Saturday, December 26, 2009

Biggest Accomplishment of 2009

I have been doing embroidery and cross-stitch for many years now. My needlework has just been a hobby that I do to relax in the evenings and keep my fingers busy on airline flights. An old roommate of mine got me into cross-stitching and I have kept it up over the years. At the urging of my old roommate, I entered four of my finished works in the Los Angeles County Fair this last September. To my total shock, I won four ribbons, 2 first place blue ribbons and 2 second place red ribbons. I was so amazed.  I was actually giddy when I saw the ribbons for the first time. I never imagined that my needlework was prize worthy. Winning the Los Angeles County Fair ribbons was my biggest accomplishment in 2009.

Copyright Romy Schneider 2009. All rights reserved.

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Getting Ready for Another Decade

In a few weeks, New Years Eve will mark the arrival of 2010.  Another decade of my life has come and gone.  I never seem to know how to answer the standard interview question "Where do you see yourself ten years from now?"  In order to decide what I need to focus on during the next ten years, I suppose I should take an inventory of what I've done and where I have been this last decade.

Looking back I've accomplished quite a lot.  I've travelled more places than I've ever imagined.  I've been to London 3 times, Paris twice, Monte Carlo once. Spent two weeks traveling throughout Italy with an Italian boyfriend, which was amazing because we visited lots of little cities that I would have never know about if I had gone on my own.  Considering my parents never visited Europe in their lifetime, the fact that I made it across the Atlantic as many times as I have thus far means that I have been pretty successful in fulfilling my childhood goal to go out and see as much of the world as possible. Visiting new places and experiencing how other people live has given me a much broader perspective in how I look at the world and how I approach living in it.  Through travel, I think I've become less myopic in the last ten years.  I've realized what a young country the United States is, and how we are still struggling to develop our own identity as Americans both internally and in our dealings with the rest of the world.  I grew up hearing in school that the United States was a "melting pot", but I really didn't truly understand the meaning of this euphemism.  Traveling to America's roots in these different European countries and experiencing their cultures has allowed me to appreciate how America, as a newer country, has been able to embrace the influx of disparate cultures and fused them together as one nation and to also understand why our country sometimes has difficulty coming to a consensus on various issues.  In the end, it's our nation's diversity and our freedom to express our diverse opinions and insights that helps define us, as Americans. 

On a personal level, I believe that travel has made me more tolerant of individuals who have opposing views to my own.  I think I am more likely to listen to others who have opposing perspectives in order to try and understand their viewpoint, instead of immediately jumping into arguing my own thoughts on a matter.  Recently, I have become close to someone who has a drastically different political viewpoint than my own.  I'm a tree hugging liberal Democrat and my friend is not. I think ten years ago, it would be difficult to have this person in my life as a friend.  It would have been hard for me to listen to his perspective on politics without turning our every conversation in a serious heated debate.  Now, I'm the type of person who can listen to this friend and just appreciate his opposing viewpoint.  Of course, I still engage in discourse and may voice my disagreement with his assessments of issues, but there are also times when I simply hold my tounge and just let him speak his mind.  I have realized that having people in my life with disparate social and political viewpoints have helped me realize that sometimes issues are not so black and white.  More tolerance and global consciousness; these are a couple of things I've learned this past ten years.  In the next decade, I want to continue my exploration of the world and hopefully expand my understanding and appreication of the diversity of the fellow people who populate it along with me.

During three of the last ten years, I got my masters degree in entertainment and media law by returning to school part-time at night.  Working full-time and going to school was a shock to my system, but I adjusted to the rigorous schedule and learned quite a lot.  I have always loved being a student and I am always looking to learn new things to stimulate my mind.  Because of this decision to add another professional degree to my resume,  I was also able to take five weeks off of work and study comparative law in Cambridge, England over one summer.  It was an amazing opportunity to temporarily walk away from my full-time employment to be a full-time student again for a summer.  I was with a group of students who were all about ten years younger than I was. There was a lot of drinking, laughing, talking, sightseeing and an utter sense of freedom.  I got up early and ran every morning before class. The whole trip was an invigorating experience, and a bit exhausting.  I look back at this summer abroad program as one of the most cherished, memorable times of my life.  I hope in this next decade to continue taking classes and never stop furthering my education.  I'm not looking to add another degree to my wall, but you never know.

As for my work life and career, I've have been employed full-time and thankfully, self-supporting these last ten years. I've worked at three different companies, all entertainment industry related.  One company I loved, but after 7 years I needed to grow and diversify.  One company I tolerated, because I needed to take a step backward in my title and compensation in order to learn new skills. That was hard, on my ego and pocketbook.  But ultimately that job lead to my current company, where I have a better position and greater compensation.  I like my current place of employment quite a bit, and I'm keeping my fingers crossed that my employment at this company will last for quite awhile into this next decade.  In furtherance of my career, in 2003, I decided to take the New York Bar exam on a whim, six years after I passed the California Bar exam.  I studied for the NY Bar exam for about three months on my own, using a bar review book I bought used on the internet.  I took a week of vacation time, and flew to NYC a couple of days before the exam and studied on the grass in Central Park.  It was July and the Park was brimming with New Yorkers, who were sunning themselves and playing with their dogs and children.  I sat and studied flash cards in Sheep's Meadow and quizzed my memory as I walked around the Lake, watching lovers and families in row boats.  I then rode the Amtrak train up the Hudson River to Albany to take the exam.  Two, six-hour days later, it was over.  I had no idea whether I passed the exam or not, but there was really no pressure on me, because I was already a licensed practicing lawyer in California.  I travelled down to the Jersey shore for the rest of the week to visit friends. That November I found out I passed the exam, and laughed for two hours in disbelief.  For a lawyer, California and New York are the two hardest bar exams in the country to pass, and I passed them both on the first try.  Looking back I think I've done quite well career-wise this past decade. For the next decade, I hope to continue to move forward in my career, with a higher position, more autonomy, and to continue loving what I do, contributing my small part in the making of movies.

I think the area of my life that was least fulfilling in the last decade was my personal life.  Focusing on work, school and travel consumed most of my attention.  It's not that I didn't date. I dated quite a lot.  But no long-term commitments were made on my part. As a child, I beared witness to a very nasty divorce.  I grew up in a household in which I was an only child and my parents were my whole world.  When they split up when I was 11, it really was quite a trying experience.  In my teens and twenties, I tried to stuff the hurt of my parents' breakup away and pretend it didn't matter.  I forged on with my own life, determined that I would build a different life from theirs.  Well I have.  I've never been married and have no children.  I could have, but I didn't.  I'm really not sure if this was a conscious decision or not.  I can make excuses, cite circumstances, blame the men in my life or chalk it up to fate, etc.  But, perhaps I have been avoiding making a commitment, so as not to fail, like my parents did.  This has been a powerful realization on my part recently.  So what I hope to accomplish on a personal level in this next decade is to be part of a truly intimate, long-term committed relationship and to hopefully become part of a loving accepting family.

Phew, that was a long interesting decade and quite a lot to talk about in one blog post.  I think this inventory has been useful.  Of course there are a bunch of other things I want to take on in the next ten years including, learning the Argentinean tango, buying a new car and a house with a garden, finishing my novel (which I started about 10 years ago), losing weight, remaining healthy and a whole bunch more.  But before this turns in the the most epic post ever, I think I will stop. 

Well, I think I'm ready to tackle another decade, bring on 2010!

Copyright Romy Schneider 2009. All rights reserved.

Monday, August 24, 2009

A Healthy America?

"Quality health care is a fundamental right, not a privilege"
- Sen. Ted Kennedy

I am really puzzled by the health  care debate in this country. I question why there is a debate at all. There are so many friends of mine who don't have healthcare coverage. I worry about them. Why is it that we are the only industrialized nation in the world that does not provide universal health care insurance for its entire population? When I was in Italy last summer, my boyfriend's sister was experiencing severe stomach pains. There was no question in anyone's mind that she should go directly to the hospital. If you are sick, you go see a doctor. No questions about the cost of seeking such medical help cloud this decision.  Of course being the only American in the room, the cost of going to a hospital was the first thought that ran through my mind. It shouldn't have been. In Italy, as well as most of Europe and Canada, there is no cost to the individual who seeks medical care. The cost is all covered by the national government. It's part of the country's social services. Like trash collection, road paving, tree triming, the sewage management system, etc. A country can still have a capitalistic ecomonic system and provide social services. The United States is no different from Europe in this respect. Why can't we add health care to our social services system? Especially, since the U.S. has a partial social sevice health care system all ready in place, Medicare, for our senior citizen population. Why are Americans so resistent to expand this system to the younger population?

We, as Americans, need to switch our way of thinking. As the greatest industrialized nation in the world, shouldn't we be taking care of our own. Isn't a question of humanity? If someone is sick, should we be able to help them? When there is a disaster somewhere in the world, whether it be a famine in Africa, or a tsunami in east Asia, aren't we the first country to send our military parachuting in medical aid and food? Yet, there are people in the house right next door who are unable to afford the medical help they need because they have an employer who doesn't provide medical insurance, or they are an independent contractor, or they have recently been laid off and can't afford private coverage. This is a humanitarian crisis right here in our own country. Let's step up and solve it.

Copyright 2009 Romy Schneider. All rights reserved.

Wednesday, May 6, 2009

Bake for Hope - Red Velvet Cupcake Recipe

This Sunday, May 10, 2009 is Mother's Day in the United States. This Sunday will also be the 10th anniversary of my mother's passing from breast cancer. I lost my mother when I was 29 years old. It was horrible and unexpected. My mother developed a backache that just would not go away. After about a month of struggling with the pain and when over the counter medication just did not work anymore, she finally went into to see the doctor. Turned out she had a tumor pressing against her spine. The source of the tumor was stage 4 breast cancer that had metastized. We have no idea how long my mother had cancer before her death, it could have been several month or even years. By the time of her diagnosis, the cancer had spread so invasively that there was no treatment, except to make her comfortable. Four months later on May 10, 1999, she mercifully left this earth. As sad as it was, I was grateful that she was out of pain and now with God. She faced her death bravely, responding to her terminal diagnosis with the simple statement, "Well, I've had a good life." I hope that someday I can say the same thing in the face of my leaving this earth too.

In honor of my mother, last Sunday May 3rd, I participated in Bake for Hope. This first ever nation-wide, 100% volunteer run, event is hosting hundreds of bake sales across the nation. The nation-wide bake sales run May 3rd - 9th, the week before Mother's Day, honoring mother's and women everywhere supporting a cure for breast cancer. 100% of the sales go to local Susan G. Komen for the Cure affiliates. I found out about participating in this event through the website. I signed up because I'm a pretty good baker and I thought this would be a wonderful way to honor my mother, by proactively raising money for breast cancer research. I did not know anyone involved with the event, but through a series of e-mail correspondence I meet a wonderful group of ladies, who were also inspired to participate. Our leaders for the bake sale here in Los Angeles were Lisa Pederson and Kelly Neilsen, who tirelessly organized our group. We selected the Hollywood Farmer's Market as our venue. We all baked and then showed up. It was an amazingly beautiful sunny Southern California day. We worked shifts, donning specially made Bake for Hope aprons. The people who attended the Farmer's Market bustled by and many were lured in to our brightly pink colored table filled with homemade bake goods. At the end of the day, our cookies, brownies and cupcakes raised a staggering total of $1,310.47!!!!!!!

There was no doubt that the event was a rousing success and I'm thrilled. Isn't wonderful how complete strangers can get together and create such a positive change in the world?! The generosity of the bakers and all of those who purchased from the sale is amazing and inspiring.

So for all of you who asked for the Red Velvet Cupcake recipe, here it is:

Saturday, April 4, 2009

Red, White and Blueberries

Originally written on July 4, 2006

My dear friend Rachel is a little unique. God bless her. She really should have been born in another time. She's a contradiction in terms. There is this one side of her that is a prim, proper, conservative girl, who likes to quilt, do cross-stitch, bake pies and wear button down shirts and khakis. This is how the girl looks like on the outside: She is tall 5’8”, and very thin, dare I say willowy? With long spindly arms and legs like Audrey Hepburn. She also has long cascading curly brown hair, that at 36, she normally wears down to her waist, but she recently cut so that it now reaches her mid-back (she said she cut it so that I would not yell at her to get a haircut when I saw her). If you look at her and me together you would think that there is no way on earth that we would be friends, but we are, because deep down, I have a Martha Stewart/Betty Crocker side of me too, except I don’t look like it on the outside.

Today is the 4th of July, and it is Rachel’s only day off this week from her job at a federal governmental agency. So Rachel wants to spend the entire day with me. She has already decided what the first activity will be, berry picking. Sounds nice, huh? Berry picking. Has a nice ring to it. Sounds simple. Sounds kind of Little House on the Prairie-ish. You are right, except when it is 92° with about 85% humidity. But, in the spirit of friendship, I don my tank top, my white shorts, slather on the sunscreen, we pick up Rachel's mom and drive out to Conte’s Farm, which is located somewhere in the interior of the Garden State down long country roads. When we finally make it out to Conte’s Farm, we grab buckets with strings attached to their handles and climb aboard a stake-bed cart pulled by a little old wrinkled farmer on his tractor and take a very bumpy ride out to the berry field (nobody warned me that I need a sports bra for this activity). So here we are the three of us standing at the end of the rows of blueberry bushes. The weather beaten farmer gives us a tip, the best berries are down low to the ground, because most people do not want to stoop that low and therefore, all of the good berries at eye-level and above have already been picked over. Great, I come all the way to New Jersey to become a stooped over migrant farm worker, somehow I think if I wanted to do this for a profession, I would have found plenty of work in California.

Ok,” Rachel says, “now only pick the biggest berries. I don’t want to see anything in your bucket less than the size of a nickel.” Rachel's mom and I look at each other and roll our eyes.
“I’m going to inspect your buckets afterwards,” Rachel continues. “And remember think like a berry!” “Yes, I’m thinking like a berry,” I respond.

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Moving on...?

The e-mail's subject line read "Moving On...." It was from a work colleague, Roger. I dreaded reading the contents of the e-mail, wholly expecting a goodbye message from another co-worker, who has been laid off. About 100 people at the company have been laid off since December. I really like Roger and my heart sank thinking he had been another victim of corporate downsizing. I pointed my mouse cursor and clicked on Roger's e-mail. "Hi, I'm sure you have already heard, but I just wanted to let you know peronally that I have turn in my resignation and my last day will be April 9th. My new contact information is ...." I sank back down in my chair and stared at the screen. At a time when there is record high unemployment in the state of California and national economic crisis, why would Roger just up and quit?

I yank at the phone and immediately ring his extension to obtain the details. "Hi Roger. I just got your e-mail. No, I did hear you were leaving. I guess I'm out of the loop. So far out of the loop, I didn't know there was a loop! Where are you going?" Roger's chipper voice responds, "I'm leaving Los Angeles. I'm moving to Mendocino County. Bought a bank owned home for 250K. It's a 3 bedroom, 2 bath, overlooking a ridge. I completely changing my profession too. Going to be working in the food and beverage industry. I am so excited!" I quickly google "Mendocino County". It's a county in Northern California, above San Francisco. Population 88,109. I try not to sound too perplexed. "Wow, Mendocino County. That sounds really pastoral. That's a big move." Roger doesn't skip a beat, "Yes, it is pastoral. I needed space. I got tired of living in Los Angeles. I had an opportunity to move north and since the timing was right, I decided to take that opportunity and start a new life. I'm closing on the home which I bought based on photos on the internet, so it's been very stressful. Lots to do in a short period of time."

Ah yes, haven't we all thought about starting a new life? Picking up and moving somewhere different from where we are now. The opportunity to start over again, new job, new home, new friends, new love life, just new. Lots of people I know are dissatisfied with living in a big city. They come here for opportunity and instead find cold callus disconnection. People steaming anonymously past each other, focused on their destinations, steadfastly avoiding eye contact. All they find is concrete, noise, crime and pollution. Relationships are always in question. What can you do for me? Are you my ally or my enemy? Are you going to be my BFF or a casual acquaintance? Are you the love of my life or just Mr. or Mrs. right now? Are you lifting me up or shoving me down the corporate chain? Yes, moving to a small town in a pastoral, sparsely populated county sounds very appealing, doesn't it? It's like shedding an old uncomfortable, complicated life and trying on a new, stripped down one. It feels a lot lighter.

Perhaps in this economic down turn, with layoffs and corporate reshuffling, people are being forced to reexamine their current state of existence. Instead of seeing this as a time of crisis, instead it is a moment of opportunity. History had proven that strife and hardship are the catalysts for change. Before every major shift, humans have become uncomfortable with their current circumstances. When all needs are being met, people seem to be lulled into a state of complacency. When needs are lacking, and people become uncomfortable, then they are motivated to produce a change. They strive for a better existence. Sometimes it's a group effort akin to the American or French Revolution, and other times it's a very personal revolution, like Roger's.

I admire people who can pick up and move somewhere unknown. As a native Los Angeleno, I have never lived anywhere outside a 15 mile radius. I have actually lived at only 3 addresses, my parents' home, my first single girl apt. and my current residence. My lack of moving experience is rare in a city as hugely populated as Los Angeles. I have met people who have moved here from all over the planet. I quietly marvel at their bravery in moving from Chicago, New Jersey, London and Tunsia! My goodness, I think, they have left everything behind, their family and friends, to start something new in a strange, foreign metropolis. Sometimes it's not even the distance that one travels, people surprise me for how they have radically changed professions too. From ballet dancer to nurse, from lawyer to nature photographer, from actor to police officer, from high power stock broker to stay at home mother of three. So Roger, I wish you the best in your big move up north. It's time for you to take a leap, in search of a better life. Your own personal revolution. Moving on indeed.

Copyright Romy Schneider 2009. All Right Reserved.

Saturday, March 21, 2009

Confessions of a Contest Junkie

I love contests. If I am reading a magazine and an advertisement mentions a contest like "Win a Tip to Maui" at" or watching a local new and the anchor says "the secret word of the day is 'surfer' got to our website at to enter our wake up and win contest", I find myself compelled to enter. This is not a recent addiction. When I was younger, before the convenience of website entry forms, I would enter contest by filling out standard size postcard and sending them to a p.o. box frequently destined for Burbank, CA or Ansonia Station, NY. I would decorate the postcards with stickers, hoping that an extra splash of color and creativity would better my chances to be selected by the contest organizers. Even at county fairs and trade shows, I have to fill out those free entry forms with the little yellow golf pencils. They call to me, "fill me out, you may be a winner." It doesn't matter what the prize is, whether it be a new washer and dryer (which don't fit in my apt.), a free trip (to a place I am not interested in going), concert tickets (for a band I don't like), a free portrait (for a family I don't have) or a lawn mower (for a lawn I also don't have), I sign up for it. I know that most contests are all about creating customer lists that can be sold to other companies that will result in really annoying and useless solicitations filling up either your mailbox, in-box or voicemail and in some cases all three. But yet I am still undeterred. What is it about contests that draws me into their vortex?

Is it the promise of getting something free in life? Is there comfort in thinking that you could obtain something of value, which requires so little work or skill except to know how to fill out your name and address and contact phone number. A 6-year old could do it, except most contests require you to be at least the age of majority, (a requirement surly imposed on the contest sponsors by state and/or federal law, and not any sense of corporate morality). Just think of all the time and energy spent earning a paycheck. The hours spent commuting to your office, then the hours in front of the computer, on the phone, sitting in meetings, navigating the office politics, dealing with your demanding boss, just to get in the car to commute home again. That's of course if you have a desk job. Think about the energy spent by a construction worker, a police officer, a grade school teacher, a brain surgeon, a farm worker, a short order cook, etc. It's both mentally and physically exhausting earning a living. But the chance of winning a $50,000 cash prize or a fabulous 7 -day trip to St. Lucia (meals and airfare included) and all you have to do is fill in a couple of blanks on a website, or slip an entry form into a clear Plexiglas box, well that is something that can't be passed up. You would be a fool not to enter.

Or is it a more ethereal sense of destiny. Let's face it, intellectually everyone knows that the odds of winning a contest that thousands or sometimes millions of people enter are very slim. But then you rationalize the reverse. Somebody has to win, right? Why not me? Then as you are filling out that entry form, you think, "Ok, this time it's going to me! It has to be me. I'm the lucky one!" I'm sure this is the same rationalization that goes through gamblers' minds in Vegas. These next cards will be a royal flush. This next throw of the dice or spin of the wheel will make me a big winner. Of course the difference between contests (with no monetary entry fee) and games of chance or lotteries, is that when you enter a contest, the contestant is not giving up or risking anything to win. There is no entry fee or skill involved. It's more random. If you get picked as the winner, then such achievement is purely fate. A calling from the universe that you, of all the people who could have won, are special. It was your destiny to win. Aah, what a nice sense of validation. If you win a contest, then that proves you are special. You are a lucky person. The fates are smiling down on you.

Perhaps I will never fully understand what fuels my drive to fill out those entry forms. I know that if I actually win a trip or a car one day, I probably will not end up liking it. I know that I will have to pay more taxes that year based on the cash value of the prize. I know that I will get more junk mail flooding my already too small mailbox, more spam in my in-box and more annoying phone calls in the middle of dinner. But none of these will deter my dream of actually being called one day by the disembodied voice of a contest god telling me that he is giving me something for free and confirming that it was my preordained destiny to be a winner!

Copyright Romy Schneider 2009. All rights reserved.

Thursday, February 12, 2009

Does anyone really ever know who you are?

I recently had a revelation about a someone in my life (to protect the innocent, we'll call him Norman). This is how I know Norman. He is a tall, handsome, sophisticated, button down suit type. He is reserved, thoughtful, well educated and cultured. Norman is clean shaven, with neatly trimed hair, always dressed in a jacket, buttoned down shirt. He also has impecable manners. He had told me that he had a musical background and was once in a band, but I assumed that was long ago, maybe in college or high school. All I was acquainted with was the clean-cut financial analysist side of him. Or maybe that was the only side of him I wanted to see. The side that I was attracted to as a friend. But, this week I discovered another side of Norman.

Knowing that he had clients in the music industry, I asked Norman to recommend some musicians who might be interested in playing at a local music festival. I am the music director of the festival this year and was looking to put together a diverse line-up. In response to my inquiry, he nominated himself as potential entertainment. Well this turn of events caught me off guard. He said that he would like to perform solo, playing guitar and harmonica. He pointed out that he recorded an CD that was available for sale on the internet. A quick google search pulled up his CD, which was released 6 years ago and his MySpace page.

There Norman was on his MySpace page sitting on the couch strumming a guitar with a cowboy hat and boots! What the heck? According to his MySpace bio, he had made up this entire persona of an outlaw guitarman, living in Mojave, CA, playing in local honky tonks. Now I don't know if he ever lived in Mojave, CA, but he certainly does not live there now. He works for an accounting firm in downtown Los Angeles. Who is this person? Was he living a double life? Did he just create this alter ego out of the air, a complete fabrication, a ruse to sell his music?

I was thrown a little off balance. Then I began mining my memory. You know, I have seen him in boots before, when we have casually met for a movie or a drink. At happy hours, Norman did seem to prefer to order beer instead of other more sophisticated well drinks or wine. He did tell me that he played guitar. I just assumed that he played jazz or classical guitar music. I never imagined that Norman was an outlaw country/folk guitarist. But that was my own projection of who he was and not about the reality of who he is. I realized that the window that I was peering into was just a small part of his life. I almost exclusively knew him in a professional context. Our relationship has developed over time into a warm more personal friendship, but not an intimate one. I realized that there were subtleties of Norman's honky tonk musician side peaking out from underneath his Brooks Bros. suit persona, but I either ignored or refused to acknowledge them.

This all started me thinking about who I am and whether the people in my life really know the whole of me. The fact is that most of us know each other in a narrowly defined context. You have your work friends, who know that you wear your favorite Calvin Klein skirt to work on days when you have a big meetings and drink cosmos with grey goose at happy hour. Your school friends, who may remember that you once had a crush of the lead singer of a 80's pop band, and that two wine coolers could make you sick. Then there are your old roommates, who know that you like to buy old cookbooks and make random recipes on the weekend and read every section of the newspaper on Sunday morning along with a whole pot of coffee. Does anyone really know the whole of you? Are there some parts of you that are so compartmentalized that really no one knows all of them but you? Who you are on the phone or on a business call? Who you are at a rock concert? Who you are the first thing in morning? Who you are on vacation in Cancun, Mexico? Who you are in your heart? Gives you something to think about doesn't it?

Copyright 2009 Romy Schneider. All rights reserved.

Saturday, January 17, 2009

Weather Porn - A Postcard from California

It was just too beautiful a day to stay inside. I threw my bike in my trunk and headed for the beach. Riding along the bike lane that divides Ballona Creek from the Marina del Rey Habor, the temperature is a perfect 72 degrees. The sky is a bright blue without a single cloud. The ocean horizon is dotted with white sails and the sun glistens off the ripples of water. Everyone is in shorts with girls in bikini tops and guys walking around shirtless. I stop to stare out on the bridge that crosses the creek and survey the environment. The air is completely clear and upon turning your back to the ocean you can see the snow on top of Big Bear Mountain in the distance. The seagulls and pelicans in the creek are sunning themselves on the rocks. Everyone looks happy, couples strolling holding hands, children playing, bikers, runners and rollerbladers all seem content and smiling. It's January! The rest of the country is bundled up in snow and freezing temperatures. This balmy California weather makes the earthquakes, fires, mudslides, snarled freeways and plastic people in pleather pants all bearable.

With love from California, wish you were here!

Copyright Romy Schneider 2009. All Right Reserved.

Wednesday, January 7, 2009

Running Through Kensington Gardens

June 28, 2004

I was delighted when I emerged at the Tube stop at Lancaster Gate to find just across the street a large park. Fabulous I thought, I will definitely have to run there in the morning. In retrospect, I should not have been surprised, since I am staying at the Gresham Hyde Park Hotel. I picked the hotel because of its proximately to the Tube stop (after lugging my enormous black suitcase through the streets of London three years ago, I learned my lesson), but I didn't realize that the name of my new quarters referred to its location within a block from Hyde Park. The next morning, plagued with insomnia, I started out for a run at 5:30am. Now, I have not ran with any regularity for approximately two years, but since I am now on vacation, my normal excuse of "having no time" does not hold any validity. Besides when I was in London three years ago, I ran every day and it was wonderful because the air seems so much cleaner here than in my home town of Los Angeles and the temperature so mild in comparison. The morning of my run was no exception...

The sky is blue without a cloud (really) and the sunrise is peaking up over the trees. I choose the serpentine pathway around the lake. Knowing that my progress will not be easy, I give myself the goal of the whole length of one side of the pond. The pond is four times as long as it was wide, so this will be a healthy challenge. I start with small even steps and just keep moving. My legs feel old and creaky. My first encounter with another being turns out to be a family of swans taking a morning swim. Mummy and Daddy are positively regal with their beautiful long necks and their white feathers. The six babies however have squatty bodies and storm-cloud grey feathers. It just goes to prove that even swans have those ugly, awkward stages to go through. Then to my right, a bronze statue appears, a young impish boy on a pedestal surrounded by female admirers. It is the physical incarnation of the world famous boy who refused to grow up, Peter Pan. As I make my way down the path, I am surrounded by flowers on either side, beautiful trumpet vines opening to meet the dawn and delicate purple bristly flowers on a bush I can not identify. To my right is a field of grass, with a multitude of color, greens, yellows and purplely-browns, over grown and glorious in the morning sun. As I progress my body becomes a little warmer and my movements have loosened. As I passed "The Lido," a small area that is sectioned off for swimming, elderly men with their wrinkled, yet still athletic bodies waded into the pond for their morning exercise. The elderly swimmers' dedication to their physical upkeep provides a source of inspiration. I pick up my pace a little.

As I round the bend, I reach the part of the waterfront where the geese gathered to sleep. About 100 of them, all in various states of waking up on the bank. An unbelievable sight. I veer off the path and navigate through the trees to avoid startling them. None of the fowl pay any attention to me as I run pass. Around one more bend and I reach the far end of the pond where a little stone bridge leads to the opposite side over a small waterfall. I slow my pace as I approach the bridge. On the shoreline near the bridge, ducks and pigeons have gathered. A middle-aged man with two grocery bags approaches the bridge from the opposite side. He wears glasses and has a progressively balding crown. I slow to a stop on the bridge and bend over in exhaustion. The man turns toward the pond and the birds lurch forward to meet him. They know him. He reaches into one of the plastic grocery bags and begins to fling breadcrumbs at his feathered friends. They hoot and squawk their appreciation. He does not say a word, but pitches the crumbs with vigor. I smile and think about how delightful it was to go to the park and feed birds when I was a little girl with my father. The simple joy of making the birds happy with a stale loaf of bread was one of my favorite activities as a kid. Unfortunately, it is rare for us to carry on this simple childhood past-time past puberty. This man however has carried this joyous act well into adulthood.

I decide to leave the man alone with his friends, and wander over to the opposite side of the bridge to look at the waterfall. Quietly on the edge of the falls is a Heron waiting ever so patiently for a fish to reach the shallow edge of the falls so he can peck at it for breakfast. I am careful not the lean over the bridge as to interrupt the bird's vigil. Suddenly he lurches his neck forward and snaps up a silvery object from the water. Unfortunately, it is a piece of cellophane trash, which has fooled him. He shakes it in his beak with disgust and then drops it over the edge of the falls. I wonder if there are any fish in the water at all and whether his quest for food is in vain. I bend over and silently go through a series of yoga movements to stretch my tired body. I close my eyes and breath deeply. I spread my legs apart and bend at the waist. I open my eyes to greet the world upside-down and come face to face with a squirrel, which has crept up three inches away from my face. He is completely tame and looks at me in a way as if to say, "Hello, do you have any food?" I adjust myself into an upright position. I shrug my shoulders as if to say, "I have no nuts for you." Surmising I have nothing to offer him, my bushy-tailed friend sanders off into the bushes on the opposite width of the bridge. I turn and leave the Heron, the squirrel and the birdman and slowly walk back down the shoreline path towards my hotel. My legs feel good. I feel youthful and invigorated. A successful run indeed.

Copyright Romy Schneider 2009. All Rights Reserved.