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Gratitude With Diane Lane on Valentine’s Day

15 Feb

You know, I was never one for elaborate celebrations or grand gestures of love on Valentine’s Day. Don’t get me wrong, I still liked being the highlight of someone’s thoughts and getting some chocolate, or a nice card with hearts on it. I still liked knowing that I was on someone’s mind.

And I never made a huge deal of it so as not to put added pressure on whoever I was with at the time. But a card, a nice meal, some chocolate, some laughs, and a genuine hug that expressed heartfelt connection and intimacy was all I needed.

I look back now and remember times when I was younger and felt lonely, when grandiose productions of others professing their love made the loneliness bigger. I remember the Aquatnet days wanting that candy gram and plastic flower to be presented in class, you know, from that special someone. Now they have it on Facebook or Instagram for the whole world to witness this romanticism. Some people share just to be genuine and open up their book of life, letting us read a small page of it, others do it for showboating-look-at-me reasons, cheapening the heart and romance.

When you’re younger these things seem important.

But I realized how gratitude on Valentine’s Day is just as important as love.

I may not have gotten the red-carpet treatment, but I was able to share moments of life with people I loved. Babysitting for a friend over the weekend so that they could have some kid-less alone time and feel like normal people again made me smile. Getting a card with the best kindergarten spelling and Crayola Crayons masterpiece from my daughter filled my heart. Playing Valentine’s Bingo, cupid’s arrow, making kids at school smile and being helpful in my kids’ classroom hit the spot. Eating a steak dinner, I didn’t have to cook for myself brought a smile to my face. Finishing the night with a small band, playing some good tunes, while sipping a margarita felt nice. Ending the night with Haagen-Daasz chocolate ice cream and watching Netflix a definite plus.

A day and night filled with non-Facebook worthy moments, but special nevertheless.

During all this, I was reminded of Diane Lane in that movie Under The Tuscan Sun. I love Diane Lane. In the movie she talks about how she wanted a house, a home, dinner parties with family, being with people she loved, kids running around, laughter … that would have made her happy. Fast forward to the end of the movie when someone asks her if she remembered what she wanted when she first moved to Italy. Does she remember? She smiles as it hits her. She had a house, a home, dinner parties with people who had become her family, people she loved and that loved her, kids running around, not her kids but kids that brought her joy anyway, and laughter. She realized she had it. Happiness. They both smiled.

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🙂

Valentine’s became a day of gratitude, grateful for all the small acts of kindness and love that gave the sun more shine. It could have been a regular Tuesday for anybody, but it was my Valentine’s Day adventure, and I felt love from those that mattered most.

 

 

Finish-Line Friday

10 Feb

Getting to the Finish Line on Friday …

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Priceless.

Definitely a high five moment for everyone. Glad everybody climbed their way through obstacles to make it this week. High five.

 

 

The 20-Mule Team Saved The Day

8 Feb

They were on their last life line.

I thought they were done for … but they made the ultimate comeback. One by one falling in line giving it everything they got.

Two teams. Multiple efforts. One field. One battle. One winner.

And that was me.

This SuperBowl weekend while everyone was cheering on Lady Gaga and the Falcons to take down Brady and The Patriots, I was involved in my own battle.

The Guat vs. The Ants.

It’s supposed to be a seasonal thing where they come for a couple of days during summer, stalk up and then run away and hide in their awesome bachelor pad with their queen. Chillin’ on sugar and sweet nectar water. Seasons meant nothing to them. They were on the year-round system. And nothing seemed to stop them. Not even the power of a ZipLoc Bag. Not. Even.

Windex, bleach, soapy water, and then the kryptonite of all kryptonite for ants and bugs and innocent eyeballs … RAID! Yup RAID! One spray and that’s it paralysis for life. But these bastards were ruthless. These were not your ordinary ants. These were Bionic Ants! Hanging out with Lindsey Wagner and the 6-Million-Dollar Man, and laughing at me as they attacked Cheerios, MiniWheats, Skippy Peanut Butter, Quaker Granola Bars. Things that were still wrapped and boxed, they attacked. They weren’t even going for sugar anymore it was beyond sugar now. They were all up in my Nature’s Own Wheat Bread, and Rold Gold pretzels. So, I resorted to storing things in the fridge, for fear I’d have nothing left. I mean who has to put Wheat Thins in their refrigerator?

Me! Yeah, Me.

So, when I brought home five boxes of Girl Scout Cookies I knew this madness had to end. I asked a few moms if they’d ever encounter such madness and I found answers.

I brought in the secret weapon.

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🙂

Borax! And The 20-Mule Team.

I had no idea of its existence, or of its MacGyveresque properties.

It. Was. On!

I concocted may magic solution of warm water, sugar, and Borax. I soaked cotton balls in that sweet poison and laid them out wherever they roamed. I found them hoarding an unopened and hermitically sealed bag of jelly beans on the third shelf of the pantry, dropped four cotton balls, and walked away.

A couple of hours later they abandoned the jelly beans and were in a cotton ball mosh pit of ecstasy, which for a minute made me doubt the effectiveness of this so called Borax. But I waited and, let Borax handle my business. I waited.

And waited.

I watched Lady Gaga rock that stage at half time and they were still under attack mode.

24 hours. I thought I’d give it 24 hours.

So, when I woke up in the morning, I opened the cupboard, hoping, praying for the destruction of these Ninja Warrior ants. But I saw nothing.

The party was over.

Only two lifeless ant corpses lay motionless on top of those cotton balls.

Fist pump in the air with a resounding YESSSSSSSSSS!!!!! Borax was now my superhero.

Although … I didn’t want to hold up the trophy just yet. I’m a little superstitious … I’ll wait a couple of days before removing my stash from the fridge. Because after all chocolate is chocolate.

Stay tuned.

Writer Wednesdays … Fan Battles, BS-Ometers, and Nooks & Crannies

1 Feb

When you decided to pursue your passion a twist came at the end of it … Along the journey and after all the obstacles, you ended up seeing what was behind the giant curtain.

Through the discovery, some of the mystery disappeared.

How is the doctor different when she’s a patient? How is the lawyer different when she’s a client? How is the teacher different when he’s the student? How is the pitcher different when he is the batter? How is the writer different when she is the reader?

Yup. Perspectives change when you’re on the other side.

As a writer this question has been posed to me before.

Like the doctor, lawyer, pitcher, and teacher, the writer becomes more aware of the approach and of the details. We  give our fellow writer the benefit of the doubt, but don’t walk blindly into the story.

We just pay attention more. We can smell the BS when it surfaces and tries to camouflage itself as substance. I feel like my BS-ometer has gotten better throughout the years. You notice things that others might not, even with the most avid readers, you still have an edge because you’ve been behind the scenes.

But aside from having a finely tuned BS-ometer,  I get into the nitty-gritty of it with characters. I’m in the nooks and crannies. Characters are big for me, whether it’s from a book or on a television show. Characters are what make it happen for me. Story and plot are intriguing, they peak my interest, but characters are what make me stay all the way to the end. I pay attention to how the character mattered to this writer and how they developed. I’m constantly on the look-out for that A-HA! moment and see how the character responds. Is it the way I thought she would?

When the character becomes so amazingly great that it changes me from a writer into a fan, that’s a job well done by the creator. It’s hard for me to watch series finales sometimes because the fan in me battles the writer in me. Sons of Anarchy, Breaking Bad, LOST, 24, The Closer … all of these had me on the edge of my seat for the series finales and as a writer, I battled with the fan inside of me.

The fan roots for the underdog and the happy ending, but sometimes as a writer you just know … you know that can’t happen because it’ll betray the story and the character’s intention.

Being a writer, enhanced the reading and watching experiences for me. I see the strings being pulled and think wow how amazingly awesome that they pulled this off, or when I’m disappointed I think, man there could have been a better way. The fan and writer constantly battle each other when the stories are good.

Some people may think it works against them to know what’s coming, to know how the pieces are being moved. I just think it makes you pay attention more, makes you look at the decisions being made and if you end up becoming a fan … well then, once a fan, always a fan maybe even a die-hard fan.

 

 

Happy Wednesday

 

 

You Still Make The Cake …

30 Jan

I woke up knowing he’d be the first thing on my mind.

Brown eyes, black and silver wavy hair, usually covered by a hat. The very same blue Dodgers hat I wore all day today. Go Blue.

Tired and exhausted from the night before, the night of thinking of tomorrows and tomorrow already here, as evidenced by the sun peeking through the blinds. Staring at the ceiling, knowing that the closest I’d ever get to him today was just a memory or two. Pictures, left over voicemails, hats hanging on hooks, shirts folded in the closet, and half a bottle of Jovan Musk  in the cabinet. They were all waiting for me this morning, like every morning.

But today was different.

Today was his 69th birthday and the cologne smelled a little different. I think it was losing its strength, but I could still smell that aftershave scent. It still lingers in the air, reminding me of how I wished I had more memories.

It’s always a tough day, knowing someone isn’t going to blow out the candles anymore. But you still make the cake, you make it anyway. Today I made it with my daughter, who’s named after him. Listening to jazz as we measured and stirred the flour and sugar, dancing to his favorite tunes in our aprons as the smell of chocolate filled our small kitchen, I smiled. I thought he’d be watching and smiling as we twirled around to his favorite trumpet and piano tunes.

Jazz was on all day today. Running through the park this morning. At the stoplight. In the kitchen. And as I write this piece. His calming happy music surrounded me as I remembered him driving his silver Toyota Tacoma, with the station tuned into KJAZZ and him strumming his fingers on the steering wheel.

Yup. It was on all day. Reminding me, giving  this purpose, making the baking experience a little better.

And for some reason, during the taste-testing process perhaps, we didn’t have enough frosting to cover the entire cake this year, and that was O.K. It wasn’t a disaster. We made a head pastry chef decision and thought layers upon layers of frosting would be just fine. Like a chic bakery.

He’d probably get a kick out of it, and we’d make our own story about it. In fact we probably already did. I’ll probably think back , when all my hair has that silvery fox color, and remember how we baked the chocolaty chocolate cake with vanilla buttercream frosting and chopped almonds, how we danced in the kitchen thinking about my Dad turning 69 and how he’d enjoy a piece of cake, or two, along with a cup of coffee.

We took our picnic and visited him. I told stories as my daughter had one piece and my son two. Large cups of milk, and one cup of coffee for pops. Sitting there talking about life and wishing he was there to blow out the candles and make one more wish.

My Dad … the Dreamer, the Adventure Seeker, my HBO-Watching-Buddy, the Owner of Over 70 Baseball Caps, the Jazz-Listening-Beep-Bopper, Pay-It-Forward-Patron, Awesome-Date-to-Opening-Plays at the local theater, Spirit of My Spirit, Heart of my Heart, Laugher of My Jokes, and friend … turned 69 today. I wish him well, send him light, love, and laughter.

And I miss him.

 

Dad

My Dad … talking about dreams … me trying to listen.

 

 

 

Daily Post Challenge: Ten

25 Jan

Ten.

Ten of my favorite memories from this year’s Tournament of Roses Parade.

Ten amazing works of arts.

Ten thousand volunteer hours dedicated to the beauty of flowers and creating amazing artistic visions floating down the boulevard.

Ten ways of feeling happiness while looking at this awe inspiring work.

At least ten snacks in my backpack for the kids.

Ten Echoes of Success being the theme this year.

Ten ways of feeling inspired when we left.

Ten hugs for this family adventure.

Ten minutes to the nearest Happy Meal for lunch

And … at least tens of hundreds of smiles remaining in my future when I continue this tradition with my kids.

Ten

 

 

 

Daily Post Challenge courtesy of the Daily Prompt: Ten

Motivation Mondays: The Upside To The Downside

23 Jan

I started off Saturday morning parking five long blocks away from the Metro station and putting my best parallel parking skills to the test — the kind where you have to turn down the music and high-five yourself when you finally turn the engine off.

As I got to the station the sight of the massive crowd made some people turn back, either changing their travel plans or just changing their plans for the day.

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But I saw an opportunity to move forward. Inch by inch onto the platform, linked arm in arm with women I had just met on my way to meet my Comadres of a lifetime. We started off as strangers on a train and but walked through the sliding doors knowing each other’s names and purpose, and wishing each other luck as we stepped forward into our future.

 

Civic engagement used to come every election, but now the grassroots movement on this side of town continues to be strong, especially around particular issues important to people, whether it be education, women’s rights, health care, or the environment. Everyone was speaking for something that mattered to them.

It  was moving to see so many women come together and peacefully unite for a cause. I was even prouder to be part of a country-wide effort that brought worldwide attention to this cause. Thousands upon thousands of people throughout the country … in New York, Atlanta, Boston, Seattle, Miami, Chicago, multiple cities throughout the world engaged. Everyone is watching.

Those that were apathetic  became more vigilant of their future and the potential dangers out there, and those that are passionate find ways to engage more people and continue inspiring others.

Marching with 750,000 people in favor of women’s rights made me feel certain during uncertain times. I left knowing what Gloria Steinem called “The Upside to the Downside,” and this was just step one.

 

 

Weekly Photo Challenge: Ambience

18 Jan

 

I wanted to feel magical.  It didn’t disappoint. And nothing says magical more than twirling with your daughter and son under the disco lights under night sky at the zoo.

Yup.

Magical twirling ambience.

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Weekly Photo Challenge Courtesy of The Daily Post.

 

 

 

 

 

The Dream Keeps Living …

16 Jan

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A historic day to reflect upon what matters …

When I ask my son and daughter if they knew why they had the day off, both of them told me it was because of Martin Luther King Jr. … “we’re remembering his life”.

I’m glad they were able to hear his words and understand the meaning behind his voice. When you’re that young sometimes the message gets lost in translation, but they seemed to have understood exactly what Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. meant. I’m glad it was easy for them and for a lot of kids in their class actually. Acceptance, equality, and empathy.

A day I wish we didn’t have off, because our country would have been so much better had be been alive.

But his words and his life continue to have meaning years after his death. They continue to touch the hearts of little kids like my own. I’m glad that historical figures like Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. can keep affecting this nation long after he is gone. They keep inspiring so that the dream lives on during dark times, so that people can remember that character is what matters most in a person. What they say, what they do, and how they treat people in public and in private matter. I’m glad to continue teaching these lessons to my kids. I’m glad his words … his dream continues to inspire how people of different backgrounds live and act today.

 

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Better Late Than Never … Ummmm No.

11 Jan

When I saw this … it all made sense.

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🙂

It really did. It hit me, like that a-ha! moment I had when I saw the He’s Just Not That Into You movie and all the stars aligned and I was like yeah. Totally get it now.

But then I started thinking of exigent circumstances. I mean when could you really let it go … that your friend showed up 87 minutes late to a girls night out and you only had two hours because your babysitter holds the key to your life and that’s all you could get.

If you have kids … I get it. Babysitter is late. There’s vomit. There’s not enough Goldfish Crackers to go around. You ran out of wipes. The DVR didn’t record the latest Peppa Pig and you needed to know what happened. I get it. Meltdowns happen and you’re gonna be late. Most parents give themselves a buffer zone because they know this might happen. They just know and there’s a forgiveness clause on that. They’re just happy that they made it out in one piece.

But if that’s not your case, then what the hell is going on?

Just be honest and be like … nah … I kind of don’t want to go. I mean it’ll be a bummer but it’s better than waiting there at the Regal Beagle without Jack or Janet.

But then I thought of intentions. I mean when the idea was brought up to you a couple of days ago you totally wanted to go. You checked your iPhone calendar and knew it was clear and you even did a silent cheer in your head. You were the first one on board.

And then the week hit you hard, work was hard, life was hard, and Friday came  … and you thought … I don’t know.

It just crept into your head.

Doubt.

Is it worth it to leave the house? Is it really? I got Netflix. Cable. HBO. A box of wine. Do I really need to leave?

Then the doubt is fueled.

Traffic. There might be traffic. I think there’s an accident. Exhaustion. I feel pretty exhausted right now, the Friday night exhaustion that hits you in your 40s or late 30s that never seemed to appear in your 20s. Then you feel the love of your Old Navy pajamas and they feel so right. And then you think, do I even have gas in the car? Do I have cash in my wallet? I mean if you have to go to the bank, or put gas in the car, forget it. That might just kill the whole outing all together.

There are just too many hurdles and you begin to bargain with yourself about whether you reeeeeeaaaaally need to go. You say you’ll feel better once you get there, you always do, it’s just the “getting there” part that is sucking right now.

Ultimately guilt sets in and you muster up enough Maybelline and Red Bull to get you out of the house. You stroll on in with some excuse about traffic and grab a drink while your buddies are already into the good part of the conversation. They see you stroll in and you think they bought your traffic excuse, but they know … they know … because they were just on the same freeway and they know you have the speed through traffic app on your phone.

So if you don’t want this sweater as your next gift, think long and hard before committing to your next date, outing, hanging out session, or shenanigan. Or maybe you should just say no from the start, and then when Friday comes around, you change your mind if you want. You can totally show up and surprise them because even if you are late, they’ll be glad to see you.

Buen Camino my friends.