Mostly Bad News, Then Some Really Good News

It's been a month of bad news.

Two people we know (one neighbor and one work colleague) died very suddenly. The wife of our suddenly dead neighbor now might have breast cancer (she finds out on Friday) and one of my cousins was diagnosed with a brutal form of cancer that he's fighting tooth and nail.

BUT... in between all that grief and anguish, there was a shining ray of Amazing! A good friend who had been waiting for a new kidney for a few years GOT ONE! And the surgery went well and the new kidney is doing great so far and she already feels so much better.

Nice to cry happy tears among all the sad ones.

Life is short, make sure you are doing all you want to do and getting rid of all the things that are negative or just don't matter in the long run.

And be an organ donor, dammit! If you aren't already, please sign up to be one here: Organ Donor Registry

June Gloom

In LA there is a weather pattern called June Gloom for the West LA/Santa Monica side of town. It's cloudy and cool in the mornings then it get sunny toward the afternoon.

But I'm referring to my June gloom. Starting the month with a cold. But not just a cold, a cold with a fever, something that rarely happens. It blows. Harper was sick, is still sick, though better and I know I got it from her. Kurt is coughing a bit too. Frankly, we are all a bit pathetic and gloomy.

Then we heard yesterday that Kurt's stepmother died. I never even met her, but am so sad she is gone. Ever since Kurt and I got married, she never failed to send birthday cards and holiday cards and even anniversary cards. There was always a check in the card and a sweet note about how she was doing. We always wrote back and of course lately sent her many pictures of Harper. I always thought I'd meet her someday and thank her in person, but never got the chance. I don't even know what she looked like, which is kinda nutty after 14 years. Just another reason to remember that life is short and not to put things off any longer. I'm going to miss getting her notes in the mail.

On a happier note, here's Harper driving the toy tractor at our favorite weekend place, the Underwood Family Farm. She had never driven before, but dang, she really was amazing, never bumped into anyone and steered perfectly.


Dot Loved Her Cars

Dorothy Frey loved to drive. I'm not sure where her love for driving started, perhaps in her childhood as her dad had one of the first cars in Houston and they often took road trips. She and her sister, Millie, I think, took a road trip when they were young women and she often told the story of how their car got stuck and they got rescued by some cowboys, actual cowboys on horses, then went to a dance with them later. This would be in the 1930's.

After she retired in the mid 1980's, she got a job with Hertz shuttling cars around the southwest. Mostly just for fun.

Apparently she once owned a Buick Wildcat with Pursuit engine! Something like this, I think.

When Kurt and I got married, Dot was 83. She drove to LA for the event from Dallas/Ft. Worth. By herself. For fun! Her former husband, Kurt's dad, used to race cars for fun (amateur events). They had races for the wives and Dot won every time she raced.

When we moved her out to LA, her car came with her: A 2001 Buick Park Avenue, light blue. She didn't drive anymore, really it was getting time for her to stop at 90 years old, so the timing worked out. But we kept her car so that every time we drove her places, she could ride in her car.


(This is not her actual car, but a good facsimile of what it looks like.)

Lately, Harper and I drive in this car all the time. Harper likes it better than the GTI, I think because it's much bigger and has a much better view out the windows. (She'll get schooled in the wonders of six speed manual, grippy, rally pedaled cars in the not too distant future, I promise.) You may recall from an earlier post, that this is how she rolls in the Buick:


Personally, I really don't love this car. It's big, it's floaty, its an automatic, it's big. It's an old lady's car and while I'm no spring chicken, I'm NOT an old lady! I'll admit I live in LA and am sensitive about my car image.

But since Dot died, I have been thinking about her and her cars. I thought about the "last times" - the last times she rode in the Buick which was to the doctor's office in January where she was admitted to the hospital. (She came back to her apartment from the hospital in an ambulance.) Of course we didn't realize it would be the last time, at the time.

And the last time she actually drove the car. That would have been in 2008 when she and Kurt (and her two cats) drove from her home in Texas to her new place here. I doubt there was specific talk about "you'll never drive a car again" when we moved her, but she knew she couldn't drive in LA. So on that road trip out to LA, Kurt let her drive for a while on the big wide freeway. It makes me happy/sad to think about that last bit of driving she had.

Dot wasn't particularly sentimental or expressive with her feelings (she was old school all the way), but I often wonder what she might have been thinking or feeling while driving that dessert highway in a car she loved so much. I hope she was happy.



Little Baby Freys

Or "Small Freys" if you like.

Going through photo albums at Kurt's mom's place and Kurt spotted a gem of a pic. His mom and him when he was maybe 9 months to a year old. Adorable on its own but then I said, "Hey, who does that remind you of?" So then I put these together. Look at those faces!! Sweet.


Aloha Dorothy Frey

Kurt's dear mother died on Sunday, February 1. Kurt said it best:

Sad to report, my dear funny clever beautiful tough as nails mom has called it a life. She was 96, a big life by any standard, long and mostly sweet. Well-traveled and well-read, she was always impeccably kind to both human and animals alike and unfailingly grateful for everything and everyone who had the pleasure of crossing her path. She will be deeply missed. Bon Voyage!

Here she was at her first Luau on Maui, December 2006. So glad that Harper and Gamma Dot got to meet and spend a few years together.

She had a peaceful end with her loving and faithful cat Dynamo by her side.

Dorothy Lee Kreiter Frey 1918 - 2015.



Milestones: Of House Cats and Houses

MouseOn December 30, we said good bye to our cat, Mouse. She was 18 years old and lived her long lucky life indoors, mostly trying to snuggle with Bunny, and not always succeeding.

In the fall of 1996, a friend's alley cat had kittens and since I already had Bunny and was working a million hours at Sony, I thought a new cat would be good for Bunny, so I adopted Mouse. She got her name from the fact that when she was just days old I saw her for the first time and she was grey all over and looked like a little mouse.

It was purely coincidence that I named both cats after other animals.

Mouse was an odd cat. She never slept in your lap or curled up and slept next to you. She liked attention but always seemed riled up and a bit frantic when asking for it. She sort of liked to be petted, but not in the usual cat ways. In her old age she would ask for attention, you would pet her and then she would bite you. That got a little tiresome, I'll be honest.

Bunny151Bunny died about six weeks after Harper was born and poor Mouse grieved heavily for the loss and massive changes in the house. Every night for almost a year she would yowl in the wee small hours of the morning. The first few times I thought something was horribly wrong with her and would leap up and come and see but she would just be sitting in the living room (not unlike that photo above).

She seemed comfortable this last year, though clearly getting quite old. Rather quickly, her heart gave out during the day on the 30th and we made the quick call not to resuscitate. Her time really had come and with average life span of cats at 10-15 years, she had a lot of time on this planet.

We tried to explain to Harper, very directly and honestly, that Mouse had died. Harper didn't seem too interested, just wanted to watch Curious George. But a couple of days later she and I were having breakfast and she told Willoughby not to play with a cat toy. I told Harper it was okay for Willoughby to play with it. Harper said, "It's Mouse's toy." And I said, "But Mouse isn't here any more." She said, "Mouse is in the hospital." And I said, "Well, I took her to the hospital, but Mouse was very old and she was sick and she died." Harper thought about it for a minute then she said, "Can she get a new battery?" That just warmed my heart. I said, "No sweetie, only toys can get new batteries when they die. Animals and people only get one battery." She then moved on to another topic.

Good bye Mouse, thanks for being part of our lives, sorry you only had one battery.

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Another milestone is that January marks 17 years that I've lived in this house. I'm amazed it's been this long already! I'm also amazed that we've made it work all this time with very little change. I'm proud of myself for buying it all those years ago (when houses were affordable!) instead of blowing my down payment on a car. But in those days (like it was 50 years ago) this would have been considered a "starter home" and five years later I would have upgraded to a larger one. But five years later we were already two years married and both freelance, so we made the space work.

Now that there are three of us, the house does seem to be getting smaller and smaller! I have to remind myself to put on my "perspectacles" because we own a house with heating and plumbing and modern appliances in a great school district. Okay okay, but I'd like at least another bathroom soon (now that all three of us are potty trained) and modern sized counters in the kitchen (they are still original to 1938).

The house is cozy and has a working fireplace and sweet period details. I am so glad I found it and bought way back when. Happy anniversary little house!

Melancholy in the Cracker Aisle


ChickenBiskitSo there we were in the cracker/cookie aisle at Target and all of a sudden, there it was on a high shelf. That blue box of memories and melancholy and grief. The box of Chicken In A Biskit.

This ALWAYS makes me think of Grandma Jane (who died 22 years ago) and Jen (6 years ago). Any time Jen and I reminisced about GrandmaJane, Chicken in a Biskit would inevitably come up. When GJ was married to Grandpa O, there was an open kitchen shelf that had clear containers of crackers. Grandpa O always had Diamond Brand Soda Crackers (Gawd I love those!) and then that blue box. We loved those salty chickeny crackers. They were like a special treat because mom didn't buy them.

Now, anytime in the last 22 years I've seen that box, I would call Jen or email her or something. And she would do the same to me. If she were still here, I would have simply texted her a picture with "GRANDMA JANE!" as the message and moved along.

What makes it so sad is that Jen is simply the ONLY Person on this planet that I shared this with. It's one little thing of many that we shared, of course, but one of those things that makes me miss the goofy fun stuff you have with a sibling, whether your politics or religion or whatever aligns or not. We could have disagreed about something in the news and not talked for a day but we could always, ALWAYS laugh or at least smile about Chicken in a Biskit.

It made me happy and sad to see that box on Saturday. Plus I was at Target with Harper staying cool and buying ingredients to make these cute cookie sandwiches:

Image-6(From this website-can't wait to try the pizza crescents!) (And also big ups to Melissa for pointing me to that website in the first place.) (And no, that is not my picture of the finished product, ours were not so perfect.)

Harper loves sprinkles, BTW.


I wanted to tell Jen all about how fun it was to try these things now that I have a daughter. She did it all when Grace and Matthew were little and It was fun to be at their parties and eat the sunflower cake made out of twinkies. (I did kinda tease her about making a cake with TWINKIES!) But I can't. Yes, there are plenty of friends and family to talk about all this with. But it's not the same.

For example, I found this while doing research on a script I'm working on:

MetalTyperI would have instantly texted or emailed this to Jen and said "REMEMBER THESE???" (I did post on facebook and tagged Betsy and Sloane, cuz I knew they would know.) But then Jen would have picked up the phone (probably) and we would have talked about life on Oahu before we moved to Maui. Where was that machine? Longs Drugs in Kahala Mall across from the Yum Yum tree? Remember the Yum Yum Tree? And on and on and on.

But I don't get to and it makes me really sad. Not all the time, mind you, but when I have a chance encounter in the cracker aisle to a touchstone of my childhood and the one person I can talk to about it is no longer there, that is a deep dark bummer.







Sad Passing Of A Wonderful Auntie

Dear Auntie Martha died a few weeks ago. She was my grandmother's sister and the last of her siblings (and siblings-in-law). She had a wonderful life and I'm so happy I got to be a small part of it, especially in these last fifteen years or so. She was a gracious and warm hostess, always, at her beautiful ranch house (a house I would emulate if ever I got the chance to build my own). I loved her sharing of family history with me when I was full of questions. And so much more. I'm so sad and will miss her dearly. But she will always be near, especially at Christmas, when I put her ornaments on our tree.

Aloha Auntie Martha!



Wake Me Up When April Ends

(With all love and respect to Billie Joe.)

"As my memory rests but never forgets what I lost."

I almost forgot. I almost forgot to remember that April is an awful month. I was eight days into April before I remembered that April sucks. Or as Grace said, "Stupid April. And every other month too!" I was forced to remember when I found out that a friend's uncle died on the 7th, two years almost to the day that her father died. Then I remembered that it was April.

But even then I almost let it rest.

LittleJenBut today I saw this sweet picture I'd never seen before, along with some pictures from a wedding I'd never seen either. Right in the middle of one of the fun group shots, there she was, healthy and vibrant and smiling so bright.


Six years has gone so fast.

"Here comes the rain again,falling from the stars. Drenched in my pain again, becomming who we are."

Wake me up when April ends.




I Met Harold Ramis Once

When Jim Henson died in 1990, I almost burst into tears at work. His work had such a huge, wonderful impact on my childhood, in equal measure Sesame Street and The Muppet Show. He was gone too soon.

I felt almost the same way when I heard Harold Ramis died. His impact on my young teen and young adult self is life long. Ghostbusters was released on June 1, 1984. I got to see that movie in Los Angeles in a huge movie theater that was packed full of people, including one guy dressed as a ghostbuster. (Not sure which one, but probably Venkman because we all wanted to be Bill Murray.) I was just blown away by A) the sheer size of the theater and the audience, coming from my small town life and B) where did that guy get all that cool stuff (all the actual logo patches) to make that costume!?!?

Years later I was working at Sony Imageworks and we were bidding on the VFX work for Multiplicity. One of our biggest selling points was that we had the technology to shoot elements for the movie to create the multiple characters needed. We set up a camera test so that Mr. Ramis (the director) and the producers could come and see what we had to offer. The meeting was good, he was low-key and polite. I was so excited to meet him, so grateful to be in the room.

We went down to the stage to show him the camera set-up for the repeatable camera head (a big deal back then, very common now). We had set it up so that he could do a short bit of acting out himself as two different selves on camera. (A la Multiplicity.) He was game and sat down and suddenly the polite and low-key director turned ON! He was now an actor and improv comic creating a scene on the fly with himself. It was like lightning had struck the room. I had never spent time on set like that before and seeing that flash was incredible. I always thought myself a ham back then, maybe I could perform. But seeing Harold Ramis just GO, I realized I knew nothing about it and he was amazing.

All I've read about him since he died has been about his amazing comic genius, but also about his generosity and how he liked to work with a team, that he enjoyed the banter, the back and forth, the give and take. It wasn't just about him. Also, apparently, people thought he was pretty nice. I like to hear that because (back to me) I sometimes think I'm too nice for this business.

I'm going to miss everything that still might have been coming. I'm sorry he had to leave us so soon. I'm going to miss you Egon!