You're the good things


For the most part, I am not one of those people that wins things. I do not normally win the online contests or giveaways, the million miles, lotteries or scratchers, nor have I really ever been the recipient of a pay-it-forward experience. In my 35 years of life, I think I have won a handful of these types of things.

However, in the last few months, things have been a bit different...a change in the tides, a shift in the wind, a parting of the seas, if you will.

In the last one and a half weeks alone, I have been on the receiving end of a pay-it-forward (PIF) experience three times. THREE TIMES. IN ONE AND A HALF WEEKS.  (And once on the giving end. And although I am QUEEN of donations to various organizations multiple times each year, yes, I am aware that I can up my game here)

Interestingly enough, while these PIF moments have been at the same location, they have occurred with three different individuals, playing three different roles in my life- once, a complete stranger took care of my bill, another time a fellow parent at my daughter's school covered a portion of my order, and lastly, one of the employee's happily chipped in her PIF money to cover the remaining bit of my tab. 

I know it may seem small to some, but to me, these were breathtakingly beautiful moments. Like going from a world of black and white while proceeding to jump into a cold plunge pool or an ice cold river, only to come up, cold but rejuvenated and feeling very much alive, now able to see color for the very first time.

Could it be that despite the many horrors that are going on worldwide, despite the many, many talented individuals that died this year, and despite the political chaos we have/continue to experience as a nation, perhaps, despite all of this, people are remembering that we need to take care of each other, be kind, do for one another in any small way that we can?

I think so. Perhaps I am an eternally naive optimist, but I truly believe this in my heart of hearts and soul of souls, and I do not think that I am alone. 

I can feel it. Like a static electricity in the air, jumping from person to person, similar to a radar beam. A virus of the heart.

I can see it in the social media realm as people come together to fight for various injustices in our world- Syria, veterans, LGBTQ, womens, and POC's rights, equality, or DAPL, to name just a few. It is apparent in the not-so-secret online groups where thousands of people are sharing beautiful, tear-jerking stories about experiencing acts of kindness, sometimes by a group of people, but often just from a single soul, fighting against hate and bigotry. I witness it as scientists, activists and regular citizens are coming together in droves in an attempt to secure our environment and planet in any way possible. A protego maximo on us all.

Even though I reside in the Aloha State, I have personally experienced this on my morning walks where the common place, yet rushed "Hello" and "Good morning" has now been upgraded to add a softness and a yearning to meet the eyes- from theirs to mine, and mine back to theirs; seeking a true connection, to relate.

It reminds me of an event called Worthshop I recently had the pleasure of attending and two speakers that stood out.

The first was Dougan Cuceloglu, Ph. D, (the information on this link is in Turkish), and he touched on this very topic of what it means to relate. Specifically, he is a well traveled man and his message was, despite the cultural differences he has experienced with people's ability to relate and connect, he continues to witness acts of "relation" in small ways such as a when others give up their good seat on a plane or a bus, just so some stranger can be more comfortable. To see someone talk about this with such wonder and excitement reminded me there is magic in these interactions, and if a man of his age still has hope, we all can step back in line.

The second speaker, Kumu Hina, is someone I feel is very much in tune with her dhi. Her message was simple, but compelling: KNOW YOURSELF.

You feel it when she walks into a room. Her energy and mere existence are power in the physical form because it is very obvious she knows who she is and is living her purpose. You know these people. When you speak to them, it's as if they exude electricity and light and sometimes it is almost intimidating to look them in the eyes, but you cannot bear to look elsewhere because they hypnotize and draw you in.

Her story was brief, but told a tale of pain, inner turmoil, failure, and ultimately a survival of the soul- in a world where it may be easier to ignore your dhi, instead- know you, be you.

So what is dhi?

Gut. Intuition. Inner voice.

It is a word of sanskrit origin. If intuition is a sailboat, dhi is the wind that moves the sailboat across the sea, getting you to the right place at the right time. Dhi is the light of the inner teacher that lives within us all. It is always there, no matter how dark the world may seem, how unfocused and scattered the mind may appear, or how negative that voice might be, dhi remains, persevering, hangin tough.

Although the location of my three PIF experiences is one that I frequent often, on those occasions, I had no plan or intention of going there that day. But I did have a feeling. A little tug. A whisper in my ear to listen. And so I did, and found myself in the right place at the right time, every time.

This whole experience- these three, separate individuals that gifted me with my PIF moments- are basically my own version of Scrooged, reminding me that it is okay, no, it is NECESSARY to listen to myself, and to believe in people. As individuals. As a group. As a society.

To relate and to know that I am the good things. We are the good things. YOU'RE THE GOOD THINGS. YEAH THAT'S YOU, YEAH THAT'S YOU, YEAH. 

***Interestingly enough, as I was editing this post, I received a message that I had just won an online giveaway...***




Music is



I talk of this often- my love/affinity for and obsession with music.

It began with my Pops, bled into the people I chose to surround myself with as a teen, culminated with me marrying a musician, (also with the initials MP...insert interesting observation here), and writing this blog, which almost always includes music in some fashion.

But what I want to talk about today isn't just how great music is or how much I love it, (*yawn*), I am talking about something deeper and more powerful: the songs that go beyond "getting" you. These are the ones that you don't just feel, they feel you. Even more so, they let you feel whatever it is you are feeling so you don't shove it into a box in the corners of your mind. Whatever feeling it is, it needs to be felt, to be moved through, and music has that power- it takes you by the hand and whispers, "Come with me. Trust me." And you do, because you can and you must.

Here are mine, in no particular order:

  1. My Bloody Valentine- Soon. This one requires a car, a long and windy road, the window down and the sound to be turned all the way up. What I love about this song is that the voice is second stage and the lyrics are barely audible, but the music...the music is like a wall of sound that washes over you and cleanses your soul, much like an ice cold waterfall; heightening all your senses and reminding you that you are present and indeed alive. *For when you are feeling overwhelmed*
  2. Big Time Sensuality- The Fluke Remix. This song not only urges me to dance, but makes me feel full of childlike wonder and anticipation for adventure, merriment, and whimsy as well. Picture getting dressed up in ridiculous clothing and perfourmance dancing while embarking on a scavenger hunt for a pot of gold at the end of the rainbow, but the pot is not full of gold, and instead includes a virtual reality headset that when you put on, you become Bjork in this very music video. Check and mate. *For when you seek adventure*
  3. Prince and The Revolution- Let's Go Crazy. This song has a direct line to my thespian, art-nerd-soul-bone. When played in my presence,  I am Prince. It is that powerful. Much like a role in a play or a movie, this song has the ability to swallow you up, whoever you are, and spit you back out as a short, curly haired, purple-suede-suit-wearing musical genius with moves that will seduce your heart and gyrate on your soul. Try it sometime. *For when you need to feel like someone else*
  4. Bruce Springsteen- I'm on Fire.  As soon as I hear that guitar plucking sound, I am thrown back in time to memories of this record spinning in the player, Bruce's jean-covered butt on the cover, and my Mom and I dancing in our living room. Much like the warmth of your lover's voice as they whisper in your ear, this song draws you in, wraps you up in it's tender and safe arms, adding just a dash of sadness and deep thoughts. *For when you need some warm introspection*
  5. Outkast- SpottieOttieDopaliscious. Let's just stop right here and cut to the chase. Unless you live your life as a celibate human being or are a corpse, this song will call you to engage in it's one sole purpose- sex. *For when you need to feel sexy, want to have sex, or are already having sex, in which case, you need to stop what you are doing and put it on*
  6. Gustavo Santaolalla- Apertura, from the film, The Motorcycle Diaries. Much like the movie, this song calls you to travel, but not by car. Try a train, motorcycle, boat, bike, or on foot. You need to feel the sun on your skin, the wind whipping through your hair as you walk or ride upon a path, smelling the dank earth seeping into your nostrils. This one calls you to travel not for the sake of traveling, but because you yearn to discover more about our world and your tiny, but significant role within her. *For discovery- first outward, then inward*
  7. Modest Mouse- Night on the Sun. Most Modest Mouse songs illicit a traveling feel to them, and this one is no exception, but there is also dirt and grit here. This one perseveres. It has backbone. It endures and reminds you that you too are made of steel, determination, and resolve. *For when you need a kick in the ass*
  8. HAIM- Forever. Whether you are a fan of pop music or not, this song will call you to move. Seriously. Put it on and will yourself to remain still. I triple dog dare you. This one is particularly fun to listen to after you have hiked up a mountain, as you make your descent down. *For when you need a little pep in your step* (As an added bonus and a special shout out to my love, once you ascend that mountain and you are at the tippy top, sweating, full of adrenaline and the feeling that you can do anything, this is the song for you: Painted Highways- Up on the Mountain.)
  9. The Cure- Just Like Heaven. Oh, man. Much like #5, does this one need much of an intro? There were at least 5 Cure songs I could have picked for this piece, but I kept coming back to this one. No matter my emotional state, this song moves me to feel to something even greater than hope- a promise. A promise that there is love in our world. So much love. For you. For me. Even for her. *For when you need the promise of enduring love*
  10. The Smashing Pumpkins- 1979. Everyone has that one song that reminds them what it felt like to be an invincible and carefree, angst-ridden adolescent. This is mine. And in that regard, it is very grounding as it allows you to remember, (both as a human being and perhaps as a parent), what it was truly like to be that age. I will have to keep this one in my back pocket for when my kids begin this stage. *For when you are feeling nostalgic*
  11. The Sandpipers- Glass. This one is very personal as it is performed by none other than my Pops. Funny thing, I discovered this song after he died via a picture of stained glass and some song lyrics hanging in his hallway, probably been there since the dawn of time. No one in the family had ever heard it before, and when we listened to it, we just cried. A beautiful, cathartic, and necessary cry. *For when you need to grieve or just need a good cry*

This was a difficult list to make and there are many, MANY more that I could add, but for the purpose of being succinct and starting somewhere, that'll do, pig.

What are your feel me songs?

*For those that are into just listening and not having to click over and over again, here is the playlist of the above songs on Spotify. Minus Prince of course, cause even though he is a sexy, MF, his little red corvette ain't down with Spotify*



That voice


There she is again.

That damn voice. Sometimes she sounds like me. Sometimes she takes the form of my angry mom voice. Sometimes, she resembles a younger, less experienced me. Sometimes she sounds like my judgmental and logical Dad. But ALWAYS, she is a damn seductress

Often times, she doesn't stand a chance. Not even her shadow can get in the door. On other occasions, I invite her in, and like that one hippy friend we all had in college, she makes your couch her home, eats all your food, and douses the place with patchouli. (I had more than one of these friends actually, because Santa Cruz)

Then, after you realize that she's got to go and you give her the boot, a month later, you're all snuggled up on your couch, burrowing your face in one of the pillows...almost at peace. Almost because you are still huffing that damn patchouli oil. (Sorry to any patchouli lovers out there. I'm more of a nag champa or insert-any-hawaiian-flower-here kind of lover)

Of course, how I have dealt with Mistress voice continues to morph and change throughout the years.

My teen angst self wrote poems about her, cried endlessly to her lullabies, attempted to drown her out with theatre and music- The Cure and Smashing Pumpkins usually did the trick, and, sometimes, I was able to talk her into exiting stage right. 

My 20's self was so busy - school, work, practicum, booze, partying, travel, perfourmances, getting married, acquiring a masters degree and my license, birthing a child, and becoming a mother, that she only made cameo appearances in my life. But those brief visits were like CAT 5 storms, strong enough to decimate a large village, pushed to the brink of no return.

I think my 30's and current self struggle with her the most. She has now turned into a bi-polar voice of sorts. Often times, she affirms the confidence I feel in myself as a wife, mother, woman, daughter, and creative. Others, she is a RAGING B.

When she is great, she's like my inner, little me- the one that is not my ego or attachments, but the unchanged, has-existed-forever-as-simply-light, me. Much like a Snuggie, a warm cup of tea, your favorite pair of jeans, or that one song that just gets you...and she absolutely sounds like Luna Lovegood from Potter- affirming, yet melodic, always there to offer some sound advice.

I recently stumbled upon a conversation between Brene Brown and Oprah regarding shame and the idea of our shadow- judgment, fear, shame, that voice. The premise is that in order to move, we must have our shadow in front of us- "Keep the shadow up front, it can only take you down from behind."

If only I had a Marauder Map of my own brain, body, and spirit so I could see that voice coming and catch her off guard- "Stupefy!", I would yell whilst madly waving my wand.

Funny thing, it wasn't until after I wrote this piece that I realized the song that was stuck in my head all the while was Peter Gabriel's, That Voice. Although it is a song that I vaguely knew most of the lyrics to by heart, I took a gander at them and realized that he and I were talking about one in the same- that voice

One of his lyrics stood out to me the most- Only love can make love. 

*Cue the aha-moment music.*

Pardon me, my brain was full of wrackspurts, but good ole Luna came to the rescue yet again. Know it, own it, befriend it, love it, hold hands with it, and for the love of toast, keep it in front of you...after all, it is us...just as much a part of us as our skin, blood, hair, bones, heart, or toenails. 

So, grab your little me and call it by it's name- that voice, shame, guilt, anger, or good ole fashioned judgment, then, once the goo goo eyes and footsy are through, look that voice straight in the eye and repeat after me- you have no power over me












Parents *maybe* just do understand

They really might.


Do you remember the first time that you saw one of your teachers out on the town- to dinner, having a drink, at a movie, shopping, or just sitting in a park? If you were like me, when you saw this freak-show-rarity, you froze, both in awe and inquisition. Did they see me?! What are they doing here?! Why are they drinking beer?! They came to see Scary Movie 2 in the theatre too?! 

It is then that you realized they do not exist to merely teach you, grade you, entertain you, and torture you. They exist OUTSIDE the school grounds as well. Unlike the avatars in Ready Player One, they are HUMAN AND HAVE A REAL LIFE outside of the school environment.

As simple as this realization may sound, I remember it being a bit of a game changer in the sense that I no longer saw my teachers in the same light. I felt like a veil had been lifted and I was granted a sneak peek at who they really were behind the desk. 

I know that I have had these experiences with my parents before, but none so profound as the one I had recently while watching old VHS tapes with my sister to celebrate what would have been our Father's 72nd Birthday. 

As soon as I became a parent, (and even more so when my children each entered the 2-4 age range of challenge), I felt a strong appreciation and gratitude for my own parents like I had never felt before. There were a lot of "Aha's/Oh's/So that's why's/I get it now's, & How did they do this's?!!" moments. 

I even sent them an email thanking them for specific moments in my childhood that I remember as especially meaningful, fun, or sacrificial on their part: monstrous, buckets-full-of-water, to create the end-all-be-all epic indoor water fight, waking me up at all hours of the night to witness various eclipses or meteor showers, the stories of me painting the walls with my own poop as an infant or one of us slapping the other sibling when they were born, (my Mom is not so great with remembering who did what), or when my parents quit their jobs and sold their house to move us all to Maui during a portion of our childhood because quality of life reigns supreme.

While these are great memories and tributes, my VHS tape experience is a whole new level of understanding. 

I always suggest writing as an outlet/emotional tool to students I work with, explaining that when you write, it's like having the ability to reach inside your brain, yank out everything that's swirling around inside, and, SPLAT, toss it on a page so you can really see it and attempt to form some semblance of understanding. It is much harder to suggest, "Just think about it"; much like the old saying- you can't see the forrest from the trees. Same goes with writing, the mind, and awareness. (For you non-writers out there, any form of art will do just fine as well)

I liken this analogy to watching my family on VHS, perhaps even more so with my Pops now being dead.

I saw my Pops excitedly showcase our view from the balcony of our new lanai in Maui, and I thought- now there is a man full of wonder, excitement and pride for having taken a risk, confident and comfortable that he made the right move for himself and his family because it was born from the heart. 

I saw my Mom give my Pops a "Don't. EVEN." look, and thought- I know that look. I give it to my husband when the kids are around and he knows I am pissed at him but do not want to show it for their sake, but he still tries to argue because he is the stubborn Libra that he is and should have been a damn lawyer.

I heard my Pops' patience wain thin as he attempted to divide it between his 3 daughters in the pool, all trying to show him our amazing swimming abilities, struggling because this showboat of a little girl would not stop talking- and thought, damn. That is me. ALL. THE. TIME. 

I saw my Pops try to keep the tight rope balancing act that is maintaining a sense of humor just enough to subtlety make fun of me without my knowledge, but realize that I was (always) smarter than he realized- and thought, oops! I do this with Lily all the time, and she is one smart girl; probably smarter than me when I was her age because she has her Father's wit and sarcasm thrown into the mix.

I saw patience. So much patience. Both the struggles and the wins.

When we truly are able to see ourselves in their eyes- is that it? Is this the key to unlocking this level of understanding, appreciation, and empathy? Is it like reading your favorite book a dozen times, yet still, each time you read it, you find something new? Like a hidden gem that has been hiding in plain sight? Or like that boss level from your favorite Super Mario game- after dying over and over again, and living a Bill Murrayesque, Groundhog Day life, you finally beat the game and are awarded with your prize- experience = knowledge = saving the princess?

I have written about this before, but it really is the seemingly most simple realizations that often times are the hardest to really "get."

Like this one: our parents are (were) real people with hopes, aspirations, doubts, a conscience wrought with guilt, and a heart ready to explode any minute as it busts at the seams, full of guts, love and blood.


So, if you are a parent and are wondering when that day will come where your children truly appreciate you, add 20 years to their age and you are probably getting close. Or if you are childless and are lucky to have either parent still alive, give em a call, (they really prefer this over a text), and pull a reverse Stuart Smalley- tell them they are good enough and dog gone it, you like them.  







The Sicilian gift of presence

I recently took a solo trip for the first time in a decade. Having an entire 5 ½ hour flight all to my lone, to drift off into sleep, sit in silence, or just read was the golden ticket in and of itself. 

I was lucky enough to have a lot of these moments during this trip- alone travel time. My favorite was taking a train from Oceanside to Ventura, where I got to hang with some of my cousins and spend some time with my 99 year-old Sicilian Grandma- she still drives. (This is her official title)

Being a lover of silence and a seeker of alone time, I reveled in my 4 ½ hour train ride. I got all up in it like a pig in slop

But it was hard work to be there- in the slop, having some “me time”, and I often danced between being in the moment, loving the sweet life I was living, to feeling guilty that I was enjoying myself while my husband was at home, being Mr Mom, (“South to drop off, moron!”) , and my kids were sans Mommy. Ecstatic geek dance meets the sad prom shuffle.

I thought about how earlier this year, on their very first train ride, we all traveled from Oceanside to Anaheim to go to Disneyland, (another first). As most kids do, they loved the train. My son, a few weeks shy of 3 at the time, barely spoke during the 1 ½ hour trip. (Which is a BIG deal if you have ever spent 1 ½ hours with a three year-old) . He just sat there, entranced by the entire experience, feeling the movements of the train as it shook and shimmied on the tracks, listening to the hum and beeps, glued to the sights and sounds of the outside world as we zoomed from town to town. Fully present. 

In between snapping pictures and recording video, my daughter, (5 ½ years-old at the time), would stare out the window, presumably deep in thought about her life, wondering where all the people in the cars were going as we drifted by...what was their story? Also fully present.

It reminded me of all the road trips I took as a child, and how beautiful the world always looked from the car window, and how I always seemed so small in comparison. Present perspective.

I began to look and listen, forcing myself to be present- Future Islands seducing my eardrums, looking out the window, somewhere near San Juan Capistrano now, letting the sunlight bounce off my closed eyelids, casting rainbow shadows across my face and the screen of my mind. Noticing the guy next to me, dancing in his seat a bit as he chooses his next song, another smiling at me as he watches me write, all living our own little lives. Watching sandpipers now pick out bugs from the water in the LA canals, thinking of the movie Grease and my Pops simultaneously.

Why is it that the most simple things are often times the hardest to grasp? 

Do you ever look at the world around you, with tears in your eyes, full of gratitude for all that you have in life?

My very own plastic bag realization.

I do, perhaps not often enough, but I did several times over the course of this week.

Sometimes, you don't really know you've experienced moments like these until they are gone.

It's like when you meditate. I often wondered when I first started out- how will I know when I am really meditating? When you are able to truly melt into kumbhaka, the natural space in-between breaths, after the exhale, before the inhale begins. And the answer is simple- you know you were there when you no longer are. 

The same goes for being present.

Presence. The answer to all of life's problems. The presence to feel pain and loneliness. The presence to feel it all and then nothing. 

While good ole Grams refused to allow me to interview her for this piece, (little does she know, I have solid gold- a good 45 minutes of voice recording with her stories about my Great Grandfather's alcohol making skills during the prohibition era, the Mafia, a fire- due to the alcohol being made in their basement, Sicily-Cleveland-Rochester-Los Angeles, war and death), I do believe, at the ripe age of 90-frickin'-9, she holds the secret to life, longevity, and living in the present:

  1. Drink a little beer every night. Her personal fav is MGD light. She drinks it out of a frosted glass from the freezer. All class, this one.
  2. Swear in a foreign language on the daily, preferably at someone you don't like as they leave the room, just loud enough for you to know it happened, but not loud enough for them to hear it. Vaffanculo puttana.
  3. Keep a solid routine- coffee, crossword puzzles, light brunch, read, bathroom, prepare delish Sicilian food, snack on said delish food for a late lunch, (she eats like a bird), more reading, some light gardening, dinner time, watch extremely loud, previously taped TV shows, read, bed, repeat. 
  4. Still drive yourself around and be all independent like a Sicilian boss. 
  5. Enjoy, revel in, and soak up the silence. Even during the  so called "uncomfortable silences". Mia Wallace and Vincent Vega say it best. 
  6. Say, "To hell with it, kid" a lot. 
  7. Hold onto grudges. No one knows how to hold onto a grudge quite like my Grams. Hell, perhaps that's part of the reason she's hung around so long. However, being that this goes against the sentiment in #6 and I am no grudge holding advocate, let's just say, hold on to something- your passions, creativity, love, or your butt. Yes. Hold onto your butts.
  8. Tell stories about your life while looking the other person in the eye instead of multi-tasking or looking at a screen. 

THIS. THIS is the most important part. Engage your senses. Be in the moment with your whole body- eyes, ears, nosehairs. It really is all about connection. Connection to yourself and connection to your life.

My Grandma's got it.

I'm working on it.









All the fails

All the fails


Every night, before my daughter goes to sleep, we have a little Q & A time. I ask her (at least) three things: tell me about a time you were brave today, tell me about a time you were kind today, and tell me about a time you failed today. (I do something similar with my son, but he is 3 ½ years old, so it looks a bit different)

I know we will all mess up our children to some degree, (and mine have the added bonus of having a therapist and a creative for a Mom..."How do you feel about this painting of a vagina?"), but I promise, there is an after-school-special-purpose to the ‘fail’ question.

I’m a firm believer that kids need to fail, make mistakes, fall, land on their feet, stumble…etc. Learning how to fail is as important as learning how to brush your teeth; one prevents cavities while the other exercises your “self-confidence/resilience/soul-shiner muscle”. Oh, you did not know you had one of those?! Well, you do. We can’t see it of course, but it’s there. Think of it like an invisibility cloak for your outer body, which also can penetrate through your skin, tissue, muscle, tendons, cartilage, organs, blood…all of it. If this muscle had a jingle, it would most definitely be: “Just let your soul glo! Let it shine through.”

Although she did not really understand the question at first, (brave and kind are no brainers), she is getting there. And her answers are hilarious- “I wrote the word ‘T’ wrong.” Me: “And then what happened?” “I wrote it wrong again and again.” Me: “And then what happened?” “And then I got it. So I failed”.

Apart from hearing the sweet stories about her day vis-a-vis brave knight, kind princess, and dopey, the failing elf, one of my favorite things is when she gets to turn the questions on me. She really likes to ask me about disgust…not sure if this is residue from Inside Out, or she just really wants to know what gets under my skin, but I have found that I am now forced to really think about honesty: do I really tell her what disgusted me today? And the answer is, it depends. She does not need to know that when I watched the last episode of Transparent, (which is an AMAZING show), and saw one of the main character’s spread his friend’s ashes into the sea, that I had a visceral reaction which vacillated between sadness, fascination, and disgust, as it reminded me of the smell and texture of my Dad’s ashes, (READ: crunchy, bone, cartilage, & oddly sweet smelling). I have no problem discussing death and the death of her Poppa with her, but feelings of disgust about his ashes, right before bed? Nah. Instead I will talk about feeling disgusting after exercise, as it is still bloody hot over here in Hawai’i and I sweat just by merely existing, let alone walking in the AM.

Of course there will come a time when I can and will be more honest with her regarding answers to questions like this one. Especially with ye old failure, as she is such a powerful teacher.

In the meantime however, I thought I’d share with you some of my most epic failures. My top 3 fails, if you will:


1)    This one is so good that it even made it into one of the speeches given at my wedding: I swallowed my engagement ring and had to pound prune juice in order to poop into a plastic bag and retrieve it.

Mic drop? Still with me? How does this work, you ask? Well, it puts the ring in it's mouth and it swallows it.

The best part is that it took about a day and a half to pass through my body, so I had to carry around a bunch of plastic bags with me wherever I went...and we were on a mini-vacation, so there was a lot of eating out. I will never forget the phone call to my Doctor, having to repeat myself as he could not believe what I had just said, and him freaking me out with stories of swallowed things getting stuck in these “little pockets” we have throughout our body. Gee, thanks, Doc.

Now, we get to relive my awesomeness each year on our anniversary, when we watch our wedding video.

And the million-dollar question you are all wondering- did I learn my lesson about not putting random things in my mouth?

No. No I did not.

2)    After I went through a rather painful and confusing part of my life, (READ: my mid twenties), where I did my fair share of practicing dishonesty and infidelity, I was “gifted” some free time to sort my brain out. I did some great things during this time like fail at learning how to drive stick, rescue my friend from a rushing river, made out with a stranger, (and some others I absolutely should not have), traveled to Belgium to spend time with my best friend, only to turn around and leave after a day or two, (before she had even arrived to meet up with me, mind you), more lying…you get the picture. So, I clearly failed at being given the “gift of free time/a sort your shit out period”. But I am more interested in the things that I chose NOT to do as prime epic fail examples:

a.     I did not do a silent yoga/meditation retreat. Talk about a more perfect time to be still with your thoughts! Nope. Didn’t want to do it. Was not ready.

b.     I did not go on an epic solo trip across the US or to any other amazing destination in our great world. (The extended lay-over in Belgium does not count in my book)

c.     I did not learn something new and amazing like write a book, learn a foreign language, how to make bread, how to whittle wood, hike the stairway to heaven, read all the Potter books, become a wizard myself, or build something amazing…like a table.

d.     I did not pursue my creativity more: writing, drawing, or acting (see below for more details).

e.     Anything. Else. Awesome.

3)    Not pursuing acting more. I have loved acting since I was a child. In college, when seeking the all-powerful and mighty wisdom of my late Pops, he suggested I choose Psychology over Theatre as a major, as one is more of a “sure thing” than the other, both professionally and financially. Perhaps this is because he lived as an artist for a good portion of his life and wanted to save me from the struggles that such a lifestyle most assuredly provides. Perhaps he saw me act and thought to spare me from the sea of rejections I was destined to drown in. Who knows. But, being the great listener that I am, I followed his advice. And here we are today.


All Dad blaming aside, I absolutely failed at putting myself out there in terms of auditions, seeking roles, taking risks and just trying! Although I am essentially in the same place, (and am a fabulous yoga teacher/creative/counselor/therapist), I know that there will come a time when I will try again…and most assuredly fail. But that’s okay. Because if my daughter’s experience in failure thus far is writing “T” wrong a few times and finally getting it, she will think I am a warrior of epic proportions. The Epic Warrior of Failure.

Not a bad title to have as it means life has been lived, love has been lost and gained, rings have been retrieved, and tables have been made. All good things, all good things.




The Mostly Dead

The Mostly Dead

With his birthday coming up and almost two years since his death from cancer, I finally feel like I am able to be humorous about the overall topic of death and, more specifically, my experience with witnessing the death of my Dad…and all that led up to it and is yet to come.

While this post may be sad at times, and there remains a forever hole in my heart in his absence, I’m ready for the dark humor; an attempt to throw some glitter on that death hump, honey, and talk about the ugly, while having a laugh at the same time. (Here is an excellent and short video by my Ayurvedic teacher, (who also is a therapist), about how to heal that forever hole should you be interested).

  1. As soon as you find out that someone you love is dying, this is when the grieving process begins- not after they die, as most of us might be led to believe. The five stages of grief begin the moment you become aware of impending, absolute, inevitable death. Coming to grips with this, i.e. the “acceptance” stage, is perhaps the worst part of the entire process. (As far as stages go, I have found that our paths are not always linear…and that is okay!)

  2. Get ready to be a disappointment in their eyes. Remember, they are dying and are not “all there”. So, when they are told that they can no longer drive and they think that they made a deal with you, the “the cool one”, who will let them drive anyway and not tell on them, but then they take off and are “missing” for a while, and you are nervous because you don’t know if they forgot where they are, don’t know what day it is, hit a pedestrian, or are simply at the nearest Mc Donald’s for their usual- a coffee and the paper, and you have to “tell on them” for their own safety and that of the public, so you do the hard thing and call the cops, but after they arrive home safely, hide them when the cops show up so they do not know how much of a rat you really were. Filthy rat. Yeah. You might be a big disappointment! Huge.

  3. If your situation was similar to mine and you are not a millionaire or wealthy by any means, then you and your family will be divvying up the care-taking responsibilities for your loved one like objects at an auction. There may be someone, (probably the person living closest to the almost or mostly dead loved one or someone without small children and a more flexible job), that might be doing more than others. This will wear on them. They might let you know this. They might not. If you are physically and emotionally able, do your part to help to the best of your ability. For our family, this meant taking shifts, making meals, dispensing meds, helping to bathe him…I even made a large, bright and sunny calendar to put on the fridge for my Pops to see every day, complete with simple daily tasks and an inspirational quote or two: “I know you’re dying, but how about this picture of a cat…it says hang in there. Huh, huh?!” (As I elbow him annoyingly) I should have just made one like this for him. At least it might have brought him a chuckle or two.

  4. They will say funny things like make premonitions about your future- “You will be doing so much writing and research”, (what?!), or be completely contradictory- say Obama was “actually a good president”, when they in fact were a staunch Republican and Bush lover, or do something random-  Om a lot out of nowhere. I regret not getting these on film and/or at least voice recordings. Whip out those smart phones and get ready for the magic!                                    

  5. There will be shit. If you are a parent, pet owner or have dealt with the mostly dead yourself, you know this. It’s like having that puppy, kitten, or toddler all over again. I will never forget the day I saw my Dad shuffling through the house with his saggy jeans on, leaving poop trails as he meandered down the stairs, with this smirk on his face that can only be likened to that of a toddler who just took a dump in the cat box and is dying inside, just waiting for you to find it. Yeah, death is the shit. Literally.

  6. Let them drink all the alcohol and eat all the edibles. Well, not all of them. Then they’ll end up glued to the wall, afraid that if they move, they will fall off said wall and down through the floor, into the bog of eternal stench. For my Pops, it was margaritas and pot cookies…often times mixed in or substituted with lemonade and regular ‘ole chocolate chip cookies so the above situation did not happen…again. Keeping track of which ones were the real ones was always fun, like a game of scratch and sniff. And he always knew the difference. Always. And would let us know with a begrudged smirk and side eye, but ate and drank anyway, like the good little “patient” that he was.

  7. Talk about it with them. I was robbed of this unfortunately, because my Pops, being the sweet but very stubborn man that he was, would not talk about the fact that he was dying with any of us. Now that I am a parent, I get it. That would be an impossibly hard conversation to have with my daughter or son, but I would like to think I would do it anyway, at least for their sake, so they would know we were all in this together and to validate the very real and difficult experience that we were all going through, in our own unique ways.

  8. Have those hard to do things done, and again, divvy them up- will, POA, access to all accounts- emails, passwords, banks, etc. This is the small but tedious and time-consuming stuff that I found stressful to have to deal with after the fact.

  9. Get hospice involved as soon as you can. I feel like these people must have to endure the world’s worst obstacle course in order to be deemed worthy enough to serve as a hospice worker. Running in the heat, tripping on tires, wading through mud, all the while, everything from blood, sweat, tears, urine, feces, obscenities, and spit are all being thrown at them. Like the slime and obstacle course from the show, Double Dare , but on steroids and with the mostly dead.

  10. Find some way to be with your family and the mostly dead as they are actively dying. Even if you cannot physically be there, (for whatever reason), find a way to become involved in some manner. Your soul will thank you later.

  11. GIVE yourself time.

  12. LOTS of time.

  13. ALL the time.

  14. When you are ready, do something meaningful as a means of closure- spread their ashes, (perhaps not on a windy day whilst standing on a cliff?), take them with you on a road trip, talk to them every night before you go to sleep…whatever works for you and has meaning to you.

  15. Find ways to keep them in your life. Perhaps this means celebrating their birthday’s, writing letters to/from them when you need advice, talking loudly to them in the grocery store as if they are standing right next to you, for all to see…whatever floats your boat, do it. No judgments.

  16. You will forget what they look like at times. This is “normal” and okay, but really, really, REALLY hard. Sometimes I need a picture to remind me of what he looked like when he was happy. Sometimes all I can see when I close my eyes are his hands, and how I held them after he died, never wanting to let them go.

  17. Write about it. Even if it’s a letter to yourself, to them, or a detailed account of everything that you went through, whatever…it will not only serve as a cathartic experience for you, but as a way to remember the rawness of it all and what really went down so when you become the mostly dead yourself, all old and senile, taking a joy ride against all better judgment, leaving poop trails across the floor, it might just seem like a bad case of deja vu.

  18. And, lastly. GIVE YOURSELF TIME. ALL THE TIME. AGAIN WITH THE TIME. And I don’t mean Morris Day & the Time, but let’s just throw them in for good measure. 




Every time you go away, you take a piece of meat with you- Misheard Lyrics

You may have loved Paul Young’s “Every time you go away” as much as I did, but I did not just love it for it’s smooth 80’s rock ballad self. No. I heard this song and literally pictured a man walking down the street, dressed in business attire, (complete with a suit and fedora hat), with a small, yet juicy piece of steak clutched between his fingers. I actually believed this to be the exact lyric until I was well into my 20’s and some poor soul, (probably my husband), popped my steak bubble and ruined it for me. Meat juice everywhere.

You see, I not only held on to this image for the greater part of 2 decades, but I cherished it so much so that it had become a part of me.

Although I still sing it my way, the song has never been or meant the same to me since. This is the power of belief!

Someone may very well have heard me singing this song as a little girl, perhaps my Mom or Dad, peering into the backyard as I made “soup” out of dog food for the 100th time, and thought, “Do I correct her? Nope, poor sap. I’m just gonna let her have this one”. Others, most certainly an older kid at school and a mouth breather may have heard me humming my version of said lyrics and made a point to let me know that I was singing it all wrong. If so, I do not remember. And yet, it is very probable that a scenario like this did happen. So, why did I not remember it? The answer is simple- stubborn belief. My own version of the song was (is) so much better, that I didn’t even recognize the real (lamer) version of the song as truth.

One of the ways Psychology explains this is through self-deception; our ability to rationalize or deny logic and reason for our own version of truth, or lack thereof. I find a more powerful way to contemplate this is through yoga with the Sanskrit term, avidya. Avidya literally translates to without or wrong knowledge. It also means ignorance and is the opposite of the word for correct knowledge, vidya. The ‘a’ at the beginning of the word is what changes the entire meaning. What simply clever and succinct yogis!

I have encountered avidya many times in my 34 years on this planet. I still struggle with the belief that I am not a good enough ______________, (fill in the blank depending on my day- mother, wife, artist, writer, creative…)

While this is constant work for me, there is one experience with a student and a family that I still remember vividly to this day as the perfect example of avidya. Enter Matt. (Not his real name).

I had been working with Matt for about four years now and he had the outward appearance of your typical teen and stereotypical “troublemaker”. He always had some snarky thing to say, (read- a great sense of humor), often argumentative with teachers & didn’t do his work, experimented with drugs, had lots of “bling” in his ears, (all typical teen behavior and attire)…the kind of kid that if either of my children brought home to meet me, I would scream inside while smiling and shaking his hand. However, I will need to remember this when that time comes because I had the pleasure of really getting to know this young man and he was, and is, a very loving, funny, smart, loyal, and giving human being.

Matt was about to graduate and was having his last parent-teacher-student conference of the year, so I made sure to be there to sprinkle the joy. One of the best parts of being a Socio-Emotional School Counselor is that you get to be the joy sprinkler at these types of things, often shedding light for these students’ families on how amazing their offspring truly are. In fact, this should have been my exact title- ***Sprinkler of Joy***.

This is exactly what happened on the day in question. I was sprinkling my joy all over Matt and his parents. They were crying. I was crying. Then I said something that unearthed a belief that had unfortunately stuck with them throughout the years. I know this because when I said it, they cried exceedingly hard tears of joy, the kind that can only be reserved for when someone else finally sees their child for what they know as truth, buried beneath the avidya. I said- “I feel that somewhere along the line in Matt’s life, someone told him he was a bad kid and a poor student. And this has stuck with him and impacted him in many ways. I do not see this, nor have I ever seen this to be true.”

Sprinkle, sprinkle, sprinkle.

I said a whole lot more of course, and would like to think that I yanked off this layer of avidya that day so everyone could see it for what it truly was- a shitty mask. A misheard lyric. His very own, albeit much more emotionally devastating, popped steak bubble. But I cannot be sure, and that’s okay.

Thanks to social media, I am still able to keep in contact with him and see that he appears to be living a happy, healthy, and ***sparkly*** life.

Hell, if Louis CK can move through life truly believing that the word “vagina” was pronounced “vaginer”, there is hope for us all. (Yes, I made sure you have to click on the word "vaginer" to watch this amazingly funny clip which is probably NSFW).

***Sprinkle*** on.

P.S., a little gift before you leave- the best misheard lyrics of all time. Make me fries!






A solid soul and the blood I bleed...and poop

A solid soul and the blood I bleed…and poop

“There isn’t much that I feel I need. A solid soul and the blood I bleed”

Animal Collective’s My Girls starts out with the sweetest and simplest way to define what I feel comprises a “good life”.  (Don’t worry. If you started reading this blogpost because it has poop in the title, hang with me. I shall not disappoint)

As life is an avalanche of time where days turn into weeks, weeks into years, and years, your entire existence…I am curious- what constitutes as a truly awesome day for the rest of us un-amazing musicians? If you could close your eyes and picture your ideal day, (I mean, really give it some time here), what would it look like? What would it feel like? What would it smell like? What would it taste like? What would it sound like?

Here’s mine, in no particular order:


1)    I am a huge nerd. No one knows this better than my husband. And the sad part is, he only gets to see one-tenth of it, as the rest is locked up in my nerd closet, only acted out on the screen of my mind…all day, every day. But, what he does see, he likes. To watch and make fun of…in jest, and in love, so it’s all good. Here goes. One of my favorite things to do is choreograph “perfourmances” to various songs. (I discovered what a “perfourmance” was years back while channel surfing and was mesmerized. Essentially, “perfourmances” are bad-awesome performance art pieces in the act of movement). Most of these “perfourmances” never see the light of day. Are they great? No. Are they even creative? Perhaps. But dammit, they are fun. If Haim’s recent performance of Prince’s I Would Die 4 U had sex with Perfume Genius’s Queen, you would get a glimpse of my art nerd, thespian, “perfourmer” soul and might be close to understanding what this obviously AWESOME baby might look like. Usually this plays out as dance sessions with my kids, because really, who cares what you look like in front of your children?

2)    Words. I have began to notice that as I started writing more, I will literally see words form in my brain, connecting together to form sentences, and a theme, and so on. This usually happens either as I am exercising or when I am just about to fall asleep at night. Go figure.

3)    Colors. Although I have been drawing off and on all of my life, it wasn’t until I started creating art on a more regular basis that I began to see colors. And unlike with words where I only see them here and there, I see colors all the time. (Play that back again as the kid from The Sixth Sense reading off his dead people line…much cooler). I’ve seen them the most when I meditate actually, which has resulted in some of my best art to this day.


1)    Oily skin. Yes, I am one of those people that rub coconut oil all over their skin. And it is not just because it is good for my skin or I like the way it makes my skin look and feel, it is part of my dinacharya or ayurvedic routine; one that helps to provide optimal health for body, mind, and soul. Even better, when I do it with love and not in a harried rush, it can penetrate through the koshas, or layers of the body…straight to my art nerd soul. A win-win for all!

2)    My yoga mat. Sticky, yet supportive. Sometimes, I don’t even use one, but the mat represents a commitment to myself. Whether I get 5 or 30 mins, it really doesn’t matter.

3)    My childrens’ tiny hands. Held between my fingers. Tickling my sides. Squishing my cheeks. Pushing me away. Even when an attempt to hit me after I lay down some rules they do not appreciate is thwarted by my lightning quick yoga moves. Anyway I can get it, I’ll take it. 


1)    Poop. Yes. And this time, I am not talking about my children… This is another part of my dinacharya, (see Feel #1 for a quick reminder about the meaning behind that puzzle of a word). This is not rocket science. For optimal health- body, mind, and soul, (yes, your soul even benefits when you are not backed up, weighted down, and muddled with day old poop)- pooping every day is the way to play. Ideally, right when you get up, before you start your day. Get it out so you can fill ‘er right back up, is what I say.

2)    The outdoors. This is really the “fill in the blank, choose your own adventure” kind of portion of this piece. Dirt. Ocean mist. Jungle. Freshly cut grass. I need to be outside at some point in the day. It is that straight forward. There really is so much beauty in dirt.

3)    Ocean. I really do not even need to see it or get in it, (although I am lucky enough to be able to gaze upon it’s wonder each and every single day). But, I do need to be close enough to smell it. This is extremely achievable, as I live on a TINY ISLAND.


1)    There she goes with coconut oil and that mouthful of a word, dinacharya again. Yes. Apart from lathering that slippery good stuff all over my body every day, I also oil pull every morning. For those that are not aware of oil pulling, you simply put about a tablespoon of coconut oil in your mouth, swish it around for about 5-10 minutes, spit it out in the trash, (not the toilet or the sink, as it is an oil after all and will clog that ish up), and then scrape your tongue with your friendly tongue scraper. Why? According to my dentist, my teeth are white and my gums are exceedingly healthy as a result of oil pulling. While that is all fine and dandy, I mostly oil pull to rid the body of ama- excess waste in the body and mind built up from food and past impressions/experiences, among other things.

2)    Tea. Again, very straightforward. My personal favorites are Numi’s Aged Earl Grey and Yamamotoyama’s Genmai-cha.

3)    Sweat. I never used to sweat. Seriously. Not while kickboxing, running, or even hiking Oahu’s famous Kokohead stairs. I might have perspired a bit, but never really sweat. And perhaps this is a great case for global warming or a testament to the fact that I will be 35 this year, but I am finally able to break a sweat! Is it strange that my ability to sweat excites me? Maybe. But, I appreciate it for what it is- proof that I exercised and that my body is strong and works beautifully.


1)    Music. Although I do not play an instrument or call myself a musician, all my life has been and continues to be music. My father was a musician, my husband is a musician, and I am pretty sure those veins that stick out in my son’s neck every time he screams or sings, or perhaps even his ability to keep a beat at three years-old, are a testament to the fact that we will most definitely have another musician in the family. All this aside, I love music. I quote music. (Captain obvious- this title and my “perfourmance” bit). I sing music. I listen to music. I talk about music. Music. Is. Life. Ya hear?

2)    Laughter. Even after 20 years of being together, my husband can still make me laugh. Hard. The silent laughter, where it almost looks as if I am having a seizure or perhaps have passed out, but I breathe in the end, so you know I am okay. It is an essential part of why our marriage is so successful. And I am eternally grateful for it.

3)    Movies/shows/performances. Interestingly enough, this whole section thus far has directly involved my husband, and this one is no exception. I have always loved and appreciated the art of performing- whether it be a film, show, or a theatrical performance. I love watching them. I love being in them. I love the smell backstage. I love critiquing and discussing them. I quote them on the daily. Luckily, I found someone that shares this obsession/love with me. Hooray us!

   And one extra for good measure:

4)    Silence. It has taken me a great while to truly understand what I have sensed for a long time about myself- I need silence. In fact, I crave it most of the time. This can be in the form of a morning meditation, or choosing to not listen to music during my walk, or even hiding in the bathroom for 5 minutes, pretending to take a long poop, (which I never do…I’ve always been an efficient pooper, what can I say?). It does not matter the means, as long as it results in some form of silence.

So there you have it. If I were to have all of these, in some form every day, I would probably be the world’s most content, passionate, colorful, efficient bad-ass around. Perhaps I need to figure out a way for this to be…perhaps. Which leads me to a challenge for you- what comprises your “ideal day?” A “perfourmance” about poop?!! You, bad-ass, you.







Get crazy with the Cheez Whiz- Kindness is the worst

I can remember the very first time I heard Beck’s, Loser. I was in the 6th grade and my friend Rachel popped the cassette in as we left school one day. She was excited to show it to me and almost immediately I could see why. I loved it. Instantaneously, I wanted to crawl inside of it and make babies.

Rachel was never a best friend or even one of my semi-closer friends, as close friends go in the 6th grade. But she always had great taste in music and had this grounded chillness to her that, in retrospect, I would liken to that of an old soul. But we rarely hung out 1:1. And the reason, *sigh*, is just sad. Before I tell you, let me preface this by explaining that I was never “the popular kid”, however, I was privileged enough to be a social butterfly that fluttered among the thespians, poets, writers, artists, nerds, skaters, and “popular kids”.

Rachel was neither a “popular kid” nor a floater, like me. She was more of an outcast or an outlier; seemingly content riding solo or in a group. Remember. Grounded chillness. She did not appear to need much socially. Combine this and her taste in music and I would wager a guess that she is THE AWESOME now.

But, for me, (although I truly enjoyed her company when we would hang out), she was one of those friends that I would ditch in a heartbeat when a “cooler” kid would come along.

Yes. We have all been on the giving or receiving stick of this self-confidence mutilating dilemma. And at times, I was one of the “ditchers”. Such an un-kind, a-hole move. I know.

And it wasn’t until I began writing this piece and heard my daughter utter this sentence: “It’s really hard to be kind all the time/I am the worst”, that I remembered Rachel and the song, Loser.

We have always taught our daughter that one of the most important things she can do in life, (and that which she can control), is to be kind. The Golden Rule. Karma. If you don’t have anything nice to say, don’t say anything at all. Always be kind. (Don’t worry, we also taught her to speak her mind, that her voice/thoughts/feelings are important, how and when to practice ‘Scream, Run, Tell’, and that boys have a penis and girls have a vagina.)

If you google ‘being kind’ or even just the word, ‘kind’, you get a plethora of various websites and links about the importance of being kind. Here are just a few:
This one was a kindness challenge that I decided to try and failed miserably in that I stopped “playing” after challenge # 5...or was it #4...
And lastly, this one talks about the benefits of being kind, including that you will live a longer, presumably happier life. (More on living long and prosperous in a future blog post)

All this from just a quick search on kindness. Did I miss the memo? Did we all wake up and become a bunch of raging assholes. (Again, re-read in John Oliver’s voice. SO much more enjoyable. Someone needs to make an app that does this! I can’t be the only one. Anyone? Bueller?)

Oh, wait. I got the memo. I AM the memo. And not just my 6th grade, unkind a-hole self. Like the rest of the Internet, I have been trying to ram kindness home with my 6 year-old like it’s going out of style. But is it really? And is kindness the most important thing?

And what kind of kindness are we speaking of here? Does this include being kind to ourselves, which I consider of UTMOST importance?

When pondering the BIG ones, I find immense comfort and a powerful simplicity in my beloved Ayurveda teacher’s response to most questions: “It depends”. (Thank you, Kathryn!) Brene Brown is also the master of words with this fine statement: “Boundaries are frickin’ important”.

I have literally been a broken record as a Socio-Emotional Counselor for teens with both students and faculty alike regarding this message- We. Need. Boundaries. For self- preservation, for self- love...for being able to be kind. For kindness to even exist, boundaries must move from stage left to front and center. If boundaries are Batman, kindness is Robin.

I feel like my husband and I have been pushing a 70/30 ratio of kindness vs. boundaries with kindness at the helm, when we ought to be bringing up and modeling boundaries far more than we are. Obviously, since she feels that she is the worst because she is doing a piss poor job at being kind. This I do not want. I am okay with her experiencing feelings of failure, as failure is one of our most important and underrated teachers in life, but not self-doubt at our own expense just yet. Not until she is 30 and in therapy, that is.

I have already seen this scenario play out with my daughter in both directions- friend ditcher and friend ditchee. I watched after her seemingly kind friend ditched her for another as she anxiously waited in the outer friend circle, hovering while she nervously bit her nails, searching for that “in” again like a game of double dutch. I have also watched her ditch a fun and amazing friend for this same girl that did the ditching in the first place. So we had the kindness conversation. But also the feelings conversation, which resulted in broaching the topic of emotional boundaries. It’s a dance really. And one we will all continue to do for the rest of our natural born lives.

I vow to help her keep that kindness cape on so she can continue to be the kindness heroine that I know she loves to be, but, in order for her to be truly kind to herself and others, I will make sure to toss the invisibility cloak of boundaries right on top first.

Then at least I am arming her with both a magic wand and a shield. Now this is a fair fight.

Dance on.

And just for fun, go read the lyrics to Loser here. I’m a driver, I’m a winner. Things are gonna change, I can feel it.



Cognitive dissonance to the Nth degree: Cheezits, Pearl Jam, CD, Bing Bong, and Meditation

Cognitive Dissonance to the Nth degree

Back in the day when I was young I’m not a kid anymore...

Do you remember back in the day when you had your first crush? I do. Although the one I plan to share with you now was actually not my first, it was noteworthy all the same. I was in Elementary School and his name was Jonas, (not his real name). He was French, with a face full of freckles and a Ron Weasley head of hair. Funny, he was clumsy and was always eating as well.

He was nice. I was nice. We were nice together. Although part of my prepubescent brain did the running man every time we held hands, there was this other part of me that felt equally...repulsed, for lack of a better word. His crime? He ate Cheezits. All the time. All day. Every day. Like Brad Pitt’s character from Oceans Eleven, this kid was always eating, mowing down handfuls of Cheezits. This is where you might think, “Huh... repulsed? By Cheezits?” Yes, but have you kissed someone who lived for Cheezits? I call it “cat food breath”. It was not good, and, as a result, it was only once. Bless his little French bread heart. I even bought him the Use Your Illusion I CD for his birthday. Like I said, he was nice. But cat food breath just isn’t my thing. So we chose to be friends instead. This great decision was almost certainly made via a note passed in class with boxes for yes, no, or possibly maybe.

But even though this was a little over two decades ago when I was a mere pre-teen, I remember this being an uncomfortable experience- dealing with two very opposing emotions at the same time. A crush AND disgust. It would be years later during my undergrad studies in Psychology that I realized a term for this experience existed- cognitive dissonance. Sounds like a Pearl Jam song, but absolutely nowhere near as enjoyable as a PJam ballad.

No, it is actually an incredibly uncomfortable experience. According to Merriam Webster’s online dictionary, cognitive dissonance is a psychological conflict resulting from incongruous beliefs and attitudes that are held at the same time. Doesn’t sound that bad? Try reading it in John Oliver’s voice as he talk-yells to the camera with passion and fervor. Bloody brilliant.

While I have experienced cognitive dissonance, (let’s just call it CD at this point), a multitude of times throughout my life, and will most assuredly continue to do so, nothing could have prepared me for experiencing CD as a parent. Nothing. Insert CD to the Nth degree.

Your child is born. You love them. You smell their head. You watch them while they sleep, making sure to poke them every now and again to see that yes, they are indeed still alive. You give up sleep, showering, and sex for quite some time. And you could care less. But at some point, they establish their own personalities and things get tricky. It’s not even the times when they smack you in the face, or scream at the top of their lungs, or scratch you in anger, or poop on the floor for the 10th time, then proceed to touch and smear that poop all over everything. No. It’s not even when they become sassy and tell you they do not like you, to go away, or that you should shut your mouth. (Parents of teens now realize, “Oh, she must have younger children”. Yes, 6 and 3.5) No. These are just examples of kids being kids really.

Being a parent is like walking, living, and breathing CD most of the time. You are the role models for your children. This we know. (And of course, the music makers and the dreamers of dreams). What you say, how you act, if you choose to throw a pillow across the room in a moment of frustration, if you choose to scream at the cat, if you choose to yell at them for not listening for the millionth time that day, they can see the anger in your face, even smell it on your skin. In that very moment that they see it, you can then see it on them. In their eyes and on their little faces. They are a mirror. Perhaps the most powerful, brutally honest mirror in existence. Snow Whites' Wicked Queen’s magic mirror is nothing compared to this. And, wham! You are in bed with CD. You’ve got it bad. You might still be reeling from frustration or anger, but now you get to add in guilt and self-loathing. But the beauty of this is it goes both ways. You can be in your own head, going over the budget, fretting over your finances, silently berating your partner for something trivial but oh so annoying, or dealing with a moment of sadness because your Pops' song came on and you would give anything just to see his face and talk with him once again. They see this too. A little hand will appear on your back, or a meaningful and sometimes rare, “I love you” will be whispered in your ear, or they will make that face or do that dance that triggers the direct line to your funny bone, and before you know it, you’re laughing, feeling love and loved, gratitude, stress and sadness all at the same time. It’s like the move Inside Out, (which I think is a brilliant film by the way), sometimes sadness is necessary for joy to even exist. Speaking of Inside Out, I have decided that Bing Bong is the perfect example of CD. I mean, he is literally three things at once- part cat, dolphin, and elephant. The CD that must go on in that brain!

I think it was the movie Inception where they were discussing the implantation process when Leo’s character said that a positive emotion always outweighs a negative one in terms of power and lasting impression. I wholeheartedly agree. While I may learn quite a bit about myself during moments of CD when a reflection of my anger glares at me through my child’s eyes, I learn more about the power of love, life, and beauty during those other moments where their love for me is pouring out of their eyes, seeping out of their souls, grasping, yearning to hold my hand.

While CD may always be there to give us the uncomfortable willies, I do have a helpful tool to try, if the 'ole sperm-and-egg-becoming-a-parent-dance is not your thing. It’s earplugs. Noise control ones if you’ve got the dough.

Just kidding. It’s only meditation.

Meditation also acts as a mirror, not just for CD, but for everything. For me, meditation
is not only self-care as a Mom/human/bad-ass-woman, which in turn makes me a better all of the above, it is the art of practicing non-attachment, and a tool to peel away the layers of avidya, (wrong knowledge). You know, all those awesome things you say to yourself when you fail or get that yearning to try something new or take that creative risk. (Elizabeth Gilbert’s podcast, Big Magic talks a lot about creativity and fear should this topic interest you more. I am sure you can find it on your iPhone, iTunes, or just google it already, you lazy bones). The more I practice meditation, the more I am better equipped to handle big, bad CD. So I wake up, every morning at 5 AM, while it is dark and the house is quiet, and I practice. One of the most beautiful gifts I give, both to myself and anyone I come in contact with, is my meditation practice. If you are curious to try meditation or would just like to experience some new material, I highly recommend anything by Rod Stryker. You can find him on Yogaglo, Yoga International, YouTube, or you can download the CD that accompanies his book, The Four Desires. Or, just GOOGLE him.

Try it. What have you got to lose? When big, bad CD comes a knockin’, you might just have a tool to pause, feel all those feelings and respond, rather than react. Or just put on some PJam and kick back...heeeeey, I-iiiii, ohhhh, I'm still alive.



Fear, Love, and outer space: Extra Beats


Extra Beats

While this may be a tribute to my late Pops, make no mistake, this post is really about love, fear, and outer fricken space. Yes, I have been watching a lot of Star Wars lately…and Interstellar is not only never far from my mind, but makes perfect sense for this piece as it was one of the last films I saw with my Dad.

My Pops died just about 1 year ago today. Cancer is a cold and heartless bitch. No. Scratch that. Cancer is a cunt, and I only use that word for worthy causes, this one being obvious. I wish I could be like the artist Panda Bear, who wrote the song, “Tropic of Cancer” about his Father dying of cancer: “ “Sick has to eat well too. And you dumb it down”. Overall, [“Tropic of Cancer”] is about sympathy for disease. Trying to forgive disease, seeing it as just another thing in the universe that’s trying to survive.” But like I said, this is not about that and I’m not there yet. 

During his younger years, my Pops was a famous musician. Not only did he tour all over the world, performing for some very powerful people, but he was also nominated for an Academy Award for best song in a film- “Come Saturday Morning” in The Sterile Cuckoo…never saw it, (put that on my to do list). He was also set to perform at the Academy Awards, but allegedly got black balled by Frank Sinatra after he refused to allow Nancy Sinatra to sing “Come Saturday Morning”. The story goes that Frank approached my Pops and the band, asking if Nancy could perform the song at the award show. The band thought that he was implying she would sing back up for them or even with them, but Frank really wanted them to sing back up for her. Well, they refused, and not only did they not get to perform that night, they were not able to get any gigs after. Black balled. So the story goes…I would have to hear this story time and time again by my Grandparents for years to come. I swear my Grandpa, (RIP), would spit a little every time he brought it up. I never let on that I was/am a semi Sinatra fan…mostly just Summer Wind really.

The band broke up eventually, my Pops met my Mom, they became pregnant with me, got married, and the rest is history. Apart from The Sandpipers memorabilia scattered about our home and random friends’ parents fanning out over the idea that their child’s friend’s Dad is the lead singer of a band they used to swoon over, you would never know that my Pops was a former star of the music world. Sure you could catch him playing his guitar from time to time, but it was very brief, and always hidden in the confines of his room. The only time I knew of him to play out in the open with anyone was with my husband, Mike. I think he very much loved that I married a musician, and a good one at that. The two of them would always talk music and, at times, share what the other was working on. It was the only time I really saw that light in my Pops eyes- the light that can only be described as when you see someone living out the purpose of their soul… really doing what it is they were meant to do. Passion. Love. Life. Light. I saw it in his eyes when he would play and talk music with Mike and I loved it. I heard later in life that he would jam with some other musicians, but I think it was perhaps a fleeting fancy, although, I will never know. Oh to be a fly on that wall! 

I think every one of us asked him to play in some fashion at our weddings. Each time we were denied. I know I felt confusion and anger- why would he not want to play at such an important and meaningful event in all our lives?! What was his damn problem?! It took almost one year after his death for me to truly believe what I even understand at perhaps a superficial level. Fear. Gut wrenching fear that he was/it would never be as good or even close to a whiff of what it was like when he performed all those years ago. I get it. That is a pretty tough act to follow. Filling in your own former rock star shoes. I wonder if he even entertained it. How interesting must the battle have been in his mind. Or perhaps, fear took over right away and shut that shit down. I will never know. But I know that all his life, he has taught me about fear. Heart wrenching, gripping at your innards, grasping at your soul fear. Hell, he even bought all of us girls a book about fear, (The Gift of Fear), for Christmas one year with a handwritten note- I hope you never have to use this book, but should you need it…The irony of it all is that he challenged me to step out of my comfort zone in many different ways throughout my life. He would often tell me about his own fear when he was performing back in the day, (a rare glimpse into his life and mindset at the time, one that I always cherished and would lean in ever so close as he spoke about, watching the words flow from his lips, as I knew this was special and I was witnessing gold…even more so now). When he would go for auditions or have to perform with other artists, he would watch them and say, “I knew some of them were better than me. But the difference between us was that I wanted it. I wanted it more than them.” 

The truth is, a part of my Pops died when he stopped playing music and was never fully recovered. Eventually, in his later years, he gave up on life and lived a very comfortable and safe existence. Hell, he ate the same breakfast every day, wore the same clothes, rarely showered, did his daily crossword puzzle, continued to vote for Bush, and occasionally hit a few balls at the golf course and driving range. He did allow the light in his eyes to make a cameo here and there when he would volunteer for the food pantry at the local church, talk about God and life with the inmates at the local prison, or allow himself to engage in some scintillating conversation, the love of a movie, or cook some good ole fashioned sauce. But other than that, to any outsider, and perhaps most of us insiders, he lived a very surface level and unchallenged life, even until the bitter end. 

I cannot repeat this mistake. I do not want to live on the inside of fear. In yoga, there is a mantra or chant to aid one from dying before their actual death; to know one’s purpose and live it so one can truly be LIVING while they are alive. It is no coincidence that after the initial fog of his death began to lift, this mantra presented itself, no, more like forced itself upon me and helped me get through this past year. 

I also believe it is no coincidence that I recently stumbled upon this great article from The New York Times- Learning to deal with The Imposter Syndrome, by Carl Richards. (…/learning-to-deal-with-the-impostor…)  
You know when people have that ability to put into words exactly what you are thinking, in a much more succinct and interesting way? Yeah, this is it. The article is basically about fear- how it controls us and how to combat it: “When we have a skill or talent that has come naturally we tend to discount its value. Why is that? Well, we often hesitate to believe that what’s natural, maybe even easy for us, can offer any value to the world. In fact, the very act of being really good at something can lead us to discount its value. But after spending a lot of time fine-tuning our ability, isn’t it sort of the point for our skill to look and feel natural?” Okay, so we know the why, now, a story about Buddha for the how: “All of this leads to the final and most important step: learning how to live with the imposter syndrome. I recently listened to Tim Feriss interview the clinical psychologist and author Tara Brach. In her book “Radical Acceptance”, she shared a really cool story about Buddha and the demon Mara. One day, Buddha was teaching a large group, and Mara was moving around the edges, looking for a way into the group. I envision Mara rushing frantically back and forth in the bushes and trees, making plans to wreak havoc. One of Buddha’s attendants saw Mara, ran to Buddha and warned him of Mara’s presence. Hearing his attendant’s frantic warning, the Buddha simply replied, “Oh good, invite her in for tea.” This story captures beautifully how we should respond to the impostor syndrome. We know what the feeling is called. We know others suffer from it. We know a little bit about why we feel this way. And we now know how to handle it: Invite it in and remind ourselves why it’s here and what it means.” Now this one is a face slap, as I am a seasoned counselor with a Masters and License in Social Work. I even realized this during my own grief work with the death of my Pops when I encountered a poem about grief being like a giant, purple elephant, when it arrives, simply ask it to sit beside you and be with you. And even as I write this, I completely understand in the literal sense the meaning of it all, and yet, I do not feel the message of this after school special has found it’s niche inside my heart yet. BUT, I want it to and I know it will in time. 

It was only after seeing a cardiologist at the ripe, young age of 34 that I realized that my heart is really trying to tell me something here and perhaps I needed to give my brain a break. I had been experiencing what only could be described as heart palpitations. Perhaps just like the rest of the population, I experienced these from time to time during a stressful situation, but this was different. They began to increase both in the amount per day as well as how long they would occur for and they seemed to be happening at strange times- lying down, after I ate, and at night, mostly, but then, just to throw me off, they would happen during the day, or while I was standing up. Baffled and a tad bit afraid as my sister had just underwent surgery to repair this mouthful of an issue: idiopathic ventricular tachycardia, I decided to go and see my Doctor. One 48-hour holter monitor test later, it was suggested I try the month long test, equipped with removable electrodes, a belt clip and a blackberry. I conceded. I did not realize they made Blackberry’s anymore, so I felt like I was back in the ’90’s with a pager attached to my pants, except that pager was attached to wires that looked nowhere near as cool as my ’90’s throwback memories, and I never actually owned a pager. One month and 4 hickey looking suction cup marks on my torso later, I was back in the Doctor’s office, ready to hear the news. It was then that I decided that I really liked this man. His bed side manner was amazing, and even though he was Prince sized in stature, he had a voice and calm yet strong presence about him so that when he spoke, I felt both safe and in awe at the same time. He began talking about how when he first started his residency after med school, there was this surge of people coming in droves reporting about heart palpitations, or what he called extra beats. Some of his colleagues decided these beats needed to be suppressed for fear they lead to heart attacks and death, and they were clearly alarming and freaking out the masses, so they prescribed everyone medication and all seemed well for a bit. However, much like with most sciences, with time and a published study looking at those individuals taking the prescribed medicine to suppress these extra beats versus those taking a placebo pill, those on the meds actually fared far worse than those that received a placebo pill. In the end, they realized that it is actually not better to suppress these extra beats, that they are in fact “normal”, and to just let them happen and all will be okay. As he spoke, my mind wandered to all these unfinished projects that I have embarked on throughout the years- the meditation project, Lilypants, and the busy book, how I have loved acting for as far back as I can remember, despite never setting foot in a theatre or doing any acting for about a decade, and how, for my whole life, I have loved to write and draw, yet have never actually allowed myself to do anything with these passions in terms of really exploring them. Starts and stops. My life has been full of starts and stops. He continued to speak, now explaining how these extra beats worked, much like pistons in an engine, and I immediately thought of the movie Interstellar. Now, stay with me as what I am about to say may seem strange to some, but I know I was having a beautifully crafted “Aha moment”, one that just entered my brain and began to play on the screen of my mind and, feeling almost paralyzed by my feelings, all I could do was be a witness and watch. I kind of felt like Cher in Clueless, walking aimlessly about after some retail therapy, trying to sort out her feelings, and then, AHA! The water fountain suddenly burst into action and she realized that she loved Josh. Much like Jessica Chastain’s character in Interstellar, I felt that I had finally realized that my Pops was trying to pass me a message, but not through the ticks of an old watch and instead through these extra beats in my heart. What if these extra beats are my Pops trying to jump start my heart, reminding me to be brave, encouraging me to have more completions rather than starts and stops, to delve into my passions through art, helping me to know he is there, has been there all along this past year, and that I can suppress them no longer. While my brain tried to make sense of all of this, telling me I was crazy and was reaching now, really reaching, my heart silenced the fears, confident that this was truth in it’s pure form. This was my all knowing Pops who had watched me struggle and push through, start and stop, succumb to fear and succeed, letting me know he sees me and that I can, no, I need to see these extra beats for what they are- a plead from the depths of my art nerd soul to do this already. 

I remember walking out of the Doctor’s office feeling surreal, as if I had just woken from a beautifully artistic, yet intense dream. Floating to my car and landing in the drivers seat, I sat for a minute thinking about what had just happened. I don’t think I shared it with anyone. Not out of fear, but more so due to a phenomenon, much like when you are traveling and witness something so moving and beautiful, and you go to reach for your phone or a camera to encapsulate it forever, but instead realize some things are better off being photographed by the heart and soul, and not a machine. So you don’t, and instead just observe, taking it in through all the senses, feeling at peace, knowing this experience was meant for you and you alone. 

And you’d think even with an out of body like experience such as this that I may have jumped on it and came out with a rough of my Starry Night or Still Life with Woodpecker, or even researched plays to audition for. No, not exactly. BUT, as I said before, I want it, now even more so than before. I am just not sure of the what and the how exactly, but I do know that I will not get there sitting idly by, cozy on a couch, in a lounge of the inside of fear. I need to see where these extra beats take me, trusting in my Pops, my heart, love, and all things magic. However, just like the poem and the advice in the imposter syndrome story, I first need to sit here, on this bench, with the giant, purple elephant, and observe these fears for what they are. So, that is where I will be for a bit, sitting on the dock of this bay. I do not anticipate I will be here very long, as, like the Cheers song, everyone here already knows my name. I am hoping this place will be more like an island I visit when needed and not one I have purchased a retirement home on.

And for those of you that were waiting for the Star Wars tie in, isn’t it obvious? The force is our innate purpose, light, love, passion and the soul, and the dark side is not only just fear, but also the cancer. Like the song, it’s just an object, another thing in the universe trying to survive. It’s survival of the fittest, really. Go into the light, Carol Anne. There is peace and serenity in the light. I don’t know about you, but I think I’ll go with Tangina on this one.