Thursday, April 22, 2010

Lessons From Mom

Brought to you by the number 8.

My mother died on April 22, 2001.   The first year it stung all the time.  The second year it stung on certain days and most major holidays.  Mother's Day was a bitch.  I remember standing in the kitchen while baking a cake and thinking how absurd it was that I was celebrating this holiday when my mom was dead.  After that, it was certain smells, certain sounds and certain memories.  I'm grateful that the passing of time makes great grief less great. 

I didn't know that the first year.  I wish someone had shown me the grief playbook. 

Nine years later.  Today.  And the morning is not full of sobs but laughter with friends.  And work and life and emails and texts and plans for the weekend and all the sorts of things a Thursday should have in it because it's, well, a Thursday and that's what Thursdays do. 

And even though it's a Thursday and not a THURSDAY.  And even though it's the 22nd and not THE 22ND, it still feels right to share some things I learned along the way from my mom.

1. No shortcuts.
As soon as my mom died, I had a really quick sweet dream.  My mom was leaning against a tree and we reached out to say goodbye to each other.  She started to walk down a long path inside a gate and I went to take, yup, a shortcut.  She looked back and pointed in her direction.  I knew then the road would be long but worth it.  I knew taking the easy way wouldn't be any longer.

2. Give when no one is looking.
My mother was a master at this.  She would put a young Latino kid through the fire academy rather than invest in a new car for herself.  She clothed people without fanfare.  She fed them and listened to them and prayed for them and loved them.  And she gave when she was sure no one was looking.

3. Find your sea.
I go to museums because my mother took me to them.  And she went to the sea because her father took her there.  There are many reasons we find our "place" but whatever you do, find it.  Go to it.  Make it your place and make it a refuge.

4. Have Yes Days
We were little, my brother and I, and my mother took us on a Yes Day.  It went horrible.  We went camping at the beach and locked the keys in the trunk of the car and it was not our greatest adventure, but still, it was an adventure.  And, the fact that it stands out to this day, there's something very YES about that.

5. Have a carnival in your backyard.
Rio Lempa Drive in Hacienda Heights was THE place to live.  My mother was a teacher and a really creative one and threw a bad ass carnival which probably speaks to me being an event director now.  So, this carnival had booths and games and I wish I was older and could remember more of it.  I do know that my best friend Audra Dial wore a dress and I had on jeans and wanted to go inside and change but was so glad I didn't since I ended up sliding down the dirt hill at the end of the day. 

Remember, I like being with the boys. 

The point is.  You can do things small or you can have a carnival in your backyard.  Live really big like that, you know? 

6. Something physical.  Something artistic.  Something educational.  Something cultural.
That was the rule.  And I'm not sure she spelled it out as clearly as that all the time but that was the deal.  We had to play an instrument and if we didn't do that then we had to participate in a performing art of some sort.  And the grades had to kick ass.  And then there had to be a sport.  And she brought in the cultural piece on the side with trips and music and such.  I am balanced in my want of these things today because of my mom.

God.  She was pretty cool, huh?

7. Write.  Draw.  Sing.  Act. 
Dance, Little Girl.  And sing, Darling Girl.  And Direct, Sweet Boy.  If these are your dreams them!  My mother was a writer, a very quiet one.  And maybe she never wanted to do anything big with her words but still, she wrote anyway.  A piece for you, well, for us but for you.

November 1984 (written in my Spanish class, recalling the morning)

Mis Ninos -

You are my celebration,
In the early hours
Of my morning
I see you sleeping -
   And I hear a song.

For every day is a gift
And I will
Sound a quiet bell
Light a single candle
And thank my Lord
That you are safe
   And you are here.

-Michele Esperon-Harmonson

Much love to you this April 22, this very sweet April 22,
My mom's daughter

Sunday, April 18, 2010

Lessons in Baseball

Brought to you by Milo the Party Bus Limo Shuttle Driver Guy. 

It was a really busy week.  I mentioned that didn't I?  Almost flat tire earlier in the week, huge party that was supposed to be a SORT OF huge party on Wednesday and then this weekend was The Experience.  See, I'm an event director and you know that but sometimes we don't just have parties on site but we take residents off site for little, yah, experiences. 

It's not that terrible of a job to get to go to a Dodger Game, is it?

A couple lessons learned on the third base side:
1. If you tell people to use the restroom before they get on the party bus, they won't. 

2. There's a Chevron off the 5 freeway at Washington with a nice bathroom. 
Eight people can use it really fast.  It helps when you say firmly, "go directly to the restroom, make no purchases, you have four minutes and no more beer until we get to the damn game!"

3. Don't let the obvious stun you. 
It stuns me that a bathroom break is needed from Orange County to Downtown LA.  It shouldn't.  I'll regret saying this once my bladder starts to weaken, won't I?

4. Know your limit.
If you drink so many cans of beer that you get lost in the parking lot, that's too many.

5. There is right and there is wrong.
Doing The Wave has never been, isn't and will never be appropriate.  Snarky Brother with a strong finger point says, "It distracts from the game."  I agree.

6. There is wronger.
See number 5 for beachballs.

7. First everythings are important.
First games are important.  Capture them in picture.  Zed went to his first Dodger game today and was decked out in blue and his parents were Dodger Proud.  They couldn't stop taking pictures and that's exactly how it should be when your baby has a first.  And even if you're a grown up, all pre middle age and all, and having some firsts of your own, you don't have to stop taking pictures either.  Nope, you don't.

8. Having "texters" helps open the closed doors. 
This morning The Boyfriend texted to say good morning and to remind me to wear sunscreen.  I didn't.  I'm rebellious like that.  And Snarky Brother texted to tell me to dress in cool clothing.  As if anything I'd wear wouldn't be cool.  Oh, you and all.  And having men in my life that give a damn is so damn cool and opens the heart in such an easy way.  Sigh.  I like that very much.  Almost enough to listen to them. 

9. Wait for your pitch. 
Bottom of the eighth and down 1-0.  And then Manny Ramirez comes up to the plate.  And two strikes and he's not freaking out.  Cause you know if it was me and it was the bottom of the eighth inning and all the pressure was on me and I had two strikes I'd be sweating.  No.  He waits for his pitch and it's a homerun and the score is now 2-1.  And we win.  You don't have to play at anyone else's pace.  You can keep your own and you know the pitch that is for you and the one that isn't.  And don't let anyone talk you into swinging at a ball.  You are too smart for that.

10. Work in your passion.
We were walking out of the stadium tonight and I was rounding everyone up and having to use a bit of a mom/julie the cruise director voice when someone said, "I could never do your job!"  You aren't supposed to.  You're supposed to do your job and I'm supposed to do mine and when we're both working in our passions they don't really feel like jobs, do they?  I had the best time today even reminding grown ass adults, "make sure you use the restroom before getting on the shuttle (and drinking another 18 beers)!"

11. Listen
Milo The Party Shuttle Limo Bus Driver had much to say this afternoon.  I happened to be the lucky listener sitting in the front next to him. Now, I'm sure he would have stayed quiet if I had asked but he wanted to talk about travel and history and art and all the things I love so it was fine.  Sometimes, listen.  Don't talk.  Listen.  He didn't really ask anything of me and I could have been anyone really but I nodded and reacted and that made him happy.  All people need sometimes is your ear.  Both of them is even better. 

I came to pick up the tickets for today's game earlier in the week and stopped just beneath the stairs where I once walked with my Pop.  I still remember the ash from his cigarette hitting my arm in a way that wasn't really serious just a memory.  I looked up the stairs and although my Pop is long since gone, all those memories were and still are on those stairs.  Sure, maybe they belong in some stronger form to my brothers since they went to so many more games but I have my firsts, too.  And I'm making new firsts.  Finding new places sometimes and finding old places again in new ways.  And in many ways realizing I weave them together as best I can.  I like the old and the new and don't much plan on choosing one over the other. 
Much love from Chavez Ravine,

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Lessons in a Village

I should have known this morning when my power steering was out...again!  It wasn't the power steering at all.  It was my flat front tire that I drove, oh, shall we say, miles and miles and miles on all day long?  That one.

And then it happened.  I pulled up at Smart and Final to stock up on booze (for a party, hold the judgement) and this lady gave me the dirtiest Orange County look I'd seen since, umm, yesterday.  I rolled down my window to give her one back.  Okay, I didn't.  I rolled down my window to ask what her problem was and she said, "Your tire has like THIS MUCH air in it!"

THIS MUCH meant not so much.  Emphasis on the lower case. 

I drove to Chevron and put air in it as two men watched me.  Ahh, gentlemen.  You must not have sisters or internal organs...that beat.  And then I started madly looking for some auto garage that would still be open at 7:30 at night.

There aren't many in Orange County in case you were wondering. 

I drove halfway to Walmart and then realized it was closed and then called around for the nearest Pep Boys and it was one street over which would have been so easy if I was not a complete moron with directions.  Translation: I ended up back on the freeway headed south when I should have gone north and wasted more of the precious air in my flattening tire.


I learned something this evening.  It takes a village to raise me.  Well, it takes a village for me to get a flat tire unflattened, fixed, normalized, drive worthy. 

Tonight's Village

Walmart Lady That Hung Up On Me
She meant well, really she did.  I called to see if their service department was open and she didn't tell me just transferred me.  I called back one more time and asked in my "firm voice".  She apologized and said they closed 10 minutes ago.

Miss Chloe
I was supposed to be at Taco Tuesday tonight but have an assistant who does amazing play by play via text.  Miss Chloe stayed at the event therefore allowing me to deal with the tire.  I love text.  I hear the event was "omg awesome".

Pep Boys
My heroes.  They took the car.  They found her in urgent need of repair.  They fixed her.  I'm in auto store love with this place. 

Mimi's Cafe
I had to kill time while the car was being fixed and had three choices: Mimi's Cafe, Jack in the Box or stop by the liquor store which happens to be the one that guy owns that held me captive that one night.  Mimi's it is.  The host called me Miss.  I loved him.  My server called me ma'am.  Seven times.  I don't love him. I don't love him at all.  Not even a little.  And he has the worst hair anyone in the world has ever had, well except for that one guy that used to work at WFS that got the plugs and needed the desk fan cause he sweat so much.  Still, I don't love him at all. 

People, Twitter People
You.  You followed along on my adventure.  You commented.  You made snarky remarks and you laughed and you told me other places nearby to eat dinner.  And what that really means is that you, dear friends, cared.  Whether you live close or far, you cared and that is just huge in the hugest way something can be huge. 

The Boy
I didn't need to text him a big, "Help!"  I was okay.  I had someone tell me the tire was flat.  I had someone to fix it.  I had somewhere to go to eat dinner.  I had people to chat with while I waited.  And when I came home he texted after reading the whole adventure, "Oh, baby.  Just seeing car drama.  Wish I could fix.  Sending kisses to my independent super girl."

And that's what I needed as soon as I got home.  I needed, I wanted to be loved on. 

You, you are my community.  All of you.  And sometimes I know you and sometimes you are strangers and sometimes I adore you and sometimes I think you are giving me dirty looks when really, really you are helping me. 

It took a village to raise me tonight.  Huh?  This independent super girl can do much on her own but loves having you all along for the journey. 

Putting my cape away for the night,

Saturday, April 10, 2010

Lessons in Filters

Sitting at Nordstrom CafĂ© the other day waiting for my lunch and there is a family of three waiting for their meal. It’s a mom and a grandma and a daughter and the daughter is wearing pink. Of course she is, she’s the daughter and she’s about seven and that’s what seven year old daughters and granddaughters do.

They wear pink.

I wish we could wear more pink. I’m gonna wear more pink. I’ll be the one in Irvine wearing pink this weekend.

So, Sweet Little Girl is sitting there and her grandma starts caressing her long brown locks and SLG SHOUTS out, “you could do that all day because that feels so good and I like that.”

Rare. The SLG Brain is. It says what it feels and what it doesn’t feel and what it likes and what it doesn’t like and shares and gives and shouts and wants and has pleasure and pain and just, well, experiences.

I miss The SLG Brain in all its excess and unfilteredness. I despise having to say all the proper things and the right things and the yes things and the no things and the things people want to hear instead of the things I want to tell them or the things that are deep inside my brain.

Like, “Oh, you could do that all day because that feels good and I like that.”

Or, “I need you.”

Or, “please be my friend because I think you would be a great friend and I promise not to be atrocious on Tuesdays and most Thursdays and only on Fridays.”

Sweet Little Girl Brain. Sweet most of the time. Sharp nearly all of the time. Unfiltered excessively always in the best way.

Much love,

Friday, April 9, 2010

Lessons in Compassion Over Content

I suck.  I admit it.  I'm selfish and the world is all about me when it should be all about you, and you, and sometimes, yes, you.  And today was another example of me being the me I don't want to be.

I had lunch at Lola Gaspar in Downtown Santa Ana and went back to my car to check emails and hot, dirty texts (my favorite) and was running madly through the 32 emails that came through from the moment I tasted honeycomb butter with my tortilla til opening the car door when it happened.  It.  You know?  The moment when you realize you are a selfish bastard. 

I looked over not more than ten feet away and a homeless woman was going through a trash bin looking for things that a homeless person looks for to get through their day.  That.  That moment.  That visual should have been the first thing my eyes gravitated to when I arrived at my car.

It wasn't.  That makes me Friday sad and a little pre-sad for Tuesday.  With my limited Spanish which is even rockier when I feel like an ass, I asked her if she would like a jacket as I reached into the trunk of my car. 

She held the jacket up and asked, "Is this for woman?"  I smiled, nodded and realized even when you're homeless, especially when you're homeless you need to have choices when everything else seems so out of control.

Step away from the emails and the work and the head being buried in content over compassion every once in awhile.  I'd venture to say I already had my Friday Happy Hour.

Much love this fine Friday-day,

Sunday, April 4, 2010

Lessons in Art, Adventure, Earthquakes and Eggs

Brought to you by today's 6.9 earthquake which I did not feel on the 405 freeway.  Thank you, Already Fragile Road.

It is Easter Weekend and for some of you that means new dresses and lots of Honey Baked Ham and definitely family and probably family fights if not family tension.  Well, for me, it's Adventure Weekend.  Time to say yes to things and not no to things and see what the weekend holds.  And hopefully, by the end of Sunday, I'll learn a few things that will make me less annoying and a bit cooler. 

1.  An hour at a museum is a massage. 
Well, it might not be a museum that "massages" you and I'm sort of hoping it's not some lady in Garden Grove that takes her robe off before she starts the clock.  What I mean is an hour of creative time is like a massage and will do wonders for your brain and your body.  It might not have a happy ending, well not the kind you're thinking of.  Dirty Bird, You.

2. Driving to and from places is part of The Adventure. 
Remember when mom and dad, umm, when they weren't fighting about taxes or who dad talked to at THAT party or something like that, umm...okay, let's start over.  Remember when mom and dad would tell you to look out the window when you were driving to and fro on vacation and you would see that tall thing that people called ....a tree?  That is part of the adventure.  And even if you're only going from one city or county to the next, you can still look at all the signs and watch the people and slow down at the lights and maybe even pull over and take a couple pictures or write some notes about some interesting colors you see.  See?  I did that today and ran straight into The LA Public Library.  My mom and dad fell in love (and war) in a few places throughout southern california.  The LA Public Library was one and Balboa Beach was another.  And me, just driving slow enough and paying attention enough to cross the street and run into it and stop and notice a couple taking pictures in that very "in love and girl rolling her eyes at her lover" state, well, it was exactly  the way the library should be. 

3. Don't roll your damn eyes at your lover.
Just.  Don't.  You love them.  Get it?  I saw Library Girl standing in front and she looked so hip and her guy was taking her photo and you could tell he was enjoying taking it and she kept eye rolling.  One day, she's going to regret the eye rolls and long for the time when a man that loved her wanted to take her photo.  I know it's a holiday and all, but...Dumb Ass.  That's all.

4. Check your foundation every once in awhile.  Just in case.
So, yah, we had a big earthquake today and if you're not from California you probably cried and that's okay.  We won't judge you. If you're from Callifornia then you froze for a brief moment, assessed the quake and kept Facebooking.  You're cool like that.  I was in downtown la when it happened and noticed a grip of LAFD trucks all over the place and realized they were quickly doing structural checks on some of the buildings.  Sure, maybe everything was okay but still, just check.  And you?  Maybe everything in your relationships, your friendships, your work is okay, but check your foundation in each every once in awhile.  Just to be sure.  Just in case.  You're cool like that.

5. You cannot help what draws you.
Walk into a room.  Just walk. And you'll see it.  It's the one piece that stands out more than the others.  And sure, you could follow in order and go number by number or be one of those sick "tour" people that like structure and do everything by the books and how others tell you to.   You're not everyone else.  You walk into a room and you see what attracts you and you go to it instantly and there is not a thing you can do but enjoy it. 

6. Not every piece is for you. 
Take Lichtenstein for example.  He gives me seizures if I look at his work for more than 34 seconds.  I love the ideas but it's not for me.  And I'm over the idea that I have to look at every single piece and act as if it interests me beyond measure and appear ABSORBED in it.  I'm not absorbed in each piece of art just like I'm not absorbed in each story I read or design I see or song I hear.  Oh, but the ones that get me, now that's a whole different type of seizure.  My brain short circuits in the best way. 

7. The literal insults me in art and feeds me in relationships. 
I'm a little complicated.  I know.  It's been a couple weeks of figuring this out with art but I have trouble with photos that are too clear in their stories or paintings that leave too little to my imagination.  I want a chance to intrepret something for me and my story and for a painting to speak to my heart.  I'm a little selfish that way. 

Don't you dare try that with a relationship.  I need "just the facts."  If you like my ass, tell me.  If you don't, tell me that, too.  (as if......)  If I'm acting like a spoiled brat, tell me.  Be clear.  No ambiguity.  Nothing Rothko about relationships. 

A couple extra weekend lessons for your first full week of April.  Pay attention, Darlings.
1. It is not possible to ever get enough eggs for an egg hunt.  It just isn't. Embrace that.
2. Little Benjamin gave Jordan all his eggs. Jordan gave them all to Ramteen.  Love is fickle.  Age doesn't matter.
3. If you see a woman putting oil in her car or air in her tires and you have a penis, help her to avoid hell.
4. When your girlfriend tells you, with tone, over Moroccan salad that you need to support your boyfriend.  "Support your boyfriend".  And chill.  They know things, Salad Eating Know It All Girlfriends.
5. Talk to people in line.  I wouldn't say annoy them but if they engage you, then engage them.  You might meet some very interesting, giving people and organizations. Orangewood Children's Foundation 
6. There are neat little nooks if you go around the back of tourist spots.  Find them.  Walt Disney Concert Hall
7. Notice who checks on you when there is an earthquake.  Fortunately for me, it was the same person who first wished me a Happy Easter today.  I'm very, very happy about that, and that.

Adventures.  I want them.  I walked into the room with the Rothko's and, go ahead and laugh, it brought tears to my eyes.  It wasn't the paint or the lines or the space but the sheer opportunity to think and to dream which you know I love to do.  And to walk around that corner and have such a surprise like that was the best adventure and gift of the day. 

I want them.  More of them. More corners to walk around and more adventures to say yes to and not no to.  I want to feel things when I turn the corner and take deep breaths and shed tears and live and gasp from experiencing. 

May your week be adventure filled,
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