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January 2008

Heading Home Tomorrow

I've been at my sister's this week, her last chemo is done! Today we went to Dim Sum to celebrate with some old friends, as planned 3 weeks ago, and had a great time.

When Jen was finished at the doctor's office on Tuesday and the nurse pulled the IV needle out and bandaged her up, she also presented Jen with a certificate, her Purple Heart for the 6 rounds of chemo she completed so beautifully. I took a photo, then proceeded to cry. This is my job in my family, I cry. I used to be embarrassed by it and try to hide it but not so much anymore.

What startled me more than crying (I would have been surprised had I not cried) was the feeling behind it that reminded me of when Kurt and I ran the Honolulu Marathon in 2001. We trained with the Aids Marathon group and it took six long months of short runs and long runs and much team bonding. (Guess who was team leader....I know, big surprise.) But when we got to that last 1/4 mile, sloping down Diamond Head toward the finish lines, I just couldn't stop the tears. All that work over the months (and we got married the month before) and all the money raised (I raised over $6400 for Aids research, I rule, as do all my sponsors) and all the excitement of being in Honolulu and FINALLY DOING IT and now it was about to end. Then we stepped over the line, arms raised as a team, and hugged each other.

I had that same feeling on Tuesday leaving Jen's doctor's office. This had been almost six months of hard scary news, then better news, then better news, then chemo starting and my trips up here every 3 weeks to hang and help out. I figured my job was easy, all I had to do was sit there and distract Jen and hand out lollipops to everyone in the room and then hang out at the house and help with whatever needed doing. But then Jen did so well, having not so brutal side effects, that it seemed even easier. I guess I didn't realize that it can be hard work to just be supportive. I wasn't completely oblivious to this fact along the way, but that "end of the marathon" feeling snuck up on me.

Jen has crossed one finish line and crossed it well, she gets a medal and a t-shirt and all the peanut butter and jelly sandwiches she can eat in the finish tent (god nothing tasted better after training than a PB&J!) I didn't have to do the chemo part, but I'm happy to wave my arms at the finish line behind her. Way to go Jen! You did it!

Can't wait to see how her hair grows back in...

Traveling The Old Fashioned Way -- No Phones, No Emails, No Nothing!

My niece has been in Puerto Rico with her boyfriend and his family for about two weeks. They are coming home today. All the while she's been there, she's texted or called home to her mother (my sister) at least once a day (or so, I'm guessing). This made me think about my travels to Europe when I was only a few years older than Grace is now, almost 20 years ago.

The first trip in 1989, I was 22 and went with 3 friends (there were 6 of us to start but two broke off after about 4 days) on the post college graduation/backpack/Eurail/Let's Go tour. We were gone for 2 months and I think I might have called home once to say hello, I'm fine. Back then, calling home was a challenge. I remember being in the bowels of the Roma Termini train station in the phone center. You signed up, waited for a booth to open up, then you would go to your assigned booth, make your calls, and depart, paying whatever the call cost. And you kept the call short because it cost a lot! I'm sure now it's an internet cafe or a starbucks or something.

The main source of communication was the postcard. And I wrote jillions of them. My mom (thankfully) saved the ones I sent her and the ones I sent to my grandmother and gave them all back to me. They are like mini-diaries of my trip (of course I kept a journal as well). I loved being so far away from everyone and everything I knew. That to me was as much a part of the experience as seeing Carcassonne or Mont Saint-Michel. Even though I had three good friends to rely on while traveling, it was still exciting to be really on our own, figuring out train schedules, currencies (no euro then) and maps.

The next trip I took, in 1992, I was all alone. It was a similar trip, youth hostels, backpack, train ticket, Let's Go but just me this time. Again, no easy communications and lots of postcards. But this time I asked people to send me letters to the American Express offices in various cities. I'm pretty sure with internet cafes on every block and now iPhones and Blackberries that work overseas actual mail is a thing of the past for travelers. But back then, oooooh, it was a great feeling to step into the Amex office in Paris or Rome and ask for mail and GET SOME! I was in Paris, had been on my trip for maybe a month and went to the Amex office around the corner from the Opera (Yes, THE Paris Opera). There were 3 letters for me!! Holy cow. I went right into a cafe, sat down and ordered what turned out to be a $9 cappuccino, but who cared! I was reading letters from dear friends from home. It really brightened my whole trip to know there might be letters waiting for me in a foreign city.

On that trip, I don't recall how many times I called home to my mom or sister or dad. But I'm sure weeks went by between calls. I liked the challenge of not being to rely on comfort zones of contact, and I soon discovered that when you travel alone, you don't stay alone for long. Especially when you stay in hostels with other people your own age, doing what you are doing. I traveled to different places with different new friends I met along the way and when I got tired of their style, or they got tired of mine, we parted ways.

Ten years ago, two friends went on a year-long trip around the world. They knew they could access email from time to time and they indeed sent reports and updates along the way via email, along with a few postcards, but they also included Amex travel office addresses in cities they would be going to and approximate dates of when that would be. I sent them a few actual letters, knowing how much it meant to me to see a handwritten message from home on my trip. I wrote them emails too, of course, but was more happy to post those letters. (There are many other blog posts I could/will write about my paper fetish love of writing paper, but that's for another time.)

Of course my niece is on a vacation, she isn't really traveling. But still, there is some magic lost when you can go to far-away places and have people call or text you any old time. (Yes, I do check emails from time to time when we travel now but mostly to make sure there are no emergencies, I rarely send.) I am the kind of person who likes the travel time and the reflection time. It would drive me nuts to tell someone what I was doing every day while I was doing it. It takes away from the doing for me. I couldn't imagine standing in the middle of this and talking on the phone telling someone how amazing it is. That kind of place is too overwhelming in size and scope and history and spirit to interrupt with a phone call or text message.

Yes, call me old fashioned (you already have from previous posts) but when I go away on a trip, I like to be away and experience that "away-ness." It makes the coming home and reconnecting that much more special.

Going North

I'm off to my sister's today for her last round of chemo. Hooray!


I'm driving this time just to change it up from flying. I like driving very much and will meander my way up the 101. I rented a car for this trip because my auto is getting a bit tired (174,000 miles) and will need a LOT of work done on it over the next few thousand miles. I just didn't want any of that work to be done in San Luis Obispo... The car I got is the Hyundai Tucson. (They were going to give me the Dodge Caliber but I protested as that has got to be the worst designed car on the planet.) I was pleased at punch at the Tucson as it is a sign for all the writing I have to come.

How, do you ask? Well, the novel I'm going to work on later this year is called "Baking in Tucson" and as my writing starts in full force once I get home from this last trip up north, I thought it was auspicious that the vehicle delivering me to my year of writing had that name.

Too much of a stretch for you? Too bad. I find positive supportive symbols anywhere I can get them.

¡Viva Tucson!

I Love Belated Birthdays

This weekend was a birthday catch up weekend with a few of my friends. I had dinner with Brian on Friday night and he gave me a very cool/fun gift for the "serious" writer in me. It is the The Writer's Toolbox from one of my favorite publishers -- Chronicle Books. The box is filled with writing exercises to get your brain moving if it has somehow gotten mired in the back pastures of your creative mind. I love things like this, it's like mini writing assignments from elsewhere (hard to come up with fresh stuff every day), like when you had a great creative writing class teacher who threw out unusual ideas for you to riff on. (I love school.) Thank you Brian!

Continuing on with the writer's theme, I was at Ravit and Edgar's this morning and they presented me with this beautiful object:
Shiny! (Sorry my flash is a bit over the top, I am saving for a new/better camera...)

This is a Royal Deluxe Portable (1936). Read more about it here. I played with it a bit when I got it home and it works so smoothly and even had that surprising "Ding!" I hadn't heard in a long time. And then there was the satisfying "Ziiiiiip!" when you "hit return." Fabulous! Edgar had cleaned it up a bit and polished the sliver bits so it just smiles at me now. I'm going to find ribbon for it and use it -- though my typing accuracy is terrible and OMG do they still sell white out anymore?!

Thanks all for my Writer's Weekend Birthday gift extravaganza! I love and adore and am so grateful for such good friends.

Odd Things I Write Down

I carry a notebook with me in my purse. It comes in handy for ideas that need jotting down, phone numbers or emails of people I meet, grocery lists, etc. I also use it to write down strange/funny/odd things I hear or overhear. Like this:

"It suddenly occurred to me that I misplaced a large wedge of cheese."
Kurt Frey (Sometime in 2006)

Then there was this gem spoken by one of Kurt's cousins (the genius physicist/chemical engineer) to Kurt's other cousin (the genius mathematician):
"This year physical observables will become eigenvalues of hermitian operators."

(I had been just about to say the same thing myself when he stole my thunder at the dinner table.)

Whiskey Tango Foxtrot?!?! When I'm listening to these conversations, I try to remind myself that I have other skills and a high level of emotional intelligence....sometimes it works to make me feel less stupid, but not always.

The same cousin said of Linus Pauling: "He was no dumb-ass."
Finally he said something in a language I knew!

Another physicist friend of Kurt's (and mine now too) was telling a story about a place he had worked which included the statement: "I had the keys to the reactor."

Physicists can be entertaining.

Nothing To Fear But Fear Itself

And no, I'm not talking about the economy (Stocks are on sale, by the way, buy now!)

I joined a writer's group this week and our first meeting was fascinating, inspiring, exciting. I woke up the next morning and that old creaky tape started rolling: "You don't need that group, you can just go along as you have been." Luckily, I have been working hard to stop listening to those old voices and I recognized it immediately for what it was: Fear. Fear that not only do I have to write (which can be challenge enough on its own) but then present that writing to the group every two weeks. Deadlines! Audience! Feedback! AAAHHHH! My old scaredy cat self was wiggling around trying to get out of something uncomfortable. But the whole point of joining a group is to step outside of my lazy ass comfort zone and get moving with my creative life. It is 2008, I'm 41 and it's time to not only walk my talk, but hop skip and jump my talk.

And the fear is more than just the standard type of fear: What if I'm no good at it? What if no one likes what I write? blah blah blah. I've been working on that for a while and am getting better at acknowledging those fears and moving forward anyway. (Remember my favorite quote: "Courage is resistance to fear, mastery of fear - not absence of fear." -- Mark Twain) The real challenge for 2008 is trusting myself enough to continue on the creative path and not revert back to the usual distraction: i.e. looking for non-creative paying work to take time and energy away from the joy of creating. (And even then I have already hedged that bet slightly as there is an ongoing company/project that I've been involved with for years and they may offer some travel related work. Hard to turn down work that involves travel...)

The tarot card here is The Moon, #18, sometimes referred to as Fear. "The Moon is the card heralding the transformation to come." And "When we experience the fear of the Moon card we need to take courage, ignore our well-wishers and tread our own path, for only we know, in our own hearts, what is right for our highest good." I've never actually had the Moon card appear in any tarot card readings, so that's good. But I put it here as a reminder that there is a transformation at hand.

"Courage is doing what you're afraid to do. There can be no courage unless you're scared." Eddie Rickenbacker

"One man with courage makes a majority." ~Andrew Jackson

"Courage is tiny pieces of fear all glued together." ~Irisa Hail

"Optimism is the foundation of courage." ~Nicholas Murray Butler

(Ask anyone, I am an eternal optimist.)

"In the beginning of a change, the patriot is a scarce man, and brave, and hated and scorned. When his cause succeeds, the timid join him, for then it costs nothing to be a patriot." ~Mark Twain, Notebook, 1935

(The quotes came from Quote Garden.)

I <3 Chickens

I love chickens. To me they represent cozy, warm, homey feelings. I would love to have two or three of them out in the yard, scratching away all day, making their sweet little bokbokbok noises. Not roosters, mind you, never rooters, just hens. Just "the ladies" as Jennifer would say. Kurt thinks I'm a lunatic because for chrissake it's a chicken! But don't differences in marriage make the bonds stronger?

Look how pretty they are--not sure what the first one is:

But there is a Barred Rock:

And the Lavender Araucana:

They lay green/blue eggs:

See how huggable they all are? They'll sit under your arm and are just warm poofyness. My sister had chickens for while, a few years back, but then their dogs decided it was war and a massacre took place. No more chickens for a while. She did say she wants to get more in the coming year so I'm excited about that. Collecting warm eggs in the mornings and having a chat with the ladies in the afternoon when you feed them.


I don't think I would ever become the crazy cat lady, but I could become the crazy Chicken Lady. I'll have to see about getting the zones changed where I live in LA...

Here's the video that made me think more about my love for chickens:

And yes, as a matter of fact, I am having chicken for lunch today.


Good-bye First Crew Jacket


Technically it's not a crew jacket but it is the first item of clothing I received as a gift in the film industry. I was working on Alien III as the Visual Effects Coordinator and one of the Fox Producers/Studio Execs we'd worked with very kindly gave these to me and the FX Producer (and others I'm sure) as Thank You gifts toward the end of the project. I was stoked! What a cool cool jacket! I put it on immediately to the quasi-horror of my boss who was way cooler than I was. (Most people are way cooler than me, by the way.) I wore it to dailies, thanking that Exec profusely and took my usual place. David Fincher looked at it and said, "Wow, is Fox so cheap they can't even use Levi jackets for these things?" Having worked with Mr. Fincher for a while on the show, I didn't bat an eye -- we were used to this kind of attitude from the wunderkind. The Exec looked over at David and said, "What kind of thank you gift did you get them, David?" None of us had ever seen David Fincher speechless. 2 gifts in one day!

Not long after, I was on my way to Europe for an undetermined amount of time (turned out to be 3 months) for a travel adventure. I was backpacking/youth hosteling and took this jacket as my warm bit of clothing. I wore it often.

At the Baths in Bath
At the Royal Crescent in Bath. I love Bath. Love it. LLLL OOOO VVVV EEEE it. Someday Kurt and I will stay in the Royal Crescent Hotel and take the waters. (Thanks Mom, for taking me to Bath!)
And by the way, no one has EVER accused me of having any clue about fashion. However, on every train ride and in every museum and mile after mile, I was very very comfortable. My sister made the sunflower dress and I loved wearing it.

Prague also saw me in the jacket in 92, on the Charles Bridge. Ice cream was about 17 cents a cone, but that's not why I have two.

Here's my favorite photo from that trip. This is how I looked getting onto and off of trains, checking into and out of hostels.

The jacket went every where. I remember one early morning in Paris, walking down the sidewalk toward whatever special amazing thing I was going to see that day. One of the street cleaners was sweeping with his old stick broom and said something to me in French, which I don't speak. I'm guessing hello and something else. I said sorry, I don't speak French. He said "American? From where?" And I turned around to show him my jacket and he yelled "Ahhh! Holleeewooood!" And I turned back and smiled and kept walking.

Thank you dear jacket. I had great adventures with you. I have the sweet memories and some great photos. But now you must go and give warmth and shelter to someone else on their own adventures. You can't sit in my closet for another 10 years without ever coming out. Bonne Chance!

Cozy Sunday

My brother in law, Peter, introduced me to CBS Sunday Morning a long time ago. I used to set my vcr to record it every Sunday then wake up at my leisure and make coffee, snuggle on the couch in my PJs and watch. It fell off my radar for a long while and last weekend, I was up before Kurt on Sunday and thought about watching it, but had already missed it. So I set my Tivo for all future Sundays. Why hadn't I remembered to do so ages ago? Yesterday I woke up around 8:30 (which is officially "sleeping in" for me) and while making coffee remembered I had it recorded. Hooray! I then proceeded to make scones from scratch--part of my new year's resolutions to cook more and plus I wanted to try the mango flavored sugar my mom had given me. I'm glad I made them, but honestly was not quite in the mood to haul down the kitchenaid mixer and dust flower all over to roll the dough out, etc etc, but I forged ahead. When the scones were done, I realized I had made them too small, and because I forgot to buy heavy cream, I had to use milk instead. They were not as large or as sconey as you'd like, but still delicious and warm from the oven.

I took two scones and a hot cup-o-joe (also the gifted coffee and mug from my mom) and settled onto the couch to hear that lovely trumpet intro to the show. (From the CBS site: "The trumpet fanfare is called "Abblasen" and is attributed to Gottfried Reiche.") The show runs 90 minutes and is a news magazine. There are current headlines but mostly the show is features. Yesterday there were stories about candidates and their oratory abilities, a profile on David Crosby, a visit to the porn awards in Vegas as well as a story on the caucuses in Vegas, a profile of artist Jim Denevan who puts on dinners as art called Outstanding in the Field. He also creates art pieces in the sand at beaches in California. He's from Santa Cruz, so I bet my bro-in-law knows him. There was a short bio of George Burns as it was his birthday yesterday and much much more.

The show is hosted by Charles Osgood but was originally hosted by Charles Kuralt, he of soothing baritone voice and a genuine joyful curiosity about the world and people in it. I watched it for years with Mr. Kuralt and was very saddened at his death in 1997. He was famous for his "On The Road" series of reports that aired on the evening news with Walter Cronkite before taking the helm on CBS Sunday Morning. Mr. Kuralt traveled the country in a succession of RVs with a small crew, looking for stories, any kinds of stories, but always away from the interstates. He said, "Interstate highways allow you to drive coast to coast, without seeing anything".

The "On The Road" style of reporting and storytelling is right up my alley. My dream/goal/plan is to travel with Kurt and we photograph and write stories about the places and people we see and meet. I am endlessly fascinated and curious about how other people live in places that are different from my own. I can't wait to start.

Thanks Peter, for turning me on to such a great show (and thanks also for turning me onto NPR lo those 20 years ago). Thanks also to CBS for still producing such a beautiful show that inspires me. Can't wait for next week.