Monday, August 31, 2009

Movie Madness - Taking Woodstock

Peace, Man! I was born too late for Woodstock and even though sometimes I think that I would have fit right in to the whole sex, drugs and rock 'n roll culture, it probably wasn't for me. We had our own fun in the 80s with a whole lot less mud. But the movie was good, even though it was really more of a coming-of-age film about a boy, rather than the music fest that the Movie Madness Mavens (even including a true blue Deadhead) were looking for. The direction and acting and the 60s feel were incredible and the great universal parent/child drama was hilarious. But now I want more. I want to hear the music. I want to see the people. I want to know what it was really like to be there. I want to try some acid. Well, actually, a soy chai sounds pretty good right now.

Sunday, August 30, 2009

No comment

I've been getting some complaints from some fans about not being able to leave comments. I spoke to my IT guy (it's me, okay, I'm talking to myself again) and I'm pretty sure the problem is now fixed. So comment away...

Saturday, August 29, 2009

Good Eats

The guy can cook. Shawn sent me to the store for some wine and cream and mushrooms. He didn't ask for an onion but I came this close to buying him one anyway, but what do I know about cooking, so I walked right past. When I got home he asked if i bought him an onion. Oh well. The master went on to create one of his finest dishes. Here goes - he sautéed spinach in wine and butter and some s and p, took some crimini mushrooms and cooked in heavy cream and saffron and cayenne pepper and white wine, reduced to a golden, reddish brown, then the cauliflower - steamed with rosemary, thyme and cinnamon, chopped, then finished in a skillet with evoo (extra virgin olive oil for you beginners) butter and curry - layered together in ramekins: mushrooms on the bottom, layer of spinach, layer of garlic, layer of Havarti cheese, then, finally the curried cauliflower. Splashed with more wine before baking in a water bath. All I can say is OMG, yum. Can you say I'm lucky? Lucky.

Lipstick Call

Last minute lipstick call with the girls, rounded up the troops for a little kitchen table pow wow to catch up on all the goings on. There were fistfights at the Dex training, a just in time booty call from an ex, intervention with a pushin-the-limits seventeen year old, an adorable petite ya ya taking in every word and oh, so much more. But nothing that some wine, women and song can't fix.

Friday, August 28, 2009

Hot Date

The email said - 75% off summer sale at frances vintage. That's all it took to drag me all the way across town in 113 degrees. I lured Shawn with the promise of a hot date, some tapas at Lola's while we were out that way. I perused the adorable funky store while Mr. Metrosexual got lost in the lotions, potions and soy candles. Of course we found nothing on sale, but you should check it out anyway We carried our meltable new purchases from the hot, hot, hot car into so incredibly cool and hip Lola's for some yummy tapas - crusty bread and olive oil, garbanzo beans with tons of garlic and spinach, steak stuffed with chunky blue cheese, tomatoes filled with nuts and cheese and more, more, more as the sangria with peaches and oranges and lemons and a big cinnamon stick kept coming. We listened to some great tunes and hung out with the cool people of Phoenix for a spontaneous Hot Date Night.


After watching a couple of movies lately where the nicknames were flying, I realized that my typical "Honey" term of endearment just doesn't cut it anymore. I need to expand, beef it up, sweeten the pot. So far I've got: Sugah, Sugarplum, Buttercup, Pooh Bear, Sport, Cowboy, Muffincakes (better than Muffintop), Doll, Dollface, Honey Bunny, Pumkie, Big Guy, Baby, Babycakes, Bud. My adorable Cowboy and Sugarplum at home are loving it. So I'll keep adding and mixing it up. You can't live by Honey alone. Well, some of us can't.

No whining, right?

It's hot out there. Officially we're in the middle of a three day heat warning. The very young and old are supposed to stay inside or they will die. Die. But the rest of us are allowed out. We can handle it, especially those of us that have committed not to complain. No whining all summer. Focus on the positives. The positives. It's getting harder. My car battery died last week. Shana's did the week before. My water bill has doubled just so I can keep my plants alive and you should see my pool noodles. Pathetic. I'm starting to get a little cranky. I think it's the humidity - makes it feel so much hotter. But the positives, the positives. At least the humidity drops the temp to below 100 at night, we've even been seeing some 80s, practically sweater weather and the pool is now back to swimmable again after being bath water for months. Pool noodles are cheap, there's a good one. August is almost over - three more days. September just sounds cooler, doesn't it?

Thursday, August 27, 2009

Oui Oui Oui!

Some of the girls almost cried when Tapino's closed. It was so swanky. So cool. So close. So cheap. Just so. We went a lot. Loved the happy hours. Loved the food. The patio seemed so European, even though we were separated from a parking lot by just some thin red drapes. So when we heard that the place closed the only thing that kept us from total meltdown was that the chef was going to try it again, soon, he promised. So this week he opened an adorable French country place in the middle of the big city (well, does Scottsdale really count as a big city?) In honor of our little Maddie's upcoming trip back home to Holland then on to France with her still new hubby, we stopped by Petite Maison (just south of Camelback and Scottsdale Rds). Wow! The food! The wine! The decor (we've already stolen some ideas)! The great service! They let us hog a big table for hours and hours as we contemplated our place in the world - always easier with chocolate creme brulee!

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

There's Something About Mary

I kept telling myself that it didn’t mean anything. It wasn’t what it looked like. But I felt so guilty all week. It was like I cheated on Mary. And after all she’s done for me. She lights candles and plays cool music. She’s soft-spoken when she teaches me about important things like pressure points and power and breathing and my meridians. She even reads me poetry. Here’s the one from last night:


Nothing to wall out

Or hold in.

Open like the

wide sky at twilight.

Open as the ocean

or the reach

of the unknown.

Open as a heart

That chooses

not to close.

~Danna Faulds

Incredible, right? Oh, and did I mention that she's beautiful, too? She looks kind of like Barbara "You Can Eat Crackers In My Bed Anytime" Mandrell.

So, what happened? It’s not like I’m doing yoga every day. It’s not like I can’t wait until her next weekly class. I can’t even remember the last time I actually went two weeks in a row. I get busy. It’s a long drive. It’s sort of on a bad night. And, to tell the truth, maybe the romance faded a bit in the summer. It was so hot and so bright. It required more effort to roll up my mat and trudge out in the afternoon heat, only to finish class and be greeted by the same blaring sun that was there when I went in. I yearned for the old days when we first met. The days when yoga was dark, cool. I kept missing more and more classes. There were vacation days and three day weekends that lopped over on to Tuesdays. And even Mary took some summer time off, just so you know, it wasn't all my fault.

So when I found myself in an everybody-is-still-sleeping-quiet house on Saturday morning and glanced at the gym schedule, I saw it. Gentle Yoga - 8:30. Well, that sounded good. Not too hot. Sort of ease into the weekend. Just down the street. It’s not in the church where Mary teaches. There’s no sanctuary. There’s no actual God involved, but 8:30 Gentle Yoga tempted me.

The minute I sat down, I knew I made a mistake. We were crowded into rows, packed like sardines (sorry for the cliche, but it's what came to mind as my arm had to choose between hitting the hard spinning bike on my left or the softer, but probably more annoyable lady on my right). We were next door to the 8:00 aerobics class for the people who don't seem to get to the gym all week and try to burn all of the calories at once, led by the lady with the headset microphone, screaming and a one...and a two...push it, push it, PUSH IT! So much for the gentle part.

Then the teacher walked in. Her name was Susie. Susie. Little Miss Susie Sunshine with her high-pitched voice and her florescent orange leggings. Her voice was so screeching, I thought way back to another Saturday morning activity. Remember Saturday morning cartoons? Pre-Nickelodeon and the 24/7 Disney Channel when you had to actually wait for the weekend to watch. All the other days you were stuck with Sesame Street and Mr. Roger's Neighborhood, but come Saturday you could let it rip. You were allowed to sit there for hours. That was Susie's voice.

She led us through a pretty mundane, rote routine, frequently forgetting the name of the body part she was trying to verbalize. I spent a lot of time finishing her sentences in my head "LEG, okay, it's a LEG!" I couldn't wait for the whole thing to be done. I looked up at the clock and it was 9:29 and we were still huffing and puffing. I thought that maybe the schedule was wrong. Maybe the class goes an extra fifteen minutes, giving us a bit of time to cool off, reflect. But right then, Susie Sunshine told us all to lay down, and said, okay, breatheinhaleexhaleloveyourselfloveeachotherpeaceintheworlddon'tforgettovolunteerandstopthinkingnegativethoughtsandwe'redone. Thanks, everybody. No. Thank you, Susie. I want my Mary. I want to hear her little bell at the end of class. So nothing long-term about Susie. It was just a Saturday morning quickie. Next week I'll go back to my regular elliptical machine and just smile at Susie as I walk by.

I hate to be overdramatic, but last night it even seemed like I got a reward for my self-imposed lesson. It felt like the earth shifted a bit since the last class. The sun was going down as I walked outside after an amazing class with Mary and her cool yogis, no more glare. I looked up at Camelback Mountain, gorgeous turning purple Echo Canyon and said, "See you next week."

Upcoming Movie Madness - Paper Heart

Upcoming Movie Madness - MONDAY August 31 at CAMELVIEW at 11:15

I pre-screened film with Shana and Jordan, but now the rest of you need to see it. Paper Heart - adorable documentary about a girl that doesn't think that loves exists...until she finds it right in front of us. She traveled the country (even venturing to Canada and France) to find out what love is, finding lots of definitions from the spark to evolution to chemistry to the brain vs. the heart. There was one lady that edits romance novels and described something called H.E.A. (happily ever after). So go see it, you may learn something. Plus, it's a lot cheaper than marriage counseling.

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

The Bike Path

Shana was practically hyperventilating. I NEED A BIKE!!! (She has a bike in the garage in Scottsdale) I can't go on like this! (it's day two of school and she told me that she got a ride both ways, both days, even though I checked out her debit card and saw a $6 parking garage charge). I told her last week to look at all of her options. Map out the classes. Look at the routes for the Cat Tran and the Sun Tran and whatever other "tran" they have. Stay calm. You live one mile away from school. You have your car. You only have two classes a day. BUT I NEED A BIKE! So the kid was in a bike store checking out the brand new, adorable, shiny bikes (shouldn't she be studying?). I said, first of all, you are never going to ride that bike, Shana. Come on, admit it. You'll ride it to school once, then miraculously figure out a less sweaty way to get there (the map out the classes, map out the "tran" speech will finally sink in). So, I'm not going to buy you something with all of the bells and whistles that is just itching to get stolen. Okay? Breathe. Calm down. There must be a bulletin board with bikes on it. Check Craigslist. She sighed. But, Mom. So, of course, I checked Craigslist and within 30 seconds found an adorable beach cruiser, great shape for $100 bucks, right by school. Shana called, offered $80 (my idea) and now she is the proud owner of a bike. A bike she'll never ride.

Maybe I'll post it back on Craigslist. I bet I can get $100 for it.

Im my blog

Laura showed up to Movie Madness with not only a
guy (her adorable husband who ditched his ortho day job) but with a great t-shirt. Love it!

I'm busy......


Twelve Steps

My Mom's in rehab. Well, not
that kind of rehab. She's in the old fashioned kind, actual rehabilitation to make sure her new knee works, not the other revolving door, oh I'm so cool I'm in rehab, rehab. In this place the drugs flow freely and the only twelve steps she takes are in a walker with some physical therapist right behind her, ready to grab her if she wobbles.

Monday, August 24, 2009

The New Math

U of A - 1st day of school

1 book + 1 book = 200 dollars

Sunday, August 23, 2009

What would you do if you had nothing to do?

What would you do if you had nothing to do? Shana up and left and now there seems to be a big space in my day, an open window of time, a huge chunk of white on the calendar where she used to be. So what am I supposed to do today? Be a mom? Nope. I could go to work and try to bring down the pile on my desk. I've got piles at my house, too. How about the laundry? I could go visit my mom again to check on her new knee. I could try to write something pithy. My car looks like my closest and could definitely use some attention. I could water the plants, but didn't it finally rain yesterday? But, that can all wait for tomorrow. So, really, I've got nothing to do today. Except the one thing I can't seem to put off anymore. I pushed #3 on my speed dial and called Shana.

Upcoming Movie Madness - ADAM

How about a little love story? Meet the gang on MONDAY, August 24th at CAMELVIEW at 2:00pm to see Adam.
Kiss, kiss

Saturday, August 22, 2009

The Big Guy

Noah is getting ready to head off to college, head way out east to attend Dickinson College in Pennsylvania. Whoa, those first eighteen years just fly by, don't they? So we thought a little hang out time over here was called for. A little dose of Shawn and Lisa. A little food and non-alcoholic beer. A little X-Box. A little ichat view of Shana's new college room to give him a taste of life away from home. And then some more food (those teen-age boys can eat, eat, eat) out in the cold and downpour-rainy Scottsdale night.

Lipstick Call

The girls and I were trying to come up with a little code, a word, a phrase, something, anything that would force us to get up, get out and gather together in the worst of times, the times when it's easier to stay away. I think we settled on Lipstick Call - the call you need to take, the one you can't ignore since your sisters are the ones that may mean the most in the end. So tonight we found the perfect new place in the 'hood, ( our own little Cheers-like joint where everybody definitely knows our names and knows where we're from (like co-owner Paul from Boston and adorable bartender, Michael, that changed our lives forever with his margaritas with his Russian, Romanian and Egyptian roots, to local girls Lisa and Louise, to Jo from Omaha to the girl from Minneapolis where they must teach you how to put the happy in Happy Hour, Laurel). Now they know what we drink, how we like it (a couple of ice cubes never hurt anything) and maybe most importantly, just how salty we are. Salty enough to hang up on a Lipstick Call? No way.

Thursday, August 20, 2009

This one's for you, Dad


by Shel Silverstein

Sarah Cynthia Sylvia Stout would not take the garbage out. She'd wash the dishes and scrub the pans cook the yams and spice the hams, and though her parents would scream and shout, she simply would not take the garbage out. And so it piled up to the ceiling:Coffee grounds, potato peelings, brown bananas and rotten peas, chunks of sour cottage cheese. It filled the can, it covered the floor, it cracked the windows and blocked the door, with bacon rinds and chicken bones,drippy ends of ice cream cones, prune pits, peach pits, orange peels, gloppy glumps of cold oatmeal, pizza crusts and withered greens, soggy beans, and tangerines, crusts of black-burned buttered toast, grisly bits of beefy roast.The garbage rolled on down the halls, it raised the roof, it broke the walls, I mean, greasy napkins, cookie crumbs, blobs of gooey bubble gum, cellophane from old bologna, rubbery, blubbery macaroni, peanut butter, caked and dry, curdled milk, and crusts of pie, rotting melons, dried-up mustard, eggshells mixed with lemon custard, cold French fries and rancid meat, yellow lumps of Cream of Wheat. At last the garbage reached so high that finally it touched the sky, and none of her friends would come to play, and all of her neighbors moved away; and finally, Sarah Cynthia Stout said, "Okay, I'll take the garbage out!"But then, of course it was too late, the garbage reached across the state, From New York to the Golden Gate; and there in the garbage she did hate poor Sarah met an awful fate that I cannot right now relate because the hour is much too late but children (and Dads), remember Sarah Stout, and always take the garbage out.

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Circle of Life

And then there were two. Well...not so fast. Shana hit the road to Tucson this morning, sophomore year in college here she comes. We had a great summer, lots of travel - saw so many new countries and some of the same old summer stomping grounds, a month of Leadership Workshop, plus lots of movies and hanging around lazy days, too. I wasn't ready for her to leave. It came up so fast. I still want to worry and help and advise and crack up. I still want to mother. But, careful what you wish for, because today I had to be Mom to my Mom before, during and after her knee replacement surgery following years of tennis and skiing and gardening and walking around in high heels. I was her eyes, ears and mouthpiece. I was her Power of Attorney and holder of the purse as she turned over the keys to the kingdom. All of the forms and the doctors and the nurses and the beeping and the making sure that the X got put on the right (the RIGHT, RIGHT, not the left) leg didn't give me much time to wallow about Shana, about the empty nest, about the "who am I now" thoughts, just happy to see her "here i am" text after finishing her drive down I-10. But then it hit me. As Shawn and I were walking out of the hospital, through the same doors we walked through 18 years ago with little two day old Shana, it all came back. She's gone. And then there were two.

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

The Perfect Afternoon

Ignorance is bliss. I've been trying to ignore the fact that Shana's going back to college all summer, happily enjoying having her around. Today we had the perfect afternoon - manis and pedis with Grandma, then home for a Gilmore Girls marathon. Hours and hours of summer girl fun, flipping through stupid magazines, hot stone leg massages, sparkly blue toes in honor of Shana even though she branched out and got fluorescent orange today and tons of Lorelei and Rory lessons from the freakishly close mother-daughter pair. Life was good. Everything was fine. I wasn't crying.

And then Shana said, "Wanna go to Office Max with me?"

Sunday, August 16, 2009

Movie Madness - Julie & Julia

In keeping with the food theme from our last movie (Food, Inc. - go see it, it will change your life - or maybe just the contents of your shopping cart), Movie Madness had a great turnout to see Meryl Streep in Julie & Julia. There are some super articles about the movie, Julia Child and the fabulous Nora Ephron in recent New Yorker and Vanity Fair magazines, if you want some extra credit. I loved the film. Books are always better than the movie, of course, but this one came close to portraying both women and all of their similarities very well. The food, the marriages, the stress, the food, and Paris (gorgeous, I'm moving) made us all so hungry we had to stroll next door to Pita Jungle and talk about all of our marriages and stress and eat, eat, eat! Bon Appetit!

Happy Birthday Jo!

What a wild crowd we had gathered for Jubulient Jo's fabulous birthday at Louise's Love Shack. Laurel did all the hard farm frau work in a funny hat complete with Food Network-worthy gourmet food cooking lesson while we sang and danced and ate and drank and Wii-d 'til dawn, well almost. No big "move the pool" revelations, except for the curious consistency that Jo has been attending the Chaparral Swim and Dive team practice sessions.

Saturday, August 15, 2009

Go Wildcats

The little Wildcat is heading back to school soon and the 'ol empty nest feeling is back. I talked to another mom in the same boat and she's going around with the "this time next week..." thoughts, too, proving that the second year is still hard. But, God, what a difference a year makes. Last August I had been crying for a year, noticing every "last" thing. This is the last football game, the last senior party, the last back-to-school night, the last trip to Target, the last slumber party (don't even ask me about Graduation). Tomorrow we're going to Tucson for the day to move Shana in to her first house. No more dorm room. No more security guards. No more RA to call (not that I ever did). She's going to be out there on her own for the first time. She put the cable bill in her name. She's working on a chore schedule with her housemates. She's packed up her room. The walls are bare. The moving truck is full.

Maybe I'll bring along some Kleenex just in case.

Thursday, August 13, 2009

To Pee Or Not To Pee

I've been on a lot of road trips this summer and it's required me to actually give some thought to the morning drinking process. I like to down two or three big glasses of water first thing in the morning to get it over with, then I'll usually add a cup of tea and pretty soon after that something full of caffeine and aspartame to get me through the rest of the am. But things change when there's a few hours in a car coming up and I'm not in control. Time to slow down. When I'm with Shawn, I just pray that we get low on gas, since he can make it from here to the Pacific without pulling over. Last week I was set to drive to Hawley Lake with Shana's group and I didn't know what to expect, where we were going, when we were going to stop, plus I had some girl that I had never met tagging along with me. This required some planning. I didn't want to look like a lightweight, a wimp, embarrass my child and maybe lose the bus I was supposed to be following. So I didn't drink anything all morning and cruised into Pinetop just in time. But for my latest trip to San Diego, I was in charge of the transportation. Car loaded with people, full tank of gas, radar detector plugged in, flying down I-8. My rules: drink if you must, but we're not peeing 'til Yuma.

Kissy Face

Okay, don't laugh, but it's mine and Shawn's 27th anniversary of our first kiss. 8/13/82. August senior year started. Friday the 13th. Hard to forget. I got home so late that night I got grounded.

It was totally worth it.

Oh Boy

Shana's an only child and we've always taken some other kid with us when we travel, makes life easier for everybody. But up until now, that other kid has always been a girl. We just got back from five days in San Diego with Jordan, the BF. He's been around awhile. Technically two years. That's an entire inseparable senior year in high school, two summers, and the whole first year in college, two hours away from home. There have been dozens of movies and dinners over here, but never before a non-stop you're really a part of the family now experience. But the kid passed. Sorry, girls.

Friday, August 7, 2009

The Beach Buffer

Off to San Diego. Mom. Sister. Daughter. And so we all don't kill each other, the daughter's boyfriend, Jordan, the buffer.


Can you feel it? I know it's still a million degrees out there, but it's Back-to-School time. Office Max is packed and the ghost town roads of Phoenix are filling up again. On my way to work this morning, I even got the flashing lights in the school zone. A little heads up. A reminder that Monday's the big day in the neighborhood. New backpacks, little lunch boxes, first day of school outfits. Flashing lights. Slow down. It all goes so fast.

Thursday, August 6, 2009

Four days in the woods with a bunch of kids

I just spent four days trapped in the woods with a bunch of kids and I'll never be the same.

The whole gang, muddied from Capture The Flag
Warriors Maddie and Megan
Partners in crime Shana and Wade
Shana and Super Forth Year Kristin

I've been around Workshop for Youth and Families ( for a long time, probably since Shana was around 11. She started with the one-day workshops, then did one or two week- long summer programs for several years. For the past three years, she's been volunteering as a Peer Leader (over 300 hours a year!) and has committed to one more year. It's always been hard to explain what exactly "Workshop" is. Here's the official mission statement "To foster personal leadership and resiliency in youth and families that inspire positive growth and change," but that doesn't do it justice. I tagged along for the finale of the year, a retreat up north at Hawley Lake where all of their hard work and lessons learned over the year bubble up into an amazing experience of playing and bonding and challenging each other to go farther, cross the line, dig deep and be stronger in order to reach their goals. We followed ancient rituals and applied them to our own lives. We learned about what it means to be a family and how hard that is to find. I joined girls with colorful wildflowers in their hair as we walked into a meadow to join a circle of sisterhood and I heard teenage boys express their true emotions, overcoming any fear. I watched a fierce Capture the Flag game, complete with intense team pride and lots of mud and I was there when the forth year Peer Leaders said good bye in an incredibly moving ceremony (I'm a big cryer as it is, but this pushed me over the edge). These kids (along with the one-of-a-kind Dr. Franny and her Leadership Team) have made so many connections over the years in a thousand different ways and I was amazed how the entire group came back together again one more time before getting back on the bus to head home, taking a part of each other with them until they meet again.

Tuesday, August 4, 2009

The tutu is open!

Guru yogi, Mary, led the class in the sanctuary tonight. I love it in there, so dark, so peaceful. The walls are brick, curved round in places and the ceiling sort of curves in and out, too, sometimes not connecting to the edge, giving an ocean-wavy, jelly fish feeling. She stretched us out, opened us up and even taught us a new way to breathe that cools the body (sort of make a “straw” with your tongue and suck in the air, exhale through your nose – cool, right?) Mary did some long, slow restorative poses since it’s so hot out (but I’m not complaining) and I think I was asleep when I heard the bell chiming me back to life. Well, maybe not all the way back to life, since as I was backing out of my parking space I forgot which way to turn the steering wheel in order to make the car go to the left. I figured it out and made my way down beautiful Lincoln Road into a gorgeous pink and purple sunset, moon rising.

peace is not a relationship of nations.

it is a condition of mind
brought about by a serenity of soul.
lasting peace can come only
to peaceful people.
~jawaharlal nehru

Sweat Lodge - another oldie, but goodie

I just spent four days bonding in the woods with Shana and her Leadership Workshop gang. I'm still processing and trying to find the right words to capture the incredible experience (plus, a lot of it was very hush, hush, so I can't reveal any of the secrets), but my own old sweat lodge experience comes to mind.

Sweat Lodge

I signed up for a sweat lodge ceremony at a swanky spa, figuring that even with our great group discount, I should probably tear myself away from the lovely pool for a bit of enrichment. I thought a little pow-wow out in the desert with my sister and some of my book club friends would be a cinch anyway. Compared to the other rock climbing or boot camp activities, it sounded like even a pudgy out of shape 40-something might be able to handle it. I was wrong.

The sweat lodge wasn’t lodge-like at all, more like the size of a washing machine. We were supposed to squeeze ten of us in, like a bunch of big-haired clowns into a VW Bug. At least there was no big hair in our crowd. No make-up, no underwire push-up Wonder bras, no deodorant, jewelry, glasses or even a bobby pin was allowed. We learned in our pre-sweat lodge training the day before that a bobby pin might singe our skin. That should have been my clue to head back to the pool, but I didn’t. So, clad in our cotton clothes and cotton Scrunchis, we piled in to the tiny womb-like tee pee in the 100-degree Tucson desert and took our last real breath for a long time.

One of our guides was a Native American whose ancestors taught him the ancient rituals passed on during thousands of sweat lodge ceremonies, including requiring him to fast for seven days before leading us. The rest of us had fasted, too, sort of. We skipped lunch. We had also given up alcohol for 24 hours, maybe not a huge sacrifice, but for my book club, otherwise known as a drinking club with a reading problem, it was a big step. Our other guide was a white guy with a different, much more macho past, but equally perceptive and spiritual. With his encouragement, he somehow eased the second thoughts I was having as the white tarp closed and the bright, cloudless sky disappeared.

Thick steam and the smell of burning sage filled the space as our guides poured water over the hot stones. They described the significance of East, West, North and South and the debt we owe to our ancestors as well as to future generations. The whole Circle of Life theme continued as the sound of our voices starting circling around and one by one we expressed our intentions, regrets and gratitude. We did the A ho Mitakuye o’yasin chant as we listened to ancient beliefs as well as to our own more modern sad stories. I felt pretty guilty as the descriptions of broken relationships, abuse, illness, addiction and loss floated around me, leaving me little room to bitch about my own charmed life.

The ceremony continued as we all turned into one puddle of sweat and tears in order to somehow purify, cleanse and start over in the tiny suffocating fort. I started to just sit silently and skip my turns, thinking that the circle would move along faster and hopefully get me out of the unbearable heat more quickly. It became clear that the lesson from this torture was that I could learn more from listening rather than my usual me me me approach. As the others prayed and as the air became thicker and thicker, my own non-religious but spiritual self started praying, as well, to whatever God we atheists are supposed to pray, to help me, too.

I tried to move a little, bending over deep because it was easier to breathe down low. It was pitch black and I poked the tips of my fingers behind me under the heavy tarp to feel some real air. The only thing keeping me from racing out of there, besides the searing hot stones four inches from my face, was that I didn’t want to be the first one to give up, knowing that if just one person escaped that inferno, it would somehow break the trance. I kept praying to God to get me out of there, getting more and more desperate, promising anything - to save the world, volunteer, exercise every day, stop eating high fructose corn syrup, anything, to just get out of there.

Three hours after going in, the thick white flap was opened. The glaring sun was gone, replaced by a cool, dark night. We all sort of silently drifted out and stood still, disoriented. I walked through the quiet desert back to reality and joined the other half of my book club, the superficial spa pigs that turned down the sweat lodge opportunity for some not quite the same eucalyptus massage instead. I tried to explain how it was the most meaningful and physically exhausting experience in my life. I tried to describe all of my new lofty aspirations. They all just said that my skin looked great, like I had just had a really good facial. My not yet cured me me me persona kept at it and tried to pass on the beautiful chant we learned - A ho Mitakuye o’yasin. I said it a couple of times, then slowed down for this already two glasses ahead of me group. “A ho, okay? A ho Mita…” All I heard was, “Did you just say ho? Who you calling a ho?”

I gave up and said, “Pass the wine.”

The Book Club

One of the other moms in my daughter, Shana’s, first grade class collects friends like she collects husbands, so when she invited me to her book club, I didn’t quite know what to expect. I had just finished graduate school and was sick of reading stuff with ten page long bibliographies, so when I met the eclectic, wild bunch, I knew they were perfect for me. That first meeting seems like just yesterday, but Shana’s heading off to college next year, so it’s been like, what, eleven years? Eleven times twelve months is 132, so that’s 132 books and we’re still going strong.

We cover everything from light and fluffy beach books to classics, biographies, and even a few Oprah selections, each one perfectly scrapbooked by our leader who is so organized that she alphabetizes her warrantees. Whenever somebody asks me what I’m reading I always say, “Well, we’re reading…” before I can stop myself. This month it’s Eat, Pray, Love, which, by the way, is amazing. We’ve argued for hours over which book to pick, we’ve tried voting and one time we even let one person select all the books for an entire year. That’ll never happen again.

The group has evolved over time - losing a few divas and gaining some more. Some people just couldn’t hang on and deal with all of our drama. After a particularly vicious hissy fit at 3:00am a few years back, we almost split up into two groups, one serious and one social, but thank God that blew over. So once a month I still race out of the house and yell, “I’m going to book club,” to my husband, Shawn, and Shana. They know that it’s my “me” time. I know that it’s a support group, marriage therapy, parenting class and career counseling all wrapped up into one.

After we read the book The Red Tent, I announced that Shana had just had her first period, so we gave her a Red Tent party. We surrounded the poor kid on a dark night out in the desert and read her poems and stories and told her things we wished somebody had told us when we were growing up. She was totally embarrassed, but as I looked around I saw the village you hear about that it takes to raise a child. The book club is my village and I love that Shana has seen me run around with this group of intelligent, creative women all these years.

One of the book clubbers, who recently left her short, bald husband and now jokes about the adorable cowboy she found on, calls us a drinking club with a reading problem and it’s true, we do like to have a good time. There have been trips to Mexico, Las Vegas, birthday lunches, a sock hop, Happy Hours, limo rides, Christmas tea at the Ritz, slumber parties, and even a male stripper named Bo. The main event, though, regardless of the book, is our monthly gathering around somebody’s table, pages flipping, candles burning, wine flowing and a chance to finally breathe.

The books are now a lot less important than the readers. We’ve been through a lot and our lives rival some of the more complicated characters that we study. For every book we’ve read, we’ve lived a real-life marriage, divorce, birth, cancer, adoption, or bad haircut. We don’t always fit in. We don’t always like each other. But we’ve made a connection and woven together so much of our lives that we could fill our own book.