Why You Need to Experience a Meal at Ports O’ Call Before it Disappears

Life, Travel, Work

Read it here: Why You Need to Experience a Meal at Ports O’ Call Before it Disappears

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I’m Still Alive!

Life, Wedding

Oh dear. I haven’t posted since May, but I promise, I’m still alive! When They say planning a wedding is a full-time job, they’re right. I’d love to sit down with They and ask them about all the other things They say so I can plan my life accordingly. But if you’re wondering what I’ve been up to the last fiveish months, here are a few tidbits: Too much work at my full-time job, too much work at my freelance jobs, Mexico for 4th of July, too much working out on the 21 Day Fix and I accepted Orange is the New Black into my heart. Sometimes you just have to devote hours to watching female criminals do strange things with screwdrivers. Oh, and I’ve also been DIYing my heart out, which will be shared post-wedding because I’m VERY MYSTERIOUS.

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Bridal Inspo!

Also, my fiance headed out to Ohio for five weeks to shoot a feature film, which is fantastically amazing and I’m kvelling all over the place for him; however, not having a partner for the first time in six years was definitely challenging. I commute an hour each way to work, and have a little pug to keep happy and healthy, and that’s just not very simple when you’re doing it solo. Thankfully, I have some very wonderful friends and family who helped me out, but I will never take Drew for granted again. Definitely a great pre-marriage lesson learned. Also, major maaaaajor respect to people who take care of human children on their own. You are super heroes.

Now, my wedding is exactly a week and a half away. I’m sitting on my floor in front of a box fan with my hair done all bride-like because I had my trial run today, and will have my final dress fitting in about an hour. The top part of my jaw keeps aching like, “stop clenching, you stressed out lunatic.” Don’t get me wrong, this really is a fantastic time in life and I can’t wait for it all to come together, it’s just that on top of all the adulting I already have to do in life, there’s even more. The DIY list seems never ending. And it’s all my fault. I could have gotten married at a courthouse, then had a backyard bbq with paper plates and a bucket of beer, which sounds friggin’ amazing. But no. I didn’t take that road, and there’s no going back (unless I want to waste thousands of dollars.) Will it be worth it? I’ll be sure to report back after October 3rd.

In the meantime, please enjoy some shots from the test shoot we did with our awesome wedding photographer, Christian Kaysen. When I first got engaged I swore I’d never take “cheesy engagement photos.” Well, a lot changes in the year it takes to plan a wedding. And you know what? I freakin’ love these sappy images, and I’ll love them even more when I’m 85.

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Credit: Christian Kaysen

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Credit: Christian Kaysen

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My dad grew up in a little house right below the hill that the Korean Friendship Bell stands on. I’ve been flying kites here since I can remember. Photo Credit: Christian Kaysen

One Day I’ll be an Old Lady with Jelly Beans in her Purse

Life, Travel, Wedding

These will be in my purse when I'm 86.

These will be in my purse when I’m 86.

I’m sitting in a tiny airport in Oregon waiting on my flight. My anxiety won’t rise above a manageable level since I swallowed a .25 mg Xanax about an hour ago. Anxiety and feelings of what I think are depression have been coming to visit a lot lately completely unannounced. Those fuckers just make themselves right at home, especially when I’m traveling alone and have time to stare back at the reflection of my weird and hardened psyche. 

I just spent the weekend with my super pregnant best friend and her family in a town called Crescent City. It has a population of 8,000 humans and about 10 billion trees, 6 billion of which are redwoods. It’s basically Endor up there. Visiting them is terrific because it slows life down. There’s absolutely no traffic and people recognize each other in the streets. It’s sweatshirt weather every day and everyone lives five minutes from roaring, rocky beaches where a couple of old-fashioned light houses stand out in the distance. In Crescent City the distractions of LA disperse and make room in your body for all those thoughts and feelings you so expertly pushed down to the bottom. There’s no choice but to accept your complexity and fragility as a human being, which is very uncomfortable and refreshing at the same time. 

This whole engagement year has been full of so much joy and laughable stress. It’s a wonderful time to be alive, to be a woman. To feel loved and special and beautiful and worthy of a big, elaborate celebration. But it’s also a time when I’ve found myself backpedaling and quietly cutting myself with the dull blades of self destructive tendencies. I suddenly just stopped taking care of myself. Stopped my exercise and healthy eating regimen, failed to get my nails done on time, which caused me to chew them down to dreadful little nubs that make me feel like I belong in the dumpster. I ran out of deodorant and didn’t restock for 2 weeks. I stopped giving a shit about myself. 

I’m thankful that I can recognize these behaviors as abnormal, probably due to the 15+ years of therapy I have under my belt. It’s fortunate that I have enough clarity to see when there’s turmoil inside and take the steps to fix it. I’m a genuinely happy person 90% of the time, so when I fall into these lows I fall from a very, very high place. 

Dame MAGGIE SMITH British Actress Seen in Edward Albee's play "A Delicate...

Old lady goals: Dame Maggie Smith. I bet there are millions of jellybeans in her pocket book. Legend.

The above was written two weekends ago. Today I feel much happier. Instead of sitting alone in an airport contemplating the fragility of life that I’ll soon be placing inside a giant metal tube that flies through the sky, I’m sitting at the table in my apartment listening to my pug breathe laboriously/adorably. I’m waiting for my broccoli and sweet potatoes to finish roasting so I can have dinner. Drew is on set doing what he loves. I’m not wearing any pants. Life is great.

However, I’m posting about this because I’ve learned that feeling down when there’s “no real reason” is not something to punish yourself for. “Your life is so great! Think about people in the world without roofs over their heads and nothing to eat.” Yes, that is 100% true. But, at the same time, it’s harmful to your entire NESS as a human to call yourself an ass hole, chew all your nails off and decide you don’t need to wash your hair for a week just because you think it’s wrong to feel sad sometimes.

I recently asked a newlywed friend if she ever went through bouts of despair during her engagement year. “Yes! Yes! No one ever talks about it but yes!” she said. The pressures that don’t quite seem like legitimate pressures at the time – booking a venue, finding a florist, making a guest list, getting fit for the big day – do eventually add up. Then throw in those thoughts that loom in the back of your mind like “I might watch him die one day” and “what if this doesn’t work out” and “for better or for worse … oh god, what is worse going to be like?!”  In my case, I dealt with it by subconsciously saying “fuck all of this!” and turning myself into a troll cuticle by cuticle. It’s different for everyone.

So among all the happiness and fairytale-ness that comes with planning a wedding are some very real and valid feelings. While it’s still important to remind yourself to be grateful for what you have, it’s also important to acknowledge when you feel awful enough to go take a nap in a landfill. Because if you don’t, you yourself will become a landfill of terrible, awful feelings and turn into a total nut bag later in life. Wouldn’t you rather be the sweet old lady who always has jelly beans in her purse versus the scary, curmudgeonly woman who chain smokes and chases you away with a broom?

This post was supposed to be about save the dates, but in an effort to become an old jelly bean lady, I wrote about my feelings instead. FEELINGS. What a bitch.

You Can Learn A Lot of Things From the Flowers

Life, Wedding

Flowers. I’d always heard they were one of the most expensive parts of a wedding, so I assumed I’d use them sparingly. “Who needs a ton of flowers anyway? All they do is shrivel up and die.” Plus, my wedding is in such a naturally beautiful setting, opulent floral design didn’t seem necessary. “And really, I can’t spend money on that.” As a human being, I recognize how beautiful flowers are and am definitely delighted by their presence; however, the only species I could name were rose, daisy, sunflower and stargazer because those are always at the grocery store.

Then Pinterest happened.

First I saw this and thought, “yes. good. Matches my color scheme.”
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Then I saw this …

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And this …

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And also this …

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And my mind was officially blown. How does one even come up with such things? What even are those gorgeous, delicate tendrils that cascade down like something out of Fern Gully? I was, and probably still am to a degree, a floral ignoramus.IMG_0480
So I decided to get my learn on and head to the L.A. Flower Mart to be among the blooms. To take them in. To have a significant floral realization. I imagined myself frolicking down aisles crowded with mums, peonies, and ranunculus essentially becoming a botanist by day’s end. But instead, my maid of honor, Michelle, and I walked into a giant warehouse with a bunch of of shut-down stalls. There were hundreds of orchids behind security gates, like flower jail.

Then we turned a corner, and there were maybe a dozen stalls open. Apparently the wholesale florists get there before the sun comes up and sell out most of the vendors. Novices like myself are welcome to the leftovers. As we gingerly traversed the aisles, studying flowers that align with my color scheme, deep fall shades like burnt orange and mustard yellow and “chianti” (or for non-obnoxious wedding-brained people, reeeal dark red). Our goal was to choose a few blooms and create bouquets out of them, you know, for practice. “Come on! How hard could this be!?” “Maybe I can just do my own flowers!” “Yeah, DIY!!! #DIYBRIDE! I’ll take Pinterest by storm.”

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And then I learned that floral design takes a tremendous amount of skill that I certainly do not have.

As Michelle and I sat on my patio with a bottle of champagne and a few newspapers-full of blooms we haphazardly selected because, “oh, these look niiiiiice,” it dawned on us that we had absolutely no idea what we were doing. Where the shits are you supposed to put the billy balls in relation to the eucalyptus in relation to the sunflowers?

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After a bottle of Prosecco and a great deal of cursing, our bouquets finally came together. While they look nothing like the bouquets I drool over on Pinterest, effectively crushing my dream of becoming a pro florist overnight, the experience helped me gain an immense amount of respect for the field of floral design. These people are geniuses and artists and goddesses and the Beyonces of the nature universe. I now know why wedding flowers are so highly priced and why people invest so much in them– because they’re a natural form art that makes the world so much more beautiful during the last hours of their lives.

Delving into the world of floral definitely helped me to, wait for it … turn over a new leaf (high five!). Wedding flowers are important to me now; however, that doesn’t mean I won the lottery or got lucky in Vegas. I still have the same reasonable budget with which I began. So the next challenge was, how would I make my floral dreams come true without having to sell my organs?

Also, this is the first time in my wedding planning experience that I wish I had a mom to turn to. I’d always anticipated this time in life to be a bittersweet one because, from what I’ve seen and heard, moms are alllll up in your bridal business. But in reality, it didn’t hit me when I got engaged, or when I tried on wedding dresses. It’s the flowers that did it. And not because they’re flowers and moms are usually pretty into those, but because I feel like I need a mother figure to tell me it’s OK to want flowers. That I deserve them. And maybe to suggest a few flowers that I hate so I could say, “MOM! Leave me alone, GOSH!”

But the show must go on, and after a lot of research, I made my moms proud by finding a fantastic deal on a really great florist local to Big Bear. No, the trees won’t be dripping with hanging amaranthus, and there won’t be six-foot-tall centerpieces on every table, I’m not a miracle worker. But I’m confident my wedding day will be flippin’ gorgeous.

That said, I’ll end with a pro tip: EVERYTHING is cheaper in the San Bernardino National Forest.

Susan and Linda

Life

It’s a really hard Mother’s Day. Not sure if it’s because I’m turning 30 soon or because everyone and their mom (killed it!) is posting Mother’s Day pics to social media and I look at that garbage far too often, or if it’s what my therapist said about grieving at different capacities as you get older. It’s probably a combination and let me tell you, it doesn’t feel very good, but it doesn’t feel completely bad either, because it makes me feel like a human.

I was born to a family of two moms and two dads. In short, two gay couples who wanted children but didn’t want to live a lie decided to start a family, and nearly 30 years later here I am, a happily functioning member of society. As a kid, I had the best childhood imaginable. Unconditional love from not two, but four parents, who were all 100% involved in my life, teaching me how to be a good person and respect others and pretty much spoiling the shit out of me. On my 5th birthday, there were pony rides in my own backyard. PONIES.

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Then, when I was 11, my biological mother, Susan, randomly died of a brain aneurism. It was shocking and strange and how can someone go from ponies in her backyard to finding her mom lifeless on the floor? But hey, I still had three parents, so in the grand scheme, I was pretty lucky. Three years after that, though, my living mom, Linda, came down with stage 4 ovarian cancer and there she went.

That was 19 and 16 years ago respectively, and it’s frustrating that I still sometimes get sad and emotional on Mother’s Day. It’s not the tenderest of scenarios — I am definitely not a model motherless daughter. Every few years I’ll work up the courage to visit the cemetery and sit on the grass that buries their stacked pine boxes of bones and hair. Since corpses aren’t the best conversationalists, I bring a pen and a notepad to scribble down everything I’m feeling and thinking while crying a whole lot. It’s a pretty good emotional purge, especially since I’m the type who hates confronting deep, negative realities. I’m pretty sure life’s too short to dwell on sadness and anger, so why not just let it all out every couple years at a cemetery, or wherever you feel safe doing so? In the same vein, it’s very rare that I write about them and there are a few reasons for that. As I mentioned before, confronting feelings is not my favorite and writing about this pretty much plops those feelings right in my lap. And, will my words even do justice to their legacy? I also realize that my story is only tragic in suburban America. In other parts of the world, kids lose their parents all the time, and I’m pretty sure a lot of them don’t whine about it. Plus, I still have society’s ideal number of parents (2!), so where do I come off writing about all this? I thought about it for a while and realized, well, shit! People write about their dating lives and diets and drug problems all the time so why shouldn’t I be able to put my stuff out into the world? It’s easy for me to write about food and work and silly anecdotes, but I feel it’s time to put my anxiety aside and convey some realness to whoever stumbles across this place in the digital ether.

So, if you’re still reading this, I’d like to share some memories about my awesome moms who were taken from Earth too soon. Specifically, life lessons that I’ll pass down to my kids. Happy Mother’s Day to my moms, Susan Friedman Pardess and Linda Arlene Mahru, and all the other moms everywhere who are involved in their children’s lives. I’m stoked to be a mom one day.

 Susan Jane Friedman, May 20, 1945 – July 31, 1995

mommyMy biological mom, Mommy, was born in Brooklyn, NY and moved out to California in high school. She was a 5’7″ tennis player with a degree from USC and a knack for entertaining. As the arrangement went, she’d be the homemaker while my other mom ran her private practice as a marriage and family therapist. Some of my earliest memories are of being home during the day as she did housework, always with music blaring out of our big, brown 80s floor speakers. Sometimes it was Spanish guitar, other times it was Elvis and oftentimes it was Ray Charles. She’d sing along with her gorgeous, 40s lounge singer voice, but whenever I’d tell her how beautiful it was she refused to believe it. Some nights she’d soothe me to sleep by strumming her guitar and singing a Hebrew song called “Erev Shel Shoshanim,” even though I’d beg her to play “The Cat Came Back.” He just kept coming back the very next day, silly cat. Life lesson: Music. Everywhere. All the time.

Our home was the venue for many a holiday party, birthday party, Dad’s Phd surprise party, Uncle Mike’s birthday luaus etc. and she just loved it. She got such joy out of bringing people together and inviting anyone and everyone who wanted to join. Our house was everyone’s house as far as she was concerned and just being alive called for celebration. Life lesson: Life is a celebration and everyone’s invited.

Our home was also a very Jewish, kosher home. One side of the kitchen was for meat, and one side was for milk. I hadn’t the slightest idea what bacon or shrimp tasted like, and putting cheese on a turkey sandwich? How dare I. But while our dietary rules were strict, she always tried to mix it up in the kitchen. Living in Van Nuys, we were surrounded by Mexican families, one of which shared a recipe for chicken fajitas, and you best believe she put a kosher spin on it. They were pretty damn good. I have many memories of her in the kitchen, de-feathering chickens over an open flame, grating fresh mozzarella and adding spices to her cioppino. We may have been kosher, but she still found a way to put interesting dishes in front of us. Life lesson: Master new recipes as much as possible.

We were real big into RV camping. One time, as we were preparing the RV for our journey home, she started cranking down the awning and a huge puddle of rain water crashed down onto her. She was soaked and shocked, but broke out into hilarious laughter. Life lesson: Don’t take life too seriously.

Linda Arlene Mahru, December 7, 1940 – August 18, 1998

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My non-biological mom, Mama, was from Chicago and, as mentioned above, had a private practice as a marriage and family therapist. She counseled some pretty famous actors and musicians, might I boast. While I didn’t see her as much as Mommy, Mama took us on weekend adventures. Whether it was fishing or karate classes or a trip to the zoo, she made sure her kids got to experience all life had to offer. I can’t even remember one weekend when we just sat at home, doing nothing. There was always something to see and learn about. Life lesson: Life is only as good as your experiences.

She was a major animal lover. I grew up with dogs, guinea pigs, hamsters, birds, a green iguana and a pot bellied pig. Before I was born, she’d had macaw parrots and a raccoon. We never had cats because Mommy was allergic, which once foiled our plans for getting a skunk. Apparently skunks have the same allergens as cats? In any case, animals were very important to us then, and are very important to me now, though, I’m no longer into keeping birds in cages. You live, you learn. Life lesson: Animals are our best friends.

She always took me second-hand clothes shopping. We could very well afford to shop at Bullocks and Robinsons May, like all my private school friends did, but when I asked her about it she said: “The clothes are all the same at those places. Why would you want to look like everyone else? It’s better to be different.” To this day, I much prefer Crossroads over Madewell. Life lesson: Be different (and save money while doing so).

Kids come first. I’ve never met a more selfless person than Mama. Every move she made was done with my brother and me in mind. Even while she was going through her chemo treatments, she let me have friends over at our house and made sure the kitchen was stocked with food that they liked. “What does Loni like to eat? Drumsticks? How about Sevonne? Diet Coke, right?” When she was in convalescence, she encouraged me to take my first trip to Israel, and when I got back, she demanded to see pictures. And, maybe the most badass part, I only ever saw her cry once during her 9-month battle with cancer. Life lesson: Be selfless for your children.

Man am I lucky to have been created by these two incredible human beings. I have no idea what life would be like if they were still here today, but I’m grateful for the foundation they laid that’s given me such a fantastic life so far.