Posts tagged Scott Shriner

Not Bad at All

tree

The crumbling gingerbread house is barely hanging in there on the dining room table, next to my menorah from Hebrew school graduation. The fake log made of coffee grounds is fake crackling in the fireplace. The cranky child is finally asleep. The PMS tea is steeping. The computer paper snowflakes are clothes-pinned to the barn lights. The tree is my best one yet; really, it is. Our house guest walked into the house this evening, looked at it and just said, “Thank you.” I shed a little tear.

The world is quiet, save the soft churning of the dishwasher and the washing machine. Which is to say: quiet enough. It’s never quite the Hallmark card/Pinterest board/Barbie Dream House, is it? But it’s still pretty great.

The thing that comes to mind are Snoopy’s words of wisdom from You’re a Good Man Charlie Brown (Yes, I played Snoopy in summer camp. Of course I did. Rachel Weintraub, witness!):

Not bad. It’s not bad at all.

Love you all tonight. I’m sure that’s a song, too.

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Thanksgiving Part 1: The Giving Part

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withcindy

This Thanksgiving, I tried to figure out a fun way to ease Tariku into the idea of giving to others. Until now, I’ve been lazy about including him in our charitable efforts, for the reason that there’s a lot less whining without him. I’ve justified this by telling myself that modeling right action is enough. After all, that’s how I learned from my own parents, who were always active in numerous organizations. It seemed time to do something more proactive, however, since we’ve been focusing with Tariku on building empathy.

Honestly, I don’t often volunteer on Thanksgiving, because it’s the one day a year that soup kitchens and food banks actually have enough helpers. But in this case, it seemed a great opportunity to explore the concept of gratitude. We volunteered as a family with Gobble Gobble Give, a wonderful grassroots project that donates food and clothes to LA’s homeless each Thanksgiving.

We filled up the back of our truck with Gobble Gobble Give’s meals and donations and drove around handing them out to people. I wanted to do something concrete, so that Tariku could actually look people in the eye and have an experience of interacting with individuals.

Make no mistake, he did not want to go. He wanted to stay home and play dinosaurs or cards, or anything else really. He probably would have even preferred to clean up his room. I had to strong-arm him into it (okay, maybe I also promised him Cheetos if he cooperated).

We started by visiting our friend Cindy, a homeless woman who hangs around our old neighborhood. Tariku has known Cindy since he was a baby and was happy to visit her, but couldn’t figure out why she was included on our route. He had never realized she was homeless. She gave us big hugs, took donations to deliver to her friends and gave us some suggestions.

Then we went to some intersections in Pasadena that we pass every day on the way to T’s school. By this time, T was insisting on handing out all the bags himself. He was skipping, smiling his enormous smile, bringing the Tariku sunshine and making everyone laugh.

The only trouble arose when we passed a disturbed looking young man, cursing at a wall. I wouldn’t let Tariku walk up to him for fear the man might be dangerous, and T was upset with me for “leaving him out.” On our way home, T meditatively ate his Cheetos. I asked him if it had made him feel good to give to other people.

He said, “Mom, I’m still worried about that one guy.”

It was amazing to see his perspective shift over the course of a few hours. I hadn’t walked into the day with big expectations– I had simply wanted to transmit my belief that the best way to express gratitude is through action. But the experience really got a hook in him, so now I’m wondering, how do I take this ball and run with it?

I’d love to hear your suggestions. Let me know… how do you impart the spirit of giving to your kids?

Tune in tomorrow for Thanksgiving Part 2: The Thanks Part.

Death by Book

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NY

As I approach the finish line of this new memoir, my response to the question How are you? has lately been, This book is killing me, or (in the style of the Wicked Witch), I’m melting! MEEEELTING! And other cheery and not-at-all dramatic stuff like that.

Then, right before Halloween, my best friend Julie in upstate NY called to tell me her husband just had emergency heart surgery. If they hadn’t caught the blockages, he would have been dead within the year.

After I hung up the phone, I vowed to slow down, to be in the moment, to be present for the miracle that is my life. Forever more. The end.

And then I used that vow to flagellate myself for the next few days because, as usual, I was unable to accomplish this goal in any significant way. Until I finally just said forget it and tossed the vow out of the window of my car, while texting at red lights, blasting The Shins, crying and eating an emergency taco on my way to therapy.

When I got home from therapy, I (not at all slowly or mindfully) stuck T in front of Phineas and Ferb, while I packed two suitcases for NY. In the morning we left to meet Scott and see an Everything Will Be Alright in the End show. The next few days were a maelstrom of activities and meetings and rock shows and no sleep. By the time we were in a rented car heading over The George Washington Bridge to go upstate and visit Julie and her family, I had been running nonstop for so many days that my whole body was vibrating.

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When we got there the air was crisp and smelled like rain, the grass phosphorescent against the grey sky. The last of the fiery foliage still clung to the trees. I began to breathe as we wound through the country roads that I recognize in my very bones, from having spent every summer of my childhood there. I hurried us all into our half-assed costumes (Frankenstein, the Mummy And a fortune teller, fyi), then met Julie, her sister and their kids in the hippie haven of Woodstock. It was adorable night, with exuberant trick-or-treating punctuated by lots of old school drum circles. Without even trying, there it was in front of me: the wonder of my days.

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When we got back to their house after the candy carnage, Julie’s husband was resting on the couch, waiting for us.

Scott asked him, “How are you feeling about all this, Man? Are you anxious?”

He replied, “I’ve never been calmer. Nothing matters to me anymore except this.”

The “this” he was pointing at included six children racing through the living room on plasma cars, screaming with laughter and leaving chocolate fingerprints on every available surface. The youngest of them toddled behind, yelling “Tarikoosh! Tarikoosh!”

Ah yes. This.

Writing is hard. Mothering is hard. Sometimes keeping both balls in the air does indeed feel like it’s killing me. But it’s not. Ultimately, it’s nourishing me. My family and my work both give me much more than they ever take out of me.

The book is called Everything You Ever Wanted. It’s a motherhood memoir for the slightly less traditional moms among us, about going from being a member of a harem to a member of the PTA, and it comes out in May. It is almost finished. So close. I can’t wait to share it with you. I am wicked stressed, but it is not killing me. Not at all.

Rock Wife Life: Then and Now

Last week Weezer released their ninth studio album, Everything Will Be Alright The End. It’s amazing, and if you haven’t listened to it yet, you should!

Here are my boys on the set of the “Back to the Shack” video.

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videoshoot

As T and I bopped around at the video shoot, I thought, how apropos: the moon. When we create, we are always in uncharted territory. We seek to break out of our habitual thought patterns, to view the very ground we stand on from a whole new angle. In its most transcendent moments, creating can feel like you’re not tethered to the laws of this world at all, not even gravity.

I adore this album and it has been an honor, as always, to hover around the edges of the room while music is being born.

The prospect of the upcoming tour dates has made me both excited and nostalgic. Here is Scott and me at Coachella 2003, my first Weezer show (awwww)….

first show

When we first pulled up stakes and toured, Scott and I were newly married. We left behind a ratty, weird apartment with mirrored closet doors, industrial grey carpeting, and Cottage White walls. It was full to bursting with the beginnings of a married life, or rather the beginnings of the accumulation of the stuff that signified being married (the monogrammed towels, the waffle maker, the Cuisinart…). On the one hand I loved our blossoming life together and on the other I felt suffocated by it. I mean, what the hell was I supposed to do with a Cuisinart anyway?

We were both relieved every time we dragged our suitcases out the door and left the stuff behind. As depicted in a thousand movies, the touring life was grueling and hard— the travel, the exhaustion, the repetition. But for Scott and me, life on the road was also a kind of rolling meditation. We loved it. I never felt more myself than when waking up, ordering room service and poring over the map of a new city. I was even happier if the breakfast contained one or two unidentifiable food items. Scott and I both had a sense of rightness on tour, as if we had happily been adopted into a circus family. In a way, that’s what being in a band is – a nomadic family, united by a common purpose and facing shared obstacles, buoyed always by the electrical force of the music.

I toured with the band all summer long and into the fall, curling up in the back lounges of the tour buses. I watched columns of light shoot up into the purple sky over the California desert, while the crowd boiled and churned and clamored for guitar picks. I gossiped for hours with the other wives and girlfriends. I watched Scott play grungy Dutch clubs and cavernous American hockey rinks and, bizarrely, the site of the Nuremberg Rallies. A certain hugely famous English rock star offered me cocaine in a Paris bathroom (declined, but still a fun moment, in a Studio 54 kind of way). I woke dazed in St. Louis, Toronto, Paris. I stepped over passed-out, topless Scandinavians. I wandered the 8th Arrondisement, the red-light district of Hamburg, downtown Detroit, Disney World.

And now? Now I have embraced the dreaded Cuisinart; I treasure the comfort of home; Yo Gabba Gabba Live has become our most coveted concert ticket. And in spite of this sea change, in many ways the song remains the same. I still fall in love with Scott anew every time I watch him step onto a stage. Tariku might just prove to be our family’s most ardent music lover. He’s on fire with rhythms and melodies, constantly banging on anything in sight. There is not any less music in my life now, there are just fewer topless Scandinavians. It’s still about the same thing: the songs, the family, the love, the adventure. I’m looking forward to seeing what this next chapter will bring.

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My Tedx Talk!

Here is the talk I gave at Chapman University, about adoption and the role of imagination in forming our identities. Hope you enjoy it! Please pass it along if you do.

The Move and Everything After

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It’s been a long while. I wish I could say that I’ve been absent because the fam and I have had our toes sunk in the mud by a lake somewhere woodsy, or that we’ve been busy hunting for abalone shells, enjoying these last days of spring before the summer descends.

The truth is, we moved onto a new house in the middle of multiple work deadlines (sorry, Becky, I swear I’ll have the new book finished in a jiffy), the end of the school year, and Scott being in and out of town. I was hardly stopping to smell the roses. The best I could do was convince the movers not to trample the roses.

I had a disorienting experience when I saw at all of our stuff on the truck. Everything looked huge and tiny at the same time. I was like- Who are we, anyway? Who would we be if this truck just drove away and never came back? Scott was like- are you smoking weed? And I was like- way to undermine a poetic moment. And then we moved our entire existence six miles away, to the top of a big hill.

I have missed this blog space, because without it, I lose my frame. I lose my outlet, which has been a life-saver for me over the last six years. Six! I just checked. And in the middle of all this crazy change, I find that it is still here for me, waiting. So hello, again!

We were worried about how T was going to handle the transition. I’m happy to report that he was a peach. He loves the new place. We can see tons of airplanes from our wide windows and that is all T needs to be happy. That and a corn dog once in a while.

In truth, it was me who had the hardest time with the move. Scott was a bit taken aback by my high-strung emotional reaction.

What if the next house doesn’t have good luck? What if it doesn’t keep us safe? I cried to him.

Honey? It’s not the house that keeps us safe.

So, yeah. Some stuff going on. About security and home. About time and loss.

Speaking of time, T just graduated from kindergarten. His school handles things in a low-key way, which I appreciate There are no tiny caps and gowns, no ceremonies. At 12:30pm last Friday, I went and picked him up at school, then we went swimming at his friend’s house and that was that. Next year the grades start to have numbers, and there just aren’t very many of those numbers if you really think about it.

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We were lucky enough to have a remarkable teacher this year. The kind that come around once in a blue moon and you remember for rest of your life. I am deeply grateful to all the teachers out there who have extra love for the kids who struggle- for the outliers, the special ones. The beginning of the year was rocky, but his teacher saw his big bright light and she believed in him. Slowly, he became what she saw him to be. He did beautifully.

He won the Doctor Award at school, because he takes such good care of his friends. I was nearly as proud as the day when he said, out of the blue, “Hey Mama, Lou Reed is cool!” This kid is my hero.

He went to the airport to watch the jets with his Auntie this morning (his Saturday ritual), and before he left he stood next to me and pointed out the picture window toward the airport.

If you ever miss me too much, he said, I’m right there at LAX. It’s not far.

It was never really the house at all.

Leaving

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We have been kicking around the idea of moving for years, dragging our feet. Then within a course of a month, KABAM, we have a new house and our old one is sold. It happened in a flash.

It has been a shock to my system. I’m all busted up about leaving. I’m not simply a touch teary and sentimental; I’m sitting on our front porch and sobbing.

I remember the first time we saw our little green house with the neat white trim, the golden afternoon light filtering through the camphor and jacaranda trees. It was love at first sight. We couldn’t believe our luck when we got it.

We waited for a child for two solid years in that house. We did not have the baby we so desperately wanted, but we did have our nest and I clung to it. I decorated his room with a zeal I don’t believe I will ever summon again for things like curtains. I spent some of the hardest days of my life in that house.

ROOM

I was sitting at our weathered farm table when I finally got the call:

You have a beautiful eight-month-old son. His name is Tariku.

My neighbor was pregnant with twins at the time. We spent many afternoons together, drinking lemonade on her porch. Something deeply lazy and serene washed over us as we slowly adjusted to the idea of the sea change before us. Those twins are now Tariku’s closest buddies and we haven’t had a moment of serenity since.

As Scott and I prepared to go to Africa, I sat on the bright green carpet in Tariku’s room under the painted starry night sky, while I packed and plotted and planned. I tried out various nicknames. It was Tariku’s room. Terry’s room. T-Bone’s room. T’s room. I sat in the rocker for hours and looked at his photos and was able to trust, for just a moment, that it would be fine somehow. That he would come home to us after all. That the world was about to shatter into something entirely new.

For the last five years, I have started all of T’s bedtime stories:

Once upon a time, there was a little boy named Tariku Moon, who lived in a little green house on Mount Royal Drive…

That era is ending now, never to return. Like the sweet sounds he used to make before he could form words. Like the smell of his baby head- some combination of powder and cookies and fairy dust- as he napped on my chest in the rocker. Like the small, shifting weight of him as I carried him around for hours in the Ergo, my little kangaroo.

CUTE

We have been through so much here. I think I am partly grieving the couple Scott and I were when we moved into the house, with all of our hopefulness and naivetè, seven years worth of mistakes and missteps still ahead of us. It was a freer, wilder time. It would be dishonest of me to say that absolutely everything is better now that we finally have the child we always wanted. We are tired. There are crazy new lines on my face. I have to pack a lunch box every morning and, man, does that start out cute and get old quick. Still, when I step back and look at the home we made, I am overwhelmed with gratitude. I realize how happy we have been, how lucky we are to be growing and moving on.

US

We bought a dynamite place in a snazzy-cute neighborhood, with lots of fantastic cafés, artisanal grilled cheese, overpriced denim and clever mustaches. There are also tons of families, beautiful park space and a terrific farmer’s market. Our new pad is light and bright and vibrant. I am sad to leave, but I am also thrilled about the sense of wide open possibility. We might just be buying bunk beds… Also, my new kitchen is SWEET.

We are leaving a home that we have loved and of which I am proud. Our happiness has been in these walls but it is not of these walls. We will take it with us when we go.

Onward, to the next adventure!

Cruising Together

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We are all a little bit dazed today, having just returned from a cruise to the Bahamas. A cruise may not seem like a likely choice of a vacation for us, but this was a rock cruise- a Weezer cruise to be specific. A boat full of bands and music fans, the climax of which was an epic afternoon show in a secluded cove on an island beach.

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I honestly had no idea what to expect. Julie the cruise director subtly organizing love matches during shuffleboard tournaments on the Lido deck? Trying to navigate our five year old through a gauntlet of smoky casinos and boozy spring breakers?

What I discovered is that our week on the cruise wasn’t about pina coladas in the hot tub (though there certainly were a few) or the basking by the pool (it was surprisingly blustery and cold), but rather about family.

My experience of family has always been a shifting thing, kind of like our time on the boat. Sometimes the wind kicked up and the water roiled navy and white as the deck under me listed from side to side so noticeably that I had to lie down and hold onto my head. Sometimes the ocean was kind and ridiculously turquoise, giving no indication of the whole alien world churning beneath its surface.

Our life is rich with extended family, including the Weezer fam. I confess that I have always secretly enjoyed all the annoying minutiae of traveling as a band. I rarely get impatient when being herded through airports, into buses, into arenas, onto gangplanks. I love being in the midst of the whole motley crew of us: the wives, the come-and-go girlfriends, the kids, the babysitters, the parents, the cranky tour manager (sorry, Stu). Once on board, the always thoughtful and creative fans showered us with cards and tiaras and patches and posters, much of it made with their own hands. As a kid running around the house belting out “Join the Circus” from the musical Barnum, this is what I always hoped my life was going to be. A strange dream, maybe, but I was right- it’s pretty wonderful.

Later that afternoon, we met up with yet more of our “relations” for a reunion that makes me tear up every time I think of it. We have remained close with all of the eight families with whom we traveled to Ethiopia on our adoption trip, but T rarely sees the kids because we all live in different parts of the country. To our delight, a couple of them decided to come sail with us.

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superhero cuties

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I am wary of superimposing my own fantasies of some mystical aspect to their friendship, but objectively, it was pure magic. The kids were beyond thrilled to see each other and kept shouting the things they had in common to literally every passerby who would listen (We were all born in Ethiopia! We all have brown skin! We all have pink parents!). I know that they felt the commonalities extended beyond the obvious, but they didn’t have words for it yet. I’m not sure I do either.

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I can only say that there is a deep connection between these kids, and between us, their parents. It is very relaxing for Scott and me to be around the people with whom we shared the most meaningful time in our life. There is so much that is just recognized and understood and doesn’t need to be explained.

My heart is full every time I think of the unbridled joy on their little faces as they ran around the ship deck, upending everyone’s Mai Tais and commandeering the hot tub.

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As the boat rocked me to sleep each night, I was overwhelmed with gratitude for this life of ours, so abundant with music and family.

Thanks to everyone who made the cruise so special.

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The Ride

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Summertime conjures images of lazy afternoons by the pool, backyard barbeques, a gorgeous peach, beach tar on your feet. But if you’re a musician, summer is actually when you work your ass off. Scott has been rolling from gig to gig with Weezer and we’ve occasionally been tagging along. Comicon was a kick. The Orange County Fair was like a sensory gorge. I let T ride every ride over and over and then eat giant hot dogs and funnel cake and pet the pigs and the bunnies. I was like- who are you gonna be, the mom that doesn’t go to the fair? The mom that spends the whole fair saying no? So I said yes, and there was emotional fallout, of course, but I was braced for it and it was really no biggie. Even his worst moments now are generally just mega-annoying and not deep despair-inducing.

This summer has been a ride. There has been a lot of work and travel and fun and difficulty and disappointment and sadness. My kid is swimming like a fish. I had a chat at a party with Sheryl Sandberg. I wrote some hard stuff. I had some minor surgery on my girl bits. T-bone hated summer camp. I cried for like three days straight at the beginning of July. A friend died. I’m turning forty. Yeah, so there’s that.

Honestly, I have been holding on for dear life. I am a gripper by nature. But once in a while I manage to loosen that grip- usually when the late afternoon pink tangerine light announces itself in a way that defies you not to stop and feel it on your face, not to just pause look at your child laughing on the playground. I could sit around all day planning how I’m going to be a better person: more present, more conscious, thinner, more disciplined, recycle more, whatever. But I can’t wait until all that comes true to be happy. I’ll take the moments now. The ones in which I take my hands off the bar and put my hands up in the air and scream for joy.

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Remembering Jen

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My dear friend Jen Wilson passed away last night after a long and heroic battle with cancer. Her friends and family are all grieving today.

Jen’s husband and mine are in the same band and we traveled the world together. Many nights, we said goodnight across a bus aisle before drawing the curtains of our bunks. In the morning, we stumbled into each other on our way to find coffee. We sat around together for hours in both grand hotel suites and crappy European dressing rooms. She was my stage-side companion for the last ten years and in a way, we were family.

When I showed up in the Weezer picture, she had been at it for years already. She welcomed me into the camp with open arms and taught me the rockwife ropes. I can only hope that I’ve learned to weather this blessed and challenging life with half as much grace and humor as she did. Jen was real. She managed to be the salt of the earth, while always carrying the latest Louis Vuitton bag. Above all, she was devoted to her family and friends.

When Scott and I were desperately trying to have a baby, Jen was already pregnant with their second child. Many of our friends with new babies acted uncomfortable around us. Jen was a notable exception. She was able to truly listen to me, sometimes offering advice, sometimes just being a sympathetic ear. More than once she prescribed immediate retail therapy and dragged me out in pursuit of some much-needed distraction. She was able to be present for my pain and so she was fully able to be present for our joy when Tariku finally came home. She threw me an amazing baby shower. Jen threw a lot of showers. She was the girl who wanted to give you a party.

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I love the story about Jen working as a barista at Starbucks when the “Undone” video first came out. People would come into her work and say, “I saw your husband on MTV!” She would just nod and smile but she hadn’t even seen the video yet, because they couldn’t afford cable.

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I remember a flight to New York one time, during which Jen was holding Ian and I was holding Tariku. We were across the aisle from each other and both the boys were being fussy. I was far tenser than she about having screaming babies on a plane. I remember looking at how she was rocking her son and shaping my arms around my baby in the same way, learning from the wisdom of a more experienced mother. Soon they were both quiet.

There is so much she taught me. I will take it with me. I will remember her sunny smile always.

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Jealous?

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This is my newly decorated living room. This is it. There is no couch. There is a rocking chair across the room, for exactly no one to sit in because the drums are so loud your ears would bleed. Jealous?

Why did I let this happen to my life, you ask? Did I hire my sixteen-year-old burnout nephew as a decorator and pay him in weed?

Let me tell you the saga of my couch.

Once upon a time, we had an expensive leather sofa bed from Restoration Hardware. Because I am a sensible gal, we got it off Craig’s List. When we took our truck to Venice Beach to pick it up, we found it weighed exactly 47,000 lbs.. While we were inside finding this out, we got a parking ticket. Then we had to go and hire two guys from the Home Depot parking lot to help us take it home and get it in the house. At this point, we may as well have bought a new couch.

I really enjoyed our expensive couch for exactly two months. We even had a house guest! A certain relative (hint: rhymes with shmother-in-shlaw) visited and slept on it and then proceeded to not be able to stand us for the following six years, but what the heck! At least we had a sofa bed.

One fine Saturday, the dogs ate the entire back of it.

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Here they are, the little darlings. That is not the couch- that is the couch before the cursed couch. They ate that one, too. Do you want them?!? DM me.

But I am not easily thrown. I had it reupholstered by a very nice man who had to bring not one but three of his sons to move it.

I bought those weird plastic electrified shock mats to keep the dogs off it (go easy on the comments here PETA activists, at least I didn’t donate the dogs to science). But then I realized that we were living with plastic shock mats on our furniture and that is psychotic, so I took them off.

They ate it again. I had it reupholstered again. By this time, we may as well have bought a car. I put up dog doors to keep them out of the living room but those were such a pain that eventually we just started leaving a dog gate ON the couch, which made me not even want to look at the living room much less live in it.

They shoved the gate over and ate it again.

At which point, I was like: I FOUND THE PERFECT PLACE FOR THAT DRUM SET!

Magically, within one afternoon, the couch disappeared and my living room looked like this. It chafes a bit, but it has also been an instant party. The very night the cursed couch disappeared, there were four pre-schoolers rehearsing with their new band while I made dinner with ear plugs in. Je ne regrette rien. Fun is better than a couch any day.

A Letter About Adoption

An old, dear friend emailed yesterday to tell me that he and his wife are considering international adoption. He wanted to know if I had any advice. I began to write a short email back and a novel pretty much poured out of me. As I was writing, I looked at the date on the computer and realized that exactly four years before, Scott and I were on a plane to Ethiopia. I had been feeling emotional all day and couldn’t really pinpoint the cause, but I guess I was having a subconscious body memory of that earth-shaking time in my life.

The letter only begins to scratch the surface of some of our hard-earned wisdom about the international adoption process, but it’s a start. I thought I’d share it with you. Here it is..

I am so thrilled to hear you’re considering international adoption! I’m always a little bit jealous of people at the beginning of their adoption journey. You have such a transformative road ahead of you. I could never have predicted the myriad ways that adoption would blow my heart, my mind, indeed my whole world wide open. In fact, four years ago today, we were on a plane to Ethiopia to adopt Tariku. I still can’t believe my luck. I think back on the adventure and it seems like someone else’s amazing life.

It’s definitely a marathon, not a sprint. And when it is over you will truly know yourself to be both fiercer and more tender than you ever could have expected. I think that the patience was the hardest lesson for me. I used to say that they should have given me a law degree as well as a baby, when the whole thing was over and done with. So at least you’re ahead on that score. Neither you nor Linda will be scared off by a little bit of confusing paperwork!

Okay, I have buckets of advice. It’s my favorite subject, after all. I’m not sure how far you’ve gotten in your research, so forgive me if I’m being too basic. I’ve been thinking about what the most important nuggets of wisdom I’ve gained are- what I most want to share with you as you head out the gate…

First of all- if you haven’t started your home study yet, start immediately. Today. It’s the first step in any adoption, domestic or international, and it’s done through the state so it can take a while. Don’t wait until you feel absolutely confident (you probably won’t) or have all the details sorted in your head, just start. I promise you’ll want to move faster than they do once it gets going.

Do you have any ideas of what country you’re interested in? It has changed so much since we adopted 4 years ago and I’m not sure about the various regulations. There are pros and cons to every place. I know that you have to go back to Ethiopia twice now (it was only once, when we did it) and that the wait is significantly longer. However, I can’t say enough about my experience with the country and its people. There is an incredibly attached and loving caregiving style with children in Ethiopia. I thought Scott was going to have a heart attack in the airport when every woman in sight kept coming over and hugging and kissing Tariku. It’s a wonderfully warm culture. All children who live for a time without parents suffer some sort of trauma; that’s just a fact. But I truly believe that the love and affection he received in the care center helped to facilitate the attachment process when he was finally in our arms. That was one of the primary reasons we chose Ethiopia. What I couldn’t have predicted was how the country would capture my heart. I can’t wait to go back there- we plan to as soon as T is old enough to handle the flight.

When looking for an international adoption agency, it’s important to talk to some people who have gone through an adoption with them, preferably in the country of your choice. I was very happy with Children’s Home Society and Family Services in St Paul. What you want to look for in an agency is a commitment to ethics and transparency and an involvement in the communities from which the kids are coming. When we were in Ethiopia, we had the opportunity to tour the hospital and school that Children’s Home Society sponsors in Addis. At the time I was just annoyed to have any time taken away from my getting to know T, but in retrospect it’s significant to me. The global and personal ramifications of international adoption are complex and it’s important to me to feel like I’m contributing toward a world where women aren’t forced to give up their children due to poverty, famine and disease. So you want to make sure that the adoption agency is on the same page. Of course there are all kinds of scary stories- and believe you me EVERYONE will feel the need to tell you one for some reason. But there’s no reason to be scared. Just do a little research (duh).

Which leads me to my next piece of advice- many well-intentioned people say assinine things about adoption. Like multiple times a day. You will gather a file of stock responses and it will become no big deal. Don’t let it throw you. The only people who have relevant advice are people who have gone through it. The nice thing about these people with experience in the matter is that a lot of them have blogs! Here are some of my favorite:

Rage Against the Minivan
The Lost Planet
Under the Acacia Tree
Welcome to My Brain
Dreaming Big Dreams

The most important thing I can recommend is to do some radical attachment parenting once you get your child home. This is true regardless of the age of the child. I have a friend who adopted a five year old and she kept that little girl less than six feet from her for six months. They ate with her, slept with her, bathed with her, eventually went to school with her. AND they have three other kids! And she is doing marvelously now. For us, we cocooned with Tariku for two months, then transitioned him slowly for another two. No one but Scott or I held him or nurtured him. We did a lot of just sitting around holding him to our bare chests. We slept with him and bathed with him and played endless peek a boo and other activities with a lot of eye contact. The only time I ever put him in a stroller was to go for a walk or a run. Otherwise I wore him in the Ergo carrier, which I think is the best carrier for heavier/older kids and for longer periods of time. Obviously you guys work a lot. But if at least one or the other of you can be with the child all the time in the very beginning, it will make a huge difference. There is plenty of more extensive advice about attachment and adoption, but this is the general idea. It’s definitely a huge commitment, but I can tell you that the initial attachment process with Tariku was the sweetest, best few months of my life.

Another thing- I think it’s important to introduce some specific rituals into the child’s life that honor his/her adoption in some way. We had a welcoming ceremony. The rabbi who officiated was a woman we met in Ethiopia, who also adopted a child from the same care center. So one of Tariku’s friends from Ethiopia was at his ceremony! It was so special. Another thing we do is celebrate his “gotcha” day ( I know- super dorky adoption-speak) as if it’s a second kind of birthday. I also light a candle with him for his birth mother the night before Mother’s Day. These are just the things I’ve integrated, there are countless ways people honor their children’s stories. It’s up to you to be creative about your family’s special language of ritual, because there is nothing pre-packaged that recognizes adoptive families in our culture.

Lastly, I think it’s very important that we as parents keep a regular, developmentally appropriate dialogue about adoption going with our kids. It shouldn’t be up to them to ask. I talk about adoption a lot, so it becomes really natural and comfortable (for both of us), and I give T the opportunity to ask questions or not. His interest level seems to go in phases, but I want the structure to already be in place when the questions start to get hard.

Okay, well, that’s a novel! And there’s more where that came from. You can always call me with any questions. I’m so thrilled for you. Adoption is hard and complicated and it’s completely amazing. I send you all our love and blessings as you embark!

Hanukkah Mama Goes to Church

We’ve been reading a great book with T called Daddy Christmas and Hanukkah Mama, about being in an interfaith family. I highly recommend it. It gave me the idea of eating latkes for Christmas breakfast (yum). The book has actually inspired me to try to come up with some tradition blending of our own, and we’ve been having a blast sprinkling Hanukkah gelt in the Christmas stockings and going on a hunt for the latke food truck on our way to see Santa.

We’ve also been going to church lately. We’ve been hopping around, trying out a few different churches, seeing if there’s a place we feel we fit in- weird, interfaith, transracial, looking-kind-of-like-a-boho-biker-gang family that we are. Strangely, finding a church we like is more important to Hanukkah Mama than it is to Daddy Christmas. I loved the rituals and traditions of temple growing up and I feel compelled to offer my son a similar experience. It doesn’t really matter to me whether it’s temple or church, it just matters that it feels like home and gives him a shared experience of the sacred. My belief in the importance of offering T a racially diverse community whenever possible leads me to lean toward church.

I had a very personal and present relationship with God as a child. I think that relationship made me good at being alone. I always had this other thing- a light behind me, a hand to steady me- that kept me from being lonely. Some people naturally gravitate toward a dialogue with God. Some people don’t need it, don’t want it, don’t believe it. I’ve always been able to see it from both sides and they both make sense to me. But me, I have the God impulse. I don’t expect to necessarily ever find a satisfactory answer, but I’ve resigned myself to the search anyway.

Scott, on the other hand, couldn’t stand church as a kid. Church was the place that he got stuffed into a suit and made to sit still to make his grandfather happy. It was a place of discomfort and obligation. But he’s being a champ about the whole church thing. We’ve been having a nice time getting up on Sundays and getting a little bit dressed up (which T loves to do- he’s a dapper little dude by nature), going to church and then going out to brunch with friends. It’s becoming a sweet ritual in our week.

It’s not enough for me to talk to God in my bedroom alone; I want to share the experience. And I’m just gonna say it- it’s all the same thing. Temple, church- whatever. It’s a place to feel a part of the human race in a way that transcends the constant brain chatter, a place to stand together and sing together and remember that we belong to each other.

Happy holidays from Hanukkah Mama, Daddy Christmas and T, just T, who gets to be whatever he wants to be!

The Dreaded Phone Call

Yesterday, I was sitting in my snazzy new office space with an unfamiliar feeling- maybe it was stability or contentment or some amalgamation of the two. I had half-finished a blog post about how great T did at Thanksgiving, how much progress we’re making, how much healing we’re seeing in his trauma-related behaviors (you see where this is going, right?).

And then…the dreaded number lit up the cell phone. The call from school in the middle of the day.

T bit someone. Again. The last time it happened, I marched in there and said, this is not going to happen again; he’s not a danger to other kids; this incident was an anomaly. I’m embarrassed that I was wrong. But mostly, I’m just panicked about what happens now. He’s home today and we have a meeting with the school tomorrow afternoon and I’m having one of those hopeless moments. I find myself thinking- I have been praying and reading and googling and arranging meditation lessons and OT sessions and martial arts and therapy. What now? Where do we go from here?

I deleted the whole Thanksgiving post, but I’m kind of sorry that I did, because that day happened (it did! it was awesome! I was there!) and I could probably benefit from reading my own words about it right now. We have been having so many days lately that end in overwhelming gratitude, as opposed to crushing anxiety. Even in my despairing moments, I try to remember that we’re making progress. Healing rarely happens in a linear way. For him or for us.

Right now I’m vascillating between feeling bad for him (he loves that school) and being so pissed (he knows better than this! wtf are we gonna do now?). I’m semi-successfully trying to not to take my anger out on him. Really, I’m angry at my own helplessness in the face of his hurt and fear. My instinctual reaction is, how could you do this. That’s a pretty sucky reaction. I can do better than that. At the very least, I can tell him, I know we’re all upset, but we’re going to work this through together. It lets him know he’s not alone on this journey.

You Are Here

How’s this for surreal (Dali’s got nothin’ on me)…

Two weeks ago I was trick-or-treating on our tree-lined street in sunny Los Angeles (dressed like a cave family with a pet triceratops):

Today I was freezing my tush off at the haunting, beautiful memorial at Plac Bohhaterow Getta (Ghetto Heroes Square) in Krakow, the site where the Jews of the Krakow Ghetto were corralled before deportation to the concentration camps during the Second World War.

Krakow architects Piotr Lewicki and Kazimierz Latak created the memorial, comprised of 70 empty bronze chairs, representing the discarded possessions left behind after the liquidation of the ghetto.

I experience these things differently now, as a mother. I stood in the square and kept thinking of the mothers who hid their babies in their backpacks, in their suitcases. The mothers who were separated from their children. The mothers who stayed with their children and died with them. I could go on with the ghastly thoughts that nearly made me lose my borscht, but I won’t. I don’t think I need to- you parents out there are with me, I know you are. I said a prayer for the mothers who stood there before me under circumstances so horrific as to be unimaginable, and for the mothers in the world today still suffering similar atrocities. I went back to the hotel and wrote a letter to T. I do this sometimes, when I have something I really want to tell him that’s not developmentally appropriate. I keep the letters in a folder to give to him when the time seems right.

Tomorrow I’m taping an interview for a talk show called Rozmowy W Toku, talking about the Polish translation of my memoir. How amazing that I get to be here to experience this beautiful city that carries, among many other things, this terrible scar on the face of the world. How remarkable to stand and witness all the healing that’s grown up around it.

Stay tuned for more dispatches from Poland…

Wearing Star Barrettes

I ache for the landscape of the Mojave desert, even when I’m standing in the middle of it. Whenever I’m here, there’s a constant hovering awareness that I’m going to have to leave and it seems to manifest as a free-floating sense of longing. I guess it’s the price I pay for having found a little corner of this planet where I can see myself living as an old woman, in some fantasy Georgia O’Keefe-esque existence.

We had six people out here in Joshua Tree for the weekend, all of us helping to shoot the video for Scott’s song “Pretty,” (yes, like my book) which he’ll be releasing soon. That’s a pic of DJ Mendel directing, Kaz Phillips-Safer shooting and Anais Bjork supplying the gorgeousness. T and I were production assistants: making coffee runs, doling out sunblock and, most importantly, digging for fossils. Because no video shoot is complete without a paleontologist on set.

Overall it was a fun adventure, but T was frankly a real pain all weekend. Change is hard for him and he gets tremendously anxious in unfamiliar environments. He refused to let daddy out of his sight for even a second, so we wound up just baking in the sun on set for hours instead of going to Pioneertown to see the cowboys. He also refused to go to sleep, which is annoying, but more importantly it makes me feel sad for him. He’s just a little boy; I want to world to be less scary. I want him to feel safer and not like he has to control everything. I also want to be two inches taller and speak fluent French, but that ain’t gonna make it true.

After we were done with the video, Scott took T home and left me alone up here for a couple of days to get some uninterrupted work done on my book proposal (I know- he’s pretty much awesome). It’s wildly gorgeous and the wind is rattling the windows. The stars are so low that I’m wearing them as barrettes. I’m eating cereal for dinner because I can. I love the freedom and solitude and yet I miss my little boy something fierce.

It occurred to me last night as I was sitting in the hot tub and watching the sun set over the desert, that if I could travel back in time twenty years and whisper in my teenage ear: You’re going to be an author and have a wonderful husband and a firebrand, amazing child and you’re going to get to travel a lot and one night you’re going to find yourself alone in a hot tub in the desert, looking up at a glowing pink sky, I would have thought, That’s a pretty f-ing cool life. But I forget about that and from the inside, it gets to just be a big anxiety stew, with scattered moments of gratitude and joy. From the inside, it always feels like aching for something even as I’m standing right in the middle of it. It’s important to have the moments when you say- this is all right. In fact, it’s all I ever wanted.

Prayers to my Dead Grandmother

Religion is the hardest thing for me to blog about. I can write about sex no problem. I revel in the cathartic aspect of admitting all manner of embarrassing mom foibles. And yet when it comes to religion, I feel out on a limb. It’s still something that’s unsettled in my life and I have the unusual (for me) desire to please everyone. I want my atheist friends to think I’m smart like them. I want my Jewish friends to bat Yiddish colloquialisms around with me. I want my Christian friends to know I’m down with Jesus. I could go on…

I grew up in a world in which religion was a simple thing. My family and everyone around us was steeped in the Jewish ethnicity- its foods and prayers and customs and expressions. Neither of my parents lived more than twenty minutes from where they grew up. Holidays were crowded with family and the house always smelled delicious.

And then I moved three thousand miles away and married a Christian guy. And even before that, I was a religious seeker, struggling to find a spiritual community that made sense to me. I’ve felt close a few times- a Zen dojo in New York, a hippie temple in San Francisco, a Pentecostal church in East L.A… but in the end something always stuck in my craw and I eventually drifted away.

This comes up for me now because I just sailed through the High Holidays yet again without formally acknowledging them in any way. I did have a quiet personal moment, but I didn’t share in any kind of community.

I think my craving for some structured spirituality would just stay an intermittent yearning in my life if it weren’t for the fact that Judaism was so important to me as a child. I wonder if I’m slighting my own kid by not giving him a religious community. I don’t have a good answer, but I’m conscious of the question and I’m open to a solution that makes sense for our family. T’s new school has an Episcopal affiliation and he’s been really enjoying chapel, so that’s going to have to be enough for now.

When I think of being in an interfaith marriage, I remember the time Scott and I visited our friend Yoshi in Kyoto (that’s the three of us pictured above). I was having trouble telling the Buddhist temples from the Shinto shrines. Yoshi told me that there was no reason to draw hard and fast lines between Buddhism and Shintoism, because most Japanese people practice some mix of the two, with a dose of ancestor worship mixed in.

I told him that it seems like cheating. Like you should have to choose. It’s like calling yourself Jewish and praying to Jesus when you feel like it. And then praying to your dead grandmother when you feel like it. You can’t cover all your bases. Those just aren’t the rules.

He just looked at me, confused, and asked, “You don’t pray to your dead grandmother when you feel like it?”

Yes. I actually do. All the time. Lord knows she was opinionated enough in her lifetime, maybe one day she’ll weigh in with a clear answer. Until then, I guess I’m going with the Japanese model.

Back to School

I’ve been woefully remiss about blogging because it’s been a heck of a back to school/life/reality couple of weeks around here. So far T is hanging in there at his new school. It’s the longest we’ve lasted yet, and I have to say that I’m touched and encouraged by the level of care and commitment the school has put into helping him transition successfully. He’s had a few incidents of aggression and one dazzling escape attempt. I’ve spent every morning with my stomach in a knot, trying to not let the other moms see me tearing up behind by giant sunglasses as I drop him off at class. But he seems to be making friends and each day has gotten a tiny bit better. He’s a warrior, my son. He is so frightened and he’s doing it anyway. He should get a medal for how hard he’s trying. Instead, I’ve given him a brachiosaurus, some green goo, thirty-two g/f chocolate chip cookies and two wooden swords. Not all at once, of course.

Thanks to all my friends, bloggy and otherwise who have been rooting for us, sending love, inquiring after his progress. I sometimes wonder if people with fewer challenges get to really experience how much support surrounds them. I feel truly lucky today.

Float

Here is some of the footage DJ Mendel and I shot today for the Mother Tongue video projections. Big thanks to the lovely and talented Meghan Daum for the use of her pool! And to Scott (as always) for the music.

The Mess of Yes

My more spiritually evolved husband is always encouraging me to say yes. Any new thing that comes up, he steers me away from my characteristic neurosis and toward an attitude of openness and curiosity. Every once in a while, he gets particularly emphatic about it. When the offer came in to take my show to the Edinburgh Fringe Fest, I believe he said, You can’t say no.

So I said yes. And that’s why this will be a very short blog post- written over a green juice at the Tribal Cafe next to the theater at which I’m rehearsing. I’ll be running from here to meet T at Capoeira class, to drop off some podcast stuff for Melinda, then to dinner with T’s Uncles, who are in town from San Francisco. Hopefully I’ll get a chance to answer some emails and to attack the stack of baseball/preschool/occupational therapy etc questionnaires while T is obsessing over Dinosaur Train, before trying to keep from passing out long enough to read him A Mother for Choco (adoptive parents, check this one out, btw).

It occurred to me this morning that it’s not a bad chaos, as far as chaos goes. I like having a million people running in and out of the house and sticking around for turkey burgers. I like the fact that I have a bunch of creative projects up in the air. I like that fact that what I’m attempting feels almost out of my reach- it might all fall apart at any minute, but it might not. One of these days, I may be the artist/person/mother I want to be if I keep shooting just a little too high.

That said, I can’t keep this pace up forever. There’s a time to get quiet. When I get back from Edinburgh mid August, I’m going to finish my memoir and to that end expect to be completely anti-social for anywhere from two to six years (in case you’re wondering where I went). Until then, it’s all loud life all the time.

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