I feel like I'm in first gear. And it's good to be starting again, slowly revving up to new things. I'm learning a lot, getting into new habits, working to stay focused when my attention is scattered all over by these new shiny exciting ideas and plans.
One of the plans involves revamping this blog. It needs a redesign STAT. And I have fun plans for new content and varied story telling. I'm also going to start working with the Amazon Affiliates program so if you see me hawking some wares with amazon links, know that it's all for stuff I use and love. I'm not being paid by anyone to post about them, just looking for some revenue streams while I write about what excites me.
I hope you'll follow me on instagram too: @freyjulia as there will be a lot of new stuff happening there, plus some Harper related fun. I'll be on Facebook a lot less as I push past my regular old boundaries.
One big goal I'm going to work toward is writing a novel in November. Did you know November is National Novel Writing Month? Truth! I know people who have done it and are honing their novels to this day. England inspired me with a notion for a novel and so I'll be blasting out ... something like a novel ... a very rough draft of a novel. But it will be something to work with and expand on.
Season 2 of Menopodcast will be out soon and then we'll begin Season 3. I hope you are listening!
See? So much to see and do. And I've only talked about HALF of it! Stay tuned, watch for changes, come along with me into new worlds!
We are back from our trip to England. It went differently than planned on a couple of big levels, and it also went 1000x better than planned.
I recapped my March Goals here just before we left. I had lost 15 pounds on my way to losing 40. Good for me. Then we moved and life got nuts. New house, new neighborhood, new driving habits, new office, new colleagues, new food. My blog post was not very forthcoming on my attitude about the move and the job at that time. I mentioned tenacity as my keyword. That was true to a point for the job and the move.
Then it wasn't relevant anymore and my job ended and I was free. For two months I worked and Harper went to school and Kurt worked at the house and it rained. Then the job ended (for a variety of reason none of which are necessary to write about here - not yet anyway) and it stopped raining and there was this dry, hot, no-one-has-air-con-in-England summer. There was travel and adventure and family time and personal reckoning. There was also much eating and drinking and simply enjoying the hell out of life with new friends and then visitors from the US.
I learned a lot about myself and what I want and need. But that didn't really clarify completely until two weeks after returning home. Just this last week has seen some amazing changes for me. For us. Good changes. Happy changes. Exciting changes.
It's all a bit vague, I know, but I'll do a slow retelling in the next months as I revamp this blog and my social media life and creative world in general.
But boy oh boy, I thought I was. This was me in 8th grade with the first and only marlin I've ever caught. 175 pounds (technically a "rat" in the big game fish world). My dad was friends with the captain, Ben Baldwin (in the boat behind me) and the fish were biting like mad in Kona for a few weeks. Dad called to say, "Come over and catch one!" so I did. An unusual weekend visit to the Big Island during school.
Catching a marlin is hard, btw. It took 20 minutes to reel it in. And as the angler, you have to sit in the chair and do all the work yourself, just in case it is a record breaking fish. (Record breaking fish are 1000 pounds or more, just so you get why this one is called a "rat".) The crew on the boat, all experienced anglers, coach and cheer you on while you do it. It was a blast and I was really excited.
But back to the fat part. Where did I get the idea that I was fat, ugly, unattractive, etc etc? So sad that I had no confidence in my strong body (well, maybe a bit more after wrestling that fish in). I am working so hard now, almost 40 years later, to feel good about who I am, what I look like and to not say a damn negative thing about myself in front of Harper. Even when she pokes my fat tummy and says "big tummy!" How do I create confidence in her? How do we help her know she's beautiful, inside and out? How do we make sure that when she looks at a picture of herself in 8th grade she thinks, "damn, I look great!"
I will keep working to make it happen!
Also, in the last few years, I weigh lot more than that rat fish did. And I bought a bikini last year because F*UCK IT. Life if short. It feels good to just enjoy being at a beach or pool. Maybe that's the best way to teach Harper.
Kurt's mom Dot died three years ago this month. She was about to turn 97. (That's her, the blonde on the far right in the fabulous teal ensemble, enjoying drinks with the girls*. Please click for best big-hair viewing.)
After she died, there was the usual, exhausting grief-filled process of emptying her apartment and deciding where everything should go. Much of it went to charity, some we sold, the well-loved pictures and knick-knacks went to Kurt's brother and niece and to us. And her dear cat Dynamo came to live with us, may he also now rest in peace. The remaining boxes filled a small storage unit nearby until we could figure out where to put it all.
Time has a funny way of flying and now, three years later, we are finally unloading that storage space to sort through those remaining boxes and make some final final decisions. To do that we had to also clear out a ton of stuff from our own garage storage area and man, that was satisfying. We hadn't cleared out old bills, papers, household stuff since before Harper was born. I ended up taking 170 pounds of documents to my favorite shredding place.
Kurt has done a heroic job of reorganizing our garage storage. He's been unloading his mom's stuff in stages and the first part was mostly old files of her own. We kept the tax stuff and shredded the rest, keeping only a small box of things that relate to Kurt and his brother - grades, certificates, clippings, older family stuff. There were boxes of vinyl records and CDs, all classical or jazz. We have a turntable so we may keep some of it, but most of that will go to charity or maybe we sell to Amoeba records.
The hardest part of it all is the photos. There are photo albums galore, many of them are Dot's, some are her sister's (all three are long dead now as Dot was the youngest) some are her parent's. There are also boxes of loose photos. But what to do with them all?
Dot took a trip to Yugoslavia in 1979 when she was 61. There is a whole photo album for it. It's heartbreaking to look at because it means nothing to us, not even Kurt as he doesn't know anything about who is in the photos and wasn't part of the trip. What is the point of keeping it? It's kind of historic, but really, who would ever look at it again?
Yugoslavia doesn't exist.
It's so sad to think that the entirety of your life gets distilled down to a few dusty boxes of pictures no one cares about. Okay, maybe that's a bit dark, but it's not far off.
Of course your life can also be continued in your children and their children, and that is wonderful. There are stories to relay and some of the photos to look at. But Harper won't remember Gamma Dot. Later it might be fun for her to look at pictures of Kurt and his brother as kids, but that's maybe one or two photo albums out of twenty. Do we simply throw the other photos away? It seems brutal to do that. We have become the recipients of all this history as we are the youngest children of the youngest children in the Frey family. Many of Kurt's cousins have died and there aren't a lot of kids in any of those families.
It's strange to be the caretaker of a family history that nobody is around to appreciate. It's a trip to a place that doesn't exist.
We'll probably keep most of it for a few more years, then move on.
*Who the girls are, what year this is and what the event was, we will never know
Harper started shotokan karate in late spring this year. We were looking for something sporty that wasn't soccer (dear god, I'm putting off soccer as long as I can) and when offered karate, she said yes. With advice from preschool parent friends, we started at the Culver City Rec Center with Sensei John. Turned out there were kids in her class from preschool - excellent! After a short while, Kurt decided he wanted to join in. Both started as white belts, as you do. Harper tested up to Orange a few months ago and two weeks ago, they both took tests. Last night - ta da! Both got new belt colors!
But first there was Kinder Prep Camp. Brilliant idea to have one week of day camp on the school campus where your kid will start kindergarten. We discussed it a lot before it all happened and Harper seemed excited. And she did great. On the Thursday of that week we arrived at school and found out there was a field trip. On a bus. Going to SYLMAR! (That's an hour a way for those of you non Angelenos.) The communications had not been clear. I suppose it was better for me as I didn't have time to be nervous about her first school bus field trip! At home that night I asked her about the field trip. "Harper, did you ride on a bus?" "Yes! ON THE FREEWAY!" That was the most exciting part for her.
Kinder Camp, making friends (thats her in the back, under the whale tail):
Then actual Kindergarten started and we had a good first day send off.
She even finished her first homework assignment. She made her letters "pretty".
I've had a lot to learn too. New morning routines, new lunch boxes to fill, though Harper doesn't seem to be eating much these first few days. I'm sure it's all about adjusting to the new world. It's a challenge to fit stuff into tiny sections, but I'm working on it. Harper doesn't like peanut butter so there's 50% of lunches I thought would be a no-brainer. Oh well.
It's a whole new world for us all. And we are taking it one step at a time.
We got lost one day, looking for our 2nd rental. (Ever the producer, I thought it best to scout the new location before actually moving there. So glad we did!) It was out in the country where all roads seem to be named Via delle Villa and therefore tough to nail down with google maps. We pulled into what looked to be a tiny parking lot/ticket office for a huge villa. I popped in to ask for directions (being the most fearless of our group with my .05% Italian language skills.) The two women there were almost able to help me but more importantly, I learned we were at the Villa Reale di Marlia. I promised we would come back for a tour and I'm so glad we did.
Upon our return, I went back into the tiny ticket office and the two same women were there. One turned to the other and said excitedly, in Italian, "This is the woman who was lost!" I laughed and bought tickets. At first it was disappointing to learn that all the buildings were closed. They are being restored and will be closed for probably years. (They only started restoring in 2015.) We went in anyway to view the gardens and man oh man did my disappointment disappear quickly. The tour map smartly takes you away from the buildings down to the lake first. Then you get this stunning view back up to the main house.
Then you walk back up to the main buildings via all the amazing side gardens.
The wisteria was stunning and smelled soooo good.
There is a pool and pool house tucked away on the side. I can't wait to go back and see this fully restored.
There is a Grotto, of course. All the best villas had them...
Inside the Grotto it was about 10 degrees cooler and looked like it used to spray water from all the fountains into the center. I suspect on hot summer days this would be the place to relax and cool off as you walked from the lake back to the house. ("house")
There were many other gardens and pathways - the Spanish Garden, the Green Theater, etc. But my favorite is the Lemon Garden. Kurt estimated it is a bit smaller than a football field. Half is lemon trees in pots (so you can move them indoors during winter!) and the other half is a big pond with a fountain.
A view from behind the fountain looking back at the Lemons:
Turns out, my favorite painter, John Singer Sargent, came here to paint. And he painted a few watercolors from this very Lemon Garden.
When you arrived in a carriage to the main house, this is what you saw when you exited the carriage - a huge fountain with multiple levels of water coming down. This photo does not do it justice except to show how large it is!
Here's a close up of the center. Also surprising, you could walk along that upper level next to the statues and giant urns. There were lovely little secret pathways through the trees and bushes back there. Excellent fun for this old romantic.
The huge water fountain (they call it the Water Theater) is behind this main building. We stopped halfway to empty rocks from our shoes.
The whole time we were there, walking the grounds, we saw one other family. Total. In the whole giant place.
When we left, I thanked the women again and they said they were having an event on Easter Monday - a Botanical Treasure Hunt for the kids! Um, yes, sign us up. So we came back! This time with a picnic and blankets (because you are always welcome to come in and picnic any time you want) and Harper really enjoyed the treasure hunt and of course the gift at the end. (Amazingly she wore the exact same outfit!)
Here she finds Boxwood and Lemons.
She hugged and kissed many of the trees and plants we found.
I love this place and I can't wait to go back often to see how things have come along. I want to picnic there all the time.
The true joy of spending a long time in one place is visiting wonderful things you find more than once. I highly recommend it.
Please visit the link of the villa - their photos are stunning and give you some better views. Villa Reale di Marlia
Kurt and his brother went to Rome for three days. Harper and I stayed behind to chill in/around Lucca. We went to a zoo yesterday (another unexpected treat) and today we went to the Pinocchio Park in Collodi. I've never read the book, only seen the Disney movie, which, honestly, is quite creepy and disturbing. Puppets turning into boys? Boys turning into Donkeys? Talking crickets? W E I R D. But hey, let's go to a park in honor of Pinocchio. The author was born in Collodi, hence the connection.
I'd read that it's a funky old fashioned little park but good for an outing. Little did I know what modern updates awaited! we got there around 11 and it had been raining a little so it was pretty empty. There was a school group as well, maybe 3rd graders, and they made a lot of noise, so it didn't feel totally empty. We walked in to the area with little rides and met Pinocchio himself. Kind of. I mean, he was dressed as Pinocchio and waved at the school kids as Pinocchio, but he also had the key for the three little rides and helped you on and pushed the start button. So.
Harper tried all three rides. They are hilarious in their antiquity and (lack of) speed.
First she tried the cars - not bad! I love the design of all these vehicles.
Then the carousel. Uh... yeah. Not really her speed.
Then the boats. Harper seemed really unclear on why these rides were so (let's be honest) lame.
Then we moved on to a play place with stuff to climb and a fun little mini-zipline thing. Little did we know it was a foreshadow of bigger things to come!
Then we had a snack and then watched a puppet show - all in Italian of course - but we were surrounded by 30 school kids who laughed and howled and shouted at the puppets. I didn't take a picture, but it was a plywood box with a window and some red "curtains" and one guy doing two hand puppets at a time. It was the story of Pinocchio with Geppetto and Pinocchio at the start, up to the point of where Pinocchio has run away and the Fox and Cat show up. Then it ends...Uh, okay! Now, that part took about 20 minutes, so thank goodness it ended, because OMG.
Anyway....then we grabbed a sandwich and a popsicle. Harper fit right in with the kids eating their ice cream. I loved that.
After frozen treats we walked through the mini forest filled with sculptures of characters from the book - but not happy Disneyesque type sculpture with color or joy. No, these were like 1970's retro Post WW 2 Neorealism commentary on life. This is the statue of the Blue Fairy, which Harper clearly dug, so what the hell do I know?
But there were fun little secret paths and then you end up at/in the whale! Check that fab 70's Italian Design!
After the whale, in which you go into the mouth, then climb up a spiral staircase out the blow hole, then down some back stairs, there was a small hedge maze. We cranked through that pretty well.
Then. Then we got to the brand new adventure portion of the creaky old park. There are two parts - a smaller Ship thing for the kids to walk around, balance beams, swinging mini bridges, etc. All while on a harness and clipped onto cable. It's for ages 5 - 14 and Harper wanted ON! So I signed our lives away and she got buckled in and had instructions on how to clip in and out - made simple for kids.
And she was off!
Just freaking going for it.
Please note, I am far away - there is nobody else out there, no safety person, no monitor, nothing! Just my five year old daughter who clearly has been waiting for this opportunity for ages...(click for bigger)
But that was part 1. Part 2 is across the river. Over a swinging bridge. Harper, do you want to go? Yes. But the wire to hold onto is pretty high, do you think you can reach it? Yes. You have to swing across the river to come back, is that okay? Yes. I can't go with you, just the safety woman, still want to go? Yes.
I wasn't afraid she would get hurt, I was only afraid she might get all the way over and halfway through that course and something would scare her. I mean, there are times on a regular playground in LA where she asks for my help. But this??? She was on her own. And damn if she didn't freaking do it all.
Then the big finish! No hesitation, she just went! ZIP!
When she landed, she did look a bit pale, and I said are you okay? She nodded then smiled and I burst into tears and hugged her and told her how proud I was of her! She is my BADASS DAREDEVIL GIRL!
Then she want back to the ship 2 more times. She didn't want to do the zip again...fair enough. For the rest of the hour I hugged her and said how amazed and proud I was of her. DAMN!
At the end, there was a coloring place and the Blue Fairy (a young woman in a cheesy costume - Cheesy withe a capital Cheese) made her a little fairy wand to color. She asked her name and I had to say Harpe. P. Har--p -- er. And we got this: