February 2014


Though the only sports I follow on a regular basis are college football and OKC Thunder basketball, there’s something about the Olympic Games that has always captured my attention.

Like most, I find myself watching incredibly interesting and exciting events like the biathlon where people cross- country ski, stop, shoot guns, and do it again three more times. Or sit transfixed through heart-pounding curling events.

A year prior to opening ceremonies, there are competitions for places on the teams that will represent the U S of A and proudly wear the uniforms of the team. Making the team is such an honor. Just being able to represent one’s country and walk into that 40,000 person arena with lights flashing as a part of the national team is something to recant to children and grandchildren.

For months of advertisements and interviews with our Olympians, we’re told it’s “all about the sports…the athletics.” A time when people of all races, creeds and national origins put aside their differences to compete.  How all the snow boarders, or down-hill skiiers, or gymnasts compete together all year long and are friends outside of the competition arena. Sports brought them together. They train together. Nationalities mean nothing.

And then the games begin.

During the opening ceremonies, every time a country that split from Russia entered the arena, there were remarks about their relationship with Mother Russia, the hostilities, differences in political leanings, and how that could impact each team’s competition against her former home country. So much for bringing us together.

The first thing we hear after the games begin  is that a US athlete won the first gold medal of the Sochi Olympics in the first-ever some-kind-of-snow-boarding event. Yeah, US! The next day when the medal count came up, it was broadcast loud and clear that Russia, the home country,  won not even one measly medal on the first day of competition. It’s no wonder the stands are empty…all the Russians are home hanging their heads in shame. How can Putin show his face? Show up for the events where his stars are competing? Of course, someone-with-a-microphone-in-a-warm-building-who-will-never-see-a-live-event announces that Putin only showed up for the team skating competition once it was established that Russia would win the gold.

My daughter, Abbi, trained with Shannon Miller. It was heady stuff for a kid to train beside, and be in pictures of state champions along with a National, World, and Olympic champion. But after Shannon’s first Olympics, I started to get ticked off.

Shannon, in her first year of eligibility to compete at the world level, took the silver on balance beam. Afterwards, some dip-stick reporter asked her how disappointed she was to only place second. Shannon, one of the most soft-spoken people ever, tried to explain to the person holding the microphone that she was honored to be a part of the team and to bring back the silver for them. The reporter turned back to the camera, shook her head, gave a “more later,” and signed off. Shannon went on to win more medals that year, but that stuck with me.

Watching downhill skiing a couple of days ago, there was a woman who won the event in the last Olympics and came back to take gold one more time before retiring. She placed third. When she realized there was no more gold in her future, she bent over, turned away from the cameras, covered her face, shuddered, and wept — her body heaving under the pain. The commentators, of course, played it for all it was worth. What a horrible failure. Only the bronze.

Our women’s curling team choked in their match against Switzerland. The talking heads gave tortured reports through the whole seven whatever-they’re-calleds about Switzerland being off their game, and how the US should be walking away with the win, and how each of the people-getting-down-on-one-knee-and-sliding-the-round-thing was losing points for their team. Showed a close up of one of them apologizing to another team member for missing their mark. We lost 9-4. Yes, WE. As a country.  Good Grief.

The heir-apparent to Apollo Ono in speed skating only placed fourth in his first event on the ice. How sad. And it’s the best of his four events. He’s already been counted out. May as well back out of the rest of the competition, take the long plane ride home and hope no one recognizes him.

Sisters win Gold/Silver in a down-hill event…but the third sister finished out of the medal count. Isn’t it a shame?

But then, there’s Julia Mancuso. She was slated to take Gold in the Down-Hill Combined, but won the Bronze. She was so excited. It was her fourth Olympic medal. She didn’t care what color it was. She was on the podium. She jumped up and down when she saw her time, and then her score. She was more elated, more animated, more thrilled than the women who took the gold and silver. In her heart and mind, she had won. She had a medal. For herself, for her team, and for her country. Isn’t that what the Olympics are supposed to be about?

Of the thousands upon thousands of kids who spend untold hours practicing/working out/being on special diets/being injured and having surgeries/entering competition after competition, only a handful ever get to wear the Olympic uniform. Of all the little girls who dream about competing as an individual ice skater, only two or three from each country are chosen. That’s it. And of all the ice skaters from all the countries that compete, only about 12 make it into the finals, and only three receive medals.

None of our cross-country skiers, male or female, has ever won an Olympic medal. And yet they compete. Of all our Olympians, only a few can come back with medals, and at best, only a third can possibly come home with gold.

Yet, for about 18 days, all we hear is medal count. Surprise wins. Embarrassing losses. Great victories. Missed opportunities. What happened to the Olympics being an event that’s supposed to bring the world together? If that’s true, why do we need medal counts anyway?

Because the reality is that some of these athletes were plucked from their mother’s arms as young as three or four years old to train and live with strangers. Some would never see their parents again. But the parents are rewarded with large apartments or houses or financial compensation. These athletes receive huge bonuses for each medal won. They’re rewarded with the best living conditions their country can afford. They’re celebrities who are national heroes. God help them if they lose to some Italian or American who had to pay most of their own way. It hasn’t been that long since American athletes were not allowed to accept endorsements or make commercials to pay for their training. So God help the competitor whose country has supported him all his life if he can’t beat a kid who had to pay his own way.

But there are others. Those who can’t make the team in their own country and compete under another flag because that country or tiny island is a parent’s country of origin. They know they have no chance of winning. Or standing on a podium. For them, it’s about competing as an Olympian. Skating on Olympic ice. Tumbling on Olympic mats. They compete, knowing they may not even make the final event. For them, it really is all about the sport. Just going to the Big Dance is all that matters. And hopefully, performing to the best of their abilities.

I guess it’s all for the best in the end, but I’m kind of over it. I love a good competition. Hell, I’ll take you on in scrabble or gin any time you’re ready.

And Abbi? She quit gymnastics at Level 7 as a state champion. Replaced it with cheerleading, diving, power tumbling and ice skating, and settled in on competitive cheer and pom (dance). She was selected as an All American several times and won a number of National Championships — including Collegiate National Dance Team, Collegiate National Small Co-ed Cheer, and Collegiate Academic National Champion. As a collegian, she was on scholarship that wasn’t great, but it paid for her books. She went on to coach at the collegiate level. During high school and college, she coached up and coming munchkins and taught them to win and lose with class and grace. Now, she owns her own businesses — LA Dollhouse that represents dancers, models and specialty acts, and Dollhouse Productions that produces shows. Athletics and competition set her up for life.  Taught her to set goals, reach them, and set new goals. It taught her how to lose, pick herself up and try again. And how to win gracefully. It taught her that success doesn’t come overnight, and that chasing a dream means not going out as often as others and that sometimes she needs to shop at Target instead of Bloomingdales. Designer purses and shoes are purchased at a consignment shop that gets stuff from movie and tv show sets.  But that’s OK. She’s making her mark in the entertainment business in the big pond of LA. She’s doing what she loves to do and demanding that life pay her to do it. And she’s willing to put in the work and pay her dues to make that happen.

And that, my friend, is what athletics are supposed to be about. Not being shunned by one’s country if they come back without a medal, like some are forced to do. Not being told, like the German women’s ice hockey team, that if they don’t come back with a medal they’ll lose their funding. Not “how did it make you feel to lose?” when they win a silver or bronze medal. It’s about preparation for life. And about learning to give your all, knowing it might not pan out. It’s about the roller-coaster ride.

Now, if we could just get the commentators for the Olympics to understand that.

Until next time, take care of yourself. There are people who love you….you just may not know who they are.


Yesterday began my first official week of vacation since starting with Sig Kap at Cal State-Fullerton a year ago November. Yes, I’ve had 2 weeks in Myrtle Beach, but those weren’t “vacation.” They were “we-need-your-apartment-so-you-have-to-leave-but-we’re-not-going-to-pay-you-while-you’re-gone-and-aren’t-even going-to-pay-your-hotel-bill-but-have-a-nice-time” times off.

So, Wednesday, in preparation for my big, exciting week, I not only went grocery shopping for enough toilet paper, paper towels, salsa, tortillas, cheese, sandwich meat,snacks, and anything else they might run out of while I’m gone, and fixed their dinner, I packed…and toted bags to the car…and packed…and toted bags to the car.

Abbi’s in Australia visiting Brett, who is working with the Australian Embassy in kabul, Afghanistan to raise enough money to come back to the US and try once again to get a Visa so he can stay here. I’m vacationing in her apartment. Trust me, that’s not like hopping on a plane and going to Myrtle Beach. Staying 40 minutes to 3 hours away (depending on traffic) is so much more trouble. There’s the bag with my mega-powerful smoothie maker for my protein shakes, protein powders, Chia seeds, and almonds. Thrown into this bag are my gluten-free Uber bars. And two books by Juliet Blackwell…my favorite “cozy” writer…witchy, romantic, funny, well-written, I-can’t-put-them-down-once-I’ve-cracked-the-cover, mysteries. And Stephen King’s “On Writing.” And all the things I don’t want the housing board president to see if she decides to do the same thing most people do when they’re visiting someone else’s home — snoop. Though my life is pretty much an open book, there are pages that have been removed and are only available to a select few. And yes, the president of our corporation board…who is deathly allergic to cats…is staying in my apartment while I’m away. I sent her a note this morning telling her I’m worried about her and asking if this would be a good time to buy stock in Benedryl.

Of course, there’s another bag with clothes — though heaven only knows what I’ll need this week. It’s a lot colder in West Hollywood than in Fullertan. Inland is always about 10 degrees higher. The bathing suit is included, though I know this week is only going to be in the 60’s an 70’s. In Myrtle Beach, I’d catch hell from my friends for going into the water and swimming…but the water’s only a couple of degrees off the air temp there, and is freaking freezing in California waters, regardless of what time of the year it is. Even with that, I plan on hitting the beach a couple of times to walk in the water and find restaurants with scallops. I can’t have a meal on the water without scallops. And a mojito. Definitely a mojito.

There’s another bag with throw-away-all-in-one litter boxes, because Abbi is owned by two cats, NYLA and Mox. Mox is a bit of a whore and wants to be held all the time, but NYLA hates almost everyone…but especially me, because I bring outside cats into her life, an that is totally unacceptable. She hates Abbi’s boyfriend, Brett, so much that she ran away from him, threw herself into a wall and broke her jaw. Yup. That much. She stays under the bed, coming out only occasionally to hiss at me. I put a litter box, food, and water in Abbi’s bedroom so NYLA won’t have to starve or poop on the rug while I’m here.

Which brings me to Sophie, who is “vacationing” with me this week. Her much-anticipated week off began Thursday morning with a trip to the vet. She’s had one before, because when she wandered onto Mini-Ha-Ha Ranch in NE Oklahoma City, she’d already been declawed and spayed. That didn’t make the experience any better for her.

She has now been put on a diet. Evidently, 16 pounds is too much for a 3-year old kitty-person to weigh. But after her “field training” of being homeless, it could be that she doesn’t want to pass up any available food or water in case it should go away. Either way, lugging her around in a carrier isn’t the easiest thing to do, so a diet it is.

At the vet, she got her shots and we had a chip put in so if she ever has the experience of being lost again, there’s a way for us to find each other.

She did not embrace the experience.

Once we got home, she burrowed under a stack of blankets (her favorite thing to do) after hissing and growling at me. For the next six hours, every time I touched her or reached in to pet her, I was greeted with more growling. Kind of a “What the F..k were you thinking?” kind of growl/hiss/grrroan.

This morning she was still hiding. Ran to Target to pick up some necessities for the week….and let me tell you, the Target in West Hollywood is so, so much better than anything Orange County has to offer. I’d forgotten what Real Targets were. It was so exciting, I ended up paying for parking — had wandered around for almost two hours, and only the first hour is free.

While touching/feeling my way through Target, where people spoke a language I very seldom hear…think they call it English…Sophie’s vet returned my call. It seems my kitty may still be stressed out over the hour car ride, trip to the vet, shots/implant of Kitty-GPS system, additional trip to Abbi’s, being in a strange house, and those two other balls of fur that are totally unauthorized in a Sophie Zone. Oh, the vet said, she may still be mad at me. Yup. I figured that one out already.Back at the house, she’s hiding behind an ottoman and still growling at me. Hope she gets over it before we leave next Thursday morning…..

Which brings me back to this coveted week of vacation.

My employment contract allows two weeks off in the summer, a week at Thanksgiving, and a week at Christmas during the fall semester, and a week at Spring Break. And that was such an interesting concept.

One of the un-benefits of being a house director is that time off is contingent on work being completed at the house. That was my Catch-22 for the summer’s two weeks. We had construction planned. First, I was waiting for approval to get construction done. Then, busied myself finding contractors and getting quotes, which was more difficult because it seems no one wants to work in Fullerton. We had to wait for the bids to be perused, a contractor picked, and a bid to be approved, which started the wait for that contractor to find time to do our work. Long story short — I know, too late –the construction continued after school started and went almost until recruitment started. I stole away for a weekend to go to the Mystery Writers’ Conference at Book Passage in Corte Madera, but couldn’t take time off on either side of it to catch up with friends….

Thanksgiving vacation was another WTF. My contract also says I have to delete the door codes on Wednesday night before Thanksgiving Day, and put them back in on Sunday at 8am. So, my “week” would have only been Thursday, Friday and Saturday, which would have been my normal time off anyway. But wait! The board decided to leave the house open for the entire break, totally negating my ability to leave.

I spent Thanksgiving Day at Abbi’s with Brittney (ballerina in the Degree and BCBG commercials), Dakota (Gypsy Rose), Michael Pena (who is in Russia choreographing the opening ceremony for the Olympics), and Christian, the costumer for Gypsy Rose. This was the first year Abbi prepared the holiday meal. I brought cheese and spinach enchiladas, because even though Abbi would fix traditional Thanksgiving food for her friends, she hates the stuff. Enchiladas are her Thanksgiving Food of choice. Oh, and I brought the Pumpkin and Pecan Pies. A mommy’s job is never done.

Christmas, I was given a week off, but the anticipation of that vacation time was erased when I realized they were only closing the house for a week — the same week I was supposed to be on vacation. If I had left, there was no way we could clean the house, do the maintenance, “close down” the house and re-open it for spring semester. My Christmas week off was spent working about 70 hours. After which I finally crashed, exhausted, and was sick for a week. And became a total bitch by the time the girls returned.

It was shortly after that I decided to, as Abbi would say, pull my balls out of my purse. I insisted on compensatory time off….vacation time…and told them I was going to be gone this week while Abbi is in another hemisphere, that I will Absolutely, Positively be away for Spring Break…and that they’ll need to delete and put in new codes because I’ll be leaving before the house closes and coming back after it opens. And in June, I’ll be taking a week to go back to Charleston, WV for my high-school reunion. Even with those weeks, I’m still two weeks behind in contracted time off. Probably won’t see it, but at least am setting a precedent for next year if we reach a decision that I’ll be coming back next year. I’ve learned a valuable lesson. Times off won’t come unless I make them. And I will from now on. Sometimes I forget it’s just a J.O.B.

Which brings us to this week….my vacation week….

Yesterday was Day One. Drive from Fullerton to LA. Cat To Hospital. Home. Sick Cat. Face down in couch. Total exhaustion. But almost immediately after arriving at Abbi’s, the rain began. And continued into the night. Sigh……

Day Two: Woke up to sickly cat, trip to Target, writing my “I’ve-put-this-off-way-too-long” blog, and that brings us to 2:00 pm. (Sophie just peaked her head out from behind ottoman and is deciding whether to allow me back into her life. More later.) When I finish proofing and push “publish,” I’ll put a zip drive into the side of my computer and start converting what’s written of my thriller, chapter by chapter onto it. I’ll write a chapter timeline and include what characters are in each (Sophie is eating). That should bring me to about 5:00. At that time, I will grab the Juliet Blackwell book that’s been waiting for me, and submerge myself into a hot bath of water filled with lavender-scented Epsom Salts. I’ll drain water as it cools and add more hot water to replace it. That ritual will continue until a) my body resembles a raisin, b) I wake up and realize that once again, I’ve nodded off in the tub or c) I finish the book.

At all my other sorority hosues, 3:00 p.m. every day was designated bath/reading/me time. But this bathroom doesn’t have a window. What it does have is the loudest “fart” fan ever. I like to read by natural light…that’s impossible, the the fan sound isn’t conducive to relaxation. Worse than that, this house has only one hot water heater for 18 females. I never know when there will be enough hot water for a whole bath. So, no afternoon soaks at the Sig Kap house. But Abbi’s apartment has this wonderful, deep tub with lots and lots of hot water. And a window. And no fan.

There are no plans past the moment I emerge from the tub, except that I must watch the Opening Ceremonies tonight to see Michael’s handiwork. He’s been in Russia most of the time for the last six months. He’s such a good guy, and I’m so happy that his talent is being recognized. Abbi’s life is full of brilliantly-talented people…many of whom would have never met if it weren’t for the Abbi connection. (Sophie back at the bowl eating again…hope she doesn’t throw up.)

Regardless of what happens, this week will be spent writing, resting, reading, walking on the beach, eating scallops (plus gluten-free food and drinking healthy protein shakes from stuff I picked up today), taking hot baths, and writing, resting, reading….rinse and repeat. Maybe I’ll get together with a couple of people who live on this end of the world. Or not.

A trip away would have been fun, but I need this week to recharge. And write…every day….without being interrupted….without having to take a day off to grocery shop and cook. A whole week for me. And my sickly cat (exploring to see if she’ll fit behind the television console and settling in behind draperies). But for now, think I’ll change directions and take that hot bath. I deserve it.

More later….but for now, take care of yourselves. I’ve missed you.