thank-a-teacher Thursday

Growing up, I had some great teachers who inspired me to do more, to be more. Mrs. Lyles. Mrs. Pruitt. Mrs. Bourek. Mrs. Lawless. You get the picture. Which probably explains why I went through such a wide swing of career choices early on. It wasn’t until an 8th grade English teacher, Mrs. Brown, told me that I could really spin a story that I began to dream of a career in journalism. Did I make it? Not quite. At least not in the newspaper business. But Mrs. Brown’s initial suggestion that I had talent and her yearlong encouragement gave me hope. And from that hope, stories began to emerge. Spinning tales became more natural for me. Short stories gushed out of me I didn’t know I could write. Many a creative writing class later, here I am. So to all the teachers who planted the writing bug in me…thank you! After all this time, I still hear their echoes of optimism, their inspiration, their determination. They instilled in me a forever sense not to give up.

So take it from me, it’s never too late to thank a teacher.





once upon a time…

Once upon a time a group of people fought one huge land developer and won. Back in 1988, artists, politicians, and environmentalists—concerned that the big developer kept carving out more and more  of the beautiful canyon walls surrounding Laguna Beach in order to build more and more homes—organized a protest to save a pristine area along the  Orange County coastline they believed to be a treasure trove of wilderness trails and scenic vistas.

Some 11,000 people turned out to build “The Tell,” a 636-foot wall mural that captured the ridgelines of what is now the Dilley Preserve.


The Tell Image credit:

Sadly, much of the mural succumbed to a 1993 wildfire. But back in 1989, these activists invoked their talents and founded  the Laguna Canyon Conservancy to thwart the developer’s plans to rip through the canyon land. Somehow, they managed to stop the bulldozers in their tracks and went on to lead the fight to pass a $20 million bond measure that acquired the property so that it would stay open park land. Today, Laguna Coast Wilderness Park and its nature center is a place where people can leave behind work schedules and hike, bike, or horseback ride through 40 miles of canyon trails. They might catch a glimpse of red-tailed hawk or a bobcat or spot a mule deer. great-vistas

To all those dedicated activists back then I say, “thank you.” Without them, the area would be just another subdivision full of houses that all look alike. Because of their efforts, thousands visit yearly and still trek through the trails in its natural state. Who says a small group of dedicated people won’t make a difference?


Image credit:


summer + nature = redwoods


No one has ever successfully painted or photographed a redwood tree. The feeling they produce is not transferable. From them comes silence and awe.

~ John Steinbeck

Summer along the California coast is inspirational, nothing more so than the Redwood National Forest, enjoying it so much I’m making it a feature in the next series.

Out of trash comes a historical landmark

“Anyone can do something with a million dollars. Look at Disney. But it takes more than money to make something out of nothing, and look at the fun I have doing it.”

~ Tressa Prisbrey

Photo Credit: Bottle houses

In 1956 a California woman by the name of Tressa Prisbrey known as “Grandma” to most, began her foray into architecture. By using predominantly discarded beer bottles and other found material from the local dump, the sixty-year-old grandmother started turning her tiny one-third acre property in Simi Valley into something she’d always dreamed of having—she wanted to get rid of the trailer she’d lived in and build an actual house.

Never one with a lot of extra cash on hand, Tressa’s first choice was to use cinder blocks. But cinder blocks were too expensive for her budget. Instead, Tressa improvised. She began looking around her area and started foraging for discarded bottles. Thanks to a nearby landfill, colored glass bottles were a plentiful resource.

Long before recycling gained traction, Tressa took her castoffs and built the house she wanted. She mixed her own cement by hand, and with perseverance, she eventually added fountains and walkways for curb appeal around the original house.

Between 1961 and 1980, Tressa didn’t let up. Her property became known as “Bottle Village.” They called it a village because over the years Tressa built a wall to close it off from the smelly turkey farm adjacent to her property. Tressa eventually added sixteen buildings, themed rooms, a shrine, and a mosaic sidewalk. Somewhere along the way, Tressa’s daughter developed cancer, so Tressa made her a rose garden out of recycled headlights from assorted junk cars left at the dump. Up to 1982 she would give tours of the place, charging 75 cents a head. Visitors often were so blown away by what she’d built out of trash that they gave much more.

Tressa died in 1988 without realizing she’d created a legacy of folk art that would stand until the 1994 Northridge earthquake hit. The earthquake severely damaged the property wrecking much of Tressa’s hard work. After that, community artists rallied and tried to save Tressa’s work but with little success. Still, in 1996 the property became California Historic Landmark No. 939. To this day, a group of artists maintain the Preserve Bottle Village Committee website in hopes of raising enough money to restore Tressa’s project for all to see and enjoy.

Bottle Village remains a testament to one woman’s creativity at a time when she had very little money to work with and relied on her artistic vision.