InSanity~Normalize, Don't Stigmatize Mentall Illness.

Wednesday, March 31, 2010


Preface: This is written with the primary intent of offending Americans, and especially those particular Americans listed below. Oh, did I mention that I’m part Canadian? If we apply Jewish law, I’m fully Canadian, since my mom was Canadian. Given that it’s Passover and all, let’s just say I’m a full fledged Canadian like my friend Sarah. To anyone who reads your name on this list, I apologize. I assumed you can’t read. 

1) The cop who pulled Jesse James over for speeding, only to let him off the hook when James whined about losing Sandra, in favor of a walking Nazi tattoo who weighs 50 pounds.

2) Jesse James. For attire alone, he’s a fool. If you’re going to have the paparazzi taking pictures of your every move, would you kindly wear something but farmer attire!? We know he owns one suit or was able to rent, 'cuz he wore it to the Oscars. Further, given his favorite activity, you’d think he’d wear something with easier access than overalls, if you know what I mean.
3) Tiger Woods, last seen in a Southern California bar paying James off for taking the heat for a minute so he can get back to, uh, putting.

4) Elin Nordegen. Three months since she tried to beat him – oops, excuse the typo. I mean since she tried to rescue him from a crashed vehicle - with a golf club, she’s still there to play Tiger’s happy wife. Here’s hoping you have a plan we don’t know about, girlfriend. Perhaps it involves a driving iron, a big pair of scissors, and Lorena Bobbit’s “How To” book.

5) Kate Gosselin. Okay lady with a sturdy uterus, you had our sympathy when party boy John left you with your, um, 8 kids. Did you forget that you have, um, 8 kids? Did you forget that you have even one child? Who’s watching the little soccer team while you pretend to dance on TV? Might that be…drumroll please..

6) Brangelina? Note: No explanation is forthcoming as to why Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie are combined in #6, or in this universe. I’m rather sick of seeing their faces on every magazine cover in every rack in every store in every corner of the universe, or, at least, within a 5 mile radius of my little home for the past decade.

7) The inventor of mini chocolate morsels. I’m all for midget rights, but that’s pure torture.

8) The f*n b*tard in a Mercedes who rode my ass, err, my car's derriere, on the freeway this evening. We were in rush hour traffic, in the rain, and the f*n b*tard in a Mercedes kept flicking his high beams on and off. It seems I wasn’t driving fast enough at 75mph. I mean 64.5mph. I would certainly not break the law and admit to it on my blog. I wonder if the f*n b*tard in a Mercedes saw my signal (i.e. one of my fingers,the longest one that's in the middle of my left hand). I just now stopped pointing it upward, and I’ve been home for hours.
9) Joe Shmoe Standardteabagger, because, God forbid, over 30 million more Americans will be able to get medical treatment when sick. What a foolish country we are becoming.

10) YOU NOMINATE #10. Go foolishly wild here. Feel free to nominate yourself even, if you're a fool. Person with the winning nomination will get unending foolish recognition.


Friday, March 26, 2010

The Day I Became A Woman

That sexy title was merely a deceptive ploy to launch my following into the 3-digits. We see how well that worked! ...I'm so sorry to let you down, dear reader. I hate to break it to you, but this is, in fact, a clean Jewish post. I promise to post the story you were expecting later. You'll have to keep following. It'll be worth it. Don't look so skeptical. Would I deceive you?

Ms. Anthropy tagged me to post a picture and tell the story. [She's the youngest, sweetest, sharpest sarcastic grandma blogger in the sphere.] With Passover looming, I pulled out my Bat Mitzvah album. As you can see, my parents were clearly intent on cutting costs. This lousy photography was probably done by Morty, my third cousin twice removed - for bad table manners during Passover and lousy photography at all the raucous Hanukah parties.

I know, look how tiny and little (and so darn cute, huh?) I am. Yet this is the day on which I became a Jewish woman. It was a couple of weeks short of my 13th birthday, a number of years short of puberty, and -well- I'll save mention of other time frames for later. I promise. Would I deceive you? [See above photo of cute, tiny, little girl with a blurry face. ]

Have you heard the saying, "Good things come in small packages?" I coined it. Those were my first words when Dr. Sayre cut the umbilical cord. The quote served me well for a number of decades, actually. Over time, though, some horrid things were packaged small, like car bombs, Anthrax, and Gary Coleman. I really regret this saying. But I was young and naive. I didn't know better.

Back to the pic, the Bar/Bat Mitzvah involves leading a service, chanting from the Torah, and - the worst part (I mean, the greatest honor)- holding the darn thing. I mean, embracing these beautiful sacred scrolls for a couple of days or seconds. Should said kid drop the Torah, oy gevalt! The entire congregation, in fact, must fast for 30 days. Can you imagine? Minor slippage amounts to sentencing your beloved spiritual network to a month-long fast. You can surely forget the huge stash of cash you did this all for. Let me stress that we're talking about a large group of Jews (those very people who've sacrificed everything, mind you, so you could make it to this glorious point in your otherwise meaningless existence, and "By the way, why aren't you married yet?") not being able to eat for a month because of you. Not a pretty concept. Not pretty at all.
On the positive note, after the ceremony, said kid gets to:
1) wait 8 years along with said kids' peers to buy alcohol;
2) wait 3 years along with said kids' peers to drive;
3) wait 12 years along with said kids' peers to rent a car; and - here's the bonus to tip the scales -
4) pray! Is said kid doing the happy horah dance now, or what?! Said kid can pray! (Certain key prayers must be recited by at least 10 adults. When said kid has had a Bar/Bat Mitzvah, said kid is said adult.)

One hurdle left, and the pressure was on. Not only did I have to hold it, I had to hold it for a long ass, I mean a righteously sacred tuchas duration. With my little but tenacious arms wrapped around that Baby, the two of us were doing just fine. Thank you very much! The audience and I were silent. Intensity pervaded the synagogue's 250 mile radius. All eyes glared anxiously at that Torah. Folks who had never prayed before began bargaining with the Almighty, Moses, Allah, Jesus, and Mr. Kotter. Family members started waging bets on the amount of time before the crash. Everyone held their breath. Their faces turned red. They crossed their fingers and toes, running out to nibble at their last bites of food for a month! I was doing just fine, people! I held tight. Still, I needed to play it safe. One does not take chances when it comes to Jews and food. That in mind, I gave the Torah just a wee little boost with my little right knee. At that moment, a loud burst of laughter filled the sanctuary. Apparently, they found this considerate, devout and well calculated maneuver rather humorous. Bastards! I mean, I shall not blame my beloved spiritual hungry community. The tension was lifted, as I boosted that Baby another half inch, still holding on for dear life. We made it through to the end, and we got to eat.

The summary of all Jewish holidays: They tried to kill us. We won. Let's eat! Happy almost Passover to my Jewish friends and those who love or like us okay.

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Love is in Someone Else's Air and the BDFH - Part II

continued from Love..yada yada..BDFH/Blind Date From Hell - Part I.
As we sat down at the table, I hoped that my hot tea would perhaps provide a smidgen of warmth on this BDFH. To be fair, and in the lovey dovey spirit of spring time, I give him credit. He impressed me greatly. Within the next 90.5 hours (or was it minutes?) that followed, he displayed a substantial number of the traits on my checklist. The guy's quite remarkable. He accomplishes all items on my checklist of red flags.

Here's a bit of dialogue with corresponding checklist items. [Note: "Cheapskate" is already checked off.]

1) He discusses the ex in excess. It was "Marcia this, Marcia that, Marcia, Marcia, Marcia!"

2) Indication that he can't keep his pants zipped. He rather immediately informed me, “I only cheated once, with my first girlfriend. It was horrible for the relationship. I'll never do it again." (I wasn't as surprised by the fact that he shared this - though it seemed a rather peculiar first date strategy- but that there was a point in time during which 2 women were after him.)

3) Indication that he can't keep his mouth zipped. From the moment he saw me, he kept talking and talking in one longwinded neverending run on sentence kind of like this one but it was a lot longer and a lot more boring and spewed in a completely monotone and stoic manner with no break between words or sentences. Phew! At least, it gave me time to look at my watch and finish my tea. Plus, I jogged around the block and checked out the sales at the antique shop across the way. Okay, I didn't do those things but wish I had.

4) Self indulgence. He reached into his briefcase, pulling out each and every travel book he's written, showing me each and every damn Table of Contents, his favorite pictures in each and every damn book, with explanation as to why the damn photos didn't turn out better when Marcia (that darn Marcia, Marcia, Marcia!) took them, all in excruciatingly painstaking detail.

5) Indication of bigotry. Further, he advised: "I only tell racial jokes to my friends, and we know we're just joking." (Yeah, and I suppose you're not homophobic either. After all, you do occasionally watch "How I Met Your Mother" starring Neil Patrick Harris.)

6) Indication of anger issues. "I have a sharp tongue," he reported. "I’ve had many friends turned enemies because of it." (You ain't seen nothing yet dude. Oh, I'm sorry, did I just spill the rest of my hot tea on your lap?..Nah, I didn't do that either but wish I had.)

To make a long story even longer, he wasn’t rude. Well, not intentionally. It could’ve been worse. This is all to say that there is a happy ending. I mean, someone’s story’s gotta have one. Right? I suggest you check out their blog. 

As for this BDFH, it started ending when he finally said, “I’ve had a nice time. Would you like to get together again?" “Well, it feels like just a friendly connection," I responded. Dejected, he hung his head low and began shoving his many publications back into his briefcase. “Okay, this is a bit awkward,” I thought. “ Do I say something more?” “Do I plant a big wet one on his cheek as a ‘no hard feelings’ move?” “Do I go back to the counter for some chocolate?” I decided to dart the hell out of there. Aah, spring had sprung, and so had this Robyn.

Monday, March 22, 2010

Monday Minute

MONDAY MINUTE from Ian's daily dose of reality.
Ian asks the questions, you give the answers. Here are mine:

-Do you feel like I do?
Yes, we're both meshughenah.

-Is it appropriate to answer a question with a question?
Why must you ask?

-What's wrong with people?
Let's dissect the word. Shall we? First, you have "pee" or "pea." Next, you have "poll," "Pole," or "pole."
In any combination, it ain't pretty.

-What's one redeeming quality about pickles?
I've got 2:
They don't leave the toilet seat up, and
They don't require batteries. ('Scuse me while I re-designate this blog as "adult content only.")

-If you won the lottery, how much money would you give to your favorite charity me?
I'd give you your fair share. I promise.

Sunday, March 21, 2010

Love is in Someone Else's Air and the BDFH

Spring has sprung. The birds tweet in perfect harmony, and the flowers radiate their brilliance. Love, blessed love, fills the air with its magical sense of passion and hope. The bees are, well, doing their thing too. And yada yada. You get the picture, right?

Anyhow, it’s clearly the idyllic time for me to endure, I mean to experience the rich rewards of, another BDFH (i.e. blind date from hell). I figure by shortening the term, they won’t seem to drag out so damn long in reality. It’s desperate and irrational, yes. At this juncture, so am I.

So there I sat in the local coffee shop. The phone chat had been quite pleasant. I liked what I learned: he’s an accomplished writer, well traveled, financially stable, and seemed competent at the two-way discourse thing. The basics were covered.
Studying his internet photo, well, I was able to convince myself he’s kind of cute. That is, when I squinted and imagined an actual hairline, decent set of teeth, and different face. But looks don’t matter, right? He seemed nice. His charming personality would surely captivate me. Plus, it's spring time. Everything is just as wonderful as can be. Days are full of hope and change and all things beautiful and lovely and all of that bullcrap.

Getting back to the BDFH, I knew it immediately. In fact, I knew as soon as I saw him opening the door to the coffee house. I knew that looks don't matter. Still, I greeted him with cheer.

“What would you like to drink?” he immediately asked, flaunting his generous offer to buy me a beverage. Note, the dude had suggested this coffee house, as he doesn’t eat at this "late hour" (i.e., after 6pm). Oy. Knowing he owns a home in a prestigious part of Berkeley, a cup of tea was not likely to set him back. “These are together,” he announced proudly to the cashier when she placed both of our drinks on the counter. He then dug into his wallet and whipped out some frequent coffee card type things. (I don’t know what they were. I was too embarrassed to look in that direction.) Generosity had reached an embarrassing low.

“You don’t want some chocolate? I’m surprised.” He teased. I retorted, “No thanks” with my sweet, charming authentically fraudulent smile that I plastered on my innocent face for the dreaded 90 minutes that ensued. The thing is, dear reader, we all know that I live for chocolate. Its curative, comforting and orgasmic inducing aspects are effective in all but one particular forum: the BDFH. The BDFH does not promote chocolate’s full potential. In fact, I enjoy chocolate the most when I am alone, having made it through another BDFH.

To be continued. Sorry, but the BDFH is, by nature, dragged out to the fullest extent of one's tolerance. Besides, it's springtime. Be happy!

Saturday, March 20, 2010

Mother, Daughter, Sister, Friend

We lost her to colon cancer 25 years ago today. After the choke hold, I mean hug, featured above, I grew up witnessing the most beautiful mother-daughter relationship I could imagine. Dawn and Mom truly brought out the best in each other. 

Dawn wrote this poem, which she shared with Mom before Mom died, and which the Rabbi recited at Mom's funeral. Thank you, Dawn, for sharing this very personal, warmhearted letter with me and the blogosphere. 

Thank YOU for reading this. I suggest you grab a Kleenex. But I promise it's worth the read.

Dear Mom,
How Can I Thank you For Being There?
For delicately showing me your capacity to care
about touches and warmth and sincerity and love
about waterfalls and roses and quiet rainbows above?

How Can I Thank you For Teaching Me
That anything can be conquered, that with humility I too, can be a mother and a lawyer and a wife and a daughter's friend, a cherished friend, a friend for life.

Mom, you're as Rare as Your Smile and Warm Blue Eyes..
So clear and soft as the blues of the skies
which have so often lifted me, lifted me high
to snow capped mountains graced with your sunshine
where I'm able to appreciate the life you've helped make mine.

Thanks For Being Up There With Me.
Love You Always,
Dawn (January, 1985)

Thursday, March 18, 2010

Just The Right TIme

Dearest Nephew Jeremy,

I am sorry I won't be with you on your 3rd birthday, but I will come on a plane next weekend. I wrote this poem for you, sweetie. I hope my blog friends will read it to their kids and to themselves, because it's never too late or too soon. You are a miracle to bring sunshine into our lives on March 20. It used to be one of our darkest days, because that's when Grandma Edith died. But you were born to save the day for us!

I love you more than chocolate, Auntie Robyn

PS I painted this picture when I was about 15. It makes me think of you.


Just The Right Time

It's not too late

It's not too soon

To watch the stars dance towards the moon.

Paint rainbow colors across the sea

Invite the ladybugs for tea.

Ride the clouds to fairy lands

Grow cookie gardens in the sand.

To see a world where nothing's wrong

And make it so through silly song.

It's not too late

It's not too soon

To watch the stars dance towards the moon.

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Sounds of Silence ~ Part II, Dedicated to Mom with thanks to Simon and Garfunkel

Continued from last post.

And in the naked light I saw ten thousand people, maybe more.
The loud chatter and laughter continued, as I withdrew further from the table that had once been ours. Mom used to put all sorts of dishes on that table. Truth is, she was not a very good cook. We usually had to fend for ourselves, with Swanson’s TV dinners, Hamburger Helper, and all sorts of ready-made products that we zapped in the microwave. Back then, the microwave was the latest and greatest invention.

Occasionally, Mom graced the table with delicious homemade dishes, like her hearty meatballs in juicy tomato sauce, accompanied by spicy rice. Those meatballs were my favorite. I wish I had Mom's recipe. Other times, we lit the Shabbat and Hanukah candles at the table, took in the glorious lights, and sang a few songs - though none of us could sing. Those were special times. The table held a fragile, tenacious love that was ours.

This gathering changed everything.

People talking without speaking, People hearing without listening, People writing songs that voices never share And no one dare Disturb the sound of silence.
And the people bowed and prayed To the neon god they made. "We’re back with the cups," Uncle Leo heroically announced. I said nothing. The guests were relieved and expressed their gratitude. They didn’t miss a beat, continuing to munch while holding their cups out for re-fills. Their eyes didn't leave the food.

Meanwhile, I remembered Thanksgiving and Passover meals. Our family and Aunt Esther’s gathered season after season, for predictably adequate meals that tasted divine: the appetizer was one half of a grapefruit with a maraschino cherry in the center; cheesy green beans and mushrooms; green salad with mom’s homemade dressing -I loved watching and smelling Mom press the garlic for the dressing; a 12 pound turkey that was always a bit dry; stove top stuffing (everybody's favorite); and a lemon Jell-O mixed with lots of cool-whip in the shape of a star of David. I wish I still had that Jell-O mold.

The intruders would surely have scoffed at those meals, but they meant family. I always ate as much of it as I could.

"Fools" said I, "You do not know Silence like a cancer grows. Hear my words that I might teach you, Take my arms that I might reach to you."
Mrs. Goldberg interrupted my memories: “Robyn, just remember, tragedy brings a family together.”

You're full of shit, I thought, and walked away.

I desperately needed a hug. Nobody got it. Nobody gave it.

But my words like silent raindrops fell, And echoed In the wells of silence
I somehow found myself in the family room. Dad and I were the only ones there. He sat on the black sofa, resigned, exhausted, in utter shock and despair. With all of the sarcasm and of his depleted being, he muttered, “It’s just like a party here, isn’t it, Robyn? Bring out the dancing girls!”

Alas, I was not the only one who wanted them out. I was not the only one who wanted to see a sparsely covered kitchen table, with a few of Mom’s special dishes, or with the festive Shabbat or Hanukah candle lights, or with nothing at all. I was not the only one who would have preferred coming home from mom’s funeral to the lonely emptiness and quiet that was now ours and ours alone.

And the sign flashed out its warning, in the words that it was forming. And the sign said, "The words of the prophets are written on the subway walls And tenement halls."

Dad and I sat in shared silence.

And whisper'd in the sounds of silence.

In blessed memory of my Mom, Edith Engel, 6/27/36-3/20/85.

Informational Note: In the Jewish faith, it is customary to bring food to the bereaved, especially immediately after the funeral.

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

The Sounds of Silence around the Kitchen Table - Part I.~ Dedicated to Mom with Thanks to Simon and Garfunkel

Left to right: a tad of mom, Edith Engel (34); Glenn-David Engel (18 mos.); Dawn Engel (4); and Robyn Engel (me, 3) at the kitchen table on the last night of Chanukah, 1969.
Hello darkness, my old friend, I've come to talk with you again
Because a vision softly creeping, Left its seeds while I was sleeping,
I was in a fog. They poured into our home with awkward beaming smiles and words of cheer: uncles, aunts, cousins, friends and family from nearby or faraway places. I hadn’t spoken to most of them in years. I had no idea who some of them were. Others, I despised. Yet they invaded the quiet that now defined our home.

And the vision that was planted in my brain still remains
They focused excitedly on the fabulous growing display that forever altered our kitchen table. Contributions included multi-flavored bagels (sour dough, rye, whole wheat, and poppy seed – everything but my favorite, sesame seed), two trays filled with lox, bowls brightly decorated with tropical fruit, kosher pickles galore, and – for dessert – apple pie, pecan pie, and vanilla ice cream. No one brought chocolate.

Within the sound of silence.
All were uninvited but assumed the opposite. They made themselves at home near the kitchen table. One by one or two by two, they sauntered loudly through our living room and headed directly for the kitchen. Next, they placed their contributions meticulously onto the white oval shaped table, with a generously forced love. A few of them nodded at me en route. Most walked by without acknowledging me at all. They were dressed impeccably – the men in suits and ties, the women in dresses, nylons, and heels. Make up had clearly been applied with great care.

In restless dreams I walked alone Narrow streets of cobblestone,
They didn’t try to hide it. They were thrilled to see each other and blatantly ignored me. A ball of pain welling up inside, I quietly distanced myself further from the table. They engaged in loud chatter about their recent vacation travels, their children’s academic successes, and –above all- this glorious spread of food. I remember the looks and sounds of it all. They raved about each and every contribution to our kitchen table, eating as if they had never eaten before.

I ate nothing.

No one mentioned mom. No one asked me how I was coping.

'Neath the halo of a street lamp, I turned my collar to the cold and damp
They smiled at dad half-heartedly but resisted getting close. My sister and brothers were lost in the crowd. They played the game better. I refused to play.

When my eyes were stabbed by the flash of a neon light That split the night And touched the sound of silence.
The intruders stood around the table, grabbing pieces of food during pauses in discourse. Uncle Leo suddenly looked distressed and walked towards the front door. He saw me lingering nearby. “We have a problem. We’re out of cups,” he faced me and declared. “Come with me to get some.” “No. I won’t go,” I responded in one breath that encapsulated my anger and indifference. Instead, Dawn accompanied him on this all-important task. He complained to her about my refusal to obey. She then informed him that my response was none of his business. Uncle Leo quietly acknowledged that Dawn was right.

Dawn was a good sister. She defended me and knew how to be heard. Me, I was silenced.

~to be continued~

Monday, March 15, 2010

Rapeling and Creative Blogs

Can you GUESS WHO THIS IS?! [Neither can I.]
My friend Pat Tillett has bestowed upon me a Creative Blogger Award. Pat's writing is filled with rich life experiences that range from painful to glorious. He's a fun read and, moreover, a good man.
Per the drill, here are 5 things you do not know about me:

1) I'm afraid of heights.

2) I once went rapeling off of a 180 foot cliff. Once.

3) When I was about 150 feet up, my hair got caught in the harness.

3b) I was scared.

3b plus) I couldn't lower myself any further.

4) The guide controlling the ropes shouted up to me: "Robyn, do you trust me?"

4b) I lied and said "Yes."
4c) I got down safely and don't remember how.

5) I'm afraid of heights.

Here are 5 others I'd like to recognize for their creative blogs:
1) IT - such a character! He's always entertaining, and he's adorable too. Check IT out.
2) The Japing Ape I've met lots of silly apes before, but this one is the silliest.
3) AsBlackAsObama This California family man is quite skilled at combining fun and fascination.
4) Invisible Seductress She's hot. She's sassy, and we're going to compete in the dwarf olympics together. Never mind that, Seductress needs a few more followers to hit 100. Help her get there.
5) Alice in Wonderland Alice does it all: poetry and prose, humor and pain..She does it all beautifully. Her blog is truly a wonderland.

Okay, go about your creative business, one and all.

Saturday, March 13, 2010

IMAGINING A WOO-FULL WORLD ~ Dedicated to John Lennon

This post is continued from the last, Imagine.
No wooies: Photo taken in Jamaica. This is as close as Mary Jane and I have ever gotten. 

I hope someday you'll join us, And the world will be as one.
I tried to resist it. I really did. The woo-woo culture is so counter to my LA upbringing. But I must admit that I am a transwoo-woo. Yes, I have become one with woo-woodom, though I remain closeted most of the time. Having learned to drive on the LA freeways (Note: I wrote “the” LA freeways. See California Dreamin' for that reference), I will perhaps never be on the extreme end of the woo-woo spectrum; I’ll persist in falling a bit closer to woe than woo. Sadly.

Imagine no possessions. I wonder if you can.
The Bay Area is replete with wonderfully intoxicating mineral baths. These bits of utopia encompass a celebration of woo-woodom. One leaves the computer, cell phone, and even clothes behind. Given my love for warm baths, I set out years ago to visit the hot springs for the first time. Because I was not a woo-woo girl and resisted becoming one, I had packed my bathing suit. While lounging at Harbin in my brightly flowered one-piece, though, I realized that (1) people were staring at me, and (2) people with lots and lots to hide were not hiding anything. So I stripped down too, and I stopped getting stares. I rationalized that this action was simply a matter of perfectly acceptable situational nudity facilitated by peer pressure and the need to brown my blindingly white skin. Note that I had doused my body in sunblock SPF 108 or so.

No need for greed or hunger, A brotherhood of man

While soaking, I learned a lot. For one thing, everything we could ask for is here for us for free and in earthly form. For another, there are woo-woos who take parental love to a whole new level. I met a woman who immediately freely shared that she bought her daughter a badly needed gift as a birthday present. This gift was a kama sutra coach to work with her daughter and son-in-law. Upon receiving the gift card, her daughter asked her what kama sutra meant. Next, the lessons did not take. The couple still doesn't have a sex life. Can you imagine? I mean, not imagining a couple that doesn't have sex. That one's easy. But what a waste of a wonderful gift imparted by a parent.

Imagine all the people Sharing all the world
What I’m warming you and me up to is the harsh reality that woo-woodom is perhaps a really good thing. I can’t hold it in any longer. Sigh. I am a full fledged woo-woo! Phew! I said it. The proof rests in the fact that - are you ready for this? I hugged a tree! It wasn’t planned. It just happened. Nothing about it was harmful. Don’t worry. See, I was at one of those woo-woo retreats on mindfulness meditation. I was there because, um, I was out in the woods looking for a Starbucks. I stopped at the Land of the Meditative Buddha to ask for directions to the nearest Starbucks (Buddhists drink coffee, right?), and they must have hypnotized me and offered me loads of chocolate. I don’t remember the details, but I found myself staying for the weekend. Then, there was this lengthy walking meditative exercise through the woods. I was strongly drawn to one specific huge and attractive pine tree. It oozed power, dignity and purpose.

You may say that I'm a dreamer, But I'm not the only one

In front of this tree, I had a peaceful, hazy recollection of celebrating Tu’bishvat (the Jewish New Year of the Trees). The leader of that celebratory gathering urged everyone to take time to hug a tree, at some point. His voice echoed through me. Now was my time. What did I have to lose? I mean, no one would see me. They were all in their own little woo-woo worlds. So I gave this staunch, well-rooted tree a loving embrace.

I hope someday you'll join us

When the meditation group reconvened, a woman announced, “I saw Robyn hugging a tree.” Damn b*tch! I could no longer hide my woo-woos. So I’m coming clean in the blogosphere too. Still, I really am more woe than woo. Oy, clearly conflicted between denial and the healing, holistic, therapeutic experience of woofullness, I admit that I’m glad to be part of the group.

Imagine everyone in the world has access to a beautiful sturdy tree. Imagine now that everyone takes the opportunity to give that tree a great big hug. It starts there, and we’d all be better for it.

And the world will live as one.

Thursday, March 11, 2010

IMAGINE A WORLD OF WOO-FULLNESS ~ Dedicated to John Lennon

Note, this is a sequel to California Dreamin.'
Imagine there's no Heaven. It's easy if you try.
First things first, I would explore every inch of the Bay Area. This meant the hiking trails, Golden Gate Bridge, Ghiradelli’s Chocolate Factory, Ocean beach, and every dance club within a fifty mile radius.

“No thanks, my partner and I are having a quiet evening alone,” was the standard response to my desperate pleas for company on these ventures.

No hell below us. Above us only sky.
But invites began to spring forth, so I maintained hope for a glorious new life. Then, I was confused. The invites were for "potlucks." Intially, the concept was rather intriguing. I imagined a Woodstockesque gathering at People’s Park, wherein folks warmly welcomed me to choose from assortments of special homemade cigarettes and brownies. I'd pass on the cigs and grab for the latter. The term "pot-luck" made happy sense.

Imagine all the people Living for today
Everyone was ecstatic about potlucks, so I must have the right idea. Nah, I soon learned the potluck involved being told to bring whatever you wish, provided it’s meatless, gluten free, lactose free, and a main or hearty side dish that tastes delicious and serves 12 hungry adults and mid-size kids.

Please understand that I believe in going all out when I host a party. I cook, clean, and prep for days. It's the Jewish way, and the only way really. It's just wrong to invite guests to come over for dinner, with dinner!

Imagine there's no countries. It isn't hard to do.
Needless to say, the potluck typifies the all-loving mindset of the woo-woo culture. There are, in theory, no boundaries or rules in this culture. It’s a life of contributing in accordance with one’s most generous loving nature, in perfect synchronicity with the needs of others, all in a tranquil self actualized yada-yada-woo-woo fashion.

Nothing to kill or die for
You can't avoid this love filled woo-wooness. There are woo-woos in the supermarkets deliberating over which bunch of organic sprouts was uprooted most recently by the most earth friendly farmer who sprayed his crops with the least amount of chemical toxins.

And no religion too
There are woo-woos in the synagogues who hold their arms overhead, shaking them feverishly when excited by the feminine existence of the Source of love and life, peace and harmony, compassion and tranquility and yada-yada-woo-wooism.

Imagine all the people Living life in peace
There are woo-woos in community centers engaging in cooperative moments of eclectic spiritual transformative journeys. Spiritual guides direct the group to "join hands, while we breathe in the blessed realities of life and breathe out our demons and those of the universe.”

You may say that I'm a dreamer But I'm not the only one
Everyone is partaking in some type of mesmerizing enlightenment: mindfully freeing yoga, chai ti mixed with hip hop head banging, qui gong sho with rapid breathing, yoga with an attitude, bo tai meditative strenuous deprivation, and relaxing challenging spinning cycles of meditational organismic ecstasy.

..No wooies; to be continued in next post..

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Keeping Yiddish Alive Post-Shredded Wheat

This is a re-post from Biblical times, when our beloved Ian was my only Jewish friend in the blogosphere. It's dedicated to Yiddish, and to everyone -Jews and Gentiles alike- who is or was single for any moment in time. Please enjoy.

Second Title: Doing it with Yiddish Flair

The ladies on Sex and the City do it in every episode. Catholic school girls vow not to do it. Nice Jewish women console the relatives who set shiva[1] once they learned we’re doing it. “Not to worry, Bubbe[2], I won’t do it anymore. Not for long, anyway. I mean, I don’t want to. I’m not trying to do it. It just kind of happens. But I’m careful. And, oy[3], it’s the best. You remember, nu[4]? This it should bother you?”

So we do it. We do it because, though we won’t admit it aloud, it’s exciting and freeing. We do it because we won’t settle for kibbitzing[5]. Enough with the mishegosh[6]! We do it and keep doing it despite what they’re all saying about us. We do it because we’re fed up with the shlemiels[7], shlemazels[8], shmendricks[9], and shmegegees[10]. We do it with sanity intact. We do it with integrity. We do it with subtle confidence. We stay single!

Every so often, we think it may be time to stop doing it. This one might be the one, I tell you: the beshert[11] sent by the Almighty to redeem this life of tsores[12]. Sometimes years, sometimes seconds into the relationship, we detect, shall we say, a few minor imperfections. “Don’t fret, Bubbe, he will move out of his sister’s house when we get engaged. This I am sure of. He will try to find work too, once we have kids. He doesn’t want me to be sole provider. Such a mensch[13], I tell you.” Yet, before the next Shabbat, it explodes in a farshtinkena[14] mess. After the waterfalls of tears, the last crumb consumed of a sinfully trafe[15] chocolate cheesecake, robotically hugging the family members who returned to mourning our bleak existence: oy gevalt[16], such relief! One deep breath later, and we’re back to doing it.

Not to worry, Bubbe, we do it selectively. He’s gotta be at least one quarter Jewish. If not, does he watch Seinfeld in syndication? We should be so lucky!

We do it with stamina. We schmooze[17] for hours at all of the important gatherings: the Matzo and Latke Balls, the Kung Pao comedy night, Israel in the Park, Summer Sizzle, and the list goes on and on I tell you. We stay home on weekends but once in a while. Occasionally, there’s a more appealing option, like clipping our toenails with focus and precision. The next day, though, we get out there again with a chutzpah[18] that would send Miriam[19] kvelling[20] through the deepest of waters. This is true it is.

We do it with variety. There’s to find a partner within 10 miles, or there’s to find a partner within 525 miles. After a while, let me tell you, we increase the range to anywhere in the known universe. Then, there’s speed dating at Starbucks or fast dating at the Jewish Community Center. There’s the incomparably expensive community Yenta[21] or the free but ever intrusive Auntie Rita. Such options they are endless.

We do it safely. We stay in one spot, keep it brief, and leave. No phone call the next day, even. A casual e-mail in 5-7, perhaps. Very rudimentary and protected, you see. We wouldn’t have it any other way. Not to worry.

We do it for stress relief. Oy, no more dirty socks on the kitchen table, no more toilet seats to put back down, no more schedules to coordinate, dietary idiosyncrasies to appease. We do it on our own time, our own terms, with concern only for our own needs. This it is the best, nu?

So I say to you my tribal sisters who are doing it, those of you who perhaps have been doing it for decades, or perhaps find yourselves redoing it, or perhaps wishing to undo it: let it be time to unleash the stigma and just do it with pride! That every moment is a simcha[22] whether we’re alone or taking care of some nudnik[23], I mean loving person. That when and if we decide to abstain from doing it, that this one should be truly worth the abstinence. In the meantime, let us do it with the the perseverance and optimism of our ancestry. Let’s do it with chutzpah. L’chaiyim![24]

[1] Mourning rituals that last for 7 days (or, in this case, possibly a lifetime) following the death of a loved one.
[2] Grandma.
[3] Oy. {There really is no other word for “oy” that says “oy” like “oy”.}
[4] “Yes” or “Yes?” or “I really do mean it.”
[5] Joking around, intruding, teasing. See mishegash.
[6] Craziness, messiness. See kibbitzing.
[7] A fool.
[8] A born loser. Nothing goes right for the shemazel.
[9] A wimp.
[10] A nobody, a jerk.
[11] The love of one’s life, destiny.
[12] Misery, stress.
[13] A true gentleman.
[14] Yucky, smelly. Derived from farshtinkerner (smelly person).
[15] Food that is not kosher. Note: This particular cheesecake was made with lard.
[16] “Oh my” to the extreme.
[17] Talk it up, charm others.
[18] Nerve, fervor – in a good way.
[19] Moses’ sister, a great female leader of the Jewish people in days of very old.
[20] Beaming with pride, boasting.
[21] Matchmaker.
[22] Celebration, blessing.
[23] Annoying person, nuisance.
[24] To life!

Sunday, March 7, 2010

Status Quo: Rude Awakening

He and I were lost in a long embrace. I was thoroughly enjoying the moment, along with my fantasies about where things were going. My body jolts. My eyelids shoot open. “Bay Bridge traffic is backed up to the MacArthur maze,” the deep voiced, unaffected announcer informs. That f*ckin’ bastard! It’s 7:34am. Time to get up. I yawn. I yawn again. My feet are cold. My hair’s a mess. I want more sleep. My brain starts to simmer, firing off a few unpleasant sound bites through my system: “work,” “get up,” “go to.” If I try for another ounce of romance, er sleep, I won’t wake up ‘til noon. My brain is sharp now. It gets me. My body rebels. "I am blessed to have a job..Blessed I am..Move that tuchas.” (Note: tuchas=cutesy Yiddish word for ass. Even when I’m semi-alert, I like to keep Yiddish alive.) The body undergoes the physical challenges of pushing itself out of bed and into a somewhat vertical posture. I throw clothes on that might not completely clash in the daylight. I do my standard 4.75 second make-up job. (Not to brag, but I could pass for someone who spends 2 seconds or less on make-up.) I think “food” because, well, I always think food. I find myself in the kitchen, pouring a bowl of shredded wheat. Try it with milk, the awakening brain suggests. I open the fridge door. No, not that one. That’s the microwave. Try again. I think I can. I think I can. Fridge. Milk. Morning. Romance stifled by rude awakening. Status quo.

Thursday, March 4, 2010

All I Ever Needed to Know I Learned in The Blogosphere & It's My Blogoversary!

I began going blog wild with Life by Chocolate on 3/5/09. Warmhearted thanks to all of my bloggy friends throughout the world for your cheer and support, for enjoying my posts or keeping quiet if you didn't. You've helped teach me some very important life lessons. Here's just some of the things I've learned over the past year in the blogosphere:

1) Size matters. {It’s annoying as hell to try to read small font.}

2) Substance matters most of all.

3) Creative endeavors don’t pay the rent.

4) One nice comment goes a long way to lifting one's spirits.

5) You can throw rudeness into the garbage, and it's not recyclable.

6) You can attract a following without giving away brownies and Bibles at the airport.
(Thank goodness! I could never give brownies away.)

7) There are some very cool, talented people all over the world. That’s you.

8) There are forms of chocolate called curly wurlys and twiglets. That's what I'm told, anyway. I'm still awaiting the proof, Uber Grumpy, my friend.

9) A snog is a kiss.

10) A prat is a fool.

11) Those English are much better with English than we are. (See 9 and 10 above.)

12) Thus, I've deduced that ‘Tis better to snog a prat than be pratted by a snog. Maybe.

13) Actually, ‘Tis better to never have been snogged by a prat or pratted by a snog.

14) Nah, snogging's all good, even with prats. Sometimes. Maybe.

15) No matter what, Life by Chocolate strives to make it all better!

16) You fill this one in with a valuable lesson you've learned in the blogosphere.

My dear friend Sarah (Writer in the Making) tagged me to answer where I'll be in 10 years. My answer: blogging, publishing, blogging some more, and eating lots of chocolate served to me by a gorgeous man or two. The setting is a small, glorious island that I own, or at least dropped by for a day trip. (Note: I could be talking about Alcatraz, but that's not the point. There really isn't one, except please keep following. I appreciate it.)

Chocolate kisses,
Rawkn Robyn

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Back in the Day

Back in the day,
We meant

you and me.
To feel was to touch.
To touch set you free.
Courage and valor defined you as great -
not being a whiny, crazed parent of eight.
When actors could act,
Performers could sing,
Reality shows starred Carson and Bing.

Back in the day,
Mail came to your door.
Wrappers bore gifts.
You walked to the store.

Ice cream trucks stopped on the corner street.
Fifteen cent big sticks, a most awesome treat.

Nice girls wouldn’t google, switch users or tweet.
Blackberries were juicy and raspberries, sweet.

Nice guys didn’t sag, log off or shut down.
When sex was sacred, and text, just a noun.

Back In the day, botox was unknown.
Surgery for illness,
Cocktails for the grown.

Cells were in blood.
Breakfast, with Tang.
TVs had antennas, and
Telephones rang.

Back in the day,
You ne'er felt hella rad
When your BFF told you
Your outfit looked bad.

I.M. meant I am.
To chat meant to talk.
You swam with you tube.
And teachers used chalk.

Back in the day,
A Chevrolet brought you clout.
Cowboys re-booted before stepping out.

A blue tooth was concerning.
Hot meant close to burning.

Fruit smoothies were exotic
and laptops, erotic.

Back in the day,
Old school was a house.
A pad for a bachelor,
And cheese for a mouse.

I’m sayin’
Feel me, and don’t weep.
Oprah continues to represent the peep. (For another minute.)

And back in the day, who’d ever dream that
A Black man would hold the office Supreme.

We go backwards and forwards,
Forwards and then back.
In circles, and sideways,
But land up on track.

Back in the day,
We means you and me.