Thursday, September 1, 2011

The Ride Home

When I was about 15, I used to sneak out of the house on a regular basis on weekends and go to The Rocky Horror Picture Show. After the movie was over, we would all go to Denny's or some late night party at someone's house but usually it was Denny's. I could walk to the movie theater from my house but I always needed a ride to go to Denny's.
I had lots of friends and we all kind of knew each other and generally, someone would drive me home. Most of the time, this guy we called Moog would give me a ride home. He was cranky about it and acted like it was this huge imposition but he always did it. Still, he kind of made me feel bad about it (later I realized that was all bullshit and he didn't mind at all but at the time I was pretty super sensitive to everything). One of the guys who hung out on occasion, his name was Paul, he used to give me a ride home sometimes. I think he was in his late teens or early 20's, definitely out on his own.
The first time he drove me home, we got in front of my house and made out for about a half hour. I wasn't really into him, I mean, I didn't go home and think about him and I didn't really like him that much. It was just, okay, I made out with this guy. The next time he drove me home, I made out with him again and it went a little further. I remember knowing absolutely that I was not going to have sex with this guy, that I wasn't going to ever let it get any further than kissing and a little touchy feely groping over the clothes.
I'm not even sure how I knew those were the parameters but I was pretty clear on it. I don't know what he thought. I never asked him. He never asked me out, he never asked for my phone number, he never made any attempt to see me outside of the occasional ride home. We never even talked that much when I was at the theater, at Denny's or in the car. I can't recall a single meaningful conversation I ever had with him.
Things I remember about him. I remember his leather jacket. I remember that he was not that great a kisser and I had very little chemistry with him. I was single and I liked being liked but I was just not that into him.
The third time he drove me home, I told him I had a sore throat and I would see him later. He was pissed off. I could see it. He made me feel super uncomfortable that night. He didn't exactly say it but you could see he was exasperated with me. Mind you, he wasn't super pushy and he let me push him away when I had enough, but you could tell he thought it was going to progress.
I avoided him for a while, he didn't always show up every weekend but the next time I looked around and saw my options for a ride home were none but him, so I reluctantly asked him.
Part of this stupidity was always that I never pre-arranged. I would go places assuming it would work out for me. I had such confidence. I would drive with someone to Denny's and never bother with the ride home. I just assumed someone would pick me up and drive me home. There were always people there I just figured would take care of me. How funny that I was never really stranded, just left with lousy options sometimes.
I must have been the height of foolish optimism that it would always work out for me. But then, I was never afraid to hitchhike or walk, or wait around for the bus. Even at 15, I was incredibly self reliant and incredibly ill prepared, always knowing I would figure it out when I had to do so.
At my age now, I cannot imagine that I was so foolish and arrogant to be so ill prepared. And yet, even at this time, I can't help but admire the kid who was so fearless and open to the option of life unfolding before her. I would never allow my kid the same foolish luxury but I see the same spirit of adventure in all my daughters.
My mother once told me the story of how she went out to Coney Island with a date and gambled her money away and then her date went bad and he ditched her. She had to pick up empty bottles and return them for deposit to get the money for the subway home. She swore at that time she would never gamble again. But I hear in that story how resourceful she was in getting out of a tough situation by thinking on her feet. My mother is hard on herself for her foolishness and I applaud her wits.
I'm lucky to carry that with me.
But that night, I had to ask Paul for a ride home so I sucked it up and did it. He smiled about it when I asked and readily agreed. The whole way there, I was thinking of my excuse to make a quick exit. I had decided I didn't like him much at all, not even as a friend and I wasn't going to make out with him and I wasn't going to continue with the charade of leading him on with my behavior.
So, I steeled myself with a lie to save his feelings that would let him know where I stood.
It was completely lame.
"Listen," I said as he pulled up in front of my house."I'm just getting over being sick. I had strep and I don't want you to catch it. So, I'm just going to go."
He looked at me. "I'll risk it," he said.
"I don't think you should. I'm just going to go."
There ensued a minor argument and a pissy little attitude about why I shouldn't go. But I wasn't budging. I did not have to make out with this guy for a ride home.
He finally looks at me and says (I will never forget this) "I'm not going to be willing to give you a ride home any more if you're not going to do anything in return. I just won't be able to do that."
I was livid. Did he actually fucking say that? Really? Out LOUD?
I looked right at him and said "Well, I will keep that in mind. And I won't ever be asking you for a ride home again."
What an entitled piece of shit.
I don't think I ever spoke to him again and I know I never asked him for a ride home again. I'm really proud of myself for telling him to fuck off. For having enough sense of my own worth to know that was wrong. For being angry.
Still, I realize that my daughters are going to be subjected to this. I realize that girls everywhere are told this is the price for a ride home. Guess what girls, you still don't have to do anything you don't want to do. Tell him you don't owe him anything. Had he been paying attention, he would have known I gave him the pleasure of my company for free and he should have valued that.
I think the worst part of this is that young girls are continually subjected to this. Like they owe someone for dinner, for a ride, for a favor. And there will be girls who will feel obligated to 'pay up'.
I cannot imagine anyone doing that to a grown woman. I have given a ride home to many a person. It's an act of generosity. I've never hesitated if I can do so. This really is something perpetrated on females, mostly teens, mostly the young and vulnerable ones. Because they don't know the rules and it's easy to think that maybe you did something to lead him on- and even in a moment of teenage exploration where I thought I might like him but decided I didn't- that I might have been obligated somehow to do something I didn't want to.
I was thinking about it and grieving a little for all the girls that were coerced, that did the thing.
This guy did not seem to care if I was willing in this action. He was fine with guilty, obligated, coerced sex. He didn't care if I didn't want to, he really thought I owed him.
It's easy to feel bad. I let anger be my guide that day. It came when I needed it the most.

Saturday, August 27, 2011


I used to work at this hotel in Maryland Heights. We had these railroad workers who came in every day, they were hotel regulars, the company sent them and they were always in and out on their routes.
This one who came in all the time had a crush on me, and used to flirt with me at the front desk all the time.
One day he saw my engagement ring and he said "I'm going to steal you away from your fiance." I said "Oh yeah? How are you going to do that?"
He said "Well, I don't want to brag but I am really good in bed."
I said "That's all well and good, but do you do laundry?"
He said "What? Laundry? Are you kidding me? No way."
I said "Oh, that's too bad. I guess the deal is off, then."
He said "What? Why? I told you I'm great in bed!"
I said "Yeah, guys that are great in bed are a dime a dozen. I can find those anywhere, heck, I can train a man to be good in bed. But guys who do laundry are the keepers."
Oh the look on his face. But I speak the truth, do I not, ladies?

Sunday, July 10, 2011

Not so Stupid Girls

Remember when you were a little kid and you used to mindlessly sing lyrics to catchy songs without really thinking about what they meant? Then, when you were a teen, you started thinking about lyrics in this heavy, meaningful way and the music of your generation became really important and you discovered things like it was the first time this music had ever been heard-
I think most of us go through that.
The other day I heard my five year old crooning about Jesus being crucified, crucified and I was thinking- she has no idea what she's saying, but someone thought it was appropriate to teach my five year old this song- what the fuck! What happened to lighter fare like 'Jesus loves me, this I know, cause the Bible tells me so...' no, they taught her full on horrifying stuff, really. I was ready for the next verse to be "then he hung there bleeding, bleeding, while the flies buzzed around his thorny head!"
I remember singing "Jimmy crack corn and I don't care..." and "I'm a yankee doodle dandy..." what the heck was that?
I think even more insidious that that is what is seeping into our teen culture now. I turned up the music to Billy Joel's My Life "I don't care what you say any more, this is MY life, go ahead with your own life, leave me alone." The perfect teen anthem if ever there was one, and a song I carry around in my pocket when I can't please everyone. But overall, a song I can still get behind. Self reliance- resistance to peer pressure- the message there? "They will tell you : you can't sleep alone in a strange place, then they'll tell you : you can't sleep with somebody else- ah but sooner or later you sleep in your own space, either way, it's okay, you wake up with yourself."
The other day I was listening to the radio and Bruno Mars song Just the way you are (don't get me started with how Billy had a far superior song of the same name) and I was thinking to myself- teen girls love this song but it is begging them to be even more insecure and needy than they already are.
HE has to tell her she's beautiful and amazing. She can't see it herself. She hates her laugh- she always asks if she looks okay.
This song, it's catchy, Bruno has a lovely, melodic voice, but look at what this song is saying to girls? We need guys to tell us we look okay- she's more attractive when she hates her laugh. This is the kind of thing that Pink was railing against in her music, the dumbing down of girls.
Stupid girls are everywhere and we are supposed to admire them. Cause they're pretty? Pretty girls get a pass when they don't get it exactly right. Today I watched a video of all the Miss America contestants answer the question "Should evolution be taught in schools?"
I was BEGGING for one of them to give an intelligent answer. Surely they couldn't all be that stupid. Most of them said "Sure, but we should present both sides." Both sides of WHAT, ladies?
Lots of them said kids should have it presented to them so they got to make up their own minds later...
It is mind boggling. Evolution is really more than just a theory, beauty queens. Are they really walking that line? The I'm a Christian, vote for me, I have decided that I believe the Bible when it said the world is flat...and I support Galileo being jailed for heresy when he insisted on that scientific fact. I mean it was just a theory of his, so it's obvious that if it goes against the Bible, it has to be a lie! Everything in the Bible is true and we must abide by it. Throw out your cotton/poly blends, they are of the devil. It's great that these women are competing for COLLEGE SCHOLARSHIPS because they definitely need an education.
Why is it that once again, being an intelligent woman is terrible? I mean, lots of people spent a lot of time making sure these fifty women were ignorant and then they raised them up on a platform of beauty and someone had to tell them they were pretty! They couldn't look in the mirror and tell that themselves? We need a contest to decide who is the prettiest? God forbid they be smart, you know, no one likes a girl who is vain and intelligent.
The other day a woman called me conceited and self impressed because I listed languages I studied and speak- one of them happened to be Latin. Hey, she asked if I knew who Cicero was- I replied, of course, I studied Latin for years, though he wrote a great deal in Greek...
I am pretty sure I'm not ugly enough to know that. Because if I was, that would have been okay.
And newsflash, ladies, you can be a Christian and believe in scientific things like evolution- cause if you believe in the magical man in the sky, he could easily have made the animals evolve, he's GOD, he can do anything including evolution.
My daughters are all very pretty girls. But I didn't raise any of them to be shy about being intelligent. Anyone who doesn't appreciate how sharp they are is in trouble. I love my brain, I think it is the sexiest thing about me, and always was. A long time friend of mine stopped being friend with me, reportedly because I thought I was smarter than she was.
First of all, I wouldn't have been friends with her if I thought she was an idiot but this is a result of me not HIDING my intelligence from her. I'm not sure when the brain got SO threatening. I know it scares a lot of guys. Cause you might figure out their game? Cause girls are not supposed to be smarter than boys? Cause it somehow goes against nature? It would have been quite difficult for me to date someone who was smarter than I was. I gave that up a long time ago, it was never a pursuit I was interested in. Sure, I wanted to be with an intelligent guy but compatibility is about so much more than that!
It would be really difficult for someone to compete with my background, if this were about competing, which it isn't. People find out I was raised by two PhD's and they have been known to be threatened. I went to some great schools and some terrible schools and I learned a lot from all of them. Ever read a terrible book? It taught me what not to write. Life is not a competition. In fact, I never desired a PhD for myself. I knew all along, no matter what higher degree I pursued, it would never be about the letters, but what I learned. The education itself is the value. The deep and critical thinking is the gift. And that can be attained as easily through life as through college, but you have to be paying attention.
I had that all along, and what I truly valued was the ability to do it. Somewhere along the line, no one taught these girls that basic ability. To value what they have, to use their innate ability to think critically and deeply. So, please, give us catchy tunes that tell us something that makes us think. Give us deep and meaningful lyrics that speak to our souls. Stop picking apart and valuing our worst insecurities and putting them to catchy music to complete the dumbing down of this generation of women. I'm not falling for it and neither are my daughters.

Sunday, June 19, 2011

Phase Three on the diet

So, we have finally entered the least restrictive phase of the diet. Phase three. We have added back things like wheat bread and small amounts of mayonnaise. Phase two sucked for me pretty badly. I'm sad to report I only lost two pounds on phase two but I have lost two more in phase three so that brings my total weight loss at this time to twelve pounds.
My husband has done much better. He has lost an astonishing 22 pounds in forty days. He has cheated less and been very active. I'm pretty jealous. But I have to keep in mind that I haven't gained anything back at all. My weight loss has slowed but I have not gone the other direction. After this phase is over we go back to phase one and begin over again since neither one of us has met our goal loss at the moment.
I'm really proud of John, you can really see his progress. He looks great. For Father's day, Marissa got him a t-shirt and I said "He has lost so much weight that he can wear a large and he doesn't need an extra large." and indeed, when he tried it on today, it was true.
It's funny because both of us feel like we are eating too much now. We got accustomed to the restrictive nature of the diet and used to not eating certain things and now having a piece of wheat bread for breakfast feels so wrong! I'm actually looking forward to going back to phase one. It was the worst restrictions but I had lots of energy. I haven't begun to give up this battle yet. I'm going to meet my goal and I'm going to do it in a healthy way. I like this diet so much better than Slim fast or being miserable eating "diet food" this is real food, delicious food, healthy food. Those meal bars suck.
I think this diet is easy to follow and good for you. I've enjoyed many of the recipes and all of the progress we have made. So, even though things have slowed down for me, I have not lost hope.
This week I am determined to add more exercise in and rev up so me more.

I effing hate father's day

I don't remember ever loving my father. They told me I used to love him when I was a little baby, but I don't remember ever having positive emotions about him. I remember hating him, wishing he would go away, wishing he were gone. I fucking hate Father's Day. I fucking hate Father's day because I have a father who did whatever he could to crush my self esteem and punish me for things I didn't do and brutalize me for the things I did do. I didn't believe any kind word he ever said to me. He has never seen fit to apologize to me about one single beating, about any time he bashed my head into the wall, about any of the times he threw me down the stairs, pulled my hair, slapped my face, shook me repeatedly, bruised my body, blackened my skin with his anger and hatred and misery.
He used to take us down to Baskin Robbins when I was little. It was walking distance from our house. One time, when I was about five, I let him get far ahead of me and I crushed his head between my fingers. When he would go on business trips, I prayed he would just not come home.
I can't help but wonder these things. If he hadn't been there, would I have this much fight in me? Because he was not going to defeat me. He could beat me black and blue, he was never, ever allowed to own me, to have my spirit, to defeat my goodness and to take away my light.
I just wanted him away from me.
The only way I can deal with him for any length of time is to be away from him most of the time.
I will never love him, I have come to terms with that a long time ago. It is not necessary to love your father in order live a happy and healthy life and be spiritually healthy. I did however realize I was a walking wounded girl, so I did seek therapy. I went to see several therapists to work through this issues. In the first session, I would say "I hate my father."
The therapist would say some platitude like "No, you don't. You have abandonment issues. You'll see that you love him, really."
I walked out the door. Choosing a therapist is a very serious commitment, I tried on a few to see who I liked. I thought I would need a woman. I was wrong. I chose a man.
When a therapist finally said "That's okay. At least you're honest. Do you want to love him?"
"No. I want to get over what he did to me and choose better men in my life."
And that is what we did.
My therapist said "If you met him on the street, would you be expected to like him? Would you think less of yourself if you didn't? Sometimes we don't like our parents, and the pressure to love someone who you just don't is a source of guilt we just don't need."
I have given up the dream that the past can be any different than it is. And I don't like my father. I can see that he is an intelligent man, I can agree with him on many issues, political and social and I can see that other people love him. I can see that he has great good in him. He has done great good in this world, and in an odd way, I am proud of that. I am proud of his accomplishments and his drive, ambition and good work ethic. But he gave all the good away at his job and brought none of it home to me. I can even be proud of his accomplishments and happy for him when good things happen to him. But I just don't love him. I can muster some feelings, but they will never be love. Most of the time, these days, because I don't live with him, I can downgrade it from hate to apathy. But he is not the only reason I hate father's day.
I fucking hate father's day because my first three kids got even worse dads than I had. I was not done punishing myself with men, apparently. But I refused to let my kids grow up with that cruelty. I left when my mother would not. I hate father's day because it makes me sad that Cory, Cassie and Derek didn't get the father they deserved, that father's day is an empty ache for them- a place that was never filled, and that it's mostly my fault.
They did, eventually, get the world's most amazing stepfather.
I'm jealous of Marissa and Isabella sometimes. Their father is amazing, and exceptional. Loving and accessible. I keep my hatred of father's day locked down deep so they can enjoy it, because there is more goodness and kindness in that man that I could ever express in words. I force myself to go shopping with them every year to pick out something wonderful for the best dad in the world- but somewhere in me my heart breaks again and again. It breaks for the little girl that never bought a father's day gift for someone she loved. I have never and will never get a father's day card or gift for my own dad. There were a few men, my best friend's father, in particular, who had a lot of patience and love for me when I was a kid- who told me when I was out of line in a way that let me know I had disappointed him and when I felt the shame of that- he knew that was enough. And I used to feel very safe in his house.
I don't know if I will ever get over my hatred of this day, my hatred of the event. I choke it all back but I hate every last bit of it. I'm happy for all of you that had wonderful dads. I really am. The world needs more of them.
About five years ago, I came home one day and saw Marissa and her dad in the dining room. When I went to see what they were doing, my heart just swelled. He was making paper dolls with her. They were drawing them, cutting them out and coloring them. He had made the backgrounds for them, too. I want very much to have that in my heart on father's day. But I got a long way to go. And if I never get there- I can forgive myself that.
So for today, I will allow myself to hate father's day, cause that is honestly the way I feel. It is what it is. I am happy for my husband and for my daughters- but for all of you out there that got a raw deal- go ahead and hate for a while, I got your back, girl.

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

My love life through Elton John

So, everyone who knows me well knows that I am a devoted Billy Joel fan, but I tend to keep his songs close to my heart. They speak to me in ways I have always held dear and I think, in retrospect, I never attached a Billy Joel song to any relationship for fear it might ruin it for me.
I picked out my wedding song was I was about 14, though, long before I met my future husband, I had the song I wanted played at my wedding. In my brief and ill advised first marriage, this song was not played. I did, in fact save it for my first dance at my real wedding. The song was Billy Joel's "You're my home" and I waited to play it until I felt the meaning of it with the right person. So, even then, the song was not his- it was born of him living up to it.
I have saved every Billy song for me, though sometimes they do remind me of a place or a time or a situation- even a person I was with. I'll always remember my friend Paul doing his crazy dance to "Only the Good die young." but that isn't his song.
A few years ago I realized I had given Elton John songs to the loves of my life. It might have started innocently enough. My first real boyfriend was Dave. I was fifteen and we lived in Oxford, England. He was not the first boy I kissed or the first crush I had ever had but he was the first guy who I would meet every day and would hold hands with me and call me his girlfriend. I was so crazy about him. He came home and met my parents and everything.
Dave and I were hanging out in the park one day, under a tree, by the Cherwell. I was sitting on his coat and he looked at me and he sang a little of Elton John's "Blue Eyes" to me. Told me he thought of me every time he heard that song. That's the kind of thing that makes a fifteen year old melt into a puddle of goo.
That was a good day. And it was the start of my love affair with Elton John because now that song belonged to Dave. I still can't hear that song without thinking of that guy. Even the fact that Dave turned out to be a rat bastard hasn't ruined the song for me. It's still a sweet memory.
For some reason, my next boyfriend, Bryan was attached to the song "I guess that's why they call it the blues". I never told him that, he would have mocked me endlessly - he liked mostly punk rock and rebellious noisy crap. It was something in the lyric and I knew we were two kids trying to live like adults.
"Laughing like children, living like lovers, rolling like thunder, under the covers..."
Something my sixteen year old self identified as meaningful in that song. Something in our relationship that made me sad and happy. Something in me that knew it was doomed to be tragic- that it was going to end up in the blues... and it did. Of course, it was even more tragic than I had ever imagined it could be. For me, that song is now always bittersweet. I love the song, but it's a tough memory that it's attached to. That relationship was brutal. I was with that guy for three years.
After him was a tumultuous two year relationship with Sean who I married-the marriage lasted all of four months. Really, honestly, I think of him with "Saturday night's alright for fighting". In the end, the only thing that was entertaining and worth doing with him was fighting. He sort of began the fight in me. I worked so hard finding a voice in that relationship even though I was never really heard. Did I say all of these songs were romantic? No. In fact my favorite break up song became REO's "Time for me to fly"- loved that. I sang that a lot on the way out.
It gets worse. The second David I dated was "I don't want to go on with you like that." As a side note, my breakup with him was marked with the song "Don't Shed a tear", I used to belt that out in the car.
My next relationship, with Brad was categorized by him with a Tears for Fears song called "Sowing the seeds of Love" but I always found that song banal and ordinary. It didn't have the richness of lyric and it was sappy and cliche. That should have been my first sign that he was an idiot. There was so much grief in this relationship that it became "Sad songs say so much"
After this, I began my survival mode songs. My love affair with myself began with "I'm still standing" and morphed into "I want Love". I was lying around crying to Tori Amos and listening to "Don't let the sun go down on me". I know. Pathetic. Those years were somewhere between pissed off and angst ridden but I did get my shit together and picked myself up. After all, I was still standing!
When I started dating John, I had deliberately not been in a relationship for four years- in fact I had decided I was maybe never going to be in one again. I was a little raw and emotional to be feeling all I was feeling for him. We went out to Joanie's Pizzeria on the day it opened and "Don't Go breaking my Heart" came on the jukebox. We had been dating a few weeks. I knew right then that was his song. I had fallen in love with that song a long time ago- but now it belonged to him- and I knew that he would be breaking my heart. And he did. But he also put it back together-
A few years later, I heard the song "The One" on the radio and I knew that also belonged to him. After we got married, I was deciding what songs to put on our wedding video and I knew very quickly the two songs would be "You're my Home" and "The One". It was a nice way to bookmark my love affair with Elton John songs.

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Phase two and the PMS exception

I have now been on this diet for 18 days and have just entered phase two. Know what I get to eat in Phase two? Steak and baked potato. Oh I am SO happy.

This phase is all about alternating low calorie restricted day with slightly higher calorie days. So, I really get some variety here. The first phase was tough- but we made it.

Let me stop for a moment and discuss this PMS exception. I have never been on a diet which not only acknowledges this but uses nutrition to help with the symptoms and distresses of it. As I result, I got through that phase of the month with much more ease than I would have otherwise. The first thing Dr. Moreno suggests is three Brazil nuts. I know that some of you are going to scoff at that. I kind of scratched my head. But let me tell you what, I am starting to believe Brazil nuts are magic. During this phase, Moreno suggests several things that lessen symptoms and make you feel a lot better. Lean proteins- and you get to eat some lean red meat- iron rich. He also suggests banana and here is the best part. YES- I can have some chocolate. So I added in these things to a diet rich in vegetables (he recommends asparagus especially) and fruits and let me tell you what, I felt better when I ate this way. I did not have a pound of cookies or dive into a vat of ice cream. I had some steak, a banana, a fruit smoothie, spinach, eggs, salad and about two ounces of Swiss Chocolate. The good stuff. And of course the Brazil nuts. Moreno recommends extra calcium during this time as well.

I'm just going to keep Brazil nuts in the house from now on. Three of them are like little happy pills. Try it, ladies.

Okay so on to phase two. This phase is going to let me have blackeyed peas. I love them so much. And I get to make turkey chili with beans! I'm looking forward to that recipe. I think this phase will be a lot easier to deal with, with a little up and down. I'm going to have to plan meals more carefully. Moreno suggests odd days Phase One and Even days Phase Two and that sounds easy to remember so I think I will do that.

This phase has got lean red meat, shellfish, and oatmeal in it. Also, I can have grits- mmmm. When you have been restricted for 17 days, it's the little things that get you through. I am not a fish eater so I have opted for the fish oil supplements and also on odd days when I don't get enough probiotics, I take a probiotic supplement.

I've also upped my vitamin D.

I should also mention green tea is very important. I have two to three cups of green tea a day, and at least eight glasses of water. I'll let you know how phase two goes!

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Day 14

John and I have done pretty well resisting most things- but we have had a real trial this week. This is normally the week of spoiling and indulgences. Mother's day. My birthday. Marissa's birthday. Mother's day I really wanted CAKE. But I stayed on the diet. Until my son brought home Pizza Hut pizza for me.

Now, he hadn't even realized that we were dieting- and I was really touched. Normally this would be a great gesture- honestly it was touching that he remembered and did something sweet. I had not planned on it but I ate one single piece. Moderation.

Damn it was good. I did not have five more pieces. Then of course, John went and got a piece. I said "The problem with one piece of pizza is you always want more than one."

He laughed. I began to cook myself a healthy dinner so I wouldn't be hungry for more pizza. I look over and John is putting another piece in his mouth.

He looks at me and says "I thought you meant that was okay?" Sigh. Why do I always have to be the bad guy? Wasn't it Mother's day? Am I now his damn mother too? He couldn't be happy with one piece of pizza that wasn't even meant for him?

So he put it down- it takes so little to corrupt him- but I know he has strength- I just hate that he acts like a little kid in a candy jar and I don't want to be in the role of hand slapping. Ultimately, you are responsible for your own diet. At this point, I had planned to strategically cheat- I had already decided I was eating some cake on my birthday. Seems only fair!

I knew my mother was making either my cake or Marissa's cake and that was something to look forward to. Moderation is the key to this- I'm not recommending cheating. But I am saying one piece of cake is not going to blow it.

I have never been an over-eater. I didn't feel in danger or eating a whole cake. What I do have is total self control before six pm. Somehow those evening hours kill me. I used to just go and get two cookies- and then like ten minutes later I would get three cookies, then like an hour later I would get one more cookie- not really sure that is moderation-

So two days after Mother's Day John brings home six chocolate covered strawberries. I was livid.

Aren't you on the same diet I am? What's going on?

He says- you made me feel guilty for not doing enough on Mother's Day (Isabella was really sick that weekend and he usually takes the girls shopping but because of activities and illness the best laid plans fell apart)

I said - first, I was teasing you- second- you brought home the thing that sabotages me. I pointed out he could have brought home any other lovely present that did not involve food. Now, I felt if I rejected the present, I was rejecting him. We had a very long talk about sabotage and things. You know, it's not like the majority of what we give one another is food based. I don't even know where this was coming from but it was a long and good talk ultimately about respect and all of that- which honestly there is a lot of in my marriage but every now and then something stupid like this comes up.

I ate one strawberry (I know, I shouldn't have- it was a compromise of sorts) but I gave all the rest to the kids to get rid of them. They did not complain.

On my birthday I stayed on the diet for all the meals. I had one piece of cake and one cookie. It was really not so bad at all. My mother made the cake and we left most of it at her house and what we brought home, the kids ate quickly-

Now came Marissa's birthday. That was a real challenge because I was baking.

I have to say this- without any sort of modesty.

I bake amazing home made things. They are really good. I am damn good at it. No boxed mixes for me. I make it all. So it is some loving labor in the kitchen.

Now it started out fine- Marissa wanted a version of a strawberry shortcake birthday cake. So I doubled the recipe for hot milk sponge cake and cut up real strawberries. I made a butter cream frosting and then I decided to blend real strawberries into the frosting.

Okay, I have a fourteen year old and by definition, that means bratty. Even though she wanted this whole strawberry cake, she started pouting about the frosting having strawberries in it. She wanted white frosting. I told her I was going to blend whipped cream in it to make it very light.

Okay- there ensued tears and all that went with it and since it was her birthday, we compromised to a small layer of frosting- I had to. You can't just stick strawberries in the middle of a cake with nothing to stick to. Teenagers do not believe in the laws of physics but I have made enough cakes to know it was not going to work!

So NOW I have a whole bowl of frosting.

I refuse to waste a whole bowl of home made frosting.

Marissa had a class trip to Chicago coming up so I made three dozen cupcakes with chocolate chips in them and added cream cheese to the butter cream to thicken it up. Then I put colored sprinkles on top of them. They looked amazing :) John brought home a doughnut box from Schnucks to put it in and we put all the cupcakes aside.

Okay- this took me all day. I am very, very, very sure that I burned some calories doing it. And you know what? The cook gets to taste it. Did I mention how very difficult it is to make frosting without getting some on your fingers and being forced by the laws of nature to lick it off?

So I ate ONE cupcake and one piece of birthday cake. It is so hard to only eat one cupcake.

And I gave away a quarter of the birthday cake to my neighbors with some cupcakes- and another quarter of the cake went to my mother's house- and that left Marissa with some of her own.

I cannot be doing this baking every day- all those baking calories are not going to add up to losing anything if I keep licking that delicious frosting. But here it is.

I am back on track. Marissa took all those cupcakes with her to Chicago and there is one cupcake left in the fridge- pretty sure it has Isabella's name on it.

I should mention the good stuff, right? I have begun exercising in Stacy Park. John and I are taking our twenty minute walks around the track in the park. It's lovely.

John has lost ten pounds. I have lost eight. In spite of the cake!

Next I will tell you about the PMS exception.... stay tuned.

Day 4

I been eating a lot of the same stuff, kind of gotten into a routine. Last night, John texted "I hate this diet, Bratwurst is on special tonight.".

I texted back "Nothing tastes as good as skinny feels"

He promptly wrote back "Chocolate"

I was being a smart ass and quoting Kate Moss, the queen of the eating disorder/ heroin chic.

Chocolate tastes way better than skinny, Kate is an idiot.

But that isn't why we are doing this.

Last night, Isabella spiked a high fever and complained of a very sore throat. First thing this morning, I took her to Urgent Care to get her seen. She has strep throat. I went to the store and got her the ice cream she asked for. When she saw that we weren't eating ice cream with her, she asked "Why are you two on a diet?"

Before we could answer, she said "Oh, you want to get healthy and eat healthy food."

YES. That is a good example for my daughter. Not the endless pursuit of skinny but we want to be healthy. I don't want to know how Kate Moss maintained her skinny.

Okay, so there are ice cream and popsicles in the house.

Ice cream is John's biggest temptation. Honestly, I don't have any interest in the popsicles (they are the all fruit kind for the kids, not the pure sugar kind)

I feel bad that the ice cream is in the house. Bad for John. I worked to get all the unhealthy stuff out of the house. And I kind of screwed up today. I bought a probiotic low fat yogurt and then I ate it and realized I hadn't looked at the label and it had sugar in it. Not just sugar but high fructose corn syrup. I got a pretty big jolt after I ate it, I haven't had any sugar in five days! Honest mistake, though. I don't think it will throw me off too much.

I have rid the house of all other temptations but my poor sweetie with a sore throat, I just had to get ice cream for her. We will just have to deal with the presence of ice cream until the kids finish it. Ha, that won't be long.

I'm trying to keep a good attitude about this diet, and I think I am getting to the point where I just accept what I can and cannot eat during this phase, but in a few days I had started eating eggs for breakfast, salad for lunch, chicken and green vegetables for dinner. It would be really easy to keep doing that. John has been more adventurous. Eggplant and salmon with onions and salsa- there are really a great deal of interesting ways to eat healthy and delicious on this phase. I have watched the things he puts together and thought, now a 'normal' non picky eater could really eat well. Me, I'm popping fish oil supplements and vitamin D and trying to find the things I will eat. Not relishing the idea of another night of chicken and green beans and spinach- I looked in the book for something good.

I found a recipe for turkey taco salad in phase one-

I used ground turkey, taco seasoning and put it on a bed of lettuce. The recipe called for reduced fat cheddar but I put mozzarella on it instead, since it was a low fat cheese- and much better tasting in my opinion than reduced fat cheddar and I put a little plain greek yogurt on it. Okay, I was a little concerned because I am not a fan of trying new food but it was delicious. Really delicious. Greek yogurt was an excellent substitute for sour cream, and gave me a probiotic serving.

John is finding some great combinations and reaching out into this diet for some good recipes and I'm working on it as well. This phase won't be as difficult with a little creativity. I'm used to making substitutions in my life- asking for "no mushrooms" at restaurants so this is kind of no different. I'm looking at all of the ingredients in this phase and looking at how I can adjust this diet so I can work with it.

So, really the only thing we are bitching about is lack of chocolate.

Yesterday, John woke up and said "I got the same amount of sleep as I usually do, but I feel like I have more energy and I need less coffee." He reported that he lost three pounds.

Day 2 or 3

So John is making this day two even though it is really day three, because he ate bread on day one... but I ate almonds, so I guess we're even. And I will live with it, because he and I need to be on the same schedule.I've decided a couple things. First I am going to only weigh myself once a week. I just don't want to deal with the whole thing if I find I'm not having immediate results. So, today is Thursday. I will weigh myself next Thursday. I did get my starting weight. I'm not posting it here because really, it's none of your damn business. LOL. I know some people do that to keep themselves accountable but I share so much of my life that some things are just private. Maybe at some point, I will feel like sharing it, but right now, my husband doesn't know and my best friend doesn't know, so I don't think facebook gets to know.

Some of you might call this shame. And you would be right. I have shame about my weight, I probably always have. My drivers license says I weigh 115 pounds. I was lying about it when I said that. I weighed about 102 but I wanted to weigh about 115 so I thought if I said that, I would be able to make it happen. At the time, it was a goal. LOL, I had no idea how to make myself gain weight- nothing worked at the time, the whole weight thing was a mystery. All through school people taunted me for being too thin. In middle school, they hurled the word 'anorexic' and 'skinny bitch' at me on a regular basis. I never did anything to be thin. I never starved myself, I had no eating disorders, I just was what I was. I had serious shame about it. I remember wishing my thighs would touch so that the cats could have something solid to sit on when they got on my lap. That is just about the epitome of irony, seriously. But I just wanted to feel NORMAL. Because if I was normal, they wouldn't notice I was so different.

In high school, the taunts turned to jealous taunts. They were convinced I must be doing something. So, as you can see, weight shame was always with me.

I think my mother's endless quest to get back to what she was worked on me, too. My mother was a tiny, thin woman who filled out in her thirties to a more normal weight but she was constantly chasing the too thin. In fact, I look back on the pictures of my mom in her forties and she looked amazing- and thin.

I had my share of friends who were overweight. We connected in part because they were taunted on the other end. It really was all about being different, I think. I was always saddened by their struggle. They thought about every single thing they put in their mouths- all I could do then was listen, now I really get it.

Back then, I just did what I wanted, if I was hungry, I ate, and I ate whatever I wanted to eat- I really kind of destroyed my body with fast food. I'm not even talking about the way I looked, because on the surface I looked pretty healthy. Physically I was fine into my thirties- but I am sure that years of smoking and years of fueling my body with terrible food contributed largely to my depression and lack of energy. I even had good checkups at the doctor but I suspect this issue now was caused by my lack of caring about myself, my body.

I really think this kind of dieting is a mental journey as much as a physical one.

I don't know when I started using food as a comfort. I remember my friends with weight problems suggesting to me that I have chocolate ice cream when I had a rough day and I remember thinking that it would make me throw up if I even tried that.

I only ate chocolate then when I was happy-

I still don't really overeat but I have gotten myself to a learned behavior of eating something sweet after dinner. When I quit smoking, I was pregnant and I was quelling the craving with a sweet treat after dinner. Somehow this has turned into I can't smoke, so I am going to eat more dessert than I should-

And to be honest, the best appetite suppressor was Dr. Pepper- no idea why- but back in the day, I could just drink it all day and not be hungry. I gave that up about eight years ago, so when I quit smoking, I had no vices left and I am such a rebel, that did not sit well with me.

I just created another vice because I gave up all of the ones I had- aren't I clever?

I mean, I don't even miss cigarettes and I really value what eating healthy has brought to my life but it means that I want to have dessert, you know cause I ate healthy all day- that habit is going to be difficult to break.

The last two nights I have been looking for snacks and there is nothing on the list of foods I can eat that I want to eat. John keeps complaining about being hungry. I'm not really hungry, I'm just bored and I want chocolate or cheese or some almonds and peanuts. And I can't have any of those. I could have some chicken or some salad or veggies. But I don't want those cause I ate them for dinner.

So I lost three pounds just not giving in to boredom and making sure there was no chocolate in the house.

I don't know why John is so hungry all the time. This diet is actually pretty filling for the most part. I think we are still in mourning for our sweets. I had to marry someone with a huge sweet tooth!!! Anyway, this first phase is the most restrictive so once we are through this, we will get back other things in the next phase.

I have not figured out the regular exercise thing yet- that is next on my list-

Doing the 17 day diet

17 Day Diet Day One
by Vanessa Roman on Wednesday, May 4, 2011 at 1:23am

Okay, I'm not usually a fan of doing things like this, writing about a diet, but I was asked to, and I have seen others doing it to keep themselves accountable so I am going to give it a shot.

I got the book a couple weeks ago but decided to start after Easter, after all the chocolate was out of the house. So today was the first day.Yesterday we went shopping and got a lot of fruits and vegetables and lean proteins.

The first thing my husband said was "I think I'm going to get more out of this diet than you are."

He will. He's right. The biggest challenge is that I am a ridiculously picky eater and I'm used to having my way.

Some of you know this about me, some don't. I've only been overweight for about five years. Before that, I was skinny girl. I was underweight for most of my life, after Marissa was born thirteen years ago, I moved into a normal range of weight, then I gained about 20 more than I was comfortable with and dieted my way down again to a happy weight. I weighed 130 when I got married. I am 5'8. Before I had Isabella five years ago, I had never weighed more than 150 pounds. Usually that meant I was nine months pregnant-

I was about 130 when I got pregnant with Isabella. That was the highest pre-pregnancy weight I had ever been. Usually I was about 105 starting weight. So when I gained 45 pounds, it was more than I had ever weighed before. I knew something was different and wrong with this pregnancy- and for the last few months, I was pretty much only about to get up and go to the bathroom and go back to sitting down. I couldn't walk any distances or do anything strenuous. If I stood up for longer than ten minutes, I got weak and dizzy.

Now I will tell you this, I never exercised but I always had very physical jobs and led an active lifestyle.

After I gave birth, I could barely make it to the end of my driveway without getting winded. I began walking a little further every day at about six weeks after the baby. Slowly, my strength came back, but I noticed the weight was not coming off. I did not try to diet while I was breastfeeding, just tried to eat very healthy. Still, exercise and healthy eating made no difference.

After about a year, I knew there was a problem, I knew something was wrong and I joined the YMCA and began the battle in earnest, working out regularly and eating properly. I made some small strides at one point and lost some weight, started to feel better, but I couldn't maintain it. It was like I was walking through mud, I had to fight extra hard to lose even one pound. If I let go of the vigilance for a second, I was right back where I started. Then for no explicable reason, I began to gain weight randomly.

I knew this was not the body I had grown up with. Everyone said "you aren't working hard enough." or "you're getting older." After nearly three years of the struggle, I went to the doctor and my thyroid was tested at MY insistance. It confirmed everything for me- my thyroid was slow. As soon as I went on the medication, I felt better. I lost about fifteen pounds- worked my ass off and felt better but regulating a slow thyroid is a process- it takes time to get in right. I am tested every six months to see how it is working, and the first year, I had to up the dosage twice.

Finally, it appeared to be working. I lost a little and managed to maintain it for a bit of time.

But I was exhausted with the fight. I gave up my expensive gym membership and gave up counting calories and just gave up. I'm spoiled. I have never had to do this. I resent it. I had all those years of not being consumed with everything I put in my mouth and now I am obssessed with it. I don't want to look like this. Every part of me is profoundly uncomfortable.I don't know who I am any more at this weight. But I refuse to stay at home feeling sorry for myself and I refuse to give up. I have spent the last six months giving up and letting go of myself. I have gained back that fifteen pounds and I hate it. I hate looking in the mirror. The joy of shopping is completely gone. I hate the way I look in pictures, I won't even think about acting in a film, the thought of seeing myself is just devastating. Today, I found pictures of me at my wedding shower and I looked so good.

I want to get there again. I'm just not a quitter. I can't let this thing beat me up like that. I want desperately to be back in control of my weight again.

So the first day. I would like some chocolate and I would like some cheddar cheese but otherwise, it is not that bad. I have no idea what I am supposed to snack on so I just had three regular meals-

2 eggs for breakfast, a mixed greens salad with feta cheese, an apple, and a tablespoon of olive oil dressing for lunch and dinner was a turkey burger(no bun) with green beans and spinach and a tablesoon of greek yogurt- for dessert I had five red grapes instead of chocolate. I drank two cups of green tea and eight glasses of water-

I was kind of hungry in the evening so I had a spoon of peanut butter. Then I found out I wasn't supposed to have that. Eh, I will figure out acceptable snacks tomorrow-

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

On dating, and crushes, and love and the worst dates ever!

The first real Valentine I ever sent was to a gay guy I had a crush on. I was thirteen and he was seventeen, and I painstakingly picked it out at William's Pharmacy. I actually bought two identical Valentines, so that I could keep one for a scrapbook memory. It wasn't a mushy Valentine, it was a funny card. It's kind of adorable. I am still friends with this guy. My crush was apparently good for his ego and honestly, I knew I had no hope of this crush growing to any sort of fruition. I was just happy he took the card, opened it and took it home with him. Later, years later, he would tell me how it was the only Valentine he got that year and how sweet it was. At the time, he acted like it was nothing- and how silly I was but it was one of the moments that tested my courage. I knew, likely he would mock me for the gesture and even if he didn't, others would. And that happened, but I didn't care. I had a pure sort of affection for this guy. And he was so important to my social growth at that time. He made me determined and toughened me up. Because he didn't treat me with kid gloves, I knew what I was capable of when I was with him. In an odd way, he grew my confidence because he challenged me.
Later when I did start dating guys who returned my affection, he would function as a big brother kind of figure, disapproving when I wasn't treated well. I'm happy I still know him.
Ah the world of dating. Having not been a 'single' woman really for the last sixteen years- a look back at the world of dating and crushes and love is pretty amusing from this vantage point.
Funny how people in long term relationships miss dating and singles long for a long term thing- and there are those rare and wonderful, single and happy, in a long term thing and happy. When John and I had been together for about five years, I missed the sick to my stomach, head over heels, gotta have you NOW kind of feeling that consumes the first six months or so of a relationship. It has evolved now into this steady and beautiful kind of love and affection.
It's funny that I remember our first Valentine's Day together but not the second.
He's getting it right, this guy. I asked for a letter this Valentine's Day, and it was so sweet and poignant, and funny, it made me laugh and cry.
Once I was dating this guy, a very significant relationship and he asked me what I wanted for Valentine's Day and I said, very flippantly (as I was 22 at the time) I want flowers and candy and jewelry. So he got me all three. A bouquet of roses, a box of chocolates and a pearl and diamond ring. And it left me feeling completely empty. He had followed instructions to the letter, and it was this terrible experience because I couldn't feel anything out of it. I had no idea what this was at the time. Why was I not happy? I chalked it up to feeling guilty for asking for things- not being good at accepting good things, being accustomed to disappointment.
But I know now that it was not the things but the complete lack of connection we had for one another. I was always trying to make something out of nothing with this guy but he was an empty shell. He knew how things looked but he never really knew me or loved me. I fit his definition of girlfriend, woman he owned but he never 'got' me. He never saw me for who I was. Near the end of our relationship, we were at his friend's house and he was bragging about me.
"Vanessa is a really good writer," he said.
We'd been together a couple years at this point.
I looked at him, and realized for the first time what a fraud he was.
"How do you know I'm a good writer?" I asked him.
" are."
I pressed him and he stuttered.
"You've never read one thing that I've written," I said. "For all you know, I could suck at it."
He gave me the how dare you embarrass me look. I made it worse by asking him what my college major was. He couldn't answer. Yeah, that was why it all felt so empty. He had filled himself up with what his idea of me was and the real me was nowhere in there. He had picked out the roses he liked, the chocolates he thought I should eat, and the jewelry he thought I should wear. I don't even like pearls. It never occurred to him to ask really WHAT I wanted. To this day, he still doesn't understand why I left him, because he never really saw me. He saw a reflection only of what he thought I should be and reality kept intruding.
I guess I was fooling myself for the longest time about him as well. I did not see how empty he was. He kind of looked good on paper. He had a good job and a nice car and he liked to buy me things. I was used to dating guys without jobs or cars or even driver's licenses, this was supposed to be the kind of guy who would do right by me. I tried to make it work for the sake of my son and for the sake of not giving up on the dream of a family that I had for so long, but you know in the end, I had to be true to the reality of the empty shell that he was and would always be.
In the end, I don't think Valentine's Day is about the perfect date or the perfect flowers or candy or the most perfect crush. It's just a day full of expectation of something.
In the single days, I used to send my single friends cards and buy myself my favorite chocolate. Day after V Day is the best day for half price chocolate!
Here is my favorite worst date story.
I had gone on one date with this guy, Wayne who seemed kind of nice and sort of normal enough for me to give him a second date, considering the first one I had met him at Denny's and had talked to him for around an hour. About a week later, we agreed to go out to dinner, so he came by my house and picked me up. When I got in the car, I noticed he had brought his dog with him.
I mentioned I thought we were going to dinner, he said "Oh,I can leave him in the car."
That just didn't seem right to me. Mind you in the week we had been talking he had never mentioned even owning a dog and he had definitely not asked if I minded if he brought the dog along. I'm NOT a dog person and it seemed totally rude to me that he hadn't even mentioned it. The whole time we were in the restaurant, I felt bad about the dog sitting in the car and alternately resentful that we couldn't take our time out to eat because of the dog.
I had gotten a babysitter for our date, could he not have gotten a dog sitter? If I had brought my kids along without asking, he might have been a little upset. This guy was definitely weird. After dinner, he asked to go back to my house.
I asked him if he was taking the dog home first. He said, no, he was bringing it to my house. I said, no, I have four cats and they won't like a dog in their house. He says well, I'll put the dog in your back yard. Um, except my yard was not fenced in. He acted huffy, as if this was my fault, I was ruining his plans. There was no third date.
This might have been tied with the guy who on the phone planning the date told me he had a vasectomy. Yeah, baby, that was sexy. I mean- TMI way too soon, assuming I even believed him, which I didn't. The last thing I needed was another 'sterile' guy getting me pregnant. Then he wore the worst cologne ever, I couldn't get within ten feet of him. Handshake goodnight after worst movie ever and then driving home, I got a speeding ticket. Perfect end to the perfectly awful night!
It makes me laugh now. I love the bad date stories. It's easy now to not have too many expectations. John and I skyped tonight. That and the letter was enough, every day knowing he is my husband is special.

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

The Stranger Conundrum

I like talking to strangers, there is something refreshing about having no history with someone and just having a conversation that exists in the moment. There are no expectations of this conversation. I have found it can be as meaningful and rewarding as a deep exchange with an old friend. After all, we all started that way- as strangers, before we became close to one another, there was something that attracted us initially. So, I see in every exchange a deep possibility. A stranger is not being kind to me because she knows me or seeks to spare my feelings from the truth.
Sometimes I think it is in the remove when we can find the most proof. It is when we ask and seek outside objective opinions, sometimes we find what we are looking for.
Even if we never see one another again, I have found connection often in this stranger. It's interesting where we get our validation. Our friends sometimes tell us the truth and sometimes seek to spare us with little white lies. I myself don't like to hurt the feelings of people I care about and try to put a positive spin on a criticism.
Every morning, I come downstairs, heat up some water to make hot tea and turn on the computer to check my mail.
This morning I found an email in my box from a film festival. It was either a rejection or an acceptance. I took a deep breath and felt the blood rush to my face. I have had several rejections lately. And none of them has been easy. I haven't said anything about them to anyone, in fact I kept them to myself and just moved on.
When my father found out I was starting to send out my stories to publishers, he decided to tell me that I was going to be rejected a lot. I hated him for that. I suppose he meant well in his own way but his negativity has always been a killer for me. It's hard enough to live with his temper but his lack of positive outlook has always pissed me off. Your parents are supposed to believe in you. Dammit. Preparing someone reasonably for the possibility of rejection is entirely different than telling them that they will be rejected a lot and giving only the negative part.
What he should have said was what I now say to myself.
One person's opinion about me does not make this film good or bad, it continues to be one person's opinion of me, and the really important belief is the belief I have in myself and what ever the decision here, I will continue to know I was meant to do this, that my talent will not always be appreciated and my work does not always fit every festival and every vision. Rejection does not invalidate me as an artist or a person.
So before I opened that email, I took a deep breath and said this speech to myself. That I would move on and continue no matter what that email said.
My dad forgot to tell me how amazing it is to be accepted, published, validated as a writer/director/actor. He focused so much on the pain, he forgot the prize. That sometimes you win. He also underestimated my steely determination and burning ambition. I am driven to do this.
I got a win today. Someone I don't even know liked what I did. Believed in me. In Canada, no less. I needed this today, to come out of the clouds and into the light. I have wonderful friends and their support means everything to me but sometimes I need a stranger to like independently what I do, so I can make sure it isn't just my friends being kind to me.
I'm going to Toronto in March. The Female Eye Festival, celebrating female directors. It will be really inspirational. I went two years ago and I loved it. Now I just have to figure out if I'm driving or flying!

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Looking to the future from that shadow

A while ago, I wrote about my trip to California when I was 21, and the picture that was taken of me on the beach by my childhood home. The picture was silhouetted in shadow. I was a shadow of who I would become, the way to my future was dark. I was a shadow of my former self. I was just beginning to reconcile with the past and my connection to who I was. This picture was taken on that same beach of my daughter, Marissa. She is looking out into that sunset, to her future.
She carefully walked up there and placed her feet so that the water would just come up to touch them.
She loves the ocean like I do.
I watched her for a while and then snapped this picture of her, looking towards the vastness of the ocean into a future that will come up to embrace her like the waves. She is breathing in the salt air and possibility. The world is as wide open to her as the ocean.
This is how I often feel on the beach, why I am constantly drawn to it, because when I stand there, I always feel as if anything is possible and I can achieve any dream. The ocean will bring it to me and lay it at my feet.
This is what hope looks like when you capture it, right before it flits out to sea.

Saturday, January 29, 2011

Do Over

I want a do over. I know my life is not over and I still have a lot to do but I feel like so many things have been ripped away from me. I have to remind myself often that I am not gone, it is not over and it is not too late for me. But last night I saw what I should have done with my twenties and I was just brutally angst ridden. I should have been out here, writing and taking acting classes and working with sketch comedy groups, working with theater groups, working in film.
This was there for me. And I was too afraid to find it. I was too busy chasing stupid men and being abused by them to find my dreams- oh I never gave up on those dreams, I never let them go away but how many things got squandered.
Now I am here and I have to stop regretting the past and do what I can do now. Marissa has an opportunity for her own dreams. I don't know what they are, exactly but I do know that I have never been the kind of mother that lives through her kids. I want her to be happy. I want her to achieve her dreams on her own terms and I will help her but her career success is not going to quell my desires.
My ambition is too fierce, too hot, it still burns brightly within me.
Last night I was jealous. I thought to myself- not only can I do that, I would be really good at it. Why am I not doing it? Why have I never seen this part of LA before?
I was angry, fierce, happy, ambitious. I'm not giving up. Can't make me.

Friday, January 28, 2011

First Audition

After sitting around here dealing with mundane this and mundane that, all the necessary red tape, we finally got our first call for an audition. It was really thrilling. I got a text message on Wednesday for a Thursday audition.
Let me back up a little bit. The business has changed a lot in the last six years or so from what I understand. Black and white headshots used to be the thing. No more, they have switched to all color. The internet has taken over. It is still amazing to me how few people are willing to give you information. It's almost like a code of silence. You might do something, and I had to struggle so therefore I will tell you nothing.
Not only has the internet taken over, but it has found a way to make a business of taking money hand over fist. Not a great big surprise, right? I don't begrudge them that for the most part. Making a living, we are all making a living here but this doesn't exist in the small market I come from, so it was a bit of a culture shock. I'm thrilled that we haven't even been on the websites for more than a couple weeks and Marissa's agent already managed to land her an audition.
There are several major websites that you must sign up on and they have tiers of memberships that you can get. Recently, I complained about the nickel and diming of the industry and an actress told me- "Well, it just shows the ones who are serious and committed."
No, actually it doesn't. You can still be committed and broke. Now you are even more so both. This industry has always preyed on the desperate with the promise of stardom and wealth.
So, membership on Actors Access is free, but if you want to submit yourself to get an audition, it will cost you $2. Of course, you can pay a monthly fee to submit as much as you want- like I said, varying degrees of ways to make money off actors who have little money. I'm sure they will say this is investing in your career. Too bad it is the business where they screw you coming and going. It's not exactly like buying a nice dress or suit for your interview.
And for sure, agents are getting the prime listings that don't really get seen by everyone. That's why you want one. But still, I have been spending so much time reading everything, all the breakdowns with character descriptions and roles available. It's exciting and daunting to be in the big pool. The level of talent here is really great. I find the challenge to be invigorating, and so does Marissa. She told me in the car on the way to the audition.
"You get so stressed out,Mom, relax, it's going to be great."
Good attitude to have.
So, yesterday she and I got in the car two hours ahead of the audition time- and encountered very little traffic for once. We showed up an hour early, but that is okay- we had a few things to do and we knew where the location was and just relaxed at that point and went to CVS to pick up a few things and kill time. That is the best when you can show up fresh.
The first person I saw when I walked in the door was Maria Lark, who played Bridget Dubois on the tv show Medium. I recognized her immediately, without a doubt. Marissa kept telling me I was wrong, until I showed her the name on the sign in sheet. I don't know what the etiquette is at these things so I erred on the side of caution and said nothing to her, though I did really want to say hi, and I loved your show, which I did. But the last thing I wanted to do was be pointed out as the dork who talked to Maria, so I kept my mouth shut.
It wasn't long before Marissa's name was called and she went in to do her thing. It was an improv audition where the actors were asked to do a little scene and give one line of dialogue. Pretty simple, pretty straight forward. In and out. There were lots of girls who looked a lot like Marissa there.
So, here is the wait and see part. I'm really glad the first one is over.

Thursday, January 20, 2011

The Toy Chest Coffin

Okay, I am going to write about this and be done with it because there is literally nothing I can do about it and I need to move on. A friend of mine just apparently broke up with me for no apparent reason that I can tell. To the best of my knowledge, I was a good friend to her for over 25 years. She used to call me every day, we used to talk about everything. Something changed in the last six months or so and I could see it in her but I couldn't put my finger on it. She became jealous,threatened, accusatory with me. She began setting me up in situations I knew were going to bring out her worst insecurities and then later tearing me down both to my face and behind my back. The judgment began.
You might ask, with all this going on, why would you want her as a friend? Longevity is a powerful thing.
New friendships are fledgling, flighty little things, they haven't been time tested and they are likely to be need of the moment based. Maybe the two of you are going through a similar crisis at the same time and when that crisis is over, you don't need one another any more. We've all been there, right? So, you kind of drift apart but are glad to see one other from time to time.
A few years ago I ended a toxic friendship, but we did it respectfully, after a long and nasty set of emails, and a last ditch attempt to save the friendship, I realized we needed a total breakup. I don't do casual very well- especially with someone I had been very close with for two decades, it had to be a complete end. It was hard, it was brutal, there was anger and pain. Part of me missed her, part of me hated her and was still angry and still had things to say and part of me, a very small part wanted to talk to her again.
I mean, even my worst, most heinous ex boyfriends, I will speak to them. I have never put any relationship in the deep freeze for life. And you know, if I saw her in the grocery store, I would say hello but I don't think I will ever pick up the telephone and call her ever again, or drop by her house or send her a Christmas card. Here is how that is different from this. Because it is what we decided together- we mutually agreed on these rules and we ended it gracefully and respectfully.
I have too much honor to do it any other way. And after being friends that long and that deeply, we owed one another some mutual respect. So as painful as it was, and my first real breakup with a friend, we at least did it with a conversation.
Not the case here. This girl decided I meant something I did not mean, threw a hissy fit and blocked me from her entire life. After 25 years, I wasn't even given the decency of a conversation. I mean, what is she, twelve? Still, I gave it the prerequisite time and space, given the longevity of the friendship- and after a month, we did talk briefly and I was promised a conversation when I got out here to LA- promised that there would be a grown up conversation. There was an item that she had given me a long time ago- a toy chest, that I promised to return if ever I drove out here. Well, I kept my promise. I drove it out here. And when I arrived, I called her and she wouldn't return my calls. I gave it a week after calling once and texting once. I then informed her voice mail if I did not hear from her, I would be dropping off the toy chest on her front porch. Can you imagine?
How immature and cowardly do you have to be?
I gave it a couple days. To be fair. This was an important family chest for her and the last thing I wanted to do was drop it and leave it unattended. I knew it meant a lot to her. And it burned me up that I was being so considerate to someone who was being so childish and inconsiderate to me. Why should I care if she didn't?
It is stupid. So stupid. Both of us have friends that have died suddenly. What we would do for one more conversation. To be this stupid at this age when we have experienced such loss already in our lives, it is almost criminal of her to treat me like this, so callous, so cruel, so stupid.
On Tuesday, I went to Trader Joe's and forgot about the stupid toy chest until I opened my trunk- but there it was. Now where the hell was I going to put my groceries? The chest was now making me angry because it was inconvenient and annoying. It was time. I was done.
I drove over to her place, it was just getting dark and I picked up the toy chest and I put it on her front porch. As I turned to leave, her eight year old daughter came running to me. My heart stopped. This toy chest was for her, and I expected her mother to be right behind her. Oh God, I did not want to have a confrontation in front of this precious child. I just wouldn't. The kid and I were pretty good friends. She had joy in her eyes when she saw me. It broke my heart.
"Is my mom with you?" she asked.
"No," I replied. To my great relief, the neighbor was watching the little girl.
I pasted a smile on my face and told the little girl the history of the toy chest, that it had been her mother's when she was a child and her mother had given it to me for my children and for safe keeping to return to her if she ever had a child, but driving it out to LA from St. Louis had been a challenge. But now it was here. I felt good that I had kept my promise, kept my honor, and happy that me telling this to the child was bringing such happiness and wonder to her face and terrible that I was doing it for someone who was displaying such cruelty towards me. Still, I knew I was doing a good thing, at least for the child and that was small comfort, I could hold my head high.
I turned and left, not knowing the state of our friendship but suspecting it was dead in that toy chest now. In that coffin lay twenty five years of friendship. There was no wake, no funeral and no memorial service. I went home and wrote all my pain and my anger in a letter that I would drop in her mailbox a few days later. But it's like shouting in a deaf person's ear. No response. I can't even know if she read it. I'm left with all these feelings and I'm trying not to be held hostage by them. I have to be content with the fact that I vented my feelings whether or not she received them, they went out into the world as energy and my cries were heard, even if she was deaf to them.
It shakes up your world to know that friendship ends.
I'm going to have to work this out in my own time.
I don't need her, but I miss her.
We had way more good times than bad times.
When she was my friend, she was true and good. She wasn't mean to me for 25 years. She was supportive and loving and generous. Sure she could be a real bitch sometimes but I love her, anyway. I knew there was this side of her but naively believed it would never be turned on me.
I know that this behavior will back up on her. That one day she will realize it was her foolish pride and her insecurity and her issues that she projected on to me. Every day that goes by makes me wonder if I can forgive her and be her friend again. She has breached a huge trust.
I remember being dumped by a boyfriend in a particularly heartless way and knowing that there was a period of time when he could take it back and I could forgive him- maybe a few hours for him to make it right- but there was the part of me that knew he had crossed a line to a place where it would be impossible to come back from- that the heinous thing that he had done was something I could never condone, and I think I have been fooling myself that I can forgive her and move on in the friendship. I have to be worth more than that to myself.
Longevity has been what saved her up til now. But I deserve better. And I have to hold myself to a higher standard. I have to know that I don't deserve to be treated this way.
I can't know the future but I do know when that ex boyfriend came crawling back, I knew he was not worthy of my love and forgiveness. I don't know if she is. That guy had three months of my life but I do know that every day that passes makes me stronger in this. My tender heart likes to forgive but I like myself stronger with more resolve. I suppose there is a reason for this but I still find it a dreadful waste of pride and stubbornness where it is unnecessary.
I'll let you know how it turns out.

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Survival Mode

Well, it is hurry up and wait time in Los Angeles- we have filled out the forms and put her resumes on line and met with the agent and now we are waiting for the work permit. We are in survival mode, spending only the most necessary money, looking for bargains, cutting corners. Fretting over everyday items like toilet paper and salt. We are settled in and oriented. Marissa is almost lazy, she is on the computer and texting with her friends. She doesn't want to go out much. I want to be out every night!
Yesterday I took a long walk through my neighborhood. Across the highway is a really nice neighborhood, the houses have manicured lawns and some driveways are gated. I walked all the way up the hill and just admired the houses built into the side of a mountain. My thighs really hurt when I got to the top of the hill but it was good exercise on a lovely day. I know those houses were millions of dollars over there. As I was walking around, it occurred to me that I have mostly been able to go wherever I want in my life unhindered. I knew that as I walked around, likely no one would call the police because a woman was walking around looking at the houses. And I was looking.
Clearly, I had no ill intent, but I realized that my freedom is greater than some. I know that based on race, there are some people that would have been harassed doing what I was doing- walking around. It weighed a little on me. I guess if you want to case a place, send a white woman to walk around. No one thinks she could possibly be up to anything.
I can go so many places and no one even blinks and no alarms are raised. I am by looks harmless and honest.
Okay, I am in reality- honest and harmless- but you can't tell that by looking at me!
I love that my passage is open. It allows me great freedom. But I wish everyone had the same. Can we help ourselves that we make assumptions? I'm not talking about those instincts where our hairs on the backs of our necks raise up. I'm talking about- hey, a stranger is walking around my neighborhood- oh, it's just a girl. Are we by nature less suspicious about white women?
I'll just keep walking and see how it goes!

Friday, January 14, 2011

Go West Young Women

When I was 21, I drove out to California with a friend who was moving there. It was kind of a bitter angst with which I took the trip. A wondrous journey but one I knew I would have to leave behind. I was wishing the whole time it was me moving here to be a writer, an actress, and I didn't know yet I wanted to be a director. It was the first time I had really left my kids and it was for a whole week. There were only two kids at the time, Cory and Cassandra, and they were very young. I called every day to talk to them and check up on them. It was more difficult than I thought to leave for a week and less difficult than I imagined.
I was born in Santa Monica and lived there only when I was a baby before my family moved back to St. Louis. My parents were on sabbatical that year which is how we came to be out west. I have always felt the pull to Los Angeles. Not just as my birthplace but the place I needed to be to pursue the ambitions that burn within me.
But I had those children at home and no support system at all here. I didn't feel I had a solid plan or a realistic idea of what I would do and ultimately terror and indecision kept me there. It was important for me to do the right thing by my kids.
I decided that before I could possibly move I needed to finish college. Who knew it would take so long? But I gave myself a goal and I met it. I think those experiences along the way have shaped me well. As I look back at what I gained by having those experiences, I realize how ready it made me to be here now. Not to mention, meeting my husband and having the last two children- the first of which is half the reason I am here now.
The first time, I drove here, I was a fetus waiting to be born.
The second time I drove here, I was a very young woman, more of a child than an adult, a shadow of who I would become.
This time, I am a woman sure of my path and who I am.
We went to Disneyland on my 22nd birthday while I was in LA and it was magical in many ways, but I still felt like I was on the sidelines of my life. There is one picture of me from that trip and it is me standing on the beach in Santa Monica, right across from the neighborhood I lived in as a baby. Jeanna, my travel companion who was moving here, took my picture with the sun behind me so what is visible is literally a shadow of me. I think I had to find me before I could really get here to be me.
I remember chanting "go west young women" whenever Jeanna and I got back on the highway after a rest stop. I remember stopping in New Mexico at a gas station and buying crystals from some Rainbow Hippies on the side of the road, so they could get some gas money and get out of there.
This time, I thought 'go west, young women' as I drove with my daughter to take us out here, to take a chance and see where it leads us. We stopped more and I appreciated the landscape more this time. I think I saw more beauty than I paid attention to the last time. Marissa did a different drawing for every state we passed through. She likes road trips as much as I do.
I caught a glimpse of her reflection in the glass on the way into the hotel one night and for a split second I thought it was me. It's strange to look at her- naked ambition in my face, but without the fear and with all the confidence. That must have been what I looked like when I was alone and dreaming.
We have gone west. We are here.
When I pulled up into the carport of our residence, I rolled over a sign. When I got out of the car, I picked it up and it said:
"Destiny- the choices we make, the chances we take, determine our destiny."

Monday, January 3, 2011

New Years Reflections and Hopes for 2011

As I was reading through my facebook friends status updates, I found this little gem that inspired me.
"I'm going to start living my life and stop letting life live me. I have to remember it's not how many don't love you that matters but how many you love."
This came with a completely predictable measure of irony as I was just lamenting how I wished I could spend more time with a friend who never seemed to have any time for me.
It's a constant reminder in my life, that I need to be grateful and committed to the friends who have always found time for me- wanted to make time for me- and not waste any more time lamenting those that don't love me and value me as I do them. It's hard to let go of the notion that I want to be liked and am not paying mind to the miracle of being liked. I have at times found myself jealous and pained and quietly suffering. I still sometimes cannot make sense of it.
This is the little girl that lives in me. The watcher. The one who watched all the other kids play but was too afraid to ask to join in.
Last year I was lamenting the terrible treatment of me by someone I had been friends with who had mysteriously disappeared and frozen me out- as I was relating the pain and confusion of this, I was reminded by the person I was talking with that I had real friends who valued me. I guess I needed this reminder again. Maybe we all need to be reminded that we don't need to chase what we already have.
On New Year's Eve, I attended a party thrown by a couple of very dear friends. Two rare individuals who are always there with an ear to listen, stories to tell, and always have words of support and encouragement. These two are amazing friends- I think I have now known them for about 19 years and in all that time, I have never heard a disparaging word from them.
Truly, this couple is inspiring. I have had deep and meaningful conversations with them for hours, separately and together, and they were always interesting, insightful and intelligent. They are open to meeting new people and some of the most welcoming and open minded people I have ever met. Their kindness is the most genuine and I value my conversations with them.
I haven't told them they are special for a long time, so I must take time in the new year to let them know this.
What I hope to learn is that it is okay to love people who don't necessarily love me back. That it is better to give that friendship and not look for something in return. In the end, it is my own thwarted expectations that do me in.
When I look to my left, the calendar sits on January and the quote this month is "Some succeed because they are destined to, but most succeed because they are determined to."
I love this. I love how for the past few days, I have seen more meaningful quotes encouraging me towards my future.
I leave tomorrow for an adventure. My daughter Marissa and I are driving to Los Angeles and will be there for two months. I began this blog as a girl who refused to give up her dream. At this moment, two of us are racing towards a dream.
What will happen? We will take each day as it comes. One step at a time. It is after all a marathon, not a sprint.
We reach not for stardom, we reach to fulfill our dreams of doing the work.
For me, the idea of being a writer, a director, an actress is the only thing I need to be doing. I need it like oxygen- it lets my soul breathe.
For Marissa, the world is just opening up to her. She will learn and love and experience life with juicy mouthfuls- she does nothing halfway. Seize the day was written for us.
My hope for this new year is that I can be open. Open to listening and seeing what the Universe is telling me and showing me. Open to meeting new people, open to the understanding that not everyone will have my best interests at heart but open to the experience of learning that will come from that.
I hope I can be the kind of friend that I want to have and remember to honor my commitments and be as honest and courageous as I can.
I try to keep hope shining in my life- and when one option closes itself to me, I shut my eyes and find the hope I need to continue. I think we all need that. Where would we be without hope?
On a bad day, we need to take a deep breath and hope that tomorrow will be better or if it isn't, hope we have the strength to survive it. I have always hoped I will find my way to my dreams. I never imagined they would happen in the ways that they have. And that beauty would come from so much pain.
I am always hopeful in the new year. It's like getting a fresh start on things. We need to know there is always a day to start over, to begin again. I know that it means nothing that only a few days ago, it was a different decade, but somehow it feels like the air is clean with possibilities.
On New Year's Eve, I was with a roomful of very positive people, many of whom are very creative- at least five times, I heard someone say "It's going to be a great year, I just know it."
That made me feel really good- that joy of hope in the air. The confidence of belief.
I hope this year brings with it lessons we need, joys we can share and when there is pain, let it be pain we can overcome.
Happy New Year.
I hope my optimism has not been too annoying today.