Category Archives: Writing

Movie Recommendation: Logan Lucky

This movie is a kick.  It stars Adam Driver, Channing Tatum, and Daniel Craig and is set in small town, West Virginia. The Logan Brothers (Driver and Tatum) decide to undertake a heist and need the help of bank robber, Daniel Craig, who is currently in prison.  They enlist his aid, then head over to the nearby NASCAR race track to see how much money they can steal.  What happens next will surprise you.

Just to watch Daniel Craig as a West Virginia criminal with a thick Southern accent is well worth the money.

This film is directed by Ocean’s Eleven director Stephen Soderbergh and there are numerous cameo roles, which include Seth McFarlane, Katie Holmes, Dwight Yoakam, and Hilary Swank.

If you’re looking for a bit of pure entertainment, this film will not disappoint.

The Final Days of my “20 Minutes a Day” Class at Story Circle Network

I am wrapping up one of my favorite courses I teach at Story Circle Network, a non-profit organization dedicated to encouraging women to tell their stories.  This class is entitled, “An Experiment: Committing to Writing 20 Minutes a Day for One Month.”  The goal of the class is to acquaint or reacquaint writers to the habit of daily writing.  I read every submission and comment on each; every student has one or two partners a week and they provide daily comments on their work. No form of writing is wrong in this class and it’s not a class where I spend lots of time line editing. I will admit that sometimes I jump in for a grammar correction or two, but that is simply because I feel like it. My only job is to operate as a cheerleader for my students’ steadfast production of that 20 minutes worth of daily writing.  Nothing more; nothing less.

The best part of this class is just how well I get to know my students.  Reading a wide range of their writing from journal entries to short stories to personal essays to even a poem or two or three, I get a real glimpse into everyone’s life and psyche.  This is actually fascinating, particularly since this group of five women is so different.  I have a physician raising four kids in Austin, a Native American woman up in the mountains of CA on an archaeological dig, a retired teacher transplanted from New York to Southern CA, a college English teacher with twin daughters in Colorado and even my own daughter, Rachael, who not only teaches for Story Circle Network but who has also recently agreed to be the organization’s new Social Media intern. The ages of my students are diverse as well, ranging from 68 down to 26. It’s a fabulously wide swath of human experience that I get to read every day.

We will end our class next Monday and I’m already feeling sad to say goodbye to this group.  They have been open, responsive and responsible, taking their commitment to 20 minutes a day of writing seriously.  There’s been a stumble or two along the writing way, but that’s no big deal. It’s all about picking oneself back up and moving forward without a glance in the rearview mirror.

I, hopefully, will see some of these women in my future classes.  That makes our parting a bit easier. Still, I’ve come to enjoy my time spent reading about their thoughts, feelings, and general take on life.  I also feel heartened by what I read.  Every one of these women has a good heart, a strong mind and an impressive amount of will-power to keep up the pace of this class.

I will miss them, each and every one!  I believe I need to encourage them all to start a blog so I can keep up with their writing and their lives.

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Writing Prompt: If I Could Turn Off My Fear Factor

If I Could Turn Off My Fear Factor, I would:

  1. Sing to a large crowd, after lots of practicing, of course.
  2. Dance naked in the rain (in a private place).
  3. Go skinny-dipping daily (in a private pool).
  4. Jump out of an airplane and see what it’s like to float to earth with a parachute.
  5. Do some serious rock climbing
  6. Scuba dive deep in the ocean
  7. Go on a long voyage on a Transatlantic ship
  8. Write/say exactly what I think whenever I want.
  9. Dance to my heart’s desire whenever I feel like it.
  10. Devote at least 3 hours a day to my writing.
  11. Re-tackle my novel and my memoir.
  12. Visit the rain forest.
  13. Go to India.
  14. Make friends with snakes.
  15. Take daily hikes in Griffith Park.
  16. Set up a writing workshop at the orange grove.
  17. Set up a two-week writing workshop for myself at the orange grove.
  18. Climb a tall tree.
  19. Go on horseback rides out in the wild.
  20. Spend as much time with my grandchildren as I’d like.
  21. Spend as much time with my kids and their partners as I’d like.
  22. Spend as much time with my friends as I’d like.
  23. Learn how to fly a small plane.
  24. Learn how to navigate a small sailboat in the ocean.
  25. Go spelunking.
  26. Take graduate classes in English Literature.
  27. Cut off all my dyed hair and go naturally gray.
  28. Find a creative writing mentor.
  29. Simplify my life.
  30. Plant and tend to a big vegetable garden
  31. Learn to ride a motorcycle and take a trip up the CA coast.
  32. Ride a bicycle every where I need to go in the city.
  33. Act in a play.
  34. Go river rafting.
  35. Go on a long-distance hike or bicycle trip.
  36. Learn Spanish/Refresh my Italian.
  37. Read novels as much as I’d like.
  38. Take a series of classes in Latin.
  39. Become a yoga master.
  40. Visit every modern art museum in the world.

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My Day Today

 

I am sitting in my den with both dogs sleeping near me.  They are patiently waiting for me to take them on their walk.  We returned from Ojai this morning after being up at the orange grove for two days.  Liz and Ron joined us yesterday, but Liz, bless her heart, was not feeling well.  I think she had a little bug that was giving her a slight temperature and a queasy tummy.  Of course, being outside in that quiet and peaceful place was no doubt good for her.  She brought her chair and chatted with me while I picked six crates of oranges.  This was lovely since I had company while I reached up and picked as high as I could without a ladder.  The result: six trees with oranges gone only one-half of the way up!  I’ll have to revisit them with a ladder next time I’m up there.

This morning, Ray and I left the orange grove after breakfast.  The goal was to get to St. Thomas the Apostle for the 10:30 mass.  As it turned out, we left a bit later than expected so I knew we’d be a little late; however, I didn’t expect to see traffic backed up about ten miles before the exit for the 405 and signs that said that exit was closed.  In the entire time I’ve lived in LA, I’ve never seen the 405 completely closed down.  I don’t know if it was because of construction or if there had been a terrible accident. Whatever the case, the slowdown resulted in a post-sermon arrival.  Ray dropped me off, took the dogs home and then returned.  He assured me that he was willing to make this sacrifice.

After church, our discernment committee (five members) met with our person who has hopes of becoming an Episcopal priest.  These meetings end up being an opportunity for each of us to get to know one another very well and to deepen our own spirituality.  I read The Giving Tree by Shel Silverstein to the group and we discussed it. Last time we read The Velveteen Rabbit.  Next times, we’ll have another children’s book to read and discuss as a way into our time together.  This was a suggestion by the Diocesan leader for discernment and I must say I’m enjoying this addition very much. Who doesn’t love being read to, especially when you’re reading/hearing beloved children’s books?  Also, it’s amazing what spiritual discussions can come from these secular books. A great addition indeed.

Tonight, after I finish this blog and I take the dogs for their walk, Ray and I will watch “Games of Thrones.”  Yes, we are among the devotees of this excellent series.  I am only sorry there are only seven episodes this year and this is number six.  Lordy, a whole year before we get to find out what happens in the final season.  Ugh. Still, I can’t wait to see what is in store for tonight.

On that note, I’ll close.  I hope you have a good evening.  I’ll check back in tomorrow.Until then, take good care.

Ojai

Quiet. Ray is already asleep. Only sound is the fan whirring. In a minute I might turn it off since the night air is cooling off fast.

Liz and Ron were due to come up, but Liz has a fever tonight. Rachael and Ariel had thought of coming too but Ariel has been sick for the past few days. Sarah, Gregorio and the kids are in Tijuana this weekend for Luna’s first cousin’s birthday party. At least, they’re not sick.

Lots of sinus conditions right now. Lots of gunk in the air. They may be contributing to the illness factor.

I am heading off to shower under the stars in just a few minutes. Can’t wait to feel that endless warm water.

Hope you’re staying healthy and having a restful evening tonight.

I will check back in with you tomorrow.

Len

The American West in the 1850s

These are drawings done in 1856 of Los Angeles and the Mission of San Diego, along with the great basin from the summit of Tejon Pass and a surveying party at the entrance of Livermore’s Pass.  These all appear in a volume of books commissioned by the War Department in the 1850s to determine the best route for a transcontinental railroad.  If I had a time machine, you can bet that I’d be among the explorers who headed West to see what was there.

Every time Ray and I drive cross country to or from Texas, I imagine what life was like in California, Arizona, New Mexico and West Texas before everyone started heading westward. I would have loved to have been on horseback with a few other people, exploring the land where the Native Americans lived, enjoying those vistas, fording rivers and streams, camping out under a bejeweled sky.  I can’t even imagine how beautiful this land must have been in those pristine places where Native Americans lived in harmony with the Earth.

I understand that the western migration disrupted that harmony and the Transcontinental Railroad sealed the fate of Native Americans. There is no denying that or sanitizing that fact. “Progress” changed the face and the character of this nation.

What I can tell from these volumes is that the men (and, yes, they were all men) who undertook the job to survey and explore these different routes had a deep respect for the beauty of this land.  They made meticulous notes of the flora and fauna, geological formations, the geography, and the Native American tribes they encountered.  These books record their travels and their clear veneration of the majesty of this land. There are 13 thick volumes filled with first person accounts of their travels.  It is fascinating to read and to see.

No time machines exist, at least not yet.  For now, I’ll settle for enjoying this lovely books. But if ever there is a time machine created and made available for public use, you’ll know where I’ll be headed.

The Mental Benefits of Cooking

I felt discombobulated this morning – well, depressed is a better term – given all the ugly news over the past several days. I had a good talk with Ray, a little cry and then did what I always do when I feel disconnected and a bit unraveled.  I cooked.

Cooking serves several purposes for me.

First, I am up and moving around, not sitting in my chair with my computer on my lap.  Since my work involves the computer, it’s always wonderful when I am NOT staring at it, but rather doing something else.  In this case, the “else” was preparing a turkey meatloaf, a big salad, fresh Brussel sprouts, and corn on the cob at ten this morning. (The meatloaf takes a half hour to prepare and then has to cook for 1 1/2 hours.)

The second purpose cooking serves is as a calming activity.  The business of gathering needed ingredients, getting them measured and in the bowl and stirring them all up gives my brain something else to think about besides troubling thoughts.  I focus on what I’m doing, not on what I’m thinking and that is generally a better way to operate, at least in my world.

The third benefit of cooking is obvious – a nutritious, delicious meal.  Not only does this help stabilize the blood sugar and satisfy the taste buds, but it also brings a level of order to my home.  There is something deeply satisfying about partaking in a decent meal.  Life feels smaller, more compartmentalized, more manageable.

After prepping, cooking and eating my lunch today (and a smaller portion for dinner), I feel better overall.  I cannot control much outside in the bigger world, but I can control what I put in my mouth for food.  That has real value just in itself.

I believe cooking helps me to have clarity about what is in my realm of influence and what is not. That is not to say that I should not do my best to make a difference in the world.  I definitely need to do my part.  But that part starts with me making sure that I am getting proper nourishment, physically, mentally and spiritually.  And what better place to start than in a kitchen with a few ingredients and a bowl?

I hope you’ve had at least one good meal today, my friends.  We all need to take care of ourselves.

I’ll check in again tomorrow.

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