Friday, September 26, 2008


A good portion of the book of Numbers contains an account of Israelite wanderings before they entered the Promised Land. There's a reason why they were referred to as the "children" of Israel. They groaned, they griped, they kvetched (linguistic anachronism, I know. Stay with me.) They wandered a long time, but apparently, didn't learn much from their prolonged stay in the desert.

This summer we attended a family reunion in Lake Tahoe. On our last full day there, we hauled all the kiddies to a place called Wright's Lake. It's in an area called-- get this-- Desolation Wilderness. Not making this up. It's no Sinai Peninsula, but this place is ARID for a forested area and somewhere between 7,000 and 8,000 feet in altitude. The summer heat and the thin air suck you dry so fast you don't know what hit you.

Several generations of my family have schlepped to Wright's Lake. I hadn't been there in 17 years but I was ready to go back and bring a fourth generation to enjoy it. My boys are small so I was prepared for some complaining. What I wasn't prepared for was how I would feel by going back.

The explorer John Muir referred to the Sierra Nevada mountain range as the "Range of Light." There is some inexplicable draw here that I did not fully understand when I was small. My father brought us to the Wright's Lake area repeatedly. I did not know how lucky I was, or how unusual it was for a girl from Los Angeles to be traipsing through these woods each summer. But now I understand. Call it hiker's karma or what you like, it all came tumbling back to me as I hiked hand-in-hand with my oldest son.

All sixteen of us were headed to a little-known place off the map that we called Enchanted pools. We were pretty sure we knew the way and didn't need a guide... that was our mistake. We stayed on the trail rather than veered off like we should have. Once we realized we had gone too far, we backtracked and ran into several park rangers. We looked at their maps and saw where our destination should have been. Our energies and water supply were rapidly disappearing, so we decided to call it a day and head back.

Walking back to the car, I expected to hear some complaining about our failed trip. But miracle of miracles, nothing happened. We all chatted happily. My five-year-old led the way, as he did during the rest of the hike. Rather than tired or complaining, he was invigorated by the day's events. I was surprised to find that I, too, was not disappointed. Why? We didn't get to our destination. We made the effort with nothing to show for it. Shouldn't that be upsetting? Apparently not.

Then I realized that it was the hike itself that was so important. Had we arrived at the pools, we would have stopped. Instead, we kept moving, marveling at the ever-changing scenery, and listening to sounds of our children making memories of the journey, rather than the destination.

All this, without a bit of complaining.

Thursday, September 25, 2008


As you may have noticed, I've been naming my entries after the first books in the Bible. The practice will continue until I no longer find a connection between my life's happenings and the titles. We'll see how long it lasts.

Leviticus, the third book, outlines 613 strict rules of priestly conduct, some of which make sense, and some of which seem beyond ridiculous. So, of course, the first thing I thought of was homeowner's association rules.

Our HOA is like all the others out there. It keeps the neighborhood looking nice. It gives its members a chance to feel like they're bucking the system when they paint their door one shade off of the required hue. I'm committing an act of civil disobedience when I leave my child's trike out in the front yard at night. You know me.... always fighting against "The Man."

So I was thoroughly entertained when I received a letter from the Association informing me that I run an in-home day care. It's especially funny when I tell you that I stay at home with my youngest child-- alone-- while the other two boys go to school. I have a feeling that I know who brought this day care idea to the attention of the Association, but I'll not mention names to protect the not-so-innocent. Here's the first paragraph of my rebuttal:

"Dear Sirs:

It has come to my attention, per your letter of September 23, that you believe I am operating an in-home day care business. I can only guess at your source of information, since I have not had any communication from the Association about this topic. However, let me caution the AFA not to be a pawn in the hands of scheming or otherwise bored members of the Association."

I then detail how many children I have at home during the day, what I actually do during the day (grocery shopping! a thrill!), and how my house is overrun with children when the school age kids come home, thus giving the impression of a day care.

I believe that I exercised great self-restraint, since I actually wanted to say much more unsavory things... and believe me, my pen is much mightier than my sword. Which is saying a lot-- just ask the guy who pickpocketed me in Jerusalem. I got my wallet back-- and the contents in their entirety.

Addendum: Turns out I was reported by "a guy who was walking by and saw 8-10 children in (my) front yard." You've got to be kidding me. And I got a personal apology from one of the Association employees, which was rather unexpected.

Wednesday, September 24, 2008


Little did I know that there were items in my house just waiting to be Freecycled. After familiarizing myself with the set-up, I posted a couple random things on the website. SNAP! People jumped on my stuff! How did that happen? I got rid of a baby gate that I hadn't used in forever. Some toddler feeding supplies. Unused photo albums that had been sitting in a closet...

I gleefully combed the house with Freecycling in mind. This was like free therapy! Posted those nursing blouses hiding in a bin and BAM! Four hours later they were gone from my house. It was a virtual exodus of still-useable-but-not-to-me stuff. I felt lighter, empowered. I also gained an insight into my father's psyche.

My dad is a MAJOR pack-rat. I used to tease him but I finally realized one day how much it bugged him. For example, he keeps stacks of magazines for years, just in case there's something in there he'll want to read again. He can't help it. And I could never explain it. Lazy? No. Obsessive-compulsive? Not quite. There's something else going on... and I figured it out!

This stuff is still useful! It kills him to think that his stash could end up in a dump when someone... somewhere... just might be able to use it again. He's a born Freecycler, he just hasn't found his place yet. I'll convert him someday. First, though I need to find someone out there who would actually be interested in Car & Driver magazines from 1988. Any takers?

Thursday, September 18, 2008


So I have this delightful neighbor who is a self-described humanist. Rarely have I come across a more unique personality-- down-to-earth, all-accepting despite her small-town upbringing, a hippie born a generation too late. She and I are very different in so many ways. Yet among our close-knit neighbors, we seem to be kindred spirits. She once called me her Zen friend. For the purposes of this blog, I shall call her Hippie.

Hippie and I share an affinity for things enviro-conscious, especially recycling. She introduced me to Freecycling, a Craig's List/town dump hybrid that's based on the idea that you don't have to toss everything once you're done with it. Heck, someone else might want it and be able to put it to good use! I logged on ( and was instantly hooked.

Get those rich CEOs of Pfizer and Astra-Zeneca on the line. I have found a non-invasive, drug-free, 100% effective cure for pack-rat-atosis with no side effects except that delightfully empty space in the corner. Squee! I've also discovered a way to exorcise my demons (minus the priest and all that creepy stuff.) Thank you, Hippie. You've restored my faith in my ability to bring order to the universe.