Sunday, February 26, 2012

Medicine Buddha

I have been sidelined - exhausted, depleted, game over. I'm not even being that drama. And this was not looking like a place of rejuvenation this morning.

After the kids returned from their dad's, we started into our usual debate about where we were going for Sunday lunch with lots of "Fine! I just won't eat anything!" and "She always gets her way!" And then it hit me.

Girls, we're going to the Land of Medicine Buddha. Violet made a face, "I hate Chinese food!" It's not a restaurant but great idea. We're getting Chinese food, and then we're going to this beautiful place. You're not even going to believe it.

We started at the Wish Fulfilling Temple.

The kids were surprised, "What is this place?" They asked me about the people's pictures and names engraved on boxes in rows at the back of the temple, and I explained that it was people's ashes. Daisy was quiet for a couple minutes before deciding, "Mom, when you're dead. I'm bringing you here to your favorite place. You're going to love it, Mom." Sure, but don't kill me off yet, alright? The kids and I took a minute to think about our wishes - I focused on healthy and happy family - and we left a scarf offering.

As we were standing in the temple, people started streaming in, dropping to the ground to pray. Turns out, there was a gathering of Tibetan expatriots there today in traditional dress with monks chanting and incense burning and bells and everything. Awesome.

The kids were a little uncomfortable when we first started checking out the trails and steep paths through the trees, like we weren't supposed to be there, but after we found the first prayer wheel and I convinced them no one was going to yell at us if we played with it, they totally got into it.

At each shrine we came across, we left coins and the kids added flowers and acorns and even a bracelet we found on the ground.

There was absolutely no drama until we had to walk back up the hill to where we parked.

Right before we got back to the car, I asked Violet what she thought about the place, and she gave it a thumbs up, "I really like the soup."

Daisy corrected her, "You didn't have soup here. That was at Golden Buddha."

"Oh yeah."

Saturday, February 25, 2012

Windy Night

Rundown and without exercise for too many days, I was psyched after my Zappo's order arrived yesterday WITH new running shoes, which I haven't bought since running shoes were made differently. And you know what, the shoes feel exactly like butter. Plus, they sync up with my phone for all kinds of mandatory info. I had to exercise tonight, not that I figured out the phone part yet.

So what if it was 10:00 p.m. before I got away from my work and out of the apartment? I strapped on my awesome amazing shoes and headed for the coast. My walk-run route takes me past bars and restaurants, and on a weekend night, I tend to feel a little self-conscious in my sweats around the slick - and sometimes slimey - party people. But tonight, I was especially fast in my new shoes, so I wasn't too worried about it.

Anyway, I stopped on the cliffs at the coast to listen to the waves below. And, without warning, things got crazy windy. Like objects-flying-off-houses windy. It was dark and cold, and I was alone on a Friday night, and soon, I would be passing back by all the bar and restaurant patrons having fun like normal people on my way home to return to work. And really, there's a lot for me to be sad about. My life sucks!

I tried to retrain my focus on something more positive, but the wind was howling. I resorted to keeping my head down. A few blocks later, I noticed a tall shadowy figure walking in the opposite direction on the opposite side of the street, jabbering away at himself erratically. The thing about my town is there are usually not a lot of people on the street, but interactions can get intense. People get in your space.

I kept one eye on Crazy as I passed him from across the street then put my head back down; my eyes were watering from all the random stuff being blown around in the wind. Startled, I heard something, and turned around, expecting to see Crazy. Instead, it was a different man, a black man with a pleasant face wearing a backpack and beanie. I would guess he was about my age. He started walking right next to me on the sidewalk, his steps falling into rhythm with my steps. What did I tell you about people in my town getting in your space?

He asked me how my day had been. Tense and wanting him to step away at first, I responded with a sharp "Good!" but it sounded kind of German in my abruptness, like "Goot!" He commented on the wind and how it had been sunny and still all day. His voice was soothing, and he had a slow smile. As I listened to him talk, I relaxed, and we walked for several blocks. He told me the weather reminded him of Chicago, where he was from, then went on to describe in detail the icy wind that could blow you over in various scenarios. I wondered what his story was and where he was headed  alone on a Friday night with his backpack but didn't ask. There are always backpack roamers in my town, who arrive at the Greyhound station from all over the country, escaping their problems and gaining new ones. I wondered if he was a roamer. I told him I thought night wind was creepy, which silenced him for at least a block.

When it was time for me to turn down my street, I told him to have a nice night. He stopped and politely thanked me for the walk and conversation before continuing on his way.

I love me a kind stranger moment. Tonight, when I was feeling a little sad and scared during a windy night, someone walked with me and reminded me it could be worse. Nice.

Saturday, February 18, 2012

Grammys for Family Healing

The night of the Grammys, I made a point of sitting down with my kids in front of the TV. This is the type of show we can bond over now - the more sparkly glam, the better. I'm going to enjoy our mainstream music stage as long as it lasts. And when it's over in a few years, I'll be like: I always knew we were listening to sellouts! What are we listening to now, girls? And they'll be like: Mom, you're so cool! Not.

Anyway, maybe Daisy's already starting to question mainstream music. She certainly did not think much of Maroon 5's performance, exclaiming, "These guys are nerds!" She caught herself for a moment, "But there's beauty in everyone, right Mom?" before concluding, "Still, they're terrible." I have to say she has a point. I used to listen to their music until I watched a live performance.

When Rihanna came on, Violet was pumped, "I love this song - We all live in a homeless space!" Daisy and I couldn't stop giggling for a while, even though I was kind of looking around the apartment, wondering if it felt kind of homeless in here.

My girls love love Katie Perry, and my mother even bought her album because they do a group dance routine to Firework, I kid you not. Then my mother listened to the rest of the album and discovered how not appropriate Katie's songs are for kids. For example, I would rather not be asked about what a menage-a-trois is by my children, and that on a song with endless radio play. Still, I couldn't resist using Katie as a role model of some kind . . . Girls, Katie Perry is just getting divorced too! Violet, suitably impressed, replied, "Wow. She's divorced and we are too!"

Adele's another favorite, and as she was belting out, "We could have had it all!" or something similar that sounds exactly the same, Violet wanted to know what she was singing about. Never one to pay attention to celebrity gossip, I explained, "Well, she liked this one guy, and he married someone else. So she was sad. But now, she's not really sad anymore. She likes some other guy. Violet's head popped off my lap to block my view of the TV, "What about us? Is there going to be a new one?"

A new what?

"A stepdad!" Both girls stared back at me, tense and upright.

No, I'm not ready for a stepdad.

"Me neither!" they chimed in unison, relaxing back into my lap.

Later, during the Whitney tribute, Daisy wanted to know how she died.

I don't know, but it's really sad. (Tears - I can't help it.)

"It's OK, Mom . . . but she should have putted her hair different."

I'll tell you about the 80s another time.

"Nevermind. It shows what it's about. The girl's sick. It's fake."

Tuesday, February 14, 2012


Daisy was awesome in helping her younger sister prepare something like 30 individually-addressed valentines last night. But before that, Daisy mentioned she had one last thing to take care of. I didn't notice her stack of handmade valentines until after she went to bed.


I love the:

Good tim
es valentine.

It's addressed to a kid who's been in her classs for 3 out of 4 years since preschool. Those are good times.

Monday, February 13, 2012

Happy Birthday Ms.Quinn!

Quinn turned 40 on Sunday!

Ten years ago, I threw a backyard Mardi Gras party for Quinn's 30th. I became possessed by the party mission. Cooking cajun for a large crowd - sugar snap peas, chicken in a roux, jambalaya - after almost never cooking anything ever. Filling the little house I shared with my new husband at the time with purple, green and gold balloons, streamers, and beads. Apparently, creating an obscene version of pin-the-tail-on-the-donkey, although I don't remember that part. And, there was a windy rainstorm that led to a last-minute tent rental and a swamp in the little kitchen to go with the platters of cajun food.
But that was so turning 30. Now, we're 40. Quinn threw her own party in her new home in Novato. There was a chili bar and chocolate cake shots, no rain, very few husbands, but there was Jenga. There were also some very un-Jenga like moments, but I think I'll leave that puppy alone.
Because I've got something even better: Classic Quinn Moments.
I've been waiting for a special time to bring these out, and no way will I release them all, because you never know when you might need a fresh one to cheer people up. This is just a sample to celebrate my friend Quinn who is really everyone's friend. For years, I have been at gatherings of all kinds, silently standing with Quinn, as she talks to every new person in the general area. I'm always waiting to be like . . . wasn't that one new person totally annoying? And she's always like . . . No, that person's great! I like everyone! So, you can see why she's especially good to have around.
Our friend Corina used to be with a guy from Ireland who was part of a gaggle of dudes with incomprehensible Irish brogues. Quinn was one of the only brave souls I knew who would sit with them at parties and try to carry on a conversation. And believe me, she didn't know what they were saying either. She once told them, "I f*** my boyfriend," when they asked her what she did for a living. She was convinced they wanted to know what she did for loving. And you know that if you have a question for Quinn, she will keep it real when she can. Those guys were huge Quinn fans.
Quinn also has an innate talent for slapstick. Like when she was standing behind one of her brothers during his wedding ceremony in front of a packed house. She might have been crying when she somehow managed to sneeze out a gigantic snot bomb that splattered across her dress and onto her brother that was too significant to ignore. She had to mop it up, and am I making this up, or did it actually bring the ceremony to a halt?
If I'm exaggerating about the last one, I know she stopped a show in Hawaii once. She was there for a friend's wedding and arrived the night of the bachelor/bachelorette party. She met up with the bride and her friends, all strangers to Quinn. I know she went in with enthusiasm, offering to buy drinks for the ladies she was just meeting, bringing the party vibe that you might assume would be welcome in such a situation. The ladies' reactions were limp at best. They turned out to be super into marathons and working out and carb loading or god knows what else. They weren't really into hanging out in bars or talking to Quinn about things that normal people talk about.
The ladies petered, and those that weren't homeward bound decided to join the bachelor party, which was in a strip club. Quinn, relieved, went right up and sat with the groom-to-be as his friends paid for extra dances and such. Quinn, always the good sport, asked her buddy what he might enjoy in the form of exotic entertainment, and he leaned over to whisper a somewhat unusual request that seemed harmless enough to Quinn. She approached the stage, and one of the dancers leaned down to find out what she wanted. When Quinn told her, the dancer brought the room to a standstill by flipping out and calling Quinn out for her "sick" request.
Quinn, mortified, retreated to sit by herself at the bar. You know those marathon bitches didn't offer more than a disapproving stare. One of the guys from the wedding party approached Quinn with something like, "All I want to know is what you just said to her."
That's how awesome Quinn is. She's friendly, honest - I would even say wholesome - yet you never know when she might get raw.

Sunday, February 5, 2012

Puppy Bowl VIII

The girls and I invited neighbors Violet once called Our Other Best Friends From Level 8 over for the big game - Puppy Boooowl! There was a lot of hype before our impromptu party. We didn't even know Level 8 was up on the Puppy Bowl lineups.

Violet loves Level 8 and her son, but she was hoping for a bigger turnout. After Violet posted directions on our door for everyone else in the complex to join, Daisy worried that random people might walk into the apartment. Level 8 and I explained that strangely, Puppy Bowl was not a big draw. And besides, the directions were a little vague.

During the game, there was a lot of Oooh! That's my favorite puppy! . . . leading to more posters.

Truth is Puppy Bowl is boring. Just like last year, I was shocked by how boring something can be with honest-to-god puppies. As Level 8 admitted post hype, there's no plot. Exactly, which is why our party involved people not watching Puppy Bowl, though Daisy and Sadie hung in pretty well.

Neither Level 8 nor I knew who was playing in the actual Super Bowl. I really should have known at least one of the teams - but where do people keep their football information? I have not found a good place for it yet.

What do you think about Fumble - he's FunBole in our home - scoring the first two touchdowns of Puppy Bowl for 2012 MVP? I know there's a lot of talk around Aberdeen's four touchdowns in the third quarter, but can you really say that Aberdeen played with as much heart?

Saturday, February 4, 2012

Growing Girls

I once bought a book called Growing a Girl. Never read it - books and babies don't mix - but I loved the sound of that when my daughters were squishy little beans, not long from the beanpod, when holding, feeding and changing just about did it. Now, I'm Jack standing in front of his overgrown beanstalk with those two, wondering how to dial it back a bit.

Daisy's having social challenges at school. She can be perceptive, sensitive, and expressive about feelings, sometimes painfully so, just like her mama. But what's not like her mama, and why I'm kind of scratching my head trying to figure out how to help her, is that she's a true extrovert. Spending time with her is to hear her thinking because she is so incredibly vocal. It's only people I trust who know how neurotic I can be, and lucky for me, there are a lot of mofos I don't trust. With Daisy, she has the added compulsion to constantly vocalize her authentic feelings, sometimes to an entire class of third graders.

The kid learned her parents were divorcing a little over a year ago, so it's not surprising that she hasn't been her most calm and resilient self at school. I understand why she clings to BFF and maybe a few other holdouts from the preschool years during recess instead of making new friends in her class. And I know that in the long run, she'll be able to harness her unique mix of sensitivity and capacity for expression to achieve something that matters to her. But for now, she is struggling and vulnerable.

Violet too is struggling, but for the most part, she struggles at home or when she has to leave home and always with her mama. She tells me almost every morning before kindergarten, "I just want to be abshent. How come all the other kids get to be abshent?" She cries a lot and faces the world with the emotional equivalent of clenched fists until she loses it. The other morning Violet's father and I were practically kneeling in front of her, trying to get her off to school during an unusually complicated morning handoff. Violet started to sob when she realized it was daycare day. With tears spilling over eyelashes, she screeched, "People are mean to me dere!" You're only there once a week! Who's mean to you? Nailing a sarcastic tone that would make a teenager proud, she snapped back, "UM..." before listing the oh-so-obvious mean people to her dumbshit parents, and yes, her sister was on the list.

Growing girls is complicated.