Free DVDs

When my Dad died in 2006, my sister and I inherited a ton of DVDs.  Most of them were of movies neither I nor my sister were interested in ever watching (like all the Bruce Willis Die Hard movies) and the collection of Steven Seagal flicks…  as sensitive and progressive as my Dad was, this was proof that in the end, he was a guy–  a guy who served in the U.S. Navy for 30 years.

Most of those movies we donated to an organization that puts together care packages for troops serving overseas.  In fact, I had this great idea to put stickers on each DVD that said, “From the George Simpson DVD Memorial Collection” and directed folks to a website,  I don’t think anyone ever went to that site–  either not seeing the sticker, or the sticker had fallen off…  oh well, the important part was that we got those movies to people who would appreciate them.

Dad had an interesting collection, though that included some less testosterone-laden movies.  Some I saved so I could watch (The Virgin Suicides)  , or save (Logan’s Run, Manchurian Candidate -the original)….  and some, that I have never watched, and now 5+ years later realize I never will.

SO. if you would like to claim any of these titles, let me know:

The Good Thief

Stayin’ Alive

The Edge

The Man in the Moon

The Virgin Suicides


A Walk to Remember


and…  The Complete First Season of the original Superman TV Show and Superman and the Mole Men (full-length feature)  bundled together in one nifty box set.


Mean People Suck.


When did we forget The Golden Rule? (to do unto others as you would have them do unto you, in case you are one who has forgotten).  It’s a code of moral behavior that predates Christ (and Christianity for that matter).  Through my extensive research (glancing at the above linked Wikipedia article) I’ve found evidence of some form of The Golden Rule in nearly every religion on every continent.

And my own mother used to say “If you can’t say anything nice, don’t say anything at all,”  a quote that I can’t seem to attribute to any one in particular after an exhaustive search, also known as a google query.

I understand that when a person puts their work out into the public arena they expect (hope, pray) that the public will respond.  Critique and review can be a good thing.  I regularly read the L.A. Times Books section, or the NY Times Book section.  But the reviewers are never mean.  They don’t call the writers names or throw sticks at them, but rather the judge the work.

When you blog, when you put your words out there on the internets, you open yourself up to criticism as well. I know the internet is public.   But for most bloggers I know their audience is at best an extended circle of friends and family.  These are not the people that will call you a nasty name or tell you to quit whining (if they are, it’s time for new friends).

And if you post your blog in a more public arena, clearly you are inviting more response….

All this makes me wonder about the people that opt to say mean things, or worse take a disagreement, a difference of opinion, of taste, to a personal level, calling someone a whiner, or worse (trust me, I’ve been called worse both in person and online).  How is name calling contributing at all? Is it so hard to just move on?

As far as I’m concerned, if you think you can do better, then go ahead and do it. Do better.  We could use more awesomeness in this world. Write your own article, set up your own blog, participate on Salon or HuffPo, or whatever.   Publish a novel, produce a t.v. show…

Wouldn’t there be much more satisfaction in experiencing your own success than in bringing others  down?


How Does Writing and Re-writing Change Memory?

Bisquick Easy Deep Dish Pizza

It’s weird, how memories come back slowly, at least that’s how it works for me.  I’ve been working on this essay / chapter and I wrote that I didn’t recall ever eating pizza with my Mom, that I couldn’t recall what her favorite pizza was, and that it made me sad.  I wrote  “Maybe we just weren’t pizza eating people.”

I swear a week ago that felt completely true.  But as I am re-writing (in the manner suggested by the illustrious Gregory Martin, aka my advisor) an image came to me of Lefty’s Pizza Parlor in San Diego. It was near Miss Vernetta’s Dance Studio and the old Jack in the Box on Morena Drive.  I would almost swear I remember playing foosball there.

I still can’t remember actually eating pizza there, but I felt one step closer.

Then I remembered Shakey’s Pizza.  It seems like it was a place we would go after a dance recital or event.  Still, no memory of eating pizza.

I opted to not add these not-quite-formed memories of not eating pizza into the essay.

Now, as I’m typing this, I remember a pizza we made, together–my mother, my sister and I–with a crust made of Bisquick.  It was more of a pizza pie filled with ground beef and green bell peppers.  If I close my eyes I can almost taste it– the tangy tomato sauce base, the salty beef and sweet bell peppers….

And so I did what I always do when I’m curious about something, I google. (Actually, I used to go to the Encyclopedia, but The Internet is so much better.)

I found the recipe, “Easy Deep Dish Pizza.”

If it ever gets cool enough to turn on my oven again, I may just make this pizza.  Cooking is one of the ways I can bring back memories of my mother.

I won’t however, add this detail to my essay; it just doesn’t fit.


On Re-Visioning My Memoir

Not too long ago I wrote a section in my memoir–actually it is currently at the end–about volunteering at the Children’s Grief Center.  It feels like the end in a way, like this is the place I ended up on my emotional journey of Reconstructing My Mother.

But as I re-work my prose, much of it written in 2006 or 2007, I realize I have a different perspective on those events.  That perspective, that time of writing voice is clearly informed by my work at the Children’s Grief Center.  I knew this, but when Greg suggested that this section be the beginning I was resistant.  I love chronological order.  It makes sense to me, and anything that messes with the time space continuum really makes my brain hurt– like the Star Trek Next Gen episode where Data’s head was found amongst some 19th Century Earth artifacts… tell me your brain doesn’t start to hurt as you try and figure out how Data is both alive and dead in the albeit fictive present, but lived in the past? was killed in the 1800s?  so how can he exist n the present, or is it the future?  see what I mean….

Maybe Greg wasn’t suggesting I write something like “Time’s Arrow” but there was a part of my brain that was screaming NOOOOOOOOO  it can’t come first because it didn’t happen first.  This kind of modular design doesn’t bother me in other people’s work, so I’m not sure why I resist, but I do.  I’m trying really hard to get over it….

Greg also suggested that rather than tweak what I have that I re-type the whole thing.  Start with a blank document.  No cutting and pasting.

This  suggestion not only made my brain hurt, but made me want to hyperventilate as well.

Do you know how intimidating a blank page is to a writer??  It was like he was suggesting that I toss what I’ve done.  The 200 plus pages.  And a part of my brain (the same part that keeps all those unfinished projects in my closet) was screaming NOOOOOOO  I can’t get rid of anything!

But I’m doing what he suggested.  I mean you do know the definition of crazy, don’t you:

doing the same thing over and over again and expecting a different result.

I’m glad to report that I am not crazy, and this re-typing thing may in fact be working.

I started re-typing the beginning, with the new vision of starting with the end.

In the process of re-typing, I’ve already added three new pages.

And maybe some of the prose won’t even make it into the new document.

And maybe that’s a good thing.

And maybe, just maybe I’ll find an end….



DIY Therapy, aka Writing Memoir

My first crocheted hat

It’s amazing what you find out about yourself when you write memoir.  Some of it not so good.

One of the things I’ve been discovering, or rather running up against, again, is my propensity to not finish things.  Especially big things, like crocheting an afghan (as opposed to the hat that only took a couple of hours).

I have dusty-rose and denim blue colored afghan somewhere,  in a box in the garage or in my office closet, half finished.

There’s really no point now–

the colors, chosen some 15 years ago, no longer
match my bedroom, nor
my family room,
my office.

And there’s the paintings with–
no frames, broken necklaces
never restrung
the pants  not hemmed.

My closet, full of possibilities.

Then there are the not so tangible things like a bilingual teaching credential, a certificate in computer programming, a journalism career…

I can justify not finishing these things by telling myself  I never really wanted them in the first place, that if it were something I really wanted, I would have made it a priority, I could have made it a success.


After reading the 200 page messy draft I sent him, my advisor busted me, called me out. In a nice way, but still.  He tells me the truth. It’s why I wanted to work with him.

“One thing I noticed,” Greg said, “is that you get started on what I’ll call ‘long stories’ and they just sort of trail off. I’ll turn the page and we’ll go from that trip to Hawaii to baking banana bread. And I don’t know where we are.”

At first I tried to justify this.  “Well I told you it was a messy draft.” and “Yeah. I haven’t even looked at that section since I first wrote it four years ago.”

But the truth is, I don’t know if I know how to finish things.  And I am afraid. Afraid that I can’t do it, and maybe most of all, afraid of what else I’ll discover about myself if I do.


Electric Skies and Creative Thunder

I wish I had come up with the above title, but it’s the title of an upcoming Creative Retreat in Taos, New Mexico hosted/ led/ facilitated by the amazing Jill Badonsky.  It’s happening at the Mable Dodge Luhan house– the historical artistic hub of Taos, NM, where folks like DH Lawrence, Georgia O’Keefe, Ansel Adams, Martha Graham, Carl Jung (and later Dennis Hopper) hung out.

I also wish I were able to attend the retreat, but alas it is not in the cards for me this summer–I’ll be attending the AROHO Writers Retreat in August.  HOWEVER, if you want to make an investment in yourself and connect more deeply with your own creativity, then I can’t recommend Jill more highly.

It was several years ago that I first met Jill.  I was working at the 101 Artists’ Colony, and had the opportunity to attend some writing workshops that she held at the Gallery.  Then I signed up for a class, based on her book, The Nine Modern Day Muses and a Body Guard. (since then Jill has also published The AWE-Manac: A Daily Dose of Wonder.)  If it weren’t for Jill I might not be a writer, I might still be working in an accounting office…

This is Jill Badonsky. Doesn't she look like fun?!

Jill’s books are filled with creative inspiration, and tricks to get you to connect with your creativity (no matter what you occupation).

Jill’s workshops are notoriously filled with silliness, yoga, writing, art, music, there may be hula hoops (you just never know).   THIS retreat will include a stay at the historic Mable Dodge Luhan House, and gourmet healthy meals.  The place, Taos, Mable’s house, are in and of themselves inspirational….