Friday, June 19, 2015

Lauch Party: Everyone's Invited

What: A celebration of my first book, with trivia, a reading, Q and A, free food, and a raffle!
Where: Brea Library, 1 Civic Center Circle, Brea, CA 92821
When: Saturday, June 20, 2015, 2:00-3:30

Tomorrow, I'm having the launch party for my first novel, The Changelings, an epic fantasy about a wayward prophecy, an identity crisis, and adventures in a land of Gryphons, shapeshifters, and tree people.

Books will be available for $20, and I will be signing.

I just wanted everyone to know that they're invited. Feel free to show up and eat all our food. We'll be happy to have you stop by the Brea Library and say hello.

Wait a Minute? Brea Has a Library?

It's funny, but even long-term residence of Brea has missed this little, local library. In fact, I almost missed it myself, and it was only because I spotted the bookstore sign that I saw it at all!

For this reason, I've included pictures and a painfully detailed description of how to get to the library.

The Brea Branch of the Orange County Public Libraries is actually inside the Brea Civic and Cultural Center, which is on the corner of Birch Street and Randolph Street, close to Brea Mall, across from the Post Office, and near the Target shopping center. You should see a gray stone building with a roof of solar panels.

Look for this building!
That's the place. Don't worry if you don't see anything that says library. Trust me, it's in there.

Look for this sign!
I'm Here. Where Do I Park?

In front of the Civic and Cultural Center, you will notice that the road turns into a circle and perhaps a few cars parked inside this area. Now you may be tempted to pull in, but be warned: the parking here is only 10 minutes. It's drop-off parking for people returning books. (The exception is that people with a handicap placard; they may park as long as they want.)

Your best bet is the underground parking. Where is that? Well, if you're driving on Birch, you'll see a cross street that either say Civic Center Drive or Marketplace, depending on which direction you're coming from.

It's between Embassy Suits and a bunch of flags.

Parking is in here!
 As you turn in, you may briefly see this sign.

You're in the right place!
As soon as you go down this street, you'll find it ends and you'll be confronted with a heart-palpitating decision. Left or right?

Help! The road is ending! What do I do?

If you see this, you have chosen wisely.

I'm Parked. Now Where's the Library?

Take the elevators to the Plaza Level (or walk to the ground floor, if you prefer), and you'll come across this curved wall.

The potted plants will guide you to your destination.
Follow it toward the bike rack, the tables, and the drop off circle. But don't go too far. When you see a glass wall with glass double doors and signs that say "Orange County Library" and "Ambassador Church," do not hesitate. Seize the doors and pull!

Even if the doors stick, THEY ARE OPEN! Don't let them intimidate you!
You are near your destination. Do not waiver. Head straight into the library. Go past the front desk, continue beyond the information desk, maneuver between shelves of YA and Adult Fiction, and head for the World Languages.

You're so close!
There shall our party meet you.

Thursday, June 18, 2015

Weekly Update: 6-18-15 Lunch Upgrades

Working as a substitute, I'm a little out of the loop, and when I enter a strange classroom, it's enough trouble to have to worry about how to work the overhead projector and whether any of the whiteboard markers are going to work. The last thing I want to do is hunt down a refrigerator or microwave for my lunch.  So, as I run out the door, I whip together a hearty, if boring lunch, consisting of half a pb and j, some sort of fruit, and a couple of granola bars.

But now, summer is here and I have time to enjoy the finer things in life. Like delicious and nutritious lunches. This is my time to experiment with in the kitchen with yummy combinations that keep me satisfied and healthy.

Today, for example, I did my take on a light version of a chicken salad sandwich, bursting with fruit and veggies. I accompanied it with an apple and a fizzy sherbet float. Yum! It makes me happy, somehow, to know that when the clock strikes noon, I can look forward to my midday meal.

* * *

Last week, I had my last four jobs of the school year at Yorba Linda High. They were testing for their finals, and I had to administer the tests. It wasn't hard, but it was surprisingly time consuming. And then the weather went haywire and sent my sinuses in a flare. Feeling stuffed up and with a nasty headache, my discipline went out the window. I made cards, read two children's books, and brainstormed the ending of The Originals, but aside from that got little done.

 This week, I've been trying to catch up on all thew stuff that got left by the wayside due to my procrastination. And so, I've gone grocery shopping, cleaned the house, walked the dogs, and finished a section in a novella I'm working on. Most of all, I've prepared for my launch party.

My launch party is tomorrow, and I'm excited, but nervous. Helen and Kaleo, friends from the Brea Library Writer's Group, have been wonderful about taking care of logistics and decorations and thigs like that. But when it comes down to it, I'm the main event, and I'm going to have to fill in that hour and a half. That scares me. But I've practiced a speech and read from my book, so I'm at least feeling a bit better. 

All in all, these last two weeks have been fairly light on writing. Hopefully that changes by next week.

* * *


Light and Healthy Chicken Salad Sandwich 

I used leftovers from lemon chicken I made for dinner; it saved me an extra step. 

Serves 4


  • 2 chicken breasts, cooked 
  • 1 Fuji apple
  • 4 celery stalks
  • 1/2 cup dried cranberries
  • 1 cup nonfat plain Greek yogurt
  • 1/4 cup light mayo

Chop chicken, apple, and celery. Mix with the remaining ingredients. Add salt and pepper to taste. Stuff into a half a toasted pita with lettuce and tomatoes. Enjoy.

Ginger Ale Sherbet Float

There's something about the tropical fruit that brings out the flavor of the ginger. To me, it gives it a bit of an exotic flavor.

Serves 1


  • 1 scoop tropical sherbet (pineapple, lime, orange)
  • 1 can cold diet ginger ale 

Combine and enjoy.

Travelogue: Lightning in a Bottle, Part 8

What: An Art and Music Festival with a New Age Twist
Where: Bradley, CA
When: Friday, May 22nd to Monday, May 25th
With Whom: my friend Ashley and her boyfriend Matt

Part 8: Culture Shock

"Pick a door," Matt says. "And choose carefully."

He's showing me a round wheel made entirely of different doors. I walk around them, slowly, examining each one. I consider a door with faded teapot wallpaper and a blue door that reminds me of the Tardis. But in the end I chose a sage green door with cryptic numbers above the knob.

I enter.

On the inside of each door is a giant tarot card. Mine shows a faded tower and a visibly distraught girl. "Tower," reads the bottom type. "Break Down, Break Through."

A book explains my fortune further. "Detoxify yourself of what you think you know. Demolish your core belief systems before they inevitably crumble. Take a leap of faith. Rebuild yourself."

I feel annoyed.

Why should I tear down my soul because a stupid card tells me to?

Ashley speaks of these festivals as a kind of transcendent, cathartic experience, where barriers fall, where she can embrace humanity and be part of a larger community. Other people I talk or listen to echo this sentiment. I'm having fun, but am I having a spiritual awakening?


Maybe I just don't get it.

While Ashley and Matt do yoga, I drift into the Temple of Consciousness, where author Chip Conley lectures on the importance of festivals in modern life.

"The more digital the world becomes, the more we need rituals," he says. "Festivals connect us to the 'other.' It forces us to understand people who are different from us. And this actually makes the world a safer place."

He continues. "The modern world is a desperate editor, and when it's in editing mode, it's not in creation mode. ...I wrote a guide about emotional survival for Burning Man. A kind of island fever sets in. There's not enough distraction. Things bubble up and it's scary."

When his speech ends, he fields the audience for questions.

A young couple stands up and asks him about how to build new festivals and especially how to recruit the unconverted. He answers, but the word "converted" snares my brain and now all I can think about is my first year in college, when I became a Christian.

I felt that shiny, newly-minted convert feeling. And that's what I'm seeing now. College-age students burning with idealism and deep connection to the spiritual world. But I don't feel that now. Because I've already broken down several times, had my personality beat upon the rocks, questioned who I was and what I believed in. It's exhausting. It's exhilarating. It's hard to maintain this kind of passion and still get up in time for work.

Here, in Lightning in a Bottle, I doubt there's an agenda to convert people to any specific beliefs. But the ideology still permeates the culture. Organic foods, veganism, drugs, eastern beliefs, yoga, sex, partial nudity, liberalism, open-mindness, acceptance, hugs, art, generosity, community. It's all there. And if that's you, maybe you can find yourself.

But I don't think that's me. I'm moderate. I can respect and even enjoy that kind of culture. But I just don't think it's me.

The talk creates a tension in me that I carry back to the tent. When I speak to Ashley and Matt about it, I realize that they don't necessarily fit entirely in, either. They're older, they don't want to party all the time, they don't do drugs, they're in a committed relationship, and even though Ashley is vegan, Matt is not. They've had moments when they felt that ecstatic elation and they've had moments when they felt nothing.

I feel better after hearing this. I guess part of me felt this vague pressure to convert, to give in to this community, to turn over my very healthy ego and find transcendence. But once I realize that I need not be ecstatic, I'm able to relax, let go of expectation, and finally enjoy myself.

* * *

Wednesday, June 17, 2015

Travelogue: Lightning in a Bottle, Part 7

What: An Art and Music Festival with a New Age Twist
Where: Bradley, CA
When: Friday, May 22nd to Monday, May 25th
With Whom: my friend Ashley and her boyfriend Matt

Part 7: Sightseeing

I want to see Lucent Dossier, a kind of circus act playing on the Lightning Stage. Matt assures me its pointless to try and watch it from afar, so half an hour before the show begins, I wade through the dance floor, until I'm about 20 feet from the stage and can no longer move. The beat of the bass falls onto my chest like a round metal weight, so heavy I find it hard to breathe.

If I stand on my tiptoes and crane my neck, I can see the dancers, the hoop-weaving acrobats, the fire-spinners. But I don't enjoy it. Tall people block my view and I must move constantly to peer through the gap between their heads. The girl next to me keeps swaying, knocking into me with her hip. People smoke. People talk--why come so close to the stage if you're not going to watch? I'm irritated. Not even a half hour in, I'm pushing against the crowd, trying to get out.

I'm not an extravert. I never will be.

And for a while I fret about this, because the lights, the music, the dancing--all the main attractions--cater to extraverts.

Then Matt shows me the Silent Disco. As we enter the tent, the DJ hands us headphones, which broadcast three different types of music. I put the headphones on and the beat enters my brain. So I close my eyes and dance. And because there's ample space, I don't have to worry about bumping into others or being bumped. I can pretend I'm the only one here and dance freely.  And when I'm tired, I take off my headphones and the noise ends.

It turns out, introvert activities are plentiful if you take the time to seek them out.

The next morning, as I traipse Artsy Hill, I catch, out of the corner of my eye, a hoop dangling in midair, much like the one from Lucent Dossier. A few people are playing on it, and a woman in a mirrored jumpsuit sings on a stage. She is Kim Manning, aka Space Queen, and I think her voice sounds amazing, but no one seems to be paying her much attention. Still, she smiles and addresses the few few people in the vicinity. I find this positive attitude inspiring, so I lounge in one of the dusty sofas and listen. It's like having my own private concert.

Then, right as I'm about to leave, I see Kim jump onto the hoop and start doing acrobatics tricks. I think, Wow, this woman's amazing. Why did I need to go to Lucent Dossier at all?  

Later that night, we wander to the Village, where people chant around a fire and a shirtless man passionately strums the sitar. We drink delicious tea with strangers. We take turns pushing each other on a swing that mewls like a kitten when it creaks, and when I tilt my head all the way down, upside-down stars fly past me.

We are surrounded by the quiet and gloriously alone.

* * *
To Be Continued...

Tuesday, June 16, 2015

Travelogue: Lightning in a Bottle, Part 6

What: An Art and Music Festival with a New Age Twist
Where: Bradley, CA
When: Friday, May 22nd to Monday, May 25th
With Whom: my friend Ashley and her boyfriend Matt

Part 6: Food and Drink
Aside from the various muffins (which I consider a good breakfast food), most of what we have brought are snacks: pita chips and hummus, popcorn, crackers and vegan "cheese," and a bit of fruit. Ashley and Matt might enjoy grazing, but I prefer more substantial meals.

Fortunately, food trucks peddled their comestibles over each of the festival hills. The trucks serve every dietary need, from vegan to raw to gluten free and, most definitely organic. But they have carnivore-friendly dishes as well. I eat fried rice with marinated chicken ($15) on Friday night, then I sample a vegan burger and mint lemonade ($12 total) on Saturday, and on Sunday I try pizza with tomatoes, mushrooms, and pineapple ($12).

The prices are not unreasonable, but they do add up, so I learned to buy one meal for the afternoon and then supplement it with snacks.

I also drink water. Water pumps abound, and I carried my water bottle on a dog leash and fill up when I get low. That works for the mornings, but by the afternoon, I crave something ice cold and calorie-laden. I find myself returning to the tent, propping up the cooler, and reaching for one of the many drinks Ashley brought: Yerba matte tea, coconut water, and ginger ale.

But I can't drink too much of the last one. We're saving the soda for mixers.

Now I hardly drink and neither does Ashley, but she has gone out and bought these cute little sample bottles of liquor: horchata rum, fireball whiskey, honey whiskey, southern comfort, pear-flavored vodka, raspberry vodka, and something called Hpnotiq, an unnaturally blue drink that mixes exotic fruits, vodka, and cognac.

So, as the sun begins to cool, Ashley takes on the persona of Meow Mix, our own personal bartender, who pours in a splash of this with a splash of that and makes magic. My favorites combos are the horchata rum and root beer, which foams and tastes like melted ice cream, and the Hpnotiq and ginger ale, which works against all reason.

We go wild and drink with abandon. Which, for us, means, we down the equivalent of maybe one and a half shots of alcohol, heavily diluted. We become giggly and just on the verge of pleasantly dizzy. With Happy Hour over, we are ready to take on the night.

* * *
To Be Continued...

Sunday, June 14, 2015

Travelogue: Lightning in a Bottle, Part 5

What: An Art and Music Festival with a New Age Twist
Where: Bradley, CA
When: Friday, May 22nd to Monday, May 25th
With Whom: my friend Ashley and her boyfriend Matt

Part 5: Dress and Hygiene

In true festival form, a large proportion of people (mostly women) wander around in little more than bathing suits and boots. I don't feel comfortable in this kind of dress. I'm not young and attractive. I'm a teacher, and there's always the possibility of running into students, as I've just learned.

Besides, I've no idea how people saunter in the blazing sunlight without getting fried to a crisp.

The first day, I wear a black sleeveless camisole shirt, black stretch pants, and a floozy ballerina skirt. Even though conservative by Lightning in a Bottle standards, I feel exposed, and my shoulders turn a lobster red. I don't feel like myself. I feel like I'm trying to blend in and projecting  a false impression of myself.

The next day, I wear my favorite dark blue yukata with white cranes.

I love my summery Japanese kimono. I feel pretty and modest and unique. The robe protects me from the sun and the dirt; it's cool enough for the afternoon and warm enough for night. And when I wrap the robe around me, I feel clean.

Cleanliness is important as there are limited opportunities to wash up. Two identical tents on either side of the camps, each called the Oasis, offer showers for a minimum $8 charge, but one Oasis is co-ed and both have long winding lines to get in. I make due with a fist full of baby wipes, a spray bottle, and a stick of deodorant.

Over time, I develop a morning cleansing ritual.

First I purify with the baby wipes. I carefully remove last night's make up from my face and then rub my hands clean of dirt, before moving down to my arms and the rest of my body. I put on my camisole and stretch pants and deodorant. Then I brush and braid my hair and pin it to my scalp. I don't know why, but brushing my hair makes me feel civilized.

As I apply make-up to my eyes and start rubbing my body down with sunscreen, I consider how to best protect myself from the elements, namely the sun. Will I use a parasol? A head scarf? I don't want my shoulders to burn. And what about dust? I tuck in a clean handkerchief into my drawstring bag, alongside my fan.

I never think about these things when I go to work, because I sit all day in a cushy classroom. But the sunburnt stripes on my back remind me to respect nature and to take the time to consider my environment.

At night, I put on my ugly-but-incredibly-warm brown windbreaker and add a single green glowing band to my wrist. Light is necessary to anyone planning to use the porta potties at night. Ashley and Matt both have headlamps they wear around their necks, and Ashley has a belt with a patch of pink lights on her hip that makes it easy to see the ground. Matt shrugs on a jacket with a glowing blue diamond and a homemade hood with a mosaic of tiny mirrors. These catch the lasers and occasionally send off spurts of prisms.

I'm fascinated with the way the mirrors break up my reflection. No matter how much I stare into it, I cannot see my face, not a whit of it.

* * *
To Be Continued...

Wednesday, June 10, 2015

Travelogue: Lightning in a Bottle, Part 4

What: An Art and Music Festival with a New Age Twist
Where: Bradley, CA
When: Friday, May 22nd to Monday, May 25th
With Whom: my friend Ashley and her boyfriend Matt

Part 4: Making Friends

Before we came, Ashley suggested bringing gifts. I decided to bake muffins. Vegan banana muffins with cranberries. Vegan banana muffins without cranberries. Lemon cranberry muffins made with yogurt and eggs and hence not vegan.

Four dozen muffins are surprisingly heavy to haul up the hill. When I examine them afterwards, I discover that many are smooshed.

But I've brought the muffins here so I might as well give them away. Bright and early Saturday morning (by which I mean 9:00 AM), I arrange the least squished muffins in a basket and walk down the road with Ashley.

"Good morning," I say. "Would you like a muffin? They're free."

"You look like someone who could use a free muffin," Ashley says.

People are receptive to free food. We receive hugs and smiles and are called "muffin angels." I feel good about breaking the ice and getting to know some of our new neighbors.

Later in the day, people remember me.

We don't bribe our neighbors, Jeff and Annie, with muffins, but Jeff helps us with our flag and we offer Annie a ginger ale when she complains of a sore stomach. We spend Saturday afternoon chatting with them. Sunday afternoon, we hit a tent that offers free tea and meet a couple of bright-eyed young girls with necklaces of aura-enhancing nuts. One girl wears daisy cat ears.

That same day, a couple of girls with eyes painted above their forehead approach me while I'm sitting at our tent.

"Were you a substitute at Brea?" they ask me.

I answer yes.

"You subbed for us," they said. "We were students at Brea High. We graduated last year."

I give a sheepish smile, suddenly feeling profoundly old and out of place.

* * *
To Be Continued...

Monday, June 8, 2015

Travelogue: Lightning in a Bottle, Part 3

What: An Art and Music Festival with a New Age Twist
Where: Bradley, CA
When: Friday, May 22nd to Monday, May 25th
With Whom: my friend Ashley and her boyfriend Matt

Part 3: Exploring

I can't stop staring.

My brain tries to make sense of the mesh of people on the road: the bathing suits, the body paint, the flowing skirts, the head scarves, the college sweat shirts, the tie-dye, the tight leather bondage gear, the full furry animal suits, the tight sparkly pants. It's too much. My brain won't digest it.

It handles the landmarks better. The bathhouse, the tower of light, the gate with the white medallion, and we're inside the the festival. I memorize the route.

In the daylight, its a circus. Big top tents and people in costumes. A ferris wheel and a giant skee ball ramp. Rows of vendors selling leather belts and earrings made of bicycle gears. A dome with a silent art auction.

At night, it becomes a carnival. Lights everywhere. Lasers bouncing from the main stage, glowing flow toys, people in neon-lit fur. It's easier to stare at night, and as I gaze from costume to costume, I wonder why they chose to dress this way, what they're trying to express.

We lurk at the edge of the stage, and I want to dance, but I can't get into a groove. People keep bumping into me or moving around me, taking me out of the moment. It's becoming too much. My sensory brain is overwhelmed. So I drift off to the lakebed, where water has sunk into the earth, making the land verdant, green and beautiful in the sunlight.

At night it seems like an endless chasm. I stare over the edge of the earth. Why have I come here? What have I expected to find? Will I find my own niche? Or will this alien landscape swallow me up?

* * *
To Be Continued...

Sunday, June 7, 2015

Travelogue: Lightning in a Bottle, Part 2

What: An Art and Music Festival with a New Age Twist
Where: Bradley, CA
When: Friday, May 22nd to Monday, May 25th
With Whom: my friend Ashley and her boyfriend Matt

Part 2: Making Camp

I'm not sure why we end up hauling all our stuff from the car, because there is a tram. But for whatever reason, Matt ends up tying the tent to the cooler and slowly carting it up the dirt pathways, while Ashley and I throw bags over our arms and wrists. We begin our half mile march to camp.

What surprises me--and initially puts me off--is how close the tents are. No neatly partitioned lots; instead, canvas and cars crowd for space like a portable city block. My shoulders ache, and I would dearly love to throw off the bags and settle down, but the idea of finding a spot amid the chaos, of asking strangers if we can camp near them, causes me to freeze. In the end, I send Ashley to scout ahead.

She finds us a great spot next to a giant white tent with a pirate flag--a great location marker--that is close (but not too close) to a row of blue the Porta Potties and a water pump. The land is hard, but not too rocky and only mildly sloped. It's easy to lay on and not hurt our backs.

We pitch our green, two-room tent (a thin barrier separates the "rooms") and decorate the outside with solar-powered Christmas lights and a string of prayer flags and an actual flag that's really a tie-dyed scarf duct-taped to some extra tent poles. (It slopes slightly). We put our cooler under a long strip of tent flap to keep it shady and cool.

Inside, we string fairy lights around the ceiling--white for Ashley and Matt's side, blue for my side. (These are the same blue lights I wore to Shpongle.) Ashley tells me they cost about $5, but when we flick on the battery pack, they shine like constellation, wafting soft, mood lightning that is surprisingly easy to see by. 

I've been sore and tired and uncomfortable coming to the camp, wondering if I've gotten too old and lazy to enjoying camping. But once I spread myself out on the sleeping bag, I suddenly feel happy and settled. I've claimed my territory. Amid the sea of strangers, I've found my own private home.

* * *
To Be Continued...

Saturday, June 6, 2015

Travelogue: Lightning in a Bottle, Part 1

What: An Art and Music Festival with a New Age Twist
Where: Bradley, CA
When: Friday, May 22nd to Monday, May 25th
With Whom: my friend Ashley and her boyfriend Matt

Part 1: The Landscape

A bit north of San Luis Obispo, Bradley, CA sits like a hermit on its porch.

Dusty hills are brushed with yellow grass and a few trees--I want to say olive--and what seems to be wild mustard: bushels of thin, tall stems topped with careening yellow flower heads. At midday, the temperatures grow pretty damn hot and windy, and the dust (or playa sand, as my friends called it) digs deep into our noses. At night it gets cold--not unbearably cold, but cold enough to want a good jacket and sock-covered toes.

I can't imagine that predators roam the land, or wooden signs would have warned us against leaving wrappers still rank with chocolate and sweet soda-stained bottles in open trash bags just outside the tent. At one point, Matt offers a piece of neon orange cracker to a little gray ground squirrel; but it rejects his offer and eats a grasshopper instead.

On the outskirts lay the parking lots, and further in, the camps. Dirt roads with names like Croatia and Monkey Business criss-cross the camp, plowing up and down the rocky ravines. Once inside the central festival area, long plywood bridges aid the roads across the hills.

(The first time I cross a bridge, I worry it will break. So many people cross, we could be a parade. But the bridge endures, and we walk one lane coming to and another going fro, giving high-fives to each other as we pass.)

In my mind, I divide the festival into three areas, each one anchored by a long hill.

To the west, Party Hill splays out like a toad about to leap. The jewel of this hill is the Lightning Stage, characterized by white laundry sheets that flutter like seagulls in the daylight and reflect beams of neon lights at night. It's envious brother, Thunder Stage, competes to see which can strum the bass harder. Between the two lies the Pagoda Bar--a punched-out top hat of red and yellow stripes--and four steampunk teapot towers. One tea pot is rigged with a lantern that shoots darts of color, while the others house a permeant occupancy of snoozing guests.

Hippie Hill slouches in the middle. It boasts the Om Yoga Stage, the Temple of Consciousness,  and the Village. When I wander, I find plaster white faces on gnarled, moss-covered stumps turned inward toward a shrine. The chief plaster face has a vertebrae of bones and hovers over a twisted tree laden with offerings of crystals, melted candles, and a dead bat on a piece of shell. Elsewhere, one little Buddha sits on a labyrinth of rocks and another is nailed to a tree, a broken folding fan as wings. In the shade of a small tent, people lay on the ground to experience the healing vibrations of a giant gong.

Artsy Hill nudges Hippie Hill to the east. Canvases line the lone, green lawn, and artists stand in the shade with their palettes and brushes. Further down, beats pour off the Woogie Stage, dancers swaying under giant blue Morning Glories. A colossal Russian nesting doll watches in mournful silence.

* * *
To Be Continued...