The Prince's Boy cover.pngI just finished reading it this morning and I felt I had to post a good review somewhere. I am not sure what this means, but I didn't feel comfortable adding my recommendation of this book to my Pinterest list or Facebook without explaining that the story includes a young man's discovery of his homosexuality, though that is definitely not the main leg of the story. I hope that doesn't say anything negative about me, though I fear it might. However, I do know that some of my hetero friends are not willing to read love stories about homosexuals, so that is why I feel compelled to explain.

The book is about, above everything, love in the late 20's and 30's, a time when Bucharest Romania was called "Little Paris". Having only known Romania in it's years long after this, I found the small details and delicate exchanges between characters of each culture incredibly fascinating.  Author, Paul Bailey chooses his words carefully. His lead character, Dinu, is a realist who has met the love of his life in a brothel. He is surrounded by geniuses and, unknown to him, their wit and wisdom strengthen his mind and mold him into a hero.

Europe was changing rapidly at this time. My favorite lines from this story are the glimpses into the minds of those who lived thru Hitler and his "green shirted men". 

Prince's companions aside, this book confirmed my belief that Bucharest was one of the most passionate, exciting cities in the world at one time. It's production of writers, poets, voices, composers and artists is not only comparable to Paris, but possibly more impressive considering all the political unrest is has endured. 

If you enjoy Romania or Paris, you may enjoy reading about those places thru the eyes of Dinu. I definitely did.

Favorite quotes:

"We said what we hoped would be a temporary farewell on platform 4. I was weeping and so was he. We Romanians cry easily. It is our national gift, to weep for our sorrows."

"Romania had forsaken her decadent past in favor of equality....One of the most enduring cliche's came to mind: it was all 'too good to be true' .

"What need of the mischievous and undoubting bible when there was Shakespeare to remind us of our transience, our joys, our hopelessness, the fragile concerns of our fragile lives? He offers us nothing more than the certainty of our own uncertainties, and that is surely enough to contemplate."

"Great poetry has the power to deepen our awareness of the transience of life. It takes an inordinate amount of literary courage to write with delicacy, and that is what Vaduva did. "



Rocky Road

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We name ours cars. Mike and I both got into this habit before we met. And many, many times, I have realized this was a mistake now that we have kids. Why? Because cars come and cars go.

When they were very small, back in NJ, we sold Mike's old Pathfinder, who had been known as Lucy Car by our kids since they were born. It was very traumatic for them. August, especially, was not happy with us even though we explained that Lucy would be well cared for by her new owners.

Lucy, the one that started it all

The next car to go was Rocket Car, a 2008 Honda CRV. He was traded in for Rocket Car II, his younger, slightly sleeker, brother, a 2012 CRV. Again, not an easy task - to let go of Rocket, even if he would be "happier with a new family". 

This weekend it was time for Rocket Car II to move on as we were given a good deal on a 2015 Honda Pilot. The kids knew this had been the plan for a while and had even been saying that we needed a bigger car so that we could shuttle around their friends after ball games, parties and school. But when it came time to get all of our things out of the CRV and say our goodbyes, the tears flowed again. The worst part was when I mildly joked "Thanks for taking us all across the country to California, Rocket Car!" and then proceeded to choke up with ugly crying face in front of both kids. 

Saying Goodbye to Rocket II
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Last night Mike picked up the Pilot from the dealership and we took it for a quick drive around the block. I was considering saying that we would not name this car, that it's time we came to grips with the fact that cars don't have feelings. But these kids love family. They love idea of family, the people that make a family - all of it. A car is no exception to them and who am I to judge? After all, the new car is Now called Rocky Road and I think he's really going to like carting us around.

Welcom to the family, Rocky Road!
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Mom

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I've been looking at all these cute, wonderful ways that people celebrate their mothers. The internet is full of them this week with Mother's Day coming up. Me, I debated over ordering flowers for a couple of days. Then, I spoke to my sister to check what she's doing. My husband suggested I get on the ball or I'd end up placing an apologetic phone call the day of. Every idea, every gift just seems so.... ridiculously inadequate. I mean, geez, how do you thank a mother? What can one possibly give to express the deep well of gratitude for what these women have done for us? What gift can you purchase that can make her understand your profound appreciation?

Nothing. There is nothing that can repay that. I know it and you know it. I mean, I kind of knew once I became an adult  that she was the force behind my desire to not waste my life. But I didn't know how she had saved me, a million times, saved me, until I became a mom myself. Now, hardly a day goes by that I don't think about her and all the little moments she mothered me, loved me, like no one else ever could.

My Mom
The first memory I have is sitting at home with her while my brother and sister were in school. Nothing special going on. We're just in the living room. She is watching TV and I am playing. But embedded in that memory is the feeling that my world orbited around her. She is everything. She is pretty and smart and I am her daughter. I look up to her.

One of my favorite things about her is her amazing ability to remember all the minute details about my friends that I told her after school and on the weekends. My conversations with her about boys and friends were filterless. I had no reason to lie because she never gave me cause to doubt her love.  She knows the names of everyone. She remembers who they have dated. She knows their personalities. All the friends from middle school, all the Del Aires I sang with in high school. Her ability to recall the daily drama of my teen years let me know she is listening when I talk. 

Once, sitting in the car outside our church, she asks me how things are with the boy I had been crushing over for years. I was 15 at the time. As always, I tell her my concerns. She tells me he might never come around and somehow, because she says it so factually, with such calm, that I am fine. I think to myself, She's right. I love this person who might never love me back and I'll survive that. She had that power, and she used it so well, I rarely felt lectured or dismissed.

A favorite pastime of my mom's that I love is driving through gorgeous neighborhoods and day dreaming of the lives inside. Or better, looking at neglected or dilapidated homes and imagining the potential. To this day, I continue our hobby via Zillow, but no one can see what a home can be better than my mom. What some women can do with food, she can do with an empty house that "needs a little TLC". 

My mom was stern with us kids. She had a low tolerance for bullshit and expected us to have great manners too. I don't know how many times I was told to cross my ankles or say thank you or chew with my mouth shut, but I quickly learned it was more often than most kids I knew. My brother, sister and I, if anything, were known for being polite, even when we thought we were rebelling. Sometimes I felt my mom must have been from an aristocratic household for all we were taught about politeness and respect. But that wasn't so. Her strictness stemmed from her own survival instincts as the daughter of a single mother. My grandmother was a piece of work with her pantsuits and long stemmed filtered cigarettes. She had a mouth like a sailor (must be where I get it) and told tales like one too. But mom was the calm to her crazy, the learned voice of reason. 

No one really told me I was like my mom while I was growing up. I saw us as opposites because I wasn't girly and had dreams I thought were too big for her to understand. I thought of myself as someone who would not be limited by marriage or tradition or children, the way I mistakenly thought she had been. Ours has been a rocky relationship at times, especially in my teens when I struggled to find my footing as a young woman who knew that being born a man would have made my choices so much easier. But it was my mother who convinced me that being a strong woman was an asset. She taught me to listen politely, but she also taught me to speak up when I had something to say. When she walked out on her job as a mortgage loan officer for a major bank because she hated it and hated what it did to her, our financial future was uncertain. But her bravery planted a seed of courage in me. It taught me that to crawl is understandable, but to leap into the unknown is sometimes the better move. 

As I got older and moved out, my favorite times with my mom have become those rare occasions when we get together for coffee at a cafe just to talk. She also loves art and music and we attended some galleries and shows in my 20's. She is the best person to have at your show if you're an artist because she has nothing but wonder and appreciation for creative people. We can stand before the same painting or hear the same music and, inevitably, she will see or hear something I did not. At the Matisse/ Picasso show in Ft. Worth my mother saw the friendship between the artists that I did not and explained it to me.

It took me about 36 years to learn that being a mother is the job of a lifetime, a role far more critical to the future of humanity than an other career path I attempted up to this point. The very first and most important influence on any persons life is the one who raised them, the person who changed diapers, laid out clean clothes and enforced manners. If our fathers are our rock, our mother is the sun, the 1st point of reference for our journey. Because I know myself, and I know my family, I now see what an incredible success my mom is. We did not make things easy on her and yet, here we are.

If you know me well, you can probably see by what I have written here how wrong I was when I thought I am not like my mom. I see it all the time now on a daily basis. I see it in my relationship with my own children, especially my daughter when she asks my opinion and then argues against it. I understand that she is not testing me, she is testing herself, holding her own thoughts to the light, my light, and examining each bit. She is deciding who she is and hoping that who she is will please me. 

I see our similarities in my desire to make life easier for any stranger I meet, especially mother's of babies or toddlers. Just recently my sister and I were joking about having become "that lady" who talks to strangers, especially children. That lady who approached you at in the frozen section of Costco to tell you your kids are so sweet? That's my mom... or my sister... or me. That sympathy card or email you got from the person who you didn't even know still thought of you? It was her. She never forgot you and she meant every word. Our mom taught us that it is never wrong to say you care, never too late to say you are sorry and there are not too many "I love you"s.

If I can be half the mother to my kids that my mom was to me and my siblings, they will learn from everything I do and say and they will love me because of it, mistakes and triumphs equally included. 

I don't take my job as a mom lightly. Maybe that is because I see what it means now, finally, and I feel every day how much my mom means to me. Flowers cannot begin to express my thanks and one day a year is nothing compared to her lifetime of care and effort. But I will say it anyway.  I love you, mom. Thank you for everything.  I get it now. I really do.

Several years ago, at 13 years old, I had to memorize a small speech called Immortality for a civic club in which I was a new member.  Immortality / Death was the subject. This is quite an early age for the big lessons about death to be learned, but I have never forgotten it. In fact, the lines come back to me now, the older I get, because I am at the middle of my life when funerals are as common as weddings. But never more do the words I learned back then ring true than when a young person dies. 


"It may seem strange that we should direct your mind to the thought of death, you so young, so fair, your years so tender, every hope and every ambition, just begins to bud and bloom in your life. But, however fair, however hopeful, we would teach you the lesson that death is no respector of persons. It lays its hands upon the flower and tree; it takes the babe and the mother; it regards not youth, nor youth’s ambitions."


It regards not youth, nor youth's ambitions.  No, it certainly does not.


But lately, there is another time when those words spring to mind; when I hear of mental illness and addiction.  


And today, it's one of the worst days, when all of those three things have come together and a young person, because of his struggles with mental illness and addiction has taken his own life. He was the son of some old friends of mine. Friends who I admire and love.  It's shocking. Like anyone, I am at a loss for good words of comfort.  I am not religious, and even if I was, I can't imagine finding good in this tragedy. Sometimes, probably more often than is admitted, life takes an unexpected, devastating turn for the worst and all one can do is endure the pain.  


That's a lesson that I hope we can teach our kids. Oh, we shelter them, it's true. But somewhere in this wonderful life my husband and I have created for August and Asher, I hope we can teach them how to endure the pain. And I will hope, while I am teaching them this, that they never have to call upon that kind of inner strength the way my old friends and their daughter will have to do in the years to come.



A 20 Year Prayer

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20 years ago today, it felt like the world cracked open when a bomb exploded under the Murrah building in Oklahoma City, my hometown. For me, that meant that whatever illusion of safety and naivety that was left in me, disappeared in a cloud of smoke. Everything that has happened after, from 9/11 to the Boston Bombing, has been "an addition to" that constant feeling that we are doing something terribly wrong and paying for it. Or perhaps we are failing to see what we can do that is right.

People who commit heinous crimes of uncountable consequence walk among us as our friends before we see their faces on TV news reports. They have family, friends, co-workers - people who say they saw some hints of a problem, but didn't guess the result. In no way do I mean to suggest that the fault lies with the family or friends of these murderers. Yet, I can't help but wonder what it is that allows us to continue thinking the responsibility to find  what causes these people to want to inflict this pain on so many lies with someone else. 

Your daily acts of kindness and peaceful tolerance are a necessity. Thank you. But there is so much more that can be done. Big acts, big results. Just think; there are also people among us who are trying to do great acts with big results. They are friends, family, co-workers. And your support of those efforts is required. 

If you encounter someone who is attempting to make a positive change in the hearts and minds of the human race, encourage that person, fund their project, spread their idea. Because, in the end, we are in control. You choose the forward path. We choose it together.

Just Light

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A few days ago I took one of those online tests to tell me my personality based on what I hate. I don't "hate" much and my result was surprising, to me, anyway: Frustrated Idealist.  Not that I trust an online 10 question quiz, but I couldn't get past that result. Idealist? Would anyone ever say that about me? 


I don't think being an idealist is a bad thing, mind you. I just didn't know it could go hand in hand with how I have been felling lately about the human race in general. The internet, for all it's kittens who know the art of allure and general not giving a fuck  is also a lonely place full dark corners for hate to hide and jump out anonymously tearing apart any optimism I might have. Especially when it comes to my home state of Oklahoma where select politicians and some cititzens have little regard for equal rights. Here's a sample of some headlines of my great state:



That last one, which came about recently, was particularly embarrassing for me since I always think of Oklahoma City and the University of Oklahoma as a place where all races mix well. Am I so naive? 


Who are these people?? Who, in their right mind, raises a child with contempt for someone based on the color of their skin or thier romantic nature? It’s 2015! 


And that’s when it hits me in the gut. I’m embarrassed and afraid that the rest of the world will read these headlines and think that I share this idiocy because I was raised there, because my family is there. 


I don’t want to feel this way because I see Oklahoma as so much better than that. I left the state at 24, so that makes nearly 20 years that I have been telling people across the world how wonderful Oklahomans are; how friendly and kind. These headlines threaten to make a fool of me, or worse, a fool of those I love.


Still, I’m a different woman than I was 20 years ago. Unlike most of you, I don’t cling to the hope that there is a god who will fix all this; make wrongs right, open eyes. That’s not where I find strength. So, you may wonder how I deal with the never-ending news of hate. 


It’s silly, really, but I play this song. I sing the words, willing people to see how connected we are. How we need each other.



I find it therapeutic. So, even though I’ve posted it many times before, here it is again along with my thousandth defense of my family and my friends in Oklahoma. (Close your eyes while listening to avoid being distracted by Ed's cool 90's moves) 


A knowledge of equality and familial love is what I know exists in the hearts of the majority of Oklahomans. Any optimism I have is based on that fact.


we spend all of our lives goin' out of our minds
looking back to our birth, forward to our demise
even scientists say, everything is just light
not created, destroyed but eternally bright
masters in everytime lord in everyplace
those who stood up for love down in spite of the hate
in spite of the hate


Insert Sadface

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Yesterday a woman at the park suggested that SAD (Seasonal Affective Disorder) just *might* be real. In that instant I had a vision of body slamming her to the ground and screaming, "No shit? YA THINK?". It was sunny outside right then. So bright was the sun that I was starting to sweat and was squinting to watch Asher play with his friends. Instead of getting myself arrested, I closed my eyes and pretended I was on the beach. Within the half hour, the sun slipped away again. It was a tease. A filthy tease.

My sister suffers from S.A.D. and years ago when she told me this I tossed it around in my head, realizing that it made a lot sense. I mean, who the hell can live without sunshine? Fictional characters, that's  who. And yet, I'm sure there are people out there who are so busy that they hardly notice the correlation between the local 75 days of rain and the 50 divorces filed at the county courthouse. I am guessing those might be the same people who don't spend a lot of time outside even when it is sunny or perhaps those people are not responsible for any children under the age of 20. Numbers, numbers, psychology stuff.... We good? OK.

Around here, the rainy season is something that is prayed for by Catholics, Latter Day Saints and all eight Jewish families. In fact, because California supplies a quarter of the nations food and nearly 50% of YOUR produce, you better drop to your knees too, because if we don't get the rain, you're going to pay out the nose big time to put dinner on the table. Knowing this, it's hard to begrudge the clouds, and yet.... yet...

I wake up to fog. Fog drifting below the hills, clinging to the trees. I look out the bedroom window and half expect to see William Wallace wave to me just beyond the fence. I WISH to see William Wallace, actually, so I can have something to think about besides the annoying Spare The Air alert that prevents me from lighting a cozy fire and cheering the place up a bit. I drink a large cup of coffee and dress in the recommended layers of sensible boots, warm socks and three shirts that I can peel off as the day goes on and pile back on just after I pick the kids up from school. I play music, loudly, without caring who hears. I turn on every light in the house. I light candles. But it's no use. I am pale. The rain is dripping down the side of the house where the gutters are clogged. The dog is depressed. Insert sad face.




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Diary excerpt. New Jersey, my living room, my head, 2011:


 Oh my god, I am so bored. My brain is useless.

“Vroom! Vroom! Crash!”


“Oh, my gosh! we’re sisters!”


I loathe you, Barbie. Bad parenting, right here.

Wow, she’s beautiful. My daughter is so beautiful. How did that happen? So innocent, it’s breaking my heart. Someone will break her heart one day. Parenting the the worst. Job. Ever. Helpless.


“Guys! No Fighting!”

“I”m listening.”

“NO HITTING!”


They have no clue how much I love them. By the time they figure it out, I’ll be old. Really old.


I hate it here. I hate it here. I HATE it here. But the schools are great. The kids seem happy. Wouldn’t they be happier if I was happy?

Which example do I set? The one of selflessness or the one about being responsible for my own life, building my own happiness?

Moving is such a gamble. I hate gambling. Hate.

Did he just dance?

“Are you dancing? Awesome!”


He danced. He’s a goofy, talented, sweet genius, that boy! He’s so tender. so loving. I cannot believe how much I love him.

Poor guy is tired. Why doesn’t he sleep more? I’m a shitty parent. He needs more sleep.


My kids are s well behaved. I’m doing something right, but what? Everyone says I’m doing a good job. Which part am I good at? Not the yelling. I yell. Probably screwing them up.


I wish I had a maid/cook/nanny. Never mind. No nanny. I hate leaving them with someone else. I wish there were three of me. Then I’d get stuff done.

“STOP HITTING!”

“GO TO YOUR ROOM!”

“It’s okay. You’re fine. Shhhhh....”


I’m so very lucky. I know that. Too lucky. I have so much to loose. It scares the shit out of me. 

I need to live forever. I should call my mom. I miss my sister/brother/parents. 

I wasn’t there enough for my nieces/nephews. I had no idea how hard it is to be a parent. I was so stupid.

 

“Rod Torque Redline is fine. No, he’s ok.”

“Can our Barbies do something besides go to a dance or move to NYC?”

“Yes, you have school tomorrow.”

“Don’t cry. There’s no reason to cry.”

“You MADE this?”


She loves art! Yay!


“You made this? I love it!”


I have to teach him how to hold a crayon. I think he should know how to do that by now. He can tell jokes and remember everything I say but he can’t hold a crayon? WTF?

He’s only 3. He’s only 3.


If we go somewhere else, I’d have to homeschool. Homeschool is best anyway. But it would kill me. They’d hate me. I’m not equipped. I’d fail. Shit. Calculation and tough skin work in a corporate career, but not at home. I’d be militant. I’d be the worst of my parents.


“Because TV is bad for your brain.”

“Because candy isn’t good for your body.”

“Because it’s not nice.”


It would be nice to go out alone for dinner. 

Somewhere else. Far. Maybe southern France.

Maybe we should move there. Why not?


Huh. I’ve lost/gained weight.  Weird.

Look how tall my kids are. Growing up so fast. To fast. STOP GROWING up! Don’t grow away!


They’re amazing. My kids are amazing. I can’t believe how kind they are.

This is so beautiful, it hurts.


When a soldier has a moral disagreement with what his government wants him to do, so he doesn't do it, he is a "traitor".
When a corporation has a disagreement with what the government wants them to do, so they don't do it, they are called "brave".
Lives were at stake in both scenarios, we're told.

Explain that one to me.

The Traitor

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There's an argument, an opinion, that a soldier who gets disillusioned with his duties while at war and walks away from his post  to get drunk one night and is captured by terrorists deserves to be abandoned. A soldier whose mental health might have been compromised doesn't deserve the chance to be made well. There are those who believe that a fellow soldier is guilty until proven innocent. 

It must be devastating to discover that not all soldiers agree with their orders. Even more so, it must be a shock that soldiers, every day, are called upon to abandon their moral, human values, in favor of orders from higher ranks. Not all soldiers are proud. Not all soldiers believe in the System.
I get it it.
Just like it's a horrible pill for me to swallow that there is so little human compassion, right here at home, where there is no blood on the streets, no sound of gunfire to wake me at night. Here, it is a good place to sit snug in our homes and judge the actions of others whose every cell is forever changed, forever tried by what they have seen, heard, smelled and felt.

We are not all the same.  Thank all the gods, we are not the same.