Monthly Archives: June 2011

the worst time to have a heart attack

the wrong time to have a heart attack is right after the doctor has left the car.  i mean, woo was in my mini–i had just dropped her off–she’s a doctor, she has her own clinic and in fact, when i picked her up at that same clinic, i believe she put a stethoscope in her purse–so she could perform cpr on me.  she might even have a scalpel and she could cut open my chest and reach in and squeeze my heart back into working order.

instead, i ended up in the parking lot across from the emergency room entrance at evanston hospital.  popping two ativan.  drinking vitamin water zero.  taking my pulse with the stopwatch app on my phone.  and wondering do i go in or not?

nobody does sarcasm better than an emergency room nurse who knows damn well you’re not having a heart attack when you know damn well you are.

i had been having a nice afternoon visit with dr. louise berner-holmberg, whom most people know as “woo”.  woo is fifty, like me, and has decided to do what she really wants with her life–which is to open a medical clinic for poor people.  a free clinic in a heavily hispanic neighborhood between my house and wisconsin.  a free clinic?  she could perform cpr on me and all i’d be obligated to do is send her flowers and a thank you note afterwards.

woo has treated this clinic with the same care as a great work of art.  for instance, the lobby is very comfortable and clean–she thinks of it as an insult to patients to make them wait in a scruffy area.  she has a tiny door built into one wall of the lobby so that kids can access a play area of the joint and spine rehabilitation clinic next door to hers.  woo even has medical charts where patients can see them–it is of great comfort to see lots of medical charts even if they are full of blank printing paper.

woo, like most other doctors these days, keeps medical records on her computer. therefore, these charts are not necessary but they look all efficient!

she has examining rooms decorated with pictures made by her children, or in this case, a framed hermes scarf.  tres chic!

is it wrong that i would lust after the hermes scarf?

she works seven days a week at the fenix clinic and has enlisted many volunteers in her effort to provide medical care to those who are uninsured and without resources.  she draws no salary, though she isn’t opposed to the idea of a paycheck.  i admire what she’s doing and as i drove her to her meeting to plan a fundraiser for next weekend, we talked about how lucky we are to do something bold and something quite scary and outsized for our fiftieth year.

every night woo worries about whether this cilnic is going to stay afloat. look at all the paperwork! i worry every day whether this project will stay afloat.

we hugged.  we said “see you next week at the fundraiser” and then i drove away with a funny pain in my chest that got worse.  and then came the little fear.  and the bigger one.  i drove directly to the parking lot of evanston hospital.

i’ve done this before.  i’m close enough that if it gets any worse i can go inside but not so close that the security guard starts thinking that i’m a stalker.  which i decide i won’t today.  i think the ativan are working.  i come home and i am writing at the dining room table. feeling very sheepish.  and not at all like a phoenix rising from the ashes.

i am definitely going to woo’s party at fenix on friday the twenty fourth from five thirty to eight p.m. it’s at 130 washington avenue in highwood.  for more information about her incredible work, go to

the last piece of advice. . .

this past september i had to say goodbye to my youngest son eastman as he went to college.  i wanted to give him some advice, all the things i had been meaning to say before but never found the time:

1.  strippers who tell you that they’re just doing this to put themselves through medical school are lying.  and no, they don’t really really really like you.

2.  start saving now for retirement because there’s not going to be anything left in social security when you’re old.

3.  your tax return is just your opening offer.

4.  tequila is a source of misery.

my friend mitch (f2fb #153) and i have watched our kids grow up together and we’ve occasionally served on boards of schools and clubs our kids have been involved with.  one year, we dug posts together to construct the children’s fair in winnetka.

this coming year, mitch’s son ryan will leave for oregon and so mitch took him on a bike ride.  just a regular father son bonding experience of 55 days, 3555 miles across the united states.  i think he probably got more advice time in.

we took a short bike ride today to chicago’s botanic gardens.  mitch worked there as a teenager, helping to build it.  we talked about how our sons have the task now of creating and acquiring, while we have something different to accomplish–to hang onto what we’ve got.

that’s been extra hard for people this year.




again, i am friends with nonhuman!

you are not actually “of Winnetka” until you have lived within its borders, preferably on the east side of the railroad tracks, for a generation or more.  my mere twenty years here is just that–mere.

i was pregnant with my second son eastman (f2fb #1) and i shepherded my firstborn joseph (f2fb #61) around a town of tudor architecture and new england sensibilities. in the window of the photography store was a display of pictures of their shopping bag on its travels.  you see, the shopping bag went to paris, went to london, stopped along the chinese wall, climbed killimanjaro, and sent back pictures.  winnetka residents announcing their summer vacations with a bit of panache.

one man even put together a book. .

the store thrives, despite the changes in what it means to take pictures.  i do everything with my cell phone and a flip camera.  the flip has gone from cutting to obsolescence in the space of a year.  still, the skalski family which owns phototronics works with every technology, holding the hand of every winnetkan who says “i don’t know how to make this picture come out of my camera and land in my email account”  peter skalski gave me a bunch of phototronic shopping bags to pose along my travels. . . .

i am facebook friends with phototronics (f2fb #152), one of several non-human friends.  i did not ask phototronics out for lunch yesterday, but i did take f2fb #12 andrew pearce because he wanted to look at a particular camera.  andrew is from bloomington, indiana and drove up so that he could plot out with me the second half of this facebook journey. . . .that was an entire anxiety attack all on its own!

i have a trip out to the northwest, two more trips to the northeast and again to california (where i hope to meet with brian brethauer because brian sure lives the furthest away from anybody i know).  i have the southern states–samuel scruggs, jonathan boyd, dale morgan–whom i missed because of the disaster in tallahassee.  and i have alaska and the rest of the world (except for mexico city which is well in pocket).

i am humbled to be fifty years old and have all the help i have been given. . . but then there’s f2fb #153 who reminds me that we are all just teenagers inside!

reasons to be grateful. . . part one

my friends on facebook as of new years eve:  324

new friends who said “one more facebook friend isn’t going to kill you”:  11

friends i will visit: unlimited but first the 335

friends i have today: 1605 (i visit the new years friends now and if i have time left over before new years 2012 i will visit them or  if they are available in a city where original facebook friends reside)

my weight (as of 2011 new years eve): 138

new years eve resolution 2010:  lose five pounds, stop drinking, be more organized, be nicer to my neighbor mr. radnor

success rate on 2010 new years resolution:  gained two pounds, drank like a fish, please don’t audit me because i have no idea where those receipts are, and mr. radnor i just can’t warm up to.  ever.

new years eve resolution 2011:  meet every facebook friend. . . .

friends i’ve seen so far this year:  151

friends so far who are relatives:  4–friends #1 eastman, #30 justin, #31 casey, #61 joseph

friends so far i had never met before:  #95 nipper castino, #102 1/2 rachel li, #110 jeff barnes, #131 rodger gerberding, #79 yoshi maeshiro

tornadoes i have been exposed to:  4–one outside raleigh, north carolina, one outside cedar rapids, iowa, one outside blue springs, missouri, and another in kearney, missouri

percentage of friends who have been in a twelve step program, should be in a twelve step program or who have a spouse in a twelve step program:  50%

percentage who have asked that such a thing be kept secret:  0%

friends who have told me their license sticker has expired:  1

friends who have told me their license sticker has expired and they want that to be kept secret:  1

friends who have told me their spouse has committed an act of infidelity:  14

friends who have specifically asked me to include comments about that act in my blog:  5

new skills i have acquired:  can open a champagne bottle with a saber sword (thank you #24 gretchen), break a board with my hand (thank you #87 ron), a perfect squat (thank you #14 chris), troll fishing (thank you #111 lon)

skills that will elude me forever:  boxing (#90 sally, i’m sorry i get so scared in the ring), zumba (#92 jo caylor, you knew that was going to happen), and opera singing (#132 john hill)

friends who turned out to be an alternative identity for someone else: #49 mc kato (really winston chang), #54 IndaLoop (actually richard “mop” furniss, #74 stu fast (actually steve quick), #60 william clark (actually lanny jones, his biographer)

friends who wanted totally anonymity:  one, mr. 88

friends who freaked out after they saw me:  one, miss 116, who asked that the post be deleted in its entirety

my weight as of today:  142

my last visit before i left los angeles was to allen and sarah colombo.  i asked them, as they opened the door, if they were familiar with the secret.  they were.  but instead of an evening of thinkng or talking about that inspiration, we had champagne, steak, veggies, gossip, music, bright lights.

i believe that allen and his wife sarah are some people i could call if i accidentally ended up in jail.  if they didn’t have bail money at least they’d bring me sandwiches.  and here i am at the end of a wonderful evening with them. . .

friends i still must see: 174

weight i must lose:  4

manifesting greatness and living the dream–that’s california!

i returned to los angeles to meet f2fb friend #150 branden blinn.  he’s a director of five short films that focus on romance between men, and he is a follower of the secret.  i wasn’t surprised to learn the last fact about him–the secret is a fairly common subject in conversation with any los angeleno.  the local weather reporters use the laws of attraction to explain their forecasts and every new mom asks her progeny to create the lives that they dream–and they’d better be dreaming about sharing with their little brother.

branden met me at basix in hollywood (yes, i made it to hollywood!)  we talked about branden’s charmed life.  he was married to an heiress and yet he walked away because that wasn’t his dream.  he became a filmmaker and he has started a business helping others achieve personal mastery incorporating some tools from the secret and others that he has discovered on his own.  there are eleven laws of attraction in the secret.  branden also has discovered five further actions that must be used to achieve personal mastery.  as well as a scale of determining one’s authority.  his company is called ACACEA which stands for authentic conscious awareness catalyzes exemplary activity.

my life is so disorganized.  my anxiety attacks can put a halt on any of the best laid plans.  when i have heard people say the stuff from the secret about “like attracts like” i start thinking about magnets.  i’m not a good candidate for this stuff.  but  based on my birthday of july 23, 1960 and the fact that it was in chicago, branden was able to tell me that my authority is FEELING.  which means i should act on what “feels” right.  he also said i could benefit from manifesting greatness, which is the program ACACEA offers.

the program costs $799 retail.  but i can also purchase it for $595 plus an additional $49/month.  at that second price point, i get that necessary month to month boost in the form of phone calls and encouragement.  PLUS i receive $199 for every person i influence and bring into the program (with a portion of the $49 per month they’re paying as well).  so after influencing three people to join this program, my start up costs would be completely covered.  plus i would have the resources to turn my life around.  then if those people i influence go on to influence others, i would receive compensation.  he sent me home with a pamphlet about the program and he also sent me home with the business plan for the next stage in his movie producing career–ondemand movies.  he is living the dream he wanted–to be a filmmaker. his films promise “movies for men attracted to men and that 80% somewhere in between”.

i couldn’t ask branden to tell me everything about the manifesting greatness program since that’s how he makes his money, but i asked for one thing–what is ONE THING i could do now that would start me on the road to personal mastery even before i started the program officially.  he said i should write down five things i am grateful for every day.  i am starting the list right now, thinking it through carefully, and then i’ll post my first day’s efforts later today or tomorrow.

i met branden when he cast my son eastman in the movie “everasking” which has yet to receive financing to be filmed.  alas, eastman is already too old for the part he was cast in.  branden nonetheless asked me to say hello to eastman.  and then branden said a cheery goodbye to me.  my california trip is nearly done and i have a five point piece of homework to do.

you can find branden’s program at and you can look at his movies at and if you are considering investing in his movies you can contact him at

a facebook friend’s life changes when the bishop sets fire to his store

i had started to think of my little corner of redondo beach as home.  one room, free wi fi, maid service every other day.  a couple of times i considered cancelling whatever i was scheduled to do and just watching television all day.  it was the sort of motel that catered to people who d0 that.

instead of hiding i got on the the 5.  since everything is three hours from everything else in los angeles, it wasn’t that much of a change in the schedule of driving, stopping at a starbucks and driving some more. but i was giving up a safe space (redondo) without yet reaching another safe place.

the gap for someone like me is important.  it’s the space where anxiety attacks happen.  and i had a pretty major one just outside of camp pendleton.

but i was meeting howard smith.  f2fb #149.  but he’s more than just a facebook friend.  he’s someone i really admire.  he grew up in lexington, kentucky and moved to winnetka just after college graduate, taking a job at the “trouping the colors” clothing store, and freely told everybody that the only other job he had ever had was as a lifeguard.  when the owner retired, howard stepped up and became sole proprietor.  he was head of the chamber of commerce, of the rotary club, the unofficial mayor of the town, and then the bishop of the episcopal church of san diego set fire to his store.

the store was gutted.  everything that howard found safe and reassuring, the basis of his life, was gone.  for a while, howard had no idea what to do.  he had never imagined a life without fabric swatches, tape measures and silk ties rolled and placed just so on the round table at the center of his shop.

he and his wife felt a little lost.  they worried about how to send their two children to school, how to put aside for retirement, how to rebuild.

howard did something brave–he asked every friend he had to come up with five names.  not five names of people who were looking to hire someone or looking to invest in a retail business.  just five names of people who would go to lunch with him.  and talk about what they do.  howard was a promiscuous lunch partner and was thinking about what he really wanted to do.  he was even thinking about where he wanted to live–he had been across the mississippi exactly three times but now everything was on the table. . . .

he was like me, in the in between, on the road from redondo beach to san diego.

howard is now a development director for the episcopal archdiocese of san diego.  he and his wife love their new home.  and the thing he reminds me is. . . be grateful, be brave, accept that you’re going to be surprised by life.

and the bishop of the episcopal church of san diego?  well, he didn’t actually set fire to howard’s store (the cause of the blaze is pure accident) but the bishop, and indeed the entire diocese, is the happy beneficiary of those flames. . .

cathy mccormick (147) and jose rios (148) have never met but . . .

i have phobias which developed yesterday at the hand of f2fb friend #148 jose rios who took me to hike outside of los angeles.  we walked–los angelenos use their cars so much i was surprised at his bipedalism–to the top of a ridge at the topanga state park and met six hikers.  the hikers were nervous about continuing through a field because of bees.  the california park service had very helpfully put up a notice that the alternative route was where the mountain lions lived.

leaving the hikers, we walked through a field of tall grasses with our arms up over our heads–the bees like vuvuzelahs at a south african soccer field.  they got in my hair and in my eyes.  i regretted angel perfume.  i wondered if i could call dr. stern back in chicago and have an epipen airlifted in.  new phobia:  apiphobia!

we then ended up on a ridge overlooking the palisades canyons. fear of falling off a cliff–or perhaps just straightforward fear of heights–acrophobia.

jose standing on the ridge without falling over which is what i would do!

i thought “what a nice view, what a nice walk, do we have to go back through the bees?”  but no, there was more.  we continued down into a forest and when he pointed out a lizard resting on a branch, i realized there could be snakes (ophidiophobia).  then we followed a rocky stream (potomaphobia, but only because i was worried i was going to fall on the rocks).  then we found a cave.

in the cave, there were two notebooks that people had written in.  some of the stuff was quite personal.  really, annie l., do we need to know how you lost your virginity?

still, i thought “nice cave, time to go home, maybe go to starbucks, didn’t i see one along the way?”

but we were just starting.  there was a climb up the face of a mountain and a couple of times i lost my footing.  i definitely lost my memory of latin so we’ll go with the english versions:  fear of slipping on rocks, fear of falling off a cliff, fear of the manson family who killed sharon tate in this same area, fear of other mass murderers, fear of mosquitoes bearing dengue fever, fear of poison oak and poison ivy, fear of that weird thing that turned out to just be a stick.

the night before, i had been with f2fb friend #147 cathy mccormick–she’s a transplanted winnetkan who now lives in manhattan beach.  she is training as a master reiki spiritual healer.  she’s applied to the university of santa monica to work on her master’s in spiritual psychology.  she is also associated with the ten mary’s, a group of evolved women who come together to network about healing and other arts.  cathy wants to work with empowering midlife women, particularly those in abusive marriages such as she endured.

at the end of dinner, cathy walked with me out onto the beach and she put her hands on either side of my head and used her energy to heal and empower me.  i felt sort of like we were flying together, but that might have been because i had taken my shoes off and i was sinking in the sand.  also, i had had three sierra nevada pale ales with dinner.

but when jose said our little two hour constitutional was a preamble to the hard part, i really wanted to believe that cathy’s healing powers were going to work.  i would be bold.  i followed jose up into a narrow passage where we crablegged over to another ridge and then . . .

i asked jose for an adventure and he delivered!

coming back, i did slip and almost fell backwards into a gorge.  but otherwise, i was feeling great.  the bees rose up in a cloud to greet me.  we came back up to where the dithering hikers had dithered.  that’s when i noticed that the mountain lion signage didn’t specify a choice:  the mountain lions were everywhere but hey, that was just part of the scenery!

jose is an artist and filmmaker.  he worked on three films with eastman–he and i hadn’t seen each other in nearly six years.  he makes some of his artwork with things he finds as he hikes.

i love the ants made out of fallen tree seeds

i don't think he made this venus de milo from things he found in nature

jose was once romantically involved with another facebook friend jen messer who lives in los angeles but is now in chicago.  and when i’m in chicago she’s in los angeles.  i’m starting to develop a complex.  cathy was and may still be romantically involved with f2fb friend #3 mike castagna.  although jose and cathy have never met, i believe they worked together to make this incredible adventure!  for a while, as a very dirty sweaty tired me headed back for the safety of my redondo beach motel, i thought “i can do anything!”

except deal with the 405 or pacific highway traffic!

when i am afraid this is where i want to go since i know i can't get home--but i leave now for san diego!

my safe place in california–

i was intimidated as i approached the gate house:  two other cars had been turned away.  the sign said not only was there to be no trespassing but have your driver’s license ready for inspection.  when it was time for me to pull up, i noticed the guard had a tattoo of a lipstick imprint on the side of her neck.  she took my driver’s license.

“it’s a really bad picture,”  i said.

she handed it back without looking at me.  i don’t think it’s THAT bad of a picture.

i was in calabasas.  rumor has it that way up in the mountains, at the highest tier towards heaven, britney spears has a mansion.  and so does michael jackson’s mom.

i met f2fb #146 candice appleton vaugh at a wedding.  it was the wedding of some people i didn’t know so i was free to make new friends without any reservations or preconceptions.  i immediately liked her and we spent most of the weekend together through rehearsal dinner, pre-wedding receptions, the wedding itself, the reception, the post-wedding breakfast.  she is intelligent without being pedantic, empathic without being intrusive and beautiful without the arrogance that occasionally infects beauty.  after the wedding, she went back to her home in calabasas.  i went back to winnetka.  we were facebook friends who occasionally posted on each other’s walls.  but when was i honestly ever to meet her again?

on this trip to california, i thought maybe i’d get to see britney if i was in calabasas.  but alas, no.  most of the mountain community’s homes are in gated areas and candice’s home is no different.  but it’s no, no britney, no neverland.  her house is beautiful but her focus is on raising her two daughters to be polite, well mannered, responsible women.  which candice does by reminding her daughters at every moment that in every situation there are choices.  it is how i tried to raise joseph and eastman.

the family served a dinner of ribs, corn, salad and candice’s homemade cookies.  they have two dogs, one of whom welcomed me by laying on my feet–the other is a recently adopted rescue dog who has a habit of finding lightbulbs and trying to eat them.  after dinner, the girls put on a play for everybody in their playroom.  i was made aware that beauty does not come from the exterior of things, it comes from the conscious choices we make.  as i left the home, the two daughters jordan and mackenzie–dressed as sleeping beauty and tinkerbell respectively, waved their tiny magic wands and blessed my journey.

then i went to my safe place in california, the home where i cannot have anxiety attacks, the place from which i adventure–

i cannot have an anxiety attack in room 212. that would be impossible because it's a safe place.


then i have to take william clark (f2fb #60) to manhattan beach to meet my facebook friend cathy who is training in reiki, a japanese form of healing.

mr. clark believes sometimes we should stop and hang out, especially at beaches

sex tapes, artistes, and st. willebad celebrations!

everything is three hours away from anything else in los angeles, as near as i can tell.  and every self-respecting starlet and congressman has a sex tape or at least a self-portrait on the market, so i stopped in at creative artists agency.  they said i wasn’t a vivid or girls gone wild type.  they said they would try to position me with disney.

the people are so cool about decorating their houses for the holidays.  today is june seventh, st. willibad of wessex day.  here is how some angelenos decorated their house–

look at the st. willibad garlands on this fence!


los angelenos are exuberant artistes and they don’t require a gallery to show their work.  i was standing on the corner of sunset boulevard and silver lake, when i saw two youths creating a mural on the side of a building across the street.  unfortunately, every self-respecting avenue in los angeles has seven lanes in either direction so by the time i crossed, the two artistes had taken their spray paint cans and their ladder.  this is when i observed that everyone here takes their physical exercise seriously.  those dudes were fast!

embedded within this painting was an invitation to join the homeboys

there are a lot of social clubs in los angeles, like the university club and the union league club in chicago.  i think i would like to join the homeboys.

i met with becky hirschmann, who is a winnetka native forging a career as an actress in los angeles.  she used to be in children’s theater with my two sons.  i was amazed at how beautiful and poised she is–but then again, of all the gals i met in children’s theater, i always knew she would have her own television show.  she didn’t know much about my project to meet every one of my facebook friends.  she was surprised i am scared of flying–i didn’t want to alarm her by listing all the other things i’m afraid of.  but she was delighted to find out that she’s f2fb #145 and we bought a tiara to commemorate the occasion:

i will see becky again when she comes back to winnetka soon, or when i end up back in california (which i will since i have a lot of facebook friends here).  also, if she makes it big, she has promised me a guest house invitation!

then i headed for calabasas to meet my next facebook friend candice appleton vaughn.  calabasas is, as winston churchill opined, a gated community within a gated community within a gated community.  i expected trouble getting past the gates. . . but i had heard that britney spears lives somewhere nearby, so i’m in! and maybe i can get my new homeboys to help me!

my best anxiety attacks i reserve for the san diego expressway, highway 405 and the ventura freeway,  #101.


what kind of people name an airline “spirit”?  are they cheerleaders?  are they members of the school show choir?  do they believe in paranormal activity?

i’m just having the usual anxiety attack in the gate waiting for the los angeles flight.  i’ve done my part–i’ve brought my fiance william clark (f2fb #60), the lucky flight plan, two rosaries, one evil eye medallion, and enough ativan to put down ALL the horses at arlington race track.  but i’m still a little scared.  this is my most ambitious trip–six days in los angeles and san diego.  i am looking forward to the friends.  i even got an invitation from jeff goldblum to watch him play jazz (thank you ann!) but alas i can’t attend this event.  i have a packed schedule. . . but first i have get myself on the plane.

last night,  i went to geoff moore’s birthday bash.  i met geoff (f2fb #144) when he auditioned for a show i was writing and directing–he wouldn’t have been so nervous if he knew that everybody who showed up for the audition was going to have a part!  i’ve never done a show without him.  he is particularly good at being shot to death.

and making hamburgers, apparently.

my small goal is to be at friend 168, midway through the list, on july one.  i have a new york trip, new england sprint, an ohio driveby, and then out to alaska–and beyond!

but first,