Tag Archives: kcrw

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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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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The zen, true secret of writing: Just do it

ImageBack when I was a young aspiring writer with nothing to write about, someone who loved and believed in me gave me a book about writing called Writing Down the Bones.

I can’t remember why, exactly, but I remember that it moved me.  Gave me confidence.  Planted the seed of a commitment:  Don’t be someone who talks about writing.  Or someone who makes excuses about not writing.  Write.

Now, 25 years later and the author has a follow-up, The True Secret of Writing, based on the writing retreats she’s lead ever since.

The theme continues: Don’t talk about writing.  Don’t talk about anything.  The secret is, simply: “Shut up, and write.”

It may seem an odd mantra for a Zen-infused woman to chant, but, as I retreat into my world for the evening to heed the call, I can say it works.

Oh irony: you can hear Natalie speak about this philosophy in this brief conversation I had with her for KCRW this week in advance of her appearance tomorrow night at Insight LA.

 

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Paperback Shangri-La

The promotion begins!  I am grateful.

The travel site World Hum is featuring the book (and an interview with me) on its  cover, and Jim Benning’s thoughtful questions get at the heart of what Radio Shangri-La is and isn’t about.

I was honored to be part of a discussion earlier this week about Gross National Happiness and alternate indicators to GDP on my esteemed KCRW colleague Warren Olney’s show, To the Point.

And the travel site Longitude wrote a lovely review.

As previously mentioned, the book is now on sale at Target, as well as traditional booksellers, where it has been chosen as an “emerging author pick.”

I appreciate the support, too, of friends who are helping to spread the word.  I’d love to get this book into the hands of as many people as possible–not because I’ll ever make another dime off it, but because I think the messages are important.  (Including the story of the Bhutanese refugees, which is under-reported in the mainstream media.)

Bhutan presents many paradoxes and is a beautiful, complicated place that sums up so many of the challenges our world is grappling with right now.  I’m honored to have experienced what I have.

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