Wednesday, May 22, 2013

My ‘Stache, My ‘Stache, My Lovely Lady-‘Stache

I think the very best thing about getting older is becoming completely comfortable in your own skin. 

Popeye the Sailorman said it best: “I yam what I yam and that’s all what I yam”. 

I’m not a great housekeeper, I’m never going to love working out, and I curse too much.

I also will never look you in the eye and utter the words: “No thank you, one glass is enough”.

If I do, know that I am lying and either a.) plan to drink a second glass somewhere else when we part ways or b.) already took a few sips somewhere else before I got to you.

Good and bad, these and other things simply make me who I am and life is so much easier now that I just accept them.

While passing 40 has brought new comforts, it has also brought other things.  Like a growing desire but lessening ability to sleep, the pain in my lower back that just keeps coming back, and gravity.  I know gravity has always been there but it used to ignore my rear end.

And of course there is my current arch-nemesis: the rogue facial hair, a.k.a: she-whisker.   

About a week ago, I went for a long, morning walk with a newish-old friend, a Beautiful Friend, who is in escrow on a new home.  Now this friend has had quite a year. She has battled both colon and breast cancer (in her mind only/every test came back benign) and been homeless (also in her mind).  She seems to have found her happy ending though.  And lucky for me it’s about five miles from where I live AND it has a pool.  I couldn’t be happier for her (or me).

“I’m going to go drive by my house now,” she told me after we finished our walk.

“I want to come!” I told her and climbed into her car.   

We continued to gab away about contingencies being lifted, impending inspections and appraisals - the various boxes that need to be checked to close a real estate transaction; when suddenly she stopped cold:

“Is that thing attached?” She practically screamed at me.

“What?” I hurriedly flipped down the mirror in front of the passenger seat and it took me all of 1.5 seconds to see what was “attached” above my upper lip, adjacent to my left nostril. 

Then, defiantly: “Yes, as a matter of fact, it is attached.”

“It” was in reference to the long, black hair that I prayed had somehow sprouted and grown to its current length (probably could have wrapped it around my head three times) during our short, car-ride together.

I continued to look at it in the mirror, imagining all the people I had spoken to with this freakin’ lumberjack-whisker practically smacking them in the face!

The teachers.

The clients.

The baristas.

The checkers.

The boys’ music teacher.

Team parents in the little league stands. 


“How long you planning on keeping that thing?”  My friend was enjoying this a little too much.  

“Shut up!  Do you have any tweezers?” 

“Tweezers?  In my car?”  She laughed.

“Screw you!”

I went about the business of trying to pull the whisker out between my thumb and forefinger (yes, I could get a good grip on it - it was that long!)

“Got it!”  I held my whisker out triumphantly.

“Are you going to keep it for your scrap book?”  This friend of mine was far less smug when she was living in a cardboard box battling pretend cancer.

“No.”  I flicked it into the abyss of her new car’s black interior.  “You can have it.  After all, you found it!!”

Some advice I clearly need to heed :

A six-minute trip down memory lane:

It's not a look that I could necessarily pull off but it's a look, nonetheless.

Monday, May 20, 2013

Better than Butterfat

I spent my last full day in Germany essentially mainlining butterfat.
Berlin makes the best croissants. 


If you don't believe me, just ask my sister-in-law.  She said they were even better than what France is bringing to the table.  While I have never eaten a croissant in a café in Paris, I am confident, based exclusively on the half-dozen croissants I threw down my neck on May 3, that Berlin is best.  And I am also confident, based on the assorted cookies and chocolates I enjoyed throughout my 10 day journey through the country, that it all comes down to one, key ingredient: The Butterfat.

Yes, I had a little down-time to read the ingredients on packages while sitting on the charter bus and the planes.

I have been home two weeks now.  I have been asked by family, friends and even acquaintances on the little league field:

“So how was the big Europe trip?”

“How was Germany?”

“Did you have a nice time on your trip?

Over and over again.

It was a complicated trip, including six days with a bunch of 20 year-olds, so it’s been a complicated answer.  Now that I have had the chance to squeeze my children tightly, hold my husband’s hand, sleep, recover from the jet-lag, and ultimately gain some much-needed perspective, I know the real answer:

The very best part, even better than all the butterfat, was hearing the excitement in my husband’s voice in the moment I called him to say I had caught an earlier connecting flight home in Newark.  As I clumsily hurried through the aisle of the plane with my rolling bag behind me and my cellphone pressed to my ear, I told Jeff that he and the boys should plan to arrive at the airport to pick me up a couple hours earlier.  This was his response:

“That’s so great, baby!  I can’t wait to see you.  Wait.  Hang on, honey.”

(To the boys.)  

“Guys, mommy is coming home early!!!  We’re going to go get her at the airport BEFORE dinner!”

(Then the boys, in unison.)


(Then Jeff, to me.)

“Ok, I’m back.  I love you, baby.  I really am excited to see you.  Have a safe flght!  Text me the flight number when you get to your seat.”
"I will.  I love you guys."

It was nice to know that after 13 years of marriage and two kids, we still had the capacity to literally count the hours until we saw one another again. 


noun \-fat\

: the natural fat of milk and chief constituent of butter consisting essentially of a mixture of glycerides (as butyrin, olein, and palmitin); also known as Heaven.

Tuesday, May 14, 2013


I loathe having to get up from a restaurant table to go the bathroom but I can't hold it any longer!

I caved.

“Jaque, where’s the bathroom?”

I knew that even though she hadn’t paid it a visit, my sister would know exactly where the bathroom was.  She always has both feet on the ground - a mega-planner, an i-dotter, and a t-crosser.    

My mom, sister and I celebrated Mother’s Day the old fashioned way: a slow walk through a crowded, 102 degree, 10,000 square foot designer showcase home; lunch at famed, chain brewery BJ’s (that’s right: pizookies-a-go-go); and an unexpected, prolonged trip to the Men’s Room. 

Well, not all of us participated in that last part.

“It’s riiiiiiight,” Jaque leaned back in her side of our semi-circle booth bench and extended her right arm and index finger to the right, “THERE!”  She pointed up a long ramp that ran straight through the center of the restaurant, past the bar.  “I scoped that out as soon as we walked in.”  She declared, quite proudly.

“I was counting on it.  Thank you.”

I was out of our booth and heading up the ramp in no time, though I did steal a moment to establish eye contact with a possible Blasian sitting at the bar.

I took a quick left at the top of the ramp, saw the familiar, blue and white bathroom sign, and walked through the door.  Didn’t break stride for a beat.  It had been a long morning and true to form, I had waited until the last possible moment to relieve the mounting pressure in my bladder.

The bathroom was empty.  I took stall 2 as my own, closed and locked the door, quickly installed an ass-gasket atop my throne, and was flushing and fastening the top button on my white jeans (it was their maiden voyage of the new season) in no time.

I paused and stared at myself in the mirror over the sink after washing my hands. 

Look at me.  Ugh.  Why didn’t I bring my purse in here with me?  I am so freakin’ shiny and pink from that jumbo sweat box of a crib.  I need my powder!

I started fluffing up my hair.

How is it possible that my entire mop of hair isn’t sticking to my head after enduring that moisture?  It has to be all of that new volumizing product Lisa (aka Manners Mom) got for me.  I should write her a thank…

The door started to open over my right shoulder and I saw an elderly man in a plaid shirt trying to push himself through with a walker.

Poor, old guy.

I gave him a broad smile.

“This is the Women’s Room, sir.”  I told him, confidently.   

I returned to the mirror and my fluffing, truly amazed that my massive amounts of fine hair seemed to be holding up through such conditions.  Out of the corner of my eye, I saw the old man slowly look over at the blue and white sign on the door.

When did I last get my color done?  It hasn’t been that long, has it?  It seems like it’s getting close, though.  I hate to do it too often.  I really need to attempt to curl my hair again.  I bet I could really make it big now.  It’s been so…

The bathroom door was now opening completely and the same old man was making his way in, just ahead of a new man.  A younger, quite handsome man in a navy blue polo.  

I gave the younger man a knowing smile; so nice of him to help retrieve his dad, I thought to myself.  I suppose that’s what you do when your parents get old.

“It’s ok, Dad.  Go on in.”  The younger man nodded to his father and motioned toward stall #2.  The stall I had just vacated.

The younger man looked at me and smiled, not an ounce of WHAT THE FUCK ARE YOU DOING IN HERE registering on his face.

He must be confused, too.

I smiled back, “This is the Women’s…”

I caught a glimpse of the blue and white sign on the door as it swung closed.

Those are pants?!?  That says MEN!?!

“OH!”  I practically screamed as I began my slow death by complete and utter embarrassment.  “THIS IS THE MEN’S ROOM!” 

I couldn’t get to the door handle fast enough.  I swung it open and ran back down the ramp to my sister and mother.  Apparently, my smile was an immediate tell.

“What did you do?”  Jaque started.

Of course the blow by blow of my sojourn to the “Ladies Room” was met with fits of laughter that sent them both doubling over in our booth.

“Didn’t you see a urinal?”  Jaque and her freakin’ logic, yet again.

“Actually, now that I think about it, I think there may have been some urinals but I was thinking about bidets after what mom said.”

Over lunch, my mom had been talking about recommending my brother get a bidet for potty training my niece.  Carol is full of excellent parenting tips for young children.

“That makes no sense, Lizzie.  Why would there be a bidet in the Men’s Room?”

“Well, I realize that now, Jaque. But I was in a hurry!”

“Is that him?"

"No, Jaque."

"Is that him?"

"No, that's not him, Jaque."

"Is that him?"  Jaque kept asking as different men crossed the restaurant.

“No, that’s NOT HIM.”

But of course, as the three of us got up, gathered our purses, and made our way to the exit, our eyes locked for a moment across the crowded restaurant.  Why I couldn’t just keep my head down, I don’t know.

Nevertheless, I smiled at the handsome man in the navy blue polo.  Though it was a far less confident smile.

It was a smile that said:

“That was SO NOT the WOMEN’S ROOM.”

Totally worth my pants literally sticking to my legs, the gammy pits, and my sweat mustache…possibly even worth the ill-fated trip to the Ladies Room - the Pasadena Showcase House has raised more than 18M in gifts and grants over the years for organizations including non-profits that support music programs and music education for local youth.

More here:

Friday, May 10, 2013


I'm celebrating Mother's Day with my mom tomorrow.  She wants to go to the Pasadena Showcase House, then have lunch with my younger sister and me.

On the heels of another of my fun trips to the dermatologist, I imagine our conversation over lunch...


“I’m sorry, Lizzie.  I really am sorry.”  She’ll pause and hold my gaze for a moment, making sure I am more than listening to her, making sure I am feeling her every word.

She’ll give my hands a firm squeeze across the brunch table, then continue.

“I am sorry that I am not Black.  And that your father isn’t Asian…or the other way around, I suppose that could have worked, too, right?...I mean either way, you’re Asian-Black or Black-Asian…what did you call it?”

Blasian, mom.”

“Blasian.”  She nods her head in understanding.  “Clever…” 

She'll sort of trail off for a moment, temporarily lost in her 40 year-old, middle child’s genetic fantasy-formula for perfect skin.

“And don’t apologize."  I'll tell her.  "I’m not blaming you.”

“Let me finish.  I want you to know, if I could go back, say, I don’t know, I guess several hundred years and make things different for you and your epidermis, I would,” she’ll continue.  “If I could somehow go back in time and give you skin with more UV-fighting melanin, I would.  I would do it in a heart-beat.”

She’ll pause again.  She’s great at dramatic effect. 

“Your father, on the other hand…I’m not so sure…” 

She’ll trail off again.

“I know, mom.  It’s not your fault you’re white…I mean, a little-jungle fever probably would have gone a long way for me but I know none of us can just go back in time and change certain things.  And I know you love dad.”

“Well, truthfully, I always did find a young Sidney Poitier attractive; but Lizzie, he’s fifteen years older than me.  And I never ran in those Hollywood circles, anyway.”

“I know, mom.”     

We’ll pause and go back to our menus and soon close them.  Each of us will take a sip of wine.

“And so you have a few scars on your face, so what?  You can barely see them.  And you have other great qualities.”

“Thanks, Mom.”

She'll look at me earnestly across the table.

"Like you've always been a terrific speller."

She'll take another sip of wine and swallow.

"And you've always been nice to old people."

Happy Mother's Day to one of the Greats!  Thanks, Mom!

My beautiful mother Carol and her brood circa '79.

I'd also like to give a shout-out to a friend who isn't a mom. Well, she's a mom to her animals, not in a weird, borderline-beastiality sorta-way; in a nurturing-soul sorta-way.  Anyway, she has started a blog!  And based on the amount of time I spent laughing with her in my early twenties, it’s a place you must visit, over and over:  

Thursday, May 9, 2013


I returned to a place I love today: my public library.

Even though I rolled in a few minutes after opening, I had my pick of the work stations.  Accordingly, I chose my favorite table, in the back corner behind the magazine stacks, facing the wall.  

I prefer my own company at the library.

After about an hour, I was joined at my table by a graying, African American gentleman. 

“I’m sorry.”  He said as he pulled the chair out across from me at the table and gestured with his head out at the now quite full, sea of work stations.

“Don’t apologize.”  I looked up quickly and gave him a smile, then buried my head back in my laptop praying he would not wish to engage.

Charming, I know.

About fifteen minutes later, my stomach started to growl.  I looked up to see if he heard.  I saw that he was buried in his magazine, jotting notes down on a scratch piece of paper from a page with five or so images of different tennis rackets.  I sized him up.  He was lean, definitely a fit old guy, wearing a crisp blue and white striped polo. 

What if he is some amazing, recently retired, collegiate tennis coach?  What if he is a PROFESSIONAL tennis coach? 

Holy shit!  What if this Venus and Serena’s dad?  Right here?  At the freakin’ library saddled up next to me?

My imagination went into overdrive.

Maybe I could charm him into giving me lessons.  Something he wouldn’t normally do, of course.  Maybe he could work miracles on my crap 3.0 game and lead me to world tennis domination at the age of 40?

Shit.  Now I wanted to engage him. ..but he was so engrossed in his notes on the rackets.

I sat there a few moments longer.  I thought about my old friend Charlie Evans.  I met Charlie at a public library, too.  The beautiful main library in Old Town Pasadena.  I met Charlie when I was 21 years-old.  Charlie was also African American and probably about the age at that time as my new, silver-haired friend sharing my table today.  I met Charlie through the Pasadena Reads Literacy Program

Charlie never learned to read.  He earned his living working with his brother as a driver in and around Los Angeles after they moved here from Mississippi in the early 70’s.  Charlie’s brother took Charlie’s driver’s license test for him.  That’s how Charlie was able to support his family.

“But I don’t understand.  How did you read the street signs?”  I asked him during one of our first encounters.   

“I came to know the streets in and around LA well enough that I could get most of my customers anywhere they needed to go; and sometimes, if it was someplace I’d never been, I’d ask my customer the quickest or best way.  It usually worked out”

So that was the nature of our friendship.  I was the tutor and he was the tutee.  I suppose we were an unlikely pair but I sure liked talking to him.

I was tutoring as a volunteer but Charlie and his wife would sometimes slip a $20 bill into a thank you note for me.  I’d tell them I couldn’t accept the money but they wouldn’t let me give it back to them.  

I still have one of the cards he gave me.  Every now and then, I run across it in a basket of old correspondence and keepsakes in my closet.  I like to look at his signature inside the card.  I also have a little keepsake he gave me that I keep in my jewelry drawer so I see it more often.

A small reminder of a very special time and a very special friend.

I ignored my growling stomach for another 15 minutes before I had to pack up and find some lunch. 

“So do you teach tennis?” I went for it.  I had to.

He looked up from his notes and gave me a smile.

“Nope.”  He laughed.  “Just looking for a new racket.  I already have this many of them,” he used both hands to demonstrate the tall stack of tennis rackets he already had.  “But I need a bigger racket face for the slices and the spin and the serves that come at you like this and like this.”  

He was moving his whole body from side to side in his seat, swinging stroke after stroke, after imaginary tennis balls with his brand new, imaginary racket.  

“I'm told the right equipment helps.  Good luck!”  I told him.

“You, too!”  he laughed.  

I put my bag on my shoulder and walked away, imagining my old friend Charlie, sharing a table at a library somewhere, doing his own research. 

A great song for another old friend I've been thinking about lately:

Thursday, May 2, 2013

Home Stretch

My sister-in-law brought her students out for dinner last night for their first night in Berlin.  They each go to their host families tomorrow.  They had been living together in the dorms in Freiburg, attending the language institute there together, for the last month.  Then we were all together for the road show through Germany this past week. And now, each will enter the home of a stranger, some with limited language ability, for another month of “study abroad.”

I am so nervous for them… some more than others…

I can’t help but think about my own kids right now.  They will be completing second grade and starting a summer of various camps and vacations and activities at the same time these “kids” will come back to the life they knew before this experience: an experience that I am confident will change them.  Some in big ways – maybe a change in major, or a switch to a double-major, or the addition of a minor degree to their undergraduate work, or an application for a Fulbright scholarship after graduation.  And some it will change in even bigger ways – there are AMAZING, yes I believe life-altering, second-hand shops up and down the streets here!  A bag, a scarf, a broach, a bracelet that could literally redefine a first date, a second interview, a best friend’s bridal shower, perhaps a quick stop at a café for a cappuccino… for YEARS to come!

...but I digress.

In my heart, I know it won’t be long before "completing second grade" will become finishing middle school, then graduating high school, then (fingers crossed) the big question: where will my sons go to college?  It could very easily inform where they live the rest of their adult lives.

Sitting in the lobby of my hotel in Berlin, knowing that my seven year-old children and I have withstood the distance these past eight days, Pragmatic-Me hopes that when the time comes, I will tell them to go for it.  Pragmatic-Me hopes that I will tell my sons to stretch themselves, to work hard, to follow their dreams, whatever their dreams may be.  To go, if they really want to go, a few thousand and maybe for one semester, even ten thousand miles away.  The world is big and the more of it they see and experience and conquer, the better they will be. 

I firmly believe that… 

Well, that’s what Pragmatic-Me firmly believes. 

Mother-Me, which is the only me that has really mattered when it has come to making any and every decision since July 8, 2005 at 7:50 and 7:51 a.m., the morning I bid Vince, then Nick their very first dankeschöns, will likely see things differently when the clock strikes 2023. 

In fact, as I sit here in the lobby a little longer and think about it, I am beginning to imagine how the scene will play out on the day of their high school graduation:

After a very brief fisticuffs, Mother-Me will undoubtedly deliver a round-house kick to the left temple of Pragmatic-Me, knocking her out cold.  Mother-Me will then grab the hands of each of my eighteen year-old sons and we will walk, hand-in-hand from commencement, then head straight home for an early dinner.  Whatever they choose - it will be their high school graduation, after all.  Then jammies; a thorough tooth-brushing, flossing and rinsing; and a story before I tuck each of them in and give them big hugs and kisses.  

Perhaps I’ll tell them the story of the nice boys who learned a nice trade at the nearby vocational school and lived right down the hall from their mother forever and ever, amen.  

You'd keep 'em on a short leash, too.  Don't act like you wouldn't.