Letters From Armenia

A letter and photo arrived this week from Armenia. Geghetsik is really turning into a lovely young lady. At 13, she's grown her hair longer and is beginning to lose the baby fat in her face. She says the winter there is warm, without much snow. I guess the U.S. took the brunt of it for them this year.

A couple of weeks ago I received a letter from Nazeli's mom, Nazeli being too young to write, of course. Their family is doing fine and appreciates the support from abroad. Her mom seems very nice. She did not, however, include any photos.

I still hope to travel to Armenia one day and meet both the Uchparmakyan and Arakelyan families in person.

They Will Survive

I stumbled across this little video this morning. It was posted on the blog of a friend of a friend who suffered physical and emotional abuse quite literally at the hands of her husband.

The people in this video, men and women, girls and boys, reveal expressions that disclose their various stages of recovery...survivorship. When I look into their faces, I can feel the abuse they've suffered.

It moved me to tears.

These are people who live next door. You may work with them. They are your aunt, sister, cousin, student, teacher, husband, employer, grocery store checker. They are all around us. They may be us.

If you know someone – or are someone – who’s been taking abuse from another, please speak up. The shame belongs to the abusers, not to the ones who, so ironically and so cruelly, have been taught to feel the shame.

Villa Toscano

Steve and I had a wonderful weekend. Saturday, he spent the day with Sara and her new beau, and I went off to pick oranges with friends at Amber's house. After a few hours of enjoying all the good company and the fire pit and munchies, Bill and I went off to relax over a cuppa at Starbucks.

Sunday morning Steve and I met a new friend for coffee, then took off from there and got happily lost driving all over hill & dale in the gold country (Hwy 49 south of Placerville). After enjoying the rolling hills, the moss-covered rocky crags, and the occasional mist in the trees (or was that just our imaginations?), we eventually found our intended destination.

We landed at Villa Toscano Winery, where we are evidently members. We needed to pick up our January selection. First, though, we did some tasting, then had some hot sannies in the bistro. We then went on to some other wineries in the area, tasted more, and bought more.

Sunset found us at our favorite Mexican restaurant in Folsom. They offer unique dishes, excellent Long Island Iced Teas, and a friendly staff. We think it's a great place to munch the hot chips and fresh chipotle salsa, and relax at the end of the day.

Welcome to Villa Toscano, as you enter through the verdigris gates.

Some of the vineyards surrounding the winery.

 This is just the view of the "bistro." The main building with the tasting room is much prettier and can be see on their website.

 Now leaving through those same gorgeous gates.

A Valentine To All Girls

If you are or ever were once a girl, if you have a girlfriend or a friend who is a girl, if you have a niece, a daughter, or a step-daughter, if you have a mother, a step-mother, or a grandmother, please pull up a chair and watch this frank and passionate 20 minute talk by Eve Ensler.

Ms. Ensler declares there is a "girl cell" in us all -- males and females alike -- and that it is something we have all been taught to suppress...but at what cost? She tells heartfelt and gut-wrenching stories of girls around the world who have overcome dramatic adversity and violence to reveal the astonishing strength of being a girl.

If after watching this talk you feel compelled to do something for the girls of the world, here are a few options to consider:

There are many, many more. As always, before you donate to any charity, I recommend you research their business practices and philosophies. I use:

If you choose not to participate in any of these female-focused charities, that's okay. I won't hold it against you. But please remember this talk and the paradigm it conveys the next time you talk with the girls in your life.

Home & Family

Morro Bay & Mary's Memorial

After a quick business trip to Spokane in late January, I collected the boys - all three of them - and we drove out to Morro Bay to attend Aunt Mary's memorial / celebration of life that was put on by the Lions and Lionesses at the Veterans Hall in Cayucos. It was great to see everyone there.

Thanks to Paul and Nell's chauffeur service, even Spike was able to attend.

That area of the Pacific coast is probably my favorite place to be. When Publisher's Clearing House finally shows up with that giant, cardboard check for me, the first thing I'll do is buy a huge, built-for-entertaining house out there within walking distance of the beach. You're all invited.

With apologies to Brooke and Cindy, it was wonderful to have my boys all to myself for the weekend. There was much conversation and hilarity! I didn't even mind all the diaper changing (Landon, not Joel & Koby).

After the leaving the Musso family in Morro Bay, the kids and I drove to SLO to have lunch with Coleman. It was a quickie, but great to see him! (Why didn't we take any pictures?!) Then we headed east again, stopping in Templeton for a quick taste of wine at Four Vines. Then it was back to Visalia for more laughs and a couple of zzz's before Koby and I headed north again on Sunday.

Home Improvements

I've finally finished painting the kitchen cabinets!



Okay, so maybe in pictures it doesn't look like much, but it was a long, difficult process getting all the purple cabinet doors to turn "capuccino" and dying the orange cat grey.

While shopping at Lowe's on Saturday, we found kitchen cabinet knobs that - lo and behold - we both liked. We got them - and the new drapes for the new living room window - installed on Saturday - just in time to host the gang here for Superbowl Sunday.

I'm really happy with the way these projects are turning out. The kitchen looks brighter and more spacious. Next will be the arduous removal of the kitchen baseboards -- which were GLUED ON! -- then installation of cork planks over the existing crappy laminate flooring. Once that's done, we can install new baseboards, sink and faucet (and counters??). I'm also going to remove the 1970's recessed fluorescent lighting, finish that alcove and install a low profile ceiling fan, then put can lighting around three sides, directed to the work surfaces.

When the kitchen is done, I'll start in on my bathroom.

* whew *