My friends on a 100 mile horse and mule drive.

My Role Model – Lynne

My friends Lynne and Debbie riding on a horse drive in the High Sierras. Two of my female heroes.

Lynne, riding the mule on the left, and our mutual much-loved friend Debbie, who I met when I was 19 is on the right.

I’ve been wanting to begin a new series on this blog about Role Models for some time, and I’m so delighted that the first post in the series is written and photographed by my dear friend Lynne. 

I’ve written a few posts on this topic in the past, about Heroic Aging, a piece on My Grandmother  and a brief post about my Mom. As time passes, I find myself more drawn to this topic and am eager to begin exploring it in earnest. I plan to feature women who inspire me, who are living with a hero’s heart, who are showing me new ways to see the world, who show me by example how to embrace aging, who teach me lessons both large and small, and who help me live authentically, fully and as fearlessly as I can.

I met Lynne, shortly after she and her husband moved to Mill Valley from Minnesota in 1994. We are both Midwesterners, life-long horse lovers, dog lovers, are married to men with kids but have none of our own, and met through our dear friend Debbie. Lynne is a speaker, author, business founder and owner, writer, consultant and leader, she’s funny as hell, smart, charismatic, warm, insightful, grandmother to two, honest, supportive and a true friend.

She inspires me on a million levels, but most recently because she is 57 and opening her life up to the power of saying yes. It’s a great and timely lesson for me, and I hope for you too. Please enjoy Lynne’s post and let me know what you think by clicking the comments below: 

I do not know why people turn to adventure when they reach a certain age. Perhaps it’s a realization that time is getting short. Perhaps it’s the desire to test the body in ways that prove that we are still capable. Perhaps it’s an internal shift when we become less focused on family and work and have the breathing space to seek a new kind of satisfaction. Maybe it’s as simple as having the time and money to do things that are just for us, and that make our hearts beat faster.


For me this has not been an organized journey. I do have a bucket list but I’m not organized about following it. What I have done is say “yes” to opportunities that arise. For so long I had to say “no” or “not now”.


With age also comes the knowledge that we don’t have to get good at everything, or even stick with it. If we end up loving mountain climbing that’s great; if not, we get to try something else. I now seem to the have the kind of permission I felt as a 7-year-old girl to try things, without caring if I look silly or if I even complete them. I’m giving myself more room to play.


Each of us should have at least one thing we do that makes others shake their heads. If others don’t quite get it, that’s a good sign. It means we are choosing something “we” want, without outside approval shoring up our choices.


So when my childhood riding friend Debbie asked me to go on a horse drive in the High Sierras I said “yes”. We joined the staff of the Rock Creek Pack Station and about twenty “guests” to take a herd of 80 horses and mules on a 100-mile trek from their winter pasture in the flats of the Owens Valley to the summer pasture near Upper Rock Creek at an elevation of 10,000 feet. Days ranged from 100-degree parched and dusty desert riding to climbs up sheer rock trails through Alpine woods into the Sierras. Along the way we forded rivers, rounded up the strays that tried to make a break for it, and stopped for packed lunches in breathtaking scenic meadows. The mules charmed us, always sticking close by at lunchtime to socialize and beg for bites of sandwiches. Watching the herd interact with each other was endlessly entertaining with all the spats, petty jealousies, love interests, and battles for dominance one might see in any large group traveling together.



The pace of a walking horse is just about right for taking in the details of nature. You see a mountain far off in the distance and hours or days later you find yourself walking up the side of it. Nights we camped under the stars in small pup-tents, usually with the herd milling nearby. The western saddle assigned to me was cement-hard and I was sore as could be the first couple days. But you get used to it. That and sleeping on a bed roll and peeing behind a tumbleweed.





My city friends shook their heads at the entire thing. That was just the response I wanted. ~~

By the way, Lynne recently said yes again, and is now deep in preparations to take her 80 year-old mother on a Safari in Africa next month.

What about you? Who are your role models? Have you said yes lately? Let me know what you think below!

Iris Apfel is an inspiration.



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Kiss at our wedding ceremony. Annabel-Vineyard, Sonoma, Sonoma-wedding, Wine-Country-Wedding, How-to-find-the-right-guy, Trueheartgal

Our 14th Anniversary

Kiss at our wedding ceremony

It’s our 14th wedding anniversary today. I didn’t meet the guy of my dreams until I was 40, and we got married when I was 42. I had a long history of sad break-ups (both as dumper and dumpee) and dating mostly nice people who were totally wrong for me. Then, I got a phone call from a good friend and former roomie who said he wanted to set me up with his girlfriend’s boss. He said this guy was 50, divorced with three kids and very nice, so if nothing else, it will be a nice dinner. I said yes and thank you. The guy called and we made a date. The day of that date, I woke up with a massive migraine and was sick to my stomach all day. By the time he showed up, I was better, but worn out. We had a lovely dinner, and that night I dreampt that we were meant to be together. We were.

Our wedding picture at Annadel Winery.

Marrying my husband was the best thing that every happened to me.

Happy Anniversary Patrick. I love you. Always & Only Yours.

The Grand Canyon

Traveling with Kids

The Grand Canyon, Traveling with Grandkids, Trueheartgal

Summer is here, the kids are getting out of school, and we’re looking forward to traveling with our grandkids, nieces and nephews.

Last year, we took our then seven-year-old grandson Braden to Nashville, TN and Space Camp in Huntsville, AL. We had a fantastic time and we are already planning to take Braden, (now eight) and his six-year-oldbrother Hill, to Sedona and the Grand Canyon later this summer.

While we finish planning for this year’s trip to the Southwest, and I post a long-overdue story about our Space Camp trip, I thought I’d repost an adventure we had last year with our then 12-year-old niece, and the lessons I – yes, me – learned:

Giving Kids the Gift of Travel

Over the years, we have been working to give the kids in our lives more experiences and fewer things as gifts. This year, we gave our niece a trip to Universal Studios for Christmas. I hoped she’d have fun, make memories and maybe learn a few valuable life lessons.

I planned out what I thought would be a perfect weekend that started with picking Alexandra up from school early on Friday afternoon. We flew out of Oakland International on Southwest Airlines into the Bob Hope Airport in Burbank, two of the easiest California airports to navigate, at any age.

Photo of my 12-year-old niece from the airplane on our trip to Burbank and Universal Studios.

Alexandra taking a shot on our flight to Burbank.

Given that my eldest step-daughter lives in Los Angeles, is the wonderful fun Mom of three kids and has fabulous taste, she gave me great recommendations for our weekend itinerary which began with dinner at Casa Vega, an institution in Sherman Oaks. It’s a funky, Mexican restaurant with Christmas lights decorating the bar area, old red leather booths, young hipsters slumming with older regulars and waiters in formal attire. It is also known as a great spot for star sightings. What a hit. The moment we walked in, our niece gasped, “I love it.”

The bar at Casa Vega Restaurant in Los Angeles. Giving Kids the Gift of Travel, Trueheartgal

Cool Casa Vega Restaurant

Throughout dinner, I was hoping to spot a famous face. No luck. After dinner, my niece and I took a walk to the bathroom in hopes of snagging a peek at someone famous tucked in a dark corner. No luck. We headed for the parking lot and as I reached to open the door, it opened up and MATT DAMON and his wife walked in! Huge thrill for her – OK, for me too. Big time. 

Matt Damon

Yes, this guy!!

The kids area of a family suite in the newly updated Garland Hotel.

The cute kid’s area in a family suite in the newly updated Garland Hotel.

We stayed at the Beverly Garland Hotel in a Kid Suite in Studio City. I was very disappointed in the room. Turns out that the photography on the website is so good, the rooms looked much brighter, newer, and fresher than they really are. I was told that they are going through a remodel and the rooms should look terrific in real life soon. (UPDATE, June ’15: The renovation at The Garland has taken place and the rooms look absolutely fantastic – fresh, modern and airy! See photo above.) The staff was really wonderful and helpful and our niece loved having her own little “room” with a bunk bed and TV. Their restaurant was clean, modern with unbelievably friendly service and terrific food.

After Saturday breakfast, we hopped on the hotel’s free shuttle for the brief ride to Universal Studios for the day, and we had a blast. The first stop was the Studio Tour, which as a maniacal movie fan, was right up my alley. A spunky guide gave an informative, occasionally funny, well-scripted tour through the studio lot, which included an exceedingly realistic King Kong “ride” in 3D. It was interesting to see the fake city streets, and learn how the flat buildings are painted using trompe l’oeil, to give viewers the perception of depth. I would’ve loved lots more history and lore, but I’m a raging Hollywood history and trivia geek.

Trompe l'oiel painted buildings on the Universal Studio set.

Trompe l’oeil used to trick viewers into believing the flat buildings are real.

The Despicable Me Minion Mayhem ride wasn’t open and the Water World ride was closed during our visit, but we did The Simpsons, Revenge of the Mummy (which had cool live characters wandering the streets), Shrek, Transformers, Jurassic Park and the Special Effects Stage (not as cool as it should be – what a huge missed opportunity). The rides were fun for a chicken like me because they rely mostly on 3-D to give the sensation of moving instead of actually hurtling through space. For real thrill-seekers like my hubby and our niece, the rides were fun, but a bit tame.

Egyptian Queen at Universal Studios

All the rides had incredible live characters circulating around. This Egyptian Queen, here with our niece, on stilts was magical.

As you’d expect, there are countless opportunities to buy Universal Studios-themed land-fill crap. We got away with purchasing just one Minion – a little one who didn’t make this picture – and we just posed with the other stuff.

Minion-mania at Universal Studios.

Minion-mania at Universal Studios

Universal Studios

So long, Universal Studios

So long, Universal Studios (Notice the tiny, little Minion Alexandra did take home? She named him Joe.)

Dinner that night was at Pace Restaurant, another marvelous recommendation by my step-daughter. One step in this lovely, nearly-hidden unexpected spot in the hills and I was brought back to the days when Joni Mitchell and Graham Nash were living together in this artsy, rustic Lauren Canyon community and songs like “Our House,” “You’ve Got a Friend,” “Let It Be,”(oh my gosh, I was in LOVE with Paul in 5th grade – those eyes!) “Both Sides Now,” and “A Case of You” were on the radio.

The uber-romantic Pace Restaurant in Laurel Canyon, California

Pace Restaurant in Laurel Canyon

It’s beyond romantic, and my nostalgia for the old hippy days of my childhood made everything all the sweeter. The food was perfect – Alexandra loved the butternut squash ravioli, I had the cedar wood grilled salmon and Patrick had his favorite, linguini alle vongole and we shared the chocolate lava cake for dessert. The one drawback was that it was so loud in this little room, conversation was nearly impossible.

I had big plans for Sunday, staring with an early breakfast at the historic Los Angeles Farmers’ Market, then a Movie Star Home bus tour.

Los Angeles Farmers Market, Third and Fairfax in Los Angeles, California

The Original Los Angeles Farmers Market was established in 1934

Unfortunately, the gridlock traffic from the Los Angeles Marathon put an end to my plans. We sat in traffic for two hours before we finally gave up and drove back to the Valley. We were lucky and found a surprisingly good spot for brunch at Vivian’s Millennium Cafe on Ventura Boulevard.

The funny thing about hanging out with kids is that often you are the one learning the lessons. While I was sputtering and fuming about my dashed plans and about the personal injustice I was forced to endure at the hands of LA traffic, Alexandra simply lived in the present and made the best of the day. I think she had as much fun at Vivian’s and then strolling through Urban Outfitters in Burbank as she would’ve had with the day I had planned.

One thing I know is that she’ll remember our adventure together, and I’ll remember the wisdom of living in the moment and rolling with life’s punches.

Waze app icon. Traveling with kids Trueheartgal

P.S. During the hours we spent in Los Angeles traffic on that trip, we stopped for gas, and a helpful guy suggested I get the waze app. It crowd-sources traffic information from fellow users, so the app is able to select the fastest route to get you to your destination. I use it all the time now and I just love it. The app gives you an ETA based on traffic, it gives you a selection of alternate routes with mileage and ETAs for each, you are alerted to upcoming traffic jams, police, accidents, the cheapest gas options and hazards.

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