Friday, December 28, 2007

Little This, Little That

I've never done an end of the year roundup (that I can recall, lest someone unearth one) for the masses - the masses being my family and friends that I might send a Christmas letter or New Year's letter - which I would prefer having many non-Christian and non-religious friends, and so I just don't have any experience with it. So, apologies if it is clunky.

The Good, The Bad, and The It Is What It Iss

I began the year writing my first play, a one-woman show for myself to perform. I had high hopes for the play and my performance and, as you can't really help, how it might change my future. The play by the new year was already in pretty good form and almost done. I spent the first four months of the year then rewriting and rehearsing, peforming my first, of twelve eventual performances over the course of the year, in April. It got reviewed very well. Many friends and family came to see the play and liked it.

It was a mixed bag overall though. I feel proud of meeting the incredible challange and pushing on despite all the road blocks that kept falling into my path, it seemed all along the way. I think I did it well and professionally and with a certain amount of grace despite not getting the numbers of butts in seats I would have wished for. I found publicity a constant, uphill and in some respects invisible battle - you never know who what and/or how you've hit, if at all.

My Grandmother passed away in February. She was in her early 90s and so had had a long life. I don't know if she got everything out of her life she would have wanted, or if in the end she was satisfied with the life she had led... I wish I had asked her, though I am not altogether sure if she would have been able to hear the question if even answer it. I loved her dearly.

S.O. and I celebrated ten years of marriage in May. I had wanted us to take a trip together somewhere since we never had a honeymoon - we went to Universal Studios the day after our wedding with 11 of our family and guests of our wedding, which was an amazingly fun day, so I can't completely complain. I would never characterize it as romanitic though. We didn't get to take the trip but on our anniversary, as we were getting ready to go out to dinner with the kids, the phone rang. It was the middle-income housing program we had gotten into and were waiting for a house (we were in the 3rd and last phase of building, almost last in line) calling to say that a family had fallen out and needed to shift to the 3rd phase would we want the house. We moved in this July, almost 2 months to the day we got the call. Incidentally, as of this writing the 3rd Phase of building is complete but owners have not yet moved in.

Over the course of the year we have had our down moments, S.O. and I have had some marital struggles but we didn't get the 7 year itch so maybe we were due. It has been an opportunity more than a negative because it has put us into the position where it was logical and necessary to renegotiate our relationship, our marriage and our family life. I would recommend it to every married couple - voluntarily of course. I don't wish strife on anyone, though I hate to say I think it's inevitable.

S.O.v.1 started kindergarten this September and was immediately smitten. Where earlier in the year we showed him the school and he thought it was too big and daunting, now he is exceedingly proud to be a student and particularly at his school. It really has changed him leaps and bounds in small ways, but significant nonetheless.

S.O. (if you read his blog you already know) lost his job in November, just before Thanksgiving. That in itself has been a mixed bag. There is the stress of less income and higher expenses than we are yet used to because of the new house. But it beats the hell out of the stress that his crazy schedule was putting on the kids and me. During the off-season he was home all the time, worried about hours, raises, promotions that alternately would and wouldn't be forthcoming. During the season he would work so much that after about a week of his absence the kids would stop asking "Where's Daddy?". I would worry about the toll the work would take on his body. He'd be so tired he could hardly function and many a night he had very few hours of sleep and then turn around and go lift heavy objects again for many hours. I worried that he would get hurt, everyone was so tired and volatile on the job that an accident seemed inevitable. Or a heart attack, or a car crash on the way home from work at some late hour after 16 hours of heavy lifting...

No job visible yet on the horizon but it is the holidays and so things tend to slow down. We hope there will be prospects in the new year.

I have had projects bloom and fade this year, some still in growth mode. I've gotten a couple of assignments for a local magazine, one where I got to stay at a Moroccan themed spa hotel for a night. That was hard, yeah, real hard. I am very close to finishing a novel which is an accomplishment in itself.

I guess this year has been one of three steps forward, two steps back. New house but job loss halted decorating and landscaping progress. Got projects off the ground only for them to fall apart. Did my play but not enough audience to cause momentum... a mixed bag as I say. But I suppose if you look back at any block of time there would be ups and downs. The ups are grand of course but they wouldn't look that way without the downs.

Happy New Year everyone!

Sunday, December 16, 2007

The Toothbrush Tragedy, a deux

So, ya know, you try at this time of the year not to give in to the demands, nay almost blackmail, your children give you for toys and things using the excuse that soon it will be Christmas and thus no presents are forthcoming today.

But then there are 3 year olds, who are not really aware of the date let alone are they capable of working their minds around "a couple of days" let alone "Santa will bring it for you on Christmas" as I have found out this week.

It was a practical stop at Target, not meant to include any sort of toy or gify buying. Little did I know that an automatic Hello Kitty Toothbrush and Toothpaste combo would be so appealing. I thought I had dodged the bullet by saying that Santa would bring it to her on Christmas. Little did I know that S.O.v.2 couldn't concieve quite yet that Christmas was more than a week away and she would have to wait that long. She thought I meant Santa would bring it to her before it was time to brush her teeth that night!

I had completely forgotten about the toothbrush when bedtime came and it took a good long while of fuss and crying before I got her to tell me that Santa had disappointed her. Reason not being very effective on toddlers either, she was not calmed at the prospect of me promising to go get the toothbrush "tomorrow". She kept insisting that she wanted Santa to bring it on Christmas, believing that was actually before tomorrow. There's that whole problem with the time space continuum again. I get that too though, especially around my birthday when it just doesn't feel possible that I turned WHAT! age again?!

This morning I went back to Target again, this time for Christmas shopping - ick on a Satuday, what am I insane!? - and promised I would bring home aforementioned Hello Kitty Toothbrush. Well of course you can't bring home for one and not the other. S.O.v.1 needed a new toothbrush anyway so... but they didn't have any Cars automatic toothbrushes so I figured I'd just get a Cars regular toothbrush and look in another store later for an automatic one - afterall we got Cars toothpaste for him yesterday, which was why I was in the oral hygene aisle to begin with! He won't mind, he'll understand, he's 5!

OK, so as teeth brushing commences with one happy toddler whirring away I notice S.O.v.2 holding his new toothbrush, neat little cylinder of brand new toothpaste, not brushing looking sad. And all over again...

Of course the larger problem is really that their world has kind of turned upside down. S.O. has recently been fired from his overworking underappreciating underpaying company and is now home all the time. I on the other hand have been working more with new projects coming online, writing assignments and my company making a film, so I am home way less than I used to be. I finally worked it out of S.O.v.1 that he is really missing the routine he'd become accustomed to, and was feeling that when I am home I am too busy with chores (listen up ladies, just because he's home all the time doesn't mean he's doing all the housework, as if!).

Man... what are ya gonna do? Well, I guess the bathroom can wait... the babies can't, not really.

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Disection of a Run - or alternately - If You Build It and They DON'T Come Does It Actually Exist

I've been mulling the experience I have had this year of doing my original play, "4 at 40: Mothers' Letters To Their Daughters" in an art gallery for a performing space. It was a first experiment for the gallery in theatre and as first experiments go it was a mixed bag.

But we will slog on and take what we have learned hopefully and be able to apply it to the next play which will start in Feb. at the odd run, but much shorter than my own, of two performances a month for five months. I performed my play two performances a month this year in April, May, June, September, October and November. Each month it was a new struggle to get publicity and listings in the local weekly. Unhelpfully the weekly did not publish our listing - one month printing absolutely no local listings at all and the following month randomly selecting listings. That did nothing for our audience turnout let me tell you. On my second to last performance my brother-in-law was the only one in the audience who hadn't seen it already....

Which brings me to my semi-point. If you are talented for no one are you really? If I give a brilliant performances in the mirror, am I still brilliant? For years I had struggled the actor's struggle that is if you have no venue, no play, no audience you have no performance, you only have you being ridiculous in afforementioned mirror. I suppose musicians are largely in the same boat. You could be a brilliant songwriter but if no one ever hears your songs then you are what? Without recognition and the ever so important audience, are you really a performance or just a fool?

And then there are those performances where you feel like so much a trained monkey for an audience that you know is not so much valuing you as being patronizingly charmed by you. There have been some nights on stage where I have almost expected coins to come hurling my way.

This is an odd inner struggle. On the one hand I dread the prospect of there being an audience at all. On the other hand I feel foolish if there is not one, or rather not enough of one to give them and yourself the distance of anonymity. If there are too many of the audience they feel safe their laugh or cry will not be singled out for ridicule and likewise if you are performing in front of a happy and appreciative audience then one is certainly enough - but you can't get passed the odds game - more audience members, more likely to be a good audience.

Sean Penn so succinctly described this strange state of the performer when he said in a recent Iconoclasts that he tries to hide from the rest of the crew on a movie set how much he really dreads performing. And yet he still does it. On a much smaller scale, of course, I feel the same. I dread performing and I am compelled to do it. And then there are times when it is joyful and times when that slides toward trained monkey.

I've been trying to figure out the lessons in this experience. One is that when I do my own projects in my own way I feel successful. I feel proud of myself. Whether "4 at 40" was a success depends upon how it is judged. We sold out the house only once to a private audience, which was great. We got good turnout about half the time and little turnout the rest. It was reviewed glowingly but the review gave us very little by way in bump in sales. Every audience member who stayed after to speak with me was thrilled and moved to have seen the show. And that was probably half at least... so it's really six of one, half a dozen of the other.

I guess it is good that I just did it. I proved to myself that I could take on the whole thing. I would have loved for the audience to have been full every night - and we certainly would have been much fuller each night if all those who had promised to attend had. But at the same time I know what we are trying to do is, in this place, unprecidented. If we were in LA or SF or NY or even Seattle or Chicago people would have just scoffed "What, theatrical performance in a gallery space, how droll, how yesteryear, how been there done that!" But in Palm Springs people just really can't wrap their minds around it.

What we have out here is solidly and proudly 'community theatre' and what we are trying to do is professional theatre in a very small space, with original plays, with high performance level... one wouldn't think that would be a stretch of the imagination but I get the sense that people don't really believe it's real yet.

Ah, life and career. Again and probably over and over I will wonder, does my best work go unseen? Is it ME who fails to attract and audience? Do I just not know HOW to work the publicity machine? If an actor falls off stage but no one is in the audience, does he make a sound as he hits the front row seats?

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Crunch Time

SO, I am working on thisradio show demo for a spiritual advisor and trying to find ways to reach potential callers and have gotten exactly... 3. Half of what I need.

So here is my plea to you blogosphere - if you would like to speak to a spiritual advisor, or know someone who might, about any ole thing: say, you can't stop biting your fingernails and you don't know why (if only she took 3 year olds!) or just broke up with someone and can't get over it, or have some sort of recurring illness and you want to know what in the bloody hell it all means - please let me know.

Taping will take place on November 29, 2007 between 12:30 pm and 3:30 pm (that's Pacific/California time). We can call anywhere in the US, no problem. Just post a comment here with an email address (if I don't have it) and I will get in touch with you.

Let me know soon, as ah time is ah tickin'. Eeeeek! Crunch!

Happy Thanksgiving everyone!

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Tell Me Why I Don't Like Wednesdays...

...tell me whaa ah don' lawk weddd-days, tell me whaa...

Oh well, doesn't go as well as 'Mondays' but you get the idea.
Boomtown Rats everyone.... prescient...

Aaaaaanyway, not as dramatic as all that but I do seem to have tough Wednesdays... I've been thinking about writing this blog for several weeks and it seems I keep having news things to complain about each Wednesday that passes (to be clear this is a bitching monoblog so stop reading if too irritating).

Most people are likely to suffer from heart attacks on Mondays - or so I have heard research has shown - we can infer from the day of the week because they don't want to go to their jobs... But I relish getting out of the house and to the distraction of the job on Wednesdays.

Number One: Wednesdays are early days for S.O.v.1 at kindergarten. All the kindergarten classes start at 8:20 am on Wednedays. As S.O.v.1 is in the afternoon class we are accustomed to leisurely making our way out of the house to school. But Wednesdays mean I have to wake up at 6:30 am which means I have just gotten back to sleep since the last time I woke up in the middle of the night either to get milk for S.O.v.2, to quell a nightmare, or the ever popular just because. I never feel as if I have gotten enough sleep anyway so 6:30 just seems insulting.

Then because we have to hustle there is usually a fuss from S.O.v.2. It is generally a shoe issue but sometimes it involves a snack or clothing choice or fuss over what to eat - or eating at all which if she wins means even bigger fuss as her blood sugar plunges. I get irritated, S.O.v.1 gets irritated because he hates to be late to school (lest he be the one to screw up the all present and on time popsicle party offered for every class with perfect attendance at the end of the month), S.O.v.2 is already irritated and probably dirty at this point from flinging herself to the ground and tear stained... oh wait, that part's usually me.... It all usually ends with the mommy-handling of the girl as I wrestle her into her car seat because if we don't leave NOW then there is no way to be on time... Strapped in, mad dash to school with some questionable driving and then a run to the school from our hard won parking spot way too far away from the gate. Then after S.O.v.1 is safely ensconced in his classroom there is some more fuss from S.O.v.2 because she hasn't had a chance to play on the playground. Then there is the public humiliation of picking up a kicking and screaming 3 year old from the ground and me trying to calmly explain that if she had just put on what I chose for her to wear, since she decided that mama should choose this morning, then we would have gotten here in time for her to play... hahahahahahahaaaaaa! Reasoning with a 3 year old, that's funny.

Then last Wednesday, S.O. got let go from his job. We are trying to avoid saying the F word, especially around the house. We are saying "Daddy isn't working at his old job anymore and is looking for a new one" because the stress freaks out the kids and then they misbehave. They are like little canaries aren't they? You can tell when you have been snipping at each other too much when your children start misbehaving!

So that was a pretty stressful day. But he got some severence and will get unemployment and silly me thought, "Oh well he'll be around to help me more with the kids for a while". And to be fair he did take them to sitter and school this Mon and Tues but come this morning S.O. has a migraine - his body obviously battling the sick all of us have experienced these past few days. But since he does not now have a job to go to, he was free to sleep until his meds kicked in whist I, sick, head congested, snuffly, spacy have had to slog myself to the one job we still have despite feeling lousy to get in as many hours as possible. I mean, we always did have to be careful about taking days off for sick or whatever because it does affect the family finances - ah the glory of working for an hourly wage (why can't we put congress or the President on an hourly wage with no time off for sick days or overtime or vacation days?) - but now it is even more stark.

So I've been coughing and sneezing all over my phone, keyboard, desk, trash filled with tissues. Luckily I am the only one in the office at the moment as the boss is shooting a film in FL at the moment. But you know, it was just a sock you in the face moment. The Gods or fate or kismet or the universe or whoever is in charge going "Na na na na na na" at me.

Now, tell me again why I don't like Wednesdays? I'll take a Monday any day...

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Sleep, Interrupted

Just after S.O.v.1 was born D-Doll and WGD were over for a visit. I remember asking them at what point you got to sleep through the night again. WGD said "We'll let you know"... I believe their boy was about 2 1/2 at that point... oi.

I thought of that at about 3am last night as S.O.v.2 woke me up yet again for milk or being cold or bad dream... Not that I was sleeping that well anyway. My seestor and her family were evacuated from their home in Rancho Bernardo in San Diego yesterday morning. The fire creeps ever closer to my mom's home where they all are. It could be engulfing her grocery store as I write this and I just got an email from one of my best friends who is being evacuated from her home in El Cajon area now....

And I just found out from Oprah the other day (where else would one learn things?) that I am probably experiencing perimenopause. Of course my mother had been telling me this the past two years but I was in denial. And who believes their mother anyway? It's just not done! So that is probably contributing to my sleepless nights (and also my sadness in understanding that even if I could get S.O. to agree to it, I'll probably never have another baby. But I should beware of what I say never to - I said I'd never live in this desert. Oooooo! I'll never lose this last baby weight! I'll never be wildly successful in my career! My children will never talk to me when they're teenagers! I'll never live to 100... maybe it'll work).

But I would really like to sleep. I have always had what one would call a difficult relationship with sleep. I sort of envy my seestor and mom, they can really sleep and love to. I have not been a great lover of sleep so much either. Though I do love the nap genre of sleep and can usually without much trouble. Maybe I am kind of an Einstein and have been resisting. Maybe I need spurts that add up to 7 or 8 hours and not all of them in a row. It's all of them in a row that I have real problems with.

And stress doesn't help. I first came to realize I had a sleeping problem when my mother was ill. I was 19 and when she was in the hospital I just was not sleeping much at all. It began to worry my then boyfriend and I went to the doc and got some 'sleep aids'. But then I'd have the sleep aid hangover, which if you've never experienced it, really rivals a tequilla hangover. I understand they are better now but... Thank goodness for melatonin. Even if it doesn't help keep me asleep I wake up less tired than without it.

So maybe my best strategy at this point is to embrace the "Sleep when you're dead!" attitude... if only I never had to be anywhere on time, that might be the perfect solution...

Saturday, September 29, 2007

More Disappointment Machine

I have come to realize that you need to tell children what you can and cannot accomplish... not that this makes any difference to S.O.v.s.1 & 2... Here's the problem. They want all of you, meaning all plus more. They want milk and you to change the channel and to look all at once. Of course we try but it doesn't seem to quite work. Something gets missed, milk gets spilled and then someone is disappointed. Even the husband can get his share of it when something is forgotten at the grocery store or the proper socks are not clean. They try not to act disappointed but...

I often wondered what the meaning of the housewife song in the musical "Working" was. OK, let me fess, I didn't really wonder at the age of 16, I was pretty obnoxious thinking "Number one, I will never be a housewife and number two if I am I certainly won't be that kind of housewife!" - Never say never. Actually not a full time housewife, I'm a part-time employee, part-time housewife. For those of you who have never had the chance to see the musical which you should if you can, no doubt it is relevant today and quite beautiful, the housewife sings, "All I am is just a housewife" in melancholy tones. I realize what that means more now. You never intend to be something that can so easily be taken advantage of, dismissed, disappoint... You imagine that your house will be clean and tidy and your children just so too. That everyone will be happy and there will be time for a quiet cup of tea as the little ones are playing in the backyard nicely or napping.... You never imagine that the constant drudgery of things getting dirty, cleaning bathrooms, toys laying around and no one but yourself seemingly bothered by it enough to pick them up... You never imagine that you will feel as if you are working... for them and that your interests seem somehow subverted.

It's the same with any occupation of course. We are very few of us fully appreciated for what we can do but soundly reprimanded for what we might mistake. I suspect that with our society's rabid obsession with celebrity and grand accomplishments cleaning both bathrooms in the same day or totally reorganizing the company's rolodex to be more efficient seem somehow petty compared to birthing Brad Pitt's child, winning enough money in the lottery to be able to hire a nanny or your startup company ending up on the Fortune 500 list in its first year of existence.

Even my love, my acting, has at time felt.... well, there was one recent performance where the thought popped into my mind, "I am nothing but a trained monkey". So I think nothing is totally satisfactory - only in the final cut - we take out all the disappointment and boredom and neglect in the editing and life on the other side looks grand...

Speaking of hiring a nanny. There is no bed of roses either. If you are relegated to hiring a nanny it means you are working too much probably and dont' get to see your kids enough... but if you want them to have a good education, be in the good school neighborhood you'd better keep working... And if we as women have to admit we need help we have on some level disappointed our sex. You can see it in the eyes of your elders and your peers. It even disappoints to not have 'married well' enough to be able to be a stay at home mom, I have noticed at S.O.v.1's school. They are slight, the sidelong pitying looks and subtle but they are there. "Oh, your husband doesn't earn enough for you to stay at home? That must be so humiliating" they seem to say though they would never say it out loud certainly.

Any way you slice it something falls by the wayside and someone is disappointed. And forget being sick. Unless you remind your kids 12 times before breakfast that you don't feel well they will expect the perky and if you don't have it to give up there it is, the disappointment. Today, I feel like crap, so instead of dusting and vacuuming the sand out of the window wells I will play as vigourously as I can with my kids... at least that way I only disappoint myself.

Tell someone today you appreciate the little things they do... we all forget.

Wednesday, September 26, 2007

Random Minor Irritations

You know, I now - though I did not previously - understand why mothers choose to homeschool (or maybe just one of the myriad reasons)... because of the mommie politics. Even peripherally on the fray I already feel victim to them. There is a distinct seperation between Working Mommy and Stay at Home Mommy. SAHMs definitely rule the school and all school functions. WMs are second tier, adjunct unfortunate necessities because of their spawn and "we love the kids of course" but the WMs just don't 'participate' as they should. And I'm not even a full-time WM!

There is no overt commentary of course, there is only the, well, high schoolesque shunning and looks and... can we just all remember back to high school where there are clicks and rivalries and no one has to say word one you just know because you KNOW! Back when we were all less kind and forgiving and more attuned to the energy people throw off. You just knew cutie girl suzy was after your boyfriend because you knew! No one had to discover them making out in the gym. Well, Seestor and I have been exchanging shunning experiences since our 5 year olds have started kindergarten this year.

One would think that since there are so many more WMs that the playing field would even out. But what we must remember people is that there can only be so many cheerleaders! And if you are not one of them.... (ironic since both Seestor and I were cheerleaders in school... but this is a whole 'nother playground!)

Had more play performances last week. Friday, great audience. Saturday, miniscule and tough. It's so hard to keep just a few people with you, you have to work and work and as it is a solo performance there is no one to lean on or gaff with backstage and complain about the dud of an audience. Not that they didn't appreciate it... it just felt like they were holding their breath the entire time... didn't feel comfortable enough to react... As a result I was completely knackered on Sunday and have not really recovered since.

I was talking briefly the other night to S.O. about what a difficult juggle being a woman is. I mean the potential of becoming a disappointment machine is great. Women need to be good, first and foremost and not bitchy (although I am trying to help S.O.v.2 retain her inner bitch without being a complete one because I think it's always helpful to have her in reserve), sexy but not slutty, a good mommy without being fanatical or overbearing, a good friend without being nosy or uninvolved, a good sister without being nosy or meddling, a good worker without losing your own hopes and dreams, a good cook, homemaker, dresser, cheerful, clean, upbeat and sweet... and I am sure I have missed many, many things on that list. Whereas a man's item agenda involves mostly manly things (much to their own psychological and emotional detriment I'm sure) that are all, well, manly. The definitions of what a good father, brother, worker, husband, lover, etc. all look pretty much the same. The downside for men is that they all look pretty much the same... Women's definitions run to the schizophrenic however. It is a matter of switching gears on a dime and when you are tired or distracted or compromised emotionally the gears can get jammed up. Then you just don't function well and things get dropped... like the kids' dentist appointment that was supposed to be last week... or, oh, meals...

It's just not possible for a woman to be effectively tired. There is just no outlet. Vegging in front of the TV or football or golf with the guys is the purview of men. They need to be a guy with guys sometimes. I don't know why, I just know it works. It always makes them better at everything when they come back from 'guy time'. But as a woman, even when you get 'gal time' you can't really let go... maybe because for men all the gears are closer together. For a woman it's 0 to 60 is sixty seconds or something gets left behind....

Thursday, September 20, 2007

The Biological Sound Barrier

I just watched "Venus" yesterday at work. I had absolutely nothing to do and couldn't bring myself to surf the web any longer or read another movie making magazine and I was being held hostage by the clock. I remembered we had a couple of screeners so...

There is one very lovely scene where Maurice (the Peter O'Toole character) and the young girl, Jesse, are in a museum and looking at a painting of the goddess Venus (spoiler alert). He says to her the the female body is perhaps the most beautiful thing men ever lay eyes on (pressumably his is only talking about heterosexual men, I would guess gay men would beg to differ). She asks what is the most beautiful this a woman lays eyes on. He says her first born child. You can tell by her reaction that instinctually she knows this to be true and will never be able to lay eyes on her first born, technically speaking (a pain women who have had abortions or miscarriages of their first conception no doubt on some level share). Whether this is politically correct or not it seems to me inherently true, and something mankind collectively has always understood.

It makes it obvious why men try to keep getting that 'first look' by being horn dogs and why women always want another baby. OK, before you all go getting your knickers in a twist I am talking in GROSS generalizations leaving the possibility and inevitability for a wild range of differences from this. But it also makes me wonder, if we understand this collectively, why do we fail to apply this understanding to our relationships. Any woman who has children knows that you are so in love with them that it is very easy to neglect the husband for weeks whilst steeped in the cocoon of children's love. And men, well they have these things called 'needs' which is really another way of saying "I want you to want me" Cheap Trick was so wise.

But yet we still fail to see each other's perspectives... but then we fail to see each other's perspectives on a lot of things. Maybe to be human is essentially to be hedonistic and selfish. We fight those tendencies because we are civilized... but we don't always win over our nature.

Saturday, September 15, 2007

Hip Kids

What a day.

First thing this morning the kids and I went to a composting class in Palm Springs. We have a completely blank slate in our backyard, all sand with a few tumbleweeds. I have tried and failed at it before so I figured... I thought it would be taught outside, but alas, it was inside a classroom at the Police Academy. The kids did get to see live worms in the vermiculture display. They always like that.

Then it was off to downtown to get a cup of coffee and a pastry before heading off to pick up one of the owners of the art gallery where I perform my play to go off and do a local radio program. The kids came with us into the studio and did an excellent job at being quiet while we were on the air. S.O.v.1 did have to go pee pee pee right at the beginning so we had a rush business and then back to stump the play.

Then to the toy store for a reward for being so well behaved (or a bribe depending how you look at it!) then to lunch. By this time we were all quite knackered and so it was a long sleepy nap next.

Then after S.O. got home we all dressed up and went off to the art gallery's season opening show. They loved looking at all the paintings. They even requested to go see the art in the other gallery's in the building who were also open.

Wow. I certainly hope they will be as well rounded as it seems like they are already!

Saturday, September 08, 2007

They Still Don't Get It

They, men, still don't get it how easy it is for them to walk out the front door. I am speaking in general terms here, of course. I mean, they don't understand how loose their responsibilities hang on them.

S.O.v.1 started school this week. It's a big time for him... and for me. Probably more for me than him. It means one of my responsibilities hangs just a little farther from me and in good, capable hands for a time during the day. Most of those hands feminine.

As liberated as we are women still bear the brunt of the responsibility for all things house and children. If a man leaves a thing undone he knows with some unconscious certainty that it will get done, somehow, and by whom is not his place to wonder or know. At appropriate times they of course protest this fact and take reigns and Lord knows we appreciate it mightily, any sort of backup we can get.

But if you look around a school, and especially a parent meeting, what you largely see is women. This at least gives me some relief that I am not in the least liberated relationship - and I thought I was doing pretty good - in town. We are all smart and capable and worthy women, and what we are bound to is to take care of the babies no matter where else our strengths may lie.

I realized this week for the first time that women with children think not in terms of goals for the future reaching 1 year or 5 year milestones even. We look to when school starts, when our children's milestones of independence are met and so then we can loose the bonds just ever so slightly to say, take more time for ourselves, to reach our own goals. It is endemic. It's not just me. For that small comfort I am grateful.

Because when I think of my work life, my 'career', it is not in terms of what I might be able to accomplish but where my children are in their need for my care and attention. Men don't get this. Of course they don't live this so how could they know and if they cared to know they might feel badly, and then that does no one any good. Because of course we all know, whether we care to admit it or not, being a mother is a very particular bond and responsibility, one which being a father does not even come close to matching in its scope. Fathers are necessary but mothers are vital. Perhaps if men actually realized that - maybe if they all paid attention to who all the knumbnuts on TV say hi to when they get caught in the Jumbo Cam - there might actually be a Single Mother tax break, or a Mother Trying to Work But Her Child is Home Sick With Daddy Lunch Break, or a Sports Widow Vacation Allowance - really, that one is really necessary for a lot of women, thankfully not me.

The point is, as my mother reminds me often, the childen are attached to the mommy by a cord, an invisible cord that ties them to you until they no longer need you. A time which we all conversely dread and anticipate with relish. It is in a way a beautiful prison. Someone has done the walls up real nice and the guards are just lovely company, but you ain't getting out until it's time and there is no parole board. Fathers may be able to give us a break every once in a while but the babies will need their mommies until they don't, and that is just all there is to that. Might as well do good, honest time.

Monday, August 13, 2007


The Rules:
A)We have to post these rules before we give you the facts.
B)Players start with eight random facts/habits about themselves.
C)People who are tagged write their own blog post about their eight things and include these rules.
D)At the end of your blog, you need to choose eight people to get tagged and list their names. Don’t forget to leave them a comment telling them they’re tagged and that they should read your blog.And here we go:

1. I am secretly lazy, even though I present as an A, ok well, B+ Type.
2. I still have ambitions to do something with my career (children not included, they are already something and unlike celebrities, I consider them personal, not career moves)
3. I still don't know how to post pictures on my blog and barely know how to post them on myspace... even though I am generally 'good at computers'
4. I secretly harbor the wish to have another baby, even though Al Gore convinced me I shouldn't.
5. I am secretly proud of being able to tolerate 'difficult' bosses, even though this makes my life intermittantly miserable.
6. I am wishing now that there were only 5 facts to have to convey.
7. I am writing a novel.
8. I am still, after many years, embarassed to say, want to be or admit that I am an actor before and more than anything else. I think I think it makes me seem desperate or less than serious or ridiculous - that's the worst. I never want to seem ridiculous even though I am convinced it is a permanent part of the human condition.

OK, Matt, Mommasita (I know you read my blog, so now you have to email me your 8), Seestor same with you), Arianna, Kate, Cynthia (if you have time, I know, baby, hard), Rick, Krishanti, Kadi

Friday, August 10, 2007

S.O.v.2 asserts herself... and loses

...for her own good though, of course. Miss decided that she didn't wish to wear clothes today. A notion that we normally indulge. But this morning there were workmen coming - new house: so, electricians to install the fans (it's the desert, you NEED moving air), painters to fix the chip on the entry and other things, yet another electrician from the warranty company to repair a buzzing light switch (you really don't want your light switches or any kind of electrical equipment to be buzzing or, sparking or speaking to you in any manner, that is decidedly bad), delivery men to deliver replacement dishes and a laptop messenger bag for me to hold my new laptop that S.O. bought me (to make up for a lot of bad Octobers in a row where we were too skint most times to even go out to dinner, let alone present) which I now write this blog entry on... aaaaaaanyway, she din' wan' no clothes. So, I told her, "Look baby, you should feel lucky that you have a daddy in your life to be careful of these things. You can't go around in just a diaper today, no way. Daddy would not allow it, no way, no how, not in your lifetime will he allow you to go around half clothed in front of strange men". She understood.

I always think it must be nice, to have a daddy consistently in your life for your childhood. I had no daddy in my baby and toddler years and I had a daddy in my adolesence but none in my teenage years. I can't think, now that I have a daughter of my own, which are the most important years. I am grateful for my father though (stepfather in legality sense, real father in spirit and substance) who gave me a sense that I was an important and valuable person in the world. I think that, in many ways, saved me and probably my sister too from many of the pitfalls of being a woman who was raised without a father.

But S.O.v.2's innocent request got me to thinking about women in society today and how there are no more protections for us, as a class. If there ever really were. Men used to make all sorts of verbal and physical protestations to the 'protection of their women' and we used to believe them. But that all started to errode with the start of the last century and especially at the onset of the industrial age. It's a sticky wicket. The more independence from men and male society we acquired, the more men left off the sense that propriety should win and the more advantage women were taken of.

I have no doubt that by the time the women's movement came about it was in no small part born of the understanding that society and men, collectively, were no longer going to be taking care of them... in any way. And men's response to the women's movement has been a passive agressive "screw you" to women. "OK, fine. You wanna make your own money, feel your own independence, pursue your own interests, go right on ahead honey" and then proceeded to let every gratuity towards women slide. No doors opened, no 'ma'am' or 'miss', no even buying on the first date! For you doubters out there I just have few things to say; "Girls Gone Wild", Internet porn, and .76 cents to a man's dollar - almost 40 years after the women's movement began. OK, you argue, "Those women in porn are consenting..."... ah duh, because they no longer have the option of a man taking care of them.... Any woman who has been a single mom can no doubt attest to the fact that men do not have the same sense of responsibility that they might have many decades ago. Empirical evidence does not recount the statistical evidence of women - and their children - living in poverty in embarassingly large numbers.

So, yes, when Daddy warns S.O.v.2 about men in any way shape or form I'm listening and encourging her to as well. Sure, my teenage self would have balked but I was naive and didn't know what I know now. As mothers of daughters, we used to worry about raising 'nice' girls. I propose that that is no longer necessary nor warranted. No one in taking care of a nice girl. No man is looking out for your 'nice' daughter anymore. Except her daddy if she has an active one... No, women, girls, are taken advantage of these days. Let them be bitchy. Every woman needs a little inner bitch in order to look out for herself these days... because Daddy won't be around forever.

And to those of you mothers raising sons, make sure they are good guys. I always tell S.O.v.1 that he should never tell a girl he is going to call when he isn't really... of course he is only 5 but you can't start too early.

Wednesday, August 01, 2007

Tick Tah-owk!

S.O. has been gone since early Sunday morning, to work in Santa Barbara - lucky him, 75 there 108 here. And I have been manning the fort although I could really use reinforcements. S.O. is due back NOW, about an hour ago and I need the relief. I need a shower. I need to stop saying "Don't fight/argue/hit/take things from each other or I'll... do something". And love them as I do I am tired of sharing the bed with two toddlers. I'm also tired of the tears for missing Daddy. It's hard and I am so thankful that he'll be here in just a few minutes... mostly for the kids because he makes them so happy. But for me because of afforementioned needed break...

This is nothing though, last summer he was gone for about 3 weeks total and I really began to appreciate what my mother did and why she said so often "Stop whining!"

Ah, tick tock, dude. I'm getting stinky!

Monday, July 30, 2007

You forget...

When you move to a new home there are several things you forget.

You forget how much everything costs to set up and forget the fact that you have been a customer for decades they will extract that $30 set up fee!

You forget that you still have things in boxes from the last time you moved and you forgot what all was in there. Oh! That's where that went!

You forget that when you move to a new home it takes time to get the layout and the navigation skills to get around it. I have so many bruises on my legs. And it doesn't help that boxes keep getting moved around. Poor S.O.v.2 ran into the door the other day!

You forget about the new sounds and the first and probably through to the fifth time you hear them they freak you out.

You forget how much fun it is to be in a new place and all the dreams you have of making it pretty or functional or cool or all of the above and you wonder why you didn't do it with your last home?

And then finally, you forget where the hell you put the extra toilet paper!

Monday, July 16, 2007

Moving Day(s)

You never really know how much stuff you have... until you move.

Ah, boxes boxes. At first it looks like so many. But as you begin to pack and pack and pack and the dust and the sneezing - hey, didn't I just clean under here, yeah like last year! - and then you look around and it looks like you have done nuh-thing at all... then you look at your supply of boxes rapidly dwindling. Oi!

But this moving day reminds me of our last moving day. Moving days when you were a DINK or a SINK (that's single income no kids, not a slur) are not memorable anymore. The only good thing about packing up is the anticipation of the new house. And in this case it is actually new and actually ours. I thought at times we would never own a home and look at us now! But I still have a little melancholy. I am remembering as I pack all the very helpful girlfriends of mine who came and watched S.O.v.1 when he was a baby so I could pack up our Hollywood apartment to move out here. I thought of Demondoll putting her own little one - probably on her hip most of the way - and S.O.v.1 in the stroller and going up the hill by our house in Hollywood. About Cynthia watching him while the movers took all the boxes and furniture away. I remember going down into the courtyard and seeing her sitting there with him sleeping on her shoulder. And she, a normally Type A personality with an equal mix of hippy, who always looks happy to be where she is but ready to get to the next place, looked totally contented and not eager to get anywhere at all. I remember thinking that she looked really good holding a baby. Now she has her own little 5 month old tyke and I am so glad for her and her hubby.

I remember the lovely, bubbly Krishanti looking after S.O.v.1 and that laugh of hers every time he would do something cute. She looks really good with a baby too. Something about a woman laughing and smiling with a baby makes them so beautiful.

This move makes me melancholy because it also means we are staying in the desert for the foreseeable future. As much as I love my life here I miss LA and my friends there. A part of me really hoped that we would be buying a house there for the first time. A large part of me wishes it wasn't so hard to get back there more often. Thank goodness Shrub got on the phone to jawbone those oil barrens he's so close to or gas prices would be impossible, not nearly impossible like they are now.

But the packing reminds me too of just how endless stuff is and I kind of wish we had less of it. I have been trying to purge the stuff as much as possible and yet the pull to keep things... for sentimental reasons, for just in case reasons, for unknown reasons... I am having a hard time ridding myself of certain baby items. The wedge I made for S.O.v.1 for when he slept in our bed and had a stuffy nose, which he did often. My breast pump (stop it! don't be gross) just in case... and the co-sleeper that S.O.v.2 slept in not so often but would catch her in case she rolled off the bed sleeping next to me most of her babyhood. I know this irritates S.O. to no end because he really is done-done having children whereas I would, if he changed his mind, have another in a red hot second (stop it!) and although I do owe it to Al Gore for convincing me that there is no real need for me to populate the planet with more people just like me, and it would be for selfish reasons, I still can't bring myself to part with these things... Just in case. I give myself credit for purging most (if not totally all) baby clothes though. We can't say the same for S.O.'s ancient and smelly T-shirt collection however...

Friday, July 06, 2007

Blohg blohg blohg

You know, it's been a while... I've been writing blog entries in my mind... does that count? You know, and then you get to the computer and poof! Blank. Funny that.

It's bloody hot. And I've been putting out fires. At work, at extracurricular work (freelance writing job) at home (computer problems again)... and so my mind is filled with all the little details that have to be accomplished so that problems don't flare up... and I get in trouble, see really there's the truth. I just don't want to get in trouble! Not that I've done anything wrong but anyone who has now or has ever (or who ever will shall soon find out) had a job knows you don't have to actually do anything wrong to get in trouble.

But the worst of course is getting in trouble with yourself, when something screws up because you forgot to do some little thing. Or when you forgot to do something you promised your kids you would do. Ouch.

And then of course there is the detail laden outer world where people screw you up (and you get in trouble or things delay) because they failed to accomplish some detail... oi. Example, our house, which technically we should be in already but documents got lost, funds got depleated and our file sat on a desk for too long before phone calls were made. Oi.

What can you do? Doesn't anyone believe in being organized, doing it right the first time anymore? Or are we all just too overwhelmed?

Friday, June 15, 2007

OK, here's the deal...

I usually leave the political outrage to S.O. (see but I just read an article about Hillary Clinton in Newsweek and they ask a couple of really stupid rhetorical questions (rhetorical because I can't really believe they don't know the answers, they just don't want to be the ones to say in print).

They wonder why, after 30 years in public life, people still seem to dislike Hillary Clinton. Duh, I think they answered their own question when they say the Clintons made a 'miscalculation' in in assuming that "America was ready for a new kind of empowered, ambitious political spouse..." (June 18, 2007 issue), except that they clearly misprinted (accidentally on purpose so as to remain PC) when they put in 'spouse' instead of 'wife'.

To steal some early Clinton rhetoric, "It's the gender stupid". Come on, if it walks like a duck... Can we just say it out loud. We, America, are not ready for a female president. We are just not. There are thousands of board rooms and conference rooms where women are leading the meeting as we speak that can attest to this fact. As long as they (the women leaders) are being nice and encouraging all the men in the room get that nice gushy feeling inside (and some might even be feeling so gushy they are also thinking, "I could do her") but the minute she-leader starts to exude some power, some influence, some dissatisfaction all the men and probably many of the women in the room are reduced to 4 year olds and their jockey shorts suddenly feel three sizes too small. Men hate this. Ladies, try it with your own husbands and see if you get laid later. It doesn't work.

We've so disconnected men from their feelings and so indoctrinated women to the religion of self loathing that we can't really get outside the 'traditional roles', particularly on a large scale, i.e. an election. Currently we, as a society, pretty much have women where we want them; Paris Hilton in jail (how many porn fantasies in how many guys' minds across the country is that illiciting! Can we say, sexy, dumb, rich and now totally controlled by men in uniforms?), women at work and still doing the bulk of the housework and childcare (yippee for men, Monday Night Football lives!), and a self-loathing so strong and entrenched that there is not really much hope of it ever going away (exhibit Vogue).

It's not that we don't think a woman can't do the job, I mean come on, seriously. And conservatives know that we are so precariously emotionally positioned as a society when it comes to women in power (can we remember Martha Stewart, speedy trial, did jail time; Enron broke 2001, Ken Lay wasn't found guilty until 2006) we can easily be tipped even on suspicions of misconduct or harpy-ism. (Remember the old jokes, "What happens to Russia if the (female) president is on her period?" hahahahahahahahaha) We just really don't want to get in trouble with mom.

Why do the conservatives still hate the Clintons. Uh, easy, because any conservative with half a brain (and I'm not saying that there are many) knows that 'liberal politics' such as those applied to the country during the Clinton administration actually work on a lot of levels for many kinds of Americans. Conservatism works only for the most wealthy, i.e. campaign contributors. If you gave a conservative some truth serum and started questioning them they'd tell you that they are actually pretty liberally minded and did pretty well in the 90s. We all are more liberal than we want to admit because you can't admit to being a caring human being and then vote for the dude you really want to have a beer with.

But my biggest beef with our inability to face the fact that we are not ready for a female president (I'm not even going to get into Barak Obama, seriously if we aren't yet comfortable with women in power...) is that means there is a chance Hillary will be on the Democratic ticket for '08. And you know what that means! Can we all sing "Hail to the Chief" for President Fred Thompson, and Vice President Ruddy Guliani? And you thought Ronald Regan and George Jr. were bad?

Wednesday, May 30, 2007


OK, so if your name is at the end then you have been tagged and you have to do as I will do following. Seven random 'facts' about yourself and then you must tag seven people.

1. I have been married 3 times, never thought I would be married before I was 30 as a kid but actually was married 3 times by then... go figure (I also said I would never live in the desert so maybe I should be saying I'll never be successful and have tons of money too!)

2. I have bunions - they are not what you think, they are misdirected bone growth, not like corns and can't be treated any way but to cut the bone and reset it in place - my bunions hurt a lot less when I heard that! Seems a little unfair since I was never much of a highheel wearer.

3. I've never seen the Grand Canyon or most of the United States but have seen almost all of California.

4. Despite years of singing lessons I still can't sing a whole song without losing a note. Although my only singing audience - my kids - do not seem to mind.

5. I grew an inch and a half between the ages of 19 and 26. Although my military ID says I am an inch taller than I actually am.

6. This is hard... um... I went to 'junior college' before going to 'real' college and that is where I met some of the best friends I ever had (i.e. Demondoll, Tony) and had some of the best academic experiences I ever had (Religion as mythology class, ISLS course).

7. Ah... mmmm... having trouble thinking of one more... hmmm... well, I've never been arrested though that is surprising considering I have nearly been about 3 times - and not for innocuous civil disobedience either, nope, I was involved in some shenanigans in my youth that are best left for my autobiography!

OK, you are tagged:


Wednesday, May 23, 2007

Oh Merciful Flu

Two weeks ago on a Wednesday S.O.v.1 complained that his tummy hurt. He said it was because he ate too much lunch at school, but knowing him I thought that sounded fishy. Of course, being the skeptic and probably a little bit merciless mother I suspected candy overdose. But nope, 'round about bedtime he was looking pretty miserable. It is that particular sound in their voice when they yell "Mama" that you just know means serious ick. So he booted and then quickly fell asleep. He was up the next morning and pretty OK, except for a small appetite. One down.

Then the following Monday night my stomach felt a little wonkey. But I just chalked it up to too much comfort food (Rice-a-Roni counts, doesn't it?) which I am not used to eating. Then the sweats. Consequently I spent the night laying on the bathroom floor with a problem too gross to mention but which you can probably guess at. Finally at about 3:30 in the morning I booted. For hours before that I felt sure I would but having been historically a 'non-thrower-upper' my body has become accustomed to resisting. It goes back to all the binge drinking in college and the years immediately after (well and a few years immediately before too, to be honest), which of course we didn't call 'binge drinking', that sounds oh so judgemental. We just called it fun. But I always thought the puking afterwards was unseemly and lacking in a certain dignity so I forced myself to endure the room spining and racous hangovers for years. Between moving to the desert (which has the most gawd-awful flu bugs that no person, practiced or not, can withstand and keep it down) and before that living in the Bay Area - a span of about 8 or 9 years I had not thrown up. That last time was a particularly bad night of homemade pizza - which, don't get my wrong, was great, it wasn't the pizza's fault - the red wine, the real culprit I suspect, and a few starter gin martinis. I decided that I'd never do THAT again! (Not the drinking part silly, the barfing part)

But picture me at the porceline, you know whatever, last Monday begging my body to stop resisting and get it over with... for about 5 hours... then finally. Whew. Two down. I spent the next day in bed, feeling mostly fine but making up for the lost sleep.

Then that Thursday S.O.v.2 was not eating her rice. I should have immediately suspected something because she is, afterall, the Rice Baby. But I was silly, I didn't catch on until literally seconds before, even with the large hint of icky diaper. She was in bed and I was just about to move her to own bed (she usually falls asleep in big bed and then we move her to own bed) when she said "Mama I cold" and fussed. Then urp. Ick. Three down.

That was last week and we all seemed fine and recovered which I was thankful for as I had two shows to do on the weekend. But last night S.O. finally caught up. He now is fine but spending the day in bed making up for the lost sleep he spent instead... well you get the picture. Whew. Four down.

Let's hope for no relapse and be thankful it was a merciful 24 hour flu!

Monday, May 21, 2007

Ups and Downs

Let me just start with the down, ya know, just get it out of the way.

The day after a show is always a low energy, crabby day for me. Exhibit A: After spending the last month being calm and consciously letting little things go I snap at S.O. for some driving (in my irritable opinion) snafu. The little S.O.s were irritating me with their non-listening, non-compliance behavior too. On normal days I just deal with it and move on, but on crabby days it sticks with me till quiet time (i.e. nap). I was really tired too. I guess I didn't really realize how much energy I expend doing the show.

I was slightly disappointed that more of my friends did not come out to support the show. But I imagine they will come next month... or eventually.


I did two shows over the weekend of "4 at 40". Friday night the house was bought by a friend and colleague for a private party. They were a splendid audience, memorable. They were ready to laugh and be moved and it was really fun to perform for them. I met some wonderful people after - not all of whose names I can recall unfortunately! And got some wonderful comments. I cannot recall how many times I heard the word 'amazing'. It was the kind of performance that keeps you out at the cast party till way too late on an adrenaline high. Luckily I am the cast and so got home at a decent hour. S.O. was kind enough to retrieve the kids from the sitter so I could stay and schmooze for a bit at the reception after the show.

The Saturday audience were smaller and more subdued. You must work harder when they are a small audience, harder to get them absorbed and on board so they won't feel self-conscious and can just experience the play. I learned an interesting and valuable lesson about contrast in performance - and that you need to bring the audience with you but you have to be flexible enough to give them what they need, to respond to their energy and not just run away from them with the show.

On our 10 year anniversary last week S.O. and I got a call from the housing program we'd signed up for to purchase an affordable house in our town. We were set for a house in the 3rd Phase - hadn't been built yet, hadn't even laid the foundation yet, but we had our lot. So the call was a shock. "Do you want a house now?" she said. So, sometime soon we should know when the close of escrow is and we will be home owners. Yeah! Eeek! Wow! Yikes! What are we thinking! This is so great! and all those other emotions that go along with it... panic and joy living side by side.

I knock around work for one more week like a single marble in the trunk of your car. All that space and just a tiny object to fill it. All this time and just a few undoubtably crap scripts to read. Well, can't be busy always, especially not out here, unless it is busy of one's own making. But I should luxuriate in it nonetheless.

Saturday, May 12, 2007

Added Performances of "4 at 40: Mothers' Letters to Their Daughters"


We've added dates for my show. Yippee!


"Daniela Ryan... she's definitely an actor that we're going to hear more from. She displays a great range of passionate emotion in both her acting and her writing"
- Jack Lyons of “The Desert Scene”, K-News Radio 1140AM

What: Live Theatre at the Gallery
"4 at 40: Mothers’ Letters to Their Daughters”

When: Friday, May 18, 2007 – SOLD OUT
Saturday, May 19, 2007 – 4:00 pm

Friday, June 22, 2007 – 7:30 pm
Saturday, June 23, 2007 – 7:30 pm
Tickets available at the door - $12.00

Further dates to be announced.

Where: Dezart One Gallery
2688 Cherokee Way
Palm Springs, CA 92264
(760) 328-1440

The story spans five generations of women in one California family, from the first settler to a modern day mother. Each mother desperately reaches out to her daughter through a family tradition. On the mother’s 40th birthday, she writes a letter to her daughter in an attempt to bridge the generation gap between them, passing on valued lessons learned from her journey in life. The family’s history is, in essence, California’s own, from stoic determination to take the land, to prosperity, to the comforts and uncertainties of modern day life. Each mother learns something about herself as she shares her story with her daughter. For those who have a mother and/or a sister or daughter, you will relate to the characters as they capture the intimate portrait of relationships between women and their daughters and the generational and historical influence on those bonds.

Daniela Ryan is a graduate of U.C. Berkeley with a degree in Theatre Arts. In addition, she has a Masters degree in Film and Television from San Diego State University. Ms. Ryan has worked in the film industry for the past 10 years. She began acting at the age of 7, performing in local and community theatre throughout California. In Los Angeles, she co-wrote and performed in Demeter Theatre’s acclaimed play “Speaking of Evil”, the story of an ambivalent Nazi, Kurt Gerstein. She is a writer and associate producer of film, working with a local independent film production company. A fourth generation Californian, Ms. Ryan resides in the desert with her husband and two children.

Monday, April 30, 2007

But It's A Good Tired

I have been thinking about what I would say about my show... I just don't have super extreme emotions about it... there were less people in the audience than there were seats. But my attitude is I do this performance for these people and don't worry about the ones who didn't show up. Those that came had the experience they were looking for I hope. That is, afterall, the goal.

My family made the trip which was such an honor. It is always great to have people that love you in the audience. I pretty much guaranteed that anyway though having S.O. be my show tech. But it was great that my Dad and his S.O. made the trip and that my Mom and my Sis and her S.O. made the trip as well. I felt supported and valued, which is what being a star is, really. So for a few days I was a star and by Sunday I was back to cleaning the toilet and clipping coupons. I suppose what goes wrong with 'stars' is that if you get too much of it it no longer feels good. But shockingly enough if you get to be a star for a bit then the cleaning the toilet part doesn't feel so bad. Everyone should get to be a star a couple times a month at least!

But mostly what I felt was home. I was nervous, excited, sure; worried I'd forget lines (there are 25 pages of dialogue in my show), I did; worried people wouldn't get it or wouldn't care - they did and they did. Many audience members stayed after to talk to me and that is always an honor. I know that many were moved and I was glad of that. It was almost like that feeling you get when you get to the end of your busy day and there is just enough time to slip into the hot tub for a few minutes - except instead of quieting my body, performing quiets my soul.

My Mom said when she left, "Thank you for performing again. Everyone feels better when you are performing because it really comes naturally to you, you were just born to do it" I think that perty much sums it up.

Tuesday, April 17, 2007


In just 24 hours I can go from feeling sublime to reewee reewee (as S.O.v.2 says) angee... we actually more like irritated.

OK, this whole password thing has just got to stop. Can we please? I mean, come on! Seriously! And don't write them down, what are you insane? How much time do I want to stay on hold with tech support!

You can no longer do anything 'online' oh so simple without setting up a descreet username and password! I've had it! Enough I say. Can we come up with a better solution please... you can't order a book anymore, register for an event that you will never ever in the history of you ever ever attend again without setting up a ^#(&$%)*#(&#@*&$@%%%% user bloody name and password!

OK smarty pants, I just use my mother's maiden name plus my cat's birthday for ALL mine, person! If you hadn't noticed that is not possible because sometimes they let you choose your own username - if it's not taken already so you have to be Yella167 or some such ridiculousness - and some want your email (then you have to remember which email you did it under, (for those of us that have work emails, family emails, etc.) then your password has to include at least one digit and be at least characters long and sometimes case sensitive and sometimes they won't let you use an ampersand and sometimes they only want 4 digits only, no letters and sometimes at least one letter HAS to be capitalized or they will eat your first born.


Monday, April 16, 2007

The Orchid

My son was sad yesterday. He is 4, nearly 5 and he misses dearly his babysitter of 3 years who moved to the other side of the country last year about this time. We were playing his USA puzzle and when we came to South Carolina he started thinking about Abida. But this is nothing new. Sometimes he thinks of her out of the blue, without warning and a little melancholy comes to his face.

We often dismiss these subtle emotions in children I think. Because they are not entirely comfortable. They are not entirely solveable, which I think can cause parents to try and dismiss them. There is no real explanation for them either. It is just in the air or something brings to mind something that makes you sad or worried or fearful. Same happens with happiness and laughter - as in dreams, or rather watching a dreaming child as I did S.O.v.2 last night. She suddenly from peaceful countenance laughed. Then it was gone.

We forget that emotions themselves are not bad or grand or useful or good or anything at all except just a color of life to be experienced. Maybe because of their remembering their beloved babysitter (I miss her too, it's hard to describe the fondness you have for the person who lovingly cares for your children) or maybe mine came first but I was missing my grandparents and my uncle - who all passed away in the last 3 years (Abida is not gone, just moved to SC, to be clear!) - I was sad. It came in waves, like grief does....

But isn't it funny how we allow these little flits of emotions to touch us when 'something has happened', like grieving a loss or breaking up with a boyfriend, but when 'nothing is wrong' somehow we think we are supposed to be happy, up, smiley without fail? But that is often not the case, the world is a gloomy place today - because of the news, because of the weather, because of the war. But surely there is great joy blended in with all that sorrow. In the fleeting laugh of S.O.v.2 in her sleep last night my heart lept with glee, joy to be her mother. And in the next moment I shed a tear and a laugh myself as I remember how in my whole life my grandmother never pronounced my name correctly. I was her Da-nella and there was no changing that.

Life and emotions are often categorized as shades of gray. But it's not gray - it's colors, all blended together often in the same moment, like an impossibly colored orchid that is both brown and red and yellow at the same time in almost the same spot. Perhaps that is why my grandmother and uncle loved orchids so much, even as they could not express in words the impossible combinations of emotions of life, they could appreciate it in an orchid.

Wednesday, April 11, 2007

I have nothing to say

It's true. I don't. Odd really. I have just been tired... allergy-y, cold-y and then on Easter I burnt the hell out of my arm and leg with hot oil. Not recommended. Peeling now, reeeeeally not recommended. Probably should have gone to the Urgent Care but hey, there was a pork roast to finish.

I'm sitting here at work, at 10:45 pm waiting to call Dubai. My show's first performances are in two weeks and I am not really nervous but I am feeling a little like walking into the void. Strangly enough that is one of the themes of my play. I can see the future but I just don't know how it will all work.

Leave that up to the universe I guess they say in "The Secret". I have always had trouble letting go of dreams to the point where I can't sort out whether it is a real dream anymore or just a habit. Working on it...

Tuesday, March 20, 2007

Crushes and Crushing Headache

The strangest thing... I have started having crushes again! How weird is that... Is this some odd hormonal phenomenon, or perhaps some psychological response to nearing *gulp* perimenopause (I'm so thankful they created this starter menopause, get you used to the idea before you actually take off, sort of like a menopause tricycle). I haven't had a crush since I was in elementary school. I didn't 'do' crushes (of celebrity/notable/famous people) when I was in high school (only the more dangerous i.e. obtainable local boys - which, in retrospect I realize, can get you into a lot more trouble) because I was, yes, just that cool. I thought they were REEEDIC-U-LOUS! How pathetic, I thought to myself, spending so much emotion on someone you'll never have!

But now my perspective is slightly less obnoxious and stuck up. Now I just figure, oh what the hell, who'm I hurtin'? (Except maybe the feelings of S.O. just slightely, but he knows I only have eyes for him so... get over it babe - he reads the blog)

Celebrity Crush: Leonardo DiCaprio - now who would have thought? I would never stoop to a crush that everyone else had! How proletariat! (My crushes in elementary were the Monkees - yes, several years AFTER their series, not even contemporary, Sandy - Lemur, will remember that - sorry, inside joke) But he's gettin' some gravitas on him. Blood Diamond anyone?

Brain Crush: Craig Ferguson - now I know this sounds odd but I just read his first novel... I'd heard an interview with him on The Treatment (thank you podcasts) and was struck by how similar we thought about the world. I'd never heard anyone articulate so well how they think, and I just kept saying to myself, I think just like that! Although, if we ever had a conversation we might well bore each other to tears.

Bad Boy Crush: Denis Leary - I have always had this theory that liking the bad boy, for women, is never really about the bad boy - it is about how cool am I to be the one that he settles down with! But I like Denis Leary's bad boy image on his show Rescue Me because it is bad and also three dimensional - he plays the bad boy we all (those of us who have dabbled in the bad boy dating scheme) knew was there deep down inside but that they just couldn't articulate (and ok marrying, yes, marrying scheme too...).

Crushing Headache: Yesterday, I started in on a, what promises to be a 24 hour plus, migraine round about 2pm. I've seen The Secret - yes I have and I'll admit it! - (or as we say around our house in faux Australian accent Tha Sak-rut) and have been doing my affirmations and trying to look on the bright side and all that. And yes, naysayers, I do feel better about myself and my life and really, if nothing else like, say incredible prosperity, riches beyond my wildest dreams, etc. comes of it, isn't that really enough? Anyway, those negative voices just begin to get, as S.O.v.2 says when S.O.v.1 pisses her off "reeewee reewee an-gee!", and then they fight with the positive thinking you've been doing and oh the battle!

I blame that in-fighting for the migraine. But then when I looked in the mirror this morning and realized my skin is clearing up (see post several weeks back - means I've ovulating probably) I realized it was probably a migraine brought on by hormones. Or maybe my affirmation "I'm so grateful to have beautiful skin" is taking affect... who knows... it's all bigger than myself and I release control over it, over it all! I'm even sitting here slack jawed... well, that may just be because my head hurts less when I do that... My mother did tell me the other weekend that I am not letting go enough. And she is probably right. I do have a tendency to over think - and face it folks if you're thinking about it, you're trying to control it! This is why I have stopped trying to fix the movie Flags of Our Fathers - a passtime S.O. and I enjoy after seeing a bad or film that didn't quite work. Makes for interesting conversation... but right now... my head hurts...

Wednesday, March 14, 2007


What: “Live Theatre at the Gallery”
"4 at 40: Mothers’ Letters to Their Daughters”

When: April 26, 2007 - 7:30 pm Press Preview
April 27, 2007 - 7:30 pm - $12.00 Tickets at the door

Where: Dezart One Gallery
2688 Cherokee Way Palm Springs, CA 92264 (760) 328-1440

Dezart One Gallery proudly debuts "Live Theatre at the Gallery", with an original play written and performed by Daniela Ryan, “4 at 40: Mothers’ Letters to Their Daughters”. The story spans five generations of women in one California family, from the first settler, to a modern day mother. Each mother desperately reaches out to her daughter through a family tradition. On the mother’s 40th birthday, she writes a letter to her daughter in an attempt to bridge the generation gap between them, passing on valued lessons learned from her journey in life. The family’s history is, in essence, California’s own, from stoic determination to take the land, to prosperity, to the comforts and uncertainties of modern day life. Each mother learns something about herself as she shares her story with her daughter. For those who have a mother and/or a sister or daughter, you will relate to the characters as they capture the intimate portrait of relationships between women and their daughters and the generational and historical influence on those bonds.

Daniela Ryan is a graduate of U.C. Berkeley with a degree in Theatre Arts. In addition, she has a Masters degree in Film and Television from San Diego State University. Ms. Ryan has worked in the film industry for the past 10 years. She began acting at the age of 7, performing in local and community theatre throughout California. In Los Angeles, she co-wrote and performed in Demeter Theatre’s acclaimed play “Speaking of Evil”, the story of an ambivalent Nazi, Kurt Gerstein. She is a writer and associate producer of film, working with a local independent film production company. A fourth generation Californian, Ms. Ryan resides in the desert with her husband and two children.

Wednesday, March 07, 2007

Military Fatigue

I have had a persistant interest in the war in Iraq since 2003. I started working for a company called Basra Entertainment, yes named after the city in Iraq, in June of 2003, for an expat Iraqi. One of the first projects we took on was a documentary project about Iraqi women and their plight under Saddam Hussein and after (never realized because of the situation in Iraq). Being the Associate Producer of the company I dove into the research. What I learned was shocking - Saddam Hussein was as much of a monster as any dictator there has ever been. The case for deposing him, simply because of his cruelty towards his own people, was strong. I wondered why the Administration didn't pull out this argument along side the WMD bogus one. Perhaps they considered Americans more self interested than they actually are. Claim, that if we don't invade, there will be a mushroom cloud spouting from our soil imminently and this will convince them. But claim the moral authority to depose a despot and they think it won't fly.

Tell the American people after 9/11 that what they can meaningfully do to 'help' the country is to shop. Ask them to sacrifice, to contribute to the war effort - like the American public was asked to do during WWII - and the Administration thinks it won't fly. Oddly enough, I believe, that had they asked for some sort of sacrifice instead of asking for consummerism the war would be more popular now, no matter the outcome. I think we can safely surmise that Karl Rove knows politics but knows sadly little about human nature... makes one wonder if he actually is...

Last night we watched "Ghosts of Abu Ghraib". Painful to watch and embarassing to say the least. "Proud to be an American" just does not hum itself in one's head after watching that. I have watched a number of documentaries on Iraq to this point and more in my Netflix cue to come. Our current project is a screenplay following two pre-teen boys in their lives in Iraq from late 2003 to 2006. The writing is hard. It is not a pleasant experience, but something about it feels also important. It is a little message but one that if we can convey may make us all feel just a little bit like a contributor instead of simply an observer.

Which brings me to my title. In this war, I've no doubt like in any, it is difficult to even be an observer. There have even been some documentaries about conspiracy theories which I have stopped watching in the middle or refused to watch at all, much to S.O.'s disgust. (Think he thinks I am trying to hide my head in the sand) But as a mother I do have to draw my line in the sand at exactly the place whereby if I cross it I will go into despair. It is not my children's fault this war is happening and they should not have to pay the price of a destraught mother. We all have to put up the wall at the boundary just before where we can continue to function. I feel like I have a pretty wide boundary, but there was a long period of several months where neither myself nor the President of our company could really continue to talk about Iraq as we did regularly. This screenplay has forced me to return to immersion in the subject and I am feeling fatigued. It is that fatigue that the MPs in the "Ghosts of Abu Ghraib" speak of that once you get there you either break down or detach.

I don't blame anyone for not wanting to look at this war. Especially when we are stuck with an atrocious Administration who have usurped our Constitution in countless ways known and, certainly, unknown. It feels hopeless. The best we can do is hold our breath and wait for Nov. 2008 to roll around and then again for Jan. 2009. It is a long time to wait and we have to carry on. I have to continue to research, watch documentaries, write painful scenes of death and despair and hope that I can keep myself from slipping in so that I can continue to raise happy children.

Can any of us imagine ourselves in the place that families of wounded soldiers, Marines and sailors have found themselves in? Denial is a lifesaver for human beings. It most certainly has been for the families of military and the men and women during their service in Iraq and Afghanistan as well. But we must draw the line at institutional denial... and I think this is what we have seen for the past 6 years. Maybe now is the time for those who haven't yet, stand up and yell.

Wednesday, February 14, 2007


Why do I have to move to a Google account on blogger... why have I been tagged... oh, alright...

ABC's About Me- a Lesson in Survey Tagging
A=Available - Nope
B=Best friend - sister, mama, S.O.
C=Cake or Pie- Well, that all depends doesn't it, on mood, on the baker, on the season... one can't just make blanket statements like that! What if they never let you have the other because you expressed a preference for one?
D=Drink- coffee in the morning, white wine at night
E=Essential item you use everyday- eye glasses
F=Favorite color - violet
G=Google your name (first), my IMDb page
H=Hometown- Hayweird
I-Indulgences- chocolate, white wine
J=January or February - Feb. because then it really feels like the new year has started in earnest
K=Kids- two lovelies
L=Life- is not a platitude
M=Marriage date- May 10, 1997
N=Number of siblings- 1 sister
O=Opinion (state one)- Everyone is scared of something, we are not kind enough about that
P=Phobias or Fears- dying before my children no longer need me, snakes, saying what you want to happen out loud
Q=Quote- I can't think of any! How lame am I? No wait, my favorite, from "The Secret Garden" (movie) "All will come to pass"
R=Reason to smile- when S.O.v.2 says "Oh my goss"
S=Season- What's a season?
T=Tag 3 or 4 peeps- ? Sister, Kate, Kimbaya, Arianna, Jane...
U=Unknown fact about you- When I was 18 I committed a robbery
V=Vegetable you don't like- haven't met one yet
W=Worst habit- picking my face, not standing up for myself - which is probably at the heart of it the same thing
X=Xrays- teeth, have them all
Y=Youth (a memory)- Chasing my sister in anger down the hallway, she closing the door just as I haul out and punch her, putting my fist through the door and both of us immediately teaming up to figure out how to prevent my mom from finding out... she didn't till years later because we put a white sheet of paper over the door and painted it...
Z=Zodiac sign- Libra

Tuesday, February 13, 2007

Driven by Hormones

I am full of love today.

Which can only mean one thing (or maybe two: S.O.v.2 behaved very well this morning and that always starts the day out right!) - that tomorrow I will be an onery cuss. And being an onery cuss can only mean one thing - that I will be starting my period on the following day.

I realize how un-PC it is to admit that women have *gulp* hormones and that they *double gulp* influence how you feel and *yikes* behave, but I find it to be true. The older I get the more distinctly I can feel the daily hormonal shifts. Not all of them obviously. Or maybe it is having been pregnant that makes you more aware of your body. I dunno. But I do now notice patterns that I would have vehemently denied in younger incarnations of myself. Note above pattern.

Maybe it is my body saying "Hey you have only a few more years of this 'normal' hormone routine so you'd better appreciate it before the hot flashes come"... or maybe that was the pharmaceutical industry talking...

The one area where these patterns are most evident and irritating - literally, figuratively and any other kind of ly, is in my face. Just after the end of a cycle my face starts clearing up, softening up, gets nicer. Probably all those same hormones that made my skin so lovely when I was pregnant. I get a little glow, I'm a little sweet, a little cuddly. Then after ovulating and no fertilizing that angry egg sends a message to my face. "OK. Fine! You don't want to fertilize me. Look at this each morning for the next 2 1/2 weeks! Ha!" Unfertilized eggs are really mean.

And indeed my face becomes irritated. Itchy. Angry. Red. Breaking out. Throbbing mean pick at me zits.

And then it starts all over again... Sheesh!

Monday, February 05, 2007


My grandmother died on Thursday of last week. She was 91.

It doesn't seem to matter how old someone is when they go, it still hurts. I feel tremendously sad that I was unable to make my grandparents more proud of me and my accomplishments. There is so much that I wanted to impress them with. But in the end the things they were proud of are the things that define me more than any performance or award or publishing contract could have.

And my grandma did get to read some of my short stories and enjoyed them. She had been telling me since I was able to write what a good writer I am. I was glad that I was able to share with her something other than a personal letter, although those were probably the most enjoyable for her.

And I was glad that she was able to read a story I wrote just for her, an attempt to tell her how much she has meant to me and my growth as a person. That story follows if anyone is interested...

What I Learned From My Grandma

When I was a young girl, just starting junior college, and starting on the path to my adult life, though still living at home, my mother became sick. She contracted a rare form of leukemia. The kind children get. Most adults, when they get it, don’t survive. But she had total faith in her doctor and when he said to her, We are going to take you to the very brink of death and then bring you back, she said, OK.
Because I was not even 20 and my mother barely 20 years older than me it was a shock when she got sick. No one was prepared. She was too young to be so sick. My mother had chemotherapy treatments for almost a year. Few days of chemo, hospital stay, then several weeks of recovery only to do the whole thing all over again. And then remission. The whole thing lasted a year and a half before it was all deemed ‘over’. But it seemed like an eternity.
At the beginning of my mother’s illness my sister left to go to college at UC Berkeley, only 30 miles away from where we lived; and later my mother’s boyfriend left her. I was left to deal with daily living, paying bills, cooking, cleaning and seeing to all the little details that are requisite to a life. Whenever someone would come to visit it was like they were dazed. I remember my favorite uncle coming to visit while my mother was in the hospital and coming into my room late at night and just crying and crying. I was still at the point in youth when being alone with adults was uncomfortable and strange. Here I was in our house with my uncle whom I loved so much, and he was so bereft that all he wanted to do was hold someone, for me to give him a hug and yet I couldn’t do it.
It was an odd time for me. I couldn’t sleep for weeks on end and finally I went to some quack doctor in Castro Valley for a prescription for sleeping pills. It was the first and last time I ever tried them. I felt like a fuzzy cucumber in the morning, all stiff and cold and no focus. I broke up with a boyfriend whom I loved terribly because I was so distracted by my mother’s illness that intimacy was difficult. Relating to my friends seemed weird and inconsequential. Though one weekend, probably in desperation to do something that felt even slightly normal, I stole my mother’s boyfriend’s car with two friends and drove down to Hollywood over Easter break. Just for three days, pretending there were no such things as IVs or chemo or parents even felt wonderfully freeing. We saw Pierce Brosnan in the Thrifty’s on Easter Sunday buying his two young children Easter baskets. I always liked him after that because somehow it seemed so human and not star-like for him to have forgotten baskets until the morning of. We met some people who worked in a restaurant on Hollywood Blvd. and spent our last night there on the floor of the manager’s apartment up the street. He seemed nice enough but made me nervous. When we got home I found out why. He called me several times, saying how much he loved me and wanted to be with me and the fact that he was a good 20 years older than me made no difference to him. I was thankful I hadn’t given him my address.
And I regularly took the keys to my mother’s brown Porsche 944 and drove it around with some friend or other. The nurses had insisted we take away her keys when she checked in to the hospital. I got away with it actually. No one, except my sister, of course, realized that I had driven the thing and she was primarily jealous that she didn’t have the opportunity to drive it. I even went to my mother’s boat sometimes and just sat there on the bow or slept there overnight and then drove to the hospital in the morning. All these things added up to odd behavior and had someone been keeping a tally they would have worried about me. At the time these activities made me feel somewhat better.
It was just my way, I suppose, of dealing with the fact that my mother might be dead before I even turned 20. Strangely enough it was my mother who kept me on course. She insisted, in a drug addled stupor one of her first nights on chemotherapy, that I should continue school, continue plays and continue work. If I hadn’t gotten that message from her my odd behavior might have slipped into the realm of dangerous.
Finally, when my mother was declared to be in remission from the leukemia we all heaved a sigh of relief and everyone went back to life as normal. Except me. Probably it didn’t seem normal to my mother or my sister either. At the time, I was just finishing my junior college requirements and had just been accepted into UC Berkeley. My mother was now back home, but I still felt funny, at odds inside my skin. I couldn’t put it into words then and even now an exact description eludes me. I was, of course, as excited as any college student starting their first semester of university. I experienced all the hope and self confidence of any young student, yes, but underlying it all was stark panic and confusion. My mother had been gravely ill and now she was fine. I was just supposed to go on with life as if it had never happened. No one ever talked about it except to say things like, Oh good, and, Well, let’s hope she doesn’t relapse, and things like that. But nobody ever said anything about what affect it all had on me or anyone else for that matter. Maybe I am selfish to think that someone might have done so, and I certainly was too intimidated to reach out to anyone and say, Hey, I’m still struggling here, Can someone help me parse this out and figure out how I get on with life? So, I did what I suppose anyone does in those situations, I just moved awkwardly forward.
The first weeks of a new school year are a flurry. Classes to register for, student loans to apply for, books to buy and various other details to be sorted. And most importantly for me, auditions for the semester’s plays. Since we lived just a few cities away I decided that I would stay at home for at least the first semester. Thoughts of doing otherwise brought the panic I had felt during my mother’s illness back to the surface; and images of my mother lying dead on the bathroom floor, gathering flies, haunted my mind. When I told my mother I was planning on living at home for a while, I think she was grateful and relieved too. She had been lonely in the hospital and when she was home, in between treatments, it was just the two of us. When chemo made her lose all her hair, I had started to rub her head each night and we’d make up little chants for it to grow back curly and really blonde. Then when she started to lose muscle mass and be in pain all over I would massage her whole body. It made her sleep better, I think, and it made me feel better being able to do something that helped. When she was in the hospital, also, I brought her macrobiotic food, which I had just discovered, whenever I could. I would wake up early, cook her food for the day, drive to San Francisco to the hospital to be there before breakfast, leave all her food in the refrigerator with instructions for the nurses to give her that instead of the regular hospital food and then be to school for my morning classes or rehearsals or whatever. That made me feel better too.
Now that she was in remission yet not quite back to normal, my need to do something to make her feel better was no less. Sure, I wanted to go straight to the dorms like my sister had done. And I envied her that experience. But who else was going to stay with my mother if not I?
When I was cast in a good roll in a graduate student directed play that first semester I felt vindicated in a way. I felt this was a bigger pond than the one I had been feeding in. I had never had any problems getting cast in plays, managing to get a role in almost everything I tried out for but it was all high school and community theatre and small summer stock in my hometown. If I got a role at Berkeley I reasoned, that proved that I was a good actress. Back then my identity was almost 100% Actor and the thought of maybe someday having a professional career as such made me happier than anything ever had. The role, a middle-aged woman, with a child, held captive in Harold Pinter’s “One For The Road”, made me almost feel as if my future was assured. And at that point in my life I needed assurances.
At first it all seemed to go well. I would wake up early and take the BART to school, attend my classes, study and knock around campus until rehearsals and then take the last BART train home at night. I loved those first weeks, feeling probably for the first time, independent and almost adult. Reading and dozing near the bridge that led to the Theatre Department offices on the bank of Strawberry Creek was nearly sublime. My classes were stimulating and the coffee houses in Berkeley – before there was ever generic Starbucks – were always abuzz and endlessly fascinating with all kinds of people coming in and out. People watching alone I could waste three, four hours.
But after a few weeks of this schedule, and add to that working as a waitress on the weekends, I was beat. I also came very close to missing the last BART train out of the Berkeley station on several occasions. I would get out of rehearsals at around 10 or 10:30 p.m. and run my ass off, knapsack full of books and all, the twelve or so blocks from campus to the station, hurdle myself dangerously down the stairs and slip in through the closing doors, sweaty and exhausted. God help me if I needed to stop at the machine and get a ticket! If I missed the connecting train in Oakland, which did happen a couple of times, I would have to catch a bus the rest of the way home, making the normally one hour trip over two. This would put me home and in bed well after midnight and up again at 6am to do the whole thing all over again. Even at the age of 20 I couldn’t keep it up and something had to give.
In the summer before I started Berkeley I had performed in a musical on the campus of my junior college. “Over Here” it was called and I had a good role, lots of dancing and singing. My dancing partner hated me for some reason, maybe because I was fat or not pretty enough, or maybe because I had rebuffed his amorous advances a few times, but probably the former. Anyway, he thought he was too good. His bad behavior did endear me to others in the cast and I became fast friends with all the girls around my same age. Two of the girls, Amy and Eva, were also starting Berkeley in the Fall and we made plans to meet up. Walking across campus one day I ran into Eva. She had decided to give up theatre and go into the sciences so all her classes were on the other side of the campus so seeing her was a happy surprise. We laughed and bounced and screamed when we ran into each other, all the things that teen girls do. Over a latte – which, back then was quite cool and exotic – I found out that she was living in a house owned by her brother-in-law and was looking for roommates. This put a bug in my ear. We exchanged numbers. Later that night the last BART train was late getting into Berkeley station and caused me to miss my connecting train. As I sat on that bus, watching Oakland pass by, all I could think about were those banners you see on huge apartment buildings facing freeways and busy avenues, “If you lived here, you’d be home by now”. If I lived in Berkeley, I’d be home by now.
I didn’t want to tell my mom I had to move out. But I couldn’t figure how else I could go on. I worked up a fight in my head where my mother would tell me that I should quit the play. I would get indignant in this imaginary fight, as if she had just told me to stop breathing. But when the conversation actually happened what she did say was, If you move out then that’s it, you can never come back.
It wasn’t what I expected but it was a blow nonetheless. Of course, now, in hindsight and with an adult perspective I can see what she was really saying. She was telling me, in her way, that she didn’t want me to move out, maybe she wasn’t really ready after her illness to be left alone in the house. But she was also trying to convey to me the seriousness of my decision, that I was taking a step into adulthood and she wanted me to be sure I was ready. I didn’t get any of that message at the time though.
My rent was $200.00 a month. It seemed like so much at the time and I was to share the big room, which was really the living room, of the house. In college life every possible space is squeezed for accommodations to lower the rent for everyone. Or in this case, to make as much money for the landlord as possible. At first, I had the living room all to myself with my friend Eva in the ‘real’ bedroom, which was actually dining room, and another girl out in a little cottage in the back. Later in the year, in a relieving turn of events, my sister would move in and share the big room with me.
I kept my job, so, I was still home on the weekends mostly. But I felt that my mother was annoyed with my presence there. So, in short order, instead of taking the BART I started driving my car to and from Berkeley. Which, in Berkeley, meant having to move it every morning and night so that I wouldn’t get parking tickets. This was a huge hassle and the reason I hadn’t brought it with me to begin with. The first month went fine. I bought my books, paid my rent, bought food. But by the second month, things started to go wrong. I got several parking tickets at $25.00 a pop. Traffic enforcement has the whole town locked up so that getting them is really unavoidable if you spend much time there at all. Great earner for the city of Berkeley, but to a college student a distressful event. In subsequent years living in and around Berkeley I threw up my hands and simply began budgeting in parking tickets in my monthly expenses. If I ever got less than one a week it was like getting a bonus.
Then there was an additional book to buy for some class, though I don’t remember which. It was a doozy of a book at $50.00 and not knowing any better I went right out and bought it. Turned out I didn’t even need it until very late into the semester. But to my mind this was an urgent need. You didn’t get caught without a book in your fist semester at Berkeley! I was already struggling with ‘smart-issues’ as it was. My sister, who was also still attending Berkeley was always the smart one in the family. I was always the ‘creative one’ or worse, the ‘dramatic one’, which in my mind meant I was not very bright but somewhat entertaining. The idea of not having a book on the syllabus sent me into absolute idiot-panic. For sure, someone would suddenly notice me in the room, go back to my college application and realize a terrible, terrible mistake had been made in admitting me.
I was despairing one night at the hostess stand at the restaurant where I worked weekends, trying to surreptitiously beg for tables, (I didn’t even have enough self regard at that point to openly beg!) when one of the line cooks, Will, I think was his name, came up and joined the conversation. It was getting late and it still hadn’t picked up on a Friday night and I was lamenting the fact that I would probably not make any money. The conversation came around to my imminent rent and my skimpy bank account and Will offered to lend me the money. Really?, I said, overwhelmed with relief. I’ll pay you back in a month, I promised, and he whipped out the cash right there.
My rent was paid and I went back to stressing about all the normal college things, grades, boss, friends, etc. I paid Will back just as planned. Right after my play finished with rehearsals I picked up some extra shifts and actually made some extra money. I was feeling pretty good about myself. So when Will came to me and asked to borrow money, with some story that his little girl’s mother’s car broke down, or something, I said, Sure. I felt confident that since I had paid him back on time he would return the favor. But he did no such thing. I never saw a penny from him and, in fact, he disappeared. He just stopped showing up for work or answering his phone a couple weeks later and I was completely rooked. Humiliated, and embarrassed I dared not tell anyone about the whole business. But, here was the beginning of the month coming and rent due and once again I was short.
I didn’t want to do it, but I couldn’t think of what else to do. I called my mom. Too bad, I told you, you were on your own, she said and went on to change the subject like I had just called to chat. My sister didn’t have any money either and I couldn’t think of anyone else to call. So, I called my Grandma.
By the time I talked to her, I must have worked myself up into a frenzy. All I could imagine was me being kicked out of my room for not paying the rent. SInce I couldn’t stay with my sister, because she lived in the dorms, I pictured me banging on the front door of my childhood home, the locks having been changed, rain pouring down and my mother peeking through the curtains mouthing ‘go away’. This didn’t happen, of course, because my Grandma said of course she would send me money as long as I needed, till I could get my finances sorted out. We talked a little about how I had gotten into this situation. I don’t know if I confessed my bad loan, I may have, but I don’t remember. She talked to me a little about budgeting and advised that next semester I go to my professors to find out what books I might need right away and what others I might be able to get later. Just tell them you are on a tight budget and paying your own way through school, they’ll understand, she’d said.
My Grandma has always been a calming, happy influence in my life. My sister remembers distinctly my Grandma being a speed demon behind the wheel of a car. I don’t remember this, but certainly it was only because I trusted her completely and it would never have occurred to me that she could falter and crash the car. And she never got angry with me but once that I can remember. I was somewhere I wasn’t supposed to be, probably fiddling with something I wasn’t supposed to, and got caught. She raised her voice and for an hour I hid in my uncle’s room, sure that I would never feel good again.
My mother used to put my sister and I on a plane to Los Angeles to visit my grandparents over the summer. I cried the way down, already missing my mother, but I would sob and sob on the way home knowing that it would be months until I could see my Grandma and Grandpa again. When we would arrive at the house there would always be a little brass canister of pennies on the dresser. We would count up all the pennies and wrap them in paper. Sometimes there would be $2 or maybe $3 and we were allowed to keep this. On a couple of occasions Grandma took us in the bank to cash them in. That was my first lesson that if you save your pennies they really add up. I always considered very carefully how I would spend my special dollar.
Inevitably on these visits my Grandma would be sewing something, either for us or herself. Back then it really was more economical to sew yourself a new dress or skirt than to buy store bought. I learned the basics standing alongside her and her Singer humming away. She made it all seem so easy that I was emboldened to try. I sewed lots of things over the years; a prom dress, Halloween costumes, shirts and slacks. I even sewed matching outfits for myself, my sister and our ‘sister’ Angela, who was a foreign exchange student from Colombia in our high school come to live with us when her original host family had more ideas for her about house cleaning and babysitting than schooling. We wore those outfits over a long weekend sailing out to Angel Island in the San Francisco Bay. They were aqua-marine shirts and stripped white and blue pants. They didn’t last a summer of wear. But I still get a little slush of pride when I look at pictures of the three of us in those outfits.
I also watched my Grandma cook meal after meal when we visited. She made a good many holiday meals that were memorable too. Her food was pretty typical American cuisine but I always looked forward to her cooking. My mother herself was an OK cook but I think she looked at it rather as a burden than as a creative pursuit so sometimes we would have a bland ham steak with unsalted mashed potatoes or boiled ocre (though to her credit I think she only did that once, it was just that awful that I remember it so well). My mother, being a baby boomer and a working woman of keen intelligence felt undermined, I think, in some regard by the daily grind of preparing meals on top of having worked a full day. It certainly was not her most favorite thing to do. But I think I absorbed some of my Grandma’s love for cooking by osmosis if not by direct teaching. The whole house was her domain, of course, but the kitchen seemed to be her special place of peace and calm. Here, you came and went at her discretion, and I remember my uncles and Grandpa being shooed out on occasion. To me she seemed happiest in the kitchen, that is to say the activity of cooking made her focused and steady and there was an air of assurance about her that I longed for. I share that assurance in the kitchen now though I am not so deft at keeping my own children and husband out of it. My own mother did come around a few years after my sister and I left home, when cooking finally ceased being a necessary chore and could enter the realm of recreation. After some nearly 70 years of cooking, I think, my Grandma now looks at it less as fun and more as a necessary chore. The arthritis in her hands makes it difficult and no doubt the pain and lack of strength makes it a weary task for her.
One of the genuine treasures my Grandma gave me in the cooking arena is her cheesecake recipe. She claims to have gotten it originally out of some magazine or cookbook or other and not to have created it herself. But years of adjusting and transcribing the recipe from one soiled recipe card to another have made it uniquely hers. And to her credit has made me quite famous with my friends. I am a great lover of cheesecake and have tried all kinds but none quite like my Grandma’s recipe. I suspect its not so much the combination of ingredients as the preparation that makes it so delicious. Don’t completely blend the cream cheese mixture, its better when a little lumpy; It cooks better on a cool day; Leave it in the refrigerator two days before eating. I have myself doubled the recipe and added extra vanilla. But the accolades and smiles I have gotten from Grandma’s cheesecake are definitely due to her refinements, not mine.
My Grandma sent me $200 a month for three months that fall. Let me know when you are on your feet, she’d said. When I called her to tell her to stop sending the checks, that I was fine now, she practically insisted on continuing to send them, worried I suppose that I would falter again and trying to allay that possibility. I declined though and offered to pay her back at which she firmly pishawed me. Its not that those $200 made such a difference as such, though they did pay my rent during those months. It was a sort of culmination of all her lessons, those intentional and not; years of standing and watching my Grandma do her daily routine; and finally the unyielding kindness and gentleness with which she always dealt with me that finally put it all together for me. From that fall forward I was always able to make whatever I had go as far as it needed. I was able to spot a deal as well as figure out how to make it from scratch if that was going to be cheaper or better. And able to spot the moment when a splurge is in order, like a great huge slice of creamy cheesecake.
My natural frugality was enhanced by all of my Grandma’s lessons too, and has made me self reliant in a day and age of convenience foods, ready made drinks, store bought cheap clothes etc. It makes me confident that, if, say, I should be transported back in time 100 years somehow, I would not starve, nor be bored by my own food. I’d be able to make a dress and balance a budget. I also wouldn’t be afraid or intimidated by food or house and hearth. I know so many women who look at a recipe as a foreign language and carry it as a badge of honor that the only thing they can make is an espresso. Not to mention many, many men.
They may not seem much in cosmopolitan times, the domestic arts, despite the Food Channel and Martha Stuart influences, but it is as much a level of self reliance and confidence to be able to navigate a cookbook or a sewing machine as it is to be able to balance a checkbook or invest wisely. In either case, if you can’t do it yourself or at least figure out how it all works, you have necessarily beholdened yourself to the kindness and sincerity of others. That is not a bad thing if you can absolutely trust those who are taking care of your affairs and your needs just the way you like them. But as women’s lib moved women into the workplace it made the kitchen and the more domestic activities seem anathema to a liberated life.
But what my Grandma really gave me when she helped me that semester was a little perspective. And with perspective comes the ability to think ahead and plan. And that is really all cooking, cleaning, sewing, budgeting and all the other crafty pursuits that necessarily come along with having a life, need to do them well. We all have to do it and one way or the other we will. She gave me a little advice, a little skill, a little help and then a lot of love and faith and that soup made me more capable to take care of myself, come what may. Since college I have had times that have been flush and times that have been lean and in either case I have been able to cull together the lessons from my Grandma and get by and even treat myself. Because there really is nothing more comforting than a nice slice of cheesecake.