Sunday, December 19, 2010

It Never Rains in Southern California

This is my favorite card I've made this year. So far.
I love rain. I never thought too much about it until I moved to California, where it is a rare commodity, a Big Deal. A healer and a destroyer. It is raining and raining and raining and won't let up.  I love cranking up the heater and watching movies under the down blanket my dad gave me in college, propped up legs or neck on Steve's lap, little Cinco dog squished up beside us, sweeting snoring Lucy on her bed nearby.

I love tromping up the hill with Debbie and her dog Elsa, all of us soaked after getting a top-of-the-mountain view of Glendale in its foggy splendor, and then coming back to cut out last year's cards to make this year's Christmas cards.

I love my in-laws. They are good and sweet and kind and true. I took my mother-in-law (MiL) and, not sure exactly what you'd call the relationship but I guess also my sister-in-law, to a completely inappropriate movie today, Black Swan, which I clearly didn't research very well. As Natalie Portman descended into madness we watched scenes of sex, lesbian sex, oral sex, self-sex, imagined sex, cutting, drugs and minor violence. I sat on edge with MiL on one side, a 6-year-old boy on the other whose mother kept putting her hand over his eyes during the dirty parts. Which was about half the film. I was so worried about everyone else being uncomfortable that I probably missed about half the film. But after, the MiL was gracious and hilarious and told me a hilarious true story about a man, a locker room and a hand-dryer.

 And then we went out into the pouring rain to go home.

Saturday, December 18, 2010

Rum Balls

You are probably wondering where I am today. Well, I am over at Half-Assed Kitchen with my recipe for Rum Balls!


Sunday, December 12, 2010

But There's a Catch ...

When you get so deep into a process sometimes you lose sight of what it is you're doing in the first place. Friday I was working from home, intent on finishing a film with a hard deadline. I was so engrossed in the finer points of iMovie 11 I hadn't noticed that my social worker had called. Her message: "There's a baby, in Long Beach. We're showing profiles right now, so we need to know if you and Steve are interested. But there's a catch ..."

All the molecules surrounding me slowed. My body froze. My mind made frenetic laps around the weekend and the possibilities.

"But there's a catch ..."

The catch was not only that we had to decide if we wanted to be presented to the birth mother within an hour. It was also that the father has schizophrenia.

Phone calls to track down Steve at work. Separately, we both embarked on quick Internet searches to learn that this baby has a 13 percent chance of developing schizophrenia. Calls to friends much smarter than us, with advanced degrees in psychology and child development. Calls to our moms.

And separately together, we came to the same conclusion: that an hour is not enough time to make such a life-defining decision. We passed, saying prayers for a good life and a good family for this little guy who has a genetic mark against him. But who has great odds of being just perfect.

Here is what we learned: We are ready emotionally and spiritually, but we don't have a diaper in the house. We don't have a car seat or bib or tiny hat. We need these things. We need to be mobile in case our adoption comes down like this, which it very well might. We learned who the very inner circle was for this situation. We learned to wait until it is right.

This morning I had a dream. I was walking and there was a little bi-racial girl crawling along the side of the road. I picked her up, wrapped her in a blanket, and went through a labyrinth of bad apartment buildings to find her mother. When I finally saw her, I knew that she was an addict. And I handed over this sweet sweet girl, along with my card,  and said, "I know you're an addict. You won't be able to keep her. When you're ready, give her to me."

And then I woke up.

Monday, November 29, 2010

Please Be OK

For the past three days, the small, sweet dog who is the fourth member of our household has been curled up in a ball, in his crate. He's been given the comfiest pillow, and the choicest of bland foods (scrambled eggs, cottage cheese, chicken broth, plain white rice). He won't eat. He won't drink.

He's also been signaling with bile and blood that there is something terribly, terribly wrong with him. We had a Saturday late-night visit to the emergency vet (the second in three months -- the first was for Dog #1) and had hoped that something would pass, that it was a rawhide that went in the wrong way, or an "indiscretion," as they call it, with some kind of food. But maybe it's worse. Maybe it was a nail or something poisonous. We were kind of amused with the things that would turn up in his crate -- candles, bras, plants, matches, batteries, screws, pages of books. Now that seems totally horrifying.

Even curling up in bed with us -- his holy grail -- is of no comfort. He just wants the crate.

So Steve has taken him to the second vet for the serious look. The X-ray. The deeper dive. They are there now.

I remember reading an old Dear Abby about a woman who spent her marriage complaining about her husband's terrible snoring. When he died, she would have given anything to have him snoring next to her again.

Today, I wish that Cinco would jump up and down and squeal with delight when we come in the door. That he would be stealing and ripping apart my underwear. That he'd take a mischievous pee in front of the door right after we'd brought him back from a walk. That he would wriggle around in the down comforter with us on the couch, watching a movie, until he settles down and breathe slow sighs of peaceful sleep on my chest, his cold little nose buried in my armpit.

I want my little hell-raiser back.

Thursday, November 25, 2010

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Take the Survey!

Hey everyone, I'm working on a book about -- you guessed it -- turning 40. I'm at the very beginning stages of some research and I hope you'll take a few moments to fill out this survey. It doesn't matter whether you're under or over 40, or a woman or a man, hate it or love it.

Survey is here.


Saturday, November 20, 2010

A Year as Measure

Watching salmon is hypnotic. You should seriously try it sometime. Everything else becomes small and not as important.
A year ago Stevie and I were on our way to Washington, dog in tow, making the long, cold journey home for Thanksgiving to see my family and scrape up oysters from Uncle Seamus' beach. We hiked up Lilliwaup Creek with Amanda and all the kids and watched salmon fight their way home to spawn.
This year we have two dogs, and we'll have a small TG with our neighbors and a couple friends here at home. Where there are palm trees and its 80 degrees outside. And I will cry slow, soft tears of missing my family.

A year ago I had just finished my adoption profile. My brand was along the lines of "even though I am single, I have an amazing network of friends and family. And even though I live in a simple apartment, I am big-hearted and creative and me and the child you give birth to will have a rich and beautiful life together."
This year, Steve and I have created a profile together. Our brand is and better, stronger than mine alone like we don't have to convince someone so hard how lovely their child's life will be with us as parents. Because it will be, and they will know it when they meet us.

A year ago I hadn't started on my book.
This year, I haven't started on my book. But I'm gonna.

Saturday, November 13, 2010

I Am a Creature of My Genes

Soup, anyone? Also, I made this apron from two old thrift-store skirts. Sewing is also on the desired list of indoor Samhain activities.
The Celts don't fool around when it comes to seasons. There's Imbolc in the spring -- think Maypoles and such -- and rolling in around Halloween we have Samhain (pronounced kind of like "sown"). It's a time to go inside. Inside your home, inside your family, inside your mind.

I'm right on target. Even though this crazy California weather feels like April in Seattle, the thought of going out fills me with dread, as I think about the piles on my desk that are part of a high-minded refiling/reorganization project. I want to get back to our bathroom remodel, which, at this moment, has beautiful new tile, snowy white trim, and yards of blue painting tape in preparation for the main event. The spare down comforter has made its seasonal migration to the couch, where we and a dog or two lounge like bears and watch Katherine/Audrey Hepburn movies. 

I will eventually call you back, or make that plan with you, or come see your New Thing. But I hope that you understand I am in a mental nesting phase. I can't help it. I'm Irish.

Monday, November 8, 2010

Respecting the Process

This is what it is like to have a baby after 40licious, no matter which way you get it.

Here's a big difference between being 40licious and younger than that.* When you are 7 or 15 or 20 or 33 or even 38, you want what you want now. You want it to happen when you deem you are ready and you will do anything you can to make it happen. Make those phone calls, fill out those papers, get good and feng shui'd, say some prayers, organize and ready yourself so It can happen. Whatever It is to you.

But eventually, you come to realize there is a process -- and you learn to respect that process. This is for a lot of Major Life Events. Like marriage, for example. Thanking all the stars in all the galaxies all the time that I didn't marry the person(s) I really, truly thought I wanted to be married to after a rollicking first three months. And even in my current very new marriage, there was a lot of process that had to happen -- over the course of a year and a half -- before we figured it out.

But tonight I'm referring specifically to adoption. Our adoption. I'm laughing a tiny bit in my head thinking about a couple who signed on with our agency and, upon the first meeting with the social worker, demanded that they have their child "before the holidays," a scant few weeks later.  They laugh about this now as well, several years into it.

Steve and I are all set with our requirements -- together, as a couple. We've filled out every paper, taken every class, called in our favors for referrals, and created what will hopefully be a compelling profile to prospective birth parents. I think they spread out all the classes and make the paperwork slightly overwhelming to weed out the folks who don't really want it.

And now we wait.

We have beautiful, lovely, empathetic friends who squeal with delight when we tell them where we are in the process. We're done with everything -- except the waiting. "When will you know?" they ask.

We could get a call tonight telling us to go to the hospital and pick up our baby. Or it could be two more years and lots of "dates" with birth parents to see if the right chemistry is there.

It's nutty enough to not know when your baby will arrive, or not knowing if it will be a boy or a girl. The only way to go through something like this is to make friends with each stage of the process -- the required class time, the paperwork, the profile writing, the interviews with social workers -- and the waiting. It is not the hardest part, nor the easiest. It is just a part.

* I am speaking of myself. It is my blog, and that's what I do here, mostly. When I refer to "you," of course, I am referring to myself. And maybe some other people who are of a similar experience.

Saturday, November 6, 2010


Bathroom before: I don't know what I was thinking five years ago when I chose this tile. Actually, I was thinking that if I couldn't get it at Home Depot, my wild fantasy of white subway tiles didn't exist.

We are making joint decisions about things little and big. Like the decision to stay where we live now instead of pack it all up and move closer to the beach and Steve's parents. At least, for now. The tradeoff: make our home, our modest 1947 condo that I bought at the absolutely wrong time in history, an amazing space. Which means re-tiling the bathroom and giving it a classic, beachy feel with subway tiles and barely blue paint, consulting with our neighbor about practical and stylish storage solutions, and painting pretty much any piece of furniture we find on the sidewalk white. You'd be amazed at the perfectly good things that people throw away in Glendale. Steve's mom loads us up with decor magazines she gets volunteering at the library each week. Those help.

I suppose we're nesting. Which is strange to think about -- a 49-year-old man with teenage daughters, a grown son, and a toddler grandson. And me, 40licious, who'd just as soon traipse through a tropical jungle halfway around the world than stay home for Christmas. We're getting closer. Our agency has posted our profile on the chance that it might pique interest from a birth parent who is interested in placing her child for adoption.

The dogs think that this is all for them. Trips to the home-improvement store! Mama staying home to keep an eye on the tile guy = extra attention! We'll let them go on thinking that for now.

Our bathroom as it is now.

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

2010: Year of the Baby

In the past 72 hours, there has be tremendous baby news for people around us -- and not in the way you normally get this kind of news. One person is expecting a baby via surrogate in December; she just told the world as she's had so many failures she didn't want to get everyone's hopes up. Another friend is taking a step with artificial insemination, and for some reason, I had a very psychic knowing before she told me -- a vicarious nausea -- I think she is pg. And, perhaps closest to me, James and Uma. We started orientation with our adoption agency on the very same day, and together, we went through the classes, saved seats at support groups for each other, and visited whenever we had our foster-adopt series in Redlands, where they live. James and Uma got a call a month ago from our social worker, who introduced them to a very, very pregnant person who wanted to place her child for adoption. They all got along well. They went with her to the ultrasound. And in a couple days, voila, the baby was born and Uma is a mom and James is a dad. They are a family.

But there's no "just like that" with all of the above. When you hit 40licious, you realize how hard-won babies are. There are tears and tries and surprises and terrible miscarriages and disappointments when surrogates or birth moms don't pan out. And then, at the end of it, there is a good news call, and a baby.

Blessings to those who have to work just a little bit harder. 

Friday, October 1, 2010

Well, he's not retarded

From the second I saw him on May 1 of this year, I loved him, this little dog our neighbor found on the 5 freeway. Which is why we ended up calling him Cinco. I successfully found a new home for this flea-bitten, stranger-humping, indoor peeing little tornado of a beast. But we decided to keep him. Even though he was a little dog, and neither of us had any experience with little dogs. Big dogs, no prob. But little dogs? Different planet.

We dealt with the fleas and the humping. Still working on the indoor peeing. Which, if you have enough rags handy, isn't all that bad as he figures out that going inside is not just one of many options one has for relieving oneself. But the worst was the bolting. If he got lucky enough to slip outside, there he'd go. Taunting us. Teasing us. We'd go after him or ignore him. It's always an effort to lure him back in, sometimes with the help of a willing passerby. The last straw for me was an early-morning walk, and he slipped out of an unsecured harness, and gleefully ran right into an intersection. Where a lady driving large old sedan didn't see him. She rolled slowly and stared at me as I screamed, "Wait! Wait! Wait! Stop!" Which she finally did, with some look on her face like she wasn't sure if I was going to carjack her or what.

And Cinco ran some more. "Ha ha," he said. "You always give me cheese when I run loose. I feel like some cheese for breakfast. I will run some more. Sucka!"

That very day, haggard and deranged, I got myself on the Internet and found after a quick search, found the fabulous Ronen Tivoni, who happens to live a short six blocks down the street. He's Israeli. He's got wads and wads of training certificates. And he trains really important dogs. Dogs we cannot speak about.

Last Friday, Ronen arrived for a two-hour session and we worked with a nervous but excited Cinco to sit and stay. And we learned to ignore cries and pestering. And each week, we did a little bit of homework. When Ronen came this week and Cinco kept acing everything, much earlier than it takes most dogs. He  peed under my desk and sat and sat still and came when called and ate some more cheese.

Ronen told us, "Intelligence is not his issue. He has emotional problems."

Well, you would too if someone dumped you on the 5.

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

The 40licious Bride: Aftermath

It's hard to be whatever you'd call the modern equivalent of a fairy princess for six months -- building to the apex of fabulousness in which you wear the BEST DRESS you've ever had, partied with the BEST PEOPLE you know, and then linked up for life with the BEST LOVER you will ever meet -- and then plunk down back to earth.

Oh, of course there is still the residual glow. Every few nights a box with something very special arrives at our door, and we are thrilled that someone thought so much of us to get us a gift. And the wedding pictures are trickling in from the amazing Alison Peacock, who didn't leave my side for three days, so each new batch we see is fun and exciting. (And, I secretly hope we get to be part of her "sample" photos so our pictures can live on her website!)

But here is the thing: I've waited 42 years to do get married. About five or six proposals, a couple live-in almost-rans, one tentative post-9/11 engagment. That's a lot of buildup. I thought that I could strike the right balance of the logical with the fantasy, the magical with the practicalities of married tax penalities (seriously, it's enough to make one consider switching to a heartless, mindless yet fiscally fair political party. I don't know which one that would be, but I'm thinking of going there).

We came back to our apartment and focused on the dogs (we are training Cinco very seriously, with a guy who trains Homeland Security dogs. I swore that Cinco's recent mad dash into an intersection at 6 a.m. where he was almost squished by a sedan was his last). And stuff to get rid of. And an article I have due.

I'm not sure what I expected to happen when we got home, after all the euphoria. It was something -- different. Stevie didn't get any richer or more powerful. I didn't become suddenly sleeker and I had my hair extensions removed. He's just this guy. And I'm just this girl. And we decided to get married. And we'll just have to make something amazing happen next.

Monday, September 20, 2010

Three Weeks Later

The wedding was above all expectations. Most of the Very Important People we love showed, and I was blown away by the generosity and sweetness of our families and friends. There was food and music and tears and remembrances from all my parents (I was a little surprised to count up how many moms and dads I have, but really, there's an astonishing amount. I think this is necessary for a child raised by Me Generation parents, but that is another topic altogether).

It has been a jammed three weeks. We came back from Oregon down the coast. So much driving, so much checking out at 11 wondering about bedbugs, so much fish & chips, so much looking at world and nature framed by the passenger window. Home, and then laundry. And then cycling out old stuff with "our" stuff from very generous family and friends. And dog training and a magazine article due way too soon and why aren't I working on it RIGHT NOW?

Because this is a long-winded way of telling you that I am back. That I LOVED being a bride and wouldn't have changed it for anything in the world. But I need my blogs. I need my life beyond staring down a Very Good Job. I need Wednesday night dinners at my beloved in-laws. I need my Sundays for sewing and yoga and napping. I need to remember who I was and justify keeping my name for professional reasons.

I missed you. I need you.

Friday, September 3, 2010


We are married. We are home.

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Wednesday, August 25, 2010

You Say Goodbye, I Say Hello

I know, I know. It's been a while. I've missed you. I've missed writing. I've missed my regular life and regular projects. I miss sewing on Sundays and working on my book and reinventing my home.

But I've been feverishly pulling together this wedding. In a few minutes the Best Redheaded Chica on the planet, Libby, will pick me up and take me to the airport. Where I will fly off to Oregon meet my groom, who arrives via Toyota Tundra tomorrow.

What amazes me is the great cheer, goodwill and hard work people have undertaken to support us in this merging of the tribes. Cousins, nieces, parents and friends and family on both sides have been so thoughtful and good. It makes me feel like I've been on the schlumpy side all this time with everyone else's weddings. I can't say I have particularly great karma on this:

  • Sorry, Kimmy, for being such a crappy unresponsive bridesmaid in '89 or whenever it was. But I still think it was funny that we hiked those skirts way up.
  • Sorry, Kathlyn, for being disappointed that you eloped. I know you wanted it your way, and I could have been a little more gracious around that. I still haven't gotten you a present, and that will change. Can you still be registered somewhere three years later?
  • Sorry, Dan and Maya, and Eric and Kathy, for not being able figure out the time/money equation to get back to Seattle for your wedding.
  • Most of all, I am sorry to Ian and So Young that I let our family issues cloud the pure joy that I truly felt when you told me that you wanted me to come to Korea for your wedding. I still don't know if that is possible with the adoption, but do know that I will do anything to support you in your marriage. And I think I also owe you a present.
Everything's done that can be done at this stage for our amazing party. We'll have lots of helping hands for the last-minute stuff.

Next time you hear from me, I'll be married to the most kind, generous, sweetest and talented man I know.

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Sunday, August 1, 2010

The 40licious Bride: Part VI

This post is about another 40licious bride, my friend Lisa. Now, Lisa is much, much older than I am -- we met when I was 4, and she was 5. She moved into the apartment downstairs and from that day forward, we did everything together. Being a grade ahead, she'd come home and teach me what she'd learned -- shoe-tying, time-telling, cursive (and later on, some unmentionable skills).

Over the course of our lives, we've gone through all goods and bads together. Huge mistakes and giant triumphs. She's been in school longer than anyone I know ... I think it's been the last 18 years or so. Together we've woven a story of cross-country moves, crazy loves, deep sadnesses, health scares, teenage personal safety madness, children who would not see life, adored families, and a full bank of shared memories (sometimes we need to borrow from each other).

By the time you are 40licious, most of your friends have been married already; many of them are divorced and working on #2, or happily riding the single wave. I was there for Lisa's first as we walked through blueberry fields together to meet her groom; we were also on vacation together in Florida on the day that would be the last straw of her marriage to a sweet but broken man.

A few years after, she met Sam, a much younger (really, by about 10 years) man who is an artist, a musician, a writer. His childlike enthusiasm and zeal for life is matched only by Lisa's -- together they are sweet and fun and funny and test boundaries of all things conventional.

And so it was my great pleasure to head out to Santa Fe last weekend to watch them marry in a circle, in the park, with a dozen of their closest friends surrounding them. The officiant was dressed in a toga. We all sang the theme to Sponge Bob Square Pants as they walked up to meet us. She dipped him in a kiss. And they were pronounced "wifeband."

When you are 40licious, you can have whatever the hell kind of wedding you want. And your friends will be there to cry for your happiness, and cheer you on until the bouncer turns off the lights in the pool-hall where you have your reception.

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Tuesday, July 13, 2010

The 40licious Bride: Part V

I see a pattern here, and apologies to those of you who are completely uninterested in reading about our upcoming nuptials. There's just so much I am noticing since I took so long to get here!

Today I shopped for the undergarments that will go with my dress. The dress is a strapless tiered number in a mermaid silhouette made of taffeta, and the worst wardrobe calamity I can imagine is akin to my 10th grade homecoming outfit that mostly involved my hiking up the top the whole time. I can't tell you even who I went with. But that was about the last time I went strapless.

So I'm in Macy's and paying for my bustier and some undies and the total came to $66.66. The clerk looked at me in horror. "Do you want to add something to change the price? You don't want bad luck for your wedding," she said.
"No thanks," I said, "It's four digits, not three, it should be fine."
She paused a moment and punched some numbers into the register.
"I took $1 off. It's $65.56 now. Have a beautiful wedding."

Even people I don't know are looking out for me, and that is exactly the magic of being engaged.

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Sunday, July 11, 2010

The 40licious Bride: Part IV

By the time you get to 40licious, you like things a certain way. Personally, I have to art direct everything and that includes my wardrobe. ESPECIALLY my bridal wardrobe.
Saturday, we went to Steve's parents' and his mom, Ellen, meticulously stitched the edging on my veil. We sat around and chatted about this and that, broke for dinner, then sat around some more and she was done. We were about a foot short of trim, which gives me a reason to go back and adore her some more. I sneaked some really beautiful pictures of her deep into the work but she's camera shy so I won't post them.

But I also have in my mind a dramatic cage veil for the reception. Looking online, I blanched at the prices -- $240 and up for a piece of French netting with a dumb big flower on it. So I ordered my own piece of French netting ($9) and bought my own dumb big flower ($8) and put it together, and tacked on a $1.49 comb from Joann fabric store. Slapped it all together as Ellen diligently did her fine work on my other veil for the ceremony. Voila!

I thought I was being DIY to save money, but I realize that foremost, I'm being DIY to make it OURS. 
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Monday, July 5, 2010

The 40licious Bride: Part III

There's a blog I've been following lately, from a woman who has gone back to the UK, Ireland, I think, to deal with her dad's estate. She's still raw and so so sad. She's trying to figure out who she is now and what she's supposed to DO.

Those days for me were a haze. I remember taking so long to clean out his house. I'd go and bring friends to help and paint and we'd bring more stuff to goodwill and paint more and call the exterminator for the mice and bats that had taken residence. A contractor pulled the awful old shag rugs and left the floors bare, I think. The rest of the floors he took down to reveal the resplendent oak below. The next thing I knew, six months had passed. We sold the house at a pathetically low price.

I moved. I communed with my dad in dreams, often. Still do but not as much. Mostly, we are eating dinner and I am asking him if he is OK and where he is. I used to always be confused in the dream, knowing that he'd died but then he's right here before me.

I reserved a bit of his ashes in a cigar tin that sits in the feng shui helpful people corner of my living room. The ashes mean less and less as time goes on. He's not there. That's not him.

Holly, his partner of many years, my "bonus mother," has some of him buried in the yard of the home and vineyard she shares with her new husband. That's where we're getting married.

I guess I waited too long to have my dad dance with me at my wedding, walk me down an aisle, give my husband a hard time about taking care of me. He would love this, all the merging of the tribes, meeting Steve's family, seeing the cousins and friends that were originally his and that I inherited.

But parts of him are next to his cat, which Holly also buried somewhere out there. I like to think that the strong gravitational pull from 100 of his friends and family all concentrated in one place will make him come want to check it out, from wherever he is, and maybe stay for the champagne toast.

I don't know when I went from being A Person Without a Dad to being just A Person again. But hoping that woman in the UK gets there with as much grace as possible.
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Sunday, June 27, 2010

The 40licious Bride: Part II

I'm a very practical person, which is handy, because I am also a very environmentally conscious person. Most of the stuff I have has been either gifted, found, traded, or ThriftScored.

We're trying to be as sustainable as possible with our wedding. For the most part, that's easy. We've chosen a local caterer who uses fresh seasonal foods that don't have to be hauled in from far away places like Chile. The wine is from the very terra on which we will marry. The plates and napkins were foraged from Goodwill -- they're beautiful and Holly can use them again for other weddings. All flowers are beautiful and I don't care what they are, as long as they're seasonal and will last two days. I was forced to compromise a little on the dress though. I tried on dresses my friends offered to lend and they weren't quite right. I scoured Craigslist and jeez, there's a reason people are trying to get rid of some of those dresses: think Laura Ingalls Wilder Prom from Hell. I found one I loved, it was a great deal, and they sent my order off to some third-world country where I'm sure there's a tiny child stitching the flower on the ribbon right this very second.

Like any self-respecting 40licious woman who has taken the scenic route to her first wedding, I am feeling a great deal of deservedness. The other day I had an hour to kill on Melrose. So I thought I'd skip into my favorite shoe store, John Fluevog. He's one of those designers who upends my rational thought around money and resources.

And then I saw them. The most beautiful shoes in the world. The shoes I must have in order to be perfect as I walk down a grassy path through an apple orchard to my groom. They're a light suede. They are uncomfortably expensive. And I might get horse poop on them.

No matter. In the lifelong pursuit of beauty and truth, and this is just a small victory.

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Tuesday, June 22, 2010

The 40licious Bride

This dress was a contender. Didn't make the cut though!

You see these shows where the women are going berzerk, barking orders, throwing tantrums around their wedding. I must have passed that phase. I am also old enough to reject things that don't mean anything and make up ceremony that does.

Wedding planning at 40licious seems organized and lovely and, well, FUN. We're lining up everything as it comes, and counting the RSVPs each day.

At first, I wondered if we just shouldn't elope. Take the money and flee to Ireland for a while, or put it toward a house near the beach. But now I'm realizing that never, ever again will we have this same unique collection of people who mean so much to us all in the same place at the same time. I have a lot of mothers in my life -- Mom, Holly (my dad's partner), my Aunt Corky, Trina -- and another on the way, Steve's mom, who couldn't be kinder. To have them  in one place is mind-blowing for me. Not to mention all my new and old friends, Steve's friends, our families ... just thinking about it makes my heart bust.

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Sunday, June 13, 2010

Wines from Spain

My story on Bazaar by Jose Andres is in Wines from Spain magazine. It's a magical place and has informed my design sensibility going forward. I love it there. Need to go back!!!

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Thursday, June 10, 2010

Wisdom of Dogs

There are so many, many things to write about. Impending nuptials. Another stellar year of camping on the Kern. Our scouting trip to Oregon, which was fun AND productive. What it's like to be a creative person in a corporate suck-up job. But no, today I will write about dogs and the metaphor.

Cinco is our new addition. A charming Chihuahua who is equal parts love and trouble. The tally so far of things he's destroyed: Two harnesses, two pillows, a leash, a nice leather flip flop, a dog bed, a BlackBerry charger and a rather pricey dog carrier that's supposed to be dog-proof (but it did get him there and back on the plane to Portland).

He was dreamy good on the plane ride, and in Oregon, tumbled about the farm with Holly's mutts, Trouble, a sweet ol' pit bull, and Gemini, who is a yellow lab kind of dog.

At home, he needs constant surveillance. He and Lucy have this odd ritual of switching food bowls in the middle of feeding, which usually means somebody doesn't get a full lunch or breakfast, as Cinco has a tiny bowl and Lucy's is regular.

So tonight, when we returned from a walk, I pulled out a baggie of food to put a little in their bowls. It scattered about the entire kitchen floor, due to a hole that had been chewed in the corner. And the dogs set about cleaning it up, each one moving around like a furry hoover. Dog bowl problem solved. Bring on the next one.

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Monday, May 31, 2010

People and Things to Remember

1. My Dad. So many connections with him as I'm planning my wedding. For one, it's at the home of the love of his life, Holly. My "bonus" mother -- they never actually married. I met Holly on my 13th birthday, and I was alternately adoring and jealous and plain old mean. And I'm glad we've transcended everything to be what we are today. Bonus.

2. To draw the line. To not feel like I have to be a superstar in everyone's life all the time, and to say no. Or say nothing. Stop overextending.

3. There is infinite wisdom in iTunes' Shuffle feature. I don't know where the soul is on that little piece of code, but dang it if Shuffle doesn't always know what you need to hear.

4. I have been having trouble remembering what day of the week it is. Regularly. So I'll say, "see you tomorrow" when I mean in three days, because I'm thinking it's a different day. Not sure how to remedy that or what to say about that.

5. I don't have to win every round.

6. I'm lucky. I'm lucky. I'm lucky.

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Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Monday, May 17, 2010


In 1983, I was at Chimacum High School in the farthest boondocks of Washington State. I was 15. Alternately a good kid and a raging lunatic. I was woefully unpopular and growing out an unfortunate asymmetrical haircut. I was learning to drive and listening to the Stones and The Who and Duran Duran and I even lip-synched Irene Cara's "Why Me?" at a talent show.

The man I will soon marry was 22, in a band, managed by Barry Manilow. They dressed him in white leather and razor-cut clothes and a bandanna. He had a small son. He was a rock star in California. Had we met then, I'm sure he would have been nicely dismissive. I would have been too young. He is good. So good and so kind. And I was such a dork.

I took the scenic route to where I am now. There is no way I would have predicted that it would take a good 27 more years until I got married. No less, to a man with three children and one grandchild (still taking suggestions on what to be called as Evan's grandmother. My grandmother preferred "Grace" or "Gracie").

I do believe that time knows its own way and travels in the path it is supposed to. But I do wish, the tiniest bit, I could have been the girl with the fake ID and too much eye makeup in the audience who could have scored a makeout session with Steve after the gig.
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Wednesday, May 12, 2010

I'm a Winner!

I will say I have a teensy, weensy competitive streak in me. Maybe it's from staying up late playing backgammon with my Dad on his cracked leather couch in his office, drinking cappuccino he brewed in one of the first home-espresso machines ever available (he loved being first in the gadget realm). So of course when my neighbor, a blogging cookbook author from the Marathi region in India, put up a quiz with the prize a signed copy of her book, I jumped at this. I had refused a free copy from her husband and daughter weeks ago with the intent to buy it -- my tiny way of supporting creative friends. But the chance to win one? Sign me up!
I love how she made a tiny blessing in her post: "Vanessa has written about food and travel and I hope the new cookbook will inspire her to explore Marathi food. We are looking forward to many feasts with her & Steve in the future, and we also wish them a lifetime of happiness at their new Shared Table."
Our world is expanding from right across the driveway.
Here's Kamudi's post ...
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Sunday, May 2, 2010

Cinco de Mayo

My neighbor found this puppy on the highway. Not around it, or on an exit ramp or something, but ON THE INTERSTATE 5 freeway. She is a dog angel, and because he is the last on a long list of rescues, she can't keep him. Right before she was going to let him go to the pound, we stepped in.

There's just something about those big brown eyes and huge floppy ears. He wore a red collar with a bell but no tag. Well fed, happy and loving ... he must be somebody's dog, we thought.

So we hit up Fido Finder and Craigslist. No response. The vet's office says he isn't microchipped. And why would he have a collar on with a bell but no tag? I'm becoming more convinced he was dumped on the side of the road.

All yesterday afternoon, we kept assuring each other that we wouldn't keep him. Even though his puppy antics kept us laughing for hours. He delights the neighborhood children and stared down a big pit bull in Petco. He needs house training. He has fleas. He has no name, except the temporary one we've given him to tide us all over until he finds his family -- Cinco.

We're working pretty hard to find him a new home, and getting him all spruced up. Today was a new collar and leash and a dose of Front Line. Tomorrow it's the vet for neutering and shots.

We want him to have the best possible start on his new little life. Somewhere else he can curl up like a baby on a lap and give tiny kisses. Somewhere else he can be happy and tangle himself up in a blanket. Somewhere he can sleep soundly with the oddest little puppy smile on his face. Because it would be crazy to take on a dog with a wedding and impeding adoption of a child and a move.


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Saturday, May 1, 2010

Instant Karma

I've been in LA five years and forget sometimes that you can have anything you want, pretty much simultaneously at the instant you want it. Money, food, French food, Thai food, Ukranian food, obscure vitamins and health products, shark fin, a maid, guns, cars, pets ... the list goes on. And hair.

Of course hair. This is the place where nobody bats and eye at a good boob job or a newly streamlined nose (and tsk tsks at badly done ones).  At my hairdresser, I timidly explained that I might want extensions for my wedding. She told me the place to go -- about 10 minutes away -- and I walked into the Hair Shop (which is truly that) and in five minutes and $125 later, had my own lush coiffure in a bag.

It'll need a little adjusting to match my color. Growing up always with long, curly hair, in the 45 minutes that I have been wearing them, I feel more like myself with the extensions than without them.

And to think I have been pounding Omega 3s for months in hopes to grow, grow, grow my hair long for my August wedding.

In LA, you can buy anything. Which is scary and comforting at the same time.

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Sunday, April 25, 2010

Across the Great Divide

The first time I saw Nanci Griffith was in 1993. Jefe and I were leaving our messy, gritty, extraordinarily fun lives behind in Gallup, New Mexico, where we learned to be reporters and we'd finally gotten the hang of the two-step. I'd pretty much sabotaged the relationship, even though I was deeply, madly connected with this quirky and funny and kindhearted Yalie on a cellular level. Raised by my single dad, I didn't know how to take space or talk about what I wanted without causing major collateral damage. He held on for unknown reasons. He didn't want to marry, he didn't want to leave. I suppose he loved me, though to this day I am unsure why.

When we outgrew what is arguably the worst newspaper in the country, it was my turn to choose where to live, and I picked home, Washington state. My grandmother was getting older and becoming more still. My dad was in his big house, sometimes with his longtime love Holly, sometimes without. I imagined great reunions with high school friends who had stayed on the Olympic Peninsula.

We piled my 1984 Ford F-150 (with dual gas tanks) to the brim with our secondhand furniture and the Native Art we'd collected in our time in the Southwest. Me and my truck and he and his yellow VW Rabbit made our way north, stopping in Los Angeles for a few nights with his hipster aspiring director friend (who got horribly offended when I called "This Boy's Life" a "movie." "It's a film," he said, rolling his eyes and clucking his tongue). But Hipster was able to hook us up with tickets for The Tonight Show, where we saw Nanci for the first time. She sang "The Sound of Lonliness" and I was struck with inspiration and love and peace and longing and everything you want from a beautiful song.

Of course, Jefe and I didn't last out the year in Seattle. We'd imploded, crushed by past misdeeds and terrified of the uncertain future. When we broke it off for good and he decided to move back to New York, I stared at myself in the mirror and howled until my face disappeared.

If this were a movie, there would be a montage here: Me living in a cabin in the woods. A dozen different boyfriends including a rogue Irish man and a painfully urbane Irish man. Moving to Seattle to take a job as a magazine editor. Repeat appearances of some boyfriends. Leaving the job and becoming a freelance writer, playwright, producer, voice-over and commercial actress. Death of father. Moving to LA for bigger universe. Taking work at a corporation, and, shockingly, settling in.

The last scene of this montage would be me meeting Steve in the spring of 2008 at work, though we'd spoken on the phone a couple years prior when I had questions that needed answers. This ruggedly handsome, impossibly blue-eyed man would turn out to be the best man I had ever met. The most solid and trustworthy and easy and generous and fun person I could imagine. It was my profound delight to agree to marry him.

His birthday was last week, the second anniversary of our first kiss. Aside from the Bacon of the Month Club gift, I got us tickets to see Nanci. There she was, same as before, only we were close enough to hear her slap the guitar and to see the wisps of gray in her pulled-back hair. She was a queen and made it all look so easy and regal.

And when she sang "Across the Great Divide," tears rolled down my face. She sang this:

"The finest hour
I have seen
is the one
that comes between
the edge of night
and the break of day
that's when the darkness
rolls away."

That time of my life was bookended by Nanci. The first time I heard her, I was embarking on an uncertain journey, about to navigate my ballistic behavior associated with subconscious deep regret of losing and hurting the one man who I thought I should have married. Sitting there Friday night with my head resting on Steve's shoulder, I realized that my old journey is done. I don't need souvenirs or diaries or postcards from it. I am on a new path, clear and clean and pure. I am smarter and better as a human being. And this time, I am not alone.

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Thursday, April 15, 2010

DIY Wedding

As I've said about a million times on this blog, when you're doing something right, the universe greases your wheels. But what about when you hamfist it? The universe basically throws gobs of bleh at you and makes you start over, refresh. Step away. Reevaluate. And you can't have clarity until that clarity wants to wash over you like a blast from a fire hydrant in the summer on West 82nd Street in Manhattan in 1978, when you wore running shorts and tube socks and Stan Smiths and a shirt with maybe a rainbow on it.

We're figuring out how to have the most meaningful wedding we can. What we need, what we don't. One of my best girlfriends is a wedding photographer by trade, so that's a no-brainer. Steve's on it with the music, and has been the perfect partner in helping with joint brainstorming and intuitively leaving alone the decisions I want to own. Which bodes well for our lives together. We are all set with the place and the wine and maybe even the officiant. I've spotlighted about 15 women in my life who will walk me down the aisle, led by my mother. Friends are giving me hints about scoring the deal on the dress, or do I just want to wear theirs? Those seem like the easy parts.

Perusing invitations, however, is a labyrinthine exercise. I'm a writer. Paper and words and ink and how it reads and how one remembers is important. I went through a maze of paper and fonts and wording on the Internet, each selection leading to a slightly different variation ... more casual. More formal. More Christian. More Hippie. And finally, I found The One. And it's letterpress and charming and in our colors (dark teal, dove gray and white) and $800. For some paper with ink on it.

So I very liberally borrow the idea I like -- a dove on a trellis with some fleur de lis thrown in -- and we pour over fonts together, as if we are deciding our last meal, or the name of our child, or a move to the Wyoming mountains. And finally we plunk down $24 for our wedding font and I play and play and play for nights on end to get it just right. And then I have the design in mind all perfect. And the paper I want to use sucks and gets all mangled in my printer. And my trips to Michael's and Staples result in a bag full of stickers and card stock and bits of ribbon and a Martha Stewart Fleur de Lis hole punch, and 100 blank invitation cards.

And I make a mess of my invitation. It is no longer beautiful to me. The font we have chosen now looks so amateur. Might as well use comic sans. My print looks gaudy and my paper looks plain. Is the bird tacky? Is the whole thing a bit too "Very Hungry Caterpillar"?

My very sweet neighbors arrived on my doorstep yesterday, 8-year-old Kaya with a basket of mandarins and a piece of baklava, her architect dad trailing along. They are a little listless, I think, as Mom is traveling India for a month gathering food stories. They have sort of adopted us. Or maybe we have adopted them. Sanjiv, who is also a Pisces, picks up on my design plight and offers to help out.

So I will put everything away for two days. And try to see the possibility that my new talented friend sees. And maybe we'll make something beautiful.

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