New York, Just Like I Pictured It

May 30

Hello my friends, old and new! What a whirlwind week. First stop, Jewish National Book Conference.  50 accomplished authors, not all Jewish btw, put in a room together with reps from 300 Jewish organizations and given 2 timed minutes to sell your wares, I mean books. Quite an experience. I have played The Kennedy Center in DC with 14 minutes notice (I spent a year understudying Jennifer Grey in a play called “Twilight of the Golds,”) and I have never been as nervous as I was sitting in that chair.  But I got my first laugh and all was right with the world. As is always the case when you can make people laugh, even if it’s only for a few minutes.

Next up was the Book Expo at The Jacob Javitz Center. Another first for me. Overwhelming sea of all kinds of print and digital media and people, each adorned with a plastic badge. Signing books and chatted with librarians from around the country.  Heard “make it out to my husband,” more than I anticipated, many of it said with a tone of, “Jesus, maybe he’ll learn something for once.”  A little scary. Highlight was a woman who walked up with the craziest concoction of string and wood and brass around her neck and I was feeling frisky so I asked, “So who do I make this out to, and I have to tell you I really admire that necklace situation you have going on.” “Necklace situation” was so undeniably accurate that even she had to laugh. I was so hungry after I ate some kind of “chicken” sandwich that tasted disturbingly like tunafish. But I would have eaten a book so I was still happy.

Sadly today I will go pay my respects to one of the funniest, Anne Meara.  Loved her soul, her passion and her timing. And she was mother to my dear friend Amy, and to my friend from the early years in NYC Ben, and wife for 61 years to the lovely and kind Jerry Stiller. I am terribly sorry for their loss.

Back to LA tomorrow. Have determined that 6 days away from boys, even with my Super Dad husband stepping up so amazingly, is too many for me. Which doesn’t mean I won’t travel, but it means I have a four day limit. Staying in a wonderful peaceful home in Harlem, of which I am now a devoted fan, I had time to think about what it means when your message is connection through laughter but in spreading that message you have to leave the people you care about most in the world.  What I came to is, it means you have to talk faster and get home sooner.

Good Grief

May 3, 2015

My father died 19 years ago today. It was very sad. But he was 78, so people said things like, “Well, he lived a good life.” Which I heard as, “You can’t be that sad.” A tough comment to take, but not the toughest. The toughest response was when, upon hearing the news, people broke eye contact, waited a beat, and then asked:

“So what else is going on?”

That one used to make me laugh. When I stopped, I’d repeat myself, only louder, “MY FATHER JUST DIED,” like maybe the person had a hearing problem. I was living in New York City at the time, and I remember bumping into a guy I had shot the movie “Money Train,” with. I played the undercover cop that gets sick and has to leave the squad so Jennifer Lopez could step in and save the day. A riveting performance, involving me making out with another “undercover cop,” underground at the Union Square subway station, for a week of night shoots.

Anyway, this was about a year later, and I hadn’t seen this fellow thespian since we wrapped. Clearly, he was not a close friend. When he asked what was up, I answered in the way I responded to anyone about my father during the eight months when he was dying, which is to say, bluntly and to the point of wild discomfort, some version of, “After I set up the morphine drip, I read to him from Page Six of the NY Post. Crazy Dad, still a sucker for gossip.”

You could understand why this might be a conversation non-starter for your average Joe. In my self-obsessed grief, I, however, did not. Instead, I decided people were shallow. When I ran into my “Money Train,” buddy and he asked me what I’d been up to, I had a new answer:

“My father died yesterday.”

“Oh,” he said. And then he paused, looked down at his feet and asked it: “So what else is going on?”

It was so disconnected from what I had just said.

But I know better now. You know why people make stupid, disconnected comments when you talk about death? Because it’s hard to connect to death. It’s hard to do it catching up on the street and even harder to do at life-cycle events—for instance when you get married and there’s a hole where a person you love should be standing, and then again when your children are born.

I hate the expression, “Don’t go there.” But in the case of the relentlessness of grief, the majority of people, including me, don’t want to “go there.” It often feels like hysteria quick-sand and is never, ever, ever fun.

Not to be a Dani Downer here but time doesn’t make it easier. It’s still hard 19 years later, sitting in my home office. A phrase that, given the nomadic life I was living when he died, my father would have been shocked to read in a sentence written by me. I had neither a home nor an office when he took his last breath. (Which, by the way, I witnessed. If you’ve never watched this, from a purely medical science perspective, if there is such a thing, it’s odd. There is life in a person’s eyes, and then there is no life, and it’s all predicated on the intake of air. Or not.)

Making a connection in your mind and heart once in a while is what matters.

I don’t think about my father a lot. I don’t drive around in L.A. traffic talking to him, or any of the other people that aren’t here any more. It’s easier to just, as the “Frozen” ballad commands, “let it go.”

But is it better?

Or even possible? My experience, so far, is no. And I’m kidding myself thinking it is.

Because dead people creep up on you when you least expect it and make an unexpected mess of things. The feelings of loss are there, whether you acknowledge them or not. If you choose the latter, the problem is that you will find yourself in a place where moaning and wailing is just not appropriate, like “Back to School” night when teachers go into great detail about the joys of “Grandparents Day,” and you find yourself stuffing an overwhelming upsurge from inside your body of tears and rage down with a few dozen bagels and a box of wine at the buffet. Refreshments are an emotional tourniquet, until you end up sick in the bathroom while rumors buzz about your binge eating.

This scenario is avoidable if you (we, I) figure out a way to acknowledge deceased loved ones by calling them to mind once in a while in a quiet, safe space. Or maybe while careening down a roller-coaster, where no one will be able to understand what you are saying or to whom.

RELATED: A Mistake That’s a Parent’s Worst Nightmare

Making a connection in your mind and heart once in a while is what matters. For these few moments, remember the person’s voice, their laugh, their touch. Picture their face, see them looking at your life today and smiling and maybe instead of crying, you will find yourself smiling, too.

 

“Take My Spouse Please,” video from New York Times with Lew Schneider & Liz Abbe!

 

http://www.nytimes.com/2014/01/17/booming/take-my-spouse-please.html?emc=eta1

Summer Good Times – a place for my Mommy Anxiety

Hello gentle readers.  I am surrounded by boys this summer which raises my level of anxiety around everything else.  While waiting to take the final pass on the book, I focused my anger on this.  After which FX promised to take their horrible billboards down. According to my still wincing almost 7 year old this has not happened. More when the dust settles, I mean sand.

BIllboards Make This LA Mommy Want To Rip Her Eyes Out

“Take My Spouse, Please” first draft DONE!

Thanks for checking in here.  A lot has happened since 2014 hit.  Completed the first draft of “Take My Spouse, Please,” and the NY Times picked up the first video installment.  Lew Schneider and wife of 27 years Liz Abbe just always make me smile. I also finished as article for LA Parent Magazine on LAUSD and how to get your child a decent to great education in the Los Angeles area when you don’t have a bag of money taking up too much space on your kitchen counter.  It’s part of education issue which is set to publish February. Timely article since the slow burn in the pit of stomach is where my oldest will be going to middle school next year.  Oh for the days of Long Lots Junior High in Westport, Connecticut.  My parents gave not one thought to where I would be going or my education at all back then.  Different times. Have to get used to blogging.  They will be short at first, unless I have something worth reading to write.  But happy to have a place to share the behind the scenes of my glamorous life. Tee hee.

And if you haven’t read this yet, and need some inspiration for managing friendships at all ages, check it out! Searching for Ethel.

Happy New Year

Happy New Year!

Today is a big day, kids safely back at school, me not-so-safely at my desk sitting down to organize my next book.  Originally titled “How To Kill Your Spouse,” this one will tackle the importance of humor in longterm marriage. It will take my curriculum from a class I taught at UCLA in stand-up comedy and apply it to long-term marriage. Kind of out there, but when I started to actually apply the principles of comedy, they really are helpful.  What marriage couldn’t be helped by introducing a little surprise factor? Or by just remembering to show up for each other even when you’re not in the mood? Just like a professional comic learns to do.  I did some preliminary interviews with long term couples and what surprised me was how much it turns out people care about wardrobe!  This was a throw-away suggestion, or so I thought.  Sparked all kinds of conversations about making an effort for each other.

So I am excited by the challenge of moving forward and exploring the whole idea of humor and marriage for this book.  It’s going to be published by Shambala Press for Random House.

In other news, kids are back at school after many laughs, lying around in bed and a seemingly endless stream of pizza.  Ah vacation.  I also wrote this article for Huffington Post because I can’t seem to get over the shootings in Connecticut.

The Ripple Effect

The Latest!

Hey welcome to my new website and my first blog entry that I am going to cram with so many important sounding events and websites and book launches that you’ll be amazingly impressed with me! All kidding aside, probably the most exciting show I a working on now is with Mallika Chopra (intent.com) and Dr. Cara Natterson (worryproofmd.com). We are going to be shooting a web series in November to answer the thinking mothers’ questions.  So no stories about dirty diapers or the leaky breasts.  Not that those don’t have their place, it’s just not going to be what we cover. Mallika is Deepak’s daughter and she handles all things spiritual, Dr. Cara is a leading pediatrician and expert on all things developmental and that leaves me! While not exactly the court jester, certainly I am the one of the three who cares most about bringing the  funny.  To your family, to your marriage and most of all to yourself.  Will keep you posted when this show is up and running on YouTube! I am also working on a top-secret-please-don’t-tell-anyone web show with a company for Kids At Play who produce tons of shows for Yahoo. It’ll be with funny Moms and it will be not be covering your usual subjects of sleep deprivation and the importance of wooden toys.  Unless they’re sex toys. Oh god, that is so not my style but I gotta give you something if you’ve come this far in to the site! In the meantime, I am very busy shopping book number two about the importance of humor for preserving long-term marriage called “How To Kill Your Spouse … everything I need to be happily married I learned being a comic.”  Operators are standing by but St. Martin’s gets it first. Hope to see you all at the next live Afterbirth show in Hollywood, at the M Bar, on November 10th!