personal history

My Dream Car

I found myself reflecting on cars. I live in LA and cars are oh so very "important". The quotation marks are there because for some people, cars still are very important in a practical sense as a means to get around, even with more trains being built and electric scooters springing up on every corner. But mainly cars are "important" to show other people how much money or coolness you have - or both. Twice last year I was inside a fancy new vehicle belonging to colleagues and I found myself so glad that I'm not that person anymore. I used to dream of being that person, of having the brand new fancy, fast, sleek car. And then I got over it.

CivicI've been lucky with cars. I learned to drive and got my license at 15 in a hand-me-down Honda Civic (stickshift) (the image at left is similar to the one I had but mine was blue). I had been in a carpool up until then and now it was my turn to be the driver of the carpool. The car was small, 2 doors and a hatchback, but you could jam 5 people into it for trips to the beach or camping. I said good bye to it in college and didn't have a car in LA until sophomore year when I got a hand-me-down 1969 VW bug (stickshift of course). The car came with about 3 different colors and a few dents here and there. I saved up $100 and got a cherry red Earl Sheib paint job. It looked like this one except it had a black interior.  Bug

It was startling how much camera and film gear you could get in that thing. Or roommates to go to crew practice at zero dark thirty. Or how easy it was to jump start it when need be. I could jump it on my own, no help from extra hands -- one foot out the door to push it along, to build momentum, then a quick pop of the clutch and off you go. I will always have a special place in my heart for bugs. That special engine sound, the smell, the wacky pedals. 

After getting a license, there were cars to dream about. I dreamt about sports cars, I liked speed. Magnum's Ferrari and then later the Acura NSX. Had to love the NSX because it was a proper sports car but it was still a Honda. Of course there were more practical dream cars and one of my dreams came true. A few years after college, while still driving the bug, I bought a brand new Honda CRX! It was also read, also stickshift and came through the kindness of a partial loan from my grandmother. I kissed the bug good-bye (it went to a younger family member for more service) and proudly drove my dream car.

It looked just like this:

1990-honda-crx-hf-red-no-hidden-reserve-never-smoked-in-never-tuned-new-paint-2

I got the base model, the HF (stickshift). Oh it was spiffy with 105 horsepower, manual crank windows and no air conditioning! And I loved it. I looooooooved it. I drove it for about 8 years. It got into one crash (an insurance scam crash that I was a victim in, luckily no damage to me and easily fixed damaged to the car) and it got stolen once for the seats. Thankfully I had good insurance for both of these instances. But I was ready for a grown up car to go with my grown up job. 

My new dream car would have 4 doors and a trunk. I wanted 4 doors sooooooo badly. And a trunk that no one could see into. I considered some higher end cars but decided to keep payments low and went for a green VW Passat. (stickshift) Fun and new but not anything to break the bank. I said good bye to the Honda, thanking it for all its dream car services in my 20s.

The Passat lasted less than 2 years simply because my dreams started changing. I wanted to be freelance, not tied to a company where I didn't have much say in the jobs I worked on or the teams I was assigned to. I got laid off (which I helped engineer) and smartly sold the Passat right away. I didn't have another car to buy so I drove a Rent-A-Wreck for a month or so. It was a POS Nissan something something, but it was clean, cheap and got me where I needed to go.

Living in LA without a "nice" car was an interesting time. It was a fantastic lesson in what is really important to me: freedom. I shed all the exterior trappings of "what car do you drive" and "how much do you make" and really started to see what was best for me. I ended up buying a hand-me-down Acura Integra (2 doors, hatchback, stickshift). (I can't remember what year model it was....so I can't find the right pic to link to...) I drove that car for about 8 years and it served me well. I got all kinds of props from valet parking attendants who always were impressed that a woman drove a stick and would I want to sell that car. (Even now, when I drive our VW GTI - stick - I get props from the valet dudes who are probably more amazed to see this old lady getting into that car.)

Now we have that 10 year old VW GTI (stickshift) and a 3 year old Subaru outback (AUTOMATIC!!! First automatic I've ever owned). There was Kurt's Honda Accord (also stolen once) and his mom's 2001 Buick Park Avenue mixed into the last 15 years. 

People still ask me what my dream car is. And I haven't had an answer for that since 1990 with the Honda CRX. These days its more like "does the bluetooth work, are there 4 doors and is there a back-up camera? I'll take it".  

But this morning I woke up thinking about cars (I have no idea why) and realized what my dream car truly is:

A rental car that takes me and the family on new adventures. 

2 years ago it was a white Citroen in Lucca, Italy. 1 year ago it was a blue Vauxhall that took us to magical places in England. Those were dream cars. 

  Citroen

Now I can't wait to see where the next dream car takes us.

 

 


The Things You Keep When Clearing Out

JaiEarringsCleaning up / clearing out your space, no matter that space, challenges you to think hard about what you want to keep and what you truly don't need. We packed up most of our personal belongings when we went left for England this year. (Friends were renting and we were making space for them.) Upon our return, we pulled out the essentials from their boxes and left the other stuff to get around to.

I finally got around to a big plastic bin of random t-shirts, bathing suits, work out clothes and my jewelry. "My jewelry" sounds fancy, but really it's a bunch of cheap and cheerful bead bracelets, glass earrings, etc. Nothing upscale at all. I just hadn't wanted to take two sandwich sized bags of stuff with me. 

Since we've been back I've had only what I had in England: four pairs of earrings, five necklaces and one ring. And it's been plenty.

While unpacking yesterday, I made a pile to give away and cut down my jewelry load by 1/3 or so. That feels good.

But these. These will never go. Never ever. 

These were made by a dear friend I knew from high school. She died in a house fire with her two little children in 2003. Devastating.

You could never put Jai in a tidy box. She couldn't be defined. Quirky gets close, but is not quite enough. She was an artist and made lovely jewelry. These are the only things of hers I own and I will keep them close. 

If you've seen the tattoo on my right ankle, that's her website logo design. She's always with me. 

Cleaning out stuff always brings up memories and emotions and joy and pain. And so much to celebrate, even in grief. 


Field Trips

Harper had her first school field trip last week. They walked to Louise's Restaurant and learned about making pizza. It sounded pretty fun for them all and she drew great pics in a little book they all made:

IMG_1587

Interesting to see how 6-year-old, learning-how-to-read/write-brains work. This is how she spells all on her own. Super fascinating to me is how their young brains are still connecting left to right and often they will reverse the direction of letters and numbers.

Anyway - her field trip reminded me about the first field trip I remember - going to McDonald's in Kahala*. I was either in first or second grade and we walked the block or so to the restaurant and got to see inside the kitchen and how it worked. Then we all got a small bag of fries. What a treat! (We rarely ate at McDonalds when I was growing up.)

I love this tiny little similarity in our lives.

 

 

 

*And now I have the damn Kahala Mall jingle stuck in my head. The one from way back in the 80s....


34 Years Ago Today...

MixTapes...Seabury Hall had a dance, planned and executed by the Social Committee, headed by - guess who? - that's right - ME.

On February 15, 1984, we put on a Valentine's Dance and I made mix tapes for them. Two mix tapes to be exact: #1 called "New Music" and #2 called "Harder Rock". 

(Quick thing to point out: Seabury back then was 7-12 grades, about 200 students total. And we had dances every month or six weeks and everyone could come, very casual, you didn't have to ask anyone or dress up or anything. We also had a prom in the spring every year which was just for 10-12 graders and it was very fancy.) 

So, here is my Mix for:

VDDance#1

(All spellings as per the paper label inside. Gosh-my all caps handwriting hasn't changed at all!)

A SIDE:

Bowie - Modern Love 

English Beat - Jeannette

Madness - Madness

Rod Stewart - Young Turks

Squeeze - Piccadilly

Pretenders - Pack It Up

Men W/O Hats - Ideas For Walls

Duran - Lonely In Your Nightmares

BowWowWow - I Want Candy

Culture Club - Karma Chameleon

Billy Idol - Dancing With Myself

B SIDE:

Duran - Is There Something I Should Know

Stray Cats - Rebels Rule

Rob Stewart - Tonight I'm Yours

BowWowWow - Louis Quatorze

Bill Idol - Baby Talk

Bowie - Without You

Stray Cats - Sexy & 17

Duran - Girls On Film

Led Zepplin - Stairway to Heaven**

Billy Idol - Mony Mony

 

**All my Seabury Peeps will understand the inclusion of this song 

 

Let's get to the Harder Rock! (OMG can't wait for this, I haven't read this list yet.)

VDDance#2
 

A SIDE:

Rod Stewart - Baby Jane 

Led Zepplin - Black Dog

The Who - Who Are You

Van Halen - Jump

U-2 - Sunday Bloody Sunday

Foreignor - Head Games

Black Sabbath - Mob Rules

Soft Cell - Frustration

Thompson Twins - Love On Your Side

Madness - Our House

 

B SIDE:

Pretenders - Bad Boys Get Spanked!

Led Zepplin - Rock and Roll

Joan Jett - I Love Rock And Roll

AC DC (I wrote it with the bolt in between!) - For Those About To Rock

Alice Cooper - Schools Out...

Kajagoogoo - Too Shy

Thompson Twins - We Are Detective

U-2 - Refugee

Forgeignor - Dirty White Boy

Alice Cooper - I'm 18

AC DC - Let's Get It Up

 

Okay I think we can all agree that the "er" in "Harder Rock" was critical in that description...! 

Wow that takes me back. And now I have Rod Stewart stuck in my head. Of all the songs from these lists. {eyeroll}

I'll make a spotify playlist for you later so you can enjoy it out loud. Check back in a bit for that. 

Oh the 80's on Maui...

 

 

 

 


Your Los Angeles Lakers!

Last Tuesday night I went to my first ever Lakers game. I've lived here for over 30 years and FINALLY made it to a game! I was lucky enough to be invited by my boss from Jumanji, along with some other peeps from the Jumanji VFX crew. We were in the 15th row behind the Lakers bench. Dude.

IMG_1410 IMG_1409

I've never even been inside Staples Center. It's pretty cool. 

I'm don't really follow sports, but I usually have a decent handle on who the top players are, who the coach is, etc on the Lakers. But currently - NO CLUE.

Back in the day, when I went to LMU, the Lakers would sometimes practice in our big new gym on campus. One weekend, my college beau (current friend of the blog and back then a H U G E Lakers fan) and I drove onto campus and saw the lot full of very expensive cars. We parked near them and there was Magic Johnson, walking to practice. My beau had just been telling me about a great interview he read with Magic and I said, "Go say hi! Go tell him how much you liked his interview!" He hesitated and I encouraged and he went, I stayed at the car. Magic was gracious and shook his hand, chatted for a minute. I love that memory. 

Shout out to you, RCL!

Now, maybe I should pay attention to who is on the team these days....especially if I get to go back again some time to the 15th row! 

 


Look How Fat I Was*

MyMarlin*I was not fat.

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. 


Grief and Growing Up

My sister Jen's father John died early this morning. He was my mom's first husband, they had my sister, they got divorced, then my mom married my dad and they had me. My sister's dad got remarried and they had four kids, none of whom are related to me. (Are you with me on the super branchy family forest?) Anyway, I know them all, we are not family but we are family. My sister's kids, my niece and nephew, came down last weekend to visit and say their goodbyes.

Jen died nine and a half years ago. Feels like a week ago. The day she died, I had to call her dad and tell him the horrible news. This after calling my mom to tell her. How did I do that? How did I have the strength? How does anyone.

I heard that Jen's dad was on hospice and near death a few weeks before and have been kind of wrecked since then. I didn't know him very well, we weren't close, but I've known him my whole life, he's my sister's dad. But it shines a bright light on the grief and loss of my sister. And I feel so much for her family as their mother died about ten years ago, Jen, their oldest sister, died nine years ago and now their dad.

In "By The Shores of Silver Lake" by Laura Ingalls Wilder, the book starts a few years after "Plum Creek" ends, and it's a brutal beginning. The family is in debt, never recovering from the locusts, years earlier, oldest sister Mary almost died and now she's blind, they have to sell out and move west and just before they do, their loyal dog dies. The chapter in which he dies is called "Grown Up" and Laura realizes that she, at 13, and small for her age, has to be grown up, has to take on a lot of responsibility. The very first time I read this book I sobbed. The last time I read it, about a week ago, I sobbed. 

My stepfather, Jack, was in the hospital at death's door when my sister died. My mom was going through a lot with that. My sister had cancer and was going through 2nd rounds of treatment but her death came as a surprise. (We are 99% sure it was a blood clot.) The sound of my niece's voice on the phone that morning will haunt me forever. Then my phone calls to my mom and Jen's dad I barely remember except that I couldn't get a hold of either of them for a while and the waiting was excruciating. 

I flew up to northern California that morning and took charge as everyone was shell-schocked, including myself, but it was easiest to be busy and do what I do best - organize, be a producer. I was really waiting for my mom to arrive so that she would be in charge and know what to do. This was a horrible time and I just wanted my mommy. When she did arrive, a day or so later (I can't even remember) she was not really my mommy. She was a mom, devastated and blown apart by the sudden loss of her daughter. (On top of what we thought might be the eminent death of her husband of 25 years.) Mostly I remember that she slept a lot. 

It was my time to be grown up. I had to be the mom and dad and sister and auntie and daughter to everyone. I saw a need and was so grateful I could be all that. In that horrible time it seemed like a gift I could give. In those days and weeks, I took it all on as best I could, a box of Kleenex with my name in big letters by my side. 

Grief is messy and beautiful and horrible and can be a lonely time. Everyone understands and no one understands. 

Grief can transform you into a person you never thought you could be.

 


Can't Quit Now

During the election there was much talk of the sexism that was happening.* My female colleagues and friends all knew what that was about. We've all been in meetings where we are the only women in the room, learned to walk that fine line of polite but firm, to not rock the boat, smile more. I kept also thinking back to my crew days.

In college, I rowed on the crew team all four years. Junior year I was on the varsity lightweight 8 and we were awesome. We worked our asses off and were a great team. Four of us lived together and almost everyone in the boat was dating someone from the men's team, myself included. Crew becomes your whole life. During that amazing year, we won. We won all but two races we had that year. We lost to Radcliffe at the San Diego Crew Classic and we lost to other east coast teams when we went out for nationals at the end of the year. (That weekend was a blur of trying to make weight and white caps on the water during our race.)

The LMU Women's Varsity Lightweight 8 Crew beat everyone we met from the west coast. We were West Coast Champions.

The LA Times came down to the boathouse that spring of 1988 and wrote a full page story, complete with tons of photos, about the men's varsity team.

The men's team.

The men's team who hadn't won a race. The team who was barely making a mark in California, much less in the wider rowing world.

I vividly recall being on a run with my college boyfriend (who is a wonderful human being) and we were on the bike path along Ballona Creek in the Marina and we were talking about the story (he had been in it) and I had to stop running and burst into tears. I felt like I was doing something I'd never done before, working harder, getting stronger (physically and emotionally), plus the crazy weekly weight loss to make the 130 mark before a race. This was the hardest thing I'd ever done in my young life and it was paying off! We were winning! But the full page sports section story in the Los Angeles Times was not about us. It was about the men with a subpar record of success.

I was heartbroken. All that work didn't matter to anyone but ourselves, it seemed.

So we kept winning anyway.

Maybe that's where the seed of my cynical streak got planted. If you know me, I doubt you'd describe me as cynical. But there are moments. I learned from way back that there are times when no matter how hard you work, no matter how much time you put in, how much commitment and teamwork, no matter how much you actually succeed, few people are going to care.

But before I acquired a cynical streak, I believed in fairness and I still do. In this new era, with this new president, I am committed to fairness and making sure those without a voice are heard and helped and protected.

No, I don't compare my crew team experience to people in our country being wildly underserved. Just saying I learned a lot that spring in 1988 and am committed to working just as hard, if not harder.

 

 

*Oh there was plenty to talk about before and after the election and I'm not going talk about all that here. You can subscribe to my new Post Election Connection email newsletter for that


Roller Skating Life Lessons - Lesson #2

Lesson #2 - Moonlight Rollerway (August 25 is Michael Jackson Skate Night!)

July 2, 2016

Ready! Better socks and slightly more relaxed, now that I know what it's like.

Once I warm up, I don't hold onto Jeff as much and I feel smoother, less tentative. But let's be real - still shaky. The two girls who are practicing with their coaches sail by, lovely, artistic. They stop on a dime, effortless on skates. I try to keep to a clear line so they know where I'm going and don't annoy them. I imagine them wondering who the fat old lady with pink hair is. But then I think: they aren't thinking about you at all, they are thinking ahead to nationals.

Did you know there are roller skating nationals? Like Ice Skating, but on wheels? I had no idea. Lincoln, Nebraska is home to the Roller Sports National Championships. Lincoln is also home to the National Museum of Roller Skating. Road trip! I have half a fantasy of making a documentary about Roller Skating Nationals. But that will have to wait.

I felt great in this lesson. I didn't fall and could see a future of just skating with ease and grace. No tricks, no fancy footwork, just confident fun skating. Jeff did try to start me on backward skating, but I was not ready. I couldn't get the opposite-balance thing going in my mind/body and that's okay, only second lesson, let's not rush. But I desperately need to work on my cross training.

The reason I started this to begin with is that I suddenly got plantar fasciitis in my right foot and can't walk or run for exercise - incredibly frustrating. I needed an alternative form of exercise to get into shape. Swimming I can do (I started to, then got a sinus infection, then my work schedule changed) and biking also (though I need to get a new bike as I only have a beach cruiser) - both are non impacting and good for me. But oh swimming. I did it for years through elementary and high school and it's not my favorite thing. Nothing to see except the bottom of the pool, lap after lap. I'll get back to it once this job is done, swim once or twice a week for variety, but it will never be my main source of exercise.

Somehow roller skating popped up in my brain and taking lessons made the most sense. Build some confidence, learn some skills, then apply that to skating on my own time, up and down the bike path near our house. Improve my fitness, increase my lung capacity, keep up with Harper, all that good stuff.

After this excellent lesson, I was feeling confident and got home and took Harper out on scooters. I used her Bigger Girl one, she used her old one. We scooted along well, having some fun, then on our way home, I hit a bump in the sidewalk and DOWN I WENT! Skinned up my left knee REAL good. Oh man. But thankfully, I only skinned my knee. Nothing else got hurt at all - miracle. Harper and I walked home. I felt like the fat old lady with pink hair. Confidence gone.

At least I didn't fall down in my lesson.

 


Geysers And Minefields Of Grief.

Grief is a constant companion.

Once Grief comes into your life, it is always with you. Not always in the forefront, but always there. There are daily (hourly) reminders of what you've lost. Sometimes the reminders are sweet and funny - memories of experiences you had, pictures of younger selves. And you can smile, feel nostalgic and sad, but mostly warmed by a good memory. Some reminders are bastards that come at you with force, knocking the wind out of you, making you wonder how on earth you've gotten this far, for this long without the person who died.

Fucking Grief.

Many things have brought Grief up lately. Our neighbor's mom died recently. She was 98 and her end was comfortable and good. As good as any unwanted end could be. I also had a conversation with Grace around that time about Jen and thinking about what we've all lost - we lost a mom, a sister, a wife, a daughter, a good friend, a kind person. My neighbor, whose grief is raw and new, talked with me about how it feels like a roller coaster, a minefield, a geyser. If only it were a geyser like Old Faithful, when you can anticipate the blasts of emotions and schedule around them. It's really more like a minefield.

When someone is ripped from your life, not only are they gone, but you get sent to Griefland without your consent. It's an alternate universe that looks exactly like this one but is full of mines. You pick your way through - sometimes you are blown apart, sometimes only mildly bruised. Though admittedly the "mildly bruised" part comes a long way after the initial arrival in Griefland. When you first arrive, you are simply blown apart the whole time. It takes a while but eventually you can put pieces of yourself back together long enough to withstand the next blasts.

Patton Oswalt is an actor and comedian I admire. His wife died a few months ago, unexpectedly and way too young. They have a seven year old daughter. He's in the desperately-trying-to-breathe-there's-not-enough-air-in-here phase of grief and he wrote an essay that starts with "Thanks Grief." (Read the full piece here.)

If you spend 102 days completely focused on ONE thing you can achieve miracles. Make a film, write a novel, get MMA ripped, kick heroin, learn a language, travel around the world. Fall in love with someone. Get 'em to love you back.

But 102 days at the mercy of grief and loss feels like 102 years and you have shit to show for it. You will not be physically healthier. You will not feel "wiser." You will not have "closure." You will not have "perspective" or "resilience" or "a new sense of self."  You WILL have solid knowledge of fear, exhaustion and a new appreciation for the randomness and horror of the universe. 

There is no "closure" when it comes to someone you love dying. They are gone and there is no coming back and you have to live with it. How can you close that loop when a giant piece of it is missing?

I'm obsessed with the Broadway show Hamilton. In the second act, there is an unexpected death and in the aftermath of it is a song called "It's Quiet Uptown" with these opening lyrics:

There are moments that the words don't reach
There is suffering too terrible to name
You hold your child as tight as you can
And push away the unimaginable
The moments when you're in so deep
It feels easier to just swim down
The Hamiltons move uptown
And learn to live with the unimaginable

"It feels easier to just swim down." Lin-Manuel Miranda knows things.

When I first heard this song I was still reeling from the previous song in which the death takes place, so I didn't really hear this one. After a few more listens I just lovehate this opening verse. It's so beautifulawful. (I can't listen to this song unless I'm alone and not expecting to see anyone for a while so my eyes can recover from all the crying.)

The best advice I got about grief was "the only way out is through." Grief is pain and suffocating. Grief knocks you down, literally. Grief is confusing and messy.

Grief

You have to feel it all, experience it all, every day, one foot in front of the other. You can't suppress the feelings because they will wait and fester. You can't push them away and expect them to be gone. Those brutal feelings are never gone. It does get easier less hard. Later, eventually. In your own time. 

It's been eight years since Jen died, 10 since my dad died and 23 since my GrandmaJane died. Even now I still have pieces of grief I express about my grandma that are leftover from 1993 because I would not let myself feel those shocking horrible feelings. They are like pieces of shrapnel that work their way to the surface of my skin and finally come out.

The grief I have been working with lately is about not making any new memories. My analogy is that we are all in our own boats, sailing along together and at some point those who have died drop anchor. You can still see their colorful sails, but they get farther away. The memories will always be there, but without the person you shared them with, there is not a constant refreshing of those experiences, the laughter, the anger, whatever. You know what? I don't know what the hell the sailboat analogy is about. Except it's about desperately trying to make sense of something that you can't makes sense of. And I'm startled, sometimes daily, to realize my memories of Jen will fade more quickly then they should over time because she's not here to help me remember.

I'm still learning to live with the unimaginable. I'll never stop having to learn.

I wish for all of you that you don't get a ticket to Griefland for a long long time. If you are already there, walk carefully, but keep walking.