Monday, March 21, 2011


I am back. I will be updating my blog very soon.

Tuesday, September 29, 2009


Recently I received a note from one of my best friends from high school. Her name is Melodie Thomas. Back in the day there was the dynamic foursome; Melodie Thomas (formerly Melodie Brown), Patrice Lincoln (formerly Patrice McGowan), Val Patterson (Formerly Val Pappas) and Cheryl Brown (formerly Cheryl Morehouse). We were very tight. These women are a part of what makes And they will always hold a special place in my heart and in my very soul. We went to Royal High, in Simi Valley, California. When we were growing up there, it was mostly citrus farms and small post war houses and a bowling alley and k-mart. Parts of it were know for its high rate of domestic violence, and in some neighborhoods, a dangerously high water table. Now it is America's most livable city. Of course, none of us live there anymore.

Melodie wrote to me just few days ago to tell me her mother has just passed away from cancer. She knew her mom was not feeling too good. Her mom did not share many things with Melodie. But to know one has cancer and keep it from your loved ones can really hurt. And her mom kept it from her. So, in a sense, she was not able to have the same kind of closure some of us are gifted by our loved ones when we know they are passing. I think the best way to describe how Melodie feels is to share her writing, with her blessing. There are 3 parts. My personal favorite is a portion of the second essay...(part 3). Here is part 1:

"Mom passed away a few days ago, in Santa Rosa. Margie waited more than 24 hours to tell Margo and I because ... who knows? As it turns out, my mother had a PET scan back in April, and they determined that she had lung cancer, which had originated elsewhere, likely in the colon. Mom refused treatment, as recently as a month ago, and said that she had lived a long time, and wanted to go home to die.

She evidently wanted Margo and I kept out of the loop about the cancer, and her impending death.

Margo lives in Santa Rosa and saw her just last Sunday. It was clear that she was not feeling well recently, and that she was bedridden. However, Margo thought that she had had bouts like this before, but had always eventually rallied. For some reason, I just knew that she was shutting down, although I didn't know about the cancer. But Margo didn't have the same sense I did about it, and she is stunned that she didn't see this coming, and angry at Margie for not letting her know, and hurt that she didn't get a chance to say goodbye.

My thoughts are perhaps more complicated. In some ways I made my peace long ago with the conclusion that I would never really understand why she was the way she was. I also finally got to the point where I could say that what she did to us so many years ago didn't really matter anymore. It makes it easier to have some measure of resolution on my side, but it clearly wasn't resolved on her side, and that feels awful. While it is painful to think of how she lived (?) her last few years, it is a relief to think that she is finally at peace.

In any event, it appears that there will be a small, graveside service at Valley Oaks in Westlake Village, possibly next weekend, or early the following week. I will most likely come out, probably by myself. In many ways, I am dreading it, as this family is now fractured beyond repair.

I will keep you posted as to my plans, as it would be great to see you. Perhaps we could meet up at some point while I'm there."

And then she wrote these two essays. The second essay really got me. I have to say. I did laugh at parts of it, which I am sure Melodie would not object to. It is titled "The Girl Who Stole My Dress" and it feels like a short chapter from Harper Lee's one and only novel. It really does:

Thoughts on Mom’s passing
Or, how my mother’s obituary should actually read

One of my earliest memories of my mother is so telling about who she was. I had to have been three or four, as we were still living in Woodland Hills. We were headed out the front door to visit the next-door neighbors, whose son Johnny was my primary, and much-adored, playmate. For some reason, I asked my mother hold old she was.

I can still remember her reaction, and my shame at having inadvertently done something wrong.

“You NEVER ask a lady her age!”, she thundered, her gorgeous blue eyes flashing with rage. And that was that. It was the first of many questions I had about her that would never get answered, at least not directly. After that, any attempts to find out more about who she was were met with either suspicion or hostility. Once in a blue moon, frequently after she’d had a drink or two, but please-dear-God not more, she’d open a window into her past just a crack and reveal a little about how she came to be the person she was.

But those moments were few and far between, and they had to be initiated by her.

The girl who stole my dress

My mother wanted my sisters and I to look our best at all times. As children growing up in the 60’s and 70’s, we could not even go to the drug store without brushing our hair and running a washcloth over our faces. I shake my head now just thinking of it. As a young girl, it was not unusual to have to wear curlers to bed, so that I could be perfectly coiffed the next day.

Clearly, appearances were very important to my mother. She bought us beautiful clothes. There was a store one town over that sold “designer clothes for children”. Nowadays, that would not be so unusual, the recession notwithstanding. In those days, however, that was most unusual. I’m sure we must have stood out like sore thumbs in our largely middle-class town in Southern California, where the fortunes of the local families largely rose and fell with those of the aerospace industry.

In any event, she loved that store and would buy clothes for us there. As I recall, we girls didn’t even go along for the shopping – she’d just come home with some dresses for us, and expect us to wear them.

So that’s how I came to be wearing a lovely purple dress my freshman year of junior high. I came back from gym class one day to discover that the dress was gone from my locker.

Eventually, the 8th or 9th grader who took the dress made the mistake of wearing it to school. It was simply implausible to think that the dress belonged to her. She eventually confessed her theft, and was punished by the school.

However, my mother couldn’t let it rest there. She pored repeatedly over a yearbook photo of the girl, which showed a huge cyst on her forehead. My mother, ever-obsessed with appearances, couldn’t stand it.

In the end, my mother paid to have the cyst removed from the girl’s forehead, and even sent flowers to her as she was recuperating.


She died the way she had lived the last twenty-plus years of her life – hidden away from those who loved her. Why she isolated herself is anyone’s guess. At the end, she had cut herself off from all but two of her four daughters. She gave only one of them the knowledge that she was dying, and the chance to say goodbye to her.

She was scared of life.

She pitted her daughters against each other, yet told us she wished we’d get along better.

She could hold a grudge about the smallest thing forever.

She could be incredibly, ridiculously generous to a fault.

She could be completely impossible.

She never apologized or explained herself.

My high school friends adored her, and still remember her fondly.

She leaves behind a family fractured beyond repair.

But I loved her nonetheless, and feel the ache of the lost opportunities to connect, for us to just know and accept each other. I dearly wish she had given all of us the gift of knowing her more fully.

My heart to you, dear friend. Dear Melodie. I look forward to spending some time with you very soon.

Sunday, September 20, 2009


I was looking through the comments that people have posted on the blogs I have posted so far, and I came across the following comment posted to me just this week. I apologize for the seething hatred and anger that is displayed, but i felt it was important to share this post as it took me completely by surprise. Sometimes you just do not know what kind of negative energy is being flung about out there like a 90MPH baseball pitch to head...a ball with your name on it:

Posted September 16th, 2009

"Creations by the Coyle Clan said...

you both are f-ing dike-bitches who SCREWED your friends who helped you start your first issues. Remember Cheryl and Marc Brown????
f-ing ungrateful lesbo's!!!"

Now...I have never screwed anyone in the production of this 8 year-old project. As a matter of fact, I spent every spare hour and every spare penny I had in trying to celebrate our community and local folk with our magazine, Ventura Life (formerly VC Life & Style as well as Ventura Life & Style). Many people have come and gone. All left of their own accord. Doing a magazine is hard and often thankless work. We have many businesses in town that do not get the concept of advertising, or do get it, but simple cannot afford to place an ad. So for a publication that relies on those ad sales...well let's just say this town is a very tough sell. So Amy and I did the very best we could. We never paid ourselves. We always paid anyone associated with the publication. Once in a while, it would take us a couple of months to get a print bill paid...but we always got it done.

Cheryl Brown was our first ad sales rep. She was being paid a commission on sales. She was also offered a percentage ownership of the magazine. After 2 issues, she wanted monies in addition to her commission. We simply did not have it. We were strapped. We were working for free and paying out good money and there was just nothing left. She chose to leave the magazine. She also chose to step out of my life. I know that Marc and Cheryl Brown would not have approved comments said using their names. They are kind and gentle people. The do not let hatred rule their household.

Amy and I love our town. And we love the many people we have met along our journey as Ventura Life Magazine. Many people still have the very first issue, as well as the very last issue and they display them all proudly. We still get many letters and emails asking us to continue the magazine, telling us how much the articles and tributes to passed loved ones meant. We get contacted everyday by people all over the county, as well as people in other states, asking us when the magazine will start up again. Alas. It takes the kind of finances we simply do not have. And our local businesses are struggling so much. So I cannot give them the answer they want.

But the hatred poured out into the simple message I pasted into this post is so out of place amongst the many positive notes and encouraging statements I felt compelled to share it. I have to say, it turned my stomach over and made me feel so very sad that someone out there feels this way about me. About my partner. About what we tried to do. I know that it may be hard to believe, but my magazine was a sweet sacrifice. Many sleepless nights. Money spent that was never gained back. And the hours and hours of back-breaking work, both behind the camera and behind the monitor, while keeping our other business alive to make ends meet and keep the distribution going. But it was also sweet. To find and get to know the gems of our community. To meet people we would never otherwise have met. To learn that the person next to you in the grocery store has an amazing story. Or the old guy on the park bench did amazing things. To recognize the old man in the sea or someone who once married a king. To celebrate life in print is to preserve life for the ages. And we did that. And many people in our town was a part of that. And they should all be proud of their contribution. Because their names will live on forever.

And the events, and fundraisers, and donated ads and photoshoots, art and photography. The parties and the gallery openings. 8 years worth. Totally worth it!

Well. I do not know what more to say about the few lines of hatred shared with me this week. I do know that everyone is special. Even the coyle clan...whoever they may be. And may god bless them and keep them. Perhaps hold them close enough to spread just a touch of love that may some day flower and spread and run that hate right out of their limbs. Peace to you all.

Wednesday, August 12, 2009


One of the kindest souls I have ever know. One of the dearest spirits to walk the earth. One of the most giving beings I think I will ever meet. Bodie Trout-Pielaet-Jones. Human soul in the bodie of an akita - shepard mix. Our sweet companion for over 15 years, stopped eating the day our dear friend Rod Mcatee took his last breath.

Bodie hung out for another 2 weeks. Unable to walk. In need of 24 hour assistance from me and amy. Others came on out to hang out with her. Say goodbye. She had a queens bed under the cabana just outside our bedroom doors...which were kept wide open. I mostly sat with her. Cared for her. Tried to give her the kind of love and attention she gave to me her whole life.

Sweet trusting Bodie. I remember when she was just a small pup. She got real sick the day we picked her up in South Lake Tahoe. We ended up at a vets house at 10pm. Bad news. Puppy Strangules. "she will not live" said the vet. "Help me figure out the best way to keep her alive" I said. " have to keep her alive for a couple of months. She has no immune system. She will get big fluid filled cysts all over her bodie. You need to drain them and bath her and give her all these meds everyday...she should be in a hospital...Her glands and throat will swell...that's why they call it strangules" "How much will that cost?" I aksed. "1000 to 2000 a day." not an option. We adopted bodie. But we did not have that kind of money. "Give me instructions...I will be her hospital".

So we took her home, and it was like she had "elephantitis". Hard to explain. But she was kind and patient. Never a grumpy note uttered. Only kind sweet love. She would put her little head between my kness and she would let me drain her awful cysts and bath her and medicate her and wrap her...sometimes 3 times a day. Everyone told me "she will never make it". Even my dad. "Yes she will...she wants to...she loves us..."I answered. Amy and I tended to her day and night. day and night.

3 months later we had a very healthy, very happy pup. She went to school with amy ever day. Artists all over cal arts, even professors, loved her. They all wanted to paint Bodie Trout. She slept in our bed until she got bigger than us...Then she had her own bed next to us. This made her very sad. We wok each morning to find her curled in as small as a ball she could muster at the foot of our bed.

We would take her everywhere. We love to camp. Bodie has never missed a trip. When she was still quite young, we took her on her first camp trip. I remember one time, we put her on a harness on a great doggy walk I bought. We made a bed under a tree and set up her food and water, and walked to the stream right below our site at "rock Creek Lake" in the high sierras. Amy and I caught trout, and after a short period of time, went back to check on our little, happy bodie dog. As we walked up we noticed a strange site...

A dog with tail and ears up, prancing to and fro, from campsite to campsite along the small road.
Harness on. Head perched high...with the yellow bucket we left her water in, in her mouth. The bucket was almost as tall as she was, so she had to hold her head really high. She was so proud. She had done a houdini and gotten off the doggy run. She was "trick-or treating" around the campsite. And she was so very charming and proud. I laughed my ass off. We took her on down to the stream with us and I held her like a babe while I fished. She got her treat after all.

We got her a playmate 11 years ago. That would be her lab-chow mix sister, fanny Stienway. Left abandoned with the entire litter and mom after their owners lost their home. Rescued by my sister and other neighbors. Fanny showed up on my doorstep one valentine's day, looking like a tiny seal. She loved bodie and with time bodie loved her. When fanny was small she would sit in between bodies front legs. Then fanny got big too. So she would just sit on bodies head. Literally. And bodie would sigh and look at me with patient eyes from under fanny's butt.

The clan was later joined by our wee kingcock, pippin-finley. A miniature pomeranian that decided bodie was his girlfriend and he was the king of the roost. Throw in 3 cats and you pretty much have the picture.

Amy and I and our 3 dogs with their oh-so-human souls traveled everywhere together. We planned every trip around our dogs. We even bought a camper, and upsized our truck, so that even when we would plan a trip to visit family, we would stay in the camper so our dogs could go too.

Well...I think you have the picture. Amy and I do not have kids. But we have our "clan".

Bodie died 2 weeks after my friend Rod. And she went out like a queen. She had a queens wake. And she is laid to rest in an amazing place...a place she loved.

We miss our bodie girl. She had such a magnificent energy. She was always happy. She was the sweetest dog I ever met. And I know that when my time comes, I will see her again. Although, when she was ill...she would not 'go'. She waited and stayed. It was as if she was waiting for a being to be conceived. She was almost human. Maybe she is human now. Maybe she earned a place amongst those she served her whole life. She waited and stayed. Held on. And held on. was time and she went. Maybe her new body was ready for her amazing soul...

I miss my sweet bodie girl. Amy and I have had her practically as long as we have been a couple. The house seems empty without her. I know that her soul lives on. I can feel it still here in our realm. Either in a small human being now...or just as free as my father. Just as free as my buddy, Rod.

I just cannot help but think that when it is my time...that when I lay in that state of the seventh sense...As I transition from this reality to the next...I will see many people who are very special to me. Waiting to help lead me on. But amongst them...whether on 2 legs or 4...I will see my sweet bodie there too. Big smile on her face. I will know her energy. She will be the one with the big yellow bucket filled with sweet spring water from the high sierras...patiently waiting to lead me on.

Bodie Trout Pielaet Jones...until we meet again.

Sunday, July 12, 2009


September 6, 1955 – July 6, 2009

Written by Amy Jones
(Please read previous posts to find out more about Rod)

After a 6-month long battle with a rare and aggressive thyroid cancer, Rod McAtee took his last breath at Ventura County Hospital surrounded by his steadfast and loving daughters, Brandy and Jami who never left his side.

His workplace family at Ventura LIFE Magazine lovingly refereed to Rod as “our Harley-Santa-Burly-Burl-Man” and we simply adored him. We had the great honor and privilege of sharing his last two years and watching him blossom creatively.

The twilight of his life was spent helping and supporting his family, co-workers and any stranger in need. Rod’s warm smiles and courtesy were freely extended to all who crossed his path.

Rod knew the joy of sacrifice and service, and went well beyond performing his professional functions to helping with all manner of personal challenges from chauffeuring parents and pets to the doctor to buying groceries and so much more that we could never repay him for with dollars or a thousand kindnesses. There was nothing he wouldn’t do to help, and he was absolutely trustworthy and reliable.

A true and humble community asset, Rod helped to hang numerous local art shows, worked street fair booths, assisted in the set up of charity events, and was always happy to lend a hand to people with glitchy computers.

Rod was a multi-faceted man, who was proud to be a social justice seeking liberal. He attended Villanova Preparatory School in Ojai and once had dreams of being a Catholic priest. A member of the Operating Engineers Local 12th labor union, Rod operated monster-sized earth-moving equipment for many years.

He was a blue jeans and t-shirts kinda guy who loved overnight horse back rides with his children, jaunts to Mexico, following NASCAR races and planning virtual airplane excursions. He loved walking Ventura beaches and the tangle of the Ojai Valley’s ancient Oak trees and meandering creek beds where he once worked as a ranch foreman overseeing horses and avocado orchards.

Rod had a brilliant mind and spoke easily about a wide range of global topics and issues. He was well known and liked by all during his years of helping his family run the Ojai bowling alley.

His last two years were spent at Ventura LIFE Magazine where he was absolutely loved as part of the family from the first introduction. He hand delivered hundreds of thousands of magazines and discovered his talent for taking photographs. He enjoyed attending Ventura festivals and cultural events, capturing beautiful images, many of which were published in several editions.

Rod. You, my dear, made the world a better place. You loved your neighbor as yourself and made humanity your chief business. Every day was a good day to hang out with you to enjoy your silver hair and bushy beard, your funny and kind nature. You will be sorely missed and will live on in the hearts of those who loved you.

Rod McAtee is survived by his daughters Brandy & Jami McAtee, his son Dale Hurt, his seven grandchildren: Dallas, Alexandra, Shayleen, Austin, Dylan, Tosh and Ismael, and his sister Judge Linda McAtee. A celebration of his life will take place on July 24th from 6-9 p.m. at Serra Park (formerly known as Grant Park) where the historic mission cross looks over the city. Rod loved to go to Serra Park at sunset to take pictures and to remember the special times he shared with his kids there when they were young. All are welcome. Please rsvp by sending an email to:

Monday, July 6, 2009


Rod Mcatee. July 6, 2009. He has peace. He is taking his last gentle, shallow breaths. He got into a boat and road out to the middle of a lake and dropped his line in early this morning. Left his barely functioning body behind. He was not scared. He was ready to go. He told me so yesterday.

He said "goodbye" through the hole in his neck...we know not how he even made the sound. He said "I love you" through the tubes protrudung from his lungs...we have no idea from which power the vibrations came. He squeezed my hand and arm so hard and with such strength, I have no idea from where such power came. It came from within. it came from beyond.

Rod gave me a gift yesterday. His daughter, brandy did too. They let me hang out and wipe his face. Hold his hand. Speak to him. He would mouth silently and nod. Or squint when in pain. It was anaplastic thyroid cancer and it moved very, very fast. The tumor became quite a burden. A lot of pain.

He would shrug and wiggle. Silent groans. And a lot of merciful sleep. He was very thirsty. I call it "the big thirst". It seems to happen on the last 2 days of life when one has a terminal illness. The big thirst comes just before the big sleep. That comes right before the last breath. He was in the ICU. Machines going. Fan going. Pumps and beeps and all kinds of ambient noise. There is so much ambient noise with medical stuff...

I told Rod I would NEVER forget him. I told him will think about him every day. He squeezed my hand harder. I told Rod I would take care of his family. He squeezed me even harder and would not let go. I told rod yesterday, that if he chose to get on the boat and leave, to visit me in the night. He held on tight. He looked at me with open eyes...he started to mouth but sound came out "Thank you. I love you. I will find Hank..." I kissed his cool, hairy belly. He held on tight.

He will not have to search very hard, because my dad will find HIM. My dad said he would never forget my staying with him when his transition was upon him. He would never forget the things I did for him. Even after he passed, he said he would never forget.

I asked my dad to find Rod. I aksed god to give him peace. I prayed for the 7th sense...that final blessing of strength and shedding of fear so one is truly ready to go. Rod had that in him yesterday. I felt it in his grasp and and saw it in his eyes. I heard it in that strange,raspy sound that came out of his throat that was a tangle of tubes and blood.

So our Burly Burl is taking his last. His dear daughter Brandy just called. His daughter Brandy and Jami are with him now. His skin cold. His lips blue...slowing down. Machines off. Quiet. Peaceful. His daughter just confirmed. He took his last gentle breath. He has been released.

My mother and deirdre prayed a vigil for him last night. They parayed for peace. I thank them for that. All my brothers and sisters knew rod. they all loved him. They all prayed. For peace.
All my friends prayed last night. My whole world of loved ones. They all prayed. For peace.

What a beautiful thing when you see a man feel that energy. When you see him tell you he is ready. Not scared. And then it hapens. Peace exuding from him. Peace filling the room. The body at rest. The soul released.

Thank you all for your prayers. Rod and his girls have peace. He was spilling over yesterday with that 7th sense. And today he has been released. From a body that so broke down in the end...was such a prison of pain. He now has peace.

So catch the big cahuna my burly burl. My big guy. My dear dear friend. Thank you for letting me be a part of your life. Stretch your wings...swoop down low over the lake for me. And fly like a with my dad. Little birds, little birds.

But don't leave just yet. Not all the way. Your girls Brandy and jami, and your stepson, Dale...need you. Your grandkids love you. They are still scared. Keep your arms around them just until they have a bit more time to adjust not having your big-guyness around them. Whisper in their ears even if they think it is just a tingle of memory or the slight rustle of a past experience. Squeeze their hands hard and help guide them to the knowledge and wisdom that you are not "gone"...just not all the way "here". And visit them in their dreams as my father does. With that big bearded grin and wild white hair...or perhaps a bit younger...a bit leaner. Whatever form you take...visit us all in our dreams.

I love you rod. Thanks for making our communty and my life better and more blessed just for being a part of it all. Your heart is as big as your belly was, your mind as sharp as the razors you shunned to don that big ole beard. And your soul will make as much clamour and soar as fast and far as the best engine at the daytona 500.

Wednesday, July 1, 2009


Rod woke up. He is struggling to stay in this world very, very hard. It looks like labor.

The day before he went into surgery, he asked me to help him get a priest. I called my sister, Deirdre, who seems to be linked to every human being in Ventura. She contacted Father Mike at the San Buenaventura Mission. He called me. He has known my mom and dad for many years. He presided over my father's funeral last December and also gave my father his last rites. I liked him the moment I met him. When he called me a few days ago, we talked for quite a long time. I told him that Rod did not want to go anywhere. He wants to live. He wants more time. He is scared. Father Mike told me that he has witnessed, time and time again, a "final grace". A peace that comes over someone just prior to passing. He described it as a blessing from God. He said that he felt that even in the most horrific circumstances of passing, where, looking in, those of us who are still living are angered or shocked, the soul passing is not alone, and not afraid. Somethng happens. It is a final gift.

I said "father Mike...I just had a thought. There are our five senses. Everyone agrees about that. Then there is our 6th sense. Some of us know that exists. Those of us that have had experiences to excericise that 6th sense. Perhaps the grace you speak of is, in essence, a 7th sense. Only used in our time of passing. Perhaps we are given that 7th sense, and it lies dormant until it is OUR time of passing. A channel to our God. To our next world. It gives us calm. Understanding."

Father Mike pasued...and then said "I like that". He then said he was sure he would pass before me...and perhaps would be able to let me know. I laughed and said "perhaps I can use my 6th sense to contact you, in order to find out if the 7th sense exists". We both laughed...but our inner minds said "hmmmm".

We met at the Hospital. He spent a very long time with Rod and his family. When he left, I gave him a long hug. He is a Ventura gem. If you get a chance - go and see Father Mike at the Mission...and say "dina sent me".

When I went back into Rod's room after he left, Rod said, "I was out of it. I woke up and the priest was looking over me and it scared me. I had an instantaneous hallucination that I looked into a bowl of bullets and he was the 8th bullet". I said "what the hell does that mean?" Rod said "I dunno. But when my head cleared, and I saw the father, I was glad. I was calmed by him."

Father Mike told me when Rod came to, he grasped him by the hand and would not let go. He stared into father's eyes for a long time. Father Mike saw God in there.

So here we are. Rod struggling to stay here. He has asked if Father Mike would come back and see him. I will see if we can make that happen today. I cannot help but think about the numbers of this essay. 6th sense. 7th sense. 8th bullet. Odd huh?

Here is my hope and prayer: that God give Rod the blessing of the 7th sense. That Rod finds that calm and peace...that other-wordly knowledge. Let fear give way to it!

Read the previous post to get caught up on Rod's story. And pray. Think. Meditate. Project. My wish, hope, my prayer is that we all survive just long enough to awaken the 7th sense. And live what is left here for us in serenity and wisdom. And we do not fear what is next. Afterall...this is the waiting room. What is next is the party. Dearest will come. You will have peace of mind. I am sure of that.

Monday, June 29, 2009


Those of you who know Ventura Life Magazine know Rod. His full name is Rod McAtee. He has been my distribution assistant and photography assistant for 2 years now. He and I could be seen all over town. We hung artists shows together. We schlepped stuff up and down my stairs. We did whatever we could for people in need. He was always game for whatever crazy scheme I had going on form one day to the next. He has personally delivered over 150,000 magazines all over Ventura County. He has been there for me through thick and thin. He is very ill.

6 months ago, right after my dad died, someone went through a red light and totaled Rod's mustang. It was his one possession. He was devastated. After a couple of weeks he noticed his neck was really sore. He went to the doctor. They thought he had a condition known as goiter due to a small tumor attached to his thyroid. It took him many months to get to a point where he was finally cleared for surgery to remove the thyroid, and the tumor. His medical staff decided not to biopsy...but to go right to removal. As he waited for those months...the tumor grew. He grew weaker. When the surgery finally came, and he was "put under", he coded on the table. Needless to say- he came to with the thyroid, and tumor, still in his neck. His heart was too weak to undergo the surgery. That was 2 months ago.

So he quit smoking. And waited. The longer he waited, the larger the tumor got. And the weaker he got. His heart is got weaker too...

Now Rod is in ICU. The tumor is a very bad cancer...and it is everywhere. It grew very large very fast. Like an octopus with tentacles. Around his windpipe. His artery. His spine, arms, lungs, back, face.

Today, Rod underwent another surgery. Not to save his life. To buy him a few days. His windpipe is so crushed by the tumor, the surgeons had to put a pipe in what was left of it so he can breathe. A tracheotomy. He was very scared before they took him into surgery because the last surgery was not succesful, and he is much weaker now. The surgery today usually takes 1/2 hour. His took 4 hours. He will not be able to talk when he comes to. He is presently in a medically induced coma. They will wake him up tomorrow. And hopefully, the tumor will not push the tube out. All he wants is a few extra days. To say goodbye. To see his kids and grandkids again.

I ask all my friends in this world to think of Rod. A good man. A very good man. He says he used to be an ass. Whatever. We are all asses at some point in our life. He was good to me and everyone I know. His kids love him. And so do I.

I ask all my friends in the world to pray for Rod and his kids...his grandkids...his kin. You see...after 6 months, they only found out 3 days ago that he has about a week left to live. And they are scared. I ask all of my friends in this world to send light and love to Rod. He is about to go on his biggest journey. And he is scared.

My dear friend Rod. Sleep tonight and tomorrow we see what we will see. And we will take what time is left second by second and moment by moment. And I promise you my dear friend, that I will not leave your side. And when you move on...labor through that final transition...I will not leave your kids' side either.

I promise you, my dear big burly burl, that we will never forget what lives you have touched nor forget the sound of your heavy footsteps as you trekked throughout Ventura, and up and down my many bring your bright-eyed sardonic wit and willing body, mind and soul to make my life better for having you in it.

I promise you my dear friend...I will never forget.

Saturday, June 20, 2009


So I visit my mom weekly. We hang out and do stuff. Basically...I try to do whatever I can around the house for her. Fix things...clean things...water things...dismantle the garage and put it back together again. Install things. Paint things. Dig up things. Plant things. Run mom all over town. Take her for her shots. Take her for her tests. take her for her therapies. Take her to the HABIT. She loves the HABIT. The library. VONS. BORDERS. VONS. The park. VONS.

I try to do the stuff around the house she used to have my dad do. Not all of it. My brother, Pete, does the real meaty, needs-a-man-for this-task kind of stuff. I try take her to the places around town she and dad would frequent. She never learned how to drive. Not a bad thing. My mom is a true creative. Very smart...but she thinks on an angle when others are following the rules. Know what I mean? I think it was Tibor that once said "if they give you lined paper...write the other way..."

I enjoy my mother. She is
truly a delightful character. She is so very full of life. But she is quirky. In a "MONK" kind-of-way. You know MONK...that character on TV that is, well, really smart but kind of quirky.

So she has her needs. Lets be real. She runs my ass off. I really mean that. She used to run dad's ass off too. And he LOVED it. In his last few months of life he would say over and over "God. I will miss that girl. God do I LOVE that girl".

Once in a while I will need to bring my work to her house "Mom...please. I have to get my work done...I cannot hang out with you unless you let me get some of my work done." "
OK Honey. I will leave you alone." (2 minutes go by) "Oh damn, Dina. I left my box of puffs upstairs and I REALLY need them right now..." "What about the puffs next to your chair?". "Well...those will be gone in 20 minutes." So I tell her that when the 'Puffs' are gone...I will run up the stairs and get her more. And I will only go up there ONCE. That's my way of saying "figure out whatever the hell else you need while I am up there."

She has a real bad habit of sending me up 4 consecutive times in a row.."uh-ohhhh. I forgot my potassium. I left my glasses on the end table. Where's my purse? Wanna watch an episode of MONK? it's up by the TV..." But, it is the PUFFS that she really wants. At all times.

You see, my mother is addicted to Puffs. Not the ordinary, dry, cheap, run-of-the-mill tissues, mind you. The 'Aloe-filled-with-extracts-of-herbs-and-infused-with-the-essence-of-
frankincense-and-myrrh kind of Puffs. As a matter of fact, she has a PUFFS collection. She gets very excited when they come out with new "Flavors". I guess "flavors" really is not the right word. What is the word for new "Smells"...lets just say new "Smellvers"...

She LOVES the PUFFS infused with "
Vapo-rub". And then there is the "Cucomber an Aloe". I actually think they have a line of "yummy" smelling tissues. Like coffee and coconut...some day we may actually find "roast mutton" as a choice. One never knows.

Anyway. She will use a spittle in, or wipe her nose. Wipe her fingertips while drinking tea. There could be a molecule of moisture on the corner of her mouth, and she grabs her box of PUFFS, which is always in arms reach and mops that molecule right up. It may take 4 or 5 sheets. Then she throws the puff on the floor. In an hour, there is a mountain of puffs. She goes through one or two boxes a day. She buys so many boxes of PUFFS she must be a shareholder by now. I wish they had a golden ticket in one. I just know she would win that special tour of the WONKA-PUFFS factory if they did.

Everytime we go to VON's she buys more PUFF's. "Mom. Lets find something like PUFFS that is cheaper. Looky here...KLEENEX is half the price. And they have smellvers too. This is a very expensive habit. It would cost you less if you were a smoker and a drinker..." She gets a look of horror on her face. "NO. I gotta have my PUFFS. I LOVE my Puffs.
Ohhhhh look. Essence of Avocado. I am so excited", and she grabs 2 of boxes off of the shelf at Von's. She loves Von's too. Sometimes we will go 3 times in a day.

So, there she sits in the very large, over-stuffed armchair as I sit on the leather couch while working on my laptop and at least 20 minutes goes by. I look up and see my mom peeking through a pile of PUFFS. I see her feet. I see her her hair. I see her right eye. I hear her muffled voice. PUFFS is very good insulation. "Beans...???" (
that's her nickname for me. I think it is because was really skinny when I was young. Now it should be 'potatoe').

"Beans...???". "Oh. Okay mom. Let me get the used PUFFS into a bag and donate it to a small third world country. Then I will go into 'the PUFFS vault' and get you another box. Or two. What '
Smellver' would you like?

"Oh...gee. I don't know
hun. Surprise me."

Friday, May 29, 2009

LIFE WITH MOM - the big flood

Well. I was working on some photo galleries and client logos, and preparing to start a new client website. Busy day. Phone rang. "hello?" "DINA...I NEED YOUR HELP. NOW". So I dropped everything and grabbed all of my stuff, camera and computer...and an overnight bag. "I will be there in one hour".

You see, I go to my mom's house every week and spend 2 days with her. I started this tradition right after my dad died. Her partner of 56 years. This was not the day I intended to do this...but the desperation in my mother's voice changed the schedule for me. Guess I will see what I can do for her, and spend the night as well.

I jumped into the big red truck. I take the big red truck because ever since I spent over 3 months sleeping in the house while dad was "in transition"...ever since he took his last breath...I just cannot sleep downstairs alone. Too many eyes. Too much energy. Too hard to explain. SO...I sleep in the big red truck. Yup. That's right. It has a big ole camper shell...great bed...I just back it right up to the front door and...sleep in the big red truck.

It is much more "quiet" out there.

So I am jammin on the 55 mile drive to mom's. I call her on the speakerphone. "What is going on, mom? What is wrong?" You see...just a few days earlier mom's house flooded. I thought it had something to do with that. My bro was at the house fixing a broken pipe. He turned off the Main. My mom was being visited by my sister. They were going to go to target to do a little "nick-nack-really-do-not-need-it-but-buy-it-anyway kind of shopping. You that stuff that sings "bling-bling" but once you get it home it sits in a bag on the living room chair for longer than it should. Well. Anyway. My bro (pete) says "DO NOT turn on the water. I need to go to Lowes and get a new pipe. I turned off the MAIN. I will be back in a couple of hours". Lisa (my sis) says "Oh don't worry. We are going to TARGET (eyes aglow in imagined treasures) and won'tbe back for a couple of hours" "cool". "". So Pete goes North. Lisa and Mom go south. The house sits and waits in anticipation of a new pipe and the bling bling bags that will sit on the living room chair for too long.

Scene in the front yard. Take ONE. Lisa and her daughter, Jess, and my mom pull up to the house...tingling with the excitement of the TARGET experience. They all exit the car. Go to the front door. "got your key, Ma?". "No...I thought YOU had it." "Well, where is the 'hidden' key?" "I do not keep it out anymore...". "So- we are locked out?" No, Pete has a key and he will be back soon...let's just sit out here. It's so nice out anyway." "Mom...(says little Jess)...can I water the lawn?" "Oh yeah...(Says my sis, Lisa) let me turn on the MAIN so you can water the lawn...."

20 minutes later...Pete pulls into the driveway and gets out of the see mom and lisa hoisting little jess into a window that they had pried open. Water running out from under the front door. He stands in the driveway. New pipe in one hand. Mouth wide open. Front door spare key in pocket...the rest is history.

So I am jammin out in the red on the speakerphone. This is the day after the "fric and frac bling-bling target twins" incident. "Mom...I am on the freeway...what is wrong?" and in a breathy response with a slight new jersey accent, she says "well...the guys that suck up water and dry out the house are on their way I was trying to clean the pile of stuff in daddy's closet cuz it is all wet...and I fell over into the closet and now I can't get out...". Silence from the big red truck. "what did you just say?" "I fell into daddy's closet and I can't get up..." Image flash from the driver of the big red truck. My dad...looking down onto mom's ass as it sticks out of his closet. He is all glowy..and young and with big, bright, twinkling blue, blue eyes. Looking down on the woman he loves from the great beyond...laughing his ass off.

"Mom...did you say you have fallen and you can't get up?" (are you thinking what I am thinking...what was that silly ass commercial?). Breathy answer "Yes..." all worked out. I pulled up to find big green machines running all over the house. Drying it all up. Mom was sitting in the overstuffed livingroom chair. Hair sticking up. Glow in her cheeks. She is a very good looking woman for 75...a real looker. "Mom?" "Oh...Dina...thank God you are here..." "Did the guys with the big green machines pull you out of the closet?" "NO...but I can't even explain to you how I got out of there...Wanna go for lunch? I'll buy..."

I love my mom. We had fun that day. And the new carpet should look great! But...I told her to let ME clean out the closets...safer that way...

Thursday, May 28, 2009

My first pie-in-the-sky-tweet-tweet-in-your-facebook-myspace kind of experience.

Welcome to my first hike on the trail of virtual exploration.

We all read blogs. Sometimes we write them. Sometimes we scratch our head and look over our shoulder to see if we have anyone witness our inability to interact with a dialogue because we are not sure how to use the tools.

But here it is. I took the plunge.

My name is Dina Pielaet. I was born and raised for the first third of my life in new Jersey. My mom and dad moved us all out to California in the 70's and we landed in Simi Valley. I went to Royal High. Graduated in 1977. I have 12 brothers and sisters.

I have a great life partner. Her name is Amy Jones. We settled in Ventura, California. (there is another is in Spain) We own a small, full-service print and web design agency called 451 Media. We also started Ventura Magazine (around 9 years ago), Ventura Life & Style magazine (around 8 years ago), VC life & Style magazine and Ventura Life magazine. That's because we really love our town. Producing those mags was a constant dedication. We never made a dime. We did spent a lot of money on it...though...a true labor-of-love.

My father found out he had cancer around the same time we started Ventura Life & Style magazine.
He fought the disease as best he could. 8 years of many doctors and specialists and their bad advice. 8 years of a lot of toxic chemicals being pumped through his body. 8 years and hundreds of thousands of dollars. He passed away in December. 2008.

My mom misses him every moment of every day. 56 years together. I guess it must feel like losing your legs. At first it hurts a lot. Then it feels like they are still there...but they do not work. Then you look down and see they are gone. "oh yeah...their gone". But, you still feel them. Kind of. You just cannot see them...and they do not hold your body up anymore. She needs to learn how to walk all over again.

I recently found out my mom and dad have really high IQ's. I mean...really high. Mom's IQ is 165. My dad's is (was), believe it or not...204. Now, a lot of people told me the tests only go up to 200. But that is not true. Some tests rate up to 230. Crazy...huh? With a mind like that...I know he has figured out a way to still be with us. I feel him all the time. "A beautiful mind". He had a big heart...and really blue eyes too. He was gruff. But very, very real. Big hank. Always knew what was on his mind.

My mom is a concert Pianist. Up until dad got really really sick, she had 40 piano students. Then she had to give up her practice to take care of him.

My dad died in a hospital bed in my parents living room. It was his island for 91 days. I moved back home for that time and I guess you could say that the living room became my planet for 91 days. I slept, worked and did everything I could for mom and dad. I was his caregiver. I was also his counselor. And his buddy. It was a very precious time for me.

We had some beautiful people associated with the Livingston Memorial Visiting Nurses Association guiding us and tending to my father as well. I love those people for that. He adored 2 of them especially well. Teresa his nurse. Alma his attendant. They taught me how to be his caregiver along with my sister, Maria. She is the doctor in the family. She was my lifeline too. She taught me how to be dads right hand. She taught me how to manage his chemistry in way that really gave him quality of life. She helped us all to give dad clarity of thought and comfort of body so he could have more time with his wife and kids. She is a pretty amazing person. My big sister. I only have one big sis. The rest are younger than me. All my sisters, and brothers, were there. Everyday. Even now. Coming and going and making the air around them vibrate with happiness. Life. God. Love.

Amy, my partner was my counselor during all of this. And she was totally supportive of my choices. Even though I know she was lonely and really missed me a lot. I missed her a lot too. It was hard...but "bittersweet". Hard to explain. I will try in a later blog.

I am a photographer. I took pictures of the whole experience. I also kept a diary. very soon, I will post some links to some very sepcial photo galleries. I will also post my diary. I call it "91 days".

I guess it seems weird to spend so much time on this subject matter instead of the "all-about-me" stuff people who create their own blogs usually write...but this has been what has changed my life recently. Has changed me forever.

My dad lay on his island, and looked over my shoulder as I produced the last "Ventura Life" magazine. At the time, I did not know it was the last issue. Only my underwriter (yes- we had someone help underwrite the magazine this past year because we simply ran out of money) knew it was the last one. But our financial partner did not tell amy and I until after we produced, printed and distributed 18,000 magazines. Amy and I will do whatever it takes to dig out. We always find a way.

She left a note on our door that said she was pulling out because we were not profitable enoough for her investment. We were very sad. She left the note on our door right around my 50th birthday. In february. The ultimate gift? Maybe. I cried. So did amy. Not so much because of the note... but because of the timing. I felt the loss all the more dad just died. But I always say "timing has no conscience". Well...time does heal wounds...right?

People keep calling me and emailing me and asking me "why?". You see...she really wanted to give her money to concert events (like the Ventura Music Festival) and playhouses (like the Rubicon) instead. She also gives lots of money to politicians. Not Obama, though. She does not like him. It seems...archiving life about our ventura, in photo and word, is just not a priority to the people of means in our town right now. Oh well. Politics is politics. Business is business. And it was her money...right?

You can log onto: to check out past issues, and see some cool photo galleries and so forth, to get a feel for what Amy and I have poured our soul into for the past 8 years. You can see what Ann Deal has decided was not worth her "salt"...

But who knows. Never question fate. Maybe my dad reached out across the vapor between here and "THERE" and intervened. Maybe he gave us all a virtual slap in the head. "Move on dina-beans...time for something REALLY special..." He always said I worked too hard. Too many hours...days... weeks... months at a time on that publication. He said that what Amy and I did with that magazine was just never really appreciated enough. He said that from his deathbed.

Maybe....but....I do not think we are done with it. I think we just need to come up with a new that does not depend upon our local business owners. A plan that moves beyond "small minds in powerful positions"...mamybe we can turn the magazine into a non-profit. A celebration of life, folk, ocean, land, ventura. Perhaps a teaching tool. Never question fate.

So for now my life is filled with my family, my partner and her family, our funky property on the hillside, re-building 451 media and our client base, photography and community of loved ones. I would like to encourage everyone reading this blog to think about the people in YOUR life and how your relationships with your family, friends, partners can be enriched. I would also encourage you to find out if there are people in your world that need your love. People that need your commitment.

As Dickens said "Mankind IS our business". Maybe somene needs your help. Maybe someone needs YOUR shoulder to lean on.

I would also encourage you to find out more about the Livingston Memorial hospice care program before it is perhaps a service you may need to rely on. You will be better empowered to make decisions on behalf of your loved ones when the time comes. They are a wonderful resource. All are welcome in their eyes. A beautiful community of caring professionals during our most intense time of transition. caring for loved ones in the final transition from this life to the next.

So that's it for now. I have a lot more to say. About a lot of stuff...
I have a lot more to show you too. But it will take time. Thanks for sharing my thoughts with your busy day...and please tell me whats on your mind at this very intstant...before it passes and feels like the faintest tingle of a phantom limb. xod