Friday, November 17, 2017

On Being

I don't know when exactly I let go of the idea that I was worth slow or idle time. In college, and even after Arlo, I was never one to skimp on a midday nap if I needed it. I loved quiet afternoons spent reading. Or wandering around town alone. Without even a destination in mind. I took solace in being by myself. Peace inside those rather aimless pursuits pre kids where I felt fine about doing nothing at all. 

But these days I can't possibly fathom entertaining such loose freedoms.

It's something I've been thinking about a lot recently, particularly how much energy I invest in regretting intentions I have that either fall flat, or go unchecked entirely. Obsessing over the things I fail to get done on a weekly basis, wondering when the pressing need to get it "all" done was ever allowed to override the natural script of my internal monologue in the first place, directing my mood, dividing my outlook. All the time and energy I lend to such fruitless attempts aimed at recounting, revisiting, replaying my failures on days when I feel like I'm just plain losing the game. Hard and helplessly so. As if it were a game to loose in the first place. Tossing the fact of it over and over in my head like a mouse on a wheel on nights I can't sleep. And these days, for whatever reason, those nights seem more and more frequent. That feeling of weighing defeat that creeps in just enough to eclipse other (usually more valuable) moments that arrive bearing rightfully earned feelings of joy and lightness. As if they don't count enough to carve space in the narrative I keep. And I want to change that.

Mainly just how much my sea of thoughts come edged with guilt. I realized in examining this how much is linked to the constant presence of technology in my life now too. Where means of easy communication can never expire and tricks us into thinking we owe it our unhinged attention just because it's open and available 24 hours a day to us. I think about guilt attached to emails and texts I fail to answer in prompt time frames. The posts I neglect to tie up in the hour I could have managed to do so had I just been more focused. The deadlines I miss, the birthday wishes I put off - all piled atop the news I don't hear, the forgotten lunch left on the window sill I should have forced into his backpack before he left. The clothes I didn't return, the piles of papers I continue to avoid, the DMV apt I overlook, the recipes I loose, or wreck, or burn. The dog that doesn't go out for a walk on the afternoon hour that he should. The books I don't finish. The words I don't say. Promises I don't keep. All ill fated intentions scattered like broken bits of a better me conspiring to show me that I might -in so many ways - be doing it all wrong. Leaving me wondering when "it" really ever ends or is ever really "enough."

Because in the midst of all these sorely counted mishaps and underlying guilt I still cling to the innate notion of simply "being." Whatever shape that might take on a particular day, week, hour. Where I have to remind myself in this pressing quest to keep on top of it all I lie in danger or missing out on the slower good taking shape around me. The light in their eyes while they paint. The shadows on the wall talking through the morning light, the waves that roll in and out at my feet. Clouds drifting around the harbor in the evening. The good stuff. That stirs or inspires without any checklist to secure or reward to be counted.  

So in this this dilemma I decide the best I can do is be conscious of it. Talk myself away from the guilt when it gets to be too much, find a healthier balance online so I am not over run by the desire to get to another point before I've even embraced the one I'm in. Reminding myself that whatever task I leave unchecked I still wake to the new sun over the hillside in the morning peeking through the dull glint of an unwashed window pane where I lie silent beside a happy, bare chested three year old in the slow hour before the other boys wake. Where I stop and consider some of the things recently that still "count" because they made me feel something, other than "accomplished" - happy, proud, content. Yoga in the park that Tuesday before the flu set in. Notebook sketches with Rex at the dining room table while a canned chili sat heating on the stove. Misty mornings at the beach where the dogs ran wild and the boys stacked rocks. Coffee alone in old town mid week when the right song came on right hour just as the clouds parted above the sea. A train ride with a friend. Dinner -just us two - for his birthday without the disjointed conversations we're so use to during dinners out. Watching from my van as Rex and Arlo sliced around a concrete bowl till the lights went out and the crowd started to fade. A blanket on the sand early mornings we meet for surf club, just before sunrise. Baked vegetables piled atop grilled salmon that I master on a Friday when I have the time and intent to get it right. That long afternoon at the children's hospital where a sweet, frail girl named Mia sat wide eyed and grateful as I drew a string of long haired mermaids to decorate her bedside table while she waited to go home. Sunsets that light the sky on fire now that Fall is finally here and the tone of the horizon seems more than ready to boast about it. Naps with Hayes while they'e at school, when I give in the exhaustion I'm always trying to outrun. Hoping to escape the pause it puts on my schedule. Running, counting, checking, scrolling when I know good and well I should just be here enjoying it when and however it finds me.

For more on the beautiful message of "being"-  please head over to The Ma Books Here for a video that is sure to send it home.

With that,
Happy Friday.

Wednesday, November 8, 2017

On the Arroyo / A Pre Holiday Bazaar

If you guys are anywhere near this location and free this coming Sunday, please stop by and visit us at Office Party in Highland Park for the pre holiday bazaar I am co hosting with my dear friend Elizabeth in L.A. from 11 - 4 pm.

The space will be filled with a carefully curated selection of all the things (and people) we love most: Tees, vintage kid's clothing, teepees, and hand carved accessories from House Inhabit, as well as plenty of other handmade goods, clothing, gift boxes, vintage dresses, second hand loot, a live blue grass band, and so much more. Leon and Elodie will also be on hand selling baked goods at their own booth so come by, say hello, snag some goods and eat an muffin or two.

The event is filled with some of my very best friends so I can attest to the quality vibes happening on site all day long. And there will also be a kid's loom workshop hosted by the creator of Knit Wit magazine and a raffle to benefit East Side families this holiday season through Families Forward. With free entry, free hugs, free holiday spirit and cheer. So come shop, laugh, hang with us!


Tintypes by Anne Rivera

Morninglight Gift Studio
Babaa Knitwear
Untitled Rug
Paradise People
Sueno Shop
Roseview LA
Jamie Street Photo
Melissa Sonico

WHEN: Sunday Nov 12th, 2017 11am - 4pm
WHERE: Office Party (@officeparty) 
4514 N. Figueroa Los Angeles 90065

- Flyer artwork by Gabe Weiss

Scenes From a Weekend

Friendsgiving,  L.A

An evening spent in good lightning and better company at the house of our friends Lia and Felicia. Who host every year but somehow always on weekends I'm not able to make it. So it was quite an event for a first timer. Sans kids, with plenty of wine. And cheese. And creative vegan delights reminding me just how much these evenings count during points of unraveling social discontent and political divide currently clogging our psyche. To be among united hearts and easy joy in an intimate setting will shake you into feeling all the good stuff. Grateful and light again. Exactly what the holidays are all about. Because they are here. So let us hang on, get happy and enjoy every moment of them together.

Friday, November 3, 2017

The Center Will Not Hold, Getting to Know Joan

“Things fall apart; the centre cannot hold; / Mere anarchy is loosed upon the world” - Joan Didion, Slouching Towards Bethlemham 

I was 23 years old when I first discovered Joan Didion. My sophomore year in college, spending miserable hours as a disillusioned waitress at a steak house, tossing around the idea of making fiction writing a serious career goal, teetering on the edge of my own dramatic breakdown (as plenty of broke and overly anxious 23 year old women are prone to while trying to decide what it is you want to do with the rest of your life) when I read Play it As it Lays for a post modern literature class. I remember being struck by her cooly constructed prose, sliced, stacked, and loaded. And the sleek attractive woman on the book sleeve staring back at me. The woman with the untried blunt bob and a knack for exposing the dull evils inherit in every day life with the kind of ease we all tried so hard to pin down but could never quite master.

I read Joan and wanted to be like Joan. As a writer, a woman, a force to reckon with. Just like everyone who reads Joan. The more I came to learn about her the more I came to envy everything from her chic wardrobe selections, to the collected prose, to her ability to poignantly frame the ills of this state and all the confusions and contradictions that come attached to a dismal California mind frame. As she writes in the White Album "A place belongs forever to whoever claims it hardest, remembers it most obsessively, wrenches it from itself, shapes it, renders it, loves it so radically that he remakes it in his image." California, by all means, respectively (at times painstakingly) belongs to Joan Didion. 

It was all of these factors combined that prompted my initial crush. A crush I saw grow deeper and more enduring with time. If you read here regularly you know. Further evidence of it here now: as I'm sitting at the kitchen table on a rare sunny morning when I have a quiet house to myself, unearthing old video interviews and images of her Easter parties instead of tackling the practical to do list I have had sitting next to me on my desk mocking me all week long. Because her personal life has always proved as interesting to me as her professional. And because the plain fact of her as topic for this blog post justifies yet another excuse for an indulgent dive into the convenient ways of the web where one can easily flood such intrigue with endless images of someone like Joan. To confirm, yet again, why indeed our worship is valid. Video after video. Pin after pin proving she really is as cool as we suspect. And that she - before most - understood the lasting power of "persona." Carefully crafting an image along the way that took her out of the shadowy obscurity most writers happily exist in, to that of a sharply ambitious "IT Girl" of the 60s and 70s, draped with languid appeal around antique furniture in a Hollywood bungalow, chasing the hippy anarchy blooming amidst the streets of San Francisco armed with Italian silk and a leather notepad. Holding that blue eyed baby girl upon her lap in Malibu, looking wind swept and domestic on a wood lined deck in July, holding straight gaze into the lens as she leans into that shining Sting Ray for the shot that would forever define her as the rock star of the literary world. Cigarette pressed between two thin fingertips. Or my personal favorite, knee deep in good lighting, sans bra, skirt hitched to her thigh, face swallowed by the trademark shades in the black and white exposed film where she stood in waters of Hawaii. A period we know her to be infamously lingering on the brink of divorce.

Yet up until now most everything we've known about Joan Didion is only what Joan Didion wanted us to. That she was raised in Sacramento, found a love for sentence structure in copying Hemingway text on a type writer as a teen, she was an uneasy child riddled with fear of the unseen, looming catastrophes that might occur, a migraine sufferer in her later years, a self proclaimed perfectionist, gin drinker, rock fan, and stellar cook. The reason this new Netflix Documentary The Center Will Not Hold is such a big deal is that it offers us - finally - a more intimate glimpse into her outside of her written work. The past told from her point of view. Filmed and directed by her nephew, Griffin Dunne. Who, in defense of the stacked criticism aimed at his soft approach and easily flattering perspective, has openly admitted that this was never going to be anything other than a love note to his Aunt. So it goes. Once we get over the fact that the questions aren't as pressing (because they aren't) or evocative as they would have been coming from another film maker, it can be counted as one hell of a film. As he said, Joan would have never allowed that to happen in the first place. So what we get is what we get and for the most part it's utterly enthralling.

First off, because Joan is the kind of women who has never tried to hide behind the fact that she is anything but shrewdly brilliant. Poised, and studied almost to the point of boasting an underlying elitist air. And direct. But the off moments for me, make for the richest screen time. Seeing her paper thin frame shuffle around the halls of her grand New York loft, camera panning the sun faded family photos showing mostly lost loved ones lining the walls, the collection of old glass lanterns on her mantle, the art and the portraits crowding the space, the careful precision she takes in preparing the cucumber watercress sandwiches, her skeletal hands concentrated when not flailing in animated conversations as she relives the parties they hosted, the stories she chased, the holidays they claimed. It's in these moments that she lives up to every bit the enigma we love. One that she created. Where she is quick to laugh, without an ounce of insecurity behind it. But also reveals a seemingly discerning aspect of her nature - that of a journalist chasing the story, when Griffin asks what she thought of encountering the child high on acid and she describes it, after long pause, as "gold" when the rest of us are mulling over a hundred other phrases that allude more to disgust, disbelief, pity . . .

Her written words read in passages intertwined throughout the film lend a kind of ghostly charm to the storyline unfolding. It's where we are reminded of how effortlessly she speaks the universal language of grief. Better than anyone else I've ever read. Bleeding onto pages these dark and weighed feelings we all know, because we lived inside of them too with our own losses, but haven't the skill to arrange so eloquently. This alone makes us as readers, viewers, feelers, easily connected to her. To her voice and her vision. If only because we are familiar with the grief entombed in those sentences. Feelings that never had voice for us before. And surely the kind of skills that build a legacy as revered as hers.

What I also loved was the insight into her married life. Really in particular, seeing how much sense it makes being married to another writer. One who will essentially allow you the space you need to be as self absorbed as you need to be to thrive in that medium. No one will argue that good writing doesn't come without major self reflection, born only in long hours spent alone. A fact that would sit hard outside another kind of marriage I would imagine. Hearing her speak about them as a couple though revealed how much of their union was rooted in a mutual understanding of the craft they both relished. Without the competition there to taint it. That, and a serious respect for one another which is undeniable in hearing her recounts of their life together. Their marriage, inspiring in an entirely separate way outside of the work. But then again the whole Dunne family is another long time obsession of mine ignited while finding Dominick's work in Vanity Fair in my teens long before I knew of Joan. And who can forget the iconic photo of them all by Annie Lebowitz - Joan, Dominick, Griffin and John in solid stance for the shot. Looking as cooly "smart" as four humans can possibly manage.

As far as qualms go I have only one.  The same one I've held all along regarding her explanation of Quintanna's death. And what led to the progression of that eventual decline. Back in 2003 I bought tickets to hear her read from one of her essays at UCLA and was refunded shortly after when the event was cancelled due to Quintanna's fall. I remember the details being sketchy then and in later years the reasons behind her death remained fuzzy. Ranging from coma, to septic shock, to liver failure, to bird flue, and beyond. What I guess I find most disturbing is the lengths she seems to take to avoid what is most obvious to all those on the inside. That Quintanna died of alcoholism. That she drank herself to death and the ailments she suffered along the way were all linked to that addiction. "Addiction," being one word I've yet to ever hear Didion utter. In other reports it's noted that she appears to outwardly refuse this angle entirely. And I can't help wonder how a woman this enlightened can't find some kind of peace in accepting this as tragic fact to her daughter's eventual demise. Coming from a family plagued by addictions myself, I find it baffling as to why anyone of her sound intellect might work so hard to deny this, but I suppose these are the things that go unpressed the way she prefers.

For now, we'll just have to be content with what we got. An emotionally valuable film about our favorite aging It girl, who's sharp wit proves unwavering, chic bob untouched, and razor sharp views even well into her 80's, still unfolding.

As of now I've already watched it three times and each time I come away newly inspired to work on something else in my own life. My writing, my history knowledge, getting my damn photos framed and making myself a cucumber sandwich for lunch one of these days. Just because.

Another article worth the read,  from 1979:

Joan Didion: Staking Out California

Tuesday, October 31, 2017

The Last of the Fall Surf Sessions with CLIF Kid

These days there is nothing the boys love more than heading out of the house for a surf session in the afternoon. As the days are getting shorter and summer seems to finally be coming to a close here in SoCal, I'm sharing a little about these adventures in partnership with CLIF Kid. Who seeks to feed and inspire a greater love of the outdoors by way of motivating kids to want to stay active, as well as awaken a lifelong appreciation for the scenes of nature in whatever shape happens to surround them.  

This post is sponsored by CLIF Kid

My Movie from Mrs. Habit on Vimeo.

Monday, October 23, 2017

Exactly what I needed on a Monday. Thanks Elizabeth for posting!

Friday, October 20, 2017

Scenes From A Weekend / Visit Carlsbad

We spent last weekend 30 miles up the coast (give or take) - San Diego, in partnership with Visit Carlsbad who offered our family the perfect opportunity to do something we've been meaning to since we moved to San Clemente. Start exploring neighboring towns to see what it is they have to offer in way of family friendly activities now that we're so close. 

Turns out, Carlsbad, in particular, has LOTS. 

A major perk of partnering with a travel company is having them as a working guide to direct us where to go, what to see, visit, eat, and explore. Honestly a revelation in itself. I can't stress enough how much it made me regret that fact that I'm never organized enough to prepare such things before our trips and getaways. I was shocked to see how much time is saved when all of your destinations are already mapped out, and how much more relaxed a weekend is when not having to stress over figuring out where it is you're headed next. Without the pressure of finding cool spots and worthy sight seeing we were able to really enjoy our downtime and look forward to each new destination as we crossed each one off the list. All selections proving perfectly suited to us as a family who always appreciate any excuse to be in the water, dine at laid back food joints and bike ride around town, especially seeing how the weather this month has been practically begging for it. 

Our Hotel was the biggest treat. We stayed at the Beach Terrace Inn on a waterfront shore level suite that meant easy access to both the ocean and the pool. It also meant I got to sit on the porch while the boys played on the beach and surfed directly out in front of me. Being able to hop onto the sand and run back and forth from the hotel, to pool, to water, and back again isn't something we're usually lucky enough to snag. So convenience of location was seized by all. As was an air conditioned room with the kind of luxury beds that grant you quality sleep you don't realize you're actually missing, until you finally get it. 

Below, a few places we visited on the trip (all of which I can't wait to revisit now that we're hip to the "good spots")

Legoland - Our first time there. And just in time for some Halloween action that had us digging up old costumes right before we headed out to participate in their annual #brickortreat festivities. Which was great.

Park 101 - Touted as "Carlsbad’s unique answer to community dining, lounging and sipping in style in the heart of the Village." A dog and kid friendly place with casual pub style dining and a variety of 32 local beers on tap. The food was delicious and the environment fun and easy. 

Carlsbad Lagoon - This being our first kayak experience, which took awhile to kick into gear for us only because I was paired with Leon (who worried non stop about every aspect of what's suppose to be a fun and leisurely ride) but we ended up having a blast and the lagoon rounds put Hayes straight to sleep right when he needed it most. So, win win. 

Senor Grubbys - Easy going Mexican with a twist. For us the twist was bacon wrapped hot dogs Mike probably enjoyed even more than the boys. And of course margaritas. After an hour long bike ride it's the best reward I can think of. 

Pedegos Electric Bikes - This place I can't rave enough about. The guys helping us were amazing. And so helpful in encouraging Leon to get on board with a bike ride. He's never confident or even willing to do things he isn't comfortable with but they worked and talked and traded bikes until he felt ready. The winning choice being the Cadillac of electric bikes. An extended double seater that Mike swears rode like a motorbike and hasn't stopped talking about it since. We road all around downtown and the side roads by the train tracks on our way back. Here, a little taste of the glory of that hour. The sweetest sight, the two of them, on that thing with permanent smiles the whole time. If you head down as tourists, do yourself a favor and rent from these guys. And then tell them their friend Leon sent you. 

Pizza Port - Always a good idea. Not much to add on this one because if you've been to one then you know. 

Choice Juicery - A fresh juice stand with the coolest outdoor space that includes an area for chalk drawing, dog mingling and grass lounging being the best way to begin a full Saturday. 

Campfire - This being my favorite stop of the whole trip. First off the interior feels like a moving Pinterest board. Every inch, every corner, dish set, glassware, drink and bar spread brags of design perfection. Camp chic with sleek accents too, casual and inviting. With a string of exotic cocktail concoctions and unique menu options to sort through. We tried all kinds of things thanks to an exceptional staff that delivered entree after entree for us to try, with the kind of fast smiles, kind words and ready suggestions that makes for absolute return customers. 

After seeing how close the train drops you us to this place I'm already planning my next excuse to head back and have the brisket, or the ceviche, or the smoked & cured fish board, or the french toast citrus brioche. Point being, everything on the menu is a fantastic idea and the place is so cute it would be easy to see your brunch turn into lunch or stick it out till dinner because the lighting situation out back looks just as fabulous. Old school camp vibes meets stellar design keys thanks to the brilliant folks behind Bells and Whistle. An L.A based design team who seem to be doing everything right these days. GO. 

Thank you, Visit Carlsbad, for an incredible weekend. On the way home Mike said it was one of his favorite vacations, and the entire backseat agreed.

Which means we'll be back. Hopefully sooner than later.

Till then,
The Kraus family

For more info on events and kid themed activities visit the Kidifornia site here and head over Saturday, October 21st if you're in the area to enjoy the Carlsbad, Kidifornia Beach Party for a day of family fun, games, and chances to win great prizes on the sands of the Beach Terrace Inn.