Monday, April 30, 2012

this week in roses

The weather is a bit gray, today, and I'm feeling sleep deprived after our girls decided not to go to sleep until 11pm last night (and also after the past few weeks of Jimmy's "accelerated schedule" at work, meaning we haven't seen much of him in a while).  So I just thought I'd post something simple and pretty today.

We have no less than seven rose bushes in our front yard, five of which we inherited with the apartment, one which I just grabbed at Home Depot while we were moving in, and another which I spotted in a rose catalog, and is now my favorite rose.  Ever.  Like, in the whole world.

For the most part, I just ignore them.  I know, it's such a crime.  I mean, I sincerely enjoy them, as I can see them outside our windows and front door, but I always forget to feed them.  I'm better at remembering to spray some Immunox on them occasionally - as in, when they begin to look very ill every couple of months - and I do remember to cut them back every December.  But it's one of the luxuries of living in Southern California: the darn things just grow.

The white roses are also some of my favorites, but the last time I tried to clip one to bring in I noticed an earwig hanging out in between the petals.  Yeeeeeech.  So they stay outside.

This yellow bush is insane - when it blooms it really blooms, sometimes two dozen blooms at a time.

I brought in this pink one today before I thought to photograph it.  Smells lovely.

I'm doing something wrong in photographing this red bush.  It's so vibrant that my lens just pulls in too much color, and I haven't figured out how to correct the problem yet.  Advice?

I wasn't going to include this photo until I noticed the little guy at the bottom.  Guess he liked looking at this rose, too?

Here it is - my favorite rose.  It's an antique bourbon rose called Souvenir de la Malmaison.  It's incredibly gorgeous, and smells every bit as amazing - light and sweet like honey.  Perfect.

Happy Monday, everyone!

Friday, April 27, 2012

Happy birthday, Little Mac.

Today is my nephew Cole's first birthday.  I remember this day last year, the weather was almost identical to the sunny, breezy, blue-sky spring weather we're having here today, but I couldn't leave the house.  I couldn't go anywhere without carrying the house phone and my cell phone with me, waiting for calls and texts from Mom as she kept me updated on the progress of Jennifer's difficult, early labor.  And when Cole McKee was finally born - so long awaited! - but showing physical signs that something was very wrong, I just sat on the front steps and cried.

Birthdays should be good.  I want very much for Cole's birthday to be good.  

What a sweet baby he was.  What yummy cheeks!  What a fighter, what a loving spirit. 

What amazing parents.

I'm still a proud auntie to that baby boy.  And a very proud sister to my brother and his wife.  We love you so much, Eric and Jennifer.  Jimmy and I wish with all our hearts we were there with you today.  But we're remembering Little Mac here all the same.  And always will.

My proudest Auntie moment - getting the rare opportunity to hold my nephew.

Thursday, April 26, 2012

what is mine - part two, heart

Recently I mentioned being happy - so happy at last with where I am - and wanting to tell you about it.  After thinking about it for a couple of weeks, I finally gave in to the need to to tell you where I've been, first.  Part one was about my dreams, and you can read it here.  Part two is about my heart:

Moonglow, lamp low
All I need is a rainbow
And true love
Just like sugar in my coffee

Moonbeam sleeping
All I need is a sweet dream
And true love
Just like honey in my tea

The sky says goodbye
With the wink of an eye
Bright blue yawning to the west
Windows are shining
As the sun goes down fighting
And the houses on the hill
Are getting undressed

Moonshine dreamtime
All I need is a goldmine
And true love
Just like sugar in my coffee

- Eleni Mandell, Moonglow, Lamp Low

Somewhere in the midst of all the mess of my life in Los Angeles, I met Jimmy.  Well, really, I met him near the beginning of the mess, on my first film.  He was one of the very few bright spots of that job, and as time went on he made a point of helping me to get to know the best parts of LA so that I couldn't hate the town completely, despite my wreck of a career.

He was seeing someone else when we met, but our friendship outlasted that relationship and somewhere along the line evolved into its own relationship.  It was rough waters to start - he needed space to recover, and I was afraid to let him have it.  So when we eventually, somehow, moved past all that and he proposed to me, almost four years after I first met him, I was terrifically surprised.  Wonderfully.  I said yes, and five weeks later we were making our promises on a little patch of beach in Malibu.  He was my best friend, my best encourager, my kindest critic, my favorite person.  Ever surprising and ever there for me.  And handsome.  My love.  After the wedding, we wound down the Pacific Coast Highway alongside the late afternoon sun, and caught an international flight out of LAX.  We spent the next week happily stumbling through a grey and rainy April in Paris, and I knew I was the luckiest. 

I think Jimmy was blindsided when I told him soon after that I wanted a baby.  Truthfully, I hadn't been sure I would ever want children until the moment I said it.  But something about knowing he was mine, knowing he wanted me, knowing we were bound together, at last...  I wanted to make us into our own family.  A part of him, a part of me, and a new soul to last for eternity.  And teeny tiny yummy toes.

So, maybe just maybe, I might have been a little extra gooey in love.  Always more levelheaded than me, Jimmy needed some more time to see it that way.  A year, he said.  And the next year he repeated himself - let's talk about this next year.  I had to remind him that we had already waited a year, and formulated some pretty solid arguments on the idea that we didn't know how long it would take us to be successful - that some couples tried for months and years before they conceived.  He relented.  I was pregnant the first month.

Pregnancy was hard.  And worse, I didn't feel any sort of magical attachment to the baby in my belly.  I felt strange, and sick, and tired, and sick.  One day, late in my first trimester, I was so awfully tired of feeling sick that I wanted to cry, but I was too sick.  I was sitting on the 110 North, stuck in traffic below the old tunnels, and wishing I could just open the car door and vomit onto the pavement.  But I couldn't.  Not because I wouldn't - I prayed every day for throwing up because it seemed like it must be some kind of relief from the constant nausea, but I just never could.  That morning, looking for help, I called my mom.  She tried to encourage me, and cheered me on, reminding me to just focus on the miracle happening inside me.  She meant well, but I was frustrated.  I didn't feel any miracle.  I felt like I'd been invaded by an alien, one who made me pray for a chance to puke all over the Pasadena Freeway during rush hour.

By this time I was working at the first good job I'd had in Los Angeles, and the intention had been to try to stay there for as long as possible, maybe even returning after the baby was born.  We figured out pretty quickly, though, that the best decision for us, financially at least, was for me to quit altogether.  And so I did, with many tears.  All that struggling for even a slightly decent job, finally finding something good, and here I'd traded it in for motherhood - something I'd never actually dreamed of doing full time.  

Maybe I hadn't thought this through.

Next:  I'll finally get to the point.  what is mine - part three, this, here, now 

photo credit - one of our handful of wedding guests, I'm really not sure which.  Eric?  Erin?  Paul?

Monday, April 23, 2012


Last night I stayed up past midnight mending the tulle on the front of this dress.  For some reason it felt like staying up all night to finish a college term paper.  I don't know why - the dress is size 18mo, which means both of my girls have grown out of it, which means I was on no deadline.  Except that it had sat in my mending pile for six months, and I had finally gotten around to dealing with the mending, and who wants to stop when they're thisclose to checking off one more item on their to do list?

So, mending tulle = not easy.  This was my first try.  The scar is visible, but not obvious.  I'd like to save the dress for my girls, anyway, so I don't know if it will ever be worn again.  There's something poetic about all of that.  But I'm no poet.

Friday, April 20, 2012

what is mine - part one, dreams

In my last post I mentioned being happy - so happy at last with where I am - and wanting to tell you about it.  After thinking about it for a couple of weeks, I finally gave in to the need to to tell you where I've been, first.  So, here it is - the history of my dreams:

I wrote down a dream
But what was it now
And why does it feel so distant somehow
Did I take too long
Did I get it wrong
You're still the missing line in my favorite song

- Over the Rhine, Lifelong Fling

The first thing I remember wanting to be when I grew up was Indiana Jones.  Even as a little girl, one who loved her baby dolls and Barbies, My Little Ponies and dress up, I just don't remember making plans to grow up to be a mommy.  I wanted to travel the world, speak a hundred languages, discover new things, forgotten things, always have a witty comeback, and maybe spend my down time neglecting a tenured position at an ivy-covered stone-walled university.  In tweed.  Having to fight off Nazis and savages with a bull whip would just be an occupational hazard that I would deal with on a case-by-case basis.

(I grew up with older brothers.)

And as I grew up, archeology fell by the wayside (too dusty, for starters), and although I found that I had many natural skills, I still couldn't figure out what I wanted to be.  For example, I used to play in local classical piano competitions, but I hated every single second of it.  Playing the piano was innate - almost a physical need.  Learning to play well was exhilarating.  Playing in front of strangers was absolute torture.  Every time.  My hands visibly shook while trying to articulate Chopin, Bach, and Debussy, and when the agony was over at last I used to find the nearest stairwell and run up and down and up and down long flights until the adrenaline finally ran out and the shaking stopped.  I competed because my excellent teacher required it, and I competed because I hoped and prayed it would somehow get me over my horrible stage fright.  But it never did. 

I loved the music, but I hated what it required from me in order to make a living.  I also loved reading literature, but didn't want to teach when I grew up (hello, more performing!).  I loved movies, but that was a pipe dream.  History?  More teaching.  So when it came time to find a college, I looked for one with a great art program, because one other thing I knew I loved - I loved to draw.

I found the college with the great art program.  Then I found a boyfriend in the neighboring theatre department.  Then I found that professor in the theatre department - that iconic teacher who is young, who relates to his students, who is intelligent and creative and wildly inspiring and who - quite literally in this case - is a genius.  I transferred out of the art program and into theatre, fully inspired, hoping that set design could be my ticket.  Art, music, literature, history, philosophy, travel, creating, building, tearing down, beginning again - it was all wrapped up together in set design.  I got my degree and built up a little experience and moved to Los Angeles.  I could be an artist, in a new city, working in film, traveling for shows, and this was perfect.

It was not perfect.  I had expected a few years of struggling, of begging for work, and fetching coffee and earning next to nothing, and I got them.  More than a few years.  But I just couldn't get it all to pay off.  I don't know if it's because I moved to Los Angeles just when the unions were threatening to strike, just when business was really slowing down, and just months before 9/11, or maybe I just was absolutely not cut out for working in the film industry.  But it didn't happen for me.  I found work, but I had to fight for every piece of it SO HARD.  I went from broke to terribly in debt, and it seemed that at the end of every day I found myself sitting in my car, pulled over on the side of some street or another somewhere in LA, still on the clock, crying into my hands.  Every time I got a good break, something fell through.  I had to burn a bridge at the cable network in order to work with the Academy Award-nominated production designer who soon pissed off one too many studio execs and never worked again, the busy commercial art director decided she was tired of the industry, both leads on the respected art department team decided it was time to retire, etcetera etcetera.  Highlights of my film career included exactly eight zillion runs to Starbucks, being sent all over town on a mission to find a bucketful of Bazooka bubblegum for a director - only to have the gum thrown into the trash because it wasn't "stale enough" and then having to go buy a bucket's worth of Bazooka gum piece by 5 cent piece at 7-11 while the angry Indian clerk behind the counter and the eight customers waiting behind me tried to burn me alive with their eyes, working all day on 9/11 because the producers weren't answering their phones in order to OK our going home, riding an elevator with a spectacular-looking Jamie Foxx in his 1960's suit and fedora on the set of Ray, and meeting my husband.

Thank God for meeting Jimmy.

When I could transition out of film, I did.  I took a job at a start-up marketing firm that dealt peripherally with film, and they let me build their creative department from scratch.  Sounded perfect.  Or, at least, less stressful.  It wasn't.  The owner was an ex-studio exec with ever-changing needs and whims, and eventually I was fired for doing something I'd been directly asked to do.  I found this more upsetting than the time I was slated to be fired because I couldn't pick up an item in the Valley and a latte at the Beverly Hills Starbucks (supposedly the BEST Starbucks, of course) at the exact same time.  I'd left the industry expressly to get away from this brand of crazy.  But it was still LA, I guess, and on the way out the door I was given an evaluation in which they listed every skill I thought I had and said, "You just aren't any good at these things."

At this point, I was pretty well crushed.  I had worked hard for nearly nothing for years in hopes of chasing my dreams, and failed.  I had compromised, found a paying job, and lost it.  I was told I wasn't good at any of the things I thought I was good at.  And, still, I was pretty much broke.

I threw myself into a series of short jobs after that, signing up with placement and temp agencies, doing anything I could to earn money and, hopefully, prove myself.

But every job seemed worse than the last.  I would walk into a position at a design agency only to be told conspiratorially by my new supervisor that the owners fired every person in that position in under two weeks because they were too demanding, and didn't know what they wanted from the hiree.  My temp agency violated our contract by sending me to a telemarketing job, then took me to court for filing for unemployment after I walked out of that job with the agency's consent.  Once I was fired for stealing $80, something I most certainly would NEVER do, because of a store discrepancy on a receipt.  But instead of allowing me to correct the mistake I was just sent out the door.  I'm still indignant about that.  Ugh.  And then there were the months I spent - how do I put this accurately - managing millions of dollars' worth of irreplaceable client assets, a job I was barely trained for, with a boss who spent all day drinking vodka from a paper cup and doing cocaine in the back room.

That job....that job was the last straw.  I was at breaking point, or possibly already broken.

The placement agency called me up after that with a job in Pasadena at an ad agency which worked with non-profits.  I feel like I must have shown up there looking like a storybook rain-sodden sad-eyed orphan.  I had been in Los Angeles for almost five years, and my faith in myself was absolutely lost, as were any dreams I'd had when I'd arrived.  The job I was placed in at this agency didn't fit for me, but my supervisor was kind enough to pass me along to an account team looking for someone who could proof copywriting and edit artwork, and I was hired.

I have to name names, here.  I just can't not.  My supervisor and manager at this new position were named Lyric and Melody - no lie - and even though I must have told them a hundred times, I don't know if they'll ever really know what they did for me there.  For heaven's sake, I'm crying as I write this.  For the first time since moving to Los Angeles, I was working for people who saw me, who took the time to train me, who were patient, and who were encouraging.  They seemed to like me, I was promoted in due course, and in my evaluations was told the exact opposite of what I had been told before:  that I was good at the things I had known - at one point, at least - I was good at.  You two, if you are reading this, I will love you forever for that.  You have no idea.

Maybe it wasn't my dream job.  But I loved it.  I loved having it, and I loved the people.  I sat in traffic for two hours every day, bogged down amidst the skyscrapers downtown both ways, reminding myself as the sun reflected off the mirrored towers and bounced directly under my visor that it was worth it to have found the only job in LA where people seemed to possess an ounce or two of sanity.  It wasn't perfect, but it was good.  And good was good.

The next February I found out I was pregnant.

Next:  what is mine - part two, heart

Thursday, April 12, 2012


My baby, my Miss Eve Adele, had the nerve to turn two yesterday.  Two.  TWO.  I realize this may mean nothing to you - babies turn two every day.  Right?  But my baby, I swear, she was JUST BORN.  It isn't fair.  This kid went from, "Well, would you like to stay at the hospital now, or would you like to go home and come back when you're further along?" to honest-to-goodness crying and squirming and BREATHING in my arms in forty minutes flat.  I should have known then that she was intent on growing up just as fast.  I know, I know - two is still sort of baby-ish.  But she used to be this:

like, a second ago.  And this:

and especially this:

 (My forty-week photo.  I wish I could say I look very different now.  Ahem.)

And now, I can't believe it.  But now she is this:

She says, "Mama, come! Come here, Mama!"

She's practicing the art of jumping, she JUST learned to count to "Thwee!", and she loves to eat birthday "Cake-cake!"

 She is two.  My baby is two.

And my heart is melting just looking at these photos. 

I am the luckiest.  How they are getting so big so fast, I'll never know.  And I'll never know why I get to be mama to these two beautiful girls, both so smart and sweet and funny as heck.  But I love them so much.  I am so happy to be their mama.

I have more to say, and am working on a longer blog post for you, but for now I can tell you that I am so happy.  In the last week I've come to some new realizations, found a new way of looking at my life, and I feel I've turned a corner on this long road out of depression.  There may be many corners to turn on the road ahead, and I hope there are, but I feel so much more at peace today than I did just a week ago.  I can't wait to write about it.  But for now, I think this picture says it all.  I am so happy being mama to these two little girls.  My four-and-a-half-year-old and my TWO-year-old.  I love you, girls, I love you to little bits and pieces.  Thank you for being everything you are.  And happy birthday, Evie.  I cannot wait to get to know you better this year.


Thanks to Jimmy for most of these photos - he really does get the best pictures of the girls.