Monday, December 5, 2016

Hopelessly Joan

On her 82nd birthday. Still regretting the time I missed the book tour at UCLA all those years ago when she cancelled due to a fall. And I vowed to make it up at some point. But never did.  



Friday, December 2, 2016

Sandy Hook Promise

As difficult and unfortunate as it is to accept as a parent these days, the reality of gun violence in schools is something we're dealing with as a nation far too often. A reoccurring nightmare on the evening news showing scenarios we can't even begin to process, no matter how many times we see similar scenes play out.

I know I can't even describe the recent heartache I felt rushing to my boy's elementary school to drop off a forgotten backpack last month and having to sit outside of the office for nearly an hour while the administration ran through a series of protocol during a campus wide "lockdown drill." Designed to ensure teachers are well equipped to safeguard their classroom within a matter of seconds, on high alert, and children shown how to properly react in the face of such a terrifying threat. In my day drills consisted of simple duck and cover during earthquakes, while my children are learning how to hide from guns, in a place they should feel safest.

In partnering with Sandy Hook Promise, a cause dear to my heart as a parent, I was asked to help spread light on some of the vital warning signs leading up to gun violence in schools by sharing this short and powerful film highlighting early evidence of mental illness or distress, that too often goes overlooked. In doing so, I'm hoping we might help open eyes and ears to the unsettling mindset behind these kinds of attacks, reminding us to be more awake and in tune to our surroundings, as well as talking to our kids about the devastating effects of bullying before real damage is done, working to  instill an early sense of empathy, insight, and vigilance, in whatever environments they inhabit.

For me, it was also a good reminder of how I need to make sure I keep the lines of communication open, especially during the more fragile teenage years, so my kids feel comfortable coming to me when they do see things that find concerning in any way. Communication, as always, being the key component here.

The Sandy Hook Promise website offers plenty more insightful tips and information on how to spot and treat these early warning signs to help aid mental illness before it becomes another tragic statistic. In which I strongly suggest you have a look.




This post is in partnership with The Sandy Hook Promise Foundation

Wednesday, November 30, 2016

Scenes From a Weekend

This weekend, in between the scatter of rain showers and listless beachside flings with a few friends over a feast of grilled salmon before Thanksgiving, we became a rotating hostel for boys. Where friends and neighbors came to crash, friends of friends, and basically just one sweaty head after another that came spilling though our doorway all hours of the day. For three days straight. Which gave way to loosely agreed upon sleep overs, towers of pancakes stacked in respectable fashion on the dining room table in the morning, bebe gun lectures in the afternoon, and non, stop, wrestling because boys aren't happy unless they're knocking each other around - rattling walls and slamming bodies into another with all the force typically wasted on their younger brothers. Because on this block, its all brothers. Girls are a rarity and if they have it their way it'll remain that way. Or at least until junior high rolls around.

All of these amped up dirty little souls piled into that beat up red Rover on a Sunday unleashed into the dusty mouths of that big dirt field to roll old tires down the hill, shoot arrows, and climb trees.

Perfect chaos in constant need of a clean up crew.

Wild and wickedly adventurous boy growing up too fast. Right before our eyes. Spouting in the quiet corners of this winter season. Eating too much, breaking everything in sight and laughing themselves into tears in the cold midnight crux of that sweetly glowing wooden playhouse outback that they're always too scared to ever really pull off overnight.



Words of Wisdom

“My silences had not protected me. Your silence will not protect you. But for every real word spoken, for every attempt I had ever made to speak those truths for which I am still seeking, I had made contact with other women while we examined the words to fit a world in which we all believed, bridging our differences.”
- Audre Lorde


Thank you Ina. 

Thursday, November 24, 2016

Where the Mountains Meet the Sea

Most of us are still in bed this morning, lounging as long as possible before the bustle of Holiday duties comes calling. But in the midst of my regular news reads I just stumbled upon this most intriguing couple in interview opening up their stunning dream home - hand built in the 60s and designed on a cigar box - over on Freude VonFreuden. What's far more inspiring than the gorgeous architecture and stellar design aspect though is the story behind a home their family have a hand in building.

Listen to them speak about the significance of it and see if it doesn't sweep you away too. Of all the things I read this morning this one was by far most uplifting. What beauty resides in their home and union.

And a very Happy Thanksgiving to anyone reading here this morning, on brief break before the oven pies and stuffing steal you.



"Do you enjoy working together?
Gawie: I think it’s very nice.
Gwen: We fight sometimes. We work together. We push it."




Full Article Published Here


Tuesday, November 22, 2016

Losing Leonard



If you are a regular reader here then you know by now musings on Leonard Cohen have always been strewn as means of constant inspiration on this space. From the homes he lived in, to the women he loved and the songs he wrote, I've always reached for ways to include him simply because of my great fascination with him. A fascination (teetering on obsession) that came recently exposed in meeting Darcy Hemley, who took the brilliant photo of him eating a Popsicle in his backyard under a blunt summer sun for Spin magazine where I demanded - upon learning of this association to him - every detail of their afternoon together, and was easily delighted by tidbits of his modest Hollywood home, peppered with good art and antique furniture, his love of Ritz crackers and his kind and charming nature apparent in him handing out popsicles to the handful of photographers gathered in his house to shoot him for his latest album.

Basically, the kind of stories I live for.

If memory serves me right then I was 14 the first time I heard Leonard Cohen. The women my uncle was marrying put on a cassette tape for me and forced me sit and listen in my mother's den. She told me she she could orgasm simply by listening to his music - which - as a greatly inexperienced 8th grader, I didn't pay much mind to but clung wholeheartedly to the weight of that strange music from that day on. So by the time high school rolled around - in spite of my fierce affinity touting me as a hard core folkie with an unwavering devotion to the ever illusive Dylan - I kept the few Leonard records I had stacked in the corner of my room, like a dark brooding side fling to be indulged on slow and rainy days. Or long car rides. Alone. Where his music always seemed best suited to the psyche seeking some relief.

At one point in my sophomore year, with my interest in poetry mounting I found the address of the Buddhist compound in the San Bernadino Mountains Cohen was living then as a monk in the late 90s, and took the earnest initiative to send him an envelope full of my writings. Bad, over reaching teenage poetry mind you, where I suppose somewhere in the grand scheme of my naive optimism I hoped he might read them and reach out. To talk poetry or enlighten one on the early ways of a writer's road path. Really, though I think I just found the idea of being connected to him, in any way shape or form, utterly enthralling. Certainly though, there are worse goals to chase at 16. My dedication so strong I suffered through the bulk of his boring novels and watched him religiously on VHS tapes after school instead of the gritty punk bands the kids around me clung to with the same intensity. When I think back to that girl I can't help by feel pride in remembering what that kin d of young love felt like before all of life's practicalities sunk in.

In college my love for him was the single deciding factor in how I deciphered the "cool" kids from the dull. Sure the Dylan fans were there, but if you were hip to Leonard Cohen you were certainly someone I needed to invest in. Though thinking back, I can only really recall two I could count as genuiene fans. Brian, the sweet and sensitive leather clad poet forever bumming that last cigarette on the afternoons after Modern Theory, whom I sat with between classes, and Todd, the sweet and sprightly guy with glasses and a fondness for Tim Robbins who married us in Mike's parent's back yard and referred to himself as Arlo's "soul father" after he was born, in a friendship that owed a lot to do with a shared love of Leonard Cohen.

Through my life his voice and music fed my being. Pushed me to feel deeper and search longer. His songs like medicine for the soul, serving as reigning leader to my life long love goals. One of the perks of finding him young was growing up desperate to become one of the smart and alluring at times tragic women in his love songs. Because he loved them all the way women want to be love. Marianne in the morning, Suzzane by the river, Janis stumbling along the shadows of the ghostly halls of the Chelsea Hotel, and all of the other nameless lovely ladies claiming such sentiments as their own, sitting growing old and brown skinned around quaint cafes on the outskirts of the villas scattered in Hydra.

I didn't listen to his songs the way I did other records, I ingested them. Wholly and entirely. Like some kind of love spiked protein to a young and blossoming womanhood. Like a religion I couldn't ever quite secure but kept at it all these years because it made me "feel" good. Because the sisters of Mercy kept strong echos in my head. And I searched for the bird on a wire everywhere I looked, whenever I felt blue.

Eight years ago I saw him in concert for the first time with my old college friend beside me. We sat in mid grade seats for over two hours in a breathless silent bliss because he was even better in person. So much so that it was almost too much to handle. Handsome and kind, witty and painfully as romantic as I had always imagined. A natural gentlemen with more sex appeal that seems fair for a 75 year old man to carry dressed in a full suit with his hat tipped just enough so the shadow lines of his face peaked with drama as he read aloud his poetry aloud in the pitch dark. The audience frozen in captivation where I decided then, in those dark and blissful moments, that Leonard Cohen's voice delivering us these poems in between the love songs that burned like warm candles in our hearts on  dark and stormy nights was as good as it was ever going to get. I also thought of the women my uncle married (and later divorced) in slow close of his final song. Wanting more. Desperate to stretch the night a little longer.

Hearing last week of his death shook me harder than I was ready for. Especially considering of all things, the timing. Coming on the heels of the big election let down, where losing another of our "best" and biggest sliced straight through an already stumbling heart and mind frame. A grief that erupted over dinner on my birthday while trying my best to enjoy a shrimp salad and port beer, where suddenly it all felt like too much. Erasing any notion I kept as means of comfort in trying times, that told me as long as we have these great pillars of light upheld by the poets and dreamers, visionaries and artists on this earth to lean on, we're never that far from the right side of the road. Losing him felt heavier because of the timing. In that everything I joked about - my tendency to play him over and over, obsessively while on a kick, my boy's growing up and writing a book titled "everything I learned about love I learned from Leonard Cohen" felt suddenly darker. The grand charm of an old romantic who's grace, voice and humor, in light of such gross extremities currently taking office, promised that he'd always be our man. Gone in flesh as if the idea of him simply breathing in these same times offered it's own small strange means of relief to those who loved him.

I still don't have all the best words to rightfully immortalize a man I loved so long. It's why this post has taken me this long to share. All I know is that I will always think of him in dim winter evenings. His music will always be best enjoyed alone but I still hope my children grow with his songs attached to some kind of sweeping emotion because they came played in those manic cycles in our house. His albums hopefully carving themselves in the skin of their hearts like mine before them. Handing over life lessons from a man who knows a hell of a lot about how to love a lady. Smart and bravely. And not without apologies and mistake. A guy who could take you for long walks in the rain, make love to you in a run down hotel room in Vienna, and then write the greatest love songs about it all to sing in a sharp black blazer, pairing your gifts to the likes of Jesus as a humble sailor.

And who else might ever be able to pull that off?



For it, we miss you eternally, Leonard.


Wednesday, November 16, 2016

Around Here





Sunday morning's cheap thrills

Sun-dried

Shelf Top

Beds made / chore list uncheck

Favorite Fall Doen Dress

My reckless helper

Raingutter Regada's old era boat themes.
(Leon's "Peace Rider")

Second place winner in action

A most determined two year old

Lessons in paranoid "monkey fists"

Recent graduation to the counter top


Tuesday, November 15, 2016

How to Hold Anger and Summon Empathy / An illustrated interview with clinical psychologist Dr. Christine Garcia about how to mentally persevere post-Trump.

Social Media, during political strife is never a "fun" or easy place to be. Raise your hand if you're having some trouble greeting Facebook every morning like I am. Cozying up to right wing relatives and all those friendly acquaintances you grew up with knowing full and well they stand on opposing sides of the current views of where this country should be headed. And right before the holidays to make it even trickier. Sure, it's a juvenile idea to believe anyone who differs on party ties isn't worthy of our friendship, but why then do so many of us feel that way since waking up to Tuesday's results?

Because this year is different. We keep repeating it but it doesn't seem to register where it counts. Because for God's sake it wasn't John McCain vs. Barack Obama and it was even John Kerry vs. George Bush. (During that election, for example - at least during his first term - I understood why he was attractive to his party. As a fun loving, handsome Old Texan boy who came across as someone you could toss the ball around with or hang at a barstool next to. He was funny and even, dare I say, "likable.")-  Which is not to say that I don't understand the allure behind Trump. I get that the greater majority of this country is throwing darts in the face of big government intrusions as well as seeking to shake things up in electing an outside business tycoon with no previous political experience. I even get that Hilary was a cold hard pill to swallow and for many, came attached with too much baggage to  ever accept or embrace.

Let me also say that we are seeing now where we slipped up and got lazy. Assuming the left would carry us home simply because we feel we're the only party marching on the "right side" of history as Bill Maher just recently proclaimed. But we weren't doing the groundwork. And we failed to see the warning signs. The Clinton campaign was chalk full or errors and the media failed to ever expose or highlight them they way they should have. But in these in reflections, confessions and mistakes, those on the left are still not quite willing to bow down to a man who leans so heavy on alienating the underdog and powering up plain hate. Who's first move (floating fresh on the waves of half a population's very vocal disgust) picks someone like Steve Bannnon as his chief strategist in an administration already plagued by racist under / overtones.

So the question now is how we move forward. In our everyday life, as women, gays and minorities feeling bruised and mentally battered on the social and political sidelines. Good thing is there is all kinds of informative and enlightened articles being birthed daily for us to make use of while feeling so scattered. Because when the anger dulls have to find effective ways to get reconnected and come together as a nation. We know it. And at the moment, understandably, we kind dread it.

So if you find things you think might help your friends out, by all means share them! I'm stuck on the notion that we wake up and stop counting on everyone else to move and shape things. My mindset is take whatever it is you are good at and have to offer and push it. Be it writing, creating, activating, organizing, speaking, informing, or supporting, get on it. And go hard.

For now, I've got this: from Lena Dunham's kick ass online magazine, Lenny - offering a few great tips on holding anger while keeping empathy, and how we begin the long road back to healing as a nation. Standing on two big plains divided.



Build your tribe.
We all have blind spots in different ways, because of our life experiences. There are moments when we're in positions of power, and moments when we're in less power and feel oppressed. It's everyone's responsibility to know their blind spots. This process begins by building a community where you can feel safe, and also challenged. This could be a group of women, a group of writers, or a group of people of all different backgrounds and ages. It's perfectly fine to have a tribe of your close friends, but especially now, it's important to open up to allies who have different opinions and backgrounds. And your tribe doesn't have to be one group. It can be many groups.
Be an ally.
If you become aware of yourself as being part of an oppressive identity group, listen before you talk. Be conscious and aware of your position of power. Be conscious of how you may steer away from these conversations because they make you feel guilty and ashamed. With honesty, bring to light your blind spots and biases. Check your privilege.
Speak up.
When we imagine the changes that need to happen, we may envision new laws getting passed and sweeping national movements, but the painful reality is that this is going to be so, so slow. And it starts with our daily interactions and the way we absorb and respond to intolerance in its many forms.
Remain curious about your opponent.
The aforementioned avenues of action and education make sense to me. A whole new regime of reading, gathering, and awakening is called for. I can sign petitions, I can attend protests, I can call out a male colleague for speaking over a female coworker. But what about Thanksgiving, when I see my uncles who voted for Trump? If I can bear to speak with them, should I? What good would it do?

Full article available here 

Monday, November 14, 2016

Scenes From a Weekend / Mercardo Segrado

I'm going to pretend for a minute that every extra hour of my time since last Tuesday has not been spent trying my best to digest news of this election. Meaning long conversations and phone calls with friends. Navigating heated debates springing up in every corner of the Internet boons I visit on the daily. And then, in the midst of it all, trying to process the heavy news of Leonard Cohen's death. Trying to accept that he isn't even here on the planet anymore to sooth the aching pieces of my heart that find solace in knowing that at least in the face of this new frightful tide we still have all the big dreamers and poets and visionaries on our side. Word of his passing rocked me to my core. So much so that I ended up busting into tears over a grilled shrimp salad on my birthday. And went to bed with a six year old from his room offering condolences in the way of "I'm sorry Leonard Cohen died on your birthday, Mom." Hours after he woke me with a handmade card and "I'm sorry Donald Trump won on your birthday, mom." Because kids, they get it.

Anyway, it's been a rough few weeks. Prior to all of this all kinds of other stresses were piling up so I'm here, doing my best to share a few things I've been behind on. Halloween even - I still plan on posting. But because everything else on my mind is heavy and more somber than usual - Yes, I have more coming on politics and how it's playing out in twisted dynamics on social media. And yes I've been writing a sprawling love letter to Leonard in my head since his passing - I figured I should maybe get a few fun photos from two weeks ago out of the way from the Mercardo Segrado event we carpooled to in Malibu. Honestly, I wish I had more to report on but truth is, we didn't actually venture away from the lunch benches enough to fully examine it. We didn't even shop! Or browse much either. So what I can say is that chilled white wine and a picnic on a Sunday (anywhere really) with friends is always a "terrific" idea. And that the Paramount Ranch is adorable but felt sparsely spread out and even slightly disjointed. The food was super healthy and there were lots of pretty dresses and handsome bearded folk populating the crowds but other than that it proved just a good excuse to sit and laugh with some ladies in the shade with Rose spotting models and eyeing antique rugs. Oh and Hayes got nipped on the forehead by a mean scraggly little dog (who's owner didn't even check to see if he was ok - not the one pictured here) and then was later tripped (accidentally) (twice) by Erin Wassen on our way out.

So there you have it.
Hopefully my reporting skills will heal quicker than my faith in humanity.

In the meantime. I'll to do my best to find some kind of balance in cursing the system and mourning the awful timing of losing my forever favorite Ladies Man.