I’ll Follow the Sun

I’ve arrived. In the physical sense, that is. I am in L.A.

After stays with wonderful friends in Abiquiu, NM, Albuquerque, NM (extended stay!) and Las Vegas, NV, yesterday I drove the final leg to my destination–the west coast, L.A., Hollywood, La-La Land, Tinseltown, the Entertainment Capital of the World, and a million other nicknames I’m likely to learn as I embrace this media mecca.

After a pleasant, uneventful road trip between Vegas and here, as I got closer, my heart started pounding. Los Angeles! Here I am!

But just as I was nearer my destination, things got a bit dicey. Between road construction, accidents, Siri rerouting, and detour signs, somewhere I took a wrong turn and I ended up down at the harbor. Not a nice, sweet little harbor with sailboats gently rocking on the waves, and the moon glistening on the water, but the huge Los Angeles shipping port harbor. Massive structures, daunting cranes, huge metal shipping containers. It would be a great place to shoot a movie, but not so great when the sun has gone down and you are driving lost in a foreign land.

Surrounded by enormous trucks with glaring headlights as they drove on either side of my car and ahead of me and on my tail, tearing down the pavement with heavy intention to various berths, I clenched my steering wheel as my friend Terry’s voice, (it is his house I was trying to reach), came through my earbuds telling me what signs to be looking for. I frantically searched trying to see through my bug-splattered windshield for anything resembling what he was describing.

Well aware driving in L.A. can be extremely challenging anyhow, with the coldness of everything around me, it felt like something more than an initiation into the Society of Hours-Long Commuters.

In my ear I heard my friend ask — could I turn left anywhere? No, no end in sight and nowhere visible to turn left or right.  I was in a cattle chute, but instead of bucking broncs, I was blocked in by massive trucks. Did I see the orange signs? No signs at all at the moment except ones listing berth numbers and pointing to the piers.

I really didn’t want to end up in the ocean.

Eventually there was an opening and I took it. Not sure how, but I made it back inland. He managed to ‘talk me in’ and I was very happy when I navigated up a hill and turned down a narrow street and saw him there waiting for me in the headlights.

As grateful as I was to see him, we were both distracted from our greeting by the burning smell emitting from my car. I rolled down my window as I pulled alongside where he was standing in the dark and the first words I heard in person in California were, “Is your car on fire?”

I thought he was kidding but then realized he was staring at the hood of my car and I could smell the suspicious odor. It turns out my car was not on fire. And I’m still not sure what the issue was, but I’ll monitor the engine and transmission when I take it out next for a drive.

Regardless, it made for a rough rolling into town.

I was able to unwind with my hosts, then turned in to get a good night’s rest before ‘Day 1’.

Day 1. This morning when I awoke, it wasn’t to a bright, sunny dawn. It was overcast and it even rained, though very lightly. Terry told me that rain aside, this is how the clouds generally are in the morning and that they would give way around ten o’clock.

Sure enough, after I had showered and finished unloading my car, the sun shone brightly into my guestroom through the sliding glass door.

Knowing I wanted to call my sweetheart, I decided to step outside to their pool area.

The fresh air on the patio was exhilarating and the sun warm on my skin.

My sweetheart answered with a chipper “Good morning where you are,” and I realized it was no longer morning in Colorado where he is. We are in different time zones.

He went on to ask me how I was. I hesitated. How was I? I went on to relay the harrowing details of the night before which I had given a brief description of in a text before going to bed.

As I told him of being ‘trapped’ between trucks and not being able to see where I was, I looked out over past the pool, and there in view was the harbor area where last night I had felt boxed in and was lost.

It was still expansive and daunting. But in the dark it had felt almost like a demon–a monster trying to terrify me into turning back.

In the light, I could see the energy of a massive place where goods were being transported out of the country, heading onto other lands, and where imports were being brought in.img_1804

Imports. Like me.

I don’t want you to think I was discouraged last night, or that for a moment I really thought about leaving. And I know there are struggles ahead. Some might be on the actual road, and some on the path of my career.

Maneuvering my car down unfamiliar roads, heading in an unknown direction, with no sense of where I needed to go, was intimidating. And the more I think about it, I think I felt worse because my friend was having to deal with this than I was actually concerned. And I am extremely grateful for the guidance of a friend in my ear to help me on the way. I knew I’d get here, it just hadn’t been on the most direct route.

As I look down at the port, at the ships out in the ocean, I thought how one day my experience driving on that dark road might inspire a shoot right in that same location.

And thinking on it further, I am grateful for a less than sunny arrival. Being lost in that area is now one more experience under my belt. A challenge I have overcome. It is a reminder that this journey isn’t going to be easy, but I will find my way, I will follow my light. Sometimes that light will come from a friendly voice in my ear, sometimes it will come from within me.

But tomorrow may rain
So I’ll follow the sun.

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The Eyes Have It

Do a Yahoo search for “how women use emoji” and see what you get. On second thought, maybe you don’t want to.

Preparing to write a post about a recent realization regarding my use of emoticons, I was curious what articles might be out there regarding how women use these tiny images in their texts and emails.

Typing the above into the search bar, I was certain the first few would likely have titles such as, “Why Professional Women Shouldn’t Use Emoji”. Or “Strong Females Don’t Emoticon.” Perhaps “Would Wonder Woman Winkey?”, “Should Grown Women Click Poopy Face?” Or at least something as simple as, “The 10 Emoticons Most Used By Women.”

Some of those might be down the list somewhere, but I was surprised when the very first listing was a Men’s Health article, “12 Emojis That Will Drop Her Panties.” I’m not kidding! Okay, go ahead and look for yourself.

At first I wasn’t interested in clicking on it, but then was curious what on earth there could be about an emoji that would turn a woman on. Perhaps it’s since I’m not a millennial, but, how could this be a ‘thing’?

(And I thought I was clever for using the ‘poop’ emoji for the icing top of a cupcake!)

The search initiated because I was curious to find out if my messages are perhaps Heartsy Hospital Emojisending out a different impression than I would like, based on the emoticons I use. Turns out, I might be expressing myself entirely wrong at times since, according to the article, some of the emotags obviously have additional meanings beyond what I think they mean. (This reminds me of that Modern Family episode when the dad says he’s up on the lingo his kids use–LOL: Laugh Out Loud; BRB: Be Right Back; WTF: Why The Face).

Getting back to my actual texting, I noticed that lately I’ll click on one of the expressions that seems to support the message–feeling, emotion–I am wanting to convey.

However, if it is a little face with the eyes closed, I’ll look at it again before clicking send. The mouth might be the right smile, frown, or grimace. But sometimes without the eyes opened, the image looks so complacent, so demure, so coy.

Though I’ve often been timid at different stages in my life, particularly as a child, at this juncture, I’d rather be appropriately bold than shy or reticent. Perhaps that is why the emojis with closed eyes aren’t sitting well with me.

Even if it is a little message on a little screen of a little phone, words and images, have power. Occasionally I might utilize a wink emoji with one eye open and the other shut, and perhaps at times the ones with their eyes both closed might be the most appropriate. As my world expands, and I am texting and tweeting and messaging and emailing more people, I want to be sure they know I AM NOT COMPLACENT, a pushover, a wallflower. I mean business.

As I drive ahead, I need my eyes wide open. smiley

That said, in my search I also found a list of 15 Emojis All Women Will Appreciate. If these existed, I would definitely use this one from time to time, eyes open or not!

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Thank You For Your Service, PFC Richard Herrmann

Daddy was in the Army when he was in his twenties. He did his basic training at Ft. Knox. After training he was first stationed in Fort Monmouth, New Jersey. While there, my mother and he lived in Asbury Park and Long Branch where they enjoyed living near the shore.

Then he was transferred to Fort Huachuca, and they lived in Tombstone, Arizona. Next he went to Yuma Testing Station, so they loaded up the car and moved to Neighbors Village where they stayed while new homes were being built. According to my mother, they received orders to move just two days before Christmas. She recalls all their belongings packed up in an open truck including a decorated Christmas tree with ornaments and tinsel blowing in the wind as they headed to their new home!

Screen Shot 2017-11-01 at 7.07.56 PMAfter their stint in Arizona, Daddy was processed out at Forth Bliss, Texas. Afterward, they packed up for one last move across the country, this time with a new kind of cargo, their baby boy, my oldest brother Rick, in tow.

Moving back to the hometown in Cincinnati where they’d both been born, they bought a house on the same block as my Grandma and Grandpa Herrmann (Daddy’s parents). From there he went on to work at Procter & Gamble, and they raised five kids.

I don’t know much about Daddy’s time in the military. There are only a few things I recall him telling me, which may be because he didn’t have much to say, or because I don’t remember very well.

What I do remember is him saying they used to eat bread even when it was moldy because the mold was good for them. Or maybe it was the moldy cheese? Regardless, it sounded gross to me, and only reinforced how tough I knew Daddy was.

He introduced us to S.O.S., abbreviation for the unofficial army name ‘Shit on a Shingle’ (AKA Creamed Chipped Beef). I liked the meat in the white sauce on toast okay, but I think I particularly enjoyed eating it because it was something from a time in Daddy’s life that seemed foreign and fascinating. As grateful as I was for our home and all we had, the thought of him living in other states, wearing a uniform, being part of this military community seemed much more interesting than the ‘house in the suburbs and factory job and trying to tend the needs of five kids life that he now had’. So Shit on a Shingle was kind of an exotic food as far as I was concerned.

When he did talk about this stage in his life, he’d laugh about peeling a lot of potatoes. So I guess all the jokes I’ve heard about potato-peeling in the army are true.

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An interesting story came to light when my brother was talking to Daddy about his experiences at Yuma Testing Station during the last year he was here with us. Normally he’d describe his job title at Yuma as “weather man” and leave it at that. However, this time, he went on to describe events that had to do with classified bomb or missile testing. My brother realized, in Daddy’s state of mild dementia, he may have shared information he’d likely been holding onto for years. That would be like him. If he’d committed to keeping information secret, he was that trustworthy he wouldn’t share it with anyone.

Although I don’t know specifics of Daddy’s experience, and regardless whether he was doing top secret work regarding weapons testing, the one thing I do remember today, as we thank our veterans on this holiday–those who’ve gone on, and those who are still with us–is how proud Daddy was when he spoke of his time in the service.

He might not have fought in any wars, but he performed his duties with respect and was honored to have served. He stood tall as a proud member of the United States Army.

Happy Veterans Day, Daddy!

Tough Sister Act to Follow

Last night, many people around the country were watching Grey’s Anatomy as it aired its 300th episode. What a fantastic accomplishment. To be honest, I may have seen one or two episodes of Grey’s Anatomy in its 14+ seasons. Though when the show first aired, I think I was in a place in my life where I wasn’t watching any television.

And still not having a lot of time to watch much TV,  and though I haven’t seen this particular show from Shondaland, I am a fan of Scandal, another Shonda Rhimes creation.

Most of all though, I’m a fan of Shonda Rhimes. Since reading her book, Year of Yes: How to Dance It Out, Stand In the Sun and Be Your Own Person, I’ve enjoyed learning more about her and following news of her life including her four-year-deal with Netflix.

Though there are many women who face similar challenges such as building a career, allowing for the creative in themselves to come forth, maintaining relationships, and raising children, Shonda (hope she doesn’t mind me calling her by her first name) is such an inspiration to me because of her ability to write women who are strong, yet very vulnerable and true. True to the point that they make mistakes. Sometimes they need help to resolve the issue, sometimes they find a way to get themselves out of a mess. Sometimes there is no way out which is a completely different challenge.

More often than not, women are portrayed in film and television as one-dimensional, some behavioral extreme. The meek victim. The helpless housewife. The wholly bitch. The heartless boss lady. The mindless arm candy.

But not in Shondaland. In this world, just like the one we live in, women are not perfect anything…not perfect decision-makers, mothers, daughters, friends, employees, bosses. The only thing they’re perfect at is being ‘women’ with all the shades of grey that are possible.

They are flawed (to use a common screenwriter term). Because like real people, we make mistakes. We are fearful at times, and overflowing with courage at others. We do things we regret. We do things that make us proud. We create beauty. We err in ways that destroys beauty. We are human.

We are unique from men in some ways. In some ways we are similar.

In some ways we are unique from other women. In some ways we are alike.

And our differences and similarities, and personal strengths and weaknesses are why we are stronger when we embrace and support each other.

Like Sister Sledge sings, “We are family. And I got all my sisters with me.”

What I appreciate so much about Shonda is that she not only writes female characters who are multi-dimensional–at times needing help, other times being the rescuer–but she openly shares her own vulnerabilities and that the sisterhood–not to discredit the great contributions to the show made by men–is so much of the what has made the show what it is, and why it continues to build.

In Shonda’s words: “Ellen [Pompeo, Grey’s Dr. Meredith Grey] once told me that we made a commitment to one another doing this show, and she has shown me an extraordinary amount of sisterhood and loyalty that I wish everyone could experience in their lives. That sisterhood is part of what builds this show and keeps it going. Here exists a team of women I grew up with and women I’ve learned so much from. Ellen and Sandra and Chandra and all of the women in the cast; and Krista Vernoff and so many other writers; and Betsy Beers and Linda Lowy and Linda Klein and Debbie Allen and so many, many more. There are and have always been amazing men, too. But this show, built on the idea of professional, smart women who live for their jobs and love to compete and support one another? I’m saying it’s real. It’s not just a show. It’s not only a story well told. It’s our reality.”

Congratulations on 300 episodes to the Grey’s Anatomy cast and crew!

I’ve yet to meet Shonda Rhimes, but hope to, and I have no idea who I will, or won’t, encounter on my journey. Regardless, I like to think of myself as part of the sisterhood she describes–loyal, there for each other, and that I will find similar support from women who we can mutually help our stories come to fruition. And perhaps one day I will be celebrating a milestone like the one Grey’s Anatomy has had, or I’ll be facing a challenge in the production world, and I’ll be able to ‘dance it out’ with Shonda herself.

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Sisters stand shoulder to shoulder together (with the help of a little Photoshop).

You Have My Permission!

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“Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate.
Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure.
It is our Light, not our Darkness, that most frightens us.
We ask ourselves, who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented, fabulous?
Actually, who are you not to be?…
As we let our own Light shine,
we consciously give other people permission to do the same.
As we are liberated from our own fear,
our presence automatically liberates others.”
–Marianne Williamson

You certainly don’t need my permission. But if you are looking for a way to find the freedom to create your art, your life, I am on this journey of fabulousness. I am a chronic holder-backer-so-I-don’t-seem-overly-confident.

The strongest, smartest way for me to travel along on this path is to embrace and shine as much brilliance, beauty, talent and fabulousness as I can.

Need an ‘out’? I’m there for you! This doesn’t mean you won’t have struggles, those are everywhere, or we’d never appreciate how strong we are. But letting yourself go to your own light, means you will be choosing your battles as well as your joys.

The Scorsese quote made me think about how we create our own stories. If you allow yourself to feel at the mercy of your environment, you are allowing your story to be written for you. However, if YOU choose “what’s in the frame and what’s out,” of the cinema of your life, you are more likely to enjoy each day you are on ‘set’.

If you take steps and begin developing, organizing, untidying, bringing in, letting go, whatever direction you can feel inside you that you need to go, and you absolutely regret trying, and it makes you sad, you can blame it on me. That is how much faith I have in not only you, but in your story.

Not because I have succeeded in an end game and have all the answers, but because I am on the journey and even with many challenges I’ve already faced, and though I can’t see the future, the view is breathtaking from here!

I’d even call it fabulous!

She Who Walks With Me

Last week on Monday morning, the day after I left Colorado to head out on my journey, I woke up to a beautiful view out the bedroom doors of the Casita, at the home of my friend, Connie. A welcome sight after an exciting but drawn-out, even stressful at times, Sunday drive.

img_1315Connie and I have not known each other long–a little over a year. So, no schoolgirl stories, or crazy tales from years ago. Around Lyons I’d heard of her referred to as The Dinosaur Lady and had seen her ‘Dinosaur Lady’ van out and about. I didn’t really understand exactly what a Dinosaur Lady was, something to do with dinosaurs and kid’s birthday parties.

Wow, is there so much more to this woman!

Connie had posted last year on a local Facebook page that she was in the process of packing up her house in Lyons to move full time to New Mexico. And though we’d not met, I offered to help. I’m pretty good when it comes to packing items for storage or shipment (for other people especially), so I was glad to offer my services, and then as it turns out, she lived only about a block and a half from us.

As Connie and I were in her house, wrapping up dishes and putting them in boxes, we fell into great conversation. We might not have the shared history, but we realized fairly soon we are kindred souls.

We both commented how unfortunate it seemed we had not met sooner since we’d lived so close to each other. However, we also were grateful for the new friendship. At the time she was going through a huge transition, and little did we know I would be making a major life change as well within a year.

After her move, we kept in touch as we could, and I loved seeing the photos of Connie beaming in her glorious surroundings.

22089425_10214046696619854_7807462880360661989_nOne weekend this summer when I happened to be having one of my yard sales, she was in Lyons and popped in. Knowing I’d be going through New Mexico when I was en route to L.A., she invited me to stop in with her. Beyond grateful, I was elated at the idea of seeing this gorgeous space in person. However, what I really was looking forward to, was the prospect of spending time with Connie.

So when I headed out last Sunday, I put her address in my iPhone and began the drive south.

Not getting to her house until much later at night than I’d hoped I would, thanks to my induction into the Crack-of-Noon Club, and after a long day of driving for me, Connie, showed me the Casita where I’d be staying. Then in the main house, Connie, her son, Jesse, and I chatted for a short bit before calling it a night.

Waking up the next morning with amazing scenery out the window, and in such a peaceful place, I looked forward to the day.  And a glorious day it was. Connie and Jesse, showed me around Abiquiu, including the site of the Georgia O’ Keeffe Museum that is being built, right next to Abuquiu Inn where I was treated to a wonderful lunch.

mlghostranch-1-3We also drove around seeing the house where Georgia O’ Keeffe lived, as well as an old, abandoned theater in Abiquiu Plaza. And we went down Balanced Rock Road where there is a really interesting area between Plaza Blanca and Copper Canyon with bones and artifacts. I took some photos with my film camera and am glad how they turned out.

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We dropped Jesse off at home (he had to get ready to watch the Broncos Monday night football game) and Connie took me to tour the awe-inspiring Ghost Ranch Education and Retreat Center.  She has been an instructor at Ghost Ranch in a variety of mediums including welding (did I mention she’s a fantastic metal design artist?) and earth sciences, for 25 years. I’d really been looking forward to seeing this locale with so much history.

I had the fun of seeing where on the Ghost Ranch property many films like City Slickers, Cowboys and Aliens, Indiana Jones and the Crystal Skull, Comanche Moon, and Silverado, to name a few, were filmed.  But that was just one little portion. Ghost Ranch goes way back. And though I’m sure I could read about it in a book or on the Internet, it was particularly fascinating  to have Connie, with her passion and talent for storytelling and history,  telling me of the past of this wonderful place that means so much to her.

I was captivated as she told me of the Archuleta brothers who were cattle rustlers and had inhabited the area because they could take advantage of the good coverage and visibility. One of the brothers had made a deal without the other and told his brother he’d buried gold from the transaction for safe keeping. The second brother killed the first, and held the brother’s wife and daughter captive. Eventually they escaped and a posse of men went to the ranch and hung the remaining brother. The gold has never been found!

She also told me of Carol Stanley, an east-coaster, whose husband won the property in a poker game and she put the title in her name. She moved to the land, built a dude ranch, and gave it the name ‘Ghost Ranch’.  Many elite members of society and artists took advantage of the site for getaways for relaxation and inspiration.

Connie showed me the original structure where Ms. Stanley lived and where she had her piano–not something I’d expect to find on a dude ranch.  I could only wonder the strength of this woman who had been a part of the Boston high society, to have made this move, and without her husband, to such a rustic environment.

It was interesting to see where Georgia O’Keeffe had resided when she lived on the ranch. And Connie pointed out parts of the landscape O’Keeffe used for inspiration in many of her famous paintings.

As we went down a path, I could feel the energy change, and I found out why when Connie explained to me this had been the grounds on which she had taught welding to artists for years. But in 2015 a devastating flood washed away most everything that stood there. Connie had been the last  person in her beloved classroom before torrential rains destroyed it.

As I took in this sacred place under the trees, two deer appeared. I slowly got out of my car with my camera, hoping I wouldn’t scare them off.  They didn’t run, instead, as I stood near the side of Connie’s car, they stopped and stared at me. Any moment I was expecting them to scuttle away. As we stood there looking at each other, I chose to not take a photo. Instead, I inhaled slowly and let it out, breathing in the moment, being this close to these gentle creatures.

One of the deer went off into the bushes and eventually the other followed.  Our visit was over.

After the tour of the ranch, Connie and I headed home to curl up in front of a fire and to all watch the game together.

The next morning, I woke again to this gorgeous view, and pondered how I could put into words the experience of what Connie had so kindly shared with me. And I also gave thought how blessed I am to be engaging with amazing friends, old and new, who are so giving of space in their homes and of their time, on this personal odyssey.

Such a wonderful lesson in beauty and emotion I felt being with this amazing woman.

mlghostranch-1On her site, Connie describes herself as a ‘renaissance woman’ and this is so true. I am in awe of her knowledge and regard for geology, paleontology, history, and the landscape that extends beyond Abiquiu.

Beyond hearing stories of the surrounding lands, throughout the day we connected through stories from our pasts, some emotional, some humorous. We talked about family, we spoke of our dreams.

We had learned bits and pieces of each other’s lives when we first met during the packing for the move out, but it was a wonderful opportunity to really get to know each other and to embrace the sisterhood of strong-women-who-go-through-many-lives.

As rich as the history of the ranch, Connie has her own amazing story.

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This woman who was now talking to me about cattle rustlers, geology, fossils and artifacts–the Dinosaur Lady–at a young age had become Marie Osmond’s best friend and was with the Osmond’s (yes, Donny too) every step of the way as the family skyrocketed to fame. She would go with Marie to learn choreography and blocking for the Vegas shows so she could work with her to learn routines. Connie’s mother became the family’s personal assistant, and Connie and her mother were involved with every show and production at some level. Connie appeared as an extra for skits and audience shots for the Donny & Marie Show in the 1970’s, and was on American Bandstand for two years.

She turned down the opportunity to be an extra on Happy Days and Little House on the Prairie to attend college, with every belief she would be returning to Hollywood. In school she was the lead in several musicals, but then her life changed dramatically when she was introduced to the Red Rock Canyon country in Utah. She was drawn to the science of archaeology and geology. At this point, the cameras and business of Hollywood took a backseat to her new ‘self’. On the creative side, she was inspired to write songs about the wilderness, and love, and life, even performing at Sundance in Utah.

She told me how after she’d had four children, and with her second husband, she was brought back to herself. I felt honored, and even more connected, as Connie explained this very personal time of transition and when she showed me where she experienced a deeply emotional life-changing moment.  The kind of moment belonging to someone else that you don’t write the particulars of in a blog. But I’ll bet many women can imagine a similar event in their own lives. A place and time where, a juncture where you realize you’ve been struggling to be what you think will make everyone around you happier, and in an instant, on that spot, wherever you are, you begin to let it out, and once you’ve shed the tears, you’ve revealed who you truly are. And you know, this time, you are ready to share your genuine self with the world.

Connie learned to blend her love of the land and desire to perform, and released her first musical album.

She talked of how in her years with the Osmond family she had met and worked with amazing stars like Bob Hope, Lucille Ball, and Jerry Lewis. Working beside Marie gave her unique opportunities, but it was not until she left the business and took time to explore life that she gained self-respect and had the confidence to be herself. To be Connie Burton Burkhart.

As Connie shared her fantastic experiences, I realized how similar we are, constantly reinventing ourselves, changing our paths to find where we are happiest, where we are strongest, and can contribute as nurturing women to humankind.

Sitting in front of the fire in her living room, Connie described her own ‘leap of faith’. When she bought her house here, her initial intention was to live part time in Lyons, and the home in Abiquiu was primarily to be a place for her family, currently in different parts of the country, to get together and spend holidays and summers. However, an opportunity was given her to purchase nearby property that she’d always asked the owners, friends of hers, for right of first refusal.

She was thrilled, but it was a huge risk. It would mean giving up her home in Colorado and committing wholly to New Mexico. And just as my ‘leap’ continues to assure me there’s a net below, as she went through the process in her mind of practicality–cost, responsibility to her children and to herself, job, and every other element of your life that emerges to try to make you scared–her heart knew the land was meant to be hers.

Being there with her, I knew she was right. Standing near and watching her, it felt as though this was where she’d always lived. Where she’d learned to walk, learned about the earth, about history. Learned to sing. Where she’d taken her first real breaths. This was home.

So, among the beauty that surrounded me in soul and landscape, I lay in bed that last morning watching the sun get brighter on her garden, I stared in awe, and had no idea how to phrase what ran through my mind and heart.

mlghostranch-6 A couple of hours later, as Connie took me to see the adobe dome on her land which currently holds some of her art pieces, it came to me, and I knew.

She showed me several beautiful sculptures she had created from metal and other media, each one unique and with a name. After seeing the larger works I noticed a shelf with several statues resembling the shape of a woman. They were similar in size and nature, but each very different. I was instantly drawn to them.

mlghostranch-4Connie explained the idea for these guardian angels was inspired through very specific moments in her life where she’d felt someone beside her, helping guide her, though physically she may have been alone.

Each one is unique, and comes with a printed copy of Connie’s story of how they came to be and how she named this creation.

She writes that in these moments, her “dreams carried peace and contentment” and though she was by herself, she  felt “protected”.

“Then I felt someone near me, and in relief I turned toward the direction of the approaching soul, but no one was there – no one. I reached out to what I ‘felt’ beside me, and there was not anything tangible except this odd urging to walk on in the dark and be led.”

She had made over 80, only a few of the statues remain until she opts to create more of them, as most have sold at art shows, many people buying one for themselves, and another for a gift. I could see why. Given the opportunity, I would gift one to every woman friend I have.

Though each was magnificent in her own way, one in particular stood out to me. A gulp in my throat from the emotion I was feeling at that moment, I told Connie I felt I needed one of these womanly figures for my journey.  I had no idea how much they cost, and I certainly couldn’t afford whatever their cost.  But I was ready to pay any price, because that’s how much I felt I wanted this piece of her art.

I was taken aback and incredibly grateful when Connie told me she had considered gifting one to me, but didn’t know if I would be interested, or if I wanted more things in my car as I continue my travels.

I held each, and looked at them, considering which I felt the most from. But Connie and I both knew the very first one I had picked up was the one, she was my journey-woman.

As I’ve said in a previous post, by removing excess, you make room for that which matters. By coming to this beautiful place and time Connie introduced me to, I found my heart opened and my mind broadened, and within that space, I definitely have room for this extraordinary sculpture.

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‘She Who Walks With Me.’

This awe-inspiring woman, of metal, stone, and heart reminds me that although my journey may at times feel solo, I am never alone. I carry with me the stories of women, past and present, those I am fortunate to have in my life, and those I will know of only by hearsay through the sharing of their lives by other women.

And whether directly, or through inspiration, their stories will be part of the movies I make.

As I continue on this journey being genuine to myself and to the women whose stories give me courage to share them, I know one thing for certain.  I will never walk alone.

Showing My Cards

Business cards. Everybody’s got one. But, as I have often said, “It doesn’t mean anything if you have one, but it says something about you if you don’t have a business card.”

And nowadays having a ‘digital’ business card is apparently the thing. I’m not familiar, so I better look up on that and make sure I’m in the know and prepared with one before I reach Los Angeles.

In the meantime, I went the old-fashioned route to make sure I had a card with my contact information on it to give anyone I meet who could have potential opportunities, or who might know someone who does.

If I’d taken care of it sooner, my sweetheart and I could have designed one. But putting this off until a week or so before I was scheduled to leave, and with both of us exceedingly busy, I was at the mercy of online options.

Previously I’ve always used Vistaprint and have been satisfied. This time though, with all the transition going on in my life, I looked into trying a new printing company and tried Zazzle.

As I looked at pages and pages of different styles of cards, I kept waiting for one to ‘speak to me’.  I want the perfect card to confidently hand producers that expresses who I am and says, “I’m the person you want to trust with your movie/hire for your project!”

That’s some pressure there, and it wasn’t so easy selecting one card. I put my name and information into the templates to see how they would look. I found it amusing that my name is too long to fit in some of them. It helped narrow down my options though!

Did I want a graphic? There was even one with a little clapperboard for a director.  Too on the nose, and not my style. I also considered including a photo of me on the card as I did with the last one we designed ourselves. However,  although some of the images on the site were somewhat elegant and appealing, or I could probably find a photo I might be able to live with, I knew ultimately I would rather a cleaner look.

Though it’d be nice to be handed a movie script by a producer and be hired to direct the second I step foot in the L.A. area, I’m not naive. Not certain where exactly I will find gigs to begin with, I need to keep my options open and not limit myself to what types of work I’ll do. So I don’t want a card that is so specific I’m not considered for duties aside from something printed on there.

Another thing to consider is that I am open to the unforeseen possibilities on the horizon, meaning that although I know my intended direction–to direct feature films–there’s no telling what I might discover in the film and television industry along the way that calls me down different paths. So my card needs to be versatile.

One evening I had it narrowed down to two, and was fairly certain which I was going to order the next day.

They both have the name in bold on the front, and a fairly simple, clean design on the back. And they both meet another of my criteria which is that I wanted one side dark, likely black, and the other white. I think it’s helpful to be able to write on the card any additional details that might help the person remember who I am, and why they will want to contact me. It might be a quick note reminding what we spoke about, or the location or event where we met. Any specifics to make it as easy as possible for them to reach out to me. I wonder if the digital business cards have an option for anything like that?

Having the two styles in mind when I went to bed that night, I was relieved to know I could get this taken care of the next day. One more thing would be checked off of my list of tons of things to do in preparation for my journey. Plus, I was already going to need to have them shipped to me in New Mexico because they wouldn’t likely arrive until I was on the road. This needed to get done.

The next morning, I opened up the site and looked at the two cards again. As much as I had been convinced one of them was the card, neither felt like the obvious winner. I was a little frustrated.  So many other tasks and items to tend to were waiting for me.

Dare I spend any more time looking further?

Yes, I dare. I need a card I am glad to hand to people, not one that doesn’t feel like it represents me. Sure, no one is likely to study the card itself and think- “Eww, look at that font. This woman is all wrong for my project.” Or, “Square corners? Really? She went with square corners? I can’t be around somebody who would pick square corners with that formatting.” But in the least, I need something in hand I am confident giving people in positions to potentially help advance my moviemaking career.

Fortunately, all the searching I’d done previously allowed me to include search filters to really limit the number of possible styles, so I had fewer to look through.  And search I did.

And suddenly there it was. Right there on my screen.  The one!

I typed my name and other specifics into the format and clicked ‘Enter’.

Yes, that was the one.

I showed it to my sweetheart who agreed it was the best choice of any we’d seen.

We placed the order.

Done!

Mark that off the list.

Though it may seem like a small thing, it’s an important thing and the small things matter in creative endeavors–those little details are what add up to something great.

A funny thing is, after all that, in the excitement of packing, heading out of town, and into the adventures along the way and time with dear friends, I forgot all about the cards.

The second night after I arrived in Albuquerque, we were all in the kitchen chatting and there was a knock at the door. As my friend, James, went to the door, I could see out the front window where a deliveryman was exiting out the gate.

James came back into the kitchen and handed me the little box and I suddenly remembered–my new business cards!

I opened the package, trying to recall what the cards should look like. As soon as I ripped open the tape on one of the small boxes inside, it came back to me. There it was, my name, vivid on the front of the card.

I flipped it over and just as plain and clear–my phone number, email address, and site address.

And with space on the sides and top and bottom for writing notes to help Gale Anne Hurd, Reese Witherspoon, Kathleen Kennedy, Shonda Rhimes, Mark Gordon, as well as other producers in film and television, remember who I am and why they want to get in touch with me right away!

Laura asked for one and proceeded to hang it on her fridge where she said, “We can see it, and anyone else who came over can see it.”

Now I had the cards. I was ready.

For some reason I didn’t think until a day later to put a stack of the cards in my business card holder, though the case was handy in my purse. Apparently I was thinking they were something I wouldn’t use until I got to L.A. But I did put them in the holder and was happy to have them now for whenever.

Turns out, whenever can be when I step out of my comfort zone.

Yesterday, I was running a couple of errands in Albuquerque. I drove to a camera shop to have them develop a role of film I’d shot in Abiquiu, and to purchase another roll of film. Then I asked Siri for coffee shops near me, and she directed me to one in Uptown Albuquerque Shopping Center. Uptown, sounds nice!

Entering the area, as I tried to cross several lanes when my phone said I needed to make a right, I was a little flustered. But then, I thought to myself, “This reminds me of driving in parts of L.A,” so it’s good practice.

Unfortunately, I passed the coffee shop.  So I went around a section of several blocks, and drove around a bit, trying to get back to it, with Siri constantly ‘rerouting’. Eventually, I made my way to where I wanted to be and eked my way into the parking lot amid plenty of traffic.

I pulled into a parking space and went in. Looking around, I saw every table and counter space was occupied, and on top of that there was a huge line.

Maybe uptown wasn’t for me. The energy wasn’t what I was looking for in a place to write, so I turned and left. Heading back to my car, the front license plate of another vehicle caught my eye. “FILM NM”.

I gazed at the plate for a moment, then looked around to see if the driver of the car might perhaps be returning. If so, I could introduce myself and find out their ties to making films here. How cool would that be? To connect in person with someone in the film industry here in New Mexico!

My friend, David, an actor in L.A., travels between there and here for projects all the time. He had suggested when I was coming through here that it would be a good idea to make some connections and look into getting work here as well. Now, here was an opportunity.

Waiting a minute or two, no one approached the car. I went back and slid into the driver’s seat of my car.

“Do I just leave,” I asked myself. In my mind I knew I had a ‘Plan B’, and for a moment I pretended I didn’t have any other options and put the keys in the ignition and started the engine.

Looking at the license plate again, I switched off the motor.

Plan B, like B for business cards. What if I left one on their windshield? Do I have the courage?

Now remember, I tend to be concerned about imposing on people–I’m supposed to be the nice demure midwestern girl–often to my own detriment. I am aware this is something I need to overcome to be as assertive as it will take to thrive in the bustle of the L.A. entertainment world.

I’ll admit, never having been as bold as to put a business card on someone’s car, I Googled whether it was illegal, because that would definitely not be the impression I wanted to make.

[Sidebar: If you are wondering, it looks like it is generally legal to put flyers on vehicles in public places, but obviously not on cars on private property.]

I sat there and also pondered whether the person would be annoyed that a stranger had been so brazen as to leave a business card on their car.

Turned the ignition on again. Figured I should just go. I don’t want to upset anyone.

Backed out of the parking space. Looked at the car. If they get upset, it would be a shame. The bigger shame? If I allow fear to stand in my way and I forego any possibility that comes my way to meet people who are also involved in the film industry.

I pulled back into my space again and turned off the ignition. (This is like a scene in a movie.)  Pulling the card out of my purse, I kept wishing someone would arrive so I could approach them in person.

Looking out my car, not only was no one coming toward the car there wasn’t anyone in sight.

I walked over and tucked the business card under the wiper. “MaryLee Herrmann” in bold letters, just like I’d ordered, facing up.

Getting back in my car and giving one more glance around the parking lot, I smiled as I drove away. It would be great if the person contacts me and we connect about production for whatever reasons. Whether it is simply to broaden our own circles of peers, or to work together on something specific.

But my pride has more to do with taking the initiative to leave my information even when it wasn’t an obvious opportunity.

I couldn’t wait to tell my sweetheart because that is the type of action he is always encouraging me to take.

And I beamed as I told my friend, Laura, when I was back at her house, about what I’d done.

Made Laura’s Fridge!

Later that night she shared that she’d been thinking about how cool it was that I’d had the courage to put the card on a stranger’s vehicle based on the license plate. Having been good friends for awhile now, she knew what a big deal it was for me.

Then she went on to say, “Who knows? It’d be so cool if someone contacts you and you never know. But what is so awesome is by what you did, you told the Universe today, “I really mean this. This is what I want to do.”

Coming from a fantastic woman who is so supportive of me, and I of her, I choked up. She was right.

Universe? I’m here, and I’m ready. I even have a business card.