Thursday, August 18, 2011

The Beach, The Whale and The Escape Artists

Ben and I just returned home from a long weekend in Santa Cruz with my mom, my sister and my brother-in-law.

It was a great time. We had really good food, amazing weather and lots of belly clutching laughs, mostly at the expense of my mother and her choice of accommodations which my sister and I swore never to talk about.

We spent our second afternoon at Twin Lakes Beach. Gorgeous location. Perfect area for Ben to wade and swim and dig.

Prior to the trip, I scoured the greater Sacramento area for beach umbrellas. At this last moment, I scored two - deeply discounted - and I told everyone that they could thank me later for protected skin. So, with my two umbrellas and my SPF 110, we were set.

Except that I only sprayed the SPF stuff on Ben and instead of sitting under the umbrella, I sat kinda to the right of it.

I never want to see that shade of red on my skin again. I wore a jean jacket for the rest of the trip and winced out loud every time I took a shower. That's how bad it was.

On our third day, we drove north of Santa Cruz and my mom and I took Ben on a walk up the bike path. It was breathtaking. I was so in awe of the view that I nearly jumped out of my skin when I heard the sound of a blow hole from beneath the drop-off next to us. Ben's eyes widened and he exclaimed, "It's a WHALE!" I love this age. I love it, love it.

Monday night at the Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk is the time to go: most rides are $1.00. Ben's not a fan of rides, in general, but he did point out the "Fright Walk" on the Boardwalk web site and he asked me over and over, during the course of the weekend, when we might go. And so, that is why, against my better judgement, I entered that damn thing with Ben in tow.

It was pitch black. Skeletons and goblins and all sorts of bloody creatures jumped out at every turn.

Do I need to tell you that Ben was a mess? Just a few feet into the dark hallway and I knew we were screwed. Not even the light from my phone could illuminate the way as my terrified child clung to me and screamed bloody murder.

For any parent who is stupid enough to take their tentative child into a haunted house, I offer these two words to you: Emergency Exit.

Ben and I sprinted the short distance to the door, flung it open and found ourselves in the middle of some kind of employee lounge. At the other end of the Boardwalk.

I will say this: that Fright Walk is one long adventure. You certainly get your money's worth.

The only way to redeem the night was to take Ben to laser tag and actually play with him. I never thought I'd have so much fun strapping on a heavy vest and chasing down 10-year-olds and I have to say, I think I'm hooked.

We came home the night before school started and this I do not recommend at all. I did have the foresight to have one of Ben's ink tattoos placed on his shoulder so that he could keep it for school but the giant, black skull on his forearm had to go.

Not only did I not purchase any shirts, or shoes for the lad, I also did not have requisite school supplies ready nor did I cut his long and unkempt hair.

But I do have the whale story.

Thursday, August 11, 2011

Put It Down

One of my yoga teachers offers this instruction at the start of every class:
"Put it down. Put it all down; the thoughts, the chatter, everything."

Oh, if it were only that easy.

I've been trying, though, to put it down if even for a few seconds every day.

My best opportunity for this is in the early morning. These days, I'm waking up super early (don't even ask) and starting my day with the requisite email check and facebook review, followed by some reading in my meditation book. I even write in my gigantic journal.

After that, I'm generally awake enough to roll out my yoga mat and practice for 30 or 40 minutes.

Ambitious, I know. Plain crazy, definitely.

Then, I come back to the idea of mediation by closing my eyes (whilst reclining in bed, of course) and by taking some deep breaths.

This is how things went this morning:

6:40am - Complete yoga practice, roll up mat, slip back into bed, throw on the covers, throw off the covers, turn the ceiling fan on, flip the bedside lamp off, drop the remote, curse loudly.

6:43am - Close eyes, commence meditation.

6:43am - Notice that the garbage trucks are uncharacteristically loud this morning. Wonder if it was my recycle can that was just dropped. Worry that I do not have time to call the utilities company if my recycle can is broken. Or worse, lost. Send good karma vibes to the neighbor who sometimes pulls the cans in for me.

6:44am - Hear very loud owl outside my open window. Contemplate putting an owl house in the backyard for Ben. Remember ex's failed attempt at this. Decide that Ben can visit his grandpa's owl colony.

6:44am - Try to slow down breathing and notice that my stomach is starting to hurt. Is a half a pot of coffee before 7am, on an empty stomach, really necessary? Flip onto belly. Uncomfortable. Flip back.

6:45am - Pony tail is crushed against pillow. Ouch. Release the elastic band. Ahhhhhh, so much better. Why have this long hair anyway? I've been growing it for a year and half and it is lovely and full and practically an ad for Clairol, but what good is all that when it's back in a pony almost all of the time? Oh right, my young clients say men like long hair. Best not to cut it just yet. But what about the color? Every-five-week salon visits are a killer. Speaking of the salon, I need a facial. And my eyebrows are in bad shape. I could use some Botox, too. Everything's feeling wrinkly. I really am high maintenance. I'm a nightmare. God, I hate camping. I could end up dating a man who loves camping. Camping might be a deal-breaker. I think it is.

6:47am - Stomach is insanely growling. On my dietitian's hunger scale of 1 to 10, 1 being famished, 10 being in a food coma, I am a 0. Totally empty. Weak. Depleted. I don't think she has me on enough calories. Just as I was starting to get used to all these curves, I'll be a toothpick by Christmas. Maybe by next week, at this rate. What's for breakfast today? Oh yeah, the meal plan says high fiber cereal and nuts. Fail. Where's the meal plan with blueberry pancakes? That's the meal plan I want!

6:48am - The indecisiveness of the men in my life is making me C-R-A-Z-Y. And I am making everyone else C-R-A-Z-Y with my rants on this subject. Why am I cursed with dating C-R-A-Z-I-N-E-S-S? Why? I'm the nice girl who's getting it all together; I don't even do crazy. Is my head starting to hurt now? No, it's just my heart: I'm used to that.

6:49am - Glad, oh-so-very-glad that I bought two beach umbrellas to take to Santa Cruz. My mother is going to insist on riding in the backseat with Ben all the way there, and all the way home. Not quite sure how the umbrellas are going to fit into their back seat accommodations, as I'm sure there will be discussion of safety, decapitation. Decapitation. I need a working house alarm. Umbrella? Where is my leopard umbrella from last winter? I'll be seriously pissed if I've lost it. I might have to go back to NYC for another. Maybe I'll take whomever I'm dating.

6:50am - Crazy dating again. GET OUT OF MY HEAD, you, you and you, too! I'm not in control! Everyone else is! Give it up, Janeen. Surrender. This is way bigger than you.

6:50am - The owl and the garbage truck are back, in tandem. How can anyone get any meditating done around here with all this racket? Oh, and there goes the broken sprinkler too. Hundreds of dollars into a new sprinkler system and the faulty one is next to my bedroom window. Figures. Good thing I can't sleep in past 3:30am.

6:51am - Breathe. Ignore rumbling tummy. Don't think about pancakes. Mmmmmm, Kashi cereal and cantaloupe in 9 minutes. Mmmmmmm.

6:51am - Can't believe that my stomach is going to turn itself inside out from hunger pangs. Who knew that yoga revved up the old metabolism so efficiently? Because it's not like I just did a 5 mile run.

6:51a - Kevin. Fall Ball. Ugggghhhhhh. We need a closer (better) League. Wondering if our local league is more normal than that *other* league we played for? Maybe I'll actually meet some nice mom friends; scope out better looking guys. Why is the dog barking? This can't be good. Someone is breaking in. Even though it's morning and seriously bright, the bad guys have found the single girl on the block. I'm toast.

6:51am - Mmmmmm, toast. Whole grain toast with real butter. French toast. Tower Cafe French Toast. Why don't I ever go there?

6:52am - I never go anywhere. I'm relegated to reading and journal writing and yoga. OMG. I need three cats for this existence. Ben is riding me hard for a cat. My mom is publishing, "1o1 Reasons Janeen Should Not Get A Cat." She's already lecturing on the topic. Caught between the boy and the mother. Is there any Valium in the house? Oh right, of course there is. Now, who gets it? The mother or the daughter?

6:52: I just heard a kick from Ben's room. Damn, I hope he's not in a foul mood this morning. I've been up two hours already and he'll be firing up any second in God knows what kind of mood, which will inevitably lead to me making more coffee and bribing him with time on my iphone.

6:53am - My iphone! Where is my iphone? Is it possible that I left it in the garage when I was scooping up Molly's breakfast? Ohmygod, I have been up too long. Where in God's name is that Valium?

6:54am - Is today a nap day? For me, not Ben! Who's canceled? Who's coming? Oh shit, oh shit, OH.SHIT. I forgot about my early morning client. How many days has it been since I've washed my hair? Five? Six? Thank God for the ponytail. I have camping hair.


6:55am - MOOOOOOOOMMMMMMMMMYYYYYYY! Come get me! I am ready to get up! Where's my girl, Molly?

Thank you, sweet Jesus for little boys in great moods and for 12 minute meditations and please, for the love of all things holy, let this writer's block pass soon. I promise I'll meditate and pray more.

Saturday, August 6, 2011

Let Me List The Reasons

I can't write. I CAN'T WRITE!

It is too soon for me to have writer's block. It's unacceptable at this early stage, and it's kinda freaking me out. I'm thousands of words into my essay and I'm so stuck that merely launching the document makes me want to fire up the vacuum cleaner and go into my catatonic-dog-hair-sucking daily meditation.

I'm screwed?

The way I see it, my right brain is getting totally squashed by the left side. Really.

All the logical stuff that I need to ruminate on is encroaching on those creative channels that need space to breathe and to express. The finances of my house and the logistics of Ben's school and sports are jamming up the expansive, sentimental and not-at-all-linear brainwaves of the right hemisphere.

Damn you, left brain. Stay on your own bleep-bleep-bleep side.

"Impossible," left brain is telling me. "Because there's all this..."

(I know that my right brain is still in control, somewhat, because what you are about to read would be considered "stream of consciousness.")

Ben starts school in a week and a half. That's it? Summer's done? We never even went miniature golfing. Or to ExploreIt in Davis. God, we didn't even make it to Fairytale Town and now he's probably too old and I'll never get to set foot in that cute park with all its sweet memories again. I am the worst mother of all time.

But we did go to Six Flags and it sucked. My shoes were hurting my feet and I was tired and Ben wouldn't ride on anything that moved. Except the parking lot tram. I'm not kidding. Ask him. He'll tell you that we had fun but I know better. One giant bowl of Dippin' Dots on the way out and all he remembers are good times with Mom. And the fact that I had to literally sugar coat the event to make it OK makes me cringe all the more. It worries me that I'm not stepping up more on "fun mom" stuff. I'm great at the logistics of motherhood, but when it comes to fun, I'm not always on par with the expectations of my 7-year-old.

Ben's dad and I got some kind of email notification about Fall Ball. I deleted it. Worst mother of all time confirmed.

Golf lessons proved to be a fantastic investment, and what a bleep bleep bleep investment it was. Ben spent the first week with the "Wee Swingers" and quickly advanced to the 10 to 12 year old group by the second week. The coach suggested that we pursue year-round lessons next year for Ben. Of course that means something else needs to go and after three long, muddy years, I'm happy to say that it's soccer. And maybe Fall Ball if no one sees that email. No love lost there.

My beloved OAR released a new album this weekend but I streamed it all last week because it was so bleep bleep bleep great and I got all psyched about their Fall tour until I visited the band's web site and saw that there are no West Coast stops. How much does that suck? Quite a lot. Bleep bleep bleep. And for the record, yes, they are playing up and down the East Coast but repeat Florida trips are not even a remote possibility.

I dredged up a whole lot of BS known as "experience" and attempted to re-create my resume. Just in case the perfect "marketing/pilates/writing/wear all my cute clothes" gig presents itself. I even sent it out to twelve, yes twelve companies for positions that I am seriously not qualified for. Is it really possible that my big career re-entry might be in the form of an administrative assistant? Is it too much to ask for a cute boss at least?

I have a new girlfriend. But she's in Texas. Still, to me, she's "awesome Angie in Austin." We talk a couple of times a week and message each other daily. I love instant friendships but I wish I saw more of my local girlfriends. Why is everyone so busy? Or is it just that I'm not busy enough?

My longtime BFF is still moving to Boston. Her house sold in just three days so I guess it's official: she's really going. Bleep.

With school starting up again, it's time to start wondering how I will contribute to the Montessori school that my son attends. Will I get the lofty title of "Environmental Coordinator" again this year? It's a great title for my resume and this will be my second year in the position. I just hope I don't have to disclose the job description: "Clean the classroom at least once a week." I am so not kidding. I only volunteered because it gets me out of doing "jobs" with the kids. Unless you have a Montessori credential or you are a NASA engineer, those jobs will cause you to furrow your (normally smooth) brow, show your right brain ways, and hope to hell that a teacher will rescue you soon.

So it's pretty safe to say that our Montessori children will likely grow up to do great, left brain things and it's very safe to say that they'll have colorful language skills to boot. Ben learned, in the K/1 class, some of my favorite, yet off-limits words in rapid succession last year. At the beginning of the year, the "S" word was "stupid" and the "F" word was "fart" and we didn't even discuss the "H" and the "B" words. All that has changed now as he has been schooled on every word in the book. To say I'm dismayed by this early learning is an understatement. The same kid who knows nothing about Justin Bieber or Miley Cyrus has way more words than I'd like, thanks to a few "bad apples" in the classroom. To that I say, "what the bleep?!?"

This child rearing stuff is keeping me up at night and so, caffeine is becoming more and more of a vice. These days, it's more common to see me with a Coke Zero can in my hand, than a water bottle. Case in point: I lost my Sigg and I never replaced it. I didn't peg myself as a 40-something, diet soda addict, until, at Six Flags, I actually inquired as to whether their diet soda product was Coke Zero or Diet Coke, or worse yet, Diet Pepsi. It was Coke Zero, thankfully, and I drank four. I have also discovered that Coke Zero is even better with Bacardi.

What's really bad is that the stuff doesn't really give you a decent jolt. I fell asleep on a conference call yesterday. Dead asleep. I woke up to very loud beeping from my phone, followed by a text: "Wasn't that speaker GREAT?" Clearly, I need stronger substances if I am to maintain a (conscious) presence on conference calls. Bleeping embarrassing.

Why are the tomatoes so slow this year? I didn't plan seven tomato plants to scamper off to the Farmer's Market each weekend.

We are off to Santa Cruz on Saturday. "We" meaning Ben, myself, my mom, my sister and my brother-in-law. Our accommodations might be questionable. My mom made the reservations. We'll blame it on her if things aren't on the up-and-up. And then I'll write about it here and she'll give me "the look."

I have an appointment with a dietitian - not a nutritionist - to figure out what is driving my cholesterol numbers up. I'm scared that the outcome will involve a bunch of pricey supplements (which I don't take much of anymore). Actually, I'm more afraid that she will tell me to eat oatmeal, almonds, salmon, fruit and vegetables and then I will have truly wasted my money. I have a mere two months to get those numbers down. Blllllleeeeeeeeep!

On Wednesday nights I teach yoga in my neighborhood. It's the one group class that I teach and we're up to 25, 26, even 30 people in our group fitness room. It's very, very difficult to receive compliments from the crowd that gathers each week when I know that I can't - and won't- be their instructor forever. I try and teach for the moment, and in the moment; and the time has become something that I covet and look forward to.

This evening, I was playing games with Ben. We played three rounds of Dominoes and we built two Jenga towers. I posted a picture of Ben with the leaning stack of Jenga blocks on Facebook and another parent texted me: "Being a single mom with one child must be like dying a slow death." Really? What the bleep? I often feel like I don't play with Ben nearly enough. I rue the day he hides in his room and mutters one-word answers to my questions. He still calls me Mommy and I wouldn't want it any other way. (And he doesn't know that popcorn isn't part of the typical movie experience or that his car bad is far too young for him. Don't out me on these!). I often think that the time I spend resting is gas in the tank, so to speak, for my time with Ben. I didn't think this was such a bad thing until this other parent inferred that I have no life. But I don't think I bleeping care.

My client/friend treated me to a great experience on Friday. She booked manis and pedis at the uber-swanky Pedicure Lounge downtown. We had wine and spent the afternoon getting seriously pampered. I sometimes wonder why I am so lucky to have such generous clients, whom I can easily call friends. The idea of not having my business is a tortured one, from that perspective. I am indeed very, very blessed.

On that note, I'll end with this comment. Life is so much easier when there's no complaining. I've made this huge and very concerted effort to reduce my whining, bitching, and overall bouts of verbal unhappiness lately. So while it was fun to write this post, after re-reading it, I realized how out of character it is for me. There are days when I can't think back to my last complaint. That's a good feeling; I like it.

But I'm still stuck on my article. And I may have to complain a bit more to unblock this case of writer's block!

J Lo and My Girlfriends

Disegard formatting issues. Blogger doesn't like me today.

What does J Lo have in common with a handful of my girlfriends?

"She loved herself enough to walk away," People reports.

And several of my friends apparently feel the same way.

I'm talking about Jennifer Lopez's failed marriage, in case you're just crawling out from under a rock. I'm also referring to the unsettling number of marriages that have crumbled around me in these short summer months.

I believe I'm swimming in fairly safe waters here by mentioning the demise of these marriages. It's not like there are any big secrets that I'm sharing; only an influx in invitations for "GNO", otherwise known as "Girls Night Out."

Sadly, for my newly single friends, I'm more of a fan of "GNI" these days (Girls Night In") or "GMY" (Girls Morning Yoga) or "let's just do coffee or a pedicure."

At any rate, I can't help but be puzzled and alarmed by the divorce rate of my friends right now. And you know what they say: these are just the friends I know about; God only knows who is just one fight away from calling it quits. I hope it's no one. I seriously do.

Because divorce makes me sad. My own divorce nearly crushed me and I have tremendous empathy for anyone who is experiencing marital difficulties. It tears apart your whole psyche. Short of having a sick child, I don't think that there's anything worse.

I get asked for advice on this topic. A lot. Sometimes I give it; sometimes I don't.

But what I do say is this: "If you're asking for advice, particularly from someone who's already been married twice, I don't think you should strap on those 4-inch cage heels quite yet for "CGNO" (Crazy Girls Night Out).

My sage advice continues: "Cancel the table service at the Mix, stay home, cool your heels and think about how all this is really going to feel in a year. Two years. Five years. Then, let's have coffee tomorrow. Or a pedicure. After yoga, of course."

So far, the girls haven't canceled any of their wild nights. But I will say that I've had three pedicures in merely three weeks shameful, indeed and my own body is thanking me for all those weekend mornings of yoga
and no hangovers.

I don't know what's going on with my friends right now, but I sincerely hope it's a phase. Not only because I can't afford to have my toes painted every few days, but also, I think there's a lot of fight still in these marriages that are in question and even though J Lo walked away, it's not always the right thing to do. I'm always a fan of staying until the bitter end. Because you just never know.

It's hard to be a go-to girl on serious topics like marriage. I'm honored that I have the opportunity to listen, but I'll be glad when the tides turn a bit and when the trend skews back to: unique but not obscure baby names, "this Pottery Barn couch or that cute futon from Target" and "yellow Lab or Pug puppy" (Lab, always Lab!).

And in the meantime, there's Yoga In The Park, The Pedicure Lounge, more yoga at Padme and Whole Foods, my favorite coffee, people watching and post break-up place in town (the cookies make anything and everything seem better!).