RIP Kobe, Gianna, John, Keri, Alyssa, Sarah, Payton, Christina, Ara

Like millions of others, I’m shocked and absolutely devastated about the crash that killed Kobe Bryant, his daughter Gianna (Gigi), and seven other beautiful souls.

The helicopter crashed in Calabasas, a town 20 minutes away from us. They were headed to Kobe’s Mamba Sports Academy in Thousand Oaks, CA, the city where we live.

I’ve lived in Southern CA my entire life and have been a Lakers fan ever since I can remember. And of course, a Kobe fan. I’ve always thought it was awesome that Kobe played his entire 20-year NBA career in Los Angeles.

Kobe is of course a legend in the sports world, winning five NBA titles and countless awards. But his passion and pride was being a father. Family was the most important thing.

We’re a big basketball family. My husband played in high school and college, and both our daughters played through high school. My husband coached several of their teams. We loved being super involved in youth basketball, travel teams, and tournaments.

This tragedy is heartbreaking on so many levels. While I personally don’t know any of those lost, I can’t stop thinking of their families. I can’t even imagine Kobe’s wife, Vanessa. Losing her husband is horrific enough. But then to also lose her 13-year-old daughter. No words.

Nine lives lost much too soon. God bless them all.

Kobe and Gigi shared the special bond of basketball. Thought to be the one to carry on her dad’s legacy, Kobe nicknamed Gigi “Mambacita.”

Father and daughter now together in Heaven.

“Life is too short to get bogged down and be discouraged. You have to keep moving. You have to keep going. Put one foot in front of the other, smile and just keep on rolling.” ~Kobe Bryant

Hope: A Reason to Persist

To me, this quote has many layers.

The first thing I think of is “Never Give Up.” If you hit a roadblock, find a way to get around it. My husband often reminds me to be persistent, not give up so easily. I don’t like to hear this (or admit I’m not trying hard enough), but he’s totally right. Whatever the issue may be, I find that when I keep moving, reaching farther than I thought I would or could, it usually turns out to be a rewarding experience. Not always. But if I push as hard as I can and exhaust all options, even if it doesn’t work out, I feel better about myself. Because I gave it my all. Persistence pays!

This quote also reminds me of my own mental health journey. When I was a young girl, I had terrifying symptoms I never told anyone about. I didn’t know how to describe them, and certainly didn’t think anyone would understand. I felt hopeless. I didn’t want people to think I was weird or different. So I kept it a secret. For twenty years!

When I finally went to a doctor for help, he told me I was having panic attacks. He diagnosed me with agoraphobia and panic disorder. This might sound strange, but my first reaction was happiness. Of course I didn’t want to have an anxiety disorder. But I was extremely relieved that the awful symptoms I’d had for so long actually had a name. Not only that, but others had this too… millions of people. And, there was treatment available. I could be helped. It was unbelievable!

I was filled to the brim with HOPE.

25 Inspiring Hope Quotes #Hope Quotes #Inspiring Quotes

This month is National Suicide Prevention Month. I’m thinking of friends who are struggling with depression. I’m remembering people in my community who have died by suicide. My friend’s brother. My daughter’s classmate from high school. My dad’s work colleague. I’m thinking of how hopeless they must have felt, being in the deepest, darkest place filled with total despair. I’m thinking of their families, who will never stop struggling to cope with the loss of their loved one.

If you or someone you know is struggling with depression, anxiety, OCD, PTSD, bipolar disorder, an eating disorder, or any other mental illness, please know that there is medical help available. You are NOT alone. Reach out for help.

National Suicide Prevention Lifeline: 800-273-8255

Crisis Text Line: Text HOME to 741741

There is hope. There is always HOPE.

Pain is real but so it hope. Work to know all of what is real (true) and what is fake (false) in life.

Images courtesy of Pinterest

Take Me Out to the Ball Game

My mom loves baseball. Being a Southern California girl, her favorite team is the Los Angeles Dodgers. Mine too.

I’ve been to dozens of games since I was a teenager. My husband, two daughters, and I do our best to make Dodger games an annual summer tradition.

But Mom had never been. Until the past couple of years, I didn’t even know how much she wanted to go. She’d say, “The only time I’ve ever been to Dodger Stadium was years ago to see the Pope!” But never for baseball.

So… this past March for her 83rd birthday, my husband Alex and I surprised her with Dodger tickets. To top it off, our daughters gave her a Dodger T-shirt to wear for the occasion. To say she was thrilled is an understatement. She couldn’t stop smiling. She beamed. I loved how she expressed how she felt: “I feel so ALIVE!”

We couldn’t wait to take her.

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Courtesy of Pinterest

The big day was 5/27, Memorial Day. Los Angeles Dodgers vs. New York Mets. Game time: 5:10pm.

We picked Mom up and she was all dolled up for the game, complete with her new Dodger shirt, Dodger cap, jeans, and tennis shoes. Her excitement was infectious. It was like taking a kid to Disneyland for the first time. The wonder, magic, and surprise of it all.

My 90-year-old dad follows baseball too, but he preferred to stay home and watch the game on TV. He bought himself a big bag of Dodger peanuts and planned to make hot dogs, “all in the comfort of my own home.”

After not-too-bad LA traffic, we arrived. As we walked into the stadium, planes in formation roared by, in honor of Memorial Day. Mom was in awe of the huge crowd, the enormous stadium.

Our seats were field level, just past first base. Mom couldn’t believe that the players she followed on TV were right there. So close! Her favorite, Clayton Kershaw, was the starting pitcher. She was excited to see her other favs, Justin Turner and Cody Bellinger.

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Image of Clayton Kershaw courtesy of Sports Illustrated

There’s something about being at a baseball game. The crack of the bat, the roar of the crowd, the energy, the enthusiasm. The cheering, clapping. The smell of hot dogs, pop corn, peanuts, and beer. Watching replays on the enormous Jumbotron. Being part of “the wave.” Standing for the seventh-inning stretch, singing “God Bless America” and “Take Me Out to the Ball Game.”

We were hoping for a good game, but never thought we’d get a GREAT game. With more than thirty hits, it was super exciting from start to finish. And yes, the Dodgers won, 9-5.

Mom talked about the game the whole way home. The next day, she told me she was so “amped-up,” she had a really hard time falling asleep.

It felt amazing that Alex and I were able to give her that feeling, that experience. We helped her check something off her bucket list.

I didn’t think about this at the time — but honestly, I got to check it off my bucket list.

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Image courtesy of bucketlistjourney.net

Persistence Pays

what you focus on grows

Several weeks ago, I read something on a blog that has stuck with me. I think of it every single day. It’s these five simple words:

What you focus on grows.

And the blogger? The beautiful Miriam, of Out an’ About. She’s so lovely! I connected with her soon after I started my blog. Miriam lives in Australia and is an inspirational travel writer and photographer. Every time I read one of her posts, I’m filled with positivity and motivation. (She has no idea I’m writing this!)

Anyway, those words — what you focus on grows — are appropriate in my life right now.

Lately, I feel like I’m being pulled in different directions — a major renovation project for our business, various deadlines including taxes, etc.  All of which are urgent matters and must take precedence over “fun/personal/do-what-I-want-to-do-things.”

I’ve had to switch my priorities. But I know it’s temporary. Like they say, “This too shall pass.”

Soon I’ll be able to move on and do what I love (blog and write, read for pleasure, take extra-long walks, work on my self-care routine, etc.)

I’ve realized that no matter what task I’m faced with — whether I’m excited about it or not — when I focus on it, it grows. In return, I’m filled with a sense of accomplishment and pride in a job well done.

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Goals and dreams don’t magically happen. It takes hard work and discipline. We must put effort and energy into what we want in this world.

It pays to be persistent.

This isn’t merely about checking items off the to-do list. It’s also choosing how to live our lives. Miriam says it beautifully:

“We can choose to focus on what is good in our world or we can hold on to worries so tightly that they consume us. Let them go and things tend to unfold naturally. Focus on the positives and life will be better.”

It felt great to sit at my computer and write a blog post again, it’s been a while. But now I need to switch gears and focus on making dinner for my husband.

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Just a Thought…

Amen to that! No matter what the day holds for me, it’s a blessing. Some days are more productive than others, some are just plain better than others. But no matter what, there’s good in every single day — even if I have to look a little harder for it.

My husband and I have had colds and the flu for most of this month. He came down with it New Year’s Eve, and I got sick mid January. Despite antibiotics, lots of sleep, and lots of liquids, it’s been tough to get rid of. We’ve been saying to each other, “I’m so tired of being tired.” And “I’m so sick of feeling sick.”

But through it all, we’ve tried to be positive and focus on the small improvements. Thankfully, we’re both doing much better.

It feels so good to feel good!

Make today amazing!!

Jenny

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First image courtesy of Victory Today

Second image courtesy of here

A Little Holiday Cheer, Thanks to Taco Bell

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Something really cool happened today…

My husband Alex and I were out, taking care of our businesses. We stopped for lunch, had a nice salmon salad and breadsticks. Next on the agenda was to go to a clothing store to buy a gift card for a friend.

We pulled into the shopping center and Alex made a quick turn into the Taco Bell parking lot.

“What are you doing?” I said. “Why are you stopping here?”

“I wasn’t going to. But remember last year we wanted to get the girls Taco Bell gift cards for stocking stuffers, (both of our daughters love TB!) and they were completely out? Let’s get them now, so we make sure we have them.”

“Great idea, I’ll go in.”

After I bought them, the cashier told me I got two free tacos for purchasing the gift cards.

“I have to get them now? Can’t I get the tacos on another day?”

“No, sorry.”

Thoughts raced through my mind. I don’t need two tacos, I really don’t want them. We just ate lunch. I’m full. Oh, I’ll just take them, they’re free. Maybe Alex will eat one, or we could refrigerate them and have them later for a snack. Or maybe we’ll see a homeless person to give them to. That would be the best thing. 

I put a few hot sauces in the bag and got back into the car.

“Alex, look what they gave me. For free!”

He smiled. “I’m not hungry, but I guess I could always eat a taco.”

“I wish we’d see a homeless person to give them to, so they don’t go to waste.”

Alex backed the car out of the parking spot, and —  I’m not kidding — a second later, he looked to his left and said, “Oh wow, maybe we’ve already found someone.”

A homeless man was walking toward us. His thin body hunched over, his dark, curly hair flew every which way in the breeze. He looked tired and dirty. He held an empty cup and a crumpled dollar bill.

Alex rolled down the window. “Hey bud… Are you hungry? Do you want some tacos?”

The man looked surprised and bewildered, like he wasn’t sure if he heard Alex right.

Alex showed him the bag and said, “Do you want some tacos? You can have them.”

A huge smile spread on the man’s face. “Thank you, I love tacos! Bless you and have a Happy Holiday.”

Alex and I waved and said, “Merry Christmas!” We drove away, smiling at what had just happened. We were in awe. The timing could not have been better. God’s timing.

It felt amazing to know that we helped that man in some small way.

“Well, that was sure meant to be,” Alex said.

It sure was.

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Why Asking for Help Isn’t Easy: My Post on the NAMI National Blog

I’m excited that a piece I wrote for NAMI’s National Blog has been published! How stigma prevented me from receiving medical help for panic disorder. Please Click here to read.

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(Note, this is not an excerpt)

Sometimes people ask how I was able to hide my panic attacks for 20 years. My first thought: I have no idea, I just did. I felt there was no other choice.

The reason, even though I wasn’t aware of it at the time?

Stigma.

Growing up, I felt different than the other kids. I was sure they’d never understand the frightening symptoms I experienced. I didn’t want my friends, or even my family, to know. I didn’t want them to worry and think I was strange.

Most of the time I was fine. So why talk about it? I can handle this on my own.

Years later, I realized I didn’t need to handle it by myself. More importantly, I shouldn’t have.

I didn’t know there was help available. I thought I was alone.

Now I speak out about mental illness because I don’t want others to feel like I did. I want people to know there is hope. You are not alone.

Click here to read my post on the NAMI website.

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A Birthday to Remember

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A couple of weeks ago, my sister called to finalize details for our dad’s 90th birthday party. We had been trying to come up with something extra special.

My sister (I’ll call her Claire) wanted to run an idea by me. “How about if each of us talk about a special memory of Dad, or tell why he’s important to us… And I’ll videotape it.”

Videotape it? I’m not sure if everyone will be up for that.

Claire said that whoever wanted to participate could, no pressure for those who don’t want to.

So I agreed. And started to think about what I’d say.  Where do I begin?

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The anticipated big day was arriving quickly. My other sister (I’ll call her Tara), who lives out of state, flew in for the festivities. It meant the world to Dad that she came.

All of us gathered last weekend to celebrate the birth and wonderful life of our patriarch. Dad, Grandpa, Great-Grandpa.

We had a barbeque with his favorite meal — hot dogs, hamburgers, potato salad, and a donut cake. I can’t tell you how many pictures we have of him blowing out candles, perched on a stack of donuts. But this one was momentous. Two candles, one the number 9, one the number 0, stood proudly on top of the donut tower.

There were 16 of us, so we started the video tribute sessions early, before dinner. Dad sat in the living room where it was quiet, as most people were outside eating appetizers and playing games of cornhole.

One by one, we sat on the sofa next to him. No one opted out. Every single one of us spoke.

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My sisters and I went first. Tara talked about how she used to love going out with Dad every year, just the two of them, to find the perfect “Charlie Brown Christmas tree.” Claire reminded Dad of the times they’d lie on the backyard lounge chairs at night and stare at the stars, trying to find constellations.

I told Dad how much I loved my pretty bedroom he decorated for me when I was a little girl. He painted it pink, with flower wallpaper, and a canopy bed. He made me feel like a princess. I talked about how I treasure the times that he and my mom come over to our house for Sunday dinner. And that I love how our conversations usually lead to sheer laughter. Those moments spent together are priceless.

Then my mom sat next to her husband of 60 years. She told him that he’s the best man she could ever have hoped for. What she said, and how they looked at each other, is etched in my mind forever.

I couldn’t resist taking a picture of my sweet parents. I hadn’t planned on taking pictures, as it all was being videotaped. But I wanted to capture as much as I possibly could.

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The moments were tender and beautiful. It’s hard to describe the look on each person’s face, and my dad’s, while reminiscing. It was like Dad was staring into each family member’s eyes, wanting to soak it all in.

Like when one of my nephews talked about the cross necklace my dad gave him years ago. He treasures that cross, like nothing else he’s ever owned.

Or when my sister-in-law broke down crying, because she’s blessed and grateful to be part of our family. My dad held her hand and hugged her.

Or when my newly-pregnant niece teared up, telling him that he’s always made her feel special. She grew up with four older brothers, and reveled in the fact that she was unique, as my parents lovingly referred to her as “our first granddaughter.” My dad touched my niece’s pregnant belly with both hands, and it was more than precious.

Mackenzie, my oldest daughter, said how much she loves to hear Grandpa tell stories about his life. My youngest daughter, Talee, told him how happy she is that she’s carrying on the tradition of working at the place where he and Grandma met and fell in love.

All of the other memories and acknowledgments were equally as beautiful. Some serious, some lighthearted. But the one thing they had in common: it was clear to my dad how much he is admired, respected, and loved.

I think those tributes were as important to all of us, as much as they were to him.

When the party ended, Mom and Dad looked exhausted.

The next day, I saw Dad, and asked him if he’d recovered from the big celebration.

He said, “No.”

“Oh no, really, you haven’t?”

“No,” he said. A big smile spread on his face. “I’m still on cloud nine.”

Perfect.

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7 Ways to Live a More Joyful Life

Choose

Last week I watched a video that really resonated with me. It was on seven simple ways to achieve happiness, based on research from Harvard.

It got me thinking… I am a happy person. But to be more specific, I have joy in my life. Which doesn’t mean I’m happy all the time. I’m content because I have a life filled with joy, even when things aren’t going right.

I used to use the terms joy and happiness interchangeably. But these words have different meanings.

JOY: is more consistent and is cultivated internally. It comes when you make peace with who you are, why you are, and how you are.

HAPPINESS: tends to be externally triggered and is based on other people, things, places, thoughts, and events.

Buying a new pair of shoes or going to a trendy restaurant makes me happy. But it doesn’t give my life meaning.

I’m joyous because I’m content. This doesn’t mean my life is perfect. There are things I’m working on that I want to change or improve. But I strive to create rich, meaningful relationships. I have a loving family; an amazing, supportive husband, and two daughters I adore. I’m close with my parents, sisters, and other family members. I have a great group of friends. I work hard to maintain my well-being, both mentally and physically.

When I watched the video on ways to achieve happiness, it reminded me that even though this list is compiled of things I’m already aware of, I need to remember to  incorporate them into my daily routine:

  • Meditate. Be still. Quiet your mind. Life gets so busy and we live in a chaotic world. It’s refreshing to slow down, even for just a little bit each day. I’ve tried meditating, and let’s say, I’m a work in progress. But even if I meditate and practice deep breathing for 10 minutes, it makes a difference. I feel rejuvenated and calm. I like using an app, like Headspace, to guide me through.

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  • Be kind. Spread joy through random acts of kindness. The smallest and simplest acts of kindness can mean the most. Smile, start a conversation, hold the door open. Kindness is something this world can never get enough of. And it makes the giver feel as good (or even better) than the receiver.
  • Buy experiences rather than things. Spend time with family and friends. Face-to-face interaction. Maybe it’s going out to eat, walking on the beach, doing a puzzle, talking for hours, or munching on popcorn and binge-watching a new show. It’s about creating special moments, talking and laughing together. It’s the time, not the material things.
  • Make your surroundings positive. Surround yourself with beauty. Bring flowers into the house or put a bowl of fresh fruit on the kitchen table. The glow of candles make the house feel warm and homey. I often have a candle burning when I cook and on the table every night. A flickering candle makes every meal feel special. Decluttering is a big priority for me. It helps me to feel organized and so much better when things are in their place. Transform a room into your sanctuary, a lovely place to spend time in.

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  • Find something to look forward to. The expectation of something wonderful about to happen, is amazing. I think of hope. Having hope is what helps keep us going. It can be anticipating an upcoming vacation, or something as simple as looking forward to going home after a long day; eating a favorite meal or treat; making time to garden, paint, or write; spending time with friends.
  • Physical activity. This is beneficial, both physically and mentally. After I work out, I feel energized and proud for doing something good for my body. Plus, it helps lower my stress and anxiety levels. Exercise raises those feel-good endorphins, leaving us with a feeling known as a “runner’s high.” Any type of physical movement counts… yoga, running, walking, biking, dancing, splashing in the pool with your kids, gardening, or going on a nature hike.
  • Do what you’re best at. Find something you love and do it as often as possible. This gives us joy and confidence. While it’s important to reach out of our comfort zones to learn and grow, it’s also important to spend time in our comfort zones.

Live mindfully, with the intention of filling it not only with happiness, but also with joy.

I think it’s nice to have both.

Dance

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