Thursday, May 31, 2012

In Memory of Randy

This was our gang, a rag-tag group of rowdy kids. That’s me, the little squirt kneeling in the front row, and that’s Randy in the red and white baseball tee. Somehow our cohorts Laura, Dani and Bret didn’t end up in this picture.

We were a group of neighborhood kids who grew up together, played hide and seek and tag and kickball in the street. But more often that not, we were up to some kind of highjinks, and Randy was always the ringleader.

For instance, one night ( back then we were always out running the streets at night, a different era I guess) we wanted to see if we could stop a car with our sheer strength. So we laid a rope down across the street, then waited for a car – several of us on each side of the street, hiding. When the car came, Randy yelled “PULL!” and we each pulled our end of the rope like a tug of war game. Of course it ended in the car screeching to a stop as someone’s dad jumped out of the car threatening to tan our hides while we all scrambled off into the bushes.

Randy was an imp, a feisty kid who was good at sports and no matter what we did, he was always the team captain. Every day he would challenge Laura, a sweet, shy girl,  to “Punch me in the stomach as hard as you can!” He walloped Dani upside the head one day and she turned him in to the principal- which caused a rift they would laugh about years later.

Randy and I just happened to have the same last name (Holmes) so we always ended up sitting next to each other at every assembly, and later, in home rooms.

As we grew up, Randy and I lost contact. He went off to play football for a different High School, and  ended up moving to Texas. Through the miracle of facebook, we reconnected a few years ago. What fun we had retelling the zany stories from “back in the day”. Later, we got into real conversations about life, our families, our kids, and I got to know Randy in a way I hadn’t before.

He was married to the love of his life, Sarah, and they’d had two great kids, Katie and Riley. Riley was a football player, just like his dad, heading off to college, Katie still in High school.

Randy, a true Texas conservative since leaving L.A., would razz me on facebook about my love for President Obama- but always in good fun- the same kind of ribbing he delivered as a kid. He liked to tease, but always with a good heart. He truly had a good heart. He followed my blog, and would write to tell me when a particular post had inspired him.

One day in 2010, Randy wrote to tell me that his wife Sarah had been diagnosed with cancer, but they were fighting. He and Riley shaved their heads in solidarity as she underwent chemo treatments. Sarah kept a blog about her experience and I became one of her loyal readers, always commenting, sending prayers. Randy was so happy in 2011 when he wrote to tell me Sarah was declared cancer free.

Last July, when we got the contract for Dancing at the Shame Prom, this is what Randy wrote me:

Congrats on your contract. You are proof that hanging tough pays off. Don't abandon your memoir, the market will come around, and you will become famous, and people will want to learn more about you. I have to say that you inspired me - all the hardships overcome. While we were children I had no idea. Now, your life is clearly blessed. As is mine. Sarah was just declared cancer free for the second time! I have learned a lot from her perseverance, fighting, being strong, and being positive... she and you have a lot in common in that regard. Keep following your dreams, love the family, and don't let anybody get in your way.
Love, Randy

A few months ago, Dani was in Austin on a business trip and made plans to hang out with Randy and Sarah. When Randy came to pick Dani up at her hotel, he told her they’d gotten some awful news that day – Sarah’s cancer had come back, and she’d been given three months to live. Randy still wanted Dani to come over, Sarah really wanted to meet her and especially to hear stories about Randy’s childhood. Dani said, in spite of the circumstance, they laughed and told stories and had the best time that night and that Sarah was a great woman, a bright light. Dani planned to return to Austin this Summer, and prayed Sarah would still be around.

Dani and I made a pact that we would be there for Randy when Sarah passed- we were, after all, a touchstone for him.

A few weeks ago, I got a message from a family friend on Sarah’s blog that Sarah was close to the end. Yesterday, when I saw another email from this same person, my stomach tensed as I steeled myself against what I assumed would be the news of Sarah’s passing.

What I did not expect was to hear that Randy had passed away the night before, as Sarah lay dying in her hospital bed.

My eyes filled with tears, my mind spun in panic. Did I read that right?

I had to have my husband come and read the email, to make sure I wasn’t in shock. He confirmed it. Sarah was still clinging to life in a hospital. Randy had passed away.

Dani, Laura and I got on the phone, all of us in tears, in shock. How could this be? Inside, we still feel like we’re just that gang of neighborhood kids. How could one of us be gone?

My mind has reached the only conclusion it could: Randy could not live without his Sarah. I wish I could make sense of this. My heart aches for Katie and Riley - much too young to be without both their parents. I wish there were something we could do to ease their overwhelming loss. I hope they will read this and know what their dad meant to a group of neighborhood kids, long, long ago, in a life so far away.

A few months, ago, when Sarah got really, really sick, Randy stopped writing. He was trying every last ditch effort to save Sarah, experimental treatments…anything.

This was the last exchange we had:


Just want you to know I am thinking of you and your family and praying for you. I am so sorry for how hard life has been on you all. I wish there were something I could do.

Sending love,


Thank you, Hollye. Just keep sending the love. Sarah is amazingly strong and positive. She truly inspires me. We will get through this. We had a great visit with Dani last Friday, (I got her a little drunk on merlot, but she wont admit it). I look forward to seeing all the Rhoda street crowd.

All the Rhoda street crowd misses you, Randy. We will always remember your crazy antics, and your deep love for your family. We will continue to pray for Riley and Katie, and for Sarah as she makes her way to you.

We salute you Randy, for all the fun memories you left us.  I hope you are creating mischief and poking fun up in Heaven as you await your beloved Sarah.

Rest in peace, my friend.

Randy Holmes on right, Charles Holt blowing bubble, Lori Silverman with her arm around me, Beverly Nelson Peters poking her head out behind us. Vonda Shepard in front, Sherri Lamanuzzi back row. 
UPDATE: I just got off the phone with Randy and Sarah's beautiful son Riley. Sarah passed away this morning. They say she died with a smile on her face.

Rest in peace forever, Randy and Sarah. May you be guardian angels watching over Riley and Katie for all their lives. God Bless You.

Sunday, May 27, 2012

Google Solves (Almost) Everything

Eye of the hurricane, baby. That’s the reality right now. Just for kicks I googled “What to do when in the eye of hurricane” and lo and behold, a million articles popped up. Of course they were literal, not figurative, but I don’t want to talk about anything that google can’t solve.

I don’t want to talk about my cousin in ICU, or my dog Stitch’s trial date that’s coming up in two weeks, or the fact that my grandson in Japan turns two next week and I don’t know if or when I’ll see him again. And I definitely don’t want to talk about the disastrous exchange I had with my agent over the book I just spent a year writing.

What I do want to talk about is the fruit fly invasion that exploded in my house in the middle of it all. I was walking around my house in an emotional stupor, a cloud of flies around my head like pigpen in the Peanuts cartoons. It seemed fitting that the outside of my head would match what was happening on the inside.

I want to talk about the fruitflies because Girl, when those suckers started dive-bombing my chardonnay, I was like – aw HELL NO. That was one area in my life where I was not helpless, waiting on the gods to hand me my fate. Within seconds, I was the freekin’ Terminator. I zeroed in on those flies with my infrared eye, emotionless, robotic. Soon they would meet their maker. And it would be so easy.

With my steely eye, I googled “nontoxic solutions for fruitfly invasion”. Aside from the obvious- don’t leave fruit out in your kitchen – it was suggested to leave a small dish of apple cider vinegar on your counter, with a few drops of dishsoap. That’s it. The fruit flies land on the cider vinegar, the dish soap breaks the tension of the surface, and the flies drown.

So I set the trap, went out for a couple hours, came home and found 50 dead fruit flies in the vinegar. Hasta la vista, BABY!

Next, I googled solutions for “winning dog trials” (no results), “enforcing child custody laws in Japan” (lots of very disheartening articles but no solutions), “what to do when all the players in your estranged family show up in one hospital room because your cousin was in a terrible car accident” (yeah, no results).

So for today, I will be focusing on the trial I did win. Me vs. Frutifly Invasion was a SLAM DUNK, and every victory, no matter how small, shall be celebrated! 

Now, let me just google “how to celebrate fruitfly victories…”

Monday, May 21, 2012

Fighting the Courts to Keep our Dog!

Sometimes the law is just wrong.

It was wrong about slavery.
Wrong about prohibiting women from voting
Wrong when interracial marriage was prohibited.
Wrong, wrong, wrong.

And its dead wrong when it seeks to take our dog away because of an outdated  statute, which deems our pets nothing more than property, like a bicycle or a stereo.

On June 7th, the appeals court will decide whether our dog Stitch will be taken from us.

Here is our story on AOL Patch today:
Chatsworth Family Fights Court to Keep Their Dog

Here is a video of Stitch and our son Evan

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Sh*t My Yoga Teacher Says

Yoga mat with a view

My yoga teacher is one bad-ass mofo. I mean, she’s no Samuel L. Jackson or anything, but she’s also not your typical size 0, Malibu-Barbie L.A.-type yoga teacher. She’s a sturdy woman, strong, with long flowing hair (good for the kundalini, she says) and although she likes to make jokes about her butt, the woman is in rockin’ good shape. What I’m saying is I bet my yoga teacher could kick your yoga teacher’s ass.

She is deeply spiritual and knows her stuff : yoga, tai chi and the inner workings of the physical and energy body. She can tell you exactly how to wrap yourself into a pretzel and how to get out of it. I mean, if you're into that. 

The thing that makes her different is her odd but loving way of guiding us through our practice- delivered in such a way that I half expect to turn around and find a cigar hanging out the side of her mouth. After class, as I drive home, I find myself pondering her words, looking for the deeper meaning, as I find metaphor for life in everything I do, but especially in yoga.

So here are some of Swami-Amy’s quotes, with my contemplative interpretations:

“Keep your movements small, we’re not trying to put on a Bob Fosse production, here.” And then she added, “But not that tight. This ain’t the Mitt Romney class.”
 She’s right, of course. Yoga is not a Bob Fosse production. We don’t need to wave our arms and flail around saying look at me, look at me! I matter! Yoga, like life, is not a competition. It’s not about recognition. It doesn’t matter that the woman next to me actually can fold herself into a pretzel (she really can). It is how we feel within our own skin that matters. We don’t need to look like anybody else, stretch as far as anyone else. We only need to step into our own flow.
And we definitely, definitely don’t want to be anything like Mitt Romney.
Unless you do, and in that case, Namaste.

“Keep your chakras lined up, Dudes (she always calls us dudes, although we are a class of all women). Whatever is out of balance in your energy body is going to manifest in the physical.”
 I see this in my own yoga practice. When my energy is out of balance, by body is out of balance. I can’t maintain poses. I “lose my footing”. I also have seen my body manifest illness in the places I’ve lost balance. And this bleeds over into my daily life. So every day I work on lining my chakras up. Dude.

“The prana is strong in this one.”
 (Awesome Star Wars reference!) Prana is our life force, our energy. We all have it, but some people fritter it away. For instance, there was a woman behind me in class who flailed and huffed and puffed and made such a production out of every pose. She was breathing with such intensity it sounded like she was slurping soup back there. She was throwing her energy all over the place, instead of focusing it where she needed it. When it came time for balance poses she was falling over and stumbling.
The bottom line is- focus your energy. Don’t fritter that prana away. Be the one in whom the prana is strong. or as Yoda once said, "Do, or do not. There is no try."

"Take it easy over there, crazy-elbows" 
This was said to a woman who was overextending (her elbows). We all over extend ourselves, afraid of saying no or disappointing anyone. I would bet that "crazy-elbows" does this in her life, and its showing up in her practice. So if you're one of those over-extending people pleasers, one who literally bends backwards for others, my advice to you: Take it easy over there, crazy-elbows.

“Now, as you go into this pose, you must ask yourself, can I go deeper, or am I just bein’ a pussy?”
 None of us really want to push beyond our comfort zone. The fact is, we usually can go deeper in life, in relationships. Most often, we are just bein’ a pussy. But if we don’t stretch beyond our limits, we become rigid in body, rigid in mind.  A rigid body is bad but nothing is worse than a rigid mind.

And then there's my favorite quote:
"Don't fuck with my serenity."
I don't think that one needs any interpretation.

So my fellow yogis, those are Swami-Amy’s gems for you today. I’ll be sure to add more as they come….and believe me, there’ll be much more to come. This one’s a live wire.

Until then, as Swami-Amy says, “Lookin' good, kundalini-girl.”
And Namaste. 

**L.A. peeps: Amy offers a free Tai Chi/Yoga Fusion class under the oaks,  Friday mornings, 9:30AM at the Calabasas Tennis and Swim Center. 

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

The Chimpanzee Ate My Manuscript

My new author photo?

I’m having one of those crappy writing days. You know the ones…when you’re typing away, then you go back to read it and it seems like a chimpanzee had commandeered your keyboard…or maybe your cat walked across it? What is this senseless drivel streaming from my fingertips today???

This may be the problem - I am close to finishing my second memoir, What Doesn't Kill You. I’ve got 80,000 words, with only five chapters left to polish, and then it’s pretty much done.

I have worked on this sucker six hours a day, five days a week, for one year. Now that I’m close to finishing it, I should be elated, right? Well, I would be, if my internal Woody Allen wasn’t obsessing about what I’ll obsess over after I’m done obsessing over this book.

I’ll miss my love-hate torturous relationship with it. I’ll miss the ranting and moaning over it (though my husband surely won’t). I’ll miss the way its blank pages taunted me.

And of course, as always, there’s the fear of putting my whole self out there. I’ve already got a first Memoir (Only Good Things) sitting in a drawer. Only a handful of my close friends have read it. It took me eight damn years to write, but even against the protest of my writer friends, I couldn’t risk releasing it into the world- at least not yet- for the harm it may cause to others involved. It’s kind of explosive, and I am trying my best to live a kind and compassionate life.

In the interim, I’ve put my writerly self out in the world in drips and drabs- through essays and blogs and songs. But now it’s time to tell my whole story. This one will not be kept in a drawer. My agent has already given me the go sign and is awaiting it.

And that is the most likely reason that the chimpanzee has taken over the keyboard today.

But take heed, inner Chimpanzee- for you will be avenged!

Saturday, May 12, 2012

The Scorched Earth

This is the only childhood photo I have of my mother and I together. Like this photo, our relationship is faded, tattered at the edges. Things happened in our family, horrible things, that not only burned the bridge between us, but blew it into a million sharp fragments. We carry the shrapnel beneath our skin.

My mother and I have been estranged ten years. Recently, because of an illness in the family, we spoke. It was not a healing exactly, but it was something. I turned to my friend Laura Davis, who has written books on healing families, and asked her how I could even begin to heal with my mother.
“Start where you are,” she said.

But where are we?
We are zombies, walking wounded over the scorched earth, searching for signs of hope
behind the black-grey clouds of anger, pain, confusion.

Another year comes and goes and it’s Mother’s Day again, and I am bombarded with warm, fuzzy images on TV, in ads, in magazines, reminding me of what we are not.

There is no Hallmark card that fits us.
There is no card that says this;

You are my mother
You brought me – your choice at fifteen- into this world.
My DNA and history, my roots come through you
Your toxic relationships with men damaged me and yet in the aftermath,
I saw you stand alone, and understood how a woman could be fierce and strong
My scars, my tears, my nightmares, my courage, my fire, I owe to you
You created in me a warrior woman
For that I thank you

I’d like to list the things I love about you
But I’ve never really known you
I’ve seen glimpses– in the way you love animals and children, in your spirit of adventure, in the moments when you are soft and kind and vulnerable
Those glimpses are what gives me hope
It’s taken me a long time to forgive you
for the times you weren’t there to protect me
But I’m grateful for the times you were

I don’t know how to heal this sad and broken family
I only know it’s going to take something much bigger than me to map that road
I’ve spent years making peace with the bad memories,
while trying to hold on to the good
while praying we can get it right before we both leave this planet

You are my mother.
I wish you love. I wish you joy. I wish you hope.

I wish it were different.

I wish.

Tuesday, May 1, 2012

A Heart Breaks Slow

A heart doesn’t break all at once.

It happens a little bit each day. His tiny sock appears in the bottom of the laundry basket. I slam on my brakes and his sippy cup rolls out from under the seat. A sob catches in my throat at Target when I pass the diaper aisle and realize I don’t need to stop.

It happens on Easter morning when Evan, holding his Easter basket, says it is the saddest day because Ayumu isn’t with us.

A heart breaks like ice over a frozen lake. You step, and then you hear the  crack. The sound reverberates through you, changing you. The water below begins to warm and move, eager to pull you under. The hairline fracture gives way and you are submerged, nothing between you and the black water below. Nothing to protect you from feeling all of it. And you know this is only the beginning.

My heart breaks and leaves a hole where Ayumu once was. Grief now fills that space. It is everywhere. It colors the rooms of our house, hangs heavy in the air like rainclouds.

Gale force winds of anger and injustice blow through, and when the storm has passed and taken all it could, all that is left is a yearning love. Nothing more.

And what I know now is that much can be taken from you, but never can love be taken. My love for my grandson is mine, and it is his. Nothing, and no one, can take it from us. Nothing can tarnish it.

This, too, is mine; that I can’t hold Ayumu in my arms, but I can hold him in my heart, in my mind, with my words. I can wrap my love around him, send him my blessings, pray for his happiness. 

Belief is mine; to believe that loving him matters, to believe that one day love will pull him like a magnet, pull him back to us. I can choose to believe that love dissolves the five thousand miles between us. I can believe that love wins.

A heart breaks slowly, piece by piece, and a journey of faith begins.

And so I take my wobbly first steps…


The whole story is here: Love Is a Risky Business