Category Archives: California

Remember When I was Wild?

skiingnonGot to watch “Wild” last night thanks to a DVD copy from our friends. Great movie. I’m so happy that Reese Witherspoon produced the film so more people can know about this woman’s crazy story. When I was 14, I spent 28 days in the Central Cascades doing Outward Bound. That experience at such a young age really shaped my life. As a teenager and young adult I became avid backpacker and counted the peaks I had climbed. At 18 I climbed to the top of Mt. Witney in one day with my dad.  I dreamed that one day I would hike the Pacific Coast Trail. My friendships revolved around crazy backpacking adventures. I worked so I could buy Tevas, a stove, a better pack, the perfect bag. Given how I live these days — in a high rise building in New York City with a doorman with a husband who loves fancy hotel stays,  I guess I’ve changed a lot since my wild “walking” days. I also have a bad back, so I doubt that will ever hike the PTC. There was some point in my life when I could sleep anywhere, and I did — on trains, futons – ha ha — on the ground, upside down…instead of inside a hotel, in Athens, I slept on a hotel rooftop in my sleeping bag. I was the opposite of  luxurious. Why would I stay in a fancy hotel when I can sleep in my tent? Why would I drive a car when I can walk, ride a bike or if I have to take a bus? That was my mindset all the time. That’s who I was until….I got interested in playwriting,  and shortly after that, I started working in advertising…and started to meet more sophisticated people. I can recall the people I worked with in advertising never worked before the age of 22. I’d been working since I was 15. At 26 I got my nails (and toes)  done at a salon for the very first time.  These days I get my mani-pedi once a week. A luxury. I made fun of people who got their nails done when I was wild.

Despite my lifestyle changes over the years, I will  never completely change. I’m considering getting my groove on for some Snowboarding today. I grew up here, near the mountains. My friends were big into boarding and skiing and I often came along for the ride when they were off on their “Black Diamond” runs and I was stuck in some snow hole. But a manufactured glide down a crowded mountain, however beautiful, was never totally my thing. I was never super great at skiing or snowboarding. But as backpacker, I soared. I love a good hike, the fresh air, the view, the challenges, being one with nature.

Ghost Story

I spent the day with my children up at my mom’s today. We played in the back yard for most of the afternoon. It was so warm…and then I was consumed with the oddest memory — it was with me pulsing in my heart all day. I remembered the first time my first real boyfriend came up to my house. We live up on a mountain, so it’s far.  First you go to the middle of nowhere and we are a twenty minute drive from there. The boyfriend was Miles McNaught and my mom picked him up in Petaluma and we drove up the hill together. We went for a walk, I showed him all around and we had dinner with my mom and he went home later that night. We were so nuts for each other (honestly nuts) that we couldn’t even kiss, not really…and though that’s what we spent a lot of time doing — -that’s not how we spent our time on that particular day. We held hands and walked with my dog Moe out to the point that overlooked the city that was so far off in the distance that we could only hear each other. Then Moe ran off and I had to chase him. The day must have been warm like today, but it wasn’t July. We first started dating in March of 1986, so his first visit to my house must have been in April of that year. Ah. Such a beautiful time in my life.

I was absolutely heartbroken when Moe died when I was 22. My darling dog, who I loved with all my heart. By the time Miles passed away on Thanksgiving 2010, he wasn’t my boyfriend anymore. We had long ago broken up and I had married someone else, who I love, but Miles and I had stayed close; he was my very special friend.  We had such beautiful memories and there was always this spark between us. We always laughed and hugged each other as if we were still teenagers. He meant the world to me; and I to him and I knew it without ever questioning it.  Let’s face it, I can certainly live, because life is such a beautiful gift, but it’s  hard to live without your first love in the world. There are still things I want to ask Miles. I still feel him near me. It’s not every day, or even every week. These deep days, like today are rare, but when they happen it’s kind of awesome. I’m standing in the kitchen at my mom’s and I’m doing something with my 20 month old and suddenly he’s there, laughing at me. I turn as if I am 16….and nothing. The laughter was my three year old in the other room.

Fall Fabulous – 3;1

I’m always fabulous in the fall months, and now I have proof: Both my kids’ were born in October, so I know that I’m fabulous in the fall.

As usual I’m suddenly busy in the fall, when I was downright slovenly during the summer. Come fall, I’m always thinking longingly on the summer that was. Last year, I was recalling the relaxing moments of the summer before I had a new baby and stopped sleeping for 7 months.

Summer of 2012 — I’ll always remember when I had time to do play dates practically every day with my mom and girlfriends and our kids in the back yard on Sonoma Mountain. I’ll remember driving Maya in her mini car to Gommy’s garden to pick strawberries. I’ll remember sitting outside and looking at the stars and talking about the snakes, spiders and lurking mountain lions. Ah hell…just getting to be in California was nice. I’ll remember taking Maya to the jumpy castle at the Farmer’s Market every Thursday in Cotati. I’ll remember how every single time we’d go there she’d make me dance with her on the grass while the bands played (good bands too) and how I felt kind of like an idiot dancing around, but it didn’t matter because we were having so much fun. I’ll remember when my big “deal” that I’d been working on and stressing about for a year fell a part and I suffered in silence because no one knew what I was going through. Then, I found an alternative….and came back to New York. My oldest daughter just turned 3, started pre-school, dropped her nap, switched to a two story big-girl bed, stopped sucking on her paci and now goes on the potty 90% of the time. My baby (there’s two kids) is into everything — especially eating. I call her the trash compactor. I’m happy…and busy. I’m watching the election process. Freaked out.

Five Things I’ve Learned (about being a mom that is).

So now that I am six months into being a mom of 2 what have I learned? A lot, Here’s five short lessons from my first half a year of having two little ones.

#1.) Time Management 101. I had heard this one before, but 3PM is too late to do anything. Maybe not for the rest of the world, but for us moms 3PM is LATE. Are you kidding by 3PM I am pooped! Note to self: Please get a sitter in the am.

#2.) Poopie Diapers! Everyone’s favorite topic, I know. But when you have kids you talk about it a lot. I don’t know why it took me so long to figure this one out. Don’t throw poopie diapers in the diaper pail. Put them in plastic bags and throw them out — as in out of your house — immediately. For 2 plus years I wondered why my daughter’s room was so stinky.

#3.) In case of Emergency!  Not packing a diaper bag? No worries.  You don’t really need it — or do you? One day I took my 2-year-old out to a birthday party in Brooklyn. It was just the two of us. We were having so much fun. She seemed like such a big girl now, holding my hand and walking beside me.  Ooops. I forgot somehow that she wasn’t potty trained. She talks so well that we just ran out the door and whoops! I was calling my husband: “Hurry up with that diaper, Oh my god.”

So after that day I decided to make a little emergency pack in my regular purse for both girls. Oh, I am so, so organized I thought to myself when putting it together. In a plastic bag I put the following: 2 diapers – one for the big girl, one for the baby, A small bottle of formula — just in case — a nipple for the top that is still the wrapper, something that can be used as a wet wipe in an emergency, hand sanitizer and a small Luna bar for mommy. Again, so frigging organized right?  You don’t know how many times I’ve eaten the Luna bar or pulled out the hand sanitizer. Hmmm…what’s missing from this awesome emergency baby packet? Today I knew. A pacifier. Argh! (This is where I swear).

Okay, so I took both girls out to a mama lunch with mama friends this afternoon with our babes. It was my two-year-old’s nap time, but I thought, she can make it, right? Wrong. She wanted her pacifier and I had been out on an audition earlier and only had my purse with me. Poppy had brought her to school. We weren’t thinking about what we didn’t have.  I looked all over and there was no pacifier to be found. A pacifier could have calmed the savage beast that my daughter turned into. She was out-of-control, like I hadn’t seen her since she was 15-months-old (the good old days I call them). As soon as I got the girls home, I put a pacifier in my emergency pack. What else am I missing? Not sure yet.

4. Are you a mom who auditions for commercials? Sometimes I still get invited to audition for commercials. I was an actress — yo. And I used to be pretty cute. But that was BEFORE I had 2 kids back-to-back. I don’t even look like a mom now, I look like a creature who came out of a cave who is starved and certainly due for a hair cut. As my husband so sweetly put it: “At those castings they are looking for fake moms.” You know, super hot, skinny moms who have perfectly gorgeous whitened teeth. Yes, of course I realize  that some of those skinny bitches are also moms. They probably put a fire out on there way there too. Whatever. My current size is actually the size of a plus-size model, but model I am not. I look so tired that I hardly recognize myself. I guess my agent hasn’t seen me lately (hope he doesn’t read this – ha!). Truth is, I like going out to these auditions, even if I most-likely won’t be cast, at least not in my current state. It’s a small reminder of my old life, the old me. You know the me that once had a job in an office. The me that dressed up to go out of the house once in awhile and looked put together.  More and more I catch myself going out in clothes once reserved for bedtime, or uh Target shopping in California. To go out in NYC wearing sneakers when your are not on your way to a workout is uh, not cool. It’s a New York City faux-pax. At least for me it is, I mean was. Now I’ve got a baby sleeping right in front of my closet, so I just grab whatever is there that might fit me. Turns out, nothing fits. It’s all either too big or too small. And my hairdo these days – pulled back mom do. But I’ve been rocking this look for years.  The difference? I go days without washing it now, or even brushing it sometimes. The other day I found that I had grown a dread lock. Yes, seriously. My hair also grew long when I wasn’t looking.  I guess when you don’t have time for hair….it’s time to pour perfume oil on your dread locks?

So I’m all set for my “mom” audition today. I got up pretty early, had time to shower and really put my face on. I nearly saw the old me behind those long dreamy eye lashes. I looked pretty good. I combed my hair, but didn’t really have time to blow it dry, so I put it up. Wet. I swear it looked good when I left.

When I got to the audition and saw all these beautiful versions of me with their perfectly coiffed  blown dry. I realized I had made a mistake. Hmm. Maybe I should wear my hair down?  Oh, can’t do that, it’s wet and I forgot to bring a comb. (Note to self: put an emergency comb in that bag).

What was I thinking? You don’t go to an audition with wet hair. I also had the baby in the carrier on my chest. She fell asleep and I had to go on camera with her there. Oy. Well, she at least covered my fat tummy. I’m not exactly waiting for my phone to ring.

5. Do something for yourself every day. Like today, I’m doing this blog. This is fun for me. Ah. Feels good.


The Year of Lost and Found

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“So who is that? He sure is cute and nice,” said my mom. “He’s my new boyfriend, mom.” “Oh…really?” she said. I just looked out the window and smelled that fresh air. Yes, this is what love feels like and I’m in it…so in it. Continue reading

Sonoma County

Oh how I love you. I love you so much that I almost named my daughter Sonoma! Yes, I did. My Russian husband totally nixed the idea, so it didn’t happen –but yes, Sonoma you are a beautiful county. Now why did I move to New York? Oh yeah, I wanted the excitement and I imagined myself running around wearing a writer’s cap and sitting in cafes — writing plays. Or maybe I imagined myself in plays or maybe I just loved the idea of New York. Carrie Bradshaw kind of took me with her on that journey. And hey, I love New York — everyone knows that. If you’re curious about my love of New York City, just read my other blog – I’m the Greenwich Village Examiner for goodness sake.

So I’m in the town of Sonoma today, sitting in the Sunflower Caffe on the square. I spent the early part of the day doing a pilates session with my good friend Susan Aslin, who is an amazing pilates teacher. Whoa — so much better than anything I’ve ever gotten in New York.  But I haven’t done pilates in nearly two years and my abs are, um — a mess. So much about having a baby that no one tells you.

Anyway, Sonoma county is full of my good friends doing great things. My family is here and it’s beautiful.It smells like grapes even when you see cows.

I didn’t see everyone in the world on this trip, but I did enough. I shared my baby Maya with my mom and dad. We took her swimming, watched her stand for the first time and taught her to suck from a straw.

She loves it here, just like her mom.

I’m Back, sort of

Happy New Year! I haven’t written anything for a long time. I’ve been away on maternity leave. I had a baby in October, so I’ve been busy. And, as cliché as it sounds, my life has really changed this year. It’s amazing and it’s very hard to wrap my head around how staggering it is to be a mom, mentally, physically and otherwise.  No one can tell you how wonderful it is. It’s absolutely one of those things you need to experience to believe – and the hardest thing you’ll ever do. Not surprisingly, my conversations and concerns have been all about baby – and I must admit I haven’t gotten out much in the past few months, so I haven’t had much to say.

I was joking the other day when I was out ever-so-briefly that it’s wonderful to see New York City even if it’s only from a cab window.  I drove by my old haunts the other day – The café Grounded on Jane street and thought — oh how much I want to go in and order a coffee and write….but no, it’s not even close to possible.  My life as I knew it is now over.

This was a rather weird year for me, I’ve been pregnant and a new mommy for the whole year…and I moved – such transitions make for lots of confusion.

About a month before the baby was due my husband and I moved to Tribeca or Baby Park City, which is what I call it.  I’m not kidding, it’s all babies all the time.  I recently joined the Hudson River Park Mommies Group, which is pretty hard-core email group for mommies who live downtown.  Strollers are a common sight down here – about as ubiquitous as cars — and every time you stop to chat to one of the mommies you find out she’s a part of “HRP.” As soon as you are a mommy your conversations and concerns change.  Mommies talk about poopies, breastfeedings, pediatricians, playgroups, sleep schedules, etc and it feels like it never ends. That’s what these women do – they talk. And now that’s me – I talk baby.

I’ll admit it, probably like most new mom’s I’ve been frustrated, irritated, annoyed and sometimes depressed. I’m resentful that my husband often sleeps till 2PM and then gets up and takes a two hour long shower.  Mommies never, ever get a break and I think that is what is so shocking about the whole new mom thing – we suddenly have much more responsibility than our man. I have felt like I’m drowning in New York at times.

But here’s a little bit of sunshine.  I’m in Sonoma Country, California at the moment. We are spending a few weeks here with my mom, hanging in her country home. I am nowhere near New York or the cold weather or the HRP mommies. I’m in hippy wine country.  It’s nice here. This is where I grew up. My husband and I get to sneak away for an hour or two and go to the mall while my mom watches the babe and we’re thrilled about it.  The best part is that I get to share my wonderful daughter with my family and friends which I wasn’t able to do in New York.   Last night my mom and I sang the baby  lullabies in the room she created for her (my brother’s old room) in the house where I was born and raised.   Life really does come full circle and having a child reminds you how precious, beautiful and amazing life really is. More to come, but for now, I am sending you all a little bit of Sonoma County fuzzy.

One last good one: Bullets, Bums and Barack

Hope. Now I have it.  I’m so excited to see what Barack Obama is going to do with his presidency!  I feel proud for the first time that I am an American; that I had the chance to vote, to make a difference.
My interview project is nearly complete.   From September 17th – November 4th, I attempted to interview one person a day as an exercise to keep me writing.  The result is pretty amazing.  It’s a journal of New York City as we prepared to elect the first Black president.   On September 17th, the day after I arrived  in New York after spending two weeks in California, I was suddenly overwhelmed by the beauty of the city in the fall.  It was as if someone had put V-juice in my coffee.  Or, I was in love again with New York.  The trees, the air, the people…everything was cracking with change.

Continue reading

The Magic of Inverness

I think Inverness is my favorite place on earth.  With its rolling forest covered hills, Oak and Bay trees, calm ocean inlets, chirping birds and wild life – it’s simply majestic.   I love everything about being home in the Bay Area.  From driving in my mom’s car, to stopping at the Apple Box in Petaluma, to walking the dog (must do that) up on the mountain, to wine tasting in Sonoma – it’s all great.  But nothing beats Inverness and Pt. Reyes.  I grew up on Sonoma Mountain, so the wine country (the more arid country) was familiar to me.  But Inverness was introduced to me when I became friends with Helena when I was about 20.   Helena and I had a lot in common.  We had both recently moved back to northern California after living in France.  We both liked theater.  I think we met in an acting class, which given how different our lives have become seems odd.

Random, but just as I was writing this, I found this article on Yahoo.  I woke up in Inverness and spent the morning drinking coffee in Pt. Reyes.  I love this town!

Point Reyes Station, Calif.

Population: 818
Nearest City: San Francisco, 39 miles
The dilemma in Point Reyes Station is what to do first: explore Point Reyes National Seashore or just wander around and eat. At Toby’s Feed Barn, second-generation owner Christian Giacomini runs a farmers market, gallery, and yoga studio, while still selling hay and salt licks. Also inside, the baristas at Toby’s CoffeeBar pour cappuccinos with rippled hearts in the foam. Nearby, Cowgirl Creamery produces excellent soft-ripened cheeses, such as the Pierce Point, which is made from organic whole milk, washed in organic Riesling, and rolled in herbs. When you’re ready to experience some nature, Chicago native Laurie Manarik leads hiking trips to see seal pups and conducts nighttime kayaking excursions to check out bioluminescence in nearby Tomales Bay. The bay’s oysters, it must be said, are the best around. Eat them where locals do—up the road at The Marshall Store. The beautiful scenery may make you want to put down roots. “After my first visit after college, I spent the rest of my life figuring out how to live here,” Manarik says. — Scott Hutchins

Unicorns, Bears, Sugar Pine Trees and old Russian proverbs.

This weekend the Russian part of my family took over. Half of my husband’s Russian family lives in L.A.(his dad, stepmom, aunt, grandma and cousin) so once a year I make the trek and we do something special in the LA area.

Last year we skipped the LA trip and went far east to Moscow to see the other side of his family (his mom and step dad)  in 2007.  Highlights from that trip included agreeing to be interviewed for the International NTV channel (in Russian) and taking his parents to the Le Meridien in Moscow for a few days, which is a very nice hotel, especially for his mom and dad who don’t do fancy things. We bought his mom a swimsuit and it was actually the first time she’d swam in a pool in twenty years! Can you imagine? This made me very happy. I enjoyed watching from the sidelines  in between reading my amazing book: Suite Francaise.

This year, we decided to travel on the cheap (sort of).  We just did a two-day backpacking trip to Sequoia National Park, which is about two and a half hours from Los Angeles. I didn’t really want to go, but now that it’s over, I must say, I had a great time, and I felt extremely present, which isn’t always the case. We are an interesting little family unit when we all get together. We are all funny. The Paperny family is one of the funniest and interesting groups of people that I have ever met, so coming from an equally goofy family (but in a different way) I think our families mix well together — or, I think I mix well with them.

Dmitry, my husband is the funny one, who really keeps the group together. He’s the planner and has everything organized (he secretly bought me a new back pack for the trip by measuring me while I was asleep). Dmitry is truly one of the most darling people that I have ever met in my life. So I guess I am glad that he’s my husband. His sister Tanya is much younger than us, but she’s very mature and interesting to talk to, so it makes us almost even. At only 22 she’s working her first real job in youth advocacy in D.C. She is really into saving money and living on “what she has now” (I went through a phase like that too). She’s already volunteered in New Orleans twice! When she lost her cell phone, we gave her one of our old ones instead of her buying a new one. She’s forgetful, has a bad back and already “doesn’t want to talk about work.”

Dmity’s dad, Vadik, a true intellectual Russian. He’s been living in LA for the past 25 years and has a design studio there. Though, outside of his design work, he is an “intellectual” on many things. He has a PhD and has written a book in Russia about architecture that his made him sort of celebrity in Moscow. Vadik spent his time teaching me a Russian proverb about an old man who planted a turnip that grew too big. I turned it into a rap song. Since we ran out of wine, I only learned half the song, which in English just sounds ridiculous….

When we get together, it always makes for fun times.

So anyway, the four of us took off like a pack of turtles and drove up to the park. We got a campsite and pitched our tents. The next morning we took off for our 7 mile hike, 3.4 up and 3.4 down. It was a long day, and at some point while you are huffing and puffing you are wondering “why?” It’s in moment’s like these that you are already imagining the hot tub at home (Dmitry’s dad has one) and the massage you’ll get and the burger at “In and Out Burger.” But at present, all you can do is feel the pain and try to breathe.

That night, I couldn’t sleep at all. I heard that a mama bear and her cub wandered around the campsite at night (but were “harmless”)….whatever. I kept imagining that a bear snout was going to come popping into my tent at any moment. It never happened, but I did peak out to see the giant sequoias and the stars. The stars were some of the brightest I’ve seen. And in that moment, one fell from the sky and I made a wish. A moment later, a deer or perhaps some other great animal began to graze on the nearby grass and this kept me up all night. Who’s eating the grass? A deer, a bear, something else? We decided later, when we went on a walk to “learn about the trees” that what we heard was a Unicorn and the small stretch of grass must be magical.

Early the next day we were invited to take a tour to learn all about the trees in our area. While I was trying to decide the difference between a Ponderosa and a Jeffereson or a Sugar Pine, White Fir and a Giant Sequoia, I became aware, awake and alive. We then continued on our walk to a cabin in the middle of the woods, which we were told was Grace Allen’s cabin, a woman who spent many summers living in this area. On our way to the cabin we saw old junk, pots and pans from 1890 all covered in rust. When we arrived at the door, a nice old lady came out dressed in some vintage settler’s attire a la 1898. She introduced herself as Grace Allen and asked if we wanted a cool glass of lemonade. She then said her father had moved here in 1880 to run the mill, and she was born here in this cabin in 1887, which would make her about 141 years old, perhaps the oldest person in the world. Huh? My eyes popped out of my head. Huh? But she only looks about 80. What’s going on here? Is this place the fountain of youth? Am I just tired? No, perhaps I’m just waking up.