Brains and Bones

Three years ago last February I planned a trip to Italy with my friend Jenny. Our trip theme was Ten Days, Ten Pounds, and I started a blog about it. But she couldn't go because she had to have brain surgery instead.

NOT a hip fracture... technically.
I am turning that blog into a book, reliving the drama and the trauma... and just as I was just putting the finishing touches on it, I got a call from my mom, crying out in pain with what turned out to be a broken leg. Less than a month before we leave for Italy to celebrate her 80th birthday!

Clearly, I'm cursed. Do NOT plan a trip to Italy with me! I felt the double whammy of superstition on top of bad luck, and as I sat with her in the hospital, talked to her doctors, and set about the task of "travel repair," I tried and tried in the back of my mind to convince myself mom’s accident had nothing to do with me, and Italy is not actually out to get me and my loved ones.

But here’s the thing: In The Vesuvian Affair, the supernatural romance I wrote that was inspired by my trip, something happens to the traveling companion of the main character: she breaks her leg!

So I’m creeped out and wondering: am I a good writer, or what?

The metaphysician in me, the one who knows The Secret and the dark side of The Secret, (and The Twilight Zone of course) wonders: am I inventing reality somehow, or are these just eerie coincidences? Life is so full of eerie coincidences, isn’t it? I got in touch with a certain flow of big magic on that trip I took alone, aware of how we weave the universe with our thoughts and feelings, a synchronicity that comes more clearly into focus during travel and times of distress.

Art imitates life imitates art
And here, while planning this trip to Italy in the past months, I've also been editing editing editing a book that involves many trips to a hospital, and the anxiety of seeing a loved one in danger. I have poured this story into so many publishing formats, and wrestled to place these photographs so many times that I can’t help but wonder: is my obsession on this story manifesting itself somehow?

I mean, I just wrote a book on bullying, and now we're all victims.

It’s magical thinking, I know! That we can make things happen with our thoughts. But there is something to the way thoughts manifest. I have watched the world change, in the past few decades, from a world in which children see gun violence in clearer and clearer detail through movies and video games, into a world where children use guns in real life. All the time. Even I, who used to flinch at the sound of gunshots on TV, now feel like blood and guts are normal to see splattered all over prime time drama.

But how can we make art exploring evil without calling forth evil?

Clearly, I'm over thinking this. I'm a bit stressed out at the moment.

But just in case it is true that the universe is that responsive to our thoughts, my next book after this is definitely going to be about something awesome happening in the world.

Okay enough. I can't go thinking it's all about me when there's someone I love who needs help learning to walk again. Italy's magic is powerful, and so many people have consoled me, reminded me, over the past few weeks, that "life is just like that," and "things like this happen more often than you think."

Sophia Loren said, “Se non hai mai pianto, i tuoi occhi non possono essere belli.” If you haven’t cried, your eyes can’t be beautiful. So I must be getting more and more beautiful every day!

Upcoming Readings:

  • Saturday, June 16, Laurel Bookstore - CWC Author Book Launch featuring The Vesuvian Affair
  • Saturday, July 7, Villa Il Palmerino, Florence - Saturation featuring Ten Days, Ten Pounds


Why did John Malkovich Cross the Road?

I am actually asking.

I saw him enter the crosswalk in front of me on Sunday. I said, "Hello John Malkovich" and waved and smiled. He looked up, waved and smiled. Went on his way.

And I thought, wow—

I wonder what's going through his head right now?

He looked like this. But with a smile.


Our New Electron Farm

• share.solarcity.com/ranchodeluxe • 

I have been aching to go solar since we bought our charming old Victorian two decades ago. We closed on our purchase on Earth Day—(what better way to celebrate the earth than owning a piece of it?)—and started right in on the process of bringing it into the 21st century.

I searched for and found a solar energy company to work with. They were excited: we have THE PERFECT roof for solar... south-facing, tons of sun, big enough etc. We were excited: we could finance the loan for the exact price of our monthly electricity bill. But it was not to happen; the roof was TOO OLD! 

This house, built in 1895, has had 5 roofs. And they are all on top of each other. The bolts that hold the panels on could not hold it securely through the thickness of the asphalt layers. 

So we sat around and waited until the roof got too old. It was a daunting process. We had some roof inspectors tell us it could cost $40,000 because of all the angles and gables, not to mention lack of access for demolition. We had others tell us the roof would be good for another 15-30 years. Meanwhile electric cars hit the market...and we could not access the dream. 

On a lark I started talking to a SolarCity  guy at a Home Depot a few years back. When I explained our sad situation, he said "let us take a look." Their program looked great...they guarantee the roof and will do maintenance on it 4-ever. We went through all the steps again, only for them to tell us the pitch of the roof was 1° steeper than they could handle. Bahhh. 

But one night Sungevity cold-called my husband and said "41°? No problem!" They also had the brilliant idea of a partial re-roof. Brilliant! We could just replace the section of the roof under the solar panels! (Why hadn't we thought of that before?) But Sungevity works as a broker for local contractors, and we lost momentum on the part where we needed to hire an engineer ourselves. (Or shall I say, our$elve$.)

Then one day this wonderful person showed up on our doorstep, talking a mile a minute and putting us at ease, and we came to realize he was the Solar City FIXER. Rob said, "Well, if they can do pitched roofs back East, we can figure out how to do them here!" Solar City used their own contractors for the partial re-roof, AND they paid for half of it! Rob saw us through every twist and turn, from the financing through the dozens of inspections to the roof removal and rebuild to the installation. The demolition was no problem at all. Their staff was strong, professional, and careful. 

We couldn't turn on the system for three months... there were issues with some old wiring and permits not being closed. But Rob and the team kept at it, working with PG&E and city inspectors until all obstacles were removed.

After 19 years, three companies, and months and months of red tape... WE FLIPPED THE SWITCH! Thank you Rob! Thank you Solar City!

Scenes from Solar-izing:

Having your roof scraped off feels kind of apocalyptic. But in a cathartic way.
They carried the old roof away a cubic yard at a time, leaving no mess.

Setting up the new NEST smart thermostat

Santa's elves bringing us some shiny new SOLAR PANELS for Christmas!

What a beautiful scene! Thank you Solar City!

We are now eager "Solar City Ambassadors!!" With this referral you'll get your first month of electricity for FREE: share.solarcity.com/ranchodeluxe.


I Am Woman, Hear Me...Cry?

In preparation for Hillary Clinton's landslide win on election day, I choreographed "I Am Woman" by Helen Reddy for my Zumba class. In searching for this feminist anthem on iTunes, I flashed back to my first rock concert (with my divorced-and-discovering-her-power mom), and then stumbled on this generation's version.
When you compare the lyrics to Jordin Sparks' (yes, highly dance-able) "empowering female anthem" from 2011 to those from the song that hit #1 on the Billboard pop charts in 1972, it's easy to see how today's women could have voted for an unapologetic misogynist.
97d4fec718348d76f1ba5e05b10b49e8Her lyricsIt ain't easy walkin' in stilettos/But somebody gotta do it; It's so rigorous
Doing what I do / Always on point / Always on cue; Don't need to talk / I speak with actions / I've perfected the laws of attraction / I'm the whole package plus satisfaction, bespeak the traps of perfection that today's young women find themselves in, always under someone's gaze, someone's judgment, with no deep self-connection. Trump's women—wives, daughters, hangers-on—are to a one shaped like Barbie, with hair-commercial locks, dresses over smooth bellies and teetering high heels. You get the feeling they'd better look like that or they're fired.
helen-reddy-jan-1978-home-2Reddy's lyrics "from the olden days" spoke of connection ("standing toe-to-toe") with other women, of wisdom, pain, and strength, and the incredible, generous heart of mothers and lovers, ready to "spread my loving arms across the land." Also, it politely acknowledged the impossible struggle women have with politics and with men, "With a long, long way to go/Until I make my brother understand." It is women seeing women from the inside.
Today, many women are crying. Our hardworking but unfuckable heroine was smeared by lying Russian trolls and a candidate who made bullying cool (for some), tapping into the vast community of voters who are suspicious of women (and anyone different from themselves).

 There will be another cry, coming very soon. And it will not be one of sadness. It will be a roar.