Monday, November 9, 2015

Halloween Mania

I love Halloween. That is an understatement I'm sure- but whatever Halloween nutter you want to classify me under, that's who I am and I don't care.

Every year we have special visitors. They are Mr and Mrs. Bones and my family have come to adore their antics, looking forward to October 1 when they arrive so scantily clad on our doorstep.

They play with the kids.

Play with eachother.

Blow up our bathroom.

Have spinal tap moments.

Play with the kids some more.


I mean really, it's the Elf thing but with Skeletons right?

Still a bundle of fun!

We already miss them.

Now what am I gonna do with all my extra time?

(Insert maddening laughter here) 

Saturday, May 30, 2015

Lost in the hills of FOXEN


                           Lost in the hills of FOXEN
                      American Girl- by Tommie Vaughn

The adventure had begun. I was absolutely lost somewhere within the northern hills of the Santa Ynez Valley, and I must admit I was somewhat nervous as my family and I drove farther and farther into the Foxen Canyon with little to no directions as to where we were going.  My cell phone service had stopped working for only fifteen minutes, so of course I was sweating as we bumpily bumped down the road, our camper in tow bouncing wildly behind us, and I closed my eyes trying to remember the one landmark detail I had been told to look for.
The old white house. No, not thee White House, but an monument just the same in the vineyard studded Valley, this vintage whitewashed Victorian home on the left hand side of the road, where our turn would follow suit and we would continue up onto the private road of the Doré families property. We had been invited by Paul Doré, son of Dick Doré, the co-owner and co-founder of FOXEN Vineyards, who played host to this lively occasion know to the FOXEN family and friends as “May Party,” an annual celebration forty-one years strong.
Enter into the Fox’s Den
After we took our turn, climbing higher and higher into the hills, I raised my eyebrows to my husband who shook his head, mumbling something like “It’s gotta be up here somewhere.” And just like that, we rounded the corner into a large flat oak tree studded parcel with campers, tents and RV’s dotted in every direction, all seeming to surround a giant stage that was built into an even more giant savannah oak tree. String lights hung from the branches of nearby trees and long white tables with green tablecloths surrounded a massive BBQ station that was smoking with rotisserie meats. People were everywhere, talking and laughing, playing horseshoes as children played Frisbee and dodge ball in an open field. I breathed a sigh of relief as my kids cheered from the back seat. We had made it and now it was time to relax, meet the family, play some music and drink excellent wine.
The day went from worried to wonderful in about 30 seconds, as we were greeted by the charismatic Paul Doré and the lovely Jenny Williamson Doré, who handles FOXEN’s Marketing and California/Florida sales and just happens to be the wife of Dick Doré, who’s warmth and excitement I instantly loved, as she told me the legacy of this historic property. 

TV: FOXEN has a strong family lineage, with the land dating back to the 1800's. Can you tell me a bit about the family history, including FOXEN’S namesake William Benjamin Foxen?

JWD: The winery is named in memory of William Benjamin Foxen, an English sea captain and Dick’s great-great grandfather, who came to Santa Barbara in the early 1800s.  In 1837, this Santa Barbara County pioneer purchased the Rancho Tinaquaic, a Mexican Land Grant that originally totaled nearly 9000 acres and comprised most of what is now known as Foxen Canyon.  Captain Foxen adopted the distinctive “anchor” as his ranch cattle brand, which has become a trademark of the winery.  Benjamin Foxen and his wife Eduarda Osuna raised sheep and 14 children on the ranch. In the 1880’s, Eduarda and Benjamin’s oldest child, Ramona, married another Englishman Frederick Wickenden, and built an adobe home, stagecoach stop and a general store. The old, white wooden victorian home, that still stands today, was built around the original 2-room adobe structure built by Ramona and Fredrick Wickenden.

Eduarda’s step-father was Santa Barbara’s presidio captain and their home was where the San Ysidro Ranch is today. In fact, the family’s original adobe room is preserved by the San Ysidro Ranch today. Because of the influence of Eduarda’s father, Benjamin Foxen was able to purchase the Rancho Tinaquaic, and became Santa Barbara’s first anglo land owner. Foxen used the proceeds from selling his ship to purchase the Mexican Land Grant property.

TV: Your husband Dick Doré and viticulturist Bill Wathen are the founders and the only owners of FOXEN Vineyard and Winery. The winery has a land lease with the Doré Family. How did the two meet back in 1985?

JWD: You are correct that Dick and Bill made their first wine together in 1985, but they met years before in the late 70’s at a party and became friends then.
They founded FOXEN at the historic Rancho Tinaquaic in northern Santa Barbara County, that has been in Dick’s family since 1837.  

It is very fitting that FOXEN makes its home on the 2000-acre Rancho Tinaquaic, on which the land remains in Doré family hands, who are direct descendants of Benjamin Foxen. We welcome visitors at our original tasting ‘shack’ at 7200 Foxen Canyon Road, and our new solar-powered winery at 7600 Foxen Canyon Road that was completed in 2009.

TV: What wines are Foxen's specialties? And what’s new at the vineyard? 

JWD: We are best known for our Pinot Noirs and Chardonnays, but our Syrahs and Bordeaux-style wines are also some of the most highly-acclaimed wines to come out of Santa Barbara County. 
Our Estate Tinaquaic Vineyard produces Chardonnay, Syrah, Cabernet Franc and a bit of Petit Verdot. It is dry-farmed, which is becoming more and more difficult in this historic drought.

TV: Your friends and family campout “May Party” has now become legend, how many years has this been going on now and how did it start?

JWD: Dick started May Party 41 years ago, and invited a few families to camp and “party”. It has grown over the years, and Dick delights in the fact that three generations of his family enjoy this fete. Three years ago, Dick turned over the hosting duties to his son, Paul Doré.

TV: Being a part of your campout gave me an insight on how strong your family ties are, and I loved seeing such strength and community between you all. Does everyone help out around the vineyard as well? I know both yourself and Bill's wife Becky Barieau work hard with the label, what about the rest of the family?

JWD: So, only Dick, Bill, me and Becky run Foxen’s winery and Vineyard activities. Actually, since last year, daughter Kaitlin manages our California sales. Bill was educated as a viticulturist, so he handles all of the farming in addition to being our winemaker. Dick and I divide the sales duties. I handle the marketing and communications, while Dick oversees the business. And Bill’s wife, Becky, is a CPA and the perfect person to be our controller. It’s a partnership that has grown and worked well for 30 years.

TV: What does the future hold for Foxen? Any chance of a new tasting room on the Santa Barbara Wine Trail?

JWD: With our two tasting rooms, we have our hands full and have no plans for additional tasting rooms. Sorry!

Ok, Ok so a girl can dream right? It was about this time that I was distracted by the lively music that had started up on the stage and lasted into the wee hours of the morning, featuring local darlings The Caverns and LA’s melodic mastermind Omar Velasco. (hot tip: Omar will be playing at Fig Mountain SB on Saturday May 30) It was a party to end all parties, with the friendliest family in the Valley… and you better believe I cannot wait to go back next year- bumpy roads and all. For more information on FOXEN wine and vineyards go to: FOXEN or call 805-937-4251.

See original article in Santa Barbara Sentinel- Cover story- page 14

Wednesday, April 22, 2015

Diary of a Song

     Diary of a Song
                      In the Zone by Tommie Vaughn

A song can be like the internal combustion of one person’s soul. No musician knows exactly where that song will derive from, what will inspire it, nor when that haunting lyric line will hit you- but when it does, we are pretty keen to always carry a pen and paper as our emergency memory tools, or a small pocket sized recorder called- a cell phone, so we can begin the creation of this elusive gift from the universe.
But how on earth did that song find you? What was your muse? For a lot of artists, it is from our own experiences that we pen most of our pain away, let it be from heartbreak or happiness, for most it’s the same damn thing when it comes to creating a song. Nothing is sacred and no one is safe, when a songwriter is near and the nearer you get to a songwriter, the better your chances are to inspire their art. It sounds really romantic sure, but let me blow away all those clouds your head is dancing in, because musicians LOVE to write moody songs about heartbreak and demise, so that song you are longing for, may not always sound like music to your ears.
Art imitates life, or is it Life imitates Art?
I’m never sure, as the lines get blurry after so many years but I do know that our song inspirations are indeed the chapters of a book that is uniquely our very own. So could an actual book itself inspire? Of course it could, and local musician Kate Graves, who started The Bushwick Book Club of Santa Barbara County has organized the most creative songwriting exercise, set in the rocking backdrop of my favorite music store The Guitar Bar, for some of the west coasts most talented musicians.
Kate, a heart wrenching talent herself (think folk styling’s like Patti Griffin) is a native Santa Barbarian, who spent a lot of time touring, living out of her suitcase and lugging around her guitar, living in the wet and wonderful city of Seattle. That’s where she first heard of this one of a kind book club, and was able to join in with some legendary songwriters, as they hashed out some of the worlds most beloved literature. “It’s an amazing chapter Geoff Larson has in Seattle, and they have been doing it for years now and have it down to a science. Even offering recordings and radio programs for their performers, it’s quite a show and so inspiring to the artists who participated, like myself”
Back in the 805
Now Kate’s back living in the central coast, so inspired that she decided to take the Bushwick idea of Art inspiring Art to Santa Barbara for her very own chapter. With monthly performances on the Funk Zones Guitar Bar stage, Kate approached Jamie Faletti, owner of GBSB, who loved the idea and opened up his shop’s to Kate and her ever changing line up of local and traveling musicians on the last Wednesday of every month, for their book club performances.
“We are actually the fourth chapter of the Bushwick Book Clubs, the first derived from a group of great musicians in Bushwick, Brooklyn who thought it would be fun to get together and write songs inspired by different books each month, and the idea took off from there. Some artists would write songs, some would take a narrative approach, all with different styles as unique as the artists themselves.  It kinda spiraled up from the underground, to this hip happening scene, combining peoples love of songwriting and literature.” Kate is explaining the history as we sit in the middle of the Guitar Bar itself and I find myself getting excited at the thought of being in a room full of talented songwriters.
 “We just started out a few months ago and we have had some really fun shows, spotlighting a group of eight to ten songwriters. Some have come back each month and some are just traveling through town, so each show is different and exciting to see who is going to show up and how they will interpret the book. It’s also good for artists who need a deadline, it’s a wonderful writing tool and the deadline forces them to work and show up, which is great for an artist who procrastinates.”

Procrastinating artists? Never.
“It’s basically a really fun gig for the artists and anyone who comes for the show. You get to put yourself out there in a less personal way, since the musicians are usually not writing about their own experience but the books. But still, some will take it and run in a direction you never see coming and that’s truly where the beauty of a song and literature can meet.”  
April’s book club book is “The Paris Wife” by Paula McLain, following the love affair of Ernest Hemingway and his wife Hadley. With May’s book being any of Dr. Seuss history of books and June’s “Stranger Music”, selected poems and songs by Leonard Cohen. Kate is trying to keep the books different and interesting, but encourages artists to join even if the book is not your favorite, since that might make for even more depth in your art. 

Do you have to be a pro to play the book club? Yes… but no, not really, not all the time, but get in line quickly because the show books out fast to bigger names who follow the Bushwick chapters, and this months is already full with names like Bobby Hartry, Kathleen Sieck, Daena Jay and Rom Prasado Rao.
The greatest part is this is a real live show that anyone can attend, with intimate performances that are truly one of a kind, and the audience is encouraged to read the books as well, so nothing is lost when each artist takes the stage. Artists who are looking to join the club need only to show up and talk to Kate herself, or contact her through the Bushwick SB Facebook page. Not a songwriter but a poet? Or a rapper? Don’t hesitate, because Kate is happily opening the book club up to a broader range if the talent strikes her. I know where I will be from now on, the last Wednesday of every month. Won’t you join me? Wednesday April 29th at the Guitar Bar, The Bushwick Book Club of Santa Barbara County presents “The Paris Wife” by Paula McLain Doors: 7pm Show: 7:30pm $5-10 suggested donation info at or email Kate Graves at

Thursday, February 19, 2015

Book Three

I've noticed recently, I have too many different conversations going on simultaneously in my head.
If this happened to anyone else, they might lock em' up and throw away the key...
But for me- it means

Book Three.

Tuesday, February 10, 2015

Peddlers for a Song

   Peddlers of a Song
         American Girl by Tommie Vaughn

I am all alone, my heart is my string and I dangle it in front of you, all around you, as you walk through the dusty streets, past the carrots, past the kale- my song calls out to you. Is it familiar? Do I bring forth a memory? Or does it evoke a feeling; stir some small place inside you, enough to make you stop in your path, to turn my way? Yes, it’s my soul on this sidewalk that I bleed for you. Won’t you take a listen? Won’t you hear my song? I am a street performer. Most of you will walk right past me, without a second look. So I play my song to no one yet to everyone, hoping to entice you, if even but for a moment. Won’t you hear my song?
This is only a fraction of the poetic nonsense that begins to filter through my head as I enter into Santa Barbara’s finest Farmers Market every Tuesday as music fills the air and I stroll from booth to booth. My senses are captured by every color, smell and beautiful sound that floats past my hungry ears. Of course I am here for the farm fresh organic vegetables, but it is the music that fills my heart with joy and so I keep showing up, again and again to awaken with the street sounds, as the peddlers of song vie for my attention… for my acceptance and for my smile.
They did it all for the nookie
Did you think I was going to say dollar? Sure, the performers would love for you to pay for their song. I mean hey, does anyone pay for music anymore? Mine’s all streaming for free just like most artists these days. Why would we need to eat? What those performers on every half block really want is for you to hear. For you to feel- and if their song can take you there then that’s an accomplishment that only the fearless will understand.
Most street performers are everyday musicians just practicing their craft. Bob Dylan used to do it, for tips or for the sheer fun of it he would strum his guitar with the other performers at Washington Square Park. B.B. King was just a boy when he would take to the streets of Mississippi for spare change and with that he would sometimes travel to over four towns a day until he happened into Memphis and the world of blues and jazz would never sound the same again. And we all love the story of Jewel, who slept in her van just so she could spend her days singing in the streets, till her crooked teeth and unforgettable voice would capture the hearts of San Diego small club owners and one very important record executive of Atlantic Records.
Dancing in the Streets
So today I will introduce you to a few of our sidewalk hero’s. Musicians that frequent our streets, our markets, and our hearts- all for a chance to capture our imaginations, take us away from the brussle sprouts and to sing their songs. 

For D.on Darox & the Melody Joy Bakers, the market is a weekly stop in his day-to-day routine of street performing. He plays with his three piece, a full band or solo depending on the day, time and venue, traveling far from his home in Tennessee- finding himself a modern day nomad as he plays up and down the southern coast of California. As their take of “Dirty, Gypsy, Blues” begins with a heartbreakingly whimsical accordion intro and D.on’s gravely voice booming you to attention, the original music takes hold of your soul, sweeping your mind back to New Orleans, Bourbon Street, to a carefree time of a true musical independent spirit. 

Ocho the Owl strums proud and alone on a wooden box with his ukulele tucked close to his heart as he sings his songs smiling shyly at a sign that reads: “87% of people who’ve listened to this performer’s music have had the uncontrollable urge to dance, dance, dance! (and then tip generously)” He travels locally from Farmers Markets to test new songs, and to entice a new fan base for local singer/songwriter performances. 

Near the pubs I see Pacific Haze is here again too, twiddling with their twist on Americana Blues, making the dirty hipsters stop to tap a toe as the banjo takes a ride with a fiddle, a guitar and a harmonica on their bushy beards and crooked moustaches. The harmonies are well blended and the crowd is theirs for the taking as I smile to watch small children dancing a jig in the street at the musician’s feet. 

As I move towards my favorite flower seller, I notice a young, clean cut fella singing a Johnny Cash tune with a voice so deep and resonant, it would make the man in black proud. Johnny Miller is not your typical street performer, and he looks so clean cut, I’m sure he was just slumming it for the afternoon after his stressful day on the catwalk. But as he strums his acoustic guitar and tips his hat to the harmonica, he exudes all the charisma that any street performer needs, dirty or not. Johnny usually plays open mic’s or club gigs with his full backing band. Today, he just wanted to play and the Farmers Market seemed to be the perfect stage to test out a few new songs.
So as each week passes, it will never be the same as new faces come, old faces move on and a corner band is breaking down the walls of normality, all for a dollar- maybe a record deal, or maybe just some whiskey that will be the muse of inspiration for the next song in their musical Rolodex.  (Old Town State Street Farmers Market is every Tuesday, from 3-6:30pm winter hours, and 4-7:30pm summer hours)

Thursday, February 5, 2015


#‎TBT‬ my vintage look for "Cherish Every Moment" video by Wall of Tom special thanks to my style crew @Carrie Diaz and @Brooklyn Stephen. @Chris Knitter Overlooked Productions for shooting such an amazing video too. I loved this day.

Tuesday, January 20, 2015

My latest column for the Sentinel Newspaper


 Let’s hear it for the Girls!
           In the Zone by Tommie Vaughn

When I was a little girl, all I wanted to do was sing. I would grab a hairbrush, jump onto the brick bench that was built into our fireplace and instantly I was on stage performing for everyone (or no-one) who would give me a chance.  My parents would laugh and shake their heads in wonder at me, calling me their “dramatic child” but never really knowing what to do about it. Sure they thought I was cute in my many performances, but never did it occur to them that maybe, just maybe they should put me in some music lessons, dance or performance class.
Who am I kidding, I’m not really sure anything like that existed at the time in my sleepy small coastal town in Oregon, but come on, maybe piano lessons or something? Nope. My parents watched me my whole youth perform in any way I could, so they weren’t too surprised when I moved to Los Angeles, CA to pursue my singing dreams, but they never really understood it all the same. I think it scared them more than anything, frightened for my well being in the big city, afraid that I would be naïve and get myself into trouble.
Rock, Rock, Rock, Rock n’ Roll High School
I did of course, but I had one hell of a good time doing it and the lessons I learned growing up in Hollywood, attending the “University of Rock n’ Roll”, a real world type of school where my classrooms were the dirty stages of the Viper Room and the Roxy, the Kibitz Room and the Hotel Café and my teachers were my peers as we sweated our way from the underground, to become masters of the D.I.Y. music revolution.
Now… fifteen years, four albums and hundreds of shows later, I’m a mom with two very rock n’ roll kids who perform for me every chance they get, and instead of smiling and shaking my head in wonder, I cheer them on as I smile, knowing that when they are ready, (and if they really want to) I will gladly give them every lesson they would ever need to get a head start into the wonderful world of musical expression.
That being said, I have been doing my research into the many musical outlets for kids in Santa Barbara and one name keeps repeating as my go-to-girl in SB’s children’s music scene- that name is Jenny Baron and she is the founder of an amazing, empowering program called Girls Rock Santa Barbara.
Dream until your dreams come true
Oh my performers heart be still, and what a program it is! With 44 classes running each term like Rock Band, Music Journalism, History of Music, Intro to Songwriting, Photography and Film Making for beginners as young as six years old to teens of fifteen. As well as semi-private or small group lessons available for every instrument, a Pop Classical Quartet for advanced string players and an Amplify Rock Band for teens with at least 1 year of experience. All of these after school 10-week programs are crafted to each student, teaching the girls the Girls Rock Motto- “To be confidant in who they are, to know they are enough in all that they do, and to follow their passions- whatever they may be.” The classes are taught by instructors from the world’s leading music conservatories, who are extremely talented musicians and teachers as well as amazing mentors for each child in the program. They are even offering for the first time a free after school program for girls ages 12-15 at Santa Barbara Jr. High, but open to girls from any school in SB.
But it doesn’t stop there. At the end of each 10-week session held at the Makenzie Park facility (3111 State Street, enter via Las Positas), students that are part of the Rock Band program and the Intro to Songwriting program (along with a few others)- get to record their song in a professional recording studio (a partnership with Notes for Notes). That same song that the girls wrote collaboratively with their “band” will be performed live at a sold out, showcase at Soho Music Club in Santa Barbara.
Well-behaved women, seldom make history
I caught up with Jenny to find out more about her empowering program, how she got started, and why in the world would a program this great have to be just for girls.
TV: So how about a little backstory, how did this all get started?
JB: Girls Rock is a program that started up in Portland, Oregon in the early nineties, coming off of the Riot grrrl scene. (For those who are not familiar with this term-Riot grrrl is an underground feminist hardcore punk movement that originally started in the early 1990s. It is often associated with third-wave feminism, which is sometimes seen as its starting point. It has also been described as musical genre that came out of indie rock, with the punk scene serving as an inspiration for a musical movement in which women could express themselves in the same way men had been doing for the past several years.) And now there are over 86 non-profits all over the world, all separate entities, standing for the same concept- music and self-empowerment for women and young girls.
TV: How do you find your teachers and how many are there?
JB: Right now there are 11 teachers, including myself, as well as student interns from UCSB. We do a lot of recruiting from Berkeley School of Music in Boston, and all of our teachers are very accomplished musicians and are able to teach multiple instruments, which is really helpful when in a group setting such as the Rock Band class.
TV: Being a musician, I’m curious on how you can teach a child an instrument in only 10 weeks?
JB: Ours is kind of a backwards approach to classical music training. We do so many icebreakers and bonding experiences, that I think we show them the joy in music and learning an instrument, that their love and excitement gets them there, they want to learn it and they are very capable. They learn these life skills of working together, especially in the band experience, all tailored to the child and their capabilities. I mean, for anyone to write a song within a group, record it and then perform it on stage in front of their friends and families, even if it’s a seven year old who can hold down an e-string, that girl is going to rock it and feel total confidence. It’s a really beautiful thing.
TV: When I was younger, my parents didn’t really know what to do with my musical dreams. Do you find that parents are much more receptive to their child’s aspirations these days? 
JB: Absolutely. Our parents are wonderful and are super supportive of our programs. But we get a wide range of girls coming to us, some yes, have musical aspirations and do have some background training, but others have no experience and especially with the younger students, parents bring them to us hoping to give their shyer children confidence and acceptance. Our program teaches girls how to work together and empower each other, support each other and feel safe within their peer group, being able to identify together with a common love and goal.
TV: I have to ask, because I do have a daughter who although she is too young at the moment, will love your program when she gets older. But I have to play devils advocate- I have a son, who is every bit a rocker and I would love your program. Why no boys?
JB: (laughing) I have a son too, and I have to explain to him all the time why he can’t be a part of this. You see, there are so many different musical programs for boys in Santa Barbara, like Notes for Notes and Rockshop; we just wanted to create a safe bubble for girls where they didn’t feel like they had to worry about how they look or act, where they could just be themselves without the worry of what a boy would think. We are just trying to build confidence and somehow even out the playing field. In the past most people were accepting of a female singer, and now more and more girls are stepping behind the drum kit or strapping on a bass, it’s so cool to see the girls having that confidence to take on what used to be a male dominated instrument.
Just give me a reason
Jenny’s passion and exuberance for her program is awe-inspiring, and she is an incredibly busy lady, wearing many hats in GRSB, all this and only a year into her successful non-profit.  2014 was an incredible year for her and GRSB, not only becoming a legal non-profit on their own right, but garnering the attention of local news, radio and some celebrity attention too, with none other than new Valley local- “Pink” attending her last Soho showcase with her sweet daughter Willow in tow (who, hint hint, if your reading this Alicia, Jenny would LOVE for you to become involved with GRSB in any way!). The New Year holds many more exciting opportunities not only for the enrolled students but also for Girls Rock itself, being a non-profit that is dependent on the generosity of our powerful Santa Barbara community.
Give it all you got
The first fundraiser begins NOW, with every Wednesday in the month of January at Figueroa Mountain Brewing Company, the Charity Tap handle gives 50 percent of profits of the selected beer going towards GRSB.  Grab a brew every Wednesday and help out the scholarship program at GRSB, so all girls, no matter their parent’s income, can join in the fun and learn the beauty of music. In conjunction with it all, on March 7th, GRSB is the selected charity for the highly successful Girl on Fire 5K & 10K Run (, and both GOF and GRSB will be at Fig every Wednesday from 6-9pm to answer questions and learn more about both programs- And it looks like Jenny and her girls are planning a super special show on the final Wednesday of the month (the 28th) too, so mark your calendars now, get on down to Fig in the Funk Zone and show your support for Girls Rock Santa Barbara, a program we are so blessed to have in our community, empowering girls through music, promoting an environment that fosters self-confidence, creativity, and teamwork- challenging gender stereotypes, encouraging collaboration and tolerance among peers, and providing a comfortable space for girls of all backgrounds to express themselves. Through music lessons, workshops, group activities, and performance, girls learn skills that help guide them throughout their lives. Let’s hear it for Girls Rock! For more information, go to give them a call at 805-861-8128 or email Jenny Baron at

Read it HERE

Wednesday, January 7, 2015

There goes my hero

I've been very quiet lately. Which is very unlike me, to say the least. I know it's been months since I posted anything on this page and I think my tweets are down to a whimper. I apologize for my virtual disappearance but I have had to, not only because being a mommy of two wild children has me chained up most of the time, but because I lost someone who was my everything and I'm finding it very hard to "bounce" back from this darkness.

A few weeks before Thanksgiving, my father had jokingly complained about some excess pain and blood in his urine. The fact that my father would complain is a sign for most people, but he shrugged it off being forever a strong proud man of ninety one. He was going to go to the doctor and they said it must be a bladder infection, giving him medication that was sure to cure his ailment. Two days before Thanksgiving he woke up in excruciating pain and was absolutely yellow. Not a coward yellow, but physically his skin had turned the color of the brightest sun, or a bit like an "Ooompa Loompa" as we tried to smile although fear that now gripped our hearts making it harder and harder to breath, as my dad was rushed to the ER for test after test.

At first they said it looked to be gallstones and we exhailed just a bit but to be sure, they did a C-Scan as he waved to me from our Facetime conversation on my nieces phone, as she sat with him and my step mother at my fathers bedside in the hospital. My dad, being ninety one and living in my hometown of Reedsport, Oregon was still shaking his head in wonder as they wheeled him out of the room at technology today, and how I, his youngest daughter could be in California- but be seen and heard, clear as a bell, on the telephone. I remember laughing at him placing his thumb on his nose and wiggling his fingers at me then blowing me a kiss. My neice had promised to let me know the results as soon as they knew anything and I smiled as I hung up the phone and went back to my children playing, sighing in relief, knowing that gallstones were easily cured and my Dad would live to be 101, because of course someone like my father would.

When I heard my text go off I was standing in the kitchen. It read "Bile duct cancer" "It's not good" The text went on as I stood like a stick figure watching the words roll on as my brain began to turn and the hot tear ran down my cheeks. "Inoperable""Maybe 3-6 months" "Maybe less" I responded with three words as soon as my body would move enough to type. "I'm coming home"

I can honestly say, I did not see it coming. My father, even in his later years was tougher than boiled owl shit, and had me laughing every Sunday when we had our weekly call. Sure sometimes he felt worse for the ware but we all wrote it off as age and he joked that he still checked the paper for his obituary every day. So when I actually had to think that I was losing my father, my hero, I was in total denial and shock as my husband quickly went to look for airline tickets for our entire family to head home in a week. I even talked to my dad that evening and he was full of fire (and morphine) saying "Well honey, I consider myself lucky, the doctors say it's a really rare cancer, so I'm a special case for sure!"

It wasn't until I spoke to my step mother, who has been blissfully married to my father for 36 years, that she said my dad may go quicker than the doctors thought, as Hospice was called into their home and did an assessment of my dad's slipping vitals. We changed our plane reservations and flew out the following day on a Red-eye and I was standing alone in my fathers living room early the next morning staring at my idol, once larger than life, so handsome and strong, one minute looking like Elvis and the next the Marlborough Man with his white cowboy hat always upon his sturdy head and shoulders, now looking so broken and small seated in his favorite chair, in his satin blue pj's and a blanket covering his legs. The tears poured uncontrollably down my face as I said the words "Hi Daddy." And I rushed to his outstretched arms to cry on his shoulder all over again.

I think he held on for me. I think that he knew he was leaving us and he wouldn't go until he held me that last time. For an entire day he sat in that chair and we talked as much as he was comfortable, he hugged my kids and we laughed at the silly things they said or did. He even held my baby girl in his arms as she drank her milk and they stared lovingly into each others eyes for what seemed like hours as she reached up and tweaked his nose and we laughed like hell at her sass. My husband took one picture, of that exact moment, and then that was it, because we were there for a week and there would be plenty of time for pictures. We went home that night and my daddy went to bed too, but he couldn't get back up in the morning. It was like overnight the cancer had taken him and he was no longer there but in stolen glimpses as we sat by his bedside and our week turned into day by day as we watched him slip away from us slowly but surely. My husband and I took over a guitar and sang our songs to him and he would smile and shake his head, even sing along for a moment or two. My sister and I broke out his old ukelele and we sang him all the songs we used to sing when we were kids and he loved every minute of it.

But minutes were all we had as the final day came too soon and we assured him we would all be ok, we would take care of his wife and he had taught us to be strong. And of course we told him over and over that we loved him. Then he was gone. His last breath was at 5am on December 9th, and I have to say at that very moment I was lying in bed staring at my little boy who slept at my side in my sisters home just a few miles away. The parallel is not lost to me. I was looking at life as my father faced death, and I am so thankful for that moment of absolute clarity before my sister opened the guest room door and whispered, "Dad's gone."

When I faced my father one last time I knew he was gone. I knew it was just a body, not his soul and I held his lifless hand all the same, saying only two words "Goodbye Daddy"- and all at once I felt the little girl inside of me float away. She was riding on a seahorse of tears that took her with him and I'm just not sure if she will ever come back. My dad, even through our adolescent up's and down's (which I am so happy to brag were few and far between) was the first man I ever loved and for all of my years he loved me back fiercely. I always felt protected and there was never a moment when I didn't know that my father would die fighting for me, just as he fought for his country in WWII. Even though in my later years I had moved away to chase my dreams, ending up in the Los Angeles music scene, I knew my dad didn't like it, but he understood me all the same. You see, my father lived. He taught me to live my life and to be strong and never ever be afraid because he would always be there if I needed him, no matter what.

He cheered on my music, he bragged about my books, he highly approved of my husband and he stayed awake all night when I gave birth to my children. He said the happiest days of his life were when my sister and I were little and I should enjoy every moment of my kids. He offered me five dollars to sell him my blue eyed daughter and though I should cut my son's hair because he looked like a hippie or worse, a girl. He was from the old, old school and refused to get a computer that wasn't dial-up and the thought all those kids these days looked at their phones too damn much. He wept on Memorial day, and on Veterans day he wept again but he rarely would talk about the war and the evils he saw, he was more likely to tell you a lie than the truth of how he got shot in the chest or the knee, or was that by a bear that bit him? Or another time he took a shrapnel in his torso and worried that he had lost his dick until the doctor reassured him he was still intact.

I wrote his Obituary. I wonder if he read it? I tried my best to capture the essence of a man who was larger than life, but maybe that's it huh? He was too large for this life and now he's moved on. He took that little girl with him and he's teaching her cartwheels somewhere... And they are laughing, louder than most people ever laugh, just because they can, and maybe because they like to stir up a little trouble with their cackle roars, or because they like the looks on others faces as they catch them off guard. Maybe she will come back to me when she's done playing with her Daddy. Maybe not. I'm trying to be ok with that and I'm trying to be greatful for the Dad I had, the time we spent and the love we shared. I really am. So as I look at my children laughing, I smile because I know he will never be gone, he is them, he is me. And I am so very proud to be my fathers daughter.

                                                        James Henry Potter 1923-2014

I wrote this for you Daddy:

James Henry Potter

If there ever was a hero, his name was Jim Potter. A charismatic charmer, who never met a stranger and always went out of his way to befriend anyone who crossed his path with his welcoming smile, quick wit and booming voice, that rarely ended without his contagious laughter. When Jim Potter walked into the room, you knew it, as there wasn’t a lady who didn’t get a kiss or a hug around the neck, or a man who’s hand wasn’t firmly shook, a tall tale swapped, or even a baby who wasn’t ‘goochie-gooed’ a time or two. That was the Jim Potter we all knew and loved in our small town of Reedsport, Oregon, where he lived out his later years, but there was so much more to this gentle giant of a man who at ninety-one, took his last breaths surrounded by love, on December 9, 2014.
As a young boy growing up in Utah, his Father Hank, was a heavyweight-boxing champion and Jim loved to step into the ring before his father’s matches to box a round or two. In his early teens he hitchhiked across the state to his Aunt and Uncles farm where he learned to plow the land with draft horses and it was this very act of tilling the earth that would begin his love of farming that he would continue in life much later. It wasn’t but a few years after that when Jim joined the Utah National Guard in October 1939 at the sweet age of sixteen.
In March of 1941 his National Guard unit was called into federal service and Jim served in the Pacific theatre in WWII for 3 ½ years. His early years of fighting came in handy as he commanded tanks in campaigns at Guadalcanal, New Britain, New Guinea, Luzon, Mindoro, Mindanao, and Manila. After his discharge, Jim went to Weber College in Utah but in 1948 he chose to return to the Army, serving in Kentucky, Okinawa, Texas, Alaska and Utah. Jim was specially selected to serve as a Guard of Honor at President John F. Kennedy’s inauguration on January 20, 1961. Finally retiring with honors as a Sergeant Major in March of 1967.
For some people, the years of wars and loss would leave a visible scar. Although Jim was shot once in the chest and later took shrapnel in the torso, he never let the horrors that he must have witnessed slow him down from loving and living life. He thrived in the great outdoors and found his way to the Oregon coast where he became a commercial fisherman for a few years, then going on to work at International Paper Company in Gardiner until he retired in 1982.
His love and respect for the land and sea, would keep him active in Ducks Unlimited, and in Winchester Bay and Gardiner, Oregon, Jim became instrumental in establishing the Salmon Trout Enhancement Program (STEP).  He was active in his community and was always ready to lend a hand for the High School (He even built a robot then a full sized papier-mâché dinosaur for his daughters Kelley and Holly’s All Night Party), he loved the Library, and Jim actively supported the Dog Park here in Reedsport.
If Jim Potter ever had a spare minute he would be working the land, just as he did as a boy, on his own small ranch up Schofield creek, or maybe he could be found happily fishing or bird hunting with his dogs and telling lies around the campfire with his close ole’ buddies, or collecting agate by the pound and polishing them to perfection. He liked to keep his hands busy and always was working on a project, sometimes carving shorebirds and fish from driftwood, creating clay bowls, pitchers and vases on a potters wheel, he enjoyed making model ships and airplanes and if you can believe it, Jim even taught himself how to do taxidermy.

But most of all, Jim Potter was a loving family man, who was extremely devoted to his children and grandchildren. He attended every one of their sporting events at Reedsport High School and most of us knew he was there too, from his loud booming voice of encouragement coming from the stands.  Heartbreakingly, he was preceded in death by sons James and Donald, as well as his daughter Vicki. Happily, he is survived by his loving wife and best friend Jacque of 36 years, son Cal Potter (Debbie), daughters Cathy Carter, Kelley Kristensen (Kent), and Holly (aka: Tommie, as her father nicknamed her) Grimes (Tony). But it doesn’t end there, as Jim Potter is the grandfather to, count them- fourteen grandchildren and fourteen great-grandchildren… and he truly lives on in each and every one of them, with just a touch of this true hero’s, ‘je ne sais quoi’.

Jim will be given a two part send off in the summer sun, first with military honors in Roseburg National Cemetery, then with a private family celebration of life ceremony at sea. Godspeed JHP 1923-2014.