Life Plans at Age 16 Versus Reality at 61

When I was 16, I knew that in my future I wanted a loving husband and several children. I knew that much. I also wanted a career since I knew from watching my mother get her Ph.D. as I was growing up that having intellectual stimulation and economic freedom contributed to happiness. I saw myself in a helping profession, such as psychology like my mother or else teaching at a university. I had no doubt that I would get an advanced degree – at least a Master’s – and I wanted to travel and see the world. I also knew that I wanted to live in a city for at least a while since I had grown up in a small Texas town and already was aware of the pros and cons of that life. I hadn’t ruled out living in North Central Texas where I’d grown up, but I knew for sure that I wanted to go out into the world and see what else was out there.

Now I am 61 and I have accomplished a few of those things I planned. I earned a Master’s degree in Counseling Psychology and I lived in Italy for a year right after I graduated from college. I have also traveled to Europe quite a few times during my life. Plus, I have that loving husband and three beautiful children, along with a beloved son-in-law, a possible second one on the way, and a darling granddaughter. However, the rest of my life is not as I had planned.

First, I’ve lived the past 20 years in Beverly Hills, which is a place that conjures up a whole host of images for most people, including myself. I am far from the stereotypic BH resident, but I have been actively involved with the school system here, have worked with countless parents and students over the years, and have made some good friends along the way. I would have never dreamed that would be part of my life story. Second, I worked as a professional therapist for only a few years and instead have spent most of my adult life buying and selling antiques, writing both fiction and nonfiction, and also working with students on all aspects of writing. I could never have anticipated that shift in my focus when I was sixteen. Third, I have not traveled as extensively as I would have liked – I have only been to Europe, Mexico and Canada – and I would like very much to see much more of the world before I die. I guess that remains to be seen.

So, the question is has this change from my anticipated life at 16 to my “real” life at 61 been good? The answer is more complicated than one might first think. Of course, I am grateful for my family. They make up the best part of my life and I couldn’t be more thankful for their presence. Also, I love that my life has been more adventurous that I expected, that has been a plus. However, what I couldn’t have known at 16 is that life is unpredictable, which makes planning a bit trickier than one might think.

For example:

How could I have known that I was going to marry a man who would open my eyes to the world of art, antiques and design? I might have stifled a small laugh at that possibility when I was 16.

How could I have anticipated that my reason to come to Los Angeles would be to care for my brother who had contracted AIDS? I had never heard of this disease when I was 16-years-old because it did not exist then.

How could I have guessed that my passion for writing would be the primary reason I would land a teaching job (without a teaching certificate) at one of the premier private schools in LA? I had never even heard of this school before I answered their blind ad in the LA Times.

How could I ever have predicted that teaching only one short year at that school would give me enough referral sources to last these past 15 years as a private writing teacher with the freedom to make my own schedule so that I could be home with my children and have more time for my own writing?

The answer is: I couldn’t have.

What I know now that I didn’t know at 16 is that “unknowns” periodically present themselves in life, and these unexpected circumstances have a way of shifting one’s path in directions that could never have been anticipated.

So, of course, I am happy that my life at 61 is as full, rich and blessed as it is. I am even happier to know that more zigzags will crop up on my life’s path in the future. Thank God for those unanticipated turns. They can make all the difference.


Early School Day Woes

When I was little, I was a Mama’s baby; I mean, a BIG Mama’s baby. At night, I sneaked into her bed to snuggle; in the daytime, I played near her while she read, typed or worked on bills. By age five, I didn’t mind playing in another room or outside in the backyard as long as I knew she was in the house. Her proximity was pure comfort to me. That was fine until the outside world started pulling me towards it. In other words: school.

Kindergarten, which was optional and private when I was young, didn’t work out too well. I cried and was miserable every time Mama dragged me into the car and deposited me at Humpty Dumpty College. I just didn’t want to be there even though I could endure a morning of coloring, songs and recess if I absolutely had to, though I think I might have sniffled my way through most of those hours. I was a homebody kid with a whole range of self-designed activities that kept me completely entertained with no distractions like other kids to mess up the fun. After all, there were already plenty of kids in my family – with four older siblings and one younger. The last thing I needed – at least in my mind – was more of a social life. So, Mama let me teach school to my imaginary students and play outside with my two imaginary friends in the pecan tree, whose various limbs constituted my imagery house. This was all well and good until the inevitable happened: 1st grade.

The first day of school in 1st grade was not good. I was assigned to walk with my older brother, George, who was in 4th to Bailey Inglish, which was about 5 blocks from home. I think I made it a block before I dissolved into tears and refused to go any further. George was forced to leave me squalling on the sidewalk and go get Mama, who then had to drive us to school since we were now going to be late. I got a stern talking-to about being a “big girl now” in the car and Mama escorted me to Mrs. Bradford’s room herself. I remembering looking around the big room with all the windows and thinking it seemed pleasant enough, and I loved the little desks and chairs. Mrs. Bradford seemed nice, too, but I wasn’t very happy when Mama left. I think I managed not to cry since I was trying to prove I was too old for that in a public place, but I’m sure I had to wipe away a few tears.

That first week was a tough one. Everyday I was fine when George and I left home and got progressively less fine the farther we walked. Mama, however, had told me in no uncertain terms that I better not ever make George come get her again. That was grounds for a spanking and she’d be happy to get a switch and make that happen. George was willing to walk with me until I started crying, then walked faster so my “big baby” ways didn’t embarrass him. Each day I made it a little further before the tears started to flow and by Friday, I made it all the way to school dry-eyed just so that George would walk alongside me instead of half a block in front. After Week One, I was fine. I enjoyed my walks with my big brother, looked forward to seeing my friends and was excited to learn more about the world beyond my home and backyard. I appreciate that my mother was both sensitive and firm. That made my transition from home to school a whole lot easier.

Upon reflection, I have to note that I am not very different today from that little 6-year-old self. I am still a homebody who loves my self-designed activities over any organized group event, and it remains a challenge to get me up and out of the house for a party or other group activity. Still, once out, I tend to have a good time and enjoy the places I go and the people I meet. I still miss my mother everyday and I wish George were around to keep me company on walks, but I have long since accepted that my many happy memories will have to suffice. However, I still enjoy my imaginary friends and their adventures. The only difference is that at age six all of those stories stayed only in my head; now I get to write them down.


Dear Mean Voice Inside My Head

I didn’t realize for a long time that you were as active a character in my brain as you are. You were much better then at throwing in a subtle negative comment only occasionally. But now you’ve moved to a new level. You are relentless about tossing in your opinion, which is always counterproductive, whenever you feel inclined, which is often.

I am letting you know right now that I am ready for you to hit the road, ship out, get out of my orbit, vamoose. You are annoying on a good day and a real pain in the ass on a bad one. You know how to take anything that’s good and toss in just the right amount of naysaying to sully the air. You can be a relentless jerk and I am surprised that I have the strength of character to proceed with anything given your proclivity for calling upon shame and fear to keep me firmly under your dominating and negative thumb.

I am not foolish enough to think that I can banish you forever. Even if you are gone, your memory will inhabit the corners of my brain, filling them with the faint odor of stink. But inspite of that truth, go on, get out, take your mean-spirited, ugly old self and find a dark hole to inhabit.

I, instead, will respond to kindness, truth, beauty and love.

Now, go on, unless you can change your colors and shift from black to violet. If that’s the case, then you can stay. I don’t have a need to hurt you even though you can’t say the same to me. Could you do that? Could you discard all that darkness and just enjoy the beauty of a green rolling meadow or a white zigzag of lightning against a dark sky? I have no need to spread the sorrow.

Come here, then, and let me hold you. You are born from pain, I know. Let’s not carry on this heartache anymore. We can coexist if you will let me love you.

I promise love is healing. Trust me and watch.



Something Most People Don’t Know About Me…

One thing that most people don’t know about me is that I hate seeing food go to waste. That doesn’t mean that I never let vegetables get too far gone in my crisper, but generally speaking, I am going to make every effort to effectively use every piece of food that is in my kitchen or even in someone else’s kitchen. This means that if the Breakfast Club gets an inordinately large number of tomatoes and we can’t give them all away, I will bring the rest home and make a big tomato sauce. Or if our peach tree out back starts producing more of those delicious peaches than we can eat in one sitting, then I’ll be inside cutting up peach after peach to freeze and not chance them going to waste. One week I brought home a box of broccoli from the Breakfast Club. We ate and ate on that broccoli and I gave broccoli away, as well, but still there was so much that I finally had to toss more than I felt good about doing. But there is just so much broccoli one can eat, after all.

I just think that given all the modern conveniences at out disposal, mainly the freezer, there is no legitimate reason to let food go to waste without doing something to curb the loss.

I wouldn’t say this is the “sexiest” admission I could ever make, but it is one of those funny little idiosyncrasies that most people would never guess about me.

So, if you’re at my house and you see food overflowing on counters or in the fridge, then you’ll know that I have stumbled upon an undesignated cache that requires immediate food preparation.

The good part of that over-attention to food detail is that I often have something tasty around for guests, particularly where bananas or other fresh fruit is concerned. Of course, this brings me to another admission: I have never tasted a fruit pie that I haven’t liked.

The Four Food Groups

Running Behind…

Ray and I have been busy handling two estates, which means that we have been researching, then selling items on eBay. This is a slow and meticulous process and takes lots of time. Today, I was photographing various pieces of vintage pottery while Ray was researching their origin. We got more pieces listed, but it is one piece at a time. Not the fastest way to do something, but the way it is done on eBay. Ray is faster than I am with the research since he’s been doing it longer, but I am catching on. The nice part about this is that as a visual person, I learn more and better when I read. So, my knowledge of antiques and collectibles is growing by the day as we gather information on these various items.

But now it’s 12:07 am and I missed my deadline to post daily by 7 minutes.

Oh well, I guess I need to flow with the river, eh? I will write twice today and that will have to be good enough for now.

Sleep well, my friends. I hope you had a happy weekend.


Delicious Grain Free Granola Recipe

I visited a friend today who had just made the granola detailed below. It was absolutely delicious. Here is the recipe via my friend.


Crunchy Cereal

1/2 cup organic hulled sunflower seeds
1/2 cup organic hulled pumpkin seeds
1/2 cup organic unsweetened desiccated coconut
2 oz (1/4 cup) honey (or other liquid sweetener for vegan diets – maple syrup would work well)
1T extra virgin olive oil
1 tsp organic vanilla extract (no sugar added)
⅛ tsp bicarbonate of soda
⅛ tsp ground sea salt

Set the oven to 285F. Line a baking sheet with baking parchment. Measure out the desiccated coconut; salt and bicarbonate of soda into a bowl then tip the pumpkin seeds and sunflower seeds into a processor (I use a mini chopper).

Pulse for a few seconds until the seeds are roughly chopped.

Take out 2 tablespoons of seeds and tip into the bowl with the other dry ingredients. Continue to process the rest of the seeds until they are finely ground.

Tip the seed flour into the bowl. Mix all the dry ingredients well with a fork or spoon.

Measure the honey, vanilla extract and extra virgin olive oil into another bowl and mix well together.

Add the wet ingredients to the seed mix and stir until the mixture comes together, it may seem ever so slightly dry but don’t worry about that.

Tip out onto the baking tray. It drops out in bits just make sure there aren’t too many very large or very small bits of mixture.

Bake for 20 to 25 minutes or until golden, it does spread a bit! This batch took exactly 25 minutes in the fan (convection) oven. Leave to cool then break into pieces.

Store in an airtight jar.

There are so many ways you can eat these crispy, nutty nuggets. We like them straight out of the jar but you could break them into smaller chunks or grind into small crumbs. Here’s a few ideas :

as a breakfast cereal with milk or dairy free milk
on top of fresh fruit
on stewed fruit for an instant fruit crumble
as an ice cream topping

Crunchy grain free cereal

Heading to Ojai

Ray and I are heading out for Ojai to spend the night in the orange grove. The sky is clear – no rain in sight, unfortunately – but the good news is the stars should be shining in abundance tonight. So, it will be a treat to be out in the “wild” for a bit, enjoying the sounds of coyotes, the braying of the neighbor’s donkey, and the early morning roosters off in the distance.

We are going up PCH this evening, which is its own treat. I have to say that is one of my favorite drives in the country since it’s right on the water most of the trip. It is not as dramatic as up the coast a ways, but it is beautiful.

We will also be watering our trees tonight using our well water. This is particularly satisfying since the well is a new addition to the property. Also, the orange grove will be cool and fresh from the water. Ah…I am looking forward to that!

Sometimes I wonder how it is that we can go up for just a few hours and come back feeling so refreshed. It may be the obvious: unplugged and outside. But it could also be the grove’s long heritage as an ancient milling site. Archaeologists did at dig on the property a few years back and found evidence of human occupation as far back as 7,500 years. Apparently there is something about this particular land that draws people.

We are heading out now.

Sleep well, my friends.


A Few More Thoughts on One of the Best TV Series Out There

Ray and I have been slowly working our way through Orange is the New Black. I have to say that this is the best show I’ve seen on television that describes with stark clarity what prison life is like for women. There are the good cops, the corrupt ones, along with the ones that are decent, but have some particular prejudice that clouds their judgment. And the inmates are of all shapes, sizes and stories, which vary from having committed one major infraction to those whose continued drug use or drug selling landed them in the big house. The women shift from stereotypes to multi-faceted people as their personal stories are told, and prison life, which can be clearly stressful, is shown to also contain its share of sweet and poignant moments.

The transformation of the main character, Piper Chapman, from wide-eyed innocent to a tough and more in-touch woman is one of the most striking aspects of the show. She grapples with her love for her fiancé as well as her feelings for her former partner in crime and fellow inmate. She also has to deal with her place in the prison culture and how to fit into a world that has its own rules and its own mores.

Ray and I are currently 3 shows from the end of the second season, so we will soon be caught up. Then we will get excited about seeing what happens in this upcoming season.

I would say so far that this hard-hitting prison drama, which shows a lot of the ugliness of prison life counterbalanced with some of the best aspects of humanity, is well worth watching. The need for better supervision of prison guards will definitely come to mind after seeing this series. Still, don’t miss out. This is some hard-hitting and thought-provoking television. I am very happy to have the chance to see such fine work on the small screen.


My First Job: McKnight’s Drug, 1968

When I was a sophomore in high school circa 1968, my friend and fellow cornet (or was it French horn player?), Cathy Wait, mentioned one day in band practice that she was working at McKnight’s Drug Store in the pharmacy department. “I love working there,” Cathy said, “and they have an opening at the soda fountain now.” We agreed by the end of that conversation that I should apply, which I did that very day right after school. My mother’s response when I told her the happy news that I had just been hired for my first job, “You do realize, Len, a daughter of ours doesn’t have to work.” My response, “Mama, I know I don’t have to work, I want to work.” Thus began my adventure into the realm of the soda jerk.

I worked part-time, a few days after school and every Saturday from then until I graduated from high school. I had a bright pink waitress uniform I wore, plus tennis shoes. There were about 6 or 7 booths in the soda fountain area, plus the seats at the counter. I had two older women who were my co-workers, both who had been employed there for at least 20 years each. They made up the tuna salad and pimento cheese for the sandwiches we made on Wonderbread and served with potato chips and a dill pickle. They also supervised my making of milk shakes, malts, lime freezes and banana splits.

I loved my time working at McKnight’s. All my friends soon learned that I was there on Saturdays for sure and started dropping by. Soon, many of my closer ones stopped by on the weekdays, as well.

I have never eaten better pimento cheese or tuna fish sandwiches anywhere else and I still can taste the freshness of a lime freeze.

My mom and dad even dropped by on occasion to see how I was doing. My mother told me several years later how proud she was of me for taking the initiative to go to work all on my own. “You have always been a good worker,” she said.

I still consider that to be one of the highest compliments I can get or give. People who jump up to help and believe in the value of a good day’s work are high on my list of “Most Respected.”

I also loved my little hot pink uniform, which is like the one on the right.  However, you know you’re getting a little older when they refer to a uniform from the 1960’s as “vintage.”  Alas…


Ten Things That Have Been On My Mind Lately

1) The world seems to be falling apart: Gaza and Israel; Ferguson, Missouri; Syria; Ebola outbreak in Liberia, Sierra Leone, and Guinea; girls stolen in Nigeria; women sleeping homeless on the streets of the United States (not to mention the men); Russia and Ukraine conflict; stalled out politics in the U.S. Congress; people divided over ideology; planes crashing; Robin Williams committing suicide; Phillip Seymour Hoffman dying of a drug overdose; violence in our schools, on our streets, in our homes. What is happening? And I’m sure I missed several major conflicts and all the ones that are not “reported.” Dear Lord in heaven…
2) I have gained five pounds over the past month. No, not of the same magnitude as number 1, but odd and worrisome for me. I don’t think I’m eating that much more. Hot flashes burning up my body; I am breaking out in full sweats with no warning. I thought I was past all of this stuff. Hormones still driving this body. Who would have thought?
3) I am aware that I either have to get up and move or I’m doing to die. Not today or tomorrow, but I can feel my body slowing down when I’m sedentary. I have to get moving to want to move. If I sit too much then I just find myself sitting more, lethargic and unmotivated. I am fully aware that this is the stuff that kills you. I am happier, too, when I am moving. So, that needs to be my mantra: “Keep those legs going!”
4) I am ready for our two dogs and our cat to live in harmony. They are getting there, but not as fast as I wish they would. Alas…we will keep working on this one.
5) I miss my oldest daughter, Sarah. She worked 80 hours last week as a new medical resident. I haven’t seen her in a while. Too long. I start feeling an ache when I don’t see my kids regularly. I know why I’m not seeing Sarah so that makes it understandable, but I still miss her.
6) I have been on a cleaning spree today. Organizing and cleaning out a supply closet here at home. A good feeling. A purging. All the clutter gone along with the dust. I am happy about that small victory.
7) We are handling two estates at this point. This is a lot of stuff – antiques, art and collectibles – and a lot of sorting and researching items for eBay and for potential collectors. I like this sort of work: it’s peaceful and interesting, so I am not unhappy. I just wish there were more hours in the day.
8) I have been thinking a lot about my novel in progress and getting my town populated as it needs to be. This is fun though I wish the writing was flowing a bit easier. But it does flow once I sit down to write. So, I suppose I just wish I had a bit more time to write right now.
9) Ray and I are discovering quality television. This is new for us since we’ve not been watching the new and innovative storylines that are now in abundance. That has changed and is good. I just have to be careful with my time so I don’t become a couch potato.
10) And best of all: Baby Luna and Rachael visited today. I took Luna out to our back yard and she played for about an hour. She is an outdoor girl and she loves the leaves on the trees quivering in the wind and the feel of dirt on her hands. I love seeing that since that’s what I love, as well. Precious little gift, that child.


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