Mailbag: Grateful for help after fire

Two and a half months ago our home caught on fire and burned with our beloved pets and treasures inside. Luckily our lives and those of our pets were spared, but two-thirds of our home was lost. During the night of the fire and in the weeks that followed we were overwhelmed by the kindness and generosity of family, friends, neighbors, clients, establishments and strangers. These wonderful people came to our rescue with help and support, services, donations, dinners, opened homes, hugs and prayers.

Thank you one and all, for each of you in your own unique way made this life challenge just that much more bearable for us! There are so many to whom we are grateful, and we'd like to mention some of them.

The Laguna Beach Fire Department, Laguna Beach Animal Control, the Red Cross, State Farm and their Emercon crew, the two motorcyclists who first spotted the fire, Marc Began, Gina Kantzabedian and Animal Crackers Pet Rescue, Helen Evers and her friend Sharon Jones and all of Helen's other friends, Susan Davis and the Aliso Beach Animal Clinic staff, Joy and Craig Butterfield, Stephanie, Susaan Aram, Cris Hamilton, Sherry and John Bullard, David Wilson, Bill Powers, Bill Miller, Draggo and his Mom, Luci Berkowitz, Kit Youngstead, Jan and Peyo Wing, Lorraine Horney, Sarah Kelly, Claudia Sanchetz, Louisa, Stacey and Ron Brettin and their family and friends, Joe Baker, Sharon and Drew McCright, Pam and Alan Psarutanond, Yavita and Peter Harmon, Whole Foods Market, The Sawdust Festival, and CVS.

Thank you so much for all you gave, we will never forget all you did, and we will be forever grateful!

Marlene T. Dantzer, Dave Stoermer and "family"

Laguna Beach


Village Laguna has undue influence

Village Laguna Board Member Cindalee Penney-Hall has compared me to Stalin for pointing out gross irregularities in the voting process for the Design Review Board. This reveals three basic truths that every city resident who embraces moderate politics needs to understand.

First, Penney-Hall finally expresses what has thus far been unspoken: It is the official policy of Village Laguna to prevent architects and other design professionals from serving on the Design Review Board. In taking this position, Village Laguna clearly reveals its extreme nature. Anyone familiar with this design review process knows that it is a critical part of the fabric of our city. Given the complexity of proper design review, having one or more design professionals on the DRB greatly enhances the process.

Second, in leaping to the defense of Verna Rollinger's vote-rigging, Penney-Hall likewise reveals the political control Village Laguna has over a City Council member they often boast "they elected." Memo to Village Laguna: Laguna Beach voters like their council members to be independent and to serve the broad interests of the city, not special-interest groups. With Rollinger up for reelection in 2012, it's useful for voters to know that she has aligned with a group that is neither left or right of center but simply far out of the mainstream.

Third, when anyone has to resort to the "Stalin" card, clearly they feel they cannot win the argument on its merits. The fact remains that by refusing to follow the direction of the mayor in her voting for DRB, Verna Rollinger strategically gamed the system and thereby did harm to the process — and no amount of red-baiting by Penney-Hall can alter that fact.

The one thing that Penney-Hall and I agree on is that the DRB voting process needs to be clarified by the City Council. Right now, current rules allow groups like Village Laguna to exert undue influence on the process through vote rigging conducted by council members they help reelect.

We deserve better in a city like this. So does every applicant that comes before the Design Review Board and gets judged not by the city zoning and building codes but rather by the arbitrary and capricious extreme views of Village Laguna-sanctioned board members. It's time for the City Council and City Attorney to clean this up — not perpetuate it through flawed elections.

Peter Navarro

Laguna Beach


A proud but worries football mom

Having grown up back east, football was our daily dose of fall sports. Tradition was hanging out with our high school friends, playing touch football through neighbor's yards covered with crackling leaves. We would host Sunday night parties in front of the TV set, coffee table laden with nachos and Pepsi while rooting for our favorite quarterback to throw that Hail Mary. Back then there weren't as many tattoos covering the player's arms, their hair was limited to long sideburns and the team's names never seemed to change.

I continue to live a life of following football these days.

High school contact sports bring this intensity to a whole new level. Three player concussions in one game is not my idea of an entertaining evening. Watching my freshman carry the ball and get engulfed in a sea of JV players does not have the same magic it does when I watch the pros. All I can think of is those grown men have mothers who wince and squeeze the arms of their friends and say a prayer every time they get the ball too.

Now I'll admit that I'm squeamish and send most injuries my husband's way for calm analysis and repair. I mean, who prepares a parent for the broken arms, concussions, hurt ribs, cleat holes and general wear and tear of the teenage boy's body? Actually, there is no way to prepare anyone for the teenager at large, but I don't recall reading about these kinds of injuries in my "What To Expect The First Year" bible during my boy's early months. Back then I just needed to have the boo-boo ice pack for owies.

This is a whole new ball game, some pun intended.

"My knuckles are bleeding, my arms are all bruised and I LOVE FOOTBALL!" my 14-year-old announces as he gets in the car after practice.

I love you son and will support you and your games, take a ton of pictures and cheer the loudest. I will congratulate the coaching staff who have taken a mix of early teenage boys and given them drive and purpose and committed camaraderie. I will cherish the moments to share in my son's victories and defeats. I will hold my breath and hold him up high.

Lisa Hughes Anderson

Laguna Beach


Patrascu candidacy struck a chord

You know something's wrong with city government and the Laguna Beach City Council when almost 3,000 citizens vote for an unknown city council candidate, Mr. [Emanuel] Patrascu. I drove to Pasadena yesterday and saw only three highway patrol and police cars during the whole trip until I got on Laguna Canyon Road, and by the time I got back, I saw four Laguna cop cars and meter police everywhere.

King [City Manager Ken] Frank has used the parking meter personnel and police to raise millions of dollars, including more than $3,500 a month for parking on any part of a white line. Mayor Elizabeth Pearson said in a question-and-answer session at the Susi Q Senior Center that high city department manager salaries and out of sight pensions will eventually bankrupt the city. City employees are unfriendly and when you send an e-mail to City Council members suggesting there's a problem, you will usually get an e-mail back telling you why everything is OK. Tell that to the nearly 3,000 who think something's wrong.

Roger Carter

Laguna Beach


Time to quite smoking

It's the Great American Smokeout! Nov. 18 marks the 35th anniversary of this national day devoted to encouraging smokers to quit for 24 hours. The idea is that smokers who step up to the Smokeout challenge may use this day as a first step toward taking their final puff.

This year's Great American Smokeout occurs during a time when health-care reform has everyone's attention. This is a time of skyrocketing health care costs for individuals, families and employers. Economic stress is evident and people are making lifestyle adjustments on many levels. My hope is that, on the 18th, smokers in Laguna Beach will think very seriously about quitting.

The well-documented health consequences of the tobacco habit as well as the negative social stigma, public and workplace smoking restrictions, economic impact of health care costs and the $6.40 price tag on a pack of cigarettes — speak loudly and clearly to the need to finally give it up. The obvious and compelling reasons why to quit are widely understood. Yet knowing why to quit does not solve the problem of knowing how to quit.

There are many quitting options currently available to help the smoker willing to give it a go. The most popular method is the use of grit-toothed determination and willpower to give up smoking without the help of any aids. This is known as going "cold turkey" and has a success rate between 5-10%, which means after one year only a handful of people out of a hundred will remain smoke-free. The odds are not encouraging.

Given all the available options — from over-the-counter nicotine replacement therapies to medical prescriptions, or from hypnotherapy to homeopathic remedies — how does a person choose a plan or a product with a high rate of success? I have found that measuring success rates of any tobacco intervention is tricky. Not all studies of effectiveness measure 'success' the same way and not all administer the intervention exactly the same way. For example, some studies may use time frames to measure success, while others may measure declining usage as success.

So what is a smoker to look for in a quitting method designed to effectively guide a successful outcome? According to the National Alliance for Tobacco Cessation, "To get the best-possible results from a smoking cessation program, be sure to choose one that focuses on making behavioral changes over time."

As someone who has been counseling clients for six years, I agree wholeheartedly that preparation is key to learning how to be a non-smoker. I help my clients get the best possible results through a preparation phase that gradually modifies behaviors, routines and habits. The benefits of systematic preparation are many, including the gradual detoxification from nicotine during the process.

I know that quitting smoking is the absolute best decision a smoker can make to decrease the odds of tragic consequences and future suffering. No matter what plan, program, product or method one may use to dig out of the burden of cigarette addiction, becoming a non-smoker is without doubt the best decision for a life with greater health, vitality and well-being.

Lisa Lawn

Laguna Beach

EDITOR'S NOTE: Lisa Lawn is a health and wellness professional specializing in tobacco intervention.

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