Thursday, December 30, 2010

Mothers and Daughters

Much has been written about mothers and daughters but I think maturity plays a big part in our growth with this special and often times volatile relationships.  I now understand more and more about my relationship with my mother and even my daughter as I get older. I felt the need to say more for two reasons: Yesterday I met two women while  out eating with my daughter in Westwood and we started to chat about various things. At one point we were discussing that there were only two months of the year where there was no holiday to celebrate.  Well one of these ladies mentioned May, immediately after the other had mentioned that in June there was Father’s Day. When I said Mother’s Day was in May, and even if she wasn’t a mother she had a mother so she should never forget that holiday.  She then said that she didn’t  have much to celebrate there.She began to  briefly explain why she felt this way and how she can see the love between myself and my daughter.  Yes it is true that my daughter and I have a great relationship and we love each other, but more importantly we respect and even like each other. I went on to say that my mother and I didn’t have the kind of relationship that I have with my daughter, my mother was a good parent, and I now realize that she has loved me all along, even when I didn’t think that she did. The second reason is that I had a dream about someone that has never liked me since I was a teenager, and her cousin happens to be a close friend of mine.  In the dream, the woman’s adult daughter was in tears because every time she is around her mother she is brought to tears, and my friend was telling me this.  The daughter went on to tell me about all of the things she has accomplished in her 24 years, and that she was also marrying a young guy that was also quite accomplished, but her mother could and did always make her feel bad about herself.  So I started to talk to her about some of the same things in this dream, that I had talked to the two ladies in Westwood about earlier that day. It has always been said, that we start to understand our mothers more when we become mothers ourselves, but in my case I didn’t really understand my mother until I got married.  At that point I stopped seeing her as just my mother and all that I expected from her and all I expected her to be. I started to see her as a woman. That is when the light went off. I started to see her as another woman like myself that had to navigate things with all of the emotion and hormones raging inside.I realized then, that a person can only give you as good as they got.  They can only give what they know, because they too are human with all the shortcomings as anyone else.Hence, why dysfunction is passed down from generation to generation.  We try to give our children something better than what we have had, and because we didn’t really have it ,we don’t know how to give it, so therefore, we improvise and do the best that we can. Often times when we are little girls, we dream of what we want our own families to look like, and that is usually composed of the things we believe we missed out on, so if we are smart we try to change the pattern.  This is what my mother did and this is also what I did. I was an only child and both of my parents came from divorced families, and they are still married after 50 years; something that they both agreed  they didn’t want to happen in their family.  My parents sent me to the best schools in my hometown and sent me to great college, provided me with a better house than they grew up in, as well as every material possession imaginable. They paid for me to be involved in everything from pageants to debutante balls. These were all the things that they didn’t have growing up. They were African American, growing up in the South during the 50’s and 60’s.

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

What is his Story? What was his life 20 years ago?

I often ask myself these questions when I see people like this gentlemen. He obviously has a story and something to say. What is it? Have anyone of us ever stopped to ask? I want to ask at times, but am afraid of what I going to hear. I am afraid that I am going to hear how he was once, what we would consider, a productive citizen and fell on bad luck, because of mental illness, physical illness, or merely lost of income, and even worst, lost of hope. Then there is another fear and that is that he would be angry and say or do something to me that would hurt my feelings or worst hurt my person. I do know that the latter is not what I would usually get, and it is not the greatest fear. We don't want to ask because we don't want to care, so as not to feel even more helpless in this massive problem called "Homelessness" than we feel already. So at most we give them money, feed them, talk to them for awhile, or just give them a smile and go on with our lives. I know I often feel very bad when faced with these situations because I know that I am not but a heart beat away from being in his shoes. All of these fears are ways we justify doing nothing, and I must admit that I am included in this bunch. I wish that I was not but I am. How do I move away from the excuses and move toward some sort of action. As I was sitting outside of California Pizza Kitchen eating with my daughter, this gentleman passed by our outside table and looked right at me, that is when I noticed that his left eye was cloudy, but he was looking right at me. I smiled at him and said hello, and he greeted me in such respectful and warm way. At that moment my thoughts of pity turned into respect. Respect for him as a man, as my brother, that has endured something heavy in his life. What could that be? This reminds me of my most recent visit to Wal-Mart a few days later and the cashier was a mature gentleman. The total of my bill was $19.68, and without any real thought, I blurted out, "that was a good year", like I would know, because I was only seven years old. The cashier said "not for me", and I asked him why not, and he said, "I was in Vietnam." I immediately felt terrible for making the comment, but I came back with, "Thank God that you lived to tell about it." He may not feel that way either, because I have no idea what he has suffered and may still suffer from being in that war. This may not have effected me as much before, but now that I am living through the times of the Iraq and Afghanistan wars and am mature enough to understand the pain and politics involved, I see things a bit different. When I had this short exchange with the Wal-Mart cashier, the gentleman in the above photos came to mind, because I don't know his story and I do know that there are a great deal of Vietnam veterans living on the streets here in Los Angeles. How do you feel when you are faced with the same things? What do you do? What would you like to do?

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Redefining My Life

I started this blog because I decided that I was going to design the life that I wanted to live at this stage in my life.  The title of the blog came from the fact that I am what many consider to be of middle age.  I will be 50 years old, in just a few short months, and want to spend the rest of my life living a more authentic life.  My grandmother once told me that, "once you get your head together, your ass falls apart."  This has been true for me as well.  I have had three surgeries in the past 11 months and my recovery has been remarkable. After getting my ass back in order, I have decided to change the path of my life and again live the way that I decide to live.  I also want to live a life of service. 

What can I do to make someone else’s life a little easier, a little better? How can I contribute to the betterment of my society? I want to spend the second half of my life giving as opposed to taking.  I want to experience life as oppose to observing.  I want to wake each day looking forward to what is to unfold, expecting nothing and accepting everything.

 First I had to decide what I was truly passionate about. Now this was a process within itself, because we know what our parents wanted for our lives, what we were groomed to be.  The aspirations of others for my life often blinded me to what I really wanted. Often times you never to discover what you want in life, because as far back as you can remember, you were told what it is you were going to do, what you were groomed to be.  Even though parents have good intentions, it is not often a good thing for the kid that begins to grow up and is often not able to make this decision for themselves. I have always bucked the system and now I don't have to, because the system no longer means anything to me.

 Finding out what it is that I am truly passionate about was a hard thing for me to see,  because I now had to peel back so many layers of the onion to get to ME.  After peeling back these onions you have to really take some time and get to know the core of who you are.  Sometimes it is not the most difficult thing to do.  You can look at your life span of things where you succeeded and things that you failed. I decided that photography is what I was meant to do.  Out of all of the things that I had tried in my life, photography has been the one constant for the past thirty-two years. 

This was all confirmed one day when I was a bit depressed about my failing marriage and decided to take a drive up the coast of California.  I was feeling really lost and emotional, and cried most of the drive.  However, when I reached the mission in Solvang and took out my camera to take photographs of the beautiful landscape, I came alive. It was as though all of what I was feeling on my way there no longer existed, this was life for me.  It was empowering.  I was in the moment, in the Now, and it felt great.

 So I was thinking that any kind of photography was the key and therefore I was just going to pursue photography in all forms, and then I realized that I wanted to do more with my camera. I wanted to enlightened people to the lives of others.

The other constant has been my journaling.  Documenting my thoughts of what was going on in the world around me as well as my feelings about them.  Mostly I wrote about the many people that I have been fortunate enough to meet throughout my life, even if for a brief moment.   I have always enjoyed people and their stories; how we are different, and most fascinating, how we are alike.

No I don't intend to only show despair in this world as many photojournalists have done, because it is often in our own backyard and being ignored.  We also often ignore the many other stories out there, stories of what it is to be our brother’s keeper.  There are stories of good people doing good things and that is also something I want to show.  We often watch the news and see so much horror until you can easily become paranoid.  I had gotten to the point where I didn't watch the news or read the newspaper because I was tired of hearing bad news, and it was really weighing on my spirit, and I no longer wanted to carry that around with me.  Then I realized that there is so much good news that I was missing this way as well,  even if it is often overshadowed by the former.

 My next step was to figure out how I would make a living in photojournalism because there are so many photographers out there.  I have never been afraid of competition, and I am not about to start now.  So with that part out of the way, I needed to figure out how many other photojournalists are make a living. I have been researching this for months now, and the only way I can see it being done is to get out there and find the stories on your own dime, and possibly publications will pick up these stories along the way.  There are many contests and grants out there for artists and I intend to participate in some of these, but for now, I am just going to live the life that I feel I was meant to live, and let the rest take of itself. 

Leaving myself open for life to happen, for opportunity to present itself. 

Thursday, November 4, 2010

Entering Savannah

My plane landed in Savannah about 9 am on Wednesday, September 1st. I picked up the rental car and loaded my luggage for the drive into town. It was my first time home in almost two years and it was a good feeling for sure. I have always enjoyed coming home, but this time it was different.  Even though Savannah will always be home for me it was the first time I actually felt as though I was visiting.  I realized that I had actually made Los Angeles my home; or did I.    I had always felt this sense of "I am home"when I came back for a visit, but this time I felt as though I was visiting home.

 Growing up here was a great experience, but after moving back after college I didn't like it as much.  I actually started to hate being here, I felt so out of place.  Then years later I learned to appreciate it for what it was, and that is 'where I grew up', 'where I am from'.   Now I love and appreciate  this beautiful city for what it is and am very proud to have grown up here. My daughter attends college here at Savannah State University, my mother's alma mater, and will be moving to Los Angeles upon graduation next year. With the economy being what it is in this country, I believe she is going to use LA as a home base.  She has the same feelings about Savannah as I did so many years ago.

 My parents and many other family members still reside in Savannah, and I have really enjoyed seeing everyone on this visit.  I wish I had more time to do and see more.  However my time here is drawing to an end.  I realize that my parents are getting older, albeit  still in good health, I know that I need to come home more often so I can spend more time with them. My daughter and my parents are the most important people in my life and I want them to always know how important they are, in their heart and in their spirit.  There is nothing that I will not do for them, I now just want to do more with them. This trip has been a true eye opener for me.  It has shown me how important relationships are with those that you love.  It  is something that I don't ever want to live with out.

 I know the day will come when my parents are no longer with me physically, but because of the time we share and the quality of the relationship that we continue to build, I will always feel their presence. Yes, I know I could depart this life before them, if that is the case, then I want to leave them with that same feeling and understanding of what we share.

More Discovery - Steps to Getting There

My discovering exactly what it is I was going to do with the second half of my life and how I was going to do it was no easy task.  Before, all I knew is that I wanted to travel any and everywhere and document it all through writing and photography. I thought about becoming a travel writer/photographer. After doing some research, I realized that everyone and their mother were doing exactly the same thing.  There are very few successful travel writers around.  There are more travel blogs popping up these days for that reason.  Even though the idea of talking about my travels, my likes and dislikes, as well as the impact a place has on me, was something that I would like to write about, I realized that it just was not enough for me to live on.  I know that I don’t just want to travel to the usual tourist spots. I actually want to live among the locals to truly feel the heartbeat of a place.  There is also a great deal of writing out there of the many 20 something year olds that are backpacking all over the world and blogging about it, trying to create an income with ads on their websites, so that they can have money to continue traveling.  I didn't want to do this either, because I hate seeing those ads on a blog. At this point I knew that I didn't want to go back to punching a time clock and I wanted to be free to do what I wanted it to do and live life the way that I wanted to live it.  Now isn't that what everyone wants.  So I continued to look for ways to make this happen. 

I came across the idea of copywriting while I was researching freelance opportunities.  I ordered some books on copywriting and looked into taking some classes.  After exhausting this idea, I realize that this would still make me dependent on someone else and their needs, as well keep me in constant search of new business. As selfish as it sounds I didn't want to depend on others for my success, the quality of my life.   Realizing that there is just no way around hard work, which I am definitely not afraid of, but I just wanted the hard work to be something that I enjoyed and paid off for me.  Then I asked myself the question that is always posed to someone when they are looking for what is really important to them, and that is 'what would you do if money was no option?'  My answer would be take pictures and tell stories.  But how can I eat and pay for a roof over my head doing that.  Not that there were not enough photographers already doing that.  I didn't want to take portraits.  I didn't want to be a wedding photographer. So how was I going to make this happen? It dawned on me that cutting down on my expenses would be the first thing that I needed to do, and was something that I had started doing a few years ago, but I needed to cut down even more. 

Believe me, downsizing is quite liberating and definitely therapeutic.  First of all it frees you from the stress of maintaining so much stuff.  Here is a link to a list that will get you started to de-clutter your life. A couple of years ago I got rid of my car and moved to an area where it would be easy to catch the bus or train to get to where I wanted to go in the city.  I worked for Metro, and therefore I rode public transportation free of charge, so why not take advantage of it.  I never would have done this five years ago, but I did it and it worked out well.  I now had money in my pocket, because I was no longer paying a note on my Nissan Pathfinder, auto insurance, and regular maintenance, which was a pretty good chunk of money.  Now this was easy enough for me to do, because it was only me in my household.  I didn't have to take any children to extra-curricular activities or anything else.  I just had to get to work.  That was the only thing I had to do. I moved into a very small apartment that was affordable in Los Angeles, and I caught the bus.  I didn't need a two-bedroom apartment just for me.  I decided I would not pay extra for something that I didn't use on a daily basis.  If someone were to visit me they would have to camp-out on the sofa or a blow-up bed.  Other than my parents, they could have my bed. After doing all of this, I am realizing that there is still so much that I can still dispose of and believe me I am working on it. 

Like Time Warner Cable, I must have the Internet and the wireless hub, but do I need to have a constant stream of bad programming that is costing me every month.  No I don't. Even though there is some things on tv that are quite enlightening, it is often times information that I can get on-line. These days a great deal of the programming is on the Internet. So why should I pay for something that doesn't make me feel good.  So I am going to cut that off soon. There are some hobbies, liking knitting and crocheting that I have been doing for over 20 years, and have had great pleasure in doing so.  However, I don't knit or crochet near as much as I use to but I have a great deal of books on the subject that I can get rid of for sure.  My mother says that she want all of my knitting, crocheting and quilting books, and she can have them.  I have some really good stuff on these subjects and quite a few of really expensive books, but these crafts don't do for me what they once did, so there again, out they go. 

Magazines are something else that I don't need in my house.  I have a crap load of them too.  I do love National Geographic and at one time had thirty years of them, given to me by a lady in my old neighborhood, I don't need to gather them up anymore.  Now you can get National Geographic digitally and I am going to do just that, because it is a great magazine and lends itself to what I love most, stories about people and places far different from what I encounter in my everyday world.  It is a great model to emulate. I am an avid reader and true lover of the written word, but I no longer need to collect books, thanks to the beautiful influx of digital readers.  I bought the Sony Reader after a couple of years of scouting around.  I fell in love with it the moment I started to use it.  The thing that sold me on this particular eReader over the rest was that it was expandable through the use of memory cards and that you were not limited to where you were able to purchase ebooks.  The Sony uses the ePub format that is becoming the standard for ebooks, and it will also read pdf-formatted material.  However, it is not the last of its kind that I will purchase.  I love the color screen, but up until this year, there were not any color readers out there with the same features. 

Since the debut of the iPad, they are popping up everywhere. iPad still being the best at this  moment, but still not serving my needs of expandability.  The reason for my wanting a color screen is because I would like to read my magazine and newspaper subscriptions as well as many photography books on a color screen and not black and white.

Monday, November 1, 2010

Never Had Surgery Before 2009

I have had three surgeries in the past 11 months and I am doing great.  I am grateful that none of these surgeries were for things that have lasting effects, at least not on me.  I do realize that there are so many things can go wrong when you  have surgery, but I have been blessed with three successful surgeries in the past year.

 I contribute this first to my creator for needing me to stay here on this earth in good health for His purpose.   Then I contribute it to having three really great surgeons, that are at the top of their game, and last I realize that I am a strong person with incredibly good genes. We all know that our lives can change drastically with the blink of an eye therefore we have to appreciate all that we are given and take advantage of all that life has to offer. Yes even those bad times, because they are merely stepping stones to who we are to become.  It is through the hard times that we build character and strength, that we one day have to give to someone else in our paths. 

To someone in our family that is going through some difficult times or even a stranger that  may just need a caring heart to hear their pain.  I feel as though this is what I am being prepared to do.  I know that I asked many years ago to be used for the betterment of my fellow man; to be used to help others, to become a giver.  While asking, I never thought that I had to be prepared for that life.

Maybe I was not where I needed to be to do what I wanted to do. So then the preparation began.  I had to be torn down to be built up in a way that I could actually be used.  This tearing down came in many forms, first the  emotional side and then the physical side.  Now that I know what it was that I was going through, I am again grateful.  I know that I may not be where I want to be, but I am where I need to be in order to begin that journey.

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

A Month to Remember

This month I have been able to visit family and friends from Georgia to Chicago and it has been great for many reasons.  I have been going through a serious transition period after coming out of an emotional time in my life and this trip has made me gauge how much more I have to do.

 It always amazes me how God shows us where we are and what we need in such a gentle and beautiful way; often through and/or with those that truly love us.  This way, the necessary change happens as painless as possible.  I have learned to thank Him daily for those I love and for those that love me.  I am now more aware of how much I have missed my family and friends since moving to California.  However, I love living here, for obvious reasons as well as not so obvious ones.  I find California to be a transitional place for me.  A place that shows me that any and everything is possible.
It is place where many people make a living in the arts and in other nontraditional ways.  Lending its forgiveness to the dreamer, but not so much to the dreamer without plan..  A place where the free-spirit person can thrive and feel comfort in their authentic selves. For me it is validation, and after I am comfortable in that skin, I can go and live anywhere and feel confident in who I am and what I want in my life.

 I am still on this journey of discovery, and it is a beautiful one. Therefore I will stay in California until I am solid in my idea of what I want my life to be.  However, being here also shows me the importance of what I had prior to moving here; showing me how to keep the good of the past with the good of the future.  It amazes me how life unfolds when you are paying attention. This month long trip has also been somewhat of a mnemonic of my need to have and maintain relationships with family and friends.

 How important this nurturing is in my life, the support, as well as the celebration of me.

Only true love from true friends can provide you with this JOY.

Saturday, October 9, 2010

Chicago, Illinois

I use to go back and forth from Savannah to Chicago when I was young.  My mother's sister lived there and it was going to the big city to me.  My aunt was extremely protective when I would visit, so we only did the touristy things and go shopping. It was not until this last visit that I was able to see what a beautiful city Chicago really is.  I had no idea how beautiful the architecture was there.  Even though I probably would not have appreciated it before now.  I am really in awe of how my girlfriend new the history of the various buildings in the downtown area.  I remember going to Marshal Fields, which is now Macy's, and amazed at how large it was. Well I was in the big city. 

My girlfriend, whom I met in college is from Chicago, actually she is from a sub-burb called Lake Forest, but she now lives in the South Loop. From where she lives you can walk to Michigan Ave., Lakeshore Drive, and State Street, where there is an abundance of shopping and great restaurants.  She has been trying to get me to move to Chicago for many years, but it never happened.

 In the last few years, I was always afraid of the winters there.  Yes they are bad enough to make you afraid if you are not use to them, and sometimes when you are use to them.  My Aunt has since passed away, but her daughter is still there with her family. My cousin has thought of moving away from Chicago because of the winters and because she is so far away from family, but I think she has resigned to spending the rest of her life in Chicago, because it is what she knows.  I don't get the feeling that she loves the city as much as my girlfriend does, but she seems to be very proud of Chicago.
It would be hard to leave sunny California and move to Chicago, but it is not impossible, because there is so much more there that is addictive.  Even though, when they are having sub-zero weather, in LA it may be 55 degree and that is nice.

Friday, September 24, 2010

Charity Benefit in Chicago

Tonight I attended a fund raising benefit for the Global Alliance for Africa which was held at the Millinnium Knickerbocker Hotel. There was a silent auction of many pieces of art as well as a raffle for two tickets to Africa. My friend Allison has been saying all night that she was going to win that trip to Africa and amazingly enough the winner's ticket was just one number away from hers. It was bittersweet for sure. The benefit was a fund raiser for Global Alliance for Africa. This fundraiser is done every year and consists of a great deal of the volunteers for the alliance. It was great to witness such giving from so many. Most of the people there were from the non-profit sector and it was just a beautiful event. This is an event that my friend attends every year an has worked with many of the people there on one project or another. Thanks Allison it was fun.

Sunday, September 5, 2010

The Allure of Newsstands

One of the first things I fell in love with when I moved to California was the many newsstands that are scattered throughout the city. The first one I encountered was in Hollywood on Cahuenga. It reminded me so much of New York. I am an avid reader of everything and anything that I can get my hands on.

There are not any newsstands in my hometown of Savannah, Ga. , at least not any more. There was one in the downtown area, but I don't remember them carrying any of the international magazines. It was located on Drayton Street right off of Broughton Street, but it is long gone now.

 The newsstand shown above is in San Fernando Valley on the corner of Van Nuys Blvd. and Ventura Blvd. It is one that I go to quite often even though Borders Books is right down the street in the same block. Often times the newsstand will have the newest magazines before the bookstore. However, I go to both quite often. I order my books from Amazon because I get a better price, even with the coupons offered by Borders, but I love just browsing the shelves and seeing what is new out there.

 There is now an electronic newsstand, which is good if you are looking for a particular periodical that you can't find anywhere. Nothing beats going to your neighborhood newsstand, seeing the proprietor often and he knows your name. When I am in a city and I find newsstands their inventory usually gives me some idea of the diversity of that city. Even more so about the neighborhood of which it is located. At the newsstand above you will find your array of national newspapers and a great deal of latin magazines, as well as a great deal of magazines on Yoga and holistic health.

The newsstand on Cahenga in Hollywood on the corner of Hollywood Blvd., you find a large section on film, photography, videography, and international papers in many languages. It is quite interesting. You will be in another area and find a great deal of Russian or Asian newspapers and magazines. It is amazing what gives you insight to the demographics of an area. These are the things that really draw me to large cities such as Los Angeles and New York. The different ethnic groups and cultures and food that you are able to experience. Often times I feel like a stranger in these neighborhoods and wonder would I feel lonely if I were visiting these cultures abroad.

Friday, August 20, 2010

How did you start? And Where Are You Now?

So many of us start out in life just trying to figure out "how to make a living", but before this start we are never taught how to live.  We go to college  in order to increase our income potential, to secure a better or more powerful position, but we are never taught how to handle the most important jobs in life. We don't learn to be a friend, a wife/husband, or a mother/father. So it is no wonder we lose sight of what is important in life as we are climbing that corporate ladder consistently trying to make ends meet.

We  are programmed to believe that being a parent and/or spouse , a job that we are never able to retire from, is secondary in this society. Building a a career is what we are first taught to do before we start to build a life with others. Making money is more important than making a friend, hence the corporate culture.  By the time we figure it out and start to deprogram ourselves, we are usually between the ages of 50-60 and often times tired.. We discover that all we really have in this life is family and friends. 

All relatives are not family, but through the years you learn who they are and you learn to cherish such relationships.  All the things that we try to accumulate in life will come and go.  We buy more houses, cars, and many other possessions and we dispose of them just as often. There are often times when we dispose of people but those are the people that come into our lives for merely a season.

 Sometimes we make the mistake of trying to make those seasonal people permanent and it does not work out the way we plan, because they were not meant to be permanent, they have a job to do in our lives and that is to give us an experience that takes us to the next level.  When we learn that, we will accept why they are, and allow it all to unfold as the Master planned it. Hopefully these seasonal people will also teach us about those that are there in our lives on a permanent basis.

I have had many seasonal people come my way. I don't know what it is about me that draws them.  I believe it could be that I never meet a stranger and will talk to anyone on the street; or I still had lessons to learn.  As I have gotten older my instincts have become keener and most importantly I know how to read these instincts and I follow them.  This is mostly because I spent the last few years of my life with someone whom I believe was permanent but  was in fact a seasonal person.  I made the mistake or bad decision in trying to turn that person into something permanent in my life, but even that may have been necessary, because without the experience I would not  have grown to the point I am today. 

However, when we make the mistake of trying to make a seasonal person permanent in our lives.  the lesson is indeed much harder than if you hadn't.  It was not a terrible thing in hindsight, because I learned a great deal about people and a great deal more about myself, and for that I am grateful. The other wonderful thing is that I have had the opportunity to realize who my true friends are. I mean those people that are in my life by choice and are still there as strong as ever. I have been blessed with a few good friends that have withstood the tests of time and life experiences.  Those that never wavered even when my life resembled a train wreck, or a re-run of sort. They never left me, even when I wanted to leave them.  I have always enjoyed these friends, but I truly feel the love that they have shown me for many years.  I have always tried to return that love the best way that I knew how, and I have been told by them that I have been a loving and compassionate friend.

Now I want to continue to build on these relationships because they are truly the good stuff life is made of.  They have often been my rocks but I realize they have and will always be my jewels.  I feel rich through my experiences with my friends I can only hope that I am able to enrich their lives as they have enriched mine. Even though we are not taught how to be a friend, one can only hope to find their meaning of friendship, and once they do, they will understand that it is truly a gift.

Small Town, USA

There are many movies being made about small towns and a sense of community.  Does this really exist?  I really want to believe that it does exist.  I remember that kind of community in my old neighborhood in Savannah, Georgia.  I have missed that sense of community so much that whenever I dream of my living in a place or dream about my being in a house, it is always my old house in this neighborhood.  I have often wondered why this is.  I am often told because I have missed as well as desire this sense of community in my life.

 I now live in Los Angeles, California and thought that I would find a place that would give me this warmth and feeling of belonging, but I was mistaken.  I find that the people here are very different than what I am use to, not that it is bad, just different.  It may be because I am in a novel place in my life where I want to enjoy the journey and not just anticipate the destination.  Big cities are all about the destination.  Even though the lifestyle here is pretty laid back, but mostly for the young 20 somethings that are trying to find their place in the world, or not. I am sure that these small towns exist where the people know each other by name. There is one or two grocery stores, a main library,  one or two churches, well you get the idea.  I would love to spend some time in as many of these places as possible to see what life is really like.   Are these people kind to one another, do they look out for one another, do they respect each others lives, etc. 

I would like to see what it is really like living in town like Mayberrry.  How they respond to someone that has lost their home, or has a spouse or parent that is terminally ill.  Where they really enjoy simple living, and proud of what they do for a living.  Is the lady that sells her preserves good at what she does and is proud of that. Does she do it for the money or the love of preserving the best that nature has to offer. This is something that I would really like to explore and share with the rest of the world.  We can learn so much from others and I love to learn by watching how someone else lives and responds to life. I recently visited a place called Cambria, in California and I discovered that there is small town atmosphere like what I described above.  Where the businesses are locally owned and these business owners are quite personable.  The people care about one another and are in fact their brother's keeper. 

While chatting with Debbi, the owner of the Wild Ginger Cafe, I told her that this was the kind of environment that I aspired to live in, and she told me that Cambria was in fact the right place.  I also chatted with Vivian, who is African American and the owner of a yoga studio. We met her as she was headed to her studio for a yoga class that my daughter and I was just informed about and invited to by another woman as we were entering a sandwich shop located below the yoga studio. 
These people were like talking to long time friends or family.

 While in the sandwich shop we met a couple of African-American college students that were on their way to San Francisco, after leaving school in Los Angeles and they told us how nice the people were in this town. They said that their car had broken down, and the tow truck came, took their car to a shop and them to a hotel. The driver paid for them to stay in the hotel the first night and the hotel proprietor gave them a drastic reduction in rates for the three days that they had to stay and wait on the part to come to repair their car.  They said that they were just so surprised at the kindness that they were shown during this emergency.  This was confirmation for me even before meeting Debbie. I feel a bit strange making the race distinction of these people when it clearly doesn't seem to matter to them.  I know, it is hard to believe that this would even be likely in a small town.  We so often associate small towns with small thinking and to my relief, that is not necessarily the case. Therefore another stereotype thrown out the window.

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Love Your Life Right Where You Are !

I am loving my life these days.  Working on my photography and my writing so that I can finally follow my passions.  I have always had several hobbies photography, painting, knitting, sewing, cooking, etc.  I have had to let a few things fall by the wayside, but photography is the one thing that has been consistent since high school.  There are many great photographers out there some professional and others are hobbyist.  I am working on making my passion for photography and telling a story into my life's work.  I may not be the best but I am planning to be really good at what I do, and I plan to do that by photographing what I love and that is people.  I have no interest in traditional portraiture, but in glamor and boudoir photography.  This is where I can put my make-up artistry skills to work as well as my cosmetology skills.  However, my true passion is documentary photography and photojournalism. With the latter I intend to incorporate multimedia skills.  This is all a work in progress and I am having a great time preparing myself for it all. 

I have always loved talking with people from all walks of life and learning their stories, and I want to tell some of those stories, with love, compassion, and authenticity.  I plan to spend the next fifty years of my life doing what I want to do. Following the passion that God has placed in my heart, in my spirit, and in my soul.  There are a lot of skill sets involved in this sort of work, but I have been working on mastering them. Digital photography makes it easy in one aspect and quite challenging in another, but I am up for that challenge, and am presently facing it head on.

  My love for people of different backgrounds and cultures also sparks my desires for travel.  My desires to meet people where they live, where they thrive, and where they love, in order to understand more about our differences, but mostly about our similarities.  I finally feel like I am ready for this, mostly because of my years of living on this earth that has brought about wisdom and understanding, often called maturity.  I am a firm believer that we are where we are in this life because that is exactly where we are suppose to be. 

We are not always where we want to be because we are not prepared or ready to do the things that we want to do and do them well.  Some people call it failure, I call it lessons in preparation.  That is what the last fifty years have been for me, hopefully it does not take as long for others, but I also realize that some never get there.  So for all the lessons and growing pains, I am grateful, because I am happy where I am. You know the most beautiful thing about it all is that I have a strong feeling that something is going to unfold within the confounds of the visual passions.  It may not manifest the way I plan, but I believe that I will be used within the loose boundaries of my passion.  I am totally opened to all that God has in store for me, because there is no doubt that it will be beautiful.  He has been preparing me for this for the past 5-7 years. n

Monday, August 9, 2010

My Daughter

Whitney boarded the plane today at about 1pm and we are never really too sad when she leaves to go back to school.  This time was not much different.  The difference came for me when I got home and walked through the door and she was not here or was not with me, then I wanted to cry.  I so enjoyed her.  This time it was a little bit different though.  I not only saw my daughter but I saw the woman, and that is an eerie thing for a parent.  I am very proud of the woman that she has become and the woman she is steadily becoming.  I taught her well and she listened.  I feel like I have done a good job. Being a mother was the hardest job that I have ever had to tackle and had to stay the course, which if you know me, you know that I will jump ship when it no longer serves me.  This was a job where that was never an option nor was it ever considered.  Even though I am still her mother, as I will always be, she doesn't need as much mothering anymore. She will always need my love and support, and sometimes guidance, but she no longer need it on a daily basis.  We make some good decisions and we make some better decisions, and that is what constitutes growth, and she is growing in such a graceful way, and I am so very proud of her.

 This is her last year of college after sitting out for a time or two, as most of us have done, and she is ready to embark on life.  The advice that I consistently give her is to follow your heart.  I tell her to  try things and if she doesn't feel passionate about it, move on to the next thing, because life is too short to spend the better part of your life doing something that you don't want to do.  Doing something that doesn't bring you joy. There are going to be many things that you will encounter in life that is not the most fun or exciting thing to do, where you wish you could do anything but that, but those things should be bridges in your journey, not the journey itself.  I tell her to follow her heart and do what truly makes her happy, and if she doesn't yet know what that is, then keep moving and doing until she finds it.

 Next year this time she will be moving back to Los Angeles and I am looking forward to her being out here with me.  We are not just mother and daughter we are friends and truly enjoy each others company. I love you Baby Girl!

Sunday, August 1, 2010

More Changes

I am about to turn fifty and am really excited about it.  I am once again noticing some major changes in my body.  I have had two major surgeries in the past 6 mos and am about to have another, and I am sure that these surgeries are taking their toll on my body and energy level as well.  Things are going even further south, and my energy level gets depleted a great deal faster than before.  Unfortunately I have to wait until I recover from the next surgery to work on strengthening various muscles and rebuilding stamina, but I am ready for that challenge.  It is frustrating to me at times that I can't go and do the way that I use to, but I believe that even though it will not get back to the point of yesteryear, it will vastly improve.  Hell, I have things to do and things to see and working on freeing up the time to do them, so I must have the energy to make it happen.  I do realize that it is going to take more time for a full recovery than I anticipated, but I am looking forward to the day, when I don't get tired after a few days of doing what I love to do.

 It is comical how when you get a certain age you no longer want to do the exercises to keep things toned and tight, you are now wanting to do the exercises that strengthen those well used muscles as well as hiking or cycling to build stamina.  The physical appearance become less important and the physical ability become more.  The beauty of getting older is well embraced in my life and I hope it is as well embraced in yours.

Sunday, July 25, 2010

Freedom at Fifty

I have a few friends that are on this freedom ride with me, but I realize that there is a great deal of others out there as well.  We are coming to terms with much of what we were taught growing up, acknowledging that it  just doesn't apply these days.  We are also learning how to make and follow our own paths, and the blessing is that we are at an age where we can do just that. We don't care if we fail, because we don't see it as failure, we see it as another part of the journey.  No we are not our mothers, and they are not their mothers.  I guess it is the natural progression of things, because when our daughters reach our age they will not be like us. 

My daughter has always admired that I was different than the mothers of many of her friends.  I was always a bit radical, non-judgmental, and a  non-conformist.  It often times got me in trouble, but now it really works for me, because there is no trouble to get  into.  These days it is either my way or no way.  Of course I am not on this course alone, my Heavenly Father is right there with me, and I am not working outside the realm of what He wants for me, and if I do, he lovingly reels me back in.

 I no longer buy into the hype of the "American Dream", because it is designed to enslave you.  It keeps you wanting more and more, regardless of how blessed you have been.  The dream keeps you in dept and I have been there more than once, but not any more.

 Turning fifty is so very liberating to me. The journey of letting go of all of the beliefs that have been forced upon me, that usually never served me because they were not mine to begin with.  I do understand why they were bestowed upon me.  Our parents and teachers do the best that they can, because they can only give what they have been given and hopefully what they have learned along the way.  That is also what we will do as parents.  Just hopefully as well learn better we do better and teach our children better, even if it does contradict what we first taught them.

 There was a time when many working people believed real estate investment, "rental property", was the way to secure your future, especially in your retirement years.  That is no longer the case.  I was talking to my aunt on the phone about a week ago, and she made a reference to this same belief. She told me to forget investing in real estate, and to just put my money in the bank, because it becomes more trouble than it is worth.  I learned this long ago about rental property, and tried to teach it to my father. That turning it over after  5-10 years was best, before the repairs start to suck the life out of you.  He is from a generation that believes in property ownership, and I believe in monetary ownership.  This is just one of those lessons.  There are so many more.  Again, that generation was parented by a generation that were not allowed to own much of anything, therefore they taught ownership to their children.

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Getting to Know Someone

So often we meet people and fall in love and really don't know much about them at all.  I have been guilty of that as well.  We judge them on how they are in the present and how they treat us during this courtship. But how much do we really know about a person. How long does it take to really get to know someone?    Where did they come from?  Why did they leave?  Yes there are ways now to get a background check on someone, but most of us don't do this because we all have black marks in our history.  We don't want to judge, because we don't want to be judged.  So how far do you dig into a person's background to know them?  Often times what is on paper doesn't give you a good idea of who that person is, how they think, what they love, what their passions are, how they feel about their family, do they have a conscious, what are their basic values and beliefs.  However, if there are repetitive actions on paper, then you can get an idea about them.

 Unless they obviously have a criminal background. We then know that all crimes are not equal.  Having a great deal of background information can sometimes help and sometimes not.  How do you know when you know enough about someone or have enough information on someone.  How far would you want someone to check into your background?  How would you like to be judged by what is on paper?

 In some situations a background check maybe necessary, because there are quite a few people that are living secret lives, and some of those secrets can be dangerous.  Since we live in such a global society and travel is so easy across continents, you don't know how far a person would run to get away from a shady past.  However, I don't believe that this intensity is necessary in most cases. If we listen and follow our instincts then we would probably be able to avoid a great deal of potential dangerous or hazardous relationships.  I realize that we can't go around with this type of fear and step out in life on faith. What is your take on this?             How do you keep yourself safe in the dating world?

Cultural Diversity

What is Cultural diversity? Per Wikipedia, ' There is a general consensus among mainstream anthropologists that humans first emerged in Africa about two million years ago.  Since then they have spread throughout the world, successfully adapting to widely differing conditions and to periodic cataclysmic changes in local and global climate. The many separate societies that emerged around the globe differed markedly from each other, and many of these differences persist to this day .'

 I have always felt the need to seek out and preserve the various cultures, traditions, religions, and languages of the many people of this world.  I find the indigenous cultures even more exciting.  That is probably because I grew up in a society where we feel the need to  fill our homes with things, our pockets with money, and our time with activities in order to fulfill the desire for the American Dream.  I think that dream has changed for quite a few people these days. Preserving the various cultures is a reminder that there are a countless ways to realize your dreams.

Monday, June 21, 2010

Father's Day

Father's Day is an important day for many. Some people have been raised totally by their fathers.  Yes there are single fathers out there raising their children alone. Since I have been a single parent my daughter has always honored me on both Mother's and Father's day because I was both to her. Now that is a special kid. I was blessed to be raised by a mother and a father, but I was definitely a daddy's girl.  My father was like most in those days, a hardworking man doing all he can to provide the best he can for his family.  My father did that and I am grateful to him.  My father and I are still pretty close and I am still very grateful for the man he was, for the father he is.

 Happy Father's Day Dad!

Monday, June 14, 2010

Westward Migration - Autry Museum

Finally I worked my way to the Autry Museum and it was well worth it.  I have been fascinated with the natural landscape of California every since I arrived here.
This exhibit shows the importance of the contribution of women in the development of the west along with many African Americans.

Saturday, June 12, 2010

My First Stop in LA.

When I alighted from the plane with  my husband looking for his friend to pick us up there was nobody there.  The friend never showed up and didn't answer his cell phone.  After waiting around for awhile he called my husband back and told us to get the Fly Away bus to San Fernando Valley and his brother would be there to pick us up. Again nobody showed up, so we took a cab to this place, the Motel 6 on Sepulveda Blvd.,as my husband was instructed by his friend. By this time I was an emotional mess,  I now know that we are in trouble.  We have also just been told by this friend that the place he had for us to rent had been rented to someone else and we now had no where to live.  What a first day!  So this is what adversity looks like.  Here I am, three thousand miles away from any and every thing that I know and I am without a place to live.  Now I am thinking that this is not what I signed on for.    After staying here a couple of days we were then taken to an extended stay in West Hollywood to figure out our future in this new city that we intended to call home.  Within a couple of weeks my husband was working and within a couple of months I was working.  Being in the middle of Hollywood made it pretty easy to get around so that was a relief.  I started to like my new home city and felt as though I could make a life here.  And I did. That friend is no longer a friend, and I am no longer married. 

What was your beginning like in a new city?  Did it turn out the way you had planned?  Were your friends dependable?  Did you stay or go back home?  Have you ever just picked up and move to a new city?

Monday, May 31, 2010

Realizing Memorial Day

Deciding to go out to Santa Monica Beach is always something I want to do, but this being a holiday weekend I wanted to go take in the sun and sights before the holiday crowd came on Sunday and Monday. I discovered that the older I get the less I like large crowds. Well I was not able to avoid the crowd, but I knew that it would be worst the more we got into this holiday weekend. After parking in the first parking lot right on the beach, we decided to walk back toward the Santa Monica Pier. It was a nice breeze on the beach and there were people everywhere. As we started to walk along the pier trying to decide where we will eat, we noticed a memorial down below, actually on the beach. It was at that moment when the real meaning and purpose of this holiday hit home for me....more...

Saturday, May 29, 2010

Annenberg Space for Photography

Today as I paced the floor trying to figure out what I was going to do with this beautiful holiday weekend, I searched the internet for goings on in Los Angeles. Well of course there are always lots of things going on, but I was looking for some kind of festival, a great photo opportunity. I did not come across any festivals, but I was so anxious to get out of the house before all of the holiday traffic and mishaps filled the city.  ...more...

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Star Sighting - Sam Elliot

While hanging out in Malibu, I decided to stop to the How's Market off Trancas Canyon Road to get me bottle of pomegranate juice. This is small How's market and quite conjusted, but also quite adequate. As I am walking down the left side of the store where they keep cold bottled drinks in an open cooler, my friend is walking behind me. As I barrel around this corner I almost bumped into the buggy of a gentleman that was headed my way, I said, "I am sorry excuse me" as pulled his cart more to the right side to keep from bumping me with it. ...more...

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

What A View

I was out to a park near Peppidine University in Malibu and there was this long path that led down to the water. If you look closely at this picture you can see it going toward the water. My friend told me that I should walk down there, but I was hesitant. I know where there is water and brush there are usually rattlesnakes or water moccasins. I told her that if the gentleman with the dog went down that trail I would go along or behind them, because I trust the instincts of a dog....more .....

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

The Quiet Time

This year has been a tough one in many ways.  I have been challenged both physically and mentally.  As I put back the pieces of my physical self, I have been forced to also put together the pieces of my spiritual and my mental health.  There is really something to be said about quiet time. When we stop going through our daily routines we are forced to look at all that is around us, even when that is not our intentions. It is absolutely necessary for a truly authentic life.

Living an authentic life should be the goal for us all, because through an authentic life is how we are able to utilize our gifts to better ourselves and the circumstances that surrounds us.   It absolutely amazes me how much there is to learn about who we really are and what we are meant to do.  So many search outside for peace and are not aware that we have already been given the necessary skills to be fulfilled.  We consistently seek immediate gratification in possessions, status, friends and sometimes loved ones.  We often  find ourselves still feeling quite empty inside.  Utilizing this time to really look inside of my heart, soul, and spirit to fill the emptiness that has only grown, has been extremely emotional, but the pieces have  seem to just come together.

Many people stop the process when they feel as though they have made some progress, but depending on your length of life and your experiences throughout that life, the process could take a great deal longer than you would imagine.  It is like peeling back an onion, because you can't get to the core until you peel back all of the pain, anger, hurt, and belief systems, created by others, that has governed you all of this time. Those belief systems were initially created by your parents, then your teachers, and then all of those in authority in your younger life.  You then go on to live by those belief systems constantly fighting the urges within, especially when your true self is in conflict with what you have been taught.

You ever wonder why you believe  the things that you believe, or why someone that you know have prejudices against others.  Maybe because of their skin color, nationality, religion,  or status in life.   It is because they are governed by a belief system that was imposed on them.  When someone ask you why you believe in something or don't believe in something and your only answer is because that is how you was raised, which is not an answer by the way.  You don't even know why you feel that way, you can't give one reason why that belief works for you.  That is your clue.  I know that my mother was afraid of worms all of my life and I grew up watching and having to respond to her reaction of the sight of a caterpillar. Now I wince at the sight of a worm, but I don't have any direct experience that would make me afraid.  A worm has never done anything to me, to make me afraid.

My mother is afraid of sick people. If she is somewhere and a person groans from pain, her knees get weak and her first thought is to run, to get away.  That is mostly because she grew up with a mother that was often sick and always called for her when she was sick and delirious from fever.  This is how someone's life can influence yours.  These are very simple examples, but I think that you may have the idea.

Well for me, the quiet time was due to some health issues, and the process became an extensive one, but the joy that I now feel is overwhelming. I have been able to peel back many layers of this proverbial onion and I recognize me once again.
I encourage young people to explore their true desires and passion because only then can you live an authentic life. When your parents tell you different, you decline with respect to their worries and concerns and still follow your dreams.