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And a dreamy new year

1 Jan

We spent the final days of 2011 on the farm in Tennessee with frost covering the ground each morning and a fire in the stove each night. Four baby goats were born in the week that we were there. Two survived. The neighbor shot a doe in the field across the road and gave it to us for nothing in return. Each day we took walks with the dogs and a fat cat named Ellington who thinks he too must be a dog. On one hike up to the spring we found frogs living in it. As in, the water we drink. We left them there and were later chastised for not cleaning them out when we had the chance – how were a couple of thirty-somethings from LA supposed to know?

When we ventured out it was to visit the local pig farm or the Tractor Supply Company. These were funny moments for me, lounging on the bench seat of our souped up Crown Victoria. Yep, we rented a cop car. Anxious as the thing made me, it ate up the country road, rolling along beside great expanses of farmland with perfect ease. In the end I got close to even liking the thing.

After the boys were in bed each night we took to gin and tonic and a game of hearts. Each time we played later into the night, stopping when our scores had reached the bottom of the page. And on New Year’s Eve we drank champagne out of pilsner glasses and played well into 2012.

What I’ve been thinking about for the last few days is how all of this time, with its space for breathing and naps and sitting around the table, has got to stand for something really fantastic in our lives. Mostly I’ve been turning my wheels about how to convey it in the least schmaltzy of ways. I’ve come to the conclusion this may not be possible, and I’m writing it anyway.

Within our seven sleepy days in Tennessee we witnessed a microcosm of experiences so appropriate for the turning of the year. The precious cycle of life our children observed in the birth and passing of animals on the farm, the definite union between all of us and the vivid forest landscape, the modest pace of living that swallows you up and slows you down. These are the hopes that I hold for my family all year long, and work to preserve in the shelter of our household. Spending the final days of 2011 in the arms of such a place has set the tone for the year to come. Each time we arrive here, on my aunt’s farm, we know that we will bring a piece of this home. And lucky for 2012, we’ve done it again.

Light a candle, save your sanity

14 Nov

My favorite scent is Tuberose. I know this after years and years of olfactory research (See: accosting strangers in coffee shops and airports. See also: lack of attention to personal space). A few years back my Aunt Renee, on a visit to LA from her farm in Tennessee, asked if I owned a candle from Diptyque. No, I did not. In an effort to resolve this apparent malfeasance we ran down to the local Beach City boutiques, and before long had located the holy grail of candles – in my favorite scent, no less.

I have been anxiously monitoring the life of this candle, burning only a few precious millimeters here and there. Until finally, a couple of months ago, I made a pact with myself to light it each and every morning. It’s like wearing your lucky underwear on a weekday. Totally brazen and surprisingly liberating.

So, as I crack eggs in the morning for my boys’ french toast, pack sandwiches and write their lunch notes, pour my coffee and sip it standing at the kitchen counter, I am brought back to the present moment by that tiny glowing light. Each time I sniff or catch sight of it my mind is reminded not to wander too far from the beautiful hour I spend with the kiddos in the kitchen each morning, and I make a point to slow the heck down and set the pace for my day.

Ordinary as it may be, this practice keeps me from throwing eggshells at the walls some mornings and a staples at the computer screen most afternoons. You’ve got to try it. It just may change you.

Here are some of my favorites this season. I bought the Kat Burki for my aunt for Christmas and the Kai tealights for my brother and his girlfriend. As for the Diptyque? Treat yourself, I promise it’s worth it. Then throw on something frilly underneath your pencil skirt and let that baby burn for as long as you damned well please! You can thank me later.

Kat Burki – Signature collection Tuberose candle $38

Kai Twilight Candles – set of 4 tealights $44

Diptyque Paris – Tubereuse $60

Between liftoff and landing

7 Jul

I’m in the air right now, somewhere between Nashville and Detroit, where we will connect to our final destination, Los Angeles. Home. And I’m wondering whether any of the other thousands of people aboard hundreds of airplanes around the world might possibly be experiencing the same sort of tiny miracle that I am at this very moment.

Aboard the smallest and saddest Delta aircraft that I have ever set foot on, I sit in row 7 of 12, sandwiched with my husband between our two boys. Angels, it now seems to me, holding us aloft in this great billowing atmosphere.

Moments ago we sat glued by gravity to the tarmac, glued by longing for the farm, our hearts glued indelibly to the memories we’d made here. As our old plane reluctantly picked up speed, we waved Tennessee goodbye and were lifted into the blinding white of a cloud. Our faded aircraft creaked and shook with age or uncertainty while I, myself a bit dubious, cheered silently “I think you can, I think you can, I think you can.” White gave way to blue, and rocking turbulence settled into the peaceful stillness of five hundred miles per hour.

As I released the white knuckled grip on my son to peer out the window, a gasp pushed it’s way from my lungs and I heard myself say to him, “Look son, it’s heaven!” And he agreed.

Heaping scoops of white piled upon white floated effortlessly outside our tiny window. We looked down upon the glorious seams of silver that lined each wooly pile, kissed purple, pink and blue like the tinted quaffs of sweet old grandmas.

As I looked to the right at my husband and youngest son, and to the left at my five year old gazing with wonder out of the window, I breathed in the magic of the moment and, as mothers are prone to do, told myself never to forget this moment.

To use a quote from my husband on the 4th of July (because I just can’t imagine a better way to say it myself), I have the feeling that “right now there is nothing wrong in the world.” Flanked by all of my angels, still tacky from the humid summer air, there is a knowing – a deep and undeniable certainty – that this is exactly the feeling that I had hoped we would bring home with us.

Because sometimes, leaving a piece of yourself behind is just the thing you need to remind you that home is exactly where you are.

On Tennessee time

2 Jul

A friend sent me a book in the mail a couple of months ago that I’ve been waiting for the right moment to crack. 12 hours after settling in on my Aunt Renee’s Tennessee farm, where life is slower and days are longer, I parted the pages of “29 Gifts” by Cami Walker and began to read. And cry. And read and cry some more. I cried in gratitude for the gifts that are here and easy to see. And those gifts that, maybe, take a bit more insight to recognize.

Rewind 48 hours to Tuesday morning. 5:15 alarm. Boys up and to the airport by 6:30. Through security by 7:30. Coffee and breakfast burritos done by 8. Arrive at the gate at 8:02. Gate closed, flight missed, dreams of smooth travel dashed. I can’t say exactly what it was that lifted all consciousness of time from our minds that morning. Maybe in spirit we had already arrived on the farm. Maybe we were meant to explore the wonders of LAX that day through the eyes of our boys and drink milkshakes at 9 am (yep, we did). Maybe that plane held moments that were not meant for us.

Whatever the reason, there is one thing I do know for certain. What is meant to be will be. That day I was meant to longingly watch our plane fly away without us. I was meant to sit on the carpet drawing crayon stick figures with the boys. Our noses were always meant to press up against the greenhouse of airport windows as precious bundles of luggage made their way onto plane after plane. I was always and forever meant to snuggle my little ones as we finally lifted off eight hours later than planned.

After a few begrudging hours, it was clear to see that all of these moments were, in fact, part of our greater adventure. Gifts, if you will, that had arrived unsolicited, but were received with gratitude in time.

Today I offer as my gift a reverie of thanks for those who have steered this farm adventure into the annals of family history. Because, really, this is one not to be forgotten; for reasons both sweet and sweeter.

I thank-you, Michelle, for giving me the gift of this book. Thank-you, Aunt Renee, for giving me peace and the farm, white linens and mason jars. Thank-you, my boys, for filling those jars with lightning bugs, and my heart with light every day. Thank-you, Kevin, for being the man that makes us all so safe, all the time. Thank-you ,Tennessee, for your patience and calm. And, thank-you, missed plane, for reminding me that bliss can be found in every step and misstep.

Best sick day ever

15 Apr

Let me preface this by saying that contrary to the tenor of lines one and two, this story turns out to be much more uplifting, and dare I say inspiring, than one might think. So read on, friend. You’ll see what I mean.

Big brother is sick again. Which means that mommy, too, is housebound. Today was day three, and I’d had about enough of my laptop screen, lovely as it is, so I decided for the sake of our communal sanity to venture out. I chose Veteran’s Park by the Redondo Pier since on Thursdays the Farmer’s Market comes to town (hubby and I watched Food Inc. last night and have a healthy fire under our butts. Hooray for kale!).

The medicated kiddo and I arrived at the park precisely at 9 am, fed the meter, and began our 2.2 mile stroller walk to the Hermosa Beach pier. We chatted along the way, stopped at the local Sea Lab to check out some sharks, dipped our bare feet in the sand, fed peanuts to some dirty pigeons, then turned around and played Eye Spy the whole way back.

Bliss, I tell you, absolute bliss. Okay, in truth it was probably more like bliss spiked with shards of guilt for the work I had left lying on my bed at home. Or more accurately moments of bliss, dominated mostly by the type of all encompassing guilt usually reserved for convicts and Catholics. Because who, I asked myself repeatedly, WHO besides me has the pleasure or right to set aside the ‘ol J-O-B in favor of a sunny stroll on a Thursday? When did it become fair for me to spend an entire three hour morning flouncing down the strand in a tank top and sunglasses while everyone else sits benched behind their desks? Why am I suddenly allowing myself this privilege that, until now, was reserved for weekends or vacation?

The answer to all of these questions is simply because. Because I said so (first and last time I’ll ever say that). Because I need it. Because I love my boys. Because I know they’re growing up so quickly and I refuse to miss it. Because the sun and the beach and the breeze are so glorious. Because I want so very badly to be present and enjoy the tiny in between moments where we really spend most of our lives.

Oh, and it also helped that on the walk back to the park I ran into a sweet former client of mine joyfully riding her beach cruiser through the marina with a pack of fellow mamas on the loose. They were headed to lunch, she explained, because summer is near so they’re packing in as much solo fun as they can before the kids get out of school. I love this mom, and the permission that she gave me today to enjoy – my – life. Today. Because that’s all any of us really has.

When little dude, the stroller, and I wheeled our way back into the parking lot, it was with sweaty pits, sunburned shoulders, three bags of farm fresh produce, and happy happy hearts. We dropped our treasures in the trunk, grabbed the picnic bag, and sat on the grass. Then played on the structure. And hugged a lot.

I drove home feeling a whole lot less guilty about this midweek rendezvous with my son than I had just three hours before. And tonight as I comb through the day’s memories I’m making a promise to wake up each morning with the same free spirit that I’ll be going to sleep with tonight. Call me a gypsy. I think I was one in a past life. Call me a flower child. My parents were. Call me mama. That one’s my favorite. I hope my kiddos remember me as all three.