Halfway Out of the Dark — Merry Christmas, Sweet Friends!

There’s something in the air this time of year.  

Twinkly lights edging every window, a puff of cold air whispering Hope and Go get some hot chocolate, rather than the horrific Why on God’s green earth is it this freaking cold? that somehow visits in January and February.

I love that every year ends with celebrations.

christmas flowers

Hannukah, Christmas, Kwanzaa, New Year’s Eve. Sometimes we’re celebrating a really beautiful time.  It turns out the Mayans were wrong, and 2012 was actually the best year we’ve ever had!   Other times we’re celebrating the end of a year from hell, and thank God it’s over. 2013 is going to be better.  It has to be.  There’s nowhere to go but up. 

And every year begins with a celebration.  2013 arrives, and the ball in New York City drops in perfect time with the atomic clock, and the world celebrates the beginning of a new year.  A fresh start.  A chance to begin again, a chance to undo some of last year’s damage, a chance to step into something new and beautiful.  christmas!

Winter covers over both the celebrations of the ends and the beginnings.  Every December 22nd, we arrive at the shortest day of the year.  For the last six months, the darkness has been ever creeping.  But now, (in the forever-brilliant words of Steven Moffat)…

We’re halfway out of the dark.

We’re moving forward into the light.  God has not abandoned us, even in our darkest moments.  He’s whispering our names, pointing us in the right direction, reminding us that there is hope and peace if only we’ll look, if only we’ll accept the absurdity that we are all broken yet somehow still loved. Still being pursued.  Still being accepted.

To my sweet friends, family, and friends I have yet to meet (aka my unknown readers), I just wanted to say Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays!  May 2013 be a year of life and joy for you.  May you find exactly what you’re looking for in your very deepest heart of hearts.  May friends and family fill your daily lives, and may peace somehow surprise you with its perfection.

May 2013 bring beautiful adventures your way…

Thank you for coming along on this new journey with me.  I am ever so grateful.


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Patches on my Heart

Today, I miss South Africa.

I miss waking up in Alli’s living room, making coffee and scones and then heading out into this big, expansive world that I had absolutely no paradigm for.  I miss laughing with one of my dearest friends, finally having time to get into all of the nitty-gritty conversations of life that only come out after six hour conversations about everything else in the world.

patches on my heart

There was no rush there, for anything.  There was a rhythm and constancy to life while I was there that I miss in LA.  There was peace.  It was stunnningly beautiful so much of the time.  All my Facebook friends saw 300 photos that looked quite a lot like this one. —————->

There was also so much brokenness everywhere.  There are no pictures of those moments, because I wanted nothing more than to actually be present in those moments.  I wanted to honor the people I was meeting without pausing for a Kodak moment.  Even the thought of that just sends a shiver down my spine. So far, I’ve steered clear of talking a lot about those moments that didn’t come with photos, mostly because I’m stuck in this horrible place of not having the words to fully talk about what I lived for those few weeks.  (Side note – eleven days on the ground in South Africa is nowhere near long enough.)

And as a writer, finally coming to a place where I don’t have the words was really difficult.  People wanted to hear the snippets of the trip, not the full-fledged, soul-swallowing stories.

There are some things you just can’t condense.

It’s like water.  You can’t reduce the water any more unless you boil it, but then you’re stuck trying to grab onto vapor that’s just not there.  The real stories just aren’t there unless you’re willing to grab hold of the water that’s almost boiling, but not quite.

Ask me about these stories.  These are the ones I want to tell you.

Because those are the stories that are clinging to my heart – like extra patches I sewed on with a sharp needle and thread.  They became a part of me, and they’ll never leave.  And I’m still bleeding from every place the thread went in.

I wouldn’t trade any of it for the world.

south african flowerI just have no idea how to honor the stories these lovely and wonderful people shared with me.  I have no idea how to wrap my head around death and laughter and pain and bright blue waves lapping at the base of a mountain and crying my eyes out and peace all in the same day.  How do you reconcile beauty and pain all together, almost all at once?

I still live in that moment every day. I feel more grounded and more real having been in those moments.  They fill my life with a deeper center, a deeper love for the people I’m surrounded by.

And I feel so inadequate in the meantime.  

When I write about my time there, I don’t mean to be vague.  I really don’t. You’re welcome to ask me anything you’d like.  I just don’t have the proper words yet to put it all out there into the great wide world.


But one day I will… 

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Beasts of the Southern Wild

The entire universe depended on everything fitting together just right… 

I’ve finally found it.

Every year, there’s one film that just defies logic and expectations, and it uses that defiant stance to fold our own thoughts back into surprise as it tells us a brand new story.   Last year’s was The Artist, and now Beasts of the Southern Wild has taken up the strange and otherwordly mantle.   True, those two films are just about as different as could be – but there’s something glimmering below the surface.  There are new stories to tell still… And it’s so wonderfully hopeful.

Gabriel Garcia Marquez by way of Maurice Sendak

Quvenzhané Wallis plays Hushpuppy – the six year old I want to be when I grow up.  In the middle of failing levees and a father who’s alternately loving and distant – Hushpuppy takes in the world with her wide eyes and fights to make sense of it.   She’s innocent without being naive.  You can only learn so much about the world in six years, after all.  And she fills in the gaps of her knowledge with these strangely poetic retellings of the world around her.

Like Emma Donoghue’s Room – some of the things Hushpuppy sees are horrific in their own right, but she’s been so protected from the outside world that she has no idea they’re horrible.  Does that make any sense?  And since we’re seeing the world through Hushpuppy’s eyes, we don’t even see all the horrors as they really are.  

Instead, we see them as gigantic primitive monsters melted free from their southern icebergs. Death incarnate, come for its own.

But she is not afraid. 

When I was little, I was so terrified of my own shadow that it’s amazing I even went to school.  I lived in a world of stringent right and wrong and I was expected to know the difference in any situation, even if I’d never been there before.   I was afraid of getting detention for something I didn’t even know was wrong.

Sometimes I wonder what my life would have been like if I would have faced my fears at six or eight years old rather than twenty-five.  

I wish I could have rounded them all up and faced them down.  You do not belong here, anymore.  You do not have power here.  I’ve stripped you of your ability to crush my life, to destroy the lives of the ones I love.  Leave.  

Leave and never return.  

There’s something to be said for the power of a six year old.  They may not fully understand the world, but maybe they understand it in a more holistic way than we ever will.  There is good and evil in the world.  And at least for the moment, we can’t escape it. We can only choose what to do – fight?  Or run away?

Today is not forever, you see. One day we’re actually going to face down the evil that surrounds us.  Because good and evil are not opposites. That puts them on a level playing field, as though the question really is whether or not evil can overcome us all.  Good is not the absence of evil.

Good, and everything that comes along with it, is more vibrant and alive than evil can ever be.  Good is a warrior, a vanquisher, walking in to the very darkest places of our communities, the very darkest parts of our souls, knowing the war is already won.

Sorrow may last for the night, but joy comes in the morning… 

And someone with the heart of a child will lead us all.

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Anna Karenina – A Crumbling Love

It’s that time of year when all the awesome movies hit the big screen.  🙂  Get ready! 

First off – I think Keira Knightley is absolutely stunning in everything.  I know she’s a bit of a polarizing figure in the world of film… but I am such a fan.  And Joe Wright & Keira Knightley together are brilliant.  (Aaron Taylor-Johnson is does a better job than I was expecting… but seriously – the role should have gone to James McAvoy.)

And that might be part of the problem.   I was coming in to Anna Karenina with the sky-high expectations of Pride and Prejudice and Atonement.   And on a certain level, Anna Karenina totally lived up to those expectations.  It’s dazzling, bold and inventive, and that’s saying something for a story that nearly everyone knows starts with a doomed love affair and ends with a train.  It’s so classic it’s nearly become a cliche, a story of society and sex, of hypocrisy and horror when someone steps outside of the accepted norms.

It’s theater of the most arch kind.

And that’s where most of the movie takes place – in a theater, as though we’re watching these characters on stage rather than on screen, leaving aside the sumptuous settings of a failing Russia and allowing us to simply observe the characters and their individual fates.

The film has moments so perfect that they rank up there as some of the best onscreen moments of the year.  And in those moments – I completely saw what Joe Wright was trying to do in telling the story this way. He’s inviting us into the production of it all, and you don’t want to miss a single second.  The closest movie I’ve seen to this one was De-Lovely –  which to this day is still one of my favorite films – where character walk back and forth from stage to real world without missing a beat, as though we’re finally able to step through a play and into the “real” world the characters inhabit.

Karenin and Anna are part of a fading hierarchy, the wealthy couple in government that everyone watches.  You get the sense that they feel as though their life is lived on a stage for all the world to see.

And then comes Count Vronsky, the one upsets their perfect world. All hell breaks loose around the Karenins.  For Vronsky and Anna, though – it’s as if everything in the world has frozen, and they’re coming to life for the first time.  This is where the theatricality of this specific version fits in so well.   There’s an early scene with when they dance beautifully through the theater as everyone else lives in still life around them.

And – in what I think is the movie’s most poignant moment – Anna admits the affair to Karenin as they’re getting ready to sleep.  His eyes grow cold, and you see a man fighting between rage and his steadfast commitment to keep his public persona intact.  But in a real life/theater blending moment – he walks through a door and onto the theater’s stage.  Anna follows, and in a dark theater, surrounded by glaring lights, Karenin sits, staring vacantly out.

He’s a man alone, a man who knows he’s lost the one thing he’s treasured.  He knows he’ll be held up for ridicule and censure.  He’s become a broken man in a heartbeat.  But instead of ripping into Anna, he just looks back at her quietly.

Tell me what I did to deserve this.  

I’ve always thought this story was all the more powerful if you believe that at one point, Anna loved Karenin.  She doesn’t respond to his question, and for a fleeting instant – you believe that she did once love the man sitting in front of her.

A Crumbling Love 

How does a love strong enough to press its way into forever find itself chipped away until it’s a shell of itself?   How is it that someone could vow for always to someone else and somehow find themselves all these years later full of indifference at best, utter disdain at worst?  It’s a common story, and yet somehow it always feels so fresh and raw with every retelling.  They were in love, and then they were not.  It’s such a sad sort of death.

And the train. 

The train gets rendered out in this bizarrely artificial way, and yet it’s that artificiality that gives it such power.  We’ve seen a thousand versions of car crashes and explosions in every movie.  And I think somehow, I’ve managed to put up a wall inside my heart when I watch those moments.  It’s only fake.  Everything’s fine.  But somehow, the fake train slipped through my filter, and for a brief second, theater and reality blended and Anna Karenina’s death got through.

It was blinding.  And it accomplished exactly what it was trying to do.  It made her death seem inevitable and pointless and brutal and broken.

I’ll be honest.  It’s not a perfect film, not by a long shot.  I think Pride and Prejudice and Atonement were definitely stronger films from Wright. In the few brief moments we spend with Keira Knightley and Matthew Macfadyen on screen – it was all I could do to not break out my blu-ray and immerse myself right back into the world of Mr. Darcy and Elizabeth Bennet.

But Joe Wright has done what few would dare to do – he’s turned a story upside down and nearly inside out.  He’s stripped it of it’s rich and elegant trappings and left us staring on stage at characters who’ve been destroyed by their own making.  We don’t have the choice to look away.  And so we live through them, all the way to death.

Watch it.

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Your Presence has Made My Life So Beautiful…


Your presence has made my life so beautiful. 

It was part of my Facebook status update after my birthday.   And since then, I’ve really started thinking about it…. 

How amazing is it that we need others in order to live?  

I know I could throw in this whole ‘No man is an island’ thing and just go on and on.  But I literally would not be the person I am today without every single person around me.  I’ve learned things from every person in my life, and at every turn, my friends and family and office-mates (who quickly become both friends & family!) have inspired me with their own stories and determination to create.  

My heart is so full today.  It feels heavy… not in a Things are bad kind of way, but in the way that beautiful sculpture  is heavy.  Here is a thing of weight, of quality.  It feels present and beautifully permanent. It will make its way through time, while everything else is fading away – it will keep right on shining.  I’ve carried your voices and encouragement and hopes and dreams all this time.  You’ve made me feel grounded and completely free all at once. 

We’ve all come through battlefields together – and some of us have actual physical scars from all we’ve seen and heard.  We’ve made our way through celebrations and shattered glass, through tears and blood on the ground.  We’ve made our way through staring out across a huge ocean and feeling so infinitesimal and utterly present all at once, through laughing so hard we’re crying, through getting thrown in the pool at 2 in the morning, through looking around and thinking – This is the moment I want to live in forever. Endless glasses of wine, bowls of soup, cake for breakfast, and more cups of coffee than I can count. 

She taught me to be fearless because she was fearless.  He taught me to not take myself so seriously, that I needed to laugh and zen out every once in a while.  I watched her live life and discovered that maybe the thing I was so afraid of wasn’t really that scary at all.  I read his novel and her script and knew that the bar had been set wildly high for my own writing. I want to be her when I grow up.  I have so much to learn.

I am not a self-made woman, not by a long shot.  I am becoming this beautiful, crazy, how-on-earth-does-this-work mix up of everyone who’s been so amazing to share their life and experiences with me.  They’ve all somehow sharpened me and fought with me to become the person i was made to be… And I am so brilliantly grateful. I owe you all my entire life!  

There are so many more adventures coming for us all.  

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Saving Innocence Gala

Tonight was the 1st Annual Saving Innocence Gala!  And it was a.maz.ing!  Seriously.  I am surrounded by the most awesome people in my life.  

Kim Biddle may be one of my new heroes.

So here’s the details – because I think the whole world should know.  

Saving Innocence works with local law enforcement, social services, schools and other parts of the community to help bring a permanent end to sex trafficking of children in Los Angeles.  They also work to restore the cultural values of innocence and human worth.  

Hell, yes.  

I am so excited to see where this amazing non-profit is going to go over this next year…  2012 was such a phenomenal start for them – and they’re just getting started. They are on the absolute leading edge of creating hope and dignity in these girls’ lives, helping these abused girls to know that their abuse does not define them going forward. They are not trapped or permanently destroyed. They have life ahead of them.  They have stories.  Their hope is going to spill out of those stories.  And the world needs their voices.   Because one day, maybe we’ll live in a world where sex trafficking is no more.  How amazing would that be?

It’s so funny – in the last several months, my life keeps coming around to this same idea over and over – being a voice for the voiceless with the stories I write.  LA. Cape Town. Back to LA.  And it’s really making me wonder – what’s coming next for me?  What are the next stories I’m going to tell? 

Saving Innocence creates relationships and community here in LA where those desperate voices finally have a chance to be heard and valued. Because even the quietest, most overlooked girls deserve to have a hopeful future.  

Can you imagine being 15 years old and constantly hearing that your value is strictly in being a sex object?  That your life and future plans and family are totally irrelevant?   

And then – can you imagine being rescued out of that?  Told that you have value and a voice, that you’re safe, and that tomorrow, you get to go to school and pursue your dreams?  

Come on now…. how awesome is that?  I’m so excited that I can support them, even in my tiny little ways.  

                                                                                                                                          +                Kim and Kellan, rocking it out!  Love them.  ——————————————>

And just for fun… 


                                   My fancy husband and I in our night out on the town.  He’s the best ever.                       

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