Birthday Love, Long Distance

Fun (or not so) facts:

  • distance from Los Angeles, CA (LAX) to Madras, India (MAA)  is…8,969 miles / 14,434 kilometers
  • time difference between LAX and MAA…13 1/2 hours
  • last time hubby and I visited family in MAA…2008 (too long ago!)
  • time it takes for a birthday card to reach MAA from LAX by mail…about a week

I’ll admit it…I. am. spoiled!  In the late 90’s while living in Japan, if I wanted to communicate with family, I used a totally high-tech call back system and I called my family.  If I wanted to instant message friends (and they were willing to meet me at odd hours), I plugged in my phone cable, punched in my modem passwords, waited for the dial-up to connect, and then, by golly, we chatted.  This may sound old-school now, but at least I didn’t have to send word via pony express, hope that connections were properly made along the way so that weeks later my communication would, by God’s grace, reach its destination.  But NOW…things are even better!  We can skype, chat, and vonage our way into the homes of loved ones and not only are we able to exchange our words and thoughts, but we can show off those extra pounds we’ve put on, parade our latest look, and add emphasis with key facial expressions.  Being as spoiled as I am, however, even our most modern technology does have its drawbacks.

For one — when I have taken too long constructing a card, have let the days pass me by, and have not (air)mailed a birthday card at least one week in advance, technology cannot help me get it there yesterday…until now…well sorta.

Without further ado, I present to you, “Get Your Party On!”.  I created it for my father in law, Hari Uncle.  I was working with Unity’s HHSC44 challenge, with a clear vision of what I was doing, and then boy did I get stumped.  As soon as I got those supplies out and (finally) turned off that critical voice in my head, they lead the way — my motto of late, “just go with it” (wanna see the flick, too)!  Used distress inks to give the birds and owl a watercolor look, then used watercolor pencils sans the water for the feathers. Markered up the party hat. Can you guess that the sentiment is covering up the mistakenly smudged sentiment below — well it is — like I said, “just go with it”.

It’s a doubly special day, celebrating a wedding anniversary AND a birthday, so get your party hat ON!  Even though there are many miles (and kilometers) between us, you are always with us in our thoughts, and we receive your love through care packages, email, and regular phone calls.  Until we get to share in person, Hari Uncle, it is with great love that we send you these birthday wishes…long distance.

Happy Birthday, Hari Uncle!

stamps: {Ippity} Party Hat Wishes, Unity Aug 2010 KOM All You Need, Unity Aug 2008 KOM Remember Happiness

ink: ColorBox Brown, ColorBox Frost White, Tim Holtz Antique Linen, Tim Holtz Broken China

accessories: Papertrey Ink CS, Michaels scrap CS, EP, twine, Kimberly watercolor pencils

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My Two Dads

Reminiscent of the late 1980’s U.S. sitcom, I have been blessed with “My Two Dads”.  My relationships with each are as different as they are.  For the many reasons that makes them each unique, I wholeheartedly love them both, and am thankful to have them in my life.

Many things that I love about my dad can be categorized by his zest for life.  He likes things bright, bold, and a little zany.  Here’s what I mean — his favorite color is orange, and I don’t mean some muted burnt sienna orange, or a light pastel orange, I’m talkin’ neon, calling your attention, bright orange!  He drives what we call “The Blue Bomb” — it is one of the easiest cars to find in the parking lot and one of the easiest to follow on the freeway — it truly striking in its hue.  From all the places my dad visits — near or far, there are two items he must have to commemorate his travels — a shot glass, and a bumper sticker.  He loves all foods spicy, flavorful, and always followed by chocolate.

A graphic word cloud created by "Wordle" using  dad-related words
A graphic word cloud created by “Wordle” using dad-related words

To make my dad’s Father’s Day card I employed the use of Wordle, one of my favorite free Internet tools for creating graphic word clouds.  I basically did a free word association with all things “dad” – and for those words that I wanted to appear larger, I repeated them.

The result was a word cloud graphically represented in my choice of colors, font, layout preferences, etc.  I printed the image on dark green card stock, punched out several squares and then used a glue stick to arrange them over a textured wheat-colored card stock.  I punched out two gift tags, stamped “No. 1 Dad” and attached the tags with an orange eyelet, and stuck them on with a double-sided 3D foam adhesive.  Inside I used an Autumn Leaves “You are Amazing” stamp.  The result – a masculine and personalized card acknowledging the truly amazing dad that I have.

Number One Dad Father's Day card

Handmade Father's Day Card using Wordle

When I think of my Papi, I think of his love and fascination with all things scientific, historical, and indigenous.  As he is himself a mix of French and Incan, the interest in native people from his native Perú (and all over the world) totally makes sense.  The Nazca Lines have always intrigued him — how did they get there?  what do they represent?  what can we learn from them?  — all curious questions.  In addition to his insatiable appetite for knowledge and learning, my Papi also likes to stay below the radar.  This can be chalked up to humility, or simply attributed to his desire for a simple contented life.  When I hear my Papi’s voice in my head, his rant and rave will forever be “hay que preservar el castellano” — he never referred to us speaking Spanish, it was always “el castellano”, which can be literally translated to Castilian (but refers to Spanish) — but this has always been his way to remind us that we didn’t merely speak Spanish, but “castellano” — big difference!

In honor of Papi, I chose a bright pattern, highlighting geometric lines often associated with Native cultures, made sure to choose stamps bearing good news in “castellano”, and kept is simple and below the radar with a small, but honest, “Happy Father’s Day” message.

Handmade Father's Day card for my Papi

Papi's Father's Day card

To both of my dads, I love you, I am grateful for you, and wish you a Happy Father’s Day.

Look Ma, I’m cable-free!

I have to confess — when the conditions are right (i.e. gloomy weather, slow day, some additional time on my hands, etc.) I enjoy a good movie in the middle of the day.  Whether it’s watching Barbra Streisand drive Yves Montand crazy in On a Clear Day You Can See Forever or take a trip to Hertfordshire to witness the blossoming relationship between Elizabeth Bennet and Mr. Darcy in Pride and Prejudice, it can be comforting to have some additional voices, characters, and an engaging story added to my day.  Today was one of those days.

Most recently in the land of homemade cards I have been playing with dimensions, using cut shapes, and adding fasteners.  As I was working on some cards for upcoming events (will post pics and more details later) I pulled out my hubby’s laptop to stream a classic from Netflix.  Midway through watching Audrey Hepburn and Peter O’Toole figure out How to Steal a Million the mail came, and along with it a new cool tool.  My husband recently saw an email from Netflix, informing him that a new option is being delivered, allowing viewers to take advantage of “Watch Instantly” streaming options via the Nintendo Wii platform.  He liked the idea and signed us up.  So today in the mail, a special disc (looks no different than your typical CD, DVD, or Wii game disc) arrives, that upon being loaded into the Wii console and then activated, allows us to stream our viewing choice — no cables.  Being the curious, ever-experimenting, always learning individual that I am, I decided to watch the second half of my movie via the Wii.  What a treat!

Set up was incredibly easy.  Just load the disc (seriously more complicated to figure out which mode my TV has to be in to access the Wii), follow the instructions to activate the disc via the laptop, and then browse through viewing options.  Netflix has set up a very Wii-like menu interface, that allowed me to use the controls on the Wii remote to navigate through genres, titles, queued listings, and descriptions to make my choice.  Since How to Steal a Million was already in my queue it was easy to find.  So, while Hepburn and O’Toole talked about precious art and forgeries in the background, I happily made some art of my own.  The viewing quality was great, the convenience well-appreciated, and I was able to pause from across the room using the Wii remote.  Thanks Netflix and Wii.  And thank you, to my husband for signing us up.

Campaigning for Hope

Today in Los Angeles there were Special Elections to fill two seats in the State Assembly.  Since I didn’t know any of the four candidates’ names on the ballots, and found only one candidate statement in the sample ballot I turned to the Internet to learn more about those running.  I have to admit I’m not a huge fan of politics, often even less a fan of politicians, and I register as Independent.  This being said, I believe strongly in taking the responsibility of voting seriously, and try to do the best I can to cast my ballot with reason and knowledge.  When it comes to visiting candidate websites, I often struggle wondering how much I can trust in what they write and promise, and also understanding and expecting  that candidates will work to put their best foot forward, meanwhile hoping that I can trust in their intentions.

The four candidates are, of course, four very different individuals.  They come from different cultural backgrounds, have different careers, are motivated in different ways, and in their campaigns focus on different areas.  However, amidst all these differences, amidst the differences that we all have as individuals there seemed to be a common message, and a common desire — hope.

Photo of State Assembly Candidate, Sunder Ramani and his family

Sunder Ramani and his family

Sunder Ramani, born in Bangalore, India, was able to pursue the “American Dream”, build a business, build a family, and seeks to create opportunities for others to do the same.  By focusing on building jobs through small businesses, improving the quality of education, and working across party lines, Ramani plans to make a positive difference.  His hope — to keep the American Dream alive so that all can build a fulfilling life.

California State Assembly Candidate Nayiri Nahabedian in the classroom

Nayiri Nahabedian in the classroom

Nayiri Nahabedian has spent most of her life in Southern California, although originally from Boston, and has made it her home.  She took advantages of many educational opportunities, became involved with providing social services to others, and focuses on bettering the lives of those in her community.  Through mentoring programs, educational resources, and community involvement, Nahabedian is working to use her influence and power for good.  Her hope — to ensure that individuals receive the services they need to pursue healthy and successful lives.

California State Assembly Candidate Chahe Keuroghelian from his campaign materials

Chahe Keuroghelian profiled against his campaign materials

Chahe Keuroghelian began his journey of community involvement and service through law enforcement.  He has offered his skills as a multilinguist (five languages) to act as a Public Information Officer, Community Service Officer, and member of a neighborhood Crime Prevention Unit.  He has been involved in a number or community organizations and projects.  He seeks to build hope in the lives of those around him by supporting small businesses, building consensus amongst his colleagues, and investing in youth.  His hope — to bring communities together and protect the rights of all in order to live peaceful and rich lives.

California State Assembly Candidate Mike Gatto

Mike Gatto speaking with fellow citizens

Mike Gatto seeks to uphold, not only the American Dream, but also the California Dream.  Having been raised in the belief that anything is possible if one is willing to work hard, pursue an education, and act as a responsible citizen, he seeks to ensure that it is a reality and truth for others.  With a background in law, Gatto has worked to move through the legal system to make changes that will improve the lives of others.  He uses his position, knowledge, and experience to restore a sense of hope by protecting California’s natural resources, working to bring balance to the state budget, and provide opportunities for youth.  His hope — to protect the California Dream in order that individuals can live in beauty, peace, and happiness.

No matter the avenues to do so, no matter the particular focus, no matter the story in the background — each of these candidates seems to be working through their God-given talents, their passions, and their experience to keep dreams alive, better the quality of life of their fellow citizens, and preserve hope.

So rather than, “may the best candidate win”, I say, “may the winning candidate be and do the best they can to follow through with their intentions and campaign for hope, and may those who don’t win continue daily in their campaigns for hope.”

UPDATE: I visited Secretary of State, Debra Bowen‘s site (I think it’s quite cool how she employs a variety of technological mediums to keep voters informed — her site, Twitter, etc.) this morning to check for results.  Not only do I find the percentages and votes to be interesting in that there doesn’t seem to be any strong leaning, but also that it reinforces that these individuals represent the interests and motivations of so many members in our community.  I hope they all can take away from this that we all want to better our lives, and take their responsibility to do their part in representing us seriously.  Again I say, may the winning candidate be and do the best they can, and may those who don’t win continue to strive towards daily making a positive impact.

Not Just For Directions

For nearly four weeks now I’ve not only been stretching my legs through my neighborhood streets, but also Googling my way through various twists and turns trying to find the best routes.  The best route can include anything from pretty houses to downward slopes to pedestrian-

friendly sidewalks.  With the aid of Google Maps I was charting my path and mapping out my distances.  The “map-by-walking” feature was nice to give me an estimated time, however, the one drawback was the fact that my feet did not always take the same path as the wheels on the cars around me.  Minor, and totally livable, but a drawback when every step, every minute, and every tenth of a mile count.  I don’t know how I found it, but the other day when searching for local 5K and the like in my area, I came across the Gmaps Pedometer.  This is a cool tool.

Here's what the Gmaps Pedometer interface looks like

Using the Gmaps Pedometer one can map out a running/walking or cycling route, can follow paved streets, or add in those cuts through the park, measure distance, measure calories burned, and for those with the inclination — even measure via the metric system. You can even view an analysis of the elevation, but truthfully, when I clicked that option the results meant very little to me, other than viewing a small graph with hills and valleys.

Here’s a quick run-down of how it works.  It is pretty intuitive, free, and even produces a URL for saved routes that one can bookmark or save to favorites for future reference.  NOTE: I accessed this tool using Firefox on my Mac; it might vary slightly across other browsers, and even possibly, other platforms.  When you first visit http://www.gmap-pedometer.com/ you’ll likely see a screen with the main interface (pictured here), and a map with a box for entering your starting point.

The Gmaps Pedometer map

If starting your route from home, you can just enter the address and click go.  There is the additional option of customizing the zoom level before clicking “go”, or just enter go and adjust the zoom on the map itself.  When you’re ready to start adding points to route, click the “start recording” button.  You can now either enter addresses, or use the cursor to drag the map to your desired direction, then double click to enter a new point on the map.  As you continue adding points, you’ll see the distance begin to add up.  By default, the pedometer will be set to automatically draw the route for runners or cyclists, but if you like to take those non-wheel-friendly cuts in the path, you can switch to the “manually” (straight lines) option, make that cut through the park, and then go back to automatically — finally a way to go off the beaten path.  If needed, you can “undo the last point” or even “clear all points and start over”.  If you choose to do so, you can even enter your weight and receive a “calories burned” number.  When finished, you can click “save” and the program will produce a URL for you, that you can use to “save to favorites” or “bookmark”, you can print, and for those who need it, there is also an option to export to GPX.  Like I said, very cool.

Here's what my route most likely looked like in college...

In addition to creating a really nifty tool, the good folks at Google, have also been kind enough to put together some basic usage directions.  Of course, I saw these after playing with it and finding my way around, but like I said, it’s quite intuitive.

For those of you interested in a review of the Gmaps Pedometer alongside some other route-mapping tools, check out this article from Anick Jesdanun in The Berkshire Eagle.

Happy mapping!

Who Says Christmas Comes But Once a Year?

Yes, I know it’s April, nearly four months after Christmas, and another eight months until we celebrate again, but sometimes I just can’t help myself.  In college I would chide my roommate for digging out the carols in October, but now I totally get it.

Today on my “Active” Run a 5K plan I was set to walk 30 minutes.  Admittedly, at the end of the day, just before dinner, and with daylight hours fading I can’t say that I was raring to go — even if only to walk for 30 minutes.  In an attempt to motivate myself, I threw on my workout clothes, laced up the shoes, got my Nano ready and set out.  I chose this evening to stay close in the neighborhood, and admire the beautiful homes around me.  As I was scrolling through my playlists trying to find just the right one, I came across a beloved favorite…”Unique Sounds of Christmas”.  Although the beats weren’t all fast, the rhythms slower than normal, the music sang to my soul, and again my feet were moving.  Beauty pulsed through my ears, beauty passed before my eyes — the effect filled me, heart, body, and soul.  The walk that I was dragging my feet to take, was now fast becoming the best part of my day — spring flowers radiated in their color, families dined on their patios, and dog-walkers reveled in the mountainside views.  Each step filled me with confidence, strength, exhilaration.

So, for those of you interested in infusing your adventures with a little holiday spirit, check out a Christmas iMix that I posted on iTunes the Christmas before last.  Enjoy, and may it be a merry one!

Innovate. Create. Collaborate.

I am convinced that as challenging as these economic times are, the rewards for striving to be good stewards of our resources and creatively working to do more with less are many.  During a family visit weekend in college I remember my mother commenting on the resourcefulness that my fellow hallmates demonstrated in decorating and personalizing our dorms on the budgets of poor college students.  She said something to the effect of, “Creativity is the mother of resourcefulness” — or something like that.

As individuals find themselves laid off, higher education institutions find their funding and endowments shrinking, and departmental budgets are cut we all have to find ways to stretch our resources to accomplish our goals.  I have listened to feature after feature, comparing the current economic crunch to that of the depression — although all conditions are not the same, the factors that motivate folks and families across the nation to be creative with what they have are.  In conversations with friends, also feeling the shortages in their checking and savings accounts, we muse on the fact that — yes, times are tough, however, we are also thankful for the ways in which we find ourselves truly blessed, and in the challenges we face to do more with less.  For those willing to see the glass  half full, and willing to step up to the challenge before us — this time can be seen as a modern day Renaissance.

As we are examining our budgets, both personal and organizational, we have the opportunity to cut away with the unnecessary, reexamine our priorities, and discover those elements that are most valuable and essential.  Unfortunately, in many cases, this has also meant the loss of dearly beloved programs, the doing without cherished luxuries, and even unbid farewells to highly regarded individuals.  I have spoken with so many, who in finding traditional avenues closed off, have pursued interests or loves that they never dared explore previously.  In a sense the restrictions of tighter financial circumstances have brought about a new kind of forced freedom.  Rather than have ideas or ventures turned down or ventures, people have remarkably found other alternatives to nourish new ideas, new businesses, and new innovations.  One such example comes from a unique and very strategic partnership between Emory University and Georgia Institute of Technology.

Emory University has a bike-sharing program that allows students and staff to rent bikes from designated areas on campus, use them as they need, and then return them to any designated bike-holding area elsewhere on campus.  To enhance the convenience and usability, the folks at Emory were looking into ways to move away from the manual bike checkout system.  Unfortunately, such options were too exorbitant for current budgets, however, skilled and capable engineering students in need of practical application opportunities were readily available at the nearby Georgia Institute of Technology.  Thus began a wonderful partnership.  The Georgia Institute of Technology students developed a system in which individuals could send a text message to unlock the bike, use it, then upon returning it, send another text to lock it.  Ingenious.  Check out this article from The Chronicle of Higher Ed Wired Campus for more details.

In these challenging times, may we all follow from the example of these two institutions, and in our personal lives and journeys find ways to innovatively use our creative resources to further stretch our financial resources.