Sometimes Words Aren’t Enough

I never finished college that first time after high school.

I was in too big of a hurry to start my adventures in the world. So I quit in the middle of my sophomore year at UCLA and started my life.

Years later I returned. Married, with a career on the wane, and two kids now grown and off on their own adventures, I became the oldest coed in all my classes. Everyone thought I was the professor and they stopped being nice to me when they found out that I wasn’t.  It was hard work and I started to question what the hell I was doing there. I had been in no hurry to go back, but I wanted to get a degree. I always felt a little bit less than all those college grads I kept meeting in my life. I thought that going back and finishing something that I had started might make me feel more confident, more sure of the knowledge that I’d already accumulated along the way. I never thought I’d learn anything new. I was an old dog incapable of learning new tricks.

But I was wrong.

I took a class in 2008 and learned some things I guess they forgot to teach me as I was growing up. It was unsettling, as learning some truths can always be. Santa Claus? The Easter Bunny?  Sometimes the myths we’re taught as kids aren’t meant for adulthood.

The particular myth I was learning about there in that lecture hall in 2008 unsettled me and made me question so many other truths I had been taught along the way. We had to write a paper, and I struggled with what to write.  Sometimes words just aren’t enough – film can do it better.  So instead of writing an essay, I made this little film, “American Dreams.”

I wish I could say that ten years later this film has lost its meaning.

But it hasn’t.

In many ways it’s more meaningful now than ever before.

And it saddens me to write that.


Honoring the Girls of Central High

October 11, 2016 is International Day of the Girl which was first started by the U.N. in 2011 to “honor girls and work to improve their lives.” I can’t think of a better way of commemorating the day than by posting a link here to No Girls Allowed, the documentary about the first girls who attended the 147-year-old all-male public high school, Central High in Philadelphia.

Gafni News Conference

Yes, you read that correctly — public high school.  Central High was not some elite private school, making up its own rules. It was a public high school in the School District of Philadelphia that for 147 years prohibited girls from attending. No girls were allowed at Central High until 1983 – when the brave young girls in the photo above contested 147 years of gender inequality.

I made this film to celebrate those brave young girls.

People have forgotten about this story, and many more don’t even know that it happened.  When people forget historical moments of social justice, or victories over discrimination are not remembered and honored, we are doomed as a society to keep repeating those injustices.

If you’d like to learn more about the film, please read my post, No Girls Allowed.

If you’d like to watch it, just click the link below and it will take you to Vimeo, where No Girls Allowed is available for viewing, in honor of International Day of the Girl. If you’re a teacher or professor and would like a DVD to share with your students, please let me know in the comments below.

This is one story we should never forget.

The courage of these girls must always be remembered.

On International Day of the Girl, and all days.

Please CLICK HERE to take you to Vimeo and to watch No Girls Allowed…



No Girls Allowed (news)

Gafni News Conference

Central High 6 News Conference

I’m so proud that our film, NO GIRLS ALLOWED, has been recommended by the Public Justice website, and by Arthur Bryant, lead counsel for the 1983 Central High gender integration case.

“A wonderful new movie – NO GIRLS ALLOWED – provides extraordinary insight into why litigation against sex discrimination is necessary and the difference it can make.”

You can read the rest of the article here at Public Justice:

roseinurinal copy

                  NO GIRLS ALLOWED DVD available here





Wildfire in Santa Barbara Foothills

We’re on Fire Alert here in Santa Barbara.

A fire broke out this morning in the Painted Cave area in the foothills above Santa Barbara.  Evacuations are taking place, Reverse 911 calls are going out, and the Search & Rescue unit of the SB Sheriff’s Department is going door-to-door to evacuate people.

We have a history with fires in our community.  The Jesusita Fire in 2009 burned 8,733 acres and 80 homes, the Goleta Gap Fire burned over 2800 acres in 2008, and Montecito’s Tea Fire, also in 2008, burned 200 homes.  Painted Cave was the starting point for the devastating Painted Cave Fire in 1990 that destroyed 600 homes, and today’s fire is located in the same area –  off the 154, in the Painted Cave area, and a quarter of a mile from the Lotus Retreat.

Everyone is vigilant at this time of the year – when the weather turns hot and dry, and the sundowner winds kick up at the end of the day.  Today’s fire broke out around 8:00 a.m. and by 8:40 they have already named it “Lookout Fire.”  It’s never a good sign when they name these incidents.

I’ll post more information as I learn about it.

No Girls Allowed (Update)

Wow, what a week!

If you came to this blog and read last week’s post you got a chance to be a part of the test screening of No Girls Allowed. Hollywood films have been screening to test audiences for many years. Studios hire “focus group” companies (for many thousands of dollars) to bring in people so they can measure what works in a film and what doesn’t.

I’m not a big studio.  I’m just a writer who found a story that I thought needed to be remembered.  Film has the power to reach many people, and so I decided to tell this story through film, as a documentary.  For one moment in my life I stepped away from the role of writer to become a filmmaker.

If you’re an independent filmmaker you don’t have thousands of dollars for test screenings, so you rely on other ways to see how audiences will receive your film.  That’s what I did this week, using this blog to reach a specific focus group: the alumni and extended community of Central High School.

I never expected such a huge response. The CHS community is amazing – and large!  Intelligent, articulate, passionate, and involved. I thank you all for viewing the film, and for starting a conversation here  in the comments you’ve made about your experiences, your feelings, and your thoughts about the 1983 gender integration of Central High.

This is just the beginning of the conversation.

No Girls Allowed now begins its journey as a film.  We will be scheduling a screening in Philadelphia in 2013 to commemorate, and acknowledge those brave young girls who helped make co-education at Central High School a reality.  If you are interested in being contacted about the screening, please let us know in the comment section on this website, or by emailing me at

If you are a member of the Press, please email us about a password-protected review screening on Vimeo.

No Girls Allowed

(A few years ago I went back to college. I won’t tell you how many years separated my freshman year at the University of California at Santa Barbara and my sophomore return in 2005. Let’s just say it was enough years to have a screenwriting career in Hollywood, meet and marry my husband, become a mother, and raise my two kids until they graduated from high school. After the two little ones became big people of their own, I decided to go back to UCSB and finish the final two years of academic work to get a B.A. It took me four years so that’ll give you an idea that it wasn’t exactly a walk in the park. But I loved every minute of it. I wrote a lot of papers in that time, met some amazing twenty-something-year-olds, and embarked upon an adventure that I finally completed this week: I made a film. Here’s the story of how that film began…) 

Seven years ago I sat in a crowded lecture hall at UCSB and listened while a professor reminisced about being one of the first female students to attend an all-male public high school in Philadelphia. The school had practiced single sex education (for males only) for 147 years until 1983 when a court in Pennsylvania ordered the mandatory co-education of Central High School. I was used to seeing students during lecture text messaging, checking email on their laptops, or dozing during most lectures. But as the professor spoke openly and honestly about her first-year experiences (sometimes difficult) at Central High, the two hundred students around me sat in stunned and respectful silence. They were riveted by what she was telling them.

After the lecture, I went up to the professor and asked her if any books had ever been written about the gender integration of Central High. Public high schools are known to be coed, and yet, Central had avoided going coed until it was legally required as late as 1983. She confessed to me that nothing had ever been written about the case, or the women who were the first to attend Central.

“I think it might make an interesting documentary,” I suggested.

“Count me in!” she told me with a smile. And she was looking directly at me when she said it.

Me and my big mouth.

I went home that night and started researching. But no matter how many Google searches I did I couldn’t find anything about that 1983 Central High story that the professor had assured me had been front page news. Now I was intrigued. I decided to just keep digging by searching Philadelphia newspaper archives at UCSB’s Davidson Library. What I found in my months of research surprised, angered, enlightened, and convinced me that it was an amazing story that had to be told.

And film was the best way to tell it.

The Central High 6 in 1983

No Girls Allowed is a 50-minute documentary about the first young women who attended the all-male, academically elite Central High School in Philadelphia. It’s taken seven years to write, film, and edit.   To watch the film, you can find it available for viewing on VIMEO: girls allowed

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The Girls of Summer

It’s July and ‘Tis the Season.

Softball season, that is. True, there’s that other sport the boys play– the one that pays big salaries when boys grow up.  But July is when the girls play their sport – the one that doesn’t pay, the one you play simply because you love it.  Summer belongs to Girls Fastpitch Softball: weekend tournaments in sweltering heat, fast food and Gatorade, and the girls of summer.

I watched my daughter play softball from the age of 5 until she hung up her glove after freshman year playing at UCSD. She’d accomplished what she wanted to accomplish with the sport: She’d been drafted by a great school (a difficult college to get into, but softball got her into it), played in her freshman year (not as much as she was used to playing, but she played nonetheless), got her home run in a college  game (along with 5 RBIs), and she was named athlete of the week at UCSD. After freshman year, it was time to figure out what she wanted to really do with her life. So in her sophomore year she quit the sport. I took it harder than she did, I think. I missed watching her play, and the enjoyment I had at observing the spectacle of a team hard at work.

It’s different when boys play ball.

I’m lucky to also be blessed with a son who played sports.  But every time I watched him in the field, or on a court, I couldn’t help but think his manhood was being tested.  The boys looked so serious with their game faces on for the coaches.  There weren’t a lot of laughs, not unless they wanted to be called “girls” or “ladies.”  And absolutely no tears!  There’s no crying in baseball, as Tom Hanks told us in “A League of Their Own.”  Not that girls in softball cry.  It’s just that nobody ever expects them to be so tough.

But girls are tough.

They play just as hard, under a blistering sun, and 100-degree heat, four games a day, sometimes until midnight in tournament play.  Crushing the ball with their bats, sliding fearlessly, striking out batters on a full count with bases loaded, and all at the age of 10.  Making the outs, stealing those bases, coming through with a hit or a bunt when they’re losing by three runs, and winning seems out of the question.  They never give up, these girls of summer.  They work hard, they play hard, and most importantly, they learn how to depend on each other, and to cheer each team member on.

After my daughter’s 10 and under team lost a squeaker of a game at the Nationals in Oakdale, California, the parents took the girls to MacDonald’s.  It was almost midnight, and the team had skipped dinner to play back-to-back games and the last game of the night was to determine which team would go to the finals the following day. We had lost, but every one of the girls was wearing a huge smile, and they were filled with excitement.

After placing our order (chicken nuggets, of course), I took a seat next to our shortstop/second string pitcher named Melissa. With a bridge of freckles across a freshly sunburned nose, and still wearing her cleats, she quietly licked at a well-earned chocolate-dipped ice cream cone.

“How are you doing?” I asked her, concerned by her silence.

She thought a moment, and then said with great pride:

“We played good together.”

I will always remember her answer.  Every time I hear someone say, “Women don’t get along,” or “Women don’t trust each other,” I think of Melissa.  I think of softball and watching the girls on a softball team:  playing their hardest for each other; sharing sunflower seeds in a dugout; doing cheers together;  hugs at a home plate; high fives in the field; sleepovers in tournament motel rooms; braiding their hair with colorful ribbons; sneaking a swim together when the coaches weren’t looking; pushing each other to go further, try harder, dig deeper, to laugh, giggle, and maybe even shed a tear when the game is over, and it’s time to move on.

And then they grow up

There comes a time when the girls of summer do move on – when those ten and unders with the scabby knees, wearing the scent of sunblock, grow up and become women. Women who are beautiful, strong, and confident; women who know that hard work always pays off.  You may not always win but you play your hardest anyway, and you’re not afraid to try, even if it means that sometimes you lose.

So the next time you hear a male coach yelling at his boys, trying to motivate his team by calling them girls –  Don’t think of it as an insult.  Think of softball, and those grueling weekend tournaments. Remember how hard girls play, and how “good they play together.” They’re more than just players: they’re a team.

They’re the girls of summer.

(Photo courtesy Lynne Pariseau)

For all you parents who are missing those days…

(Kudos to Shania Twain singing “Feel Like a Woman”)

He’ll Always Be Michael To Me

Steven called him Mike.

Of course, he could get away with that but I couldn’t. Steven’s last name was Spielberg, mine wasn’t.  I was somebody smaller swimming around in these show business (shark infested) waters.  I was the little minnow who somehow was now keeping company with some very big fish – just treading water at times, and trying not to sink.

We were at a kickoff luncheon for Disney’s top secret “Project M” – a film that was supposed to be in development based on “Peter Pan.” Steven Spielberg sat to my right in his private dining room at Amblin Entertainment, and directly across from me was somebody I tried (without success) to look at as just another collaborator and human being.  But his dark eyes, beautiful face, his gentle ways, and his illuminating smile made that impossible.

I was in awe of him.  I still am.  And he’ll always be Michael to me.

Today I’m thinking about him – celebrating him as a collaborator, and artist. I don’t want to remember the events of three years ago, so I’m pushing them to the back of my mind.  Burying them away, and trying to forget.  I can do that because I’m just a regular person.  But when you’re a celebrity, it’s a lot more complicated.

When you become a celebrity your life becomes public property.  You try to reclaim it with bodyguards, security systems, handlers, spin makers, and money (lots of it) to help you hide.  But the moment your life hits a sharp curve, and you lose control, the world will know about it, and your life is over.

Think about that.

We all have times in life when we make mistakes (some of them big mistakes) that we’d rather forget.  Usually we do forget.  We push those mistakes to the farthest (and deepest) places in our mind.  We make ourselves forget, and unless we’re in the safety of a therapist’s office, or a priest’s confessional, no will ever know.  But if you’re a celebrity, everyone will know.

Michael never had a chance to be a regular person.  It’s tough enough when you become a celebrity as an adult.  But when it’s thrust upon you when you’re a child, and you really have no power over it, it can end up being destructive and terribly sad.

But that’s not the Michael I want to remember.

I spent this morning listening to Michael’s voice, trying to remember the Michael I once knew – the one I was lucky enough to work with on “Peter Pan.” I listened to the tapes he asked me to record at the story meetings the two of us had. And what I heard on those tapes is the Michael that I once knew:  His excitement.  His sensitivity.  His love for Peter Pan.  His commitment to the creative life.  And his passion.

Also, his giggles. Michael loved to giggle. And that’s what I choose to remember about him today.

Giggling made him sound just like a regular person.

(Michael as Peter Pan artwork by Mikl Olivier)

Shh! This Is Just Between You and Me…

Raise your hand if you’re going to the Olympics this summer.

No, I’m not going either. I was never a big fan of London.  I went when I was fifteen as part of a group of high school students seeing all of Europe in 23 days. It was one of those break-neck-speed bus tours with 32 adolescents and five adults wondering why the hell they volunteered for the job.

London was our first stop, and it was also my first experience with jet lag. I don’t remember much except I slept through a Shakespeare play at Stratford-on-Avon and hoped no one would rat me out to my theatre teacher back home. London was grey, there was never any sun, no ice in any of our drinks, and the tiny room three of us were crammed into smelled of mold and World War II. Plus, their bacon looked weird. As a fifteen year old, you’re capable of judging an entire country based on their breakfast foods. Cooked tomatoes and baked beans in the morning?

It just seemed wrong.

But then my husband and I went to England, and I fell in love with the city.  Maybe it helped that we weren’t traveling with thirty-two sleep-deprived teenagers with raging hormones.  Maybe it had to do with a friend of my husband’s (Steven) – an actual Londoner who showed us his hometown, and some wonderful places we never would’ve found without him.

Lock & Company Hatters – Founded in 1676 (London)

As a recovering agoraphobic, I had told my husband not to count on me walking all over the city.  Making my way along crowded sidewalks with thousands of people I don’t know is not exactly on “My Favorite Things” list.  But I forgot to tell Steven, and he had other plans.  Maybe because he was such a great tour guide, or because he knew the city so well, he actually got me out into the streets and walking all over London.  And yes, I did cross the Millennial Bridge – something I had sworn repeatedly I would never do. Here’s a photo from my p.o.v. that I took as evidence.

And here’s an actual picture of me (part of me) on the bridge.

That’s my terrified face.

London is now one of my favorite places.

But that’s not the secret I want to share with you –  the one I want to keep just between you and me. It’s what I found in London – a place so special that most people don’t even know it’s there. It’s not on any tours, or in most books about what-to-see in London. You have to look hard to find it.  You certainly won’t see it while sitting in one of those double-decker red tour buses that circle the city.  But it’s there – winding its way, just north of central London, snaking unseen by those only visiting the city.

They call it Regent’s Canal, and instead of writing about it, I want to show it to you – with a little help from some of my photos, some video by, and Kate Rusby, a wonderful English singer.

Here’s why I’m sharing it with you:

Sometimes we get so busy doing our Big Ben, St. Paul’s Cathedral, Tower of London tours in life –all those chores, obligations and responsibilities that we have – that we forget to do something just for ourselves.

Just because.

For no other reason except it’s not in our schedule for the day. It’s our Regent Canal moment – beautiful, relaxing, and something that makes us feel good just by taking a journey that doesn’t get us anywhere.

Sit back and enjoy it.  It’s all yours.

Don’t Bother Me, Dude. I’m Reading a Book.

A big topic in our house is how long we think books are going to be around.

I’m not talking about those black & white pixel collections on a Kindle, Nook, or iPad. I mean the old fashion p-books that we love holding in our hands. We’ve all grown up with them. Some of us have lived with them longer, and maybe that’s why we aren’t as quick to embrace the new technological ways. We still go to libraries (if we can find one that’s open) or we dig in our heels and order the paperback from Amazon. If we’re really lucky, we still live in a town that has a brick and mortar store where we can wander the aisles and get our high from new-book smells. Or run our fingers lovingly through crisp, new pages.

I know there are people who think that p-books will always be available. I’m not so sure. In my most cynical of moments, I think of the children to come – the ones who’ll use iPads in schools, and never know a textbook. I think of those children and their parents who have always relied on some type of screen – computer, phone, or tablet, and who have never understood the big fuss about paper pressed together between covers.

I don’t think they’ll miss p-books.

At bedtime, with their children close, they’ll touch screens, and pictures will move and come alive. Sounds will be heard, and music too – there will be movement and action, excitement not found on a paper page. Amazing and thrilling, the experience will capture their attention, but I’m not so sure it’ll catch their imagination. Or help them daydream, picturing in their minds what only words on a page can create: each picture, and every daydream unique to the reader or listener experiencing it.

Books of the same title may be filled with the same words, but each reader brings their own version of the story to it. The same characters are seen through different eyes, the drama, the comedy, the tears, the surprises, all the same and yet different as the story is filtered through the individual. The interpretations of each book, every story told, are limitless when read from the page. Touching, seeing, and hearing only confines the story to one telling of it. And where is the imagination in that?

What do you think? Will paper books always be around? Will they still have the power to pull people in? To make a reader want to hold onto them tightly, letting their own imagination take over, with no interruptions, and no one telling them what they should be experiencing?

Just when I start to think there’s no future for p-books, I find this video online today. And it gives me a little hope.

(Kudos to Julian Smith)