53 and Me

3 08 2019

 

 

“There is nothing better for a person than that he should eat and drink and find enjoyment in his toil. This also, I saw, is from the hand of God[…]”
— Ecclesiastes 2:24 ESV

Yesterday, I officially turned the page on another year. Goodbye 52, Hello 53. Two thoughts come to mind these days as I approach a birthday: 1) I never envisioned what life would be like past 30; and 2) I have outlived three sisters. Both thoughts are shrouded with a sense of mystery, and a sense of weight. Embracing the unknown coupled with a embracing the present moment.

I am finding life past 30 full of wonder, surprise, and contentment. I am spending it with a wonderful man who is the love of my life, I am finally doing work that I love, and I am the most comfortable I have ever been in my own skin. After spending most of my young adulthood feeling like a fish out of water, fighting for recognition, and doing work that I hated, it’s a good place to be.

The outliving sisters still brings a rush of sadness, because on birthdays, and really every day, they were my biggest fans and some of my greatest sources of fun. Not to mention the lost history and connection from the people who have seen the progression up close and personal from Day One. But they, more than anyone, would encourage me to walk in Solomon’s shoes: eat, drink, embrace, and enjoy; it is a gift from God, and when the gift is gone… that’s it.

Embracing the present moment means I milk every moment of the “known”, so I did just that for my born day. I am working a contract job with Yoga Alliance right now, but generally I do the least hours on Friday. So I offloaded the bulk of my work into the days prior, so that I could have the actual Friday of my birthday mostly free.

After getting my tootsies done, I invited my lady tribe of girlfriends and Yogis to come paint with me at Color Me Mine. It was a fun time of conversation, coffee, and connecting with my inner child and creative genius. I evoked my spirit insect, the Lady Bug, and painted her on a chip and dip bowl in homage to my love of food. It was a perfect, low-key, and sunny afternoon spent in conversation and laughter, and I could not have asked for anything better.

 

 

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That evening, I invited friends to Din Tai Fung in Arcadia, to enjoy one of my favorite foods: Dumplings. I was blessed and delighted to have 15 friends trek from various parts of Los Angeles on a Friday night to spend the evening with me! The wait was exorbitantly long (they claimed an hour and a half, it ended up being over two), but the freshly made dumplings, different flavors, and great connection with all my friends made up for it.

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Embracing the unknown is often harder, because as I am all too aware, life can turn on a dime. Loss of loved ones, loss of homes, loss of social station has been sobering, if not demoralizing. Yet the mystery of embracing the intangible, and holding the tangible loosely, is what brings peace and contentment. My word for the year has been “wisdom”, so over the past 8 months, I have done lots of reading and re-reading of Proverbs and Ecclesiastes. “For wisdom is protection just as money is protection. But the advantage of knowledge is that wisdom preserves the lives of its possessors.” Ecclesiastes 7:12 NASB

So while I cannot control all the things of life, or even control when sudden tragedy might happen, I can preserve the life I do have by embracing wisdom with as much gusto as I embrace the present moment. The beauty of embrace is that it requires you to let go of one thing, in order to latch on to something else. To embrace requires you let go of fear, insecurity, and your typical protections. Embrace means you take something (or someone) to your heart and hold it (them) close. It’s vulnerability, it’s exposure, it’s trust; but it’s the only way to live in the moment and live in the mystery.

Another year, another opportunity to live in the balance.

 

 

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New Year’s Resolution #4: New Ways to Move

13 05 2019

“We see in order to move; we move in order to see.”
― William Gibson

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While I love Yoga, and consider it a lifelong practice, I realize that if I want to keep my body and mind agile, I need to find other ways to move. Yoga has done wonders for my mind, my strength, and my flexibility; but in order to form new neuropathways in my brain, maintain strength in the established ones, and mold my body in different ways, I need different forms of movement.

So Resolution #4, “New Ways to Move”, would require some ingenuity. While I have committed (and succeeded) in walking more, I find it boring, and don’t consider it anything new. I ticked off the list in my head of forms of movement that were new and that interested me. Top two on my list were boxing and rock climbing. Because of the cost involved, I knew either one or the other would be a later in the year pursuit. It’s amazing that once you set your intention, how the universe offers up the opportunities within other opportunities.

I traveled to DC/Virginia to begin training for a new contract assignment, and the company put me up in Rosslyn, a little pocket in the city of Arlington. CorePower has spread quickly across the East Coast, and there was one in walking distance; so I was able to get in a juicy Hot Power Fusion class. Because the city is quite the walking city, I was able to do some nice treks around the neighborhood to explore, so that incorporated my walking component. It was while I walked back to the hotel after dinner one night that I passed by what looked like a fitness center. It is called “Bash”, and  is just that: a combination boxing and endurance workout. I walked in to give it a look, and see what the prices were like. The girl at the front desk let me know that they offer a free class to new people, and my heart leapt. What a perfect opportunity to try on something new with no big commitment!

​The workout was for 45 minutes, and they had an opening for 7:00 a.m. I reserved a spot for Friday, and was excited to have something to look forward to! In my last post, “Seasons of Change” I talked about embracing the newness of Spring for the first time in many years, and all the changes it brought. This opportunity to try something that I’d wanted to try for a long time felt like part of that Springtime awakening.

I arrived at 6:50 a.m. and was warmly greeted by the hostess. She acquainted me with the lay of the land, I paid for my hand wraps (that fit under the boxing gloves), and was then welcomed by the instructor Brett, who totally fit the profile of a fitness/boxing instructor in terms of looks, but his personality was electric and fun.

I must say this cardio-boxing-endurance workout was pretty darn cool! For my CPY Yogis, think of Yoga Sculpt on steroids with a punching bag! That’s exactly what is was. You get a choice of starting out on the floor or on the bag. I wanted the floor in order to get the additional shoulder warm up before trying out the bag. Brett gave instruction on the types of punches we would be using and how to do them, then we all went through a warm up together, before breaking into the groups who wanted to do the bag first, and the floor group who wanted to do reps. A lady next to me was very gracious in helping me get acclimated on who moved when, and the atmosphere was altogether positive and supportive—none of the clichey, judgey vibe I’ve felt at most gyms.

I adored Brett’s energy! He was full of encouragement, and was helpful at the right times. I suspect he either comes to CorePower for class or may even be an instructor. He began the class with a great focus theme of not being impatient with being under construction. Keep the goal in mind, and enjoy the journey of building something different. Brett weaved the theme throughout the class, and then had us end with setting an intention for our day. Pretty darn Yogic to me!

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He got bonus points for ending his playlist with “From Now On”, my favorite song from The Greatest Showman. Along with the full-on sweat, and the fresh form of movement, ending the workout and beginning the day on that note automatically put me in a great mood.

Now the hard part: finding something comparable here in L.A., and fitting it into my already packed schedule. My friend Frances encouraged me to not think of it as hard. “Look how easily you manifested that class,” she said. “You can do it in L.A., too.”

Excellent point. As one of my favorite Ralph Waldo Emerson quotes says, “Once you make a decision, the universe conspires to make it happen.”

 

 





Seasons of Change

29 04 2019

When the seasons shift, even the subtle beginning, the scent of a promised change, I feel something stir inside me. Hopefulness? Gratitude? Openness? Whatever it is, it’s welcome.” Kristin Armstrong

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With the turn of the page on the calendar there is also a feeling in the air: Spring is here. Not my favorite season, but one that clearly represents explosive shifts. From the pendulum-like nature of the weather, to the bursts of color and renewing of leaves; Spring just happens, and never asks permission; you either ride with it, or be left with tire tracks. For once in my life, I feel like I’m taking a ride. I am definitely not in the driver’s seat—which is good—because it gives me a perspective that I would not have if I had to focus on the destination. But I am also not feeling run over. Maybe it is due to the glorious cold and wet winter we had, maybe it is because the wave of grief that engulfed me at the end of the year has passed. But I am drinking in nature, it’s goodness, and looking forward to the good changes that come with it.

One fortunate change that has come with the Spring is a full-time gig for the first time in 9 years. I applied, interviewed, and was chosen for a consulting gig with a major Yoga organization. I have dreamed of both my passion and skill sets being utilized in the workplace. I always assumed it would be through writing, but that doesn’t seem to be the case. Who knew that Yoga would not only transform my body, mind, and soul, but be an avenue for some dreams to finally come true. This position is a three-month contract, as well as remote. So I get to do the job from the comfort of my California home while still teaching Yoga with CorePower.

Even more exciting is that the job extends through the extremely lean Summer months where both Lynn and my normal work diminishes. So for the first time in a very long time, there will be a steady income stream to help us not run a deficit.

In less than a week, I will be flown to a different state to start a week of training on a new aspect of the Yoga world which occupies most of my days. The known, the unknown, and the unexpected all converging into a new season in my career.

And for the first time in a long time, I am welcoming it with open arms.





New Year’s Resolution #3: Write

1 03 2019

“How vain it is to sit down to write when you have not stood up to live.”
— Henry David Thoreau

This particular post also covers two other resolutions: to tap into community (#2), and to move more (#4, to come).

I am a member of a Natural Muse writers group run by my friend Cheryl Leutjen. Unfortunately over the past two years, I have not been very active—if you’ve followed this blog for any stretch of time, I don’t have to reiterate why.

The goal of the group is very John Muirish: we find places in nature to inspire us so we will write! Great idea, but not always doable for me as they meet during the week.

Fridays are my off day, so I have flex in my day to include such excursions. Dependent upon Cheryl’s writing and speaking schedule, she on occasion has Friday sessions; so I jumped on the opportunity to not only connect with my friend, but get my body moving in a different way, and enjoy the gorgeous post-rain weather.

The first Friday Natural Muse excursion was to Amir’s Garden on February 3rd. It was just a few days after some incredible rains, so the views were spectacular. You could see all the way to Downtown L.A. from one direction, and all the way to Century City and the Westside from the other.

After two years of letting writing fall to the wayside, I decided 2019 was the year to get serious, even if it is just blog posts. Sometimes the nature of my life is a cliffhanger, and people seem to respond to personal experiences; so may as well share while strengthening my writing muscles.

Amir’s Garden is a picnic area off the hiking trails in Griffith Park, cultivated over 40 years ago by Amir Dialameh. In the early 1970s, Amir was inspired to landscape the garden after a brush fire burned a solid portion of the hills. Amir often hiked in the hills along the Mineral Wells trail by the Los Angeles Zoo. He wanted to bring beauty to the now barren landscape, so he hauled plants, pick axe, and shovel up the trail, and began cultivating a garden. Amir worked as a wine salesman in the evening, so he had the days for this labor of love—and it definitely was. He cleared tree stumps, built a retaining wall with discarded fencing, terraced slopes, and built stairs to a created a picnic area with benches.

With little help from the city (what else is new?) Amir planted drought tolerant plants that provided shade, such as pine and jacaranda trees. He also planted trees and shrubs that provided vibrant color such as roses, geraniums, and yucca. Some of the trees that Amir hauled up the trail over 30 years ago are now sixty feet tall.

As knowledge of his endeavors grew, Amir received donations of plants, maintenance items, and irrigation equipment; but he never took money, and never asked for help. People just wanted to be a part of maintaining the garden that he created. In the late 1970s, volunteers began to come and help Amir further cultivate and maintain the grounds, and so it is to this day. Amir Dialameh died in 2003, leaving behind the legacy of a beautiful space for our inspiration and enjoyment.

His story and dedication speaks to an unwavering commitment, and the ability to create beauty from ashes. When it comes to my writing and other creative areas it often feels like that is all I do. So many times I thought I was on a trajectory to success, only to see it go down in flames. Brush fires in the 1990s again destroyed parts of Griffith Park and Amir’s Garden, but Amir rebuilt and continued on. His labor of love is a fine example of perseverance and belief in one’s vision. I have had the vision of being a successful, published, and working writer since I was 10 years old. That’s 42 years of my life dedicated to honing my craft, with fits and starts in between. Maybe one day after I am long gone, someone will be able to enjoy the legacy I hope to leave behind. I just have to keep building it.

Today, we had another Friday Natural Muse at Arlington Gardens in Pasadena. It was just me and Cheryl this time, and the day could not have been more different: Cool and overcast, with steely skies that signaled we have some rain coming our way.

The story behind this natural landscape could not be more different. Arlington Gardens was started two years after Amir Dialameh’s, by philanthropists Betty and Charles McKenney, and designer, Mayita Dinos. Their goal was to create a public, water-wise garden that celebrates Southern California’s Mediterranean climate. The garden demonstrates how beautiful and practical a well-planned, water-conserving and climate-appropriate garden can be.

Fourteen years later, the park is maintained by the city of Pasadena and the Department of Public Works. No labor of love, and definitely less inspirational, but still a beautiful spot to get some fresh air, physical movement, and get the creative juices flowing. Both Cheryl and I were in awe of the number of butterflies and hummingbirds that populated the garden, and flitted from tree to shrub with abandon. We also were amazed that Bamboo actually flowered—who knew?!

Like the other resolutions, I am making small, but consistent steps. Three months of regular blog posts is better than nothing, and I am in the throes of outlining a new narrative non-fiction book. Like Amir and his garden, I am rebuilding my writing life one tree and plant at a time.





New Year’s Resolution #2: Root into Community

11 02 2019

Oil and perfume make the heart glad, so a man’s counsel is sweet to his friend.

“Do not forsake your own friend or your father’s friend, and do not go to your brother’s house in the day of your calamity; Better is a neighbor who is near than a brother far away.” — Proverbs 27:9-10

I have friends far and wide, whom I love, but miss terribly. While I have always tried to tap into local community, because of our topsy-turvy lives, we have had to change communities and restart more often than I would like. I must admit, the older I get, the harder it becomes to do that. But it is necessary for survival, well being, and to feel connected to the place where you live.

So my second Resolution this year is to root into community. I am grateful that one of my Yoga community members is also a part of my local community in Northeast Pasadena. Tanya is a fellow CorePower instructor who lives less than two miles from us.

She and her husband JB blessed us with our stove, and we have had opportunity to break bread with them at their lovely, earthy place. She even popped over to bring me some of the beautiful antique roses from her garden!20190102_111315.jpg

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Knowing that we have not only a great neighbor, but a great Yogi nearby helps in my ability to take root and feel comfortable. We have plans in the works to get drinks after class soon.

Sammy and Hermione are lifelong friends, and Hermione and I have been accountability partners for well over 20 years. While they are not close-by community, they are nearer than some of our other lifelong friends; so we try to make a point to get together with them and their son Jaxin. We launched the year at a fun event in our neck of the woods: The Moonlight Forest Lantern Festival at the Los Angeles Arboretum in Arcadia.

It was a magical night of walking around in 40 degree weather (haven’t done that since Chicago), and admiring Japanese lantern displays that represented nature, California culture, and Japanese history.

And I am really loving our local community in terms of food. I found The Barn, a late night Asian fusion eatery on Yelp. So after a crisp night walking and admiring the creativity and artistry, we were all happy as clams to sit someplace warm and fill our bellies! Sammy and Hermione are food adventurous, so they had a great Seafood Hot Pot, Fried Chicken, Chicken Hearts, and some Sauteed Green Beans, along with some Fried Rice, and French Fries.

20190104_224039.jpgMy “Mr. Orange Chicken” husband had some Chinese Sausage and Fried Rice, and some of my Pork Belly. Along with the Pork Belly, I had Chicken Gizzards, and a Lamb, Glass Noodle, and Vegetable Hot Pot which was so divine! Lynn even had a little bit of that. 

I also smashed some Pork Intestines wrapped in Asparagus and Chicken Cartilage—it’s a Southern and a foodie thing—don’t judge me!

Washed down with a delicious hot Matcha, it all made for a moveable feast with our delightful friends.

Another nearby neighbor is from our Montrose Church community, and she lives less than a mile away. If I had been feeling particularly ambitious, I could have easily walked to her house. Instead, I drove (so L.A. of me!), but the purpose was to take a walk. Candice has a 4-year old, a 9-month old, and a 6-month old, but chasing Littles is not that much exercise. So we made plans to walk for 30 minutes.

Candice packed Declan and Tara, her toddlers, into a stroller, and four-year-old Seamus was on his bike with training wheels, and we were ready to tool around the neighborhood.

It was good to connect outside of 5 minutes before service, and it gave this childless woman a chance to love on and enjoy some babies, which I need every once in a while. With the torrential rains this past week, our plans for last Monday were derailed, but we hope to do it again when the weather and schedules allow.

So, it’s a good start to the resolutions, and a good start in deepening roots. I am amazed that in one month, we will have lived in Pasadena for a year. Our circumstances are always precarious, so we don’t know the time frame for how long we’ll stay in this particular community; but while we are here, we’ll work at blooming where we’re planted. 

 

 





New Year’s Resolution #1: Use All the Things

13 01 2019

“Start living now. Stop saving the good china for that special occasion. Stop withholding your love until that special person materializes. Every day you are alive is a special occasion. Every minute, every breath, is a gift from God.” — Mary Manin Morrissey

Resolutions generally involve losing something (weight, clutter) or gaining something (time, money). While my resolutions involve both of those, one in particular involves using what I have and making the most of it—particularly in the kitchen.

When I got married over 11 years ago, I used the opportunity to acquire some great cooking and serving dishes because I love to entertain. We had just bought a house with lots of space, so it was exciting unpacking the goodies and finding places for each and every one.

We had a few years of major Holiday, barbecue, and dinner events where I was able to use some of these treasures; then we fell into tragic circumstances, we lost the house, and the majority of these things ended up stored in boxes. After some fits, starts, and a few weeks in an extended stay hotel, we ended up in a place that was smaller than the living room at our old home, with little storage. So all those serving pieces, bakeware, and glasswares ended up staying in boxes—for seven years.

Twenty-eighteen afforded the blessing of moving to larger digs; not as large or as much storage space as our old home, but just enough to be able to finally unpack those boxes again and rediscover the wealth of items at my disposal.

In my re-discovery, my goal is not to get rid of any of it, but to USE it. Not just for entertaining and special occasions, but for every day.

So when I have a glass of wine or a drink, I ALWAYS use the good glasses.

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I have been cooking up a storm over the holidays and into the New Year, and have been using my beautiful Emile Henry bakeware instead of my Pyrex or loaf tins.

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What this does is break patterns of holding back and waiting on “someday”. Living in the present moment involves utilizing the tools you have in that moment. Someday may never come, so in terms of my culinary treasures, I am living for now, and treating me and my husband as if we are the honored guests, and as though dining together is the special occasion.

Hoping this will be one of the game changers of 2019.





Christmas 2018: Dispelling the Shadows

24 12 2018

 

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“Nevertheless, there will be no more gloom for those in distress. In the past He humbled the land of Zebulun and the land of Naphtali, but in the future He will honor the Way to the Sea, beyond the Jordan, Galilee of the Gentiles:

The people walking in darkness have seen a great light; on those living in the land of the shadow of death, a light has dawned.[…]

For unto us a child is born, unto us a son is given, and the government will be upon His shoulders. And He will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.

Of the increase of His government and peace there will be no end. He will reign on the throne of David and over his kingdom, to establish and sustain it with justice and righteousness from that time and forevermore. The zeal of the LORD of Hosts will accomplish this.”

Isaiah 9:1-2; 6-7

“Distress”, and “The shadow of Death” have been constants this year. It’s been a pivotal and life-changing year on a number of levels, with some great blessings and opportunities. But I am quite confident that part of the busyness and rush has been God’s way of buoying me up from distress, and helping me to navigate the shadow.

Things slowed down a week ago, right around the one-year anniversary of my sister Joan’s death, and the emotional distress fell heavy, while Death’s shadow grew more looming. My late Uncle Charles said it well, “Death always comes as a stranger,” and it is true. No way to prepare for it, and it is never familiar, but an intrusive presence that always appears at the wrong time.

Which is why this Christmas season has been the hardest in a number of years, and each moment has been a choice to embrace the Christ child afresh. At a Christmas concert I attended on Saturday, the pastor’s words were very profound. He pointed out how messy and imperfect the actual Nativity was. Full of difficult journeys, imminent danger, stench (a stable—yes), and great inconvenience. 

From Isaiah’s prophecy to Zechariah’s song, the darkness, distress, and shadow of Death is never glossed over or minimized. What is maximized is the Light that has come because Christ is born. That Light which transforms the darkness, and dispels every shadow. So from the bright lights of my Christmas tree, to the brightness of friends and family, I turn my eyes and embrace the Light, embrace the promise of Hope, embrace what is, and cling to what is good. 

God is good, and he has shown his goodness, and his zeal to bring Light into our darkness, and be with us no matter what our state, in the promise of the Christ child. Each season, and especially each Christmas season, gives us opportunity to embrace and allow the Light to shine on us.

[B]ecause of the tender mercy of our God, by which the Dawn will visit us from on high, to shine on those who live in darkness and in the shadow of death, to guide our feet into the path of peace.” Luke 1:78-79

 

 








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