Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Day 31: Of Red Flags & Intuition

It is the last day of January and as I am working feverishly on my book, I am also working on other parts of my life to make my 5th decade my happiest and healthiest yet. It is not something that I am taking lightly, nor is it something that I know will be easy since the biggest stumbling block is myself, specifically the fact that for most of my life I have ignored my own intuition and the red flags that told me my intuition is right.

As cliched (and new agey) as it sounds, if I had one piece of advice for young people it is that you do know what your truth is, what is right for you and what you "should" do, so don't ignore that voice inside of yourself that tells you that something is or isn't right for you. Instead, ignore the voice of others telling you theirs.

That's not to say that you have to ignore the advice, experience and wisdom of others, or those in similar positions, just use it as another factor to consider when making decisions. But remember that it is only one factor, not the main factor; and that this guidance and advice is based on their own experiences and their own intuition. That doesn't make it right for you or anyone else, only for them. As my own personal Messiah always tells me, nobody can really walk in anybody else's shoes so they really can't judge how we ought to be living.

As a big fan of motivational quotes and inspirational writing, I have been collecting those that really speak to me and this one is probably one of the truest and says best what I am trying to follow for myself. 

Monday, January 30, 2012

Day 30: 3 Months From Deadline

I seem to be slow at getting things but today I just realized that the end of January will be here tomorrow. It's not like I don't look at a calendar every day. I am a writer, we work on deadline. It's just that I hadn't really "felt" it was the end of the month until I realized it was the 30th and that means our book is due exactly 3 months from today on April 30. Gulp....

It is not that we are behind really. We each have one more chapter to write and then I have the Introduction to write, but our self-imposed goal was for all of our drafts to be done by tomorrow. I think that it is realistic for me to be done by the middle of February and I know my writing partner will be done by then as well.

Then, we need to edit it and get our photos, images, and ephemera etc., my least favorite part of the process. I like finding them, just not having to take photos, buy photos, save them in just the right format etc. I am a writer, not a graphics person and it really stresses me out. But I know it is important to make the book more interesting and that I want certain things to compliment what I have written.

If I had my way I would be alone somewhere just working on the book, but that is not the reality that I live with. 

So, for those people that I ignore, get short with, or that wonder why I am even more insensitive than usual, this sign is a reminder why:

And this one is for me, to remind myself to just focus on this project and to remember the passion that I feel for it no matter who or what tries to derail me (which always happens):

Sunday, January 29, 2012

Day 29: Accidentally Taking The Day Off

I didn't plan on taking the day off today. I actually had planned to write at least one of the sidebars for the current book chapter I am working on, which happens to be the last chapter of our book.

I am writing about one of my farmer friends, John Forneris, who still farms in the San Fernando Valley on land leased next to Mission San Fernando's Cemetery (nice ha), and who has a produce stand, and each fall, a corn maze, pumpkin patch and train rides around the farm.

But, last night my husband suggested that we walk to breakfast either on the pier or in Riviera Village. So, we opted to eat at Polly's On The Pier, a typical hole-in-the-wall place at the beach that I used to eat at almost every weekend, and that I hadn't eaten at since last spring. It was yummy and it was great to get a nice long walk in on such a beautiful day.

I also found that I was tired, it is only about 2.4 miles one way from our house to Polly's, but even after eating, I was tired as soon as we started to head home. So, I told him I needed to stop and rest, so we walked to Veteran's Park and sat for a little while and looked at the view.

As I stared out at the ocean and at the old Library, I remembered when I first moved back to the area to live with my Dad and how alone and scared I felt then. I was 19 years old and I hadn't lived with him since I was 5. But, I would go to the library to study and to find some peace as I was getting to know this man that I didn't really know. Ironically, it turns out that I was so much like him it scared me and I wasn't quite sure what to do with that.

After we made it home from our walk, I spent some more time out on the patio in the back and by then, it was time for lunch. After lunch, it was time for a nap, and by the end of my nap, I realized that I wouldn't be writing today but told myself that I needed the rest so that I could make a fresh start tomorrow, something I always need to do on a Monday. I am actually looking forward to it, I have the rest of the chapter all mapped out in my head, and all I have to do is write it out.

Veteran's Park, Redondo Beach, old Library now Community Center

Saturday, January 28, 2012

Day 28: Seeing The Moon & The Stars

Tonight there was a local treat; a "Star Party and Jupiter Viewing" at the Madrona Marsh Nature Center. Madrona Marsh is the last native vernal marsh in our area and was preserved due to some active and involved Torrance residents.

They have all kinds of great programs about natural life, mostly about native plants and flora and fauna, but, they have added more things in the past few years, including astronomical education.

I was surprised to see so many people there. There were people of all ages, many families with little ones, all waiting in line at the telescopes for a chance to to view the moon, Jupiter and Orion. I can honestly say in my 50 years, I have only looked through a telescope a handful of times. It reminded me that I really want to learn more, since the basic Astronomy class I took in college has not stuck with me and what I did know, I have since forgotten.

After we left the Marsh, we headed to my favorite coffee house in Redondo Beach; the Coffee Cartel and listened to some live jazz.

On our way home, we went by the beach and had the chance to see the moon over the ocean. I take so many photos of the sun setting over the ocean, but rarely get the chance to see the moon shining brightly and reflecting off the ocean like it was tonight. It was incredible to see it.

Moon over Redondo Beach

Add caption

Friday, January 27, 2012

Day 27: Being Stuck or Being Human

It has been nearly a month since I started this blog and I have only missed writing one day. Today, I have actually thought about not writing because I am having a hard time coming up with something positive or uplifting to share. Then I started to think about the purpose of this blog. It seems disingenuous to only share happy thoughts, or to ignore those days when I don't feel particularly happy.

I started to think that it might be more meaningful to share everything that I have learned in my 50 years of life. And, one of those things is that not every day is good, or, that even though it's not really bad, sometimes you just don't see or feel the good. That is just life, that is how we humans are. We have a wide range of feelings, and it is actually healthy and "normal" to feel and express them, all of them.

It's not that anything horrible happened or that it has been a bad day, it's just that I feel stuck and that I am not moving forward in the areas that I want to, or am not moving there quickly enough in spite of my efforts and work to get there. I am still not there yet and it annoys me. 

For me, this blog has become my journal, since I no longer have time to write in my journal with writing a book, working on other projects, and writing this blog.

But, it is not my journal, it is not private because I have chosen to share it, and because of that, there are some things that I cannot (well, will not) write here. So, I thought I would share some quotes (yeah, like that's a shock) that I have been using today to remind myself that (as Stuart Smalley would say) "it's okay!"

Thursday, January 26, 2012

Day 26: This Used To Be My Playground

Okay, less than one month in and I have already used Madonna's music twice. Not sure what's up with that because I certainly wouldn't say I am her biggest fan. But, this song kept playing in my head as I went through the park and the play area this morning on my way home from taking my walk.

I not only live in the town that I was born in (okay, Mr. Literal, not exactly, I live about 2 cities over from the hospital I was born in), but, I live in the house next door to the one I spent my earliest years in. And, we live across from a park, the park that I spent many happy hours playing in when I was little.

So, as I was cooling down from my walk I decided to stroll through the park and snap some pictures. It's funny, even though I see it everyday, and have lived here as an adult a lot longer than I ever did as a kid, whenever I go to the play area, I remember how far away it seemed and how that tiny mound leading up to it seemed like a huge hill. I remember the hours we spent making art projects, playing caroms, and climbing on all of the equipment. It was a great way to grow up, when it really was a simpler time, and I will always be grateful for the happy memories it brings.

Part of the original equipment that the residents asked the City to keep, at least until it rots!

The submarine is also still there and dad still hates it because it still makes that major squeaking noise!

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Day 25: Taking The Bitter With The Sweet

Today was one of those days where time seemed to be moving especially fast. Yet, when I look at my desk and my pile of work, I don't see any evidence of anything being accomplished, aside from more books and articles added to my research pile.

It isn't that I wasn't out and about early. I had a follow up appointment with my surgeon, who is still "watching" one of my lumps which is situated on a very delicate spot and which nobody wants to remove unless it is absolutely necessary. Fortunately, it is not necessary, it has not changed and he told me to come back in another six months.

But, again, I digress. The point of me bringing up the doctor appointment was that while there and waiting for him, I looked out over Torrance Airport and saw the field that was home to Tom Ishibashi's Farm for the past 50 years, and saw not the rich, dark soil, already planted with early spring strawberries that I usually see, but instead, just new weeds that had sprung up in their place.

So, me being me, this made me tear up. When the surgeon came in, he noticed, and was of course worried it had something to do with my medical condition (or at this point, maybe my mental one). Then, he saw what I was looking at, and since he knows what I do for a living (I had given him my first book) he said, "oh, that's right you told me they were gone, very sad."

Now this was a very cool thing for him to not only remember, but to talk about, and I was also very happy that my medical condition wasn't worthy of more discussion. But, as happy as I am about that, I am still so sad that we have lost our community's last farm and that I have lost a friend.

As I left his office and went down towards the parking lot, I remembered that this was the Skypark Medical Complex, which meant that there was a very pretty area in between the medical buildings and I thought it might be better for me to leave after walking through there, then while staring at the now vacant farm.

As I walked through the complex and stopped to take some photos, as a gardener and a horticultural therapist I thought that these man-made streams and ponds are pretty, and are a great thing to have for people who are dealing with the stress of medical issues. 

But, I also couldn't help but think that they don't tell the story of our community in the same way that our farms and farmers once did. And, while they can easily be replaced and rebuilt (which ironically they were doing to some of them), the same can't be said of our farming legacy.

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Day 24: The Power of The People In My Life

Like most Tuesdays, I spent a great deal of time today at Wilson Park, first walking two laps with my good friend Ms. Tina (thank you for the company, the talking and the laughing as always), and then shopping at the Torrance Certified Farmers' Market with her. As usual, I came home with a basket full of farm fresh produce, and other goodies including a dozen extra large eggs and some chocolate croissants (come on, it is me, I cannot resist chocolate, some things will never change).

And, tonight, I spent time at a place that I haven't been to in over a year: in the City Council Chambers at the Torrance City Council meeting. I was there to see one of my friends, the dynamic and non-stoppable Janet Payne get a very well deserved, and unexpected award, she received the Jared Sidney Torrance Award, named after the City's founder, and given to citizens for their lifetime of dedication to the community. It is not given out that often and they managed to keep it a secret until tonight. I can't think of anybody more deserving than her. I was so happy to be there to see her get the award and actually become speechless. Something I never thought I would see!

You name it, she volunteers for it. It is Janet who has often "persuaded" me to get involved and volunteer for things: "oh come on we need you on the Board," "oh come on, its just one night, please talk to our homeowners," "oh come on, you should apply for a commission again" And, I was even happier to have had the privilege of having lunch with her last week to catch up after nearly 6 months.

As I wrote about the first week I started this blog, and even as I wrote last week, there are many days when I am not sure I belong here, that I don't fit in, but then when I have a day like this and connect with the people I have met here, especially people like Tina and Janet, and the other friends I saw at the meeting tonight, I feel like I do belong and that I am wanted here.

There are many cliches and quotes that I could use here to describe such friends and people that are in my life, and I could write volumes about what a gift they are to me. But, I came across this today, and thought it spoke more to what I was feeling, and answered the question for me of why I stay here: I stay here because of people like them.

Sunday, January 22, 2012

Day 22: Gardens & Gators & Lions, Oh My!

Today was a very productive day. I completed the section of the book chapter that I was working on. This was my part of the "Gardens & Gators" chapter.

I love the fact that in writing a book about Los Angeles agriculture, even in its earlier years, LA shows its quirkiness and actually marketed ostrich, alligator and lion "farms" like they were part of the rest of agriculture and like it was normal. These "farms" were incredibly popular, and some of them were in business for over 40 years, and Gay's Lion Farm was in business for almost 60 years!

Not really farms in the traditional sense, although they did breed ostriches, lions, and alligators, they were actually the first amusement parks in southern California, some of them having elaborate gardens and exhibits that seem to have been the inspiration for later amusement parks like Disneyland.

The Cawston Ostrich Farm is just one example. At the height of the ostrich feather craze (late 19th century and early 1900s), Cawston had a retail store at 313 Broadway in downtown Los Angeles, and had stores in San Francisco, Chicago and New York. And, in 1906, the Cawston Ostrich Farm was incorporated for $1 million, that's a lot of ostrich plumes. 

The ostrich farms let visitors take a ride in an ostrich led carriage or to ride an ostrich bareback, and the California Alligator Farm actually encouraged people to walk alongside and even ride alligators and one of the most popular attractions was the "trained" alligator that slid down a slide into a pool. Of course this was in the days before we were smart enough to stop such animal abuse. 

Here's a couple of things I came across in researching these attractions. I am buying up brochures and booklets like these to use in our book.
Cawston Ostrich Farm, South Pasadena

California Alligator Farm, Lincoln Park

Day 21: The Revelations of Reuniting

No doubt some of you will notice that I am writing "Day 21" on "Day 22." I debated about just skipping "Day 21" altogether but I wanted to write about it so I am doing it now. Hey, it's my blog so there are no rules or, if there are, I can just make them up as I go along!

Aside from working on the book, writing a column and doing chores, I was out last night and when I got home was just too tired to write.

Yep, I actually went out on a Saturday night, something I haven't done in ages. So, where did I go? I had a "mini" reunion dinner with some of my friends from junior high and high school.

Since our 30th high school reunion a couple of years ago, it is something we have been doing more frequently and thanks to the power of social networking, i.e., Facebook, it has become so much easier to do. I am still thinking of a way to include more people because we are not an "exclusive" club and would love for any of our old friends to join us. So, I will work on how to do that for the next time.

It was great to see my friends and to catch up and to pick up where we left off. It is almost as if time stands still when we get together. But, as we discussed, it hasn't and we are all on the brink of turning 50, except for one youngster who is "only" turning 49 on Tuesday (happy birthday again Mich)!

When we were talking and filling each other in on the latest news in our lives, I was also remembering how we were when we were younger. These were the girls I spent every day with, having lunch with them on the quad, sharing stories of heartbreak and love, spending hours at drill team practice and football games with, and going out with after football games. I couldn't help but think how much time really has passed and how it seems to have done so in the blink of an eye.

Instead of bitching about how hard that routine is, or how out of it our English teacher is, we were talking about things that happen to everyone if they live long enough: losing parents and other loved ones, losing jobs, getting sick, raising kids, and even (gulp) having grandchildren. Some of us are single and have never been married, some of us are on second marriages, some are engaged, some are happily married and some are struggling  to stay happily married.

For me, hearing: "I never thought I'd be at this point or going through this at this stage of my life," was eye-opening because it was used to describe both the good and the bad things that were happening for people.

It just made the reality of turning 50 even stronger. We all have problems, we all have good things happen, it is just life. I am just glad to have old friends to share it with.

Shelly, Judi & Mary, Northridge Jr. High Graduation, 1977

Cleveland High Drill Team photo 1979-1980

Friday, January 20, 2012

Day 20: I Am A Tourist

Ah, another Friday. But, unlike last Friday I decided not to bemoan the fact that I still have work to do over the weekend. Instead, I decided to take a bit longer on my walk and act like a tourist in my own town. So, I walked up to the Del Amo Financial Center (oh yeah, it is a big tourist draw didn't you know that)? Or, it could be the next site for the OWS (Occupy Wall Street) movement because there's a great fountain in the middle with benches and grass all around it and coffee places close by, at least 5 Star-yucks, er, Starbucks that I counted.

As I walked, I decided to sit on one of those benches and watch the fountains and enjoy the moment. Here's a couple of shots of what the fountains looked like today.

It's funny, when I was a kid, I always thought this was the most glamorous place around, the tall building and all the offices. Now, it just looks like a dated, circa early 1970's complex but the fountains and the pond still bring me a nostalgic smile.

As I sat there, I thought about how I have come full circle, living in the city I was born in and how the majority of the time, I feel like I don't fit, like I really am a tourist in my own town.

Naturally, there's a song for that (please, it's me, why wouldn't I have a connection to a song). Death Cab For Cutie's "You Are A Tourist" really fits, not just because I acted like a tourist in my own town, but because the lyrics reflect what I feel.

"You Are A Tourist"

This fire grows higher
This fire grows higher
This fire grows higher
This fire grows higher

When there's a burning in your heart
An endless yearning in your heart
Build it bigger than the sun
Let it grow, let it grow
When there's a burning in your heart
Don't be alarmed

This fire grows higher

When there's a doubt within your mind
Because you're thinking all the time
Framing rights into wrongs
Move along, move along
When there's a doubt within your mind

When there's a burning in your heart
And you think it'll burst apart
Or there's nothing to fear
Save the tears, save the tears
When there's a burning in your heart

And if you feel just like a tourist in the city you were born
Then it's time to go
And define your destination
There's so many different places to call home
Because when you find yourself the villain in the story you have written
It's plain to see
That sometimes the best intentions are in need of redemptions
Would you agree?
If so please show me

Day 19: Setting It in Stone

It is now actually Day 20 and I have just realized I did not write anything yet for Day 19. I have been busily working on finishing up my very late portion of the next book chapter. I am nearly done which is a good thing. Then it is on to the last full chapter I have to write, and then comes the Introduction, the gathering of images, and the taking of images that we don't have, our own edit of these chapter drafts, and finally, submitting it all before our deadline of April 30.

I am trying not to get overwhelmed by this now very close deadline and to keep my writing going. So, I am pulling out every trick I have ever used to remind myself to just focus on what I am currently supposed to be doing and that is writing. After all, editing is easier than writing and only comes AFTER it is written.

And, I have found something that has been helping me do this. Some of you may know that in addition to posting quotes on my Facebook page, and sharing them on here, I also have a small collection of stones with quotes, or even single words, to inspire and motivate me. I have even given some of these stones to those people who mean the most to mean.  

As I have struggled with keeping my momentum going while working on this book, I have found them very helpful because as I have written here before, I need to see things right in front of me to really get them, and literally seeing it set in stone helps. If nothing else, I have some shiny objects that I can stare at to distract me and that in itself helps to keep the stress level down.

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Day 18: Here's To Health

It's funny. I never noticed how many cliches seem to govern my life or my thoughts until I started writing this blog. But when I think about how I have nicknames for everything and everyone it shouldn't surprise me. I think in soundbites, so cliches are just a natural outgrowth of that. One of my friends keeps telling me I should write my own "Judi" decoder book so I won't have to keep telling people "catch up."

Ah, but I digress (yet again). So what's the overused and tired phrase that I am thinking about today? It is, "when you've got your health, you've got everything." While it is true that after working for hours on the computer, my wrists are either on fire and/or numb, and sometimes when I get up in the morning I am a bit stiff, for the most part I am very healthy.

I am thinking about health for a lot of reasons, most of them are really good. For one thing, my Aunt Julia is turning 90 tomorrow and shows no signs of slowing down. And my Uncle Sam and Aunt Hazel are both turning 90 later this year and are also doing wonderfully.

And, of course, there's my Dad, aside from having to replace knees and hips, at 80, he's incredibly healthy and active. I know a lot of that is strong genes, but I also know a lot of it is because he has taken good care of himself and ironically, all that physical activity wore out his knees and hips.

I remember getting so mad at him when I was a kid because he wouldn't take us to eat fast food because he thought it was crap. Hmm, smart man. He would give in on my birthday because it was a big deal when I was a kid to go to Mc Donald's. Brilliant I know, but it wasn't something most people did that often in those days.

I also know that taking care of yourself is not always a guarantee. Which is the other reason I am thinking about health today. I had lunch with another friend today and we had a great time catching up. She's a history buff, and she was eating up the stories of what I have uncovered through my research and what is going into our book, like it was candy.

But, sadly, her husband has cancer, and there's not much else they can do for him, and while we didn't talk about it today in specific terms, we did talk about how life is going to change and has changed because of it.

It just makes me think about how we never know what's in store for us, or how long we really have and how we need to live while we are here and healthy. And, I mean really live, not just be a passive spectator in my own life.

As I took my walk this afternoon, I reminded myself that I am only here for a short time and to not let anything stop me from doing what I want to do, and to enjoy the time I am here and to have fun!

"Unbeing dead isn't being alive." ~e.e. cummings

"Life may not be the party we hoped for, but while we're here we should dance." ~Author Unknown

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Day 17: In Pursuit of a DFZ (Drama Free Zone)

Today has been one of those days that I might have called boring when I was young, say 20-something (yeah, that was a long time ago). Not that I was bored, or that I didn't have anything to do, or that I found it boring. I had plenty to do and I did a lot of it. In fact, I have so much to do I didn't finish it all.

It's just that as I have been working on looking at my life differently, I realized what I used to think was exciting when I was young, was just getting caught up in everybody's drama. Ironically, it gets really boring if that's all you ever get from them.

As I have gotten older, I find that I really have no tolerance anymore for drama, big or small. And, I am really, really tired of people making little things so big, or turning everything into a hassle when it really isn't.

I am digging my heels in and not allowing myself to be dragged into it anymore. And, it's not for lack of other people trying to create it. I have just reached the point where I have just started to back away and to "disengage." I don't get angry, I don't get upset, and I just respond politely and then stop responding by moving on to something or someone else.

To yet again use another tired cliché, life is short. There are so many things I want to do and see, so many people I want to be with who don't create drama, and sadly, there's enough "real" drama in living, you don't need to create your own. Why would I want to waste what precious free time I have in helping you do that? So, if anyone wants to join me, I would love some company in my pursuit of a DFZ!

Monday, January 16, 2012

Day 16: Not Another Manic Monday

"Life's most persistent and urgent question is, 'What are you doing for others?'"~ Martin Luther King, Jr.

Today was Monday (again, I am on fire with the calendar skills). But, unlike most Mondays, today was very calm and it was not as hard for me to get going as it usually is on Monday.

One of the reasons is that today is Dr. King's Birthday/Holiday (his actual birthday was yesterday) and I always take time to reflect on his life and legacy and my own progress in helping others. Up until about a year ago, I was volunteering and helping so much, that I was neglecting my own life and the things I needed to do for myself.

So, this past year, I made a conscious decision to cut back, and have been focusing less on my volunteer activities and more on my work and my own life. I am still an active, certified UC Master Gardener and I volunteer and lead garden workshops in the community. But, I am not currently on any boards or commissions and I honestly don't miss it.

And, once my book is done I might add something else back in, but it will be more focused on these kind of hands on things. Not only do I find them more meaningful, but I enjoy them more. I have found nothing better than having somebody thank me for giving them back the gift of gardening because they thought they couldn't do it anymore.

Today, I didn't do any volunteer work but I did have a lovely afternoon with a long-time friend looking at her garden(s), yep she has two spots to garden, one of them has 1,400 square feet and is an urban farmers' dream.

She wanted me to come over and give her some ideas of what edibles she should plant, etc. So, hopefully I gave her some useful info. and inspired her to keep growing. We had a great conversation not only catching up, but about the responsibility that we all have to be stewards of the earth, and to leave a legacy for the future.

While it wasn't the usual way I give back to the community, it was a great way to celebrate Dr. King's legacy, sharing the love of gardening and helping others with an old friend that has always inspired me and continues to do so.

Day 15: The Power of Productivity

Well, today has been a very productive day: I took a walk, I cleaned the house, I got more research done on my section of the next book chapter and wrote some more of it too. So, I decided to do something I haven't done in a long time: I took a bubble bath in the middle of the day. It was wonderful and it felt so decadent. It reminded me that I need to do things like that more often to reinvigorate and recharge.

And now to end the day, I am writing a blog post here. I am not sure what it is about writing this blog but, it really has reinvigorated my writing, has gotten me re-motivated and has actually made me more productive. I was worried that the opposite would happen and I would spend all my time on this and not my work.

I don't know if there's a tired cliche like there is for everything else, but I am thinking, "productivity breeds productivity" works for what I am trying to convey. Oops, maybe not such a good idea :)!
Writing something so different from my usual "just the facts m'aam" stuff seems to have helped me break through my writer's block. I have been struggling since November with the book and other writing projects. Not sure if it was the holidays, or something else. It could be all that's going on in my brain. That is yet another topic for another day and/or blog.

As I was searching for some brilliant writer's motivational or writer's block quotes, I came across this poster. It answered my question about whether or not there was some kind of connection between stopping to do things like take a long, hot bath, and writing something like this blog. Turns out there is a direct connection and that I am supposed to be writing about doing those things. Hmm, sounds like a great idea for a blog....

Saturday, January 14, 2012

Day 14: Four Months From 50

Today is January 14 (again, my brilliance at calendar reading is impressive I know). What that means is that my 50th birthday is exactly 4 months from today.

And, while I am not exactly celebrating that fact, I am celebrating the completion of another chapter of our book!!! This is Chapter 11: World War II and Post WWII Agriculture in Los Angeles. I have sent the draft off to my writing partner Rachel and am hoping that it is as interesting (and hopefully coherent) to her, as it is to me and that in turn, once the whole book is done, it is interesting to other people too.

As I have been working, often until midnight or 1 a.m. while still getting up by 8 a.m., getting crankier and crankier, while my hands and wrists alternate between aching and numbness (yeah, been ignoring that for 20 years), I am ironically feeling happier and happier.

This got me to thinking and I realized that when I was younger, I never thought about work as something that was fun or that could make you happy. It was just something that you did to earn a living. And, I never thought that as I was approaching 50, that I would be looking forward to more years of working. I always thought I'd be ready to stop. But, I am not. I want to keep going, keep learning more and keep writing.

Because I have been pretty much writing/researching/etc. nonstop for the past three days, I thought I'd let some of my favorite quotes about finding and using your passion express how I am feeling. 

 "Don't ask yourself what the world needs; ask yourself what makes you come alive.  And then go and do that.  Because what the world needs is people who have come alive."  ~Attributed to Howard Thurman, author and philosopher 

"Chase down your passion like it's the last bus of the night." ~Terri Guillemets, creator of the Quote Garden

"One can never consent to creep when one feels the impulse to soar."~ Helen Keller 

"Trust not what inspires other members of society to choose a career. Trust what inspires you.” ~The Lazy Person’s Guide to Success

Kind of expresses how I am feeling tonight!

Day 13: Finding That Friday Feeling

It has only been two weeks since my 50th year started, and I am already finding it hard to find something positive that I feel is worthy of writing about each day. While I have found that each day I am noticing the good things around me, it doesn't necessarily translate into something I can write about.

Take today for example. I am not really sure that even I would want to read about the piece of gravel I found today that I think resembles a heart. Does it really look like a heart? Or, as my friend Joe Galliani sees it, maybe it looks more like the Nike swoosh. And, seriously, what would I write about it anyway? Something sappy about love, how it is all around us? How I am overflowing with love? Please. Sappy and I do not play well together. Or, conversely, something pathetic about how I am in such need of it that I imagine seeing hearts everywhere? After all, it's just a piece of gravel.

Heart or Nike Swoosh, You Be The Judge!
So, since it is nearly midnight, and I just realized it is Friday night, and I have spent all day working on the book and am still not done with the WWII ag. chapter, all I can think about is how I miss Fridays. Or, more specifically, the feeling of Fridays knowing that you are work-free for the weekend.

Aside from the steady and predictable paycheck, oh yeah, and the paid vacation, holiday and sick days; having an entire, work-free weekend is the only other "perk" I miss about working for someone else. When you work for yourself, or work for an industry that doesn't stop on weekends or holidays, you work on the weekends.

I usually don't mind it because I love what I do so much. But, when I am working on a big project, say, like a book, it does get to me at times. As I have written about many times before, it reminds me of being in college, you always have papers, tests, etc. hanging over your head, but at least in college, I had definitive breaks, like spring break, ah my favorite.

But, even though I am prone to complain (yeah, shocking I know), I do know that I have one of the greatest gigs around. While I may not have traditional weekends free anymore unless I plan ahead for them, I pretty much get to work when I want to and I just have to remember that if I stay on top of my workload and my deadlines, I can create that Friday feeling whenever I want to, and don't have to wait until a "real" Friday to do it.

Thursday, January 12, 2012

Day 12: "If You've Never Failed You've Never Lived"

I have never really been one of those people who is a big believer in "signs." You know, those things that people say are showing you what the universe has in store for you, or where it is pointing you, or that they are some kind of sign from a higher power.

As I wrote yesterday, I am a skeptic, and I have to have things right in front of my face in order to believe in it. But, I do believe in paying attention and being aware when several things that are quite similar happen during the same day because maybe there's some lesson I can learn from it, or that I can share with others.

The quote in my subject line comes from this video, also labeled "Best Motivation Video Ever." This video is short, a little over a minute. But, it is powerful and I just saw this on my news feed on Facebook, it is all about very famous people, gifted people from Thomas Edison and Walt Disney to Michael Jordan and the Beatles who were all told they weren't good enough, or, weren't very good at the thing that they ultimately became so well known for.

This was the third thing that happened to me today that was all about taking a risk and putting yourself out there; and that in order to be a complete, whole human being, we all have to experience rejection, competition, and failure. But, as one of my good friends always says, the only failure is never to try or do something because the doing is succeeding.

I completely agree with that. I have found that only through being rejected from employers, graduate schools, dozens of publishers, and even romantic partners, that I learned how strong I am and how to not only survive being rejected, but to come back even stronger. It also reveals to you just how strong your passion or desire is for something. If you are going to let other people's opinions stop you, then you are never going to get anywhere.

Nobody can teach you this, you have to live it and to experience it for yourself because once you "fail" and get back up, there's not much anybody can throw at you that you can't come back from.

 "If You've Never Failed You've Never Lived."

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Day 11: Feeling Fifty

As I wrote when I posted for the first time on this blog, my goal with doing this is to focus on something good each day, and to write about something new I learn or discover each day of my 50th year. I also wrote that sometimes I would write about the bad if it's important enough.

But, today I am not necessarily feeling bad, but am certainly not feeling that good. Mostly what I am feeling is the reality that I am turning 50. I am sure some of you are thinking, "Duh, your blog is called 'In My 50th Year.' You are writing about turning 50. You really are a dumb *ss aren't you?"

The point is that it takes a loooooong time for things to sink in for me. I am a stubborn woman and one of the most skeptical people I know. I am one of those people who really, really has to have something fairly significant happen to believe something is real, or to feel that something is real. This is another topic that I could write volumes about but again, it's not what this blog is about.

Why the big epiphany today (yep, using that big word again)? After having surgery a little over a year ago, I have had more doctor visits than I normally do. So, today I went in for my "regular" annual exam, something that was actually a breath of fresh air since it did not involve biopsies or scheduling surgery to remove possibly cancerous lumps :)!

And, my doctor was so excited for me that I am back to "normal" and to hear about my latest book. It was going quite well until she used her fancy new computer program to look up my history and then she blurted out, "wow, you are turning 50." Now, I had just heard that from my general practice physician less than a month ago and was thinking, "Man, what's the deal with these women repeatedly pointing this out? Do they get some kind of bonus for treating old people? Or do I get some kind of prize for making it?"

But, before I could ask her those snarky questions, she again said, "you are turning 50 and it is time for you to have some additional tests as part of your regular exams." She then started writing and handed me a referral for a bone density test.

So tomorrow afternoon I am having a bone density scan so they can start checking me for osteoporosis. While I was coming to grips with that, I went back to work proofreading the newsletter that I write/edit for Torrance Memorial Medical Center. It is called ADVANTAGE and I have been doing it for almost 6 years now. I know who the audience is for the newsletter, but it never struck me like it did today. I realized that I am now officially a member of that audience as I read the line under ADVANTAGE which reads, "A Network of Services For People 50+."

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Day 10: Walking It Out

There are so many benefits that I get from walking. I not only get to see things up close that I often don't notice while driving, but I do some of my best thinking while walking; it usually really lifts my spirits no matter what kind of mood I am in when I start; and I get exercise. Ah, a trifecta, one of my favorite things :)!

Since today is Tuesday, I knew it was farmers' market day, and that I would be able to walk my laps at Wilson Park where the Torrance Certified Farmers' Market is and that I'd get to see my friends and buy some fresh produce too.

So, after waiting most of the morning for input on the project I was working on, I decided that I really needed a walk and I went over there before the farmers' market closed. It has become one of my favorite places to walk and I like that I can do as many laps as I have time for and I think it is a really pretty place to walk.

Today was another warm and sunny January day so it made great walking weather. As I walked through the park I started thinking, which is what I do when I walk. I was reflecting on a lot of things, and one of them was this blog and my 50th year. As I walked, I started remembering all of the things that have come to me on similar walks that I have taken since I became a regular "exercise" walker waaaaay back in the late 80's.

I realized that walking has led me to make some of the biggest decisions of my life, including the one to leave a career that I was miserable at to pursue writing full time, and that the idea for the book I am working on now came to me while walking.

Throughout the past 20 years,  I have fallen in love while walking, and realized I was in love while walking, and sadly, there were times that I realized I wasn't in love anymore while walking. I couldn't help but notice that life really is just like walking-- it starts with a single step and the only way to get anywhere is to take the next one and the next one....

Wilson Park view from walking path
Wilson Park Gazebo & Pond

Wilson Park (Infamous) Pond

Monday, January 9, 2012

Day 9: In Pursuit of the Positive via Madonna

I knew that when I set out to write something positive every day for an entire year that I would have some days when I just didn't feel that way. I was hoping I could at least make it more than a week, but I couldn't. Instead of making it worse by getting mad at myself for that, as someone I know always says "it just is" so I am just going to accept it as that.

Not that there's anything spectacularly bad about today. Thankfully nothing horrible happened, just the usual things that come with working; technological glitches and the inability to get a project finished because I am once again waiting for other people, something I am horrible at. I am even worse at it when it is work that I don't particularly like to do, which is the case with this, but it is paid work.

So, instead of whining about it, I am working on moving past it and reminding myself that it is paid work, something that is very good and very necessary as I write a book that may or may not make me any money and if it does, won't make me anything for at least another year.

And as I wrote last week, when I am feeling less than perky, music can perk me up. And, today I actually played this because it is such a happy song, and it makes me want to dance and dancing always makes me feel good. Plus, I can't forget the first time I heard her. I was in college and was shocked to hear dance music coming from the radio since there was such an anti disco/dance music backlash when this came out (it was 1983).

Some of my friends and I had to go down to Togo's to watch MTV because we had to see who it was that was singing this and we were shocked when we saw her. For my younger friends, MTV was a major deal in the early years, you didn't just have it, it was a premium channel and was usually only in public places because of the cost and it just wasn't available everywhere.

Love her or hate her, Madonna's influence is still being felt today (Katy Perry, Lady Gaga). And I defy anyone who is still breathing to not at least tap along with the beat; it is infectious. Is it deep or a classic? Maybe not, but it does kind of sound like she's advocating world peace. And if nothing else, it is positive.


Holiday Celebrate
Holiday Celebrate

If we took a holiday
Took some time to celebrate
Just one day out of life
It would be, it would be so nice

Everybody spread the word
We're gonna have a celebration
All across the world
In every nation
It's time for the good times
Forget about the bad times, oh yeah
One day to come together
To release the pressure
We need a holiday

You can turn this world around
And bring back all of those happy days
Put your troubles down
It's time to celebrate
Let love shine
And we will find
A way to come together
And make things better
We need a holiday

Holiday Celebrate
Holiday Celebrate

Holiday Celebrate
Holiday Celebrate

Holiday, Celebration
Come together in every nation

Sunday, January 8, 2012

Day 8: Valuing Victory Gardens

I was hoping that today's good thing would be the conclusion of another chapter on the book. However, I am not yet finished with it. The chapter I am working on is "WWII & Post WWII Agriculture." Here in LA, agriculture was forever altered as thousands of acres were gobbled up for houses that were built for the workers of the burgeoning aircraft industry. While LA County managed to remain the #1 ag. County in the U.S. until 1950, we transitioned to become the aviation capital and one of the biggest industrialized urban centers in the country.

But I digress into something sad and my goal with this blog is to find something positive each day. So, in the midst of writing about this era, I am also writing about the Victory Garden movement, one of my favorite topics. I am such a fan of Victory Gardens, that over the past decade, I have collected/bought about 15 WWII era Victory Garden booklets/pamphlets, etc. I am hoping to photograph them and use them in this chapter.

While researching this chapter I came across something I had never heard about before. I discovered that the Los Angeles Times had a Victory Garden Club. It began in February 1943 and by April of that year, 18,000 people became members and by October, there were 25,000 members. They put in a demonstration Victory Garden on Wilshire Blvd. and Shatto Place and a one-acre Victory Garden Center on Adams Boulevard divided into 12 model gardens and that had a garden library and lecture room for Victory Garden classes and gardening tools on loan to class members, all for free. The center was open seven days a week and the classes were held in conjunction with the Los Angeles Board of Education. They also held a Los Angeles Times Victory Garden Harvest Festival in Exposition Park in 1943. There was even an Office of the  Victory Garden Coordinator, located at 808 N. Spring Street.

And farm nerd alert: my screen savers are WWII era Victory Garden and Women's Land Army posters, here are a few of my favorites:

Saturday, January 7, 2012

Day 7: The Farmers That Feed Me

Today is Saturday, big news I know. But, what that means is that the Torrance Certified Farmers' Market was going today. And, for a change, I actually went to the Saturday market.

Now, this isn't that big of a deal, I go at least once a week, usually to the Tuesday Torrance Market and sometimes to other farmers' markets. After all, I am a farm writer, it is where I go to work; to take photos, interview farmers, and hear the latest news in the farm world so that I have something to write about.

But it is also where I go to get my own farm fresh produce (at least the stuff that I don't grow myself). Using yet another tired, irritating cliche, I believe in "walking the walk." How can I advocate for something that I don't do myself? I am many things, not all of them good, but hypocritical isn't one of them.

I know that I often complain that my work is low or no paying and while that is true, there are so many things I get from my work that I never got from my previous career(s) (ah yes, multiple). I looooooooove what I do. I am not stuck in an office at a cubicle, I have flexibility and freedom that I never dreamed was possible, I am always learning new things and using my brain (although I am not sure that's always obvious to others), and I have met some of the most wonderful people in the world, California's farmers.

I know this blog isn't about farming or farm reporting, my LAFarmGirl blog is for that, but just to give you an idea of how important they are, California farmers still produce over 50% of the fresh fruits and vegetables in the United States. And, I could write endlessly about them, about the struggles they face in keeping themselves in business, to survive against so many factors that make their survival seem impossible, but again, this is not the blog for that.

January 7, 2012, my Torrance Certified Farmers' Market haul

Instead, I just wanted to write about the good day that I had with my "co-workers" some of whom I am proud to call friends. I bought some things from them today. You can see them in this photo. They don't look all that different than the stuff you can buy at the supermarket. But they are different. Aside from the freshness and taste that fresh picked produce provides me, the difference is that I know every farmer that grew them.

There are tomatoes from Valdivia Farms in Carlsbad, organic Satsuma tangerines from Thys Ranch in Fallbrook, grapes from M.B. (Mark Boujikian) Farms in Fresno County, russet potatoes from Zuckerman Farms in Stockton, carrots from Yasutomi Farms in Orange County, and organic strawberries from Danny Hashiba in Pico Rivera.

And, many of them are even more local. Carol Thys lives in Torrance and she treks down to her parents' ranch twice a week to bring fresh fruit to the farmers' market, Mark Boujikian might have a farm in Fresno County, but he lives in Redondo Beach. And, Danny Hashiba farms and lives in Orange County, but he's a mean ballroom dancer who dances locally in Lomita and has won many dancing contests.

It is because of them, getting to know them, that I do what I do, that I write about the important work that they do. They are the reason I am writing another book, they are what keeps me going even when I wonder why I gave up a "secure" benefit-filled job. I do this because their stories need to be told and they are not only too busy to do it themselves, but too modest. And, I want to thank them for doing what they do. As American Farmland Trust says, "No Farms No Food."

Danny Hashiba, not only is he a successful farmer, but he's an awesome ballroom dancer and is as big a smart ass as I am!

Carol Thys, one of the nicest people in the world and she works hard to help her parents keep their ranch going

Friday, January 6, 2012

Day 6: The Transformative Power of Music

Those of you who know me pretty well, know that that I love music. And, on most days, I listen to music from the time I get up, until the time I go to sleep (for my friend Mr. Literal, just trying to get at the fact that it's on most of the time, don't pop a vein).

Whenever people ask me what my favorite kind of music is, I have a hard time answering that because I love all kinds of music with the possible exception of country music and hard core rap.

But, there are some kinds of music that I like more than others. I like "Adult Alternative" which pretty much covers a lot of different styles and groups for me including Snow Patrol, Radiohead, Mat Kearney, Matt Nathanson, Fitz and the Tantrums, O.A.R., Augustana, Kings of Leon, Death Cab for Cutie, Bon Iver, and even older groups like the Cranberries, 10,000 Maniacs, REM, etc., etc. And of course, I like classic rock, but nowadays the definition of classic rock has changed and includes 70's rock (ouch) and 60's rock is now considered part of "oldies." Used to be (back in my day, another cliche that irritates the hell out of me) that oldies consisted of 50's music which I never liked and still don't.

I also like R&B, especially Neo-Soul and of course what VH1 plays on Soulphrodisiac, sigh....I also like classical music, yeah, you know "real" classical music like Bach, Mozart, and Beethoven, especially when I am writing, I can listen and not sing along or get lost in a song. I also like jazz, and smooth jazz.

And, I don't think I am unusual in this, what I listen to depends on how I am feeling, what I am doing, or where I am going. It also depends on what kind of mood I am in, or what kind of mood I want to be in because music has the power to transform my mood like nothing else can. I am amazed at its power and it has always been that way for me. I can listen to a song from different times in my life and instantly get transported back there. Or, I can be very sad and put on a song that reminds me of happier times and feel better right away.

If there is a song I know and like, I cannot help but sing along, often at the great discomfort of those around me. I might be at the age where I forget what I went into the other room for, but I still remember the lyrics to songs. I always tell people that once my ability to do this starts to go away, you will know my memory is going.

For the past year, one of the songs that keeps playing in my head is Let Go by Frou Frou (with the amazing Imogen Heap), especially the line, "Oh let go and just get in. Oh, it's so amazing here. It's alright because there's beauty in the breakdown." This video has the lyrics included, hope you enjoy it :)!

Thursday, January 5, 2012

Day 5: Memories of Maggie

As I have been working on building the content for my blog, and sorting through photos to post here, I have been coming across so many that make me both smile and tear up. And, not surprisingly, many of them are of my sweet Maggie.

One of the reasons I smile is that nearly all of them are when she was either sleeping or her eyes were closed because she was terrified of the camera. I literally couldn't even hold a camera up; if I did she would start shaking and run and hide so there's lots of blurry photos of her fleeing or of her tail as she flees.

That was one of the best things about getting cell phones that had a camera on them. She didn't know I was taking her picture because she wasn't afraid of the phone at all. Even then, she was hard to get a picture of and didn't like it too much. Hmm, kind of like her owner, it is one of the things I dislike the most.

I came across this one today, very bittersweet for sure but it makes me laugh. It was taken almost exactly 5 years ago today. I notice that I had the same New Year's garden flag out then that I have out now. I am nothing if not consistent!

My Ms. Maggie, January 7, 2007, celebrating the New Year in one of her favorite spots!   

It makes me smile because I love seeing her in one of her favorite places. She always loved to be out on the porch with me and like me, always made herself very comfortable out there especially when we would sit in the sun.

She has been gone now for a little over 2 years and every once in a while, I still find myself looking for her to come greet me when I come home from somewhere, or wishing she was there to snatch up the crumbs that have spilled on the floor.

And, because this blog is about celebrating the good things that have happened in my 50 years, I am going to celebrate the fact that she was part of my life for nearly 12 years, instead of being sad that she is gone

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

Day 4: Still Seeing Sunsets With My Dad

As those of you who are my Facebook friends know, I take and post a lot of sunset photos. I do live close to the Pacific Ocean and I do like to watch the sunset.

So, when I was thinking about putting this blog together I was telling myself not to overdo them and at least wait for a week before writing about them or posting a photo of one. Not surprisingly, I couldn't wait and it is only Day 4 and I am already there!
 It wasn't my intention to go and watch the sunset today. Although to be honest, it's not really something I usually plan for, it just happens. It just seems to call me. As I wrote the other day, I live in the area where I was born, where I spent my earliest years, and where that sunset was a big part of our daily lives.

This was (and still is) due to my dad. He is now 80, and he lives in a beautiful house across the street from the ocean. He's also that rare creature in LA; a native Angeleno, which means he's been seeing them set over this same ocean his whole life. I can't even begin to count the number of sunsets he has seen in his life. He never tires of them, nor does his enthusiasm for sharing them ever wane.

Which brings me to why I am already celebrating the sunset. I am proud to say that I was at the Redondo Beach Library doing some research for my book, returning some library books, and renewing my library card and it was almost sunset. As I walked back to the car I looked towards the ocean and that was it, I was once again called to it, and headed towards the Esplanade to see it.

Since it is Wednesday, I wasn't sure my dad would be home. This is his day to volunteer at the hospital; so I drove by and was a little surprised to find him watering his grass. So I pulled up into the driveway and he asked what I was doing in his neck of the woods and I told him, "I came to see the sunset." He looked at the sky, then looked at his watch and said excitedly, "we only have about 5 minutes, let's go down and see it!"

It was a beautiful sunset, and it was even more so because I got to watch it with him. I never imagined that I would still have such a gift in my 50th year, that he would still be here to share it with me. As I wrote the other day, I don't use the word gratitude easily or often, but I am truly grateful for this gift.

Tuesday, January 3, 2012

Day 3: The Fulfillment of Long-Time Friendship

As I wrote yesterday, this whole holiday thing really has me off schedule, and I am a day behind on everything, Why? Because I thought it was Monday and it isn't. I thought I still had an "extra" day this week. I was wrong. I should have just read what I wrote yesterday about Mondays and I would have realized this sooner.

Add the summer like weather which has given me an early case of spring fever, and I have been hopeless about staying on top of my deadlines. Maybe that's why I had to stay up until almost 1 a.m. to finish my part of the book chapter we are working on. The good news is that I did.

So, since I thought I had this "extra" day I took some time today to write and send off some old-fashioned, snail mail letters, cards and gifts. I am o-l-d after all, that's how we did it back in "the day" (another expression that irritates the hell out of me).

One of these was for my BFF who is turning 50 on Thursday! And yes, DUDE, I am talking about YOU. Not only have she and I known each other since Jr. High---oh sorry, "middle school" (blech), but she is the first among us to be hitting the big 5-0!!!

For some reason, this is really making the fact that this is my 50th year seem even more real. And it makes another irritating expression; "the years go by so fast" seem so true. I find it so hard to believe that we have known each other for 35 years. I mean, I can still picture us "young" and as teenage girls. I remember things we did, how we looked and how hard we were on ourselves about how we looked, how serious everything seemed to us at 15, 16, and 17 and how we mocked everything and everyone (ok, well some things never change). Man, it really does seem like just yesterday (yet another cliched expression).

And, although there was about a 10 year stretch when we didn't keep in touch, I am very happy to say that we have been in touch for the past decade and have gotten even closer as we have gotten older. There's something so comforting about having someone who knows everything about you, warts and all, and who doesn't require any explanations, because she was there and she still is.

I want to thank you, Ivanna, my BFF for being such a good friend, for your incredible wit that always makes me laugh, for listening when I whine, and when I cry, and when I sound like a complete nut case; and for always, always reminding me to "maintain!" Happy 50th year to you, I am so happy to be going on this adventure into the 50s with you alongside me!

"A good friend is a connection to life - a tie to the past, a road to the future, the key to sanity in a totally insane world." ~Lois Wyse

Ivanna and Judi, Magic Mountain circa 1979? (not 1879 like it looks like was at Spilikin Corners)

Monday, January 2, 2012

Day 2: Whoo Hoo! Leaf Lettuce in January

With New Year's Day falling on Sunday, but the "official" holiday being today, I am finding myself completely out of whack and forgetting that it is actually Monday. I never need a reason to try to forget Mondays and this really isn't helping.

I always thought that once I no longer worked for "the man" and was writing full-time, that Mondays wouldn't be as irritating as they were when I had to trek to my life-sucking cubicle each week. I was right; they are not as irritating, only about as irritating as they were when I was a student. And, as I remember it, those were some good days, lots of research and writing and reading, but also lots of fun too.

Too bad they don't pay you to be a full-time student. Hmm---- if you look at the tasks that writers do, they are the same. And, just like students, writers are often not paid. And, if we are paid, we are paid little or paid late.

But I digress (I know big shock). The point is that being a writer and working from home gives me incredible freedom and flexibility in return for the lack of actual money and being able to support myself.

The biggest perk is that I do get to go in my garden whenever I want to and that's good since I can save money by growing my own food.

This morning it was another very warm and sunny January day and I was very happy to see my leaf lettuce doing so well. I know my friends and family who live in colder climates are rolling their eyes and sighing since I do live in SoCal, but even so, the raised beds I have don't get much sun this time of year so I tried an experiment to see if there was actually enough by just leaving them in the ground instead of pulling them out like I did the past two years.

And lo and behold, there was enough sun! Because its been so damp and foggy at night and early in a.m., I also haven't had to really water. Check them out. No bolting to worry about this time of year either.