50 Days to 50 Years: Day 11, A CAAN surprise and a Road Trip!

21 07 2016

“One way to get the most out of life is to look upon it as an adventure.” — William Feather

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Day 11 of 50 Days to 50 Years started with dropping off my Nissan X-Terra to Pep Boys for some servicing in the early AM. You see, the first BIG adventure of my 50 Years is a Food Excursion to Santa Fe, New Mexico, and we are heading out today; so I had to make sure the car was in good shape to go the over 800 miles through the deserts of California and Arizona, and mountains of Arizona and New Mexico.

The temperature index in Los Angeles is expected to reach 100 degrees, and at 7:30 a.m. it was already 71. So I trundled from Pep Boys down to the local McDonald’s, got a Caramel McCafe, and enjoyed the A/C until the service desk called me to say my car was ready.

And they completed the service in just the right amount of time to keep my 10:00 a.m. appointment with Miriam Smith, Columbia College Chicago’s Executive Director of Alumni Relations and Annual Giving. I have the distinct pleasure of working with Miriam on the CAAN Alumni Board, where she does incredible work and inspires us as we seek to do more for the alumni. I was honored that on her visit to Los Angeles, she wanted to make sure she touched based with me. And even more happy that I had a window of time before we headed out of town.

We went to one of my favorite breakfast spots, The Village Bakery and Cafe on Los Feliz Boulevard. I was actually a few minutes early, and so was Miriam! So that worked out well.

Miriam had the Atwater Village Special, and I had the Village Scramble, both delicious and filling. We had a good talk about my time on the board, and how I’d like to contribute in this next year as the new Southwest Regional Representative! It was a very lovely start to what I was looking forward to being a lovely weekend. We finished breakfast, and Miriam had to jet off to her next meeting. We hugged and looked forward to seeing each other at the CAAN Board retreat in September.

Then it was off home to complete our packing, put it all in the car, and hit the 210 Freeway to the I-15! I do love road trips, and love them even more when someone else is driving. Lynn seems to prefer doing that, so I bow to his road warrior. It is just great to get out of your world, and right now our world is a mixed bag of delight and depression; so for me, getting away from it all has taken on pronounced importance of late.

We got underway around 12:30 p.m., fueled up, and away we went! Save for a rest area or two in between, we made it into Kingman, Arizona around 6:30 p.m., and had our last “official” California meal for the weekend at the quintessential California stop: In-N-Out Burger.

Four hours later, we arrived in Flagstaff, Arizona, where we were set to repair for the night. Motel 6 is our inexpensive go-to place on road trips, usually because we have the Bubbas and Bubbette with us, and Motel 6 is not only pet-friendly, but FREE for all pets; no deposit required. But Motel 6 has also been good to us on our little excursions that have spanned, with a few years’ interruption, over the past five years. In terms of brands, if you are good to me, I am often loyal to a fault; so Motel 6 continues to get our loyalty.

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They did indeed leave the light on for us! We are checked in, and look forward to a good night’s sleep before taking the additional 430 miles to New Mexico tomorrow.

 

 





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 16, A spacious Saturday and the Weiland’s Summer Soiree

16 07 2016

“Time and space – time to be alone, space to move about – these may well become the great scarcities of tomorrow”  — Edwin Way Teale

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The late Mr. Teale must have envisioned my life, as space of time and place are very scarce indeed. So it was good to have a Saturday with no busy agenda—space of time at least; nothing we can do about the physical space at present. So I spent the morning snuggling with my Panda Bubba, knoshing on black seedless grapes, and sipping coffee.

Then it was off to the San Fernando Valley, for Dave and Meegan Weiland’s annual Summer Soirée in Northridge. We have only missed one or two of the Weiland’s parties in the 8 years we have known them; now that we no longer attend the Congregational Church of Northridge, it was a great opportunity to see our old friends from the church!

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Last year’s 2014 Weiland Summer Soiree. Meegan had an accident and broke her finger, but the party still went on! They are such troopers.

Dave and Meegan have been throwing their party for over 20 years, and have a wealth of friends and relatives from across the spectrum of their lives. The usual suspects were there, starting with Rosie, who always does a phenomenal job on the grill! We brought some seasoned chicken to share, and she crisped it up and cooked it to perfection, along with the burgers, hot dogs, and other grill favorites!

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Another Weiland friend (L), Grillmaster Rosie (C), and Vicki Schmidt (R)

Our friend Vicki Schmidt was also hanging out, and enjoying some adult time. Vicki has a special needs son, so any time she can find to be with her friends is a blessing, and it is always a blessing to have her present. Our good friend Bob McNelis was also there, so we had a double dose of fun; and other current and former CCNers like Janette Knudson; Chris, Yumi, and Viggo Mahan; Bruce and Anne Dimock; Fin and Vincent Ortega; Larry, Shirley, Jennifer, and Alison Oya; Pam Davis; Lynette Thompson; and Beckie Cummins.

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Not a Weiland Summer Soiree, but Dave was with us, so it counts!

It was a lower key party than prior years, and we didn’t bring the Bubbas and Bubbette along this time, which everyone was surprised by! That is how hospitable Dave and Meegan are: they love animals, and have been gracious to allow our dogs to be in attendance. During those years when we lived at a place where leaving the dogs at home was a problem, it was a blessing and a help to be able to bring them along.

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2011 Weiland’s Summer Soiree with our sweet Shadow Bubba, who crossed the rainbow bridge later that year.

We hung out way later than we intended, but were so enjoying the lovely hospitality of the Weilands and seeing friends we had not seen in a while.

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I guess when space is given, time takes on a different dimension.





50 Days to 50 Years: Day 17, Craft Burgers at Morrison with Bob McNelis

15 07 2016

“Friendship is unnecessary, like philosophy, like art…. It has no survival value; rather it is one of those things which give value to survival.” – C.S. Lewis

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You’ve heard the phrase, “The family that prays together stays together.” Well I believe, “The friends that sing together become lifelong friends.”

Lynn and I met Bob as part of the worship team at the Congregational Church of Northridge, and we all sang together the better part of the 8 years that we attended. Bob is a mellifluous tenor that I loved harmonizing with. He has an equally delightful laugh; and as you can see, we do that a lot when we get together, and it always serves to brighten my day.

Bob is a gem of a human being. Mostly raised in the South, he has the sensibilities of a southern gentleman. He also has a deeply compassionate heart, and truly cares for people. In a multitude of ways, he has been a true friend to Lynn and me.

Bob is also a talented actor. Brent Spiner, “Data” of Star Trek The Next Generation  is his doppelganger. If Brent’s name was still household, he could probably milk it, especially in this age of social media… but that’s not Bob’s style.

Bob is also a gifted conversationalist. We talk about everything from politics, to pop culture, to books, psychology, to film and television. He is a genuine listener, who truly looks for insight and ideas from others, not just ways to refute your opinion if he feels it is wrong. This makes him a pleasant presence to be around, especially with more bombastic types.

So of course, there could be no way that I could celebrate the people who have shaped and transformed my life without including Bob. And in his always-game-for-an-adventure fashion, he came along for the ride.

Morrison is a fairly new local haunt in Atwater Village, and I just love it. Not only is the food the bomb diggy, but the drinks are top shelf. They have a $6.00 Happy Hour which I have frequented more than a few times; so it seemed the perfect place to spend a Friday afternoon.

For the second day in a row I ordered a Classic Burger with all the fixings (eggs and all), and we shared Cheese Fries with Bacon Jam (Hello!). And it wouldn’t be a visit to Morrison without ordering my favorite Moscow Mule. Bob ordered a Filet Mignon Burger and a diet coke. All types of ironies with that one, but we’ll leave it at that.

We decided to split a Key Lime Pie for dessert. I was expecting a sliver of green with some lime slices and whipped cream. So glad I was disappointed! What we got was a gastronomical delight: a cheesecake consistency surrounded by whipped cream and drizzled with caramel, with a side of vanilla ice cream with a sprig of mint. Morrison now has the reputation not only for great drinks, but great desserts!

Bob started attending another church around the same time we moved on to Montrose, so we don’t see each other as often. But he always reaches out to us and continues to stay in touch. There are so many people who simply allow the drift to happen once the social unit that first formed the friendship is gone.

I appreciate that he honors us as his friends and continues to include us in his life. Thank you, Bob for being a valuable part of our survival.

 

 





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 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.