Sunday, January 31, 2010

10 in '10

I'm going to put on my Oprah hat for this post and tell you about some things I've recently discovered that I think are great. 2010 has definitely been all about learning. Learning how to eat, learning how to read again, learning how to practice putting myself first, learning how to love unconditionally, learning how to enjoy my time - with and without Ben, learning how to survive as a single parent, learning how to live and to love without conditions and expectations. Here's what's helping me on my year-long journey:

1.) 150 of the Healthiest Foods on Earth by Johnny Bowden
I love this book! I love this eating philosophy and I love how I feel when I'm using the foods in the book for my meals and snacks. I can't say enough good things about how the information is presented, how easy it is to follow and how great I feel with all the changes I've made as a result of the book.

2.) The Mood Cure by Julia Ross
A friend of mine who is a therapist recommended this book and it's taken me weeks to order it. I'm kicking myself for taking so long to pick up this amazing resource. Julia Ross is a ground-breaking therapist who has discovered the importance of amino acids in all areas of wellness: mental, physical and emotional. The Mood Cure plays perfectly into The 150 Healthiest Foods and goes a step further to address issues such as stress, anxiety, depression, lack of productivity and a host of other emotional conditions. I'm learning so much about the essential amino acids - and what happens when they aren't integrated into our diets. There's a more extensive blog post in the works on this incredible information.

3.) Plan B, Further Thoughts On Faith by Anne Lamott
I've read all of Anne Lamott's books. I can't say that Plan B is my favorite but it was sitting on a counter in a thrift store in New York and for fifty cents, I thought it would be a good re-read. After finishing it for a second time, I'm thinking of taking a third crack at it; this time with my highlighter. Anne Lamott has this amazing gift of taking spirituality and making it ever so real. I love her for her funny style of writing and also for her humble approach to life. Oh, and did I mention that she's a single mom? She tells wild stories of her son and of single parenting, some of which I find hysterical; others I find terrifying. Anne Lamott has been a family favorite for years; both my sister and my mom delight in her books, as do I. She rocks.

4.) Rue La La -
This month's been kinda heavy with big decisions, sleepless nights, and too many migraines (along with a cold!). So I've found a guilty pleasure that has a dynamic feed of super current fashion trends. Rue La La features a designer each day and items are listed at deep discounts. Of course, paying over $50 for anything is not really my thing but it's fun to see what's coming up each day on the site and dream that I could actually pull off over-the-knee boots and super skinny Rock and Republic jeans. In Sacramento.

5.) The Fairest -
Similar to Rue La La, The Fairest features day-long "sales" on high-end cosmetics and skin care. I haven't seen anything yet that's caught my eye but with my obsession over affordable lip stick and eye shadow, it's going to be hard to resist the temptation to add to make-up collection!

6.) Online radio that's WAY better than Pandora -
Pandora was seriously ticking me off at the end of the year. Do they ever change their selections of artists? Why do they play Christmas music in October? And why are there so many commercials? I use online radio for all my home client sessions and was thrilled to find Last. fm. This new station features so many artists - many of whom I've never even heard! When I don't have a client, I'm constantly plugged into James Blunt radio and it might be the greatest thing since sliced bread. My clients like Enya radio, Il Divo radio, and Counting Crows radio. I like that I don't have to charge up my MP3 and attempt to play DJ all day. I also like that I can listen as much as I want without paying anything (unlike Pandora).

7.) Church
I went back to church this month after a 2 month sabbatical and after a phase of being totally "faithless." I'll save you the details of my ugly anger toward God and jump right into my "re-entry." It happened last Saturday night and it was pretty fantastic. I always ask myself why I go away from church when it makes me feel so good. I know that organized religion isn't for everyone, but it IS for me. On Saturday night, the Dean of our church asked me why I come. Waving my hand through the empty cathedral (we were talking after the service), I said, "I don't get this anywhere else. Not from yoga, from shopping, from friends, from family. THIS is my place to feel good." It's true. My spiritual tank was on serious fumes; it was that empty. Part of my own learning is not letting it get that low again. I feel so much better, I really do.

8.) Netflix
I am turning into such a cable junkie with late night marathons of "Weeds," "United States of Tara," "Mad Men," "Big Love," and "Californication." Each of these shows is brilliant in its own rite and I am forever grateful for Netflix and the ability to watch countless episodes in one sitting on my own computer. I am particularly captivated with "Mad Men," laughing out loud at "Californication" and wanting "Weeds" to go on forever and ever.

9.) Acer Internet Computer
A friend gave me his barely used Acer Internet laptop and I love it! The portability is great; I carry the little computer around from room to room, playing my James Blunt radio and I have great visions of sitting at Old Soul Coffee for hours on end, writing a novel or memoir or maybe just a couple of blog posts. I will say that the keyboard has taken some getting used to. Because the computer is so small, the keyboard is the perfect size for say, a 6-year-old. But fortunately for me, the 6-year-old is so engrossed in his new Nintendo that he has no interest in playing on my laptop anymore.

10.) Raw honey
Ending on a sweet note. We are on a raw honey kick. I read that raw honey is much better than any other sweetener and it even makes the "150 Approved Foods" list. I bought a small jar at Whole Foods and explained the difference between the "squeeze bear" and solid honey to Ben. Surprisingly, Ben loved the raw honey. Not surprisingly, so did I. I put it in my coffee, in my tea, in plain yogurt, on toast and give spoon fulls to Ben when he wants something sweet. My next challenge is to bake with it.

In the short span of just four weeks, I've learned more than I ever wanted to know about the business of short sales, loan modifications, and gently parting ways with your live-in mother. I've learned that mourning a lost client - or three - only makes me feel worse and that a new client is always right around the corner. Two friendships have really crystallized recently, showing me that true friends can help you get through anything.

And of course, having all the above little "extras" in my life is just the icing on an already pretty darn good cake!

Monday, January 25, 2010

Taken In

Once upon a time, I had a family. A family that consisted of myself, a husband, a son and a dog. We had dinners together, we walked the beaches of Maui, we browsed Costco. We went out for impromptu frozen yogurt and we went out with friends. We walked the dog.

We definitely had "traditional" roles, my husband and I. He paid the bills, fixed things in our home and handled lawn and yard maintenance. He also went to work. A lot. I planned meals, cooked, grocery shopped and kept things "within" the house running. I think I did pretty well as a housewife. It was definitely a role I never thought I'd have, but I found that I enjoyed the responsibility of being the epicenter of the family. I returned to work briefly when Ben was 3 months old and I immediately missed the grounding and the stability that being at home offered. So I quit and went back to cooking meals that I thought my family would enjoy, making my own baby food and thinking that I could always be fulfilled if my family was around me.

And then it all fell apart.

Hello divorce. Goodbye family.

People ask me all the time if I regret the split from my ex. The answer is no. But that's not to say that I don't miss the joy that being in a family gave me.

Don't get me wrong. We had our issues, as a family (obviously). My ex wasn't around much. I coveted the time when we was here. I felt like those were our best times. I started to resent the time when he was away. Even when we were a family, there were many days and nights that were lonely for me. I always said that if we had more time together, perhaps our outcome would have been much, much different.

But it wasn't.

I genuinely long to be part of a family again. I know Ben does too. On most nights, I'm throwing dinner at him - and it's certainly a long ways from the homemade items he had as a toddler - while running out the door and turning over the evening responsibilities to my mother so that I can work.

If anything makes me sad about divorce, it's the loss of family. I would like nothing more than to sit down each night to a good dinner and talk about our respective days. I know it sounds old-fashioned and unrealistic, but it's the way that I grew up and I see many strong families who still follow this tradition.

Like my friend Kathie's family. She's a busy mom to three boys who are under the age of six. She has no family help. She is always changing a diaper or wiping away tears or issuing time-outs. But she still makes time to assemble her family for dinner and put out a meal that might not be homemade, but at least has some semblance of good nutrition.

Ben loves going to Kathie's house because her oldest son, E, has been his buddy since birth. They are two months apart and they are two peas in a pod. It is heartwarming to watch them play (even when E says, "Hey Ben, do ya want to be my master?" To which Ben answers, "Yes!).

We've been going to Kathie's for dinner "play dates" since the kids were babies. Even when I was a part of a family, Kathie could sense my feelings of being disconnected - when Ben's dad was away - and she would have us over. She referred to Ben as "Brother Ben" when he was a baby. I loved that.

Ben, I think, is grieving his loss over being a family in his own 6-year-old way. He cries when we leave a play date with E. He asks why E can't live with us all the time. He tells me that no toys are as "good" as his play time with other children. It's kinda heartbreaking.

So imagine Ben's delight of being able to spend a weekend day each week, during January, at Kathie's. I had a great rotation schedule in January. Each weekend was mine with Ben. No school, no work, no other commitments except to be together. Which left plenty of time for Ben to ride is new Rip Rider with E and for me to sink into the warmth and the comfort of my good friend's family.

The first Saturday we went to Kathie's, Ben cried when it was time to leave. It wasn't a tantrum kind of cry; it was the kind of cry that came from the sheer disappointment and sadness over having to leave. His tears caused Kathie and me to both cry. Kathie told him that he could come back whenever he wanted. So we took her up on it!

Ben would tell you that the highlights of this month were his times at E's house. When were are at their house, Kathie and her husband envelop us in their routine. And we both love it. Even when the kids are crying, a sippy cup is spilling, or bickering is starting between Kathie and her husband, a strong sense of family overrides the chaos. When I'm there, the walls between "single mom" and the rest of the world are gone; we belong. We're taken care of, accepted and loved up to no end.

I'll always cherish our times at Kathie's and her wonderful way of helping Ben to feel like he's one of her own. What better gift could a friend give?

Friday, January 22, 2010

Worth Repeating

I love my friends and my clients. They say the funniest and the most poignant things.

It has been raining - can I use the expression "cats and dogs" without sounding like I'm 85? - all freakin' week. Everyone - and everything - is wet, wet, wet. My BFF, Kathie, while shuttling her three little boys around in the nasty elements, said it best: "This weather makes EVERYONE look older!" I had to repeat that one about 30 times all week, as I ran from class to clients to clients to class, looking, well, a few years older myself.

Then there's K, my weekly Wednesday client. She's an old friend (yikes, there's that word again!), we have a lot of laughs in her session, mostly about men and dating and marriage. We were discussing the problems associated with being single in Sacramento, which is quite a lengthy list but we'll start with the basic issue. As K says, "There are 10 single women to every single man in this town." She went on to say, "You pretty much have to catch one the day he files. Otherwise he's gone. Hang out on the court steps from now on." Brilliant. I just hope it's not as stormy when I do.

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Gingerbread Demolition 101

If the gingerbread house is still standing in January and if your child is incessantly whining for "just one more bite" of the hard, stale candy and frosting - and refusing to allow you to throw it away - it's time to take serious action. Here's what I recommend:

1. Grab several trash bags, tear them apart and cover a very large surface of your floor.

2. Find a hammer.

3. Place the gingerbread house in the center of the trash bags.

4. Call the child into the room and watch said child's eyes widen.

5. Give the hammer to the child. Watch eyes widen some more.

6. Stand back. WAY back.*

7. Tell the child to "go to town, don't hold back at all, crush that gingerbread house!"

8. Bask in the glory of being "the coolest mom ever" then get the vacuum cleaner out and proceed to vacuum up bits of candy and frosting for days.

*In case you're wondering, Molly the dog looked on through this entire process (see above) and even ignored several chunks of gingerbread that flew her way. We're not entirely convinced that she's a Lab. Or a dog, for that matter.

Monday, January 18, 2010

Vacation and Rip Riding: Ben Spells It Out For Me

Ben and I were at Peet's on Saturday. As I drank my Americano, the following conversation took place:

Me: "Sweetie, do you still want to go to Legoland this summer? Does that sound like fun? We can take the car, you can play your Nintendo, we'll stop to see Mommy's friends in Pasadena, it'll be sooooooo great! What do you think?"

Ben: "MOMMY! You are not listening to me AT ALL this weekend. I told you, ALL I WANT TO DO IS RIDE MY RIP RIDER WITH L. That's ALL. That's it. I don't want to talk about ANYTHING else!!!"

Then he stretched his arms up and let out the most exasperated sigh you've ever heard. I think he stared at me for like, 3 minutes, while I grabbed my camera:

Call me a pessimist but I think his dad could have saved thousands of dollars by forgoing his trip with Ben to the Amalfi Coast next month and just scheduling a few play dates with the neighborhood kids and a couple of Rip Riders. Really, throw some Ragu on the stove, boil up some gnocchi, pour a little Chianti and manga. Case in point that my son wants to be a 6-year-old kid, not an international world traveler.

I'm just saying...

PS. I'm going to stare at this picture every day that he is gone. It's already my screen saver and I'm showing it to every client who comes into my home. I got it on this shot...I really did; it is SOOOOO Ben!

P. P. S. Shelley, my son's happiness is clearing attached to scheduling this highly anticipated Rip Riding event with your daughter. I know you're reading this. Call me.

Sunday, January 17, 2010

This About Sums It Up

For an entire month, I had a hate-hate relationship with the Christmas tree lights. The only "bright spot" - no pun intended - in the task of stripping the tree of its tangled lines of faulty lights, was this realization:

My life isn't (quite) as messy as this. Yet.

I could also add that this task was the precursor to the expansion of my son's vocabulary, but fortunately, he was too preoccupied with his Nintendo to eavesdrop on the ocean of obscenities that I unloaded!

Friday, January 15, 2010

Good Enough to Warrant Two Posts

I haven't been blogging much lately for a number of reasons, mostly because I've been trying to spend more time OFF the computer and IN the "real" world and my own "real" world happens to include a lot of reading material.

There is one book that has captivated me beyond words and I am encouraging all my family, friends and clients to read it immediately. I wrote about it here - - and am again going to sing the praise of the author, Johnny Bowden, and his book, "150 Healthiest Foods," on this blog.

Having lost 60+ pounds since high school, I've been no stranger to diets and eating plans. But I've never lost site of the notion that real, "live" food is the best way to go, for the purposes of managing weight and being healthy overall. Johnny Bowden takes this philosophy to heart and hones in on exactly what we should be eating.

Now that I know which foods are the absolute best, in terms of their nutrients, I'm not wasting time and money on anything processed. It just doesn't make sense. There is so much value in eating simply, locally and reasonably. Do something great for yourself and your family and order this book. I promise, you won't be disappointed!

Here's to vitality in 2010!

Friday, January 1, 2010

The Perfect Message On New Year's Day

My lovely friend, Michelle, taught a New Year's yoga class this morning. At the close of the class, she read a poem that spoke volumes to me. When I told her how very much I resonated with the poem, she admitted she'd thought of me when she selected it as a reading for the class. I felt my heart warm. How wonderful is it when a friend can look at your struggles, your challenges, your dreams...and provide something so beautiful, so fitting, so perfect?

Thank you, Michelle, for your years of friendship. For your confidence. For your spirit that wraps itself around me like the warmest imaginable embrace, for your hugs - that are plentiful and spontaneous, for your wisdom, for your eloquence, for being an enigma, an inspiration and a God-like friend. You are a gift to everyone you touch.

For everyone else, there's this, compliments of Michelle:

The House of Belonging
I awoke
this morning
in the gold light
turning this way
and that
thinking for
a moment
it was one
like any other.
the veil had gone
from my
darkened heart
and I thought
it must have been the quiet
that filled my room,
it must have been
the first easy rhythm
with which I breathed
myself to sleep,
it must have been
the prayer I said
speaking to the otherness
of the night.
I thought
this is the good day
you could meet your love,
this is the black day
someone close
to you could die.
This is the day
you realize
how easily the thread
is broken
between this world
and the next
and I found myself
sitting up
in the quiet pathway
of light,
the tawny
close grained cedar
burning round
me like a fire
and all the angels of this housely
heaven ascending
through the first
roof of light
the sun has made.
This is the bright home
in which I live,
this is where
I ask
my friends
to come,
this is where I want
to love all the things
it has taken me so long
to learn to love.
This is the temple
of my adult aloneness
and I belong
to that aloneness
as I belong to my life.
There is no house
like the house of belonging.
~ David Whyte ~