Godspeed to These Two Beautiful Women

My nieces are getting ready for their trek on the John Muir Trail.  Leaving tomorrow. Nervous. Excited. Busy with last minute preparations. I am taking them to the airport at 5:30 in the morning.  Off to Merced, then on to Yosemite where their adventure begins.

No, not true. Their adventure began when they met one another.  They are two of the loveliest people I’ve met in a very long time. Sweet women, devoted to each other. Married. Soulmates. My niece, Leslie, is my late brother George’s daughter. Her mother is Sandra Adams, my beloved late sister-in-law. Haley is from Louisiana from Cajun stock. Never met a stranger. Her maiden name is Broussard, but now she is a Leatherwood.

Keep these two in your prayers as they head off on this backpacking adventure that will take them through the High Sierra backcountry on one of the most famous hiking trails in America. They are going to take this 210.4 mile trek one step at a time and see what happens.

I love them both very much.  May God watch over them and keep them safe on this wonderful trip.



An Action-Packed Day

We have had a busy day today.

Early this morning, Haley and Leslie helped me make crock pot green chili chicken enchiladas. Then the grandbabies arrived for the day with the help of Auntie Liz.  I made breakfast for everyone, scrambled eggs and raisin toast, before Liz took Haley and Leslie to yoga.  After they left, Luna helped me make a honey-sweetened peach pie while Nico observed from his high chair.

After cooking, I took the kids outside where they played in the mud and got completely and thoroughly dirty.  Ray came out and we enjoyed watching them play; then he helped me get them inside and into the shower. Before it was over, both had to have a shower and a bath to get all the mud out of their hair. Luna said she loved to come to Grandma and Grandpa’s house since she could get as dirty as she wanted.

Sarah arrived early afternoon from a conference she had been attending. Liz, Haley and Leslie returned shortly afterward.  We chatted while we set the table and got all the food ready.  By then Rachael arrived, followed shortly by Ariel.  We ate lunch together and talked a long time.

Sarah stayed for a while after lunch, but was tired from her three days at the medical conference she had attended.  We helped gather up all the kids’ stuff and helped her get them into the car. They headed home around four.

After they left we cleaned the kitchen, then came and sat in the den and heard all the details of Leslie and Haley’s hiking trip.  Ron arrived somewhere during this and he and Liz were especially interested since they have done a lot of backpacking.  We talked long enough that everyone went back into the kitchen for leftovers.  Ariel (who had left for a while) returned during this time and had lots of questions about the hiking trip as well.

Finally, around 9:30 people started to leave.

I have just returned from walking the dogs.  I have my “Writing for 20 Minutes a Day” class starting tomorrow so I just emailed my students their Week One Lesson Plan.  I also had to check on the fall proposals for SCN Online Classes since tonight was the deadline.  I can already say we’re going to have a great fall line-up!

Now I am headed for a bath and bed.  It has been a long and busy day, but lots of fun.  It is a treat to have our nieces here, and I’m glad our kids were able to come spend today with them for a good long visit.

I didn’t take one photo today. Sorry.  I was just too busy talking, listening and laughing.

I’ll write again tomorrow.


Levitt Pavilion, Pasadena, Music of Leonard Cohen

This evening we met the family in Pasadena (minus Rachael and Ariel who were in San Diego) to listen to Perla Battalia sing Leonard Cohen songs.  She worked as Leonard Cohen’s backup singer in two of his World Tours and was encouraged by Cohen to strike out on her own.  She has a fantastic mezzo-soprano voice.

We brought pizza and salad, visited before and after the concert and just enjoyed hanging out together on the grass of the park.  It was wonderful to have Leslie and Haley there along with Sarah and Gregorio’s friends, Melanie and Chris. A truly lovely evening together.

Tired but happy.  Here are a few photos.


Nieces Coming Before Hitting the John Muir Trail!

We are headed to the airport in about 30 minutes to pick up our nieces coming from Austin, Texas.  This is Leslie and Haley Leatherwood and we are excited about their arrival.  They, brave duo that they are, are headed off to hike the John Muir Trail in Northern California.  They will be here for just a few days before flying over to Merced and then taking a bus to the trail head.

They called about a month ago and said they had entered the lottery for the trail (the Park Service limits the number of hikers) and they won! Needless to say, this was wonderful news for them and also for us since we get a visit before they head off to hike and camp their way through Yosemite, Kings Canyon, and Sequoia National Parks. The trail goes for 210.4 miles with a serious climb in elevation.  It is considered one of the premier hiking trails in the United States and features High Sierra backcountry.  The only months the trail can be hiked are July – September.  Leslie and Haley are due to arrive on August 1st at the trail head.

Here is a link to learn more: http://themuirproject.com/mmah/trail/

Of course, we’ll have lots of pictures this weekend of our visitors and the rest of our family. We’ll be gathering for several events over the next couple of days.

Here’s to women taking on challenges and having lots of fun.  I am excited to hear all about this trip. This is a dream of mine, as well.

Happy Friday evening.

We’ll talk again tomorrow.


How I Spend Part of Each Day Right Now

I am sitting in my den, the overhead fan whirring along with a box fan in the corner. The temperature is pleasant, not too hot or too chilly.  The eastern light coming in through the big bay window is filtered through the green leaves of the tall Nandina bush with its clumps of bright red berries.  It is early evening now and cars are zipping up and down Doheny Drive as people go home from work or out to dinner. Cordelia is asleep on the floor; Frankie is sitting on the footstool with an attentive look, clearly keeping watch so no intruders barge into our house or yard.

My student, a young man who will be a high school senior in the fall, sits on the leather couch across from me, computer in his lap. He is working on an essay for his Common Application, which will go to most of the colleges he will be applying to in just a couple of months. He is currently writing in ten minutes intervals. Writing, then reading what he’s written, then writing more after being prompted by my questions.  “Where are you? Describe the room. How old is the other person you’re talking to? Do they have any distinguishing characteristics that will add to their description?  Add that in.  Make me see, taste, touch, hear or feel what you felt in that room at that time with that person.  Don’t worry about word count now. We can edit later. As Ray Bradbury is famous for saying, ‘Throw up on the page.  We’ll clean it up afterward.’”  And so it goes.

Essay writing is not easy. Pulling a reader into a scene and keeping them interested long enough to read all the way through and actually feel something can be a challenge. This challenge is complicated by the fact that the stakes feel very high to these high school seniors. They are hoping these essays will tip the scales for their application to highly competitive schools. Often the simpler the story, the more powerful the message. Finding a symbol that distills the meaning can also be very helpful and speaks to the reader on multiple levels. A little humor never hurt. Dialogue that breaks up the narrative is always nice. A few unexpected twists and turns are even better. Not an easy order, but definitely possible with a little elbow grease. 

That’s where I come in. I encourage the liberal application of elbow grease as well as suggest specific areas where it can be applied.

That’s it for today.

I’ll be checking back in again tomorrow!


Heading Home from Ojai

We are driving back from Ojai after spending last night and today at the orange grove. It is 9:30 pm. We are currently driving through Calabasas and the roads are surprisingly full of traffic for this time of night.

Today was warm but not terrible at the orange grove. The summer heat can be intense in Ojai, but there was a breeze coming up the canyon from the ocean which offset the bright heat of the sun. We were having a bit of a mid-summer cleaning so I worked for a long time in our stand alone bathroom and kitchen. I am happy to report these two areas are now spic and span after I spent time with my trusty rag and Simple Green in hand wiping away a few layers of dust. I cleaned out the fridge and the freezer as well and tossed away anything that looked even marginally questionable. Time for a new start, inside and out.

Ray had lots of fun working on our old Studebaker pick up and then hooking it up to our vintage Silver Streak. This kind of thing makes him exceedingly happy. I can’t begrudge him that level of joy.

We are now getting close to the Sunset Boulevard exit in just a few minutes. I better wrap this up since Sunset has lots of twists and turns and I don’t want to arrive home car sick.

A great day. Satisfying work in a beautiful setting. Hard to beat.

We’ll talk again tomorrow.

Grandbaby Visit Highlights

Grandbabies visiting tonight.  They arrived mid-afternoon and will leave mid-morning tomorrow.  We have played in the mud in the back yard, taken showers to wash off all that mud, eaten dinner, taken a walk around the block with the dogs and Grandpa, brushed teeth, gotten on pajamas, crawled into bed together to watch Madagascar II, gotten up several times to either change Nico’s diaper, fill his bottle or get him settled in the other bedroom where it was quieter.  (He is now sound asleep right next to me.)

Luna told me a few interesting things today.

  1. She played in the mud the other day because she wanted for her skin to be dark like her Daddy’s.
  2. Aunt Liz eats sugar.
  3. She loves the song Bamboleo by the Gipsy Kings.  (Auntie Rachael played it and Luna sang along.)
  4. Her mommy, daddy, and Nico went swimming yesterday.
  5. Her favorite animal at the zoo is the hippopotamus.
  6. She really likes her cousin Aretta.
  7. Her favorite part of the planetarium was the movie.

Nico did several interesting things today:

  1. He spent much of his time this afternoon, giving Cordelia and Frankie (our corgi and terrier) kisses.
  2. He spent at least thirty minutes in the back yard playing with the dirt in the flower pots.
  3.  He lay down in our grass in the front yard, stretched out his arms and legs and then just stared at the sky for a good long time.
  4. He sang quietly while first on my back and then on Grandpa’s shoulders during our walk.
  5. He blew raspberries at his sister for at least two minutes after being inspired by a scene in Madagascar II, giggling all the while.

No, I don’t like these kids one bit.

I better hit the sack.  They will be up very early, I suspect, and I want to be right there too since I dislike them so thoroughly.

Here they are playing with mud in the back yard: