Dat Heart o’ Mine

My first year in Los Angeles, I looked up an actor friend. A couple years before I’d visited him at UCLA and he talked of his joy and finally being able to study to be an actor. By this time, he was graduated and I’d lost track of him.

I knew he was still in LA, and I remembered his passion for acting. So I looked for his name in on-going plays. I went to see him, surprising him from the audience of one of his performances. We had a drink after and talked about his ambition.

He wanted to act. Well, let us be clear. He wanted to make a living as an actor.

There is a big difference.

A new friend, a musician, talked about how she never wanted to get a job she liked because that would be “giving up.”

I don’t know about that. If it’s your dream, if this art is what you are meant to do, then it will be done regardless, won’t it?

There is a story attributed to Mark Twain:

A man went to heaven and saw St. Peter at the Pearly gates. He asked St. Peter “Who was the greatest general of all time? Napoleon? Alexander the great?”

Peter points and says “That man over there.”

“But I knew that man! He was no general, he was a laborer.”

St. Peter replies, “That’s right, my friend. He was the greatest general, but he didn’t perform that role.”

Part of me calls bullshit.  We are what we are and we find a way to be that wherever, don’t we?

Don’t we?

I guess it is a fear a lot of people share, that we aren’t living up to who we could be.

This article I write, my weekly wonder, is an expression of that. I have a dozen ideas for what I could write each week. This week, I started three versions of what it would be.

I finished just this one.

Like that laborer who never launched a military maneuver, I had an idea and failed.

All except this last time, and the only definition of success for this one is completion. In my head those first two versions were genius.

And this is the one I finished. Win by default.

I listened to a lecture this week, a woman talking about a group of entrepreneurs. “Would you still do this if you won the lottery?”

It was their business, their soul’s work. They searched their hearts and said yes.

I know I would still write if I won the lottery. Probably more. I’m doing it because it’s who I am. And my actor friend, I have to wonder how much he was an actor if he could conceive of stopping.

Fish gotta swim. Birds gotta fly.


You know that feeling you have after you watch a movie that takes over your brain and changes how you see everything?

How the laws of physics, or what love really means, or the geopolitical balance of power is now up for debate?

Some people, they want to sit and think. Take walk, contemplate and see everything in a new way.

A lot of people want to talk about it. They want to talk about it with peole that have seen the movie. Repeat lines from that movie…or go, “Remember that part…?”

For friends that haven’t seen the movie, they want to try to explain it and go, “Oh man, you have to see it! You’ll understand. This thing when…”

I hate it when people try to re-tell a movie. A joke or a scene, and it’s all awkward. If someone has seen it, they can fill in the blanks, but a person who hasn’t, well…the explanation sounds idiotic.

See the movie or don’t, don’t try to re-tell it. Can’t be done.

So, while we are in the fog of dual realities, the one the movie showed us, and the one we used to inhabit (let’s call it “reality”), we are imbeciles. And we kind of know it, but we also know we are enlightened.

Enlightened imbeciles.

I was looking at some friends on facebook, friends I haven’t seen in years. And I am of the age where friends I used to party with, guys I have dated and people I haven’t seen since grade school are posting pictures of their kids.

Scrapbook leavings all over…cake faces and halloween costumes and anecdotes.

I do it too.

And I know it’s not for the unitiated. I have friends who are childless, and I know that I can’t share the toilet escapades and the sleep routine tortures with them.

I still love them.

But they are unenlightened. And I am an imbecile.

I can’t repeat the jokes, because if you weren’t there…ALL the way from the first ultrasound to this morning’s handoff at preschool…you had to be there, or it’s not funny

Or profound

Or even a little bit interesting

It’s a new obsession, and I’m not sure when the air will clear. I suppose I’m watching the movie every day. And I don’t want to break it off with my friends who aren’t into the “Parent” show, and I’m sorry, but for a while…a LONG while

I’m gonna be stupid.

It’s the price I pay for enlightenment.

Judge Not the Lowly Pun


Did I scare you? No?

Oh well. All I really wanted was to make you laugh. Laughter is the best medicine. And it is a great aphrodisiac. Doesn’t everyone want to be with someone who can make you laugh?

We learn to laugh before we speak.

I hear that humor is really about surprise. It’s what we didn’t see coming. The wrong face at the window. The pie in the face.

Surprise! And we laugh.

It’s good to be surprised.

When tension gets high people might get brittle. They might snap. That kind of tension is the perfect setup for a joke. Tautness could pivot just as easily into laughter–a cathartic release that sets things in motion.

If tension is close to laughter, then the opposite of laughter is not tragedy. Tragedy is a state of heightened sensitivity. If I am stretched tight, I can ping in any direction. But when there is no hum, no vibration at all, then nothing will make me laugh.

I’ve been there. Numb and sleepy and monotonous. That’s a sorry state indeed.  When I remember myself enough to know I’m in that state, I recognize a red alert. And then I worry about myself and maybe cry. And if I cry right, I end up laughing at myself.

There are a lot of kinds of humor. Me, I don’t judge. If a fart joke gets the biggest laugh for you then go for it. I tend to have a darker sense of humor.

Google tells me that Aristotle takes humor pretty seriously. I found this quote from him:

Humor is the only test of gravity, and gravity of humor; for a subject which will not bear raillery is suspicious, and a jest which will not bear serious examination is false wit.

I wonder if the original Greek was as obtuse as the translation? Still, I agree with his idea here. If something is worth thinking about, it’s worth making a joke about. I suppose people could argue about which is the lowest form of humor: bodily functions vs. puns. Body functions is just life. And puns are language. If our bodies are precious and our language is important they be strong enough to be poked at.

If my life is worthwhile I better laugh at it, and surprise myself.

Time to make time

Chris and I are going to the Huntington Library tomorrow.

He’s been asking me to go for more than a year. Somehow, I never made time to go because of work. It’s not that I never took days off from work but we didn’t make this trip a priority.

So. Tomorrow.

We shall go.

I could be using tomorrow to prepare and set up interviews. I have several good leads I really should follow up on.


Chris has been wanting to go to the Huntington for years.

So I am going to take the whole day and go. I am grateful to have a man who want to take me to see beautiful art and gardens.

Throwing my Voice

In this age of search engine optimization, my husband says my pen name should be Danielle Stephen James Patterson King Steele.  It is tempting to ride the coattails of the already popular as I try to get discovered in the universe of everyone.

Then again, cover bands don’t change the world.

A friend told me she finally started reading this blog. “I can really hear your voice when I read it.”

I sound like me! Hooray!

That has not always been my goal. A lot of the time, mostly in my professional life, I have tried hard to sound like someone else. I wanted to appear and sound like the perfect generic person who had the job I was trying to get or who would get promoted in the job I had.

I knew that I would have to tuck a lot of things in and stand very still. Nobody else looked and acted like me.

Nobody sounded like me.

Tighten up and screw it down. Smooth out the edges. As a matter of fact, just don’t talk.

Try as I might, I kept slipping. People knew I was different.

Of course that whole time I had my notebooks, and the words I would only say in writing.

I could tell I didn’t sound like anyone else. And so I figured I had an audience of one: me. I made myself laugh and I made myself think. It gave me a release from the depersonalization of my job.

A small group of friends started to read it. They kind of already knew me. I trusted them to enjoy my writing too.

As time passed I heard, “How do you find time to write?”

“How do you find time to pee?” I replied. This was not something I an option.  It must find release.

There are phrases for this: Find your voice! Speak your truth!

Once, after a weekly wonder, a reader sent me this email, “Some day you’re going to write something that changes the entire world. I hope I’m here to see it.”

Oh, me too.

Me too.

This is what I do, put sentences together and string ideas in a row like popcorn for a Christmas tree.

I know and I deeply trust that every single one of us has our thing, our voice and truth that we get to express.

Not every voice is booming and imperative. Many of them are still and small.

We are not supposed to be the same. The more we learn to be the most SELF we can be, the more beautifully we will create the world.

That’s how it all began. Remember? Let there be light.

And it is good.

Family friends

Lynda said to Veronica “I love your name. And I have to tell you I really love the name your mommy calls you.”


“You mommy calls you bunny. I think that is very cute!”

oh yeah. I do call her bunny a lot.

“…and your mommy also calls you monkey.”

Veronica says, “I really like the name monkey.”

THIS is why old friends come and visit. To help you know your own family better.

it is it was it will be

In my pursuit of an English literature degree, I studied a lot of Victorian literature. One professor pointed out that the beginning of Queen Victoria’s reign was very different than the ending. In fact, so much change was happening during that monarch’s period that, if a person time-travelled from the start of that time and plunked down into the ending, she would not recognize the world.


The same could be said of our time. Things are unrecognizable. Just 50 years ago feels like a fictional world. Watching Mad Men…Women really wore girdles? Men had to wear hats and ties every day?


Yes. And that was the least of it. Hats and underwear are very personal individual choices and experiences. What about the everybody part of life?


I find myself running up against the idea of institutional change again and again.  Things we assumed were solid pillars of society are revealed as non-essential. The load bearing walls must have had their loads redistributed because they are being moved. Let’s hope the loads are redistributed.


I am a naturally conservative person. I like to be certain. I remember making a bohemian friend in San Francisco, and saying to him “You wear your freedom like a denim jacket. I wear mine like a prom dress.” I am not sure who had the right idea. Maybe there is more room for error than I’ve allowed myself. Maybe life is far more wash-n-wear than I’ve supposed.


Things are changing. We are in motion. This is not a theater with a preconstructed set; we are living in real time. Which is terrifying. How will we know whether the change we make will save us or kill us?


My individual choices only affect me, right? Sort of. What about all the individuals that make up the institutions we rely on?


How will the electric company respond to these changes? How will churches and governments? Change is happening, will happen and has already happened.


Will the next 50 years be at volatile as the last? What are the constants in these changing times?


There is so much I don’t know. I have to start with me. That’s what I am surest of.  What I know of right and wrong, of love and truth will have to be what I rely on. I hope the institutions can find the same compass points.