Ten Years, Man! Ten YEARS! (Part 2 of 2)

IMG_1495The first half of 2006 had been a fun year, jetting to Paris and up and down North America. And by the way, if you ever get the chance to hang in the Air Canada Maple Leaf Lounge in Montreal, take it! We got to relax in the business class lounges for all of our travels because in 2005 I was supposed to have worked on a long term project in Virginia. I would have been flying twice a month from LA to Richmond for about eight months so my work partner and I decided to spend the money on a United Red Carpet club membership. Then that job got cancelled but I still had the membership. Silver lining? I suppose. I would have liked to have worked on that job.

So July. The job in Mexico had gotten into a smooth rhythm. We had some adventures on our weekends. Then I got a call that my dad had taken a serious downturn and would probably die in the next 48 hours. And he did. My dad had been in a nursing home facility for years as he had alzheimer's. He also had heart issues and was 83 when he died, so it wasn't entirely unexpected, though a death is always a shock, even when you know it's coming.

100_1265The team in Mexico was supportive and helpful, of course. At the end of July, I flew back to LA for a night, then Kurt and I flew to the Big Island for a week, helping with the funeral plans and reminiscing. We stayed at the hotel at Anaeho'omalu Beach, which was perfect. It is the beach I know so well on the Big Island, have known it since I was so little, where we used to go before there was a hotel. Also, let's be honest, so happy to be in air conditioning. Waikoloa is H O T in August.

It was a fascinating time, learning more about my dad, hearing others talk about him, people who knew him in a totally different way than I did. We all told stories and looked through old pictures all while playing the Keola and Kapono records, shouting out the words to Mr. Sun Cho Lee. (He got plenty lychee!) 100_1288

It was also surreal to be with my sisters and stepmom and nieces and nephew in dad's house, all there without dad. All the emotions were heightened, of course, the grief hitting us all in different ways. There were tears and laughter and plenty of shouting and hurt feelings, all the usual family stuff. At one point Dor turned to me and said, "How can you be so calm?" I just shrugged and said, "That's what I do. That's what I've always done." Then added, "Hand me another beer..."

There's my dad. The Don Draper of Honolulu. (Who later moved to the Big Island.)

The day after the funeral, we scattered his ashes from canoes at Anaeho'omalu Bay. The water was calm and the experience quite new for me on a variety of levels.

Then a big aloha to Hawai'i and back to Mexico for me. I was really glad to have two overnights in LA on each side of that trip. Nice to sleep in my own bed and pet the cats.

There were three more weeks of the shoot in Mexico and I enjoyed the hell out of them. We went to Puebla for a few days as well as Cuernavaca. We had various locations that were a refreshing break from the sets at the abandoned quarry/mall. A friend from LA came down to hang out for a long weekend and we timed it for the two day weekend that had been scheduled (we were working half days on Saturdays). It was so nice to be a tourist with a good friend.

100_1460A giddiness started creeping into the crew as we got near the end. We were all still working hard, but laughing more and taking more pictures of each other. The crew went out one night for drinks and music and that was our non official wrap party and it was a blast. Then the real wrap party came and it was nice, but not as much fun. On the last day of shooting, when the first AD called "That's a wrap!" I, of course, burst into tears. What a long crazy summer it had been.

Adiós Mexico! Adiós Diana, my favorite statue in Mexico City. Hello LA...

Home. But not for long. At the end of September I'd be off to London to work with the VFX team for a few weeks, handing over the information from the shoot to the new producer. But before that, we were invited to a friend's beach house in Santa Barbara for Labor Day weekend. A wonderful few days of good friends and sitting on the beach and looking at the ocean. Soothing.

London. I got good at figuring out the bus schedule (cheaper/easier than the tube) and my little neighborhood in Clerkenwell where I stayed in the Zetter Hotel. Quite hipster cool at the time and so expensive that when my work was done and Kurt and I were staying a few days more, we found a cheap and therefore TINY room elsewhere. We played tourist, my favorite day being the one at Hampton Court Palace. (I love a good audio tour!) 100_2347

Then for fun and also because you can, we took the train to Paris for three days where again, our friends were staying in their apartment and we spent a lot of good time with them.

Paris twice in one year? Man, that is a good year.

Home at the end of October. I was exhausted and charged with emotion and restlessness since I had been moving practically non stop since April.

There was one more trip and that was to Maui in early December with Kurt's family. They had never been so we enjoyed many touristy things, trips to Hana, up to Haleakala, ziplining, snorkeling, big hotel Luau, the whole nine yards.

Then home. HOME. A quiet Christmas on our own here in LA. Just us and the cats.

2006 was a roller coaster and I loved it all. I know that sounds strange since my dad died in the middle of it, but loving it all is just embracing all that life throws at you - the good, the bad, the easy, the tough - everything. I'm proud of that year. I doubt I'll have another quite like it. But I hope I do.

Ten years, Man! Ten years.

Harper's First Existential Question

Harper asked me an existential question the other day. She didn't realize it, of course.

We were driving along, listening to the soundtrack of this little indie film called "Frozen" - have you heard of it? We were listening to the showstopper (and my personal favorite) Let It Go and Harper asked:

Mama, why does Elsa throw her crown away?

ElsaCrownIf you haven't seen the movie, (and I really assume most of you haven't) the quick recap is: Elsa is born with magical powers to create ice and snow. She accidentally hurt her younger sister Anna when they were little and has spent rest of her childhood hiding her powers (and her feelings, which express themselves with her powers) out of fear of hurting anyone again. Their parents die in a shipwreck (Disney movie!) and Elsa becomes queen. She accidentally reveals her powers in front of the whole kingdom (essentially) and runs away so that she never hurts anyone again and then she embraces her power. As she runs, she sings Let It Go and transforms into the image you've seen of her, sans crown.

So, while listening in the car, Harper is clearly watching the scene in her mind and asks the question. Why does she throw her crown away?

I was excited by this great question, the topic of power, and authority and symbols! My mind raced with all the potential answers:

The crown represents a life she doesn't want, authority she doesn't feel is rightly hers.

The crown is a symbol of restriction and she's letting that all go.

The crown is a reminder that her parents are dead and she's had to pretend not to feel anything about it since they died.

The crown represents masculine power and she'll be queen any way she wants with whatever symbols she chooses. (Giant ice palace, anyone?)

The crown is about small earthly human power and she is a goddess, filled with infinite power to create the world as she desires. This puny piece of metal can't represent all that she is!

All these variables raced through my mind in about two seconds. Then I remembered: Harper is three and a half. Hmmm.

Mama, why did Elsa throw her crown away?

Me: Because she didn't want it anymore.


Sigh. I just have to be patient. There will come a day when we can discuss the real reasons Elsa tossed that thing, but for now, I'll stick with mostly literal ones.



'Let It Go' Is This Middle-Aged Good-Girl's Anthem

FrozenposterFrozen came out in November of 2013 and girls ate it up. It's a movie about two powerful women, Anna, who is funny and resourceful and brave and Elsa, the queen, who has scary but amazing powers and who sings a kick-ass song. 2014 iced over with all things Frozen, the costumes, the toys, the music. Then there was the inevitable backlash -  "If I have to hear that song one more time...!!" regarding "Let it go."

I was at a distance to the movie as Harper was only two when it came out. We watched it via our screener in 2013 and enjoyed it, but never watched it again until a few months ago when Harper wanted to watch "Anna and Elsa" (as she calls it). I really love the movie and never get tired of seeing it.* Now she wants to hear the music on its own in the car and I'm happy to oblige as we drive to preschool.

But here's what I didn't expect - that I would listen to Let It Go on repeat all the way home by myself. I theorize that for every one person who says "I never want to hear that song again!" there are another fifty who secretly listen to it alone in their cars or showers, belting it out as they drive or shampoo.

Most of us women of a certain age have been brought up to be good girls, to follow the rules, to not make waves, to do what you're told and as Elsa says, "conceal, don't feel." And as wives and moms, we are expected to be perfect, understanding caregivers to the kids, ever smiling and generous partners to our spouses. As women in the work force, we are expected to work harder, then wait longer for the reward for all that work. It's ingrained in us good girls not to complain, not to get mad, not to reveal the true powers at our very cores.

And we are powerful! And that power can be scary at times, but it can move mountains -- heck, it can create mountains. When used wisely, it can make miracles. And listening to Elsa discovering her tremendous powers and throwing off that symbolic cape, I'll be honest-- it brings tears to my eyes.

Every time I hear the song, a different line will speak to me. It's like each day I get a new idea to meditate on. Lately this speaks to me: "It's time to see what I can do, to test the limits and break through." My own inner barriers are coming down, sometimes I smash through the stone walls, sometimes I can only chip away with tweezers, but I'm always working on breaking out of my fear and finding my true strengths.

Elsa-frozen-25377-1280x800If you've watched the movie, you know that Elsa does go overboard (She freezes Arendelle over in the middle of summer). I rarely like to criticize my homegirls when they break out, lean in, stand up, but there are a few limits in the real world. Elsa says, "It's time to see what I can do, to test the limits and break through" which is great, but then follows up with, "No right, no wrong, no rules for me!" Well, as much as this good girl does like to break a few rules now and then, I still know that I can't break them all. I can't actually live in an ice palace, alone, at the top of a mountain. (Though I think I could rock that dress.)

But sometimes the pendulum does need to swing too far to really break down the walls. Let's not forget that awesome phrase by the amazing Rear Admiral Grace Hopper: "It's easier to ask forgiveness than it is to get permission." Let's go get what we want, test our power, break through our (mostly imagined) limits. I know from experience that it's a lot less scary once you get to there and then you have the courage to keep racing forward.

As Elsa says, "I'm never going back, the past is in the past! Let it go, let it go, and I'll rise like the break of dawn, that perfect girl is gone."

In her place is a powerful, courageous, graceful, beautiful woman. That is all of us!



 Watch the the Idina Menzel version of Let It Go here.


*I'm lucky because Harper never stays fixated on one movie too long. Frozen is usually in rotation with Cars or Kung Fu Panda or Curious George.

At this moment my favorite scene is "big summer blowout!"

We All Saw A Movie

Harper went to the movie theater and saw her first feature film last Saturday! We chose the Disney Nature movie "Bears" and it went great. I wasn't worried that she'd be scared or upset (I went knowing that only fish were killed in the movie) but I did think she might get bored. She stuck with it the whole way, sitting in my lap once or twice. We were the only poeple in the theater so I wonder if she'll be distracted by others the next time. I'm just glad her first movie experience was a good one. We plan on raising a movie lover!



I Want To Be Pen Pals With Emma Thompson

Emma1I could have said, "I want to meet Emma Thompson" or "I'd like to work with Emma Thompson" and both of these are true (and both are not outside the realm of possibility). But being a pen pal is different. It is about creating a relationship with someone who is a stranger and who lives far away.

Now of course, Ms. Thompson is not exactly a stranger. She's an award winning movie star. I can read all about her all over the interwebs, but I hardly do. I prefer to watch her movies and to see her on talk shows when possible. I admire her talent and style and humor...but wait, all this should be in my opening letter.

Dear Ms. Thompson,

I would like to be pen pals. My name is Julia and I live in Los Angeles. I am married and have one daughter, her name is Harper, she's almost two and she's adorable. Okay, all mom's say that about their own kids and it's always true. I'm originally from Hawaii and moved to LA for college and to work in the movies. I love to travel and have been so lucky to do a lot of it, sometimes for work, mostly for pleasure. My favorite country is Italy. The food! The language! The wine! The scenery! Ireland is a close second. So green and the people can be so kind.

I'm looking forward to seeing all your upcoming movies and I hope you'll write more about your screenwriting work. (I loved your diaries on Sense and Sensibility.)

I'll end here as this is harder than I thought! I'm nervous just writing this simple letter. But my desire is sincere and I do admire your writing talent, your acting talent and your no-nonsense style and humor.

All the best to you and I hope you'll write back.

With affection and aloha,


There. That should do it.


Lean and Mean!

Remember that scene in Stripes where John Candy explains why he joined the army? No? Well, let me jog your memory:

This is how I'm feeling here in the early days of 2010. I've been swallowing a lot of aggression along with a lot of food (some of it pizza) in the last month and I have to figure out a better way to deal with it. So, instead of joining the army, I will be focusing on better ways of expressing my FEELINGS! Like, oh I don't know, writing, exercising? Yes and yes.

I will be a lean mean fighting/writing/creating machine in 2010!

I'm Packing and Getting Excited -- Finally!


I have been nervous and unsure why. But after last night and today, it all started turning around. Last night I spoke to good friends who are in this VFX biz and they reminded me that A) This is something I've done a zillion times before and B) When in doubt, just shoot it! (This is not the ideal way to work in VFX, but it's always nice to be reminded of your bottom line option.)  It was nice to hear again, thank you Wendy and Jacquie!

Then this morning I finally read the script and I got really excited because you know what?  I LOVE MOVIES and I get to go work on a really cool one!  I started thinking about the sets and locations and costumes and etc etc etc and I got really excited about working again.  And reading the script and noting what FX will be required also reminded me that there is no new FX ground being broken in this movie so what am I worried about not knowing?  Oh and PS, since tomorrow is my first official day and I fly to London on Wednesday, I don't have to know it all tomorrow.

Part of what I've read in books on grief are that often you can feel like you don't know anything, you lose your self-confidence.  It makes sense, the world has turned upside down, the floor has dropped out, rug pulled out from under (metaphors...) so how can you feel safe and secure in anything?  Once I read that, and realized it's normal to feel that way, I relaxed a bit.  My self-confidence didn't return in full force, but it did come out from hiding. 

So, London, here I come!