It’s Election Day (Or I Miss Phil)

Whatever your political affiliation, Election Day can be tense. There are only winners and losers; there’s not a lot of gray when it comes to the polls.

Two years ago, Phil and I were upset about the presidential election results… and we had I’m-sad-about-the-election sex. (It seemed like the best way to get through the night, to be honest.)

I find myself missing him today.

I know God has someone else out there for me to love, and most of the time I’m not wallowing, but I would be lying to myself… and more importantly, I’d be false to Phil’s memory if I didn’t admit I wish he were with me tonight. I’d even settle for within a text’s reach.

Anywhere on earth would suffice, actually.

I know he’s in heaven with a whole new perspective on earthly concerns like elections, but I’m feeling a little selfish tonight and I miss my friend.

Went big with the beard

You should be here, dickhead.

So that’s what’s on my mind.

Love to all of you.

I’m going to drink some wine while listening to country music now.

The Women’s March (Or Humankind Needs a Hug)

Today was the Women’s March. I didn’t march… again.

I didn’t spend the day speaking for all women alive.

I spent the day taking care of this woman — the one who needed to deposit money into her account so her checks wouldn’t bounce, the one who needed to call her cable company and fix her DVR so it would function properly and actually record programs while she was at work, and the one who needed to turn off the music, silence the world, and just listen to her baby breathe.

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So what if her baby is a 73 pound beast with bad breath?

He is still her baby.

I am that woman. I am the one who needs to take time to write, to cook, and to handle her business.

I am also the one who needs to embrace love and sadness.

Reading the story today about Tyler Hilinski’s suicide (the Washington State Quarterback) brought a flood of emotions about Phil that needed to be felt in the few hours available before I go to work tonight.

What good would I be to womenkind if I didn’t embrace my own needs as a woman today?

Sure, these all sound like excuses and they probably are, but whatever. I accept that.

We are all doing the best we can most of the time — men and women alike.

I’m ALL for the #metoo movement. I’m ALL for women speaking up and telling their stories — as raw and painful as they are. But I’m all for men telling their stories too — I’m all for men embracing their pain and their emotions… before they pull the trigger.

The human experience: male AND female is painful. Being alive exposes us ALL to unimaginable pain, and I want to give the WORLD a hug today.

I’ll probably settle for hugging my dog, but that’s a good start.

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He gives the best hugs… when he’s not sleeping.

XOXO,

I love you ALL.

This One’s For You, Justin (Or How to Make a Kale, Banana, and Nut Smoothie)

I’ll never forget the day as long as I live: It was Monday, November 12, around 5 pm. I was listening to the haunting, 80s-esque, synth sounds of Class Actress, and I was elbow deep in my aquarium, scrubbing algae off of the sides. I heard my mother’s ringtone, but I let it go to voicemail. My hands were wet and it wasn’t a good time to talk.

Also?

I had a to-do list a mile long.

I was starting a producing job for the Academy Awards the next morning, and I was trying to get my personal life in order before taking on the project.

My mother called again moments later, and I figured it was probably important.

In retrospect, I wish I had been kinder when I answered. My hands were still dripping with water, so I swiped my iPhone with my elbow and put her on speaker. “What?” I said, sort of annoyed.

“I have sad news.” Her voice was faltering, and I could tell she was trying to hold it together. I wiped my hands on my legs and picked up the phone so I could hear her better. “It’s Justin,” she said. Then she lost it. Like, gasping for air — sobbing — lost it. If you know my mum, you know she doesn’t break easily, so I knew something was terribly wrong. Yet somehow it almost didn’t register when she told me my cousin had hanged himself that morning.

He was 25.

Justin was a vegan, a home brewer an organic gardener, and an avid cyclist. He was also an absolutely brilliant mathematician who had always struggled with the strict structure of school.

Earlier that morning I had received an e-mail from my his mother, my Aunt Myrna, asking me to pray for him. He had sent her an e-mail on Saturday saying that he wasn’t doing well in some of his college classes, and she was concerned about him. By the time I opened the e-mail and said a prayer for him, he was probably already gone.

After I hung up with my mother, I called my aunt. The police and a priest were still at her house. She asked me if I had gotten her e-mail. “I did. I said a prayer for him,” I told her, my own voice breaking. I barely managed to get out the words, “I love you,” before bursting into tears.

The rest of the evening was a blur. I cooked dinner. I continued to cross things off my to-do list. I called friends. It all felt hollow and unreal. I barely remember setting my clothes out for work. I think I may have pulled out old photo albums, but I really don’t remember.

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Even though Justin and I were separated by nine years and more than 1,200 miles, we spent a lot of time together as kids.

The next morning as I drove to work, my mother was simultaneously en route to my grandmother’s house to tell her that her only grandson was dead.

THAT I remember.

My aunt and mother had decided my grandmother needed to hear the news in person, so that fell to the only person still living in Michigan: my mother. Understandably, she was terrified to deliver the news.

“I’m praying for you. You can do this. I love you.” I texted, as I walked through the polished lobby of the ABC building, head held high. On the outside, I was perfectly put together. It was as if my bright smile and my professional ensemble hid my broken heart. I told no one at work what was going on. I put my head down and crossed tasks off of my to-do list.

Later that afternoon when I was trying to access a work document on Google Drive, I clicked on Google + instead. I never go on Google + and almost forgot I had an account until I accidentally clicked on it.

Staring right there at me from my news feed was this photo of Justin.

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The caption read, “Keep it real. Keep it vegan. Keep drinkin’ beer.”

It had been uploaded Sunday night. It was the last thing he posted before he died, and I’m grateful I accidentally stumbled upon what may be the closest thing my family has to a goodbye note. Justin loved kale and grew it in his garden, so it’s somehow fitting he’s holding it in this photo. His roommates later told my aunt and uncle he had made himself a late-night meal on Sunday when they were heading to bed. Some time between taking this photo and the next morning, he took his own life.

I haven’t had much closure since losing my cousin. Work got in the way. (Or rather, I let work get in the way.) I didn’t attend his memorial because I was working on the Oscars.

On January 10, on what would have been his 26th birthday, I was locked in a room at the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences for 13 hours without access to my cell phone because it was the day the Oscar nominations were announced. Still I told no one about my loss; I put my head down and did my job. I was torn between feelings of relief for the distraction on his birthday and feelings of intense resentment that I couldn’t let my guard down and miss him even for a moment.

The week of the Oscars, My boss put me in charge of the massive “In Memoriam” gallery commemorating all of the filmmakers and stars who had died that year. It took all of my strength to hold it together as I put endless hours into a gallery paying tribute to strangers when I had hardly taken a moment to honor my own cousin. Still, I told no one at the office.

About a month later, I had a conversation with a close friend who was going to the beach to light a candle on the anniversary of her mother’s death. She has done it every year since losing her mother to cancer, and it struck me that I had done nothing personal to pay tribute to my cousin. Sure, I had contributed to Wheels 4 Life, the charity my aunt and uncle selected, but it didn’t feel like enough. I admitted to my friend that I felt guilty I hadn’t found my own way to honor my cousin.

Last night I had to absolutely drag myself to the grand opening of a new CorePower Yoga location. They were offering a free yoga class, but somehow that didn’t feel like motivation enough for me to drive a mere three miles to the studio. Yet something deep down was telling me to go, something stronger than a desire to take a free class. Something deep inside me kept telling me, “GO,” so I did. The class was great, and I even won a Manduka towel in the raffle.

But the best thing that happened was sort of unexpected… and it didn’t hit me right away.

During the reception after class, I tried a kale and cashew smoothie provided by a local vegan restaurant. I was surprised to discover that it was delicious. See, I’m crazy carnivorous and typically I steer clear of vegan fare, but this thing was actually awesome.

I’m on a bit of a Paleo/health kick right now, so I decided to make my own version of the smoothie today. It wasn’t until I looked over at this note from my aunt and uncle while my Cuisinart was macerating the kale that I realized I was making a smoothie my cousin and I could have shared.

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Food is at the center of our lives. Not only is it essential to our survival, but it can also be an expression of our emotions. We mourn with food. We celebrate with food. And today as I sipped my smoothie I somehow felt like I was closer to my cousin — like I was honoring him in a way.

As I enjoyed a vegan kale smoothie, I realized I had finally found my personal tribute to my cousin.

I haven’t seen his mother (or my own mother) since he passed away. They’re both coming to California next month for their sister’s birthday, and it will be the first time we’ve all been together since we lost Justin.

I decided today that I’m going to make these smoothies when they’re here, so we can all toast him together. We can raise a glass of kale to honor a cousin, a son, and a nephew — a beautiful soul who left us all too soon.

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Justin Russell Drawbert, this kale’s for you. Bottoms up.

If you want to make this simple, healthy snack for yourself, the recipe is below. Even though they’re vegan they’re actually Paleo diet-friendly since the ingredients are mostly alkaline and fairly low on the glycemic index. (More on the whole Paleo thing another time. I promise.)

Justin’s Kale Smoothie

1/3 C coconut water
1/8 C unsalted nuts (I used pecans, cashews, hazelnuts and almonds)
1 ripe banana
1 T agave nectar
2 C fresh kale

Add the coconut water, banana, and agave nectar to the blender and mix to combine. Add the nuts and blend until smooth. Add the kale and blend until you achieve a uniform consistency.

Enjoy!

I Just Can’t Talk About Elephants (Or I Admit I’m Sad)

Right now I want to talk to you about this.

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It’s the elephant themed baby shower I threw for one of my closest friends.

And I kind of want to talk to you about this whole situation.

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Both the meaning of what’s on my wall and the massive home “to do” list next to it… but right now?

I just can’t.

Instead, I want to talk to you vulnerability. Yuck, I know. Totally monstrous. But hear me out.

About two weeks ago, I got into a car accident on my way to a nail appointment. I was all lost in my head about 14 different things (per usual), running late (always) and particularly stressed out about the being late part. See, the mani/pedi was a gift from my aunt and it was with her manicurist of 20 years. I am BY FAR the most disorganized, air headed person in my entire family, and I feel like I’m always letting them down with my general tardiness and scatterbrainity. (I should mention I was also three months overdue in scheduling said appointment.)

So anyway, I was checking my phone to see how far away I was when I crashed into the back of a Lexus. So that sucked. I had been planning to call the manicurist to tell her I was going to be 5-10 minutes late. Instead I had to call her and admit I’d just crashed into an LS 400 and was going to be more like 30 minutes late. None of this was awesome… and it’s only the beginning of my story.

The next morning I had to have this conversation with a guy that I was simply dreading, but I knew running away from it was a far worse option, so I made myself call. After leaving a message for him, I talked to my mother and she started telling me things that are going on with my family in Michigan that made me simultaneously devastated and relieved that I live 2500 miles away. (I will not get into it here because they are not my stories to tell. Suffice it to say, you would not wish any of it on your worst enemy.) She also said I should call my grandmother because her sister in Canada had just suffered a massive stroke. While this would be devastating news in and of itself, it’s only a fraction of what my grandmother is actually enduring. See, when Greta passes away, she will be grandmother’s third sister to die in two years. In those two years my grandmother has buried her husband of 67 years and her 25 year-old grandson.

I cannot even begin to fathom this sometimes.

I usually call my grandma on Sundays to chat but called her immediately to cheer her up. The guy called me back as I was wrapping up with my grandma, and I had the conversation I was afraid to have. By the end of it all, I felt like I had just gone 15 rounds with Ivan Drago hitting me in the face. And the thing is?

There was nothing I could do about any of it. Nothing at all.

So I blasted Macklemore, made some soup, and danced in my kitchen. See, that’s usually how I deal with life. I dance. I do nice things for other people instead of asking them to help me. I cover shit with glitter, making it look all cute and fancy. I throw elaborate dinner parties where I flit around like a cheerful little bird in high heels.

And usually?

I smile when I want to scream.

Part of the reason I’ve been so absent from my blog is not just that I was working on a huge project for the Oscars that was taking all of my time. It was also because my usual I’m-happy-everything’s-fine routine has been feeling really false since my cousin committed suicide in November.

Most of the time I’m the dependable drone who puts her head down and gets the job done no matter what it costs her. Whether it means sacrificing sleep, my social life, or my sanity, I just do it. I’m the kind of person you want around in a crisis. I’m focused. I’m in command. And I’m moving 100 miles an hour. The problem for me is when the crisis ends. Or worse yet, when there isn’t a resolution for it at all.

What then?

I used to go the batting cages and absolutely beat the ever loving shit out of balls flying at my face when I was upset. It was a way I could deal with the rage I felt about the things I couldn’t fix. And today I’m close to picking up a bat and swinging at balls until I can’t lift my arms again. The problem with this option is that the guy who used to take me is 2800 miles away, married with two kids, and prepping for a huge trial. And I could go alone, but right now going to the batting cages without him might just be another reminder of everything in my life that is gone.

I was in Costco this morning (again with low blood sugar – WHY do I do this to myself?!?) and I was close to having a screaming fit because I couldn’t find the peanut butter or the V-8. I wanted to scream “WHERE THE FUCK DID YOU PUT THE FUCKING SKIPPY, YOU ASSHOLES? I’M STARVING AND I WANT TO PUT ALL OF THE FUCKING PEANUT BUTTER IN NORTH AMERICA INTO MY FUCKING CART AND GET THE FUCK OUT OF HERE!!!”

But I didn’t do that. My WASP roots prevailed and instead I silently, stoically, and methodically went up and down the aisles suppressing my rage until I found the Skippy stash. I did this when I wanted to go absolutely postal.

See, it’s easier to really let go and scream about the things that don’t matter like 32 pounds of peanut butter. It somehow hurts less to get upset about Skippy than the things that are really tearing you apart. It’s easier to scream “Where’s the stupid Skippy?” when you really want to scream, “Why was I up so late working that I missed my chance to say goodbye to one of the most important men in my life?” “Why did my cousin have to hang himself over a couple of bad grades?” and “Why does every company or project have to fold, get sold, or come to an end when I’m finally getting back on my feet?”

Why?

And the truth is, it doesn’t matter. Finding an answer to all the “whys” doesn’t solve anything anyway. Sitting with the pain does. Leaning into the pain instead of running from it — that’s the work. Telling someone how bad it really feels? That’s what matters. So I’m starting here. I’m admitting it here.

I’ve spent most of my life being strong. For myself. For others. And I think maybe what I’m learning is that in life…

You have to be strong enough to break.

Because that’s where the real healing starts.

Now you should totally watch this TED talk because it’s all kinds of amazing, and Brene Brown is much smarter than I am.

I’m off to blast Rebecca Black’s Friday because I can’t sit with the pain for too long. I need to dance in my kitchen. And maybe? I also need to channel some Ivan Drago and take up boxing… because no matter how hard it gets, I’m never going to stop swinging.