Friday, December 28, 2007

It's That Time ...



Time to ring in a new year!

A toast...

Here's to the outgoing year, 2007...
May the good times live on in our memories,
and may we learn lessons from the troubling times
that will make us stronger and better than ever.

Here's to the new year, 2008...
May it bring more joy and success
And less grief and regret.

To our dreams...
May we never stop believing in them
And taking the actions that will make them a reality.

To our friends and loved ones...
May we take the time to let them know
How much it means to us
To have them in our lives.

Let us encourage more and criticize less,
Give more and need less.
And whenever we can,
Let us create harmony and peace.

To new beginnings...
Let us start fresh, right now,
To make this the very best year ever.

A very Happy New Year to all of us!

CHEERS!

Sunday, December 16, 2007

You Ain't Seen Crazy Yet

video

National Cyclocross races were this weekend. The weather was typical cross weather...cold. Very cold. It snowed on Saturday for Mark's Mens 35-39 race which made it somewhat miserable to be a spectator and probably equally miserable for the racers. The sun made an appearance for Sunday's Elite Men's race which made it more pleasant for spectators, but a complete muddy mess for the guys racing. (Note the differences in the videos - first one is Saturday and second one, below, is Sunday - both in the same location on the course).

video

I posted earlier about how crazy this sport is, this weekend was a 'case in point'. Ice, snow, mud, muck...yuck! Riding your bike as fast as you can in extreme conditions is insane to most, but these guys know how to do it and seem to love it. The fans do too...watching this national race was really fun. Especially watching the Elite race where some of the best racers in the sport show up. Tons of people, tons of cheering and I'm guessing probably a record-breaking amount of cowbells clanking. Lots of intensity, lots of energy and lots of fun...even if it was well below the freezing point.

Mark raced great and I'm really proud of him. He placed a very respectable 16th out of 97 or so racers in the Men's 35-39 and hung in there w/ the best of them in the Elite race. He may be crazy, but he's good at 'crazy'...and I wouldn't have it any other way.

Saturday, December 15, 2007

It's Beginning To Look A Lot Like Christmas...

It's snowing here and holiday decorations abound. It's cold, but so beautiful out. For a CA girl, who always had sunny Christmas holidays, snow at this time of year is a treat. It really makes things magical. Hope you're all enjoying this special time of year...and I hope you'll get to experience some sparkling white snow for Christmas! Cheers!

Sunday, December 09, 2007

Crazy Is As Crazy Does...

video

As a CA native, I find the sport of CycloCross slightly insane. 16 degrees? riding on snow and ice? riding up hills/down hills? hurdling over barriers? Crazy!!!

But as I stood out in the snow all bundled up I felt oddly nostalgic for my snow skiing days. It occurred to me that riding your bike in the snow is not that far from strapping skis on your feet, swooshing down a mountain, hitting moguls at tops speeds and dodging other skiers and trees. I suppose if you hit a patch of ice you'll get slammed to the ground equally hard in both sports. At least in cyclocross they wear helmets!

Here's a video of Mark from today's race, the KS State Championships. He took 3rd place.
Way to go, Crazy! ;-)

Thursday, December 06, 2007

First Snow Day!

video

Yeah! Snow! We had about 3 inches of snow and it's going to snow all weekend. The dogs LOVE the snow and it's so fun to watch them run and play, leaving footprints in the white blanketed yard.

Here is a video of Buster...Buster loves playing with his ball in the snow. He stayed outside for the longest time, just tossing around his ball, leaping into the snow and running around.

Backstory is that Buster is having some serious health issues, but the snow perked him up, making this an even more special day. I think the snow lighted all of our spirits. Happy first snow day!

Christmas with Kate


Had a great weekend celebrating the holidays with my family...Dad, Carole, Craig, Kirsten, Carrie, Mikayla, Michelle, Brad, Kate, Will and Mark. We missed seeing Stacie, Brad and Nathan as well as my Aunt Wendy and family, who we usually get to see at the holidays. It's amazing we managed to get the crew together that we did! It was soooo wonderful to see everyone and spend time together.

BIG shout out to Michelle and Brad who allowed us to descend on their house and convert it to full blown holidays mode within 24 hours - tree, lights, fancy table, gifts - the whole nine yards. A great time was had by all...it was fun to help the Warezak's decorate and even more fun to kick-off the holidays together.

As you can see, Kate has had a 'preview' of Christmas morning. This is a photo of her after opening her gift from Mark and I (apropos given Mark is an expert/pro cyclist). It's a Red Rider scooter, which we call a pre-trike. It was a huge hit, especially after Michelle pointed out the bell! I actually caught her scooting around on it the next day in the living room when no one was looking! She just got on and started playing/riding around! We hope she'll have lots of fun on it and look forward to providing her with the upgraded trike when she can reach the pedals.

I can probably speak for everyone when I say that this weekend really made it feel like the holiday season. It was so nice to see everyone without the stress of the actual holiday too. I was really looking forward to spending time with the babies, but didn't realize how much fun it was to also just watch Craig, Dad, Kirsten et al spending time with the babies as well. Those babies are so loved, it's wonderful to see firsthand.

Here's to the next holiday (Easter? June 22? - yes it's a holiday!)...hopefully we'll get to do it again, and hopefully we'll get to see more family members.

Cheers to a great start to the holiday season!

Thursday, November 22, 2007

Giving Thanks



It's that time of year...leaves are falling, winter chill reminds us to 'get cozy' in warm blankets and sweaters, to slow down and to reflect and give thanks.

I'm thankful for the love of family and friends, thankful for 3 furry animals that share my life and bring me joy daily, thankful for the comforts of home and thankful for good health and happiness.

As Thanksgiving marks the beginning of the hustle and bustle of 'the holiday season', I also like to take time to reflect on the year. It's been a GREAT year...so many beginnings, so many new experiences and a lot of wonderful memories...all cherished and very dear to my heart.

My holiday wish for all is that I hope you'll find time to slow down, watch some falling leaves (like Lil Louise above), snuggle up with loved ones on chilly nights and reflect on all the wonderful things in your life. We all have many reasons to be thankful.

Love to all...God bless & Happy Thanksgiving!

Saturday, November 17, 2007

Dog Paddle

video
Go Athena Go! Athena has a new hobby...swimming! To help with her knees and to keep her in 'bionic' shape, she has started swim therapy. This is her second time EVER swimming and she's just getting the hang of it. At first she sorta freaked out, but she settled down when she realized that she does know how to swim. She's a born natural and once she gets going, she really likes it. It sure is a work out!

Thursday, October 18, 2007

Bel Far Niente



One of the best parts of our trip to Italy was learning the art of bel far niente. I think if I was there another week I could have mastered it like a true Italian. Bel far niente, the beauty of doing nothing, is not only an art form, it's one of the fundamentals of life in Italy. Italians take great pride in the ability to 'do nothing'. To 'do nothing' the Italian way is actually quite difficult for an American that is used to being plugged into work, computers, cell phones and generally moving at the speed of light.

'Doing nothing' the Italian way doesn't mean to sit around and literally do nothing...it's the ability to enjoy doing nothing imparticular. It's mastering the passeggiata (evening stroll in the piazza), people watching with a gelato in hand, sipping a glass of chianti classico watching the sunset...and so on. Italians will do this for hours...much longer than is comfortable for an antsy American. More importantly, doing these things is expected in Italy. It's unnatural not to take significant time out of your day to 'do nothing'.

I love the entire concept of bel far niente and I'm trying to find beauty in doing a little 'nothing' each day. So far, I'm finding it's a lot easier to do in Italy...sipping wine watching the sun set over the vineyards & olive groves with the scent of rosemary wafting in the breeze. Lucky for me, all I have to do is look at this photo, close my eyes and just like that...I'm back in Italy practicing the fine art of 'bel far niente' like a true Italian.

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

Back to the Races



Back from Italy and back to the same ol' grind. I'll write more about Italy in future posts. It was a great trip and while it's great to be back with the dogs, I do miss 'la dolce vita'. We've been back 3 weeks now and not only are we back to work, home life, midwest living...we're 'back to the races'.

Cyclocross season has started and I've already had a decent dose. Two races under my belt and I think I get it. It's definitely a different scene than mountain biking - new crew of racers & bystanders, pumping music (although I think I got an overdose of Paula Abdul on Sunday's race), play-by-play announcers and clanging cowbells. It was reassuring to see the return of the BIG ORANGE GORILLA that ended the mountain bike season. Good to see some things are the same as mountain biking!

Wednesday, September 12, 2007

Roma! Roma! Roma!




Ciao from Rome! We got here safely albeit very tired from the flight. Tomorrow we leave for Toscana and take our lives in our hands (driving in Italy). We did most of Rome in 2 days...everything but the Vatican. Next time.

Sunday, September 02, 2007

A Few of My Favorite Things



Everyone loves babies...but when they are your babies, you love them most. Kate and William are 'my babies' - at least that's how I refer to them. Technically, they are my niece and nephew and if anyone loves them more, that's my sister and her husband, Brad. I take dibs on loving them most after their parents. I hate that I am so far away from them, but I can safely say, I think about them many times a day - in my thoughts and prayers - and send them love across the miles all the time (and like a good Auntie, I spoil them with care packages).

Every day when I talk to my sister, I get to hear Will's little newborn baby coos and Katie's latest word (is there anything cutier than the high pitched baby "hi!" - ???!!!).

It's hard being far away from these darlings, but luckily, a phone call or a webcam is all I need to keep them close in heart until our next personal visit. Hugs and Kisses babies!

Wednesday, August 29, 2007

Stereotypes can be deceiving...



Which of these dogs is 'dangerous'? Hmmm...think again...

If it's one thing I have learned over the last 6 years, it's that you can't listen to stereotypes. You can't take the media reports as gospel. You can't rely on perceived public opinion to formulate your own opinions. I have learned this lesson through one very special dog.

My little brown dog, Athena, is a Staffordshire Bull Terrier. As a firm believer in destiny, it didn't take me long to realize that she, quite literally, walked into my life for a reason. Since I was really young, I always had an affinity for dogs and always considered myself a 'dog person'...but after 6 years with Athena, I can confidently say, unless you've come to truly understand the bully breeds, you aren't truly a 'dog person'. Not only has Athena taught me not to trust stereotypes, she's made me an active participant in my community. I have always been involved in animal rescue (and painfully aware of shelter statistics) but owning a bully breed has given me an entirely new sense of civic duty.

While Athena is my 'Angel Terrier' (a term I use when asked what kind of dog she is as it aptly describes her), she unfairly has stigma attached to her. This stigma goes WELL beyond the casual, 'oh those dogs are dangerous' misconceptions which I dutifully debunk on our daily walks. The stigma dictates where I can and can't live, where I can and can't take her, what insurance provider I can have, what type and how much insurance I am required to have, etc. etc. etc.

Because Athena looks the way she does, my rights and decisions I am afforded as a US citizen, let alone a responsible dog owner are severely narrowed. It is for this reason that Athena is accredited with engaging me in local government. I've written numerous letters, attended and spoke at city council meetings, have met amazingly intelligent people of action and have found a new sense of patriotism through grassroots efforts. In a nutshell, Athena has given me a voice and a very important reason to use it.

People are defined by their passions and are driven by 'heart'. All dog people know that every dog in our life teaches us things...in almost every case, dogs teach us things we never knew we were capable of, they redefine us in ways that reach into the depths of our souls. Athena has taught me so much in 6 years...to look beyond the stereotypes, educate myself, form my own opinions, have a voice and use it. This little brown dog has taught me the true meaning of RED, WHITE AND BLUE.

(And. yes, the little white dog - aka "Snapdragon"- is more dangerous. But we love her just the same!)

Want to give dogs a voice in your community? Check out the Canine Legislative Conference 2007!
http://www.kcdogadvocates.org/dnn/CLC2007/tabid/54/Default.aspx

Saturday, August 18, 2007

Swim Dogs Swim!





Today was the Lenexa Dog Swim and Pet Fest...Buster and Louise got to go swimming in the big city pool (in addition to various kiddie pools)! What fun they had and what fun it was to see all kinds of dogs take over a pool!

Needless to say, we have some VERY tired, worn out wet pups who are both sleeping next to me. I think they might be dreaming about next year's dog swim...can't wait!

Tuesday, August 14, 2007

Orange You A Big Gorilla!



MTB season isn't over until you've stood under a giant orange gorilla!

The Larsen Family has a new yearly photo contest..."Most Random Photo Award". The goal is to take a pic of yourself in the most random situation. This is definitely worthy of an entry!

This is Mark after the Lunatic Fringe MTB race in Smithville, his last of the session...we're just glad there was a giant gorilla to help commemorate!

Friday, August 10, 2007

Have Paws will Travel




Ever the resourceful terrier, Louise the Westie, decides it's time to take the travel arrangements into her own hands...uh, paws. Personally, I think she's irritated that we are going without her so she's actually making her own travel plans. She's crafty that little white dog! I fully expect to board the plane to Italy and see her already sitting on the plane, tiara and all...

Thursday, August 09, 2007

Deja Vu





I've always thought my sister looked a lot like my mom, but it didn't strike me how much she truly resembles my mom until I came across this photo last night.

Mark and I were looking through my old family photos (yes, time to share the horrible "this is how I looked as a teen in the 80's pictures"...the horror!) and we came across this photo of me, my mom and my brother. I got this really weird feeling of deja vu the minute I laid eyes on it...probably because essentially the same photo of Michelle, Will and Kate was sitting on my coffee table waiting to be framed.

I immediately grabbed the photo and held them up to each other and was overwhelmed by the likeness (as was Mark). I think you can all agree by looking at these photos that Michelle looks A LOT like my mom - same eyes, same face shape, same smile (okay, M has Dad's nose but still!), same dimples when smiling, similar hair...But when I look at this picture, the similarities go beyond just their physical likeness.

True, they look alike...("as it should be", says Mark)...but I see so much more of my Mom in Michelle now that she is a mother herself. I can see Michelle resembling Mom in the way she rocks Will, in the way she plays with Kate and in the way she adores both with her whole heart.

In looking at the photos side-by-side, I see selflessness. Mom had so much love for us, she was defined by us. Loving us gave her a sense of self that only a mother could know and a child can understand. I can now see the same selflessness in Michelle. And...being one of the kids in the photo, I can understand how loved Kate and Will are going to be. Lucky lucky babies.

Monday, July 16, 2007

First Mountain Bike Season Behind Me...



Mark may be standing in first place on the podium, but I think I'm deserving of my own award...I've completed my first mountain bike season as photographer and 'water replenisher'. Mark and his friends have done a great job of introducing me to the sport and making me feel a part of this rogue, traveling band of cycling enthusiasts. I've been places I never would have gone and seen things I never would have seen...lakes, parks, small country towns, rows and rows of corn, a giant orange gorilla (I'll elaborate on this later) and so much more.

Mark has wrapped up both Heartland and MidWest Fat Tire racing series by winning his category, so we get to reclaim our Sundays. Time to focus on Cyclo-Cross I'm told. Just when I learn the ins and outs of mountain biking, I am thrown into another new sport. I'm actually looking forward to it! MORE COW BELL!

Wednesday, July 11, 2007

They're Baaaack!



Yes, my dreaded foe, the cicada, is back. Many people here in the Mid-West have fond associations with this alien insect. "They ARE summer, it's not summer without them!", "We use to have fun collecting their skins", "I think they're cool!", they all chime in when I moan and complain about the summer visitor's incessant shrieking.

I was really hopeful they just wouldn't show up this year as the cacophony started well after summer arrived. Our peaceful dog walks now include the infamous "EEE..EEE.EEEE.EEEE...." at noise levels that can drown out the sound of a lawn mower. Imagine the sound track to the shower scene in Psycho, turn up the shrill factor, put it on a loop that doesn't stop and you'll have good idea of the torture these bugs bestow on your ears (and nerves!).

With their arrival, unlike native mid-westerners that welcome the din of these creatures, I am already counting down the days until Fall and their impending departure...when I can enjoy a nice peaceful, quiet evening walk with the dogs. I guess these cicadas are another proof point that you can take the girl out of California but you can't take California out of the girl.

Wednesday, July 04, 2007

Celebrate Your Independence

The 4th is always a fun holiday...hang out, grill, sparklers, fireworks, parades. It's a great time to celebrate because freedom and the values of our forefathers are truly a gift. Hope you're able to get into the spirit like Buster & Athena!

We tried to celebrate outdoors until Mother Nature decided she wanted to have her own firework show by granting us a thunderstorm. What would a true Mid-West 4th of July be without a thunderstorm? I'm sure it will blow over and everyone will be out grilling again.

Happy 4th...rain or shine...

Wednesday, June 27, 2007

June 22nd...A Big Day





What a lucky Aunt I am! Two adorable kids entered my life on the same day...granted Kate came first by one year...still June 22nd now has a lock on my heart thanks to these beautiful babies. I think this special day has a lock on all our hearts now.

I decided to look up other important events that happened on June 22nd...

June 22, 1377 Richard II succeeds Edward III as king of England

June 22, 1633 Galileo Galilei forced to recant Earth orbits Sun by Pope (but on Oct 31, 1992, Vatican admits it was wrong)

June 22, 1775 1st Continental currency issued ($3,000,000)

June 22, 1847 Doughnut created

June 22, 1870 Congress creates Department of Justice

June 22, 1870 1st Boardwalk in America invented

June 22, 1910 1st Zeppelin with passengers sets afloat

June 22, 1930 Lou Gehrig hits 3 home runs in a game, Ruth hits 3 in doubleheader

June 22, 1939 Future Queen Elizabeth of England meets future husband Philip

June 22, 1944 Franklin D. Roosevelt signs "GI Bill of Rights",

June 22, 1958 Game in Kansas City between A's and Red Sox delayed 29 minutes due to tornado

June 22, 1961 Beatles record Aint She Sweet, Cry for a Shadow, When the Saints Go Marching In, Why, Nobody's Child and My Bonnie, in Hamburg

June 22, 1962 1st test flight of Hoovercraft

June 22, 1970 President Nixon signs 26th amendment, voting age lowered to 18

June 22, 1976 San Diego Padre pitcher Randy Jones ties record of 68 innings without a walk

June 22, 1982 Prince Chuck and Lady Di take Prince William home from hospital

June 22, 1983 NHL institutes a 5 minute sudden death overtime period


There's more on the list of course, but that last one is vitally important. (heehee)

Anyway...lots of important things have happened on June 22nd, but none as important as the birth of two shiney happy babies. Happy Birthday Kate and William...you are so very loved.

Mini Adventure Into The Past


A few weeks ago, on the way home from a bike race (in the middle of nowhere) Mark and I stopped off in Jamesport MO. Jamesport is a quaint little town trapped in time. When you visit Jamesport, you can't help but feel like you're an intruder from the future. Women in long skirts & bonnets, hats on bearded men and horse-drawn carriages are the norm here...if you see anyone at all. I think you could have heard a pin drop in this quintessential western ghost town scene.

We found an antique shop open, welcoming us with a friendly "Yes we're open", so we explored for awhile. Coffee grinders and locks that looked like they came from the turn of the century. Baby booties from the 20's. An impressive collection of Coke bottles that could have been in the Coke museum. Silverware and photos that held secrets of their past. Lunch boxes and McDonald's Happy Meal glasses that Mark and I remembered growing up which somehow connected us to this store and town of the past.

I guess we all have a past... it's important to remember that while our pasts are unique, we share it with people, places and things. So next time you come across a small town that has as an old store with a "Yes, we're open" sign...take a step in. You may be pleasantly whisked away to the past in a mini adventure of your own.

Tuesday, June 05, 2007

Take Time to STOP and Do What You Love

I feel somewhat enlightened this morning. It's a beautiful morning here this morning...crisp, Spring morning where the air and sunlight is just perfect.

Normally mornings are rushed and slightly crazed as you run through your mental checklist of chores and to-dos for the day while you gulp down coffee. This morning was different...thanks to Lou.

We let Lou outside to 'do her thing'...usually she relieves herself and comes back in to join the frantic morning fray as we bob and weave around her in the kitchen, but this morning was different. This morning she strolled out onto the lawn and walked over to the daffodils and had a sniff around. Then she spotted a squirrel in the tree (her favorite pastime in the world is squirrel hunting). She sat her chunky little rump down and quietly watched the squirrel in the tree...not to hunt it, but to just sit and 'be with the squirrel'. I can only assume this was a very calm zen moment for her.

Normally we'd yell at her to get back into the house because we had 'things to do and places to be', but it was too perfect of a moment. Instead we stopped and watched her, watching the squirrel. It was nice to just 'stop'.

In that very calm perfect moment, with the crisp air and perfect sunlight...Lou reminded us to take time to STOP and do what you love. Leave it to a dog to remind me of the important things in life. Thank you Lou...

Saturday, May 19, 2007

Athena's Bionic Surgery - Part II




Well, she did it...two knees, two torn ligaments, and now, two bionic knees. One day after surgery and she's got her bully smile back and is up and around (on 3 legs that is). Tail wags for Mark, but not for me yet...it's as if she knows I'm the one responsible for putting her through this misery. Poor Athena.