We Call Her Bean

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She was born on August 4, 1977, when I was five years old, all chubby and delicious, with big blue eyes and a whisper of thin blond hair as golden as straws of wheat. She was an unplanned surprise, like all of us were really, but she was the best one our family had seen in a long while. Up until her birth, I had been the youngest, a little sister to my older sister and brother, the three of us born in the short span of a harried four years for our mother.

So when she came, a lengthy five years later, we were all excited for the arrival of "our baby." I welcomed my new role as big sister, and didn't so much mind relinquishing my old post as the baby of the family, especially because now I had a baby I could call my own... a real live doll, one to kiss and care for and love.

She was the cutest baby I had ever seen, of course, and was an even cuter toddler. My brother dubbed her "Bean," I'm not exactly sure why, but I think because she was chubby and plump like a jelly bean or something similar to that he envisioned in his head. As strange and obscure as it was, like so many other words and phrases our brother came up with, it is what we, her three siblings, all inevitably began to call her.

Although I know I definitely bossed her around at times when we were kids, in some of the normal and expected ways a big sister would, what I most remember is wanting to protect and include her, more than antagonize or exclude her. (Yet, I wonder if she would agree with my recollection.) She was the first person I mothered, before I became a mother myself; and it was a role didn't know I would want to play, but one I took very seriously.

Halloween 1978. a one year old bean on my lap with my clown makeup and costume removed.

Halloween 1978. a one year old bean on my lap with my clown makeup and costume removed.

Apart from being my little sister, she was also my playmate, and my friend. I played Barbies with her A LOT, even when I was supposedly too old to play Barbies. We both loved Garfield, playing music and watching TV sitcoms. We played house, rode bikes, and swam in our pool. We were the last two kids in the house together with our Mom, once our older sister and brother went off to college; and although we had very different personalities, with a five year age difference that felt more vast the older we got, we were bound by sisterhood and always found some common ground to hang out and have fun together while at home.

When it was finally my turn to leave for college, she was only thirteen years old. I felt a pull to stay, like I didn't want to go too far and leave her there alone with only my mom to influence her. She needed her big sister, I hoped, to help guide and protect her; and I didn't want to leave, blink, and find her grown up without me witnessing it or being a part of it. So I came home from school many weekends over those four years at UC Irvine, just to be there sometimes. To see her grow through her teenage years. To just not miss it. I felt an obligation to her, like she was still my baby just as she was when I was little. My baby sister. The kid I looked out for and took care of in one way or another since she first became that little chubby Bean. I didn't want to relinquish that role, or shirk the responsibility I felt, and the desire I had, to be a presence in her life.

I think I have always felt this way, even through her and my adulthood. It only lessened slightly when I had children of my own; and has had to lessen even more since she has shown less of a need for my support and counsel; as you can't mother someone who ceases to need your mothering. But it is still there, even in the times when she's doing amazing and thriving in her life and career. That desire to watch over her is in me. Wanting to protect her, and to make sure she is okay.

It will probably always be there, in my heart, even until we are two old ladies, wrinkled and gray, (hopefully) chuckling about how we once were so worried about life and how things were going to turn out for us in the end. And how I once called her Bean. Who knows, I probably will be calling her that even then, as it's still what I call her to this day.

This day, in which I am hurriedly trying to write about her between refereeing my kids squabbles, is the day she turns forty years old. This baby of our nuclear family - the one who is also considered the baby of our whole extended family, as the youngest child, sibling, grandchild, and cousin of 25 first cousins, born to seven children of which our dad is the youngest - is now 40. I would venture to guess that all of those older cousins of ours who may be reading this are probably standing in disbelief of that fact.

But really, whatever about 40. It is only a number. The only reason I mention it here is as an indication of the passage of time. As a reference point to how far we've come in life and how much time we've had together on this Earth. My siblings and I have been, and will always remain, the closest people to one another, even in the absence of time spent together or distance spread between us; as we have gone through so much together that no one else can fully comprehend other than the four of us. So much I won't even begin to touch on here, as that is a different piece for me to write on a different day in time.

So for today, on my little sister's 40th birthday, as we are far from being those wrinkled and gray old ladies, with the end of our lives nowhere near upon us (God willing), and still not knowing how life and things will ultimately turn out for us in the end, I have many wishes for her...

I wish for her the absence of worry for those unknowns. I wish for her the faith that her life's journey is unfolding just as it is meant to do so. I wish for her to always find peace in her heart, joy in her soul, love in her life, and (my ever loving favorite) HOPE βš“ in her life's daily adventure. I wish for her the knowledge of her power, her strength, and her resilience; and I wish for her the confidence in knowing that she already possesses all that she needs to live a fulfilling life. It is, and has always been, inside of her.

This child, who was a gift to our family, has grown into a beautiful woman; and I am proud to call her my sister. She is now, and will forever be, our Bean.


Happy Birthday, Bean. Thank you for coming to us, making me a big sister, and brightening our family with your light and love. And thank you for being my friend, then and now. I love you!

mind body soul truth self love attraction birthday wishes and hotel beds

The idea of traveling to Orange County to spend my birthday in Newport Beach, Irvine, and Costa Mesa came to me in 2014. I had attended college and earned my Bachelor of Arts degree in Film Studies at the University of California Irvine many years ago; so I had a lot of good memories from my time there and wanted to revisit some of them.
After seeing Fleetwood Mac live at the Hollywood Bowl and staying at the Luxe Sunset Boulevard Hotel in Los Angeles on my birthday in May 2013, I decided to up the ante and escape for an entire weekend away to celebrate my birthday the following year.
I got a much needed break from being a mom that weekend away in 2014 (as chronicled in Beautiful Mommy); and thus began my ritual of returning to OC each year for my birthday and then writing about it upon my return.
I wrote Birthday Weekend Away. In Short. Gratitude. after my third getaway last May, a stream of consciousness composition written with a period. after. almost. every. word. A friend challenged me to write about this year's birthday trip as a counterpoint to that piece, one without any punctuation at all (nor capitalization or paragraph breaks).
I took on his challenge, along with a lot of creative license, artistic expression, and a stream of consciousness approach once again. I expect it to create some sort of visceral response for you, the reader... although I'm not sure if it will invigorate or exhaust you. Regardless, I hope it provokes thought, elicits feelings, and, at the very least, entertains.

headed south on a thursday to start my annual birthday weekend a bit early and i couldnt wait to get it underway as soon as possible and reach the island hotel in newport beach on the dot of their check in time because i didnt want to miss one minute of my stay yet it seems the 405 freeway and its slew of accidents and infernal congestion had another plan for me so i arrived an hour later than desired but aint nothin gonna break a my stride nobody gonna slow me down oh no i got to keep on movin up to the valet i breathed a sigh of relief and elation that i was finally there and into my hotel room on the eleventh floor i went where i opened an alternate sliding door to my life like gwyneth paltrow did in that movie as well as the sliding door in my hotel room that led out to the balcony and looked out at the ocean to breathe in the same sea air i breathe at home now just 70 miles down the california coast where the islands in front of me arent the channel islands i see from my deck in malibu but balboa island hugging the newport coastline and fashion island just below me which really isnt an island at all but a big concrete slab with a forest of palm trees where neimans nordstrom and bloomingdales anchor an upscale shoppers paradise encircled by the circular newport center drive providing me with a much different view of the blue sea than i am used to yet i still find it beautiful because it is here and i am alone and loving this place already so i shed my sweater down to my tank top and move my breath and body through a few yoga vinyasas to shake off the impatience and anticipation of my arrival yet the sweater is not the only layer i shed as the cloak of my daily life as a mother wife and caretaker begins to peel off me like a snake breathing and stretching out of its old skin to allow further growth and reveal its fresh new luminous scales that had been waiting patiently below the surface to break out just like my autonomous woman slash mom on vacation skin begins to see the light of day and i feel a bit different now as a door opens and i embrace and breathe in my mind body soul and see this beautiful version of me reflecting back to me through love gratitude and connection with so much to honor and feel and be and so much energy in my body releasing and more wanting to be released but cant so i go for a run to release it by heading down below to the circular road around the man made pleasure island and watch the sunset as i move and feel the gratitude of this day and how fortunate i am to be here to feel as i do to run as i do and love as i do being who i am now glistening with endorphins walking into the gorgeous airy lobby to get snacks gratis at the marketplace before riding the mirrored elevator up to eleven to sink into my lovely room on this first night of freedom with a hot shower and soft white hotel robe enveloping me kindly while i settle in my chaise to lounge and look out at the view of the ocean now dark behind the lights of the city drink my rose kombucha eat my ranch kale chips and reflect on the wonders and gifts of the day and melt into the cloud of a bed before me to read my book until my eyes get heavy and its time to sleep dream and awake to my 45th birthday with gratitude in my heart sunshine birthday wishes on my phone and dreams of kisses cuddles and morning snuggles filling my head that are not to be while here alone in this bed still this bed is oh so heavenly and this day is free open and full of promise for whatever adventures i want to create whatever impulses i want to amuse whatever feelings i want to indulge and whatever reflections i chose to contemplate so first things first i decide to stay cocooned in my yummy sheets with my book open and my body engulfed in the pillowy softness while i read until my hearts content and my stomach calls for nourishment that can be found on a short walk across the street to the island of retail therapy where a whole foods market will curb my hunger and enliven my body with food and drink promising energy vitality immunity and wellness for a small fortune before i return to my now favorite room of all time to my beloved bryan kest yoga session cued up on my ipad so i can breathe deep and fill up with calm and peace while challenging my strength and suppleness with sensuous stretches for my body my muscles my mind and heart yet i cant help but get back under the covers after an hour or more of heat and yoga and body loving tlc to read a bit more of my book im loving about longevity of life science of aging biology of strength privilege of time and blissfully immerse myself in that bedding which smells so fresh and feels so good and tempts me to take a nap right then and there and i think i may have done so for a minute or two before i shake myself up get out of bed and lace up my running shoes for a run on pch to explore the town by foot challenge my body to go further and my mind to let go even further before i pass a store that makes me smile and flash a memory that makes me sigh and finish up my run on the actual legit island of boats yachts slips chocolate covered frozen bananas and world famous balboa bars where i stop my runners pace to a walk and stroll up to balboa beach company where that old bbc logo on the sign outside beckons me in and i find a white logo cap i must get and an anchor ornament i convince them to sell me and a sweet and cute sales boy at least twenty years my junior fumbling over his words to expose his attraction to me his interest in why im in town and his desire to know what i was doing for my birthday that night when i graciously share that i was going to do whatever i felt like doing as the feeling came to me and although it was probably odd and strange to him as it would be to many younger childless lovelies that i would chose to spend my birthday night alone when i could be with people music drinks fanfare and flirtatious men i didnt mind what he may have thought as i knew what i wanted and what i didnt want what i could have and what i couldnt have and remembered what i already have had in spades before for years pre marriage and even in marriage and how the freedom to be me individually for a few days has trumped it all these last few birthdays as i have thankfully gained the wisdom to now be a woman who loves herself enough to no longer let flattering attention define her self worth since even though a sometimes fragile ego gets a nice boost when someone shows they find you desirable vivacious and mysterious the truth is you still ultimately are left with yourself and what is inside your mind and your heart your love and your truth that no one can take away so i smiled and bid the cute and sweet boy farewell with my bbc cap and prized wooden anchor in hand and took a photo of myself right then and there on the streets of balboa island to remember my entry into 45 not the nightmare commander in chief but my birth years knowing there was going to be no one to pose for in front of a cake candle and camera later that night or a song sung while a wish is made even though i discovered a surprise birthday dessert awaiting me back in my hotel room compliments of management which i didnt eat but still appreciated so before eating dinner i decided to finally enter the mecca for shoppers across the street to buy a pair of shoes as a birthday gift to me and then return to my room to place a order for in room dining before taking another heavenly hot shower and re entering the white spa robe i cant get enough of just as my grilled salmon and veggies were delivered on a silver tray courtesy of the oak grill downstairs wow it was beautiful so i dove in voraciously as i was famished from my five mile run and then contemplated watching a movie or soaking in a bubble bath for a while but didnt do either since after applying a lot of eucalyptus mint lotion and slipping into something more comfortable yes yes i mean that divine bed ive grown quite fond of since the first sweet moments i spent on it the day i arrived so i read a few more lovely birthday messages and then a few more pages of my book before drifting off to sleep in a sea of white sheets with miles of empty real estate surrounding my small frame with no one to share it with except in my dreams and in complete contrast to the reality at home where a six year old often infiltrates my space to sleep close to his mama before the sun rises and unwittingly smacks her in the face with a flailing arm while tossing and jolting me out of my slumber to find myself pushed to the edge of the bed so god yes this nights sleep on my birthday night in my island of a bed and on my island of solitary existence was a dream compared to typical nights and those dreamy dreams i continued to have all night were followed up the next morning by no less than two hours of deep tissue massage deliciousness as i was pampered in oil and restorative touches that stimulated every inch of my body to open up and surrender its tightness and lull me to a near sleep before the session was up and my masseuse who is one of the most generous and kind people i know took me to lunch for my birthday at eat chow my favorite restaurant in these parts where good conversation grilled prawns and ceviche were consumed and full stomachs were enjoyed along with a bond of friendship that i am more thankful for with each visit and as i was leaving i realized this weekend was going by way too fast for my final plans were upon me so i ran back to the hotel to wash off the scented oils that had lubed me up good and where i wished i had time for a bubble bath but didnt since a quick change is all i could manage before getting on the road to laguna niguel to see my two childhood girlfriends and eat some amazing food at hendrix a hot new spot just opened and talk laugh and share our lives for hours until its time to bid farewell and drive the winding pacific coast highway back up from laguna beach through dana point newport coast corona del mar then finally back to my room at my island paradise where there was still no time for a bubble bath darn it as i was so sleepy and so on goes my nightgown and off go the lights as i collapse in bed reflecting on my time here with still more birthday wishes to read with gratitude before falling into a quiet and peaceful sleep until early morning when i awake to my last few hours in this place wishing i could stay and knowing that i couldnt since i had to check out by nine to head back to los angeles and dodger stadium where a little league team day parade was taking place with my daughter and her softball team as part of it and their coach my husband me and their unofficial team mascot my son who wore his coach pitch t ball uniform to be a part of the action on the field walking slow behind the girls holding their team banner feeling the excitement of the stadium from below for only a few precious moments before it was all over and then climbing several mountainous flights of stairs to our relief of shady seats in the stands to watch the dodgers play the world championship cubs in an exciting game filled with hits and home runs that i wasnt able to experience fully along with the rest of the fans standing and screaming as i remained seated holding my almost seven year old son limp and napping in my arms while recognizing clearly that my birthday getaway weekend was officially over even though it was only sunday and monday is a holiday yet my time was again becoming their time as my kids began to behave and need and nestle as children do to cause my cloak of motherhood to creep back up onto me to cover my new skin as i knew it had to as i returned to usual life and i then realized i hadnt officially made a birthday wish despite the wish i wished in my heart on my birthday in the hotel so maybe now it was time to wish upon the night sky the wish i will wish forever and a day right along with another lovely wish i know will be realized one day because i believe wishes are dreams that come to us through the truth we feel and are fulfilled through our actions and intentions and since my intent is strong my focus is clear and my hope runs deep for all that i desire for my life i know it will come to me as we all reflect what we are we see what we want and we attract what we focus on so chose to focus on hope light destiny kindness friendship positivity tenderness empathy and love always love because love is the greatest gift we have to give and receive so make sure to give and receive it with your whole heart and your mind body soul will be yours and the reflection in the mirror and the one reflected in those you love and who love you will reveal the authentic you beauteous as my mom would say and more filled with hope positivity perseverance the three things my tattoo symbolizes brighter lovelier truer than you ever imagined before

period.

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All I Got

My mom loved the beach. When we were kids, she took us to Paradise Cove in Malibu to play in the ocean and sand all day while she relaxed and soaked up the sun.

This Mother's Day morning, I took a run at Zuma, as I so often do, and I snapped this photo with my mom weighing heavily on my mind. I felt she was with me, in my heart; but I really wished she was with me in person, walking the boardwalk alongside me.

I would gladly have given up my run and that precious hour of solitude to just go for a walk with her. I pictured a spry seventy-year-old grandma version of her walking next to me, and wanted so badly for this version to exist outside of my imagination.

I remember how excited she was when I moved to Malibu fifteen years ago. I can still see her face when she saw the 180 degree view of the ocean visible from the deck of John's and my new place for the first time. Her jaw dropped when she walked in the front door and looked out at it; and she joked with us about wanting to move in herself.

She was so happy John and I were in love. She was our biggest fan... kind of like how fans of celebrities love their favorite power couple; yet instead of Brangelina, my mom fan girled us. She had a collage of our photos up over her desk at work, and she had several framed photos of us in her house.

She LOVED John. She thought I won the lottery of men. She adored us together and said "aaawww..." whenever we did something even remotely romantic in front of her, like give each other a quick kiss or cuddle up together on her couch. I think she was just so happy for me, and maybe a little bit relieved, that her outspoken middle daughter, who had an argumentative nature, strong opinions, and passionate convictions, found a gorgeous, kind-hearted man that seemed to love me despite these traits... or perhaps, to her surprise, because of them.

When John and I were engaged, she was beside herself with elation and excitement. My wedding day was one of the happiest of her life. She was beaming the whole day with pride... over me, the wedding I had planned on my own, and the man I had chosen to spend my life with.

None of us knew on that day that she wouldn't live to see the life we ultimately created together. It was only a year and a half later when she died, and she left us knowing I was six months pregnant, and that my baby girl was going to finally make her a grandmother.

She wouldn't get the chance to meet my daughter, or know we also had a son four years later. She wouldn't know that we'd continue to live at the beach, raising our family here and still looking out at that same view she had jaw dropped over.

She wouldn't know I would become a writer. That I would write about her often, or that I would begin to write my first book. She wouldn't know that so many people she loved would be touched by what and how I write, or credit her for my creative talent.

If my mom was alive today, I would have invited her out to Malibu and taken that walk with her; and then I would have taken her to brunch somewhere in town with a beautiful ocean view... or better yet, made brunch for her here so she could sit on our deck with a glass of champagne, look out at the ocean, and watch her grandchildren play around her.

Today has been hard for me so far. I don't know why this year more than previous years, but there it is. My family took me to brunch this morning at a local restaurant, after my run, and all I wanted to do was come back home, be alone, and write. I didn't want to see and be surrounded by adult mom and daughter combos celebrating each other over champagne brunch, or listen to my kids argue about whose foot was on whose side of the car and hear my son scream out at the injustice of it all. I didn't want to be informed about what they each wanted for their next birthdays several months away... subjects these kids seemed to think were paramount to broach on this particular day of days.

As a daughter, when you don't have a mom present to show your love and appreciation, there's a risk of presuming this day should be all about you. As a mother, things are rarely all about you, so this could be quite an intoxicating notion. Our culture dangles this day in front of us and tells us we should expect a magical twenty four hours in which our kids won't behave selfishly and our deepest desires will be met without us being asked what they are. If we buy into this premise, we will surely be set up for disappointment and our loved ones set up for definite failure.

I prefer to give more than receive. I love to be of service to those I love, to support them, to give them the parts of myself that can help them. To lift them up and serve them in the best ways I can, using my talents and strengths. That is love to me.

So since I cannot express and give love to my mom in person today, I am sending out my love to her and to all the mothers in my life through these words.

Mamas... I love you. You work hard, you sacrifice, you suffer, you triumph. You go above and beyond - and most days, it goes unnoticed. You plan ahead, you think of how to make others feel special, and you put the wants and needs of your kids ahead of your own most of the time. You are rockstars. I am in awe of you.

I never got the chance to physically be a daughter to my mom and a mother to my kids simultaneously, or to celebrate Mother's Day with my mom and kids together. The time it has taken me this Mother's Day afternoon to write this, and to reflect on my mom, is my special time spent with her today. Thinking about her, remembering her smile, her laugh, her jokes, her love, and writing this... it's the closest thing to showering her with my love and appreciation today.

That's all I got. Happy Mother's Day, Mom. I love you.

Β 

The Gift of Burden

It is the afternoon of Wednesday, April 19th, a couple days after my twelfth wedding anniversary, and I am trying to play catch up on all the outstanding tasks and residual clutter I had put aside for two weeks while we were away on spring break and anniversary celebrating vacations.

I sit at my home office desk trying to rid its surface of what's suffocating it... Kindergarten school work brought home before the break, health insurance paperwork, clipped box tops for school fundraising, and health and fitness coupons, race flyers and vitamin samples from the swag bag I received for running a 10K race just before leaving town.

My computer screen displays the results of the doctor search I had done a couple hours ago on the provider finder of my new health insurance company website. Now a couple minutes after 2:00pm, I can finally call the doctor at the top of the list... surely they'd be back in the office from lunch by now.

I retrieve our landline cordless phone from its stand to make the call, and as I walk back to the desk with it, my cell phone sounds nearby with a notification alert. It's a familiar and comforting chime, the one assigned to the Facebook Messenger app; one that has brought me fun chats and enjoyable interactions with friends and family so often in the past. Yet this time, it's not a link to a good article sent by my sister or a short but sweet note from an old friend checking in on me.

No, today it brings me the opposite kind of news... word that my cousin Christine died this morning, having succumbed to the breast cancer she had courageously survived a couple times already over the past three years. I sit down to read the words written by her brother, "my beautiful and loving sister passed today around 11:30," and immediately break down crying.

I cry for a few minutes before I respond to him with my condolences, and then I cry some more. Through my tears, and still holding my home phone in my hand, I look up at my computer screen at the name of the doctor I was about to dial listed under the specialty I searched this morning: gynecology. The timing was unbelievable.

My annual mammogram was due in March, and I had been avoiding scheduling it for a couple months already because it was going to be a bit of an ordeal... you know, one of those cycles of actions that is more annoying than hard, with so many steps to make it just inconvenient and time consuming enough to want to put it off in favor of things quicker and easier to check off your to-do list.

I had to search for a gynecologist close by, with good recommendations, who is taking new patients, and who accepts my new medical insurance (since the OB-GYN that delivered my son six years ago now does not), make an appointment to get a checkup, pap smear, and prescription for a mammogram, and then schedule a mammogram at the lab to take afterward.

I find that anything to do with health insurance and its confusing coverage is always cumbersome to deal with and makes me wish I had a personal assistant to tackle the minutiae of these tasks. But since it's all me, all the time, I had to take care of this cycle of annoyance myself; and I'd been a bit anxious the last few weeks over the fact that I had delayed in getting it done. Especially since my cousin's words had been replaying in my head, imploring me and all the women in her life to get our annual mammograms each year on time. Since her breast cancer was discovered on a mammogram taken one year after a test that was clear, she wanted to ensure that we all knew how vital early detection was. I had been diligent with my tests ever since; that is, until now.

So it was at the top my list of to-dos for this week; and there I was to-doing it at the very moment I found out breast cancer had claimed her life. I was in shock, not only from the sad news, but from the fact that I received it at the exact time I was finally taking these long overdue steps in my own breast cancer prevention.

After my crying ran its course, at least for the moment, I was determined to call the gynecologist on my screen right then, stuffed up, crying nose or not. I secured the next available appointment for Monday, May 1st, and then called the lab to schedule a mammogram for later that same morning.

There, it's done. I handled it - for myself, and now, strangely, in honor of Christine in this sad moment of unhappy coincidence. So many thoughts swirled around in my head... of sadness, anger, injustice, and fervent opposition to just how incredibly unfair this reality was. Yet I had no time to sort these thoughts out, as I had to leave and pick up the kids from school minutes later. Life was still moving on, and my desire to stop, grieve, and reflect did not surpass my responsibility to take my daughter to her softball pitching clinic or sit with my son and help him with his reading.

I wanted to write. I wanted to get out and process my thoughts on this travesty. I had so much anger to express toward cancer... about its incessant presence in our lives, its suspected causes that could possibly be eradicated if our society was just better aligned with what actually keeps people healthy and less susceptible to contracting it, and its relentless siege on so many people I care about - the latest being my cousin Christine, but also my ex-stepmother Julie, who died of lung cancer just last month, and my neighbor of fourteen years, Karen, who lost her battle with pancreatic cancer last November... three of my people in six months.

But the words didn't come, my head and heart still muddled in grief and indignation. The next few days were full of the usual duties and responsibilities of my life; yet, they were also full of the usual gratitude for my life, so I decided to focus on the good and the grace, and attempted to replace my anger with acceptance.

When I thought more about Christine and the day of her passing, I considered what a gift the burden of my looking up doctors and making a few phone calls was compared to what she had to bear that morning... taking her last breath and saying goodbye to her children, parents, siblings, and entire earthly world up until that moment. I knew her burden was much greater than mine, and was not the gift that mine was - the gift of life, of possibility, of health, hope, and living and breathing to see another day.

But the more I contemplated it, the more I wondered if maybe her burden was a gift, in an entirely different way. Maybe being free of the pain she had been suffering was a gift, more than I could ever understand. Maybe surrendering and not having to fight anymore to live on this Earth was also a gift to her. Maybe ceasing to endure more chemotherapy, chronic discomfort, hair loss, unrelenting sickness, and emotional turmoil was the absolute greatest gift she could have received that day... a precious gift, all wrapped up in the burden of grief felt by those she was leaving behind.

me with my cousins Christine (far right) and her sister & brothers - 6/28/14

me with my cousins Christine (far right) and her sister & brothers - 6/28/14

I was unable to visit Christine while she was sick. Time, distance, severity of her symptoms, and honoring her wishes for privacy made it so. The same was true of my ex-stepmother Julie and dear neighbor Karen... both of them also choosing to share their experience of illness and dying with only their closest inner circle during their hardest days and most delicate moments.

And who am I, or anyone, to protest these wishes? Unless you are the one lying there, the circumstances around death don't come on your terms. As a bystander (however distant or close a friend or family member you may be), death doesn't follow your course of action or wishes for what you would like to see happen before it arrives. It comes when it comes, and those of us left behind must accept the terms of it, whether we like it or not. Sometimes in death, we don't get to chose what we say, don't say, hear, or don't hear. We aren't the ones dying, so we don't get to call the shots.

It's only in life, in relation to our own life, that we are truly granted the opportunity, choice, and power to say what we feel, express what we believe, and experience moments in which we get to hear and feel what we want, if we are lucky. We are mere spectators of other people's lives, unless they invite us to participate; so it is up to all of us to seize those moments and opportunities to intersect and connect with each other, and make our time here as full and fulfilling as possible. Indeed, there is no doubt we are all connected, but as we come into this world alone as our own being and entity, we also leave this world alone, free to go where our energy takes us.

When I received the details of Christine's memorial service, I discovered that, ironically, it had been scheduled for the morning of May 1st at the very time I had made my overdue gynecologist and mammogram appointments. Of course I've changed them to attend the funeral; but when I finally get to them next week, I will be thinking of Christine. I will remember how much she loved her life, and how she fought for it until she could no longer do so. I will remember her spirit, her determination, her loyalty, her dedication to her family, and the enduring legacy of love she left with them.

And when I get my annual mammogram each year after this, I know I will also think of her and remember how this test, however bothersome to schedule or painfully uncomfortable to go through, is another one of those gifts of burden I will happily bear to live this life I'm so grateful to live.

Β 

πŸ™   Rest in Peace Christine, Julie, Karen, and all the beautiful souls we have lost to cancer.

Love Hike

My husband and I fell in love hiking. We met on April 20, 2000 while both living in Burbank, and for the first few months of our courtship, we would meet almost every day after work to hike and trail run through Griffith Park.

We've lived in Malibu for nearly 15 years now, and we've hiked and trail run all through the Santa Monica Mountains to the coast - most recently Nicholas Flats, in which the lake is fuller and the trail more lush than it has been in years.

Three days shy of five years together, we were married on April 17, 2005 at the Adamson House in Malibu... which means we are celebrating our 12th wedding anniversary today. πŸ’•

It's not always been an easy road, but our marriage is stronger now in the wake of the bumps and bruises it's taken over the years, and with a healthy sense of reality, perspective, positivity and perseverance.

#happyanniversary #twelveyears

Β 

*Originally posted exclusively on Instagram and Facebook.

Textures

"It was called 'Textures', because you could see three different kinds of texture: the driftwood, the sand and me." - Marilyn Monroe, The Seven Year Itch (1955)

For some inexplicable reason, I thought of this MM quote from one of my favorite films of hers when I was looking out at this view during my beach workout this morning. I think maybe it came to mind because I noticed how many textures, colors and shades I could see before me, and how my view kept changing and morphing as the clouds moved by, the waves crashed and retreated, and the shore and sea creatures appeared and disappeared from sight.

Over the course of an hour and a half, I saw various flocks of seagulls land and take off, a large squadron of pelicans soar gracefully overhead, and a pod of baby dolphins frolic in the water right in front of us, several of them jumping full body out of the water before diving back in.

I snapped a photo before I left the beach of the rectangle frame in which all of this activity had occurred; yet by then, only the simple elements of beach, ocean, and sky remained. No matter... still a gorgeous view itself.

#beachworkout #zuma

Β 

*Originally posted exclusively on Instagram and Facebook

Love By Choice Rather Than Obligation

My Eternal Friend & ex-Stepmother Julie and Me - March 2000

My Eternal Friend & ex-Stepmother Julie and Me - March 2000

I just found out you died.

Died of cancer. The same lung cancer that almost killed you a couple years ago. I didn't know it had come back. If I did, I would have flown out to see you. I would have called you to see what I could do. To talk to you again. To say I love you for the last time.

But I didn't know. You didn't call me to tell me and I'm not sure why. Maybe you didn't want me to know... to worry, to be sad, to have to try to find the words to say goodbye.

I heard once the cancer came back it took you quickly. So quick that maybe there wasn't time for goodbyes - at least not with me, across all these miles. Or maybe you just wanted to slip away peacefully without having to say the farewells you weren't required or ready to say.

It makes sense, I guess. It just makes me sad to not have been given the chance to tell you what you meant to me or to thank you for all you had done for me. I think you already knew; but still, we humans like to say it. Saying it makes it more real. Saying it ensures us that our feelings and intentions are known. Unequivocally. Unmistakably. With no presumptions made, and no feelings implied or misunderstood.

So I am saying it now. Here, on this site full of my writing. A site you never visited, nor ever read one word from, but still were so proud it existed.

I gave my sister Rebecca some of the words on this page to read aloud at your memorial service in my absence. I wanted my feelings to be represented there so all the people there knew you mattered to others who weren't there. Others like me.

What she read was brief... not nearly everything that came out of me when I first heard you were gone. All the words that came out of me are here now, written with tears flowing and a heart full of gratitude for having known you.

When we spoke on the phone last summer, you were in full remission... your hair had grown back, you felt great and were riding your bicycle around town. You had just begun to explore the internet, googling and wikipedia-ing everything you wanted to know more about.

You didn't want to correspond via email, be friends on Facebook, or even visit this site to read some of the things I wrote. Although I wanted you to read what I had been writing for the past couple years, I respected your slow pace and understood your intention to not get overwhelmed or swallowed up by the abyss the internet has the potential to be. I thought about printing some of my best pieces out to mail to you; but it's funny how we all think we have infinite time to eventually do the things we don't have time to do in the moment.

So I am going to choose to believe that you are reading this somehow, feeling the sentiments and emotions I lay bear here, through the energy that is now you.

I will never see you in person again. The finality of that fact is a tough one. The last time I saw you was here in Malibu twelve years ago when you attended my wedding and were escorted down the aisle in procession as my stepmother and important family member.

Over the last decade, we were able to keep our relationship going, despite your divorce from my dad, the distance between our homes, and my being swallowed up by newborns and toddlers. Two or three lengthy, inspiring, and uplifting phone calls per year were all we had; but I was grateful for them.

One was always around your birthday in August, when we would talk about the summer we were having and our plans for the Fall... another was when you would call me at the start of each new year to gush about how fantastic my holiday card was, how beautiful my children were, or how the Christmas gift I sent you just couldn't be more perfect than it was... and a third was usually around Mother's Day, when you would thank me for the Mother's Day card I sent, and tell me how overwhelmed and blown away you were by my kindness and generosity for thinking of you as a mother.

Of course, I lost my mother to a car accident shortly after I lost you as my stepmother. The difference is, I never really lost you. Not until now. You became more of a mother to me after your marriage to my dad ended, and in the wake of my mom's death, than you ever presumed or intended to be when you were still married to him.

It's not like you took my mom's place after she died. You didn't want to do that; nor did I want you to try. The truth was, you couldn't do it even if you did try, and you knew that.

So instead of stepping into her role, you reinvented it. For yourself, and for me. You became a new entity... a mother by choice rather than obligation.

You gave me something unique that I hadn't had before - a nurturing presence who lifted me up, accepted me for exactly who I was, and loved me so unconditionally that I became stronger and braver and more self-assured because of it. You believed in me so much and was so proud of me in the most generous and selfless way, that I began to believe in myself more. So even though you weren't physically in my life, you were always there for me.

And I was here. Figuring things out, often floundering, succeeding and failing in motherhood, marriage, and life. Our calls seemed to always happen at the times when I needed your support, advice, and guidance the most. I definitely didn't call you as often as I wanted, to see how you were doing and check in on how life was for you. You loved it when I did, but you didn't need me to. You always made sure to tell me how much you loved and appreciated me, felt my love across the miles and held it close to your heart in the time between our talks.

You let me know the cards and photos of my family I sent were valued as some of your most treasured possessions. You expressed your regard for them through wildly enthusiastic and whimsical descriptions of where you placed them in your home - like on your refrigerator door so you would see them every time you made a cup of tea, or on your bedside table so you could see our smiling faces when you woke up - and these long, beautiful expressions of appreciation that you would generously give to me always left me with a deep and comforting feeling that I was truly cherished by you.

What an amazing gift you had. The ability to spread so much joy and love by just being YOU. Your true and unapologetic self was so honest, vulnerable, and sincere that I would bet any person who was lucky enough to know you, or be showered even once with your unconditional adoration and praise, was left a better person.

You were an enchanted, mystical and ethereal force of positive energy and light. You brightened my life with your encouragement, your sage advice, your enlightened wisdom, and your boundless love.

And although I will miss you deeply, your love will stay with me; and I will never lose what you meant to me.

Beyond Leia

Image: Rolling Stone Magazine/Aaron Rapoport/Corbis

Image: Rolling Stone Magazine/Aaron Rapoport/Corbis

 
I am Princess Leia, no matter what. If I were trying to get a good table, I wouldn’t say I wrote Postcards (From the Edge). Or, if I’m trying to get someone to take my check and I don’t have ID, I wouldn’t say: β€˜Have you seen (When) Harry Met Sally?’ Princess Leia will be on my tombstone.
— Carrie Fisher
 

I was five years old in 1977, the year Carrie Fisher first took on the role of Princess Leia. As a toddler, I didn't see Star Wars when it first came out; so my earliest visual memory of Leia was not in a white robe with side buns, but rather in this gold slave bikini and long braid from 1983's Return of the Jedi.

I eventually saw the first film, along with its sequel The Empire Strikes Back, and witnessed the debut of the gun-toting Leia, with her sharp tongued quips and calm under fire demeanor that not only left Han Solo and Luke Skywalker in dumbstruck awe of her, but also firmly established her as the original cinematic female action hero. 

Leia was stubborn, courageous and formidable... put simply, a genuine badass. The image of her in that gold bikini, chained to the slimy, alien slug gangster Jabba the Hutt, definitely stuck with me; not to mention how she killed him wearing that same outfit with the very chain that bound her.

So much of Princess Leia's charm, grit and attraction is due to the fact that Carrie Fisher was the one who brought her to life onscreen. Leia exuded Carrie's strength of character, resilience, and dogged determination to reject norms, defy limited expectations, and surpass and defeat the literal and figurative restraints that an alien slug, or anyone else, tried to put on her.

Yet as strong, lovely, and memorable as she was in the Star Wars films, Carrie Fisher was much more than Princess Leia to so many, including me. In the whole of my life, she emerged beyond Leia, inhabiting other roles and other identities that have endeared her to me even more...

... more as Meg Ryan's best friend in one of my all-time favorite films, When Harry Met Sally. While in college in the early 1990's, Carrie was a big part of nursing me back to health and comforting me when I just needed to cuddle up and escape into a movie. As a Film Studies major, this was my go-to movie to put on when I was sick, burnt out from studying, or in need of a break from all the cerebral and abstract foreign films I watched in film class.

... more for her connection to my family, as the daughter of the late Debbie Reynolds, the legendary entertainer who headlined Vegas alongside my dad in the late 1970's; and as the half sister of Joely and Tricia Leigh Fisher, daughters of Connie Stevens, also a renowned actress and singer, who started a vocal group with my dad back in the 1950's and who ultimately became one of my mom's best friends.

... more for the kinship I felt with her as a fellow daughter of an entertainer father that seemed to be much more accessible to his fans then he was to his children.

... more for her bravery and transparency about her mental illness, and how she didn't let it stop her from living her life on her terms. I know a thing or two about being outspoken and honest to the point that it sometimes makes others uncomfortable, and I love that Carrie spoke her mind on topics that mattered to her, or of which she had a strong opinion. Not only did she free herself from the stigma of an illness that is often misunderstood and dismissed as imaginary or manufactured; but she helped others to feel free of it through her public candor and her writing.

... and yes, more than anything, Carrie Fisher is endeared to me for her talent as a writer, and her propensity to tell the barefaced truth. To be a good writer you need to be fearless and free; not only do you need to possess the courage to say what others won't, but also to have the forte to write what others can't. Carrie was all this and more. I aspire to be like her, and to write with the same courage and flair that she did.

The overwhelming respect and regard I have for her, her work, her honesty, her love of words, and her legacy of living life in the most unabashedly real way, far eclipses any admiration I hold for her as that beautiful, bikini-clad woman. Carrie was proud and unashamed to be who she was, and she worked and lived to ensure that her worth was not solely measured by the veil of her perceived privilege, nor the fleeting nature of her physical beauty.

And for that, I believe she succeeded famously.

Rest in peace, badass princess.

Carrie Fisher
1956 - 2016

Carrie-Fisher-Time-2015-Photo-Shoot-Star-Wars-thumb-430xauto-64608.jpeg
 
Youth and beauty are not accomplishments. They’re the temporary happy by-products of time and/or DNA. Don’t hold your breath for either.
— Carrie Fisher
 

While Away

On the last day of 2016, my family and I visited the Sequoia National Park up in the southern Sierra Nevada Mountains of California. As we drove over thirty miles up a windy mountain road, the air temperature dropped from an already chilly (by my California coast standards) 49 degrees at the bottom of the mountain to a brisk 31 degrees at the point where we stopped amidst a winter wonderland.

We attempted to sled and saucer our way down hills so deeply covered with fresh powder that we immediately sunk down into the pillowy white snow instead of gliding atop the surface of it. This was a spontaneous day trip up the mountain, so we hadn't sought out a groomed tube park or any kind of designated sledding area. We simply stopped off the road when we saw some open space to explore and forged our own path to play in the woods where no one else was around.

This type of scenario is commonplace in my life with my adventurous husband, so I have learned to expect the unexpected over the years. As such, these natural snowy conditions were less than ideal for our planned activity. None of us seemed to mind though... we were having fun and were content to let the green of the trees and the white of the snow envelop us in their pure and pristine beauty.

The air was so crisp and fresh and the snow fell from the sky so soft and silent that, as I looked around, I felt as if I was watching a beautiful nature film with the sound turned down. Although I live in a rural mountainous area, it is temperate and always in motion, the coastal breezes and ocean waves providing us with a constant soundtrack. This frost covered forest was, in contrast, cold, quiet, and still; an environment to which I wasn't accustomed.

While my husband and kids were still trying in vain to get some speed and traction on the hills behind me, I stood alone in the middle of an open field, the blanket of white around me untouched except for the path of my footsteps. Entranced by my surroundings, I just stood there as the snow floated down and lightly settled upon me, not doing or thinking or being anything but present. I was just me. Me in that moment. Me in my mind. Me in my body. Me in my soul. Just ME.

A feeling of acceptance, peace and gratitude washed over me and I took it all in with a deep breath of cool, clean air... acceptance of myself, peace with my place in the world, and gratitude for my journey - past, present and most especially, future.

The sound of my kids laughing in the distance slowly came back into my perception, as if someone had turned the movie's volume up; and I realized they were calling for me to rejoin the fun. It seems I was being summoned back... Back to being a mom. Back to being a wife. Back to being a woman loved and needed by the same two eager and excited little humans as I am every day of my life. And most rewardingly, back to my position as the missing and vital puzzle piece that completes our family portrait.

2016 would be over in a couple of hours, and I was happy to see it go. It had been a year of examination, discovery, reflection, letting go, seeking resolution, and recommitting to dreams and goals that had always been there, but had begun to get lost in the shuffle along the way.

As I mentioned in my last post a couple days ago, I shared some things exclusively on Instagram and Facebook that I wrote during the final three months of 2016 in lieu of posting anything here on the blog at that time.
I am sharing those words and images below with you now to wrap up and bid farewell to what was a challenging and transformative year...

Milking It

Pacific coast Highway - Santa Monica, CA

Pacific coast Highway - Santa Monica, CA

A two and half hour, traffic laden drive from the OC to LA warrants all windows down, sunroof open, bare feet, music playing, and a leg up while driving (even when wearing a dress). I drove down to Costa Mesa this morning for a dear friend's father's funeral, a fitting end to an already emotional week for me, after the tenth anniversary of my mother's death a couple days ago.

I drove most of the way home to Malibu on the clogged 405 freeway in silence and quiet reflection, thinking about life and how those we love will all inevitably leave us at some point on our life's journey, and how I knew that this was only one in a long procession of memorial services that I already had begun to attend, as my friends and I continue to lose the beloved people that came before us and reared us into this life. I also partly dreamed about just staying down there for the rest of the day, hanging out at the beach alone or calling a friend I hadn't seen in a while to meet for coffee, a smile, and a catch-up chat. Wouldn't that be lovely, I thought.

When I finally made it to the 10 freeway, traffic opened up, and so did I... shaking off my daydreams, I took a deep cleansing breath to remind me to stay in the present and seize the moment to enjoy the cool coastal breezes that were now rushing through my open car windows. As I emerged from the McClure tunnel onto Pacific Coast Highway in Santa Monica, traffic slowed to a crawl again, and I noticed a couple people in the cars around me craning their necks and doing double takes at me.

Now, I am a 44 year old woman in a black funeral dress in an SUV on my way home to my husband and kids, not a 22 year old freewheeling chick in cutoffs and a bikini in a sports car heading to the beach; yet, I was getting some looks. I can only guess that I must have looked slightly strange and oddly comfortable with my bare leg exposed and leaning on my door while wearing that conservative black dress. My black heels were kicked off under me and my wind blown hair was no longer in its neat little bun.

I didn't care how it looked - it was as free as I was going to feel today, and I was milking it for all it was worth.

Posted on Instagram and Facebook, October 14, 2016

Strength of Heart

Happy Kids Dental Planet - Agoura Hills, CA

This is the parking space I landed in today at my daughter's dentist office...

Seeing it reminded me that when we open our hearts, and then entrust them to others for safe keeping, we render them vulnerable to other people's insensitivity, carelessness and mistreatment. The most challenging part of recovering from the hurt and injustice done to us by others is to not close up our hearts as a means of trying to protect ourselves from additional pain.

True strength of heart hinges on our ability and willingness to keep our hearts open, kind, giving, and forgiving, despite the risk of being hurt again. It's much easier said than done, I know, but I think it's one of the most important virtues to try to honor and live by.

Posted on Instagram and Facebook, October 17, 2016

Start Doing

carljung.jpg

We are so good at saying what we feel, touting what we think, and preaching what we believe that the actual doing of it all sometimes gets lost along the way.

We promise the moon and then don't deliver it. We plant the seed then forget to water it.

Talk, talk, talk... words are our cheapest commodity. The real value is in our action and follow through.

Stop talking. Start doing.

  #actionsspeaklouderthanwords #talkischeap

Posted on Instagram and Facebook, November 4, 2016

Vote

Here we go...

#vote #election2016

Posted on Instagram and Facebook, November 8, 2016
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Be Here Now

Pantages Theatre - Hollywood, CA

Pantages Theatre - Hollywood, CA

Date night out to the theatre last Friday night. I snapped this pic before the show began but didn't share it instantly, as I didn't feel it was worth taking even one second of my attention away from my date or the beautiful architecture of the Hollywood Pantages Theatre to do it.

It's how I felt in that moment... just an overwhelming urge to remain fully present. After all that transpired last week, and the palpable uncertainty and anxiety about the future pervading the air since the election, staying present is what felt best. (And truthfully, still does.)

The show that followed this pic was an assault to the senses - so raw, so emotional, so tragic. It reminded me of how alive you can feel, how much pain you can endure, and how, no matter what you have been through or are presently going through, there is still hope for a better day, a new start, a brighter future.

Allowing ourselves to feel alive and in our tangible reality is SO important. Yes, we all have big plans. So many of us work so hard to ensure a safe and prosperous future for ourselves, our families, our world. Yet we get so caught up in it all sometimes that we forget to live. Forget to breathe. Forget to enjoy what is right in front of us. Finding gratitude for the here and now and choosing those moments to be fully present today, without an ounce of worry or concern for what's coming next, is what energizes us to face all that lies ahead and galvanizes us to do and accomplish what we need to do tomorrow. If we don't, what are we doing it all for anyway?

Posted on Instagram and Facebook, November 16, 2016

After The Rain Has Fallen

Malibu, CA

After the rain has fallen
After the tears have washed your eyes
You'll find that I've taken nothing, that
Love can't replace in the blink of an eye.

After the thunder's spoken, and
After the lightning bolt's been hurled
After the dream is broken, there'll
Still be love in the world.

-Sting

Posted on Instagram and Facebook, November 28, 2016

Don't Walk Away

Sunset over the Pacific Ocean and the Channel Islands - Malibu, CA

Sunset over the Pacific Ocean and the Channel Islands - Malibu, CA

From my bedroom balcony, I watched this evening's stunning sunset unfold. With each passing minute, with every second even, the slightest shifts occurred, and the sky morphed from light blues and soft oranges to deep purples and intense pinks.

Although the changes were slow and subtle, they came in such a continuous progression that if you walked away for even a minute or two, you'd miss the whole thing.

There's no pause button. You can't walk away and come back to experience it when you're ready. It will happen whether or not you are watching.

I think the same could be said about life. Walk away, busy yourself, indulge in distractions, or simply take for granted life's pure beauty, with all its subtleties and fleeting nuances, and soon discover you're missing it... one minute, one day, one week, one month, one year at a time.

It's your choice. It's your life, and the only one you're gonna get on this Earth. Don't walk away. Don't sleep, swipe, surf, zone out, binge watch, or social media numb your way through it.

Please don't. Love it. Feel it. Breathe it. Live it. Just pay attention. It is worth it. Look up from your phone and see what's in front of you, live and unfiltered, in vibrant colors.

#nofilter

Posted on Instagram and Facebook, December 20, 2016

It Gets Joy

New years Eve 2016-17

This was the first New Year's Eve my son managed to stay awake until midnight.

Since he had never been a part of the festivities before, he didn't quite understand why we were all at his grandparents' house wearing silly hats and holding bubbly drinks.

We explained it to him by saying that when a new calendar year begins, it is kind of like the Earth having a birthday - just like how he celebrates his birthday every year.

He took a couple seconds to ponder this idea, then said quietly, "So instead of the Earth getting presents, it gets joy."

Yes, sweet pie, that's exactly right.

#insightfulbeyondhisyears #wiserthanmostadults

Posted on Instagram and Facebook, January 3, 2017

Happy New Year to you all. I hope you will join me here often for the interesting journey that is sure to be 2017.

A Better Ten

The last time I posted on this blog was on the 10th anniversary of my mom's death back in October. Since then, I have continued to write, but have only shared a few of those words on social media, not finding the time or inclination to write anything of substantial length or significance to post as a full blog entry.
The close of 2016 was challenging for me, as it was for many. Over and above dealing with the U.S. presidential campaign and subsequent election, as well as the sudden loss of a few of our most respected artistic icons, I myself suffered the loss of both a dear family member and a long time friend and neighbor at the close of the year. I also had much to contemplate, reflect on, and work through regarding my family, the holidays, and both my internal and external life as a woman and an individual.
Sometimes it is necessary for us to do this kind of work on our own, without an audience, and without certain external influences or opinions muddling up the process. This, of course, does not bode well for a writer who mostly writes about her life's journey and experiences.
My proclivity to share my opinions and feelings through writing on this blog stems from my inherent longing to connect, relate, comfort, inspire, and provoke dialogue. So suddenly not having a strong desire to do so was troubling. What I did post on Instagram and Facebook during the last few months was always short and spontaneous, and seemed to be all I wanted to comment on or delve into at that point in time.
Now, a new year is upon us, and I thought it apropos to follow my last post about the 10th anniversary of my mom's death with a new post about the 10th anniversary of my daughter's birth.
It is definitely a better ten to celebrate.
I still plan to share some of the things I wrote during the final months of 2016, most likely in the next few days; but for now, this first entry back is all about balloons, birthdays and blowing out candles... and the hope and promise for the future as my little girl enters double digits.
Originally posted on Instagram and Facebook on January 14, 2017

Originally posted on Instagram and Facebook on January 14, 2017

Party in progress at our house right now. My daughter turns ten today and her three best friends are over for the small, exclusive birthday party she requested.

As all of the girls were dropped off, there are no other parents here, and my husband took my son out of the house to give her the freedom to be with her friends without her six-year-old little brother in tow.

So here I am, in the kitchen, icing her chocolate cake and getting ready to write a big, purple "10" on the top of it, while four nine and ten year olds are out on the deck... chatting, laughing, snacking, taking instant selfies, and decorating photo albums.

It is quite peaceful in here, away from the action; but it is also a strange new reality for me, after nine years of kid parties at which a deluge of parents, babies, toddlers, relatives, nap breaks, bibs, sippy cups, diaper changes, and tantrums all previously played significant roles.

Very strange.

Well, better get back to the cake. Here's to TEN. The dawn of a new decade, as well as a new era of parenthood.

Originally posted on Instagram and Facebook on January 19, 2017

Originally posted on Instagram and Facebook on January 19, 2017

It had been blustery and rainy for the better part of last week, and strong winds were still howling on the morning of Saturday, January 14th, my daughter's 10th birthday. We weren't sure if we were going to be able to use the deck for her party and were prepared to relegate the festivities to the indoors if the wind persisted and the rain returned.

But as the party's start time approached, the sun warmed the air, the winds calmed to a gentle breeze, and the ocean swayed and soothed for a much needed rest from the stormy tides it had weathered the previous few days.

I set up our outside table with the craft projects we planned and looked out at this view with a grateful heart. Not just for the weather cooperating or for the breathtaking panorama, as I am grateful for that every day, but for the soul that was born to become my daughter ten years ago that day.

Someone could naively suggest that the weather cleared up especially for her party by some stroke of divine miracle; or they could even go as far as to say my mom made it so from up above, a gift to her granddaughter who arrived on this Earth only days after she herself left it.

Yet as idealistic and romantic as I am, I don't believe in these kinds of notions. What I do believe is that life, along with the weather, is unpredictable; and we, for the most part, don't know exactly what's going to happen from one day to the next.

Losing someone you love without warning teaches you this; yet to a certain degree, so does parenthood, marriage, and simply living daily life. As much as we want to believe otherwise, we are only in control of our own actions, our own mindset approaching what we do, and ultimately how we respond to what unfolds beyond our control.

This day unfolded beautifully... my daughter officially turned ten at 3:19pm, and she made her birthday wish and blew out her ten candles just before the party ended and the sun set over the ocean out front.

Originally posted On Instagram and Facebook on January 20, 2017

Originally posted On Instagram and Facebook on January 20, 2017

I wouldn't say it was lonely... just, different. Weird. Unchartered. Last Saturday, I hosted my first kid birthday party as the sole adult in attendance. My nine-going-on-what-feels-like-eighteen-year-old daughter was blissful and carefree when her friends arrived for the party that day; a refreshing departure from the potent mix of drama, melancholy, and defiance she has consistently been the last year.

She smiled from ear to ear all day long... laughing, posing for selfies, and basking in the sweetness and silliness of her girlfriends' happy birthday song rendition before blowing out ten candles on her homemade chocolate birthday cake.

I watched all this transpire with joy in my heart and my own smile on my face, yet was feeling like more of a spectator than participant of the party, and noticed the stark contrast from her past birthday parties at which her dad, brother and I were always at the center of the action. Being alone and observing her and her friends from the sidelines this year made me realize that a change was happening that I didn't know was coming, at least not this soon.

I know as my daughter gets older I will have to relinquish my role as the primary creator and orchestrator of her life's events and memories. This is vital for her to bloom and grow outside the constructs of my nurturing and protecting. Yet it's new for me (and a tiny bit heartbreaking) to let go of so much of what has defined me as a mother since I became one ten years ago.

It's all going to be okay though. I have my own game of life to participate in, one in which I am not a spectator. And no matter what... I will have a front row seat to witness her beautiful life as it plays out; and I will be her most enthusiastic and loyal fan. She may continue to ask me less and less to participate in her life's game as the years go by; but I will always be there to guide, support, uplift, and love her as her mom. And THAT role is one I will never relinquish.

It Gets Joy

This was the first New Year's Eve my son managed to stay awake until midnight.

Since he had never been a part of the festivities before, he didn't quite understand why we were all at his grandparents' house wearing silly hats and holding bubbly drinks.

We explained it to him by saying that when a new calendar year begins, it is kind of like the Earth having a birthday - just like how he celebrates his birthday every year.

He took a couple seconds to ponder this idea, then said quietly, "So instead of the Earth getting presents, it gets joy."

Yes, sweet pie, that's exactly right.

#insightfulbeyondhisyears #wiserthanmostadults

Β 

*Originally posted exclusively on Instagram and Facebook.

Don't Walk Away

Sunset over the Pacific Ocean and Channel Islands - Malibu, CA

Sunset over the Pacific Ocean and Channel Islands - Malibu, CA

From my bedroom balcony, I watched this evening's stunning sunset unfold. With each passing minute, with every second even, the slightest shifts occurred, and the sky morphed from light blues and soft oranges to deep purples and intense pinks.

Although the changes were slow and subtle, they came in such a continuous progression that if you walked away for even a minute or two, you'd miss the whole thing.

There's no pause button. You can't walk away and come back to experience it when you're ready. It will happen whether or not you are watching.

I think the same could be said about life. Walk away, busy yourself, indulge in distractions, or simply take for granted life's pure beauty, with all its subtleties and fleeting nuances, and soon discover you're missing it... one minute, one day, one week, one month, one year at a time.

It's your choice. It's your life, and the only one you're gonna get on this Earth. Don't walk away. Don't sleep, swipe, surf, zone out, binge watch, or social media numb your way through it.

Please don't. Love it. Feel it. Breathe it. Live it. Just pay attention. It is worth it. Look up from your phone and see what's in front of you, live and unfiltered, in vibrant colors.

#nofilter

*Originally posted on Instagram and Facebook

Be Here Now

hedwig.jpg

Date night out to the theatre last Friday night. I snapped this pic before the show began but didn't share it instantly, as I didn't feel it was worth taking even one second of my attention away from my date or the beautiful architecture of the Hollywood Pantages Theatre to do it.

It's how I felt in that moment... just an overwhelming urge to remain fully present. After all that transpired last week, and the palpable uncertainty and anxiety about the future pervading the air since the election, staying present is what felt best. (And truthfully, still does.)

The show that followed this pic was an assault to the senses - so raw, so emotional, so tragic. It reminded me of how alive you can feel, how much pain you can endure, and how, no matter what you have been through or are presently going through, there is still hope for a better day, a new start, a brighter future.

Allowing ourselves to feel alive and in our tangible reality is SO important. Yes, we all have big plans. So many of us work so hard to ensure a safe and prosperous future for ourselves, our families, our world. Yet we get so caught up in it all sometimes that we forget to live. Forget to breathe. Forget to enjoy what is right in front of us. Finding gratitude for the here and now and choosing those moments to be fully present today, without an ounce of worry or concern for what's coming next, is what energizes us to face all that lies ahead and galvanizes us to do and accomplish what we need to do tomorrow. If we don't, what are we doing it all for anyway?

Β 

*Originally posted exclusively on Instagram and Facebook.

Milking It

A two and half hour, traffic laden drive from the OC to LA warrants all windows down, sunroof open, bare feet, music playing, and a leg up while driving (even when wearing a dress). I drove down to Costa Mesa this morning for a dear friend's father's funeral, a fitting end to an already emotional week for me, after the tenth anniversary of my mother's death a couple days ago.

I drove most of the way home to Malibu on the clogged 405 freeway in silence and quiet reflection, thinking about life and how those we love will all inevitably leave us at some point on our life's journey, and how I knew that this was only one in a long procession of memorial services that I already had begun to attend, as my friends and I continue to lose the beloved people that came before us and reared us into this life. I also partly dreamed about just staying down there for the rest of the day, hanging out at the beach alone or calling a friend I hadn't seen in a while to meet for coffee, a smile, and a catch-up chat. Wouldn't that be lovely, I thought.

When I finally made it to the 10 freeway, traffic opened up, and so did I... shaking off my daydreams, I took a deep cleansing breath to remind me to stay in the present and seize the moment to enjoy the cool coastal breezes that were now rushing through my open car windows. As I emerged from the McClure tunnel onto Pacific Coast Highway in Santa Monica, traffic slowed to a crawl again, and I noticed a couple people in the cars around me craning their necks and doing double takes at me.

Now, I am a 44 year old woman in a black funeral dress in an SUV on my way home to my husband and kids, not a 22 year old freewheeling chick in cutoffs and a bikini in a sports car heading to the beach; yet, I was getting some looks. I can only guess that I must have looked slightly strange and oddly comfortable with my bare leg exposed and leaning on my door while wearing that conservative black dress. My black heels were kicked off under me and my wind blown hair was no longer in its neat little bun.

I didn't care how it looked - it was as free as I was going to feel today, and I was milking it for all it was worth.

Β 

*Originally posted on Instagram and Facebook

Ten Years After My Life Before

"The life I had before... I knew how to do that. I could do that forever. But now look at me. What am I gonna do? What am I gonna do with all this?"

- Erica Barry (from the film Something's Gotta Give)

Life is not a movie. No one knows this more than me. Still, just humor me here, okay?

The quote above is one of the most poignant and heartbreaking lines from a great scene in one of my favorite movies. It speaks volumes to so many of our fears of losing control, of stepping out of our comfort zone, of challenging the false egos and fabricated identities that we offer up to the world and hide behind to protect ourselves from the heartbreak of being vulnerable, of admitting we aren't fine, and of feeling and loving deeply.

Her sentiment, "What am I going to do with all this?" really resonates with me because I have felt it, not only in regard to romantic love (as she does in the film) but in regard to losing my mom, now ten years ago today.

When my mom died, so much came up in me that I was not prepared to deal with. I had my first child three months later, and my delay in fully grieving the loss of my mother until my daughter was safely outside my body meant I was faced with embracing tremendous grief and overwhelming joy simultaneously.

WTF? Are you kidding me? How was I going to be elated about my beautiful and healthy baby girl while finally allowing myself to feel the intense anger and crippling sorrow of my mom being killed in a car accident?

"What am I going to do with all this?" All this feeling. All this hurt. All this love. All this disappointment. All this hope. All this sadness. What am I gonna do? I couldn't navigate my way through it, and I didn't have the clarity, energy, motivation or support to know that I needed some sort of outlet, or some sort of outside help, to sort out the mess that was me, that sad woman buried somewhere beneath a bunch of diapers, baby wipes, burp clothes and boppy pillows.

So instead of real help, I used band-aids. I patched up my life as best I could with quick fixes, running, forced positive attitudes, yoga, clean eating, a bit of makeup, a healthy dose of denial, and the sheer abandonment of some of my deepest passions and strongest convictions. I created some semblance of a happy home life and convinced myself that it was all somehow, in some way, going to be okay the way it was now.

The way I was now.

It wasn't. I hadn't fully understood what these new roles I now was expected to fill (wife, mom, motherless daughter) would do to my former identity, or how attempting to fill them would demolish all that I had thought of myself. Although it looked as if I played the roles pretty well from the outside, deep down I was partly broken, unhappy with myself, my ability to parent, my marriage, my choices, and my unwanted, unchosen, effed up circumstances.

The difficulties I faced had rippling effects that forever changed the landscape of my life and led me down roads I never imagined I would venture. Roads of thoughts, feelings, words, and actions that did not serve my life. States of mind and being (sadness, anger, bitterness, fear, self doubt, insecurity and shame, to name a few) that I expected to only visit temporarily - that is, while grieving my mom, caring for needy babies and toddlers at home, and fumbling through my domesticated, messy life - were instead the states of mind and being that I set up camp and lived in for years.

In the narrative of the film, Erica dealt with her "all this" by writing. She wrote and cried and cried and wrote, and out of all of the hurt and pain and love, she created something, healed herself, and moved on with her life. In the narrative of my life, over seven years had passed before I discovered that writing would be my salvation for my "all this."

With every word I wrote, I began to dig out of my dark tunnel both toward the light within me and the light in my life that had been eluding me. The digging was painful, enlightening, intoxicating, scary, euphoric, and all together devastating; yet, it freed me from the purgatory between "my life before" and the life I knew wanted to have in the future.

So today, on this day that means so much yet hurts so much, I am grateful that these last ten years are over. Still, the dawn of this solemn anniversary of sorts didn't flip a switch and make all my problems magically disappear. There is no ten year statute of limitation on my pain, suffering or difficulty in life. Sure, you can look at all the photos of me as a mother these past ten years, posing with my kids through faces of love, smiles and happiness, and see part of my story. And those faces are all as authentic and real as anything. But, as we all know, snapshots taken and often shared with those outside our inner world are mere snippets of a much larger picture... and they don't ever tell the whole story.

Not having my mom here hurts still. The void she left has never been filled. I feel it most when I see the grandmothers of my kids' friends enjoying their grandchildren, and the moms of my girlfriends helping their daughters like they have been doing all their lives, being there for them and showing them the unconditional love and support that only a mother can give. I miss that. This is the part of my story that makes life challenging for me.

But it's just a story. Not a movie, but a story without a completed script or a guaranteed happy ending. We all have a choice to either indulge in our stories, let them control us and dictate how we live; or to acknowledge and honor the events that unfold in them with awareness, vulnerability and acceptance. And then all we can do is just write and cry and cry and write until we create a new chapter, heal ourselves from the plot twists that we didn't see coming, and move through the remainder of our story looking forward to the parts that have yet to be written.

Dear Mom

Dear Mom,

Today would have been your 70th Birthday. But you're not here to celebrate it. The weirdest part of that fact is that I don't know how you would have looked or how you would have lived as a seventy-year-old woman. Since you died the day after your 60th birthday, ten years ago tomorrow, you never got the chance to grow older and wiser, to right the wrongs, to make your peace, to hold your grandchildren.

You never got to see me as a mother. You never got to retire, reinvent yourself, become the cool grandma, sit and cheer at my daughter's soccer games, or come over to watch my son blow out his birthday candles.

You were cheated of all of it. You were cheated of the chance to realize you were the woman you actually were all along. A strong woman, beautiful, fierce, talented and amazing to her core, who just got lost for a while and mistakenly let others define how you saw yourself... let others make you feel less than... let others treat you in ways that didn't honor the kick-ass woman you really were.

I am mad at you for this. I am mad at you for not valuing your life enough to take better care of yourself. I am mad at you for not clicking your seat belt just minutes before that drugged up woman crossed the yellow line and plowed her truck into your best friend's car and killed you. I am mad at you for not thinking of me at home, pregnant with your first grandchild, and not doing everything in your power to get yourself back home safely so you could be here to see her be born. To know her. To let her know you. To love my son. To let him love you.

I am mad. Ten years later and I am still sad. Mad, sad. One in the same. As I read somewhere once, "anger is just sad's bodyguard."

I didn't get to say I love you. I didn't get to say goodbye. I didn't get to say how much you meant to me. I can only write this letter and send it out into the universe and believe that you knew how I felt. That you know how I feel. To make peace with the fact that I don't get to talk to you again or tell you any of this.

When all is said and done... despite the anger, the sadness, the regret, the disappointment, the dashed hopes, the alternate reality I have had to accept for my life, despite it all... you were loved. You ARE loved. By me. By my children who never met you. By all the people whose lives have felt the void of your presence these last ten years. There are many of us. We all feel it. We all have had to go on somehow without you.

So what do I say now? Happy Birthday? This isn't really your birthday anymore. It was your birthday here on Earth, but since you haven't walked this Earth for ten years now, the fact that you "would have been" seventy is pretty much irrelevant. What good does it do us? What would have been. What could have been, if only. What never will be.

You are now just a memory. A gravestone to visit. A photo in an album. A feeling. You are energy, you are spirit. You are the stars. You are the sunsets we see over the ocean. You are the laugh in my daughter's eyes and the mischief in my son's smile. You are the passion in my heart, the perception in my mind, the strength in my soul.

You are part of us all, even when we don't recognize it. You are remembered. You are missed. You are lost. You are found. You are us.

You are loved.

Your daughter,

Lisa

I Am Strong

Natural History Museum - Los Angeles, CA

Natural History Museum - Los Angeles, CA

I just saw a viral video of a man with his young daughter doing their morning ritual of looking into a mirror and repeating positive affirmations.

In the accompanying article, this man states, "My dad did this with me in the mirror as well, which I believe has helped make me more confident and positive."

This is a true testament to how good parenting gets passed down from one generation to the next.

I wasn't raised at all like this, so I don't inherently possess the tools to positively and effectively parent my own kids. While this man was given a road map and spotlight that shone from within, I was sent out into the world with a wonky compass and a flashlight with dead batteries.

Yes, we do the best with what we were given, yet what we were given sometimes sucks.

DON'T ACCEPT THIS.

I don't. Even though it is more of a struggle for me as a parent (and frankly, as a person) to do the right thing and say the right thing than it is for this man, and even though I may make way more mistakes than he does, I hope, aspire and persevere to do better, be better, and give my kids a better start in life than I was given.

There is nothing more important.

#iamstrong

Β 

*Originally posted exclusively on Instagram and Facebook.

Soulful Six

Malibu Bluffs Park - Malibu, CA

Malibu Bluffs Park - Malibu, CA

My son turns SIX today. A gentle and kind soul wrapped up in an energetic and hilarious character, he is a kid who likes to shock and amuse just as much as he likes to cuddle and love.

He possesses a depth and a soulfulness way beyond his years; yet he is raucous and rambunctious, needs to be told to use his inside voice constantly, and tires out his mama on a daily basis.

One minute he is leading our blessing at dinner, expressing how he is "grateful for companionship, the Earth, and everyone in the world, even the people he doesn't know, or who aren't alive anymore" (that last one being for my mom). The next minute he forgets all proper table manners to joyously revel in his ability to make uncouth bodily noises at will.

He is the yin to his big sister's yang, loves to pick flowers for me any chance he gets, and never ceases to surprise, bemuse and fascinate us with his remarkable capacity to elicit smiles on our faces and laughs in our hearts.

#thisissix

Β 

*Originally posted exclusively on Instagram and Facebook.

He Runs

Pepperdine University 9/11 Memorial - Malibu, CA

Pepperdine University 9/11 Memorial - Malibu, CA

This morning we arrived at 10am for our annual visit... me, my two littles. I've been bringing them here since they were babies; going on nine years now. It's a tradition I cherish, yet it's one I wish didn't have cause to exist.

Upon arrival today, asking my nearly six year old son not to run, through these wide open stretches of grassy fields and rows of colorful flags, is laughable and utterly futile. Still, I try. I attempt to wrangle in his carefree spirit, his unbridled energy, his "live in the moment" attitude.

I do so out of respect to the other visitors there in reflective moments and quiet contemplation. I plead my case calmly and carefully, not to disturb any of them myself, but the ocean breezes muffle the sound of my restrained voice and thus carry my request silently away with them down the coast.

So, he runs. Up and down the rows and rows of flags. He knows this place. It's familiar. He remembers coming here right around his birthday each year, and it's comforting to him. Every September, he tells me he's excited when "the flags" go up, looking forward to our impending visit.

Even though I have told him why these flags are erected each year, and why we visit them year after year, the tragic reality for which they memorialize is a bit too much for him to fully wrap his brain around. Kind of like how the idea of even having to explain such a thing to my kids is a bit surreal for me.

Yet my older daughter used to do the exact same thing, as she too has been coming since she was only a year old. First walking slowly and holding on to the flagpoles for support as a little toddler, she inevitably began to run free through the flags just as he does.

Now almost ten years old, she is able to calmly walk alongside me and understand why we are there. She knows what happened on this day fifteen years ago and how it affected all Americans, our country, and the world.

I know, of course, that my son will come to understand this too, in time. But for now, for today, he runs.

#neverforget

Β 

*Originally posted exclusively on Instagram and Facebook.

Sister On

When I was eighteen years old and my sister was twenty, our mother took us on a whirlwind trip to Europe for three weeks in the summer of 1990. We bounced around Italy, France and Spain to see all that Rome, Florence, Sorrento, Pompeii, Piza, Naples, Capri, Venice, Nice, Monaco, Monte Carlo, Cannes, St. Tropez and Barcelona had to offer. From climbing hundreds of stairs to the top of the Vatican dome, marveling (staring) at the gorgeous and otherworldly statue of David, sunbathing (with tops) at a topless beach along the Riviera, to witnessing a Spanish bullfight and getting a sneak peek at the 1992 Olympic Village two years before its global audience experienced it, my sister and I explored Europe with our brash and brazen mother as two young girls still discovering who we were and what our place in the world was destined to be.

Our mom was wild at heart, to say the least, and my sister and I each had (and still have) a touch of that tumultuous part of her within us, although it was expressed in vastly different manners.

While I was outspoken and opinionated in my inner circle, I was much more conservative around people I didn’t know. There was always (and still is) an unbridled passion and fire in me, one that intimidated me when I was younger to the point that I overcompensated by keeping it buried inside and hidden from most, leading me to maintain a much more shy and innocent external demeanor.

On the other hand, my older sister (being the middle child) was the more quiet presence and peacemaker within our family dynamic; yet she blossomed into an artistic, free-spirited, social butterfly when out and about in the world. Although it's true that she and I did put on our share of amateurish dancing and singing acts for relatives in our youth (and even sometimes for our father's captive audiences of his shows while we visited him on tour), it was around our peers that my sister often seemed to express herself much more freely that I did.

She was vastly more comfortable and gregarious around complete strangers than I, and she was always (and still is) a very dynamic and charismatic personality to behold and enjoy. She was the unwitting piped piper to my cautious follower, and I wished I had more of her unabashed ability to entertain and delight those in my presence as she so often seemed to be able to do in hers. Yet she did manage to bring me out of my reserved shell part of the time, often lovingly (and sometimes not so) bullying me to become Ethel to her Lucy, leading me to do things I would never have done on my own.

Our European adventure that summer of '90 began in Rome, where we stepped out for dinner at the swanky Jackie O’ Ristorante one of the first nights there. Mom asked this random Italian man to pose in a photo with us, her young and relatively innocent daughters who were new to this city and just a bit apprehensive of what rollicking and risky predicaments our mother was going to get us into this time. Of course, my sister charmed and relaxed into the moment, in her usual style, as I stood awkwardly by, not feeling entirely confident in that same moment, nor in my young, eighteen-year-old fair skin.

My sister and I with an admirer at the Jackie O' Ristorante, Roma, Italia - August 1990

My sister and I with an admirer at the Jackie O' Ristorante, Roma, Italia - August 1990

And so it was for the remainder of our vacation in Europe, as well as in our life's journey for quite some years after... my sister vibrantly posing in front of monuments, performing perfect arabesques in the middle of the ruins of the ancient Roman Coliseum, and subsequently dancing, adventuring, exploring, working and discovering more of the world on her own unique terms, thus encapsulating my mom’s adventurous spirit in her own unique way.

Traveling out of our native Los Angeles, beyond California, and outside the U.S., she danced and entertained as a member of a modern dance troupe and then later worked as a sports photography editor at some of the most internationally prestigious sporting events around the world, while I joined the other spectators around her to revel in and marvel at her confidence, expressiveness and talent.

Today, my sister and I are closer in proximity, lifestyle, and mindset than we have been most of our lives. As our mom has since passed, leaving us nearly ten years ago on the eve of us both becoming mothers ourselves, we have been left to raise our children without her here to help us with whatever it is mothers do for their adult daughters while raising their kids. We now lean on each other for counsel, guidance, support, and friendship as we navigate these years of adventures, adversities, and anomalous achievements in mothering and spousing and womaning... sometimes not knowing what the hell we are doing but doing it anyway, always grateful to know we at least have one another to go through our successes and struggles together.

 As I sat down this morning to write a quick anecdote about my sister on her birthday today, this is what came out of me instead. I originally wanted to share just a short story about her that I could post with the photo of us in front of the Jackie O' in Rome on Instagram, but it seems I had much more to say than I thought. I'm just going with it.

We are not only sisters in blood, sharing the same childhood memories and adulthood realities that connect us; we are also sisters in a larger sisterhood, sharing a friendship and kinship with one another, and all women, as we work and fight and love our way through the varied stages of womanhood, motherhood, and adulthood. A lot of 'hoods going on, I know, but the best of them is the sisterhood that binds us.

In the words of Glennon Doyle Melton, our sister in this collective sisterhood...

Sister On.

And to my sister today and always... I love you. Happy Birthday!