Veterans Day

I know. I owe you a blog post.

I appreciate all of you that reached out last week to say, “Are you okay? Where was your Monday Blog?”

Everything is fine. I was just taking a little vacation. Actually, a “Stay-cation” because I stayed home while friends and family came to visit.

More on that next week.

Since I have some family leaving today, and more arriving, so this is going to be a short post.

But while I have you, I just wanted to take a moment to send a collective prayer (or a good thought) to those affected by the wildfires in California today.

And a thank you to the brave firefighters who are trying to contain them.

And to our Veterans who have served our country trying to keep us all safe.

And for the rest of you… I just hope you have a Happy Monday.

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Dr. Jekyll and My Teenager

So on my list of daily gratitudes, one of the great daily pleasures for me is being able to pick up my daughter after school. A luxury that I didn’t have with my older two daughters when I was working full-time in an office. I am genuinely excited to see her and hear all about her day. She started high school this year, so not only is she at a new school, but has new friends as well. She plays on the JV volleyball team and is also in the high school musical. So her days and weekends are quite full.

As soon as she gets in the car, I always ask, “How was your day?” 

My genuine and enthusiastic inquiry is usually met with a half-irritated-inconvenienced response, “Fine.”

So, I try a different tactic. “Did anything good happen today?”

“Not really.”

But, I am not deterred. I try again. “Did anything bad happen today?”

“Not really.”

I decide to change the subject. “Do you have a lot of homework?”

“Kind of.”

I know. I should stop, but it’s like a scab, I cannot stop myself. “How did your test go?”

“I don’t know. We didn’t get it back yet.” Insert eye roll.

Finally, I change the subject to something else. “Would you like me to make meatloaf or meatballs tonight?”

“I don’t care, but I have play rehearsal at 6pm, so can it be ready before I leave?”

I try telling her about my day, but that seems to annoy her (or bore her) as much as talking about hers. So, I talk about the dog, who is always in the backseat when I pick her up. We take turns talking about the dog or to the dog or in the dog’s voice. It goes something like this:

“Hi there! How was your day?” 

"Oh, it was good. I got lost in the neighbor’s yard and mommy yelled at me. But then she brushed out the dirt and I loved that. Then I had to take a nap because I was exhausted. Then I barked at the birds outside while mommy was on a conference call. And I got in trouble again, but it was okay because I am so adorable that she forgot she was mad. Then it was time to pick you up, so I got in the car and looked out the window. And it was awesome because I am a dog. By the way, I like meatloaf AND meatballs, so you can make me either of those things instead of my regular dog food and that will make me very happy.”

By this time, the 10 minute car ride is over. The tension has been broken, but I have learned nothing about my daughter’s day. She is grumpy because she is tired and hungry and has too much homework. She comes into the kitchen for a snack and then retreats to her room to start her homework... or more likely check her Instagram account.

But I am Lucy with the football. Every day that I pick her up, I am truly excited to see her and hear about her day. But she’s not interested in answering my questions or re-living her day… "because it’s just school.” So, last Friday, I tried a new experiment.

I picked her up and simply said, “Hi.”  I turned on the radio to her favorite music and we just drove. We didn’t say one word. I had to fight the urge to make conversation the whole way home. It felt more like 10 hours than 10 minutes. But then this weird thing happened, later that night at dinner, she started talking about her homework and her projects. I heard more about school, her teachers, her friends, and her feelings than I had in weeks. 

I am not sure if I am onto something or if it was a fluke. I know after having THREE teenage daughters, I should be an expert at this. But I am not. The hormonal fluctuations, the moodiness and the sheer irritation of having parents ask a single question still remains foreign to me. 

Communicating with a teenager is like learning a foreign language or studying another culture. What is normal and polite in regular conversation simply does not apply to teenagers and their parents. So for now, I am going with the less-is-more approach.

Or maybe I just have to have the dog ask all the questions because he seems to be an acceptable mediator.

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The Pursuit of Happiness

I have been thinking a lot about happiness lately. Maybe because it often seems so elusive to me. Don’t get me wrong. I am hugely grateful for the beautiful life that I have. I have moments of great joy, but I am on a perpetual quest for more meaning in life. Or what it means to be truly happy.

In an effort to find some answers, I have buried myself in books for about a year now. Probably not a coincidence, it was about the same time that I decided to launch my blog online. I started looking for insight and inspiration by reading memoirs, but that morphed into a more recent obsession with self-help books. Here is the list of some of the books that I have read:

Amy Poehler’s Yes Please

Carrie Fisher’s The Princess Diarist

Carole King’s A Natural Woman

Glennon Doyle Melton’s Love Warrior

Maria Shriver’s I’ve Been Thinking

Andrea Jarrell’s I’m The One Who Got Away

Annabelle Gurwitch’s Wherever You Go, There They Are

Michael Ausiello Spoiler Alert: The Hero Dies

Dan Harris’ 10% Happier

Jack Canfield’s The Success Principles

Brene Brown’s I Thought It Was Just Me (But It Isn’t)

Mark Manson’s The Subtle Art of Not Giving a F*ck

Sheryl Sandberg’s Lean In

Nell Scovell’s Just The Funny Parts

Sarah Wilson’s First We Must Make The Beast Beautiful

Shakti Gawain’s Creative Visualization

Thich Nhat Hanh’s The Art of Power

Amy Poehler attributes her success to her love of laughter and relentlessly pursuing her dream to make people laugh.

Glennon Doyle Melton claims that after her life bottomed out she found God, yoga and built a community through telling her truth in writing.

Maria Shriver finds solace and power in her relationship to God.

Saran Wilson fights her anxiety and depression through exercise, diet, and meditation.

Dan Harris found meditation to help manage his anxiety.

Jack Canfield bases his success on positive thoughts, setting specific goals and a plan of action to achieve those goals.

Shakti Gawain’s philosophy is based on positive self-talk and visualization.

Thich Nhat Hanh’s believes that power (happiness) comes from within. He believes it starts with gratitude, mindfulness and detachment from outcome. 

After reading all of these books, I came to the conclusion that there are a lot of common themes: Positive self-talk. Spirituality. Visualization. Exercise. Meditation. But, I also realized that the quest for happiness is a little like dieting. What works best for one person not might work for another. I think it is a lifelong quest to find what makes YOU feel both healthier… and happier.

Happiness is defined as “a state of well-being and contentment or joy.” I am most happy when I am with family or friends, doing yoga or playing tennis. But, when I am back at work and hitting roadblock after roadblock, I find myself always questioning if I am truly happy? Perhaps I am confusing success with happiness?

Success is defined as “the accomplishment of an aim or purpose.”  So when I am not accomplishing my professional goals, then I feel unhappy. This is a bad cycle to be in.

I am most happy when I feel productive and making a connection to others. So being busy makes me happy, but this is a slippery slope. Busy for the sake of being busy is not healthy. Not to mention, it can be exhausting to live in a perpetual state of activity. I needed to learn the art of just being without doing. The art of self-reflection without judgment. This is why I force myself to meditate every day. Like brushing my teeth or taking a shower, it is daily cleansing ritual… but I do it for my mind. It is only one tool in the toolbox for my lifetime battle of finding inner peace.

But meditation is not enough for me. As Dan Harris’ book title indicates - 10% Happier. So what about the other 90%?

Canfield and Gawain both advocate the process of self-love, specific goal setting and visualization. They are extremely action-oriented toward success. Success in business. Success in life. Success in health. Success in happiness.

But Zen Buddhist monk/bestselling author Hanh seems to have a different interpretation of happiness. He says, “We must distinguish happiness from excitement, or even joy.” Like most Buddhists, he basically says we suffer by being attached to the outcome.

Uh oh. Guilty as charged. I am wayyyy to attached to the outcome.

It reminds me of that Bobby McFerrin song: Don’t worry. Be happy. Easier said than done when you are a born worrier, do-er, and over-achiever.

For those of us who aren’t naturally peaceful or Buddhist Zen masters, we spend a lifetime trying different “recipes” for contentment. They say if you smile and think positively, happiness will come to you because you are already practicing it. Energy is like a magnet. Your words and your actions attract similar energy. So think positive.

But I have spent my entire life being measured by tangible demarcations of success:  A letter grade in school. Landing a job. A promotion. A salary increase. A bonus. An award. I became conditioned to always looking for external validation to define my success. The presumption is that happiness will then follow.

But it doesn’t. And why is that? Well, according to Archbishop Alfred Souza, because…

Happiness is the journey, not a destination.”

So, I continue on the journey… even though I don’t have the answers. But my ultimate goal is to just try and be more like this guy.


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Possibilities

I was reading through some old journals the other day, and I came across this one entry:

“Today I had an interesting day. I had a lunch meeting with an old friend who wants to put me up for a bigger job at a competitive network. Even if I don’t get the job, it reminded me that there are always other possibilities.” 

That one word struck a chord with me:  Possibilities. 

I love that word. The intangible feeling of hope. 

It reminds me that even beyond hard work and preparation. Wishes and prayers. Meditation and creative visualization. Being present. Being grateful. Counting my blessings. Being patient. There is another category. Another level of the unexpected. The dream or the idea that I have not yet dreamt. There is another layer in the stratosphere… the unknown.

So when I am feeling stuck. Caught in the weeds. Or feeling like nothing is moving forward. I have to remember...

There is the world of Possibilities… and that is where the magic lives.

Take that with you on this Monday and carry that with you all week long.

Enjoy the possibilities of something wonderful coming.

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Anxiety

I just finished an incredible book that my friend Marsha recommended called, first, we make the beast beautiful by Sarah Wilson. It’s all about anxiety… and it’s wonderful.

I have often said, when I moved to Hawaii, “I moved to paradise… but I came with me.” What I was really referring to was that my anxiety came with me. After reading Wilson’s book, I realize that anxiety may have been a key driver to my professional success, but it may have also been the albatross on my psychic freedom. The book is not so much about curing your anxiety, but about managing it and embracing the good parts… ‘making the beast beautiful.’

I have spent a lifetime trying to turn the volume down on my anxiety. Like Wilson, meditation, yoga and vigorous exercise have been very helpful in recent years… along with eating less sugar, drinking less alcohol and giving up caffeine in recent months.

But in spite of all of that, I was feeling really anxious yesterday. Ironically, I think it was triggered by trying to live up to writing a review of such a perfect book on anxiety. I know how crazy that might sound. It may also have been a combination of low blood sugar and dehydration. This is a big part of Wilson’s coping mechanisms — proper nutrition. So, I made myself a healthy lunch and drank several glasses of water. And it helped. A little. But I was still in a funk.

My husband could see that I was not my usual self. I was melancholy and indecisive. He suggested that we go and do something. I was reluctant. I had laundry to do. I needed to go to the grocery store. I had bills to pay. I had no idea what to make for dinner. I forgot to pick up my daughter’s computer from being repaired. We had houseguests coming and I needed to get their room ready. Maybe I should be cleaning the gutters and re-bricking the chimney too?! In Wilson’s book, she talks about this exact coping mechanism for people with anxiety. She writes, ‘We grind harder. Try harder. Think harder… we think this is what will fire us up out of our funk and get us back on on our game. It’s a self-perpetuating pain - we use anxiety to fight our anxiety.’

So, my husband suggested we go to the County Fair. That seemed like a perfectly reasonable suggestion, except for one thing, I hate the County Fair. It’s hot. It’s expensive. It’s dirty. It’s crowded. I don’t like carnival rides. I don’t need to eat junk food. Our daughter already went the day before, and she wasn’t interested in going again. So, it seemed like a terrible idea. Which is exactly why I said, “Yes.” I thought I could not be in a bigger funk, so going to some place that made me uncomfortable might just be the very thing I needed to snap out of my mood. I was taking a page out of Wilson’s book —“The Wobbliest Table” chapter.

When we got there, it looked pretty crowded and it was very hot. But somehow, this beautiful cloud cover rolled in and the crowds started to thin out. We walked around and shared a giant pretzel. We looked at all the blue ribbon winners for agriculture, art, and livestock. We even went on two rides. One was a rollercoaster which was just scary enough to make my stomach leap up and make me forget about my melancholy. Then we went on the giant swings which was really fun and freeing until we got off the ride and we both felt queasy for the next hour. We decided that we might be too old to go on anything that spins. We had a good laugh about that.

Then we went to Home Depot to pick up something my husband needed. He knows I don’t like Home Depot, so he joked that if I saw anything in the store that I wanted, he would buy it for me! It made me giggle. Lucky for him, I had no interest in a power drill or a chainsaw.

If you had told me that I was going to spend my Sunday afternoon at the County Fair and Home Depot, I might have been anxious and depressed at the mere suggestion of that. But, it was just what I needed. I needed to break my routine of productivity, control and predictability to get out of my sour mood. 

The irony of being on an actual rollercoaster to get off my own internal rollercoaster was not lost on me… and I highly recommend it.

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Fatigue

Some days you just wake up tired. This was one of those mornings. 

After a restless night, I got up early and took my daughter to school, fed my dog, sat down to meditate for 20 minutes... and then went back to bed for two hours.

For those of you who know me, I am not a napper. I am a doer. I am an over-doer. In fact, it’s very very rare that I am ever tired. But I was really proud of myself. I listened to my body and I actually rested… because I needed to.

Fatigue is so foreign to me that it always feels like a terminal illness. I am tired, so the world must be coming to an end. Where is my boundless energy? Where is my creative flow? Where is my usual manic, multitasking, I-am-woman-hear-me-roar, go go go? Apparently, that girl has left the building.

Admittedly, I might have worn myself out physically by doing a five-mile hike on Friday morning followed by a yoga class in the late afternoon. Then on Saturday, I played four sets of intense mixed doubles followed by hosting a small dinner party at our house. I probably continued down the over-doing path when I played two separate tennis matches on a blistering hot muggy Sunday. In between all of that, we went to see a play, went to a goodbye party for a friend, did about six loads of laundry and ran some errands.

If it wasn’t physical exhaustion, I might be emotionally drained from last week’s news coverage of Brett Kavanaugh's congressional hearing. It wasn’t only exhausting to watch on TV and listen to on the radio, but then there was the endless debates that it prompted in my household. I think there was a collective stomach ache around our country. I know that I had one. Although, I must say the only thing that lightened my dark mood after these hearings was the opening sketch on SNL this past Saturday night.

So today I find myself thinking very slowly and it feels like I am moving in Jell-O. I want my to-do list to be done. I want to be caught up at work. I wish I had already started something in the crockpot for dinner or at least gone to the grocery store. 

I was hoping to tell you about the new book I am reading. The new series I am watching… and the new recipe I tried last week. But I don’t think that’s going to happen today. The words are not flowing quite the way I would have liked. So forgive me for the short and muddled blog post.

If by any chance you are feeling exhausted by life today, I hope that when your day is done that you can take some time for yourself too. I highly recommend taking a hot bath tonight or going to bed early. That is going to be my plan for sure.

By the way, I don’t think it’s just me feeling this way. Just look at my office mate. 

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Monday Musings

It’s late on Monday morning and I procrastinated thinking about today’s topic. So now I am stuck. AKA writer’s block. AKA I feel sorry for myself because I have nothing to write about.

The truth is that I have a lot of random things I could write about, but none of it is terribly cohesive. It’s a bunch of random experiences that left me feeling various shades of… everything. 

There is a good chance that none of this week’s recap is relatable. It’s just stuff. My stuff. So if you want to go refresh your Instagram account right now, and skip reading this week’s post, I forgive you. Or you can operate at your own risk and keep reading.

I could write about my Yom Kippur. The holiest day in the Jewish calendar. The Day of Atonement. It is supposed to be a day of fasting and self-reflection. But that kind of sounds like a typical Monday for me. Most of my life, Yom Kippur was a communal experience. Always with family when I was little, and then family and friends when I was older. But the older I get, I find myself less religious and more spiritual. Living in Hawaii, I don’t know anyone who truly observes this holiday. So, I found myself making a traditional dinner, lighting the candles, saying the blessing over the wine, and finding the best versions of my favorite prayers on YouTube. Not exactly like going to your local temple with members of your community, but somehow it still generated a flood of memories and it made me feel more connected to my ancestors.

I could write about my daughter’s new friend from high school who spent the weekend with us. She is a delightful girl and they have so much in common: classes together, mutual friends and both on the volleyball team. I thought they would swim in the pool, enjoy going to the beach, invite other friends to come over and hang out too. But mostly, they just sat around and stared at their phones all weekend. I kept asking if they were interested in going somewhere or doing something, but they were perfectly content in this bizarre “parallel play.” I truly believe this is an epidemic amongst kids with devices. 

I could write about the movie we saw Friday night: A Simple Favor. I really liked it! While the plot gets a little far-fetched, it was a pretty good thriller. Anna Kendrick and Blake Lively are both so watchable that it made it a fun ride. Paul Feig is a great director.

I could write about the movie we saw on Saturday night. The new Michael Moore documentary: Fahrenheit 11/9. I left the theatre in a total fit of rage. I used to be a big Michael Moore fan. I think I have seen all but one of his documentaries. But for some reason, this one really pissed me off. I felt like I wasted two hours and $30 on information I already knew. He managed to reinforce my detest for Trump (low hanging fruit). Reminded me how messed up our government is… and how much I dislike politics. He hit all my hot buttons about school shootings, immigrant children being torn from their parents’ arms and locked in detention centers. He reminded us that Flint, Michigan clean water crisis, and that we still have terrible racism in 2018. Apparently, our elections are rigged and our electoral college is antiquated. No kidding?! He pointed fingers at the Democrats, who he believes helped the Republicans get Trump elected in a perverse sort of way. At the end of the movie, I realized that the preacher (Michael Moore) only preaches to the choir (people like me), but offers no conclusion or recommendation of how we can change anything. So I left angry, upset, frustrated, and helpless.

Last night, we watched the second to last episode of Ozark Season 2. I am profoundly sad that we are almost out of episodes to watch. The acting is so good. The villains are so multi-layered and intelligent... and I just can’t get enough.

I guess I could write about tennis. I played really well on Saturday and really poorly on Sunday. But I know that would fall into the category of “who cares?"

It has been unbearably warm and sticky for the last few weeks. But does anyone really care about that either. I know what you are thinking: “But you live in Hawaiiiiii.”  Fair enough.

I could do a post-mortem on the Emmys. I loved that The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel won so many awards in the comedy category… and was happy about The Americans taking home a few in the drama category. I was disappointed for Handmaid’s Tale, but otherwise pleased overall. The SNL hosts, Colin Jost and Michael Che, were a little lackluster. Normally, I love their deadpan humor, but it fell flat for this event. There were a number of great highlights though. My favorite was probably Michael Douglas’ advice to the losers: “Carry that rage. Let it fuel everything you do from this night forward. Know that you were cheated. You were robbed. That's a fact. Let that fire burn in your belly until your cold, dead body is in a pine box six feet deep clutching all its Emmys to its chest.” Okay, maybe he went a little too far in the last line, but it got a lot of laughs and it broke the tension for those who were truly gut-punched that they didn’t win.

I could tell you about how my TV movie got pushed because we missed the window of good weather in Toronto before we found an actress. Or I could tell you about how I am still waiting for an editor to deliver a rough cut on my reality show sales reel. But I am bored talking about all of that, thinking about it, and especially writing about it. This is the rollercoaster-life of a producer. Oh, and for those of you who are new to my blog. I am not a big fan of uncertainty, limbo or gray areas. So this is my own kind of personal hell for me. My sister recently suggested that I might want to give up producing and become a closet organizer. I am considering that very seriously.

This past week I was reading Sheryl Sandberg’s Lean In. I am late to the party, since it was published five years ago. She is certainly a wonderful storyteller with an aspirational story to tell. She is highly educated… and we all know that she is wildly successful as Facebook’s COO. That said, the book is giving me nightmares. No I don’t mean that metaphorically. I mean literally. She tells you all the do’s and don’ts of surviving as a female corporate executive. It’s all incredibly accurate, well-researched, and honestly told. But that doesn’t stop my chest from tightening as I read the book.

But instead of feeling proud that I navigated through that world for thirty years, it leaves me feeling both overwhelmed by having survived it, and oddly ill at ease about having left it. So I have been having stress-related work nightmares.

Today when I read the latest Hollywood headlines, I couldn’t help but notice that all three broadcast networks have changed their Chairman this week. The Chairman of CBS stepped down due to sexual misconduct allegations. ABC replaced their Chairman with two FOX executives now that their corporate merger went through. NBC’s Chairman stepped down to pursue other creative endeavors. 

So, my husband asked me if I wished I was still in that game. I thought long and hard about his question. Do I miss it? 

No. 

I miss the steady pay check. I miss the daily opportunity to meet interesting people and hear their stories. But I don’t miss the politics. I don’t miss the 12-hour work day. I don’t miss the 7-day work week. I don’t miss not being around for my kids. I don’t miss commuting. I don’t miss corporate off-sites. I don’t miss traffic. I don’t miss high heels. I don’t miss the anxiety of carpools and child care. I don’t miss trying to schedule a doctor’s appointment as a Herculean effort. I certainly don’t miss chronic anxiety.

Although this morning when I woke up and realized I have nothing to write about, and my work projects are delayed, I could feel that anxiety come creeping back. 

So, apparently, you can take the girl out of Hollywood.

But you can’t take the anxiety out of the girl.

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The Emmys

It’s that time of year again — The Emmys! Or what I affectionately refer to as “Prom Night” for the television industry. Like the prom, it has some of the same tropes: An annual event. Formal attire. For most of us girls, it takes all day to get ready: hair, makeup, manicure/pedicure. Not to mention the prep work of finding the right dress, the shoes, and handbag. Unlike our male counterparts, it’s not so easy to just buy (or rent) a tux and be done with it.

It has all of the hype of prom night too. Most importantly, you hope you get “asked to the prom.” In Emmy terms, that means you hope you are eligible to get a ticket. As an executive, it all comes down to where you are in the corporate food chain. Only so many tickets are available for each network, studio and agency. On the creative side (actor, writer, producer, director), it comes down to being nominated.  

Going to the Emmy’s for the first time is about as exciting as it gets. It’s pretty glamorous and awesome. If you have a show that’s nominated, it’s even better. If that show wins, it’s a high like none other. And if you lose… 

Well, it just sucks. 

The Emmy’s themselves are a little like going to church or temple. You are shuttled into a big auditorium and it’s not always so easy to get out. It’s a minimum of three hours and you’re usually waiting for just one or two categories that pertain to you or your company. During commercial breaks, you can crawl over a dozen people to get to the bathroom, but the lines are long and you risk missing your category. This actually happened to Christine Lahti at the Golden Globes when she won Best Actress for Chicago Hope. They announced her name and no one came up. Yes, she was stuck in the bathroom! Once your category is announced, win or lose, you just want to get to the after parties. That’s where you finally get to eat, drink, and schmooze with your friends. If you’re lucky, you just might get to meet one of your favorite celebrities. I admit that I totally geeked out when I met Jon Stewart years ago when he was hosting The Daily Show. Unfortunately, by the time you get to the parties, you are so hungry, dehydrated and your feet hurt so much, you contemplate using one of the large steak knives to saw off your own feet at the ankles.

I remembering sitting next to Sharon Gless (Burn Notice, Cagney & Lacey) one year at the Governor’s Ball and she turned to me and said, “I need a double vodka straight up. My feet are KILLING me and I just can’t wait to go home.”  One year, I ended up sitting next to Michelle Pfeiffer for most of the evening. Her husband David E. Kelley had won multiple Emmys for Ally McBeal and The Practice, so Michele was all alone at our table while he was doing interviews. She admitted that she was perfectly happy to be left alone at the table, so that she could rest her feet too. 

The struggle is real.

A friend of mine called me this morning on his way to pick up his tux from the dry cleaners and said, “You are so happy that you are not going this year. It’s like 90 degrees in LA today and I am already sweating like a pig.” That’s the only downside for the guys. They have to wear their dark suits and ties and, for some reason, it’s always a billion degrees on Emmy day. So while they are trying to look cool on the red carpet while taking their photos, usually they have sweat dripping down the sides of their heads. The game changes for them when they go inside the auditorium and the air-conditioning is set to the male-dominated 68 degrees. At this point, women in their off-the-shoulder dresses are freezing and their feet start to swell in their tight (un)sensible shoes, as they dangle below them for the next three hours. I know what you are thinking. Just take off your shoes! But that’s a rookie mistake. You feet will swell even more… and those shoes aren’t going back on when it’s time to march around to the after parties.

I know, I know. Stop complaining. It’s an incredible honor to be part of such a star-studded award show. Indeed it is… and I am grateful for the dozens of times that I was invited to attend.

But I am so removed from that world. Both physically and emotionally. My idea of dressing up now is wearing a long-sleeved cotton tee-shirt dress from Old Navy and a clean pair of my canvas sneakers. I don’t even have a pair of high heels at my home in Hawaii… nor a black tie dress. I do have my DVR set tonight. Although by the time they broadcast it in our time zone, most of my friends will probably be home and in bed or soaking their feet in an ice bath. 

I hope to go back to the Emmys one day, but only if I am lucky enough to ever produce a show that gets nominated. That, of course, presumes that I ever actually produce another show, but that’s a rant for another day and another blog post.

Meanwhile, I am happy to sit on the sofa tonight and watch in my own living room… in my pajamas and comfy socks rooting for my favorite shows. 

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Birthdays

It is happening again. Another birthday has come and gone and I am feeling very emotional.

Ironically, it’s not MY birthday that is stirring up these feelings. It is the birthdays of my children that are the culprit of this strange emotional stew. It is some combination of melancholy, with a waft of wistfulness, and a hint of nostalgia.

It is so cliché to say, “Where has the time gone?” 

But seriously… Where HAS the time gone?

Last week, my eldest daughter turned 24 years old. She has spent the last eight months traveling abroad, visiting 15 different countries, and having the time of her life. Now she is back to work. This time for a stint in Germany in one of their local wineries. While I am thrilled that she is happy and thriving, it always makes me a little sad to not be with her on her birthday.

While she was not the slightest bit upset about being 7500 miles away from home on her birthday, I found myself unmoored. I could not be more proud that my two older daughters are enjoying their independent lives. But for some reason, on their birthdays, I still feel like it is my responsibility to insure that they feel happy and content. It must be a leftover vestige from years of planning their parties when they were little… and somehow it still triggers a cascade of emotions for me.

Before Evite, texting and email, birthday invitations were handwritten. Sort of. I would take them to the party store and let them pick their birthday party “theme.” The invitations usually came in a box of eight. It was rare that the number of invited guests were conveniently a multiple of eight, so invariably I would end up with leftover invitations and have no use for three extra SpongeBob birthday invites (or matching thank you notes) in future years. G-d forbid I repeated a birthday party theme from one year to the next. So I would end up with the most random collection of leftover birthday paraphernalia.

Just recently, I found a stack of Disney Princess paper plates from one of my girl’s birthdays over a decade ago.

But, my eldest daughter never really cared about her birthday party. I always made a much bigger deal about it than she did.

On her first birthday, I went way over the top. I must have invited 40 adults and another dozen friends who also had one-year-olds. I rented a tent for the backyard because it was so hot because I wanted to make sure there was plenty of shade. The tent cost a fortune. It was an extravagance that I could not afford back then, but I was determined to make my guests comfortable. Unfortunately, the tent seemed to have a greenhouse effect. So, it was actually hotter UNDER the tent than anywhere else in the yard.

I remember ordering large deli platters to feed all my party-goers, but I ordered way too much food, and it was so hot that no one really ate. Large tins containing potato salad and coleslaw turned into some kind of toxic soup on that hot summer day. At the end of the party, I remember someone asking me if they should just dump them into the garbage, rather than trying to save the leftovers. I nodded yes. What I didn’t realize was those trays had my grandmother’s 100-year-old silver serving spoons in them! They must have sunk to the bottom like quicksand. I didn’t realize it until later that year, when I was making Thanksgiving dinner, and realized I had no serving spoons. To this day, I still cringe about it every time I throw a dinner party.

But the really kicker was that my daughter slept through her entire party. The little girl, who hated to nap, took the longest nap of her life that day. My dad was in charge of taking pictures of the party, but never got a single one of her. So, I would say the party was pretty much a disaster on all accounts. I wasted a lot of money on food that was thrown out and a tent that no one sat under. My (first) husband was furious that someone got chocolate frosting on our new sofa, and felt the party was unsuccessful because we didn’t rent a pony! Not kidding. If he was so worried about the chocolate smudge on the sofa, I am not sure how he would have felt about horse poop in the backyard and a bunch of one-year-olds running in and out of the house.

Since then, I have thrown a lot of birthday parties and have gotten a lot better at it. But my eldest daughter just didn’t really care about any of them. She just wanted to have friends over. The details about party themes, formal invitations, and what was in the goody bags was lost on her. I threw those birthday parties for me. I was the quintessential "Guilty Working Mom" who wanted to make sure that my daughter felt important on her birthday. I wanted to let her know that I was planning something just for HER. I don’t think I ever got it right because she simply didn’t care. She just wasn’t that girl. 

On the other hand, my second (middle) daughter loved a party. Loved her birthday. Loved having a theme. Loved dressing up. Loved to be the center of attention. She loved it all — the food, the cake, the activities, the presents, the attention, the party favors… the whole shebang.

It’s really no surprise that they had such different attitudes about their birthdays. It was illustrative of just how different they were from each other.

My first daughter was a fussy baby. She had gas. She had colic. She hated to go to sleep. She hated to take naps. She cried a lot… and she cried loudly. She didn’t like bath time. She didn’t like bedtime. She didn’t like car seats. She didn’t like diaper changes. She didn’t like being held. She was a picky eater. She didn’t like anything about being a baby… and subsequently, I wasn’t too crazy about being a new mom. Mostly, because I thought I was doing everything wrong. We both cried a lot.

But once she learned to walk and talk, she was a pretty easy kid. She was social. She was fun. She was independent. She was delightful... and she still is. I always say that she made up for her colicky-infant years by being a great kid… and now an awesome adult. I miss her being so far away.

When my middle daughter was born, I prepared myself for another round of “infancy hell.” I was still working like a maniac, but at least I had a twelve-week maternity leave which was infinitely better than my six-week maternity leave with my first baby. Much to my surprise, my middle daughter turned out to be a dream baby! She was instantly a good sleeper. A good eater. No gas. Very little crying. She was super cuddly. She melted my heart with her adorable face and sweet disposition.

When it came time for her first birthday, I had learned my lesson. Immediate family only. A tiny little cake. Sang her happy birthday. Snapped a photo. Ate a regular family dinner. Perfect.

But, unlike her older sister, my middle daughter really liked her birthday, so we spent a lot of time carefully planning her party every year. There was the princess party. The gymnastics party. The cow-themed party. On her 12th birthday, she insisted on wearing a tiara to school, so that EVERYONE would know it was her birthday. When I went to pick her up from school that day, even the janitor wished her “Happy Birthday.”

At 13, she had her bat-mitzvah and you would have thought that she was planning a royal wedding. It wasn’t that it was over the top or fancy, but she wanted everything a certain way. She was instrumental in picking out every detail of her celebration.

On her 16th birthday, she got her driver’s license. The first night she had her license, she almost drove the car right into a parked car. I didn’t get in a car with her again for years. Not kidding.

Then she was 18 and graduating high-school… and off to college. Now she loves to learn. She remains incredibly social. She is a feminist. She is highly opinionated. She is artistic. She is a great storyteller. She is a good writer. She is an outstanding bargain hunter… and she has a great sense of style. She is a hard worker. She is a loyal friend. She walks fast… and talks faster. Her favorite leisure activity is binge-watching Netflix (all three of my children share this obsession) and going to concerts. She has a wicked sense of humor and a great laugh… one of my favorite laughs in the whole world.

But last spring, when my middle daughter turned 21, it felt like it just snuck up on me out of nowhere. While she was happily celebrating this rite of passage with all of her friends in college 5,000 miles away, I was a puddle of tears. How did she grow up so fast? I think I was feeling residual guilt from living apart for almost five years living in Hawaii, while she chose to remain in Los Angeles with her dad and stepmom. While I never missed a single birthday until she went off to college, and I would see her every six weeks along with winter and summer vacations, I missed a lot of regular days from the time she was 12 until she was almost 17 years old. So when she turned 21, I felt like it happened in a blink… and I found myself overwhelmed with the passage of time that got away from me.

And now this week, my youngest daughter will turn 14. A freshman in high school who bounces out of bed and can’t wait to get to school. Mostly because she loves being on the volleyball team and going to practice every day. We jokingly tease her that she acts like she is going to volleyball camp and is required to take a few classes while attending. She just smiles and shrugs her shoulders.

We were planning a sleepover party for her birthday this weekend, but it turns out the volleyball team will be traveling on her birthday to play in a tournament. She is overjoyed. Apparently, that’s better than any party.

So, my three little girls are not so little. Two of them are grownups. Living on their own and making their way in the world. Living and traveling abroad and doing everything I hoped they would:  Enjoying their lives.

My youngest still has a few more years at home, but has become quite independent as well. I offered to make her the birthday cake of her choice, but she insists on baking cupcakes herself because she loves baking almost as much as she loves volleyball. So she will be baking her own (red velvet) cupcakes and bringing them with her to the tournament to share with her teammates.

So, I only have one question:  

Where HAS the time gone… and why is it marching on without my permission?

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To Be or Not To Be... Patient

I have spent a lot of time working on learning to be more patient

This is a virtue that remains a challenge for me. Although I am not short-tempered and I have nothing but patience for someone who is kind and friendly, patience is simply not my strong suit. I tend to be the least patient with myself. Bordering on intolerant, and sometimes, just downright mean. 

In my never-ending quest to evolve into a more patient being, I had a sign custom made for my office. It reads: 

Be Patient

My husband chuckles every time he sees it. Whenever I am frustrated that one of my projects has taken a setback or things are moving too slowly, he says, “How’s that sign working out for you?”  

I must admit, I want everything done yesterday. My hyper-vigilant tempo is somewhat incongruent to the Hawaiian lifestyle where people are inherently more mellow. There is even a bumper sticker that says, “Slow down. You’re not on the mainland.”

I have worked very hard to adapt to a slower lifestyle. I am committed to a new life that encompasses meditation, yoga, and daily exercise. I gave up caffeine. I watch my sugar intake. I am doing everything I can, short of elephant tranquilizers, to slow my roll.

I think I have made HUGE strides. I think I have evolved into a more relaxed, go-with-the-flow, Zen being. I have reminders all around my house to be what I aspire to be. I have Buddha statues at the front door and the back door. I have paperweights and rocks carved with inspirational words by my desk. Words like Breathe, Happiness and Peace.  

Yet whenever I say to my husband, “I think I am a much mellower person than I was,” he lets out a notable chortle or guffaw. He humors me and says, “I think you are working on it for sure, but I am not sure a tiger can change its stripes.” Thanks, Honey!

But, he may have a point. A few nights ago, I went to close our gate at the end of our driveway. The gate is electric and is remotely connected to our landline for opening and closing. For two years, I have closed the gate every night, but always complain that I have to punch in the code TWICE or the gate doesn’t close. My husband claims he has never had to punch in the code twice. It always works the first time.

Hmmmm.

So I decided to watch him do it. He punched in the code and walked away. I looked out the window to see if the gate was closing… and it didn’t! “Aha!” I said, calling him back.  “It doesn’t work the first time!”  But by the time he came back, the gate had closed.

Wait! What?

Are you telling me that I have been punching in the code twice every single day for two years because it simply takes a minute or so for the signal to go through? Have I been pressing it twice because I am too impatient to wait for it to close? Am I that person who presses the “Walk” button on a crosswalk multiple times? Not because it makes the light change faster, but because it just gives you something to do... while satisfying a neurotic need to do something while waiting? 

Now, in my own defense, there is another plausible explanation for this gate mystery. Perhaps I have been pressing the sequence of numbers too fast and it was preventing the gate from closing?

Of course, that only means if I had been patient and slowed down, the gate would have closed the first time anyway.

Sigh.

So, despite my yoga practice, my meditation practice, the sign in my office, the Buddhas, the inspirational words carved on rocks, I still have to be more patient about becoming... patient.  

P.S. I am going to be giving myself a little self-imposed hiatus from my blog. I am not sure how long my hiatus will be. Maybe a week. Maybe a month. So be patient with me. If you want more 52-Mondays, don't forget you can always start at the beginning and read it forward. It starts back in January 2016... so there are about 150 posts to keep you busy. Wishing you all Happy Mondays!

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When It Rains It Pours

Is it plagiarism when I borrow pieces of an email that I wrote to my sister and use most of it for my Monday blog post?

Answer: Only if I am officially diagnosed with multiple personality disorder and one of my personalities stole it from my other without giving it credit. 

So today I bring you… When It Rains It Pours.

First, there is the literal rain. 

Thankfully, the category 4 hurricane that was headed straight for the Hawaiian Islands made a left turn and missed us altogether. Even with that, we had one crazy rainstorm that caused the power to go out and our roof to leak in two places.

The power was restored quickly, the sun came out and it has been hot and humid ever since.

Now it feels like a sauna outside. I don’t ever remember humidity like this. My dehumidifiers are working overtime. It feels like I am always coming out of a hot shower… and dripping wet. It is too hot and humid to bother blow drying my hair, so I am just perpetually sticky and stuck with frizzy hair until this weather pattern changes. I just need to remember that winter will be here soon enough, and, since we don’t have central heat, I will have something new to complain about.

Then there is the metaphorical rain.

Work has suddenly gotten crazy busy. Some Chinese fire drills. (Does anyone under 50 still use that expression?) Some legitimate progress. The studios are spending money in pre-production and filming dates are getting lined up. Dare I say there is a good chance that some of my projects might go into production? I don’t want to get my hopes up, so I keep my head down and focus on one task at a time. 

I find myself dreaming all night about the various schedules and people that I have to line up. It’s all very exciting... and very exhausting. I suddenly feel like I need a nap every day or maybe I should go back to drinking caffeine. Maybe I need both. When things start going all at once, it’s like spinning plates. Which is super fun and exhilarating. But I fear that the spinning plates will come crashing down, leaving me with nothing but broken china. So this is where my meditation practice gets tested. 

Am I staying present? Mostly.

Am I being mindful? I think so.

Am I grateful? Yes, except when I am complaining.

Am I breathing? Probably not enough. I tend to hold my breath a lot. That would explain why my shoulders feel like cement and why I can't turn my neck on the right side.

A few weeks ago, I strained my lower back while playing tennis. My back has finally healed and I am back on the court. Unfortunately, about the time I hurt my back, I started experiencing upper abdominal pain too. The pain was pretty bad, so I went to the doctor to rule out something more serious. All the tests came back negative, which is great! Unfortunately, there is no explanation about why my upper abdomen is still painful when I bend over or sit too long. They said it could be a muscle strain as well. This reminded me of an old joke. A woman goes to the doctor and says, “It hurts when I do THIS.” So, the doctor says, “So, don’t do THAT.”  

Guess what? After all my tests came back clear, I asked the doctor what I should be doing about the pain when I bend over in a seated position. His advice — “Don't do that!”

Super helpful.

So, I remind myself when it rains it pours, but then you get really incredible sunsets. 

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Eighth Grade

There is a new movie out called Eighth Grade and I highly recommend it.

It is a “coming of age” story about a teenage girl who is finishing the 8th grade and preparing to go to high school. She is awkward and lonely... and a classic teenager.

My youngest daughter just finished the 8th grade and is about to turn 14. So for me, this film could not have come at a better time. In some ways, this movie is about all of us. Then, now, and going forward. It’s about finding ourselves, defining ourselves, connecting with others, fitting in, not fitting in, insecurities, philosophies, attitudes, social media, self-help, and being human. 

But the depiction of the 14-year-old mind in this day and age, the addiction to social media and screens, is so relatable. The “interference" of parents in the teenage world is particularly fascinating. When the earbuds are in or the headphones are on, these kids are transported to another world. So every knock on the bedroom door or every word spoken at the dinner table is a nuclear intrusion. I suppose we were the same way in the 1970s when we would watch TV or put on our headphones and listen to our vinyl records.

But we forget when we are adults/parents what it was like to be overwhelmed with hormones, pimples, homework, boredom, boys, girls, body images, and social pressure. 

The true beauty of this film is not just the depiction of the modern day teenager and their social media/smartphone addictions. It’s the gentle reminder that while the technology has changed radically, the dynamics of social cliques, peer pressure, and wanting things to be better (or just different) remains ubiquitous. 

If you have a teenager at home, this movie should be required viewing. If you ever had a teenager or were a teenager, you may just love it for the walk down memory lane… and the gratitude that this stage is behind you. 

By the way, I tried to bring my 8th grader to this movie, but she said, “No way. I saw the trailer and it’s simply too real. I can’t watch THAT with my parents."

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DMV

Eight years has flown by and it is time to renew my driver’s license.

The last time I got my driver’s license, I completely forgot about the picture. So for the last eight years, my driver's license ID photo looked like I had just rolled out of bed. Which I probably did. But, if that wasn’t bad enough, the DMV printer had mechanical issues, so my head looked like I just came through the birth canal.

I was determined to be better prepared for my photo this time. I decided to go in for the renewal just after I had my hair done.

The great thing about living in Hawaii is that you don’t need an appointment to go to the DMV. You can just walk in and generally the lines are fairly short. Since it was just a renewal, I figured I would hand over my old license, do a simple eye test, snap a new photo, and be on my way.

Silly me.

Apparently, in 2012, Homeland Security and the Immigration Department decided to have a baby and call it the new DMV. What was once the happiest place on earth (at least on my 16th birthday) has turned into the seven circles of red-tape hell.

If you are a man, the new process is probably no big deal. If you are a woman and have never been married or changed your name, you are in the clear as well. Congratulations, by the way. But for those of us who are married, were married, or have ever changed our names, the process is horrible. And I suggest you read this VERY VERY carefully. I may be able to save you a lot of time and trouble.

Unaware of the new demands on those of us who have ever changed our name, I strolled into the DMV with my freshly coiffed hair and my cheerful pink blouse. Usually, I am in a simple white tee-shirt, but I wanted to brighten up my photo with something more colorful. Within moments my number was called to meet with one of the DMV clerks. She was super nice and smiley. I thought, “This is even easier than I thought.” I gave her my current driver’s license and she asked me if all the information on the license was still correct. I proudly said “Yes!” Then, just as I was digging my lip gloss out of my purse to re-apply for my photo, the nice lady explained that the Federal rules for renewal have changed. She handed me the renewal application and a list of legal documents required. None of which I had with me.

Determined to not waste a good hair day and with a few hours of free time, I decided to drive back to my house and get the required paperwork. Unfortunately, I didn’t fully appreciate just how specific this “list” really is. It is like some kind of sadistic-competitive scavenger hunt. So, I just grabbed every legal document that I had, along with my most recent utility bills, and raced back to the DMV before they closed. I waited 45 minutes for a clerk to call my number. 

I was called to a different, but equally nice, lady and we started the process all over. She asked for my current driver’s license - Check!

She asked if my address was current. Check!

She requested my original birth certificate (Original! No copies!) - Check! 

So far so good.

She asked for my social security card - Check! 

Then she made a face. Uh oh.

She pointed out that my last name was different than on my license. Oops! I had accidentally grabbed my old social security card from my previous marriage. I pointed out the number has not changed and I happened to bring my divorce decree with me. Won’t that work? No. However, I could use a recent paycheck stub or a W-2. Great. Except that I didn’t have either of those things with me. They would be back at my house along with my current social security card. Oh and that would be another 60 minutes round trip.

Then she asked for TWO recent utility bills. No problem, I brought THREE! Check! 

She made another face. No. Not check. All the utilities were in my husband’s name. But why does that matter, we’re married? I even brought my marriage certificate. So I hand her that. Check!

She looked it over and started shaking her head. Uh oh again. She explained that I brought a copy. Not the original! It MUST be the original!! Seriously??? And to make matters worse, I don’t know where the original is. She tells me that I better find it unless I have a passport.

Check! I DO have a passport AND I brought it with me. I proudly hand it over and she starts shaking her head again. Apparently, my passport expired six months ago.

F*ck.

At this point, she looks at me like I have failed my driver’s test. Except that I haven’t taken a driver’s test. I don’t need a driver’s test. I have a perfect driving record and a VALID driver’s license,

But for those of us who have ever changed their name, there is a new test at the DMV. It’s called “Prove that you exist in 10,000 different ways.” And I have failed that test.

So she sends me home with a list of homework. First, I need to get my passport renewed immediately. Then I need to come back with a valid passport and my original marriage certificate, my current social security card, two pieces of identification that prove where I live. And no, my VALID driver’s license ironically does not fulfill that requirement.

THEN I can take my photo and THEN I can get my driver’s license renewed. 

So the next day I go to the post office. Apparently, a lot of post offices process passport applications. Unfortunately, not the post office that I chose.

So, I drove to another branch. The second post office did process passport applications, but they don’t take passport photos. So, they send me to a nearby Walgreen’s to take the passport photos.  But Walgreen’s couldn’t take my photo because I was wearing a white tee shirt.  If only I was wearing yesterday’s pink blouse. But since I had such a terrible day trying to get my driver’s license renewed, I figured the pink blouse was bad luck, so I went home and burned it. Now I was back in my usual white tee-shirt, but Walgreens takes their passport photos with a white background and the passport office won’t accept white shirts on a white. Not kidding.

So, I had to go buy something to put over my white tee-shirt so I could take the photo. Then I headed back to the post office and mailed off my passport application. I paid extra to expedite my passport processing. I paid extra to send it priority mail. All so that I could get my driver’s license.

I returned back to the DMV with all of the correct documentation and the proof of mailing the passport renewal. I had a different clerk help me this time, but fortunately, she was sitting next to the woman who had helped me the day before. She said, “Oh I remember you. You are the TV Producer.” She must have seen that in the “occupation” box on the form that I was required to fill out. The new clerk sifted through my mound of paperwork and issued me a temporary driver’s license until my new passport arrives or until I get my original wedding certificate sent from the state of California which requires a notary and won’t be available for several weeks. 

Then both women quizzed me on what shows I have produced and suggested I do a show about the DMV. I assume they were suggesting a comedy, but at that moment, I failed to find any humor in this environment.

So, in turn, I suggested to them that they simply fingerprint people for their driver’s license and then they wouldn’t need this insurmountable amount of paperwork. It turns out they do that anyway.  

Sooo, let me sum it all up:

-Three trips to the DMV

-Three trips to the post office

-Two trips to Walgreens

-AND the added pleasure of paying $400 in fees for my driver’s license renewal, passport renewal, passport photos, expedited passport processing, expedited mailing costs, and a request for a certified ORIGINAL marriage license...

I was finally ready for my new driver’s license photo!

Unfortunately, now I was in a plain white tee-shirt. My hair was no longer freshly blown dry. I was hot and sweaty from running around in the summer heat. So, even with a fresh coat of lip gloss, it turns out I am stuck with another dreadful driver’s license photo for the next eight years. 

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Hedgehog Diaries

My middle daughter got a pet hedgehog and she named her Macaroni.

I know. Who gets a pet hedgehog? I didn’t even know that a hedgehog could be a pet. I thought it was something you wipe muddy boots on by the door. But apparently, it’s the new hamster for hipsters. She would cringe at that statement, but it made for a nice alliteration. It’s more of the new pet of millennials. After asking her a million questions: Where will it sleep? What does it eat? Who will take care of it while you are in class or at work? She explained that right now the hedgehog is being cared for by her boyfriend who is on the east coast. He will take care of it during the summer and then my daughter will take it when she gets back to school.

But apparently what started out as a truly sweet gesture has turned into a potential problem. My daughter’s boyfriend has really bonded with the little hedgehog. He has bought her a new playpen, a new bed, and a hamster exercise ball. Apparently, the hamster ball did not go over too well. Macaroni became disoriented and pooped inside it. It turns out hedgehogs are more like hogs than hamsters. So he made it up to her by buying some kind of hedgehog baby carrier (think Baby Bjorn). I would say a hedgehog carrier qualifies as a red flag of over-indulgence.

Now my daughter feels like she’s missing out. She feels like maybe the baby hedgehog is imprinting on her boyfriend. She is concerned that when she returns to the east coast, that her boyfriend won’t want to give up the hedgehog or worse, the hedgehog may not like her as much since he is the one who is spoiling her. 

The boyfriend sends her photos every day, but not a single photo has been well-executed, which just adds to my daughter's frustration. Apparently, Macaroni looks better in video than still photos.. but don’t we all? Meanwhile, my daughter fears that the hedgehog might come between them. I fear that the hedgehog may feel threatened by another woman and end up being “prickly” to her when she finally meets her.

I suggested that she could always get “another” hedgehog. She said, “We don’t need two hedgehogs… besides this one is mine... I named her."

Before we hung the phone, she asked if I knew a good lawyer.  

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This darling little hedgehog is NOT Macaroni because Macaroni has yet to be photographed in focus, so I went with a generic hedgehog model.  :)

I Am A Butterfly

I have been feeling stuck creatively for the last few weeks. As much as I try to not let my work define me, I find that when my projects take giant setbacks, I can’t help but feel that sense of failure creep in.

There is so much uncertainty in producing. There is so much that I can’t control. I really like clarity. I like when things are black and white. I like when things are transparent. 

Producing is pretty much the opposite of all those things that I like. There is a ton of gray. Everything is uncertain. No one truly has control… and very few people are transparent.

So I sit at my desk, staring at my computer, on the phone… and I try and push things forward and problem solve. I try not to get too caught up in the drama and the hurdles of bureaucracy. I try not to take it personally.

But when you’ve been working on each project for over a year, and just when you think they are about to go forward, another roadblock comes up… it’s hard to stay positive. 

So I remind myself.

I am in transformation.

I am building a second career.

This is reinvention.

I am in a cocoon working all by myself trying to make something beautiful.

And I am comforted by the prophecy of this quote:

Your time as a caterpillar has expired. Your wings are ready.

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Just One of Those Mondays

I had a very nice weekend.

We had intermittent cloudbursts, beautiful blue skies, rainbows, and sunshine.

It was a social weekend too. My family saw Ant Man and Wasp which was really fun. We went to a friend’s birthday party. We played tennis. We did yoga. We had dinner with my brother. All good.

But sometimes even after a great weekend, you STILL wake up and you get smacked in the face with Monday!

It started with taking my car into the body shop to fix that "minor scratch" from a few months ago. I am trying to be grateful that no one was hurt in my one-mile per hour accident with the corner of a random mailbox. Not even the mailbox was injured. It’s just the scratch/dent/impalement happened to be in a place that requires the entire side panel to be replaced. $2300 later… it kind of sucks.

Then, I went to get a “safety inspection” for said car and it didn’t pass because the tread is too low on my tires. I am not sure how this is possible as they only have 20,000 miles on them, but apparently, that is "common" according to the car dealer. The dealer carries the tires, but they cost $300 (each!) plus installation. No one else carries the stupid tires, so I need to have them shipped from the mainland (which is cheaper), but still ridiculously expensive. That kind of sucks too.

My husband was kind enough to pick me up from the body shop, but he needed to run into Lowe's for just one thing on the way home. I decided to go and do the grocery shopping next door. I buy a week’s worth of groceries in 15 minutes, but I find myself standing in the hot sun (with melting ice cream) and he was still not out of Lowe’s yet for his “one item." 

When I got home, my daughter was annoyed with me that she had to get out of bed before Noon because “It’s summer."

Needless to say, I am feeling a little cranky today. Even when I sat down to write today's blog, I went through three attempts, all of them as annoying as this Monday has been so far.

So I went searching through Instagram for inspiration (aka procrastinating from writing), and I saw this little gem posted by my favorite yoga teacher:

"This week is going to be filled with miracles, breakthroughs, good news, abundance, and love."

I decided to share it with all of you because maybe you are having an annoying Monday too. Maybe it's a sign and will turn things around for the rest of the week.

Happy Monday!

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Sleepless in Seattle

No not the movie… nor the love story. Just my inability to fall asleep due to jet lag while visiting my daughter in Seattle over a long weekend. (Warning: This blog post might make you hungry.)

Friday, while my daughter was doing her summer internship, I spent the day exploring a bit of the city. I went to a museum, made a few calls, answered some emails, and did a lot of walking. I stumbled upon a handmade vegan ice cream store (no dairy!) called Frankie & Jo’s. I ordered their monthly special which had caramel, coconut, almonds, and kale. I know that sounds a little weird, but it was positively the best ice cream I have ever had in my life -- regular or otherwise. It was like a heaven in a cup. I loved it so much that I took my daughter there after dinner, and the line was around the block. We waited 45 minutes, but it was totally worth it. Yes, I even had another scoop.

Saturday and Sunday, we spent our days taking in the city like tourists. We visited the three different museums, the Space Needle, Pike Place Market, and took a boat tour around Puget Sound. We ate at all the local tourist haunts including Beecher’s known for their world-famous Mac n Cheese and Grilled Cheese sandwiches. These are my daughter’s two favorite foods in the world and mine too. They are, also, what I affectionately refer to as my "gateway drugs." More specifically, white flour and cheese. But when in Rome or Seattle...

We ate late-afternoon pizza from a chain restaurant called Mod. Surprisingly it was one of the best things I ate while I was there -- second only to the vegan ice cream. Mod does a paper-thin mini-pizza with any toppings you choose. They have a gourmet selection of fresh and grilled veggies, so I did mine with fresh arugula and grilled asparagus. It was to die for. My daughter did a pesto pizza with grilled asparagus and broccoli and roasted garlic. I think they went overboard on the garlic because I counted at least two dozen cloves. When I was 21 years old, I would have loved that too, but there is no way I could digest that much garlic at my “middle-age.” (I love saying middle-age because how many people truly live to 106?)

Later we went to the movies, walked more, and went to a late dinner at an over-rated Italian restaurant. We shared a mediocre pasta appetizer and a salmon entree. Both unmemorable. The best part of the meal was their bread. Whenever I eat bread, I always think of the Amy Schumer’s stand-up line “Remember bread?” She says this line in a wistful nostalgic voice. It’s the same tone of voice we use when we talk about an unrequited love we had as a teenager. Anyway, I ate the crunchy Italian bread with the soft center and the homemade butter… and it was so good. It almost made up for the unmemorable-over-priced meal. We sat next to a twenty-something pop singer, whom I didn’t recognize, but my daughter said was kind of a big deal. 

We walked home from the restaurant. More walking. More talking. We laughed and giggled. We walked everywhere we went. Apparently, we averaged 7.3 miles per day for three days straight--according to some app on my phone, that I didn't know I had, but my daughter showed me.

Normally, my daughter can out walk me (in both speed and distance), but I had boundless energy and she was having trouble keeping up with me for once. She may have been slightly handicapped by her mild indigestion (undoubtedly due to her roasted garlic festivities from earlier). Or perhaps I was just jet lagged and wasn't aware of how late it really was. Or maybe it was just the excitement of just spending time with my daughter in a new city together. The whole glorious weekend reminded me of a Dr. Seuss book:

We walked and talked.

We talked and walked.

We ate and ate.

I almost hate...

How much we ate.

Fish fish fish.

There was fish on every dish.

Ice cream without the cream.

Which tasted just like a dream.

We walked up and down every hill.

We thought our feet would surely kill.

We walked and giggled.

We walked and jiggled.

Although there was barely any sun.

We still had tons and tons of fun.

Two girls in a city.

Who were positively giddy.

Just mother & daughter...

and a great weekend by the water.

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Mindfulness

Yesterday, I had a friend visiting from out of town. We got together with another friend to play tennis and then have a BBQ. It was just great. The sky was blue with big puffy white clouds. The temperature was about 78 degrees. There was a light breeze. The tennis was really fun and my 13-year-old daughter was my doubles partner. My out-of-town friend commented, “This is the best. I love seeing Y'all and playing tennis on this fabulous day.”

Yes, it was kind of perfect. 

This prompted a discussion between all of us about "being present" and a new appreciation for the “little things.” Little things like good weather. A blue sky. A soft breeze. A great tennis game. Delicious food and getting together with friends. Anyone of those things would have been lovely, but all of those things in one afternoon made it exceptional. Oh, and for me, having my daughter as my tennis partner was the icing on the proverbial cake.

Being present in the moment (dare I say mindful) is a new superpower for me. I was totally present and enjoying every moment that we were playing, eating, and catching up. Having spent a lifetime of juggling a big career, small children, and all of the responsibilities of being a working mom, especially one with an overly heightened sense of perfectionism, I was rarely ever present. I always lived in the future: Lists, deadlines, preparation for the next activity, the next meeting, tomorrow, next week, ten years, etc. 

Only now am I trying harder to do LESS. Less multi-tasking. Less worrying. Less living in the future. Oh, don’t get me wrong. I still make lists every day. I still keep a tight schedule. I am still a prepared-ness freak. But I am re-training my brain to stop and smell more roses. To savor my food. To enjoy my meditation. To be mindful when I am playing tennis or practicing yoga. I am learning to be grateful for the little moments... as well as the big ones.

My dad has been gone now for three weeks and I have been thinking about him a lot. He was unintentionally “mindful.” He never drove by a beautiful tree without admiring it. It was always a good day when he saw family or friends. He loved what he did for a living. He took great pleasure in driving a car or just riding in a car when he no longer could drive himself.  As his grandson said in his eulogy, “He thought every meal he ate was the best meal he ever had.” 

My dad always told me to “worry less and count your blessings.” For him, it came naturally. For me, it has been a slower process. (50 years or so). But each day that I remember to admire a tree, note the color of the sky, or just be more present, I am honoring his memory. Implementing his sage advice, I find myself a little happier.

Yesterday, my cup ran right over the top... and it was the little things that made it so joyful. 

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I Really Miss French Fries

I miss French fries. 

I miss potato chips.  

I miss cold beer. 

I miss warm chocolate lava cake. Especially since Costco started carrying it in these adorable individual ramekins that are ready in the microwave in less than one minute. 

I miss these foods because I decided to cleanse my body of all junk food and bad eating habits that I developed over the last holiday season. 

I have been watching documentaries and reading articles and books on the latest new theories on eating for optimal health. As an added bonus, I might shed a few unwanted pounds… and what middle-aged woman doesn’t want to lose a few?

So I went on a modified Keto/Paleo/Whole30/low-carb-high(good)fat program. This means:

No alcohol

No sugar

No bread or pasta 

No grains (wheat, corn, rice, etc.)

No potatoes

No artificial anything

No fruit (except some berries)

No fun

The good news is that you don’t count calories or portions. You eat lots of veggies, healthy oils (avocados, olives, coconut), meats, eggs, fish, seafood, and nuts (no peanuts or cashews). Macadamia nuts have been the most fun to eat without any guilt. My number one goal was to reduce inflammation in hopes that my muscles and joints would hurt less. Soooooo... 35 days, 16 hours and 20 minutes later (but who’s counting?!), here are my results:

I lost a whopping THREE pounds. I know. I know. Totally ridiculous.

My joints hurt exactly as much as they did a month ago. That should have been a deal breaker right there.

My neck has been stiff for weeks and is still tight as a drum. My chiropractor, however, is very happy as I currently have him on speed dial.

I don’t sleep any better. Which sucks.

My hair is no shinier. Maybe if I put the coconut oil ON my hair instead of IN my food, I might have had better results.

My nails didn’t grow any faster. So, my dream of being a hand model isn’t going to happen.

My skin isn’t less wrinkled. But if it were, I would be writing my own diet book and be making millions.

I didn’t suddenly win the Pulitzer… nor an Oscar. 

And sadly, I am just as neurotic. Well, no one thought that was going to change. Although, there is a theory that my underlying neurosis might actually be the root cause of my muscle tension. But we’ll explore that in another post.

And in spite of my unremarkable results of junk food deprivation, I actually DO feel better in a whole host of unexpected ways -- I am calmer. I have a lot fewer sugar cravings... and I have a lot more energy. So, believe it or not, I am going to keep it going for a little longer. I don’t know if I am doing it out of self-preservation or due to some kind of masochistic tendencies.

I had one friend recommend that I stop eating nuts to reduce inflammation. Another friend told me to stop eating tomatoes. One doctor told me to stop drinking carbonated water. Another one told me to stop playing tennis. I have tried everything, but my muscles are still tight and my joints hurt. But I remain open to suggestions. So, if anyone has a (natural) magical cure, I'm all ears.

My favorite comment, since I started this dietary program, was from a friend who simply said:   

“You lost me at no alcohol.” 

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The Five or Six Stages of Grief

Last Monday, I didn’t post for the first time since I launched my blog. I even posted on Christmas Day and New Year’s Day (Mondays!) But, last Monday, I could not write a post because I was too preoccupied with writing my father’s eulogy. 

My dad passed away at the age of 91. He had a pretty great life. Well into his 80’s, my dad still practiced law, drove a car, traveled the world, went to concerts, played bridge, and had a very active social life. Around the age of 87, a complicated stew of aging, dementia, Parkinson’s, and three different kinds of cancer started to slow down the fun train. His body was no longer reliable enough to navigate the world independently. He accepted a new life with full-time caregivers quite well. Over the last two years, there was a steady decline in the quality of his life. Still, he remained happy to go out every day, eat in restaurants, and continue to see friends and family regularly. It was only in the last few months that his mobility and cognitive skills were so diminished that he started sleeping most of the time. When he was awake, he just had a blank stare as if he was always in a dream state. Finally, he passed away quietly in his sleep.

When I got the call, I went into hyper-vigilant-mode to help get things organized (long distance). My brother was doing the bulk of the heavy-lifting — making the funeral arrangements and organizing the reception. I just needed to do a handful of things, but everything was going wrong. It felt like I was trying to move in quicksand. It took me hours to write his eulogy. Hours to write his obituary. Hours to book my travel. I even booked the wrong dates the first time. Then the electricity and the internet went out. I thought it was some kind of sign. I am still not sure a sign of what, but maybe that no matter how prepared you are for someone to die… you are never really prepared.

I flew to Los Angeles where we held the funeral. It was well attended by family and friends. His 88-year-old brother gave the first eulogy. His 83-year-old sister gave the second. All four of his children gave a eulogy along with two of his five grandchildren. Without knowing who would say what, each person told a funny story -- stories that my Dad had told them. Each one commented on how full and joyful his life was. Each one commented on his love of food, family, and storytelling. He was well honored. He was appropriately adored and admired for his zest for life. The service was filled with genuine laughter through some heartfelt tears. Everyone who attended felt that it was a celebration of a life well lived.  

The theme of my eulogy was my father’s relentless optimism and how grateful he was to have been alive for 91 years. After the chapel service, we had the traditional burial. My dad was buried next to my mom where she was laid to rest 43 years earlier (minus five days). Ironic that they both passed away in the month of June. I remember my mom’s funeral as if it had happened yesterday. I remember what I wore. I remember being terrified of cemeteries and caskets. At her funeral, no one gave eulogies except our family rabbi. No one uttered a word. No funny stories were told. It was nothing but sadness. She was 45 years old, and in the prime of her life, when cancer robbed her at the halfway point. She left four children (ages 10-21.) She left a husband who adored her. She left a mother, father, sister, and a huge group of friends who were all devastated. I remember thinking my world ended the day she died and wondered if the sun would come up the next day. I remember thinking even if it did come up, what would be the point of it? Without her, my world had ended. She was my best friend. 

But I survived that day… and the next 43 years too. Now I was standing on that same patch of grass, burying my father. But this time everything was different. With maturity and perspective, I was able to celebrate my dad’s life. I was able to appreciate the time we had with him. I was grateful that he passed away peacefully. I was grateful to all the dear friends and family that showed up for the service. Losing a parent is always difficult. But there is no comparison between losing your mother when you are a little girl and saying goodbye to your father as an adult... when their life was truly complete.

After the service, we had a wonderful reception at my aunt’s house. We feasted on deli platters (my dad’s favorite) and sat around sharing more stories. Then for the next four days, my siblings and I got together to eat meals, sifted through old photographs and talked more. We dredged up a lot of memories… some hilarious and some emotional ones too. By the end of the week, my heart was full. There was very little sadness or grief. I had my first dissonant moment when I wanted to call my dad and tell him about this incredible memorial service… but then remembered it was his.

By the end of the week, my siblings and I went back to our respective homes in our respective cities. And now the melancholy is starting to creep in. When my siblings and extended family were all together, it felt like my dad was with us. He was laughing too and enjoying the lox and bagels. But with everyone returning to their separate homes, it suddenly has become very quiet. Feeling a bit unmoored, I decided to look up the Five Stages of Grief. I did this the same way I might look up a recipe… as if there is a formula for making this feeling go away.

Here are the Five Stages of Grief:

Denial

Anger

Bargaining

Depression

Acceptance

Yes, those emotions would definitely apply to other times in my life. But this does not depict my current emotional journey. My stages have been more like:

Numbness (the initial news)

Overwhelm (funeral planning and travel logistics)

Teary-eyed (seeing family and friends at the memorial)

Laughter (storytelling about his wonderful life)

Gratitude (for the beautiful sendoff and his longevity)

Melancholy (when the family all went home)

So I am having my own SIX stages of something else, and I don’t like it. I want to hold onto those stories. I want to hold onto that celebration of life. I want to hold onto the virtue that defined my dad: Optimism.

So I remind myself of three simple things:

My dad is in a better place.

On this earth, he is in his final resting place… next to my mom.

In heaven, they are taking a walk in Paris… and catching up on the last 43 years.

Dad, may you and Mom both rest in peace… you are loved every day and never forgotten.

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