Give up a little.

I’m going to talk a bit about marriage. If you haven’t started rolling your eyes yet, just give me 2 minutes. Hang in there.

My husband and I are entering our 10th year of marriage. It does not get easier. It’s a little like the sand in the bottom of your shoes at the end of a beach day. Persistent and sometimes annoying and mostly, a lovely reminder of that great day at the beach.

And then there’s the changing. No one is ever done changing. As Michelangelo said at age 87, “Ancora imparo. [I am still learning.]”

We were 25 and 32.

We are now 35 and almost 42.

A lot of learning happens. A lot of changing happens. And yet, we’re still here.

The thing about binding yourself in perpetuity to another is really the whole permanence of it. Our generation is not one of sticking. We are into growing and changing. We are into development. We are into our kids; epically into our kids. We are not so much into ourselves. We are not so much into each other. Therefore, we stick like those craft googly eyes to yarn – not very well.

Many of our parents divorced. Hey, we all turned out alright. And, we did. It’s true. We turned to Annie and The Neverending Story and E.T. – the real-life stories of broken homes healed us. We found a way to be resilient. And it worked because our parents were happier apart than they were together. We learned that if you cannot be happy in your own skin, you should never inhabit the skin of another.

And like elephants, we remember.

Marriage is hard. It’s give and take and mostly, it feels like you’re the one doing all the giving. Of course, both parties feel this way. It’s love and unrequited love and both parties take turns feeling the pangs of rejection. It’s the day-to-day with small children and nights when you want to talk, but, then sleep wins. Because sleep always wins.

It’s sex and no sex and not enough sex. The sex, it matters.

And it’s hard. And, it’s wonderful. And, it’s fucking hard.

Then, there are times when you come to a cross-road. It’s not about one thing. It’s about all things. You look at that face you know so well and wonder if you really know it at all. You do a lot of wondering…

The changing is happening every moment. You have very little control over how you change and how you grow. You just do and you expect the people you love to come with you.

Sometimes, they don’t. But, sometimes…they insist upon it.

I’ve only packed a bag once and I meant it.

And yet, we’re still here.

It’s not perfect and it never will be, but, it’s really quite beautiful in its difficulty.

My husband and I had a stand-off last week; a This Is Who I Am vs. I May Not Like Who You Are Becoming. It was intense and there was no give.

And then, there was give. Because someone gives instead of giving up. It’s part of the growing. It’s not all synchronized swimming. It’s bloody knees and stopping to help each other back up.

This is my marriage. It’s ugly and beautiful and hard and ultimately, perfect.

But, it’s never easy.

I wouldn’t have it any other way.





“Just go in your underwear!”

“Just go in your underwear!”

I can still hear my grandmother’s voice. Clear, jolly and amused by our lack of ingenuity. No bathing suits? Just go in your underwear. In the early 80s, this was the answer to most water play dilemmas. Truth be told, it is still my first response when a child arrives at my home unprepared to be wet. I channel the woman who never lacked common sense.

A bathing suit isn’t a necessity. Plans aren’t a necessity. Dirt is necessary. The sprinkler is necessary.

My grandmother would place the sprinkler on her small, rectangular patch of Southern California front lawn. We would run until the wet was down to our bones.

There wasn’t anything as good as that feeling. Stringy hair in our eyes and pools of muddy water around our feet; pushing one foot down until you could only see your ankle.

My grandmother was inside doing…something. Or nothing. We never knew. Sometimes, sandwiches would magically appear.

We’d make elaborate mud pies with the tin plates she’d given up on. If you wanted to know which special event you were celebrating, you had to count the rocks on your pie. 1, 2, 3, 4, 8! Happy 8th Birthday!

Time moved like partially solidified honey and it was just as sweet.

At night, we’d run around the back porch, a blanket draped loosely over our backs and tied with those thin, red rubber bands all grandmothers kept in their junk drawer. We were still in our underwear; dried mud on our feet.

They had a few glasses of Wild Turkey on the rocks in the evenings. My grandmother’s leg resting on a small table. They would chat and laugh and observe. We were clearly their world, but, we weren’t their entire world.

We slept on the floor on carefully arranged couch cushions; the lilac air freshener doubling as “monster spray” protecting us as we slept.

At 6:00 a.m., I would hear her slippered feet in the hallway. At 6:15, the smell of her coffee entered the room before her. Folgers.

When my children tell me they hate the sprinkler, I wonder how it is possible that my deep love of those summers wasn’t transferred genetically.

“Don’t you want to hear about my summers with Grandma Marylee?”

“Who?”

I wonder how it is possible that my deep love of her wasn’t transferred genetically.

She would pass by my tousled hair peeking out from under a blanket on her way to the back porch; her coffee in hand, ” Are you up? Do you want to join me for coffee?”

After she drank her coffee, we’d start all over again.

“Grandma, I don’t have a bathing suit!”

“Just go in your underwear!”





Mercury is in retrograde.

Every time someone tells me that Mercury is in retrograde, I wonder what I should be feeling. We are always looking for simple answers for our big emotions. We don’t want to feel them. We want to explain them and tuck them into neat boxes to be filed away later by an overzealous intern.

“Ahhhh yes, you’re feeling longing? File that under Mercury in retrograde.”

It’s just what we do. We want the illusion of order and the simplicity of categorization. When we are ill, we want medicine. When we feel big things, we want structure.

Feelings are chaos. We don’t like chaos. We’ve been told time and time again that chaos is bad. BAD chaos, BAD.

So the big things and the ugly things often get pushed under the beautiful area rugs in our mind. If it doesn’t fit, you must hide that shit.

I’m done with that part.

It was the end of the year at my new job. Students were leaving. Staff were leaving. There was exit and newness swimming in the air. There were tears and the emptying of desks and the changing of the guard. It was heavy on everyone’s shoulders.

Watching the timid steps of small feet mourning the loss of a teacher they loved or a desk they’d just grown used to. Or, the holding on so tightly to a woman who has put band-aids on their knees for over 7 years. Just another day. We weave in and out of each other’s lives.

It’s not seamless, but, we want it to be. We put our heads down when we cry. We wait until the last moments to wear our big feelings on our faces. We wait for an embrace before the flood gates open and we turn our insides out.

We are so ashamed of our sadness. We are so angered by our longing.

We wait until the last of all moments to say, “Thank you!” and, “I love you.” and, “I’m sorry.” and, “I’ll miss you.”

I watched the students linger in the hallways; holding papers and books close and tight to their chests. It was as if they were sure that if they moved their protective shields, their bare hearts would be exposed.

And I watched all of this unfold marveling at how much we all just need each other and how much we try to fight it.

Mercury may be in retrograde, but, that’s not why our bare hearts are hanging out.

I love you. I’m sorry. I’ll miss you. Thank you.

I’m not waiting until the bitter end to say it.





That mom.

These last three weeks have been a test of something. I’m still trying to figure out what the universe is saying. I really am intently listening, but, her message is being drowned out by my perpetual yelling at my children.

We are at the tail end of the school year. We’re all proceeding as if we are in our last week of work after 50 years with the company. We’re physically present and emotionally in Aruba.

Every school morning has become a pained documentary about the world’s slowest and most mismanaged mile. School lunches have basically been reduced to a box of band-aids.

Like marathon runners in the home stretch, we are limping in and drenched in our own urine. We’re shutting the fuck down.

And, because of this, I have been “that mom” more often than usual. Which for me means, I’ve been “that mom” almost constantly.

I hate being “that mom”. But, they are being “those kids”. And this mom turns to THAT mom like a wildfire starts in the dry and brittle California hills.

We’re on the world’s most annoying roller coaster of all uphill and no sweet release of the easy and exhilarating down. Nothing has been easy.

I have fully given up my societal facade of decorum. “That mom” with the screaming two year old with only one shoe hanging sideways under her arm? Yep. Totally me. And, “that mom” carrying 3 backpacks and stomp-fuming toward the playground her children ran off to without telling her first? Nice to meet you!

And “that mom” running after her toddler who has developed a new obsession with parking lots…her thighs causing enough friction to create an electrical storm? Me again.

And, “that mom” trying to avoid after school play dates like the a middle school band concert? Also me.

And, “that mom” grounding everyone and then happily letting them go to parties and slumber parties because GET OUT OF HERE! Howdy.

And they are “those kids” with the constant whining and fighting and running off and the terrible case of doing whatever the hell we want-itis.

And I’m the one trying not to eat her young.

I know it’s the season of discontentment. They can taste summer. They are railing against structure and time constraints. They are done with school and not moving their bodies while the sun is shining through unopened school windows.

I can taste summer. I am railing against muffin baking and school fundraisers and kill-me-now packing lunches and not moving my body after a winter in which I ate my weight in bread and cheese and all of the buttered things.

I have to remind myself that the great thing about this time of perpetual deconstruction is that eventually we will hit rock bottom.

I love rock bottom.

That point at which the sand castle you built all year crumbles. The foundation is flat and you have no choice but to all look at each other and say, “Our home is gone. I love you. Let’s start again.”

We always rebuild.

I don’t know what our rock bottom this year will be. Will it be me completely flipping out at a Farmer’s Market when my 2 year old tries to steal someone’s goat? Will it be when I undoubtedly forget someone’s end of year school field trip and they vow to hate me forever?

I don’t know, but, I do know that when we sit surrounded by the ashes of this school year, we’ll come together like everyone does after defeat and complete devastation and the trauma of life and all of the hard things we share.

Like family. We may be “that mom” and “those kids”, but, we’re in this together.

I can’t wait to see next year’s castle. I hope it has an in-ground pool.





The scooter.

When something truly ridiculous happens, it often makes me feel better imagining that every parent must have a story that feels and sounds like the pilot episode of an HBO series.

I’ve had so many bad parenting moments, but, generally my laissez faire attitude about the job and the inevitable consequences of said attitude only extend to my immediate family. Until this week.

I give you my HBO pilot for Bad Parenting Moments – The Scooter Snafu. (Hey, call me sometime, HBO!)

On Sunday, I was perusing all of the school paperwork I’d neglected all week when I ran across this in the bulletin:

“MISSING SCOOTER – Did you accidentally bring home the wrong scooter with your child? A scooter with pink handlebars went home with the wrong family on April 10th. Was it you? Please contact the office with any information.”

And my first thought was, “Oh shit…I stole that kid’s scooter.” and my second thought was, “Oh shit…that was almost a month ago.” and my third thought was, “Oh. Shit.”

For about 6 weeks, we’d been giving eldest’s classmate a ride home after school. Four days a week, I’m wrangling 5 children into a minivan. To say that I handle it with grace would be a gigantic lie. I’m generally found on the front lawn of the school yelling at random children, mostly my own, saying, “WHERE IS (fill in the name of child currently under my care that is missing)?” and, “We have to go. Now. It’s time to go. Get in the car. We’re late.”

On April 10th, the scene was no different except that the child we were driving home informed me that he rode his scooter to school that morning. So, in my best impression of a flailing armed muppet, I ushered him quickly to the bike rack, had him point out his scooter, forcefully grabbed it, shoved it in my trunk and left.

When I dropped him off, he said, “Wait, this isn’t my scooter.” and I said, “You’re joking, right?” and he said, “No!” and I said, “OH no! Be sure you bring it back to school tomorrow!” and then I sped away toward my next school pick-up leaving a 2nd grader and a stolen scooter in my rearview mirror.

I then forgot all about the scooter.

Completely forgot the entire episode.

Until that fateful Sunday…

Oh. Shit.

So, I immediately e-mail the school administrator. “Oh heyyyy, I have some information about the stolen scooter.” and proceed to tell the story. And she returns my e-mail very quickly to tell me she’s so pleased there’s a lead because the family is very determined to get it back.

Gulp.

I then vow to replace the scooter if anything happened to it.

I then e-mailed the mother of the child we drop off and, long story short, have to remind her of that time I left her son with a scooter that wasn’t his outside of her place of business.

Thankfully, she had the scooter. In her trunk. Because she had forgotten as well. Because motherhood.

I e-mail the school, “Oh heyyyy, MYSTERY SOLVED!”. I try to make us look like Scooby Doo crime fighters and day savers instead of thieves and forgetful parents.

I then have to face the music the next day at school pick-up. I had to tell the mom I stole her daughter’s scooter.

The look on her face was a mix of surprise and confusion as I rattled off the tale of my abject laziness and dropping-of-the-ball-ness. It wasn’t until she said, “It didn’t look like you on the tape.” that I realized that there was surveillance of me stealing the scooter.

Right.

A bunch of school officials and these parents had been viewing this happen. I’m on tape stealing a scooter. At my children’s elementary school.

Let that sink in for a moment, folks.

The good news is, the scooter has been returned. The bad news is, I stole a little girl’s scooter from an elementary school.

Helpful pro tip: The mom uniform of black yoga pants, oversized black fleece and hat pulled over dirty hair makes you difficult to identify during a scooter thievery. The more you know.

Until next time, this is Bad Parenting Moments wishing you a lovely and theft-free day.





“You’re fine.”

After four children and several years of parenting, you could say my emotional responses to certain things have changed over time.

I know the particular sound a child makes when its foot is caught between two crib rails. I know the difference between hunger and boredom and I know, I know, I know when you are fake upset or fake crying.

I’m like a crying Yoda. The Navy Seal of crying. *Field of Dreams whisper* If you fake cry, I will not come.

Today my four year old was pretending to be very upset about something really, really, devastatingly unimportant. It was the usual wailing and coyote howls straight from the Tom Cruise school of over-acting.

I ignored her. That’s how I roll. I stirred my coffee very slowly and made no movement to rectify the obviously concocted plight.

She finally came downstairs and said, “MY STRIPED SHIRT IS DIRTY! IT IS MY FAVORITE! I CAN’T WEAR IT TODAY!” and then she melted into a puddle of tears and barely passible grief and I said, “You’re fine.”

Later today, a mock shriek of epic proportions came from the swing set. “MOMMY! MOMMMMMYYYYYYY!”

I continued to wash dishes.

She finally stomped in and said, “There is dirt on my feet!” and I said, “You’re fine.”

Four is a lot like really bad dinner theatre. The actors are really into it. This is their moment and they think that everyone filling the room is just as into it as they are. They often fail to notice that the filet looks like dog shit and that the attendees are hoping for a massive coronary, praying for a swift death. “Dear Lawd, please take me away from all this tragedy and terrible acting.”

Since she is my third 4 year old, I’m kind of like that friend you have who continues to lose really stupid bets. I’ve been here before and I’m not impressed by the terrible theatrics and yes, my filet will always look like dog shit.

A friend recently pointed me toward a magazine article that severely detailed the “10 things you should NEVER EVER say to your child!”. I found one of my stock answers, “You’re fine/ok” was among them.

And I had to excuse myself from the internet while I kicked a whole boat load of rocks.

Because,

1) Calm down, parenting magazines

but guess what, no biggie…

2) I’m fine.

and

3) She’s ok.

I tell my 4 year old that she is fine because she is and if that’s the kind of brash, harsh reality that I shouldn’t be exposing my children to then…oh well. I’m sure we’ll be fine.

It’s the same way I feel about lots of things people “should” you about. You should do this and you should do that and you should consider…” but, no thank you, I believe I will not.

I tell her that she is fine because she is and more than that, no matter what any magazine tells me my job is, I truly don’t believe my job is to make every tiny cardboard lizard into a terrible, ferocious fire breathing dragon. Sometimes, we do need to acknowledge that a dirty shirt isn’t the end of the world.

She fell off of the swing a few days ago. She was hurt and scared and a bit confused. The wind was knocked out of her. I ran over and scooped her up. She cried and buried her face in my hair. I said, “I’m here! I’m right here. I’m sorry you’re hurt. I love you.”

The world is like that. Humanity is like that. We don’t need our community to run to our aid over every teeny-tiny perceived threat to our psyche, but, when we’re really hurt, we really show up for each other. I like this model; recognizing the times that call for a soft shoulder while acknowledging that sometimes, that gnawing inconvenience is not the end of our world even if it may feel like it for a few minutes.

Someone is going to continue to stir their coffee when you complain about your shirt, but, they’re also going to scoop you up and love you when you fall.

And I’m going to continue to say that she’s fine when she is and I’m going to continue to love her through the hard stuff when she’s not.

I can live with that even if I’m doing it wrong.





The minutes and measure of a man.

On Saturday night, at a small restaurant at an even smaller table, four parents discussed parenting. That’s a big topic. Broad and cavernous – so full of the space between all our ideologies and thoughts. 4 parents. 4 philosophies. No matter how intertwined, when it comes right down to it, we are always and utterly in left field. There is no amount of sameness that makes parenting truly feel simpatico.

We were talking about the rapture of current parenting. This new-age “all in” prom. Everyday, all of the children are kings and queens and we’re there to make sure no one spikes the punch. It’s lovely and exhausting; our wanting to be fully involved while functioning on the same lack of sleep as our forefathers. Four score and seven cups of coffee ago.

With all of the supposed progress, it’s much the same except the stakes are so much higher. We MUST be present or, to our children’s chagrin, we are absentee. And, we worry so much more about being absentee even though we are perpetually and stunningly there. SO there. It’s nonsense this “not enough”. It’s nonsense.

Because…

Whenever I’m in the depths of the, “I don’t show up enough.”, I always think of my father.

My parents divorced when I was very young. I saw my father only during the summer. Still, he is my soft place to land. He is my humanity ground zero. When all is broken, he is the fullness of possibility and the truthful teller of the consequences of bad decisions. He is the parent I run to and he was rarely “there”.

There is subjective. There bends.

He was always and boldly working toward fulfilling his dream of being a musician. Our fleeting times with him were mostly spent with grandparents I’ve grown to idolize and homes I’ve grown to daily daydream of. His presence in his own life, never giving up on his life’s calling, led to a very rich carousel of love and presence in the family around us; yet, I can imagine that he felt the ugly tug of parenting guilt. He worked constantly and we did what latchkey kids do – we used our goddamn imagination.

Guess what? We’re ok.

My father taught me about the value of kindness, the bravery of a great adventure, the American songbook and the weight of your own decisions.

We probably spent, on average, roughly 90 quality minutes with him every day for two months once a year.

Yet, those 90 minutes are the cornerstone of who I am.

I think of the time I spend with my children…the kitchen that I seem to occupy with every spare breath I breathe. The meals that take on a life of their own and the pure function that overrides the fun. You can’t spell function without f-u-n. But, watch us try…

As I readied myself for this Saturday night dinner, my eldest daughter was showering while I put on make-up and we spoke for about 15 minutes about friendship and secrets. Those you should keep and those you should never keep. We talked about her growing up. We talked a little about me growing up. I’d been with her all day and yet, these 15 minutes, we were both THERE. We were both all in and I think, if I can just carve 15 minutes a day just like that into their lives, that will equal success.

It’s ok that I can’t be totally and 100% present every moment. It really is. Being there is about providing the cornerstone and there’s no manual on how much time builds the foundation.

It could be 15 minutes a day. There is something stunning about that. There is something beautiful. I’m giving myself permission to truly be there for 15 minutes a day – because right now, that’s the best I can do. That means that I also have to give myself permission to not worry about how much I’m messing it up the other hours of the day while writing, cooking, laundering or just, sometimes blindly, showing up.

90 minutes for 2 months a year taught me all of the good things I know about truth, love, life and the human experience. Maybe we should all relax a little.

Happy Birthday, Dad. I love you.





Off the grid

A few weeks ago, I got “the itch”. I looked around my domicile and every square inch was covered. The tops of cabinets held dusty artifacts that had long ago become cozy homes for spiders. Cabinets were as packed as my pants. There was no room at the inn.

The thing about stuff is that it permeates every pore of our idea of what home is and all of our empty spaces beg and plead to be filled. We happily concede away from minimalism. We are all collectors. We are connoisseurs of life’s flattened pennies. Things = time and time passes quickly.

I started with the goddamn kitchen because that’s what I call it. The goddamn kitchen was full of the mother I want to be. The stand mixer that I’d never used. I took it out and I let it go and with it, I let go of my dream that one day I would be the woman making 15 dozen cookies for my son’s soccer team. He hates sports. I burn cookies. The english stoneware tea set I found at a hospice store in Burbank before my daughters were born. I was so sure we would have a tea party with real tea cups. It turns out, I am not the mother who plays tea party with real cups. “Let me go!”, they said and I did because some dreams have to die, or, be shipped to Chicago to another mother who will find the cups and saucers’ true calling.

And for days and now weeks, this practice has continued. Letting go of the small toys that their big hands no longer touch. Letting go of the idea of who we are and who they are. We were frozen in time, tied to dusty wooden train tracks and clinging to the dolls with dirty faces and unbrushed hair.

And my closet…dear Zeus…my closet. A time capsule of forget-me-nots and 4 inch heels and sizes my hips would burst through like the Kool-Aid pitcher through a brick wall. I need to make room in my closet for the body I have because I love it and it deserves its time to shine. It’s hard to find space for the new you when your hangers are pressed against a size 4 teal number that looks like I stole it off of an extra on the set of Showgirls. I am not that girl anymore. Wait, I’m that girl’s much older sister and, while she is still there, she is not living fully right here and right now and my closet was a fucking living memorial to my 20s. I flung things on to my bed and when I was done, I kept the glitter zebra print Pat Benatar shoes because you’ll have to rip my beating heart out of my chest first.

This process is intense and really quite beautiful. Every day, we learn to let go and the fear that kept us clinging to these things is gone. The fear that says, “I can’t. I can’t. I can’t. This is who I am and I can’t let that go.”

“They’re JUST things.”, I’ve been known to say. But, I know it’s not true. They are pieces of a life built and they mean something. They mean a great deal. But, there is a difference between reverence for the past and being held captive by it.

We’re not done. Not even close. A little bit, every day, we watch our rooms and home transform into our present selves. It’s inspiring and it’s exciting. Seeing how much space we have to grow into the next chapter. What is going to fill that spot of the stand mixer? Probably a recessed wine fridge. Yes, change is good.

I may even wear those zebra heels next week. To the market. On a Tuesday morning at 11:00 a.m. – just to pay reverence. If for no other reason than the fact that after the great purge and a great reconciliation, you should really embrace and honor the things you keep. A reminder of how far you’ve come and how damn good your ass looks when you wear heels.

"There's no place like home. There's no place like home."

“There’s no place like home. There’s no place like home.”





I dreamed a dream.

Every time I meet a woman, we go over the basic 4:

What is your name?
What do you do?
Are you in a relationship?
Do you have children?

Inevitably, if they have children, we sink into a warm bath of camaraderie. Thank God, we speak the same language.

It’s the silk blouse of a woman’s pant suit and it’s also Eve’s apple – the full implication of guilt, knowing we connect ourselves to others by only the idea of who we are.

We are mothers.

And that means we do things like pretend that is all we are.

It’s easier for conversation.

I met this incredibly intense and interesting woman and I was drawn to her. And, when gifted with a lobster BLT and all of the time in the world, I still drew back to something in common. I started talking about my son’s inability to wipe himself and my feigned disgust – because, as a mother, there is nothing truly disgusting about “the cling”. We loathe it and embrace it so fully that we are nothing short of comical. GROW, but also, never leave. We are insane.

So, we are talking about ass wiping and I realize…my God, I am “that woman”.

I actually have thoughts outside of my maternal realm. But, it’s hard to step outside of that box. We paint our Motherhood on our bodies so completely that, by the end of every day, as much as we rail against the idea of, “I am not ONLY a mother.” (And, by the way, how fucking dare you for even implying it!), we are just that – in thought, word and deed.

And, it must be true because when a beautiful, intelligent woman corners me into conversation, I… talk about wiping asses.

So, I invited her over for processed cheese because that is what one does when forced with being authentic. You can only offer up the least real part of yourself as tribute. “I eat processed cheese. It’s not even food. Hence, I have shown you my weakness.” and then you hopefully talk about shit other than wiping your 6 year old’s ass.

I dreamed the dream. *cue starving (yet very humble) Les Mis understudies*

I made a pact with myself for Tuesday. We will not once talk about our children. We will talk about failed romance and drinking too much and the sight of our thighs in those fucking, god awful Target mirrors or a million other things. But, I have sworn to not talk about my kids. We have more to say to each other.

SHIT.

We must have so much more to say to each other.

Here’s to mold breaking and “processed cheese product”.





Karma chameleon

My grandmother was a firm believer in the idea that what was going around was definitely coming back around; to the point that decision-making left me worried. But, she always had a way of flushing out fear by making absolutely everything an adventure – even dark, corner diner booths. We always ordered the Monte Cristo. Sometimes, we’d have a view of the attached bar. She would point out the happy umbrellas dancing in the drinks instead of the sad people drinking the drinks. It was her way. She could melt even the saddest sod into a pool of happy.

She believed in “juju” like I grew to believe in well-tailored pants. They could do anything. Make a believer out of the most well-spoken skeptic. Karma holds its own special magic.

We learned that with enough of the good juju, you could pull rabbits out of hats or meals together with an empty fridge and seats and parking spaces were always available to those who tipped well.

It wasn’t just the act of being polite…it was her code of ethics and she insisted you pay in kindness, conversation with the sad, dollars for the people in need right in front of you or good intentions. Every bridge had a toll. And if you were selfish, you paid the toll. If you were disingenuous, you paid the toll. You paid what you could in spades because “the juju” would find you.

That was the bit of self preserving selfish that taught us empathy when we weren’t quite old enough to understand it. You didn’t have to feel it at first, but, eventually, you would.

And 6 and 7 and 8 held no empathy. It was duty. Duty to “the juju”.

But, at 9 and 10 and 11 and 12, the duty turned to service and service turned to something old, something new, something borrowed and something…

Juju.

Juju is harder to teach now because she is gone and I lack her ability to tell a story. I write and she lived the words and lived loudly out in the world.

She never met a stranger. She was the master of juju, spreading light and beautiful little bits of herself everywhere she went. She went a lot of places. She garnered a whole lot of juju.

This Spring, I started my Call to Juju 2014 while my wary children snarfed and heckled from the sidelines. Right now, for them, it’s purely cause and effect. If A, then possibly B. And, if B is a solid and immediate karma gold for them, the juju lightbulb goes off with an audible cartoon *DING*.

For me though, the call to my grandmother’s juju is about living the joy of your actions even when joy is a hidey-hiding-hidden bitch. Because if you offer yourself up, you open yourself to the world’s juju and I think, a lot of it is already there waiting: the universe has been so sprinkled with the juju of the people who came before.

Long live joy. Long live good juju. I miss you, Grandma.