Plunging into LA has been a summer indulgence that I’ve learned how not to live without. I crave the perfect weather, and when I mean perfect weather, I mean perfect weather. The consistently bright sky free of dark clouds, which translates to little if any rain, which translates to no mosquitos, no racing inside and yelling “Go, go, go!” to anyone in front of or following you, no mildew smells, none of it.
This summer wasn’t any different when it came to the weather, but other things dug under my fingernails. Really, just one thing got stuck in there. It was the degree to which the people in LA can fake it. In fact, they fake it so much that you can feel their nerves splitting as they speak.
They talk a lot about energy and crystals and energy and, really, I agree, energy is there, everywhere. So, when we went to a restaurant, a party, or even just for a walk, I felt it, even saw it.
“HHHHiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiyyyyyyyyyyyyyyy,” she would say in such a high-pitched voice that I could feel her frayed nerves followed by the shrill lies muted by her hand shake that she tried to cover with the steadiness of an extra hand on the outside. Ouch! It stung a little.
And, it went on and on, daily, hourly sometimes.
I still enjoyed it. I still chilled with my sister, my family, but it felt strangely different. Even the Elvis impersonator who I loved catching on his way to work had left us. Not surprisingly, he had moved away, maybe to Vegas, a whole other story.
I doubt it if he would head on over to New York, but it’s still a place for impersonators. I mean, New York, in particular, New York City has its share of the inconceivable and the outright bizarre, but the fake? Absolutely, emphatically NO.
Do I want to live there? Not really, but I don’t necessarily want to live in LA either, no matter how much I love to visit.
I think an actress who was interviewed on Conan O’Brien said it best.
There are those days when I wondered if I should’ve encouraged them to be doctors, lawyers, scientists, anything but artists.
“You know, Ya Ya always says, ‘That’s why you need to be a doctor papito. So you can take care of me,” my son said the other day. “She says it to all of us.” He’s referring to all of his cousins, her grandchildren.
My son and I were in the car outside a doctor’s office. “Yeah, doctors have it easy,” I said.
“What do you mean? It’s really hard to be a doctor,” he argued, which has become a regular routine lately.
“Yeah, no, I mean, they have to work hard, but they make so much money. You saw your cousin’s house. You know what I mean?”
He nodded but continued to talk about how difficult it is to be a doctor.
I reluctantly agreed and accepted my fate: to add another artist to my household.
I think every parent feels conflicted about encouraging a child to take the artistic route. It’s more unpredictable in our eyes.
You’re so smart. Be a doctor, a dentist, an engineer, a scientist, a lawyer, they say. Many parents I know outright announce that artists make no money. You can draw, even paint, but don’t try to make it a career.
And, what’s most disconcerting is that many teachers announce that students can’t do anything with a degree in art, let alone make a living with one in the fine arts. So, parents waver and our kids waver, sometimes they even give up on the whole idea.
I didn’t tell my kids to be a doctor or lawyer. I taught them to explore their worlds. I actually encouraged my children to be as creative as possible, not as a hobby, but as a way of life.
A once-white sink full of blue paint sits clogging one of our bathrooms. Drawings on walls are commonplace. Clothes splattered with paint seem expected.
But, when I want to hang a painting on the wall, I’m met with protests that it’s just not good enough or friends will think it’s stupid. You’re reminded of how fragile such creativity can be.
Yet, there’s a magic to living with artists that surpasses the often stressful or methodical worlds of academics or athletes.
Artists live on the brink of ecstacy or the edge of insanity more often than not, so when you live with them it can feel just like you’re in the swirling winds shot from a magic wand.
My daughter left for a pre college art program and, because I share her heart of an artist, I sit wondering what to do without her and hoping she has a good time while worrying that she’s so fragile she could break under her guise of strength.
Then I remember that guise is not a disguise at all.
It’s actually her reality.
She bears a resemblance to a Greek goddess in the midst of a tumultuous highway of mindsets bent on nearly crashing into her.
She stands, sword in hand, striking the sounds of doubt from her stance, sometimes, often, receiving their criticisms, wounded, in pain, dropping her sword, lowering her head, lying down.
She heals eventually and returns to her power.
The number of times she has stood her ground when she fought with me has increased over the years. The power with which she uses and doesn’t use words can set a room on fire. The intensity of her work puts shame to anything I’ve ever accomplished.
That’s magic mixed with a power so intrinsic to an artist.
And, we are all artists.
Accepting that makes our lives easier to manage and enjoy. Otherwise, we’re sent plugging away in drudgery at the daily confines of tasks to be finished and jobs to be done.
Those not just content but happy doctors, lawyers, and engineers are creatives in their own right.
They stand over patients and inspire them to fight for their lives and wellness.
They plunge into difficult cases emerging with solutions to difficult problems.
They sift through data and documents creating new ideas out of old structures.
Parents living with teenage artists find solace in their art.
Our artists are abstract and concrete all the while leaving us breathless with what they can conjure up for us, what they can pull from nothingness.
And you writers, well, you tell us the stories to keep us going when we find ourselves lost in worlds that have abandoned the idea of being artists.
So, as a parent of two artists, I watch in awe of their resolve, saddened by their wounds, hoping for their healing, and waiting for the next burst of magic, bound to love them through it all.
Writing was only used to text or post for help. We had to preserve electricity.
Funny how we call it power.
Well, we lost power. By that I mean, the kind we depend on for everything lately, even our brains. We are so accustomed to Googling everything that we use, essentially using electricity inadvertently instead of our brains.
Needless to say, everything slowed down after Irma ripped electricity from us.
And, all I have to say about it is a lot.
After the storm: Irma ripped away our electricity.
If you’ve never been to Miami during a humid hot summer day–and I don’t mean at the beach–then don’t roll your eyes when I repeat what everyone is complaining about. One day without electricity left us baking inside our houses, even with the windows open. By day three, my daughter slept on the tile floor while my husband fanned her with my son’s science board.
I kept getting up and putting the pillow under her head, but she still had bumps from hitting it against the floor.
I thought I could deal with it, but the hurricanes before Irma left us with somewhat of a breeze during the long days of no electricity. Irma left Miami and the Keys and other parts of Florida with not even a small breeze to tease us enough for a hint of hope.
Dead heat sucked away all of our energy. So that brain power, which needed to be harnessed and used for the lack of power we have become so reliant on, that was useless except for reading books and minimal movement.
I picked up Homegoing by Yaa Gyasi and read it finally. I’d been pushing it to the side in the name of parenthood, work, cleaning, sleep, and even writing. The hellish descriptions of enslavement intertwined with the lyrical tone of love and resilience kept me more than thankful for what we had despite the extreme discomfort during the days without electricity. I also relearned history and was continually reminded of how lucky and spoiled we are.
Incredible people emerge when circumstances leave us vulnerable.
Let’s be realistic. There were the crazy creeps who crawled out of the woodwork and thought it was the Walking Dead come to life, so they hoarded all the gas to power their pickup trucks and generators. But, for every single creep, there were multiple kind-hearted humanitarians who came to the rescue for the elderly and all of us who were so anxious and tired.
We picked up tree branches and cut trees from our fences, mailboxes, and cars.
Especially those with electricity, neighbors and friends asked each other if anyone needed help: a charger, a warm shower, a place to breathe fresh air.
Then there were those we couldn’t even contact.
Phone service was terrible.
Landlines didn’t even work, let alone wireless phone service. Most of the first three days after Irma hit, texts wouldn’t go through and phone calls lasted maybe 10 seconds if you were lucky to get a signal at all.
We had to walk or drive to hospitals or grocery stores that were able to open just to try to contact relatives. It wasn’t just the heat that kept me from sleeping for five days. I would wake up drinking in hot air after passing out from lack of sleep. Panic attacks plagued me after 12 and sometimes 24 hours without a word from my parents.
Irma took my parents’ home.
My parents lost their dream home in Plantation Key. They are the hardest working people I know. My father’s a 74-year-old war veteran, who was awarded a bronze medal for his service, never shed a tear over it; but he was heartbroken. He quietly stood tall and accepted his loss as my mother cried then grew strong with her own acceptance.
Slowly their hearts were mended when the police officers and fire rescue in Miami-Dade and the Keys checked on them. Most of their neighbors also came to their rescue, even locals who didn’t have any idea who they were responded to my pleas for help on social media and checked on them.
They have another home in the Keys where they took shelter and remained without electricity, cleaning up debris and flooded areas while enduring this damned heat. Those beautiful police officers and fire rescue workers got the word out and managed to restore their electricity yesterday.
When our electricity finally blipped on, everyone in our entire neighborhood, windows open, cheered. My mind flashed to us with spears in hand dancing in honor of the electricity gods. My children panted, “I will never take it for granted again.”
I joked that we now worshipped the electricity gods. Before this one, our children just took it for granted. Now they understood adults spouting words such as “spoiled” and “lazy” as they relentlessly played with their electronics and inhaled fresh, cool air.
The only good think Irma gave us was a deep appreciation for everything she took away from us.
This is what my daughter played on the piano after we were blessed with electricity.
Tossing the clothes in the dryer after an extremely long day at the beach, an excursion meant to make our summer feel like summer vacation. It felt more like hell.
It was burning hot, crowded, and smelly. So, when my beautiful Ray-Bans emerged in a twisted mess, the screams of terror and the ensuing tears amplified my established upset.
Those shiny, metallic-blue Ray-Bans landed in my hands when we visited Catalina Island off the coast of California last summer. My mother insisted on buying them for me even though I told her they were too expensive and I didn’t need them. I don’t wear them often because I don’t want to break them or scratch them, but this summer, they’ve been keeping me together and there they were.
Everything broke out of me, not just tears and mucus, a wild river of what had been left behind, nearly forgotten.
I missed JetBlue. I really missed LA. I fully missed my sister. I missed the other side of the country where mountains sprout from the ground and majestically watch over everyone. I missed the cool air at night, so cool you need a jacket.
I missed Elvis walking down the street to go to work. I missed the Pier. I missed the $30 Asian massages. I even missed the nausea of twirling up and down a mountain in my sister’s car. I especially missed the excitement of preparing and going there.
I usually take off to Los Angeles to visit my sister every summer. This summer it didn’t happen mainly because money became an issue.
Money, where are you?
So I’ve made the best of a disappointing situation and pretended I’ve been traveling. I put on these Ray-Bans and think of the fresh air on Catalina Island.
The minute I walk outside I’m reminded with a heavy hit of humid heat that “No, Lisa, you are still in Miami.”
I drive to Starbucks and pretend I have to have a cappuccino there because my sister doesn’t have an espresso machine like I do at my house. When I walk back outside, my skin sizzles worse than ever now that my body is warmed from the inside as well.
“Still here,” the Miami heat proclaims.
I swerve on over to Nordstrom Rack and think I’m in LA across from the Beverly Center. It works out pretty well until a pinch on my arm turns to an itch and I realize I’ve just been bit by a mosquito.
I stand at the door watching the sudden burst of rain pour buckets. Thunder trembling against the glass and lightning cracking its whip. I can’t wait any longer so I rush to my car, only about 10 feet away but I’m completely soaked when I get in the car.
A mosquito zips around my head.
Pinched again, I drive home.
I open my computer to find that instead of writing or working, I’m looking for flights on JetBlue: Too expensive, Too many stops. Bad timing. No one to take us. Need to save money.
I call JetBlue to ask about points and I’m met with the nicest voice. She’ll help with whatever she can. She has a fifteen-year-old daughter too. She knows what it’s like to stay when you want to leave.
Then I really miss LA, more than ever.
The Joy of JetBlue
You see, I’ve flown on JetBlue ever since my daughter turned two and a half and I have only flown on one other airline, Virgin America, but it didn’t even come close to my experience on JetBlue so I never went back.
I knew when they helped me take her out of the stroller and folded it for me, smiled patiently, not the snarky kind, and waited for us to gather everything up that I was in love.
They forgave us when she screamed for a half hour during a landing. They cleaned up our vomit when both kids puked during a red-eye flight.
And, to top it off, they gave me brand-new beautiful suitcases on the spot when mine were damaged after the flight.
If there was a delay even for five minutes, JetBlue gave us free movies.
I miss watching movies, asking for too many popcorn chips, and even drinking the bitter coffee when we take the red-eye flights.
I miss that so much more than my Ray-Bans.
I miss where JetBlue can take us.
It took us to San Francisco also. The magic of wearing a coat in summertime. The bread bowls. The tea bars. The crazy hills and crazier trollies.
And I’m here. And I know.
I really do know.
…that, really, when I look around me as I type on an Apple laptop and am feeling sorry for myself, I can’t really feel sorry at all. I watch my son falling asleep on the couch as we watch E.T. because he said that I should choose a movie.
I think of my daughter already asleep growing into a young woman who can be fierce and challenging but still she rests her head on my shoulder and often holds my hand.
How can I feel bad in my air-conditioned house full of comforts I couldn’t have dreamed up when I was little and lived in a tiny house with one bathroom.
I feel the deep appreciation for everything I have and have had and even what I will have.
That kind of pleasure sends surges of joy traveling through me so much so that I know JetBlue will be there for us on another vacation and sunglasses can be replaced.
There’s a new law I found out about recently and I’m fascinated by it., sometimes horrified by it.
I believe it exists but I’m not sure that I’ve embraced it. The world I live in for the time being.
This world of education tends to shout otherwise. We teachers demand that students perform the way we want them to. No, actually, we demand that students perform the way the Department of Education wants them to. My only solace in following through with those demands is to often make fun of the DOE and then twist everything around and show the students how they can use education to get what they want.
Education also makes it difficult to work with this law because it demands that I enforce consequences on a regular basis. I must be strict. I must enforce silence when students prefer to talk. I must look angry, more often than not. I must make sure that they understand how to behave and do so because they fear me.
It does work. Teachers who don’t offer a significant amount of fear face the consequences of chaos and in middle school, chaos is scary. Students don’t just throw paper airplanes. They can really hurt one another.
We all know that if we’ve heard anything about school shootings or even students using social media.
The law I’m referring to is the Law of Attraction. I’d heard about it many years ago and I gave it a nod then went about my business. I heard about it again a few years ago and again nodded and again went about my business.
Then, a few strange, seemingly unconnected events juggled me around to this law once again.
I watched a Netflix documentary on Tony Robbins and actually liked it.
What a strange person: I liked him but didn’t trust what he had to say.
I found myself driving my teenage daughter to school in the mornings.
She became increasingly distant and downright rude.
I started looking for inspirational videos to listen to after I dropped my daughter off.
Most of them started with Tony Robbins, then I listened to some of his radio interviews with took me to Deepak Chopra then to Dr. Wayne Dyer then to Oprah Winfrey then to Esther Hicks who I eventually learned was the one of the original speakers of the Law of Attraction.
I then looked at my phone and saw that my sister had given me a copy of the Law of Attraction and I remembered what she said, “This is weird but just listen to it when you feel frustrated, while you clean, stick it in your pocket, put your earphones in your ears and listen.”
I did, but it made no sense to me.
However, with my daughter’s distance even when we were sitting next to each other, even when I didn’t talk except to say I love you, this law became increasingly important to me.
I had also lost my grandmother a few years ago and it left me hating myself for not being able to do more, wanting to tell her how much I loved her and how sorry I was for having acted like my daughter was and is acting. I didn’t act that way all the time but I did act that way in my teenage years and then later I became distant because of work and her difficulties with dementia/Alzheimer’s.
So, these mornings of listening to Esther who speaks as Abraham who delivers the message of the Law of Attraction has changed my view of death, regret, love, and hate. Really, it’s changed my view of everything, even education.
We are magnets according to Abraham, according to the Law. But, we are not magnets in the traditional sense or the common understanding of a magnets capabilities. Opposites do not attract. The Law of Attraction tells us we “Like” attracts “Like.”
So, even if we don’t want something and we scream that we don’t want it, If we push against it, we will just get more of it.
This made sense to me because everything negative in my life seemed to fly toward me with the intensity of electromagnetic force.
But, understanding this sometimes makes everything more frustrating, especially when you tell someone you love them and a door is slammed in your face.
The idea is that you attracted the door slamming in your face. If like attracts like, then what the hell? Why not love in return?
Maybe the anger was stronger than the love, for both of us.
So, little by little, one day at a time, I attempt to work within the Law of Attraction. I meditate every morning or as many mornings as I can. I look for things to appreciate. And, more often than not, I lose my patience and restart the next day.
Being a teacher, a parent, a wife, and a writer, gives me a lot to consider when walking through life under the Law of Attraction.
What are your thoughts? Have you heard of this law?