During the year may you have... Enough happiness to keep you sweet. Enough trials to keep you strong. Enough sorrow to keep you human. Enough hope to keep you happy. Enough failure to keep you humble. Enough success to keep you eager. Enough friends to give you comfort. Enough wealth to meet your needs. Enough enthusiasm to make you look forward to tomorrow. Enough determination to make each day better than the day before.
Wishing you all a very happy 2009. It WILL be a great year!
Mother Nature's cruel prank. Unbelieveable. Today is starting off in the 60s then within a few hours the temps drop to freezing. Oh the joys of living in the midwest!!! In the 6 years (eeek! how horrific is that???) I've lived here, this is a first for me.
We're off to Mark's National Cyclocross Championship so I have the 'pleasure' of witnessing this event first hand. At the start of Mark's race it will be upper 50s, when he finishes an hour later, it is expected to be in the low 30s. Wish me luck!
Okay, I've been 'tagged'. My friend Marla tagged me...so here goes.
This 'tag' requires 'tagee' to post and blog about a photo on page 6 of your Flickr. Marla blogged about a great photo of her daughter Ainsleigh playing with a paper bag...ahhh, the simple joys of childhood! I don't have a Flickr account, so I decided to dive into my Ofoto (I still can't call it Kodak Gallery b/c I was part of the dotcom era and my company was partnered with Ofoto, the original Kodak Gallery) account. I thought I'd try to find a photo that was a '6' of something. Turns out, the 6th album I created was a photo album of pics of my mom. As a means to capture, keep and share some old photos, I scanned them and placed then in my online albums.
As many know, Mom passed away when I was 19 years old of Metastatic Melanoma (skin cancer). They never did find the primary source of her cancer and presumed it was caused by a bad sunburn when she was younger. Cancer is that way...it can lay dormant for a long while.
Now, Mom loved the ocean. She wasn't a sun worshiper my any means, but she loved being outside in the sun. Being indoors was not her thing. It was a bit of a culture shock when we moved to the Bay Area and colder temp/rain forced us all inside for days at a time (I shutter to think what she'd do if she had to move to KC!). During our first winter in NorCal, she was always feeling our foreheads, asking if we felt okay, "because you look so pale!". Sun and the ability to be outdoors always provided that healthy glow that was so much a part of our lives. Even when she was diagnosed, she'd still find ways to spend her down time outside. She wasn't going to let her cancer change her life.
To this day, I don't believe that 'the sun' caused my mom's cancer. 'Life stress' is what flipped the switch on the cancer. However I do believe that everyone should avoid too much sun exposure. A sunburn may seem harmless, however painful, at the time, but it could have devastating effects in the long run. That said, a life of balance is so so critical. Finding ways to mediate stress is crucial. Too much stress, like a bad sunburn, can cause irreparable damage. Sooo...I guess like Marla's PSA about recycling...my PSA is 'always wear sunscreen' and 'be sure to find balance in all things'.
Not a day goes by that I don't think about Mom. And naturally, the holidays are especially hard...Christmas was Mom's holiday. The decorating, the entertaining, but mostly because it was time for everyone to slow down and spend time with loved ones. That is what she cherished most in life...putting day-to-day stress aside and just being with family. I think that's why she loved being outdoors and at the beach...like a holiday, it's a great way to escape and spend valuable time with the ones you love.
So, I guess the real PSA is from an amazing woman, my Mom...Please take time to *stop the madness* this holiday season, find time to DO what you love and BE WITH the ones you love. Don't miss any opportunity to create cherished memories. Thanks to Mom, I have lots of cherished memories of carefree days at the beach, 'wind in our hair days' on the ski slopes and lots of happy holidays.
Cheers to you and yours slowing down and making special memories this holiday season...and everyday...
Oh...and I guess I have to 'tag' someone else...Mark, Michelle, Anita and Ben/Allison (a few of my blogging friends), you've been tagged! Page 6 of Flicker or any photo and blog away! ;-)
It's been 9 years since the loveable lug entered my life. He is definitely goofy...and clumsy...and uncoordinated. He is also loyal, friendly and filled with unconditional love and devotion. Dogs are 'that way'. He's the original 'Marley' and if only I had the wherewithal to write a book about his antics, I'd be a best selling author and millionaire!
Anyway, I snapped this photo of him in a 'Buster moment'. What is he doing? Well, he's relaxing on the couch of course! Apparently a half sitting/half standing is a comfortable position for him. Goof. He was comfortable and didn't care how ridiculous he looks. Typical Buster.
It was an endearing moment that I'm glad I captured. I reminds me to embrace the silliness that is in each of us. And that you don't really need a reason to do something...if it's comfortable to you, go for it!
Today was the first snow day of the season. There is nothing as peaceful as waking to a fresh blanket of snow on a Sunday morning. Everything seems so still and calm. I love seeing nature so untouched. Of course as the day goes on it's clear that nothing stays still for long.
One of my favorite things in the whole world is watching my dogs lay fresh paw prints in the snow as they excitedly explore the new white wonder that wasn't there the day before. They each have a different reaction. Buster barrels through the snow - leaping and jumping and running his muzzle through it. Louise toddles around - slowing checking things out and getting snow bits on her face that blend in with her little white westie fur. And...Athena. Poor Athena. She charges out with the rest of the dogs but then quickly realizes how totally cold it is outside. She gingerly tiptoes through the snow then when her curiosity of this new white stuff is squelched she's done! She bolts back into the house never to go back out in it again (really, I have to leash her and drag her out). Time to dig out her sweaters and jackets!
The pic is their pawprints in their very first outing in the new snow...Louise's on the far left, Buster's down the middle and Athena's well, she starts down the middle but goes down the far right. It's also interesting to look at the prints...Lou prints are sure and steady, Buster's are 2 per step b/c he ran down the stairs and Athena...you'll note all four paws as she very cautiously bunny hopped down. Exactly their personalities...too cute!
Speaking of tracks in the snow...today was the first cyclocross race in the snow...so Mark was happy to lay some tracks of his own.
After our quiet Thanksgiving dinner, Mark and I decided to do down to the Plaza Lighting Ceremony. It's always very festive but this year it was particularly crowded because American Idol Winner, David Cook was there. I think everyone thought he was going to perform or something but he was only there to 'flip the switch' on the lights.
Anyway, we got there, found a place to park, got our hot chocolate and joined the masses to watch all kinds of stage acts. Entertaining and thankfully not too cold out. Then about 30 minutes into the program they (David Cook, brother and niece) turned the lights on in a very NYEve-esque countdown. Very cool to see the lights come on. Then there were fireworks and more entertainment.
Following the fireworks we decided to leave...that's were chaos ensued. I have never seen more driving dysfunction in all my life. It was a mess trying to get out of there. But after slightly raised tension levels we managed to get out of the traffic and safely home...thankful to have peace, quiet and relaxation again.
Yeah! My brother and sister-in-law are expecting their first child. A happy healthy baby girl will join our clan in January. We are all so excited!
It occurred to me after the initial excitement wore off that she will be the 'first-born baby girl Larsen'! Just like me!
I joke with Michelle that I think Kate should be mine because she's got this innate, fantastic design color sense and she loves dogs! And I feel this tremendous attachment to Will when I hold him, it's like we share this calm sensitivity that I know I'll learn more about when he gets older...but this new baby girl and I will share a unique and special 'generational make up' as the eldest Larsen daughter.
It will be amazing to see life repeat itself...and I'm sure it will be very touching for my father to see Craig holding his new first-born baby girl. The circle of life brings some amazing deja vous moments, doesn't it?
I just had to share a pic of one of my favorite people in the whole wide world. This photo of William makes me smile the biggest smile! Most photos of Will and Kate make me smile, but this one just grabs my heart.
If this isn't an indicator that it may be time to turn the heat on, then I don't know what is!
This morning we woke up and it was awfully chilly out. Fall is definitely here! Athena was curled up so tight on the couch it was clear that she was chilly, so I put a blanket on her. Next thing I know, Lou gets up on the couch and climbs on top of Athena to snuggle up with her to get warm. Or maybe she knew Athena needed to be warmed up?
This is the time of year that Athena crawls under the covers and doesn't come out until Spring. She barely has any fur so she gets cold very easily. She's like a heat seeking missile. Lou, on the other hand, gives off a nice radiant heat. She is so nice to snuggle with! So I guess they make a perfect pair. The Westie and the Staffie...snug as bugs in a rug.
A few weeks ago we went to visit nature at the new lake by our house...and nature came to us. Two does visited us in the backyard. Sometimes you don't need to go to far to see some pretty incredible things.
Now that the weather is cooling off and the seasons are changing, it's a great time to get out and explore.
Mountain Bike season 2008 came and went. Rain outs, travel, heat, gas prices and a serious case of burn out made this a short season. I only attended 5 races (of 6, I think) and didn't have to tag along on any serious road trips.
I remember heading to the first race at Clinton Lake, I said to Mark, "I really don't think I'm ready for this". He agreed. I am not sure if it was a continued case of the Winter doldrums or if I was sensing his burn out or what...but the 'mountain bike thing' never really kicked in.
When he raced, he raced great...and I know he genuinely enjoyed it when he actually got out there and hit the trails w/ the guys... and the Heartland crew ALWAYS put on amazing gigs...but this year he seemed 'unattached'. That's the best way I can describe it. I got the sense that it wasn't just Mark either. I think the horrible Winter that took over Spring sucked up a lot of enthusiasm that's usually reserved for the sport.
While I didn't clock as many spectator hours on the MTB trails this year, I've been told that 'spare time' will be cashed in during Cross season.
I came home the other day to find Mark standing in the garage all googly-eyed working on his spare cross bike. That look, coupled by the goofy smile on his face, instantly let me know that there will be NO burn out for Cross season. In fact, I think the countdown is on until the mountain bike gets hung up...10 more days to be exact!
Funny, but I think I am actually ready for Cyclo-Cross season too. Something about brisk air, misty mornings and crunchy leaves on the ground are very appealing right now and has me saying, "Hang it up and hand over the cowbell!"
Buster is on the mend...again. He's had another bout with his hemolytic anemia. Now that it's affected a third organ (this time his joints), he's been diagnosed with Lupus. Poor pup. He's doing much better and starting to walk a little better (he's been limping/not using one hind leg for over 5 weeks).
I'm very thankful he's doing better. Buster and I have very deep connection. I swear he knows my every thought - I can just think the word 'walk' and he gives me that excited 'let's go!' look even if I haven't said a word. At 8 years old, it's too early for him to be so ill. He's being placed on 'maintain' meds that he'll have to take forever in hopes he stays healthy.
Other than limping, he's acting fine...playing with tennis balls and being his demanding self. Upside of having a bad leg means he can't jump, can't say I miss that. Lou has taken to following Buster around and sitting right next to him. I think she knows he's sick. A dog's sixth sense is really amazing.
I just have to share my excitement about our young relative that is a diving phenom. At just 15 years old, Kristian is currently training with the USA Diving 2008 Olympic Team. While he wasn't one of the two selected to dive in this year's Olympic games, he was selected as the first alternate. This means he will continue to train with the Olympic team and be ready to fly off to Beijing if the others can't dive.
Kristian is SUPER talented and we are all so proud that he more than accomplished his personal goals this year. No one is more deserving to be in his place than he is. He is an all-around great young man - amazing athlete, great student, super big brother/son and an all-around gentleman.
As the youngest athlete to win a gold in the World Junior Diving Championships (beating out the Chinese favorite), Kristian has already made is mark on the sport.
I'm saving my money now to head to London in 2012! Way to go Kristian!!!!
We had a great time in Laguna visiting family. Kate and William had a great 'pre-bday' or 'practice bday party' getting ready for their big day in Michigan on the 22nd. Kate will be two and William will be the big number one. It was really fun to see them and share their bday fun. It was also really great that Mark's parents came down to see us and meet my family.
Spending time with family was the best part of the weekend...and was much needed. Squeezing babies, sharing laughs with parents and siblings and just relaxing in the comfort of family made for a really nice weekend. I just wish we got to see each other more often. Until next time, we'll keep all the memories of the weekend close. To quote lil miss Kate, "Cheers!"
Roll cursor over photos to pause and see photo title...
Leaving KC Airport we witnessed a rare sight…millions (okay maybe that’s an exaggeration, but there were MANY) Mennonites. We thought, “how odd…don’t they denounce all things modern and chose a life of utmost simplicity?”…we were totally perplexed as were most travelers coming and going.
We got to Atlanta and while we were sitting having a bite to eat, up walks one of the Mennonites that was on our plane from KC, and sits down at our table with us…without a word. No pleasantries, just pulled out his chair sat down, opened his McDonald’s bag, took out his Quarter Pounder and started to eat. He then realized he didn’t have napkin. Mark kindly handed him a napkin and thus began our conversation:
“Thank you”, he grinned gratefully, “You’re welcome”, our eyes smiling back. I asked, “Did you just arrive from Kansas City? I believe you were on our flight”. “Why yes! I was at a brethren conference south of Lawrence KS”. This reply really peeked my interest…”A conference?” “Yes we have an annual conference every year. This year it was in Lawrence. 7,000 in attendance!” (okay…I think 7000 mennonites traveling from all over the USA equates to millions!) Of course questions are just swirling in my head (isn’t it against your beliefs to travel using modern means? What do you do at the conference?) but I refrain from letting them fly out of my mouth. He goes on to tell us it great fun and that he goes every year traveling between CA, PA, KS and his congregation in Florida. He was on his way to Germany, just outside of Frankfurt where there was going to be a huge 300 year anniversary celebration. (I’m beginning to think it’s all a façade and Mennonites just like to party!) Whatever his life entails it does him well…he’s 86 years old and looked more like 65...even if his long white beard tried to tell his real age. As he wishes us well and leaves us, Mark and I say to each other at the same time…”maybe there is something to be said for the simple life”.
Speaking of old men and the simple life…another perhaps even more random run-in occurred on our way to watch the Giro d’Italia. As the road weaves though pastures and old hillside towns, we would wave and shout “ciao” out our windows to the townspeople. Most people just waved and shouted their greeting of choice, “Ciao!” “Buon Giorno!” in response…but there was one little old man that shuffled his way into the middle of the road in front of our car so we had to stop.
We stopped (Mark with slight look of “oh crap” on his face) and he came around to my window…talking non-stop Italian in a dialect we REALLY couldn’t understand (or maybe his slurring was because he had dentures/no teeth?). Before we could say “non parlo Italiano molto bene”, like a flash, he was in the back seat of the car!!!
Mark and I looked at each other with a “what do we do now?!?” as he continues to rattle in Italian…”go, go! drive, drive!”. Somehow I decipher that he wants to go to he next town. He asks us our names, we answer and I think he tells us his, but can’t be sure. He sits in the back seat with his hands neatly folded in his lap looking ever so dapper in his nice shoes, suit and cap (quintessential attire for Italian men of his age – which by the way, we think is probably at least 86 like our Mennonite friend only his weathered skin and craggily smile show his true age…life in the Abruzze is simple, but rugged). We arrive at the next town and he starts in again with his strange version of Italian, so we assume he wants us to stop and let him out. We stop, he opens the door gets out, “grazie” and with a wave, he leaves us. As we drive off, we see him shuffle his way down the street, continuing on with his day as this was his routine.
Mark and I have to wonder which incident was more random ... A jetsetting, McDonald’s eating Mennonite or an old Italian gentleman who hitchhikes with American strangers for transportation? Whichever, both are reminders that you never know what you’ll encounter on your travels.
Please help if you can...Our friend is running a marathon in honor of her amazing daughter and has turned her efforts into a personal fundraising mission. Amelia is adorable and the Lamb's are an amazing family. Your donation to the Diamond Blackfan Anemia Foundation would be VERY appreciated. You may be saying to yourself, "why should I donate to strangers?"...Let me promise you, everyone is a friend to Amelia and the Lamb family. A gift from good people to good people, strangers or not, is often the most heartfelt and appreciated of all. Email me or post for donation specifics. You will bet a receipt from DBA Foundation for your generous tax deductible donation. Thank you and God bless.
No, Louise hasn't taken on a 'green lifestyle'...she's literally turned green. She had a great day rolling around in the grass and is now covered in grass stains! Anyone know how to get grass stains out of white fur?????
Spring is FINALLY here! Everyone is so relieved that it's warming up after a totally drawn out, cold, miserable winter. We have had a lot of rainstorms however which have completely derailed Mark's racing. Just about every race has been canceled.
With the race canceled today, Mark's found good use of his 'extra' time. It seems eradicating dandelions is almost a combat sport...especially when you have a yard the size of a football field!
Guess dandelions are the price you pay for warm weather. For Mark's sake, I hope the next few weeks see less dandelions and more racing.
Some may think she's an extra-terrestrial, to me, she's my Staffie Bull Terrier that's just misunderstood. She's may look tough, but she's a true softie. A friendly, happy snuggle bug of a dog. The antithesis of tough and mean, she'll do anything to please...including dressing up and taking funny pictures. If only Mark's bike had a basket on the front, we could have really gotten our ET on camera!
It's started again. Mark's Mountain Bike season has started...sort of. The weather here isn't really cooperating. It seems we just can't 'spring' out of winter. First race, postponed, second race - well, that's a whole story in and of itself - and third race, postponed.
Driving out to the race last weekend, I told Mark that "I wasn't mentally prepared for race season". He said he wasn't really either. Apparently not many people were...including the race promoters. There was a start delay and other bumps that had them off to a rocky start. It was still a nice day to be outdoors...weather was actually pretty nice so I was happy for the excuse to just sit in the fresh air.
I think everyone is soooooo sick of winter that we're all just sort of stuck in winter blahs mode. I'm so sick of it, I might (stress on the 'might') just welcome my foe, the cicada! For those of you that know me well, you know that's pretty drastic..and a little melodramatic!
Anyway...ready or not, racing is back...I'm just wishing Spring was back too.
I was thinking of things to Blog about since I hadn't in a while. Not much new, same ol' same ol. Today I was reading the news headlines on Yahoo! and saw a headline "Can Clinton Victories Slow Obama-mentum"...and blam! Something for me to write about!
STOP THE OBAMISMS! I CAN'T TAKE IT ANYMORE!
At first it was kinda funny (ie. SNL "you owe Obama girl a big Obamapology!") but it's gotten out of hand...so out of hand that the Slate.com has started the 'Encylopedia Barracktannica' (click the 'more' button on the widget above to see more obamisms).
All I can say is if I'm this fired up now, I am not sure I can wait until November...let alone another 4 years. *sigh* I guess you just have to laugh...(some are pretty funny).
It snowed big snowman-making flakes early this morning so we decided to have a little fun with the snow today. The neighbors made a KC Royals Snowman (he is a fan and sells tickets to companies for fun in retirement) and in true spirit of keeping up with the 'Meklers', we thought we'd make a snowman of something that reflected us. What better than a WHITE SNOW WESTIE? If there was more snow, we probably could have built a giant SnowBuster and SnowAthena, but since Louise is white and small, we decided to make a SnowLou. Not bad for a 15 minute creative snow venture, huh? We thought it turned out pretty cute...Lou agreed.
Punxsutawney Phil says we'll have 6 more weeks of Winter. We're all a little depressed about it, especially Louise. She longs to sit outside on the deck and squirrel hunt instead of passively watching the squirrels from inside.
Athena seeks out any tiny patch of sunlight shining in the window that she can find. A typical cat trait, I know, but Athena basically has no fur! She's like a sundial...she follows the warm sun rays wherever they go and I can predict where she is in the house depending on the time of day.
Buster...well...Buster is indifferent. He likes all kinds of weather. He's got the coat to handle the winter weather and loves to play in the snow. In the summer he'll just shed (ugh!) and gladly exchange snow for his doggie pool.
Mark and I? Sooooo ready for warm weather. It's this time of year that any CA native that says they 'love the seasons' will inevitably curse the cold weather and not so secretly admit that they miss the standard year-round 60 degree averages of non-seasonal CA.
We will ALL be counting down to the exit of the winter blahs.
I adore my niece and nephew. Even though they are far away, I am ever fascinated by how they are growing into these little people. They each have their own personalities. Can you guess who is 'crazy' and who is 'cute'?
Kate is cute, yes, but she's totally crazy. She's this tough little girly girl - carrying around her purse as she scales furniture (or anything she can climb). Friends with everyone and without an ounce of fear. A social climber in the making? Perhaps. The Class Clown? Likely.
Will is cute and cuter. He's sweet and angelic. When you hold him you just feel this sense of gentle warmth radiating from him. He's very determined and growing so much each day. He's just now sharing his personality with us and it's amazing to hear about his accomplishments. I got to hear his laugh today for the first time and - uh, be still my heart! A baby laugh is too adorable for words. I have a feeling William will be studious, competitive and kind. A perfect gentleman? Definitely.
I adore them both with all my heart and look forward to seeing more of their personalities shine as they grown and learn more about who they are. To quote one my favorite people (Kate), "wuv yuuuuu" little babies!
Ahhh, the beach. It's thawed out here in KC, but I'm still wishing I was back here...on the Adriatic coast in Italy. The warm sun, waves tumbling the rocks, sand, salt water breezes are characteristics of this coastline. Follow it farther north and you'll find expansive sandy beaches with cabanas and palm frawn umbrellas dotting the shoreline. Abruzzo really does have the best of all worlds...mountains, vineyards and beaches. I miss all of it. I wonder if my sculpture is still standing? I like to think it's still there awaiting my return.
Do you know what it's like to be cold? REALLY cold? I mean, REALLY REALLY cold??? Your skin gets sucked dry and then it starts to get a burning sensation as it freezes. It's HORRIBLE.
The dogs don't even want to go out. Athena came in the house crying last night b/c she had snow packed in her paws and it must have felt like little needles jabbing into her skin. Poor thing. Buster started limping b/c he didn't want to put his paws down and Louise tried her best to tiptoe across the snow. All of them run in the house and try to get their noses warm by shoving them into blankets and dog beds.
Don't get me wrong...we all like the winter and snow, but this is different. 10 degrees is not comfortable by any stretch of the imagination. I just don't know how people live in this type of weather most of the winter. Definition of insanity if you ask me.
I just hope I can keep it together until the temperatures rise (about a week from now) to above freezing. Any more of this, and I'll go insane. Landlocked is one thing, landlocked and forced to be a hermit in your house a different thing entirely. Talk about winter blahs!!! We'd be really happy if someone could send some hot sunshine our way...to defrost our noses and toes.
It's been a while since I have posted about Italy, so I thought I'd share one of the highlights from our trip. Our last day in Tuscany, Mark and I went to Arezzo. Arezzo is home to one of my favorite markets in the world. The last Saturday of every month they have the most amazing antique fair. Alas, our timing was off on this trip and there wouldn't be a fair, but I wanted to go check out Arezzo anyway.
It was a Sunday and most of the shops and cafes were closed, and I was starting to get a little bummed when I realized that our last day in Tuscany would be spent walking around a rather empty town. Arezzo has more than one piazza, so we strolled through one...empty...kept walking, enjoying the old architecture and history on our way to the next when...as we turned the corner...we hear pumping music (how did we not hear it before??? acoustical secrets of etruscan builders I suppose) and what sounded like cars racing...we turn another corner to the grand piazza and there they were... parata di Fiat dell'annata...a parade of old vintage fiats!
In a word, WOW! It was amazing...all these shiny candy colored Cinquecentos against a backdrop of weathered neutral-colored ancient walls. It was just about the coolest surprise and made for a great finale to the Tuscany portion of our trip.
We checked out a few of the cars, then, the grand master blew his whistle, waved a flag and...they were off! Engines revving, horns honking (I might add the horns were just as colorful as the cars - some played the musical score from The Godfather, others played La Cucaracha, others a whimsical little 'beep,beep') they lined up and drove out of the piazza. In ten minutes they were gone and the piazza was dead silent again. We couldn't believe our fortune of just stumbling on such a cool event. I guess that's the best way to experience Italy...just let Italy come to you.
This last weekend was the last race of the 2007 season. It was fun and it was real, and maybe a little real fun. I still think that riding your bike in winter weather is a crazy thing to do, but it is fun to watch.
Now that it's over, I will miss seeing the same ol' cycling diehards and the energy of Roger's pumping music...what I won't miss is bundling up, standing outside in subzero temps and sloshing through mud and snow.
As Mark hangs up his cyclocross bikes on a really good season (he placed second overall and I'm really proud of his accomplishments), I get to 'hang up' the wool socks, long johns, turtle necks, mud/snow boots, gloves and cowbells (I still think I should get some kind of award for doing a stellar job of cheering him on while risking frostbite - it should be noted that risking frostbite is totally opposite my CA girl DNA). ;-)
I'm looking forward to having our weekends free and flexible for awhile. We can take a few months off from the bike scene and hopefully we'll find time on the weekends to relax, slow down and explore a little. At least we don't have to 'race' into the new year...and that's a nice feeling.