Archives for posts with tag: self-exploration

I’m still speechless from being in the midst in the midst of majestic, mystical, magical wonderment of this Redwood Forest where God lives. I stumbled upon it twenty plus years ago and always wanted to come back with every visit west as I do Flaming Gorge but circumstances always kept me in the Vegas region. Ava was often times too sick for me to have time to wonder too much either before or after so my Vegas destinations became the focus and anything outside of that was pure ice cream with the main entree.

In 2012, Ava was supposed to go camping with Montana and I to this place but she decided to take another trip leaving me to go alone with just a small vial of her ashes. That was the first time I’d been able to get back here since my first visit and it was appropriate for me to take her here. Now, I’m here with her best friend. That’s amazing! We are in equal awe of this place!

Words leave my mouth in a choked throat and tears well in my eyes at this whole journey I’m on…sad, healing, loving, adventuring and a hundred other things all connected.

Here are some of the pictures from yesterday.

SMITH RIVER

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Where’s Montana? Montana is sitting in front of the Smith River in the redwoods!

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Shoals in the Smith River. Wish I could record this sound for my white noise!

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There is a great deal of redwoods with burled wood, caused by a fungus growing in/on the tree. The effect is gorgeous in a piece of furniture or an objet d’art. I’ll have some pictures from today’s post (this is really yesterday’s)!

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Gnarly burl!

 

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Took a break from the forest to have a late lunch at a tasty seafood restaurant on the bay called Chart Room. I’d remembered being told that seals will come lay on a floating dock waiting for the fishermen to come in early evenings and dump the fish refuse. The seals have gotten lazy and sleep on the dock waiting for their dinner to be delivered! Below is what you’re looking at! There’s a HUGE bull seal toward the front. I hope you can click on the photo and enlarge it to get the real view. To say I’m having internet and download issues is an understatement! LOL

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And….back to the redwoods!

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HAPPY TAILS!

So much fun seeing my friend in Auburn and getting caught up with her and her animals! But, we were on a quest to get to Crescent City by early evening and we did! We drove along roads I’ve not been on before and it was magnificent, as always, exploring the back roads of this wonderful country of ours!

As I had some serious two-fisted driving to do over Hwy. 299 most of the afternoon, I can’t remember the names of most of what we saw! LOL I do remember something about Trinity and Shasta, but the best part was just the drive. If you’re a “friend” on FB, you will see a video Jenni posted of a part of the drive. I really wasn’t driving as fast as the video shows! We would have died if I’d been going that fast. Heck, people were passing me!

Enjoy the ride below with us!

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Tomorrow, we get to live the dream of seeing Jedediah Smith Redwood Forest! YAY!

HAPPY TAILS for sure tonight!

 

It was quite an exciting Saturday night! Murray Sawchuck (the Vegas Magician) invited me and two others to see Gordie Brown (impersonator) at the Golden Nugget. It was one of the funniest comedy impersonator shows I’ve ever seen! To say it was irreverent is an understatement because I guffawed so hard through his whole show that he told me he loved hearing my laugh…and that ain’t a bad thang to be known by!

If you love to laugh, you just gotta go see him!

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After the show Murray took us all over the bar across the parking lot from the Rick Harrison’s Gold and Silver Pawn (of Pawn Stars fame) to have drinks with Rick! Going to the Rollin’ Smoke BBQ and Tavern is a MUST if you like to feel like family and have a great time with good people and great music and some of the BEST RIBS I’ve ever tasted! Wow! What a night! Oh…and this time it ain’t a cut out of Rick!

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We partied until 1:00 AM (or later) and still headed for Auburn, CA (east of Sacramento) as planned…just a tad bit later than expected! I chose to drive through Nevada all the way on the back roads through Tonopah, NV and up to Reno, NV and west toward Auburn as the drive has some spectacular surprises!

Jenni Lee (my photo journalist on this trip of Electra Brass fame) took some great pictures with her phone! I hope to be able to download some exciting video footage from today’s wild ride!

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Joshua Trees! Know why they’re called that? Because it reminded the settlers of Joshua raising his hands up toward the Lord! Cool, huh? I love word/saying origins!

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Goldfield, NV Courthouse

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And the contrasting architecture in Goldfield is stunning!

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And, as we got closer to Tonapah, the desert mountain ranges changed into a painted desert landscape. Colors changing with every blink of the eye to add or subtract green foliage, iron deposits, limestone with the brightest, clearest blue blue sky for a backdrop. Magnificent!

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Then BOOM Mother nature throws in some snow peaks seemingly suspended in mid-air over this desert land!

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Drive more in the desert, turn a corner and BAM a HUGE blue lake in the middle of the driest, rockiest desolate area you’ve ever seen! Walker Lake.

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Sleeping babies! So darn cute!

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Then we are past Reno and into California just an hour outside of Auburn!

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It’s a wonderful nine hour drive that really didn’t feel like that long because of all of the wonderful views and surprises along the way on the back roads of this great country of ours!

HAPPY TAILS!

My nights and days are running together with all the excitement of the last days in Vegas Baby, witnessing incredible entertainment and so glad that we have such great venues for all these super talented musicians, singers, dancers, magicians, etc. to do what they love to do. Thanks Las Vegas!

Thursday night, I witnessed some of the finest performers I’ve had the pleasure of seeing. Lon Bronson’s All-Star Band is an outstanding combo of talent. Their musicality is impeccable, their love of the music undeniable and ability to infect the whole audience with their magic from the stage!

If you’re in Vegas, make sure you’re here when they are performing! Check out their website: http://lonbronsonband.com

Lon Bronson’s All-Star Band, featuring the finest musicians and vocalists around was performing last night and he gave up the stage to help introduce Electra Brass!

I was BLOWN AWAY! Usually when I hear a song performed so well the first time, I tend to be a bit irritated to hear a different version of that song unless there’s a spin, twist, sound which transports me. I had that experience last night with Tony. You just gotta check out this man’s website and listen to his audios but ESPECIALLY “Tobacco Road!” http://www.tonydavich.com/

It was then that I “met” a performer by the name of Tony Davich who took swagger, Joe Cocker, collard greens and southern fried chicken to sing his version of “Tobacco Road!”

Jenni Lee is my hostess with the mostest while I’m in Vegas Baby. She is/was a very close friend with my daughter, Ava, and it’s been through that common denominator that we’ve  bonded. I’m as proud of her newest endeavors as any Mom would be!

And, last night, her group called ELECTRA BRASS had its debut performance at the Sunset Station Hotel & Casino in Henderson, NV (next door to Vegas Baby). And, although their website isn’t up and running yet, doesn’t mean they aren’t stage ready because…believe you me…I saw them KILL it on stage last night! Watch for these talented women to take you to a whole new level of excitement with their brass!

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HAPPY TAILS!

If you can stand the heat and the desert, Vegas Baby is where you want to be for some of the most diverse, incredible talent anywhere! The Rat Pack should be proud because they set the standard and it’s only gotten better…if possible!
Last night, thanks to Murray SawChuck (Murray the Magician), I was entertained, again, like a rock star by a group called “Human Nature” who performs at the Venetian. Check them out!

They were the No. 1 Boy Bank in Australia! They’re still number one to me after witnessing how they rocked it out last night! Whoa! Complicated choreography coupled with great Jukebox singing and awesome audience participation like I’ve not seen before! They’re energetic, dynamic and a bunch of really nice guys!

Check them out on their website! http://www.humannaturelive.com

Thanks Human Nature for doing what you love and doing it so well! It made a memory I’ll keep enjoying for years to come!

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If it weren’t for my Georgia BFF who LOVES Pawn Stars, I wouldn’t have driven the entire Strip (Las Vegas Blvd) all the way into town to go there. Not that I can’t or don’t appreciate their niche, I don’t have cable TV so never watch any traditional shows…intentionally…to diminish my exposure to things that trigger my PTSD. Granted, Pawn Stars probably wouldn’t but I don’t watch Antique Roadshow either! She loves that one too. So, this one’s for you, Jackie, thanks to Murray SawChuck The Magician who got me past the line and directly into the store!

Sorry, Rick, but I’m busy tonight. Maybe Saturday?

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Got a Pawn Stars shirt with a picture of Jackie’s favorite Pawn Star!

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Next, we went to Freemont Street. To hose of you who aren’t familiar with Vegas Baby, this is OLD Vegas now under a dome. Old signs (which I love), old casinos (they’re cool too) and some strange entertainers! Just saying. If you go down there, be prepared to see just about anything…and not all of it is entertainment! Some of it is just plain shock factor!

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HAPPY TAILS!

This past ten plus days has been most awesome! It’s been jam packed with excitement, meltdowns and memories.

My daughter, Ava, lived here in her happiest and saddest days here. She found her tribes (she had no less than four all at once) who gave this amazing woman the love and support she needed to stay with us a little longer. But it was the bullying at work and at home that done her in.

In driving around this town she dearly loved, I have serious brain jerking going on with being here for the first time over three years. It’s a constant arm wrestle in my brain with  trying to stay in the moment and not get triggered into the past…which, I believe, is the cause of PTSD…Post Traumatic Stress Disorder…more aptly named Past Trauma Disorder.

However, this is totally what this whole trip is about…my healing through driving the back roads, soul searching and seeing my Vegas Chirrens!

I’m blessed to have a close, loving relationship with Ava’s BFF, Jenni Lee. She’s not only a master French Horn performer but an entrepreneur who is putting together an all female brass quartet called ELECTRA BRASS! Check them out!

Montana and I are hold up in her lovely home and in our safe place for when things get tough. They got tough the other day at Costco in Summerlin and I won’t be going back to that store. Got way too many looks like that woman in the Lebanese restaurant in LA but Montana took charge as she’s supposed to do and got me right out of there without my having a total meltdown.

In contrast, I’ve had some amazing reconnections with Ava’s friends who are local performers like Penny Wiggins (comedian who performs in Vegas before the Chris Angel Show) and Kelly Vohnn (multi-talented tribute artist and comedian) at a brunch. Saw old friends and made new ones!

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Last night Montana and I got the VIP treatment by Murray SawChuck at his magic show at the Planet Hollywood Resort and Casino in Vegas!

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Today, I get to see a newborn baby of another one of Ava’s remarkable, talented BFFs who is the new mommy married to an incredible gentle man. Can’t wait to get some neck sugar from Ellie!

This week? Going to see my Jenni’s ELECTRA BRASS practice tomorrow after lunch with Murray (sounds like a movie) and to their first formal performance on Thursday!

HAPPY TAILS!

Las Vegas is sometimes referred to as a bowl because its location in the center of an ever  circling memory a mountain range of underwater existence tens of thousands of years ago. To my mind, it’s not just a bowl…any bowl…but a myriad of bowls…a fish bowl, a soup bowl and, in some parts, a toilet bowl.

This stark contrast to my own existence in the lush green forests of northeast Georgia where we get more rainfall per year than any other county in the state; where waterfalls, lakes and rivers abound; where rural living is normal (less than five acres is mostly found in the cities…what few we have) makes my mind rumble like thunder with differentiating distinctions.

Why does it remind me of a fish bowl? Think of a clear, round environment where the air, temperature and liquids change only upon some seemingly arbitrary action. You scoop out the fish, pour out the water, put in new water, put back the fish and their environment is changed. Here, the mountains create a bowl where the environment seems only to be changed by drastic acts of Mother Nature herself with intolerable heat (temperatures will be mostly in the 108 degree range this week), winds (which magically appear in the early morning hours) and the occasional flooding…no…deluge of pounding, unforgiving liquid. The humans living in the fish bowl are mostly confined to their homes and routines governed by all these drastic natural occurrences by none other than Mother Nature “changing the water.”

Why a soup bowl? Mainly this comes into play because of all the varying types of people who choose to live in this bowl…from the notorious yesteryear gangster types to the famous performer types; from the starving homeless to the mega rich and famous; from the unheralded geniuses behind the performers (musicians, technicians, producers, etc.) to the incredible talent like the ones I saw at The Wynn in “Show Stoppers.” One of my Chirrens (daughter-by-another mother) performs with the orchestra most nights there and with whom Montana and I are staying hooked me up with a ticket so I could see mah gurl perform front and almost center!

Toilet bowl? Some are going to get incensed, angry, block me, send me hate mail but take a deep breath and think about all the crazy things that go on in Vegas and “stay” in Vegas…so “they” say. Only the locals who work in the heart of the entertainment core of this desert existence know what all the rest don’t know…the nastiness that did stay in Vegas…and probably can only leave with the help of Mother Nature’s drastic measures mentioned above.

However, there’s a lot to say about the magic of the desert. I see clearly why my paternal grandmother was drawn here. Why her daughter followed her west and lived the majority of their lives in this dry, painted dirt they call desert.

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at overlook

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Cliff Dwellers, Arizona (the town) on Hwy. 89 before Hwy. 160

The first time I came west, I immediately fell in love. Mom and Dad traveled west every summer in their RV in the late 1960’s and early 1970’s when the it wasn’t as manic as it seems now. They would take my son, Carl, with them so he could experience the wild west and work his “gold mine” in Nevada. Carl had “discovered” gold on the side of the road before I’d met them in Phoenix, Arizona…fools gold. I rode the back roads with them for ten days ending up in the “old” Las Vegas in 1971.

Our first stop was Tonopah, Nevada where my dad owned property. A retired trick rider-turned-miner lived on the property and who had wonderful stories of yesteryear he shared by the campfire which captured Carl’s vivid imagination. That was the year Dad staked a claim called “Monk’s Mine” on his property. It was  Carl’s  (a/k/a Monk) gold mine.

That first night, Carl and I slept on a WWII Army issue cot under the stars. We were all giggly over how VAST the sky was and just how many stars and constellations could be seen in FULL view…totally unobstructed by mountains, hills and trees! We barely slept at all…waking to re-discover a new world with every blink.

Carl got up at the crack of dawn dressed in his cowboy boots and hat with pick ax and shovel ready to find gold every single morning! He was sure it was there and he’d find it. My grandmother salted Carl’s mine one year and I thought the child was going to dig to China trying to find the rest of the “gold.” He made friends with a wild burro so he’d have a way to bring his gold back to the campsite!

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Dad is responsible for my loving the back roads. I traveled with him as a child all over the only roads (now called back roads) of Georgia in his work as  Public Relations photographer for the Governors for about twenty years. So, it was the back roads (the only roads of yesteryear) that we took on this trip. And, much to Mom’s dismay, Dad wanted to drive through Death Valley. My recollection is that we did it in spite of her  protests. It was my first taste of 114 degrees in the shade and a hundred miles of NOTHINGNESS. Along the way, we rescued a sweet  Australian Shepherd, found her a new home, bathed in roadside hot springs respite (now sadly dry) and saw desolate lands.

The starkest contrast of all was of my 1971 home of deep south gloved, primped for church  Atlanta with the bawdy, bright, brash, bustling, colorful, loud, dirty 1971 Fremont Street of Las Vegas. This poor ole southern girl didn’t know what had hit her! Carl caught a glimpse of a man winning the jackpot and was sure THAT was the way to get gold…not by all that hard work digging. Dad tried to explain to Carl that someone had have been feeding that machine for there to even be a jackpot.

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Vegas-Baby circa 1950’s

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What strange looking show girl

And, although I do love my home, I’m drawn back to those I love who live West and to the places which will call me back forever…and I will come as long as this ole girl can drive the back roads!

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Colorado or bust!

HAPPY TAILS!

 

My life changed forever the minute my son, Carl, disappeared and my then six year old daughter (Ava) told me she thought she was at fault for his disappearance and began talking of suicide. Fifteen years after his disappearance, my son came to me in a dream which lead me to find him. He had been murdered at the time of his disappearance by a Dispatcher for the Sheriff’s Department who investigated the murder! Ava’s suicidal tendencies became more frequent…especially after we found out what had happened to Carl.

Ava was successful in her final attempt, as promised, after her estranged husband told her he had a girlfriend and, even after her pleas for him to help her through the transition and warnings that she was suicidal, he chose to ignore the warnings from me and others.

The night Ava died, I was with my mother in the emergency room with my mom…she was dying…too. I was always the closest one to her (and her to me) so I was the only one to take care of both of them. Ava was 2500 miles away. Mom was 100 miles away. I was awakened at 6:00 A.M. to my new horrible truth. Ava was dead. Mom was sick. I was alone in it all.

When I spoke with my therapist about how I felt, I was subsequently diagnosed with PTSD. Some of the symptoms were: I felt like I’d had a stroke and couldn’t remember words; I disassociated; I felt as if  my skin had been removed from my body; I couldn’t leave the house for any reason; and when I did, all I wanted to do was scream out, “DON’T YOU PEOPLE KNOW SHE’S DEAD?”

Montana became my lifeline. Literally. She and I are inseparable. She has traveled with me about 90,000 miles over her eight plus years and has been welcomed in hundreds of facilities since her Service Dog status. I’ve only had slight hick-ups but once told of her status, never refused.

I’m on this trip four years after Ava’s death in the hope that I can move another baby step forward with reconnecting with loved ones who live in the West and to see the places Ava and I had visited together as well as find new ones to hold dear with her in my heart. Plus, driving back roads has always been a healing exercise.

Why do I tell you all this? The groundwork for yesterday’s crescendo.

We went to Venice Beach. I hadn’t been there for at least eight years and I wouldn’t have gone had I known how nasty it had gotten. I wouldn’t have put myself, Montana nor my sweet daughter-by-another mother through it.

So many filthy, doped-up homeless people; crowds; confusion; more filth; a thousand bicycles & skateboards aggressively darting to and fro around us tormenting us all but especially Montana; coupled with great re-b0nding, understanding and love.

To end my visit in LA we decided to visit a middle eastern restaurant…Lebanese to be specific. We all walk in…my daugher-by-another mother, her husband, Montana and me. We were told at the door that they would not serve us because of Montana. I quickly corrected their mistake and a learned waiter seated us. The greeter called the owner (I knew that’s what she was doing) and approached us again as she spoke with the owner telling us  we were not welcome in their establishment even though they understood the ramifications of their actions.

When she told us to leave, I refused and said I wanted to speak directly with the owner at which point she handed me the phone. The woman on the other end of the line immediately started shouting in broken English that she did not have to abide by the laws of this country and other things I couldn’t understand. She rattled on incessantly not allowing me to speak and continued to speak.

The owner came to the restaurant and continued in this manner. I finally really lost it when she said, “This is California and I don’t have to let you stay here. I don’t have to abide by this law!”

I replied over her continued rant, “I don’t know what country you’re from but you’re living in the United States and California was made a state in 1850. This is a FEDERAL law you’re violating. I’ll be lodging a complaint which could result in a $10,000 fine against you.”

The owner’s parting words to me were, “You don’t have a disability! Get out!”

I was so shaken that I couldn’t eat. I was nauseous and horribly upset. All I wanted to do is be in my own home…3000 miles away. I knew this could happen because having PTSD is triggered by several very personal things. Could be loud noises, confusion, arguing, and many other triggers. Thank goodness I’d been proactive regarding the possibility of being confronted by this kind of stupidity and booked myself  to stay in a lovely and friendly AirBnB apartment by the PCH or else I wouldn’t have made it back before collapsing in tears for the whole remainder of the night.

It’s only now, over 24 hours after the fact that I can even write about it. I’m not proofing…just writing…puking, actually…the story because, for some reason, I’ve been chosen to TEACH people that just because you don’t SEE the mental imbalance, doesn’t mean it doesn’t exist! DO YOU ALWAYS SEE CANCER? NO!

NONE OF AVA’S FRIENDS KNEW SHE WAS SUICIDAL SO DID THAT MAKE IT UNTRUE? IS SHE REALLY ALIVE SOMEWHERE? OR IS SHE DEAD?

If you want to help support our website avascorner.org  [Ava’s Corner, Inc., a non-profit public charity & 501(c)3] which I stared after Ava’s death to provide one-stop-shopping for education on mental imbalances and creative coping skills, please share this post so others will benefit from this horrific exercise I experienced. I never chose this path. Quite the reverse…I was chosen. But, if it were my choice…I’d chose to have my daughter back.

Email me if you want the name of the restaurant.

TODAY? I shared some of my story with my new friend…the lady who owned the AirBnB apartment where I stayed. Thanks for listening. You and my closest and dearest helped me get okay so I could drive to Vegas Baby today…swollen eyes, headache, broken heart and all.

These pictures are AFTER the LA cluster expressway nightmares and finally got on I-15 North. Temps from 87 all the way up to 113 degrees!

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The good news? I’m staying with another wonderful daughter-by-another mother! I’m safe with her. She made sure of it before I left by telling me she had my room all ready for me and Montana.

Now I can look forward to seeing more of Ava’s friends and my other Chirrens.

HAPPY TAILS!

I couldn’t get out of Fresno fast enough on Monday. The temperature there promised to hit triple digits and I just didn’t like the feel of the place at all. I’m funny that way with energy of people, places and things.

The first pictures are of my journey on back roads from Fresno to LA. I believe I saved myself hours of bumper-to-bumper traffic on the expressways and gained the experience of seeing the part of that journey I’d not seen before.

Strange how dry it is in California.

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The house on the hilltop must be the owner of this ranch. There were no neighbors…none. This is a little too isolated even for my taste!

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The mountains I’d just come over and the rear-view perspective from the rest stop at the bottom.

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YES! The Pacific Ocean…finally! Yippee!

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Now get a gander of this one!

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These last two days have been so FULL that I thought I’d lost a day. My computer is still on Eastern time so it registered all my photos taken as being dubbed “yesterday” which sent my poor ole brain spinning outta control thinking I’d lost a day! We’ve been doing so much in such a short amount of time I had a hard time sorting it all out. I immediately booked an extra night here in a frantic response to my confusion but that’s not a bad thang…it’s a good thang because I get more time with someone very precious to me.

Today, we went to one of my all-time favorite places to go to here in LA…the Self-Realization Fellowship Lake Shrine on PCH in Pacific Palisades. So amazingly peaceful, fulfilling and wonderful. It’s a must.

Where’s Montana? She’s meditating with the Begonias!

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I didn’t realize until today that banana trees have flowers very similar to the Bird of Paradise plant!

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Lake, pools and waterfalls add to the peaceful ambiance of this magnificent shrine.

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And the turtles are trained to come up to the dock when people walk out…obviously someone has been feeding the wildlife.

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I have always paraphrased this verse to be, “Be quiet and listen!” It’s still true…be still…

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Do you see the flower that appears to be growing out of the hole in the dead stump?

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The roses! My goodness…the magnificent roses!

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Doesn’t the base of this plant look like a snake? This split leaf philodendron must date back to the shrine’s inception…1920.

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My second favorite place AFTER the Shrine is to have lunch at The Moonshadow. It’s the only place I’ve ever seen that serves “tender barbequed octopus!” There ain’t nothing tender about octopus!

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The view from our table…

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Okay…so not her view but she was happy!

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Good night and HAPPY TAILS!