Archive for September 2010

Work It

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I worked out last week with my friend Dylan Berkey, who is part psychotherapist, part trainer and an all around lovely person with whom to spend a grueling 90 minutes. When she first told me about her new endeavor, Traverse, I was immediately intrigued. Her literature describes Traverse as, “enabling individuals to address psychological issues and obstacles while engaging in outdoor physical exercise, all with the guidance of a practitioner experienced in both modalities.”

I’m someone who tends to manifest all my problems physically. I’ve had about twelve migraines this month alone. My body is where much of my trauma has occurred and all of my self-hatred eventually winds back to it. So I was eager to find out more about Dylan’s philosophy.

It’s always a challenge for me to work out with another person, as I tend to enjoy the hour of solitude. But Dylan was a great support and through most our trek up the mountain in Griffith Park, I could still find enough breath to spill my anxieties about work, motherhood, the marathon, God, failure, success, stroller assembly, etc.

In summary, I’m wildly excited about her enterprise. I think it’s groundbreaking and I encourage anyone who is interesting in approaching your mind-body-spirit healing in an integrated way to get in contact with her: dylan@traversetherapy.com.

Oh, and check out our groovy minimalist footwear. I’ve been running in the Vibram five finger weird gecko shoes. It’s kind of like going barefoot, but with less of a chance of stepping on something gross. I love them so far.

On Compassion and Wall-Licking

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Tariku and I hit the beach Sunday morning, hoping that the weather would be a bit cooler by the water. He’s been asking to see the ferris wheel, so we went to the Santa Monica Pier. There was an arresting art installation there called “Arlington West,” designed by Veterans for Peace. I didn’t have much time to read about it when we were there, so I looked it up when we got home. Here’s what I found on their website:

Each Sunday from sunrise to sunset, a temporary memorial appears next to the world-famous pier at Santa Monica, California. This memorial, known as Arlington West, a project of Veterans For Peace, offers visitors a graceful, visually and emotionally powerful, place for reflection.

In accordance with the Veterans For Peace Statement of Purpose, the Arlington West Mission Statement is to honor the fallen and wounded, to provide a place to grieve, to acknowledge the human cost of war, to encourage dialogue among people with varied points of view, and to educate the public about the needs of those returning from war.

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We were there early, so we watched as a brick wall of a vet worked in the hot sun, setting a small pot of flowers and a pair of combat boots at the foot of each blue cross. The blue crosses represent the soldiers who were killed this week. I found it to be a powerful visual representation of loss. Go check it out if you have a chance.

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T and I spent the rest of the morning locked in a battle of a different sort. I’m not sure what’s going on right now between us, but we’re either unbearable sweet and snuggly or it’s an all out war. Tariku insists on repeatedly doing every dangerous thing I tell him not to do, including dashing out into the middle of bike paths and parking lots. He responded to my entreaty not to touch anything in the public bathrooms by licking the wall.

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As a parent of a child who was adopted at 11 months of age, it’s difficult to know if T’s struggle for control is a result of his age and fiery personality or if it signifies some attachment issues that might warrant attention. Either way, I don’t always have the patience to employ my parenting tools. I switch to exhausted, survival mode and find that I’m the grim mom with the set jaw, toting her screaming kid through the parking lot in a fireman’s carry.

I feel doubly terrible about my poor public parenting moments because we’re so visible. Not only are we a trans-racial family, but two out of three of us are tattooed to the gills. I feel a responsibility to contradict the negative expectations many people have of our illustrated tribe. And I want to be a positive representation of adoption in the world.

But that’s a pretty grandiose self-concept. I’m not a representation of anything. I’m just another tired mom with a two-year old and right now, I’m struggling. I gain compassion for other parents by the day. And compassion is the whole point, right? If I could give Tariku one thing, it would be that. I guess this is a chance for us to learn about it together.

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Radical Honesty

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I’m honored to be speaking next Tuesday with Hope Edelman (The Possibility of Everything) and Meghan Daum (Life Would Be Perfect If I Lived in That House). If you’re writing a memoir, reviewing memoirs, teaching memoir writing, or just interested in an evening of lively conversation–please come on down to Diesel Books in Brentwood at 7pm.

Possibilitinis (a signature pomegranate martini) will be served. Plus, cheesecake for all.

Best. Video. Ever.

I’m pretty sure I’ve posted this video before, but I think I’ll just post it every day fron now until the apocalypse, because I love it so much. Parents with challenging hair-detangling duties, take note. This video works like a charm, if you can master the art of combing the hair of a toddler who’s headbanging.

My favorite part is when Animal is singing, “Mamaaaaaa, yoooohooooo!” If my kid were a muppet, that would be him right there. Which muppet is your kid?

Sexting Salinger

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I have a new essay up at the Paris Review Daily’s Department of Sex Ed. It’s called “Trashy is as Trashy Does” and it’s basically me sexting the ghost of J.D. Salinger.

I Didn’t Know You Worked

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Meghan O’Rourke’s Slate article, “Can a Woman Be a Great American Novelist?” keeps surfacing in my thoughts. It’s an intelligent meditation on “the problem of unconscious gender bias and how it affects the ways we think about accomplishment and authority.”

I read the article shortly after I had a conversation that I seem to have every couple of weeks with one person or another. In this case, the conversation directly followed one in which the woman to whom I was talking told me how much she had enjoyed my memoir.

Her: Are you going to adopt more kids?

Me: I was planning on it, until I saw what it’s really like trying to balance work and the baby. Now I’m not so sure.

Her: I didn’t know you worked. What do you do?

Um. I’m a writer. It’s, like, my job. I sit down at nine and I write for at least four or five hours, six days a week. I’m not saying that a penis is the only thing standing between me and being the next Great American Novelist, but I can’t help but think that my gender has something to do with the not-uncommon perception that I dashed off my book during a week-long Artist’s Way seminar.

My novelist (and mother of four) friend Claire LaZebnik pointed out this passage as hitting particularly close to home:

It’s really, really hard to write a book. It takes a lot of time and solitude. In my experience, women are not as good at insisting they need that time and solitude. (I wonder how many female writers have, like me, sometimes wished they were a man so everyone—family, friends, partners—would understand a little better when they go in the room and shut the door for weeks on end.) If the world around you reliably reflects a slight skepticism about, a slight resistance to your talent, it’s easy to begin to internalize that notion and to strive for less, or just be turned off by the whole racket.

It’s my experience that not just as women but specifically as mothers, we have to not only fight harder for the solitude to create, but we feel guiltier about doing so than our male counterparts. I don’t think this guilt is ultimately serving either me or Tariku. I may not be the next Great American Novelist or the next Great American Mother for that matter, but I hope that I can model being someone who insists that I deserve a creative voice in the world.

Now, back to work…

Shhhh, It’s a Secret

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Weezer did a secret show at the Dunes Inn on Sunset Blvd last night. The promoters at Axe Body Spray took a little dump of a motel and turned it into a raging party. I always enjoy unconventional venues, so I thought it was great fun.

One thing I noticed however, is that Tariku is much more attached to his routine than he’s been before. We haven’t been touring with Scott regularly this summer, so T isn’t used to having shifting bedtimes. Overall, he’s been doing much better with the hitting and biting lately, but when he gets overtired or overwhelmed or frustrated, the UFC Baby Championship in ON. Last night he was all three, so I spent much of the night trying to get him to stop alternately belting people or reaching his hands up the skirts of cocktail waitresses (that’s what we get for naming him Tariku Moon, after Keith Moon). I’m glad we went, but I felt like I was ready to sleep for a week when we got home.

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We wound up leaving a little bit early and had to miss seeing Scott jam with the guys from My Chemical Romance, but I stood stage-side with them and can attest to the fact that they’re sweet as pie and have enviable hair.

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Here’s T and me backstage. That’s Jorge Garcia, the face on the cover of Hurley, in the background. It might be my Lost-damaged imagination, but there’s honestly a magical energy about that guy. He brightens the vibe in any room.

Cottonmouth Kisses Giveaway Winner

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The divine Janet K from Saskatchewan…. come on down! You’re the lucky winner. Email me your address and I’ll send you your fantastic prize!

At Least I’ve Got a Cute Guy

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I’m not feeling like blogging much right now because I’m coming close to the finish line (I hope) with my novel revisions, which looks like this: hating writing, hating myself, despising the book, considering the culinary academy, wondering if there might yet be a career for me as a bluegrass singer in spite of my lack of ability to generate harmonies, praying my new migraine medication works better than the last, etc., etc.

Every day I find an urgent reason to do some new bit of gruesome research. For instance, today I learned that, facing the imminent fall of Berlin, Joseph and Magda Goebbels killed all six of their children before killing themselves. How did I come across this charming tidbit? Why, while looking for a nickname for one of my characters, of course.

I’m a real peach to be around right now. Good thing I’ve got such a cute guy, for whom divorce would be way too expensive. Photographer Matt Hoyle’s assistant sent me this pic of the hubby today and it cheered me up. Thought I’d share.

Date Night

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I said in my last post that if something doesn’t directly involve my career, my baby or my marriage, it generally doesn’t make it onto my to-do list. Unfortunately, even that’s been too broad lately and the frenetic pace of the summer has caused our marriage to take a back seat to parenting and careers. It seems like every conversation we have lately involves dragging our laptops onto the kitchen table and comparing calendars, and that’s during the rare days that we’re in the same city.

But the fall will find us mostly in L.A and we’ve resolved make “date night” happen more often. The fact that we’ve become the kind of people who say things like “date night” makes me want to cringe, but it’s nothing that a little Mongolian BBQ can’t cure.

For our first date night (there I go again) we went to Gobi Mongolian BBQ in Silverlake. Mostly because for seven years I’ve been hearing Scott wax sentimental about the old Mongolian BBQ in Hollywood that he used to eat at as a student in music school- the one with the health code violations so egregious that it wound up on the local news. The above picture is of Scott looking extremely happy that we found a health code compliant alternative to his old haunt.

Then we went to see the very funny Mary Lyn Rajskub’s one-woman show, Mary Lynn Spreads Her Legs, at the Steve Allen Theater. And just when you thought date night was over…. we got totally crazy and popped by the birthday party of my old Velvet Hammer buddies, the eternally young and gorgeous Poubelle Twins. Here’s a pic of me and Barbara (Bibi).

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And if I happen to be blogging about going to see a lot of theater in the next few months, that might give you a clue as to what I’m writing next. But on that subject, I shall say no more. Because nothing will kill new writing faster than talking about it too much.

Our first date night was an unmitigated success. I’ll continue to let you know how becoming the kind of people who say things like “date night” works for us.

No Way No How

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On Saturday morning, I went to register with L.A. Roadrunners, a group that helps you train for the L.A. Marathon. I arrived at an elementary school in Venice to find friendly volunteers and a large group of people milling about various booths and drinking complementary coffee while deciding how to personalize their new shirts (any ideas? mine is still blank). I felt a cautious excitement creeping up on me. The DJ was spinning a song from 8 Mile, which felt like God saying, “Go for it,” ’cause that’s my workout jam.

For a couple of years now I’ve resigned myself to the idea that if something isn’t my career, my marriage or my baby, there’s simply no way it’s making it onto my priority list. And to some extent, that’s still true. But I can’t ignore the fact that I’ve been neglecting myself, often emotionally and definitely physically. This seems like a good way to put my health back onto the list.

One thing I haven’t talked about much here is my back injury, mostly becasue I want to save up all my griping until I’m an old Jewish lady and it becomes my solemn obligation to complain constantly. But the fact remains that even though I’ve always wanted to do it, I’m not a great candidate for running long distances. Until recently, I thought my running days were over entirely. About nine years ago I was in a car accident that left my back forever changed. Since then, I’ve tried every doctor, alternative healer and miracle worker in Southern California and for the most part have been terribly disappointed. But a couple of years ago something started to shift and I’ve grown much stronger. I still suffer physical setbacks (one of which I’m grappling with right now) but my beliefs about what I can and can’t do have been challenged and I’m eager to challenge them some more.

Last week, Scott’s chiropractor said no-way-no-how can I run a marathon with my back problems. He may be right. But I’m eager to see what I can learn about my body and about healing along the way. Plus, nothing inspires like a good no-way-no-how. I paid my registration fee and I’m looking forward to the adventure.

Who Says Bookish Gals Don’t Party?

As an author, the most fulfilling thing about finally publishing has been the fact that I’m now watching my work take on a life of its own. I spent endless twitchy hours sweating over every sentence and now the beast is out in the world and completely out of my control. What a relief.

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I’ve recently been contacted by a handful of book clubs. One of my goals in writing the memoir was to generate discussion about themes such as shame and sexuality and the empowering potential of narrative. Reading groups seem like an ideal venue for this. I’m speaking with a few in the next couple of months and I’m really looking forward to it.

This picture was sent to me from a party planner in Florida, who held a Some Girls-themed soiree, complete with hip scarf party favors. She also included a number of thoughtful questions and I was tickled to see that the group had found such a fun-loving way to approach the material.

If you’re interested in having me meet with your book club, either in person or by skype, let me know!

The Newest Member of the Jackass Crew…

Check out the wild dancer at minute 2:45 in the latest Weezer video. And guess who shot that segment?

An actor friend of mine came over for lunch yesterday and told me that these days it’s all about the slash.

“They want you to have slashes,” she told me. “Director/writer/producer/alligator wrestler. The more the better.”

So I can now add cinematographer to writer/performer/rock mom/baker-of-vegan-delights/knitter-of-ugly-scarves/ukulele player.

I love this video. And not just because I get to add a slash. I think it really captures the joyful vibe of the day. It was a great party. It’s a great song. My men are adorable. Rock on.

I Heart Slovakia

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I’m #7 on a bestseller list in the Slovak Republic and the book doesn’t even hit the shelves for another three weeks. I guess the press I did there paid off.

I’m amazed every day at the warm international reception Some Girls has gotten. It’s a thrill to think that women from such different cultures (Turkey, Greece, Germany, Sweden, Slovakia, etc., etc.) will be holding my book in their hands. I’m eager to compare their responses. I hope the ones who speak a bit of English will share their thoughts with me.

The Place to Be

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Next weekend is the 9th Annual Little Ethiopia Cultural Street Festival and International Unity Parade. Here’s an interesting blog post about the thriving Ethiopian community in L.A.

We’ll be there chowing down on wat, getting jacked up on coffee and dancing our butts off. Join us!

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Cottonmouth Kisses Giveaway

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This is an experiment for me, as I’ve never done a giveaway before. But it’s back-to-school week and as good a time as any to break out of my blog rut. My most fashionable friend, Goth glitterati extraordinaire Clint Catalyst, is celebrating the tenth anniversary of his wonderful book, Cottonmouth Kisses and I have a copy to give to a lucky reader. The back cover copy reads:

With wicked sarcasm and brilliant agility, Catalyst shreds the surface of all his many subjects- gay relationships, backwater adolescence and spiraling addiction- and ignites a bonfire of personal honesty.

And I think y’all know how I feel over here about bonfires of personal honesty. Burn, baby, burn.

Go to Clint’s website and then leave a comment here telling me for what event you would most like to have Clint pick out your outfit. I’ll draw a name at random and announce the winner later this week.

This is How I Take Time Off

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I need to change up my work routine (after I finish these novel revisions) before Scott starts stapling padding to my office walls. I’m a goal-oriented kind of gal and I don’t do down time very well, so I’m hopping off the hamster wheel and straight onto the treadmill. I just downloaded the L.A. Road Runners Marathon Training Guide. I’ve vowed to run the “next” marathon every year for the last fifteen years and have never managed to train past five miles. I’m hoping that maybe some of the physical and mental obstacles I was facing have lifted and this time will be different.

It’s always hard to approach something at which you’ve failed before with a beginner’s mind. But what other choice do you have, really? Maybe this will be my year. Hold me to it.

Who’s with me?

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