When a soldier has a moral disagreement with what his government wants him to do, so he doesn't do it, he is a "traitor".
When a corporation has a disagreement with what the government wants them to do, so they don't do it, they are called "brave".
Lives were at stake in both scenarios, we're told.

Explain that one to me.

The Traitor

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There's an argument, an opinion, that a soldier who gets disillusioned with his duties while at war and walks away from his post  to get drunk one night and is captured by terrorists deserves to be abandoned. A soldier whose mental health might have been compromised doesn't deserve the chance to be made well. There are those who believe that a fellow soldier is guilty until proven innocent. 

It must be devastating to discover that not all soldiers agree with their orders. Even more so, it must be a shock that soldiers, every day, are called upon to abandon their moral, human values, in favor of orders from higher ranks. Not all soldiers are proud. Not all soldiers believe in the System.
I get it it.
Just like it's a horrible pill for me to swallow that there is so little human compassion, right here at home, where there is no blood on the streets, no sound of gunfire to wake me at night. Here, it is a good place to sit snug in our homes and judge the actions of others whose every cell is forever changed, forever tried by what they have seen, heard, smelled and felt.

We are not all the same.  Thank all the gods, we are not the same.

Recorded

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"For what is joy, if it is un-recorded and what is love, if not shared?"

A quote from season 3 finale of Call The Midwife. In agreement with that, I find myself having a lot of regret about not recoding more of my thoughts while raising my kids. Time is flying by. Fast.

Yesterday I told Mike that I now realize that raising my children is the best thing I have ever done. Of course, that is a common thought. But I mean that, in comparison to my career or my travels or any good thing I have ever done, I now realize that this is the most valuable thing I have ever done for the world, in general and it is the thing I have been most good at, simply because it is a job I have held longer than any other. Ironic, after all I have thought previously.

Being a mom is not what I thought. It's more intense. The hours are longer. The reward is invisible to everyone except the person doing it. There's no glory. And people who don't do it full time really don't know what it's like any more than I know what it's like to be a working mom or a single guy at 40 years old. Doing it while divorced is not the same either. I'm not saying it's harder, just that it is not the same. There is a monotony that is fought against, a consistency that is longed for and a loneliness that occurs without warning in stark contrast to the fact that you are never, ever, alone or without tasks to do.  I love my job. But it IS a job. The lack of respect for the intelligence it takes to be a good stay at home parent is astounding.

So I record it today. 
Best job I ever had. It defies logic. It humbles me. It makes me feel more in place than I have ever felt before. I got this right.

Possible Return

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Screen Shot 2014-05-17 at 8.30.04 PM.pngI might be getting back to writing. Might. BIG MIGHT. I hate promising and not delivering. But the last year I have written hardly anything. I guess I finally reached a point in my life when I couldn't share. 

I've been reading my old stuff. Reminiscing. Once in a while I read something and I am shocked. I find a gem under some unfamiliar title and I think "I wrote that?" 

Writing. Therapy. Same thing. I guess I haven't wanted to go to therapy for a while. Anyway, if you are out there reading, Hello from the edge.

Here's some insight I wrote back in December 2002.
"My theory is that writers write because they have no where else to go with the thoughts and feelings inside them. We spend all day being whatever kind of person we deemed will get us by without being locked up. And then we come to the keyboard or the journal, the pen and we dissolve into the blank space, filling it with truths; what really happened, what we really saw."

Bittersweet Snow

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Some people think life is supposed to be more happy times than boring times; more delight than sorrow. As if there is a scale at the end of the road and if you don't end up with more amazing stories of laughter and fame and money that you somehow botched the whole thing up, did it wrong. But I know that's a lie. Life, by definition, just IS.

It's the people who are keeping score who are getting it wrong.


The Hard Part

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9599351405_c35076ed71_z.jpgI dropped my kids off today at their new school here in northern California and they were both crying. I drove to the grocery store, feeling like utter shit, and cried in the Whole Foods parking lot. Not because I am a bad parent. I know I'm not really. But because this part of relocating is hard and there is no way around the hard part.

California is great. The weather, the food, the parks, the beach, our house. It's all awesome and we know it. We have all, at different times, remarked on the relief, the pleasant changes that have taken place in our lives in the 4 weeks that we have been here. But newness that brings such excitement also brings a lot of tension and stress. 

See, if you've never been the new kid, you don't know what it's like and you don't know how to be compassionate to newbies. You have to be taught that. You have to be taught to reach out on a daily basis. That's not something other parents don't think about so much when they send their well adjusted kids to school who already have BFF's or already have a spot on the soccer team. It's not something they think about when they are standing around with other new parents waiting to pick up their kids after school either. 

I'm very shy. I always have been. But I learned to fake it long ago when I was the new kid at school. I counted it up; I was the new kid six times in my years of going to public school. SIX. That's not counting college or PI school. The anxiety of standing around by yourself while other kids talk to each other and play is excruciating. No amount of reassurance from mom or dad makes that better. The only thing that can fix it is a friend. If I had to choose today between a few million dollars and a reliable friend for each of my two kids, I'd choose the friends without hesitation.

This might explain why I can't stop thinking about my oldest friend, Stephanie, lately. We hardly talk anymore except on FB, but today, more than ever, I am so thankful for the day she told our 5th grade teacher, Mr. Pierce, that I could sit beside her in class. I am also equally thankful for every day after that she sat with me, waited for me at recess and played with me outside of school. All this time in our 33 years of friendship she has joked that I was the brave one. But I've known that I owed her big time for taking me in, for "friending" me in the truest sense of the word. A true friend really does make all the difference.

So, while moving to a great place like Marin County is absolutely wonderful, there are still really hard parts about doing it. There are very scary days, in the beginning, when we feel terribly alone hoping to meet someone who will stand beside us. Someone to have lunch with, someone who knows our name, someone who makes us feel brave.

As I said, unless you are the new kid, you may not know how important this is. Until now. But what new kids need most if for you to take the lead long enough so we can get the hang of things. Until we are no longer the new kid.



530398_4942941448361_565626313_n.jpg1) My husband's holiday party wasn't nearly the unbearable public rant of My-hatred-toward-employers-who-rob-employees-of-joy that I thought it might be. Probably because there was an open bar and I was not the one drinking heavily. That's the trick, you see. I suspect Abigail, who arranged the party, told the restaurant, "Do NOT let one glass remain empty. There better be an Office Hangover tomorrow." Because those servers were on that shit, sneaking up with a tray full of alcohol while people were in full swing of a good story, passing out cocktails like they were band flyers.

2) Also there was unlimited guacamole. UNLIMITED. The caviar of southern California, baby. I am very sorry all of you weren't there with me.

3) Nearly everyone complimented me on my kids. I knew it was wise to give birth to those buggers. Best social crutch ever.

4) A few people, namely Jonathan and Basak, loaded me up with sweet somethings about my writing. Even though I write so little. Even though Jonathan hates Facebook, he claims he is my top internet stalker. The drinks were not getting to me, but my head grew three sizes when he got specific about brilliant things I have said on the Internets.

5) I did not (purposely) insult anyone.

6) We saw Lucy Liu on our way to the car lot. She did not seem to recognize me, though. (:  We also saw vintage refrigerators. I took a photo of the latter.

7) It was probably hard for Mike to navigate the drive home because, as I said, my head was so full of self righteousness and a determination to write for the Huffington Post that it must have been difficult for him to see out the window. But we made it.

8) When we got home, I checked out my lottery scratch-off's that were the evening's party favors. I won $1. Thankfully, I was too tired to be angry about this.

Norman Miller

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An incredibly wonderful person whom I once had the honor of working with died this week. From cancer. I learned about it through online social networking. I had to re-read the post over again. I checked Twitter. It didn't seem possible. Norman Miller? Proper Management? Well, he seemed immune to... anything that could take a man down.

"He carried a silver briefcase."

It's the first detail that comes to my mind when I remember Norman Miller and 1996. And though it probably pales in comparison to the myriad of other things he did, for me, it sort of is a symbol for who he was then and what I learned from him. 

I showed up at Caffe Milano in February of that year looking for a job as a server. I was newly divorced, newly relocated to Nashville and quite desperate to survive in the music industry. Word of mouth led me to the downtown venue, not yet open, construction in full swing. The original founder/creator of Caffe Milano, Pino Squillace, along with Restaurant Manager, Lori Bowman, hired me as an Assistant Restaurant Manager, a title unearned, that boggles my mind today. I worked with Lori for only a short time before being moved to the position of Assistant to the Board of Governors. Norman was a chief investor along with other Nashville notables in the music industry. 

I spent most my days with Steve Lorenz, Secretary to the Board of Governors. That is to say that I spent most of my time worrying if anyone was ever going to make money, how much money our investors could stand to lose, wether or not paycheck money was in the proper accounts and how long we could all keep working our unbelievable hours. No one from those early days of Caffe Milano had it easy.

To make matters more uncomfortable, the club shared offices with Proper Management, Norman's company. I knew nothing of the magnitude of influence and respect that Norman had within the Christian music scene, but over the course of my time there, it became apparent to me that I was well out of my league. On that same thread, Norman had no desire to run a restaurant/music venue. Protecting his interests, as well as his artists, he simply wanted the problems fixed, the customers and staff happy. But there he was, at our staff meetings, pen in hand, perfectly dressed, slacks just pressed, not a hair out of place, an edge in his voice as he tried to move us to the point of our stories, to the beginning of any solution. 

Back then, Norman had a glass desk. His office was always pristine. When he packed his briefcase up for the day to go home to his wife and son, he left the area magazine perfect. If Norman was coming down for lunch in the restaurant, we scrambled. At staff meetings we listened to his blatantly honest reviews with all the fear of todays reality TV show contestants. He did not mince words. He did not get personal. He delivered the news calmly, in his slight British accent, with a leaders presence I have yet seen duplicated. 

For the most part, Norman and his team did their thing while those involved in Caffe Milano hobbled on. But sometimes our worlds mixed and the stark contrast of our successes were laid out for us to see. One such incident that I cannot forget was an afternoon when James Hodgin and I went into the VIP room that overlooked the club to discuss the nights schedule. Norman had used the room before us and someone had left a Kinko copied booklet on the coffee table. On the cover was the name Avalon. James and I knew this was a new singing group that Proper Management was in the process of getting off the ground. Inside was a 5-10 year plan for the group. Basic details, right up to when they were projected to go Gold, go Platinum and win Artist of the Year. You see Norman was good at what he did and he could make that kind of plan and be right. Which of course, he was, as Avalon went on to become even more successful than was eluded to in the booklet we found that day. 

The confidence, the intelligence, the efficiency this man possessed!  I guess we were all a bit intimidated by him. That being said, if you know me, you know how I admired him. He was brilliant. Everything I ever wanted to be.  
I remember him so well and with such fondness because he was all that and human too. HIs humanity and compassion were in his conversations with his friend Steve, when he spoke of his wife, when he chatted one on one with any of us at any given time. He was polite, charming and encouraging. Power ruins even the gentlest person, but Norman kept his reality in tact. 

I know most people will think about Norman and speak of all the amazing things he did within his industry. The roster of artists he elevated and the productions he created are, indeed, incredible. But I love my memories of tired Norman looking at me and Steve saying "I don't care how it gets fixed, just fix it." I love that he listed to us, that for all his accomplishments he was still a man with a family, a job to do and integrity that never wavered. As crazy as it is, I learned so much from him in the every day stuff. I am better for having known him.

Norman, thank you. May your journey go on.




Reacquainting

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I've been feeling very down lately. Probably because summer has ended. Probably because I cannot find my mojo. Probably because every time I turn around someone is getting divorced, going to the hospital or losing faith in... everything. I wish I were making that up, but it truly has been a rough couple of months. Times like this, I contemplate getting on meds, getting off meds, training for another marathon, moving or writing a book. If you know me, you know that all those things in that list are directly related to my happiness but that none of them have provided long term relief. 

I also think about the past when Fall hits. This causes me to miss lots of people that I see via social networking sites but rarely get to "see" in the real sense. I long for detailed conversations on comfy couches with coffee or wine. Or both. I need those conversations of review, laughter and relief that I simply do not get here.  I need to talk to friends who can look past what I am saying and see what I mean. Hopefully, that day will come sooner than later. 

Meanwhile, I have been looking through some of my VERY old works that I realize some of you whom I've gotten reacquainted with in the last three years may not have seen. While you may not care about poetry, you may care that once upon a time, I made you famous. At least among my readers back then.  If you knew me as a kid, you may find yourself in these words:

Kitty-Kitty

Honey suckle, Leon's leg, fireflies, school uniforms and nuns
World of Disney, airport waiting, Speed Racer and cap guns
Sitting by the speakers, sleeping in the station wagon
Detailed Christmas wish lists; think of all the fun we're havin'
Lunch boxes, a game of jacks, Keri Cox and Hubba Bubba
Elvis and the Cassidys, sweet Chuck Miller and the others

Hey kitty, kitty come out and play
with the girls from Willowbrook Drive
It's Alicat girl and her Half Pint sissy
Let's make up for lost time

Skateland, sweet tarts, Funguns and tight jeans
The Flippo brothers, lip gloss, feathered hair into the teens
Best friend cheerleaders, brother on the prowl
Moving to the suburb school; though we appreciate it now
Rainbow dances, Jesus Christ, a pastor's son
summer camp romances, we couldn't be outdone

Hey kitty, kitty come out and play
with the girls from Willowbrook Drive
It's Alicat girl and her Half Pint sissy
Let's make up for lost time

Career tracks and auntie hats, parental wedding and some funerals
Stupid husband bag of tricks, but hope would spring eternal
Sassy-classy photo shoot, a leap to Music City
a nip, a tuck, a wink, wink to keep you looking pretty
A Con-man birth, a mother's worth, Romania, a bomb
Apology, a friendship forged; has it been that long?

Oh kitty, kitty, come out and play
with the girls from Willowbrook Drive
It's Ali Cat girl and her Half Pint Sissy
We got lots of time
We got lots of time

(originally published in April 2000 on pennyrene.com)


That Was The Real You

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Got some news in the last couple of days that brought up a lot of memories. Lots of reflection happening about times of complete disillusionment, anger and worse, apathy. Times when I was so blinded by my own pain that I failed to see ahead. Couldn't see what I destroyed in my path to find myself. While I want to assure everyone that Mike and I are fine, I had to get out some thoughts that I may not have shared before. Bear with me.

Those times that I have taken a turn onto a different course, wether it be leaving my religion, getting divorced or leaving the country, I've found that the hardest part is reconciling the good with the bad of those experiences. Admitting that I did love someone I left behind. Is love real love if it changes, if the person hurts you? What if you hurt them? Does that mean what you shared was false all along? Was I lying to myself? 

I have this vivid memory of myself from 1997. I am standing on a hill in Switzerland with a person I loved with a hope so strong it disorients me. I look out at the field before me, willing the moment to last forever.

But it didn't. It didn't last, at least not like that. For a long time when I looked back on that moment, I hated myself. I hated that I believed everything I said to the lover who was there and all the people around me. I questioned my ability to ever trust myself again.

I guess part of getting older is accepting that all those parts of my life are valid. The good is no less good because of the bad. I am still very much that young woman on that hill. I'm that moment, with all the ones after, perfectly evolving. I was there. I lived it. I own it. I went forward from that moment and made my way here where I am today.