Black Pumps

Last night I wrote an entire blog while sweating and pretending to breathe in a yoga class.

Not my proudest 75 minutes of attention and awareness.

Blogging is not yoga.

The story in my mind went like this:

I’m devastated. Yesterday I left my favorite black pumps at the yoga studio and this afternoon they were donated to the Salvation Army.

I don’t know how to recover.

I find a mantra and keep repeating it: “It’s just a pair of shoes. Just an ordinary, everyday, totally replaceable, pair of black pumps.”

It’s not working.

I fight the new mantra creeping in: “It’s not just a pair of shoes. It’s my favorite pair of shoes. Not just ordinary black pumps. The perfect, most exquisite pair of heeled footwear I’ve ever owned. My go-to pumps. My run with the grace of a gazelle up the courthouse stairs pumps. My look sophisticated in a suit but feel like I’m wearing sweatpants pumps. My ‘damn it, I’ll never find another pair like them,’ pumps.”

It’s still not working.

My mind says, “let them go.” But I all over my body I can feel myself clinging. Tight.

I try a different approach.

I make a list of all my other well-loved shoes. The ones I didn’t absent-mindedly abandon in the Zuda lobby. The brave foot soldiers who will take up the battle of lady lawyer wardrobing without their humble, fearless leader.

The red patent leather pumps. The ones I always put on with my slim-fitting black dress pants. The ones I always take off before I make it out the door in them. “Red patent, leather? Most of my clients still poop their pants for god’s sake!”

The purple stilletos. The most recent purchase in a long line of vibrant wardrobe additions I’ve acquired since losing Heather. Damn could she rock a hot pair of shoes!

The snake skin peep-toes my dad bought me. I’m pretty sure my underwear is still stained from the moment he picked them out.

The five inch black ones. The ones I put on to experience what it feels like to be tall and beautiful. The ones that make it hard to feel grateful for the body I was born with. The ones I take off or risk serious bodily injury after my second drink.

My new black flats with the big bow, the shoes I danced in at Barrister’s Ball the night Whitney Houston died, the cream colored Mona Pumps and their natural leather counterparts.

It becomes clear the list is practically endless. Immediately I feel greedy, spoiled, and humiliated.

My frustrated edginess starts to soften into gratitude and a sense of abundance.

The softness brings acceptance.

“Goodbye my loyal servants, I wish you a long and prosperous second life of stylish comfort and killer job interviews.”

When I emerge triumphant from the studio, my black pumps are staring at me from the front desk. My incredible yoga friends rescued them from the back of a mini-van en route to the donation center.

So many lessons in a single night.

I grab them between my fingers and kiss the top of the pointy, leather toes.

I make one, final, mental note:

I owe myself a yoga class.


My Love Affair with Chris Christie

Leadership is sexy.

For as far back as I can remember, I’ve fallen hard for a man in charge. I got giggly and flushed as a fourth grader in my first student government meetings. I was hyper verbal and unusually articulate for my age, but I’d crumble to pieces when called on by the charming, long-haired sixth grader who commanded the room.

In junior high, I lusted after my fourth period P.E. T.A., but only when he was holding the clipboard.
In high school, I made my first plans to marry a lawyer. I fantasized about a man in an expensive suit with an Ivy League diploma. I was on a fierce and narrow man hunt to trap the other half of the power couple I was destined to become.

I tried to date the program director of UniCamp my first summer as a counselor. And my second. My college boyfriend had more charisma than Bill Clinton.

I can usually see an attraction coming. I had predictable crushes on arrogant professors in both college and law school. When Senator Barack Obama gave his first famous speech at the DNC in 2004, I thought, “damn. that guy is fine.” I’ve loved alpha male frat-boys and outspoken social organizers. No matter what he looks like, I’m reliably hot for the most animated man in the room. My affection for authority transcends the boundaries of typical female taste and preference. But for all the difference and variation, one thing seemed certain.

I could never love a Republican.

Until now.

The morning after Hurricane Sandy ravaged the east coast, it was love at first sight. I saw him speaking soberly to Matt Lauer on the Today show. He was grieving, but grounded. Stoic, but vulnerable. He was humbly clad in a dark blue half-zip, speaking earnestly and openly to his broken community.

I felt swept up by his sincerity. Like we were making real-life eye contact. The type that imprints you with its intensity. The type you can still feel an hour after you’ve both looked away. I felt his hands reach out, grab mine with purpose and tell me with conviction, “it’ll all be o.k.”

Since then, I’ve been following him on twitter. I know some lowly staff intern writes his tweets, but he pours his soul into the message. He is mindful and direct. Encouraging, but no-nonsense.

I’m captivated by him. His strength, his determination, his resolution to rebuild. The way he told his party to fuck off when they said he cost Romney the election. I admire his honesty, and transparency. I cried when I watched the coverage of him walking the streets of New Jersey with the President. I saw him meeting his people, really feeling their fear. Their loss.  Their desperation. It was so human, and so beautiful.

The two of us are an unlikely pair.  I doubt he eats much vegetarian or spends any time in chatturanga. He probably scoffs at organic produce and laughs about “global warming.”

But we could be great together. I’d teach him about west-coast healthy living and he’d defend old- school fiscal conservatism. I’d take up eating seafood and he’d wear Lululemon. We’d yell at each other about politics. He’d call me young and naive. I’d call him old and out of touch. But in the end it wouldn’t matter. We’d hug and laugh and raise our glasses of red wine in celebration of the chance to have unique perspectives.

My love affair with Chris Christie got me thinking about bipartisanship. About a polarized country that’s suffering in the aftermath of an economic hurricane. About how each of us already has the solution to the issues, the controversies, the fiscal cliff and the unemployment rate.
It’s the ability to acknowledge and embrace our sameness. The ability to look at each other with a feeling of gratitude, admiration and love. When I watch Chris Christie lead, I don’t care how he feels about abortion, contraception or prayer in schools. I feel moved and inspired by the sense that he’s leading from his heart, not his party platform. That in the midst of crisis he can’t help but make the decisions that are best for his people.

I haven’t imagined myself in politics since I was a kid. I’d probably be chased out of town for my lack of husband and moderate views. I’m a little too eccentric and outspoken. I’m not as tough as I used to be.  Public life would be hard on my ego and sad for my mom.

But if Chris Christie called me to be his running mate, or his second wife, I wouldn’t turn him down.

Love in Southeast Asia: Cookies for My Facebook

About three times I week I decide to delete my Facebook account.

I call my best friend:

“I’m going off Facebook.”

“Oh great, I should do that too.”

She knows I’m full of shit.

I imagine all of the life-enriching consequences: All that free time! A break from my computer screen! A unique, non-digital identity!

But Wait! What if someone gets married or engaged? How will I know when to feel bad about myself?

I call my best friend:

“I can’t do it.”

“It’s o.k., maybe next time.”

At the Hanoi Cooking Centre in Hanoi, Vietnam, Priyan, Parker and I are taking a break from rice paper rolling and banana flower chopping. I’m eying three giant cookie sheets lined with freshly baked chocolate cookies. I haven’t seen a cookie in two and a half weeks. My first thought is to stash a couple of them in the front of my dress and sneak out to the patio to eat them.

Somehow, I resist.

As I’m ogling and drooling, a tiny Vietnamese man appears. He’s an inch or two taller than me and weighs maybe eighty pounds. I’m wondering how he ended up here, and not on the disney theme park circuit playing Tinkerbell.

He bounds in front of us wearing a flour-dusted black Cooking Centre apron.

“Do you want a cookie?”

Yes. He speaks my language.

“I like to bake cookies and put them on my Facebook.”

I almost fell over.

I am on the other side of the world having a magical moment at the intersection of globalization and social media.

I look up at my friends and I see their acknowledgement. This guy is my Southeast Asian soulmate.

I squeal with delight, “I bake cookies and put them on MY facebook**!” We jump up and down uncontrollably yelling nonsense back and forth. The words don’t matter. We are having a moment of pure, human connection.

Our cooking instructor calls us back to attention at the front of the kitchen. I reluctantly leave my new friend behind.

When class is over, we head upstairs to feast on our creations. I look longingly towards the oven in the back of the kitchen hoping to get a glimpse of my Vietnamese keebler elf.

No luck.

I sigh, it was good while it lasted.

Then, at the top of the staircase, I see him, beaming.

LET’S BE FACEBOOK FRIENDS! I scream in his face without even greeting him, “hello.”

With complete sincerity and uncensored satisfaction he says, “really? that would make me so happy.”

Minutes later me and Link are Facebook official, posing for our first tagged photo together, still overwhelmed by the joy of the entire experience.

Before we leave, my new friend invites us out for a beer with him in Hanoi to celebrate Vietnamese Independence Day.

When we say goodbye, I squeeze Link extra tight. I hold him in the space of our similarity, in awe of our unlikely exchange, moved by the first-hand experience of the truth that, deep down, we are all the same.

I traveled all the way to Vietnam, to finally find something beautiful, positive and life-affirming, on Facebook.

** I love to bake. I bake cookies. Frequently. I’ve never once put them on my Facebook. But my ideal self does. She posts exquisite shots of perfectly rounded, delicately browned, elegantly arranged chocolate chip cookies. In that honest moment with Link, my ideal self was talking.

Gratitude: My brother’s monologue

When we were kids, I was mesmerized by my brother. He could talk to anyone. He made everyone laugh.

My older cousins would hang on his every word when we’d gather in the back bedroom of my grandparents’ house.

I’d watch him talk my parents into all sorts of things. He reminded me of a charming t.v. lawyer. He was part salesman, part comedian, pure charm. I wanted to be just like him.

My brother is the funniest person I know. He could easily have a stand-up career or his own show in late night. He has the type of dry sense of humor that makes people famous, the type I could only dream about.

Last night, my mom’s living room vibrated with laughter. The kind where you haven’t recovered from the last funny thing you heard when your body reacts to something even funnier.

Where you laugh for 20 minutes straight without taking a deep breath.

I feel grateful for the ability to laugh that hard, and to be in my brother’s presence when he delivers a real-life monologue.

Gratitude: The Buddha

One of my favorite people on the planet is a high school senior named Mitchell Rosenberg. Mitchell first broke my heart wide open as a ten year old junior leader at my summer camp. When he was 15, I nicknamed him The Buddha. I have no explanation for how a Sacramento-raised Jewish teenager becomes enlightened, but he is.

Today, over lunch and a discussion of his college application essay, Mitchell reminded me why he is one of my most important teachers.

He is inexplicably humble, generous, loving and compassionate. He sees only the good in everyone. He has the wisdom and insight of someone 60 years older than him, and the wide open heart of someone 15 years younger.

Just being around him makes me better. More humble, more generous, more loving and compassionate. Words can’t describe his aura. It’s a feeling thing.

He is remarkable. And I feel grateful.

Grateful to know him, to learn from him, and to live in a world he is constantly making better.

Grown-Up Halloween

I lost my Halloween spark in the tenth grade when I was told, or decided, or was shamed into thinking, I was too old to trick or treat.

The next decade of October 31sts played out as a series of drunken disappointments and unrealized expectations.

My mid twenties felt like a promising comeback with a three-peat of memorable homemade costumes. But wearing a creative masterpiece amidst stumblers and black-outs never felt as epic or satisfying as parading around my elementary school in that one-of-a-kind red poodle skirt, hand-stitched by my grandma.

Lately I’ve been struggling to find my place. It feels a little like the last ten years of Halloween parties, without the elaborate makeup. I know how I got here, but I’m not sure I want to stay. I look around and everyone else is having the time of their lives. I feel lonely. And invisible. And unfulfilled. There are moments when I don’t remember why I came.

On halloween night my best friend and I arrive at her sister’s around 6:30pm. We came to chaperone the trick or treaters, ages 10 to 16.

I trek down into the living room in my makeshift flashdance costume to talk some shit to the teenagers and try to rev up my Halloween spirit.

Minutes later, my best friend’s sister appears with a child’s dinosaur costume.

My eyes light up.

I strip down to everything but the leotard and start to squeeze my adult legs into the unforgiving fabric. After a deep inhale and a few energetic leaps in the air, I secure the costume around my waist. I’m ninety percent sure I’ll still be wearing it when I get to court the next morning, but I haven’t been this excited in October since the late nineties.

My best friend’s ten year old niece appears in the living room.

“Bag or pillow case?”

“Of course you have to take the pillow case. We’re not trying to mess around out there, this is serious business.”

“No, no no. I mean, which one do you want? Bag or pillow case?”

“Excuse me?”

“You gotta have something to hold your candy.”

And so it began. The “almost thirty” resurrection of a tradition I gave up in early high school.

At the first house I stood sheepishly in the background putting on my best “enthusiastic chaperone” face.

The kids instantly harassed me and my best friend for our reluctance and hesitation.

It was the type of peer pressure I’d only seen on T.V. during TGIF.

As the night wore on, my confidence strengthened. My shame slowly evaporated in the warmth of the experience.

Most of the people handing out candy were so impressed with the elaborate dinosaur protruding from my belly, they didn’t even look up to see my adult-sized breasts or slowly creeping crows feet.

At every other house, my best friend followed “trick or treat” with a loud and apologetic “we’re adults.”  before straightening her forearms to reveal the opening of her light blue pillow case. I’d cautiously hand over my felt pumpkin and hope for a miniature bag of regular M&Ms.

We creeped and screeched through the yards with scary decorations.

We talked to a ninety year old woman about supporting Barack Obama.

We got countless compliments and positive affirmations.

It was the most face-to-face contact with strangers I’ve experienced in years.

Just as we arrived back at the house, it started to rain. We dumped our candy on the floor to trade for our favorites and reflected on the quality and quantity of our stash. My face felt tight from all the smiling and laughing.

We spent the rest of the night gossiping in the kitchen and munching on fun size chocolate.

It was the best time I’d had in months. The most awesome halloween in memory.

An important reminder that you’re never too old to dress-up like a dinosaur and go door-to-door begging for sweets.

Gratitude: Peet’s Coffee

My morning coffee is sacred.

During my trip to Southeast Asia, I drank a lot of questionable caffeinated beverages. In Sri Lanka, the coffee was grainy and thick. I’d drink eight or nine cups and barely feel a buzz.

In Thailand, I drank cold nescafe out of an eight oz. can from 7/11. The whole ritual would be over in 45 seconds and I’d immediately feel unsatisfied and homesick.

In Vietnam, I took one sip of coffee and felt like my heart was going to explode.

This morning, I got a medium, three shot, soy caramel latte from Peet’s coffee.

Damn was it good.

Gratitude: Country Music

I fell in love with Country Music the night my best friend showed me “Garth Brooks Live in Central Park” on VHS. We danced our asses off in her Grandma’s living room until we were sweaty and breathless.

Tonight I watched all three hours of the CMAs.

I feel like the country artists are my close friends. I love how they look out for each other, celebrate each other and sing together. It feels warm and genuine. When they say how much they love their genre, I really believe it.

It feels like a community. And I feel grateful to be a part of it.