A New Chapter | Raise Your Paw Blog

I very much enjoyed writing in this space, and then found over time that my enthusiasm waned. It turned out that what I really wanted to write about was too private to share here, and I had pretty much said what I wanted to say with Now This Life.

After about a year's break from blogging, our family started volunteering at the Sacramento County Animal Shelter and, not surprisingly, decided to write about our experiences. It is wonderful to be back to blogging, especially with all three of us taking turns writing, and with the added bonus of being able to help out some amazing dogs with our words.

I hope that you will join us at our new blog, RaiseYourPaw.

Thank you for reading and sharing this space with me. It's been a true pleasure.



Me and shelter dog (now adopted!) Sydney


Lessons From "Get Real on the Internet" Week

Last week I stumbled across a fun project on Pinterest, "Get Real on the Internet Week," the idea being that for a week you post only real life stuff...no instagram filters, no staged photos. Each day brought a theme to follow: foodkids & pets, clutter, procrastination, imperfect moments. I went into the week with a sense of fun and lightness, looking forward to something different to do and a way to peel back the veneer that we all paste on to showcase our best selves on social media.

People posted their photos and linked up, a couple of friends joined in, and I definitely laughed a little seeing the things everyone shared: microwave oven disasters and cupcakes for breakfast; crying toddlers and lots of dog destroyed items; messy desks, piles of laundry and sinks filled with dirty dishes; iphone games and television shows; Christmas card photo mishaps and food covered kids. All the things we all deal with every day.

The first day was simple....food. A quick snapshot of the Annie's box of mac & cheese for Chloe's dinner and I was done.

The apple makes it all okay, right?
The second day, kids and pets, had me setting out on my walk with Teddy with my mind focused on finding something "real" to take a picture of. Well, there were plenty of real things...lots of dog poop in the vacant fields where we walk, brown grass from the lack of rain, some trash floating in the creek including a lonely soda can bobbing in the middle of the water. I spied fishing line coiled around a rock next to a Pringles can and an abandoned furry boot hanging out in the weeds. I took a photo of the soda can and then one of the same view cropped just so that the can was out of frame. I took another of the fields looking back on our houses across the creek, the beautiful view, and then one where I turned around and captured the backs of the big box stores instead. I couldn't bring myself to take any pictures of the dog poop! I had it in my mind that I'd post the photos from different perspectives, showing how we edit our lives to make them look beautiful.

Still walking, I looked up and saw a great egret sitting in a eucalyptus tree, looking like it was posing for me. The sun shone on its feathers and everything about it radiated peace and beauty...so lovely it seemed set up. Normally I would have reached for my camera but instead I just stood quietly and watched as my heart flooded. I didn't have time for a photo anyway because he flew away a few seconds later, right past me to join his brethren on the lake. But, ah, that moment.

There are always those moments on my walks...a little something that stands out, that makes me stand up and pay attention, that marks the day. But no, I thought, that doesn't count as "real."

I ended up posting an old video of Teddy lapping up iced tea that he had knocked over.

Day three, clutter, led to a photo of my garage and my grown large goodwill pile. A little embarrassing to post that one and the next night I had a burst of energy and completely reorganized the shelves, finding a home for things that had just been haphazardly piled. I can now find my hangers for laundry and my bags for shopping, and all of the goodwill stuff is donated. I would have much preferred posting an after picture!

All better now, I promise.
Day four, procrastination....easy this one. A quick Instagram picture of Teddy looking super cute in a "watch me" as a break from payroll taxes. I could have just as easily taken a screen shot of Suri's Burn Book because that's a nice guilty don't-want-to-do-what-I-should-be-doing distraction too. But that wasn't really "real" either because it was just a momentary distraction, a way to clear my mind for a few minutes so I could focus on my next task. So which is real, getting the work done or the three minutes on Instagram? Both?

Teddy rocks his "watch me"
By the last day, imperfect moments, I didn't want to play anymore. I was tired of looking for the "real" and ready to go back to searching for the pretty, the heart stopping, the things that make me laugh. I was ready to focus on the good again.

So much of our lives are the dog poop and the fishing line and the laundry. We see bad news wherever we look, coming at us from all directions. Facebook even slams it at us with photos of horribly abused animals, with political rants and people writing comments they would never say to someone in person.

It's all real, the good and the bad, and I'm happy to see your good. Please, give me the picture of your beautifully manicured toes in the sand in Cabo with the palm trees in the background, show me your boy playing his new song proudly on the piano, share your puppy snuggling with your toddler. Show me all the little moments of your life that make you smile, that make it all worth it. Now I better understand what they are, and why we all do it...why it feels good to Instagram the kale and Facebook the straight A report card. We're all just searching for the joy and wanting to share it. And if you need some reassurance that other people have non-stop tantrum throwing toddlers and days when they want to tear their hair out in sheer frustration, please post that too. I'll commiserate.

I went into the week expecting to learn a lesson, and I definitely did. It just wasn't the one that I expected.

How I wish I had a photo of that egret to show you.


Let's Do it! "Get Real on The Internet" Week

Having a little down time browsing all the pretty pictures on Pinterest when a cute little black lab on a laminate floor grabs my eye...mostly because, although he is adorable, it's not the normal professional gorgeous photo that Real Simple typically posts.

Turns out it's a link to a rallying cry, a shout out for us all to "Get Real on The Internet."

Anyone in?

The idea is, for just one week, to post the real, unvarnished truth on social media. Now, I'm a big fan of looking on the bright side, and God knows I love a pretty picture, but I also have fallen prey to feeling badly when I see glimpses of "friends" lives that look far too perfect and that make mine seem sadly diminished by comparison. And I do remind myself that it's always a curated vision, just a snapshot, and that we all post the best of what we have.

But, today, let's not. This week, let's try something different.

So, in the spirit of getting real, here's what's happening at my house.

Hot dogs for dinner. And canned baked beans. I convinced myself that the blueberries and oranges evened it out.

Ron, Chloe and I on the sofa, each on our separate electronic devices. I'm writing this, but hey, previously, yeah, Pinterest. Chloe is playing Alpaca World and Ron is perusing his Twitter feed. Teddy is asleep on his dog bed and he's kinda stinky, frankly. There's laundry to put away, and a kitchen to clean up, and a big long list of things I could be productive at.

We're all in our sweats and jammies, and it's not even seven o'clock.

Actual Unretouched No-Filter Photo

And how is your world?

Come on, it will be fun! Tell me you're in...

This post inspired by 
Mama’s Losin’ It


Happy New Year! Welcome 2014.

Hello 2014.

I know that none of us can quite believe the New Year is here, but I give it welcome, regardless. It's been lovely being on vacation, especially with the gorgeous sunny weather, and I'm still swimming in delicious denial that today's my last day off. I had all kinds of tasks set to accomplish this past week, but instead the days rushed by without much getting checked off the list. The closets didn't get cleaned out; I didn't make the many trips to donate all of our extra stuff that I was hoping to get to; the Christmas decorations are still up, including the half-of-them-are-not-working outside lights.

Instead, I spent time with my girl and Ron and Teddy. I took naps and slept in. We watched the ball drop last night on TV on the East Coast feed, cuddled up on the sofa together while Teddy had a blast shredding a cardboard New Years hat. We took a little two day to trip to San Francisco, ate lots of good food and got Chloe a new lunch box. Teddy romped with friends at the river, Chloe made movies on her new phone, and I picked the last of my Meyer lemons and made salad dressing and a big pot of vegetable soup, rich with yams and kale and garlic, and even managed to eat it all. I pruned some of the roses, visited with friends and family and downed far too many of Cindy's homemade lemon squares, read a couple of terrific books and watched some Hawaii Life on tv.

Plus, I only yelled at Chloe once and got in one fight with Ron. Which were both totally my fault and on the same day. So I'm giving myself a gold star for that category.

All in all, such a nice break. So wonderful to have a chance to just slow down and be. I figure the closets will be there when I get to them.

2014, bring it on, I'm rested and ready for you.

Chloe, Market Street, San Francisco.
Lunch at Max's, one of our San Francisco traditions.
My favorite Christmas present...
I'm sensing a theme here.
My Mom and Cal. Christmas is for hugs.
Love these two.
To wrap this up, a little New Year's Day happiness, courtesy of my vlogging daughter and her Christmas phone. Filmed at Garcia Bend Park and The Sacramento River, edited in the backseat on the ride home. How I do love imovie, and my kid. Enjoy.

This post inspired by 
Mama’s Losin’ It


A Davis Walk and Designer Birdhouses

Took a trip to Davis today to enjoy this sunny New Year's Eve gift of a day...burgers and sweet potato fries at Bistro 33 followed by a walk around the UC Davis Arboretum just because it's pretty. A lovely surprise of these design student birdhouses greeted us, all different and charming perched on their poles. Also, a sculpted head, redwoods, ducks, bridges and lots of people walking cute dogs. It felt a little like my old friend Central Park, in a Davis kind of way.

New Years Resolutions anyone? How about this one...

Just breathe.


Get Out of The Way, It's Coming.

Thanksgiving is barely over and already here it is...Christmas everywhere. A little too soon for me, but since I have no say in the timing, go there I must.

Each year we bundle up with friends and watch the Elk Grove Christmas Parade and each year I am so happy at how old school and small-townish it is...girl scouts dressed as Christmas presents and angels, vintage cars festooned with snowflake stickers and sparkly lights, a float celebrating folks who raise seeing eye dogs, firetrucks, a high school marching band followed by concentrating-hard baton twirlers. It's our own miniature Disney Light Parade. We bring our folding chairs and a thermos of coffee and cheer each group as they pass by. Chloe and her friends sit on blankets chattering in between forays to scurry into the street after tossed candy; I take pictures and watch quietly, thinking of the memories being created, childhood unfolding.

Plus, there are dogs wearing lights running in a circle. How much better could it be?

NowThisLife.com - Elk Grove Parade Car


House Fantasies

Yesterday, Ron and I rode a rollercoaster ride of house fantasy...living close to Chloe's school, a short commute, a smaller, easier, less expensive house with hardwood floors and a front porch and a garden in the yard. We toured model homes in El Dorado Hills (which has absolutely nothing to do with what we would be looking for but was where we were waiting to pick up Chloe from a sleepover) and talked about what it would be like to drive less and garden more, to be so close to everything, to not pay all the maintenance and upkeep that our big suburban house requires. We perused smart phone apps searching for available houses and then came home and computer blitzed the same. We found some nice prospects, with some open houses to visit today, and we managed to freak out our poor daughter with even the idea of moving. We facebook messaged for an hour after we both went to bed and it was so fun to have a little adventure together. To not feel so settled; to see possibilities still open to us when at this stage of life it's so easy to feel a bit like the doors are all locked and the directions chosen.

I seem to do this every year when the days get short...I start imagining a different life, a complete upheaval, a fresh start. And then, right on cue, I wake up.

Just to let you in on my fantasy, here's some houses I picture. None of these, mind you, would be in our price range in the neighborhoods we would like to be in...of course.

photo | David Sawyer

photo | David Sawyer

photo | David Sawyer

photo | David Sawyer

Predictably, after I finally closed up my lap top and turned off the lights, the reality started setting in and I couldn't sleep. How to leave behind Chloe's wonderful friends next door where she skates back and forth so easily, squealing with happiness in both of our back yards, and out front, in the park, cartwheeling and climbing trees. Leaving Therese and our walks and talk therapy. Goodbye to our park and lake and field just across the street for Teddy and I each morning, my favorite moments of the day. No egrets or goslings or baby turtles or muskrats and beavers swimming. No white goose, no glimpses of skinny hipped coyotes moving away from us in the field. No neighbors to wave to that we've known for seventeen years, and farewell to all the neighborhood dogs I know by name. No bonus room for Chloe and friends to escape to with their noise and their tween secrets, or for Ron's Jets games. No office for me; where would my piano go, and how about my much loved just-remodeled-four-years-ago kitchen? My mom miles away instead of just down the street, her trampoline and support much harder to visit. No pool filled with laughter and rising voices in the summer.  How about the squirrels in the back yard and the birds that we feed? How about my collection of green and blue vases or all of my seasonal wreaths and stakes for the front yard? No staircase where I kneeled in labor with Chloe, no backyard where Ron and I said our vows in front of our family and friends and we danced with KD the magic dog and Kayla the puppy. How about those same pets buried under the roses?

How could we possibly leave all of this?

For a shorter commute and some money saved?

Maybe someday there will be some place that could pull us away, that we all will walk into and say, yes, this is it, this somehow calls us. There would have to be some powerful magic there to make me say goodbye to this place where my family, and my heart, live.

Today, we'll enjoy the open houses and most likely come home happily grateful for all that we have here. Bruised and battered by dogs and humans that our house is, located in Elk Grove where maybe the property values aren't going in the best direction long term, it is home. It truly is beautiful in the spring when all of my roses put on their very best show. This picture was taken a few years ago when the paint was fresher, the slate path newer, the landscape a little less overgrown. Still, today, it is lovely.

Deliciously, that doorway of beckoning possibility, of the unknown, is open. And that, in itself, is a gift.

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