Monday, May 31, 2010

Up your nose with a water hose

Our family didn't travel anywhere fancy over this Memorial holiday weekend.  Like the majority of people, we mostly just stayed home and chillaxed.  Plus, I'm perfectly okay with that because we are saving up for our much anticipated and well deserved summer vacation...out...of...town (yay!!!!).  I laughed out loud at the blunt honesty from the hilarious Modern Family's Claire as she was preparing for a big family trip to Hawaii: "I'm a mom traveling with my kids. For me, this is not a vacation. It's a business trip." So true, but still worth it in the end (I hope).

Until then, who says you can't have fun in your own backyard squirting a water hose loaded with squeals of delight and contagious giggles?  The calendar says it's still spring, but it looks and feels a lot more like summer around here.

Saturday, May 29, 2010

Dove love

Yesterday I noticed a dove walking around my patio, right by our sliding door.  Normally, it would just fly away, but obviously it's injured, probably a broken wing that's sticking out,  and it just kills me knowing I can't do anything for it.  I even did an internet search for a rescue group or advice, and basically I have to just let it be.  It's not an endangered animal.  It's nature.  Maybe it was attacked by a cat or got tangled in a wire or was born with a bad wing - I will never know.  It's still sad, though.

With the monumental man-made oil spill disaster in the Gulf of Mexico right now, I purposely avoid looking at the heartbreaking pictures of the affected wildlife.  It's just waaaaay too much to stomach.  And then this placid mourning dove sits there on my patio and it's impossible to ignore.

It reminds me the time a few years ago when an opossum felt compelled to curl up in our planter bed and live out it's last day right in front of our eyes.  Of all the places, it chose a spot right in front of our door.  I knew something was wrong for it to be out during the daytime and just look up at me without flinching when I took it's picture. It didn't look injured, more like wanting to rest in peace.
I'm not going to fly to the Gulf Coast to help clean up oil soaked birds and wildlife.  There was nothing to do for the opossum but let it be.  I can fix a lot of things around the house (and with two kids a lot gets broken!), but I cannot mend the dove's broken wing.  However, I can be sad for it and feel empathy.  I can bury the opossum, and the dove if it comes to that, and give them back to the earth.  I can admire their beauty and appreciate their life.  I can be humbled that wildlife is all around us in the big busy concrete city, whether we ever see it or not, and that we share this little plot of earth together.  I can plant lots of bird-friendly flowing plants (I am a big hummingbird fan) with no chemicals to help them thrive and help feed their offspring.  Hey, I can do lots of good things after all!
This morning, I didn't see the dove (I can only hope it flew away), but in neat synchronicity, we met up as planned with some friends at a local nature center for a walk and live animal presentation.  This is our much loved little gem just outside of the city - an easy escape into nature and wildlife.  Here, they feature animals, birds, and reptiles that would otherwise not survive in nature.  They are all rescued and are well taken care of and in turn, used to teach the public about their awesomeness. I always learn something new, and the kids have a blast.  It's not every day you get up close to a magnificent Great Horned Owl.

It felt comforting to see such good being done on a bigger scale that I'm not able to do myself in my own little backyard.  These amazing creatures get a second chance thanks to loving caretakers and generous supporters.  Seeing all that good was a beautiful thing...and I feel much better now. 

Friday, May 28, 2010

Tea zen


I'm still in peaceful mode after my me-retreat to Ojai.  Despite a week full with school volunteering, a sad but sweet funeral, tackling the scary Paper and Bill Pile, with a total lack of physical or creative motivation, I'm still rather zen in the midst of it all.

So, when an afternoon tea planned weeks ago by a girlfriend at one of my favorite places in Los Angeles comes up on Thursday and the sky opens up with a massive downpour of drizzle and cool weather (it wasn't even 70 degrees - oh the horror!), I honestly just want to cancel and stay home.  Wearing slippers, sipping on my own hot tea, and catching up on my guilty pleasure soap, uh, umm, I mean, reading a meaningful book, sounds so much nicer and way less effort. 

I know so many people sitting inside their offices or cubicles or home with little babies only wishing they could sneak away in the afternoon to indulge in a lovely tea service with girlfriends.  And here I am wanting to get out of it because I don't want to drive the thirty-five minute car ride in the cool drizzly weather??  Silly silly me.  It's not like being forced to drive through a hurricane and mudslides to Chuck E Cheese's or something!  I luckily come to my senses, throw on a pretty outfit, trade in my slippers for cute flats, and go.

In spite of the less than stellar weather, waiting a while for my later than expected friends, being extra conscious of the now more limited time constraints (kids have to be picked up from school), and not being able to stroll around the beautiful gardens that I love so much, I still relish the experience and am grateful I went. The tea service in this special place was yummy, with lots of good girly talk, and we all felt happy to be there away from our worries, kids, and to-do stuff.

It honors that fact that not every day can be like my soulful three day experience in Ojai, but it's about making the most of and appreciating those "little" moments when I can get them.  Sure, I can have a nice zen day at home in my fuzzy slippers, but it certainly is more fun out in the big beautiful world with friends.

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Ojai and I

Last week, I gifted myself a solo me-retreat to Ojai, CA, which is about eighty miles from home. When I booked it many weeks ago, I was in desperate need of a change of scenery, rest, and rejuvenation.  When I found this place during my online search for possible destinations, I knew immediately that I had to go...and I had to go there alone.  

The Pepper Tree Retreat is the former home of the Eastern philosopher J. Krisnamurti.  This quote by him on the homepage of the website spoke to my depleted spirit: "It is essential sometimes to go into retreat, to stop everything that you have been doing, to stop your experiences completely and look at them anew, not keep on repeating them like machines. You would then let fresh air into your mind. Wouldn’t you? This place must be of great beauty with trees, birds, and quietness, for beauty is truth and truth is goodness and love."  It's like it was written just for me...a true sign indeed.

So, when the time finally came, I drove to Ojai and I went home two days later just like I planned.  I survived.  I did totally fine.  I loved it.  Did I experience some divine epiphany about the meaning of life?  Did I see a profound vision of my still undiscovered passion that will make me both intrinsically happy and a wealthy woman?  Did I find deep meaning or even remotely understand this philosopher's abstract deeply intellectual teachings that were honestly a bit over my head?  Uh, nope.  Not at all.
Not to be cheesy, but what I loved and relished about it was really all about the small stuff.

The peace and quiet was incredible.  The first night I was there, I was completely alone in the building (which felt like a large home) for a few hours.  The staff went home at 6pm and the other guests weren't there.  It was stunningly quiet - no dogs barking, no cars driving by, no music, no people talking, no noise at all.  It was just me in my room without a usual crutch for mental escape.  I felt uncomfortable yet liberated.  I could've easily called someone or put in my headset and listened to music, yet I was compelled to just be there with myself...to just be.  I will never forget that feeling. 
 

I took two naps.  TWO glorious drooling deeply relaxing and rejuvenating naps.  I take maybe two naps in a whole year!  I never make the time for an indulgent daytime siesta, leaving them only for desperate times resulting from sick kid sleep deprivation or a bout of insomnia.  It became obvious to me while I was there that I was exhausted.  Spent.  And the naps actually made me more tired, like my body was all YES!! that's what I needed - give me more more more!  I realize now that naps don't have to be a desperate act.  Naps simply feel good and I don't need some major justification for them.  I can just do it  if I want to and I vow to nap more...just because I can.  In fact, yesterday after I dropped the kids off at school and cleaned up, I curled up and took a mid-morning nap and...it...was...divine.  I totally get it now.
I read outside on a lawnchair on the grass in the immaculate garden surrounded by chirping birds, lizards sunning and doing push-ups on the rocks, the scent of orange blossoms, and warm sunshine.  There was not a single other person within earshot or view for hours.  I was completely unaware of the time and there was nowhere I felt I had to be.  Why don't I ever do this at home?  I have a pretty backyard, but also a house and life full of Things To Do.  It's good to take a break from all those lists and obligations.  Aaaahhh...

The last night I was there, I ate at the nicest restaurant in Ojai for dinner.  I will admit that I cringed a bit when the waiters ceremoniously (and loudly) removed the other three place-settings announcing to the rest of the patrons that THIS WOMAN IS HERE ALL ALONE!  But, I wasn't too ruffled when I didn't even look at or worry about the prices - I just ordered whatever sounded yummy.  Butternut squash soup, fresh salmon with roasted vegetables, and a tall glass of locally grown Cabernet to savor with my food.  All of this was just for me, surrounded by impeccable service and interesting conversations at other tables.  I felt well treated and happy, but honestly, a little odd.  A casual sandwich shop is easy to do alone, but a fancy restaurant at nighttime is a whole different thing.  Despite that, I held my head high and smiled with deserving pride.  During my drive back to my retreat, I started talking to myself and giggling - a sign I was either silly giddy, totally losing it, or ready to return to my "normal" life and the people that I love.
The next day, I took the coastal route home and made a point to stop for a walk on the beach.  Oh how I miss the beach and I can't wait for summer!  While I sat there wiggling my toes in the sand, breathing in the sweet ocean air, and listening to the waves, I had a moment to reflect on my time in Ojai.  Wow, did I feel an amazing new sense of empowerment and peace.  I pushed past the uncomfortable feelings, embraced the solitude and freedom, and truly enjoyed my time away.  I feel confident that I can carry this through to future moments where I might feel fear and hopefully not be so afraid.  Bring it on!

Would I do a solo me-retreat again?  Absolutely.  Perhaps an annual gift to myself?  We'll see.  But, as I'm looking out at this beautiful sea, I'm thinking that next time an ocean-view room with a balcony and room service, and possibly a pool would be a most excellent idea.  Not that I don't appreciate the beauty of my rather soulful experience in Ojai, but I realize I can find that almost anywhere, as long as I bring my whole self, mind body and spirit, along for the experience, wherever that takes me.

Sunday, May 16, 2010

Me retreat

This week I leave for my first ever self imposed solo retreat all alone by my brave self for three whole glorious well-deserved days in a beautiful place away from home.  The following words sum up how I view my trip:

1. Lazy: If I lounge around all day doing nothing, who cares? The lazier the better. A long drooling nap is practically a requirement. 

2. Selfish: I'm going to do only what I want to do with my time and I don't care what anyone else thinks about that. It's all about meeeeee!

3. Naughty: Unlimited carbs, red meat, decadent desserts, martinis - calories don't count on a solo retreat.

4. Disconnected: That's right - no computer, internet, social networking, television, bills, gossip, or news.  Life will continue on without me while I'm away, and will be there waiting for me when I get back.

5. Reckless:  I might just stay up really late, like past 10pm.  Or explore an unknown hiking trail and see where it takes me.  Or eat at a restaurant that is not recommended or thoroughly researched.  Or take my chances and not set my alarm in order to wake up in time for the complimentary breakfast.  Or buy a piece of local art from an unknown artist.  No agenda or schedule! That's me, so wild and crazy like that.

6. Forgetful: It's a time to escape and forget my fears, worries, stresses, responsibilities, doubts, frustrations, to-do lists, and expectations. 

7. Discriminate: I will go with an open mind, but only do things that make me happy, relaxed, content, and true to myself.

8. Criminal: It would be a crime to not get the most out of my retreat, no matter what I do or don't do.  I cannot beat myself up, rob myself of this opportunity, or steal away from a good attitude.  I must rehabilitate any feelings of loneliness, doubt, or self sabotage and replace them with contentment, confidence, and empowerment.

9. Envy:  Knowing that most of my friends don't ever get this wonderful chance to take a trip alone like this and probably wish they could do it, too, I consider myself a lucky woman, but will remember to remain humble. 

I am blessed and grateful for my very supportive husband, mom, and friends, plus the financial means and available time to go.  Ultimately, it's truly a loving gift I am giving myself, one that I can't wait to open and enjoy.

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Artist block

It's nearly impossible to get any Artist's Way reading done under such hostile conditions.

Monday, May 10, 2010

Pie in the sky

After dropping off my kids at school, I meet up with a girlfriend and we go to the much loved The Getty Museum .  It's an absolutely beautiful place, and especially neat for me since I remember watching it being built during my daily commute several years back.  They just so happen to be featuring a Leonardo da Vinci exhibit.  According to wikipedia, he was an Italian polymath, painter, sculptor, architect, musician, scientist, mathematician, engineer, inventor, anatomist, geologist, cartographer, botanist and writer.  Gee wiz.  I know I wear a lot of hats, but damn, that's beyond impressive - I'd take just one of those titles. And, on top of that he's considered to be one of the greatest painters of all time!  Of...all...time.  I feel good about myself when I can make a good pie crust from scratch and get my kids to school on time every day.  

I know, I know, I should not compare myself to this absolute genius.  He's super smart and all that, but I'm not sure he could've handled raising twins, so, it's all relative.  I do know that I am fascinated as I walk around the exhibit.  I totally appreciate his astounding attention to detail and vision.  If he needed something, he invented it.  If he wanted to understand better than anyone, he studied it endlessly.  Such tenacity!  Such foresight!  Wow.

While I am there, I also admire works by Monet, Van Gogh, and Tissot, among many many others. I was particularly moved by this emotional painting by Abraham Soloman called "The Acquittal":
I learn my friend, Emi, loves the color and simplicity of this painting by Claude Monet called "Wheatstacks":

We joke that after I'm done with my Artist's Way work in a few weeks, I'll paint a similar painting for her to hang in her newly remodeled bedroom, along with baking her one of my soon-to-be famous meal pies like I keep promising:
I'm not so sure about the painting part yet (it's on my to-do list to take a painting class), but I do know I can make a mean pie.  Just look at that color and texture!  Can you even imagine the complexities of the different flavors coming together as one as a grand symphony of yummy mouthwatering goodness?  Granted, it's still a work in progress, as my expanding pie crust thighs will attest to, but each time it gets better and better and that's what counts.  Yep, that's me, channeling a teeny tiny bit of Leonardo's inventiveness. 

I didn't exactly commit to twelve weeks of the Artist's Way to find creative success making meal pies, at least I hope that's not my only calling in the end.  I want more than that for sure.  But, from what I've found true in the past, is that one creative expression can lead to another and another.  It's about the process and feeding the creative longing that matters the most.  In the Getty gift shop, I saw a magnet that had a fitting quote from Da Vinci that read: "For once you have tasted flight you will walk the earth with your eyes turned skywards, for there you have been and there you will long to return."

If all I do for a little while is continue to feed myself with increasingly better and better meal pies, then that's just what I'll do and try not to be too hard on myself.  I think I'll be okay, as long as I keep looking and dreaming upwards with an creative open mind...oh, and step up my visits to the gym.

*the Monet and Soloman pictures are from getty.edu

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

The pants

I've got a giddy smile on my face as I prepare to visit the latest man in my life.  It's relatively new relationship, so I'm extra thoughtful about how I get ready, from the hot steamy shower, to the simple flowing clothes, the easy-to-remove jewelry, and a healthy breakfast.  After all, I want to be at my best – I’ve got to get the most out of this time with him.

Before I can go to see my fantastic new chiropractor, Dr. David, I drop my kids off at their classroom, then leisurely head to my car, saying my good mornings to lots of parents making their way to class.  I stop for a while and chat with a few mom friends in the busy parking lot, talking about this and that, bullies, budget cuts, etc.  Aware of my impending appointment time, I say my good-byes and start my twenty minute drive to the doctor’s office.

On my slow way there in crappy traffic, I think about how grateful I am to find this doctor.  He’s exactly what I ordered from The Universe (thank you Universe!!).  He’s mild mannered with a light sense of humor, a little “crunchy” but not totally out there, well practiced and skilled, and interested in all-over health and well-being.  My beloved chiropractor, Dr. Diane, retired a few years ago and I haven’t quite been the same since then.  When I regularly go to a good chiropractor, I feel better because not only do the treatments help tremendously, but I take better care of myself, too.  It’s like getting in a great workout at the gym and for lunch most likely skipping the burger and soda in favor of a nice salad with a tall glass of water.  I care more about my body and health - I’m more aware and I like feeling better, so I want to keep the positive momentum going forward. 

When I arrive, I sit in the waiting room for a few minutes, already feeling more relaxed as I listen to nature sounds coming through the speakers, take in the interesting art work, and marvel at the large sand pendulum hanging in the middle of the room.  Not your typical doctor’s office, but rather expected and welcomed at this alternative practice. I make a mental note to google “hanging pendulum with sand” when I get home since I’m not exactly sure about the purpose and I don’t want to ask the doctor and sound really lame and not with it.  I grew up around lots of crunchy, so I most certainly should know these things.

Dr. David escorts me into the treatment room, and hands me a hospital green gown to cover my top half.  As I’m getting on the gown, I reach my hand around the back to secure the ties and that’s when I stumble upon The Situation.  I feel a massive rip in my pants right next to the middle vertical seam...right...where...my...buttocks is!  My rear is totally exposed!  How many people saw my jiggly ass peeking out this morning?   A few dozen?  Hundreds?  Flashback to junior high when my close friend Sandi got her period for the first time all over her white pants on picture day of all days and having to call her mom to pick her up and me loaning her my sweatshirt to wrap around the awful red stains .  Yes, it was really her, not me.  Okay, well, put into perspective, my pants story is not as humiliating as hers and definitely not as bad as The Fear, but what the heck do I do now?  Do I take off my pants, too, and just wear the short gown.  Nope.  Do I wrap and hang my shirt around my waist like poor Sandi?   Nope.  My plan of action...come clean to the doctor and hope for the best as I'm sure he's seen far far worse than a little butt cheek reveal.  

So, I put my pride aside and calmly tell him about The Situation and that I'm a little embarrassed and "just try your best not to look, okay?"   He smiles and chuckles a bit and goes on to tell me about his first ever chiropractic adjustment on a patient.  He squatted down and heard a big rip and his pants split and now he has a long lab coat in his office for just such occurrences.  I feel much better.  I really like this doctor.  

Maybe it's kind of like when you are first dating and you are on your best behavior.  You don't dare burp or fart or get food on your face - that kind of stuff.  The first time one person has a slip up, then the ice is broken and you can both let your guard down and start getting more real. Me and my new chiropractor?  Yep. We bonded alright.

I don't know how I would've felt if The Situation happened in my early twenties.  I probably would be waaaaaaaaaaaaay more horrified.  Now, I feel like more of a veteran of such things, after all, I popped out twins for the ENTIRE maternity floor to see.  I'm not kidding.  Walking down the street to my car after the appointment, I didn't even cover up.  Who cares, really?  So much so, that I can go home and write about it for all the whole world to read, or maybe just my five loyal readers.  It's totally fine.  I've changed my pants and I'm okay.  Really.    

Sunday, May 2, 2010

Come what may

It's Sunday afternoon and my man just left for a week long work trip.  My kids are fully entrenched in their loud and messy playfullness, while I am in busy cleaning mode so I can throw myself into something other than sitting around sulking that I'm on my own again.  Five days flying solo is not that long in the scheme of things, but it's still hard when I'm used to having a partner around shouldering some of the cooking, mediating, driving, disciplining, bribing, reading, homework, waking up at 6am, parenting duties.

I've got a load of laundry in the washer, a load in the dryer, a dusting cloth in one hand while trying to explain to meaning of the word compromise and why they need to do that RIGHT NOW or ELSE!  Suddenly, I hear a loud crashboom!! in the laundry room.  I cock my head in a "huh, what was that?" motion, then cautiously make my way toward the source of the unknown noise to find out for myself.  I slowly open the door, with the same trepidation like when I tip-toe down the hallway when my kids are being oddly quiet and I'm fearing I'll find them doing Sharpie drawings on their bedroom walls...and the cat.  Oh, but it turns out to be far worse than that.  I see the enormous Costco sized plastic container of liquid laundry soap that I bought two days ago, that was once on top of the washer, but is now on the floor, gulp gulp gulping out, wait...more dramatic...rapidly gushing the contents all over the floor.  The bucking bronco washing machine must've launched the container and then it hit the floor at precisely the right angle - hard enough to rip off the cap, which is now shattered in pieces.  The walls, washer and dryer, cat food, and step stool are all splattered.  Fantastic.

I stand there jaw dropped and completely frozen.  I flashback to the similar what-the-hell-do-I-do moment when my daughter barfed all over herself in her carseat in my car and all over the floor below her was about an inch thick layer of fresh puke.  I could pull her out of her seat and straight to the bathtub, but how in the world do I clean up the rest of the nasty stuff?  It took me about twenty bewildered seconds to form a plan consisting of kid/tub, gloves/towels, soapy water/sponge, and tall glass of wine/me.

Finally, I get my wits about me and jump into action.  I go to the kitchen and grab a large measuring cup with a spout.  Back in the laundry room, I get down on all fours and start scooping the soap into the measuring cup with my bare hands cupped together.  Again.  And again.  And again...  To add to the glorious scenario, my well-meaning daughter stands in the doorway adding her running commentary "Ooooh, mommy.  Eeeeeewwwww, what a mess!!  How did that happen??  Did that fall on the floor?  Maybe next time you shouldn't put the laundry soap on the washing machine like that.  Hey, you missed that area over there."  I look up at her, and in my best trying-not-to-be-totally-mean-but-I-really-want-to-curse-and-growl tone, I calmly say through clinched teeth, "Please go away and leave me alone."  She doesn't say a word and walks away.

Sometimes being a grown up is not fun at all.  If I was a kid in this situation, I'd probably just close the door and pray that my mom wouldn't notice the soap covered floor.  Or, maybe just cover up the mess with towels and then the soap would magically go away.  Now there are no cleaning elves, no housekeeper who won't complain, no mommy to make it all better, no husband to rescue me, no one to blame - no one around but me.  But, what can I do?  It is what it is.  Life is messy.  It's not a broken leg or a burned down home.  Life is a continuous round of clean then dirty then clean then dirty again.  If this is the worst that happens this week, then it's kind of laughable.  Really it is.  I can think of far worse things that I don't want to deal with, like finding a new job, dealing with a mother-in-law's deteriorating health, my husband's painful back problem that's not getting better, and the fact that I'm turning forty next year!  This soapy mess is nothing that some homemade chocolate chip cookies and the Annie soundtrack to sing and dance to can't make all better.  And my kids are more than happy to help me make that happen, so I'm not totally on my own after all.

*The blueberry covered face about is Quinn at about 11 months, and the winking is a six year old Quinn being cheeky.