Tag Archives: family

The Night Of Couchsurfing That Turned Into Two Weeks

14 Nov

“Just to let you know, I collect body parts,” said Kimmii, shortly after greeting us.

My boyfriend and I just finished a long weekend of camping up at the Dorrigo National Park and hadn’t had a real shower in days. We swam in rivers, took sponge baths and wore hats but something had to give. When we drove down the windy mountain road back to Coffs Harbour we had two choices: check into an out-of-budget caravan park and have a shower or send out a last-minute couchsurfing request and hope that someone would invite us in.

I sent out two couchsurfing requests explaining that all we really needed was a shower and that we had a van to sleep in. After waiting for half an hour, our impatience got the best of us and we decided to have an ice-cold shower in the public bathrooms of the local surf club. As we got back into the van, our teeth chattering and our hair soaked, I had a message. Two empty nesters with a couple of spare rooms offered to let us stay and insisted that we sleep inside.

When we pulled up to the house Kimmii came to greet us at the front door while Paulie prepared the pizza dough for our dinner inside. Kimmi was in her mid-40s, a half-Aboriginal bipolar woman whose manic episodes led her to $3,000 shopping sprees on ModCloth for her 20-something daughter. She was short and overweight, outspoken, jovial and completely comfortable in her own skin. Paulie was a balding ex-surfer whose music and book collection filled me with envy. He was a talented cook but rarely ate his own creations, preferring a simple meat and potatoes meal instead.

Within minutes the wine was flowing and we were already telling deeply personal stories and laughing our asses off. Kimmii had this incredible story-telling ability and a wit about her that left Matt and I in stitches (even when she was only explaining what she did for a living!). We told her she should do stand-up and Paulie shouted from the kitchen, “Oh no, don’t encourage her!”

As we dug into the homemade pizzas Kimmii told us we were her first couchsurfers and that she signed up because her daughter would be backpacking across South America in a few months and she wanted to give back in the hopes that someone would do the same for her. She told us that after their four children had moved out they’d had several guests come and go. Some stayed for a few weeks and others for up to 9 months. When Kimmii invited us to stay as long as we wanted I thought it was such a tempting and generous offer but never expected that we’d actually take her up on it.

In a warm, wine-induced haze we said goodnight and crawled into our respective beds. Matt and I wanted to pinch ourselves when we felt the thread-count of the sheets and prefect firmness of the mattress.

A woman after my own heart!

“I really like them,” said a half-asleep Matt.

“Me too. I love it here,” I said in a daze.

“Someone stayed here for nine months!” said Matt.

“I know, but we’re not going to take advantage of their generosity. We’ll keep looking for jobs in the morning.”

And we did, but the day turned into two and then three. Then Kimmii left for a business trip and encouraged us to stay with Paulie while she was gone. He had a serious lung condition that often left him gasping for air and she felt more comfortable knowing someone was there with him. We happily stayed, mowing the lawn, doing the dishes and scrubbing the tubs to contribute.

Paulie made us amazing food every night: Moroccan, Mexican, Greek, and Lebanese. Well-fed and well-rested, we continued the job search with new enthusiasm. I attended an RSA (responsible service of alcohol) certification course and Matt contacted all his old rigging buddies for information on current projects.

At night, Kimmii and Matt talked politics while Paulie and I talked music and watched concert DVDs. I copied all his CDs to my hard drive and he’d pull out biographies of my favorite bands and tell me obscure facts about the members. We became a family and we got used to our routine.

When Matt received a high-paying rigging job offer, the news was bittersweet. We packed up our van the last night and Paulie made pizza for us to take on the road. Kimmii and I watched a documentary about Obama and Mitt Romney before she went to bed and Paulie and I talked about Jimmy Page and Jim Morrison one last time. We hugged goodbye, promised to stay in touch and when we locked up the door behind us in the middle of the night, Matt and I turned to each other and said, “I’m really going to miss them,” almost in unison.

Not every couchsurfing experience is like this but now my Australian family feels larger. We still keep in touch and if we ever make it back to NSW, we know where we’ll stay.

Kimmii also loved collecting sea shells.                                                                                                    I left this one in the guest room so they’d have something to remember us by.

Letters to C: Home

15 Aug

July 3rd, 2012


I’m on my way to Arizona, to stay at my parents’ lake house for the 4th with Kat and Lluvia. Last week I took 4 flights, saw 8 cities and have been slowly reacquainting myself with California.

I went to Napa for my mom’s 50th birthday then hung out with Kat in SF and Santa Cruz and did the drive down the coast to her beach house in Huntington, where we stayed last night. And now I’m heading to Arizona…

I live a charmed and blessed life and believe me I’m taking full advantage of my time back here, soaking in this beautiful place before I leave it all again.

It feels so strange to be “home”. What is home when a part of you feels like you don’t fully belong anywhere? Or that you’ve outgrown the places you did? I love this state, I love my friends and family but I see this place for what it is and what it does to me.

I’ve been so fulfilled with my “hippie life” where I’m living out of the van and I don’t know when the money will run out or if I’ll have work. The stresses are there but they’re over real things. It was pure.

Now, in the states, I’m anxious. My chest is tight and I’m insecure about my looks. I care how I dress or what I say and how I say it. It’s like the environment here causes me to doubt myself and all the gossip I keep hearing from everyone just reminds me of how I’m constantly being judged.

It’s a really strange feeling and I’m worried all the growth I’ve done is going to unravel in my few short weeks here. I see myself slipping into the habits I’ve happily rid myself of. It worries me a bit.

These are the people I know and love and this my home country, but now I feel like I don’t belong or that it’s best for me not to belong. I guess what I’m saying is I think I’m making the right decision by moving to Oz and I think you did by moving to NYC.

Take Care,


Friday Night Wine Downs

12 Oct

Photo: Caitlin Ryan


The wine is poured, the food is on the table and the children are playing in the backyard. The work week is over and the residents of Fern Drive are ready to Wine Down.

What was once a street full of strangers and passing acquaintances became a tight-knit neighborhood after K.D. Molnar introduced the idea of starting monthly Friday Night Wine Downs and last weekend, Fern Drive residents celebrated their 20th event.

“I thought, what do we all have in common? Everybody likes wine, right? Who doesn’t like to wind down after a long week?,” said Molnar, who was nicknamed Julie McCoy, after the cruise director from the Love Boat television series, for her ability to bring the neighborhood together.

“It started out with a bang and it’s been going ever since. I think the thing that is so special about it is that it’s a family thing. It’s not get a babysitter, it’s not we all have to get in the car and get all fancied up. Everyone walks down the street,” said Molnar.

The Wine Down idea evolved out of Molnar’s family’s annual Donut Day, where friends and families met at her parent’s home to socialize and eat. When Molnar moved to Fern Drive, she knew it was the place she would live in for the rest of her life and wanted to find a way to get to know her neighbors. She decided to host her own Donut Day.

“I’m a graphic designer so I printed out post cards and told my story of why we’re doing this Donut Day and I’m sure people were like what is she trying to sell? Insurance or Tupperware or Amway? Why is she offering us free donuts on a Sunday?” said Molnar.

But several neighbors did show up and by the time Molnar came up with the Wine Down idea, she had ten families to send invites to.

“Whenever I tell anyone about it they’re like, ‘oh, I want to live in your neighborhood! I want to wine down!’ And I tell them: start one! You just have to get a group of people together that are willing to come together once a month.”

There is also a ‘wine fairy’ amongst the group, whose identity is unknown, that drops off personalized, hand-painted Lolita wine glasses on unsuspecting neighbor’s doors. Eight women have received the glasses, which have different sayings painted on them, such as ‘social butterfly’, ‘aged to perfection’, and ‘it’s five-o’clock somewhere.’

Many of the families on Fern Drive credit their friendships to the wine down gatherings and have become a source of support for each other. The moms arrange play-dates, or ‘mom swaps’, where they take turns watching each other’s kids, and some have started walking groups. Some families vacation together and others do business with one another. And when one of the neighbors announced he was battling throat cancer, everyone rallied together to help his family in anyway they could.

Molnar insists that anyone can turn their street into a community if they find something to bring everyone together, whether it be a Wine Down, a book club or a Bunco Night. She encourages anyone interested in starting their own Wine Down to email her at KD@duggandesigns.com for guidance.

Originally published at  Fullerton Stories


Film Review: The Kids Are All Right

20 Aug

“The Kids Are All Right” is the type of film whose refreshing honesty reminds viewers of what movies are capable of. In “Kids,” writer/director Lisa Cholodenko (“High Art” and “Laurel Canyon”) puts politics aside to make one of the most controversial family arrangements of our time (a married lesbian couple raise two children with the help of an anonymous sperm donor) look relatively normal.

The lives of Nic (Annette Bening) and Jules (Julianne Moore) are reminiscent of most middle-aged couples trying to raise two teenagers in Southern California, until their world is turned upside down when 16-year-old Laser (Josh Hutcherson) prompts his older sister, Joni (Mia Wasikowska), to use her newly acquired 18-year-old legal status to find their biological father.

In their quest for identity, they meet Paul (Mark Ruffalo), a motorcycle-riding college dropout who owns an organic foods restaurant in Los Angeles. Laser and Mia try to keep their meeting with Paul secret until an interrogation involving Laser and the moms’ guy-on-guy porn stash inadvertently leads to a confession of the clandestine encounter.

Nic, the breadwinner and patriarchal figure of the same-sex twosome, and Jules, the flighty stay-at-home mom who’s never had a substantial career, decide that they need to meet the man who is infiltrating their children’s lives, so they insist that Paul come over for lunch.

As the layers of the movie unfold, the pseudo-father completely disrupts the dynamics of his makeshift family, forever changing the relationship between the kids and their mothers, and eventually the relationship between Nic and Jules. Despite the uniqueness of this alternative family and the tribulations they face, the concepts are so universal that the viewer effortlessly relates to the raw emotions and frankness of the scenes.

What could have been another unrecognized art-house film became one of the most talked about movies at the 2010 Sundance Film Festival. Cholodenko and co-writer Stuart Blumberg beautifully illustrate what it means to be a family and, through their witty dialogue, open our minds without being preachy.

“Kids” seems to be filled with just the right amount of comic relief throughout the profound and often uncomfortable scenes, that the viewer is able to take in these heavy themes with an air of lightness. It’s rare that a movie will seamlessly turn you on, crack you up, make you squirm and shed a tear. These are the elements many viewers look for in a movie, so most will probably think the kids are more than all right.

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