I pronounce you husband & wife!

On June 22, the Summer Solstice, aka Midsummer Night, I had the honor of marrying 2 adorable friends of mine – Ben & Jaime -both young enough to be my children, intoxicatingly in love, ridiculously glamorous & earthy and authentic. That about sums them up! I had never performed a wedding before, so I was understandably anxious when they asked me – what if I messed up their special moment? That could be awkward and mortifying! Ben & Jamie seemed strangely confident that I would be wonderful – how they could be so sure, considering I had no previous experience, was a mystery to me!

At least I couldn’t be worse than the minister who officiated Ben’s father’s wedding in January! He was a dead ringer for the minister in the movie Hangover 2. Wait a minute – It was the same guy! But his delivery wasn’t very smooth, and he kept mispronouncing the groom’s name and stumbling on the dialogue – I wondered if he had gotten sloppy after the luxury of getting to do multiple takes on film! Note to self – do not make the same mistake! There are no second takes up on that podium!

What was bizarre, is that I had become a minister back in January, when another friend of mine had told me that she might want me to marry her and her boyfriend. I really wanted the 2 of them to tie the knot, so I was inspired. Within 24 hours, I became an ordained minister – it actually was far easier than I expected!

After a brief meeting with the bride and a flurry of emails back and forth, I plunged into unfamiliar territory – the writing of a sermon. I agonized over it. I wanted it to be perfect for them. Casper suggested that I do it like the priest in Princess Bride! – thanks, honey, for being sooo helpful!

I guess I am a good advocate for marriage – I am married, for starters, through the thick and the thin of it. I have no illusions about what it takes to make a marriage work – lots and lots of work! I am both a romantic and a pragmatist. I believe deeply in the sanctity of marriage, and the institution of it, and the power of a witnessed covenant.

I wove all my life experience into my writing. Thank goodness I got a stamp of enthusiastic approval from the couple –  I definitely poured my heart and soul into their ceremony.

They sent a car for me to pick me up at Denver airport and gifted me with a beautiful bouquet of flowers and a lovely gift basket in my hotel room. I was touched by how thoughtful and appreciative they were.

At the rehearsal brunch, Ben shared about how his heart had physically hurt after he met Jaime, “I think it was because it was having to expand to take in all of her.” He pointed to his beloved, beaming. “I am the luckiest man in the world!” The love in the room was so palpable. The waterworks unleashed! Get a grip, girl! I hoped I didn’t cry during the ceremony!

Later I went back to the hotel to get dressed, and to my horror, saw that my pale green silk dress was covered in yellow blotches. Ugh! Why had I not noticed this before?!! How embarrassing! I had not brought anything else to wear! I looked in the mirror – this was decidedly a little more boho then the chic that I had planned! I prayed that the flounce of the silk would distract people from seeing the discoloration!

The bride decided that all the women in the wedding party should be barefoot as the wedding was in the garden – thank goodness I just had a pedicure! She thought it would be lovely for my feet to be covered in sparkles – which was fine by me – anything to take the focus away from the dress! Unfortunately, the maid of honor was a little too liberal with the glue spray can – which had to be applied so that the sparkles would adhere  – and she glued my toes together – making my feet look webbed!

It was almost show time! I could feel my heart pounding a bit too fast! I tried to take a deep breath, but there wasn’t sufficient give in the bodice. I don’t remember the dress feeling this tight! I am not sure how much was attributable to the altitude, but I was definitely having a hard time breathing. Crap, I was not feeling super confident! I started texting my friend Gabrielle for support – she kindly coached me into a more subdues state!

The garden had been transformed into a fairy wonderland with white rose petals everywhere. I trotted down the aisle, after Ben’s youngest sister who was dressed as a fairy flower girl, twirling my dress rather energetically to prevent the silk from sticking to my gluey-webbed feet. All the while praying that no one notice the tacky stains or the webbed feet!

I made it to the podium! Yeah! – Without tripping on my dress – which was precariously long in bare feet, or catching on fire – the groom’s sister was carrying a giant flaming torch dangerously close to me!

Ben joined me under an arbor draped in white orchids, wisteria and crystals. Miraculously, I became calm as soon as I focused on the joy in Ben’s face as he watched his stunning bride approach. Her face was overflowing with light and love and joy. Crap, I could feel the tears welling up again. And I had no Kleenex tucked away!

I rang a bell and plunged into my sermon. All 3 of us were nestled together under a cascade of white flowers. It was so intimate. I saw tears spilling down the bride’s face – it was contagious. At least she had access to her husband’s pocket handkerchief – I thought it might be tacky if I asked to share it! Then my nose started running! A couple of times, I turned away, trying to wipe the snot away, without being too obvious! I had never seen a minister cry before, I wondered how professional that was! Oh well! Couldn’t be helped!

They repeated after me, “You are my life, you are my love, my best friend…” Rings slid onto expectant fingers, I pronounced them husband and wife. And then, in a flash, it was all over!

Every single guest came up to thank me afterwards, saying that it was the loveliest ceremony they had ever witnessed. Oh boy, was I grateful! And grateful that Ben & Jaime had faith in me and had coaxed me to go beyond my comfort zone.  They both announced, “We could never have done this without you!” Which might have been a bit of an exaggeration! But generous, none the less!

Jaime’s manager came up to me afterwards to congratulate me. “Well, you probably do this all the time, it’s your profession, after all!” I died laughing. “I’m an actress, I’ve never done this before!” He looked so confused!

Truth be told – I loved the experience. It was so rewarding. Every word I uttered was such a testament of love – it just poured out of me, straight from my heart.

I would do it again, in a heartbeat!

Excerpt from the ceremony ~ a passage that Jaime picked ~

From “Corelli’s Mandolin” by Louise De Bernieres

 “Love is a temporary madness, it erupts like volcanoes and then subsides. And when it subsides 

you have to make a decision. You have to work out whether your roots have so entwined 

together that it is inconceivable that you should ever part. Because this is what love is. Love is 

not breathlessness, it is not excitement, it is not the promulgation of promises of eternal 

passion… That is just being “in love,” which any fool can do. Love itself is what is left over 

when being in love has burned away”

my father who art in heaven – part 1

My father, Howard Oxenberg, passed away 2 years ago, on June 25, 2010, a month short of his 91st b’day.  This is a chronicle of the last 6 months of his life. He was one of the most challenging people that I have ever met. He was a great teacher, in retrospect, but his methods were definitely adversarial, not warm and fuzzy. I resented him for making it so hard to love him. My whole life, I longed for closeness with him, I longed for the key to open his heart. I felt a deep sadness that this seemed unlikely. After all, he was the first one to tell me that you couldn’t teach an old dog new tricks. To make matters worse, he now suffered from dementia and severe paranoia, so the idea that I would be able to connect with him in any meaningful way, seemed absolutely hopeless.

Dad had always been an enigma to me – and if you asked his 5 children to describe him – even the ones who he insisted weren’t his (even though they were!) – each would have painted a completely different picture. The information he told each of his children never matched, and it was always interesting to compare data – if we ever got the chance – because often that information was so inflammatory that it had a tendency to polarize all of us against each other. Dad could be Machiavellian!

In January 2010, I started to split my time between California and Florida. My father’s condition was deteriorating and my younger sister Ashley was at a loss. She asked for my help. I had him admitted to a hospital after he had a dangerous seizure. I discovered that he was being treated by different doctors for various conditions and none of the physicians had any idea what the other ones were prescribing – so as a result, he was taking a dangerous cocktail of medicines. Viagra being at the top of the list. Dad! Honestly! I had to give the urologist a serious scolding for even contemplating giving him any more! This was Dad’s personality, he was very secretive and didn’t like the left hand knowing what the right hand was doing.

While he was under observation of the hospital, I got a call from a very concerned physician who felt that my father was suffering from severe grandiosity. “Apparently, your father believes that he was married to a princess?”

“Well, actually, that is accurate.”

“And that he knew the Queen of England and most of the members of the European Royal families?”

“Hmm, actually, he is telling the truth about that as well.”

“And that one of his children is a Kennedy?”

“Hmm, well there was a rumor about that.” I decided not to elaborate. (I’ll save that story for when my mother gives me the green light!) The doctor probably thought that our entire family was suffering from delusions of grandeur!

The following day, Dad had a severe outburst and became violent. He was admitted to a mental institution.

The upside of being sent to “a cuckoo’s nest” – as Dad called it- was that he was finally diagnosed, at 90 years old, with bi-polar disorder. I had my suspicions for over a decade that his volatility might be more than mere eccentricity –  it was bittersweet to have confirmation. I could only imagine how much he must have suffered his whole life with an undiagnosed mental illness.

The symptoms of bi-polar symptoms and dementia can be very similar. The doctors prescribed medication for him – finally the right ones – and the experience reminded me of that film Awakenings. This was the first time that I could truthfully say that I was grateful for pharmaceuticals, because whatever they put him on, it allowed my father’s authentic personality to emerge. After a lifetime of struggle and confusion, I finally had the father I had always dreamed of. This new dad, who I like to remember as my real Dad, might have been the sweetest man I have ever met in my life. He was kind and patient and loving, and he communicated with a level of self-awareness I never thought possible. The belligerent, repetitive rants had been replaced with introspective conversations about his newly identified alter ego, whom he aptly named, “Mr. Bi-polar.”

I went to visit him in the lockdown unit, and found him dressed in a neon-orange polar fleece jacket with lime green pants. This was Lily Pulitzer on steroids! Had Dad gone color-blind now that he could see beneath the surface?! The color combination was startling – most especially because he had always prided himself on his style, and for appearing on various best-dressed lists!

After slurping down some revolting synthetic hospital concoctions, he brought me over to a very elderly lady who lay in a gurney, “I’d like you to meet one of the most beautiful people I have ever met. This is real beauty – from the inside!” The lady smiled a toothless grin. I stifled tears. If you knew my father, you would know that this was a miracle. My father hated everything about old age and most of all the way old people looked. He would never even consider dating a woman half his age. In fact, he had only married women who were 26 years old (5 times- the last wife was 51 years his junior!) – regardless of how old he was – I was stunned. He now had the ability to recognize inner beauty – he could SEE – truly see. This ability was something that had eluded him his entire life. He continued, excited, “You’re not going to believe it! We went to the same high school in Brooklyn! What are the chances? A billion to one!” I had to admit, it was an extraordinary coincidence, for them to reunite in a nut house in Florida!

From the onset of the dementia, my father’s daily mantra had been, “Get me out of here! I want to go home!” – regardless of where he was, he was plagued by a perpetual restlessness. The truth was, that his desire to constantly flee was a metaphor for his inner condition. He wasn’t at home either in his mind or his failing body, and he could no longer find access to the person that had been his ‘home’, his safe haven – his whole life. He had become a stranger to himself.

But it wasn’t so simple to get him out of the mental hospital. Now, that he was a ward of the state, the hospital had the right to keep him locked up until they deemed he was well enough to be released. Of course, Dad wanted to go home. But Dad had evicted all the nurses we had hired for him and his home was not habitable. The house was infested with rats and mold. In fact, I had discovered a rats’ nest inside the couch in his living room. (I shudder thinking about that couch!) That was the couch that my family and I spent hours sitting on, over several decades, a captive audience for Dad’s endless rants that we dared not interrupt.

Apparently, Dad knew about the rats, because when I confronted him with this news, he told me that did not want to have the rats removed – he said they were his friends!

Those rodents had been surviving on a rich diet of pistachio nuts, which Dad always left in a bowl on the coffee table – didn’t he ever wonder who kept emptying bowl after bowl of nuts? I found thousands of shells inside the rotten upholstery of his furniture!

The institution would only discharge him was if he was admitted to a facility with fulltime care. This could prove to be a problem, because most nursing homes wanted well-behaved inmates, not ones with mental illnesses with Dad’s oppositional history. After a nail-biting interview, Dad charmed his way into the only 5-star nursing home in Palm Beach!

When we drove up to the Inn at La Posada, Dad exclaimed, “This place is a masterpiece!” We marveled and pointed out that the street was in fact called, Masterpiece Way! For the first few days, he was a model patient. He was so grateful to be out the nuthouse!

Unfortunately, this good behavior did not last. The problem was that Dad soon forgot that he had ever been locked up in a mental home! He soon became belligerent again and refused to take the medication that had allowed him a semblance of short-lived normalcy. He was back to his old ways.

The nursing home admitted him on one condition – that we hire a fulltime aide/bodyguard to watch him 24/7. Even so, he managed to trick his aide, in 2 daring Bonnie and Clyde getaways – which cost the bewildered aide his job. I got frantic calls from the facility – he had been kidnapped. The police had to be dispatched. Dad had gone through his address book and called random people to help him escape. He said he was being held against his will and had bribed them with the lure of a $1million reward to rescue him. We pleaded with the facility to let him stay but they warned us that he needed to be locked back up in an institution. He was too big of a risk.

It was hard to explain to my concerned children that people kept stealing Grandpa Howard!

(to be continued)

The institution would only discharge him was if he was admitted to a facility with fulltime care. This could prove to be a problem, because most nursing homes wanted well-behaved inmates, not ones with mental illnesses with Dad’s oppositional history. After a nail-biting interview, Dad charmed the only 5-star nursing home in Palm Beach!

When we drove up to the Inn at La Posada, Dad exclaimed, “This place is a masterpiece!” We marveled and pointed out that the street was in fact called, Masterpiece Way! For the first few days, he was a model patient. He was so grateful to be out the nuthouse! Unfortunately, this good behavior did not last. The problem was that Dad soon forgot that he had ever been locked up in a mental home! He soon became belligerent again and refused to take the medication that had allowed him a semblance of short-lived normalcy. He was back to his old ways.

The nursing home admitted him on one condition – that we hire a fulltime aide/bodyguard to watch him 24/7. Even so, he managed to trick his aide, in 2 daring Bonnie and Clyde getaways – which cost the bewildered aide his job. I got frantic calls from the facility – he had been kidnapped. The police had to be dispatched. Dad had gone through his address book and called random people to help him escape. He said he was being held against his will and had bribed them with the lure of a $1million reward to rescue him. We pleaded with the facility to let him stay but they warned us that he needed to be locked back up in an institution. He was too big of a risk.

It was hard to explain to my concerned children that people kept stealing Grandpa Howard!

(to be continued)

South of the Border ~

I’m at LAX, on the runway, minutes from the announcement to power down all electronics, and I get a call from the kids’ school – My daughter Celeste (8) has been sent back to the nurse’s office by her teacher. Apparently, the school will not allow her to stay unless she has a note from the doctor saying that she has a clean bill of health. Apparently, the nurse called the doctor and the doctor refused to supply the necessary document on the grounds that they had not seen her this week to ascertain if she was better – what were they talking about!? It was Monday at 9am – how could they expect to have seen her this week!? I had now broken out into a hot and cold sweat – Casper was in Germany, there was to one to pick Celeste up, there was no one at home, the doctor had assured me last Thursday that she could return to school after her first day on antibiotics – which had been 4 days ago. Crap! The nurse sounded irritated, “Do you mean there is no one we can call in case of an emergency?”  I blabbered, “You can call my eldest daughter!” I rattled off the number, not at all confident that she could even pick up her sister. She had moved out a month ago. I felt so irresponsible. “What if I call the doctor’s office and see if I can get them to acquiesce?” I could feel my will steeling itself for battle. The flight attendant eyed me disapprovingly. I disappeared under a blanket. I called the doctor’s office and pleaded with them. I was a mother possessed – something takes over me under duress – a combo of desperation mixed with unyielding persuasiveness – I think it worked. I never got a final answer as the plane took off. Fingers crossed. I prayed I didn’t leave my little girl in a lurch. I had a knot in my stomach. I didn’t feel like a good parent right now.

The irony is that I was on my way to Mexico to do a workshop titled Family Values – and here I was abandoning my sick child – who seemed fully recovered over the weekend – Funny how that happens.

I had never been to Mexico City and I was a bit apprehensive. I had been advised not to wear any jewelry – I had heard horror stories of criminals chopping off a bauble-laden finger without any qualms, and ambushing weddings with machine guns in search of family heirlooms. This is the wild and scary land of the warring drug cartels. So, I stripped myself bare of any bling – even my wedding ring. I felt naked.

(This part is not so serious – I have to say this as I wish to avoid any misunderstandings!)

I always have a morbid thought every time I travel without my family. What if I die in a plane crash and I am wearing my jewelry? Then my children would have lost their mother and a chunk of their inheritance. The upside of not wearing my jewels this time – The jewels won’t be wasted in some ocean or lost amongst plane debris!

(More seriously) Truthfully, whenever I travel without my children, I go through a sort of reckoning – a mental checklist – to make sure everything is in order, in case of some type of terminal mishap. And right now, everything isn’t in order. Casper and I need to amend our will, making our eldest daughter, who turns 21 this week, our remaining children’s legal guardian. And, as we haven’t done it, I do feel a sort of limbo, a slight uneasiness – all adding fuel to the fire of the already clamoring mantra of the day “I’m a less than stellar parent!” Ugh!

(Deadly serious!) I pray that I learn something of value in this class and that I return I better parent. I hope that Celeste forgives me for not being there for her. I hope that my whole family benefits from this experience.

The last time that Casper and I left town, my eldest, who was supposed to be in charge of our brood while we were gone, was in a car crash, the morning of our departure. Drama, drama, drama!

Such is family! I always get tested, every time I leave my home. Plagued by the age-old refrain, “Should I stay or should I go!?”

Always feeling that pull on my heart. I honestly wish I could bring my children everywhere with me. That would be my dream.

I landed in Mexico City and, on my 1st day, I learned that women are allowed to go through red lights after 10pm! I’m evaluating the pros and cons of that. At first, that sounds like so much fun, and then, gory scenarios flash through my head of why the fly-by-night rule might have been enforced! It might be preferable to live in LA after all!

On the first day of the workshop, I am struggling with head splitting altitude sickness – Mexico City is at 7000 feet – A pressurized airplane feels like relief by comparison!

One of the women in our group is held up and robbed at gunpoint in broad daylight. We had been eating lunch at the same restaurant and she left barely 2 minutes before I did. I know it doesn’t sound very compassionate but I was so relieved that it had not been me – I probably would have had a heart attack. She, on the other hand, seemed relatively unscathed – probably because she was a local and had a rather relaxed attitude about being accosted by armed bandits – after all, they only wanted her watch!

On second thoughts, maybe I should have hired bodyguards. Literally, the only women who I witnessed wearing any jewelry had bodyguards joined at the hip. What a strange way to live. I guess they’re use to it. It made me feel so grateful for the freedom I enjoy in Malibu.

Day 3, I get a call from Casper that his son has been suspended from college – when it rains it pours! And, on top of that, he was not too pleased with me for the fiasco I had left in my wake. Not only the drama with Celeste, which I clocked up as a failure on my part, but the plan for the girls to carpool back home that afternoon, felt apart – a slight glitch in communication to say the least (my mistake for relying on our 15 year-old) – and they had been stranded at school. This I clocked up as failure number 2. Ugh again! Some other parent had driven back to school to rescue them. For sure, our reputation as deadbeat parents must be spreading like wildfire – good thing I’m down here learning about family values (joke). The next time I am at school, I may have to wear a disguise!

A couple of days later, I Skype my family. My daughter Maya seems awfully sullen – she is back from Wolf Camp. I am surprised, as she had been looking forward to this event for months. “Why the long face?” I ask.

“A girl peed on me. I had to carry her on my back and when she got off, my shirt was soaking wet.” I tried not to laugh. “That is terrible!” Now, I happened to know the girl she was talking about, and she was twice as big as my daughter. How the heck had she picked her up in the first place?

“Mom, you forgot to pack a towel, so I had to borrow one – it was SO embarrassing. And the mom who said she was bringing shampoo and soap, forgot – so I couldn’t wash. I am covered with cuts and bruises, and the girls in my cabin must think I am a spoiled brat ‘cause I told them all to shut up, ‘cause they wouldn’t let me sleep.” This was Maya’s first camp experience and sadly it was an abysmal failure.

I am glad to report that my camp experience fared better. My workshop was a success, a true treasure trove of valuable information. My parental toolbox is newly filled to the brim.

I almost missed my flight home, when I tried to board the wrong plane. I couldn’t understand why the boarding card kept flashing invalid in the scanner.  The attendant kindly notified me that it wasn’t even the same airline. Luckily the other gate was in the same terminal and I made it just in time. Embarrassing! Especially, as I had pushed my way to the front of the line, citing priority boarding!

I am looking forward to groveling apologetically to my family, in the hopes that they will forgive me. I missed them.

In honor of our 13th anniversary

In honor of my 13th anniversary – I meant to post this blog on May 8th –the actual day– but I fell asleep on the plane to NYC.

That doesn’t sound very romantic!

I thought I would write about how Casper and I got engaged – because it’s kind of magical –

It is so easy to get complacent and bogged down by the quagmires of daily life, that sometimes I forget the magic surrounding the beginning of our relationship. My husband insists that the same magic persists today– but I seem to remember a certain blatant flair about the synchronicities, back then, in the beginning, that first swept us off our feet.

I was in London visiting Casper who was filming Sleepy Hollow with Johnny Depp – I got an offer to star in an indie film, The Omega Code. Casper concocted a plan that he should play the role of my character’s cameraman – the guy gets shot in the opening sequence –but at least that way he could accompany me on location – which he thought was only fair, as I had flown twice to London to be with him. Not to mention that the locations were not too shabby – Italy and Israel.

It just so happened that one of the producers, Larry Mortoff, was his producer on Tarzan, so he called him up and laid out his plan.

Larry seemed genuinely surprised, “I thought you were not available until April.”

Casper responded, “No, I wrap in February.”

“Okay, give me a minute, I’ll get back to you.”

Literally a minute later, the hotel phone rang. “Casper, how would you like the lead?”

We looked at each other, in shock.

March 1999, we were on a plane to Jerusalem. It just so happened that we had 5 days off in the middle of the shoot and the production gave us a car and driver to take us sightseeing. Neither one of us had never been to Israel, and how I imagined the country would look bore no resemblance to the reality. It was so much more beautiful. We drove through the lush valley of Galilee, we baptized each other in the river Jordan, we floated in the Dead Sea, prayed at every holy site, regardless of denomination, climbed down the perilous cliff from Masada. And last, but not least, we visited The Church of the Nativity – twice. Twice, because, Casper had decided he wanted to propose to me there. I had a sneaky suspicion that he was up to something, but I didn’t want to assume, after all, we had only known each other for 6 months. It was quite a hassle going through all the checkpoints between Israel and Palestine – I had no idea that Bethlehem was in current day Palestine.

On March 17, we clambered back down into the musty crypt, and Casper slid across the marble floor in front of the manger where myth has it that Jesus was born.

He bellowed, “Will you marry me?” and then, with greater urgency, “The camera is almost out of film!”

I shrieked “OMG! Yes!” and we burst into peels of laughter. We were immediately silenced by a very sour looking priest.

Upon leaving the church, we were approached by a local Palestinian, ”I offer you 200 camels for the blond.”

I was impressed. That was a lot of camels. I had no idea, but camels can be very expensive!

Our guide explained that the Church of the Nativity is the only church in that part of the world to have survived destruction. Myth has it, that when the Ottomans invaded, they destroyed everything in sight. When they arrived at the entrance of the church, torches in hand, they saw a mosaic – which is still intact today, of the Three Wise Men – AKA The Three Kings Balthazar, Melchior and Caspar – whom they considered of Islamic descent. So, they bypassed the church and moved on to pillage elsewhere.

There is one building that was subsequently built right up against the Church of the Nativity – The Church of Saint Catherine.

I found it very poetic that Casper proposed to me in a place where out two namesakes are preserved, side-by-side, at the symbolic birthplace of Christianity, and have remained inseparable for 2 thousand years.

It felt like our union was sanctified through time.

Yeah, I know, pretty romantic!!J

To do the film or not to do the film!

Casper and I both got offers to do a film.

The glitch is that our characters are both married to other people. My husband is Zeus, and his wife is Medea – who traditionally goes crazy and kills her children, but unfortunately for me – does not in this modified version of the Greek myth. Instead they go off happily into the sunset. To make matters worse, my character sees his character be all lovey-dovey with his screen wife. Puke!

(How immature do I sound right now?!)

At first, I was really excited at the prospect of working again – it’s been a while since I have done any acting– and, I like working with Casper.

He and I met on a film, we got engaged on a film, we have had many adventures working together around the world.

The character I have been asked to play is Hera, Queen of the gods. This would be a reprisal for me.  The 1st time I played her was for a Lexus commercial in 1998. I will never forget my audition – I tripped on the hem of my long white dress and did a face plant! I was mortified!

I started off reading the script – I was loving my character, loving the dialogue – the writer/director had written this character with me in mind, and he had gone a fantastic job. This dialogue fit me like a glove. This was such a great role. It would be so much fun to play the  goddess of them all!

And, then, all of a sudden, I got to a scene where Casper’s character has to smooch his wife, (not me!) in front of my character and tell her that he loved her. My heart sank. Ugh. I don’t know if I could stomach watching that without freaking out.

In previous films, where we have been confronted with similar situations, things have not worked out so well. In one film, I was so traumatized, that I froze and could not, for the life of me, remember my lines. It took me 30 takes. It was awful for me and for everyone else in the scene. In fact, that might be why I decided not to act for a long while!

I wish it didn’t bother me. But…it does. I am embarrassed to admit it. It doesn’t sound sophisticated or mature.

It sucks because I would really have loved to play this character. On top of that, how do I tell the director, who is a friend of Casper’s, the reason why I can’t be in his film? How professional does that sound?

I sound so silly. I keep telling myself – It’s just a job! – Why can’t it be just a job? I don’t know. I am a very visual person and I have a hard time erasing images from my memory. I tend to torture myself by regurgitating and reliving these flashbacks.

I didn’t always admit to being so messed up! I did try to be the supportive wife, dutifully attending every premiere, pretending that it didn’t bother me. But, deep down, it did. And, eventually, I had to be honest and decided that I had to take care of myself. It was better for me not to see him ‘acting in love’ with other women. Even if I knew intellectually that it wasn’t real, my nervous system and my heart couldn’t tell the difference. So, I stopped going to his screenings and I still change the channel when one of his films is on TV. Not all, just the ones where he has a romantic interest.

I feel like an ostrich sticking its head in the sand – As long as I don’t see Casper kissing or making out with anyone else, I can just about handle it.

We have a policy that our children don’t watch many of his films for the same reason. It is too confusing for them.

Over the years, Casper and I have gone through a lot of negotiation, figuring out what types of roles we could and couldn’t do as a married couple – and as parents.

We came to the conclusion that it would be best if we didn’t do love scenes with other actors anymore. It is just too weird and creepy.

I know that there are plenty of other married actors who say that it

doesn’t bother them at all – It is just part of the business. I really wish I were like that!

After reading the script, I went through some serious thinking last night, and, before I definitively say no, I am going to ask the director if he can stage the scenes so that I don’t have to see anything I don’t want to see (This is taking ostrich theme to an extreme!) We have a meeting on Thursday – let’s see what he says…

I want to make it work, i want to be brave, I just don’t know if I can! 😦

Maya’s inoculation!

During a recent family meeting, I was listening to the grudges of 4 of my 5 children. They were upset by some of Maya’s more callous comments. It seems that none of my family are very thick skinned in the insult department – I explained to Maya that it was a good policy to think about what one was going to say before actually saying it. She cleverly countered with, “You always tell me to be honest?!”

“Maya, I do want you to be honest, but now that you are older, I am going to teach you about when honesty might not be such a virtue! Being kind is sometimes better than being honest”

She squinted her eyes and looked at me, very confused. “Be honest, but don’t be honest?”

“Maya, although I am never offended by what you say to me – other people, who maybe might not love you as much as I do – or who might not know that you love them, the way that I do – may be hurt by the things that you say!”

“How I am supposed to know when to tell the truth or when to lie?!”

“I wouldn’t necessarily say – that NOT telling someone something that could be mean or hurtful – is lying! Figuring out the effects of your words, and weighing which is the better choice – to blurt it or to zip it – that process is called discernment.”

She made an exasperated sound and rolled her eyes. Mom’s big words!

This was her first foray into the complicated world of contradiction, but I figured it was time to introduce her to the subtle nuance of mature behavior.

I turned to the rest of the family.

“Girls, this is not saying that I condone Maya for saying hurtful things, but I would like to tell you how her honesty has actually strengthened me, by helping me develop a thicker skin. Learning not to take things personally can give you a lot of freedom in the world. It can be quite limiting to have a thin skin. The world can sometimes be cruel and critical, and where better to practice learning how not to take things personally – than from those closest to you! At least you know that Maya really loves you, underneath it all – which may not be always the case with others. In a sense, Maya is inoculating you!

I am offering you an opportunity to change your perspective – to look for the gift and the teaching from this situation.”

Now all the girls rolled their eyes. I continued, undeterred, with my premise.

“Do you remember when Maya was 4 and she ran upstairs one morning to ask me if I was going to die, and I said, NO! Why?, and she said, ‘cause you look so old?”

They all nodded, because I took great pleasure retelling this story. I thought of that moment as a sort of rite of passage for me. It was the moment that I realized that nothing Maya (or any of my children, for that matter) could ever say, would ever bother me or upset me. In fact, it was the opposite. I was delighted by their view of me, however unflattering! It didn’t matter what they said to me, it was impossible for me to take offense.

And, I wondered why? Why do I respond so differently with my children?

Perhaps it is because I love them unconditionally, and so everything they say is filtered through that love, bathed in that love. I can feel that undercurrent of love at all times, permeating every interaction, in a way that I have not been able to achieve, to the same degree, with the rest of the world.

With them, I could feel the love between the lines.

I had a history of taking offense at mean comments and at criticism from others, and had been, like the rest of my family – fairly thin-skinned. The decades of being in the public eye and at the mercy of the fickle press had not cured me from being hurt by other peoples’ opinions of me – even though I might have understood intellectually that it was only their opinion, and had more to do themselves than with me – it still felt bad.

Only my beautiful children, especially Maya, had been successful in freeing me from the slings and arrows of perceived putdowns.

If I could now translate what I had mastered with my children, to all of my relationships – through a filter of deep love for all humanity, I would be free! This is my goal.

“What other people think of me is none of my business!”Anonymous

casper’s schedule

This morning, our 10-year-old Maya, decided that my husband – her Dad, Casper, needed a schedule. She ascertained, that after his brief absence from home, he needed guidelines if he was going to survive the tiny anarchists (mainly her!)  who occupied our home.

This had been a tough re-entry!

He returned home last night, all buoyed from his experience at work, excited to see the children, having missed us all terribly.

He had only been gone for 2 ½ weeks – but, somehow, in the short amount of time he had spent on location, filming, he seemed to have forgotten that no one at home listened to him!

Literally within hours, 4 impudent, obstinate girls, literally, took him down. He was forced to retreat to his massage chair in the corner of the den.

Having read John Gray’s book, Men are from Mars and Women are from Venus, I understood that it was good for men to have a cave to ruminate in, however our home was not big enough to accommodate a cave, so Casper had to content himself with a corner – And his corner didn’t seem to be providing the solace that he needed to regroup!

On top of that, I had zealously implemented a whole new parenting technique – with incentives and privileges – which he had not been completely brought up to speed on. He let me know that he wasn’t that impressed by my strategy –  from his perspective,  it didn’t seem to be working so well.

While he had been absent, I had sat the girls down and told them that they would earn an allowance in exchange for a clean room and a made bed every morning. It meant $5 week, $1 a day on weekdays and no monitoring on weekends. The little ones, Maya and Celeste, had been pretty good, and there was a definite improvement in the tidiness of their room.  But my teenager, Grace, who had tasted the spoils of modeling jobs and commercials, could not be motivated by a $5 bounty – she had been ruined!

And, as for the 20-year-old, I’d had to negotiate expensive incentives like tanks of gas and plane tickets!

As far as the incentive system, I had to admit, that we were on shaky ground – they had lost their luster, as the girls had figured out how to outsmart me and reap the rewards of their privileges without having earned them. Crafty little stinkers!

My system was quite simple – in addition to their allowance, they could earn points that equaled in value ½ hour of computer, video and TV time.

For some of the less appetizing chores, I had to pay a ridiculous surcharge – I allocated a full point for each individual dog turd, but, still, the garden remained littered with nuggets.

I also discovered, much to my chagrin, that the girls were still sneaking TV and computer time in their rooms. I tried to outsmart them by hiding the electronics, the remote controls, and unplugging the TV. I was amazed at how many plugs and cords came and went from their TV, I felt like I was unhooking it from life support – but no matter how confusing it looked to me, my girls could hot wire that TV in no time at all.

And, soon I would hear the high-pitch of chipmunks and other cartoon characters blaring from their room again!

The purpose of this parenting technique was two-fold – to help me not lose my temper when they wouldn’t comply, and to help them learn cause and effect. And, I have to say, that my part was definitely working. Maybe because I was no longer engaged in a power struggle, instead, I was having fun finding ways to outwit them at every turn!

I would advise them to go to bed when I thought it was an appropriate time, but if they didn’t listen, which they invariably didn’t, I wouldn’t yell at them to get back into bed. Instead, I let them know, that if they were cranky, overtired and late for school, that I would accompany them into the Principal’s office and explain to him the reason for their tardiness.

For some reason that was inexplicable to me, Maya was terrified of visiting the Principal’s office. It was strange, as she was pretty much fearless about everything, and had no problem defying authority at home. But, for as long as I could play the Principal card, I would!

And, so far, miraculously, they had not been late for school. In fact, Celeste, who had circles under her eyes a couple of mornings, actually figured out that she perhaps needed a little more sleep and opted to go to bed earlier all by herself. This was not such a bad thing!

However, the night that Casper came home, the girls were overexcited, I’m sure because they had missed him, and wanted his attention. Well, they certainly got his attention, but it wasn’t the most benevolent!

SO, before he drove them off to school this morning, Maya penned a schedule for her Dad– this was his guideline for a sane life!

Casper’s schedule~

7:45am – Drop kids off

9:00am – Gym

11:00am – shower off & snack & potty

12:00pm – scream into a pillow

12:05pm – lunch

12:50pm – computer or TV

1:45pm – do something

2:00pm – get ready to pick up kids

2:45pm – pick Maya & Celeste up and at 3:00pm p/u Grace

4:00pm – Help w/ homework

Thank goodness for our children – We think we have it all together until they remind us exactly where we don’t!