Of Geese and Boots and The Front Page

There is no grand message here – except maybe, similar to stop and smell the roses, stop and experience the geese of life.
…….

I’ve always taken my children with me to clients… if they wanted to go.
[see full-image below]

In 1996, I was consulting for Sebastian Haircare in Woodland Hills – the Pyramid building on De Soto.

They had been purchased by Wella – a move that some would say destroyed the brand but that’s another story.

Sebastian had this cool rain forest inside their facility. Lush greenery and some fish tanks. I couldn’t find a picture of it – though I didn’t spend much time looking.

On this day, Tuesday, December 17, 1996 (I only know because the date on the picture), I’d taken my 2nd child, Jessica with me. Jess often accompanied me to clients – setting up with a book or something to draw. I’m certain, on this visit, she spent much of her time at Sebastian in their rain forest, pretending she was one of the creatures that lived there.

On our way home, back to Chatsworth, we passed Pierce College (aka: Moo U). On one of the fields, I saw hundreds of Canadian Geese. Jess saw them as well.

Our friends who know Jess fully realize that there was NO WAY I was going to drive past a field of Canadian Geese without making a stop for her. Jess was/is animal crazy. In fact, she spent more time being an animal of one sort of another than she did being a little girl. I’ll write more about this later – some hilarious stories. This is NOT an exaggeration. We used to discuss it in terms of whether this was becoming a psychosis of some sort.

I let Jess out and she walked across the field, wading into the middle of the flock. I didn’t join her, knowing that my presence would be more likely to frighten them.

As I watched Jess enjoy her feathered friends, a man with a camera and large telephoto lens came up next to me. He asked if he could take some pictures of her. He said the colors and moment was perfect.  I agreed and gave him permission.

He went on to explain that he was a photographer for the Daily News.

After taking several photos he said, “It wouldn’t surprise me if these make the paper.”

As it turned out, we received the Daily News and the Times back in those days. The next morning, early  – because I’m always up early – I walked out to get the paper.

The Daily News was on the driveway. It was folded in half, with the lower-fold facing up. But there was no mistaking the boots. Jess was always wearing boots. I ran back inside and woke Jess and my wife up to show them the paper. I was very excited!

Over the course of the day several friends called us. The consensus was that, of course, Jess was on the front-page of the newspaper with a bunch of geese.

 

Manifesto, Mantra, & Mandates for 2017

Dammit! Now I need to write something into my alliteration.

Reading time: 6:40-ish

there’s a road and I’m gonna take it

I’m not big on New Year’s Resolutions. I’ve beaten this subject to death, so. If interested, you can read my take here.

I do, however, believe in setting goals, establishing plans, and working for outcomes. And I think the New Year provides a good enough jumping off point for enacting some of those plans. In part, because we come through a period of time – the Holidays – that, at once, both allow a little decompression and exacerbate stress.Continue reading

Thoughts on wanting 2016 to end

I posted this on Facebook.

I find it curious/strange to watch people talk about wanting to have 2016 finish and 2017 to start.

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Side note: I never wish a day away – I don’t wish for Friday on Monday.. we get a limited quantity of days and I want EVERY SINGLE ONE OF THEM!
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Not just because a year is just a token that marks a series of earth rotations and our planet’s movement around the sun. 1/1/2017 marks nothing more than a single rotation more than 12/31/2016.

And 2016 did not take anyone from us. 2016 isn’t in the business of taking or giving. Cursing 2016 is like cursing a spoon for soup that was too hot! I’ve done it… but it’s sort of idiotic.

But most important, the biggest challenge we faced in 2016 was ourselves. We, individually, are always our biggest challenge. Guess who is going to be waiting for you when you wake up in 2017? Yep! Now that’s frightening!

At least you hope they are there waiting.

The day after that… thoughts on post election humanity

Can we be alright if we are all right?

Election day is coming soon. I suspect most people have decided who they are voting for and if not, the online demonizing and rationalizing of X or Y will NOT be what determines their vote.

So.. I’m going to write about civility and shared experiences. I believe in a humanity we share and that most people, when stripped of masks and pretension, want very similar things.Continue reading

Notes to The Girl: Tips for the Best Week Possible

When Sara was in middle school I put notes in her lunch. Occasionally, I publish them. An image of the original note can be found below the text.

Date: 9/24/2012
Sara,
Tips for making this week the best possible:
  • Smile!
  • Consider how to make someone unhappy smile and then do that thing.
  • Thank your teachers for caring about you & what they do.
  • Do 3 things to bring your dreams closer to reality.
  • Make a list of 20 or more things to do or learn in the next 5 years.
READY?…. GO!
Love,
Dad
sara-letter
My mom, the nurse, talks to her little sister

Mom

My mom, the nurse, talks to her little sister

She’s pretty. That’s my Aunt Rita she’s talking to.

One year ago today my mom died.

How’s that for a fun first sentence? Read on.. It gets better… no, really.

Note: I can’t adequately convey what I’d like to. This is a pretty poor attempt at tribute.. But, this morning, it’s what I have.

I miss my mom. More at some times.. Like now. NOT because it is the anniversary date of her death. I hate to say it but I might not have remembered the actual date had her sister not emailed us to let us know she was thinking of us and they were having a mass back in Canada.
read: Enjoy Every Sandwich

I mean, I had a nagging underlying knowledge that today was the day. But.. the bigger reminder was The US Open tennis tournament. Because, if you were to describe my mom, tennis would be near the top of the list.

Every major since her death has been like this for me. They are less fun to watch.

Yesterday, I watched the end of Pouile v. Nadal – an amazing match. The Frenchman, a rising star in men’s tennis, won a 5 setter that came down to the final points in a tie-breaker. He was incredibly gracious in victory and subsequent interview. I really liked the guy – I’m rooting for him.

My mom would have liked him too.

And this is why the major’s are harder than the date of her death….

Yesterday, I was reminded once again, that I couldn’t call her to discuss the match or Pouile’s great after match interviews. We couldn’t talk about how McEnroe – the best sports commentator in any sport in my opinion – loved Pouile’s no-nonsense humility. And how my mom would agree with him.

“The match isn’t over until the final point,” Pouile said.
We can apply the hell out of that wisdom, can’t we?

Her brother, my uncle, had this tribute to her last year

Canada represents – last year

And we couldn’t talk about me joining her and her friends for doubles – me the “young gun” on the court – playing with 75-90 year old women who would tell me how fast I moved. I’d say, “You’ve spotted me 30 years, I’d better be fast because I have no confidence I’ll be out here at 80 years old – moving at all.”

My friend Mike texted me this past April Fool’s Day – his text.. “If you look out your front window you will see there is a horse on your lawn.”

It choked me up… the horse on the lawn was a running gag of my mom’s from my childhood. Every year, April 1st, she was going to call me or I was going to call her to say there was a horse on the lawn. Why that was funny to us.. I have no idea.

Of course, one year, we brought our two horses to my mom’s, snuck them in the backyard, and then I called her with the gag. Winner!

There are other things I miss.. Pet phrases and her dry sarcasm. Those of you who know me and my sarcasm have met my mother. In fact, the self-deprecation and sarcasm is from her… The love for people – and a willingness to generally accept and work with their foibles is also her.

“I’m not just a pretty face”

One of my mom’s favorite phrases. She said it if I commented on her knowledge – evident when watching Jeopardy with her. She’d say it during tennis, if she made a great shot. The exchange would look like this.

Me: Great shot mom.
Her: I’m not just a pretty face you know.
Me: That’s true.. You are not!
Her: Oh fuck off!

Yeah.. she’d tell me to fuck off every once in awhile – deservedly. It always made us laugh. The last time she really cussed at me was during the final 6 weeks – when cancer was killing her.

Please understand, she was not really prone to cuss.. We, her kids, brought her to that point… it was still always shocking and always made me laugh.. if the fact that she did bothers you.. well.. fuck off! 😉

We were feeding her through a feeding tube. I’d pretend I was a waiter and explain the menu choices and how great it was going to be. I’d ask her how she wanted her fluid prepared and did she want the vegetables or rice pilaf with that. I told her I was going to open a feeding tube restaurant to give people dying a unique dining experience. We both thought it was a pretty fun idea… morbid, yes.. but still funny.

my mom getting her indie rock on

My mom and “the punk” getting Foster the People autographs.

Later, however, we were struggling to give her medicine orally..I told her I could crush it and put it through the tube. She did NOT want the tube to get plugged up. She was a nurse and through all the decline, understood enough that she was not getting calories she needed – even with the feeding tube. So.. she wanted the tube open.

I explained that I would crush the pills carefully and dilute them in water.

“Don’t fuck with my feeding tube!”

I looked at her with shock and then we both started laughing. I texted my siblings – classic mom moment.

Her other pet phrase was usually said when you did something intelligent and someone else noticed. Someone might say to her (or you might say it yourself), “Matt is really smart.”

Mom: “Yes.. but he hides it so well.”

I miss hearing that..

True story: Years ago I had been hired to speak in Calabasas. I invited my mom and the organizers sat her with us at the head table of the luncheon. After I finished, the woman in charge of the event said to my mom, “You must be proud of your son.”

True to form, my mom replied, “I spent 18 years trying to shut that kid up and now you pay him to speak.”

Some people didn’t understand that.. They thought it mean. I don’t.. It is so no-nonsense, achievement is sort of expected, go do things – that I love it.

Mom didn’t want you too big for your own good – and that’s good because I’ve never struggled with lack of confidence – at least not in those areas.

Other things about my mom.. She never spanked me or really disciplined me. She just talked to me.. You were expected to be a good person. I wish I’d done better at this with my kids when they were young.. My mom said I should focus on redirection rather than forced obedience. I believe this – though failed at it a lot!

She walked every morning – a few miles – never complained about being tired or sore.. In life, you will be tired and sore sometimes.. So what.. You still have to do things.

Even with cancer she tried to get out and walk. I remember going to the store just after the diagnosis.. I was trying to find a spot close to the store. She pointed to the end of the parking lot – “park there.”

“Mom.. I want to get you closer.”

“I’m not dead yet.. Park over there.”

I’ve said it before, she was a bit of a badass. I’m so thankful for that example.

Was I a good mom?

family portrait

My dad looks giant and what’s up with my shoes

This questions haunts me… During the final weeks of her life, my siblings and I traded off spending time to care for her. I stayed at her house 3 to 4 days a week. The cancer had spread to her brain and elsewhere. It affected her physical function. I was watching as she was putting some clean dishes away (no, she was NOT going to stop working, there’s stuff to do).

She got confused opening the cupboard door.. Trying to put a glass away. She kept pushing it against the cupboard rather than through the open door to the shelf. I got up and went to her to help. As I got there, she realized what she was doing.

She put the glass down and I said, “Shit!”

She was frustrated and all too aware of what was happening to her.

Then she turned to me and said, “I’m sorry.”

“Mom.. why are you sorry? You have nothing to be sorry about.”

“I’m sorry I’m creating trouble.”

I started crying – she did too.

“Mom.. you are not trouble.. It is my pleasure to be here.. I owe you everything.. My life!”

I held her – not something our family is so good at..

Then she asked, “Was I a good mom?”

The question made me cry more.. There are some demons there for her.. Reasons she might not understand how great she was or question her mothering.. And damn those demons and the people who bring them!

“You are an amazing mom! You were the best mom! The best parts of me are from you! The best parts of my kids are from you!”

And this is true!

I could explain the end – how I got to talk to her prior to giving her a morphine/ativan cocktail that let her sleep – and never wake up. I could explain how I told her to stop fighting.. That we were okay.. That she did awesome!

But I’d rather talk about her taking a bunch of kids across country – several times – or arranging ski trips with us and with friends. Or how, the day prior to hip replacement surgery we went to her weekly tennis game.. She popped a bunch of ibuprofen and limped onto the court to play two hours of tennis. (Do you see where I get it from?)

I’d rather remember how all her friends talked about her humor and intellect – her care and love for people.. How she never had drama in her life – or, at least, you never heard about it.

How, devoid of rhythm, she would get out and line dance a few times a week. How she would get her friends together for lunch every week. How, regardless of health, tragedy, and any personal challenges, she was living life.

She wanted to go to Zion the last few years of her life.. But caring for my father and other situations made that impossible. So.. I want to go for her.. I’m going to hike the fuck out of that place.. I want to do it alone – well, I’ll take my dog and her! I’m taking her with me.

Thanks mom.. I love you!

momlisasuzie

Mom, Lisa, and Suzie

myles-and-tina-wedding

My mom married Buddy Holly – no wait, that’s my dad, Myles.

The downtown LA reality show and “These arms are for hugging, not Hitting!”

A week or so ago, my friend, my friend Debbie and I went downtown for the evening. R&R for me. Mental health getaway for her.. ’nuff said.

My youngest – “The Punk” – and I moved there so she could attend a performing arts high school. She is a singer.. a good one (look for future recordings).

I never knew I would enjoy downtown but I do. I love some of the cool things we get to see and do. And it is like a full-time, always-on, reality show. Between the homeless, the vendors, the tourist, and the varied locals, you get a little bit of everything.

Debbie and I walked around starting near Pershing Square, up to the financial district, down to Broadway, Spring, Los Angeles Street, Little Tokyo, and more. We ended up at Olvera street after it was closed. Debbie took some pictures (bel0w). She is a photographer and so the evening was a halting series of photo stops throughout the city. I served as the “patient” model. (No.. I’m not that patient but it was her mental health outing so I shut my mouth.) I was also the traffic stopper.. when she had to stand in the middle of the street to “get that right shot” – my job was to watch for, and stop, oncoming traffic!

We decided to take the subway from Union Station back to Pershing Square… for the experience.. it delivered nicely.

We boarded the red line and waited as other riders got on. I was standing near the back of the car. A sketchy looking young guy, holding a staff, got on the train. He looked like a cross between a homeless hippie and a wizard. That’s the best I can come up with.

He immediately started talking to a random passenger sitting in front of him, explaining that he used the staff for protection when necessary.

flex

the muscles of the mr???

Then he turned to me and said, “Hey Mr. Muscles, can I sit in that chair behind you.”

I said, “You called me Mr. Muscles, so yeah, you can do whatever you want.”

I moved so he could go by. When he sat down he started telling me that his friend taught him to street fight. And then it got even stranger.

He said, “I love running into guys like you.. big muscles, big arms.. They’re surprised when they tangle with me.”

Was he challenging me to a fight? It came across as an attempt to stake his ground – an odd way to create a safety zone.Which isn’t necessary.. I have no interest in trouble.. but???

So I flexed one arm a little and said, “These arms are for hugging, not hitting!”

“Yeah right!,” he responded.

As we got off the subway, I told Debbie, “That is what I love about LA.” It’s an amazing reality show!

And yes, hugging beats hitting any day!

Here are some of Debbie’s photos (taken on her phone). Enjoy!

Can We Stop Circling the Wagons?

I read that 5 police officers were killed in Dallas today during a protest over the killings of two black men – different cities.

I’m going to refrain from analysis of any of the events and let the investigations take place. I have neither the expertise nor insight to, prior to those investigations, offer much more than condolences and sadness.

“Matthew… …ask yourself what you have done to offend them, make them uncomfortable, or cause them to act or react this way.”

What I do wish is that less time was spent by those from any perspective circling their philosophic wagons. That the first response to a black man killed was not – by one group – to vilify all law enforcement or – by another group – exonerate and defend all law enforcement.

This is a philosophic circling of the wagons.

  • All police are not saints and neither are all villains.
  • All black men are not victims and neither are all criminals.
  • An admission by those whose first response is to absolve law enforcement of criticism that the power afforded police can and does lead to misuse and this must be addressed.
  • An admission by those in the black community that urban black culture teaches an often violent response to any show of authority and contributes to conflict.
  • An admission and understanding by the largely white population that growing up black in America is fraught with peril and very real prejudice – that the anger of the black community has some deep-rooted and warranted causes… causes that still exist today.

There are no scores to settle, because in keeping score we are really just keeping a tally on death and sadness. No amount of bodies counted solve the problem.

I want to check my first response – which can be anger at X or Y. Here is why…


Faith and Introspection

I don’t often discuss my faith publicly. Mostly because public politics and religion rarely induces understanding. I am more inclined to discuss such issues over coffee, or wine or beer, or on a hike. One on one – person to person – human to human.

I am a Christian.. as such I believe in the fallibility of people. This idea is often misconstrued and misrepresented by people of faith – my faith – who seem quick to point out the sins of others… other groups and other individuals.

“What’s going on inside of me. I despise my own behavior. This only serves to confirm my suspicions, that I’m still man in need of a savior.”
from In The Light by DC Talk

But my faith, from my perspective, should cause me to look more clearly on my own failings – while extending and representing grace and love to others.

Many years ago I was discussing a professional conflict with a friend. I was frustrated with the situation and at what the other person was doing to make my work and my relationship with my client more challenging.

This woman, took my hands and looked me in the eye.. She asked, “Matthew, before you focus too much attention at what the other person is doing, I want you to ask yourself what you have done to offend them, make them uncomfortable, or cause them to act or react this way. This is a good starting point to help create understanding.”

I’ve tried to remember this conversation. Because she was sweet – and pretty – I suppose I was more susceptible to listening.

I fail in this regard most of the time. My first reaction is to circle my wagons – to protect my turf – to see how I was wronged – to harbor “righteous anger” – to shake my head at how others act. You do the same! Don’t worry – just admit it. It is liberating!

But circling the wagons guarantees we spend our time looking outward, at our “opponent,” not inward, where I believe we should be looking more often and with greater scrutiny. It closes us off as individuals, as communities, and human beings.

What if, rather than circling our wagons –defending our position – we looked more critically at where we stood and with greater understanding at where the “others” stand.

It doesn’t solve yesterday. But maybe it can help give us an opportunity for a more peaceful tomorrow.

The Joy of Peanut Butter

Try it, you might like it

I was telling someone yesterday about how I put peanut butter in my oatmeal. They thought that was weird and said they wouldn’t like it. I replied, “How would you know you wouldn’t like it?”

“I don’t know.. It just seems odd to me.”

“Well.. you might want to try it. You may discover you find it amazing!”

This has happened a few times when people discover the various ways I enjoy peanut butter. For many, they only partake in peanut butter as part of a peanut butter and jelly sandwich. They’ve even forgotten the joy of peanut butter on a spoon. I even lick peanut butter of the knife when I spread it on something. Knife.. spoon.. it’s all good.

A word about mastication

Everyone has their own limits and background on mastication. It can be colored by how you were raised or your religious beliefs. Some people are more open to how they masticate…  some less so. Just understand that everyone masticates and how you choose to masticate with peanut butter is entirely your business.

Your peanut butter, your choice

Now.. the truth is, however you enjoy peanut butter is fine. And I love me a good peanut butter and jelly sandwich. Even the most basic peanut butter and strawberry jelly on white bread; that is delicious. I don’t judge how others enjoy their peanut butter. And if you find that you really just like peanut butter as part of a peanut butter and jelly sandwich, that’s okay. No judgement here.

But.. chances are, if you are limiting your peanut butter to just that, you are missing a chance to experience some wonderful combinations. Peanut butter offers such a wide pallet and wonderful opportunities to suit every taste. Hey.. who can forget peanut butter and chocolate.. It’s become an industry unto itself.

And there are as many types of peanut butter. I like my peanut butter chunky much of the time.. but creamy is good too. And natural peanut butter is amazing.. you need to spend a little more time mixing in the oils but it is well worth the extra work.

You may want to start small.. Just a slight variation. If you are used to the basic peanut butter and strawberry jelly noted above, maybe try it on whole grain toast. Or perhaps try blackberry preserves. If you are feeling adventurous, drizzle some honey on your peanut butter.. Or orange marmalade… mmmm.. Of course, peanut butter on a banana is a classic. But I enjoy peanut butter and apple sandwiches too.

It’s important you keep an open mind as you try peanut butter in new ways. But be careful. You may find that once you start, you can’t stop!

Soon.. you’ll be eating peanut butter with your oatmeal.. With brown sugar.. Or mixing peanut butter into your yogurt – with some blueberries on top.

In fact, some Asian recipes cook peanut butter into their dishes. It’s amazing as well. I’ll admit, I was apprehensive at first but after tasting it, I never looked back.

I’m at a point where I’ll try peanut butter almost any way once. Sure.. you may try something you don’t like – and if that is the case, just strike it from your list.

All I am suggesting is that you keep an open mind when it comes to how you enjoy peanut butter. I’m not saying every time you eat peanut butter that it has to be a experimental experience. But once in awhile, spread your peanut butter pallet.

Enjoy the Joy of Peanut Butter!

Note: This blog post was absolutely about peanut butter.