom I often jokingly, but actually quite seriously, refer to as my guru, elicit a loss for words? I already wrote a blog post on equanimity last year (The Most Important Word You Don't Know) that was inspired by him and his teachings, so I didn't think writing this one would be any different.

But it was. I felt overwhelmed with so many ideas and feelings and stories that I didn't know where to begin. I wanted to do him, and the impact he has had on my life, justice; but I didn't know what I could say about him or his philosophy on yoga that wouldn't just be parroting him or that hadn't already been said or written by dozens of others before me.

Then I stopped. I smiled. I recognized the judgment and the comparing and competing I was doing in regard to me writing this piece. I realized I had to let go and accept "what is" - to find my equanimity - and just let the words flow, unburdened by expectation of a specific end result and unhindered by worry of how it would be received.

And that was it. That was all I needed... the yoga of writing. That was the lesson that all of those classes, all of my training, all of the years of personal practice has taught me. Ironically, Bryan's teachings came through as I was struggling to write about those very teachings.

I let go of my notion of what I thought a written piece about him, his classes, or his teacher training should be like. I began to write without judgement or criticism of what I was writing, without comparing what I was writing to other articles I had read on him, and without competing with them to make mine as good, or as resonate of him, as they did.

This is what came out; but what it says about him doesn't compare to what the journey of writing it says about him.

Bryan Kest is a unique human being in that he is a man who is totally honest, exposed, and vulnerable; yet still retains his masculinity, charm, strength of character, and self-confidence. In my experience, this is not something many men are willing or able to do. It's an amazing and rare combination not often seen... someone who loves deeply, is authentic and open, is wholly present and fully committed to connecting with others without guise or image saving façade; yet still maintains an aura of strength, mystery, conviction, and undeniable likability.

I believe Bryan is such an effective and well-respected yoga instructor, and has been for the last thirty years, because his philosophy on the goal of yoga is completely void of any pretense, convolution or self-importance. He simply shares what he knows to be true, and presents it in such a clear and logical way that anyone can grasp it. His raw and straightforward delivery washes over you like a wave of truth, and resonates so deeply within; not only because it's a truth you don't often hear, but also because it's the one you need to hear the most.

He is extremely passionate about his yoga practice and generously disseminates to his students all he has learned over his own thirty-eight years of practice; as well as what he continues to learn with each passing day. Essentially, Bryan walks the walk of the talk he talks in his classes. He knows that yoga works because he does it, practices it and lives it, every day, on and off the yoga mat.

When I attend Bryan's class, I go to attain and maintain overall mental and physical wellness - to quiet my mind, to keep my body alive and toned, and to practice non-reactiveness. Bryan likes to say, "This is all such simple stuff, but that doesn't mean it is necessarily easy." And he's right, it's not... not the poses, not the mindset, not the yoga practice in general. It challenges, confronts, shines a mirror on and exposes so much of the crap that we carry around and perpetuate on a daily basis... our reactiveness, our competitiveness, our penchant for comparing ourselves to others or to former versions of ourselves. Bryan's gift is his ability to empower us (or as he would reframe it, to inspire us to empower ourselves) in our ongoing effort to eradicate these tendencies in our lives, to make the goal of doing so more approachable and attainable, and to guide the way for us to also live a less stressful, more benevolent existence, on and off the yoga mat.

For more information on Bryan Kest, visit PowerYoga.com.

The Most Important Word You Don't Know

Every day, we all are confronted with situations that have the potential to unhinge us and render us temporarily crazed in the heat of the moment... 

Like driving your daughter twenty miles down the coast highway to her ballet class, only to discover that it was canceled without warning or notification; or realizing your son just pooped in the last clean diaper you had available while you are miles from either a store that sells them or your home where you have a case of them; or discovering your three-year-old just emptied the new tube of safe to swallow toddler toothpaste into his mouth like it was a fruit squeeze, without a toothbrush in sight.

Yes, we all have our challenges. Often times we find it difficult to refrain from adversely and visibly reacting to the negative things that happen to us; and old habit patterns will get the best of us. It's sometimes so hard to help ourselves... we're pissed and everyone around us has got to know it. 

Why shouldn't we let out the anger, frustration and hostility manifesting inside us? It's natural, right?

Not exactly.

Even though indulging deliberately in these thoughts and feelings seems to briefly relieve stress, this practice can cause even more stress, pain and misery in the long run. Since stress is the number one underlying factor in the onset of disease in our bodies, there is a very real possibility that these negative reactions could literally kill you.

So what's the alternative? What can we do instead?

We can find our equanimity. Equanimity just might be the most important word for us to know; yet most people have not heard it before. 

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I was first introduced to the concept of equanimity by my yoga instructor of many years, Bryan Kest. He aptly describes equanimity as "the ability to keep your mind balanced through the vicissitudes of your life." In the context of a yoga class, it's the quality or a state of calmness and non-reactiveness you strive to achieve in the face of difficulty while attempting to keep your mind focused and move through a series of physical poses that may be challenging. Bryan asserts that consistently striving to maintain this quality in your yoga practice can help you do the same in your every day life.

Yet equanimity is not an esoteric idea reserved just for yogis. Even if you don't practice yoga, the concept of equanimity is equally viable and vital to your health and wellbeing. It is a universal concept, one whose literal definition is "mental calmness, composure, and evenness of temper, especially in a difficult situation... a state of psychological stability and composure which is undisturbed by experience of or exposure to emotions, pain, or other phenomena that may cause others to lose the balance of their mind."

More succinctly put, equanimity is being ok with "what is".

Simple concept, not so simple execution. As a wife, a mother, a human... I find my life is full of challenging situations - some days more than others, but it seems every day has at least one hurdle to clear, even if it originates from within. In the past and still sometimes presently, when not mindful, I have allowed and will allow these obstacles to take me over and get the best of me, stealing away my calmness and often, what feels like my sanity. 

But in those times that I am able to tune in and defeat the ingrained habit patterns of the past, I can hone in on what is best for me and others in that moment, and am left better equipped to react (or rather, not react) to the situation at hand. Then, I am free to simply choose a perspective. The goal being to find the one that I can live the most peacefully with and that most benefits not only those involved, but also my overall health and welfare.

After all, isn’t everything just perspective? Aren’t all things that happen to us viewed and handled by us in our own individual and unique way according to our personal history and experiences? So why not strive to choose the perspective that uplifts you and maintains the peace rather than depresses you and breeds conflict?

How we simply deal with it (with setbacks, disappointments, and toddlers run amuck) sets us apart and maps the course for our overall health, happiness and well-being. I know that trying to maintain a calm and balanced mind through the turmoil and mess of motherhood is a worthy venture, and really quite helpful when you've just discovered your toddler has taken a red ink stamp to your ivory suede bedroom curtains.

The choice is ours, always, to adopt the approach and attitude that will keep us calm and help us to carry on. We just need to be strong enough, mindful enough, and equanimous enough to remember to choose it. When I do succeed in making the right choice, it is the most empowering feeling in the world. In that moment, I am the mom I've always wanted to be.

So in that spirit, I'm gonna adopt an alternate perspective on my three-year-old’s love for sucking down his toddler toothpaste (or biting off chunks of sunblock stick, or chewing on chalk and crayons, or eating handfuls of sand at the beach). It is the choice of acceptance. Acceptance of his penchant for unusual and interesting tastes and textures. Who knows, maybe it's the beginning of an adventurous and sophisticated palate taking root at an early age. Let's hope.

I also will choose to be mindful and keep my calm the next time my son ingests one of these foreign, non-food substances; and remind myself that he is growing and changing every day and this will soon all be over. As for now, just breathe, smile, and accept what is.

Just Do It.

I had a conversation with a friend today that affected me in such a profound way that I couldn't continue the conversation. Granted, this conversation was via text, so I actually just stopped typing. I was overwhelmed by many feelings communicating with this friend, some having to do specifically with this person, and the fondness that I feel for them, and some having to do with me and my life in a more universal sense. I was so overwhelmed by the energy of our exchange that I actually began to cry. I just sat there, crying at my desk, feeling amazing, and amazingly sad at the same time.   

This friend of mine is someone that inspires me in such a way that they make me want to be a better person. Observing what this person sets out to accomplish, and what they actually do accomplish, ignites my own ambitions and desires to invoke change and inspire others to use their power to do the same. However, sometimes I feel the weight of my ambitions and wonder how I could possibly accomplish what I want to accomplish under the circumstances I am dealing with presently (insert real or perceived laundry list of challenges/responsibilities here). 

I think many people feel as I do at times (but rarely admit it to others), that somehow their life circumstances are not as ideal as they would hope them to be in the present moment... that the people in their lives closest to them are not as supportive or accepting of their hopes and dreams as they would wish them to be... and that they just don't have the means to do the things they would be passionate about if they had the time and energy to devote to it, you know, if only things were different...

The violin playing in the background will play endlessly as we all bitch and whine about what we just can't do because our lives don't facilitate it. This is not a disrespectful dig against me or anyone else expressing upsetting feelings or emotions, as I am ALL FOR expressing feelings and emotions of all varieties; it being essential if you at all strive to live with any degree of emotional intelligence. 

But in this particular instance, cutting short the self-defeating internal dialogue sitting atop the pity pot is necessary, since sometimes a downward spiral in thinking could most assuredly be your doom, and you just got to cut that shit out before it takes over and drags you down with it.

So, after drying my eyes, and recognizing the effect this exchange had on me, I came to the conclusion that the feeling of ultimately feeling understood, loved, and accepted was very powerful; and it exposed, on this particular day of challenges, a desire (for approval, encouragement, and acceptance) so potent that for a moment it felt like sheer and desperate neediness.

Why?

This feeling is something I believe everyone should be privileged to feel every day by the people in their lives that matter most. It shouldn't be something you just do without. Unfortunately, too much time is often spent in conflict - of ideas, of desires, of opinions, of egos… rendering many of our daily interactions with others tainted by negative energy.

And when you (if you are like me) mindfully and diligently work hard to be self-sufficient with your own goals, with your own intrinsic happiness, with your own inner peace, this type of neediness is just a nuisance, and terribly inconvenient.

In contrast, the opposite perspective, one of not needing approval, not looking to others to help complete you or to make you happy, is a blissful state of existence. I have gone in and out of this realm periodically in my life - before/after getting married and before/after having babies - and it is wonderfully gratifying to be able to love others unconditionally with no expectation for love or adoration in return. Funny, you end up getting it as a byproduct anyway, but it is transformative not to NEED it.

So as overwhelmed as I felt in that moment, and, subsequently, as sad as I felt, it led me to this place...

Having friends, or even one friend, who loves who you are, who supports who you are, and who puts forth effort to be your cheerleader, is a really great thing - actually, it is a HUGE gift - and it can be the difference between pressing on to reach your goals or succumbing to the obstacles against you. 

Yet ultimately, NOTHING you want to do will be accomplished unless you yourself find the passion, perseverance, determination and drive to take the necessary steps to get there.  

So ditch the pity pot, stop bitching, and JUST DO IT already.

An Imperfectly Charmed Life in Perceived Paradise

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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