Category Archives: Essay

On How You’ll See Me

Dear Son,

You are only 2 months old, so you are still figuring out how to live here on planet earth. While you are trying to learn how to put your thumb in your mouth (you’re so close), I am learning to be a mom. Before you got here, I was just some lady stumbling through my own life, sometimes knowing what I was doing, sometimes making mistakes. Then you arrived on the scene and suddenly I was someone’s mom. No one even checked if I was qualified!

Lucky for me, you are not yet forming memories that you will be able to easily recall for your therapist when you are 30. You won’t be able to tell her how you felt when you rolled off the pillow I placed you on while I went to get a blanket for you.

By the time you are old enough to form your view of me, I’ll (probably) seem more competent. By that time no one will refer to your dad and I as “new parents”, we’ll just be “parents” even though each experience with you will be as new to us.  After all, I am not any more experienced at dealing with a 2 year old than a 2 month old.

My parents probably felt the same way. Even though they had another child, each child presents their own unique situations. They had to handle those situations in adult manner. They couldn’t just decide not to help me or tell me they were scared. And I will have to do the same. You will have problems that stump me, but I will have to muddle through because that is my job as your mom. I will be strong when you need support even if inside I feel a bit frightened, because as a mom that is what is required of me.

I will also try to be honest with you about feelings because I think it is important you understand I am a person too. But I can’t put my baggage on you, it’s not fair to load you down. You’ll have enough of your own someday.

I hope you will see me as a good mom, but more likely you’ll just see me as “your mom” and that is okay too.


“Your” Mom

On the 2011 Fall TV Season

Oh Television. I am neither your advocate nor your enemy. There was that year, I lived without you and admittedly I didn’t miss you that much. When you are around, I have a nasty habit of wasting too much time with you and not enough time on other pursuits.

Though I watch television, I feel some disappointment that “reality” shows and competitions have taken over. I can’t deny that there are times I get sucked into watching some awful reality show while flipping channels. But watching reality television is like eating a Twinkie instead of a homemade cupcake. While the Twinkie may immediately taste good, it’s never has satisfying as a homemade cupcake and you are left wondering why you wasted the calories on it.

While reality shows spawn, I pray for some good sitcoms to save my weekday evenings. I miss the days of FRIENDS and Gilmore Girls. Or even some good dramas, like when Grey’s Anatomy was still good (sorry, I stopped watching even before Katherine Heigel decided she was too big for her breeches).

So the Fall TV Season has started up, and I feel a surge of optimism. So many sitcoms popping up. But I know that they all can’t be good. And often the ones I like the best will be likely be canceled.

I have watched the pilots for 3 new sitcoms: New Girl, 2 Broke Girls, and Up All Night.

New Girl is the latest project of Zooey Deschanel. The premise is that Zooey Deschanel is a geeky girl who was cheated on and now is starting life a new with three male roommates. While, I know Zooey Deschanel is quite popular, I do not see this show going very far. The plot of the pilot was transparent. And the way Zooey Deschanel plays geeky comes off as someone cool trying to pretend to be geeky. If Zooey was ever a geek in her life, she doesn’t bring the experience to her character. It comes off like someone who is cool pretending to be geeky.  Basically, it seems like the show tries to cue us that she is a geek because she is wearing glasses. Lame. The supporting actors playing her roommates are stereotypes and have no depth to latch on to. I may watch another episode, if I remember or happen upon it but will not be going out of my way.

2 Broke Girls is a new CBS show about 2 young waitresses. One is a sarcastic working class girl and one that is rich girl who lost all her money due to her dad’s fraudulent activities. If you can suspend some issues of reality like why a rich girl has to get a job at a diner or if the two girls would actually become friends, it’s a cute show. I like Kat Dennings, who plays the sarcastic working class girl, though it seems she always plays a similar characters (see: Nick and Nora’s Infinite Playlist). There are some funny jokes and I like the concept. I will try and remember to add this to my DVR queue, but I am not making any promises. I also have a feeling this will be canceled after about 3 to 4 episodes, only because some of the jokes may be a little too hip for the average prime time crowd.

Finally, Up All Night is a show about new parents. As a new parent myself, the jokes in the pilot were funny because they were true. My husband and I watched this together and laughed while giving each other the look of “this is totally our life now.” Also, Will Arnett and Christina Appelgate have great comic timing. One-liners that may have fallen flat other wise shine because they know how to deliver them just so. I will watch more episodes but I am uncertain if other people will. It seems things I find hilarious don’t always make it.

Other shows I am watching that are starting back up this Fall are How I Met Your Mother, House and Gossip Girl. The season premier for How I Met Your Mother was great but if we don’t freaking find out who their damn mother is this season, I think a lot of people are going to picket. House starts back in October. The preview looks interesting with Dr. House in prison. My husband kindly reminds me that House has a tendency to start strong and finish weak. Also with Lisa Edelstein (Dr. Cuddy) leaving the show, I don’t know if I should get too excited for this season. I’ll still keep it on the DVR queue, regardless. As for Gossip Girl, this is my guilty pleasure. The show is ridiculous to the max, and I know it. This season starts with much of the cast in Los Angeles, which will be entertaining if only to see my beloved city through the eyes of GG, but I have a feeling this season is going to kind of suck and I would assume may be the final season for the show.

In the end, its all just TV, something to allow me to switch my brain off for an hour or so and at least the networks are trying some real shows

On 10 years in the City of Angeles

Happy 10th anniversary to the city of Los Angeles and me. 10 years ago, I took a one-way flight to LA. I didn’t know then how long this amazing adventure would last

I once heard that due to the transient nature of the Los Angeles population, if you live here for 10 years, you’re considered native. I don’t know if I dare be as presumptuous as to say I am native (especially since I have close friends who were actually born and raised in LA). I will say after 10 years, Los Angeles is my home and I love it dearly.

The past 10 years have truly been an adventure. Some good, some bad but rarely dull.

In the 10 years I have lived in LA, I have lived in 4 different apartments in 3 different neighborhoods (Hollywood, Pacific Palisades and Westwood)

During my 10 year tenure here, I graduated from law school and obtained a license to practice law.

I have had about 11 jobs, in the past 10 years. I have appeared in 11 of the 47 Los Angeles Superior Courts currently open. I also have appeared in a court that has since been closed due to budget cuts (sorry Redondo Beach, but your courthouse was pretty shoddy anyway).

In my personal life, in 10 years, I fell in love with, moved in with, married and decided to have a kid with, the most amazing man. I have also made some awesome friends, who I have also watched fall in love, get married and have kids. Some still here in Los Angeles, others, sadly, have moved on to new adventures.

One of my biggest achievements, it just about to come. I am going to give birth to Los Angeles’ soon-to-be, greatest native son.

I think I am most amazed by how the city has grown on me. When I arrived 10 years ago, I was wide eyed and amazed by all things the city had to offer. Los Angeles felt like the dream guy I had just started dating, I was still a bit tongue tied around it and uncertain. Today, Los Angeles is like the man I have been married to for 10 years. I know its idiosyncrasies but there are still days it surprises me.  It is so ingrained in me, that there are days I forget I wasn’t always here.

I don’t know how long the adventure will go on. If I had to predict today, I’d say forever. But things change suddenly, especially in Los Angeles. For now, I am content to wish my favorite city a happy 10 years of being my home, I can’t wait to see what is next.

On Calluses

Went to the nail salon.

They sloughed off layers of calluses on my feet.

Taking away the memories of all the places my feet had walked.

The plush carpets in hotels

The hot sandy beaches

The grasses of parks

Now my feet are smooth

And their memory is erased

They may not remember where to take me

Day to day

The paths will seem new to them

They may no longer feel the same in my favorite pair of shoes

As if they are not old partners the same streets I have walked day after


But it also means that things that I took for granted

Are a surprising delight to my feet

The smooth wood floors of my apartment

The roughness of the living room rug

It’s like the first time I took a bare footed step

Each sensations registering with my feet as something amazing

Sometimes I wish I could slough off the layers of my own memories in the same way

Wake up and notice the sun falling on the pavement for the first time again

Taste a cool drink for the first time

So many things that I have calluses to in my mind

Could be wonderful to my smoothed out brain.

On Why You Can’t Cook (Spoiler – You Can!)

I love sharing my cooking and baking bounty with others. It allows me to do something I enjoy, without having to consume all of it because I all ready probably eat more than I should. My cooking and baking in my mind isn’t that special. I am not a chef, I don’t generally create new recipes. On occasion, I end up creating something new out of necessity, like I forgot to pick up an ingredient or I am trying to clear some leftovers out of the fridge. Otherwise, my creations are just the implementation of another’s idea. And I am fine to be a paint-by-numbers artist when it comes to cooking and baking. Through my experience I am slowly building up my knowledge so on occasion I can substitute and not ruin a meal. Yet I can whip up something and someone will tell me how they wish they could cook like me or that they can’t cook at all. While I understand it comes from a place of flattery, I think people are too hard on themselves. I strongly believe everyone can cook.

Here are the reasons I have concluded that people believe they can’t cook:

1.              Negative reinforcement: You tried to cook and royally messed something up. It could be that you mixed up a trifle recipe with a Shepard’s Pie recipe. From that attempt or so on, your family and friends talked about your mistake and what a bad cook you are. At first you probably felt bad, but eventually you accepted their negative comments as true, you would never be a good cook. However, their comments are not true. You just haven’t found your dish to wow with yet. I bet even Mario Batali made some dishes that tasted like feet in his life. If you want to cook, just pick yourself up, ignore all the people who say “but you can’t cook” and give it another go.  Good cooking takes trial and error and practice.

2.              High Standards: You don’t believe you can be a cook unless you can pull off the most complicated dishes flawlessly. I have seen people talk down the pie they made because the crust wasn’t perfectly crimped. Sure, your dessert might not make it on to the cover of Martha Stewart Living but most food can’t look as nice as in the magazines. Just like models on the cover of Vogue, food is “modified” to look that tasty. And even food that is rolled out in restaurants looks good because those people are making 400 of the same thing that night and they have lots and lots of practice. If you made 400 pies, you’d probably get pretty good at crimping too. So forget your high standards. If it tastes good to you and your loved ones, it’s a success, end of story.

3.              Fear: Some people I know who say they wish they could cook have never moved past making sandwiches. They are scared to even try and fail. Probably concerned about getting into the negative reinforcement loop. But its too late because they already believe they are bad cooks. I had this fear for a long time with baking. I had a lot of baking failures and thought I was bad at baking. I complained about the “science” of baking (well I still do sometimes). But in the end I needed to more practice and knowledge and it turned out I could be just as good at baking as cooking. Just do. Overcome your fears and the rest is easy.

You only need a few things to overcome your “bad cooking.” First, you need some time. The time to get your confidence back is not dinner after a long hard day at work or a holiday meal when 50 of your nit picky relatives are coming over. Select a peaceful Sunday afternoon, this is usually when I try new recipes, because if they flop, you have time to head out for pizza and not feel like you’ve lost anything. Then you need some recipes that are easy to understand and don’t require a lot of strange ingredients. I recommend Real Simple Magazine. They have everything from cookies to main courses that are tasty and don’t require a passport for your shopping list. Lastly, you need a supportive taste tester. My husband is my taste tester. He is honest but supportive. For example, the time I turned brisket into a football, he kindly told me the meat was inedible and took me out of Mexican. But he still agrees to try other things and even encourages me to revisit my failures.

With these three things, you can become the cook you want to be. Whether it is just being a occasional guest cook or your own chef in residence, you can do it, you just have to overcome the voice inside that says you can’t cook.

On Meat

I am not vegan. I am not vegetarian. Nor did I dabble in veganism or vegetarianism while I was in college. I did have a brief stint where I was too poor to afford meat except for special occasions but that was a purely economic situation.

I do, however, try to temper my meat eating for health and environmental reasons. You only need so much meat in your diet to be healthy. So I try to eat meat only 2-3 times a week and the rest of the time eat vegetables and pasta (I could become a pastarian if I needed to). In addition, if we all tried to cut back a bit on our carnivore impulses there would be less industrially raised animals and less environmental impact. I totally approve of things like Meatless Mondays or Vegan before Dinnertime. It helps both your health and the world without giving up delicious, succulent, medium rare filet mignon. Not all of us have enough heart to completely spare animals.

Today, I learned that some vegetarians are coming back into the omnivore fold due to changes in the way some farms are raising and slaughtering their livestock. I was at the meat counter at the Venice Whole Foods purchasing ground chicken and I noticed a sign that said “Step 3.” I asked the butcher about it and he informed me that Whole Foods, or at least the Venice Whole Foods is drawing attention to the way animals are raised. He indicated that Step 3 meant the chicken I was purchasing had been allowed out into a yard with brush and other things chickens apparently love and allowed to play (he really did say play) with other chickens. Much like the commercials that indicate happy cows make better cheese. According to the butcher, happy chickens taste better. It might sound like some serious hippie jive but it has some science behind it. If chickens are allowed to run around they have better muscle composition, which makes for yummier meat. Also, if they are pumped full of antibiotics and steroids, there is less chance of some strange allergic reaction. Further, if chickens are fed things chickens like instead of nasty animal by products they in turn taste better. Lastly, unhappy or stressed animals excrete hormones that foul the meat. Apparently, at Whole Foods if you see Step 5 meat, that is the best treated. I didn’t see what all the requirements for Step 5 but it probably means they stayed at the Four Seasons and got regular massages.

I was super impressed with the butcher too. You’d think a grocery store butcher would be more interested in the best way to break down steaks than how animals are treated prior to slaughter. But he seemed super serious about (particularly since he took 15 minutes out of his work day to explain all of this to me). In the end the information he gave me came down to one thing, if you care about quality food, you need to care about where it comes from. So if you want good meat, you should care more about how the meat was treated and not just how long it was dry aged.

On Money Versus Time

Though I could certainly use a thousand dollars I have a hard time deciding what I would do with it if it was given to me.

Realistically, it would go into my bank account and end up going toward bills or paying for parking, or groceries.

But if forced spend it on something I wanted instead of needed, I would have a difficult time deciding.

Sure, on occasion I see something and think “oh, I would love to own that.” Usually those thoughts are fleeting and by the time I have the cash to buy said item, the luster has worn off. I usually find the things I want to most, aren’t for sale.

The main thing I want that can’t be bought is time. I want more time to spend on things I enjoy versus things I have to do like paying bills. I want more time to sit and stare at the breeze blowing through the trees. I want more time to spend with people I love and cherish. I want more time to sleep in, in the mornings, especially days I have to go to work. I can think of endless possibilities for what I would do with an extra free hour. To me an extra hour a day would be worth far more than a thousand dollars.

It seems this is something that has come with age. When I was young, I wished whole months away to get to where I wanted to be. And even on occasion now I find myself daydreaming it was another week or month or year. But I feel time more. As each hour passes, I realize there is something I have not gotten done that I meant to finish. With each minute, I am closer to another hour. Another hour that is full of possibility but may get wasted doing a dull task like paying bills or finishing the laundry.

I keep looking for some extra time for sale but never seem to find it. Sure I find lots of things that promise to save me time but never anything to give me more time and that more than anything I can buy with cash is what I want.

So, while I would not turn my nose up at an extra $1,000 dollars in my bank account, in the end it probably wouldn’t bring me as much happiness as having an extra hour to myself to do some writing would.

On Being a Renter

I am far from an expert on purchasing and owning a home. In fact, I would venture to guess that most people could tell you more about how escrow and mortgages work than I could. Here is what I do know, I am not ready to own a home.

I have many reasons for this. First, I read horror stories like Dave Erikson’s ongoing ordeal with Bank of America and trying to buy a home. And it’s not exactly like he is alone in problems with banks, real estate agents and home sellers. One of my favorite bloggers, Dooce just wrote about her own home buying fiasco. These kinds of tales of woe not only piss me off on behalf of the poor souls that simply wanted a home of their own, but freak me out. So that is my first reason, the whole home buying process seems overly complicated. And the possibility of my putting my personal finances in mortal danger seems just way to big to contend with right now.

Second, I enjoy the perks of renting. What perks you ask? My friends and family know of my many rants about the downsides of renting. And they do exist. I have dealt with my own ordeals in renting in the 9 years of being a renter. And I rather hate shared laundry rooms. I do however, enjoy when my plumbing is going wacky being able to e-mail the manager and then she deals with it. I don’t even have to take a day off work to wait for the plumber to show up. I also really like the flexibility of being about to decide tomorrow I want to move and doing it with much less hassle than selling my home, finding another one…see reason number one.

I often tell people I feel that owning a home requires more commitment than marriage. When I decided to marry Mr. Read the only thing I considered was whether he was right for me. I didn’t consider if in a few years I didn’t want him anymore if anyone would be willing to take him off my hands. However, in buying a home you must consider not only if YOU like the house but if you will ever be able to sell it in the future. I have known more than one person who desperately wanted to move but due to quirks in their home like size or location it remained on the market a very long time. In addition, when I married Mr. Read I knew he was mobile. I knew if we got jobs else where in the city we could make compromises and move to make commutes more reasonable. With a house, if you get a new job at a new location you either have to grin and bear a potentially long commute or…move. Going through what seems to be an awful process all over again.

Perhaps I just watched the movie The Money Pit one too many times but to me, I am not ready to put my heart and soul into a brick and mortar location. Not yet at least.

On Fad Diets

Apparently being a woman in these modern times means I am required to obsess about my weight. I have to be honest, I am not sure I am really on board with this ideal. I do believe in living healthy. I get up at ungodly hours so I can roll to the gym as often as possible. I forego French fries as often as I can resist. I look at myself in the mirror and pinch the skin that hangs over a pair of pants that are too tight.

I do not take part in fad diets. Fad diets seem to be the pinnacle of weight obsession. As a woman, I am apparently not concerned enough about my weight until I am participating in some masochistic fad diet. Whenever I am in a gathering of women with food, it seems that the topic of the latest diet comes up. Women swap fad diets like recipes. Try “The Master Cleanse” (drinking a combination of maple syrup, lemon and cayenne pepper for a week and nothing else). Try the Grapefruit Diet. Try the only eating foods that start with ‘A’ diet (I made this one up).

I find myself remaining quiet during these conversations because I am on no such diet. In fact, I do not consider myself to be on any diet with a capital ‘D’ inside my diet consists of attempting to make healthy choices and also watching my caloric intake.  If I go out to dinner, I know I should get the side salad instead of the fries. We all know that right? French fries have no value to your body other than triggering all those pleasure centers in your brain.

Now, I am not saying my method is the best. I am not as thin as I would necessarily like. Nor am I currently at a medically healthy weight. I am working on it.

To me, if there were fad ways to strength my will power, I might seek those out. Willpower is my downfall because if my will power were stronger (which machine at the gym should I do to strengthen my willpower) I would resist the French fries, the ice cream, and all the other delicious things that are 900 calories without any actual health benefit.

I think this is why other women try fad diets so often. Not because they can’t see how silly these diets are but the diets seem like a fix. We don’t know how to fix our willpower, so we try to circumvent it. “If I only allow myself fruit for every meal for a week, I’ll lose weight and I only have to work my will power for a week.”

As the American Heart Association page for their “No-Fad Diet” states, “No magic formula will trim away extra pounds and keep them off. Gimmicks and get-thin-quick schemes don’t work. That’s why, over the long haul, fad diets are not the answer.” (AHA No-Fad Diet Site)

In the end we are only fooling ourselves with these diets and potentially making ourselves unhealthy at the same time. And yet… it seems to continue on.

Honestly, I don’t believe the problem is that women are dumb and don’t know what they are trying are fad diets and probably won’t work. I think it is they ignore their common sense in favor of hope. Hope that there is magic and we don’t have to slog through each day, resisting the French fries of the world and choosing broccoli instead. Hope that we can just take one week out of our lives and get to the weight we want to be, fit into those skinny jeans.

However, if you aren’t sure if the diet you are on is a fad diet, here are some clues:

1)   The promise of a quick fix.

2)   Dire warnings of dangers from a single product or regimen.

3)   Claims that sound too good to be true.

4)   Simplistic conclusions drawn from a complex medical study.

5)   Dramatic statements that are refuted by reputable scientific organizations.

6)   Lists of “good” and “bad” foods

7)   Recommendations made to help sell a product.

8)   Recommendations based on studies published without review of other researchers.

9)   Recommendations from studies that ignore the differences between individuals or groups.

10)                   Eliminates 1 or more food group.

(WebMD – Fad Diets: Claims, Characteristics, and Pit-Falls)

Ladies, I plead with you to give up this obsession with fad diets. You deprive yourself and then make yourself feel guilty for eating something that tastes good. By doing this you give food more power over you than it should. By building food up in your mind by deprivation you make it more likely you will over indulge when your will power gives out (and it will give out, none of us are immune). We know what is healthy; we know what we should eat. That is all we need to know.

If you really need guidelines, check out the book Food Rules by Michael Pollan. It’s simple, easy and commonsense

On Father's Day

My dad was not the kind of dad written about in Father’s Day cards. He didn’t golf. He didn’t fish. He didn’t wear polo shirts. This made Father’s Day rough, especially because his birthday was in extreme close proximity. He had actually been born on a Father’s Day. When asked what he wanted for Father’s Day, he usually requested socks. He did not wear interesting socks either. He had a very specific preference for thin, black socks. This did not make for interesting gift giving options. In fact, it didn’t give my sister and I many options at all.

I recall lots of homemade coupons to wash and clean his car when we were kids. Also lots and lots of ties. So many more ties than even a man who wore ties every day to work probably needed. Even still, he looked at each tie and said he liked it. Whether we got him a goofy tie which was not his style or a simple stripped tie, he always said he liked the tie. On rare Father’s Day our mom would buy something for us to give him for his main hobby, stamp collecting. This was usually a very boring looking book. My dad would open it and his eyes would light up and he would immediately thumb through the book. He would even read aloud despite the fact that we had no interest whatsoever. It was Father’s Day, we humored him.

Once my dad retired, the gift giving became even more difficult as his tie wearing reduced drastically.

And then my dad lost his eye sight through a strange series of events that starts with pigeons. We switched from books to books on tape. It was unbelievable hard but not because I didn’t know what to get him for Father’s Day. It was hard to see my dad who loved reading, watching tv and organizing his stamps, not be able to see any of things he loved. It was heart breaking actually.

I wish I remembered the last Father’s Day I had with my dad more clearly. I was 21. I recall a fancy dinner out with my whole family at some point during that month that was supposed to be a kind of joint birthday/mother’s day/father’s day celebration. I have no idea what I got him for that last Father’s Day. Or if I even spent Father’s Day with him. I might have been busy, off seeing friends as I had just returned home for the summer from college. I didn’t know it was even close to the last Father’s Day. It was before he started to have health problems. Before we even knew something was amiss. Before all the tests. Before the results. It was just another Father’s Day. Nothing special.

I hope that even though I didn’t know it was the last, it was a good Father’s Day for him. Even though I can’t remember it, I hope it felt special. I hope he knew he was a great dad. Even though he wasn’t the father written about on Father’s Day cards, I hope he knew he was the perfect dad to me.

Happy Father’s Day, Dad. Even though you never golfed, fished or wore a polo shirt, you taught me so much and always made me feel loved. And I love you too.