Monthly Archives: August 2014

Through The Air With (mostly) The Greatest Of Ease

Yesterday, I spent the afternoon at a friends’ house for a pool party. I knew they had built a water slide but I didn’t realize just how much fun the day would be. It reminded me of my teenage years when I spent practically entire summers at my best friends’ house, where she had a pool and a diving board.


The summer I turned 14, I became friends with a girl 2 years older than me. We shared the same level of adventure with all kinds of outdoor activities; hiking, riding bikes, playing softball and doing gymnastics. I had always wanted to learn how to do tricks off the diving board, but never had the opportunity to learn. Since she had the pool and board, she already knew how to do front and back flips and a couple of cool dives. I quickly learned how to do the flips and dives she knew, and we spent the rest of summer (and all of the following summer) teaching ourselves crazy twisting dives, one and a half front flips and anything new we could think of. At one point, my feet had gotten so raw from the grip on the diving board that I wore my lightweight Keds tennis shoes while diving to protect my feet. These ridiculous diving tricks transferred over into trampoline tricks and into my gymnastics classes as well.

I think I had no fear of doing these things because I was young but also it was really easy to basically throw myself into the air. I was 5’1″ and 85 pounds the summer I turned 14 (and about to start high school) but by the time I was 16, I had grown a few inches and my gymnastics teacher told my mom that if I kept growing, it was going to get more difficult for me to do these tricks. He was right and by the time I was 17 and 5’6″, I stopped gymnastics and just did silly diving stuff for fun. By the time I was 22, I had stopped growing at 5’8″ and 120 pounds, so hurling myself through the air off of the diving board was much harder than it used to be and I didn’t do much off of diving boards after that.

When my kids were in their early teens (and I was 35) our neighbor, who had a pool and diving board and was going on vacation, offered for us to use their pool while they were away. We went over there one afternoon and as soon as I saw the diving board, I wanted to do all the old tricks off of it that I had learned in high school. I had that same feeling when you haven’t ridden a bicycle for a long time; as soon as you get on it, you totally remember how to ride. I spent the next 2 hours doing all of those old flips and dives and teaching the kids how to do them. (Ryan figured them out right away but Nolan was afraid to do a lot of them back then, but totally does all of them now.) I finally stopped because my legs were tired, and I had a little bit of a headache.

The next day, I woke up and EVERYTHING hurt. I felt like I had been in a horrible car accident. I’m pretty sure I had whiplash and every muscle and joint in my body was angry. That’s when I remembered that I was 35, not 15, and as much fun as that was, my days of hurling myself through the air on purpose were pretty much over.

When I got to my friends’ house yesterday and saw this 96 foot underground tube water slide they had installed up the hill in their backyard that shot you straight out into the middle of the pool, I was excited to try it but hesitant that I would either hurt one of my limbs or take skin off my back on the way down. I got up the courage to do it and it was awesome. No injuries, no pain, just a ton of fun.

As I was leaving the party a few hours later, I walked toward a little stone bridge that goes over a waterfall into the pool to say goodbye to a friend on the other side of it. There were two people standing on the edge of the waterfall wall trying to learn how to do a backflip off of it. I couldn’t resist. I set down my purse and towel, kicked off my shoes, and fully clothed, walked to the edge of the wall and did a backflip into the water just like I had done when I was younger, and it felt pretty damn good. I learned my lesson 10 years ago on how I’d feel if I kept going, so after that one flip, I got out of the pool and grabbed my things and headed home.

I am happy to report that I didn’t wake up feeling like I’d been in a car accident. I did, however, wake up feeling grateful that I got to spend an afternoon with really wonderful friends and knowing that in small doses, I can totally still hurl myself through the air.

I didn’t get a photo of launching down the water slide or doing a backflip off the wall yesterday, but my friend did get a picture of me doing a cartwheel on the beach on my 45th birthday two weeks ago, which was just as much fun.





Challenge (Silently) Accepted

For a couple of weeks now, I have been seeing people post videos of doing the “Ice bucket challenge” which is a way the ALS Association has increased awareness of the disease and the need to raise money for research and treatment. They’ve done a great job in doing both, raising millions of dollars with this one campaign than anything they’ve been able to do in the past for themselves, and that is awesome.

This “challenge” was given to me and Wil by our friend, Rileah Vanderbilt, who, in her own video, acknowledged the drought we are currently living in and instead used a bucket of pool water before being shoved into that pool by a friend. I accepted the challenge by silently donating to the organization but I didn’t make a video about it, and that’s ok.

I understand the entire country isn’t in a drought. I live in California, which is a desert that is experiencing a pretty bad drought so we need to conserve our water. So much so that our city is issuing tickets if sprinklers are running on days not designated for your zone, and our local car washes are required by law to use reclaimed water to clean cars. I understand that this ice bucket challenge is the equivalent of one showers’ worth of water, but when thousands of people are doing that, it makes me cringe to watch it. I would rather use that water for an actual shower anyway. But that doesn’t mean I don’t support an organization that has desperately needed a way to bring awareness and funding to them, in case that isn’t clear.

Wil and I donate thousands of dollars every year to charitable organizations, we just don’t advertise it because we are asked dozens of times a day on Twitter to donate/support/retweet/make a video for a charity thing that someone is supporting. It isn’t that we don’t care, it’s just that publicizing support of one thing opens the door to attacks from others on why we aren’t supporting a cause that someone else is supporting.(Yes, that happens ALL the time.)  I have learned that I can make more of an impact by focusing on a few charities that mean a lot to me personally, and do as much as I can to help them. And along the way, when a friend or a family member is supporting a cause that means something to them, I donate to that as well.

Supporting charities is a wonderful way to give help and hope to others, or to support an organization that is helping you or someone you love through a difficult time. We have done it for years, and will continue to do so. If you haven’t before, it’s never too late to start. You’ll be glad you did, even if you don’t make a video about it.



Life Is Worth Living

Today, when I heard that Robin Williams had committed suicide, I spent hours choking back tears. I met him a few times when I would visit Wil when he was filming Flubber up in San Francisco. Mr. Williams was kind, funny, and gave his full attention to me and to our kids when we talked. My heart breaks for what his family and friends are going through at this loss because he is a reminder of the funny things I watched him on as a kid, but also a reminder of my own experience with this kind of loss. There are so many signs of depression and addiction, that I hope in sharing my own story, maybe it will help even one person who may be living something similar and will get help.


I grew up in a seemingly “normal” household. I don’t have any negative memories of anything being wrong or off with my parents when I was little. My grandma would visit us often, always by herself. When I was about 5 years old, I asked my grandma if she had a husband. She told me that she had had two husbands, but they had both passed away. I didn’t really get what that meant, but she had answered my question which seemed to be enough to satisfy my curiosity.

By the time I was about 7, I was aware of my parents having a martini in the evening when my dad would come home from work. Occasionally on the weekend, they would have beer while they did work around the house or in the yard. But by the time I was in 6th grade and my grandma had married for the third time,  I saw a sadness in my mom that I had never seen before. Shortly after my grandma’s wedding, my mom began a rapid downward spiral of drinking excessively and becoming withdrawn and angry.

By the time I was 15, my mom’s drinking was pretty bad. One evening, I came into her room where she was sitting next to the phone, crying. I asked her what was wrong, and she explained to me that she had just tried to have a phone conversation with my grandma to tell her that my grandma’s second husband had molested my mom when she was twelve. This husband had died by the time my mom was 18, but my mom had felt so bad for my grandma for having lost two husbands that she never shared this information before. This secret had been eating at her for so long that she had become depressed and addicted to alcohol, and just wanted to get it off her chest and have the support of her family to help her through it.

When my mom told me this, I had no words. This was not something I knew how to handle as a teenager, so I just hugged her, and then I figured my dad and my grandma would know how to help her through it. I was completely wrong. My grandma was so shocked by this news that had happened 25 years earlier, that she was in total denial and blamed it on my mom having issues with alcohol and an unhappy relationship with my dad. My dad was the opposite of supportive of my mom, which had made her become so withdrawn that I didn’t have much of a relationship with her myself  for years after that day.

I moved out when I was 18, hoping not being under the same roof would ease her anger issues and we could have a new, more adult relationship instead of a parent/child one. I would schedule lunches with her, but she would either cancel last minute because she was sick (hangover) or meet me for lunch and spend the whole time downing margaritas or wine. I didn’t understand that her addiction was merely how she had decided to “deal” with her depression and the unresolved issues she experienced as a child. I honestly felt like she was choosing booze over a relationship with me.

When I was 20, my mom had told my dad she needed a break and decided she was going to take herself to Laguna Beach for the weekend. Her relationship with my dad had turned to angry, drunk fights and she was miserable. At the end of that weekend, my dad called to tell me my mom was in the hospital because she had “fallen” off part of a cliff at the beach. She wasn’t injured badly, but the police were involved because a couple had witnessed my mom trying to jump off of the cliff. She was in the hospital on a psychiatric hold, finally getting released to my dad with the promise of her getting help.

The help never came from my dad. It came from me two years later, when I went to their house after she had canceled our lunch date again and I saw how bad her alcoholism had escalated and how much her health had deteriorated. I immediately called my grandma, who found a rehab facility near her (grandma was now in Oregon while we had since moved to California). She got my mom registered after my mom agreed she needed help, and booked two plane tickets so I could fly up with my mom and help get her settled in.

Between March and October of 1993, my mom had been in and out of 3 rehab centers. She had been trying to get help for her addiction but she also needed help for her depression and therapy to deal with her childhood. We would talk on the phone weekly, but she mostly wanted to know how I was doing and didn’t go into detail about her ongoing treatment. My last conversation with her was on October 22, when she told me she knew her relationship with my dad was toxic and never going to be good for her to be around again. She had purchased a car from a graduated college student and was planning to go out the next day to look for an apartment and start a new life.

On the afternoon of October 23, 1993, I got a phone call that my mom had died in a car accident. There were multiple cars involved, but my mom was the only one hurt. Instead of starting a new life on her own, she had gone to a liquor store and consumed a 32 ounce bottle of vodka. She then started her car and drove, without a seatbelt, over a narrow bridge, bouncing off the walls of the bridge before hitting the two cars waiting on the other side (who had seen her coming but had nowhere to go, so they braced themselves for impact.) No one else was hurt, but the impact on my mom was fatal. She was 47 years old.

I knew my mom had consumed all of that alcohol and chose not to wear a seatbelt, and to drive a car while intoxicated. But I was shocked when the coroner called to tell me the cause of death was partly due to the accident, but the death certificate was going to read “acute ethanol alcohol poisoning” because that is really what killed her. He then went on to ask me if my mom was depressed and/or suicidal, and the rest of the conversation was and still is a blur to me.

It’s been 21 years since her death. I was just 24 years old when it happened. My older brother and I have never had any problems with addiction or depression. I always hear people talk about how it’s genetic, but my mom was the only person in her family to have this happen and I know it’s because of the things that happened to her. One of her counselors from the last rehab center she was in (she died 10 days after checking out of the last one) told me “there are some people that just can’t be helped.” Not exactly the ideal thing to tell someone at their mom’s funeral, but I later understood what he meant after reading all of my mom’s rehab journals in the weeks that followed.

Because of the things I saw my mom go through, I saw the signs of depression in Wil and encouraged him to get help for himself, which he did. We all deserve to enjoy life, to enjoy our time with our family and friends, and to get help when we know something isn’t right in our body and our brain. If you or someone you love is experiencing issues with this, please seek help. You matter and you absolutely deserve it.

Gift of Life

For the past ten years, I have treated my birthday as a reminder to donate blood. A few years ago, I added my name to the National Bone Marrow Registry as well. I do all of my blood donations at City of Hope, a cancer research hospital in Duarte, California. Their lifesaving treatment and stem cell transplant is the reason a very good friend of mine is still here today.  My friend had also made goals for herself to get through treatment; to make it to Christmas, then to see her son graduate from high school, and then to be here for another birthday of her own.  She has experienced them all and then some.

I wasn’t the same blood type as my friend so I couldn’t give her my blood, but she really needed platelets. I tried several times to donate platelets but my count is so high they were literally clogging the needle. At the time, I felt helpless in helping her, so I did a marathon with Wil for the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society, raising $34,000 that went toward cancer research, and assisted in covering cancer related medical expenses for people who couldn’t afford it. In addition to doing that marathon, I donated my blood to City of Hope for any patient who could use it. I’m AB Positive, which they don’t get too often, so they’re always happy for me to donate and they always send me a reminder around my birthday to come back to donate again.

My birthday is coming up, so I called them to see if I could donate. I was worried I wouldn’t be able to because of some stops on the JoCoCruiseCrazy we went on at the beginning of the year. I had wanted to donate blood before leaving, but I had spent weeks trying to beat a bad case of bronchitis and no one wants blood from a sick person, so it never happened. I confirmed today that because of our stop in Haiti, the CDC doesn’t allow blood donation for one full year from the day you arrive home.

I never want gifts for my birthday. I am so grateful for the life I have and I don’t need stuff. What I would rather do is give someone else a gift of helping save their life, but I can’t this year. So if you’re able to donate blood or platelets or even just sign up to be a bone marrow donor, that would be the best gift me and the person you will save could ever ask for.

Gone (for a bit) But Not Forgotten.

I realized this morning when I opened the app for google + on my phone (which I haven’t done in MONTHS because I always forget that I have that thing) that I haven’t written anything on my blog in a few weeks either. This place is fun for me, the other place frightens and confuses me, so don’t expect posts from me over there anytime soon.

I haven’t written anything here in a while because we were preparing (and then went) to San Diego Comicon. The convention was five days of fun, although exhausting and overwhelming. We came home that Sunday afternoon and then got up early to go to the taping of The Wil Wheaton Project. We left straight from the taping and headed Santa Barbara for a couple of days of peace and quiet, to catch up on sleep, and to celebrate Wil’s birthday. We had the best time, ever. We both slept 12 hours Monday night, had breakfast delivered to our room, got massages at the hotel spa, walked 4 miles on the beach, napped, and had dinner. We did the same thing the next day (minus the massages) and felt rejuvenated.

We came home Wednesday afternoon, a couple of hours before twenty of our friends were to come over for a Sharknado 2 viewing party. It was great to see everyone and watch this ridiculously awesome movie (and see our tiny cameo in it) and we still managed to get another long night of sleep in afterward. I think we’re fully recovered from Comicon in the sleep department now.

On Thursday, my baby boy turned 25 years old. It was the first birthday that we couldn’t make a solid plan to celebrate because he’s been doing a project for a company that’s part of a 3 month interview process. I’m not going to share anything else about that because he still doesn’t know if he got the job or not, and when he does, it’s his happy news to share first. But I’m so proud of him for working so hard and focusing on something that he wants for his life, and realizing he’s officially an adult who knew he needed to choose focusing on the project over big birthday plans. We did go out to a nice dinner at least, so that was fun.

I am down to my last two photo shoots for my rescue pet calendar project. Unfortunately, both of these previously scheduled photo shoots had to cancel this past week. One for an emergency medical issue, the other because of travel scheduling conflicts. I’m not going to say who these two are because you’ll find out when they’re in next years’ calendar. But now I’m trying to fill those two spots quickly, my photographer recently fell and tore a ligament in her hand, I have a friend who is coming to visit and celebrate my birthday later this week, and we’re preparing to go to GenCon in Indianapolis next week. AAAGAARAAGHHH!!!

My calendar printer is awesome and is formatting everything for me so all I have to do is give him the last two photos and the printing can start immediately. My plan is to release this calendar project for the Pasadena Humane Society at the beginning of September but with all of these unexpected setbacks, it may be a little later than that. It is what it is and all I can do is keep moving forward the best I can.

It makes me feel really good that people have asked me to write on my blog more often. It’s fun for me but I just haven’t had the time to write anything. This post is probably going to be sitting here while I get through the next two weeks but I swear I’ll be back! And who knows, maybe some free time will pop up and I can come back here in between. In the meantime, happy August!