I’ve got two stories, I wish were fiction, that I want to share with you this month. They are separated by ten years and nestled among many other similar stories; but these two stand out as: (1) amusing, (2) cautionary tales and (3) might make you feel better about your own parenting in comparison to mine.

And since I am dedicated to killing the icon of the perfect mother here it goes:

For my birthday this year I wanted to share my favorite restaurant of all time with my girls. I thought now that they were old enough, we could get dressed up, have a pleasant dinner with linen tablecloths, great food and I would enjoy a cleverly named cocktail.

The restaurant was crowded, the girls felt grown up in their fancy shoes and coats, and we sat down to begin what was to be a lovely time together. But halfway through dinner one of my daughters grabbed the other’s Ginger Ale. There was a tug of war, shouting and then time slowed down as one daughter wound up like Tyson and slapped the other daughter HARD across the face. I lost my shit.

I grabbed the slappy daughter by her arm, bared my teeth and shouted, “ Get out! Get out! Get out!” But I realized mid-shout … we were in a crowded restaurant … where was she supposed to go? So I improvised, “Get out … of … this restaurant … until you can … can come back in and behave yourself!” In stunned silence, my daughter got to her feet and wobbled in her high heels across the crowded restaurant and out the door.

After 10 minutes of silence, (it is possible the whole restaurant might have been silent, but I don’t know because I couldn’t hear anything over my rage and shame), my husband said, “Well … I guess I better go get her.” When they finally returned Bill said he found her walking down Highland Blvd. “Thirteen Year Old Found Wandering Down Busy Street in Hollywood in High Heels…!” Great; MOTHER OF THE YEAR!

My daughter sat back down at the table. “Sorry I ruined your birthday” she said sullenly, which really meant, “Sorry you are my mother … I hate you AND myself … but you more.”

Then I went home and was up all night – wracked with guilt.

Story two:

Flicka May NewsletterAbout 10 years ago a beautiful, cool actress, whom I admire, was doing a movie with Bill. She told me wonderful stories of taking her 3 year old to a hotel for a night. They would eat dinner, watch a movie, and snuggle in bed, just the two of them.

So I did it. My daughter, 4 at the time, was obsessed with Puff the Magic Dragon, so I spent two days and one night at a beachfront motel pretending to be a sad dragon and being bossed around by a toddler. I thought to myself, “This is good, this is BONDING. This will be something she remembers forever.” But this was NOT FUN FOR ME.

The night we returned home I was getting her ready for bath time, and she was giving me the usual tussle: didn’t want to get her hair wet, or wear PJ’s, or some such nonsense.

Now, I don’t think she will remember the motel on the beach, or the hours and hours of her mother being Puff, but she will remember my response to her bath time shenanigans:

“Are you f*cking kidding me!” I screamed, “You won’t get in the bath!! After I played f*cking Puff the Magic Dragon for two f*cking days! You have got to be f*cking kidding me.”

At this point my husband took over.

Now of course it’s okay to get pissed at your daughter for being a bona fide asshole on your birthday. It’s okay to get pissed at your kids at bedtime when they won’t do anything you ask. But it’s not okay to drop down into the beast within, bare my fangs and breathe annihilating fire. It’s not okay to turn Puff the Magic Dragon into a four letter word and beat them with it.

Two stories, ten years apart but same problem; my EXPECTATIONS keep clouding the reality of who I am.

I AM NOT an easy going MOM. This makes me disappointed in myself.
I AM NOT the Mom who can have a good time at a hotel with a toddler. This makes me sad for myself and for my daughter.
I AM NOT the Mom who can roll with the punches (literal and figurative) at my birthday dinner without wanting to kill. This makes me ashamed.

First, I need to know and accept who I am, thus opening up the space to become more of what I would like to be. I am sure these stories will end up seeping into some therapist’s couch as my girls try to unravel their own stories. But the element that makes these limitations poisonous for me is to pretend they are not true.

After 13 years of child rearing I now have empirical evidence:

Pretending = disaster, shame and damage.
Telling the truth = boundaries, love and transformation.

I am not the mother I wish I were, but that doesn’t mean by default I am a bad mother. That means I am a mother… it means I am a good enough mother.

I hope this has made you laugh and feel a little better about your own moments of insanity in parenting.

I would love to know two things:

1. Are you struggling with EXPECTATIONS?
2. Were those expectations created by pretending you could be something you are not?

Love,
Flicka

My knee jerk reaction to the world is, “No! Go away!”  I think that is why my favorite place to be is in bed with a cup of tea. I mean you can’t be more “in retreat” than not getting out of bed and losing yourself in a book.  But, as I wrote in January, I want to be “open for business,” and part of being open for business is saying “YES” to the universe when it beckons us.

I heard on the radio the other day, on the MOTH radio hour to be exact, a woman talking about the magical quality of saying “YES.” She said, “The thing I love about saying YES – is that where you start and where you end up can be two totally different places based on all the different things you say YES to.”

So here goes my journey of saying yes:

Back in October I was offered a tiny part in an action movie. Great!  Yes!  Except the part was so small it didn’t even have a name. I mean a part with no name! Am I that dead?  It didn’t pay much, but was shooting in Bavaria (I thought they meant Bolivia) and I would get to fly first class. Side note: it is possible I am a first class whore; excuse me, a whore for first class. I would fly to hell if my seat turned into a bed and they gave me champagne on takeoff.  And there were other perks: first of all – it made me find out where Bolivia is (I mean Bavaria) so it was educational, next I would get a lot of Frequent flyer miles so it would be enriching, and finally I would get to take my brother so it would be bonding. And what trumped all of that was, I want to be open for business.

I said, “YES.”

What The Flicka - Felicitations for April
The seduction of first class. Come on. I have a bed!

How “YES” turned out:

The first day on the set we broke for lunch and I dutifully got in line with my tray. I asked the caterer what was on the menu, expecting the usual movie fare, (chicken, fish, etc.)  And he replied, “Stag.”  …. Excuse me? “STAG!” he said much louder. I stuck with Bavarian yogurt, which, by the way, is delicious. Just because you say, “YES” doesn’t mean you have to eat, “YES.”

My brother and I stayed in a fancy hotel, I laughed till I cried with the brilliant actor, Victor Garber, and got to watch Jim Broadbent act. Educational again.


Here we are!

The crew was lovely, smart and funny. The director, who was Finnish, cracked dirty jokes behind the monitor and drew obscene cartoons on the back of his script. Pencil drawings of large hairy men scratching their large hairy balls. He was also kind and sweet. It was wonderful to work with him.

Feeling very adventurous, my brother and I rented a car and drove out to the countryside to visit crazy King Ludwig’s castle.

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Adventurous car renting.

There were several LONG lines to get tickets to Ludwig’s, and when we finally reached one of the counters I was recognized, “Lynette!” All the sales ladies promptly shut their windows and hustled me into the back for pictures. Now, if this had been New York City there would have been a minor riot, or at least some serious fucking swear words thrown around. But in Bavaria, everyone waited patiently and politely for the impromptu photo shoot to be over. We got lost driving back to the city and watched German women herd cows on bicycles.


Never seen this before.

Next NO turned “YES.”

I was invited to be a part of a Forbes Executive Women’s Forum. It’s the brainchild of Moira Forbes (my new favorite person) and her pal Ellen Grasso – here is a link to check it out. The Forum is an informal, no press dinner where executive women come together to network and discuss key issues that are, “Keeping them awake at night.” At this particular dinner held in Silicon Valley, there were going to be the most accomplished women executives from Google, Adobe and Twitter to name just a few. What an honor! What a thrill! I would love to be a guest at that dinner … “YES!”   But then Moira Forbes called me personally to go over the details. The details? Oh…I wasn’t a guest I was THE KEY NOTE SPEAKER! Huh? They wanted me to be the … Keynote speaker?? Let’s go back a few sentences, the most accomplished women in Silicon Valley…and me.

I mean, what could I possibly talk about that these highly accomplished, corporate women would want to hear?

I wished desperately I had a checkered past and could talk about all the movie stars I had crazy sex with, how Hugh Hefner once did bumps of cocaine off my stomach, or how a Dubai prince dropped diamonds in my martini one year at the Golden Globes.

So, while I was trying to figure out how to say NO to Moira, I remembered my desire to be open for business.

Then, I was terrified. I worried, wrote, fretted and was nauseous for weeks. I so regretted saying, “YES.” I envisioned catastrophe. “And now Ladies, please welcome, straight from an action movie where she played blond woman #2, Felicity Huffman!”


Coolest chick, Moira, looks poised… I look scared.

But in the cab on my way from the airport to the dinner, I suddenly thought, “Hey wait a second – they invited me! I am not responsible for how this night turns out. I am responsible for saying, ‘YES.’ I am responsible for working hard, being prepared and …bringing what I bring! If they wanted somebody more interesting … then invite someone more interesting.”

So I talked about mothers and mothering. It’s common experience.  Everyone has one or is one. During the evening everyone engaged, shared and listened. Except for one woman, a former therapist. She didn’t listen to anyone and just gave pronouncements – she was a pain.

There have been several more journeys’ but these were the big ones. In all of them I ended up somewhere completely different by saying, “YES.”  I now have new heroes: Moira Forbes and Ellen Grasso.


With Ellen…a little more relaxed.

I had an adventure with my beloved brother. (I think our last adventure was when he sat on my chest and spit in my face to keep me from going to a birthday party. I finally escaped and threw all of my Mother’s kitchen knives at him. We got in so much trouble we ran away).

Is there anything the world is inviting you to do? Something that your first reaction to is, “No” or “It’s too scary” or “I could never do that?”  Have you said, “YES.” Have you said, “NO.”

Let me know, I want to hear.

Enough of “YES.”  I am going to go read in bed.

Love,

Flicka

Many of my favorite things began in March: my Husband, the invention of shoelaces, the motion picture machine, and What The Flicka. Happy Birthday. We are two years old this month. (Shit, we are now a toddler, batten down the hatches and reach for the Xanax!) But before we light the candles and make a wish, I have a little tradition to share with you. The brilliant writer, director Lee Rose taught me this for birthday dinners:

First, the guests each say what they love and cherish about the birthday gal or guy. Second they say what they wish for them in the coming year. It’s a fantastic ritual and makes the celebration meaningful.

Part One: Here is what I love and cherish about What The Flicka.

1. Luigi Picarazzi, who started What The Flicka with me, keeps believing in it’s viability and sets his eye on the horizon.

2. Melody Hernandez, who is the inspired engine behind What The Flicka, 24/7.

Mel

3. That our community is courageous and truthful and fucking funny.

4. That we don’t take ourselves too seriously, but seriously take on the task of parenting day to day.

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5. That we know that much of Motherhood is boring and mundane, but being in relationship with your children means you have to be in the middle of the boring and mundane. And we are interested in each other’s stories anyway.

6. I love that What The Flicka challenges me and scares me and takes me out of my comfort zone daily. I also hate this – but I love it more.

7. That we have created a safe place for parents to tell the good, the bad, and the ugly.

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8. That we offer a judgment free zone.

9. That we get letters from readers around the world, Turkey, France, Ireland, etc. And that despite coming from different countries and different cultures we all speak the same language of Motherhood.

Thank You

 

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Part Two: Wishes for the coming year.

I reached out to some  smart women who have written brilliant works dealing with motherhood: Kelleen Patricia Forlizzi, Meredith Michaels and Susan Douglas to name a few. I pondered, I wrote, I rewrote, and distilled. Here is my wish list for What The Flicka on our second anniversary.

1. That we continue to laugh and be brave and be honest.

2. That we don’t apologize or feel ashamed of ANYTHING WE EXPERIENCE!

3. That we continue to seek advice and learn from each other.

4. That we don’t allow cell phones at the dinner table or in the car.

5. That all the “vs.” stop.  You know, breast-fed vs. bottle-fed, Sleep training vs. family bed, working mom vs. stay at home mom.  I say if our kids are alive and decent citizens at 18 we all deserve a fucking medal.

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6. And while we are at it, that the term “working mother” becomes as comical and redundant as “working father.” Come on! All mothers work, no matter where, no matter what.

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7. That we release each other, and ourselves, from the idea of the “Perfect Mother.” She should go the way of the dinosaur; extinct and lost in the myths of time .

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8. That we all cry “bullshit” on the publicity surrounding motherhood. That it,  “just comes naturally to good (read perfect) mothers.” So, it’s not really work or difficult, nor does it require self-sacrifice.

9. That we stop being taken in by that cool hat trick where Motherhood is idealized and devalued at the same time.

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10. That we give up the notion that a “good mother” loves being a mother every day.

11. That we are able to say, “ My kids are driving me crazy! I hate this.” Without having to follow it up with, “I mean love my kids – they are the best thing in my life.”

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It’s going to be a wonderful year. I can’t wait to see what we do and who we are by the time our third year comes around. Let me know what you appreciate and what you wish for What The Flicka.

Okay, that’s it. Blow out the candles – lets have some cake.

Love,

Flicka

In the spirit of perversity, in much the same way I always want to laugh in church or when people fall down, I want to make room for a little darkness in this chocolate and heart filled month. I want to talk about the “Hate Sweep.”

Many years ago, an actor introduced me to this concept. It was something he and his wife would do whenever they got their panties in a wad. One of them would call out loudly “Hate Sweep” and they would embrace the bad.

My husband and I now indulge. When one of us belongs in a garbage can, we call out “Hate Sweep” and list all the shit we hate – out loud. Somehow, by embracing the ridiculous things that have us all twisted up, we are able to move off impotent rage and into laughter. Our daughters are entering into the teenage years, and sometimes instead of trying to talk them out of a grump, or yelling at them for being jerks, we have called out “Hate Sweep” and have just listened as they rant. It doesn’t always work, but it’s nice to have space for the crabbiness, and it can relieve the pressure.

But first, you have to be with people you trust and who get it. You don’t want them to say something like  “Hate is such a strong word,” or “But look at all the wonderful blessings in your life!” You need to be with someone who says, “Yeah, you go girl… what else?”  Bill and I seem to do it in the car when we are stuck in traffic …and lost… and late (happens almost weekly). You can do it alone, but for a really satisfying “Hate Sweep” you need a witness.

I give you my top 10 this month so you can see how petty and ridiculous the “Hate Sweep” can be:

1. I hate that my friend, Jill, will NEVER, NEVER pick up her home phone because she doesn’t believe in “being ruled by the telephone!” COME ON!! We are all ruled by the dumb-ass telephone! Get in the chain gang!

2. I hate that my friends, Peter and Jack, put their kids’ voices on their answering machine. Every time I call I have to listen to a seemingly endless echo of “goodbye, goodbye, goodbye, goodbye” in their high, giggling voices because their parents think it is cute!

3. I hate my stoooopid computer that suddenly refuses to work. It seems to be saying “Oh I’m too tired to print right now.”  Or “Hmm I forgot how to Skype.”  I AM ONLY WRITING POSTCARDS FROM NOW ON!

4. I hate that I have to start thinking about what to make for fucking dinner every day at fucking 3 o’clock in the afternoon!

5. I hate the directions to children’s “easy to assemble” toy.   My kids are crying, my husband and I are fighting, and I want to find this person, this person who wrote the damn thing and scream in their face, “Are you fucking kidding me! Why don’t YOU, ‘Simply insert part A into part C.’ And while you’re at it why don’t you just include the number to child protective services and divorce papers.”

6. I hate cookbook’s that say things like, “Peel the acorn squash carefully…” YOU peel the goddamned squash carefully – what does that even mean!! It’s like trying to peel a softball – it can’t be done! I want to climb through the cookbook and punch them in the boob.

7. I hate whoever came up with taking toddlers to Christmas plays. They should be banished to the lowest tier of hell where ALL you do is take toddlers to public events in hot clothes where they cry and have to go to the bathroom all the time.

8. I hate that woman who walks by Starbucks every time I am there with her little, dirty dog, Mitzi. She stands there calling weakly, “Come Mitzi, come Mitzi,” while her dog licks my leg and goes under tables trying to sniff everyone’s crotch.

9. I hate that I have to pretend to be on my phone as I walk into the supermarket because all the do-gooders are asking me to sign a petition to save the oranges or to stop cows from being bullied.

10. I hate hipster artisanal coffee shops that look at you like you just shat in their mouth when you forget where you are and order a half-caf, venti, sugar free, vanilla latte.

Of course, I admit, a “Hate Sweep” is when I am in the jaws of insecurity, powerlessness, and fear. All three of which quickly morph into rage, at least for me. But, jumping in with both feet is somehow therapeutic, and I can leave all the absurdity behind and move on.

If this has offended, then just use it as a benchmark, “At least I’m not as bad as Felicity.”  Let me be your friend who laughs in church, gets scolded, and sent outside. You can be relieved you’re not me.

But, just in case you want to pretend we are in the car together driving from Hollywood to Santa Monica (this 10 mile drive can take up to 2 hours) and you need a good vent, let me hear it. Only the ridiculous, no cruelty please, remember we are all God’s children just trying to get to where we need to go.

Happy Valentine’s Day Month, eat some chocolate for me.

Love,

Flicka

 

 

 

My mother sent me every self-help book there ever was, the good ones too; Women Who Run With the Wolves, Trapped in the Mirror, The Undiscovered Self, Intimacy with God, etc.

I kept them.

I put them on my nightstand.

I never read them.

Sometimes, as I did with my high school science textbooks, I’d put them under my pillow in hopes that their wisdom would seep into my soul by virtue of their close proximity.

I almost flunked Science, and I can’t say I have made much spiritual progress.

But recently many people I love dearly have been dying and I have needed some wisdom from the ancients and the poets to guide me, give me comfort, and to ground myself in what is true.

So here are a few things that are helping me process death and in so doing are helping me process life, because right now they feel very intertwined. After all, part of being fully alive is being open to dying.

One of my friends keeps a small journal on which she has written, “Maranasati,” a Buddhist concept and practice, which translates as “mindful dying” or “mindfulness in death.” From this journal she shared this Haiku poem by Ensei on dying with me:

How leisurely the cherry
Blossoms bloom this year, unhurried
By their doom

“Unhurried by their doom.” Yes, that’s me, going about my short life, doing what I do, blooming and knowing that death is right around the corner.

As one of my sisters would say to me, “Uh duh now, Flicka, what did you think was happening?” I know, I know, but my face feels pressed up hard against the seeming paradox that as we are living, we are dying.

Mary Oliver has a poem called “When Death Comes,” which sums up how I want to live and how I want to die:

When it’s over, I want to say: all my life
I was a bride married to amazement.
I was a bridegroom, taking the world into my arms.
When it’s over, I don’t want to wonder
if I have made of my life something particular, and real.
I don’t want to find myself sighing and frightened
or full of argument.
I don’t want to end up simply having visited this world.

Reality check:

I am not married to amazement in my everyday life- AT ALL. I am married to fear, also panic, also anger. It’s kind of an unhealthy ménage à trois. But wouldn’t that be great – to be MARRIED TO AMAZEMENT?

And finally, my Mother took great comfort and courage in her belief in life after death. I don’t know if it’s true, that life is eternal, but here follows a piece read at a powerful memorial service. It is a poem written by Henry Holland, Canon of St. Paul’s Cathedral 1847 – 1918:

Death is nothing at all.
I have only slipped away to the next room.
I am I and you are you.
Whatever we were to each other,
That, we still are.

Call me by my old familiar name.
Speak to me in the easy way
which you always used.
Put no difference into your tone.
Wear no forced air of solemnity or sorrow.

Laugh as we always laughed
at the little jokes we enjoyed together.
Play, smile, think of me. Pray for me.
Let my name be ever the household word
that it always was.
Let it be spoken without effect.
Without the trace of a shadow on it.

Life means all that it ever meant.
It is the same that it ever was.
There is absolute unbroken continuity.
Why should I be out of mind
because I am out of sight?

I am but waiting for you.
For an interval.
Somewhere. Very near.
Just around the corner.

All is well.

I love that, “All is well.” Or as my husband, the eternal optimist says, “All is swell!”

Anne Lamott, whom I love and revere, writes, “Astonishing material and revelation appear in our lives all the time. Let it be. Unto us, so much is given. We just have to be open for business.”

In this New Year I want to be open for business. I really do.

So I wanted to ask the WTF community what guidance has been helpful to you; poems, narratives, psalms or books?

If you are willing to share (cause it is kind of scary to admit what helps us) please let me know. I could use the help right now. I promise to really read it and not just put it under my pillow.

May we all be open for business 2014.

Love and Happy New Year,
Flicka