My New Love

Meet… DUKE! Our new bundle of joy, filling our home with a ton of love and lots of laughs. To be perfectly honest, exhaustion too. But that comes with the playful puppy stage, and I’m soaking it all in. Now at eleven weeks, he’s growing so fast. Soon I won’t be able to hold him like I can now.

Duke is a bright light, a wonderful distraction from this anxious, frustrating, uncertain world we’re living in. He came to us at just the right time.

For the past couple of years, my husband and I talked about getting a dog, since our beloved Buddy died in August 2017. We started looking seriously last October. We searched high and low, researching all of our options. We didn’t have our hearts set on getting a dog from a breeder. But this opportunity came along and seemed, well, perfect. We felt it deep inside, that THIS was finally it.

We knew we wanted a boy, and we knew we wanted to call him Duke. We named him after Duke’s Beach House in Maui, a super special place to our family.

Duke, an English lab, was born in the middle of May. It would be eight weeks before we’d bring him home. In the meantime, we busied ourselves preparing for a new pup; reading books on how to crate train a dog, which food to use, which chew toys to buy for a teething puppy.

After the litter was born (seven boys and three girls), the breeder would post pictures and videos. Each pup wore a different colored collar. One of the males who had on a red collar (eventually our Duke) was always at the top of our list. When the pups were about four weeks old, we were watching a video in which a woman said to red-collar pup, “Good boy, Duke.” I looked at my husband and said, “Did she just call him Duke?”

When we needed to make our choice, it was between Duke and one other pup. My husband, daughters, and I wanted to make SURE we were doing the right thing, taking home the perfect dog for our family.

I told my husband, “God is probably saying to us, ‘What do you mean you aren’t sure? I’ve given you the clearest sign! Choose DUKE!'”

Absolutely. No need to second-guess anything.

Two weeks later, we picked up our sweet “little polar bear.” Life has changed in the most lovely, delightful way.

Thank goodness both of our adult daughters (now working from home at their apartments) were able to stay at our house the first two weeks we had Duke. They got in some great bonding time with their “brother” and helped out more than I can say.

Everyone told me that having a puppy is like having a baby. This is really pretty accurate. I can’t tell you how excited I was when Duke finally slept through the night! BUT… he’s still waking up at 5:30am, starving and ready to play. Needless to say, I am NOT.

But I’ve learned to take advantage of my early hours, sneaking in some deep stretches and yoga at the crack of dawn. My new schedule (and my tired eyes) have forced me to slow down, which is a good thing. I’m not hard on myself when I’m not as productive as I think I should be. I tell myself I’m doing the best I can, and everything else can wait.

And those lazy days of summer? It’s been years, but I’m finally experiencing them again. Sure, part of it is because of the Covid-19 shutdown. But much of it is being home to keep a watchful eye on our curious pup. One of my favorite parts of the day is sitting in the shade with Duke in his backyard playpen while he sleeps. I read a book or magazine and sip an iced coffee. It feels indulgent.

Oops, time to go. Duke needs to go outside. I don’t want to clean up another mess on the carpet.

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

Finding My Zen… With Goats

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Zen: feeling relaxed and peaceful.

A couple of weeks ago, I had such a fun experience with my two daughters, who are in their mid-20s. We went to a yoga class — a goat yoga class.

For Christmas I bought three passes and put them in Mackenzie and Talees’ stockings. We laughed about it, and couldn’t imagine what role the goats played. We watched videos, where goats climbed on people’s backs when they were in different positions, like Downward-Facing Dog or Child’s Pose.

I wasn’t too sure I’d like goats nudging and climbing on me, but thought it’d be a  memorable time with my girls. I hadn’t taken a yoga class in several years. I figured that wouldn’t matter, as we’d be so distracted by the goats, laughing the whole time.

We got to the farm and parked in a dirt lot. There was a huge pen, for both us and the goats. Straw covered the ground and everyone brought their own yoga mat or beach towel.

There were about ten goats, seven of them were babies. SO cute! If you can believe it, they were actually supposed to wear pajamas (yes, the goats… not the people). But it was too warm that day for pj’s.

It was quiet, with a soft breeze blowing the eucalyptus trees surrounding us. The goats seemed super calm, just walking around or lying down. Their little sounds — a-a-a-a-a-ah — were adorable.

The instructor (I’ll call her Julie) set her mat at the front of the pen. I happened to be right next to her, and hoped people wouldn’t look to me for direction. I knew my yoga would be pretty rusty.

Julie warned us that the goats may sniff, chew, or take items that were on the ground. She said the goats could care less if a bag is from Target (she pronounced it Tar-jay) or Cartier, both would taste the same.

She said to go at our own pace, no one will judge, just like the goats don’t judge. They’re simply glad we’re there.

And if a goat poops on your mat, oh well… just brush it off and move on. No big deal.

Class started. At first I was leery, wondering if the goats would chew my mat or grab my shoes or cell phone. But they were kind and gentle. I guess I expected them to be more, well, annoying (in a cute, playful way).

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I settled in while taking some deep breaths. My eyes were closed and I relaxed, appreciating the warmth of the sun and the warm breeze. It had been a really cold and rainy winter for Southern CA.

I couldn’t remember the last time I was that still. I concentrated on my breathing and reveled in the fact that I was at a farm, out in nature, with sweet animals walking around.

It was so peaceful, so Zen.

It reminded me how important it is to do nothing and just be. The fresh air felt amazing, rejuvenating. It’s funny how goats helped me realize that.

And the workout? It wasn’t too strenuous, but we definitely did more yoga than I thought we would. It felt great to breathe, stretch, and balance.

The goats weren’t a distraction. They enhanced the experience. I guess that’s why goat yoga is a thing.

At the end, while we laid down in the Shavasana pose, Julie said to breathe and let our worries go. She told us to remember the gentle goats that don’t judge. And when we’re back out in the real world and our busy lives, if someone “gets our goat,” just brush it off, let it go, and move on.

After class, we were able to hold the baby goats and take pictures. Mackenzie, Talee, and I loved petting their soft fur and laughed trying to hold the wiggly ones. The babies seemed tired, maybe from the warm sun and all the attention. Talee held one of them, while Mackenzie and I stroked it’s sweet head. He (or she) fell asleep in Talee’s arms.

So peaceful, happy, and relaxed. Both the goats and me.

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First image courtesy of here

 

 

From Devastation to New Life

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My husband and I love to go on hikes, and we’re fortunate there are tons of beautiful trails near our home. Last week we ventured to a new spot we’ve been wanting to try.

I’d totally forgotten about something — this was one of the areas ravaged by wildfires last fall.

Seeing the charred trees and blackened earth brought back painful memories.

On November 8, 2018, my husband and I woke to the horrific news that there had been a mass shooting at a popular country bar in our hometown of Thousand Oaks, CA. Twelve people were murdered.

We were devastated and in disbelief that such a tragedy could happen in our beautiful, safe, tight-knit community.

Merely hours after hearing about the shooting, a wildfire started near our home. We saw a huge plume of smoke from our backyard, but honestly thought we’d be fine. Half an hour later, we were placed under a mandatory evacuation, with the threat of “imminent danger.”

We couldn’t begin to process the mass murder in our city, let alone have to fill our car with precious belongings and flee as quickly as possible.

It was terrifying and surreal.

Thankfully, our home and neighborhood didn’t burn. Hundreds of others lost everything.

So as my husband and I started out on the trail last week, gravel crunching underneath our feet and bright blue skies overhead, I couldn’t stop the sad memories from flashing through my mind.

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But then I noticed something. Fresh green growth sprouted from the soot-covered dirt. And wildflowers. And babbling brooks, from the recent rains.

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New life. Hope.

It made me think about how people go through disasters and hard times, unsure they’ll ever get through them. Filled with loneliness and total despair.

But time goes by, and things get better. Maybe just a tiny bit at first, but it’s a start. Slowly there are signs of healing.

Happiness begins to bloom again. I guess spring is a great reminder of that.

There is always hope.

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Fourth image courtesy of here

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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Second image courtesy of here

Third image courtesy of here

 

 

 

 

 

 

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

Make It Happen

be proud this year

I’m just now winding down from the hustle and bustle of the holidays. It was great, with lots of wonderful time spent with family and friends, tons of delicious food, and so much joy.

As I wrote that — so much joy — my thoughts went to the families of the mass shooting victims killed in a country bar in my city. And those who lost their homes in the fires here. My heart aches for them, and for so many others in this world, who did not have a joyful Christmas season.

There were countless times I thought about them over the past month. It felt like it grounded me, a painful reminder of what truly is important in life.

It’s been a rough beginning to the new year. My husband came down with the flu on New Year’s Eve and it’s totally knocked him out. We’re hopeful he’ll feel better this week.

With the beginning of the new year, I’m (somewhat) refreshed and ready to tackle new projects and opportunities. Even though I don’t make New Year’s resolutions — instead, I make goals throughout the year — it’s a perfect time to reflect on what I want to continue doing and what I want to improve on.

I’m focusing on being more mindful, soaking in and cherishing all the good times and difficult times too. To really be present and savor each precious moment. And, even if it’s on a small scale, I want to make a difference in this world. Practice and use the gifts I have and share them with others. This may mean as a wife, mother, friend, or mental health advocate.

I want to make things happen.

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For instance, instead of saying to a friend, “One day we should get together/have lunch/coffee/go for a hike, a movie/etc.,” I want to initiate it, take action and DO it. Not just leave it at “we should.

Last year, I started to work on that very thing — to make an honest effort to connect more with family and friends.

My parents live close by and I see them often. My husband and I have them over for dinner most Sunday nights, and I treasure our conversations and laughter. My mom is 82 and my dad is 90.

I don’t want to regret not doing something with them that I’ve been wanting to do. I’m happy to say I took action on one of those things this past holiday season.

My dad’s mom was Polish. One of my favorite childhood memories is eating her cookies that my sisters and I called “twisters.” They’re light and airy, sprinkled with powdered sugar. The real name for them is Kruschicki. They’re also called Bow Tie Cookies or Angel Wings.

For at least the past ten years, I’ve thought of making Kruschicki at Christmastime. I wanted my dad to have another taste of his mother’s cooking and I yearned to bring a lost family tradition back to life. But I was intimidated.

I love to bake, but couldn’t imagine how Grandma made them, it always seemed complicated to me. Heck, I didn’t even remember what they were called. I only knew them by “twisters.” Grandma made her own dough, cut each cookie into a fancy shape, and fried them. It made me nervous to think about duplicating such a delicate dessert.

Until this past year. I finally did it!

It wasn’t that easy. I threw out the first batch because they were too dense. I had to go back to the store for more ingredients and watch a YouTube video to learn what I did wrong (worked the dough too much).

I worried I wouldn’t get it right. More than anything, I wanted my twisters to taste like Grandma’s. I’d settle for pretty close.

I turned the dough like the video instructed, cut and “tied” the cookies, fried them, and topped them off with a dusting of powdered sugar.

My persistence paid off.

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I’ll never forget the smile on my dad’s face when he walked in and saw the platter of special treats. He couldn’t believe it. It made me so happy to see him so happy.

The verdict from Dad? Delicious. And almost as good as Grandma’s!

When my husband and I walked my parents out to their car, Dad thanked me again for making the Kruschicki. My 90-year-old father said, “Tasting those made me feel like a little boy again.”

Wow. His sweet comment made me feel incredible. I realized I had just given him the best gift I ever could have.

So that’s what I’m striving for this year. To not wait for someday. Make things happen.

Today.

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Fourth 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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First image courtesy of here

Second image courtesy of here