Jul 29 2011


buck_poster2On Wednesday night Doctor Dash and I got a sitter and went on a bike date. We rarely go to movies anymore, especially in the summer, but I had a bee in my bonnet about seeing Buck and so we did. I love documentaries and I love horses, so it was kind of a no brainer for me, but you don’t have to be a horse person to love this movie. Buck Brannaman has a heartrending backstory (which I won’t share here because you’re going to go see this movie) but manages to turn himself into a good man with an uncanny ability to see into the hearts of others. His easy, even, deft touch with horses becomes a metaphor for how we should deal with not only animals, but spouses, children, strangers. Buck comes from a place of kindness and non-judgement and that is the key: to teach, to heal, to love – you have to have an open heart. The movie is beautifully filmed and edited – just a joy to watch. And it ends with this Pearl Jam song that never fails to chills up my spine: Just Breathe.

YouTube Preview Image

Jul 28 2011

Buried Treasure

mayerhawthornelongSoul Daddy sent me a song via email a little while ago, saying simply that it was his new favorite song and he thought I might like it. He believed it was about my hometown. I was amused by his sign off: Dig. I love the ambiguity. Descriptive or imperative? I didn’t listen to the song right away because I was heading out of town and the email got buried, pushed out of sight by the volumes of emails that come my way every day. Last night I remembered all of a sudden and flew to the computer. One does not ignore a song gift from Soul Daddy. Sure enough, it’s a gem. Mayer Hawthorne grew up in Ann Arbor and says he was influenced by Detroit’s rich soul and jazz history that came to him over the radio when he was driving around with his dad. I’d say this much is clear.


Mayer Hawthorne – A Long Time

And to listen to Soul Daddy’s radio show, Hip City, on St. Louis Public Radio Station KDHX, go here. I love to tune in when I’m cooking. I always learn something and I always find myself shakin’ it.

Jul 24 2011


2737595_height370_width560 Photo by Steve Cohen – Metromix

It has been a while since I’ve woken up with the need to dump the contents of my heart on the floor and sort out all the pieces like legos. If you had asked me yesterday at five o’clock whether I was excited to be seeing U2, I would given you a not entirely convincing yes. I just haven’t been into U2 as much in the last few years – there has been so much other music. Somehow this show seemed like an over blown event that absolutely every one I knew was going to, and call me peevish, but I tend to not like being part of a hoo-ra-ra. If only I could hear myself. I sound like an a-hole.

But I had forgotten one thing: U2 is U2. For people our age, and those a little older and a little younger, they are, for better or worse (and today I argue for better), our defining band. I was completely unprepared for the surge of emotion as the four of them walked on that incredible stage in the softly darkening night. It turns out I have deep, latent reserves of affection for those lads and for the beautiful music they have given us through the most turbulent and raw parts of our lives: our early adolescence through our early adulthood. Not to mention the fact that Dash and I have had big love for Bono ever since we spotted him outside the Four Seasons in Boston and he held baby Saint James, said something about missing his little guy and let us take a picture. Look at these. I’m mean, come ON!bono:santi2
They started with ‘Even Better Than the Real Thing’ and I could have fainted. It’s hard to overstate how amazing the sound stage was, a giant claw being one of those ideas that might have sounded ridiculous on paper, yet worked as a cool and strangely unobtrusive way to frame the band and the incredible 360˚ video screen that has been all the hubbub. The acoustics were great – from where we were sitting I could feel Larry Mullin’s drums and Adam Clayton’s base pounding in my ribcage. Possibly my favorite physical sensation in life, as you know. Bono introduced the band and I kept leaning over to Dave, yelling in his ear. On Larry: (I used to have THE HUGEST crush on him!), Adam: (Ohhhhhh, I have SUCH a soft spot for him!), The Edge: (AHHHH! I LOVE THE EDGE!!!) Poor Dash. I am such a fiend. He just nods, smiles and massages his ear drum. (But he kind of looks like Bono, so . . . mmmmm . . . he’s the one I love the most, hands down.)

About half way through the show they were playing ‘Beautiful Day’ (which he dedicated to Gabby Giffords) and her husband, Commander Mark Kelly, was up on the screen in space and for a second I thought it was live and my head was going to explode. Live from SPACE?! In a touching little riff off Bowie’s Space Odyssey, Kelly said tell my wife I love her very much . . . she knows. And then Bono echoed in his inimitable wail. Seriously. I could have sobbed. There was also a beautiful moment when Somali rapper, K’Naan joined Bono on stage to sing ‘Stand by Me’ in order to raise awareness of the famine in Somalia. The thing is, U2 can get away with anything. They can be as earnest and dramatic and florid and shwooshy and tender and hopeful and outraged and uplifting and awareness raising as they want. It is literally impossible to be cynical about them or their music when seeing them live because that band, as a band, has such a lion’s heart. They swallow you whole. She never stood a chance.

And this was just about the point where the magic really started to happen.

The wind picked up, seemingly stirring 60,000 people into a palpable frenzy and I had a total Beyonce moment dancing with my dress and hair whipping around like a banshee. I actually thought: if I get struck by lightening in this moment, I will die happy. Morbid, I know, but y’all, I was ee-mo-shun-al! And then came the rain. The rain. First in teasing droplets and then in buckets – I was soaked to the skin. I could have housed goldfish in my chuck taylors. And my people, my hardy stalwart Minnesotans made me proud, pulling foul weather gear and rain ponchos out of every orifice and singing even louder. Even with the lightening, nobody left.

And this was where U2 showed us how it’s done – why they are such an iconic band. They didn’t miss a beat and charged on through the driving rain. Bono acknowledged the weather and then took it and owned it, making it a part of the show. It looked so cool on the LED screen – I just couldn’t figure out how they could still play their instruments, how their fingers didn’t slip. They were as soaked as we were. And poor Bono in his leather pants must have had the worst case of swamp ass ever. Wait, am I allowed to speculate about Bono’s swamp ass? You take the humidity, add the torrential rains and mix it with the leathah? I’m just saying. He gave no clue as to the conditions. A true professional.

Kidding aside, it felt good to let myself go back in time through their music. It felt good to dance in the rain. It felt good to hug Doctor Dash during ‘With or Without You.’ It felt good to shelve my jaded, wise-ass self for a few hours. No doubt about it, I was feeling the love. I even had an epiphany of sorts about what I need to do next in terms of my professional (non-mom) life. You never know when you’re going catch a good thought (although dancing in the open air with a smile a mile-wide is a good place to start). And today, I feel happy. All that angst about the driving and summer schlepping from a few days ago seems to have dissipated like the steam coming off the stage lights last night. U2’s songs are a really good way for me to track my life and emotional journey and dare I say, an inspiring reminder that I am truly blessed to be on this journey at all.

Jul 23 2011

Rest In Peace Amy

Sad news today. Amy Winehouse. I was pulling for that girl. She was so so very talented. YouTube Preview ImageIt is NOT better to burn out than fade away.

And some thoughtful words from Russell Brand here.

Jul 22 2011

And for what?

motherhen-1So, you know how every once in a while I read something that throws me into a bit of a tizzy and I rethink, review, reimagine, rehash, reiterate, rewind and revamp whatever small piece of the status quo happens to be at issue? Well, this one is a biggie and I’ve been sitting on it for a couple of weeks because I just don’t quite know how to tackle it, given how deeply and fiercely entrenched I am in this.

From the July issue of The Atlantic, the article’s title – How to Land Your Kid in Therapy – is sort of beside the point. What is supremely hair raising, is the notion that we super-involved parents, who are literally devoting all of our time to making our kids happy and successful, could actually be doing them a disservice in the long run. Our ”discomfort with discomfort” is actually leaving them ill-equipt to deal with the real life stressors that will eventually come their way, and in fact may be turning them into little narcissists. Saying “good job” has become a verbal tick. To the extent that our kids believe us every time we say it (and why should they not?), they are left thinking they are pretty friggin’ awesome. When is the last time someone said good job to me? And yet I haven’t dissolved into a puddle of insecurity, have I? Obviously, kids need encouragement and some kids are more sensitive than others, but when I read this article, I realized my kids are in far greater danger of turning out to be clueless and entitled, with inflated senses of self than they are of having low self-esteem. Low self-esteem? Fat chance.

If you ever sit near the diving board at our pool you can hardly carry on a conversation for the constant yelling coming from the peanut gallery. Holding up the line, you have little Ashley or whoever screaming mom! mom! mom! mom! mom! mom! until her mother interrupts her conversation, watches her jump off the diving board, waits for her to emerge from the water and gives her a dutiful thumbs up or a big wow! good job! What the HELL? We aren’t talking toddlers taking their first plunges. These are 8, 9 and 10 year olds who insist on a captive, fawning audience at all times. My kids do it too and I’ve actually felt guilty saying No, I’m not going to score your dives right now. But damn if sometimes I don’t feel like averting my eyes to the pages of a magazine instead of watching them.

A couple weeks ago, Saint James and his soccer buddy walked in the back gate after having been at a soccer camp from 9-3. They were visibly hot and sweaty and had practice in an hour and a half, but they stopped at the rebounder and started kicking around some more. I had just read this article, so I was super self-conscious about my mother-henning, but was I crazy to think those boys should cool off after 6 hours of soccer? So instead of addressing them directly, I whispered to Doctor Dash to tell them to come inside. Of course Dash perfunctorily blew me off with an oh, they’re fine and asked me not to involve him in my article-craziness. So I went stealth. I banged around the kitchen for a bit, made an icy concoction in the blender and nonchalantly crooned out the back door – hey guys, want some smoothies? Mother. Hen. Wins.

Just this past week I was on my laptop at the pool and a tweenish girl ran up to me and told me that Devil Baby had gotten a back smack during dive practice. I sprang up and saw that she was being comforted by the assistant coach. I thought of the article, about letting kids sit with discomfort and just as I was about to sit back down, one of the moms rushed up to me and told me that Devil Baby was crying. I felt like yelling So What???? She smacked her back on WATER!!!! She’s FIIIIIIINE! But as such, unable to withstand the societal pressure to check on my child (who was FINE), I shuffled over, because isn’t that what I’m there for? Just waiting in the wings until they need a little pat on the back?

I think this article touched a nerve for me because I am at the absolute apex of my kid summer business. I spend ALL of my time driving them around so they can be super happy super humans – but to what end? I can tell you based on the last couple months that it is EXHAUSTING watching other people exercise. If I were on any one of my kids’ daily routines, I would be ready to do a triathalon tomorrow. I’d be freakishly buff. Outlandishly fit. But I’m not. I’m tired and crabby. AND I haven’t gotten to build a fort, ride a horse or learn graffiti art.

The weeks wear on, the novelty wears off, the boredom sets in and I pick up an article that shines a spotlight on something I’ve been kinda sorta thinking anyway. We fill up their plates because we want them to have fun, try everything, gain that muscle memory early on, so that in the future, it won’t be a struggle to learn how to play tennis, or ski, or swim laps. But what’s wrong with sucking? We all have to stink at some thing, some times, don’t we? And what’s wrong with being bored and “unhappy” during the summer time? It’s like it’s verboten to even suggest that. But don’t some of your best childhood summer memories involve time spent scampering around your neighborhood with no agenda? The problem is that there are very few kids around these days for my kids to scamper with. Everyone is busy.

The god awful truth of the matter is that, in more ways than I care to admit, my schlepping justifies my existence right now. To do all this work, as mindless and frustrating as it can be, and then engage the possibility that not only is it not the best thing I can do for my kids, but that I may actually be doing it for myself, well, let’s just say that smarts.

I can’t help but wonder what the hell I’m doing. I keep reminding myself that the number one thing that broke my heart about working was not being able to be with my kids during the summer. I have a palpable, gut memory of pulling up to my house with my babies (who had been in their posh air-conditioned daycare all day) just as a gaggle of wet kids were spilling out of my neighbor’s minivan. I can still see all the colorful towels wrapped around heads, being dragged on the grass. My neighbor was tan, her hair wet. I was so envious and sad. And now, these many years later, we are all about colorful wet towels and yet, I am feeling truly burnt out by a different kind of rat race.

Mother hen needs a wee break, I think. And maybe the chicks do too.

Jul 19 2011

Cruel Summer

amazon-forest-river-droughts-due-to-global-warmingIt’s supposed to be 100 degrees today, an absolute sauna. The only place in the Western hemisphere more humid than Minnesota yesterday was the Amazon jungle. I am not cut out for this. Not at all. Even when I resolve to give myself over completely to the heat and the sweat, I hate it. And now I’m about to drive out to the National Sports Center in Blaine for a soccer tournament. Saint James’ team is playing Rio Select, a team from Brazil. I’ve got a cooler full of ice and enough Bomb Pops to share with the other team. Saint James is so excited to play today, it’s hard not to get caught up in it. So lets do it. Let’s sweat!

Can’t get this out of my head.

For the record: Minneapolis United: 9 Rio Select: 4

Jul 17 2011

Night gift.

Tonight. It is hot and I am irritable. I tell Saint James to take Foxy for a walk and he replies that he isn’t wearing shorts. I grab the leash. I’ll do it myself. Barely to the corner, I hear a small cry. Mom! I turn and my son is running towards me in the giant t-shirt he wears as a night shirt, shorts hastily pulled on, feet bare. He grabs my arm and leans against me. His wet hair feels cool on my shoulder. It’s an awkward way to walk, but it’s so humid, we aren’t going anywhere fast. We decide to walk to the lake and back. He spots a couple of owls in a tree.

Bard owls.

Barn owls?

Bard owls.

Barn owls?

No. Bard owls.

Sometimes I really can’t hear my son. Especially when he’s speaking in his hushed nature voice. We stop and watch. Owls are cool – large, mysterious, knowing, and, as of last night, my new favorite bird. They blink down at us, seeming to understand why a woman and her boy would have stopped in the near dark to stare up at them. We stay and watch way longer than most people would. Minutes go by. One owl flaps to another branch.

A short exhalation, sounding like oh! and Saint James thrusts the leash at my chest. He runs under the tree his hands extending toward the inky branches. Owl feather, he breathes. And I see it. Floating down through the thick air. I watch from the sidewalk. It seems to take forever – a small object settling to the bottom of the sea. Until finally, Saint James captures it in his palm. A gift.

He turns and looks at me. A giant smile. A gift.

Jul 12 2011

Forbidden Fruit

natural-fruits-vegetables-uli-westphal-Guten tag! If you’d like to read a post I wrote about German artist, Uli Westphal, get on over Simple Good and Tasty. He’s cool. I dig him. I dig his mutatoes. And it’ll give you a little something to chew on this farmers market season!

Jul 10 2011


BossypantsI just finished Tina Fey’s autobiography, Bossypants, and it did nothing to dissuade me from my prior opinion that she’s hilarious. And smart. And cool. And hilarious. It was a perfect quick summer read and follow-up to the phenomenal yet heartwrenching Beloved by Toni Morrison, which we’re reading in book club. (Damn, ladies. What in the HELL? Counting the days till Wednesday night!)

Back to Tina (yes, I feel we’re on a first name basis now). Tina made me laugh over and over, and while I can’t relate to her sexy comedy and television life, I can sure as hell relate to coming up as a “brunette” in the seventies and eighties. She writes: “Let me start off by saying that at the University of Virginia in 1990, I was Mexican. I looked Mexican, that is, next to my fifteen thousand blond and blue-eyed classmates, most of whom owned horses, or at least resembled them. I had grown up the “whitest” girl in a very Greek neighborhood, but in the eyes of my new classmates, I was Frida Kahlo in leggings.”

She proceeds to talk about how she was inevitably drawn to super “Caucasian” guys, as was I. Such is the curse of a dark girl. My first TV crushes were blond (Bo Duke, Ricky Shroder, and Alice’s son, Tommy) and my first two boyfriend were blond Johns. And oh, how I coveted Cindy’s golden ringlets and Farah’s fabulous feathered do. I tried to get my formidable head of hair cut into feathers and it was so thick and heavy (and untouched by a curling iron – who knew you had to style it?) that I looked like Dorothy Hamil’s younger, retarded cousin who had accidentally injested copious amounts of Miracle Grow in an unsupervised gardening episode. Seriously, it was a bowl cut on steroids, voluminous and shiny, like a majestic, fecund mushroom – only it shrouded most of my face, which, in retrospect, is probably for the best.

I too was the frequent victim of mistaken ethnic identity. My middle school bus driver assumed that since I had dark hair and was at the same bus stop as the three Cho brothers, I must be their sister. It’s no wonder, considering my bus driver was an overweight, middle aged, BLOND Michigander by the name of Tanya. Why would Tanya need to distinguish between an Argentine girl and three Chinese boys? Aren’t they all the same? Those . . . brunettes? Only I had no idea I had been lumped into their family until one day I was getting off the bus and she yelled after me in her Midwest corn chip accent: Be sure to tell yer mother about yer brother’s nose bleed now. I stopped and turned around. Her arm jiggled as she pulled the lever. The bus door closed with a hiss.

Not that it’s a big deal. It’s not. So people think I’m Chinese (those three Chinese brother can be very misleading). Or Greek (I was in Greece). Or Arab (I did live in suburban Detroit). Or Indian (I used to get very very tan in Florida). So what? But when you’re young and you just want to fit in, it is kind of a big deal. At least Tina’s name was Tina. Try Gabriela. In Michigan. In the seventies. Oh, how I longed to be named Kim. Or Nancy. Sigh. I LOVED the name Nancy. It sure was prettier than Garbage-ella. Kids can be cruel. Clever, admittedly, but cruel.

Being a brunette or ethnic or whatever you want to call it certainly doesn’t kill you. Or even maim you. I like to think that the sense of being different, of being apart gives you the requisite space you need to observe. You aren’t splashing around having chicken fights in the pond; you’re standing on the shore, watching. And you can actually see better standing on the shore. At least until you’re old enough to beat it on out of there and get your ass to an ocean.

Jul 8 2011

Summer snaps

If nothing else, this blog is testament to the contradictions and vagaries of my life. It’s amusing to me that a mere couple weeks ago, I was fretting about how it just didn’t feel like summer. Now I have my head so far up summer’s ass, I can’t even see straight. Or maybe my head is up my kids’ asses, or my minivan’s ass. Or maybe Edina Country Club’s ass. Or Neutrogena Ultra Sheer Dry-touch Sunblock’s ass. Whichever ass it is, and pardon the vulgar metaphor, I was under the impression that this summer was streaking by and I was helplessly watching from the sidelines. Same blur as a couple weeks ago, different reasons.

And then I located the little cord that allows me to upload pictures from my camera to my computer and as I scrolled through I was surprised to see not just a blur, but actual moments. Many moments. Lovely stoppages in time where I was actually paying attention, at least long enough to stop and take a picture. So maybe my issue is not so much that I’m missing this breakneck season, but rather that I’m forgetting it the second it passes me by.

So some snaps, as proof to myself that we are enjoying our summer and that sometimes I do manage to take a break from turning my kids into super-athletes and simply . . .  live.

Summer started out, as it has the past three years, with Supergirl’s summer streaks at Hair Police. This year she went for fiery red and electric blue. I love this pic of little sis watching big. streaksStumbled-upon forts are pure enchantment – they can be there one day and gone the next. I love the juxtaposition of human tampering in a natural setting, but to the sweetest end. Our Minnehaha Creek sprouts forts like mushrooms.

montifortIn early June we went to the end-of-the-year student art show at Off the Wall Studio. It was amazing and I could include TWENTY pictures of all the cool things I saw. There is no doubt that there are some talented kids at this place, but what I like best of all is that it feels like a clubhouse. The kids get to be creative and free and it just seems to create a tangible sense of place. This has been a great joy for my Supergirl and something tells me she’ll be going to this club for a very long time.Lou's art showAfter the Pride Parade, Saint James and G-Dog relaxed in our furniture-less living room. For whatever reason, Saint James had changed into his pj’s on the bottom but left everything intact on top – from the superfly pink shades to the stickers on his t-shirt. I have learned not to ask questions.santigriffI went to Michigan with the girls for my sweet little God Baby’s baptism in late June. Daughter of my brother Golden and his wife Delicious Apple, Manzanita is seriously the cutest little butterball on earth. I love the freaky stuffed dog in the background – it actually has puppies that come out of a pocket on the belly and suckle. All of my kids have tried to bring it back from Michigan at different points, but I prefer it living there, sneaking into pictures.
emoFoxy Brown taking a snooze on the chaise in the backyard. She is getting enviable natural summer sun highlights around her snout. Sweet pooch. snoozefoxLast weekend we were invited to a true blue Mexican Quinceanera party and I was still reeling two days later with all that we got to see and experience. It is absolutely touching and incredible how a girl’s 15th birthday is celebrated in Mexican culture. An unforgettable night for all of us.santimariachis

Man, it feels good to be part of a team.louswim

I took this picture in a quiet moment when Devil Baby was sitting on top of the picnic table eating cereal. I love the fish tatoo and the sassy side pony – her new go-to hairstyle.monticereal

Jul 2 2011

Somebody catch me,

I just may swoon.

tumblr_lmfh92FNUF1qg1ijoo1_500Paul Newman is so gorgeous that it took me minutes to register the denim jumpsuit. And, I must say, he is owning it.  He is annihilating that denim jumpsuit. I think I need some smelling salts. And Clint. Good lord, Clint, who was already so awesome at this point and yet, AND YET, had 99% of his awesomeness ahead of him. Check out this tumblr of Awesome People Hanging Out Together. There are so many gems. SO MANY GEMS! Like this –

tumblr_ln3pq0RHsh1qearaqo1_1280So fabulous. Oh, and this!

tumblr_llrlezFhUK1qbfoleo1_1280Damn. Just go look. Quick!

And here’s my own personal contribution to Awesome People Hanging Out Together in honor of Maestro de Bife’s birthday today! mariomontiMaestro de Bife and Devil Baby April 30, 2011, Naples, FLmaster baitSaint James, Supergirl, Doctor Dash and Maestro de Bife, April 28, 2011, Bonita Springs, FL

Happy Birthday little bro! xoxo

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