The Year of All Things Literary!

4 11 2019

Long patience and application saturated with your heart’s blood—you will either write or you will not—and the only way to find out whether you will or not is to try.
—Jim Tully

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Spoiler Alert! This is a long post, but worth the read. This is what happens when you don’t do any writing of substance for several months.

This year’s Resolution #3: Write, has been a journey of starts, fits, and fizzles. For various reasons, I have not found a new groove or rhythm. The extent of my literary life has been hosting Literary Los Angeles events, supporting friends in their endeavors, and an occasional blog post, the last one commemorating my birthday in August. With only one more month of 2019 left, I feel as though I could have done better, but I am also not beating myself up about it. Having patience with myself, doing things to keep massaging the writing in one form or another, acknowledging that despite the discouragement, it is in the blood and I have to keep trying. These are baby steps I have been employing in this period of malaise.

I actually finished reading two books so far; a far cry from the 11 I wanted to have read by this point, but better than I’ve done in many years. I used to be a voracious reader, and somewhere, along with the writing, that voracity diminished. Not sure if I will get it back in full, but I do expect to finish reading four books before the end of the year—and reading does wonders to fuel the writing!

My Literary Los Angeles events have been the highlight of my year! Originally published in May of 2018, the CurbedLA blog post of places favored by Los Angeles writers was the inspiration to hosting these events. So, I have gathered as many writer friends as I could over the past 10 months to inhabit these haunts over drinks, dinner, or just a day trippin’ tour!

My first excursion was in January, with my dear friend Laura Rebecca at Langer’s Delicatessen and Restaurant. Despite the city’s reputation of the young, hip, and new, L.A. has lots of historic haunts, and Langer’s, open since 1947, is one of them.

Nora Ephron is one of my favorite writers. She loved Langer’s pastrami sandwich, and even wrote a New Yorker piece about it called “A Sandwich”. I had to see if it was worth the buzz (and the price). I must say, it did not disappoint.

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Hanging with my girl Laura Rebecca, a fellow scribe and Yogi at Langer’s Deli.

Later that month, fellow writer and entrepreneur Cheryl Leutjen joined me on a tour of Joan Didion‘s old house, which is now the Shumei Hollywood Center. Thanks to the docent Annie, I learned a lot more about Joan Didion, and about how the Shumei Center’s work. It was a gorgeous, sunny day, and the gardens were blooming and beautiful. The landscaper Junzo told us the story of how he had to pull up the tennis court that was there previously and break up the fallow ground so it could receive water and seed. He also told us his vision for a water tower and some outdoor seating for events. Cheryl was happy to find a potential location for her Natural Muse writing group–win-win! The Center offers some cool classes, so whether it is for one of those, or for the Natural Muse meetup, we will definitely plan to return.

February’s Literary Los Angeles excursion was to the Beverly Hills Hotel, with dear friends and fellow writers Sharon Goldstein, Gail Upp, Matthew Shaffer, and Jeff Payton.

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From left to right: Jeff Payton, yours truly, Matthew Shaffer, Gail Upp, and Sharon Goldstein

The Beverly Hills Hotel oozes with urbane charm, glitz, and storied history. Along with the usual Hollywood celebrities, the iconic hotel often hosted writers such as Fran Leibowitz, Gore Vidal, Eve Babitz, and Brett Easton Ellis.

The Polo Lounge used to be a classic bar, but it had recently been remodeled to a restaurant with a small bar. Our plan was to just hang out at the bar, since a sit-down brunch is $95.00 per person—ain’t nobody got time for that.

Who knew it would be a Sunday of torrential rain, combined with the fact that it was Grammy Sunday; so the place was packed to the rafters. Thankfully the hostess took pity on Sharon, who literally needed to eat for her health, and she got us seated at a cocktail table near the bar.While drinks and appetizers were by no means cheap, it didn’t require the taking out of a small loan that brunch would have. I nibbled on some rare sliders which were quite good, Matthew and Jeff had Polo Garden Gimlets, Sharon had Chips, Salsa, and Guacamole, and Gail had Lox over Gluten free bread, with a spot of caviar. We had some great conversation about movies (we do live in L.A., after all), relationships and weddings, our writing ideas, church music and faith, while watching the well-heeled and the Hollywood elite wend throughout the renowned bar with their various comings and goings.

It was such a hit that we decided we must do it again. Musso & Frank was next on the Literary Los Angeles list, so the plan was to pinch all our pennies and make reservations for sometime in April, after Easter. While not as pricey as the Beverly Hills Hotel, it does require some budgeting—either that, or some sweet advances from book deals—the latter would have been nice….

I was the one who screwed the pooch with the planning. We all had Easter Monday set on our schedules: unfortunately I failed to check the website to see whether Musso & Frank was even open on Monday. It. Was. Not. Womp-Wah. So, we kept the date, but changed the venue to the next place on the list: The Frolic Room!

While Matthew and Jeff could not make it, Sharon, Gail, Laura, and this time Joe (Sharon’s husband and multi-hyphenate: one of them being writer) was able to come along.

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Doing what one does best in the Frolic Room: Drink, and frolic!

The Frolic Room was the regular watering hole of writer Charles Bukowski in the 1970s, while he was cranking out some of his seminal works, Post Office, and Mockingbird Wish Me Luck.

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It started as a Prohibition-era speakeasy in the 1930s. Once Prohibition was repealed, it became a legit bar. In the 1940s, along with the Pantages Theater next door, it was owned by Howard Hughes until 1954. Many stars bellied up to the bar, including Frank Sinatra and Judy Garland. It is also infamous for being the last place Elizabeth Short (“The Black Dahlia”) was seen alive before her gruesome murder in 1947.

While every bar in Los Angeles and the surrounding environs seems to be turning into a Gastropub (Lord, spare us from hipsters), The Frolic Room has maintained its divey vibe, and the five of us were happy to drink it in along with Coke, Gin and Tonic, Bloody Mary, and a Martini, while trying to name all the golden-age celebrities in the Al Hirschfeld mural that lines the wall across from the bar.

It turned out to be a busy Summer for all of us, so Musso & Frank would wait a while longer. In the meantime, I celebrated my friend Cheryl Leutjen and her Nautilus award-winning non-fiction book Love Earth Now at a book signing at Zweet Cafe in Eagle Rock, where Cheryl penned a lot of the book! Cheryl read some excerpts from the book, along with fellow author Dr. Davina Kotulski, who she met during one of those Zweet writing jags.

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I think a regular weekly visit to a coffee shop might do me some good in establishing a rhythm; but I haven’t found a haunt in Pasadena that I absolutely adore. Time to start looking, I guess.

I was asked in July to be the guest on a podcast! Lori Bisser, a fellow Yoga instructor and graduate of the New Day Yoga 300-Hour training program from which I also graduated, asked me to share my story of gratitude on her podcast appropriately titled “Gratitude Sandwich”. Whenever she launches it, that will be a link I plan to promote. While not writing, it is storytelling, so it counts toward the writer’s life, and the drive towards word creation.

Musso & Frank finally happened toward the end of August. Matthew was wrapped up in his dance competition tour and also on the cusp of his second book release, Dancing Out of the Closet, so he and Jeff could not join us. It was up to the core fabulous five to eat some old school food in old Hollywood, and boy, did we!

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It was good timing, as Musso & Frank is celebrating 100 years in Hollywood! Very few restaurants in Los Angeles hold that distinction; long-standing restaurants in L.A. are about as ephemeral as a three-book publishing deal.

Opened in 1919 by Joseph Musso and Frank Toulet, Musso & Frank hired French chef Jean Rue to design the menu. Rue would not only launch the kitchen, but would hold it down for 53 years! In 1927, the name partners sold the restaurant to two Italian immigrants named John Mosso and Joseph Carrissimi, and the restaurant is still mostly family owned: Mark Echeverria, the COO, CFO and current proprietor of Musso & Frank happens to be John Mosso’s great-grandson. Talk about a Hollywood story!

From the leather menus, to the dark wood, to the black and white photos of executives, business men, guys and dolls enjoying a martini and a cigar, Musso & Frank has legend dripping from its walls, and wafting through its doors. I had one of their classic Martinis (apparently the best in Los Angeles), along with some exquisitely prepared rare lamb chops. Gail had sweet meats with Brussel sprouts—a dish (the sweetmeats) that is hard to find anywhere. After dinner, even I wanted to break out a cigar or cigarette, and I don’t smoke either one! It was like stepping back to a time where food and atmosphere were a package deal, and your dinner was not only splendidly presented, but prepared with flavor, finesse, and substance. An other-worldly experience that was well worth the price tag.

My annual trek to Chicago for the Columbia College Chicago Alumni Board retreat was in September. I came into town earlier in the week than usual, because we were cutting the ribbon on the college’s first-ever Student Center, so two days of events were planned ahead of the weekend board activities. One was a VIP reception for the Board, Trustees, and donors to the Center. The second was the grand opening celebration and ribbon cutting, which was quite the treat!

What was even more of a treat was running into two writing mentors: Randall Albers, one of my instructors who helped to shepherd me toward graduate school. And Gary Johnson, who took me through the ropes of editing my first fiction piece toward publication in Columbia College’s Fiction Anthology, Hairtrigger 9 & 10. Both men remembered me, which was an honor, and Gary remembered my fiction piece “The Foot” a parody of Nikolai Golgov’s “The Nose” with great detail—the man has an incredible brain! Gary was hosting the Writer’s Room at the Student Center Grand Opening, where his most accomplished fiction students were reading from their original works. It brought back so many memories of years of writing classes, diving into the story workshop method of sitting in a circle, closing my eyes, and listening out into the street… Sense experiences that then were poured onto the page, and ultimately transformed into unique stories. As the students read their work aloud, the visceral, rhythmic flow of words poured over me like a warm blanket. It took me back to a time when I was on the edge of my seat both in my listening and in my writing, and made me hungry to get back there.

I was able to talk to Randy briefly, and he encouraged me to find a workshop that would allow me to delve deeply again. Another voyage of exploration along with that coffee shop in which to write.

Friday was the first CAAN Board event, a meet-and-greet at the home of one of the faculty couples. I engaged in conversation with the husband Jason Stephens, associate professor of instruction in the Business and Entrepreneur program. I related my joy in re-discovering the life and vibrancy of the story workshop method and the prescient fluidity it produced in the student’s writing. This led to brainstorming about using writing faculty or students to help the data and marketing students learn to tell stories with their numbers and information, and a light bulb went off for Jason on this potential new building block to help his students view their information in a different way.

Long story short, Jason invited me to speak to his data analytics class about storytelling! When an alumni addresses a class, it is called a “Master Class”, so it was a privilege to be asked to do so, and a new experience for me talking about the elements involved in creating a story, and how one might apply it to data information. Another opportunity to use my gift and knowledge of wordsmithing to address a different medium!

The icing on the cake of my Chicago trip was visiting the American Writer’s Museum on the Magnificent Mile. The interactive space opened in 2017, and it was a lovely afternoon spent reading about some of my favorite authors, finding information I did not know about others, and playing interactive games with their words, getting reacquainted with a typewriter, and generally having a good time soaking up the literary vibe of the place.

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I couldn’t leave without swag, so along with some free bookmarks that had a particular writer, a quote from his or her work, and the address to their museum or historical society, I nabbed a magnet that says simply, “Write On”, and a great mug with quotes from one of my writing inspirations: Mr. Edgar Allan Poe.

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Finally, I ended the month of October at a book presentation and signing for my friend Andrea Wilson Woods’ medical memoir, Better Off Bald: A Life in 147 Days, about her 15-year old sister Adrienne Wilson’s battle with liver cancer.

I trekked out to Pomona to a really cool bookstore called Cafe con Libros (where are these places closer?! Sigh…), where Andrea read a chapter from the book, and spearheaded a meaty discussion on why a great story always trumps bad writing, the difference between a memoir and a biography, why having a platform is essential for any writer, what social media platforms are best, and how to balance privacy of others but remain truthful about facts.

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November 1, 2019 Cafe con Libros: Book presentation and signing for “Better Off Bald”-Andrea Wilson Woods

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Andrea now lives in Birmingham, Alabama, so this was the tail end of her annual visit back to Los Angeles to visit her sister Adrienne’s grave, and make some connections for her non-profit and advocacy organizations, Blue Faery, and Cancer U. We spent some good time together on Monday at a Yoga class and over lunch, and she was flying out early the next day; so this was just another opportunity to support a friend in their success in not only getting the words on the page, but getting them published and recognized! The book is doing quite well, and getting rave reviews. Buy it!

November has only just begun, but it is already packed. Gail is encouraging me to do one more Literary Los Angeles event, perhaps Chateau Marmont or Clifton’s Cafeteria. I can also spend the remaining two months of 2019 finding that coffee shop and scoping out a writing workshop in order to establish a rhythm that will get me writing more regularly. So I guess resolution #3, while not resulting in copious words on the page, served to keep the literary fires stoked on different fronts so the words can be forged and poured forth at the proper time.

To rephrase Descartes, “I write, therefore I am.”





53 and Me

3 08 2019

 

 

“There is nothing better for a person than that he should eat and drink and find enjoyment in his toil. This also, I saw, is from the hand of God[…]”
— Ecclesiastes 2:24 ESV

Yesterday, I officially turned the page on another year. Goodbye 52, Hello 53. Two thoughts come to mind these days as I approach a birthday: 1) I never envisioned what life would be like past 30; and 2) I have outlived three sisters. Both thoughts are shrouded with a sense of mystery, and a sense of weight. Embracing the unknown coupled with a embracing the present moment.

I am finding life past 30 full of wonder, surprise, and contentment. I am spending it with a wonderful man who is the love of my life, I am finally doing work that I love, and I am the most comfortable I have ever been in my own skin. After spending most of my young adulthood feeling like a fish out of water, fighting for recognition, and doing work that I hated, it’s a good place to be.

The outliving sisters still brings a rush of sadness, because on birthdays, and really every day, they were my biggest fans and some of my greatest sources of fun. Not to mention the lost history and connection from the people who have seen the progression up close and personal from Day One. But they, more than anyone, would encourage me to walk in Solomon’s shoes: eat, drink, embrace, and enjoy; it is a gift from God, and when the gift is gone… that’s it.

Embracing the present moment means I milk every moment of the “known”, so I did just that for my born day. I am working a contract job with Yoga Alliance right now, but generally I do the least hours on Friday. So I offloaded the bulk of my work into the days prior, so that I could have the actual Friday of my birthday mostly free.

After getting my tootsies done, I invited my lady tribe of girlfriends and Yogis to come paint with me at Color Me Mine. It was a fun time of conversation, coffee, and connecting with my inner child and creative genius. I evoked my spirit insect, the Lady Bug, and painted her on a chip and dip bowl in homage to my love of food. It was a perfect, low-key, and sunny afternoon spent in conversation and laughter, and I could not have asked for anything better.

 

 

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That evening, I invited friends to Din Tai Fung in Arcadia, to enjoy one of my favorite foods: Dumplings. I was blessed and delighted to have 15 friends trek from various parts of Los Angeles on a Friday night to spend the evening with me! The wait was exorbitantly long (they claimed an hour and a half, it ended up being over two), but the freshly made dumplings, different flavors, and great connection with all my friends made up for it.

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Embracing the unknown is often harder, because as I am all too aware, life can turn on a dime. Loss of loved ones, loss of homes, loss of social station has been sobering, if not demoralizing. Yet the mystery of embracing the intangible, and holding the tangible loosely, is what brings peace and contentment. My word for the year has been “wisdom”, so over the past 8 months, I have done lots of reading and re-reading of Proverbs and Ecclesiastes. “For wisdom is protection just as money is protection. But the advantage of knowledge is that wisdom preserves the lives of its possessors.” Ecclesiastes 7:12 NASB

So while I cannot control all the things of life, or even control when sudden tragedy might happen, I can preserve the life I do have by embracing wisdom with as much gusto as I embrace the present moment. The beauty of embrace is that it requires you to let go of one thing, in order to latch on to something else. To embrace requires you let go of fear, insecurity, and your typical protections. Embrace means you take something (or someone) to your heart and hold it (them) close. It’s vulnerability, it’s exposure, it’s trust; but it’s the only way to live in the moment and live in the mystery.

Another year, another opportunity to live in the balance.

 

 





New Year’s Resolution #4: New Ways to Move

13 05 2019

“We see in order to move; we move in order to see.”
― William Gibson

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While I love Yoga, and consider it a lifelong practice, I realize that if I want to keep my body and mind agile, I need to find other ways to move. Yoga has done wonders for my mind, my strength, and my flexibility; but in order to form new neuropathways in my brain, maintain strength in the established ones, and mold my body in different ways, I need different forms of movement.

So Resolution #4, “New Ways to Move”, would require some ingenuity. While I have committed (and succeeded) in walking more, I find it boring, and don’t consider it anything new. I ticked off the list in my head of forms of movement that were new and that interested me. Top two on my list were boxing and rock climbing. Because of the cost involved, I knew either one or the other would be a later in the year pursuit. It’s amazing that once you set your intention, how the universe offers up the opportunities within other opportunities.

I traveled to DC/Virginia to begin training for a new contract assignment, and the company put me up in Rosslyn, a little pocket in the city of Arlington. CorePower has spread quickly across the East Coast, and there was one in walking distance; so I was able to get in a juicy Hot Power Fusion class. Because the city is quite the walking city, I was able to do some nice treks around the neighborhood to explore, so that incorporated my walking component. It was while I walked back to the hotel after dinner one night that I passed by what looked like a fitness center. It is called “Bash”, and  is just that: a combination boxing and endurance workout. I walked in to give it a look, and see what the prices were like. The girl at the front desk let me know that they offer a free class to new people, and my heart leapt. What a perfect opportunity to try on something new with no big commitment!

​The workout was for 45 minutes, and they had an opening for 7:00 a.m. I reserved a spot for Friday, and was excited to have something to look forward to! In my last post, “Seasons of Change” I talked about embracing the newness of Spring for the first time in many years, and all the changes it brought. This opportunity to try something that I’d wanted to try for a long time felt like part of that Springtime awakening.

I arrived at 6:50 a.m. and was warmly greeted by the hostess. She acquainted me with the lay of the land, I paid for my hand wraps (that fit under the boxing gloves), and was then welcomed by the instructor Brett, who totally fit the profile of a fitness/boxing instructor in terms of looks, but his personality was electric and fun.

I must say this cardio-boxing-endurance workout was pretty darn cool! For my CPY Yogis, think of Yoga Sculpt on steroids with a punching bag! That’s exactly what is was. You get a choice of starting out on the floor or on the bag. I wanted the floor in order to get the additional shoulder warm up before trying out the bag. Brett gave instruction on the types of punches we would be using and how to do them, then we all went through a warm up together, before breaking into the groups who wanted to do the bag first, and the floor group who wanted to do reps. A lady next to me was very gracious in helping me get acclimated on who moved when, and the atmosphere was altogether positive and supportive—none of the clichey, judgey vibe I’ve felt at most gyms.

I adored Brett’s energy! He was full of encouragement, and was helpful at the right times. I suspect he either comes to CorePower for class or may even be an instructor. He began the class with a great focus theme of not being impatient with being under construction. Keep the goal in mind, and enjoy the journey of building something different. Brett weaved the theme throughout the class, and then had us end with setting an intention for our day. Pretty darn Yogic to me!

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He got bonus points for ending his playlist with “From Now On”, my favorite song from The Greatest Showman. Along with the full-on sweat, and the fresh form of movement, ending the workout and beginning the day on that note automatically put me in a great mood.

Now the hard part: finding something comparable here in L.A., and fitting it into my already packed schedule. My friend Frances encouraged me to not think of it as hard. “Look how easily you manifested that class,” she said. “You can do it in L.A., too.”

Excellent point. As one of my favorite Ralph Waldo Emerson quotes says, “Once you make a decision, the universe conspires to make it happen.”

 

 





Seasons of Change

29 04 2019

When the seasons shift, even the subtle beginning, the scent of a promised change, I feel something stir inside me. Hopefulness? Gratitude? Openness? Whatever it is, it’s welcome.” Kristin Armstrong

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With the turn of the page on the calendar there is also a feeling in the air: Spring is here. Not my favorite season, but one that clearly represents explosive shifts. From the pendulum-like nature of the weather, to the bursts of color and renewing of leaves; Spring just happens, and never asks permission; you either ride with it, or be left with tire tracks. For once in my life, I feel like I’m taking a ride. I am definitely not in the driver’s seat—which is good—because it gives me a perspective that I would not have if I had to focus on the destination. But I am also not feeling run over. Maybe it is due to the glorious cold and wet winter we had, maybe it is because the wave of grief that engulfed me at the end of the year has passed. But I am drinking in nature, it’s goodness, and looking forward to the good changes that come with it.

One fortunate change that has come with the Spring is a full-time gig for the first time in 9 years. I applied, interviewed, and was chosen for a consulting gig with a major Yoga organization. I have dreamed of both my passion and skill sets being utilized in the workplace. I always assumed it would be through writing, but that doesn’t seem to be the case. Who knew that Yoga would not only transform my body, mind, and soul, but be an avenue for some dreams to finally come true. This position is a three-month contract, as well as remote. So I get to do the job from the comfort of my California home while still teaching Yoga with CorePower.

Even more exciting is that the job extends through the extremely lean Summer months where both Lynn and my normal work diminishes. So for the first time in a very long time, there will be a steady income stream to help us not run a deficit.

In less than a week, I will be flown to a different state to start a week of training on a new aspect of the Yoga world which occupies most of my days. The known, the unknown, and the unexpected all converging into a new season in my career.

And for the first time in a long time, I am welcoming it with open arms.





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.





New Spaces for New Growth

15 03 2018

“I have, in the past, seen settling down as a deterrent to growth.
It doesn’t have to be, though. It can be the launching of new growth.”
— Jan Denise

I am adopting this perspective as we settle into our new home. Since we started this journey of putting a deposit down, packing, and moving, I have been stretched in a variety of ways—some difficult, some welcome. The stretching continues, as we settle down in a new part of town, with new roads, and ultimately new challenges.

First to the good growth. It is a pleasure to have coffee while enjoying this view. The view at our old place was supposed privacy bushes that the birds built their nests in; which alternatively attracted flies and other bugs. They still did not hide the neighbor’s cinder block wall, or block out their “tenant’s” noise.

We were sometimes bothered by the landlord’s intrusive wife, Jehovah’s Witnesses, and neighborhood wanderers—the bane of being directly off a major strip. So the shades were always drawn, which only added to my depression and the feeling of the walls closing in. I am a light and space girl, and I cannot tell you what seeing this every morning has done for my soul.

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I am thrilled that the dogs have space and comfy pillows on which to perch. Puppet, in particular, is all about the comfy pillows and is trying them out in every room.

 

And for a mold-free bedroom that also has lots of light, and that I can decorate and fix up.

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After 11 years that comforter needs to be replaced and our wood needs some help. That’s what 4 dogs will do for you, but I wouldn’t trade it!

And now, to the discomfort. We still have essentials to get: like a refrigerator, which means we are spending way more on takeout and delivery than I want. We are full-time workers, so the unpacking and the final cleaning and polish is slow. We moved in with the knowledge that it is an old space, and some things have been neglected; so it is also navigating the waiting and the logistics of having those items repaired or replaced. We have been gifted with a washer-dryer, but have to wait until our benefactor moves next month; so weekly laundromat visits are back on the agenda for now.

My challenge is not to fixate on either the pleasurable growth or the uncomfortable parts. My job is to just be present in the process, learn to be patient with the process, and take things as they come without stressing myself out and wishing for something different.

It’s also allowing for gaps, mess, and imperfection, because even that is a form of growth and beautiful in its own way.

I am also thrilled with this full length mirror so I can make sure my outfits are on point.

Today’s couture is my favorite Yoga shirt and leggings: perfect for the day’s agenda of teaching the Yoga, and training new teachers!

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All the Things…

28 02 2018

“There is no royal road to anything. One thing at a time, all things in succession. That which grows fast, withers as rapidly. That which grows slowly, endures.”
– Josiah Gilbert Holland

Ain’t it the truth, Josiah. Last week and this week have been crammed full of all the things, in a good way. I have the privilege of leading another Teacher Training with CorePower Yoga Pasadena, and my team of coaches and our faithful instructors has recruited a really awesome group of Yogis that are diverse, mature, and hungry to give and receive knowledge. We are heading into Week 2, and I am so looking forward to what I will learn from them, while presenting all that I know (sometimes, not much!)

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We are also moving. Moving is an evil word for me. Since leaving my childhood home at 19, I have probably moved about 40 times in my 51 years. Various circumstances: finances, bad roommate situations, roommates getting married or moving, the list goes on. My heart has always longed to settle and lay down roots in one place, and I thought with my marriage in 2007 and actually buying a house, that I was finally at that place where I wouldn’t have to move again for a long time.

As John Lennon said, Life is what happens when you’re making plans. Suffice to say, we lost that house, and ended up moving two times before being plopped in Atwater Village in 2011. The actual city of Los Angeles was the last place we thought we would find ourselves, and we both assumed it was a “make do” place, just a place where we could—hopefully quickly—get back on our feet.

Quickly didn’t happen. We have been here almost 7 years; but despite the hardships, fits and starts, and living among boxes and toxicity (a blog post for another day), something was being built. We loved the new Northeast Los Angeles community and all the fun haunts, events, and eating places that made this city seem less plastic and more human and community-oriented. We found a wonderful new church where we could get to know others more regularly and let them get to know us. Thanks to CorePower Yoga opening a studio in Pasadena, I found a location close to home where I didn’t have to hop a freeway to practice Yoga or to teach. So lots of wins in the midst of what was a hard season of waiting and testing.

So now, we get to move again. Another place where we never saw ourselves: the city of Pasadena! Our address is on Wesley; named after the theologian Charles Wesley, but also the name of one of my favorite nephews—so that’s a good sign.

We are further east from all that we have known in the past, but still close to some of the things that we hold dear: our church, my work, and new adventures in a new community.  It is a place of blessing, from the way it was delivered to us, to the favor we have received from the landlord, to our church communities and friends rallying around to help us in a multitude of ways, financial and physical.

It is a place that we can hopefully settle for a spell. I have no idea how long that spell will be—I learned to stop putting time frames on things after the horrors of 2008-2011. But what is true, and what I can count on, is that it is a place of space (two bedrooms and storage–whoo hoo!); a place of ease (4 miles to my Yoga studio, less than 2 blocks from the Pasadena campus of our church); and a place where we can find peace and quiet in our surroundings, yet still have the hum of community, events, and some city amenities. In the two weeks that we have been packing and moving, I am quickly falling in love with Hastings Ranch, since we’ve spent so much time there finding the things we need for the new home, as well as some of our favorite casual dining haunts.

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What I am enjoying now as we move boxes, paint the new house, and close out the old, is this view. The San Gabriel mountains are right at my backyard. My friend Joyce wrote on her Facebook page: “The mountains can teach us so much about our lives, our faith, ourselves. Think on what you’ve learned from your mountain adventures and feel free to share. Ready? Go!”

I replied to her post, not about a mountain adventure, but a mountain focus from Psalm 121-1-4:

I lift up my eyes to the mountains—where does my help come from?

My help comes from the Lord, the Maker of heaven and earth.

He will not let your foot slip—he who watches over you will not slumber; indeed, he who watches over Israel will neither slumber nor sleep.”

There are no coincidences in our lives. The fact that I have a mountain view is part and parcel of God’s reminder for me to continue to look to him for help. It is also a comfort that he will keep our footing in this new territory and watch over us here, no matter how long or short the spell will last.

We still have some odds and ends and large furniture to move, and I am knackered beyond belief. Week 2 of Teacher Training begins today, so I am still on and working hard to ensure these great Yogis are set up for success. But I am grateful for God’s hand in all the things; and that despite my desire for speed and efficiency, he is building something more enduring than I could imagine.








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