All posts by lenleatherwood

I am a native Texan who has lived for the past 21 years in Los Angeles. I am a published author of both short memoir and fiction, a 2015 Pushcart nominee, a nationally award-winning writing teacher, an editor, as well as a Licensed Professional Counselor in the state of Texas. In addition, I am the mother of three grown daughters of whom I am extremely proud, a grandmother of two darling children and the wife of a man I still love after 35 years.

1st of the Deadlines Looming

My high school senior writing students who are applying early decision and early action have been coming in and out of my house for the past few days, one after the other.  Two brothers came tonight: one from 7 – 9 and the other from 9 – 11:30.  That is not because of my schedule, but because they are also balancing water polo games and school assignments while applying to colleges with extremely early deadlines.

I had a few other students who came this week for the first time in their college essay process.  They have November 30th and maybe even January 1 deadlines. That is a lot different than the earliest of the early: November 1.

Alas, those students who have had a shoulder to the grindstone will experience relief long before their later-deadline counterparts.  They will be skipping through school in a little over a week with wide grins on their faces, feeling a bit discombobulated after so much intense work. But then the reality will set in and all that pent-up tension will start to release as they realize their applications are in and there’s nothing much else to do but wait and see.

As for me, I will feel the satisfaction of having one group well on their way and a second one marching forward with their own excitement and intensity.

This is a major life change for these kids – finishing their elementary, middle and high school years and now heading off to college.

I feel happy to be included in this journey.  It is a sweet and special time.

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Grandbaby Day

Today, Ray and I went out to see our grandbabies, Luna and Nico, after our ten days away on our trip.  We also got to visit with Rachael who was taking care of these two sweet kiddos until Sarah and Gregorio arrived in mid-afternoon.  Nothing makes me happier than getting to spend time with all my kids, whether they are officially mine, partners to my daughters or my grandchildren.  Of course, we missed seeing Liz, Ron, and Ariel, but, hopefully, we’ll be able to rendezvous with them soon.

I got to surprise Luna at her preschool at 1 pm when Rachael and I went to pick her up.  How wonderful to see her eyes light up when she spotted me and to hear her telling her friends, “My grandma is here!” Yes, nothing quite as sweet as that in all the world.

I had students beginning at 5 so we had to head back around 3:40 because of traffic.  I just wish I could have stayed longer, but I figure a short visit is better than none.  We are not due to leave town again for quite a while.  Hopefully, I’ll get an overnight stay with those little guys fairly soon.

As for now, I am heading out with the dogs and then to bed.

I’ll be checking back in with you all again tomorrow.

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Nico, Rachael and Luna

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Back in LA

Ray and I woke up at 2:50 this morning so we could take a Lyft at 3:30 to O’Hare Airport for a 6 am flight. We both slept on the plane, but not very comfortably, and then Rachael picked us up at LAX.  I didn’t realize just how tired I was until halfway home when Rachael said, “Mom, you need to go straight to sleep when we get home. I’m getting tired just talking to you.”  I did just that. At about 11 am, I went upstairs, took a bath and then went to sleep.  Ray woke me up at 2 pm with a cup of coffee in his hand.

My workday started at 3 pm with me sitting in my chair in the den with my computer on my lap and headphones on my ears.  I worked with a client on editing suggestions for his book for an hour, then spent two hours with a high school senior on his film program college essays.  From there, I had an in-person two-hour session with another high school senior who has Early Action college essays due next week.  Now it’s 8:45 in the evening and Ray has been upstairs for a while. I suspect I will find him sound asleep since he stayed awake this morning and afternoon, catching up on his work.

Day One back from vacation has had its ups and downs…

I plan to finish this post, walk the dogs (who I’ve missed over these past ten days) and then go to bed.  I suspect I’ll feel a bit more normal by tomorrow.

Hope your day has been a little less sleepy than mine.

I’ll check back in again tomorrow.los-angeles-airport-1024x336

 

Last Day in Chicago

This has been a great trip.  Lots of quality time with our friend Shireen, an unexpected visit with Brit, several days at the Art Institute, the trip out to Plano, Il to see the Farnsworth House and time today at the Illinois Technical Institute, University of Chicago, the Robie House, and downtown at the Chicago Stock Exchange and the Federal Reserve Bank.  I have clocked almost 20,000 steps today alone and have traversed up and down 20 sets of stairs.  Tomorrow, we leave here at the ungodly hour of 3:30 am to make our 6 am flight back to LA.  I have students late tomorrow afternoon and evening.

I am going to include a few photos to show the diversity of the art and architecture we have experienced this week.  This is only a taste of this Chicago experience because we also had food I haven’t mentioned, a 24-hour rain storm, lots of talks with Shireen, some great reading and tv watching time and even work and tax preparation time. This has been a full, fun and happy week.  Of course, I am grateful for Shireen for offering us such kind hospitality.

Here are a few photos that capture a smattering of our time here in the Windy City.

 

American Writers Museum

On the suggestion of Judy Alter, a native Chicagoan and fellow writer at Story Circle Network, I made the trek over to the American Writers Museum today.  I was lucky enough to be accompanied by Ray’s and my host for the week, our friend, Mother Shireen Baker, who is an Episcopal priest in Elmhurst, a suburb of Chicago.  According to the brochure, this museum is the first of its kind, celebrating American writers, past and present.

The museum has only been open to the public since May 16, 2017, and boasts many interactive displays centered around American authors.  A large video screen shows photos of famous authors accompanied by a photo and a quote, while two full-length walls have displays of a wide range of American authors with photos, histories, quotes and inspirational advice. One room celebrates American libraries while another room centers around the original manuscript scroll of Jack Kerouac’s On the Road. A bank of old typewriters with paper already inserted lures many a person to sit down and type out a message.

I felt almost overwhelmed with the amount of information presented and could easily see how I could devote four hours to this museum, at the very least.  Alas, we did not have quite that much so I concluded I’ll need to return for a longer visit in the future.

One highlight of the museum trip, besides having Shireen with me and being in a space that celebrated American authors, was an impromptu rendezvous with our St. Thomas the Apostle seminarian, Brit Bjurstrom Frazier, who happened to be in Chicago for a meeting of the Society of Catholic Priests. She attends Virginia Theological Seminar but had flown into town for this meeting, which, coincidentally, was being held within a 15-minute walk of the Writers Museum.  Happy days! I had the pleasure to sit with these two women – one already an Episcopal priest and the other studying to become one – and enjoy hearing all about their mutual acquaintances and similar experiences at VFS.  This made me especially happy since I was the chairperson for each of these young women’s discernment committees and have a special spot in my heart for them as a result.

After our visit, we met Ray, who had skipped the Writers Museum in favor of heading straight to the Art Institue. He had a chance to catch up with Brit over lunch before we went our separate ways later in the afternoon. Brit went back to her meeting and Ray, Shireen and I headed over to the Art Institute.

Here are a few photos of the American Writers Museum just to give you some idea of what was there.  It is well worth a trip if you are in Chicago. It is located at 180 North Michigan Avenue and the website is americanwriters museum.org.  Go there for more information celebrating American writers.

What a lovely day indeed.

 

 

The Farnsworth House

The Farnsworth House, designed by Mies van der Rohe between 1945-1951, is an absolute must-see for anyone interested in Modernist architecture. It is located on 62 acres outside of Plano, Illinois, which is about an hour and a half outside of Chicago.  The house, currently a site of the National Trust for Historic Preservation,  sits in a meadow 100 feet from the banks of the Fox River. Tour groups walk down a path from the Visitor’s Center for 1/2 mile to reach the 1500 square foot glass and steel structure. The meadow where the house is located is surrounded on three sides by mature trees with the river flowing past on the fourth side.

The house was built as a weekend retreat for Dr. Edith Farnsworth, a Chicago physician.  She wanted to live in a home that was surrounded by nature and that gave her the feeling that she was virtually living outdoors. This house does just that. The glass walls afford views in every direction and allow the house to blend naturally into its surroundings. The perfectly balanced design and clean lines are very pleasing to the eye, and the house is lovely from every angle.

The interior is elegant in its simplicity.  Also, when the door is closed, it is completely quiet. Serenity is the word that comes to mind.

Visiting the Farnsworth House was quite a treat.  Seeing this beautiful piece of architecture in its natural setting was worth the time and trouble to get there.  I would highly recommend the trek west of Chicago for anyone who has a penchant for Modernist design.  You will sense you are seeing something very special when you are there.  The photos simply can’t do justice to this beautiful living space.

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Chicago Yesterday and Today

We spent all day yesterday finishing up work that we had brought with us.  This was okay. We holed up in our friend Shireen’s apartment and enjoyed the quiet while Ray worked in one room and I worked in another. We were finished in time to visit with Shireen when she returned from work in the late afternoon and we had an excellent supper together and lively conversation.

Today, Ray and I headed downtown to the Art Institute where we spent most of the day.  We saw a wonderful architecture exhibition. Here is the link: http://www.artic.edu/exhibition/past-forward-architecture-and-design-art-institute and a new photo exhibition as well.  Here is the link to the photo exhibit: http://www.artic.edu/exhibition/photographers-curator-hugh-edwards-art-institute-chicago

We also ate lunch mid-afternoon and spent just a little time drinking coffee in the members’ lounge before heading back on the L.

This evening, I had four hours of students on the phone, plus another hour and a half working on reading responses to my students in my online class.  This work was unavoidable since I decided to leave at a time when there was so much going on work-wise at home. Students have deadlines and those deadlines dictate my need to help with the process. The good news is that I only have one more 2-hour phone conversation tomorrow night and then critiques for my online class over the weekend.  I can make that happen and not feel too pressed.

Tomorrow, we are heading to Plano, Illinois to see the Farnsworth House designed by Mies van der Rohe.  Here is a link to that house. It is mid-century and supposed to be fabulous. Clearly, I’ll know more about it after our visit tomorrow.  Here is the link for more information: https://farnsworthhouse.org/

I love these art vacations. They feed my soul.

Will check back in again tomorrow evening.

The Art Institute of Chicago

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