Ain’t It Amazing?

Today I …

Looked at pictures of friends enjoying today’s sunrise in the Carribean,
Then looked at a video of friends across town building an igloo.
I chose a movie on my phone, then watched it on my TV.
I took a tour of my daughter’s new apartment in California,
And followed my son on the East coast as he bought groceries.

Even on a day when things aren’t that great, if you really stop and think about it, those things are pretty freaking amazing! Just imagine what your 10 or 12 year old self would think, if they could somehow be transported into the future and could see the everyday magic we take for granted.

One Little Word

Around the first of the year, I (along with 2/3 of the civilized world) usually feel compelled to write a list of resolutions.  A couple of years back, just to be different, I started making that list into a graphic poster and calling it my bucket list. Resolute!

As a rule, two or three things on the list gets accomplished.  I am not sure whether the actual act of writing it down, or just putting it up where I can see it is to credit (or blame) or if the things that got accomplished were just the things that I concentrated on the most.

In 2013 I did exactly two things on that list: Got my passport, and planted a garden. OK, we also had a pretty cool 25th anniversary celebration, even though it wasn’t the “extravaganza” I was envisioning. No, I think I got a little over-zealous in the annual making-of-the-list. What I learned from this though, was that you can’t really give 15+ items the full concentration they need, nor can you foretell the opportunities and setbacks that affect whether or not you even want to accomplish some of those things.

I had one stellar accomplishment in 2013 – Decorating a float for the Rose Parade – and that one wasn’t even on the list! So, when I started thinking about what I wanted to concentrate on this year, I thought about it differently. What one thing did I want to do, or accomplish that I would be able to focus on all year?  And then I read a Facebook post from my inspirational friend Jodee Bock, about One Word.

One Word is a book that basically professes narrowing your focus for the year to concentrate on just one word. This, say authors Jon Gordon, Dan Britton, and Jimmy Page, allows us to experience “mission and meaning; purpose and passion; strength and significance.” So instead of trying to focus on 15 concepts, or goals, you choose one word – or as the book suggests, one word chooses you – to become your North Star for 365 days.

I got the book, and read it in the 45 minutes the authors said it would take, and then set about the process of opening myself up so the Universe could deliver my One Word unto me.  I waited, and waited, and waited… and waited.

While I was waiting, I made a list of cool words I wanted to associate with throughout 2014.  Words filled with anticipation and mystery like “AND” “STORY” “RIPPLE” “MAGIC.” Words with purpose like “DETOX” “ACCEPT” “SIMPLIFY” “CONNECT.”  Open ended words with more than one meaning like “ALOHA” “NAMASTE” “EFFECT.” But I felt like I was bending the Universe to my own will. My One Word wasn’t finding me – I was picking it, I was cheating.

So then I started thinking about what concepts I would realistically concentrate on, and as silly as it sounds, it came to me.  No, not my word, but a scene from The Big Bang Theory.

In this scene, Penny is giving Sheldon acting lessons, and they start off with Improvisation which she tells him is all about saying YES. This makes perfect sense, and strikes a chord in me. Tina Fey in her book Bossypants, further elaborates, saying Improv is all about saying YES, AND…

I’m all about that, but I’m not going to choose IMPROV as my word. Nor am I going to choose YES, because I’d have to choose YES, AND… and that’s two words. But I felt like I was getting somewhere, I had a direction, I could feel the momentum. The big idea, the concept behind IMPROV was what I wanted, but the word… what was my word?

  • Improvisation is to make things up. Yes… and…
  • I wanted this word to help me make a difference.  Yes, and?
  • Make some changes, make advances… yes, and…

Wait a minute!!! My mother’s answer to anything that was bothering me, whether I was bored, or sad, or confused was to make something – Make a list; make a mess; make a promise; It’s got anticipation, purpose and it’s open ended! There it is! My word is MAKE! So, I made a little button – right there in the sidebar.


I’m going to make 2014 the year of MAKE, or of MAKING. Did you make resolutions this year, or what do you think of having one little word be your focus for 2014?

The Modern Empty Nest

It happened this week.

My daughter, my middle child, my 22-year-old, flew the nest.IMG_2103

She, and her boyfriend of 6 months packed everything they owned into a car and drove West to chase their dreams in California.

I know. That sounds sudden. And full of drama. But surprisingly, it’s not. She’s actually following in my footsteps, only she did it better.

I left home at 22 also, but I did it with my fist in the air, middle finger extended. I didn’t care who did or didn’t know where or how I was. I was on my own finally, and all I wanted was my former home in my rearview mirror. Sadly for my parents, my communication with the folks I left behind was at best, spotty, if at all.

Now, thanks to modern digital technology, we’re connected 24/7. No sooner did my daughter’s face and waving hand disappear physically westward beyond my eyesight, they were quickly replaced digitally, by a blinking dot accurately pinpointing her every move on my iDevices, or as she refers to it, Watching The Creeper App.

photoIts really called the Find My Friends app, and it shows you on a map where any of your friends and family who have agreed to be “creeped-on” are. Thankfully, we pre-negotiated the creep agreement well before she left.

With it, we were able to see which roads and freeways they took, and where they stopped to eat, and sleep. It was thrilling! And boring. And nerve-wracking! And comforting.

We saw them veer off to Denver despite the weather warnings in the upper passes. We saw them leave there, then descend into the high deserts, and then we watched them wander the Las Vegas strip. Finally, we saw them negotiate the Los Angeles freeways, and back streets as they visited apartments and houses for rent.

All the while, thanks to being digitally connected, it was like we were ghostly companions in their car. Texts and Facebook picture posts flew back and forth. When the day got long, the little girl that still exists in my grown daughter came out, and lamented that she missed home already. When the sights were strange or amazing, a picture accompanied her text. When they’d finally found the perfect place to live, after traipsing through some sketchy neighborhoods, we’d already looked up the address on Trulia to see the neighborhood statistics, and were able to enthusiastically agree with their decision.

I imagine the shine will wear off rather quickly as my daughter settles into her new life. I’ve already cut back from checking the app constantly, to a mere hundred times a day. She’ll probably turn it off eventually, and leave me wondering, as parents used to do, where or how she is. But in comparison to the way I left home, and thanks to Facebook, Skype, and various other creeper apps, I feel incredibly lucky that she LETS me share vicariously in her new adventures!

What’s All This About?

unnamedOverall, I’m pretty happy with the name of my blog. I started out with a blog called Straight Up and Slightly Dirty, but based on the Google search hits I was getting, and my posts never really living up to what I envisioned with that title, I decided to change the name.  I went with a comfortable combination of a nickname given to me by my best friend’s son, the vague connection with Los Angeles, my initials, and an imaginative state of mind, hence – La La Land.

What I’d like to come up with is a Tagline that encapsulates all of that.


  • Because the title is the first thing most readers will see.
  • Because “What’s this blog about?” is the first thought most readers will have.
  • Because a short description of your blog helps readers decide to stick around without requiring them to commit to reading a full post or take the time to click over to a separate “About” page.

One of the suggestion from Zero to Hero was to create a one to two sentence tagline that encapsulates my blog, then to fashion that into a text or better yet, a graphic widget for the sidebar.

This all sounds very similar to branding standards. Having a logo, a standard color palate, a font, and particular “voice” that is constant throughout.

I don’t have that at this point.  I’m hoping the writing practices this month will help to achieve that focus, or at least point me in the right direction!

Who Am I, And Why Am I Here?

whoamII decided to participate in WordPress’s Zero to Hero 30 day blog improvement challenge, in the hopes of freshening up my purpose here.

I’ve been blogging for quite a few years, and once in a while I just think you have to move the furniture around, take the rugs out, hang them on the line and beat the bejiggers out of them. Am I right?

What I’d like to do is formulate an “About Me” page that gives readers, new ones as well as loyal ones, and me too for that matter – context as to what this blog is all about, and basically why they should spend their time reading it.

I need to drill down and focus on what my ideas are for what I write about, and what I hope to accomplish with my writing. I’ve often toyed with writing a mission statement for this blog, or some kind of list of goals and aspirations…. a Manifesto maybe. This is by no means that finished product, but rather a beginning.

  • So, why do you write a blog, as opposed to say keeping a journal or diary?  I think it is because I need attention, or justification, or some kind of feedback, or – ok I’ll just say it – gratification… Immediate gratification whenever possible.
  • OK, then what kind of things do you write about?  Is there a theme here? I’d like to think that I write stories about things I experience.  Not necessarily just things that happen, but about interesting people, insights, and morals of the story.
  • So who reads this blog anyway? I am very happy to have connected with a number of intersected circles of people through this blog.  I seem to have attracted mostly women of a certain vintage – boomers; and fellow bloggers/writers. I’m content with this audience, because there is a comfort level here, as well as the very present opportunity to learn from and be inspired by our interaction.
  • Does this blog have a goal?  The one goal I have for this blog, and by this blog I mean me – is to make a concerted effort to interact more, by reading and leaving comments on posts I’ve visited.  This has always been a stumbling block for me.  It takes an concerted effort and no small amount of time to visit and read posts of the blogs I enjoy. It also takes an effort to comment though whatever security is set up on each individual site. Then there’s always the threat of falling down the rabbit hole of other blogs linked from one site to another!
  • What do you get out of writing this blog?  I think, when all is said and done, the greatest thing about blogging is how not only the platform, but the persona of who you are evolves. What I thought last year was different than what I thought when I started this blog way back when; and what I think now, is different than what I thought last year. I guess I just need to build in the expectation for improvement, and chagllnge.

At the end of this thirty days, I hope to have a new “About Me” and/or “About This Blog” page.  As always, I’m open to suggestions, criticism, praise, and whatever comments anyone cares to leave!

Rest And Peace

Float decoration is hard work, long hours on your feet, concentrating on fine detailed work.  We were feeling a little fatigued and needed a little rest from our manual labor of the past couple of days, so we took the day off from float prep to do what Downtown Dad and I do best on vacation – look up dead relatives, and old addresses from our past!

The first stop was Mountain View Cemetery in Altadena.  A peaceful place where three out of five members of my mother’s family are buried.


Here’s my grandfather, the one who invented the drill that matches your grip for bowling balls.


Here’s my mother’s mother.


Here’s my mother’s twin brother who died of Leukemia at 16 years old.

A couple of years ago, my sister and I scattered my mother’s ashes in and around our home town of Goleta, California.  I also scattered some in Sioux City, Iowa where she was born. Turns out both my sister Vicki and I still have some ashes left, and we both think the rest of them should be interred with a headstone next to her twin brother.  I’m currently working with a counselor at the cemetery to see if we can do that.

Our next stop was Forest Lawn Cemetery in Glendale.  We went there to find the graves of two of Dave’s shirt-tail relatives, but I knew there were more stars from the golden age of Hollywood buried there than any other cemetery – so, while he searched the hillside for familiar names, I searched Google on my phone to see if there was any way to find out where these celebrities’ final resting places were.

Turns out there is a list of people buried there, but there is a catch.  There are privacy laws, and the office can’t give out crypt or plot locations unless you are a relative.  ….unless… you can find and follow the secret instructions to locate your fave dead celeb… which I did.

There are really only two celebs that I really even care about, and both happen to be buried there at Glendale Forest Lawn.  Humphrey Bogart, and Walt Disney.  Bogie is buried in a private garden, behind a locked door which can only be opened with a golden key issued at the time of burial to the surviving family member.  Walt Disney, on the other hand is a classic example of hiding in plain sight.

At the top of the hill is a building called the Freedom Mausoleum. You can’t miss it, there is a 13 foot high statue of George Washington at the front door. Just to the left of the front entrance is a small private garden with a gate. I have to admit I was quite amazed that I was able to stand inside this private enclosure, alone, not three feet from the plaque that bears his name.


To the right of the plaque is a small statue of the original Little Mermaid which as strewn with flowers, and several tickets from Disneyland. What an awesome experience!  I have to admit, I’m still feeling the weight of it.

Check back tomorrow to hear about our further adventures in float decoration!

Details, Details

Decorating a Rose Parade float is much more detailed work than you’d think.  Here are some behind the scenes pictures of some of those details.

Each float starts as just a giant flatbed, like you’d imagine, then the designers make the general shape and theme.  Once that is established, the Fiesta Float people go on a scavenger hunt through their massive warehouse for the steel and wireframe pieces that have been used for previous floats.


The above picture, is a tiny fraction of everything available.  These pieces start out as what I’ve been calling a paint-by-numbers project.  For example the tiger above, is “color-coded” to denote what type of material you glue to the surface.


While decorating, you might find yourself in a somewhat compromising position, such as glueing crushed peach lentils to a tiger’s butt!  It’s a slow and tedious process, with painting the glue, precisely on the color coded areas, then patting the tiny natural materials, such as onion seed, for the black stripes.


The view as you walk around the float is pretty interesting.  You mostly see butts and feet dangling from the scaffolding as workers press statice flowers to this camel’s saddle.


Each task is very time consuming.  For example, here, we were popping the glue plug out of straws that were rolled in oregano.


Below, Dave spent his 6 hours creating the Sunrise at the Oasis sign – look for it on the front of the float.


Oh, and we did run into a celebrity!  This little cutie is Daniel, a beagle being billed as “the luckiest dog in the world.”  He was in a group of dogs to be euthanized, in a canine gas chamber in Alabama.  When they opened the door, he popped out alive as can be!  Look for him, he will be riding on the Lucy Pet Foundation float.


The little piece of excitement we had on Saturday was that PETA was outside protesting the Sea World float which is being constructed right next to ours. Their float, while not nearly as beautiful as our Dole float, has some majestic killer whales on the front, but it’s truly NOT disrespectful to animals!  One little example of both the Sea World float and the detail involved in creating these art pieces is the picture below. On TV the floats go by so quickly, you never get a chance to see the detail that we have had the amazing opportunity to see this week. For example, only the head and feet are completed in this picture, but I watched the people placing the split peas and beans on this using tweezers, and the back of a paint brush.  This is a great example of the dedication of volunteers working on these floats.


We took the day off today, to do some cool personal/genealogy stuff, but we’ll be back at it again tomorrow.  It will be much more intense, so tune in again to see the progress!

We Are (Dole) Family

Most people, when they go on vacation, bring along golf clubs, or beach towels… Us?  We bring scissors!

Linda Thomas Anderson

Our vacation goal in LA is not to catch a wave, a fish, or even some rays (although it has been 80+ degrees here!).  Our goal is to be a part of a community that is creating something – that something just happens to be the Dole Food Company’s Rose Parade Float!

We drove the 12 miles from Eagle Rock to Irwindale, through surprisingly light traffic to the Fiesta Parade Float warehouses.  Signage was great, directing “parade float decorators” through the snaking streets to the miles and miles of parking where we were glad we were wearing our lanyards, proclaiming us to be a member of the Dole family.  Once parked, we walked what seemed to be another mile, and once inside the cavernous building, yet another mile past the 13 other floats to ours.

Float 1

This being the 2nd day of the decoration process, the live flowers had not yet arrived, and instead of the perfume we expected to be in the air, it was more of chemical smell, which we soon learned was the Elmer’s glue on steroids we would be slathering all over everything – including ourselves.

We located our supervisor Darryl, who has been doing this for 30+ years, as have most of the staff, which pretty much happen to all be related to each other – so its like a family business! Since we were newbies, we were set to probably the most heinous task, glueing papery dried seaweed to the ribs on the underside of giant palm leaves.

Glue and Leaves

So, while the more seasoned workers created faces on camels, and stripes on tigers, we spent our 6 hour shift on two leaves!

Nori Gluing
























So, that’s all – we’re off to start our second day!  Stay tuned for more!