Sunday, May 31, 2009

Trying Something New

So, I have been needing to get into a church here in the Los Angeles area, but the task of starting the search for the right one has lost out the last few weeks- lost out to my laziness and self-imposed frustration over the daunting need to find the needle in the haystack- the right one among all the churches here. Excuses. Why do I put this on myself? I can't do anything on my own- I can't find the right friends, the right job, the right man. I have to follow the Lord in these things. Why do I think looking for a church would be any different? I don't really. I just really like to sleep in, and I make whatever justifications to myself that I can.

I also think that one of the problems I have had for a while is that some of the churches I had tried- and I have to say that often I probably did not give them a fair chance, nor had made the effort I should have to get involved with the people in them- were helping me to grow or engaging me as a Christian in the way I wanted to be engaged. I was finding worshipping God much easier while reading a book or watching something inspiring. But God wants us to have that support of other believers, and that love between us, and I think there is a congregation for everyone. I should address this more in another blog, because I think it is an area that I need to explore.

So anyway, this week, I am trying to take the step. After calling Mastermedia (thanks to Robin's suggestion), a super outreach ministry to people in the entertainment industry, I was able to get referrals to a couple of sites for Christians who are new to this area, particularly those who are entertainers. One excellent one is In addition to great resources, support and encouragement for like-minded Christians, they suggest a list of churches whose congregations are sympathetic to the needs of those in the arts.

I looked at the list just a few minutes ago, and found one that I am excited about trying. Years ago, as I studied and grew in God's word, I began to learn more about the Old Testament and how the history of the Hebrews seems to paint the picture, across the canvas of millenia, of Christ's life and sacrifice. The beauty and meaning of the Feasts of Israel began to really come alive to me, and I longed to be able to participate in a Passover Feast. I have never had the opportunity, though.

A while back, I even started planning a documentary I wanted to shoot about Messianic Jews, who often suffer persecution from both other Jewish people and Gentiles because of their choice to serve Jesus Christ. Our own ignorance as a modern society is astounding sometimes, in that so many people think Christians and Jews are polar opposites, and one could not ever be the other.

On the list of churches on the Hollywoodconnect site is a congregation called the Beth Ariel Fellowship. Here is the description of their mission:

"Beth Ariel Fellowship is a spiritual home for Jews and Gentiles who have embraced Yeshua (Jesus) as Messiah and Lord."

I am excited, and as I have always felt a strong kinship with the Jewish people, I hope to be able to really grow in my understanding of how God truly has, I believe, written across history the story of man's redemption through preparing His Nation for the coming of His Son! I am thankful He allowed us Gentiles to be a part of it all!

"It is not as though God's word had failed. For not all who are descended from Israel are Israel. Nor because they are his descendants are they all Abraham's children. On the contrary, 'It is through Isaac that your offspring will be reckoned.' In other words, it is not the natural children who are God's children, but it is the children of the promise who are regarded as Abraham's offspring." Roman 9:6-8

Praise God! This is Good News! I'll try to keep you all posted on my search for a church home and how this congregation works out.

Thursday, May 28, 2009

Something Flows Freely in LA, and I Don't Just Mean Opportunity


So, culture shock is a real thing. Share with me some of the often crazy differences between this world and the one I left in Georgia.

-Motorcycles can apparently legally ride between lanes. Like when traffic is moving slowly, they can zip between cars. I thought at first I was witnessing some rogue riders doing this, but it happens a lot, so I assume it's legal. This is strange, and increases the potential of swiping one of them with my car.

-Pedestrians are everywhere and I am having to try to be diligent to watch out for them, and the bicycles all over the place.

-The grocery stores sell liquor- not just wine and beer, but liquor.

-The apartments do not generally come supplied with refridgerators. Thankfully my roommate had one.

-People "curse", or as we call it back home, "cuss", in the course of a normal conversation just like they might be discussing a vegetable garden. I noticed the word s%!# being thrown about by a few people shortly after I got here. I did not see this as a big deal, though- I just thought maybe these people had a saltier vocabulary than most people. Then, however, my boss used it when we were talking about pigeons, and a massage material supplier whose store I was in used another expletive while on the phone with someone. It was a small store, but she did not seem the least bit concerned about my hearing her. This was a surprise. Certainly in Georgia, I know a lot of people who use strong language on a regular basis, but in the South, most people will get to know you before breaking it out. In a business setting, it would be considered, in most places, highly unprofessional to speak like that. But I'm not in Kansas- or Georgia- anymore.

-The parking is amazingly complicated here. I would say the majority of parking is done on the street in the LA and Santa Monica areas. But there are problems. Some of it is free, and some is metered, but even the metered parking is usually only for a max of two hours. Street cleaning is a common interference, in addition to busy times of day when parking is forbidden. So, you may come upon a sign that says: "NO PARKING EXCEPT 2-HOUR PARKING MON-FRI BETWEEN 8AM AND 6PM AND NO PARKING MONDAY BETWEEN 10AM AND 12PM." I need a mathemetician to decipher these instructions- they are word problems. "If you can park here between 8 and 6, but cannot between 2 and 4 on Thurs, and 9 and 12 on Mon, Wed, and Fri, what is the likelihood that you will escape without a ticket?" I'm thinking, not good. Although, amazingly, I have not gotten one yet. Let's see how long that lasts!

Monday, May 25, 2009

Why Does It Work: Lost?

As I've mentioned before, I didn't start watching the TV show Lost until recently. Kristi had been wanting me to watch so I could discuss it with her but I figured I had missed too much to jump in late. I knew enough about the show to know that the plot is very complicated.

Then Kristi played dirty. She gave me season one for Christmas, knowing I would be hooked. And I was. When I reached the cliffhanger ending of that season, I had to rush out and find the next, and so on until I was caught up with everyone else and able to watch last week's season five finale along with the rest of the world.

In fact, since Kristi's now in a time zone three hours earlier than me, I saw the finale before she did! A friend said I should text her and tease her by saying I was going to tell the ending and spoil it for her--but make up something really outrageous instead of telling the truth. Trouble is, you can't make up anything more outrageous than the show itself. That story just gets weirder and wilder as it goes.

So why do so many ordinary people seem to love it, to be totally addicted to it? As a writer, I really want to figure this out. Here are just some of the puzzling, writing-rule-breaking characteristics of the show.

Anyone who's been writing long enough to get their first critique knows that flashbacks are a no-no. I've heard them called the instant mark of amateur writing, because they break into the flow of the action and take you out of the story. Yet, not only is Lost built around flashbacks, but those flashes at times seem to intentionally jerk you out of an exciting, climactic moment.

If you haven't watched the show, you probably at least know it's about a group of survivors of a plane that crashed onto a mysterious island. Each week, the episode flashes back to one character's earlier life in brief episodes that punctuate the events taking place on the island.

The island is fraught with intrigue and dangers--from mysterious forces, wild animals, other people who were already on the island. One of our protagonists might be attacked by someone with a knife, and in the middle of that action we'll be jerked back to his previous life as he sits calmly on the couch having a conversation with his mother.

And then there are the flash forwards. At some point, the brief scenes of the characters' previous lives give way to episodes from the future, about their lives after the island. When this first starts happening, you aren't necessarily aware whether it's future or past. In one of the most bizarre turns I've ever seen, during the action on the island, there are flashes about two of the characters, a married couple. The woman is in the hospital giving birth and her husband is rushing around, trying to get to the hospital, so you of course think this is all the same event--flashing forward to their having a child after the island. At the end of the show you discover that they were in two totally different time periods. The husband's scenes were a flashback and the wife's a flash forward!

Descent into Geekery!
Then there's the fact that we started out with a story that seemed a little mysterious, but was going to be about a group of survivors, their relationships, and their attempts to get back to civilization, right? We've all seen it before, from Swiss Family Robinson and Robinson Crusoe to Cast Away with Tom Hanks.

Turns out that's not what the show is like at all, and in the last couple of seasons it took a turn into what I have heard called "sci-fi geekery," complete with time travel and strange magnetic field "incidents" and the like. I'm particularly interested in these developments because an agent at a conference told me that one of my books wouldn't work because of a similar development. He said that readers can't start off feeling they're reading about suspense or even about ghosts or the supernatural and then be taken off into science fiction developments. And yet, Lost is one of the most popular things out there. Are TV audiences more flexible than readers? Was the agent wrong? Or are people giving up on Lost after these developments, too?

This brings me back to my original question. Why does this show work?

I have several humble theories. One is that people love a mystery, and I'm not speaking here of the who-dun-it kind, like who killed Colonel Mustard in the library with a wrench. I'm talking about the big, eternal kind of mysteries. What lies beyond our ordinary sight? Do we have free will or are we doomed to fate? Is there some sort of battle between good and evil that we're caught up in, whether we can see it or not?

I think that's why the flashbacks--and forwards--fly. It's generally in those scenes that you make a sudden realization about some of those questions. Where something completely unexpected is revealed about the characters' connections, or decisions that led them to the island, or events that make it appear they're all being manipulated by an unseen hand. So in some ways, that calm flashback may be more exciting than the knife fight it interrupts.

The amazing season finale last week felt almost Biblical. We discovered that two entities have been warring over the island, and whether people can be allowed to live there, for centuries. One seems to be benevolent and good and on the side of the humans. The other is jealous of the good one and longs to overthrow him, and we discover he's been deceiving and using the people on the island in this attempt. In fact, he has sometimes pretended to be the good one when he appears to them and gives them instructions. Sound vaguely familiar?

The fact that the developments, and even the story-telling techniques, are so unusual makes everything fresh and surprising. It's like a ride on a roller coaster, where any minute you may be jerked around a corner or feel the bottom drop out of your stomach as you slowly crest a hill and then plunge. You hang onto every conversation, every development with a smile on your face because you know that any minute something totally unexpected will occur.

Also, oddly enough, I think it's important that we know there's a definite ending coming. There is an actual story and a plan and a purpose, which will be revealed. I can't stand those shows where people wander around in search of a goal (like getting off the island) year after year with no end in sight, and have totally unconnected episodes and adventures.

My pastor even mentioned this in a sermon a few months ago--the fact that Lost's ratings had started to sag but when it was announced that they would definitely finish up the story and end the show at a certain time, the ratings went back up. My pastor was connecting this to the fact that people grow weary and discouraged when there appears to be no purpose, no goal. But we know the end of our story, of God's story, so we should be encouraged.

So what about all of you? Do you watch it? Love it? Hate it? Did you give up on it when it seemed to change direction? Did you see the season five finale? I'd love to hear what you think.

Friday, May 22, 2009

It's Good to Know You're on the Right Track!

So, since the Westward Ho! Adventure ended, I've been living in California for 22 days. Amazing things have already happened.

First, I managed to land an apartment and a roommate, who is actually a pretty sane, somewhat stable individual with whom I get along amazingly well. This happened while I was still in Georgia. As I began my apartment search via Craig's List, I started to run into problems. Most apartment management, naturally, wanted me to have a job before they would rent to me, or I at least needed one to put on the application. I had a job when I was trying to apply, but it was still in Atlanta, and with most landlords, I didn't think a job 3,000 or so miles away would count much. Then, I was running into issues with some places not even allowing me to fill out applications remotely. I was getting distressed.

Meanwhile, I had several friends back in the Atlanta area who were graciously hooking me up with whatever contacts they had in Los Angeles. One of these friends whose family I had performed with for years, told me about his nephew and niece who were active in the theatre scene out in Los Angeles. So, I began talking to his nephew on facebook. One night, as I was stressing over my apartment issues, I decided to ask him if he knew of any landlords in the area. I thought if I had a personal connection- at least a friend of a friend of a friend- I may stand better chance. I needed a place to live. Remember, I had my dad and the crew ready to caravan my stuff on an extended cross-country trip. We kind of needed somewhere to land when we got here.

What do you know? It just so happened that he and his wife, he said, were apartment managers! They rented two bedrooms in Northridge, in the San Fernando Valley. This sounded fine, but I was looking for a studio, and had not been planning on having a roommate. After all, I was taking my animals with me, and it is difficult to find a roommate you can trust around your animals. Plus, I didn't know of anyone with whom I could room.

One thing I have learned, however, when you turn a situation over to the Lord, is never to say never, and to keep whatever plans you make flexible, because they are likely to change. And this is certainly a process I have tried to give to God from before the decision to move was ever made. Thus, when this fellow said he knew someone who might be looking for a roommate, a friend of his, I listened to what he had to say. I talked to my potential roommate online and over the phone, and things fell into place from there. The rent is affordable, much more reasonable than what I had expected to pay out here. The building is secure- believe me- I have lived in scarier places! (At one apartment I lived in, I was up late one night, heard my cat growling low on the couch behind me, looked over at the window where the blinds were only open a little at the bottom, and saw a pair of legs standing there. I freaked out and called the police. Thankfully, the legs and whoever they belonged to went away.) At the new place, I have a private parking space with a security gate, and the main street entrance is also gated.

And as for the pets, this place does not accept dogs anymore, and if you will remember, my little dog died back in March, shortly before my finding this place. Though that was a sad aspect, it still goes to the fact that God truly does work all elements- the good ones and the tough ones-together for our good, and provides for everything we need. My dog was old, and for some reason God obviously wanted me where I am, and either way I have to trust His decision to take Rocco when He did. Thus, I have a nice place to live that fits well within my budget, and a nice person with whom to live. And I know Who to thank for it!

Second, I HAVE A JOB!!!!! I managed to land one interview, again through Craig's List, before I left Georgia, and that was the one that took! (I am not a whole-hearted proponent of Craig's List- you have to be careful when looking for opportunities on that list.) I arrived on the 1st of May, interviewed for the job on the 4th, and went to work on the 11th. I think I have mentioned before that, in order to eat, I am a licensed massage therapist by trade. It's pretty good work and offers a decent paycheck (most of the time) along with schedule flexibility, which is one of the reasons I entered into this field. I wanted to be able to take off for auditions and other artistic ventures. Plus, I just have never been much of a 9 to 5-er, and don't much care for desk work.

This job is awesome. I mean, I really thank God because it is such an amazing blessing. My bosses seem so far to be very nice. It is a family-owned business, and they have six locations around the Los Angeles area. We can work on a permanent basis or a pick-up basis, or a combination of the two. We can work at any of the locations. Thus, there is as much or as little work as we need or want. As a person who needs a flexible schedule in order to pursue her art, but who also needs a certain amount of work every week, it is the perfect set up. I think God planned it just for me. Maybe that's a little self-centric, but it just seems so perfect! Plus, there is so much more work than there was in Georgia! This was my theory before I left- that I would do better as a therapist here because of the general concern in this population over natural health and body care, and it has proven true. Wednesday, for example, I did eight hours of massage. I have not done that much massage in one day since, I believe, at least 2004. Plus, the tips are a lot better!

I wanted to share this all with you so that you can know how very thankful I am to have been provided for as I have been. I felt peaceful before I left that this move was God's will, but for such a big step and big change, it is so wonderful to have the path made so straight by the Lord as it has been in this case. I feel like I went through a lot of trial before I left, but all of it was based on fear and worry, and not on anything that was coming from God. God opened the doors for this trip before I left. Some doors were not opened until the end, but I still always had that peace that I was doing the right thing. When doubts did come, they were fear-based, and that is how I was able to determine what was right. For example, at one point, it looked like I may not have the money I needed to get started out here. I prayed to God for guidance, seeking out whether or not I was making a mistake or if I should go forward with my plans. The Scripture I received in answer was the one- please forgive the paraphrase- where Jesus sends out the disciples and tells them to take nothing with them when they go. It's been an amazing faith walk, and continues to be. I would love your prayers if you feel led to give them, that God would continue to provide for my needs, that whatever reason He sent me here would be fulfilled, and that most of all I would stay strong in Him and put Him first, not being led astray by the wrong friends or the wrong projects.

Thanks so much for following the progress of this journey, and I will try to keep the updates coming!

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Robin's Deep Dark Confessions: Total Lack of Observation

Jasmine Showers

I have both some good news and an embarrassing story to share with you. Which would you like to hear first? Oh, I know all of you. You're eager for me to humiliate myself for your amusement, aren't you? Well, fortunately I'm good at it. So here goes.

I've been trying for a long time to open an online shop on Etsy, a wonderful marketplace to sell handmade and vintage goods. I finally sat down a couple of weeks ago to do the deed. I had gathered enough of my handmade treasures to make a start and had even photographed them with the help of the lovely and gracious Felicia of Fluffy Flowers. (Who knew there was a macro button on my camera? Amazing!)

What I didn't count on was the fact that all of the shop names I had considered would already be taken. I was in my office mulling this over when I had a brainstorm for another shop name: Jasmine Showers. It sounds like springtime, bright and refreshing, just the sort of shop I'd like to browse in. Plus, since I dabble in a little bit of everything, it doesn't tie me down to any one type of item like beads or crocheting or whatever. Lastly, Jasmine Showers is a character in one of my novels, so this ties the "work of my hands" back in with my writing. Perfect!

I'm the type that may put something off for weeks or months, but when I'm ready, I'm ready. I had allotted time to set up my shop on a particular afternoon and by golly, I intended to do it. Trouble was, I needed a photo or logo for the shop banner. I had the perfect picture in mind: Jasmine blossoms with raindrops. But where to get it? I found some on the Web, but they were all copyrighted, or available for one-time use. I wanted to take my own pictures, so I could put them on business cards or bookmarks or t-shirts, whatever.

At this point, I need to make my confessions. First, I am the most ignorant person on the Earth when it comes to plants. Also dangerous. Any plant left in my care will die an untimely death. Sometimes this happens even when it's not in my care, just near me. When I worked at Delta Air Lines as a secretary, my bosses came up with the bright idea of putting a plant on my desk so people would see it and be cheered when they entered our otherwise soulless warehouse of cubicles and desks.

I warned them not to do it. I told them what happened to plants that got too close to me. They laughed. They pointed out that I wouldn't have to care for it. Someone with actual plant knowledge would do all that.

Within days it was drooping. Then dripping brown leaves. Visitors to our department started to look depressed.

So anyway, that's confession number one. I love the fantasy concept of flowers, but I'm not so good with the real thing.

Confession number two: my powers of observation are woefully inadequate. I once had a roommate who was gone to Florida for two days before I noticed she was missing. Actually, I never noticed. One of our friends pointed it out. (In my defense, she was sort of reclusive and kept her bedroom door closed a lot.)

Now we arrive at the Thursday afternoon when I was determined to set up my Etsy shop. I wanted to take pictures of jasmine blooms, so I decided to stop at Lowe's and see if they had any jasmine. It briefly occurred to me to wonder if we already had jasmine in our yard, but how would I know? (See confessions one and two.) My husband Dave is the gardener in the family, but he was out of town on business. Besides, I hear him talk about the gardening, and I vaguely remembered him mentioning things like roses, azaleas and camellias. And even in my ignorant state, I know when the gardenias are blooming by the smell. Wouldn't jasmine have a strong scent, too? Wouldn't I remember Dave mentioning jasmine?

No, I decided. We have no jasmine. So I paid a fairly big price for a bush at Lowe's that had two or three blooms on it, sprayed it with fake raindrops, and came up with a picture for my banner.

Then Dave got home. I pointed out the jasmine bush I had planted, and even showed off my new knowledge. "That's Confederate jasmine," I said. (I do know how to read a label.)

"I know," he answered. "It's all over the front porch and the back fence. I have to keep beating it back to keep it from taking over."

A few days later, it started to bloom. And here is just a small sample of what's in our yard. was I supposed to know when it wasn't blooming yet? It was just leaves and...oh, never mind.
The good news is I have at least gotten my shop up and running, and I've made one sale! It's called Jasmine Showers as I'd hoped, and I'm pretty pleased with it.
I'd like to share the joy, so here's what I'm offering my wonderful blog readers. If you make a purchase from my shop between now and the end of May, you can take 30% off the most expensive item in your order. (Just mention the Dimensions blog in the "Message to Seller" at checkout. You can either go ahead and pay and I'll send you a refund, or tell me in the message that you'd like me to send a revised invoice before you pay.)
Tell anyone else you think might be interested. More than making money right now, I need to make some sales and get good feedback. Enjoy!

Monday, May 18, 2009

When Your Niece Moves to L.A.

Is this typical? Is this what happens frequently when a family member moves cross country to Los Angeles?

I was fast asleep last night around midnight when my cell phone sounded off, letting me know I had a text message. Half asleep, I read this from Kristi: "Just felt my first quake. It was so weird."

There was supposedly a small quake when she was moving into her apartment, but she said she didn't feel it. Her landlord told her about it. But she felt this one. Must have been bigger. What does a loving, concerned aunt do in such a situation? If they're like me, they drop the phone and go back to sleep. I just figured, it's L.A., these little things happen.

Then I heard it on the news this morning. It made the national news! I'm a teensy bit ashamed of my lack of concern. I'd also like to tell her to take the next plane home to Georgia, where the worst that will happen to her is to have a tree fall on her during a tornado. Okay, maybe that's just as bad. So maybe I should just chill and trust God, right?

She is doing very well. I know she'll be catching you up soon, but I was impressed to check out the Big Hollywood blog this morning and see one of the writers going on about a fancy restaurant on the upscale Santa Monica pier, and know that's where Kristi's working. Here's the link if you want to check out the post, which is really funny: I, Jerk.

Kristi, have you seen this restaurant?

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Westward Ho, Part III: Striking Beauty and Dangerous Apples

Remember where we left off? In Utah! Right! Well, after a short detour during which we tried to tour the Hoover Dam and failed, we headed back to Arizona to spend the night and then took off for California. A couple of things stopped us from getting to see the dam. First, we had my little Dodge Neon and my dad's Suburban which was pulling the U-Haul trailer. Well, after 9-11, the powers that be do not allow trailers across the dam. That is certainly understandable, but it required us to adjust our route- the only time we had to do that during the entirety of our trip. So, we were making plans to try to move all of the bags which were packed into my car into the Suburban so that we could all four pile into the little yellow Neon and take the tour of the dam. However, they decided it would be a good idea if we called first, and thank God we did! The elevator was broken down! We could not take the 2 hour tour without the elevator, and we decided the 30 minute tour was not worth moving all the luggage out of my car. Thus, no Hoover Dam. The good news, for me anyway, is that I live just a few hours away, and I could go and take the tour another day. Enjoy some of the pictures of our drive from Kingman, Az to the California border.

Here is my dad and his wife, Debra, getting excited to be ditching the trailer. I hear that thing is not easy to pull. I didn't even attempt it. I stuck with my little Dodge.

Ah, 1o states, counting good ol' Georgia, and finally we were arriving. I had never set foot in California, so it was an unusual feeling to be not only arriving there, but planning to call it my new home. My first stop was a memorable one. I had my apple confiscated at a border check- yes, a border check at a U.S. state line! Take a look.

So, it seems that because my apple was not labelled (GASP!), it posed a danger to the entire fruit population of the state of California and therefore could not be allowed in. I bet some California state employee ate my apple and unknown numbers of nameless bananas and oranges that Friday afternoon while laughing gayly at the ignorance of the Golden State's new inhabitants. Or maybe I'm paranoid. Anyway...speaking of paranoia, the same border patrol made Dad and Debra open up the trailer, I suppose so they could make sure there were no deadly ferns in there. Thank the good Lord they did not make us empty that trailer! It was packed to the gills, I tell you what!

Seriously, though, apparently one of California's main industries is agriculture. Who knew? I would love to venture up into the middle part of the state where there must be so much farming land. I suppose it would cause a great deal of harm to have some kind of disease-ridden fruit brought into the state which could infect its produce.

Before this trip, I had no idea that California was such an agriculturally important state. I thought the main industry for the state was movie-making. Now wouldn't that be something- if they stopped all "artists" at the border and made sure they could deliver on the talent they claimed to have, or at least that the rotten ones would not infect the rest of us with their tripe. What a prospect! Just think- we could have been spared such wastes of celluloid as American Pie: Band Camp and Battlefield Earth (L. Ron Hubbard's scientology-based "sci-fi" attempt, widely considered a disaster.) They talk a lot about wasting resources out here, but I wonder how much precious time, money, and material has gone into ridiculous films that never should have been made in the first place. Well, sorry for that little tangent...let's get back to the trip!

The Mojave Desert...............................................................................................................

And here we have some lovely black lava rocks. I wonder how old they are?

And then, across the desert, after the most isolated part of the entire trip during which we must, at one point, have gone at least 50 miles without seeing anything but the road and the desert, we spotted snow-covered mountains.

Seeing the mountains, but still in the desert...I know there are a lot of these, but I just found these mountains so beautiful after driving through the desert for so long, though the desert certainly held its own beauty. And I just had no idea how beautiful California would be. I suppose I knew on some level that it was, and I knew that it had mountains, but I was truly stunned by the landscape as we drew closer to Los Angeles. Even now, a whole 12 days later, I thrill at the fact that I can see mountains from the street on which I live- through a haze of smog, yes, but still...We saw quite a few trains coming across the West. There was something different about being able to see them coming or going for miles. At one point, in Mew Mexico, I believe, or just after entering Arizona, one rode beside us for many miles, sometimes closer, sometimes further away, but running parallel to us, and running fast. There were few variations in the path they had cut through those rocks to slow that engineer down. I was impressed, then, by this one in California as well.And then we were really getting close.

Here is the view from the gas station we stopped at about an hour outside of Los Angeles. This was one of my first looks at some of the architecture of the area. They make great use of the adobe-style building or house, but instead of the square adobe roofs of New Mexico and Arizona that I saw so much, there were these tiles on the roofs. I'm not sure what they are called, but I suppose they are made of clay. Many of the houses out here, or most of them, are shingled with these tiles. They are sort of difficult to see here, but maybe you can make them out.These tiny specks are actually houses near the gas station. I wish I could remember the name of the town- still about a mile out of LA- starts with a "T", I think.And here we go- entering the outskirts of Los Angeles and Hollywood, though we swung around just a little Northwest of them, I believe, and headed for the San Fernando Valley. Here are some pics I took along the way as my cousin Shirley drove through the Friday afternoon rush hour traffic for me. That was so nice! Thank God we made it in one piece!Behold the creepy mannachins perched to wave at the passers-by on the freeway. Wouldn't that be a driving hazard? Welcome to Hollywood!And here is the apartment building in which I now reside! Impressive, huh? Actually, it is not a bad neighborhood, and the security in the building is great. I have a gated parking space, and there is a gated front walk-in entrance to the building that must be opened with a separate key. I feel safer here than in most of the places I lived in the Atlanta area. As long as there are no earthquakes- no bad ones, anyway. Let's hope.

And then, here's my dad generously buying me new mattresses and getting them loaded onto the top of the Suburban. The whole reason we had to get new ones is because the ones I had in Atlanta would barely fit in there as advertised, and these would not fit at all, even though they had stated that this trailer would indeed hold a queen-sized mattress. Below, we have the blessed ditching of the trailer. I know my Dad, Debra, and Shirley, who took turns driving it, were glad to be rid of it.

The Pacific Ocean at Santa Monica. They took me down here before leaving to help me make sure I could find the location of my job interview that was coming up Monday morning. Santa Monica and Venice are right next to each other, and my interview was at Venice. (I got the job, by the way. I plan to write more on that soon.) Then we made our way down to the Santa Monica Pier. Simply amazing. I had not seen an ocean in probably five years, and I love the ocean!Here is Shirley, with whom I shared most of the 3000-plus-miles trip across country in the little Dodge Neon, which so faithfully pulled us through with no trouble. But of course, I know who really pulled two vehicles, a trailer, four people, and a whole bunch of stuff across country with no problems- the one true God. Thank You, Lord, for a safe and wonderful experience, and the opportunity to pursue my dreams!And finally the pier, where the "Circus by the Sea" has existed for a long time, and street bohemians thrive. So, we have an amazing country (and I only saw part of it)- and that's only one country on this earth. If this is the fallen creation, and I believe it is, let us lift our hearts toward the real home which awaits us and wonder what dreams may come.