Saturday, January 31, 2009

Got the flu, R2?

Not even R2 is immune from the winter flu virus that spread through the local inhabitants like a mynoch through a power coupling. Perhaps it was his weakened circuits forcing him to recharge - too much rescuing others and not enough "me" time. Lucky for him there is a Battlestar Galactica marathon on tv and plenty of friends to lend a helping hand.

Sunday, January 25, 2009

The truth about the blanket

Yep, that's me at the ridiculously tan age of nineteen on the tail end of my life changing two week trip to Baja. Last stop was a few "luxurious" days at a hotel in Cabo before heading home. That blue, pink, and green blanket you see wrapped around me I bought on the hotel beach from one of those guys carrying fifty pounds of tourist goods to sell in long pants and never breaking a sweat. How do they do that?! Anyway, back to my story…I still have it to this day and it's one of my fondest processions. It's been affectionately dubbed "The Sleepy Blanket" and I forgot to add it to my what-would-I-grab-if-I-had-to-evacuate list from my previous post.

How did it get that name, you wonder? Because every time I (or an unsuspecting victim) lay down and cover up with the blanket, it's inevitable that deep blissful sleep will soon follow. I don't know what it is. Maybe the energy from the carefree days in Baja embedded in the soft fibers? Maybe it's like a placebo - you think it induces sleep therefore you must sleep? I do know that it's warm and soft and there for me when I’m cold, need comfort, or have trouble sleeping. It's not like a Linus security blanket leaving dust in the wake - I don't have to have it. However, and I’m actually a little shy to admit, but here goes…I love my sleepy blanket and hope I have it forever and ever and ever.

When I volunteered in the kindergarten classroom last week, I helped the kids pack up their stuff and get ready go home. This little boy was having trouble stuffing his nap blanket into his backpack, so offered him some help. I said “Oh, are you bringing that home to be washed?” and he said “Nooo, I have to bring it home…it’s my special blanket”. It struck me as really cute and endearing and got me thinking. It’s so simple when you are young. When you get even a little bit scared you cry. When you need a hug you insist on one. If you can only go to sleep with your worn out pink bear snuggle you aren’t afraid to admit it and if grandma forgot to pack it in your suitcase your mommy drives all the way back to grandma’s because it means that much to you and she doesn’t want to hear you cry yourself to sleep for a painful hour of mommy-torture!

Then, we hit a certain age and none of that is so cool anymore. It’s hip to be tough and grown-up and fearless. That goes on for many angst ridden years. Then, you hit a certain age when you are on your own and you care less about what other people think and crave those comforts again. As adults, we soothe ourselves more by things that we do, like going for a run, baking, drinking, volunteering, reading, etc. Maybe that’s why I love my blanket so much. It’s just so simple. It does all the work. It makes me happy. I’m not sure if other people I know have anything like this? Perhaps a pair of perfectly fitting worn in jeans? A sentimental piece of jewelry? A favorite tea cup? I’m most curious to know…
(That's Talia curled up with my beloved blanket)

Thursday, January 22, 2009

Top 10 positive things about my upcoming unemployment

10. Top Ramen comes in six flavors - a different one almost every night of the week.
9. I'll never again be behind on General Hospital (my guilty daytime pleasure).
8. My work won't interfere with that macramé class I've been too busy to take.
7. Seven crammed closets to purge, catalog, and organize.
6. Twenty-two mile commute to work = at least one hour jammed in traffic each way through the worst freeway intersection in the country...bye bye!
5. I'll have plenty of time to think and come up with that great product or company that no one has thought of yet and make millions of dollars and people will wonder "why didn't I think of that?".
4. I already love shopping at thrift and consignment stores.
3. I'll be in good company - many many many people are in the same boat.
2. Mowing the lawn burns 300 calories an hour - saving money and getting in better shape at the same time.
1. “Be careful what you water your dreams with. Water them with worry and fear and you will produce weeds that choke the life from your dream. Water them with optimism and solutions and you will cultivate success. Always be on the lookout for ways to turn a problem into an opportunity for success. Always be on the lookout for ways to nurture your dream.”
- Lao Tzu (Chinese taoist Philosopher, 600 BC-531 BC)

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Flip flops and Furikake

One of the great things about living in LA is the variety of places you can go basically within a few miles. My girlfriend, Emiko, drugged, kidnapped, and dragged me to Chinatown this weekend. Well, no, actually, when she asked if I was interested in going I said "yes. Yes. Yes! YES!!!!!!!" and we mutually agreed on a day and time. Turns out it was perfect timing, as I was in desperate need of some "me" time away. Retail and food therapy, topped off with a day with a fabulous friend, what could be better?

So, well equipped with plenty of cash, a summer skirt and flip flops (the forecast was for the low 80's yippee!), a big purse bag, and a take-me-anywhere-I'm-just-so-happy-to-be-here attitude we arrive downtown in a few minutes (yea for Sunday traffic!). Over the next five hours (yes, five glorious hours), we browsed, laughed, bought neat items, ate yummy treats (Emiko knows what's good - hooray for that!), and most importantly left our "normal" life behind for a seemingly different world. You know it's a good day when you ask yourself "Why don't I do this more often?". Of course, I know why. Life is busy. We stick with what we know - what is safe. We have to take care of the basics - food, household supplies, bills, work, school, etc. But, it's kind of like a diet - if all you ate was rice and steamed broccoli for every meal, after a while you crave something different and indulgent so badly that you would most likely stuff your face with Oreos and pizza in no time. Um, well, uh, that's what I heard people do...

It’s the same with treating yourself to a few simple pleasures once in a while. And, it doesn’t have to be a day long shopping excursion like I was lucky to experience. It could be the fancy organic $3 chocolate bar you’ve been eyeing at the grocery store, or painting your terribly neglected toenails (or gasp! having them manicured), or ordering a latte instead of just plain coffee. It’s about honoring our selves as a person – making our own soul feel special. And, every time I make tea in my $4.99 beautiful dragon tea cup with a fancy lid and brewing thingy, I’ll smile and think about my most perfect day. Bring on the laundry, the cat box, the dirty dishes in the sink, but let me just relish my fancy tea for a few precious moments…all that other stuff can wait.

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Being patriotic

What's a girl to do for her lunch break after an emotional inaugural morning, full of patriotism, history, tears, and smiles? Grab a diet coke, cheese burger, and fries from THE all-American Southern California burger drive-thru? Uh, huh...oh ya...exactly!

Thursday, January 15, 2009

R2 meets Sammy

"Oh my. I cannot believe it!! The famous Sammy the Squirrel, known throughout the galaxy for diplomacy and friendliness. So pleased to meet you. Ha ha, those whiskers tickle a bit. I hope you don't think I'm rude carrying on like this while you are eating. I'm just so excited. Thrilled! Where is C3PO? He'll never believe me!"

Sunday, January 11, 2009

Tale of the 100 year old bed

This weekend we bought a bed for Talia from Craigslist. For months I've searched for "twin bed" and didn't like anything that was in our price range. I wanted something slightly girly and a style and quality that would work until she leaves for college (gasp!). When I saw this bed it just spoke to me. It's not the most beautiful bed I've ever seen, but it has a history, nice detail, and no plywood or plastic...oh, and tons of potential. The seller said it was in his mother's attic for 30 years, and before that it was handed down for many generations. This totally appealed to me, especially since the majority of the mass-produced furniture in our home came in a box that needed assembly. So, here is a picture of the bed as we bought it, beckoning for some tlc and sprucing up for my little girl's fairy inspired light purple room. Not sure if we'll paint it or varnish it, but it's kind of exciting to have a fun project and to think about the possibilities. Stay tuned...

Wednesday, January 7, 2009

A Santa in January

One of my closest friends, Amy, unexpectedly lost a friend a few days after Christmas. She was 57 and suffered from poor health, but her death was still a total shock. This woman lived with her mother for many of her last years, being her caretaker and companion, cooking for her and loving her. As a result, her own personal life suffered, losing all of her friends and failing to maintain any sort of life outside of her devotion to her mother. When her mother died three years ago, she was lost and alone and remained depressed and lonely. So, so sad.

Then huge-hearted Amy came into her life. Amy enjoyed her yummy cooking, took her to many doctor appointments, called to check on her, really listened when visiting, and bottom line - cared when no one else did. The friendship wasn't all lollipops and roses - it had emotional ups and downs. But Amy never gave up on her, even when her husband and family wanted her at home instead and had difficulty understanding the friendship. She just did it and never asked for anything in return. She admits that helping people makes her feel good and is part of who she is (and one of the many reasons why I love her). And, luckily, she had a wonderful few hours with her two days before her death, and reported that she was in unusually great spirits. Thank goodness.

While I totally admire her good deeds, I can't help but think about myself. Would I have done what Amy did? Befriend a total stranger and show her such sweet compassion? To be totally honest, probably not. And, I can't blame it on the whole like "LA" thing - that we are private and closed and not particularly neighborly - because Amy was born and raised here, too. Do I wish I was more like her? Absolutely. I know I do good deeds, like making a friend laugh when she's feeling sad, bringing food to a local food bank once in a while, and organizing girlfriend weekends away (hey, many people benefit from those!). I guess we all have our own style and ideas of giving back to our friends, family, community, world, etc. It's priceless to have people in our lives that inspire us to do a bit of good in the world. But it's also important to acknowledge what we do, whether it's big or small, and to not compare ourselves to others. In my mind, the best that we can do is to give more than we take, even if it’s just making someone smile.

A few days ago, Amy called me after an emotionally difficult afternoon going through her friend’s apartment at the request of her brother. He told her that as her only friend, to please take whatever she wanted, otherwise it would just be thrown away or given to charity. Along with some crystal and other special items, she took a few boxes full of Christmas decorations. Despite being Jewish, she loved the spirit of Christmas. As a collector of Santas, I quickly spoke up and requested that if she came across a Santa, I would love to have it. And, wouldn’t you know it, there was just one Santa. A great Santa. And, she gave it to me without hesitation.

Thank you, Lisa. I will forever cherish this Santa. I hope you are at peace and with your beloved mom. And, please know, that you gave back to the those around you after all. You showed Amy that it was important to stand up for her values and what made her feel good as a person. You put a smile on my face when I got your Santa, and will continue to smile every December when I unwrap it. Of course, it’s not building homes for the homeless, but it still means a lot, and that's what really matters.

Tuesday, January 6, 2009

A little nuts

We had a very friendly backyard squirrel, Sammy the Squirrel, and I'll gladly admit it, I loved this squirrel. For the last few years, he would run out to greet us, do back flips, the happy dance, eat so cute with his paws, and bury food all over the yard. When his tummy was full with his preferred pecans or hazelnuts, he'd sprawl out on the tree limb with that thank-you-so-much happy look on his furry face and take a content nap.

Then one day, without even a 'goodbye', Sammy was gone. No note. No aloha wave. Just gone. Either he packed it up for greener lawns, died of old age, got attacked by a dog, or got hit by a car. I've thought about all of these things for this last six months or so and mourned the loss. And, yes, I have a life!

So, to my surprise and sheer delight, none other than Sammy greeted me when I got home from school this morning. I have no doubt it's him. He literally danced around and in between my legs and eagerly ran to the familiar feeding spot ready for a treat. Being the total geek that I am, I screamed "Welcome back Sammy!!!!!", ran in the house, got a handful of raw pecans, and happily placed them on the bricks. He was hungry and grateful. I was more than thrilled about the return of my little friend and it totally made my day. I'll never know about his adventures in the far away yards and frankly, I don't care. I'm just happy that he's home. Sometimes it's all about the little things, you know?

Monday, January 5, 2009

Sunshine and meltdowns

On the Sunday before school starts up again after the two week winter break, we head out to one of our favorite LA spots for some last minute sun and beauty. What a wonderful reminder of a place we've visited many many carefree times over the past five years. 

It's been an interesting two week holiday break from school, full of sickness, a lovely house guest, cold/rainy weather, holiday cheer, playing playing playing, and lowered expectations (but, in a good way). And, for the first time, my kids joined the universal experience of the back-to-school dread. It's not like they can't stand school, after all, they talked about school and classmates every day, but the end of break symbolizes the giving up of free time and the comforts of home. Been there, done that.

I remember how the worst is the end of summer. I'd be upset for the whole week before school starts, like "how can the summer be over? It just started?! Nooooooo!!!". I understand the feeling all too well, so I totally sympathize with my new little students. I comfort them, being very positive and relating to them, all the while reliving my own childhood back-to-school emotions. And, it's not like it ends once you are out of school. We get to experience it every week on Sunday. Yea! But, it's certainly worse for kids because they have much more fun than we do. They get Playmobil and dirt. We get laundry, errands, and bills. 

What's interesting was that Quinn completely melted down the day before school started while Talia was all smiles and "couldn't wait to go to school!!!", but then she waited until the evening of the first day back crying "I don't want to go back to school!!!". Either way, they both expressed the same anxiety and I totally get it. However, I feel a bit conflicted. I miss and love love love my very own personal time while they are school, even if it's spent working or cleaning. But, on the other hand, I wish we had more time together, just like they do, to visit and play at our favorite local spots. I miss our leisurely play dates, beautiful crowd-free hiking spots, and hours in the pool. And, their meltdowns show me they miss that, too. So, in a way, that's a good thing. They appreciate their time at home with me, and they are able to express that (well, after the meltdowns and talking it out - a mommy knows...). Those tears tell me it was a good not-too-over-scheduled break after all.

I know that after a few days back in school they'll be just fine - they have special friends and a great school. And me? I get to resume my routine - weekly breakfast with the girlfriends, my General Hospital guilty pleasure (I'm waaaay behind), work in peace and quiet, and my very own groove. After a few weeks off, I'm more than ready. Even through all the snot, cold, and tears of the past few weeks, we were together as a family and I'm grateful for that. And, I'm glad they are, too

Thursday, January 1, 2009

Let me entertain you

I admit it. Last year I wasn't very good at having people over for dinner, barbecues, game nights, etc. My house saw lots and lots of playdates for the kids, but hardly any adult social time. Not that I was ever the big social host, but 2008 was one of the worst in recent memory. I'm feeling bad about that and it's my goal to make a much better effort this year and in the years to follow. It's a bit of a life changer, really.

For me, it's not just about marking dates on the calendar - it's much more complicated than that. I didn't grow up in a very social family, to say the least. It was mainly just me and my single working mom (ditto for my latchkey kid husband), who came from a family who rarely entertained throughout her own childhood. Most of my later childhood evenings I made my own dinner of pot pies or creamed chipped beef on toast, while my mom was either working or out on a date. I'm not bitter - it's just how it was. For some people, inviting people over for dinner is second nature. For me, well, not so much. But, I'm thinking that I'm not the only one who's not like Martha Stewart hosting an elaborate themed get together every weekend? We all get busy and tired, but I can't help but think 'what is my hang up'?

Is it my semi-perfectionist side, thinking the house has to be spotless and the menu memorable and delicious? Is it a fear of being judged? Maybe the husbands won't click? The conversation flat? They'll run away laughing and make fun of and criticize the evening all the way home? Their lives are so busy that I'd be intruding on their precious time? You think that's crazy but trust me I've thought of these things. Only, most of my friends would be happy to be invited and be totally fine with pizza and beer or wine. Dust bunnies under the table? Psst...their laundry is piled on the couch! But, my insecurities are silly because I've yet to see a fellow friend's home in perfect order and I never mind or judge them because I'm so thrilled to be invited over and I am far more interested in the conversation than anything else.

So, what does it take for change? My friend and sex-column writer Andrea (that I have on my list to have over for dinner) would simply say "just do it" and you will reap the benefits. Maybe it is simply a case of gaining confidence and getting to the point where it becomes more common than not? I'm a decent cook and our home is comfortable and my friends are wonderful and humble, so I've really got to get past this. I love the expression that you really don't know someone until you've been in their home. I totally believe that being with friends, especially in your own home, makes life extremely rich and blessed. That's a good thing and I want more of it. Stay tuned...