Category Archives: Spirit

Late Fall, 2017

I’m enamoured by fall in a way that I never have been before. Since September 22nd, I have eaten more pumpkin related food items — including iced pumpkin juice at a Oaxacan restaurant (and yes it was refreshing, seeds and all) — than I ever have in any eight week period. I made a new Pinterest board called, “Cozy Vibes” which includes a lot of hygge inducing warm socks, fireplaces, and cable knit blankets.  I’ve been enjoying the fall leaves stuck to my windshield. I’ve even been drinking TEA while journaling as the rain comes down (full disclosure: this was after a heat wave the week before when California was seriously on fire).

I think that in the past fall wasn’t my favorite season because it meant the end of summer. Since a child, I have embraced summer as my alter ego. You know how Paris brings out the best in some people? Summer has always been my Paris season. The clocks stop, the summer dresses are in full operation and a dinner of homemade tacos is often on the beach.

But this time I was practically on a countdown to fall, 2017. Maybe that was the first sign that this fall would be different.

Summer, 2017 was amazing. It started with a family adventure through sacred forests where I told my teenage sons that I had become “enlightened”, ending with Miro in the big city. That summer was also about huge goals for spiritual self-improvement that I predicted would lead to a big a-ha moment late summer which would then lead to overcoming whatever obstacles I needed to overcome. Those obstacles would become clear, of course because of all the WORK I would do on myself! “Work” would look like yoga, meditation, healing sessions, eating really well, drinking lots of water, getting ample sleep, reading self-improvement books, and of course… journaling!

So, it all came together and by mid August I had made huge decisions to let some things go. Woohoo! I felt AMAZING. I’m telling you, I had not felt this physically strong and spiritually centered since… ever!

And then something kind of exploded in the middle of my life, as sometimes happens. It’s not always about you. Sometimes things are just going to happen that were going to happen no matter what you do. I couldn’t help thinking, as it all unfolded around me that the summer of self-improvement was meant to bring some strength and grounding with everything that was unfolding. I know I couldn’t have handled it as well as I did without all that groundbreaking self evolution. The work had really started years ago. Much of the work centered around one word.

Acceptance.

Acceptance, it turns out is a HUGE word. Tough to get a handle on, but once you are doing it, it is monumentally powerful. Acceptance means letting go. If I can accept something, then I can let go of something. I can let go of an idea. I can let go of old clothes. I can let go of a project. I can let go of someone ever being “the same” again.

Deep breath here. Ah, that felt good.

One time we asked a dear friend and mentor what was the key to forgiveness? She had been through things written about in history books. “Acceptance,” she said. “You need to first accept that they did that to you.” We were quite speechless. That didn’t sound easy.

So, pre-fall, 2017 (sounds like a collection from Gucci!) provided many new opportunities to practice acceptance if I ever wanted any. I needed to accept what was this earthquake in my life, that it wasn’t my fault (ego!), that nothing would ever be the same, and that on a deeper level everything was always changing. All this acceptance work was sure tiring, the whole situation was mega stressful, and I started to see fall as a chance to start over.

You can see my fall season-acceptance-everything’s changing metaphor from a mile away, right? I felt really clever about that. But it’s true! It’s all true! I didn’t plan this out.

The mission fig tree in the backyard says it all. This tree stands behind the house I grew up in. I have no memory of it not being there. I played dolls under that tree, and every summer it was so generous to us. Each fig was like a piece of candy. Yes, candy grows on trees sometimes. The counters in the kitchen and the refrigerator would fill up with those dark purple, sides bursting, sweet figs. We would give them away. We would eat fig jam, and we would eat them plain. One time my mom tried making fig bars because my dad loved “Fig Newtons”. It didn’t work out, but we were all impressed with her love and efforts.

This past summer was the first time my dad wasn’t picking the figs off the tree — which was huge for a man who has lived so much of his life outside. I encouraged him, “Come on; you hold the basket and I’ll climb up the ladder.” “No,” he resisted from his recliner, “I can’t hold the basket. I can’t go up the ladder…” I was so sad. So, of course I got obsessed with that fig tree. I was going to take care of it. Not really a gardening person, I went out there every few days and checked on which figs were ripe, picking only the ones whose skin was cracking, just like my dad told me. Because even though he wouldn’t come out with me, he was going to tell me how to do it. Which, at this point I was grateful for. I asked him how often I should water it. I was surprised at how much attention it needed.

But even though I thought I was trying so hard, braving the Japanese beetles who competed with me for these fruits, even though I made the cutest displays of figs to give to the aides at his nursing home, I just couldn’t keep up. I didn’t understand how my dad ever stayed on top of taking care of all of these living things.

Eventually, I saw something I had never seen on that tree. It seemed to be crying. Without enough diligent harvesting, the birds and beetles were feasting on the higher figs and the juices were trickling down the branches and trunk making large, purplish red stains. This was shocking to me. It felt like the world was ending, like everything was falling apart. This wasn’t fair to the tree, I thought. I was sure the tree was sad like me. I was sure it was missing my dad, wondering where he was. By now I was just collecting shriveled up, pathetic, half eaten figs off the ground. Every fig I picked up depressed me more. “Another fig wasted,” I thought.

And then it got worse! The tree’s leaves started to turn yellow. Not only that, but they started to fall off. “Oh, my goodness,” I thought, “I’m killing it!” But I wasn’t giving up. I was dedicated to this tree. One day I asked my brother, who is a garden designer, “So, I need to water the fig tree every three days, right?” I wanted to be sure that I was doing everything I could to save this tree. And you know what he said? “Water it? It doesn’t need any water this time of year.”

So, then it hit me. I was misunderstanding the signs the tree was giving me because I was not accepting the changes that were inevitable. The illusion is that things stay the same. Everything is always changing. Every second.

The tree was supposed to drink a lot in the summer when it was giving us those amazing figs. It was supposed to give the top figs to the birds and beetles. There was supposed to be a “last fig” of 2017. It was supposed to let it’s leaves go in the fall. It was supposed to do all these things. I wasn’t killing it. This was what was supposed to happen. Actually, I did a good job with the tree. I did everything I could do. And yes, everything is always changing, and that is beautiful.

This blog post is dedicated to my dad, Timoteo Tim Ysidro Chilo Alvarez, 8.22.1925 – 11.30.2017

Outfit photos by Evan Hartzell

Outfit details:  All vintage except scarf by Muji.

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Create Your World

See those hands?  That’s how I feel about asking someone if I can take their photo. I have always been drawn to street fashion photography ever since I used to peruse  magazines at a local Japanese bookstore. That’s where I first became aware of it. I was excited by the curated windows into everyday people’s style on the street. Eventually, in the mid-00’s I would see these street style blogs popping up, not to mention Bill Cunningham’s work in newspapers and magazines prior to that.The blogs brought it more to my attention and they were INTERNATIONAL. Stockholm, Helskinki, Mexico City, Kingston. It became a merry-go-round of looks unique to those hoods.  So, why the hesitation to participate in such a happening trend? Maybe it’s shyness. Maybe I think people will feel like I’m stealing their souls — or, that I just won’t take a good photo of them! I mean, I have more confidence taking photos of objects. My first attempt was when I met a particularly stylish woman at a friend’s party. Vintage 60’s hostess dress. Jewelry she made herself. Her makeup was so Elizabeth Taylor from Cleopatra days. Oh, man. Anyway, the photos came out dark and her dress was all wrinkled — not in a good way. So, I didn’t try again. I blamed it on not having business cards to give out. I did start taking photos of family members which served as a warm up. I was comfortable with them; they would even take direction.  Friends were a different story, though. You know, “I’m coming over to take your picture. No, don’t worry about your outfit (But of course, you’ll look stunning because you always do, but no pressure, really).”  In my coffee post I got some practice with strangers. “Can I take a picture of you doing latte art? I mean I’m advertising the café and everything!” No problem, they replied. It was easier than I thought.  This post is yet another baby step. I could totally try to trick you and say, “Oh, yeah. I came across this really striking woman in a parking lot. I don’t know anything about her, but doesn’t she look amazing??” But then, enough friends read this blog that know her and would ask me, “What are you trying to pull, Laura? Isn’t that our friend? ”  Did you see what just happened there? She turned around and there was THAT. The outfit that slays as it walks away. I personally need more bustles in my life. Thanks, for letting me practice my street photography on you, Kai. I did just run into her on the street, but in all telepathic honesty I did wish upon a morning star that she would be at the meeting I was attending. Here, I was leaving the meeting and she was arriving. And in all skill-crutch honesty, I took none of these photos. Evan was with me and he has a DEGREE in photography. And lastly, in all historical honesty, one time Kai and I made an elaborate plan to meet at the art museum and do a whole photo shoot relating a great piece of art to an outfit she would wear. But she was like, “Ah, I realized I don’t work that way. Too much thinking.”  I do a lot of thinking with my outfits, OBVIOUSLY. I really enjoy it. Kai says she just goes into her closet every morning and is like a painter with a palette. If it doesn’t work right away she just adds more. I love the description of that process. I love it’s honest simplicity. Ha.I could go on and on about Kai’s style. Every time I see her it’s a treat. It’s not just her vibrant personality, humor, intellect, and childlike curiosity (she’s always learning something new)… it’s her excellent outfits! Yes, they make me think of poetic mystery and romantic epic adventures, but also they are a reminder to be myself in every aspect of my life. Yes, an outfit can do that. While she is in the intuitive moment every morning as she faces her “palette”, she is always true to herself. She wears her spirit on the outside. More of that.   

Jacket by TBA. Skirt vintage, by Penelope. Under t no label. Bag by Fatface. Boots by Florentini + Baker.

All photos by Evan Hartzell.

Play Clothes

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If there is a movement to make workout clothes actually stylish, I am totally behind it. Oiselle is one company that makes running wear that makes me want to jump around like a little kid and play… ahem, I mean do yoga. Love that vinyasa flow! On my old blog I wrote about hiking in a skirt.  I mentioned how I would even run in a skirt when I was helping out at my sons’ cross country practice. Now that I think of it even rock climbing! So, I have a history of trying to dress up my more active activities.

And then there is the fact that I have this real serious aversion to any kind of dress conformity. I thought it came from growing up in the OC, but since my 15 year old son says, “My dream is that one day I will walk through a crowd and people will turn and whisper to each other, ‘That man is not of this world?'”, then that can’t be the reason since he didn’t grow up there. I mean, one of my uncles wore a purple suit to my wedding! It must be in the genes. Even if I go get a pair of yoga pants at Old Navy from the sale rack (totally trying so hard to avoid fast fashion. I’m 90 percent there, I swear!), they have to be the weirdest purple spider web ones I can find.

I’m also pretty hardcore about serving the earth. Not like these guys, but I try to avoid adding to our landfills. I minimize driving. I use nontoxic cleaners. So the thing is, I love the stretchiness of these kinds of clothes. Even the pants pictured here, while they come from a fancy thrift store, have a little stretch in them – which means they can never be composted! Yes, you can compost your clothes. This is the kind of thing I think about. Like the zero waste queen says, “my 5R’s: Refuse, Reduce, Reuse, Recycle, and Rot (and only in that order)”. So, according to those guidelines, this is how we would approach the workout wear. These are just suggestions for dialoguing with yourself and others. You may adjust to fit your situation.

•Refuse… “Uh, I don’t really need another pair of yoga pants. No thank you.” Or “I don’t need a bag for my new/second hand yoga pants.” I always smile after I say this so I feel and share the accomplishment of refusing a bag. Ha.

•Reduce… “Okay, I’ve made a commitment to three pairs of yoga pants. I don’t need six. I mean, come on. And also the ones I picked aren’t going to fall apart in a few months.”

•Reuse… “Hey, one of my pairs of leggings are kind of faded and have a hole so I don’t want to wear them with skirts any more so… yoga pants!”

•Recycle… “Omg, Patagonia has this bin where you can actually give them your old Patagonia and they will make it into blankets and such. Seriously.”

•Rot… “Once upon a time there was a 100% cotton pair of yoga pants and it went into my compost bin. So, now the yoga pants are helping to make really great soil for the tomatoes and such!”

Epic win at work out wear that’s fun to wear. I hoped you enjoyed this break from caring about important stuff! (winning smile as I walk away with no bag)

All photos by Evan Hartzell

Hat by Roxy. Top by Oiselle. Earrings vintage. Pants are thrift store H&M. Belt is Esprit (Seriously!). Shoes by Dansco.

A Steady Glow

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Me and my friends are turning 50.

Well, I have a few more years, but I have this weird thing where I tend to embrace my future age and think I am that age already. I know I should live in the present, but 50 sounds REALLY COOL. It sounds like silver, chandeliers, and the best champagne. It sounds like Italian masquerade balls, leather jackets paired with feathered skirts. Am I the only one thinking this? I’ve been going to girlfriends’ fiftieth birthday parties lately, and I feel like we are all the same age. So, the conversation about women and age continues. It evolves.

50. I can feel it calling me. All that stuff people say about, “Well, then you don’t care about what people think. You finally do what you were afraid to do before. You just don’t give a f%@#*&!” must be true because I can feel that attitude seeping into my brain already. Yay.

So, my friend Anne-Marie was getting ready to celebrate this magic year and she decided to clean out her closet in honor of this birthday. Excellent. I may have mentioned before that luckily people think of me when they decide to clean out their closets. The fact that I benefit so much from people’s closet clean outs is just encouragement to everyone to broadcast your passion. Your enthusiasm for what you love just makes people want to throw whatever that is at you. Be ready to catch!

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The loot.

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The sad emptiness. You know, when you’re moving, and eventually it has to look like this.

Just to add drama to the birthday closet clean out, Anne-Marie and her family were also moving out of their beautiful old Spanish style house by the sea. It was a happy move, really, but you know how moves always bring up the past. You have to actually look at each object you own, consider it, see if it’s going to make the cut to the future, as the house gets emptier and emptier, all the life going out of it with each box that’s packed.

The house had an in between feel the day I arrived. It wasn’t packed with life, art, textures and color like it had been in the past. Now it had some of the family’s stuff left mixed in with some items that weren’t theirs, but belonged to the stagers.

The morning light was still beautiful though, coming through the old rounded iron paned windows. The elegant bones of the house could not be denied. Anne-Marie greeted me with her welcoming smile at the door. Her warm brown eyes, graceful ease always reminded me of a deer – quietly contemplating as she glides through a forest. We climbed up to her and her husband’s bedroom on the second floor. There was already a pile of inviting clothes on the bed for me to look at. Every time I went through one pile, she brought out more from the closet. I actually dream this exact situation regularly. Literally. While I’m sleeping. That kind of dream. All the while, as I sifted through clothes, making a stack for yes, a stack for no, and a stack for my friend Lissa because it turned out they had VERY similar taste in clothes, we talked.

The sunny poet in a blouse she kept.

The sunny poet in a blouse she kept.

We talked about why she bought that dress that she never wore. “Because I was in the shop and I just felt like I needed something new. I don’t shop a lot. So I picked that. And it was never right on me.” We talked about why she didn’t relate to certain items. “Too girlish, you know?” And we talked about turning 50. “I realized I’m not the young girl anymore,” referring to a pale pink skirt. Of course, we were looking at all the items she was done with. We were not looking at what she was now embracing. So, the conversation, the process was about letting go. Letting go so one can embrace what’s next.

I love what came next.

“And so, my birthday was approaching and I was really thinking about it, and dealing with this moment. Around that time, I decided to go through and read all the poems I had written since my first daughter was born. I read all of them. And you know, reading them really made me feel good. I love my life. I have a great husband. Great girls. Good friends. My life is good.” She said all of this with a measured, reflective tone. I could tell she had really thought about it. I felt like we were in a very important scene in a movie, where all is being resolved.

It was then that I knew that I had to do a Clothes Story about Anne-Marie. I loved that she had already been writing poetry about being a woman, a mother, about aging. I loved that her closet clean out was one way to eventually accept and celebrate who she was now.

In the weeks that followed I sent Lissa her loot (What great fun for her to come home from her HONEYMOON to) and had fun integrating my new items into my outfits. The sweater below is on constant rotation. As is this skirt.

Me, having fun at my kid's school sport extravagalooza. No, I was really having fun. There was an In n' Out Truck and my outfit was so Russian Fairytale thanks to Anne-Marie.

Me, having fun at my kid’s school sport extravagalooza. No, I was really having fun. There was an In n’ Out Truck and my outfit was so Russian Fairytale thanks to Anne-Marie.

Oh, yeah and I really lucked out with this dress from Anne-Marie’s closet. Here, I am a Spanish actress who has dreams of having a spiritual transformation in northern New Mexico. Very High Heels without the high heels because I can’t really wear high heels.

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And so I ask you this: Have you ever had to let go of some past version of yourself in a closet clean out? Tell us now. Who was she, and why were you finished with her?

Sweater by Love 21. Cardigan by matty m. Dress by Bailey 44. Thunderbird necklace is from the dreamland. Earrings are vintage (Taxco, Mexico).

All photos of me by Evan Hartzell.

Miyazaki Moment

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Who loves Miyazaki?? I do!!

I’m trying to remember the first time I saw a Hayao Miyazaki film. I know my boys were pretty young – at tops 5 and 8 years old – based on my memory of where we lived while we watched them. I’m pretty sure we rented a DVD (or VHS, even??) from Vidiots, and that once we watched one, we had to watch EVERY Miyazaki movie that was available at that moment. Well, not Princess Mononoke… yet. A little graphic, that one.

Previous to our discovery of Miyazaki, we had explored everything Disney. The older boy liked to pause Bambi and draw from the stills. We also loved everything Japanese. Japan’s influence was there from the beginning for me because my dad had been stationed in Japan after WWII. My husband and I had both grown up collecting Japanese stickers (how I loved Hello Kitty!) and watching Speed Racer. As parents we had made sure our boys were exposed to everything from the wonders of eel sushi in Little Tokyo to Giant Robot on Sawtelle.

Back to Miyazaki… We started with Panda! Go, Panda! (screenplay by Miyazaki), The Cat Returns (executive producer), and Porco Rosso (director and story). Next, I think we got into Kiki’s Delivery Service (director, producer, writer) and Castle in the Sky (writer and director). We didn’t have access to any more films that we knew of until years later with the American releases of Nausicaä of the Valley of the Wind (my favorite film, period!), and Howl’s Moving Castle.

One of Howl's incarnations with Sophie, as her curse wears off.

One of Howl’s incarnations with Sophie, as her curse wears off.

I could go on FOREVER about my favorite Miyazaki characters, but this Clothes Story is about Howl from Howl’s Moving Castle who I wear so proudly on my shirt above. I’ve read on the internets that many a young girl has fallen in love with the Howl of the novel, Howl’s Moving Castle, and I wouldn’t be surprised if it was true about the movie character. I love this writer’s read of the movie’s metaphors, especially of seeing the moving castle as representing Howl, himself with it’s many faces, baggage, and stealing away to undisclosed locations. I have a similar character in the graphic novel I am working on. Who doesn’t love a complex, dark, love interest who hides his heart behind a shallow-seeming front? They are irresistible – especially when he is a ridiculously handsome wizard with at least three different names, secretly doing good deeds and secretly falling in love with his 90 year old cleaning lady! (Ooh! Another similarity to my project!) I love Howl because he illustrates that our higher self is always within reach, and sometimes it is witnessing another’s acts of love – in this case, Sophie’s –  to move us toward embracing that higher self.

Oh, and Morrissey, “A Heart’s a Heavy Burden” NEEDS to be the title of your next album. Hello, Morrissey? Can you hear me??

T shirt by Hot Topic. Jeans by Joe’s. Similar earrings on Etsy, here and here. Brooch is vintage. Mine are from Ansel Adams Gallery in Yosemite. Denim trench is  vintage. Similar, here.

Photos by Evan Hartzell.

 

Thunderbird

I received a package recently, and in it was this story and a gift…

Here is a birth month story I want to tell you. Once, three days ago or three hundred years from now, there was a beautiful artist who lived in a dry land. This artist sang and wrote and painted about women who could fly, women who rode on cloud-buffalo and stepped over skyscrapers, women who could melt into their ancestors or disappear into daily life, women who could soar above circumstances as though gravity simply did not exist for them.

"Cloud-Buffalo", watercolor on panel, 8" x 8", 2011, collection of Lissa Carter

“Cloud-Buffalo” by me, watercolor on panel, 8″ x 8″, 2011, collection of Lissa Carter

This artist had a friend who had left the dry country and traveled far east, into a land of frozen winters and wet summers. This friend sat beside a fire one thundering, rainy night and watched tongues of lightning flicker through clouds. In the patterns of fire on her eyelids, she thought she saw the shape of the cloud-buffalo woman her friend had painted. Rain fell in sheets and drenched her to the bone as she ran back to her home. 

That night, she dreamt of the artist. The artist was hovering in a night sky filled with stars, and every time she stretched her arms out, rain fell beneath her. “How are you doing that?” called her friend. The artist laughed and said, “The ground needs water so I came up here where it is!”

A few days after she had awakened from that dream, the friend was wandering through a merchant’s trove of junk and treasures. A small box filled with a spill of bright color caught her eye, the colors of rain and rivers and deserts and sunsets. Lifting it into her hands, she saw that it was a Thunderbird, the Navajo icon of rain, power, creativity, and magic. The friend thought of dry land, and art, and women who could fly. She knew this talisman belonged to her friend, the artist, in whose hands it could bring water of many kinds to the thirsty ground. Aho!                                xoxoLissa

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Hat by Roxy. Stone necklace by Nicole. Blouse by Promod. Levi’s jeans altered by me. Sunglasses by Ray Ban. Thunderbird bead necklace is gift from the goddess, Lissa.

Open Your Heart by Wearing More Green

               Chiles de pasilla, fresh and forest green                                                                                          Chiles de pasilla, roasting on the stove                                                                                            Chiles de pasilla, stuffed with cremoso cheese                                                                                  Chiles de pasilla. Hey, they’re not all for me?!

The vibrant, green, giving heart. To give gives us so much. Whenever I’ve left my childhood home, my dad (and my mom – when she was alive) tries to make us take things.

“Here, Laura, I’ll never eat all this cheese!”

“You wanna take some avocados?!”

“Laura! The figs!” (Calling out the front door, us in the car, motor running most likely)

Here, I stand under that giving fig tree, feasting iridescent Japanese beetles buzzing around my head. The images are bookended by pasilla chiles, fresh and after transforming into chile relleños for my dad’s 91st birthday. One of the many things he’s taught me are the benefits of a giving heart. The happiness it brings him to give was understood by me on a deeper level when my boys were born. I tried to stop him from giving so much to me as a young adult. I was the youngest of his five – the only girl – so, of course I was out to prove my abilities and independence. Once I became a parent, I realized that in a way there was no separation between us. To give to my sons was and is to give to myself. To see them happy is to be happy myself. In our best moments – with friends, with strangers – this is a connection that is not blood related.

The green, heart chakra is about giving, loving, and openness. When I was looking into how to improve in terms of prosperity (Why, you ask? You are crazy rich with all those figs!), I was surprised to see how prosperity was connected to the green heart chakra. I read about how we can work so hard and not get anywhere if we are not generous – generous with our love, with our time, with our resources. The more I contemplated this connection, the more it made sense. We attract whatever we need when we are consistently in a state of open heart giving, of breathing in and out. I have learned that it must start with myself. If I am hard on others it is because I am hard on myself. I aim to be softer. I aim to be more loving with myself.

When my younger son was just a wee little man lying in a hammock outside holding his ukelele, he liked to ask me, “Guess who I love the most in the whole world.” Sometimes I would name different people. Sometimes I would just ask, “Who?” Always the same answer in those days. “Me!” I loved that. I knew exactly what he meant. He was giving us a gift by loving himself so much. He enjoyed himself, laughing and singing his songs, making the world a better place. Laughing, loving, giving, green heart. No wonder it’s his favorite color.

Recipe for chile relleños using chiles de pasilla. I used the recipe from this book, a favorite in our kitchen when I don’t have notes from my mom!

Dress (friend’s closet clean out) by Alpana Bawa. Top (another friend’s closet clean out) by edmè and esyllte Shoes by Dansko – similar here. Necklace by Nicole.

Chile photos by Evan Hartzell. Fig tree photos by Aristotle Hartzell.