Sunday, July 5, 2015


Retrospection:  noun
     The action of looking back on, or reviewing past events or          situations, especially those in one’s own life.

In retrospect, if my then-husband and I hadn’t gone up to Vancouver, Canada to get acting work during the Summer of 1994, we may never have gotten a divorce.

In retrospect, if we hadn’t gone up to Vancouver, where I was sitting around doing nothing while my dual-citizen then-husband worked non-stop, I never would’ve gotten the opportunity to audition for the rinky-dink 3-piece country band, by claiming that I had fronted bands back in Los Angeles (a fact I greatly exaggerated).  I never would’ve accepted gigs that paid only $50 for 4-hours a night singing at smoky dive-bars, VFW Halls, and Senior Citizen Homes.  Even though I was under-qualified, had never sung Country, and had to painstakingly learn 30 tunes, I’d been making a minimum of $200.00 per hour as a Marilyn Monroe impersonator back in L.A. 
The Rinky-Dink Country Band
 If we hadn’t gone to Vancouver, and if the then-husband hadn’t gotten all of that acting work, while I never got cast in anything, and if I hadn’t shown him my ugliest jealous behavior, he never would’ve said to me (in an effort to be kind):  “Don’t worry that you’re not going to make it as an ingenue.  Look at that woman who just got a role in 'The Titanic’ movie!  She’s been struggling all these years, and finally got a break, and she’s in her 80’s.  It can still happen for you when you’re older!”  {Gee, thanks}

In retrospect, if he hadn’t made that comment, the comment that became a tipping point, contributing to my wallowing in a deep depression bordering on suicide and spending long hours alone journaling in coffee shops while he was off working as an actor, I never would’ve discovered the creative expression of writing songs.  If I hadn’t been singing with the rinky-dink 3-person country band (guitar, bass, me on vocals and a drum-machine), I never would’ve been hanging out on a break at 1:00 a.m. in a seedy bar outside of Vancouver in the middle of Nowhere, Canada, reading an article by Pam Tillis in which she talked about “writing from title.”  I never would’ve had the impetuous thought on the long drive back to our apartment, that instead of driving off the cliff, maybe I could write a torturous country song instead.  I was convinced I could do it, because all of the 30 songs I’d recently learned seemed so simplistic that anyone could write them. 

If we hadn’t gone to Vancouver that Summer, If I hadn’t started spending all of my lonely hours writing heart-wrenching country songs, (albeit, they were very bad songs, and the then-husband didn’t hesitate to tell me just how bad they were every chance he got) I never would’ve gone back to L.A. with the hair-brained idea that I could become the next Country Star.  I never would’ve checked out the book from the library:  “Get Hot or Go Home” about the making of the Nashville Star, Trisha Yearwood.  I never would’ve had the thought, “it would be so cool to go to Nashville, but I can’t because I’m married.”  

In retrospect, if I hadn’t checked out that book from the library, and if I hadn’t forgotten to take it and several other books back on time, my then-husband never would’ve flown into a tirade, accusing me of being a “chaotic mess.”  He never would’ve screamed, “I’m sick of you, I want a divorce!”  {yep, those overdue library books were the proverbial straw that broke the camel’s back}

I never would’ve noticed that article in The (L.A.) Scene about an upcoming class all about “Getting into The Country Music Business.”  I never would’ve met my next mentor and teacher, Phil Swann, who wrote for Steve Bloch, owner/publisher of Southern Cow Music, and I never would’ve met my future “spousal equivalent,” Steve Bloch himself.  

I never would’ve imagined that three years later, single at 40 years of age, I’d pack up only what I could fit into my car, and I’d move to Nashville, Tennessee.  Especially since just months before this I was looking to buy a home in Southern California and I told my mentor (mentioned above) that I wouldn’t consider moving as far as Northridge, California, because I would be too far away from Hollywood--a statement he has not let me live down even after 17 years.

In retrospect, I never dreamed that after one year of living in Nashville, I would decide to stay longer and that the time would fly into 17 years, and it’s now the same length of time I lived in Los Angeles.   

I’ve often asked myself over the years:  “What am I doing in Nashville??  How did I wind up here?”  And whenever I dredge up the past to look at the trajectory of my life, I marvel at the perfect order of events.  I’m grateful that my far-from-perfect marriage ended 20 years ago.  Only in retrospect does the unfolding become so clear.  

We pass through the present with our eyes blindfolded. We are permitted merely to sense and guess at what we are actually experiencing. Only later when the cloth is untied can we glance at the past and find out what we have experienced and what meaning it has.” 
― Milan KunderaLaughable Loves 

Saturday, January 25, 2014

Raining Cats and Dogs

     It's 45 degrees out and I'm sitting in the front yard, enjoying a little sunshine before the freezing weather returns later today, taking a much needed emotional break from tending to Spike, our 12-year-old great dane mix who is in the house suffering right now.   I'm journaling and watching the two remaining semi-feral kitties play.  (Sadly, Lillian, the third kitten, a precious little girl, got hit by a car a few weeks ago, leading me to start allowing these cats to sneak into our bedroom window and sleep in our room on the freezing cold nights).  This has turned into a routine.  The kitties hang out in our room, going in and out of a slightly-ajar window to eat and go potty outside.  They haven't had access to any other part of our house, but they're now sharing the front yard with our dogs; only the dogs don't even realize it, because they've never been introduced!  

     It's so odd sitting here watching the cats play, considering this is what I've enjoyed doing for the past 12 years with my  three dogs.  The kitties make sure the coast is clear--that I'm the only one in the yard--then they slip through the picket fence and their fun begins:   they chase each other, wrestle, hide in the bushes and dart out again, take pottie breaks, chase each other some more, and look over at me to make sure that I'm paying attention--just like a couple of toddlers, only these two cats are teenagers by now, I guess.  I can't help feeling guilty for laughing out loud. 

     12-year-old Spike has been struggling to stand up on her own for two weeks, apparently as a result of a degenerative disc disease which has decided to rapidly take over.  Spike is a gentle, stoic dog, now reduced to being hoisted up by her haunches with a large sheet wrapped around her hips just to get up long enough to go to the bathroom.  The vet thinks that with treatment, ie laser therapy, acupuncture, chiropractic and meds, Spike may get better (or not), but it will take about two weeks of intense treatment to find out.  Lily, our 11-year-old great pyrenees suddenly hurt her back leg on our walk today, and keeled over onto her side where she lay without moving for a good five minutes while Steve ran home to get the truck. Fortunately, she stood up again and limped home on her own.  I guess we'll know in a day or two if she is okay.  10-year-old Shortie has begun to limp as well.  

     So, I'm facing the not-so-far-off end of my dogs' lives, while experiencing the joy of watching the kittens' youthful enthusiasm.  I remember when my dogs were young and rambunctious, hiking with me at Edwin Warner, chasing squirrels, and leaping up on the bed with ease.  Back in the house, as I type this, tears running down my cheeks,  Shortie hears me sniffle, looks up and limps over to me,  concerned.  She hates it when I cry. 

Sunday, September 1, 2013

My Mad Cat Capers

I am not a cat-person.  I don't understand them, I'm allergic to them, and ever since the time my mom decided to start her short-lived career as a persian cat breeder, and she locked up about 20 cats in cages in her garage, I have been turned off to cats.  The litter box is a disgusting invention, and the smell of it permeating a home is way worse than any dog smell, in my opinion.
Mama and her 3 kittens

But when I noticed a black and white cat hanging out in my backyard with her three kittens on Memorial Day, I couldn't help but want to see the babies.  I'd been told by my 93-year-old next door neighbor, Eloise, who had just moved into a retirement home, that she felt bad about leaving a cat behind.  It wasn't her cat, she said.  She'd just been feeding it scraps whenever the kitty would show up on her back porch.  So, I knew this mama cat resting with her babies in the bushes had to be the same cat, and now that Eloise had moved, the mama-cat had transplanted her kittens over to my yard.   I immediately knew I had to help.  I may not like cats, but I love babies of any kind.

Knowing nothing about cat behavior, I  learned quickly that the mama was feral, or a stray that hadn't been touched by a human in a long while.  She hissed any time I got closer than about 4 feet.  Still, she was hungry, so I'd put down a can of cat food and walk away.

In the mornings, I started watching the cats from my bedroom window.  I'd call out "mama" and "meow" to let the mom know I was there.  (I read an article that told me it was a good idea to "meow."  I figured it was worth a shot).  It turned out that mama was more frightened of me than the kittens were.  After just a few days, the first brave soul came out of the bushes to eat wet cat food from my hand.  I couldn't believe his mustache!  I named him Charlie. I didn't know if "Charlie" was a boy or a girl, but the name could work for either sex.  When I snapped my first photo, I could see that Charlie still had blue-ish eyes which meant the kittens were around 7-8 weeks old.

Charlie Chaplin, at 8 weeks old
From the moment I had two of the kittens eating out of my hand, I became obsessed with them, but I had no intention of bringing them into our home.  With three large dogs, we have our house full.  I didn't want to have to train the dogs not to kill the cats, and then there's that litter-box repulsion.  So, I started spending about a half-hour each morning and evening in the backyard with the cats (before walking the dogs out our front door).  I thought maybe I could train the kittens to get used to human contact, so that possibly I could find someone to adopt them.  It got to where I could pet two of the kittens while they ate, and I was almost able to pick them up (before they'd jump out of my hands).  The third kitten usually hung back with her mother; she was much smaller than the other two, and much more skiddish.

After three weeks of positive interaction with the kittens, just as one of the kittens was beginning to play with me, I came home that evening and all 4 cats were gone.  I was heartsick (but also a little relieved because I knew I couldn't keep them!).  My friend told me it was for the best.  If I wasn't going to bring them into my house and tame them, it was best for them to learn their feral ways from their mother so that they could survive in the wild.  Nonetheless, I was worried sick about them, and concerned that the mom could get pregnant again while she was out roaming the 'hood.  I spent a week searching and asking neighbors if they'd seen the kitties, and then I looked out my window one morning and they were back!  They all ran up the stairs to my back porch crying for food, and I wondered where in the hell had they gone, and why??  

Rudolph Valentino,  starting to play
It became clear after it happened several times that the mom was taking her kittens away from me so that they wouldn't have human interaction.  After another couple weeks of on-again, off-again appearances, I found out where the cats were living on the off days.  I spotted them four houses down, hiding under a car about 11:00 p.m. one night.  The next morning, I asked those neighbors if they had seen the cats and if they were feeding them.  They told me yes, they had been feeding the mother cat, that she'd given birth in their yard, then she had taken her kittens away but had recently brought them back!  I was stunned.  Mama Cat had another family!  I felt cheated on.  Those neighbors said they'd been feeding the mother cat occasionally for years, and that they'd watched several litters come and go.  

Meanwhile, I had been reading up on feral cats, and how quickly they can multiply.  I had already contacted "Nashville Community Pets," a feral cat organization who could help me get the cats fixed.  I borrowed traps, I was ready to catch the cats, but they had moved down the street!  I asked the neighbor if she was willing to trap and neuter the cats.  She said she didn't know how and was afraid to try.  So, I convinced her to stop feeding the cats, so they'd come back down to my house for food.  I'd trap them, and take get them to get fixed.  Once they were fixed, they could move back down to her house, but at least they wouldn't procreate and have more generations living on the streets.

My plan in place, I watched day and night for the cats to return.  With my flashlight, and my cans of cat food, I'd walk four houses down at midnight and meow, and one-by-one the kittens would meow back, then they'd creep out from under a car, run along some bushes to the edge of the neighbor's property where I laid in wait with the food.  This went on for several nights.  I even recruited my sister to help me when she visited in July.  They'd come crying to me for the food, but they wouldn't come back to my house.  

I was discouraged, and the feral cat organization wanted their traps back.  Then, after 10 weeks, when I was on the brink of giving up, I set the traps in my backyard, hoping I'd get lucky.  The kittens decided to come back at just the right time, and they walked right into the traps.  Then the mama came back and she walked right into a trap too.  I also caught a possum, but I let him go.  Unbelievably simple.  All four cats were fixed one month ago today.  The mama was indeed pregnant again, so she was fixed just in time.   

After they recovered in cages in my basement, I released them all, and the mother quickly ran away.  The kittens apparently decided to stay.  Or else the mom abandoned them.  I don't know.  But now I have three semi-feral, five to six-month old kittens living in my back yard, sleeping in my carport, eating square meals, playing with me and coming when I "meow."  I still can't pick them up, but they are warming up to me!  Rudy caught his first mouse.  Lillian finally let me pet her (for a moment) this morning.  And Charlie will meow like a Banshee when he's hungry.  Mama has shown up  a couple of times for a free meal, but she hisses and bats at her kittens and won't let any of us near her.  

I still don't understand cats, but spending time with them is opening my heart and mind--I just might be a cat-person, after all.

Rudolph Valentino (Rudy), at 5 months
Lillian Gish, at 5 monhs
Charlie, at 5 months

Monday, February 11, 2013

Breathing Deep

"Life is a series of natural and spontaneous changes.  Don't resist them--that only creates sorrow.  Let reality be reality. Let things flow naturally forward in whatever way they like."       --Lao Tzu
I woke up last Sunday morning in Carefree, Arizona, feeling like the name of the town suggests.  While everyone else at the wellness retreat I was attending slept, I journaled, writing down my positive thoughts about the workshop we had on Saturday, which was all about how a breathing practice can change one's physiology, creating balance in the heart and mind.  I went for a 40 minute contemplative walk taking deep breaths and snapping photos of the cacti, the jack rabbits and the golf course.  I was remembering my dad, who died three years ago to the day--but I didn't feel much sadness, just fond memories.  I felt peaceful and connected to the Universe. After my walk when I looked in the mirror, I noticed how calm and happy I felt.

Then I called Steve.  Steve was holding down the fort at home the best that he could, while grieving the unexpected death of Eric, one of his best friends, since Friday.  Spike, our 11 year old great dane mix, had been sick with a very high temperature a few days before I left; but she'd been treated by the vet and her condition was stabilized, so Steve and I thought it was okay for me to leave town.  

"Spike is lethargic again, and she wouldn't eat her dinner last night," Steve said.  I took several deep breaths, recalling an exercise from Saturday, to help me stay calm.  "You're going to need to take her temperature," I said.  (Steve had told me before I left that he wouldn't take Spike's rectal temperature-the thought of it grossed him out, or scared him, or something).  "You're going to have to take her temperature," I said, without emotion--(while feeling a freaked-out fearful anxiety welling up in my chest). 

Slowly and methodically, between deep breaths, I walked Steve through the process of how to take a rectal temperature: where to find our digital thermometer, how to turn it on, where to find the sanitary probe covers, and how to cover the thermometer tip, how to lubricate it, how to insert it, step by step, over the phone, while I sat in the arizona sun by the pool, acutely aware of my breathing.

Spike's temperature was 105.  I knew this was dangerously high, as we'd already been through this with the vet last week.  So, I coached Steve all day Sunday while he iced Spike down and covered her with wet, ice cold towels that he changed every 15 minutes.  I called Steve every half hour for a temperature update.   While Steve stayed by Spike's side, I worried from 1,700 miles away.  And I started thinking about the inevitable: Spike is going to die.  Just like my dad.  Just like Steve's friend Eric.  Just like we all will.  I went from bliss to grief in a matter of seconds and I kept breathing.  I felt raw, just like I felt from the moment my dad was diagnosed with cancer, until he died four months later.

Steve and Spike were both troopers.  Steve saw Spike through two hellish days until I came home.  And Spike could teach me a lot about grace and dignity (and breathing deep).  She has always been a regal girl.  She was calm and agreeable while Steve took her temps and kept the ice coming.  She gently responded as the veterinarians probed, ran tests, took shots and x-rays, and gave her an ice cold bath.   She apparently has some mysterious disease that is incurable, and the vet says that if we can keep her stable with steroids, "to consider it a win."   

Spike, in her younger days

Today, one week later, Spike is feeling somewhat like her old (younger) self--I know this because she wanted to hang out in the front yard this morning and while I was on the phone she managed to escape and she took Little Shortie with her!  Lily, our great pyrenees,  came to the door to let me know her friends had gone AWOL.  I felt my panic rising, as I searched for the two of them and I went to the worse-case scenario in my mind.  I was breathing deeply when I spotted Spike and Shortie in our back yard (somehow they'd wiggled through a hole in the fence), visiting with a neighbor's pitbull (who had jumped his own fence and was in our backyard too).  Spike was enjoying the moment.  I went from panic to gratitude in a split second.  Breathing Deep. 

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Looking Forward, Looking Back

This morning, I was trying to think up something inspirational and informative to blog about--other than the obvious horrifying news topic on my mind right now (there's nothing soothing or significant I can add to the conversation about the tragic event that took place at Sandy Hook Elementary school in Connecticut last Friday.  There is nothing to say.  Just a heavy sigh).

I feel incredibly grateful that I have gotten through 2012 relatively unscathed, with my future still ahead of me.

Given that December is my favorite month of the year when I take time to reflect on what I've accomplished in 2012, and I dream about what I want to accomplish in 2013, I decided to focus on this when a title popped into my head, and the title seemed perfect.  I immediately thought, "Surely it's been done;  after all, it ain't that original."  

So, I referred to that most awesome source of information for writers of the 21st century:  Google.  And I found the most wonderful song and video written and performed by Slim Dusty, an Australian singer-songwriter I'd never heard of.  Nothing expresses a sentiment better than a great lyric and melody.

I shed some tears as I watched an Old Slim Dusty singing "Looking Forward, Looking Back" and reflecting on his life.  (Slim Dusty died in 2003 at age 76 after a career in music that spanned nearly seven decades).  Again, I was filled with gratitude that I have great friends, a supportive "spousal equivalent", loving sisters, brothers, nieces, and cousins, sweet dogs, enough money to get by, and good health.  

As the Connecticut rampage reminds us, we never know how much time we'll get to live on this earth, and I'm blessed to be one of the fortunate people alive in her fifties, looking forward to another day.  

Here's the sweet and simple song/video: