Coming Soon: Grandparenting 101

The ears that debuted at NASCAR. As the granddaughter of a Bawdy Broad, she already has a boa
The ears that debuted at NASCAR. As the granddaughter of a Bawdy Broad, of course she already has a boa!

Have I mentioned that I’m going to be a grandmother soon?

Really soon. Like doing everything in the OC “because that’s where the hospital is” soon.

Yikes.

Children do more than just eat, sleep, go to school, get jobs and eventually move out. They make us do things that challenge us. We didn’t travel much until our son joined the Army and his graduation was on the other side of the country. I got to see Canada and New York as a choir chaperone and my oldest daughter lives four and a half hours north of here – a quick trip that lends itself to the impromptu.

I never thought I would like racing, especially NASCAR, until I went with my daughter and son-in-love, but I was there with the rest of the family last February when they made us close our eyes so they could put Mickey Mouse ears embroidered with “Arriving 2015” in our hands, followed by lots of joyful screaming and crying. There were a bunch of cars going in circles for the few hours after that, but I didn’t really notice the race….

I will have to revise my resume within the next couple of weeks, inserting the title “Sadie Jane’s Grandma” over the formerly-more-important “Media Consultant.” All of my friends tell me that things are going to be wonderful and that I’ll have trouble concentrating when this little bundle is placed in my arms. I believe them because I’m already bumfuzzled when I think about her.

I really try to minimize the advice dispensing, sharing just one tidbit with new parents as I admire their little ones: Love them the most when they deserve it the least. I truly believe it’s the policy we used the most, raising our three. They all turned out pretty good and two of them can’t wait to be called Aunt and Uncle.

The adventure continues! Not feeling quite Shirley McLaine yet, but I'm gonna be a GRAMMA!
The adventure continues! Not feeling quite Shirley McLaine yet, but I’m gonna be a GRANDMA!

But now that it’s my own daughter becoming a mother, I worry – have I told her enough? Did I give her enough clues to survive the long sleepless nights or the endless stream of people trying to tell them the best ways to do everything? Have I shared my thoughts on the best way to swaddle, the perfect way to hold a bottle, the tried and true techniques to get them to go down for a nap?

Nope. Have I failed? Absolutely not. They’ve got this.

You’ll find that no one has all the answers, but the truth is out there. The key is that nobody can figure it out but you.

When I was pregnant with my first daughter, I was taking classes at Cal State LA and my advisor said that he and his wife should have been arrested when they left the hospital with their first child because they had no idea what they were doing.

He told me that I’d figure it out and he was right.

One kid liked the football carry that my husband perfected when she was colicky. My son sang himself to sleep when he was nursing. And the Mom-to-Be was my cuddle bunny. I learned to lower my housekeeping standards because my kids were the priority. And I appreciated every carrot-and-raisin salad dropped off by a friend and every load of laundry done by my awesome Mother-In-Love who came in and took care of everything so we could catch our breath.

When my kids were little, we had to rely on a few dog-eared books written by another generation’s Dr. Spock. Now you can Google ‘diaper rash,’ ‘fussy eater’ and when to go to the hospital depending on what they put up their nose/swallowed/stuck in their ear (and yes, I had personal experience with at least two of those).

So kids, here’s the truth: Parenting is the greatest adventure. You will never feel overwhelming love like you will when you first see Sadie and hold her in your arms. And when you have more, don’t worry – you always have enough, because your heart grows a little more every time.

You will never sleep as well as you used to, though. Even when they start sleeping through the night, you will walk in and angel-touch their backs to feel their warmth and gentle exhale. As they get older, you will listen for mischief and mysterious nighttime noises. And once they start to go out, driving or dating or are just out for the night, you will sleep with one eye open because you’re waiting for that front door to open and hear them talking, safe at home. Sirens take on a whole new meaning, because when you hear one, you will immediately think about where your kids are and worry if they are OK.

And even though you might get creaky with advancing years, when you hear a little voice say “Mommy” in the middle of the night, you will fly, your feet never touching the ground, as you rush to comfort your crying child. (Ask your sister about that one)

It’s almost impossible to break children, and you will get the hang of parenting through your own trial and error. Give yourselves enough time to figure out what works best for your team. Don’t let anyone push or criticize you.

It is also completely permissible to scoop up the baby and leave the room for a sanity break. I’m pretty sure that move kept me out of jail a few times.

Another cool thing about having a baby around the house? Most of the time they smell terrific. They are always happy to see you and holding them will lower your stress level, guaranteed. However, if they are having a crying jag and you’re ready with your own flood of tears, it is OK to either join the pity party or hand them off to someone else who might just be a baby whisperer. Don’t be angry that you couldn’t calm them. Be thankful that you got the break.

And when they are being really, really loud, try being really quiet when you talk to them. They’ll stop crying to hear what you’re saying. Reverse psychology was a religion in which I frequently dabbled.

When people come by to visit, don’t feel like you have to entertain them. Your lives just turned upside down and you’re entitled to a little survivor shock. They should be bringing you Tito’s Tacos and desserts from Porto’s and taking away the trash. Remember, you have a baby. That’s like having a hall pass for a messy house for at least five years.

Like I said before, you’ve got this. You’re going to be fine. Sadie’s the luckiest kid in the world to have the two of you as parents and when you have questions, ask everybody and average out the answers.

Welcome to parenthood. But remember to be patient with us because, even as you hold little Sadie swaddled in her hospital blanket, consider that in that moment, all four of us grandparents may still see you as the beautiful bundles of happiness that taught us so much about life not that many years ago.

Love you.

Mama Casey and Daddy Tim practice for a walk on Main Street. Photo by createandcapturephotography.com
Mama Casey and Daddy Tim practice for a walk on Main Street at the Happiest Place On Earth. Photo by createandcapturephotography.com

Forty Years of Love, Laughter and LIFE!

October 26, 1975.Boise, Idaho, in the home of Ed and Jean Jacoby, these two kids tied the knot
October 26, 1975. Boise, Idaho, in the home of Ed and Jean Jacoby, these two kids tied the knot

Oh. My. God. Today, I will celebrate my 40th wedding anniversary.

With my husband, of course.

Two score. I mean that as two chunks of 20 years each, but it does bring about a knowing grin when you think of it in Married Life Terms, because we did. Big time.

Four decades. More than the lifetime of a car, a computer, a food processor or a TV set.

In fact, I don’t think I have any of the original appliances with which we started this roller coaster of bliss. We’ve upgraded everything but the jewelry.

I still have my original wedding ring, as does he. I noticed this morning that his band that used to have deep leaves carved into it has been worn smooth in places. Mine is still pretty three-dimensional, although the bands in the back are blended into a solid gold line. I did have the diamond replaced when I lost the original at an ill-fated chalk festival a couple of years ago. Same size. I don’t need anything bigger or flashier. It’s been working for 40 years, and it is ready for the next 40.

We looked like an old married couple from the start...
We looked like an old married couple from the start…

Forty years. Holy crap. That’s a whole lot of patience and laughter and worry and happiness and stress and celebration. In those years, we’ve lived in three places; a very cold cinderblock apartment in Caldwell, Idaho, a lovely duplex in Burbank and in the Rock Hacienda in East Valencia Heights for the last 33 of those years. Our house is nontraditional, (he’s a painter and I’m a writer; we have no white walls whatsoever) but the comment we always hear is that people love to visit. Frank and I work every day to make and keep it that way.

One of many Christmas dinners
One of many Christmas dinners – Frank, Casey, Kerry, Sarah and me, wearing an apron from the LA County Sheriff’s Homicide Division. It was red…..

We’ve raised three kids in this house; hosted countless birthday parties, baby showers, graduation parties, Christmases and New Year celebrations, let wayward teens live with us for awhile and always made sure that our kids’ friends knew there was always a meal, a nonjudgmental ear and usually some fun thrown in if they stopped by. That doesn’t happen without two people working together to balance each other’s tolerance and wisdom. I think it was that mixed bag of patience and love that earned us the nicknames MamaRock and PapaRock, which we cherish.

Love. Patience. Teamwork. Forty years of teamwork.

Laughter is an important part of love.
Laughter is an important part of love.

Things haven’t always been easy. We are more than familiar with the term “starving artists” and sometimes we have had to make do instead of taking fancy vacations or buying extravagant gifts. It’s frustrating, but rewarding at the same time. We have each other and that’s enough.

If I had to describe being married, I would talk about comfort, security, safety and responsibility. I would touch on agreements and not always having the answer and facing adversity with a hand to hold so we stand tall and don’t fall over. It’s driving home after a rotten day at work or having great news and there is no one else on the planet that you want to share it with more. No one else can dry my tears or make me laugh like him and I wouldn’t have it any other way. In his arms, my stress level drops and I am at rest. It’s a great feeling.

Greetings from the Top of the Rock - the kids sent us to New York City for our 35th anniversary.
Greetings from the Top of the Rock – the kids sent us to New York City for our 35th anniversary.

I’d also mention that the most important element of a happy and successful marriage is a sense of humor. Life is a funny old raccoon, a wise friend once said, and he was right. Just when you think you have the solutions, the problems change. Over the last 40 years, we’ve found ourselves in situations that left us no alternatives but to laugh, gather our composure and start over. Our family has had some health challenges that could have ripped us apart, but we stood strong. We worried when our son served in Iraq and when relationships weren’t so good for our young ones, we cried with them. If adversity was at the door, we took a breath, gathered our composure and faced it. Together.

Laughter. Strength. Love.

When I wanted to pursue a career in news, he was behind me all the way. He saw how it excited me and made me feel worthy. When he had a career adjustment and I encouraged him to start muraling and exploring his passion for painting, I saw his eyes light up. I am his biggest fan and I know he’s mine. This is as good as it gets.

Forever, for always, no matter what...
Forever, for always, no matter what…

I will admit I am the luckiest girl in the whole damn world. My beloved puts up with my often insane reasoning, my spontaneous nature, my procrastination, and my mood swings. He celebrates every one of my little victories, sometimes even more than I do. He is, without a doubt, my biggest cheerleader and I hope he knows that I am his as well. He is my staunch defender, my arm candy, my partner in crime and the absolute love of my life.

At the greatest party Hart Mansion has seen in a long time - Casey and Tim's wedding in July 2013
At the greatest party Hart Mansion has seen in a long time – Casey and Tim’s wedding in July 2013

He listens and laughs, most of the time in the right places. He is passionate about a lot of things, lucky for me that I’m one of them.

As we approached this milestone, I tried to remember some of the early times. They’re getting harder and harder to recall, except the constant that whatever we did, we did it together. Through all the years, the pounds, the varying hair colors and lengths, crazy fashions and hobbies, he’s been there. Though some friends have come and gone, I know that the two of us fit best in the big chair in the living room and if it’s just us, that’s OK.

Comfort. Satisfaction. Togetherhood.

And the family grows! Papa and Mama, Tim, Casey, Sarah and Kerry
And the family grows! Papa and Mama, Tim, Casey, Sarah and Kerry

Now that our nest is empty, our first granddaughter will be here very soon and we’re excited to have all the kids home for the holidays – I’m looking forward to the new times. We’ll share new experiences (beyond the maze of Medicare and Social Security) as we enter a new chapter of our lives and I’m excited beyond belief that we get to do them together.

Frank, thank you for the easy-to-say last name, the hugs and the cuddles, the joy and the laughter. I love you to the moon and back. I believe in you and I can’t wait to see what’s ahead. All I know is that it’s gonna be great.

To the next score, and the one after that, and the one after that…….here we go!

CaseyAndTim-204

Love and Legislation Is All We Need

umguamournersReflecting on Thursday’s shooting in Roseburg, Oregon that took the lives of 10 people, President Obama reminded us that gun violence has numbed the country, especially the decision makers. “This is happening every single day in forgotten neighborhoods around the country,” he said. Truer words have not been spoken.

Oh, except for his earlier statement: “Our thoughts and prayers are not enough.”

Hundreds of families have been wrenched apart by these tragedies that are happening far too often. Last night, instead of having dinner together or chatting about their school days, 10 families looked at empty chairs and silent phones, forced to deal with the shock of “how could this happen?”

We know most of the victims had barely begun their life journey, while some had much experience – 18 year olds Quinn Glen Cooper, Lucas Eibel and Rebecka Ann Carnes; 19-year-old Lucero Alcaraz; 20-year-old Treven Taylor Anspach, 33-year-old Jason Dale Johnson, 44-year-old Serena Dawn Moore, 59-year-old Kim Saltmarsh Dietz and 67-year-old professor Lawrence Levine.

And for those of you who think I may have miscounted, shooter Chris Harper Mercer is included. Can you imagine, just for a moment, the horror and shock that his parents are dealing with? Not only is their child dead, but he most likely brought about the deaths of nine people. That’s a double whammy for which no parent can prepare.

Shootings in the classroom, workplace, church or public gathering places – we stuff the critical information in our collective memories and shuffle on. Thirteen dead in Columbine. 26 in Sandy Hook, 12 in Aurora, 9 in Charleston, 32 at Virginia Tech and two journalists in Virginia. We grieve. We bring in counselors. We build monuments. We promise to hug our loved ones. Then we give up.

Why have we thrown up our hands in helplessness?

The Second Amendment allows us to have guns, stating: “A well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed.” Good words when they were written, but worthy of regulation, such as background checks and waiting periods. I don’t think that stronger gun control would help. Oregon is an open carry state and there was a person in the thick of the action who had his own sidearm and chose not to go after the gunman because responding SWAT team members might have confused him with the actual shooter. More guns are not the answer.

And I’m not naïve enough to think that tighter gun laws would influence people like Mercer who came to the campus intent on killing people. That old “guns don’t kill people, people kill people” principle holds true. Criminals don’t generally obey the law and changing the Constitution is not the answer. I understand why we cherish our right to bear arms, but I cannot fathom why we think we need things like AK47’s that exist for the singular purpose of killing other people. Give those to the military and take them out of civilian hands.

mentalhealthIf the NRA is really supporting responsible gun ownership and safety, why don’t they use their formidable lobbying power to make mental health resources affordable and available to all? Along with strengthening and funding community programs, we need to change our attitudes to remove the stigma of being an outcast if one seeks help.

It all comes down to one simple four-letter word that needs to be addressed: hate. How do we stop the hate?

Rodgers and Hammerstein were criticized for their song “You’ve Got To Be Carefully Taught,” from their 1949 musical “South Pacific.” See if you can determine why:

You’ve got to be taught
To hate and fear,
You’ve got to be taught
From year to year,
It’s got to be drummed
In your dear little ear
You’ve got to be carefully taught.

You’ve got to be taught to be afraid
Of people whose eyes are oddly made,
And people whose skin is a diff’rent shade,
You’ve got to be carefully taught.

You’ve got to be taught before it’s too late,
Before you are six or seven or eight,
To hate all the people your relatives hate,
You’ve got to be carefully taught!

We really don’t like it when someone holds up a mirror, do we?

We can change this juggernaut of hate. How about starting by squelching partisan politics? How about the name-calling parts, where adults and elected officials become playground bullies in three-piece suits, turning a blind eye at any achievement by individuals of the “other party,” just because it’s popular to discredit and ridicule them?

Where do we cut the vitriol? What kind of example are we setting for our children, and for that matter, our fellow human beings? How do we justify cherry-picking the parts of the Constitution or the Bible to suit our current cause? And when do we stop rewriting the facts to reinforce our hate?

It’s got to stop. The more we operate as if it’s “Us vs. Them,” the bigger the cancer of hate grows.

We allow – and fund – campaigns to undermine each other and drive people to desperation. We disrespect each other routinely. Why are we surprised that these shootings happen so often if we treat our colleagues and constituents with hostility and anger?

Is absorbing this behavior – from Washington and the shooter-of-the-week – really the best response? Where is the outrage? Posting a rant on social media doesn’t count. Contact your elected representatives, tell them you want them to find a solution to making our schools, churches, shopping centers and others public places the safe places they were meant to be and make them listen. Don’t let them just form another blue ribbon committee either. Make them work, and when they don’t, vote them out.

It’s the only way we’re going to start the healing process we so desperately need.Kids_compassion And  one last word from our president:

“When Americans are killed in mine disasters, we work together to make mines safer. When Americans are killed in floods and hurricanes, we make communities safer. When roads are unsafe, we fix them to reduce auto fatalities. We have seatbelt laws because we know it saves lives. So the notion that gun violence is somehow different…doesn’t make sense.

McD’s Monster Mistake: Who Doesn’t Want to be Batman?

I can’t f-ing believe it.

It is 2015, right?

As I drove through McDonalds to get a Happy Meal – not for a child, but for myself, because it’s a healthier choice, sizewise – I was asked “for a girl or a boy?”

I was momentarily stunned.

“What?” I asked.

“Is this for a boy or a girl?” the voice answered.

“Does it matter?” I responded.

“Yes.”

Silence, tempered with consternation, on my end. The feminist in me was ready to reach through the box and strangle something, but I cooled. Surely this was just a nightmare.

Eventually I said “It doesn’t matter,” as I pulled my car around the corner.

Had I not been in a drive-thru with a car in front of me, I would have just left. But I was stuck. And my curiosity was getting the better of me. What would they choose?

At the window, they handed me my Happy Meal. Just enough cheeseburger, a tiny order of fries (about 10 – perfect), apple slices and milk.

And a pink and black box.

What the hell was Ronald McDonald up to now?

Inside the box was a Monster High Dress Designer Toy, comprised of a plastic standup doll and different pieces of fabric that could be snapped into place over a Monster girl form.UnhappyToy

Essential life skills, McD’s is teaching these young ones. Plaid or metallic?

Other “girl toys” in this line, which was created by McDonalds THIS YEAR, includes a head with hair that can be combed and stickers placed to create the face; a mirror with changing Monster girl figures; a fashion notebook and a bracelet. These toys are part of the “McPlay POWER” campaign, which features “heroic thrills” for boys and “creeperific fun” for girls.

On the “boys toys” side, there is Batman. Boys get two versions of the Batmobile (one pulls back and races, the other fires a weapon), the Joker with a hammer making banging noises, the Joker riding a motorcycle or action figures, including Batman himself.

Somebody in ClownWorld said “Well, there are no girls in Batman comics.”

Really? Please, then, explain Poison Ivy, Catwoman, Harley Quinn, Batwoman, Black Canary, Huntress, Stephanie Brown, Barbara Gordon, Cassandra Cain, Lady Blackhawk, Dawn Grainger, Renee Montoya and Hawkfire No girls, indeed.

Fools.

Here’s what the McComeback will be: “If you wanted a Batman toy, you can always ask for a boy’s toy.

Not that easy, clown.

With the Batman lineup, behavior like fighting, speeding, launching weapons and saving the world (using their skills of imagination and competition) is reinforced, while the Monster High cadre hones their skills in fashion, beauty, accessories and twisted self-imagery.

Wrong. Just so wrong on so many levels.

I didn’t pick glass shards out of my fists to deal with this idiocy.

McDonalds uses a big ad agency to come up with these campaigns. I guess with the popularity of the show “Mad Men” and its back-to-the-Stone Age-sexism, they thought it would be a great idea to segregate toys. Because an agency that big with a client so huge couldn’t possibly provide children with just toys – something to play with – instead of pigeonholing them like society has done for far too many years.

As a former newspaper columnist, I remember writing about this several years ago – during the last century – and this déjà vu is a sucker punch to the gut.

Quick! Pick out the girl toys and the boy toys!
Quick! Pick out the girl toys and the boy toys!

Target and Walmart, both worthy competitors in mega-consumerism, have eliminated the divisions between girl and boy toys, with no dip in their sales. Recent pressure from the medical community, with concerns for nutritional values, brought about a positive change in the Happy Meal, which used to include a fried sandwich, more fries and a soda. Now, things like yogurt and fruit are available, and even adult meals that come with fries include a choice of salad instead. McDonalds seems willing to step up and make a food change, but continues to practice inexcusable sexism, a fail on the grandest scale.

And for those idiots at the agency who think girls don’t like Batman and Joker, here’s a news flash: girls like comics and superheroes, fighting crime and playing with things that go “POW!” “BAM!” and “BOOM!” – their numbers are growing and you’ve missed a huge national trend.

Are you really getting your money’s worth, Ronnie?

But the saddest thing was when I was handed the Happy Meal by the fast food worker – a teenage girl – I realized that she was being taught that this segregation that is so wrong is what she has to do to keep her job.

All I know is that my granddaughter will never taste a Happy Meal until there’s equality in Gotham City.batwoman

 

Gotta go, the stage is calling

Leave it to the ubiquitous cell phone to put live theater in the headlines recently.

First, Nick Silvestri, attending a performance of “Hand of God” at the Booth Theater in New York with his family, climbed onstage before the show began and tried to plug his cell phone into what he thought was a working electric plug on the show’s set.

cell-phone-movie-theatre-45Then, actor Patti Lupone, who is currently starring in “Shows for Days” on Broadway became so frustrated with audience members’ cell phones going off and in particular, one woman who texted throughout the show’s curtain call, that she grabbed the texter’s cell phone, walked off stage and gave it to the stage manager.

Lupone lamented that she was reconsidering future acting gigs if audience behavior could not be controlled. Most likely hearing the laughter of box office and house managers across the country, she came up with a great second act – a series of rules that theater goers should follow while being entertained.

But first, let’s ponder the idiot whose cell phone was dying. His situation begs the question: have we no respect for each other, yielding all to the electronic gadgets we carry around?

“I was thinking they were probably going to plug something in there on the set and I figured it wouldn’t be a big deal if my phone was up there too,” the 19-year old college student explained.

Hand of GodReally? That could be a testament to the reality of the set design by Beowulf Boritt, who mused to Vanity Fair that this realism didn’t give him a new standard, but would definitely keep him from putting a toilet on stage in future shows.

Silvestri even posed that he helped the show get some attention because his stupidity (oops, my word, not his) earned them hits all over social media and the news.

Don’t flatter yourself, punk. The show is a Tony-nominated heart-felt effort from the writers, director, actors and rest of the company who worked their asses off to perform for you. Next semester, click past the classes on getting laid and being entitled and check out “Respecting Other People’s Work” – you might be surprised at what you find. Oh, and use your Amazon Student account to get a portable phone charger. It’s what normal people do to power-up their phones when they’re not at home.

Now back to fully-charged cell phones operating in the house –

PattiLuponeLupone’s phone grab is something understandable by everyone who has ever performed on a stage, with a caveat. Actors dedicate their entire beings to becoming a character, working hard to memorize lines, remember blocking and choreography and become part of an ensemble that tells stories, only to be derailed by rude people who find it impossible to silence their phones and leave them in purse or pocket.

It is as distracting as someone talking aloud while a gut-wrenching 10-page soliloquy is given onstage. To the actor, this behavior tells them loud and clear that their efforts are for naught, that the audience member does not care for their performance and has absolutely no respect for them.

That is just wrong.

Now the caveat. While I understand Ms. Lupone’s frustration, I do not condone breaking that fourth wall and seizing the evidence. She is justified in being angry at that person and lashing out in revenge and punishment might be tempting, but what about the rest of the audience, the vast majority of people who hadn’t engaged in bad behavior? For them, the magical separation of the story was shattered by her actions. Frustrated or not, she must maintain that wall of separation and not engage.

Besides, only stage and house managers should confiscate phones. It’s my favorite thing to do when I’m in charge.

Lupone is a talented, experienced and seasoned actress who is known to give passionately to her craft. It would be a tremendous loss if she found something else to do with her time instead of thrilling audiences from the stage. It is her credibility on stage that gives weight to her five simple suggestions for audiences, which include….

Respect – the people around you. The theater is a place of wonder for so many, don’t take away a single moment of their enjoyment by talking or doing anything other than watching the magic behind the proscenium.

Power down – Live theater offers an escape, a liberation from our electronic leashes. Take advantage and watch the show.

Eat dinner before the show – Even though the audience section of a theater is called “the house,” it is not your kitchen or couch. Don’t bring food or drink into the theater, (bottled water the only exception) and if you MUST unwrap a candy or cough drop, do it before the curtain rises. It’s easier to hear in the absence of chewing, slurping and crinkling.

It is called the house, not the kitchen or the couch
It is called the house, not the kitchen or the couch. Don’t bring food!

Use judgment – Don’t feel obligated to give everything you see a standing ovation. (This one prompted quite a bit of feedback from fellow thespians.) One should leap to their feet only when they are moved by the actors and writing; seeing you standing and applauding tells the actors that they have done their job of reaching into your hearts and minds and enriching your lives. Simply popping up when the applause begins lessens the value of the enthusiastic Oh-My-God-That-Changed-My-Life response of the truly thrilled.

Prepare for bliss – Come expecting to be transported. This last weekend, I saw a production of Mary Poppins and found myself surrounded by patrons who were clearly taken away by the show – the lady next to me was singing along to familiar melodies and a child behind me was excitedly telling their adult about the magic on stage (not constantly, but enough to let me know that they were enjoying every moment).

the-comedy-and-tragedy-masks-acting-204476_1920_662Live theater recharges the batteries of my soul and fills me with inspiration and appreciation for the talents of so many. It can move us all in ways that no status or video or message ever will.

Hearing the drumbeat of my girly soul

huge.10.53466Tribal.

That’s the word that comes to mind when I’m with a group of women doing what we do.

I don’t mean to be late to the Ya-Ya party, but recently – maybe it’s my age and introspective self kicking in – I find time spent with other women to be healing, inspiring, comforting and familiar.

Tribal.

My people. Those who understand me, not that my beloved doesn’t have the decoder ring for my quirks and idiosyncrasies, but women just know.

My tribe is multi-faceted, like the purest diamond in the rough. I have a circle of women friends who perform together, sure of ourselves on stage and willing to have each other’s backs when things get dicey. There is love in the room when we get together and boundless, freeing laughter. I love being with them, even when we get on each other’s nerves. I’m grateful for the feelings and emotions they bring out in me. With them I feel safe.

Tribal. With feathers.

womenholdinghandsAnother group of women are new to me. In my ongoing reinvention, I want to make new friends, hear new opinions and explore new friendships. I joined a group of women recently for a night around the firepit; plied with food and drink, we talked for hours about more topics than I can remember. I knew two women when I walked in, but at midnight, I left with six new friends and an appreciation for their life experiences.

I actually felt some growing pains that night, except they weren’t really pains, they were more like kinks working out of new muscles that were getting some long-overdue use.

Tribal. For good.

A good friend lost her mother the other day and my first reaction was to rush to her side because it was what we do. Men are good company but women have the tribal need to gather, to discuss, to dissect and problem solve. We make coffee, make sure people are fed and people get to where they need to be. We try to provide a protective shield to give our sister time to heal, time to work out the issues pounding in her head, share our common experiences to give her resources, all the while reassuring ourselves that this is part of life and we will be all right, even if the struggle seems overwhelming. We prepare for the backsplash of emotions, we put on the good faces, we are strong for each other and there for each other when we fall apart.

This isn’t meant to go against any of the feminist principles I have embraced all my life, it doesn’t pigeonhole women into a subservient role. But the sisterhood is strong, with the warp and weave of love.

Tribal. Tolerant. True. holding-hands-on-beach-1024x656

No formula for creativity in these boxes

This is how I feel when faced with an excel sheet
This is how I feel when faced with an excel sheet

I don’t do boxes.

There’s a running joke in our family that I do words and my husband does pictures.

I write stories and columns and press releases and articles for nonprofits and clients. He paints pictures and helps find the money that pays the bills.

I do our bills and try desperately to keep us afloat. Being a freelance writer makes that a daunting task, but I make it work.

My desk is covered in scraps of paper with old-fashioned addition, subtraction, division and multiplication. I am putting my grandchildren-to-be on notice right now that NanaRock does not do New Math.

I did have to learn Excel to pass a Statistics class during my recent return to college. God bless the handful of friends who came out of the woodwork from all over the country (no exaggeration here, help came from Virginia, New York, Newhall and Sacramento) to teach me just enough to be dangerous and earn a C in the class.

I knew a little about Excel from some temp jobs in my distant past and have had to use it a bit doing some lists and data management for public relations work.

I even have a copy of Excel 2010 for Dummies on my desk. I swear it has been cracked open, but that program that “everybody loves” is still the six-foot wall I never got over in the police academy.

Recently I was asked to put information that I’ve always put in lists into a spreadsheet.

The mere word gives me the creeps.

AAAAAUGH!!!
AAAAAUGH!!!

Spreadsheet. Numbers. Data. Little boxes in which there is never enough room.

I know, I know, you can make the boxes as big as you need to. What happens then is that you have a spreadsheet (there’s that ugly word again) the size of a set of blueprints. I run out of tape putting them together.

Another task on my plate was to take a sprea- uh, boxy document – that someone had filled out and find missing or additional information.

I marveled at the paper’s variety of colors. I initially appreciated the neat organization of the columns and sections, but was soon overwhelmed by the repetition and brevity.

I had so many questions, but the potential answers hid under earmarks and notes that I couldn’t open.

There are people who have tried to teach me about Excel, but I think I found the problem.

I am wired very differently than those people who zoom through spreadsheets (ick). Like an allergy to peanuts, a gut-slam from gluten, an anaphylactic reaction to stings; I am physically unable to work in the world of boxes.

I have been a writer for too many years to compartmentalize. I practice penmanship and write thank you notes. Why do I want to put names, addresses and zip codes in boxes if I’m going to handwrite – or at least type – a personal letter? There is no warmth in merging columns, but there is in a well-written sentiment.

I am at the age where I want to spend the rest of my time playing in my word garden. Learning them, using them, introducing new ones to the world. Taunting, teasing, tempting readers with promises of interesting verbiage and honest emotion.

I’m too warm and fuzzy for a (choke) spreadsheet.

Seriously, my eyes start to glaze over and my brain, which is usually rational, despite random musical numbers and grand ponderances wandering through, hurts. Physically hurts.

I got through college because I endeavored to persevere, not because I was good at boxes. If I was anything, I was creative. Outside of people like Bernie Madoff, I don’t think anyone is really creative when they work with numbers in boxes, let alone words in them.

One of my mantras is accepting everyone for their own personal strengths. Those people who whip around a spreadsheet at the speed of light I hold in high esteem. Most of them can’t write their way out of a paper bag. That’s my superpower.

So don’t be surprised when the call goes out to assemble, this avenger will show up with a notebook and a pen.

regular or decaf