Posts Tagged ‘happiness’


December 7, 2011

Andy and I are walking up Fryman canyon.  It’s a splendid morning, the mountains are clearly wrinkled across the verdant valley, echoing our own slowly aging faces.  This is Sunday in the park sans George in my LA circa 2011.

“This is a perfect moment,” I say, stopping to appreciate the view.  “Our kids haven’t yet left and my parents are still alive, I’m halfway up this hill with you…”

“It is a perfect moment,” she says as we walk on together.  I grow a tiny bit sad, “But it’s not your perfect moment—your parents have already passed and…”

“For me, every moment is a perfect moment,” Andy says, simply.  I take this in.

“Then you’re happy and this truly is a perfect moment.  And I’ve nothing to say.”

(except, perhaps, Namaste)


Panic in Piddle Park: Self and Self-Esteem

June 29, 2011

A recent Atlantic article by Lori Gottlieb, “How to Land Your Kid in Therapy,” goes by a different hook on the magazine’s cover:  “How the Cult of Self-Esteem is Ruining our Kids.”

It’s summer so I’ll keep it brief:  fear-driven pitches sell books and magazines but do little to help parents do better with children.  The end.


But… if you’ve got a couple of extra minutes we can drill a little deeper.  Gottlieb traces the ever-swinging parenting-styles pendulum that proves about as helpful as an Edgar Allen Poe accompaniment to the pit.

The experts tell us that we’re messing up our kids, and then we embrace this year’s new-new panacea.  We’re giving too many choices.  We’re telling kids they are special when they are not.  We are failing to say no and set limits.  We are failing to give our kids space to separate from us and learn from a little adversity.

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Full Circle Solstice

June 21, 2010

Well, happy summer solstice, again.

Hello, again.  Good-bye, again.

Go. Dog. Go, again.

How can I begin to say what I really mean?

How can I convey the love I feel for you, and for us and for our world?

I may have failed to tame my ego, heal my narcissism and more fully place my self in proper service to the Self and our collective SELF (although I like to think I’ve made a little progress this year), I have certainly failed to become any sort of perfect parent (not that this was ever the goal).

But I have treasured a year; and in working hard, I have made a difference—to myself.  I do know that I have also made a difference to some others, and I choose to not be coy and pretend I am unaware of this and the many kind and encouraging comments I have deeply appreciated along the way.

I have sought to give, but I have received much in the bargain—age-old wisdom proving true personally and viscerally that it is good to give, that it is through what we give that we find connection, relationship and happiness (and that “giving” can be attention, presence, affection, patience, even just thoughts).

I have apportioned time to blogging, time disconnected from Andy and Nate and Will (thanks to you guys for weathering my self-imposed year of blogging mindfully, too often at your expense).  So, now it is time to follow Kristen’s example and “buffer.”

Only connect.  This is what I have learned from Forster via Andy, and what I have striven to write and live (the challenge about connecting proves to be:  how much and with who?).  Moving forward I hope to continue to only connect, but in balance, connecting virtually, actually and internally with the spirits and the muses.

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Honoring Ellie

May 28, 2010

Last year I wrote about Ellie on the anniversary of her death, but this year I choose to write about her on the anniversary of her birth, in 1926.  Parents can be difficult, but watching Andy lose both her parents has been a profound experience—one that in some way or other everyone can relate to, or will face in some variation eventually.

Ellie’s first husband was a cowboy and movie stuntman (the father of my brother and sister-in-law).  Her own dad, an army officer, died when she was only four.  Andy’s dad was an urbane New Yorker who came out to LA with Danny Kaye’s radio show.  When they met, Ellie was working at a tony telephone answering service from which she had many a colorful story about potty-mouthed celebrities and how she, always a feisty sort, set more than one or two of them straight.

More often than not, parents are a mixed bag, but when a “good mother” comes along you grab on.  Mother-in-laws are the oldest joke in the joke book, yet my mother-in-law was fantastic to me.  From the first night I met her, she and Arthur telling old Hollywood stories in a booth at Musso & Franks, Andy and I still shaking the dust of our cross-country road-trip off ourselves, she was unexpected, unconventional and a unique character.  I never called her “mom,” that word just never had the best ring to me, so I went with “Ellie,” a really pretty name for a truly beautiful woman.  When I was a kid my dad had said something to the effect of if you wanted to know what a woman was going to look like when she was older, look at her mom.  Ellie made me think of those words and conclude:  no worries in that department.

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A tale of two camps

May 14, 2010

The summer camp that my parents sent me to was a well-respected and venerable institution in the north woods of Wisconsin.

The summer camp I went to, at least in my mind, was something more akin to a Nazi concentration camp.

As a grown-up I might like to spend some time amongst the pines, “roughing it,” swimming in the lake, fishing, engaging in manly sport and jocular good cheer with fellows.

As an eight-year-old child, I was put on a transport vehicle, slept on one-inch thick mattresses and had forced work details for insubordination:  “green buckets” that had to be filled with either pine needles, pine cones, or (hardest to come by in the immaculate woods) trash.

As a grown-up I can see how this very camp helped shape David Mamet’s love of guns and cabins in the woods (he went there and I’m sure he loved it; in my mind he might have been a capo, collaborating with the authorities as some sort of “counselor in training”).

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Casting an eye toward Happiness

May 12, 2010

A good number of us consciously interconnected bloggers are, thanks to Momalon, focusing today and tomorrow on the theme of happiness.

And while I’m as likely as not to be reading Jung’s Red Book or some fairly obscure tome on art and shamans, I’m pretty bad at reading social cues—at mapping the “real” world (maybe because I’m so busy running around on that other side of the looking glass, communing with the surreal world in which I seem to live).  In any event it was Monday evening and I was multi-tasking away—cooking diner, and reading some of my fave bloggers when I found my way to Momalon’s “five for ten” challenge and finally realized what it actually was.  I had visited Momalon fairly often in the past, but when bloggers I respected announced that they were doing “five for ten,” I somehow assumed that it was invitation only—and since I had not been officially invited I never thought to crash the party; once I ventured there, however, I realized that it was a very welcoming thing, this five for ten.  I immediately knew that I wanted to participate, only while other bloggers had been thinking about the previously announced themes for ten days, I had just gotten wind of the themes on the very day that it had already started.

Late to the party, late blooming, slightly clueless in the world… story of my life.

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April in Paris… or not exactly

April 24, 2010

While I am fortunate to have ever been to Paris at all, I have never been there in April.  Songs and movies seem to suggest that to be in Paris in April is pretty much to fall in love, but I’m hoping that being wherever we are today (with a little consciousness thrown in) might give us that April-in-Paris feeling, even if we’ve never quite had that April-in-Paris feeling, at least not in April and in Paris.

While much of Los Angeles virtually is a movie set, with even super-luxury houses having brick or marble facades and stucco along the unseen sides, no British Manor house or French Chateau would need to be approached from only one direction; but in Hollywood it’s all about what’s “in the shot,” and the rest be damned.

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My little potato

April 17, 2010

Right when my first kid was born I was riding around in my car and the eclectic radio station played an enchanting little tune, “Little Potato,” that just about summed up my feelings for my wrinkly red little newborn, even if he had a tendency to howl in a way potatoes (and other root vegetables) never seemed to do.

A couple of days ago that song came flooding back to my brain as I started cooking dinner with that same kid, now well into his fifteenth year and towering over me in the kitchen.  We were planning to roast potatoes, and I was about the prep my store-bought spuds when I realized that our homegrown crop was ready.

I had taken the initiative of planting a bunch of potatoes that had sprouted in the far reaches of the vegetable drawer, and they had done great in the garden.  Nate, Andy and I were reaching back generations with the yanking of plants and the uprooting of… yes, potatoes.  We’d of course grown tomatoes, pumpkins even, but potatoes seemed a bit like “real” farming.  I imagine that my shtetl ancestors might have been farmers back in Russia when they weren’t running from Cossacks, but I know that my grandma in Austria-Hungary grew up on a farm so it’s in my blood.  Andy’s mom grew up on a farm in Oregon with her grandfather after her dad died when she was four, so Nate had some good “Green Acres” stock to be working with.

They say the simple things in life are what tend to bring happiness, and after appreciating the tympani of rain on the roof that afternoon, the rainbow spotted in the market parking lot, the harvest of simple potatoes and the cooking together, smells of garlic, rosemary, olive oil and the golden potatoes, we sat down to our feast, appreciating the sun still shinning at our back door as the days grew longer and we talked of travels to Ireland where the sun set in mid summer at ten thirty… and to northern Finland where the sun never set at all, dipping almost to the horizon and rising again.

Is it just me, or do things we grow get suffused with spirit and taste better than things we merely buy?

Sometimes we go seeking peak experiences, and they can be fun, but sometimes we just appreciate our little potatoes and, at least for a brief moment, all is right with the world.

Namaste, Bruce

It really is cool (and successful) to be kind

April 10, 2010

A NY Times piece on Ellen DeGeneres, “Ellen, ‘Idol’ and the Power of Niceness,” offers some significant hope in a time of bullies, backsliding and bullshit.

The central point is that in a world as catty and hokey as “American Idol,” even if Ellen’s shtick is as calculated as everyone else’s, she chooses to go with kind and this seems to win her cross-over fans (not across the straight-gay line, which it does, but across the kids-grown-ups line which is even more of a feat).

Hey, if a fifty-something fully-out lesbian can be liked, trusted and respected by virtually everyone, and represent wild success born of niceness, I think there is hope for America.  I don’t watch much TV, and I’ve never actually seen the Ellen Show, and have long since lost all interest in Idol, but I’m so far off the grid of what most people are interested in that I’m just thrilled to read in the Times that she’s nice and it’s going over well.

I’ve often said that it’s cool to be kind and I saw this story as another chance to make this point.  People who feel good about themselves are generally kind.  Cruelty is a sign of low self-esteem and unhappiness.  Mean people do not “win,” at what really matters, they do not achieve good feelings that last.

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Chicken Soup for our Broken Society

March 30, 2010

An Op-Ed piece in the New York Times by David Brooks, “The Broken Society,” caught my attention, primarily because I tend to agree that our society is broken (as for why I think so, see Myth-Maker, Myth-Maker make me a myth).

Brooks outlines the brokenness and then turns to Brit Phillip Blond who “lays out three big areas of reform:  remoralize the market, relocalize the economy and recapitalize the poor.”

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