Jillian Lauren's Blog

January 26, 2015

computer


I get a lot of emails asking for writing advice, so I thought I’d try to address some of the most common questions…


Sometimes the writer has already written a book and is facing the Herculean task of trying to get it out into the world. There are a ton of resources for people at this stage of the game and I don’t consider myself an expert. Ask your writer friends how they did it. If you don’t have writer friends, you should. Get involved in your literary community. Go to readings and events and classes and meet people. Put together a list of appropriate agents and send them kick-ass queries. Remember- you’re a writer, so write an awesome letter.


More often, I get emails from people who don’t quite know where to start. Or who have started and don’t know what to do next. Or have written two scant chapters of a memoir and want to know how to get an agent with it (hint- probably don’t yet).


Here’s the sucky thing… it takes time to write a book. A lot of time. That is also the great thing about writing a book. Because all that time will teach you a certain kind of patience and mindfulness that will benefit not only your writing but your entire life.


The part between staring down the blank page and seeing your name on the spine of a book is a mess. It will drag you to the depths of doubt and will require the blindest of faith. We live in a world of blogging and posting and send buttons, and our expectations have shaped themselves around that kind of immediate gratification. Writing a book requires the opposite emotional skill set. You have to go deep and throw words into what feels like a black hole. You have to sit for hours and hours alone with your inner life, with all its lightness and shadow. You have to write stuff you know sucks and keep writing anyway and then throw most of it in the trash. My latest memoir started out as an 800 page doorstop. 500 of those pages are now gone and forgotten.


Don’t quit. A boxer friend of mine once told me that the secret to being a good fighter is not that you like to hit people, but that you like getting hit. I think of that every time I face another rejection, another disappointment, another failure. It’s not that I like it, exactly. But I do derive some self-confidence from the fact that I have learned to get back in the ring. I trust now that I will keep fighting to have a life in which I get to create stuff.


Of course, there is also a benefit from not trying– from constantly walking around with that brilliant book “all in your head.” Because that way you don’t have to fail. You never have to grapple with the thousand ways your words will inevitably fall short. If you don’t try, you can always be the undiscovered genius. It’s basically just bald fear that prevents me from succumbing to this temptation. When I wake at 3 a.m. wracked with anxiety, one of the top five tracks in my playlist of worries is that I’ll find myself at the end of my life wondering, what if I had just tried a little harder.


Demand space for your voice. It’s hugely difficult for moms to demand space for ourselves. I’m not talking about a manicure or a movie once in a while. I’m talking about real, significant, daily time. Most moms are probably uncomfortable with even the word “demand.” To carve out a space for our voice, we need to fight against a ubiquitous cultural rhetoric that values maternal selflessness above all. I got a chain letter the other day urging me to, “Tag 12 great moms you know who put their kids first!” Right now, I am in my office overlooking the Silverlake hills, watching as a rare rainstorm blows in. I rent a desk here, because when I am in my own home, the call of selflessness is too irresistible. How dare I sit around playing with my little words when my kid needs a pizza bagel stat? Or wants to read Frog and Toad? I mean, what could I have to say that’s so important anyway? So I run as fast as I can from the house, and I don’t come back until the hours I’ve committed to writing that day are done.


I won’t lie. I trade things to be able to do this. I trade time with my son that I can never get back. Sometimes I trade homemade nutritious dinners in favor of corn dogs and that one precious more hour of writing. The juggling act makes me crazy, brings me to tears often. There is never enough time for anything. In order to write, I leave boxes unpacked for months. I shove piles of crap in my closet. I answer emails late into the night when I would far rather be watching Downton. I am banking on the fact that it will ultimately benefit Tariku to see his mom creatively engaged with the world and pursuing her dreams, but I can’t even be sure of this much.


Write a shitty first draft. If I could give you only one piece of advice, it would be this. I didn’t make up- I stole it from Anne Lamott, where I get all my best material- thanks, Anne! Not everyone does it this way- some people edit as they go. But for me, this is a great way to get out from under your own self-judgment and just write straight through to the end. Sometimes I barely even punctuate my first drafts. I like to soft focus my eyes and write as if in a trance, going on tangents, allowing the most treacly sentimentality and absurd hyperbole. I breathe and write and try to open my mind to the click, the spark, the flow. I soldier on this way until The End. By that time I usually have some idea of what my book is about. It’s never what I thought when I started.


Move around. Take a walk. Stretch. Breathe. Don’t live in your head so much that you forget your body. The body is one of our greatest recording devices– a goldmine of wisdom, memory and emotion. It digests and assimilates our thoughts and experiences, taking on a perspective that is often wiser than our intellect, and more accurate.


There is no secret. To those of you who write me hopeful, confused, searching emails…I know you don’t want to hear “write badly” and “don’t quit” and “wait around” and “take a walk.” I know what you want is my schedule (here it is: mornings, at least four hours a day, five days a week), a template of the perfect outline, a recommendation to the magic graduate school, a shortcut, an agent introduction, a way to make it not hurt so much. I often talk to people who are “stuck” with their memoirs, and watch their face fall when I ask them, “Have you thought about writing it straight through to the end and not looking back?” They usually have a million reasons why they can’t or shouldn’t do that. And maybe they shouldn’t. I don’t know what they need. But I do know three over-edited chapters won’t magically transform into a book one night while you’re sleeping.


Writers are readers. We have grown up treasuring the books we devoured late at night, by the light of a stolen flashlight. We dreamed one day we’d be the name on the cover of just such a precious object. That may or may not happen, but either way it’s a worthy quest and I honor yours. I hope to meet you one day on this twisty turny path. It’s so easy to forget, while caught up in the morass of self-doubt and self-pity that can swamp our fragile writer souls, that this life of struggle is a dream come. I love it fiercely. I hope I get to keep doing it until the day I die.


For inspiration, Here are my favorite books about writing:


Bird By Bird, Anne Lamott

The War of Art, Steven Pressfield

The Tools, Phil Stutz and Barry Michels

The Modern Library Writer’s Workshop, Stephen Koch

Still Writing, Dani Shapiro

The Situation and the Story, Vivian Gornick

Writing Down the Bones, Natalie Goldberg

The Hero’s Journey, Joseph Campbell


Here are some terrific book coaches and resources:


Claire Bidwell Smith

Shawna Kenney

Meredith Maran

Samantha Dunn

Antioch’s (my alma mater) Inspiration to Publication program, which has both classes and coaches.

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Published on January 26, 2015 17:09 • 1 view

January 23, 2015

blacklives

1. I loved Kelly Wickham’s Talking to Children about Ferguson and Social Justice post at Little Pickle press. I’ve been thinking a lot about how to approach these tough topics in a developmentally appropriate way. I don’t want to raise Tariku blind to these deeply important issues, but I don’t want to frighten or overwhelm him either. Kelly writes, “The easiest definition [of social justice] presumes that everyone deserves equal economic, political, and social rights and opportunities. Teaching children that everyone is deserving of such things means teaching them to value diversity and all people. Instead of tackling all those things at once, however, it’s best to choose themes based on the questions that children are asking.” She also suggests using art projects to explore different topics, so that kids have a way of expressing feelings that might come up. It’s a terrific post and was extremely helpful to me.


mlk

2. Who Was Martin Luther King Jr.? This biography series for young readers covers a broad range of historical figures. The stories are clear and engaging. For a brief moment now and then, these books can help me get Tariku more interested in Rosa Parks than Spiderman.


buddhaboard

3. The Buddha Board is the best holiday present we got this year. It’s simply a board with a ceramic surface, a brush, and a water receptacle. You paint on the board with the water, and as it dries the image fades. It’s a great emotional release as well as good practice at creating and letting go, again and again. I’ve spontaneously used it during some difficult conversations to paint funny pictures of my feelings (ie- a head on fire). It brought some humor to a hard moment. Tariku has been practicing his Japanese characters. I have no idea where he learned them. Don’t look at me- I just paint heads on fire.


moleskin

4. This extra large, ruled, soft cover Moleskine notebook is The One. I’ve used these notebooks as journals for years. My garage is filled with stacks of them. The Buddha Board got me thinking that for the last six months, I’ve drifted away from writing in my journal. Journal writing is important to me because, much like the Buddha Board, the writing is about process rather than product. Journals have always been the place I write terribly, messily, carelessly. It’s easy to shove aside when I’m racing toward deadlines. But journaling is essential to remembering who I am, and it informs and deepens my other projects. I’ve recommitted to it and have been busting out the Moleskine again.


empathy.

5. The Empathy Exams, by Leslie Jamison. Jamison manages to combine a mastery of craft with an ability to still leave the raw emotional seams showing. These brave essays reach both outward and inward, exploring sticky things like empathy and sentimentality without wrapping them up in a forced bow. It’s awesome.

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Published on January 23, 2015 11:19 • 2 views

January 21, 2015

nus


cute


It was T’s “Gotcha Day” last week, which is adoption-speak for the day we finally held him for the first time. I write him a letter every year, trying to preserve for him (and me) a snapshot of who he is at that moment in time. It has been six years. Six. When did that happen? The love in my heart for this kid blows my mind every day. Here is this year’s letter to my not-a-baby-anymore:


To Tariku on his Gotcha Day:


It’s a strange phrase- Gotcha Day. The way you say “gotcha” is so cute that it has overshadowed any doubt I may have had about the name. I guess I’ve never been exactly comfortable with how glib it sounds- how completely unequal to the task of describing that transformative day when we first saw your beautiful face. I will never know that day’s equal. I’ll never forget the too-thin contours of your fragile body, the understanding in your eyes alternating with confusion and skepticism. And always, that that special joy you bring to every room you’re in, the fundamental quality of yours that trumps all else.


Here is a little snapshot of you today… six years after we first met you. Nearly seven years old. How could that be?


You are a natural musician. You have been playing drums now for a couple of years already and the look on your face when you play is somehow both expressive and serene. You often give your dad and I a hard time about practicing, but, contrary to our free-spirited nature, we’re insisting. Because if we know anything, we know that it’s all about practice. Nothing worthwhile comes magically. Or rather, it is magic. But the magic only knows where to find you if you’re practicing.


Once you’re playing, you love it. You practice with your dad. When he was getting ready for this last tour, you played the entire Everything Will Be Alright in the End album front to back nearly every day with him.


You two are even improvising your own jams now. You asked me today for a neck holder for a harmonica, so you can play harp and drums at the same time. Hang tight- it’s on its way.


On Thanksgiving, you jammed with a roomful of teenagers at the LaZebnik’s house and I was awed by your confidence. Those kids adore you. You have such a big, wonderful tribe. There is so much love for you, it could blow the ceiling off the house.


You are an incredibly social kid. You are obsessed with birthdays, particularly your own. You start planning your next party about three days after the last. You make guest lists and wish lists and play lists. Don’t worry- we’re going to throw you an epic bash. Of course we will!


You hate that I limit your time staring at a screen, which is a big conflict for a lot of parents right now. I can’t wait to see how the next generation’s brains evolve, developing new ways of processing information. But with no crystal ball, how can I be sure what’s the best way to monitor your use of technology? Technology has given a lot to my life and I am as guilty as anyone of being glued to one screen or another a lot of the time. But I worry about your brain. About how the constant, distracting information barrage might impede your ability to think and feel deeply.


But I probably needn’t fret about that. You are and always have been a deep well, with a heavy history for such a little boy. Somehow you’re able to effortlessly combine that depth with your natural hilarity and mischief. You are very funny. You just mastered the “orange you glad I didn’t say banana” knock-knock joke and I doubt it will be your last.


The one thing I don’t limit is your treasured time investigating Google maps.


“What’s the biggest city in China?” you’ll call out to me as I do the laundry downstairs.


“What is the big airport in Tokyo?”


“This is where polar bears live!”


“This is the Indian Ocean!”


Lately your career ambitions as 1. Weezer drummer and 2. airplane painter, have been supplanted by your aspirations to be a medic. You are currently running a large dinosaur hospital, where the dinosaurs are bandaged with Scotch tape and toilet paper.


It is impossible to say what I am most proud of in you, but if I had to pick one thing it would be this kindness and caretaking, which doesn’t stop at dinosaurs but extends to your friends and family, too. Compassion is something that you’ve had to work on over the years. When you came to us, you were such a fierce, self-sufficient little thing; it was every man for himself. It seemed every move you made was meant to convey the sentiment: “I got this. Don’t bother, bumbling big people.” You still screech whenever anyone tries to help you with homework. But slowly you are learning to give and receive help and trust. Until very recently all the dinosaurs did was fight each other and then get shoved under the couch. Now they’re healing in your hospital.


You like math and science. You like the earth and the sea and the animals and the stars and the plants.


You still love your airplanes as much as ever. You go to the airport every Saturday and watch those giant beasts take off and land, take off and land, over and over. You never tire of it.


It is these things that captivate you these days: healing and flight. Because you, my wild and glorious boy, go straight for the miracles.


As I say to you every night before bed… I love you to the moon and back a thousand million billion times. You’re the best thing that ever happened to your dad and me. I can’t wait to see what this next year reveals to all of us.


With big crazy love always,


Mom



Tjump

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Published on January 21, 2015 12:21 • 12 views

January 16, 2015

I’m trying out this new curated Friday faves thing. Totally not because my book editor asked me to do it (ok, she did, but she didn’t have to ask twice) but because I love having opinions! And this is my blog so I get to! Woot! These picks aren’t sponsored at all. They’re just random stuff I like, both fluffy and serious. I’m not sure how long I’ll be able to keep up the fashion-y stuff because my interest sort of stops and ends at good lipstick and great boots, but here goes…


Here are five things that worked for me this week:


marcus


1. Marcus Off Duty: The Recipes I Cook At Home. Tariku and I love to cook together and we’re obsessed with Chef Marcus Samuelsson. I love all of his cookbooks, but this one is particularly cool because it includes a section about cooking with kids. Not to mention awesome music playlists. Chef Marcus is a great role model for T. He was adopted from Ethiopia as a toddler by Swedish parents, and I use his recipes as teaching tools not just for how to make awesome fish sticks, but also how to honor and integrate different cultural influences in order to create something with an incredible flavor all its own.


syrup


2. MAC Syrup lipstick. Where have you been all my life?


3. Lily Burana’s Letter to My Possible Son, in Dame Magazine. The suicide of transgender teen Leelah Alcorn caused my friend Lily to reflect on faith, parenting, and the possibility of raising her daughter as a son.”The First Commandment of child rearing is to parent the child you have, not the child you wish you had.” I can’t get it out of my mind.


4. Jamelle Bouie’s newsletter. This writer/photographer is a columnist at Slate Magazine, who writes brilliantly about politics and race. Plus his last issue had a killer tomato sauce recipe!


retreatboot


5. These Seychelles boots. Heel not too high to walk around but high enough to make you feel tall and sassy. I have these in two colors and wear them all day long every day.

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Published on January 16, 2015 09:00 • 5 views

January 15, 2015

NY


It’s my last day in New York and I have pink eye, which is a complete mystery because Tariku doesn’t have it and it’s not like I’ve been walking around Sephora shoving dirty mascara brushes in my eyeball. Now I have to throw out all my makeup, which is about enough to make me have a nervous collapse. Farewell, dear MAC eyeliner. We had a good run, you and I.


It’s been a whirlwind few days. I was mostly here to meet with my team over at Penguin. Because you know that memoir I’ve been working on for the last couple of years? Well, it’s coming out May 5. I kind of can’t believe it.


us


Here I am with my agent and good friend Alexandra Machinist and my wonderful editor Becky Cole.


The limbo between finishing and publishing can be a scary thing for a writer. Actually, it’s all scary- the first blank page; the mid-point, when you’re sure you’re creating a steaming pile of doodoo; and the end, when the doodoo has magically transformed into a precious beautiful baby in your arms. Most of the time, I feel like I’d rather go take this baby and lock myself in a closet with it for the rest of my life than release it to be judged by the cold cruel world.


But that’s what we do if we want to connect- we allow ourselves to be judged. Sometimes it’s awesome and you find yourself in front of a studio audience chatting with Whoopie Goldberg. Sometimes it sucks and the slut-shaming trolls go bananas on you online, or the mean girl from high school says something shitty about you to your mom at the grocery store.


But the advantage of having done this a couple of times before, is that I now know that even at its worst moments, to put these words on a page and have people actually read them is one of the great privileges of my life.


This is my third book, and I still look over my shoulder every time I walk through the big glass doors of Penguin offices because I’m sure that I’m about to be revealed as the big faker I truly am. I’m convinced I’m going to be arrested by what Amanda Palmer in her inspiring The Art of Asking calls The Fraud Police.


Stop right there, Ma’am. We have it on good authority that you have been masquerading as someone with something to say in this world. Who do you think you are?


I share this with you because I know that the fear of being exposed as a fraud is a very common experience. I might even venture to say universal, if my writing students are any indication.


As Scott likes to say, “Just what exactly needs to happen before you’ll finally feel successful?”


The real question is, “Just what exactly needs to happen to make you feel worthy?”


Worthy not of my success, even, but of the few square feet of sidewalk I’m standing on. Worthy of this ordinary human experience, with all of its joys and suffering.


The answer definitely doesn’t hinge on this book. It’s a far deeper issue. But the fact that I have finished something, in spite of being hotly pursued by my imaginary fraud police, is a start.


Who do I think I am?


It changes all the time. A snapshot of this evening’s answer, as I look out over this dazzling city, looks something like this:


I think I’m a child of God. I think I am both animal and spirit. I think I am you and you are me and we’re all part of the same buzzing electrical generative crazy planetary thing. I think I’m a mother and a wife and a daughter and a friend. I think I’m a writer.


Who do you think you are?

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Published on January 15, 2015 15:21 • 4 views

January 10, 2015

helen and me


us n helen


My friend Helen died a few hours ago. Her daughter just called me sobbing as I was headed back into the house from my barre class.


Helen was our next door neighbor at the old house. She was there waving from her porch the day we moved into our beloved little home on tree-lined Mt Royal Drive. She had lived there for nearly sixty years.


Helen was quiet and always accommodating to a fault, but once you got to know her she was wisecracking and fiery. She remembered everyone on birthdays and holidays. The kids on the street called her Grandma Helen. She loved Tariku and never once looked askance at him, even at his most challenging moments.


Helen was ninety-one. For the past few years she’s been in an assisted living facility and I would sometimes go there to hang out and hear her stories. She once showed me a photograph of herself perched on the back of her husband’s motorcycle when they were first married. She raised four kids and then decided to go back to work as a cook in the cafeteria of one of of the local public schools. This was back when they actually cooked fresh, healthy food on the premises. She showed me pictures of huge pressure cookers filled with rice, stainless steel counters lined with trays of golden turkeys. She was so proud of that job.


On the weekends, she and her husband (now long-gone) used to go dancing. She loved to dance.


I often talked to Helen about my worries. She would laugh and say, “You sound just like I did.”


The hardest thing for me wasn’t coming to terms with the fact that Helen was going to die. She was eighty-two when I first met her, so it’s not like it was a surprise. But I was devastated when my witty friend began to fade mentally. It deeply saddened me that she seemed frightened and confused near the end. A few months ago, I went and visited her and we just held hands and cried.


I called the family into the living room this morning and told them the news. Tariku was so uncomfortable. He wouldn’t sit down. He rolled his eyes and fidgeted and said some really weird stuff (about graves and corpses). I suggested some appropriate things we can say to people who are grieving and then I kissed him and let him go out with his Auntie Jo for the day. I did my best not to shame him or correct him too harshly.


He is incredibly uncomfortable around loss, which makes sense, given the history of loss in his short life. He also tends to freak out when I express strong emotion. I think it makes him feel unsafe. This is the first major death in our lives that he’s really old enough to grasp. I’m going to try to give him a lot of space to have his own reaction to this, rather than the one I deem suitable.


My dear friend Claire Bidwell Smith is a writer and grief counselor and we talk often about death. We talk about how we might want to die, which is, of course, more a conversation about how we want to live. We talk about what might happen to us afterward. We talk about how to approach the topic of death with our children. I’m so glad I recently read an advance copy of Claire’s new memoir After This: When Life is Over Where Do We Go (you can pre-order). It gave me a vocabulary for approaching the topic of death with Tariku. It made me realize that I don’t have to have all the answers. Or even any of the answers. I just have to have a sense of what it means to lead a meaningful life.


In school, T learns that when people die, they go to be with Jesus in heaven. It’s not exactly my personal belief, but it doesn’t have to be. I tell him that it might be true, but no one really knows. That the Beatles may have said it best: And in the end the love you take is equal to the love you make. Helen gave so much love and compassion– to her family, to her neighbors, to everyone around her. And that’s what remains. That and a really cool black and white photograph of her on a motorcycle wearing a thick ponytail and pedal pushers, her arms wrapped around her husband’s leather jacket, a wide, sweet smile on her face.


I will miss you, Helen. I will always miss that time in my life, when you stood waving hello from your porch and Scott and I first walked through our doorway, our life together still so hopeful and new.


Here is another door. You are walking through it. I am waving goodbye.


sunset

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Published on January 10, 2015 13:36 • 1 view

January 4, 2015

T snow


I smashed my iPhone and I’m up in the mountains. Gah! Email me. Don’t bother texting….


Anyway, hello from Big Bear, where it is actually cold and there is actual white stuff on the ground!


As we wound up the mountain road and the first dirty, slushy patches of snow appeared, Tariku screamed like he had won the Publisher’s Clearing House. It’s strange to me that snow is exotic to him. My childhood was so different than my son’s sunshiney LA life, where the darkest wintery days barely require a sweater.


I remember the magic of waking up in the morning and seeing the world newly white. I remember evenings in the downstairs den snuggled in front of the fire under an afghan, looking out windows frosted over with snowflake patterns of ice and listening to my favorite Burl Ives album. I remember trading in my ice skates every year for a new pair, waiting to see if the lake froze over and we’d actually be able to skate outside and not just in the indoor rink, with its watery hot chocolate.


Scott is like, who cares? Winter sucks. He just remembers getting hit in the face by snowballs and the one time in fourth grade he nearly froze off his little toe. He doesn’t have the nostalgia for seasons that I do. Then again, I have nostalgia for nearly every piece of lint that ever blew across my path.


I’m currently sitting in a café in Big Bear, drinking a decent almond milk latte across the table from my friend Fred. We just dropped our kids off at ski school. I decided to give myself a pass from skiing today and instead just hang around and write and read and caffeinate. I’m unreasonably ecstatic about this plan.


I want to share a bit about our New Years with you, because it was one of my favorites. First of all, Mr. Shriner took me out to a beautiful dinner and dancing. We had a super-fun, sorta-wild New Years Eve. I think it was a response to the midnight yoga/chanting/interpretive dance that I made him go to last year (totally serious- I did that to him and he stayed with me).


Tariku dragged me and my aching head out of bed at six the next morning, pumped to embark on our mission for the day. Tariku has been begging– begging– for a pie fight for the past three years. New Years day we decided to do it.


The three of us went to the grocery store and bought a stack of pie tins and a landfill’s worth of whipped cream bottles. Then, after searching my soul about whether I wanted to be videotaped in a showercap or get gross whipped cream in my hair, I came down decisively on the side of ruining my blow dry. Hair be damned, it was a blast! It’s so fun to to listen to Tariku’s wild laughter.



The New Year causes us to reflect on the passage of time, and I’m always painfully aware that his little boy laugh will soon go the way of his toddler babble. So it was particularly sweet. I think we’re going to make the pie fight a tradition. We followed it with Box Trolls and a spaghetti and meatballs living room picnic. It was a happy way to spend the first day of 2015.


I didn’t make a big resolution, but I do aim to enjoy my accomplishments more this year, whatever they may look like. I’m so hard on myself. It’s not that I don’t love my work– I do. I’m just uncomfortable with finishing and sending my creative babies into the cold cruel world. My therapist Judy actually used the word “grim,” which startled me. Me? Grim? The originator of the First Annual New Years Day Pie Fight?! But it’s true. I tend to underplay my accomplishments, to apologize for my success, to close one project and immediately open another without even a breath, a sip of tea, a glass of bubbly, a Mallomar…nothin’. This compulsive over-sharer didn’t even tell anyone for days that I had finished my book. I aspire to be less grim. To bust out the Mallomars. To love and respect my own work the way I hope others will.


2014 held a lot of sadness, with many troubling themes rising to the surface. It was a year that the deep institutionalized racism in our culture found a powerful place in public dialogue. The incidents that provoked this dialogue were so sad and frightening, but the outcry was heartening to me. It leads me to hope that this year and the next and the next will see progress. That my son will grow up into a world that is safer for black men. A world that is kinder to their bodies, their hearts, their human rights, their souls. I hope the same for women. I hope the same for all of us.


Wishing you lots of self-care, dancing, safety and pie. Happy New Year!

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Published on January 04, 2015 08:00 • 17 views

December 30, 2014

menbirkie


Today, on an unusually chilly L.A. morning, I went to my Pop Physique class and happened to throw on a shirt I haven’t worn since I got back from Africa. As I was lift-hold-squeeze-lift-hold-squeezing, I could still smell Ethiopia on my shirt. Tears pricked my eyes as I remembered the rocket fuel coffee, the delicious berbere, the van like a rickety roller coaster, the strong hugs of the women I met, the tears of this little sweetheart at the orphanage.


Processed with VSCOcam with b1 preset


It was a painful dissonance– the immense privilege of my lift-hold-squeeze morning (that I had grumbled and complained about) and the smell of the green hills of Ethiopia, where I had seen so much hardship. Sometimes this dissonance and the guilt that comes on its heels can make me want to turn away– just recycle once in a while and throw 25 extra bucks in the envelope with my museum membership and call it a day. I barely even have to look at messy things like extreme poverty, if I keep my eyes trained straight ahead. It hurts to look around.


Look around anyway.


If you’re anything like Scott and me, you’re scrambling tonight to finish up your year-end donations. Still one day left! Help One Now is the amazing organization I went to Ethiopia with. They’re raising funds fight now for Ferrier Village in Haiti. Join Scott and me in buying a brick (or 2 or 10!) for this amazing community, dedicated to rescuing vulnerable children from human trafficking.


Tonight, I aspire to hold (if not lift and squeeze…) my family, my friends, the kids of Ferrier, you… on into a bright 2015.


See you there!

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Published on December 30, 2014 19:02 • 12 views

December 25, 2014

Hope you’re having a beautiful day!


For your holiday enjoyment, here’s a recap of the past six Shriner Christmas cards…


09


10


11


12


13

front-web

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Published on December 25, 2014 14:23 • 6 views

front-web


Wishing you much love and laughter, from our family to yours.

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Published on December 25, 2014 09:00 • 9 views