Sunday, May 30, 2010
Thursday, May 27, 2010
Tuesday, May 25, 2010
I want to explore your Earth,
tunnel you like a mole,
overturn your rocks
and watch your insects scamper,
submarine my hands in your muddy sea,
get you under my fingernails,
in my kneecap creases,
around my taproots.
I want to taste you in the rings
of ruby beets,
smell your raw stew
brewing in skywater,
feel your grit in my grassy eyes
washing you out.
I want to weed you,
tuck you in,
blanket you in moonshine,
be your evergreen,
your grandiflora bouquet.
Monday, May 24, 2010
When I was a little girl, one of my favorite moments of Fall was the sound of geese migrating. In the 1970s, the San Fernando Valley was clouded over with smog every day, (this was before EPA standards), so we were lucky to see so much as a squirrel. I could never see those geese, but I heard them, honking away incessantly as they flew. I imagined that, in goose language, they were giddily chatting about their vacation, and all the things they would do once they reached their destination. I wanted to go with them. They were getting the hell out, and I knew that one day I would, too.
I was really cranky this weekend, and I thought about those geese. Oh lord did I want to jump on a plane and head South, anywhere.
For the past four months my life has been a whirlwind of planning and hosting. If it’s possible for a person to have too much fun, I think that may have happened to me.
Imagine one of those montage scenes in an old movie, where the calendar pages start blowing past:
February - Twenty days to plan and host a wedding for my son, one week to throw a bridal shower. March - brother and family come to visit, parties, Disneyland, beach, Hollywood, T.V. show tapings… April – gigs galore, sequined gowns, disco and torch songs, old friends visiting from out of town. May - Another brother family visit, birthday parties, concerts, Disneyland, beach and Hollywood all over again, my two best friends birthdays, then yesterday - a baby shower for my daughter in law. ..
And its not over… June promises another whirlwind, with the baby about to be born, my daughter’s birthday, and then Aya’s mother coming in from Japan to stay with us for a few weeks. Every one of these events is a blessing that I’m so grateful for.
Yesterday I hit a wall. Hard. I was hosting a baby shower in two hours, but I could hardly push myself through the morning, making tea sandwiches like a zombie on auto pilot, my four-year old running around in his underwear, dust bunnies threatening to overtake the house, and of course, the septic system leaking into the yard, which it always does on special occasions.
It was go-time, but I wasn’t going. Soon my house would be filled with people and fun, but I found myself craving solitude. I wanted to curl up into fetal position and throw the covers over my head. Because through all this fun, fun, fun, go, go, go I am getting up early every morning, writing six hours a day, trying to finish my book. It is a memoir of my childhood, and believe me, it is not an easy one to write. All morning, I’m immersed in some tragic event of 1978, reliving the moment. Then at noon I shut down my laptop and bring my little one home from preschool. He’s bouncing all over the place “Let’s play Candyland Mommy”, but my head is still swirling with the violent events of the past, and at times it feels like I will implode.
The absurd dichotomy between what I’m writing about each day, things like seeing my brother covered in blood after he was shot in the head…and what I’m living now…party, party, party, fun, fun, fun….all of a sudden became too much to handle. You hear people speak of the writer’s life with such romantic notions, but for me, it’s like vomiting. It feels awful, but you gotta do it, and actually you feel a lot better afterward. So I’m "vomiting" every morning, running around party-party-party planning every afternoon, waking in the middle of the night with anxiety, stomachaches, and nosebleeds. Yesterday morning I just shut down. My eyes glazed over, I was stuck on pause.
My best friend Erin walked in, and in her no-bullshit manner said, “What’s up with you? You look like a Stepford Wife whose plug was just pulled.” Then rolled up her sleeves and started working the kitchen.
My husband took one look at me and said Uh-oh, (after twenty-two years, he knows my every facial expression) Give me a list, and I’ll get it done. God I love him. My friends, my kids…everyone started pitching in to make it happen.
Which brings me back to those geese. On their long journeys one takes the front position, the others fall behind in V formation creating an uplift in wind current for the rest. When the lead goose tires, another moves into position. By flying together, they can move 70% faster than on their own. This is how it is with friends. Many times I have taken the front position, but not now. I am being carried. Thank God for them. Thank God.
Maybe what I was pining for, listening to the geese all those years ago, was that feeling of being carried, of being connected to something bigger than myself. Maybe all that honking away wasn’t, and isn’t, idle chatter about a vacation, but constant assuring of one another – I’ve got you, and I will never let you fall.
So once again, my beautiful family and friends filled up the well that had run dry, making me feel human again, filling my day with laughter and gratitude. The baby shower lasted five hours, and even that seemed too short.
Last night, I sat at the dinner table with my husband, my three children, and my daughter-in-law who is carrying my soon to be born grandson. Over dinner we told stories and laughed, oh wow, did we laugh a lot last night. It was just one of those moments of absolute perfection, and as I stopped to soak it all in, I realized – I don’t want to fly South. I am right where I want to be.
Thursday, May 20, 2010
This month I was blessed to have participated in a powerful three-week writing workshop with Hope Edelman. I’ve read her books and have great respect for her talent, so I was thrilled to have the chance to work with her.
When I pulled in to the parking lot for our first meeting in Topanga Canyon, I was flushed with excitement to meet this new group of women writers. Coming from my circle of gushing, huggy, lovey-dovey women friends, I walked in feeling all bouncy inside, like an overgrown golden retriever puppy ready to pounce on everyone with affection. But right away I could see that this was a get-down-to-business serious workshop. I reeled myself back in and did my best to prepare, but I felt so out of my element.
Hope not only got her Masters in creative writing at the University of Iowa and won a Pushcart Prize, she also teaches at the Iowa Summer Writing Festival, the Shangri-La for writers. The other women in the workshop had MFA’s, one was a lawyer. And me? I’m a college dropout, shoot-from-the-hip writer with no formal training. So I got quiet and listened. Themes, arcs, forms, structures….all were discussed and I wondered, did my story have these things? I never thought about it, I just wrote. Listening to Hope, and to the feedback of all these brilliant women in the workshop, honestly I was intimidated. But I threw myself into it, sink or swim. ( yikes- a cliché! One of my bad writing habits…)
Last night was the third and final meeting, where my piece was to be discussed. We had each submitted a piece up to 20 pages in length, giving hardcopies to Hope and all the other writers. Everyone was to read them in advance, making notes that would eventually be returned to us.
The way Hope runs her workshop is all the writers discuss your work as though you weren’t in the room. They talk about what the themes are, the secondary story lines, what they loved about it, what didn’t work. You have to sit back quietly, like a fly on the wall (cliché!), listen and take notes like crazy.
Up until this year I was completely private with my writing – a “closet-writer” if you will. I never let anyone know that I was working on a book. It was for my eyes only. So it was fascinating and somewhat surreal to hear these women who I’ve only just met passionately discussing my life, my family members as “characters” (yes, they are!), and me as “the narrator”.
I was moved, and would even say changed by the experience. But aside from this, one of the things that stood out the most to me was Hope. When I first met her, of course I noticed that she was an attractive woman. But I have to say that when she was in her element last night, animated and passionate in her work, she was stunningly beautiful. I couldn’t take my eyes off her. Her eyes flashed bright with fierce intelligence, her hands moved gracefully as she spoke. You could almost see her aura growing big and bright. And this was absolutely true of every woman in the workshop.
I learned so much about writing, learned about lyric essays (had never heard of or read that style before but, wow…) and so much more about myself as a writer, my silly little bad habits (ending a sentence with a preposition – duh!), learned about character motivation, secondary story lines, where the arc should peak, etc… I’m still reeling, letting it all settle in.
But overall, perhaps the greatest thing I took away from the workshop was this: When we are standing in our truth, letting our authentic selves shine, is when we are most beautiful. I learned that from Amy Ferris, and saw it in full force last night. There is no face cream, no cosmetic, no designer anything that can even come close to a woman owning her power.
So today, I am inspired, motivated, elevated….and behind. Holy cow - I’ve got so much editing to do!
Back to the old drawing board....(cliche!)
Tuesday, May 18, 2010
Today I played a marathon game of Chutes and Ladders with my four-year-old son and let me tell you, that game is not for the faint of heart. It gives “Risk – the Game of World Domination” a run for its money.
So today we’re playing the game, and I just happened to get lucky and make it to the winners circle. I won. His face was a little sad. He dropped the dice and started to pack up the game.
So I told my son, “Wait a minute, why don’t you finish the game?”
**This piece was published in Chicken Soup for the Soul: The Power of Positive
Sunday, May 16, 2010
If the only prayer you ever say in your entire life is thankyou, it will be enough.
- Meister Eckhart
Every year I struggle emotionally on Mother’s Day. Yes, I know it’s a fabricated holiday, created by Hallmark cards, and all that. But the sentimental ads, the tear-jerking commercials, well, they get to me. And it took me a whole week to get it together to even write this small blog entry.
Many of my friends on facebook gathered last week, as motherless daughters, to have lunch and celebrate each other on Mother’s Day. In a way, I envied them.
I, too, am a motherless daughter. Although my mother is alive and lives only 20 minutes away, she is not a part of my life. For years, I wanted so much for that to be different. I hoped beyond hope that we could mend the wounds of the past. When she wouldn’t join me in counseling, I went alone for years. But even my therapists told me to let go of the hope.
It’s like this: Sometimes we break a bone, and it can be broken clean in half, but with love and healing, the break can mend and the bone made whole again. Maybe not exactly the same as it was before, but healed no less. And then sometimes…sometimes it is just mangled, shattered and twisted to the point where there is no choice but to amputate, or die. And that, unfortunately, is how it was with us.
Even when I was little, I learned early on not to count on my mother, but thank God I had the good instincts to seek out healthy role models and look for other ways of being in the world. It took me a while to perfect that searching – I picked the wrong people quite a few times and got burned bad.
But I look at my life now and I marvel at all the people who helped me to grow up and become a whole person.
My husband, my children, and my new-found family surround me with so much love.
My friends, oh my god do I have the most amazing friends who inspire me and encourage me, who make me laugh, who sing with me, write with me, paint with me. Brilliant, brave strong women and men who just blow my mind with their gifts.
I remember years ago reading about the lotus blossom that only grows in the deepest sludge of the pond, and I hoped that would be me one day, learning to bloom in the muck. Even though I am now at mid-life, I feel like I'm just beginning to blossom in my heart, and all the ugliness and pain of the past got me here. That, and the love of those who surrounded me and pulled me into bloom.
So today, here is what I wanted to say on Mother’s Day, when there was no Hallmark card that said: thank you to all those who have nurtured my spirit and helped me to thrive.
Thank you Mother for giving me life when you were only 16 years old. You taught me to survive.
Thank you Father for working so hard to be a better man, after spending fifteen years in prison. You taught me never to give up, and that no one is ever beyond hope.
Thankyou my sweet husband for being the patient gardener of my spirit, tending me, watering the hostile ground, pulling out the choking weeds.
Thank you my precious children for needing me, so that my checking out of this world was never an option. Thank you for loving me to the moon and back, as I have loved you.
Thank you to my friends, my true blue always-there friends who have become my family.
To my new friends who have become the wind in my sails.
To my old childhood friends, found again, who have become as necessary to my life as breathing.
And thank you to my furry friends who lie beside me contentedly every morning as I write, purring, snoring, drooling…
What once was shattered has been pieced back together, becoming the mosaic that is my life, and every one of you is a beautiful shining piece in it.
Thank you.Thank you.