January 19th, 2017
Buyer’s Remorse (A Strange But True Tale)
A while back, feeling indulgent, I bought a Groupon for a facial at a nearby salon I’ll call Sheila’s Skin Care. I envisioned 90-minutes of bliss: massage, moisturizer, steam, the works. I arrived a few minutes early and found the salon empty, except for one woman sitting in the chilly, dark room, peering at a magazine. From the back, through a closed door, I could hear a loud phone conversation taking place. Sheila’s voice was rough, like shredded wood, the voice of a hard-living woman who didn’t put up with any nonsense. From the sound things, there was nonsense afoot.
“I don’t know who’s using my f***ing dryer. All I know is that someone is using my f***ing dryer! What are you going to do about it?”
I glanced at my watch. Appointment time.
“You should knock,” said the woman with the magazine, nodding at the closed door. “Let her know you’re here.”
I knocked. I admit I did not tap out a cute little ditty: da-da-da-da-da … da-da! I just, you know, knocked. The hollow-core door shook slightly under my knuckles.
“Hold on,” said the sandpapery voice. “There’s someone here.”
January 11th, 2017
Dear, Dear Diary
I started keeping a diary when I was nine years old. It was bright yellow and came with a gold lock and a tiny key. Believe it or not, I’m looking at that very diary right now. The key is long gone, and the cover has faded to the color of wheat, but it’s still decorated with carefully selected stickers. On the front is a striped kitten, a tiny chipmunk in green shorts and a little dog wearing a red winter coat. On the back are ladybirds and bunnies, plus this declaration in dark blue ink: “Harriette waz here, ’83.”
I started this five-year diary when I was a child of nine and kept it, with complete dedication, until I was officially a teenager. In 1979, I rode a short, fat Shetland pony named Ginger through verdant fields in Vermont and played The Dukes of Hazzard with the boys next door. By 1984, I was in Dunedin, New Zealand, longing for a boyfriend, occasionally fighting with girlfriends and constantly lamenting the dullness of my adolescent life.
This diary is bursting with words and mementos. For five years, I had a mere four lines to capture my daily thoughts, feelings, ideas, dreams and fears. Four lines! To compensate, I made paper pockets for the inside of each cover, obliquely labeled “Memories” and “ETC.” Today, I can carefully reach inside each miniature treasure trove and find relics of my past. Here’s an excerpt from a typed letter from a 13-year-old pal: “Today was the most boring day of my life. We’ll have to do something really hilarious to cheer evry body up, ‘cause we’re all so DEPRESSED!!!!!!!!!”
Newsy! Pondering Politics and Punctuation + White Bean, Kale & Parmesan Soup + The Book Of Eli (v.30)
January 5th, 2017
Pondering Politics, Punctuation and @realDonaldTrump!
Anyone else finding the 45th president’s punctuation utterly exhausting?
I’m not a millionaire, a businessperson or a politician, but as a professional writer, I’ve got some advice for you! Since you’re super busy these days on Twitter, I hope you won’t mind if I offer a friendly reminder about one of the cardinal rules of writing! Here goes!
An exclamation point is a punctuation mark that a) denotes the end of a sentence and b) expresses excitement or emotion.
Sounds simple, I know!
But hold on, @realDonaldTrump! Your favorite punctuation mark is a little more complicated than that definition suggests! Perhaps more than any other writing device, this one comes with a warning!
December 22nd, 2016
My Vest Is Revolting And Other Thoughts About Sartorial Resistance
How do you solve a problem like Ivanka?
In October 2015, a friend and I were browsing at T.J. Maxx. A black velvet-and-faux-fur vest caught my eye. I tried it on and decided to buy it.
It wasn’t until after I’d made my purchase that I checked the label. “It’s an Ivanka!” I told my friend, oddly delighted to be in possession of a brand I associated with strands of fake gold (clearly, I was thinking about a different Trump).
I wore my new vest to a dinner party. In response to compliments, I unabashedly shared the designer’s name. It’s an Ivanka, I said. Of course, no last name was required. Friends smiled as if I’d told the world’s shortest joke: one word, just three little syllables that perfectly delivered both a set-up and a punch line.
Remember, this was the fall of 2015. It was months and months before anyone had given Donald Trump a second thought as a presidential candidate, let alone the Republican nominee, let alone … yeah, I know. It was a lifetime ago.
Today, my Ivanka hangs alone at the far end of my closet, a sad sartorial outcast. I just can’t bring myself to wear it.
December 15th, 2016
Hamilton, Schmamilton: Five Reasons I Hate This Show
The fact that I’ve never seen it is completely irrelevant.
Well, folks, it’s finally happening: Hamilton, the musical, is coming to San Francisco.
Am I excited? No, I am not.
Do I loathe musical theater?
No, I do not.
In fact, I love it. I’ve loved it all my life.
I discovered musicals when I was eight years old. Seated in the front row of my local high school’s auditorium, I watched a student production of The Pajama Game. From the moment the curtains rose, I was enthralled. As I watched, my muscles twitched. I wanted to be on stage, singing and dancing my way through two acts of forbidden love, deep passion and union negotiations. I longed to visit that mysterious den of iniquity known as Fernando’s Hideaway.
The Pajama Game opened the door to my love affairs with a Fiddler, a Joseph, a Superstar, a Picture Show and a Little Shop filled with horrors, not to mention a certain state where waving wheat sure tastes sweet. As a teenager, I performed in all my high school productions. As an adult in search of a soul mate, I wrote a list of qualities I wanted in a life partner. “Loves musicals” featured very near the top. A couple years ago, my musical-loving husband (found him!) and I lived out one of our shared dreams when, somewhat randomly, we performed in a local synagogue’s Purim Schpiel. That night, in our minds, at least, two stars were born.
So, yes, I love musicals, possibly more than most. Truth be told, I’d probably love Hamilton just as much as the shows that are now part of my DNA.
But right now, I hate Hamilton. It’s not my fault. I really don’t have a choice. Here’s why.
December 8th, 2016
Out on the trail with my dog a few weeks back, I crossed paths with a pal who I haven’t seen in much too long. She commutes daily to her 9-5 job, so I was surprised to find her out and about during work hours. She was taking advantage of a rare day working from home by gulping deep breaths of crisp fresh air.
“It feels so good to be out here,” my friend said as we huffed our way up a steep grade. “I’ve been stuck in a rut as deep as the Grand Canyon.”
That image – a Grand-Canyon-deep rut – has stayed with me. I’ve been trapped in such trenches myself. Whether it’s a rut or simply routine, I know it can suck the creative, energizing, invigorating life force out of the best of us. With that in mind, here are a few ideas that have helped me crawl out of more than one deep crevasse. If you’re feeling stuck, maybe one of these eight suggestions will serve as the toehold you need to clamber out of the dark trough and back into the warm, bright light.
Make art in public. Schedule a hot date with yourself at a local gallery or museum. Wander through the rooms and get lost in the myriad colors, shapes and images. When a piece of art catches your eye, grab a seat nearby. Pull out the pencil and notebook you brought along for the occasion and start drawing what you see. Rut-busters challenge: try sketching with your non-dominant hand.
November 30th, 2016
I met my friend Elizabeth in San Francisco on Election Day, 2002. I was a brand new mom, still figuring out how to get my three-month-old and myself out of the house each day, along with his stroller and a backpack filled with everything a baby could possibly need. That particular morning, my own mom was with me, and we strollered on over to my local polling station so I could cast my vote.
I left my son with my mother while I filled out my ballot. When I returned a few minutes later, Mom was chatting with two women, each with their own baby-boy-filled stroller. I can’t tell you exactly what we talked about during that first conversation, but at the end of it, we all exchanged phone numbers. The next day, I met up with these two moms at the playground. We laughed, shared snacks and exchanged stories of sleep deprivation and explosive poop.
Just like that, I made my very first Mommy Friends.
Over the years, I’ve discovered Elizabeth gets more things done before she leaves for work in the morning than most of us (well, me, anyway) achieve in the bulk of a week. Among many things, Elizabeth is a painter. Like many artists, she works fulltime and paints on the side. For Elizabeth, “on the side” means getting up at dawn to paint before her day job starts. It means teaching evening watercolor classes through a community education program, leading weekend painting workshops and volunteering at her local art and garden center. It means turning her own front porch into a dynamic art space with an ever-changing display of banners, posters and other original creations, all in tune with a season, a holiday or a political or cultural event.
November 22nd, 2016
Dear Anonymous Bone Marrow Donor,
First and foremost, thank you. Thank you for joining a registry of donors who are on-call for active duty. A military analogy seems apt for describing the way you and your fellow volunteers spend months or even years awaiting a phone call that informs you, you’re up. Recently, on what probably began as a perfectly ordinary day, someone from Be The Match told you your marrow matched that of a 14-year-old boy. You don’t know this lad, but I do. He has a laser bright smile and is sweet and funny and strong. Right now, due to a rare bone marrow disease, he’s the wrong shade of pale.
Donor, it won’t be long now before our young friend has your healthy stem cells on round-the-clock patrol, busily building brand new blood cells in his fragile body.
I say again, thank you.
All I know about you is that you’re a 23-year-old healthy male. You could be here in California, grateful for every drop of rain that might dent our stubborn drought. You might live in Australia, where you’re already thinking about a barbeque on the beach at Christmas.
November 16th, 2016
Last week felt endless.
Our escape to a little town in Wine Country with the dog and one of the boys was perfectly timed. The sun was warm. The river was low, but it flowed. Golden leaves dazzled against a clear blue sky.
We didn’t fully unplug, but we took a time-out.
We breathed in.
We breathed out.
We appreciated the clean sweet air.
We hoped it stays this clean, this sweet.
We laughed at our dog who wants to swim in the river but doesn’t seem to know how.
She was happy, even if she wasn’t brave, or even very wet, for that matter.
We biked to the town square and had lunch in the sun. We joked with our 12-year-old, who spoke in various accents and insisted we buy reindeer hats for the dog and the cat. We listened as he explained his thinking: Al Gore won the popular vote. Hillary won the popular vote. The Electoral College is a busted system.
We discussed, clarified, agreed.
November 11th, 2016
After This Election, I’m Dazed, Confused And Desperate For Funny
The morning after the election, I staggered out of bed with an aching head after a fitful sleep. My 14-year-old was already in the kitchen, waiting for his bread to toast. He was logged onto the computer.
“Did it really happen?” I croaked. My red, puffy eyes filled with tears as he nodded, wordless.
A moment later, he turned the computer screen my way. “Check this out,” he said. I saw a photograph of a vast, towering structure sitting the middle of what looked like a national park.
“What is it?” I was puzzled.
“It’s a mansion,” he explained. “It costs $7.5 million. It’s got 12 bedrooms, 15 bathrooms, a tennis court and two swimming pools. You know what else?” he asked, pausing for full effect. “It’s in Canada.”
O Canada. Oh, Canada.
Seems my son would happily relocate to your calm and reasonable shores if the terms of his expatriation include enough bedrooms for two hockey teams. This is no small compliment, Canada, because prior to this conversation, my teen had made it clear he prefers our little California hometown to just about anywhere.
I’m a few American bucks short of the purchase price (even if it is in Canadian dollars), so I gently broke it to my boy that a British Columbian mansion was probably not in our future. But on November 8th he’d witnessed his grandmother and his mother hugging and openly weeping as the night rolled on and the news rolled in, so I deeply appreciated his online search for a viable Plan B.
My high schooler left on his bike a few minutes later. My pre-teen walked into the kitchen, rubbing his eyes. “What’s going to happen?” he asked, his brows furrowed.