Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Day 59: Growing Food & Growing A Friendship

"I have friends in overalls whose friendship I would not swap for the favor of the kings of the world." ~Thomas A. Edison

Today was a very busy day and was mostly a very good day. I started out early this morning going to the Torrance Certified Farmers' Market to get a few things, but mainly to get some lettuce seedlings to take for a talk I gave to the Riviera Garden Club.

I told them what I know about starting an edible spring garden. It was great to be able to share my love of gardening with other gardeners. I especially love to "convert" flower growers into edible growers, or, at least, encourage them to incorporate them in with their ornamentals. I was pleasantly surprised to find so many already growing some food.

The meeting was held at the Torrance Airport Meeting Room and for those who know the area and/or know me, you know that is where Tom Ishibashi's farm was/is. And, I have gradually seen things start to change since he passed away last year and know it is inevitable that soon, everything will be gone.

This reality hit me hard last night when I got a call from his niece telling me they were going to be having a huge garage sale in the next couple of weeks to get rid of all the equipment, etc. because they need to be out of there by April. And, she asked if I was sincere in my offer to help them publicize it by blogging about it, tweeting, it etc. I told her I was sincere, and that I wanted to come and help too with the sale. As we finished chatting, she told me she'd let me know exactly when that would happen.

On my way to the meeting I was a bit preoccupied and yes, nervous before my talk. I am always at least a little nervous before any garden talk even though I have done this so many times. I am a researcher and writer, I can talk up other people and write about them, but, I really don't like to be the one "on."

I got through my presentation fine and after it was over and as I was packing up and looking out at the runway, I teared up as it hit me that my friend Tom is really gone and that his farm is really gone.

When I got home and checked my email, I had one from Tom's niece Karen telling me "we will be having our going out of business sale on March 10."  Needless to say, reading that really made me sad and I did more than just tear up. I miss my friend Tom, he was grumpy and funny, he was tough and kind, and he was one of the most generous men I have ever known. He would give me as much produce as I could carry, and he would always invite me back to chat with him and would always offer me food, whatever he had or was eating.

He was also so supportive of my work. He bought a copy of my book for every member of his family, his very large, extended family. And, he made me sign each and every one of them (nearly 100 copies). So, I made him sign the last page in my book, because it had his photo on it. Here it is in color (getting him to pose was no easy task):

Tom T. Ishibashi, February 8, 2008
I don't just miss my friend, but I also miss my local farmer. I am sad not only for me, but sad for my community. We have lost a 60+ year family farm. So many people looked forward to it reopening each spring, starting first with his flowers, then his strawberries and later in the season, his sweet corn, the sweetest corn I have ever eaten.

October 2008, me and my farm hero, Tom T. Ishibashi, he let me do a book signing at the farm.  I made him sign books alongside me since he is the "star" of my book.

Monday, February 27, 2012

Day 58: Rainy Days And Mondays

Yeah, using a schmaltzy song title from a 1971 Carpenters' song in my subject line is proof of several things. Mainly, that I really am this old and that I love schmaltzy songs. But, it is Monday and it did rain today, and this song popped into my head as it often does on Mondays.

It is not a happy song, but then it's not really a sad one either. It speaks about going to the one who loves you when things are getting you down.

For me, it reminds me of how important it is to feel that you have someone in your life that you can do that with. And when you don't, that's when you start thinking that the song is sad. It makes me remember that it's important that those I love not only know that, but that they really feel it.

It is so ironic to listen to the lyrics and think about Karen Carpenter and wonder if she felt that she didn't have anyone in her life like that.

For those who have no clue about this song, or what I am talking about, here's a video of them performing it. Karen Carpenter had an amazing voice, and she conveyed so much feeling with it. It is so tragic that she had such body image issues and that because of them she died at 32 of heart failure resulting from complications of her disease: anorexia. 

Talkin' to myself and feelin' old
Sometimes I'd like to quit
Nothin' ever seems to fit
Hangin' around
Nothin' to do but frown
Rainy days and Mondays always get me down

What I've got they used to call the blues
Nothin' is really wrong
Feelin' like I don't belong
Walkin' around
Some kind of lonely clown
Rainy days and Mondays always get me down

Funny, but it seems I always wind up here with you
Nice to know somebody loves me
Funny, but it seems that it's the only thing to do
Run and find the one who loves me (the one who loves me)

What I feel has come and gone before
No need to talk it out
We know what it's all about
Hangin' around
Nothin' to do but frown
Rainy days and Mondays always get me down

View of PV from Torrance Beach on this rainy Monday

Sunday, February 26, 2012

Day 57: On Expending Energy

This morning as I was getting myself going (which seems to take me longer and longer to do each day), I was checking out the chamomile in my garden and was reminded of something that they do that is pretty cool.

The petals on chamomile flowers close at night, and depending on how sunny it is in the morning, they may stay like this until nearly noon.
At 8 a.m., some of the flowers are partially opened, some totally closed
When it gets sunny enough, they start to reopen. By 9:30 a.m. most of them have started to open.

By the time I got back from my walk at 11a.m., most of them had opened up fully.
Aside from being a cool thing to look at and apparently for me to take photos of, why am I writing about this here?

Because flowers that do this are teaching me a valuable lesson. That is that they know not to waste their precious energy on staying open at night because it is not necessary. They are protecting their reproductive parts (now there's an entirely different concept that merits several blog postings itself) and pollen when it's not needed. Some also do this to protect against bad weather and nighttime cold. The bottom line is that this eliminates the wasting of pollen. They protect their most valuable asset. Brilliant!

Too bad we (okay I), don't have that same automatic, adaptive technique, or at least I haven't discovered it yet but I am working on doing that. This past year has been one of the hardest in my life and I am working on changing many things. One day I might write about it, but, for now it is too close and too hard, and I can't even begin to think about doing that now.

What I can say is that during this process I have discovered that I seem to waste my valuable energy on those who aren't worthy of it, or who think I have an unlimited supply of it, or on things I can never have. My goal is to become like the petals on my chamomile, and to only open when there's a real need to instead of wasting my most valuable asset: me. 

Friday, February 24, 2012

Day 55: Battling Burn Out With Bubbles

The end of another week just means my book deadline is closer. Yet, my workload hasn't lightened allowing me to focus on it the way I had hoped I could by this time. It costs money to eat and to have electricity, etc., which means I don't have the luxury of not taking paying jobs to work only on it. So, I am trying to just keep moving forward and not panic, but I am finding it more difficult to do that.

I have been doing things to try to decrease my stress and to try to keep myself healthy. I have been eating more fruits and veggies all day, especially crunchy things like carrots, and I have also been walking a minimum of 2-3 miles, at least 5 times a week. I struggle with the fact that it takes about an hour out of my day by the time I go, come back, and then get back to work. But, it is a necessity and it really helps.

But, my biggest secret weapon in the fight against stress, and that has often prevented me from snapping is a long, hot, bubble bath. I can't remember a time when I did not soak in a tub.

Nor, can I think of anything that I haven't soaked for. I have used my bubble baths to relax, to soothe my tired and aching muscles, to reflect on a great day, to daydream about a crush or a new love, to celebrate achievements and happy occasions, and to prepare for big, stressful days like my comprehensive exams and my thesis presentation while in grad school. And more often than not, I have used it to have a good cry and to literally wash my tears away. 

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Day 53: Becoming High School Friends 30 Years Later

The weather here in the South Bay was perfect today. It was like an advertisement for So Cal living, about 75 degrees, with bright sunshiny ocean views. I never need an excuse to go out and look at the ocean but today was an extra special day since one of my friends from high school (yes, they had progressed beyond one room classrooms even back in my day) came to see me.

View of Rancho Palos Verdes from Terranea Resort
It is a very cool thing. Ms. Laurie and I did not know each other in high school. I knew who she was, everyone knew who she was, because she was one of the "popular" girls, and also one of the nicest. She was even voted "just plain nice" in our class. But, we never met. I was not only shy about talking to boys then, but even talking to other girls if I didn't know them.

So, when I got on Facebook and started connecting with friends from high school, I asked to friend her and unlike many of the "popular" girls who actually blocked me (yeah, I guess some people are still 15) she said yes. And since then, we have gotten to know each other and have become good friends. We don't just share a common past, but we like so many of the same things and both enjoy the simple things, like looking at the ocean, going to farmers' markets, photography, gardening, art, talking and laughing, and supporting each other as we pursue our life's passions.

This is one of the cool things about getting older and wiser. You realize what you might have missed out on and the people you missed getting to know by being too shy, or too cliquish or too whatever. I am so happy we have become friends and we are going through this phase of our lives together.

She is an awesome photographer, but, is so modest about her skills. I think she could do it professionally, and is going to help me with my book by taking some photos of some things I need for some of the chapters I don't have images for.

She had never been out to my area and I took her around to show her some of the great scenery because I knew she'd want to take photos of everything, including this view from Terranea Resort. The ocean was so blue today it didn't look real.

I was sneaky and got a photo of her doing what she does best: One day I hope to join her at an opening for her own photography exhibit.

Laurie taking photos of Mar'sel Edible Garden at Terranea

Monday, February 20, 2012

Day 51: Keep Your Head To The Sky

Today was a holiday, well, it was for many people, technically it wasn't for me but I still managed to avoid work for most of the day. I am sure I will regret that come the morning when I have to work on the hospital newsletter, the book's Introduction, the book editing, and my continued search for image sources for the book. Oh, and I still have a workshop to prep. for and another column to write.

I always say it is better to be busy than bored, but it has been so long since I have actually been bored, that I think just for a day or two I would like to remember what it feels like.

So, since I was feeling a bit stressed, and starting to get sad because I feel like I am on this non-stop working/chores/working treadmill, I decided to take a bit longer on my walk this morning. Although now that I think about it, I could have spent that extra time weeding in my garden; oh well.

I love to be outside, I always feel so alive when I am in the fresh air, and walking lets me see things from an entirely different perspective. It is hard for me to be sad or worried when I look at everything around me, even just walking through the neighborhood gives me a fresh perspective. I think that's because there's a park across the street and I can look up at the trees and at the sky and it helps snap me out of my funk.

Things always look differently when you look up

This song is another thing that always helps, it has always motivated me, and kept me going in times when I sometimes think I can't. 

"Optimistic" by The Sounds of Blackness:

Keep keep On.... Never Say Die....
When in the midst of sorrow
You can' t see up when looking down
A brighter day tomorrow will bring

You hear the voice of reason
Telling you this can't never be done
No matter how hard reality seems
Just hold on to your dreams

Don't give up and don't give in
Although it seems you never win
You will always pass the test
As long as you keep your head to the sky
You can win as long as you keep your head to the sky
You can win as long as you keep your head to the sky
Be optimistic

If things around you crumble
No you don't have to stumble and fall
Keep pushing on and don't you look back

I know the storms and strive
Cloud up your outlook on life 
 Just think ahead and you'll be inspired
To reach higher and higher.

You'll always do your best
If you learn to never say never
You may be down but you're not out.

Don't give up and don't give in
Although it seems you never win
You will always pass the test
As long as you keep your head to the sky
You can win as long as you keep your head to the sky (you can win child)
You can win as long as you keep your head to the sky
Be optimistic

Don't you let no body stop you.....
Be optimistic

You can win Yes
Never say die...

Sunday, February 19, 2012

Day 50: The Permanent Pause

Hmm, Day 50 in my 50th year. You would think that would merit some brilliant, earth-shattering wisdom wouldn't you?

I am not exactly sure that what is on my mind is earth-shattering, but, it is part of most women's lives, some just may not ever notice it until it happens and is done, and some don't get there naturally due to medical issues. But for me, I have been noticing it for about 7 years now.

OKAY: WARNING TO THE MEN, this is your chance to leave, I am talking about "women's stuff" and I have found that many of the men in my life do not want to hear anything about it, and in fact, it is one of the few things that they are actually afraid of. So, here is my final warning to you: STEP AWAY FROM THE BLOG.

I have this magnet on my fridge!

Okay, to all of my female friends (and the few enlightened men that have stuck around), today marks one-year since I have had my "monthly visitor!" Whoo Hoo!!!!! That means I am now "officially" in Menopause. Why so excited? Because so far, this is the only perk that I can see from this. Just think of the money I am going to save each month (well, that I have already saved).

Yeah, I am using a euphemism to refer to my menstrual cycle because the men in our lives are often so uncomfortable hearing the word "period" or "menstruation," that we have even had to dumb down discussions about our own reproductive system for them. Others I have heard it called during my life include "Aunt Flo," "My Friend Flo," and of course, "The Curse," which I find ironic and sad that something that is necessary to bring life to all of us, is seen so negatively.

But I digress (big shock). When I saw my OB-Gyn last month, and told her I was almost done and it would be a year. She said, "yep, that means you are going to be in menopause, officially." When I asked her, "so does this mean I get a crown or a prize or something, for dealing with the hot flashes, night sweats, and unexpected and unwelcome tearfulness since 2005? " she said, "it means you can't get pregnant."

I found that response so interesting. I have spent my entire life trying to avoid getting pregnant; it is what all  women do except for the few times that they actually may want to get pregnant. Again, my first thought was think of all the money I have spent on birth control products and now, just like that (okay, not really just like that) but with her pronouncement that is no longer an issue.

I also find it interesting how, the many people in my life who felt it was their business and who actually told me that I would seriously regret my choice not to have children, either when I reached 25, 30, 35, 40, 45, and yes, 50, were seriously wrong. Maybe one day soon I will write about that choice, but for now,  it just goes back to what I wrote about the other day, trust yourself, you know what is right for you.

So now I am officially in the next phase. And, I have to say that it is not as bad as I had heard, or thought it was going to be (okay, with the exception of my hormone-fed breast lumps that have required 3 surgeries and that hopefully will now also stop). I am looking forward to what comes next.

For all of my friends that are going through the same thing thing and thinking that they are going crazy, or think they are alone, you are not. Check out one of my favorite places to go to find some humor in this "phase of life" and to see that you are not alone. Perrie Meno-Pudge is hilarious and like I try to do, she finds humor in all of the special changes at this phase of our lives. 

Friday, February 17, 2012

Day 48: Use Your Inside Voice

As I look over these blog posts, to me, they seem more like long Facebook status updates of what I did each day, instead of offering some valuable insight, information or knowledge.

Maybe I am just not as deep as I think/thought I am and I should be happy if I come up with something meaningful once a week...okay, maybe once a month; that seems more realistic.

So, today might have been the day for my monthly depth. Or, maybe not if you read this and think, "really, is that all you have?" As I was out this morning with my friend Tina celebrating her birthday (Happy Double Nickels again Ms. White), as we were talking, I shared with her one of my personal epiphanies. 

What is this earth-shattering revelation? It is that I have realized that through my life when I have been drawn to either a person, work or a place, without really knowing why, or even knowing much about them, it has turned out that this was exactly the kind of person, place or work that I would be the happiest with, that I am the most comfortable with, and the most compatible with, and that brought me the most satisfaction and just felt right.

Conversely, when I have found myself uncomfortable, unhappy with, or confused about something or someone, it has usually caused me a great deal of unhappiness and the confusion has only gotten worse as time goes on. These feelings are what I call giant red flags and up until about a year ago, I realized I spent most of my life ignoring them, no matter how big they were. I either listened to what other people said, or thought this was what I "should" do, or, I kept thinking things will get better, or I just completely ignored them because I thought they weren't important.

Well, they are important, and they don't get better, if anything they get worse. The red flags are your own intuition telling you that this thing, this situation, or this relationship is not right for you and that you should not ignore them.

Ignoring your own gut feeling or intuition can cause you not only to be in the wrong situation, but can prevent you from being in the right one. 
So, trust your intuition, trust what you are feeling because no matter how well meaning other people are, yes, that means even your parents, your siblings, your best friends, nobody knows what is truly in anybody else's heart or what makes them tick or what will make them happy. As my own personal Messiah always tells me "nobody else can walk in anybody else's shoes."

Hey, they raised my generation on whatever Dr. Spock said (no, not MR. Spock, Dr. Spock) so I am going with his advice!

Day 47: The Sleeping Garden

It is now 12:30 a.m.; technically Day 48 and I just finished working on the hospital's newsletter because I am two days behind our schedule. I am at a dead-end, and still have to wait for info. from a planning meeting that takes place next week. So, I am going to send what I have to our graphic artist and hope that this issue he can get it done in less than nine revisions.

That in itself is a long story (i.e. how he literally pastes my changes/instructions in the final product and doesn't see it).  I have learned in the nearly six years I have been working with him that the more I can get it complete and correct from the beginning, the less stressful and frustrating it is for me. Unfortunately, I am not in that position this issue.

I certainly did not intend to write about him or the newsletter on this blog. But, as I have written before, I never know what I am going to write until I open up Blogger and click on "new post." Sometimes I do have an idea during the day. Today, (okay, now yesterday) I did not.

And, as I just keep working until midnight or later, night after night, I have to admit I am getting tired and even crankier than usual. I know that this is temporary and that I will be able to do the things I have been wanting to do; like garden, once my book is done.

It is sad though. My garden looks like a jungle, there are literally thigh high weeds against the back wall, my raised bed garden has last summer's thyme now growing like a giant weed over and outside of it, and there's some kind of mystery plant coming up in one of them. I do however have lettuce and of course that other weed that has reseeded itself from when I planted it three years ago, Chamomile. At least it has pretty flowers on it :)!

For those who have the misfortune of seeing my garden now, (or seeing me for that matter), please respect the now slumbering garden. Do not make a big deal about the weeds by speaking out loud or gasping about how bad it looks. It is hibernating and it is supposed to look that way. Hey, that's my story and I am sticking to it!

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Day 46: Deep Thinking or Deep Laughter

I find that after I have been working non-stop to finish a project, in this case, the last chapter, I always need a few days to regroup. Especially since I have been staying up until 12 or 1 in the morning. And, as I have written about several times already, it's not as easy for me to recover from it at my advanced age.

I tend to get a bit more introspective when I am tired and:
Yeah, like I really need to overthink things more than I already do
When I find myself doing that, I do what I do best, I work at finding a way to laugh and not take things so seriously. And look, there's a famous quote for that :)!

Usually that means talking to someone who makes me laugh or watching something that makes me laugh and usually that is something stupid, like this for example (I never said my humor was highbrow, at least this is family-friendly, most of what I find funny is highly inappropriate!). I looooove Austin Powers and this is probably one of the few scenes I find funny that doesn't include any inappropriate innuendo.

Day 45: 3 Months From 50 & Remembering A Friend

While I know it is Valentine's Day, and most people would be expecting me to blog about VD (which is how I usually refer to this day), I am not. Besides it is now almost midnight and it is almost over.

Instead, I am focusing on the fact that today is the 14th which means the big 5-0 is now only 3 months away. Again, my skills at counting and reading the calendar are impressive I know.

As I approach the magic day, I have been reflecting on my life and the people in it. I wonder about those I have lost touch with, and I am glad for those I have reconnected with, and those that I am still connected with. I also have been thinking about those I have lost, and today I am thinking about someone I lost who died on VD, 18 years ago.

As we were driving from the beach up to Terranea Resort to have our late Valentine's Day lunch, we drove through Palos Verdes Estates. As we stopped at the first stop sign, with City Hall and the Police Department to the left of us, and the memorial for my friend who was killed to the right, it suddenly hit me that today was the anniversary of my friend Mike Tracy's death and I started to tear up as I saw the flag flying at half staff in his and Vern Vanderpool's honor.

I don't want to get into how they died here, for those who don't know, here's a link to an LA Times story about it.  And, here's a link to his tribute page on the Officer Down Memorial site showing him with the big smile he always greeted me with.

At the time of his death, we weren't as close as we used to be because I was no longer working for the City of Palos Verdes Estates. That's what seems to happen in life, you lose touch with friends and don't see them as often as you used to. We would have lunch once in awhile and catch up and I had talked to him in January to tell him about my upcoming wedding in October, and told him I was inviting him and we were working on scheduling a lunch.

When I got home tonight and I got on the computer, I decided to look up his memorial page and that's when I noticed his age when he died...he was 50. That really blew me away and then so many things came back to me. Especially how he always  called me "kid." When we met I was 24 years old, and he was 43, younger than I am now, but he always seemed so much older to me, of course everyone did when I was 24.

I was in grad. school and was working as an intern for the City Manager and my first assignment was to work on upgrading the phone system at City Hall and the Police Department. My boss sent me down to the PD to see the "guy in charge of it for their department." "The guy" was him and from the time I came into his office, he started giving me a hard time for at least 10 minutes and then said, "How old are you? You look like you are 15. You need to get used to dealing with guys like me, they sent you down here unprotected, let's see if you can take care of yourself or am I going to have to teach you how."

I told him, "I can and I am not intimidated by you. I don't have all day to wait around for you, so either you can work with me to get the phone system you want, or, you will just get what I pick out."

He started laughing and said, "kid, we are going to get along great, come on I will buy you lunch." And, he was right, we did get along great. I miss you Tracy but will always be grateful for the time we had and our friendship. I still smile when I think of you and how you always made me laugh. Here's looking at you "kid."

Palos Verdes Estates Police Memorial

Monday, February 13, 2012

Day 44: The Joy Of Pursuing My Passion

For those keeping track, yes, I know I did not write anything for Day 43. Instead, I stayed up until 1:30 this morning and finished the last chapter for our book. Well, at least the last "draft" chapter.

That means I only need to write the Introduction (yeah, that's not intimidating) and finish getting the images for my chapters and then edit the wonderful Ms. Rachel's chapters.

To state the obvious, writing a book is really a lot of work, and it is a big commitment. But, after years of writing things I was only kind of interested in, or contributing to literally dozens of magazines, newspapers, and other books and encyclopedias, I have to say that finally having a publisher say that they want to do the book exactly the way I (well in this case we) envisioned it and proposed it is sometimes too hard for me to believe. As one of my friends always says, "here pinch me to see if you're dreaming."

I have literally been writing about the things that I put in this last chapter ("2000 and Beyond: Who's Farming Now) since the year 2000 and can't tell you the number of rejections I have gotten from newspapers, magazines, and publishers who thought nobody would be interested in reading about urban farms, seed libraries, or school gardens. I guess what they say is true; if you keep doing something long enough, eventually it will become fashionable.

The other extraordinary thing I found while writing this chapter is that except for having to get actual LA County agriculture statistics and a couple of other things, I wrote this one from my personal experience, knowledge, and memory. It has been one of the most fulfilling experiences I have ever had as a writer and has given me such a great sense of completion.

As I was working on it, I was completely immersed in it and wasn't distracted at all. Something that is also unusual because I don't often get to write about something I have so much interest and love for. I don't know what's going to happen with our book once it is done and published. I only know that it has brought me such joy to write it.

Saturday, February 11, 2012

Day 42: On Being Every Woman

I certainly never thought I would write a blog post about Whitney Houston. In all honesty, she's not somebody I even thought of anymore unless I would happen to hear an old song of hers on the radio. But, her death today has stirred up all kinds of things in me, many of which relate directly to this blog and my turning 50 this year.

For one, she died at 48, a year younger than I am, that just blows me away. And, even though at this point we don't know the cause of death, I am guessing that it has something to do with her years of addiction, which means it was more than likely preventable. Which again points out the fact that life really is too damned short and that we really shouldn't waste one precious minute of it.

This song is one of my favorites. Ironically it wasn't her song first, it was the great Chaka Khan's song. Chaka is known as the "Queen of Funk" and Whitney was seen as far from that and often criticized by the R&B community for not being "funky enough" because her music was so "pop-like" and she was a huge crossover success.

I never, ever thought anybody else would ever have the talent, let alone the nerve to ever do one of Chaka's songs, but Whitney nailed it. She even paid tribute to Chaka in it by including her at the end of the song, when she sings: "Chaka Khan, Chaka Khan" and by literally including Chaka in this video.

The song speaks to the power of women. Very sad that she didn't believe it of herself. RIP Whitney.  

What ever you want
Whatever you need
Anything you want done baby
I'll do it naturally
Cause I'm every woman
It's all in me
It's all in me

I'm every woman
It's all in me
Anything you want done baby
I'll do it naturally

I'm every woman
It's all in me
I can read your thoughts right now
Every one from A to Z

I can cast a spell
Of secrets you can tell
Mix a special brew
Put fire inside of you
Anytime you feel danger or fear
Instantly I will appear, yeah, cause

I'm every woman
It's all in me
Anything you want done baby
I'll do it naturally

Oh, I can sense your needs
Like rain onto the seeds
I can make a rhyme
Of confusion in your mind
And when it comes down to some good old fashioned love
I got it
I got it
I got it, got it, got it, baby, baby, baby

I'm every woman
It's all in me
Anything you want done baby
I'll do it naturally

I'm every woman
It's all in me
I can read your thoughts right now
Every one from A to Z

I ain't braggin'
Cause I'm the one
Just ask me
Ooh, and it shall be done
And don't bother
To compare
I got it

I'm every woman (repeat til fade)

Thursday, February 9, 2012

Day 40: Growing Local Gardens

Today was a beautiful day, it was nearly 80 degrees here in the South Bay and it felt like spring. I know that it is only February 9, and we do need more rain, but, I do love my southern California sunshine. And, it was a perfect day to have a meeting to discuss the creation of school gardens.

Yep, today I had a meeting with my "boss" from Torrance Memorial, the Director of Health Education. I write/edit the ADVANTAGE newsletter for her and as I wrote about last month, I have been doing it for almost 6 years now.

She is also the awesome woman who let me try out my Senior Gardening Program at the hospital and who is always willing to try something that can help the community since one of her main responsibilities is community benefits.

So, I met her along with the woman who runs the "Kids N Fitness" Program to talk about helping them set up school gardens at 4 schools in the Torrance Unified School District. I am happy to say that she seemed very interested in doing it, and says the schools have already expressed an interest, and that the Food Services Director is on board, and even wants to use some of the food that will be grown in the gardens.

There is also a possibility to get gardens at more schools if they are interested. I am putting together a brief survey for them to bring to the big PTA Council meeting next month. We are hoping that they will want to start in the fall and I will be working on putting it together starting in April, perfect timing since my book will be done then.

I am very excited at the possibilities that this brings, especially my idea of incorporating inter-generational gardening with some of my senior gardeners going to the schools. But, it is way too early for me to be planning things, there are many things that have to be decided, on, including my level of involvement. But, the idea of growing more gardens is very exciting and it sure beats my former career, being stuck at a cubicle all day.

Day 39: Is Simplicity Really That Simple?

It is amazing to me the number of cliched expressions and new-agey affirmations that seem to come to my mind when I sit down to write this blog. I think maybe it is because I am consciously trying to learn or discover something new every day. It's as if all of the advice and wisdom that I have gotten from others and even learned myself, finally has a place to go.

One of the loudest of these pearls of wisdom is the one that says to simplify your life. It certainly is something I have done in many parts of my life, although in those areas it was (ironically) simple. I think that's because these are in the practical areas. I just seemed to naturally come out that way. I don't need, well actually don't want, lots of material things, I don't want a bigger house to clean or store more stuff that I don't need, I don't want to work at a job that I hate just to collect things that really don't bring me happiness, and I don't want to start worrying about my "things"or about losing them. They are just things.

I really do enjoy the "simple" things in life: sitting in the sun with a good book, a good meal, or a good friend; working in my garden, listening to music, hanging out with my friends and laughing, walking through a city and discovering all that it has to offer; taking a walk through the redwoods, at the beach, under the moonlight, or through a garden; or eating a chocolate dip from Foster's Freeze because it combines two of my favorite things in a simple yet perfect way. I am all about the "twofers" or the "trifectas" which really is the ultimate in simplicity.

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Day 38: On Feeling 50

The fact that I stayed up until 1 a.m. this morning is making it even harder than usual to post something for this blog. I suppose I could post how now that I am near 50, it's certainly a lot harder to go all day after staying up so late as evidenced by this truly riveting blog post :)!

Ah youth, it truly is wasted on the young. When I was in my 20s all I needed was a late night espresso or cappuccino and I was good to go for at least another full day. And if I did get sleepy during the day, all I needed was a little nap and my brain did not remain foggy like it does now.

There are so many cliched things I could keep writing here about turning 50, the forgetfulness, the needing to sleep more, the aches and pains that start appearing seemingly out of nowhere. But, for the most part, most of the time I do not feel any differently than I did at 25, 30, 40, etc., etc. and it really does seem like just an arbitrary number to me.

Then why does it sound so much bigger to me than any of those other "milestone" years? Is it because it is half a century? Is it because when I was 18 it sounded O-L-D? Is it the f*$*ing AARP membership card that keeps coming in the mail? Is it because I am making a big deal out of it by writing this blog?

Whatever it is, today I am feeling it. So, I decided to look up same famous people turning 50 this year just to see if that would make me feel even older. It certainly was eye opening. There are 3 "Brat Packers" on the list: they are Ally Sheedy, Andrew McCarthy, and Emilio Estevez. Also on the list are Matthew Broderick (yep Ferris Bueller himself), Jon Bon Jovi, Sheryl Crow, Jon Stewart and Jodi Foster.

Now if I think about most of them, I picture them at most as 20-something, but mostly as younger than that, especially the Brat Pack, that one really does make me feel it. So, once again I am turning to some quotes to help me remember that it really is just a number and that I don't have to let it change me, or I don't have to act O-L-D.

"Nobody grows old merely by living a number of years.  We grow old by deserting our ideals.  Years may wrinkle the skin, but to give up enthusiasm wrinkles the soul."  ~Samuel Ullman, poet

"None are so old as those who have outlived enthusiasm."~Henry David Thoreau

Inside I still feel this old, not 50!

Day 37: Writing A Book: Am I Eccentric or Focused?

It is now 12:45 a.m., which technically means it is Day 38. But, I am still up from Day 37 so that's how I am posting it. Again: my blog, my rules.

The closer the deadline for our book gets, the faster and faster the days go. While I am very close to finishing my last chapter draft, I am starting to feel overwhelmed a bit because there are too many other things that have to be done at the same time. There's paid work, there's cleaning, there's cooking, there's errands, and there's trying to be there for those I love.

My situation isn't really that unique, many people have fuller schedules than I do all of the time. This level of intensity is only for a relatively short period and that part is unique. Come May 1st, I will have much more free time, which ironically, I will probably quickly fill up with the next book, or which I hope to since I am working on another book idea/ proposal now.

While you are working on it, there's no way you can write a book and be half in, you have to be all in.  But, you also have to live and take care of all of those other things in life that you need to take care of otherwise you risk becoming a hermit or even more eccentric than you already are because let's face it, we writers usually are "different."

It's no wonder that we are because it certainly is a very strange way to make a living. As a writer you spend hours alone, in your own world, privately producing a very public product that you hope the rest of the world will actually want to read.

So, I am trying to allow myself to remember that this is a short term thing and that for now, it is okay to be driven and focused and as always I am using quotes (illustrated quotes at that) to remind myself that I can do this!


Monday, February 6, 2012

Day 36: Taking Tea

When I was walking today, for some reason I was thinking about the things in my life that have been constant and that have never changed. I know it sounds deep, doesn't it. Yeah, it's nearly midnight and I am still working on my last chapter so I don't have time for deep.

What I thought of were the things I like and that I have always liked. At the top of that list is hot tea. I have been drinking it since I was very young. The most interesting thing is why: both of my grandmothers drank it exclusively. It's funny because you could not find two women who were more different, yet they had this in common, and both shared this love with me, something I carry with me today.

I think the biggest tea influence was my grandma Gerber. A very strong and intimidating woman from the Gorbals of Glasgow (aka the slums), but who made sure to have the appropriate tea accoutrements, including tongs for her sugar cubes, tea strainer and creamer because as she told me, you always drink your tea with cream and sugar. And, I have been drinking it this way my entire life.

I never got over the habit and have never abandoned my tea for coffee. I actually am not that fond of just "regular" coffee, but I adore coffee mocha, coffee with caramel, and ironically cappuccino and espresso, basically anything but just plain coffee.

There doesn't seem to be anything that a cup of tea can't help with. Whether I am happy or sad, feeling healthy or sick, tired or energetic, it is my drink.
One of the first things I do in the morning when I get up is put the kettle on, because my tea of choice is black tea, the stronger the better, preferably a good British tea that actually has flavor. One of my favorites is PG Tips.

I have also collected some teapots over the years, I wouldn't say I am an "avid" collector but when I see one I like I buy it. I have also received several as gifts over the years. They all make me smile but even more so when I remember those who are now gone that shared my love of tea and gifted me with a teapot.

Saturday, February 4, 2012

Day 35: Ignoring My Inner Editor

As I get closer to finishing the last chapter of our book, I find my inner editor rearing her ugly head, and find  myself panicking at the chapters I have already shared with my book partner; thinking they are crap and need to be redone.

Luckily I have been writing long enough to know that usually I am my biggest critic and that my work is not as bad as I think. And, I have also discovered that even if I am right and it really does blow huge chunks, that's what the actual editing process is for.

Editing while writing is completely counterproductive because you use two different sides of your brain for each process. The quest for perfection actually blocks me and causes me to freeze up, not a good thing when you are working on a deadline. But writing nonfiction, especially historical nonfiction like this, means I also have to get my facts straight and get the best possible sources I can by conducting thorough research. The big danger when I am blocked and worried about my writing is that I will just research endlessly. "Ooh look a shiny object, now I am distracted." 

It can be so much more fun to follow something as far as you can. For example, I discovered that the person that Boyle Heights is named for was a vintner, and he was the first European settler east of the LA River and built the first brick house there. Then when I kept tracing his family, I found former city council members, a Mayor and that one of his heirs today sits on the board of the Los Angeles Historic Society and we might get the chance to sit down and talk to him.

But, as fun as that is for me, sharing these stories through our book is more important so that they are not lost as time goes on. So, to silence my inner editor I am using this very funny graphic I found a few weeks ago. 

Day 34: Laughter Really Is The Best Medicine

I am just going to gloss over the fact that I did not write anything on this blog yesterday. Why? Probably because it literally took me 12 hours to do all of my tax preparation stuff and I did not go to bed until 12:30 this morning.

The good news is that because I finally did do my bookkeeping, we do not have to pay anything this year and all of the receipts and keeping track of my business expenses really paid off.

But, once again I digress. I wanted to write about the fun thing that I did tonight and which I almost wasn't going to do. I went to my local, small theater for a girl's night out and haven't laughed like that in a long time.

I had gotten an email in July about this event which sounded interesting but that I was more inclined to go to in support of the Torrance Cultural Arts Foundation and to see my friend who invited me to join.

All I knew is that it was related to Valentine's Day and it was called "Whine and Chocolate," and would have something to do with women, well, comedic women talking about their horror stories from dating.

Well, it turned out to be way more than that and funnier than anything I have seen in a long time. It was set up cabaret style, with tables and before the show, there was food for sale from the awesome Red Car Brewery, and wine and other beverages, plus chocolate and the best cookies I have had in ages from Daddy's Gourmet Cookies.

But, the show itself would have been enough. While it was a kind of stand up, with 5 different performers, it was really story telling, because the performers were telling funny and horrifying real-life stories, it was presented by Tasty Words a "spoken-word salon" created by Wendy Hammers, who is hilarious as are all the performers she had tonight, most of whom are Jewish. I don't know if it's because I am a Hebrew too, and that I just have that same sort of sense of humor, or that I know the cultural references, the Yiddish, or what, but it really was a fun night. And, I recommend seeing her and the rest of the Tasty Words crew, they perform in Santa Monica regularly.

One of the storytellers, Eric Schwartz is a singer/songwriter, and his songs are definitely NOT family friendly, very adult humor but soooooooooo funny. Here's a you-tube of the last song he did, and again it is NOT for those who are offended by profanity and/or sex humor, It is called "Who's Gonna F*** The Singer and is his attempt to make "the perfect soul song! "

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

Day 32: Following Flowing Fountains

Since I saw my doctor last month and got the whole "we are monitoring you more closely now that you are turning 50" talk, I decided to ramp up my walking and increase the duration and mileage on each walk.

As I probably have already written about here (oh yeah, at this age you start forgetting shit, another perk of aging), I downloaded this fancy new app on my iPhone for tracking my walks. It is very cool and just about does everything for you but walk; it gives me distance, time, miles per hour, heart rate, etc. Too bad it doesn't dispense chocolate or hot fudge as I am walking, now that would really be motivational. 

So, today I walked a bit further than I usually do on my "regular" walk through the neighborhood. I live in a typical suburban neighborhood and there's really not that much interesting to look at unless I venture further out. While I want to increase my mileage, I also have a book I am working on and can't take too much time away from it and my other writing projects.

That means I need to stick to an hour or so maximum on my walks. Since I don't usually head west towards the beach when I am walking during my work time for fear I might stay at the beach and not return to work, I have been adding another major block to my walk heading east towards the Del Amo Mall and Financial Center, and other shopping areas along Hawthorne Blvd.

Yeah, it's not exactly the most scenic place, or the greenest, or the most walker-friendly for that matter. There are spots where there is no sidewalk or path to walk on, and spots where there is one but then it just ends abruptly. But, the good news is that by adding these spots in, I got in over 2.6 miles and if I add a little more, will get to 3 miles. And according to my fancy app. I walk 1 mile in about 18.3 minutes so that will work.

Until I increase the walks I take away from the neighborhood and go to places with real natural beauty, I have made it my mission to find things to like about this route. So far, I have discovered that I walk by 3 fountains, and that's a good start.

Fountain at Village Del Amo

Fountain at Doubletree Hotel

Fountain at Del Amo Financial Center