Inspiration

One Of Our Favorite Spots - Villa Reale di Marlia

We got lost one day, looking for our 2nd rental. (Ever the producer, I thought it best to scout the new location before actually moving there. So glad we did!) It was out in the country where all roads seem to be named Via delle Villa and therefore tough to nail down with google maps. We pulled into what looked to be a tiny parking lot/ticket office for a huge villa. I popped in to ask for directions (being the most fearless of our group with my .05% Italian language skills.) The two women there were almost able to help me but more importantly, I learned we were at the Villa Reale di Marlia. I promised we would come back for a tour and I'm so glad we did. 

Upon our return, I went back into the tiny ticket office and the two same women were there. One turned to the other and said excitedly, in Italian, "This is the woman who was lost!" I laughed and bought tickets. At first it was disappointing to learn that all the buildings were closed. They are being restored and will be closed for probably years. (They only started restoring in 2015.) We went in anyway to view the gardens and man oh man did my disappointment disappear quickly. The tour map smartly takes you away from the buildings down to the lake first. Then you get this stunning view back up to the main house. 

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Then you walk back up to the main buildings via all the amazing side gardens.

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The wisteria was stunning and smelled soooo good.

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There is a pool and pool house tucked away on the side. I can't wait to go back and see this fully restored. 

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There is a Grotto, of course. All the best villas had them...

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Inside the Grotto it was about 10 degrees cooler and looked like it used to spray water from all the fountains into the center. I suspect on hot summer days this would be the place to relax and cool off as you walked from the lake back to the house. ("house")

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There were many other gardens and pathways - the Spanish Garden, the Green Theater, etc. But my favorite is the Lemon Garden. Kurt estimated it is a bit smaller than a football field. Half is lemon trees in pots (so you can move them indoors during winter!) and the other half is a big pond with a fountain. 

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A view from behind the fountain looking back at the Lemons:

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Turns out, my favorite painter, John Singer Sargent, came here to paint. And he painted a few watercolors from this very Lemon Garden. 

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When you arrived in a carriage to the main house, this is what you saw when you exited the carriage - a huge fountain with multiple levels of water coming down. This photo does not do it justice except to show how large it is! 

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Here's a close up of the center. Also surprising, you could walk along that upper level next to the statues and giant urns. There were lovely little secret pathways through the trees and bushes back there. Excellent fun for this old romantic. 

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The huge water fountain (they call it the Water Theater) is behind this main building. We stopped halfway to empty rocks from our shoes. 

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The whole time we were there, walking the grounds, we saw one other family. Total. In the whole giant place. 

When we left, I thanked the women again and they said they were having an event on Easter Monday - a Botanical Treasure Hunt for the kids! Um, yes, sign us up. So we came back! This time with a picnic and blankets (because you are always welcome to come in and picnic any time you want) and Harper really enjoyed the treasure hunt and of course the gift at the end. (Amazingly she wore the exact same outfit!)

Here she finds Boxwood and Lemons.

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She hugged and kissed many of the trees and plants we found.

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I love this place and I can't wait to go back often to see how things have come along. I want to picnic there all the time.

The true joy of spending a long time in one place is visiting wonderful things you find more than once. I highly recommend it.  

Please visit the link of the villa - their photos are stunning and give you some better views. Villa Reale di Marlia 


Fun Outside The House

Our new old house makes us happy. Our new old house is still full of boxes as we await installation of about 3 more major closets/cupboards - therefore - the house can become confining so going out is key! This last weekend we had some adventures.

Harper and I started on Saturday at the Dead Zoo aka The Dinosaur Library (Harper's name for it) aka The Natural History Museum. We are members and go there so often I've learned to bring a change of clothes so Harper can splash and throw rocks in the little fountain pond outside. Most of the other kids are bummed because they see Harper getting soaked but their parents tell them no. Sorry kids! But do I have a picture of that? No, because we go so often, I didn't take one this time...but here's one from the other side of that pond fountain:

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The last time we went, this little boy came up to me and said, "Can I go in there?" I said, "Sorry sweetie, you have to ask your mom." He walked away, glum. I watched him play in the not so wet fountain (pictured above) and he kept watching Harper throwing rocks and splashing about. Ten minutes later he came back and said, "Can I go in there?" I laughed and gave him the same disappointing answer.

Harper likes to look at the bones and sometimes the dioramas of the animals and sometimes the rocks and gems and sometimes the nature lab downstairs. The one thing she ALWAYS likes to do is look at the toys in the gift shop.

This last trip, after all of the above, we walked outside and around to the lovely hummingbird garden and the edible garden. Then back inside to pose with the lovely statue in the rotunda. (You can always click the images for larger versions.)

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NH Museum was Saturday while we let Kurt get his office somewhat put together (as the electrician had been there early in the morning to run power out there). Sunday the three of us went to LA County Museum of Art (no nicknames yet), signed up as members and had a grand day of it.

There was this fun outdoor noodly thing that Harper L O V E D.

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We walked through the Ahmanson Building and looked at art. We kept asking Harper was she saw or what she thought things were. One piece she said, off handedly, "that's a popsicle" another piece (a sculpture of what looked like different colored car pieces bent and welded together) she looked at and said, "That's garbage." (as in actual trash!) Hilarious. Later in the Toba Khedoori exhibit, which is comprised of rooms with giant cream colored canvases on the walls, each with a different image similar in style to this:

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Harper ran through and then back out saying "They forgot to put art in here!" Sorry Ms. Khedoori! I wanted to stay and look at each one more closely. But this is the beauty of having a membership.

We opted for more "kid-friendly" art - Lamps:

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Rain: (I could have stayed in there for hours. The sound alone was soothing therapy for a drought filled LA life!)

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If you follow the instructions, you stay dry, minus a few errant drops. Harper got pretty damp.

Giant indoor sculpture:

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Giant outdoor - er - rock:

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We went to the Guillermo Del Toro exhibit - calling it "Spooky Fun Halloween" stuff for Harper (which she loves). We stayed for a little while. Harper wanted to watch the videos most, but I made her walk around. She was especially taken with the life sized reproduction of Boris Karlof having his Frankenstein monster make up put on:

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I had to explain it to her. Explain how actors put on make up to make movies. "Why?" so they can look like a monster. "Why?" You know how you like to dress up for Halloween? She nods. That's what he's doing, but his mask and make up take a long time. "Why?"

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We walked around a little bit more but got back to this and she stopped again and said, "Tell about this more." So we sat on the floor and I went through the whole story again about makeup and masks and playing dress up and movies and etc etc. Always amazes me what catches her eye - especially in that giant exhibit of monsters and weirdness!

We moved on to a quieter space. A space to create:

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I can't wait to go back to that lovely painting room.

On Sundays they have a bunch of craft and art stations for kids. Harper made this broach:

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Last thing we saw was this amazing set up! Cars cars cars!

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Happy to be members of LACMA now and to know how many different things there are that Harper will love. Plus the Tar Pits just down the street that we are already a member of by being members of the Dead Zoo/Dinosaur Library!

Hooray LA!


There Is No "Some Day"

At my job I have the pleasure of working with a talented and relaxed VFX Supervisor. (Two things you MUST have in a VFX partner to retain your sanity.) He and I have had a few big picture what do you want to do in life outside of this job type conversations. In the course of a conversation we had with a third party yesterday, I discovered that my colleague is a fantastic painter. His work really impressed me. In the same conversation he lamented that he didn't have the time he wished he had to paint more. 

Later, we were in my office going over work stuff and I mentioned how impressed I was with his paintings. He humbly said thanks and then got wistful and said, "Some day, Julia, someday we'll be able to do what we really want." I looked at him square in the eyes and said, "No, sir, not 'Some day' - October of this year. October I'll be [doing the thing I want to do]!!"

Hearing that sad "Some day" only redoubled my passion to get one of my personal projects done this year. Hell or highwater, I will be doing it. 

You have to know, all of you, there is no "some day." You have to pick a date and make it happen. Some day you'll be dead. But other than that, there are specific days on a calendar and you have to pick one and go make stuff.


David Bowie Can't Die

Zoolander was the first movie we went to after 9/11 happened. It seemed the no-brainer choice -- total escapism. I was having a good time, laughing an enjoying the ridiculousness of it all.

Then.

Then came the moment where the two models have their "Walk-Off" and they need a judge. I knew, I KNEW it was going to be an amazing cameo by someone huge and I was so excited SO EXCITED to see who it was going to be. Then this:

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And I felt like nothing bad could ever happen again. David Bowie was there.

It was not dissimilar from the scene in Extras where Ricky Gervais' character is in the VIP section and tries to connect with the genius who is David Bowie. I'm sure I did a spit take when Bowie just launches into singing with "Poor little fat man..." Then a bigger spit take as he swivels round to the piano and just launches in to the full song.

 

I don't know Bowie's music very deeply. I don't relate to Ziggy or The Thin White Duke. I was about Putting Out Fire With Gasoline and China Girl from Let's Dance. I could probably sing all the songs by heart if you played it for me right now as it came out when I was in high school. I have fond memories of listening to it at Lisa's house in Makawao. I do know all his greatest hits, though, and have been surprised this week to realize just how many there are.

Of course I knew who he was and that there was a big important history to him in the music world. And yet, I truly fell in love with David Bowie in the movies.

Now you are going to scoff at me because having said that, I will confess I've never seen The Man Who Fell To Earth.

I know, I know.

I think I first heard about David Bowie in any serious way from my friend Jai. When I knew her she was just Karen. But she came to Seabury from Honolulu with a stack of records that blew my little Maui mind. She might have had Bowie, I don't remember (Adam and The Ants stood out to me more). But she talked about Bowie and about The Man Who Fell To Earth. This was back in the day when you couldn't just pop over to the video store and grab it, much less download it. But the way she talked about him and the movie and how much she admired him really stuck with me. It's almost like I don't want to see the movie because it might not live up to what I heard about it from Jai.

Jai died in 2003. I miss her so much.

There were two movie theaters in close proximity to me on Maui and I lived in them. In 1985 a movie came out called Into The Night with one of my favorite actors, Jeff Goldblum. It looked funny and I went to see it. (Probably alone as I loved going to see movies alone!) In the middle of this wacky awesome movie comes this scene:

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Bowie playing a hit man, out to get Jeff's character. Bowie is suave and smiling and charming and amazing. He's in the movie for about 5 minutes but it made me happy and surprised. I also thought, "How cool that this amazing musician (so I'd heard) was just having a laugh doing a little part in this movie!" (I own this movie and can watch it over and over. I also love it because it is such a loveletter/postcard/snapshot to LA in the 80's for me as I was just about to move there.)

Also in 1985 was The Breakfast Club. That seminal John Hughes movie that defined a generation (I can use that phrase, can't I since I'm that generation?). And what was the opening visual of that movie?

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I'm not sure which movie I saw first that year (They both came out in February of 1985), but David Bowie just seemed to always be there, always kept showing up. (Let's Dance came out in 1983.) And again, I didn't know much about him, but clearly he was important.

Important is not quite right. Significant. Exceptional. Vital.

One of his last big roles was playing Nikola Tesla in The Prestige.

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If you know anything about Tesla (and you should because he's astounding - read this from The Oatmeal) you know that he's otherworldly in his genius. I believe he was also kind and open minded and misunderstood. Who better to play this wonderful soul, but another wonderful soul?

And while everyone is posting images of Bowie from the Glam Rock period  -- you know the one with him and the big painted bolt on his face -- I will always remember him like this - impeccably dressed, handsome, gorgeous, enigmatic. Those eyes.

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As my friend Laura said upon hearing the news: "Bowie seemed timeless, so his passing just feels incongruous with reality."

Incongruous with reality.

That is the truth to me. How could this ethereal, otherworldly, but oh so human being actually die of something so crass, so low as cancer?

Bowie just keeps showing up on social media this week and I'm glad. I don't want him to ever go away. I want to be surprised by his cameos forever.

Maybe he'll make a cameo in my dreams.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


Happy New Year!

SparklersWelcome to 2016!

Every new year is full of promise and hope. I have many goals and plans, much of which continue through from last year, with a few new ones thrown in. I won't give you a list, I'll just summarize by saying there will be various short films that will be produced and distributed, scripts to finish and produce, a novel I'm planning on writing as well as financial and investing goals that will start this month.

Now that Harper is not so much a toddler, but a big girl, there will be travel to places other than Maui. Really excited about that!

And as ever, better health and fitness. I started a great fitness program last year and while various things took me away from it in December, I'm back on track today.

I have a lot on my plate and will stay focused. I pride myself in walking my talk and the year will reflect that.

All the best to you and yours!

 


Getting Up Early To Write - 2015 Edition

For one reason or another, I've gotten behind on my early morning writing. So this my transition week to get my momentum going again. Waking up pre-dawn* has been a little tough, but not bad. I've had years of training and I'm not talking about Harper.

In college I rowed on the crew team and learned to get up in the dark and get moving quickly. If you hesitate, you are done, asleep again until it's light out. Back then you did have the safety of roommates who would roust you if you fell back to sleep. But now I have the motivation of middle age. "Do you want to accomplish something more? Then GET UP AND WRITE!" is the voice in my head.

I am also very lucky to have the ability to wake myself up without an alarm. When I go to bed I'll tell myself "Wake up at 5:30" and I always do. Though usually I wake up around 5:15. This is the danger time - I can't just "close my eyes for five minutes" because I might be asleep again for another hour. I tend to just get up at that point.

The cats get excited when I get up, but are then disappointed that I don't open the door for them. (I don't open the back door because it's right by Harper's room and shares the wall with her bed and I need her to sleep as long as possible while I'm writing.) Except Dynamo sometimes pushes his luck. I'll sit for a few minutes, getting the blog set up, waiting for the coffee to brew. Then I'll get up for a cup, turn and see this:

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Dammit Dynamo!

Dynamo is not a small cat and not easily nudged from a spot. But nudge him I do so I can get on with the business at hand.

 

*Fun fact: Dawn is not sunrise. I learned this from working on a movie. The opening scene took place at dawn and we learned that dawn is "the first appearance of light in the sky before sunrise." So the opening scene looked like this:

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Watch the whole opening sequence here. It's really good and I want you know that except for the interior helicopter shots with Jamie Foxx, the whole scene/city/everything is fake, CG, visual effects. Full credit to Luxx Studios in Germany for that job. Also, the movie is pretty fun. But I digress.

So learning about dawn was three years ago. But it took me until just recently, and listening to that damn Elsa Letting It Go that I realized what the term "break of dawn" means.

Pre-dawn=dark

Dawn=first light

Sunrise=sun above the horizon.

So the sun coming up is what breaks dawn. Need a graphic? Here you go:

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I love words and wordplay!


'Let It Go' Is This Middle-Aged Good-Girl's Anthem

FrozenposterFrozen came out in November of 2013 and girls ate it up. It's a movie about two powerful women, Anna, who is funny and resourceful and brave and Elsa, the queen, who has scary but amazing powers and who sings a kick-ass song. 2014 iced over with all things Frozen, the costumes, the toys, the music. Then there was the inevitable backlash -  "If I have to hear that song one more time...!!" regarding "Let it go."

I was at a distance to the movie as Harper was only two when it came out. We watched it via our screener in 2013 and enjoyed it, but never watched it again until a few months ago when Harper wanted to watch "Anna and Elsa" (as she calls it). I really love the movie and never get tired of seeing it.* Now she wants to hear the music on its own in the car and I'm happy to oblige as we drive to preschool.

But here's what I didn't expect - that I would listen to Let It Go on repeat all the way home by myself. I theorize that for every one person who says "I never want to hear that song again!" there are another fifty who secretly listen to it alone in their cars or showers, belting it out as they drive or shampoo.

Most of us women of a certain age have been brought up to be good girls, to follow the rules, to not make waves, to do what you're told and as Elsa says, "conceal, don't feel." And as wives and moms, we are expected to be perfect, understanding caregivers to the kids, ever smiling and generous partners to our spouses. As women in the work force, we are expected to work harder, then wait longer for the reward for all that work. It's ingrained in us good girls not to complain, not to get mad, not to reveal the true powers at our very cores.

And we are powerful! And that power can be scary at times, but it can move mountains -- heck, it can create mountains. When used wisely, it can make miracles. And listening to Elsa discovering her tremendous powers and throwing off that symbolic cape, I'll be honest-- it brings tears to my eyes.

Every time I hear the song, a different line will speak to me. It's like each day I get a new idea to meditate on. Lately this speaks to me: "It's time to see what I can do, to test the limits and break through." My own inner barriers are coming down, sometimes I smash through the stone walls, sometimes I can only chip away with tweezers, but I'm always working on breaking out of my fear and finding my true strengths.

Elsa-frozen-25377-1280x800If you've watched the movie, you know that Elsa does go overboard (She freezes Arendelle over in the middle of summer). I rarely like to criticize my homegirls when they break out, lean in, stand up, but there are a few limits in the real world. Elsa says, "It's time to see what I can do, to test the limits and break through" which is great, but then follows up with, "No right, no wrong, no rules for me!" Well, as much as this good girl does like to break a few rules now and then, I still know that I can't break them all. I can't actually live in an ice palace, alone, at the top of a mountain. (Though I think I could rock that dress.)

But sometimes the pendulum does need to swing too far to really break down the walls. Let's not forget that awesome phrase by the amazing Rear Admiral Grace Hopper: "It's easier to ask forgiveness than it is to get permission." Let's go get what we want, test our power, break through our (mostly imagined) limits. I know from experience that it's a lot less scary once you get to there and then you have the courage to keep racing forward.

As Elsa says, "I'm never going back, the past is in the past! Let it go, let it go, and I'll rise like the break of dawn, that perfect girl is gone."

In her place is a powerful, courageous, graceful, beautiful woman. That is all of us!

 

 

 Watch the the Idina Menzel version of Let It Go here.

 

*I'm lucky because Harper never stays fixated on one movie too long. Frozen is usually in rotation with Cars or Kung Fu Panda or Curious George.

At this moment my favorite scene is "big summer blowout!"


Surprise! I Climbed A Mountain

I'm working the Your Turn Challenge and today is Day 6. Here is my post to answer the question: Tell us about a time when you surprised yourself. (I have written about this climb previously on this blog.)

I am not and never have been a climber. But I climbed a mountain once. Not just “hey let’s do that three hour hike to the top of this hill” kind of climb. An actual all day, clip into a safety cable, use your hands and feet to climb, scare the crap out of yourself, climb.

It was 1992 in Cortina D’ampezo. I was backpacking around Europe and went to visit work colleagues one weekend who were working on the movie Cliffhanger. The friend I was staying with said, “Hey we are going to climb a mountain tomorrow, you have to come with us.” I knew she and the other friend were not climbers and were not necessarily any more fit than I was. She also said, “It’s a climb for beginners, anyone can do it. I’ll loan you come cold weather clothes.” Since I had come to visit her, I figured okay, we’ll go hiking. The scenery is awesome (in the true sense of the word) so if nothing else, I would enjoy the views.

This is the mountain we climbed: The Col Rosa. (This is a view from the climb - image from the link.)

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About three hours in/up of regular hiking through forests, we arrived at the via ferrata - the safety cable that you clip onto to actually climb. About ten minutes into this climbing part, t I was terrified. Terrified for two reasons. 1) it was scary to actually be climbing a high mountain almost straight up! 2) I didn’t think I could do it, I thought it was too hard.

Clipped on and not too far up, I considered backing out and saying, “Hey, I’ll meet you back at the parking lot” and hiking back the way we had come. I think I might have even said out loud that I didn’t think I could do this. My friends told me I could do it and that I couldn’t just quit now. I didn’t take it as a “don’t pussy out” kind of challenge. My personal insecurities ran to the  “don’t be inconvenient, don’t make it harder for them” place. So I stayed and I climbed.

I am so glad I did. I was terrified all the way up that cable (that part took about 2 hours), but one small step, one small handhold at a time, I did it, we did it. We bagged that peak.

When we finally got back to the car, I was exhausted and exhilarated and so glad I didn’t quit. I really surprised myself that day.

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And now whenever I think something is too hard or scary because I’ve never done it before, I look at this picture of me that my friend took on our climb. I can see the fear and uncertainty, but I also remember the utter joy of having gotten to the top.


They Say It's My Birthday

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It's a new year - 2015 - and a new year - 48. Can't believe that number is assigned to me. Truly. I fee like a total dork most of the time still. How can I be this "mature"? I can definitely feel it in my body, though, and having a three year old really helps with that. (See my previous new year blog post about losing some weight this month!)

Okay and about that weight loss. I'll be honest, it's not going as well as I'd like. I'm down two pounds so far, but with not as much time to my goal. There has still been a lot of comfort eating (for various and specific reasons) and I have to find my way around that kind of eating. It's such a trap that I set for myself and I'm getting tired of it. (But clearly not tired enough to have truly made a change yet. Interesting.)

But let's move on.

January has always been my favorite month, being the new year and birthday time. I like to reflect, I like to review, I like to question, challenge myself. 2010/43 was a big year. I made a goal to pitch a TV show concept to potential producers and I (and my partners) did it! Three times. It was fantastic. Did it get bought? No. But that just means I have to up my goals.

Because I can manifest, people. I can Man - I - Fest!

And I'm lucky. In 2011/44 I got pregnant and had a baby. Without any outside help (other than Kurt of course.)

I'm lucky and I can manifest things. So I need to up my game and really step out.

What is there to be afraid of? NOTHING. Not one thing. Oh I could worry about making an ass of myself, but you know what? I need MORE of that in my life. I play it way too safe all the freakin time. I need to be a great role model for Harper by taking chances and falling on my face and getting up and doing it again until I succeed at the things I'm reaching for.

My gift to myself this year 2015/48 is to step WAY outside my comfort zone and to make more wonderful things happen. I am also considering skateboard lessons.

Happy Birthday to me!


January 2015

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January (in Latin, Ianuarius) is named after Janus, the God of beginnings and transitions; the name has its beginnings in Roman mythology, coming from the Latin word for door (ianua) since January is the door to the year.

 

Hello New Year! Okay, well it doesn't look that much different than the old one, but my plan is to change that. Not making a list of resolutions, but I do have a few plans and goals. But I'm just going to start with January. A year's worth of goals is a bit overwhelming. I do have long terms goals, but I'm going to focus on short term right now.

January Goals:

1. 185 by January 30th.

When I get on the scale on January 30 it will read 185 (or less). I had been doing well losing weight last year then somehow got wildly off track. In April I was down to 182, heading toward my then goal of 175, then lost my way, went up and down then way up again, ending at 196 right before Christmas. I was really eating and eating and eating. I've been outside of my comfort zone a LOT in 2014 which is good for me, but clearly not good for my figure! So January is about reducing the amount of comfort food I put in my gullet and more about writing and journaling about my lack of comfort. And lots of hot tea. I still have the overall goal of 175, but am going focus on achieving the January goal during January.

2. Take Harper out to eat more often in more diverse places.

I have been using the excuse that she's a toddler, too fidgety to sit still at a restaurant for too long and so we have hardly taken her out. 18 months was great when she would just sit in high chair and play with toys and eat her food. But I really feel like it's time to get those skills going in her, all in age-appropriate venues of course. Luckily there are conveyor belt sushi restaurants and dim sum houses aplenty in LA. The key is that food comes at you right away, no waiting! (We had an attempt at one of the sushi places last night but they were clearly having an off night as next to nothing came past us on the belt.) The longer term goal is to increase the diversity of foods and experiences. But for January, more sushi and dim sum.

3. Spend no time on Facebook.

Facebook is fun, it can be entertaining. But I am letting myself get waaaaaay too distracted by it and am not very good at controlling my time there, not unlike eating too much comfort food. So I'm going to take a break, starting with January to see how I do. I have two scripts to rewrite and don't have time to faff about on Facebook! So if we're friends on FB, you'll see a notice about that shortly.

4. Write more on this blog.

And dovetailing with #3 is to write more on this blog. Almost everything I post on Facebook I can blog about here, so why not. There may not be as many comments or "likes" but I'm anti like-button anyway. Never use it myself. But if I'm a writer who already has this blog, why not just refocus back here? As Harper would say, "Well then, do it!"

That is the bulk of January. Let's DO THIS THING!