follow by email and never miss a typo

Monday, December 31, 2012

on love, loss and being a million stupid miles away

I don’t know how to write about what I’m about to write about, but I also know I can’t write about anything else until I do.

So.

Let me tell you about Kellie.  She was the best of the best.  One of my dearest.  The kindest soul, the most loving heart.  She was nothing but my very favorite adjectives.  Kind, thoughtful, generous, beautiful, smart, funny, amazing, Kellie.  She was a world traveler, a doctor, she was a rock star and, as fate would have it, she was dating a rock star.  Literally.  But.  She also had cancer.  Four-and-half years ago she was diagnosed with breast cancer.  These two words were heartbreaking.  To us, to her, to everything she had worked so hard to get.  She vowed to beat it and on those days when she didn’t feel like it, we reminded her she could.  And she did.  She beat the bananas out of it. 

And then I moved out of the country. 

Shortly thereafter it came back.  The cancer.  In all the wrong places -- as if there are any right places.  It was devastating.  To us, to her, to everything she had worked so hard to get back.  And to me.  Because I was now so far away, I couldn’t participate in the day to day.  I couldn’t rub her feet.  I couldn’t bring her dinner.  I couldn’t physically be there for her as I had before.  Many others thankfully were.

The second diagnosis was a terrible blow, but she found the courage and strength to face it.  She was determined to beat this life interrupter one more time.  And on those days when she didn’t feel like it, we reminded her -- me through email, texts and Skype -- that she did it before and she could do it again.  She would do it again.  And for a while, she was.  She was beating the bananas out of it. The lung cancer disappeared.  The brain cancer was getting smaller.  The clinical trial was a miracle.  She was a miracle.  She saw God. 

And then.  A month or so ago.  I don’t know why.  It all stopped working.  The clinical trial.  The miracle.  I prayed to God.  He felt very far away.  I felt further.

Kellie died on December 14th.   She was hardly forty.  She was the best of the best.  One of my dearest.  I will mourn her forever and celebrate her always.  She was nothing but my very favorite adjectives, and she always will be.  

And it is because of Kellie that I will be moving back to the country one day.  There was a moment, the day of the Newtown shootings, that I thought I wouldn't.  That I couldn't.  Hours later, on the same horrible day, I learned about my sweet friend and I knew I definitely would.

I don't know what it's like to lose a close friend when you're right next to them.  But I do know it's profoundly and unbearably painful to lose one when you're not.  The inevitability of life is death, and I want to be there for it all.  

The last text Kellie sent me was a week before her death.  “Hi, beautiful girl!!!!!!”  Three words, six exclams, all love.  That was Kellie.  

So.  

I miss you, beautiful girl!!!!!!

I so very much do.  


One of our many birthdays we were so lucky to celebrate together.
Kel is the beautiful smile in the upper right corner.

Thursday, November 22, 2012

a pilgrim is a doe


You can take the child out of Thanksgiving but you can't take Thanksgiving out of the child, is not a saying.  And nor should it be.  

The last time my five-year old celebrated Thanksgiving in America he was two.  He had some turkey.  Ate a slice of pie.  Watched Charlie Brown and his on-again off-again Peppermint Patty dramatically explain the meaning of the holiday before Christmas.  

He has no memory of this or anything remotely like this whatsoever.  

My children are being educated abroad.  I always thought that was a good thing.  They’d learn about different cultures, see the world, grow up with tolerance.  I didn't really give much thought to what they weren't learning.  

Until yesterday.

It was Thanksgiving here.  Even though the date label up there says it is today.  It's not. Yesterday.  Thursday.  Thanksgiving.  Which I only remembered was happening on Wednesday. So.  After morning band practice, a full day of school, one birthday party, swim lessons, endless homework and shopping for a new mattress, we threw together an instant just-add-water holiday dinner starring a store-bought roasted chicken.  The locals were begging for an invite.  But it was just us. 

And this conversation I had with Charlie.  


Charlie Gray.


Me:  Do you know what Thanksgiving is?

Charlie:  You give your own food to old people-- no, I mean, you give things to lonely kids that don't have anything.

Me:  Do you know what day it is?

Charlie:  No.

Me:  It's today.  

Charlie:  No it's not.

Me:  Do you know who Christopher Columbus is?

Charlie:  Is he a famous person?

Me:  Yes.

Charlie:  Is he a lonely people?

Me:  Do you know where the United States is?

Charlie:  Yes.  In the United States.

Me:  What about the Mayflower?

Charlie:  I don't know what that is.

Me:  It was a ship.

Charlie:  Does it have missiles?

Me:  No, it was an old ship.

Charlie:  So no missiles.  

Me:  What are Native American Indians?

Charlie:  People who live in the jungle.

Me:  What is a pilgrim?

Charlie:  A doe.

Me:  Like a deer?

Charlie:  Yes.

Me:  What do people eat at Thanksgiving?

Charlie:  Giving leaves.

Me:  Do you know what a turkey is?

Charlie:  It's a chicken.

Me:  Do you like pie?

Charlie:  No, only my friends do.

Me:  What's your friend's favorite pie?

Charlie:  Lemon.  

Me:  What are you most thankful for?

Charlie:  Max-- no, I mean, lonely kids.  I thank you for lonely kids.  

Me:  Do you know any lonely kids?

Charlie:  No.  

Me:  Do you know who Charlie Brown is?

Charlie:  Yes.

Me:  Who?

Charlie:  Me.

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

the two-year rebuttal by meg mason

Last month I made a list.  Of all the many wonderful things I miss about home and Los Angeles in the two years since I've been away.  I called it What I Miss.

This week she made a list to my list.

She:  Meg Mason.

Meg Mason is a journalist, an author, a wife, a mother, the one who drinks coffee with me on milk crates outside of Bertonis almost every day.  She lives in a small house, lets me read all of her books, has two daughters the exact same age as my two sons, always wears a onesie, and hates having her picture taken.  We write together on Tuesdays.  When we don't forget.  I make her cookies.  She makes me laugh.    

This is Meg's first book.


This is Meg's only back. 



And this is Meg's guest post.

* * * * * 

You have been here, with me, sitting on a milk crate at Bertonis for nine months now so...

My sister wives.  My besties.  My friends.  So much.
Nikki, Sally, Other Meg, Andria and I are yet to decide how we feel about this.  John the barista is taking it hard though.  

My family.
They came with you!  Max?  The little guy?  I've seen them!

Mom.
We have moms here.

Having a babysitter.
Oh, hi.

Having another baby.
You could have had one by now - it's been nine months.

Watching the babies of my friends turn into people.
Do not let Daphne Mason (age 6) read this.  After every cute thing she's done for you?

Watching Barbara Walter’s 10 Most Fascinating People.
The Kardashians were on the 2011 list.  The Kardashians.

Nora Ephron.
Do you want to borrow Heartburn?

Oprah.
Gail.  (Are we free-associating?)

O Magazine at a reasonable price.
Suddenly $18.95 for a magazine that is three months out of date and in opposite seasons isn't "reasonable"?

Domino.  Still.
We all feel like that.  I can set you up with some Cookies from '08 though.  They are $18.95.  Each.

Target.  The one on Jefferson.
Target.  The one in Broadway.

Trader Joe’s.  All of them.
I don't know this Joe, double air quotes, or what he is trading, double air quotes, with whom, but... alarm bells, is all.

Veggie sausage patties.
Veggie what?  It's sausage but it's veggie?  Nope.  Not real.

Saying tomato without thinking “tomayto/tomahto” in my head.
It's tomarto, but we know what you mean.  And we like it that you try.

Saying I’ll be home in one to two years.
I told you to be home by 11.

Knowing when I will be home.
Not a minute after.

Not the 405.
One day you will not miss Victoria Road.

Having a drive on.
I don't know what this is but walking is better.

HBO.
Read a book.

Hulu.
Read a book.

Tivo.
Read a book.

My writers’ group.
Write a book.  With me.

Beth Stine.
She sounds nice.

New release movies.
God is teaching you patience.

The fall TV season.
God is teaching you missing out.

Having Christmas in winter.
God's birthday is in summer.

Being hot in July.
November until March, all hot.

The fourth of July.
Fireworks?  Wait until New Years.  Ka-pow.

Fahrenheit.
Makes no sense.  I've checked.

Miles, feet, and inches.
Google conversions.

Knowing how much my children weigh when the doctor asks me.
Tell him, Google conversions.

Having my blood pressure taken when I go to the doctor.
Come over at 3.  I have some time.

Nestle Toll House Chocolate Chip Cookies.
You need to lose this one.  That recipe with those Cadbury's sweet and semi-sweet chips you found, edible happiness.

Crest toothpaste.
I'm getting tired.

Garbage disposals.
Bad for the earth.

Being one day younger.
That happens everywhere.

Dr. Harry Saperstein.
He actually sounds awesome.  Is he played by Billy Crystal?  Genuine question.

The 40th birthday parties.
Give me five years!

The life events.
I'll have another baby.  You'll be my doulah.

The everyday moments between the parties and the events.
Bertonis.  Milk crates.  Every.  Day.

Bacon.
Come on!  We have bacon here.  You are scaring the people.

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

it's been two years since we ran away from home

What I Miss

My sister wives.  My besties.  My friends.  So much.

My family.

Mom.

Having a babysitter.

Having another baby.* 

Watching the babies of my friends turn into people.

Watching Barbara Walter’s 10 Most Fascinating People.

Nora Ephron.

Oprah.

O Magazine at a reasonable price. 

Domino.  Still.

Target.  The one on Jefferson. 

Trader Joe’s.  All of them.

Veggie sausage patties.

Saying tomato without thinking “tomayto/tomahto” in my head.

Saying I’ll be home in one to two years.

Knowing when I will be home.

Not the 405. 

Having a drive on.

HBO.

Hulu.

Tivo.

My writers’ group.

Beth Stine.

New release movies.

The fall TV season.

Having Christmas in winter.

Being hot in July.

The fourth of July.

Fahrenheit.

Miles, feet, and inches.

Knowing how much my children weigh when the doctor asks me.

Having my blood pressure taken when I go to the doctor.

Nestle Toll House Chocolate Chip Cookies.

Crest toothpaste.

Garbage disposals.

Being one day younger.

Dr. Harry Saperstein.

The 40th birthday parties.

The life events.

The everyday moments between the parties and the events.

Bacon.


*My uterus put that one in.

Friday, August 31, 2012

stranger ipad danger

A long time ago, two countries prior, we were introduced to stranger danger.  Not from a dangerous stranger, but from a hired woman telling a room full of five-year-old kindergartners that there were bad people out there.  At the park.  In a white van.  And they would claim to have anything to lure them away.  Puppies.  Candy.  Rainbows.  Me!

Max wondered why I was in a van.  Charlie the toddler toddled.  And as the only one of us who could read the alarming pamphlet, I got serious.

I was vigilant before.  It was Los Angeles, after all.  But I stepped up my game and became crazy vigilant.  If I even suspected that someone wasn’t one of the world’s best guys, I was out of there.  I’d scoop up my children and evacuate.  Abandoned snacks, empty swings, confused play dates left in my wake.  I judged.  I profiled.  I never parked near a white van.  Ever.  I didn’t care.  I was my children’s guardian and guard I did. 

A year later we moved to New Zealand, and I lost my pamphlet.  I got over it.  I had other things to think about.  How to drive a car and not kill people was at the top of my list.  Because, as you might suspect, driving on the wrong side of the road is hard.  And wrong.  And nothing is where it’s supposed to be.  Do you know how many times I meant to indicate my right turn and instead just wiped my windows?  Every.  Time.  I had very clean windows in NZ. 

In Australia, it is a different story.  Every time I turn?  Blink-er.  I could give lessons I am so good.  But it is not without a cost.  The amount of times I have brought up stranger or danger to my children?  Zero.  Something’s gotta give.  Apparently my hired woman white van memory was replaced by foreign car blinker knowledge.  Which makes sense because everyone is really nice over here, and how else was I going to turn into the mall that day?

It was time to buy a television.  We didn’t have one because we went from furnished to unfurnished and, therefore, had to furnish e-very-thing.  Helloooo, Ikea Tempe (Ikea Burbank sister store).  We held out on the TV because we thought that could wait.  After two months without -- with kids, during school hollerdays, in the rain -- I realized we couldn't.  So there we were.  In the television department of Myer (fancy Macy’s).  Sixty sets of varying sizes and price points flickered before us, each trying to win us over with the same exact image, only sharper or bigger or more dimensional.  But since none of the images were Pixar produced, my children were instantly bored.  They got in position to wrestle -- a fun activity they can do anywhere! – when all of sudden they saw them.  Out of the corner of their headlock.  In the next department. 

The iPads!

We don’t have an iPad so every chance they get to rub their grubby fingers over a screen that billions of grubby fingers have rubbed before them, they take it.  They know a germ opportunity when they see one.  This day was no different.  Just like that, they were over there, contaminating or being contaminated, in ‘computers’ right next to ‘entertainment.’  ALL BY THEMSELVES.  That’s right.  Even though I could see them, past the Samsungs and the Sonys and the LGs, they were technically alone.  Eight and five. Unsupervised.  Free for the taking.

See where this is going?  We didn't.

As my husband and I tried to figure out the difference between LCD and LED, a saleswoman approached our boys and started talking to them.  I know this not because I never took my eyes off of them but because when I looked over to check out a plasma in their direction, I saw her.  Talking to Max and not stopping.  Oh, crap, what’d they do?  I hurried over, thinking my speed would somehow lower the price of the broken iPad I was about to buy, and threw out an apologetic ‘hi.’  She asked if I was their mum.  Depends is what I thought.  ‘Yes’ is what slipped out.  This is when I noticed that this clerk was missing a name tag.  What she wasn’t missing:  fleece.

The anonymous fleeced woman then asked if she could talk to me.  Alone.  No.  ‘Okay.’  Once out of small ear and iPad range, she proceeded to tell me that she was with Child Protective Services.  Three words I was not expecting to hear that day or ever.  She had noticed my two sons, alone, playing with the iPads, and struck up a conversation with them.  Max, a kid who feels no information is too private, including my age, which he enjoys sharing with everyone who doesn’t ask, was all too happy to participate.  In thirty seconds or less, Max had apparently told her the following:  his name, first and last, where he went to school, what grade he was in, his brother’s name, how old they are, probably how old I am, and where we live.  Cross streets were mentioned.  The cozy government employee then asked my son if he was supposed to talk to strangers.  Max's scared straight response:  ‘uh-oh.’

That day we got a free lesson in stranger danger abroad.  It was unsolicited, decked out in imitation North Face, and necessary.  There are bad people out there, even over here.  They may or may not be in a park or own a white van or work for Child Protective Services (never really saw a badge), but they are here and they are definitely by the iPads.


Dick Smith (a low rent Best Buy) entertains my children.

The portable headlock. 

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

australian gun laws

When a major event happens in the US, it may or may not make the front page of the paper way over here in Australia.  American news usually comes in around page 4 or so.  In New Zealand, it was always a hunt. 

But on our Saturday morning/your Friday, that wasn’t the case.  Your front page was our front page.  Sydney Morning Herald.  Massacre.  Movie theatre.  Twelve dead people.  It was horrifying and shocking and the worst kind of awful there is.  I felt so much sadness for those victims, those families, those injured, my country.

I texted my friend in Los Angeles.  The one I text when something really good or really bad or anything in between happens.  Two inadequate words were all I could manage.  Colorado.  Ugh.    

She texted me back immediately.  Don’t get me started.  And then she started.  We’ve learned nothing.  Nothing changes.  No more gun laws.  No one says enough.  Makes me want to move to an island.

I felt the same way. 

And then remembered I did move to an island. 

I had to wonder.  Am I safer here in Australia?  Are there gun laws here?  How do they differ from America?  I didn’t have the answers.  But youknowwho did.  And here’s what Google and I came up with.

In 1987, there were 6 gun massacres in Australia.  32 were murdered with guns.  Most murderers held their guns legally.  After that, most Australian jurisdictions made stricter gun laws resulting in a significant lowering of gun homicide and gun suicide rates. 

In 1996, 35 people were murdered at popular tourist spot in Tasmania.  The murderer was a mentally disturbed person who purchased his weapons legally.  Afterwards, more gun laws were introduced resulting in further lowering of the gun homicide and gun suicide rates. 

In 2002, another individual who had mental problems and had acquired his handguns legally murdered two students at Monash University.  Stricter controls on handguns came out of that tragedy. 

The government of Australia followed the wishes of the public regarding gun laws, and not the wishes of Australia's major shooting groups, and changes were made.  By 2004, it became clear that stricter gun laws were working.  Less people were being murdered.  Less people were committing suicide.  

In 2011, according to  The Sydney Morning Herald, researchers at Harvard University reviewed the evidence on the impact of reforms and concluded, "The National Firearms Agreement seems to have been incredibly successful in terms of lives saved."  There have been no gun massacres since 1996.  There were 13 such tragedies during the previous 18 years.  And there have been drastically less deaths as well.  In the early '90s, approximately 600 Australians were dying each year by gunfire.  Now the number is fewer than 250.  

To answer my own questions, it does seem I am safer here and there are gun laws here and they differ oh so greatly from America.  I know it’s like comparing 311 million apples to 22 million oranges.  But here, on this island, when something bad happens, it seems my friend’s words happen.  People learn.  Things change.  More gun laws are made.  People say stuff.  And then less bad things happen. 

I know nothing about guns.  I have never touched a gun.  I don’t ever want to touch a gun.  And I completely respect those who exercise their right to own a gun.  But something has to be done.  The mentally ill are legally buying guns and no one notices until it is too late.  We need more mental health programs.  We don’t need semi-automatic anythings.  And it should be way harder for anyone not of sound mind to obtain a gun license, much less a gun. 

I have no doubt there are a thousand holes in my simplistic cut-and-paste argument above, but the bottom line is, how can we let yet another tragedy happen and not do anything?  At all.  Again.


Tuesday, June 26, 2012

the other surry

When you live on a peninsula, you stay on a peninsula.  That's the deal with peninsulas.

I live on a peninsula.  Around every corner, down every block, up every street, is everything I need.  A smile, a sunny day, greener grass, a view of that bridge, a friend, a hug, my coffee, dirt, a play date, a chalkboard footpath, Thursdays, the perfect little book store, a fat person to make me feel thin, a thin person to remind me I'm not, six bottle shops because grocery stores don't sell alcohol here, access to a ferry, bright green wild Australian parrots that make you never want to blink again.


Free birds!

But.  One can only not blink so long before you suddenly do and you're snapped out of your I-got-everything-I-need-and-I-don't-need-much haze.  Birds, boats, overpriced alcohol, my weight, loitering near the very best sellers that are written by everyone but me, those days after Wednesdays, chalk on the bottom of your shoes, children, being dirty, the coffee queue, so much embracing, that one foe, views, weeds, squinting, smiling.  Sometimes it all gets to be too much.

And sometimes you just need a really good paper store.

So you have to leave the p word.

And you have to take two mates with you.

And you have to go to Surry Hills like Pixie 2, the American, and I did.

Surry Hills in an inner-city suburb of Sydney that features off-beat designers and cool housewares and PAPER.  It is there that I found my new favorite paper shop.  The one I've been looking for for almost two years.  New Zealand does manuka honey.  Not tags and twine.  I have been deprived.  Until now.

Paper 2.  Lame name.  Worse website.  But the store?  I want to stick it on my peninsula.

Paper porn below.












Thursday, May 31, 2012

for the love of alice

Moving house.  That’s what they call it when you move in these parts.  I call it a pain in my ass and why do I have so many tube tops? 

We moved house again last weekend.  That’s four times in under sixteen months.  Do not do this.  It takes a lot of time and too many boxes and there is almost always regret on the other end when you unpack something you never should have packed in the first place.  That list is long for me, and always begins and ends with a tube top.  

When we moved to Auckland from Los Angeles in September 2010, we had a plan.  One to two years in New Zealand (for husband’s career and family belly fluff) and then we’d come back to the States (for my career and Target). 

In January 2012 we shoved that plan into one of my stretchy bands of cloth that I always pack and never wear, and moved it to Sydney.  The plan was not happy.  Our bank account was livid.  By the time February rolled around, aka the month we realized money doesn't grow on magical trees, we were paying rent on three places to live.  Do not do this.  If Zagat reviewed housing decisions, it would look like this.

1.  Auckland home (NZ).  They gave three months’ notice two months before they left.  $$$
2.  North Sydney high-rise (AU).  They broke their lease two days after they started it.  $$$
3.  Temporary tiny in Balmain (AU).  It was temporary and tiny but mandatory since they broke a lease with two kids and had no car yet to sleep in.  $$$

$$$ + $$$ + $$$ =  Lots and lots and -- let me really stress this part -- LOTS of dollar signs, right out the window.  

But that was then and dumb, and this is now.

And now!  We are done moving house.  We found a great house to call home.  In the same neighborhood as temporary tiny so school, friends, standing order at local coffee shop all remain intact.  My tube tops are all unpacked and put away never to be seen again (or until I become ridiculously redundant and move again).  And my boys?  They have won the kiddie lottery.  This house has a huge giant attic bedroom for my guys to share.  Hugely huge.  And I rent so this isn't bragging.  It's reporting.  They run laps in this cavernous room.  A whole corner is devoted to who-can-make-the-tallest-Lego-tower contests.  Stomp rockets are launched on a daily basis.  That's not to say this room isn't without its problems or closets.  My sons only wear folded clothes and if you're anywhere near the outer perimeter of the room and you're taller than an eight-year old, you will hit your head on the sloped ceiling forty times a day.  But a few shirt creases and a couple of head bonks are worth it.  It's a great room and one that would make Greg Brady and his bead door wish they never made that episode.

And in the end, isn't that what life is all about?  Having better life episodes than those bunch of Bradys.  I think so.  And I'm pretty sure Alice would agree.

On one side, Max's corner.

Way, way, way on the other side, Charlie is off the grid.