Friday, July 30, 2010

Pandora's Book


Yeah so I finished writing my book last week. No biggie. Just eight grueling years of my life; two where I couldn’t write at all, several spent in intensive therapy, and this year, working like a woman possessed, until finally last week….I completed it. Got my first rough draft printed out and sobbed in Kinko’s when I held it in my hands. The sheer weight of it… I wrote all that? I was on a giddy high for about a half hour. I did it! I wrote a book!

Flash forward to a half hour later. Completely depressed and hand-wringing. All this work, what if nothing ever becomes of it? What if I’m not inspired to write anything more? Then what will I obsess over? Oh the misery….

For three days I couldn’t bear to look at it. It sat on my desk, taunting me as I paced circles around it. My husband said he was so proud of me, he wanted to tell everyone. NO! I shouted. Don’t tell anyone!

Uh…isn’t that the point of writing a book? So people will know about it, and uh…read it? He was right. But I couldn’t bear to let anyone know. I have no idea why.

That Monday, I vowed to face it. I would start at the beginning and read it all the way through. I took my manuscript to a café, and sat on the outdoor patio with my editing pen and a glass of Chardonnay. It felt like a very writerly thing to do. I put my reading glasses on, took a deep breath and cheerily started in on my final edits. Chapter one…

By chapter two I was convinced I’d never be a writer. I’d either have to scrap the whole thing and start over or just quit writing altogether. What was I thinking? Eight years of my life? I put my head in my hands, feeling hopeless. Then out of nowhere, a flying beetle the size of a Hummer started dive-bombing me to the point where, after ten minutes of relentless attack I had to leave the café, practically in tears. On the way out I slammed my sandaled foot into the corner of a door and was bleeding all over the place. As I limped, bleeding, into the parking lot I was hustled by a six foot two junkie that looked just like one of my brothers (who is a junkie). At this point I was so stressed I screamed BACK OFF. He actually took three giant steps backward, his hands up in the air and said “Sorry Ma’am”. Just then my phone rang. It was my kid’s summer camp calling to tell me my son was vomiting. After I got home and held my son’s head over the toilet I tossed that damn manuscript in the closet and slammed the door shut. And I haven’t let it back out yet.

Like Dr. Frankenstein, I fear the very thing I have created. I feel like it has a power of its own, like Pandora’s box, or as my husband called it, Pandora’s Book. It’s as if writing the memoir of my childhood has released all these scary ghosts. I mean think about it. My septic system backed up into my yard, crazy people started threatening my family, my kid keeps getting sick, all these issues from my past are being dug up, flying beetles attacking me. It's almost apocalyptic! I don’t know. I’m getting a little freaked out and superstitious. I do believe that words are powerful. Powerful enough to bring a curse on me? Or am I just being neurotic? I swear I can almost hear that thing banging on the closet door, rattling the doorknob to get out.

My stomach is wretching. I grab my side and bend over. This must be what they call writer’s cramp. And then, my angel-friend Amy calls (who is a brilliant, much more experienced writer), and I tell her how insane and neurotic I am. I tell her about my crazy behavior. Is this normal, I ask?

Oh yes, she says calmly, absolutely normal. And you’ll go through it with every book you write. I sit down and exhale.

Congratulations on finishing your book, she says happily, and welcome to the writer’s life.

I slowly open the closet door….

Saturday, July 24, 2010

My Addiction


There’s a theory that we’re all addicted to something, whether it be food, drugs, alcohol, sex, work, attention, whatever.

These days it’s writing for me. There were years that I pushed writing away. I was bone dry for any inspiration. Yes, I was a teetotaler.

But now I have fallen completely off the wagon. I’m compelled to write to the point where everything else suffers. On my desk, there is an unopened jury duty notice, overdue car lease paperwork. Neglected deadlines whirr past me. Most days I’m in my pajamas til well past noon. My dogs desperately need a bath. My cats are shedding, puking up hairballs all over the carpet. Dust accumulates on every surface of the house, giant dustbunnies roll past me like tumbleweeds (okay so I’m exaggerating – creative license here.) but I don’t care. I’m a junkie.

I write.

And when I’m not writing, I’m thinking about writing. Standing in line at the post office, I’m narrating it in my head she stood in line, pensive, shifting from one foot to the other, when suddenly the clerk called her number… Memories flood my mind as I’m driving, showering… dialogue runs through my head constantly. It’s disgusting. My chipped fingernails from constant typing, as obvious as meth sores. Everyone knows…

The phone rings, unanswered.

The first step is admitting I have a problem….

Monday, July 19, 2010

Heartless




So…Dick Cheney is recovering from Heart Surgery. I saw a doctor on TV the other night explaining the procedure. There’s this amazing little machine inside him that’s pumping his blood, which means that right now, Cheney’s doesn’t actually have a pulse. Really? I mean, did he ever? For a man who by all means appears to be heartless, he’s sure had a lotta heart attacks. Count ‘em …FIVE. But still he lives….and lives….and lives. And yet how many have died as a result of his decisions? How many American soldiers, how many innocent Iraqi children, mothers, fathers? But Dick lives. Dick.
Our friend Greg was healthy and fit, and died instantly from one unexpected heart attack.
I’m pissed off. Seriously PISSED OFF. Why does DICK effin CHENEY get to live and Greg gets to die? Why does God spare him over and over, and not Greg?
Why doesn’t Charles Manson drop dead of a heart attack? Or Mel Gibson, in the middle of one of his racist, mysoginistic raves? Why do those who take other’s lives, make others miserable, get to live? Where is karma? Where is justice?
Anyone have any thoughts on this? If you do, please chime in. Because I’m left with this question in my mind….
Is God heartless, too?

Saturday, July 17, 2010

Feathers and Faith...


When you see me fly away without you

Shadow on the things you know

Feathers fall around you
And show you the way to go….
- Neil Young
Anyone who's read my blog at all knows that I struggle with my faith. But now let me tell you why I have a hard time NOT believing in something. And trust me, this story is going to test your faith in me.
Today is July 17th, Vince’s birthday. Vince was my first love, my high school through college sweetheart. I was positive I’d marry him and we’d spend our lives together. But Vince had a painful past that he couldn’t overcome, even though he really tried. His mother had died of alcoholism when he was little, then his black-out drunk father lost custody of the two boys. Vince and his brother Chris were bounced through the foster care system throughout their childhood. When I met him, he had just been adopted at sixteen years old by a nice family.
Things started out bright between us. We were so close, as though we had grown up together all our lives. I can’t explain the bond, but I believe he saved me during a very dark time in my life. Vince was sweet, outgoing, smart, well-liked by everyone, a great tennis player, a big music lover. Above all he had a huge, loving heart. He was looking forward to a new beginning with his adoptive family. But his foster mom didn’t want him there. The Dad had made the decision to adopt Vince, and the mom resented him. Vince tried to win her love, but it was hopeless. And my love wasn’t enough to heal him. After a couple years he spun into a cycle of self-destruction, alcohol and cocaine, that I couldn’t stop. Eventually, I had to get out. We split for good in 1983.
Years later, I was devastated to learn that Vince died from an enlarged heart. He was twenty-nine years old. An enlarged heart….his heart always was too big for this world.
In 2002, on the eve before my first fundraiser for foster kids, Vince appeared to me in a dream that wasn’t a dream. He was there, I could hear his voice in the room. I could see the detail on his clothing. He gave Troy a hug, and told him to take care of me, and that he’d be watching me from “over there”. He was healthy and happy. I was sobbing happy tears. It was an amazing, truly indescribable experience.
All that year as I was working on launching an arts program for foster kids, I felt Vince at my back, and in my house. Strange things were happening. Lights would flicker on and off. The ceiling fan would start to spin on its own. Pennies would drop out of the air. My kids were getting freaked out. My daughter was in High School at the time, and she was not pleased about this intrusion. I remember one night she was screaming from downstairs, “Mom! Your dead boyfriend is in my room! Get him out!!” Teenagers can be so moody….
But the very strangest thing happened one night as I was laying in bed in the dark, trying to fall asleep but thinking about Vince’s death. I was listening to a song “The Long Day is Over” by Norah Jones, thinking Vince must have felt that way when he passed, when all of a sudden my computer turned on, then my AOL signed on by itself, without me entering a password or anything. It said “Hello! You’ve Got Mail!” I just lied there in my bed, paralyzed. When the song was over, AOL signed itself off, and said “Goodbye”. I defy any computer geek out there to explain that one to me.
Even though these crazy things were happening, I couldn’t believe it. I just couldn’t. It was too …I don’t know….unbelievable. But these strange events and coincidences kept coming. So I read a book by John Edward, a famous medium. He said to ask your loved one for a sign, something specific, to let you know if they are around. So I thought of a feather. But not just any feather. Not a pigeon or sparrow. Too common. It had to be a black feather. That’s pretty rare.
That very night we had friends over for dinner. My friend Lynn, who is a Jewish atheist and doesn’t believe in anything hippy-dippy, brought me a hostess gift, some beautiful stationary tied with a ribbon. On the top she had tied a black feather. She said, “I don’t know why I put that feather on there, it just seemed like you.”
Okay. So that was a really, really weird coincidence. In all the years I’ve received gifts, never has anyone tied a feather on top. But still I couldn’t believe it. Then I started finding them everywhere. On my car, in the street. And one morning my cat greeted me carrying a huge 10-inch black feather in his mouth. He’s an indoor cat! And still I thought, what a weird coincidence.
A few weeks later my husband Troy and I were hiking in the mountains. Troy was about to get on a plane that day, the first time he’d flown since the 9/11 disaster. I was stressed about it, worried and crying. Troy was trying to reassure me when saw something glittering in the dirt.
“Look… a good luck charm,” he said.
He bent down to pick it up, and lo and behold it was sitting next to a big black feather. I thought it was a poptop from a tin can. It was all encrusted in mud, but as he dusted it off, I was stunned. There he held in his hand a diamond infinity ring. In the middle of freekin nowhere, up in the mountains.
“See? This is a sign…” Troy said. “You never have to worry.”
Troy slipped the ring onto my finger, and it’s been there ever since. Now….can anyone explain this? I mean, I’m as skeptical as the next guy, but this was pretty hard to shrug off.
But I figure, I mean, if I have a guardian angel who’s dropping jewelry from the sky, I shouldn’t question it, right?
I believe…
I believe…

Friday, July 16, 2010

I say SCREW YOU to "The View"

Yesterday I was on the treadmill watching The View (my daily ritual) and they were talking about this whole Mel Gibson thing. They were criticizing the wife, Oksana, for going to the media with the tapes, and some of them were painting her as the problem. Okay, HELLLOOOO? Did you listen to those tapes? She is the victim, not the problem, that much is clear.

Whoopi was saying Oksana should have gone to the police instead of the media. Gee Whoopi, you must really have a lot of experience in this arena…because let me tell you what happens when you go to the police after you’ve been threatened with violence. NOTHING. I know this from first-hand experience. I’ve also seen this happen with friends who were threatened by exes. The police do NOTHING to protect you. So then you get a restraining order (which Oksana did) and let me tell you what that does to protect you. NOTHING.

In 2001 I worked with Denise Brown (sister of Nicole Brown Simpson) on a Domestic Violence awareness project. Believe me, she would have been all too happy if Nicole’s 911 tapes and photos of her bruised face had gotten out BEFORE the incident. If the whole world was watching, OJ may not have felt so brazen that he could get away with murder. If the whole world was watching, maybe the neighbors in Brentwood would have come outside to investigate when the dog was barking like crazy. Maybe they would have peeked out their windows more often, kept an eye on her, walked her to her car at night. If only the world had been watching….

One of Gibson’s threats to Oksana was that he would bury her in the rose garden. That is not a statement to be taken lightly.

Of all the women who are murdered every year, 75% are murdered by their husbands or boyfriends. Every nine seconds in America a woman is beaten. How many have fallen victim just in the short time you’ve been reading this blog? Hell yes, go to the media. And if you’re not a big star with media access, tell everyone you know. Tell your neighbors, your family, the police, the courts. Tell everyone. Do not let these sick sociopaths operate in secrecy.

It makes me angry when women don’t support one another. You may not agree with Oksana’s decision to release those tapes to the media, but have you walked in her shoes? Can you even begin to imagine how scary it is to be married to a man like that? Who’s going to protect you? Who’s got your back? She’s doing what she has to do to protect herself and her child. In my opinion, it may have just saved her life.

For more information on Domestic Violence, see www.nicolebrown.org

Addendum: After I posted this blog, I was doing yoga in my bedroom. Hanging upside down in Downward Dog I happened to spy something under my bed. It was a button that was given to me nine years ago by Denise Brown...it says "Remember Nicole".
Wow. What do you think guys....coincidence?

Monday, July 12, 2010

I've Been Boggled!



So I was playing the game Boggle with my four-year-old Evan. You shake up these letter cubes, then try to find how many words you can make out of them in one minute. What a great learning opportunity for him, I thought. Have a good time playing, learn some new words…
Evan: Look Mommy! Here’s the word TOP.
Me: Great job honey! What else can you find?
Evan: TROT.
Me: Yes, very good. And look here, the word STOP.
Evan: Yeah, and the word, MO.
Me: Good try honey, but MO isn’t a word.
Evan: Yes it is, Mommy!
Me: No, sweetie…sorry.
Evan: It’s a character in the Japanese alphabet, Mommy. See? Let me show you…
He proceeds to draw this character, which looks something like a lower case t crossed twice. So I looked it up online, and as usual, he’s right.
Me: Oh. Well….duh. I coulda told you that. I didn’t know we were using Japanese alphabet characters…( I didn’t really say that, but it would have been funny if I did)
But what I really said was – Where did you learn that Honey?
Evan: I looked it up on YouTube on Genki-Japan.com (Of course!) But it’s the Hiragana alphabet, not Kanji. (In case anyone was wondering.)
And once again it was ME who ended up learning something by sitting on the floor playing with my kid.

Sunday, July 11, 2010

Ain't no Sunshine when you're gone....




The sun has not shone in Los Angeles since our friend Greg Dawson died last week. It is the middle of July…in CALIFORNIA…and the sun has not shone. Coincidence? I think not.
Yesterday at his funeral, the sky actually opened up and wept with all of us. I’ve lived in California all my life. Never before do I remember it raining in July.
It was a beautiful but heartwrenching service. His friends and family who spoke did so with such eloquence, but endless tears. My husband Troy played guitar while a friend sang one of Greg’s songs. The service was two and a half hours long, standing room only. I would have expected nothing less.
This was a man who was absolutely beloved by every single person who knew him. Each person who spoke said they never heard him say a bad word about anyone. That was confirmed by all of his family members in their eulogies. What a legacy. If nothing else, I would like that to be my legacy, too.
Troy had to perform in San Diego immediately after the service. It was unbearable to drive away in separate cars. We talked and cried on our cell phones, driving opposite directions, until I was pulled over by a cop (against the law, I know.). When he saw me crying, the memorial photo of Greg on the front seat and the pile of Kleenex, he let me go.
Every time I turned on the radio, it was a song meant especially for my ears. The first was “Miss You” by the Stones. The second song was “Carry On My Wayward Son”….complete sobfest. I turned off the radio.
I drove two hours in silence, thinking, remembering…All these scenes ran through my mind. A few years ago at our friend Cam’s Christmas party, I got up to sing a Gladys Knight song …All of a sudden Greg and Cam and a few other friends jumped up to be my “Pips”. They had never heard the song, but they started making up background parts and dance steps. It was hysterical, and they were actually GOOD! That’s how Greg was. Fun, outgoing, silly, up for anything.
Maybe one of the reasons this is hitting me so damn hard is that Greg was so much like my husband. He was kind, sweet, sunny and good-natured, loved by everyone who knew him, caring, funny, creative, talented, adventurous, spontaneous. He was the kind of person you just felt good being around. Everyone talked about his hugs, and how wonderful he was with children and animals. I mean, really….how many freekin people like that exist in this world? Now Melanie is without him, and Connor will grow up with only photos and memories. With one switch of fate, it could have been me in Melanie’s shoes. I held Melanie’s hand as I promised to be there for her on the long road ahead. In her eyes was unbearable, soul wrenching pain. I felt it rip right through me, my heart pierced, my mind repeating it’s mantra…why, why,why, why…..
Sadly, today also marks one year since Troy’s best friend Dave lost his twelve-year-old daughter Alanna in a car accident. Last July was just as unbearable. Such unimaginable grief. One year without Alanna, the little girl who everyone said was the kindest, most loving girl who accepted everyone. It’s always the good ones….No, the sun should not shine today. It should not.
Lying in the dark last night, I remembered a time that Troy and I were in New Mexico visiting our friend Joe, who is a rabbi. We were sitting outside at night under that huge New Mexico sky full of stars, drinking scotch, smoking cigars, and talking about the mysteries of life. Joe shared with us a philosophy of the Jewish Faith. He said when each of us dies, we must leave a little bit undone, something for the next generation to pick up and continue.
I was so heartbroken that Greg had died with music still in him, dreams unfulfilled, work unfinished, a child yet to be raised into a man. But remembering Joe’s words, I realized it’s up to us now to pick up the loose threads of his life tapestry, and continue to weave.
So many threads he left… of kindness, creativity, hope, love, music, friendship. He left us all the gift of each other, the friendships we have formed through him. He left us the work he hired us to do. He left us Melanie and Connor.
We are weary and hurting, but we will pick up and carry on, just as Greg, and Alanna, would want us all to do. We will try our best to remember their lessons of kindness and acceptance. I will strive to leave a legacy of “never saying a bad word about anyone”.
Every one of us has lost someone we loved at some time in our lives, but we are still here. We live. We walk the Earth with their stories alive inside us. Love can never be erased. Memories can never be taken away. We are richer for having loved them.
Let us pick up those threads, and continue the work ….


Thursday, July 8, 2010

How We Muddle Through...


When we got the news about our friend Greg passing, we were in a hotel room alongside the Merced river, about to head home in hours of holiday weekend traffic. With our spirits broken, we just couldn’t face it, so we decided to stay in Yosemite for one more day. For Troy and I, our church has always been nature. This is where we feel closest to creation and the creator, and where we wanted to be when mourning our friend.

We took a day trip, 8000 feet in elevation, into high country. It seemed closer to Heaven, the right place to say goodbye. At times we drove in silence, but it was tough with our four-year old Evan bouncing around in the back, singing loudly, asking questions, reciting the Korean alphabet over and over (his newest obsession).

We thought of Greg as we drove through canyons, past countless waterfalls, through meadows with grazing deer, around pristine cobalt blue lakes, through patches of snow nestled between tall shady pines. So much beauty, and yet life is always hanging so precariously…The forest will be taken by wildfire, the deer by a predator. So many questions crowded my mind. Such senseless heartache. What reason could there possibly be for such grief? At times, I’d look over at Troy and see a tear streaming down the side of his face as he drove, and all the while Evan was singing the Bob Marley song…Don’t worry…bout a thing…every little thing…gonna be alright…

Our best friends Erin and Beth met us at the top, with their four year old Ben. We ventured out on a hike into a landscape so gorgeous it may be what Heaven is actually modeled after. The Toulumne meadow stretches on forever, a blanket of green-gold grasses dotted with wildflowers, ribboned with rivers, streams and mineral springs. Evan and Ben skipped through the meadow, over bridges and streams, laughing and playing tag. At any moment you expected to find Julie Andrews spinning in place and singing…All this and yet so heavy our hearts.

It is said that prayer is talking and meditation is listening. I tried to do a lot of listening in this country. I listened as we watched a herd of deer in the center of the meadow, the bucks standing watch as the does and fawns grazed. I listened as we stood ten feet away from a brown bear, who looked up to acknowledge our presence, but peacefully went about his business eating plants and berries, allowing us to sit close and observe him. I listened, and I wondered how the world could be so heartbreakingly beautiful and yet so cruel. But this is nature – pristine, perfect in its design, and absolutely cruel.

I have no answers, only endless questions. All I know is that life is a miracle, and it can also be a nightmare. It is a gift that will one day be snatched away. It is Heaven and it is Hell, and we’re here to experience it all. And I’m reminded that we are definitely on borrowed time, so there’s no use putting things off until “one day”. One thing Troy said that brought me to tears, and does even typing it now...he said Greg died with so much music still in him, dreams he never saw fulfilled. That crushed me.

After a long hike, we began our descent back to the Yosemite Valley. We were quiet and contemplative in the car, but our four year old was not. He’s on a new kick with Knock-knock jokes. For forty minutes we endured this:

Evan: Knock-knock!

Me: Who’s there?

Evan: Interrupting chicken!

Me: Interrupt…

Evan BOK!!!

And it went on with a litany of other interrupting animals, cows, pigs, snakes, parrots…until finally I told him we needed to take a little break so Daddy and I could have some quiet time. At only four years old, he had no idea what we were dealing with, nor should he have to.

Troy and I discussed Greg’s life, asked the questions aloud. How could this happen? What kind of a God allows this? Why always the good ones? All the questions you ask in a horrific circumstance like this.

Evan: Excuse me Mommy.

Me: Not now Evan….

We continued to talk about Gregs’ life, what a sweet soul he was. We grieved for his young son, and his wife.

Evan: Excuuuuuse me….Mommy I want to tell you something…

Me: Please don’t interrupt Evan.

We went on. I started to cry when I talked about how unique Greg was, how positive and kind he was. Troy and I talked about how Greg always made you feel lifted…

Evan: EXCUSE ME MOMMY- I WANT TO TELL YOU SOMETHING.

Me: (A little annoyed now) What is it Evan?

I whipped my head around to look at him. He was sitting in his car seat, with his huge blue eyes and a sweet expression.

Evan: Mommy, I will lift you up.

Of course this left us both speechless. I paused, and put my hand on his cheek.

Me: You are my sweet angel. I love you. Thank you for saying that.

Evan: I love you too.

He smiled sweetly, kicking his little legs back and forth. I wiped my eyes and thanked God for my blessings.

Evan: And Mommy?

Me: Yes, my love?

Evan: KNOCK KNOCK!

And that’s how we muddle through. Life simply goes on….

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

In Memory of Greg...


On our last night in Yosemite, after having been incommunicado for a few days (no cell phones, no internet) my husband Troy called his answering service and found several urgent messages waiting for him. We were horrified to find out our friend of ten years, and Troy’s boss for the past year, had died over the weekend.
Greg was our age, fit, healthy, happy-go-lucky. He had a wife and a six-year-old son, Connor. He dropped dead of a heart attack, no warning. We are beyond devastated. Troy can hardly move, hardly speak. Neither of us could sleep at all.
It’s impossible to believe that Greg is gone. He was so vital, upbeat, joyful, charming, funny, creative. Above all he had a generosity of spirit that one rarely finds in this world. Sure he had his troubles which he sometimes shared with Troy, but he didn’t let them crush his enthusiasm for life.
About ten years ago, Troy produced an album for Greg. That experience began a friendship and mutual respect. Last year, Greg called Troy out of the blue to say he was now head of music production for a new children’s learning website, and wanted to hire Troy as a composer. Seemed like a fun gig, and Troy jumped at the opportunity to work with Greg again. That job has not only paid all our bills, but paid for all the financial disasters of this past year. At a time of recession when most musicians are struggling to find work (including me) Troy has been swamped, thanks to Greg. The work has been fun and creative, but one of the best things about it was working with Greg every day.
Greg was Troy’s champion, his number one cheerleader. He got Troy the position of lead composer, then raised Troy’s rate because he believed Troy was “worth more”. He loved Troy’s compositions, and would say so every day. He would call in the morning with a request, maybe something like, we need a learning song about the Grand Canyon, and it has to be bouncy with a western flair. Troy would get behind his keyboards with manuscript paper, guitars and banjos, and get cracking. Later that day he would have written and recorded a song. Sometimes I helped with vocals. Then he would email the file over to Greg and wait for his call. That was the best part, getting Greg’s call. Greg was so encouraging and uplifting. In the past whenever Troy did any composing for TV or film, it was a constant headache. In Hollywood, they always want it yesterday, and then it’s never right. But Greg always loved Troy’s work, and would tell him so – believe me, very rare in this business. And they weren’t Hollywood compliments Greg was throwing out, they were sincere, thoughtful comments. When I would hear Troy’s footsteps bounding up the stairs from the studio at the end of the day, I could tell he had just hit another one out of the park, and Greg had given him the huge thumbs up.
I’ve been up all night crying and sick to my stomach thinking of Greg’s wife and young son, because I know that Greg is an irreplaceable person. I know that he was the rock in his family, and it pains me to imagine what his wife Melanie is going through.
He’s also irreplaceable to me because my husband was so happy this year. Career-wise, it’s been one of his best years. Working with Greg lifted his spirits and made him feel good about his work every day.
Recently I did a vocal session with Greg. He had a way of making everything fun, positive and upbeat. We laughed and joked our way through singing together, and at the end Greg said to me “We are definitely going to do that again!” About a week later, after a twelve-hour day at work, Greg came to see Troy and I at a restaurant gig. He came by himself, sat there smiling at us for the whole set. We took a break and visited with him. Again, he was so complimentary and sincere, I felt myself buoyed by his enthusiasm, and felt better about myself as a singer by the time he left. In fact, for days afterward I reflected on the kind words he said to me that night. That is a real gift, to walk into a room and make others feel lifted.
Selfishly, I don’t want to let go. I can’t accept that he’s gone, that my husband won’t be bounding up the steps two at a time at the end of his work days.
I’m having a real hard time believing that this is God’s plan. Why would God take a loving father away from his young son? When I think of Greg, I picture him carrying Connor as a baby in the Snuggli like a Daddy Kangaroo. At six years old, I wonder how much Connor will remember his Daddy as he grows up. It pains me to think of Greg’s memory fading away from him, or from any of us.
They say you never know what you’ve got until it’s gone. In this case, that’s not true. We always were grateful for Greg, the work he provided, the encouragement, and the gift of his friendship.
There are a lot of shitheads in the world, but it seems they’re never the ones who drop dead of heart attacks. They live long enough to make life miserable for the rest of us. The world needs people like Greg to balance out the mean spirited ones, the ones who want to tear you down. Right now I’m angry at god, at the way the Universe seems to be weighted toward the negative. Today the world feels completely out of balance.
I guess it’s up to me to find a little more of Greg’s spirit in myself. Maybe if we all strive for more of his spirit, we can set it back on its axis again.
If I could ask a favor of you… it would be just this. Please keep Greg in mind, and in his honor, be kind enough to give someone a leg up when you can. Be encouraging. Be kind. I ask you not only to remember Greg, but to be a “Greg”, because God knows the world needs it, especially now.

Monday, July 5, 2010

God's Country



Bridal Veil Fall, Yosemite, July 4th 2010

No matter how many times I make the trip to the Yosemite, each time I enter the Valley I am stunned anew. My eyes well up with tears and I’m left breathless at the sight of it.
I’ve struggled with my faith for years. The best I can say at this point in my life is that I embrace uncertainty. But as I take in the vast meadows of wildflowers pressed up against towering granite cliffs, deer grazing peacefully, bluejays and robins swooping low over the meadow, painted lady butterflies dancing on the air current, I can’t deny some kind of divine intelligence is at work here. Every butterfly, every fallen tree stump, is a unique work of art. I am probably guilty of overusing the word awesome, but in this case, it is truly…AWE some. Awe-inspiring. Enough so to drop me to my knees to say a prayer of gratitude, or at least acknowledge the creator with a “Dude, you rock!”
On the journey here, driving uphill through endless giant sequoias for so long I felt like we’d never get there. Then, we entered a long dark tunnel with only a pinpoint of light up ahead, and as we finally emerged into sunlight again, we were overwhelmed with a brand new landscape. Majestic granite walls painted all the colors of the ages surround us, sunlight filtering through the crags, waterfalls to our left, to our right, dropping over 5000 foot cliffs. Stunning, magnificent, heart-stopping wonder. Even as a writer, I’m at a loss to describe it.
Oh how I needed this. I’ve been so consumed by the stresses of every day life. I’ve forgotten what is real. That’s a good question to ask myself right now. What is real, anyway? What we believe is what becomes our personal reality. Lately, stress has become too much a part of mine.
Sometimes I forget that my daily reality is just one tiny part of what makes the whole of me. Independent of my career, my tax returns, my problems, I am a free spirit. Too often I forget that I’m capable of anything, that I can have big dreams, that life doesn’t have to be the way it’s programmed now. But in order to change things, I have to first change my mindset. Stepping into God’s creation is a great way to do it.
Even driving here, hour after hour of wide open farmland, rolling hills untouched by man, it’s inconceivable that this is California. There is so much more to this state than Hollywood, and L.A. and so much more to me then just who I am in L.A.
As I write this now, it is sunrise. I’m sitting with my laptop alongside the Merced river, swollen high with melting snow. The sound of rushing water is almost deafening, the air smells of a woodburning fireplace. A chickapee just flew up and sat beside me. Wow. Could life be any more perfect? This perfect still moment gives me the space to reflect, and in doing so I realize how much life is like that journey to Yosemite….the uphill climb that goes on forever, the dark tunnel where you can’t see what lies ahead, but oh my god, you have to just trust and hold on, cause when you get there, you’re not gonna believe your eyes. So much beauty lies ahead, so much unimaginable beauty. Just trust, and be patient. It’s coming….So enjoy the scenery along the way, and be content in your heart, knowing that every moment of this journey is leading you toward something magnificent.