Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Love and Hormones!

I can't even write a post. Too much. Too difficult. Hormones raging. Planning a college tour to Los Angeles. Too many feelings. Too much.


Too much love.

Planning. A different college every day. Every day.

Back to my home town. Back to my college. Back to my roots.

Back to old friends and too much traffic. Back to kinda knowing where everything is located. Kinda.

Back to Hollywood. To meetings. To face my novel. To face my successes and my failures.

Back to face the first day of the rest of my life.

Pulling myself in every direction. Everyday. No where to hide. I want a hiding place. I need a hiding place.

I need a few peaceful days with my son. Laughing days. Relaxed days. Trendy nights.

Sunshine and smog. Cement and sea. Celebrities and smiling skinny girls. Blond girls.

Too many.

Too much.

Colleges and Los Angeles.

Sunday, March 21, 2010

The Crystal Glass

I fell asleep a bit ago. A needed nap. A place to escape to.

I woke to the sound of a dog barking. Not my dog, a neighbor's.

It jolted me awake. Too quickly. My brother-in-law had passed away this morning. My sister's husband. She died 17 years ago. He remarried. But he is still my brother-in-law.

My mind flashed to the date. March 21st! The first day of spring. My parent's anniversary. The day Elliot died. Soon it will be April, then May, and then Kyle will be a senior and Will will graduate elementary school.

I woke up too abruptly. Too many emotions running through my whirling brain.

There is the trip to Los Angeles to The Kid's Choice Awards next weekend. I will take Will and walk the orange carpet at my alma mater, UCLA's Pauley Pavilion.

Kyle went to the Kids' Choice Awards when he was three. He is in the video clip I attached with his cousin. She is now in law school. Kyle is in the front wearing a blue long sleeved shirt. They proudly wore balloons on their heads. Kyle cried when he found out he had to sit without a parent.

I worked for Nickelodeon just yesterday. No, it was a long time ago and far away. But the sweet memories of the best job I ever had linger. They linger especially today. I was so young and so sure that anything was possible. I was right. I get to walk my 13-year-old into a theater filled with screaming kids next weekend.

Earlier today, I watched as a mother I have known for many years stood teaching her daughter how to fill her tank with gas. She must be learning to drive. I remember this same mother, holding this young girl's hand, teaching her how to cross the street safely.

I placed two candles in crystal champagne glasses and lit them. They burn brightly and beautifully through cut glass. The glasses came from years ago, another country, a horrible conflict, millions of dead Jews. The glass is sharp and enduring. I feel like the glass. I wish my edges were a bit softer today. They are not.

Time passes, and this year has been filled with reminders.

Wonderful friends, a community of bloggers I do not know but trust, the love of my life, my children who make me laugh every single day (when I'm not screaming at them).

The glass survives, but we do not. I will hold the memories close, the feelings closer, and I will look to the sea to replenish my soul. I ask so much.

Thursday, March 18, 2010


Iceland: 2006

I woke up this morning with a sense of dread. I just couldn't shake it. I didn't know where it was coming from and what exactly I 'should' be worried about. I was just feeling like I was walking on shaky ground.

It finally hit me when I pulled up to our public high school with my youngest son. A huge sign screamed, "Welcome Class of 2014!"

I turned to Will, "Is that the year you'll graduate high school?"

"Yep, that's my class," came his response.

And so there it was.

Will remarked that the school reminded him of all the high schools he sees on television. Cheerleaders in cute little practice uniforms, surly kids with heavy backpacks, popular girls posturing for the cute boys. A random red converse sneaker flanked our path to the gym where we were asked to register for the fall semester.

I don't know if this is what was making me nervous this morning, but it sure got to me this afternoon.

In the fall, Will will be entering another stage of his adolescene. I know he is ready for it, but I am most certainly not!

I still want my little boys. And I'm fully aware that I can't stop time. But where did all those precious moments go? The first taste of chocolate, the first steps, the first words, the first day at the beach, the first time catching snow flakes as they fall from the sky. There are so many firsts. Now, I'm looking at the first day at high school. And soon there will be the first day of college!

So who am I now? For so long, I was defined by my children. They will always be my world. But their world is getting bigger and bigger and my role smaller and smaller.

And I know that's how it's supposed to be. But I don't have to like it, do I?

Don't get me wrong, I love just where they are right now. But I just wish it all hadn't gone by so fast. And I wish that I remembered more.

On these beautiful, almost spring days we have been experiencing in Northern California, I open all my doors and windows. And I hear the sweet voices of the little children who live near me. They are starting pre-school, kindergarten, 1st grade. They have a litany of firsts ahead of them.

So do my children and so do I. And I'm not talking about my first facelift, my first walker, my first hip replacement. What about my first novel, my first trip to Africa, the first time I watch my youngest son walk into high school or my first time I say good bye to my son as I leave him behind in his college dorm?

What firsts do you remember? What firsts are you looking forward to? Does time feel like it is speeding by?

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Where Did he Learn to Eat Like That? Oh, From Me!

First Sandwich
Second Sandwich and going strong...

When I was growing up we had a delicatessen right down the street. It began as just a counter in 1945 and then grew into a full-fledged restaurant. My father had a charge account at this deli called Nate ‘n Al’s, and it was a heavenly place. Soon enough, it became a Beverly Hill’s legend. Still, on any given day, you can find Hollywood moguls making deals or a legendary actor or actress sitting in the avocado green vinyl booths of this infamous deli.

I remember the Beverly’s and Westwood’s of my youth. These were the names of the mouth-watering sandwiches bulging with turkey or roast beef, slathered in Russian dressing and coleslaw. Two perfect pieces of rye bread held this bit of paradise together. And then there were the most delectable pickles complimenting your perfect sandwich.

Every once in a while, my mom would order cold cuts from Nate ‘n Al’s and bring them home for dinner. I can’t really remember why, but these evenings stand out as the special ones. Perhaps it was her German roots, but Mom would present this ordinary tray of cold cuts and make it look like she was serving the King of England.

Living in Northern California, I’ve yet to find a deli that I like. I know Nate ‘n Al’s is a hard act to follow, but I’ve tried them all. Nothing comes close.

Recently, I discovered that I could create my own version of the perfect deli. I found a great market that will cut my roast beef, my turkey, my French ham, my salami perfectly. And they have huge, succulent pickles and fairly good coleslaw. I have perfected my own Russian dressing, but I have learned to live without the rye bread. Nobody can make rye like my favorite deli. So, instead I resort to some of our rustic sourdough. I try and buy vine-ripened cherry red tomatoes and fresh romaine lettuce.

I had no idea that my kids would love this dinner as much as I did. I can see in their sparkling eyes that they delight when I don’t cook and they get to make their own sandwiches. It is their little bit of heaven.

When we head down to LA, the first place the kids want to go is Nate ‘n Al’s. I know that my attempt at imitating the cold cuts of my youth is still appreciated…but there really is nothing like Nate ‘n Al’s.

And there is nothing like watching my 13-year-old son bite into his perfect sandwich. “I’m growing, Mom,” he says as he makes his second sandwich. And he smiles at me as he takes another enormous bite.

That’s my 13-year-old! Hard to believe. I look at my little boy with the huge sandwich and finally understand how he got to be taller than I!

Did you have a favorite meal when you were a kid? Do your kids have their favorite dinners? What is it about food and memories that seem to resonate? Have you ever walked into your elementary school cafeteria and felt like you were transported back in time?

Monday, March 15, 2010

Gratitude Included!

Saturday afternoon a friend e-mailed me to see if Hubby and I wanted to join her and her husband and another couple for dinner in town at 6:30PM. This particular restaurant has a happy hour that includes half-off on most of the dinner menu. But you have to have your order in by 7:00PM.

It sounded perfect. Both my boys had plans and Tom and I had not yet thought about our Saturday night plans.

We ordered quickly to take advantage of the half-off deal. The food came even quicker and all at once. I guess the restaurant's idea is to move us out quickly to get ready for full price diners.

We had other plans.

We felt wonderfully old and laughed at ourselves as we eagerly consumed our half-off dinners.

We dined outside underneath heat lamps. It was divine. Another friend called and I told her and her husband to meet up with us for drinks. We weren't leaving anytime soon.

I sat around this table and looked at my friends. I had met each one of them the first days of Kyle's kindergarten year. They were more than my friends, they've been my world for the past twelve years.

I grew up in Los Angeles with a family that kept me pretty isolated from the bigger community in which I lived. We had wonderful friends, but I don't remember my neighbors and nobody ever brought us over a casserole.

I move in New York City and need I say more? Friends were difficult to make at first, but once I made them, they have become the most loyal and wonderful friends. But, I had no community in my high rise on 80th and 1st. I knew the doorman, but that was about it.

When I as pregnant we moved to Chappaqua. We lived there for only a year. I remember that I felt isolated and lost in this tiny city in Westchester County. My sister died that year and my wonderful neighbors all brought over casseroles. This was extraordinary for me. One, that I actually knew my neighbors and two, that they actually cared enough to try and help during the most difficult year of my life.

When Kyle was five weeks old, Hubby had a mishap holding Kyle as he walked down our old wooden farmhouse stairs. He slipped, landed on his back and took the entire flight of stairs on his spine. My mom was staying with us that night. We both heard him fall. My mother was showing the first signs of her dementia. I grabbed Kyle and called 911. The ambulance and police arrived quickly. I ran upstairs to dress Kyle warmly for our ride to the hospital. The EMT asked my poor husband if Kyle had hit his head at any point during his tumble down the stairs. Hubby was unsure. All he knew is that he held on to him for dear life and took the stairs, one by one, on his vertebras.

By now, Kyle had fallen fast asleep. Hubby was being attended to carefully. They had put him in a neck brace and they were moving him quickly and carefully onto a stretcher. The EMT looked at the police officer and said, "You better get the kid to the hospital."

So, Kyle and I took his first ride in a police car. First and last, I hope. The EMT who sat in the back seat with us felt for Kyle's pulse. She couldn't find one. She leaned over to the police officer driving the car, "You better put on your siren, I don't have a pulse."

I sat in that car holding my baby, the EMT had an oxygen mask wrapped around his little face. My husband was on some stretcher being attended to by other EMT's.

I thought about my sister who had died only five month earlier. How could this be happening?

I was too afraid to be scared. We were in the ER in a flash of an eye. The doctor and I began removing Kyle's clothes. As soon as he was naked on the emergency room table, he screamed. It was the most beautiful scream I had ever heard.

The doctor was sure he was fine but told me to wake him up every hour and make sure his pupils were equally dilated.

Then Tom was rolled in. It took hours for them to access the damage to his poor back.

I didn't want my 5 week baby to spend all this time in the germ-filled ER. I had to call someone to pick him up.

I couldn't call Mom. Sadly, I couldn't trust her to care for her grandson alone. All my other friends lived an hour away in Manhattan.

I had to call a neighbor.

And he came. And his wife fed Kyle and checked his pupils as I attended hubby. And then Tom had to spend a couple of nights in the hospital for a broken Transverse Process, a small bone in your back.

And more casseroles came. It was blessed.

A year later we moved to Northern California. We joked that we had worn out our neighbors in the brief year we lived there.

As I looked around the dinner table Saturday night, I thought about all we had been through together. It took me time, but I learned the value of not only friendship, but of a community you can call home.

These extraordinary people have played a central and meaningful role in my life and in the life of my children. We laughed about the past, commiserated about the present, and worried about the future I knew we would at least have each other when our children left for school.

I thought how wonderful it was to be living in a suburb. I have never thought that before!

I didn't want to leave. I wanted to stay in the moment, on this beautiful night and enjoy these friendships that developed effortlessly over the years.

The bill came and we teased one of our friends about being reluctant to buy her first pair of reading glasses. It seemed like the rest of us around that dinner table had donned a pair.

She placed the bill far from her eyes and in the dim light said by mistake, "Gratitude included."

We laughed. But I thought she said what was on my mind.

Gratitude was in my heart and indeed included on this special night.

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

The Tipping Point

Part I:

So I did it. I didn't think it was a possibility today, but I showed up and it came. I finished the first draft of my novel.

I don't know quite how I feel. I know I'm not done yet. I also know there will be many, many rewrites but I have accomplished a huge goal. I actually finished my book.

So why am I feeling so glum?

Actually I feel quite overwhelmed. It's like my brain is empty and I'm not sure how to fill it up again. It is the strangest feeling I have ever had.

I laid down on my bed and I could feel the adrenalin pulsing through my veins. I thought perhaps it was a surge in estrogen but I think it was all the energy stored in my body and no identifiable outlet.

And I'm a bit afraid. It would be so easy to stick my novel in a drawer and forget about it.

Sending out to be read and critiqued seems like walking up hill with a huge rock on my back.

I can't quite get to the place where I could actually imagine someone reading my words and enjoying them. That seems so far fetched.

It's lonely inside this head tonight. I have said good bye to the characters that have filled my dreams for so many restless nights. What will I dream tonight?

I began this blog claiming the need to begin the first day of the rest of my life. I feel as if I have begun a new journey, one that took a sudden turn tonight, a turn I was not prepared for.

Part II:

So, my mind quickly filled with marketing schemes. I thought about illustrators and agents. I wondered if my manager could really sell my book. Do I need to find a literary agent? Endless questions and worries plagued me all night long. And I had dared to think that my brain was empty.

Reflecting on my last 24 hours I realize that part of what I experienced was a feeling of isolation. When I have finished big projects in the past, films that I've produced or even television shows that I've completed, I always have had people to celebrate with. It's not just the "BIG" wrap party but a colleague you can hug, or a collaborator who shares your concerns and your happiness at having completed a project.

Last night, in a house filled with my children and my husband, I felt all alone. I have always heard that the life of a writer was very lonely, but now I understand what that means. Of course my husband was excited I had completed my book and my kids gave me 'high fives.' But, inside I had nobody to really share the experience with because it was a task I set out to do on my own.

Today I went out and bought a new pair of jeans, a tee shirt and an amazing vest. I got myself out in the world and it felt good to part of something bigger than myself.

Balance is my new mantra.

How do you strike balance in your life? Do feel lonely or isolated writing? How should I celebrate the completion of my book?

The Possession of a Mad House Wife!

I had put down my novel for a couple of weeks. I am close to the end and suddenly became afraid. The end must pull all the pieces of the novel together neatly and cleverly. I was not sure I was up to the task.

There's another thing, too. I don't want it to end. I love my characters and the world in which they live. I don't want to say good bye to them, too.

But yesterday I woke up knowing I had to throw myself back into my writing. Somedays while I have been working on this particular story, the words seem to appear on my screen with ease. These are magical moments and the reason I write. At those moments I wouldn't want to be doing anything else.

Yesterday was not one of those days. But I was determined to make some progress. I sat from 10 am to 8 pm in front of my computer. I took small breaks for a glass of water, a quick lunch, a short drive to pick up my son from school but the entire time I had my story in my brain. I heard dialogue and story plots, I visited locals and wrote dialogue--in my head. But putting these things down on paper was laborious. But I plunged on, committed to getting the thoughts from my head down and out of my overcrowded brain.

At dinner my young son commented, "You're like a woman possessed." He was completely right. I was so completely preoccupied that I didn't have time to worry about things that I usually worry about in a day. I liked that. But I was terrified that I would forget the small details that kept bouncing around in my head. I wrote notes on small scraps of paper, typed story lines out in detail, repeated the small scenes that my imagination was creating deep inside my brain, over and over again, while I was taking a shower.

I wrote about 25 pages and I desperately needed to hear my words back. I asked my husband if he would mind reading my words. I needed to hear what I had written so I could understand what I had left to write.

He began reading at about 9:45. Through yawns and awkward sequences I heard my words re-told to me. I was listening intently. When he thought he was finished he put down the computer, "I'ts good," he said. But he was not finished yet. I had still two more chapters I need him to read. I looked at his face. I knew he was exhausted. "I'll read these to you," I told him. So, I began to read. I came to a rough patch in my writing and I stopped to ask Tom a question. "Would it sound better if????? Tom. Tom. TOM!" My loving husband had fallen fast asleep.

I woke him up. Go to bed I demanded. "It's really good I heard everything. I just fell asleep at the last part." Ya, right, I thought. I'm writing a horror story and you fell asleep. Must be one great story!

He climbed into bed. I waited up to say goodnight to my eldest son. As I walked down the corridor to his room I thought to myself, how many more nights will I be able to kiss him good night. I am not prepared to miss any. My husband hadn't even said goodnight to Kyle and this made me sad for him. One day soon, he won't be able to walk into his room late at night and give him a kiss.

I climbed into my bed finally. My husband woke up briefly, "Love you," he said. I didn't answer. He got out of bed and went to sleep on the couch. I followed.

"What are you doing?" I asked confused.

"You're mad at me so I'm going to sleep on the couch."

"I'm not mad at you," I had to tell him. "I'm just disappointed in myself for writing such a crappy horror story that it actually put you to sleep."

He tried to argue. But at this point I didn't want to hear his insincere reassurances.

Story and plot played in my head as I tried to sleep. The wind began to howl and then the rain started. The skylights in our bedroom echoed the terrible storm. Then Tom began to snore. It was another long night.

I will begin work again today on my book. But my youngest is home sick and I'm so, so tired. But I know too well that I have to show up. If I don't, I might miss one of those magical days where everything comes together and I fall in love with writing once again.

Monday, March 8, 2010

Family Matters

We woke early Saturday morning, too early. We dressed in black suits, all four of us. There were ties to tie and even cufflinks to insert into pretty little French cuffs.

We drove to the airport. The kids began to argue. Tears came to my eyes as we passed over the Richmond Bridge.

“Can’t you two just not bicker for one day?” I pleaded.

They tried. But they were tired and apprehensive. They had never been to a funeral.

We flew down to sunny Los Angeles and were greeted by rain showers. It never rains in LA. But it was raining on Saturday. We made our way to Forest Lawn Cemetery. We gathered under a tent, my cousins and a few dear friends.

My Aunt had been cremated so her ashes were placed in a small wooden box. Flowers adorned the table.

We were told to remember my Aunt. I did. Tears welled in my eyes once again. I looked over at my young son. He had tears in his eyes as well.

It struck me that although my Mother is still alive; my boys never really got to know her. Kyle was only a year when we were actually told she had Alzheimer’s. And I do remember Mom coming to the hospital when Will was born. Her caretaker drove her into San Francisco just hours after Will was born. It is my last full memory of my mother. She was delighted to meet her newest Grandson.

But my Aunt quickly tried to take my Mom’s place in my children’s eyes. She was the matriarch of my side of the family. And they loved her.

Her own Grandchildren generously shared her with them.

The three cousins came together as a family once again, at a place we used to visit every Easter. My sister died 16-years-ago. I desperately felt her absence. Our other cousin lives in England. The journey was too long to make. But her beautiful flowers and note sat right next to Auntie. She was with us in spirit.

Every Easter my Mom and Aunt would drag us to Forest Lawn and we would bring flowers and place them on the graves of their parents, Mutti and Vati. These were my Grandparents. The Grandparents I never had a chance to meet.

It felt significant sitting under the tent and honoring my Aunt. I could finally mourn.

When the service concluded, the cousins and the cousin’s kids went to visit the rest of the family buried at Forest Lawn.

We walked over rows and rows of buried souls and finally found my Father. My Sister lies next to him. My heart aches. I am so glad I am with my family and all my cousins.

Next we paid our respects to the grandparents we never knew. My Aunt and my Mom always made them so alive for us. My cousin snapped a photo. I understand his desire for the photograph. That’s where our rich history began, with them. I know he wants to remember them, although he never knew them. I know he wants the connection to them and to the rest of his family. He wants to feel them today and he wants to send the photo to our other cousin in England. He wants the family that was so strong to continue through the generations. I understand this. I love him for this.

The rest of the day passed with food, conversation and little too much wine.

The four of us left late Saturday night for a small hotel room in Pasadena. I didn’t sleep much. I shared a double bed with my husband and Kyle slept in the other double bed. Will was relegated to the cot that flanked our beds.

We woke early again Sunday morning to return home. I was happy, truly happy. I looked around the small room and I understood why. I was with my family and nothing makes me happier.

We landed in Oakland and Kyle shoved Will at the airport gate, “Move faster,” he said. Will turned to Kyle, “Stop acting like such a butt.”

My husband turned to me. “They could barely last a day, and now they need to get it all out!”

He was right. I was home and home felt normal again.

Thursday, March 4, 2010

A Naked Man at the Oscars!

Growing up in LA with a father in the film business I always knew when it was Oscar time. There were Academy screenings and the trades were filled with huge advertisements taken out by studios hoping their films would win.

This has been a paraticularly colorful year.

I hate to sound like Nikki Finke from deadlinehollywood but can you believe that they won't let Nicolas Chartier, one of the four producer's of The Hurt Locker attend the Academy Awards?Apparently he sent out a mass e-mail telling people not to vote for Avatar. Now, he did not mention Avatar by name but called it something like that $500 million dollar film.

You have to understand that the Academy Awards becomes something like a nasty political campaign in the months prior to the televised event.

"Beverly Hills, CA — The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences announced today that, should “The Hurt Locker” be announced as the recipient of the Best Picture award at Sunday’s ceremonies, only three of the picture’s producers will be present for the celebration. The fourth of the film’s credited producers, Nicolas Chartier, has been denied attendance at the 82nd Academy Awards® as a penalty for violating Academy campaigning standards.

Chartier had recently disseminated an email to certain Academy voters and other film industry figures in which he solicited votes for his own picture and disparaged one of the other contending films. Academy rules prohibit “casting a negative or derogatory light on a competing film.” The executive committee of the Academy’s Producers Branch, at a special session late Monday, ruled that the ethical lapse merited the revocation of Chartier’s invitation to the Awards. "

When you sit at home in your living room watching all the pomp and ceremony you would never know that everyone is going around back stabbing everyone else.

Oh, wait! This is Hollywood. Of course they are.

I didn't know any of this when my 20 year-old sister told me to take her Academy Award ticket so I could bring a date when my Dad invited us to join him and Marcel Marceau at the Awards.

I didn't have my hair blown dry or have my make-up done, I just slipped into a simple red dress I had worn to the Junior Prom and was ready to go.

Can you believe my sister let me take her ticket to bring some stupid date? I can't even remember his name. I hope I thanked her enough. I should have done her laundry for the rest of my life.

Instead of Georgie and I, Whatshisname and I stepped into our limo with Mom and Dad, Marcel Marceau and his brother Alain Mengel and moments later arrived on the red carpet. I remember the paparazzi. The flashes went wild as Dad and Marcel made their grand entrance, stopping and talking with reporters along the way. I stood back and soaked in the glamour.

Whatshisname and I took our seats up in the bleed nose section. Dad, Mom, Marcel an Alain sat down below were the important people sit. The two things I remember about the evening were the streaker running across the stage behind David Niven and going to the bathroom with porn star Linda Lovelace. Ms. Lovelace had just starred in Deep Throat.

I returned home that evening not all that impressed.

But I still love the Oscars.

Sunday night I will be rooting for Coraline to win best animated film. It should have been one of the ten best films this year. Henry Selick wrote the screenplay adapted from Neil Gaiman's book. He went on to direct this great story in amazingly beautiful stop motion animation.

I will be thrilled when Jeff Bridges wins for Crazy Heart because he will win. What an amazing performance. He could have easily overplayed that role but not Bridges. He is an artist. I have loved him since The Fabulous Baker Boys and The Great Lebowski.

I am kinda rooting for Avatar because James Cameron has changed the way movies can be made. But I wasn't thrilled with the "Dances with Smerfs" story line. So I will secretly hope that The Hurt Locker will win because I love the movie so much. Catherine Bigelow directed a brilliant film.

I have to laugh when I think how innocent I was when I attended the event. I guess I was innocent and a bit jaded. I was not that impressed! Or maybe it was my age, nothing really impresses you when you are 17 years-old.

Enjoy the Oscars.

Do you watch The Academy Awards? Who are you rooting for? What part do you like best about the show?

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

How Can I Be Sure?

I ordered flowers today for my Aunt’s funeral. I gripped my stomach as I talked to the nice man in Los Angeles about exactly what I wanted--white roses and white tulips with some English Ivy and twisting twigs. I added a note from all of us. A pain shot through my abdomen.

When things get really emotional or stressful for me, I have the uncanny ability to place all my stress into my body. I have perfected this talent over the years. Usually it takes a few days for the full effect of whatever is eating me up to make its way into a physical symptom. Today it hit hard and fast.

I hung up the phone feeling bewildered. I am not prepared to bury my Aunt. I feel her loss so much more significantly than I was prepared for. And now I’m certain that I will be the next one the family will bury.

See, this is what I do. I know it probably keeps me NOT thinking about the things too painful to think about. And I’ve mastered the talent. It has taken years, but it’s the one thing in my life that I know I am really very good at.

Clinically, I think they call it hypochondriasis. I’ve actually never been really diagnosed. But my friends have been happy to diagnose me. “Oh Terry, it’s just in your head,” they will tease. I kid about these things, but its really real and scary.

This afternoon my husband had to scrape me off the ceiling. The pain in my stomach frightened me so much. I am convinced I’m having serious health issues that involve something deep and dark and terminal.

I quickly go through a myriad of morbid scenarios. And then I hole up in my home and worry.

The creative part of me has a field day. I have had so many terminal illnesses in my head that I’ve buried myself more times than I can count.

This is the part of being a creative person that I really hate. In a mere second I can project so far into the future. Scenes play out quickly and brutally.

I try to go to my “nice” place. I try and breathe. I force myself out into the world. This all helps, sometimes.

My eldest put into perspective last night, “Mom, are you feeling alright?”

“No, dear I have some stomach issue.”

“Oh Mom,” he teased. “Last week didn’t you think you had a brain tumor?”

His loving humor really helped. It brightened by dark mood. And he made me realize that my stomach is probably just that, a stomachache.

But how can I be sure?

How do you cope with stress? Do you assume the worst when it comes to medical issues? Do you meditate or use any other coping tools to deal with life’s difficulties?

Monday, March 1, 2010

Opera is playing in the kitchen. Yes it is. But I fear that it's too late. My eldest is buried under SAT prep and term papers and my youngest is in his room easily maneuvering between homework and the computer 'thing.'

Are we the normal American family? Is this what we have become? I promise you I have never over scheduled my kids yet here I am amazed at how much we all have to juggle. Will 'shadowed' another high school today. Tomorrow he will 'shadow' his final school. That will make five schools he has toured. That means I had to call those schools, make the appointments and get Will there. There were applications and interviews and open houses. And this is just high school.

Kyle studies all the time. Well, in all honesty, I don't know when he is not studying because his computer is always open and I have no idea if he is on facebook, his music page, or if he really is doing the research for that term paper he says he is working on.

And then there is their fencing tournaments. Both my kids are fencers. Yesterday, Kyle spent the entire day in Oakland at a qualifier for Nationals. He came home scratched up, bruised and exhausted...and we are talking fencing here, not football. But he had a huge grin. He made Nationals.

And why all this craziness? I have always wanted my children to have choices. I was afraid that something they did or did not do in elementary school might effect middle school, what they did in middle school might effect high school, and what they did in high school would effect college, etc. etc. etc. So, I became part of the "Race to Nowhere." I instilled this notion so much in my kids that now Kyle stresses that he will have choices when it comes time to go to the 'right' college. I have done my boys a huge disservice. And now I am caught in a vicious cycle.

I think back to when I went to college and I applied to two schools. I didn't go to an independent school just the school a few blocks from my house. I took the SAT one time. And I'm sure I didn't study for it. I think I remember one Stanley Kaplan review course but that was it. My score was good enough. I didn't need all the choices in the world. So why have I been so obsessed with choices.

I think it has come out of fear. Since the day I held my newborn in my arms, the baby boomers were asking me if I had put my name down in a pre-school of my choice. It started then. My babies were not even walking or talking, just pooping an peeing and I had put their names down at the 'right' pre-schools. There were interviews and applications. And it has just spiraled from there.

I wanted to live in an area that had the best public school district. And I still checked out independent schools. I toured and evaluated. I talked to other parents. And the fear kept escalating.

I have spent years making sure I made the right choices to give my kids the opportunity to have choice.

Now I know that all these choices I have made, have made us a little less happy. And is anything worth happiness?

If I had it to over again I don't think I would step on the treadmill of never ending opportunity. I think I would have settled for just fine. My kids would have blossomed at their own pace and we would all have been so much less stressed.

Now, to do this I would have needed blinders and earplugs because the voices all around you speak of all the things one MUST do. It is so easy to get caught up in this ridiculous race.

And I blame myself for making my kid's lives so much more complicated than they needed to be. I hope I have not caused them to much harm but I know that I have caused a little bit of harm. And I am sorry for that.

But the craziness needs to stop. And we need to be part of the solution.

I promise I will never ask a newborn's mom to make sure she puts his or her name on a list to make sure he or she gets into pre-school!

Have you been caught up in this race to nowhere? What would you do differently? Do you do things out of fear? How should I move forward?

THE RACE TO NOWHERE is a film by director Vicki Abeles

Monday Morning and the Three Black Crows

The familiar roar of the trash trucks. The first ray of sunlight streaming through the cracks in the curtains of my bedroom. My husband's alarm softlly ringing.

It's monday morning. I know because I have a pit in my stomach and I can feel my body almost shaking. For years now, I have come to dread monday morning.

The kids leave for school. Tom is off to work. And I am left alone to face my fears.

I know if I just put one foot on the ground I'll feel better. But my bed feels so comfortable. It's warm and safe.

But until I get up and brush my teeth I will endure the anxiety of monday morning.

I think a part of me looks at the new week filled with dread. I think about the things that can go wrong. My mind worries about all the 'what ifs.' Today was no exception.

I willed myself out of bed. And little by little I began to feel myself again. But this morning I wonder if every morning will feel like monday when the kids are out of the house?

It's the chaos of a life full of everybody else's needs that has kept me sane. Or at least that's what I'm pretending.

I remember the black crows that landed on our lawn and then decided to make our magnolia tree their private retreat yesterday. They remind me of Edgar Allen Poe's, The Raven. "Are they a sign of bad things to come?" I can't help but wonder.

I am sensitive to superstitions.

I am nearing the end of my YA novel. It is a horror story. I am so immersed in the story that I see life in shades of gothic notes. I fear that putting the kind of story I am writing out into the world will bring nothing but bad things to me and my family.

It is a personal story. A very, very personal one that explores a dark and piercing subject matter. And yet I have chosen to write about this. And now that I'm almost done with the book I am afraid.

When I was young, my father produced a film called Rosemary's Baby. After the movie was released very bad things began to happen to some of the people involved in the movie. My father was no exception. The film's composer died in a freak skiing accident, Roman Polanski's wife, Sharon Tate and her unborn child were slaughtered the summer of 1969. And then my dad got sick. He never fully recovered. He died in 1977.

The movie was about the devil. I have come to fear anything that has anything to do with the devil. There are just certain things we should not play with.

So, why am I writing a book that has as its central theme these things that terrify me? Am I trying to come to understand my own journey. Or am I just writing the best story I can?

I have stopped shaking. The pit in my stomach has left for know. But I am left thinking about my novel.

Writing about my fears this morning makes me feel a bit better. I feel a bit childish thinking that I have any control over my destiny. But do I?

Are you superstitious? Do you think there are subject matters too scary to address? How do you approach monday morning? Should I stick my novel in my desk drawer and never look at it again? I would love to know your thoughts.