My Brother Greg

My brother Greg had a birthday this weekend. He says that he has everything he has ever wanted… except his own reality show. 

This has been an on-going dream since Paris Hilton and Nicole Ritchie made a splash doing The Simple Life. A reality series on Fox where these two daughters of rich and famous people were fish-out-of-water in rural parts of America. It was on that show that Paris famously declared that she thought, ‘WalMart was where they sold walls.' Sad, but true.

Anyway, my brother Greg, a larger than life character, felt that if Paris Hilton, Nicole Ritchie, and eventually the Kardashians could become famous, certainly a formerly urban, middle-aged gay man, starting a soap company, and learning to become a farmer could be good fodder for television. So every conversation we have had since 2005, he has pitched the idea of starring in his own reality show. When I was a network executive, he expected me to buy the show. When I became a television producer, he expected me to produce it. This is kind of hilarious… and exhausting.

When my brother and I get together, we are firmly cemented in arrested development. He turns into a thirteen-year-old boy and I become his eight-year-old sister all over again. It is well known amongst our family and friends that he was the obnoxious kid who did everything for shock value and attention. He was an equal opportunity offender. He drove my parents and my older siblings crazy too. But, since I was the youngest, I was probably terrorized the most. When we would watch Saturday morning cartoons together, he insisted that only HE was allowed to sing the commercial jingles. I was not. When my cousins would come over, they would all pile into his room, but I was not permitted to enter. He claimed that I didn’t meet the age requirement. According to him, the cut off was right before my birthday. He would insist that we watch scary movies together, but I was scared of everything, so I would cover my eyes. He promised to tell me when the scary parts were over, so I could watch the rest of the movie. But just when it got really scary, he would say, “You can look now.” Then, I would open my eyes and be completely freaked out by the monster that I was trying to avoid. I went on to have nightmares for years.

He spent a lot of time trying to figure out ways to push my buttons. He was definitely a button pusher. On a regular basis, he would hide in closets or behind doors, then jump out and scare me when I was least expecting it. One night when my mom and dad were having a formal dinner party, in which we were told to not interrupt for any reason, he put the head of my only Barbie doll into a meat grinder. I just sat there in horror.

He teased me relentlessly. He mocked my frizzy hair. My teeth brushing habits. My friends. Anything and everything was fair game for teasing. When he was a teenager, he was supposed to babysit me on Saturday nights, but he would sneak out with his friends leaving me all alone. He drove me crazy, but I loved him because he was so much fun. I was Charlie Brown and he was Lucy. Every time he would invite me to play, I would come running and he would yank the proverbial football away… leaving me to fall on my ass. But I always went back for more.

He was the kind of kid parents sent away to summer camp for a month to get a break, but it was never long enough. He was a colicky baby. A difficult kid. A rebellious teenager. The kid who struggled in school. But when he finally left home at 18, he found his true calling: Work. While he never became a great student, he was remarkably creative, industrious, and, much to everyone’s surprise, had a tremendous work ethic. So with success in the workplace, he found maturity and happiness. He worked hard and saved his money. He had good instincts with real estate investments. He learned the insurance business and started his own company. He had a ton of friends, loyal clients, and a beautiful home. My dad would say he became a mensch (the Yiddish word for a person of integrity).

After years of hard work, he decided to sell his insurance business and his home in the bay area. He and his life partner bought a piece of property on the Big Island (Hawaii) to start a soap company: www.konanaturalsoap.com. 14 years later, they have a five-acre award-winning sustainable farm where they make and sell handmade soap, grow and sell coffee and cacao (cocoa), and give farm tours. Recently, he re-booted up his childhood passion of throwing pottery and now sells handmade coffee mugs too. They have dogs, cats, chickens, employees, two small retail stores, and a huge on-line business. He works seven days a week, but he says it’s not work because he loves everything about it. 

He grew up to be one of the most fun loving, hard-working, happy people I know. He has a million friends and everyone loves him. He thinks every day is a blessing and is grateful for everything he has.

For his birthday, my husband and I decided to fly over and surprise him for a brunch at the Mauna Kea hotel. We coordinated the surprise with his beloved life partner Marty and his best friend Harry (who had flown in from the bay area the day before). It was a picture postcard day. 80 degrees and gorgeous. Oh, and the brunch was truly awesome too.

My brother loves his life:  The only thing that is missing is his reality show.  

So Greg, for now, you will have to settle on being “Almost Famous,” as I have dedicated this entire blog post to you and your milestone birthday.

You are 60 years old, but you look closer to 50… and you still act like you are 13. Perhaps it’s your arrested development and your relentless zest for life that keeps you looking so fabulous.

Happy Birthday. Love you.

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Death and Taxes

It has been raining here for two days straight. We have had high winds. Power outages. It is damp and cold... and dreary. Before you jump to the go-to phrase: “But you live in Hawaiiii,” I just want to remind you that my house has no central heat, so when it’s cold outside, it is cold inside too. It even snowed at the top of our mountain yesterday. So yes, it sometimes gets cold in Hawaii too. 

But it’s not just the cold, dreary, weather that has me so crazy. It’s the mind-numbing challenges of being a small business owner and having to navigate certain things that I simply don’t understand. This time:  the dreaded 1099 tax form.

Last year, I had a consultant help me with some editing and computer-related marketing. The other day I got an email asking if I would be sending her a 1099? (A tax receipt for independent contractors.) It hadn't even occurred to me to do this. Why do we send 1099s to some people and not others? Should we 1099 our pool man, gardener, housekeeper? What about window cleaners? Hairdressers? Manicurists? Or do we only 1099 the people who work for our corporations? I called my accountant who said that it’s very easy to send out a 1099. Most of the forms are on-line and free. Except, of course, the ones that need to go to the IRS. Those I need to buy at Office Max. He said it would be easy, since I just had one consultant. 

What should have probably taken me only 15 minutes ended up taking hours and hours and probably cost me way more than it should have. It was a 40-minute drive roundtrip to the nearest Office Max only to learn that the one item I needed only came in packages of TEN. I explained to the nice man at Office Max that I only needed ONE form… not 10. He was very sympathetic when he gave me an “It is what it is” shoulder shrug. Desperate to ease my frustration, he was excited when he found a smaller package of forms that saved me a whopping three dollars. I went home and attempted to fill them out with the instructions on the tax website, but something seemed weird. The questions were not the same on the computer as they were in the hard copy form. 

Uh-oh. 

Apparently, the really nice Office Max guy with the sympathetic shoulder shrug handed me the WRONG forms! I needed the 1099-misc NOT the 1099-Interest Income forms. But I had already opened the package and I was pretty sure that I threw away the receipt. Thankfully, I hadn’t printed any forms yet. So, I carefully gathered up my package of incorrect forms and attempted to re-tape the cellophane wrapping back over it. This did not work by the way… not even a little. I, then, went to hunt for my receipt in the kitchen garbage can, where I was concerned that the receipt might be buried under some wilted salad and discarded pasta with meat sauce that we ate for dinner the night before. But the gods were smiling down on me when I found the receipt, crumpled up underneath some inoffensive junk mail, and no smelly leftover food substances. 

I, then, got in the car and made my second 40-minute roundtrip back to Office Max. There I explained my mishap with the wrong package of 1099 forms to the cashier. She was very helpful and happily swapped them out, when I paid the difference and purchased another package of pens. G-d forbid you should ever walk into an office supply store and not need to buy just one more thing. 

When I returned home, I tried to find the file that I had spent too much time already filling out, but it was nowhere to be found. Not saved on my desktop. Not in my browser history. Not in my downloads. So I did another search for the forms, but somehow kept getting routed to commercial websites that make filling out tax forms “easier.” This led to a number of situations where for just $19.99/month I could filled out other forms on-line and save myself a lot of aggravation? But I don’t have other forms to fill out. I have one lousy form which has cost me $20 (for the package of 10), two 40-minute roundtrips to Office Max, and a brief phone conversation with my accountant which will probably cost me $100. So, I keep searching. Finally, I find a website that does not seem to require a lifetime membership, will allow me to fill these out on-line, and print them in my home office. But, they don’t line up with the forms I purchased. I don’t have the right software or something. I am truly ready to go postal. Finally, I texted a friend and she said I could fill these forms out by hand. Wait, what? This is music to my ears. Had I known that I would have saved myself hours of aggravation.

But wait. This one form actually requires three different versions (IRS, state, payee, payor). Then there are two other forms that have to be filled out too. I keep making mistakes, so I end up starting over. But finally, I get them all done. I make out the different envelopes to the IRS, the state, the contractor, and I think I am ready to head to the post office. (Which is now closed because this took hours longer than it should have.) But while talking to another friend, I learn that I cannot simply fold these forms and put them in regular envelopes. He claims they must be sent in special envelopes and that forms are folded in half. What? Where does it say that? 

So I spend several more hours searching the IRS and state tax websites to find out if that is true. I cannot find that rule anywhere. I am so frustrated with all of the time I have wasted on this “one” form. I don’t want to start over. I don’t want to drive 40-minutes roundtrip to Office Max to buy the “right” envelopes. I have had it. How do other small business owners do this? Why did my accountant say that it would only take me 15 minutes? Why didn’t my accountant offer to do this? 

I have done everything they have asked me. I have bought the stupid forms (twice). I have filled everything out in duplicate. I have separate envelopes. I cannot take it anymore. It’s pouring rain. My dog is barking incessantly because there are birds outside the window. My husband is still playing tennis… six hours later. How did HE not get rained out by the way? I decide to throw caution to the wind. I fold the forms like regular letters, stick them in a regular envelopes, and mail them the regular way. This devil may care, practicing the art of not giving a subtle f*ck, rebel without a cause, my way or the highway attitude is the only moment of joy I have felt since starting this ludicrous exercise in bureaucracy. 

Yes, I am living on the edge. Yes, I sent out my first 1099 AND I folded it in a regular envelope. It is my year of living dangerously… and I like it. They say that there are only two things for certain: Death and Taxes. I am certain that they are related. The paperwork that is required to do your taxes makes you want to kill someone. I took the high road. No one was injured during my complete meltdown, but I did go to dinner with my husband that night and broke down into a puddle of tears while sipping a much needed margarita and inhaling a basket of chips and salsa.

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Movie Reviews

My brother and I were chatting about movies we had seen recently and he said he was disappointed by all the hype of The Favourite. He didn’t love it because it didn’t meet his qualifications for what makes a great movie. He says that all great movies end in redemption or reconciliation. The Favourite does neither. 

While it wasn’t my favorite movie of the year, I thought there was a lot to like about it. The performances of the three leading women (Olivia Colman, Emma Stone, and Rachel Weisz) were sublime. The production and costume design were both incredible.

The Favourite reminded me of All About Eve through a historical lens of 18th century royalty. One woman comes into another woman’s life and disrupts it both personally and professionally. But by the end of the movie, I realized it wasn’t so much of a history lesson nor a reimagined 1950's classic movie. I think it was ultimately biblical. I believe the theme of the movie was the Seven Deadly Sins: Lust, Gluttony, Greed, Sloth, Wrath, Envy, Pride.

Each of the main characters possessed one or more of these sins, and ultimately it was the undoing for all of them. It was a lesson in humility and in moderation. While it doesn’t leave the audience feeling uplifted at the end, it is a wild ride of indulgence, comedy and misfortune. At its core, it kind of reminded me a of Hollywood. 

I am not sure there is a perfect movie this year. I adored Rami Malek in Bohemian Rhapsody and I think he deserves the Oscar to sit alongside his Golden Globe and SAG statues this year for his portrayal of Freddie Mercury.

I thought A Star Was Born had some amazing highlights. Lady Gaga was wonderful. Bradley Cooper was captivating and made an outstanding directorial debut. But, unfortunately, the second half of the movie didn’t hold up as well as the excitement of the first half.

Green Book was excellent. A feel good movie about a beautiful and unlikely friendship. Mahershala Ali and Viggo Mortensen were both incredible.

Roma was adored by the critics, but I felt it was a little slow. Admittedly, I saw it on Netflix rather than on the big screen, so something might have been lost in translation. No pun intended for a sub-titled picture.

Christian Bale as Dick Cheney was an incredible transformation in Vice, but I still think Rami deserves the Oscar this year.

BlacKKKlansman was a fascinating true story. Performances were incredible there too.

Loved Black Panther in spite of my burnout of superhero movies.

This was the year of breakout performances for sure, but I cannot say there was a movie as a whole that took my breath away.

What movies did you love this year? Which film would you vote for Best Picture?

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Spark Joy

Sorry I have been absent for the last two weeks. I was attending an intensive 16-day Yoga Teacher Training workshop. When I shared this news with my friends and family, the general reaction was: “WHAT? Are YOU going to be a Yoga Teacher?” My response was: “Maybe.” 

In Marie Kondo’s best-selling book Spark Joy, she suggests that the secret to tidying up and de-cluttering your life is to hold each item you own and see if it "sparks joy." If it doesn’t, she says you should get rid of it. I have decided to extend this metaphor to devoting this year to exploring things that might “spark joy” in my life. This is my year of self-discovery. This is my year to browse the shelves of life. This is my year to be less attached to the outcome. Taking a Yoga Teacher Training course was the first step on that journey.

I have spent my entire life on a treadmill. Running as fast as I could to somewhere. Where exactly? I don’t know. I was always running to my next goal, but also probably running away from my demons too. Somehow I equated being quiet or still as not being productive. At first it was a race through school. I thought I was going to be a doctor, so while I was in college I never relaxed. While others were partying and enjoying college life, I was always stressed out about every assignment and test. All I could think about was how each exam would affect my overall grade and how that might affect my ability to go to medical school. I held my breath so tightly that I couldn’t absorb what I was supposed to be learning. The only thing I mastered was being stressed. I got an A+ in being Type A. So, when I burned out as a pre-med student, I switched my major from Biology to Psychology. Perhaps an unconscious choice to cure my own neurosis? Or a conscious one as it had virtually all of the same pre-reqs as my Bio major.

When my dream of medical school was thwarted by mediocre grades and a loss of confidence, I felt it was necessary to channel my energy into finding a new career path IMMEDIATELY upon graduation. I took a bunch of electives in television production. I did an internship at a film studio. That led to a summer job as a secretary to a producer. Then, I landed a full-time secretarial job working for another producer BEFORE I even graduated. It didn’t even occur to me to take a day off between graduation and starting my first real job.

But I got fired from that job after six weeks because that producer didn’t like where I placed his tea cup on the coffee table. Not joking! This should have been a red flag right there, but I was persistent. My brother (a young entertainment lawyer at the time) helped me land another secretarial job working for a producing team. I was with them for about two and half years. I learned a lot by paying attention and being highly organized. But, I always resented the dog-eat-dog nature of the entertainment business. Eventually, some combination of sheer perseverance and luck, I was able to land an entry level job as a network executive. I rode that roller coaster for another 28 years jumping from company to company until I finally got off the wild ride and became an independent producer. 

Segueing from television executive to television producer was the safe choice. It was an easily digestible soundbite to tell friends and family. I left my corporate job as an executive where I bought television ideas from writers and producers, then I became one of those producers who sells ideas to the executives like my former self. But the truth is, I just don’t like being a salesman… and unfortunately sales is more than half the job.

Television was a job that I fell into and I made a career out of it by working hard and mimicking other successful people. It was like riding on the back of a bull. I just held on as hard I could to survive. Eventually, I was considered a bull rider too. In this metaphor, I cannot help think that I wasn’t really riding bulls as much as I was surviving the bull sh*t that was came with the territory.

I have often said that I was so busying working that I forgot to have fun. I envied people who were more carefree. To borrow a term from Michele Obama’s autobiography, “I was a box checker.” Get a college education. Have a career. Get married. Buy a house. Have a family. Work hard. Work hard. Work hard. Check. Check. Check. I was, also, a world-class list maker. Rule follower. People pleaser. Do-gooder. These qualities made me reliable and successful, but they were often in the absence of balance and joy. I simply forgot to check the box for Choose Fun.

When I moved back to Hawaii a few years ago, I finally had time to slow down and smell the plumeria. But I didn’t know how to slow down. I had lived one speed: Hyperdrive. I needed tools to change my brain chemistry, reduce my cortisol-pumping adrenal gland, and modify my outlook. It all started with meditation. (Thanks to my friend Bill.) But learning to meditate wasn’t easy. My mind was like a surly inmate… and it wasn’t going down quietly. It has been two years of daily meditation, and finally, I look forward to it every morning like a great cup of coffee. Several months after embarking on a daily meditation practice, I decided to launch my blog. Writing was a way to channel my creative energies and compulsive mind into something productive. Unlike producing, it didn’t require someone else approving it, buying it, or giving me money to make it. It was my own little weekly production. 

But meditation and writing was just the beginning of this new self-exploration journey. This is why I came back to a yoga practice after 25 years. Thanks to my awesome yoga instructor Tommye, I decided to take it to the next level and consider teaching.

Teacher training was daunting. 6am-2pm for 16 days in a row (including weekends). This required getting up in the pitch black and tip-toeing around my house to not wake my family or my dog. If I woke my dog, he would bark his little head off and that would wake everyone else up. By the way, I am NOT an early morning person. Eating breakfast at 5:30am was far earlier than my stomach was ready to accept food. After breakfast, I would head off (in the dark) to a yoga studio where we greeted each other in silence and sat down to a meditation circle every morning. After meditation, the sun would come up and our teacher would start to teach. She would teach philosophy, anatomy, alignment, the posture names, and then we would practice for hours. My body was so tired, and my brain so full, that I found myself limping home to a hot bath of Epsom salts and a variety of menthol eucalyptus based muscle rubs. I couldn’t even form a sentence for the first few evenings after training. 

During the training my mind went to some dark places. You are too old for this. You can’t teach yoga if you are already sore after three days of training. There is too much detail. I cannot possibly learn all this and regurgitate it out in a cohesive (much less) soothing way. So I thought about just dropping out. But then our teacher sent the class an email that addressed that very thought. The subject line read: “Steadying The Overwhelm.” She went on to write, "You can drop it and run away, but think of the satisfaction, the growth, the empowerment that will come when you decide to stay and do your best.” So, 16 hot mineral baths later, jars of ointments for achy muscles (Tiger Balm, Arnica, Deep Blue, Vicks VapoRub), Advil, and tons of water, I continued to show up every morning at 6am in the dark, took my seat on a bolster in our meditation circle, and finished the course. It culminated with a two-hour written final and we each had to teach an entire class, open to the public. I survived both my fears and my sore muscles.

Oh, and I really really liked it. 

My class was comprised of nine students ranging from about 25 - 60 years old. Most of whom were in excellent shape. Most of them vegetarian or vegan or pescatarian. Most of them had been doing yoga for a long time along with a variety of other sports. Most of them were freelance massage therapists, nature guides, and free spirits. One was a female police officer. Everyone was on their own journey. Everyone was looking to learn more about yoga, but mostly we were there to learn about ourselves. Everyone seemed to be looking for more purpose and meaning in their lives. 

I couldn’t help but wonder if I had taken a class like this 30 years ago, would it have altered my journey? Would I have had the courage to have taken a different path in my life or my career? But by the end of the class, I learned that this question no longer serves me. I have spent a lifetime apologizing for the way I lived. I felt apologetic for joining the “circus” at a young age and not finding a way to get out earlier. Juggling too much. Not giving anything proper attention and always being in emotional conflict with how I spent my long days and most of my weekends. Always working. Always stressed. But that was my path. Rather than apologizing for it, I now look at it with greater reverence. I did it. I survived it. I am grateful for all of the education and the good living it provided me. It made me tough, but it also made me compassionate. I am on a new path now.

So, am I going to be a yoga teacher? Maybe. But I hope it is in concert with a myriad of other things that “spark joy.” I want to teach other people whose lives are imbalanced how to find balance in their life. Whether that be yoga, meditation, a healthier diet, or even a new career. Because… it’s never too late.

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Distractions

I got up early this morning and meditated. Dropped off my daughter at school. Wheeled the garbage can down the driveway. Read the newspaper. Ate my breakfast. I was off to a good start by 8am.

But then I went down a rabbit hole. 

What should I make for dinner? I need to make a chiropractor appointment. I need to wash my car. I went on a hunt for my husband’s GoPro which I needed for a project. I finally found it. But the battery was dead. The charging cable was missing. This required a second hunt through boxes, drawers, and file cabinets. I finally found the charging cable. Yay! Then I realized I have no idea how to use this camera. Boo. Nothing makes me feel older more than basic technology that I don’t know how to use.  I decided to charge it anyway. I will find someone to help me later.

I then remembered I have to read two books for a class I am taking, but I don’t feel like reading textbooks right now. I really just want to finish the two memoirs that I am reading: Devotion by Dani Shapiro and Becoming by Michelle Obama. Loving both of these books.

But it’s Monday… and on Mondays, I write. But all I can think about is that I really need to take my recycling to the recycling center, and I MUST clean out that junk drawer in the kitchen.

I should take my dog for walk.

Today is my middle daughter’s last day of vacation before she goes back to college for her last semester. Maybe I should take her to the beach before she returns to the frigid temperatures of upstate New York. 

This reminds me that I forgot to make her favorite pesto sauce while she was here. So now I need to go to the market and get some fresh basil. I probably should have started an herb garden.

I really do need to wash the slipcovers on my sofa.

I just remembered that the wall heater filter needs to be changed every six months. Not sure we have ever done that. Nor do I know how.

Speaking of filters, I just replaced my water filter in the refrigerator, but the water is still cloudy. Is that normal? Perhaps I should call the 800 number and ask.

I have a long list of things I need to watch on Netflix along with a few recent podcasts that were recently recommended. 

Is this procrastination? Or just driven to distraction? I am like an adolescent with ADD hyped up on juice boxes and sugared cereal. No, of course, I didn’t actually eat those things. But now that I mentioned cereal, that reminds me that I need to make another batch of homemade granola.

Are you overwhelmed today? It’s hard to get back into the groove after the holidays. I will get to my To-Do list… soon. At least some of it. Maybe all of it. Or maybe none of it. It’s okay, it’s Monday.

But first, I’m going to walk my dog because he’s kind of giving me that look.

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Happy New Year 2019

For Christmas, I received a copy of Michelle Obama’s Becoming and I am so enjoying this memoir. In one of her early chapters, she writes about her very first piano lesson and the importance of always finding Middle C on the keyboard before you begin playing. As I sat down to write this morning, the pressure of writing something on the last day of the year somehow feels overwhelming. What is the Middle C key equivalent for a writer? Where do we find our home base? How do we strike the first key when we feel like the words aren’t flowing? So, as I was looking for inspiration, I went back to see what I wrote last New Year’s. Did I meet my New Year’s goals from last year? Have I learned anything? Have I improved in anything?

Here is my list of last year’s goals and my results:

Be less attached to the outcome - I almost completely missed the boat on this one. Up until a few weeks ago, my only focus was on outcome. When I was not getting the results I wanted, I found myself irritable and frustrated. But then I realized that I was looking at it all wrong. This was not failure. This was opportunity. It was an opportunity to refocus on letting go of things I cannot control. An opportunity to re-examine what brings me joy and what doesn’t. Sometimes getting a different outcome can be a blessing. Sometimes it is all about changing your perspective. 

Grow my readership - Glennon Doyle (author of Love Warrior) says that whether you have an audience of 14 or 14,000, it doesn’t matter. If someone loves your writing, then write for them. Or just write for yourself. I grew my readership this year, but I also let go of being attached to the number. Every time I thought I didn’t have a big enough audience, and I should stop writing, someone would write me a note and say, “Don’t stop writing. It’s my favorite thing about Mondays.” It was those comments that kept me writing… and I thank you for those who took the time to write them.

Continue to make a living as writer and/or a producer - It was a tough year and my attachment to the outcome took all the joy out of it. I struggled with all of it. I was not enjoying the process because of that attachment. Lesson learned.

Love what I do - I do, but it isn’t just about work anymore. It’s about looking at my life as a whole.

Stay balanced - I did, and I am probably most proud of this. I stayed committed to my yoga and meditation practice and focused a lot more on Choosing Fun

Stay healthy - With the exception of getting two head colds last January and March, I managed to stay pretty healthy and I am very grateful for this. 

Be Patient - Getting better. Amazing how all of these are tied to that first one on this list. 

Keep writing - I did. I am. Even when it is hard.

Be prolific - Hmmm. By some standards, maybe. By my standards, maybe not enough. Back to that first goal… again. 

Be Inspired - I was. Particularly through all the books I read this year. It was a great luxury to have time to read and learn so much from other writers. I was also inspired by my friends and family who continue to impress me with their passions and their personal growth. My eldest daughter who traveled to 17 countries and truly knows the meaning of enjoying the journey. My middle daughter who will be graduating college this year and has become a wonderful young adult. My youngest daughter who has made the transition to high school seamlessly and really loves all of her sports and extracurricular school events. 

Inspire others - I am grateful to those who reached out and said that the blog did that for them. That is probably the greatest reward of all. 

As I started thinking about my goals for the new year, I would say that they are very similar to last year’s goals. Not because I didn't achieve them, but because they are lifelong practices. They are not end results. This has probably been the biggest epiphany I had this year. There is no end game. There is only the journey. 

So as you start to make your New Year’s goals or resolutions, may you be blessed with good health, prosperity and whatever makes you happiest. Happy New Year!

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10 Best Holiday Survival Tips

It’s Christmas Eve. Everyone is bound to feel a little stressed. Holidays always stress me out too. When I get stressed, I sometimes forget the basics. So, at the risk of being Captain Obvious, I decided to share some of my holiday survival tips:

1)  Hydrate. I can’t stress this enough. Bad things happen when I forget to drink water. I am prone to headaches. I get light-headed. It makes me tired and cranky. Often times I confuse dehydration with hunger, which means I overeat. So here’s a reminder for all of us: Drink water. Lots of it. Start now. Eight glasses is the minimum. More if you exercise, which is a good segue to #2...

2)  Exercise. I know you’re busy. We all are. There is no time. Yes, there is. Walk, hike or run. Just move your muscles for 15-20 minutes. It doesn’t matter what it is. If walking, hiking or running is not your thing, then stretch, lift weights, ride a bike, or play a sport you love. As the saying goes, Just Do It. 

3)  Breathe. There is breathing and then there is breathing. Technically, if you are reading this you must be breathing. But then there is breathing. I tend to hold my breath a lot. Not sure why I do that, just a bad habit. Holding your breath makes your muscles tight, and like dehydration, can cause headaches and a whole host of other maladies. If you find yourself feeling stressed, stop and just focus on your breath. Close your eyes for one minute and just observe your breath going in your nose and out your mouth. Believe it or not, this is a mini-vacation for your body. Do it as often as needed. But not while driving… because you shouldn’t close your eyes when you are driving.

4)  Time out. I like to mediate, but if that’s not your thing, then just take a few minutes for yourself. I highly recommend taking a 15-20 minute break from all stimulation: Lie down. Take a hot bath. Or just lock yourself in the bathroom and flip through your favorite magazine. Sometimes just taking a break can give you a whole new wave of energy and a better attitude.

5)  Music. Turn it on! In your car. In your house. On your phone. With or without your headphones. It doesn’t have to be Christmas music… just something that puts YOU in a good mood. This helps with everything: wrapping gifts, cooking, cleaning… even traffic.

6) Eating. Everybody struggles with eating too much over the holidays and spending the next six months trying to lose the weight they gained. I know I did last year. So my recommendation is to try and make good choices BEFORE the parties. Never go to a party famished. If you know you are going to a party with lots of delicious treats, try and eat small balanced meals before you go… and drink lots of water. The water will prevent you from over-eating and might even prevent a hangover, if you are inclined to drink too.

7) Ask for a hug. It’s a great stress reliever and someone may need one too.

8) Donate. Find a charity that means something to you and give. It can be anything: money, food, old clothes or even old towels to an animal shelter. Cleaning out a closet is one of my favorite stress relievers and there are a lot of people who could use those things that you are just tired of looking at.

9) Count Your Blessings. This was one of my dad’s favorite sayings. In his memory, I try and do this every day. Gratitude is the best attitude for any occasion.

10)  Let go of perfection. Invariably, we will not please everyone. So let’s just try and remember to be our best selves. Isn’t that the best gift we can give others anyway?

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All I Want For Christmas

I am trying to get in the holiday mood, but it’s not quite happening for me yet.

The Christmas jingles are not providing inspiration.

I am avoiding gluten and dairy products, so I will be skipping the Christmas cookies this year. Both making them and eating them.

It’s about 83 degrees outside, so it doesn’t quite feel like Christmas… or even December for that matter.

I am not exactly Bah Humbug, but I am just struggling to find the spirit for sure. 

I used to love the holiday season, but without little ones in the house or even having all the kids home for the holidays, something feels like it is missing. 

Maybe something is missing. My two older daughters are far away, the absence of cooler weather, and my loss of desire to buy more stuff.

I thought if I forced myself to go to the mall, the inspiration would come. But I just ended up buying some things for my youngest daughter that she actually needed. I was worn out after an hour.

I find that the things I want most are simply not things. My Christmas list looks something like this:

Good health. Since I have had three sick patients in the house over the last three weeks, I am reminded how important this truly is. First, it was my daughter recovering from oral surgery. Then, it was my dog losing one of his nails and having to suffer the indignity of wearing a plastic cone for a week. This included having to wrap his foot in a plastic baggie every time he went outside, so the bandage didn’t get wet. If you think your dog hates you for making him wear a cone try adding a baggie to his foot for every pee-pee break outside. Then, my husband got a nasty cold. Followed by my daughter getting a sore throat. I made so much chicken soup that I think they might never eat chicken soup again. I am thankful that I didn’t get sick myself. My only symptom was exhaustion. So when I wasn’t making soup and putting plastic baggies over my dog’s foot, I was taking a lot of naps. And, of course, disinfecting everything like a mad woman. 

Next on my list…

Peace. Ideally, World Peace. But as they say, you have to put on your own oxygen mask first before helping others. So I would like to start with my own inner peace. To live in harmony with myself and my inner critic. Embrace my shortcomings and celebrate my own being. Perhaps if I can figure this out, I can be better prepared to helping the other 7.3 billion people on the planet.

And just one more thing…

Purpose. As I venture into year two of my own entrepreneurship as a writer, producer, meditator and yogi, I am hoping to achieve some tangible reward for all of my endeavors. I feel as if I have been in graduate school for Life these last two years. My studies have included patience, gratitude, and self-care. But I am ready for these new teachings to lead me to something more concrete. Dare I say income? Otherwise, I might have to embrace all of my hard work as hobbies. Which then makes me retired… and I am simply not ready for that. 

In the meanwhile, I am nothing if not grateful for the love of my family and friends. I am particularly grateful to the new community I have met through my writing. My readers have also been my teachers. So much of my education this year have been books, recipes, music, television shows, movies and podcasts that you have all recommended. This has been a treasure trove of wonderful discoveries of talented writers, philosophers, and artists. 

So please keep sharing those things that inspire you because it inspires me… and that’s all I really want for Christmas.

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Dog Day Afternoon

Yesterday, I woke up to my dog limping. Never a good sign, but usually treatable by a quick examination of one of his furry little paws. For whatever reason, he tends to step on bees in our backyard and they get stuck in his fur. My youngest daughter and I have become experts at extracting the occasional stinger from his paw with a flashlight, tweezers and some good old-fashioned patience. Unfortunately, this one was not as simple as a bee sting. As I did my cursory investigation of his furry little white foot, I discovered a bright red toenail. Ouch! So I made an appointment with the vet. Yes, my awesome vet works on Sundays, and she agreed to see him that afternoon. 

The vet’s office was packed like a shopping mall right before Christmas. Now, I understand why she is open on Sundays. After a bit of a wait, he was finally examined and it was determined that the nail wasn’t actually red. The nail was missing. I know… EWWWW! Somehow he actually lost one of his toenails. My awesome vet cleaned it up, applied some medicine, wrapped his foot in a bandage, and sent us home with antibiotics and the “Cone of Shame.” He hates the Cone of Shame. All animals hate the Cone of Shame.

It was a heartbreaking and (slightly) comical combination, as I watched him try and navigate with his three legs and his massive plastic cone. He sulked around all afternoon. The cone makes him a bit catatonic because he has no peripheral vision with it. He was afraid to walk, afraid to lie down, and confused about how to eat. He ended up using the cone like a makeshift shovel, scooping his food into the cone, and then lapping up the pieces with his tongue. But, later, I realized he wasn’t actually drinking water. His nose became dry and he seemed lethargic. So I decided to give him a break from the cone, got him to drink water, and let him run around cone-less on his three legs for a bit. He seemed a little happier. Even the bandaged leg was no longer a big deal. Unfortunately, the cone went back on for bedtime. 

During my morning meditation, I gave him another respite from the cone as he quietly took his nap next to me on my chair. I thought that maybe he could go cone-less after all, since he didn’t seem overly interested in chewing on his bandage. 

Silly me.

The moment he was unsupervised, he was gnawing on it like a wild animal. So, the cone is back on... and so is his sad face. Needless to say, he might be getting some extra love and attention this week. Even as I typed this last sentence, I could envision my daughters rolling their eyes and muttering, “That’s because he’s the favorite child.”

Other than my dog drama, I had a pretty good weekend. My youngest daughter has made a full recovery from having her wisdom teeth pulled. While it rained on and off all weekend, the sun came out long enough for me to play some tennis and witness a ton of beautiful rainbows. So as I segued from taking care of my daughter (post-surgery) into taking care of my dog (post-treatment), it made me feel like that quote from Maya Angelou: Try to Be the Rainbow in Someone Else’s Clouds.

I am certainly grateful for all the literal and metaphoric rainbows in my life.

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The Wisdom Tooth Fairy

Unlike losing your baby teeth, there is nothing fun or exciting about having your wisdom teeth pulled.

My youngest daughter went to the oral surgeon to have all four of her impacted wisdom teeth removed. Apparently, if you have to have your wisdom teeth removed, 14 is the ideal age. I was 14 when I had mine extracted too. I remember it quite vividly. My dad took me in the morning. I was put under anesthesia, I woke up and immediately wanted to talk. They told me to stop talking. Apparently, some things never change. We drove home on a hot summer day back to our house and I remember in my post-anesthetic haze telling my dad to turn left onto our street from Ventura Blvd. In hindsight, I am pretty sure that my dad knew where to turn, since he had bought that home and lived there for the last 15 years… even before I was born. But anesthesia can be like truth serum or highlight your innermost self. In my case, it brought out my innermost control freak telling my dad where to go even before I had a driver’s license. 

But, I digress. 

My daughter was very nervous about having so many teeth pulled at once, and although nitrous oxide (laughing gas) was an option, she insisted on being put out with the stronger stuff. One hour later, it was over and she woke up groggy and stuffed to the gills with cotton gauze. She immediately wanted to talk too. Like mother, like daughter.

On the way home, we decided to stop at the grocery store to pick up some soft foods in case she was hungry later. While I sat in the car with her, her dad ran into the store to get a few things. The next thing I knew, I heard a slight gagging sound. Thankfully, I had the presence of mind to open her door as quickly as possible as she proceeded to throw up blood and chunks of bloody gauze. At this point, she had no awareness of where or what was happening. She was still strapped into the car and her head was hanging out with all kinds of fluids dripping from mouth and nose and into her hair. Yep, it was pretty gross and a little scary. But like all well-prepared moms, I had a collection of clean napkins from various Starbucks in my glove compartment and some old dog towels in my trunk. I proceeded to clean her up first… and then the parking lot. Now she was scared and moaning loudly. Meanwhile, her father was STILL in the grocery store! After a few minutes of talking her off the It-Hurts-So-Much-Ledge, her father finally arrived with a bag full of groceries. 

On the remaining drive home, I recapped the excitement that he missed in the parking lot. He was totally oblivious because in the time that it took him to "buy a few things," I had cleaned up the CSI crime scene. When we got home, I put her in bed, although it was a fight to get her to take off her tennis shoes and jacket. She was in a lot of pain and there was a lot of bleeding… and very loud wailing. I got her to take two Advil, although she couldn’t feel her lips or her tongue, so she wasn’t sure if she had even swallowed them. She was still wailing from the pain. So I crawled in bed with her and rubbed her back. I am pretty sure I haven’t done this in over a decade, but next thing I knew, she was fast asleep. It had been a long day… and it was only 11am. 

I went back to the kitchen and reported the medical update to my husband who was unpacking the groceries: Jell-O, ice cream, soda, donut holes, and whipped cream. Seriously, what was he thinking? If our daughter survived her oral surgery, we should put her in a diabetic coma? He said, that he bought foods that were “easy” to eat. In a very weird way, this kind of reminded me of something my dad would have done. So, instead of getting mad, I smiled. Although, he bought her a Creamsicle flavored ice cream which I knew she wouldn’t eat, but it sounded good to him. It’s the thought that counts.

She slept the rest of the day and I went to check on her around 4pm. She was feeling a bit better. We had filled the prescription for the heavy-duty medication (just in case), but it looked like Advil was enough to quell the drama. I offered to bring her some Jell-O, but she said it was too difficult to open her mouth. She agreed to to sip some water and take more Advil. I told her that I was going to a yoga class at 4:30pm, if she was okay to be alone. She said that would be fine. She just wanted to sleep some more. 

So, off I went. I turned off my phone for the hour that I was in the yoga class, but when I turned it back on there were two voicemail messages, a FaceTime missed call, and three texts. 

MOM: WHY AREN’T YOU ANSWERING YOUR PHONE???  I NEED TO TALK TO YOU RIGHT AWAY! 

My mind started racing. How could I have turned off my phone? What if her mouth was bleeding again? What if she fell down? What if she spiked a fever? What was I thinking leaving for one hour? I immediately called her back, “What’s wrong? Are you okay?” She sounded hysterical. I couldn’t quite understand what she was saying. She sounded very upset and frantic. I finally got her to focus and speak slower. What was all the drama about?

There was a Chorus performance at school that night and she wanted to go with her friends. That’s it. She didn’t fall. She wasn’t bleeding. She wasn’t scared. She wanted permission to go out. Oh, and, she needed a ride immediately. 

This was the same girl who was under anesthesia that morning and had four teeth removed. 

The one who threw up in the grocery store parking lot and couldn’t open her mouth wide enough to replace the gauze that she spit out. 

This was the same girl who hadn’t eaten in 24 hours and was still too weak to take a shower and shampoo the gunk out of her hair. 

THIS girl wanted to go see the Chorus sing at her school, with her friends, at night… now!  

At first, I thought she was kidding. But she was about as serious as a heart attack. When I said, “No way.” She pushed back. So I put her father on the phone and he said, “No way.” She proceeded to beg and plead and tell us how unfair we were being. She was feeling “Much better!” So, I asked a couple of follow up questions: Have you eaten anything? No. Have you taken a shower? Not yet. So, needless to say, the answer was still no. 

When we got home, she was in her pajamas. Apparently, she tried to take a shower, but became too exhausted to wash her hair. She couldn’t eat anything because her lips were still numb and her mouth was too swollen. At this point, the swelling had taken over and she looked like a chipmunk storing nuts for the winter inside her cheeks. She admitted that her face looked like a cross between a potato and a young Jonah Hill. She went to bed without dinner and slept for another 12 hours. She stayed in bed all day Saturday and Saturday night.

On Sunday, she wanted to go to the mall with her friends and buy a dress for the Friday night dance. She finally started eating some chicken broth, Jell-O and was drinking water. So, we let her go to the mall and go shopping. I begged her to only go for one hour, but she insisted on three. When I picked her up, she looked happy. But her face was still quite swollen. So she looked like a happy chipmunk who had just bought a dress at Forever 21. She fell asleep in the car and slept the rest of the afternoon. 

She woke up for dinner. More soup. Tiny pieces of steak-- cut up as if she was in an old age home and eating without her dentures. She said it tasted so good. She went back to bed and complained about all the homework she still had to do. This morning she went to school, but her room looked like a war zone. Clothing everywhere. Wet towel on the floor. Trash can full of old gauze. She did manage to hang up her new dress.

Poor thing. Four teeth ripped out of her mouth. Puffy cheeks. Swollen lips. Exhausted. There was no tooth fairy because the oral surgeon doesn't bother giving you your wisdom teeth… nor did I think to ask for them. 

So, after dropping her off at school, The Wisdom Tooth Fairy washed her linens, opened her windows, and did her three loads of laundry. Why do teenagers go through so many clothes? The Wisdom Tooth Fairy brought her home her favorite pie (Key Lime) for dessert tonight. We’re all glad it’s over, but there was nothing fun about this rite of passage. 

I thought about leaving a dollar under her pillow tonight… just for old time’s sake.

Perfectionism

I was chatting with a friend a few weeks ago about stuff. The conversation encompassed a variety of topics: Life, Death, Family, Work, Goals, Frustrations, and Gratitudes. Needless to say, it was a not a short conversation. But during this marathon-gab-fest, she casually mentioned that part of “our" problem is due to the fact that we are perfectionists. 

Isn’t that a term of Artists? Florists? Musicians? Accountants? Not moi.

First of all, we are totally different people. My friend is extremely methodical. She takes her time on everything. She likes everything to be perfect. She needs to process everything (even a text or email response) to make sure she gets it right. By her own admission, she often doesn’t finish her own creative projects because her perfectionism prevents her from ever being “finished.”

This does not apply to me. I have never thought of myself as a perfectionist because I never thought I was capable of perfection.

The way I look at it. I can either do something… or I can’t. There is no in-between. So, I tackle everything that I CAN do... immediately. And I mean everything: A text. An email. An opinion. A dirty dish. Or anything out of place.

When confronted with this label of perfectionism, I defended myself to my core. I am NOT a perfectionist because I like everything done fast. Nothing can ever be perfect if it is done quickly. But somewhere in my reptilian brain, I equate fast with getting extra credit. If I am the first to respond or the first to complete the task, I am illustrating my only superpower. I am Johnny-on-the-spot. Debbie-do-gooder. The Go-to-girl. So I am perceived as always paying attention. Reliable. Responsible. Always available. 

Exhausting.

But until this conversation with my friend, the “other end of the spectrum” perfectionist, I didn’t realize I was over-compensating for the same disorder.

Since I don’t believe I am capable of being perfect, being organized and being fast hopefully makes me valuable.

The additional benefit is that “stuff” is off my plate. So, if something were to happen, like an illness or an unforeseen crisis, I won’t feel overwhelmed rendering me incapable of completing the task. 

My friend says this is exactly why she DOES procrastinate until the last possible second. She works better under pressure and then she has a built-in excuse too! She says her go to response is: "I had to rush this at the last minute because I was busy with so many other things." In her mind, she believes she will get extra credit for doing a great job at the very last second. Cramming yes. But possibly still doing “A” quality work. If she doesn’t have excellent results, she can always say: “Well, it was good enough for pulling an all-nighter.” 

Unfortunately, she suffers from always being in a constant state of overwhelm. Her projects are always looming largely over her. A never-ending-To-Do list. 

I wish I could I say that my methodology prevented me from stress or angst. But, unfortunately, I feel the same way. I always want to be ahead of everything before anyone needs it or asks for it. So I have the same never-ending-To-Do list. I just start worrying about my future To-Dos long before I need to.

Hmmm. Same disorder. Different manifestations. Both exhausting and self-generated. We agreed that these are patterns probably developed in childhood… most likely as coping mechanisms. But that’s a therapy session for another day.

After this epiphany, we decided to be mindful of these patterns and try to find balance somewhere in the middle. We believe that if she sped up a bit and I slowed down a little, and we both let go of perfectionism, we might both feel more content on a daily basis. 

Since this conversation, I have tried consciously not to answer every email or text the moment I read it. She, in turn, is working on responding a little faster. 

Years ago, my oldest daughter starting referring to me as the “Ninja Mom” because I would often clean the dishes before everyone was finished eating. I think I have made progress since then. Although today, my husband was annoyed with me when his coffee cup was rinsed and in the dishwasher before he was done drinking it. 

But that said, I also brought the trash can down the driveway, got the morning paper, called the Gas company to refill the tank, took my daughter to school, fed the dog and did two loads of laundry before 8am. 

So, Rome was not built in a day… thank goodness I wasn’t in charge.

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The Lunch Club Revisited

So my three best girlfriends from junior high school came for a visit.

As I awaited their arrival, with fresh flower leis, I started tearing up about how much it meant to me that we were going to have a vacation together for the first time in almost 40 years. 

Although you don’t need much clothing to come to Hawaii for just five days, these women don’t travel lightly. Each one of them came with a very heavy suitcase packed to the brim with a Just-In-Case-I-Might-Need-This-Item. These are girls after my own heart.

After we carefully piled their luggage into the back of my small SUV, we headed straight to the grocery store. Of course, in all the excitement of seeing each other, and proudly packing the unwieldy luggage into the trunk, I forgot that my grocery bags were in a compartment underneath all that luggage. So we had the pleasure of unpacking those heavy bags one extra time (in 90-degree heat) before heading into the store.  

We agreed that we wouldn’t be doing much cooking. After all, we were on vacation! But, we still needed to stock up on breakfast items and snacks for the guest house. It turns out there is no better way to get reacquainted with your childhood friends than grocery shopping with them. They debated over which cheeses they should buy and how much? Who drinks coffee? Who drinks tea? Macadamia nuts or almonds? Both. One has a gluten allergy. One doesn’t eat tomatoes. The cart was quickly filled with eggs, butter, bacon (these girls know how to party), bagels, cream cheese, cheese, crackers, hummus, guacamole, veggies, fruit, ice cream, and dark chocolate. Beer or Wine? Turns out they prefer hard alcohol. Two are vodka drinkers. The other one likes tequila.

For the next five days, we ate every meal together, and stayed up as late as we could talking and playing Cards Against Humanity. If you haven’t played (I was a newbie), it’s a little bit like adult Mad Libs. It’s fun, silly, and totally inappropriate. It makes you laugh. Whether you are drinking or not. It also makes you feel like you are 14 years old again… which was kind of the theme of the week.

We did a little bit of everything. 

We took long walks in my neighborhood. We fed carrots to the goats and horses up the street. 

We went to the beach. They snorkeled in hopes of seeing giant sea turtles. I am not a snorkeler, but I happily sat on the shore and read a book. 

We took a walk on the ancient lava fields, along the coast, where we stumbled across a Monk Seal who had just given birth to a pup a few days earlier. We were so mesmerized by this that we lost track of time, so it got too dark to do a second snorkeling adventure.

But on the way home, we had a Steven Tyler celebrity-sighting right outside his house. He happens to be one of my girlfriend’s all-time favorite rock and roll stars, so this was a great bonus for her.

We went to my favorite yoga class twice… and they loved it too.

We ate fish tacos and shared french fries… because they don’t count when you share them. 

We drank cocktails with fresh squeezed juices from my orange, lime and guava trees. 

We went shopping at the outlet stores.

We shared mini-pie tarts at this darling little pie shop. The Lilikoi (passionfruit) pie was the favorite. Although, the Key Lime was pretty outstanding too. One of my girlfriends is on a mission to replicate that Lilikoi pie for her Thanksgiving bake-off with her in-laws. Apparently, it is very competitive. I hope she wins and puts her sister-in-law to shame.

We talked about our children. They all seem to be thriving and independent… which makes us all exhale a little bit.

We talked about our relationships -- past and present.

We talked about our careers. One of us is winding hers down. One is starting hers for the first time. The other is enjoying her work and might be named Employee of the Year! I am envious of the one winding down her career. And yet, I cannot seem to do that myself. I am more driven than ever to find my “true calling.” Which, in turn, makes me equally envious of the one starting her new career. As for one who might be named Employee of the Year, that is just awesome. Since I run my own production company, and am currently the only employee, I could technically name myself Employee of the Year. But I don’t think I deserve it this year. Maybe next year. 

Being with these three women was not like some kind of high school (or junior high) reunion. I don’t like reunions. High school reunions always feel kind of forced and formal. You get about the same information that you do on Facebook… just headlines. No real deep connection.

This was different. Being with these three women was like being with family. While I may not snorkel and they don’t play tennis, we are totally in sync with just about everything else. We have similar feelings about love, life, and spirituality. We are all highly-productive, multi-tasking, mothers, wives/ex-wives, cooks, neat freaks, business women, daughters and sisters. We are girls with the same DNA... without even being related.

It is an indescribable feeling to have reconnected to people that you have known since you were little. In spite of having only gathered as a group three times in 40 years,  there was no awkwardness. There was no communication gap. We are all 50-something women now, and we share a bond that is undeniable.

I like to think that we haven’t changed that much. Okay, maybe we have a few more wrinkles and different hairstyles, but we are essentially still 14-year-old girls at heart. We still love books, music, television and movies. We still love talking and sharing. We still love discovering new ideas, recipes, diets and coping mechanisms. Lots of coping mechanisms.

The five days were a blink. In one moment, I was picking them up at the airport. Then a moment later, I was dropping them off again. The only proof that time had passed were the wilted flower leis and the significant dent we made in the groceries… especially the dark chocolate and the bacon.

I felt an ache when they left… as if part of me was leaving too. That’s because my “sisters” were leaving and we were not done having fun.

But the morning that they were packing up, they were discussing the next trip. So we might make this an annual tradition.

Maybe by then, I will be up for Employee of the Year too. Either way, I cannot wait to do it again.

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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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