Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Sunday, December 27, 2009

10 Things I Learned from "Up in the Air"

I've seen more movies in the last four weeks than the 11 months prior put together. So, here is another "review."

Up in the Air is one of those movies that I didn't know much about going in. Furthermore, I wasn't expecting much because as far as I could tell it wasn't about blowing up buildings, the end of the world or romancing an alien; but might measure up to a television "movie of the week" type thing.

I was wildly surprised. The film is rich in detail and beautifully constructed. The characters are well developed and and the acting is superb. The stories are huge... and there are so many of them. I came out of the theater having learned stuff. What, exactly? A list in no particular order:

1. on-line communication is not a substitute for face to face connection
2. unscheduled visits never go well
3. lists of character traits essential in a partner are sort of meaningless
4. sext messaging isn't just for teenagers
5. what feels right to you may not feel right to others
6. don't get sucked into the naive enthusiasm of youth
7. never assume
8. family is thick
9. never stand behind parents with small children in an airport security queue
10. we all die alone

Sunday, December 20, 2009

Obligatory Avatar Review

I saw Avatar in IMAX 3d a couple of days ago and, because it's all the buzz at the moment, I feel compelled to write about it.

The story line, from start to finish, is EVER predictable: protagonist is given a "second chance" at life and embarks on and adventure. He trains and learns and experiences and finally confronts an obstacle - an enemy - and fights for "right." Just as you think all hope is lost and the villain is about to win, the protagonist comes in from behind and saves the day.

That said, the artistry of the film was stunning. Serious work went into inventing a world that seemed truly organic. From it's wildlife and foliage to the way natives worshiped their deity - it was well thought out and beautiful in a way that went beyond aesthetics.

There was so much potential.

I think Joe (he'll be 9 in February) will enjoy the film. It's simple enough - like Star Wars or Indiana Jones films - that he can look beyond the redundancies of the story line and revel in the planet they present. The 3D enhancement will impress him even more - and rightly so: it feels like you're right there in the forest. It's quite amazing actually.

Maybe I'm jaded. I like less predictable films.
But that's just me.

Did you see the film? What did you think?

P.S. As a graphic designer I would be remiss not to point out my utter shock at seeing the font "Papyrus" used for subtitles. This was a $250million dollar project. They could have splurged and hired someone to make them an original... Sheesh.

Saturday, December 5, 2009

Couple-Friends

It started with an innocent facebook page post:

Hey you! I saw your son at the climbing gym today. I said hi, but I'm not sure he recognized me. He bend his head to the side, said hi, and then went running off with his friend. :)

The fellow who posted the comment is one half of a couple who my ex and I socialize with when we were married. Like many "couple-friends," there was awkwardness upon the dissolution of our marriage. I stopped hanging out with them so much... no hard feelings. Just how it goes sometimes.

Anyway, a few weeks ago I received an invitation to their yearly "Pajama Cookie Party" via evite. I hadn't responded so I took this opportunity to post on my friend's facebook page:

How are you guys? Thanks for the invite to the cookie party. Gonna have to decline this year but I'd love to see you guys. Joe's friend's dad works at the climbing gym so he is there a lot. :)

His response is what floored me:


We are great! Sorry to hear you will miss the cookie party. You were the early favorite to win the pajama award in the adult category. Hope to see you sometime soon.

HUH? The adult category? Did he think that I'd show up in a negligee ? (As opposed the the flannel panda pajamas I wore a couple years ago.) And why did he think I'd show up in such an outfit? Cause I'm single? Or was he flirting? Which is also unacceptable seeing how he's married and all. What the f*ck?

Several friends have told me I'm being too sensitive. That he didn't mean anything and was trying to be flattering. He failed cause men fail at these types of things.

But I'm kind of hurt and insulted. I wonder if it's how our other couple-friends view me as well. If that is why they've stop socializing with me.

Do you think I'm overreacting? What are your views?








Friday, December 4, 2009

Winter Salad


Here in Berkeley the sustainable food movement is big. That means a lot of people grow their own food and those who don't like to buy local. We can do that at the many farmers markets around town and at several local grocers known for their work with local farms such as Monterey Market and Berkeley Bowl. This means that the fruit that crosses our plates changes with the seasons. Peaches, plums, apricots and berries in the summer; apples and pears in the fall; and citrus, in the winter. But winter comes with a little twist of a treat. Persimmons. Fuyu persimmons in particular are mother nature's winter apology for its lack of stone fruit.

My favorite winter salad is a mix of Fuyu Persimmons, fennel and pomegranate seeds (another winter delight). Here you go:

Winter Salad
2 large Fuyu Persimmons
2 small fennel bulbs
1 small pomegranate
1/4 cup orange juice
1/8 cup olive oil
2 tbsp apple cider vinegar
2 tbsp minced shallots
salt and pepper

• Remove the seeds from the pomegranate and place in a bowl
• Cut the fennel bulb into very thin slices
• Peel the persimmons and cut into thin slices
• For the dressing: whisk together the oranges juice, olive oil, vinegar, shallots salt and pepper and pour over the salad
• Toss and serve immediately

Sunday, November 29, 2009

The Story of The House

In August I moved myself and the kids from our small transitional apartment to a slightly larger nearby house. It's great because it has a finished basement that I use as an office. The main living area is small, the kitchen and bathroom pretty much suck, but it has a big yard, nice wood floors and gets a lot of light; I can see the Berkeley Hills between the rooftops looking east and pink sun-set skies looking west.

The landlady gave me little to no information regarding the last tenant except that "she" was here a long time. However, soon I met the neighbors and from them I've pieced together the real story of the house.

Mr. Henderson bought this house back in the 50's. He and his wife raised two kids here - until they got divorced about 15 years in. My landlady grew up here. She had the room I'm sleeping in. Her brother had my kids' room and her parents slept downstairs in what is now my office. At some point in her adult life my landlady became estranged from her father. I guess they didn't get along well.

This year Mr. Henderson passed away and his daughter inherited the house. She had the floors refinished, threw up a coat of paint, updated the gas heater and put it up for rent. I became the lucky tenant.

While living here over the past several months, I've developed a fondness for (the deceased) Mr. Henderson. His presence is everywhere. From the garden equipment stacked neatly in the garage to the wires and duck tape he used to keep the stair rails in place. Evidently he adored lanterns and decided to use these outdoor fixtures in all the hallways and several rooms. They jut out proudly from the walls. (Watch your head!)

Mr. Henderson did not believe in replacing things. If it was broken, he fixed it-any way he could. He also wasn't the best housekeeper and I have yet to get all the grime off the bathroom floor. His ex-wife had trendy taste in decor and I don't think Mr. Henderson ever changed what she did in the early '60s. So I live with fabricated plastic stone walls in the living room and wood paneling in the bedrooms. I've managed to mostly cover the mirrored gold-marble tiles around the fireplace with a piece of furniture, but some things can't be hidden and must simply be embraced.

Upon request, the landlady has replaced the stove/oven and added a portable dishwasher as well as a clothes dryer. I've cleaned what I can and made use of the space in a way that best suits our family. I hardly notice the outdated style anymore - leftover on my walls, in my bathroom, the yard. It's my surroundings. My life somehow meshed with Mr. Henderson's.... But when friends come over for the first time I can see they don't know quite what to say. The reactions are priceless and I'm reminded that the interior is a bit silly. I'm always asked why I don't change it.

I can't. Mr. Henderson wouldn't approve.

Sunday, November 22, 2009

Cranberry Sauce



Remember when you were little and cranberry sauce came out of a can? Looking nothing like a "berry" it slid from the tin with a suck, placed on a plate and cut into neat round slices, sweet and jello-like. I loved it, but didn't really understand WHY it was served with turkey. (Geez! don't let gravy touch touch the cranberries! Gross!)

In 1987 I moved to New York and began having Thanksgiving with my paternal aunt (and family) in Long Island. Aunt Renee was deep into the "new" Weight Watcher's culture (she was employed by them and led meetings, etc.) so she was always trying new recipes. One year she whipped up a home made cranberry sauce - made with real cranberries! It was delicious.

Over the years I've made it as a staple. As with all recipes that are carried around in the heart (rather than a notebook or card) this one has transformed over the years. At this point, more than 20 years in morphing, I doubt that it would qualify for anything related to Weight Watchers. Still, people like it and request it. So I thought I'd post it here. Let me know how you like it.

Cori's Cranberry Sauce

1 bag cranberries
1 cup crushed walnuts
1 oranges
1 small can crushed pineapple (optional)
pinch cinnamon
pinch nutmeg
honey to taste (I use at least a half cup.)

• pour the cranberries in a pot and cover with water
• put on burner hi until water begins to boil and cranberries begin to pop
• allow cranberries to pop for about 10 minutes
• meanwhile - prepare the oranges by cutting off the peel and cutting out the sections being careful to cut around the membranes around the sections. Squeeze out remaining juice from the orange and set the sections and juice aside in a large bowl
• drain cranberries and pour into the bowl with the oranges
• while cranberries are still hot add the walnuts, pineapple (if using), cinnamon, nutmeg and honey. Stir together. Taste. Add more honey if needed. Don't be shy with the honey. It should not make your mouth pucker.

Let cool and serve with the meal.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Hiss in the Hole


In honor of Veterans Day: My dear friend Mike - a Vietnam vet - telling a rare war story with a happy ending.

Monday, November 2, 2009

The Maiden, the Bitch and Prince Charming (or, The Zombie Princess)

Maia and Joe have been really into old Disney movies. Cinderella, Sleeping Beauty and Snow White are favorites. Have you watched these films lately?

The casts are painfully identical. All star a poorly treated (dare I say abused) maiden; an evil older woman; and a man–but not just any man, noooo–this guy is Prince Charming himself!

Similarities continue with the plot: maiden lives under the control of the bitchy older woman, goes through a series of horrid events, makes some friends, is found by Prince Charming and lives happily ever after.

Of the three, I think Snow White is most disturbing. There is a terrifying scene in which she is lost in the forest, eyes stare at her from every which way, screeches and moans can be heard before she collapses into a heap of trembling sobs. It's like a really bad LSD trip.

Snow White makes friends with seven men, dwarfs actually, who live and work together in the woods (WTF??). The guys are slobs and keep her around because she cooks and cleans for them. Furthermore, ALL seven of them harbor secret crushes on her and fight for private places to get their nuts off (OK, I made this part up. But it could be true. We don't know that it's not.) Our maiden leads her little friends on by doting on them and kissing their little noses and ears, foreheads and beards. All the while she moons over a prince she met once and was too shy to even speak with.

Enter evil woman who poisons poor Snow White with a shiny red symbol of lost innocence–the apple. One bite and she drops to the floor. Dead. The dwarfs turn out to be necrophiliacs of sorts: embalming the maiden in a glass casket (above ground) so they can gaze at her body daily. Feigning grief while privately taking turns fulfilling their deepest fantasies (We don't know that this is true, but it could be, and that's all that really matters.)

And so it goes until, having heard of this odd freak-show of a story, Prince Charming rides his white stallion to the casket. Overcome with passion (necrophilia) the gentleman kisses the (DEAD) maiden who, to every one's surprise, blinks her eyes and awakens. At this point, we can argue, Snow White is a zombie, she is of the living dead.

This doesn't dissuade the Prince from gathering his prize up and whisking her away to his castle where they live–and this part is really true, cause it says so in the movie–happily ever after.

Friday, October 30, 2009

Make My Meatloaf

Meatloaf goes over well in this house. Both kids like it. It works with pasta, broccoli, carrots, potatoes and a million other things that children will actually eat. One loaf lasts several days and is great on sandwiches.

So, here you go - my meatloaf recipe:

1 package (1.25 lbs) ground turkey
1 package (1.25 lbs) ground beef
1 package dry onion soup mix
1 cup bread crumbs (seasoned if you like)
3 eggs
2 cups chicken broth plus 1 cup for baking
ketchup
Root vegetables (optional)

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees.

Combine the first six ingredients (turkey through 2 cups chicken broth)

The mixture will be very runny.
Pour the mixture into a oiled baking pan and shape it into a loaf.
Squeeze ketchup over the top -- as much or little as you like.

Pour 1 cup of chicken broth into the bottom of the baking pan.
Add root vegetables to the pan around the loaf. (if desired)

Bake for one hour or until cooked through.
If you find it is browning too much, cover loosely with foil.
Serve immediately with a glass of red wine.
(Or a glass of cranberry juice.)

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Who's Confused?

I'm angry.
Pissed.

All my life I've had male friends. PLATONIC male friends. But now, I've been told, that these guys are, in fact, out to jump my bones. Furthermore, I am "confusing [my] children" by having single PLATONIC males as friends.

On the other hand, the father of my children insists he is "exemplifying the importance of the family unit" by having group sleepovers with his girlfriend and her son. Yes, the two adults sleep in the same bed. Yes there is, what my daughter calls, "kissy kissy" between them. And this is a good example for my children. Right? RIGHT?

Honestly - I don't think either is bad. I believe that it's important the kids see us friendly with all types of people. Young, old, rich, poor, black, white, abled, disabled, gay, straight, divorced, single, widowed, female or MALE. They should see that men and women can be friends OUTSIDE the bedroom (*kissy kissy*). My gosh, my son's best friend is a little girl. I hope they are friends forever.

I'm not in a "kissy kissy" relationship right now - at least not one that I care to share with my children. The guys we hang out with were there BEFORE the end of my marriage. LONG before. They were ALREADY enmeshed in the lives of my kids. NOT seeing them would be weird. For all of us.

It baffles me that people don't understand this.
It pisses me off.

But I said that already.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Spinach Casserole


Making dinner for the kids is always a challenge. There are only the three of us but finding something that we will ALL eat (and that's more or less healthy) is almost impossible.

Here's a dish that works for us:

Spinach Casserole
1 bag chopped frozen spinach
1 container cottage cheese (lo fat - NOT non-fat)
1 package grated sharp cheddar cheese
1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese
4 eggs

• Preheat oven to 400 degrees
• Combine cottage cheese, grated cheddar cheese and eggs in a large bowl and mix till combined
• Add the bag of frozen spinach and incorporate thoroughly.
• Pour it into a baking ban (the kind you make brownies in works best) that has been coated with olive oil.
• Cover with tinfoil. Remove tin foil about 15 minutes before done (to brown top)
• Bake for about an hour, or until the casserole is firm.

I serve this with meatloaf, but its perfectly fine all by itself as a light meal. It's even nice for breakfast/brunch.

At Passover I make this with a layer of matzo on the bottom - so it's a little like a pie. There are never any leftovers.

I know, I know, there is a lot of cheese and eggs which hardly makes this a lo-fat meal. However, there is also lots of protein, calcium and iron (from the spinach). Better than Kraft mac & cheese - right?

Monday, October 5, 2009

Racing From One Weekend to the Next

There are a gazillion ways to arrange custody when divorcing. For us, a 50/50 arrangement was a given so we started from there. Because we have a little-one (Maia) we decided that a full week without seeing one or the other of us would be hard for her so that figured largely into the equation. In the end we came up with the following schedule: I have the kids every Monday and Tuesday. They are with their dad every Wednesday and Thursday. We switch off every other Friday and Saturday, and switch again every other Sunday.

So far the arrangement has worked for us (with minor tweaks and adjustments here and there to accommodate their dad's teaching schedule).

But it takes a lot of adjusting.

As it works out, every other week I drop the children off at school on Wednesday morning and don't see them again until 4 pm on Sunday. Five days.

When the 5 o'clock hour comes on Wednesday, the first day without them, I'm at a loss. I suddenly don't have to jump in my car and "play pickup kids." He's doing it. I can't pin down how this feels but the closest thing to describe it is anxiety. A pulsing in my veins, wringing of my hands, twiddling of my thumbs... What to do?

On Thursday evening it gets easier. By Friday, at 5, I'm lonely. Saturday rolls around and my objective is to get the house ready for them - laundry, cleaning, grocery shopping - so that on Sunday I can sit in my favorite chair and enjoy the New York Times with cup of coffee while KFOG plays the Acoustic Morning program on the radio. By the time they arrive at 4, I'm relaxed and excited to see them.

Until they arrive.

And I'm suddenly shocked into the reality of motherhood. Almost immediate whining, and requests for food, or gum or juice; quarrels between the two of them; very loud voices; screaming, crying, tantrums, defiance, anger, exhaustion. Wow. Mommying is hard work. Especially when you do it alone.

Monday morning, getting up in time to get to school by 8. I rise at 6 - try to get a half hour of time alone with my coffee before waking them at 6:30 to start getting ready for school. This morning hour is perhaps the most challenging of the day. Never mind me - I need to get two children dressed, washed up and fed in addition to making boxed lunches and tending to Moses the Dog. We leave the house at 7:50 and drive across town to Joe's school where we drop him off and then take off back across town (tracing where we've just been and passing our house) to Maia's preschool. Once there the ritual is that we spend about 10 minutes playing or reading together and then she "pushes me out the door" and I'm off on my own. An immediate sense of relief and freedom.

It seems to be one or the other - extreme stress or loneliness - I've not yet found a common ground. A place where one or the other is satisfying and fulfilling. Instead, one just seems like a race to get to the other. I'm constantly running and never winning.

When does this end?

Monday, September 7, 2009

Monday, August 24, 2009

Taking Back the Park

There is a park near my house that was a community project. For various reasons (subject of a future blog post) the City of Berkeley "gave" our neighborhood a plot of land to do with as we pleased. After many meetings and lots of work we created a wonderful sanctuary with a big grassy area surrounded by native fruit trees, plants and flowers. There is a tire swing and sandbox and a "mountain" to climb for the children. My kids and I go there a lot.

Last week Maia and I decided to take a walk to the "little park" (as Maia calls it) with Moses (the dog) and some toys for the sandbox. As we approached I saw three adults on the swing - drinking from paper bags and groping each other lewdly. Maia asked me, "Mama, what are they doing?" Fuming, shooting cold stares at the people, I told her that I didn't know. We spent a moment sitting on a bench across the lawn until Maia said she wanted to use the swing.

So we walked across the grass and I began to take back the park:

"Excuse me," I said, "my daughter would like to use the swing."
"Oh! sure, of course. Go ahead!" they said.
And they moved aside and Maia got up on the swing and I began to push her. The three adults (two men and a woman) moved a few yards away - near the sandbox - and lit up some cigarettes.
"I'm sorry," I said, "there is no smoking in the park" while pointing out the "no smoking" signs hung every 10 feet along the perimeter of the park. "There are ash trays just outside both gates if you want to smoke," said I.
"What are you trying to say?" said the woman.
"I'm just pointing out the signs." I said.
"You must be new to this neighborhood, right?" aggressive, accusations.
Me, "No, I've lived here for about 10 years now."
"WELL - I've been here for 48 years!"
"Wow, 48 years? You look awesome" I said.
She didn't know what to make of it. She cocked her head, like a dog. Her boyfriend, said, "Hey you guys, lets get out of here. We gotta go someplace anyway."
So they gathered up their stuff - including a bouquet of flowers. "Those are pretty," I said. "Yea - I know how to pick 'em." said the guy. "I guess so." My eyes glaring.

And they left.

I wonder if I'd have been so bold if I didn't have Moses with me - he looks scary. Big, dark and wolf-like. Or the protection of Maia - using a child as a shield - figuring that any decent person wouldn't hurt a mother in front of her kid.

I could have been wrong. It might have been bad.
As it is, I feel like I won.

Since then I've made the walk to the park an evening ritual. We use it the way it was intended. I'm going to start inviting the neighborhood families to join us. This park is important to me. I intend to keep it.

[Also posted on InBerkeley.]

Thursday, August 20, 2009

Wordle Experiment

I'm working on a magazine project for a client and they requested a "wordle" for the front cover. After exploring the wordle site a bit I thought it would be fun to make a wordle from this blog. Here it is:


I find it interesting that the largest (ie most used words) are home, house, family and two. (Two? Maybe I speak about my two kids a lot? Kids is pretty big too.)

How much will my wordle change when I make one from this blog in 3 months? Six months? A year from now? The wordle reflects my life, or at least the life that I record here. It's content, shape and emphasis will morph as I move forward. An experiment: create a wordle from your blog or twitter stream every three months. See where it leads, and what it says - both literally and figuratively - about you.

I'm game. How about you?

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

A New House to Call Home

Six months ago I posted a video to my YouTube account called Apartment Hunting Persistence. I watch it now and see that I didn't seem terribly excited. Of course, part of it was moving out of my newly renovated home into a space that reminded me of my grad school days.

Yea. I said it.


The "duplex" apartment I'v
e been living in has been uncomfortable to say the least. My office is in my bedroom. The common area is small-when we're home together we trip over each other constantly. Forget entertaining; don't even think about it. Furthermore, the view out the front window is a hideous old garage, falling apart, slouching sideways. The other window looks out over my driveway which might be ok if I drove a Maserati or a Jaguar; but I've got a filthy Subaru. The mommy mobile someone (a date) once said.

I'd only signed a 6-month lease and was looking forward to finding a new home in August. Which meant a July full of (more) apartment hunting persistence. I must have looked at a dozen places. I scoured CraigsList.com and broadened my scope - considered cities to the north and south of me. Anything to find a place that would accommodate two kids, a large dog, a work-at-home mom (that's me!) AND fit into my budget.
When I did finally find something that I thought would work - a house in West Berkeley - I was declined because they didn't think I'd be able to maintain the rent. Moving forward I sought the help of my folks who agreed to co-sign a rental agreement.

When the next h
ouse came my way I was armed with copies of a standard rental application (all filled out), my credit report, proof of earnings and the all important co-sign agreement from my parents.

The landlady was impressed with my organization. I sat and talked with her for an hour. Explored the house ...

The House Despite being open to geographic change, the house I found is one block from my old place. It's a single family home that you climb a flight of stairs to get into. There are two bedrooms and one bathroom, a good size kitchen and large front window looking out over a charming cottage and the Berkeley Hills. Downstairs there is a single car garage, laundry room, storage areas and a finished office with two windows looking at the backyard. (YES! A large backyard with pear and cherry trees...) It's this extra office that makes it a good move. That, and the fact that the house is bright and sunny with lots of .... character. Retro charm, we could say.

Huh?


It's stuck in 195
9. Think wood and "stone" paneled walls, mirror-tiled fireplace with gold marbling, and lots of other amazing quirks that make it so unique and lovable. I'm already cruising CraigsList.com for "mid-century modern" furniture finds. Just to keep the tone going ... :-)

So on Thursday I sign the lease, get the keys and set about moving my life into, what I hope to be, a long-term home. I feel really good about it and I can't wait to take the next step FORWARD in this absurd journey that I'm learning to embrace.

Thursday, July 23, 2009

One Week Each July

Last Saturday I woke at 5 am to take my kids and their dad to the airport for the "Kesler Vacation." Every year, for the last decade my (ex)husband's family - two brothers, a sister and their respective spouses and their parents - have taken a vacation for a week in July.

In 2000 year we took an Alaskan cruise. I was pregnant with Joe, and sick throughout the trip. It was our first time traveling as a group and we were all getting used to each other. The scenery was beautiful. The ride (to me anyway) was a wreck.

Over the years we met-up at some wonderful places - Whitefish, Montana; Kauai, Hawaii; Kiawa Island, S. Carolina; The Delaware Beaches; San Diego, California .... With each vacation the family grew. Children were born, cousins were created, relationships between in-laws were forged. Watching the children grow and play together was beautiful and priceless.

Last year they went to Lake Tahoe. It was the beginning of the end of my marriage and I decided to stay home. This year, they are at Lake Lur in North Carolina. They are telling me that it's beautiful and they are having a wonderful time.

While they've been gone I've been keeping myself busy looking for a new house (my lease ends 8/1); cleaning; and cranking on a ton of work projects. I've been extremely productive and pro-active (including finding a home, but that will be a separate blog post).

When I imagine the kids on Lake Lur, with their cousins and grandparents, aunts and uncles and all the love that is surrounding them I feel great joy. They are very lucky to have such a wonderful family. I'm saddened that I will not be able to follow the growth of my (ex) nieces and nephews who I still love. It is one of the lesser-known, lesser-spoken drawbacks of divorce; a reminder that there are always more people involved and effected than the couple themselves.

So now the week is coming to an end. I retrieve them from the airport the day after tomorrow. I can't wait to see them and hear all their stories and squeeze them and hug them and kiss them all over. :-) I'm very happy that they have this opportunity to spend time with their paternal family; but I'm overjoyed to have them home.

Thursday, July 2, 2009

So It Is

So the last two weeks have been challenging. If anything could go wrong, it seemed, it would. I'd like to make a list here - just to get it all out
• Woke up with ants crawling on me

• Was told that my health insurance premium would be twice as much as listed because of "preexisting conditions"

• Had a toilet clogged for four days to the extent that bowls were used for ... you get the picture

• Paid PGE to the wrong account number and had my electricity turned off

• Been told that my income and savings does not make for a strong rental applicant in the area I'd like to live (my son's school zone)

• Bumped a car while parking. The driver was in the car and asked immediately if I had insurance. When I protested there were suddenly 10 people in the street yelling at me. The word "bitch" was thrown around. I gave them my info and "ran"

• Discovered my purple bike was stolen from the backyard

• Was lied to by a close friend.
There's more, but I can't write it here. Trust me. It sucks.

So I'm feeling a bit like a punching bag. Waiting for the next blow. Bam bam bam.

Parenting, which is difficult in the best of circumstances, is extra challenging when the world seems to be crumbling. My children are wonderful. But they are kids going through a major life transition (living in two homes) and expressing their frustration in startling ways that, should probably, be expected. Sometimes they are hurtful. As much as I know they don't mean what they say, it still manages to beat me down and wear me out.

I've been trying to figure out where my bad luck - bad karma - is coming from. What did I do? Who did I hurt? What am I paying for? Have you read the book of Job lately? Sometimes there just isn't any rhyme or reason. It just IS what it IS.

Thursday, June 25, 2009

Michael Jackson Eats Iran

Those of you that know me understand that I monitor much of my world through twitter. (See sidebar for my twitter feed.) I communicate with friends (both virtual and IRL folks), promote my blog, youtube channels and business and get virtually all my news through twitter.

This past week I witnessed twitter become "the" go-to source for breaking news and first-hand accounts of the atrocities happening in Iran. My feed pointed to YouTube videos that provided witness to the carnage and violence in the region. There were riots, marches, stone throwing, gassing and shooting -- right there for the world to view. We saw Neda Agha Soltan shot in the heart and die on camera while her father desperately screamed "Neda, don't be afraid. Stay with me Neda." Beyond words; beyond heartbreaking.

And so all was a-twitter with the news coming out of Iran. It seemed like everyone was coloring their avatars green (in a show of solidarity). My "followers" brainstormed about how the world could help. We agonized together about our inability to come up with solutions. We fantasized about how it might end.

But today, when I logged on and found that Farrah Fawcett was the top trending topic I wasn't necessarily surprised - after all, she'd just passed away after a long battle with cancer. She was an American idol. She shared the column with #iranelection and #neda and the news from Iran continued.

But sometime after 1pm tweets started coming in about the (alleged) death of Michael Jackson. The rumors flew: he was dead, he was in a coma, he committed suicide... finally confirmation of death and then the tribute blips started, video tributes, fascination with death coming in threes (Ed McMahon, Farrah and MJ). It didn't stop. And then it rolled into ridiculousness as tweets popped up about Jeff Goldblum's apparent "plunge to death" while filming in New Zealand. Kevin Spacey finally put an end to that one ... but everyone was so busy with celebrities dying that trending topics swallowed up and digested any news about Iran.

I pleaded in my tweets:

two icons. one day. 7/25/09. Now lets get back to figuring out how to help Iran. Please. #iranelection

Iran has completely fallen off the trending topics list. In the coming year what will touch ur life more: MJ or Iran. Come on folks. Please.

RT: @p_sullyRT RT @kensands: Most significant death of the week? U decide: Ed McMahon, Farrah Fawcett, Michael Jackson, Neda Agha Soltan.


Thankfully, I was retweeted, and my feed started bringing thoughts on Iran back. Slowly, tentatively, #iranelection has snuck up to the bottom of Trending Topics. There it sits... like an afterthought.

I remain disillusioned and bitter. How could the world - at least my twitter world - be so incredibly shallow? Michael Jackson and Farrah Fawcett are dead. It's really sad. My heart goes out to their friends and family. But honestly, their deaths do not make much of a difference in my life or the lives of my children. The revolution happening in Iran, however, could change not just Iran, but also the world ... it may very well continue to be meaningful and relevant to our lives for years.

I leave you with this haunting video by Arian Saleh. Please show your support for his amazing talent by subscribing to his YouTube channel HERE (Warning: graphic images)

Friday, June 12, 2009

Flying Solo

A couple of months ago I flew across the country to visit relatives. I went over a weekend that the kids were scheduled to be with their dad. I've been traveling with babies or children for 8 years. I've forgotten that there can be productivity in the process. JOY even.

I traveled light. I took a carry-on bag and skipped the check-in line. Waiting in the security line was effortless while I read and responded to email on my blackberry - I had only MY shoes to take off and put on again upon inspection. Once on board the flight, I chose the emergency door aisle (it has more leg room but you can't sit there with children), I opened a book and spent the next two hours lazily reading. I slept, did work on my laptop, listened to my ipod and basically completely enjoyed the private quiet time.

Sooooo, you childless reader ask, what is the difference?

Here is a list of the things that I did NOT have to do:
1. pack and check bags
2. consider contents of carry on bags including but not limited to: crayons, coloring books, dolls, and lots and lots of snacks.
3. referee an argument about who gets to sit by the window.
4. feed, read to and otherwise entertain two children.
5. go back and forth to the potty with the toddler
6. apologize to passengers when my children kick the backs of their seat
7. sit uncomfortably while one of them sleeps with her head on my lap
8. wait for baggage
9. install the car seat in the rental
10. -- I think you get it.

For the past 8 years I've dreaded travel. It took flying solo to remember why.

Friday, May 8, 2009

Best. Mothers Day. Gift. EVER.

Joseph, my eight year old son, stopped by today with his dad to read me this poem he wrote. He delivered it as spoken word. Beautiful.


MOMMY

She is magic
she is magic
like the hand
the hand of her soul
she is amazing
she is amazing
like the heart
the heart of her body.

It is HER
who warms me
it is HER
who sings me
yes
it is her.
yes
it is her.
Yes, it is you mom.
It is you. WHY
because ...
because ...
You are the angel in the cloud,
You are the devil in the ground.
You are yourself
and you are you.
Yes.
You are you.

by Joe

Friday, March 6, 2009

Remembering the Garbage

Friday mornings, at around 6am, the garbage truck comes rumbling down the street. Not long after that the sound of crashing tins and breaking glass preclude the arrival of the city recycling service. In the past the noise was little more than a disturbance, lulling me out of sleep at about the time my alarm was going off anyway.

For the last 10 years my husband has been in charge of trash day. Prior to that, I lived in apartments with communal bins. No one had to DO anything-we dumped our bags in and the city took care of it. It's different now. For the first time EVER I am responsible for remembering to bring the garbage to the curb.

My newest residence is in a duplex. If I don't bring the trash and recycling out on Thursday night I awake on Friday morning with a panicked start - hearing the trucks, knowing that unless I jump out of bed and run outside in my pajamas and bare feet I'm doomed to a week of overflowing stinky garbage. It's not a pleasant way to start the day. Furthermore, failing at the chore results in a seven-day stint of unreasonable self-deprecation: cursing myself every time I try to stuff yet another bulging bag into the the bin. The waste becomes a symbol of my failed marriage, struggling career and the parenting snafus I FORGOT TO TAKE CARE OF!! Is it any wonder that my life is a mess? And so it goes until the week passes and another garbage day arrives.

On the other hand, REMEMBERING the garbage on Thursday nights has become an opportunity to pat myself on the back. In this way, the mundane chore has morphed into a celebration of my newly single status. Rolling the bins to the curb, in the dark cold of the night, makes me feel strangely satisfied: I've taken control of the trash and in doing so have reined in my failures and set them out neatly on the curb for someone else to dispose of.

Eventually, I assume, the Thursday night garbage ritual will become more automated - completed without thought or intention. I look forward to that time: when the rubbish is just rotten food, empty wine bottles and coffee grounds. But for now, this weekly accumulation of trash represents the mess I've created. Remembering to dispose of it brings me one step closer to cleaning everything up.

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Mr. President's Address to the Nation

Let me start by saying I watched Obama's address streaming on CNN.com in partnership with Facebook which in itself, blows me away. Before he even began speaking I was watching opinions, hopes and dreams steadily dropping in on the status bar. On my blackberry, I was twittering with my "twibe" who I've shared thoughtful 140 character exchanges with during the debates, election, inauguration, and now this, Obama's first presidential address. The whole experience made me feel like the future had come and change is imminent - a sentiment that parallels the President's campaign message.

So it was with high hopes that I listened as he began his speech. Let there be no mistake, Barack Obama is an eloquent gifted speaker. He charmed us all - right off - by acknowledging his wife, the First Lady of the United States. He rolled beautifully from one topic to the next - pausing for each and every standing ovation (of which there were FAR too many.) But I was put off by his "ole boys'" banter in proclaiming that "nobody messes with Joe!" and it concerned me that there was no mention of the troops recently sent to Afghanistan.

When he was finished, CNN let the cameras roll with raw audio streaming as they followed him through the crowd. I read last week that Obama is more famous right now than Jesus, and indeed, it did seem like people just wanted to TOUCH him. Needed to feel his solidity, make sure he was real.

So, good? Bad? I'm a bit disappointed by the address. I was hoping for more answers and explanations. On the other hand he was a pleasure to behold. A man suited to lead. I remain positive and hopeful that he can reunite the country and ignite a spirit of solidarity and community service. We are, after all, in it together.

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

What's Normal?

A couple of weeks ago, my son Joe turned 8. About two weeks prior to that his dad and I moved into separate homes.

He's complained to me that we aren't "normal" anymore. Not like a family. It breaks my heart.

At his birthday party we had 8 children. A great mix of kids some who he's known a long time, others from school. They had a wonderful time playing with legos and flopping about in a jumpy house rented for the event.

Towards the end of the day, as the parents were picking up their children, something dawned on me. Of the 8 at the party, only one (ONE!) came from a "normal" nuclear family. Let me run down the list (names changed - obviously):

Janet: one mom (sperm donor)
Sonia: two dads (adopted)
Sean: parents divorced before kindergarten
Rick: parents divorced before kindergarten
Jason: parents divorced in first grade
Bill: parents divorced before kindergarten
Brian: parents married and living in one house
Tom: parents divorced before kindergarten

I told Joe my observation - how his friends come from all different types of families. If being with a mom and a dad was "normal" then our statistics told us otherwise. He agreed. (Fabulous math lesson, btw!)

I don't think it makes him wish any less that his dad and I get back together. But I do think the realization that there are MANY kids who have "two houses" and live sometimes with mommy and sometimes with daddy was helpful. If nothing else, he was able to see that he is not alone.

Keep in mind we live in Berkeley, CA where anything goes and views are liberal. It's one of the reasons I love it here.

<3

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

... and so it begins ...

... on so many levels.

Uprooting oneself from a home of 10 years is difficult under any circumstances.
Looking back it all seems ridiculous. What were we thinking? What was I thinking?
Living the American dream? Not if its a nightmare.
Laying in the bed you've made? Not if your being strangled by the covers.

So now here I am.
Alive.
Seeing the absurd.
Embracing it.
Reporting it.
To you.