Practice and Patience

Practice, practice, practice.

It reminds me of the punchline to an old joke:  “How do you get to Carnegie Hall?”  

Practice, practice, practice.  

This year is already shaping up to be my year of practice:

Meditation
Yoga
Writing
Patience 

I constantly have to remind myself:

These are not destinations…

They are journeys.

Practice is patience.  
Patience is a practice.   

Two words so intertwined.  

Two words that I have to wrestle to the ground every day.  

Two words that I try to incorporate into my daily vocabulary… as I stumble through the amorphous world of being an entrepreneur. An independent producer.  

A writer.  

A woman who moved to a place (Hawaii) where I am no longer bombarded by distraction (Hollywood).

A woman who is making a conscious effort to find balance and (if I am lucky) a new way of being. My adrenal gland should be happier. My cortisol production has got to be a fraction of what it was when I was a corporate executive.  

But I still wake up every day very task-oriented. Schedule oriented. Success oriented.  

Some of that works. I am a firm believer in routines, schedules and tasks. I believe most of my previous success came from these self-imposed rules. But now the measure of success is different. With no corporate ladder to climb, and no imminent paycheck in sight, what is the measure of my success?

I am accustomed to a letter grade, a title increase, a promotion, ratings, rankings, winning and losing.  But I stepped off the proverbial “hamster wheel” to redefine success because I wanted “more.”  

More balance.  
More joy.
More creative control.  

I wanted to stop marching to the beat of someone else’s drum (i.e., having a boss) and the rhetoric of corporate agendas.  I wanted to be my own boss. Create my own projects and feed my soul.

But in doing that, I am required to spend a lot more time alone. Alone with my own thoughts. Often a scary place to be because my thoughts are fast-moving mine-fields of self-doubt and negative self-talk.

So I am still learning to be with that new boss:  Me. She is a taskmaster. She is very judgmental. She is very impatient. She is very results-oriented. She is me. Me is she. I am not sure there is room for the both of us.

Which is why I learned to meditate. As I have said before, meditation is a practice. I have talked about how difficult I found it at first, but I continued to practice. It has been a year now. Finally, a few months ago, I had a breakthrough in my practice. I have developed a love of this daily practice. A serenity (or ease) that I have never felt before.   

But meditation has not been enough to drown out the voices in my head. (It’s a stubborn head.) So I needed to re-introduce yet another “practice.”  Yoga. I had done a bit of yoga way back when… way back before I had children. But I lost my yoga practice when my favorite studio (and teachers) were too far from my home (and work). Finding the right teacher is so key.  Maybe that’s true with any training, but for me, yoga truly needs that connection with the right teacher and environment.

Yoga is a little like riding a bike, but in this case, the metaphorical “bike” has not been oiled or serviced in decades.  So there is some memory of postures, but my body doesn’t bend and fold in the same way that it might have 25 years ago.  In my practice, I am reminded (and humbled) by my limitations.

Then there is writing.  Like meditation, this is a new muscle. A new discipline. A new passion. A new practice. As I write this blog, I am reminded just how much practice this muscle requires.  In some ways, this is the least tangible of the “practices.” In yoga, I am rewarded when I touch my toes or hold my “plank” position for extra time. In meditation, I just have to survive 20 minutes at a time with my eyes closed in a comfortable seated position. But in my writing practice, there is no tangible measurement of “doing well” or “progressing.” So all I can do is continue to practice... and be patient. 

 

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Bucket List

My eldest daughter is the embodiment of independence.  

The only period of her life that I ever saw her unhappy or complain was her first year of life. 

She did not like being bathed.
She did not like getting dressed.
She did not like having her diaper changed.
She did not like napping.
She did not like going to bed.
She did not like being held.
She did not like cuddling.
She did not like baby food.

She did not like being a baby. Plain and simple.

At the time, I thought she was just colicky.  But, in hindsight, I think it was just who she was.

She wanted to be free.

When she was about 4 years old, one of the little girls in her preschool class invited her to her birthday party.  It was the first birthday invite since she had started at this particular preschool. When I told her that she was invited, she said, “No, thank you.”  I was sure that she misunderstood me, so I said, “But there will be cake, ice cream, and goodie bags.”  She said, “No, thank you.” I asked, “Why not?”  She then told me that this particular girl had been mean to her on the first day of school and had pushed her out of the lunch line.  So, she didn’t want to go to her party.  And that was that.  

At the age of 6, a bunch of her friends were taking a drama class for the summer.  I asked her if she would like to take it with them.  She simply said, “No.” When I asked her why? She said she didn’t want to. I was concerned that maybe she didn’t understand what I was saying, so I explained that the kids would be putting on a play. She loved plays and always liked going to them. She looked at me and said, “Yes. I like the part where you sit in the seat and eat popcorn and watch the play.”  And that was that.

At the age of 8, she went to sleep-away summer camp for the first time. It was a two-week camp, where they meet at a location and take a chartered bus to a camp a few hours away.  When we arrived for check-in, she looked around and saw all the kids clinging to their parents.  Some looked terrified.  Some were crying and begging their parents not to leave them.  Some didn’t even want to get on the bus.  Then there was my daughter.  She said, “You don’t need to wait until the bus leaves... and please don’t cry.”  She climbed on the bus. And that was that.

My heart broke a little.  Why didn’t my kid want me to watch and wave as the bus pulled away? Why wasn’t she nervous about going away for two weeks?  Why did all the other kids hang onto their parents for dear life but mine couldn’t wait until I left?

The answer is that she’s not like me.  I was a super “clingy” kid.  I hated summer camp and being away from home.  I wanted to be with my mother 24/7.  I wanted to follow her everywhere and never leave her side.  Apparently, “clingy” skips a generation.  All of my fears about giving birth to "clingy" children (like me) was an unnecessary expenditure of energy.  My kids loved sleepovers, sleep away camp, traveling and going places.  That said, couldn’t she fake it a little?  

While she was away, I wrote her letters almost every day and sent her care packages.  I never got a letter back.  My other friends would brag that their kids sent home long letters with every detail of their counselors, their bunkmates, the food and the activities.  

When I picked her up, two weeks later, she said she had had the best time of her life and next time wanted to go for a whole month. She loved being away from home.  She loved being with other kids. She loved all of it. I asked her why she didn’t write me a letter?  She said, “There was no time. I was having too much fun.”

The following year I created form letters and self-addressed stamped envelopes.  They said something like this:

Dear Mom:

I am (circle one):

Fine.  Great.  Hanging in there.

Camp is (circle one):

Awesome. Boring. Just ok.

I (circle one):

Miss you.  Miss the cat.  Never want to leave camp.

My counselors are (circle one):

The best.  Just ok.  Really mean.

The food is (circle one):

Great.  Just ok.  Terrible.

Love, Your Daughter

She didn’t even want to fill those out.  But apparently, those “form letters” were the talk of the camp amongst the counselors. They loved them so much, they filled one out for her and sent it back to me.

Now my daughter is 23 years old and is currently on a nine-month backpacking adventure. She and one of her friends are spending a few months in Southeast Asia and then a few more months traveling throughout Europe. She has been planning (and saving) for this trip for two years. It’s on her “bucket list.”  When I was her age, I had just started my career in television. I was working as an assistant for two producers, and I was determined to climb the ladder and find my place in the food chain. I wasn’t sure (then) if I wanted to be a writer, producer or an executive, but I knew I wanted to be something important. I wanted to have success. I wanted it all.

My “bucket list” back then looked something like this:

  • Have a career
  • Get married
  • Have kids
  • Own a home

Travel and adventure were not on that list.  My focus was on finding purpose and validation. Thirty years later, even as a woman who has been married twice, had three children and reached a modicum of success as a television executive, I still wake up wanting exactly the same thing: purpose and validation.

If I had a “bucket list” for these past few years, I think it would have been:

  • To be my own boss
  • Do something that I love for work
  • Live a more balanced life

All things I’ve found in since I’ve started writing 52 Mondays.  My daughter, on the other hand, has already figured out what took me 50+ years to learn: Do what you love. Live a balanced life. Enjoy your life.

As I watched my daughter get ready to start an adventure that she had dreamed about for years, I couldn’t help but think her itinerary is skeletal at best and her budget is frightfully lean. They are mostly staying in youth hostels, their entire adult lives packed into enormous backpacks, and just figuring it out as they go. This is so foreign to me (the planner, the homebody, the lover of creature comforts), I don’t know how to advise her. But my daughter doesn’t need my advice... because my daughter is so different than me. She is independent. She loves to travel.  She loves adventure.  

But it’s not her sense of adventure that inspires me.  It is a lifetime of marching to her own drummer.  It is a sense of self that keeps her from doing things she doesn’t want to do.  She is content.  She is peaceful.  She avoids drama and she has a ton of friends.

I love her sense of calm. I love her self-direction. I love that she knows what she likes and knows what she doesn’t. I love that she doesn’t need to go to birthday parties of girls who weren’t nice to her. I love that she didn’t need to go to sleep-away camp with a bunch of old friends because she knew that she would make new ones. I love that she is a great cook. I love that she is a loyal friend. I love that she has a good work ethic. I love that she is a good saver. I love that she has no interest in climbing a corporate ladder and is not driven by money. She is driven by good friends, good food, good music and a comfortable bed to get a good night’s sleep in.  

I have a lot to learn from her... and I love her even if she still doesn’t write me letters from abroad. (Although now she uses various apps to send me photos and messages when Wifi is available. So, at least, we’ve come a long way since summer camp.)

Recently, I came across a quote that I thought exemplified my version of a “bucket list,” but I think it might actually apply to both of us:

My goal is to build a life that I don’t need a vacation from.  

- Rob Hill, Sr.

What is on your "bucket list"?

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The Missile Crisis

A few weeks ago, my husband and I had just dropped our daughter off for an entrance exam at one of the local schools. We were standing outside the testing center (the school cafeteria), chatting with some other parents, when suddenly everyone’s cell phones started to beep:

BALLISTIC MISSILE THREAT INBOUND TO HAWAII. SEEK IMMEDIATE SHELTER. THIS IS NOT A DRILL.

We all stood there for a moment a little stunned and a bit skeptical.  We get these warnings periodically for flash floods and tsunamis, but an IBM attack would be a first. It was a gorgeous morning on the island. A perfect day in paradise.  Hard to believe that our world was going to come to an end in the next 15 minutes?

But when the school principal made an announcement telling everyone to get to the gymnasium immediately, reality kicked in.

I turned to my husband and, with no irony, said, “This is your fault for not voting for Hillary.” He just looked at me like I was from Mars.

We then split off in different directions to look for our daughter.  

I was told that the high school kids were being sent to the boy’s locker room and the junior high school kids were being sent to the girl’s locker room. So I went to the boy’s locker room, but my husband and daughter were not there. I checked my phone and found a text from my daughter:

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I had a strange mix of emotions reading this text:

Part of me was beaming with delight that she is so fiercely independent that she would communicate this information to me so matter of factly and tell me not to worry.

Part of me wondered if she was actually relieved to be getting out of her three-hour entrance exam that she didn’t want to take in the first place.

And part of me was concerned by the number of grammatical errors and typos.

As I stood in the boy’s locker room, with dozens of other parents and students (a number of whom were quite shaken up), separated from my daughter and my husband (who I later learned were holed up in the girl’s locker room),  I just felt annoyed.  Annoyed that this was how I was going to be spending the last 15 minutes of my life. Annoyed that I had a head cold.  Annoyed that all of this was happening because someone had stepped on the proverbial anthill with North Korea and now this was how it all ends. But 15 minutes passed… and nothing happened.

Slowly the texts started coming in that it was a false alarm. There were rumors about it being a hack. There were rumors about a shift change in emergency services. There were rumors about someone hitting the wrong button. A couple of people said it was supposed to be a “high surf advisory” warning.

Really?  Shouldn’t a "surf advisory" be something like a yellow button?  

Shouldn’t the “Incoming Ballistic Missile” button be a red one?  Or a bigger one?  

Shouldn’t there have been a second button that says:  “Are you sure?”  

I can’t even delete an app on my phone without getting a second “Are you sure?” warning.

Even after the missile crisis was deemed a “false alarm,” the school still sent everyone home and rescheduled the test. My daughter was thrilled.  

Later, my husband and I talked about whether or not we were actually scared. Oddly, I was not scared. He says that was because I was too distracted by my head cold. I said that might be true but, honestly, I just felt like it was out of my hands.  What could I possibly do to stop a missile from blowing us all up?  

He didn’t think the missile was going to hit our island. So, for him, it was an issue of fallout. Radiation poisoning.  Being stuck in that locker room for days or weeks until someone in a hazmat suit was able to bring us food and water. He worried about how long it would be before it would be safe to go outside again.  

Turns out we had two very different scenarios in our head. Mine was fatalistic. Nothing we can do. Why are we going for cover anyway? While he was only thinking about how devastated the islands would be, the amount of destruction of infrastructure and the possible long-term ramifications of radiation exposure, etc.

My husband accused me of being more traumatized a few years back when our youngest daughter got lice on vacation. (He was not wrong.  We were in a foreign country and I didn’t know how to communicate with the pharmacist about the instructions on the shampoo.)

This pretty much exemplifies the way we each see the world.  He’s a big picture guy.  A chess player.  A strategist.  A blank canvas architect. I am a detail girl.  Worrying (planning) the little things. Time management.  Day to day stuff.  Logistics. Since I hadn’t entertained another scenario, I just figured this was completely beyond my control. So it was either the end of the world (or at least our world as we know it) or it was nothing.  

Thankfully it was nothing. 

The whole thing lasted about 38 minutes. Everyone had a different reaction.  For some, it was truly terrifying. For others, it caused them to re-examine what they would do next time (G-d forbid). A bunch of people slept through it. And finally, there were people who saw an opportunity. So they made tee-shirts... like this one:

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The Swear Jar - reinvented

I was reading an article on parenting last week and it talked about how damaging yelling is.  

I have written two posts about losing my temper (yelling) at my teenage daughter lately. Once for watching TV in the shower (instead of doing her homework)... and later for not letting the dog out in the morning (so he went potty in her bathroom).

I don’t think I yell a lot, but I am told when I do yell that it is “scary.” Not good.  I don’t want to be that person. I definitely don’t want to be that parent.  

Yelling doesn’t work anyway.  The behavior comes right back.  It creates anxiety for your child… and frankly, it makes me more anxious too.  After I am done yelling about some mess that was created, or reminding my teenager to do something for the  “umpteenth” time, I always feel like I have just thrown up all over myself and her.  So even as a metaphor, it’s pretty disgusting.  

This all started me thinking about being more accountable for my yelling.  Maybe I could find a way to calculate exactly how much yelling vs. repeating I am doing?  I decided to implement a system that will quantify my unwanted behavior: I am re-branding the “swear jar.”  

I came up with a two-jar system:

The “yell” jar.  If I yell, I have to put money in the jar.  (If I swear while yelling, I have to put in double.)

My daughter has a jar too.  It’s called the “repeat” jar.  If I ask her to do something and she doesn’t do it (and I have to remind her), she has to put money in that jar. Every time I remind her, money in the jar.

We are starting with quarters because that seems reasonable.  

It’s been 24 hours and I haven’t yelled once.  It feels really good. My daughter seems to be listening better too. She did end up forgetting to pick her clothes up off the floor, and I had to remind her, so she had to deposit a quarter in the “repeat” jar.  She seemed happy to do it… and grateful that she didn’t get yelled at.

We’ll see how this experiment goes.  Maybe I’m on to something…

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Advice for the Common Cold

I am in bed sick today.  It started the other day when I went to do my afternoon meditation. That twenty-minute meditation turned into a two-hour nap with a heating pad. The fact that I was chilled to the bone should have been my first sign because it was a warm day in Hawaii and there was no reason to be that cold. Not to mention, I almost NEVER take naps.

So here I am two days later and now my head is stuffy, my throat is scratchy, I am exhausted, and I can’t seem to get out of bed for longer than a half hour without feeling like my legs are going to give out.

My husband was sick last week with these exact same symptoms. I thought I could avoid it. I am a vigilant hand-washer and borderline OCD about washing dishes, emptying trash cans, wiping countertops, etc.  But I think six nights in a row of his nose blowing, his hacking cough and his sub-standard containment of germ-spreading did me in. He claims that "he did his best" to keep his germ-fest contained. When I told him that it was a “C+” at best, he was offended by this grade and argued, “It was more of a B-."

I wondered to myself how many times have I gotten sick since I started writing this blog. So I decided to do a search.

It turns out I’ve only written about it once. I think I did get sick more than that, it just didn’t fall on a Monday. I know I got my husband’s cold last year in March too. Almost exactly the same circumstances. So there is a pattern here.  Men are not as good at keeping their germs to themselves.  A gross exaggeration and I have no evidence of this, but it makes me feel better as I am feeling sorry for myself today… and I need someone to blame.

I have a pretty strong immune system, and some pretty good natural remedies to boost my immune system when I feel like I am fighting something (or if I ultimately come down with something).

As I mentioned before, there is no better line of defense than good old-fashioned hand washing.

But if that fails, and you feel like you are coming down with something, here are some things that I do:

Get plenty of rest. This is hard for me because I am so active. I don’t like canceling plans (especially tennis and yoga).  But rest is best… and boring.

Drink plenty of fluids. Clear fluids are best (e.g., water, chicken broth, vegetable broth, herbal tea, etc.)

Avoid dairy products and alcohol. Cut back on sugar (as best as you can). Dairy products contribute to congestion (mucus).  Alcohol and sugar weaken the immune system.

For a sore throat, my favorite lozenge is the Original Ricola Herbal drops. They do have sugar, but I make an exception for these. I find that if you suck on these lozenges regularly in the first 48 hours, most scratchy throats disappear. Mine is almost gone.

For immune support, I like Herbal Wellness Resistance drops. You can buy them at Whole Foods and most health food stores. Four “squeezes” (dropperful) in whatever liquid you prefer four times a day.

I like using them with Emergency-C, but I don’t recommend more than two Emergency-C packages per day.  So you will need to find some other liquid that covers the taste (like a small amount of juice or herbal tea with honey.)

Eat protein. Protein fights infection. If you are vegetarian or vegan, I would avoid dairy-based proteins if you have any congestion.

Don’t eat “cold” foods if you have a cough or post nasal drip. The body has to work twice as hard to “warm up” the cold beverage and it can often cause the bronchial spasms. Ice cream or milkshakes are the worst for a cold (even though they taste so good). Room temperature water is best. Warm soup and herbal tea are also excellent.

So now it’s time for me to take my own advice: another dose of herbs in a cup of tea and a bowl of soup.

I will be skipping my yoga class this afternoon and canceling tomorrow’s tennis match which makes me very sad, but all will be worth it if I am feeling normal in a few days.

Hope you are all staying well and enjoying your three-day weekend.  Meanwhile, I will continue to blow my nose and passive-aggressively glare at my husband for giving me this cold in the first place.  

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"What is Your Blog About?"

"What is your blog about?" People are constantly asking me this question and despite answering it so many times, I don’t know if my answer is ever the same.

My blog was a series of emails that I wrote to myself during my last year as a corporate cog in a Fortune 500 company. I was trying to figure out what I was going to do as I was winding down not just my job, but my 30-year career as a television executive, and a busy city life that included juggling family, friends, and my own sanity. Those emails became the framework for what I thought was going to be a book. A book about surviving the crazy life of being a working mother in a high-pressure job while on the precipice of reinventing a new life. The book didn’t seem to have a natural “ending,” so I kept writing… and that’s how this became a blog.

So here I am, two years later, still writing. I am now a television producer. Or a former television executive, who has produced and is still trying to find success in that arena, while writing a weekly blog. But this blog has become a lot less about a former-harried-executive who used to balance 14-hour days, back-to-back meetings… all while overseeing multiple television series at one time. Now I am a stay-at-home mom/TV producer, who spends a lot of time writing about my eye-rolling teenage daughter and a spoiled white fluffy dog.

Let’s take Friday morning for example. My youngest (teenage) daughter was on Winter Break, and since I had no conference calls, I thought I would sleep in. My only concern was if my teenage daughter had let the dog out. I went into her room to find her propped up in bed staring at her computer (watching TV), and the dog peacefully sitting next to her.  Uh-oh. I knew from this familiar tableau that she didn’t let the dog out. I could hear the “Psycho” music start playing in my head. I checked her bathroom and sure enough, there was a fresh “poop” on one bath mat and a little yellow pee stain on the other. Needless to say, I started yelling. “You have ONE responsibility in the morning. Let the dog OUT as soon as you wake up. Why are you on the computer?  Why are you still in bed?”

Her response: "He must have done that in the middle of the night, so he didn’t need to go out this morning.”

I thought my head was going to explode.

I made her shut off the computer and get out of bed. We opened the door and shoved the dog outside. I marched her to the laundry room and showed her how to disinfect and wash the bath mats in the washing machine. We then went back outside to retrieve the dog. Unfortunately, he had taken off to the neighbor’s yard (again). It took us about 10 minutes to find him and get him back with bribery (a doggie treat). Although he came back for the treat, he (oddly) didn’t eat it.

Instead, he scurried off to the other part of the house while I went back to the laundry room to sort the rest of the dirty laundry. (This has also become a recurring theme in my blog. I seem to always be doing laundry). My daughter went back to her room… presumably to continue watching whatever show she was “bingeing” on Netflix.

About a half hour later, I walked past my bedroom and I thought I smelled something weird… but chalked it up to my overactive imagination. I found my dog in my bathroom lying quietly, but he wouldn’t look up at me. He must have still felt bad about going #1 and #2 on the other bath mats earlier.

I went back to the kitchen to make breakfast. Another half hour passed. I went back into my daughter’s room and now the dog was lying on her bed. He still wouldn’t look at me. This seemed odd. My daughter said that I must have scared him from yelling so loudly. I guess that’s possible (and a little terrifying). I actually didn’t yell at the dog at all. I only yelled at my daughter. (I know, not good either.) Hmmmm…  and I still smelled something funny on the other end of the hall.  

My dog followed me as I went back to my bedroom to investigate. There it was. On the very corner of the rug under my bed, my dog has had diarrhea. It’s green. It’s slimy and it’s truly gross. Oh, and it’s on a SHAG rug. The only rug in my entire house. The bathmats are inconvenient, and I don’t want him to make a habit of going in the house, but they are very easy to wash. The “shag rug”... not so much. Oh, and my husband is absolutely freaked out by dog poop. I am pretty sure that if he discovered this disaster, it would be the end of the dog, me and our marriage. Even if my husband did recover from this “accident,” the dog would be quarantined to a confined area for the rest of his life and we would all be miserable.

So I ran back to my daughter’s room and said, “We have a problem. Go get a roll of paper towels, “Nature’s Miracle” (a pet stain remover), a plastic bag and meet me in my bedroom.” My daughter brought all of the sanitation materials and sat down on my bed for moral support. I started cleaning as best I could and asked her to scour the internet for all of the various ways to clean a shag rug. Meanwhile, my husband was safely tucked away in his home office without any knowledge of the nuclear waste explosion that had occurred in our bedroom. Just as I was getting rid of all of the evidence, I heard a retching sound coming from behind me. My dog was on the reading chair in our bedroom about to throw-up. I dropped everything and raced to scoop him up off the chair. Mid-scoop, he barfed all over the floor. This time it was a lovely mixture of yellow bile and grass. I found myself oddly grateful. It only landed on the hardwood floors. I could deal with that.

I finished cleaning up the floors. I opened the windows. I blotted up the "Nature’s Miracle” solution. I threw away all of the paper towels (evidence) in their own plastic bag and took it outside. I checked on my husband. He was still on his computer with no idea that the last 90 minutes have been nothing but chaos. I put another load of laundry in the machine.  

I then sat down to meditate. My dog sat next to me. About 10 minutes into my meditation, he began to bark at the birds outside. He proceeded to run around the house barking his head off. I guess he was feeling better.

So what is my blog about?  

I am no longer the blogger who writes about going to the Emmy awards.

Or corner offices.

Or even being a producer in remote locations.

I am now the blogger who writes about spending my entire morning cleaning up dog pee, poop, diarrhea, and vomit. I am the blogger who yells at her daughter for not taking the dog out first thing in the morning. I am the blogger who now keeps secrets from her husband because he will never know about the accident on the shag rug. (Unless of course he reads my blog… which is highly unlikely.)

So while I may not have not been planning my outfit for the Golden Globes this past weekend, at least I now consider myself a writer.

And the best part about being a writer is that after a terrible morning like today, I had the inspiration to sit down and write… and that is my silver lining.

104 Mondays Later… Happy New Year!

While I was hunting through my attic, I discovered one of the many boxes that contain my old journals. I found a mish-mosh of greeting cards, letters and some random notes that I had scribbled down on a notepad.  

The piece of paper that stood out amongst the rest had a bunch of different dates on it, all from the Summer of 2001. It was written on a notepad with my former married name. Reminding me of a different chapter of my life. It was pre - 9/11. Reminding me that the world has had a different chapter of life too. On the paper, I had written things that I aspired to do. Not a bucket list. More like “operating instructions” on how to live smarter… dare I say “happier.” 16 years later, they are still the basic instructions that I live by… or aspire to live by. Which means either:

  1. I haven’t changed.  
  2. I haven’t learned.  
  3. Or some things are so big that you have to write them down over and over again until you get it….  

Here they are:

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This is the big one.  This is the one that reminds me that I still have some work to do. I set out to be more patient this year and I am still very intent on incorporating this word into my daily vocabulary and being. The good news is that I have become more patient with others. The bad news is that I am still rather impatient with myself. So that remains a work in progress. It’s no coincidence that last year, I commissioned a local artist to make me the sign that proudly hangs in my office above my desk: be patient.
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I heard these “rules” at a business meeting way back when. I wrote them down, memorized it, and have tried to live by it ever since. I work in an industry of people who were always late, often times didn’t show up, rarely told the truth, and I was the one who was always (too) attached to the outcome. I decided that I couldn’t change “them.” I could only change me.  I am pretty good about the first three rules. #4 remains a struggle. I have to remind myself everyday about being “less attached to the outcome.
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When I wrote this down in the Summer of 2001, I was going through a lot of different issues. My personal life and my work life felt very unstable. My company was being sold. The management team was being restructured. My first husband and I were struggling. In both my workplace and personal life, I was surrounded by people who were telling me one thing, but doing another. I made this note to myself as a reminder to not just trust what people say, but to remember to look at their actions as well. In these last 16 years, I have become much better at watching people’s behaviors as well as listening to their words. I no longer waste time with people who make lofty promises and have no follow through.  It has saved me from a lot of aggravation… and hurt feelings.
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I haven’t learned this lesson yet. Something to strive for in 2018… along with a few other goals too which I will get to.
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This is the same message they give you when you are on an airplane: “Put your own oxygen mask on before helping others around you.”  When I wrote this, I was always helping others before helping myself. I had an acupuncturist who once said to me:  “You pour out your Chi (Chinese word for “life energy”) and you have nothing left for yourself.” I have gotten better about this. I really try and take care of myself first, so that I can better take care of those I love too.

So here I am, 16 years later, writing a blog that deals with all of these issues. I have made a lot of changes since I wrote these words. I have since been divorced, remarried, had a third child, changed my career, changed my home, learned to play tennis, went back to yoga, started meditating, went through menopause, learned to survive panic attacks... and even started writing.

I have lived by most of the words on this paper and I have achieved some of these goals, but I am still a work in progress. (Particularly my penmanship, which still sucks, and probably is why I prefer to type.)

But, it’s no coincidence that the very first word on the list was “patience.” As I venture into this new chapter of my career, patience is a continuing theme. Now that I am a producer and a writer, I still want everything to come fast, but it doesn’t. So I am reminded that I have evolved, improved, succeeded in many ways, but everything still requires patience.

As I look back on the last 52 Mondays, and the 52 Mondays before that, I am rounding the corner on writing steadily for almost two years. But what I realized is that I have been a “closet writer” my whole life. It started when I got my first “diary” in the 3rd grade. That was the beginning of keeping a journal on my feelings about things. I have kept journals my whole life. I guess that made me a writer-ISH for most of my life.

Even when I wasn’t keeping journals, I was always writing down ideas. Quotes. Thoughts. Expressions I heard. Words. I have loved words since I was a little girl. It’s probably why I have always talked so much. I am always trying to find the right words to express an exact feeling. For me:

Talking is sharing.  
Sharing is bonding.  
Bonding is intimacy.  
Intimacy is friendship... and sometimes love.  
Banter is foreplay.
Great banter is intercourse. (Get your head out of the gutter… I meant social intercourse, but sometimes social intercourse is just as satisfying. I know. I know. Only a woman would say that. But it’s true.)

I love words and I love conversation. But I have come to realize over the last two years, as I have sat down to write something every Monday (and sometimes on other days too), I also love to write.

I don’t believe in New Year’s resolutions. Something about the word “resolution” feels like too much pressure.  So I prefer to refer to them as goals for the new year.  So here are some of my goals:

Be less attached to the outcome.  (An oldie, but a goodie.)
Grow my readership. (A new one... since I just started writing for an audience.)
Continue to make a living as writer and/or a producer. (Fingers crossed.)
Love what I do. (I have loved the last year more than the 30 years that led up to it. I want to continue this trend.)
Stay balanced. (Doing better each year.)
Stay healthy. (Knock on wood.)
Be Patient. (This might be on next year’s list too... since it's been on my notepads for the last 16 years.)
Keep writing. (One down.  51 more Mondays to go.)
Be prolific. (Dare to dream.)
Be Inspired. (I have been this year... and I want to keep it going.)
Inspire others. (I hope so.)

Last but not least, as I wrap up these last 52 Mondays and look to the next 52, I want to thank YOU. My new found friends who have given me another kind of conversation. For all of you who have been reading my blog, comment on on the posts, like on Facebook, heart on Twitter, email me privately, or share with your friends and family, you are engaging in this new conversation with me. It fills me up and it keeps me writing. I thank you all and wish you only good things in the new year to come.  

Happy New Year!

With gratitude,

JC
The 52 Mondays Lady... and her fluffy white dog

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What To Watch Over The Holidays

Having spent my entire career in the entertainment business, people love to ask me, “What should I be watching on TV?” or “Can you recommend a good movie?”

So after popular demand, I thought I might actually dedicate a post to some of the great television and movies that are currently out this holiday season.

Let’s start with the movies:

The Shape of Water - It’s pretty spectacular. I am not a big lover of fantasy, nor horror, nor anything with creatures. That said, there are exceptions to every rule and this is one of them. Guillermo del Toro is masterful in his filmmaking and co-writing this script with writer Vanessa Taylor (Game of Thrones). This movie tackles several genres: noir, thriller, love story, creature feature and just good old-fashioned movie making. Every scene is remarkably purposeful and thematic. As advertised by the title, water is thematic throughout. Water represents not only a life source but also birth (or re-birth) as the opening scene suggests in an almost amniotic fluid-like dream sequence. Water, also, functions as an aphrodisiac for our heroine. It defines her in her daily rituals and it is what draws her to finding true love. del Toro’s use of subtle imagery is beautiful throughout.  Even the ever-present egg represents an almost biblical theme as not only an offering of sustenance but of rebirth. 

The performances are flawless. Sally Hawkins' (Blue Jasmine) portrayal of a mute cleaning woman speaks volumes without ever uttering a single word. Octavia Spencer (Hidden Figures) is brilliant as always. Richard Jenkins (Six Feet Under) is sublime. Michael Shannon (Revolutionary Road) is equally awesome as the “real” monster.

del Toro manages to craft a beautiful love story amidst a delicate exploration of racism, handicaps, xenophobia, homophobia, political agendas and even sexual harassment.  

It is a must-see.

Next on my list is:

Coco - Every time I think I am finally finished with seeing “yet another" animated movie, Pixar continues to surprise and delight me once again. Coco is amazing. It’s not just an amazing technical achievement. It is a beautiful story about the traditions behind Día de Muertos (Day of the Dead). In my wildest dreams, I could not imagine that someone could pull off a children’s film about a little boy getting lost in the Land of the Dead as he searches for his great-great-grandfather. But somehow they did it... and this film is not just for children. It is engaging, heartfelt, funny and truly poignant. I loved everything about it: The music, the story, the animation, the plot twist, the message… the whole enchilada (I apologize for the bad pun).  Run don’t walk to this movie. Bring your kids. Your grandkids. It’s a special treat with a beautiful message. 

Okay, let’s go to television:

There was so much good television this year that it’s hard to know where to start.  So I am going to go with my two most recent favorites:

The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel - (Amazon Prime- 1-hour comedy). It is quite possibly perfect. The cast, the production design, the brilliant writing by Amy Sherman-Palladino (Gilmore Girls) and her husband Daniel Palladino. The direction is flawless. At times it feels like a beautifully choreographed Broadway play. At other times, it feels like an homage to the "rat-a-tat" of great films with Spencer Tracy and Katherine Hepburn. Or maybe even Audrey Hepburn in Breakfast at Tiffany's.  The costume design is nothing short of awesome. It’s a love letter to New York City and all of the great comics that came out of that era (the 1950s). It is a hilarious depiction of Jewish families and women who juggle things flawlessly… until they don’t. I can’t recommend this series enough. It is bold. It is beautiful. It is fun and it is funny. After finishing the eight episodes, I found myself a little depressed that there were no more for now. But with Golden Globe nominations and the growing buzz, I am sure there will be a lot more to come.  

Schitt’s Creek - (Netflix - 1/2 hour comedy). I discovered this series late in the game. They are about to launch Season 4 and I just finished binge-watching Season 3. Eugene Levy (American Pie) and Catherine O’Hara (Home Alone) star in this series about a wealthy family who loses everything and is forced to live in a rundown motel in a town because it is the only asset they still have. It’s a modern day Green Acres meets The Beverly Hillbillies (in the reverse). While some episodes gel better than others, the series is positively addictive. David Levy (Eugene’s son) co-created it with his dad and they are hilarious. Catherine O’Hara steals every scene, but everyone is a joy to watch. The costume design is superb... as it is the only vestige of their old life, which they maintain.The incongruence of their avant-garde taste provides endless entertainment as they navigate through their new life in this charming Podunk town.

 

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How I Came to Celebrate Christmas

When December first rolls around, I am always a little “bah-humbug” at first. I never think I will have the energy to shop for all the presents, wrap all the gifts, trim the tree, bake and prepare the holiday dinners. But once we turn on the music, start lighting candles, and trimming the Christmas tree, the excitement comes back.

What’s a nice Jewish girl been doing celebrating Christmas for the last 28 years?  

It’s a long story.

I was raised in a fairly conservative Jewish household. We didn’t celebrate Christmas. No tree. No stockings. No Christmas lights. No Christmas carols. No presents on Christmas Day. No Santa Claus.

But, like most Jewish families, we had Hanukkah. Eight nights of lighting candles, at least one big family dinner, singing songs… and sometimes eight presents. Although my mother didn’t believe in eight nights of presents, we usually got something on the first night and something on the last night. Usually, there was a family party or two, so we exchanged gifts with relatives on some of the other nights too. All while eating the most delicious heavy comfort food you can imagine. Usually some kind of brisket and lots of potato latkes (potato pancakes) that were deep fried and served with a sour cream and applesauce garnish. They were insanely labor intensive (as they required hand grating the potatoes and onions), but indescribably delicious. Whomever made the latkes, their house would smell like fried food for weeks afterwards. I loved them so much.  

Growing up, most of my friends were Jewish too, so I didn’t really feel left out on Christmas. But I always loved Christmas movies. Christmas lights. Christmas decorations. And Christmas holiday music. I admit it... I had Christmas envy.

When I got married to my first husband (a lapsed Catholic), he was happy to convert to Judaism. His only request was to continue to celebrate Christmas too. Basically he just wanted a Christmas tree, a Christmas breakfast and presents. (He loved presents.) Having felt deprived of this delightful indulgence in colorful lights, pine-scented smells, and having another excuse for a family get-together, how could I resist?   

For the next 13 years, we had a big tree, lots of lights, Christmas music, even Santa Claus came and left surprise gifts. It was a ton of fun. All of our Jewish friends would come over on Christmas day and the kids would play outside with all the new toys, and we’d have a big buffet of finger foods and baked goods.

When I married my second husband (another lapsed Catholic), he had his own family traditions with Christmas. Their family was a Christmas Eve family (meaning they had their holiday dinner and opened all of their gifts on Christmas eve).  There was no “Santa Claus” or opening gifts on Christmas morning in your pajamas. It was a new tradition, but equally fun.

So here we are again.  Christmas 2017. I still get excited when I open my storage boxes of ornaments and reminisce where each one came from. I have been collecting ornaments since my first christmas in 1989. Ornaments that I have purchased. Ornaments that were given to me. Ornaments that were made by my kids in school, and ornaments that were one of a kind made by local artists. I still have my favorites. My kids have theirs. I turn on classical Christmas tunes (Nat King Cole, Johnny Mathis and Frank Sinatra) and we trim the tree.  

We still light candles on Hanukkah too. No one loves potato latkes like I do, so I don’t bother making them from scratch. (The truth is if you buy the good frozen ones, and bake them for about 5 minutes longer, they are almost as good without the mess of deep frying. There is the added bonus of not having to spend hours peeling potatoes and grating onions as well.)

I am grateful to have both traditions and to have raised my kids knowing both holidays.

So for those of you who celebrate either or both:  Happy Hanukkah and/or Merry Christmas.

For those of you who don’t, I wish you a happy December.  May something magical happen... whether it comes from Santa Claus, an old friend, a new friend, a new opportunity or just something delicious to eat that reminds you of your childhood.

P.S.  This year’s Christmas tree.

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P.P.S. The last night of Hanukkah. I was making tacos for dinner and there happened to be one ripe avocado left to make 
guacamole, so it made it into the picture. It was truly a holiday miracle... and delicious.
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10 Misconceptions About Living in Hawaii

Living in Hawaii really is just like living anywhere else. People do all the same things here that they do on the mainland:  cook, clean, laundry, grocery shop, drive their kids around, argue with them about doing their homework, get colds, pay bills and even sit in traffic. It’s life. Don’t get me wrong, it’s about as nice of a place to do it in, but the daily grind doesn’t go away because there are palm trees and trade winds. The thing is no one seems to believe me. So to clear a few things up, here are my top 10 misconceptions about Hawaii:

1)You never get sick.  

When my daughter had a cold a few weeks ago, one of her friends from California texted her, “How can you be sick?  You live in Hawaii.” She was like, “Uh… because people get sick here too.”

2) You cannot possibly manage a career from Hawaii

People are always amazed that I can do my job remotely.  Every conference call starts with one of two questions:  “Are you in Hawaii?”  Yes, we have telephones. Or “How is the weather there?” Usually sunny, but we might have showers later because it rains here (a lot). And, yes, that weather includes incredible rainbows and spectacular sunsets, but that still doesn’t get in the way of managing my career.

3) You either live in a hotel or in a hut.

No, we don’t live in grass-thatched huts. We have regular neighborhoods and homes… complete with running water, electricity and the Internet.

4) You drink Mai Tais ALL day.

That would make it difficult for me to function…  

5) Hawaii is really, really far away.

It’s actually the same travel time (and time difference) from Los Angeles to New York.

6) There are no grocery stores.

There are a lot of grocery stores. Including Safeway, Whole Foods, Costco, Walmart, and Target.  Groceries are, however, much more expensive. Especially organic milk. Double the price compared to California.

7) Everyone assumes you surf.

Nope. I tried. Not my thing. Most everything is geared towards some kind of sport though. Ocean activities are king: Stand-up paddle surfing, kite surfing, windsurfing, foil surfing, skim boarding, body surfing, scuba diving, snorkeling, ocean swimming, kayaking, paddling (canoe racing), boating, jet skiing, parasailing, fishing, etc. I like my sports on land: tennis and yoga are my thing(s).

8) Pineapples grow on trees.

Actually they grow on the ground.  But very few pineapples are even grown in Hawaii anymore.
Ranching, pineapple and sugarcane production used to be Hawaii’s primary businesses. But most pineapple production is now in the Philippines and the last sugar mill closed last year. Only ranching remains. The number one source of revenue now is tourism. We still have cowboys in Hawaii though. (They are called Paniolos.)

9) Women wear grass skirts.

Yes, if they are hula dancers who are performing at a Luau. Everyone else dresses the same as anywhere else where the temperature is 80 degrees most of the time. Except for the fact that Hawaiian shirts are considered “business casual” for men and people wear flips flops (aka “slippahs”) all year round.

10) People are always in bathing suits.

Not true. Maybe the tourists.

But here’s the crazy thing that no one probably knows unless you live here:  We have wild chicken and roosters everywhere. Not just on the farms or in the countryside.  They show up on the school grounds, on the highway and especially in the parking lots of grocery stores. Just like this lovely couple I ran into in the Safeway parking lot while I was doing my grocery shopping.

Fifty Shades of Grey

When we bought our house a few years ago, we agreed to remodel the inside (which was many years overdue), and wait on painting the outside and replacing the 20-year-old roof… which was still in “good enough shape” according to my husband.

Finally, we are ready to have the outside painted, but we’ve been going back and forth on the color for weeks. The current color of the house is chocolate brown. This color was very appropriate color for when it was built in 1975, but now it looks tired and dated. I wanted something a little more contemporary. Due to the style of the house, it needs to continue to be a deep, dark color. So we decided on something in the charcoal grey family. Unfortunately, we just couldn’t find the right shade. Everything was too blue or too light and it wasn’t in keeping with the style of the house. We tried a half dozen different colors ranging from a deep tan to almost black. My husband vetoed everything until we settled upon a greyish-brown. Something called “Mocha Berry.” He then left for a business trip on the east coast.

The painter came on Saturday and by Saturday afternoon, when I saw the first coat painted on one of the exterior walls, I had a mild heart attack. It was basically a richer (darker) version of the brown house that I have been waiting to get rid of for years.

So Saturday night at 8pm, I found myself at Home Depot talking to the “paint guy” explaining my dilemma. I explained that my husband and I agreed on this one color, but when the sunlight hit it, it looked completely different and now I am in a panic. With my husband out of town and the painter due to come back at 7am on Sunday morning, I needed to provide a viable alternative first thing in the morning… before more time and money was spent on the “wrong” color. I had my husband on the phone while I was having this conversation with the Home Depot “paint specialist” (marital counselor). I really don’t think he completely understood the gravity of the situation, but he was very patient with me as we went through every version of grey that they carried in the store.

I found two new slate greys (one was more of a charcoal grey) and I was ready to meet the painter at 7am on Sunday with two sample-size quarts in my hand. I introduced myself. (I had not met him yet because my husband had been dealing with him directly.) Then I promptly apologized for asking him to stop painting and try these two samples on another wall. I think the painter knew that he was in the middle of a potential marital upset.  This isn’t really about paint.  It’s about communication.  Compromise.  Coming to an agreement and then throwing a wrench in that agreement when someone is out of town and not there to defend their position.  It’s also about waste. Time and money.  But the painter recognized that I was in a full blown panic and he helped me settle upon the darker (more charcoal) grey. He agreed that in the sunlight, the other color we had “chosen” (dare I say “compromised” on) was too brown. And that this new color was an improvement.

I then called my husband (who was five time zones away) and tried to explain why I was making this executive decision (which included me racing back to Home Depot and picking up 10 gallons of paint so that the painter could get started.) My husband was not pleased. He liked the color we picked. He didn’t want it to be too grey. Why was I making this decision now? Why didn’t I do all my second guessing weeks ago? I don’t know, because paint looks different from a chip to a wall. In fact, this paint looks completely different in the shade as it does in the sunlight. How was I to know that his Mocha Berry was going to look like a bad cup of coffee and I needed a Charcoal Grey to give it more life and a fresh new look?

Unfortunately (or fortunately?) our painter has a day job. So he can only paint on the weekends, which means he could only paint a portion of the house on Sunday. He will be back next weekend to do the rest. This is good news because my husband will be back and he can do his own compare and contrast of the two colors before we finish the job. The bad news is this morning when I went to examine the two different colors, my husband’s color didn’t look so bad after all. In fact, it looked kind of rich and awesome in the morning light. I started to panic again. What if my “freak out” about the “brown” paint was my imagination and maybe, after two trips to Home Depot at ungodly hours, I am the one who made the mistake to stop painting the first color that was actually the “right” color? I take a deep breath and remember that I need to wait until the afternoon light shines on the “brown” to make a clear determination of what’s best.

I had a conference call on a very important script that I needed to get ready for so I went inside. As I tried to put on my thinking cap to figure out the best way to tackle the notes, I couldn’t stop thinking about how I may have overreacted, wasted time, possibly money and had an unnecessary argument with my husband only to have to face the real punishment now: to admit that I was wrong. (Anyone who is married or in any kind of relationship knows this is a bitter bitter pill to swallow...)

Finally, the afternoon sun came out and I could examine the two colors side by side. Much to my dismay, neither color was right.  The Mocha Berry was simply too brown… and the Charcoal Grey was too harsh.

Needless to say, when my husband returns from his business trip, I think we are going to have to go back to see the “martial counselor” at the Home Depot paint counter.

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I'm on a Diet

I am on a never-ending quest to improve my physical and mental wellness. This has been a lifetime goal and a slow-learning process. I am a big believer in “you are what you eat." Don’t get me wrong, I think food is awesome. But it’s a balancing act. If left to my own devices, I would eat nothing but pizza, pasta, grilled cheese, macaroni and cheese, and quesadillas. But these are my “trigger foods.”  The foods that once I start eating them, I can’t stop.  I am an addict. So I try to limit them whenever possible.

I am equally fascinated by western and eastern medicine, and I have had holistic doctors and traditional doctors throughout my life. I think both are very important. I went to this new doctor (a naturopath) to try and figure out how to mitigate the various pains in my neck, shoulder, wrist, hand, and foot. I am aware that this pain is mostly due to playing tennis, a lifetime of sitting at a desk, and aging. But those three things aren’t going away, so I thought I would consult him. I have been to every traditional doctor about these chronic aches and pains and they just say, it’s part of getting older and doing sports. But my friends swear by this doctor and his ability to manage chronic conditions that other doctors can’t find solutions for.

At my appointment, he tells me he is a big believer in diet and exercise as the first line of defense against aging and general wellness. We are in complete agreement on that. Most of his patients have had tremendous success following the “Blood Type Diet.”  Uh-oh.  I know about this diet. In full disclosure, I have been on virtually every diet at some point in my life. At some point, I have been a vegetarian, vegan, gluten-free, sugar-free, dairy-free, no carbs, food combining, etc.  But I have only read about the Blood Type Diet… never done it. But I figure I am a warrior when it comes to self-control, so I can do anything for 28 days. I agree to try it.

He hands me a list of foods that I have to “avoid" and a bunch of foods that are “beneficial.”  Then there is a list of foods that are “neutral.”  

Allegedly, my blood type is one of those that does better on a more vegetable-based diet. Although, I can have some chicken, turkey, and fish. This is not a big deal for me. I have given up red meat before. I try to avoid dairy anyway. Of course, they don’t want you to have any sugar (all “diets” cut this first). This should be a piece of cake (minus the wheat, the dairy, and the sugar).  

But as I start my shopping list, I realize that there is a whole host of really random things that aren’t “permitted.”

Let’s start with the “nightshade” vegetables.  I have known about these possibly being the culprit to arthritis and inflammation.  What are the “nightshades” you ask?  Only the most basic ingredients to virtually everything you eat: tomatoes, potatoes, peppers and other things people don’t care about like eggplant (although I really like eggplant).  

When you’re not eating wheat, potatoes are kind of a major creature comfort. But it’s fine. I can do it. But, tomatoes?  “No tomatoes” mean no chips and salsa, but corn is not on the “permitted” list either… so there’s nothing fun to scoop up the salsa anyway. But “no tomatoes” also mean no marinara sauce or meat sauce.  But pasta also isn’t on the list, so I guess that doesn’t matter much either. “No tomatoes” also means no ketchup. But french fries and hamburgers aren’t on this diet, so what do I need ketchup for anyway?

Again, when it comes to self-control, I am a warrior. If they say no red meat, no dairy, no wheat, no tomatoes or potatoes or corn. I say, “No problem.”

But there’s more. The only alcohol permitted is red wine. This is do-able. I am not a big drinker and I like red wine. But NO carbonated beverages are permitted. Not even club soda.

It gets worse.  They want me to lean towards vegetarian proteins:  soy, nuts, and peanuts. But no cashews. Yes, it’s that specific.  No banana, coconut, mango or papaya.  I live in Hawaii.  Tropical fruit is kind of the staple of the region. But I am permitted pineapple. Oh goody.

You can’t use vinegar (any kind). There goes almost all salad dressings.  

No olives. I love olives. But they allow Olive Oil. That seems weird…

You can eat peanuts and peanut butter, but no peanut oil.  Again… a little odd.

No cabbage. No sauerkraut. But I guess if I am not eating hot dogs, I don’t really need sauerkraut.

No pickles. It’s probably a salt thing. Or maybe a vinegar thing. Which means no salt & vinegar potato chips, but they said no potatoes… and it’s not like anyone recommends eating potato chips when on a “diet.”

So, there’s not much left.  It’s a good thing, I love hummus.  

Oops sorry. Garbanzo beans and sesame oil are not permitted with my blood type either. Okay, this is bordering on the ridiculous.  

I am starting to think this has nothing to do with science. In addition to the diet’s proclamation that it is anti-inflammatory, they say that another benefit might be weight loss. Who wouldn’t lose weight if all they ate was chicken, turkey, romaine lettuce, and pineapple? Or better yet just peanuts and soybeans (those are both allowed for some odd reason).

But in spite of all of that, I am willing to try it because maybe my joints will stop aching and maybe I will start sleeping better. As a bonus, I might actually lose the couple of pounds that I gained when the weather turned chilly last month, and I started eating a lot of comfort food.  

It’s been a week. I feel oddly bloated. I have already had a monster headache. My sleeping patterns are no better. My joints still ache. I haven’t lost an ounce... and I am really cranky. I’m not sure I’m going to make it through the next 21 days. Oh and it’s December, so there might be a few holiday meals to get through as well.

Something tells me this isn’t going to end well.

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Lessons Not Learned

Last Monday, I woke up with a monster (I mean monster) headache. It was so bad that I wondered if I was hungover? Then I remembered I barely drink. A glass of wine or a cold beer with dinner is about my limit. But the night before, I had nothing to drink. My hangover might have been due to my dinner: a rotisserie chicken from Costco and a homemade salad in which I got carried away with some gourmet coarse ground sea salt. How sad is that? I had a hangover from chicken and lettuce?

When my alarm clock went off, the beeping sounded like a jackhammer in my brain. I slowly pulled myself out of bed. My head felt like it was going to explode. I had to get up to get my daughter to school. But I also had to check on the dog, as we’ve been having some issues lately. Initially he was crate-trained during the night hours, but a few years ago my youngest daughter begged for him to sleep on her bed. He is happier and she is happier with this new arrangement, but the deal was that she had to be responsible for letting him out FIRST thing in the morning when she wakes up. Otherwise, he will pee in the house.

My daughter was pretty good about this rule until recently. Now that she is a teenager (also known as a “power sleeper” and “zombie-like” in the morning), she can’t seem to remember to open the door and take him out. Or she doesn’t want to open the door and have to stand outside with him, because the weather has gotten kind of cold and rainy and this is simply too much trouble. So, instead, she has started to just wait until I come to get him out of her room. While she may think it’s fine to wait for me, I discovered that the dog has not been waiting. He has started going into her bathroom and peeing on her bath mat (which I guess is the closest thing to “grass,” since our house is all hardwood floors). My daughter claims she didn’t notice him peeing on the mat, and that he must have done it “after she went to school.” After I washed the bath mat THREE times last week, we had a whole discussion about this. I reminded her of her commitment and that she needs to take him out FIRST thing and wait until he does his “business.” She can’t make him wait 30 minutes while she wanders around aimlessly looking for her homework, sweatshirt, shoes, and wondering whether or not she needs her PE uniform on that day.

So when I found her completely dressed, and the dog still sitting on the bed, I started yelling. (I know. I know. I do a lot of that when it comes to my teenage daughter and repeating myself.) Why didn’t you let the dog out? What were you waiting for? Didn’t we talk about this 10 times over the last two weeks? Why are you doing this to him? Why are you not listening? What were you thinking?

She just shrugged her shoulders. The “shoulder shrug” is like international code for: “I’m 13. It’s Monday morning at 6:45am. I’m tired. I don’t want to go to school today. The dog is fine. He’s still on the bed. Why are you yelling? At least I am awake and dressed.” (Keep in mind, no words were actually uttered by her, just the shrug...)

Sigh.

I took the dog outside in the damp cold air myself. In my bare feet. Just wearing my tee-shirt and underwear. I knew it was going to be cold and the ground was wet. My head was pounding. The dog needed to pee… and for some perverse reason, I thought the rush of cold, damp air would cure my head from the incessant pounding.

I was wrong. Now I was just cold and wet, with a throbbing headache... and I had to pee too.

I went inside. Fed the dog, emptied the dishwasher, made her breakfast and packed her lunch. (All of these things are my daughter’s responsibilities, but she is always running too late in the morning to do any of them. Somehow I think I am still teaching her a lesson by doing all these things before she even arrives in the kitchen? I know the joke is on me.)

While driving my daughter to school, I apologized for yelling at her. I quietly explained that I lose my temper when we have the same conversations over and over again. The ones like: Do your homework, pick up your wet towel off the floor, tidy your room, don’t watch TV in the shower and let the dog out... so he doesn’t pee in the house.

She stared at me rather blankly and simply said, “I accept your apology.”  

Sigh.  

So here we are a week later. I went into her room this morning and she was up and dressed, but the dog was still on the bed and had not been taken outside.  Clearly, no lesson was learned. 

I, silently, picked up the dog and took him outside for his morning business. I, then, proceeded to empty the dishwasher, feed him, make her breakfast and her lunch and finish another load of laundry.  

Clearly, no lesson was learned by me either.  

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The Definition of Mandatory

LA is on fire.

It started in Ventura County. But, 60 miles away, the hills of La Canada were on fire too. As of yesterday morning at 4:45 am, the hills of Bel-Air were on fire too. The infamous 405 freeway was closed. Fire threatened homes on both sides of the freeway... including the Getty Museum.

My husband is in LA this week. Thankfully he is safe. First thing yesterday morning, he called to tell me that my brother, whose home was in Bel-Air, is under “mandatory" evacuation. But, apparently, he was not evacuating. I immediately hung up the phone and called my brother.

He said, “Helllooo,” in a rather comical and ironic voice. I didn’t bother with any salutations. I simply said, “When you graduated from your prestigious college Magna Cum Laude, did they forget to teach you the definition of MANDATORY?”

He started laughing. (Clearly, the smoke inhalation and ash must have gotten to his brain).

I said, “Are you kidding me? You are in the MANDATORY evacuation zone. What are you waiting for?”

Let me back up here. My brother lives in a magnificent Bel-Air mansion. It looks like a 1920s French Normandy castle. It is filled with antiques from around the world and beautiful artwork. He has lived in this house for over 20 years and it is more of a museum than a cozy cottage. It’s the kind of house an eccentric old film star would live in. He treasures this home, his art and his collectibles.

He, also, has two adorable dogs and two cats. He used to have more cats, possibly four others, but they have since passed away. Although, the house is so big that I frequently accuse him of not knowing how many cats he has. They just might be lost somewhere in the house.  

I was very nervous about him, and his animals, getting to safety. But let me continue with the conversation...

He said, “Don’t worry. I’ve got the car all packed and can go at a moment’s notice.”  

I feel a small sense of relief. I said, “Oh good. The dogs are in the car and the cats are in their carriers?”  

“No." (Apparently, the dogs would be unhappy to sit in the car and he can’t find the carriers for the cats.)

"Okay, then at least you’ve packed a small suitcase with essentials, pet food, important papers and your computer?"

“No."

"You only have a two-seat sports car. What exactly is all packed up and ready to go?”

He said, “My silverware and a few other items.”

By this time, I had lost my mind. I kept saying, “MANDATORY. That does not mean at your discretion. Or a mild suggestion. Or something you might want to think about later. Mandatory. I am sure it was your on your SAT exam when you got into college. I’m fairly sure they must have used that word when you were in Law School. Mandatory. It means get the f*ck out."

But he wasn’t budging. He said that he could see the flames and they were “far enough away.” The LA County fire department had only called three times to remind him to leave, but he thought it was a good sign that no one had called in the last 45 minutes.

My dear brother has just gone from “eccentric” to “crazy."

Since he didn’t seem interested in the emergency services warnings… nor was he listening to my fifteen definitions of the word “mandatory," I tried a different tactic. I asked my brother after he dies tragically (and stupidly) in this fire, who would he like to play him in the movie about his life?

He didn’t miss a beat. “Jake Gyllenhaal.”  

My other brother, who had called in to join the last fifteen minutes of this phone call,  said, “Oh please. You’re old enough to be his grandfather.” (By the way, this is not true, but he is old enough to be his father though.  He was not pleased to be reminded of this.)

But after all of this banter, the winds did die down, and imminent danger seems to be averted for the time being. My brother, his animals, his priceless antiques, and his artwork are all safe for now.

And, upon further reflection, he decided that Catherine O’Hara would provide a more humorous portrayal of him.

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Looking for a Four-Leaf Clover

As I was waiting for my dog to “do his business” this morning, I found myself noticing all of the clovers in our grass.  I guess I was feeling like I was in need of a random stroke of luck this week, so I started looking for a four-leaf clover.  I am awaiting reactions on two of my projects from their respective networks and another one of my projects remains stuck with legal stuff. So, technically, I have three projects that I am waiting for answers on. I don’t like waiting.  I am not very good at waiting. I think I might have mentioned that I have an issue with “patience” in general...  

So there I was looking for some kind of sign. As if finding a four-leaf clover would “greenlight" my television projects? Solve all of the legal concerns on my reality show?  Or, at the very least, inspire me to write something quippy today? Do four-leaf clovers actually exist? Or are they one of those mythical Irish things like Leprechauns and pots of gold at the end of a rainbow?  Speaking of which, there was another rainbow in the sky this morning.  So maybe the veritable “pot of gold” is that I am in my own backyard, living in Hawaii, with enough time on my hands to be looking for four-leaf clovers while waiting for my dog to poop?

Unfortunately, while I was navel-gazing, rainbow watching, and clover hunting, I didn’t notice that my little dog disappeared through one of the fences (again). I didn’t see which way he went, so I went from end to end of our property and then up the street and down the street.  I was yelling his name and waving his favorite dog treats.  45 minutes later, I heard him yelping for me.  He was stuck in another neighbor’s yard and couldn’t find his way back out.  I coaxed him back through a part of the fence where the shrubbery is less dense. He had no remorse… just a big shit-eating grin.  

It started me thinking about the notion of “luck.”  Was it unlucky, while I was looking for luck, that my dog went missing (again)?  Or was it lucky that I found him unharmed and happy at the house next door?  

Perhaps “luck” is simply more about “perception.”  The glass half full vs. half empty.

I was so busy lamenting about the time I wasted looking for my dog, and how I needed to get busy working, that I couldn’t get settled to focus on my work.  So, instead, I decided to “double down” on my bad mood and call my cable company to complain about the latest increase in my monthly bill.  WARNING:  Do not try this at home... or ever.  It only leads to more aggravation.

For what it’s worth, my current cable bill is $232 per month.  Yes, this includes cable, internet, a landline, high-speed internet, a modem, a DVR and two premium cable channels.  But still.  Doesn’t that feel a tad outrageous?  I am pretty sure that was the monthly cost of sending me to UCLA as full-time student. NOT kidding.

When I finally got a customer service rep on the phone and asked about the increase, they just gave me their stock response, “Your promotional rate has expired."  I just went through this a few months ago with the cable bill for my apartment in Los Angeles, which I reduced down to the Internet only.  I still pay $84.99/month for that privilege.  Ridiculous.

But this $232 bill is not about the actual dollars. It is the principal of the situation.  How can it be that much?  Why does every category on the bill seem to repeat itself for additional charges?

There is one line item for:

TV, Digital Variety Pack, Box, Extreme Internet and Phone - $115.99

I am actually ok with this.  

But then there are additional line items:

Box w/remote - $8.45

Shouldn’t that $115.99 package that includes “box” take care of this box?

Apparently, not.

High speed internet - $20.00

My question is what is “extreme” internet, if not “high speed” internet? Then there is a rental modem. This adds up to another $30.00.

C’mon.

This went on and on. It turns out that I’m also paying an extra $5/month for one of our two DVRs to be  “enhanced.”  I don’t need “enhanced.”  I just need a “regular.” But somehow un-enhancing my DVR only saves $2/month.  It also requires me to return the equipment.  Pick up new equipment.  Set up the new equipment.  And for some crazy reason, the new DVR won’t have a clock.  So, uh, no thanks.

Four operators and an hour later, I hung up the phone. Frustrated.  Annoyed.  

I tried to find the silver lining. I go and tell my husband that we’re going to at least be saving $22.90/month because I decided to cancel HBO & Showtime. I’m feeling good that we cut the bill a little after spending an hour on the phone.  It’s something.

I thought he would be pleased with my executive decision.  My cost cutting efforts.  My restraint.  My standing up for the principle of the matter.  

But no.  Instead he said, “Why would you cancel HBO and Showtime? And why is our bill still over $200 a month?”  If looks could kill, he would be dead and buried under all of the THREE-leaf clovers in our backyard.

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Dear TIME Magazine

My husband is an avid reader.  We both are.  But we read very different things.  He loves newspapers, news magazines, history books, biographies, historical fiction, etc.

I mostly read scripts.  Well at least that’s what I read for over half my life.  When I am not reading scripts, I mostly read memoirs.  I like stories about the human condition.  People.  First person. Life.  That’s what interests me, which is probably why I write this blog.  In first person.  About life.  Mostly my life.  But just life.  

I am also obsessed with anything health related.  Science about nutrition.  Science about the brain.  Science about nutrition and the brain.  The brain/body connection.  You get it.  It’s the leftover “wanna-be” doctor in me.  But I digress.

My husband has been a long subscriber of The Economist and TIME magazine.  “The Economist” is like a foreign language to me.  I have tried to read it, but my brain just isn’t wired that way.  He reads it every week, cover to cover. Often he will read me headlines, statistics, and other factoids. I really, really try to be interested and absorb what he is telling me.  I know it's good for me... in the same way we try to get our kids to eat vegetables.

TIME, on the other hand, is slightly less of a mind-bender.  I don’t love it either, but usually there is a cover story that catches my attention.  Invariably, I will read an article or two, but then find myself annoyed that the articles are ultimately unsatisfying or contradictory from articles I have read in prior issues.

But there is one section in TIME that I have consistently loved over the years.  At the end of the magazine, there is a columnist named Joel Stein who just writes about “stuff” (in the first person).  I love his writing voice.  I love that he always makes me giggle.  I love that he is self-deprecating and feels like someone I would want to sit down and have a drink with. I love that he is a complete departure from the rest of the magazine.  

But this week, Joel Stein wrote a “goodbye letter.”  Joel Stein is leaving TIME?  Why?  This doesn’t make any sense.  Aside from the magazine covers, he’s the best part of the magazine (in my humble opinion). Joel Stein is one of those writers who inspires me to write.  About stuff.  In the first person.

So losing his column in TIME feels like a personal assault on my taste. I am truly offended. I want a recount. I want to get him his job back.  I want to keep reading Joel Stein, because we need more people who write about “stuff,” because sometimes the news is simply too much.  Sometimes the world is simply too much.  Sometimes my brain can’t take any more information on famine, and war, and poverty, and nuclear threats.  Sometimes I just need to smile, and laugh, and feel like someone is writing to me.  About stuff… in the first person.

So I am sending TIME magazine this letter.  This is unacceptable.  I am an aspiring writer and I need inspiration.  Joel Stein inspires me to keep writing.  So I need him to keep writing.

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Thanksgiving: 2017 Edition

“Twas the night before Thanksgiving” and my oldest brother called from Paris. In the middle of listening to him tell me about his $500 dinners for two, and salads that were "so delicious that they made him cry," I was over-cooking my potatoes and getting my ass-kicked in Scrabble by my husband. (The final score was 545 - 345, but I want to qualify that with the fact that I was making four different Thanksgiving dishes, cleaning the entire kitchen and talking to my brother on speakerphone during our game. My husband, on the other hand, never got up from his seat.)

Last year’s Thanksgiving was such a nail-biting (poorly planned) cooking showdown, that I was determined to be better prepared for my Thanksgiving day meal this year. I was going to get all of my dishes prepped the day before, so that I would have minimal work on the actual holiday.  But the day got away from me, and I didn’t start all of this prepping until after dinner on Wednesday night.  (Admittedly, there might have been some ranting on my part before I got started.) So there I was, Wednesday night, thinking about my brother’s mouth-watering salad, indescribable fish dishes, and all of the meals that “he couldn’t put into words,”  and adding too much milk to my garlic mashed potatoes.  Cooking really is an art form. I don’t actually know how to “cook.”  I think I basically “prepare” food.  As I listened to my brother describe his Parisian culinary delights, that became even clearer.

I was sure that my sweet potato (yam) casserole was probably going to come out sweeter than my apple pie.  My turkey meatloaf (since no one eats roasted turkey) would probably be a little dry, and that I had chopped my onions too big.

My cranberry/orange relish seemed fine. So I was hoping it would be a saving grace.

I was skipping the turkey again this year. But apparently, I am not the only one who doesn’t like roasting turkeys for Thanksgiving. Most of my island friends proudly announced that they “dropped” their turkeys off at the Imu Pit at their local church.  Apparently, this is THE biggest thing on the island to do at Thanksgiving.  IF only I had known…

I was so fussy, about not prepping my meal earlier in the day, that I ended up serving frozen pigs in a blanket and frozen macaroni and cheese for dinner. Both items were found at Target. They were full of sodium, fat, and calories. My husband wolfed everything down and said, “We should buy this again. This was delicious.” Aside from the nutritional violation, he was right. They were really delicious. But if he is just as happy with frozen food and no one on this side of the family likes traditional Thanksgiving foods, "Why was I bothering to make Thanksgiving dinner from scratch?

It was 10:30 pm by the time I washed all the pots and pans. I had four dishes ready for the oven and two dishes left to make in the morning:  Roasted Brussels sprouts… in which I used my “magic roasting pan.” (Literally you can put any vegetable in this pan, cover it with a little olive oil, and salt, and you have the perfect roasted vegetable.)  And, of course, cucumber rolls… because otherwise my youngest daughter would have eaten nothing.

In the end, after all of my bitching and complaining, the actual day of Thanksgiving was completely stress-free. I finished off my last two dishes in the morning, popped my pre-made dishes into the oven an hour before my guests came, and everything was yummy. Mission accomplished... except for that humiliating beating in Scrabble (it was his highest score ever).  

I have a bad feeling I am going to be hearing about this for many years to come.

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Photo by Caroline Walker

Advice from my teenage self

I know I should be writing about Thanksgiving today, and I will, but something else is on my mind today.

We were on our way to dinner last night when my daughter ran into a group of her friends from school. They were all coming from the beach (and earlier at the mall). You could see the look of hurt on her face.  

I remember that feeling so well. I remember junior high school cliques. I remember not being included too.  

We all do.

I’ve been thinking today about my own experiences back then.

I had a “best friend” from the 3rd to 9th grade was one of the “cool girls.” She was the one who taught me to smoke cigarettes. She was the one who dared me to kiss a boy at a party. She was the first girl I knew who shaved her legs. She was the first girl I knew who wore a bra. She was the first girl I knew who did not wear a bra (when “tube tops” became popular in the 70s). She was the one who dragged me to my first rock ‘n’ roll concert. She was the first one who got me to smoke pot (which I always hated and still do). She was popular with the girls… and the boys all thought she was “hot.” I was drawn to her like a moth to a flame. She was my “bad girl” influence. 

But she was also super judge-y and often made me feel very insecure. She was a mean girl and she was mean to me even though we were “best friends.”

After junior high, we ended up going to different high schools and eventually, we lost touch for almost twenty years. In our late 30s, she found me through early social media and reached out. After hours and hours of getting reacquainted via email and telephone, we ended up rekindling our friendship. She has been a dear and close (albeit long distance) friend ever since. We email regularly… almost as an homage to years of passing notes to each other in class.

When we first got reacquainted, she apologized for being so mean to me when we were kids. I didn’t expect an apology. Nor did I need one. But I was curious to know why she was so mean to me back then. She told me that she acted that way out of jealousy.

Really?! Didn’t see that coming. That would have been awesome information to know a couple of decades ago.

I was someone’s BFF at the expense of my own confidence, self-esteem, and point-of-view. I took a backseat to their whims, their preferences, their ideas and their opinions because they were jealous of me? Fascinating. How many times have I done this in other aspects of my life? Who else did I not stand up to, or express myself honestly to, because I felt less important, less popular, less attractive, less valuable? Did I allow other people in my life to treat me poorly for the same reason?  

But my friend said she was jealous of me because “I always had my sh*t together.” That’s not exactly the way I remember it. My mother had died and my father was absent... a lot. I often felt lonely, and like most pre-teens, I felt awkward and unsure of myself. I felt like my frizzy hair and my shapeless body were the essence of my very existence. The only thing I had was the “gift of gab” and I was driven to do well in school. I just didn’t know how the rest of my life was going to turn out.  When you’re that age, you often feel kind of hopeless and not in control of your own destiny.

In spite of that, I found my path. Not a linear path… and certainly not an easy one. But, in some ways, it turned out even better than I imagined. I survived my disappointments, my rejections and my heartbreaks. As for my childhood best friend, she has become my pen pal, my confidant and, in many ways, my most reliable and trusted friend over the last 15 years. I am so grateful to have her back in my life every day.

If only I could have known back then, what I know now?

So today, as I find myself questioning my future in a very similar way to the way I did when I was younger, I’m going to give myself the advice that I didn’t have back then.

Do NOT be worried because you feel uncertain of your future.

Do NOT be worried because you are uncertain of how you will make a living next year.

Do NOT be worried because you are unsure if your blog is reaching enough people.

Do NOT be worried because people you love are hurting.

Do NOT be worried because you feel helpless to help them.

Do NOT be worried because you are doubting your ability as a producer.

Do NOT be worried because you are doubting yourself as a writer.

Do NOT be worried because this work is hard.

Do NOT be worried because you are uncertain of what to write next.

Do NOT be worried because your neck is stiff and your shoulder is achy.

Do NOT be worried because you feel blue today.  

Be Patient.

Be Positive.

Be Confident.

Be Open.

Be Available.

Be Happy.

Be Yourself.

Be Honest.

Behold.  Something great is coming.

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Feeling Gloomy

It’s a gloomy day today.  Drizzling on and off. I am listening to Jazz music, trying to find some solace, but it’s not coming.  I got a lot of bad news last week.  

One of my friends is suffering from terrible depression and anxiety.  Although she has battled with it before, the last six months she had made an incredible breakthrough. She started feeling really good again, dating, working, traveling and feeling hopeful for the first time in a long time.  But a few weeks ago, it started to creep back.  First slowly and manageably.  Now relentlessly and less manageably.  Work is becoming overwhelming for her.  Her dating life has suddenly come to a halt.  Her energy is so low that getting out of bed is difficult.  Her appetite has diminished.  I am trying to help her, but I feel like I am too far away to have an impact. I feel her sadness.

Tuesday I got the terrible news that a friend of mine has breast cancer.  She is in her late 40s and has two little kids. I know a lot of breast cancer survivors, but this still hit me hard.  Maybe because she’s younger than me.  Maybe because she’s slightly older than my mom was when she was diagnosed.  Maybe because she had to tell her two little kids. Two little kids that are around the same age I was when my mom told me she had cancer.  Maybe because she is also Jewish, Type A, a big executive and we are so much alike. It resonates profoundly with me on every level. I ache for her and her children.  

Wednesday my Dad went to the hospital.  He is 90-years old and has survived his own cancer, surgery and radiation this year.   He’s in good spirits and they are only keeping him for more observation.  But this too has made me sad.

So this week, I just feel gloomy and sad.  It’s not even my sadness.  It’s a collective sadness for people that I love.  Things I can’t control.  Things that are inevitable and impermanent, but things that bring me profound sadness nonetheless.  

So I think I will take my helplessness and channel it to a prayer for my friends and to my dad who are all struggling today.

I feel your sadness and I want so desperately to make it disappear.

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Chasing Rainbows

This morning, as I was driving my daughter to school, there was a particularly spectacular rainbow in front of us.  Since I was driving the car, in the rain, in traffic, I couldn’t reach for my phone to snap a picture.  But I thought, “Once I drop her off, I will be able to pull over and get a great photo."

The rainbow was so clear.  It was a full one, from end to end.  But just as I pulled into the carpool line, the clouds opened up... and water just dumped out of the sky. The rainbow was gone.

I thought, “It will be sunny on the other side of the highway. I could get my photo over there. We’re only talking about a few extra minutes of driving.”  

It was sunny on the other side of the highway, but dark clouds had erased the beautiful rainbow. So I thought, “I will drive around and find a different perspective.  There must be another one.  Maybe even a bigger one. A better one?” I drove around for another 10 minutes but there were no rainbow in sight.  I thought to myself… “Am I literally chasing rainbows?”

I needed to get home to start prepping tomorrow’s dinner.  I am having a very small Thanksgiving this year, but that’s what I said last year. I ended up waiting until the last minute and I was sweating bullets trying to get it all done.  So this year, I promised myself that I would get a head start on it.  

But I’d really rather be out chasing rainbows for awhile longer...

(As it turns out, my daughter had actually snapped the picture I had been hoping to get.)

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