pWdumaNjA-6CEEBhRoD5euxNETs When All This Actual Life Played Out

01 February 2016


31 January 2016
On top of Old Smokey
All covered with toes
I saw my poor kitty
And booped his small nose

He got very angry
And clawed me real bad
'Cause that's what a cat does
When he's really mad

No, he didn't claw anyone, but I'm not sure why he felt it necessary to perch himself on top of my printer.

He is going to be really mad because he doesn't get breakfast in the morning. It's off to the vet to get his teeth cleaned.

And the song (which I made up this evening after watching The X-Files with the daughter) had the girl falling on the floor laughing.

Tech stuff: Taken with my iPhone6.
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25 January 2016

So out of time

Death Valley National Park
24 November 2015

I was standing in a chute at least partially created by a mudflow sparked by the October flash flood. We'd caught sight of it on the road to Badwater, and it took us hours to circle back around to it. By then the light was failing and the wind was gusting 70 mph as you can see by the dust storm in the background, so windy it was hard to stay on my feet. But I fought and staggered my way at least partly up the bed, despite grit in my eyes, mouth and hair, despite my concern for the camera (grit, small rocks).

It was the view that is behind me in this photo that was actually rather stunning. This one is just interesting. Or weird.


The daughter and I were talking this morning over coffee and she brought up something that happened in Denver the summer that she and D. and I went there for a concert ("But please note," I told her, "I also made it a college visit. I am not totally irresponsible.").  It was evening and somehow the three of us ended up at the Convention Center where a giant blue bear sculpture stood, looking in the glass windows. I was trying to get some sort of interesting photo of it, and finally decided just to go into the obviously closed building and take a photo from the inside. I waltzed in, greeted the security guard and started taking photos. The security guard asked what I was doing and I smiled and said politely, "Just taking a photo of your bear." I finished what I was doing, said goodbye and left.

"That poor woman was so confused," the daughter said this morning. "There you are just taking pictures when you weren't supposed to be in there."

"I was teaching you how to misbehave properly," I told her. "I was polite and friendly. I was not causing harm, and if she'd asked me to leave, I would have. I told her what I planned to do, I did it and I left. No disturbance, no mayhem."

Then the daughter said, "I had an idea. Maybe it's weird. Maybe it's too derivative."

Then in the course of an hour, we mapped out a story. In much the way we mapped "Shooting Star," (the film of which is "Starlight"). She's taking screenwriting this semester, and she's already talking about using it. This one is funnier, though with an underlying tragedy, because what is life but underlying tragedies? We all have them. She knows that now. We think that life and relationships and fun times (and hard times) don't end but they do. Everything ends. Some things too soon.

So I'm going to write. It will be curious to see our versions and adaptations, much as it was before. Meanwhile, I have something else brewing in the back of my mind. It could be a very busy summer.

And there is still that roof to see to.

And the front garden.

On it goes.

I do what I say I'm going to do. Sometimes it just takes longer than I expect it to.

Tech stuff: Taken with my Nikon D7000.
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19 January 2016

Sometimes we accept that the picture is bad

Orange County, California
Five robins on a fountain
13 January 2016

And this is a terrible, terrible photo. But the birds were skittish as hell, and I had to stand as still as I could and just sort of point and shoot.

Here's the thing. We don't see robins around here. I've seen them in So Cal, yes, but not around here. It's like the squirrels that suddenly appeared after 15 years. So I don't know what five were doing there all at the same time. And there were at least six out there.

It may be a function of the drought. We've been adamant about keeping the fountain going, and there are birds (and occasionally, squirrels) on it all the time.

(It has a recirculating pump, so we're in the clear.)




Today was tree trimming day (part 1. Part 2 is tomorrow). If you've read here for any length of time, you know that it is an annual event that makes me crazy. They did the pine today. It's in good health, but there was evidence of damage by the previous trimmers, which I guess is why my gut told me to fire the previous trimmers. What makes me additionally crazy is that I don't stint on care of that tree but I'm not an arborist. So I depend on the people I hire (who are all certified, licensed, insured and have references) to do the job right. And when they don't...

(The arborist pulled down a branch that was a foot in diameter and cracked. It had cracked years ago, based on the condition, and fortunately had never fallen. I wanted to crack someone over the head with it, I was so irate, because there are people who should know better in that tree every winter).


Frankly, this is not what I want to be writing about. My brain exploded (creatively) over the weekend, and where there'd been a drought for ideas, there is now an El Nino. I really want to just sit down and let my fingers do the flying. Not that there's been time yet.

And I dream. So incredibly vividly. Whole stories. Crazy stories. A time travel romance. But deeply, richly detailed.

Everything around me dying, and I am recalled to life.

Tech stuff: Taken with my iPhone6.
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18 January 2016


El Nino
Orange County, California
6 January 2016

The son and I had just finished watching I Origins a week ago Sunday night when we learned about David Bowie. Music writer Jim Fusilli, I think it was, summed up my disbelief best: Bowie was there, always. We wouldn't hear anything from him for a bit, but then up would pop a new album, or he'd put in an appearance in a film. Then he'd go quiet, and then something new. He was a master of innovation and reinvention, and I don't think anyone, myself included, ever considered the idea that he would just suddenly not be.

Then last week, as I was about to get my first cup of coffee, the son texted me with the news about Alan Rickman. Another gut punch. He was such fun to watch, and I loved the sound of his voice.

Now Glenn Frey. I get it. People die. The Baby Boom generation has been around a long time; there are a lot of them; and they are hitting the mortality years. But my god.

The Eagles were the first band I ever saw live. I've written about that elsewhere, and I never felt the need to see them a second time, but it was a pretty rich experience (I was about 12. First rock concert. And The Eagles were riding high at that point [literally].)


The year didn't start auspiciously. At 1 am, New Year's Day, my kitchen sink backed up and it cost me $400 to get it unplugged 12 hours later. I'd have been better off moving everyone to a hotel for the day.

It did finally rain. And rain. And rain some more. It has since stopped, but I'd be fine if it rained again. Though after January 20 (tree guy is due. I'm late with that this year because all the tree guys are booked six weeks out and I've fired two in the last two years). I also fired the gardener (long overdue), and I really need to get another one because I can't keep up with the gardening on my own anymore (why I got the last one and why I kept him as long as I did despite the fact that he broke 4 landscape lights and garden furniture and decimated my drip system).


Asterisks. Again.


Only I could sit down at my computer to hunt down a soup recipe and end up booking the family on a spring vacation. But that's what I did yesterday.

Because, that is what I do. When I'm not doing other things.


"Starlight" showed at the Irvine film festival over the weekend. The people involved were very nice, and the actors were able to attend this one. The daughter and I take these screenings very seriously. We don't actually watch the film; we listen to the audience. We listen to them whisper ("Is this one of the college films?"), we listen to them cry. I don't mean that in a snide or mean way. It is so very gratifying to know that we told a story that crosses generations and touches people's hearts.

During the Q&A, an older gentleman asked if my father-in-law had a chance to see the finished product, and the daughter had to tell him no. At that point a flood of emotion washed over me, remembering how we had to steel ourselves to start principal photography two weeks after we buried him. I don't know how we did it. But it informed the production in ways I can't even think about.

You can talk about artistic endeavors in so many ways: self-expression, self-realization, community connection. For me, at least at this stage in my life, the latter is what is most important: creating a connection that is accessible to any other human out there.

And in typical circular fashion, we round back to David Bowie, Alan Rickman, and Glenn Frey, who all did just that.

Tech stuff: Taken with my iPhone6.
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31 December 2015

An end has a start - 2015 : New Year's Beach

Newport Beach, California
31 December 2015

It's been our tradition for a few years now to go to Newport late afternoon on New Year's Eve, walk around and see what is what, and then have an early dinner, getting home before the real crazy starts. It's nice and we've taken friends with us (they got an orca show last year), something festive without too much stress.

This year was better than last year, qualitatively and quantitatively, though it was still terrible in many, many ways. On the good side, the movie that was filming this time last year has found audiences at festivals, so that was good beyond my wildest dreams, certainly, and the daughter's too.

(It'll be showing at the Irvine International Film Festival in a couple of weeks....)

The daughter finished high school and started college which meant I was officially done FOR ALL TIME with the business of volunteering at schools. I get little come-ons from both universities, and I politely tell them to go away. I've hung up my cupcake pans.

But, of course, no sooner did I prepare to savor the novelty of not having to drive anyone anywhere, than the daughter dislocated her right knee (again), and I was back to driving her to school. Because that's the way we roll. Literally.

I read books, saw movies, and went to concerts (an entire week in Texas with D., New Orleans for my birthday, Salt Lake City with the daughter, a total of seven, count them, SEVEN shows).

And I felt my heart implode (ah-huuuuh, ah-huuuuh...though easier to sing it than write it).

I find it important to reflect on endings. What went right. What went so very wrong. What I can improve (everything?). Somehow it makes the start so much sweeter, so much more exciting, so filled with potential if I take the time to consider what I need to take forward while I clear the chaff.

So much I need to do. So much I want to do.

I've never been one for the biological clock. I never felt a sense of urgency to marry or have children. But in the last several years, I've started to feel the press of time. Not quite urgency, but a sense that there are things I need to complete, things I need to shed. What and who I love stays with me always, but there are things, real physical things, that take up too much space, need too much maintenance, need to go. I like the sense of lightness, the freedom of less. Keep what works; let go of what doesn't.

But you, you, were there at the start and you'll be there at the end, carried along in my heart, my head, my songs and my stories.

Because I am, at heart, an eternal optimist, here is to new adventures, new travels, new stuff to do and to love for us all. My wish for everyone continues to be that we come out shining on the other side. Thank you, as always, for spending time with me.

Be safe, be good, and remember to eat your black-eyed peas.

...with hope in your hands
and air to breathe

Tech stuff: Taken with my iPhone6. Also, go listen to some good music: "An End Has a Start" from the album An End Has a Start by Editors.

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28 December 2015

Look up

Dumbarton Oaks
Washington, D.C.
8 November 2015

At lunch on Christmas Eve, after talking about her nephew going through his first round of chemo and telling us of another relative with cancer, my sister-in-law said, "It's been a rough year."

Then she smiled ruefully and added, "But I said that last year."

And I added, "I think we've all been living it since October 2013."

The family gathered around the table agreed.

Later that night, as I put my mother-in-law to bed, my heart sank at the spectacle before me: how old she looked, how frail. I never expected her to just give up.

But it's been a rough year. And in many ways, next year doesn't look like it will be much of an improvement.

However, I did get a gift today and gifts like these tend to change one's way of thinking about the good, the bad and the ugly. I've not felt well for the last six months, so there has been much to-ing and fro-ing  to various doctors (just what I need: more doctors), consultations and tests and fussing. Most of this has revealed that I'm generally strong as a horse (albeit a horse with a heart condition who is partially paralyzed, but otherwise, everything is as it should be) but the unwellness remained, and there were still things to be examined. So I spent this morning at the hospital being poked at (with much ill grace, I'll admit) and in the end, we got an answer and the answer is that it's pretty easily treatable.

Of course, the underlying answer was that it was not cancer.

Later, as I staggered out to the car still under the effect of sedation, I looked up at the sky and leaves and the trees, and I thought about a story another woman had told. Her massage therapist was working on the woman's neck and told her that if she would only "look up more," her neck wouldn't hurt so much. And to the other woman, this was a revelation, as it was at the time to me. We spend time looking down at our gadgets, looking down in despair, looking down at the ailing person in the bed, looking down for whatever reason.

And I decided this morning as I climbed clumsily into the car, that in 2016, I will spend a lot more time looking up.

Tech stuff: Taken with my iPhone6.

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25 December 2015