A Sorta Blog Break Up (Or I Say a Whole Lot and Conclude Nothing)

You know how some relationships end through attrition? Both parties just seem to fade away without explanation and you find yourself wondering years later where it all went? Wondering who stopped calling whom? I’ve had those endings.

I’ve also had other relationships erupt in an explosive end — with a fight that uncovers all the anger both parties have bottled up over years. I’ve had still others end with one fight over one small thing that illuminates the myriad ways you’ve been growing apart for years.

Endings can be sad. They can also be a relief. Some are permanent. Some aren’t. We might even think we know which category an ending is and then life surprises us. People surprise us.

I need to be honest with you. I’m not doing my part here by writing so you’re probably not doing yours by reading. We’ve probably drifted apart through mutual attrition, and it probably started when my tone shifted and my schedule became erratic — or when your life changed. I don’t really know.

I’ve been so conflicted about whether to definitively retire Dogs, Dishes, and Decor that I have done nothing. I’ve started a bunch of posts I haven’t published. I’ve also written countless others in my head on hikes that I never committed to paper because I didn’t see the point. I’ve made a million art projects and I haven’t wanted to write about any of them.

In all, I think maybe my heart has wandered away.

I’m so grateful to my readers for all of the support and love over the years since I started this blog. It was the place my soul came to reawaken. The place where my creativity came back to life. It was also the place I came to express my pain when life knocked me down.

As I find myself approaching another birthday, I look back on where I’ve been, where I am at the moment, and where I’m going. I’m filled with a sense of hope, wonder, and awe.

I don’t know if this post is goodbye forever, and I don’t want to simply walk away with so many things unsaid — with so many pictures unposted.

Goodbye forever feels so absolute. It feels so permanent and irreversible — like death. But “I might post again” is so non committal that it seems almost unfair. That feels like every relationship I had in my 20’s and early 30’s — every relationship where I only gave my heart halfway and wondered why love hurt so much. I’ve spent a lot of time wrestling with myself over the reasons why.

Did I hold back my heart because I knew in my soul it wasn’t safe to give it away? Or did I hold back because I was too afraid to find out? The answer is different in each case — and it’s not always completely clear even in the rearview mirror of so much self reflection.

Whether I never really gave my heart because I wasn’t ready or because my soul held me back for a reason is a question whose answer eludes me somewhat. I think maybe it’s possible I’m looking at it all wrong and there really is no difference between the two. I’m not entirely sure, and maybe I never have to be. Maybe it’s because it’s just what is and that’s enough.

While the answer is a blurry mess when it comes to love, I’m not sure it’s any clearer when it comes to my blog. Am I holding back my heart from these posts because my heart has moved on? Or because I know this is not what my soul wants to say?

I don’t care about the illusion of perfection anymore. I don’t really want to write a single “how-to” post ever again. I don’t want to feel my creativity fettered by the obligation to post pretty pictures of my projects with cute captions — yet sometimes I want to share the joy I feel when I make something for someone I love.

Like these things:

IMG_0070

IMG_0149

IMG_0773

So, today I can’t really say where I am with this blog. I’m not quite ready to let it go, but I’m not quite ready to commit to it either.

Since I can’t give you certainty, I’ll just leave you with this. It’s the mess of a quilt I’m making without any pattern — without any plan — without any absolutes. I’m just throwing it together as I go with some vague idea that in the end it will be something people I care about can sit on at a picnic.

If that isn’t some sort of metaphor for life I don’t know what is.

IMG_1333

 

 

2013 and I Are Almost Through (Or Life is an Amazing Accident)

Don’t hate me for saying this, but it’s almost 85 in LA today. It’s just a little gift from God to make up for the gridlock, the hoards of hipsters littering Hollywood, and the astronomical rent we pay to sip in all kinds of smog every day.

So, anyway, I’m blogging from Peet’s Coffee Shop this afternoon like some sort of college student, and it makes me feel more alive than I’ve felt in months. I miss periodically staring out a window, surrounded by a never-ending bustle of strangers coming and going while I write. It’s sort of an accident I’m here, really, but it’s a happy accident. I was rushing out the door for yoga earlier and I accidentally went to the wrong studio. I didn’t have time to drive to the right studio before class started so I’m in the valley with my computer killing time until the next class. Today is about lovely accidents, but isn’t life?

I mean, I  just had a brief and amusing conversation about Latin with the stranger who rescued the contents of my purse from under his chair. I felt the need to explain why baby wipes, coconut chips, and fingernail clippers had ended up under his feet by quoting the Coast Guard motto, “Semper Paratus.” It means “always prepared,” and wouldn’t you know? He knew Latin too. Four years of declining nouns and conjugating verbs reached its maximum utility in a coffee shop in LA, folks. (Actually, it really may have had its greatest moment when I impressed a pack of drunk frat boys by translating the motto carved into the Psi Upsilon fireplace when I was 19, but whatever. Either way, Latin crops up in lovely and strange moments for me.) We ended up smiling before he went back to his book, and I went back to writing this post.

This is all terribly random, but I’m wrapping up quite a year of unexpected stuff, so the lack of focus in this post seems appropriate somehow. This year was truly an epic curveball  in so many ways, and I’m OK with it. (I kinda have to be since I can’t really change any of it anyway.)

This year my mentor died suddenly as did my stepbrother, and I fell in love for the first time in like forever, so 2013 certainly was one for the books. I went a little Paleo, a little crazy, and I gained about 7 pounds partying like a college kid last spring. I finally lost the weight, shed the regret, and along the way I learned it’s OK to cry in someone else’s arms. I got baptized in the wrong baptism pool by a boy who was so rattled he could hardly dunk me. I danced on the patio of The Bungalow on Easter with one of my best friends even though there’s no dance floor there, and I held some of the most amazing people I know while they cried in my arms. All in all, 2013 was just a whole lotta holy s#*!, but I’m still standing, so there’s that.

I’m wrapping up 2013 by consulting with an Ayurvedic doctor, and her analysis of my constitution has yielded tremendous insight into my ailments — both mental and physical. I will write more about it later, but essentially I learned I’m the rarest constitution on earth because I’m equally influenced by all of the natural forces that manifest physically. I’m something called tri-doshic, and my type only makes up 3% of the population. Tri-doshic individuals are more affected by the seasons and the people around them than any of the other types. We’re almost like human lightening rods for others’ emotions, and it may explain why friends, strangers, and family members have been telling me their deepest, darkest and most painful secrets most of my life. I guess it’s because  I seem like I can relate? Or something?

Whether you buy into this sort of thing or not, I will say this: discovering my type put into words what I’ve always known somewhere in my soul… I’m wired in a super weird way and that’s OK. (Aren’t we all, though?)

It might explain why I’ve always felt like there were two different people fighting for airtime inside the same body or it could just be the story I needed to accept who I am. I’m equal parts Meghan and Anika, and that’s just the way it is. I’m as comfortable on a horse wearing a cowboy hat and singing Luke Bryan at the top of my lungs as I am in pearls hosting a charity event. I’m just as likely to be screaming at football players on TV as I am peacefully doing a down dog in a yoga studio. I’ve never been able to comfortably fit into any mold. I was one of the few sorority girls in film school (there were seriously like six of us — I’m not kidding), and I have always been friends with a diverse array of individuals who have almost zero overlap between one another.

I’ll never make anyone listen to Hank Williams Jr. followed by Busta Rhymes if they don’t want to. I’ll probably always wander off and do my own thing for a while because I can’t be confined in any way, but I’ll always come back home. It’s the way I’m made. Some of my makeup is my Bumpa’s wandering, dancing, making-friends-with-strangers blood in my veins. Some of it is my disciplined, buttoned up, deer-hunting, perfectionist father’s genes. Some of it is my mother’s louder, more extroverted (but also perfectionist), quick-witted, sharp-tongued DNA. It’s also as much my Aunts’ sweetness and softness as it is my Uncle’s outrageousness and artist’s soul. It’s all of it. I’ll write more about the new age-y Ayurveda stuff later. I really need to turn off the Jo Dee Messina blaring in my headphones and head off to yoga.

For now, I will leave you with this. It’s a beautiful song I discovered in yoga this week. May it inspire you to do something bold in 2014. I know I said I was going to keep these philosophical posts on the other blog, but I really was trying to talk about food when I sat down to write. This just came out instead. #oops #happyaccident

Happy New Year, ya’ll!

Hit (re)-Start (Or Things Are Changing)

OMIGOSH, I owe you updates. SO many updates.

See, I got a new job, which is awesome. (#ilikemoney) But what’s more awesome than the whole I-get-paid-on-a-regular-basis-thing is that my new job is making me fall in love with movies again, and you really can’t put a price on that. (Movies and I had a really bad breakup back in 2004, and I haven’t exactly been the same since.)

The new job isn’t the only big change in my life, though. I got baptized recently. And that was a bit of a debacle like only I can manage. I mean, who else makes a mess of being born again?

Other than me?

My friend Elise and my friend Suzie attended the service, and Elise may have summed it up best when she said, “Only you end up in the men’s baptism pool.” So, yeah… THAT happened. Someone sent me to the wrong line… and people were flustered.

Mad flustered.

I must admit, I found it all a bit amusing. I’m not trying to be deliberately irreverent or anything, but the entire incident was kinda funny.

photo-535

It may not look all awkward here, but I promise you it was.

Aaaanyway, that story belongs on my other blog… my other blog I really will update this week. #ipromise

This brings me to the next thing I need to talk about: my other blog. It really should be the place for my philosophical musings — my thoughts on life, love, and faith — and all that other ooey gooey stuff that doesn’t involve the center of a really good cookie.

See, I feel like I’ve muddied the water here at Dogs, Dishes, and Decor when I’ve taken the focus away from ice cream, baby showers, and renovating disasters, so I need to right the ship. I’m going to do my best to keep this blog about, well, Dogs Dishes and Decor while containing my meltdowns to This American Mess.

I’m putting my intention out there to keep myself honest.

Speaking of intention… Suzie and I shared our intentions for our lives this morning over cappuccino. Mine just happen to be: Love, Healing, Connection, and Creation. I’m going to do my best to stick to these — and keep the writing about each intention on the right blogs in the future.

Later this week look out for the recipe that accompanies the CREATION of this lemony goodness.

photo-536

It’ll be worth the wait. I promise. #sofluffy

I’m Not Afraid to Play (Or Fearless Creativity Forever)

This morning the dogs and I went on our old Hollywood Hills hike. It has been a long time since we set foot on those familiar trails, but it felt like time today. After our jaunt, we walked over to my favorite rock in the park. I’ve had many epiphanies while sitting in silence there, and it’s a comforting ritual.

While we sat listening to the rustling sounds of nature, a Native American man began singing tribal chants from a nearby hilltop. What his voice lacked in pure melodic beauty, he certainly made up for in fearlessness and passion, and that’s what drew me in.

Dogs on Dogs Dishes and Decor

Albus was super into the Native American singing. Woodley was super into her stick. #typical

I was a little lost in thought when our hiking buddy Bradley and his dog Romeo approached us.

“How are you?” I asked, finally looking over at them.

“Well, I’m not singing from a mountaintop this morning, but I’m alright,” he replied.

We both laughed for a moment before I said, “We probably should sing from mountaintops. I bet it would be good for us.”

“Probably,” Bradley said nodding in agreement.

We listened for a little longer before I let Albus off his leash so he could run around with Romeo. The boys took off after one another at breakneck speed, and we laughed again while we watched our pups run, punch, and play with joyous abandon. (Unaffected by it all, Woodley continued to covetously gnaw on her stick.)

After our friends went home, the dogs and I stayed longer to listen to the chanting. (Still, Woodley chewed.)

Stick Chewing Spaniel on Dogs Dishes and Decor

Get that stick, Woods. Just get it.

As the man sang, I thought about my late stepbrother, Noah. He had a deep and abiding love for Native American culture and attended many tribal gatherings over the years.

When we lose people we love, I think we look for signs they still exist somewhere else. We want to feel like they’re with us even though they’re not physically standing by our sides. I felt a little of that this morning as the man sang. I felt a little like Noah was out there somewhere, listening with me.

It felt nice.

I think it’s good to focus on those comforting feelings and not just the feelings of loss. Sometimes, though, I’m like Woodley and I get so intent on my stick (read: accomplishing goals/crossing items off my to-do list) that I fail to notice the joy around me. I get so wrapped up in perfection or what’s missing that I don’t see the good in my life. This sort of focus on lack makes me more fearful, less open, and less loving.

Losing Noah has somehow unlocked something in me that makes me want to shed the tyranny of fear. It makes me want to seek love.

It makes me want to dwell less on what I’ve lost and more on the joy that love brings instead.

I mean, just look at Noah and Grandpa:

Noah and Bumpa on Dogs Dishes and Decor

I want to dwell on the joy they brought while they were here. Also? I like to imagine them drag racing angels in some treelined corner of heaven ‘cuz that image makes me happy.

So anyway, what all of this has led me to believe is this: People really need to let go of fear and just love more, play more, and create more.

And by people, I mean adults.

As kids we loved more easily, played more freely, and we created without fear.

Like the playful pups and the man this morning with the less than perfect pitch, we were unfraid. We didn’t care if our art was bad. We made it anyway. Even if it was only a macaroni necklace for our mom, we proudly presented it like it was a Paloma Picasso. Somewhere along the way, though, we started to believe our art didn’t measure up. We started to believe WE didn’t measure up. We got fearful about our creations, about our feelings, about ourselves, and about life.

Everyone has their own story, but the underlying, unifying truth is that many of us lost our carefree creativity and our playfulness somewhere along the way. Maybe it happened at puberty when everything got tangled up and confusing — when all of our “creative” energy was directed at fighting the urge to make babies instead of art. Maybe it happened long before. It doesn’t matter when it happened. It doesn’t matter why. It just matters that we get it back.

So today I’m creating… without judgment, without fear… and with Legos.

See?

Legos and the Importance of Playing: Dogs Dishes and Decor

A large dog may have gone Godzilla on this situation once or twice today, but I’m not mad about it.

That’s my today: Legos. I’ll get to “I love you,” later.

May my creativity (and yours) come from a fearless place forevermore. And may my life (and yours) be lived lovingly and fearlessly… forevermore.

There’s no fear in love, folks.

None.

John Lennon said so… and so did that one Apostle guy.

#love

Remembering Kathy Fogg (Or My Stark Family Mourns the Loss of Our Matriarch)

My friend Suzie* once said, “Some people are poems. Others are symphonies.” And I absolutely believe it to be true.

Both art forms can bring tears — or elation. Both can move you beyond measure. Both have the power to transform. One may be briefer than the other but that does not diminish its impact. Not in the least.

My grandfather was my symphony, maybe the most influential and inspirational I’ve ever known.

Kathy Fogg was my poem. A poem that changed my life.

Kathy was the Associate Director of the Peter Stark Producing Program at the University of Southern California for 23 years, and during that time she launched (and nurtured) innumerable powerful Hollywood careers. She passed away on Friday, and upon learning this news I have been reflecting on all I have in my life because of her.

My grandfather gave me his DNA — and the family that made me the person I am today.

Kathy gave me a chance — and the industry family that has been by my side through the soaring highs and immeasurable lows of my career.

I first met Kathy in 2000 when I was applying to the Peter Stark Program. I still remember what I wore to our meeting that day. I still remember our conversation.

After telling me about the curriculum, we moved on to talking about ourselves. Amidst other small talk, she mentioned she had made a student film with George Lucas as an undergraduate. She smiled, shrugged rather nonchalantly and said, “He’s moved on since then.” Looking at the smiling faces in the family photos lining her bookshelves and her desk, I replied, “So have you.”

Not only did Kathy have her own wonderful family, but she also created the family feeling of the Peter Stark Program. (A program named for the late son of legendary producer, Ray Stark.)

I am sad to say I hadn’t seen Kathy since she retired, but I feel her impact on my life. Daily. She (and prolific producer Larry Turman) gave a girl from Michigan the chance to sit in a room with some of the biggest names in Hollywood. And she gave me the friends who have been by my side in a business not necessarily known for loyalty and integrity. The people who have given me jobs, hugs, support, and big bottles of wine — the people for whom I have done the same. The people who understand the moments of torment and triumph everyone experiences in the crucible of show business.

Kathy saw something in me. She believed in me. She made the call that changed my life that winter day when she told me I had been given one of the 25 coveted spaces in the program.

During the two years the 25 of us spent with Kathy, she made us cookies. She gave us hugs. She made us laugh. She helped us find the jobs and internships that took us to the next level.

The Producing Class of 1994 was so powerful it inspired a New York Times feature in 2002. And that powerful class? Still remembered where they came from. They hired three of us from the class of 2003. Because Family? Takes care of their own.

Some have called the graduates of the program the Stark Mafia. To that I would say, “Isn’t a mafia just a really powerful family, anyway?”

Larry Turman has often told me they select the people who would have been successful without the program, and that may very well be true. But our lives are all much richer for having each other in them.

Kathy Fogg may not have had a Film Produced By credit on any Oscar-winning films. But she has countless Careers Produced By Credits. Lives Changed By Credits.

As I remember Kathy, I am grateful for the chance she gave me, but most of all for the people she brought into my life. Because I can say with absolute certainty that without those true friends and my faith I would have left this business long ago.

photo-360 photo-359

Now if you’ll excuse me, I’m off to the batting cages to hit something. Hard. Because I need to do something with my sadness. At least today in remembering what Kathy saw in me, remembering the friends she gave me, I feel strong enough to hit balls by myself. Strong enough to hit a home run. Even if it is with tears in my eyes.

*Suzie is one of those true friends I wouldn’t have if it weren’t for Kathy. And Suzie said that when we were at SXSW with Melissa, another true friend and fellow member of the class of 2003. 

Someone Else’s Eyes (Or I Go All Introspective Again)

Sometimes we need to see life through someone else’s eyes. It’s important to remember your situation or perspective isn’t paramount. Our modern culture tells us we’re these amazing, autonomous, infallible beings with some sort of right to happiness and success. As if our masters degrees grant us a life without failure, rejection, or struggle. As if our size 6 jeans mean we won’t be left brokenhearted and sobbing on the bathroom floor.

Guess what?

Nothing protects you from the bumps and bruises of life. Not even a trust fund, a tiny waist, or a perky rack. Nothing. Protects. You.

We’re all going to falter.

We’re all going to fail.

If you haven’t yet, bully for you. Just hang on. You might be betrayed by your boss. You might lose the most important person in your life too soon. You might fall short of your dreams.

And guess what? It’s all going to be OK anyway.

The thing is, life can be painful. It can sting, but it isn’t an excuse to check out. It doesn’t grant you permission to shut down and shut everyone out. Trust me. I’ve done it. And it’s OK if you have too. Life is about forgiving yourself. Forgiving others. And moving on.

It’s about finding joy in the little things when everything is falling apart around you. Maybe it’s even fiddling while Rome burns*.

Whatever it is, life is a long, strange trip. And it’s filled with people who can help you… if you let them. Lately I’ve discovered that life isn’t a random accident. It’s really not. I’ve been having a crazy month where people are coming into my life (and also back into it) with questions for which I have the answers; they’re fighting battles I’ve fought before. Or they have been through some rough times that have helped me immensely on my path. I think that maybe we can be missing pieces in someone else’s puzzle. It doesn’t have to be a forever thing. It can just be a moment in time. Or it can be a great friendship. Either way, I think it’s our mission to help where we can… how we can.

I started this blog to express myself… and to talk about my favorite things: food, dogs, and design. And in the process I’ve found myself again — the me that gets buried when I’m getting paid to write someone else’s story — the me that gets paid to live a life that isn’t really mine.

So thank you for reading. And thank you for joining me on a journey that doesn’t have a destination.

Yet.

Tonight, I leave you with this: a photo me with my Bumpa, Harold Lawrence Russell. A kindred spirit. An inspiration. And one of the most amazing men I will ever know.

photo-354

I have my grandpa’s eyes. I only hope I have his strength, his kindness, and his capacity for forgiveness.

When I’m ready, I’ll tell his story. For real.

*Side note: Nero, who is said to have set fire to Rome and then fiddled while it burned, was a crazy bastard who persecuted Christians and was tight with (and also related to) Caligula who was so whacked that he planned to elect his horse Consul. #truestory #youcantmakethisshitup