Sunday, August 5, 2012

In memory.

A year ago today we lost Kristin. I was writing about it recently. I share it here.


It was early December, 2010 and I was in LA visiting Kristin. I was semi-reclined in my usual spot on the cozy, corner built-in couches in her sunny kitchen with my laptop and coffee. Her husband Jeffrey had just left to take Simon, then 8, to school. Kristin sat at the kitchen table a few feet away and checked in with Perez Hilton on her own computer.  She was on a brief hiatus from cancer treatments, waiting for the bone marrow transplant a month later.

“Interesting,” she observed.  From the high to the low, Kristin thought many things were interesting.

“What?” I asked.

“Apparently Miley Cyrus is a bit of a stoner,” she shared.

“Hmm,” I responded.  

“So what should we do today?” Kristin asked, shutting her computer, satisfied with the online world of celebrity meltdowns. “I’m not sure I’m up for the Getty but we could do the Norton Simon. They have a Raphael from the National Gallery of Art I want to see. And there is the best bakery ever in Pasadena that I haven’t taken you to yet.”

“Wait, look at this.”  I handed over my computer to show her the blog I had set up for a personal project I was working on called THE YEAR I DANCED, where I spent the year focusing on dance rather than focusing on being scared to death about the future.  I had been dancing in an adult-fitness class, sort of a Zumba on steroids, for a couple of years and wanted to see what it would be like to take “real” dance classes for “real” dancers. I wanted to have something hopeful to write about and something specific around which to rally my fast-moving thoughts.

“Interesting,” she said. I watched her click around the new blog site.  “But it would be way better if you were much heavier and still drinking,” she observed.  “You know, you circa 1995.” We had known each other since 1990 so she had seen me through many of my own highs and lows.  “And then, say, you quit and then you relapse and do something horrible and then you quit again. ” Kristin was an extremely bright independent art curator with an addiction to addiction memoirs. “They like that,” she added.

“You like that,” I countered. “But I am broke and alone and almost FIFTY,” I offered. She was a decade younger than me. “That’s pretty good, right?”

We agreed it was pretty good, a reasonable set up for a narrative. We agreed it would be especially good if I fell in love that year. I had been single for the better part of a decade and Kristin was a fan of the idea of me falling for either one of the single “school dads” at Sequoyah, Simon’s hippie school in Pasadena, an artist, or a celebrity someone.  

And we agreed that it would be especially good if during the year I fell in love AND got a deal to write something for TV or film and moved to LA from Ohio. I had sold my Pilates studios in Cincinnati earlier in the year, mainly getting out from the business half of crippling debt and allowing the studios to continue on while I re-righted my sorry financial situation and gave myself some space to find out how to sustain myself over the next many years.

I had published my first novel in 2004 and had my first play produced in LA in 2009 so I was hoping that my first screenplay or pilot would enjoy the same charmed process and a stunning, windfall of a fee to go along with it. Either that, or I could make a reasonable living from stipends from residencies, classes and workshops working on the True Body Project program I had created to help girls and women reconnect mind and body. It was a movement and writing-based curriculum that helped discern truth from lie, past from present, delusion from reasonable hope. But my own truth was that as I stared down 50, I had foreclosed on my condo, was nearly $50,000 in debt, was worried about the IRS, and had no savings, no stocks or bonds, no 401K and no job.

It takes a dreamer to believe that words on a page will add up to something beautiful. It takes a dreamer to believe that spending money you don’t have will allow you to pay your staff and buy time to build the business.  It takes a dreamer to believe that you can become a dancer at 50.  And it takes a dreamer to believe that breast cancer followed by leukemia equals happily ever after.

So that day, Kristin and I agreed that the blog was a good idea, relapse or not. We agreed that the waitress at the bakery who noticed Kristin’s bald cancer head and taped up port and decided to chastise her for drinking Diet Coke had a lot of fucking nerve. We agreed that the small, easy to navigate Norton Simon museum was a better choice than the Getty since Kristin got tired very easily.  Standing in front of Raphael’s “The Small Cowper Madonna,” we agreed that the Renaissance ‘chiaroscuro’ technique, the use of both shadow and light to illuminate an object, created a painful sort of beauty.

“God, I love Simon,” Kristin said, as she stared at the painting of Madonna and child. She said that a lot. I think it surprised her how much motherhood had shaken her. We agreed it was a painful sort of beauty, loving someone so much.

We did not agree that it would be okay for Kristin to die less than a year later at the age of 41 after a six year battle with cancer. We did not agree that Simon would eulogize her in her living room, standing on a step ladder, explaining to her friends how much we meant to her.

In December of that year, we still had the luxury of the lazy hours of friendship. We worshipped the entire spectrum of life from the sublime to the ridiculous and gave special consideration to the mundane and granted bonus points to food prepared with butter. We still had the capacity to reinvent hope.

So we planned our year. Kristin set a course to live and I set a course to dance.

Saturday, August 4, 2012

Your Own Personal Periodic Table.

Remember the Periodic Table? The grid of all the elements that make up matter?

The Carbon (C) , Hydrogen (H), Nitrogen (N), and Oxygen (O) business?

My friend Elizabeth's son Graham, 9 1/2 years old, made up his own.  And it is awesome.

The elements that make up boy version "Graham 9.5" include Bacon (Bn), Money (My), Ice Cream (Ic), Harry Potter, (Hp,) Cowboy (Cb), and Angry Birds (Ab).

Summertime, Ninjas and Llamas also make an appearance on Graham's chart.

I will totally use this exercise with my next True Body Project experience.  For now, its fun to think of some of the elements in my own personal chart. (I am going to borrow a few from Graham because then I can use the symbols, colors and illustrations too.)

Coffee (C)
Dance (D)
Summertime (St)
Waffle (W)
Travel (T)
Energy (Chi)
Love (L)
Breath (B)
Parks & Recreation (Pr)
Books (B)
Friends (F)

Thanks Graham! You will inspire many charts over the next few years, I can guarantee you that!