January 2015: New Year, Old Road, Drive On...

For the next couple of weeks, I'll be reposting highlights from 2015. This post was originally published January 7th. 
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It's New Years day and we have just merged onto the 101 at Highland. Hal presses down on the gas pedal on an otherwise empty road and I turn up the music. I made three mix tapes last night specifically for the drive with songs for each of us and all of us, with Let it Go appearing three times just because.

"Mama! I have to pee so bad!" Bo shouts from her seat, with crossed legs.

"But we just left!"


We exit the freeway, find the nearest bathroom and for the next fourteen hours get to know every gas station toilet from here to San Francisco.

"Thanks for your hospitality," I say.

And say.

And say.


I have all of these posts swirling in my head but they're all mismatched and contradictory -- nothing concrete -- nothing with direction. Every time the new year comes around I feel the pressure to deliver something meaningful or epiphany-esque. NYE is, after all, the magic hour intensified by 365 magic hours and the 1st of the year is the great rebirth!

And yet.

Every year, I gaze into the eyes of the newborn year and feel... detached. Misplaced. Cynical in the face of every optimist. There is so much talk this time of year. The Internet is ripe with affirmations and ten ways to be a better list-maker and quotes about new beginnings and old ends. So in a sense it feels redundant to say something. It feels redundant to say something and strange to say nothing... like showing up to someone's birthday party and not writing a card because everyone else has.

Happy New Year! Love, me.

(And everyone else.)

I wake up with these thoughts, and as we settle in to our drive, I attempt to write 16 different things on Instagram coupled with a photo I took last week of Archer and Revi, their faces turned toward the line of sea that splits the sky. The image is a poetic one and I want it to speak for itself but I know it won't. "Write something that sings," I think.

But nothing does.

There are no epiphanies at the time. It's a new year, and all of us were in bed when the ball dropped. We went to bed in 2014 and woke up to this... a road. A last minute trip to San Francisco to meet friends and see family and see new sights and take advantage of the fact that Hal has four more days off of work. That never happens. So we drive.
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I started a post about Hawaii several months ago before stopping, overwhelmed with having to sort through photos and put into words what felt so completely magical off the page. There's a reason why perfect moments do not make for good storytelling. Some moments decide for themselves whether or not to be preserved or presented and the night before we left, after insisting that we all stop, drop and stargaze well into the midnight hour, I got that pull in my throat…YOU WILL REMEMBER THIS ALWAYS, I SWEAR! YOU WILL REMEMBER THIS EVEN IF YOU DON'T WRITE IT DOWN.

That feeling is rare. My often desperate need to write everything down as it happens has always been borderline obsessive, even as a small child. My diary reflects that—every day seemingly accounted for.

And all these years later, I still pull over if I have a thought I need to write down. If I don't, I'll surely forget, I think, because I will. I always do and then kick myself for not getting out of the shower mid shampoo.

But I did start a post about Hawaii and someday I'll finish it.

Or maybe I'll just fit it into this one. 


The 1 (Pacific Coast Highway) was salve for my soul in my pre-baby days. The Henry Miller library was my second home. I befriended Magnus (who ran the place) and was allowed to sit in the back with all of the artifacts and write there. I purchased an original photo of Miller back in 2002, that hangs above my desk in my office. I met my former book agent at the Big Sur Writer's Workshop, hosted by the Miller library where I work-shopped my second (unpublished book), The Envelope, a 340 page novel that focuses on the power of an anonymous, found letter.

I have only been back once—with Hal, the summer of 2004, weeks before Archer was conceived.

I had the same feeling then that I did all of those times before, the feeling of standing on the cusp of the unknown—the ocean stretching infinitely below as waves crashed and trees swayed and people crouched on the side of the same road, looking down and out and up and across and within. I wanted to feel that again. I wanted ALL OF US to feel that together. 

When I explained to the kids that we were going to take this trip, I told them that we had two options for the drive.

"We can go the five hour way, up the 5 freeway, which is a boring drive with no real views, or we can take the 1 which will be long and beautiful—with seals and views of the ocean from cliffs—one of the most scenic drive on the planet, perhaps... "
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I went on to explain that I felt this choice was a metaphor for life and I asked them to think about it for a day, to think about what it means to choose the "fast, easy, uninspired path" as opposed to the "long, winding, treacherous BUT BEAUTIFUL one."

I told them to decide for themselves but to remember that they will have many times in their lives when they will have to choose between EASY and DIFFICULT. And that difficult will almost always yield the most worthy experiences. No pressure, kids, but there are no shortcuts. You get what you pay for... 

"Plus, we really want to do this, you guys," I admitted. "We really want to do this drive with all of you."

The next day it was unanimous. Archer and Fable both wanted to go the "beautiful way with the seals." Maybe for me, maybe for themselves... or for another reason entirely. Whatever it was, we were set. Hal and I were in. Archer and Fable were in. Bo and Revi were down for whatever. Hal and I high fived.

The day before we left for San Francisco, I was warned that our plan to take the 101 to the 1 is too much for four kids.

And it is.

It's a long drive with lots of windy turns and few rest stops and dangerous views.

"It's going to take you guys forever."

"The kids will get carsick."

"You're crazy. Just take the 5."

Every single person we talked to said the same thing. That it would take 7897892713 hours. That we were crazy to even try. That we should wait until the kids were older. That we could take the 5 up and cut over in Carmel...

"But we'd miss the seals if we did that! We'd miss Big Sur..."

"Maybe so but it will be a much easier drive..."


Fuck easy.

Easy is never going to be the point.


We pull over in Piedras Blancas, behind a car with the greatest vanity plate of all time. 
"It's a sign," I say and flash the driver a thumbs up. 


Nobody wants to get out of the car at first. It's too much work to put on sweaters and jackets and hats and wait for Bo and Revi to unbuckle. 

"Come on, guys. Let's go see the seals."
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Hundreds of people are huddled along the railing looking down at the seals huddled together with their babies. 

Three seals were born in this exact spot this morning. Life is literally barking at us as we stand together in a clump and watch it all unfold. 
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A seal starts to move toward the water with awkward thuds and Bo immediately becomes hysterical. She is laughing so hard tears come and Fable soon follows. The seals are whipping sand on their backs and one by one we all join the chorus of giggles. We watch the seals for 45 minutes, Bo on Hal's shoulders and Revi on my chest and Archer and Fable on the tips of their toes. 
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When I started the post about Hawaii, this was what I wrote. There was no beginning and no end, just a few paragraphs about a moment Archer and I had snorkeling. It's unedited and rough but for the sake of this post, I'm pasting it as is: 

This was Archer's first time snorkeling—and my second time snorkeling in Hawaii. On our second day, we rented snorkeling equipment, spent ten minutes trying to get our masks and snorkels fitted correctl,y and then held hands and went...

We swam through the lagoon and then wayyyyy out past it and Archer never let go. I don't remember the last time he held my hand like that... years ago. Five years, maybe... Six... Hell, I don't know that he's ever held on for that long, but there we were, hand in hand, pointing at fish, making screaming sounds every time we saw something amazing... a turtle... a humu humu... an eel.

And then, out of nowhere, a thousand angelfish appeared. I'm not exaggerating. I had never seen a school quite like that in my life. They were everywhere. And it felt like, for this moment in time, that nothing existed outside that very moment. The last decade flashed before me in a moment—the finding out I was pregnant with him, the decision to be a mother, to be a wife, have a family... every fish represented a moment of YES! And there we were, hand in hand, the same size almost... screaming with joy and "is this real life!??" excitement... coming out of the water because neither of us could believe it.

We were both laughing and choking on water, trying to contain our enthusiasm for a moment that we both knew we would forever remember.

"I think this is one of the greatest moments of my life," I told him

"Mine too," he said.

Many times I have thought of that moment, these last few months. It has become my escape during times where I feel consumed with anger, frustration, and energy that isn't positive. It's funny because Hal made that comment about me being a positive force in his life when we made the videos about each other, but this past year I have felt myself become jaded and cynical and misanthropic -- I have wanted to shut down, close shop, peace the fuck out. I even punched a car recently because the driver wasn't paying attention and almost took out my family. In the past I would have been, like, "All good! We're fine! Keep on..."

But I snapped and punched the car with my fist.

Like, out of body snapped. Hal's jaw dropped. "Wow. Who are you?" he said...

"I don't know."

But I like it. I am embarrassed to admit that in a way because I've spent so much of my life defining myself as the nice girl but in 2014 I snapped... kind of. Okay so snapped is the wrong word. But something definitely shifted.

Not that punching strangers' cars is my new thing or anything but I am proud of myself for speaking up and doing something other than stew and internalize. I spent a large part of my life saying nothing when I should have spoken up. When I was afraid to use my fists...

It's a relief to be on other side of that fear. Besides my family, it is the thing I am most proud of as a person. 


The plan was to stop by the Miller Library in Big Sur and grab lunch at The Nepenthe but it's 3:30 now and too late for both. We put our names on the reservation list for dinner instead.

We walk down to the cafe and wait. 

I explain to the kids and anyone who will listen how significant The Nepenthe was to writers and artists through time... that years before Hal and I eloped I had big plans to someday get married here. 

"This is where I want my ashes spread when I die."

It's a revelation to start the year off at a place like that I now know and watching the kids chase each other on the decks overlooking what felt like the world, I have another one of those moments like with Archer and the angelfish. 
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I will never forget this day.  This will always be with me. 

Moments later, after deciding that we would rather get back on the road and find a restaurant that could seat us before dark, I notice a small piece of folded paper sticking out from one of the beams at the edge of the deck. Archer had just been standing beside it, his body framed by two umbrellas and, wait, what is that... 

I pull the paper out from under the beam. It's a letter. 

A letter To: YOU, as in... me? As in me. 

A letter found at The Nepenthe in Big Sur, spitting distance from the place I wrote The Envelope almost thirteen years before. A book about an anonymous letter found on the street. 
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I read it to myself and then aloud. And then I think, "wait. Is someone fucking with me right now? This can't be real. Is this real?"

It is. It's real and it's amazing and I feel so lucky to have found one of these letters and to now know about such an incredible movement to send love to strangers for absolutely no other reason than to send love to strangers. 

(The kids and I will be writing anonymous letters and hiding them all over Los Angeles this year and hope you'll join us. I mean, can you imagine if this really caught on? All that energy put out into the world? That's power, man. What a concept.)

Thank you for your beautiful letter, Maya, wherever you are. The note lives in my wallet now -- a reminder to keep on down the road and in your words "to stay myself." And to, perhaps, revisit The Envelope some day. This year? Maybe so. Feels right. Feels like the signiest of signs...
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Twenty minutes later, on the northern end of Big Sur, we take our seats at a table on the water, overlooking the first sunset of 2015.

We did it. We made it. (We still have a long way to go.)
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When we arrive in San Francisco the kids are asleep. For the first time today... asleep. It's nearly 10pm and we're exhausted but awake. We're awake!

"We're here," I say, as Hal pops the trunk and our luggage falls out into the street, socks in balls rolling toward the gutter.

"We're finally here."

And after unloading everyone and everything Hal puts his hand out for a high five.

"We did it. We arrived," he says.

In sickness and health, between sea and stone, we arrived.

"We can either take the long and winding way with beautiful views or the quick way through nothingness."

It was unanimous. And even though, after nearly fourteen hours on the road there was far more complaints than there were compliments, it was absolutely worth it.

For the views.

For the sunset.

For the moments of awe.

And the edge of paper sticking out beneath the railing...

And the music.

And the whales.


There are no goals this year but there will be no reservations, either. Life isn't what happens when you're busy making plans. Life is what happens when you make them as you go.

We dove into 2015 head first, bruised and a little bit tired, and on the 6th of the month, here we lie...  with circles under our eyes from lack of sleep and memories like clouds taking shape, only to fade into new days—the life and times of times worth living.

I am thankful that every day brings new promise for angelfish. I am thankful that I have the opportunity to not only experience these moments but to share them. We were born with voices to speak and bodies to experience. May we all choose how best to utilize both and be grateful that we can.

I love this time of year more than any other, but only when I do not expect to feel a thing. It's the expectations, the assumptions that THIS WILL BE THE YEAR that bog me down—that distract me from the very things that make me feel alive and powerful and positive. An outline can be a powerful tool for how to live and love and create, so long as it is written in pencil—so long as we realize how liquid it all is... 

In 2015, I have no goals but to hug the coast with my tires, at the risk of complaints, tears and a frustrating amount of bathroom breaks. In 2015, I wish to do the thing that feels like a YES even when everyone is like, "No. You're crazy. That drive is too long." Even when I KNOW it's true -- even when they're totally right. I want it not to matter because it doesn't. It shouldn't. It doesn't have to. 

I would rather arrive late than on time.

I would rather fight the good (long, winding-roaded) fight.

Be curious. Have adventures. Try, try again...
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It's Sunday night now and we're two hours into our drive back to LA. It's 9pm when cereal and string cheese no longer cut it and we all agree to pull over for food. We squeeze into a Denny's booth and ask our server for extra crayons, and as we're waiting for our food to arrive, take turns going around the table listing our highlights. On the top of everyone's list were the stops we took on the way up the coast. The seals. The sunset dinner...  Bo LITERALLY stretching her legs on the side of the road: the journey...

Hal and I, once again, high five.

2015, here we come are.
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