More About Me

 

I grew up in Los Angeles, the daughter of artists.  I was the oldest of four – two sisters and one brother.  As the oldest often is, I was the responsible one, the one who was concerned that things were done right, that I followed my parents instructions, etc.  For some reason, and try as I might I cannot figure out why, my aim in life was to be good.  How sappy does that sound?  But it’s true.  And I smiled lots, which made other people happy.

I went to Carpenter Avenue Elementary in Studio City, Walter Reed Jr. High School in North Hollywood, and Hollywood High School. I did the usual “good girl” activities in school – honor societies, service clubs, choir and theater, college prep classes.  I got good grades, but I worked for them.  Nothing came easy except English and Biology.  Math was a total disaster and although we’ve made amends, it’s still a bit of a foreign country. 

During my senior year of high school (and first year of college), I had the requisite metaphysical crisis and search for meaning, but in retrospect I realize I was also clinically depressed.

All along, I was immersed in art but I didn’t feel adept in any medium.  I didn’t realize that my early passion for photography was indeed an art form!  I wanted a camera as soon as I knew they existed, and looking back, all the photos we have of family celebrations were taken by me with my trusty Brownie Kodak.  My picture taking was limited by funds – we had to buy film, pay for developing, and buy flash bulbs.  But this began my journey into documentation – wanting to record the world around me and its happenings.

Had I known there was such a thing as photojournalism, that’s what I would have aimed for.  But my era was that of obtaining the college education (maybe becoming the first in the family to do so), preferably in nursing, teaching, or secretarial, so I would have something to fall back on if my husband were unable to work.  And that was an integral part of the equation also – I would have a husband.  I always knew I wanted children, so the husband part really wasn’t a problem.

So off it was to University of California at Santa Barbara and then Berkeley.  Let the fun begin!  Seriously, it was (and is in retrospect) incredible to be part of the leading edge – free speech, People’s Park, anti-war protests, the questioning of authority, the hippie movement, peace, love, freedom, happiness.  The year 1968 in particular changed the world and even then, we knew we were living in historic times that would leave permanent change for better or worse.  And whether I think it was for better or worse would take an essay of its own.

My life as an adult began, although I don’t really think I grew up until I was in my 40s.  I met my husband in college, and 40 years later, we are still married.  We had three children, all girls, and nine grandchildren (three apiece, two girls and a boy).  We must have been slightly insane because we did everything backwards:  had our first child before graduating college, moved about 12 times before we owned our first house, joined the Peace Corps after we had children, and generally just figured it would all work out, which it did.  We lived in Berkeley; Santa Rosa, California; Greenville, North Carolina; St. Thomas, the Virgin Islands (Peace Corps training); Rabat, Morocco (more training); Tangiers, Morocco (yet more training); and then two years in Oujda, Morocco (our Peace Corps assignment).

We were part of a very short window of time in which the Peace Corps admitted families with children, so we took two-year-old Jennifer and set out.  Our daughter Karen was born while we were in the Peace Corps in Morocco, and Kim when we returned to Raleigh, North Carolina. 

We were always up for adventure.  Still, today, even though I am slightly more tired at 62, I try to accept all challenges and adventures.  Why not?  I spent most of my youth and young adulthood waking up with the thought I wonder what exciting will happen today?

Anyway, from North Carolina we proceeded to Norfolk, Virginia, and then Virginia Beach.  We finally moved to Bakersfield, California, where we have lived ever since.  Growing up in Los Angeles, Bakersfield had always been a hot, horrible place that one was forced to “drive through” to proceed up the San Joaquin Valley.  While it is still a hot place with yes, the second worst air quality in the United States, it is far from an awful place.  We’ve been here 30 years and two of our children still live here with their families.

During this journey through time and place, I had about a zillion jobs – seriously, at least 25.  I did everything from drive an abalone boat when I was in college (which was insane because I had no idea what I was doing) to teach seventh-grade accelerated language arts.  I did community musical theater for many years which is still a mystery to me since I cannot sing – honestly.  I’m not a soprano so I can’t sing the melody, but I can’t harmonize either.  Somehow I kept getting cast in shows.  Also, I was cast in ComedySportz, a type of improv with franchises in many cities.  That I don’t understand either since I’m not funny, and it was rather terrifying actually.

But – it was part of pushing my boundaries, expanding my horizons, and a personal quest to find out who I was and what I was capable of.  It was deliberate risk-taking.  Risk-taking doesn’t mean bungee jumping or climbing buildings like Spiderman, it means pushing your personal comfort zone, being able to handle it, but also accepting failure.  And sometime in my 40s, I felt like I had finally grown up, come to terms with the vexing problems facing all of us, and vanquished the self-doubt and insecurity that I had battled since the teen years.

In a nutshell, I would classify my jobs like this:  the miscellaneous high school and college-type jobs. (Although, and this will come as a surprise to many women, I was turned down for the first job I applied for.  I went into Baskin-Robbins and was told girls weren’t strong enough to scoop ice cream.  Be grateful for “women’s lib.”)  Of the so-called “real” jobs, I could classify my career into medical management, non-profit management in the arts and AIDS, and teaching.  I learned from everything I did, and the question that lurked in the back of my mind – why am I accumulating all this experience? – was answered when I started teaching.  I pulled together every bit of knowledge I had to enrich the experiences of my students.  I love seventh-graders, I loved teaching, but it wore me out and I retired at 60.  As an aside, teaching was my first ambition, and when I was in junior high I looked around me and thought, these kids are seriously mixed-up; I think I’ll teach junior high.  So when I was 50, I got there. 

Now – here I am.  Retired and busier than ever because there is so much to do!  Books to read, stories to write, grandkids to do things with, an entire world to be visited, photographs to be taken, and most surprising of all, art to produce.

One day I was looking at a box of vintage fruit and vegetable crate labels we had bought to put on our kitchen walls instead of wallpaper.  And I remembered how obsessed I had been with lanterns on a recent trip to China.  Somewhere in my brain, the Chinese Lantern Series was born.  And I’ve been working ever since taking my lifelong journey into photography to a new dimension – photo collage, primarily using my own photos as the base image as well as the collage material.

The journey continues.  I hope it continues for a long, long time.  There is so much to do and see and learn, and I want to do and see and learn it all.