50 Days to 50 Years: Day 12, SweetSalt with Susan Baker and Mihret

20 07 2016

“Treat every connection, communication and collaboration as part of a continuous relationship.” ― Kim Chandler McDonald, Flat World Navigation: Collaboration and Networking in the Global Digital Economy

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It was so great on Day 12 to reconnect with The Escape Hatcher Susan M. Baker, and her little girl Mihret at SweetSalt in Toluca Lake.

I met Susan through Douglas Welch, a friend and new media professional. Both Susan and Doug were pivotal parts of the career group I used to run called Tuesdays with Transitioners, and it was through New Media Mastermind, a group that Doug formed which included myself, Susan, Jennifer “Jungle Jenny” Michaels, Danielle Gruen, and Tracy Pattin, that the first CareerCamp in 2010 was born!

Doug, Susan, Danielle and I were the first co-chairs, and the Congregational Church of Northridge, which sponsored Tuesdays with Transitioners, was the location. That was an exciting time, where we spearheaded three other Careercamps (L.A., South L.A. and Santa Clarita). We had a great time in the Mastermind group learning how to use new media to better promote ourselves and our endeavors, bouncing ideas off each other, and seeing how we could be instrumental in helping each other’s visions come to fruition. Susan also ran a group called Nohopreneurs, which brought local entrepreneurs together for lunch and networking.

Both our lives have changed tremendously over the last six years. In 2010, Susan was in the process of adopting beautiful Mihret from an Ethiopian adoption agency, and had her in arms that next year. So for Susan, careers and reinvention took a back seat to new motherhood (of course). For me, the Yoga reinvention happened, and life has been a series of rollercoaster rides, a few of which I am still on.

Susan was beautiful and glowing, so motherhood definitely suits her. Mihret was energetic and curious, as any six year old is, and exceptionally gorgeous—modeling should definitely be in her future.

SweetSalt was a new find for me, and I will be back! Not only was the Duck Confit sandwich quite tasty, but they have natural sodas that rival any you would find in the grocery store.

We caught up on our lives, discussing Yoga, travel, what was happening with the reinvention industry, writing, relocation, and education. Susan was involved as a volunteer at Mihret’s school, and I discussed my role on the CAAN National Board. She wanted to be an example to Mihret and emphasize through action the importance of education and being involved in its potential to change lives and allow students to flourish.

I enjoyed the meeting of minds, particularly in the area of careers and reinvention. Susan is exceptionally smart and resourceful, and it hearkened back to our time in the Mastermind group—with the addition of interruptions from a bright and bouncy six year old.

Thank you, Susan, for being a part of my 50 years: enriching my life with connection, vision, and also being a shining example of reinvention and new beginnings in the second half of your life. I hope we get the opportunity to collaborate again one day soon.

 

 





50 Days to 50 Years: Day 14, Bea Beas Brunch with Dave and Meegan

18 07 2016

“Happiness is time spent with a friend and looking forward to sharing time with them again.” — Lee Wilkinson

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The bunch at Bea Beas in Burbank really know how to do breakfast. They offer the usual breakfast fare, but with specialties like “Thai Tea Pancakes” or “Green Tea Monster”, and their menu items have fun names like, “Jumpin’ Jacks”, “Pooh’s Sunrise”, and “Chocolate Tuxedo”. Unbeknownst to me, Meegan had fallen in love with the place when she had to go out to Burbank for her hand therapy. So when we were deciding on where to meet for this 50 Days to 50 Years challenge, and I mentioned Bea Beas, her eyes lit up. Score!

An added bonus: I got to see the Weilands on Saturday, and on Monday—so blessed!

Lynn and I met the Weilands at Congregational Church of Northridge, and we all hit it off right away. We are in the same age wheelhouse, although Dave, Meegan, and Lynn have already crossed over to the 50 club. Lynn and Dave are both Valley boys born and raised, but with parents of Midwest stock; so they share lots of similar growing up experiences and values. Dave is a sound engineer by trade, and Lynn is an electronics geek, so they can talk ad infinitum about esoteric minutiae that would bore the rest of us to tears.

Meegan is the baby girl of a large family, and so am I; so our growing up experiences also paralleled. She is a creative genius, who can craft or crochet anything. There was a time when I had a baby shower to go to, and wanted a unique present. Meegan went into her stash and pulled out the most beautiful baby caps and blankets—stuff that she had on hand, just in case someone needed it. That’s the kind of people they both are: committed, prepared, and generous beyond measure.

We barely knew them when they helped out at our wedding. And as our friendship has grown, they have been our supports and encouragement through some toxic years. From taking care of our dogs when Lynn was in the emergency room, to letting us hang at their house when we were in between situations.

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The New Living Translation of Proverbs 17:17 says “A friend is always loyal, and a brother is born to help in time of need.” When you find people who are constant through the highs and lows, treasure them, because they are rare.

The Weilands are such treasure, and I am thankful they choose to call us friends.

 

 





50 Days to 50 Years: Day 23, Griffith Observatory with the Velas!

9 07 2016

“Beautiful memories are like old friends. They may not always be on your mind, but they are forever in your heart.” — Susan Gale

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Hermione and Samuel Vela are longtime and lifetime friends. Hermione and I met at The Church on the Way back in the mid-90s. While we knew each other, our relationship was mostly seeing each other on Sundays and at college and single’s group activities. I started attending a particular single’s group at the megachurch, and met a unique and stellar young man named Kelly Rivers. He invited me to his “Breakfast Club” early on Thursday mornings, and I discovered that Hermione and several other friends I knew were a part of it. That helped to change the nature of our relationship, and we started building a friendship outside of the group. However, when she asked if I wanted to meet one-on-one for accountability and prayer, well that pretty transformed us individually and corporately.

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Charles Finney said, “Nothing tends more to cement the hearts of Christians than praying together. Never do they love one another so well as when they witness the outpouring of each other’s hearts in prayer.”

He is right. Hermione is a sister of my heart, as well as my family, and much of that is a result of the time we have spent together in prayer. The older I get, the more I understand how rare and how precious this bond is, and I am grateful to have it.

Hermione has seen and prayed me through depression, family reconciliation, loneliness, financial stress, faith struggles—the highs and the lows over two decades. I saw her come together with Samuel, and she and Samuel saw my coming together with Lynn.

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She was there to welcome my sister June and niece Gabi to California, and she was there to support me as June battled illness after illness, left to go back to Chicago, then returned to ultimately pass away. Hermione and Samuel grieved with us when June went to glory, and was there to support us as we navigated that grief.

Through upheavals, moves, and times of inertia we have maintained a quality friendship and a prayer partnership, and I am thankful and blessed that the quality of the friendship gets richer as we advance in years.

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One of the great privileges of lifelong friendship is to see the growth of family and relationships. Over the last several years, Samuel and Hermione have chosen to foster and then adopt two children: Jaxin and Yolanda. They are brother and sister, and as is the plight of many foster children, their lives have not been easy and their hurdles are often high. It takes a special heart to not only welcome these children into your family, but to work and fight to help them leap those hurdles and become who God created them to be; not what hard circumstances deformed them to be. Samuel and Hermione have those beautiful hearts, and I admire and revere them for this.

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Juggling schedules with children takes a certain type of art, but we were able to get together to celebrate their contribution to my 50 Days to 50 Years. We spent the evening at Griffith Observatory for their “Star Party”. Once a month, the observatory encourages amateur astronomers to bring their telescopes, and the staff have their own set up to assist interested parties in seeing constellations, the moon, and even some of the planets.

I brought a picnic of hot dogs, potato salad, vegetarian casserole, tacos, and brownies, and we knoshed, talked and watched all the buzz around the telescopes. We got a few views through telescopes of the moon, but for the most part we just spent time enjoying each other’s company and getting to know Jaxin and Yolanda a bit better.

Griffith Observatory is awesome for 360 degree views of Los Angeles, from Pasadena to the beach. We were able to take in the entire city from sun up to sunset, and enjoy the lights of the city that make Los Angeles look stunning.





50 Days to 50 Years: Day 29, Sunday Worship, Sunday Fun!

4 07 2016

“An authentic life is the most personal form of worship.
Everyday life has become my prayer.”
— Sarah Ban Breathnach

Day 29 began with corporate worship at the Montrose Church. The authenticity of Pastor Dave Roberts, and his exhortation to us to live authentic and relevant lives is part of the reason we are excited to be in service every Sunday. We mostly attend the Pasadena-Bresee campus in the evening, but we change it up when we have an evening engagement or I have to work. So yesterday we attended the 10 am at the Montrose campus and got to see people we normally don’t on Sunday. Lynn ran into Bruce, a fellow he carpooled with to the Men’s Retreat in February, and I ran into Sandy Cortes, from my Women’s Bible Study small group. Sandy was kind enough to help me out with a medical appointment a few weeks back, and she is like my spirit sister; she is a delight to be around and her cooking is awesome.

At Jana’s birthday tea, she was wearing a pair of lady bug earrings—I told her I collect ladybugs! Then today, she was wearing an ebony elephant necklace, and I collect elephants too. Suffice to say we find commonalities we share every time we get to meet.

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Montrose is a lovely community, and they have a Sunday Farmer’s Market and car show; so after service we walked down to Honolulu Avenue and took in the produce, wares, and the classic cars. We returned home after a few hours, and I made cornbread to go with a delicious late lunch of Crockpot Chili. I’m doing as much as possible to not spend too much time in a hot kitchen, and Crockpots help this tremendously. Then we headed over to Memorial Park in La Canada-Flintridge to take in an Eagles cover band called “The Long Run“.

My new friend and social butterfly Jana had expressed interest in this event posted on Facebook, and Lynn and I love the Eagles. There are very few bands I want to see live. While live concerts are awesome, the money and mess that goes along with them is not something we like to subject ourselves to; but it would have been so great to see the Eagles live. Alas, Glenn Frey is no longer with us, so that one will never happen. But a good cover band will do in a pinch!

Lynn and I arrived at the park first, and scoped out some spots for all of us. Jana said her husband Mark would come at least for a little bit, and her daughter Becca was also planning to come. We found great seats just a few paces from the bandstand and straight on where we could see the band. Jana, Mark, and Becca found us, and we settled in and waited for the music to start.

It was a rocky start, though. The sound was not on point, and Gary Grantham, the lead singer who does the Glenn Frey vocals left much to be desired. Jana and I looked at each other, hoping that this wasn’t going to be a total dud. It turned a corner with the other vocalists: Bill Worrell doing the Timothy B. Schmit highs, Chris Sobkowich working a great impression of Joe Walsh, and Chris Varosy doing the Don Henley vocals, keyboards and percussion. That’s when it popped—the band seemed to hit a groove, and so did the audience. When Chris Varosy ended the first half with “Desperado”, the crowd went wild, and rightfully so. He did the song justice.

Mark and Becca left, so during the intermission Jana and I strolled through the park to see if she knew anyone. This area of town was virgin territory for me, so I wasn’t expecting to see anyone I knew. Boy, was I wrong! We spotted Betty Smith, the co-leader of our small group, and her husband, along with two people that I personally knew and Jana didn’t: Denae and Patrick, clients at CorePower, who used to regularly attend my early AM classes in Sherman Oaks! They were delighted to see me, and I them. They lived in the area, and were friends with Betty. We caught up, and I let them know my new teaching schedule and studios. Hopefully I’ll get to see one or both of them again in class soon.

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The rest of the night kicked into high gear when “The Long Run” came back with “Tequila Sunrise”, “Peaceful, Easy Feelin'” and “Hotel California”!

I decided to go “Live” on Facebook as Lynn and I sang along with the band:

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Betty tracked us down and encouraged us to get up to the stage and dance. I told her when my favorite Eagles tune came on, I would dance with her. Wouldn’t you know it, when the electric base line of “Life in the Fast Lane” started, I popped up and joined Betty at the stage. Lynn and Jana followed, and we joined folks up front line dancing, rocking out, and generally having a fantastic time. The band’s encore of “Heartache Tonight” was even better, and had most everyone out of their seats. Normally, we would have gone to Eagle Rock Park and seen their fireworks show by ourselves. While its nice, the communities of La Canada, La Crescenta and Montrose put Eagle Rock to shame—particularly in its friendliness. We have gone to Eagle Rock Park consistently for three or four years, and never met anyone new or felt welcomed by those around us. Thanks to our new friends at Montrose Church, we have been introduced to this warm, friendly enclave where people actually say “Hello” to you in the grocery store. It’s quite a change. We’re so glad we chose this instead, not only for the fun musical experience, but for the community, camaraderie and the unexpected meeting with old friends and new. I could not have planned a more cool evening had I tried.

 

 





50 Days to 50 Years: Day 35, Acapulco Happy Hour with Jana Benson

27 06 2016

“Each friend represents a world in us, a world possibly not born until they arrive, and it is only by this meeting that a new world is born.” — Anaïs Nin

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Jana and me, cracking up about something. She enjoys laughter, and so do I.

I had no idea there were still Acapulcos in Los Angeles, but amazingly enough, some still exist; this particular one is in Glendale, just off the 134 Freeway. Of course, Ms. Jana knows where everything is—she is a total social butterfly, who gets around to all the great eating and shopping places—especially if they have a discount.

Jana is my new friend who I met at the Women’s Bible Study at Montrose Church. She is a totally welcoming, warm presence, and enjoys bringing people together. She is the organizer and heart of the Women’s Coffees, and if there is a social event or free food giveaway happening in the Los Angeles-LaCrescenta-La Canada-San Gabriel area (and probably beyond), Jana is aware of it.

I was blessed that even though we are just getting to know each other, she wanted to be a part of my 50 Days to 50 Years challenge. It is all about the people who have had an impact or influence in my life, no matter how small or large; and Jana has done that with her hospitable spirit.

Church groups can be the most precarious of atmospheres: sometimes cautious, often cliquish, and at times downright hostile. As I wrote in Day 49, I have received nothing but inclusion, warmth and welcome since attending the women’s functions at the Montrose Church, and Jana has been a big part of that.

So we hit Happy Hour at the Acapulco Cantina, and found a few surprises. While the Margaritas were still $2 (Thank God!) the Happy Hour menu appetizers were no longer half-priced, but $2.00 off, and the choices left much to be desired. Poke Tacos?! Uhhh, maybe not. So we ended up getting full-priced appetizers from the dinner menu to go with our discount drinks. Not the happiest, but not a major crisis either. I ordered a Coconut Cream Margarita, and it was pretty slammin’.

So over tableside Guacamole, Pork Nachos, Chicken Taquitos, and blended tequila, we got to know each other to a more focused degree than the snippets from our times with the group. As is the case with face-to-face interactions with friends, you go away marveling at the incredible depth, wealth and fortitude resident in human beings, and you admire the ability to navigate and a build a life, as well as weather the storms that threaten to tear at the fabric of that life.

Jana felt like she wasn’t her best self during our time, but I wasn’t expecting anything except getting to know her better and putting some building blocks onto this new foundation. I am most blessed to have the opportunity to do more of that during the remaining 15 days of this challenge. Both you and I get to see more of Jana, and I am most certainly better because of it.





50 Days to 50 Years: Day 37, Burbank day trippin’ with Wesley & Evy

25 06 2016

“You can kiss your family and friends goodbye and put miles between you, but at the same time you carry them with you in your heart, your mind, your stomach, because you do not just live in a world but a world lives in you.”― Frederick Buechner

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I love this quote because it so full of truth. For 28 of my 50 years I have lived across the country from the majority of my family; but they have remained present, in my heart, prayers, and DNA. Which is why when we do have opportunity to see each other, it is always a joy.

Wesley is one of my favorite nephews (I have several), and his wife Evy equally so. Wesley chose well when he married her—she is beautiful, funny, smart, an exceptional mother, and more importantly, loves the Lord with all her heart. Bryana and Caleb are Wes and Evy’s babies, my grand niece and nephew who are also smart, funny, and a delight to be around.

So I was thrilled when they decided to vacation in Southern California for a second year in a row! Evy has a ton of relatives in Anaheim and the Inland Empire, so the bulk of their time is spent with them; but I am grateful they always make time for Auntie Jennifer. They flew in from Chicago O’Hare to LAX on Saturday morning, and after collecting their luggage and obtaining a rental car, they drove to my house. We piled into my car and had lunch at In-N-Out at the Burbank Town Center. After we got our Double-Double-animal-style grub on, we went to the mall so that Wesley could buy a cap from Lids, and also ended up at Claire’s where Bryana got to buy some items for her girly-girl supply.

Wes and Evy surprised me with an impromptu pedicure for my birthday, and the kids had a great time riding animals around the mall.

We continued the afternoon with a driving tour of Burbank, stopping at Walt Disney Studios to see the 7 Dwarves building, and the sound stages of the Warner Bros. main lot. Our last stop was Universal Citywalk, a quintessential L.A. hangout spot with lots of music and interactive delights that captured the rapt attention of five-year-old Caleb.





50 Days to 50 Years: Day 41, CAAN Connect!

21 06 2016

“Respect for people is the cornerstone
of communication and networking.”
— Susan Roane

A fabulous time was had by all at the 2016 CAAN Connect! The West Coast chapter of Columbia College Chicago’s alumni association has held this networking event for years, and it has always been rewarding and enjoyable for the attendees.

West Coast Director Sarah Schroeder, Assistant Director of Alumni Relations Chuck Lira, and Coordinator of Special Events Amanda Clayton did a lovely job setting the space with awesome catering (with a bar!), and a spacious setup where alumni and entertainment industry executives could conduct their 15-minute speed networking sessions.

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My role as an alumni board representative was to help out at the check-in desk and interact with the alumni to ensure they were having a pleasant and productive experience. Interacting with the other alumni gave me insight into what an impact this type of event can have on one’s confidence and career, and how much the work of an alumni association can impact both. Alumna Abby Sherman (BA ’79) said, “I have to say, Columbia really steps up for its alumni.”

He shoots, he scores! Rim shot. I felt quite proud in seeing part of the vision of the alumni board coming to life and being affirmed by the very alumni we seek to serve.

Speaking of pride, Hallie McPhee-Johnston, another alumni said, “”I’m proud to be a part of Columbia. I really care about our school, and what we do to help each other move forward. This event was great! I made a lot of contacts, and I have a lot of work to do to get things out to people; but I am very pleased.”

I encouraged Hallie to apply for the 2016-17 national board—I hope she does!

My other role as just another alumni coming to network was also satisfying. I met this great husband and wife writing team, Anastasia and Joshua Basche, who I suspect will be the next Robert and Michelle King (The Good Wife, Braindead).  We had a fascinating conversation about the Chewbaca mom and her viral video, and discussed actual artistic effort versus socially-driven content. We exchanged cards and I look forward to getting together with them soon.

My pitch materials were a big hit! One executive said they were very professional, and felt it represented who I am and what I had to offer. Another executive from a literary management agency was disgusted that my last literary agency told me that they had to drop me because I didn’t have a platform. She complimented me on the fact that I took the dishonest feedback and did something with it: I now have a platform that cannot be denied! All in all, I received solid information and direction from each one, and can incorporate or move forward because of it.

The evening ended with a delightful conversation and a failed attempt at using Facebook Live! with Lydia Rodriguez (’07) and Roberta De’Mesme (’90). These women met at work and found out they both attended Columbia. Not only is their friendship delightful, but they are encouraging each other in moving back towards creative endeavors. That’s what networking is all about: sharing knowledge, opportunity, and encouraging each other in our goals and strengths. I look forward to seeing Lydia and Roberta’s podcast come to life and go viral. I let them know I would be honored to be a guest one day.

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