Monday, March 25, 2013

Come Home When the Streetlights Come On...

Those words are reminiscent of my childhood. Young and free, we raced through the neighborhood, roller skating, kicking the can and climbing trees...actual trees! We lived in a small suburban town in California. It was very safe.

I'm pretty sure those exact words were used in the marketing materials for the master-planned Ladera Ranch back in the late 90's. At that time, the new, suburban, South Orange County town was flooded with families seeking some fertile soil in which to plant their roots. We were sold! In 2000, husband, baby and I moved into Ladera and have been calling it "home" ever since.

Schools alive with learning, fields packed with soccer practices, neighborhoods lined with pocket parks...this is home. And, for the most part, we feel very safe here. But it doesn't take much to transition from feeling secure to feeling vulnerable. Recently, and unfortunately, our town has been victimized. Our entire town.

The victims are not just the two 12-year-olds playing at the park who, thankfully, escaped attack. All our kids are victims. They hear stories of a school shooting and wonder if it could happen here. They hear about a bad guy lurking in the park and wonder where he's hiding out. My littlest keeps asking if I think he's still in Ladera. My middle says that I don't have to worry about him, that he can run really fast. (He actually can.) But when the rumors spread around town as ruthlessly as head lice, all of our frightened children are the victims.

And they aren't the only ones. With far-reaching and easily-accessible information, fear spreads. We adults see Facebook posts of adorable first-graders taken from this world too young, and we sob, heartbroken for their families. At school pick-ups we swap details with other parents of break-ins, shooting sprees and other crimes, and we wonder how it could happen in our seemingly safe city.

But bad things can happen. Anywhere. So it's our job to be a part of the safe haven that we call home. It's ours to protect. We need to be outside, watching our children and watching out for danger. Conduct a "Stranger-Danger" refresher around the dinner table. Show them what to watch for and carefully explain the scary truth that a cell phone or a friend may not be enough to protect them.

Because bad things can happen. Anytime. So let's make sure our diligence doesn't diminish a year from now, when time has buffered us from these scary events. Remember to sit on the porch when the kids are racing around the neighborhood, skateboarding, dodging the ball, or searching for a mature tree they can actually climb.

After all, we are a village. It's our job to watch out for each other and take ownership of our safety. Let's live and play and make memories. And when the day is done, let's walk each other safely home when the streetlights come on.

{J}

Friday, March 22, 2013

Article from The OC Register 3/22/13

Fitness Craze Piques Curiosity

I am acutely aware of the level of “fitness and health” happening around this town. I feel only partially guilty that I haven’t joined in the “fun” yet.

A few weeks ago my husband, on his way to work at 5am, noticed my neighbor leaving around the same time. Rain or shine, there she was, freezing temps and all. Why you may ask? A boot-camp here in Ladera and the workout starts at 5:15. It must be pretty great because I can’t think of anything short of a crisis with my children or an earthquake that would get me out of my warm bed at that hour. A few of my other neighbors drop their kids off at school like hot potatoes and SPEED to the gym to attempt to get a place in the strength training class. Apparently if you don’t have your name signed in by 7:50am, you have to stand outside the workout room and hope someone will keel over so you can claim their spot. It’s a very popular class.

Juicing is another crazy thing that is sweeping the neighborhood! It’s all the rage. I kind of get it. It’s healthy and tastes pretty good as long as you add pineapple or green apples to the mix of kale, spinach and wheatgrass. But I’m not too sure about the “cleanse” aspect of it. Drink only juice for 7 days?? I think after day one, my family would beg me to eat a muffin just so I wouldn’t hurt anyone. Adding to that, my husband has jumped on this juicing bandwagon. We have a juicer that my in-laws gave us that was “brand new” according to them. When we got it we realized that “brand new” was giving it a little too much credit. It was more like “we bought it 20 years ago and never took it out of the box”. We figured that out when the “instructions for use and cleaning” were on a tape. That’s right, a cassette tape, (for those in their 20’s, please feel free to Google it).

Overall, I know that I need to get motivated to get healthy. I need to get into the NOW. It’s not an easy fix. I will start slow, and although I won’t be up before the sun, you may find me in the produce aisle looking for that perfect mix of green, leafy and sweet. Maybe I’ll even start using modern technology to make that healthy meal.

By the way, does anyone out there have a tape deck? {H}

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Holly and Jenn Dare to Suck!

We are brave!

We entered our first, ever writing contest! That may not seem like a big deal, but to two girls who really take writing seriously, and worry sometimes that they may not be as good as it takes, this is BIG!

We wanted to share this with you because you help us. You have a way of making us feel like our stories are interesting and that really helps when we're feeling all vulnerable and exposed, like right now. This put-yourself-out-there-for-REAL-writers-to-judge-your-stuff is not easy, but it is necessary. It's the reason we started this blog...to share all of our writing endeavors and experiences, to learn from the great writer-ly types who have paved the way for dreamers like us, and to welcome the advice and criticism (be gentle) that will help us become better story-tellers and recorders of life's priceless moments.

So here we are, daring to suck and oh so happy to bring you our essays. We have to wait until early April for the results before we can publish our entries here, it's part of the contest rules, but stay tuned... In the meantime, check out this INCREDIBLE group of women who have come together in collaboration and celebration of all women, their talents and dreams. They do AMAZING things! www.abandofwives.com. (It is their "Truth in Words" contest that we enthusiastically entered.)

As always, thank you for your support. We love you!

{H&J}

Monday, March 18, 2013

A Give-away!

I have a special introduction today! AND our very first GIVEAWAY!! Yippee!

Please meet Lesley Grainger, Artist extraordinaire!

Lesley and I used to be neighbors and will be lifelong friends, especially since my youngest keeps wanting to have play-dates with her! Wouldn't you if you got to put on a smock and throw paint at a canvas bigger than yourself?? Creating art! It's great fun and great memories! Lesley creates prints, large canvas paintings, and fabrics, one of which was featured on "The Rock's" Super bowl milk commercial (cute rocket ship pajama bottoms). She has also illustrated for several children's books AND she creates online photo card designs for Wal-Mart!

A woman of many talents and she is offering up a FREE print for you! All you have to do is leave a comment here, on our Facebook page, on Lesley's blog or on her Facebook page. You may enter on all four for a better chance at snagging this great prize! Check out her beautiful prints here! Tell us which one you love! We will randomly choose the winner and announce on Friday. Here is just a sample of what you can see at Lesley's Etsy shop!

Thank you everyone and good luck!

{H}

Friday, March 15, 2013

Mom, Dad: You're on my list!

No one ever told us it would be like this. Maybe it's a conspiracy set in motion by the drug companies, or maybe the generation before us just forgot to mention it, but either way, they didn't warn us enough. I'm talking about the staggering fear that goes hand-in-hand with parenting.

Yesterday, as I sat in a hospital room with my very sweet and very sick, twelve year old daughter, I watched medical professionals poke her, scan her and try to figure out what was ailing her. Meanwhile, I cursed at myself for not carrying a stash of Xanax in my purse. Her heart was racing, her breathing was labored and she couldn't answer simple questions. She was really sick. And while she received much needed care, my heart was sinking, I held my breath and I couldn't imagine how parents of terminally ill children got through stuff like this. I was sick.

The door to our room had a big red warning on it. Anyone who entered donned masks and protective gloves. I felt like we carried the plague. It was eerie.

As it turns out, my big girl was experiencing some serious symptoms of Influenza A. She responded quickly to fluids and proper meds, and her cognitive function increased as her temperature decreased. The scans came back clear and they fixed her up real good.

But I was not so lucky. My anxiety lasted all night. Long after we were discharged, anti-virals in hand, I still suffered: nausea, tachycardia, clamminess, tremors and emotional instability. I was a wreck!

Mom and Dad, why didn't you warn me? You never told me that once a parent, my heart would no longer reside safely in the confines of my chest. That it would divide into three parts and roam the earth, frequently exposed to all varieties of accidents and illnesses. That it would break when my middle wasn't invited to a birthday party. That it would sink when my baby got lost in the grocery store. That it would shatter when my big girl was hospitalized.

Maybe you left the scary parts out because you lived in simpler, safer times. Maybe the anti-anxiety pharmaceuticals paid you off. But despite the current state of my frayed nerves, I'd like to believe that you just wanted me to know the limitless joy that accompanies the fear, and that the rewards of parenting far outweigh the risks. One day, when I get your grandchildren to a safe, all-grown-up age, I will thank you. But for now, I'm a little ticked off.

{J}

Wednesday, March 6, 2013

Do You Believe In Dog Heaven?

It's hard to say good-bye. On Sunday we put our thirteen-year-old black Lab, Milo, to sleep. It was a heart-wrenching day.

When we brought Milo home as a pup, he was fast friends with our chocolate Lab, Dakota, who was two. Milo was a menace and got into EVERYTHING! Dakota assumed the job of "training" him and when his puppy feistiness was too much, Dakota would gently manage him with the love of a big brother. They had an amazing bond.

Three years ago, we lost Dakota to cancer. That was tough. He was the first pet, well, aside from YoBuzz-the-Gecko, that the whole family had to say good-bye to. Helping your child process a BIG loss like that is not easy, especially when your own heartbreak needs tending to. My kids hung their heads for quite a few weeks, though they found a renewed purpose in loving all over Milo who seemed lost without his best friend. My youngest, Noah, wrote notes for Dakota in heaven and left them under his pillow. Every few weeks or so, Dakota even wrote back. We still do this.

Over the last year, Milo really began to show his age. His back legs didn't support him on our long walks, his hearing and eyesight diminished, and he slowed down. Really slowed down. The kids noticed. They worried. And then something incredible happened: they began to mentally prepare for Milo's death. I could see it happening. They were more patient with him. They gave him lots of extra hugs and treats. Milo's wagging tail was their only goal. Then they talked about how much fun Dakota and Milo would have in heaven and all of the dog biscuits awaiting him. (The treats are unlimited in Dog Heaven, in case you didn't know.) Eventually, they even entertained the idea of getting another dog, maybe a shelter puppy. Though it may sound harsh, it was their way of finding hope in the future to ease the pain of the present. And isn't that a great life skill?

When we said our final good-byes, I was a wreck! Again my heart broke for my grieving kids. I felt sick at the thought of Milo being led into an exam room to undergo euthanasia. Anxious, I worried for my husband who was about to take Milo for his last drive and his heartache over losing his best canine friend. We were walking right through the pain and it was intense.

Noah wrapped his sweet arms around Milo's big barrel of a middle and rubbed his heart. "You will always be in my heart, Milo," he softly cried, big crocodile tears rolling down his cheeks.

Logan sat on the ground and gently held Milo's muzzle right up to his face. Petting his head, with tears streaming, he looked him in the eyes, loving him up close and personal. "I'll miss you, good boy. You've been a really good friend. I love you, Milo."

Bella was sick in bed so I passed along her hugs and kisses. "Make sure he's on that fluffy blue and brown blanket, mom. He might be scared in the car." Despite her fever and lack of energy, my sweet, sick girl was still taking care of her Milo.

Once loaded in the back of the Expedition, forehead to forehead, I let the tears fall as I kissed him good-bye. I rubbed his belly and scratched him on his ears, just like he loved. He wagged his tail, slowly, but still, it was his way of communicating he was happy. I'd like to think he knew that I needed to see his happiness, not his pain or his fear or his sadness. "Bye buddy," was all I could manage as Michael left to drive Milo to the vet.

Yes, losing a pet is hard. Very hard. After they've gone, waiting for them to greet you at the door or seeing an empty dog dish, brings all the sadness rushing back. The feeling like things are all wrong without them, lingers. But slowly, very slowly, it is replaced with memories. Memories of shoes eaten and holes dug and ocean swims and long hikes. Then, as the joyful recall seeps in, we let it take root because there are a hundred memories of happy to that one day of sad. And when we choose the joy, when we remember and share and talk about our Milo, it soothes the heart.

So thanks for the memories Milo. You were a great companion and we will always love you. Give Dakota hugs from us. We will write to you both and one day, we will see you again. Until then, enjoy the endless dog treats. Good boy.

An excerpt from one of our favorites books, Dog Heaven, by Cynthia Rylant:

"Dogs in Dog Heaven have almost always belonged to somebody on Earth and, of course, the dogs remember this. Heaven is full of memories. So sometimes, an angel will walk a dog back to Earth for a little visit and quietly, invisibly, the dog will sniff about his old backyard, will investigate the cat next door, will follow the child to school, will sit on the front porch and wait for the mail. When he is satisfied that all is well, the dog will return to Heaven with the angel. It is where dogs belong, near God who made them...

"Dogs in Dog Heaven may stay as long as they like and this can mean forever. They will be there when old friends show up. They will be there at the door. Angel dogs."

{J}

Friday, March 1, 2013

Oh, how I love a paper robe!

Yes, it's that time of the year again. Time for the annual evaluation of all things private. Being 39 years old, with three kids and a healthy marriage under my belt, you would think Doctor C's yearly visit would be NO BIG DEAL. But it is. It's been almost 9 years since my last little came through the canal and frankly, I've aged. Every part of me. It seems, the further I travel from that beautiful baby-birthing time, the closer I get to painful modesty. Really...I used to not care about who saw what when there were babies being born, but today is a different day.

So here I sit, at the end of a cold, sterile medical table, in a tiny, generic exam room, dressed in a paper robe. It opens to the front and a form-fitting paper sheet is draped over my lap and tucked securely under my bare thighs. Hugging myself around the waist, I try to keep the robe closed and the stretch marks, soft middle and no-longer-perky pair, hidden. Meanwhile, I text my husband that I look HOT in my rose-colored paper robe.

It seems silly that as I sit and wait (there's always a wait) for the doctor's gentle knock, I grow even more nervous, clammy palms and all. Dr. C has seen me in all my child-bearing glory: stretched, swollen, swearing, so I really have nothing to hide from him, but I still get anxious when I hear the footsteps pacing the halls and medical charts rustling just outside the door. This paper robe won't be hiding much for long, that's for sure!

But it's not only the pending exposé that activates my nerves, it's also the potential findings that could be hiding in the lurch. Will he see something I can't see? Will he feel a lump? Some menacing mass? Will the "smear" reveal something I don't know is there? While I pray the answer is NO, and that today's visit will result in an "All-Clear," good for exactly one year, I am painfully aware that many women, receive different news. The "we should run more tests" news is what I fear the most. It's pure paranoia that has my stomach in knots while I pick out songs for my funeral and wonder if anyone was ever buried in a paper robe. It's ridiculous.

I try to relax, breathing deep, cleansing, antiseptic-scented breaths, aware that this annual appointment is the gateway to knowledge that I need, regardless of what shape that knowledge takes. As scary as the unknown can be, and even though the paper robe does nothing for my post-baby, carb-loving body, I know that this annual exam is critical.

So ladies, I encourage you, the minute you get the appointment reminder card, the one you likely addressed yourself at your last appointment, call and schedule your annual exam. If you have children, take a second to remember the giddy feeling you would get when your doctor visits resulted in an ultrasound picture of your growing baby. If you don't, consider these visits your required maintenance, taking care of the center of miracles right at your core. It's important, whatever age and stage you are at. Don't let too much time pass, don't let fear or flabbiness get in the way. We are empowered women and we need to take care of ourselves. Let's make a promise to each other, to tolerate our paper robes, proudly prop ourselves upon those exam tables, text our husbands that we look really HOT and hey, paper may be the new trend, and fight our fears of the unknown. After all, knowledge is power, ladies, not to mention, you really do look awesome in that paper robe! (wink)

{J}