Monday, April 30, 2012

Call Me Katniss

I had this comment exchange on facebook last week, and just had to share it (with permission from my childhood friend Courtney). I don't think it needs much explanation, just read and enjoy!

Me: "Okay - totally random - I had a conversation with my husband today about how I'm so good with a bow and arrow that I shot you with one at girl scout camp, and of course he asked for the details, but I can't remember them except that we both got bulls eye badges for our troop jackets. Phew. Do you remember anything at all? I really just remember that I shot you with an arrow! Which is crazy!"

Courtney: "Oh man! I'd completely forgotten about that! Sorry I don't recall any details - maybe I was in too much pain and had to block it out (doubtful). Was that at Lazy J? Or the big camp with yellow shirts with bears on them? Why I can picture the details of the shirt but can't remember the name is beyond me. If you remember anything else I need to hear about it. What a funny conversation!"

Me: "It was definitely at Lazy J - the other camp was Osito Rancho ( Little Bear Ranch - too cute). That's too funny that you don't remember it either. Hopefully not because I scarred you for life! :) okay, one more weird memory - were you the one who shared that little orange tent with me in someone's back yard and I panicked and tore it down on our heads in the middle of the night? I bet it probably wasn't you because if it was, it's a wonder you ever spoke to me again between the tent and the arrow!"

Courtney: "Yes we shared that tent but again, I had no recollection until you reminded me. Maybe my coping mechanism was to suppress the memories?! I wonder why I don't remember these events? Oh, I remember plenty about Troop 726, but these stories are too great. Seriously, who gets shot by an arrow and doesn't remember? Maybe your mom has more details for us?"

Me: "I'll ask her today. She was definitely there, and probably was embarrassed since she studied archery in college and is a great shot, while her daughter is a train wreck. :) I can't believe you were in the tent, too. Definitely memory suppression. Can't blame you!"

Me: "By the way, read this series of comments to my husband and he thought it was pretty darn funny. Who forgets the details of how they shot someone with an arrow?"

Courtney: "Incredibly funny. I have this overwhelming urge to refer to you as Katniss from now on, but I'll refrain :)"

And then later...

Me: "Okay! I asked my mom and here's the story. Mom says I shot you in the ass. She says I did not break the skin, but that no one was supposed to be shooting arrows or going to retrieve them, so of course - you went to retrieve and I shot the arrow. Funny! And they gave us both bulls eye badges for our troop jackets."

So... I'm really not Katniss - because she is an excellent shot, whereas I can only hit something by accident. Still, though, how many people do you know who have shot someone with an arrow?

Saturday, April 28, 2012


Six months after we packed up and left the ranch for the season, we have returned. We drove early on Friday morning, and after twelve and a half hours of driving, 750 miles and 5 states, we found ourselves just inside of Wyoming, in Evanston. Fittingly, it was snowing in Wyoming. We stayed the night in Evanston, woke up at a decent hour this morning (7 am), to get back on the road. We drove the remaining 400 miles to the ranch today, and guess what? It's snowing! Now, I can hear you thinking - don't they usually drive at least 1000 miles in a day? 750 is nothing for them! Well - yes, we usually do about 1000 miles in a day, but that's when we're sharing the driving duties, spelling each other at the wheel. This time, we were each driving a vehicle and following each other. And let me tell you - I am exhausted. I have a newfound respect for truckers. It's one thing to go on a long drive and only do some of the driving. Doing all the driving? Exhausting.

But for all of my exhaustion, and sadness at leaving California, the moment we came over the hill with the Valley spread out before us, and the mountains soaring up from that Valley, my whole body relaxed. It was like my muscles went "Ahhhhhhhh". It was like coming home.

It took us a couple of hours to get our cabin put to rights and the cars emptied, but we're here. We have the whole day tomorrow to keep settling in, and sort out groceries for this week. Then on Monday morning, bright and early, we get back to work.

And I'm ready. I worked my ass off last summer, and will do so again, but the opportunity to be here, to live in this place, to have this adventure, is worth all of the work and more.

So, I'm ready to go. Ready to work. Ready to breathe deeply of the fresh air and newly appreciate the gift of this incredible place.

Ready? Deep Breath. Ahhhhhhhhhhhhh.

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Lunches with Papa

My Papa Phil is in his late 80s, and is the most active human being you can imagine. He goes to the gym every day, makes his visiting rounds to his sister in law and my Uncle Joe, doing errands for them as needed, just all around keeping busy.

I like to say that he's the best of my family.

When we're in town, Jason and I like to go up and visit with Papa, and lately we've been bringing up lunch when we do.

Catch Papa in the right mood, and he'll pour out stories. And let me tell you, his stories are the BEST.

How many people do you know who grew up living in Hollywood during the Golden Age of the thirties? My great grandmother was a silent film actress turned president of the Pan American League. She hosted parties for the Presidents of most Latin American countries as well as the great Actors of the time. We have a photo of her with Shirley Temple! My great grandfather provided the lumber for all of the movie sets built at Paramount during the period.

Given the circumstances of his upbringing, my Papa had a unique childhood, and can tell some incredible stories about the best years in Hollywood.

His family lived in the Hollywood Hills, under the Hollywood sign, back when it was Hollywoodland. His best friends were the sons of Cecil B. DeMille (yes... really), and he delivered groceries to the homes of the rest of the celebrities living in the hills.

Here is my favorite of his stories -

During the summer, Papa’s family would vacation at the Beach and rent their home in the Hollywood Hills out. One summer they rented their home to a newly arrived young actor, in town to shoot a film you may have heard of: Animal Crackers. The young actor was Groucho Marx.

Now the boiler at the house in the Hollywood Hills was notorious for going out. When the boiler went out, you’d have to go back down into the basement and re-light it. This relighting process was always a little hairy, as the boiler was known to be a little tempermental.

All of this was explained to the young Groucho Marx, and he was given instructions for relighting the tempermental boiler.

Well, of course, the boiler went out one day, and young Groucho tromped down into the basement to relight it. He forgot the part about the boiler being tempermental.

And it blew, burning off the trademark eyebrows of Groucho Marx, onto whom eyebrows had to be painted for the remainder of shooting on Animal Crackers.

Twenty years later, my Papa’s young bride, Joan, was having lunch with a friend at the Brown Derby next to the table of none other than Groucho Marx.

Knowing the story of the tempermental boiler, Grandma Joan stopped by the table of Mr. Marx and introduced herself as the bride of the young man who’s family owned the house that burned his eyebrows off, and swiftly walked away.

Like I said, Papa’s stories are the best.

Sunday, April 22, 2012

The Wild Bunch

Picture this - two families, with five children between them, three boys and two girls. Out on one of their many annual camping expeditions. Two big cars - a suburban and a big ol' van - pulling two ski boats. Both boats are loaded with the equipment necessary for a few weeks of camping. Full kitchen set up, shower, tents, etc... Bike racks on both cars, loaded with mountain bikes. A canoe strapped to the top of the suburban. The cars pull into their site in the campground, and all hell is let loose as the kids stream out of the cars, full of pent up energy after the long drive. Ready to play, and get this vacation on the road. The noise level is high. The bustling of things being unpacked and set up, plans for the coming weeks being made. Tents popping up around the camp site, while the kids buzz around like little worker bees, ready to be released to play. And then, finally, everything is set up and the three boys and two girls hop on their mountain bikes and zoom off to unleash their terror onto the rest of the campground. Ready for their two weeks of fun and learn the joys of camping.

This scenario is my childhood in a nutshell. I was one of the two girls (the other being my sister), and the three boys were my cousins, who were raised almost as my brothers. We were the Wild Bunch, and we repeated this scenario several times a year for 25 years, vacationing together, growing together, building the most precious vacation memories that anyone could have.

It's true - I spent my childhood camping, exploring the mountains of California, getting dirty and exerting energy. Terrorizing campgrounds and having a blast. Living without a cell phone, a laptop, or (GASP) a TV. Finding ways to keep myself occupied and having a good time. Building forts. Waterskiing. Playing games. Getting hurt. Growing older and inviting along friends to join our family fun.

And you know? Those are my sweetest memories of time with my family - and ones that I hope I'll be able to share with my own children someday.

Fast forward. Jason and I spent Wednesday through Friday camping and hiking in Yosemite. It was incredible! For all the years (my entire lifetime) of camping in California, I'd never been into Yosemite. It was always too crowded at the times we could have gone as a family, and so we never went. How perfect that my first visit was with my husband, who considers it one of his favorite places on Earth?

Anyhow, on Thursday, after a butt-kicking hike up to the top of Nevada Falls, we returned to our campsite in time to see a few big vehicles pull up, loaded for bear (or camping as it were). They were pulling trailers full of camping equipment and had heavy laden bike racks on the front. The doors opened wide, and out spilled the kids. Lots of kids. Ready to unleash their creative fury and energy on the campground. I watched two little girls, about 8 and 10, swiftly (and competently) set up their own tent, and then hop on their bikes and join the Yosemite 500 happening on our loop in the Upper Pines campground. It was like a cross between Nascar and the Roller Derby, on bikes.

It was awesome. Some might say that it was sweet revenge, but for me it was sweet memories of the best times.

I am SOOOOOO glad that families still camp, and that there are kids out there who know how to have fun when removed from the their TVs and computers. It gives me hope for the next generation, that they can still appreciate "wildness", and have some unsanitized, unorganized fun. That they can make up their own games and rules, and play oustide until it's just too dark. That the Wild Bunch lives on.

I think we could all use a little more wildness in our lives. Don't you agree?

Sunday, April 15, 2012

Mini Meltdowns

Wednesday, I spent some time with my best friend Solange, and her daughter (my goddaughter) Caity. Caity is three and mostly hilarious. She is also currently hooked on the TV show "Go Diego Go". When told that tv time was over and she needed to have some play time, I witnessed Caity totally melt down over a Cartoon. She is generally an even tempered three year old, and I was surprised to see her totally melt down over something so minuscule. She worked herself into such a fit that she was crawling along the hallway with her forehead pushed to the floor, sobbing with her face upside down. Solange and I tried our best but we couldn't stop laughing. And then, as suddenly as the fit came about, she was done. She realized that mom wasn't going to give in, and flipped the switch off, obviously feeling much better for expending the emotional energy. I remember thinking that I still have moments where I'm metaphorically crawling, pushing my forehead on the floor and sobbing great upside down tears. In fact, I think that every female I know has experienced that - where it's not the TV show itself that is the cause of the emotional stress, but just the trigger. That last thing that pushes us off the emotional cliff. And once you've irrationally sobbed it all out, you feel recharged and present, free of whatever it was that was sitting so heavily on your chest.

So, of course, I had a similar moment of my own the very next day. Jason, Indy and I went to hike in Griffith Park here in LA. After climbing straight up for an hour, I just didn't want to go any further. I could not make myself take any more steps up. And then the tears came. And the wallowing. And the metaphorical forehead on the floor. It wasn't the climb that I was upset about. The physical exhaustion just opened the door for my pent up emotional junk to pour out. And when the tears were finished, and people were no longer giving me strange looks, and we had started back down the trail, I felt refreshed and ready to go. I'm still not sure what the tears were really about, but my subconscious mind isn't nagging at me anymore. Everything feels like I've worked it all out, whatever "it" was.

And it turns out that the moments of insensible tears are really as cathartic as I believed them to be, although my husband is still baffled.

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Don't Be an A-Hole

On Thursday, Jason and I flew back to LA from Orlando. For most people, flying into LA means a trip through the nightmare that is LAX. We were no exception. I've been flying in and out of LAX my entire life, and it has just gotten crazier and crazier.

If you've been through LAX, you know what I mean. There's something about that airport, and the "go, go, go" pace of the city that combine to make it the most likely place to encounter (excuse my language) an asshole. More often than not, you'll encounter several of them.

We woke up at 5:45am East Coast time, which means it was 2:45am Pacific Coast time. I ate a quick breakfast before we left for the airport, and Jason got a little something to eat at the airport. Since you now have to purchase any food (overpriced, yucky, and most likely containing hidden gluten) on board flights these days, I had thrown a bag of nuts and a bag of dried fruit in my purse for the flight.

Still, we arrived in LA at 11am (2pm Eastern time) having not eaten more than some nuts and dried fruit for 8 hours. If you know me well, you know that I deteriorate into devil mode very quickly when I get hungry, and courtesy of my speedy metabolism, I get hungry every three hours. :( Recipe for disaster if you ask me.

Knowing this about myself, I was trying - VALIANTLY - to avoid being an asshole. I didn't succeed. Which sent Jason into asshole mode. And we encountered several other assholes on our way out of the airport to be picked up by my sister, Kelli, resulting in all kinds of interesting encounters.

By the time Kelli picked us up, we were both deep in the mode, and trying desperately NOT to be assholes. It was kind of like some bad joke. You know, "Two assholes walk into a bar..." Our brave attempt at avoiding jerk-dom didn't quite work.

Poor Kelli. She braves LAX only to pick up two total jerks, trying not to be jerks and making things worse every second.

We decided to pass on taking Kelli to a thank-you lunch (she is forever picking us up at the airport), and reschedule it for another day instead. When we aren't being a-holes.

Instead we had lunch just the two of us, neither talking because we're desperately afraid of starting a massive fight. And then we went to our own corners for several hours until we were feeling sane, and rested and happy and ready to apologize for our behavior.

Moral of the story? Don't be an a-hole. Especially when you're flying through LAX.

Saturday, April 7, 2012

Carlsbad Caverns

Last Tuesday we took a few hours out of our cross-country drive to FINALLY (we've been meaning to stop there, every trip) stop at Carlsbad Caverns in New Mexico.

It's such a different National Park experience because, well, the whole park is underground! We arrived too late to go on one of the very cool ranger-led tours deep into the caverns. They wear spelunking gear, and helmets with flashlights... the whole nine yards. BUT we were able to take the elevator down 800 feet into the Earth and explore the Great Room.

It was so freaking spectacular. You must go there in your lifetime. GO. Jason was so inspired, taking a million photos - he's been working on editing them, so hopefully you'll see a post from him soon.

The photos below are OBVIOUSLY mine and slightly blurry. Sorry. I'm not a photographer. But I married a real one - one with a master's degree and everything! I always learn so much from watching him shoot, and am fascinated by the way his eyes see light, framing... all the technical elements he learned with his very expensive education.

Still, blurry photos and all, here's Carlsbad Caverns from my perspective, blurry because I was shooting without a flash. Which, by the way, you should do if you ever go in there. Don't be one of those obnoxious idiots who's constantly using your flash in the caverns. Not only does it absolutely annoy everyone around you, it blows out your images and disrupts the color. Stupid flashers. :)

So what are you waiting for? Get there!

Okay, you caught me... I was a flasher ONE TIME, for this photo only, and to piss off the flasher who was following us through the caverns and making me angry.

Monday, April 2, 2012

Mom's Treasure Box

Last week, in the pouring rain, we schlepped the rest of our earthly possessions out of their storage unit prison and into a moving van for a trip across the United States.

In addition to everything in our storage unit, we were taking all of the things we'd been storing at my parents house as well. These were the last things into the truck. The very last was an obnoxious orange tub, which my mom told me was, "Full of your crap." The "you" in this instance was, in fact, me. I lifted the lid off the tub, saw a jacket that was indeed mine, and shuffled the orange beast off to the truck.

Fast forward one week. We're unpacking into the Orlando home of Jason's parents and Grandma, the home that in the fall will be ours and Grandma's for three and a half years.

As it was when we had loaded the truck, the orange tub was the very last box that needed to be attacked. I put it off because I had labeled it "scary", seeing as to how I had no idea what could possibly be in it.

Imagine my surprise when the box of "crap" I had been dreading yielded a treasure trove.

Below the jacket that was indeed mine, I first found newspaper clippings from the many times my sister Kelli's basketball prowess earned mention in the local paper.

This, of course, led me at first to believe the heinous orange box belonged to my sister.

Upon further examination, the box yielded the "crap" of my mother. And it turns out that the crap was not that at all, but treasure. Treasures that tell the story of a girl, a daughter, a sister, a woman, a wife and a mother. Keepsakes, cards, photos... The story of a half century of life.

There are baby photos of my mom, of my sister, of me. A decade's worth of Valentine's cards from my dad to my mom- still in love after 35 years of marriage. A photo of them from the 70's - so young and so in love. Newspaper clippings - not just featuring my sister, but my mom and her birth father, and others - things that have inspired her throughout the years. A typed eulogy from her brother's funeral. Photos from my Grandma's funeral in 2006. A ceramic handprint dated 1990. Judging from the size of the hand and the year, it must be my sister's.

There are photos of my dad's last lab, Shadow Bear, swimming with her sister Cheyenne. Photos of the family cabin, site of so many happy memories, since burned in a wildfire and swept away in a mudslide. And a small circular patch, labeled West High Physical Fitness, something my mother excelled at and would make her life's work.

I am, of course, returning this treasure box to my mom. But I had such a blast going through it, seeing what was there and finding insight into mom and all her many layers.

Isn't it amazing how every once in a while, junk turns out to be a diamond?