Tuesday, March 8, 2016

another year

I turn on the computer quickly, try to catch the last moments of daylight, the sky painted grays and blues and golds, a quick steal.  Tomorrow I turn 42.  I like it already.  I'm settling into all that I am, forgiving the haste and letting things mellow.  Over the weekend I dug into sulfuric earth, the heat rising from the hot springs, dirt beneath my nails.  My hearing aids were dead and I sank into the quiet world I was born into, all mossy, wet beards of spring evergreens, swathes of ice and thick, dark mud.

It had been harder than usual for me to settle into being away from my crew.  We've been extra tight lately, bound by basketball games and homework folders, loud dinners and opening hikes on Bear Trail.  One of my best bits of each day is slipping into bed next to my man, my body finally clean from the evening shower, the children finally quiet.  We watch our Mad Men and look at houses in Mexico, the flannel sheets mixed with the Tiger Balm on my knee, all aging and comforts melded into one.  I certainly have settled into this role of mother of two, wife of one, believer in many in my old age.

I finally had my knee looked at and after the xrays came back okay (like I knew they would), I felt a lift, a lightness that I haven't had since all this began in October.  I am aging.  I am healing.  My legs still carry me over hills and down snowy trails, connect me to my core, hold my gratitude.  Last night I led my class through jumps for joy.  My boyfriend Michael Franti sang, "I'm alive!" and we jumped and jumped, arms pushed towards the sky.  We wrote about our most loveable through-line qualities, the things that we can hang onto when all else fails.  I identified my creativity, my kindness, my optimism and thanked them all for serving me so well over the years.  I don't want to live darkly.  I don't want to be slow and scared, hurt and afraid.  I want to celebrate each moment of each day, the children and the man, the mom and the dad, the students and sisters and girlfriends.  Time is moving so swiftly yet so much stays the same.  And nothing too.  The beauteous juxtaposition.  Eliana and I writing poetry by candlelight on my yoga mat last night, Tina Malia spilling from my little speaker, tarot cards splayed on the hardwood floor.  The roller rink and "Let's Hear it for the Boy" pulsing in the weak speakers, my boy and I holding hands as he takes his wheels around the loop again.  Laughter with my girls on the xxski trail, the way we can laugh so hard at ourselves, our foibles, our ridiculous and raw selves.  Jeff and I trying to figure out what to talk about on our first date in months, how we feel so aimless without the kids in the car -- by the time we settle into the evening, it's time to return home.

So for 42 I say, let's go!  Each day there is light and music and words and honest faces and big hearts.  There is no reason to hold back, no reason to hold too tight.  This is our great blessing and the time is right about now. 

Tuesday, February 9, 2016

where the hell's baby bucket


Eliana called me over to the sofa tonight.  She was stretched out, arms overhead, ballet leotard and tights still on, listening to A Diary of a Wimpy Kid on audiobooks. 

Come here mom, look.

The expression on her face was a hard read.  She looked exhausted, confused, sort of out of it.

Mom, it's scratchy.

I came closer.

Mom, it's hair.

I was sure she was wrong.  I was sure her underarm was just chapped from the cold or a scratch from rock climbing yesterday or a weird rash.  But, alas.  There it was.  A little splay of fine, blonde fur with one long guy stretching his awkward limbs as if to say, "Surprise, sistah!  Here we go!"

Eliana has been growing a ton lately.  She's hungry all the time, looks strong and sturdy, her belly warm and soft.  Her hair seems to shine a bit more, it's longer than ever before.  Her reading is soaring, she recently had her first legit sleepover and on Sunday, she and her buddy walked from our house down the hill to said buddy's casa, crossing through the snowy field, traversing the tricky curves, holding hands while buddy's dad and I texted back and forth, making sure they were safe.  This is not the baby bucket that I once blogged about, her every move a marvel, her every sigh a celebration. 

This is a young girl.  Dare I say, a young lady.  A developing lady. 

I just want to put my hand straight out Diana Ross style and stop it all.  After I'd taken a few deep, holy shit style breaths and pretended to refill my water glass, I returned to the living room and took a seat next to her, asked her how she was feeling.  She said she it felt funny.  It felt weird.  She wasn't exactly excited.  I think we kinda met in that same place of disbelief, of change, of time passing way too quickly. 

My girl is changing.  She will never again be a bald, hairless, helpless little squirmy worm sleeping next to me in a bucket.  Now she's confident and quirky, crafty and considerate and loyal.  She has little hips and a gorgeous collarbone that streaks across her regal chest. 

And from that calm of water gently swaying in the bath, I hear her start at her brother.

Soli, no!


MOM!  He's saying I'm in love with Bob.

I wonder who Bob is.  And then the sliding glass door to the shower hurls open and she steps out of the tub, all legs and soft angles, golden curls piled on top of her head in a fuzzy halo just like mine. 

She comes to me and gives me the lowdown, the latest thing that her beloved brother has done that shows just how much younger than her he really is.  And by the time her story is over, he's out of the shower too and they are laughing together and retelling the story.  Soli tries on my old red slippers and slides across the hard
woord floor.  Eliana gently eases her way into her nightgown and I have to keep myself from looking too closely at her, trying to hold on to this image before it changes.

Wednesday, February 3, 2016

creative fervor

A creative fervor is upon me.  I feel it in everything I do, need it with an intensity, a voraciousness.  Without it, nothing feels quite right.  Without it, I need to scrap everything and come up with a new plan.  With it, the plans continue to show themselves in all their platinum sparkle, all of their loud beats and perfect harmonies and my hips know how to sway just right.  I'm pretty certain that creativity is my main superpower, my main source of inspiration and purpose.  It helps me problem solve, stay psyched in the classroom, in the kitchen, in the closet when I greet a new day.  It drives me to craft dance classes, write poems, find new music, look closely at the natural world.

Last night my girlfriend invited me to see, "Stomp" kinda last minute.  I watched myself get swept further and further into the percussive beats, the innovative ways to make sound.  As I became more immersed in the show, my brain began to subconsciously problem solve.  I began to shift through the issues of my day, of my week, and create unexpected ways to move through the stuck.  My brain was firing and gliding, gracefully navigating the muck of the day and creating something that was fluid, that could shine.  This fluid shine is what I want to bring into my life as I approach 42.  I want my creative self to guide all that I do, right next to my heart, alongside my empathy, in line with my rhythm and hard work.

At the start of the new year, I went to a friend's cabin with five other women.  We were committed to spending the weekend writing, each one of us at various points on creative projects.  When I arrived, all of my ladies were already tucked into their various corners of the cabin, scribbling and typing away.  There was a calm in the house, a settled sense of determination, of cracking open.  Without asking a whole lot of questions, I found my spot by the large window overlooking the lake and I unrolled my yoga mat.  The first step was moving my body, stretching her open, preparing her to go deep and go hard.  Before I knew it pages were strewn all around me, drafts of poems, piles of poems, sections of poems waiting to be organized, revised, rehashed.

The night was divine food and conversations about how much truth we tell, what the magazines don't want us to say, why our story matters.  Each one drifted back to her area when the time was right, heeded the call of the muse, of space, of purpose.  Morning caught hold of me like a torrential and unexpected storm and the first draft of the poem book, all 70 pages of her, gently fluttered together.  When I finally flew from the room, it was like I had been flung from a great cave, a great and glorious cave full of drive, of purpose, of clarity.  I devoured my breakfast, added extra spice to my eggs and avocado, experienced that hunger that only comes from a deep and heady place.

That afternoon, I skied across a frozen lake watching the Montana clouds shift in the January sky.  The air was soft and the novelty of my cross country skis gliding across the same water I had dove into months before felt surreal to my California sensibilities.  My girlfriends were beautiful and graceful in the sea of white, their voices drifting across docks and driftwood, across boundaries and borders.  We were swept up in it all together, the sacred space of creation, the divine surrender to our stories. 

Monday, January 18, 2016

golden glow

I'm thinking back to our two weeks of sunshine, two weeks of sea, two weeks of mellow togetherness.  I haven't felt quite settled since we've been home, haven't felt like we've all been back on the same page, like the us that was then is very far away.  I'm trying to figure out what that's all about.  Is it that our real lives are too full to feel that sort of continuous connection?  Is it that I'm always a bit on edge when it's cold and snowy?  Is it that there are just too many in's and out's, too much racing out the door, too much movement to feel settled and still as an us?  Whatever it is, it certainly makes me full of gratitude for these photographs from a mere two weeks ago.

Feeling gratitude for the sunshine, for the chance to get away, for my sweet, sweet family and our enthusiasm for adventures. 

Saturday, October 17, 2015

fall freak out

The color is insane.  Life is full.  We move fast, the leaves turn even faster, everything an unrelenting cycle of movement and change.  We hiked six miles up to a gorgeous waterfall today.  The larch are gold and tremendous and the drive up the Blackfoot was literally breathtaking.  There is nothing that I love more, nothing, then being in beautiful places outside with my family.  We stopped at this diner in Seely Lake, one of those places where time seems to stand still and all of the waitresses still look like Flo from Alice, too much hairspray and sorta snarky and odd.  I love feeling like we're on a little vacation from the funky cool of Missoula, like we're on a vacation in the real Montana.  The Montana of dirt roads and ma and pop diners, of remarkable seasons and lots of old trucks on the highway.  We drove by some weird little distillery where they make "moonshine-style" whiskey.  Maybe next time we'll stop.

On the way out, I hiked in the back with Solomon and Lucy.  Lucy was struggling, sweet, old girl that she is.  She'd sort of sunk in this muddy lake, so she was dirty and stinky and limping, her old hips not able to take the terrain like they used to.  Sol had to stop every few minutes to gather more sticks as they arsenal of weapon possibilities is almost unlimited in this neck of the woods.  I think he talked the entire way out, from his elemental powers to defeat me to the story of all the worms he and Blaise found on the hill at the top of the playground to his asking for more and more addition problems to figure out on his little hands.  He would turn his back to me so that I didn't actually see him using his hands.  That and he was hiking behind me so, ya know.  He's such a cool cat.

And then there's sister bear.  Sister and her songs and her kindness and her knowing.  She got an awesome role in our school play.  She screamed when she read the cast list, just like a good little thespian.

She and Jeff were talking about favorites in the front.  I love it when I watch them together.  The daddy/daughter thing is so sweet and when they're on, they are just a pulsing little mass of love and goodness.

 They both seemed happy for the space from the Ninja Warrior.  He was all mine today.  Perhaps that's why I'm exhausted, have elevated my legs, and can't seem to move from the sofa.  He's watching, you guessed it, Kung Fu Panda in our bed.  Alas. 

This is our kind of Saturday night. 

Sunday, October 11, 2015


I hiked up Waterworks today.  It was a boon, a surprise, a little taste of spontaneous, blissful freedom.  Such a simple thing.  Such an incredible gift.


The hubby is away surfing, the children and I are lounging the way we like to do.  We marvel at the leaves, so red and yellow in their majesty.  We bake weird zuchinni/banana/chocolate/chia treats.   They play with the neighbors and life moves in this organic sweetness.

I didn't really know that same, neighborhood sweetness as a child.  I take that back.  Hil and I were organic sweetness, our long games of Fame and radical choreography sessions.  But there wasn't a whole lot of action of the kid sort in our hood.  There were cars.  A whole lotta cars.  There was skinny Raymond and years later, Heidi Zee, but really, we weren't kiddos riding bikes and running in and out of the neighbors houses.

So the neighbor kids and the long and wild games they've played in my basement this weekend, they are a boon like the hike.  Like the mama hostess of the birthday party saying, leave the kids here!  Go have some time to yourself.  

I look both ways and burn rubber outta there.  I quick get my favorite latte.  I say a sweet prayer that both my headphones and my hiking shoes are in the car.  I bust out on to the trail and my legs feel strong, my feet, super fast.  The music fills me as does the sun on the mountains, as does the light on the hills, the turning trees in the valley.  I think about tomorrow night's dance class, the theme -- what do I need -- and the wind picks up, blows my headphones outta my ears, blows my hair wild, whips with freedom, with the fresh brisk of fall.  I need to honor the elements.  The elemental.  The simple and daily goodness that is sun, that is wind, that is a change of seasons.  Organic sweetness.

I've been intensely reading Claire Bidwell Smith's memoir this weekend, The Rules of Inheritance.  She writes about her mom's illness, how it escalated during her freshman year of college.  It brings me back to that dark time in my own life, about the ache and vacuous desperation of the college years.  We are close in age and she listens to the same music I did, wears the same shade of dark lipstick.  I feel this wild duality, half of me thrust in that ugly sadness, the other marveling at the yellow aspen leaves, the sun on my face, my healthy and silly children that laugh from the field below. There is such grace everywhere.  Sometimes I don't really know how it found me.

This book has me dreaming of my parents, of Los Angeles, of my old home.  I woke up and looked at plane tickets today, the need in my gut to lie by my mama on her big bed and stay up too late with our deep talks dug deep, deep inside of me.  See, my mama made it.  She had all that sickness - the chemo and radiation, the unknown diagnosis and terrible surgeries, yet she's still here, almost 81, her mind and spirit as sharp as ever.

And I made it.  Found a life that is full of love, of good work, of art and children and the natural world.  I feel so full inside when I think about what I get to do each day, when I look out of my windows at the valley that I get to share with kind people.  I feel strong and creative when I walk these hills, when I listen to my music and read my books of poems.  It feels good to just sit here and write, to not care a whole lot about craft or the arc, just to get it all out.  There are so many details to hold on to, all the time.  Eliana and Sol and I sitting at the Catalyst eating lunch today after Eliana's soccer game, the way Sol drew pictures for me using Eliana's drawing book, the way Eliana looked at me at one point and said, I just love him so much.  
You and me both, I replied and we marveled together at his tenacious commitment to drawing the perfect cheetah for his mama.

I get cranky too.  I look at the pile of dishes and can't image that I can actually get them all done.  I think about how busy tomorrow will be and dread making their lunches, unpacking the leftovers that are still rotting in their backpacks from Friday -- wasn't it just Friday -- how does it all go by so quickly? Then I think a bit harder.  So I have to get them up and going.  So what?  So they can go and love their school day, thrive and laugh and create with their kind teachers and silly friends.  And I have to get myself together so that I can inspire kiddos to write and think, so that I can be creative and plan, then grab my children who are right there with me in the same building,  drive them around a bit, feed them from my stocked fridge.  It's a pretty blessed life.

The gratitude meter is way high these days.  The way I love the people I love with everything.  The way I am able to shed what I know I don't need.  My friend Amanda is a medium.  Amanda is one of my oldest friends in the world. She has always been way more put together than me, smarter, better organized, more responsible.  She taught me what the word "perforated" means when I was fourteen.  I thought it was remarkable that such a word even existed.  I still kinda do.

Anyway, Amanda had a life change, a deep sense, a knowing.  She embraced her powers while still holding her responsible day job and raising her three children, single-mama style.  I went to see her with Hil and my mom when I was visiting in June.  Amanda had a lot to say to all of us, all of it was right on, but one thing she said keeps coming back to me again and again.  She said that she had this vision of me karate chopping all the things/people/crap that I didn't need out of my life.  She saw me just tearing down a path and karate chopping in both directions.  She said that what I wanted would become extremely clear.  It was that easy.

I've always had trouble with decisions.  My mama calls it my Haagan Daaz syndrome, tasting flavor after flavor before I can pick out my scoop.  But right now my Haagan Daaz syndrome feels blissfully part of my past.  I know so clearly what I want.  I know who I want to spend time with.  I know who and what I need.  I forgive myself more easily.  I think I'm rad most of the time.  I don't know if its age or space or gratitude that has brought me here, but it sure as heck feels good.  I love my life.  I love my family.   I love my past and my now.  I love my big, tangled mess of story, my truths and triumphs and sneaky hikes up the hill, how walking with the wind can connect me with my very best self.

Sunday, October 4, 2015

fall settle

September always slays me.  I love it and fear it with equal parts -- the shift and the noise and the readjustments.  But by the time October arrives and the colors begin to turn, we wake to the crisp air and woodfire smell in the mornings and I want to start making soups, I remember that I really do love fall.  We're all settling in with some grace.  Solomon is rad at kindergarten.  He is really starting to blossom and is full of questions and math facts, his little mouth running on and on about the dramas of his life.  Eliana claims third grade is her best yet.  She sings Matilda like it's going out of style and actually performed two numbers for the extended Grillo clan after dinner last night.  It was pretty amazing, her bravery, her fierce belief in herself, her props and blocking and choreography just so.  Jeff and I have turned a corner with them in that they can pretty much hang with us these days.  Last weekend we hiked to the summit of a mountain at 7000 feet and their attitudes were pretty remarkable throughout.  We kept looking at each other wondering when the whines would start but for the most part they were pretty damn awesome.  My love affair for this town, these mountains, my new neighborhood, my home, continues to expand.  While Jeff loves the woods this time of year, I still heart the open space, looking down on the colors from above, the golden hills and bright blue sky.  I'm dancing again and that fills me up -- I can't really believe I ever let it go for as long as I did.  So, all in all, I'll take it, I'll take fall.