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St. Catherine of Siena Jog-A-Thon surpasses fundraising goal and Seahawks mascot is introduced

On Friday, Nov 10, St. Catherine of Siena Parish School hosted its annual Jog-A-Thon fundraiser. This year the student fundraising goal was to raise $20,000. With community help and almost full student participation, the fundraising goal was surpassed.

All funds raised will go towards school programs and facility needs. 

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And off they go!

Students began running laps at 9 a.m. and each grade (TK-8, 140 students total) ran for 20 minutes around the field. Awards were given to the top three running students in each grade level. 

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Seahawks mascot makes its first appearance

Following the event this year, there was a special surprise…the school introduced its new Seahawks Mascot. The Mascot joined the festivities just in time to party with the DJ, the students and enjoy burgers served up by the “always-yummy” TK Burger truck.

“Our 9th Annual Jog a Thon was a huge success! Thank you so much to the students, parents, staff, and community for supporting Saint Catherine of Siena Parish School. We couldn’t have done it without all of you!” said Event Chair Jenn Gregg.

Saint Catherine of Siena Parish School, a nonprofit Catholic elementary (TK – 8), is located at 30516 S. Coast Hwy.


Local National Charity League chapter hosts Meet and Greet on November 15 at 6 p.m.

The Laguna Chapter of National Charity League, Inc. has opened its annual membership drive and invites interested mothers and daughters from not only the city of Laguna but also surrounding South OC communities to apply for the Classes of 2024 and 2021. 

The Laguna Chapter will host a November 15 Meet & Greet at the Aliso Viejo Conference Center from 6 - 8 p.m.

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NCL membership is fun

Laguna Beach resident Susan Giusto is the president of the chapter, which works with more than 20 local philanthropies, as well as through its own award-winning Handmade Brigade and Sunshine Readers program. This year, the Chapter’s mothers and daughters have served more than 6,000 hours.  

RSVP to Autumn Connot at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. or go to https://laguna.nationalcharityleague.org/membership-information/ to find out more about membership. 

NCL Laguna is accepting applications through January 15.


R Star founder Rosalind Russell stars in video created by former TOW CLC student

Rosalind Russell, founder of R Star Foundation, was honored recently to be asked by senior Moragh Graf to take part in a video discussing the nonprofit’s work as well as its financial underpinnings. 

R Star’s mission is to help needy families in rural Nepal gain economic independence “one goat at a time” – but the nonprofit goes much further than that, facilitating education for children and women in a country with a 92 percent illiteracy rate in its rural villages. 

Rosalind estimates that R Star has touched the lives of approximately 44,000 people since she founded the nonprofit in 2003.

 Two aspects of the invitation to be videotaped surprised her, Rosalind says: “I used to give presentations at the CLC at TOW Elementary, which Moragh attended way back. She’s now a senior student, so I had no recollection of her as a small child, but she remembered me. Now she is a graceful young woman who is sensitive, sweet and a pretty young thing. What a personal thrill to be remembered by such a sweet child. Guess we never know who we imprint upon, do we?” 

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Moragh Graf and Rosalind Russell

Rosalind was also flattered to be asked about the financial side of her charity. “I deal with all sorts of things going on in Nepal for our school reconstruction. It takes around four hours each morning to talk with them, text style, go over documents and attempt to understand how engineers, architects and builders think, while addressing the finances and questioning every detail.  You know what is interesting to me…I’ve realized I do know how to ask questions when prices seem too high to me.  So far I have been on target…thankfully I have some logic in me.”

It was this instinctive – and learned – financial acumen and the success of R Star that prompted Moragh to interview Rosalind. 

“Moragh asked me about running the foundation, how we arrive at donors, as well as my challenges – and we have plenty of those. She’s creating a video of the interview which at some point will be on my website (www.RStarFoundation.org),” Rosalind says. “We laughed and enjoyed our time together.”

Moragh is now applying to Sonoma University and other colleges. “I was very glad to re-meet with her,” says Rosalind. “I’m always grateful to those who help get our message out and raise awareness for R Star.”


Poet John Gardiner’s memorial and Celebration of Life brings a small measure of comfort to mourners

Poet John Abbott Gardiner died on the morning of Tuesday, October 24 after suffering a heart attack while driving along Laguna Canyon Road. His memorial service and celebration of life took place on November 12 at the Neighborhood Congregational Church, which was filled to capacity on Sunday with friends, family, and colleagues, along with a number of people who barely knew him, but whose lives he touched.

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Speakers talked of his “big, bold, remarkable life” and authenticity, his kind heart and his sense of humor. His dear friend Carrie Pohlhammer quoted these lines from Shakespeare – whose work was one of John’s passions - “When beggars die, there are no comets seen; the heavens themselves blaze forth the death of princes.” Carrie pictured him hitching a ride on a recently observed comet into the depths of the universe, evoking with her image John’s love of the natural world that he so passionately portrayed in his poetry.

There was laughter, too: the woman he loved deeply for 26 years and lived with, Micky Craig, told the assembled crowd that yes, indeed, John (or Jake or Jack, depending on the speaker) was kind and wonderful, all the great things people had said…but also quite irritating. Her words underscored what a remarkable but intensely human person John was in life.

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Doug Miller on violin: Pastor Rod Echols waits to speak

Micky spoke eloquently about their lives together and their acceptance of each other’s independence, secure, each of them, in the knowledge that what they shared together was home and love. She said that he loved the Canyon…that however untimely his death “it was fitting that he died in his beloved Canyon.”

John’s impact on his friends and the community was evident in every word spoken about the man, described variously as Bohemian, militant women’s rights advocate, activist, actor, poet, animal lover and in some cases, jester…some stories, especially those of high jinks told by close friend Douglas Stewart, however funny and telling of John’s whimsical character, are probably better not published in a family paper...

Pastor Rod Echols opened and closed the service with flair. Mike Sprake and Patrick Curran also spoke, along with John (Jack’s) sister, Ann Gardiner-Brillhart, who told of Jack’s early life with his family. Jason Feddy sang passionately, while Pam Wicks on piano and Douglas Miller on violin played fine music that tore at one’s heart.

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Patrick Curran with Manny, the dog who was John’s frequent and beloved companion, with him when he died

A question that had been on our minds at Stu News was answered: we learned that John did read the profile that Marrie Stone had written, published on the morning of his death, and that he was thrilled. This has brought some peace to Marrie, who, as a fellow writer, had bonded deeply with him during three hours of conversation, and was devastated to hear of his death, just as so many in the community were. 

The community has lost a talented, beloved and good man. 

Here is an excerpt from his poem, Dreaming Coyote:

 

Coyote knows when quakes are coming,

howls to his shining sister, the rising moon

and mediates with tribes of stars.

 

Ah, coyote,

we don’t realize when you howl at the moon

the sun hears you too and follows your song back home

to become the morning star.

--John Gardiner


Partnership with Everything Laguna Beach increases social media outreach for Food Drive

Laguna Food Pantry and Everything Laguna Beach are partnering to raise awareness of the Laguna Food Pantry Drive, which continues through Friday, November 17. They’re hoping for a big finish.

“This year’s food drive has collected literally tons of food now and we continue to see big response to our #lagunafooddrive hashtag,” explained Anne Belyea, Executive Director of the Laguna Food Pantry. “It is great to be teaming with so many great organizations, like Everything Laguna Beach, to get the word out and gain more donations heading into our final week.” 

Launched last year, Everything Laguna Beach created a platform that has reached over one million individuals globally through a compelling, highly regarded 12-minute high-definition movie and related social and online platforms.

The community-based project, led by local realtor JJ Ballesteros, has worked with the Laguna Food Pantry since the start of the project. 

Food and funds are being collected at numerous locations around Laguna Beach including US Bank, the Laguna Beach County Water District, public and parochial schools, Belo Blow Dry Bar, and participating churches. 

Waste Management will collect food donations placed curbside in marked bags or boxes on regular trash pickup days. Donors are encouraged to post photos to social media using the hashtag #LagunaFoodDrive. 

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Photo by Lisa Black

Members of Jazzercise instructor Karen Hogenauer’s class are helping to put the annual citywide food drive over the top

Working with Everything Laguna Beach in the fall, the Laguna Food Pantry put together a multistep plan to actively use social media to promote participation in the food drive. The creation of the hashtag #lagunafooddrive is the driver of that effort to maximize participation and has been used over 100 times already in a week for sharing of photos and event information. 

“Everything Laguna Beach is happy to continue our work with the Laguna Food Pantry in support of this critical food drive,” said JJ Ballesteros. “We are reaching out across our network to make sure that every family in need in our great city has the opportunity to be touched by the selfless efforts of the volunteers of the Food Pantry.” 

Additional drop-off points include U.S. Bank at 310 Glenneyre Street, Jerome’s Furniture in Laguna Hills, Laguna Beach public and parochial schools, Anneliese Schools’ three campuses, and participating churches. 

“It is incredibly easy to participate in the food drive and make a difference for a Laguna Beach family,” added Belyea. “Fill a grocery bag with the food items you would like to donate and on the day of your normal trash pickup, and a volunteer from Waste Management will collect your groceries curbside, bring it into the Food Pantry where offer it in a retail-style setting to 

families in need. We ask that as you are putting your bag together, post a picture of your work on your favorite social media platform with the hashtag #lagunafooddrive, and we will make sure that the world sees your great heart-filled work.” 

For more information about the Laguna Food Pantry visit lagunafoodpantry.org.
For more information on Everything Laguna Beach go to everythinglagunabeach.com.


14 LCAD students to exhibit at Laguna Beach First Thursdays Art Walk galleries on Dec 7

 One of the nation’s top colleges of art and design, Laguna College of Art and Design (LCAD) announced that 14 students from the BFA in Fine Arts major will exhibit their artworks in select LB art galleries as part of LCAD’s Professional Mentoring Program, an annual collaboration between LCAD and participating Laguna Beach First Thursdays Art Walk galleries.

The 2017 LCAD Professional Mentoring Program exhibition will take place on First Thursdays Art Walk from 6–9 p.m. on Dec 7. The public is invited to tour participating galleries to view student art works.

 LCAD’s Professional Mentoring Program pairs fine arts majors with member galleries of First Thursdays Art Walk. The course is designed to prepare artists with business skills with which to launch a successful career.Representatives from the galleries guide students through the fundamentals of exhibiting their work in the professional area and educate them about the business side of operating a gallery. 

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The Virgin Mother by Natalie Terenzini

With the exception of juried student exhibitions through LCAD’s satellite galleries, LCAD campus and the LCAD Gallery, many students have never exhibited their work professionally. Proceeds from the sale of student art will not only go to student artists, but a portion is designated for scholarships.

Robin Fuld, Instructor of Professional Studies and Director of Career Services at LCAD. has coordinated the program for 16 years and is a former member of First Thursdays Art Walk board of directors.

 “There is neither another mentor program nor art walk like this in the nation,” Fuld said. “Laguna Beach is unique among California’s art communities in that its First Thursdays Art Walk brings together world-class galleries with one of the nation’s top art and design schools to enhance student education, giving them a competitive edge in the professional art world.”

Many LCAD Fine Arts alumni who have participated in the program have continued their careers with the mentoring galleries as exhibitors, assistants, installers, consultants and managers.

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In the Moment by Dan Nguyen

Jackie Whitney of Whitney Gallery, a participating gallery this year and previously for many years, said “The students are so nice and very appreciative of any information you can give them about the art business.” 

Charity Oetgen, a recent LCAD alumna said “This is the same class I took with Robin in 2013, while I was still an undergraduate in LCAD’s BFA program in Drawing and Painting. The Mentoring Program component of the class allowed me to apply what I learned in a professional gallery setting. Upon graduating, I was thrilled to be accepted into LCAD’s MFA program and, as a part of that study, served as a Teaching Assistant in several classes, including Robin’s Professional Studies class.  I consider it a real honor—and a blast—to now be a co-instructor with Robin, coordinating events, and serving as an LCAD liaison to FTAW for those students in our class. I now have a successful art career, and am truly grateful that I learned how to start my business before I graduated.”

Oetgen recently published six paintings in an issue of National Geographic that honored the 50th anniversary of the Dian Fossey Gorilla Fund. Oetgen also appeared at three events during Dr. Jane Goodall’s US tour to mark the 40th anniversary of the Jane Goodall Institute.

For more information on the participating member galleries and students, visit www.facebook.com/LCADProfessionalMentorProgram, www.lcad.edu, or www.firstthursdaysartwalk.org.


Laguna’s Lisa Conn is honored as one of Forbes’ 30 under 30 activists shaping US policy today

By LYNETTE BRASFIELD

Former Laguna Beach resident Lisa Conn, 29, strategic partner manager for Facebook, has been honored as one of Forbes Magazine’s “30 under 30 activists, Washington insiders and legal entrepreneurs shaping U.S. law and policy today.”

Lisa grew up in Laguna and attended the local Montessori and Top of the World Elementary, followed by Tarbut V’Torah, then graduated from Sage Hill High. 

Previously at the MIT Media Lab, Lisa was program manager of the Electome Project, which used machine learning to categorize US election-related tweets to understand public opinion about critical policy issues. 

 “My professional mission is to build a healthy public sphere in the digital age by fostering and uplifting inclusive communities,” Lisa explains. “I lead civic community partnerships for Facebook, helping to build empathetic, impactful, and civically-engaged communities around the world — both online and offline — through product development and leadership training.”

Empathetic, imaginative, and analytical

“Empathetic” is a word that Lisa’s mother, Rita Conn, feels is emblematic of her daughter. 

“When Lisa was less than a year old and barely walking, we were at an event and she saw a child crying. Lisa walked over to the child and gave the girl her doll,” Rita says. “I knew then that her empathy for others and desire to help would be a strong part of her character. She’s also hard working, doesn’t put things off, is an incredible communicator, has a great sense of humor and has the ability to be both analytical with her critical thinking and highly imaginative with her problem solving skills. 

“Most of all, for me as her mom, I love the way Lisa believes in helping others and encouraging their growth to become the best they can be.”

We all know that moms are inclined to praise their kids to the skies, but Lisa’s terrific achievements and career path demonstrate that Rita’s assessment of her daughter is spot-on.

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Lisa Conn, as pictured in Forbes Magazine

  Lisa’s talent for developing partnerships, and her initiative and drive were apparent early on. In high school, she started an organization for developmentally disabled adults, called the Jeremiah Society. 

Along those same lines, in addition to her work with Facebook, Lisa now advises several organizations working to increase civic engagement and making the public sphere more accessible, including Cortico, The Arena, Hustle, and We the Future.  

Lisa says that the most special part of the honor has been the “utterly overwhelming reaction” from the community she’s built over the years.

“When the Forbes 30 Under 30 list was published Tuesday morning, I was surprised and thrilled,” she says. “But when I started to receive a steady outpouring of texts, emails, and posts from old and new friends — all expressing support, joy, and excitement — I was stunned. 

“By the afternoon, I had to turn off notifications on my cell because I couldn’t concentrate at work. The messages poured in all day long! I feel lucky to have my accomplishments recognized by an esteemed panel of judges and I carry the honor proudly, but I’m even luckier to be supported by a community of people I know, love, and cherish.” 

A rigorous selection process

The magnitude of this honor becomes clear when one reads the Forbes Magazine article describing the selection process. 

“To arrive on this list, candidates were culled from among law schools, professional organizations, the upper echelons of politics and law, and the top ranks of the most promising startups in the field—as well as from a pool of hundreds of online nominations,” the article reads.

“The final list was determined by our roster of judges: Ivan Fong, a senior vice president of legal affairs at 3M and former general counsel at the Department of Homeland Security under President Obama; Mike Needham, CEO of Heritage Action for America, a highly influential conservative grassroots organization; Harvard’s Laurence Tribe, one of the most important progressive scholars on constitutional law; and Timothy Hwang, the cofounder of FiscalNote, and a member of the Law & Policy 30 Under 30 Class of 2016.”

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Lisa and boyfriend Joe at this year’s Festival of Arts

And here are three examples of fellow honorees described in the article:

“Several members of this year’s Law & Policy list straddle the intersection of technology and policy. Allison Drutchas, a Yale Law Grad, is helping General Motors shape regulations around driverless cars. 

“Harvard undergrad Rohan Pavuluri co-founded Upsolve, a TurboTax-like tool that helps low-income Americans navigate the confusing process of filing for bankruptcy.

“Alvand Salehi, working for both Presidents Obama and Trump, helped establish Code.gov, an open source repository of the government’s publicly sharable source code.

“Perhaps none of our list members is making as ambitious an attempt to experiment with social policy as Michael Tubbs, the 27-year-old mayor of Stockton, California. To bring down the city’s high violent crime rate, Tubbs is working to gain backing to replicate a program pioneered in the Bay Area that pays monthly stipends to young men determined to be likely to engage in gun violence to stay out of trouble, as well as provide mentoring, internships and travel opportunities.

“In a city of 315,000 people, it’s less than 100 guys who commit 70 to 80 percent of our violent crime, meaning less than 100 people control the narrative and the image of our city,” says Tubbs. “As a community we have to do something about it.”

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Lisa as a child enjoying Woods Cove beach

Though she now lives in San Francisco in the Mission neighborhood with her boyfriend Joe, who is the COO and co-founder of a robotics startup, Lisa clearly still has Laguna blood running through her veins. Asked for memories about her life growing up here, she offers quite a list of favorites: orange juice with raspberry puree at Zinc Café; fresh fruit soft-serve at The Stand; summer BBQs at Heisler Park and fresh honey at the Farmer’s Market on Saturdays. And that’s just the food. 

Other favorites include swimming and body-boarding at Wood’s Cove Beach, buying toe rings at the Sawdust Festival, and singing in her father’s jazz band.

These days, in Lisa’s spare time (what spare time, may I ask?), she loves traveling, hiking, reading non-fiction, theater, and comedy.

I think her mom should have the last word: “Lisa is loving and kind and for that I am very proud of her,” Rita says.

Laguna is enormously proud of her too.


Guest article

By Mike and Marisa Marsh, aka “Los Malvavicos”

La Ruta de los Conquistadores 2017: Laguna helps mountain-bikers train for toughest race in the world

They claim it as the toughest mountain bike race in the world. The three-day stage race takes place in Costa Rica traversing 150 miles from the Pacific Ocean to the Caribbean Sea. Don’t let the miles fool you, this is not your normal 150 miles. The terrain covered is some of the most mind-blowing miles you can imagine. My daughter, Marisa Marsh, who is 23, and myself, at the age of 52, decided to do this race after befriending a Costa Rican in Telluride, Colorado who had re-energized our interest in this epic race that has been on my bucket list. 

Before I get into the details on this exhilarating, exhausting, beautiful adventure that apparently the Conquistadores took two decades to conquer, I want to give Stu News readers a little background on our preparations, since we spent the bulk of our training riding the steep, technical trails of Laguna Beach. We deliberately planned our schedules the six months leading up to La Ruta to split our time between Laguna; Telluride, Colorado; and Lincoln, Nebraska to get a motherlode of terrain accomplished. (We live in each of these places throughout the year working for a family commercial real estate company, delicately balancing a “work hard, play hard” lifestyle.) 

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The race featured challenging terrain, and almost 100 percent humidity one day

We kicked our training into high-gear with one of our favorite traverses, the Kokopelli Trail from Fruita, Colorado to Moab, Utah, which is a stunning, throw-everything-at-you, 150 miles over three days. Then we headed to Telluride, Colorado to do some high-altitude mountain pass rides. Before we officially entered La Ruta, we tested ourselves with Nebraska’s hardest day race, the Gravel World’s 150. Throughout all of this we traversed Catalina Island from Avalon to Two Harbors and back several times, and let climbing Saddleback Mountain and the San Juan Trail become normal training rides. 

Our last long ride leading up to the race was the Santa Barbara 100, which Marisa rode her full-suspension mountain bike in. The roadies didn’t get it, but it was some of the best training she got. After accomplishing hundreds of thousands of vertical feet of climbing and several thousand miles in the saddle from blazing-hot conditions to blizzard-like conditions, we felt well prepared but quickly learned it is impossible to over-train for La Ruta. 

Our journey begins flying to San Jose, Costa Rica with our bikes in tow, thanks to Laguna Beach Cyclery. We then head to Jaco´ on the Pacific Ocean side where the race begins. We are one of the first to arrive as we wait for the other 450 racers from around the world, many of whom are a part of sponsored teams. Our team of two without support was called the “Los Malvavicos” (The Marshmallows), which is only appropriate because we are Mike and Marisa Marsh. 

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Railroad track over bridge proved challenging

Day One: We start the race in pleasant conditions on the beach in Jaco´ at 5:30 a.m. with an old Huey helicopter hovering over us with the Costa Rican news team. From the beach we head into the canopy of the rain forest and the terrain gets steep fast. Over the next 60 miles we endure 12,800 vertical feet of climbing. The first real challenge was entering the Carara jungle. Here we were welcomed with 100 percent humidity, calf-deep mud that wants to swallow your shoes, and for good measure steep, technical, and slippery climbs and descents. 

Imagine a muddy slip and slide, and then add your bike and four foot deep crevasses. If you stumbled upon this on your own, there would be no question of turning back. This continues for the next 10 miles that you primarily have to hike-a-bike. You are relieved to find yourself in one of the 15 river crossings (some waist deep) to cool down and wash off some of the mud on you and your bike. You are so soaked with sweat that it is indiscernible between being in and out of the river. After you get through this challenge you are consistently faced with abrupt, audacious climbs, some at a laughable 40 percent degree making the Canyon Acres trail look tame. 

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The finish, well-earned

Constantly the question is, “how much further?”, you quickly learn to expect the worst but find yourself desperately asking the locals “Quanto kilometers?”, just to learn their answers were always very wrong. After 12 hours in the saddle and finishing in the pitch dark, you are relieved but afraid for what is next to come in the remaining two days. We later learn the race organizers made this route the most difficult in the 25-year history (lucky us). This was our most difficult day on the bike, EVER!

Day Two: After being bussed to our hotel the night before and arriving at 10 p.m., we are told we must wake up at 3 a.m. for breakfast and be prepared for a 5:15 a.m. race start. With four hours of sleep and coming off the most difficult day in the saddle, we begin with a 9,000 vertical foot climb up a volcano for over 25 miles. This is actually a pleasant climb compared to day one, covering Costa Rica’s beautiful countryside, although there were plenty of grueling accents forcing you to hike-a-bike through steep and slippery ravines. 

This route was special because the race usually cannot do this section due to the volcano being too active. As we get to the top and traverse, it becomes very windy and we are challenged with rain mixed with sleet (we are at a 10,000 foot elevation). The traverse was incredible as we rode through villages with cheering fans. One particular section we were greeted with hundreds of school children with their faces squished on their school fence cheering at the top of their lungs as we rode by. Battling sleep deprivation and exhaustion, this was a very emotional moment as we had endured so much to this point. All you are left to do is to embrace the local’s love and support. It is truly a “Pura Vida” moment.  We quickly transition to a 14 mile down over rock gardens and finished in almost unbearable heat, riding through the villages of Turrialba. This was a good day!

Day Three: After two tough days, this day we had a late start which gave us time to get some much needed sleep. But with a late start, that meant hot conditions. Today was mostly flat and pace-line fast over 38 miles. However, it was not a day without obstacles to overcome. For a quarter mile we crossed suspended railroad tracks with raging rivers 100 feet below. We walked on rickety railroad ties, some of them missing, which is not easy in bike shoes nor with a racing heart. There are actually YouTube videos of people falling between the railroad ties, fortunately recovering before meeting the crocodiles below. 

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The Marshes with their medals: Veni, vidi vici

Following, the race continued on a long portion of the national railroad track through banana plantations that jarred your body for miles. It seemed to be what the Costa Ricans would consider their single tack. We were relieved to find our final stretch along coast on mostly packed sand, although there were plenty of spills that you had to maneuver to not become one of them. As we finally arrived at the finished line in Limon, we cross with hands together and so happy to be alive. The day would not have been complete without a final sprint into the Caribbean waves. 

In the end, our body and souls were extended to new heights. We pushed past physical, mental, and even emotional barriers that you cannot train for. It was extremely moving to be a part of a race that has so much national pride and to see this country from a perspective few people get the chance to.  

What’s next? You can find us carrying our bikes up Thousands Steps or walking Main Beach with weights on our bikes training for La Ruta de los Conquistadores 2018.


A Note from Shaena

Stu is smiling down

I’ve always loved numbers. As a young child, I collected NBA basketball cards – I had thousands and thousands of them – and would study the backs of my cards (where all the players’ stats were) with freakish intensity. I would rattle off said stats like a machine – at family functions, church gatherings, you name it. B.J. Armstrong, Danny Ainge, Manute Bol...these were a few of my favorites in 1992.

Nowadays, I study Google Analytics…readership stats for Stu News. I pull and analyze reports daily, often three or four times daily. Sometimes 10 times a day. Within these reports, I am able to see our precise readership – down to a single unique reader – in a particular time span. 

I can see what our top cities by readership are (Laguna Beach, Laguna Niguel, and Los Angeles – in that order); the average time readers spend on Stu News; which stories are being shared most on social media; the percentage of readers that are accessing us from computers vs. mobile devices (40 vs. 60 percent). Lots and lots of interesting data, that when unwound, can help us plan for the future.

Stu and I used to revel in these stats together. I would call him mid-day on Tuesdays and Fridays (not before noon though because Stu liked to work late on deadline days and sleep in the day after!) and go over our readership for the day, how things were shaping up that issue. We would talk about the headlines and why we thought certain ones stuck more with readers than others.

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Photo by Mary Hurlbut

Stu is smiling down…

I know Stu was looking down proud when I pulled our stats on Monday. We now have over 26,000 unique readers monthly, with more than 2,000 brand new, regular readers in just the last few months!

What does ‘unique readers’ mean? That’s the number of unique individuals (well, IP addresses, to be more technical) reading us this month – what I would liken to our circulation. If you come back 100 times in a month, you’re only counted once in that stat. We’ve been growing our unique readership by 15-20 percent every year since we started.

Perhaps even more impressive, though, is that half of these unique readers come back eight plus times per month, per Google. And actually, 13 percent of our readers come back 100 plus times per month. No joke.

What’s the cause of all this perpetual, ongoing growth? Really great community content, of course!

We have such an amazing editorial team – led by our “one in a billion” Editor Lynette Brasfield – a team that is helping us continue the legacy Stu left… local news with a heart.

We’ve been fortunate to add some great new writers and features that are really resonating with readers too. Our Laguna Life & People features are driving a ton of traffic, and we’ve also had a bunch of new email sign-ups this month that came to us through social media.

Ultimately, we thank YOU – our readers, the community – for reading us and for giving us so much great news to report on in the first place.

We all feel so fortunate to get to wake up every day and do what we do in a community we love so much.

And to get to stay connected to Stu every day through what we do too.

Thank you, Laguna, for believing in and trusting us.


Local Greg Michaels champions the use of Liquefied Natural Gas at top national forum

Ten-year Laguna resident and CEO of Monkey Island LNG, Greg Michaels, was recently featured as a keynote speaker at a Wilson Family Office Energy Summit. 

The exclusive summit focused on current day energy topics ranging from exports of U.S. Liquefied Natural Gas (LNG) to new technological advancements in renewable energy. 

Michaels also spoke about the company’s $6.5 billion CapEx LNG export project being developed in the U.S. Gulf Coast on Monkey Island in Cameron Parish, Louisiana. The project has an all-in cost, including financing, of $8.1 billion. 

The project is expected to bring over $110 billion in revenues over its first twenty-five years of operations back to the U.S. economy. 

“Natural gas via LNG is part of a global initiative to transition from dirty fossil fuels to clean burning natural gas,” Michaels explained. “Our low-cost LNG export facility will have a direct and positive impact on the global environment by delivering clean and sustainable energy to nations around the world at a price they can afford.” 

The difference between liquefied natural gas & natural gas explained

Michaels used a simple, inventive analogy to explain the value of natural gas via LNG. Holding up a brightly colored beach ball and a racquetball, he explained, “This is a useful visual to show the volume reduction from natural gas to LNG – Natural gas is 600 times greater in size than in its liquid form, LNG. 

“Stated differently, if you liquefied the amount of natural gas that would fill up a beach ball, it would be condensed down to the size of a racquetball. This allows the U.S. to ship large quantities of natural gas overseas in a condensed form where it can then be reheated into its expanded gaseous state for clean energy use in other countries.” 

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Greg Michaels uses a simple, inventive analogy to emphasize the value of LNG

The response from the Family Office community, including many investors seeking new opportunities, regarding the Monkey Island LNG project and U.S. LNG exports was overwhelmingly positive. 

Richard Wilson, CEO and founder of the Wilson Family Office Energy Summit conference, said, “After hearing 30 energy investors on stage at the Family Office Club’s Energy event last week, it was obvious that everyone who commented on natural gas was bullish on the space, and that the U.S. being a net exporter of natural gas and the opportunity to ship LNG was a dramatic shift that only happens once every decade or two in the energy space.”

The Energy Summit took place at the Houston Club, Houston’s premier business and social club, whose members comprise of influential business and cultural leaders, including former President George Bush and former First Lady, Barbara Bush. 

The event consisted of panel discussions, networking sessions, and keynote speakers to provide focused information to its members on the lucrative investment opportunities emerging in the energy industry and what’s in store for investors in 2017 and beyond. 

Michaels said that once operational, the Monkey Island LNG facility would support over twenty-four thousand jobs across the U.S. and will create hundreds of well-paying and well-needed permanent jobs to the community of Cameron Parish, Louisiana.

Rooted in Laguna Beach

Greg is a 10-year resident of Laguna Beach. All three of his children, Jake, Lauren, and Brooke Michaels, are graduates of Laguna Beach High School. His family office is run out of the Village Faire Shops of Laguna where he and his wife, Kristine, run their property management company and satellite offices for their telecom utility and LNG business. 

In addition to business, Greg is a two-times national tennis champion and often plays tennis at LBHS. He’s a USC alumni and Marshall Partner, and loves to paddle board, surf and fish. 

He has been married to his high school sweetheart, Kristine Michaels, for 26 years and enjoys taking his family, friends, and employees out to his favorite local restaurants, which include Nick’s and Taco Tuesdays at Avila’s El Ranchito.

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