Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Favorite finds

In no particular order, here are some of my favorite personal finds that I discovered in 2011.  Oh, and no, I didn't get paid for any of these...I only wish!

1. Goodbelly - In the last several weeks of December, my household suffered from bronchitis, strep, and some other unknown cold/fever nasty thing that went undiagnosed.  Me, who usually gets it worst and last because I'm so exhausted and run down taking care of everyone else, did not get sick at all.  This has never ever happened in the my personal history of parenthood.  I kept waiting for it and it never came.

Was it a miracle?  Was it because I've been working out every day and eating a meticulously healthy diet with zero stress?  Ha ha ha...that's so funny.  Not!  It was holiday season, remember? 

Saturday, December 24, 2011

My "small" holiday gratitude list


Now, of course I’m thankful for my family and friends and sooooooooooooooooo much more this holiday season, but since this is my “small stuff” blog, this Top 10 list is all about the smaller things that might not be so obvious.   

1. My messy home - I've recently had a profound epiphany that a messy home with children is directly relational to their well-being.  If they are sick or sad or overly scheduled, then the rooms are tidy and barely disheveled.  When they are healthy and happy and free of too many obligations, they are more creative, silly, exuberant, and playful.  Translation = messy.  

Monday, September 5, 2011

Puffs

I'm not ashamed to admit that I'm a BIG fan of food and cooking shows and competitions.  It's surprising how much you can learn and also get inspired to experiment at home.  I've watched plenty of the chefs use puff pastry in recipes and it always leaves me curious.  Even the top chefs get scared off by the complexity of making it from scratch and make no apologies about using the frozen (pre-made) kind.  But, alas, even though I often make my own pie crust from scratch, I've never bought or used puff pastry and I'm not sure why the hesitation.  Perhaps because of the intimation factor or just simply because I've just never tried it?

Friday, September 2, 2011

Advantages

It's almost the end of June, about a week into summer break with my kids, and, ummm, I'm not doing so well.  I totally expect (and dread) my kids inevitably going through their annual out-of-sorts whack-a-doo behavior from the huge change and decompression that the end of the school year and the beginning of summer brings.  But, me?  Well, I guess I'm entitled to feel the brunt of their intense emotions plus my own emotions from the change, too.  I give up a lot of my own freedoms and routine when I'm practically on mommy duty 24/7.  I know, it's what I signed up for when I had kids, but it's still a bit overwhelming sometimes, especially after getting used to having six hours a day all to myself.

I feel blue.  I feel sad.  Uninspired.  Unmotivated.  Disconnected.  Totally blaaaaaah.  I didn't like how I am feeling one bit.

Thursday, June 30, 2011

Happymiss blueberries

So, I'm down with this backyard gardening thing.  I like it.  I really do.  But, it's not like I'm feeding the whole family with an abundant yield of amazing produce.  I am totally winging it.  I have no idea what it means to "tend the garden" and don't do much besides water and pull out dead stuff.  I mean, look at this pathetic corn that I harvested this week.  Ummm, ya, not even remotely close to the corn that I buy from the store.  I even left one out for the birds and backyard squirrels and I've yet to get a nibble.

Monday, June 13, 2011

Hiking with company

It all started just over six weeks ago during my workout on the gym treadmill.  After almost twenty mind-numbing minutes, I am completely bored out of my mind.  Well, umm, let's be honest, after barely five minutes on the treadmill, I start thinking about all of the other things I'd rather be doing.  I mean, how uninspiring is it walking on a machine, staring at myself in the mirror, and craning my head upwards to read the subtitles on Live! With Regis and Kelly with all the other ladies similarly annoyed with themselves for neglecting to visit the gym in like, forever?
Suddenly it occurs to me - what the f*%$#! am I doing?  Why am I inside torturing myself on this horribly boring treadmill when I could be outside in the wonderful spring air doing the same thing but in nature and for much most likely longer than twenty minutes?!

A few days later, after kind of a rough emotional weekend, I drop the kids at school and set out by myself on one of my favorite local hiking spots.  Instead of listening to the boom-chaca-boom of the gym's overhead music, I'm listening to nature.  It's positively cathartic.  Relaxing.  Calming.  Head clearing.  Energizing.  Sweaty.  Beautiful.  Therapeutic.  Fun.  Inspiring.
I make a vow to myself to hike this hike at least once a week until the kids are out of school at the end of June.  Why not continue the hikes with the kids?  Ya, I do that with them, too, but it's just not the same.  When they hike, it's a totally different agenda - play, doddle, get dirty, explore, be loud, and so on.  The only sweating involved is from me worrying that they are going to fall off a cliff or get bit by a rattlesnake. 

Javier the friendly & philosophical lizard
The next week on my hike I feel a bit like Snow White.  There are critters everywhere I turn.  There are all kinds of birds chirping, tree squirrels, ground squirrels, frogs croaking, happy dogs, bunnies, a rare baby bunny(!!!!), and tons of different scampering lizards.  I question my sanity a bit after I engage in a rather philosophical conversation with Javier, the friendly lizard I spot along the trail.  I think maybe next week I should invite some friends to come along with me for some human company.

But, I don't quite bring myself to do it quite yet.  With all of the wildlife, nature, Javier, and occasional fellow hiker, not once do I feel alone or lonely.   

When I mention my solo hikes to well-meaning friends, they caution "be careful!".  I will admit, the thought of danger does occur to me (bad people lurking in the brush, mountain lions, dogs not on a leash), but I feel pretty confident holding onto my I'm-a-bad ass-don't-even-think-about-messing-with-me stick that I carry every time (and stash behind the same rock near the entrance).  Maybe that's just part of the attraction - exercise, nature, and a little bit of a thrill?

Last week, I finally feel like I'm ready to invite some friends to join me.  It seems like perfect timing because a bunch of us moms from school are all doing this sort of healthy/lose weight/exercise/take better care of ourselves support group thing to keep us all motivated right before swimsuit season.  So, I put it out there to the group that they are welcome to hike with me.  I tell myself that I am still going hiking no matter what, even if no one else goes.

Well, wouldn't you know it, seven ladies show up that day!  Oh, and two dogs!  And, it is nice.  Really nice.  The time seems to fly as we talk talk talk up, down, and all around the trail.  Like me, they appreciate the abundant wildflowers, gorgeous weather, sometimes challenging climbs, and the company.  I did a good thing.
Do I like hiking with the ladies better or do I prefer the going solo with only the company of nature?  Well, I'm not sure...tough call.  It's just a different experience.  I do know that either way, it absolutely feels great and I will cherish my last two Wednesday hikes until school gets out for summer.  After that, I will switch to hiking-with-the-kids mode until the fall.  No biggie.

Instead of pining for my solo or ladies hiking days, I will try to focus only on the good stuff, because after all, I can have a blast hiking with my kids.  With my family in tow (and maybe some occasional invited friends), we tend to be more adventurous with our hiking spots (like trying places that other people suggest or that take more than ten minutes to get to), make a whole fun day of it, find new discoveries together, bond as a family (or with our friends), and have lots of opportunities for learning.

I won't kid myself, though - my solo hikes do something for my soul like nothing else does.  But, at least I know that.  It's like a big gift in my little sanity pocket that's all mine.  Mine!  So, with that in mind, I look forward to what adventures await us this summer and I can't wait to share.

Monday, May 30, 2011

Eating away at the blues

Eleven years ago when we bought our home, Dale and Zondra were the first neighbors to kindly introduce themselves and welcome us...and tell us all the good neighborhood dirt, of course.  Unfortunately, our neighborhood isn't super friendly, unlike those I totally envy that will close off the street and have block parties or where the kids all know each other.  All these years later, we only loosely know a few people right around us.  I wish it was different, but, alas, it's just the way it is.

Over these eleven years here, we've seen less and less of Dale and Zondra due to her failing health.  But, we still get those helpful phone calls now and then reminding us to move my car on street sweeping day or about coyote sightings and criminal activity, and so forth.  I've always appreciated how they looked out for us - without a doubt, the eyes and ears of the neighborhood.

Sadly, today they packed up and moved away.

You see, the years haven't been the kindest to them.  Zondra has many awful physical ailments, like diabetes, chronic breathing problems (lifetime smoker), and the worst of all - Alzheimers.  Dale recently said to me, "I've slowly lost my best friend and I simply can't abandon her".  So, with lost income from hardly working so he can take care of her, he had trouble making ends meet and paying his mortgage payments.  He had to short-sale his home of forty-six years - the home where they raised their children and spent their entire lives together.  He has lost almost everything, except for his devoted children and sharp mind.

A week ago while his wife was in the hospital, Dale and his family had a garage sale.  As soon as I noticed the sale, I walked across the street to say 'hello' and visit with the family.  As I am chit-chatting away, I look over and see this plant along the walkway.  I actually gasp in astonishment.  It's a huge blueberry bush in a whiskey barrel that is totally covered in blueberries.  I've never seen anything like it.  Positively stunning.  Amazing.  Incredible.

I express my awe over the beautiful blueberry bush to Dale's daughter.  She goes on to tell me that her mom absolutely loves that blueberry bush and what a shame it is that it won't do well where they are moving so they can't take it with them.  I didn't want to be all "I WANT IT SO BADLY CAN I HAVE PLEASE PRETTY PLEASE I WILL LOVE IT AND CHERISH IT FOREVER!!!" because, my goodness, it's such a sad situation and I don't want to be all insensitive and greedy and take advantage.  Going along with my best judgement, I don't say another word about it.

But, I really really want it.

Instead, I wander around the garage sale, picking up a few really nice cookbooks and enjoy looking at her various treasures (it's more than obvious she was very much into buying from home shopping network and crafting on a grand scale).  I look up to see the daughter coming toward me.  She says that they talked it over and would like to give me the blueberry bush because Zondra would be very happy knowing I have it and that I will take good care of it.

I can hardly contain my excitement!!  Whooo hoooo yippeeee!!!!!!!!!!

Today, the magnificent blueberry bush sits in my very own backyard next to my beloved vegetable garden.  Every day, me and the kids go out and pluck handfuls of sweet ripe blueberries and gobble them up with pure enjoyment.

When I look at that bush, I smile at the beyond valuable gift that was given to me.  I mean, how do you put a price on that?!

I'm still very sad that we are losing our favorite neighbors today, but hopefully this move will give them a fresh start near their children and the best possible care.  They certainly will never be forgotten by our family.

Sunday, April 10, 2011

An easel, the key, and a bracelet

Part of my extensive 10-step fundraiser therapy involved finally taking an oil painting class (step #6).  Yep, that's me taking a real grown-up art class at a bona fide art studio with other really nice grown-ups that like art, too.  I'm just so used to only doing art projects with the kids that involve Crayola paints or glitter or toilet paper rolls, so it's beyond refreshing to be doing my own art just for me. 

Now that my art gallery exhibit is opening soon, ha ha ha, I mean, now that I'm feeling kind of art-minded and wanting to soak it up like a sponge (because boy do I feel like a total beginner!), I'm more hyper-aware of art stuff.  Like, the other day I was driving down the road on my way across town to do some shopping, and I see a bright orange "Estate Sale" sign.  I keep driving, but immediately start debating whether or not I should turn around and check it out.  Believe it or not, I've never been to an estate sale, so I am kind of apprehensive.  But, a little voice keeps telling me to go...go because I might discover something really neat, like an old painting or antique jewelry or just something special.  Why not?!

So, I turn around and drive back to the orange sign.  I follow the arrow into an impressive neighborhood, full of meticulously landscaped yards, with white picket fences surrounding well-kept homes on huge lots.  Five more orange signs direct me through the streets until I finally find the “Estate Sale Here” sign.  I can't help but laugh at the irony that the estate sale is at the most rundown and dilapidated home I've seen on my little treasure hunt.  I gather my courage and decide to go in anyway.

It's obvious the house hasn't seen a contractor since it was built in the early 1960's - pebble floor in the entryway, original cabinets with vintage tile in the kitchen, and glass shutters for windows.  I meander through each room and find myself stopped in awe in a back bedroom.  It's full of art - original paintings, piles of prints, small wooden easels, and art books.  Taped on the wall were tons of articles about the artist, Robert Perrin.  According to the flier, “he was a renowned Western artist and also known for drawings of Victorian homes, as well as being a wonderful architectural artist for homes in the San Fernando Valley.” An artist lived here!

(see him standing there next to President Reagan!)
Despite the rather somber but respectful mood in the house as this artist's life is being sold away to strangers, I proudly smile as I buy his aluminum standing easel for $25 that's obviously old and well used, but in great shape.  I wonder how many pictures he drew or painted using this easel?  I tell the older professional estate sale ladies that I’m a beginning art student, and they get all excited and say "Well, now you own an easel by a real artist!" and sincerely wish me the best of luck.  As I drive away with my "new" real artist easel in my car, I am filled with thoughts about the cool synchronicity of my neat find.  I am so glad that I listed to that little (and rarely wrong) voice in my head.

An hour or so later, I buy what I originally set out to buy at Crate & Barrel (I just love that store!), and as I open my driver's side door, I see something laying on the driver’s seat.  It's a large decorative key with a leather string that was once attached to a leather purse I bought several (maybe 4?) years ago.  I recall buying the purse and taking off the key because I didn't like it.  I don't exactly remember what I did with the key, but I definitely know I haven't seen it since. 

And now it's laying there on my seat.
(reenactment photo)
I pick up the key and sit down with a mix of surprise, wonder, puzzlement, delight, and...Robert Perrin.  How in the world did it get there?  I jokingly say out loud "are you trying to tell me something?" and I run through the possible symbolism and meaning, like key to the ...?  Or is he happy I bought his easel?  Am I totally losing my mind?  Hummm...

Now, I'm not above thinking that the key could have easily landed on my seat from a random something or another non-mystical reason.  It's most likely that there's a perfectly good explanation.  But, it's way more special to think that maybe it’s not so random and can’t easily be explained.

I am still thinking about the unusual events of my day as I pick up my kids from school, but my mind quickly switches gears to asking and listening about their day.  When we arrive at home, they grab their backpacks and jump out of the car.  I stay behind to gather my purchases and to look for The Key among the various stuff on the passenger seat.  I want to make sure I wasn't hallucinating.  When I don't see it, I reach down between the driver's seat and the middle console thinking it might've dropped down there.  I feel something metal.  I peer over and down and see a bracelet wrapped around the seat belt clip.  

My beautiful beloved bracelet that I believed to be forever lost six months ago!!!!

I actually mourned the loss of this bracelet when I realized it was missing after a visit to the local mall where I tried on some clothes in different stores (I pictured it on the floor of the dressing room being swooped up by the happy new owner).  Not that the bracelet was particularly valuable or anything, but I bought it many years ago and always loved wearing it.

And now my long lost beloved bracelet that I discovered while looking for the mysterious key was amazingly in my hands again!

I stare at my bracelet for a while, then shake my head in amazement and say "thank you" with a big smile.   

Wow.
Whether the interesting series of events that happened that day was pure coincidence or a "thank you" from Robert or the Universe trying to tell me something or I'm making way more of a big deal than I should (I’ve been known to do that)...it simply doesn't matter.  I, the new art student, now owns my first easel and I found my long lost beloved bracelet, oh, and I also now have a great, no, magical story to tell.

Saturday, April 2, 2011

Fundraiser therapy

Just over a month ago, The BIG School Fundraiser that I co-chaired finally happened after months and months of planning.  The fantastic and fun evening was a huge success and, yes, I am totally proud.  The guests had a great time and the school made lots of much needed money.  We did it and we did it good.

On a personal note, I pushed myself waaaaaaay beyond my usual comfort zone, set higher expectations for my work and achieved them, kept my cool during the really difficult and awful stuff (the hardest part by far!), embraced my creative side (the best part by far!), and stepped up to the plate when needed.  I did it and I did it good.

But, once the money was collected and counted, the auction items mailed, the post-event meeting finished, and the hoopla dwindled away, I was left feeling wrecked.  Weeks later, I was still in fight-or-flight mode with a clinched jaw, blown out back, unsettling eye twitches, and an agonizing feeling of tense nerves and not myself at all.  The way I was feeling was foreign and weird and I consciously did everything I could think of to make it better.  I wanted to be myself again, dammit! 

So, here is my attempt at post-fundraiser therapy and recovery...(psst...it worked!)

1. Reach out and talk it out

I reached out to people that care, especially those that I neglected during my stressful planning frenzy, honestly telling them that I'm not doing so well and why.  The human to human connectedness reminds me that I'm not alone in all this and how I am surrounded but great people.  Even if I'm not myself, they still care and love me anyway.  It isn't always easy for me to express that I'm struggling (have to be strong and steady like people expect!), but it's worth it.  Very worth it.

2. Visit my chiropractor

Heavy emotional stress is horrible for the body and I certainly felt firsthand how devastating it can be.  My chiropractor confirmed what I already knew - I was a complete mess.  My body screamed out how UNHAPPY IT WAS WITH ME!!! from all of that neglect.

According to Dr. David, the body doesn't know the difference between being chased by a jaguar or being under an intense deadline.  Tremendous stress releases bad chemicals in the body and without proper care, they just build and build and build until the body, or in my case, my upper back, shuts down (and causes tremendous pain!).  When we sweat, out body releases those awful chemicals and replaces them with endorphins and good chemicals, offsetting the stress and helping us cope and feel better.  I didn't do any of that in the months leading up to the fundraiser - I just gritted my teeth and clinched my jaw and functioned in survival mode, crouching in the bushes, hiding from the jaguar - waiting for it all to be over.  

So, I returned to Dr. David several times, got reacquainted with the gym, I took some good sweaty walks, I worked in my garden, down-dogged in my yoga classes, and got back to taking care of my body...and in return, my soul.  
3.  The beach

I've got this casual and neat hobby - collecting sea glass.  It combines one of my favorite things in the whole wide world, the ocean with treasure hunting.  Lucky for me, March in Southern California is perfectly lovely for indulgent beach excursions.  I've ventured to the beach twice since the fundraiser ended, once by myself while the kids were in school, and another time on the weekend with a dear friend of mine and fellow sea glass collector (her extensive collection is amazing!).  That day with her, I not only found my first piece of cobalt blue glass that I always long for, but I also found a lucky penny.  Was that a good sign or what!?  There is nothing like walking along the sparkling shore, talking about life (see #1), breathing in the salty fresh air, and finding that little desirable piece of ocean tumbled glass.  Awesome!

4.  Family bonding time away
 
Two weeks after the fundraiser, my family took to our annual trip to the snow in the local mountains of Big Bear.  We stay at the same cabin that we always stay at, go to the same quiet sledding spot away from the crowds, buy chocolate from the same sweet store, and eat at the same yummy restaurant on our last day.  While some might think that's beyond boring, I find our simple traditions positively comforting.  I don't have to think much - just relax and enjoy the beauty in the surroundings, happy giggly kids, and quality family time.


5.  Food, glorious food!

Normally, I am rather conscious about what I eat - calories, protein, organic, fats, chemicals, etc., etc.  This last month?  I ate with wild abandon.  Whoooo hooooo!!  I savored whatever food I felt like eating and indulged without guilt or worry.  Not great for the hips but completely liberating.

6.  Oil painting class 

My mom gifted me a month of art classes, uh humm, last April for my birthday, and I never cashed in the certificate until now.  I felt totally guilty about this all year, like I was this ungrateful daughter who was missing out on this great opportunity.

Well, I started my first class the week after the fundraiser and definitely plan on renewing after my initial four classes end.  The first two classes weren't easy - uncomfortable, doubtful, and unsure.  But, once I came back from the emotional wreck that I was, I walked into my third class this week with my head held high - confident and full of joy about being there.  Sometimes timing is everything - I just wasn't meant to take the classes until right now when I was truly ready.

The class is filled with older women who have been taking painting classes together for many many years.  They are talented and kind and supporting and funny and I feel right at home.  Fulfilling my long time desire to take an adult painting class and being surrounded by these wonderful women is exactly what I needed.
7.  Hair salon

My roots were scary - no wonder I wanted to hide in the bushes!  But, my fabulous hair lady set me right with new highlights, the latest gossip magazines to read, and a wise and empathetic listening ear.  Nothing like a girly day of pampering to make a lady feel better.

8.  Gardening

I've always loved gardening, going back to my very early years when my family raised chickens (fresh eggs...yummm!) and lots of vegetables (yep, my parents were rather earthy).  Now that I'm a grown up with my own family, I love gardening in my own backyard.  A year or so ago, I made the decision to take out my existing garden bed since it was too close to the house and never did very well.  Did I immediately replace it in another location?  Well, sadly no, and I've missed and craved it ever since.

So, the weekend after the fundraiser, I said to my husband, "Husband, it's time to build a new garden bed" and sure enough, we did it.  I literally felt the urge to get grounded - to dig in the soil and plant some new beginnings.  I know...corny but sooooo good for the soul.
9.  Make an appointment with my hypnotherapist

I'm lucky enough to know an incredible hypnotherapist that I visit every once in a while when I need help working through something.  I love going to her because not only is she a wonderful person, but always helps me discover something new about myself.  I appreciate that she never tells me what to do, but guides me on my own journey into my revealing subconscious.  This time, just the act of making the appointment with her set in motion the final important key to my recovery.  I won't go into detail about my session, but I will say that the phrase "compassion for myself" came to light.  What a profound and powerful concept...self compassion.  Life changing, really...

10.  My tar vision

I don't like sounding cryptic, but my "tar vision" was a HUGE breakthrough and a life changer and I will never forget it.  I hope to write about it soon after doing some research and...when I'm ready to share.

I am beyond relieved that after my valuable "10-step therapy work", I'm finally and happily myself again.  Man, was that ordeal rough!  Thank goodness I didn't stay "wrecked" for too long.

It's funny thing, though, as much as I feel like myself again, I feel different, too, but in a good way.  I am stronger, wiser, more self-aware, and ready (and rather excited) for what's next.

In beautiful synchronicity, I saw this quote a few days after my major breakthrough and think it sums up my experience perfectly:

"It is when the clay is put in the kiln that it grows strong. It is through heat and pounding that the sword is shaped. It is through adversity that you become more than the sum of your parts. When a challenge appears, and it will, be grateful for the opportunity to grow. You could even be fascinated by the way the Universe chooses to challenge you." ... Ayamanatara

Thursday, February 10, 2011

Poki paper

Last night I came home from a rare night out with a girlfriend during a "school night".  My friend's friend's daughter, her sixteen year old incredibly talented daughter, Zoe, was playing and singing at a pub in Santa Monica.  We had expensive drinks (Absolut Ruby Red and soda - my new fave drink) and stood on a sticky floor listening to her amazing talent.  It sooooooo reminded me of my single days when this was more of the norm.  Love it.  It's good to be reminded of the good times and also to get away from all my "stuff", if only for a few hours.  But, alas, I wasn't the only one yawning at 9pm...we were all feeling our non-early twenties age.  Sigh.

I come home feeling relaxed and mellow.  My man is chillin' on the couch, so I sit at the kitchen table (strewn with crayons, legos, homework, and bills - yes, back to reality) so I can check my email on my laptop before I go to bed.  I've got so much on my mind with the planning of this school fundraiser and I want to make sure nothing earth shattering is going on, even though I'm sure I will inevitably dream again about the darn fundraiser.  I can't truly escape it!  Urgh!

My man is working on his current papercraft model (a relaxing and cool hobby of his).  Right next to him on the floor, he's got a grocery store plastic trash bag full little tiny bits of paper cut from his latest creation.  I can hear my cat, Popoki, wrestling around the bag which I don't think twice about.
(yep, that robot is made entirely out of paper!)

A little background on my cat Popoki:  Like a lot of cats, she's kinda weird and rather OCD.  Like a dog and a ball, she brings you a string in her mouth to play with her.  She drinks out of a glass of water that I leave for her on my nightstand, not with her tongue, but with her paw - dip paw and lick water droplet, dip and lick, dip and lick.  Around 9:30 every night, she comes out of the bedroom and either screams at me or gives me The Stare that it's time to go to bed (am I that predictable?)  And, like a lot of cats, she likes to sleep in weird places, like my beloved cat Sydney who used to sleep in the bathroom sink.  Popoki just so happens to like sleeping on plastic bags.  Plastic crunchy bags filled with bits of paper.   
So, plastic bags.  She's playing in and around the plastic bag full of paper bits by the couch, when all of a sudden all hell breaks loose.  Popoki starts racing around the house with the plastic bag flapping behind her.  She races warp speed round and round the house, from the living to the dining room though the kitchen back to the living and around and around and around  and around and around.  She's like a bunny being chased by a cheetah, only with hundreds of tiny bits of paper scattered around the house in her wake.  She is absolutely fearing for her life.  Killer bag!

I am practically on the floor with tears streaming down my face from laughing so hard as I'm witnessing this.  Even after Popoki stops and fearfully crouches in the windowsill (with the bag still attached), in my mind I am still seeing and hearing the blur of the nails scraping, bag flapping, paper flying, running-for-her-life cat.  Maybe you had to be there?  But, OMG too funny.

I blow my nose, giggle some more, recount the hilarity with my man, wipe my tears, and head over to relieve Popoki from her plastic bag entanglement.  The bag's is like a leash around her shaking upper body, with the rest of the bag completely shredded and looking like plastic flames.   Run free Popoki, run free!! 

I know it's mean to laugh at the terror of another beautiful creature, especially my wonderful quirky kitty that I love so much.  But, oh man, was I grateful for the snot and tear inducing guttural belly laugh that melted away all of my stress and worry.  What a perfect and unexpected way to end an already nice evening.  If only she knew that, the great gift she gave to me - maybe it would've helped her the next day as she was so obviously traumatized.  At least she let me make it up to her with plenty of petting and a fresh glass of water for dipping.  Aaah, if only life was that simple for the rest of us.

Sunday, February 6, 2011

Cinderella pumps

I've searched and searched for a new pair of black pumps for the last few months.  Granted, it's not like I have all day and unlimited resources to shop at stores all over LA, so by all that searching I mean whenever I happen to be in or near a store that just so happens to carry nice shoes.

You see, last year when I helped run the big formal fundraiser for my kid's school, I wore some pretty black pumps and half way through the night my feet were KILLING me.  They weren't even that high of a heel, but I might as well have been wearing a size 4 shoe (I wear an 8).  Then again, maybe I wasn't really supposed to run up and down the hallways like a crazy stressed out lady in these type of shoes - maybe they are more for standing around and looking all fancy.  And, it's not like I wear pumps more than but twice a year or so (flip flops are more like it), so no wonder my feet protested...big time.

That night, I swore to myself that next year for the fundraiser I wouldn't run up and down the hallways (more dignity) and that I would gift myself a new pair of more comfortable but still pretty pumps.  I had the exact type of high-heels in mind - the sort of vintage looking ones with a little strap and a more rounded toe, oh, and I had to be able to wear nylons with them (my legs are way too pale to be seen in public in February!).  

Unfortunately, I see nothing like that out there.  Everything is either too high or too low or too strappy/sandaly or too old looking or too hip or have the wrong heel or too pointy and so on.  Oh the shoe frustration!  

But, I keep the faith and just know I'll find something that will work and I'd even be willing to, gasp, settle...in the name of comfort.  I am, after all, almost forty!

Yesterday was beautiful and sunny and in the seventies and the outside world beckoned me.  Since I had a bit of an off week, both physically and mentally, I definitely needed to take advantage of the return of my energy and positive attitude...and the fact that my mom just picked up the kids for the day and overnight.  Whoo hoo!

I first hit a new thrift store based on an entusiastic tip from an avid thrift store shopper (she does props for the studios) and, yep, it was awesome.  HUGE!   And, it was okay that it was totally crowded and only took cash and I had none and my ATM card was at home.  It was another cool thrift store to add to my roster and I'm giddy.

Next, I decide to drive to the nearby IKEA to shop for some new curtains for my newly painted playroom.  Only, as I almost get there, I hear my own voice in my head from years back caution "NEVER go to IKEA on a Saturday ever again!!" and I cringe and rethink my plan...then change my route to the (oooohh!! aaaah!!) Nordstrom's Rack right up the street.  I drive around for a while and finally find a parking spot far far away, but I'm not deterred.  I walk into the store with focus and b-line to the back to the extensive shoe section.  

And then, then...I see them.  I see The Pumps.  In my size!  Not too expensive!  The little strap I wanted!  And they are prettier than I imagined!  So comfortable!  I practically do the Cinderella glass slipper dance (raise the shoe up in the air and twirl - see pic to the right of my favorite, and I would argue the best Cinderella movie of all time The Slipper and the Rose). 

Now, I'm not saying these are life changing glass slippers (I've already found my prince), but it's a reminder that sometimes I can actually get something I wish for, and it feels so comforting and neat and I love it.  

I'm not completely superficial and think that it's profound and meaningful to successfully wish for silly black pumps and all is right in the world.  After all, it's more important that the all-important fundraiser makes lots of money for my beloved school.  Of course, I wish for lots of deeper things, like for the economy to turn around, the end of wars, that no one goes hungry or without medical care, and the return of more important values and spiritual enlightenment.  But sometimes, it's about the little things like those perfect pumps or finding the turquoise earring I thought was lost forever at the bottom of my laundry basket, or discovering that the sweet mom I recently met at school lives just a few houses away, or visiting a new awesome thrift store.

Wish me luck with the fundraiser...and that my new pretty pumps don't kill my feet that night.  I might, just in case, learn my lesson and put aside my vanity and pack an emergency pair of comfy shoes.  But, I have a feeling my new "Cinderella" pumps won't let me down.

Friday, February 4, 2011

The yummy taste of feedback

I seriously spent the last two days in self imposed down time at home.  I was feeling rather sick, like some sort of cold or virus or a yucky something.  Or, quite possibly, I was mentally and physically worn out and drained.  I'm not sure what it was, but it doesn't matter.  I do know that I definitely needed to fly off to some tropical island and drink mai tai's on the beach for a week or two, uh, umm, I mean, take a break and rest and nap and eat well and ask for help.  I admit, the situation was rather desperate.

When I asked, my husband gladly took over most of the kid duties without complaint.  Maybe he got a wee bit scared seeing my "crazy" eyes or concerned because of my eye twitch and sleepwalking incidents (let's just say it involved getting out of bed, putting on my pants, and wandering around my room looking for kids to film for my fundraiser project...and that happened repeatedly during the course of one night).  Ya, umm, so...just simply getting a break from making lunches, taking the kids to and from school, helping them with homework, and not being the almighty responsible go-to super person can make all the difference.

So, during my downtime, I watched a lot tv in bed - caught up on some recorded shows, like Intervention (always helps me feel better about my life), How I Met Your Mother (always makes me laugh), and Top Chef for excitement and inspiration.

One of the most interesting elements of Top Chef, besides watching the cooking techniques and skills of the full-of-personality contestants, is the judge's feedback after each challenge.  It can be brutal and blunt or full of praise and applause, but regardless it's pretty darn interesting.  The feedback, either good or bad, gives the Top Chef contestants motivation to improve and keep going, confidence (stroke their already big egos), a reality check, areas to work on, and validation for their efforts and training...and much more.

I can't help but think to myself about whether getting more brutally honest feedback in life, like on Top Chef, would be a good thing or maybe not?  There is always room for improvement, right?  I'm not saying I am desperate for more praise and outside validation.  I know that it has to intrinsically come from within - a sense of personal satisfaction...yada yada yada.  But, sometimes, I don't know, sometimes...I just need a little something from other people to let me know I'm doing alright...or not doing so great. Just something that let's me know that I'm being noticed...and not invisible.

I've actually given constructive criticism that changed people for the better.  I remember my first real boyfriend at sixteen.  Todd was very nice, artistic and kind of dorky, but man, a horrible kisser!  Not that I had tons of experience in this arena (I was shy and picky), but I did have the sense to know if the kissing felt right or not, and his kissing was just bad.  BAD.  When I finally couldn't take it anymore, I said right to his face "You don't know how to kiss!" and broke up with him.  Kinda mean, I know, but I was sixteen after all.  I probably needed some honest feedback about my lack of tact.

Years later at college, I bumped into Todd and do you know what was one of the first things he said?  He said, well, begged "Give me another chance and let me show you I know how to kiss now.  I've been practicing!!"  He was completely serious and sincere, but I could not get away from him fast enough.  Eeeww!

Another time, I once asked a good friend if she realized that whenever we talked, she never asked about me and that all she did was talk about herself?  She never knew she did that.  She actually thanked me months later and said she really took what I said to heart and had made a big effort to be different with all of her relationships.

I've heard plenty of honest feedback about myself through the years.  I remember way back when I was in seventh grade I had my hair really short, like boy-cut short.  One day, this boy I didn't know very well said to me "You'd look better with long hair".  At first I was totally embarrassed, but then I really took a look at myself in the mirror and thought my short hair did look kind of weird.  So, I grew out my hair and do you know what?!  It grew out curly!  I didn't even know I had curly hair (a result of puberty?)...and it was really pretty!  Thank you hairstyle feedback boy!

I've given and received plenty of life changing feedback and constructive criticism, and I do know it can be uncomfortable but sometimes necessary.   And, there's a big difference between complaining and feedback.  I hear complaining all the time, after all, I am a mom.  For example, after watching my son eat his entire dinner, sometimes I hear a whiny "I'M STILL STARVING!!! (so defeating and grating!), but, I'd much rather hear "Mom, can I have more to eat next time because what you gave me just wasn't enough" (informative!).  Maybe there will be a girlfriend in his (very distant!) future that will tell him he needs to learn some tact.

I wonder if I was ever a Top Chef  contestant or on any of those other competition shows with judges, would I be able to handle the brutal honesty?   Would I gracefully thank them for the experience or cry in the limo all the way to the airport?  Yikes, I don't know...and I don't plan on finding out either way.

After catching up on all of those Top Chef episodes and after a totally glorious afternoon nap,  I am feeling more like myself again.  I even decide to attempt making fish soup for dinner.  Why fish soup?  I'm not sure, but it sounds good and I've never made it before so it's adventurous.  I look up "fish soup" recipes online, however many are tomato or cream based, and I want more of a light broth.  So, I throw a bunch of ingredients together and hope for the best.  And, what do you know?  It turns out AMAZING.  Yummmm. 
I serve the bowls of fish soup to my kids and husband and happily settle down with my own steamy hot bowl.  Before I can get a spoonful in my mouth, my sweet and wonderful daughter proclaims "Mommy, this is the best soup I've ever had in my whole life!".

Now, I've talked about constructive feedback and how it can be life changing and all, blah blah blah, but her huge compliment feels like a big hug for my soul.  I did something right and I did it great and somebody noticed and I heard it out loud...and...I needed that.

ps...
soup recipe (as best as I can remember)
onions and celery and garlic sauteed in oil
lots of white wine to de-glaze - don't be shy :-)
vegetable broth (TJ's Savory Broth) - 2 packets
add water, corn (a lot), orzo pasta (not too much), 
herbs de provence, bay leaf
salt, pepper
cook for a while
then add all of the talapia from a frozen 3-pack package from TJ's - cut into one inch pieces
more salt
cook about 10 minutes or until fish is cooked

enjoy!

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Happymiss fall from the sky

You get shot down over the South Pacific during WWII, almost die, and you feel gratitude towards the pilot for doing it?!?!  Unbelievable.
I was completely struck by this amazing and beautiful "happymiss" story:

Enjoy:

‘Mastah Preddi’ fell from the sky, into hearts


Friday, January 28, 2011

A wonderful waterfall

These last few weeks I've been pretty much consumed with school fundraiser Co-Chair duties (I am co-chair again for my kid's school's biggest fundraiser of the year that happens next month).  On one hand I LOVE IT!!! because it's pushing my comfort-zone into new life changing creative and mental territory (that's a blog post or two or three all on it's own), I feel like I'm positively contributing to the school, and well, ya, I like having a meaningful project to work on for a change.  Yes, I am unemployed and I get bored, okay!?

But, sometimes enough is enough and I have to detach and gain perspective and just find some pure joy and take care of my Daria soul.  Otherwise, someone might find me with crazy eyes all curled up in a fetal position in a corner of the school auditorium muttering "must get one more shot for my all important fundraiser video that will help us make lots of money...one more shot...one more shot...just one more shot...one...more...shot".  Seriously, it could happen!

Ya, ummm, not interested in going there, thank you very much.

So, today, an absolutely gorgeous bright blue sky 70-something degrees January day in Los Angeles, my kids are off from school for a "pupil free day" and there is no way I'm just hanging around the house and organizing donations and working on my video or anything related to the fundraiser.  Must...get...outside...in...nature!

So, ya, I do just that.

Luckily, my good friend and fellow school mom who is in the same kind of predicament and mindset, suggests a new hiking spot with caves and a waterfall for us to go to and I'm all over it.  I don't have to plan or make decisions or consult a committee.  I just get to show up with a picnic lunch and a car load of kids full of pent up "GRRRR!!!" and restless energy.
Let me tell you something - we all needed it.

What is it about the great outdoors (well, "outdoors" meaning on the outskirts of the big city with parking lots and trailheads and designated trails) that just brings out the best in us?  Is it the relative freedom we feel?  The amazing beauty of nature?  The exercise?  The getting back-to-basics of just being outside away from our lives?  I'm sure it's all of those things and much more.  It probably even goes down to a much deeper kind of soul level.  But, right now I'm way too tired to go there.  Not to sound whiny, but darn, It was a long hike up back to the car!

Even though while on the hike we made plenty of "mommy rules", like we have to be able to see you all, keep an eye on the trail for rattlesnakes, respect nature, and don't climb up that huge cave rock thingy and fall down and crack your head open because omg that (our worst fear) would scare the bejeezus out of us, the time spent there still feels like letting go.  There is no email (yep, I have an "old" phone), no laundry, no appointments, no deadlines, no "have to's", or anything else other than hearing the kids be them silly selves and me getting some precious bonding time with a good friend.  Oh, and ya, the waterfall was really really pretty.

Now that I'm home after our beautiful, but whew!, rather vigorous hike, I feel a renewed sense of calm and positive mojo.  Deep down, I know that everything that needs to get done for the big fundraiser will get done, and, oh ya baby, I will ROCK IT!  Of course, it will be due in part to everyone involved and all of our hard work and ya, well, because I'm so awesome and modest...ha ha ha...  I wouldn't be able to see and appreciate all of that glory if I was curled up in a crazy fetal position or in an overwhelming pressured haze of stress and suffocating loss of self.  I simply won't let myself go there.

I'm not completely naive to think that these next four weeks of fundraiser crunch time won't be up and down crazy stressful busy, but at least I have today.  The energizing and spirit-lifting day that gave me a bit of a well-deserved break from it all.  I may not feel the same way tomorrow when I must face the massive pile of "to do" stuff, but it's okay.  I will happily do it all with my newly unearthed pile of smiles and immense gratitude...oh, and lot's of coffee helps...and...can't forget the chocolate...and of course, dance music.  Really, it will be worth it.  I just know it.