Have you heard the one about a shrink-wrapped boulder?

English: Los Angeles County Museum of Art
Image via Wikipedia

Ludicrous, as defined by the World English Dictionary, means “absurd or incongruous to the point of provoking ridicule or laughter.” I can understand why that word comes to my mind so frequently. I will refrain from overt political commentary, but much of what I observe on the national stage is, in my eyes anyway, ludicrous!

Now preposterous is another very fine word! Dictionary.com offers, “completely contrary to nature, reason or common sense; absurd; senseless; utterly foolish.” Synonyms included, “unreasonable, excessive, and ridiculous!”

These two words have been playing on my mind today.

Perhaps you were among the respondents to a national poll ranking the popularity of each state in the country. I do hope you weren’t in the majority rating California the most disliked state in the nation! Preposterous! Or maybe ludicrous! Who is behind the Public Policy Polling? I’d like to see what questions were asked. Maybe this wasn’t even a legitimate poll, but it has had its day in the press! No worries. I keep thinking that we are certainly overcrowded for a place no one appreciates!

But then I heard something on the news this morning that supplied me with a possible glimpse, probably a good clue, as to why WE in the Golden State are apparently viewed as a little odd.

Here’s today’s headline! “Rock is one day closer to LACMA.” Yep! As I sleep tonight a 340-ton boulder will continue along its journey from Riverside, California to the Los Angeles County Museum of Art. This boulder, a 22-foot-rock, will travel 105 miles to end up, as one article put it, “to sit on the lawn” behind LACMA.

I am now following this momentous journey via museum tweets, not because my interest in the details is all that high, but because I find so much humor attached to the way it is being reported. One news reporter commented that this “may be” the largest boulder moved since the ancient Egyptians–I think that claim may be preposterous, or is THIS ludicrous!

However, today’s LA Observed gave me the best chuckle: “A crowd of several hundred cheered and shivered as the behemoth began its epic journey. Covered in white shrink-wrap to ward off taggers, it rode on a massive red transporter and looked, under the bright lights like a well-lit iceberg…” I can’t stop laughing!

I know many of you live in more civilized parts of the country and world (aka less hated), so you may not be familiar with tagging. That would be defacing…here in Los Angeles taggers are often euphemistically referred to as “graffiti artists.”  Isn’t that special! The transport must be very slow if the concern is that the boulder will be attacked by opportunists jumping out along the highway with spray paint in hand! You just can’t make this stuff up!

As a LACMA member, I’m not yet critical of the museum’s decision to go forward with the project–It is privately funded.  But I only wish the museum had been brave enough to go forward with it sans justifications.  “From the construction teams on site who have been digging the 456-foot-long slot and preparing to install the megalith, to the transport company, to the permitting fees paid to twenty-two cities in four different counties for the transport, a great deal of the privately raised funds for ‘Levitated Mass’ has gone directly into the local economy.” Oh please!

I’m waiting to formulate a final opinion of the art-to-be, but I do admit to finding it just a wee bit preposterous that our already highly complex highway transportation system is going to absorb the impact of this mammoth project, even if it is moving in the middle of the night! And I’m wondering if it is ludicrous for me to think that the cheering crowds lining the streets to see this “shrink-wrapped boulder on a truck” will be similarly enthusiastic and inclined to pay the museum fee to visit the exhibit once it is installed and referred to as art? Oh I do hope I’m proven wrong!

And that’s the way we do things in California.

You’re welcome…Debra

Have a play date…it’s good for what ails you!

By the end of last week I had a tired brain! I can think too much…we all do! I found myself ruminating over the problems of others, taking tidbits of personal stories and shared information– everything from health concerns to marital issues to financial emergencies, and although none of the problems were mine to solve, I’d been holding my breath along with the friends who originally shared.

We all have individual problems to solve, situations to straighten out and burdensome responsibilities. I’ve learned that often the best thing I can do for friends, as well as myself, is encourage a straight look at how stress is being handled. Although it is a part of life,  some people have been under stress for so long they no longer recognize how it is robbing them of overall health and well-being.

I’ve been doing some reading on play, creativity and lifelong learning. Authors Kemp, Smith, DeKoven and Segal state that we need more play in our lives! Research suggests that play (and fun) helps us develop our imaginations, boosts our creativity, and strengthens our overall mental health–and play is often when we are at our best and feel most alive, yet, under stress, we often completely forget that it is in our best interest to invest in times of play.

Some of you might think I have plenty of play weekends. Well, I do, but I usually don’t share with you the household chores and housework, gardening essentials, paperwork (paying the bills) and general life maintenance that is done first. I was raised with a good dose of “get your chores done before you go out and play!” But this weekend I JUST played!

I had some time at home on Friday and fully expected to do a little end-of-week cleaning. But it was a nice day, and I found myself just wandering outside listening to birds, and observing plants and as it began to warm up a bit, I opened the greenhouse door to check on Darwin. I found him nestled into his little box of Timothy Hay.

We provide the environment, and Darwin takes care to regulate his own heat and comfort requirements. I said a quick “hello” and then decided our little box tortoise, Rocky, needed a little attention.

Rocky is a small box tortoise; a fraction of Darwin’s size. We found him in our yard more than ten years ago. He has wonderful orange markings, and notice how smooth his shell is in comparison to Darwin. Rocky lives in a large reptile tank, and in winter months he semi-hibernates. Now that we are nearing spring, he is a bit more active and we’ll begin to let him out for a little exercise. We have to keep an eye on him, though, as he is quick and will escape! I suppose that’s how we found him in our yard years ago. He was probably someone’s pet!

Friday afternoon I retrieved my favorite playmates and brought Sophia and Karina to our house for the night. They provide wonderful preoccupation, and I can always avoid  housework and other chores by playing board games, reading books, and observing them as they explore the outdoors, too.

They enjoy feeding the birds and are quite amused with the pesky squirrels! I don’t call them “pesky” in front of the girls!

Saturday morning we went to pick up our weekly produce box from the farm-share delivery service and brought home a vegetable they’d never previously seen.


Is it broccoli? Is it cauliflower? Is it from outer space? I love the surprises that come in our weekly produce box, and the girls examined this carefully, making their own assessment.  This week’s box also contained Brussel’s Sprouts, which they assured me they LOVE! That’ll be the day!

I didn’t have any particular plans for the fresh Thyme included in the box,  so what to do with the sweetly fragrant herb?  I made Rosemary bread, substituting Thyme. Delicious!

The weekend’s play didn’t stop here! We arranged to deliver the girls back to their parents via a nice trip to the Los Angeles Farmers Market. This L.A. landmark has been in continuous operation since 1934 and is worthy of its own post–you can count on one soon, but this trip we only lingered long enough to grab a quick lunch before we walked the 1/2 block to the American Girl Store. Sophia and Karina received their first American Girl dolls at Christmas and still had some gift certificates available for “accessorizing.” The stores are overwhelming to adults, and I can hardly imagine how a child processes so many choices, but I thought the girls did very well understanding limits.

Children choose dolls with hair, eye and skin tones similar to their own features. Curly hair or straight, long or short, eye glasses or not, the dolls are very personal.  It wasn’t appropriate for me to take pictures of other children, but it was nice to see girls of all ages gathering for in-store birthday parties, holding their dolls and looking delightfully unsophisticated and very age-appropriate.

As Sophia and Karina get older I hope they show interest in some of the more historical dolls. The dolls aim to teach aspects of American history through an accompanying book series from the perspective of nine to eleven-year-old girls living in particular time periods.

The girls have their “toy” store, and I have mine. This three-story Barnes & Noble is quite the place. To everyone’s surprise, I didn’t buy one thing! My current book pile is toppling over, so I didn’t dare bring anything else home! But maybe next time?

We each define our “play” with different activities, and mine was just a simple breaking away from patterns of work and responsibility. It helps to be intentional; however, and if we take a break, let’s be sure to enjoy it as time spent adding to our well-being and reducing stress. I often hear friends say they didn’t do anything; they “wasted” time. I didn’t accomplish anything tangible this weekend, but I don’t think one moment was wasted!

I hope you’ll take care of yourself and find moments to play a bit throughout your week. You’ll feel better for it!


Breathing lighter on an unexpected road trip!

I try to share aspects of pleasurable Southern California life—the sights and activities supporting my personal well-being! However, not everything in my daily life helps me “breathe lighter” and this week I certainly had one afternoon to seriously consider how much work it can be to modify stress! Attitude is everything…

My darling granddaughters live about an hour south! Once or twice a week I navigate a very active freeway…and oh the trucks!  This particular stretch of highway ends at the busy Port of Los Angeles.  Approximately $236.4 billion in cargo passed through the harbor in 2010, the busiest container port in the United States. The containers and contents are off-loaded and then divided between rail transport and the trucking industry.

View of the Ports from the Bridge

And the trucks contribute to heavy traffic with potential gridlock. But, consider this.

We’ve had a birds-eye view of the global recession while watching port activity. In 2009 it was reported that the container industry was being hit by a $20-billion loss. The Port was noticeably affected, with new cars off-loaded and no place to go, parked in a massive static parking lot! The absence of full activity was sadly noted, and the Port suffered (that’s job loss) an unprecedented slide!

Port activity appears to be booming, or at least from an outsider’s vantage point it appears to be quite healthy once again!

As much as I do NOT enjoy driving in a sea of massive trucks, I always note that those trucks do represent jobs!

So back to my well-being! This week after a nice day with Nan and Papa, I took the girls home to their mommy and daddy.  I scheduled the drive to avoid the expected evening rush hour traffic–yet it happened–sirens in my rear-view mirror and vehicles screeching to a halt!

Traffic reports warned of an accident of considerable proportion ahead, also signaling the narrowing of four lanes to one. It didn’t take a genius to rapidly calculate that two lanes full of the largest possible diesel trucks somehow snaking into one lane with the rest of us wasn’t going to be good!

I’ll spare you the detailed maneuvering, but I got off the freeway, and although my navigation system told me it was still going to take me an hour to go 30 miles—at least I could control the flow! If I could see the San Gabriel Mountains all I needed was to head north, and I’d eventually get home.

How’d I fare? I remembered to breathe lighter! I was thankful that the girls were not with me—very thankful for that. I had a good car with a great radio—I sing show tunes with my XM Broadway station., and best of all, I decided that if people take road trips and go off the trail to see the largest ball of twine or a house made entirely out of glass bottles, I’d just do the same. I’d take advantage of some sightseeing and make the best of it!

I could always look for amusing bumper stickers and signage! 

It crossed my mind that snapping pictures along the way might increase my own accident risk, so I’ll just have to tell you what I discovered without the benefit of photos.

Passing a large sign for Downey Studios I discovered movie studios I’d never even heard about! I had to wait to get home to learn they indeed are working movie studios. Previously the former Boeing plant where the Space Shuttle orbiters were assembled, the studio has been used for many major TV and film projects, including Iron Man, Charlie Wilson’s War, Terminator 3, Space Cowboys, and Spider Man. I had no idea!

I also discovered  The Columbia Memorial Space Center in Downey–a hands-on learning center bringing the excitement of space to children (of all ages!) and I had no idea it was in my back yard! This is a great resource to pair with our Observatory experience!

I traveled on, noting the military banners flying in honor of Downey’s residents in active military duty. It’s really hard to be cranky about traffic when you’re reading those many, many names and considering their current “inconvenience” don’t you think?

And then a traffic light stop gave me my first good photo-op!

World's Oldest McDonald's

Not California’s oldest, but the “World’s Oldest McDonald’s.” Now you’ve seen it, too! This Downey, CA location opened in 1953 and the 60 foot high neon sign with “Speedee the Chef”is eligible for listing on the National Register of Historic Places.  I wasn’t about to stop, but we are going back so that I can see the employees wearing 50’s style uniforms of paper hats, white shirts and bolo ties. Apparently the facility now has a museum and gift shop. You know how I feel about museums, but true confessions, I like gift shops, too!

My spirit was really quite high at that point! I enjoyed my sightseeing trip and could now sail home in good fashion.

Mountains ahead...it's a straight shot now!

It’s all in a good attitude. If a person is going to navigate in Southern California you’d better have one of those! When the going gets REALLY tough, I just thank the Lord that we’re no longer in covered wagons! Travel doesn’t seem quite as slow if you keep that in mind!

Happy Trails…Debra