Tag Archives: downtown womens center

2014: My personal year-in-review

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The long road that crosses South Dakota

Before we get too far into the new year, I’d like to publicly review some of my favorite moments of 2014, aside from the day-to-day pleasures of reading, cooking, consuming art and seeing friends that bring such joy to me each day.

Once again, nothing on this list is particularly earth-shattering or headline-making–just lovely reminders that the most nourishing experiences we have are typically the simplest.

 

1. Seeing George Clinton and Funkadelic perform live in the park adjacent to the Queen Mary in Long Beach, with a drone hovering overhead.  A religious experience.

2. Driving from Rapid City to Sioux Falls by myself in a windstorm, on the road to talk with former acquaintances of the late Joan Kroc, most of whom were in their 80s and 90s and welcoming of this inquisitive visitor.

3. Being invited to join a lama and his entourage of monks as they ate take-out Chinese food in the hotel area at the St. Paul Athletic Club.

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Esther, may she RIP, and her little sister Marcie

4. Taking Ted to visit the sisters, Marcie and Esther, who my friend Diane helps out in Tucson and who have become my pen-pals. Esther, 92, passed away a few months later.  The two had lived together all their lives.  Eating potato chips and ice cream with sweet, funny old ladies in their kitchen was a huge highlight of the year.

5. Meeting Bhutanese refugee TP Mishra, a young and inspired journalist who runs the Bhutan News Service while working full-time and attending college.  We’ve been communicating for years but had never met in person. He became a naturalized American citizen a few weeks later.

6. Spending 10 days on a writing retreat in my snowbird Aunt Mary’s lovely, empty apartment in Delray Beach, Florida, which allowed me to have dinner each night with my parents.

7. Visiting my dear friend Katherine at her glorious family home on the sound in Wilmington, North Carolina, a place I used to frequent often but hadn’t seen in years.

Glorious North Carolina

Glorious North Carolina

8. Hosting a BBQ in the backyard of my brother’s house, where we reconnected with Chris, the son of lifelong friends of our parents.

9. Hearing the cover band AC/DCeased perform at a dive bar in High Point with my brother and his colleagues.

10. Playing hymns on my iPod in Ted’s parents’ home, inspiring his mother to sing out loud as if she were in a church choir.  She radiated joy.

11. My work at KCRW, which allows me to meet some pretty incredible people and makes LA seem more like a small town than the sprawling insane metropolis it is.

12. Being recognized for a HALO Award for the cooking group I lead on Skid Row, which meant attending a beautiful luncheon on Valentine’s Day with my college friend and cooking club member Liz.  We were inspired to hear about the wonderful volunteer work happening around town.  The best part of the award was the $25,000 check written to the Downtown Women’s Center.

13. And finally, the reopening of the pool at the Ketchum YMCA after 6 long, dry years.

 

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Giving (anonymously)

IMG_4516Maybe it sounds weird to some people, particularly this time of year, but I love to give things to people I don’t know, or who don’t know I’ve made a gift.  Maybe that’s why I love our cooking group at the Downtown Women’s Center: Each month, we make a meal for a group of women we never get to see, but we know they need it, appreciate it, and that it’s delicious.

That’s why I went to the USPS facility on Central Avenue the other day and chose a few “North Pole letters” to fulfill.  I don’t know these kids, but can you imagine how cool it is to get something in the mail from someone who may or may not be….Santa? Most of these letters aren’t written from zip codes where good news is necessarily proliferating: If a kid asks for clothing, it’s a pretty good bet he needs it.

In that spirit, I’m sharing this video about someone who lives in our building here on Bunker Hill, Kayce.  She’s a beautiful young woman, in her twenties, who happens to use a motorized wheelchair due to a disease that’s wracking her spine.  I met her in the elevator a few months ago when she got on with about 10 women around my age.  “My moms,” she said.

Kayce and the cupcakes, donated by Big Sugar bakery

Kayce and the cupcakes, donated by Big Sugar bakery

We held a fundraiser for her last week here on Bunker Hill to rally the neighbors, many of whom have dogs they illegally claim to be service dogs, to see if we could help her out. See, Kayce needs a trained, legitimate service dog to help her gain independence.  She happens to have a handsome fiance, but who wants or needs someone with them 24-7 to do what many of us consider basic tasks? (And a local bakery even donated the cupcakes we served, just because we asked.  Nice!)

If you’d be inclined to help Kayce get this dog after watching this video a friend of hers made 

I’d be grateful. (This is the link at which to do so.) And you, too, can learn (if you don’t already) about the joys of giving in this selfless way.

Merry winter holiday (aka Christmas, Hanukah, New Year, etc) to you!

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My personal year-in-review (is less about me than others)

photoAs so many of us are contemplating what we want out of the new year that’s dawning, I found myself making a list of what I managed to get accomplished over the last year, which happened to be my 50th.

While I didn’t do anything that by conventional standards was notable or headline-worthy (no bestsellers, no blockbuster deals, no gorgeous bouncing babies, house purchases, etc.) I was happy to see, in review, that it’s been productive–and more importantly, productive in a way that helps other people, my own personal mandate.

(Note: Only one of the things on this list involves making money.  Also note: This list is not in any particular order.)

Women of the DWC bake for their coffeeshop

Women of the DWC bake for their coffeeshop

1. The cooking group I lead at the Downtown Women’s Center (for women in need) helped them win a $25k grant from the Halo Foundation. We can’t solve homelessness by making dinner for people in need, but we can feel a part of our community and provide a healthy meal for those who don’t have access to what most of us take for granted.  Even better that we stoked their coffers, too.

2. I researched and spearheaded a movement that led to a rent abatement for over 100 of our neighbors due to the loss of our beloved swimming pool and other services here on my beloved Bunker Hill.  (I also managed to keep swimming, elsewhere.)

3. Working with another neighbor, we managed to clean up a deteriorating area of our community and involve/alert local officials, as well as draw media attention to the problem.

4. I’ve been working with Bhutanese refugees to help them with their all-volunteer media service that chronicles their resettlement around the world, a fascinating experience for me and important work for them.  Very interesting counterpoint to what I encountered while in Bhutan volunteering at a radio station there.

Academy of our Lady of Peace goes to Bhutan

Academy of our Lady of Peace examines Shangri-La

5. Of all the interesting places where I am fortunate to be asked to talk about the themes in my book, Radio Shangri-La, an all-girls Catholic school in San Diego and a gathering of hundreds of youth at the Kroc Peace Center were two highlights.  Love talking to kids.

6. I interviewed Deepak Chopra and his brother Dr. Sanjiv in front of 500 people at an Episcopalian church.

7. I interviewed Michaela Haas, the author of a compelling book about female Buddhist spiritual leaders, at a meditation center.

Vince at the gleaming Marlins stadium

Vince at the gleaming Marlins stadium

8. Along with my brother and boyfriend, we wrangled my parents and elderly aunt to a baseball game (a dream of theirs to see the new stadium in Miami.)  Later in the summer, we corralled my boyfriend’s infirm mother for a fun outing that involved ice cream and “freaking unbelievable hamburgers.”  Seeing her laugh was worth the entire trip.

9. I’ve read a lot, lot, lot, partially for my research on my Joan Kroc book but partially just because, which makes me happy especially when I hear people complain they don’t have time to read; I feel lucky that I do make time for this.

10. My part-time paying job, at KCRW, allows me to meet and talk with incredibly interesting people doing incredibly interesting things, usually having to do with art, usually mostly underfunded and otherwise unpublicized. Being able to share those conversations with the radio-listening and Web-viewing public is an honor and a delight.  It’s a rewarding (to me) application of my media background–which I resolved to put to better use after my book sold and allowed me to “retire” from daily news back in 2008.

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