Thursday, December 31, 2009

2009 was an amazing year . . .

But I'm thinking 2010 will be even more.

Happy happy folks. I'm grateful for each and everyone one of you who takes time to read my thoughts and who's chosen to dip a toe into this journey of mine.

Much love.

Saturday, December 26, 2009


At the moment I'm sitting on my balcony, settled in a blue and silver lounge chair looking out over a parking garage and bins full of garbage. A haze is settling in, so the bright blue sky is mottled and streaky. Cars streaming by on the highway, the subtle roar of traffic overwhelmed by the constant beep of trucks moving backwards. Every once in awhile a bird chirps, breaking the loading dock drone.

This is how cruises start. We're on water but so tethered to the dock you'd never know. Walk down a few flights of stairs and suddenly reality is mini cheesecakes and pistachio cream, complimentary of course, offered at marble table, chandeliers overhead. But, look out the window and there are still endless black suitcases being loaded onto forklifts.

A cruise ship is a fantasy vacation for some. A family reunion for others. A place to honeymoon. To be surrounded by luxury and glamour. Casinos an piano bars. People taking care of your every need.

But for those people, a cruise is a job that takes them away from their homes and families. An endless cycle of making beds, carving ice sculptures, smiling at complaining people. A home that looks nothing like the extravagence that greets the travelers. Their quarters look remarkably like the bowel of a submarine, windowless, stark white walls hidden behind discreet doors passengers aren't allowed to enter.

I find I'm even more polite when I'm on a ship, aware of how hard these individuals are working as their customers do anything but. Already, in spite of still being at port, alcohol's pouring and people are swaying. The feeding frenzy's started. How often do people have 3 desserts, at lunch, in the real world? Sometimes I wonder what these waitresses and bartenders think of us. If they notice the
same things I do - people suspending real world rules to engage in a weekend orgy of over-indulgence. Or, if we blur into a constant stream of bodies, moving in and out, about as noticeable or memorable as pieces on an assembly line.

Perhaps I'll work on that this week. Learning to be anonymous and letting loose more than I usually do.

But, here I sit on this noisy balcony, trucks still loadng, writing on my iPhone so I can still get my thoughts out there. And I already passed on the midafternoon chocolate pudding and parfait frenzy.

Friday, December 25, 2009

a little box of love

Last night, we spent Christmas Eve as we always do, at my brother and sister-in-law's. She's not jewish, so even though my little family celebrates Hanukkah, we have the lovely tradition of spending this night together, with lights, a Christmas tree (decorated in part with ornaments we've made over the years) presents waiting for us underneath. My brother is the most generous gift giver ever so for us, especially Iz and Jack, it's a true "Santa Clause" experience.

After a deliciously elaborate dinner with not just one, but three different kinds of potatoes, including tater tots to the delight of just about everyone, and chocolate tofu pie for dessert—my all time favorite—it was time for gifts. At that point, past 9:00, Iz and Jack were getting antsy. It's hard to wait for the anticipated present-extravaganza we'd be planning for for weeks, as the grown ups sat and chatted. We sat in a circle by the tree, the kids distributing the piles of presents. And then, we went around the circle, each person getting a turn to open one, while everyone watched. Usually it's more of a free-for-all, with paper flying, so this was new. And great. Each gift was celebrated by everyone. And I have to say, there were some pretty fabulous things. While it would take a ridiculous amount of time to acknowledge each here, plus quite the stretch to my memory, I have to give a shout out to some of the more memorable moments.

For the first time Jack bought presents for everyone himself. He saved money and spent days pouring through catalogs, finding what he thought was the perfect item. Each gift he gave was exceedingly thoughtful—my favorite were two tiny white ceramic factory sculptures. My brother's had a horse shoe on top for good luck, my sister's was decorated with celebration balloons. Both perfect for where they are in their lives.

Iz got Jack a mug covered with illustrations of famous moustaches. Who knew that would be the gift he'd want to take on vacation. He fell in love and spent much of the walk home (when not taking remarkable art shots with the digital camera he'd also gotten), talking about how he'd always dreamed of his own cup to drink hot chocolate from. She also got him a yo-yo to add to his burgeoning collection—I got the same one for my brother, who suggested a yo-yo competition. Jack struck a pose and with just the right attitude, responded, "it's on." So, they stood away from everyone for awhile, practicing tricks, making sure not to smack each other in the head with around-the-world stunts. I have to note that at that point Jack was in the XXXL shirt he'd gotten, apparently having one was another dream of his.

Another fave: my sister's boyfriend gave the kids gift certificates to the movies along with the offer to take them to see anything they wanted. While they're both thrilled, I think I'm even more so, as it means I don't have to see the Alvin and the Chipmunks squeak-quel. My gifts for the evening, from my brother, was a serious of technology gifts that required an explanation for almost every one. I know my stuff, but somehow he finds things I'd never heard of: a battery extender for my iphone, in the ear headphones for skyping, and a seriously high tech bluetooth headset as well. This morning I want to label all the chargers so I can't lose track of which goes to what.

My sister in law loved the silver ring set with smoky topaz. We discovered she's a finger freak. All fingers on both hands are the same size—she had the option of wearing that ring in eight different places. There were the Obama art coffee table books, the hand knit hat that worked over dreadlocks, the vintage troll doll, the toast band aids.

I thought the cat chia pet Jon found for my sister would be the most outstanding gift of the night. I'd already given my brother the plush kidney, for luck, earlier in the week. But, it was trumped with the Atari fleece pajama pants my sis found for him. It's hard to imagine a product exists in the world that he doesn't have, or at least know about. He was utterly surprised and delighted, promising to wear them today, even outside to walk the dogs.

And then, I opened my last gift. Iz asked that I save it for the very end. It was a gold-finished old pill box. I pulled off the ribbon—a quick aside here: Iz put the ribbons on just about all our gifts and announced that fact EVERY time one of them was opened—and she told me it was a little box of love. As I popped the lid, tiny needle felted hearts in shades of pink, red, and white spilled out. Iz told me I was to carry it with me all the time, so I'd always know how much she loved me. And that it was a metaphorical gift.

My heart filled to the point of exploding. Tears stood out in my eyes and we just stared at each other, as I tried not to cry. It doesn't get more beautiful, personal, delicious than that. One of the moments of motherhood that I will always cherish. Having said that, it was a night of those moments. Of laughing ridiculously hard. Of enjoying being together. Of appreciating how thoughtful everyone in the room was towards each other.

I am always grateful for my family. We're quirky, and we've got stuff, and we don't always get along. But I know I would do anything for the people in that room and that they'd do the same. That presents are a way of showing how we feel when it's not always easy to express it in words. That the smallest things—instant chocolate pudding, an atomizer of hand sanitizer, a duncan yo-yo—can bring joy. How we're delighted my sister's boyfriend was there, that we all wish more than anything my brother's health improves. And that, even with how crazy life can be, there are moments, evenings, of comfort and joy that soothe my soul.

I love you guys.

Thursday, December 24, 2009

It's only skin deep

This morning, as I was talking to two building friends in our lobby, the conversation turned towards skin. We'd already covered building politics, the renovation of the community room, which we deduced had to have been orchestrated by someone with no kids, as 14 hanging lamps now make it a hazard to throw a ball anywhere. Reactions to holiday tips, the dearth of comfortable kid friendly restaurants along with the demise of old standbys. We talked about publishing, book deals, agents, editors and pr. New York City versus California, family drama, nasty neighbors. All topics were quick visits, light glossings, nothing substantial or substantive. Until we got to skin.


And there we stayed. It started with a comment that my skin looked good, which I found surprising. I had just come from yoga, was entirely make-up free, remnants of sweat still plastering hair to my forehead. Never the ideal time to be scrutinized. But, here was someone saying in spite of all that, I was getting compliments. I was quick to point out the vertical grooves, or furrows which was the skin word of the day, gouged in between my eyes. Also, the deepening lines framing my mouth that always make me look on the verge of explosive anger. One friend couldn't get past the ever darkening circles around her eyes. The other had had a botched botox experience.

And there we stayed.

Discussing treatments, expensive clinics that whisked you away on a private plane with fancy spa treatments after your more medical appointments. The things we'd change, whether we'd ever go through with those changes, where we'd go, when to start. The kinds of doctors to see. What to ask for. What to do if something went wrong.

I don't often have these conversations. But, with the length and intensity of this one, apparently I'm in the minority. I sometimes entertain the thought of smoothing out those between eye ravines, but never talk about it with anyone. It feels too vain, to egotistical, too shallow. After years of of starving my body, of hiding in black shapeless clothes, of hating myself, I don't want to start finding fault. Trust me, there's plenty I could complain. The wrinkles in my elbows that I notice in down dog during yoga class. The slightly loosening chin skin that I check almost automatically on a regular basis. The veins that line the backs of my hands. The fact that my belly's thicker than it's ever been even though I've never been in better shape.

This is me getting older. I sort of wish I could go back and appreciate my skin when it was dewy soft, satiny to the touch. When everything was tight and firm and didn't have a mind of its own. Sometimes I look down at my knees and marvel that I used to wear knee socks and shorts, leaving just my thighs exposed. When you're 16 or 25 it's all fine.

But, I'm not ready to scrutinize, to find fault, to be unhappy with how I look.

I'm getting older. There are things I could do to hide that fact, but that's not for me. At least not yet.

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

the language of death

Yesterday, while walking down Christopher Street, I got a call. A kidney was available for my brother who had recently been placed on the transplant list. A friend of a friend of a cousin of ours had had an aneurysm and her family generously offered her kidney to someone in need. From that moment on there was a nonstop flurry of phone calls, of questions, of concerns. We were nervous, excited, hopeful, scared—plunged in that moment into the unknown. Waiting. Waiting for answers, for experts, for affirmation of a positive match, for the family of the donor's final decision to pull the plug.

It hit me. Amidst the confusion, the swirling emotions, the planning and conferring, how appalling those words are. Pull the plug. I'd casually used that expression many times, never thinking beyond the phrase to the reality of what it meant to the the family who had that decision to make. Or of the person who lay there, a body without a mind, who's very being was in the hands of others. This woman was a daughter, a friend, perhaps a wife and mother, perhaps a grandmother, aunt, cousin. Her life had abruptly changed, her loved ones had been plunged unexpectedly into despair. And still, within that grief and pain, they were giving hope and life to others. This woman, this saviour was not a vacuum or a toaster. That's when you pull a plug. By referring to such a monumental moment with such dismissive words, the enormity of it was shunted off to the side.

Language has a power that's so often underestimated—words and phrases shape how we think and feel. Expressions that we use on a regular basis create a collective mindset that all too often minimizes the reality of a situation. Think about how the word "soldier" was replaced in the media with "troop" in the not too distant past. To me, a soldier is a man or woman in uniform. There's a face, a body, a person, while "troop" is detached, a word with no humanity. It's far easier to hear that we lost 35 troops in Iraq than 35 soldiers died that day. Someone in a position of power decided to re-work our societal vocabulary. People were dying. How could the immediacy and sting be taken away? Call it something else.

We hide behind words because the reality can be too painful. We try to soften the edges with euphemisms or oblique references. I will never say "pull the plug" again. Ending life support is a decision fraught with bravery and grief. It deserves to be acknowledged for what it is.

Monday, December 21, 2009

the age of invisibility

A couple of weeks ago, as I walked past my favorite coffee shop, I noticed a woman sitting on the bench outside, holding an ice pack to her leg, muttering to herself. Bleeding. Nodding her head and rocking back and forth slowly. The blood had soaked through the cloth she was holding and was now dripping slowly down her leg, seeping beneath her torn, beige stockings. No one stopped. No one noticed. Or, perhaps if they had, they didn't acknowledge. The street was busy and everyone kept moving.

What I could have added, that would explain the solitude, the invisibility, the not being seen when plainly there, was that she was little and old. A bleeding little old woman, all alone on that bench, blood trickling into her orthopedic shoe. I stopped to ask what happened. A couple men, sort of hovering but not quite attached, said she tore her leg open on her metal shopping cart, loaded to the top with assorted bags. Looking, I saw a ragged screw exposed, shin height. They saw her stumble, got her ice, and weren't sure what to do next. She rocked, her lips moving, but didn't answer when I asked how she was. I knelt down by her feet, got in her face and asked, loudly, if she was ok. She snapped out of her reverie and answered yes, she would be fine, she was just waiting for the bleeding to stop. I asked if she wanted to go to the doctor, the emergency room, if there was anyone I could call.

No thank you she said.

She had no one.

She was all alone.

She was heading to Waverly, which was about 5 blocks south of where we were. She was 100 years old. She ived by herself.

I checked her leg—the bleeding appeared to have stopped. I had her stand and walk a few steps, to make sure it wouldn't start again, gave her instructions to go home, wash the wound, carefully taking her stockings off, and put her leg up for the rest of the day. One of the bystanders offered to walk her there. I watched them move off slowly, her bent over, him twice her size and than ran around the corner to pick Jack up at school.

As I was pushed along by the crowds of moms, sitters, and strollers, I couldn't get this woman out of my mind. Here we were, lavishing time and attention, snacks and playdates, open hearts and attentive ears on these little beings, yet someone at the other end of the spectrum was completely alone. Did she have kids? Had she been married? Did she grow up in this neighborhood? Did she have to walk up 5 flights of stairs with that cart? What did she do when she was sick? Was there anyone at all to check on her? Would she be ok?

I remember Jack bleeding on the street once, as we ran to the emergency room. Everyone stopping to look, asking if they could help. People in NYC are far more kind and generous than we get credit for. But, in that moment, I saw, I recognized, I knew, not for the elderly. Not here. Not anywhere really. As people get older, as their looks, their jobs, their friends slip away, they lose their power. Their resonance. Their importance. And after awhile, we don't see them.

Perhaps that's one of the reasons we fear aging and fight so hard to keep it at bay. We don't want to be the elderly man checking for the perfect pineapple in the supermarket, but not knowing how, as his wife used to do all the shopping. The widow in the laundry room whose husband died 3 months ago and now has only herself to do laundry for. The woman bleeding on the street, with no one to turn to for help.

We don't want to acknowledge that they could be us one day.

Whew. If only we could all go out into the world with a little more time and compassion for those who don't have what we do. I'm carrying that thought through the holidays. And into 2010.

Sunday, December 20, 2009

old habits don't die

I started pulling together summer clothes for our trip that's coming up on Friday. A week long Caribbean cruise with an extra day on each end at my parent's. Packing in advance is new for me—usually it's all about the night before. This night before though is Christmas Eve at my brother's, a long-standing family tradition, and I want to make sure we can hang and have fun without frantic scrambling looming over my head.

But, back to the story at hand. I've got limited time before I need to crash and don't want to blow my blog streak.

So. I pulled out my only pair of shorts, not short shorts, but cute down-to-my-knee shorts. Sadly, (honestly, it was much more than sad) when I tried to pull them up, they didn't quite make it. I pulled and squeezed and got them to where they generally should be, but could barely tug the zipper half way. I've been feeling lately like I've gained weight, but with jeans and t-shirts, one can mask quite a lot. There was no getting around this. Shorts so tight I couldn't bend or sit. I looked in the mirror and almost had to laugh at how awful I looked. Especially five days away from being on the beach in a bikini. Old feelings crept into my head. Honestly, they'd been lurking in corners all day. That I'm fat. That I'm a loser. That nothing will fit me. That I can't control myself. I spent the morning trying on dresses with Iz, pulling vintage out of my closet, waiting to see, or really more expecting to see what I couldn't pull off any more. This was familiar old behavior. Berating myself for clothes not fitting, for loss of control. Usually, at that point, I'd spin out of control, weep for hours, beat myself up and then proceed to wear too tight clothes for days as punishment. Nice, right?

But, I didn't do that today. In fact, I recently went through my drawers and got rid of all the clothes I wear when I'm skinny. I say that as if there's a huge differential, but it's either one size or another. Skinny clothes are size 6. Fat clothes are size 8. Small shirts prove I'm good. Medium? Loser. And to be honest, when I'm wearing size 6 comfortably, I'm not in a good place psychologically. I don't notice I'm doing it, but I stop eating. I'm very good at not being hungry. Years of anorexia trained me to not feel the pangs. And when I'm thinner I'm sick more, tired more, my temper is shorter, I get injured more often.

This time I sat and thought about why I'm gaining weight, instead of freaking out uncontrollably (ok, I did do that for 10 minutes or so) and realized it's because, for the first time in more years than I can remember, I've loosened up about what I eat. I've rediscovered butter. Damn, it's good. I've had chocolate cake and it's amazing. Half and half in iced coffee is sublime. Fresh whipped cream? Sigh of delight. I've been eating real ice cream at night—small cones with chocolate ice cream, with peanuts on top and chocolate inside the cones. Heaven. On. Earth.

And it's ok. This time I can see that I've gone overboard, but I can get it back under control without pain and suffering and endless recriminations. I never thought I'd see this day. How nice it is to be nice to myself.

Saturday, December 19, 2009

the last lash

Last night, at a party, I spent some time chatting with an aesthitist. First of all, I'm not sure that's even a word. I've tried, in a variety of places, to find the proper spelling and have been repeatedly stumped. So, I'm going with this. Anyway, he's a doctor who does botox and other cosmetic surgery procedures. We were talking about WRINKLE (my new book about aging), about how far people will go to not look older, about how much they'll lie to keep it a secret, about how ridiculous the products can be that people buy, in order to stave off the inevitable.

I thought, after all the research I'd done for FLOW, that I'd heard the ultimate in ridiculous. It's hard to top selling a bathroom disinfectant as a douche. And with the writing I've been doing about medicalization lately, I'd thought one could not possibly top drugs for restless leg syndrome.

That is, until I heard about Latisse. I must interject that I seem to have a mental block against that name. Even though I've written it down several time and googled it even more, my brain refuses to remember it. Perhaps, it's because of the inanity, insanity of the product. But, back to the drug at hand. Latisse is prescribed for hypotrichosis. And that is? "Eyelash hypotrichosis is another name for having inadequate or not enough eyelashes," according to the manufacturer's website. Actually, hypotrichosis is having less than normal amounts of hair on the face or body. I suppose, since the product promotes longer, thicker, darker lash growth, I understand why they skewed the definition in that narrow direction.

The aesthitist explained when people took a glaucoma drug, they noticed their eyelashes appearance improving when on the meds. So, some intrepid souls decided to repackage the drug specifically for that, as an eyelash enhancer. Take a moment and think about this: eyelash enhancer? That's what I always thought mascara was for. You don't need a prescription, there aren't major potential side effects, and it's far more cost effective than Latisse. Are there really people out there who have been so emotionally damaged by a lack of lashes, they're willing to go to this extreme? Here's another question: will Latisse be covered under the new health care plan?

I mean, come on folks. Who's buying into this nonsense? Or is it the same slippery slope I've been thinking about (and feeling myself on) lately? Where hair color is a first step. And if that's ok, then how bad can botox or expensive lotions, or tummy tucks be? Perhaps years and years of eyelash curling and mascara have done their damage, and people, as in women, want to have more of something to bat, to flirt with. As we get older and lose so much, is it so terrible to want eyelashes to be dark and dense?

I don't have an answer. And sometimes, I'm starting to think I don't have an opinion. Things look different from 45 and a half than they did 10 years ago. Products, procedures I swore I'd never consider, suddenly aren't quite so abhorrent. Having said that, I can't imagine paying through the nose, and using prescription drug to enhance my lashes. Then again, maybe, I shouldn't be so quick to judge those who feel like it'll make a difference.

Friday, December 18, 2009

wrinkle management

So. Wrinkles. I don't call the grooves in my face smile lines or laugh lines or badges of living (I just made that up to fill out the sentence, but it sounds good.) I don't use expensive moisturizers or creams, get Botox, go for regular facials. I don't exfoliate with pumice stones, slather crisco on at night, do chemical peels or collagen injections.

The way I deal with wrinkles is remarkably effective. Non-invasive. And free.

And, I'm happy to share this profound method I've discovered.

Don't wear your glasses. Not only does this work for blurring wrinkles into oblivion, your house will be less messy. Your hair far neater. Your pants won't be too tight. In fact, all of your clothes will look terrific.

Try it. Living life with a blurry edge can be wonderfully relaxing.

Thursday, December 17, 2009

to dye or not to dye

Last night I had dinner with a friend and she asked what's next. Not what's next for FLOW, for pr, for my constant marketing mindset, but what's next for me. Did I have any idea what I wanted to tackle, what subject spoke to me, what sort of project I might want to delve into.

Yup, I do. Wrinkle: the Cultural Story of Aging.

And then, we talked. We dished. We compared stories in a way that not many people do. I find, in many respects, aging to be another subject that most people don't talk about comfortably. We swore that we'd let each other know if, and when, straggly chin hairs were noticeable. Ugh. Just writing that as if it's potentially in my future, was unnerving. We talked about hair sprouting in the most unlikely of places, body parts sagging. Veins sticking out of our hands, the inevitable middle thickening, in spite of regular exercise and healthy diets. The difference in skin quality. The burgeoning jowls that run in her family, the chin swag that runs in mine. I can feel the very faintest glimmer of less than elastic skin right above my neck and understand people who wanted to believe wearing an elastic wrap at night, that wound tight from under their chin around their head, would keep the drag from happening. We talked about not wearing shorts anymore (although I went back to bikinis a couple of summers ago), that no one really needed to see that much of our legs. We talked about botox and plastic surgery, moisturizers and skin treatments. And hair.

As in to dye or not to dye.

So far, I'm in pretty good shape. At 45 and counting, there's a little grey happening, but not enough that anyone would notice unless specifically searching. My secret tip? Sun-in, the same stuff I used in junior high to make by hair blonder. Every couple of months, I spritz my head, blow dry it in and somehow that masks what's going on. I've got good hair, all sort of blonde and brown that work together to keep grey overpowered. But, when more takes over, I'm not sure. Grey hair is one thing about aging I'm not comfortable with. Maybe, as I get more, I'll embrace the distinguished-ness of it, but I honestly, I think not. I'll go for the color. Nothing radical, no platinum or jet black, just my own color, bottle-enhanced.

And that starts a slippery slope. If I'm fine about hair color, what about botox, to which I've always been adamantly against? Or dermabrasion (honestly, that just seems barbaric). Plastic surgery—just the thought of optional surgery terrifies me. That treatment to treat varicose veins?! Whew.

My friend's chosen to let nature take it's course and to embrace the grey. Well, she's not embracing it, but she knows she's not up to the upkeep of constant coloring, so she's accepting it. Recently, a business colleague told her how impressed with her that she's not bothered by the change. And then apologized for something that sounded insulting when she didn't mean it that way.

Or did she? It's hard not to judge. Maybe it's a way of making ourselves feel better, by comparing ourselves to others—my hair's not as grey, my face isn't as lined, my hips haven't spread *that* much.

We're all in this together folks. Every minute we're aging and no matter what products we use, what food we eat, what air we breathe, we can't stave off the inevitable. How lovely would it be to be able to accept it instead of fight it?

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

how fame has changed me

HA! I couldn't resist that title. Which brings up an interesting point. What is fame, anyway?

Last week I stopped by Jack's school at lunch, to orchestrate his entire class to create an art project for their teacher's holiday gift. In 20 minutes. Psychotic, but we got it done. In the middle of the melee, a girl from his kindergarten class (they're now in 3rd grade) tugged on my sleeve and asked me if I had been on TV the week before, she'd seen me. I said yes and she wandered off. Funny, that an 8 year old happened upon a local cable talk show at 8 at night, in the upper channel regions, but hey, it was nice to be recognized. And at a middle school PTA meeting last week, Izzy's principal told me that while having her hair done and reading Marie Claire, she came across a piece about FLOW. She told everyone in the salon there was a celebrity parent at her school.

Funny, from here it's not feeling so celebrity. I'm not invited to parties with super cool swag. No red carpets in the near future. In fact, around some I know, I'm hyper conscientious of not talking FLOW too much, as I've been called out for over-saturation.

Which leads me to this . . . someone suggested I write about how FLOW's changed me after a month. I loved that idea but realized this morning, the month anniversary had passed and I didn't realize. That was my mom's birthday so the world was revolving around phone calls and cards and making sure siblings remembered. Oh wait, I managed to screw that up this year too. Usually I email everyone to remind them to call, this year I was delighted I remembered myself in a timely fashion. But back to FLOW. I've learned I can own this book, talk about it, have intelligent, interesting, though-provoking, off-the-cuff conversations about it with just about anyone. The information, the backround, the concepts are in me. Are me. I know this stuff. I love this stuff.

And I want more. Not fame. Not swag (although that would be nice). But the opportunity to talk, to share, to educate. That's what I want. I don't want to hide in my living room anymore. I don't want to be afraid to put myself out there. I want to believe in what I do and celebrate that, instead of apologizing for it. I don't want to feel guilty anymore for my creativity, for my strengths, my power.

I want to shine. And I'm ok about saying that. That's how this modicum of fame has changed me.

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

how my brain works

I was thinking this morning, as I couldn't quite figure out what side of the street my car was parked on, that there are certain ways my brain doesn't work. I'm serious about this. It's not a matter of working through, concentrating harder, breaking things into smaller, more manageable pieces to solve a problem (although I'm not great at that either), in some circumstances there's a wall. Or, even less, there's nothing.

I've been parking my car on the street in NYC for more than 2 years and for the life of me can't grasp which days I need to be on which side. A quick summary for those of you not tied into this alternate side life: you can't just park your car on the street and leave it indefinitely. That would be a very long driveway with little movement. The city likes to both give out parking tickets, which are $65 a pop and have clean streets as well. So, they clean on alternate days. Mondays and Thursdays they clean the north side, Tuesday and Thursdays the south. The street, in my neighborhood, has to be clear from 9-10:30. Wednesdays are free, you can stay put with no worries. It would seem, from those last couple of sentences, that I'd have a firm grasp of the parking rules. But no, I actually had to get out of my car to check a sign, increasing the crevices between my eyes as I squinted down the block.

I've thought about making a cheat sheet and carrying it in my bag, but am not quite sure how to effectively set it up so I'll know what it means. The thing that throws me off, every time, is that side streets in the city are one way, so while the north/south part remains constant, you're either moving east or west. I can't get around that to own the reality. And so, especially if I wasn't the last person to park the car, I never have a firm grasp what side it's on or where it needs to be.

I'm finding this same phenomenon with Iz and her math homework. I'm lost. I read a problem and can't begin to figure out how to solve it. I've got nothing. Except the phone numbers of who to call for help.

My brain works remarkably well in other ways. I've got ideas for projects left and right. I can multi-task with abandon. I can juggle an insane amount and know exactly what's going on with the multitude of stuff I manage. I can recall ridiculous facts that are both efficient from a work stand point and entertaining at a party. I'm really good at details, although these days I'm not remembering names. Honestly, I'm not really trying. With 2 kids in different schools, parents, teachers, administration, siblings, I realistically know I can't keep up and I'm ok with that. There are times, that are a bit scary, when I know I know a word, a movie, an actor, a place, but can't name it. I chalk that up to getting older, but fear dementia in a big way. Or even a small way. Losing my mind is a terrifying thought. There's some serious emotional instability in my family so those fears aren't completely far-fetched.

I've read that playing bridge is good for maintaining mental acuity, but I'm not a game person. Reading the paper, staying on top of current events helps, but to be honest, it's all so depressing these days, I'd rather remain relatively un-informed. I could take classes, challenge myself with new subjects, but I'm just holding on to what I've got now.

So, I'm accepting where I am, who I am, how my brain does and doesn't work and letting it be. Only when I can afford a garage, get a math tutor for Iz, and people wear name tags all the time will things change for the better.

Monday, December 14, 2009

I've got nothing

It's not often I have nothing to say, but this is one of those moments. While things are swirling around me:
• we're smack in the middle of Hanukkah
• we're heading out of town next week and there's endless organizing to do
• as usual homework and chores are out of control and I should be working some grand plan out
• Iz and Jack are arguing about how bright their nightlight should be . . . still/again

there are things I could be doing:
• finish knitting my mom's birthday present
• clean my desk
• write holiday cards to the people who work in my building
• work on the FLOW projects I keep making for myself
• help Jon make dinner
• design a line of merch for Iz's middle school
• update FLOW's website

and plans I could debate:
• going to Target at 8 tomorrow morning to buy a salad spinner, paper goods for Jack's class party
• should I invite my brother or sister to go
• would the one not invited be insulted so should I ask both
• how many nights in a row can I handle going out to dinner
• should I get a pedicure tomorrow or call Heather for coffee

or thoughts I could ponder:
• does Jack need rainboots or will snow boots suffice
• who's going to cave and throw away the last dregs of Thanksgiving still in the fridge
• does Iz need a fancy dress for the trip
• how will I survive a painful dinner with my in-laws
• co-author angst
• I'm not following this health care thing but know I should be
• I shouldn't be eating so much sugar
• which yoga classes can I fit in during the rest of the week
• will NPR ever book us or has that died a slow death
• how do I get a form to work on my website

I'm really far more comfortable watching the twitter wall go by, waiting for an auction to end on ebay, and letting my mind be still. I think this qualifies as pathetic meditation. And I'm thinking that's not such a terrible thing.

Sunday, December 13, 2009

the art of complaining

This morning I read a powerful post about pain, suffering, about how we rank our experiences against others, how we can often survive misery by acknowledging there are people out there in much worse shape. And what do we do when we're the ones other people look to as the end of the line. Thank you Lisa, for making me think:

This post actually made me think of my mom. My mom who, no matter how tired you are, she's more exhausted. When you're in pain, she's on percocet. When you have a cavity, she's suffering from the braces she had put on 3 months ago, that continually tear the insides of her cheeks to shreds. When you have an infection, hers required 3 courses of antibiotics. A headache? She suffered from migraines. Cramps? She had a 2 part hysterectomy with years of suffering in between.

When I gave birth, I wasn't left alone in a hallway on Thanksgiving, no one checking on her for hours at a time like she was. When Jack was having seizures, at least it wasn't a stroke, something else my family had to deal with years ago. When I'm overwhelmed, freaking out, struggling to get through my to-do list, things slipping off for days/weeks on end, things I haven't gotten to, can't get to as I try to maintain my juggle without falling off the deep end, she tells me I do too much. It pisses me off.

And she's right.

A few years ago I got the go-ahead for 3 writing projects. 3 days in a row in October. And all were due within 2 weeks of each other in February. An impossible feat. But, how could I say no to any of them? As a freelancer, a burgeoning writer, each was a dream come true. And so, I dove in. One project was a collection of 50 things to do with kids in NYC. I spent every weekend running like mad, checking out places, taking endless notes, dragging me (when the rest of the family wouldn't go) countless places. One weekend I had Jack—we covered South Street Seaport, Chinatown, Little Italy, the Lower East Side. In a day. My throat hurt. I had a fever. It was bitter cold but we kept going. Walking for miles when we couldn't find a bus or cab. Later that week my ear drum burst. At least the unbearable pain was gone, the throbbing, aching, stabbing, shooting fury had consumed me for days. Goo oozed for weeks. Pus, blood, liquid. It was the second time my ear drum had burst in 10 months and I was a mess.

A mess who had to go on a family cruise in less than a week. I should have said no. I did say no. But my guilt, my sense of responsibility, my not wanting to disappoint others, my need to make things appear less bad than they actually were, did me in. I spent 28 hours on a train to Florida, as I couldn't fly with my perforated ear, a week in the sun while taking drugs that required staying out of the sun. No rest, no lying still. I got back to NY with my face swollen to an unrecognizable place, in so much pain, again, I could barely think. My ENT told me it was a tooth issue. My dentist sent me straight to the emergency room, where I was told if I hadn't gotten drugs, as in the most powerful antibiotics available dripping into me for hours at a time until my vein burnt out and my arm was twitching, I could have died. For a few hours, they thought the infection had spread to my skull and were talking months in the hospital, recovering from having part of that very same skull removed, drugs flooding me to make sure nothing hit my brain.

I called my mom from my hospital bed, the only time I'd been in a hospital except for when I was giving birth. She immediately launched into a story about how she'd gone through something worse. A sense of joy (I'm not kidding) flooded through me as I got to say, no, she hadn't. She couldn't top this. As long as I was in the hospital, in isolation, 6 hours of heavy duty meds a day coursing through me, she couldn't one up me. It was bad. I was owning it. And that was ok.

I learned two things. Sometimes I am the end of the line and it's important to take that in, to not negate the seriousness of what I'm going through, to hit rock bottom. To not be the strong one, the comforter, the center of everything. Sometimes I'm the one who needs help.

And sometimes I have to say no. And know it's ok not be everything to everyone all the time.

Saturday, December 12, 2009

cruise control

In 2 weeks I'll be sitting on a balcony, at the top of a ship, watching the sun set over the ocean. I'm not one to look ahead, to live in the future, to imagine being somewhere else entirely, but it's been really cold in NYC and the thought of being somewhere warm is too hard not to get lost in. Even more delightful is the thought of someone cleaning my room twice a day. No cooking for a week is heaven. Having other grownups around who are happy to be with my kids while I do something else? I'm hoping it all works out that way.

We're heading to yet another caribbean cruise. Honestly, at this point, I have no idea how many I've been on. I'm sure that's because cruises aren't my vacation of choice. My parents love them, make all the arrangements, and it's always such a generous offer we can't say no. I have said no, but ended up going anyway. My ideal vacation is renting a house on the beach, hanging out until I'm so mellow it doesn't really matter what I do or don't do. No schedule. No pre-conceived notions. No formal nights or having to be back from the beach at 3. I love unstructured time. Actually, it can fill me with dread, but it's really healthy to let go of schedules and plans. Cruises are the opposite of that. Much of the day is spent trying to find the people you're with until dinner, which is always too early. Tons of over-effective air conditioning. Crowds of people. It sort of feels like being in the city, which is why I yearn for the opposite.

I've been on cruises while pregnant and feeling awful. When my kids were babies, toddlers, not sleeping through the night. I've crammed into rooms the size of closets with clothing for 4, cribs, beds folding out from walls, trying to keep all of us happy, or at least sane, with no time for naps, no room to relax, no way to get clothes clean after endless feeding fests. I've dealt with sunburns, seasickness, fevers. There was one summer cruise to Scandinavia where it was in the 50s and rained every day for 2 weeks. Rough seas that were so bad plates were regularly crashing to the floor at dinner. There was the cruise when I had to take a 28 hour train ride to Florida because my eardrum had just burst and I couldn't fly. My face started to swell in an elephant man sort of way half way through the trip and as soon as I got back to NYC I was in the hospital, on 6 hours of antibiotic drip a day for 5 straight days.

One cruise with way too many family members when my mom thought my sister was coming out of the closet. She wasn't, but my sister and her friend found a demonstrative way of entertaining themselves for a week. The time when a cousin, who was 10, burned his hand so badly after spilling hot tea on himself, I watched skin peel away and could hear his screams for hours after the accident. The time we all surprised my mom for her birthday–she had no idea when she opened the cabin door that we'd all be standing there. True tears of joy all around.

There was the time I sat through an explanation, at afternoon tea, with one step-relative explaining to a vegan, how to train a hunting dog. Talk about uncomfortable. Then there was the person who got onboard with ship with cases of soda, refusing to pay ships soft drink prices. She'd arrive at every meal with 2 cans in hand, proudly displaying them on the beautiful set table, a personal statement of her cost effectiveness. She shopped religiously for expensive watches at every port.

I've been on cruises where more than one of our party had motorized scooters. It was like being part of a very slow moving parade every time we went to dinner. Last cruise Iz was injured by a life size chess piece and spent 5 days limping around with crutches.

There was the night we bundled up under blankets, eating freshly popped pop corn watching Mamma Mia under the stars on a giant screen. It was brilliant.

The time we managed to pull off a playdate, on St. John's, with Iz's best friend who was down at the beach for a few weeks with her mom. We took a boat over, and we hooked up at a bar by the dock, and then spent the afternoon at Trunk Bay. They played on the beach for hours while we marveled at how we managed to pull that off. Best photos ever.

There was the time we sat at the very top of a ship, the original Love Boat no less, and saw the Milky Way against the pitch blackness.

The cruise where, by day two, our waiter realized that my mother was really all about eating (it wasn't hard to figure out). He called her "my little sparrow" and brought her one of every dessert without her even asking.

The cruise that happened just a few weeks after a devastating hurricane. Local people were thrilled to have tourists coming back. Drives to beaches through towns that had been completely destroyed, yet everyone was smiling.

I'm hoping this trip will be relatively uneventful. That I'll get to read a book. Sit quietly. Let myself slow down. That I won't need to be at the internet cafe more than once a day. That I'll spend plenty of time in the steam room, on beaches, with a cocktail or two thrown in.

Sitting on a balcony.

Watching the sun set over the ocean.

Friday, December 11, 2009


People are coming to celebrate Hanukkah in 32 minutes. Every year I try to remember the way I prefer spelling Hanukkah—that took a couple of tries. I've got a cake in the oven. Potato pancakes ready to fry. Vegans coming who can't eat either and I haven't been able to find a substitute.

I'm amazed, yet again, at how easily I can not deal with upcoming events. The same thing happened on Thanksgiving. Night before I realized 12 people were coming for dinner and I'd given it no thought.

Some people plan months, weeks, days, in advance. At this point in my life, I give myself minutes to pull it all together.

I wonder if my kids are missing out on all the advance planning, or they're learning that holidays are like life, a little more special, but let's not get carried away. I'm more about that. Enjoy the moments of them, but don't build things up so much they can't live up to your expectations.

Ok. Have to heat up oil, poke toothpicks in chocolate, scrape last year's wax off the menorah, and angst about not having enough gifts for everyone . . .

Happy happy folks!!!

Thursday, December 10, 2009

a momentary soul crisis

"It was the best of times. It was the worst of times." I get it. I get being in middle of the see saw, at that point trying to precariously balance as life veers out of control. And right now, in this moment, I'm not handling any of it well.

Not only that, I'm not sure who I am at this moment. And I while I know who I want to be, I'm not sure I'll get there. This is not an easy place.

At this moment I have to fight through the housekeepers downstairs to finish the laundry I started at 8:27 this morning. I have to type up the notes from a middle school PTA meeting from last night. Somehow, I became the designated secretary when the actual one couldn't be there. I have to design a line of merchandise for the school and negotiate the egos and supposed expertise of people who honestly don't know what they're doing but think they do, which makes it all the more challenging. I have to be at Jack's school in 20 minutes to coordinate a holiday art project for his 3rd grade class.

I have to finish my website. Update FLOW's. Write thank you notes for all the gracious hosts/interviewers who talked to/with me. I have to ramp it up and find more people to do the same. I feel so stuck in this moment, wanting more but not knowing how to get there. In yoga today, the teacher talked about being open to the moment. When I open at this point, tears come. Tears of what I don't know, but they keep showing up today. I'm in pain.

Emotional pain and physical pain. I've had a headache since yesterday, piercing my left temple. Nothing helps. I've been getting these before my period on a somewhat regular basis, but this is the first time it appeared right after it was over.

I have plans to go out to dinner with friends tonight, women I love, I planned this but all I want to do is curl up on my bed and be left alone. I know going out will start kid drama "you always leave," "you're never here, "Why do you always leave?"

I want to leave. I want to do bigger things. I want my phone to ring. My email to be bursting with projects, offers, ideas, people who want to collaborate or ask questions, who want to be in touch.

I don't want empty.

I don't want this.

I don't want my husband telling me he's not happy and I have to fix it. I can't do that. I don't want illness and uncertainty for the people I love. I can't make that happen. I don't want the unknown, the scariness, the desperate hoping.

I want to know.

I want more.

I want someone to tell me it will be ok in the end. Because right now I don't feel that and can't find it myself.

Wednesday, December 9, 2009


This morning, while standing and chatting in front of Jack's school, huddled with 2 friends under umbrellas in the driving rain, one asked about my book party and said how sorry she was to have missed it. Her husband hadn't been feeling well. After several back and forths she told us he has stomach cancer and is going for surgery next week. There was a palpable shift from imagining flu or a virus to confronting the reality of second opinions, stomach bags, chemo/radiation, long term prognoses. I then found out another friend, who moved out of the city recently and I ran into having lunch in a cafe last week, was in town for chemo. She was diagnosed with breast cancer at the end of the school year. Yet another mom I know, responded to my FLOW invite by saying she wished she could make the party but had inoperable brain cancer and was starting a new round of chemo that day.

It's amazing how in a second, a moment, a breath, everything is fine and then reality crashes into something else entirely. Something too scary and overwhelming and life-changing to absorb. And nothing is the same after that.

I can't begin to imagine what that's like for the person who's been given the diagnosis. Or their family. Cancer is just about the thing in life I'm most afraid of. I think it even trumps skiing (and that's a major fear). My father is an oncologist and I grew up with stories about patients and chemo, living wills, and grieving families. His detachment is how he survived a heart-breaking job. He learned to search out, and create, humor (often cringe-worthy), as a defense against the bleakness. And as a way of bringing a moment or two of joy to his patients. Distraction can be a powerful thing when life is crushing down with brutal force.

I am queen of distraction. I can entertain, tell a story, involve a room, get people laughing, talking, engaging. I can keep people, at least for a little while, from falling into the depths of despair, from spinning in the dark, from letting the terror pull them under.

I am terrified about when I have to confront it myself. For myself, my family. My veneer is so effective, but it's just show. I can pull it all together on the outside, people see me as ever strong and capable, but I know there are some things I can't handle.

I couldn't handle the seizures Jack had when he was little. Blood, hospitals, emergencies, I'm fine. But his seizures and the fear he'd have another paralyzed me for years. When he'd get a fever, which was often, I'd panic, barely able to get medicine into him, praying his body would handle it all and I wouldn't have to live through another moment when his eyes would role back into his head and his little body would quake until it fell so silent I'd have to check for a pulse. When he felt warm, I couldn't breathe. It got so bad sometimes I couldn't check on him during the night, even though I needed to know, every 10 minutes, if anything changed. I dreamed of making it to his 6th birthday, the time when febrile seizures apparently stopped. It's only been in the past couple of months, he's now 8, that I've been able to leave him alone in the bathtub. His next to last seizure happened there, as I was running out to get the phone. He was seizing, under water, when I got back, Iz screaming that he was turning blue. I remember the fire department, 13 men in smoky uniforms in my apartment, trying to help as I got him dried and dressed, still unconscious, Iz petrified yet excited to be in the ambulance. Going for food for her and finding out he'd had another seizure in the hospital, after I'd begged them to give him more advil and they'd refused. 2 seizures in 24 hours wasn't typical and so then we had to put him through far more extensive testing. In the end, all was fine. He never had another seizure. But I will never forget the fear that paralyzed me, turned me to stone. Fear that was so powerful I couldn't be present.

I'm afraid of that happening again. Hearing other people, other families, other friends being plunged into that terror, terrifies me. Our souls are so resilient, but I hate how beaten they have to be.

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

fame and fortune

I found out this morning that my father and his wife are flying out to LA, all expenses paid, for a taping of Tool Academy, a VH1 show about nightmare (that's putting it nicely) boyfriends. Why? Because my half brother is a contestant this season. He and his long-suffering girlfriend could win $100K for a month of living in fancy houses, all expenses paid, being filmed around the clock in various stages of relationship hell. Should they be popular contestants, I'm sure they can parlay this reality TV fame into other shows, paid party appearances, they could be gossip magazine fodder, perhaps spokespeople for relatively obscure advertising campaigns.

To put this in perspective of my life (forgive me, but that's how I so often view the world), their potential financial windfall would be over 4 times more than I earned for FLOW—3 years, on and off of dedicated soul-wrenching work. Months of around the clock researching and writing, and then weeks at a time of editing, fact checking, going over layouts, bibliography, credits and acknowledgments. Hours and hours of scanning (I did all the art in the book). Endless time and energy dedicated to PR and getting the word out. Then there's the matter of thousands of dollars spent out of my pocket for the art in the book, and the time spent amassing the collection. Messenger charges. The cost of the menstrual library I'm now a proud owner of. I'd say, at this point, estimating $2 an hour for time spent on this project would be a generous assumption.

All that's fine. The fact that FLOW's out in the world, that I was given this opportunity for it to be what I imagined, that a publisher embraced my vision and gave it life, that for the most part it's been met with enthusiasm, support, accolades, that it's started conversations, opened people's minds, made people think? Doesn't get better. But, for almost a moment, a glimmer, a slight yearning, I imagine what it would be like to earn serious money, media attention, and a spotlight for just about no work.

That's how it goes these days. The greatest rewards, the most fame, for the least amount of effort. Reality TV stardom. Not that I'd EVER want that. But, the thought of having people pay attention, opening doors, listening to what you have to say is really appealing. Especially when there's something important to say.

But, would I sell my soul to date Flava Flave to share FLOW with the world?

Now that's something to ponder . . .

Monday, December 7, 2009

open and shut

I realized yesterday what my lesson in life is, or at least my lesson to be learned from FLOW. It's not how to work hard, to manage pressure, to stretch myself in ways I had never thought possible. It's not how do let go of insecurities, to put myself out in the world, hawking and spinning and selling to get people to pay attention. It's not how to grow into myself, to own who I am and what I do, to stop hiding behind myself.

It's to learn how to deal with closed people. To be more specific, people who are closed to me. Which, for me is punishment. Once, a fellow co-op board member said I should rethink my life and be a cruise director, as I have this obvious need to be liked. She meant that as an insult. But I didn't take it as one. I ask questions and want to hear answers. I engage whenever possible, say hello, good morning, thank you. I treat people with respect and kindness. Those are two major words in my life. So often, people don't bother to regard either with either these days. It's astounding how many bus doors slam in faces, how many transactions take place without acknowledgement, on either end, how often people walk past each other as if no one was there. While being polite isn't part of a need to be liked, I suppose it's part of a greater whole.

And yet, in spite of manners, respect, basic kindness towards others, people—wait, let me clarify that, women—pass through my life who don't like me. Actually, who can't stand me in varying degrees. Looking back, and in the present, it most often happens when I put new ideas into the world that others don't agree with. Or don't bother listening to. I suppose, in my defense and also, to accept responsibility, I'm not great at strongly putting things out there. If someone doesn't like what I'm doing or have to say, I can take it as a personal insult, and it becomes about me, not the idea, and I shut down. I don't have harshly defined lines. What I think/do/say is what is. Whether it's work, for the PTA, a book project, with friends, this is me. Creative, sensitive, open. It all meshes together. And I can get stuck on being right. Egotistically speaking, I often am. But not everyone wants to jump on the bandwagon. Not everyone's open to change. Not everyone wants someone else's ideas in the forefront.

I'm here again. Amazing news today coupled with accusations and drama. So, what do I do? My feelings get crushed in these situations. When someone, anyone, doesn't accept what I put out there, I fold. And I put good stuff out there. My ideas resonate, have passion, conviction. I work so hard on what I share. I don't take anything I take on lightly. And still, in spite of professionalism, dedication, strong, solid, occasionally visionary ideas, there are women out there who just want me to shut up. I've literally been told to shut up. Instead of being able to see that these are their issues, that I need to be who I am and let it slide, I take it in until it eats away at my self-esteem, my confidence. I'm finding myself back here, again, so wrapped and wracked I can't see straight.

I know this is my lesson. To stand up for myself, not necessarily to get my way, but to nurture my soul, protect my feelings, even if I don't say so on the outside, to love and heal on the inside. To accept other people's closed minds, not as something directed at me, but just as who they are. I say this hoping beyond hope I can actually do it. Because I can't live through another finger-pointing, back-stabbing, accusation filled experience.

To accept that while many love me, and for that I am exceedingly grateful, there are those who don't get me, can't stand me, truly, actively dislike me. And I can't change that. Or them.

Sunday, December 6, 2009

holiday angst

This year Jack (8) has discovered the joy of gift giving. Rather, he felt the joy for one evening as he flipped through a couple of cool catalogs (Think Geek and Uncommon Goods), marking off with post its what he thought would be the best gifts for everyone. I loved the present ideas he had for his sister, my sister, her new boyfriend. Even loved that he didn't think gifts for me or Jon were necessary. I was delighted watching his thoughtfulness for others blossom.

All kids come into their own so differently, it's a miracle to watch and can be frustrating as all hell. And Jack's had challenges that have keep pieces from falling into place when I thought they should have. Or maybe that's just me comparing him to his older sister, other people's kids, my own expectations. All places to get into trouble. Anyway, thoughtfulness isn't his strong suit. Empathy? It's in there, but in a very perfunctory way. Sort of like his day. Maybe it's a guy thing. Not being one, I am all soothing and hugs and kisses and listening. Again, back to the story at hand. This is the first time he's spent time and energy thinking about gifts for others, to the point of more thought than about his own. For Jack, that's remarkable. I think for most kids it would be. I love catalogs too, so we pored over the pages, marveling at creativity, laughing at ridiculousless, drooling over a Yoda backpack (actually, that was me).

Then. Reality. How to come up with the $180 for the lovely gifts he picked out. That's not a reality. Jack chose some games to sell on ebay and while that's viable in the long term, it's not a given. Who knows when, or if, they'll sell. I suggested less expensive options. He blew. He's was so wrapped up in his dream of perfect gifts, was knocked off his feet by the prices, and got stuck in this place of frustration.

I get it. That happens to me. I always wish I'd started planning earlier. My friend Heather has a gift pile going in August. I make endless fun of her (and the fact her Christmas cards are at the printer in the summer), but she's got the right idea. Hannukah's less than a week away and my frantic scramble's just beginning. I have a kinda/sorta list in my head, but it's vague and fuzzy. Maybe this is why I haven't been able to sleep at night—my subconscious is in full pre-holiday freak out mode. I worry about finding the right things, getting enough stuff, making people happy, not spending too much money . . . I tend to wrap the night before, not enough tape, losing track of scissors while trying to coordinating paper colors.

In the end, it should be about being with family. Celebrating that we're together. Appreciating all we have. But that's hard to put in a box and wrap with a bow. So instead, we spend frantic energy and time finding ways to show those feelings that are sometimes hard to say.

And now, I'm off to catalog shop with Jack. He's got some love to share.

Saturday, December 5, 2009

Twitter vs. The Real World

Months and months ago, anticipating the publication of my new book, I asked a friend in PR what I should be doing to get the word out. His word? Twitter. Establishing a presence on twitter would help tremendously in forming an advance fan base and a means to share information and updates about FLOW (as in FLOW: the Cultural Story of Menstruation). His synopsis: facebook without pages. 140 characters a post (or tweet) from millions of people all over the world posting literally every second on a constantly updating cyber wall. I didn't completely understand how it worked, how you'd find people, why you'd follow anyone or how on earth someone might follow you, but, I signed up. And stared at the quickly moving wall, too overwhelmed and freaked out, to be honest, to do anything. It took a couple of days to screw up the courage to answer anyone. And another day after that to understand if you didn't include their name, and the "@" symbol, they weren't getting your message. And retweet, as in forwarding along someone else's tweet? A concept I didn't get for a month or so.

After a few days I made my first twitter friend. Or twitter BFF by day three. A fellow writer, who was engaging, funny, always answered. He wanted an agent/book deal and was impressed to find I had both. We tweeted, emailed, friended each other on facebook. And then, day five. He wrote that he'd be drinking, that he'd never say this otherwise, but he had a crush on me and needed to let me know. Hours later, when I didn't reply, his missives got increasingly angry, accusatory, bordering on rage. By the next morning, I got the "I get this way when I'm drinking," "this is how I ruin all relationships," "please forgive me" email. I quickly blocked and unfollowed everywhere, and moved on.

I found endless social media experts, publishing gurus, inspirational life coaches—and those weren't the spammers, just intrepid souls who were hawking their expertise and points of view, for free or for a specially reduced rate for webinars or workshops. Spammers are more about making easy money at home, or porn. Honestly, sometimes it's hard to differentiate. So, slowly, I learned to pick and chose who I followed. And I wasn't always right. Let's be honest, sometimes I found people, sometimes robo-generated accounts that were trying to sell me a fabulous vacation or an amazing phone deals. But, after endless hours staring at my computer (or laptop or iphone), I began to find interesting, thought-provoking, funny souls.

And then, they're gone. Which is what inspired this post in the first place. The transient-ness of twitter. For a month, a day, an hour, 5 minutes you can have the most intriguing dialog with someone. There are moments of connection, of kindred souls, of flirting, exchanging ideas, empathy, support, anger. Admiration, jealousy, twisted humor, appreciation, emotion. And then, it's over. They disappear. Sometimes for awhile, sometimes forever.

Here's my question: how real is any of it? Can you establish a relationship with a tiny square photo and names that range from real life (@elissastein for example) to combos of numbers and letters that make no sense? I've had run-ins with people I think might be bordering on the edge of a breakdown. And have established relationships that mean the world to me. There are times lately, when it feels like people on twitter are more involved in my life than people actually in my life.

Is that preposterous or the wave of the future?

Friday, December 4, 2009

ebb and flow

I just got off the phone with a friend of mine, the author of a fascinating book called Finding Oz (among others), a friend from elementary school who I remember most from a school picture he was wearing a red turtle neck in. We reconnected, after many years, on facebook—it's hard to think of him as a grown up. In my mind, he's still Evan, in third grade.

We talked books. He's written several and was hoping, as honestly, we all do, that this Oz book would be a bestseller. And that didn't happen. We talked about the ups and downs, the thrill of possibilities (he was asked to be on the Colbert Report), and the devastation when that doesn't work out. The obsessive need to check amazon stats ALL THE TIME. The pouring your soul, your energy, your hopes and dreams into something and then putting it out into the world with the greatest of expectations.

It was both a supportive and sobering conversation. He said that a big advance is indicative of belief that a book will be a big seller. That if a publisher is putting in big bucks at the beginning, they'll support it once it's out. That a high print run means they'll make sure it's out on front tables and in tons of stores.

We talked about the need for major media to pay attention to make something a big hit. And that main streams media pays attention to big hits. A true chicken/egg conundrum. How do you get people to pay attention, no matter how fantastic your book is, no matter how much you believe in it, when you're nobody? Not that I'm calling myself a nobody, but I haven't been on a reality TV show or had my number discovered in a politician's cell phone.

We talked about devoting your life to promote it for sixth months, setting up talks, traveling wherever people would have you. And then, at the end, declaring victory.

Honestly, FLOW so far *has* been a victory. Just that it exists is amazing. That it's as beautiful as it is. That it's been so exceedingly well received. That I've done interviews, that people are reading and writing and thinking about it. I've become a far better writer. My confidence in myself, my comfort in my voice, how I fit in my skin so much better—all a result of this life-changing experience that's broken me down and built me back up. Leaner and meaner.

All good. SO good. I'm so proud of myself and thrilled with all that's happened. But still, the crashes come.

Thursday, December 3, 2009

the kindness of strangers

Today I need to write about gratitude. I've started this post several times, trying to get the right angle or intro and realize it doesn't need one. Gratitude, in itself, is plenty. Actually, it's far more than plenty, but you know what I mean. I am constantly blown away right now by the graciousness of strangers, the energy and enthusiasm and support I've gotten. The helping hands extended. The brainstorming generated. The time and thoughtfulness expended on my behalf, so often from people I don't know, or at least don't know in the traditional let's-get-to-know-each-other-over-a-cup-of-coffee way.

Every person who reads this blog, every comment that's made, everyone who follows—thank you so much for being interested enough to pay attention.

The people who follow me on twitter, who make me laugh, make me cringe, make me think about things I don't want to think about, should be thinking about, think about too much, thank you. I have found pure souls, true hearts, goofiness when I need it, snarky attitudes that crack me up. I've watched a FLOW musical develop, ideas about empowering like-minded woman come to fruition, complete strangers become support systems for each other.

There are people out there who believe in FLOW so whole-heartedly, its message of openness and education, of questioning what we've taken for granted about our bodies for too long. Who are thrilled to embrace its challenging messages mixed with thoughtfulness. Thank you.

There are remarkable people making connections, contacting contacts, sharing information for no other reason than to support. Karma. Good, great, positive, soul-nourishing karma. A complete and welcome contrast to much of putting FLOW together. I worked with people who didn't think I was a good enough writer to make this book happen, who were horrified (or terrified, I'm never quite sure which it was), when hearing about my work process. I spent month upon month writing into a black void, not knowing if my thoughts, words, work was any good. And was accused of doing nothing but creating drama, of being difficult and egotistical and someone no one would ever work with again. Or would want to help.

By the end I was so beaten down I'd completely lost my mojo (thanks for that perfect term to @lissarankin). Completely spent, thoroughly burnt out, I didn't believe in the book, or myself, anymore. And so I'm even more grateful, now, for every single moment, every comment, every word, every mention, every thought and action sent out in my direction.

This path is crazy. To bare your soul, to work on something until you're completely depleted, to fight so hard every step of the way, with people you'd assume were on your side . . . and then to get to this place of sharing and compassion. Discovering kindred souls, surprising support, people wanted to get onboard and fight this battle with me.

Thank you doesn't cover it.

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

me on the big(ish) screen

I've discovered that if I don't write first thing in the morning, thoughts, clear as they were at the beginning of the day, fritter away into nothing I can grasp by 6:49 in the evening. While I have a vague glimmer of what I wanted to write about, the tween meltdown and recorder practicing is impeding the flow of words even more than usual. Tomorrow, I go back to regularly scheduled programming.

I wanted to write about being on TV. About how, of the many things I've done in my life, this is in my top five of feeling like this is what I was meant to do. I felt exhilarated and excited. Engaged and enervated. Almost like I was in hyper-drive, on the edge of my seat, anticipating what would come next, processing super fast while talking at the same time. Meshing ideas. Steering conversation. Building and shaping. Connecting words and thoughts, questions and answers, delighting in how it all fit together in the end.

The show started at 8. When I glanced at the clock it was 8:23 and we were winding up. Time flew, a whirlwind of energy wrapping me up into a space and time where I was unaware and yet more present than ever. Tingling. Feeling. Thinking. Flowing.



I want to talk about FLOW, how it came to be, the insane, remarkable, shocking, important things I learned. I want to share, educate, challenge. I want to get people talking, questioning, sharing.

I want to start conversations. Anywhere and everywhere.


I'm ready.

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

color me

I did one day of writing about other topics and here I am, back to me. Not me me, but social media me. Someone pointed out yesterday that while I'm working SO HARD to build a presence on line, I'm continually shooting myself in my cyber foot. How can I have a website that's all about me, without a picture of me on it? He didn't buy that there is a photo, but that you have to go looking.

We were talking this morning—this same person who's getting very comfortable at pointing out my foibles—about the struggle, the balance, the comfort level of owning who you are and what you do without being a bloviator. First of all, I LOVE that word. And secondly, since this is about me, we were talking about owning who I am and what I do. About how I put things out there, but manage to mask my message. Truly, it's almost funny when I take a step back and look at it all from someone else's perspective. For example: my website. It's exceedingly fun and pretty, but you have no idea who I am when looking at it. It's all over the place, and it's pretty damn self-deprecating. The page about projects I haven't sold is far more enticing than all the projects I've actually put out into the world.

He pointed out that the black and white photo I was using made me seem less important than all the vibrant colors I use all over the page.

We talked about all the people on twitter, and beyond, who have powerful presences, but when you scratch the surface, what's there? So much of social media is just talk. Theory. Snake oil. Good design and a big ego.

My ego needs to be stoked. Or at least my cyber ego has to stop saying in this very small way: pay attention to me. I'm nice. And funny. And I have lovely manners. Cyber me has to say: I KNOW HOW TO GET IT DONE. I PUT COOL THINGS OUT INTO THE UNIVERSE. I AM CREATIVE AND BOLD AND START CONVERSATIONS THAT WE NEED TO HAVE. AND I HAVE VERY GOOD MANNERS. That last one is worth repeating.

Tomorrow my new website debuts. It's all about ME. In color.

A quick note—Izzy saw the new design and laughed out loud. And that's my reality check.

Monday, November 30, 2009

sex and the city schools

Ok folks, here's my first foray into writing about something that's not exclusively inner angst and turmoil. We'll see how it goes . . .

Last week, my daughter's middle school hosted a pot luck for new parents—assembling a panel of NYC teachers, assistant principals and guidance counselors who gave presentations on everything from extreme behavorial issues to what to expect during the high school vetting process. As most in the room were parents of relatively well-behaved 11-year-olds, much of the information was beyond what we needed at the moment. We were more interested in how they were functioning in this new environment, what their days were actually like, wanting to get a sense of how this exceedingly diverse fortress of a NYC public school was treating our newly independent, relatively sheltered kids.

And then someone mentioned sex. More specifically, when, and how, is sex education dealt with in sixth grade. The answer? It's not. There's no set curriculum. If a question comes up in, say advisory—a weekly forum 6th graders have with their guidance counselors meant to address time management, bullying, homework pressure—it's dealt with in as perfunctory a manner as possible, quietly and quickly. Apparently, the NYC Department of Education doesn't feel it necessary to educate our kids about reproduction, contraception, or sexual health. Wait, I have to modify that last one, there's a mandatory curriculum about AIDS, but parents are informed well in advance so they can keep their kids home if they don't feel comfortable about them getting that information.

I'm sorry, but what?!

Last year, I waited and waited for the notice letting me know that fifth graders would be seeing the rite-of-passage menstruation film just about everyone I know lived through. Smack in the middle of writing FLOW: the Cultural Story of Menstruation (with Susan Kim), my daughter knew far more than most nine-year-olds did, but I found, talking to her friends, misinformation ran rampant. But, I learned, there was no film. No lecture. No talk with the nurse, the science teacher. No booklets to take home. While I have mixed feeling about femcare companies coming into schools, providing what amounts to an infomercial about their products, providing a forum for education and discussion should be mandatory. But, apparently, the DOE doesn’t feel the same way.

I wonder if anyone from the Department of Education has strolled down 14th Street in Manhattan on a Saturday afternoon, sidewalks packed with girls who barely look old enough to be responsible babysitters, with babies on their hips, toddlers in strollers. I wonder, if kids learned about sex in school, whether they'd make different choices. Maybe, maybe not. They're teenagers after all. But, as a parent, I'd much rather my kids learn in classrooms, from teachers who can provide factual information, than by watching birth control and menstrual suppression ads on TV, gleaning information from misinformed friends, or tragically, developing sexually with no information at all. Living in Greenwich Village, in New York City, it’s shocking to realize we’re moving backwards. This reticence to talk sex in school is nothing but a disserve to our children.

Sunday, November 29, 2009

daily practice

So, I've been blogging every day for the last 50 or so. A tremendous accomplishment for me—I've never had a regular writing practice before. I now get the sadhana thing, the making a 40 commitment to something, that after 40 days it truly does become a part of who you are/what you do. I miss my early morning writing when I don't get to it. Like today. I'm now post yoga, post lunch, contemplating piles of laundry and a stack of paperwork that should have been dealt with months ago. In fact, I think within the very neat pile of papers stacked on my printer, is a parking ticket from last winter that we got in Brattleboro. It was $10 at the time but it's now up to $55. Sigh.

I've noticed an interesting thing happening lately. This writing practice has evolved the more comfortable I got with it. At the beginning, it was a strain to just sit and write. Every sentence, every thought before each sentence, was a struggle. I felt like I had to know where I was going before I started. And that's antithetical to the way I create. I'm never sure where I'll end up, but know that I'll recognize when I'm done. While working on FLOW, some were horrified by this. The word "horrified" as actually used. I believe "terrified" was too. But, this is how I've always worked, as a designer, as an illustrator, and writing as well. So these posts became free form ramblings that generally had a point and made sense in the end. Most were about angst, anxiety, inner turmoil, insecurity. I'm grateful to everyone out there who took time to read, think, comment on all I've been going through lately. It's been pretty intense, occasionally fabulous, I've met amazing new people, have been stretched to my limits, have remained surprising grounded throughout, hosted 12 for Thanksgiving at the tail of the mania, and still have hope.

But, I'm thinking it must be kind of boring to read about my internal struggles and agita. And, to be honest, I'm getting pretty tired of writing it. This reminds me a bit of being in therapy and wanting to leave. Not that it hadn't been extraordinarily helpful, but, at a certain point, I didn't want to talk anymore. My stuff is my stuff. I know it so well. I don't blame anyone else for it. I recognize my patterns and pitfalls. And, after awhile, it doesn't have to be the center of attention anymore. Not saying that it never will again, it just needs to take the back seat for a bit.

So, where does that leave this? I'm thinking it's time to write about more than me. I just put this project into the world that takes on so many issues. All conversation starters. FLOW is a beautiful book that will get lost in the shuffle if someone's not out there being its stage mother. And maybe it's time i jump off the diving board instead of paddling around in the very comfortable shallow end. I can make films, design websites, twitter endlessly, but at this point I'm preaching to the choir (and an exceedingly supportive and nurturing choir it is).

I was never much for jumping right in. But it's time.

Saturday, November 28, 2009

what's really going on

I posted before, hot water bottle clenched to my abdomen, sudafed making me racy and anxious, about how I had nothing to say. That's not true. I have plenty to say, but wish beyond wishes I wasn't feeling any of this to need to say it. The crashing part was true. The exhaustion. The hitting the wall. It's been an intense few weeks—nothing like I've ever gone through before. But the reality is that I'm petrified FLOW's peaked and we're on the downslide. It was a lovely peak. Fabulous book launch party, great press, people loving the book—such enthusiasm from both people I'm close to and people I don't know. I had a moment or two and will carry those with me forever.

But that's not nearly enough. I'm not a live-in-memories sort of person. I don't collect things (except coats, which are exceedingly functional). Last week Izzy had to write a paper for school, about an irreplaceable object. She had trouble thinking of one. I did too. I don't invest emotion or energy in objects. They're nice to have, within reason, but I'm a minimalist at heart. And memories too—it's lovely to look back at a moment, smile, bask in the glow, but they don't sustain you.

I want more moments. More events to look forward to. More interviews. More reviews. More conversation. More guarantees that it'll be ok in the end. I mean, of course it'll be ok in the end. I've already achieved more with this book than all the others I've done put together. Well, not quite. I did dozens and dozens of radio interviews for CHUNKS. Heard more vomit stories than any one person should. 2 of my books made it onto Entertainment Weekly's Must Have list. One was featured at DailyCandyKids. Those small mentions sent sales skyrocketing, at least for a few hours. But, no one's written anything about FLOW in a week. Trust me, I know. I'm constantly checking. The publisher sent out tons of review books. I saw stacks of them at The Strand, press releases untouched, tucked inside. They're selling for $14 folks, signed, at a gift table downstairs. How soon until they're on a dollar table outside?

But, I have to fight putting all this negative energy into the world. Or internalizing it so that my stomach aches and my teeth clench. This is one of those times I wish I had blind faith. Could believe in the best and hold on to those thoughts until the actualize. Or work at them until things actually happen. Maybe that's what my work is right now. This very second. This quiet Thanksgiving weekend. To accept where I am, who I am and be ok with that. To not imagine disaster and disappointment in the future, but sit with the unknown.

Not easy, not comfortable. But that's what is right now.

crashing and burning

I only wish it was that dramatic. Then I'd have something interesting to write about. Today I'm slumped on the floor, empty, tired, spent, blah. Nothing left. Nothing there. No motivation. No creativity. Aching muscles. Queasy stomach. Stuffy nose.

Compelled to write, from an I-can't-let-this-writing-practice-die place, not a place of insight, wisdom, substance. Although, who am I kidding, I don't know how often I'm insightful, wise, or have something meaningful to say.

And today's not going to change that.

Friday, November 27, 2009

I've got nothing

I think this has been the most emotionally (and physically) exhausting, challenging, exhilarating, thrilling, exciting, depleting two plus weeks of my life. Today, I am numb. Well, almost numb. Sponge Bob's voice feels like someone pouring rubbing alcohol on badly skinned knees—painful with an after-sting that won't go away. And now I'm thinking, post childbirth was, I'm sure, far more exhausting than this. That was a level of exhaustion that can't be replicated. Or even remembered clearly. Having said THAT, I'm older now, and less resilient than I was at 34.

Where is this post going? Folks, I have no idea.

On top of the FLOW insanity I've been living, last night we hosted 12 for Thanksgiving. Until yesterday morning I had barely started cooking, or even realistically made a list of what I needed to get. By the time people showed, I had been to the supermarket and farmer's market more times than I can count—several times going specifically to buy something and coming home without it. Never managed to get pineapples and strawberries.

(surprising wind shift)

While missing much needed fruit at the end of dinner is certainly something to ponder, I need to go on an unexpected tangent for a moment, because, of course, I'm online and checking constantly while I write this and just got an email that made me stop and think. Actually, stop and cringe in horror. It followed a tweet that said, with a slightly biting edge, that my many FLOW posts were overwhelming everything else on someone's home page. And then an emailed arrived asking that I no longer include this person on any FLOW mailings, that's they're receiving far too many and would prefer, well, none.

Whew. I am mortified on one level. Ashamed. Uncomfortable. Squeamish that my pulling out the stops to support my book has become such a turn off to people. Having said that (with a nod to Larry David), this book represents 3 years of my life. I fought SO HARD to get it out into the world. The information within should be mandatory. How women's history, women's rights are boiled down to a paragraph or two about suffragettes in school is shameful. Even more shameful is how we all swallow the pill of not talking, not challenging, not fighting the stigmas that we've been conditioned to believe are true.

This is such a fine line to walk. Shameless self promotion that many are reading is all about me. About book sales. About some sort of fame that's not fleeting too fast. And yes, honestly, that's part of the equation. But far more, I believe so wholeheartedly in this book in an environment, a construct, a society that's so hard to get people to pay attention in.

I'm figuring this out as I go along. I wish I had a mentor, a guru, a psychic who would keep me sailing straight. Who could see the future and know all this energy and effort was well-directed. Who'd be able to let me know I'd come out the other side with my ego intact, my friends not hating me, FLOW educating and empowering people. And a new book deal.

One can dream.

Thursday, November 26, 2009

I will be thankful later . . .


And now the freneticism begins. But, as I start getting super crazy, there's still a tiny bit of calm and gratitude because my family is super mellow and will be fine with whatever is. I am grateful for them. That I have a place for them to come. That they want to be with me. That I have plenty of food for people to eat. That I live across the street from the supermarket because I'm sure I'll be there at least 5 more times today. That my kids like helping make potatoes.

I am not grateful for Sponge Bob and if I have to listen to that scratchy voice for one more second, one of us won't make it.

Happy happy Thanksgiving. Wishing love and light, gratitude and thanks. Peace and fun. Whether with people you enjoy, people you dread seeing, or if you're by yourself today, I wish you a moment of quiet, to soak it all in, and appreciate that you're here.


Wednesday, November 25, 2009

what's now not what's next

I woke up too late to write this morning, with just enough time to type the title I'm supposed to be grateful before morning hysteria took over. So, now, hours later, post yoga, iced decaf with half and half in hand (how did I not know half and half turned coffee into the most scrumptious cup of love ever?), I'm thinking that title is on the snarky side. It's completely contrary to what this time of year is about. And how I'm feeling now that I'm finally alone, blues on the radio, in my cozy apartment glancing at grey skies outside, piles of food to cook for tomorrow.

We host most major holiday celebrations, rearranging furniture so we can make our table big enough to fit everyone, and every time my family and assorted friends get together, we start off going around the table talking about what we're grateful for. Could be health, family, new projects, a new president. A new video game, a good haircut, being together. Having people to be with. Where we live, who we live with. I think someone was once grateful for purple. Watermelon. Chocolate tofu pie (you have no idea how insanely delicious it is).

And so, I'm thinking, what better place to acknowledge all I'm grateful for than here—if I went on too long tomorrow at dinner, breakdowns would ensue. And to remind myself, that even though my inner spin keeps reminding me how things could/should be better, different, I'm exceedingly lucky to be right here, right now.

Where to start? How about the fact that at 12:24 in the afternoon I get to sit and write? I've been married to a remarkable man I'm still happy to see every day, who makes this life possible for me. We met when we were 19, at college. Crazy, I know. The first card he ever got me said: "You march to the beat of a different drummer. In fact, the whole band's pretty weird." He gets me. He was the one who wanted kids, while I was completely ambivalent. And now, how could I possibly imagine life without Iz and Jack? They push me, stretch me, challenge me, all the while filling me with a love that's so much deeper, powerful, intense than I ever could have imagined. Last night I told Jack that when he was born it was like another room opened in my heart that's just for him. I hadn't known it was there before he was here.

We live in Greenwich Village. In an apartment that's not too big, but big enough. With a roof deck upstairs that looks out over all of downtown. The Hudson River. Empire State Building. During the summer after the sky is completely dark, whenever we hear a loud crash we run up 7 flights of stairs to see fireworks erupting in the sky, over the river, the library, the Seaport.

My parents are both still here. Married to other people who appreciate them. I know, beyond the shadow of a doubt, that my eclectic, drama-filled, unconventional family is always here for me. And I love love love that family functions are fun. People always stay far later than I think they will, sitting around, chatting and laughing. No hidden agendas. No people we wish we didn't have invite. Truly, for that I am grateful.

I am 45 and feel like I have so much more to do, to experience, to discover. FLOW has already upended my life and I'm thinking the ride's just starting. If not, I've grown so much through the process it'll take awhile to let it all settle in so I can take stock and figure out where I am. My first TV interview is this week. I have meetings with a production company about a FLOW film. My own little films got a shout out at HuffPo. I posted there myself. Last week I lived a dream-come-true book launch party. My dress was great. My hair stayed straight.

Yoga. I'm grateful for yoga. For the space, the quiet, the movement and music and energy of the beautiful souls whose words resonate far past time spent on the mat.

And then there are the remarkable people in my life. People I see every day. People I've reconnected with who've been gone for a long time. People I've never met but whose words and thoughts, support and enthusiasm continue to blow me away.

Are you still with me? I want to wrap up by saying I'm grateful for you. For the people who read what I put out into the world, open up their thoughts, share this this journey with me.

Peace and love folks. You're in my heart.

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

I'm not that deep

Yesterday my friend Amy mentioned me in a beautiful blog post. In fact, she said I inspired her. It was a post about recognizing and realizing your dreams, but more, about shining in quiet moments, moments when your true self glistens. These generally aren't moments of fame and glory, of being on a pedestal for yourself, and others, to stand in awe of, they're moments when you're truly connected to the universe. Those, to her, are the moments to savor. The steps of the journey. Acknowledging and accepting that everything along your path is important, happens for a reason, creates exactly where you're supposed to be.

Her writing is fluid and thought-provoking. Poignant and evocative. And I realized something pretty damn profound as I read through it the second time.

I'm not that deep.

I think people think I am. Perhaps they're mistaking my angst and anxiety for philosophy. Speaking of, philosophy used to, and still does, freak me out. My mind can't handle letting go of control to ponder "who am I," and "what does this all mean?" I'm too shallow. Actually, I don't know that I'm all that, but still, I find it unnerving to let go of "me" and dip my toes into a bigger reality. Every once in a long while, lying on my mat in shivasana, I feel it, "myself" slipping away, a sense of magnitude and beauty, peace and power tingling through me.

And I freak out.

I open my eyes, to ground myself in my body. On my brown mat with blue flowers. Lying on the hard wood floor. In a pink and orange Laughing Lotus studio. Sometimes, I wonder what would happen if I just let go, let it flow, didn't have to hold on to my ego so tightly, so desperately. Or perhaps, it's my ego holding on to me. Either way, I take a deep breath bring myself quickly back to Elissa Stein again, a person with many lists, much to do, and even more to worry about.

I remember feeling that same thing when I was a kid. That slipping away of myself—moments of not knowing who or what I was. And then sitting in front of the mirror that hung on the back of my bedroom door, staring, not recognizing me at first, but repeating my name, address, parents, teachers, until my reality wrapped me up in a familiar tight straight jacket again. I thought I was going crazy. Emotional instability runs in my family and I was terrified I was having a breakdown. In retrospect, I think I was actually having flashes (very tiny ones Joe) of enlightenment. I never told anyone about those feelings, those moments, that sense of losing myself in something far greater than me. I was sure I'd be locked up.

And yet, now, intellectually I understand what I was going through. I talk to Iz and Jack about the control the mind exerts. About one's true self that's beyond your thinking mind. About moving past that powerful, internal, negative spin and cutting yourself, your deep self some much needed slack. Letting go of anxiety and negativity. Being more present and not living in the past or the future. Treating yourself with love and kindness instead of recriminations and doubt.

I talk the talk. I do it pretty well. But I'm sitting here silently freaking that FLOW's been out for 2 weeks and it's already hit its apex, that it'll be downhill from now on. That my shining moment was a true flash in the pan. That I'll see my book, my labor of love and sweat and digging deeper than I ever have, sitting on a $1 table outside of The Strand by spring. That my deep belief, that I never talk about, never acknowledge to anyone, that I barely nod to myself, the one about me being here with a purpose, a role, that putting this book out there and volunteering to be at the epicenter of conversation, education, empowerment, is a joke. Maybe that secret dream isn't what's meant to be, it's just some 10-year-old egotistical fantasy, much in the way people want to be movie stars or rock legends.

And with that profound soul-search, my morning's about to start. Kids to school. A Target run. Picking up party photos. A radio interview. Yoga. Paperwork. New FLOW film. Pot luck. Homework. Incessant tweeting, messaging, posting, checking.

It's amazing how hard I work to distract myself from me.

Day 49 is stripped bare and searching frantically for a conceptual bathrobe.