Thanks to my sweet ex, for playing me “93 Million Miles.” I love you for always reminding me that ‘home’ is not a location, or even another person, but simply part of me.
Every road is a slippery slope
There is always a hand that you can hold on to.
Looking deeper through the telescope
You can see that your home’s inside of you.
“From what we get, we can make a living; what we give, however, makes a life.” ~ Arthur Ashe
I started working in a nasty corner charity shop that was dark and grey and smelled like dead old people. It was for my community service hours as part of a national philanthropy organization, which shall remain nameless. Never, even once, did it feel like I was working for my community or making the world a better place. It felt like a lame, monthly obligation. And it was.
I grew up helping people at events designed to give kids “community service” hours. It was good for our high school applications, and great for college entrance brownie points. But, it missed the point. My Community Service didn’t feel remotely like I was part of a community, and even less, providing a service.
Going out on a limb here: I want my kids to want to give.
I suppose if we were part of a church, there would be built-in community service. If we were part of Boy Scouts, then we’d have charity work at-the-ready. But truth is, even that kind of giving is forced giving. It’s what you have to do, not what you yearn for.
So, a year ago, I plated the seed with my then twin 9-year-olds. I told them when they turned 10 in July 2013, they’d begin service to their community. They’d pick their own avenue of giving, be as creative as they wanted to be, but that there were two rules:
- Each child must give their age in hours monthly. (So at age 10, they’d do 10 hours per month).
- You have to stick with your choice, however difficult, boring, tedious, for a period of one year.
July came around and the kids set out to pick their organizations. There is power in choosing where you want to put your free time and they were excited. But that faded pretty quickly when we realized that our community is not used to kids giving just for the sake of it.
My son tried his first pick, the library. No go. No kids can volunteer until age 13. Then came his second pick, Sacred Heart Community Services. Nope, no youth volunteers. My daughter tried ASPCA. No way, too much liability. Her second try at The Thrift Box – they don’t take kids, even with adult supervision.
Then the third, fourth and fifth tries came and went. No luck. No one wants 10-year old kids who want to give their time to help the community.
We’re stumped. There has got to be a way for our younger kids to learn the feeling of giving, however small.
Got any ideas?
We’ve been inseparable friends for five years, oh, maybe six. Living a couple doors down from one-another, our homes were a constant stream of laughter and baby tears and messy food and grown-up banter. Our spouses loved one-another as deeply as men — and women like them — can. We had babies and raised babies and raised one-another.
And then I moved two streets over; became single, and my amazing friend had a third baby, all in the same year.
I’m glad I moved, and I’m widly in love with the baby. But things are different.
It’s been a couple months now of my dear friend not being available. She’s moved-on from me to younger moms and has found new friends on the street where I once lived. Her life is full. I’ve watched her duck and dodge me — even tonight — and I know it’s not in malice, but because she feels bad that she’s moved unknowingly into her life of having younger children, and I, into my life of having older ones.
I recognize this pattern, because I am the younger one in my friendshp with Tess — 16 years my senior — who “took my childhood in her stride,” as the lyrics go. I’m trying to mimic how Tess treated me: full of love, and happy to have me whenever I could muster it between babies and other new mommies that were in the thrust of the same life moments as I was at the time.
But… my heart hurts. And even as I fight jealously, I’m grateful for her new friends because it means her needs are filled. That I learned from Tess.
She, and most of the people who know me in real life, and not as Garza Girl, do not read my blog. She’ll never stumble on this entry, and that gives me peace, too. She doesn’t need to know that I miss our friendship, that I wish our children were closer in age, that I wish so much that I hadn’t moved, only for being that much closer together.
I can’t time-shift, and I wouldn’t even if I could.
My beautiful, kind, loving, smart, funny friend will come around when the smoke clears, and I’ll be there, just as Tess did for me.
It doesn’t mean it’s hurt free. It stings to ebb — and I cannot wait for the flow again.
This post has been rattling around in my head for a few weeks. I’m hardly in the business of telling anyone how to behave, how to raise their children, or for that matter, how to raise themselves, but this one gets under my skin. I think about it all the time.
Why do we lift one-another up, only to put one-another down? Or worse, ourselves; our children, our friends’ children? I hear myself saying, “She’s a brilliant creative director, but I’m not big on her taste in men.” Or “I absolutely love Chris’ parties, but that guy can drink!” I do it to people I date, “Super smart guy, brainy as all get-out, but clearly has no fashion sense.” I even do it to my kids, “I love the way you cleaned your room; I wish you did that the other 364 days of the year.”
Every lift up seems to have a put-down. Why?
In thinking it through, I still can’t come up with a real answer. Social acceptance? Fear?
This week, I decided to try to give a lift-up without a put-down. I challenged my kids to do the same. It’s hard!. Want to join me? Follow my #liftupsnotputdowns on Twitter. Let me know how you do.
It broke my heart almost every morning that I didn’t run. I love to run, I love to not have a huge ass, too, so running and I have always gotten along. Until last May.
A year ago, my sweet ex and I reluctantly broke up for good, and although the change was good, it rocked every single part of my life. I found myself unable to go for an early morning run (who would watch the kids?), unable to get to the gym after work since I took a job an hour from home after our break-up. Every morning I woke up and instantly felt awful that I knew, before even getting out of bed, that I wouldn’t exercise that day. And hence, every day started with a failure.
Thank God for therapists.
One day this awesome therapist said to me, “You are not going to work out. This we know. What you haven’t done is give yourself the permission to take time off from exercise.”
Somehow that word, “permission” sucker-punched me. It was true: I needed to give myself permission to remove exercise from my life for awhile. I needed to take it off of my to-do list or the should list or whatever list. I needed to not worry about it. At all.
I was suddenly sure of myself in a way I hadn’t been in months. I went home, I collected all of my workout and running clothes and I put them up in the closet. And the most amazing thing happened: the next morning, and every morning since then, I have woken up without the dread of missing a workout. Friends would tell me about a race or a run or a hike or a bike and I was truly happy for their fitness; just as happy as I was about my mental fitness.
Today marks one year of giving myself permission to be exercise-free. I pulled down my running clothes and tried them on. They were tight, but they fit. A year without running and my clothes still fit! I didn’t turn into a massive hog or a slobby sloth. My 42-year-old ass looks like a 42-year-old jiggly ass that hasn’t worked out in a year, but I can live with that. Because my 42-year-old mind is fit as can be. I did it.
My kids are older now, and leaving for a bit in the morning is not scary anymore. My job in Pleasanton didn’t last past the winter and I get to work from my home office most days, so a workout is fully possible today in a way it couldn’t have been a year ago.
This morning I walked four miles with a friend, loving every minute of being back on the trail. Tomorrow I’ll go for a short run. I can’t wait to wake up tomorrow.
I didn’t think she’d really make the reservations. In fact, I was pretty certain that even if she did try to pull off a dinner at the famed two-Michelin Star rated Manresa, that they’d certainly be booked and, even more certainly, we’d all wimp out of doing something so outlandish.
But last night, I found myself in one of the finest restaurants in California, in the US.
I had no business dining at Manresa. I’m a single working mom with a mortgage and a house remodel and there is no line item for a big fat dinner that was certain to cost $300. Aftearll, it’s not like it was a special occasion. Except it was.
My buddy Rita had it in her mind to dine with reckless abandon, fill an evening of grown-up talk and beautiful people. She wanted to taste food that inspired her and be surrounded by luxury and opulence — all of this a very far cry from our daily lives feeding our families nightly meals or grabbing a bite at our favorite taqueria. She wanted to taste something more than food. And so we did.
Our five-hour, 15-course meal started and ended with laughter and chatter and thinking ourselves pretty darn smug for being daring enough to be out celebrating just being alive. No birthday or anniversary, no wedding or retirement. This was a special occasion alright: the occasion was nothing. Nothing but a full moon and a beautifully warm night, a dear friend and an extraordinary food journey.
Dinner at Manresa, April 26, 2013
Mini red pepper gelle with a black olive madeline
Strawberry gazpacho with Marcona almond
Micro herbs and chilled crab with peas and foam
Panacotta of yogurt, black olive, grapefruit, candied caper
Razor clams with the most amazing morel mushrooms I have ever eaten
Garden salad with flowers, herbs and spiced dirt
Warm grouper with fresh peas, beans
Black mole with calamari
Modesto olive oil and California butter with four breads
Sweet duck in something I can’t recall
Mandarin goat’s milk ice
River rock lemon sorbet
Coco nib truffle rum balls
Strawberry gelle and chocolate madeline
Chocolate brioche to-go for breakfast
I’ve worked from home for the past several years in one capacity or another. From consulting to remote work to a coveted weekly work-from-home day. I consider working from home a discipline, a privilege and responsibility.
I ran into a fellow marketing exec the other day who said she much preferred to work in the office than at home, because, “I always end up finding things to do at home that is not work.” I hear stories like this all the time, so I figured I’d share with you the five rules I have in my daily work routine to ensure that I am maximizing my work and minimizing interruption.
1. Get Dressed for Work
That’s right. Get up, get dressed, put on your work clothes. Daily, I put on high heels, jewelry and makeup. The heels are important because I learned during my prep school days that uncomfortable shoes keep us from getting too comfy — and stiff shoes keep us on our toes (literally).
2. Keep the Desk a Work Space
I have always had my desk as a command center for work. However, it’s not the family command center. Homework to be signed and kids projects don’t belong on my desk. They can leave that stuff on the kitchen counter. Every day I come to my desk, turn the light, sit down and work. My kids know that if I’m at that desk, I am not to be interrupted. My kids have even texted me from the backyard to ask me a question about this or that — mommy is working and I require that respect and space to work.
3. Schedule breaks
It’s impossible in my experience to work from home without wanting to water the plants or grab the mail when you hear it drop in the slot. I schedule three breaks in the day, just like I do at work. The first one is mid-morning. I do household work for a bit (water the plants, throw a marinade on the skirt steak for dinner). The second break is the good one: I go out for lunch. Yes, go out for lunch. I grab lunch where other working people are out, too. I sit down, enjoy my break, check my personal email, make a call or two. Later in the afternoon, I take a break when my kids get home. Most days, they’re running off with our beloved nanny to this-or-that sport or activity, but a quick cuddle is all any of us need.
4. Respect your work day
If you are as blessed as I am, you’ve got family and friends that would love to stop by, hang out, grab a late afternoon glass of wine. Communicating your work-day boundaries only take one brief sentence: “I’d love to but I don’t get out of work until 6.” Or, “I have about 45 minutes for lunch on Tuesday.” Respecting your work day enough to set boundaries for others has always helped me be most efficient in my work-from-home environment. They’ll get it. And, when you do meet, you’ll not have the guilt that you should be working.
5. Closed-Ended Days
If you’ve done it right, you’ve put in eight-to-10 efficient hours of work, and you’re exhausted. You should be. Leave your work day with the same amount of ceremony you began it. I shut off my computer completely. I don’t answer unscheduled work calls after my day is done. I turn off the lamp at my desk. I organize papers and to-do lists for the next day. I clear off coffee cups and scratch paper. I am done.
It doesn’t take a certain “type” of person to work from home — it just takes parameters to work within that drive the most efficiency, produce the best work possible, and reap the benefits from calling the homefront your work HQ.
My ex’s grandfather died today. And my Kitchen-Aid mixer is still packed from the kitchen remodel, so I couldn’t make chocolate chip cookies. If you know me, you know that I believe most things can be fixed by making chocolate chip cookies.
It’s not often that I cry, but this old man was a good soul — he’s worth a tear or two or ten. My son heard me and got out of bed. There’s a line where motherhood meets humanity and tonight, humanity won.
Tonight’s story isn’t really one for the public, except, I never want to forget it. And I’ve long since given up journals.
My boy came out to the livingroom in his green footy pajamas, and stated, “As your Right Hand Man, I want to know if there is anything I can do for you.”
I said, “Yeah, you can go to bed, it’s 10 p.m.”
And he said, “Blue puppy (his stuffed animal since birth) and my pillow and I have been camped out right here (pointing to the hallway) and we can hear you cry.”
I replied, “Crying isn’t always bad. I’m happy and safe and it’s time for you to go to bed.”
And my dear little man stood, hands animated like I couldn’t believe:
“There are three things you need to understand:
One: We men always play to our strengths. People who know how to play Bridge understand this, but you don’t know how to play Bridge.
Two: You have to put your hobbies first when you speak. What are your hobbies, Mom? Cooking? That’s not a hobby. Kids? I’m not a hobby, mom! You have to think of a good hobbies. You like football. And soccer. Those are good hobbies.
Three: You say things like ‘happiness’ and ‘health’ and ‘karma’ but those are all spiritual things. Don’t say spiritual things. You can say hobbies. Like if you say ‘technology’ I will say that’s a good one.”
I literally was struck silent. In fact, even as I type, I’m still shocked, just trying to type before I forget what he said.
I teased him, “Technology my bum, little one!”
He wouldn’t budge.
I asked him if he wanted to call my ex. He said, “Some things need time. I will call her another day.”
Again, he struck me silent.
“Everything is fine, son,” I told him.
He looked at me, standing in the hall in his green footy pajamas and Blue Puppy hanging from his fist, “I know. But I’m your right hand man.”