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.”

 

 





New Year’s Resolution #2: Root into Community

11 02 2019

Oil and perfume make the heart glad, so a man’s counsel is sweet to his friend.

“Do not forsake your own friend or your father’s friend, and do not go to your brother’s house in the day of your calamity; Better is a neighbor who is near than a brother far away.” — Proverbs 27:9-10

I have friends far and wide, whom I love, but miss terribly. While I have always tried to tap into local community, because of our topsy-turvy lives, we have had to change communities and restart more often than I would like. I must admit, the older I get, the harder it becomes to do that. But it is necessary for survival, well being, and to feel connected to the place where you live.

So my second Resolution this year is to root into community. I am grateful that one of my Yoga community members is also a part of my local community in Northeast Pasadena. Tanya is a fellow CorePower instructor who lives less than two miles from us.

She and her husband JB blessed us with our stove, and we have had opportunity to break bread with them at their lovely, earthy place. She even popped over to bring me some of the beautiful antique roses from her garden!20190102_111315.jpg

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Knowing that we have not only a great neighbor, but a great Yogi nearby helps in my ability to take root and feel comfortable. We have plans in the works to get drinks after class soon.

Sammy and Hermione are lifelong friends, and Hermione and I have been accountability partners for well over 20 years. While they are not close-by community, they are nearer than some of our other lifelong friends; so we try to make a point to get together with them and their son Jaxin. We launched the year at a fun event in our neck of the woods: The Moonlight Forest Lantern Festival at the Los Angeles Arboretum in Arcadia.

It was a magical night of walking around in 40 degree weather (haven’t done that since Chicago), and admiring Japanese lantern displays that represented nature, California culture, and Japanese history.

And I am really loving our local community in terms of food. I found The Barn, a late night Asian fusion eatery on Yelp. So after a crisp night walking and admiring the creativity and artistry, we were all happy as clams to sit someplace warm and fill our bellies! Sammy and Hermione are food adventurous, so they had a great Seafood Hot Pot, Fried Chicken, Chicken Hearts, and some Sauteed Green Beans, along with some Fried Rice, and French Fries.

20190104_224039.jpgMy “Mr. Orange Chicken” husband had some Chinese Sausage and Fried Rice, and some of my Pork Belly. Along with the Pork Belly, I had Chicken Gizzards, and a Lamb, Glass Noodle, and Vegetable Hot Pot which was so divine! Lynn even had a little bit of that. 

I also smashed some Pork Intestines wrapped in Asparagus and Chicken Cartilage—it’s a Southern and a foodie thing—don’t judge me!

Washed down with a delicious hot Matcha, it all made for a moveable feast with our delightful friends.

Another nearby neighbor is from our Montrose Church community, and she lives less than a mile away. If I had been feeling particularly ambitious, I could have easily walked to her house. Instead, I drove (so L.A. of me!), but the purpose was to take a walk. Candice has a 4-year old, a 9-month old, and a 6-month old, but chasing Littles is not that much exercise. So we made plans to walk for 30 minutes.

Candice packed Declan and Tara, her toddlers, into a stroller, and four-year-old Seamus was on his bike with training wheels, and we were ready to tool around the neighborhood.

It was good to connect outside of 5 minutes before service, and it gave this childless woman a chance to love on and enjoy some babies, which I need every once in a while. With the torrential rains this past week, our plans for last Monday were derailed, but we hope to do it again when the weather and schedules allow.

So, it’s a good start to the resolutions, and a good start in deepening roots. I am amazed that in one month, we will have lived in Pasadena for a year. Our circumstances are always precarious, so we don’t know the time frame for how long we’ll stay in this particular community; but while we are here, we’ll work at blooming where we’re planted. 

 

 





New Year’s Resolution #1: Use All the Things

13 01 2019

“Start living now. Stop saving the good china for that special occasion. Stop withholding your love until that special person materializes. Every day you are alive is a special occasion. Every minute, every breath, is a gift from God.” — Mary Manin Morrissey

Resolutions generally involve losing something (weight, clutter) or gaining something (time, money). While my resolutions involve both of those, one in particular involves using what I have and making the most of it—particularly in the kitchen.

When I got married over 11 years ago, I used the opportunity to acquire some great cooking and serving dishes because I love to entertain. We had just bought a house with lots of space, so it was exciting unpacking the goodies and finding places for each and every one.

We had a few years of major Holiday, barbecue, and dinner events where I was able to use some of these treasures; then we fell into tragic circumstances, we lost the house, and the majority of these things ended up stored in boxes. After some fits, starts, and a few weeks in an extended stay hotel, we ended up in a place that was smaller than the living room at our old home, with little storage. So all those serving pieces, bakeware, and glasswares ended up staying in boxes—for seven years.

Twenty-eighteen afforded the blessing of moving to larger digs; not as large or as much storage space as our old home, but just enough to be able to finally unpack those boxes again and rediscover the wealth of items at my disposal.

In my re-discovery, my goal is not to get rid of any of it, but to USE it. Not just for entertaining and special occasions, but for every day.

So when I have a glass of wine or a drink, I ALWAYS use the good glasses.

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I have been cooking up a storm over the holidays and into the New Year, and have been using my beautiful Emile Henry bakeware instead of my Pyrex or loaf tins.

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What this does is break patterns of holding back and waiting on “someday”. Living in the present moment involves utilizing the tools you have in that moment. Someday may never come, so in terms of my culinary treasures, I am living for now, and treating me and my husband as if we are the honored guests, and as though dining together is the special occasion.

Hoping this will be one of the game changers of 2019.





Christmas 2018: Dispelling the Shadows

24 12 2018

 

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“Nevertheless, there will be no more gloom for those in distress. In the past He humbled the land of Zebulun and the land of Naphtali, but in the future He will honor the Way to the Sea, beyond the Jordan, Galilee of the Gentiles:

The people walking in darkness have seen a great light; on those living in the land of the shadow of death, a light has dawned.[…]

For unto us a child is born, unto us a son is given, and the government will be upon His shoulders. And He will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.

Of the increase of His government and peace there will be no end. He will reign on the throne of David and over his kingdom, to establish and sustain it with justice and righteousness from that time and forevermore. The zeal of the LORD of Hosts will accomplish this.”

Isaiah 9:1-2; 6-7

“Distress”, and “The shadow of Death” have been constants this year. It’s been a pivotal and life-changing year on a number of levels, with some great blessings and opportunities. But I am quite confident that part of the busyness and rush has been God’s way of buoying me up from distress, and helping me to navigate the shadow.

Things slowed down a week ago, right around the one-year anniversary of my sister Joan’s death, and the emotional distress fell heavy, while Death’s shadow grew more looming. My late Uncle Charles said it well, “Death always comes as a stranger,” and it is true. No way to prepare for it, and it is never familiar, but an intrusive presence that always appears at the wrong time.

Which is why this Christmas season has been the hardest in a number of years, and each moment has been a choice to embrace the Christ child afresh. At a Christmas concert I attended on Saturday, the pastor’s words were very profound. He pointed out how messy and imperfect the actual Nativity was. Full of difficult journeys, imminent danger, stench (a stable—yes), and great inconvenience. 

From Isaiah’s prophecy to Zechariah’s song, the darkness, distress, and shadow of Death is never glossed over or minimized. What is maximized is the Light that has come because Christ is born. That Light which transforms the darkness, and dispels every shadow. So from the bright lights of my Christmas tree, to the brightness of friends and family, I turn my eyes and embrace the Light, embrace the promise of Hope, embrace what is, and cling to what is good. 

God is good, and he has shown his goodness, and his zeal to bring Light into our darkness, and be with us no matter what our state, in the promise of the Christ child. Each season, and especially each Christmas season, gives us opportunity to embrace and allow the Light to shine on us.

[B]ecause of the tender mercy of our God, by which the Dawn will visit us from on high, to shine on those who live in darkness and in the shadow of death, to guide our feet into the path of peace.” Luke 1:78-79

 

 





50 Days to 50 Years: Day 35, Acapulco Happy Hour with Jana Benson

27 06 2016

“Each friend represents a world in us, a world possibly not born until they arrive, and it is only by this meeting that a new world is born.” — Anaïs Nin

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Jana and me, cracking up about something. She enjoys laughter, and so do I.

I had no idea there were still Acapulcos in Los Angeles, but amazingly enough, some still exist; this particular one is in Glendale, just off the 134 Freeway. Of course, Ms. Jana knows where everything is—she is a total social butterfly, who gets around to all the great eating and shopping places—especially if they have a discount.

Jana is my new friend who I met at the Women’s Bible Study at Montrose Church. She is a totally welcoming, warm presence, and enjoys bringing people together. She is the organizer and heart of the Women’s Coffees, and if there is a social event or free food giveaway happening in the Los Angeles-LaCrescenta-La Canada-San Gabriel area (and probably beyond), Jana is aware of it.

I was blessed that even though we are just getting to know each other, she wanted to be a part of my 50 Days to 50 Years challenge. It is all about the people who have had an impact or influence in my life, no matter how small or large; and Jana has done that with her hospitable spirit.

Church groups can be the most precarious of atmospheres: sometimes cautious, often cliquish, and at times downright hostile. As I wrote in Day 49, I have received nothing but inclusion, warmth and welcome since attending the women’s functions at the Montrose Church, and Jana has been a big part of that.

So we hit Happy Hour at the Acapulco Cantina, and found a few surprises. While the Margaritas were still $2 (Thank God!) the Happy Hour menu appetizers were no longer half-priced, but $2.00 off, and the choices left much to be desired. Poke Tacos?! Uhhh, maybe not. So we ended up getting full-priced appetizers from the dinner menu to go with our discount drinks. Not the happiest, but not a major crisis either. I ordered a Coconut Cream Margarita, and it was pretty slammin’.

So over tableside Guacamole, Pork Nachos, Chicken Taquitos, and blended tequila, we got to know each other to a more focused degree than the snippets from our times with the group. As is the case with face-to-face interactions with friends, you go away marveling at the incredible depth, wealth and fortitude resident in human beings, and you admire the ability to navigate and a build a life, as well as weather the storms that threaten to tear at the fabric of that life.

Jana felt like she wasn’t her best self during our time, but I wasn’t expecting anything except getting to know her better and putting some building blocks onto this new foundation. I am most blessed to have the opportunity to do more of that during the remaining 15 days of this challenge. Both you and I get to see more of Jana, and I am most certainly better because of it.





50 Days to 50 Years: Day 36, Elizabeth House and the Montrose Church

26 06 2016

“Come, you who are blessed of My Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world. For I was hungry, and you gave Me something to eat; I was thirsty, and you gave Me something to drink; I was a stranger, and you invited Me in; naked, and you clothed Me; I was sick, and you visited Me; I was in prison, and you came to Me.’ Then the righteous will answer Him, ‘Lord, when did we see You hungry, and feed You, or thirsty, and give You something to drink? And when did we see You a stranger, and invite You in, or naked, and clothe You? When did we see You sick, or in prison, and come to You?’ The King will answer and say to them, ‘Truly I say to you, to the extent that you did it to one of these brothers of Mine, even the least of them, you did it to Me.’” — Matthew 25:35-40 NASB

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I was blessed with the privilege of presenting a workshop to the women of Elizabeth House titled, “Job Seeking Skills for the 21st Century Worker.”

Elizabeth House is a 501(c)(3) organization which the Montrose Church supports. The organization exists to provide shelter, hope and support to homeless pregnant women and their children by addressing their physical, emotional, spiritual, and economic needs in a nurturing atmosphere. Elizabeth House has been serving women and children in the Los Angeles area for more than 20 years. With two houses in Pasadena, the staff and volunteers of Elizabeth House are committed to the health and welfare of adult pregnant women and their children; part of that health and welfare is offering programs to help them grow and thrive.

Once we became members of Montrose Church, I knew I wanted to pick up the work I had started at the Congregational Church of Northridge through Tuesdays with Transitioners. I felt a distinct loss when I ended the ministry, and knew that I would continue it in some fashion somewhere down the road.

After a Sunday service, I spoke with Debbie Unruh, Executive Director of Elizabeth House, to see if they would have need for the type of career help that I could offer. She passed my information to Terry Bright, the Programs Director, and we had a very lovely meeting where I shared my ideas with her, and she explained some of the needs of the women who are residents of the house, as well as alumni—women who have been able to transition out of the house. From that meeting, the workshop was born, and a month later, I was presenting it.

While it was a different challenge from many of the members who attended the T-w-T meetings, it was a good one. The bulk of the workshop was spent walking the ladies through LinkedIn, explaining the benefits and features of the social networking site, and helping them get a profile started. We also touched briefly on how to deal with gaps in employment, and learning to tell a compelling story about their job history and job skills that reflected positively on them and the work they could do for a potential employer.

I supplied handouts and articles that they could reference later, and each woman asked insightful questions and shared key information on what they desired in their next job or career. Some of the women who attended remembered me from church, and we talked about the services, and how Pastor Dave had just returned from a mission in Swaziland. They seemed intrigued, and some of the women who hadn’t attended church in a while talked about returning.

So when I arrived on Sunday, I was highly encouraged to see most of the women from the workshop in attendance! Debbie said that they had to take two trips to get everyone there. One of the women greeted me warmly, and we talked for a bit before service began.

I hope I have opportunity to do more work with Elizabeth House, but even if it was just this one time, I believe it made an impact on the lives of these women and for the Kingdom. One of the alumni even asked about my reinvention services, and wanted to talk further on this. I encouraged them to connect with me via LinkedIn and to give me feedback on the seminar via my website. I hope to hear good things, and desire to see these small seeds sown reaping a harvest for these ladies.

 

 








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