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.

 

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50 Days to 50 Years, Day 03: Napa Girl’s Weekend with Shawna Cypher!

29 07 2016

“I awoke this morning with devout thanksgiving
for my friends, the old and new.”  — Ralph Waldo Emerson

I have been so looking forward to this weekend, and thankful for my friend Shawna who helped to set it up.

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Shawna and I have known each other since 1994, when she came to Los Angeles as a nanny, and we have been the best of friends ever since. From weekends, to dinners, to impromptu road trips, she has been one of my best road dogs. I was sad when she moved back to Napa, but it also opened the door for trips up north to see her, with other friends and family in tow (as pictured above). This picture was taken the year before, when we went to Walnut Creek for the Foxx Family Reunion. We stopped in Napa on the way and spent some time with Shawna, and then Shawna crashed the reunion as our “sister from another mister”, and we all had a great time!

So when I thought of getting together a group of friends for a Girl’s Weekend, she was first on my list. Because of time, distance, and finances, some friends and family couldn’t make it, but I was looking forward to spending time with my cousin Donna and my aunt Everette, as well as my new friend Nicole, who was joining us on Saturday.

I had an amazingly smooth trip up the 5 freeway. Car rides are like a moving meditation for me, and also a moving prayer time. I have done my best praying and pondering on the road, and after the strains of the last weekend, it was needed. I enjoyed taking my sweet time, worshiping to my favorite Pandora stations, and listening for God’s wisdom and voice. Definitely time well spent.

I arrived at the Air BnB rented by Shawna’s friend Gina, and Shawna was there waiting for me. She and Gina helped me get the lay of the land, then Donna and aunt Everette arrived soon after. Shawna loved being navigator and chauffeur, and after 7 hours on the road that was fine with me. So we packed into her Rav-4 and headed to dinner at The Pear!

Shawna raved about this place, and since she has the same food tastes I do, I trusted her judgment. I was not disappointed! We started with Sunset Mimosas, Cheese Fondue, and Grilled Prawns. I love me some crustaceans, so I ordered Cheesy Grits with Prawns for my entree. It was melt-in-your-mouth, hearty goodness.

Shawna is a scrapbooker and crafter, so thanks to her mad skills, I received my first official 50th birthday card! Custom-made, no less.

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After dessert, we explored the Riverfront in Downtown Napa for a bit, and I realized this was the first time in a while that I had spent any quality time with my Aunt Everette. She is one of the last living Foxx matriarchs, and I wanted to soak up her presence as a living memory of that family and my mother.

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We saw all we could see of the Riverfront, so we headed back to the BnB for some conversation and a nightcap. Shawna had to go to work, and Everette went to bed, so me and Donna sat up a bit longer and had some good conversation about men, marriage, and how God wanted to use us as partners to the men we loved. Much needed conversation. My eyelids were drooping, so we prayed together, and both went off to bed.

Day 1 of the weekend had turned out fabulous, and I was looking forward to Day 2: Mani-pedis, and the Castello di Amaros Winery!





50 Days to 50 Years, Day 09: Santa Fe Foodie Excursion and an evening with Evan O’Connell

23 07 2016

Day 2 of the Santa Fe Foodie Excursion started with this gorgeous view outside our condo. Who wouldn’t want to wake up to that every morning? Well, at least we have one more morning to enjoy it.

Even though downtown Santa Fe was a mere four blocks downhill, the thought of walking uphill with full bellies was not something either Lynn or I wanted to look forward to; so like the Angeleans that we are, we drove, and paid for parking. You can take the O’Connells out of Los Angeles….

And our bellies were definitely filled to the brim! Carlos of Food Tour New Mexico was our guide for the day’s excursion. He did a great job of mixing the love of food with the love of culture, along with a sprinkling of New Mexico history.

Our first stop on the tour was San Francisco Bar and Grill, in the heart of the Santa Fe Plaza.The Plaza is the central part of the city, hosting Indian and Spanish markets, along with community gatherings and cultural events, so it was a short walk from the center of the Plaza to the restaurant. They served us an awesome Chicken Enchiladas with Chimao Red and Hatch Chiles, commonly known as “Christmas” style.

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Stop #2, and my personal favorite,  was to Thunderbird Bar and Grill, which boasts over 100 different tequila varieties, extensive wine and beer offerings, and other spirits. The Green Chile Pork Soup with Acedero (a Mexican form of Mozzarella) was simply divine. Carlos offered a little foodie tip: To increase the flavor of meats boiled in liquid, allow the meat to cool in the liquid. You could definitely taste the infusion of richness in the pork. I could have had another bowl, but it was on to the next leg of the tour.

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To cleanse our palates, Stop #3 was to The Original Santa Fe Olive Oil and Balsamic Vinegar Company. Carlos made us a “Birthday Cake” combination of Pineapple Balsamic Vinegar and Avocado Lemon Olive Oil. You could have it over ice and drink it, it was that scrumptious!

In between stops we were treated to some historical wonders and spectacular views from the La Fonda rooftop, the rooftop of the 5th Floor Presidential Suite of the Inn and Spa at Loretto, the Rosary Tree, and the Miraculous Staircase at the Chapel Loretto.

We also continued to meet some fun people. A couple of the participants in the Johnny Vee cooking class were there, along with some new faces. Three friends in particular captured my writer’s interest: Brittany, Julie, and Katie decided to take a mini-respite to Santa Fe, so Brittany and Katie drove up from Midland, Texas, and Julie flew in from Florida to meet up. I just love stories, and friendships like that. Katie also won the award for most fashionable, with a great dress and hat combination.

Since we had adequately walked off the burrito and the soup, we headed to Stop #4: Upper Crust Pizza for a New Mexico specialty: Hatch Green Chile Pizza.

Upper Crust Pizza is in an historical building in the oldest part of town. The crust is unique to this region; can’t be replicated anywhere else… kind of like Chicago Deep Dish! I was sold—both the Hatch Green Chile and the Red Chile pizzas were well worth the wait; and I was happy we had walked off the earlier fare so I could scarf down three slices!

And, of course, what would a foodie tour be without dessert! Stop #5 was to Senor Murphy Candymaker, which has been serving Santa Fe for 71 years. We sampled a quartet of treats including Bolitos and Pinon Fudge. The shop specializes in Pinon treats (“Pine Nuts” to the rest of the U.S.) which is a nut found exclusively in the state of New Mexico.

This leg of the excursion ended at Senior Murphy’s, and Lynn and I did a little bit of exploring the open air market, looking at the historical spots along old Route 66, and admiring some of the unique artistic endeavors that characterize Santa Fe before heading back to our condo to meet up with Evan.

One of the nice bonuses of marriage is that you get an extended family. I love Lynn’s brothers and sisters and their kids, and often wished they lived closer; but then, we wouldn’t have an excuse to visit if they did! Albuquerque is an hour south of Santa Fe, so Lynn’s nephew Evan wanted to drive up to see us this trip—so very sweet of him!

Evan met us at the condo, and we drove back into downtown Santa Fe, and stopped at a French restaurant for dessert. L’Olivier (how apropos) had a lovely patio, the manager played Getz/Gilberto in the background, and to add to the magical, Franco atmosphere, it rained!

One of the best features was a quote painted on the inside wall of the restaurant:

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Evan is an exceptionally talented artist, and through his studies, is getting well-versed in architecture. We walked around the Plaza at night, talking about the church structures and unique features of some of the monasteries in the West.

All-in-all, a pleasurable ending to our second day in Santa Fe.

 





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 43, Walt Disney’s Carolwood Barn with Theresa and AJ Danna

19 06 2016

“Cherish your human connections – your relationships with friends and family.” — Barbara Bush

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Theresa and I have been friends since the early 1990s, when we both were part of the now-defunct Masters of Professional Writing program at USC. She was one of the best parts to come out of those years in graduate school. She is a keeper (she says the same about me—verklempt), and we have watched each other’s lives through boyfriends and breakups, forced moves, intentional moves, job milestones, job losses and job stresses. But I am most thankful for being a part of her life because I got to see her son AJ enter the world and grow up. AJ turned 18 yesterday, marking a milestone in all our lives.

Theresa had AJ at 40, and I was there during the pregnancy, babysat him when he was little, and got to hang out with him at all sorts of things: from the kids show at the UCLA Los Angeles Book Fair, to the Chinese New Year celebrations, and various times and birthdays in between. They were a part of many Thanksgivings and Christmases in Los Angeles, and they had a front row seat as I met and married Lynn. My sister June was a pivotal part of their lives too, and they grieved right alongside me when she died.

I am honored and blessed by our family connection, and am so proud of the young man AJ has become. AJ is not your typical millennial: he knows what he wants, and he is pursuing it with passion and smarts. He has already gotten some major screen time doing background coverage in film and television, and he has a really spectacular voiceover reel over at his YouTube channel. He has met, and is being mentored by some of the best names in the voiceover and entertainment business. That is all AJ’s doing—no one handed it to him—he pursued them, was offered the opportunity, and made the necessary space for it.

AJ knows the players in his industry, and knows more about networking than any career coach I have encountered. In fact, as we were leaving the Barn, he ran into Mark Silverman, the voice of Rod Serling from the Disney Theme Park ride “Tower of Terror”, and just struck up a conversation with him. AJ’s confidence and his comfort in his own skin and his purpose are well beyond his years. He is focused and dedicated to his craft; but more importantly, he is one of the most personable and kind people I know.

Both AJ and Theresa are practically Disney historians, so I got to spend a bit of time with them at Walt Disney’s Carolwood Barn in Griffith Park. This is a FREE thing in Los Angeles, and right in my backyard, so even on this 107 degree Los Angeles day, it was a win-win, not just for the fun exploration, but to have some time with them both.

Fifty years on this earth teaches you that time is precious, and people’s presence in your life through the sorrows and the celebrations, growing up, and growing older makes it even more so. Thank you, Theresa and AJ for loving me and being part of my life . I love you both very much.





Happy Father’s Day!

15 06 2014

Happy Father’s Day to all those who have taken on the role, whether you are biologically connected to your children, or merely through the heart. Here is an excerpt from my memoir, FRIED CHICKEN AND SYMPATHY, about my biological father, Theodore Roosevelt Oliver, Sr., followed by a link to an Examiner article that I wrote a few years back about my spiritual father, Glenn “Kirk” Kirkpatrick.

Blessings!

My father when he worked at the Naval Base in North Chicago, IL.

My father when he worked at the Naval Base in North Chicago, IL.

Oliver’s Twist: The Father I Barely Knew…

“People can never predict when hard times might come.
Like fish in a net or birds in a snare, people are often caught by sudden tragedy.”
Ecclesiastes 9:12

I only have two memories of my father: The first one was in life, the second in death. The first was of a family trip to Brookfield Zoo in 1969. I consider June the unofficial family historian, and even she is surprised that I remember it so well. After the nine of us had spent our day at the zoo, we ambled single-file through the parking lot, to get into our lovely green four-door Oldsmobile with the chrome bumpers and the white-green interior, and head back to Cabrini-Green.

I was a vision of two-year-old cuteness, in a sky-blue pinafore with little embroidered flowers, blue socks with frilly borders, and braids that were contacting Mars; to this day my hair still has a life of its own. I distinctly remember Oliver (as most people, including us kids, called him) swooped me up with one large hand, and tucked me in his arm, holding me in the crook, while he used his other hand to retrieve the car keys from his pocket and open the door for the rest of the family. Oliver was stylish, in his button-down shirt, suspenders and tweed slacks. He had on one of his classic wide-brimmed hats, and I attempted to grab it off his head—an attempt which amazingly he dodged—seeing that his arms and hands were full.

He whispered something in my ear, but at that age I didn’t understand or care about words. All I cared about was his arm around me, holding me close, and the feeling of contentment it gave me.

My second memory of him is not really about him, but about his funeral. We were at Burr Oak Cemetery in Worth, Illinois on July 12, 1970. By today’s standards it’s a ghetto cemetery, but back then, it was one of the few options for people of color. Grandpa Joe and Grandma Annie had been laid to rest there, so it was in keeping with tradition.

So there we were, all seven of us kids standing around the gravesite in the rain, like strong little soldiers in black. I was holding onto Bay’s black-gloved hand, and something struck me so suddenly that I began to urgently tug on her arm. She looked down at me, her head wrapped in a black scarf, eyes shielded by the dark glasses she wore.

“Is Oliver coming back?” I asked. I didn’t get an answer. Just silence, with all eyes plastered on the hole in the ground. My first lesson in family dynamics. When faced with a hard question, pretend it was never asked.

I still have a knack for asking hard questions that have no answers.

I felt about as confused, and cheated as I sometimes feel now. At the age of three, I was not mature enough to wrap my heart around death’s finality. The little girl now buried within the adult still doesn’t.

It puzzles me how you can ache and long for someone you didn’t really know. I’m still that little girl in the blue dress at the zoo—except now, I long for my daddy’s arms instead of enjoying being in them. It’s a gaping hole—no matter how hard you try to fill it, it remains a bottomless pit. I pinpoint a lot of my emotional problems to the fact that my father was stolen from me. The depression I struggle with, my choosing emotionally-, and physically-unavailable men, and the subsequent lack of trust which has resulted from all those dead-end relationships.

As part of my own therapy to get a handle on the past, I’ve attempted to piece together Oliver’s life, like shards of a shattered plate. A delicate and painful exercise, with the end result being bloodied hands, and a piece that lacks the beauty, function and worth of the original. To some, it might serve little use except as a reminder of what used to be; but, painstakingly, I continue with the task. With each piece that comes together, and every little bit of new knowledge I acquire about him, I get a sense that I’m doing something significant and important—even if it’s for no one else but me.


My spiritual father, Glenn "Kirk" Kirkpatrick. A reflection of the Father Heart of God

My spiritual father, Glenn “Kirk” Kirkpatrick. A reflection of the Father Heart of God

 The Father Heart of God

Father’s Day has often been a foreign holiday to me. My father was murdered when I was three, and it wasn’t until thirty years later that someone came into my life who helped me understand the Father heart of God. Because of that consistent witness, I asked Glenn “Kirk” Kirkpatrick to step into the role of “Father of the Bride”, and walk me down the aisle.

This father role was not a place he sought, nor I pursued. But Kirk’s heart’s desire was to be the man God wanted Him to be, and as he sought the Father’s heart, he could not help but emulate it. And God’s divine purpose for us is to know his heart; it does not matter if it is demonstrated through human or spiritual genetics. He used Kirk to grant me this gift, and I make it a point to honor him as a father. I wish him a Happy Father’s Day, whether with a card or a message–now, Father’s Day is more familiar, and less foreign. Read more at Examiner.com: The Father Heart of God.





In My Orbit…

23 07 2010

Digital Image courtesy of Danilo Rizzuti / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

The Girl’s been gone for a bit as life and circumstance have eaten up my time, energy and a bit of my sanity.  Since I never claimed to be completely sane anyway, that last one was the least of my worries.

After a month-long ordeal of packing a house and cramming it into an apartment, my sweet hubby fell ill and ended up in the hospital.  Diagnosis: ulcerative colitis, an autoimmune disease that affects the colon.  Thankfully, he is on the mend, adapting to his medications, and we pray will be able to get back to life and work soon.

So the blog got put on the back burner, but I am now back with a vengeance.   Watch out, world!

The political junkie is in full bore, what with the smackalicious stuff coming from The Daily Caller about the JournoList,  a listserv where bunches of liberal journalists got together to engineer and plot the downfall of the likes of Fred Barnes and Sarah Palin, and to assist Obama’s political rise and eventual win of the 2008 Presidential race.

Like the East Anglia emails, it only confirmed my and many conservatives, suspicions about information control and dissemination in order to advance a cause or political agenda.   So no big surprise here.  However, the arrogance, sniping, and smarter-than-thou snarkiness is more than fascinating.

See for yourself.  The Daily Caller-JournoList links.

And I end with a bit of humor–it made me laugh out loud!  I love the Talking Heads and their video of this song, so this parody is well done, along with packing a punch.

H/t: Hot Air.