Happy Enough New Year 2016!

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On Christmas day we rushed Bright Eyes to the emergency room with pneumonia. He seems to be pulling out of it now, but it was deeply nerve wracking. It feels like it’s been weeks and weeks of nothing but of sickness and worry around here.

At 11pm on New Year’s Eve, I was on my hands and knees cleaning vomit off the bedroom floor after a stomach flu raged through the house for 2 days, thinking, hey, at least they missed the rug this time. Scott lay on the couch in his checked pajamas and stared at the ceiling in shock. On the other side of our fence, the bass pounded from our neighbor’s black tie party. When I was done cleaning the last of the barf remnants, from my voyeuristic vantage point at the kitchen window I could see flashes of glittery dresses and crisp bow ties twirling next to the pool, where burlesque dancers lounged on enormous rafts shaped like swans. Yup- swans.

Then I shuffled papers from pile to pile for a while on our annoying dining room table that has crumbs and glitter and lord knows what else ground into every crack of the reclaimed barnwood rustic bullshit I’d never buy again in a million years because I have to clean it with a toothbrush. The whole house looked like a giant to-do list.

I set the bar low and wrote down some pathetic resolutions. Like- take walks. That kind of thing.

I thought- Oh, my poor life, my self, my soul, where have you gone? I’m a shell of a human in green socks and Birkenstocks on New Years eve, pretending I need more filtered water so I can spy on my neighbor’s swanky party.

I peeked in to the bedroom, where the two kids were through the worst of all the illness and finally asleep in our bed, snuggled in soft blankets and snoring gently, curled beside each other like two commas in different point font. I sat on the edge of the bed for a moment and just breathed with them, watching the deep calm of their sleeping faces and the sweetness of it all was nearly painful.

There was everything, right there. The parties we weren’t at. This crazy family we somehow lucked into. All of our choices and blessings and regrets. All the years, passing faster and faster. Everything we still long for and everything we have and everything we traded and fact that we don’t get to keep it. Any of it.

I did a little exercise I sometimes like to do when I am faced with choices or doubts. I ask myself- on my deathbed, what will I wish I had done with this day?

I thought, I didn’t do so badly. Today, I took care of the people I love. Today, that’s enough. I’ve earned my night’s rest. I wouldn’t rather be on a swan, or anywhere else, really.

When we woke up, everyone felt better and we took Bright Eyes for his first time bowling and we laughed and laughed and ate gross chicken fingers and it was pretty awesome. There will be other parties.

Wishing you all bright and beautiful things in 2016!

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Shana Tova 5776!

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We just got done celebrating the Jewish New Year. As an interfaith household with a great love for all the traditions in our crazy quilt, we celebrate many holidays. This is both totally exhausting–especially around Christmukkah and Eastover– and totally worth it. Celebrating different traditions allows not only for lots of parties, but also for learning, exploring, and the challenging but important practice of honoring divergent belief systems. As F. Scott Fitzgerald famously said:

IMG_8251The test of a first-rate intelligence is the ability to hold two opposed ideas in mind at the same time and still retain the ability to function.

The Jewish New year is a time for celebration and also for deep reflection. It’s a time to cast away the sins of the past year and welcome the coming year with a clean slate and an open heart.

Sometimes I go to temple on the holidays and sometimes I don’t. When I don’t, it can bring on a tsunami of guilt (cuz Jewish), but this year it didn’t. I actually feel great about our holiday activities and am stepping into the New Year feeling both nourished and renewed.

We did a few fun, meaningful things. First, we had a party at the hoaapplesuse to celebrate both the Ethiopian New Year (my sign is wrong, it’s 2008) and the Jewish New Year, which fell a few days apart this year. We wished each other a Shana Tova (good new year), ate Ethiopian food and apples and honey, hung out in the backyard with a handful of good friends, and, most importantly, used the last of our 10 yr old wedding napkins- win! We made brownies (these. you’re welcome.) with a thousand M&Ms in them, which was Tariku’s idea of what would usher in the sweetest New Year. And everyone still got to bed at a reasonable hour. IMG_8272

A few days later, Tariku and I went to the beach to do a Taslich ceremony with Ikar, a special and innovative Jewish community here in Los Angeles, which happens to be led by a childhood friend of mine. Taslich is a meditative ritual that involves tossing bread into a body of water, which is symbolic of casting off our sins from the past year.

On the car ride to the beach, Tariku and some friends and I had a fruitful conversation about sins and personal growth. I personally don’t have any problem with the word sin, though I know a lot of people cringe due to the baggage attached. I’m not a fan of the shame that it can sometimes inspire, but I do like the gravity of the word. Sins are serious- we hurt people and we hurt ourselves. I consider it good soul medicine to take a conscious moment to truly consider the ways I have transgressed and to re-align my intentions with a greater good.

I explained to Tariku that one of the sins I wanted to cast away was my yelling. I told him I don’t think it’s a sin to be angry, but I do consider it a sin to take that anger out on the people around me in ways that aren’t loving and respectful.

Tariku said that a sin he would like to cast away is when his Mom doesn’t let him use the iPad.

Okaaaaaay. Let’s try this again.

And then I prompted him a little bit and he came up with some pretty good answers, but I wasn’t sure if he had grasped the concept or if he had just figured out what I wanted to hear. Either way, it was a good start of a lifelong conversation.

When we got to the beach, the sun was setting in one of those garish, show-offy Southern California displays of pink and gold and powder blue. The unusually warm ocean was glassy and glittery. Tariku dove headfirst into the waves over and over, popping up with his arms outstretched toward the sky in a gesture of pure joy. I stood at the water’s edge and watched as he gleefully threw his bread into the cresting waves. My glorious, life-loving boy!

I experienced one of those waves of pure gratitude that nearly knocked me to the ground. Not “oh-I-should-make-a-gratitude-list” kind of gratitude: the real, pure main-lined good shit.

I thought- Please, God, if I am ever flat busted and alone and eating cat food and everything is lost, please let me at least always remember this moment. Let me always hold the fact that once I was this happy.

Oh yeah, and thanks. Did I mention thanks?

Later, I heard Tariku explaining the ritual to my mom on the phone. He said, “We threw all our big mistakes into the ocean. Like the ocean was the biggest garbage can of mistakes in the world!”

Which is both poetic and hilarious.

Shana tova to all of you! May your 5776 be poetic and hilarious and so very sweet.

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Holding 2015

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Today, on an unusually chilly L.A. morning, I went to my Pop Physique class and happened to throw on a shirt I haven’t worn since I got back from Africa. As I was lift-hold-squeeze-lift-hold-squeezing, I could still smell Ethiopia on my shirt. Tears pricked my eyes as I remembered the rocket fuel coffee, the delicious berbere, the van like a rickety roller coaster, the strong hugs of the women I met, the tears of this little sweetheart at the orphanage.

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It was a painful dissonance– the immense privilege of my lift-hold-squeeze morning (that I had grumbled and complained about) and the smell of the green hills of Ethiopia, where I had seen so much hardship. Sometimes this dissonance and the guilt that comes on its heels can make me want to turn away– just recycle once in a while and throw 25 extra bucks in the envelope with my museum membership and call it a day. I barely even have to look at messy things like extreme poverty, if I keep my eyes trained straight ahead. It hurts to look around.

Look around anyway.

If you’re anything like Scott and me, you’re scrambling tonight to finish up your year-end donations. Still one day left! Help One Now is the amazing organization I went to Ethiopia with. They’re raising funds fight now for Ferrier Village in Haiti. Join Scott and me in buying a brick (or 2 or 10!) for this amazing community, dedicated to rescuing vulnerable children from human trafficking.

Tonight, I aspire to hold (if not lift and squeeze…) my family, my friends, the kids of Ferrier, you… on into a bright 2015.

See you there!

The Countdown to Spring Begins…

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I confess, I’m glad the holiday siege is over. It was fun; it was sweet; mostly it was a massive amount of work and a big expense and I managed to develop a few fresh resentments to bring with me into the New Year. You know- a proper holiday.

So now the countdown to spring begins….

But there are still a few remaining pleasures of winter (or what we call winter here, anyway) left to savor. Like sunsets on a deserted beach. And rain boots.

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No Resolution

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I was going to be at a fabulous party tonight and instead I’m at home blogging with a horrid flu, a partially torn plantar fascia (the band of connective tissue on the bottom of the foot) and a healthy dose of self-pity and deja vu. I feel like this happens every year in some form or another.

I resolved years ago to bag the whole resolution thing, because “resolution” is just a fancy term for the never ending lists I keep of all the ways I’m not good enough, thin enough, productive enough, disciplined enough, selfless enough etc etc.

So screw resolutions. Every day is a new beginning and there is no such thing as a new beginning. Tomorrow is not a magical day during which I will suddenly find the inner reserves to keep my yard tidier, finally hang that curtain rod in my kitchen, volunteer at an orphanage in Tibet, write another book, win the attachment parenting award and not eat candy bars at night. Tomorrow is just another chance for me to practice compassion toward myself and the world around me.

So Happy New Year, all. And thanks for reading my rants for another year. Truly.