Wednesday, September 26, 2018

You Know You've Finally Made It When...

When Mr. W was a youngster, he had three big dreams: To be a Top Gun fighter pilot, to work in the film industry, and to someday own a Porsche. While some guys his age had pictures of Tiffani-Amber Thiessen taped to their bedroom walls, Mr. W had centerfolds of Carreras.

Though his dream of becoming Maverick got back burnered, he chased his film aspirations from St. Louis to Los Angeles and vowed to buy himself that car as soon as his paychecks could support it.

After several years of grinding away in visual effects (and fetching the occasional coffee), Mr. W was established enough in the industry to splurge on the ultimate driving machine. He bought himself a shiny ocean blue metallic Porsche 911 Carrera.

It was a declaration that'd he'd finally made it.

His friends teasingly called him Jake Ryan. Shy guy. Good hair. I think it kinda fits.

Fast forward about 15 years and the marker that represents making it has changed dramatically.

I don't want to say that his double decades in Hollywood jaded him, but he outgrew the Porsche aspirations and moved onto fantasizing about a more practical sports car: The Tractor.

Success shifted from the Hollywood Hills to the Santa Ynez Valley, and included the remodel of an outdated house, the planting of a backyard vineyard, and the purchase of something powerful for mowing and tilling.

Folks, I am so happy to announce that my highly motivated husband has "made it" yet again. He is officially a real farm person now, with the purchase of his Massey Ferguson GC1715.

I've named it Mater after the tow truck in Cars. And it runs like a champion.

Weeds in the back 40: Watch out—he's comin' for you.

Sunday, September 9, 2018

5 Years on the Other Side


I was picking tomatillos in my garden yesterday when I looked down and saw a spider hanging out on the bare part of my flip flop-clad foot. I flailed and cursed for a minute, but quickly went back to my important business. Five years of country living has hardened me against such terrors.

Yep, five years.

August 17th was the fifth anniversary of my arrival here in Santa Ynez. I say "my" because Mr. W didn't officially join me for about 8 more months. Life in the entertainment industry. Sigh.

I'm amazed by how quickly the years have passed. In our time here, we've managed to extensively demo, remodel, landscape, and add on to our house (an almost up-to-date before and after tour here), plant two different gardens that have yielded hundreds of fruits and veggies, say goodbye to two beloved cats, hello to two more that we adore, and raise a flock of six chickens (minus one dearly departed Miss Carrie Birdshaw). I think I've produced more sweat working in our yard here than I did in my entire 37 years in So Cal. But the perspiration, determination, and even frustration have all been worth it.

We really do feel like we did it. We had a dream and we made it come true.

We're living the life we imagined when sat on our patio in Hollywood drafting our plans to move to wine country. It's far from perfect. It's hard to balance the draws of LA—family, friends, work—with our new life here. Mr. W has even been commuting back and forth for a film project since late spring of 2017. We still haven't finished remodeling one of our bathrooms. We had to replant our garden 3 times this summer before figuring out how to fend off the earwigs. A deer broke our young persimmon tree. I break out in a rash every time I make contact with the zucchini plant or certain grasses in our back forty. And Trader Joe's and Target still require a 35-minute drive.

But all of the prickles and inconveniences are no match for the upsides of life here. The strangers who wave from their cars when we pass them on our street. The way that we seem to bump into someone we know every time we go out to dinner. The fact that we can spend an afternoon wine tasting without driving more than 7 minutes from our garage. The beautiful hawks and foxes and quail we get to see wandering through our yard.

The very best part, by far, though is the people we've come to call friends.

Before we moved, my biggest fear and greatest hope centered around making friends. I was so scared we wouldn't find our people. Not having children and working from home, our chances seemed like they might be slim. I'll never forget going to my first yoga class here and scanning the room like a predator looking for potential friend prey.

I still attend the same yoga class, though it's now filled with sassy seniors who take part in women's marches and worry about water conservation and world events. I adore these ladies so incredibly much. They're like my tribe of elders and I love listening to everything they have to say. And, they're not the only extraordinary friends I've made in town.

Mr. W and I had the great fortune of falling into a crowd of a dozen or two couples that all know each other through the community and get together regularly for BBQs and beer nights at the local brewery and holiday parties. We never had a crew like this in LA. We had great friends who were couples, but never a sprawling collection that has come to feel more like family than just friends.

It's all been such an unexpected gift. I had hoped to make a few close friends and it feels like there are at least 20 people I could call now for help or a girls' night out or a shoulder to cry on. I'm amazed by our luck.

And the idea that those friendships and our memories will only deepen over the next five years and the five after that completely warms my heart. We planted a new life and get to watch it grow.

I hope continues to yield delicious and copious amounts of goodness.

Just like my beloved tomatillo plant.

Saturday, December 9, 2017

Every Penny Counts

Mr. W snapped this on his way home from LA
Wednesday afternoon, somewhere near the Thomas fire.
Ash is raining down at my house today, as smoke from the Thomas fire in Ventura County blows north. I don't know exactly how many structures and homes have been lost, but I know it's in the hundreds, and I cannot even imagine what people who lived in the fire's path are going through.

Tomorrow, Mr. W. and I are heading to Walmart to buy a whole bunch of stuff to donate to the victims (if you want to contribute, Venmo me tonight!). It may not end up being much when you consider the magnitude of everything lost, but hopefully it'll help.

I really believe every little bit helps.

At the beginning of this year, I was feeling really uncertain about what would happen to many of the causes I care about. Certain organizations and initiatives seemed to be in jeopardy—so I set a crazy goal to donate $100 a month to different charities. Now, for some people, that's peanuts. But it was more than I'd ever coughed up to nonprofits in my life.

I'm excited to say I exceeded my goal by about 40%.

It got me thinking about how much easier it is to give than I thought it was. Sure, I could have used that money to pad my savings account or take a nice trip. But receiving thank you letters from teachers in need and nonprofits that do such important work for wounded veterans or the environment or LGBT rights—it made every last cent count so much more.

Did you know that if every one of my Facebook friends donated just $5 a month to charity, there'd be more than $40,000 a year going to good causes? From just FIVE bucks a month. Almost everyone can afford that.

So I'd like to poke you in the rib and ask you to donate to something you believe in. Or send some money to a great org like Direct Relief or the National Fallen Firefighters Foundation. Or drive yourself to Walmart tomorrow and pick up some stuff to send to Californians who have lost their homes. They need it, and I have a feeling it'll make your holiday season feel a little more meaningful.