Monthly Archives: July 2011

And Now You Are A Man


Mama Mia! Here I Go Again…


Whatever Lola Wants…


This is Lola.

Lola is the bulldog my daughter Ashley got for her birthday last year.   Ashley really, really loves Lola.  She says she is Lola’s mommy.

Ashley says that, since she is Lola’s mommy, this makes me Lola’s grandma.  I am not sure how I feel about this.

Ashley is not the only one in the family who loves Lola.

In fact, Andrew is willing to be her pillow.  Any time.

Lola is not exactly a picture of conventional beauty.  She has wrinkles, she snores and she passes gas.  A lot.

Lola is sometimes too lazy to stand up while eating.

She likes to bake cookies, though.

Lola hates the cone of shame.

This is puppy Lola.  This is how she looks when she is happy.

This is how Lola looks when she is deep in thought.

Lola’s look is sort of a cross between ET, Yoda and Jaba the Hut.

And I have a secret.  I am crazy about her.  Maybe it is because she came along right after my mom died, at a time when I really needed a living warm fuzzy to spend hours on the couch with me.   It probably didn’t hurt that she was born on the day my mom died and, though I do not for one minute think that there is anything about Lola that suggests she is my mom reincarnated or anything ridiculous like that ( not only do I not really believe in this, but Lola is my mom’s opposite in virtually every way), there is something special about her having been born on that day.  Or maybe I just enjoy having someone else wrinkly and shaped like a potato in our house to remind me that you don’t have to be perfectly beautiful to be loved.  Or maybe it is just because of this…

But don’t call me her grandma.


The Other F Word


It is day three (I promise I will not continue to count down every day — it is annoying, I know).  I think I have 8 or 9 people following me in one way or another, and there are even a couple of you that are not relatives!

A while back, my younger kids, my husband and I were at a lake.  My kids were playing in the water and I was, of course, sitting in the shade and reading my book (my kids actually believe that I will melt in water ala the Wicked Witch of the West as they have never actually witnessed me swimming.  Ironically, when I was a kid my brothers often taunted me with the Wicked Witch of the West song from the Wizard of Oz.  Hmmm, is there a connection?).

Anyway,  my son, Andrew, who is 12 and enjoys nothing more than narcing on his sister, came running up  and said, with GREAT excitement, “Ashley said the F word in front of some little kids!”  Ashley is 8.  Oh joy. This is one of those moments my mother warned me about.  You know, the ones where your kids do exactly the thing that you don’t want them to do and in exactly the situation most designed to embarrass you in front of others.  They have this power, and they know it.  And they aren’t afraid to use it.  Like when they yell “Don’t hit me Mom!”  in the check out of the grocery store closest to your home, causing everyone to turn and look, right before the clerk says “Do you need help to your car Mrs. Meggs?”  Insert your name, and your kids, and imagine that feeling.  That is how I felt on the beach.  The blood was pounding in my ears, and I was looking around, counting the witnesses.

I am a lawyer, though, so I did have to marshal the evidence a bit.  “The F word?” I said.  “Which F word?”  Andrew looked at me with 12 year-old disdain.  “THE F word, Mom!  And she said it in front of all those little kids!”  I confronted Ashley, who was building a river that would never make it to the sea (lake), because it started in a low spot and ran uphill to the edge of the water.  They didn’t cover gravity in second grade.  This may have been the source of the F word inducing frustration, I thought.   The subsequent conversation went like this:

Me:    “Ashley, did you say the F word?” (of course I said this in a calm and reasonable tone).

Ashley:   ” NOOO! (said with conviction).  I said friggin’.”

Andrew:  (of course, he had joined us because there was no way he was going to miss this)  “I heard her — she said the F word.  And in front of those little kids!”  (he clearly recognized the most damning part of the allegations).

Ashley:    “I didn’t! The F word is f **k (spelling it).  I said friggin’!”

Me:  “Ashley, that is just a word that people use to take the place of the F word because it sounds like it.  It isn’t exactly a swear word, but it sounds like one, and if you use it,  people think you did swear if they don’t listen closely (ANDREW).  It is not ok for you to use.  It means the same thing as the F word.”  (I actually looked it up, and the Urban Dictionary says that “friggin'”  is a way to swear in front of your parents.  Oh, and in England it sort of means something that would really be appalling out of the mouth of an 8-year-old.  Yikes!)

Ashley:  “No it doesn’t.  It means “very.”  You know, like in the song.  “I wanna be billionaire, soo friggin’ bad.”‘  (Thank you Travie McCoy).

Me:  (at a loss for words, especially since we saw Travie and Bruno Mars perform that song live at the Teen Choice Awards last year, suggesting my endorsement of the same)  “Umm, just don’t use it.  If you are frustrated say “rats” and if you mean “very” say “very.”

I am generally not very (or should I say “friggin’?”) uptight about swearing.  There are so many worse things my kids could do.  I have tried to convey to my kids that it is not that awful, but not particularly cool, either.  And completely unacceptable for children.  I have tried to explain that I see it as a sliding scale — what might not be so inappropriate in certain company and coming from a certain person (an adult man with a group of adult men, for example) may be HIGHLY inappropriate in another setting and out of another mouth (let’s say Ashley using the F word on the beach in front of little kids).  I have also tried to explain that certain swear words are worse than others, and some words are bad, while not technically swear words.  It is all very complicated and hard to explain.  What do these words mean (oh lord, I don’t want to go there!)?  Why are they so bad?  Is it because people are around, or is a curse in the forest still heard?  And what is it about these particular words?  Would a word that means “f**k” in ancient Aramaic (come on — I’m sure they had one) still be a curse word if nobody understands what it means?  Would a made-up curse word be as enjoyable to say if nobody got it?

Interestingly, as a family, we also just happened to see the movie Fantastic Mr. Fox, a strange and wonderful movie from a book by Roald Dahl, a strange and wonderful writer.  In the movie, Mr. Fox and his male friends do not use curse words.  They use the word “cuss.”  As in “What the cuss do you think you are doing?”  This results in the very entertaining adult experience of hearing the phrase “cluster cuss” in a children’s movie.  Maybe this is what I will say from now on when I feel a curse bubbling up.

And don’t get me wrong, on this point, I am no hypocrite — I have sworn plenty.   And I do have 5 brothers.  Growing up, I heard both the standards, as well as  some creative twists on them.  My brothers are nothing if not linguistically creative.  And boy, did they enjoy manipulating the younger kids.  I recall that the older ones especially enjoyed the game where they tried to get the younger ones (of which I was one) to innocently call other siblings names involving curse words, just for the hilarious joy of both calling your brother a name and seeing a little kid swear unwittingly.  “Go tell Jim that he is a B***h.”  “OK!”   Picture me toddling off to Jim with a big, enthusiastic smile on my face.

This family background prepared me for my law firm years.   For some lawyers, the F word is practically a term of art.  I once had a partner say to me, in the context of responding to a settlement offer from the opposing side, “You go tell that f*****g f**k that he can f*****g take his f*****g offer and f*****g shove it up his f*****g a**, the f**k!”  And he didn’t mean “very.”  All righty then.  I believe I translated this into “We decline to accept your offer, and we do so in the strongest possible way.”

But in my life, now, the whole expletive thing takes on a different meaning.  Hey, there are kids around — tone it down!  I think swearing is like salt.  The more you use it, the more you need it to spice things up.  Once you limit your intake, you start to realize how overly salty things are, especially those designed for mass consumption.  Just try to go a week without salt, and then eat at McDonalds and you will see what I mean.  At the same time, would you want a world without any spice?  How boring would that be?  There has to be some social value in blowing off steam with words rather than actions (remember, sticks and stones …)   Maybe swearing is just more effective when used judiciously.  Too much is bad for our blood pressure.  Not enough, just sort of bland.   And does that make “friggin'” the Mrs. Dash of curse words?  Cuss if I know.


Are We There Yet?


It is day two.  Well, at least I tried to get my first post in before midnight yesterday.  Anyway, day two, and three followers!  Of course, one is my husband, one is a relative, and one is one of my best friends, but at this point, I am not inclined to be picky.  Especially because I am so new to this whole blogging thing.  I still have a lot to figure out.  Patience, please.  Besides, who really needs more than a loving husband, family and a best friend?

On to the topic for today.  Remember how, when you were a kid you thought that, when you grew up, you became a (fill in the blank – fireman, teacher, mother, doctor, cowboy, rock star) and then your life began.  And once that happened, you were an adult and you were THERE.  Looking from the child’s vantage, “THERE” was anyplace you could dream of — a castle, a ranch, a New York apartment, the White House.  As you got older, you realized it wasn’t quite that simple.  Not everyone could live in a castle, after all.  You might have to adjust your expectations, and you might just live in a suburban house.  But once you did, you were THERE.  You no longer had worries because, hey, you were THERE.   And all of the evidence seemed to suggest that this was true because, look at your parents.  They were THERE.  By all appearances, they were who they were, they didn’t change, they didn’t worry, they didn’t dream for something different.  We thought that, when they filled in the blank as children, they filled it with “middle manager” or “housewife” or “accountant”.  Yeah, right.

It is no secret that the midsection of your life is about the gradual acceptance of the fact that, as Gertrude Stein said (in a different context), “there is no there there.”  It just so happens that I am squarely in what I hope turns out to be the midsection of my life (ironically a time when I find my self agonizing about my own midsection, but that is another topic…).  I just had a birthday.  I am not 50.  But, to paraphrase another Sally, I’m gonna be 50.  Someday.   I vividly remember when my dad turned 50 because it was the year we moved from Michigan to California, and I was 12.  I firmly believe that certain stages of your life form your clearest memories, and years 12 and 13 are those years for me.  Well, one thing I remember from that time is that my dad was THERE.  He knew what he was doing.  He certainly experienced no feelings of fear or anxiety about moving his family from the town of 2,000 people in Michigan  where he grew up (as did his father and his father’s father) to California.  Nor did he worry that it was a mistake to go from being the president of a small family company to being the president of a much larger national company.  Nor were there second thoughts about moving his kids, including one son, who was a senior in high school,  cross country, three times in a year and 1/2.  Why would there be any uncertainty?  He was an adult.  He was THERE.  So I’ll be THERE when I turn 50, right?

Ok, so you get my point.  The world is a series of constants to you when you are a kid because you just don’t know any better.  Now my husband and I find ourselves waiting for the THERE that just doesn’t come (and that we know won’t come — we have just so gotten into the habit of waiting!).  Now we are the parents, with two kids in college, both brimming with their potential and possibilities, and two more coming down the pike with dreams of being a rock star and playing professional baseball.   We’re THERE, right?  Not so much.   Instead, I am in a place where my goal is just to try to recapture a bit of that feeling of hope and possibility that our kids are experiencing while recognizing that life is about the journey, not the destination.  That is all great and good, but hard to do when sometimes that journey just sucks, and there will continue to be endless laundry and bills and illnesses and failures and deaths and worries, worries, worries.  But it doesn’t always suck.  In fact, most of the time it doesn’t. And even when it does suck, there are things for which to be grateful.  I lost my dad several years ago, and my mom just last year.  That sucked.  It still sucks.  But I was privileged enough to be with them both through the process and to be holding each of their hands at the end.  I am a fuller person as a result.  I now see my parents as people, with worries and stresses, with failures and triumphs, not as the cardboard cutouts of  grown ups that I used to see them as.  None of this  gets me THERE, of course. But in a way that is hard to articulate, I feel closer.  So maybe that’s it.  Maybe THERE is when you come to complete acceptance that there is no THERE, and I am just starting to feel the glimmers of understanding.  Hmmm.  Oh well.  I have to go do some laundry.


Hello world!


Ok.  Here goes.  After much encouragement from my loving (and intelligent) husband, I am making the leap into the blogosphere.  He feels that I have something to say that others might actually want to hear.  Possibly his attempt to divert my opinions away from him and out into the void, I realize, but being a “glass is half full” type of girl, I choose to see his encouragement as a reflection of his undying belief in me.  And as he will be my first, and possibly only, follower, his belief in me is valued as second only to my own in myself!


So, who am I?  I am a wife, mother and stepmother, and “retired” lawyer.  My supportive husband, Scott, is also a lawyer (though not, oft to his regret, retired).  We have four children; three boys, aged 21, 19  and 12, and a daughter, aged 8.  Ours is a blended family, with the two older boys from Scott’s first marriage, and the other two a product of ours.  The older two boys are in college, the twelve-year-old in Seventh Grade and the 8-year-old in Third Grade.   Rounding out our family are a bulldog, a beagle and two guinea pigs.


I grew up in a very small town in western Michigan, the fifth of six children and the only girl.  We moved to California when I was 12, then to Atlanta, Georgia, then back to Fresno, California, where I graduated from high school.  I got my undergraduate degree in English from SMU in Dallas, through whom I spent my senior year abroad at the University of Kent at Canterbury, England.  I got my JD at University of Pacific, McGeorge School of Law in Sacramento.  I then practiced business law, and then family law, for 16 years in San Jose (that’s right, I was a Divorce Lawyer!), until Scott and I concluded that an early retirement was in order so that I could stay home with our younger kids.  And here I remain!


So, what do I have to say?  Well, I seem to have endless interest in a variety of areas.  I love fashion and popular culture.  I am an avid reader with a deep interest in history.  At any given time you might find copies of Vogue, Vanity Fair and People Magazine on my night table along with a volume on the English Civil War and the migration to the Americas.  I am very interested in the arts and arts education in our public schools.  I adore traveling and exploring, both near and far, though I don’t get a chance to do either as much as I would like.  I have always had an interest in sports (as reflected by my long-term status as a San Jose Sharks season ticket holder) but have married into a family for whom sports are nearly a religion, and I myself have become a convert.  Our family was especially enraptured by the Second Coming of the San Francisco Giants in 2010.  I also love live theater of almost any description, and I have worked hard to share this with the men in my family, mostly to no avail.  Luckily, my daughter came along and I have someone who will gladly see Wicked over and over with me.


Now that the general introductions are completed, I promise to be more interesting and less “laundry listy” in the future. Oh, and a note about the name “the Mommy Lama”.  This is not intended to be a reflection of what I see as my great and profound wisdom on par with the Dali Lama– in fact, far from it.  I am a question raiser more than a question answerer.  This name is, instead, a reference to a nickname from my law firm days when another associate dubbed me “the Sally Lama” for some reason.  So there you go.


Good night to Scott, my first and only follower!