A Kinder and Gentler Nation

I see history as a book with many pages, and each day we fill a page with acts of hopefulness and meaning.

Former President George H.W. Bush

I remember when he asked for a kinder and gentler nation, and for all of us to be a thousand points of light by volunteering in our communities. He leaves behind a legacy of service and a reminder for all of us to bring hope to those who may have lost it.

Don’t you miss living in a time when our leaders said things like this? A time when more of us looked to unite, instead of to divide?

I mostly remember the kinder, gentler, points of light thing due to Dana Carvey’s impression of Bush on Saturday Night Live, and through my friend, Woody, who could impersonate Dana Carvey impersonating President Bush PERFECTLY! Which pretty much sums up what I was doing in 1989…I was laughing.

HW was a modest man who never did a victory dance. He was a man just following advice from his mother. A good mother!

A huge crevice exists between this Bush-man and our current government leader. Even if it was only the speech writers who were inspiring, it is still a devastating loss that this call to kindness no longer defines our nation.

There is mourning indeed. I wish I knew how we got so far from unity as a whole.

Let’s try to follow this example of humanity as we traverse our new normal.

Rough Week?

My act of kindness this week was not killing anyone.

Oye!

The difference between me and people who actually do kill people is I never actually think about snuffing out a life. This week I just wanted to defend myself, in an angry tone, with a strongly worded text, and I didn’t. I listened and realized the attack wasn’t about me, it was about them, and in that moment of clarity, I calmed down. more “Rough Week?”

The Kindness War

“There’s something happening here
What it is ain’t exactly clear
There’s a man with a gun over there
Telling me I got to beware

I think it’s time we stop, children, what’s that sound
Everybody look what’s going down

There’s battle lines being drawn
Nobody’s right if everybody’s wrong”

Stephen Stills 1967

Kindness is at war with evil.

The battle lines are being drawn by celebrities, politicians, comedians, some cats, my next door neighbor. It’s a battle to fight violence, judgement, hatred, intolerance, apathy, by way of being consciously kind.

It’s a victimless war.

It’s a hard time to believe in people right now–between child detention, the constant revelations of the #MeToo movement, the racial, economic and gender-based injustices we witness every day.

It could not be a better time for a movie about Mister Rogers. But, when has there ever been a time when it wasn’t a good idea to listen to a peaceful man? Our family went to see Won’t You Be My Neighbor this past weekend. It was a 10 PM showing on a Friday night after a long week. We were in recliners at the Harkins at the mall. I had a glass of champagne to sip during the movie. Our kids came with us, they’re 20 and 22, and we’d all been swimming in 110 heat for most of the day.  Although,It was the perfect storm to sleep from opening to ending credits, no one slept. It was even kinda riveting. It’s a very quiet, beautiful film about a very quiet, beautiful man who embodies unconditional love. He makes seeking kindness first seem easy. It isn’t always. But, Fred Rogers shows that kindness is a choice we can make daily, that feelings are important and valid, and that love, or its vacancy, is the dynamic force behind our actions.

And then there’s Lady Gaga!!! She’s so much more than we were led to believe at her beginning. She is actively speaking out to make a difference in the world she sees. Personally, I see humans in most places trying to change the world by spreading kindness.

Here’s a thing: To be consciously kind takes a little effort, but not nearly as much as hate requires.

Then! Here in Chandler, is my friend Helen. Un-frickin-believable Helen.

If she reads on facebook that I’m sick or injured, which, to put into perspective, I am injured/sick more often than not-that-way, she goes into high alert as to how she can ease my pain. For exp: a coffee mug of George Clooney’s self-portrait (a personal fave), An In-N-Out gift card, root beer, chocolate covered cherries when my father died because he loved those things, anything from Disneyland that involves magic or Tigger. These perfect gifts will just appear on my doorstep, and after Helen ding dong ditches at a speed only a 5 year-old should be able to achieve, I will open the door to see only the evidence of love and compassion sitting in a potted plant. I’m just one of hundreds of people she stalks for goodness.  My daughter, Hannah, calls her S.O.G. for Sister of God. We are humbled by her very nature. S.O.G. you rock.

Let’s be Helen today and do one thing for one person who doesn’t expect or maybe even deserve a little surprise. Even a flower from your yard on their front door is enough. Let me know if you actually do this please!

Your one act of kindness shared can reach the world. This little blog alone is reaching Russia. You have a chance to reach across this huge cultural divide just by saying “Hi.” Or “I put a flower on my neighbors door. They never noticed it…”

Aforementioned cat changing the world…

Neighbors For Good

I see a world where we continually define ourselves by the way in which we are divided.

Our family moved to Chandler, Arizona from Los Angeles 18 years ago. We found a nice house we could almost afford in a safe neighborhood. My husband and I had two small daughters at the time. I suggested leaving L.A. the day helicopters were hovering over our house bellowing repeatedly through a blow horn for everyone to lock all doors and windows and stay inside. An armed robber was thought to be hiding in one of our backyards after shooting the owner of our corner grocery store. I love LA, but life in Chandler has been way less “survival of the fittest.”

The first day of house shopping brought us into 20 identical, beige, stucco houses in 20 different neighborhoods between Scottsdale and Chandler. more “Neighbors For Good”

My Name is Mom, Not God

This is the same story as told in: “It’s Been Five Days Since You Left, But We’re Still Here and You’re Not and It Is So Quiet.”  But, I sought help from Kevin McGeehan and this is how it evolved. I just wanted to put it out into the world beyond the one storytelling event I was brave enough to enter. Which was my event. I produced it. So, not really all that brave.

A different take on the same event:

There are six of us in this tiny space: proud grandparents, anxious parents, Hannah-the-Freshman, and Talia-the-supportive-little-sister who is singlehandedly organizing what appears to be a closet. Everyone is shoving “necessary” items wherever they could fit, except for me. Overwhelmed by debilitating fear I am useless in this chaotic room. I just stand in the middle of chaos clutching my favorite pair of Hannah’s shoes. All motherly devotion seems irrationally transferred onto these shoes. 

I’m jolted out of my inertia when Hannah’s new roommate, Christine, suddenly pitches into the room, drunk. Christine, all tanned boobs and short shorts squeals “HANNAH!!!” and lunges forward on her stiletto’s to give Hannah an insincere hug. Christine is the embodiment of every parental nightmare: a partying freshman roommate. The predator.

  Not knowing what to do, I do what I do best. Freeze. This is not my first time lost in motherhood.

When Hannah was a week old she got an audition for a commercial. At the time,  we were actor’s living in L.A. Hannah booked the job and at ten days old shot a national commercial.

  She was adorable during the casting: alert, quiet. Perfect. On the day of the shoot though, she wouldn’t stop screaming. I didn’t know what to do, I just stood there, frozen, listening to her cry and wincing at every dirty look from…everyone.

After what felt like a few years had passed, the director called to “remove the crier.” A surely assistant director handed her over like a bag of squid. I grabbed her, ran out into the hallway and clutching her to my chest begged her to forgive me. I didn’t rescue her. I’m the Mom and I blew it. When her gasping sobs stopped, I held her out to look at her scrunched up little face.

 I swear she smiled at me. I stopped breathing for a second. She was the most beautiful thing I had ever seen. “I promise I will never leave you.” I swore this would be my last mistake as Mom.

  18 years of mistakes later, the day has come to move out of her childhood home into her freshman dorm. On the sidewalk in front of our house, a sobbing Hannah could not let go of Andrew, the-stunned-soon-to-be-ex-boyfriend. About to attend universities in separate states, it didn’t look good for the long run.

  Hannah and Andrew dated during their senior year and, of course, he asked her to the prom. Hannah bought her dress with her own money, a sparkling, soft pink, strapless gown. It cost four times what I was willing to pay for a prom dress.

  I bought her shoes, and because Andrew is not tall, Hannah, in a shocking turn from her usual CFM’s was determined to wear flats. We found a pair of Steve Madden sandals with rhinestones imbedded in clear plastic straps and a beige plastic sole. They looked pretty cheap in the box. But when she put them on the clear plastic straps disappeared and the sparkles wrapped around her feet as if held on by magic. They were the most beautiful shoes I’ve ever seen.

I borrowed them once. I felt magical. For a moment, Hannah and I shared these pretty, pretty shoes. In a moment, I must relinquish the girl with the memory of a sweet dance in beautiful shoes with a handsome boy.

  Back in the dorm room the magic shoes seem cemented in my fist. The perfect place to leave them doesn’t exist. Christine might want to borrow them. Christine could ruin the shoes.  

  Of the two girls who are about to live in this dorm, I love one so very much, but I relate to one of them so much more.  I was Christine when I was 18. I know this enemy. It used to be me.

  Without looking at anyone other than Hannah, Christine slurs “Nice to meet you” to the room in general and is gone as fast as she came. Watching Christine leave I realize I have no control over this situation. I probably have never had control over any situation ever. Because I am only Mom. Not God.

18 years ago I had no idea she would be the one to leave.

  I step on the printer to climb over the mini-refrigerator and sit next to her on the long, single bed. I reluctantly hand her our pretty, pretty shoes. “Please. Stay. Strong.  Do not lend these to Christine. I would like to see them again.” Hannah just laughs, “Mom, the shoes and I can both stand up to Christine.”

Our time is almost up. “If you ever need anything Hannah, you can always come crying to me. I think I’m ready for you now.“

  Out in parking lot the proud grandparents drive away first. The sobbing, mascara stained sisters cling to each other as our existing world changes forever. There is nothing my husband and I can do to ease the pain of their separation. We can only stand aside and watch. What I want to say to my pair of beautiful girls is, “I promise I will learn to let you go.”

What I actually say as I hug Hannah goodbye, “Take your vitamins and be gentle when you break up with Andrew.”

  College, it’s the real world transition for the parents, not just the kids.

Shoes pictured are not actual size. Or the actual pair mentioned in post. Just really pretty and very similar to aforementioned sandals.

 

Follow up to The Fingerprint of Talia

She has been accepted as a part of the team at Teen Lifeline. Her joy is complete.

I trust she will be able to forge past her tender heart to make a difference in someone else’s. I trust her tender heart will grow stronger but not lose compassion. Or that she will take on the issues of those she wants to help. Really…with all my heart.

She called me while I and my tender heart (meaning my actual heart, not a code for my husband) were in Haiti and left an almost unintelligible giggling message via Voxer. Only saying “I have good news!!!! You’ll have to guess what it is.”

Then about 10 minutes later “It’s about Teen Lifeline.”

We guessed.

We were cautiously happy/relieved/sorry we weren’t there for this moment/glad she thought to call/worried/thrilled with the person she is.

Now on from here.

One Thing

 

One thing. Done right. And it wasn’t even on my to-do list. I hope this isn’t the only thing.

The moment when you realize that maybe, you said one thing right. And it came back. And helped.

A conversation between me and my 17-year-old daughter, Hannah:

Me:        I ‘m debilitatingly* over-whelmed. (*not a word, but just so perfect)

My 17-year-old daughter, Hannah:      Why?

Me:       Four regular jobs,  two acting jobs with insane amounts of memorization,  two summer camp performances to: direct, choreograph and show up for, recital that I have to dance in, piano/voice recital that I have to play the piano in and pray any of the kids show up and make a good showing. You. I should be there/here for you. Oh, and Dad and Talia probably need something that I’m not remembering. And occasionally, I think it’s only right that I do the dishes/laundry/sweep the floor/feed you and the dog and the cat, especially the dog and the cat because I really don’t know how they are still alive with only you and Talia looking after them.

My, now 17-year-old daughter, Hannah:      Do what you always tell me…just take one thing at a time.

Me:      I say that to you? That’s really good advice!

My, now 17-year-old daughter, Hannah:     Yes, it is.

Well, there you go.

I took the advice.

It worked.

One good thing I said came back to be the one good thing I needed to hear.