Week 50: Birthday Bash


I did it!!! 50 Weeks at 50 is complete, and what a journey it has been. What better way to mark the end of the year than a celebration, and celebrate we did. I had never thrown myself a birthday party. So the Saturday after my birthday, a few, okay maybe dozens, of my friends drank and danced underneath the lights of my backyard. What a glorious party!




At the end of this post I will give my thanks and thoughts from the party. But right now, I’m going to do a little bit of reflecting back on this past year. And if you’ve noticed, it’s taken me a while to actually write this Week 50 blog since the date of my party, because…well, I don’t really have an excuse why, I guess I really don’t want it to end…


I decided to start the 50 Weeks to 50 blog because…who really knows why.. A mid-life crisis? Or a mid-life awakening? Regardless, as I was approaching my 49th birthday, I began to think ahead to my 50th. I knew I wanted to commemorate the Big 5-0 by doing something special. But as I prepared a list of the possible activities, I realized there was (and is) so much I wanted to do — how do you pick one? Therefore, the idea of 50 Weeks to 50 was created, and voila here we are a year later (plus a few weeks).


Looking back, there were some weeks that have stood out in my mind, and for my loyal five readers too. (Later, I have included the readers top 10 list.) Here’s a few comments about what stood out for me:


  • Most Emotional – Week 5: Shelter for the Night. I stayed one night at the women’s shelter run by San Diego Rescue Mission. I still cry every time I read that blog post. And I continue to feel I need to do more. The women and children, can be any one of us, could have been me. A single mom with teen sons. I’m one of the lucky ones. And during this holiday season, or anytime of the year, the best gift you can give yourself, is to give to others.
  • Most Memorable – Week 45: RiSE Up. I will never forget the feeling of watching all of the paper lanterns rise up into the dark, desert skies, and all written with people’s hopes, dreams, and resolutions. I was able to share the experience with those I love, and the memory will never be forgotten…“because every dream needs a voice.”
  • The Funnest – Week 46: Speeding Across the Bay. Okay funnest may not actually be a word, but riding the speed boat was pure and simple fun! We will definitely do this again!
  • Most Exhilarating – Week 37: Up, Up and Away. You would think that jumping out of a plane would have been the most exhilarating, but I really, really was captivated by floating up in a balloon and looking below at the beautiful San Diego landscape. Another activity that I will absolutely do again in many different places. To me it was exhilaratingly peaceful.
  • Scariest – Week 17: Jettisoned the Jetpack. I thought I was going to die by drowning. I have never felt so scared in my life. The experience made me feel so vulnerable which I didn’t enjoy. I’ve always felt that I can pretty much do anything, and I thought I could do this even without ever learning how to swim. I was wrong. And I still haven’t learned how to swim…still on my list.
  • Quirkiest – Week 14: Love is Your Salvation. Salvation Mountain and Slab City is one of the most interesting places I have ever visited. It’s not just a tourist attraction, but a way of life. The people and the place may seem quirky, but they’re happy living a very simple life off the grid. Sounds like a fun retirement plan to me, although I need someplace closer to the ocean.
  • Most Romantic – Week 38: Overnite Pow Wow. Yes, it was romantic because I was with Richard. But the romantic part was staying in the pow wow campground overnight, and listening to the heart pounding songs of the Native American men and women. We couldn’t understand the spoken words, but the emotional vocables told a passionate tale. One that will forever be remembered in our hearts.


There are obviously many memories from the last year, but I’m not going to relive them all – that’s what all the blog posts are for! If you’ve missed some, go back and read them. (I have a list and links on my 50 Weeks to 50 Table of Contents page.)



partynancyluciemejamie2  partysandiejohnheidi  partylizbotmelacychris  partykleins  partyjemmaria  partygals4  partybecks  partyanne

What a great party!!! A somewhat last minute 50th Birthday Masquerade Party came together quite nicely, mostly due to the help from my Unofficial Official Birthday Party Committee. Plus, so many friends all got into the theme of the masquerade, and I was happy that both men and women wore masks. Food, drink, dancing was enjoyed by all. Everyone loved dressing up and taking photos.

partybotjemchris  partybotdavid  partylacyrosey

Thanks to so many people (I know I’m gonna forget someone), including: Rosey for taking care of rental tables, chairs and linens; Marie B. and Kim for handling the wonderful decorations – transforming my backyard into a magical backdrop; Gigi for food ordering, and her son Evan for designing the party banner and making the 50 Weeks video (I will have to upload on YouTube); Lisa-Marie for picking up food; Lacy for going shopping with me and lots of clean-up the next morning; Heidi for set-up; Dawn for helping with the wishing tree; Sharon and Marie W. for being there; Chris for coming from the OC; David and my sisters Liza and Roselma for all the kitchen duty and clean up; to my parents Lita and Elmer for creating me; my sons Brad and Grant and their friends for “volunteering”; and to Richard for making the 50 Weeks songlist, helping with everything and doing all the guy stuff. Without everyone’s help, it would not all have come together. It takes a village to produce a spectacular party.


Plus thanks to all those who shared the special night with me, brought presents and donated to my favorite non-profits. And you can still make your tax-deductible donations before year end to: Centurion Foundation, EdUCate!, San Diego Rescue Mission, and/or UCHS Adopt-A-Family — which we desperately need donations right now to help bring some extra cheer to a few UCHS families.

partymrlaw  partydancing  partykellyhank

My favorite part of the night was dancing underneath the stars when light rain showered upon us while AC/DC was playing. You shook me all night long baby! Rain is good luck, so they say. Here’s to a wonderful year being 50. I have decided to capture this year through a daily Instagram post, so you can follow me there — jsamala. And we had such a great time throwing this party, be ready for next year, because It’s a Dead Man’s Party!




What did I take out of this year? It took a special event, turning 50, to motivate me to get up and actually do some of the things I have always wanted to do. But actually doing the things you want to do shouldn’t be limited to those special times, you should live your life that way all the time. I know there are practical limits – finances, work, children’s events, general life commitments — but commit to yourself. If you’re unhappy all the time, quite frankly who wants to be around you? And if you’re unhappy, so are your kids. Be a role model to them in a positive way.


My college business fraternity, Alpha Kappa Psi, motto was Action Not Words. I had a very memorable year by doing both really – acting on my 50 Weeks list and writing about it. I happily feel doing both is the normal way for me to live. With my AARP card in hand, bring on my second half of life! It’s going to be a great adventure!!!




UCHS Adopt-A-Family: http://uchsptsa.org/

Centurion Foundation: http://www.uc-centurionfoundation.com/

EdUCate!: https://www.uc-educate.org/

San Diego Rescue Mission: http://www.sdrescue.org/




Links to all blog posts are at: 50 Weeks to 50 Table of Contents


50 Weeks Reader’s Top 10 Posts


1 – Week 49: Black’s Beach Birthday Suit (This post won by a landslide, you know what kind of minds my readers have!)

2 – Week 14: Love is Your Salvation

3 – Week 5: Shelter for the Night

4 – Week 13: Curling

5 – Week 19A: Going Commando

6 – Week 11: 24 Hours at 24 Hour Fitness

7 – Week 3: A Reading

8 – Week 4: A Jump of Faith

9 – Week 47: Cooks in the Kitchen

10 – Week 20: What SUP with that Yoga




Jemma’s Birthday Song List*

1964         I Want to Hold Your Hand, Beatles

1965         California Girls, Beach Boys

1966         Summer in the City, The Lovin Spoonful

1967         Somebody to Love, Jefferson Airplane

1968         Jumpin Jack Flash, Rolling Stones

1969         Heard it Through the Grapevine, Marvin Gaye

1970         25 or 6 to 4, Chicago

1971         Won’t Get Fooled Again, The Who

1972         Layla, Derek and the Dominos

1973         Superstition, Stevie Wonder

1974         The Joker, Steve Miller Band

1975         Killer Queen, Queen

1976         Play That Funky Music, Wild Cherry

1977         Walk This Way, Aerosmith

1978         Because the Night, Patti Smith

1979         Heart of Glass, Blondie

1980         Pop Muzik, M

1981         Bette Davis Eyes, Kim Carnes

1982         Tainted Love, Soft Cell

1983         1999, Prince

1984         Legs, ZZ Top

1985         Everybody Wants to Rule the World, Tears for Fears

1986         True Colors, Cyndi Lauper

1987         Livin on a Prayer, Bon Jovi

1988         Sweet Child O’Mine, Guns & Roses

1989         Like A Prayer, Madonna

1990         Roam, B-52’s

1991         Groove is in the Heart, Deee-Lite

1992         Everyday People, Arrested Development

1993         500 Miles, Proclaimers

1994         Linger, Cranberries

1995         Run Around, Blues Traveller

1996         1979, Smashing Pumpkins

1997         If It Makes You Happy, Sheryl Crow

1998         Bitter Sweet Symphony, The Venue

1999         Save Tonight, Eagle Eye Cherry

2000        All the Small Things, Blink 182

2001         Beautiful Day, U2

2002         Get the Party Started, Pink

2003         Crazy in Love, Beyonce

2004         Let’s Get It Started, Black Eyed Peas

2005         Mr. Brightside, The Killers

2006         Crazy, Gnarls Barkley

2007         Rehab, Amy Winehouse

2008         Viva La Vida, Coldplay

2009         Use Somebody, Kings of Leon

2010         California Gurls, Katy Perry

2011         Rolling in the Deep, Adele

2012         Call Me Maybe, Carly Rae Jepsen

2013         Little Talks, Of Monsters and Men

2014         Happy, Pharrell Williams

Bonus       Don’t Stop Believing, Journey

*Compiled by music trivia wiz Richard Patchett, with a few edits by Jemma that he was not aware of until reading this list.


Week 49: Black’s Beach Birthday Suit

The quiet, deserted beach is the backdrop to my birthday suit runway. My collection mirrors that of The Emperor’s New Clothes fall line. Exposed to the ocean air, my new fashion is quite exhilarating, as if a newly discovered pattern. I was born naked, why not celebrate my birthday by going back to the beginning…because in some ways, turning 50 has been a new start.



I live minutes away from the only official nude beach in San Diego, and probably the most popular one in the United States. Yet I never dared to take advantage of my location. I drive by the gliderport in La Jolla all the time, which is where you can take the trail down the cliff to the infamous Black’s Beach. Going there and taking it all off was on my 50 Weeks to 50 list, and I felt there was no better day to go than the morning celebrating my birthday.


But I couldn’t go alone. Who was going to take pictures? Enter Lacy, who agreed to go and dance naked on the beach with me. (You were expecting Richard to go right? So did he!)


So very early that morning, I wake up when it’s still dark outside, waiting for Lacy to pick me up, wondering about my sanity. She arrives with a Starbucks Grande Hot Chocolate ready for me in her car’s cup holder (she knows me well). We drive to the trailhead and start the trek down. It was cold and I was fully clothed in thick gray sweats, straight from bed. I do believe I at least brushed my teeth, I think. Lacy was in a hot pink workout dress. Luckily we both had excellent soled athletic shoes which provided excellent traction down the muddy trail.


It’s really not that hard of a climb down, but it was muddy from the night before and not regularly maintained, so we had to be careful. I thought for sure that I would slip, sprain an ankle and have to be carried up by Lacy. Am I going to be one of those people that have to be rescued by lifeguards on the taxpayers dime doing something that seems so stupid. How embarrassing? Jemma, why were you going down that trail when it was visibly too muddy? Well, uh, I was planning to run around naked at the beach…that would not have made good publicity.

blackstrail  blackstrail4  blackstrail3  blackstrailend

After slowly trekking down the mud soaked steps and windy path, we manage to get to the bottom. Now, walking on a wet, slimy beach is not that easy. We were not here for a muddy slip ‘n’ slide or for female mud wrestling — that’s for a later week. This morning we were thankful for the kelp that washes ashore, which we used as stepping stones to get to the drier sandy area. I set my towel on the sand and looked around. There’s absolutely no one here. It felt like we were in a foreign, undiscovered land. I was an explorer in my own backyard.




Okay, I guess it’s now or never. I carefully take off my sweats and place them neatly folded on my towel. I rarely wear a bikini, but this morning I did, so I hesitantly take off my top and plop it atop my daypack. Not so bad. I slowly start walking towards the shore. Lacy is already naked and in the water…I look around again, still no one in sight…quickly now, bottoms off, thrown haphazardly behind me, and I run into the ocean. Ahh, what a discovery!


Who would have known that being unencumbered by clothing in the open breeze would feel so good? I didn’t, until now! I tell ya, being 50 and having the wisdom to try new things has been life-changing. And for the better.

 blacksselfie  blacksfeet  

The jaunt down to Black’s Beach was supposed to be a quick experience to check off my list, but now that I’m here, free to the wind, who wants to leave? Not me! Party to prep for, ehh, so what if I haven’t shopped for food yet, everyone’s good with chips and dip right? I am not going to stress, not now, not at such a relaxing moment. Lacy and I take a dip in the water which really wasn’t that cold, and actually felt invigorating. We leisurely walk around, take pictures (later I will regret sitting butt naked directly on the sand). I write in the sand “50 Weeks to 50” and soon thereafter a wave washes it away. No evidence.


I’m happy. I truly feel at peace, my soul naked to all — exposed to all of you. It’s quite liberating. I highly suggest it.


Now, I do see volleyball courts a couple hundred yards away…playing volleyball naked with body parts flopping to and fro, not sure if I would suggest that…but then again, I haven’t tried it. As I get up from the sand, I wish I could spend the day here, but back to reality and the day’s commitments.


Two men walk towards us, looks like a father and son taking an early morning beach walk. I turn away to put on my clothes, wondering why all of a sudden I should feel embarrassed. Some emotions will take longer than a morning to overcome. The journey that we are living, will take a lifetime to complete.



Well, what comes down must go up…at least when you are hiking down to Black’s Beach. It’s somewhat of a steep climb and I haven’t worked out much lately. Remember when I got a tattoo, one of the instructions was to curtail exercising to prevent stretching your skin. So I had to follow instructions right? I probably could start going back to the gym, because after about roughly two flights of stairs, I was already having to stop and catch my breath. I don’t know how long it took to get back to the gliderport parking lot, but it felt twice as long as it was in real time. Finally at the top, mission completed, time to get some sustenance.


 carolinesmimosa  carolinesbreakfast

We meet Gigi at Caroline’s, my favorite breakfast spot. Drinking a mimosa, eating a delicious mediterranean egg scramble, fresh fruit and sourdough toast slathered with butter, soaking in the morning sun in the company of friends…life is good.


Trail to Black’s Beach is at the southwest end of the dirt parking lot at the Torrey Pines Gliderport, 2800 Torrey Pines Scenic Drive, La Jolla, CA 92037, www.sandiegofreeflight.com.

Caroline’s Seaside Cafe, 8610 Kennel Way, La Jolla, CA 92037, 858.202.0569, www.carolinesseasidecafe.com. Open daily 8:00 am to 3:00pm for breakfast and lunch.

Week 47: Cooks in the Kitchen

My kids know me more for baking cookies than for creating delicious dinners. I’m one of those people that keeps a folder full of take-out menus and buys a ready-to-eat rotisserie chicken at least once a week. But I love good food, and have always wanted to take cooking classes. And since my life is about trying new things, I recently went to a Spanish meal themed cooking class at the Great News! Cooking School with a few friends — Sharon, Marie W., and Lisa-Marie. We had a nice Groupon of course.


It was a weeknight and we had to deal with rush hour traffic — the little amount of bumper to bumper traffic we get between my house and Pacific Beach — try to find a parking spot and get there just before class starts. Now, I will say I was disappointed when we arrived upon realizing that it was not a hands on class, but a lecture type of class with cameras pointed down at the work stations. I guess hands on classes are held only periodically and are pricier. Oh well, next time. I really need to read the descriptions more closely.


The smells of the kitchen prep are already making our taste buds salivate as we walk into the classroom. We settle down, get some beverages and review the recipe handouts given to us. The menu looks so yummy:

  • white wine sangria with apples and green grapes
  • manchego cheese with almonds, marinated green olives, garlic toasts and spanish chorizo
  • roasted cauliflower and red peppers with lemon-caper vinaigrette
  • zucchini potato tortilla (a fritatta and my favorite dish that evening)
  • roasted beef tenderloin with spanish rub and smoked paprika aioli
  • mascarpone cream filled cake with sherried fresh berries


The instructor, Phillis Carey, is introduced and starts to go over the menu and begins making the dishes. First we are given glasses of the refreshing sangria, and one by one the dishes are served to us while we watch them being prepared. I take notes.


We spend the night nibbling, well scarfing down, the dishes given to us. We try to chat between instructions, and of course you are given a nice break halfway through class, which is primarily spent on shopping around the store and finding the items they just used in class. Because who would be caught without an electric pepper mill? And I must get another cookbook that I look at once. They make it easy for the students with display endcaps of products as seen in class. We each reserve our stash to pay for later, because who knows what else we will want or must have in our kitchen after completing the second half of class.

cooktapas  cookcauli  cookfritatta  cooktenderloin  cookcake

We do learn some great tips from Phillis throughout the class, such as:

  • pour Sprite over cut apples, pears, peaches and they won’t change color
  • crushed vitamin C tablets will prevent potatoes from discoloring
  • olives with pits taste better
  • higher sided roasting pans will keep more juices in for sauces and au jus
  • cut your cakes in a sawing motion to keep the shape

cookviewcauli  cookviewmeat  cookprep  cookstove  cookviewfruit

Overall, I was surprised how full we all were from having our class portions of the dishes, and I was especially surprised at myself for enjoying a cauliflower dish. For those that know me well, I am not a vegetable person, but mixed with the roasted red peppers, it was delish. Actually, everything was very tasty and looked very easy to make.


All of us enjoyed the evening, and one day soon will plan a Spanish themed dinner party. Isn’t that the point of learning these new dishes — sharing with friends.


After this first cooking class experience, I definitely would like to try more. I enjoy trying new foods as it helps you learn about different cultures. You can learn a lot around a culture from the dining table. If every political meeting centered around sharing a great meal, we would all be more agreeable. Isn’t that why we call our close advisors our kitchen cabinet – we get things done when we are cooking and eating. ¡salud!



Great News! Cookware & Cooking School, 1788 Garnet Ave., San Diego (Pacific Beach), 888.478.2433, www.great-news.com.

Phillis Carey, phillis@philliscarey.com. Follow her on Facebook for recipes and cooking tips – Phillis Carey “The Casual Gourmet”


pirchchef  pirchdinner

P.S. Pirch Dinner: Although not an official cooking class, last night I attended a cooking demonstration by Chef Ed at Pirch, UTC. (Thank you Anne for including me as one of your winning Taste of the Triangle auction dinner guests.) Had a wonderful time enjoying a four course meal with wine pairings and a comforting apple cider. Menu for the night was:

  • Pumpkin Roasted Soup with Toasted Pepitas, Raymond Sauvignon Blanc, North Coast 2012
  • Hearth Roasted Shrimp Cocktail with Cranberry Cocktail Sauce, DeLoach Rose of Pinot Noir, Sonoma Coast 2013
  • Flat Iron Steak with Roasted Mushrooms, Mashed Summer Squash and Leeks, and Quinoa, Liquid Velvet Cabernet Sauvignon, Monterey County 2011
  • Berry Crisp with Madagascar Vanilla Ice Cream (mixed on a salt block)

We also got some great cooking tips, including that in France the rule is to let your meat rest for half the time it is roasted so as to keep the juices in. If you haven’t been to Pirch, it’s a must go to place for kitchen, bathroom, and general decor ideas. Pirch’s motto is to “live joyfully”, and the dinner was a joy – thanks Chef Ed and his assistant Melissa.

pirchappetizer  pirchsoup  pirchshrimp  pirchshrimpglasses  pirchtenderloin  pirchdessert
Pirch, Westfield UTC, 4545 La Jolla Village Drive (across from Sports Chalet), San Diego, CA 92122, 858.966.3600, www.thepirch.com. Check the website for upcoming cooking events. Make sure to visit the store and their free coffee bar.

Week 45: RiSE Up

“Because every dream needs a voice.”


We look up into the cool dark desert sky and one by one the lanterns rise up and form a magical blanket covering us with all our hopes, wishes, and dreams. We are mesmerized. We lay down on the ground unable to remove our gaze from the lantern lit evening skies. So peaceful, so spiritual, so enchanting. Are we dreaming?


“RiSE is a traditional lantern festival that brings people together,

so they can rise a little higher.”


I can’t remember how I found out about the first RiSE Lantern Festival, but whatever drove me to notice it, I am thankful it did, because as my attitude is in most events in my life, there was a reason for it. We were meant to be there, all of us — me and Richard, my sisters Roselma and Liza, David and his daughter Samantha. RiSE will always be etched in our memories as an event that brought us together for a time of reflection and inspiration.


“RiSE elevates hope, ignites dreams,

and creates memories you will never forget.”


We started the weekend like a typical weekend road trip to Vegas, last minute packing with breakfast on the go. Texting my sisters that we were on our way, since they were leaving from Anaheim. About six hours later (yes, it took long, we made a couple bathroom and Starbucks breaks, including stopping at one off ramp that felt like we were in the Twilight Zone), we hurriedly park at the Rio, wait in a long line to check-in, and quickly change — since we took our sweet time, we were now rushing to get to the festival shuttles. Conveniently, my sisters’ room was right down the hall from ours, so we meet up and get our booties out to the convention center parking area. Whoa, there are lots of people here already waiting to board. I had heard there would be about 10,000 people participating, and probably half was here at the Rio while the other half was catching shuttles from the Gold Strike Casino, which was closer to the event.


It didn’t take too long before we were on board one of the buses, back on the freeway towards the Jean Dry Lakebed. You can tell just from that bus ride that it was a calm crowd, all here trying to seek something…something evolving from their own personal experiences. It was nice to see children too, including our own Samantha. My own boys were home for the Homecoming Dance, but I was now wishing this was happening when they were younger, when it was easier to drag them places.


Soon we exit towards Jean Lake and see the large number of shuttle buses dropping off the swarms of festival goers. Since there was a backlog, buses were letting people off in all sections of the desert road and we looked like tributaries all converging into a central river. It was not an easy path where we were let off, highs and lows, bumps and bruises, soft and hard earth. Much like our paths in life, it is never as smooth as we think it should be, but eventually you get there. We, along with everyone else, were on our own pilgrimage towards what? Enlightenment, spirituality, peace, love.



The walk towards whatever we were searching for was a long one. Lots of time to reflect and take in the moment and the serenity of the desert. The colorful hues of reds and oranges were captivating, which eventually melded into the deep blues of the night.


We were welcomed by large white letters that spelled RiSE. There were apparently lots of candles leading the way, but since we arrived with a later crowd, they were all taken away or blown out. We reach the entrance and edge of the festival circle, look at the map and find the center aisle towards our section on the other side. We pass many others who arrived earlier and claimed their spot. We locate the 1A sign and look around for a couple areas for our group of six. At first it reminds me of an old drive-in movie theatre, since the rows of unlit torches look like the drive-in speaker posts.

risewelcome  risemap

Each of us is provided a yoga mat and two lanterns, so we lay out our mats to form a close grouping and plop down our bags and our weary bodies. And we were all hungry so off to the food tents to collect our pre-ordered meals. Those were a breeze to pick up, but you couldn’t pre-order alcohol and snacks, including huge chocolate chip cookies, so we wait in those lines too. While waiting we learn that people have come from many different areas, primarily greater Los Angeles, but some as far away as DC. Everyone is so friendly and calm. We make way back along the maze of yoga mats and lanterns to find our our group, and leisurely eat our meals, which were very delicious by the way. Of course I selected the surf and turf meal — shrimp and steak with orzo, oh there was some salad in there too.

 risesisters  risemeal

Sitting there underneath the night sky, eating and drinking, music playing by Joshua James, thinking about what messages we wanted on our lanterns — I would think it may have been how Woodstock felt, I mean without the sex and drugs. This is a family event.


Time to think about what to write on my lanterns. We each have two, and the lanterns are much bigger than what I expected, so there’s lots of writing space…and I love to write. Okay, down to business. Why am I here? What message, hope, dream, or resolution am I feeling? Who do I want my thoughts to focus on? Do I write about my family, my career, my future, my lovelife? There is so much, I can write a book. Hmm, we try and concentrate on our lanterns. We’ve had over a month to think about this festival and our messages, but life is always evolving and what you may have been thinking about a month ago may not be what feels right, right now.


“Hope Always Rises”


The time has come. Everyone is asked to light their torches, and the desert glows in unison. From that moment on, you could feel the electricity in the air. You knew something special was about to happen. Now everyone is asked to light one lantern and wait a few minutes for them all to fill up with hot air, which takes at least two people to hold onto each lantern, meaning about 5,000 lanterns to rise at once. The anticipation is too much for a handful of people as you see a few lanterns prematurely released. Hold on people, we’re almost ready, and yes, now — let go of your lanterns. WOW.


Words cannot describe the moment, yet there are so many that capture your feelings. Magical. Spiritual. Peaceful. Enchanting. Amazing. Emotional. Exhilarating. Joyful. Inspiring. Many words can be bantered about to describe the beauty of the simple act of letting go of the lanterns, and watching them rise against the black night. The glow of the lanterns gives you hope amid dark times.


We lay down on our mats to look upward towards all the rising lanterns. We are witness to something special. To see all the people gathered this night releasing their messages truly was a magical moment. Strangers who have come together to experience a special connection. I don’t want to stop watching the rising lanterns. This moment will forever be etched in my memory and my heart. I think everyone there feels the same way.

 rise5  rise3  rise1  rise2  

“Together We Rise”


There are more lanterns to write on. More messages to give, more dreams to live, more resolutions to create, more memories to make. The experience was poetry for our souls. We are inspired again to continue writing on our lanterns and watch them rise to the heavens above. You can feel it in the air, the exhilaration of that first wave of lanterns continues for the next hour.


Groups let off lanterns together, couples rekindle their love for each other, family members remember those they have lost. The lanterns mean so many different emotions for so many people, yet only together could we have created something so extraordinary. Our group does the same. My sisters Roselma, Liza and I send off a lantern. Richard and I. Liza and David. David and Samantha. And our whole group in unison.


Once we were done, we wished we had more lanterns. And wishes come true. A group next to us heard we were here for part of my 50th birthday celebration and gave me another lantern. No matter what you think, there is good in everyone. My last lantern was dedicated to my 50 Weeks to 50 journey. As I watch it float skyward, I can’t help but be thankful for the wonderful year I have had. The varied experiences with so many many people; that lantern brings a soft smile to my face, and warmth within. The lanterns have become a symbol of our lives.


I didn’t want to walk away. I would have loved to have spent the night underneath repeating images of the rising lanterns. I know I will RiSE again.








The first RiSE Lantern Festival meant many things to many people, and we all felt very lucky to have experienced it. I want to relive the moment over and over again. I do so by checking the RiSE Lantern Festival Facebook and Instagram pages to read about other stories and watch their videos. There were a number of marriage proposals, dedications to those who passed away, and celebrations of a free spirited life. So much gained from such majestic simplicity.


You have got to wonder…in our lives we strive to collect so much stuff, which I am guilty of as anyone else. But think about the many simple earthly wonders that make us happy. The colorful beauty of sunsets, the soft rustling of leaves in a forest, the powerful crash of ocean waves, the glow of lanterns drifting away. That’s the memorable stuff I want to collect. Accepting simplicity brings you peace.


“RiSE Festival is a celebration of the life, joys, dreams, hopes, and blessing of each participant. Those are all unique, but something we all share is a love for the planet.”

 risefireworks2  risefireworks

A week later, I still am left feeling that trying to describe the RiSE festival in words doesn’t relay the experience fully. You really need to experience it for yourself. Many of you have expressed the desire to attend the next one, and I assure you we will plan one big gathering. We may need a bus for our own group. Go to www.risefestival.com, follow them on Facebook and Instagram, and read about the many stories. They will inspire you today.


(Note: There was a big snafu with 10,000 people trying to load buses at one time, but it was the first RiSE event and I’m sure it will get fixed for next year. Richard and I stepped back from the negativity, sat on our yoga mats, and shared chocolate chip cookies. One girl thought we looked so serene against the madness she wanted to video us kissing, so we obliged. That’s not going to be sold later is it?)


I crave the magical experience we had, and for me, I think it will be a new travel opportunity — lantern festivals around the world. First on the itinerary…Bali is calling me.


*Quotes are taken from the RiSE website and printed materials.

Week 43: Where There’s A Will

Death is not a subject we like to talk or think about. So it is natural to delay thinking about writing wills. I have never written a will for myself, so writing one was actually on my 50 Weeks to 50 list. I should have done it long ago, when my kids were born, but neither I nor Brian ever felt a desire to do so, probably thinking, oh well, the other will still be around. But then something happens, and you realize…I guess it’s time to write a will.


My good friend Sharon’s dad, Tom Ferrier, recently passed away. He was truly an all-around great person. He, like many grandparents in the UC area, along with his wife GeeGee, was a constant spectator at his grandchildren’s sporting events. That’s how we got to know him, since our sons and Sharon’s sons were always playing sports together. He was very supportive of his family, and ours too, and told me that he enjoyed reading my blog. Therefore, this post is in his honor. Tom, since you always had everything in order, it’s time for me to get my sh… um, paperwork together.


Again, not that I’m anticipating anything soon (which is why I don’t call this blog a Bucket List), but it’s best to be proactive and practice preventative measures.


Now, what does one put in a will? Of course, there are the obvious details of who receives your assets (if any)? Since I’ve procrastinated, my kids are almost legally adults, but if they were much younger — who would raise them, especially if for some horrible reason, both parents passed? How do you make sure their lives remain stable, and that they are raised in a manner which you would approve? Relatives, friends? And who handles their finances? Again, relatives, friends, banks?


What about all your personal stuff? Do you designate who gets each photo or piece of heirloom china, or make it a free for all? Do I want things sold in an estate sale, or divided up amongst friends and family? A family I know had their adult kids label all the things they wanted when the parents passed, I thought that was a little morbid.


Then there’s thinking about whether to have Living Trusts, Do Not Resuscitate Orders, where to store all these important papers for your family to find, and what to do with all your social media accounts? Now, it may sound like a trivial thing to spend time on, but seriously, what do you want done with your Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Pinterest, Instagram? Or if you are a blogger like me, what do you do with your blog website? Do you want everything to continue as some sort of post mortem memorial? Or taken down instantly?


Plus you need to leave login info and passwords. It’s really quite a bit of work, because in preparing this info for my own will — I needed to go into each account and login to make sure I had the correct info. Then if you change passwords, you’ll need to update your Social Media Will attachment. It’s something that you need to continually update and revise. Because the way technology is, there’s probably a new social media platform that will be the next big thing before you even finish writing down all that info. I bet there’s an app you can download on your phone to make it easier, but make sure to leave the password for your phone.


In my business of valuing intellectual property rights, many projects for which we are hired include valuations of post mortem rights of publicity. Now, of course, these are usually for well known celebrities, artists or musicians, but who knows, what if my blog becomes a famous written material, what would my works be worth after death? Some famous people are worth more dead than when they were alive. Sad, but true. Their heirs benefit (depending where they lived or died – state laws prevail).


I didn’t intend for this blog to be about business, but you do have to think about what you want done with all your “stuff” when your physical body dies. Again, you can have the attitude of to hell with all my heirs, they can duke it out amongst themselves; or I would like to make the transition as painless as possible. I went for the middle road.


I’m not going to divulge what’s in my current version, but realize that as time goes on, you will most likely need to revise your will or make additions, known as codicils. Maybe I should go into the practice of writing wills for people.


Finally, you need to think about the celebration…you know, the celebration of your life. Well, I consider it a celebration. What kind of party should it be? Quick and casual, or prolonged and fancy, or somewhere in between. And do you want to be buried six feet under, burned into ashes, or frozen til they find a cure for whatever took you away. Once again, you can decide to leave no instructions about post death events and leave it up to your heirs to argue about.


I still haven’t written those instructions down myself. I will probably name a committee…I try to be inclusive at times…probably the same folks planning my birthday party. Food. Drink. Decor. Invites. Music. Equipment. Like a dream wedding, do you have thoughts about the perfect funeral and reception? Maybe I’ll have a destination funeral. I love to travel, so why not travel in death as you do in life? Can you have a pop-up funeral?


Ehh, F it, I’ve done enough event planning in life, death is time to rest.


We will miss you Tom. As your son-in-law Joe said, you are a renaissance man in the true sense of the term. Your family put together a wonderful tribute and gathering in your honor, I’m sure you’re very proud of them and the legacy you left.


The best gift you can leave your heirs is your legacy. Now is the time to decide what your legacy will be. Make it one from your heart, and one that will make a difference. Love you all.


Resources: The State Bar of California offers a simple will that you can pretty much fill in the blanks. It will at least give you a general direction. http://www.calbar.ca.gov/Public/SimpleWill.aspx. AARP has a number of articles and resources on writing wills, including a Social Media Will template. www.aarp.org

Week 42: This Ain’t My First Rodeo…Well, Actually It Is

We visited a Pow Wow (see week 38), so it makes sense to visit a rodeo too, right? My original plan was to experience Wasteland Weekend in the Mojave Desert, but those plans had to be put aside. So instead I was looking for something local, and the Poway Rodeo was going on. Perfect, I had never been to a rodeo, so this will be my first one.

rodeolines  rodeocrowd

Well, I didn’t realize how many people go to a rodeo…I guess it was a Saturday night in Poway, what else are you going to do? And since it wasn’t that far from Richard’s place, we thought we had plenty of time to get there. Well, we were mistaken. First off we hit long lines to park the car, then more long lines to buy tickets. Being a somewhat spur of the moment activity, we didn’t get tickets online, plus only general admission were available. I don’t know if there was a maximum capacity for the rodeo, because it felt like they exceeded it. Ushers kept telling people to move down on the hard wooden stadium seats towards the center to fit in more people, we eventually got squished into a couple spots close to the aisle. Packed like sardines, we try and enjoy the show, realizing there’s no way we’re going to get up from these seats until it was over.


Since we are somewhat comparing the event to the Pow Wow, it really was more like a show rather than an experience. They have female riders ride by with their horses carrying the sponsor flags, which happens every now and then throughout the night. Reminded me of the girls at boxing matches that walk around the ring announcing the next round, but at least the rodeo women were covered up properly.

rodeoteam  rodeoroping

The show continues in a very orderly fashion, and I will say the events happen so quick, I apologize for my lack of clear pictures. The tie-down roping guys get down to business, and as you can imagine, the riders throw a rope around the calf’s neck, jump off their horses and tie down the calf’s feet. The same goes for steer wrestling, where the rider drops down from his horse and wrestles the animal to the ground with his bare hands. The team roping event lasts a little longer with one rider roping around the horns of a steer, while the other rider tries to rope around the back legs — the goal is to get both legs, which seems really difficult.

rodeobullrider2  rodeohorse  rodeohorse2  rodeoriderswait

Watching the bareback riding, the saddle bronc riding, and the bull riding gave me mixed feelings. While you can appreciate the riders skill in staying on the bucking animals, I felt it somewhat sad for the animals to have that flank strap attached to them to help encourage the bucking. Apparently, they do not constrict the animals testicles, but close enough it seems that it’s unnaturally irritating. You men can relate, right? And you know those bulls really don’t like it, because there were only four riders competing. Why? Apparently, it has not been a very healthy season for bull riders.


Every now and then you get the cheesy rodeo clown doing his act, including the invisible flea making the climb up the ladder and dropping into a bucket of water resulting in a big splash..

rodeodrill  rodeobarrelrider

I did enjoy the female horse drill team, riding around and creating different formations. I also liked the primarily female adult and junior barrel races (there was one male teen in the junior races). In the barrel races, there are three barrels spread apart in the ring and the rider starts at one end, rides around all three barrels and speeds back. It’s all based on speed and time is added if a barrel is knocked over. Exciting and to the point.

rodeomuttongrp  rodeomutton

Now the mutton bustin races. Well, these races kind of come off as cute, but I have so-so feelings on this one. Here kids, as young as three, ride sheep and hold on for dear life as long as they can. The sheep tend to run as quickly as they could out of the chute, with most of the kids falling off quite quickly. There was only one sheep that took it’s with the young rider fully embracing the animal. They do wear helmets, and lots of people are nearby. But I don’t know…I guess it’s supposed to promote the bronco riding type of sport for the future, and supposedly many of them continue on. I guess it’s what you are exposed to as a kid. My sons were exposed to baseball, so they play baseball. If you’re exposed to mutton bustin, you become a bull rider?


The best part of the night…the New Zealand meat and cheese pie! Sorry there’s no photo, we ate it too quickly. Flaky crust, meaty meat, and melted cheesiness; warm and tasty down my throat. Yummy.


We decided not to stay for the free Rodeo Dance, and instead waited with the herds to slowly get out, and just as slowly drive out. That’s what cowboys do, drive out the herds.


In comparison, Richard and I both liked the authenticity of the pow wow, whereas the rodeo felt too much like a staged show. Oh, I forgot to mention, I really didn’t like the announcer having the crowd yell out “yee haw” when he mentions “cowboys”, and when he says “native americans”, the crowd is supposed to go “woo woo, woo woo” while moving your hands back and forth in front of your mouth — you know the sound like, when Tommy Boy says “Luke I am your father” in front of the fan. It just didn’t sit right with me, especially in this day and age. Am I getting sensitive in my old age? I think I would have much rather visited a dude ranch type of place and get my hands dirty…

Poway Rodeo, www.powayrodeo.com, $19 general admission, to $60 for Silver Buckle seating with food. Next year’s date is not yet posted.

Week 40: Island Girl Ink

I’ve been in physical pain lately, so what’s a little more pain? I had previously scheduled an appointment with visiting tattoo artist Soane Tavataina Paninia, who is French Polynesian and now makes his home in Rapa Nui on Easter Island. It was his last week in San Diego inking at the Island TAT Tattoo Shop in Lemon Grove, so I was determined to keep my appointment and make sure my tattoo would be something special.




Getting a tattoo was on my 50 Weeks list, but with a question mark. I have always been hesitant to having something on my body so permanent. But this time, quite frankly, I was going to be a hypocrite. I always warned my kids not to get a tattoo because what you like now may not be something you want on your body 50 years from now. Well, now that I’m approaching 50, I’m a little more certain of what I want, just a little.


I wanted a dragon and scorpion tattoo. Why? Well, my astrological sign is Scorpio, and I was born in the Year of the Dragon. What a combo, right? So, I thought it would make a nice combo in a tattoo.


My friend Rosey suggested Island TAT, which hey I do come from a country with over 7,000 islands, and I’ve always liked the island/tribal look. And since Soane was visiting just at this time and had a couple openings, I felt it was meant to be. Because of the language barrier (Soane speaks French and Spanish), Island TAT resident artist Felix Santos was the one who I consulted with for my design and actually drew it for me. The dragon and scorpion intertwined, with an island tribal feel – perfect.


So one afternoon we go to Island TAT for my tattoo. Gigi went with me for support, especially since she has been my unofficial nurse during my pain filled days. Again, I was still in some pain that day, but what the heck, it’s now or never.


We go to the tattoo room, and we verify the location of my tattoo — a secret spot (see if you can figure it out – oh wait, the pictures give it away). I lay down, expose myself, and close my eyes. I grab Gigi’s hand, tight squeeze as if I’m in labor. He rubs alcohol on the spot, and I hear the tattoo machine turn on. This is why I haven’t been to the dentist in ages, I hate hearing the machines. Soane begins. Hmm, doesn’t really hurt, so I let go of Gigi’s hand. I think I will take a nap.


Maybe it’s because I’ve experienced the pain of childbirth, including getting induced with pitocin with no epidural for hours — I was trying to be supermom and give birth without drugs, stupid me. But the insertion of the tattoo needles wasn’t that painful at all. Depending on the area he was working on, the worst I felt was a sort of pinching. I think the more fat you have, the less pain you experience. Later when Soane was filling in certain areas, it actually seemed a little ticklish.


The inking procedure lasted a little more than an hour, and I was pretty relaxed the whole time laying there. My other pain seemed to have diminished too. It was almost like getting a massage, but not really.


When it was complete and I took a look, wow, I immediately thought it was beautiful. I admit it was larger than what it seemed on paper, but I suddenly felt so proud to have such an artistic piece on my body. Now, I sort of wished it was in a more visible part of my body. I want to show it off, but I will need to find some creative cut out clothing designs.


Although getting a tattoo was a question mark item on my 50 Weeks list, I’m glad I got inked. Would I get another one? Yes, but it has been commented to me that it’s great that I got it checked off my list, but please do not get another one. I guess I will comply.


What do my teenage sons think? They think I’m crazy. That I’m getting old and it will become a glob later. And it’s a good thing I didn’t get a tramp stamp.


As Nike says, just do it.


Island TAT Tattoo Shop, 7912 Lester Ave., Lemon Grove, CA 91945, 619.469.1583, www.islandtat2.com, Facebook: Island TAT Tattoo Shop. Tattoos are not cheap, my design total was $200, designed by Felix and inked by Saone. Elaborate tattoos can take hours, and over several days and will be priced accordingly. Soane returns to San Diego once a year and is also on Facebook: Soane Tavataina Paninia

tatartist  islandtatfelix

Week 39: Stomping on Those Grapes

I Love Lucy, and one of my favorite episodes was Lucy’s Italian Movie shown in 1956 — of course I was watching reruns. While in Italy, a film producer asks Lucy if she’d be interested in auditioning for his new film entitled “Bitter Grapes.” To do some research for the audition, Lucy goes to one of the only non-automated wineries left in the area outside of Rome, gets picked to crush the grapes due to her large feet. And as situations always go with Lucy, she eventually gets in a falling down, grape soaked brawl with the Italian woman stomping in the barrel alongside her.


Being that grape stomping was on my list (A few of Lucy’s antics are on my list, and for one I just couldn’t get that candy factory job!), and we were starting birthday month celebrations for my friend Lynn, the annual Julian Grape Stomp Festa was the perfect activity for this week.


It was another hot weekend, but we didn’t think much of it. Mistake. As Lynn, Gigi and I make our way north, then east, through Poway and past trailheads to popular mountain hikes, down the main street of Ramona to rolling hills to Santa Ysabel, then a right into the curvy mountain roads when at Wynola we turn left towards the outskirts of Julian to our final destination: the Menghini Winery. I look at the temperature and it was the high 80s. It is hot. Am I repeating the miserableness of last week’s pow wow? Nah, I think this may be worse.


As usual, we’re not as prepared as we should be. We park in the dusty dirt lot and get in line for admission. We start to see people with beach umbrellas and folding chairs. Hmm, I have a picnic blanket in the car, but no shade. With our admission of $15, we get a souvenir wine glass good for stomping on the grapes. We did not realize it did not include any wine tastings. Good thing we got some cash.


Well, the actual stomping hasn’t started yet, so we were all hungry and decide to get food. There weren’t as many food vendors as we expected, and it looked like some people brought their own provisions. (Darn, I had a ton of picnic food at home.) The BBQ place didn’t have enough food ready, so we turned to the one other food vendor (there also was an ice cream place); I got a pizza slice, Gigi and Lynn ordered sausages with grilled veggies. We found some seating at the end of a table, but not under any shade. We ate quickly since the festivities were beginning.

 festaparade  festablessing

The “parade” starts, which is a tractor bringing out the grapes with the host dancers sitting up front. Everyone gathers round and cheers them on and they stop in front of the two wooden barrels — one large, one small. Before we begin, the priest gives the Grape Stomp Festa Blessing. And once completed the crowd is invited to grab the buckets of grapes and dump them into the barrels. Once all dumped, the stomping begins.

festadump2  festadumpgrapes

Time to get in line. Well, note to self, next time get in line as soon as you get there, because there was a reason people were getting in line prior to the official start — it got long really fast. And once you figure out it will be some time for each group to get in, stomp around a little, take the obligatory pictures; you realize this will be one long afternoon. Well, we drove all this way, we are going to crush some grapes gosh darn it.


We look around and see all the people that must have done this before. They brought their own canopies, chairs, tables, etc. I jealously feel that they all look so comfortable…and cool. We were sweltering already. What the heck, all the wine tasting booths were surrounding us, what shall we try first? But because of the heat, and knowing too much wine will make us loopy, we decide to settle for a glass of some very tasty Sangria. Hey, I’m the driver, so I need to be responsible and take care of my gals.

festadancehosts  festaline

Even though it was miserably hot, we did have a great time waiting under the hot sun for almost two hours. Primarily due to, as Lynn said, a “wildly entertaining group of three women.” These women, with Italian heritages, had driven to Julian with their husbands from San Gabriel, a Los Angeles valley suburb. We got to talking with them (what else are you going to do but make new friends) and shared funny and true stories about life, marriage, family, kids, sex, and aging. They talked about their lives, we talked about ours, and we commiserated together — about the weather, what people were taking way too much time stomping in the barrel (that chick in the white tee – you know who you are), and is this stomping thing sanitary?


The ladies very generously shared their beach umbrella with us, all six of us squeezing under our shaded territory, which was very much appreciated. There were the occasional and welcomed cool breezes, and we kept seeing some clouds in the distance and wished for them to hurry our way and provide relief from the sun. Their husbands were sitting relaxed in tree-shaded chairs. One of the event volunteers starting going around and spritzing us with a spray bottle, just like what we would do for the kids when they are playing games on hot days.

festadance  festaband

Yes, we are almost there! Hold on, you mean all those people who paid for the $50 VIP tickets get to cut in line whenever they want? Reminds me of the Disneyland Fast Pass. I am ready to strangle someone since I thought we were next, yet it seems all these VIP ticket holders decide to show up right at our moment! Please hurry up and go back to your white tents and appetizer filled tables. We should have paid the extra, but then we wouldn’t have met Marie, Carmella and Sylvia.


Okay, we are next. Finally. First, we need to soak our feet in a tub of vodka, I assume to sterilize our feet. Well, I don’t know how many people stuck their feet in there, but it doesn’t look very clean itself. I bravely stick my feet in. Oh well, the grape juice collected isn’t for consumption anyway. It’s bottled as a souvenir for next year.

festalegs  festafriends  festafeetgrp

In we go…I slowly climb down the ladder as it seems slippery…I stick my right foot in, then my left…hmm, mushy feeling. Gigi and Lynn get in, we take a few pictures. Then Marie, Carmella and Sylvia get in, their husbands having walked over to watch. More photos. We stomp around, trying to look like we are actually crushing grapes. By the time we get in most of the whole bunches have been crushed, but we find a few in the bottom recesses of the large barrel using our toes. We stomp around a bit, and take more pictures. We want to take our sweet time, heck we waited so long in the first place, but we are also aware that many more are waiting for their turn. Basically, we want to make it worth our while.


Time to get out. As we get out of the barrel, we were glad we experienced it, but ready to go on. Hugs and goodbyes were wholeheartedly given to our new friends, as we go our separate ways, but living through common memories.



The ice cream line was too long, it was still hot, and we weren’t in the mood to shop the vendor booths. So now what? Time to head back down the hill for a stop at the Julian Pie Company in Santa Ysabel. Hey, what else would you expect from me? Of course, as we leave, the rain clouds start to mosey on over and cause a bit of trouble. We get to Santa Ysabel just in time to get out of the pouring rain, sit at the counter and comfortably scarf down apple pie slices with vanilla ice cream, pure deliciousness.


Once fulfilled, we make a quick stop at Dudley’s Bakery, because if you’re driving all this way, you’re going to get some fresh bread and baked goods too. My parents will be happy with the squaw bread and coffee cake rounds. Quite content, we get into our cars for the leisurely drive home…so we thought.


Almost immediately after getting back on the road, our phones start squeaking about the flash flood warnings for the area. And wouldn’t you know it, the clouds opened up on top of us at that very moment, and for the life of me I could not see the roads. That’s what you call a timely app! Being the responsible driver that I am, I decide to pull over and wait it out. It died down about 15 minutes later, but still heavily raining. As we start to leave the area, I carefully try to drive through the roads and mini-rivers of water. At one point it looked like some sort of water tank fell into the road. Where the heck did that come from?


It wasn’t that much further that it was dry as a martini. Was it our imagination? Couldn’t have been, because my car looked clean from the natural car wash. Oh well, it seems none of these adventures ever go smoothly.


Oh, remember the I Love Lucy episode, well Lucy returns to their hotel room all messed up and grape stained, meanwhile Desi had the producer waiting for her. But after seeing her, he informs her the movie isn’t about winemaking because the title for the film was a metaphor. He was actually looking for someone to play the part of a typical American tourist. Therefore, he gives the role to Ethel. Lesson here, bitter grapes isn’t worth your energy.



The annual Grape Stomp Festa, www.julianca.com, is held at the Menghini Winery, 1150 Julian Orchards Road, Julian, CA, http://www.menghiniwinery.com.

Although both Julian Pies and Dudley Bakery items are now found in many local grocery and specialty stores, visit Julian Pie Company locations in Julian and Santa Ysabel, www.julianpie.com and Dudley Bakery in Santa Ysabel, which also has a deli and gift shop, www.dudleysbakery.com. Both can be found at the intersection of Highways 78 and 79 in Santa Ysabel, CA.

I Love Lucy episodes available on cbs.com, Hulu, and Netflix DVD.

Week 38: Overnite Pow Wow

The official festivities of the Barona Pow Wow are over, but I lay here in the middle of the night listening to the true soul and spirit of the Native Americans who have gathered together this past Labor Day weekend. Out of the public eye, we listen to the beating drums while men and women sing in harmony to wordless songs, but telling of a strong and emotional story.




I have always admired the Native American culture. My interest started during my college days when a former boyfriend had family in New Mexico and I went out to visit. I later went on a solo research excursion for my Cultural Anthropology class to the San Ildefonso and Santa Clara Pueblos, located north of Santa Fe. There, I was welcomed to view private collections of galleries, local homes, a high school basketball game, dinner, and introduced as if I was one of their cousins. Those heartfelt moments inspired me to begin collecting black pottery as mementos of time spent with them. I chose black pottery because I liked the look of the black on black designs as it was popularized by Maria Martinez who was from San Ildefonso, and who had learned techniques from the Tafoya family of the Santa Clara Pueblo.


Thus, attending a Pow Wow was on my 50 Weeks list. The Barona Reservation hosts a yearly Pow Wow on Labor Day weekend, and they offer free admission and camping. How welcoming they are to visitors. It was definitely time to visit a Pow Wow.



The day didn’t start off so great…it was actually horrible. As Richard and I begin the trek to the Barona Reservation for the Pow Wow, we first hit construction traffic near my house, which was a big pain in the you know where. Really, construction on a holiday weekend, really? Then as we leave the bank ATM, our exit was blocked by a delivery truck, and no driver seemed to be around. Finally, the truck was moved. Thankfully we are on the freeway headed east. Besides the escalating heat, everything seemed fine now. We get to the pow wow (the baseball fields) and the locate the campsites — basically any spot amongst the eucalyptus trees. We find a nice cozy area with shade and start to unpack and put the tent together. The tent was borrowed from a friend, and as we try to sort out the pieces, we realize the main tent itself was missing. Are you kidding? Now what? Richard decides that we will go north to Ramona, buy a tent and return. Okay. So we head on to Ramona, on some scenic roads that I had never driven on, find a Kmart and buy a tent for $25.


These things happen in threes right, so hopefully that is it. We quickly regain our campsite, and put up the tent. In hindsight, buying a new tent was a better choice, as the borrowed one looked very complicated. Tent in place, we then decide to head on over to the Pow Wow and see what’s going on. First thing we see are all the merchandise vendors; later. We head on over to the food vendors and I get a much needed ice cold lemonade, and Richard inhales an overloaded chili cheese dog. (I’m going to start calling him Hoover.)


We sit under one of the humongous white tents, plopping down in the middle of all the other saved chairs. We can’t tell if the areas are reserved for certain groups, but oh well, I guess we will sit until someone tells us to leave. There is some Gourd Dancing contests going on, primarily with the younger age groups. We notice there are two groups of drummers, the center drum circle which look to be elder types and experienced, and the outer drum circle, which seemed younger and more energetic.


But we are still so hot and miserable from what transpired earlier, I contact my friend Rosey, who coincidentally is staying at the Barona Resort down the road. We leave the Pow Wow to meet her, and as soon as we walk into the Casino, greeters hand us lemonade, such a nice touch. I like this place already. Rosey finds us, gives us a quick tour and hands us a keycard for the pool area. We cool down in the pool, and relax on the shaded chaise loungers. And to top it off, she gives us two buffet vouchers. Rosey, you are a lifesaver!


Once refreshed at the pool, and bellies filled, it was time to return to the Pow Wow for the main events. Another friend, Lisa-Marie, had decided to go to the Pow Wow with her husband Jimmy and their sons. We meet them in the grandstands just in time for more Gourd Dancing and the Grand Entry. It’s really quite an amazing sight. Men, women and children enter the center one by one dressed in full finery, while the drums continue to be played. Some in feathers, other with metal decorations. Some in buckskin, others in soft cottons. The colorful parade continues with one person after another entering, creating a spiral formation. The younger males with the double feathered regalia are the ones doing the fancy dancing, twisting, turning, leaping — what energy they have and they keep going and going like Energizer bunnies.

powwow15  powwow14

Eventually a break is taken for the Pow Wow blessing, honoring those who have traveled far and near, and keeping in mind those who have served our country and who are still serving our country. For a group of people whose lands were taken over through bloody force, Native Americans are very patriotic and feel a strong connection to our country. Various dignitaries are introduced and more drumming and dancing. It was also pointed out to us that the Barona tribal chairman was sitting there amongst the crowd in a black shirt and jeans, just one of the guys.

powwow16  powwowview

We decide to hit the vendors and check out the goods. Lots of interesting things: thin-skinned drums, hand carved wooden flutes, animal skins, rugs, ponchos, tons of jewelry, pottery, dream catchers. My favorite booth was the one from The Indian Store of Vista which housed all sorts of things like the skins, books, costume items, medicinal herbs, everything.

powowstoresign  powwowboyskunk  powwowprincess

After looking at every single booth, listening to and watching more drumming and dancing (I do wish they had some sort of official program, because I couldn’t understand a word being said through their speaker system), we decide to turn in. From the campsite, we can hear the Pow Wow continuing, but little did we know that our true adventure would be experienced right in the privacy of our tent. (Oh, I know you reader #9, get your mind out of the gutter!)

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Many Pow Wow participants are staying overnight in the campgrounds and have gathered together out of the public eye to reconnect with friends and family. They come to Barona year after year, continuing the tradition of the Pow Wow. And like most cultures, any gathering is a good reason to celebrate. (My own Filipino culture loves to honor every saint with a fiesta.) Well, those that hitched up their tents in the campsite came to party!


Just when it seemed that it was silent enough where I could hear the stars twinkle, the drumming begins. Then the singers join. Are you kidding me? Aren’t they tired? The Pow Wow has been going all day, and festivities start again the next afternoon. Don’t they know we are trying to sleep in here? Ugh…hmm…the music is actually…quite beautiful.


The drumming, the singing, the passion. You can hear it in their voices. The soul of the men and the heart of the women singing of vocables (no actual words) combine to provide those around with a glimpse into the rawness of their spirit.


I close my eyes and dreamily listen. I dare not walk outside to physically intrude, but I am trespassing on their impromptu private moments. I imagine them all gathered around the in-ground fire pit we had seen dug up earlier in the night, with boiling pots steaming on top of a metal grill. One by one the camp dwellers walk on over, each adding their individual vocal talent to the operatic menu. The drumming, the singing, the passion continues, and I admit, I don’t want them to stop. But after a final crescendo, they do stop…for a moment.


The laughter begins. Okay, yes they were probably drinking some adult beverages, but these type of gatherings are meant for such activities. Again, I felt somewhat of an intruder, listening in on their conversations. I dared not leave the tent, but rather I observe with my ears. I learn to enjoy the sing song laughter of the women after a good joke, the choruses of their ayes. And boy did we pick the location alright, as we can hear several camp parties forming all around us. I did have to get up and pee, and yes indeed, I see that all around us were groups standing, sitting here and there, enjoying the company of friends new and old. Secrets were shared, and egos were boastful. I wonder if they knew someone was listening in on their private moments. I’m not a gossip columnist, really.


Before you know it, someone starts singing, and again, one by one others walk over and join in, like a flash mob. The drumming, the singing, the passion continues all night…and into the morning…5:00 am to be exact.


Yes, it did bother me at first, but I soon felt privileged to experience this true view of the people of the Pow Wow. Pow Wows are meant for Native Americans to gather, and the campsite lets them do just that, away from the public eye of those that want to experience culture for the a couple hours. To capture the depth of another culture is truly a gift, and I felt we were given a gift that night. And it wasn’t only me, Richard felt the same way commenting that they are the “happiest people I’ve ever run into” and that “everyone needs to go to a Pow Wow just to forget about our materialistic society.” Ditto.


The impromptu gathering brought out their naked souls and gave them all true joy. Hearing and feeling their emotions made the bad start to our trip worth it. I would gladly camp amongst the Native Americans again, next time I will crawl out of our tent and try to sing along…wait, with my voice, drumming may be more neighborly.




Barona Indian Reservation is located outside of Lakeside. The Pow Wow is usually held over Labor Day weekend, and 2015 will mark the 45th annual celebration. www.barona-nsn.gov


The reservation also has a museum that provides insights into Barona’s history and the Kumeyaay-San Diegueno culture. www.baronamuseum.org


The Barona Resort and Casino is an excellent place to stay for both an adult getaway or for family excursions. Besides the casino, there is a pool, day spa, golf course, and lots of dining options. Make sure to join Club Barona for discounts and free offers. www.barona.com
For more info about Pow Wows throughout the United States, go to www.powwows.com.