Kickstarter 84% funded! 5 days to go! Please back this important project about domestic violence.

We have just hit 200 backers with 5 days to go and 84% funded! Please take 4 minutes and watch my video.

This project is about domestic violence, mother-daughter reconciliation, forgiveness, compassion, family and hope.

Daniel Milnor wrote an eloquent blog about photographers helping other photographers. It’s the basis of why we are all here, not just all artists but all humans. There is more to life than eating, sleeping, working and vacation. We are meant to reach out and touch each other.

There have been so many angels helping back this campaign. We couldn’t do this without all of your support and belief. I believe that the photographers job is to reveal the truth, even if it’s not the most popular subject. I immerse myself for years at a time with dedication to my photography and cannot pretend for the sake of protecting family secrets.  We must uncover truths especially if it’s sad because our job as artists to help others feel.  I’m not afraid to be a truth sayer. Photography is a journey of self discovery and at the same time, helping others.

I am partnering with FotoEvidence, who has created 24 photography books documenting social injustice. From their website:

3 January 2017
2 May 2016
4 July 2016

“FotoEvidence Women is a new chapter of FotoEvidence Press, a space for free expression, devoted to engaged women photographers who want to tell their stories in the form of a photo book. Though their lenses women can shape the world differently and we want to give them this chance. “

Introducing Book Project: He Threw the Last Punch Too Hard

I’m grateful to announce that my ten year project on my mother, has a publisher. This has been a 10 year journey of writing and photographing her. In the process it began a reconciliation of a mother-daughter relationship after domestic violence, as well as a story of forgiveness and compassion.

Please have a look at my short video:

We have 32 days to back the project! Please help us make this come true!

From my 10 year project, He Threw the Last Punch Too Hard.

My Mother’s Dolls part 3

My Mother’s Dolls part 3

This project began organically in December 2009 as a way for me to get to know the mother I truly never knew. The camera brought me connection and separation, all at once. I was given the gift of intuitive observance and another gift of recording that observance. I learned to be bold and vulnerable simultaneously. Eight years later, I am continuing my photo essay on my mother called He Threw the Last Punch Too Hard. It’s as if the project took on a life of its own once I started. I sometimes wonder if genetic memory of being a second-generation Holocaust survivor triggered my need not only to recognize but also to spend years of my life creating photos, editing those photos and turning this project into a book, to help tell this story of a social injustice — domestic violence — about which more stories need to be told.

I dreaded being indiscreet, but invading my mother’s and my privacy was the only way to tell this story. I am sharing my mother with the larger audience because eventually publishing a book on her story would be a small victory. She instills such hope in me. I am witness to her heart and her immense reservoir of compassion for humanity. Her entire being is imbued with the quiet principles of spirituality: living in the moment, being non judgmental, forgiving, and kind.

My father used to tell me that what happened to his family and the Jews in Europe in World War II could easily happen again. So I question everything and that’s part of my storytelling aim as a photographer: questioning and sharing. We are only here for a short time so part of my goal is to create something positive for humanity. I love photography because each person will interpret an image through their own individual eyes. Ernest Hemingway said we should write hard and clear about what hurts. I believe this translates to all art forms. This blog is part three of My Mother’s Dolls. It’s an edit of my mother with various dolls she loves, that keep her company day and night.

© hannah kozak
May 16, 2014
© hannah kozak
26 May 2014
© hannah kozak
23 Nov 2014
© hannah kozak
8 December 2014
© hannah kozak
8 March 2015
© hannah kozak
4 April 2015
After moving into new facility.
@ hannah kozak
17 April 2015
@ hannah kozak
23 April 2015
With Olivia and baby Olivia
@ hannah kozak
13 June 2015
@ hannah kozak
14 June 2015
@ hannah kozak
19 June 2015
@ hannah kozak
22 June 2015
@ hannah kozak
12 July 2015
@ hannah kozak
12 July 2015
@ hannah kozak
22 July 2015

As a bittersweet sidenote, I was awarded the Julia Margaret Cameron Award, 6th Edition, 1st Prize – single Documentary photo from my series on my mother —
He Threw the Last Punch Too Hard.

This project also made it to the finalists for the CDS/Honickman, Duke University 1st Book Prize in Photography 2014.

And, this project make it to semi-finalists for the CDS/Honickman, Duke University 1st Book Prize in Photography, 2016.

Early this week I asked my mother what she does every night. She said “I pray to G-d to help me.” “To help me with happiness, I don’t know how to explain.” And then she said “The hardest part of my life is accepting things.” “I want to be like you, Hannah. I want to walk.”

My Mother’s Dolls part 3

Favorite love songs, artists and inspirations


My favorite photographers:

Diane Arbus ( 1923-1971)

Pronounced Dee-Ann, She was a privileged child, raised with her two siblings in large apartments on Central Park West and Park Avenue. She later told Studs Terkel, for his Hard Times: An Oral History of the Depression , “I grew up feeling immune and exempt from circumstance. One of the things I suffered from was that I never felt adversity. I was confirmed in a sense of unreality.” I think her work is still problematic for many because she crossed boundaries by making friends and photographing “freaks.”

Diane ArbusChild-with-a-toy-grenade-in-Central-Park-NYC-1962-C-The-Estate-of-Diane-Arbus-582x584

Ruth Bernard (1905-2006)

There is no finer photographer of the female nude. When she met Edward Weston on the beach in Santa Monica, she was overwhelmed by his photos and said “Here before me was indisputable evidence of what I had thought possible – an intensely vital artist whose medium was photography. ”

Ruth Bernhard -  Classic Torso with hands - 1952
Ruth Bernhard – Classic Torso with hands – 1952
Ruth Bernhard - In The Box- Horizontal , 1962
Ruth Bernhard – In The Box- Horizontal , 1962

Francesca Woodman (1958-1981)

Her career was brief but extraordinary. Born to a family of artists, she started photographing at the age of 13. She worked in black and white, frequently made self-portraits, or other young women, nude. What’s astonishing is she completed nearly all the work in her catalogue as a student.  After living in Rome, Rhode Island and New York, she felt her art wasn’t being taken seriously and her boyfriend broke up with her. Woodman committed suicide at the age of 22.

Francesca Woodman, Rhode Island
Francesca Woodman, Rhode Island
Francesca Woodman - House #3, Providence, Rhode Island, 1976
Francesca Woodman – House #3, Providence, Rhode Island, 1976

Melvin Sokolsky

Melvin was creating inventive photographs that boggled the mind, long before Photoshop existed.  He floated models down the Reine,creating The Bubble Series for Harpers Bazaar magazine in 1963.He suspended the models with a crane using an eight-inch aircraft cable and tested models to see who he could hang. He reminds me of some of the good stunt coordinators I worked for over the years.  The first time I saw his photos, I stopped dead in my tracks at A & I Photo.

Melvin Sokolsky-Bubble on the Seine
Melvin Sokolsky-Bubble on the Seine

My favorite artists:

Robert Cardinal

I fell in love with the simplicity of his paintings the first time I visited Cape Cod. Just like a good photographer, Robert searches for the light and usually paints at sunrise or sunset. His paintings have been described as Edward Hopper gone color ballistic. I love his skies of purples and oranges, isolated beaches, and lonely Cape homes.

Robert Cardinal - Stage Harbor Light - 30" x 20"
Robert Cardinal – Dory at Pamet, 11″ x 14″
Robert Cardinal - Beach Cottages - 10" x 20"
Robert Cardinal – Beach Cottages – 10″ x 20″
Robert Cardinal - Stage Harbor Light - 30" x 20"
Robert Cardinal – Stage Harbor Light – 30″ x 20″

Mark Ryden

His art is beautiful, while aiming at darker psychic stuff beneath the surface of cultural kitsch. He’s been called the godfather of pop surrealism,  inspired by old toys, stuffed animals, skeletons, and religious ephemera found in flea markets. Michael Jackson commissioned Mark to create the cover for his 1991 Dangerous album.

Mark Ryden -Blood
Mark Ryden – Blood – 2005 – oil on board
Michael Jackson-Dangerous by Mark Ryden
Michael Jackson-Dangerous by Mark Ryden
Mark Ryden -Dead_Characters
Mark Ryden – Dead Characters – 1997- oil on panel

Remedios Varo (1908-1963)

Born in Spain and died in Mexico. Spanish-Mexican surrealist painter and anarchist. I think she is one of the greatest artists in the 20th century along with Leonora Carrington.

Remedios Varo- Creation of the Birds
Remidios Varo: Creation of the Birds

I especially like the violin hanging where her heart should be.

remedios_varo_Revelation of the Clockmaker, 1955
Remedios Varo- Revelations or The Clockmaker, 1955

Leonora Carrington (1917-2011)

led a life almost as surreal as her art. Born in England, she was expelled from two schools for rebellious behavior, my kind of girl. She saw her first surrealist painting in a Left Bank gallery when she was ten years old. Even though she found little encouragement from her family to forge an artistic career, a curator at Tate Modern, helped to champion her work through Edward James, who arranged a show of her work. She saw Max Ernst’s work and was attracted to him before she actually met him. Not only did they collaborate on sculptures to decorate their home, they supported each other’s artistic development. Sounds like a dream relationship to me. Unfortunately Ernst was arrested during the Nazi occupation of France and after escaping, Peggy Guggenheim arranged for him to come to America. Carrington was so devastated by his arrest that she had paralyzing breakdowns and was institutionalized for three years. After Ernst married Guggenheim, Carrington wrote a book called Down Below, about the events of her psychotic experience. From painting to writing, all art is healing.

Leonora Carrington -Self portrait
Leonora Carrington – Self Portrait
Leonora Carrington_Adieu Ammenotep
Leonora Carrington – Adieu Amenhotep, 1955

In this piece four priestess perform a surgery on a levitating Amenhotep (the first monotheistic pharaoh) whose wound is in the shape of  a lotus flower. Men wearing priests’ hats sit in the gallery to watch the performance. The compasses along the box signify a magic transformation. The dish in the foreground, which is presumably used to collect an extracted organ, contains a small lizard.

Carrington believed that monotheism was the root of a patriarchal society, thus the priestesses are extracting that root through a magical surgery. In her later years Carrington wrote that “a woman shouldn’t have to demand rights. The rights were there from the beginning, they must be taken back again, including the mysteries which were ours and which were violated, stolen or destroyed.”

Leonora Carrington_kron flower 1987

Kron Flower – Carrington understood that women were to maintain your youth at all costs’ meaning maintain your sexual desirability at all costs. But then she ruthlessly mocks those women who cannot resist the shame-inducing admonitions of the culture and feel the need for excessive make-up, a face-lift or to still dress in tight, provocative clothing.

Frida Kahlo  (1907-1954)

I love Frida because she transformed her suffering and pain into remarkable art. She is best known for her self portraits and said “I paint myself because I am so often alone and because I am the subject I know best.” While it is easier to hide, it has been widely accepted that an artists’ best work is his or her most personal. Frida was not scared about showing her pain, soul, and fears in her art. Every great artist comes bearing the gift of their soul.

Frida Kahlo – The Suicide of Dorothy Hale – 1938/1939

This is one of Frida’s most shocking and controversial paintings.  Dorothy Hale was an aspiring actress who was unable to find work and left financially dependent on her wealthy friends after her husband’s death. She killed herself by jumping off a New York city building. Clare Boothe Luce requested a painting for Dorothy Hale’s mother. Hale was known to have said “I would not have requested such a gory picture of my worst enemy, much less of my unfortunate friend. Kahlo painted actress Dorothy Hale not only as she jumped but fell, and landed, dead and bloody on the concrete walk outside her apartment building. The blood-red lettering at the bottom of the retablo details the tragedy in Spanish. Luce’s response was to destroy the painting but her friends dissuaded her. What Luce didn’t know was that at the time that Kahlo painted this, she was in a desperate state of mind over losing Diego and was having repeated thoughts of committing suicide.

My favorite artist ever:

Michael Jackson (1958-2009)

Michael’s calling was clear. He would dance to the rhythm of the rickety Maytag washing machine when he was on the floor wearing his diaper and holding his little bottle. His art beckoned him and whether it was putting pen to paper, a song to the ethers, his brush to a palette or his feet to dancing, he had no choice. His passion called him and he listened in return. He put his soul out there and was courageous about his art because he believed his gift came from G-d.  The soul of art is the art of soul. Here is a video by a fan who puts together MJ videos and does the finest job of remixing videos that I’ve seen. Yes, that’s Sheryl Crow at 1:32!

Hannah Kozak - Inspiration 1
© hannah kozak – Inspiration 1
hannah kozak - inspiration 2
© hannah kozak – inspiration 2

My favorite love songs

1. You’re Just Too Good To Be True – Lauryn Hill

2. Come Pick Me Up – Ryan Adams

3. Ain’t No Mountain High Enough – Diana Ross

4. To Have and Not To Hold – Madonna

5. Nobody – Kate Earl

6. All In Love Is Fair – Stevie Wonder

7. You’re The Best Thing That Ever Happened To Me- Gladys Knight

8. Anyone Who Had a Heart -Shelby Lynne

9. Soul Mate -Natasha Bedingfield

10. I’ll Be Near You – Ivy

11. Looking For The Right One – Art Garfunkle

12. You’re the First, the Last, My Everything – Barry White

13. Could It Be I’m Falling In Love – The Spinners

14. If I Were Your Woman – Gladys Knight

15. When You Really Love Someone – Alicia Keys

16. Fall Again – Michael Jackson

Content individually copyrighted by each photographer.

Man’s truth lies in what he hides.

–Andre Malraux

A View from my lens

Listen – are you breathing just a little, and calling it a life?

-Mary Oliver

Yes, I’m still alive. I had a magical Thanksgiving and Christmas. I was with my two closest friends on the planet. It was pure mind blowing happiness making food, laughing, and being in each other’s presence. L.O.V.E.

In the meantime, I love this quote from Mary Oliver and I love peonies. Oliver reminds me to find the beauty in a single peony.  There are multiple versions as to the meaning of the peony flower. One legend is that the peony is named after Paeon (also spelled Paean), who was the physician to the gods, and was given the flower on Mount Olympus from the mother of Apollo. Paeon was a student of Asclepius, the Greek god of medicine and healing.  Another legend is that same doctor was saved from dying by being turned into the peony because Asclepius became jealous of his pupil. What’s with jealousy? I mean,  Othello strangled Desdemona because of that scarf that Iago planted, right?

Personally I love peonies because they are constantly changing, just like we are. Really they are never the same twice. They are closed and tight when you first get them, then they open and you get red flowers. They close up at night and then you have pink or white and it’s the flower that keeps giving. Peonies last over a week, sometimes ten days. They are so special they are only in season a short time. Symbolizing a happy life, happy marriage, good health and prosperity, my most favorite part of peonies is they symbolize compassion. I give them to people I love.

Dead Poets Society

Michael Jackson: With a Child’s Heart

Let me get this straight. We were supposed to believe a fully sedated man sat up in bed while his doctor, who was being paid $150,000 nuts a month was out of the room while Michael prepared a complicated injection for himself because he was suicidal?Ch’mon. Propofol is injected via slow drip, not just by jabbing a needle in your arm.  Michael killing himself wasn’t going to fly. That’s not a viable line of defense. Or as Dr. Shafer explained at the trial. “People don’t just wake up from anesthesia hell-bent to pick up a syringe and pump it into the IV, It’s a crazy scenario” as he explained how complicated the procedure was. And that is part of why Conrad Murray has been sentenced to four years in custody for the death of Michael Jackson.

Here is a rap re-mix of MJ’s Monster by Bigspookloc and the lyrics by Justice4MJ, which is organized by Erin Jacobs and Amy Kimes, who have rallied and organized fans around the world. I love the passion of MJ fans. They write songs, show support with signs, organize banners, travel internationally to see where Michael lived.

Murray’s defense kept crumbling. If he was trying to ween Jackson off propofol, why did he order 4 gallons? Murray was so grossly negligent, it is criminal. If Murray really was a friend to Michael as he stated he was, he would have enlisted help so Michael could sleep. Friends don’t let friends use propofol.

Thank G-d for the testimony of propofol expert Dr. Shafer. Two doctors who evaluated Murray’s conduct for the California Medical Board gave the following quotes.  Dr. Nathan Kamangar described Murray’s conduct as “unethical, disturbing and beyond comprehension.” Dr. Alon Steinberg enumerated deviations from the standard of care and said “if all of these deviations didn’t happen, Michael Jackson might have been alive.”

Here are some photos from the courthouse today.

Jackie Papier from Redondo Beach said “the day I’m celebrating is when the sentencing came down. I’m happy for the prosecution.” She created this t-shirt which she sells and gives the proceeds to two of Michael’s charities: Center for Apes & Unicef.

Jackie Papier

Taaj Malik is a treasure who has been fighting relentlessly for years on behalf on Michael Jackson with dedication and devotion. She fought to make sure that Michael’s charity would continue as he wanted. I love Taaj, she never, ever backs down.

Taaj Malik

When you are being paid to monitor your patient and keep him alive you don’t diddle daddle in another room while patient is on a slow drip of propofol. How about the fact that propofol was being fueled into Michael’s veins even after he was dead?

Randy Jackson
Jermaine Jackson

Jackson signed up for a concert tour, he was in rehearsals and yes, he was filled with anxiety. Who wouldn’t be? The coroner’s report clearly stated his body had no signs of substance abuse. Here is what one of the people who treated him during the first half of ’09 said:

“He wasn’t looking to get high or feel good and sedated from drugs,” she said. “This was a person who was not on drugs. This was a person who was seeking help, desperately, to get some sleep, to get some rest.”

When will the travesty against this man end?  The lack of humanity was stunning. Murray violated every standard of care while operating outside his area of speciality. No monitoring equipment, delayed calling 911, a botch job on CPR, hiding evidence, lying to paramedics, lying to UCLA doctors, and injecting MJ with a lethal dose of propofol. Not to mention shipping propofol to his girlfriends’s house. Talk about a non-existant morality. His hubris and lack of regard for Jackson cost his life. Oh, and tape recording Michael in the privacy of his own home, his own bedroom. What was Murray planning to do with that?

His story changed four times at the last count. I find it deplorable that Murray’s defense was banking on twenty years of lies, false accusations, skewed stories and sheer brutalization. Maybe when Murray goes to jail, his lying lawyers can visit him with some sleeping pills, anti-anxiety medication and maybe twenty-five mg of  propofol.

This trial began long ago not June 25, 2009. It began in 1993 when Evan Chandler blackmailed MJ for twenty million. When he didn’t get what he want, he sought to destroy MJ. MJ was the victim of a 21st century lynching while the media loved the news and the scandal.  Thomas Sneddon, the vindictive DA of Santa Barbara, was crazed in his desire to destroy MJ. MJ was victimized twice, Conrad Murray ran for 3rd base and hit Michael right out of the park.

The lies continued when Gavin Arvizo’s desperate mother Janet decided to come up with the preposterous tale that MJ molested her cancer stricken son. Since when did character assassination become part of a trial? This is what MJ lived with and died with. When will we learn the lessons. We need to stop blaming the victim.

MJ was known to have insomnia when he toured. His stress levels were on overload. How about if Murray told the truth about this talented philanthropist and entertainer. The defense wanted to slice the pie and hand out pieces of blame. Conrad Murray baked the pie and he overcooked it forty-seven minutes too late while he was on the phone. Oh, and propofol is only usable for twenty four hours after it has been opened or punctured. How about the fact there were open propofol bottles all over MJ’s bedroom?

The media doesn’t reflect the facts. When it comes to Michael Jackson, it is about profit and always has been. Propofol should never be administered in any setting other than a hospital with life saving monitoring equipment not some quack sitting by texting and calling girlfriend(s). Since when do you put someone under anesthesia and then gab on the phone?

I think of most people as balls. We see balls bounce and roll around. They’re resilient, mostly predictable and, no matter what angle you look at them from, they always look the same. But occasionally, we see a person who is an egg. Those are the extraordinary people. To the many balls, the few eggs look and behave oddly, and they clearly are not their kind and don’t fit in. Some of us are ordinary, conforming, uniform balls and others have no choice to reach in search of our limits and, as a result, stretch ourselves out of shape into eggs.

It’s apparent Michael was an egg. There is something about all that stretching that seems to make eggs fragile. If you throw them onto the floor or up against a wall, you can be sure they are going to break. We all know that. America was determined to break Michael Jackson into little tiny pieces. Then the media was focused on MJ sleeping with a doll for more media sensationalism during this trial. When will American media obsession with journalism of personal destruction stop?

We have waited so long for this trial. Did justice prevail? Michael Jackson meant so much to me, not only as an artist but as someone who cared about humanity. He cared about our planet, he cared about children, he simply cared. His neglected childhood would be the catalyst to the makings of a complex man. I think Michael was always a child at heart.  As far as MJ being strange, I applaud his unique ways. Aberrant, abnormal, astonishing, astounding, atypical, bizarre, curious, different, eccentric, erratic, exceptional, extraordinary, fantastic, far-out, funny, idiosyncratic, inexperienced, irregular, marvelous, mystifying, new, newfangled, odd, oddball, off, offbeat, out-of-the-­way, outlandish, peculiar, perplexing, quaint, queer, rare, remarkable, singular, unaccounta­ble, unaccustomed, uncanny, uncommon, unheard of, unseasoned, unusual, weird, wonderful.

Being different was nothing to be ashamed of. He had a pure heart and he was able to reach people emotionally with his unique gift from G-d. He was among the kindest souls to ever walk the planet which is why so many loved him. With A Child’s Heart is one of my favorite songs. It was Michael Jackson’s anthem and it was what he lived. A child’s heart sees no danger, hatred, sadness, or prejudice, but rather love, peace, and unity. Heavy was the head that wore his crown. He carried a lot of pain, disappointment and sheer loneliness that seemed to plague his heart his entire life.

Michael was a mirror, mirrors always show us the truth whether we want to see it or not. It’s too scary for most of us to look at ourselves so we spend time bashing someone we never knew. MJ had nothing but pure love and goodwill in his kind heart and never hurt a soul. America met him with judgment, resentment, deceit, lies, bigotry, hypocrisy. Why?  Because he didn’t womanize instead he preferred being around children and animals.He brought beauty and joy to our world.  I would have loved to have been friends with him. Climbing trees, water fights, Disneyland, playing with animals, watching movies. Yes, if that is odd, then I’m on board with the odd train. Troubled soul? Half our planet is filled with troubled souls. Myriads of us walking around day after day but we don’t have the media dropping the ball on our every move. Of course, half the planet took the gossip and dirt and ran with it. Oh, and by the way, I sleep with a doll.

With A Child’s Heart

Go face the worries of the day

With a child’s heart

Turn each problem into play

No need to worry no need to fear

Just being alive makes it all so very clear

With a child’s heart

Nothing can ever get you down

With a child’s heart

You’ve got no reason to frown

Love is as welcome

As a sunny sunny day

No grown-up thoughts

To lead our hearts astray

Take life easy, so easy nice and easy

Like a child so gay and so carefree

The whole world smiles with you

As you go your merry way

Oh with a child’s heart

Nothing’s gonna get me down

Marta Soul / Amy Ross at Kopeikin Gallery in Los Angeles

Idillios is the spanish lyrical word for romances. That was enough to intrigue me. Marta Soul’s new series opened at Kopeikin’s Gallery on Saturday night, October 29, 2011. A nice size crowd was milling inside his gallery and a steady stream of people kept entering. I love when angelenos come out to see new art.  Soul’s photos are a series of the same woman in a passionate kiss, (her alter ego) with a different man in various settings.

As Anne Sexton was the modern model of confessional poetry where she artfully conveyed and challenged roles with her poetry, Soul’s photos express how society hands us rules and roles for our identity, sexuality, culture & appearance along with the parts we play in relationship. Sexton wrote that we are supposed to meet Prince Charming, marry, have 2.5 kids, a white picket fence and live happily ever after. Sexton had the courage to admit she wasn’t happy with her roles in an era when these subjects were not discussed in poetic discourse. Sexton re-wrote her versions of Grimm’s fairytales in her twisted, grim book of poetry called Transformations.  Soul’s photos challenge us with questions, which is what good photography does. Soul appears to question that in order to find happiness and remain attractive, there must be constant change. How do you keep the love alive?

Marta Soul was born and lives in Madrid, Spain. The show will be at Paul Kopeiken’s gallery from October 29 – December 24, 2011. Marta Soul is a founding member of NOPHOTO, a collective of contemporary Spanish photographers.

Marta’s website:

Amy Ross had a new series that premiered at Kopeiken’s gallery the same night as Marta Soul’s.

Amy Ross has spent time in Wolf Hollow in Ipswich, Massachusetts where injured wolves are rescued and rehabilitated. Wolf Hollow has enormous pens of wolves which are no different than dogs as pets.  “If you howl at them, the wolves howl back.” Amy said, filled with passion for how the wolves affected her.

Amy creates hybrid creatures with her graphite, watercolor and walnut ink on paper.  Her love of her brother is clear as well as he was in the army and is the inspiration for her drawings below.

Amy shared with me that she was figuring out how she wanted to be in relationship with herself after her marriage of 12 years ended thus creating this new series.  “I love to cook” Amy shared.” She has farm shares to support a local organic farm. Sometimes crops are destroyed by insects and other pests. All summer I had an incredible bounty.” These self-portraits show Amy with swiss chard, driftwood and radishes. The driftwood symbolizes how she felt after her marriage ended.

Amy said “The individual cannot survive alone. What happens when you’re a lone wolf and you have to survive, hunt and care for yourself with no support?” Amy’s art shows us the lone wolf survives, even thrives after the pack has broken up. Like the wolf, when left alone we survive on raw instincts especially if there are young to take care of and in Amy’s case, a daughter. Amy looked at me and said “what happens when your marriage is over?” It was a question and matter of fact statement, all at once.

Amy Ross was born in New Jersey and lives and works in Boston, Massachusetts.

Amy’s website:

Paul Kopeikin, Amy Ross
Mary Sherwood, Paul Kopeikin, Amy Ross

Michael Jackson was murdered and we miss his heart.

The first day of the trial of Conrad Murray brought out droves of fans, his family, and blocks of camera trucks with reporters, photographers and camera crews. I met a woman who flew from Paris, France to show her support. She told me to please not use her name as she took time from work, just like she did for him during the trials of 2005.”Michael was like family for me. Of course I will be here” she told me.  This was a man whose heart touched so many of us around the world. Michael Jackson reached people on a deep emotional level which any artist dreams of doing. He was a man so gentle, kind and loving that Spielberg remarked “if E.T. hadn’t come to Elliott, he would have come to your house.”

United States banner for Michael
Chile banner for Michael
Netherlands banner for Michael
Romania banner for Michael
Malaysia banner for Michael
Bulgaria banner for Michael
Katherine & Joseph Jackson
La Toya Jackson
Randy Jackson
Rebbie Jackson
Tito Jackson

Any reasonable person knows Michael Jackson was murdered. Experts say Murray violated 18 standards of care while “caring” for his patient. Michael has been dead over two years and instead of focusing on Murray’s abysmal treatment of Michael, the media is going to focus on the ludicrous defense that Michael was a drug addict who woke up and self injected a lethal dose of Propofol. Even if MJ had drug issues in the past from having the top of his scalp burnt off, even if Mj was known for having insomnia when touring, what does that have to do with Murray basically sleeping on the job? I thought that the media would finally leave Michael be upon his departure from earth. Murray will be acquitted and it’s obvious to us “crazy” fans that MJ’s death was about money and Murray’s acquittal is about making sure Murray doesn’t talk.  It’s abhorrent to me how much everyone wanted a piece of MJ. Michael isn’t on trial here, Murray is. Where is the justice?

There are no words that exist in the English language for the reckless way Murray administered and didn’t attend to his patient. Murray’s negligence was nothing short of a crime, a crime of murder. Here is a Murray timeline.

During the 2005 trial it was revealed when documents of MJ finances were turned in, that most of his lawyers and advisor were ripping him off blind. Not to mention that Santa Barbara’s district attorney Tom Sneddon falsified evidence while he acted with impunity in a trial that nearly destroyed MJ. Why was Sneddon not criminally charged with lying to federal officers? We all know Sneddon was at the top of the pig trough with little piggies Diane Diamond, Martin Bashirs, Tommy Mottola having seconds. We destroyed the spirit of, and then killed an innocent man with unimaginable cruelty. How does our great democracy allow witch-hunts?

Where is the justice in all of this? Michael was handcuffed, arrested and forced to place 2 million dollars bail for a crime he did not commit in 2005. Meanwhile, Murray is walking the streets more than 2 years after Michael’s death with a paltry $75,000 bail.Who paid his bail? He is supposedly bankrupt.

Everyone wanted a piece of MJ’s net worth. Take a look at the PDF of the bill that Dr. Klein submitted to the estate of Michael Jackson for Botox services rendered. Now, I’m not an expert of Botox or Restylane but I know it doesn’t cost $2000 for an injection of Restylane that is unless of course you are a doctor with no scruples whatsoever and you know you can charge your famous patient crazy fees because after all, it’s accountants paying the bills.

I understand Dr. Murray’s “plight”. In our world doctors are strangled by debt resulting from diminishing reimbursement, large malpractice premiums, and high overhead costs. Yes, but, how can you in all good consciousness, take a job that requires you to anesthetize a client unless you are an anesthesiologist. One word: money. Michael wrote about this on his 1995 album History in a song called Money.

When does the insanity end? Michael Jackson didn’t suffer cardiac arrest. He was paying Dr. Conrad Murray to monitor him and yet the phone records of Murray’s not one but 2 phones show him on the phone during the time he was supposedly “stunned to see that Michael Jackson was not breathing when he left the room for 2 minutes to relieve himself.” Murray said, “I gave Michael Jackson propofol and left the room.” Millions of patients, for more than 20 years have received this drug with no issues. The two fundamental reasons are someone watched them and monitored them with heart and blood oxygenation monitors. There was equipment to do intubation if patient stopped breathing. All witnesses verify no such equipment was in Jackson’s bedroom.

Dr. Conrad Murray called an attorney while Michael was dead. I think he called an attorney for obvious reasons. Imagine that phone call: Oh, oh, I just killed Michael Jackson. He lied and said Michael had a weak pulse but Michael was already dead. He called fellow doctor Arnold Klein. All these calls made within a period of 47 minutes while Michael stopped breathing. Murray, even my 13-year-old niece knows to call 911 first when someone stops breathing.  Here’s a list of the data and phone calls he made while Jackson lay dying while Murray didn’t call 911 because he was “caring” for his patient. I would like to know how Murray could care for his patient when it seems all he was doing was texting, calling girlfriends, other patients, and other assorted people. In other words, he wasn’t taking his $150,000 a month job to monitor Mr. Jackson too seriously. That is obvious as he didn’t keep any medical records or have a physical exam on Michael. Something simple is not knowing you never combine benzodiazepines with anything especially Propofol. Then of course, there is the fact that Murray made sure he tucked away evidence of Propofol. While Michael lay on the bed, eyes wide open and mouth gaping, security guard Alvarez watched as Murray shuffled around MJ’s room, grabbing handfuls of bottles off the nightstand and commanding Alvarez  to remove the IV bag. Then, and only then did Murray give Alvarez instructions to call 911. I am quite certain that hiding evidence is a big no no.

Harry Dhaliwal, an AT&T employee, discussed Murray’s cell phone activity on June 25th, 2009.  Beginning at 12:04 am and continuing every hour, on the hour until 6:04 am, Murray received data.  In addition, at 6:25 a.m., 9:00 a.m., 9:11 a.m., 10:26 a.m., 12:03 p.m., 12:04 p.m., 12:53 p.m. and 1:23 p.m., Murray received or sent a text message.  He received data at 7:03 a.m., 7:20 a.m., 8:14 a.m., 8:35 a.m., 8:54 a.m., 10:04 a.m., 10:15 a.m., 10:24 a.m., 12:13 p.m., 12:18 p.m. and 2:19 p.m.

In addition, he had several phone calls on June 25th, 2009:

9:23 a.m. incoming call lasts 22 minutes (Bioni)

·10:29 a.m. incoming call lasts 22 minutes[1]

·11:07 a.m. incoming call lasts 1 minute (Ruggles)

·11:18 a.m. incoming call lasts 32 minutes (Global Cardiovascular)[2]

·11:26 a.m. incoming call lasts 24 minutes (Russell)

·11:49 a.m. outgoing call lasts 3 minutes

·11:51 a.m. outgoing call lasts 11 minutes (Anding)

·12:12 p.m. outgoing call lasts 1 minute

·12:15 p.m. outgoing call lasts 1 minute

Jeff Strohm is a custodian of records for Sprint/Nextel.  He detailed the phone calls Murray made from that phone:

·7:01 a.m. outgoing call lasts 25 seconds (Butler)

·8:49 a.m. incoming call lasts 53 seconds (Guild)

·10:22 a.m. incoming call lasts 111 seconds (Dr. Prechad)

·10:34 a.m. outgoing call lasts 8 ½ minutes (Ruggles)

·11:26 a.m. incoming call lasts seven seconds (Morgan)

·1:08 p.m. outgoing call lasts 2 minutes (Alvarez)

If you are being paid to monitor a patient, to make sure that patient is breathing because you have given him a drug that affects the respiratory system, shouldn’t you watch the patient and not be on your iPhone texting and calling? Had Murray gotten off his iPhone calling attorneys, Dr. Klein, girlfriends and his office and called 911 instead of trying to cover himself, there is a good possibility Michael would still be alive. Didn’t Murray learn in medical school that it’s best not to text girlfriends when your patient stops breathing but to call 911?

Even though I believe there are more players involved in the planned death of Michael Jackson, Dr. Conrad Murray is the culprit because he administered a drug, the drug that caused Michael’s breathing to stop. My prayer and hope is that his honesty testimony will bring forward the other ones involved. Murray is a small piece of this ugly puzzle.

The laws need to be changed. Instead of greed with dollar signs underlined and highlighted, Murray could have suggested Michael try breath work with a professional. This would be taking the route to the highest good of all concerned. The mind always follows the breath. The key to controlling the mind is controlling the breath. In the earthly realms, breath comes first. Our breath is connected to the movements of all our emotions and thoughts. Breath is the life force of the atom.  If someone can’t sleep, help him learn how to breath. No, instead he injects him with a drug that is only

  1. Used in hospital settings.
  2. Administered by an anesthesiologist.
  3. Monitored with proper breathing equipment i.e.: hospital, proper airway management, supplemental oxygen, artificial ventilation and CPR training.
  4. Not a sleep aid or agent.

My father always taught me I have to pay for any mistakes I make. Who pays for this job botched beyond repair? The harm he placed on Michael Jackson is irreversible. Murray forgot the first Hippocratic oath; the moral conduct of physicians:  First do no harm. Seems like that concept is a foreign language to Murray.

Michael’s death was a spiritual awakening for many including myself. With all the cynicism in the world, Michael’s heart was a breath of fresh air because it was open, untainted, pure.  When I reached out to thank Taaj Malik today for her undying support of Michael, she went to hug me and we both held each other while crying against one another’s chests. Today my heart is filled with sadness, hurt and sorrow. I can’t help but think to myself  “he was pure love and they killed him.”

He delighted in elementary things like riding roller coasters with children, water fights with over-sized squirt guns and animals that loved unconditionally.  That caused those with darkness and black in their hearts to judge him. For those who didn’t feel love in our sometimes loveless world, he showed us not to be scared to love and when you told him you loved him, he always said,  “I love you more.” He didn’t just sing it in his lyrics, he lived love by reaching out to others with his actions throughout his life. Michael had all the qualities I love in another: A life long learner; he was a gentle soul; kind, loving, playful, respectful, filled with compassion and he loved to laugh. In terms of his creative genius, he had determination, perseverance, persistence, and never ending hope even when he was kicked down over and over. He had a feminine side he was not afraid to show. Loving big and always thanking the creator for his gifts, he never stopped giving to the world and he was the personification of passion. We feel the loss of his love. We miss the universe shining through his eyes, his work and everything he touched. There is something broken on our planet and there is a sadness for me that one person who spent his life trying to fix it, was snuffed out. His light, though, carries on through each and every one of us.

Goddesses of removing fear

Between the ages of 6 and 10, I was terrified of the sea. I couldn’t go in the water at Malibu beach without someone holding each of my hands. I was sure the giant waves would swallow me, pull me into the water and I wouldn’t be able to breath. I didn’t like being scared of the unknown. Living in worry of what might happen wasn’t living. I decided when I was young, I didn’t want to be controlled by, and wouldn’t live in fear. I made up my mind I would be a stunt woman. I was 10 years old.

Why a stunt woman? I knew I would have to come face to face not with just the big waves in the ocean but any other fear that would come my way, every day I went to work.  Never mind that I didn’t know anyone in the film business. As an adult, when I decide to do something, nothing can get in my way. But it wasn’t always this way. When I was 14 and my mother went into intensive care because of abuse from her second husband, my breath got in the way.

I couldn’t breathe from the anxiety I felt especially at night. The depths of the wounding that I experienced as a child who watched my mother being brutalized caused me so much anxiety, I started to hold my breath. When laying in bed, I sometimes felt as if I was going to choke because my anxiety kept me from even getting my breath past my chest. Our family doctor came up with the brilliant idea of giving me, a 14-year-old-girl, Valium. Instead of calming me down, it only intensified my anxiety.

Books took me out of my anxiety and calmed me down. I liked biographies so I could learn what made interesting people tick. Life kept me in reality, books kept me dreaming.

I read Sophia Loren’s autobiography; Living and Loving, for the first time when I was 20 years old. Sophia Scicolone beautifully described growing up in the seaport town of Pozzuoli, close to Naples. She was skinny, ugly and pale and the kids used to call her toothpick or steccheta. They would scrawl “Sofia Stuzzicadente” (toothpick) on the wall of their apartment building.  It would have been easier for Sophia’s mother to give Sophia to an orphanage nearby. Her landlady knew Sophia’s mother had no husband, and the hostility she faced was unrelenting. That landlady told Sophia’s mother “why don’t you let this ugly thing die. You’re not married, you don’t have a job, your breasts are dry and the baby sucks on you without getting anything to eat…she’s all skin and bones. Just let her die.” Sophia’s mother had to keep her maiden name because the man responsible for this baby said he had absolutely no intention in marrying her mother.  Pozzuoli girls were not to have babies out of wedlock. They were to remain virgins until they married. But Sophia’s mother stood up for herself and her baby. She was a fighter.  Her mother was fiercely determined to keep Sophia.

Sophia described not having a crust of bread or a swallow of milk. She also described a loneliness that would cause her to climb a small fig tree in her front yard, hide in the thick foliage and stay there for hours at a time. I, too, knew that same loneliness as a child.  I found my comfort of hiding in books. I also fantasized that Sophia Loren was my mother. My mother, before the “accident” was to me a Guatemalan version of Sophia. A passionate, beautiful woman who danced the Flamenco, sang music out loud like Alone Again, Naturally over and over on her record player, and wore hip, orange dresses.  She loved to sail on boats, fish for shark, ride on the back of a motorcycle, eat hot sauce with every meal and was a head turner whose dancing caused men to throw their wallets at her. Because I saw my mother as such a passionate woman, I decided to live my life in a passionate way as well. Or maybe I’m just like my mother in more ways than one.

My mother’s heart was a caring, big, and compassionate heart. My mother and her sister were walking back from school when they were little girls in Guatemala. My mother saw a little white butterfly that had been injured lying in the middle of the street. She stopped, bent over and carefully picked up the butterfly with both hands and put it on the step of a house in the corner so no one could do anymore damage. A man standing watching her movements clapped when she turned to walk down the street. That’s my mother.

The poverty Loren described made her a dreamer and a fighter; an unstoppable pair. Being born into poverty created a hunger and a model for how to live life no matter what the circumstances. Sophia, determined to pursue her dream of being an actress, left Pozzuoli for Rome and never turned back. At a beauty contest in 1950, when Sophia was 16 years old, she placed 2nd. Carlo Ponti, who would become her husband, was one of the judges.

Sophia Loren married Carlo Ponti and had two children. She was a goddess. A woman who pursued and created a career and loved her children so passionately I could feel her love for them as I turned the pages of her book. A woman who was old Hollywood glamour, and an Italian enchantress who cooked, truly the entire package.  I must have read Sophia’s story a dozen times in my twenties. The cover is ripped and torn, something I rarely allow to happen to my cherished books. The spine is broken.

The inspiration I received from Sophia Loren’s words was life altering. If that poor, skinny girl from Pozzuoli could achieve her dream, I thought why couldn’t this skinny ball of anxiety from Reseda who worked at swap meets on weekends achieve hers?

While working in a camera store, I met a stunt coordinator. I nicely and half begged him to bring me to work with him. On the set of Knight Rider, he introduced me to one of Hollywood’s top 3 stunt women, a woman who would change my life, when I was twenty-two years old. “I want to be a stunt woman” I told her. “Will you help me?” “Yes of course” she said. She actually meant it.  She didn’t know me, I didn’t know her but it was destiny we met. She encouraged and believed in me. And, I needed someone to believe in me. My father thought the idea of being a stuntwoman as a career was simply crazy. What was so crazy about it? I liked the challenge of having to overcome and become intimate with my fears. I loved the diversity of traveling around like a circus in the film business. We roll in, we roll out. It’s like a family, a big family for a finite amount of time. I like that a lot.

We loved the outfits as much as riding motorcycles.

My mentor, whose career spanned 30 years, gave me a start in a career that lasted over 25 years.  She also taught me to breathe with Kundalini Yoga. I had to learn to be calm before I jumped off a building.  Instead of reaching for a valium when I can’t breathe, I reach for G-d with my breath.


I still lose my breath when I’m too excited these days and I was trying to find mine when I heard last month that Sophia Loren was coming to Los Angeles to accept a tribute award from the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences at the Samuel Goldwyn Theater.

I emailed a dear friend to see if he could get me two tickets. When he emailed back, “I got you 2 tickets, YEAAA” I felt joy, happiness, elation and OMG.

Via email, I invited my friend Brauna, an intuitive, compassionate, caring, thin, elegant, poised brunette whose humor never fails and who happens to be quite possibly a bigger classic movie lover than me. When we met in graduate school, there was an instant recognition of “I know you.” It was as if we had been friends our entire life plus a few lifetimes in between. People at school used to ask if we knew each other before school. “Are you sisters?” strangers would ask us in airports. You could describe us both as feisty. “I have tickets to see Sophia Loren in person” I wrote her. I knew we had a once in a lifetime night in store for us. I knew I was going to get emotional. Plus, Sophia and Brauna are women who had difficulties getting pregnant, both passionate lovers of food, life, children, people. In the midst of a bad day meltdown Brauna emails “What am I wearing to Sophia’s gala event on Wednesday? Forget about mothers, fathers, death, pain, abandonment, rejection, self loathing, rigidity, perfectionism, menopausal mayhem, the world going to hell in a hand basket — WHAT THE F AM I WEARING TO SEE SOPHIA???” She made me laugh, as she always does, just when I need it.

I found my tattered copy of Living and Loving, hoping to get an autograph. Brauna went to get her make-up done, a mani, pedi as I was doing the same, over on my side of town. I have always loved having my make up done ever since I first sat in the make up trailer on my first movie. It was a time to breathe before I went to set and had to perform a stunt that terrified me. I liked the calming touch of the make-up artist’s hand so skillfully applying base, blush, eye shadow and lipstick.  The soft touch of their hand against my cheeks was soothing. I loved how my hazel eyes looked when they knew exactly what shades of eye shadow to apply to my eyelids and below my brow. They always had fun music in the make-up trailer to lighten the feeling I was carrying. Music always takes me out of my head. When Brauna pulled up in her little grey car, I’m immediately in my heart.

When Brauna arrived at my house, she didn’t know if she should wear a dress or pants so she had brought both to choose from. We were like two giddy school girls, trying to find the right outfit. I wore the cream pants that I bought in Rome that were perfect along with a new cream silk top and a favorite pair of Manolos.  Brauna wore a classic black dress and strappy heels. My breath was a bit choppy as I drove from the excitement of seeing Sophia Loren, in person. I was also happy to be at the side of my friend. I cherish each and every moment we spend together. That woman, sitting next to me at the Samuel Goldwyn theatre, has been the source of healing, loving and growing ever since our paths first crossed. Meeting her was like a 2 for 1. The love I feel for her is a deep love that knows no bounds. Like the love I imagine a mother would feel for their daughter. It felt like in meeting Brauna, I got my mother back and I found a Jewish soul sister, a friend for life.

Billy Crystal, the emcee, introduced the audience to her Sophia’s younger son, Edoardo. As he walked on the stage, I was reminded of how Sophia stayed on bed rest for the entire nine-month gestation period for not just one, but both of her sons. Her strength and determination to have her children knew no bounds. I begin to feel my emotions stir.  A woman who would stay in bed for nine months without moving in order to make sure her child would be born okay brought up my feelings of my own mother leaving when I was nine. When Edoardo said “Mammina, I know you still feel like the insecure little girl in Pozzouli and wonder why all these people are here for you. We are here because we love you and you deserve every single thing” and started to cry, I cried too.

After showing the audience highlights of Sophia’s finest film moments where it was apparent she was fluent in comedy and drama, Ms. Loren was introduced.  The entire audience was up on their feet, clapping. Tears were rolling down my face before she made it up the stairs. I was seeing Sophia Loren in person. I felt like that little girl who couldn’t go into the ocean had made it out alive. I felt like because Sophia had pursued her dreams and made them happen, she gave me the strength to pursue mine. I felt like even though my mother had left when I was young, G-d had given me a mother in a different way, with my relationship with Brauna. Sophia wore a black dress sparkling with sequins that definitely wasn’t prêt-å-porter. Diamond earrings, a chocker, black 5-inch strappy shoes. It had been 29 years since I had read Sophia’s book, the book that gave me the encouragement to pursue the not so crazy dream of becoming a stunt woman.  “The Academy Award changed my life completely,” she said with an Italian accent. Her accent reminded me of how my mother spoke English with her Spanish accent. “It helped me to believe in myself and encouraged me to push my own artistic boundaries.” She had tears in her eyes when Billy Crystal asked her whether she was happy with her career.  “You always want to do more and find the right thing at the right time. I like my career, my life, so much. I was born for this. I am sick when I don’t work for a year or two.” I am reminded that Brassai said every creative person has a second date of birth, one which is more important than the first: that which he discovers what his true vocation is. I didn’t get close enough for her autograph but she is forever imprinted on my heart.

Sophia arriving on 4 May 2011 @ Samuel Goldwyn Theatre

Sophia Loren is seven wonders rolled in one. She’s the personification of beauty, class, elegance, grace, humility, wit. After more than 80 films, she’s humble. Her strength and perseverance make her more beautiful than she is. When Billy Crystal asked if she liked looking at herself up on the screen she quipped “You showed the good stuff so I don’t mind.” When she spoke of her husband who died January 2007, she had to push down her emotions. Something I recognized all too well. Something I used to do until I met Brauna; who encouraged me to be vulnerable and cry.

I cried for Sophia; she never had her father but found one instead in Carlo Ponti, her husband. I don’t say “despite a 20-year age gap” as many critics do.  Sophia was looking for what she was missing. In Living & Loving she said “Carlo had been my father and my husband.” She felt he was someone she had known all her life. Who cares what the age gap was or where she found love.

I also cried for my friend beside me, who was 51 years old the first time her mother truly said “ You are so beautiful & I’m so proud of you” when she graduated with her masters in psychology. I clapped loudly and wildly for her as she received her diploma for I know how hard she worked on herself for that degree. And I cried for myself, a little girl who has been looking for her mother her entire life. A girl who was given her mother back to her by the grace of G-d, when he brought a woman into her life who would help her release and heal her judgments. I’ve experienced so many gifts, including laughter, from being in one another’s lives. It’s not always pure bliss as part of having a close relationship is growth. We always come back to love and forgiveness. In mirroring vulnerability to one another, I don’t have to keep my feelings inside anymore. Brauna has been like the mother I never had, a long lost sister and friend all rolled up in one compassionate, caring, loving, beautiful, supporting package.  When I met Brauna, I thought she was a 2 for 1, but ultimately she was a 3 for 1. I fell in love with her, my mother and myself.

Sophia Loren photo: Alfred Eisenstaedt
Sophia Loren, Isabelle Allende – 2006 Olympics

Sophia Loren & child
Carlo & Sophia-my favorite photo of them

When you are a mother, you are never really alone in your thoughts. A mother always has to think twice: once for herself, and once for her child. 
Sophia Loren

Michael Jackson – A Soldier of Love

The entrance to Forest Lawn Mortuary in Glendale was eerily quiet early this morning on the 2nd anniversary of Michael Jackson’s death. I could hear the songs of birds chirping as I made my way up the long, winding road. Michael Jackson said “ I feel compelled to give people some sense of escapism…I think it’s the reason I’m here” but I think he was here for something even bigger and grander. I believe he was here to teach people to love and to open their hearts. How else can I explain how a man I never met has touched my heart so deeply?

As I walk towards the mausoleum I see an arrangement of five dozen red and white roses with a tag in gold glitter that says “LOVE. MJ France.” By the end of the day I see more than one hundred of such floral displays.

roses from France

As I made my way to the front of the entrance I am witness to a sea of love for this man. Homemade frames with photos of MJ, teddy bears, hand drawn cards like I make for my best friend, paintings, Mickey Mouse stuffed animals, banners from Italy, Bulgaria, Poland, Denmark, Russia, Spain, Japan and hundreds and hundreds of red roses in buckets, and sunflowers, Michael’s favorite flower, are everywhere.

I walked along the path and bent down to see a bed of cards. One read: To The King of Hearts: Thank you for everything. Keep watching over us! We are your loyal soldiers of love forever! I love you more!!! We felt your pain, now feel our love.” Another card read “my dearest Michael! I really meet you. I miss you so much. But I will living with my heart.” Someone from Japan had written L.O.V.E with a gold and white marker.

I leaned down to unfold the corners of a wind blow green and yellow banner from Brazil with hundreds of names hand written on it. As I gently placed the corners down, the woman next to me said “Thank you.”  I immediately knew she was from South America. “Venia de Brazil”? I asked her in Spanish. “Did you come from Brazil’? “Especialmente para Michael.” When she said she came especially for Michael, I put my hand on my heart and my eyes welled up; I thanked her.

banner from Brazil

Groups of people were gathered under the shade of a tree as the sun beat down on the flowers. I came upon a woman sitting near the tree applying sun screen to her arms. When I asked her where she was from she answered “From Japan, I love Michael.”

A handmade quilt from Japan embroidered with rhinestones was spread out on the gaass. A card that said “Thank you Mike, for coming into my life. You rock my world. Love you Maria.”

handmade quilt from Japan

One of my personal favorites was a hand colored drawing of Peter Pan at Neverland. Below it, a bucket filled with Michael’s favorite gum, Big Red and lollipops, just because he loved them. Ch’mon, how cute is that?

Peter Pan @ Neverland w/Michael's favorite gum & lollipops

One woman took my hand and said “We are 20 from Italy.” She proudly showed me a banner made of sunflowers and Mickey Mouse that they had brought. An arrangement of lilies with Minnie Mouse. Everyone knows MJ loved Disneyland. She hugged me and said “I love Michael”.

After two-three hours I started to feel light headed from the sun and lack of water.  As a friend of mine and I left to eat, I noticed a woman who was having difficulties walking up the hill. I heard one of her friends turn around and ask her “Tutto benne”? “Is everything okay?”  “No” she answered but she kept walking in the heat, determined to make her way as she struggled up the hill.

I ran up to try to see if I could connect with her. “My name is Iva” she said. She had come with Brusca as part of the 20 from Naples, Milano, Brindisi, Gorizia, Sanremo, Ancona, and Cenesa, Italy. They gathered together in Milan and flew from London to Las Vegas and finally Los Angeles to be at Forest Lawn for Michael.  We walked side by side as if we knew each other. We had a shared interest so it was easy to speak to each other even though my Italian isn’t great. When I went to hug her goodbye I said “I love Michael.” This time, her eyes welled up and as she rested her head on my chest I felt her warm tears spill onto my Michael Jackson Off The Wall t-shirt. The last time a complete stranger was moved to tears within 10 minutes of us meeting was also at an MJ event. Michael has an ability to disarm all armoring and to open the heart chakra.

Iva Cico from Cesena, Italy & Cristina Brusca from Ancona, Italy

I left Forest Lawn feeling a lot of emotion and called a friend who said “ I think this is healing for you. I’m happy you are there.” We made our way over to Carolwood Drive. We were told no flowers, no photos. I spoke to the guard at the gate who was in a parked car blocking the driveway and a minute later he was pulling his car out so I could get a picture of the gates of 100 Carolwood Drive, the home where MJ took his last inhale.

100 North Carolwood Drive.

Michael Jackson gave us escapism with his music but more importantly, he had the ability to break down any and all barriers between people. Even the politicians can’t do that as Michael used to say. Michael refused to deny anyone his heart and his love. We all felt it and we gathered together in celebration of this iconic man to honor his heart. We miss him because we miss the love he shared with us. Michael said “If you enter this world knowing you are loved and you leave knowing the same,  then everything that happens in between can be dealt with.”

An MJ fan's back window at Forest Lawn Glendale

In 1970, 12 year old Michael sang “I’ll Be There.” Forty-one years later, he is. I love people who keep their word.

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