Studio for rent

view from sliding glass door
View from the Studio sliding glass door, of our very own Torrey Pine and the Canyon beyond.

We're in the process of trying to get our studio rented again, after a nine month hiatus on the housemate situation. We've really enjoyed having the house to ourselves again, though resisted moving back into the studio as it needed so much repair work and we hadn't decided yet what the plan really was. These last couple months, the plan has become clear: we can't survive our mortgage without housemates. The Mister just isn't getting enough work in this jacked up economy and my job doesn't quite get us there. So we've been working at getting the place done and this last week listed it on craigslist for rent.

It's so freaking nice down there. Especially since this mess has become this:

Letters for Cara

Four years ago, I wrote here about my friends fight to keep the man who murdered Cara in jail. You can click over to the full post, but I want to make sure it gets read as it's time to mount another letter writing campaign and we need your voice.

Cara.jpg When I was eleven-years-old, I remember being in a car with my dad as he drove us down the 15 freeway. My father pointed to an unfinished off-ramp marked "Mercy Road" and told us how a young woman, Cara Knott, had just been killed there by a police officer named Craig Peyer. He then went on to try to explain that sometimes people who are supposed to be good are simply not. It wasn't an easy thing to understand at eleven. To be honest, I still don't fully understand it.

When I was fifteen and my dad was teaching me how to drive, he taught me something that no father should have to share with his little girl. He instructed me, "If you ever get pulled over by a police officer, and they want you to stop somewhere remote or dark, I want you to refuse." He went on to say that I should drive to a well lit, populated area and if the officer gets mad, just tell him that I remember Cara Knott. He said that if it was a good officer, he would understand. I remember how afraid this made me feel.

When I grew up, I met John. An unassuming, warm, likable man, John easily fit into our circle of friends. After a year of poker games, late night music musings, dinners and laughter, I learned that his sister was Cara Knott. I met the rest of his family at holidays: Cara's mom Joyce, a woman who welcomed me and our new baby into her home and made us feel like we'd known her forever and a pair of sisters who laughed and joked with us like we were part of the family. I never got to know Cara's father, who died of a heart attack and was a tireless champion of victim's rights.

Today I got a letter from my friends, telling me that the man who brutally murdered their sister and daughter was up for parole again. That this man, who taught me at eleven that not even police officers are safe and made me fear getting pulled over by a CHP officer, could possibly walk free. 

They need your help.

Please help keep Craig Peyer where he belongs; where he can never put another family through such hell; where he can never again viciously strangle and bash in the skull of a beautiful, warm young woman or terrorize the hundreds that came forward after Cara's death. Help us keep this generation of little girls, girls like my own Lily and Anya, grow up without this man preying on them.

Here's what you can do:

  • Peyer's parole hearing is set for January 11, 2012 and letters make a huge impact.  If you can, please write and mail a letter yourself.  Think about how this case affects you personally, whether you be a parent, love someone who has been lost to violence or simply are invested in a more peaceful planet.  Tell the parole board why you personally need this man to stay behind bars.  
  • Link to this post or email those people who you feel can help, whether it be to someone who can pass on the message or someone who can write passionately on Cara's behalf. 
  • Don't have the time or energy to write a letter of your own?  That's OK, volume still makes an impact.  Download a form letter (formats: Word or PDF) and modify before mailing it in.  Don't forget to sign it. Of course a personally written statement has more impact, but the form letter still expresses sentiment and adds volume to the public outcry, so please do that if nothing else!
  • Letters need to be received at least 10 days prior to the hearing so please get them into the mail no later than December 26th to allow for holiday mail delays.

Letters should be addressed and mailed to:

California Men's Colony – East
Attn: BPH/Lifer Unit
P.O. Box 8101
San Luis Obispo, CA 93409-8101

Re: Craig Peyer, CDC# D-93018

and to

San Diego County District Attorney's Office
Attn: Lifer Hearing Unit, Lynne Darius
330 W. Broadway, 8th Fl.
San Diego, CA 92101
Fax: 619-615-6451

Re: Craig Peyer, CDC# D-93018

Please be sure to reference Peyer’s name and CDC identification number in your letter: D-93018 and mark the letter "CONFIDENTIAL."

This is a good family who have suffered an impossible loss.  You can help. Please choose to do so. 

Let me know when you've mailed your letters as I'd like to let the Knott's know how many people are backing them up out there.  Last time our combined efforts brought in over 300 letters opposing his parole (in stark contrast to eight supporting it, mostly from his own family members). I believe we can do even better this time and remind the parole board that we are still a united community.

picking up my head & taking a look around

365 | 2
My lovely new copy of Karen Walrond's The Beauty of Different, tucked among the girls books and a couple magazines.

In 2010 I went back to full time work, outside of the home. 

Which, of course, changed everything.

Especially when you couple it with Mark returning to freelance work, having TWO kids in school and my insane decision to become part of another small theatre company when not working for the BIG theatre company.

So here we are, firmly settling into a new year.  And in reality, the shift from December 31 to January 1 is not a big deal.  It's just a new day, really.  I usually blow off the New Year as a holiday and just kind of sink into my lfe as normal, not really embracing the different.

Yeah, I'm ready for a new year.

Last year I put my head down and survived all the change.
This year I'd like to embrace my new patterns.

Last year I set aside my own sense of self to hold up the shifts in my family.
This year I'm going to allow my family to settle into their own skin.

Last year I let go of my camera, my writing, my sense of art.
This year I hope to embrace it.

In short, I want to remember how to simply be myself this year. Whatever that means.

Here's how I'm starting:

I'm taking Irene Nam's Simple Soulful Photography Workshop. It started yesterday and I'm working my way through lesson one with a bit of frustration crawling up my spine.  The lesson is simple, yes, but embracing it can be hard when you've had your head down for a year. 

I'm starting a 365 project, an idea I shunned just last month.  I came around when I realized I didn't have to make it a self portrait project and I don't have to expect to upload a photo every single day.  I just have to shoot something every single day.  I can upload them once a week, if need be.

I'm trying to find a way to spend more time with the small theatre.  The big theatre may feed my family but the little one? It feeds my soul.  Not sure yet how to accomplish this goal.

On January 1st, as we drove South to home after a week visiting family in the snow, Mark and I talked about the play I haven't finished writing.  And we talked our way to how to end it.  I think it's a reasonable thing to hope to finish it this year. 

Oh, and I'm posting here. I promise to try to do that more.

Mostly, I'm just trying to pick my head up and actually see what's around me. 

Wish me luck.

7 days: Winter 2010

Once again, the 7 day self portrait group that I belong to hit it's quarterly round with a Winter run.  This time, despite being more busy than ever, I found it a welcome distraction to my crazy days and a meaningful way to reconnect.  I hate how hard it is to find tiny moments of art in my life.  But I'm working on it (more about that after the new year).  The below image is a taste to the photos from the last seven days.  Each image available below the jump.  Click on any of the individual photos for more about the shot:

7 days: Winter 2010


Sometimes, the lesson comes 15 years later

Dear Lily & Anya,

When I was in high school I had this great boyfriend.  He was small and scrappy and would defend a friend to the bitter end.  Before we broke each others hearts, we had a hell of a lot of fun together.  He loved showing me self defense moves and wouldn't even get upset when I practiced on him and forgot to pull my punch.  Once he had me pinned and I remember reflexively jamming my fingers into his neck, sending him sprawling backward, coughing violently while simultaneously saying to me, "GOOD!  That was awesome!" 

Years later I met this other guy.  He was good looking, came from a famous family and a life time of wealth and when he turned his attentions onto me, it was hard to resist.  We started dating, mostly hanging out at his mom's fancy mansion and when he asked me to come up to Oregon with him to meet his dad, I got all girly and thought this could mean something.  His dad, who did not come from a life time of wealth, picked us up and drove us out to his beach house, an unfinished home that was stunningly simple and beautifully bare.  He was a kind, generous man and it was lovely to be with my new boyfriend in his home.

A couple days into the trip, rich-boy and I were wrestling around, which I came to understand was him trying to show off.  So I decided to show off a little and threw this kick-ass move high-school-boyfriend had taught me.  Basically, when someone is straddling you and has you pinned down, if you can get their weight off your hips you can swing your legs up, hook them around the chest and pull them off you backwards.  It's a highly effective move and has the added bonus of being highly entertaining to the person performing it.  He went flying backwards, I laughed and this is where everything went very wrong. 

I had never seen some become so angry while still smiling.  Within seconds he had me in a scissors hold, squeezing so hard that I felt myself gasping for breath.  I couldn't even speak, which was unfortunate, since he was demanding that I admit I was weaker than him. By the time he let go the beginning of a bruise had settled in, within days ripening to an angry slash of black and blue across my stomach. 

On a remote beach, with no car and too damn embarrassed to ask the guys father for help, I spent the next couple days stepping very carefully, keeping my distance and just trying to hold it together.  Things were mostly OK, but sometimes very not OK over those days.  We ended up on separate flights home and I never saw him again.  I did hear from his girlfriend later, who it turns out, he was living with while we dated and who he brought up to his dads just weeks later.  She called to let me know he was in jail after they'd had a fight that resulted in the neighbors calling the cops.  I don't know what happened to either of them after that.

The reason I'm telling you all of this is that my mom didn't want me to go on that trip; and I never told her what happened while I was on it.  I was embarrassed that I had been stupid enough to not see that this was a possibility, when she clearly did, and didn't want to see that "I told you so" look.  Hell, I still don't want to see it, though she is likely to read this.  I also didn't want her to feel as though she might have failed to protect me, though by then, I wasn't willing to accept that level of protection from her anymore. That part of it I better understand since becoming a parent to you both.   Rearing girls means fear.  I am terrified that you will meet your own rich-boy in the future and he'll break you a little.  The mere thought of someone hurting you like that... it sends me over the edge. 

But as your mom, there's going to come a time where I say, "This? This is not a good idea." And I'm going to mean it in a way that you cannot begin to understand.  I hope you never have to understand.  But I'm going to say it and you're going to have to decide what is more important: my history or your moment.  I admit that I might be wrong, but you'll have to figure out how important it is for you to be right.  You need to know that I'd always rather you be right.  I'd always rather that my fear is groundless and your judgment sound.  I will always be wishing kindness from those people you met, though I fear that one day you'll meet someone who will not show it when they should.

The reason I'm writing you about this now?  For some reason, it's been showing up in my dreams and in my thoughts, over and over again lately.  It's like an expiration on my silence has gone off and I need to work it though.  It could have to do with the confidence and beauty I see in you both.  I don't want you to have that taken away.  And honestly, what happened on that Oregon beach did not strip me of myself.  I learned a lot from that experience and just a year later met your father, a man who has always treated me with kindness.  I was ready and open to his love when it came and not full of fear or distrust.  Rich-boy didn't end me, he just broke my perception of the world a little.

Maybe I'm putting this to paper for you now, just in case I forget to tell you later.  I need you to know that there are times I really wished that I had listened to my mother, even though there's no way in hell I would have then.  I'm not telling you to always listen, rather, I'm telling you that I understand if you don't.  And if not listening ever breaks you a little, I hope you and I can talk about it.  I have some tips for healing these kinds of hurt.

Even more, I need you to know that I will try not to let fear rule my relationship with you and encroach on your relationships with others.  If I forget this promise, remind me.  Or tell Daddy, he can put it to me gently.

Mostly, know that I love you both and will sign you up for your own self defense class.  After all, I can't count on there being a small and scrappy boyfriend to teach you such things.  This may instead be woman's work.


on gifting and the holidays

Love Thursday

This morning on my drive to work I head a woman speaking on being thrifty this time of year.  Much of what she said struck a chord with me, but when she spoke of hating presents, I practically shouted, "YES!" I know this seems ridiculous, but I really do hate getting gifts.  So often, it feels as though they are simply an opportunity for someone to show me how little they actually know me.  There are a few people who have a knack for giving me something that truly speaks to my nature and passions and from them, receiving a gift is a thing of wonder.  But mostly, it's just more stuff to stick in my house... and my house is full enough of stuff.

When you have kids, this problem seems to increase.  Once, a dear friend of mine talked of watching a pair of women in a toy shop.  They were looking at a plastic, made-in-China type toy that lit up, made noise and would make any self-respecting parent cringe after the third use.  They were giggling over how obnoxious this toy was and yet, totally planning to get it for a friends child.  She stepped up to the pair and asked, "Do you know what I think of people who buy this kind of toy for my child?" They blinked at her, "I think they must really hate me." I don't recall if the couple were then moved to make another choice, but I can't help but echo her sentiment every time someone gives the girls something along these lines.  "Is that really how you feel about me?" I wonder. 

Because of these feelings about gift receiving, I find it extremely stressful to give gifts as well.  Not only is it often a huge financial drain, but so often it feels like I'm cluttering a person's life or showing off my lack of knowledge about their likes or dislikes.  And if I'm going to spend money, I'd like it to mean something.  My mom often resorts to just giving us money, compete with profuse apologies.  Honestly, though, we always find the right thing to do with it, no matter how big or small the check is. 

In fact, my mother's latest guilty check has allowed the Mister and I to attend the wedding of my dearest friend. 

In Kauai. 

This weekend.

Without the kids (she's even keeping them for us).

Do you have any idea how exciting this is for us? If you're a parent, I'm sure you're yelling "BACK THE TRUCK UP!"  My buddy Ben actually made me stop talking about it, the jealously was just too much. 

Granted, she didn't pay for the whole thing, but her generosity is covering our housing.  And OMG, did we score on the housing.  We found a nice little place on VRBO that would accommodate us and two friends but in the middle of the contract process, the owner discovered she'd double booked.  "I have another property though and I'll give it to you at the same price.  I'm so sorry."  The other place?  Take a deep breath, prepare yourself and then click here.

Yep.  All that and a bag of chips.

Of course, not it sounds like I'm saying you should just give people money as gifts, which wasn't actually the point I was trying to make.  It also looks like I'm bragging about my trip.  I am.

Anyway, the point about GIFTS is this: unless you know the person very very well and have discovered just the right thing to make their life more fulfilled and less cluttered, consider some different ideas:

  • If your children go to the same school, offer to pack their kids lunch for a week
  • Bring dinner over on an otherwise busy night where'd they'd otherwise resort to fast food
  • Walk their dog when they're out of town
  • Sponsor an art project in their name.  You can donate to your favorite local theatre or check out Kickstarter for something in their town.
  • Take them out for coffee
  • Make your kids wash their car
  • Be present in their life

Who else can add to my list?  I'd love to see a collaborate list of ways to love in a fiscally responsible way.  Bring it on.


Money makes you crazy

Welcom too are Shop of food and clour

The girls have become financial tycoons. 

Every single day they and their gaggle of friends come up with some way to try to get money out of us.  It's mostly been shops, though this weekend it was a combo of dance performance and concession stand.  Not too surprising when you consider what we do for a living, I suppose.  And their performances are always top notch, complete with twirling, banging on a keyboard, curtsies and yes, even blown kisses to the applauding crowd (read, Me and the Mister).  The concession stand, while adorable, does make me grumble a bit.  See, I've already paid for the cheese and crackers for which you're attempting to collect, kid. 

Mark, who is clearly the much nicer parent of us two, went and found some coins and dropped them into Lily's eager hand.  This lead to Anya throwing a wee fit at Lily about the fact that nobody ever gives her money.  So Lily divided the coins and paid her performer off.  Anya, seeing the effectiveness of such a fit, repeated it to her father who also paid her. 

I'll give you one guess as to the result.

It took all of thirty seconds for both girls to be yelling at each other about their money and another thirty seconds before the kicking started.  

Money makes you crazy, indeed.

When it was pointed out to Lily that she never actually spends her money, her impassioned reply was, "But I like just having it!"  Me too, kid.  It does make me feel safe to know there are piles of coins in a special place, just in case.  But at five and seven, I'm afraid of what this means.

How do we teach kids about the value of money without teaching them to overvalue money, to the point they end up kicking their sister and collapsing into tears?  Does rational thought come with age?  Considering the State of the Stock Market, that doesn't seem a safe bet.

How do you or would you handle financial education?  I'm in desperate need for some tips, yo.

Betty the Banty


We have this crazy chicken.  She is one of the three we got from our favorite local nursery and was, of the three, the hardest to catch.  She was originally named Starly, but Mark started calling her Black Betty and it kind of stuck.  From the start she insisted on sleeping in a tree, rather than with the rest of the flock and once went missing for a week.  She turned up at the end of the week, screaming at me while racing around the coop eating everything in sight.  Turns out she had gone broody and was off sitting on a clutch of eggs that never would hatch.  Eventually we waited for her to return and sealed up the coop so she couldn't go out again.  We were too worried she'd be discovered on her nest by the local coyote pack and that would be the end of Betty the Banty.

Not long ago we accepted a pair of rescue chickens who both turned out to be roosters.  We hadn't planned on having roosters, but honestly, they are ridiculously funny and have provided us with so many examples of awkward chicken p0rn, we just couldn't get rid of them.  And this time, when Betty went broody, we figured we'd give the girl a chance to be a mama.  She stole every egg she could get and wit the addition of some straw Mark provided made herself a nest in one of the laying boxes.  For a while it was only six eggs but at the latest count it was a total of ten.

A couple days ago, our motherly little hen finally got everything she ever wanted.  One of the eggs hatched.

Back with Mama

Today, another chick was found, stumbling around looking confused.

new chick!

I decided that since Betty was still trying to add to her clutch of eggs, she and the babies needed to get moved.  Their access to food and water is rather limited in the laying box, so I moved the whole lot of them to the side car coop.  I moved Betty first and the poor thing went frantic when she wasn't with the babies.  I ran around and snatched the peeping little fluffs and ran them back to where she was, instantly calming her down.  After that I moved her nest with all the eggs.  The guy at the feed store told me they wouldn't all hatch, but I have no idea at what point to throw in the towel.  The babies that did hatch took about three weeks and I think the last two eggs were added to the nest in the last couple of days so in another three weeks we should be done with all this business.

in their new home
Anyone want to wager a guess on how many babies we'll end up with?





Grandpa's dog tags
My Grandfather's dog tags, stored with a four-leaf clover, what we think is a locker key and a coin given to him when he retired.

Once, when I was only about 12-years-old, I got it into my head that I should rearrange my bedroom furniture.  I was able to move most of the smaller items without any trouble, but when it came to the bed, I was stuck.  I walked around it a few times and finally came to the conclusion that if I put my back against the wall and my feet against the bed, I could shove it into motion. 

What I didn’t know was that the spot I was putting my back into was the exact spot where the bathroom next to my room had a leaky sink, effectively weakening the wall.   So when I pushed with all my 12-year-old might, instead of the bed moving outward, I went backwards, making a neat pre-teen shaped hole in my bedroom wall.

That’s kind of what this week has felt like, falling unexpectedly backwards when you swore things were instead to move ahead.

Every aspect of my life has had issues recently: home, work, family.  My marriage is still awesome and for that I am eternally grateful.  But talking with my cousin who has just reached the end of a very complicated divorce, I heard him telling us about some of the issues in his marriage that exist within my own.  That night I lay rolled up in Mark's arms and told him that I was very afraid.  We talked about marriage counseling, mostly as a way to check in after 10 years of patterns that are, admittedly, very set.  Part of me feels like that would be an expense and commitment of time that I don't really have available to me right now... and yet, I'd do anything to keep this marriage healthy.  Through the grief of my Grandfather's death to the troubles at work and the issues we've had with our home, I have always had this man by my side.  He makes anything bearable.  

And so I wonder what step(s) will get my out of the hole in the wall. 

I wonder what will help me find my way forward, after all this flailing about unexpectedly.

Here's what I wonder from the people living inside my computer:
Have you ever been to marriage counseling?
Is it necessary when the marriage is strong?
What about when the marriage is strong but you see potential future disaster (think of that leaky faucet that weakened the wall next to my bedroom)?
What about when you worry that the problems are all yours?

You're welcome to leave your responses Anon, if you'd like.  Or email me, that works too.  Or simply think about it for yourself and wonder and discuss with others, but not with me.  I'm OK with anything, really.

I do know this: the scariest of things are more manageable with a plan.  And damn if I don't feel like I need one right now.

When sitting within grief...

Sailor 1946

There used to be this amazing man in my life.  He was generous and kind and thoughtful and funny and loved his family with a quiet fierceness and tenacity you don't often see these days.  He was always laughing, even when things were falling apart around him.  He was the sun around which my mom's side of the family orbited, all of us reaching out and grabbing a bit of that warmth when we felt out in the cold. 

Good Morning Messages

A while back I started writing "Good Morning" messages to my kids on the white board they keep in their room.  I had been writing them notes on paper, but they just contributed to the mess that is their room (and I hate using up a resource if I don't have to).  So the white board was the solution.  Very quickly, Lily started requesting that I write and so it became a nightly routine.

Yes  Lily. A note *wood* be lovly.

I can't tell you how useful these have been.  With these notes I can get them thinking about what they might like to have in their lunches for school (an issue that was greatly stalling our morning routine):

Good Morning Message for 9/28/10

I can tell them what to expect from the day, which cuts down on some of the anxiety they often feel when they don't know what comes next:

Good Morning Message: 9/30/2010

I can threaten them not to wake us up too early on the weekend:

Good Morning Message: 10/02/10

OR I can address a wildly funny thing that happened without giggling, since, to my kid, it's not so wildly funny:

GMM: 10/4/10

I've even started collecting these in a flickr set which serves as a mini journal for our lives.  Helpful, considering I don't seem to have the time or energy to write this one anymore.

Curious as to if other parents have a similar habit?

7 days: 6 - super egg!

7 days: 6 - super egg!

We have a chicken who keeps dropping these monster size eggs in the laying box.  We don't have a goose, I swear.  And yet, these things keep showing up.  I only wish I knew which chicken so I could give her a hot water bottle to sit upon and hang a medal around her tired neck.  Hoping the other egg serves as a good comparison so you can see how big this bad boy really is.  And yes, they're almost always double yokes.

7 days: 4 - a quiet moment


After running off to play with my Mister yesterday, I had a very long day at work to make up for all that irresponsibility.  I had been woken at 4am by my eldest who was producing the most awesome cough I'd ever heard.  It was so bad that at the end of the spell, she was wheezing and dragging air into her lungs, her little face clouding over as she tried to breathe.  We have an inhaler for her, but haven't had to use it in almost a year, so it took a few minutes for me to find... especially since I was a bit groggy.  But it was in the second place I looked and we sat on the bathroom floor together, me holding the pedi-chamber to her nose and mouth, telling her to breathe... to slow down... to let the medicine work. And it did, thankfully.  My next move would have been the ER, which I feel very lucky we avoided. 

She spent the day with her papa while I took myself to work. I won't be able to spend much time there over the next few days as I'll be home with Lily, keeping an eye on her breathing and the inhaler close by, my Mister across the country on a gig and not able to be with her.  I suspect the next couple of days will not be a picnic. 

But in the quiet of the morning hours, before people show up to work and the chaos of the rush hour hits, I had a couple minutes to sit in the pub and breathe... to slow down. Which I did.  And then the rest of the day was a bit more possible.  Here's hoping that the combo of a sick kid and a traveling Mister will continue to feel possible.   I suspect it will, if I just remember to be gentle with myself and find the moments of quiet, like this one.

7 days: 3 - OUT!

7 days: 3 - OUT!

Today was the first day that the Mister was in town, both kids were at school and I could blow off work to play hooky with my man. Hell, did we have a good time.  We saw a movie, we giggled wildly, we did things we don't usually do in the middle of the day and then we got a babysitter and went out to a fancy dinner with friends. The goodness of this day? Off the freaking charts.  And now I'm all warm & happy from my wine.  Hell to the yeah.