Malibu Strong – One Mom’s Diary of Resilience, Grit, and Garden Hoses. May Opi’s Death makes Us All Stronger. by Pamela Conley Ulich

by Pamela Conley Ulich, Mother, Opi’s Daughter in-law and Former Mayor of Malibu

It’s been 6 months since the beastly Woolsey Fire came to Malibu and exactly 3 months since my dear father-in-law Opi passed away. The following is Part 1 of my Malibu Fire aka Woolsey Fire story.

PART I

I’m sorry. There is no other way to begin this story. I’m sorry, I’m sorry, I’m sorry.

My story is nothing compared to the stories of our sister California city – Paradise. My heart aches for those beautiful Paradise souls who lost their lives in Northern California.

My story also pales in comparison to the stories of many other Malibu local heroes who risked their lives to battle fire tornadoes in order to save homes and to those friends and neighbors who lost their lives and homes during this tragic fire. 

I still feel guilty that many of my friends lost everything and every day is a battle for them. Many are still digging through the proverbial dirt – waiting for debris removal clearances, waiting for permits to rebuild, waiting for insurance claims to be resolved, waiting for law suits to be filed. My heart aches for them each and every day.   They are the real heroes who practice grit and resilience on a daily basis.

I still feel guilty that I made Opi evacuate. Dr. Konrad Ulich, otherwise known as Opi, my dear father-in-law, lived next door to us in Point Dume and who, at 94, argued with me, but eventually agreed to evacuate on November 9, 2018 against his will. He passed away on February 21, 2019.  He did not want to evacuate and pleaded with us to let him stay behind. I thought evacuation was the “right thing to do” and urged all to listen to those orders. I wish I knew then, what I know now. We are literally within 1 mile of Zuma beach and the ocean. As far as I know, no fire has been able to burn on sand and in the ocean.

We’ll never know if his death was a direct result of the horrible Woolsey fire, but in my bones I believe that beastly fire was the beginning of the end for him and that he might still be with us today, but for that fire. Opi was unable to get back to his home for many, many, many days because of those damn evacuation orders. As a result, after 10 or so days in an unfamiliar place and being away from his home which suffered damage, he began to get sun downers. He was understandably very anxious and beyond worried because his son and I (my husband David) were in Malibu fighting the fire without electricity or without the ability to communicate.

I dedicate this story to Opi. I pray that he will rest in peace and know that he lives on in our hearts and soul. I hope we can all learn from the mistakes we made and be better prepared for the next crisis which if the climate change scientists are correct, could be right around the corner (e.g. floods, more fires, more Santa Ana’s and severe weather conditions).


Thanksgiving 2018 with Opi, aka the day electricity came back on in Point Dume.

Rather than live in regret, I will push forward to live a Malibu Way of Life that honors nature and our foremothers and forefathers who battled before me and is resilient and filled with grit. Every day, I see signs of hope like the new yellow flowers, but I also see the scars on the land like the trees burnt beyond hope. This juxtaposition of the new blooms and the wretched remains remind me to savor every second and to simply be in awe because we have one more day to reflect, to learn and to get prepared for next time.

Malibu in May 2019 – Flowers and Dead Trees Live in Harmony

Wednesday 11/7/18

Great event.

Tonight, I attended an extraordinary Red Ladder Gallery event where local artist Eamon Harrington was doing a nice Q and A Session with the Publishers of the Malibu Times, Karen and Arnold York. As I listened to Arnold and Karen’s stories about the devastating 1993 Malibu fire, I thought to myself, that kind of fire surely won’t happen again in our town again.

Things were different now. I was the acting Mayor during the 2007 fire. I was able to witness LA County Fire Chief P. Michael Freeman and Supervisor Yaralslovsky in action. That 2007 fire was suppose to burn all the way to Yerba Buena, but the valiant fire fighters beat back the beast and most of Malibu was not harmed. Even Governor Schwarzenegger and Cal Fire were in Malibu immediately standing strong with us and vowing to do all they could to protect our community. I felt confident that our fire department would and could protect Malibu.

In 2007, Standing Side by Side with the Governor and the Sheriff in Malibu.

Thursday 11/8/18 

Bad day.   

I woke up still reeling from the news about the Border Grill terrorist gun massacre on Wednesday night.   I was still in a state of grief for those beautiful people whose lives had been stolen away by an ex-marine who had served our country. Nothing made sense anymore.  

Later in that afternoon on the Boeing property near the Santa Susan Field lab a fire broke out.  I didn’t pay that much attention to this fire at first, but later in the day, Melissa Bumstead, a wonderful mother posted on her Facebook page: 

“This fire is my worst fear realized. Read below how you can protect your family from the potential of radioactive ash. Please share!!! 

Thousands of gallons of carcinogenic TCE were dumped on these Rocket Stands (I’m the photo) from Areas 1 & 2 of the Santa Susana Field Lab. The area is contaminated with radioactive waste, but not as severely as Area 4 which could catch on fire soon. Plutonium, Uranium, Cesium, Strontium. On site, buried only a few feet underground with radiation that would give 9 out of 10 people cancer if they lived there. 

The Department of Toxic Substances Control (DTSC) told us repeatedly that we couldn’t be harmed by the radioactive and chemical contamination on the site because it couldn’t reach us, though we have proof that is has for years from ground water, rain runoff and wind. 

Contaminated ash will can now reach us and communities hundreds of miles away. DTSC’s head official, Linda Parks, was with the fire chief during the press statement tonight…and gave no warning at all that the site was radioactive and that we could be in danger. And I highly doubt those firefighters have any idea what they’re being exposed to. 

The worst of it…is that none of this should have happened. The DTSC promises residents the cleanup would be done by 2107 but they’ve done nothing except allow the polluters to leave the waste here to be burned. I bet The Boeing Company is dancing, this is more cost effective to them than any of their other tactics. And now the cleanup won’t happen until 2034. 

I spoke at length with the Los Angeles Air Quality Control tonight and they’re not going to do anything past a smoke advisory though they’re very well aware of the bigger dangers, they’ve known about the site for years. 

I told them about my daughter’s cancer and the 50 other local kids with cancer and that people living within 2 miles of the site have a 60% higher cancer incident rate, and that our community has a 10-20% higher invasive breast cancer rate compared to the rest of California. 

But they’re not going to issue a statement letting people know how dangerous this smoke is. The DTSC isn’t going to protect us, they threw us under the bus years ago. The CalEPA has ties to DTSC and won’t protect us, not until Gov. Newsom takes office to reform it. 

So here’s what we do: 
1. Keep windows closed and limit time outdoors for the next few days.  
2. Call your children’s school and ask for the children to be kept indoors during recess tomorrow.  
3. Don’t wear your shoes inside so you don’t track contamination in.  
4. Have everyone in the family wash hands so if they are exposed, it’s not ingested.  
5. Call the DTSC, call CalEPA, call your elected officials and demand the 100% cleanup now. 

We can’t wait until 2034 to be safe. They let this into our community and homes. It’s time we do something to change that. PLEASE SHARE SO WE CAN PROTECT ALL OUR FAMILIES.”

Melissa’s post made me think twice and I that post on my FB page, tagged Henry Stern and Katie Hill and stated: “Please see the post below. Is this true? Is there radioactive waste in air because of this fire?” 

I went to bed nervous and prayed the winds would die and that the fire department would knock out this potentially radioactive fire before it could spread and hurt innocent people.

Friday 11/9/18

A beastly day.

6:30 a.m. I woke up with an uneasy feeling. I had no idea what the day would bring, but the Santa Ana Winds, otherwise known as “Devil Winds” were blowing strong. I had an eerie feeling that today I would come face to face with the Devil. I knew I couldn’t let my fears and my worries, or my delusions that we would be ok because we lived in Point Dume and it never burns in Point Dume, lull me into a vegetative “it’ll be ok” state of mind. I vowed to remain vigilant and to continue to get ready for whatever would come next.

I was looking forward to going to my 8 a.m work out with my tribe of kick you know what Moms that morning, but God had other plans. I put the work out grind on hold. Little did I know, a different kind of five day non-stop work out was just going to begin.

I posted on Facebook to get ready with your go bags, then I went outside to do my work out for the day. I had to get my home ready for the approaching beast.

7 a.m.

I went on the roof and began to cut away any and all branches that were near our home. I knew that if the trees caught on fire, then the branches touching our home would be like wicks in a candle and our home could go next. I enlisted my son Konrad to also help and after an hour, I went on to the next task.

I was able to hook up all our hoses and get them ready to deploy around our home and on our roof. I knew that water pressure might not work, so with the help of my husband David and my son Konrad, we proceeded to strategically place trash and other big bins filled with water and old towels around our home and on the roof. (Thank God we have a flat roof!)

Konrad on the roof cutting back trees – the beast is in the background.

10:20 a.m.

I was able to convince Opi, who lives next door to us, to evacuate with my son Konrad around 10:20 a.m. They wanted to stay, but I worried about the air quality, especially because this fire had begun in the Santa Susanna Field lab, a defunct nuclear testing facility near Moorpark. I wanted to keep them safe and out of harm’s way. Opi did not want to go. He only went because my son convinced him they would be back in no time. I snapped a picture of them leaving with the beast in front of them.

Evacuating driving into the direction of the beast.

Opi and Konrad came back at around 11 a.m. after having gone only from PCH and Portshead to PCH and Zumirez which is less than one half a mile. I explained that they had to leave, and they reluctantly got back on the evacuation path. I explained that we would try to finish preparations and meet up with them later at either the Ralph’s parking lot, which was South of the fire, or at my brother’s home in West Hollywood if the beast continued to grow and spread to the south.

Those Devil winds were tempting me to stop my busy work and those last-minute preparations to simply watch the hundred foot white and grey plumes of smoke billow against a perfect deep blue sky and sunshiny day.

Beautiful Blue Skys and the Beast. You can see Irene’s home here. Irene is my 90 year old long time Malibu local and neighbor who refused to leave Malibu.

11:10 a.m. While I was on the roof geting ready, I noticed a big jet above the hills on Kanan dropping some type of pink substance onto the hills.

The One Plane Drop I Witnessed on Hills Above Kanan 11/9/18

I texted Katarina at college and asked her what she wanted me to take with us from her room and she said, “All I want is my old Teddy Bear.”

11:35 a.m. I watched as the fire began to roar down the hills just down from Fire Station 71 on PCH and Zumirez.

Going down Wildlife Road towards PCH at approximately 11:35 a.m. 11/9/19

12:05 p.m. I stood with my husband David and my dog Marzi on the corner and watched in disbelief as the fire began to come within 100 feet or so of PCH and Zumirez. I wanted to make plans to evacuate to the beach if it came much closer and ran over to Station 71. It was locked and no one was there. Traffic on PCH was at a stand still.

As the Beast Approaches Traffic Sits at a Standstill at the Corner of PCH and Zumirez across From Fire Station 71

2:21 p.m. David and I put on our masks as the air became black and thick. I gave some masks to other neighbors who had none and we began to debate whether we should stay or go.

2:30 p.m. Sheriff cars came to the corner of Zumirez and PCH and yelled at us over their loud speakers “Evacuate. Evacuate now. The Fire has jumped PCH at Konrad. Get out now.” David and I both wanted to stay, but we were also worried about our Saint Bernard who was also with us. Just then I received another text from my daughter who was in college. She was upset and just said, “Please leave now. She didn’t want us to die in the fire. We reluctantly decided to leave and put our fate in the hands of God and to get on PCH towards Santa Monica to join my son and Opi at a safe house in West Hollywood. By the time we left, PCH was empty.

4 p.m My daughter Katarina called me again while I was driving to join Konrad and Opi. She was beyond grateful that we had evacuated and asked, “Did you remember to take Teddy.” I felt horrible. In my rush to leave I had left Teddy behind. I felt terrible. I stopped the car. Got out and took one last look back at Point Dume and Teddy. I wanted to cry, but I couldn’t. I was still in a state of shock. Where were the firefighters? I would have to let go let God.


A look back: Point Dume engulfed in flames approximately 4 p.m. 11/9/18.

6:00 p.m. We tried to have a nice meal together, but I couldn’t wrap my mind around the fact that my home town was burning. Everyone at the restaurant was happy and just eating without a care in the world. I still had my yellow fire jacket on and felt like I was in a time warp. My son showed me video footage of his friend on Wandermere and his entire back yard was engulfed in flames. The pain in my stomach grew and I feared that all of Point Dume would be gone with the Santa Ana winds.

Saturday 11/10/18

3:00 a.m.

I couldn’t sleep. I sat in bed saying my rosary. A little voice inside of me told me to get up and go back home. I put the rosary around my neck and told David we must go back in. He looked at me and said, “But what about the road blocks?” I replied, we have to try. We needed to at least try to get Kat’s teddy bear, plus I founded and volunteered to to lead the Point Dume Neighborhood Watch. It’s my duty to try to help. I had heard from my dear friend Lydia that her husband had stayed behind to help, and I also felt obliged to help him and others that had stayed behind to fight the beast. Operation Save Teddy and Help Point Dume was a go.

We began the long trek back into Malibu and back into the fire.

Driving back into Malibu – No one one the roads.

“At The Heart of Gold” – A Hard To Watch, Must See Truth to Power Documentary of the Decade

Beyond grateful to the Global Sports Development Team for their vision and ability to bring truth to power.  GSD had the vision and were the driving force behind the documentary “At The Heart Of Gold” which uncovers the USA Gymnastics scandal. This incredible documentary premiers tonight (4/25/19)  at the Tribeca Film Festival and on May 3, 2019 on HBO.  A trailer can be viewed here: https://www.hbo.com/documentaries/at-the-heart-of-gold-inside-the-usa-gymnastics-scandal

I will never forget watching the Judge in the Michigan Court convict and sentence USA Gymnastics doctor and serial predator Mr. Larry Nasser to life in prison. I will also never forget watching those survivors in the Court room that day and the Judge reminding us that “It’s Their Story”.  Now you have the opportunity to see firsthand those brave survivor’s stories and their courage up close and personal.

While it may be hard to watch, this powerful documentary is a must see for all. It will take your breath away, and may even make you cry, but it will also empower you to raise your voice and take action and will restore your faith in humanity.  Ultimately, it will bring truth to power.

This documentary educates and inspires us with this unbelievable true story of hope.   I pray it will create a dialogue so that future generations’ hearts can blossom in Gold – which is the ability for us to simply be our best.

GSD is also creating a powerful educational program called “Courage First” to insure that future generations will be given the tools to use their voices to keep them safe. The Courage First educational program will be launching soon.  If you are ready, willing and able to watch this powerful documentary, can you take a pledge to join Courage First and to help put an end to abuse and bring respect for once and for all?

How did this film come about and why is this film the first out of the can, so the speak?

Global Sports Development founders, Dr. Steven Ungerleider and my husband, David Ulich, are more than just advocates. They are mavericks and disrupters who help survivors of abuse and injustice bring truth to power.

GSD has a 20 plus year history of bringing justice and hope to Olympic athletes, their families and the world, and they were already working to help various gymnasts in 2015, well before the 2017 conviction of Larry Nasser.

In 1996, GSD founders fought to bring justice to Rick DeMont, the 16 year old swimmer who, in 1972 won the Gold medal, but who lost it because he was taking medication for his allergies. Steve Ungerleider stated “This is a landmark case,“They (IOC) want to know why we’re digging up historical facts, digging through files, doing research on a case that should have been closed years ago. My response is this: `You’ve got some unfinished business here, folks. This is a guy who was beaten up pretty badly, and you need to correct a terrible injustice.‴

“In 2001, The U.S. Olympic Committee admitted — after a 12-year effort by DeMont to clear his name — that it had erred in its handling of DeMont’s medical information at the 1972 Olympics. DeMont had disclosed on his medical statement that he was taking the drugs Marax and Actifed for allergies to wheat and fur. While the USOC’s settlement with DeMont acknowledges no wrongdoing and does not contain an apology, it seems that in the best case doctors for the USOC would have told him that those drugs contained banned substances.

At the very least, the USOC could have stood by him when the test came back positive and admitted, in 1972, that DeMont had not cheated but rather made a mistake. They could have fought for and with him. It would not have been hard to demonstrate that the levels of ephedrine in his sample were consistent with his admitted use of those medications.” See article at :https://apnews.com/5d2f2f54f2501e3f465877a1ecc169ee

In 2016, GSD worked hard to bring justice to the athletes who were killed in the 1972 Munich Massacre. They created the award winning short documentary,Munich 1972 And Beyond, which was nominated for an Emmy and won the LA Short Film Festival. See: https://gar-octopus-49fk.squarespace.com/munich-72-and-beyond

A Love Letter to Malibu

I am blessed to live here in Malilbu, but today, on a rainy Valentine’s day there is a flash flood warning. I am alert, grateful and hopeful. Many in Malibu are hurting, but many are also helping. Many have lost homes, and my heart still aches for those suffering. Some are threatening recall and reckoning, but this letter isn’t about anger, hatred or retribution.

Today is about LOVE for all of Malibu – the place, the people, the poison, and the passion that lives and grows here.

It is an honor to witness firsthand the awesome power of Mother Nature. We have fires, we have floods and we have fabulous too. In the morning and afternoons, we get to witness breathtaking beauty as the sky glows with red, orange, pink, blues, purples and grey. Each day we get to wake to God’s/Mother Nature/the Divine’s, new painting. If you take a moment to breath it all in – it may warm and cleanse your heart and soul like the rain falling today that washes away the ashes.

It is an honor to also witness the warmth of our neighbors – the people and the animals that we meet every day. We can walk our dogs, and be greeted by wonderful friends and neighbors who wave, stop and say hi. When we journey to Westward beach, we can can take in the sacred sunsets or even surf or run with whales, dolphins, sea gulls and pelicans.

Thank you – all of Malibu for leaving a legacy of love in my heart and for teaching me not to take a day for granted. I will try to remember today and always, to savor every second I am here, to seek goodness and to be grateful for the miracle of the real Malibu.

11/9. 3 Months Later – What are the Lessons Learned from the Woolsey (Malibu) Fire?

Hy Husband and Hero David v. Spot fires 11/10/18 – Point Dume

Two days have drastically changed the way I view life. 9/11 and 11/9. I can’t believe it has already been 3 months since 11/9 when that horrible beast and firestorm ripped through my neighborhood and my heart like a dragon destroying everything in its path. What has happened since then?

First and foremost, I am awe of the strength and fortitude I have witnessed first hand. On Thursday, I was able to see so many beautiful neighbors at the Malibu Strong Free Store event at Malibu West organized by Caren Leib. As I listened to their stories, I was humbled and filled with hope. On Friday, I saw Carol, an incredible mom and local who was at City Hall trying to put the pieces of her home back together again. The building plans to her home are now in ashes, but that isn’t stopping her. She is putting the pieces together one day at a time. I also had the good fortune of meeting William at the market and saw the picture of him fighting a 20 foot wall of fire on Dume Drive with only a shovel and a mighty heart. He was the first to step up to help organize the Point Dume Brigade so we are better prepared next time.

I am grateful the Malibu City Council has set up a Malibu City Council Recovery Ad Hoc Committee to investigate the fire, and I sent the following letter to them outlining some of the lessons I have learned:

“Unless someone like you cares a whole awful lot, Nothing is going to get better. It’s not.” Dr. Seuss, The Lorax

The City of Malibu was formed in 1991. Many viewed our city’s birth as a good thing because it gave us autonomy to decide land use decisions and keep out massive sewers; however, I personally believe we got the short end of the stick when LAFCO determined that Malibu would only got $.074 allocation of our property taxes.

What does $.074 mean? Well, in 2017 Malibu received about $10.4 million in property tax revenue, but LA County received $140 million of our property taxes last year, and over the course of the past 8 or so years they have received over ONE BILLION or so dollars in our property taxes. Surely, Malibu and all tax payers must demand a return on this investment.

This City of Malibu, while it does provide services and permits, is not responsible for and can not direct LA County Fire or the LA County Sheriff. All questions about Fire Department Protocol and Sheriff Evacuation Orders and Protocols must be sent to LA County. Supervisor Shiela Kuehl was elected to represent the 3rd District, which includes the City of Malibu.

When I served on the Malibu City Council during the October 2007 firestorm, our LA County Supervisor and the Governor came to Malibu to offer support immediately after the fire.

When I was Malibu Mayor Pro Tem during the October 2007 fire, the Governor met with me the following day in Malibu, and I was in constant communication with his staff and with Fire Chief Freeman to update the community on the status of the fire at the EOC which was located at Pepperdine and later at the Civic Center. Governor Schwarzenegger’s office also had several follow up meetings with him and other community leaders in Santa Clarita e.g. Has the Governor and/or Supervisor communicated effectively with our community during this past fire?

The President of the United States visited Malibu on 11/18/19, and only then did the Governor come to Malibu. Where was our Supervisor? When did she first come to Malibu during and/or after the fire?

At the first town hall meeting on 12/13/18, Supervisor Kuehl said her job was to “get out of the way during the fire”. Subsequently, LA County voted to investigate this matter.

At the town hall meeting on 1/26/19, almost 3 months after the fire, LA County Fire Chief Osby also promised to investigate and be accountable for the decisions made on 11/9.

Who knows how long this investigation and study will take to complete. It could be months or years before we will have answers. I hope you will demand answers to the questions posed. In the meantime here are no brainer lessons.

Lesson number 1: Don’t be Missing in Action. Offer Help and Support whenever you can and wherever you may be located.

During the next disaster, our elected representative should not simply “get out of the way”. They must stay (if possible and safe), provide information, help, lead and fight for us and along side us. They must show they care immediately and do outreach to our community and any and all officials who can help, including but not limited to the Governor of California and the President of the United States if necessary.

Lesson number 2: Set up an Emergency Operation Center at Pepperdine if you have to evacuate and Malibu City Hall is unavailable.

If you must evacuate, make sure the City Manager selects a place in or near Malibu that can serve as an Emergency Operation Center for those who stay to fight. In short, don’t be missing in action, but if you are missing in action, do all you can to insure we have some boots on the ground here in Malibu. Coordinate with Pepperdine now to stay there if you must.

Lesson number 3: Help get better and more resources for our City, County and State.

We need better and more resources.The time to work on this issue is now. We must be creative and explore requesting National Guard and other resources at State and Federal level. Clearly, the program in place now is not working.

Lesson number 4: Provide training opportunities now!

We need to build resilience and grit on the front lines. We must help train and prepare all who are willing and able to stay and defend and help our community recover. Community Emergency Response Training, Volunteer Call-Fire programs and Neighborhood Fire Alliances must be given top priority now – not after the “investigation” is completed.

Lesson number 5: Work as hard as you can to help those who lost everything.

The City of Malibu must prioritize the rebuild process and be available a minimum of 8/5 (8 hours a day, 5 days a week) to help those who lost everything.In short, If you can’t commit to a full work-week during the rebuild process, maybe you should find another job.

Lesson number 6: Reconsider Evacuation Protocol

Evacuation procedures and zones must be established to insure we don’t leave people stranded for hours on PCH during the next disaster.For example: It may be safer to simply shelter at the beach near the ocean and not evacuate. Zuma beach and other safe zones need to be established now so people have alternative evacuation zones before the next disaster occurs.

Thank you again for your service and sacrifice.

With love, compassion and respect,

Pamela Conley Ulich

Mother, Activist, Volunteer, Unoffical Fire Fighter, and Malibu City Councilmember 2004-2012, Mayor 2008

Missing In Action – Abandoned and Left Alone in Our Hour of Need

We made it through the 11/9 Woolsey Fire thanks to God, first responders and our garden hoses, but I am still emotionally scarred and feeling abandoned by our elected representative.

Who went to the Hollywood Bowl to see Paul Simon about 6 months ago and posted live about that? Our 3rd District Supervisor Shiela Kuehl. https://www.facebook.com/sjkuehl/videos/we-are-live-at-the-hollywood-bowl-to-honor-legendary-singersongwriter-paul-simon/1623663171081864/

When it comes to the Arts, Supervisor Kuehl is a great supporter, but disasters – not so much. Indeed, has anyone seen our Supervisor in Malibu since the fires on 11/9? It’s a sad day in LA when the the President of the United States visits to help us and to show he cares before our own elected representative.

During my 5 days and nights helping in Point Dume during and after 11/9, everyone in the neighborhood kept putting out flare ups and helping others around the clock. I was humbled to witness so many people who never abandoned Malibu or neighbors in need.

On Monday 11/12/18, many Malibu locals sprang into action and began a Point Dume Relief Center at the Point Dume elementary school. I stopped by around 2 p.m. and saw a neighbor who had stepped on a nail and needed a tetanus shot. I gave him a ride to Urgent Care and when we got there we were greeted by Dr. Jill Ferguson who explained she had been detained at a check point for 2 hours and now had no electricity because their generator ran out.

I learned that the LA County Board of Supervisors would be meeting on Tuesday 11/13, and many of my friends asked if we could go there to ask for more support since we were abandoned. People were literally risking their lives to deliver supplies via boat to people who were still fighting fires in Malibu.

John Duran, the Mayor of West Hollywood, never abandoned us. He offered to go the Board of Supervisors and plead our case for help. I was afraid to leave Point Dume to testify because I was needed there to help. On 11/13/18, after sitting through many hours waiting, Mayor John Duran read the following into the record:

LETTER TO LA COUNTY BOARD OF SUPERVISORS 11/13/18 FROM FORMER MAYOR PAMELA CONLEY ULICH

“In 2007 when we had a tragic fire governor Schwarzenegger and Supervisor Yaroslavsky and the Sheriff were in a Malibu helping us fight the fires immediately. They walked through the devastation, and they stood up to help us in our hour of need. It was a tragedy, but the State, County and City worked side by side to help all affected.

Today, we are alone. Where is everyone?

Yes, we did have some heroic first responders who helped and we are forever grateful for their service; however, many were given orders to leave and not help.

Many have said this is not the Woolsey fire but the Yo-yo fire because “you are on your own. “
Armed only with garden hoses and a mighty heart, many of us saved our neighborhoods from total destruction after we were abandoned by LA county.

Today, we need you to stand by our sides and to partner with us to protect and serve but most importantly we hope and pray you will take actions and treat us like you would want to be treated in your hour of need.”

It’s time to learn from the mistakes of the past and to do what we can, when we can to do better.

The next disaster may not be in Malibu, it could be any where in LA County. I hope and pray our Supervisor will do a better job next time and will be just as willing to be there to support those affected as she was to meet singer Paul Simon.

A Thanksgiving State of Mind in Malibu: A Time to Give Thanks, Help and Love

The week before Thanksgiving is usually filled with planning for a big Turkey dinner. Not this year.

This week, the only thing I am concerned about is living in a state of Grace.

I will be thankful for fresh air, clean water, family, friends and the chance to live out another day. I will check in with loved ones and give those I encounter a smile today. I will chose to live with compassion for those who have lost homes and family treasures. I will stay connected with my community and get curious and continue to ask “How can I help protect my community better in the future?” I will be courageous to question authority when necessary and have the confidence to bring truth to power. I will ask for clarity to identify how we can win battles in the future.

In the past, we could rely on others to protect our lives and homes from destruction, but the paradigm has shifted. With climate change, drought and resources being stretched to the limit, we must reflect. We must be disrupters who think differently. We need to practice self-reliance and responsibility. We can no longer think we are going to be ok because someone will save us.

Most of the us are out of touch with nature. We forget the natural ebb and flow of life. We don’t have to go to bed after the sun sets because we have electricity. We don’t have to notice which way the wind is blowing because we can shut our windows and close our doors and not have to worry.

Not in Malibu. In Malibu, we live a “way of life” that is far different. In Malibu, yo-yo! This means “you are on your own”. We live with nature, we try to protect our homes fiercely with all our hearts, but we know that we are at the mercy of the wind and of nature.

My heart aches for so many friends who have lost everything. The devastation is horrible. I have heard reports that nearly 600 homes are gone near Malibu. Point Dume and Malibu west were hit hard.

Today, I thank God however for the many lives saved. The first responders put their lives on the line and I am grateful. I am also so grateful for the many Malibu locals who took a “calculated risk” and protected their neighborhoods armed with mighty hearts, garden hoses, shovels, and wet rags. I am grateful for the way our community and many others around the country have come together to help those in need.

I don’t know what tomorrow may bring, but I know in my heart it’s going to take a community and collective action to save homes and lives in the future. It may take years for us to heal and recover, but no matter what, we will stay #malibustrong!

Success Is Turning Off A Burner or Two

Imagine your life is a stove with four burners for a second. According to a New Yorker article written by David Sedaris in 2009, “One burner represents your family, one is your friends, the third is your health, and the fourth is your work.” The gist, she said, was that in order to be successful you have to cut off one of your burners. And in order to be really successful you have to cut off two.” https://www.newyorker.com/magazine/2009/08/24/laugh-kookaburra

James Clear, author of Atomic Habits (ranked #17 in Amazon list this week), also wrote an article espousing the four burner theory. James Clear elucidates this theory further and explains, “The importance of your burners may change throughout life. When you are in your 20s or 30s and you don’t have children, it can be easier to get to the gym and chase career ambitions. The health and work burners are on full blast. A few years later, you might start a family and suddenly the health burner dips down to a slow simmer while your family burner gets more gas. Another decade passes and you might revive relationships with old friends or pursue that business idea you had been putting off.”

“You don’t have to give up on your dreams forever, but life rarely allows you to keep all four burners going at once. Maybe you need to let go of something for this season. You can do it all in a lifetime, but not at the same damn time. In the words of Nathan Barry, “Commit to your goal with everything you have—for a season.” https://jamesclear.com/four-burners-theory

I experienced four burner “burn out” first hand, and wish I had heard about this theory way back in 2001. I had a demanding career as litigation supervisor at The Screen Actors Guild, was trying to raise a my 2 year old daughter and was pregnant with my second child and working on trying to stay healthy after weighing in at over 200 pounds. I had not seen many of my friends and had to repeatedly pass on many reunions over the years – so my friends burner was indeed out for all intensive purposes.

I struggled to keep my career on high, raise my children and keep my husband happy and to keep healthy, but I physically and mentally was exhausted and knew deep down I could not keep burning these three burners on high.  

I asked to turn down the career burning by gong Part-time, but the Union refused saying it was a “dangerous precedent” to let me go part-time so I had to make a choice.  My family or my career.  I took the leap into the unknown and chose my family (and community) and my health burner and have kept those two burners on high for the past 17 or so years.

In retrospect, I am still trying to come to terms with giving up my career as a lawyer.   I wrote a book, which is really more like a love letter to my children, outlining my struggles with going from a working mom to a stay at home mom.  It needs more editing, but at least it’s done.  

Transitioning from Working to Stay At Home Mom

In 2013, I read, Facebook’s Chief Operating Officer Sheryl Sandberg’s book “Lean In” which calls for women to “lean in” to their careers. I felt bad about my decision to lower my career burner.  After I watched Serena William’s new HBO series which also shows a full burner career, full burner health and fully burner family dance of Serena Williams, I also felt bad about turning down my career burner.   https://www.hbo.com/being-serena

Today is different.  Why?  The Four Burner Theory makes me feel a bit better.   I now try to look at as my career as a “season in my life” that was great, but that was turned off so I could devote my time and energy fully to my family (and community) and to being healthy (competing in over 13 triathlons, 2 1/2 Marathons, 1 Marathon and working out with a Tribe of warriors three days a week for many years.) 

My daughter is now in college and my son is a Junior in High School.  I am feeling the urge to reignite my third burner again and find myself writing this today.  I am hopeful that this article will promote more dialogue and reflection.  What’s on your stove?

Wisdom, Courage, Serenity and the 2018 Senate Hearing

What will you take away from the 9/27/18 Senate Hearing regarding the appointment of the next US Supreme Court Nominee?

I will remember the wisdom from Judge Kavanaugh’s 10-year-old daughter, who said her family should pray for Dr. Ford - the woman who accused her father of sexual assault.

The courage of Dr. Ford, her request for caffeine and her trembling voice.

The tears and the beer remarks and the anger and fury of Supreme Court nominee Kavanaugh.

The furious red-faced screamer Senator Graham.

I must breathe. I must turn off the talking heads on Fox, CNN and NBC who keep rehashing the testimony and now the one-week FBI investigation.

Instead of watching our democracy crumble into negativity and despair, I will walk the dog today. I will read. I will write. I will say my prayers. I will let go let God, and ask God for serenity to accept the things I can not change, the courage to change the things I can, the wisdom to know the difference and the grace to judge less and to love more.

Break Records Not Racquets!

A Letter To Serena Williams From A Tennis Mom

Dear Serena:

When your baby was born, just like all moms, I knew the world and your life was forever changed – for the better.

You are blessing to the world and to all you meet. You are kind, intelligent, compassionate, caring, curious, and simply one of strongest women the world has ever witnessed.

We are all proud of you, and that you chose not just to serve big, but to serve your daughter and all children and to help them transform – so that they can believe they can accomplish anything if they put their mind, body and soul into a dream.

This past week, we witnessed what appeared to be a referee treating you differently than others. The ref rebuked you and warned you against being “coached” during the US Open Finals Match. Do other coaches coach? I think there is a consensus that many do; however, players are rarely, if ever, penalized for it.

You had every right to feel angry that you, and not male counterparts, were penalized for this. Your anger, like a fire, grew and festered. It did not serve you. It’s hard to get over unfair treatment. This is not the first time that referees interfered and inserted themselves into matches while you played on the court. You have every right to feel angry about unequal treatment, and many other Moms and women and others, especially in these times, feel angry and upset when we witness prejudice and inequality.

Did this anger serve you? It appears that it may have triggered the rage we witnessed when you later violently broke your racquet. As a tennis mom, unfortunately I have witnessed many 14 year olds break racquets and/or throw them over fences. It hurts me to see this, and it is simply not acceptable behavior. Just because you can, doesn’t mean you should break things in fits of rage. I hope you can make a vow to yes continue to break records, but never another racquet no matter how angry you feel (this includes during practice). This action alone would give us Mom’s another argument when trying to convince our own children that breaking rackets is bad.

I am sorry that the ref treated your badly. I am also sorry that he denied Naomi, you and the tennis world of the joy of watching just one more game at the 2018 US Open Women’s Final.  I hope you find comfort in realizing that the ref, like so many others who get in the way of justice, will not be remembered.

I will remember the way you stood up for Osaka during the awards presentation. I also hope that because of that day, you will take an oath to never let your anger get the best of you or another racquet.

May you continue to break records, not racquets, and may your savor every second of being a mom – explore nature, help others, soak in the sun shine and remember the world is full of goodness and grace. Lastly, I hope that you will always remember you are loved and are truly magnificent and that you have the power to inspire others to simply be their best. You are a fine young mom and you can be and do anything your heart desires. You will bring so much light to those you help in your life.

Love and gratitude, A Tennis Mom

“From what we get, we can make a living. What we give; however, makes a life.” 
― Arthur Ashe

T

Innocent Until Proven Guilty

Regardless of whether you are in jail, homeless or the subject of a search warrant, you deserve to be treated with dignity in my humble opinion.

It is tragic to see people tossed aside and treated poorly, and if we stay silent, then are we complicit?

I just read a local paper and was horrified to read the first-hand account of what happened to Zuma Jay earlier this week. If it is true that Zuma Jay was handcuffed and put on display outside of his home with no socks, shoes or shirt and only a pair of jeans, then I am deeply disappointed and sad that our justice system did not treat him with dignity, and perhaps forgot that he is innocent until proven guilty.

I served with Zuma Jay on the Malibu City Council for four years from 2008-2012. We didn’t always agree, but he was always agreeable, decent and treated others with dignity.

I remember my first impression of Zuma Jay way back around 2000. He sent a hand-written note to me thanking me for my legal help on a case I worked on at the Screen Actors Guild. In the many years I served as counsel, thank you notes were not common. Gratitude and grace are in Jay’s DNA.

In the coming days, weeks and years, I hope that Zuma Jay and his family will be treated with dignity and that truth and justice will prevail.