The Best Kind of Love

 Valentine's Day art in my son's first grade classroom.

Valentine's Day art in my son's first grade classroom.

Valentine’s Day used to be one of my most favorite holidays.  It was the day that I, just like every other true romantic, would envision hearts and flowers swirling around in a violently pink and red tornado of romcoms and dreams of “happily ever after.”

And I started young on this idea.  Back when we all got to participate.  My 4th grade shoebox intricately decorated with pink and red homemade hearts was ready for anything, sitting patiently on my desk during the class party.

In high school things changed a little.  People could buy messages from some random student council representative and have them delivered to someone – anyone really – in 5th period.  I can’t remember ever getting one, which basically means that I probably didn’t and as a result I have eternally blocked those VDays from my memory.  I’m quoted in the yearbook as saying that "I would never want to date anyone that would date me."  Sounds like me.

I had a blip of good Valentine’s days in college with my boyfriend.  He always came with the roses and poetically written cards – which I still have tucked away in a box in the attic, lovingly saved to relive every time I feel old and unattractive.  If only we could have been in the same room without killing each other.  Also, sleeping with each other’s friends was perhaps counter productive to our long term love story. 

But then – finally – I met my husband.  And history be damned – I finally got a valentine all my own, every year.  Forever.  Like forever, forever.  Every year until the day we die.   

 Kids and hearts - in 2011.

Kids and hearts - in 2011.

Our early valentine’s days as a married couple were usually fun with a fancy night out – or a beautiful home cooked meal.  Sexy lingerie, porn, sex toys and strawberries typically made an appearance.  And chocolate sauce.  No one ever tells you how sticky it is…

As the kids got older, we started making the holiday more family friendly.  Instead of strawberries and naughty bits, we had valentine’s themed art.  Hearts were everywhere in our house – stuck to windows, hanging from string.  I even started putting up pink lights on the fence in front of our house. 

A few years ago, I attempted to pull the romance back into play with my husband.  As a surprise I decided to do a private boudoir self portrait session for him.  I did my hair and nails, waited for the perfect light.  I didn’t get nudie-patootie, but my version of sexy (when considering sexy of a plus sized subject – you have to get creative.)  I tried to keep them minimally edited (photoshop isn’t going to make me feel vulnerable) and I sent him the link hoping to catch pure glee on his face when he came home to tell me how much he loved them.  I waited.  And waited.  And waited.  It never happened.  After a few days, I got worried that I had sent it to the wrong person.  Checked my email – nope.  And phew.  I finally decided to ask him about them, with a sly look on my face, batting my eyelashes.   He looked surprised, then slightly embarrassed that he forgot, and finally smiled and said “yes.”  And then, he blinked a couple times, the smile slowly faded as he got distracted by something more important.  And that was it.  Like – literally – it.  He never said another word about it.  I mean, I’m not saying I looked like Kate Upton in the images – but I have to admit, I was hoping for at least one adjective from him.  A little bit later I took the link down.  And of course, it became a thing.  I would bring it up, he would act confused.  He would ask me to put them back up.  I would refuse. 

Now, with the kids older, when this holiday comes around, I still spend time picking out and buying candy.  I make cards.  I keep the tradition alive because it is something that I want them to remember.  Love is important.  And its everywhere.

I want them to remember that love exists no matter who you date. (although thankfully they aren't dating yet.) It’s the unconditional love from the people in your life that you truly could never live without. 

In truth, my most memorable Valentine’s day was a year before I met my husband.  I was 25.  I had given up on real love at the time, and spent hours upon hours drinking cheap red wine with my best friend, smoking cigarettes (I haven’t smoked in over a decade) and (I drink cheap white now).  We would laugh and talk about our lives.  We would talk about a future that we thought would make us happy.  We went so far as to dream up men who we would date.  They had names, back stories, meet cutes.  They had specific jobs, cars and dressed in a certain way.  They were brothers, and came from a city far away.  And that year, on Valentine’s day, she had roses delivered to my work from my fictional boyfriend.  I laughed and cried and thanked the universe for her.

As I sit here, in my forties, thinking about the love that fills my heart, the love that I know will never go away for as long as I live, it’s not the romantic love that I think about.   Instead it's:

 Heart shaped cake, photographed by my 9 year old.

Heart shaped cake, photographed by my 9 year old.

  • the card with a heart shaped button I got from my mom when I was 9.
  • the gardenias that my dad delivered a couple days ago, because its my favorite flower.
  • the heart shaped cake that my daughter made for me when she was 9.
  • the necklace I bought myself 7 years ago for $6.
  • the flowers from my friend when I was 25 and single.
  • the hearts I made with my kids and hung on strings.

This year, on Valentine’s Day, I sit here, not dreaming of roses or candy.  I'm writing a blog about love.  But not the romantic kind.  Unfortunately, I’m not sure that kind lasts. 

The love I feel today is the unconditional kind.  The love that comes from within, regardless of whether I look like Kate Upton.  It’s the kind that comes from my kids, whether or not I’m a great cook.  It’s the love that comes from the unrelenting tribe of women that I have inside my heart every day, no matter whether I am killing it, or being killed by it. 

And that love will always be more than enough.

 

 

Big Ideas, Pretty Pictures and How to Recover From a Bad Year

 This is Megan.  She is a badass.

This is Megan.  She is a badass.

I like to call myself a “creative.”  Basically, what that means is that I get distracted by pretty pictures and big ideas, and spin in circles trying to get things done unless I have a deadline.  Like, a major deadline, where people will die if I don’t get done whatever I have signed up for.  Ok, maybe no one will die, but you know what I’m talking about.

While that sounds like a solid business practice (it isn’t), I am here to say it really hasn’t worked for me these last few years (why would it?).  In fact, I sometimes wonder if my real full time job isn’t just constantly sabotaging any real business efforts and goals I create for myself.  Oh yeah, and goal creation?  That’s another thing I kind of suck at.

Don’t cry for me yet.  I’m actually lucky.  A few years back I joined a collective, which you may have heard me talk about before, called The Hivery.   Back then, it was just like 10 of us women, cuddled in the top floor of an art studio on Caladonia, talking about where we would all be in 3 years.  Well, it’s 3 years later (oh my gosh, I can’t believe it – also maybe its 4 years later – have I mentioned my inability to register time linearly?)  Let’s just say that while I was chasing butterflies and magical moments, my friends at The Hivery have accomplished some serious stuff.  And they all have one thing in common – they listen to the gospel that is Megan Flatt.

Yes, I saw the writing on the wall years ago.  (Literally, she has a “Next 90 Days” mini class where she gives you a huge poster and you cover it top to bottom in ideas via her signature post-it note process.)  I stared at that post-it note poster every day for a year.  But analysis-paralysis kept me from making even one big decision.  Should I redo my website before I get a new big editorial client?  Is that work portfolio worthy?  Am I a total hack that needs to just hang up my camera, and go back to chasing a career that kills my soul?  Self doubt, poor time management – and let’s be honest - a double dose of pre-menopausal depression – was getting in the way of any real progress.  Sure, I had my business, and I was working with clients.  But was I really challenging myself?  Was I really finding my next big adventure with my photography?

I signed up last year for Megan’s MasterMind group, and I quickly turned into Eeyore.  Everyone (but me) had huge business disruptions (in a good way) that catapulted them into 3x the success they were when they started.  But, me – I didn’t.  I convinced myself that I was an anomaly and my creative process couldn’t be rammed into a to-do list with buckets and post-it note ideas. 

 This is last year's planner that I didn't fill out one page of.  Until December.

This is last year's planner that I didn't fill out one page of.  Until December.

 And, my worst decision yet – last year I bought her CEO Planner and (don’t kill me Megan) I didn’t fill out a single page until December.  Yes, December.  Let’s be clear, the decision to buy the CEO Planner was smart beyond belief.  The decision to not use it – well, maybe not so smart.

So this year, I am doing what any creatively inspired, procrastinating, poor time manager would do (if they were smart, that is). I’m finally using all the tools that I have been thinking about, staring at, shifting around on my desk. And this year, thanks to Megan, I have a freaking plan.  I have goals.  Real goals with metrics, and timelines, broken down by the the month, week and day.  I now know what I need to get done every day to track towards what I’m trying to accomplish.  And I am finally breaking down how I plan on achieving them.  Novel – and Megan, if you’re reading this, you’re a total genius (which, for the record, I’ve always known.)

So, what are the tools I’m using?  Well, there are lots my friend.

The number one tool for me (and it works a lot better if you use it) is her CEO Planner.  I’m happy to report that I’m actually filling out the pages this year (in January).  Unfortunately, if you are reading this and didn’t already know about her CEO Planner, you’re slightly out of luck.  For one, she sells them in small numbers only at the end of the preceding year.  BUT the good news is, she has a few left that you can nab, if you’re quick. (just email her at megan@meganflatt.com)

Beyond the CEO Planner (and yes, this sounds like a commercial for Megan - but it’s really a love letter because she is truly a genius) she can offer up one-on-one sessions with you in what she calls a Private Mentorship.  It really doesn’t get any more helpful than that.  I have notes from some of my sessions with her from last year, etched in gold, and framed in my office, so that when I do finally get around to revamping my pricing, I know how to do it.  (Well, OK, maybe not framed and etched in gold, but that notebook is my lifeline.)

I’m begging you – don’t chase pretty pictures and big ideas.  Well – actually do.  BUT at the same time, check out her website, and listen to her.  Turns out, she really knows what she’s talking about. 

For Megan Flatt products, Mastermind programs and (the awesome-est) Private Mentorship – go to her website.  It’s a game changer.  You can thank me later.  And if you don’t believe me, she has some free offers that might just change your mind.

http://meganflatt.com

P.S. While you are at it, sign up for the event at The Hivery on Feb. 15th.  I did.  Hopefully, I will see you there.

https://www.thehivery.com/events-calendar/entrepreneurs-circle-feb-15-2018

Photo Emergency

So it's December 1st, and some of you are looking at your calendar and freaking out.  Not all of you, sure.  But some of you, and not just about the weather or North Korea.  You’re thinking about all the tiny little things on your December to-do list that you were hoping to get done before now.  I get it.  I’ve been there too.  However, as it turns out, I might be able to help you procure some adorable images of your darling kids.  Or your darling dog.  Or your only friend the goldfish.  Doesn’t matter.  You can use these tips for all of the above, and more – for gifts, calendars for the grandparents, or perhaps even holiday card.

Whether you already have an image or need to create one (or several), here are some tips to get you there before time runs out.

 

1.)   Grab your camera!  If you need to collect some images that are grandparents-worthy, take a couple minutes with your camera.  Get to know the light meter function (usually the same as the auto focus square in your view finder).  If you are using an iPhone, just tap your finger on the screen where you would like to focus.  Your iPhone camera will meter light in that spot as well.  If you are using a point-and-shoot or a camera that has a manual function, it's best to stick to a “shutter priority.”  That way you can be sure to capture all the action when it happens.  And don’t forget to turn off the flash.

20171129-_DSC9989.JPG

2.)   Head to some natural light.  If you live somewhere other than California or Texas and sunlight is hard to come by, then I have an option for you as well (see #6.)  But for those of us lucky to still see the sun regularly, head outside or to a room with lots of windows.  The more natural light the better.  But be sure your subject is not in direct light that might cast shadows on the face, or have the bright light directly behind your subject.  The best light is in shade with the entire face lit up.  At this time of year, just about all day is beautiful light, but I prefer around 3:30p.m.  I successfully shot images just yesterday in my back yard, and the light was perfect.

3.)   Stick to someplace familiar.  If you are shooting with kids, bear in mind that a place that’s familiar could be the difference between a photo shoot of a screaming toddler and a laughing one.  I always tell my clients that when I am shooting kids, home is always the best.

4.)   Let them be themselves.  One thing I run into all the time when shooting, especially people, is the idea that we have to pose our subjects in order to capture the best version of them.  I completely disagree.  Yes, you will have to remind kids (and some adults) to point their chin down, move a little to the right or left.  But, for the most part, try to be a fly on the wall. The images that my clients love the most – and the images that I cherish the most of my kids – are the ones where you see the personality coming through.  Maybe it’s a mannerism or a genuine laugh, but anyone can see the difference between an overly produced image and a genuine one.  And remember what I said about shutter speed.  The faster the shutter, the more likely you are to capture the giggle when it happens.

20171129-_DSC9839.JPG

5.)   Let your kids be comfortable (or your dog or goldfish).  I know folks like to have color coordinated outfits, or things more formal than everyday.  I totally get it.  If you want your shoot to be a success, the more comfortable your subject is the more likely they look that way in your image.  Let your kids wear things they always wear.  When I shoot my kids, I usually just tell them to grab their favorite outfit, and meet me in the front lawn.  If the colors are too crazy – I can always turn the image into black and white.  But allowing them the flexibility to participate in the decision on what they wear usually makes them more cooperative.  And comfortable.  Which means you, the photographer, can focus on the shot, and not whether they are tugging at their fancy shoes or ruffled collar.  I love looking back at the images I’ve taken over the years where my son is climbing on his big sister or they are laughing hysterically.  The ones where he is wearing his bacon and eggs tee shirt and she has on the pair of jeans she couldn’t part with for a year.  That was them at that moment.  And I am so glad I captured it.  If you have a toddler that doesn’t care, great.  If you have a 7 year old that likes to wear only his batman costume – start with that.  You will get some amazing images that you will laugh about for years to come, AND you can likely get him/her to remove the mask and maybe wiggle out of his disguise as the shoot goes on.  It usually takes about 30 minutes before everyone starts to loosen up and forget the camera is there.

6.)   For those where shooting in natural light just isn’t an option, I recommend this as a last resort.  Not that it's bad - it's just harder, and the images take on a very different feel.  This approach requires a flash (very deliberately used) or some make-shift studio lighting.  Studio lighting could be as simple as a lamp with the shade taken off and directed towards the subject – or something more elaborate.  I did a version of this for my holiday card this year, simply because I had been wanting to try it, and it was super fun.  Pick a place in your house that you can set up a background.  Maybe it’s a white wall, maybe it’s a dark wall.  Maybe it’s a roll of Seamless paper that you have up on a backdrop stand - because eff it, you went all-in this year.  But pick a place, and make a photo booth.  For my family, I ordered props off of Amazon for like $9, and we made a night of it.  I used my rule of having people pick out what they wanted to wear, and nobody felt uncomfortable.  Just don’t have folks stand too close to the backdrop.  You don’t need to see its detail, just the super cute kiddo in the frame.

Screen Shot 2017-11-28 at 7.47.30 AM.png

OK.  Now you have images.  If you just captured them, you might not need to make adjustments.  But if you uncovered something from your yearly archive of adventures, and they are not production ready, then here are some fun tools to use.

 

1.)    Adobe Lightroom (www.lightroom.adobe.com)   I’m a photographer, so of course I have Lightroom.  I learned it quickly, but I think most people could.  There are auto settings, dials to move to correct exposure and temperature, and lots of preset filters that you can have fun with.  There is also a mobile app (which truthfully I have never used.)  And it's available for approximately $10 a month.  The draw back is that it's a robust application, and you will likely have to sign up for a year.  But if you are into it, I highly recommend it.  There is a free trial, which may be enough for what you need.

 Snapseed Tools Screen Shot

Snapseed Tools Screen Shot

2.)   Snapseed  (available on the iPhone App Store) I use Snapseed for all my iPhone editing.  I like it because the tools are extensive for an online app.  It has image tune, cropping, white balance, and also has more robust functions like healing and brush tools.  There are filters as well, but the super fun thing I like about it is it also has the ability to add text to an image.  And, it's free.

3.)   Photoshop.  Duh, right?  This is obviously awesome, but unless you are shooting in RAW format and/or want to Photoshop a dragon into your image, it's likely overkill.

4.)   Pixelz (www.pixelz.com) This is a great app that you can use to request image editing for $1.45 per image.  It's perfect if you want a background taken out of an existing image, but there is a minimum fee of $25, so you would need to have several existing images to take advantage.

5.)   Fiverr (www.fiverr.com)  Kinda like Pixelz, there is a collection of photo services at Fiverr.  On Fiverr you can request all kinds of services for your images starting at (you guessed it) $5.  The freelance artists there have skills ranging from graphics, digital marketing, photo editing, as well as audio and visual editing  - and on and on.  It’s a little hit or miss, and could end up taking a couple of days, but a great resource to have in your “last minute” tool belt.

 Artifact Uprising Screen Shot

Artifact Uprising Screen Shot

6.)   Artifact Uprising (www.artifactuprising.com)  This iPhone app (and it's also fully functional photo commerce site at www.artifactuprising.com) is great for not only iPhone photos but any photos.  The app is a super easy way to take your edited photos and turn them into holiday cards, or prints, or whatever you need really.  Stylistically, they have completely nailed it, and their pre-formatted holiday cards are Pinterest worthy.

7.)   Paperculture (www.paperculture.com)  These guys have nailed the whole green Holiday card thing.  They also have great pre-formatted options for all kinds of stationary, but they take it a step further.  For every order they plant a tree.  And they use post-consumer waste and wood alternatives to produce your order.  I use them for everything I can - because, well, I care about that stuff.  If you do too, then check them out.  I used them for my photo booth holiday card, and I think they look super fun.

 

There are definitely many more tools you could possibly use. But as a quick and dirty approach to crossing this item off your to-do list while nailing the perfect image, this should get you there.  Happy Holidays, and be sure to have a bottle of Sauvignon Blanc for me. 

How-To Guide to 17 years

Valentine's Day is one of those love it or hate it type of holidays. According to my husband, as I mentioned last year, it really isn't even a holiday. Just some nonsense someone made up to sell jewelry.  Which is funny he said that because the number of times I've gotten jewelry for Valentine's Day = 0.

But I know it's not his fault. I mean, the man is one of those guys who would be in the hall of fame of husbands if anyone knew what he had to deal with on a daily basis.

And not just because he puts up with me - which he does brilliantly.  But he does so with such finesse that you almost don't even know how crazy I really am. Like for instance, he will take the kids all day on Saturday so that I can spend the day in the house getting work done. And "work" for me is loosely defined, for sure. Sometimes it's actual work. Or laundry. Or throwing out the stuffies that live in the garage, which no one even remembers we own, but I still have to use a day while they're gone, or they will throw themselves on the ground crying in protest.  SOMETIMES "work" is just taking a bubble bath while enjoying some Blue Dream, listening to Billie Holiday, and pretending I live alone. You know - important stuff.  He remembers he liked me better then, so he lets me get back in that headspace when he can. God bless that man.

But while he might be fantastic at all that, sometimes we don't always hit "amorous" on the love gauge at the same time. I know we are a complete anomaly in that respect.  But this is why I'm blogging today.  I'd like to share some advice for those ladies feeling amorous, but still want it to seem like sexy time is their spouse’s idea. (I mean, I will come out and just ask sometimes, but that usually cuts short act one and act two, and we go right for the finale, and sometimes I just can't catch that train.)

So, here it goes…

Tactic number one:  the ol "I think I left a tampon in there".First, and most importantly, you don't need to actually leave a tampon in there. In fact, it could be counter-productive. Just ask anyone who has actually left a tampon in there. I won't go into details - but there are details. It involves a speculum and some very scary smell. Also, don't google speculum.

Then, why try this tactic at all? I will tell you. When you don't actually have a tampon stuck in there, and you have your spouse "search" for it, well, it's gonna take a minute. And if your husband is anything like mine, by the time the realization hits you/him that you guys are in the clear... well, it's on.

Maybe you ask, why such a graphic tactic? I mean, think of it. You're naked. He is eye level with your flower. The rest is just a matter of time.

Tactic number two, which is very similar to tactic number one, is "does my flower smell weird?" Yes - as you can imagine, there is a parallel line between your “bagina” and his face once again - and blammo. You're in business.

Why not just try the tampon trick again, you ask?  Well, at some point you're husband is just gonna start to think you have a serious drug problem if you're constantly forgetting what you put up your vagina.

A nice compliment to the "does my vagina smell weird" tactic is an essential oil blend that you can get here. It's a great precursor. As in, "hey, I just got this new vagina essential oil… does my vagina smell weird?"  

Or you can just do the old stand by. The regular, "hey - can you just smell my vagina and see if it smells weird?!" I mean, if that doesn't work than either:

  1. Your vagina does smell weird,

  2. Your guy maybe just isn't into you, or

  3. Maybe you actually DO have a tampon stuck in there. In which case you need to book it to the doc. That shits dangerous.

Now, my third and final tactic is something anyone can try. It might feel like a huge deal, but if you've already tried the stealth vagina smell and tampon ruse, then this will be nothing. If you didn't, this might register as a little uncomfortable. But here it goes:

Tactic number 3: sexy photos. And no, not that drunk shit you take in your hotel with your android. Definitely not anything you’re gonna email or text. Real photos. With a real photographer. I can tell you I did it last year for my husband. It didn't work out as well as it could have, mainly because I wasn't nude. And I took them myself, so they are really close up.

Also I wasn't really in anything sexy.

So basically I botched the whole thing.

But I know couples that swear by this concept. One couple in fact tells me that this is a really fun treat, and they only tease out a few at a time. I think it's been years and I'm not even sure the spouse has seen them all in their entirety.

But look, I'm no expert. I'm a forty-something woman who has been with the same man for 17 years. We love each other, but life gets boring. Stop at nothing to reinvent. And if you have any new ideas, this girl is all ears.

 

Mother's Day for the Motherless

We all have a mother.  She was there, the moment we were born.  

Maybe she stayed.  Maybe she was great.  Maybe, just maybe, she made pancakes, and peanut butter and jelly sandwiches, even though peanut butter would give her hives.  Maybe she gave you a bowl of grapes when she shipped your dog Skipper off to the pound because he was eating her flowers.

Maybe she would serve you hot cocoa on the open oven door, like it was a table, on cold mornings.  (...which, by the way, doesn’t sound like a super safe idea to me.  I think it sits somewhere between lawn darts and riding in the back of a pickup truck for fun.)

Maybe she would play fun games where you drew faces on your chin, and you could hang upside down over the edge of the bed and talk to each other for laughs.

Maybe sometimes she would make you a jumper with white eyelet fabric that tied as straps into bows on your shoulders.  Perhaps you would fall asleep on her lap late at night in the car on the way home.  No seatbelt, of course.  Sitting in the front seat you might have drifted in and out of a soft slumber, while the radio was silent, and she talked in a low voice to your Dad.  

Maybe sometimes in the summer she would pretend you were having a picnic, put your hair in pigtails and make orange slices with powdered sugar to eat on a blanket in the back yard.

Maybe, before she left, as best she could, she put together all the best memories in a scrap book.  Your first Christmas.  Your first snowman.  She labeled it all.  After all, they were probably photos she had taken.  And she arranged them, perhaps, perfectly in chronological order.  Starting at the beginning, going right up until the day she left.

And later, when you were older, if you decided to have kids, and you struggled to understand her decisions, potentially you could see how hard it might have been.  In a time when women weren’t given a lot of opportunity.  Maybe you could see how desperate she was to find another husband.  So desperate that she would leave you alone, the one weekend every other week that you were able to spend with her.  To go to a bar.  To flirt with a man.  To drink Coors Light.

It is possible, however, that you don’t understand.  That every time you look at yourself in the mirror, you still see that little girl that wasn’t important enough to just stay.  Sit still.  

And then, maybe, you spend countless years in therapy.  Rehashing why you really aren’t the girl that was told she wasn’t as pretty as she thought she was.  You’re not the girl that was told she wasn’t as smart as she thought she was.  You’re not the girl who was selfish because she wanted to spend an evening with her mom, just you and her.

But if you find yourself in any part of this situation, and you have two kids of your own, constantly wondering how you could possibly be a good mom to them given the example you had, hopefully you can redirect your focus to them.  The crazy shit they say.  Their dirty faces.  Their insane yet brilliant ideas.

Maybe you beat yourself up because you weren’t the most patient mom when they were young.  Maybe you blame your mom.  Maybe you blame hers.  Maybe you wish you could turn back time and fix it.  Maybe you wish you could have appreciated how important and fun all those years were when you were so worried, scared, tired and sleep deprived.  When they were so little. 

Hypothetically speaking of course, perhaps on Mother's Day, you could find a moment, look at some baby photos.  Maybe take in that piece of clay that looks like a turtle but is actually a dog.  Maybe instead of beating yourself up for being the tired, short tempered, sometimes selfish, sometimes amazing mom that you are, you could congratulate yourself on making it this far.  Because, maybe, you did learn a few good things from your mom.  Maybe, despite all the shit, you can decide to focus on the good memories.  Maybe all your kids need from you is to be there.  To stay there.  To sit still on a Saturday night.  To watch a movie you’ve watched a thousand times.  Maybe all they need to know is that you love them.  

Perhaps all you need is to know is that they love you back.  

 

 

 

Women Crush Wednesday

Here it is, folks.  The dawn a new day.  I've been thinking a lot about women crushing on women.  Ever since I overheard a conversation between a very young, and gorgeous woman (lets say 21 at the most) and a super cute man that she was talking to.  He asked her about Feminism, which is either an awesome sign about the next generation, or a terrifying one.  Her response was something like this:

"yeah...I'm not really into it.  I mean, you hear people talking all the time about it, and I'm just like, you know, totally don't understand.  I mean, like, you don't hear men talking about how they aren't getting equal rights, right?"

So, before I sound like a total hypocrite, let me say that I should have given her a hug, and a business card, and asked her to call me when she graduates.  I didn't.  Shame on me.  But on the other hand, what if, in some strange parallel universe, it really isn't an issue for her.  Maybe in 20 years, when she is writing blogs (or riding around in space cars sending her messages to the masses via some mental email) and I'm getting social security (I know, hysterical right?) then female equality won't be an issue.  Maybe women all over the world will unite in one large feminist vision and men will no longer dominate the work place.  Men will cease to get paid 2x-3x times what women get paid to do the same job.  And maybe, just maybe, we women won't fight so much with one another.  Maybe we will stop complimenting each other on our hair and our outfits and start complimenting each other on masterful creation of a world where men don't think we are yelling every time we disagree.  (This is an actual thing - google it.)  Maybe.  We can only hope.

But, back in the real world - you know the one where male politicians tell women they shouldn't use birth control and women who work at home for decades caring for kids get divorced by their husbands with no savings and no part of the 401k - yeah, back here -  we women still have to boost each other up a bit.  I know I could use a little "hell yeah" here and there.  A little splitsies with a bottle of Sauv Blanc.  We women can still have buckets that need filling.

So to you ladies who didn't listen to their teachers telling them they weren't cut out for certain sports, or couldn't be a scientist.  You women who celebrate the idea that we don't have to fit a mold of little and dainty and speak quietly and elegantly.  Let's just agree to high five.  

And maybe, one day, with some ground swell and a heaping dose of estrogen, we can wake up like that beautiful 20 year old, uncertain what the whole fuss was all about.  

 

 

"It's Just a Made Up Holiday..."

 This is just a picture of a sexy bra.  You can get it at Urban Outfitters.

This is just a picture of a sexy bra.  You can get it at Urban Outfitters.

Tomorrow is Valentine’s day.  I bet you already knew that.  According to my husband, its just a “made up holiday.”  But according to my extensive (albeit 10 minutes worth of) research on NPR.com and history.com, its actually the celebration of several holidays, all squished into one.  And none of them were made up.

One story sites an ancient Roman festival where priests murdered animals (goats and dogs according to both my extensive sources) and ran through the streets flinging bloody hides on naked women to improve fertility.  All while drinking wine, of course. 

Other stories tell of 3 Saints, all named Valentine, that were imprisoned and murdered on or around Valentine’s day.  One of them sent a note from prison to their lover, singed “your Valentine” which for obvious reasons has some significance here.

Either way, over the years, this naked fertility festival and our love of martyred saints has morphed into this holiday of celebrating love.

Personally, I dig it.  But, I think I'm might be in the minority.  While I spend time searching, photographing, painting and scheming for just the perfect gift for my Valentine, I am left with nary a card, poem, flower or even a special hug.  Well, except for my Dad.  Dad's are great for that Snoopy Valentine's day card that always says something like "You're the greatest Daughter, Ever."  Which is super nice - but not the goopy love sentiment you wish for from your spouse.

So, I thought I would make a top 10 list.  You know, for all those men, women, husbands, wives, girlfriends and boyfriends who just can’t seem to find a way to say, "I get you."  (uhm…Dad, if you’re reading this, best to stop now.)

 

10.  Sex toys.  Yes, sex toys.  What’s more important then to love thyself?  And if your searching for the perfect thing - everyone likes sex.  Even if they don’t have it regularly, with another person, or at all.  They would like it if they could.  I primarily think of women when I think of sex toys, sure.  We women don’t wander around with phallic shaped appendages on our body, and if alone, we need some extra help when feeling amorous.  And ladies, lets be honest, if your man is giving you grief about your love for him, your commitment to the relationship or what it might say about him as a man if you need one, then just tell him you will agree the minute he cuts off his hand.  To any women who is without, this would be a wonderful gift.  Hands down.  And to men with the same needs - go for it.  Nothing bad can come from something that vibrates.

 Trader Joe's International Passport Dark Chocolate

Trader Joe's International Passport Dark Chocolate

9.  Chocolate.  But not the crappy kind that you get at the drug store.  Take some time, do some research.  Cocoabella (cocobella.com) is a great starting point.  Or XOX truffles (xoxtruffles.com).  They take a little time to be delivered if you live outside of SF.  But they are lovely and worth the extra effort.  If you can’t pull that off, you can likely find something amazing at a regular grocery store.  But by regular, I’m talking Whole Foods or the likes.  TJ’s isn’t half bad either.

8.  Lingerie.  Ok, by now you’re thinking I am just stating the obvious.  Which may be true.  But buying lingerie for your lover is not only going to allow them to put something on that will make them feel fabulous, but its also going to start a conversation.  One that hopefully is very sexy in nature.  And that is a gift in and of itself.  Throw in a sex toy, and you have yourself a party.

7.  A Poem.  Maybe you write it.  Maybe you just find one.  Either way, you get the credit for being romantic.  

6.  Massage.  This one is usually best done in person, and personally, you dig?  If you’re not awesome with your hands, then maybe buy yourself a reference book.  And ask lots of questions in your session.  

5.  Photos.  Whether your down for a boudoir or a dudeoir session, making something personal can be such a beautiful experience for both the photography subject and the recipient.  I did this personally for my husband last year.  I didn’t go nudey patootey or anything.  But what an amazing feeling to just allow yourself to be photographed so vulnerably.  I’m not recommending any group photo session, though.  That falls under a completely different category.

4.  Romantic Getaway - if you have this in your available arsenal of romantic tools and don’t use it at least once, then I can’t help you.

 No. 2 description

No. 2 description

3.  Perfume.  Who doesn’t love smelling delicious?  And if you work it right, the scent you get could enhance your natural abilities to Love.  While the perfume counter at your local department store might sound like the best place, let me suggest something more natural - like essential oils masterfully crafted.

 Hand Crafted Perfume no. 2 by elaia, Mandy Oler

Hand Crafted Perfume no. 2 by elaia, Mandy Oler

2.  Jewelry.  Diamonds were made to give at romantic holidays.  If not diamonds, sapphires.  Aquamarines.  Rubies.  Rose Quarts.  A piece of costume jewelry from the consignment shop on the corner.   A painted macaroni necklace, for God’s sake.  Just show up.

 Costume jewelry from my local thrift store

Costume jewelry from my local thrift store

1.  Your Perspective.  Spend 5 minutes, an hour or an entire week, and think of an entire list of reasons why you love him or her.  Write it down.  Use adjectives.  And when the day comes, wake them up with your list.  Give it, read it, act it out.  But it’s so true what they say - love doesn’t cost a thing.




Back to School Log

At first it was bliss.  Having those little darlings home.  Cooking breakfast at our leisure.  Creating adventures that I never had as a child, and they never had while I was working full time in an office.  It was like Julie Andrews was singing quietly in the background as our soundtrack to life.

Then the routine started to hit some expected struggles.  Instead of snuggling together in the morning, my kids were rushing straight to the TV.  I would, as any parent, at first enjoy the extra 15 - 30 minutes to sit with some quiet, my thoughts, and my coffee before starting breakfast.

Then, my gentle requests to turn off the TV would turn into three request, then the “1-2…” counting.  Then the consequence.  Then the indignant screaming and stomping and arms crossed and furrowed brow.  

Next thing I know, we are at full scale war against one another.  Sneaking tablets, video games and TVs every time I turned my back.  It was like asking them to amputate their arm to go outside or meet friends to go swimming.  

And there was zero productivity from this lady.  I wasn’t able to get anything done.  Grocery store, doctor appointments, anything was a massive negotiation (which I typically lost) and would result in lost privileges for everyone involved.  No playdates, no TV, no joy.  For anyone in the house.  No exceptions.

Finally, one glorious day in August came, and I just knew my faith in my children and myself was about to restored.  No more where the days of staying up until 11:00 p.m. just get some email answered.  Or having to wash and fold laundry while refereeing a version of elementary school cage fighting.  They leapt out of bed, bounced down the stairs, scarfed their breakfasts and ran off with their backpacks heavy with lunches and new pencils to start the first day of school.

Letting out a huge exhale and remarking to myself how I can finally start knocking off that project list, I got back in my car and drove home.  Here we go productivity!

 

Productivity Log*

Day One:

8:40 a.m.

Drop kids off at school, then drive straight to my driveway where I sit in my car for a full 10 minutes.  Staring at nothing.

 

9:00 a.m.

Eat breakfast.

 

9:04 a.m. 

Log into my email and delete the 142 promotional emails.

 

9:17 a.m.

Watch the video that was texted to me from another mom with the Target ladies shopping on the first day of school.  Utter nonsense, but sadly it makes me laugh.  #solo  I watch it three more times.

 

9:34 a.m.

Surf the internet for the next 2 hours.  Total randomly.  

 

11:37 a.m.

Remind myself I don’t have time to surf the internet totally randomly.

 

11:43  a.m.

Get into the shower, and use soap this time.

 

11:55 a.m.

Shave legs.

 

12:03 p.m.

Sit at the bottom of the shower, right in the stream of hot water, turn it hotter, and just act like an asshole that isn’t living in a drought.

 

12:05 p.m.

Remind myself I am an asshole living in a drought and turn off the water.

 

12:05 p.m.

Continue to lay there, steaming for another 2 minutes.

 

12:07 p.m.

Get out of the shower, and get ready.

 

1:03 p.m.

Stop at my favorite coffee shop that I haven’t been able to go to in 3 months.  Get a coffee.  

 

1:27 p.m.

Race around the grocery store because I have 23 minutes before I have to be back in my car and driving back to school.

 

2:10 p.m.

Debate which kid’s classroom I want to be standing in front of when the bell rings.  Feel like a scene from Sophie’s Choice.  Totally make one kid’s day, while finding the other one moping around campus because I wasn't standing in front of their classroom at the bell.

 

2:25 p.m.

Haul kids home, along with groceries that have been sitting in my car for almost an hour and make a note to overcook the meat. 

 

3:37 p.m.

Space out on auto pilot for the rest of the day ticking off lists, like homework, showers, brushing teeth, cooking and eating dinner.  Hope to myself that I didn’t do it in that order.  My brain is too tired and hazy to know for sure, however.

 

Day two:

4:15 a.m.

Wake up and drive an hour to amazing remote shoot.  Work all day hiking up and down rocky terrain capturing some version of perfection.   Make my husband do my job of lunches, dropping off, picking up and juggling dinner. 

Stay gone long after my job is over.

 

5:30 p.m. 

Immediately when I walk in the door, listen to a detailed explanation of how my son learned to make a popping noise when he hooks his finger out of his mouth.  Wonder where he learned that.  And why.

20140828-_DSC0024.jpg

Weekend:

9:03 a.m. 

Pretend I don’t know my family.  When we meet awkwardly in the kitchen, offer them food for their compliance.  Spend the day staring at my computer screen, catching up on emails, scheduling, following up and making lists.

 

Labor Day Holiday

10:00 a.m. 

Wonder to myself why on Labor Day I don’t get the day off, too.  Also wonder why it happens so early in the school year?  Bribe the husband with sex in exchange for taking kids to the park to give me a day to myself.  Try not to be offended when the husband laughs at my bride.

 

Day three (after a three day weekend):

7:55 a.m.  

Wake up.

 

7:56 a.m.  

Drink coffee that is offered to me by my post workout, sweaty husband as some kind of good will offering before he jumps in the shower and leaves me again.

 

8:05 a.m.  

Get up.

 

8:07 a.m.  

Make breakfast and lunches.


8:24 a.m.  

Take precious and loving children to school.

 

8:40 a.m.  

Go home, change into my under utilized yoga pants and sprint to yoga like its my job.

 

10:15 a.m.  

Go to the grocery story.  Research recipes in the middle of the aisle on my iPhone while you irritate all the authentic stay-at-home-mom’s who have already memorized (or written down on actual paper) their recipes.

 

11:03 a.m. 

Clean last night’s dishes and start the easiest recipe I could find.  In my slow cooker.  Literally, I take three ingredients and put them in, and turn it on.  I try not to feel bad that a monkey could have made my dinner tonight.

 

12:03 p.m. 

Take too much time cleaning dishes and starting dinner that I don’t get to shower.  Wonder how that was possible.  Go to next two appointments smelling like yoga sweat underneath dry shampoo, deodorant and perfume and wonder if all the smells clash.

 

12:10 p.m.  

Meet with therapist to talk about my feelings (mostly of guilt about being a terrible mother and not getting anything done.) 

 

1:10 p.m.  

Meet a friend for lunch and discuss my upcoming nutritional cleanse.  (Nutruitional cleanse is really just code for how I am going to attempt and lose the 14 lbs that I've gained over the summer not working out and eating abandoned chicken nuggets every day)

 

2:20 p.m.  

Show up 10 minutes late to pick up my kids.  They are no longer particularly loving after standing in the sun for 10 minutes.  Feel more guilty.

 

2:21 p.m.

Run around school looking for the extra kids I promised to pick up.  Take everyone to my house.  Thank God I remembered to pick up the extra kids I promised to pick up, this time.  Yes, this time.

 

4:03 p.m.

Play taxi driver for 4 kids that have 4 different destinations.  

 

5:15 p.m.

Start cooking dinner.  (I mean, take the lid off the pot)

 

5:17 p.m.

Pour a glass of wine.

 

5:18 p.m.

Get irritated that the first time I have dinner ready on time, no one is there to eat it.  

 

5:19 p.m.

Realize this is a beautiful moment of quiet, and I should be enjoying it.

 

5:20 p.m.

Realize that I could be doing something productive.  Continue to space out for another 15 minutes.

 

5:35 p.m.

Find family.  Wrangle them into the same room, negotiate clean hands, and wrestle them into their seats, all whilst listening to stories about aliens sucking brains, and who the best soccer goalie is.

 

6:03 p.m.

Eat dinner.

 

6:45 p.m.

Pour a second glass of wine.

 

8:23 p.m.

Go into near coma because of approaching menstrual apocalypse.

 

8:24 p.m.

Guilt husband into cleaning kitchen and putting kids to bed while I nap, hidden lying across the chairs in the kitchen, under the table.

 

Day 4

7:24 a.m.  

Wake up with the realization that impending apocalypse has arrived. 

 

7:32 a.m.

Drink coffee in bed in hopes that apocalyptic tranquilizer dart wears off.

 

7:48 a.m.

Drink more coffee.  Order kids to self prepare.

 

8:02 a.m. 

Drink more coffee while kids are still running around playing with the pets, in pajamas.  The kids are in pajamas.  Not the pets.  At least I don’t think the pets are in pajamas, but knowing my daughter, that is totally a possibility.  Quietly hope that pets are not in pajamas.

 

8:14 a.m. 

Put on slippers with pajamas as perfectly appropriate attire to deliver kids to school.  Hope kids don't understand the concept of hypocrisy at this age.

 

8:16 a.m. 

Heat a can of goo (Annie’s organic goo) for kids snack, cut some strawberries while kids eat self prepared bowls of Cheerios.  Kids are still in pajamas.  Note that, thankfully, pets are not.

 

8:22 a.m. 

Freak out and tell kids they need clothes and socks.  Kids go upstairs, get “dressed” in dirty cloths they wore last week, but explain its only because those particular clothes are their favorite and you haven’t done laundry.  They don’t have socks.  Or shoes.

 

8:23 a.m.

Make mental note to do laundry.  Make another mental note to teach kids also how to do laundry.

 

8:26 a.m.

Tell kids to grabs lunch bags with goo, shoes, socks,  and get into van.

 

8:39 a.m.  

Drop kids off 1 minute before the bell.  Tell them to run fast.

 

8:43 a.m.

Go back home.  Eat breakfast.  Drink more coffee.  Congratulate myself for planning a hike.

 

9:11 a.m.

Go on hike.  Obsess about all the time I'm losing to be productive while on hike.

 

10:23 a.m.

Come home, answer email.  Fill out some forms about my child’s year last year and my hopes for this year.  Wonder if smiley face emoticons are acceptable answers.

 

11:45 a.m.

Take shower.  Shave legs.  Use soap.  Condition.  Wish to myself that didn’t have to shave my legs every 12 hours for them to feel like they are shaved.  Consider starting a “GoFundMe” account for Laser Removal. 

 

11:56 a.m.

Get out of shower.  Properly moisturize for the first time in 3 months.

 

12:02 p.m.

Decide to get dressed in something other than pajamas or workout gear.  

 

12:46 p.m.

Wonder to myself why it took me so long to find something to wear other than pajamas or workout gear.  

 

12:47 p.m.

Blow dry hair.

 

12:48 p.m.

While blow drying my hair, make a mental list of everything I NEED to get done today.

 

12:59 p.m.

Forget the list I just made and spend the next hour learning how to apply Lena Dunham styled heavy blue eyeshadow.

 

1:56 p.m.  

Look a the clock, realize I have wasted an hour (totally worth it) and head out of the house to start my first errand.

 

2:05 p.m.

Head straight to pick up kids from school because I wasted all my time playing with blue eyeshadow.

 

2:15 p.m.  

Do errands with kids in the car.  Complaining.  Wonder to myself why I didn’t do the errands when I didn’t have anyone in the car.  Complaining.  Catch a glimpse of myself in the rearview mirror, get distracted by the amount of blue eyeshadow I have on and make a mental note to skip make-up completely tomorrow.  Also, remember why I didn't do errands when the kids were at school.

 

4:07 p.m.

Deliver first kid late to soccer practice because I underestimated the time it would take to run errands.

 

4:22 p.m.  

Run one last errand while first kid is at soccer and second kid in car crying about how much he “dislikes” doing errands with me.  Remind him how much I love him.  Smile.  Turn up the radio.

 

5:02 p.m.  

Instead of running the very, very, very last errand (grocery store for dinner), call the husband and tell him we're meeting him at the Pizza/wine bar down the street.  

 

5:03 p.m.  

Congratulate myself on my planning and decision making skills for dinner.

 

5:07 p.m.  

Go home and tell my 7 year old he can watch 30 minutes of TV while I “meditate” with my eye mask on.  Try not to tell myself I'm a loser for letting my kid watch TV while I lay down in the middle of the day.  

 

5:45 p.m.  

Go to dinner.  Thank God there is place that serves delicious healthy salads, artisans pizzas (that both my kids and husband will eat), and also serves Sauvignon Blanc.  Mentally give myself a high five.

 

6:55 p.m.  

Go home.

 

7:23 p.m.  

Write stream of consciousness blog entry under the guise of “working” while the husband puts my kids in bed.

 

8:45 p.m.  

Thank God.  Literally.

 

8:54 p.m.  

Go to bed.

 

 

By the time day five rolls around, I have to admit, I'm starting to see a pattern. 

Call it an epiphany.  

I finally realized that my lack of productivity isn't actually my kid's fault.  If I was being honest with myself (which I'd like to think I am) there might be a teensy bit more to blame then summer vacations, time out lock downs and grumpy afternoons. How's that for self reflection?  (it helps to log your time for a bit....)

I quietly meditate a gentle good bye to any hope of every being truly “productive.”  I slowly erase the list on my chalkboard of things I MUST get done today.  I walk past the 4 piles of dirty laundry in the hall and sink heavily into the cozy chair in my living room.  And you know what I do now?  I open a smutty romance novel, and give myself the day off.  

I've decided its time I embrace the thought that the universe has officially conspired to remind me:  you can continue to run in place, getting nowhere OR you can take a break, get some perspective, and read a poorly written account of crazy never ending twenty something sex and romance that teaches you no life lessons and you will forget about the minute you close the pages. 

No one is really going to care, ultimately.  And, according to Marthe Troly-Curtain, “Time you enjoy wasting is not wasted time.”

Well, Phew.

 

 

*The contents in this log are a complete work of fiction and not to be construed as any real event or day of events.  Or days of events.  Its a total coincidence that I was wearing blue eye shadow last week.  Girl Scouts honor.

Summer Vacation

So, people who know me well know that I’m not a traveler.  I mean, not even a little.

Its sad, because when I was young I had all these ambitions of working for the CIA as an undercover spy in Eastern Russia and saving the world.  It turns out, that I can’t really save the world.  And Eastern Russia is really cold and probably looks like either a frozen tundra or an abandoned parking lot right now.

Aside from the non world saving opportunities in Russia, if the truth be told, I have trouble traveling outside my own zip code.  At the mere mention of international travel my breath turns shallow and I start to lose feeling in my hands and feet.  (the paramedics told me once that was just a panic attack, which was actually super helpful.)  Don’t even get me started if one of those destination countries were to dip into the “2nd” or “3rd” world category.

Sadly, I can’t say its even for a good reason.  Health care infrastructure and all around safety is a factor, (who am I kidding, so is comfort) but my biggest fears are silly things like bed bugs and dysentery.

But I digress.  I was not traveling to Europe or Eastern Russia this summer.  In fact, I wasn’t even getting on a plane.  My destination was a mere 3 hours north to Lake Tahoe.  No big whoop, right?  Guess again.

The first moment I knew things were starting to take a turn was when the dog (yes, the tiny smushed face, compromised respiratory system pug) started coughing.  Coughing.  Dogs cough.  Did you know that?  I didn’t.  I’ve had a dog for 11 years, and my dog has never coughed.  “Ok -maybe this is a fluke.” I thought.  I took the dog to the vet, and blamo - he has kennel cough.  “It’s ok…after a couple days of the antibiotics he’ll be great!” says the vet.  “Phew,” I think.  “I guess I won’t have to stay home and watch his every move to make sure he doesn’t die,” I say to my husband.  He rolls his eyes.  Double Phew.

Long story short, apparently kennel cough equals me not having anyone to watch my dogs.  Which proved to, truthfully, not being that big of a deal.  House sitter, problem solved.  But still.  This was just one more tiny snag in the ointment, or a fly in the armor, or whatever.  It just got the tiny hairs on the back of my already sensitive neck standing on end.  What was going be next?

Well, I’ll tell you.  PG&E called telling us they needed to come and service the electrical lines at our place that next business day.  The day we were supposed to be happily boating around Lake Tahoe.  Yup.  That was officially the third thing.   But then, these things happen in three.  So maybe that was it, and if that was it, then we should be fine.  All we needed to do was hire an electrician to be at our house, call a friend, and all good.  Right?  

Wrong.

We get in the car, stocked with electronics for the kids, smutty romance novels for me, and enough snacks to last for days.  Unfortunately, what should have been a smooth 3 hour drive turned into a parking lot that extended, near as I could tell, from the end of our driveway all the way to the condo that we were staying in at North Star.  Six and a half hours later, somehow more tired from sitting in a car than we would have been if we had run there, we arrived.  We were hungry, cranky, dehydrated and also in dire need of shower.  I was also mentally exhausted from the mental gymnastics of making sure we didn’t die on the road.  More than a few times during that drive, I was clinging to the “oh shoot” handle in the front seat, scared that the silly 20 year old in the car behind us texting was either going to ram into the back of us, or swerve into another lane and cause one of those fatal highway pile-ups that eventually cause a gas tanker to overturn and blow a crater into the freeway the size of Sacramento.  

I know - its a little overly dramatic, but I had to be prepared.  Yes, as you can see from the fact I’m recounting this tale, we survived.  Barely, in my mind, but survived.

The trip did seem to go a bit more smoothly after that, minus a few hang ups.  For instance, the time that we took the gondola up the mountain to grab lunch and got stuck because of a lightening storm.  No, the sun was out, and there wasn’t any lightening where we were, but apparently there was lightening 20 miles away.  And if there is lightening anywhere within 20 miles of the gondola, they shut it down.  Makes total sense, and I really love the conservative and safety minded folks at North Star.  However, that information might have been more helpful to have gotten when we took the gondola up.  Getting down a mountain that you took a gondola up is tricky when you don’t have skis, snow, a mountain bike or even shoes to hike in.  I was wearing flip flops.  Not exactly the best all terrain shoe, I’ll admit.  Lesson learned.  Thankfully the Ritz Carlton has angels working for it, so we were transported down after about an hour being stranded.  I mean, I guess “stranded” might be a strong word for where we were.  It was more like being stuck in a well furnished waiting room with 5 star cuisine and a well stocked bar.  But, stuck non the less.

A few hours later we headed to the pool.  And just in time for the lightening and thunder storm to make its way to us, finally.  Which, ok, I’ll give you, wasn’t such a terrible thing.  There’s the whole drought and forest fire risks, so sure.  Maybe there were a few million people relieved by the storm, but whatever. 

Rain, however, did not create the best environment for those of use who came to swim, boat and play on the beach.

While trying to overcome my travel fears, keep a good disposition, make the best of the situation, I couldn’t help but feel that maybe we were still being told to go home.  

We trudged on.  After dinner that night (awesome sushi at Mikuni) we retired to our gorgeous and spacious room and tucked the kids into bed.

We had just gathered at the dining room table for a game of cards with Grandpa when the lights twitched, and then shut off completely.  Completely.  Total black out.  The entire room, suite, condo building and village of North Star was completely dark.  

Luckily Steve Jobs was smart enough to have anticipated the situation, and the three of us reached for our iPhones, and then our iPhone flashlights.  We had all just finished charging (a smart decision on our part given the signals the universe had been giving us) and we all had hours left on our respective digital utility belts.  And since we had no idea when power, and thus refrigeration, would be turned back on, we did what any good samaritan would do.  We grabbed the ice and the bottle of Joel Gott making sure they didn’t go to waste.  Some of us (ok - maybe just me) also had to quell any building fears that somehow we hadn’t seen the last of our vacation hex.

After several hours of attempted night/iPhone flashlight photography, we finally gave up hope that the lights would return that night.

Unfortunately, we didn’t have the foresight to go around the condo and flip all the lights that had been on to “off.”  That was fun in the middle of the night when they finally went back on.

I bet after all this, you think that I might have had an awful time?  Nope.  Not true.  Near as I can tell, the room was clean of any bed bugs.  The kids didn’t get sunburned.  The rain didn’t ruin our day on the lake or at the beach.  We got fun photos of the thunder storm, and ate plenty of great food.  

After a quiet and uneventful journey home, we found ourselves tucked neatly back into our life.  The journey north had given us just the break we needed.  Fresh air, fun adventures, heroic black out near death escapes and enough perspective to realize that my carpets needed shampooing to alleviate the “dog-esque” affront upon re-entry.

Do I feel better about travel now, you might ask?  Was all that needless worrying a thing of the past?  Am I now able to look at my next vacation with the kind of awe and anticipation it should deserve?

Sadly, the answer to that question is no.  While I feel as though I narrowly escaped death and tragedy at the Five Star resort that is North Star, each journey beyond the zip code brings to bear a new and fresh list of dangers.  Will I remember the EPI pen and the four bottles of potions for my highly allergic son?  Will our luggage get lost and I end up having to wear tourist shop tee shirts?  Will our hotel have landed, last minute, on the bed bug registry, with no place to flee?  Yes, its risks like these that keep me on the edge of my seat whilst planning any trip that might take me to the vast regions that lie beyond the 101.  

Maybe I’m not risking my life in the CIA everyday as an undercover spy, as I once thought I might be.  But, somehow, in my own, highly neurotic way, its just as exciting.

14 years

Explosions.  Thats the way it started.  At least for me.  Not out loud, of course.  Just in my head.  And then there was the sticky beginning.  I wasn’t out of my mind, just happy.  Perhaps for the first time ever.  And it felt like there was no where else but here.  I was drawn to this space with him like some kind of gravity was pulling me west.

I arrived in a yellow “Ryder” truck with two cats and pretty childish perspective.  But somewhere between that studio apartment in the city and my house filled with dirty laundry (not like the gossip kind of dirty laundry - literally just dirty socks and towels and kids clothes that were worn either for 3 days or 3 hours) I think I grew up a little.

Sure, he might argue with that statement, given the third degree I give him about whether he loves me (I mean, really, really loves me) when I’m ovulating.  But beyond that, things are refocused.  Elevated.  A sort of silent harmony.

I’m not sure when things changed for us.  Perhaps it was the kids.  If not the first, then maybe the second.  The midnight feedings that he diligently got up with me for until it slowly drove us both mad.  

Maybe the trip in the ambulance (no - not the one when I had a panic attack.)  Our son got sick.  911 was called.  A fireman arrived backlit in the dark looking like the scene from Back to the Future when Marty pretends to be an alien.  In those moments, things change.

I remember watching his hands, holding the steering wheel, driving me to the airport after we first met. 

Years later, those same hands holding my daughter.  Then my son.

Today, they carry coffee to me every morning.   They sometimes cook dinner.  They carry the heavy stuff.

He is my rock.  Solid.  Grounded.    

And I, in turn, am his crazy.  Often thinking of the scary “what if.”  Making inappropriate jokes.  Creating art.  And sometimes chaos.

And for us, 14 years later, it works.  Still.  And for that, I am thankful.

Pink Foamy Curlers

Father’s Day is an interesting holiday.  It’s sorta the second place parent award.  I mean, its not like he birthed the kid right?  And typically, he’s not the parent that kids cry for when they skin their knee.

Traditionally and historically (like when I was growing up, or as my kids like to refer to it as “the olden days”) for a lot of families, I think it was an opportunity to pay an homage to the Patriarch in the family.  The guy who went to work every day and brought home the bacon.  They guy who played catch on the weekends, and taught his kids how to take a punch in the face like a man - or in my case ride my pink huffy bike.  But that is where his importance really started and stopped.

Interestingly, and thankfully, I think this archetype has changed over the years.  With the advent of the female workforce, this guy is not just the scarcely seen deep voice in the house.  He is a fully functional co parent, that often times, especially in my case, cooks better than mom.  

For me, Father’s Day was the only “parent day” that made sense.  He wasn’t just the guy who came home from work everyday, tired and cranky.  He was it.  The parent.  The guy who did it all.  Well, tried to do it all, at least. 

Sure, I have a mother.  Somewhere out there.  Sadly, after she divorced my dad, she became quite scarce.  We saw her every other weekend.  But even then she was usually drunk or obsessing over her latest toxic relationship.  Or in most cases, both.  But, I can’t say there was much parenting going on.  

But Dad, for better or worse, he was there.  Yelling usually.  Making “breakfast dinners” and hoping I didn’t ask too many questions.  But, he was there.

My favorite Dad moment was one night when I’m sure I was supposed to be going to bed.  I think I was 9.  I decided after my nightly shower that I was going to set my hair up in curlers.  You know what I’m talking about, right?  Those pink foamy, spongey curlers that, when used properly, give you that cute Shirley Temple do.  After I clumsily twisted every last piece of my hair into the curlers, I went out into the living room to say good night to my father, and of course impress him with my newly found amazing ability to transform my look from 9 year old to Hollywood glam.  He was sitting there, staring at the wall, with what in my memory was a glass of something in front of him.  Perhaps it was a coke.  Perhaps it was scotch.  Either way, he was tense, and clearly had something on his mind.  He turned to look at me, and after taking in the full view of me in my silly 9 year old night gown, and head covered in pink spongey curlers, he simply stated,”What the hell are you doing?!?!?!?”

At the time, I was pretty devastated, and well, confused.  I thought it was pretty clear.  I had curlers in my hair.  I was trying to make my hair curly.  Duh.  I went to bed that night concerned Dad lacked acute vision or at least some basic action and reaction logic.

Not until a year ago, when after the 15th time of telling my kids to put on the g**d*** pajamas on and brush their teeth did I begin to understand his reaction that night.  

My nightly experience usually involves sending my kids upstairs over and over again for two simple tasks: put on your pjs and brush your teeth.  First, they come down in just their under ware and still wet.  They come down again, with their pajamas in their hands, not on, also still wet.  They come down with legos, and a story about what they created with the legos, but less wet.  They come down with one of their stuffies, telling me they just realized they need one last stuffy to complete the “special stuffy collection.”  They come down with one of the dogs on a leash.  Still no pajamas on, which is weird because just a minute ago they had them in their hands.  And also, as a side note, why do dogs need a leash on in the house?  They will come down with socks and under ware on - still no pajamas.  Finally, they come down with pajamas and yellow teeth.  

One night when my Dad was sitting next to me at the kitchen table, and after my 9th or so request of my kids, I had a flash of the pink curlers.  I looked at him, and I had to tell him, “Finally, I get it.”

As I recounted the story, we both laughed hysterically.  I think he was even close to crying from the laughter, his face completely red and pinched.  If my kids had come down with a head full of pink curlers, I might have lost all composure myself.  While he had no memory of the encounter, I had to let him know, experience has given me perspective.  Had I been him, sitting in that chair, staring at the wall, drinking what was hopefully a glass of scotch, I’m pretty sure I would have said the same thing.  

So, Happy Father’s Day to a man who had no idea what he was doing.  But thankfully, and surprisingly, we both made it out alive.  And we can still chuckle about it, over a glass of ambiguously brown liquid.


Finally...

I'd like to get a cosmic, or at least proverbially "high five" for finally getting this sucker updated.  Its only been a couple years, riding high on the last version, but I've finally stepped into the next version of myself that allows for collaboration of the virtual and real self via this hot mess of diatribe center. 

20120422-_DSC2246.jpg

I'd like to thank everyone (or would it be more appropriate to say 'anyone') who visits the site and specifically this page.  It seems too often in life, there is simply just too much to say.  So, instead of actually saying it to anyone, I'll just take this as my private, and preferred space to do so.  Its not that I don't have the venue in my many virtual and social outlets, but instead of spraying my many countless musings on anyone's tightly managed news feed, I'd prefer to make it a bit of a buried internet-bloggy- kind-of-treasure.  Only should someone REALLY want to know what I'm thinking at this very moment, don't call me, don't text me, don't log into my facebook account and stalk me.  Come here.  Its gonna be good.