Monthly Archives: December 2013

Why I Love Christmas

Why do I love Christmas so much?

Christmas is about decorating, cooking, but most importantly, Christmas is about family.

Christmas is all about continuing long-standing traditions and strengthening the family unit. A time that is synonymous with family.

That is what I love about Christmas. 



Keith & Anthony

As I sorted through our photos this morning, I found two quotes expressing the sentiment.  

The best of all gifts around any Christmas tree: the presence of a happy family all wrapped up in each other.
– Burton Hillis

Christmas is the day that holds all time together.
– Alexander Smith

 Hope you had a great Christmas, full of love, laughter, and joy. 

Fixation with Morbid Scenes

“Paul Walker just died in a car crash,” my brother-in-law said, reading his iPhone. “Just up the street from here.”

 “Who?” the rest of us asked. “What?”

The name rang a bell, but the abruptness of the news – mid-conversation on a different issue – sent us all scrambling through our collective minds.

“Yeah, look it says right here, on Yahoo news. Star of Fast and Furious dies in car crash in Santa Clarita Valley, on Loop Place.”

We were in Santa Clarita Valley, hosting a get together at our house.

Someone else jumped in: “Where is Loop Place? Is it really close?” 

I saw questions and thoughts forming in several people’s eyes. Some were seriously considering a drive to Loop Place.

After a little back and forth, the decision was made: no one was driving to Loop Place, even if just ten minutes away.

In the morning, the news exploded all over the media. We learned everything about the young actor who left this earth too soon. The face was definitely familiar, although I’ve never seen a Fast and Furious movie, and they were apparently producing number seven.

I found myself reflecting upon this, and the fact that the whole thing happened so close to my house. I know that area well. There’s a Walmart store at the base of the foothill, a couple hundred yards from where it all went so wrong. One of the stores I regularly visit.   

The idea that I should go to the scene, though, just because it was near, and because a number of Hollywood stars have started coming to pay their respects, and because many other people have done so, seemed over the top.

This sad event brought to mind James Dean’s car crash and untimely death in 1955. It happened at an intersection of two highways, no more significant than any other intersection. Except this place located between Los Angeles and California Central Coast continues to attract hundreds of visitors every year. 

Is this unhealthy morbid fascination or human nature?

Perhaps a little of both.

History tells us that since the dawn of time, humans have had a fascination with tragedy. In Ancient Rome, watching a man fight a lion was considered entertainment.   

In a Science Daily article titled Morbidity Explained, psychologists point to our nature.  

“The morbidity of sorrow is often a productive sluggishness, a time when the soul slows down, too weary to go on, and takes stock of where it’s been and where it’s going. During these pauses, we often discover parts of ourselves we never knew we possessed, emotions and even talents that, properly activated, enrich our lives.”

So, pausing to reflect upon the macabre (especially that which happened in close proximity) is the soul’s way to slow down and recalibrate, re-plan… 

Of course, not everyone has this fascination. Psychology also tells us many people don’t even think in images because they don’t want to have the unwanted mental pictures. 

A few days later, with family visiting from Virginia, we took a trip to the store at the foothill of the crash site.

Sure, I can blame my husband. He’d been talking about showing family members the site before they departed.

Is it a tourist site already? I asked, partly annoyed, partly curious.

Curiosity won, and I joined the group for a drive up the hill. Several news vans sat parked there, and a group of people had gathered, more folks arriving by the minute.


We paid our respects, and as we drove back down the hill, I found myself thinking of the men (the actor and his friend) I never knew, of everything they’d left behind, of the mind-numbing tragedy, and for a while, it all hit as if I’d known them.   

There is a longer, deeper story here, but it will take some time to take stock of what happened.


Brrr Cold


What is the coldest temperature you’ve ever been in?

Because, let me tell you my dear friends … I’m freezing. Here in Southern California.  And that’s wrong, wrong, wrong.

An Arctic front is moving through California at this time, knocking temperatures way down, prompting frost advisories and freeze warnings. The high yesterday was 52 Fahrenheit. The low? Somewhere in the low 30s, even some 20s in the canyons and valleys. And the wind? Biting, I’m telling you. Stepping outside is simply painful.

I know what my friends on the East Coast or in Minnesota are thinking. That’s cold?

For this area, yes … very.

But the Arctic front is moving out, and by this weekend we should be back in the normal 60s, some 70s.

The cold weather brought back memories from those days, long ago, when I experienced real winters in East Europe. I remember days so cold that car doors were frozen shut. When we literally hurt from the cold, and our faces turned different colors.When being outside for longer than 30 minutes came with the threat of frostbites. 

But I don’t think I could live in such a climate any longer. For the past 20 years, my blood has been California -ized.

So, as I’m sitting here with a cup of coffee, steam wafting in my face, tell me about your coldest day. And how did you cope.


Photo courtesy:

Hiking the So. Cal. Mountains


After a four-day showcase of my family’s cooking (and lots of eating), we finally went for a hike.

Oh, nature! What beauty you bestowed upon our land!

The sight of hills that spill out onto breathtaking vistas is the surest way to put everything into perspective. Yeah. Nature sucks all worries into the wild, spewing them out across the valley floor, rendering them too infinitesimal to matter.

Climbing up a narrow trail can be tiring and immensely energizing. And stunning mountain trails is what we have all over Southern California.

From short paths to long, interconnected backbone trails for those seeking multi-day treks, Southern California has hiking for everyone.

Up there, one can see the city from a world away, a secluded sanctuary of nature — hidden places with amazing waterfalls and rock formations. 

After Thanksgiving, we hiked up a place called Towsley Canyon, a 4000-acre area of the Santa Clarita Woodlands Park.

a hike up Towsley Canyon

We didn’t make it to the top this time, not even close to the half-point mark. With a nine-year old and a senior family member along for the hike, we thought it best to reach the Ranger’s Post (a mile into the walk) and head back.

I’m not an experienced hiker. But each time I hike up the mountain, the walk feels as if that’s what I was meant to do — be in the midst of nature, let the landscape fall behind as I move, wonder what’s ahead.

Take in the tranquil setting and climb nature’s hills.

The best part is the silence. The wind. The nature sounds. One has plenty of time to think out there. Although I didn’t spend much time alone with my thoughts (as I like to on long walks), there were a few stolen moments when it felt like a great mental exercise.

So, tell me about your most mind-clearing walks.  


top photo courtesy: flickr photo sharing