A Birthday Essay From 2007
Now Playing: One Day More - Les Miserables
In November 2007, my mother was celebrating her 55th birthday and was having some reflecting time when she wrote me an email asking me to write a birthday essay about my life. She and I have lived thousands of miles apart since 1995 and rarely see each other, sometime for years at a time. At this time, she was feeling like she hardly knew me really and wondered if I had a good life; if it had been full. She felt she had missed so much and sometimes she felt she didn't know me. The following 'essay' (I use the term loosly as it is NOT my best writing, just a recounting of stuff) is what I sent to my mother. I have updated it a little to include some things that happened this last year:
Despite everything, my life has been a good one. Were I to go today, at least I could say that I accomplished a great deal for someone my age. Granted, I haven’t climbed mountains like the Alps or anything (I don’t count Mt. Baldy) – I’m afraid of heights and suffocating in the cold in the middle of nowhere – so sue me. I don’t scuba dive – again with the suffocating in the cold, but this time with a drowning twist. But hey, I have done a great deal.
I’ve backpacked through Europe by myself at age 18 – climbed the Waterloo monument (picture); stayed in a Paris apartment and walked the Seine River from Notre Dame to the Eiffel Tower which I then went to the top of and took pictures. I’ve seen the royal palaces of Belgium and the United Kingdom, and stood in buildings dating back to the first millennia of our common era. I have been to Stonehenge twice and touched the Avebury Stones. I’ve crossed the English Channel and sailed the Irish Sea. I’ve been to more castles than I can count on half a dozen hands, and more cathedrals, churches, grave yards, and historical sites (battlefields, museums, catacombs, etc) than anyone with less than either an Archeological or Historical degree.
I’ve been to 29 of the 50 states in the USA (the colored states are the only ones I haven’t been to). I’ve been at the top of the Empire State Building despite my fear of heights and saw the World Trade Center before 9/11. I have been to the top of the Haleakala volcano on Maui – again, despite my fear of heights and the terrible altitude sickness. I’ve been to Hawaii three different times in three different decades 1987, 1990, 2002. It was amazing to snorkel in Maui in January 2002 and listen to the Humpback whale song from perhaps two or three football fields from where they were breeching.
I have ridden on the backs of a camel, an elephant, and a horse – and poor Amy our Irish setter when I was like three or four. I have had many animals I have cared for in my life, one dog and one cat in particular I will never get over – Bandit my Belgian Sheppard, and Doobie, my little black and white kitty.
I have been to my fair share of concerts of all sorts be they classical orchestral shindigs or wild hard-rocking mosh-pit events, or huge stadium concerts. I’ve seen the Rolling Stones, Sting, Guns N Roses, Living Color, Steve Miller, Grateful Dead, Madonna, Motley Crue, Ozzy, Julian Lennon, Rick Springfield, Jerry Garcia Band, ZZ Top, Nickelback, Korn, Sevendust, Kid Rock, Puddle of Mudd, and a host of smaller opening acts I can’t even remember. Still, Les Miserables, The Phantom of the Opera, Elektra, and Annie Get Your Gun impressed me more. Yes, I’ve seen musicals and plays both in London and on Broadway – and even at the Dorothy Chandler Pavilion in Los Angeles, although Hansel & Gretel and The Nutcracker were immensely boring both times I saw them there. I’ve seen Samuel Ramey sing Mephistopheles from the front row; he nearly spit on me.
I can swim and dive. I used to waterski, snowski, and surf (thanks to Kathy G). I’ve played team sports like softball (again, thanks to Kathy G) and rode my bike all over West Los Angeles and the beach cities. Although skating isn’t something I like I can ice skate – barely. The most tiring experience of my youth though was marching through downtown Honolulu in a full drum major uniform in 90+ degree heat, not to mention the humidity, for more than two miles while performing with my mace and keeping time for the band. I barely walked away from that one. I was minutes from heatstroke. Thank goodness it started to rain at the end of the parade or I was sure I was going to die.
I took ballet lessons for a very short period of time. I am just not a dancer. I also took baton lessons, which I was very good at, imagine that. I even became a baton teacher for a while; my very first paid job at age 12. I am musical though, that’s for sure. I was the first female head drum major in my high school’s history. I can sing, play the piano, xylophone (and variations such as Vibes, and Marimba) and the baritone horn. I have written several songs, performed in several operas & musicals, performed at county fairs, and small venues all over California, and sung the National Anthem at large events. I do not have stage fright. I have been a keynote speaker at several conferences, and sat on the Board of Directors for the Northcoast Inter-Tribal Children’s Court. I was a Toastmaster and have been known to do the occasional Improv should I have a microphone thrust at me.
I’ve been in numerous weddings as Bridesmaids and Matron of Honor – my mother’s, Danielle’s, Brandy’s and Lisa’s – as well as being a vocalist at a few – Stacee’s and Amanda’s. AND been the bride in two – plenty for me, thanks! Sorry, but being the guest book girl is such an insult – so, no thanks to you Stacee (wedding #1).
I’ve had successful gardens growing everything from all kinds of herbs to onions, peas, and pumpkins. Flowers and odiferous offerings abounded from exotic star gazer and tiger lilies to lemon balm and chocolate mints. I have a decently green thumb when I care to express it, although, I admit, I go overboard when the moment takes me. The most I have ever spent on plants for my garden was $300 in one blow – talk about overkill.
I’ve camped A LOT, and I don’t know if I want to do that anymore. From Malibu, Zuma, and Ojai to Gold Beach in Oregon, all up and down California coast and into its interior even in January when it was less than 30 degrees outside I’ve been camping. Poor Honey’s water dish froze in under five minutes during one camping trip. Although I have had enough of camping, I still like house-boating. Best house-boating experience was on Lake Ouachita in Arkansas. It made Lake Mead in Nevada seem like a flatulent camel’s bung hole.
I’ve been through terrifying weather conditions and life threatening situations. Forest fires in mountainous Oregon trapped in a creek as the mountain burned above me, blizzards in the very same place. Tornados both in Kentucky and Kansas have gotten me running for shelter, one missing us by less than a mile. The largest earthquake to rock southern California in decades certainly gave my life a twist. Tremendous hail storms in Virginia with stones the size of baseballs that nearly broke my windshield and caused me to seek shelter under a freeway bypass while the storm passed were certainly thrilling. Flashfloods and lightning storms in Arizona were scary! One of the worst storms to hit southern Nevada filled with thunder, lightning, and downpours just so happened to hit while I was in a sinking boat on Lake Mead – yes, that’s a memory I don’t relish. I have skirted death enduring Mother Nature’s wrath quite a few times.
I am an accomplished cook. I wouldn’t go so far as saying chef, but I make good food people like. I am a hostess from the word go and have thrown many a successful party for all occasions. I love food. Let me say that again. I LOVE FOOD. I eat good bread (like sour dough and rye) and pasta and mashed potatoes with joy. I indulge in broccoli, spinach, and salads like it was chocolate. I absolutely love cheese – feta, gouda, gorgonzola, cheddar, brie – oh the list goes on and on. I am a carb-o-holic! I have eaten many things that most wouldn’t try – octopus, squid, quails eggs, escargot, pheasant, ostrich, buffalo, bear, elk, deer, eel, all kinds of fish and their roe (yes, caviar). I’ve even catered a few fundraisers, small parties, and a small wedding.
I have dated my fair share of men in my life – white, black, Christian, Jewish and otherwise. There has not been a period of more than four months when I have not had a boyfriend, lover, husband, etc since I was fifteen years old. Unbelievable? What can I say – men like me I guess. No matter what size I am, I have always had the pleasure of a man’s company. Have I always enjoyed it? Now, that’s debatable! I have had three men outright propose to me and received rings from them. I’ve had three other men seriously talk marriage with me, and I seriously considered marrying all of them. I ended up marrying two of them. These were my serious love interests: Jack Leach, Brian Newman, Mike Alber, Dan Taylor, my ex-husband Mike Arrasmith, and my current husband Matt Robbins. All the rest were just ‘boyfriends’ and guys that I dated – not loved – all 29 of them. The greatest age difference was between Dan Taylor, who was 31 at the time, and myself at age 19. Yeah, we talked about marriage and his children called me mommy. I was too young to become insta-mommy at age 19 to a five year old and a nine year old. Something else to note: 4 Brians, 5 Mikes, 2 Adams, 2 Pauls, and how about that Stone! There were other guys I went out on one or two dates with, and quite frankly I can’t remember their last names – so here is a salute to Terry, Chris #1, Chris #2, and Tim.
I have certainly held a lot of jobs: baton teacher Westminster Academy, peer tutor LAUSD Marina del Rey Jr. High, Pizza Man, Music Plus, Discount Library, Penguins Books & University Pub (in England), Petries Plus, Magic Mountain (2 separate occasions), JKF Travel Time Telemarketing, The Daily News, caretaker for Sean the Autistic Man, babysitter of two annoying Dutch children, Talent Tree Temporary Services (worked at Zenith Insurance, Pacific Rim Assurance, some Savings & Loan, and some mortgage company, then Lamps Plus Corporate Headquarters and Talent Trees Head Office for the SF Valley), LAUSD as a Music Teacher, Sequoia Personnel (worked at Pacific Lumber, Restoration Hardware Headquarters, some mortgage and reality company, United Indian Health Services), Dell Arte School of Physical Theater, Blue Lake Rancheria, the United Church of Christ, the City of Eureka, the City of Arcata, Blue Lake Casino, and now Wichita Public Schools. Yes – retail, food service, private corporations, publicly traded companies, the lumber industry, Indian tribal government, public and private school systems, small and medium size cities, a theater company, a newspaper, telemarketing, babysitting (adults with disabilities and young children), data entry, teaching, entertainment industry, loss prevention, gaming industry, religious related work, housekeeping, accounting, grants and transportation management, upper management, human resources and budgeting! I even have a gaming license since I worked in the Tribal Casino. I have done a LOT of different kinds of work. I haven’t worked in the medical industry – well, scratch that – I worked for United Indian Health Services at their clinic – doing accounting, but still in a health clinic setting. So yeah, I have worked in just about every industry, with the exception of Aerospace and prostitution! I have always had a job of some kind dating back to 1984. I’ve been working going on 23 years and I am 35 years old – WOW! I have had as many as four jobs (one full time and three part time in 2002) at the same time – not including teaching private voices lessons to boot.
Mom, you wanted me to write you a single page essay about my life during the period of time that I was divorcing Mike and meeting Matt. Why? I am so much more than that troubled ending and happy beginning. Don’t get me wrong – Matt is my world and I love him, but I am a whole person with considerable life experiences without him. He’s the cream in my coffee, the icing on my cake, the whooo hooo in my sex.
On this, your 55th birthday, look back at your life, as I have looked back on mine. I’ve lightly touched upon a few things that help define me, but still this isn’t all that I am. You were right, mom, I could write a book, and my life isn’t a third over yet. You heard me! Just like Aunt Corrine, and just like you, mom, I know that we live into our nineties – we just don’t die young. I’ve got far more years ahead of me than I do behind me. I am finally truly happy and I plan on being so until the day I die. Be glad for me, as I am for you, and maybe, just maybe, I’ll right you another essay when I turn 55.
Much love and caring, your daughter,