Saturday, December 20, 2008

Prescription for Fun

As the holidays approach, I have spent some time reflecting on everything that has happened in the past year. I cannot believe how much has changed and that we survived the year!

I had lots of good things happen in ‘08, once I recovered from the accident that almost ruined every Christmas to come: the “Costco Caddy” incident on December 20, 2007, when a runaway Cadillac crashed into our local Costco food court. I missed severe injury by inches, but my leg wounds ultimately resulted in surgery and a long recovery from the “disabled list.” Since "the winter of my discontent", I was part of a relay team that participated in the Big Sur International Marathon. Although I didn't run as much as I would have liked, I was able to participate and finish. I also went back to school at UC Davis for a professional certification in Land Use and Environmental Planning. My activities with St. George’s Episcopal Church and Native Daughters of the Golden West added more fun to my life.

After two years of intense work and 17 years of mentally baking an idea, Route 66 Railway—El’s coffee-table book about Route 66 and the Santa Fe Railway in the Southwest—arrived in late October. We’ve sold a bundle of signed copies in less than two months and overall sales are climbing thanks to tremendous word-of-mouth. The media coverage is just beginning: El is acting as a one-man PR agency, but that’s a small trade-off for having a book that looks so good. More signings and author talks are scheduled over the next four months, so watch El’s book website: He also started a personal photo blog, “Outside is America."

Our daughter Kathryn is an 8th grader at Monte Vista Christian School. We’re all so proud of the fine young lady she has become. She joined the leadership class, sings in the middle school choir, went to MVCS’ summer equestrian camp, and continues as a Girl Scout. We took Kat to Disneyland for her 13th birthday, which fell on Mother’s Day this year. (As a bonus, Elrond and Kat got a cab ride on the Disneyland Railroad!).

As a family, we still found time to have fun, topped off by an Amtrak trip to Portland and side trips to the Oregon Coast, Columbia River Gorge and elsewhere. In September, El and I finally got to meet our longtime favorite SF Giants shortstop, Omar Vizquel, at his first West Coast art reception (see my September blog post). We reunited with old friends John and Debbie Scott and their children. El and I spent memorable evenings listening to Bruce Springsteen in Sacramento and the Police. I had been waiting to see both bands since college!

Sadly, we had to say goodbye to Tess, our Calico kitty, who passed away in November after more than 15 years of bringing us joy. We’re still in mourning, along with her sister Zoe, but Atticus is doing his best to keep our spirits up.

We have a new arrival: a gray kitten named Lucy, who slowly adopted us during the past few months. Atticus finally has a little playmate/ henchman.

Despite a year that started out so terribly, I managed to bring the fun back into my life. I have so much to be grateful for. Despite the many challenges and struggles in our world, I have a renewed spirit of optimism for 2009. I hope your holidays are happy, and that life brings you great joy in the coming year.

Sunday, November 9, 2008

Dirty Wow Wow

On Halloween, our cat Atticus decided to “dress-up.” Well, not dress up in the traditional sense—he assumed the character of Houdini. Shortly after 9:00 PM, he escaped from the house and started his 40+ hour adventure in the big wide world. My husband noticed he was missing about two hours later and spent the next several hours trying to find him. The next morning, Atticus still wasn’t home. Frantic, we printed up flyers and posted them around the neighborhood and in nearby stores. We walked the neighborhood, calling his name, looking in bushes and under cars. We even drove through the surrounding streets hoping NOT to find him on the side of the road.

By Saturday evening, it started to rain—HARD! We were terribly worried about our white cat that spends all of his time indoors. Where could he be in the midst of all this rain and bad weather? We put his basket out on the front porch hoping that he might find it and know he was home. Saturday night turned into Sunday morning and still, no Atticus. We couldn’t imagine where he was. We printed and put up more signs to replace the rain-damaged ones. Around 3:00 PM, I said to Elrond, “I am starting to lose hope that we’ll find him.” Not 30 seconds later, the phone rang. It was one of our neighbors calling to say they saw the sign at Safeway about a lost cat with a gold ID tag. They thought the same cat was under their car because he had a gold ID tag, too.

We ran down the block to their house. Under their car was a dirty gray cat. At first we didn’t think it was him. Our daughter crawled on the ground under the car to get a better look at the cat. She called out “Atticus?” He turned to look at her and cried “wow!” Not “meow”, but a frantic “‘wow’ you found me!” It was our beloved cat—the cat that makes our house a home with his purring and rubbing and “wowing.” He was filthy, to say the least. We thanked our neighbors profusely and took Atticus home to have a bath. Fortunately, he doesn’t mind water much so this was easier than you’d think. Kat donned her bathing suit and helped get him clean again. After sleeping for nearly two days straight, Atticus seems to be back to his old self.

You may be puzzled by the title of this blog—Dirty Wow Wow. Last summer, we took a trip to Portland, Oregon. At Powell’s City of Books, we saw a display about a book called “Dirty Wow Wow and other love stories: A Tribute to the Threadbare Companions of Childhood.” This adorable book is about beloved childhood stuffed toys (one being named ‘Dirty Wow Wow’). Although Atticus is not a stuffed toy, he is our beloved pet—our ‘Dirty Wow Wow’ who adds so much joy to our lives.

Thursday, October 2, 2008

7 Lists of 7 Things

I follow another blog called Kate’s Corner. Recently, Katie posted her “7 Things Survey.” The lists inspired me to write up my own. I thought this would be easy. I was surprised how hard it was to give meaningful answers! Enjoy!

7 things I plan to do before I die. . .
1. Hike to Havasu Falls in Arizona
2. Visit Ireland, Portugal, Spain, and Italy
3. Write an essay for “This I Believe
4. Own a bakery
5. Design my own house
6. Write a cookbook
7. Be a grandmother

7 things I can do. . .
1. Cook almost anything
2. Make quilts
3. Paint and wallpaper
4. Throw a great dinner party
5. Organize
6. Sew
7. Cross-stitch

7 things I cannot do. . .
1. The “splits”
2. Calculus
3. Physics
4. Style hair
5. Knit (not well anyway)
6. Touch my toes
7. Vulcan salute (think “Live long and Prosper”)

7 attributes that attract me to the opposite sex. . .
1. Sense of humor
2. Smart
3. Kind
4. Positive outlook
5. Righteous
6. Likes cats
7. Can cook

7 Things I say most often . . .
1. “El!” (my husband’s nickname)
2. “Kat!” (my daughter’s nickname)
3. “Shut up!” (as in “no way!”)
4. “Groovy”
5. “Planning, this is Laura…” (how I answer the phone at work)
6. “Get out!”
7. “I was listening to NPR today…”

7 Favorite foods. . .
1. Chocolate
2. Cheese
3. Peanut butter
4. Tomatoes
5. Cinnamon
6. Pasta Carbonara (or anything Italian)
7. Cupcakes

7 Books I Love . . .
1. Route 66 Railway (my husband’s upcoming book—due out in mid-October)
2. To Kill a Mockingbird
3. Funny in Farsi
4. Laughing Without an Accent
5. Life of Pi
6. Skippyjon Jones
7. All of the Anne of Green Gables series

Saturday, September 13, 2008

The Artistry of Omar Vizquel

I am a baseball fan. I love the game. My love of the game was tested in 1994 when Major League baseball went on strike. After the World Series was cancelled, I lost interest in the game. Around the same time, I became a mother so I was occupied with other activities.

When we moved to Northern California in early 2000, the San Francisco Giants had just finished their new baseball stadium. Elrond and I watched their opening day game on television, and we became Giants fans that day. In 2005, the Giants acquired an amazing shortstop—Omar Vizquel. He is a joy to watch on the field—he makes dazzling plays with his signature style. He is also easy on the eyes! He is my all time favorite baseball player.

Last Christmas, just five days after my accident, Elrond gave me a Giants baseball jersey with number 13 and “Vizquel” on the back. He also gave me Omar’s book Omar! My Life On and Off the Field. While I was recovering, I read his book and learned about the personal side of him. As it turns out, he is just as dazzling as an artist off the field.

On September 4th, the Caldwell Snyder Gallery opened an exhibit of Omar Vizquel’s paintings. Here was my chance to meet my favorite ballplayer in person! Elrond surprised me by making reservations for us to go.

In the afternoon, we arrived at our hotel that was just a couple of blocks from the gallery. It was a gorgeous afternoon in San Francisco—warm and breezy. We walked down to the gallery around five o’clock. When we walked in, we saw all of his gorgeous work—oils and watercolors in both vibrant colors and dark muted tones. Omar took the time to speak to all of us about what inspired his work. He took questions from the crowd—of course Elrond was brave enough to ask him about the inspiration for two of his watercolors called “Take Me With You #1 and #2”. Earlier this year, Omar was injured during Spring Training and needed knee surgery. He had to sit out the season until mid-May. He said he felt depressed and empty, like a skeleton. Baseball was like a beautiful woman going to a party. It seems as though the skeleton pleads “take me with you!”

Other Giants players and luminaries were there: First baseman Rich Aurilia, Second baseman Kevin Frandsen, Giants broadcaster Mike Krukow (“Kruk”), Comcast SportsNet reporter Amy Gutierrez, Managing General Partner Peter Magowan, General Manager Brian Sabean, and Chief Operating Officer Larry Baer. The people watching opportunities were as much fun as looking at the art. I took pictures with Omar and Ritchie. Elrond took pictures with Kruk and Amy. It was a blast. Toward the end of the event, Omar took the mike and sang along with band. He also did a little salsa dancing with some of the ladies. He was such fun to watch. As we were leaving, I worked up the nerve to talk to Omar. I told him how much I liked him as a player and how my dear husband bought me his jersey and his book. I told him I loved his art and to keep painting. It was one of my best days.

After the event, Elrond and I walked up to Chinatown to have dinner. We relived the whole evening while eating our almond chicken and steamed dumplings. When we were finished, they brought out our fortune cookies. My cookie had the following fortune:

Indeed, one of my dearest wishes did come true.

Sunday, August 17, 2008

I Feed People

Recently, my husband and I had my co-worker and his wife over for dinner. I cooked the Indian recipes I learned during a class I took in San Francisco. I set a beautiful table—although, it was nearly ruined 10 minutes before my guests were scheduled to arrive. My curious cat Atticus jumped up on the table to inspect the full water glasses (he loves water) and knocked one of them across the silk tablecloth and pashmina shawl I used as a runner. I promptly threw them in the dryer and everything was good as new in 15 minutes. Good thing my guests were running late.

I learned to cook with my grandmother. She was a great cook and loved to cook for her family. She was patient and never stressed about the mess I made in her kitchen. After I was married, I started collecting cookbooks, reading them like some people read novels. That was 19 years ago. I am a good cook and love to cook for people. While some people cook only because they have to eat, I cook as a hobby. I love to cook for people. I love to see people enjoy what I cook for them.

My latest volunteer project also involves food. My friend Stephanie Meineke and I are co-chairs of the I-HELP program at St. George’s Episcopal Church. I-HELP (Interfaith Homeless Emergency Lodging Program) offers single men shelter, food, and support though the gracious, generous, and continued support of over 60 Monterey County churches, synagogues, temples, and religious organizations including St. George's. I-HELP has never missed a night of offering services for the homeless in its 15 years of operation. What a great program! On the third and fifth Thursdays of the month, the volunteers at St. George's provide a meal, conversation, shelter and breakfast to-go for 25-30 homeless men. I get the same satisfaction cooking for these guys as I do cooking for my friends.

It is who I am—I feed people. It feeds my soul.
  • LL

Friday, July 4, 2008

What do you do for fun?

In December 2007, I survived a near-fatal accident (see more here). After the accident, I started physical therapy as part of the healing process. At my first session, my physical therapist asked me, "what do you do for fun?" When I had to think about the answer, I knew there was a problem. My initial response was, "I work a lot." This response scared me--how is it that I could not identify what I do for fun? Simple--I had let the monotony of everyday life define me. I worked long hours and spent the rest of my time caring for my family.

This did not happen overnight. As I look back now, this was an almost imperceptible process. When my husband was laid off in 2001, I was a stay-at-home mom to our only child, Kathryn. To make ends meet, I went back to work 'temporarily' (I am still at my 'temporary' job). With my full-time job, the things I loved to do slowly fell away one by one. Fast forward 6 1/2 years to the simple question "what do you do for fun?"

Six months later, my physical wounds have healed, but a void still remains. My mission now is to define a new path for myself by:

  • bringing back fun into my life
  • nuturing a hobby or two
  • reminding myself that my job is 'just work'--it does not define who I am.

So, as America celebrates her independence today, I will celebrate my 'independence' from the monotony of life.

  • LL