Sunday, May 31, 2009

Big little bits

My daughter, the budding young photographer in training, took this picture of me wearing my new necklace that I got in the mail today. I could not resist ordering it from this new organization run by local women called 31 Bits


Now, don't get me wrong, I really really really dislike it when do-gooders brag about their do-gooding to make us all feel inadequate and not as saint-like as them. But, in this case I'll just pretend that there was nothing philanthropic in my mind about buying this jewelry for my oh-so selfish self. Forget the fact that it's handmade from recycled paper by creative women in Uganda. I only see the flawless workmanship and beautiful color that will look great with so many of my outfits. The fact that my single purchase helps aid these spirited women in this war-torn country racked with endemic poverty is just bonus. Feeding children, providing schooling, access to proper health care, and hope for a better future? Well, ya, I guess that's kind of worthwhile. Wait wait, I mean, it's worthwhile to update my wardrobe, and, ya, might have to check out that pretty long green one soon...

Thursday, May 28, 2009

Recipes from the heart

I just love a good recipe. I clipped this most excellent cookie recipe from the local newspaper years ago when it featured First Lady cookie recipes. Since then I’ve gone back to this recipe dozens of times and it’s never disappointed. In fact, people often ask for the recipe and I’m happy to share. I consider it the best thing to come out of the last Presidential administration and it's my favorite to bake (and eat) by far.

We all have our own favorite recipes, whether it’s for traditional lasagna or the perfect bowl of cereal (hey, no judgments here). As I get older and more confident, I find myself experimenting more with food and relying less on recipes and more on my creativity. Believe me, I’m no Julia Childs, and am actually kind of insecure about my cooking when it comes to cooking for people other than my immediate family. My chef hang-up has no basis because I’ve mostly avoided any major casualties, other than the horrible manicotti incident of 2004. I still cringe just thinking about it.

I got this fantastic chicken recipe from an amazing Italian chef and good friend and it’s always a hit.
She created her own recipe after enjoying this yummy cheesy mushroomy dish at a local restaurant. Ya, she’s talented like that. She also makes a killer eggplant Parmesan and tiramisu. I like her as a person and all, but damn her food is worth sticking around for after all these years!

I can’t forget my world famous Friday pancake recipe (excellent with the addition of a handful of chocolate chips):
When my grandmother was still alive, she gave me an early inheritance of her recipe cards and cookbooks. Wow, lots of jello recipes! She said that she was too tired to cook much anymore and her tried-and-true dishes she knew by heart. I’m sad that I don’t have her recipe for stuffed cabbage rolls, but luckily I have the one for her legendary Harvey Wallbanger cake. Galliano isn’t cheap, but it’s well worth it when it comes to this cake.
I wonder when my children are older if they will covet any of my recipes? Will they want to fill their own homes with comforting smells of my “famous” dishes? So far it’s hard to tell – one week they like something and the next week it’s just too “boring” or “spicy” or “weird” or “don’t you remember I don’t like tomato sauce anymore?!?”. Maybe they will make more of an emotional connection to my cooking when they are older. I sure hope so.

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

A welcome bloom

Turns out, this Memorial holiday weekend was not about fun social festivities as planned but all about me basically sleeping it away, dragged down by the latest cold bug that's going around. I've been a virtual shut-in for days, only going outside to sit in the sun for some vitamin-D and to get the mail. Ooooh! Exciting!

I try to keep up with the latest world and local news (thank goodness for my computer!), but it's been all over the place and controversial. There is an inspiring Hispanic female being nominated to the Supreme Court of the United States (yipppeee!!), Proposition 8 being upheld in California that changes the constitution regarding who qualifies for marriage (don't give up the fight!), or that really really annoying couple on that cable show with eight exploited kids who are exploiting a horrible marriage situation for ratings and blood money. Oh oh, and California is so broke that it cannot pay for anything of any value anymore. Hello, soooo done with this recession already!

So, deep down in there amid my congestion, sore throat, massive headache, and concerned mind, I manage to spot a few things that put a smile on my face and help me forget about all my worries. Like this flower for instance. It's in our front yard and for weeks we wondered what would come of this weird thing growing out of this plant that I have no idea what it's called. It bloomed into this amazing flower cluster, with purple canopies and delicate while flowers. This plant is right near my front porch for over two years and I had no idea it was capable of such beauty. It's just so unexpected and, well, really neat!

Call me a plant geek, I don't care. But, right now as I'm still feeling kind of crappy and now my sweet husband is going down for the count (it's inevitable), this spectacular flower (and three more baby ones growing now - yea!) adds a little bit of aaaah to a pretty blaaah kind of week.

Saturday, May 23, 2009

The Fear

It's Friday night. I'm at a local bar with four fabulous friends appreciating a much anticipated long overdue Girl's Night Out. We spend the evening at the bar's patio listening to a small guitar band play classic rock n' roll hits while enjoying many drinks, appetizers, and laughs. Yep, we really needed it and we all show a renewed sense of relaxation and contentment on our pretty smiling faces. Yea for gettin’ out as moms and girlfriends without the kids!!!

Sadly, the night comes to an end, and we pile in the carpool car and head home. Funny thing, though, my tummy isn’t feeling so well. It’s rumbling. Protesting. Was it all the fried food that I’m not used to eating? Something that didn’t agree with me? Hummm… I wonder if I should say something and sprint back into the bar and head straight for the restroom, only the restroom has this talkative eighty year old woman sitting in there handing out paper towels and lotion for tips. Not good. So, I take a deep breath and hope for the best. Only, well, and this is really embarrassing, I emit an odor that’s umm, not so pleasant. My lovely friend in the back seat with me discretely opens her window and I stare out my window in horror at myself as I grab in vain for my elusive window button. She puts her hand on my knee and calmly says “Oh, you are so quiet sweetie, are you okay?” and I’m all “uh huh” but secretly thinking “OMG! Will I be able to make it home without a massive explosion in the backseat?” Then I ride the roller coaster of feeling okay, then not okay, okay, then not okay despite my efforts to concentrate on something other then the urgency of my desperate bowel situation. My stomach protests as we drive on to the freeway and again, my tactful friend rolls her window down without saying a word. This time I fess up and say “I’m so sorry, I think that’s me and I’m feeling that my tummy isn’t doing so well and I probably should find a restroom…very…soon.” Without hesitation, my friend that’s driving heads for the nearest off-ramp without saying a word with that unspoken “I hear you sista – no problem” girlfriend vibe that I fully appreciate at that very nervous moment.


You’ve got to understand. I grew up as an only child that was raised by a single mom. I didn’t have any brothers holding me down and farting on my face or a dad asking me to pull his finger. My mom was private about her bodily functions and I always had tons of privacy. I do my bathroom business without the audience of my husband and I have no desire to witness him doing his #2 business on the porcelain throne. We don’t do “dutch ovens” (which for some reason other couples find really funny??) and I don’t fart in front of anyone if I can help it. I’m definitely less modest now that I’m a mother, but I still keep some things private and bodily functions are one of them.

Okay, so back to my story. My guardian angels bless me with a nearby gas station and a nice restroom all to myself. And...well, as my husband says, Satan left my body. Done. Gone. Bye-bye. Whew! I rejoin my awaiting friends (who, by the way, said to shout out if I needed reinforcements – bless them!) and we are on our way home again. So, ya...I’m supposed to be mortified and embarrassed to no end because I just don't have those moments of weakness! Only, well, I didn’t feel that way. I feel supported and loved and no shame at all and this is new for me. Wow.

When I arrive home, I tell my awaiting husband all the juicy details (no pun intended) and he’s all “Oh, that’s ‘The Fear’ that Kevin and Bean (local deejays) joke about”.

Here is the definition from my long time favorite morning radio show: “An urgent, uncontrollable need to use the restroom, coupled with the anxiety that there is not enough time to make it to said restroom. The term originated when Psycho Mike related a story wherein he took care of business on his parents’ lawn because he didn’t think he would make it inside. Tales of The Fear also surrounded the later fascination with Hot Cheetos and their undesirable side effects.”

Yep, that about sums it up. I’m actually happy that my understanding man can smile and commiserate about it. When I jokingly say to him that I wonder if my totally embarrassing out-of-my-comfort-zone moment of the night would make my friends so disgusted with me that they would never talk to or be able to look at me again, he just gives me that you’re-being-so-silly look. He suggests that if anything, it finally made me more human to them – less than perfect - that thank-goodness-she’s-finally-like-us-moment and they were probably happy about breaking down those stubborn walls and getting real with me.

It’s so true…and I really love that man. He doesn’t say much a lot of the time, but when he does he is so unbelievably wise. He could’ve said something like “that’s stupid” and dismissed me, but, he gets me. He knows my insecurities and faults and is happy when I grow and show more of the real me that he loves to other people outside of my small comfort zone.

Life is funny that way. Here I have this, uh humm, less than stellar moment and it could go either way for me. I could beat myself up and coward away in humiliation, or embrace the fact that, yes indeed, I can show the less than perfect side of me and feel better for it and people still like me after all. How very weird and unexpected this all is, but unlike my stomach, I’m not complaining one bit.
.
ps - check out another version of our night out: http://www.goodhousekeeping.com/family/sex/girls---knights-out

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Surrender

The other day, I read a friend's Facebook status that said "Surrender is the answer to all my problems!". I understand why she wrote this because she's struggling with a particularly difficult year, to say the least. When you spend all of your energy working on such a huge life load like debating possible and agonizing solutions, roller-coaster emotions, and neglecting yourself, when do you reach a point where you simply surrender and stop fighting? It's by no means giving up, but it's acknowledging you have done all you can and it is now beyond your power to solve. You relinquish all of your worries to the idea that God or the universe or whatever has a reason and a purpose that is beyond your understanding at the moment. But, why is that so tough to do and why does it take us so long? All I know, from personal experience, is that it feels damn good when you finally do. Aaaah, surrender...

Ironically, that same week, this quote of the day arrived in my in-box by F. Scott Fitzgerald: "I know myself...but that is all." After reading it a few times and considering the meaning, I found it very timely and comforting. If all I really know is myself then all the other rough stuff can be treated like a learning experience but also as something I can't always figure out or find a simple solution that will fix the problem. And, sometimes I just have to laugh and surrender and remember that tomorrow is another day.

As a mom I feel like I surrender all the time - at least once a day from my pregnancy to now. My kids are almost six and are acting very almost six, so do I fight it and expect them to act like I think/wish they should act (little angels) or do I read about what to expect at this age and adopt the phrase "that's very six of them" and provide support and comfort and love (and make sure I have a fully stocked wine cabinet)? What, noooo, sick yet again for the 27th time this year? Movies and tv on the couch all day again and no social life - it's all part of the family package. Fight and anguish over the indisputable fact that it's nearly impossible for my children to sleep in past 6 a.m. no matter what early or late hour they fall asleep? I still grumble, but also embrace and appreciate the fact that we are never late to school considering we have over two hours to get ready in the morning. Oh, I could go on and on and on. I didn't even mention the permanent dark circles under my eyes and smaller boobs from breastfeeding, if that's even possible (I certainly didn't think it was). I will never be able to make up for all the lost sleep and bra sizes, but my mommy life is certainly very rich and rewarding...and yippee for padded bras and under-eye concealer!

I think back to before I knew where my children were going to kindergarten. Every time me and the kids would throw a coin in the fountain I would make a wish that "my children would be able to attend my beloved childhood private school". This went on for months and months at fountains all over LA. Only when I finally decided to stop trying to impose what I selfishly wanted and surrendered to the universe and wished instead "I wish that my children get to go to the school that's just right for them" did I feel at peace with whatever happened. And, turns out we were beyond blessed with getting two "lucky" lottery slots at a public charter school that seems tailor made for our family.

What I'm trying to get at is that as much I surrender, although often it feels like defeat, it's all worth it. It's humbling and character building and a necessary part of gaining perspective and a different outlook on what really matters. And, thank goodness for the wisdom and maturity that the gift of surrender brings.

Sunday, May 17, 2009

Gift box

Me and yoga have had an on again off again relationship since I was eighteen, long before the ancient practice was mainstream and trendy (yep, that's me – super trendsetter). This time around, it's been a (shameful) year since I took my last class. I belong to a great ladies-only gym and spa, where the most talented and inspiring 63 year-young beautiful instructor teaches yoga. When I do yoga regularly I eat better, breathe better, look better, have more energy and better posture, and feel more confident, relaxed, and centered. Good stuff.

So, what is my problem that I put off going to class for a year? Embarrassed? Too busy? Too Tired? Not interested in all the benefits but would rather feel crappy and blue than do something about it aka mommy martyr? I get stuck in that vicious circle of lazy excuses and self criticism and enough is enough. I want to feel better and reunite with my long-time friend and love yoga!

After a year of neglecting my inner yogi, me and my favorite yoga partner, my mom (who has also denied herself a regular class in way too long) make concrete plans to take the easiest of the two Saturday yoga classes. I unearth my green yoga mat from a pile of crap in my carport and it’s so dirty that I have to hose it off before I can use it. As I spray the year's worth of leaves and dirt off the mat, I see a few spiders escape the flooding of their home and I think about the movie A Bugs Life and that I’ve just destroyed their only world and they are crawling away screaming “Run for your lives – Armageddon!!!!”. Hey, a girl has to make light of a sad situation, right? Or, am I just trying to make myself feel guilty that I've neglected myself just like my yoga mat? Wait wait wait, enough of that being so hard on myself nonsense.

Damp yoga mat and water bottle in hand, I arrive at the gym and join my mom in line waiting for our class to begin. After the advanced yoga class finishes their 500 crunches and namaste - yes, 500!!! – we secure our places in the back of the room and smile at each other like “ya, we are finally doing it, yea for us!”. The instructor announces that, by request, we’ll be doing the full shoulder pretzel today and does a little speech about how it hurts but it’s worth it. Inside I’m cheering because I LOVE doing the full shoulder pretzel. LOVE IT!!!! All of the pain (torture) aside, there is no other position that leaves you feeling better immediately and for many glorious days after that. A marvelous hour later, I feel like a new woman with a renewed feeling that no way no how will I ever go a year again without my beloved yoga.

There are several regular appointments that I schedule for my physical health and I do my very best to keep up with those. I regularly see my gynecologist, eye doctor, general doctor, dentist (I’m, uh hum, back on track after a little “hiatus”), chiropractor, and hairdresser (hey, call it mental therapy). Some people even consider it a birthday gift to themselves to get an exam, like my favorite former waiter writer. I'll spread my legs for my gyno, endure the agony of dental cleanings and lectures (guilt) about flossing every day, but I won't gift myself the pleasure of a weekly yoga class in the very least? It just doesn't make sense. I know my life can get busy and tiring, but one hour a week of stretching, breathing, and getting balanced makes all the other day-to-day life stuff a whole lot easier. I am making a promise to myself that doing yoga is not adding to my already long to-do list, but instead I'm adding it to my personal gift box. Like my to-do list which never seems empty, I want to make sure my gift box is always full. Humm, very clever of me...so, let's see, what else can I add to that box?

Monday, May 11, 2009

Unexpected Surprises

10 Unexpected Surprises about My Life Right Now

1. I have a close friend also named Daria (we were both named after a character from the same movie, Zabriskie Point, and we have almost identical middle names). Weird.

2. I live within walking distance from the former site of the hospital where I was born (it has since been demolished and soon-to-be a new high school).

3. I’m still working at the same movie studio after sixteen great years. Oh the places I’ve traveled and the people I’ve met! Favorite star sighting and story…Katherine Hepburn. 4. I have twins (it’s still unbelievable, even after two psychics in my early 20’s told me I would).

5. I am still married, to the same special man, for almost twelve wonderful years. The odds were against me and I secretly always thought I was doomed. I don’t feel that way anymore. I beat the odds!

6. I like myself much much better now that I am a mother. Having kids profoundly changed me in more ways than I can list or comprehend.

7. I cry a lot more about happy things than about sad things. How did I become such a sap?

8. I can count more close friends in my life than ever before, but I often get insecure and worry that they will all suddenly decide I suck and I’ll be friendless and lonely again like I was in my early 20’s.

9. I am amazed at how therapeutic writing is and the more I dig and express my guarded thoughts the prouder I feel about my writing…and the better I get. I convinced myself in college that math was easier and more satisfying because you know when you get the right answer, but, boy oh boy was I wrong. 


10. Like my writing of this little blog, I love the rewards of stepping out my of comfort zone, even if it’s baby steps. I’ve done that more in the last few years than in my whole life, and so far I've been totally blessed and lucky. If only I could take a big leap and do something totally risky. I need to believe in myself more and not be so scared. I would love to start my own business...or apply for The Amazing Race!

Friday, May 8, 2009

Solving the puzzle

Lately I find myself drawn to doing jigsaw puzzles. I like the 1000 piece not-too-easy but not-too-hard types. There are tons of reasons why I like doing them. I get some great conversations with my kids and husband, especially Talia - that patient girl just loves talkin' and puzzlin'. When I'm done with each puzzle I get a rare feeling of accomplishment (my puzzle rule: you start a puzzle you get to finish the puzzle). It gives me time to think about all kinds of things and also clear my head. Oh, and it gets me away from the damn computer.

Best of all, though, is the escape. Okay, I'll admit, these last few heavy puzzling weeks, things around the house have been neglected a bit, like the laundry that needs folding or the scary dirty bathroom or the 5,000 other "to-do" list items waiting to be finished. I'll sit down at the puzzle table and next thing I know it's two hours later. I feel a twinge of guilt about all that "wasted" time. But, with no real vacations plans or girlfriend getaways scheduled this year, I'm in tremendous need of an escape. I'm in limbo with my job - still employed, to my surprise, but totally uncertain when that will end, the summer is fast approaching and the kids will need activities, and my grand visions of reinventing my working life and doing something totally new and exciting are on hold, indefinitely.


I don't need the puzzles to escape from a bad life, in fact, life is good right now and I'm not complaining. But, almost three months ago when I got the word about losing my job, I expected my life to take a giant leap forward with new career options and possibilities. Heck, just the thought of having new found free time after five plus years of working from home made me smile even with new money worries. Only now, I feel like I'm in a holding pattern and I think it's messed with my head a bit. I'm more than happy to still be working at a great place with fantastic people in a dream situation, but I do struggle a bit with keeping a positive smile and go-getter attitude when I know any day I'll be done there.

Maybe I need to spend less time doing puzzles and more time networking and planning the next fabulous getaway. But, just maybe it's exactly what I need right now. I can think of far worse things to spend my time doing other than petting my "neglected" cat while I search for that elusive roof piece. When the time comes, I know I'll step up and move my life forward. For now, I'll just appreciate the calm and relaxation that puzzles bring...one piece at a time and one day at a time.

Sunday, May 3, 2009

Birds eye view

Since the beginning of March, I eagerly check in daily with a Caltrans eagle cam . It broadcasts from a tall tree pointed down at a huge bald eagle's nest. I watched the bald eagle pair take turns diligently sitting on their three eggs, three eggs hatch one by one, the feeding of the tiny eaglets, and now the huge eaglets on the verge of flying away to fend for themselves and start families of their own. Watching the growth of these eaglets is wonderful - from rooting for them to survive against the odds, to worry when the camera malfunctioned for over a week, to guessing what the meal is (fish or rabbit?), to learning more about these beautiful eagles, and sharing it all with my children. The enjoyment is shared by our whole family and awaiting their eminent departure is bittersweet. I just love those eagles!

I ask myself why the fascination with this? In our reality world with a constant barrage of scary and bad news, it's a welcome departure to witness a slice of something happy and before now, mostly unseen. It feels good to be hopeful that these eagles will continue to thrive and produce more eaglets next year. The eagles don't care if they have a huge online fan base, they just care about their next meal and potential predators. It's basic and simple and, quite frankly, refreshing.

I'll check back next February to hopefully see the return of the eagle pair, ready to continue the cycle for another year. But, in the meantime I'll try to be amused by other sites I discovered while researching the popular eagle pair, like the cheeky squirrel family in Santa Monica or the huge collection of excellent bird cams around the world, oh, and the large unusual looking flower that's about to bloom in my own front yard.