How to Take Ambien. 

Tip #1. Don’t do Ambien every night. Once every week or two is ideal, that way, when you fall into this wizened, actualized state I am currently in, it will feel like a gift, but also, an earned gift. 

Tip #2. Drink some water, hydrate yourself.

Tip #3. Do a non dangerous household chore. No ladders. I walked my dogs and then cleaned out my freezer. It’s so orderly I could get a job as a Schwan’s ice cream man. Ambien helps us take pride in our work, even as it deters our ability to edit grammar and spelling.

Tip #4. Acknowledge what you are feeling. Today, I am sad, today, I am worried, today, I am grateful, today, I want to get in my car and drive to Kansas. 

Last week, I told my parents and Eric that I felt I needed to move closer to home, to be there for my parents. Eric and I talked about moving to Kansas City, a town steeped with the kind of history that Eric and I both love. I would not say his response was ebullient, but he said he would definitely think about it, definitely consider it. 

My parents, they simply assured me that I wouldn’t like living in Kansas OR Kansas City again. They remember the speed with which I fled my hometown. At 20, I thought there was nothing that was not only interesting to me but also representative of me. But now, nearing 50, all I dream about are home cooked meals and walks in the park and sitting by a fountain and contemplating life as the water rises into the sky and falls into the pool. Driving to doctors appointments with my parents, they are a sacred ritual, like going to church. The  reward a sticky bun from Laurel Street Bakery or a chocolate long john from Daylight Donuts. And at night, I read a library book.  Books about faraway places that at 16, I read and thought, I hope to live there someday. And now, I read and think, I’m so happy I lived there. I once said in a piece that the local library was my window to the world out there, the world beyond Kansas. All true, and now I find myself luxuriating in the memory of being that chubby teenager, behind that window, warm, wistful, emotional, dreaming. 

These big medical stories that come up in our lives, they suck. Definitely they suck, but with the grim prognoses, there comes a permission to tell those we love just how much we love them. We get to spend more time with them. We try harder to make them laugh a little. We hold each other’s hands. We hug.  These last few months, this is the closest I have ever felt to either of my parents.  My Mom probably wishes I listened better when she explains the plot lines to her Mary Higgins Clark books on tape. Some days, my Dad’s voice is stronger and clearer than others. And some days the strain of trying to get people to understand his speech probably weighs on him more, but these conversations, even still, are for me, and I suspect for them too, touchstones of our days.

In just a few days, ETD still to be determined, I will be driving back to Kansas. This time, Ricky will be my co-pilot as we cross half of the country. Millie will stay here in LA with her other Dad. I am truly excited about Roadtripping with Ricky, I just hope he doesn’t get mistaken for Guy Fieri at all the diners, drive in and dives we plan to stop at along Route 66. 

Driving long distances, I don’t know, it’s kind of like those “what did you do on earth scenes” Albert Brooks and Meryl Streep bear witness to in Defending Your Life. You hear a song or see a sign or listen to a podcast or drive by a car, and you are flooded by the big and small memories from your entire life. The things you did right, the things you did wrong. 

Tip #5. When you become very tired. Turn off the lights, climb into bed and close your eyes. You will still hold the burdens of your day, examine them, polish them. But you will find grace in knowing all decisions do not have to be made tonight. Or tomorrow night. Think about the things that excite you.

Tip #6. In the darkness, with eyes closed, plant a smile on your face. Dream happy dreams.

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Paying For It

joan-rivers-dead-31It’s not what you think. Well, it’s a little bit what you think. For months now, I have been captivated by the “boost” feature on my Easily Crestfallen Facebook page. My page is nothing to brag about, just a little bit over 100 followers. Sometimes I go weeks without posting on it or I’ll post an old picture of Joan Rivers or Meryl Streep and Facebook will tell me, “6 people saw your post.” wow.

But every time I am on my Easily Crestfallen Facebook page, below everything I’ve shared, there is a little button that says, “Boost Post.” And you click it and it tells you how much more exposure you’ll get if you pay Facebook money and they share you with people who probably don’t even want to see your blog or whatever it is you’re promoting, anyway.

I’ve wrestled with this for a while. Do I want more followers, more exposure? Yes, of course. I also know how annoyed I get when another ad for Dollar Shave Club comes up.

But last night, I succumbed. I spent $5 promoting two of my most recent blogs, each. $10, total. It’s my understanding that this $10 will promote these two posts for 24 hours, it’s been about 11 hours at the time of this writing. And yes, I see a small uptick on my blog’s Facebook page as well as the blog’s actual statistics counter. “Sandra” is currently my 18th most popular post, and to think just 11 hours ago, it was merely my 24th most popular. Sadly, even with the boost investment of $5, that I could have spent on a frappuccino at Starbucks or a happy hour mai-tai from Damon’s, “I Cain’t Go Back to Buffalo, I Cain’t!” is only ranked 47th. That’s what high stake risk is all about, I suppose.

But this morning, I will be honest, I had a little buyer’s remorse, and yes, I did feel a little dirty. And I felt bad for “God’s Pen”, which had been enjoying it’s reign as 18th most popular blog post and found its way there on its own merit. No boosts for “God’s Pen”, thank you very much. And by the way, “God’s Pen” is one of my personal favorites.

Oh don’t worry, I won’t beat myself up too much about that lost $10. Although, if I had a time machine, that $10 might have been enough to buy me a house or trip to Paris or a fur coat, not that I wear fur. But in time machine-less 2014, $10 doesn’t go far. Which I’ve proven.

And no, there is no real reason why I made Joan Rivers the featured image of this particular post, except that she is still all I can think about and I really don’t think enough people saw the picture when I posted it on Facebook the first time!

My Sweet Mama

photo-39As I type this, my parents are driving from Kansas to Los Angeles to see me. My Mom won’t see this for a few days, perhaps not until after she gets home to Kansas in a couple of weeks. I love the fact that my Mom reads my blog, it keeps me from writing about things I probably shouldn’t write about.

A few days ago, I was swimming my laps and there was a woman, probably in her 30’s, who was attempting to swim in the lane next to me. She’d splash, flap her arms against the water, kick mightily. She had no sense that the water was there to buoy her, propel her even. She’d never had swim lessons, clearly. And I give her credit for being out there, with goggles and swim cap, no less, trying to figure it out. She made me think of my mother, who also never learned to swim. I think the reason I became a swimmer was because she wanted me to take swimming lessons every summer, she wanted me to have something she longed for as a child.

When you find out the story of people’s childhoods, sometimes you wonder how they ever made it to adulthood. If they’ve grown into a person who thrives, it’s even more of a miracle.

My Mother is the fourth of five children. Her Father died when she was two and she was raised by her Mother and three older brothers, Sam, Rocco and Mike. There was never very much money. Sometimes I lie awake at night worrying about money and (as far as I know) I don’t have 5 children to feed. I marvel that my Grandma, singlehandedly, could have raised 5 children to be 5 big-hearted, funny, smart, loyal adults, but she did.

There are things that my Mom missed out on by not growing up with a Father. Swimming lessons was the least of it. There were no Father-Daughter banquets, no one to make a Father’s Day card for, her brothers were the ones who taught her to drive.

And because my Grandmother worked so much and because she was one of 5, I think my Mother was always hungry for her love. At my Grandmother’s funeral, my Mother was so bereft she tried to crawl into her Mother’s casket as the family was saying their final goodbyes. Her brothers had to pull her away. I remember standing there, wondering if I should go to her or hang back. I was 20 at the time, not the best years in our particular Mother-Son relationship. I was a little embarrassed, but also I wondered if I might one day do the same thing with her one day. (My Mom and I have both probably seen the end of Imitation of Life one too many times, to be honest.)

I’m still haunted by the matriarchal character Violet Weston from August: Osage County, played onscreen by Meryl Streep. Her adulthood is so embittered because her childhood was so difficult and cruel. It made me think of my Mother, whose hardscrabble youth must have been similar, and yet she grew into my Mother, a woman who is loved by all who cross her path. A woman who always makes my favorite pork and potato burritos when I come home, a woman who is deeply sentimental about Lifetime Christmas movies, a woman who bakes butter pecan cookies for Eric every Christmas, a woman whose first words after her son came out to her were, “Nothing will change my love for you.”

My Mom’s favorite song is The Rose. Whenever it comes on the radio, she reminds me that this is the song she wants sung at her funeral. I won’t forget. I love the song almost as much as she does and though I’ve never told her, it always makes me think of her, too. If I had a dollar for every tear I’ve shed while listening to this song, I could buy my Mama a solid gold casket.

So, this song is for my Sweet Mama, I love her so.

Starring Oklahoma

2483653_GA couple days ago, I went with my friend Vinod to see a screening of a film called August: Osage County that is coming out in a few weeks.  It’s an adaptation of Tracy Letts’ Tony winning play starring a who’s who of great actors including Meryl Streep, Julia Roberts, Margo Martindale, Sam Shepard, Ewan McGregor, Julianne Nicholson, Juliette Lewis, Chris Cooper, and more.  There are a lot of heart-wrenching performances, but the one thing that stuck with me the most, the one thing I’ve continued to ponder since seeing the movie is the performance, or presence of the state where the movie is set and filmed, Oklahoma.

There is a pervasive heat that you feel the entire time you are watching the movie.  That sticky, sweaty, cloying heat is alluded to even in the title of movie.  If you’ve ever spent an August in Osage County or near Osage County, you know what I’m talking about.  The movie was filmed about an hour away from the town in Kansas where I grew up.  In fact, because of my Dad’s illness, I was in Kansas last summer, when they were filming the movie, and it was a particularly hot summer, some of you might even remember.  So, while Meryl and Julia and Margo and Julianne and Juliette were proximating a dysfunctional family dealing with a family crisis in the part of the world I know best, I was with my (probably slightly more functional) family dealing with a family crisis of our own.  

There is a funny scene in the beginning of the movie where Julia Roberts’ character Barbara, who grew up in Oklahoma but lives in Colorado now opines, “Who was the asshole who saw this flat hot nothing and planted his flag?”  And growing up there, it’s a sentiment I thought myself several times.  I used to say that the good thing about growing up in Kansas is that it makes every other place I go beautiful in comparison.  (That’s harsh.)  Later in the scene, I think Barbara gets it right when she says, “This is not the Midwest. All right? Michigan is the Midwest, God knows why. This is the Plains: a state of mind, right, some spiritual affliction, like the Blues.”  

I wept every time the state of Oklahoma flashed on the screen.  Several scenes take place when people are driving down the road or driving through a small Oklahoma town.  Certainly, there was recognition for me when I saw those old-fashioned churches, or once grand country homes that had fallen into disrepair or that sky, wide open, both in day and night.  But it was more than recognition, it was wist.  And it was love.

I was born in Bartlesville, Oklahoma and raised most of my life, just 45 minutes away from there in Independence, Kansas.  I’m proprietary about that part of the world, because it’s still mine.  And watching this film, moments of which were masterpieces, I understood why people stay and why people leave and why they come home again, and also, why, even if you never come back to live, the plains will always be a part of you.erez-12

Pretty, Funny Ladies

Mary

Mary

I have always been a sucker for a pretty lady who could make me laugh.  If you are reading this and you are my friend and you are female, the odds are 100% that you are a pretty lady that makes me laugh.  I am very blessed in the pretty, funny friend department, so I thought I’d post a few pictures of the pretty, funny ladies who’ve made me laugh since I was little.  I know it’s an incomplete list, I’ll probably go back and add pictures for the next few days because someone will occur to me and I’ll return here and make an addition.  Some of these women are known for their beauty, some of these women are known for their comedy, and some are known for both.  If you think of someone I HAVE to add, please tell me, there’s always room for one more pretty, funny lady!