Sunday, May 31, 2009

Take Action - Keep Our Natural Learning Places OPEN

I have a lot to share today, but I'll start with this post about an issue I believe is quite important - the threatened closure of our state's public spaces. As you may have heard, our legislators are slated to decide later this week whether or not to close 220 of California's state parks in an effort to "balance the budget." (Here's the map of proposed closures - breathtaking!)

I understand this need to balance the budget, but I don't know that closing these parks will do the trick. Further, I believe closing public spaces where hard-working (and not-so-hard-working) citizens let off steam, regroup, renew themselves in whatever fashion best fits them is detrimental to humanity.

Please consider writing a quick note to your legislator. The easiest way may be through this site, which includes a map of the proposed closures and a pre-fab letter you can "sign" and send on. Though the site is run by a non-profit which also seeks donations and memberships there is NO NEED TO JOIN or pay a CENT to sign the letter (or pen your own and send it by this method).

I wrote my own letter and have included it below. Feel free to use it any way you see fit.

Thanks for your time!
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Dear (name a legislator/ official),

As a single-income family raising two children while attempting to have a balanced budget and also paying for daily needs like food, shelter, and a variety of taxes, I appreciate that balancing a budget is no easy task. HOWEVER, as hard-working families trying to raise healthy children in these modern times, I also understand the necessity of families getting out together for recreation, finding time together particularly in the great outdoors. So it was with GREAT surprise that I received your proposal to CLOSE state parks, funded by those same tax dollars we take time AWAY from our families to pay through hours upon hours of work.

Closing or otherwise limiting access to public lands, including State Parks, is NOT the answer to providing for the physical and mental well-being of the citizenry. In San Luis Obispo and Santa Barbara counties, where we live, work and play, most of the land is already privately owned and, thereby, inaccessible to the public. State Parks provide some of the last open space we have in which to stretch our legs, climb a peak, take a run, educate our children about nature. The historical state parks throughout the state provide the citizenry with a look into the past that no textbook or television show can provide. In northern Santa Barbara County where we live, access to one of only two local public beaches has been severely truncated by Vandenberg Air Force Base which, after allowing passage through its property for the public to gain access to publicly20held beaches for decades, has opted this year to deny that access.

This proposed closure announcement certainly comes at an odd time. Governors, mayors, representatives of entertainment industries and state officials nationwide are initiating programs to encourage children and their families to head outdoors to experience their communities and their natural spaces. The growing movement to entice families away from the keyboard, the remote control, the game system controls and back to nature has taken hold in several states:
• The Connecticut Department of Environmental Protection is promoting its No Child Left Inside program which encourages families to make use of the state’s 137 state parks.
• Texas has launched It’s Better Outside.
• In January 2007, the U.S. Forest Service launched More Kids in the Woods
• The National Audubon Society has opened dozens of education centers in recent years and has a dozen more in the works, most catering to elementary-school aged kids.
• In April 2008, the California Roundtable on Recreation, Parks and Tourism adopted the California Children’s Outdoor Bill of Rights recommending a fundamental list of experiences every child in the state would benefit from before reaching high school age. The activities include: fishing, swimming, hiking, camping, exploring state history, nature and heritage and playing on a team.

According to a June 2008 article in The Washington Post, only 8 percent of children ages 9 to 12 spend time in outdoor activities such as hiking, walking, fishing, gardening or beach play, a reduction from 16 percent in 1997. The study by Sandra Hofferth, a family studies professor at the University of Maryland, also showed an increase in computer play time for all children and in time spent on television and video games for those ages 9 to 12. And it found increases in sleep time, study time and reading time.

Crime is on the rise, test scores are down, frustration levels are up and people, like in no other time in history, feel the need to get away from it all to blow off steam, to flee the rush and traffic and hectic lifestyle that our working lives in cities provide.

PLEASE don’t close our parks. We go to work, pay our taxes and do the best we can for our families and communities. We NEED somewhere to play, somewhere to enjoy nature, somewhere to bond as families and communities. There’s no place like nature for those opportunities.


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Tuesday, May 26, 2009

A Busy Mom's Confession

If you received this update via e-mail, please note there ARE associated photos available only on the actual blog. Visit site to see the latest.

Forgive me, Reader, for I'm chagrined; it's been nine days since my last blog session.

I confess that, in the course of (finally) diligently working toward the publication of Best Family Adventures: Santa Barbara County, I have cursed southern Santa Barbara County for all its parks and museums, all its details and trails. Will the research never end?

I confess that I have envied south county for its parks and waterfalls, its beautiful people and (relatively) liberal leanings, restaurants and unique shops, university and scenery.


And that leads me to the next confession.

Yep. I've been a glutton (taquerias and coffee, not to mention McConnell's ... mmmmm ... McConnell's), and allowed myself to be enticed into purchases I would not have made in my conservative, north county enclave.

I have lusted (well, you know what I mean) after the secluded, 6,000 acre ranch the Sedgewicks left to UCSB (which, thankfully, shares it with the public).

I confess my laundry isn't folded, and my bookshelves are dusty, my desk is piled with notes and scraps of this and that, the garden is half weeded.

I confess I am proud of my happy, growing daughters who are, in turn, proud of their recent achievements in music, equestrian arts and ballet.

For these and all those unrecorded activities of our recent days, I am truly sorry (just don't tempt me with McConnell's again).

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Sunday, May 17, 2009

Ride 'em, Cowgirls!

If you received this update via e-mail, please note there ARE associated photos available only on the actual blog. Visit site to see the latest.

About a month ago the girls changed riding instructors. We now drive just eight miles further to a quiet community with expansive facilities and a wonderful riding instructor. The girls have been learning new skills every lesson, a plus in my book.

This weekend they enjoyed competing in their first Fun Day - a gymkhana-style event tailored for novice riders. The riders varied in age from 2 (on a lead line) to early teen. This was the riding instructor's second such event, and we hope she continues with more in the near future because the girls had SO much fun in this relaxed, social, supportive setting.

Riders could sign up for any of the offered events. V and E rode in all of them including: barrel racing, speed barrels, pole bending, big T, obstacle course, stick relay, keyhole and London bridge. It was great to see them take command of their mounts and step out into that arena. They both did well, but the best part was watching those big grins as they worked their way through the courses.

Parents cheered for all the riders, even kids they'd never seen before. They offered words of encouragement, and some who also had riding experience offered kids pointers now and again. A 2-year-old boy rode a big horse which his mom led while his dad walked alongside, offering support when needed. The big sister, probably about 4 years old, offered some of the most quotable quotes of the day. My favorite, while bouncing in her saddle on trot, "WOO HOO! This is fun!"


That pretty much summed it up.

For the record, the event was held within minutes of Santa Maria on a 54-acre place that's for sale, so if anyone has $2 million they'd like to donate to our cause, well, you know where to find me.

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Friday, May 15, 2009

50 Bottles of Beer on the Mom, 50 bottles of beer...

If you received this update via e-mail, please note there are associated photos available only on the actual blog. Visit site to see the latest.

It's been a busy week here on the Central Coast! How can the days fly by so quickly! I enjoyed a visit from my sister-in-law (who lives too far away, IMHO), a scorching day on the beach, reading the classics with our girls, completing this year's math workbook (E) and getting closer to the end (V), games, new found friends at the newly joined gym, exercised, worked on The Book. (Have I said yet how MUCH stuff there is to do in Santa Barbara!? MY word I'm tired of this chapter!)

At farmers' market early this week I asked a local strawberry farmer where I might get some canning berries. He offered to deliver them to the following day's market just up the road. A flat, already topped, for 10 bucks. (Fresh-picked berries go for $2-$3.50 per basket here at this time of year.) So, today was a hallmark day in our kitchen - the girls and I made good use of all the canning equipment we received for Christmas to make our first big batches of strawberry squish!

We had a heyday in the kitchen making four batches of strawberries n' something: strawberry jam; strawberry-kiwi jam; strawberry-lemon marmalade; back to jam again. I have enough strawberries to make two more batches of straight jam in the morning. (I ran out of SUGAR so I couldn't finish tonight! WHEW! WHO KNEW how much SUGAR these recipes took!? WOWzer!)

The girls are doing really well with their horseback riding and are looking forward to their first gymkhana-style fun day this Saturday morning. Interested in watching? Give me a ring or drop me an e-mail and I'll give you the details. I got to ride this week, too, and really enjoyed being back in the saddle again, if only at a walk.

Last weekend, we celebrated Mother's Day with a camping trip to Lake San Antonio for a rally with the Fiberglass RV crew. Really nice people, but no other children, and most of the group members were retirees, so I felt a bit out of place. Still, they were friendly and full of ideas about what might be done with a trailer as old as ours. Mr. B, the girls and I spent most of our days on the shores of the lake, or swimming across its arms, or picking up bottles. Yep...lots of glass bottles!

More proof that I'm not "normal": On Mother's Day I enjoyed a spa treatment given me by my girls. Passers by would have seen little girls pouring bottle after bottle of beer on a woman lounging on shore. The 50+ bottles were covered in algae or mineral build up, clearly well aged. In fact, the girls and Mr. B had plotted together as we gathered the recyclables along shore. Through the course of the weekend, they rinsed the bottles in lake water, filled them, then lined them up on shore to warm in the sun. These were the staples for my Mother's Day Spa.

That's right...I allowed my small children to pour on me sun-warmed lake water and related flora and fauna collected in castoff bottles, and I ENJOYED it. Yes, truly enjoyed it. The birds were singing. The family was together. Everyone was relaxed and happy.

Plus, the water was warm.

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Sunday, May 10, 2009

John Wooden - on teaching, coaching and the meaning of success

Coach Wooden has inspiration for us all. He talks fast (surely a lot to say in a limited time). There's a lot of good stuff here. If you have 17 minutes, watch the video. If not, save it for later, and enjoy this gem from his talk:

The Road Ahead, or The Road Behind
by George Moriarty

Sometimes I think the Fates must grin
as we denounce them and insist
the only reason we can't win,
is the Fates themselves have missed.

Yet there lives on the ancient claim: we win or lose within ourselves.
The shining trophies on our shelves
can never win tomorrow's game.
You and I know deeper down,
there's always a chance to win the crown.
But when we fail to give our best,
we simply haven't met the test,
of giving all and saving none
until the game is really won,
of showing what is meant by grit,
of playing through when others quit,
of playing through, not letting up.

It's bearing down that wins the cup.
Of dreaming there's a goal ahead.
Of hoping when our dreams are dead.
Of praying when our hopes have fled.
Yet losing, not afraid to fall,
if bravely we have given all.
For who can ask more of a man
than giving all within his span.

Giving all, it seems to me,
is not so far from victory.
And so the fates are seldom wrong,
no matter how they twist and wind.
It's you and I who make our fates
-- we open up or close the gates
on the road ahead or the road behind.

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