Tag: California

A very special community gift for a very special teacher.

Hello All,

Last week I was asked to help start a GoFundMe  page for a person I have never met.  She is a physical education teacher who through a series of life events now has debilitating back pain due to a spinal disc that has partially broken off.  Surgery is needed to alleviate the pain and start the healing, but due to red tape, her insurance company is denying or limiting much of the coverage she will need to pay for the “must have” medical procedures and after care.

I don’t want to make this article about insurance issues in our country, but rather how a community has come together in less than five days to donate a serious “chunk of change” to get Ms. Monica Wood back on her feet again. They have given her not only financial help but the gift of their love and community spirit.

Side note: I know the agony of back pain and my experiences have been nothing compared to what Monica is having to endure.  Read related blog. 

Monica Wood and I have communicated via good old fashioned texts and what I have learned is this is a vivacious woman who is beloved by the students, staff and parents at Grand View Elementary School in Manhattan Beach, California.   She exudes all the traits one needs for a  speedy recovery as she is hopeful and keeping a positive outlook. She also believes in not wasting a moment or wallowing on her situation as  she recently asked a group of friends about how to get connected with area organizations who  knit blankets for families with new babies.  Geez – that is one incredible woman!


Monica’s unique story is best told by the many comments and  photos that have been left on the walls of the GoFundMe campaign.  I am simply inspired by each and every one.  These days we are all so busy and focused on our own lives –  but, the outpouring of love and generosity to help this educator simply is a testimony to the willingness of community members to  stop everything  in order to help.  Not only are they demonstrating their support with their wallets, but also with their hearts and social sharing to others.  Those who are in social media call the act of social sharing: #SocialGood!

From the GoFundMe “Giving BACK to Monica Wood” campaign:

Monica, You are the best! Always positive, encouraging, and energetic. We are so sorry you are having such pain. We wish you a speedy recovery. Love, Kate, JT, Edie and David <B>


Ms. Wood- you were the first person to really see Brendan and to help him have happy time in school. You gave him a safe place and a teacher’s love. I’m so sorry you are going through this. You deserve the best of everything. ~ <B.P/>


We got your back, Monica!!!!!  ~ Kari



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Monica Wood has responded to all the amazing folks in her GoFundMe “sphere” with these words

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Lastly, I conclude this note to all with a video from the GoFundMe page and also my thanks to all for reading this very special story.



Top Ten Reasons Why I Love California!

Two years ago my hubby was offered an opportunity to move to California.  He asked me if I was ready to make the leap from being an East (Right) Coaster to a Left Coaster – I didn’t hesitate long enough to even blink and before I knew it we were sorting and packing 17 years worth of “stuff” (most of it useless, I must add). That was nearly two years ago and we haven’t looked back.

When I landed at Los Angeles airport (LAX) hubby greeted me and said words that to this day make me smile – “Welcome home“.  Now before you think this is a naive love-fest for California, note we had longed to be residents of California for quite some time.  Many family vacations were spent in some of our favorite places such as Laguna, Coronado and San Juan Capistrano.  So, when opportunity knocked I bought another bathing suit, checked out places to move that would have walkability, safe neighborhoods with a view and started to pack! (The makers of Rubbermaid pack and stack tubs thank me to this day!)

I started to write my “What I love about California list” before the moving van actually arrived.  And, I add to it on a regular basis.  Without any further adieu and in the spirit of David Letterman’s Top Ten Lists,  here are my Top Ten Reasons Why I Love California!

#10 – Weather. This is obvious and why anyone would love to move to Southern California. The weather is glorious most days and even the bad days are not all that awful.

#9- The weathermen on TV.   Not such an obvious choice. I get a kick out of watching the weather forecasters on Los Angeles TV.  Let’s face it – what exactly can they do to make SoCal weather sound exciting day after day? Well, it appears that they spice up the broadcast by offering up the  weather forecasts for other cities, mostly in other states.  Last week alone we covered Dallas to Portland, Maine on our local weather.  If nothing else, my geography has really improved in the past two years.

#8 – Thai food.  I do love Thai food and this area has such an abundance of great Thai food restaurants! In fact,  Japanese, Chinese, Vietnamese, etc. food is top notch here!

#7 – The beaches. Enough said.

#6- Parking at the beaches.  Almost always a great spot can be found.  Easy to walk to on to the beach and in some cases you can even bring your dog! Jones Beach, New York  – I love you, but there is much to learn here!

#5 – Movie galas. Where else can you see one movie premiere after another – only here in LaLaLand!

#4- The people are nice.  I have heard mixed reviews on the “warmth” of LA folks.  Yet, I have lived in a lot of places and LA may not get the “congeniality” award, but it is not the worst either. People in LA are fine by me!

#3- Traffic.  If you think that LA traffic is bad I want to offer a comparison.  Go ahead and drive the Washington DC beltway at 5pm on a weekday.  Better yet, do it when snow is PREDICTED and see how it compares to LA.  Want to triple the fun? Try NYC anytime on Thanksgiving weekend.  Or I double dare you to do drive through Staten Island and Brooklyn en route to Long Island – any time of any day!  And, if you are in a rush to get to an airport skip Chicago! If you are a doubting Thomas by all means read this traffic comparison report.

#2. Sunrise, Sunset.  I could snap a photo a day of the sunrises and sunsets and never get tired of it! (Enjoy my pics on this blog, by the way.)

#1- I love that in California there is no reason to ever say, ” I am bored.”   If you do it is your own fault. Grab your keys and ride to the mountains or the beaches. Go walk, hike, bike ride or swim.  The outside is your playground and healthy living reigns here.

I will end my tribute to California with just a little caveat – other states have wonderful attributes, too. So, Californians don’t forget that planes can fly outside of our sunny state and the roads do go east, north and south.

Happy Holidays everyone and be safe wherever your travels may take you!


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Discover the Mission of San Juan Capistrano

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Today I spent a glorious morning with a friend at the Mission of San Juan Capistrano.  Located in Orange County, minutes from I-5 and the beaches, this is a little slice of heaven.  San Juan Capistrano is known for the annual flight of the swallows, but also for this distinguished mission which dates back to 1775.  The Mission itself has a deep history which you can read on their website. I love a great historical site, but for me today was all about the photography.

What fascinates me about this Mission is how the architecture, including the famous bells, are juxtapose with sublime gardens.  A photographers dream landscape. Also, the gardens are tended by volunteers , aptly named Gardening Angels – who today were especially helpful in teaching me the names of flowers and plants indigenous to my new Southern California home.

If you have a few spare moments, walk the rest of the town and check out the coffee shop near the train tracks and petting zoo.

Lastly, don’t forget your camera!

To learn more about the Mission of San Juan Capistrano click HERE

For information about the mission throughout California, click HERE

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