Sunday, January 31, 2010

Sundays In My City #22 - UCLA

Do you know Unknown Mami? She's awesome and she's created a fun Sunday theme inviting you to get out and take pictures of your city to share with the rest of us. Click HERE to see Unknown Mami's City today.

The University of California Los Angeles (UCLA) campus is about 15 minutes from our home. It's a gorgeous university and I'm usually in this building 2-3 times per month during the school year....

This is Royce Hall, an architectural landmark on the campus. It's one of the four original buildings and was completed in 1929. Classes are held here but the main attraction is the 1600+ seat auditorium that's hosted everyone from Duke Ellington to Yo-Yo Ma over the years.

I volunteer with Design For Sharing, the educational outreach program for UCLA Performing Arts. We raise funds to bring more than 20,000 public school children to Royce each year to see world renown music, dance and theater programs. It's pretty cool.

When the excited kids arrive on campus, via school bus, they line up in front of Royce, straining to see inside. For many, it's their first time on a university campus and seeing a live performance....

As the doors open, they step up to the building and see this....

When the kids look up and see this, the ohhs and ahhs start.....

And if a student stops to see this...

The entire line of kids behind them bump into each other like a domino effect because they're all looking up to and not watching where they're going.

I did the same thing the first time I entered Royce Hall.

How's your Sunday?
Welcome to The Fifty Factor - Joanna Jenkins
Photo Credit: Joanna Jenkins
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Thursday, January 28, 2010

Would you tell the truth?

In an effort to ease the pain on our shrinking bank account as we prepare to drop a bundle of cash repairing our backyard's sinking pool and deck, I came up with a money-making idea that I'm pretty fired up about.

California was the first state in the nation to legalize medical marijuana. Some people think it should all be legalized which means the demand for pot could go through the roof.

The debate over this issue is smokin' hot, as you might imagine, and it's constantly being reported on in the local news.

I found out that just before the Los Angeles City Council voted this week on its new medical marijuana ordinance, members were asked, one by one....

"Have you ever smoked pot?"

-Two could not be reached for comment. How convenient.

-Two would not answer. Wimps.

-The two ex-cops "Just Said No".

-Three others said they had never smoked pot, one of which was the daughter of a former LA mayor who feared if she did, she would embarrass her dad.

-Two others said they had indeed smoked marijuana but offered stories of explanation-- College, girls and parties were involved.

-Speaking of parties, this guy (above) would only say that he went to college in 1969. Wink-wink.

-And the Council President gave a firm "yes" but was none to happy about having been asked. Poor baby.

But what I found so interesting was that this guy (below), said he "had" smoked pot in the past, but refused to answer if he "still" smoked it today. And that got me thinking....

With medical marijuana being such a hot commodity, and since I have a green thumb, why not pull out my rose bushes and plant some pot in our backyard!

It's estimated that Los Angeles has nearly 1,000 legal medical marijuana pharmacies! And even if they limit the number of pharmacies, the demand for marijuana is still apparently, high-- no pun intended.

Somebody has to grow their pot, why not me?

From what I've read on the Internet (and yes, I take that with a grain of salt), I potentially could legally grow as many as 99 marijuana plants on our property and I wouldn't have to fill in the pool with dirt to do it. And since the backyard is going to be all torn up from the repair job anyway, when it's time to replant, I could grow some wacky terbacky and replenish our bank account!

Think about it, how hard could it be to plant some seeds, water regularly, harvest our crops (hopefully multiple times per year) and pull in some new found greenbacks for our gardening efforts?

Yes, I realize money doesn't grow on trees, but it might, in this case, grow in the grass and perhaps be a simple way to help pay for the repair job.

Of course I still have research the legalities involved, and then I have to get the nerve up to run this brainstorm past Beloved Husband. After all, he is very fond of our backyard. Ninety-nine marijuana plants would pretty much take up the whole space, and it could crimp his bar-b-queing-- Gawd forbid a spark caused our crops to go up in smoke.

Growing marijuana could solve a lot of problems. Beloved and I have talked numerous times about how much I dislike being retired. This could be the perfect solution-- A home based business, utilizing a hobby I enjoy, that's potentially very profitable! And it is only 99 plants.

If someone asked you if you ever smoked pot, would you "go on the record" and tell the truth?

Welcome to The Fifty Factor - Joanna

Top Photo Credit: © Lasse Kristensen -

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Hidden Treasures

Mrs. Smith taught me how to "keep house" as she used to say. And, she taught me how to "stash my loot for safe-keeping". Even though I didn't have any "loot" as a kid, I learned from a master and have put her lessons to good use in my own home today.

I was 13 when I met Mrs. Smith. (I first told you about my dear friends Mr. and Mrs Smith here.) Every Saturday for years we spent four hours together cleaning and doing chores around her house.

She had a gorgeous collection of handmade oriental rugs covering beautiful hardwood floors throughout her house. Each week, I'd dust the floorboards, on my hands and knees, then I'd vacuum the rugs using the small attachment generally reserved for drapery cleaning. She said we cleaned this way to protect the workmanship for the rugs which were easily a hundred years old and the original wood floors circa 1930-ish.

We were fast friends and I looked forward to our time together. After about six weeks of Saturdays, Mrs. Smith trusted me enough to start peeling back her rugs to share the "loot" she'd hidden under the padding. I'm here to tell you, it was a wealth of booty and mementos from the Smith's long, happy marriage.

They were world travelers and Mrs. Smith was a "saver". Tucked under the rugs were stunning hand written menus from luxury ocean liner trips across the Atlantic, cocktail menus from some of the finest restaurants and night clubs of old New York City, telegrams and opera playbills from Italy, and love letters from Mr. Smith to name a few.

She called them her "flat treasures" and it took two full years before we'd peeled back all of the rugs and talked about all of the items and where they'd been collected from. Some were dated in the early 1900s and a few items were passed on to Mrs. Smith from her mother.

The hidden loot was a big secret that I felt privileged to be trusted with. I always smiled when folks would pay Mrs. Smith a visit and comment on the beautiful rugs. With a wink, she never let on that her guests were walking on worldly treasures.

Once we worked our way through all the rugs in the house-- nearly 20 as I recall, I was introduced to the "secret sofa". Mrs. Smith's sofa belonged to her late mother. The mahogany carved wood with rose velvet upholstery was usually draped with a sheet to "protect it from the sun" because it was close to a hundred years old.

Thinking about it now, I didn't even know what color the sofa was for the entire first year I knew her-- It was that well covered and "protected" giving the living room a don't-sit-on-the-furniture warning.

On this particular Saturday, it was time to move and clean behind the sofa. That's when I discovered the "secret". Behind the sofa, on the beautiful mahogany, was a long row of small nails, each exactly an inch and a half apart. (Mr. Smith was an engineer and his attention to detail was legendary.)

On the nails hung Mrs. Smith's impressive collection of fine jewelry. From diamond and emerald rings to pearl and sapphire necklaces, her lovely and quite valuable collection of jewels hung out of sight on the back of sofa in "a safe place".

Mrs. Smith was sure, no one would ever look behind her sofa for "the loot". And fortunately, in the 30+ years she lived in the house, she was right.

One by one, I heard the story behind each cherished piece of jewelry and how they came to be Mrs. Smith's. Some were family heirlooms, others "tokens of affection" from Mr. Smith throughout their marriage. With few exceptions, she never wore the jewelry but she loved showing it to me.

But it was the small, beautifully wrapped gift box, the kind you can lift the wrapped lid off without tearing the paper, that amused me the most. Inside the gift box was several hundred dollars in cash-- Mrs. Smith's "emergency loot". On the box was a card addressed "To Little Billy - Love, Auntie Mary".

Here's the thing-- Mrs. Smith's first name wasn't Mary and she didn't know anyone named Billy. The package was wrapped and addressed this way because she didn't want a robber to know her real name. And, she was positive, no self-respecting robber would steal a wrapped present for a little boy. I kid you not. She actually used the words "no self-respecting robber"!

Before living in the house, Mrs. Smith honed her "loot stashing" skills by living in fancy hotel suites for extended periods of time with Mr. Smith while he was a project engineer on huge construction jobs. Yes, she kept some things in the hotel's safe but she also figured out that people by nature, generally do not pull back rugs, move sofas or "swipe" wrapped packages when a hotel suite was being cleaned.

So when Mrs. Smith settled into her own house, she took things one step further and incorporated her unique, do-it-yourself-security-system and stashed her "loot" in plain sight, under foot, and behind furniture.

And for the record, she laughed at the notion of hiding her jewelry in the freezer. She thought that was too obvious and easy to find.

Today, in my home, I have several area rugs on our wood floors. Although the great art of hand written menus is long past, I've managed to accumulate numerous "flat treasures" that I walk on every day.

A few months ago, when Godson turned 13 years old, I repeated the tradition and started peeling my rugs back to share my loot with him. I have some of his first grade artwork, a couple of cool showbiz award programs, an autographed movie poster, and newspaper articles with Beloved husband quoted. It's no where the quantity of "loot" Mrs. Smith had under her rugs, but they are my bigger items that lend themselves to being flat. And, Mrs. Smith had a 65 year head start on me so I'm confident I'll eventually catch up.

Do I have a small gift wrapped box addressed to "Billy" with my emergency cash? Not exactly, but I do have something very similar. As for my jewelry hanging from the back of my sofa-- No way, not even with our security alarm system. Sadly, times have changed a little too much for me to be comfortable with that. But I truly enjoy walking around on my "flat loot" every day.

Are you a treasure saver?
Welcome to The Fifty Factor - Joanna Jenkins
Photo Credit: © Cilgin -

Monday, January 25, 2010


The conversation, actually several of them, keep playing over and over again in my head. It keeps me awake at night. It occupies way too much space in my brain. And, it's so old and boring I don't know why I bother, other than it still really bugs me.

I'm talking about the "I coulda-shoulda-woulda-said" conversations that I just can't shake-- The ones when I regretted the words the moment they crossed-- or rather didn't cross my lips and I knew I'd be replaying them for years to come.

95% of the time, I was "being polite" to the person I was talking with instead of really speaking my mind. The other person was usually telling me my business but I either kept my mouth shut or I made light of the load of you know what they were shoveling my way.

The other 5% of the time, I was just too stinking slow to think of a good comeback line. Damn!

Countless times I've rerun these little chats with myself, remembering every detail of the original conversation, only this time, in my head, I find my mojo, my voice, my nerve, my attitude, my balls-- whatever you want to call it, and speak up for myself saying what I really mean.

Like my sixth grade teacher-- The meanest woman an 11 year old ever met. Every single conversation we had for an entire year started with her saying some less than encouraging remark like "I knew you'd get it wrong." Oh yeah, she was a real inspiration. But every time she blasted me, I was polite, and frankly, I was afraid of her, so I didn't let on that she was a mean old battle ax with bad breath who didn't know squat about my academic potential.

Imagine having that conversation with yourself for the past 40 years! Like I said, some things take up too much space in my brain, but I still remember each instance and know exactly what I should have said.

My last conversation with my high school sweetheart rattles around my head too. In short, he wanted to get married, I didn't, so he cheat on me. Yes, the same guy that was going to marry a virgin (aka me!) slept with somebody else. And then he told me it was all my fault-- To which I responded...

"Oh Bob, I am so sorry, I didn't mean to make you cheat on me."

You can only imagine the talking to I've given myself over that one! If I had it to do over again, I would bitch slapped Bob until he begged me to stop and then I'd slapped him some more.

But the conversation repeating in my head is not to the teenage boy, it's to the grown man of today, who is why I have never made apologizes for a man's shortcomings ever again.

Some of my other conversations are too colorful or just plain ugly to repeat but suffice it to say, I would have taken a whole lot less hatefulness and fired way more attitude back in my defense.

It only takes a song on the radio or seeing a particular style of clothing to spark a memory that rewinds a conversation. Other times the taste of a certain food or the smell of a certain scent is so powerful it gives me pause-- Until the I-coulda-shoulda-woulda-said conversation starts up again.

The good news is that none of my original conversations on instant replay have happened in the last 25 years, rather they are conversations from "my youth". And in each case, they were a significant life lesson that, although painful at the time, shaped in part, who I am today. At least that's how I justify it....

But let's face it, I talk to myself way to much.

Do you have I-coulda-shoulda-woulda-said conversations?
Welcome to The Fifty Factor - Joanna Jenkins
Photo Credit: © Lai Leng Yiap -

Sunday, January 24, 2010

Sundays In My City #21 - Soggy!

Do you know Unknown Mami? She's awesome and she created 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 click here to see Unknown Mami's City TODAY.

You might have heard that it's been raining in Southern California-- A LOT! We aren't in an evacuation area but the storm captured our attention throughout the week and at times the intensity was a little scary. My neighborhood is doing okay and the storm, although it rained buckets, did not do the major damage to burn areas as expected. Phew!

Below is the picture I showed you January 4th. A huge tree had fallen off our backyard and exposed this gorgeous view with the Hollywood sign on the right. We can see for miles and miles...

This is what that same view looked like countless times this past week compliments of the storm. Foggy, dark and pouring rain. The view is completely gone...

When you'd least expect it, the rains would stop and the clouds would part....

The clouds created interesting colors including parts of the mountains looking almost black...

On Friday, the craziest thing happened. I opened our front door and took this picture. It's not snow......

It's hail and it covered everything-- for about 5 minutes, then it was washed away by the rain.

Finally, Saturday morning, the rains stopped and this is the view. Yes, that's snow on the mountains in the distance.
Rain is forecast again next week. That means our sinking deck and pool repair will be put off for at least another week until things dry out. So far so good. Everything is still in place! Yippee!

How's your Sunday?
Welcome to The Fifty Factor - Joanna Jenkins
Photo Credit: Joanna Jenkins

Saturday, January 23, 2010

Look Who's Talking - David McMahon!

Barely into blogging, I discovered David McMahon's Authorblog and hung on his every word. His blog was all about "encouraging others in excellence" and he did-- every single day!

David is the source of Blogland's wildly popular, Post of the Week, an honor he bestowed on my twice and The Sunday Roast, which he also asked me to participate in. His recognition was HUGE for this newbie blogger and greatly appreciated.

David stepped away from blogging in September, 2009 (gasp!) to work on his novels. But, Eddie Bluelights-- the current father of The Sunday Roast has lured David back for a great interview in blogging.

Please stop by and show David some blog love-- Eddie too!

Truth be told, I kind of stalked David in the early days but he was gracious and offered feedback and encouragement, rather than calling the cops.

Hope you're having a great weekend!
Welcome to The Fifty Factor - Joanna
Photo Credit: David McMahon

Thursday, January 21, 2010

Be Happy

It may be raining buckets here in Los Angeles, but I'm getting happy thanks to my good friend, Anne H. at Carb Tripper, who bestowed the "Happy 101" Award on me recently. Before I listed "10 Things That Make Me Happy", I looked "happy" up in the dictionary.....


–adjective, -pi⋅er, -pi⋅est.
1.delighted, pleased, or glad, as over a particular thing: to be happy to see a person.
2.characterized by or indicative of pleasure, contentment, or joy: a happy mood; a happy frame of mind.
3.favored by fortune; fortunate or lucky: a happy, fruitful land.
4.apt or felicitous, as actions, utterances, or ideas.
5.obsessed by or quick to use the item indicated (usually used in combination): a trigger-happy gangster. Everybody is gadget-happy these days.

Although the things that make me happy are abundant, below are the first ten that came to mind...
1) Beloved Husband because he loves me so good.

2) My great big family in Ohio who make me laugh all the time.

3) My Godson and his Mom-- they totally "get me".

4) Friends-- my glorious friends, from coast to coast.

5) Dark chocolate-- the really good stuff or the cheap stuff. I'm easy when it comes to chocolate.

6) A shady spot on a beautiful sunny day. Lupus doesn't let me be in the sun and shade is a treasure.

7) Helping to plan my friend's 100th birthday party next month.

8) Homemade chicken soup and grilled cheese sandwiches for dinner.

9) Seeing my niece's baby bump! In June, I'm going to be a great-aunt for the very first time!

10) My girl and guy pals of the blogosphere who are so generous with their comments, support and friendship. (Thank you!)

Here are the instructions that come along with this award:
--Copy the image and display it on your blog.
--List 10 things that make you happy.
--Try to do at least one of them today.
--Pass on the award to 10 (+/-) bloggers who brighten your day-- include links. (Yes, I'm wimping out and not naming names. Sorry.)

I pass this award on to anyone who needs to remind themselves of the happy things in their lives and to all the rest of you who want to share your happiness.

Thanks to Anne H. for passing this award on to me. Her timing was perfect and lifted my spirits. If you don't know Anne, please visit her blog. In addition to being on a successful weight loss journey, she also has great taste in music and videos.

What did you today that made you happy?
Welcome to The Fifty Factor - Joanna Jenkins

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Moving Forward

With great relief, I turned the calender from 2009 to 2010-- I did so with the hope for a kinder new year. But before I could figure out if I'll call it "two thousand ten" or simply "twenty-ten", the Grim Reaper knocked on our family's door again and we gathered for yet another funeral last week.

I came home after a painfully long funeral day and reread, for about the twentieth time, this post on grieving by Holly Dietor. Her words touch me deeply and I share it with you in case you missed it's original publishing. Although I've never actually heard Holly's voice, as I read, I could see her in my mind's eye and heard her speaking to me about loss and grieving. It helped tremendously.

Last month, just before Christmas, Beloved husband and I traveled to Israel on short notice, in a rush, to visit a cherished loved one who was near passing. It was important and meaningful for us to spend one last time with him while he was still alert and communicative. We made it just in time.

The grieving process for this loved one overwhelmed Beloved and I on our return flight to Los Angeles because we knew he probably would, and in fact did, pass away while we were flying home. In my jet-lagged, sleep-deprived state, I tried to remember Holly's words to share with Beloved in hopes of bringing him comfort.

As she so eloquently stated, grieving is an individual process that we need to experience and move forward through. But with the loss of so many loved ones in the past year, I often feel stuck, even paralyzed sometimes, with heartache. I am blessed that Beloved has nurtured, nudged and occasionally pushed me forward through the grieving process which helps make some of it more bearable but I know I still have a long way to go.

Earlier today I called a close friend whose husband passed away several months ago. She'd been having a very difficult time and her first holidays without him were especially painful. To my delight, the phone was answered by her 6 year old grandson who was visiting, along with his younger sister and parents from out of town, in hopes of cheering her up. He proudly spoke in his most polite and grown-up voice-- "Hello, Grandma's residence, James speaking." We chatted for a few minutes before I asked to talk to his Grandma. His words spoke volumes....

"Grandma is on a playdate with her friends."

Aside from it being a very cute answer, it meant that, for the first time in months, his Grandma was up to going out of the house with a few friends for lunch. I thought of Holly's words about moving forward through grief and admired her bravery as I know it wasn't easy to do.

Today life is much quieter for me-- A year earlier I would have never dreamed it imaginable that several of my "playdate" loved ones would have passed away. But now, thanks to Holly's wise words and the sweetness of a child's response, I am reminded that grieving is part of the process-- and so is moving forward.

Welcome to The Fifty Factor - Joanna Jenkins
Photo Credit: © Tatiana Grozetskaya -