Heard, Seen, Read

Some favorites I’ve recently heard, seen, and read.

best podcasts for women
Death, Sex, and Money is my favorite podcast in the history of podcasts. Each episode is an intimate listening session that catapults past small talk and deep into the bones of its guests. Host Anna Sale, in my opinion, has the best job in the world. We should all strive to be the kind of listener she is, part therapist, part detective, part story midwife. A few favorites I listened to in January are here, here, and here. The series covering the anniversary of Hurricane Katrina was beautiful and made its way straight to my heart.

Anna Faris Is Unqualified is my guilty pleasure of podcasts. When I need my morning or afternoon commute to include lots of laughter, Anna Faris gets the job done. It reminds me of the morning radio shows I listened to growing up – silly, fun, and full of antics. Her latest podcasts with Michael Rapaport, Ike Barinholtz, and Justin Long are tops for me. For the love of all things piss in your pants funny, listen.

Another Round’s interview with Anil Dash (a stranger to me before I listened) is a must listen for anyone who a. is the offspring of immigrant parents and b. loves conversations about diversity. My favorite quote, talking about the TV show ER, “You have a hospital in a major city and you have no Indian people? That’s science fiction.”

And last, but certainly not least, Call Your Girlfriend. They can’t put out new shows fast enough for my taste. I’d list favorites but the truth of the matter is I have yet to listen to an episode I didn’t enjoy. My people, right here.

Clearly, female storytellers are tops for me

movies worth watching
Desert Dancer
Based on true events, this film is tragic and beautiful all at once. It tells the story of a group of young dancers who live in a time and place where dance and self-expression are violently forbidden. I felt this one deep.

I love a good boxing movie. Plus, I’m a big fan of the cast. I grew up on Stallone, Michael B. Jordan has yet to let me down, and after falling in love with Tessa Thompson in Dear White People (totally worth your time), I’m down to support her work.

Scandal Season 2 & 3
I’m a gladiator, what can I say?

Sleeping With Other People
As the romcom queen, this one is a new favorite. It’s smart, well written, and full of characters that feel real (except for one which I have to believe was written to embody all the stereotypes of “men” women lust after for all the wrong reasons). Jason Sudeikis needs to make more movies. And I’m girl crushing on Alison Brie who is fantastic as the leading lady.

Infinitely Polar Bear
Anything I want to say about this is bound to sound over the top. Mark Ruffalo is nothing short of brilliant. Zoe Saldana is tender, hard, and human. I was  mad at myself for not having seen it sooner. I fell so much in love with these characters I didn’t want to see the movie end. Also, the little girls in this are impressive to say the least. They added a layer of fragility to a film already heavy on the vulnerability.

Hello I Must Be Going
Confession: I love myself a movie about life after divorce. This one is subtle, like a raspy whisper. Melanie Lynskey continues to be one of my favorite actresses. Bonus: Blythe Danner tops the list of actresses I’d want to play my mom in a movie.

Z is for Zachariah: I had high hopes for this one but it caught me on an off night; I was multitasking and tired. I’m going to  pick it up again and give it another go. Margot Robbie and Chris Pine really impressed me because their roles were so different from ones they’ve had in the past. Also? Chiwetel Ejiofor, holy talented hotness.

Take Me Home Tonight: The 80s girl in me wanted to be head over heels for this one. It was alright. However, it does remind me of other comedies that haven’t done it for me the first time around but then become addictive after multiple viewings.

Ted 2: I mean, Mark Wahlberg. And Boston. I had to.

When Breath Becomes Air – I knew going in this would be one I couldn’t put down and wouldn’t forget. I was compelled to read it after joining the masses in celebrating the author’s skillful writing and soulful insights in his New York Times article and later in a piece he wrote for Stanford Medicine. I could think of no better way to start off this year than by reading this book. It was an eloquent reminder to live. Also, I have a new and profound respect for anyone, like Mr. Kalanithi, who has a similar passion for their chosen profession and who so entirely devotes themselves to it in pursuit of not just hands on mastery but full bodied understanding of what they’re doing and it’s impact on others.

Carry On Warrior – I started this book last year and just finished it as I ushered in the new year. My copy is a mess; just about every page has long passages, and short ones, covered in orange crayon (my highlighter of choice). I want to make motivational posters of every word in this book. I want to hand this book to every one. It’s made me a better person, or at the very least a. made me aspire to be better and b. aspire to be gentler.

Wildflower – Drew Barrymore has held legend status since I fell in love with her as a young girl. I breezed through this one quickly and imagine it a perfect beach read you can jump in and out of with ease.

Sounds Like Me – I picked this up on a whim after coming across it every where I went. I didn’t really know who Sara Bareilles was until I looked up her music and discovered…oh yeah, I know who she is. Another light read full of wonderful moments that could have come from my life. She’s got a keen way of remembering and capturing her experience and it spoke to the young woman I once was.

Year of Yes – I was ready to love this one hard; but it just wasn’t for me. I like what she had to say but the writing wasn’t for me which was surprising since I love her shows. Having said that, I’m sharing because her message is a powerful one we could all use. And just because the writing isn’t for me doesn’t mean it’s not for you. Sometimes, even though we may need the same guidance, the delivery has to come in its own unique way.

Co-Parenting Through The Holidays

I’m grateful beyond measure for getting divorced but that doesn’t mean life is a breeze now. Despite the gifts divorce has given me, it’s also a challenging, emotionally draining, and isolating experience. My anecdote for this trinity of struggle is to comfort myself with stories. I look for books, movies, blogs, anything to remind me I’m not the first and certainly won’t be the last to get through whatever the current very sucky chapter of divorce is. A lovely side effect of turning to stories is I usually catch an idea which serves my current situation or at least inspires me on how to approach the issue at hand.

This time of year, knee deep into the holiday season, is  a prime example of a time where been-there-done-that and going-through-it-now stories come in handy.

This is our third holiday season as divorced parents. The first was an awkward attempt at reassuring my daughters they’d still be connected to their family and the second was less than ideal. This year looks to be our best effort so far. There is no right way to do things when you’re divorced. What works one year may not work the following year. Priorities and schedules change, relationships shift, and life happens.

The folks over at VProud.TV put together a video about co-parenting during the holidays. It’s the kind of thing I wish I had when we first separated. I’m already taking mental notes for next year (plan early, discuss which traditions mean the most).

When I come across content like this I get a little click happy. A voice inside squeals, “My people!!!!!” and I start clicking around the internet to see what these single moms have to say. If you’re as hungry for single mom voices as I am, you can find the women in this video here, here, here, and here.

If you’re separated or divorced, or maybe your parents were, I’d love to hear how you approach the holidays. Together? Apart? Do you split Christmas day? Do you divide it down to the hour? Does travel play a role? And, here’s a biggie, what’s your strategy for planning? I’m all ears!

Bedtime Magic

Bedtime has changed dramatically during my tenure as a mother. What started with swaddling so tight I bore holes into their muslin blankets has evolved into spooning by moonlight and feather light whispers about the meaning of life, or just who made them smile at school today. Something about bedtime drowsiness renders them particularly vulnerable and exceptionally eager to spill the beans, so I take advantage.

A few years ago, while we were still homeschooling, there wasn’t any necessary rush to our bedtime routine. I had three questions I asked every night –

1. What are you grateful for?
2. Who did you help today?
3. What’s one thing you love about yourself?

The minutes would tick past 7:30pm and I wouldn’t blink an eye (unless The Mindy Project or Pretty Little Liars was on, of course, then one word answers were totally acceptable). Now, after homework and dinner and prepping for the next day and just one more book and that song they love, bedtime feels more rushed than I’d like.

After the last book, we each share what we’re most grateful for that day. That’s one question that’s constant in our repertoire. Once the lights are out, I divide my time with each girl. I alternate who I start with each night because it’s almost certain while I’m waxing poetic with one, the other will drift off to sleep before we can have a heart to heart.

I don’t plan the questions I’ll ask. Who has time for that? But I do read a lot about parenting so when I come across a good question to ask kids, I make a mental note. I find questions in blog posts, parenting books, magazines, and most recently in journal prompts. A friend recently shared on Facebook how much she loves talking with her daughters at bedtime. We all mother in our own unique way but we share many common joys and from the looks of the comments she got on her post, bedtime is one of those universal gifts. Her post made me really curious about the questions other parents ask.

Here are the questions regularly making the rounds at our home plus the ones that really make my girls light up:

  • Who made you laugh at school today?
  • Did anyone help you at school today?
  • If you could travel around the world with only one friend from school, who would it be?
  • If you could have your own restaurant, what kind of food would you serve? What would you call it?
  • If you could take a vacation anywhere in the world, where would you go?
  • What job would you never, ever want to do?
  • If you wrote a children’s book, what would it be about? What would you call it?
  • Where do you think you will live when you grow up?
  • Were you able to help anyone at school today?
  • What’s the most interesting thing you learned in school today?
  • What do you want to dream about tonight?
  • What’s the best book you’ve read lately?
  • What superpower would you want?
  • If you found $100, what would you do with it?
  • If you could learn to do something new, what would it be?
  • If you could only eat one food for the rest of your life, what would it be?
  • Who made you feel loved today?
  • Who was unkind to you today?
  • What animal would you want to be?
  • If you could build a superhero team, which 3 friends would you want by your side?
  • What do you love most about yourself?

And while we’re at it, I’ll share a few other things we do at bedtime to make it special. We don’t do these every night; they happen once in a blue moon as a treat:

  • Years ago I started giving them massages while I asked them our nightly questions. I’d take out a special lotion and rub their feet while we listened to each other’s answers.
  • When the energy is running high, I have them lie down and I say goodnight to them from their toes to the tops of their head. I rub each part of the body and give it a kiss, saying goodnight to each (goodnight toes, goodnight legs, goodnight tummy, etc.). The best is getting up to their sweet faces and kissing their little lashes.
  • Other times, when it looks like they’re having a hard time falling asleep, I tell my girls to lie still, eyes closed, and silently thank each part of their body for it’s hard work and then say goodnight to it (for example, thank you feet for allowing me to climb at the park, goodnight). Since this is something they do on their own, I can’t be certain they actually do it but the smiles on their faces always make me think they at least try.
  • It’s been ages since we did this but for awhile I used to light a candle and we’d take turns making a wish and blowing it out. Once everyone had a turn, we’d blow it out together.

All of this in addition to our nightly bedtime book(s) plus a song they love and some whispered blessings in their ear. Bedtime ain’t no joke, people. It’s my last chance each day to redeem myself for lost tempers, elusive patience, checking my phone too often, saying no more than yes, rushing, for being imperfect. Our quirky mash up of rituals anchors me to the moment, each one sinking me deeper into the present. It’s not perfect every night but we try to make it feel a little bit like magic.

What’s funny is this is nothing like bedtime was for me as a kid. I’d kiss my parents goodnight then tuck myself in and fall asleep to the sound of my television in the background. If my godmother was visiting, she’d read me a bedtime book and her husband would ask me math questions before turning out the lights. No one lied with me until I fell asleep, there were no songs, but somehow there was no lack of magic. So there’s no right way. What’s bedtime like in your home? I’d love to know what questions, conversation starters, and rituals make bedtime magical in your home.