Fishing in 1966

On any summer night, bedtime in a child’s room is license to play with magic. Once the cheeks are kissed and the still-damp hair is smoothed bdolly a mother’s tired hand, once the footsteps fade down the hall and little eyes adjust to the dark, the air becomes charged by fireflies and fairies, creatures given permission from eager little souls to sprinkle them with energy for the night, energy not seen since the ice cream man jingled by at 4:10.

In this particular bedroom, two little girls a year apart in birth, who during daytime hours fight over important things like who gets the fancy spoon at supper and who sweeps the floor, are now equal comrades, anxious to burrow deep into a game of Fishing.

In case you don’t recall this game, it requires a wire hanger and a youth bed with so much stuff shoved underneath it that when a hook is made out of the hanger and then swished around underneath the bed all sorts of curious things appear when it’s yanked out again: a crusty gray ankle sock once white, a Golden Book that is too babyish to read anymore, a glow-in-the-dark rosary, a pair of underwear, a Lincoln log and wait….it’s a doll’s leg, no body to it, just a leg.

The younger girl, hanging head first over the side of the bed like a true fisher-girl reaches for the lone leg, brushes some sand off it and tries to identify its owner. It’s not a Barbie leg because Barbie dolls are not allowed. It’s not Susie Sad Eyes because it’s too long. It’s not Skipper or the Elly May Clampett doll. Those dolls are small. It seems to be the leg of an older lady. One who wears high heels because it is up on its tippy toes in a very adult lady way. Through the process of elimination the girl decides the leg must be from the Jackie doll, once belonging to an older sister. Jackie as in Jackie Kennedy. The rest of the doll is gone, ruined by an older brother who stuck it up on the dartboard and threw darts at it.

In the swirling dark of the bedroom, with the teensiest bit of light shining under the door, finding the leg is enough. To a girl sprinkled with magic, it becomes the entire beautiful Jackie doll and the wall next to the bed becomes a fancy apartment and the little girl taps the leg along the wall, walking it from room to room because that’s what you do with dolls. You create life for them.

She imagines a wardrobe and an entire social calendar filled with dates with doll men that look startlingly like Ken. She imagines wearing makeup on her eyes and probably smoking cigarettes and driving a convertible and drinking things with olives in them. She probably lives in a big city and has lots of pretty high heels to match her outfits.

The girl looks over at her sister who is silent across the sea of debris on the floor between them. The gentle summer night softly creaks with crickets. She is tired and drops the leg back to the floor, but for a few minutes more she lies suspended in that magical place of creation right before sleep.

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Tao of the Beater

She will never feel the back of her thighs sizzle on a black vinyl bench seat of a ’68 Suburban station wagon as it sits in the sun on any typical day in July.

She will never know the reassuring churn of a 1970 Plymouth Fury III at 7am on a January Tuesday while it flattens 12 inches of Michigan snow like a Clydesdale in a beer commercial.pinto

She will never sit three abreast in a Chevy pickup, sandwiched so closely between two farm boys that the hair on their arms tickles her legs as one shifts gears and the other slams an Eagles tape into the 8-track.

She will never see asphalt whizzing by under her feet through a hole the size of a football in the floor of her boyfriend’s green Pinto, the one he can’t give up because of the radio that pulls in Canada even during the day.

She will never wait two days in a tiny mountain town for spark plug wires for a Fiat.

She will never flirt with the California Highway Patrol guy when her white Ford EXP blows the head gasket while turning onto the busiest entrance ramp to the busiest highway in America at the busiest time of day.

And she will never know what she is missing, this daughter of mine who drives a reliable Toyota and dreams of a brand new Volkswagon convertible, butter yellow with a tan top. 

Posted in Fearless Living, Happiness | 13 Comments

The One Rule to a Life With No Regrets


August is the dying month in my family. As July smolders into August, the buzzing days of late summer appeal to the fathers and grandfathers in our family as a good time to check out.

Held in the swollen glory of a humid day, a day so full of family reunions and ball games that it is possible for them to slip away without fuss, They made the transition from sweaty matter to incandescent soul surrounded by the sounds of family and life.

The grandmothers are not ready yet. They have life in their soft days filled with small tasks and gardens, smidgens of food and hours with photo albums. These women remember, recalling best friends and parties, boyfriends and first loves all with girlish detail and private smiles. These women have no regrets and that is how it should be.

Impending death is not the time to feel bad about your life. There is never time in life for regrets.

I used to go over events in my life to see which ones I’d like to do over. Should I have stayed in Colorado when I was twenty-four instead of continuing to California? Why didn’t I kiss that guy when he was standing right in front of me?  Why didn’t I buy that old Porsche when I had the money and no children? It has taken me years to accept that there is no purpose in beating myself up over past decisions. I have free will. I exercised it.

A life of no regrets requires no bucket list to define it and until we can all easily transport ourselves to another time and dimension, we are stuck with our lives as they happen. Regret just gets in the way.

Don’t despair. Here is the one rule to enjoy a life of no regrets: Be grateful.

Gratitude is love energy and that is powerful stuff. It propels the Universe and lives inside of you making every cell sing with happiness, health and those nifty rejuvenating hormones.

That’s it. Be grateful for every little thing that’s ever happened to you because you know what? It really DID happen for a reason, a reason you helped bring about (with the help of thoughts, emotions and the wonderful world of physics!).

So stop regretting the one who got away, the money you never made and the trips you didn’t take. Gratitude is the plan for the day, the focus of your prayer, the sound of silence. Gratitude is the wind on your face and the scent of lilies, the sun on your arms and tears on your cheeks. It’s the smile on your daughter’s face and the love in your husband’s eyes. It’s the sand in your shoes, the stones you collect, the business that tanked, the dog you found, the hair that’s thin, the wrinkles you hate. It’s the life you live.

It’s all good because you are an energetic being within the Universe and the Universe doesn’t make mistakes.

When I ran into an old friend (the one I regretted not kissing when I wanted to) I was ready to reminisce over a bottle of wine about a love life lost when he put everything into perspective for me. “Mimi, if we had gotten together then, I’d be divorced from you, not my second ex-wife.”

Bullet dodged. So grateful.

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SCAN0097When I was four I decided my favorite number was five because it seemed happy. To a child five is a milestone. Once I turned five I could venture beyond the driveway and the long lonely days waiting for  my older sisters to return at 4 o’clock. At five I could go to school just like the other kids and start to be somebody.

Five has turned out to be my major life scheduling number too. Five years in college (I know, I know). Five years in California. Five years in Chicago before marriage. Then it was five years at the new house, five years at my dream house, five years in Denver, and now it is looking like five years in the suburbs until my daughter graduates from high school and life adjusts again.

For a while I toyed around with the number seven thinking it would be lucky, but it was just awkward. Yes, the age seven was great, but 14 wasn’t. Yes, I looked forward to turning 21, but since I’d been drinking beer since I was 14 that was no big deal even though the numbers fit. And who looks forward to 49? Or 56?

My husband’s mother divided her life up into 20-year segments. Twenty of marriage. Twenty of raising kids. Twenty of being alone. These days 20 years seems way too big of a life chunk. It’s gone before you realize you’re on your third chunk.

I prefer the more nimble five. It’s flexible. Responsive. Modern. Not as hip or edgy as two I admit, but still cool. Two can come off as a tad flighty. We all know three is predictable, and four is just boring, so it’s five. Five all the way.

Posted in Happiness | 13 Comments

The Bitch of it All

I once had a boyfriend who dumped me for getting an $800 loan from my mother when I was laid-off. He sneered at me for filing for unemployment, which I collected for three soul-crushing months of job searching. In the late ‘80s, three months of looking for a job was nothing compared to how it is now, but I have seen that sneer again, this time among members of the GOP who think helping out the long term unemployed is an undeserved luxury. They seem to delight in treating the unfortunate with game dog cruelty, as if families deserve to suffer harder and starve more just because they are already suffering and starving. They already know how.

What I don’t understand is how a country this rich can be so poor in kindness? Why are we so mean and stingy when we have so much?

The political stage is a great place for Schadenfreude. In fact, a 2009 (Coombs et al.) study suggests that Schadenfreude lurks among those who identify closely with their political party. Schadenfreude shows up more when misfortune happens to those who are disliked or are considered to “deserve” their fate. To many Republicans, that’s obviously the poor – to start with.

This may explain some of the unsavory fervor exhibited by some of the GOP who want to deny help to those who have suffered the most from the recession instead of helping them to recover. Their propensity to not want to help reminds me of the Michael Moore film Sicko.  Moore goes to Canada looking for their ghettos, only to find none. Apparently Canadians take care of each other. They don’t let each other starve or get thrown onto the street.

The night the lights went on at Wrigley Field in 1988 I moved into a small street-level apartment on Pine Grove. It was the end of a gentler era for the Friendly Confines as the park reluctantly entered the artificially-lit future of baseball. Unaware of the history unfolding just a few blocks away, I was unpacking clothes and swatting 4-inch centipedes off the walls with a shoe. Despite having no bed and no furniture, I did have the one thing necessary to survive my own future: a job.

Calling on Michigan Avenue ad agencies was not an intimidating prospect to me after being a media buyer and planner in Los Angeles. The typical agency media department back then was a thankless place. I was expected to sit at my desk for 12 hours a day like Bob Cratchit, muffled under a pile of demographic data, extracting meaningful nuggets and writing meaty recommendations for our clients.

Every day in my cube I met with well-dressed sales people and placed orders for hundreds of ads in hundreds of magazines and newspapers that totaled millions of dollars each year. This made the reps thousands in commissions and the agency millions in fees. I was nice when I could be nice and ruthless when I was forced to be. Once (and only once) I missed a deadline for an important ad. My supervisors made it very clear that mistakes were never my fault, they were the magazines’ fault or the newspapers’ fault. Media planners never make mistakes. We were infallible.

After LA, where it was considered a privilege to walk on the eggshells dropped by media supervisors and managers, my new job in advertising sales in Chicago was a comparative dream. Positioning myself on the other side of the media desk finally got me out of the office and in control of my own income. I was an account executive for a magazine rep firm, selling space in a sports magazine based in the Midwest.

Every industry has its own culture and in advertising you need to look polished and perfect or you might as well sell ads for the back of cash register tapes. My power outfit was a black wool Ann Taylor pencil skirt paired with a blinding white shirt and topped with an exquisite black leather jacket. It was my “LA Ad Girl Meets Chicago” outfit, good for lunches and cocktail parties.  For once in my life I stood out in a crowd. For once my average frame and not-quite-blonde-enough-for-LA hair was enough to get me noticed. I had confidence – even if I was only wearing it from 9-6pm. One day I came out of an important sales call to find three women trying on my leather coat which I had hung in the hallway closet.

They were giggling like high-schoolers and I realized that was me just six months before.

All was good for a while. I watched summer brown into fall from my office in a drafty River North loft. It faced Cabrini Green, a crumble of violent gang-run projects at the edge of the gallery district. Despite the scary neighborhood that I walked through every day nothing bad ever happened to me. I was more fearful of the people I encountered at the office than anyone on the street.

For weeks that fall I was nurturing a big account- one that required feats of persuasion to maneuver around the flimsy audience research I had to sell with.  It was an account that demanded all the forces of my intuition and media experience to know how to handle. This account could open doors for even bigger advertisers. It would let me breathe easier- if only for a month at a time.

I hit the mother-lode right after the holidays when a contract for this account, a liquor company, finally came through. Immediately the manager decided the account was “too big” for me to handle. The rules changed when he saw the potential for real money. Instead of thanking me for the business I brought him, he took it for himself and kept the commission.

 A few weeks later I got a phone call at home that I was “laid-off.”  Not even my boss had the guts to tell me to my face. It was my boyfriend who reminded me that getting “laid-off” really meant I was fired. Thanks for that. I had no idea.

And then it was deep winter. The Illinois unemployment office lost my file before I got a single check. I was forced to call my mom for the second time in my life and ask for money. After a soul deflating lecture about taking a good long look at the decisions I’m making in my life I got the money and paid the rent for two more months.

I was looking forward to a night out when we headed to a place my boyfriend liked but I despised. It was RJ Grunts, the kind of bar that always has sticky tables.  An obnoxious place filled with young business people, many of them in advertising. To me it was a place that requires hand washing as soon as you walk in the door. In other words, it was an appropriately awful place to get dumped.

 He told me I was weak and lazy and self-entitled for getting unemployment and especially for getting a loan from my mom. He had no respect for me and was embarrassed to have an unemployed girlfriend.

I looked into his eyes, staring dispassionately back at me through his square-framed accountant glasses. I finally saw him as the enormous jerk my subconscious had been telling me he was. I was so furious it was tempting to leave him sitting at the table while I snuck out and got a cab, but I had him drive me home instead to save the fare. He jabbered the whole way home, filling the air with his excuses for dumping me.

“I wouldn’t have married you anyway,” he assured me as he dropped me off into the slush on the wrong side of the street.  As if he was doing me a favor by telling me. I was puzzled.  Did the M-word ever cross my lips?  Did I ever want anything more than an occasional date? Was I dying to marry a cold-hearted money-monger? Did I lose my mind and say I wanted short-legged, far-sighted children with him? No, no, no and god help me, no.

 “I hope you find your marriage material,” I said as I slammed the door of his dented grey Bui-k with the missing ‘c’.

It was a door slam as hard as my weak, lazy arms could muster after one Miller Lite and no dinner. I was swinging that slab of Midwest steel for wronged women everywhere.  It was a slam for every woman dumped by a hard-hearted idiot. It was a slam for all women dumped at RJ Grunts when clearly it’s punishment enough just to enter a place with a name like a hillbilly bowel movement. It was the Mother of All Door Slams barreling through infinite space for every woman who ever got screwed out of an account, a commission or her job by corner office weenies who hire them to do their work, and make money for them, only to steal it back later. It was a beautifully executed, estrogen-invigorating slam for all womankind.

As I think back on those bruising days that started my career and my current joblessness that could be the end of it, I hope that door slam is still vibrating out into the Universe somewhere, rattling the bones of corporate jerks, GOP tightwads and terrible boyfriends everywhere, unsettling them, forcing them to look over their shoulders.

There is only so much you can pilfer from others before there’s pushback. And I hear karma is a bitch.


Posted in Fearless Living, Happiness, Intuition, Women | Tagged , , | 13 Comments

Coming Clean

DSCN0039My name is Mimi and I am a spiritual/personal/self-development addict. I have been clean of online seminars and books by Deepak Chopra, Wayne Dyer, Caroline Myss and dozens of other spiritual improvement gurus for two weeks. In other words, I am in the frantic throes of withdrawal.

My addiction started over ten years ago with a harmless book by M. Scott Peck called A Road Less Traveled. It was OK, but I didn’t even make it all the way through that one.  Too boring. I moved on to The Celestine Vision by James Redfield because who doesn’t like a good story? Only, stupid me! I thought the trip to Peru and the ancient manuscripts were real.  My mom had to tell me it wasn’t. Then I had to pretend I knew that all along. What a dork.

Despite that embarrassing start, I was hooked on all things deliciously different.

This was a whole new weird world and I knew I belonged in it somewhere. And for some strange reason it seemed my mother was pushing me toward it also. Why else would she give me Gary Zukav and Wabi-Sabi books and silver bracelets that say “Be in the moment”? Why would she loan me her copy of Brian Greene’s The Hidden Reality if she wasn’t interested in alternate multiple universes and realities herself? (although she will never admit it).

Soon I was hitting all the library book sales for new material because that’s where everyone dumps the books they don’t want anyone to see in their homes. I picked up The Emerging DreamHealer by Adam at a library sale, plus  The Purpose of Your Life by Carol Adrienne and The Dance by Oriah Mountain Dreamer.  These were OK. They fed me, but being the pig I am, I wanted more. I needed something stronger. Weirder. More sciencey.  Messages From Your Angels by Doreen Virtue wasn’t going to cut it, although it’s a fun read in the bathtub.

It was on to The Intention Experiment by Lynne McTaggart and Miracles of Mind by Russel Targ. Finally some real science to make me feel less flakey. Then I got mixed up with some weirdo self-published stuff and found The Infinite Concept of Cosmic Creation by Ernest L. Norman (waaaayyyy out there).  I traded up for The Dancing Wu Li Masters by Gary Zukav. Over my head at the time, but the title drew me in.

Finally, I moved forward to tackle a Deepak book, The Spontaneous Fulfillment of Desire and at last I realized what abundance really means. In fact, I am abundant with his books, especially The Book of Secrets since I inadvertently bought two of them. Things were definitely shifting in my head.

By this time I started a list of all the books I had accumulated, read, loved, or threw under the bed out of sheer disgust.  I am at about 75 books. I figure I could have written my own spiritual and self-improvement book by now.

After all, isn’t that what addicts do? Write their memoirs?  

It’s two steps forward, one back in this cosmic world of never-ending publications. There are a thousand ways to shift your consciousness and for some reason, I crave every single one of them.

My life coach (yes, I had one) encouraged me to just stop cold-turkey and come clean. Admit this is all just an obsession with fear and procrastination. Is that what I am doing? So fearful and weak-willed I am putting off my life? What if this is my life? Somehow I feel comfortable here.  Like these are my peeps.

Ever since I was a child I felt called to all things alternative, never feeling like I quite fit in anywhere else. I kept quiet about it of course.  Ideas of multiple levels of being and consciousness are still not accepted in many places. Am I procrastinating? Am I fearful? Am I hiding behind my new copy of The Untethered Soul?

The cravings come and go now. Maybe I’m not a self-development junkie. For a few weeks I’ll be happy with reading The New  Yorker and the latest David Sedaris book. But then,  along comes a cool evening and I can’t wait to be done with the dishes so I can snuggle up with Don Miguel Ruiz’s The Four Agreements or peek into The Science of Miracles by Gregg Braden.

Maybe this is my world and I just have to come out of my cosmic closet. And maybe I am just waiting for the right moment to come clean.

Posted in Addiction, Body, mind and spirit, Fearless Living, Happiness, Intuition, Psychic, The Universe | Tagged , , , , , , , | 30 Comments

Training a Rose

The bulk of the main root hid beneath the rotting wood deck, waiting to be discovered.  It was big and dark as a beef bone. For years someone chopped it off at soil level to keep it from crowding out the vegetable garden, so for years the energy of the plant burrowed back into the root. Last spring, spying a few red leaves poking up next to the chives plant, I recognized a rose bush trying to live.

iStock_000004257765SmallWhat a find I thought!  At first I tried to move it, but the root was too big and deep, so I marked the spot with a stick:  Rose bush. Do not cut!

Getting to know our new garden has been like excavating the gardens of Babylon.  A long time ago someone with expert gardening knowledge set the bones and structure in place.  Large willows anchor the soggy back corners, soaking up extra water in the spring. Red twig dogwoods border the back and sides with a flush of color in the winter. Crabapple trees lean over the lawn to show off their colors and pines trees provide crunch underfoot with needles and cones. In the shadows wild ginger and sweet woodruff  sit quietly while the peonies and iris bend to the sun.

Although the garden clearly started out well, over time and across multiple owners, it suffered from the disastrous effects of an over zealous lawn service. All the shrubs had bad haircuts, wearing stubby branches that sprouted out at the ends with witches brooms. I figured the most humane thing to do was just let the whole thing grow.

Almost immediately the knotted forsythia threw out its wiry arms in a sun salute. The stunted privets poured forth graceful boughs that make them the beauties of the backyard despite their lowly reputation.  The burning bush shot up and out like the flamethrower it wants to be.

All in all it is a happy garden now, especially in the pink flush of late spring.

The school year is almost over for my daughter, a bud of a woman herself, waiting for her opportunity to burst out and claim her own life. Being fifteen she wobbles on the stepping stones between adolescence and young adulthood, calling me Mama one moment and snapping at me the next. There are thorns beneath that flower, too.

We play this game back and forth. I say something I think is helpful and she lashes out. I am hurt and she tiptoes back.  Our voices rise a few notes in apology and life continues. All is soon forgotten.

I remember myself at her age, excited and scared at the same time, looking for some sort of guidance, but not asking for any.

Last summer the rose root revealed its true self.  It is not a dainty tea, a tough rugosa, or even a rangy rambler.  It is a climber. In its second year of freedom it grew ten feet. Over winter it did not lose one single cane. Its flowers are blood red.

This is the year the garden will shine, I think to myself.  This is the summer I have waited  and worked for, moving plants to better spots, dividing up unruly ones, allowing others to stay where they are, like the rose.

The bulk of the work  is done and I wait for the heavy pink rose  buds to ferment to red. Its strong canes wave like  thorny tentacles in the wind,  as if searching for something sturdy to lean onto, although it doesn’t seem to need anything.

Posted in Body, mind and spirit, Happiness, Parenting, The Garden | Tagged , , , , , , , , | 79 Comments