It’s Crape Myrtle, Not Crape Murder!

What’s wrong with these pictures?

Unfortunately, we see a lot of this around the South this time of year.

These are Crape Myrtles.  They are typically beautiful trees with smooth trunks and blossoms that occur in the mid to late-summer, with colors ranging from white to lavender, red to pink.  They are such a refreshing sight in the heat of the year, and I have an affinity for them.

So it absolutely makes me cringe to see them in this shape!

I heard someone refer to it as “crape murder.”  And from what I’ve learned from this type of “pruning,” they are spot on!

Arborists and tree specialists refer this kind of cutting as TOPPING.  Topping is, for the most part, very bad for your tree.  So why are so many people doing it?  Why is it so accepted around the region?

I still haven’t fully figured it out, but my best guess is because they want to control the shape of their tree.  For example, in the photo above, the crape myrtle was planted beneath a power line.  Duh.  Next time, choose a better spot for your tree.  Planting the right tree in the right place is the first step in ensuring your tree has a long, healthy life!

Another reason I believe people top their trees, is because, in a few months, the topping will become barely noticeable.  Instead, there will be several sprouts coming out of the branches where the cuts occur, giving the tree a full look again.  The tree does this because it’s in emergency mode, so in reality, those extra branches aren’t really so pretty after all.    Here’s an example of a topped tree where the branches have grown in:

Notice the “knobs” where the tree sprouted out new branches due to stress

Therefore, an amateur will say something like, “But it grows back.”  Yes, but at what cost?

A good rule of thumb is to not prune more than 25% of the crown (branches) of the tree at one time.  When you top, you prune 100% of the tree’s crown!  Not only does it look hideous and choked for those few months while it’s growing back, it also causes the tree tremendous stress!

In fact, the Arborists’ Certification Study Guide (ISA) lists Eight Good Reasons Not to Top your tree.

1.  Starvation.
2.  Shock.
3.  Insects and Disease.
4.  Weak Limbs
5.  Rapid New Growth
6.  Tree Death.
7.  Ugliness.
8.  Cost.

Beware of tree services that practice bad pruning.  Think about it: if the tree grows back at this accelerated rate, then guess what, you have to call the tree guys again to come cut it again.  I smell a money-making scheme.

But now that you are educated on the matter, you can insist that they only prune a quarter of the tree’s crown in order to keep it in its natural form.  Tell them that hacking off branches like that are not proper pruning techniques, to boot.  If they try to talk you out of it, call another company that has a certified arborist on staff.  Or heck, call me!

When properly cared for, trees will give back exponentially.  Here are some crape myrtles in their natural form taken after their bloom….   Pretty, huh?   They are known for their graceful shape — let’s keep them that way!

Crape Myrtle in its natural form 

Rows of Crape Myrtles at the Birningham Botanical Garden


Move Your Stuff, Make a Wish!

Bippity, boppity, boo!  If your fairy godmother were to descend upon you right now, what would you wish for?  While feng shui is not exactly “magic” per se, it can help you to manifest your deepest desires.
You may be saying: “Yeah right!  How can moving around objects in my house do that?”  
Perhaps an example would better explain.
One client wanted a boyfriend.  She was in her mid-twenties, friendly, attractive and successful, yet she seemed to be “blocked” on finding a guy.  When I went into her bedroom, I noticed about ten to twelve bouquets of roses lining some high shelves.  The catch:  these bouquets were dead! 
First, no matter what is in vogue with so-called dried flowers, the fact is that they are dead flowers, and therefore lacking in positive life energy, and therefore not considered beneficial feng shui.  Second, when I asked this client about the roses, she claimed that they were all from ex-boyfriends over the years, and she just didn’t want to part with them! 

Would you rather have these?

These flowers were a symbolic “block” in her life.  I explained to her that these dead roses represented a fear of letting go of the past.  On a subconscious level, was she afraid that she wouldn’t find love again?  Having anything from past lovers can negatively affect future relationships.  Especially roses, the quintessential symbol of love!  Dead roses equal dead love in feng shui. 
I asked her if she was ready to move on.  She immediately said, “Yes!” and we found a huge garbage bag and threw each and every bouquet into the trash.  We were even laughing at the absurdity of it all!  The change in the room was profound.  She couldn’t believe the difference!  It turned out that she was more than willing to let go of the old to make room for the new.

…or these?
Sure enough, within a month’s time, she was happily dating someone new!
Feng shui, of course, is not always so obvious.  Our homes are full of symbols, subtle or not, that are affecting our lives. 
Ask yourself the following questions about your own home:
1.     Is there anything that I have hanging or showing that is from an unhappy time in my life?  i.e. photos from a family trip gone awry or artwork from a friend that betrayed me?
2.     Am I able to find things when I need them?  Every object should have a “home,” or a place just for it.  Hire a professional organizer if you find organizing a challenge.  It’s worth it!
3.     Are my clothes representing me today rather than a past identity?
4.     Is there anything I greatly dislike in my home that I’m keeping because it was a gift from a loved one? 
5.     Are there a lot of broken items or unfinished projects laying around?  If so, make a promise to yourself to get them fixed or get rid of them!
Many times, when we discover what is preventing our wishes from coming true, our desires then come to us easily and effortlessly.  Remove the obstacles and the rest will take care of itself.  It’s like lifting a dam from a river – the good just flows in!


Janis Joplin May Have Had a Thyroid Problem

Janis:  well-known for her voice 

“Katie with the voice.”  

That’s what someone called me my Freshman year at college, to remember my name.
I had no idea what she was talking about.  
Growing up in Mobile, Alabama, I went to a small school with the same people my whole life.  And knowing me my whole life, my voice was nothing of distinction.
Since that first year of college, I’ve had many comments on my voice.  “It’s sexy.”  “Gravel-y.”  “What’s wrong with your voice?”  “You must have nodules on your vocal cords.  You should get surgery.”  “I love your voice.  It’s so unique.”
All I know is that, back in my partying days, I would lose my voice all too often.
But this is all about to change.  My voice, that is.  If Laurel at Organic Harvest has anything to say about it.
on Hwy 31 in Hoover – yummy!
My neighbor told me about “a woman at that organic grocery store on Highway 31 who would look at your eyes and make you a smoothie with whatever supplements you need.”
My neighbor was off a little bit.  I went into the store.  I found Laurel.  She’s a peppy woman of about sixty with clear eyes and a bright smile.  She has traces of hippie in her, but a clean, well-spoken hippie.  
I asked her if she would read my eyes.
She stared into them for a few instances, then began rattling off, not on the supplements that she would put into a smoothie, but on symptoms I’ve had since before I could remember.  Dry skin, thin hair, crackly voice (which she noticed of course), joint issues (super-recent), etc. etc.  
“You have some thyroid issues.  It’s affecting your liver…..” …and more. 
Then she told me that more than likely, I needed more iodine in my diet.  She claimed that many, many people have thyroid issues that go undiagnosed and can lead to things, including heart problems, anxiety, and depression, to name just a few!  
She said a lot more, but honestly she was speaking so fast, and there was so much new information, I didn’t catch it all.  What stuck however is that, when she was 19, doctors told her she was going to die.  She said she knew in her heart that she wasn’t, but that she was going to have to do some work in order to live.  She researched and experimented with alternative treatments, curing herself.  Now she’s offering her expertise at Organic Harvest in Birmingham, Alabama.  She’s not a doctor, she doesn’t have a Ph.D., nor a Masters.  She works at an organic store and educated people on diet and health…in her own way.  And she gets her information by observing the irises of your eyes!
So consult with her at your own risk.
I for one did not see any harm in taking her prescription: 
(Paraphrased)  “Take your temperature 3 times a day for 4 days.  Also, get some iodine from the drug store and paint it on your inner arm.  Let me know the results of both.”  
And then her promise:  “You will see.  You’re going to have more energy than you knew you could have.  Your body has had to work really hard to overcompensate for your thyroid.”
It turns out my temperature was almost 2 degrees below normal!  And the iodine soaked into my arm within three hours.  With some people, it takes 24 hours!  My body really wanted it!
So now, I’m slowly integrating a specific type of iodine that she recommended.  I’m taking Vitamin A.  And a little Magnesium (suggested by someone else.)  
It’s only been a week.  Have I noticed a difference?  I’d like to say yes, but honestly, I don’t know.  I’m going to give it another week or two, then I will report back to Laurel and let her know if there has been improvements in my temperature and the way I feel.  
So… if you don’t recognize me on the phone in the next month or so, I’ll know I’m on the right track.  
Windows to the soul…and perhaps your physical ailments too!

Was I Wrong about the Trees at Park Lane?

I’m having a moral dilemma, and I need your help answering the question above.

Since I posted my last blog (Man-Made Tornado To Come Through Birmingham), I’ve been on a whirlwind of conversations, meetings, and even an interview with Fox 6 News.
I guess I stirred some things up — it turns out that people actually do care about trees — and they care about how this development is going to affect the community.
But I need to confess: There are some things I left out of that blog.  And there are some things I have learned since.  
To begin, I knew good and well that some of these old and beautiful trees on Park Lane property were not in the best condition.  
magnolia at the mercy of a power line on its right side = why it’s important to plant the right tree in the right place!
this one needs some love
After all, they are old.  My grandparents aren’t in tip-top shape either.  You know?
The problem is this:  in an urban environment, trees may have to be eliminated if they pose a risk to people.   This is proper practice and very much a part of urban tree care.  (And a great reason to take care of your trees when they are young.)
Also, I was fully aware that, as part of the development, they are intending to fix the stormwater drainage issue here.  Park Lane is deemed a flood zone.  Therefore, they are planning to raise the grade a couple of feet in order to tend to this problem.  In order to raise the grade, one must, well, start over.   Tree trunks buried under two feet of new soil just won’t do.  The tree will die. 
So, while we may want to say Cutting Down Trees & Development is bad, bad, bad, it’s just not that simple.
In fact, a lot of folks think that Lane Parke is a really good idea – loss of “green” or not. 
Fred Spicer, the Executive Director of the Birmingham Botanical Gardens, was kind enough to speak with me.  The Gardens are directly across the street from Park Lane Apartments. Luckily, the developers have included him on some of the decision-making, and Fred had a lot of information to impart.  
one of my favorite trees at the BBG — a gorgeous Ginkgo — stunning yellow color in the fall
pretty roses at the Birmingham Botanical Garden
Fred says, “Lane Parke has the potential to benefit the Gardens and the community in terms of visitorship, connectivity, and tourism,” while taking care of some stormwater run-off problems in the Gardens and at the Park Lane site.  
He also believes that the traffic issues in Mountain Brook Village could possibly be cleared up as a result of this development.
After hearing his reasons and taking some time to consider, I agree with him.  Lane Parke has the potential — if it’s done right.
But if it isn’t, then what we are left with are a bunch of knocked-over trees and bulldozed historical buildings.  
I’m talking about Smart Growth.  And I’m not referring to trees.  Smart growth is a popular term in modern urban planning, and I see it as a necessity given the rate at which “development” is taking down trees and putting up buildings — buildings that sometimes end up empty after a few short years. 
The way I see it, ALL growth needs to be smart…
…especially in the heart of Tree City USA.
I reiterate:  I see the potential in a new and improved Mountain Brook Village, including functioning walking paths that connect the village to the Gardens to the Zoo to Jemison Trail to the YMCA, including large shade trees IN the parking lots, including bike lanes and bike racks, and picnic areas, with cans for recycling, please.  
currently in Western parking lot;  not best functioning
Mountain Brook Village would be a great place for people to come spend the day — shop, eat, visit the zoo, visit the gardens, enjoy the wooded Jemison Trail.  Park their cars, walk, ride their bikes, and be.  It truly would be community-building.  (Right now, it’s just hot and traffic-y.)
In fact, studies show that pedestrian-friendly areas profit more.  Why?  Because people are moving slower, enjoying themselves, browsing — and buying.  
Now, with all my questioning and conversing, one thing that I have found:  there is conflicting information in regards to this development.  Add to it the fact that Park Lane is in Mountain Brook boundaries, but Park Lane Road is part of Birmingham, things really get tricky.
Not to mention the newspapers (the primary source of information a few short years ago) are shutting down left and right, and emails, blogs, Facebook, and smaller publications are doing their best to take their place.
“What we have here is a failure to communicate.” In the Age of Communication, no less.
I know that it’s not exactly in Lane Parke‘s marketing plan to shout out that over 200 trees are being cut down to do it, but think of the shock and sadness of the residents as they drive down Park Lane Road when those trees are gone!
in front of the apartments along Park Lane Road — this one is in good shape!
 So.  I wrote that blog to inform all of you.  
That’s all.  It wasn’t really my job to tell you.  I did it anyway.
And you responded.  In a big way.  After all, trees are our lifeline.  I think perhaps on a subconscious level, we’re all getting a tiny bit alarmed at the rapid loss of all these beautiful beings.  Rightfully so.   And at what cost?

mature liquidambar on Park Lane site

 At the end of all these musings, all I can say is that what I have found is that this development has a lot of moving parts, and there is no simple answer.   Was I wrong about the trees?

Well.  They are still alive.  They are still giving.  Life-giving.  So no, I don’t think I was “wrong.”

Then again, what if Lane Parke became a model for green, sustainable, forward-thinking developments everywhere?  What if the new landscaping plan was gorgeous and we could have that canopy back, healthier and better within the next twenty, thirty, forty or fifty years?  What if people not only came from all over the South but the nation to witness Alabama’s smart growth in action?   (Wait.  Alabama?  Smart growth?  In the same sentence?  Now that’s press.)
In that case, I think the trees here would gladly sacrifice themselves.  (Although in my heart or hearts, it still makes me sad.)  And if we could save a few more some how for the short and long term, all the better.
So many people have said, “Oh, Katie, the Lane Parke development is done.  It’s happening.”
No.  Nothing is “done” until the first tree is cut.  Moving parts or not.
In fact, word has it that they are still waiting on some things from the Cities of Birmingham and Mountain Brook as far as approvals.
So it’s not “done.” There is still time.  But not much.  Park Lane Apartments will be officially tenant-free this Sunday.  So take action immediately! 
1.  Letters to the Mayor of Birmingham, Mayor of Mountain Brook, and City Council members.  
     A. Express your concern for the Lane Parke development, and that you insist it be sustainable and an example of smart growth – in every way!  And until that plan is up to par, the trees and buildings should still stand.   Attend city council meetings — this project has been delayed dozens of times so far.  Your voice counts!
    ***B.  TREE ORDINANCE – In many cities, there are strict regulations on killing a tree, even when on private property.  Write your Mayor, and insist that a smart tree ordinance be put into place as soon as possible.  (i.e. there is one sitting on the desk of the Mayor of Birmingham – let’s get it moving!)***    
          A.  Mountain Brook, Mayor Oden: lastvalhalla@aol.com
          B. Birmingham City Hall — Third Floor
          Office of City Council (and/or Office of Mayor)
          710 North 20th Street
          Birmingham, AL 35203
          (205) 254-2000
2.  Become a member of the Birmingham Botanical Garden.  This is an amazing resource.  Not only is it gorgeous, they offer great educational opportunities to the public, including the children of under-served areas.   They depend on our funding!
3.  Educate yourself.  Our planet needs all the voices it can get.  The more you know, the stronger your voice.  Read, discuss, and attend your local classes.  Smart growth, urban planning, sustainable living, tree care, are all good key words to put into Google.  
4.  Get to know a tree.  Climb one.  Sit under one.  Observe one.  We, as a culture, have lost our connection to these great beings.  Reclaim it.  And encourage your children to as well.  AND OF COURSE!  Plant at least one tree before you die.  The right tree in the right place please.
To conclude, I’m going to pass on a quote a friend sent me this week.  It struck a resounding chord.
“God has cared for these trees, saved them from drought, disease, avalanches, and a thousand tempests and floods.  But He cannot save them from fools.”     — John Muir

Man-Made Tornado To Come Through Birmingham

Forgive the dramatic title.  But I have a point.  Read on.

In short, approximately 250 trees are slated to be bulldozed in Mountain Brook/Birmingham, Alabama beginning the first week of September.

Ironically, Mountain Brook, Alabama calls itself Tree City USA.  Indeed, the diversity, size, and number of trees in Mountain Brook is impressive. It’s a beautiful sight – in the Fall with the golds and reds, in the Spring with its blossoms, in the Summer with the (God bless it) much-needed shade.  In a way, it’s our pride and joy, right?  If there is one thing Birmingham has, it’s a lovely array of trees.
I’ve learned, however, that when there is an abundance of something, humans have a tendency to take it for granted.  We’ve all heard the old adage, “You don’t know what you’ve got until it’s gone.”
So you would think that when over 200 trees are to be cut down in the heart of Mountain Brook that there would be some fuss about it, right?
You’d think.  But let me ask: is the first time you are hearing about this? 
It is?  Don’t worry.  You aren’t the only one.  I attended a Tree Commission meeting for the City of Mountain Brook.  There were approximately eight people in attendance, all members except myself and another fellow.  And even some of those attendees – members of the Tree Commission, mind you! – did not realize that this many trees were to be cut down.
So, let me re-phrase.  You have heard of it.  It’s the Lane Parke development.  What you see in the photos are apartments that have been around a long, long time.  You know them.   The apartments where either you lived, your best friend lived, your parents lived, or your brother lived?  Everyone knows someone who has lived there it seems.  They are truly part of Birmingham’s history.
Yet, not only will they be demolishing all of these classic, sturdy buildings, but they will also be tearing down every tree you see in sight…and many more.    

Bye-bye a chunk of Mountain Brook’s canopy.  And right in prime locale too.  In fact, the Park Lane Apartments are directly across from the Birmingham Botanical Garden.  So much for Tree City USA.

Why are they doing this, you ask?  There will be stores, an inn, and some new apartments in its place.

Notice the missing tree canopy, and the weak attempt to add a tree into the drawing.  Mind you, there will be many, many cars, and those were left out as well.  Pretty building though.

And parking.  Lots and lots and lots of parking.  (I can hear Joni Mitchell singing right now.)

Not only are approximately 200 trees on the Park Lane property going to be wiped out, but because they think that widening Park Lane Road is a good idea, they will also be taking out some trees that belong to Birmingham’s Botanical Garden that line Park Lane Road.  Property of Birmingham, mind you. 
Trees on the left – Birmingham property — will be gone to make another lane of traffic.  Is this necessary?

This photo was taken this morning, Wednesday, at approximately 8:30 AM (rush hour).   These trees are surrounding Birmingham’s Botanical Garden, and are therefore Birmingham property.  They too will be cut down.  All of them.

Notice the shade in the photo.  NONE of that will be there.  The trees across the street are part of Park Lane.

So why do I care? 

Because I’m a Certified Arborist.  That means I know a lot about trees.  But much much much more than that, it means I CARE about trees.  And the more that I have learned about them over the years, the more impressed I have become. 
I will not go into the benefits of trees here (it’s too long for this particular blog).   But I am asking you to spread the word about these gorgeous, planet-cooling, shade-making, animal-housing, oxygen-producing, air-cleaning, rainwater-capturing amazing trees that benefit Mountain Brook and Birmingham more than we could ever understand.  EVERYONE in this community – from ages eight to 88 — should know about this development before it happens, and have a chance to speak out if they feel inclined.

After all, the trees are humble.  They aren’t going to shout out all the good that they do for the world.  They can’t yell for a chainsaw to stop.  They can’t debate, whine, plead, cry out, or persuade.

They don’t have voices.

But we do.

They can’t fight for their lives.

But we can.

After all, we mourned the losses of the trees in the tornadoes.

Photo Courtesy of al.com

We mourned the losses of the trees at Auburn. 

dying oak at Auburn University — photo source

I hope we don’t have to mourn these too.

please help

WHAT CAN YOU DO?  (I’m working on the best avenues, but to begin….)
1.  Please write or call one or all of the following people on the Tree Commission of Mountain Brook and tell them how you feel.
2.  SPREAD THE WORD — Share this blog on Facebook.  Comment here.  Email me with your desire to help.  Even if you live outside of Birmingham, we need you!  Change happens in numbers.


Swiped Bike…and the Good that Came From It

I’m back in Los Angeles, where the flowers are brighter, the breezes are softer, and the skies are bluer. It’s been so lovely to reconnect with my home away from home and, more importantly, the people in it. Yet, one of the sweetest reunions yet, was the one with my good ol’ bike, Trusty, my silver, sleek Trek hybrid that has been patiently awaiting my return.  She stays in LA, and that way, I have no need to rent a car while here.  She’s my one and only – we met while filming CarLess in LA — and she’s been my faithful ride ever since.

Until yesterday.

I strolled up to my friend Cristina’s house, outside of which I had locked her to a street sign, to see that she was not there.

“Cristina!” I hollered.  She came bounding out of the house (windows are open in LA).

“What is it, honey?”

“My bike got stolen.”

“Oh nooo!”

I laid on the grass.  I yelled at myself at how stupid I was (the lock I borrowed was not the soundest).  Why didn’t I put her inside the gate?  Why didn’t I use a better lock?  Why did this happen!?

I had a breakfast date in Santa Monica, and my day was planned around a lovely beach/bike path ride to get there.

“Katie, are you sure you want to lay on the grass right there?  There are a lot of dogs in this neighborhood.”

She wasn’t quite understanding my pain.  What was dog tee-tee when my bike had been swiped!

“Cristina.  I need a minute.  Go inside.”

Seeing my distressed, she obeyed.

“Dammit,” I thought and said out loud to myself while laying on the grass.  “Dammit!”

I made myself get up.  I dusted myself off.  I went inside, and I asked for some fingernail polish remover.  Cristina’s roommate, Lauren appeared (a fellow Southerner) and they both expressed their sentiments for my loss then chattered on about something else.

As I wiped off my mermaid green nail polish, it dawned on me that only ten minutes prior, on my walk over to Cristina’s house, I was so happy, and how I was looking forward to a good day, how life can just be swell sometimes…only to turn the corner and to find my bike gone, gone, gone.

Then I thought, “I’m not going to let this ruin my day.  I’m getting over this now.  There’s nothing I can really do.  And Only Good Can Come From This Situation.”

Now this is a favorite mantra of mine:  OGCCFTS.  I learned it back in the day, I think from a little book called the Game of Life by a woman named Florence Scovel Shinn.  It’s a good one to say to yourself when things are looking bleak.  And in my experience, it almost has a magical power.

This time turned out to be no exception.  Read on.

So, as I’m pondering this, Cristina and Lauren are gabbing on about some bike that their former roommate had left on the side of the house.  They said I could use it.  I’m imagining a nasty old thing, rusted to the rims, with no chain and no brakes, that would be a painfully slow ride to Santa Monica.

I sighed, “Maybe.”  And I thought about how a person feels when their dog dies, and someone tries to offer them a new puppy the next day.

They went on: “Manny said that he didn’t want that bike.  He said to just put it on the side of the street. I don’t want it.  Cristina, do you want it?”

Cristina didn’t want it.  Lauren didn’t want it.  Manny didn’t want it.

“Katie, do you want it?”

Why the hell would I want it? I thought.  But I kept my mouth shut and agreed to go look at it.

Turning the corner to the house, my expectations were low.  But then I saw, gleaming underneath a fine layer of dust, the word Trek.  It was a teal green Trek mountain bike.

“It’s a Trek,” I said, almost in disbelief.  (Why the heck were people passing this bike up?)

[Note:  I rode Trek bikes during my entire time filming CarLess in LA.  I started on a borrowed mountain bike, believe it or not, then bought the hybrid.  So I have a special affinity for Treks, even to the point where I thought about calling the film, Trekking Los Angeles (because that’s what it felt like!)]

I checked the brakes.  They worked.  Cristina grabbed a cloth and we wiped it down.  Sure it had some rust, but this was a FAT bike.  Sure it was a men’s bike, a bit too big.  And yes, the tires were a little flat, but we found a pump, and in a few minutes, I was good to go!

“I’ll take it!”

The wonders of life!

Happy again, (but still a little stumped/shocked), I rode off on my new bike, which I quickly and appropriately named “Lucky.”

I rode the bike path under a sunlit sky, and when I got to Santa Monica, at a certain crosswalk, I saw a familiar face approaching.

“Hey Conan,” I said.  (Yes, it was Conan O’Brien, crossing the street, coming towards me.)

“Hey.  How are you?” he said.

“Good,” I replied, and we went on our way.

Really good.

The rest of the day unfolded and I must say, it was nice to have my new green good luck charm with me.


Feng Shui your Love Life…Fast

Another success story!  And this is all it took:

A client called with a quick question.  (Yes, I do Quick Question consultations!)  She was ready to ramp up her love life.  I was already familiar with her home, and after some discussion, I gave her a few tips.  The above shot from her camera phone was the result….and it worked!!!

Here’s her testimonial:
Katie can work her magic from afar! I asked her for 15 minutes of guidance about my love life and she led me through a quick exercise. One week later I met the most magnificent man. I would recommend her services to ANYONE.

…and here’s to love!


Stranger than Fiction, CarLess – Blog, Day 51

Sifting through the blogs I wrote during the 80-day experiment being CarLess in LA, I found this one and wanted to share.  It’s a fine memory.

Day 50 was beautiful. I am so happy to have hit Day 50 and although it was a tiring day, it was the good kind of tired. Day 50 made me feel like I have accomplished something. Fifty days is a lot.
Now it’s Day 51. I woke up spazzed out for no particular reason. Waking up spazzed out is not my favorite. I have so much to do today in terms of arranging interviews, researching for these interviews, making phone calls, managing my social life, and then answering some 50-plus unread emails, that all I could do was to get on my bike and ride to the beach. The beach always does me good and although I have a lot to do, it is manageable, because in the end, everything is manageable, right? Otherwise, we’d all shoot ourselves.
: “O! How intolerably human I sometimes am!” This was one of my godzillion thoughts while on the beach watching the slow waves and feeling the sand and trying to make all the thoughts go away. And then: I wish I was God.
So I was taking care of myself, giving myself a well-deserved break from all of this by going to the beach for a jog-walk, right? Preparing for the rest of my day…when on the way back, I realized that I was hungry. And when I get hungry, there is nothing else left to do but to eat because I have the attention-span and mood of a three-year-old when I haven’t had enough food to sustain me. So I stopped at a favorite cafe to have breakfast, where the service was overly-friendly but gave me food so I forgave them.
The salmon scramble and Mexican spice mocha (decaf) did wonders for my mental health. I was ready to take on my day. I must add that it is a gorgeous day at that. Los Angeles specializes in those, especially after a good rain.
So now I’m happy right? I even had a chance to read the newspaper a bit. That is exceedly rare given my schedule and lifestyle, so what a luxury!
I go to unlock my brand new shiny silver bike. As I leave the cafe, I drop three $1 bills on the sidewalk. Bills like autumn leaves on the sidewalk. A young man sitting at an outdoor table said, “Ooops” before I could. Then he added, “That means money is coming to you.” I took his word for it.
Then he watched me unlocking my bike. Which wasn’t working. My key was not working. The lock would not unlock. Finally I looked up at him and said, “I can’t get my bike unlocked.” He told me to “Slow down and breathe.” I tried that. It didn’t work, so I asked him to try it. The lock, that is.
It is a scientific fact in the Book of Katie Rogers that men are better at some things than women. One of them is getting bike locks unlocked.
He tried it, and it still didn’t work.
I began to laugh. Thank you, Life, for this brilliant opportunity to slow down and breathe. I told the non-knight that I appreciated his efforts and then walked to the bus stop. Ah-ha! A lock and key shop! The woman there said that she didn’t specialize in bike keys, but there was another place that did about a half-block down. So I walked there. (Let me remind you of my attire by the way, simply to give you a visual of me strolling down Lincoln Blvd. laughing at myself, the situation, and then even talking to myself once to my own surprise. Pink sweatpants, purple shirt, poofy pink down ski vest, and cute little stocking hat, and black sunglasses.) The men at this shop said that I should go home and get the spare key and try that before they went to the extreme of sawing through the lock.
Back to Plan A. The bus. Beautiful day; I only had to wait about 4 minutes.
I really was/am surprisingly calm about all of this. I really should be working on all my work right now, but my blog mind had to express itself first.
I got on the bus. An elderly man got on at the next stop. He wore camel-colored cordoroys and a camel-colored jacket. He sat next to me, and I spoke to him. He seemed pleased and spoke back. Then he said, “It’s so nice to talk to someone who isn’t afraid of people.” He had had a hard day because the bank was crowded. He said everywhere is crowded in Los Angeles. He got off at the stop before me.
Now I’m home. My bike is at the cafe. I think they didn’t give me decaf mocha because caffeine makes me freaky and that’s how I feel right now.
All I can say is that I have no control anymore. I don’t even want control. I just want to go see that movie “Stranger Than Fiction” because I think the premise is hilarious and I wish that I had written it: The main character finds out that he is a character in a novel. Nothing more, nothing less. Aren’t we all….
I just hope to make friends with the author who is writing my story. In some ways, I think I already have. But I still haven’t figured out his or her or its sense of humor.
I wanted an adventure, and I’m getting one.

One Client’s Feng Shui of Love, Before & After

A Los Angeles client, Laura, recently reached out with glowing reports!  If you question the power of feng shui, question no more.  The proof is the pictures…

Laura had called me for a long-distance mini-consultation — one room with one goal — to find L-O-V-E.  Not that she was sitting home on the weekends (or weeknights for that matter).  In fact, she admitted that she had dated over 60 men in the past couple of years!  Her concern was the quality of man that she was attracting, not the quantity.  She was ready to replace her player tendencies, grow up, and find “the one.”

Because she shares an apartment, it was easy to hone in on her bedroom, for it’s the one place that is all hers where we could go to town with the feng shui cures.

And boy, did we.  The feng shui no-no’s were rampant!  Check out these photos she sent me.

where are the bedside tables? and eek, a mirrored closet

this closet could be arranged much better

computer in the bedroom – no!  desk at angle – no!

every item needs a home!

oy, clutter!
this bed could be way more inviting

When I received these photos, I took a deep breath.  You never know if a client is going to “hear” you or not, and frankly, this one was going to take some work.  As a feng shui consultant, I could easily see the issues in her love life from simple things, such as a computer in the bedroom and the lack of two side tables.  Not to mention the disorganization!

Once on the phone, she confirmed my suspicions that she doesn’t sleep well at night.  We also discovered an interesting theme: there were little girl images tucked here and there.  These items were sending “Peter Pan” messages to her subconscious.  Hmmmm.

After a juicy chat, including the ins and outs of the types of guys she was dating, I gave her a list of cures not for the faint of heart.  I did not hold back.  She called me for life improvement, and I explained how by simply rearranging her home space, those improvements will come about!

Cut to:  Six or so weeks later.


Here’s a combo of the few emails she sent:

Hi Katie,
I thought I should update you on what’s happening on this end. I’m sure everything is connected, but I dropped all the bad guys and feng shui’d the crap out of my room. Now I have four major job offers, I quit smoking (now on week 3!!!) and have signed up for yoga for relaxation/clarification purposes. Plus, the quality of guys that I’m meeting is much better, but I’m less focused on them. 

…Sleep is a LOT better — and I feel healthier and less exhausted when I wake up 🙂

I did not rest until I made everything good! Accenting with red & yellow, bronze & grey!

YOU are awesome. Thank you again for all your help — didn’t realize my life was going to change so much as a result of feng shui! 

…You’re awesome Katie and the world should know. I have a sweet new job, a zest for life and have weeded out all the crap men in my life…I know what I want from myself AND everyone else thanks to you and feng shui. For real.
Laura’s new and improved bedroom!

Amazing, right?  I LOVE it when a client takes the cures to the next level.  Of course she’s sleeping better!  With the more organized space, her belongings are not tugging at her attention anymore when she’s going off to dreamland.  The curtains over the mirror help immensely.  And the bedside tables ground the energy of the room and are inviting to a new partner.  And gone were the little girls except for one special one to remind her to keep her youthful spirit.  Much more grown up all around!  
Now, you may say, “Katie, she hasn’t met her man yet.  Wasn’t LOVE the goal?” And I will reiterate what she and I talked about on our call.  It’ll happen, but she obviously (on a subconscious level) wanted to clean her own act up first.  After all, she wants to attract the best guy out there, but how can she when she’s not being her best self?  
I look forward to some more emails from her regarding her love life.  I have a feeling she’ll have good news to report.  Fingers crossed!  But in the meantime, I’m glad she’s enjoying a more healthy, thriving version of herself.
[NOTE: If you’re interested in feng shui, send me an email or give me a call.  If you’re curious but hesitant, I can answer your questions.  I’m available in person or from a distance, and I customize the session to you.  If you’d rather begin with a mini-session, I’m happy to oblige.  All it takes is the will to make improvements in your life, and I’ll help with the rest.]  

Why Would Anyone Give Up Their Car?

As the Kickstarter campaign wraps up today (success!), I thought I’d share my most “thoughtful” blog from the 80 Day experiment of going car-less (and with zero carbon emissions) in Los Angeles.  Enjoy, and thanks for the read.
An Essay on Our World — Day 71

I have loved letting this movie evolve on its own. With very little pre-production, we kind of had to be at the mercy of That Something Way Bigger Than All of Us. Although the lack of planning has been a pain in our hinnies in a lot of ways, it has also given us a rare experience of just letting things happen…letting people, events, situations come to us. We’ve had the camera for most of it, and for that, I am grateful.

One of my favorite aspects of being a part of Carless in L.A. has been to observe certain themes as they surface in day-to-day life, in interviews, in the speeches that I’ve attended.

So, I’m going to take this time to comment on those themes, if y’all will bear with me.

****One of the reasons I embarked on this pilgrimage was as a result of my belief in the power of each of our individual choices. After all, it was someone’s choice to take an idea and create it into a machine that would allow us to get from one place to another in a relatively short amount of time. And it was someone’s choice to say, “Hey, that’s a good idea!” and then buy it and drive it. And someone’s choice to see it and say, “Damn, I want one too.” And so on. And so on…

I interviewed a psychologist from UCLA the other day. Dr. Timothy Fong. He is an expert in addiction. He, in short, defines addiction as an action or behavior that one engages in successively that causes more havoc than pleasure, after it’s all said and done. In other words, an addiction is not an addiction until the problems outweigh the good stuff. So a person can use cocaine, but if it’s not wrecking his or her life, it technically isn’t an addiction. 


I, of course, was exploring the notion of “autoholics” with Dr. Fong. Are we, as Americans, addicted to our cars? I mean, can a whole society have an addiction? Perhaps we are modern-day Lotus-eaters, having mass-consciously indulged in the so-called conveniences of this machine called the car, and it has caused us to forget. And because we are ALL consuming this convenient little leaf, how would we be able to determine whether it was healthy for us or not?

No one can understand my gratitude for the automobile after this 71 days of zero carbon emissions. I glorify in every carpool ride that happens to being going my way. I adore all the things I somewhat took for granted: the private stereo system, the bucket seats, the intimacy of a private conversation, the ability to turn on whatever road calls the whim; I even adore the seatbelt and the cupholders, and the fact that there is room for my bike, my bag, and my backpack, and me.

Plus, there’s the fact that certain cars, when you sit in them, give you a certain feeling… I’m talking about luxury here. I’m talking about feeling sexy. A new convertible Mini Cooper can do that. Much more than a bus can, believe me. Especially while driving down Pacific Coast Highway 1 on one of those L.A. blue sky, impossible-sun days…with India Arie playing loud and a good friend to share it all with.

Yet, I of course am even more keen on the problems that cars cause. I’ve been educated. In these 10-plus weeks, I have witnessed friends as they complain about traffic, parking tickets, parking meters, and other drivers on the road. People don’t complain about gas as much…the cost is much less than it was in the spring, so I suppose it’s all relative. I’ve seen friends’ cars breakdown, have to go to the shop, and loose front bumpers. And then the complications of having to find a parking spot! Time-consuming. Gas-consuming. Oil-consuming. Good-mood-consuming.

One’s luck these days is determined by one’s abilities to find Doris Day parking, as a friend called it. Right there, right in front. That is a great feeling.

But on a bike, one’s parking spot is always Doris Day’s.

Here’s the thing:

Can an individual think in terms of what is best for society? Enrique Penalosa determines that no, an individual does not have this ability. He was the mayor of Bogota, Columbia during a time when Bogota was crumbling under political, social, and environmental stress. He made laws that limited use of cars, and the city improved. He was a city official, and his job was to think in terms of what is best for the city as a whole.

Therefore, he believes that it is the duty of the government to think for the people…tell them what is best for all…because, left up the masses on an individual basis, they will fail.

He disclosed these philosophies in his lecture and in our interview. I was quick to challenge him on this.

To paraphrase: “But, Senor Penalosa, Americans love their freedom. If we start to limit their choices…”

My darlings. I am rebel at heart. I am. We all are. Our country, in a way, was founded on the rebellion of a few, particular individuals. We have built a rich and thriving democracy on the notion of freedom–liberty and justice for all! But has this freedom of choice gotten us in an less-than-free position, and we’re not even aware?!

One car is not a problem. Ten cars are not a problem. We, as individuals, can no longer afford to look at ourselves this way though. When ice caps are melting, and poor animals are dying, and our beaches are covered in trash, and asthma is on the rise…

And children don’t know what it is like to be in a grove of trees, because they have never seen a grove of trees, because parking lots have taken their place…


And Alaskan wildernesses that our forefathers set up for generations beyond are now being drilled into because of a dependency on this stuff called oil…


And people are afraid of each other because they don’t have to be in the vicinity of others from different classes, races, socio-economic backgrounds…


And all of our unique cities start looking eerily the same due to the cookie cutter strip malls that one can only get to in, you guessed it, a car…


And people are depriving themselves of pecan pie at Christmas because of the fact that they are overweight (and don’t know why!)…

My question is this: Will our species evolve? Here’s our big chance, people. We can actually start now. We can actually look at our consumer selves and say, “Okay, let’s see? Are my individual actions for the greater good?”

Because you know what. Kids are smart. Do we really want the embarrassment of being the most selfish generation that ever was? Or perhaps, our selfishness is the result of the selfishness of many generations…including the generation that so violently killed or kicked the Native Americans off the land that they praised and respected and understood…

From the Gayaneshakgowa, the Great Law of Peace of the Hau de no sau nee, the Six Nations Iroquois Confederacy… “in our every deliberation we must consider the impact of our decisions on the next seven generations.” 


Seven generations.

I’m not sure we even think of the next one. Precious as they are. I’m not sure we even consider our own!

I hope we can prove Senor Penalosa wrong. That Americans don’t have to rely on our politicians to make our choices for us… (Can someone say “scary,” and I think y’all know what I’m talking about.)

This all being said, I need to impress upon you the following…

Extremes don’t work. This experiment has been a complete extreme, moreso that I had foreseen. The result has been a strange sort of backlash, where I cannot wait until the 80th day at midnight where I will more than likely get in a vehicle, behind the wheel, and take to the highway and drive as far as that baby will go. Out to the desert maybe. Or down to Baja. Or maybe to the moon.

I will probably be criticized if I do that. Go guzzle lots of gas once I’m done. It’s like a diet, where the person has deprived themselves of goodies for too long, so that they gobble up two tubs of Ben & Jerry’s simply because they can.

When the pendulum swings one way, it goes back the other.

I will try not to drive to the moon, but I will drive when I want and need to. And I will not feel guilty…

Guilt serves nothing. Being hard on oneselves or others because they are harming the environment or whatever else serves nothing!

The other thing I have learned: I can’t force anyone to do anything. It is exhausting to even think about trying to talk someone into taking public transportation with me. I mean, I’d be happy if they did, but again, if someone doesn’t want to do something, if they didn’t make the choice themselves, then the action is watered down and futile.

I had a goal at the beginning on the film on Day 1 when one of my good friends here in L.A. said, “Katie, you know I would not get on a bus. It’s not my world.”

Oh, how I wanted to prove her wrong! How I wanted to get her on the bus, just to say I had gotten her on a bus.

Would it have made her start taking public transportation all the time? Highly doubt it. Would she have realized it was not so bad? Probably.

The point is, it’s not my place to be responsible for the actions of others, whether it be that friend., Paris Hilton, or my next-door neighbor.

It is my place to be responsible for myself…and speak up when I see a need.

I decided to drop the goal of getting that friend on the bus. Shifts in consciousness do not come in a day, or in a word, or by convincing someone to ride a damn bus. It is possible for it to happen that way, sure. But it is not my duty to TRY to shift consciousness. But I can allow consciousness to shift, beginning with my own.

I am lucky. I have had the amazing experience of undergoing a true shift in consciousness. I made a choice, and it yielded results. And as a response to my friend who says the bus isn’t her world, I say this…

Put the Lotus down, now, sister. And start remembering…

Is “home” really behind your windshield or in your neat little apartment or at your cocktail parties? Because you’re right. It’s not your world.

It’s all of ours.

We’re in this together, dear hearts. Let’s rejoice in that! It’s all of ours, and what a rich and lovely species we are…

I’m so happy we’re waking up.


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