Six Months After the World Ended … Have You Found Your Purpose Yet?

Non-traditional ragdoll cat in tuxedo pattern

What rapture?  I’m still here …

You may recall that this blog ended on the day the world was predicted to either end, or humanity would be propelled into a more conscious evolution — that is, on December 21, 2012 — my 45th birthday as well as the end of the Mayan long count calendar.  I spent the Winter Solstice of 2012 near the Atlantis Energy Vortex on the tiny tropical island of Bimini as my finale to a manic six months of travel.

My search for Life Purpose was officially over.

Today is the Summer Solstice, and despite this blog’s long silence most of us are still here six months after it was all supposed to end.

So what has happened these past months?  If you recall, I was having a rather high maintenance melt-down over the fact of turning forty-five, and was absolutely determined that I would find my elusive “Life Purpose” by 12/21/12 … at the LATEST.

So now that this deadline has truly come and gone, am I any closer?

Yes and no. 

The thing is, these past six months haven’t been all that different from the six months this blog was active.  We still travel (though not as frequently), I still struggle with finishing my writing projects, I still lose my cool with Hubby at least once a week, and I still (occasionally) beat myself up for no longer practicing law.  But a few things have changed:

  • I completed an Improv class (which was scary as hell, and also taught me my Purpose is clearly NOT to ever be a stand-up comedian);
  • I’ve actually been riding horses every week, rather than trying to learn my purpose from them;
  • I’ve expanded my writing network to include lots of other creative types to help offset the more materialistic influence of my OC girlfriends;
  • I have (accidentally) become a certified Reiki Master Teacher (not my purpose either … but perhaps a good story for another day); and
  • Gratitude has become a daily meditative practice for me.

The thing is, it’s taken me awhile, but:

I NO LONGER BELIEVE IN LIFE PURPOSE.

I’m not saying that life is meaningless — not at all.  But rather than drive myself crazy for the rest of my life trying to discover that “one great thing” I am destined to do, I’m taking it day by day.  The weird mosaic that is resulting is unlike anything I would have predicted – it’s messy, non-logical, seldom clearly profitable, and I’m really too close to it to see the entire picture anyway.

I bet it’s the same for you.

The journey is the purpose.  And yes, we do have some good trips planned for the rest of this year.  The question is, do I need to blog about my life in order to fully live it?  Clearly the answer to that question is NO, but:

Do YOU have any interest in following my future travels?

If so, I would love to hear from you.  I am toying with the idea of launching a new blog or travel website, but in order to do that, I need a subscriber base.  If you haven’t already done so, please fill in your email in that little box at the top of this page.

No SPAM.  Promise.  (OK, I might sell your email address for a few K.  Yeah, right.  Who do you think you are, anyway?)

Seriously, at least leave a comment.  ANY comment.  Okay, I’m begging.  Not cool.  Sorry.  But you can bitch about it in your comment, if you want.

—-

PS – I must confess the real reason I’m blogging today is that it has really been bugging me I only wrote 32 posts in 2012.  Everything else in my life is a double digit; this brings the total posts to 33.  Stupid, right?   Tell me that in your comments …

We Did It! (Saved the World, That Is … Musings from Atlantis at the End-of-This-Blog)

I wake at precisely 11:11 to crazy alien vibrations and pulsing lights streaming into my beachside cottage.  Here I am, just four days before the purported “End-of-the-World” all alone in the middle of the Atlantis Energy Vortex in the Bermuda Triangle.

And I’m Shitty Scared.

Why didn’t I bring Hubby on this trip?  The wind seemingly comes from nowhere, rattling the broken Venetian blinds in my room and immediately transporting me back to childhood alien abduction fantasies of the Whitley Strieber genre.

Communion by Whitley Strieber

Could this finally be the UFO nightmare that’s been haunting me since 1987?

It doesn’t help matters that all these New Age types I’ve been hanging with here do nothing but talk about past lives and all the strange mystical shit that transpires here regularly on this tiny island of Bimini, Bahamas.  Here is what the daytime view looks like:

Bimini tree

Gorgeous, right?  But also desolate.  And somewhat scary.  (Like, how is that tree actually growing on that rock with its roots attached to nothing?)

The spacecraft gets closer and louder. 

Its lights now shine directly into my room and I have no idea what I should do.  I have no cell service, and the others in my group are staying several miles away.  The “resort” I’m trying to sleep at is deserted; I haven’t seen another guest or even a staff member since checking in two days ago. Plus, I’m not dressed and have no make-up on.  I’m hardly in a presentable state for my first alien encounter.

Nevertheless, I brace myself and crawl over to the window.

But by the time I’m brave enough to peek out, there is nothing left to see.  Why did I elect to spend my last days here, of all places?

It’s been six months since I started this blog on the Summer Solstice in Barcelona.  At the time, even though I knew the world wouldn’t actually end on my 45th birthday (12/21/12), I wanted to examine how I would live my life if I truly did have just six months left.  In those six months, I’ve slept in twenty-four cities.  And even though many of these places were relatively close to home, both I and my travel budget are now truly exhausted.

I so want this grand finale to pay off.

So what did I hope to find here in Bimini?  A large part of my quest this year has been related to rediscovering my life purpose.  To this end I’ve studied with a Zen priestess, let horses whisper my truth back to me, journeyed to some gorgeous new places, revisited some past favorites, bought some art, drunk too much wine, read too many books, spent too much money, fought with Hubby a few too many times, and even paid a guru or two to give me their version of my best path forward.  And while I’ve certainly gained something from each experience, I’m no longer certain that I’ve even been asking the right question.

Maybe there is no such thing as a single Life Purpose?

In other words, perhaps our purpose evolves and grows just as we do.  According to ostensible prophet Edgar Cayce, those who journey to the Atlantis Energy Vortex near Bimini with a good heart will be rewarded by gaining knowledge of their spiritual goal in this incarnation.  If there’s even a chance of this being true, I still want it.

Plus, this trip promises wisdom from another source:

spotted dolphins in Bimini, Bahamas

If the wild dolphins are anything like the incredible horses I worked with in September, they have plenty to teach us.  But just like my alien encounter, things with the dolphins don’t go exactly as planned.

But before I get to the dolphins, I need to explain a little about the “energy work” our group is engaged in.  We start each day with yoga, we’re being trained in Reiki, and we eat nothing but gourmet raw vegan meals:

raw vegan salad

raw vegan cuisine

I feel light, clean, and healthier than I’ve felt for a long time.  But even so, I don’t feel so different that I would hallucinate.  At least I don’t think I would.  But here is what happens when we’re hunting for seashells at the beach:

Bimini ascension beam

Beam me up, Scotty?

The leader of our group tells us the photo shows an example of pure energy.  She reminds us that we are the holy grail; when we open our minds and hearts to fully receive, we become the chalice for the universe to fill.

My smart atheist friends say the photo is just an example of “lens flare.”  

But I didn’t show them what the beam of light left behind in the water:

The Thing that ascended in Bimii

What do you think that weird blob hovering on the right side of this photo is?  (I wish I could tell you; I have no idea.)

Strange things happen here.

But back to the dolphins.  We have no trouble finding them on our very first outing:

first dolphins we see in Bimini

But our captain is puzzled that they’re in the wrong place.  He’s been leading dolphin expeditions for fifteen years, but has never found them heading South like they were when we met them.  They are clearly in a hurry going somewhere, and take little time to play with us.

The next day, we find a single dolphin — again, very unusual, as they swim in pods — who swims directly beneath me at the bow and lets me take several pictures.  Unfortunately, right after this, my new camera is whisked off its strap and falls into the ocean.  It seems weird that the camera strap would  break so easily, and I can’t believe my bad luck.

Until one of my fellow travelers shows me this shot she captured of the same dolphin:

face of underwater goddess with dolphin

What the heck is that underwater face in the upper left corner?  (And please don’t tell me it’s lens flare ...)   My friends think whoever/whatever it is also stole my camera.

We don’t see any more dolphins after my camera goes missing, despite three more attempts.  We are hoping to travel forty miles offshore on 12/21/12 to the middle of the vortex, but the weather doesn’t cooperate and we have to be content sending positive energy to Atlantis from the shore.  So here is what we manifested — my birthday sunrise at the End-of-the-World:

Atlantis energy grid

And to me, it really doesn’t matter whether this photo is lens flare, or if we activated the ruby rays of the energy vortex and thereby helped the planet move on to the next level in its evolution.  One of my women in my group “channeled” a message from the dolphins.  Apparently they were too busy doing their own energy work with the grid beneath the sea to spend time playing with us.

Do I believe her?  Do you?

At this point, it no longer matters to me.  I have found new friendships and true beauty on this trip.  (There is much more to add, but not in a lighthearted blog such as this.)

Does this mean I’ve also found my life purpose during the course of this blog?  At least I know my purpose was NOT to go missing in the Bermuda Triangle.  I feel like Dorothy in The Wizard of Oz, because all my travels over the past six months have just made me realize there’s no place like home.

Bimini flight home

Leaving Bimini … There’s no place like home!

I’m now forty-five.  And I’m okay with this.  Mostly.  Well, sort of. (Okay, the Botox budget will probably just keep rising from here.)  And even if I didn’t save the planet, I am here for a reason.

And so are you.  Remember, No Journey is Wasted.

——–

THANK YOU for journeying with me on this blog!  I’m not done traveling (Tibet, Norway, and Easter Island hover near the top of my list for 2013/14), but this blog is resting for now.  If you wish to be notified of future projects (including my upcoming book and new screenplays!), please SUBSCRIBE with your email address at the top right side of the home page on this blog.

Feeding My Inner Rockstar in Hollywood (or, Loosey-Goosey Magic, Roars, and Becoming a Celebrity with Christina Morassi)

“Tomorrow I will be reborn,” I say to myself as I set my iPhone alarm for 6:04 a.m. — the exact time of my birth nearly 45 years ago.  I am not in the habit of making such proclamations, nor can I remember ever having set my wakeup call for this time before.

Little did I know what was in store.

That was Monday night, and it’s just one more example of the psychic incidents I keep trying to squelch — such premonitions had no place in my previous legal life, and it’s hard to talk about them even now as an unemployed OC Housewife.  Yet it’s getting more difficult to deny the odd coincidences that happen all the time now.

Is this just a 2012 thing?

In any case, practically the first thing we did on Tuesday morning the day after my intuitive declaration was an intense “re-birthing” exercise.  Who would have expected to be born again at a business seminar?

Welcome to the world of Christina Morassi.

Christina Morassi's "Ecstatic Wealth" event in Hollywood, 2012

It’s true; despite my misgivings, I couldn’t quite manage to stay away from her “Orgasmic Money” Ecstatic Wealth event in Hollywood this week after all.  It was at The W, a kinda hip hotel at the not-so-hip intersection of Hollywood and Vine:

The W in Hollywood

Christina is hardly a typical businesswoman.  By her own account, she specializes in “loosey-goosey magic, celebrity, and ROARS” (as in lion sounds).  She related these five words (loosey and goosey must count as separate words?) were the result of an exercise she conducted to distill her iconic essence.  (Try it: quickly write a list of 100 words about you, cut it to 25, then just 5.  These are your essential traits. Mine are: Wanderlust, Chiron, hummingbird, sunshine, and imagination.)

But back to my “rebirth.” 

According to Christina, one of the many things that can hold us back from achieving our goals in life is we have never cleared our essential wounds.  In many cases, these happen during or around the time of our physical birth.  Since Christina is interested in helping women make money as quickly as possible, she wanted us to work on clearing our emotional obstacles.  To this end, she led us in a visualization where we sent healing energy and love back in time to our own births.  We were to give ourselves any and all good that was missing from the original experience.

Well and good, but based on the level of outright wailing in the room, some of my peers truly must have hated being born.  I shed a couple of tears myself, mostly because I still hold some guilt over my immaculate conception and possibly (likely) holding my mother back in life.  But Christina really wanted to stir things up.  According to her, in addition to coping with my existential angst over being born in the first place, I might also have had a “vanishing twin” – that is, my conception originally resulted in twin embryos, but only one (ME) survived.  Apparently, this is not at all uncommon: one in eight of us started out as potential twins.

I probably ate my twin.

I do share my 12/21 birthday with Josef Stalin, after all.  Plus, Mom always tells the story of how I tried to suffocate my younger brother with a pillow when I was two.  (He’s just 18 months younger, but apparently I LOVED being an only child.)  Oy veh.

Can we please just move on to the making money part?

I don’t mean to sound glib.  Or sarcastic.  (Well, maybe just a little.)  But I seem to have trouble processing some of these New Age exercises.  I DO believe we can all benefit from introspection, healing old wounds, and from trying to transform limiting or negative beliefs.  What I have a problem with is gurus manipulating people’s emotions simply to get at their money.

These three days were a pretty intense emotional rollercoaster.

Divas. Dancing. Dressing Up. Find Your Ecstatic Brand. Charge What You’re Worth.  Laser Coaching. Become a Rock Star.  See the Proof of Your Purpose in Your Own Palms.  Become Wealthy So You Can Change the World.  ROAR because it FEELS SO GREAT!   YOU ARE THE NEW CELEBRITIES.  Listen to Powerful Testimonials from Successful Business Divas Just Like You.  Invest Large Sums So You Can Do It Too.  YOU ARE WORTH IT.  YOU NEED A MENTOR.  You Cannot Do It Alone.  We are your friends.

It’s captivating and persuasive content.

Most of it felt empowering.  They even took glam photos of us to help us visualise our ecstatic futures:

Kate, becoming escstatically wealthy at the W in Hollywood

During the “Wealth Consciousness” evening, one of the ostensible Seven-Figure Divas transmitted money manifesting energy to us all in a weird shamanic dance that quite resembled going into labor.  And while no one was actually having epileptic fits on the floor, at times it was pretty darn close — almost like those writhing “saved” souls at charismatic churches.  (Meanwhile, I felt like Rod Tidwell in Jerry Maguire, wanting to just shout: “Show Me Da Money!” already …)

The maddening thing is that it worked.

Or at least it appeared to.  By now you know I love to poke holes in and make fun of things, but Hubby actually texted me in the middle of the above ritual to tell me he’d just received a very large bonus from his company … coincidence?  Hubby would surely say so.  Or maybe it was just good Feng Shui.  I did cover our garden in moneywort several months ago:

moneywort in our garden creates wealth?

More likely it was simply due to all of Hubby’s very hard work, but that’s an awfully boring explanation.  (Hey, I’ll take the money however it comes; we need it to pay for all my frivolities of the past six months)

As for me, I haven’t been able to do anything but sleep ever since Christina’s seminar.  Seriously.  I couldn’t even make it through the entire three days.  I came home on Wednesday morning (because I couldn’t process any more guru stuff?) and took a nap at 4:00, fell asleep on the couch again at 8:00, then slept a full ten hours before our cat got impatient and pounced on my back.

I guess I’m just not destined to be a Business Diva.

Or am I just sad that I’ve decided not to continue on with this particular Goddess sect?   (Excuse me — they’re called “Business Divas” this time, not the goddesses, queens, or sensual sisters of other programs.)  I‘m not sure yet.  Part of me really loved and admired all the ambitious women I met there; I can see my younger entrepreneurial self so clearly in them.

I understand loving and coveting money.  I truly do.  I live in Newport Beach, after all.  I’m also probably one of the earliest students of “The Secret” — long before the movie came out, I was involved in a personal development program where I personally “manifested” six figures in six weeks.  It seemed like I would never need to worry about money again. 

Until everything collapsed.

The thing is, even if you’re a megawatt shining business diva like Christina, only a very small percentage of people have the star power to replicate your success when you’re not actually selling a product with high inherent value. 

Eventually someone points out that the Empress is naked.

Please do not mistake this as criticism of Christina.  I’m actually really drawn to her, and admire what she has built.  But I also happen to know a fair number of wealthy people; several are family members.  None of them would ever DREAM of handing over thousands of dollars to a “guru” like Christina.  And I’m finally starting to listen to people who actually have some of the financial sense I lack.

But Christina is not targeting people who already know how to make money.  She’s after the rest of us: those of us with a dream.  And a desire to change the world that is so big it keeps us up at night.

I completely understand that.

And some of her students (YOU?) will no doubt succeed.  Brava for that!

But others will fail.

And that’s what everyone who invests in these types of programs needs to fully understand.  There are many ways to start a business.  Some people need a cheerleader and supportive community; people who buy for this reason will likely be extremely happy with this program, even if their businesses fail.  Others with a more practical bent prefer investing their money in building a great website or securing a solid inventory source.

Both methods can work.  It’s not an either/or process.  Personally, I loved Christina’s energy and enthusiasm; I would love to have her as a friend and mentor.  And frankly, I came very VERY close to signing up for her “diamond” level program because let’s face it:   I’m still searching.

But at the end of the day, Hubby’s voice was stronger.  (“That money could be half of your kitchen remodel.” Or even more persuasively, “That’s enough to pay for our Easter Island trip.”)

So did I lose my courage in saying no to Ecstatic Wealth?  Or am I finally learning that part of having a “wealth mindset” is learning to hang on to some of our money?

Now THAT would be a real re-birth!

I’m still not entirely sure that dropping out of this program was the right decision, and I do hope I’ll at least retain connections with some of the powerful women I met this week.  I really do believe we can all “Rock Our Purpose” and “Change the World” … just perhaps not all on the same path or in the same way.

—–

I would love to hear your thoughts about mentors and gurus in general.  Have you ever paid more than you felt comfortable with for a coaching program?  Were you satisfied with the results?

I want a divorce!

Time is running out until 12/21/12, and I’m forcing myself to face some pretty large issues I’ve been in denial about for a very long time.  The truth is, things just aren’t working the way they used to.

I want a divorce.

I want a divorce! 

But not from my husband.  I hate to admit this, but I think it’s high time to divorce …

MYSELF.

I wish I meant this figuratively, but I’m afraid it’s literal this time.  You see, back in 2008 at one of the many personal development seminars I got caught up in, we all participated in a wedding ceremony where we actually married ourselves.  Of course this event was no different from most — 99% of the participants were single women looking to find themselves.  I suppose that’s why no one bothered to ask me if I objected to polygamy.  (Hubby was raised Mormon, so I guess he had this coming.)

But I’m tired of me.

And I want a divorce.  Today is Thanksgiving, and as I reflect on all of my many blessings I wonder what is truly going on in the personal development world.  Why all the constant striving to be, do, and have more?  Can’t we just be happy with and truly appreciate what we already have?

As Joan Ocean writes in Dolphin Connection, “So often we no longer see the planet’s beauty … the absence of gratitude in our world results in the demise of our planet.  Expressing heartfelt gratitude is one of our intrinsic purposes, a sacred responsibility.”  Speaking of which, I am extremely grateful to be where I am today, surrounded by beauty near my in-laws’ home in Rancho Mirage:

Rancho Las Palmas with Scotty and Tasha

Rancho Las Palmas with Scotty and Tasha

We even enjoyed smoked salmon and mimosas on the golf course this morning:

Mimosa and smoked salmon on the golf course

Life is good.

Darn good.

So why do I keep striving for more?  I’ve even committed to attending a workshop in Hollywood next month called Orgasmic Wealth.  (Ok, that’s not the real name, but it’s awfully close.  Just don’t want to defame anyone here.)  It’s one of those self-actualized woman things.  You know the pitch: just use your feminine powers and the Law of Attraction.  Relax, learn to receive, delegate more, work less, and the money will magically flow into your life.  Rock your purpose. Change the world.

And we’ll all be Wealthy, Wonderful, and Wise

As long as you pay $50,000 for a high vibrational mentor to “coach” you.  (Non-refundable.  Because of course if you fail, this is your fault.) 

(Shoot, there’s that pesky sarcasm again ...)

According to Debbie Lachusa we’ve become a culture of success addicts, and  narcissism rates are exploding about as fast as the obesity epidemic.  Just look at FakeBook and the proliferation of self-absorbed blogs like this one.

ME. ME. ME. ME. ME. ME. ME. ME. ME. ME. ME. ME. ME. ME. ME. ME. ME.

Even typing that last line felt icky.

So I’m off to spend time with others.  My family.  And I hope you are appreciating yours.  Yes, I’ll be back to blog about my travels soon, and maybe even give you the inside scoop on the orgasmic wealth event, but today I would really rather hear about YOU.

—–

What are doing today to celebrate Thanksgiving?  And what are you grateful for?  Do you ever feel like I do, that you just want to relax and stop trying to improve everything all the time?

Who Pinched My Paninni? (And What Do Druids, George Michael, Pub Food, Sunglasses, and London Bridge Have in Common?)

“Hey, who pinched her pannini?” the fry cook shouts impatiently.  We have been shivering in the wind outside Stonehenge’s one tiny concession booth for about twenty minutes, our bus back to London will leave without us any minute, and it appears that someone has stolen my sandwich.

What are we doing out here with this ancient pile of rocks anyway?  In my quest to visit anything and everything related to the Winter Solstice and December 21, 2012, I simply couldn’t skip this:

Kate -Winter Solstice stone at Stonehenge

The round boulder to the left of me in the henge’s foreground is my very own birthday stone – the “Winter Solstice Stone.”   According to one tour company, December 21 is the most important day of the year at Stonehenge because the monument and my special stone will be “carefully aligned on a sight-line that points to the winter solstice sunset.”

But today isn’t the Solstice.

It’s just a cold October afternoon with busloads of tourists jostling each other out of the way because even though no one understands the original purpose of the 7000-year-old structure, everyone thinks it’s a great photo opp:

Kate at Stonehenge

And despite the many tourists here and my stolen lunch, I must admit I do feel a special energy here.  Could it be true, as archeologist Philip Coppens speculates, that Stonehenge might be part of a larger ancient civilization modeled on the lost city of Atlantis?

Where is Harry Potter when you need him?

As cynical as I sometimes sound on this blog, I’m in the mood for some MAGIC.  Stonehenge would be a lot more interesting if the British guides didn’t insist on immediately debunking all the mythology.  How was it built?  They can’t say, but it definitely wasn’t erected by aliens.  How did the Druids manage to lift and transport all these multi-ton boulders hundreds of miles without roads?  They don’t know that either, and in fact, the very existence of Druids is questionable too; all we have about them are some spotty records written hundreds of years after the fact.  Ok, what’s wrong with the aliens theory then?  You say you’re from California?

Basically, Brits seem to think everything is a pile of rubbish. 

Except for George Michael:

George Michael is brilliant

He’s Brilliant.  (I know this because we asked random Brits emerging from his concert last week in Earl’s Court and they ALL used the same adjective to describe him.)

But it seems everything and everyone who is not George Michael are not to be trusted.  Crop circles are manmade.  According to one British journalist I chatted with about some of the other New Age topics I’ve written about on this site, even dolphins and horses are suspect.  “They only make you feel healed because they’re cute.  Plus there’s the whole anthropomorphism problem.”  (Ok, but I’ve always been curious about the reverse: What do you call it when animals assume we humans have some basic sense of intuition, and can instantly detect good and evil the way they do?)

But I digress.  Here are a few quick travel tips from our U.K. trip last week:

  • Traffic flows about a hundred times better in London than in L.A., probably because everyone takes the tube.  (But do not smile on the tube, unless you want everyone to know you’re American.)
  • Brits don’t wear sunglasses (even though it was actually sunny one day).
  • Unless you’re George Michael.  (See above … he’s brilliant.)
  • If you wear sunglasses AND smile, people will take pictures of you.
  • If you go to a pub alone and smile, don’t say I didn’t warn you.
  • In fact, it’s best if you don’t smile at all.  Especially if you want to be mistaken for James Bond:

James Bond 007

He’s the one in the middle.  (No wait … that’s Hubby.)  A few more tips:

  • Westminster Abbey looks much more impressive on TV than in person. (I wonder if the same is true of Kate Middleton?)
  • Do NOT stay in Earl’s Court unless you are a backpacker.  (Possibly the worst Marriott ever?  They try to hide this by advertising it as “Kensington” but don’t be fooled, it’s totally Earl’s Court: Cold showers, injury inflicting doors, plus a bad key card … not that I’m high maintenance or anything.)

At least this trip is better than when I really was a backpacker here in 1993.  On that trip, my sole purpose was to unload $5,000 worth of papyrus some shady Egyptian guy in Cairo told me I’d be able to “double my investment” with by selling it in London (at a non-existent shop):

Kate with Egyptian scam artist in 1993

As Hubby claims, of course I will buy that bridge from you.  (And no, Hubby, I will not be naming any of those stars after you that I bought title to last year ...)  What else?

  • Harrod’s closes at 8:00.  The London Eye will likely be closed no matter when you go.
  • They won’t let you in to the Parliament Building (especially if you’re smiling and wearing sunglasses).
  • London Tower has nothing to do with London Bridge.  (But at least there’s a decent pub near the latter.)
  • Do not smile if you go into that pub alone.  (Am I repeating myself here?)

Amazingly, pub food and Wisconsin food have the exact same nutritional value:

pub food

But I must admit that dark pubs and heavy food fit the environment here perfectly.  They offer so much comfort.  So, after getting lost near the London Bridge (which has nothing to do with London Tower, where the crown jewels are kept), I duck out of the rain and into this place:

The Harlot and the Banker

I sit alone at a small table and a somewhat inebriated Brit immediately asks: “Are you meeting someone?”  I reach for my sunglasses and emphatically answer, “YES.”  He plops down next to me and smiles, “Could it be ME?”

And I can’t help but laugh, because even the cheesiest pickup lines are somehow more charming with a British accent.

But whatever happened to my pannini at Stonehenge?

“Sorry, some other blonde picked it up ten minutes ago.”

I bet she was wearing sunglasses.

Brilliant.

Berlin, Beijing, Bali, Burkina Faso, Brisbane, Berkeley, Bangkok, Buenos Aires, Bora Bora, and Buellton (or, the Travel Moments that Transform Us)

From Barcelona to B_____________?

When I launched this blog on 2012’s summer solstice in Barcelona, I was searching for a great place to wrap things up for the winter solstice on 12/21/12, the infamous “End-of-the-World” (or start of a new era?).  Belize seemed the perfect choice – not only for its Mayan heritage, but for the alliteration:  “Barcelona to Belize” just has a nice ring to it.

But I still haven’t decided where to spend my last day on this planet.

This morning I started thinking about some of the other “B” places I’ve been, and what these trips have meant. The places listed in the title of this post span a travel period of 25 years; each journey has been transformative in a different way.      

Here’s what can happen if you travel to “B” places:

You may get frustrated because you can’t speak the language.  You may learn humility for the same reason.  You may diversify your palate.  You may find a second family.  You may discover Wanderlust is part of who you are.

You may witness a revolution.  You may be followed by mobs of people like a movie star. You may be disgusted by local habits (or you may join in and learn to spit).  You may spend time in a hospital without modern hygiene.  You may learn to live with cockroaches in your room. You may be given snake venom, tiger balm, and foul spelling mystery brews as medicine.  You may be surprised when this works. You may ride a bicycle everywhere and decide to paint it in bright colors after your third one is stolen.  You may learn to bribe low level officials in order to get even the simplest things done.  You may have your identity card and your allowance stolen.  You may spend endless hours on trains. You may get shoved around a lot.  You may get used to your mail being read and your room bugged.  You may wish you could afford a $12 Mai Tai in the city’s only Western hotel. 

You may find yourself breathless gazing at the beauty of a tropical ocean.  You may vow to yourself never to let corporate life stop you from seeking beauty.  You may have an affair with a much older man. 

You may have to sleep on the  ground and not be able to shower for ten days at a time.  You may get dysentery so bad you feel you might die. You may learn to attract butterflies with your mind.  You may learn to truly appreciate clean sheets for the rest of your life. You may hallucinate in the desert.  You may use your travel time to read all the classics.  You may fall in love and get married. 

You may move to the other side of the planet and start a completely new career as a “witch doctor” (naturopath).  You may learn this choice is not compatible with your decision to marry a “real” doctor.  You may learn that no matter how large an American spider is, it’s not really BIG.  You may miss ants that do not bite. May may miss central heating (and air conditioning even more). You may regret not getting that law degree.  You may miss home.  You may get divorced even though you still love the man. 

You may feel broke and broken.  You may go back to law school.  You may become roommates with a crazy French lady who talks like a poodle. 

You may miss a catastrophic tsunami by mere hours on your honeymoon with your next husband.  You may feel blessed.  You may become a lawyer. 

You may learn to tango.  You may learn to appreciate the amenities of five star resorts. 

Your vision may go spotty as you gaze upon the most beautiful place you’ve ever seen.  You may have the best sex of your life.  You may be be inspired to cut back your hours in what you’ve decided is the world’s worst profession.  You may lose your job. 

You may buy a puppy.

You may decide to write about it all.

With Hubby in Bora Bora, 2009

With Hubby in Bora Bora, 2009

The bottom line?  No journey is wasted. 

In case you didn’t recognize “Buellton” in the title of this post, it’s a small town in Santa Barbara County, right in the middle of the wine country where Sideways was filmed.  It’s where we bought our dog, Natasha, three years ago and near where we’ll be wine tasting this weekend.  Tasha adores road trips and will be coming too.  (She may even be my first guest blogger next time?)

Cheers, until then …

Hubby and our puppy at the Hitching Post in Buellton

Hubby and our puppy at the Hitching Post in Buellton

Question:  When was the last time you took a quick inventory of lessons learned in YOUR past journeys?  Do you find such exercises useful?  And if you have any ideas on where I should end this journey, I’d LOVE to hear them!

Politics and Family in the Land of Beer, Brats and Cheese …

Barack Obama consults his campaign itinerary and looks at my little brother.

“How the heck do you pronounce the name of this place?”

My brother pauses for a moment, and decides to answer with candor:

“Well, white people pronounce it “Ruh-SEEN.  Black people say “RAY-seen.”

Barack gets that slightly puzzled look we’ve all seen so often now on TV.

“Ok, thanks.  That’s … helpful.”

The town President Obama and my brother were referring to is Racine, WI.  It’s about 65 miles from Janesville (the ostensible home of Mitt Romney’s running mate, Paul Ryan) and roughly 40 miles from where I’m sitting right now.  (Little Bro is not currently in politics, but was the former WI governor’s press secretary during Obama’s 2008 campaign.)

Hubby and I have been spending this week at a lakefront McMansion in Lake Geneva, Wisconsin.

I had nearly forgotten how peaceful Midwestern summers can be.

Powers Lake - view from house (Lake Geneva, WI)

view from the McMansion

The only catch? (besides the mosquitos)

We’re sharing the house with my entire family — all 15 of us (including five flaxen haired little monsters children).  If this were a reality TV show, it would be some strange combination of The Simpsons, Family Feud, Survivor, and Yo Gabba Gabba.

The adventure starts with our drive from Chicago’s O’Hare airport to the Flatlander-Cheesehead (Illinois/Wisconsin) border at about 10pm Tuesday night.  Hubby is famished, but I am morally opposed to (and physically disgusted by) fast food.  We see few other options.

Right after we pass another vetoed McDonald’s, Hubby spots his mecca:

The Brat Stop in Kenosha, WI

He slams on the brakes and does a U-turn.  I whine a little as we swerve into the parking lot, but what can I really do?  We’re in Wisconsin, and avoiding bratwurst and cheese here is like going to Italy and trying to stick to a carb free diet.

If you’re not from the area, you may not realize that “brat” is not the term used for high maintenance housewives and spoiled children; in Wisconsin it’s pronounced BRAHT and is shorthand for “bratwurst.”

We enter the Brat Stop and I’m immediately transported back to my high school days.  Every appetizer on the menu is deep fried (how many ways can you fry cheese?), the beer choice is seemingly unlimited, and house wine (the only available option) costs just $4.50 a glass.

The bar is humongous with at least a dozen large screen TVs blasting the day’s sporting news.  Most of the guys sport baseball caps and tattoos; all drink beer.  The woman next to me must weigh about 300 pounds, which would stand out pretty much anywhere — except for here.  In the restroom, a poster of one of the place’s most loyal patrons (think Norm from Cheers) pleads for donations to help cure his liver and bowel cancer.

And yet … the place is packed.  Late on a Tuesday night.  People keep eating their brats and deep fried cheese.

Hubby enjoys his brat.  I steal a few potato chips and stick to my house Chardonnay.  I’m actually quite enjoying myself (I feel so thin here!), and am tempted when Hubby offers to buy me a souvenir t-shirt.

But somehow, even though I’m rapidly approaching Cougar-dom, I can’t quite bring myself to wear a shirt promoting myself as a “Brat Stop.”  (And I can’t help but wonder if Senate candidate Todd Akins would link the wearer of such shirt to an “illegitimate rape” should a guy take advantage?)

The next day, back at the McMansion, the plumbing goes out.  Nothing brings a family together more quickly than having to work out an emergency toilet plan.  Brother-in-law does the only sensible thing and hightails it back to Chicago, leaving my sister and their baby to fend for themselves.  My two brothers and their families quickly disappear too, leaving poor Mom to nurture Sister through her crisis-of-the-day.  No one knows where Homer Simpson Dad went.

Hubby and I do the only thing we can think of to help: we buy a bunch of wine and host a tasting for the family. By the time the plumbers finally arrive to pump the family sludge out of the basement, we are all buzzed and happy again.

I don’t know if our actions were correct, and I really doubt that blogging about my relatives will endear me to them.  But what I do know is this: families are complicated, complex, and messy.  Even for those of us with “happy childhoods” and “fully functional” adult relationships.  (Tolstoy was wrong?)  Our families force us to face again and again all those issues we convince ourselves we’ve left in the past.

But for those of us who are lucky, our families are the people who know us the best in the world and hold up the clearest mirrors.  In most cases, our families didn’t choose us and we didn’t choose them — and for me, that makes the love I feel for my relatives the most remarkable gift of all.  They know I don’t eat “brats” and that I’ve been a “brat” in one way or another most of my life.

Somehow we manage to love each other, warts, scars, and all.

But I haven’t finished the Obama story.  “So which pronunciation of Racine did Obama choose? The black or the white? ” I ask my brother.

My brother didn’t remember (or wouldn’t tell me).

——-

Question:  Which pronunciation of “Racine” would you have chosen in Obama’s situation?  Do you feel that getting along with your family is similar to politics?  Have you ever gone on vacation with your family as an adult?  Tell me all about it …

33, 44, 55, 66, 77 … Kate’s Sequence (or, what’s in a number?)

I used to be really good at math … when I was thirteen.  So good, they allowed me to skip a class and take Algebra II when I was a freshman in high school.  But by the next year, in Advanced Geometry, I had had it … my little brother (now an engineer) was two years ahead of his class, sat right behind me, and beat me out on every single test.

Being one of those shallow narcissists who can’t stand being bad at things, I dropped out of math and science before I ever took Calculus or Physics.  (Thankfully, lawyers don’t have to be good at math …)

But this hasn’t stopped me from being fascinated with numbers.  In fact, I noticed just this morning while getting my overdue Botox fix that a strange number pattern has emerged in my life this year:  33, 44, 55, 66, 77 …

I call it Kate’s Sequence.  The numbers represent the age of my (bratty beautiful) younger sister, my own age, my best Newport girlfriend’s age, my mother’s age, and my mother-in-law’s age as I type this in 2012.

But one of the most important women of my life doesn’t fit the Sequence:  Grandma turned 94 on Tuesday, as did Grandpa a couple of weeks earlier.  They are still married, still have their hair, still have their minds, and are utterly disgusting to the rest of us impressive:

My grandparents' 93rd birthdays in 2011

If you haven’t noticed, Grandma bears a distinct resemblance to Betty White.  And not just because she’s tiny, cute, and Norwegian … it’s because she still has that lust for life and sense of humor that keeps a person young forever.  Even (especially) without the Botox.

I owe Grandma a lot.  She was the one who bought me the all important Calvin Klein, Jordache, and Gloria Vanderbilt jeans in grade school … and later, Guess, Bon-Jour, and (when slumming it) Lee jeans in high school.

Grandma would have really enjoyed being a Real Orange County Housewife.  Not because she ever had plastic surgery or hair extensions, but because to this day, she is the only woman I know who has never washed her own hair.  (I’m not kidding!)

She also taught me to hide my credit card statements from Hubby. 

So what’s my point here?

I started this blog because I was afraid the world was going to end in six months.  How was I going to make the most of the scant time I have left?  And how was I going to cope with turning 45 in the high maintenance capital of the world?

Grandma is 50 years older than I am.  If I have her genes (and I must have at least some of them), I’m not even half way there yet.

So my Sequence (the ages of various beautiful women I know) is not so different from the Fibonacci sequence.  In that famous pattern, each number is the sum of the previous two numbers: 0, 1, 1, 2, 3, 5, 8, 13, 21, 34, 55, 89, 144, 233, 377, 610, 987 … The higher up in the sequence, the closer two consecutive of the sequence divided by each other will approach the Golden Ratio (approximately 1 : 1.618 or 0.618 : 1).

Why does this matter?

Because the golden ratio (also called  “phi” and depicted by the Greek symbol Φ) is in everything.  It represents no less than what constitutes BEAUTY in the world – both in nature and in art.  It’s the ratio used to design the Parthenon and the Pyramids of Giza. It’s the number expressed in spirals, snowflakes, flowers, fractals, and our own DNA.   It’s the ratio between a perfectly fertile woman’s waist and her hips.

It’s the closest thing to spirituality a scientist can believe in.

The golden ratio is also expressed in this ancient fossil I discovered last week in New Mexico:

ammolite & ravens

The photo isn’t great, but it’s a picture of an ammonite fossil affixed to a gold bracelet I bought last week in Taos.  (The background pic is just a notebook with ravens on it — the birds are considered to be messengers between this world and the next, a fitting totem for a writers’ journal?)

I realize I’m rambling here.  But heck, Grandma has been here for 94 years, and that ammonite fossil has hung on for 35-million years

And if Fibonacci’s number and the golden mean are found in everything beautiful from nature, to art, to music, then certainly there is beauty in women of all ages.

Suddenly, I feel like I have time.

And that’s not a bad thing.  Even at the end of time …

—–

Questions:  Do you find time to be elastic?  What state of mind are you in when time just flows effortlessly?  What are you doing?  And when does time drag?  Are you a chronic clock watcher?  If so, might it be time for a change?