When life overwhelms you, experts suggest:
— One thought at a time.
— One task at a time.
— One beer at a time.
OK, that last tip was mine. Hydration is vital, especially in the warmer months (January through December).
Similarly, I just ran across a new recipe for iced coffee:
- Have kids
- Make coffee
- Forget you have coffee
- Drink the coffee cold
Been reading a lot of old Calvin & Hobbes lately — my Leviticus, my user guide to life. From what I can tell, Calvin represents the id, and Hobbes the ego, if my understanding of Freudian psychoanalytics holds 45 years after sleeping through class. To be honest, I like impulsive people such as Calvin, the dolts who don’t think things through. Aren’t they fun? Want some? I’ll send Bittner right over. Or my lawyer, Billable Bob. There’s this one strip where Calvin is ticking off the things he doesn’t like: crumbs in the butter, skin on chocolate pudding, dried-out ketchup on the bottle rim. Hobbes weighs in with “excessively negative people.” My takeaway: Our little quirks define us. Flaws make us better friends. I also enjoy when a high sense of determination — or moral certitude — goes very wrong, as in politics, or those roadrunner cartoons. “Don’t quit before the miracle,” the great writer Anne Lamott once advised. When I first read that, I thought: “Wait, there are miracles? Can you order them online? Do they cost the same, big or small?” Personally, I’ve experienced only one actual miracle. Maybe I told you this? I was painting the ceiling in the kitchen, on an eight-foot ladder. I over extended and we all fell: me, the ladder, the bucket of paint, everything. In mid-air, I managed to snag the bucket of paint and land on my feet, not spilling a drop. That was the hand of God, obviously. He coptered me, in slow motion, back to Earth. You were probably figuring that I’d list my kids as miracles.
Honestly? Have you even met them?
Look, our grand plan was to buy a tiny house and fill it with books and kids, yet when we were done, we had more kids than books, and I could never find the road atlas that I liked to pull out on bad days to dream about going somewhere else — dear God, anywhere — to soothe my wanderlust and quixotic sense of adventure. I mean, young kids can be such an anchor, right? Especially the mouthy ones. They say your bookcase is an ancestral portrait, and by the time we finished decorating the house we had four kids and three books and no atlas … no ancestral portraits at all. I’d like to think the house at the time reflected the chaos of a young family’s life. Just heavenly. Every place you’d walk, you’d step on a Lego or a broken dream. By the way, two of our books were about breastfeeding, and other one was a book on wiring. Yet, an eternal spring fills my heart, to borrow from Victor Hugo. On that note, I took the grandbaby to breakfast the other day, at a modest little place in Santa Monica, where the pancakes and the bacon, plus a small glass of orange juice, ran me 35 bucks. That bought me an hour with the cheeriest person I know. I call her Cakes.
As breakfast dates go, I’d label it a sonnet — a moment within a moment. Suddenly I realized what everyone’s been saying: grandkids are our unexpected inheritance. At the little wrought iron table, I watched in abject horror as Cakes kept eating pads of butter and downed three slices of bacon, which she triple-dipped in the butter, then the syrup, then winked at me like a bank robber on Christmas Eve. In L.A., everyone is a bossy nutritionist, so almost everybody would suggest that pads of butter are not a healthy side dish for a 2-year-old. Yet, I would argue that if you smear it all over your pancakes does that make butter any better for you? Not actually. Besides, as Steven Wright once said, “You can train cats to do anything they want to.” Same goes for toddlers. Plus, at the pediatrician’s office the other day, Cakes registered in the 3 percentile on weight, which means she weighs as much as this comma, or that sparrow in the tree. She weighs as much as a passing thought, a sudden urge, a broken promise … a puppy’s kiss, that penny in your pocket. “Should we be worried?” her mother asked. No, the doctor said. She’s perfect. Well, I don’t know. She’s a little headstrong when it comes to dairy. And she’s got some funky ideas about breakfast: Essentially, she doesn’t like pancakes, even this stack of pillows that cost me 35 bucks. Which really isn’t bad, when you think about it. Not these days anyway. Not for what you get.
For past columns, go to Chris- ErskineLA.com. Email the author at Letters@ChrisErskineLA.com.
First published in the May 18 print issue of the Pasadena Outlook.