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.

Only in Montecito (Or, Still Finding My Hedonist/Blowhard/Narcissist Self in California)

So I’ve been silent on this blog ever since my Thanksgiving manifesto declaring my intention to stop being such a narcissist.

But I didn’t say anything about giving up Hedonism, did I?

Thank God.

Hubby and I spent most of this week celebrating our eighth wedding anniversary (and ten years together) at the Four Seasons (Biltmore) in Santa Barbara.  It’s one of our favorite places when we decide to indulge a little — even our dog, Tasha, knows it’s far better than any Marriott.  Plus, there’s an excellent dog beach right in front:

dog beach in Santa Barbara in front of the Four Seasons

Sometimes the best breaks are close to home (two hours away in this case).  Such trips are generally easier, often cheaper, and usually safer.  You may recall that on our original honeymoon in 2004, Hubby and I managed to avoid the tsunami in Phuket by a single day simply because my brother-in-law “happened to” gift us with an extra night in Bangkok on our way there.

Luck was with us on this anniversary trip too.

Since the resort was half empty after Thanksgiving, we were able to upgrade to a suite nearly half the size of our house:

our suite at the Four Seasons, Santa Barbara

They even gave us welcome champagne and cute little anniversary treats after every meal:

anniversary treats at the Four Seasons

And don’t get me started on the food and wine … Santa Barbara is just far enough north to “get” wine country cuisine.  The sea bass at Tydes was divine.

Okay, this is starting to sound like one of those blog posts we’ve all seen too many of: “Look at me … my life is perfect.  Don’t you wish you were ME?” (There’s that blowhard narcissist voice again …) 

Speaking of which, I actually did have my first ever obligatory SoCal beachfront photo shoot while we were there.  And I have to apologize to all the models I’ve ever scoffed at; it’s nowhere near as easy as it looks:

Kate's first beachfront photo shoot in Santa Barbara

I’m also a little annoyed that I look so short next to Hubby:

Kate & Scott's eighth anniversary photo

(I’m 5’8″ but am used to wearing platform stilettos to get closer to Hubby’s 6’4.”)  But I digress yet again.

So why am I writing this?  I’ve spent eleven years in California now, and this place is as seductive as ever.  I try not to be too shallow.  I really do.  But sometimes, five star treatment really does feel nurturing and healing.  If you fully live in the moment and truly appreciate it, that is.  I sometimes have to remind myself that:

More is more, but plenty is more than enough.

A few years ago we met a very rich, very miserable woman on a Crystal Cruise.  She actually lived full-time in the boat’s presidential suite, but still kept a penthouse  residence at the Four Seasons in Sydney, even though she was never there.  In fact, she proudly informed us of the exorbitant amount of money she had once refused when Mick Jagger wanted to rent her home for a week.  Whereas many would be happy to rub shoulders with celebrity, all she could do was complain the hotel had deigned to approach her with the offer.

The more some people have, the more they bitch

I’m certainly not exactly low maintenance either, but lately I find myself getting sentimental and tearing up nearly every day over all the beauty in life.  All I feel like doing is kissing the earth I walk on and giving thanks.  Life isn’t perfect — our kitchen still needs to be renovated, I’m getting more wrinkles, I’m still childless and jobless, the budget isn’t always balanced, I still have MS, my vision is getting worse — but it’s still MY life.

And Life is a Gift.

December 21 is less than three weeks away now.  If it really were the End-of-the-World, I could honestly say I’ve lived an exquisitely beautiful life.  Indulging in places like the Four Seasons from time to time is not so much what has made this so, but I view such trips as more of an affirmation that life is here to be savored and enjoyed — even if this means stretching the budget sometimes.

In my experience, not all healing is physical.

So the photos are not so much to show you how great my life is, but to document and remind myself of this.  The shots I like the best are not even the ones people would call “pretty” but the ones where I just look happy:

Kate laughing outside the Biltmore Four Seasons in Santa Barbara

You don’t need to stay at the Four Seasons (although I recommend it!) to appreciate the little things in life.  (Like those five bottles of L’Occitane verbena lotion I lifted from our suite ...)  Notice and give thanks for the big things too:

Like going through life with the person you love.

Hubby probably needed this trip even more than I did.  He’s been traveling for 15 weeks straight now, and this is the first truly “low stress” break we’ve had for a long time. So I can’t really blame him for being slightly careless on this trip.  When we went to dinner on our last night in Montecito, he accidentally left his front car door wide open the entire time … with his iPad sitting in plain view on the driver’s seat.

Pierre Lafond Wine Bistro in Montecito

Pierre Lafond’s Wine Bistro in Montecito

This being Oprah’s hometown, no one bothered to steal it.  (Or the car, for that matter.)

Only in Montecito.

So, yes, we’re still incredibly lucky.  And spoiled.  And blessed.  And I hope you realize that SO ARE YOU.

—-

Question:  What little (or big) indulgences help you to affirm your life is beautiful?

Tasha, Tasha, Tasha! (Or, Why I Hate Travel — “A Lion’s Meditation” by Boris)

I feel just like Jan on the Brady Bunch.  Remember how everything was always about Marcia?

Marcia Brady

Well, around here it’s “Tasha, Tasha, Tasha!”

Tasha the herding dog

I’m so sick of that stupid dog.  Naturally she got to be Kate’s first guest blogger, even though I have lived with her far longer.  Just because that moron dog likes to go in the car, that’s supposed to make her a travel expert?

Please.

My name is Boris, and I’m Kate’s cat.  And as you can see, I am by far the best looking creature in our house:

Handsome Boris, a non-traditional ragdoll cat

And even though I like helping Mom with this blog:

[]”””””””””””””””””””””””””””””””””””””””””u8iiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiihjnb v8888888888888888888888888888888888888888888888888888888888888888888888888888888888888

(that was me, walking across the keyboard),

I HATE TRAVEL.

Even five minutes in the car makes me hyperventilate.  The only good thing about travel is that when dopey Tasha goes with them I get the house to myself.

cat and dog are not friends

Would you PLEASE leave now?

It’s not like I’m ignorant about travel, mind you.  In fact, I’m the only pet in this house who has ever flown on an airplane — First Class, no less.  Even though a casual observer might think I’m an average tuxedo cat from the shelter, I’m actually an exceptionally rare breed:  a “non-traditional” ragdoll cat, directly descended from the infamous Josephine and that alley cat (supposedly spliced with human genes) who knocked her up.  After Mom lost her favorite kitten (another non-traditional ragdoll) to cardiomyopathy, I guess she was desperate for a replacement and found me online.  (Kind of like how she found Dad online to replace her first husbandI would praise the internet for making upgrades so easy, except she found that disgusting dog online too.)

As a breed, we ragdolls are supposed to be super affectionate and almost completely resistant to pain.  I only share the first trait when I feel like it (NEVER with Tasha), and I test the latter frequently.  Dad calls me clumsy.  He claims I’m the only cat who consistently falls off things and doesn’t know how to land on his feet.  (I think he’s just angry about all the vet bills.  Well, if that idiot dog wouldn’t chase me all the time, I wouldn’t need to climb so high.)

The only part of travel I really love is when Mom brings out the suitcases.  Unlike Mom, I LOVE packing.  But doesn’t she know that suitcases are meant for sleeping in?

cat sleeping in suitcase

If it were up to me, Mom would stay at home ALL the time — with me.  Dad can travel all he wants, so long as he takes Tasha with him.  Mom clearly likes me the best anyway.  We don’t have any dog art in the house (who would want to paint a stupid dog?), but there are LOTS of felines around here.

My favorite is the life-sized bronze lion above our staircase:

Boris and bronze lion

Except when he tries to steal my food:

cat and bronze lion

Hey, I got here first!

It’s so obvious I’m the favorite around here.  Mom even bought me a souvenir from her last trip.  It’s called “Lion’s Meditation,” by Michael Parkes:

Lion's Meditation by Michael Parkes

I love it.  The artist got things right, the way life should be:

Feline plus adoring Female equals happiness. 

A lion’s meditation, indeed.  At home alone, with no loud obnoxious dingos messing things up.

Perfect.

—————-

Mom says there are only 36 days left for this blog.  I think people are sick of reading about travel anyway.  What do you think?  Will you read MY blog?  (I’m thinking something like “The adventures of Boris-the-Badass cat and Natasha-the-Nincompoop dog?”)

I Left My (WTF ??) in San Francisco …

Part of the challenge with travel is how you deal with the things that inevitably get forgotten at home (my most common: sleeping mask, headphones, toothbrush, umbrella, bandages, tampons, meds, wine opener, socks, underwear, passport, and did I mention wine opener?) or lost along the way (like my curling iron in Paris).  Without fail, the forgotten or lost item is the ONE thing that would make your present moment more comfortable.

If you have been following this blog for any length of time, you know I generally try to mitigate this situation by overpacking.

This trip is no different.  As I write this from San Francisco, I realize that even though I packed five pairs of shoes, three pair of pants, two dresses, three sweaters, and two jackets for a single long weekend, I still lack the right clothes.  (Who would predict 80 degree weather at this time of year?)  My boots and winter shoes are worthless, but at least I remembered to bring one pair of sandals.

That was a mistake, as you’ll soon see.

But let me back up to the good parts of the trip first.  We start the weekend at an oceanfront B&B at Miramar Beach in Half Moon Bay.  With possibly the world’s grumpiest front desk clerk, I wouldn’t  exactly call it five star, but the included breakfasts and happy hour wine more than make up for this. Plus, there is nothing like falling asleep to the sound of waves:

View from our room of Miramar Beach, Half Moon Bay

room with a view

The surrounding area is quaint, with pumpkin patches everywhere:

Pumpkin Patch in Half Moon Bay

I think it’s charming, but Hubby still calls this the Redneck Riviera.  We’re not that far from San Francisco, and this is possibly the only place on the planet where real estate values actually fall as you get closer to the water.  (Maybe THIS is the place I can afford that ocean view home?)  I wouldn’t mind; it’s quite stunning here:

Half Moon Bay - Montara

It’s also romantic.  We even witness a marriage proposal from our Adirondack chairs outside an old speakeasy at Moss Beach:

Moss Beach proposal

From there, it’s on to see a one-man show by my favorite magical realism artist, Michael Parkes (the one I purchased that “Gold” painting from in August).  I even sweet talk Hubby into letting me buy this:

Golden Finch by Michael Parkes

It’s all going swimmingly, until we drive back to San Francisco and check in to the lovely old St. Francis hotel on Union Square:

Westin St. Francis Hotel in San Francisco

In contrast to the lackadaisical service in Half Moon Bay, our bellhop volunteers to upgrade our room before I can even ask.  After a fantastic caviar embellished dinner at Farallon, I immediately remember everything I miss about Northern California wine country cuisine.  (As much as I love Newport Beach, Orange County people have no clue about fine dining — with a few notable exceptions, it’s mostly still “big slab of meat on a plate.”)

So what’s the problem in San Francisco?

Nothing, until I decide to wander around the city in my sandals. 

Warning for the faint of stomach: Do NOT view the next photo.

You see, of all my “enhanced” or artificial features, there is only one I’m truly ashamed of …

I have fake toenails.

Not by choice.  Call it a casualty of growing up in Wisconsin, where my very first job at age 14 (it lasted all of three days; even then, I couldn’t handle manual labor) was detasseling corn.  Three days of sweaty drudgery in non-stop rain and God-knows-what-is-really-lurking-in-our-produce caused me to lose both big toenails.  (They occasionally grow back, but mostly not.)  I’ve probably spent thousands over the years getting new acrylic ones applied, and every time I’m still embarrassed.

So when the San Francisco “street performer” (I can’t really tell what he’s trying to do, unless this is supposed to be a performance art piece demonstrating “mayhem”) gets into a scuffle with another guy and stumbles right onto my foot, I’m mortified.  My toenail goes flying across the plaza and lands right in front of Nordstrom.

It’s not pretty:

not pretty - my missing toenail

I think about retrieving the toenail, but realize I didn’t pack any nail glue anyway.

So, I put on my best OC Housewife face and march straight back to hotel, hoping no one will look at my feet.  At least I packed boots.

And thankfully, it’s time to go home …

——

Question:  What is YOUR most embarrassing travel story?  (I wish I could say this was mine, but unfortunately it’s one of far too many …)

Pepé Le Pew in Paris and Les Braves in Normandy (or, Still High Maintenance After All These Years?)

“Are you sure you’ll be able to handle this?”

“Sure, it will be romantic.”

“I don’t know … Remember last time?”

We are in Paris, and Hubby is referring to the very first overseas trip we took together here when we had just begun dating.  (I mean really, what woman wouldn’t marry the guy who takes you to Paris on a date?)  Now he’s questioning whether I really want to stay at the same place we did ten years ago.  It was a “charming” little hotel on the Left Bank in St. Germain. Certainly not five star, but purportedly a favorite among models and artists in the know.

At least in 2002.

Had he been paying attention, Hubby (who was not yet Hubby) should have been put on notice of what a high maintenance woman I was destined to become, because even then:

I couldn’t stop myself from whining about the hotel.

Specifically, about its hair dryers.  (Or rather, hair frizzers — weird devices on a vacuum hose attached to the wall that heated up way too much and blew just the tiniest amount of air — just enough to produce a pretty good Afro, but not to actually dry your hair.  The heat also made it impossible apply makeup in the sauna of a bathroom that resulted.)  From memory, the rooms were pretty miniscule too.

But I didn’t care on this trip.  All I could really think about were the good things: our early romance, the fantastic location within walking distance of the Louvre, plus the in-house jazz lounge with live music.

It would be romantic.

And it was … sort of.  Here we are last week at one of very same bistros we visited in 2002:

French Bistro

But some things never change.

Remember Pepé Le Pew and Penelope?  You know, the French skunk constantly searching for  “l’amour” and the poor little cat who keeps running from his advances? (If you haven’t seen him action for awhile, watch this clip: “Louvre Come Back To Me.”)

Pepe Le Pew loves Penelope

These days, the networks would never allow a would-be rapist to be featured in cartoons, let alone a character who stereotypes national origin so blatantly.  (Same goes for Speedy Gonzales.)  But of course, the reason stereotypes are such fun is because they so often ring true.

I saw evidence of Pepé everywhere last week in France.

No, I was not assaulted by any French men who needed a bath …

I’m talking about l’amour!

Or rather (and sadly for Hubby), Penelope’s reaction to Pepe’s advances.  At least on our first night, I had more in common with that nay-saying cat than any Parisian sex goddess.

Butt at least I'm in Paris ... sculpture outside the Louvre

Butt at least we’re in Paris …

The truth is, a person can really only tolerate so much beauty.  Paris can be overwhelming, even if you’ve been there before.  It’s sort of like this sculpture near the Louvre … is she simply so ecstatic about being in such proximity to the Eiffel Tower that she can’t stand up?

Or is Pepé lurking somewhere nearby and she is feigning a headache?

Both are possible in Paris, especially if you’re crabby about the hair dryers.  (And no, even though our hotel is finally undergoing a complete overhaul, the hair frizzers are exactly the same.  I overheard at least half a dozen other women complain about these at breakfast.)

It’s difficult to respond to l’amour with frizzed out hair.

Fortunately, I did remember to pack a curling iron and adapter, and with the help of a little French cuisine, our last night in Paris was saved.

Kate at a bistro in St. Germain

Plus, wearing French lingerie (for once) instead of the usual we’ve-been-married-forever t-shirt didn’t hurt either.

But we must move on.  After just two nights in Paris, we drive to Normandy because Hubby is a big World War II buff and wants to visit the beaches where the Allies landed on D-Day.  As a typical Lexus Liberal who has never actually experienced war, I wasn’t exactly thrilled about this.

And I still don’t know how to write about it.

First, here is the view from our hotel room in Arromanches, overlooking Gold Beach (and you know how much I LOVE gold):

View of Gold Beach from our room in Arromanches, Normandy

The countryside and beaches in Normandy are stunning, which makes it that much harder to understand everything that happened here 68 years ago.  We visit four of the five invasion beaches: Sword, Juno, Gold, and Omaha.  Each is more difficult to view than the last.

Imagine being in your early twenties and scaling these walls at Pointe Du Hoc, knowing that if you make it up you’re likely walking straight into your own death:

Pointe Du Hoc

You can see the remains of German bunkers, fox holes, and gun stands here, and the earth still has bombed out scars everywhere.  I can’t help but be reminded of Stone Henge when I see the circular configuration of some of the former weaponry sites:

Gun stand at Pointe Du Hoc, Normandy

Gun Henge?

Fittingly, the weather is windy and rainy during our visit which makes it easier to envision what the Allies were facing.  (The original invasion date was delayed due to bad weather.)  We take shelter at the Normandy American Cemetery and Memorial:

American cemetary in Normandy

Thousands of veterans are buried here; most barely in their twenties when they died.  (And across town at the German cemetery, hundreds of the dead were still children, as the Nazis actively recruited 16 year olds.) 

I am particularly struck by one line in a film at the American Memorial:

“The fate of the free world once rested on their shoulders.”

And I wonder: Did they realize this?

Thank you.

Your lives were no wasted journey.

Artist Anilore Banon expresses this far better than I can with his Les Braves sculpture at Omaha Beach:

Les Braves -- Omaha beach sculpture

The memorial sculpture is meant to symbolize Hope, Freedom, and Fraternity.  Or, as Pepé Le Pew says:

“War eez fine, but zee louv eez bettah!” 

By the way, Pepé was created on January 6, 1945, just a few months after the D-Day landings.  For me, this is just a reminder that among all the other freedoms our war heros won for us, the ability to laugh is one of the most dear.

Incidentally, I accidentally left my curling iron at our tiny hotel room back in Paris.  My hair in Normandy is a flat and frizzy mess.

And for once, I don’t care.

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.

Stonehenge, Atlantis, my Bucket List and the Monster at the End of this Blog

Yikes!  (And you know how much I hate to say “yikes”…)  But there are only 69 days left until 12/21/12.

And you know what that means.

No, I’m not talking about THAT 69 … but the monster at the end of this blog will soon reveal himself.  (And I hope he’ll be a cute little rascal like Grover .. oh wait, I forgot, if Big Bird is getting the axe, Grover probably will too.)

Seriously, the time left until 12/21/12 is speeding by, and it’s probably time to reveal where I’ll be spending the End-of-the-World/My-45th-Birthday in December.

Are you ready?

No, it’s not Belize.  In fact, after much deliberation and far too many travel quotes, it’s not even Mayan.

But before I reveal all, I have to explain just how much the first 111 days of this blog’s journey have surprised me.

When I first started this blog, it was sort of a tongue-in-cheek joke because my 45th birthday happens to coincide with what millions of doomsday freaks predict will be our last day on planet Earth.  (On the other hand, millions of New Age freaks believe 12/21/12 will usher in a new era of unprecedented peace and human evolution.)  Either way, it begged the question: if there really were only 180 days left, how should I spend them?

I didn’t know. 

But what I did know was that I was open to anything, and that we would be spending the summer solstice in Barcelona.  From there on, I was clueless.  And I couldn’t help but think of 2007’s The Bucket List, starring Jack Nicholson and Morgan Freeman:

The Bucket List

As you likely recall, the two main characters in the movie were both dying of cancer and abandoned their families to jet set around the world, squeezing in every exotic fantasy they possibly could in their last days.  An unrealistic premise for sure, but the film was a hit worldwide because let’s face it — we all have a Bucket List.

But what was truly on mine?  More travel?  Even though I adore journeys of just about every kind, I knew from the start of this blog that simply taking a few more expensive vacations this year was unlikely to be transformative.

Unless I did things differently.

So with the exception of our starting trip in Spain (which was still a lovely way to reconnect with Hubby), each of my journeys this year has served a deeper purpose beyond simply taking another vacation: Santa Fe and Taos taught me about Zen meditation and how to apply this to writing, the Wisconsin trip helped me connect on a much deeper level with my family, traveling with our dog Tasha in the wine country reminded me of how much I have to be thankful for close to home, and the horses in Tucson taught me how to stand more confidently in my own truth.

So what’s happening in the next 69 days?

Next Tuesday we’ll be touring Stonehenge; on Wednesday I’m meeting with a travel editor in London to discuss how to develop a travel writing career.  From there Hubby and I are revisiting a quaint hotel on the Left Bank in Paris where we first traveled during our dating days — surely something will be rekindled there? 

November will be devoted to everything I love in California, with trips to San Francisco, Half-Moon Bay, Rancho Mirage and the Desert, Santa Barbara and Carmel.  I’ll also be continuing important journeys at home too, including advanced screenwriting classes with Corey Mandell in LA, and a wonderful forum with other women working on increasing our visibility and creating our “ecstatic brand” with Christina Morassi.  (Definitely more on that one to come!  So far, she’s proving much of my skepticism about gurus … um, well … wrong.)

Enough already … So what’s the big finale in December?

Here’s a clue:

Happy Dolphins

Given all I learned from the horses, I’ve decided to go swim with wild dolphins.

Remember how I wanted to end this blog with a “B” name? (“From Barcelona to B_________”)  I’ve now got three:

Bimini, Bahamas, and Bermuda Triangle. 

If the world really is going to end, I may as well go out with a bang, right?  On December 21, I’ll be on a boat somewhere over the Atlantis Energy Vortex in the Bermuda Triangle, where we’ll be  “sending out beams of 5th dimensional consciousness to the planet from this sacred site through a guided meditation.”

Did I mention I’m afraid of boats?

Plus, my least favorite movie of all times is Open Water (can I say “yikes” again?)  But the good part is we’ll be spending hours every day swimming with the wild dolphins, which should be really cool.  The only other catch?

No coffee, and no wine.

In addition to lots of meditation and yoga, the week will include a strict vegan raw food detox diet.  We’ll also be certified in Reiki I and II before the week is up.  New Agey?  For sure. Scary? You bet.

Hubby will NOT be joining me.

And I can’t say that I blame him. 

—–

Will YOU?  I’d love to have some company … Just leave a comment if you’d like more information.

I AM ENOUGH (Or, How Riding a Bionic Horse Can Make Your Inner Critic Shut the F*!# Up)

“I am enough.”

“What do you mean?” Hubby asks in puzzlement.  “You’re enough WHAT?” He is on the verge of laughter until he sees how close to tears I am.  That’s the trouble with breakthroughs; no matter how  life changing and adrenaline pumped they may feel in the moment, they are often nearly impossible to describe to other people, especially those closest to us.

If you read my last post, you know I recently returned from an Equine Therapy retreat in Arizona.  Thanks to the skill and heart of both the facilitators and horses, the week was mind altering, heart expanding, truth deepening, paradigm shattering, and spirit affirming.  And yet, the inconvenient truth is:

I’m still struggling to integrate what I learned there into my “real” life.

“Come on, tell me what you mean; tell me about the horses,” Hubby pleads.

“You had to be there, I guess.”  

The thing is, as much as I adore animals, it just sounds rather pathetic to admit that a horse taught me about self-esteem.  After all, I’m a pretty self-absorbed, narcissistic, achievement driven, pedigreed-by-multiple-expensive-degrees person.  And yet, I still spend an inordinate amount of time ruminating about how my life could be more meaningful/more successful/bigger/brighter/happier/fill-in-the-blank with whatever today’s self-improvement goal is.  (Or, as British writer Ruth Whippman argues, I’m just like every other neurotic American obsessed with the pursuit of happiness?)

So I decide to just tell Hubby what the horses actually did on the retreat and let him draw his own conclusions.  I’ll do my best to do the same here.

First, the environment in Tucson was somewhat challenging.  At least for me.  Not only were temperatures lingering in the neighborhood of 100 the entire week, but the days were heavily scheduled from 7:00 in the morning to 10:30 or later at night.  In my normal life I’m pretty much toast any time the temperature is over 75.  And while I’ve chosen to mostly not write about MS on this site, it’s relevant context information here because what usually happens when I get overheated is that my legs go numb, I (literally) can’t see straight, sometimes can’t walk, and generally need a looong nap just to get through the day.  Even without excessive heat, I pretty much gave up trying to do anything prior to 10:00 a.m. years ago; fatigue continues to be an almost daily challenge.

So by mid-afternoon of the second day, it wasn’t surprising I was so exhausted I nearly collapsed on the floor of our conference room.  We hadn’t really worked with the horses much yet, but things changed when we were given our first “challenge.”  I was to work with a spotted horse named Jorge:

Jorge, a horse with a lesson to impart

He was by no means the prettiest horse on the ranch, nor even the most friendly.  (Admittedly, this may have something to do with the fact that he was NOT among the horses I attempted to bribe with sugar cubes the previous day.)

Our task was to lead our horses through a series of physical obstacles that represented challenges from our real lives.  The stations got progressively more difficult: the first just a set of rails the horse needed to step over, the second comprising several traffic cones the horse was to weave through, and the final a gate the horse was to be led through before you closed the “door” behind him (in reality, this was just a rope).

For my real life obstacles, I chose health (and everything MS-related) as my first, my writing discipline (or rather, my lack of it) as the second, and my ambivalence over my past legal career (and inability to let go of it) as the third.  As we led our horses through each station, we were to concentrate on our correlating real life challenges.

Simple enough.

But like any decent reality show competition, there was a twist.

Two people would accompany each of us through the gauntlet with the horses: one would represent our inner “advocate” and would cheer us on with encouragement.  The other — you guessed it — would be our inner “critic.”  That person would SCREAM every imaginable mean thing at us to try to make us lose our concentration and control of the horse.  Given that I have almost no experience working with horses, I was not overly confident.

But Jorge was brilliant. 

He stepped right over all of my “health” obstacles without faltering, paying no heed whatsoever to my “critic” who was screaming all my worst MS-related fears at me the entire time.  The horse was even more impressive with the “writing” barriers, weaving perfectly through the cones and tuning out all distractions, as if to say: “See, piece of cake if you just stay focused.”

But when we reached the “law” barrier, there was trouble:

Trouble - Jorge stops to eat the shrubs

Jorge stopped in his tracks right before crossing the final “gate.”  He insisted on nibbling the one small patch of shrubbery I hadn’t even noticed was there.

He wouldn’t budge.

Earlier in the workshop, we had worked to set our intentions for the week.  I had two: I sought “healing without injury” and “clarity regarding my career.”  Of the two, the latter seemed to be the more pressing in my daily life.  I truly wanted to either “close the door” on my legal career for good and fully commit to writing, or admit defeat and just go back to law.  Or try to.  (That pesky energy/MS stuff seems to hinder that line of thinking too — see intention number one).

But Jorge just took his sweet time, nibbling away at all those delicious aspects of the “law” I’d almost forgotten I miss: logic and the ability to argue a case, a deep understanding of how multifaceted the truth can be, and the privilege of serving as another person’s best advocateOn the other hand, I don’t miss the constant stress of working in an adversarial system:

Playing the “critic” for others in this exercise felt like pure torture.

Ironically, out of our small group of just nine, three people chose me to play the part of their critic (and NONE their advocate!).  Even given my adversarial background, I was surprised by how emotionally exhausting it was to shout stupid mean things to people who were just trying to do their best.

It also made me realize how stupid I am whenever I listen to my own abusive inner voice.

Bottom line, I guess I still have a love/hate relationship with the law.  Nevertheless, when Jorge finally decided to pass through the final gate:

I decided to leave the door open.

Leading Jorge with my Inner Advocate and Critic

Because animals live in the present, they are not tormented with our anxiety to set our future path.  I am trying to live this way too.  I have no idea whether I’ll ever practice law again, but the door is still open thanks to one clever horse.

As for the MS stuff, I’m not sure exactly how working with horses was healing or whether the effects will last.  But as First Lady hopeful Ann Romney observed about her own struggle with MS: “Riding exhilarated me; it gave me a joy and a purpose. When I was so fatigued that I couldn’t move, the excitement of going to the barn and getting my foot in the stirrup would make me crawl out of bed.”  As a result, she said, “My desire to ride was, and is, so strong that I kept getting healthier and healthier.”

In my own case, after that one afternoon of exhaustion I noticed that even though we were almost constantly in the heat my body did NOT go numb, and I felt like I had as much (or at times even more) energy than my peers.   One afternoon I even went on the “fast” trail ride.  It was uncomfortable, bumpy, and HOT, but for some reason I didn’t get as sore as some of the other novice riders, and didn’t need a nap.

It was only afterwards I learned that my horse, “Cutaway,” was previously owned by Lindsay Wagner:

Lindsay Wagner as Jaime Sommers, The Bionic Woman

Maybe Cutaway was bionic too?  I certainly felt much stronger than usual after riding her. 

But getting back to my original goals for the retreat of healing and clarity, I do feel healed (at least a little) and Jorge reminded me that perhaps clarity isn’t all it’s cracked up to be.  Life is CHANGE.  All I have to do is be present, and appreciate the beauty of it all.  I am enough, whether I ever become a published/produced writer, practice law, or do nothing other than sit at home and “let the soft animal of my body love what it loves.”  I AM ENOUGH because I exist.  Life is a gift.

And for once, this is more than enough.

What to Do When Your Guru Wants You to Scratch Her Butt (or, What Living YOUR TRUTH Might Look Like?)

Despite all the sarcasm I’ve been guilty of on this blog, it appears I’ve finally met a Guru I have complete faith in …

Vista - my guru is a horse!

The only problem?  She wants me to scratch her butt:

Horse butt

I’ve been away from blogging this week because I’ve been too busy attending an Equine Therapy retreat with my Mother at a dude ranch in Tucson, Arizona.

Kate with Horses at Tucson's White Stallion Ranch

The trip was titled Reconnecting to Truth Through Horse Wisdom.  Before attending, I had little idea of what this meant, as I’ve never owned a horse and have ridden only a handful of times in my life.  I came into the week with few expectations, but the brochure promised to “compel [me] to reconnect with the truth of who [I am] through the mirror of the horse” and that the horse would “[provide] instant, non-judgmental feedback, reflecting back to [me my] inner-landscape and how [I move] through the world.”

In other words, the horse would definitely see through all my BS and give it to me straight.

Shit.

So I came prepared, armed with pockets full of sugar cubes and big bags of organic carrots and apples.  (Surely horses are amenable to bribery too?)  

I should have known better.

Even getting to the ranch should have alerted me to the fact that my usual way of being in the world was not going to work here.  As usual, I got a little lost trying to find the White Stallion Ranch.  I had driven six hours to be here, and somehow managed to make at least three wrong turns in the last ten minutes of the drive.  We were going to be late, and I was just a tad frustrated.

Fortunately, a friendly Arizona guy on a motorcycle offered to help. 

In exchange for giving me directions, he invited me to either: 1) donate $206 to the Grand Canyon State coffers, or 2) attend traffic school (a bargain at $185).  He claimed I was driving 47 in a 35 zone.  (But can’t you see I’m lost?  I didn’t see the sign.  Everyone else is going the same speed …)  But for the first time since I was twenty-two,

There was no way to sweet talk my way out.

But what does getting a speeding ticket have to do with horses?  There is a saying that the way a person does one thing is the way she does everything.  Perhaps if I could use this week to improve my communication with the horses, my communication with people would improve as well?

Kate & Pallomino - we blondes have to stick together!

We blondes need to stick together …

The first horse I gave a sugar cube to nearly knocked me over later begging for more, and the second spit it out in disgust at my feet.

So much for bribes. 

And the horses didn’t appear to like excuses or prolonged explanations either.  They just wanted us to be real.  Without giving away too much of what happened at the retreat or breaking any confidences, I can say it was a week full of physical, spiritual, and emotional breakthroughs for all nine of us who came together from across the country.  Here are just a few of the healings I witnessed:

We saw a horse come running to a woman who feared she would be less lovable by setting healthy boundaries, a horse roll in the dirt in pure ecstasy at the feet of a woman who expressed her desire to live in the moment, a horse walk away to test the faith of a man who strongly wanted to believe he is a child of God, a horse comfort a grieving woman by nuzzling her heart and head, a horse stand between another woman and her observers to block their opinions from harming her, several horses neigh in unity to confirm a man’s desire to collaborate more with others, a horse show another woman how to gracefully accept acknowledgement and applause, a horse help a woman express who she is by only coming close when she stated her real truth.

And my horse?  She made clear she wanted me to scratch her butt right after I confided to her my aspirations to become a writer.  It would be SO easy to just laugh this off (my normal way of being in the world), but as another participant pointed out:

If you’ve got an itch, scratch it.

In fact, the horse seemed perplexed when I asked her for permission to write about her.  It was as if she were saying, “Why do you need to ask?  If you want to write about me, go ahead.”  It seems to me that we spend an awful lot of agony asking the world for permission to pursue the desires we keep safely hidden away in our hearts.

A horse would never do this.

Here are a few more things I learned from the horses:

  • If your mind, heart, and spirit are not aligned, a horse knows it.
  • A horse isn’t interested in excuses.
  • Horses live in the present moment.
  • Horses are incapable of lying.
  • A horse won’t pay any heed to your inner critic.
  • A horse knows you can do a lot more than you think you can.
  • Horses do not understand why we ever do anything that isn’t living our truth.

And there’s plenty more.  (To be continued, soon …)

—-

Question:  What lessons have you learned from the animals in your life?  How much do you think animals understand?  Do they know things we do not?