What’s Happenin’ Hump Day? I’ll Be Part of a Panel on KLRN Online Radio!

12 05 2021

The Girl will be joining my dear Patriot Sister Leslie Ann Dowd, as well as DJ Shagoury, JeSuis, and host Rowdy Rick Robinson on KLRN Radio tonight. Tune in at 10:00 p.m. Eastern, 9:00 p.m. Central, and 7:00 p.m. Pacific for a rousing, roundtable discussion you won’t want to miss!





Happy Mother’s Day!

9 05 2021

Happy Mother’s Day to all the women who birth, care, nurture, and shepherd life. Whether that life is of your own blood, of your own heart, human, or fur, you are honored today!

I wrote a memoir what seems like eons ago. It is yet-to-be published, and with this much space between the last time I pitched it and now, it will probably need ample rewrites and of course, new content. But, there are certain chapters of which I am quite proud: and this chapter about my own mother, Bernice Oliver, and the matriarch of our family, Annie Foxx is one of them.

An excerpt about mothers and grandmothers, on this day to honor the mother’s in your life and world.

Excerpted from Fried Chicken and Sympathy, Chapter 1: Affectionately Known as Bay

My mother’s given name was Bernice Betty Jo Foxx, but everyone called her “Bay.”  Born on August 10, 1931 in Tyronza, Arkansas, she was the fifth of the eight children born to Annie Belle Simmons Foxx and Joe Henry Foxx.  Tyronza is one of those towns that if you’re driving through it and blink, you’ll miss it. It borders on Arkansas and Tennessee, and its population today is just over 1,000.  That’s the number of people in a four-block radius in most major cities.  The small-town ethic of family, religion and community remained a part of Bay all her life, even though she lived most of it in big cities.  But Bay was never really happy in the city, and spoke often about moving back down South.

Bay was a beautiful girl, with what we would call a “high-yella” complexion.  This was sometimes a point of teasing between her and her sisters, who were much darker than she was.  She had curly brown hair that she wore short to frame her face, and she had a petite figure that was made for the fashions of the ‘50s and ‘60s.  Two pictures of her that always stick in my mind are her eighth-grade and high-school graduation photos.  In her eighth-grade photo, she is standing in a shin-length white petticoat dress, and white strappy shoes découpage shoes.  Along with the white corsage, she wore a stoic expression which would later come to characterize her general demeanor.  Her high-school graduation photo was much more carefree, even happy—which is a term I would rarely use to describe my mother.  It was a head and shoulders portrait, in her mortarboard and robe, and Bay has her head posed to the side, with an upturned smile, as if looking forward to the future.  That picture gives a glimpse of the Bay I never knew, and the Bay that probably attracted my father, Oliver, to her.  Unfortunately, the years of death and destruction, beginning with his murder in 1970, wiped that woman completely out, and only the picture is left to bear witness that she ever existed.

Bay and her seven brothers and sisters picked cotton for extra money, while Grandpa Joe worked in a mill, and Grandma Annie cleaned houses and raised chickens in order to sell the eggs.  When Mom was in the fourth grade, they moved to Memphis, where they had greater work opportunities.

Tyronza was a spit in the dirt compared to Memphis.  Grandpa Joe worked as a houseboy at the once-prestigious Peabody Hotel, and also at the King Cotton, and Grandma Annie worked as a maid at both hotels.

My Uncle Joe Louis, Bay’s youngest brother, added, “Grandpa was a ‘sharecropper’ in Arkansas, so moving to Memphis and getting a job in a hotel was a step up.  And believe it or not, it was also easier work.”

With Grandma Annie working nights, my mother went to school during the day and worked during the evening, sharing the responsibility of caring for her toddler brother (Joe Louis) with her sister Cornell (Honey).  She graduated from eighth grade, and went on to Washington High School, while working nights in a hospital.  When today’s teenagers talk about the pressure they’re under to make good grades and work at the same time, I shake my head.  Bay made exceptional grades and worked pretty much full-time—concrete proof that one can do what one sets one’s mind to.

Being the third girl, Bay was closest to her older sisters, Geraldine and Cornell, or “Honey,” as I came to know her.  As my Aunt Allene, who was born after Bay, attests:

“Of course we were close,” she said.  “We argued like most siblings, but we didn’t fight.  Mama didn’t allow that.”

The Foxx way of hard work, family and sacrifice was part of Bay’s genetic code, and was passed down from her unique and visionary parents.  Uncle Joe Louis elaborates:

“Based on what I heard and saw, they had a difficult time in the South.  By ‘difficult times,’ I am only referring to what was most likely a universal state of affairs for Blacks in the South at that time.  Most had large families and low-paying or no-paying jobs.  There was never enough money.  In the case of Daddy, it was a no-paying job.”

Uncle Joe elaborated on what this type of “employ”—sharecropping—really entailed:  “A person lives on someone’s farm, and plants and harvests the crops for a share of the profits when they are sold, but this was the replacement for slavery.  They were owned economically, because after the crops were sold, and the profits divided, and the indebtedness paid, there was usually very little left for the sharecropper—so the cycle started all over again with an indebtedness.”

Grandpa Joe Henry and Grandma Annie Belle both had the wit and wherewithal to move out of a no-win situation, in order to attain a better life for themselves, and their children, and they were strong influences on their children and grandchildren—but Grandma Annie, in particular, left certain distinctive marks on Bay.

Grandpa Joe Henry’s grandmother had been a slave, and somewhere in the lineage we have Native American—most likely Cherokee or Blackfoot-blood, although Aunt Everette, Bay’s baby sister, says that we also have Crete in our line.  Grandpa Joe had that burnished mahogany skin, hooked nose and chiseled countenance that is typical of Native Americans, and it shows in the black and white photos I have of him.  Annie Belle was also the granddaughter of slaves, and was a proud woman who kept a clean home and was no-nonsense about almost everything.  Her life revolved around her children, her church and her community; she took these things seriously, and expected everyone around her to do the same.

Bay inherited the no-nonsense persona from Grandma Annie.  Silly and lazy just didn’t rate in her book.  You were either about business, or you were up to no good.  When my sisters were younger (somehow, the brothers were exempt), Saturday mornings always started early, doing laundry, cleaning and ironing.  One of Bay’s constant expressions (I’ll call them “Bayisms”), was, “An idle mind is the Devil’s workshop!”  I’m quite sure she heard this first from Grandma Annie’s mouth, and she definitely learned under her tutelage to never to be idle.

Annie stood 4 feet 11 inches tall, but according to those who knew her, she packed a wallop.  She’d go on tirades without warning, and the whole house would shake.  My cousin Ricky called them her “5150 episodes,” borrowing the police code for someone having a psychotic breakdown.  Her storms ranged from swearing up a blue streak to throwing pots, pans and any furniture that wasn’t nailed down.

Since she died before I knew her, most of the information I do have is thanks to my brothers, sisters and cousins.

Some of that fire is just the Foxx nature, but I also suspect that Grandma Annie’s short fuses were due to brain damage.  She’d had a stroke in 1958, which left her partially paralyzed on her left side.  But Annie had a strong will, and refused to let it immobilize her.  She regained her speech, and with the help of a cane, she was able to walk and get around quite well.  Although she couldn’t work full-time, she still tended to the house and her family.

Where Grandma Annie was volatile, Grandpa Joe was as even as a river in summer. A calm, peaceful man, he was happy and smiling, always humming a tune—especially when Grandma Annie went 5150—which only irritated her more.  But the more she fussed, the more he hummed and sang.  Guess everyone has his way of coping, and that was his.  He died from brain cancer a week after I was born.  Bay started keeping a family history in 1983, and she wrote this about Grandpa Joe’s death:  “August 1966 was the death of my father and the children’s grandfather.  He was missed very much.  He died of cancer, starting with a kidney that had to be taken out and it spread to his brain.  After they operated, he passed away.”

June remembers Bay breastfeeding me at Grandpa Joe’s funeral, a towel draped over her shoulder for modesty.  So I guess you can truly say my life began with death.





AB5 and the War on Lyft/Uber expose why Black Jobs Matter

18 08 2020

Well, Lordy, lordy, who would have thought that a bad law and a pandemic would render a response from Civil Rights organizations that actually address the real needs of their people? The NAACP and other business and civil rights organizations sent an urgent letter to Governor Gavin Newsom calling for him to stop the war on the gig economy and to use his emergency powers to suspend #AB5, and to protect the work of drivers for Uber and Lyft.

Another anti-AB5 colleague found it, but I promptly tweeted it out:

NAACP Calls Newsom to Stop War on Gig Economy

For those of you who have been under a rock, #AB5 has all but decimated the economic prospects of independent contractors, freelancers, and gig workers in California. On top of this, the State of California is doing its utmost to end Uber and Lyft operations in California: filing lawsuits, lodging fines, and faux organizing by disgruntled drivers (totally engineered by the Labor Unions) in order to extract money that they claim the state and their drivers are owed.

Uber and Lyft have refused to cave, but in light of the court upholding an injunction forcing the app companies to convert their drivers to employees by August 20, both Uber and Lyft have said they will suspend operations in California through November. The vote on the Prop 22 ballot measure, which would allow Californians to decide whether these drivers should be able to be an independent contractor or an employee, will be the deciding factor.

Then Covid-19 with its subsequent lock downs and closed businesses rendered the death blow. Governor Newsom’s schizophrenic and inconsistent response and actions, appearing perfectly groomed and coiffed while the rest of us developed gray hairs and lumberjack beards, were just more nails in the coffin.

Both the evil law and the virus exposed unintended consequences (what else is new?). The fact that Blacks and Hispanics are more susceptible to the virus and more likely to be adversely affected by it, and the so-called experts still have no idea why this is the case. The lack of any proper measures beyond mask wearing has made some of us understandably cautious about trying to go among people and look for work—if there is any work to be had.

CBS News reported on a University of Santa Cruz research survey that found that 40 percent of Black businesses in major cities like New York, Minneapolis, and Los Angeles have been lost, and probably will never come back.

“There were more than 1 million black-owned businesses in the U.S. at the beginning of February, according to research from the University of California at Santa Cruz, which drew from Census survey estimates. By mid-April, 440,000 black business owners had shuttered their company for good — a 41% plunge. By comparison, 17% of white-owned businesses closed during the same period, the UC Santa Cruz research shows.”

Back in May, on my Communities Digital News page, I reported that women and minorities make up a huge chunk of independent contractors, and this law disenfranchises us; particularly during this pandemic, when we all could be working from home.

So, the fact that the NAACP recognizes this and took action came as a huge surprise. Writer baldilocks replied to my tweet with this apt response:

Baldilocks Response to NAACP Tweet

The rest of that phrase goes, “is right twice a day.” And it’s true. As much as the organization has moved away from true racial justice and equality, on this particular issue of the evils of AB5 and the Uber/Lyft war, it has stepped up to the plate.

Other organizations who sponsored the letter include the Los Angeles Urban League, Ex-Offender Action Network, and Independent Professionals Association.

It is quite an amazing missive, and you can read it in its entirety here. While I don’t agree with all its suggested solutions, the outlining of the case that AB5 and the injunctions against Uber and Lyft need to go is spot on.

An excerpt from the letter:

“The fact is that this crisis demands a new approach. COVID-19 has exposed just how broken the existing safety net programs are for people of color. Unemployment insurance in the U.S. is a patchwork of state-controlled programs originally designed to allow states to exclude Black domestic and agricultural workers during the Great Depression. The challenges faced by Black Americans in accessing unemployment assistance, business loans, and other pandemic assistance funding today are the direct result of racist policies that systematically disenfranchise Black Americans because they do not look like the traditional employees and businesses for whom these programs were designed.”

It ends with this:

“Governor, for African Americans, self-employment is not just a matter of pride – it is a matter of principle. Our people have been fighting for the right to profit from our own labor for over 400 years. We are proud of our resilience and entrepreneurship in the face of odds that have always been stacked against us. But while the coronavirus is destroying Black businesses, we must not allow this disease to destroy our independence.”

Boom. The NAACP laid bare to the Governor why Black JOBS Matter.

Let’s hope Newsom grows a brain and listens.

 





Prop 22 Fight stirs outrage from Veena Dubal’s Sock Puppets

13 08 2020

Blocked by Veena on Professions affected by AB5

On my Communities Digital News page, I have written extensively about University of California Hastings School of Law professor Veena Dubal, and the evil she has caused to those affected by the California law AB5. You can read those articles here, here, AND here.

Dubal helped assemblywoman Lorena Gonzalez ruin the lives of 4.5 million independent contractors by supplying the bones of the AB5 text, and in her vocal support and advocacy of the so-called “gig workers” law. Apparently, she now feels it is her goal to debunk and convince people to vote NO on Proposition 22, which is on the California November ballot. This ballot initiative is Uber and Lyft’s response to AB5: Let the voting public and drivers decide how they wish to be treated: as independent contractors, or employees. Proposition 22’s stated goal is, “protects app-based drivers’ flexibility while establishing new earnings and benefit guarantees, and protecting public safety and consumer choice”.

Should this initiative pass, it would do damage to AB5. Independent contractors and freelancers know this, gig workers and drivers know this, and it’s sure as hell Lorena Gonzalez and the Unions know it. Which is why Veena Dubal and her league of unexceptional followers are on the warpath to tear the Proposition down.

Here is what is wrong with this: Veena Dubal delights in using her so-called scholarship to insert herself into debates about labor law and how best to use it to destroy the independent contractor model; this is exactly what is being done with AB5 law and the nationwide PRO Act bill.

However, when legitimately challenged on her positions, Veena turns tail and blocks the critics from her Twitter. But she goes beyond this by rallying her sock puppet followers to cry foul and claim harassment on her behalf.

Dubal freely admitted this after the publication of my series:

Veena Dubal-Read my scholarship

Dubal would know about dissemination of false information. When independent contractors, freelancers and gig workers were desperate to get PUA (Pandemic Unemployment Assistance) payments, and the California Employment Development Department was playing fast and loose with giving them that information, Ms. Dubal directed them to file for unemployment in order to bolster the misclassification claims against Uber and Lyft. Once those claims were rightly denied, she steered them toward a Legal Aid lawyer as referenced here:

Veena Dubal--EDD Misclassification-Misdirection

This is the same woman who applauded the rising Covid-19 numbers because it justified the need for “employee protections”:

Veena Dubal on Mocking COVID19-Sick Leave

Veena Dubal is neither innocent, nor ignorant of the molotov cocktails she throws, nor of the damage it causes, no matter how much she tries to hide behind the: I’m just a scholar, I don’t influence laws schtick.

Veena Duval-Not an elected official

Veena Dubal-You Know you've arrived

Veena Dubal-Arrogance about who writes laws

If anything, she revels in it, particularly when she has a sock puppet army to supply cover.

The campaign for Yes on Proposition 22, freely admits it is funded by Uber, Lyft, and DoorDash. What people don’t bother to check is who is funding the opposition: Those astroturf driver’s rights groups like Gig Workers Rising (GWR), the one who Dubal freely supports and retweets.

Among the heavy funding from non-profit organizations, GWR gets financial support from the Teamsters and SEIU, the two biggest labor unions in the country. These same unions funded Lorena Gonzalez and the other California legislature tools who pushed through AB5.

So please, cry me a river about the heavy corporate funding on Yes on Prop 22.

The Yes on Prop 22 campaign has been going gangbusters, spotlighting the drivers who want to continue to work unencumbered by “employee protections”, and keeping us all abreast of California Attorney General Xavier Becerra’s campaign to destroy the app companies.

On August 6, the campaign took to Twitter to mock Dubal’s hypocrisy and how easily she uses her Blocker Trigger Finger against her critics.

Yes on 22-Blocked By Veena Thread

This is a question that has been asked by independent contractors, freelancers, and gig workers who have been the recipient of this treatment. So a representation of the 4.5 million affected by AB5, and who have been blocked by Dubal responded:

Piano Man-Alfera-Stop Publishing Scholarship that Hurts People

Industrious Bird-Rebuttal

There were even responses by some who never even engaged Dubal on Twitter, but were pre-emptively blocked!

2020-08-13 10_09_39-(1) Evan Miller on Twitter_ _@VoteYesOn22 I don’t even recall interacting with h

Why is someone who is 1) a labor lawyer; 2) an academic; and 3) claims to be a champion for the marginalized so feckless at defending her own positions?

More importantly, how do you get unions and politicians to come to your defense? Along with the drivers, union-sponsored accounts, and yes, bots, District 27 Assemblyman Ash Kalra, who co-sponsored and championed for the passage of AB5 waded into the melee to express his outrage.

Ash Kalra 🌱 on Twitter_ _.@veenadubal does her work

One wonders where his outrage was over South African immigrant and domestic worker Carmel Foster, who his colleague Assemblyman Phil Ting bedded and used for four years to craft legislation. But, I digress….

Then Nicole Moore, a supposed Lyft driver leapt to Dubal’s defense.

Nicole Moore-Veena's Defense

Nicole Moore is active on Twitter to expose the “extremely exploitative business models” of Uber and Lyft and defend the need for drivers to unionize. What has been discovered is that she is a union plant. Several drivers and independent contractors have pointed this out, but this one brings the receipts.

DINO MANELLI on Twitter_ Fake union salter Nicole Moore poses as Lyft driver to support care

Now, the unionized writers have gotten into the game. Slate writer Aaron Mak came to Dubal’s defense with a piece titled, “Why Is an Advocacy Group Funded by Uber and Lyft Hounding a Law Professor on Twitter?” Writer Mak decries the “targeting a law professor on Twitter over her efforts to get their workers classified as employees.”

To Mack’s credit, he does point out that Dubal has been a prominent advocate of AB5 and vocal critic of Prop 22. Here is where he starts shredding the truth: “On Twitter, she was buffeted with threats and vulgar harassment, often denigrating her identity as a woman of color. Other accounts circulated false rumors about her, alleging that she was harassing independent contractors on Twitter.”

Mak then supplies tweets (with the names blocked out—how considerate), to back up these “threats and vulgar harassment”, while ignoring other tweets (the majority, frankly) calling Dubal to account for her involvement in AB5 and in pushing an agenda to derail Prop 22.

Dubal’s sock puppets want to paint every critic who has been blocked by her as evil, or the typical response of those who have no defense, as bots bought and paid for by Uber and Lyft, when much of the push back she receives is either legitimate concern that her “scholarship” and advocacy hurts not just drivers, but freelancers, independent contractors, and the self-employed. While this writer cannot yet find a union connection to Dubal’s fixation in destroying the independent contractor model, the fact that the propagandist for the California Federation of Labor and Union salter Nicole Moore come to her defense reeks to high heaven.

But if fully addressed, that would change the narrative from poor, put upon academic who is just trying to help “the worker” gain equity, to a narcissistic, privileged, and entitled fraud who cannot take any criticism, and manipulates people into defending her empty scholarship, gaslighting, and lies.





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.





The Girl writes at Habibi Life for the Month of Love

5 02 2018

Heart-Wallpapers (4)

Happy February!

SO honored to be a part of the month of self-love celebration at Habibi Life.

The beautiful Shahada Evans: entrepreneur, fellow Yoga instructor, and creative force,  has a delicious skin care product line and an awesome website to support it and the community that loves them some Habibi (me included).

In this month of February, typically dubbed the LOVE month, Shahada asked me to be one of the people to write for the blog about self love and self care, and I was totally down!

Give it a read, and check out the Habibi line while you’re there: Self Care vs. #selfcare.





Coincidences versus Divine Appointments 

8 01 2018

“There is no such thing as chance; and what seems to us mere
accident springs form the deepest source of destiny.” 

Friedrich Schiller

It was a gorgeous, steely morning in the Crescenta Valley. Los Angeles is experiencing its first rain of the season, so it added to the mellowness of this Monday morning.

Our Montrose Church Women’s Coffee group was meeting at Panera Bread. I don’t really like Panera, and don’t quite understand what makes it so popular. Because we are again flat broke after having to travel to Chicago, the last thing I wanted was to go someplace where I had to spend money; so between that and the rain, I could have had a convenient excuse just to stay home. But the goal, particularly during this new year and time of grieving, is to connect as much as I can—especially on mornings when I really just want to curl into a ball—and this was one of these mornings.

For a change, I left right after my voice lesson. Normally I dither around a bit, but I wasn’t sure what the 2 Freeway would look like with this first rain, and since I haven’t been firing on all cylinders lately, I wanted to take my sweet time and not feel rushed. So I arrived at Panera exactly at 9 a.m., and Jana, Sandy, Carolyn, and several other women were already in line, ordering their food. I gave them hugs, and then looked at the menu to see if there was anything I wanted to get. I decided to try a pastry (cheap), and had my eye on a pecan roll, when I heard a male voice say, “Hello!” behind me.

I turned around to see my friend Robert, with his gorgeous smile, opening his arms for a hug, which I gladly took. Robert and his wife Gina have been one of the great friendships we’ve developed since coming to Montrose Church, and they knew about Joan’s passing. He asked how I was doing, and I said I was hanging in. He said something distinctive: “You have a certain grace about you that makes you appear that you are handling the situation.” I took that as a positive. We chatted a bit more, then I got back in line to order my pecan roll.

I was happy that the pecan roll did not disappoint, and I was happy with my decision to get out the house. We had great conversation around the table about a variety of things, including movies, and the Faith & Film class a lot of us were attending. Our time together was winding to a close, and most of the women had left. My emotional bank was depleting, so I went to restroom, and then prepared to make my exit.

I came back from the restroom, and was saying my goodbyes to the remaining ladies, when I sensed a pair of eyes upon me. I looked in the direction of the gaze, and saw the beautiful face of Darlene Perry smiling at me! I knew Darlene from The Church on the Way, where we sang together in the New Song Gospel Choir. Darlene and her sisters are also recording artists, as part of the talented Peri Sisters. On top of that, Darlene is an incredible baker and chef, and her cupcakes are simply divine.

I walked over and gave her a big hug, and we caught up a bit on each other’s lives. She was in La Crescenta (all the way from Lancaster) to frequent a local bakery supply shop! She popped into Panera for a quick bite before heading back to the Antelope Valley. I introduced her to the remaining ladies, and then she collected her food and jetted off. We made a commitment to reconnect on Facebook.

Some people would think that both of those unexpected meetings of a new friend and an old friend were coincidence; I choose to believe otherwise. For whatever reason, God knew I needed those bookends to my morning in order to shore up my soul for the rest of my day. Pastor Dave talked yesterday about God hovering over the void that is the chaos in our life, and those divine appointments were most definitely from his hand.





50 Days to 50 Years, Day 00: Bye, Bye Napa, Hello 5 Freeway, Goodbye 40s…

1 08 2016

“A journey is a person in itself; no two are alike. And all plans, safeguards, policing, and coercion are fruitless. We find that after years of struggle that we do not take a trip; a trip takes us.” — John Steinbeck

This could be said of the road trip to Santa Fe, this one, and the trip through these past 50 Days to 50 Years. While I did not manage to connect with 50 friends over the 50 days, it was a very fruitful, fun, and enlightening experience, which carved a new space in the year and in my life: a larger space of gratitude for the people and events who have shaped the woman I am today, and a new space of embracing the legacy of years. I am thankful that I approach the 50s with few regrets, and a beautiful bouquet of people, places, and memories, including my husband, our marriage, and our life together. So the journey up to now has been mostly sweet, and my prayer is that it will continue to grow sweeter.

I packed my things, gave my thanks to Gina for the use of her Air BnB, and said my goodbyes. Since we kept skipping a formal breakfast these past two days, I decided to meet Shawna for one last meal at Black Bear Diner before I hit the road.

Black Bear is another Shawna find, and they have some of the best comfort food west of the Mississippi. One of their specialties is sweet cream pancakes, french toast, muffins, you name it. The sweet cream adds an extra layer of richness to the already fluffy texture of the bread, that is only enhanced by syrup, more butter, and whatever else you want to top it with. Had I been smart, I would have bought some muffins or sweetbread to take with me—maybe next trip….

It was delicious fuel for the body for the 6-plus hour drive back South. The car needed fuel too, so I gassed up at the Fairfield Costco before hopping the 5 South for a mostly uneventful ride back to Los Angeles. This is Northern and Southern California after all, and the traffic is legendary; but for the most part, the drive was smooth.

I arrived home to ecstatic puppies and a happy husband, so perhaps a weekend getaway was a perfect solution to reset us. We would be celebrating 9 years married in two days, so a reset was a good thing.

I also came home to a couple of sweet presents: a personalized gift basket from Lynn’s sister Carrie, and a lovely photo book from my sister Joan.

The last day of 49 ended as desired: at home with the people I love, on a mellow note, with anticipation of things to come as I crossed the threshold into 50.

 





50 Days to 50 Years, Day 01: Napa Girl’s Weekend, Part 3: Jason Bourne and Sweetie Pies

31 07 2016

“Take rest; a field that has rested gives a bountiful crop.”  — Ovid

That we did. Sunday was another leisurely morning where we did not much. Nibbled on the still leftover snacks, had coffee, and just chilled. I patched in briefly to the live feed of the 10 am service at Montrose Church back in Los Angeles, then we made the effort to get dressed for the grand event that day: Jason Bourne.

Yes, I love Matt Damon’s acting, and the Bourne series is one of my favorites of his work; so what better way to spend the day than watching the latest installment?

We even got to drag Shawna’s mom Nasha out the house, which is something Shawna says she rarely does. I felt honored that she would join us for the excursion—Nasha’s like another mom.

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While not any match for the previous three, Jason Bourne was serviceable. A perfect fluff film for a leisurely afternoon.

We decided to show Nicole the Riverfront in Downtown Napa, and Shawna had a certificate for a confectionery called Sweetie Pies. Not to be mistaken for the restaurant made famous by Oprah, this was just a simple shop that sold specialty and gourmet pastries, cakes, and cookies, and the usual coffee and tea offerings that go along with them.

Wow! While not a sugar addict, this place was worth all the calories. Much of it was so rich, that we had leftovers to knosh on later.

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Nasha was past her threshold of being around the public, so we dropped her off, and me, Shawna, and Nicole did Chinese food for dinner. Nicole was heading back to Alameda (near San Francisco), and ordered a to-go meal for her fianceé Georgios, who was very sweet to let his love spend a few days with me.

The best part of girlfriends, and especially Christian girlfriends, is that along with the laughter, fun, sharing, and eating, we also pray together. Nicole shared some difficult things that were going on with the wedding and Georgios’ family, and she knew of my struggles as well. So before she drove off, we spent some time in prayer. No matter what the issues, inviting the Lord into it is a guarantee of our peace and helps me to look for his action and answer in the midst of the situation.

The Girlfriend’s Weekend was inspired, special, and now complete. Shawna stayed for a little bit before she had to head to work. The last night in the Air BnB was uneventful, which was also an appropriate end.

 





50 Days to 50 Years, Day 02: Napa Girl’s Weekend, Part 2: Castello di Amarosa and Rutherford Grill

30 07 2016

“Good friends help you to find important things when you have lost them… your smile, your hope, and your courage.” — Doe Zantamata

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The morning started off leisurely, which is how I prefer to start mornings. Donna and Auntie Everette were the first to rise, then I got up. Shawna would not be off work until after 8 am, and we had planned to go to Black Bear Diner for breakfast before heading off for pedicures.

Shawna arrived later than expected, and none of us were in a great hurry to get out of our PJs, so we talked, and planned, and finally got dressed. It was almost noon, so almost time for our nail appointment and too late to do Black Bear. On the way to the salon, Shawna stopped to get breakfast burritos for us from another of her favorite spots. We gobbled them down as we waited to be seated for our mani-pedicures!

Mine was just a pedi. I see no point in getting a manicure because with all the washing dishes, gardening, and other hands-on stuff I do, it is ruined in a few days. But pedicures are always in order, especially since between teaching Yoga and taking Yoga, I spend three-quarters of my life out of shoes!

I decided on gold for the weekend, and in honor of turning 50. Technically, I am moving into my golden years, so I took it as a declaration.

We stopped at a grocery store to grab a few nibbles that we planned to eat before the wine tasting. Unfortunately, traffic was not very cooperative. It took us longer to get to Castello di Amarosa than expected, and we got there right on time for our tasting session. Donna’s daughter Danea was also joining us, and ran into traffic on the way down from Brentwood. I guess Saturdays in the Napa Valley are about the same as Saturdays in Los Angeles: people converging on the roads all at one time trying to get their errands done.

Nicole was not able to make the tasting, but would meet us later at Rutherford Grill for dinner. We talked with the tour coordinator about the length and difficulty of the tour. Because there was a lot of unevenness to the flooring as well as stairs, Auntie Everette decided to relax in the tasting room while we did the tour.

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It was a really awesome tour, with bits of history and humor weaved throughout. The entire affair is a testament to what someone can do with money and time on their hands. This billionaire decided he wanted an authentic castle, so he had rocks shipped in from Africa (to look aged and authentic), and built a castle/winery. Who am I to judge? If I had that kind of cheddar, I’d buy myself a mineral hot springs that I could visit whenever I wanted. To each his own….

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We had a great time, and were sufficiently buzzed by the end. Good thing Shawna wasn’t sampling, and we didn’t have far to drive! Rutherford Grill was practically around the corner.

Nicole was able to make it, and we had some lounge time on the patio before being seated. Shawna’s penchant for good food paid off once again! It was a delicious dinner, and the restaurant’s patio statue was synonymous to what occurred—we pigged out!

Once we rolled ourselves back to our cars, we headed back to the Air BnB. Donna and Everette had church obligations, so we hugged and kissed them goodbye, and then headed upstairs for a movie night.

Shawna was off work for the weekend, so she was able to stay the night. We repaired back into our PJs and figured out how to log into my Netflix account to watch The Princess Bride.

Along with a gorgeous birthday card, Nicole gave me a beauty treatment mask, so I decided to make it a full-fledged girl’s night and applied it! We nibbled on a bit of popcorn, and me and Nicole had some wine while we enjoyed this movie classic.

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It was an appropriate ending to a fun day.

 








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