Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Flight Risk

I remember the movie vividly, like I saw it yesterday. Vivian, a prostitute, in a king size bed at The Regent Beverly Wilshire Hotel in Beverly Hills, talking to Edward. Her disheveled hair fell loosely around a thick white bathrobe, and he wore an expensive suit. His hand was on the door.

"Three thousand, for six days, and Vivian, I will let you go."

After he leaves, she smiles and says, "But I'm here now."

It was a temporary situation that didn't make any sense, this uncertain scene from Pretty Woman, and Vivian had no idea what would unfold. What she did understand, though, was the present. She stayed in the moment.

I know the movie well; I was a teenager when it came to the big screen. The story is about a quirky, street-smart prostitute who is funny, yet strong. She is adventurous, kind, and willing to underestimate herself just long enough to learn what she does not know. She is naive to the point of innocence, hence the white bathrobe, and everyone watching the movie knows that she has not fully realized her potential.

I've held onto her "But I'm here now" mentality since I was a young girl, because that was when I realized how quickly life could change. Vivian had a safety pin holding her boot together, and a minute later she's riding shotgun in a Lotus Esprit...until she gets behind the wheel.

I think we all loved how she took control, because we are creatures of habit. We lose sight of what is innate, and we do what we have to do for survival, similar to Vivian, which is exactly what I did for the past ten years.

I don't mean prostitution, although I do like boots. What I mean is that I forgot what came naturally to me. I forgot who I was and who I wanted to be and instead did what was familiar. I worked with doctors and patients in the medical field because it was what I knew best.

But I resigned from my job recently, and people thought I had gone mad. They asked me if I knew how difficult it would be to find something else, and if I was sure about my decision.

I had never been more sure of anything.

Erich Fromm once said, "Creativity requires the courage to let go of certainties", and he was a philosopher. Surely he knew something.

I quit my job because it wasn't fair to stay; when I was there, I was distracted. Restless. I had so much to say and for me, writing is how I do it. Words were emerging and coming to me at the speed of light; I couldn't write them down fast enough. I started writing on my breaks, jotting ideas down on my lunch hour. I was compelled. I was the female version of Jerry McGuire and his "mission statement", and like Jerry, I didn't know what the future would hold. I just had to trust that it would be something good.

Every morning after that I woke up infused with enthusiasm. It was as if my internal "battery" had been super-charged overnight.  And the words were still materializing like they did for Jerry before he took his "memo" to a copy mat in the middle of the night and the shaggy-haired clerk told him, "That's how you become great, man. You hang your balls out there."

(Shaggy-haired clerk's words. Not mine)

So without a job, I had time to write, but financial challenges did present themselves. I learned that a savings account won't last forever, and retirement accounts are, well, designed for retirement.


But I'm here now.

I found the time to watch a movie someone had loaned me called The Secret. One year later, and I finally had the time to watch it. For those unfamiliar, familiarize. It teaches you how to visualize and use the energy within yourself to create abundance, if that is what you desire.

Of course I was skeptical, but I started visualizing anyway, and within two months of quitting my job I had three new job offers.

One of the jobs was for a large company in a big city, and it was offering to pay more money than I had ever made in my life - but it would've entailed doing almost exactly the same things I had been doing. I knew what I didn't want was another job that would anesthetize me.

The second was a lesser-paying apprenticeship position, to work under an editor's wing. It involved writing articles and taking pictures for a local newspaper, and getting a commission for ad sales. It also offered the flexibility I had been yearning for.

The third was a freelancing opportunity for a small magazine.

Unsure of what to do, I met the editor of the newspaper at a restaurant to hear what she had to say. I didn't finish eating, so the server asked  if I wanted the food wrapped, and the next thing I knew, "Somewhere Over The Rainbow" was the in-house music, playing over the speaker.

I love that song, but still, I had no decision.

I kept thinking about my New Year's Resolution. "This year I will write and rewrite and I will buy a plane ticket."  I had promised myself adventure.

And then it happened.

My lunch came back to me in a paper bag that was printed to resemble an old newspaper from London. I looked closer, as if I needed bifocals.

Directly in front of me were black and white classified ads for Medical Doctor Assistants, and my food was inside.

"Somewhere over the rainbow, way up high...there's a land that I heard of once in a lullaby."

It felt like an out-of-body experience. I don't even remember driving home that afternoon.

I knew if I didn't take a chance, I would be looking at classified ads for Medical Doctor Assistants for the rest of my life and that it would become a colorless pattern. But if I didn't take the big job, how would I...economize?

I would visualize abundance, that's how. I've always been a risk taker.

The next morning I sent an email to the large company that had money to pay and explained that I would be accepting a different position. What was I going to do?

I was going to write and rewrite and buy a plane ticket.

So I spent the summer writing and working for the newspaper while my young daughter looked on. She swam in the pool and I wrote. It was probably the best summer of my life.

When summer ended my daughter went back to school, and one of her first assignments was to write an essay about her parents. She wrote about how her dad is an artist (which he is), and about how her mom is a writer.

"My mom is a writer."

She only watched me write for three months, but she saw me embrace something I love and it became real to her.

"Somewhere over the rainbow skies are blue, and the dreams that you dare to dream really do come true."

This hasn't been an easy decision, I will admit, but nothing worthwhile comes easily. After all, Vivian was a prostitute and Jerry got fired - and he left with a goldfish.

But I'm here now, following my heart and teaching my daughter to do the same. I realize the plane ticket may not come this year, but it will happen eventually. It may have to carry over into next year, like a remainder.

So until then I will remain a flight risk, naive yet redefined.

I already have boots and a white bathrobe, but I don't have a goldfish...yet.

Saturday, September 11, 2010


I am constantly defending the English language. I correct my children at every turn. I remind them not to use double negatives, explain when to use the words “seen” and “saw”, and tell them for certain that “ain't” is not a real word. I have a feeling that I will battle with “ain't” until the end of time because something tells me it may actually be in the dictionary. I fear looking it up, though, because then I would have to write poison pen letters to Mr. Merriam and Mr. Webster if the definition boldly stared back at me.

My family gets tired of me doing this, continually going undercover for the grammar police, but English is something they need to know and understand. I believe communication is the key to success and think it's crucial, especially in the world today. It doesn't matter to me that my daughter is young. I remind her frequently that she will eventually need a resume and will need to know how to speak properly throughout her career, whatever it may be.

So you can imagine my frustration when I see her intentionally using misspelled words like this:

skool (school)
kewl (cool)
plz (please)
jelly (jealous)

and initialisms like these...

IDK (I don't know)
IKR ( I know, right)
GTG (Got to go)
IDC (I don't care)

Now, I understand that trying to establish her identity among her friends and pleasing her mother at the same time can't be easy, but this is a girl who only missed one spelling word last year, and was disappointed in herself for spelling the word "peddler" without one of the d's. What happened to my overachiever? Is peer pressure to seem less intelligent all the rage? I can understand abbreviating when a person is in a hurry, but she is not in a hurry to go anywhere. She has time to spell the words correctly.

“Why don't you just spell the words correctly?” I ask her.

“Because Mom, it's not what WE do,” she says ("we" meaning the majority of the tween population).

“Okay, but make sure you know how to spell the words because someday you will need to know how to use them,” I tell her.


Enter a blessing in disguise while school shopping a few weeks later, when I agreed to pay more for a pair of jeans than ever before because she loved them, and because they fit her well. After I bought them, I handed her the bag to carry as we went to several different stores before going home. It seemed like a perfect shopping trip, but we couldn't find the new pants at home when we arrived. Somehow they had gotten lost, and I was disappointed. She had been carrying the bag, and I was frustrated by her carelessness. She was probably distracted by poorly-downsized text messages, I thought. I should've asked her to turn her phone off.

I thought about some acronyms of my own.

IDBT (I don't believe this!)
YIBT ( You're in big trouble!)
GAJ (Get a job!!)
ACYR ( And clean your room!)

You get the picture, but I didn't want to confuse her, or explain that one of the letters may or may not represent profanity. So, I rearranged my schedule the next day to track down pants that had gone AWOL. I sent her a text message to let her know I had found them at the mall, and this is the message she sent back:

“Mom, do you still love me? Because I still love you, and I am sorry.”

No abbreviations. Perfectly punctuated.

I stopped dead in my tracks. I think I even heard crickets chirping. I felt like a deer in the headlights frozen by shame.

“Of course I still love you,” I quickly responded. Did she really think a misplaced piece of clothing would make me love her less? Well that's enough Mom guilt to last me awhile, I thought. What kind of car did she say she wanted? But something else surfaced along with that contrition. It was pride, and it made me smile.

She didn't abbreviate. She knew I was upset because she knows I don't like wasting time and money. She didn't use half-words like “luv”, “bcuz”, or “u”. She understood what I have been trying to explain to her.

Now, there aren't a lot of things that can bring me to tears. I've cried enough in my life and my tear ducts are almost in retirement, but I realized something in that moment as I was looking for a tissue in my purse. She does know about timing, and she knows when to be sympathetic. She is still a good speller who is learning to be graceful. She feels remorse, she is insightful, and she absolutely - without a doubt - recognizes the power of words.

I didn't care about the pants after that, because I had found something greater than what I ever could have imagined.

I found her.

And to me, that's pretty kewl.   

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Door Orchestra

There is a door orchestra

that plays only at night

Trying mysteriously

to stay out of sight

They've mastered their timing

One door then the next

I am the conductor

of a percussion quartet

The rythm is a pattern

of high notes and lows

A bedroom door orchestra

and its crescendos

Out of their rooms

the players will peek

A standing ovation

and forte, they seek

Without an encore

a cymbal will clash

The repeat sound

of a metal door latch

It's time for bed

to sleep, no less

I will give you a whole note

if you give me a rest

Sunday, August 29, 2010

A Birthday Reflection

What I really wanted for my birthday was something I couldn't explain.

I wanted homemade cards with lucky pennies and seashells taped inside.

And a stint in my own skin, to see it unprepared, without illusion. Time to embrace the lines that have formed, and remember why they are there in the first place. A chance to soothe my tired body, to look into my eyes, past the smoke and mirrors. Time to relax. Breathe. Listen. See my shadow. Understand where I have been and where I am going. Heal. Rest my head. Hear what comes to me in the quiet of my mind.

Cards made with hand-picked flowers and feathers that fell from the sky. Paper decorated with crayons and Christmas bows, and scribbles made into song.

A chance encounter with Sunday, when the world stops and I feel untouchable. Time without ringing, blinking or noise. Hours to walk or run – fast, like when I was a child. Moments to feel the wind if I so desire, read a book of my own choosing. Time to feel the sun and breathe the air in my own, unlocked space.

I wanted poems and pickle trees and noodle designs. Cards full of love and adventure confetti. Handprint silhouettes with rocks and stars to wish upon.

And time to realize what I liked and what I like, and who I am, uninhibited. Time to let my compass decide which direction makes me, alone, fulfilled. Time to open my heart and forgive. Time to recall how it once was and time to peacefully abandon what no longer is. Time to embrace change and courage and continue dreaming. Time when I am unaccounted for, and only the sunset knows my whereabouts.

I wanted to remember, when I do have time, what it's like to paint a rainbow.

Sunday, August 22, 2010

Inventory Specialist

No one told me when I had kids

that I would become

an Inventory Specialist

who worked the swing shift

No one said I would always know

how many cookies are in the box

how much toilet paper is on the roll

and how much milk is in the refrigerator

or that I would remember the date it expires

I think about a job interview someday in my future.

“One shake of a cereal box, Sir,

and I'll know the exact number of servings.”

No one mentioned

when I had kids

that I would become

a chronic list maker

who always has a pen and paper

Or that I would announce to my children

what I already know

So they don't remind me

again and again and again


Paper towel

Ice cream


I contemplate alphabetical order

more than I should

But what I really don't get

is why no one confessed

when I had kids

what I would absolutely know for certain:

That there will never,


be enough wine.


Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Trust Me On This One

My only sister is having her first child soon, and I already have three. I definitely won that round of sibling rivalry. I have more and she has less.



Ugh. Just give me a consolation prize and brand me like livestock. Second place again.  

I do know some things she doesn't, though, and after years of listening to parenting advice from her, I have a few words of wisdom of my own.


Dear Kelley,

Welcome to the club.

The first rule of the club is that we don't talk about the club.
Just kidding. Don't be scared.

You can do this.

But there is no more time for small talk.

 Buckle up, remove all jewelry, and try to stay in an upright position.

Hire an assistant and keep the maid. You will need her.

Pre-write apology letters to your husband, and anyone else you may ignore when you think they don't understand what you are going through. I can write my own if it helps, and you can just sign your name.

Don't bother clipping coupons to save money. You will be too tired to remember them anyway.

Learn to brush your teeth really fast. Learn to shower even faster.

You will never use the bathrom alone again. Ever.

 Your mother-in-law will be your new best friend, but she likes to babysit so keep that in mind. 

Don't turn the radio up when you are driving, because your child will realize that you like the song and drop their pacifier/snack/sippy cup every time it plays. Don't give yourself away.

Are you SURE it's not twins?

Try to offer healthy foods, but know this: There is a vegetable boycott coming. It is a proven fact that you will, at some point, have squash in your hair.

You can throw your alarm clock away. You'll never need it again.

Your husband will see an entirely different side of you. Say goodbye to any pride you still have.

Trying to sleep when the baby sleeps is pointless. Who can sleep with a sink full of dishes and laundry strewn about?

You can call me at 3 am if you need to. I will most likely be awake, packing someone's lunch.    

And guess what else?

This is important, so pay attention. I know Mom made us take that speed-reading class, but don't speed-read right now.

I love you.

You are going to be a great mother.

I believe in you, and so does everyone else.

And a few months from now, if you can't figure out where your life went - look down. It's right in front of you.

So hold on tight.

Enjoy the ride.

And, as Dad would say...

Trust me on this one.


Monday, August 16, 2010

The Bologna Princess

"How long until you sleep, Bologna Princess?"

"I'll sleep in a lot of longs, Mommy, or maybe just a few."

She doesn't know it, but I don't mind. I'd stay up late to watch her sleep, wake early to breathe her caramel skin. Read her favorite book again and again.

She is three years of magic and music to my soul.

"What color are my eyes?"  I ask.

"Purple," she laughs.

"Green," I say.  I want her to always remember.

Her tin-foil crown sparkles. Her pink tutu and soft brown curls, painted gold by the sun, dance in the summer night.

"Can I have bologna? Just bologna," she says. I would give her the world on a plate if I could.

She fills her dad's lunch box with blocks, imagines he'll make a castle instead of eating.  "And crayons do belong in high heels," she proudly declares.

Wise beyond her years, she pilots the middle perfectly, as if she's been there before.

She is centered, like the small freckle on her nose I kiss each night.

"Rest with me," she'll say, her eyes sweeter than melting chocolate.

She is a gift that keeps me present, accountable in times of confusion.

A kaleidoscope of joy

Her colors different from the rest

"Bologna Princess, I think you're an angel."

"Maybe, but I need to find my wings," she says, and gently drifts off to sleep.

"Yes, baby,

And you will."