Friday Faves 2/20

jerusalen

1. Chicken with Cardamom Rice, from Jerusalem, by Yottam Ottolenghi and Sam Tamimi. This recipe will change your life. I’ve never met anyone who didn’t love it. It’s great for a last-minute dinner party. Once you get it down, you can bang it out in under a couple of hours and it’s both impressive and the perfect one-dish comfort food. I’m wild about the entire cookbook.

david

2. Remembrances of David Carr. Carr’s brilliant The Night of the Gun forever changed the way I think about memoir, journalism, memory, storytelling and healing. I’ve enjoyed reading the many remembrances of him online and have spent a lot of time this week meditating on what his writing means to me. All our love and prayers go out to his friends and family.

milli

3. Millihelen beauty blog. I met the delightful Jane Marie backstage at Margot Leitman’s Origin Story show at UCB, and was delighted to learn about Millihelen, her smart, sassy new beauty blog at Jezebel. For those of us who like beauty and fashion but don’t like being made to feel like crap about ourselves by people trying to sell us stuff. It’s funny! You’ll like it!

sling

4. Rockin’ Baby Sling. My favorite shower gift. T was nearly 11 months old when we brought him home but he was the size of a 6 month old, so I got a few good months of being able to carry him in the sling, which is a terrific attachment-promoting activity. I still treasure the memory. These are made in America of such pretty fabrics, and for every one you buy they donate a sling to a mom in need.

undologo

5. National Day of Unplugging. I’m really excited about this campaign and the discussion it inspires. Scott about falls on the floor laughing every time I tell him I’m going to do this, saying things like, “I last saw you without your phone in your hand in 2006.” I’ll show him. Probably. I’m sure as heck gonna try. Will you join me?

Everything You Ever Wanted ARC Giveaway!

t in sprinkler

giveaway

I thought you might be interested in seeing the original photo (thanks, Christophe Liglet!) that the Everything You Ever Wanted book cover design is based on.

In celebration of the fact that I just finished the final-est, drop-dead (no, really, this is really it) revisions, I’m going to do a giveaway of one of the ARCs (advance reader copies). Sign up for my monthly newsletter under that picture of my head to the right, and leave a comment on this post saying you did. If you’re already signed up that counts too, just leave a comment. I’ll enter your name in a drawing and send a signed copy to the winner! I’ll announce the winner on Monday.

I realize that my posts about the new memoir have been a bit confusing: Oh, I finished. Wait, I finished again. Hey remember when I said I finished? Well now I really finished.

This is what writing a book is like. There are drafts. There are edits. There are more drafts. There are copyedits. The ARC comes out. Then there is a big stack of typeset pages that you correct with an old-fashioned red pen. After you send that back, you can find as many egregious mistakes as you want, they’re going in the final book anyway.

If, as I did, you always hoped to be a writer, every step of the way is the stuff of dreams. And it’s still oddly anti-climactic. Where is the one big moment to pop the cork?!

I always want life to give me the dramatic Hollywood scene: the big proposal in the rainstorm, the shaft of sunlight through the clouds. Reaching the top of the snow-capped mountain and raising my arms in victory.

Really, the climb up a mountain is slow and largely an endurance test. Often, when you get to the top you just have to pee and your camera is out of batteries and some asshole left a bunch of empty Cheetos bags on the ground. So you might as well take advantage of the many opportunities to stop, take a breath, and look at the beautiful views along the way. First holding the ARC in my hand is definitely one of those moments. I hope you enjoy it, too!

Imperfectly Seeking Help

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rollercoaster

I’m more likely these days to celebrate Tariku’s triumphs on this blog than I am to explore our day-to-day challenges. I’m not sure why that is. Maybe the successes are just clamoring louder to be written.

But I got an email the other day from a woman parenting a child who also has Sensory Processing Disorder and PTSD. She told me that she had combed this blog for more about our struggles and had only really found the “everything is so much better” stuff. Better than what? What was it like? Please tell me, she asked.

Things are remarkably different now than they were a few years ago; it’s true. But I don’t mean to misrepresent the situation. Here’s a little snapshot:

T rises from his pillow at 5:30 like a hummingbird who has just smoked methamphetamine. That’s how he rolls all day, until we strong-arm him into bed. He wakes up with approximately one-hundred-and-forty-three questions about cloud formations and tornadoes and Cuba and sharks and death and, and, and… He’s extremely bright and curious and hilarious, but will take almost no direction. Whether it’s baking a cake or doing math or playing a piano concerto, he knows how to do it. His favorite word is no, accompanied by an impressive eye-roll. When he gets over-stimulated, he has no sense of his body in space and very little impulse control. He literally climbs the walls. They have the scuff marks to prove it. He wants to be in control of absolutely everything, including the time and the weather. It’s sort of like living with a cross between Iggy Pop and Fidel Castro.

I love every crazy minute of my son; I truly do. Just the other night we were on the bed together and I was reading while he watched TV. He reached over and took my hand. We held hands like that, while doing our own thing, for the longest time. I swear it was one of the sweetest things that’s happened in my entire life. But I don’t want to mislead you into thinking that he suddenly turned into Shirley Temple overnight.

Much of our life is still spent negotiating therapies and school intervention. Most nights I still wake in a panic at 3am, worried for him.

In fact, this morning I was just on the phone with a new counselor, who offers some innovative therapies. I talked to her about T’s trajectory thus far.

“Did you ever try so-and-so pre-school?” she asked.

“No. We heard about it. We thought about it.”

“That’s too bad. It would have been a really good fit. Their forte is working with extremely bright children with social and emotional challenges. Maybe they could still help you with an after school group. I want you to call them.”

“I…I…I don’t remember why we didn’t. It was so confusing at the time,” is all I managed to stammer.

The rest of the conversation was encouraging. We set up an appointment for an intake. I chirped something about so excited to see what the future holds and then hung up.

I put the phone down and sat, staring at the website of the special needs pre-school he didn’t attend. We’re very happy with our school now, but it looked like it would have indeed been perfect a few years ago. And even though I had already loaded on my mascara for the day, I began to weep.

The essential thing I forgot to do. The thing thing that would have helped him. And I missed it. I failed my child.

Which sends me right down the spiral of… at what am I failing right now that I’ll have to answer for at a therapist’s office in three years?

Scott’s guru guitar teacher showed up at the house as I was in the midst of this. I answered the door and actually cried on his shoulder. I barely know the guy.

He asked me tell him what was going on. So I did.

Have I mentioned I barely know this guy?

I can’t imagine what Scott was thinking. It was truly bizarro of me. But sometimes you gotta just be where you are.

“I’m not doing enough,” I sobbed. “I’m doing the wrong things.”

“Are you willing to let that story go? “ he asked me. “Because that’s just a story you’re telling yourself.”

It’s a story I often tell myself. And it’s true I’m usually getting something wrong. It’s true there are plenty of great avenues of help that we’ll never find. But all three of us are seeking help with such hope and dedication. It’s not ever enough, but it’s our best effort. Just look at our little Iggy Pop. He’s learning. He’s making friends. He’s growing all the time. He’s a wild, white-hot ball of pure love. He’s perfect. And I will fail him many times before this gig is up. But that’s just one story. There’s another in which we’re all heroes.

I deeply relate to the desperation and confusion of the woman who wrote me the letter. This isn’t an answer at all. It’s just a story about my morning. But I hope it helps.

Guest Post at 28 Days of Play

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I have a guest post up today at the 28 Days of Play blog, over at Rachel Cedar’s You Plus 2 Parenting. It’s a cool series, in which writers and bloggers answer the question, “Do you play with your kids?”

Here’s a teaser:

DINOSAUR IMPROV

I spent my brief stint in college studying something called experimental theater. I loved theater class, but it did involve some pretty goofy activities. For instance, we spent hours rolling around on the floor, stretching and making weird kind of moaning/screeching/mooing noises in an attempt to find our “neutral voice.” Also, there was lots and lots of staring into people’s eyes and crying. And no class was complete if it didn’t end with a group massage.

After training like that, I figured I’d be the awesomest, most creative, least-inhibited mommy on the block. I mean, no one can bust out some improvised Shakespeare or sing the entire score of West Side Story quite like this mom.

As Peter Pan said, “Growing up is awful-er than all the awful things that ever were…”

I lived by that creed. I was convinced I’d never grow up. That I’d always hold sacred that spirit of playfulness I believe is essential to life as an artist. I vowed I’d never turn into my parents. See where this is going?…

Go HERE to read the rest!

Friday Faves (on Thursday) 2/5

I have a guest post up at 28 Days of Play tomorrow, so I thought I’d post my Friday faves today instead….

loving day

1. Loving Day, by Mat Johnson. One of the cool things about being a writer is I get to read stuff that isn’t out yet. This book is remarkable. It’s funny and raw, somehow both real and surreal at the same time. It explores themes of race, family, belonging and real vs ideal worlds. Also, there are sexy ghosts! All the good stuff. It’s out in May, but you can and should pre-order now!

on being

2. On Being with Krista Tippett podcast. We who live in LA get lots and lots of good weather… that we mostly get to experience by gazing out at it from the window of a (slowly) moving vehicle. As a result, I consider myself rather a connoisseur of podcasts. Tippett converses with some of the great spiritual, scientific and humanitarian leaders of our time. She explores the Big Questions with humor and complexity. If you happen to like thinking and feeling, you you will love this podcast. Start with Father James Martin, Brenè Brown, Reza Aslan, or anyone really. They’re all great

the skimm

3. The Skimm is great for those of us who are a wee bit stressed and/or lazy and still want to keep abreast of what’s happening in our world. It’s a daily newsletter that offers a much more balanced, savvy, and intelligent perspective than a quick perusal of the Google news headlines. It’s my current obsession. Sign up! You’ll be smarter.

4. Ask An Autistic, with Amythest Schaber. A friend whose child also has Sensory Processing Disorder, like Tariku, turned me on to this video and I immediately fell in love with this neurowonderful (her awesome term) gal. This is the most clear and concise description of SPD I’ve ever seen, told from the inside. SPD is a complex thing to understand. It’s hard to wrap your head around. I need constant reminders that my son is processing sensory information in a different way than I am. The ways that this manifests in his behavior can be incredibly frustrating and I need all of the tools, understanding and empathy I can get. I think Amythest’s videos would be illuminating and inspiring for anyone, regardless of whether or not you’re parenting special needs. Her videos remind me that the ways we are “different” are so often the doorway to the ways we shine.

dinner love story

5. Dinner: A Love Story, by Jenny Rosenstrach. Rosenstrach has documented every single thing she and her family have eaten for dinner since 1998. If you’re not a compulsive documenter like me, that might sound a little bit scary (personally, I just feel beaten at my own game by a noble foe). I can assure you the book is anything but scary. It’s all about encouraging and supporting the family table, but not in a “every night you don’t cook seasonal organic meals from scratch you’re kid is losing IQ points” kind of way. This book manages to have a foot in the worlds of both the aspirational and the attainable. It has become my go-to for family-friendly meals. My picky eater wolfs down her salmon. And it’s so funny and engaging you can read it like a novel.