AROUND LA WITH AVA®: Gratitude
There is a restaurant in Larchmont Village, CA called Café Gratitude. This vegan establishment definitely has the “LA vibe”. The menu heading is in large letters I AM… and, the food selections listed are adjectives such as Comfort, Present, Who, Magical, Bountiful, Giving … . And, supposedly, when the server brings you your order, the food is presented by saying: YOU ARE.., (whatever adjective you ordered)! For example, You are as liberated as your plate of Pad Thai Kelp when your plate of noodles with kale and sunflower sprouts is put before you.
I have the Menu, but I have not worked up the courage to place an order …or to taste the food, yet.
Sometimes the most important time to find your inner gratitude is when life hands you some challenges.
For many I know, it seems like the planets have been aligned in a way that has brought unwelcome news and struggles of late. Being GRATEFUL for GOODNESS around is a good antidote for SADNESS or GRIEF –even if that relief is just to live in this wacky, wonderful City of Angels!
YES that is a naked man strutting on top of a bus pretending he is a model on a ‘pretend runway’ blowing kisses; YES that is a real fighter plane blocking traffic on Hollywood Boulevard for the new Star Wars movie premier; YES you can make an on-line reservation to sit on Santa’s lap via your cell phone, and YES you can see plastic snow fall twice a night at the Grove if you want to feel like it is winter!!!
And, YES there is a Santa Claus because someone has brought us real butter all the way from Finland! Finnish foodies rejoice!! FINLANDIA BUTTER has arrived here ready for your holiday baking and cooking!!! Gelson’s carries the delicacy!!!!
We are at the pinnacle of the year 2016. In writer’s syntax, the climax is coming; followed by the dénouement, calendar wise. It has been an extraordinary few months for me. Most has been fun, with a slight sad edge this year.
Fall is a favorite season for most people in our City of Angels: the raging heat and fire season subside; the smoke blows out to the west over the Pacific Ocean so the particulate debris reflects the setting sun producing spectacular sunsets! The dreaded fears of rampant fires, pollutants, and the ‘dog days’ of fall heat are replaced with crisp air bringing a renewed energy to get things done, to keep things moving, and to make things happen. The anticipation of the rewards of great success from action on many fronts energizes our preparations for the wonderful celebrations on the horizon.
As Daylight Saving Time ends and what I like to call Daylight Wasting Time begins, we sink into darkness all too soon. It is nice to have our American Thanksgiving, Finnish Independence, and traditional Christmas preparations on the horizon. They each provide something pleasant to look forward to where we show our loved ones our gratitude, express our love, and rejoice with gifts and time spent together.
This year things were just a bit different. My dear Aunt lost her husband of many years. Upon his passing, I was able to find a fine facility minutes [vs hours] from my home for her care.
Somehow, in the midst of all of this turmoil, the Los Angeles Finlandia Foundation announced that I was to be named their Honoree of the Year. Such a great honor put a nice smile on my face—until I began to consider the possibility that no one would attend the banquet scheduled! [I know, that is so Finnish!!] In fact, everything worked out nicely. The hall was full, the celebration was very nice, and I did not spill my soup on Sirkka Toth’s Finnish National Costume she gave me to wear. My own personal National Costume was worn by my 7 year old granddaughter—the same age I was when I first arrived in the United States. Both of my sons were present, as was my very special aunt Pirkko Liisa.
One of my ‘forever memories’ of Pirkko will be seeing her released from the fog of dementia long enough to rise to her feet with arms raised triumphantly and cheering for her niece when the Honoree Plaque was presented. The unrestrained joy of her smile was so reminiscent of the enthusiasm with which she introduced me to the wonders of being a Finnish American girl, young lady, and young woman as I went through those years with my worldly-wise—and really fun, younger sister of my mother.
Many of you will remember Pirkko as a long time employee of the Finnish Consulate here in Los Angeles. Yes, she was as nice as she seemed!!! Pirkko passed peacefully not long after returning to Los Angeles.
One of our fun traditions through the years has been to invite the staff of the Finnish Consulate offices in Los Angeles to experience an American Thanksgiving. I seriously considered ‘passing’ on the event this year—too much happening. Then, it dawned on me that there was always “…too much happening”. In fact, that is why Thanksgiving is our favorite holiday—there is no other purpose of the day except to say “thanks” to those who have been nice to us in the year past.
So, as “Black Friday” was becoming “Black Thursday Evening” as the commercialism of Christmas escalated, we fed our friends and thanked them for all they did for all of us and for being part of our lives!
For Finns in America, Thanksgiving is followed the next week by Finnish Independence Day. An overwhelming feeling of gratitude builds as I prepare the multiple dishes of our Thanksgiving Feast that continues for the few days following before Finnish Independence is celebrated on December 6th.
As I write this, I reflect on reverently lighting two candles, one white and one blue, at 6:00 PM [18:00] as I headed out for the 99th Finnish Independence Day celebration at the Consular Residence. I shed a tear for my Veteran and Lotta parents, my Lotta aunt, and all of those others who served Finland so valiantly during the Winter War and the Continuation War. Beginning with the 80th Anniversary of Finnish Independence and continuing through the next several decades, I was fortunate to know and to honor so many of our heroes and heroines. I was blessed to be able to learn their personal stories and recollections. I heard their reflections first-hand. I saw and touched their personal mementos as they touched my soul. I have been present for the passing of a phase of Finnish history that will not be revisited except in books.
What an honor. What a thrill. What memories.
AUTUMN GOINGS’ ON
Los Angeles Fnlandia Foundation
I was so honored, humbled, and grateful to be named Honoree of the Year by the Los Angeles Finlandia Foundation at their Annual Meeting on October 16, 2016. Thank you L.A.F.F!
The next LAFF meeting in Pasadena was to have a keynote presentation by Al Jokela. Mr. Jokela had fallen ill, so President Harvey Eidenoff gave a talk detailing his recent meeting with other Finlandia Foundation chapter heads in Washington, DC. His group had a tour of the famous and fantastic Finnish Embassy. They were addressed by Ambassador Kirsti Kauppi.
Philip Johnson (President of Finlandia University in Hancock, MI) came to Los Angeles for a visit. A Pastor himself, it was a nice serendipity that his visit coincided with the Finnish Lutheran Church service conducted by our own Pastor Jarmo Tarkki.
President Johnson shared news and developments from the campus with the Congregation. He told of a 2017 Finland Centennial event to be held here in LA in October by/for Friends of Finlandia University.
Dinner with Education Forerunners
While Dr. Johnson was here from the MidWest, we were able to have a dinner with Professor Heidi Harju-Luukkainen. Professor Harju-Luukkainen told of her work with Professor Tiina Itkonen of Cal State University on a project for Finland 100. The upcoming project will include a photographic exhibition and seminars. President Johnson expressed interest in bringing the exhibition and seminars to Finlandia during the Centennial.
The Finnish American Chamber of Commerce hosted a Breakfast Meeting with the researchers and leaders of Biotech Plaza. Each person in the international traveling entourage introduced themselves and their field of expertise. Their search for funding partners continues. Howy Jacobs, CEO, bid a warm welcome for us to come visit the center in Helsinki and to continue this initial positive contact and interaction. It was heartwarming to meet and get to know the brilliant minds doing the amazing medical research for the most challenging issues in medicine. Thank you, dear visitors. We will continue to do our best to advance and promote your exciting work.
Finnish Diplomatic Talent Posted to Los Angeles
The Los Angeles Finnish community bid farewell to JP and Tuula Markkanen who gave so much of themselves to us for Finland and the Finnish community here. We express our gratitude to our Homeland for sending the best and brightest here to be leaders among us.
We are excited to have a “dynamic duo” such as Heidi Harju-Luukkainen as an education expert and her husband Senior Trade Commissioner Aki Luukkainen helping Finns and Finnish companies.
Pia Helin and her talented family [husband Jorma and sons Henri and Lauri] have brought delight, pride, and good results to us all.
We are pleased and proud to get Finnish diplomatic superstars here in Los Angeles. Stephan Lindstrom will be coming soon for a return posting –now, as our new Consul General. Tervetuloa!
Kickin’ it and rockin’ it like nobody’s business. SLUSH in Helsinki—the global hi-tech annual highlight warrants special flights by Finnair from Northern California.
We are happy to have regular Finnair direct flights coming up from the City by the Bay soon, too.
American Election Season
We cannot let the topic of the recent US election go untouched as it was a monumental part of the autumn season this year.
Normally, once the ‘noise’ of the electioneering ends and the ballots are cast, Americans go about their business as if nothing had happened. If your ‘guy’ won you boast a bit—but move on to other things. If she lost, you sulk quietly—but move on to other things. The silence comes because we are tired of all of the ‘prattle’!
Post 2016, there is silence because, apparently, no one knows what to say!
All of the media (including the Lifestyle Edition of the LA Times) danced lightly around the subject. The Thanksgiving holiday issues focused on “…how to –or not to, talk politics or what just took place in the election to prevent breakout family fights.”
Back in the day, the rule was at a dinner or social gathering, the verboten conversations items were the triumvirate of politics/sex/religion. With the Internet and social media, the world has changed and all three topics are on everyone’s radar. The election this November brought out everyone’s feelings, but no one wanted to talk about politics or their candidate of preference. One’s leaning on a Presidential candidate was kept to one’s self.
Not a peep from anyone from family or friends or at any social gathering was heard. Even now, it seems everyone is exhausted, defensive, evasive, relieved, and grateful to go back to their daily lives in peace.
Back to Important Matters
I anticipation for Christmas Finnish preparations always includes a “Joulusiivous”. That is, your home must be ‘spic and span’ –‘clean as a whistle’. Furniture is moved –no dust bunnies allowed! Everything is washed and polished until it shines! The Finnish concept of cleanliness may be a little obsessive. Some even say that Finnish children do not get enough dirt exposure because of this cleanliness compulsion.
In the spirit of Finnish Clean-Tech, my Recipe of the Month is for Make It Yourself Window Cleaning Product.
2 Liters warm water (about ½ gallon)
3 Tablespoons potato starch* (perunajauho) or cornstarch
Apply to glass with sponge and scrub
Dry with old newspaper or rubber squeegee to make it sparkle.
*Potato starch may be hard to find. In LA, I have found it in oriental markets –of all places. Once ‘supplied’, you can get your windows clean while making your luumu kiisseli!!
Happy cleaning and Christmas Preparation !