Rasta Cowboy Unicorn

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When I was home for the holidays, I found a letter I had written to my mom. I was 15 and at an overnight retreat with a group of kids from different high schools in the area. The letter was an apol0gy for an argument I don’t remember having. Seems I was a pain in the ass and then felt really bad about it. Not uncommon in those years. (And regretfully, maybe something that happens on occasion now).  But the sentence that stood out most for me was this one, “It is so nice to be here with people who have open hearts and minds and walk around with their masks off.”

I read it out loud to my husband and we both laughed at how it sounded like something I very well could have written in my journal five minutes ago.

Seems as if I have been craving this my whole life.

And it made me think about what I can do or be to keep this yearning alive. How can I bring openness and realness into my life and my relationships with others?

When we were out to dinner for my husbands birthday the day before New Year’s Eve, we were discussing our word for the new year. We also committed to doing one little practice every day for one month. Something the author Lois Hay writes about and Dr. Christiane Northrup talks to Oprah about and that is looking at the mirror every day and saying I love you. It may sound funny but once you do it, it impacts the way you treat yourself and others.

Because when you look at yourself in the mirror with your tired eyes and messy hair and imperfect skin and increasing wrinkles and all the mistakes you’ve made and you love yourself anyway, it helps you to love everyone else out there in the world with all of their imperfections too. Maybe you don’t see their pain in the assness as much. Maybe you see their souls peeking through more.

And more importantly than a word, resolution or goal, what is the energy you want to emit? What is it that you craved as a child that still stands true for you today? How can you bring more of this energy out into our world?

With the help of my son who is really interested in Reggae and Rastafarianism at the moment, to my daughter who declared that 2017 was to be the year of the cowboy, to a game on Facebook that my friend Jules shared, I have decided the energy I choose to bring forth this year is that of the one loving, ass kicking, rainbow making, magical, mystical, Rasta Cowboy Unicorn. Yee Haw and One Love amigos!

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The good old days

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“Cabbage Patch Kids growing in the garden, Cabbage Patch Kids growing in the sun, and the most amazing thing about a Cabbage Patch Kid is that each one grows to be a special one.” – from an elementary school play I desperately wanted to be in…about…you guessed it…Cabbage Patch Kids.

My children are not into my Cabbage Patch Kid. Not even in the least. I had a few; Melva, Angie (she was special with her long, dark, cornsilk hair) and Brandon. I’m not trying to brag but I was also fortunate enough to own a Koosas. What’s that you say? A Koosas! You know the cabbage patch kid/animal combo. My Koosasas name was Douglas and he wore blue corduroy shorts, rainbow suspenders and a collar with a tag around his neck. He was pretty cute I guess. Odd but cute. Well maybe more odd than cute. I’ve always had a thing for the underdog. And Douglas was definitely that. I had to fight for his honor a lot.

However, the one in question on this particular day was Brandon. My kids were curious about the signature on his bottom. They were also not crazy about the hole in his mouth where a pacifier used to stick out. Without the pacifier, he just kind of looks like he missed out on regular dental cleanings. And they didn’t exactly buy the story that he was birthed from the canal of a cabbage either.

I remember as a kid finding their very lifelike bottoms intriguing. But then the front side was just a crotch. A little disappointing. Not sure if dolls really need vaginas and penises but it is troubling when everything else is intact and then the front is just some mysterious flat anatomically confusing nether region. This was always perplexing and slightly unnerving to me as a child. Why did Barbie have those enormous boobs and then the bottom half was just kind of…missing?

Some days when I am waxing poetic about my youth while getting irritated with my kids tap tap tapping away on their various electronic devices, I think back to the good old days. Spumoni clothing (sweatshirts and tee shirts with puffy animals engaging in extra curricular activities like skating, surfing, hangin’ out on valentine hearts, etc.), Cabbage Patch Kids’ dimpled Xavier Roberts signed bottoms, a rad sunburn all over my face, and maybe a trip to the mall for an Orange Julius or a stroll around Claire’s, I can’t help but think to myself, Man my kids don’t know what they are missing.

 

mmmbop

 

landscape-1445612820-hanson-brothers-1998One summer in college, I went with a friend to get my nose pierced while she got a tattoo of a tree on her back. I worked at a locally owned health food store that summer where I sold a lot of vitamins and St. John’s Wort. Between the glistening stud in my nose, my shortish hair cut, and my fondness for L.L Bean (what was up with wearing tee shirts two sizes too big?), I suppose I wasn’t a vision of sophistication or femininity. But when a middle aged woman with a kind face told me I resembled one of the Hansen brothers while scanning her groceries, I thought I might pass out from humiliation. I don’t like to give advice because it’s annoying. BUT I think we should all make a pact and try and refrain from telling women in college that they look like prepubescent boys.

stick and smile

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“She looks like she is trying to smile in a sticky situation”, says my daughter when she sees this photo of her baby sister from breakfast yesterday. Between the enormous flower perched on her head and the pureed pears and raspberries glued to her little knuckles and wrists, it is definitely sticky.

I laugh to myself thinking that this would be an apropos name for a book…Smiling in a sticky situation; A memoir.  I mean last night when out to eat with some girlfriends, the waitress said there was flan for dessert. I commented that while I like flan, it reminds me a bit of nasal secretions. Oops I did it again. The encounter got awkward fast since she did not find this amusing. What else was I to do but smile and order the damn flan? So I did and it was good. And sticky.

stars

stars

When I think of stars, I think of the ones from my childhood in Arizona. Brilliant desert stars not only flickering and winking at you from above but all around you too – even to the sides of you so if you stretched your arms out wide, you could touch them with your fingertips. I also think of my grandmother, Nana reminding us to look up and admire their magnificence after a dinner out at the Quilted Bear or Mother Tucker’s.

I think of last summer when I woke my son up at midnight so he could see a shooting star for the first time. From a deck outside of a house on Nantucket, we watched with awe filled silence as the stars fell from the sky like magic pixie dust.

I think of the stars on Lake George in the Adirondacks. The ones that laid smiling on the lake. The ones that laughed with us while my friends and I paddled around in our canoe yelling, “BEAR” in the middle of the night, warning the other campers. We believed the water to be our only safe haven after a visit from a not very big black bear around our campfire.

I imagine the other campers sleeping soundly in their toasty sleeping bags nestled in their tents cursing at us and our melodrama.

But I had never seen a bear before! When I first spotted him uncomfortably close to one of my friends, I thought someone was playing a prank and dressed like a bear to scare the crap out of us. As if that was a normal occurrence. But I was petrified of this man eating beast! And when we fled to the water to paddle for our lives, my glasses fell off in the process. And I can’t see very well without them.

But the stars were so brilliant you didn’t need glasses.

After paddling back to our site, hightailing it to my friend’s little red Chevrolet Cavalier in the parking lot and spending the night there, we went back the next morning finding my glasses at the water’s edge. I plucked them out and thanked the powers that be.

I also thank the bear. If he hadn’t paid us a visit that night, we never would have gotten out on the lake. And we would have missed all of that beauty…all of those twinkly stars guiding us home.

 

 

 

 

 

closed doors

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I don’t like structure. Rules, boundaries, routine, yuck. No, I’m more of a free bird, fly by the seat of my pants kind of girl. I don’t need nap times or sleep training or bottles. I just need my boobs and a car seat. This baby can sleep anywhere. And I can nurse her while climbing up the side of a mountain, no problem. It will be fun, we can see the world. “The Hills are alive…” Bali, Italy, where should we go?

But this isn’t really me. Not anymore. Or not right now any way.

And I am becoming more and more okay with that. I know this sounds boring. But sometimes I like boring.

Before I had my son, sitting around a wooden table strewn with presents wrapped in blue, my wonderful co-workers at Hospice took turns sharing tidbits about parenting. One in particular really took me by surprise and has stayed with me ever since.

He said something to the effect of and I am paraphrasing here, “When your kids walk around the house opening up doors, they really want the doors to be locked.”

Say what? No, not my kids. They’ll want freedom and fresh air and open doors just like their free spirited mama. (This sounds better if you read this last sentence with dramatic flair…think of the Drama teacher from High School Musical with owl like glasses and scarf around her neck, there is always a scarf).

But I get this now in a way I didn’t then. I think what he was trying to say (and if anyone reading this has further insight into the matter, please share) is that children really do thrive with boundaries. And structure. And to an extent, we all do.

They want the doors to be closed because this enables them to feel secure. They might yell and scream when you tell them no but no really means, I care so much  for you that I cannot let you eat 110 carcinogen covered candy chocolates. 

Sometimes we just have to say no. And yes to creating boundaries and closed doors.

And in the structure, in this framework of security and comfort, we can relax a bit and find great freedom to roam and be. The closed doors might just enable us to feel comfortable enough to explore, dream, and eventually test the boundaries. Without them, it may just be, sometimes anyway, too much.

So last night we started sleep training our baby aka letting her cry herself to sleep. We, I mean I, have resisted it for a long time. It felt mean and I didn’t want to be tied to a schedule or a routine. Remember, I don’t like rules!

But she slept better than she has in a long time. We all did. And while I love the idea of traveling, I also love a good night of sleep.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

tinsel, dreidels, songs, and gin and tonicas.

beach I love Christmas. As a little girl, I would go to bed strangely early on Christmas Eve, like right after dinner early. And like most kids, I simply could not wait for Christmas morning. Eventually, morning would arrive. But the waiting wasn’t over. Before we could see the tree and get our hands on our presents, my three older siblings and I would have to sit on the stairs and wait as my father showered, shaved, took the dog out, got his camera ready, and made sure the lights were on. It is funny now to think about my dad; all clean-shaven wearing a flannel shirt, sitting enjoying Christmas morning while the rest of us had nary a tooth or hair brushed. And sweet too, because he really just wanted it to be perfect for us. Preparing for the big day meant taking the obligatory holiday photo. This was most likely a disaster and usually included my dad yelling at my oldest sister. She did not like getting her picture taken, and getting her to smile was not an easy task.  “G-damn it, Heather,” I am quite certain was uttered a few hundred times as we posed by the fireplace or on the beach on vacation with missing teeth and awkward hairstyles. buffy Christmas also meant all of my siblings would be home. This was awesome because I got to share a bed with Heather who went to college when I started elementary school. I thought she was cool, and I liked having her around. She mostly liked me too, although probably not very much when I  said in response to her disagreeing with my choice of tinsel for the tree, “You don’t get to decide, you don’t live here.” I suppose she was right after all, silver icicle tinsel was much better than the hairy gold tinsel I favored. silver When I was feeling generous at Christmas-time, I would walk into the kitchen, open up the junk drawer, and amidst the paperclips and batteries, find something like a plastic Smurf that I could wrap and then re-gift. This, I was told, “didn’t count.” (I’m thinking of trying this again this year, perhaps I can scrounge up an old Rubik’s cube for my sister, Kerry, who has always been masterful with them.)

These were also the days when my dad would come home from work with lots of gifts from the nice people he worked with. My mom would most likely be getting dinner ready, and perhaps mixing a gin and tonic, wearing a real Christmas sweater –  not an ironic one, but a real live Christmas sweater with teddy bears and presents on it – as he walked through the door with gigantic tins of flavored popcorn and rolls of different shades of brown wrapping paper.

One year we took all that unattractive wrapping paper and had an ugliest wrapping job contest. Another year, much later, we had an ugly candle contest. Vying for the top spot in the competition were lots of little wax figurines with wicks on top of their heads. When you lit them, their faces started to melt. This was demonic and creepy, and not at all merry or bright. I also recall a festive red rat candle with beady green eyes. I think, however, that our corn on the cob won first place. I mean a life size corn candle is hard to beat.

I apologize for rambling, but I cannot write a blog about the ghost of Christmas past without visiting my love of Christmas carols and hand-made ornaments. Oh and Christmas letters…maybe I’ll save that one for next year.

First, ornaments. Every year, at my mom’s house, I gingerly take them out of their little boxes, and pray that I don’t uncover a dead mouse. I look at the ornaments with the dorky kind of sentimentality usually reserved or made-for-T.V. holiday movies. I can’t help myself, there is a whole lot of nostalgia there. I adore the pink and blue gingerbread people that a neighbor made.  ( I originally thought my grandmother, “Pom Pom” made them, but the fact checker in my family, Rich, corrected me, and you don’t question his memory, trust me). Each one has our names on it, and every year I have been oddly obsessed, in a disconcerting way, about making sure that my sisters and brother only hang the one on the tree with their name.

Another favorite ornament is the yellowish wooden one with the red piping around it depicting some sort of historical scene from the 1700’s. This ornament was made by Heather in Ms. Aloupis’s fourth grade class. Just today, as a matter of fact, my brother shared another interesting fact with me about Ms. Aloupis. It seems in 4th grade, when he was in her class, she spent an entire afternoon teaching the kids about none other than Charles Manson. Thank goodness they didn’t make ornaments that day.

And the caroling…oh my, the caroling…I love Christmas carols. I can hardly listen to The Christmas Song or the music from Charlie Brown without getting choked up. When I was little, my friends and I would have our parents drop us off of in a neighborhood with lots of seniors (not those in high school but rather elderly people) because we thought they might appreciate our singing the most. Sometimes I saw tears in their eyes. I hope this was due to them being touched and not us being off-key.

And lastly, I love the Nutcracker ballet; the music, the growing tree, those over-sized mice fighting with toy soldiers, and especially the dance of the Sugarplum fairy.  Which reminds me, one Christmas party, about twelve years ago, I begged a male friend of ours to don a pink tutu and dance to a techno version of the song while throwing candy canes at people from our balcony. It really wasn’t too hard to get him to agree to my request. Some people laughed, but I think others were royally confused, and perhaps a little agitated with being pelted by a candy cane in the head as they tried to enjoy a nice little illegal bonfire in the middle of a group of apartments. Thank goodness, our landlords, the father and son duo who called themselves Stan Fard and Stan Ford (for some reason they didn’t want us to know they were related and clearly thought us not too smart,) didn’t find out or we would have been evicted that time for sure!

For the past 17 years, I have also celebrated Hanukkah with my husband. And for the first time since we had our son and daughter, we have our very own Christmas tree. A lovely little Frasier Fir that smells fantastic. But we call it a Holiday tree and along with the candy canes, snowmen, and Santas, are blue and silver ornaments, dreidels, and stars of David.

For a variety of reasons we have never had a tree before. One reason being that we celebrate Christmas with my family in New Jersey, and two-ish, because we are raising our kids Jewish. I was also worried about something an old curmudgeon said to me years ago when I first moved to Tampa. He told me my kids would grow up confused because I hadn’t converted.

He is probably right, my kids will be confused. I mean with me as a mother…yes I am certain there will be some confusion served up piping hot and probably with a song.

But when I think of recent memories like my son teaching my siblings how to sing a song in Hebrew in front of my mom’s Christmas tree, or my sister-in-law making a menorah out of cupcakes, or my husband singing the Adam Sandler Hanukkah song after passing out lyrics to his family, I see a beautiful melding and honoring of all of our customs and traditions. Some quirky, yes, but that is what makes it special.

And when I look at our holiday tree, I don’t see confusion, I see love. And now I love Hanukkah too. From our mixed bag of (mashuga) nuts to yours, Happy, Healthy, Holidays!