Friday, February 26, 2010

P.A.P.S. (Pretty amazing post script):

A precious friend of Katherine's has a connection to the manager of the movie star mentioned in the previous blog. She forwarded her the link to the blog.

The manager sent back this message:

Funny enough, I knew all about her encounter with them. She called me as she drove away and said how she had met this incredible woman and her mother. Funny how the world works... Really wonderful story. I sent this to her. Thanks again. Xo 

Yes, it is so very funny how the world works, isn't it?

Thursday, February 25, 2010


My sister-in-law and nephew flew in from Connecticut and Virginia over the weekend for a visit. To celebrate, we went to lunch at Shutters, one of our favorite happy places in Santa Monica. A casually elegant hotel, it sits right on the beach. The restaurant is on the bottom level, providing easy access. We are especially fond of it because we can take James out for a run and a little sand-throwing while awaiting our order.

We had a wild, rollicking family lunch. Afterwards, my sister-in-law and I walked upstairs to have coffee in the cozy lobby…and there she was.

Framed by a large window, where the sun was finally beginning to shine out from behind the day’s clouds, was a Famous Movie Star.

She wore not a stitch of makeup. I guess it’s true…it’s not cool for actors to wear any when they’re not on set. And yet she was luminously beautiful, her high cheekbones accented in the harsh light, her translucent skin glowing.

She sat at a table with three men who were pitching a project for her.

I don’t know what it was, or whether she liked it or not, but she seemed to listen respectfully. She laughed a loud laugh…the kind our family laughs…several times.

I admire that in a Famous Person, who must be careful about Public Persona.

Our 'larger-than-life' family flailed around the scene…having one last coffee…trips to the Ladies’ Room…James throwing the cushions off the elegant furniture in the lobby.

We left by a side door, but I found myself presenting my valet ticket at the same time as she…who had evidently driven to the meeting alone.

I looked down into my wallet, pretending not to notice that I was inhabiting the same space as a Famous Person.

Then, I decided that was even dumber than acknowledging it.

When she looked up, I guess I kind of smiled at her. I said something completely inane like, “You’re even prettier in person.”

(My family ROLLED ON THE FLOOR…screamed… in embarrassment when I recounted this later. “Mom, you’re such a NERD.”)

But it was true.

And it was exactly the kind of thing I would have said to one of my kid’s friends, upon meeting her in real life, when I had only seen her on their Facebook page.

She was…


A real, live, human being. Flesh and blood, like you and me.

She initiated a conversation.

She thanked me for my compliment. And then she began to ask me about me.

Was I visiting LA? Did she notice an accent from TEXAS?

(I put emphasis upon this because virtually every person in Los Angeles who has EVER commented upon my accent has assumed that I am from TEXAS. It will require a whole ‘nother blog to address this issue.)

I replied that, no, I was not visiting from Texas, but that I lived here (in LaLaLand) more than half the time now. But I am actually a Georgia resident.

“Where in Georgia?” the Famous Person asked, even though she easily could have ended the conversation at that point.

“Athens…where the University is…” (i.e., “We speak English there, not Deliverance-ese…”)

“Oh, yes,” she said. “Of course I know it. We have a place outside of Savannah.” Then she went on to tell me where she grew up.

My grandson was running around in the car circle now, chased by his great-aunt. When she looked that way, I told her, “But now I’m out here a lot helping to take care of my grandson. My daughter had a stroke.”

At that moment, Katherine and Jay walked out of Shutters. Jay helped Katherine get settled on a bench behind us. I turned that way, and said, “This is my daughter, Katherine.”

She immediately went over to Katherine and introduced herself. (As If.)

And sat down on the bench next to her.

They started talking away like any two young moms would talk. “How many children do you have?” “Where do they go to Preschool?” “How do you like it?”

She said to Katherine, “I guess you spend most of your time in Rehab now.” Katherine acknowledged that. She asked, “But you want to have other children some day?” Katherine may have given her TMI on that one.

Then Katherine said, “You probably don’t remember this, but we’ve met before. I was the presenter at an awards show a couple of years back. I got to hand you your award.”

Life is strange.

I wandered away at that point to check on James. He had mounted someone’s bike, and my sister-in-law was trying to keep him from falling off and starting a domino effect with the other bikes.

They pulled our car up. (Before the Famous Person’s, even though she had given them her ticket first.)

Neither Jay nor I had any cash for a tip. I ran back over to the bench and interrupted the conversation to ask Katherine if she had any. Instantly, her new acquaintance whipped out her purse and tried to hand me some ones. “Oh no,” I protested. In the meantime, Katherine had produced a five. “Okay,” she said, “I’ll give you five ones for that.”

Just like any girlfriend would.

I thanked her and told her it was great to meet her. I started to run for the car; but for some reason, I looked at her and said, “Take care.”

That night, I googled her to see what movies she’s been in recently. I don’t have a whole lotta time to keep up with popular culture these days.

But I didn’t read about the movies.

I read about the stalker.

He’s been terrorizing her for 8 years. He was finally arrested just two months ago, lurking outside her daughter’s preschool.


Yesterday, a handy man was here hanging blinds on the windows. My new abode is very close to a busy sidewalk, so privacy is imperative. I got scared the other night, peeking out the window at someone standing on the corner for what I thought was an unusually long time. Paranoia.

Opening my new blinds this morning, I notice how efficient they are in shutting out things I don’t want to allow in. I want to shut out prying eyes…shut out danger…shut out the cold. Shut out things I don’t want to see.

The analogy comes: Fear can make us shut other people out. Those who lead an anxious, shuttered existence try to hide their true selves behind opaque blinds of self-protection. But in keeping others out, we also barricade ourselves away from the possibility of connection… communion…love.

I kept thinking about our new acquaintance in this context.

I can’t think of anyone who has more right to close herself up, yank the blinds shut, and whistle for the guard dog than does she. As if being stalked by a dangerous, delusional “born-again Christian” (per the press) weren’t enough, she is stalked 24 hours a day by greedy paparazzi, searching her trash bins for a scrap to feed the gossip machine. She can’t pick up her child from preschool without becoming a walking target. Every click of a camera shutter must feel like a bullet piercing the vest of her privacy.

I’d want to shutter myself away if I were in her place. Keep up my guard. Avoid eye contact with people.

But she opened herself up to be kind and gracious. Generous and compassionate. She put herself out there…cracked a little window into her world.

She even told Katherine where her child goes to school.

Her desire to be real was greater than her fear of being vulnerable.

That is true beauty.


Her attitude toward us was inspirational. Two days later, I “paid it forward” to a homeless man.

Pass it on.

p.s. If anyone decides to take up this open yourself up to someone you might not ordinarily open yourself up allow yourself to be vulnerable...I'd love to hear your story.

Thursday, February 18, 2010


I told Jay and Katherine that I was going to stroll James up the hill to the Public Park, but I just didn’t have the energy. My family sometimes wears me out. They were all around for Valentine’s weekend.

It was great, but I was tired. So we wandered over toward the main square in Culver City instead, where James might find an ice cream, and his grandmother might find lunch without having to fix it.

For some reason, there is a weird dancing lion in the center of the square, surrounded by randomly erupting geysers of water.

It was…at last…a warm, pretty L.A. day, so we were not disturbed by the lack of seating at Chipotle.

I sat on a bench in the square to consume my burrito bowl, while James stared at the big boys who flirted with the fountain. They were street-wise and savvy, and knew how to jump out of the way just before an eruption was about to occur.

I was glad that James was able to get a little dose of vitamin D from the recently-elusive sun. I glanced down at my burrito bag for a second to get settled. When I looked up, James had his little foot poised above the wet pavement. “You better not get wet, James,” I warned.

(If there’s a mud puddle anywhere in the county, that boy will find it and jump in it.)

I searched for utensils. When I glanced back up, James was getting a little spray.

“I told you not to get wet, James. Come back over here and finish your ice cream.”

He must not have heard me.

Suddenly, the playful 2-foot mini-sprays grew into Yellowstone Park eruptions.

The older boys jumped back just in the nick of time; James got soaked.

He looked back at me, astonished.

And died laughing.

I could sense the eyes of on-lookers waiting to see what my reaction would be.

I died laughing, too.

Then it turned into a free-for-all, with James as the ring-leader. The two older boys, who had stayed scrupulously dry before, saw how much fun James was having getting wet. They grew more and more daring. When they saw how James was reveling in the experience with complete abandon, it emboldened them to take greater risks. Before long, everyone was soaked.

The passers-by were astonished. I wish there had been hidden cameras somewhere. Their looks said, “Where are this child’s parents? Who is in charge here???”

The older boys were accompanied solely by their father, who didn’t know exactly how to respond to the situation. He made vague threats and admonitions, but it was obviously that he wasn’t terribly upset.

Then, their mother strolled up with a baby.

She didn’t think the scene was as funny as I did. She started yelling at the kids to get out of the water.

But they kept getting wetter and wetter.

And I just couldn’t stop laughing.



Like a lunatic.

Like someone who was completely losing it.

Maybe I was, but it felt


I gave James permission to get absolutely soaking wet in the middle of downtown Culver City without a change of clothes or a dry diaper. I gave him permission to get the only shoes that survived the move…suede ones at that…totally, soddenly saturated. Eventually, I gave him permission to take his clothes off in a public place and just DANCE in the water. Slip-sliding away in the Land of Oz.

Because, or course, the weird lion was supposed to be the Cowardly one from the Wizard. But no longer cowardly.

Other little boys passing by were drawn like moths to the light.

One group consisted of three brothers with their three nannies. One nanny per boy. (Two were infant twins.) I thought, There’s no way those nannies are going to let Little Lord Fauntleroy get wet.

A beautiful little redhead, he lingered on the outskirts looking wistfully at the wild boys running and sliding and laughing. My heart went out to him.

A couple came strolling by with their 2 or 3-year–old boy. They watched from the sidelines for quite a while. I was busy multi-tasking…trying to capture the scene on my Iphone while eating my burrito bowl at the same time. When I noticed the couple again, the mother was trying to talk the timid little boy into the fountain. She got in to coax him, not wanting him to be just a side-liner.

By this time, the first mother and I had begun talking. She said something about my “son.” (Remember, 50-year-olds have babies in LA.) I explained that he was my grandson, and before long a very condensed version of our story came out. Being a neurotic from the South, I tried to make excuses for being a bad disciplinarian. I said something like, “Oh, you know, indulgent grandmothers and all that. Because of our family’s circumstances, James doesn’t have much of a chance to play with other kids. I love to see him having so much fun.”

Something changed in her.

She got out her Iphone, too, and started taking pictures of her little boys having fun in the sun and spray. She let them take their shoes and shirts off in a public square and get just as wet as James.

It was a joy-fest.

At last, I decided it was time to go home. James was starting to get cold. Packing up the stroller with drenched little boy clothes, I looked up to see a beautiful sight:

Those nannies finally relented. That gorgeous little redhead jumped into the water to join in the baptism of Joy.

Strolling home with James wrapped up in my jacket, I reflected on the phenomenon I’d just witnessed. I realized something.

The desire for freedom is contagious.

(So is joy.)

Sometimes you have to break a few rules every now and then; defy conventions a little. Make exceptions. Move beyond your initial response. Do the unexpected. Lay down expectations. Live in the moment. Let your hair down. Relax. Stop and smell…

And give others permission to do so.

I am so glad that I gave James permission to be free that day.

Maybe we should do the same for each other.


“It is for freedom that Christ has set us free. Stand firm, then, and do not let yourselves be burdened again by a yoke of slavery.” (Galatians 5:1)

Monday, February 15, 2010

Missing Katherine

Hi Friends,

I have written a new post, but felt it was more appropriate to post it as a 'p.s.' on Katherine's Mom's Blog.

You can check it out here:

oh, heck, will somebody tell me how to do a link? In the meantime, click on the underlined address in the left column. (That was just for any other old lady technophobes who might be reading.)

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Space Heaters

Please just look at this thing.

It is a little box, 7 inches wide by 9 inches tall.

I had no idea that something this small could make such an enormous difference.

It has changed my life.

I’ve been cold before, but I’ve never stayed cold for a week. After a while, your body registers the sensation as a vague pain. Contrary to what you might imagine, even numbness can be strangely painful.

I felt it most in my hands, so it made doing everything harder. The shelves I attempted to paint one night definitely have a “distressed” look that was unintentional. Oh well. They go with the rest of the cottage.

I was surprised that it even hurt to breathe sometimes. Cold air invading the sensitive nostrils stung like noxious fumes. Those were the times that it was best to just give in and curl up in a ball in a blanket cave.

Although the electrician strongly advised against it, I broke down and bought the above item on Day 7. If I perish, I perish. At least I’ll be warm.

I woke up in heaven. No sharp, biting intake of air with the first breath of morning. Just luxurious warmth. It felt good to wake up, instead of like a punishment. I almost broke out into “Zippy-dee-doo-dah.”

But I was chastened in my quiet time.

Oh, what a spoiled brat I am. Forgive me for viewing gifts as rights.

Inevitably, my thoughts turned to my former neighbors, the Bench People.

I wanted to rush back out to Rite-Aid and buy about a hundred of these little miracle machines and hand them out on Westwood Drive.

But the recipients wouldn’t have any place to plug them in.

It is stunning to me that such a small, cheap, insignificant thing could make such a world of difference.

It made me think about a couple of times when people have told me that some small gesture of mine had made a huge difference in their lives. In one case, even the difference between life and death.

I had hesitated in making the gesture, thinking I had too little to give. Not wanting to give ‘just an onion,’ as Dostoyevsky said, thinking an apple might be preferred.

A $19 space heater warmed up the whole house:

A subtle reminder that something simple, small, and paltry…not costly to me…might fill an empty space in someone’s heart with the warmth of God’s love.


Good News Update: This was started several days ago. Since then, the Gas Co. has come, the heat is on (although not without other challenges), and we are feeling much more sane. The painting is finally finished, and Katherine, Jay, and James have spent the night in their new home. Alleluia! (Hallejuah! in Southern-Speak.) Thanks for all the support through yet another transition. Katherine and Jay have the most wonderful friends in the whole world. There is no way we can ever, ever repay. We love you!!!

Monday, February 8, 2010


I’m not exactly known as the neatest person on the planet.

I’m probably in the lower 50% in terms of laziness.

…or should that be in the “top 50% of laziness”?

You get the point.

I’m not particularly anal about cleanliness and order.


However, this is a bit much, even for messy me.

If Robin Williams were to visit, he would most likely go into one of his voices from Mrs. Doubtfire: “Yes, dahlings, we were going for the Tres Chic Cambodian Refugee Look here.” On dropping by unannounced, Martha Stewart might direct her fan club to “Note the faaabulous folding bamboo furniture that can be thrown on the back of a water buffalo at a moment’s notice.”

Or maybe we’re White Russian aristocrats in flight from the encroaching Communists. Camping out in someone’s attic with all of our remaining possessions massed around us in piles.

Stop being so dramatic, Kim.

It’s only temporary.

Still. I’m not as young as I used to be. Things aren’t as easy. I need a little order.

I can’t find anything.

It’s strangely unsettling.

Okay, that part was written as we were living through dismantling the apartment where Katherine, Jay, James, and I were all staying. Some of the stuff from their place at Casa Colina was stacked around the walls. Some of the youngest sister’s belongings that made it to California, but not into the dorm room, were crammed into nooks and crannies. It was a danger zone of random disorder.

Since then, we’ve experienced The-Never-Ending-Move. The bamboo is officially unfolded in it's new home. Katherine, Jay, and James are currently ensconced in the historic hotel where the Munchkins actually did stay during the filming of “Oz.” It hasn’t been renovated since. Still, it has its quirky charm. AND it’s better than attempting fit into the Munchkin Manor (my husband’s designation) with Mimi while the main house is being painted by Jay and the world’s greatest friends.

As my long-suffering son-in-law says, the past week has been a game of Tetris. The tenants weren’t out of Jay and Katherine’s house until the night before the official moving day. The lady who was renting the storage area that goes with the house wasn’t out until the night of the move. As a result, Jay had to fill up my storage area with their stuff from Westwood. I had the movers leave about half of my belongings in the back yard because they wouldn’t fit into the Manor. It’s been a fascinating exercise in creative storage. Fitting a lot into a little.

Then, The Pod was delivered. This was like opening a time-capsule from the day when Jay and Katherine’s picture-perfect life in Malibu was abruptly interrupted by tragedy. There’s also a storage unit somewhere that is yet to be unveiled.

So, during this past cold and rainy week, we’ve moved and moved and moved again. Sometimes it’s felt like we’re moving around in an unending circle.

Unfortunately, we’ve been having serious miscommunications with the Gas Company. For almost a week, I have lived with no heat, no hot water, no oven/stove, and no washer/dryer. Thankfully, I finally got TV and internet.

It’s been in the low 40’s at night. Bizarrely, it is much colder inside the house than outside. The first night, I slept in my Uggs, down jacket, and fleece bathrobe, with a pashmina around my neck, husband’s hat on my head, and gloves.

Now I’m getting tough and hardy. Pioneer woman. Last night I skipped the hat, gloves, and Uggs. I’m getting used to living in the 19th Century.

Except for one thing: you have to really need to go potty, as it’s like sitting bare-bottomed on an iceberg. Still, I suppose it’s better than an outhouse.

I finally had a complete meltdown with the Gas Company yesterday. (Loud voice and dramatic crying on the phone.) But this morning, as I type with numb un-nimble fingers, I realize that this experience has been a gift.

For over a week, I have been given just a tiny tiny taste of what it must feel like to be a refugee. To be displaced, disoriented, disempowered. At the mercy of others. Continuously cold and dirty. Clinging to bags of meaningless belongings. Confused and lost. Longing to go back home.

It has been a good experience for me. I have taken so many things in my life for granted. I think it’s important to be shaken up every now and then. I realize how easily we become used to our little creature comforts, our neat routines, our ways of doing things. This has forced me to think about the people who don’t live the way I am privileged to live. There are so many who exist in the Land of Nightmares rather than living the American Dream.

The Displaced Ones.

Just look around.

I see them every day here in the City of Angels, carting their meager bags from corner to corner.

Looking for someplace warm…a refuge from the elements.

I see the Haitian people seeking refuge in tents because their homes and lives were destroyed.

But I also see the beautiful, smiling eyes of a little boy who arrived yesterday from Rwanda, country of refugees. Embraced by his new parents, he is welcomed into our faith family by a circle of love.
He is finally home.* 

It occurs to me that in many ways, we are all just aliens trying to get a visa…

nomads on a pilgrimage…

strangers in a strange land…

Refugees trying to find our way back home.


“We are aliens and strangers in your sight, as were all our forefathers. Our days on earth are like a shadow…” (I Chronicles 29:15)
“And they admitted that they were aliens and strangers on earth… If they had longed for the country they came from, they could have gone back. But they were looking for a better place, a heavenly homeland. That is why God is not ashamed to be called their God, for he has prepared a city for them.” (Hebrews 11: 13-16)