This is the year she gets a second digit.

For her 10-year-old birthday party, Veronica said she wanted to have people to our house and the party should be fancy.

Fancy? What does that mean?

Well, everyone should wear a fancy costume, whatever they wanted. And there should be fancy food.

“Do you want caviar?”

Once I explained what it was, “Definitely not. But I love shrimp! We should have that.”

“I can make that for you, but your friends might like something else. I could make a red carpet for you.”

“That would be awesome!”

Fancy clothes. Fancy food.

But that week, I didn’t have any time to do all the preparation I’d meant to do. My house was a mess, and I’d been up since four AM dealing with a different crisis.

I’d bought some red plastic to be a carpet. So as I shoveled out the piles of mess from my house, made the shopping list of essentials and tried to figure out how to keep the red plastic flat so it could be walked on, I considered what fancy was supposed to be.

Red carpet is what celebrities and movie stars walk on. They dress up and strike a pose.

Fancy food and drink is basic to any party or celebration. But all the birthday parties before had paper plates with bright pictures on them. Some toy or cartoon character wishing the birthday girl a happy birthday.

In that moment, I felt the opposite of fancy. Sleep deprived, and pretty sure I’d failed my daughter in her request. I’d done so little!

I sponged off the glass table outside where the food would be, and put the toys in their places. I had barely enough time to do that much.

Chris did the grocery run for the cake and the children’s champagne- Martinelli’s Cider. I didn’t have time to get the paper plates and napkins that kid birthday parties are supposed to have.

But this was fancy, right? We’d have to use our ordinary breakable dishes.

And we could bring down the stemware. I’d have to trust these kids, but I think we could deal with a broken glass if necessary.

As the kids trickled in–and there weren’t too many of them–they enjoyed the red carpet. Their interpretation of fancy clothes was charming, and kid elegant. Once they’d all arrived and investigated everything, they clamored for the champagne.

We popped the Martinelli’s, and it dramatically bubbled over the side.

I gave each of them a stemware glass and filled it. I explained that this is fancy, and that these were glasses you had to sit with. No running with the fancy glasses.

They were sobered, and before they took their sips, I invited them to make toasts. They each made a toast, the youngest saying “I wish Veronica a happy year, this first year of having two digits. Amen”

And they clinked their glasses, holding the wobbly glasses in their laps for a moment.

It was when they were eating the lunch, Veronica with her shrimp and the rest with their requested sandwiches, I saw this for what it was.

These friends had been with Veronica since kindergarten. There is no insecurity amongst them. Love, trust and friendship.

A group of friends around a table enjoying the finest things in life- that is the archetype of sophistication at any age.








“The lesson we will focus on today is receiving.”

I looked around at the other people in the class, knowing that I was the newbie and I was sure they would all be familiar and experienced.

I’d never been to an acting class, even though this was Los Angeles, Mecca of all acting.

I am a writer. I work with words.

But I write about characters, and acting is about characters. Everyone is a character, so I wanted to explore how people interacted.

This was an improv class. And I was impressed with the teacher

“Every piece of information is a gift. Improv is about listening and giving back.”

Knowledge is power. And if I know something you don’t, it can be really powerful to share that knowledge. Sharing our knowledge can change the world.

Just look at Wikipedia.

So the few of us learned about giving information to each other to start interacting.

Which was really strange and weird, because we were acting. We were pretending.

In this pretend world, giving each other very basic information was a huge gift. In the world of improv, where you are, who you were and what you were doing was enough to hang a whole universe on.


I don’t think that’s only improv.

Being aware of the surface of what is happening and who I am is extremely powerful.

And I say that as one with a deep appreciation for what is below the surface.

Who am I today and what am I doing in the world? I can choose that every single moment, but only if I am aware of it.

I want to give myself that gift.

Never Again

My dog has fleas. Well, not anymore.

To be precise, *I* have fleas. Not my dog, not my family, no.

All me. I am the most delicious person any insect has ever met, and no insect can resist me.

So when my dog got fleas, and gave them to the cat, and I had bites on my ankles, the cat and the dog got flea treatment and they are fine.

But the fleas keep biting me.

I with I could wear a flea collar. This is embarrassing. I have a whole ring around my ankle of swollen itchy bites.

So I tried some things. I vacuumed, washed all bedding. It seemed to work for a day.

Then I found some herbal flea treatment, and sprayed the couch and the cat with it.

That didn’t seem to work at all.

Ok, it was time for some serious flea poison. Me and the internet spent some time together. I needed what the pros used.

So I found it. I had to order it through the mail. I was SO HAPPY when it arrived. I sprayed it all over the couch, and washed all the bedding (AGAIN).

I went to bed that night thinking, “Last night was my last itchy flea bite. Never again.”

I’ve had “never again” times before.

I’ve told myself

I’m never going to be treated that way again.
I’m never going to make this or that mistake again.

I’ve heard other people say
I’m never going to drink that much again.
I will never smoke another cigarette

Never again is hard to enforce.

In concept, if the “never again” is in my control then it should be easy, right? I’ll just never do it again.

But my weakness is far more reliable than my determination. The best I can hope for is that I will never give up trying for the thing I aspire to.

Then again if the “never again” thing is in the hands of someone else, I have no control over what someone else does. I can’t control how someone else treats me. The only possibility of a never-again that involves someone else is the nuclear option:

Total quarantine. Never be in the presence of that person again.

That’s appropriate in a small number of cases. For the rest of the time, I have to compromise with my never-again vow. I would have to commit to ‘never again will I let that go without comment’ or ‘never again will I react as I have in that circumstance.’

The ‘never again’ feels very powerful when I first say it.

But in my case, but it happened again. I woke again with VERY itchy bites.

Life is not like the movies. There are no jump cuts.

I had to go back, get educated and try again, with a more comprehensive and realistic plan.

I had to get real about what this was really going to take. Never again always means a couple more times.

I’ll get there. But there will be more scratching along the way.

My Way

Looking back, I realize that my mom was sharing something with me that was very foreign to her. This is not the way my mom thinks.

But, in the course of events during home school, my mom shared a planning tool with my brother and me.

“Think about what you would like your life to be like in 20 years…”

I was 14. Thirty-four years old was well past the edge of the known universe.

What could I say I wanted in that time?

I knew I wanted a family and I wanted certain accomplishments. And I wanted to be beautiful. Beauty seemed very important at 14.

Then Mom broke it down further. What would I have to accomplish in the next ten years to get to that outcome?

And then in 5 years?

two and a half years?

What would I need to do THIS YEAR to further the goals of what I wanted my life to be like when I was 34?

Which broke down into the next 6 months, then 3 months and this month, this week and today.

I LOVED this exercise. I took it extremely seriously. I really really wanted those dreams to come true. And breaking it down into things I could do TODAY made me very happy. It felt like those far away dreams were within reach.

My mom, who introduced me to this framework, does not think this way.

It turns out, from my now-lengthy life experience, very few people really find that sort of framework comfortable.

But from the age of 14 on, I have filled pages and pages of notebooks with year plans.

I will write out the 12 months, or if I am in a hurry, 3 months, and plot out what needs to happen to achieve some scheme or other.

It’s not that I always achieve it, or even the times when I do achieve it, I achieve it on the plotted schedule.

But just like when I was 14, it makes me feel like I can almost touch that desired goal. That I will make it.

Some people can daydream into it. For me, I need to feel like there are steps. And even if I get lost or stumble along the way, those steps guide me.

Like little glowing reflectors in the dark. I will find my way.

My way.

The choices

It’s a clean calendar, ready to be filled in with new adventures and new accomplishments. It’s only natural to want to fill it with things that are better than before.

A year full of new high water marks. Of personal bests.

It’s a well-known fact that in January the gym gets very crowded. All the people who set their sights on getting in shape for the New Year. But partway through February, everything dies down.

People stop going. They stop choosing that goal.

I’m not sure when it became popular, but it certainly wasn’t a thing when I was a kid. I hear it everywhere now though. “He’s making bad choices.”

My daughter got it in kindergarten. “You need to think about making a different choice.”

It’s a softened way of saying: “Do the right thing. Don’t do the wrong thing.”

Everything we have in life is the result of our choices.

Of course, when I was a kid, it didn’t feel like I had a lot of choices. I was given a very few options.

By the time I became an adult and had the opportunity to set up my own bouquet of choices, I learned very quickly a few principles of choices. At the time, I called it freedom.

In any circumstance, what choice, what course of action would give me the most possibilities?

Time and money were huge freedom maximizers. So in almost every choice I had, I would choose to keep my money rather than spend it. I had some VERY inexpensive apartments.

And time. If I let time run out it could lead to a situation where I HAD to choose something or lose something even bigger. And I never wanted to be out of options.

That made me very very very aware of the clock. It was the gatekeeper for choices.

I always wanted time and me to be on the same side.

Which means I have to stay ahead of the clock, because time doesn’t wait for me.

But I was hungry for all the choices I could get.

I’m not as hungry as I used to be. Now I have to use habits to keep up my pace.

But habits can degrade and they can even go bad on you.

Then it comes back to choices. New choices, or choosing old things anew.

Then the choices, if repeated become the new habit.

If the habits stick, then life changes.