#fuckalzheimers and why I walk

IMG_7472Today marked my fourth year captaining the Brixton Belles, a team of friends and family who walked to raise money and bring awareness to Alzheimers. We walked for our mothers, fathers, grandparents and friends. We walked for Jill Gascoine, an exceptional woman who was my best friend and mentor for twenty years. A vibrant actress, a gifted writer, an extraordinary friend whose mind crumbled slowly in front of her family, friends and fans.

And when you watch a life lost right in front of your eyes, it is hard not to become so infuriated you want to punch every wall in your house. It is nearly impossible to ignore the jagged shards of glass breaking daily in your heart.

Walking does not ameliorate that angry and it does not mitigate that sadness. What walking does is give the anger and the sadness a community: a shared moment to honor the memory of the extraordinary. The memory of what was once great. Who was once exceptional. Who is still exceptional…even though she no longer recognizes you…or herself. What walking does is help us remember what she cannot.

And although  seemingly hopeless, walking perhaps brings a sliver of hope that, one day, we will no longer need walks to remember.


Happy Anniversary – 365 days of fitness

IMG_5957Who sticks with ANYTHING for a year?

I don’t. I am the Olympian of getting excited about something, diving headfirst into the deep end and jumping out the millisecond it gets cold. I suppose, like most people, I love the initial challenge, the taste of success, the possibilities; however, as soon as the work overshadows the fun, I stop.

I’ve done it repeatedly with exercise. For years, I had a garage filled with yoga videos, Ab crunch machines, strength bands….and, yes, even a thigh master. I owned every video and DVD from Jane Fonda to Tony Horton. My closet was filled with leotards, unitards, terry cloth sweatbands, scrunchies, track suits and leg warmers. I’d buy the crap, wear it, exercise to it and then, invariably, stop.

At first, I’d buy crap on late night infomercials, then I’d graduate to the crap hawked on Shark Tank. Then, something snapped. Something snapped in my head and I committed. The key, which I personally couldn’t come up with was tapping into my competitive nature. My need to be the best. My insane desire to win. The other activities were hobbies; over botoxed celebutantes spewing at me from my tv…it wasn’t personal because it didn’t know how to engage me. So, I started bootcamp. Exercising with a group of people but still getting the one on one motivation.

One year ago today I ran my first mile. It wasn’t pretty. And it wasn’t my competitive spirit which was awakened, it was my anger. Who the fuck would do this? Why am I doing this? This is stupid. You are ridiculous. I was pissed, I was angry. I was infuriated. But I came back because I couldn’t let the exercise beat me. I couldn’t let the super fit trainer beat me. It didn’t matter that I was 50 pounds overweight and engaged in 15 months of full blown sedentary inertia. I could not lose.

I ran and I failed. But I failed excellently. I walked and vomited and quietly shouted every expletive I could. My trainer became my arch nemesis and I was determined to best her in any way I could. I kept coming back. I glared, I swore, I pouted but I came back. And, somewhere along the journey, the anger faded: At her, at the world, at myself. Somewhere along the journey, I started to get fit. Somewhere along the journey I started to have fun. The pounds shed and the mask I was hiding behind crumbled. Because I stuck with it.

Who sticks with Anything for a year? I did, and it was the best decision of my life.

Making movies: Quality Problems, Sister Cities & My addiction to the Craft Services table

Screen Shot 2015-08-06 at 11.38.26 AMI’ve just come off of a whirlwind three weeks. I was literally LIVING THE DREAM being heavily involved in two films: one I wrote and acted in and one I am producing and acting in. Looking back on the past 21 days, feels slightly akin to a very long bender. I know I had an amazing time….but I can’t quite remember most of it. I do remember that while I was loving being both in front of and behind the camera, most of my time on both sets was spent at the craft services table.


My trifecta of choice: Twizzlers, M&M’s and Diet Coke.


I don’t even like diet coke, but I guzzle it while I’m shooting. Something about the aggressive swarm of toxic chemicals slowly eating through my kidneys…Just. Tastes. Delicious. I ‘get’ why coke is addictive. Because diet coke certainly is. You’re hot, pop a coke. You’re happy, pop a coke. You’re thirsty…why drink water when you can down a diet coke!

So, my mouth was always occupied. After two Twizzlers and 40 peanut M&M’s, I’d knock back a diet coke. And then the cycle would repeat itself. I’m not sure I slept much in July because I was so jacked up on diet coke.

The point…I’m resetting. I’m detoxing. Today was the first day I worked out that I was in the red. That I pushed myself to exhaustion and wanted to kill. First my trainer then myself. And it felt great.

Although I’m really craving a diet coke right now. #sigh

My second MudRun: Channeling Zack Mayo and…Sergeant Foley

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Look, I have a very healthy imagination.

And being slightly injured on my second 10k Mud Run, my imagination served me well. The race was at Camp Pendelton’s Marine Corps Base and I had an entire military movie montage playing in my head. When I wanted to give up climbing up the steep half mile slippery mud mountain, I pretended I was Mayo in an Officer and a Gentleman and Louis Gossett Jr. was egging me on. As I crawled headfirst through mud under a mesh cargo net, I pretended I was Judy Benjamin and Eileen Brennan was egging me on. As I climbed over a ten foot wall and dropped into a muddy sludge pit, I pretended I was Maverick and Tom Skerritt was egging me on.

Notice the constant theme? A) I always made myself the anti-hero and B) I was always egged on.

Motivation comes from a myriad of places and I’ve always been someone who needed a coach, a badass, a motivator to push me to my limit. But doing these 10k obstacle mudruns has been motivation in itself. And I don’t do it for the tee shirt, which is super cute, or the free beer, which is super refreshing, or the camaraderie of amazing friends and fellow athletes, which is super fun….unless you get stuck in Tustin…I do it to challenge myself.


And whenever I cross the finish line and have the dime store medal hung around my neck, I feel an enormous sense of pride, of accomplishment, of strength.


Because, I’ve finally figured out that I’m both Maverick and Viper. I’m both Private Judy Benjamin and Captain Doreen Lewis. I’m both Zack Mayo and Sergeant Foley. There’s a coach and a player in all of us, and sometimes it takes an obstacle course to discover the deliciously dysfunctional marriage.

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I did not want to run the timed mile today.

IMG_5957I ‘get’ that it’s part of my path to fitness; however, we had just been timed a couple of weeks ago and I am a big believer that progress should be checked monthly….not 24 arbitrary days later.

So, I planned a protest. Now, the protest was primarily in my own head so it was a fairly ineffectual protest but I was determined. I was simply not going to run my hardest. I’ve done it before. A lot, actually… through a great deal of my field hockey and lacrosse timed miles when I was protesting something or other.

I even ran today BEFORE the timed mile so that I’d be more tired and irritated when it came time to run. And, I was prepared to protest. It was in my psyche. The art of protest was pulsating through my body.

Yet, when we lined up, our commander-in-chief said very simply, “Run because you can. Run for the people who can’t.” Well, that just completely fucked me up. What did she mean run because I can? Yes, she was talking to the twelve other people who were about to run a timed mile, but I was listening on a deeply spiritual level.

What did she mean?

After assiduously working out for seven months, I am super strong. I have my wits and heart and courage. Hell, I’m the fucking scarecrow and tinman and dorothy and lion all wrapped up into one. Who am I to not run my hardest?  Of course I can run my best. Of course I should run my best. There are so many people who can’t physically run and I am holding a weird silent protest over four days. What is wrong with me?

So, she says start and I run. And I run my best. Seven months ago when I started this auspicious journey, my mile was thirteen minutes and I threw up twice. Each month I’ve gotten faster: 12:57, 10:58, 10:02, 9:07…. and today, the day of my ineffectual protest, I ran it in 8:08.

Because I could.

Fuck the “What Ifs”… My first Obstacle Race

Screen Shot 2015-04-12 at 11.53.35 AMWhen do we stop climbing on jungle gyms? Because, as a kid, I used to climb on them all of the time. The higher the better. I would climb and jump and swing, completely oblivious of danger and fully devoid of fear.

I’d climb and play and eat milk and cookies. I would live.

So, when do we stop? When we move from elementary school playground chaos to middle school hormonal hell? When boys and boobs are top of mind and gossiping trumps play? After elementary school, I stopped climbing. I stopped climbing… until today.

IMG_9633 copyToday, I did my first obstacle race. It was a 10k, peppered with creative obstacles including several wall climbs, military walls, rope climbs, jungle gym climbs, mud pits, marine hurdles, ladder walls, tunnel crawls and water crossings. I was a virgin, having never done one before and I went with four friends and fellow badass bootcampers. who were all excellent athletes as well as race veterans. I wish I  could say it was an enormous emotional revelation and personal triumph…but, honestly, it was just fun. Really fun.

And it reminded me of being a kid and letting go of all fear. Sure, some of the walls were super high…but I refused to “think” about conquering them…I just did them. Our brains are so powerful and so self sabotaging that if we give them an inch, they’ll take the mile… what if I fall, what if I slip, what if I hurt myself, what if….

Fuck the what ifs and just do. I didn’t think, I just did and it was amazing. It was joyous. It was liberating.

It was fun.

Obstacle races are playgrounds for grownups… the only thing missing is the post race milk and cookies. But I suppose I will settle for smoked gouda and a nice cabernet.

Down the Rabbit Hole – a poem about finding hope

     Last night, was my last grief group. Apparently, sanctioned grief is only supposed to last for 18 months…at least that’s what the experts say. And the experts aren’t necessarily wrong… although the grief continues… it just changes course. Joining a grief group was one of the best things I did because it enabled me to meet people who were on a very similar journey, it allowed me to open up my heart to strangers who understood, it allowed me company as I navigated  uncharted territory. Every other week for 18 months, we would close each grief group with a poem. A random grief poem…some good, some not so good. And I, naturally, after twenty odd poems thought “I can do better”. So, I did. I wrote this poem… for the survivors. For the 8 people I spent the last 18 months with. For the random strangers who are now steadfast friends.


(a poem for Adina, Sarah, Kim, Sherrie, Doug, Jennifer, Pam & Sheryl)

Like an earthquake, Grief shakes you when you least expect it; throwing you off center and rattling the core of your very being.

Like a tsunami, grief washes over you; flooding your entire body and soaking you both inside and out.

Like a hurricane, Grief blows you so far off course so that you’re barely hanging on by the tips of your fingers.

Grief is the biggest disaster of all because FEMA can’t come in and clean it up.

Grief trumps earthquakes because you will feel its aftershocks your entire life. You don’t know when they’re coming and they are both paralytic and terrifying.

alice02aGrief drops more rainfall than tsunamis because once the floodgates have been opened, the tears refuse to stop falling.

And unlike global warming, they are triggered by something as simple as a smell, a word, a song.

Grief blows harder than a hurricane because you will never quite find your center again. There is now a piece of you which is missing and no matter how much you try to over compensate, you will always have a limp in your heart.

Once you go down the rabbit hole of grief, you have no idea how and when you will get out. It is a destination in which you can’t use a compass. It is a place you can’t lookup on Google Maps.

It is off the grid.

Yet, unlike Alice, you are not alone. Others are also falling, and together, you will learn to navigate the course.

You will discover the nooks and crannies.

You will become cartographers of the uncharted territory.

You will find the others. The others who feel your pain and cry your tears. The others whose hearts hurt. Because they know.

They’ve been shaken by that same cataclysmic earthquake.

They’ve been drenched by that same devastating tsunami.

They’ve been blown off kilter by that same destructive hurricane

And like you, they will survive.

                                                                       -Colette Freedman


(note. “Grief management” liked the poem so much, it’s now officially in their repertoire)

The difference between being tough & being stupid

I’ve always been tough.

I have a super high pain threshold and I can’t stand complainers. So, I rarely complain. When I broke my left hand playing lacrosse my freshman year of high school, I hid it from everyone until I passed out. I then taught myself how to be ambidextrous in case it happened again. And it did, over and over. Playing eight years of high school and college field hockey and lacrosse, I managed to break nine of my fingers, tear my meniscus and break my nose, twice. So I got bandaged up and kept playing, because that’s what athletes do. Because athletes are tough and a few broken bones are not going to keep us from performing.Screen shot 2015-02-16 at 6.16.00 AM

On the other end of the spectrum is being stupid. Being stupid is having an asthma attack and hoping it will go away. Being stupid is sucking down three out of code inhalers and willing your lungs to expand. Being stupid is wondering how many Benadryl you can ingest before the crushing feeing in your lungs goes away. And it’s hard to know the difference between being tough and being stupid. Because it’s a fine, fine line.

Recently, I had a cat induced asthma attack to end all asthma attacks. The kind you see in movies where the dorky asthmatic kid conveniently forgets his inhaler just as he is about to go into the haunted house. As you watch the poor schlub pass the point of no return, knowing his inevitable fate, you think… dumb schmuck…I would have remembered the inhaler, I would have done it differently. But you don’t. Because right in that moment you are feigning tough when you are actually being quite stupid. Painfully and ignorantly stupid.

I should know, I am clearly the queen if misnavigating the fine line.

The long of the short of it is, if you have an asthma attack, just go to the fucking hospital and get it taken care of. Get the painful shot in your ass, suck down the steroid nebulizer. Get the prescription meds and inhalers. Don’t spend three days trying to will it away. Because asthma has a will of its own. Be tough. Don’t be stupid.

Yoga: The art of stilling one’s mind & anchovy pizza

20100130-anchovyThe core philosophy of yoga is to listen to what your body needs and to still your mind. I have never been good at either one of those. Because every time I listen to my body, it wants anchovy pizza and every time I try to still my mind, it tries to figure out what kind of anchovy pizza I want. The local Italian place on my corner is a terrific mom and pop place and you can’t beat the convenience; however, the thin crust is a little too thin and the thick crust is too doughy. And that is what my stilled mind focuses on. Not world peace, not global warming… anchovy pizza.

One of my oldest and dearest friends is visiting me. She is a yogi. She owns a yoga studio. She’s fit. She’s zen. So, naturally, she wanted to check out the local yoga scene. And I was determined to be mindful. To listen to my body. To not think about anchovy pizza. Breathe in and breathe out. Having recently embarked on my own journey to fitness two and a half months ago, I am getting physically stronger. I can now do plank and chatarunga. I am a pro at Savasana. Which, incidentally, sounds like vichyssoise. I love Vichyssoise. Several years ago, I was walking in the village in New York and it started to rain. In order to avoid buying a $15 umbrella, I popped into a restaurant and bought a $20 bowl of soup. It was one of those restaurants which is in the basement of a non-descript brownstone and I had the best Vichyssoise ever. A thick hot soup of onions, potatoes, puréed leeks and cream. I can still taste that soup. So every time the teacher says Savasana, I think about Vichyssoise. And every time she tells me listen to what my body needs, I think about anchovy pizza. Focus, Breathe in, breathe out. I understand why yoga is a practice…because you definitely need to practice it to “get it”. And, I’m not sure I get it. I like it, but I don’t get it. Because my mind is too busy to still.

Determined not to think about anchovy pizza, I pretended I was Katniss Everdeen during warrior pose. During tree pose, I pretended I was on Survivor gunning to get the immunity necklace. I tried to be mindful during each pose but when my stomach grumbled, it kept going back to the pizza. It was about halfway through the class when I had a revelation, an epiphany, an enlightenment. It was ten o’clock in the morning. It was way too early to be obsessing over anchovy pizza.

For the rest of class, my body told me it needed French Toast.

Food Porn – The Grilled Cheese Sandwich

grilled-cheese-closeupEveryone eats turkey on Thanksgiving, why? In my humble opinion, it’s a weird choice. Sure, it’s a native bird of North America and an incredibly “convenient” option…except for the turkey, but there are so many other options to choose from these days: roast beef, lamb, chicken, grilled cheese sandwiches. Yes, grilled cheese sandwiches. Because Thanksgiving is a day we are to give thanks. It is a day we are to be grateful. And while we are generally grateful for family and friends, personally, I am grateful for bread and cheese – because they are perfect foods.

In our overly deconstructed food world, everyone and their daughter is on some sort of limited meal plan: Paleo, Gluten free, Dairy Free, Mayo Clinic, Mediterranean, Volumetrics, Anti-Inflammatory, Weight Watchers, Jenny Craig…the list of both well known and obscure eating plans goes on and on. And on and on. And on and on. And they all have one thing in common. They hate bread and cheese.

Can a food plan be called racist? Exclusionary? Rude?

Because both carbs and dairy are the first two categories to be thrown under the bus and kicked to the curb. Poor things. I feel that it is my responsibility to stand up for them. Become the champion for the rights of carbs and dairy. Bread alone and cheese alone are fine, quasi interesting and mildly satisfying. But, combining them into a grilled sensation…there is nothing quite like it.

The key to the perfect grilled cheese sandwich is patience. Pick a bread, any bread…though sourdough has the ideal consistency. Butter it on both sides and let the first side grill for a minute in the frying pan (yes, the double butter grill is a secret ingredient we grilled cheese chefs use to make sure the bread is perfectly grilled through and through). Then flip the bread. If you like mustard, spreading a thin layer of dijon on the exposed bread will give the sandwich another layer of flavor and a punch of spice. Next, layer on the cheese… this is an extremely personal choice; however, if you can’t decide, use a few. I’m a big fan of hard cheddar and spicy jack. Next, put a second pot on top the first frying pan to seal in the heat and to let the cheese melt. In the meantime, grill some onions and have them ready to pepper on top of the melted cheese. Once the cheese has started to melt, put the two sides together and put the pan back on top. You are now cooking your grilled cheese sandwich from both the inside out and the outside in. This is the delicate part as the bottom piece of bread can burn fairly easily…so keep an eye on it. Then, take it out, plate it and eat it.

What is a better way to celebrate Thanksgiving than with the food you grew up on, the food that comforted you and the food that is guaranteed to taste better than an overcooked dry turkey.

Live a little. It’s okay to break tradition.