Monday, August 31, 2009

Not A Morning Person

Mornings are not my friend-- Never have been-- Never will be. I simply do not like getting up at the crack of dawn. It makes me cranky.

The strange thing is that if I go to bed and get ten hours of sleep, but still have to rise at 6am, my day is pretty much down hill from the get-go. But if I go to bed at 3am and rise at 8am, I'm ready to rock and roll.

So you can imagine how unhappy I was recently, at 3:14am, when I heard a car alarm blast three, head-ringing, honks that had me sitting straight up in bed unsure if I was dreaming or not; after all it was only three honks. But since the honks were immediately followed by silence, and since we live in a pretty safe neighborhood, I reasoned with myself that I was dreaming and began calculating how much longer I could sleep before the dreaded alarm clock chimed at 5:45am for an important 6:30am appointment with our pool installer.

Naturally, I spent the next two hours tossing and turning, unable to go back to sleep, before I finally gave up, got up, and dressed for my meeting. Maybe the pool guy would arrived a bit early, finish fast and I could nap, before our house guest was up at 9am for breakfast, before catching a flight back to Europe.

Yeah, right.

After dressing, I paced in front of the living room window watching for the pool guy. But something was not right and I couldn't put my finger on it. The neighborhood, as far as I could tell, looked just like it always did.

Then I remembered the car alarm and our house guest's canary yellow Corvette rental car which was no where in sight. I raced out of the house hoping perhaps he'd moved it from our driveway and parked it up the street. But trust me, this car was so bright you'd see it a mile away. The Corvette was G O N E ! ! !

My heart sank. Could I have foiled the car theft if I only dragged my sorry self out of bed at 3:14am? I woke my husband and gave him the bad news. Of course he didn't believe the car was gone and also headed out the front door, barefoot, looking up and down the street, trying to figure out where the car went.

I'm not waking him up! You wake him up. No you! No you. Neither of us wanted to let our house guest know his oh so fun vacation Corvette was history.

Finally husband climbed the stairs to the guest bedroom and gently knocked on the bedroom door, which was ajar. House Guest was gone too. Huh?

We were relieved thinking maybe he couldn't sleep either and went for one last ride along the Pacific coast before his long flight home. I went back to waiting for the pool guy and husband got in the shower.

Yawn.... 6:00am

Oy...... 6:15am

Tick, tick, tick...... 6:30am

6:45am..... 7:00am

Where the hell is the pool guy!

Tick, tick, tick.... 7:30am

WTH???.... 8am

Ticked off.... 8:30am

Where is our house guest?.... 8:45am

And the damn pool guy?..... 9am

....9:30am.... 10:00am.... 10:30

Husband went to work and I was home alone with no word from the pool guy or our house guest.

House Guest was not answering his cell phone, all eleven times I called him. Now I'm worried. Forget about the loser pool guy not showing up, where was our house guest and his Corvette? It was not like him to just disappear.

Finally House Guest calls at 11am, from Las Vegas! Remember the 3:14am car alarm? It was him fumbling with his car keys. Apparently, at 2am he woke with the realization that he'd left his Passport in the Las Vegas Bellagio Hotel room safe before he arrived at our house in Los Angeles. House Guest bolted out of bed in the middle of the night, made a few fast phone calls, quietly left the house so as not to wake us, and was on the first flight from LAX to Las Vegas that morning.

After a crazy race around the Bellagio, he made his return flight back to Los Angeles in the nick of time to return his Hertz Corvette, run to the International Terminal, race through security-- with his Passport, and onto the plane for his 14 hour flight home.

As for my pool guy? He finally called and "was on his way over" promising to be here before 1:45pm. Of course he was in no rush to get here since he has a problem to fix but I'll save that story for a day when I've had more sleep.

By the way, the pool guy showed up at 4:15pm.

Moral of the story-- What happens in Vegas really does stay in Vegas! And don't make a 6:30am appointments.

Are you a morning person?
Welcome to The Fifty Factor - Joanna

Sunday, August 30, 2009

Sundays In My City #4

Do you know Unknown Mami? She's awesome and she's started a fun Sunday theme inviting you to get out and take pictures of your city to share with the rest of us. Click here for details and her logo and here to see Unknown Mami's city.

Last October, 2008, my husband and I made a trip to Poland and Ukraine. We spent time in the small, very rural, village community of Klesov in northern Ukraine. This sign translates to the "Community of Klesov" with a population of about 125. It is different from the "Town of Klesov" which has a population of about 500.

As we drove, we knew we were approaching new villages and towns because not only did they all have signs like the above photo, they also have huge crosses like this one below at the village line. Each cross had a combination of plastic and fresh flowers displayed. All were perfectly and thoughtfully maintained.

This is what the village of Klesov looks like from a distance-- Quaint and charming with all the bright colors. The blue and gold colors often seen are the same colors in the current Ukraine flag. The village was two blocks long with about 35 houses in all.
The houses were all small, mostly one room built around a large fireplace. None had running water or indoor plumbing. Only a very few had electricity. All had good sized gardens and many had animals-- chicken, goats, sheep and cows-- roaming freely.

The wood to build the houses came from the forest about 1/4 mile away.

Although we saw a few late model automobiles, this was the most common mode of transportation along with bicycles. The village's street was part pavement, part dirt.

Laundry hung in every yard. We can see the wash basins and knew it was a big job!

The village people were friendly. Most were older, in their 70s and 80s. The woman below is 74 years old. She followed us everywhere chattering away in Ukrainian. We had no idea what she was saying most of the time but she was happy to show us around.

We saw a few kids too. Red leather boots and jackets are very popular in Ukraine. We got the feeling the kids watched a lot of American television circa 1980.

In all honesty, it was a surprise for me to see such a rural village in 2008 without the modern conveniences I take for granted in Los Angeles. The village elders have lived in their houses since they were born. Although there are more modern towns close by, and electricity was available to all, they were perfectly content living in the village the way they always have.

Have you traveled to a place that surprised you?
Welcome to The Fifty Factor - Joanna

Friday, August 28, 2009

I Married Him Twice - Chapter Three

The final of three chapters.

We knew we wanted a small, family oriented, wedding. But, since my Dad was so sick, we also knew there was no way he could travel to Los Angeles for the ceremony, plus we knew most of my family, understandably, wouldn't leave his side to make the trip here. And, we knew that Beloved’s 50 family members in Los Angeles weren't all going to travel to Ohio. So we did what any stressed out--not really interested in a big wedding blow-out--let’s make this happen so both our families can be there-- kind of couple would do.

We got married twice. Once in Los Angeles and then again the following weekend in Ohio.

Yep, for a girl who didn't think marriage was a priority, and for a guy who had never mentioned it once in six years, it was now hugely important to be married "properly" and that to us meant having all of our family witnessing our vows.

I fancy myself as a no-drama kind of girl despite all the sobbing mentioned in Chapter One and Chapter Two. And I am extremely organized and detailed oriented, so pulling off not one, but two weddings, in two different states, in a short amount of time, sounded like a piece of cake. If that isn’t proof that love is blind, nothing is!

As planning began, Beloved only had one requirement for our dual nuptials-- His two daughters needed to be with us at both. That was the easy part. I wanted the ceremonies "sooner than later" so my father could be with us in Ohio.

Dad was not doing well and had been confined to bed or a wheelchair for months while he endured horrific chemotherapy. When we called to tell him our plans and ask for his blessing he was thrilled about our marriage but thought we were crazy to have two weddings. His advice-- Elope! Nevertheless, we set the dates-- both dates-- each one week apart, for August and September.

There is something to be said about planning small weddings in a short amount of time. You have to just go for it with no second thoughts! For Los Angeles, the hotel for the ceremony and reception, food tasting, music, flowers, cake, license and invitations for 64 guests were all wrapped up in a couple of weekends. For Ohio, it was one trip home to confirm the reception hall, ceremony, which was in my Mom and Dave's back yard, food, cake, music, flowers and invitations for 42 guests. Of course there were about 500 other details to consider but the big stuff was covered.

Then there was the issue of my dress. Let me remind you, I am not a girlie-girl and I was not interested in a “wedding gown". I was thinking more in the lines of a "nice suit" for the ceremonies. But, my Mom thought it was important-- no mandatory, that I at least try on a couple of “real” wedding dresses. She knew I was stressed about the planning and about my Dad’s rapidly declining health and she convinced me that I “owed” it to myself to try on some wedding gowns. You know, because it would make me feel all happy and joyful... “like a real bride”.

So, on my long weekend home in Ohio to plan our 2nd wedding, Mom, my three sisters, and my six young nieces, whisked me off to a bridal shop. Not just any bridal shop either. Oh no, no, no. We went to a bridal shop where the minimum amount of lace on any given gown was at least fifty yards.... Think Maria in "Sound of Music". Think Princess Diana. Think my worst Barbie Bride nightmare. Swear to gawd! Every dress was over the top frilly, especially for a non-girlie, thirty-five year old with a "lace phobia".

They just didn't work on me. Seriously, even the women running the bridal shop were laughing at how ridiculous I looked in the "princess" gowns. But, gosh, Mom and the girls were so happy, and so cute, and so into it all, that eventually, all my little nieces were trying on flower girl gowns and twirling in front of the huge three way mirrors and-- Oh! My! God! I'm embarrassed to say, it happened. I got “bridal fever”. Gawd help me.

No longer did a “nice suit” sound right for such a monumental occasion. All I heard in my pea brain was the old “I’m only doing this once” conversation that a crazy bride gets in her head when she's justifying going over the wedding edge. Suddenly my sensible self was out the window and my "bride self" really, really needed a wedding gown. Gasp! But I drew the line at lace and hoops and veils. I decided to return to Los Angeles and tone it down to a more age appropriate dress that I could wear to both ceremonies.

The problem was, our ceremony in Los Angeles was in a much more formal setting then the casual garden wedding planned for Ohio. Finding a wedding dress suitable for both was a challenge. So I did what any sensible, down to earth “bridal fever” crazed woman would do. I bought two wedding dresses! But they were not Disney Princess-ish in any way, shape, or from. I wasn't that crazy. They were nice, simple dresses, in a "wedding gown" sort of way. Ha!

With the dress drama resolved, I again focused on my miserable job, unpacking the new apartment I'd found (no I we not moving in together until we were married), the ticking clock til the weddings, and my Dad’s declining health.

Over the next few months I made multiple trips to Ohio to spend time with Dad and with each trip it was apparent the end was inching closer. We had long talks during our visits and I knew he was happy knowing I was, in his words, “finally settling down”.

Despite my “bridal fever”, I was realistic and knew my father would not be walking down the aisle with me. I was also fairly certain he wouldn’t be able to attend the Ohio ceremony, but I assured him we’d see him just before and just after we said our vows and I’d carry him with me on my heart. I’d be wearing a pin of my father’s both times we married and knew he’d be thinking of us at each precise moment.

I wish I could say this has the happiest ending of all, but it doesn’t. Dad died three days before our first wedding. My eyes sting even typing these words. He had so many things he wanted to live for, all of which involved his ever-growing family, and I know our wedding would have brought him great joy. My siblings and their spouses were all with him when he passed; I was on the phone from California. As I spoke my last words to him, my sister told me his eyes were open and the words were registering when I asked him to watch over us at both of our weddings.

I have little memory of the next three days-- They passed with little sleep and deep sadness. The only comfort found was knowing Dad was no longer suffering-- Something often said at times like that, but still not easing my grief.

My most vivid memory of our first wedding, which was beautiful, was of my mother and brother walking me down the aisle to my waiting Beloved and his two daughters. As important as the day was to me, there were no more tears on my face-- they stayed in my heart. I knew if I started to cry during the ceremony, from joy or sadness, I would not be able to stop.

So there, under the Los Angeles stars, surrounded by loved ones, Beloved held my hand and kissed me at least 20 times—No, he did not wait until the end of the ceremony to kiss his bride, he just kept kissing me, as if to bring me extra joy and extra love when I needed it, and him, the most.

We honeymooned in Santa Fe for a few days before we arrived in Ohio, first to bury my father, then to marry for a second time the following day. By now we'd had ten days to let our sadness sink in and it seemed as if our Ohio family was finally able to exhale and relax a bit.

We walked ourselves down the aisle together following a meandering stream of toddlers. My nine year old niece was my Maid of Honor, my eleven year old nephew was the Best Man and all my youngest nieces and Beloved’s three year old grand daughter were Flower Girls. My five year old nephew carried our rings.

It was a garden ceremony filled with laughter, lots of little people, and an abundance of love-- Truly a family affair. Mom and Dave gave us a spectacular wedding in their garden with a meaningful history to me.

Would I recommend two wedding in seven days? Absolutely, but only if you're surrounded by your loving family and dearest friends.

And yes, I’d do it again. Afterall, I have TWO dresses and lots of wedding planning experience.

Today, August 28th, is my first 16th wedding anniversary.

September 4th is my second 16th wedding anniversary.

I am blessed to have married the same wonderful, loving man-- twice.
Welcome to The Fifty Factor - Joanna

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

I Married Him Twice - Chapter Two

The second of a three chapter story.

Read Chapter One

Never once was the "M" word mentioned in our six year relationship. "M" as in marriage. Yes, we were in love, yes we were committed to each other, and yes we were blissfully happy, but marriage-- Not even on our radar screens until….

Beloved planned a lovely weekend get-a-way for us at the beach in La Jolla for Valentine's Day. Dinner was at the wonderful George's Restaurant over looking the Pacific Ocean. Love was definitely in the air-- and in the crowded restaurant. We were surrounded by love birds, literally! Everyone in the joint was declaring, celebrating and rejoicing in their love for all the world to see. Since love was not a word Beloved and I bantered around a lot back then, it was awkward and extremely uncomfortable to say the least.

To the right of us was a couple who had just eloped and had brought a dozen friends to celebrate with them. Behind us was a couple making out so aggressively that the moaning was hard to miss. In front of us was a couple celebrating their 40th wedding anniversary with the husband pre-arranging special treats delivered in each course of their food. And directly next to us, no more than three feet away, was a starry-eyed young couple holding hands.

After this young couple's champagne was served, the guy got down on bended knee, bumping into our table in the process, and proposed to a stunned and now none-too-happy young woman. The poor guy had a ring and everything and stayed on his knee for what seemed like hours professing his undying love before the girl finally agreed to “think about it”. It was hard to miss and painful to witness.

Except for the poor guy at the next table, everywhere we looked in the restaurant, love and marriage was staring us in the face. And there we sat, not discussing our love for each other, not being overly romantic and not interested in all the lovebird non-sense going on around us. But, it left a huge elephant in the room and both of us knew it. So we did what we'd always done. We ignored it.

Neither of us was particularly interested in marriage. Beloved had been married once and as far as I could tell, once was enough for him. I, on the other hand, never imagined myself married. I knew I didn't want to have children and I was fiercely independent and career focused so marriage was never a priority for me. Our relationship worked for us and marriage, or the lack thereof, was never an issue.

Back in Los Angeles and a few weeks after Valentine's Day, I had a huge meltdown at Beloved's house. It had nothing to do with our relationship. I was having an awful time of things. My father was now terminally ill in Ohio, I hated my job, and my apartment had just been robbed.

I was determined to move into a security building. But, under the circumstances, I wasn't sure if Los Angeles was where I should look for a new apartment. I had always longed to move back to New York City (where publishing jobs were plentiful) and I was desperate to be closer to my family and my father to help with his care.

Long story short, Beloved was the only reason I was living in Los Angeles and we both knew it. I should add that in our six years together, I'd been very clear that I had no desire to move into Beloved house and live together. I had my own place, my own things and I wasn't about to give them up for a "roommate". Sure we spent a lot of time at each other's homes and rarely spent a night apart, but we always had our own homes and were happy with the arrangement.

So, back to the meltdown. Apartment hunting was depressing. Little was available in a secured building or in my (fairly high) price range. I'd spent a long day on the housing hunt and in the end had received a call from Ohio that Dad was having an especially difficult round of chemotherapy. I was defeated, stressed and, honestly-- freaked out.

Enter Beloved, in his usual “save the day” manner, who enthusiastically suggested I "put my stuff in storage" and move in with him. He literally said those words-- "Put your stuff in storage." Not, “let’s make a home together.” Nope, “storage”!

Then he started babbling on about my not rushing into anything, i.e. moving, until after my birthday in April-- As if another six weeks and turning 35 would somehow make a huge difference in my circumstances.

I. Nearly. Killed. Him.

As I said before, I didn't need a roommate and through a sea of tears, I reminded him of that fact. He responded with more of the "wait til your birthday" crap until I finally gave up and prepared to head back to my just-robbed apartment to pack for my as yet un-located new apartment.

Mind you, I was not leaving in a huff. I was just trying to push through my depressing and now bazaar day to get something accomplished.

Beloved’s response was to ask me to marry him!

Whoa! He went from "storing" all my worldly possessions to the "M" word in under five minutes.

I started to hyperventilate.

Beloved explained, due to all my tears, that he’d panicked, with the “stuff in storage" comment and that the engagement ring he'd designed for me wouldn't be ready until my birthday in six weeks, so if I could just wait, I'd have the storybook proposal he'd planned.

As I said, it was the first time we'd ever discussed marriage so it was quite a surprise, frankly, it wasn't a romantic proposal. It was more like "stop crying so I can marry you" kind of thing. I'm pretty sure I said yes that day but we talked about it a lot before we discussed it publically with anyone.

And sure enough, six weeks later, on my 35th birthday, Beloved made a lovely proposal, with a beautiful engagement ring, on bended knee. Which brings me to how we married-- twice.

Stay tuned. Part Three on Friday.

Welcome to The Fifty Factor - Joanna

Photo Credit

Chapter One

Monday, August 24, 2009

I Married Him Twice - Chapter One

The first of a three chapter story.

It wasn't long after I'd met my Beloved Mystery Man in Milan, that I knew-- over salad-- I'd found my soul mate and was hopelessly in love. But I didn't let on to anyone, especially him!

While we were still in the “just dating” stage of our courtship, we were not seeing other people. But, we played the “dating” game with him calling me for a “date” numerous times a week and every weekend. I liked being “courted” and the relationship evolved slowly, but at a pace we were both comfortable with.

Neither of us was anxious to jump into a serious relationship, but there was no denying the spark between us. So we made a point of taking our time getting to know each other and building a trust and a meaningful relationship one “date” at a time.

Then, out of the blue, I got the dreaded phone call no daughter ever wants to get. My Dad was on his way into surgery for just-discovered cancer. The words still ring in my head leaving me reeling with helplessness. I was at work when the call came in and remember sitting at my desk for a full hour not knowing what to do. Then I called Beloved and cancelled our date for that evening. My Dad’s illness was simply too shocking, too painful and too personal for me to cope with. My usual instinct to “withdraw” and “put my guard up” immediately kicked in.

Beloved was having none of it. Instead, he said he would meet me at my apartment at 7:30pm which was when I usually arrived home from work. He greeted me in the driveway with open arms and no judgment as I cried uncontrollably.

Being “weak’ was not my usual self and I was embarrassed to be so needy and weepy in his presence. Despite my feelings for him, we’d only known each other for ten months and I’d never cried in front of him before. Eventually he helped me up the stairs, unlocking the front door for me, then settled me onto the sofa with a blanket and a glass of wine. When he disappeared out the back door I wasn’t phased and thought he’d had enough drama for one night.

Thirty minutes later, I dried my eyes and found the dining room table set with my favorite salad from a local gourmet restaurant. Beloved knew I had not eaten all day and this was my version of “Los Angeles comfort food”. It was one of the kindest and most thoughtful things anyone had ever done for me. It took a while for my first bite, but eventually I calmed down enough to start eating.

That night, as I told Beloved stories about my father, whom he’d never met, I knew I was in love. Of course I was also devastated and pushed the feelings as far back in my mind as I could, but it was very real and there was no turning back for me.

A few months later, for Valentine’s Day, I gave Beloved a beautiful salad bowl, which he thought, based on his expression, was a strange gift. No, I did not explain the significance of the salad he’d brought me, and insisted I eat, on that fateful night. It wasn’t until years later, after we were first married, that I told him this story of exactly when I knew I was in love with him.

Dad eventually recovered from this go ‘round with cancer but it was a long and difficult haul for him. Sadly, it was not the last time I got one of those awful phone calls about Dad’s health. Each time, over the next five years, Beloved brought me another salad and held my hand through the process.

Stay tuned. Chapter Two on Wednesday

Welcome to The Fifty Factor - Joanna

Photo Credit

Sunday, August 23, 2009

Sundays In My City #3

Do you know Unknown Mami? She's awesome and she's started a fun Sunday theme inviting you to get out and take pictures of your city to share with the rest of us. Click here for details and her logo and here to see Unknown Mami's city.

In LaLaLand, aka Los Angeles, you never know what you'll see. This week Godson and I stepped into Universal Studios Hollywood for about the hundredth time and, once again, had a blast. This season has some new attractions at Universal and a whole lot of the the old stuff but in case you've never been there before, here are some of the highlights.

I have no idea who the lady is below, but she's in about 1,000 photos taken by tons of tourists because she refused to move.

At Universal they are very serious about the No Smoking rule....

The driver of this car smoked anyway....

And this is what happened to him....

Fortunately, no one was injured in this plane crash below. That plane was smokin' but I don't think it had anything to do with cigarettes. You'll see it on the Studio Tour Tram Ride. It's the plane Steven Speilberg "crashed" for "War of the Worlds" starring that couch-jumping maniac, Tom Cruise.

This summer, Universal introduced a new live show. I wonder what they were smoking when they came up with this idea of a musical about "The Creature From The Black Lagoon".

An old favorite of ours is the Animal Actor's show which used to be called "Animal Planet Live" but I guess the licensing rights got too expensive. It's the exact same show, just a different name. We've seen it so many time we know the script verbatim. Note: If you see this show, sit to the LEFT of the stage to avoid birds pooping on your head.

Recently this huge attraction came to the park. It took us a few visits to get our nerve up to actually ride the ride....

It is important to note-- Go on this ride before lunch and if you don't like being rattled around or in a 3-D roller coaster ride, skip it. 'Nuff said.

After a long day of many "celebrity sightings" (Shrek, Dora The Explorer, Zorro, and Frankenstein) a couple of overpriced slices of pizza, an entire bag of cotton candy, and a million laughs, we headed home.

I highly recommend Universal Studios Hollywood even though it's not actually in Hollywood. We have season passes and go about five times a year during school vacations. Just please follow the No Smoking rules.

What's new in your city?
Welcome to The Fifty Factor - Joanna

Friday, August 21, 2009

Where Are My Manners

Yes, it's true! My manners are slacking and I have a few thank yous to catch up on.

Three wonderful bloggers and friends have gifted me with goodies.

Diane at Cooking Blind gave me this cool award for Superior Commenting. I read a ton of blogs and comment as often as I have something to say, even if it's just a few words and a thank you. Of course other times, I write mini-novels in the comments section and for that, I apologize for being a space hog. Seriously though, I like commenting and I especially make a point of thanking bloggers for sharing their work.

I really like the idea of an award for commenting so thanks a million to Diane for recognizing me!

Which reminds me, in my first several months of blogging, I've been called on the carpet and seriously scolded by commenters twice. Once was after my rant about turning 51 and not being the least bit happy about the impact aging was having on my appearance. In that case "Anonymous" dressed me down for not posting a photo of myself to show "just how bad I look". Then Anonymous DARED me to post a photo of myself-- Sort of a put up or shut up kind of dare. That's a dare that will happen when pigs fly-- dressed in tutus-- out of my nose. I'm not a picture taking girl, never have been, never will be. So I lost the dare and moved on.

The second dress down was on a blog about not enjoying retirement. And let me tell you, this commenter left me a mouthful of anger because I dared (there's that word again) complain about the "luxury" of not having to work. She, on the other hand was none too happy about the size of her government assistance check and pretty much told me where to put my retirement boo-hooing-- With lots of 4-letter words beginning with "F". I deleted the comment.

Green-Eyed Momster presented me with this lovely Superior Scribbler Award. Thanks Momster! I've surprised myself with how much I enjoy writing/scribbling and look forward to my spare time in front of the computer screen.

This award comes with a few rules and I've listed them below. But, since I read so many great blogs and don't want to single any one, or in this case, five, out, I give the award to all of you! I'll leave it to you to decide if, or who, you would like to pass this onto.

Last, but not least, my friend Betty at a Glimpse Into MidLife gave me this 7 MeMe Award. Thanks Betty! I'm supposed to share seven tidbits about myself and pass the award on to seven other bloggers. Again, I'll let you decided if you want to participate but I'll leave you with my "seven" things you'd probably don't know about me.

1) I find that parents who throw huge, elaborate, 1st birthday parties for their kids are usually the same parents who give a drive-thru Happy Meal to their kids for the 2nd birthday.... Or at least I would.

2) I could eat Buffalo Chicken Wings dunked in blue cheese dressing all day long. Seriously-- All. Day. Long.

3) I took a test in 8th grade that said all I was "qualified" to do in life was "clean Venetian Blinds". As a result, I have NEVER had Venetian Blinds in any of my homes. Not that I'm bitter or anything, but I'd like to send my resume to my guidance counselor and the guy who administered the test.

4) My toe nails are always polished. Today the color is lavender. Last week was hot pink. Next week maybe orange.

5) My high school sweetheart asked me to marry him while he was driving us to my Senior Prom. I laughed so hard he nearly wrecked the car. Yes, we broke up shortly thereafter.

6) When I was 19 years old, I decided being a ballet dancer was probably not a good career choice for me. First I discovered the above mentioned Buffalo Chicken Wings and second, it would drive me crazy when some schmuck in the audience would blow their nose like a mongoose in the middle of me dancing my heart out in Swan Lake.

7) I married my husband twice! Post to follow August 28th on our original anniversary.

Hope your day is Award-Winning and happy.
Welcome to The Fifty Factor - Joanna

Here are the Superior Scribble Award Rules:

1. Each Superior Scribble (SS) must pass the award on to 5 most-deserving bloggy buds.
2. Each SS must link to the author and name of blog from whom he/she has received the award.
3. Each SS must display the award on his/her blog and link to this post which fully explains the award.
4. Each blogger who wins must visit
this post and add their name to the Mr. Linky list at the Scholastic-Scribe's blog so we can keep track of all who wins this prestigious award!
5. Each SS must post these rules on their blog.

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Creative Writing

I love the school carpool lane and I don't even have a kid. I mean, I'm picking up a kid when I'm in the carpool lane, but he's not "my" kid. He's my godson and pick up days in the carpool lane are the best days of the week for me-- On two counts.

First of all, this kid hangs the moon in my mind. I feel in love with him when he was three days old and now at 12 years of age, I'm still crazy about him. He cracks me up every single time we're together and he actually likes hanging out with me. At least I'm pretty sure he does.

The second reason I like carpool days is that I'm a bit of a punctuality freak. School is only 20 minutes away from my house but I leave 90 minutes early in case our usually bad Los Angeles traffic is bumper-to-bumper. Sitting in traffic is stressful for me so leaving plenty of drive time eliminates anxiety.

Leaving early also means I usually arrive way ahead of schedule so I park in a shady spot in the carpool lane and enjoy being "disconnected" from my computer, email, and telephones. I'm not a cell phone kind of girl and the only person who ever calls me on my cell is my godson-- who's in school-- without his phone, so it's often an hour of uninterrupted "me" time.

And I get so much accomplished!

I call my family and friends on the East coast and talk with them while they drive home (hands-free of course) from work. I read a lot too-- Magazines, books, the newspaper. And I write-- long hand. For some reason, I can crank out blog posts pretty fast sitting in my car, in the shade, waiting for the school bell to ring.

It's a mystery to me as to why my home office has become my least creative space for writing. Sure I plow through paperwork, pay bills, and make calls; heck I even sew, scrapbook, and read for hours on end in my office. It's one of my favorite spots in our home. But for writing-- Not so much. I'd rather be in my car. Same goes for my kitchen, my patio or my yard. I can be completely alone and disconnected from electronics in those areas but not get nearly as much writing accomplished as I do in the carpool lane.

For the record, I'm not a car freak. I drive a Honda for crying out loud, not a Bentley. There's nothing special about my car whatsoever and I don't particularly like to drive! Come to think of it, I'm just as productive writing in rental cars, when mine is in for service, as long as I'm in the carpool lane.

There was a time, not so long ago, that I did my most creative work sitting in an old wooden rocking chair in my office-- A rocker that belonged to Mrs. Smith. For 15 years I sat in her chair for hours and came up with great advertising campaigns, if I do say so myself. How my creativity switched from the rocking chair in my office to my Honda in the carpool lane is a mystery.

And so you know, it's only when I'm in the carpool lane that my writing flows. Just last week I tried sitting in my car, in the garage-- I. Got. Nothin'. Not one word!

So what is it about the carpool lane that flips my creative switch? I have absolutely no idea. All I know is that it's been a great summer but a struggle to write blog posts. So I'm looking forward to life back in the carpool lane starting the second week of September. I hope having a routine and some quiet time again will prove to be just as creative as it was last year.

Where do you do you find your creativity?
Welcome to The Fifty Factor - Joanna

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Blogosphere Definition & GIVEAWAY WINNER

for WINNING my
Sarah is a U.S. resident so she wins both the clock and the $50 Visa gift card! Sarah is a fabulous writer, who usually leaves me laughing out loud. If you don't know Sarah click here to check her out. You'll be glad you did. Yeah Sarah!

And so you know.... My husband, who's as trust-worthy as the Accountants carrying the winners' names to the Academy Awards, drew the winning entry. And the bowl you see in the picture-- That was my late father's bowl that he always made his famous potato salad in. It's a MAJOR heirloom for me. So my husband and my dad, two amazing men, were in on the drawing so you know it was totally on the up-and-up!

When I started blogging, I had to Google the term "Blogosphere". I didn't know what it meant and I wasn't sure how to spell it. Here's what Wikipedia said...

Blogosphere is a collective term encompassing all blogs and their interactions. It is the perception that blogs exist together as a collective community (or as a collection of collective communities) or as a social network where everyday authors can publish their opinions.

In the past six months and more than 100 posts, I have come to understand the definition a little differently. This is what it means to me...

Blogosphere is a collective term encompassing an interactive worldwide group of interesting, dynamic, creative, caring and extremely talented authors who make me think, learn, laugh, cry and feel grateful to read their opinions and insights into their lives. This everyday author has deep appreciation for the blog community and the time others spend reading my work.

As I wrap-up my 100th Post Giveaway, I wanted to say thank you, from the bottom of my heart, to everyone who's spent time reading my blog. And I especially want to thank you for your support, feedback, emails and comments. Turning on my computer each morning and hearing from you is a great gift and one I do not take for granted. Thank you, thank you, thank you.

I'll spend some time over the next few weeks analyzing the Giveaway and if I find any interesting trends or lessons learned I'll share them with you.

In the meantime, I'm interested in hearing what the Blogosphere means to YOU.
Welcome to The Fifty Factor - Joanna

Monday, August 17, 2009

Elephant In The Room

Have you seen this in the news lately? I spotted this story Sunday and was amazed and happy to see this 50-something elephant get a new lease on life. You can read the full story and see more photos here.


A VERY big thank you to My Name Is PJ from Seens From the Backs of My Eyelids for this awesome award. I am flattered by her kindness and support. If you haven't met PJ yet, please stop by and say hi. She's a wonderful writer with a great attitude on life.


Today I am working on my Time & Money Giveaway which officially CLOSED at midnight August 16th. I'll have the winner posted on Tuesday! Good luck to everyone and thanks a million for entering!

Welcome to The Fifty Factor - Joanna

Sunday, August 16, 2009

Sundays In My City #2 & LAST DAY FOR GIVEAWAY!

LAST CHANCE: Leave a comment on THIS POST by midnight TONIGHT, AUGUST 16th to automatically be entered in The Fifty Factor Time & Money GIVEAWAY! For full Contest details click here or on the picture of the cake in the above right corner.

Do you know Unknown Mami? She's awesome and she's started a fun Sunday theme inviting you to get out and take pictures of your city to share with the rest of us. Click here for details and her logo and here to see Unknown Mami's city.

My City is Los Angeles, California-- Home of 9,862,049 people*. Sometimes it feels like all 9.8 million of them are in their cars on the freeway; but that's mostly at rush hour, or when I need to be somewhere on time.

I've said in this space before that I'm not a big fan of Los Angeles, mainly due to earthquakes, traffic and the massive size of our fare city, but there really are so many other things to love about it, especially in the winter. You just can't beat our weather.

Saturday was a perfectly beautiful day in LA so I strapped on my pedometer and took a one mile walk around my neighborhood taking pictures to share with you today. Maybe you'll notice the same things I did.

There doesn't appear to be an economic downturn or a housing slump in my 'hood! I know I shouldn't complain about that; it's a really good thing, but, I was sadden by the changes taking place before my eyes. Here's what I mean.

The two pictures below are examples of many of the houses around my area-- Mostly single story, well maintained homes built in the 30s and 40s. They have nice deep lots, at least by this area's standards, and are situated near a terrific elementary school in walking distance. What do you think? Nice, huh?

But below is what I saw happening to A LOT in these charming houses in my neighborhood. Many of the lovely smaller houses are being torn to the ground....

....And bigger houses are being built. This one below looks nice, doesn't it?

It's nice until you see it next door to the other one story houses on the street. Then, not so nice. We call this a McMansion. Do they call great big houses like this the same thing in your neighborhood?

Below is a lovely house a few doors from mine. I'm really worried about it too. It was recently sold and permits are being pulled to tear the house down and build TWO houses in its place. I'm not looking forward to that.

But I suppose I shouldn't complain because at least it's not one gigantic house like another one going up in the neighborhood. Yes, the pic below is of ONE HOUSE, not a hotel, not a condo and not an apartment building. It's a 6500 sq. ft house on a 10,000 sq. ft. lot. I'm hoping when it's finished it looks better than.....

.....This house below built on a postage stamp size lot. We call it the @#$%^& Palace! Where's the charm? Where's the character? Where's the yard? And where in the heck are they getting the money, in this economy, to build spec houses like this? By the way, the two charming houses at the top are a few doors away from this monstrosity. How'd you like to be their neighbors?

As I finished my walk, a giant air conditioning unit was being lowered onto the roof of yet another McMansion by a giant crane on a flatbed truck. At this point, I was, frankly, a little depressed to see so much change in my neighborhood happening so fast. But then I took a closer look at the truck and laughed the rest of the way home.

I may not like change but it's hard not to like Los Angeles and the ingenuity of the 9.8 million people living here.

Don't get me wrong, I'm not against big houses. I'm just sorry, in this case, it's at the expense of a charming, affordable Los Angeles neighborhood. There aren't have many of those left around here.

How's your Sunday and your neighborhood?
Welcome to The Fifty Factor - Joanna
*July, 2008 U.S. Census Bureau
Photo Credits: Mine