Fake Boobs and Oranges: On Serendipity

I’m embracing serendipity. I know, how new-age does that sound? But I’m reading today. It can be dangerous. I’m reading Bruce Nussbaum’s Creative Intelligence about harnessing or building creativity in individuals and groups. I’m only on page 33, but so far what’s stood out to me is the environmental recipe for creativity: serendipity, networking, discovery, connection, and play.

It’s not earth-shattering news. I teach teen-age girls about creative writing with WriteGirl, and we’re always telling them to make connections and write about the world around them. This strategy has produced odes to backpacks and amusing critiques of Thoreau–some very creative stuff. But how often do I practice what I preach? Perhaps not often enough. So back to serendipity– those chance encounters with people, ideas, and experiences. Today I’m using it as a catalyst for my creativity. Continue reading

Thinking of Tomatoes on a Dreary Tuesday

This May Day I’m thinking of tomatoes. Sure, it’s cloudy and 59 degrees outside my office in Marina Del Rey, but fresh, ripe tomatoes seem eminently possible when the calendar crosses that critical threshold from April to May. This is a time of year when anything is possible: a canopy of purple jacarandas over the entire city, fresh sprouts of basil poking up through the moist soil where just yesterday there was nothing, a first kiss on a giant trampoline under the stars. Life is bursting at the seems of the known world, threatening to pop out and take over.

Four years ago today, when I moved into my new house, I felt just how heavy life was with potential—tomatoes, hardwood floors, dinner parties. I want to recapture that feeling and hold onto it today: life is bursting with potential. Continue reading

Close Encounters of the LA Kind

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Pan Pacific Park, December 28, 2011–I enter amid a blaze of photography, hundreds of DSLR megapixels pointed down the path in front of me. For just a second, it feels like the kind of glamorous reception I’ve always dreamed of. But these cameras are trained on a family: He with scraggly dark blond hair hidden beneath a knit beanie, a few days of facial hair growth giving him an effortlessly stylish look in line with his open flannel; she a blond with a crisp jaw line in a green tank top, enjoying the December sun. They have children. I can’t tell how many or what kind as we stroll past each other and I try not to stare.

It must be 75 degrees. The almost-turquoise sky brings the green grass and the palm fronds to life. After pausing to Facebook my glamorous encounter (“Obviously just saw a celebrity, given the paparazzi. Any ideas?” Because they’re none of the usual suspects whose pictures litter the grocery store checkout aisle tabloids: Brangelina, Becks and Posh, Will and Kate. Not even John and Kate…), I’m drawn into the day. And this park! Just two miles from my house, but I’ve never been. Paved paths wind through playground after playground, dividing baseball diamond from soccer field. Palm trees, pine trees, shrubs, benches, picnic tables, pavilions, all sparkling under that sky. I dip and climb with the path and soak it all in. Continue reading

Book Review: Blue Nights

Joan Didion once wrote that “We tell ourselves stories in order to live.” These words, conceived before she turned 45, took on a new meaning for the author as she became 75.

Her latest book, Blue Nights, is a memoir about becoming a parent, losing a child, growing old. It’s about her adopted daughter, Quintana, who died at the age of 39 after a long illness.

Its 188 fluid pages weave in and out of her memories. In an early chapter, Didion looks back at photographs of her daughter. Didion’s memories are like these snapshots – frozen moments, snippets of life, details: a plaid uniform jumper, a cashmere turtleneck sweater.

“These very clear moments stand out, recur, speak directly to me, on some levels flood me with pleasure and on others still break my heart,” she writes of the stories she tells. Her talent is the way she shares these memories so that they speak directly to readers – fill us with pleasure and break our hearts. Continue reading

The Many Seasons of Los Angeles

“It’s Pumpkin Season!” my co-worker Sigita declared this week. I knew exactly what she was referring to– the time of year when the gourd fruits get ripe in the fields of Oxnard (or Guadalajara?) and every food and beverage establishment adds pumpkin to their menu– pumpkin lattes, pumpkin soup, pumpkin raviolis, pumpkin pie, pumpkin spice gelato. We sit and savor the realization.

Living in LA, I hear many people lament the idea that we don’t have seasons. Most of them are from other places, where sub-freezing winters make seasons obvious even to the willfully obtuse. Just because seasons in Los Angeles are more subtle does not mean they don’t exist. For these season-weary transplants, I’d like to describe some of the seasons I’ve come to notice. May you discover and enjoy them as I do.

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Communication = Creativity + Consciousness

Empathy is a prized characteristic in my field of work. It’s the source of inspiration, the evidence of your imagination. I’ve always considered myself an empathetic person: easily moved by the stories of others, able to hop fluidly from one viewpoint to another. Then my musical theatre teacher told me I’m “not a feeler.”

“Anne, you are a do-er,” my teacher, Cathy, began as I stood on stage, awaiting my critique. I gazed past the bright lights into the dim audience where she sat with my classmates. A do-er, she said—which is a great thing—and a thinker. But apparently not a feeler.

Personal insights like this are common in my musical theatre class, which goes beyond music, or even performance, and digs into the subtle intricacies of interpersonal communication.

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