Renters By Choice

I got lucky.  The first time I became a published writer was back in 2004 when the Los Angeles Times published my personal essay, “Paying Rent Pays Off When They Go Home.”  It explained why my husband and I chose to be renters rather than home-owners.  (You can click here to read my essay).

Thirteen years later, we’re still happy renters. 

Earlier this week, we shared a day off together and spent the hours while our son was in school running errands and wrapping Christmas presents.  We began the day with a leisurely coffee and a walk in the neighborhood.  We visited several shops and went out to lunch.  And though we drove to all those places because of my weakened legs, they were all still close enough to walk.  We spent the day getting things done, supporting businesses in our community, and enjoying each other’s company. 

Because we choose to live where we do.  Because we’re renters.

 

Change

From time to time, I re-read books from my home library.  I have hundreds of books, and I don’t remember many of them.  So instead of searching out a new book, I read an old book that seems new to me.  (It’s a good way for me to weed through my collection and decide which books to continue to keep and which to donate to our public library).

I recently picked up Leonard Nimoy’s poetry collection Come Be With with Me. (I have no memory of reading this book, yet I must have at one time because it has a place on my bookcase).

This is the power of books.  On the first page, as part of Mr. Nimoy’s introduction, I found words I didn’t realize I needed to read.

Living things must change. 

I am a living thing which must change.  If I can accept the changes, I can accept myself, and when I accept myself I can enjoy the changes and the beauty of the changes in the garden of my life.”

I don’t accept my changes easily.  Just the other night, I sadly told my husband that I don’t walk nearly as fast as I used to.  People half a block away are soon passing me on the sidewalk.  Some days I just remind myself “slow and steady” is all I’m after.  I may be walking slowly, but the important part is that I’m walking.  Other days, it stings to hear another parent at my son’s school overtake me on the sidewalk and casually call out, “You’re not going to win any races.”  She’s right.  I won’t.  She doesn’t know that I’m trying, really hard, just to get from point A to point B. 

But I am a living thing, and as Mr. Nimoy wrote “living things must change.” 

 

On another change-related note, my son, who attends a Los Angeles Unified School District elementary school, recently received his first report card of the school year.  The format of the report card has significantly changed since last year. 

I don’t like it.  That’s the short version.  To read the longer version of why I don’t like it, you can click here to read my personal essay “What Do You Think of LAUSD’S New Report Cards?” recently published on MomsLA.com.

Thankful

My dad and my son breaking the wishbone!

Maybe it’s just me, but I’m tired of all the ads.  We just got done celebrating Thanksgiving, a day for giving thanks. For showing appreciation for the many blessings in our life.  For acknowledging what we already have.

And yet, my inbox is full of emails advertising specials and sales trying to tempt me to spend money.  To buy more stuff.  Stuff I don’t need.  Stuff that gift recipients don’t really need either.  Of course, I’ll be shopping and buying presents for family and friends.  But not during Thanksgiving weekend.  Not when I’m focused on spending time with my son and husband (when he’s not at work).

It just feels like every year Thanksgiving is getting increasingly short-changed.  More and more stores are opening on Thanksgiving Day.  Black Friday specials start Thursday afternoon.  It’s happening because of supply and demand.  People respond to it.  People go to the stores.  People shop and spend money.  

Our family has a yearly Thanksgiving tradition.  We go around the table, and we take turns sharing what we are most thankful for.  This year, we did it twice — once at my parents’ house for our full Thanksgiving meal and once at our house when we were feasting on leftovers later in the day.  And both times, when it was my son’s turn, he never once gave thanks for anything materialistic.  He gave thanks for us, his grandparents, our food, our home, our planet.

And that’s what it’s all about. 

My holiday shopping will start this week instead.

  

Thankful for Public Schools

In the spirit of Thanksgiving, I’d like to share with my readers a post I wrote for MomsLA back in 2013.  That was the same year I left my twelve-year teaching career, and the year my son began his own twelve-year career as a public school student. 

Click here to read “6 Reasons Why We Should Be Thankful for Public Schools.”

And readers, I’d love to learn what you’re thankful for.  Let me know in the comments section.

Happy Thanksgiving!

Everybody’s Got Something

I recently finished reading Everybody’s Got Something, a memoir written by Robin Roberts.  I knew very little of Ms. Roberts’s story, largely because I don’t watch morning news shows.  But her book came highly recommended by a friend of mine, and I’m glad I read it.  So in case you haven’t read it yet, I wanted to share some of the take-aways that most resonated with me.

  • Sometimes you have to go back to basics:  When you are down and you don’t know how to pick yourself up, start where you are.  Left foot, right foot, breathe.”
  • “When you’re facing a health crisis, you crave normalcy.  So much in your life isn’t normal anymore.  You feel reluctant to tell anybody, because you don’t want to be treated differently.”
  • This statement is just oh so true for me:  I just wanted to feel better the next day than I’d felt the day before.  It had been so long since I’d felt normal, whatever normal is.”
  • Ms. Roberts gets a whole lot of credit because she used “my diagnosis to raise awareness…  And in the words of her beloved Momma, “Make your mess your message.  Find the meaning behind whatever you’re going through, because everybody’s got something.”

And I’m trying.  I’m trying to raise awareness, to create some meaning in a medical condition which largely isn’t understood or easily treated.  Because I know it’s not just me.  Whether it’s evident or not, everyone’s dealing with something. 

 

Why Our Family Doesn’t Allow Toy Guns

It feels like not a week goes by without a news story about some horrific act of gun violence.  It’s happening all over the world.  And I don’t know if it’s because we have access to news twenty-four hours a day that it feels like it’s happening more and more often, or if, sadly, it really is happening more and more often.

And on that related note, one of my personal essays was recently published at MUTHA Magazine and then re-printed at the Huffington Post. Click here to read “Why Our Family Doesn’t Allow Toy Guns.” 

Hidden Figures

Ryan and I standing by the Space Shuttle Endeavour at the California Science Center earlier this year

Our family doesn’t often go to the movies.  We tend to rent our DVDs from the local library, and as a result, we are usually way behind in seeing what everyone else has already stopped talking about.

That was the case with Hidden Figures, the Oscar-nominated film from last year.  We had seen the ads and billboards around town.  We had watched commercials, and we knew we were interested in seeing the movie.  But that didn’t happen until just a few months ago.  And now, Hidden Figures has become a new family favorite.

You can click here to read my personal essay, “Why Hidden Figures Means So Much To Our Family” recently published at MomsLA.com.

Sweetest Day

Saturday was Sweetest Day. If you’re not familiar with the holiday, know that you’re not alone. It’s not a very widely publicized holiday, and you won’t find many greeting cards for Sweetest Day. (The history of Sweetest Day goes back almost 100 years).

In our family, Sweetest Day meant I gave my guys (my husband and son) a card and a small surprise.  But then it was off to regular Saturday chores, like doing laundry and going grocery shopping.

But this Saturday was a little different.  I had an MRI scheduled Saturday afternoon.  The last time I had an MRI was two years ago so the doctors wanted some current images to see what was happening with my left leg. 

This MRI (probably the worst one I’ve ever experienced, but that’s another blog post) really demonstrated how our family does Sweetest Day.  While my husband and I were at Cedars Sinai for more than two-and-a-half hours, our son was having a great time hanging out with Grandma and Grandpa (my parents).  My husband had taken the day off work to be with me.  Well-meaning friends wrote me emails and texts wishing me luck and sending me love and “thinking of you” messages.

When Ryan saw me after the MRI, he was concerned. I had an identification bracelet around my wrist and a bandage around my arm (a “contrast” had been injected into my arm).  Ryan looked at me, gave me a kiss, and said we needed a big, big hug.

He was right.  I did.  My Sweetest Day may not have been filled with chocolate flavored sweets, but it was still sweet in its own way.  It made me see how many people I have to count on during these not-so-sweet moments.

 

Your Love Is King

The title of my post references the first song on this CD

 

Saturday night, 5:55 pm.  I was in the kitchen, finishing up dinner preparations.  My husband, Paul, was still at work.  My son, Ryan, was busy in the living room, working on a sketch.

And then … a shooting pain in my left hip, down my thigh, and stopping at my knee. 

Pain that left me hunched over.  Pain that forced me to lean on the furniture as I tried to carry Ryan’s glass of milk to the dining table.

I didn’t want Ryan to see me like this … crying, incapable of standing without leaning on something, feeling as if I was going to crumble down to the floor and be unable to get up.

But Ryan did see me.  He must have heard me slowly shuffling to the table, putting things down one-by-one.  He came over to see me and asked, “Are you okay?”

I was honest with him.  “No.  I’m really hurting, and I don’t know why.  I’m not sure what happened.”

Because I’m always trying to keep things going, to maintain as regular a routine as possible, I did the only thing I knew to do — I carried on with dinner.  There really wasn’t anything we could do.  If I needed help, my parents were just a phone call away.  And Paul would be home from work in about thirty minutes.  So Ryan and I carried on and began dinner.

But then, he surprised me.  Ryan got up from the table and got the iPhone.  He did some swiping and tapping until music began to play.  (We often have music playing during dinner).

“This will help you feel better,” he said as Sade began to sing.

The music didn’t make the pain go away, but Ryan’s sweet gesture did make my heart feel good.  Because when I’m in pain like that, there’s usually no rhyme or reason to it.  I don’t always know when it will strike or how long it will last.  (Saturday night it lasted a few hours).  And there’s really no way to make it better.

So Ryan did what he could.  He acknowledged my pain, my discomfort.  And he did something that he knew would make us both smile.  The mood was lifted, and It wasn’t just the power of music or Sade’s smooth sound.  It was the power of our family’s love.

 

I’m also proud to share some publication news with you! Two of my personal essays have recently been published on The Mighty.

Click here to read “How My Identity Has Been Affected by the Changes in My Hands Due to Illness,” and you can click here to read “10 Life Lessons I Taught My Kindergarten Students That Also Apply to Chronic Illness.”

Moms As Secret Service Agents

Last summer, Ryan and I visited the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library and Museum for the first time.  Ryan was completely engrossed in the exhibits, the Oval Office Replica, the section of the Berlin Wall, the jelly bean portrait of Mr. Reagan, and of course, the opportunity to walk aboard Air Force One.

This summer we visited again (but this time brought my husband along).  And Ryan was just as interested, just as curious, just as engaged.  When we got home, I couldn’t stop thinking about some of what we had seen.  I couldn’t stop thinking about the secret service agents — these often behind-the-scenes men and women who do so much for our country. 

And from that, I was inspired to write a personal essay — “Moms As Secret Service Agents.”  You can click here to read it on MomsLA.com.