Kancer with a “K”

I take turmeric daily. I thought the odds of me getting cancer were slimmer than say, me getting a heart attack or dying in a car crash involving a rideshare.

I have always had a tiny bladder. “Hold me closer tiny bladder,” I would hear in my head as I would tell people I had to pee. Their eye-rolls and sighs of “not again” would only spear me on to think…this is me – take it or leave it. But seriously, don’t leave…you’re my ride and I really have to pee. BRB.

Last year, my husband and I were in Hawaii. Only two years before, we were getting married on Oahu and it was a fun, exciting, chaotic time. So visiting again last year was like taking all the best moments of our wedding week and expanding and treasuring them, just for the two of us. Our last day, we had an evening flight so the day was going to be filled with wandering, lunch, drinks, more wandering and sitting by the beach. The morning of our last day, I woke up with a terrible burning sensation. I felt like every time I peed, I still needed to. And the pain!!!!!

I called my doctor and asked if she could prescribe me something to make the pain ease up. I had never had a UTI, but I figured this was one. The doc wouldn’t prescribe me anything until I came in to get tested (damn ethical doctor! j/k I love her). I finally went to the drug store to see if there was an OTC remedy which there was. It helped. But our last day in paradise was kind of a mess since I had to be near a toilet and seated.

Upon returning home, I got tested. The results were negative for UTI.

Weird.

There was still pain. But it came and went.

When I talked to the doctor, she said that it was possible that my body was changing and maybe this was part of aging for my body. She said that some medicines for bladder issues made people feel worse than the thing they were trying to cure.

We waited.

It continued.

I went back.

Got tested again.

I told her I needed to see a urologist since this waiting game was yielding no winners.

I meet with the urologist. The conclusion is there is some kind of blockage in my bladder. I assume it’s a cyst that will need to come out eventually. This is good news.

We schedule a cystoscopy for November 7 (a year ago TODAY), where he goes in with a camera to see what the block is and its size.

My appt is in the morning. That same night, I will be heading to LACMA for an event with Shaka, Mads, Jazzy and JRo. I head to the appt. I even have the strangest thought: I am not a person that will ever get cancer. Weird, right? And cocky. But more weird. And cocky.

The nurse numbs me and tells me this is not gonna hurt. She swabs iodine and lots of fluid down there. Doc comes in. Guess what…that camera going up my hoo hoo…it hurts. A lot! He is showing me the live version on a monitor. “There it is…that’s the tumor.”

“What? But but like a benign tumor, right” I laugh

“No, that’s cancerous. And it’s half a golf ball size.”

Those words float in the air as I deal with the pain of the actual camera and the new news of my bladder having a cancerous tumor.

I go to clean up. I use the toilet and out of habit, I put a seat cover down. I am not aware that my whole ass is wet from the fluids they pumped in me. As I stand up from the toilet, I have wet seat cover sticking to my iodine stained butt. I would laugh but I am trying to get dressed to meet with the doctor. But I can NOT figure out how to be an adult at this moment AND get my skin paper-free. I finally work it out and meet with the doctor.

“I didn’t expect THAT news,” I say.

“I didn’t either. Your symptoms weren’t indicating that it was that large or that it was a cancerous tumor.”

He went over the next steps we would take. I would not need radiation or chemo.

We will, instead, do immunotherapy with BCG treatments. It’s a form of TB that when coating the bladder (after they do surgery to remove the tumor), helps the bladder keep any cancerous tumors from recurring. Who was the person who was like, let’s see what happens when I shoot a TB strain into the bladder? Sick person. But I am glad they tried it. Success rate is supposed to be good. Also, bladder tumors happen for the most part, in older men. Who smoke. Or who are around a lot of toxic fumes. I am wondering…how did I get this? Last I checked…I am none of those things. Do toxic people count? Ha, I kid. But seriously…how did I get this?

We schedule the surgery (I will have another doctor since I want it done sooner and mine isn’t available). I have never had surgery. I have never even been under.

After meeting with the doctor, I call Shaka and break into sobs. It’s hitting me in fits and starts. I tell him I still want to go to the LACMA event.

“Are you sure?”

“Yeah, the only thing different right now is that I know what’s wrong with me.”

We head there. I tell Mads and Jazzy. Their reaction is confusion, like mine was when the doctor announced it to me. Only theirs has the added bonus of me saying it as if I am telling them about my new hair cut. Like that scene from “The Room” (go to :30), I just slip it in nonchalantly while I stand up to get more tacos and wine.

We take pictures and check out the cool exhibit and cough at the prices of wine! GASP!!!!

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It is exactly the kind of LA night I love and the kind of outing I need to remind myself I am more than this news.

SKIP SKIP SKIP

I go in for the surgery. I am told by friends and relatives that I will wake up and be amazed that it’s over and that I will feel dreamy. My pre-op nurse is a jokester and keeps saying things like, “I don’t know how to put an IV in…just kidding. I DO!” I love a good joking nurse, but am all but looking like I belong on a fainting couch with requisite wrist to my forehead as I see the IV needle out of the corner of my eye. On the upside…I am in a toasty gurney with cute socks and I feel comfortable. They give me something (they equate to a cocktail) so I will relax as I am wheeled to the OR where they will do the countdown. But as it turns out…I was out before we left the pre-op room. I only vaguely remember them wheeling me and me seeing fuzzy figures around me as I try and lift the oxygen mask and yell, “Is this an oxygen mask????”

The next thing I remember is waking up with a lot of pain and a calmer post-op nurse. And Shaka there with all my meds. The doctor comes and tells me it all went well and we will find out the results of if it reached the walls of my bladder later that week and I will have the catheter in for several days. SEVERAL DAYS!!!!! This is almost as horrific to me as the news about the cancerous tumor.

Thanksgiving was 2 days after the surgery, where I will binge-watch episodes of “The Office”, while perusing everyone’s holiday photos on social media. The catheter is making me so nervous. I also worry because my cat, Buster, likes to chew cords and I am a heavy sleeper. I imagine waking up with the catheter all chewed to bits and me having to get another one!!! But Buster behaved and that didn’t happen.

10 days later, the catheter comes out and the doc says they got all of the tumor. It was a pretty aggressive tumor but still contained (which he found unusual). It hadn’t spread to the bladder walls. I ask the doctor, “so I had a cancerous tumor but going forward, what should I tell people or list on forms? Like, what would you say I had?”

“You had cancer”

“Oh”

I wasn’t trying to be stoopid. I was trying NOT to overthink it.

A co-worker of mine says, “what did you think you had? Cancer with a “K”?

I guess I kind of did.

In the new year (this year), I have to go through the treatments. They insert a catheter into the bladder to administer the medicine. The first nurse (whom I adore), says, your urethra is easy to find. This shouldn’t hurt. Though I love this nurse, I realize she is a LIAR! It hurt so badly. I will say, that was the last time my urethra was easy to find cause I tense that shit up from the pain, every subsequent appt. The next 5 treatments have varied results. Crying, calming meditation, calming medication, me yelling OW OW OW! I must have a mark by name that I am difficult but it might also be that I announce it if I get a new nurse. Finally the 6 weeks are up.

In my naiveté, I assume the pumpkin bread I made them to apologize for my behavior was all I would need to part ways.

But the doctor informs me (and maybe he had before and I hadn’t realized it), I will need a regular cystoscopy every 3-4 months (remember iodine-butt) and then BCG treatments every 3 months and then it moves to every 6 months (3 sessions only instead of 6) and this will happen for 3 YEARS!!!

I almost cry again. But that same day,  I hear the news that a healthy friend of mine who had gotten out of a bad marriage and had found the love of his life and was thriving had been working out, felt weird, went home, felt weirder, called 911 and died on the way to the hospital (I think an undiagnosed heart condition). I mean, tomorrow is not promised to anyone, but DAMN!

So, I turned my  idea of feeling sorry for myself into self care and gratitude that I had a doctor who wanted me to get better. And that I was surrounded by so much love and family and friends. And yeah, tomorrow isn’t promised, so I better like today. I better like this moment. Every moment.

So the second round of 3 treatments happens and on the second one, I get a new nurse. I go through my usual, “I am a bad patient, so you will want to make sure I am blah blah blah and yadda yadda yadda…” I see her eyes get big with concern.

I feel her poking around down there and I think, Damn it, she is new at this.

I ask, “have you found the urethra yet?”

And she says, get this, she says, “We are almost done!” WHAT!?!?!?!?!

There was absolutely no pain.

The next and final treatment of that session, I have her again. I wonder if that pain-free session had been a one off.

But nope. Same thing! No pain!

I think, she must be a witch and has put a spell on me to make this easier. Whatever, I will take it!!!!

So with my gratitude and my summer plans, I enjoy my life.

In September, I go back in for another follow up cystoscopy (iodine-butt).

He says, “Hmmmm, there’s a tiny growth there. It’s not anything serious but it wasn’t there before, so I want to remove it.”

I have to go in for ANOTHER surgery.  I am happy it’s benign but I am not happy that I have to go through this again.

I have the surgery. It goes well. The first 4 days after, I am pain free and feeling amazing (no at-home catheter this time – YAYAYAYAYAYAYAY!)

Then the 5th day, the pain starts up. OUCH.

In fact, I am just NOW, nearly 6 weeks later, just feeling the pain subsiding.

A few weeks after the surgery, I have a post-op appt with the doc.

He tells me that they biopsied my tiny little growth and it was indeed, CANCER (FUCK! Again!). It was a different kind than the last one. This one is the more aggressive kind (apparently there are various KINDS that get to invade my bladder like some messed-up video game with Bladder Monsters). The doc is shocked since, like with the first one, this growth wasn’t acting like the usual kind of aggressive tumor.

But now I have to start all the treatments again. Like from the beginning.

My first session of 6 starts next Friday.

I am not happy about it. In fact, I have been feeling very uneasy that I don’t know what’s to come, since my poor bladder has been through the ringer already. I write this today and can’t believe it’s only been a year since I got the news of the diagnosis. I had been planning on writing this post for awhile, but that was before the second diagnosis.

On this day, 4 years ago, our kittens came home with us (after they had almost died due to an infection)

That is a good memory of this day. And my sister told me today is the day my teenage niece came home from the hospital 2 years ago after being very sick for like 2 months. So it’s a strange day of highs and lows in my family, I guess.

The other thought I had was that since my tumors (gosh, plural) have not acted or behaved like NORMAL bladder tumors and since these have been caught early and I have a good team, I will take it, that perhaps, I do have Cancer with a K.

Maybe it’s the imitation kind of cancer.

Wish me luck that I get the witch nurse again.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Residue from the Cult-of-Personality

I was a little surprised to be getting a call from Faye the day before we were gonna meet for brunch. We usually text.

I was out running errands and took the call.

“Do you know who Caroline Calloway or Natalie Beach are,” she asks.

I don’t.

She begins to tell me about them.

Caroline Calloway  is an Instagram influencer who has also been accused of scamming her followers for a “Creativity Workshop” that failed. She has been compared to the likes of Billy McFarland (Fyre Festival CEO), but I wouldn’t go that far. Caroline seems to take her critics to the bank as she turns their insults into merchandise. She became Insta-famous for writing longer (bloggish) captions on her IG posts before anyone else was doing that. She had a college friend who was like her invisible, talented, ghost-writer side- kick, named Natalie, who helped write some of those captions. Things were sort of good. Then they weren’t. And the friendship ended. Now Natalie has written an article for “The Cut” and before it came out, Caroline was giving it press in her anxiety of what was to be written.

It did come out. And now, Natalie has a deal with Ryan Murphy for the rights.

Natalie’s side of things

Faye wanted me to read up on it for our brunch the next day so that we could discuss, since we both love all things pop culture, real housewives and social media. It also touched a nerve with regard to fame, friendship and that elusive quality of being IT.

We met at Faye’s and walked to   Loupiotte Kitchen   in Los Feliz. It was HOT outside. Not cool, global warming! (ha literally). These temps lately have been making my eyebrows sweat off. Actually, just one eyebrow. Which is worse, because it looks like I gave 1/2 a shit. It never looks like I put the effort into it that I did. And it definitely never looks like the cool, no make-up/make-up, effortless look the French girls have like   Camille Rowe.

I used to live in Los Feliz but it’s been awhile since I have walked to brunch there. So much has changed (she said with the sort of awe of a person who has been gone from her hometown for ages). Loupiotte was a perfect choice! If I can’t have French style, I can have French brunch. We sat down and ordered our food with a side of the pastries sampling (can you say petit pain au chocolat? YUM) The food came fast and the oat milk latte (you heard me) I ordered was fantastic!

So Faye and I discussed the whole Caroline/Natalie saga as if it were our jobs.

But it began to turn into something much more. We discussed why the story touched a nerve. How, when you’re young (though it’s not only reserved for the young), you are trying to figure out who you are and you find people in your life that spark you. So much of the time, those sparking people are incredibly toxic. Which is why your friends and family scratch their heads wondering what you see in that person.

We pondered are we more a Natalie or a Caroline? Or both? And Faye pointed out that your answer of who you think the villain is depends on your own experience. Were you an alpha or a beta in those relationships? I have been both. I never think of myself as the villain, however I told her that in high school, I wrote so many papers sympathizing with the antagonists that my teachers started to worry for me.

Caroline is pretty. But she’s not the most gorgeous woman you will see. And Natalie describes herself in more understated adjectives, however, from the rare photos, she isn’t unattractive. What makes someone like a Caroline shine, while someone like a Natalie feels sidelined? Privilege plays a role, as do certain influences and experiences from a young age. But really, a lot of it is how you see yourself and value your own worth. We both agreed that neither of us saw either as the villain. But that Natalie’s article almost birthed Caroline into a literary character. Maybe she already was and Natalie captured it. We love messy, complex women. And we also don’t.

Our discussion continued as we talked About how society is training young girls to be strong and speak their minds but that there is always a limit. Who decides that limit? Why do people love an underdog but only to a point? Why do people love to hate/watch social media posts about the wealthy/successful/clever/narcissistic? Schadenfreude is a component, for sure, but I think there are more layers. We opened the vaults to our own experiences with these situations. About giving our power away to people so easily. About our own culpability in those moments. About the lessons we now can say we learned.

Loupiotte was busy. But we seemed to fade into our own world. No one pushed us to leave or hurry up. The vibe in there was lovely. Our discussion rambled into various phases of hypotheticals about social media and devil’s advocate stances to oppose. I hadn’t had that kind of marathon philosophical/social/real world kind of discussion since post-college, I would imagine. Or perhaps when I was high in Palm Springs on one of my many girls’ trips (but who can remember? ah weed).

We met the owner (an effortless French woman) and paid our bill. We continued our discussion walking up Vermont Ave, peering into shops. Once back at Faye’s, we began to talk about other things that were equally important but which we hadn’t given enough time. Then, her cell rang; her mom. My cell rang; my dad. It was strange that we had been talking about youthful experiences and behaviors, only to have our parents tell us it was time to go home and get ready for the week.

Faye looked at her phone to see her IG showed a post of Caroline at Glossier here in LA. We laughed. We have no idea why this girl is interesting. But we follow her anyway. I guess we will continue to try and find the answers. Maybe youtube has a video on it. Don’t mind me while I do some research.

 

Unboxing a Friendship

At a job that is in the industry, but isn’t that creative, I met Christia. It was friend love at first sight!

We have the same birthday and the same ideas on spirituality, creativity, positivity and productivity (all the ty words – lol).

Her sweetness is juxtaposed with her silent toughness. She laughs a lot even though her job is challenging. Most people would be happy to have accomplished the work she has. But she isn’t most people. She doesn’t brag and she doesn’t rest on her laurels.

She is also a fire spinner, a dancer, a singer, a producer, a writer and an actress.
She is many more things but I don’t want to make you think she is super human, though I believe she just may be.

This year, we celebrated our birthdays over high tea and she told me that the song she had recorded was finally getting made into a video. She was producing it and gathering her team.

She asked if I wanted to be a part. OF COURSE!

Not sure how I could help, but I wanted to just absorb it all.

I told her I could be as useful or as invisible as she needed me to be.

In May, on the day of the shoot, she picked me up at the crack of dawn, perky and looking fresher than a person who was about to be the producer and the star of a long shoot day would normally be.  Her car was packed in tetris form with craft services (some store bought food and some home made by her) and costumes.

A mutual friend of ours who is in the industry said to me, “you are going to learn so much.” I had worked on sets, both in front of the camera and behind and had even produced a few things, so I was a little taken aback by that comment, but egos are a funny thing.

I wasn’t planning on NOT learning. But I wasn’t in it for the lesson, if you dig.

I won’t get into too many details of the shoot other than Christia brought the energy, the organization, the fun, the creativity and the love to the set. She gathered a top notch team of people. Her make-up artist had created lashes that Lady Gaga had just worn to the Met Gala.

The downtown LA loft space was stunning. My mouth was either agape or smiling.

I put out the food Christia had prepared and was dubbed Crafty since everyone assumed I was the caterer, managing craft services (I wasn’t). But I  did make the coffee strong (no complaints) and I did somehow sense when to shift from breakfast food and then put out the lunch food and then snacks as there wasn’t a clear distinction of a “lunch break.” Maybe I was crafty – ha. Some of the crew, I respected from afar but would never warm to, while a few others, I was instantly drawn to. There was such a level of creative talent, that it was overwhelming in the best way.

There were lots of costume, hair and make up changes. The set and art direction were fantastic!

little box eyebrowslittle box setlittle box christia

It was a long shoot day but it ended with Christia taking Shaka and me to dinner and us recollecting all the adventures.

Our mutual friend had been correct. I learned a ton that day! Some lessons were production based. Some were personality based. And some were just knowing how far I have come in my own personal growth as a friend and as a creator. Witnessing how Christia handled this day and her own personal journey was quite rewarding.

Today, her video dropped and I stayed up last night to watch the premiere. I am so excited and proud of her for who she is and what she accomplished and what she will still create.

little box christia black hat

 

Radical Self Care

When I was younger, summers seemed to last forever. But then again, so did the school year.

Time is funny that way. And also…just saying “when I was younger” is strange since I was younger when I typed that sentence. That time of my life when summers were long was probably the span of 8 years maybe. Think of how long 8 years go by now.

Poof!!!!!!

and

Splat!!!!! (that’s my brain exploding).

I don’t think it’s so much that we are older or younger, but it’s where our attention goes. As we get “older”, our attention is spent on other things…more “adult” things than when we are kids. Ruts happen, bills get paid, time takes on a new meaning.

In talking to a co-worker yesterday, we discussed the ripples that get created in your life when you practice RADICAL SELF CARE. Sounds extreme, right? And it kind of is…at least in thinking.

It’s not only about pampering yourself.

Though, that can totally be part of it.

It’s about having your boundaries in line, about knowing yourself, and about being your best advocate.

This past weekend, I did fun things that we had planned, and some spontaneous things. I napped. I wrote. I cooked. I colored my hair. I massaged my feet. I turned down a few invites. I checked up on friends. I called my parents. I sewed missing buttons back on my clothes. I ate blueberries (I don’t normally like them). I stretched. And the most important item for me of late…I meditated.

I find that just taking 5 minutes of breathing can lead to carving a different path in your thoughts. Those 5 minutes turn to 10 and then to 15 and so on and so on.

I know not everyone has the same time constraints and obligations. But you have 5 minutes. FIVE MINUTES! In those 5 minutes, you can breathe into a new universe of potential. Will it happen overnight? Probably not, but it could.

If meditation isn’t your thing, put on your favorite music. Or read an excerpt from your favorite author. Watch a trailer for an upcoming film you are dying to see. Sign up to volunteer. Leave a vm for a congressperson for a cause you are passionate about. Play with your dog. Listen to kids laughing in a pool. Or…shut a window to drown out kids laughing in a pool and enjoy the silence.

It’s all about raising your vibration to get you back to taking care of yourself. And those vibrations begin to create action rather than reaction. In action, you start to radically change moments around you.

rad·i·cal
/ˈradək(ə)l/   noun
plural noun: radicals      a group of atoms behaving as a unit in a number of compounds

Self care should be something we do as regularly as brushing our teeth.
But since we are in a hyper-stimulated lifestyle these days, we have to amp up things just to get back to regular.
Get radical!

And if you think it takes a lot to get there, just close your eyes and take a breath.
And then another.
Before you know it, your breaths and time will start behaving as a unit in a number of ways.

And you will be able to find wormholes of time in those breaths.

Just like summer days when you were younger.

And if you happen to schedule a massage, there’s nothing wrong with being radical like that, either.

 

 

Big Little Expectations

This season of HBO’s “Big Little Lies” has left me feeling a little cold (and not in that Monterey fog kind of sit on your deck with a glass of wine cold). The first season held such beautiful imagery and mystique of a No Cal beach community. Paired with the amazing soundtrack, I, like every other fan, was hooked and was excited for this season. Meh. But every Sunday, I still tuned in.

bll

I was tepid about tonight’s finale. That’s only because I had such high expectations for it. I am not a believer in keeping expectations low and you won’t be disappointed, though I understand that line of reasoning works.

I am more of a “let’s aim for the moon and land among the stars” kinda gal.

A long work week for both Shaka and me, made us exhausted and ready for Friday evening in the biggest way. That isn’t to say it was a bad week. It was just very long.

Heading into this weekend, though, I realize, my expectations were high. I had big plans…HUGE PLANS! But I detest Sundayitis when the realization hits that all wasn’t accomplished before you begin a new work week.

But I am ahead of myself.

Every Friday, my department at work begins the weekend off with a bar. I haven’t gone in some time, but was happy to join in last Friday. We even secured a little turntable and were ready to play some cool vinyl that has been inherited or procured by Sutton, my cool co-worker whose stories are really cinematic and true! oxnard paakIt was a great way to make my way to Shaka. After a little deliberation of where to go for dinner (how come you have so many ideas of where to eat until the moment it’s time to eat?), we headed to Hugos (https://www.yelp.com/biz/hugos-studio-city-4). I hadn’t been there in awhile and it was delicious!

Saturday morning, while getting ready for a friend’s epic bday celebration at their newly renovated house, I began watching some season 4 Queer Eye. queer eye

I was in it for every emotional heart tug. I love those guys. Jonathan’s comments give me life!!!! I wish I showed some restraint to savor and not binge, but I know who I am. And well…by the end of the weekend, I am finished.

Sorry not sorry.

Then we headed to our friend’s pool party. The house is amazing! And there were kids everywhere. The last time we went to their house for a party, the house was a quarter of the size and many of the children weren’t even born. It was so much fun seeing Coll and Roo! And then Mads and (and correction here…her husband wanted to be called Sugar Tush 8 and not Sweet Tush 45. So his new moniker is “ST8”) ST8 arrived and we savored the tacos being served and marveled at the spaciousness of the house.

Nice people, fun times, happy birthday Roo!

In the evening, Shaka and I saw Awkwafina’s new film, “The Farewell.” farewellI really enjoyed it. I am still processing parts of it and will most likely discuss with my walking partner, Zam tomorrow.

My dreams were filled with Queer Eye moments mixed with The Farewell. I am sooooo on the nose sometimes. Even in slumber.

Today, was pretty chill. Shaka has been re-recording the first song he ever wrote and getting it just right, so it’s on repeat in the background. Even when it’s not playing, it’s STILL in my head. It’s really good! I can’t wait to share it here once it’s finished.

After running a few errands, I came home to Shaka sauteeing mushrooms in garlic and onions and it smelled heavenly. Even though I had been milquetoast on the BLL season, I was still invested and ready to watch. The vibe of wanting to drink a glass of wine, while watching the waves as the weather turns moody was alive in me. Though, the weather at the moment, is hot hot hot and there are no waves nearby, I decided to open one of Moondoggie’s wines.

modus wine

Sipping this delicious vino, eating good pasta with my honey, I was in the right head space to watch Nicole Kidman go head to head with Meryl. And you know what? I LOVED that finale!!!! Loved it! And I don’t think it was the wine mellowing me into saying that. It checked all the boxes for me of mostly what I loved about the first season. Was there a lot unanswered? Sure. But that last song with the montage of the last few minutes got me in my heart meat. And was there for it!

As I clinked my second glass with Shaka, I had to admit, I had met my expectations for this weekend. And there is no Sundayitis in sight. Only dreams of all I watched, accomplished and wanted mixed with what I hope to see play out this coming week. Clink!

 

Waves and Particles

I have spoken about my meditation journey here a little bit. But what I haven’t mentioned is how I came into a group that is still a very big part of my life, even if we don’t meet as often these days.

Here’s the short-ish version:

Mads worked with a woman she thought I would get along with. The three of us met up for after-work drinks. Another co-worker of theirs joined. I didn’t like her (the newest addition). But she would interrupt something I would be saying and say something like, “your guides want me to tell you this…” and she would proceed to tell me stuff about my life that she couldn’t have known. Apparently, she is a psychic. Shortly thereafter, she quit her “day job” with Mads and did the psychic healing stuff full time. My initial thoughts about her shifted when I went to a class she taught. We were never gonna be friends but I softened on her.

Not everyone makes a good first impression (case in point…I have no idea what the name of the woman Mads wanted to introduce me to was. I doubt she would remember mine either).

So this psychic sent out an email blast that a friend of hers was starting a meditation group. For some reason, even though my meditation skills were pretty rough, I jumped at this chance. I met up with this group of total strangers like 14 years ago. The people in the group have shifted. Some have left, some have passed on, some come and go, and some, stay in your friendship group. The woman who created the group and leads the meditations is still a dear friend.

There was also a couple who joined a few years later. Sula and Moondoggie came from quite a distance to join us to meditate. They are like-minded souls seeking answers like the rest of us, but had it not been for this group, our paths would have never crossed.

Moondoggie is in the wine business and after every meditation, he breaks out a sampling of some really good vino.

He has taught Shaka and me a lot about wines. I can even say, we have a quite a collection these days.

His IG account (which I prompted him to create http://www.instagram.com/itsallvine ) has a nice array of various varietals from affordable to high end. He has great stories too and knows a lot about the different wineries.

Sula is an amazing artist and is in the process of illustrating a children’s book.

We live quite a distance from each other so we only visit twice a year outside the meditation gatherings.

Last night was one of those nights!

A hot July evening was the perfect setting to try Ice Wine, exquisite chardonnay and pinot noir. A BBQ dinner with a seasonal salad paired nicely.  We played catch up with our lives (the highs and the lows) and talked music. We connected on a social level and then also on a very spiritual level. Waves and particles. We come from different worlds, backgrounds and ages, but nonetheless, in these moments, we are quite connected.

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Shaka and I brought desserts (a nice sampling from chocolate to raspberry and passion fruit macaron) from Portos (https://www.portosbakery.com/) which is always a hit. I almost didn’t bring the carrot cake but I am glad I did.

And as the wine kept pouring, things got dancy and singy.

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We ate dessert on the patio with the sounds of crickets and other neighbors having a similar evening. We talked about the cosmos and tv shows. We told off color jokes (mostly the fart variety).

I hate cutting myself off when the wine is so delicious but I know my limits and started to let the water (with lemons, of course, cuz Sula pays attention to those kind of details) be my libation way before it was time to head back home.

It seems random how I came into the mediation group. But after being in this group for so long, I know things aren’t usually random.

The universe is vast. But last night, two couples from different SoCal cities met up to cause a ripple in the time space continuum.

 

It might have been our deep conversations about quantum physics, or our laughter.

Or it might just have been our fart jokes. We are deep like that.

 

Baby, I’m AMAZED

Years ago, I read a famous book on spirituality. The person in the book went to a metaphysical bookstore in LA and while she was browsing, a book jumped off the shelf and into her hands. Without a creative impulse, I decided that because I was reading this, I too needed to get to the same bookstore so magic could land in my hands.

I was a copycat trying to lighten my darkness of depression, unemployment and feeling victimized by the world.

After an obstacle course in getting there, I arrive at the book store. A woman approaches me in the self-help aisle. She asks me for money. I tell her that I don’t have anything for her. I leave incensed. This was not what I came here for. I feel like I took a wrong turn. Then another. I wasn’t looking to help. I was looking to BE helped. Gawd!

As I return home and park, a homeless woman approaches me and screams how she has lost her car, her family and her job and that I NEED to help her. She is scary. But I am scarier at this point. I scream back that I don’t have anything for her and I huff away. Another wrong turn towards…well not towards what I want. Double Gawd!

Stoopid book on spirituality. Nothing magical happened. ONCE AGAIN, I am overlooked! No empathy coming my way *pout pout pout*

A few years later, a co-worker of mine (I was working at this point, but I wasn’t much happier), and I went up to the Mt. Washington home of guru Paramahansa Yogananda. It was lovely.

I had been raised around new agey-ness and meditation, but I was never really good at the sitting still with my thoughts. So although I could get on-board with the teachings and the philosophies, I couldn’t put meditation into practice effectively. Still, the location was serene and quiet.

I no longer carry that darkness with me. I know how to be happy, live in gratitude and be more empathetic towards those who are suffering. I have even learned how to meditate to a point where I can almost feel my body exude light.

That doesn’t mean I don’t succumb to negative energy. I do. But I can usually change course as it’s happening.

This past week, however, I found that I was working double-time to get back on the feel-good-train. It was exhausting. I came home Friday night and told Shaka about it. He said, “Maybe you’re not supposed to fight it so much. Employ the downstream thinking you usually practice.” He was right. But I didn’t hear him finish his sentence since I was stuffing my face with chocolate covered pretzels and then I fell dead asleep like some tired, weird, cartoon bear.

The next day, after watching a documentary on Paramahansa Yogananda, I exclaim to Shaka, (with the same desperate fervor that prompted me to go to the metaphysical bookstore many years ago), “I must take you to do the labyrinth at the Mt. Washington location. It’s beautiful and serene but there is this labyrinth that you HAVE to do! it’s really cool!”

“A maze?”

“A labyrinth. Not a maze. There are no walls or anything. I used to do this with my co-worker. We went a few times.”

“Cool!” (he’s so easygoing)

So I call the place and find out they will be open Sunday. I ask about the labyrinth.

The woman on the phone doesn’t recall there being one. I hang up, knowing there IS one, but we will have to find it on our own when we go.

After the past week of exhaustion and frustration,  I was slowly turning my weekend around 180 degrees. Life was good!

So after voting for our friend and his slate (United Progressives) as delegates for  of AD 46 (which was exciting to be a part of – and he won!),

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we got a text from Mads that there was a soft opening for Groundworks Coffee in North Hollywood.

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It’s in an old train station, right by the Metro. We loved it!

Time was running tighter than I wanted. We had reservations for an early dinner at Lucques (a generous Christmas gift from Shaka’s sister), so I was getting nervous that there wouldn’t be time to go to the labyrinth. Shaka, the zen master he is, assures me that downstream thinking is our friend and we will make it on time to do it all.

The twisty-turny roads towards the SRF on Mt. Washington are more windy than I remember. Shaka is questioning whether I have actually ever been here.

“It’s been awhile,” I tell him. Which it has, but the terrain is not familiar. My co-worker drove us there before so who knows how much I was paying attention (a little not at all).

We arrive! It’s breathtaking! The sky was a clean, just-rained kind of clear that you see in movies.

We find parking pretty quickly. Then, we look for the labyrinth.

The grounds are gorgeous, but I am not seeing what I remember in my head. We come upon the sundial. “This is where it was!” I screech.

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“This is beautiful. Does it matter if we find the maze?”

“It’s a labyrinth! And it was here! Where did it go? Come on! Let’s see if it got moved.”

We walk to an open space of green, surrounded by palm trees and foliage whose look and smell lies deep in my childhood memories of Pasadena.

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We sit on a bench. My gaze darts around the open space like I am looking for a late uber driver. Shaka sits quietly.

“I am feeling something here I haven’t felt in a long time.”

“Yeah, it’s peaceful,” I say unpeacefully.

“Let’s just sit quietly. Listen to the sounds you normally wouldn’t be able to hear.”

He is in meditation with his eyes open and is quite still. I frantically look at my phone to search labyrinth, mt. washington, self-realization fellowship, where-the-f-is-it?

After a few moments, I look at Shaka. “Want to walk around?”

“I want to stay here a little longer.”

“OK.” I close my eyes and try and feel what he is sensing. But I can’t. I am chasing a memory that doesn’t exist and I am frustrated. This was not what I came here for.

At the same time, we look at each other and he agrees to walk to the Visitor Center with me.

Shaka, still in a calm state, looks around the store and is breathing in the incense as two women who work there are talking. They turn to help us. I ask about the labyrinth. I tell them I came around 12 years ago and I walked it. The one woman snarkily says, “Well, if there was one, it must have been before I was here and I have been here 41 years.”

I bristle. We thank them and walk out.

Shaka asks if I am okay.

“How did you know I was not okay with her answer?”

“I know you.”

We wander around the main house and find a path that leads to a beautiful fountain and a view of the other side of the mountain.

I sit. And all of a sudden, a wave of energy hits me.

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I tell Shaka that I am now feeling something and that I would like to sit here for a bit.

And then apparently (according to Shaka), I took a selfie.

But then….I meditated.

Like a flash, I felt the words come into my brain.

The labyrinth isn’t here (echos of Westworld ring in my head, but I digress).

And then the location of where it is, comes to me.

EUREKA!

I come out of my stillness quickly and say, “The maze isn’t here!” I grab my phone and look it up.

“I thought it was a labyrinth.”

“It is! The maz  labyrinth is at Forest Lawn. I went there with my co-worker too! Now, it’s all coming back.”

Shaka, is laughing and shaking his head at me. “You almost missed this entire experience looking for something that wasn’t here. And I am still not sure you have actually been HERE!”

I am reminded at how I was waiting for a book to jump off a shelf and missed the message that was ready to bite me, so long ago. The message that others were worse off. The message that my life was pretty good. The message of being in the moment. That message had evaded me then.

I was doing the same thing now. But why? Wasn’t I better now?

Hadn’t I improved?

Well, yeah, I mean, I guess, now I was able to laugh about it as Shaka gently makes fun of me. Fun of me for thinking that lady was dumb and mean (though I still stand by the fact, her snarky response was NOT necessary), fun of me for not recognizing the gift of finding something unexpectedly great in place of what I was seeking, fun of me for being so anti-zen even though my mission was to get my zen on in this spiritual place.

Driving to our dinner reservations, we were both still laughing about it.

I was just happy that my memory hadn’t failed me entirely.

There was a labyrinth, or rather there is one. Somewhere else.

And I can’t wait to show Shaka some time. We can go there and meditate.

Because, you know it’s just so hard to find the right place to do that if you are already in a maze where you are waiting for books to fall off shelves.

But then I remember, it’s not a maze. It’s a labyrinth.

Slippery

This year has been an example of highs and lows.

Highs being that I am truly my most content with who I am, who I am with and what I am about.  I am planning a wedding (it’s as much a high as it is a low – ha – can you say CHILL WEDDINGS ARE STILL STRESSFUL? at least if you are moi). I am marrying my best friend and someone who makes me laugh and laugh at myself.

The lows being all the icons who are departing this plane.  David Bowie hit me hard.  So did Garry Shandling, to name a few.  So early in the year, the reaper started tending.  Last week, Shaka and I were discussing who the next big icon would be to rock our world if they were to die.  I said, Madonna and Prince.  And today, as if the Universe heard my hypothetical chat, we lost another. Prince, I didn’t think you were done with creating and rocking our world with your world.

The thing with these icons isn’t just that we are losing people who have made us think, or laugh or who inspire us, but we are truly losing magic.  We are losing people who shine a little brighter than the rest of us, as if to show us how the stars work.

It’s a little dimmer for sure in this reality, but it really showcases how we need to harness the stardust they have provided and live a life truer to our creative natures.  What moves you, should MOVE you, get it?  MOVE you to create, inspire and shine.

I went looking through old emails to find the photos I took at the Prince concert at the Forum back in 2011.  PRINCE.jpg

The treasure trove I uncovered of old writings, musings, blogs, emails, etc. was kind of like a time capsule.

This is a piece I wrote ages ago after meeting a kindred soul one night.  He and I remained friends and I forgot that I wrote it. But today, when realizing all we have is our creativity to capture our stardust, I thought I would share it.  I really like it.

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  A birthday party in March on a rainy Hollywood night.  I sat down at the empty end of the table not knowing that it would become the cool end of the table.

 You showed up late and sat across from me.  You had friendly eyes and your rapier wit was able to keep up with my repartee.  You had my attention.

 I was nursing a bruised knee with some ice.  Earlier, I had slipped on Hollywood Blvd., outside Musso and Frank’s.  You asked me which star I had fallen on.  I couldn’t recall since at the time, I was more concerned with regaining my footing in front of the audience of pimps, winos and hookers.  I told you I would go back and look when the rain stopped.  I never did.

 You seemed embarrassed that you were the only one at the table who smoked but repeatedly departed to alleviate your craving.  I drank to alleviate the pain in my knee.

 Something in your humility outshined your confidence and something in your confidence cast a shadow on your humility.  I doubt I was really aware of the duality at the time.  You made me laugh.  Really laugh.  Not the polite-I-want-you-to-like-me-so-I-will-laugh-so-you-think-I-get-you-sort of laugh, but really laugh.  You had a clever way of wording things.  You made me think.

 We left as a group and the air outside brushed our faces with a reprieve of rain and a brief breeze.  We walked as a group down the streets of Hollywood to a bar.  We entered as a group and stood as a group and tried to converse and figure out what the next plan of action was.  Were we staying?  Going?  Going somewhere else?  We stayed as a group who was losing its excitement.  The night was wearing thin and voices were raised and ears were deafening in the din of the music behind where we stood.  We exited as a group back into the night air, now ripe with the scent of rain, exhaust, and endings.

 And like a train dropping off passengers at their cars, we fell off in the groups we had come with.  We looked up at an abandoned building and said to Mark who was being forced to move, “Hey Mark, if you lived here, you’d be home right now.”  I think we laughed.  Who knows, it was funny.  Who cares?

We dropped you off at your car.  The rain started again and I wondered if I would take another spill on the sidewalk.    This time, however, I looked forward to seeing which star I would land on.