A Memoriam for Andrea

When words are the currency you live by, there’s a lot of pressure to find the right ones — and I’ve been trying to string these particular vowels and consonants into just the right order for two and half weeks. In some ways it feels like forever.


I still don’t really have the right words to say how much this loss has crushed my heart, but I’m committing them to the page anyway, in the hopes it might make me — or one of her other loved ones — feel a tiny bit better.

Andrea Lofthus Peterson

What can I say about Andrea Lofthus Peterson?


I think Andrea and I were 10 or 11 when we met. Our moms set us up to play tennis. I had just taken my first few lessons and Andrea was already a demon on the court. Even though she wiped the floor with me, we still became fast friends. We were both tall for our age (for any age, really), and immediately bonded over what it was like to grow up as the coach’s daughter (a mixed bag of older boys knowing who you were and being told to act like they didn’t). We both had very strong mothers with high expectations and younger sisters who unknowingly put additional pressure on us to be the mature ones.

A lifetime of memories with Andrea

We bonded over a lot of things over the years, from Big Gulps at the mini-mart and listening to her parents’ record (yep, it was vinyl) of The Joy of Sex, to crushes on boys (so many boys), managing high school girl dynamics, with an amazing graduation trip to Hawaii that I’ll never forget. Then the years of balancing college classes with sorority life and boyfriends, first jobs, second jobs, real jobs … falling in love, falling in real love, young married life, being boy moms, balancing work and our families, finding our first gray hairs, dealing with aging bodies, aging parents, aging children, aging husbands, not to mention both of our moms (and sister in her case) surviving breast cancer, and worrying about them and what that meant for ourselves.

Leslie & Andrea


There have a been a lot of people sharing a lot of memories about Andrea in the past couple of weeks — I’ve been pouring over all of them obsessively, with each and every one bringing me a laugh or a tear, or often both — but the Andrea that I knew, the one who was one of my closest friends for almost 50 years, doesn’t quite match up with the Andrea that everyone else is talking about.


My Andrea, far more than any of the other qualities that people have ascribed to her, was fierce. She did everything, and I mean everything, with an iron will, her eyes straight ahead, focused on the prize, putting her whole heart into life in a way that made you love and admire her. Whether it was making the perfect “Sunday sauce,” cheering her kids’ teams on, running Sunshine Sales with Sandy, or laughing with the people she loved, Andrea put her whole self into it. There was no holding back with Andrea, like it or not, she told you and she showed you how she felt.

Easter with the kids


From the moment I met her on that tennis court, she was a force to be reckoned with. For me, as someone who has always felt the unavoidable need to look at everything from every possible angle, and is constantly in danger of woulda coulda shoulda-ing my life away, Andrea’s ability to quickly decide exactly what she wanted and go for it without a moment’s hesitation or doubt was a pure thing of beauty. It was one of the reasons why we stayed friends for all of these years (and why she continued to easily kick my ass on the tennis court for decades).

Janelle’s birthday


It was also why — still, to this day — anytime I feel shy or nervous about something, part of my pep talk mantra is always to “channel my inner Andrea,” and then proceed confidently and full speed ahead the way she always did.


Not to say she didn’t work hard or wasn’t prepared. Quite the opposite. She was always prepared, the ultimate team mom: snacks, drinks, sunscreen, advice, toys, floss sticks, recipes, playlists, more advice, oh so much advice, extra sweatshirts, socks, hats, Carmex lip stuff, every possible type of sports equipment you could want — whatever you could possibly need, she had it in her magic Mary Poppins trunk and was ready to share it without being asked.


Like I said, she was always prepared, even for her own death. Much more so than the rest of us.

My mom’s 80th

Almost a year ago, she already had me helping her write letters to be given to her sons on special days. Meanwhile, over the past couple of weeks (and really ever since I learned of her fatal diagnosis) I’ve been trying and miserably failing to come up with the right words to say how much Andrea has meant to me, how much she still means to me. How much she’ll always mean to me.


She was a mama bear way before she was a mama, taking charge and mothering all us right to the very end. As I watched my beautiful fierce friend work so hard to stay strong for all of the people she loved so forcefully and so well, and to ultimately see her lose her battle against the horrible monster of a disease that is ALS, I know that if there is any possible way that she can be watching us down from on high, she’ll find it. And she’ll be smiling down on us and wanting us to remember all the good times we had together. So many good times.


Whether she’s literally up there watching, as some believe, or whether she’s simply, deeply, profoundly and forever embedded in our hearts, as seems more likely to me, I know my inner Andrea will be with me, and deeply loved forever.


Video I made for Andrea’s 60th birthday: https://youtu.be/q0YTFcTFUN4

Video Andrea made for my mom’s 80th birthday: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=d5JUsjIp2To


When the pain of rain meets the joys of boys

Photo by Harrison Keely

Photo by Harrison Keely

Santa Barbara isn’t very well equipped for rainy days.

Neither is my son.

Eventually, when you coop up 59 pounds of eight-year-old boy energy inside a teeny tiny house for too long, something’s got to give.

Usually it’s my sanity.

While I would be perfectly happy — ecstatic, in fact — to spend a rainy day inside, curled up on the couch with a good book, my son looks at that same couch and sees a trampoline, a mountain to climb, or a boxing ring.

At first it’s kind of amusing. After all, we have old furniture for a reason.

But the last weekend it rained here was four days long, thanks to a teacher in-service day. They got trained and I got drilled. That’s 96 hours of rain, and what felt like 906 hours of being cooped up indoors.

When Koss started playing vaseball, with an aim at my roses, I lost my sense of humor, took a few deep breaths and tried to imagine how other moms of boys (MOBs) would handle it.

I remember Sally Cappon telling me about how when it rained on one of her three son’s birthday parties, she had the boys do indoor relay races up and down her hallway. They loved it.

Unfortunately, in my house, the “hallway” consists of the living room, which adjoins the bedrooms to the kitchen. So much for that plan.

Another MOB friend, Andrea Peterson, encourages her three sons to play outside in rain, sleet and snow. “So what if they get dirty, it comes off,” is her philosophy. Great logic, unless of course, like me, you only have one child, which means I’d be the one to brave the elements.

No thanks. I’m still sneezing and injured from the last three minutes I tried to play mudball.

Even if I were willing to break the rules about television and computer use for the weather, the poor kid can only sit still for so long.

No matter how much you try to civilize them, little boys are wired for action.

Before he was born I was sure I would raise him exactly the same way I would have raised a girl.

Then I woke up and discovered how little it mattered what I did.

It took Koss about 10 minutes to decide he liked his stuffed football toy better than his teddy bear and another 10 minutes to decide that peeing in my face was hysterically funny.

I’ll never forget pushing one-year-old Koss and his friend Sophia on the swings at La Mesa Park. A gardener drove by on a mini tractor.

You would have thought Barney had landed in a giant space ship and was handing out lollipops the way Koss jumped up and down on his swing.

Meanwhile, Sophia was happily gazing at the trees.

Big machines became one of the highlights of our lives. We would stake out construction sites — to the point where I’m sure the crew thought I was a stalker. For a really special outing, I’d take him to climb on the lawn mowers at Home Depot.

Rather than imagine the beautiful rows of peonies he might plant, when he climbed on the mower, he’d pretend to shoot aliens or be racing through the desert. Whatever the imaginary game, he always won.

Boys, apparently, can make a competition out of anything.

We recently went to the Long Beach Aquarium, where the highlights of Koss’s day were shooting the life-sized dolphin- and whale-shaped squirt guns at brave passers-by and watching the harbor seals compete for a raft. Koss and several other little boys actually got the crowd chanting, “Go Red, Go Red” (for the seal with the red identifying tag) in his battle to dominate “Yellow” for play pool superiority. The boys were so enthusiastic that I half-expected a flurry of Pokeman cards and marbles to change hands after each round.

Ah, the joys of MOB-dom.

Ah, the joys of rain.

Since we had already taken Koss to every movie that could conceivably be deemed appropriate, we took him to run some errands, just to get out of the house.

He dismantled the children’s section at Borders, and then created an obstacle course at Long’s.

If this weather doesn’t let up soon I’ll be destined to spend the rest of his childhood disguised in dark glasses and blonde wig, lest someone should associate me with this miniature wild man wrecking havoc on what used to be our sleepy little town.

On the way home I called the newslines, checking to see what other havoc the weather has created. Surprisingly, the only thing on there was a fire department report from Santa Maria about a bull with a plastic bucket stuck on his head. Apparently the bull was able to get the bucket off without firefighter intervention.

I laughed as I told Koss about the “big news story” of the weekend.

I could almost see the light bulb light in his boy-wired brain.

“Do you think the firefighters would come to our house if I could get a bucket to stick on my head?”

Maybe, just this once, I’ll let him have a little extra time on the computer. Eight hours of CartoonNetwork.com can’t be that bad, can it?

Originally published in the Santa Barbara Daily Sound on February 19, 2008.