Catherine Oxenberg

Catherine Oxenberg
Anecdotes, insights and resources relevant to anyone interested in exploring the mystery of life and death.

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Beverly Hills Mommy Blogger meets Malibu Mommy Blogger!

Today, talented interior designer Barrie Livingstone (who is replacing my threadbare couches – I held off for as long as possible, as my children use the couches as trampolines) introduced me to the lovely Alexandra Anderson, also known as the Beverly Hills Mommy Blogger, at the Montage BH.

We started chatting about our respective children and schools, and I announced that if anyone ever needed information on IEP’s (Individualized Educational Plan) – that I was an authority, having gone through the process twice - I have two children with learning disabilities. Within a minute, I realized that Alexandra knew twice as much as I did on the subject. I soon found that his woman is an authority on a myriad of topics, and it is no wonder that her blog has such a far-reaching circulation!

Being new to the world of bloggers, I wanted to know what prompted her to start this new venture. Apparently there is a huge demographic of mommy bloggers and this makes so much sense: we can be real mothers and virtual professionals!
That suits me much better than the other way around!
Alexandra and I shared similar views on how the focus of our lives and the nature of our ambition had shifted once we had families. It is HARD to find a healthy balance, there just isn’t enough time in a day! We both found that once we became mothers and experienced the intoxicating unconditional love for our children, nothing could compete.

The idea of a grueling film schedule now fills me with dread, where it once was my ultimate high. I shared that I am no longer willing to make films on location anymore. I can’t conceive of leaving my family for long periods of time. Several years ago, I was filming in Lithuania in December and it was COLD! Oh boy, did I miss LA! I caught pneumonia and bronchitis, and in order not to hold up production, the producers had figured out a system where I was brought back to the hotel after work, and I was hooked up to an IV that was attached to a chandelier which hung above my bed. This was my ritual for almost 6 hellacious weeks: 16 to 18 hour days in the subzero temperatures, and then back to my room for my intravenous evening cocktail. What a glamorous business I had chosen! I remember staring at the white cottage cheese ceiling, thinking to myself, “What the hell am I doing with my life? What is the POINT of all this?!”

Well, that was it. I immediately had 2 more children, and made a decision that unless the film had the capacity to change the world by spontaneously causing instant world peace, it wasn’t worth it!
My family is worth it, my children are worth it, and a career that will include them is worth it too!


Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Elizabeth Taylor

An hour before I found out that Elizabeth Taylor died, I was deep in conversation about her with my daughter India. It was odd, we had never talked about her before. I found myself going over all the times that our paths had intersected. India asked me why she was considered such an icon in her day and wondered if her type of beauty would be appreciated as much by current day standards. I always remembered her violet eyes, her mellifluous voice and her wicked sense of humor. She was one of the funniest, shrewdest women I ever met, and I was always struck by how earthy and straightforward she was. I had recently found out that she had converted to Judaism.
The first time I met Elizabeth, I was 7-years-old and was I was missing my two front teeth. I was in Gstaad, Switzerland for Xmas vacation with my parents, and my sister Christina. I always wondered about this vacation, because my parents had already been divorced for several years, so why we were all together, posing as a happy family, was bizarre. We arrived to have drinks at Elizabeth and her husband Richard Burton’s chalet.  I was too young too realize that they were famous, but somehow I’ll always remember her silhouette by the fire, with a glass in her hand. My sister and I were ushered downstairs to her sons’ room. I was immediately smitten by her two teenage boys, Chris and Michael Wilding. The lack of teeth was agony as I dared not grin, and I was desperate to grin, I was in love! I had never met a more thrilling dangerous duo. Their room was peppered by bullet holes. They showed us their guns and we jumped on their giant unmade beds. This was the life! This was the childhood that I wanted: The Wild West for kids, a free for all, bullets and mess! What more could a kid want?! Not anything like the proper English upbringing that beckoned for me… And I wondered, “Who were these fantastical parents who let their children behave like this?” In my assessment, these children had hit the jackpot of parents!
And I believe this was the evening when the seed of Wonderland was planted deep in my sub-conscious.
So, it was very ironic when my mother became engaged to Richard Burton, 6 years later. He and Elizabeth were divorced in June 1974, Richard became engaged to my mother, Princess Elizabeth of Yugoslavia, in September 1974. Then he remarried Elizabeth Taylor in 1975. The whole story is a little convoluted and I had no idea, until much later, that Elizabeth T. was not so happy about the interlude with my mother.
It was Richard’s influence that fanned that magical seed that led me later to explore the shores of Hollywood. He wasn’t in my life for very long but he left a lasting impression. Between his bouts of alcoholism, that ultimately drove my mother away, he was he sweetest, most loving, attentive father figure in my life.
He taught me Shakespeare and together we composed 6-foot long crossword puzzles. We went gambling in a casino, and as I was underage, he hid me behind a screen. He let me make the bets and came back his shirt filled with chips, proudly announcing me the winner. He let me drive his Mercedes on the freeway, propped up on pillows. He breathed magic into life.
The last time I saw him, I was 16. He was performing Equus on Broadway. There was seating on stage and I was in the front row. At the end of the performance, in the midst of taking his bows, he came over and grabbed my hand and dragged me out to center stage, making me take a bow with him. I was mortified at the time, but  in retrospect, I love the symbolism of his gesture. He was passing a torch to me. Although I could never presume to have reached his mastery, or to be the great actor that he was, I still feel that it was he that set the stage for my future; it was he that pointed me towards my destiny.
I did not see Elizabeth until I was living in LA, many years later. She came up to me and announced, “There was a time when I hated your mother, but I don’t hate her anymore! Please send her my love!”
“Well, dearest Elizabeth, almost step-mother of mine, you are finally free. I send you my love I and pray that you and Richard are reunited in heaven.”

© 2011

Sunday, March 20, 2011


Welcome to my blog! My daughter Grace helped me set it up (actually she did the whole thing!) and showed me that I could have an interactive (you can feed them) virtual koi pond – in truth they look more like tadpoles then koi, but close enough! I figured I feng shuied (is that even a word?)my house, so why not my blog! I picked 9 fish as that is supposed to be lucky. The number 9 symbolizes completion and fulfillment, and I am hoping that this blogging is a fulfilling experience for both blogger and reader. Feng Shui, for those of you who might not know it, is the art of organizing your environment to invite a flow of good and benevolent energies into your life. The wonderful Master George Yau, whose family has been skilled in Feng Shui since the Ming Dynasty, has been feng shuing our house for the past 6 years. Every year he arrives, sometime around Chinese New Year, and gives us our yearly tune up. This is the Year of the Rabbit and apparently we can make progress by leaps and bounds: after all rabbits hop, they don’t walk. That sounds way better than last year’s volatile Tiger! Every year our menagerie of frightening Chinese statues are carefully rearranged to protect the newly assigned disaster areas. And every year, my husband exhibits a suicidal tendency, insisting that digging must be done in that particular corner of the property; and every year I call Master Yau screaming, “Casper wants to dig in the disaster area!” So, Master Yau gets on the phone and gives him the same speech, “Casper, digging very bad! You no dig there!” and his digging plans are once again aborted.
At first, I must admit, I was a little horrified by the size and style of these snorting statues. A giant bronze bull dwarfs my desk. So, I asked Master Yau, “Could I please hide the bull, maybe in a closet?” I thought he was going to have a heart attack. “Ohh! I thought you good people! You see! You will fall in love with this bull, it will do good work for you, it will bring you luck!” So, I resigned myself to sharing my desk with the great big bull. And he was right, I have learned to love him, I even pet him from time to time. And money did come, so maybe he is earning his keep.
Master Yau is also a koi master. He has a collection of koi as big as dolphins and he has inducted Casper into the koi breeding ministry. Master Yau’s philosophy on koi is, “Men need hobby, something to occupy them so they don’t stray; either they have mermaids or koi – koi much better!” So he convinced me to allow a giant hole to be dug out of my yard to accommodate these behemoth fish. Apparently they can live over 200 years old, so they will have to be assigned in our will.
Koi represent harmony and peace. They symbolize healthy, peaceful community because they never fight. Our family still fights occasionally, but all in all, we’re becoming more and more harmonious. So maybe the koi have been a good influence.
Feng shui seems superstitious to me and I am not a particularly superstitious person; but I do love the concept of sanctifying a space and turning my home into a sanctuary. And, I am a firm believer in setting a space to intend a certain coherence of loving communication, benevolence, nurturing and creativity. I would like for those who are invited into our home to feel welcomed by an atmosphere of warmth and an immediate sense of wellbeing.
As far as the Feng Shui, the ritual of arranging my house to receive the energy of grace and good fortune is fun; I am inviting these qualities into my life symbolically. I have always had a sense that the home that I create for my loved ones is an externalization of my consciousness and an extension of my embrace. Perhaps because my body has expanded to house creation through 3 pregnancies that this is an organic concept for me. -Master Yau's Link

© 2011