50 Days to 50 Years: Day 13, morning coffee with Beth Chamberlain, morning Yoga with Ali Jo, and lunch at Auntie Em’s Kitchen with Vicki Schmidt

19 07 2016

“When we do the best we can, we never know what miracle is wrought in our life, or in the life of another.” — Helen Keller

Tuesday was packed to the brim with goodness: the goodness of beautiful lady mentors, beautiful Yoga, and delicious food and drink!

I jetted out the house earlier than usual so that I could meet Dr. Beth Chamberlain at Peet’s Coffee in Pasadena’s South Lake area. Beth is the wife of Pastor Scott Chamberlain, the campus pastor at Montrose Church Pasadena-Bresee. She is a very beautiful soul, with the most gorgeous eyes that drip with awareness and compassion. She is the type of person that I would like to be: someone who has such an incredible weight and presence that you are content to just be around them. I also admire her and Scott because, like Hermione and Samuel, they adopted two children that were not their own. The Chamberlains pastored in Skid Row for many years, and took on the care of two African-American boys connected to their mission, and raised them along with their own two children. That really does take a special kind of heart, and speaks volumes of who Beth and Scott are as people of God, and humans in general.

I wanted to ask Beth some insightful questions to get to know her better, but like the skilled counselor that she is, she turned it around and asked me some very deep and thought-provoking ones. So I talked about everything from my childhood in Chicago to my best and worst birthdays to date.

It was all too short for me, but Beth had to get to her office. So we hugged, took a selfie, and she was off to the rest of her day. It’s been six years since I’ve had a traditional job, and I’m always reminded how blessed I am that I don’t have to do that any more.

Since I was already in Pasadena and had to teach at noon, it only made sense to get in a 9:00 a.m. C-2 with Miss Alexandra Johansen!

Ali Jo is our beautiful, Amazonian, North Los Angeles Lead for several of the CorePower studios, and another exceptional human. I had the opportunity to be a coach in one of the Teacher Trainings she led, and it was one of the best experiences all around. I greatly enjoy Ali Jo’s classes for their complex simplicity, and her phenomenal cues. She is a young lady with a lovely presence and a generous heart. I used to throw an annual tree trimming party around Christmastime, and I asked people to bring an ornament for the tree. Ali Jo not only brought an ornament, but gifts for my dogs! How cool is that?! She is blessed with a gorgeous beau named Dana (of whom I greatly approve—not that it matters) and a cool bulldog named Joe who I would love to steal from her for a play date with my fur babies… One day.

As usual, Ali Jo set my morning off right, and my noon class was exceptionally sweet with focused students and good energy. Then it was off to my afternoon break, where I met Vicki Schmidt at Auntie Em’s Kitchen in Eagle Rock!

I only know Auntie Em’s because they have some slammin’ coffee and great bakery items. I had never sampled their lunch items, but I was happy to have the opportunity to do so with Ms. Vicki.

As I said in Day 16, Vicki has a special needs son named Jimmy. He is actually an adult, but still needs round the clock care for a variety of ailments. So when Vicki is not working, and able to get nursing help, she finds time to be with her friends, of which I am glad to be counted among them.

Vicki attended CCN long before Lynn and I came, but due to needing to care for Jimmy, and her daughter Traci’s illness, she didn’t attend often, so I hadn’t formally met her. For about two years I would hear about this woman named Vicki and her daughter Traci; Traci was often on the prayer list, because she had undergone a bone marrow transplant for a rare lymphoma, and was currently in remission. In my mind, I assumed Vicki was this 30-something mother, and Traci was a little girl. When I finally met Vicki and Traci, I was surprised to find Vicki to be a mature woman in her late 50s, and Traci was the 30-something mother—with kids to boot! We had a good laugh over that.

Vicki has been going through a painful and energy-sucking divorce; yet despite that, and the constant ups and downs with Jimmy’s care, she always bears a beautiful smile, a ready hug, and like Dr. Beth, an exceptional listening ear. She’s also incredibly fun and funny, bearing the cutest giggle when something strikes her as humorous.

Thankfully the ugly heat wave predicted this week had not hit yet, so we sat outside and knoshed on Quiche and a Pulled Pork Sandwich. It was obvious that we were both exceptionally hungry, as neither one of us took a food picture. In between bites of the really good food, we caught up on our lives and mutually encouraged each other. Vicki is also part of that group of CCN friends who have seen Lynn and I through hell and high water, and she is always faithful to check in on how we are really doing, instead of  assuming that just because we don’t have any crises going on that we must be fine.

When we decided to split a Strawberry Creme Bread pudding, and the waitress brought it out, it was a sight to behold—so a picture was not only required, it was an imperative!

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Of course, we smashed that too. Auntie Em’s did not disappoint!

Vicki had to get home to Jimmy, and I had to get back to the studio to teach my 5:30 p.m. class; but it was a wonderful completion to a day rich with women of exceptional gifting and generous spirit. A person is fortunate to have one of those in their life, and I am blessed with three.





50 Days to 50 Years: Day 21, The Montrose Church Women’s Coffee at Casa de Clovis

11 07 2016

“This is the power of gathering: it inspires us,
delightfully, to be more hopeful, more joyful,
more thoughtful: in a word, more alive.” — Alice Waters

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Day 21 of 50 Days to 50 Years was another lovely monthly gathering of the Women’s Coffee. This time around we had the pleasure of meeting at the gorgeous home of Clovis in La Canada.

Clovis’ home is lovingly laid out, and you can feel the history and wealth of years coming through the walls. The highlight of her home is the patio with its picturesque landscaping. It feels as though you have stepped out of time!

It was great to see all the usual faces: Jana, Sandy, the Carolyns, Farideh, Becky, and Barbie. I met Anita at the very first Women’s Coffee I attended back in April, and she was as bright and funny as I remembered. Sylvia had returned after a brief absence from the coffees, so it was a pleasure meeting her for the first time.

As usual, the fare was scrumptious—no Vons or Ralph’s bakery among this bunch! Sandy even made Chai donuts from scratch; very delicate, the perfect compliment to coffee, and the other goodies.

Two hours later, the sugar high and coffee buzz was long gone, but the joy of gathering, the feeling of support, and the bond of community remained. This is a great way to start a week, and a defining blessing to lead off my 50 years.





50 Days to 50 Years: Day 24, DISH with my Montrose Women’s Bible Study Small Group

8 07 2016

“Taking joy in living is a woman’s best cosmetic.”— Rosalind Russell

 

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I am blessed this Summer in getting to know Jana Benson and Betty Smith, as they both keep expanding my world with new people and experiences. With Summer vacations and kids out of school, we are on break from the Women’s Bible Study, but industrious and spontaneous Betty decided to plan some get togethers for our small group. At first we were going to frolic around her pool, but the weather decided to downshift, so she thought a nice lunch at a local Crescenta Valley haunt would be more appropriate.

So Day 24, started with a great heated Yoga class and an unexpectedly long appointment which made me late. But I came home, showered, and got dolled up to meet the ladies at DISH in La Canada. Save for people who make more money than me, drive nicer cars and have large homes, I knew next to nothing about La Canada-Flintridge. Now I’m spending practically every weekend there!  I take that as a positive sign.

Betty has such great flair, and she brightened our table with my favorite Gerbera daisies (how did she know?!) and lilys, along with some chocolate chips she brought from Trader Joe’s. Wicked—I know what will be in my basket next time I stop by that store.

Not all the ladies could make it, but I got a chance to sit next to sweet Gloria, a powerful prayer warrior who is passionate about her family. She is very inspiring and fun, and it was nice to get a chance to know her better.

Denise Pearson is the co-leader of our small group, and we got to talk in depth as well. She is an Air Force kid, so she has lived all over the U.S. I got some insight on how that shapes your perspective and view of the world. She was fortunate that her dad retired in California, so she got to complete junior high and high school here. She is also passionate about her children (all boys), and is ripe to have fun—as are most of the women in our group. I believe I have found the right crowd!

DISH is insane, but the prices are not! I had a tremendously delicious rare Burger with Tillamook Cheddar and Kennebec Fries for an excellent price. Gloria split a salad with another lady, but the half salad looked like a full one! I appreciate places where they feed you well, and you feel as though you have gotten your money’s worth. Our waitress was a gem.

I will miss our next small group get together due to being out of town, but am once again thankful for the new friends, new community connections and the spaces to play that I am finding this Summer.





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 31, Tea and Company for Jana’s Birthday

1 07 2016

“Female friendships that work are relationships
in which women help each other to belong to themselves.”
— Louise Bernikow

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Day 31 started off with high tea at the Four Seasons Tea Room in Sierra Madre. Jana Benson invited me and some of her other friends to celebrate her birthday. A few of the women are a part of our Women’s Bible Study small group, and others I knew from the Women’s Coffee—so I was right at home, even if high tea is a foreign concept.

I think I have been to three in my entire 50 years: one for another birthday party eons ago, the two other times were for bridal showers. Girly-girl I am not, and tea parties are the quintessential girly-girl thing to do. As a little girl I brewed coffee in a real percolator and played writer. I know, big surprise….

But it was a delightful afternoon, and Jana is always the consummate hostess. The tea selections were Mandarin Spice, Royal Wedding, and Mayfair Afternoon—each table ordered one of each; our table chose the Mayfair Afternoon, which was a delicious blend of strawberry, mint, and lemon. Sooo good. The sandwich selections were Banana Bread with Cream Cheese; Cucumber and Dill; Tomato, Basil, and Butter: Chicken Salad; and Egg Salad.

But the biggest foodie highlight were the freshly baked—I mean piping hot out of the oven—scones. With Devonshire clotted cream and fresh raspberry jam, they were simply divine. I could have eaten about four more, but that would have required additional ordering. I’ll do that next time.

Of course, what is tea without biscuits? I’m not sure how the Brits coined the term biscuits for cookies, but whatevs; the Dulce de Leche mini slices, Lemon Bars, and Shortbread Cookies lightly sprinkled with powdered sugar were way delish. With several spots of tea, I found myself quite full, so it was probably a good idea I didn’t have any more scones, as I would have had to be rolled out the door.  20160701_123349

And I very well would come back, so perhaps I have more girly-girl in me than I thought. Imagine that…

 





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.