Finding Your Life

I so clearly remember a certain New Years Eve when I was much younger, probably around nineteen. It was close to midnight and I was at a party, feeling like I was about to burst out of my skin with unhappiness. I absolutely knew that where I was wasn't where I was supposed to be. I said my goodbyes and ran out of there, into the street, to my car, and just sat and sobbed.

I hadn't yet found my life.

Here I am, so many years later. It's 7:30, New Years Eve again. Sitting on the sofa, in my bathrobe and my reading glasses, with Kayla snoring beside me on the floor in front of the fireplace. Chloe is watching Good Luck Charlie on the ipad and Ron is upstairs with his computer. We had dinner out, and it was a little too noisy, and a little too crowded, and we waited quite a bit too long for our food.

Today, I pruned roses in the winter sun, Chloe and I took a walk to the playground and slid down the slides, I spread ten bags of bark that Ron was kind to fetch for me from Lowe's. I ate my leftover homemade garlic and potato soup with kale and goat cheese for lunch. I sipped an Island Girl martini with dinner and we toasted the New Year above the noise. The Christmas decorations are all stowed away, the mantle is clear and fresh. We are all here, safe and together.

Tonight we'll watch the ball drop, on the East Coast version, so that New Years arrives at 9:00. I'll hug my girl tight, and tuck her into bed just like any other night.

Here I sit, writing, with a small smile on my face. This life I found is the right one.


2012 Christmas Time Capsule

Once Halloween hits it's just dominoes falling until the year is over. And here we are, almost finished with 2012. We did a good job this year of spreading Christmas out. Hanukkah was early, we had several get togethers with friends over a few weeks time, we always do gifts on Christmas Eve and stockings on Christmas morning. And then, happily, all of us on vacation at the same time. Such a treat.

Just a little 2012 Christmas time capsule...

This year, Chloe decorated our mantle herself. Difficult for this wants-it-a-certain-way Mom, but she told me, "You might just love it." And I did.

We bought the kit Gingerbread House, but the graham cracker cottages Chloe created were more fun.

Old fashioned Elk Grove Christmas Parade. Hot chocolate, friends, camp chairs and plenty of girl scouts dressed up as packages and Christmas trees, complete with lights draped around them. And Santa in a hot rod.

A good friend's party, where Santa made a ukulele strumming appearance. And then proceeded to strip off half of his Santa Suit and heavily partake of the champagne mimosas.

Lots of happy kid faces. Love.

My mom always takes the best photos when Chloe is with her. I think this is the girl my mom thought I would be...chatty, brunette, snuggly. These two definitely share some identical genes.

My favorite picture of the season. This is how I think of my girl...snuggled up with me. She still fits perfectly.

It was a very American Girl Christmas. Julie and Mackenna both got new holiday outfits, we made them matching penguin emblazoned pjs, and Mackenna scored her snazzy red wheelchair. Life is good in doll land.

Christmas Eve presents. Followed closely by fondue. Gotta add in that seventies vibe kind of food to go with all the avocado green in our house.

Merry Christmas to all and to all a good night. (Especially to worn out pets.)

Hope you had a wonderful holiday:)


A New Birdfeeder and A Very Fat Rat

My old birdfeeder, loved though it is, has drawn its last feathered feaster. A favorite gift, the bottom has just about rusted through. Ron got me this new beauty for Christmas and I finally filled it and hung it beside my daisy tree this morning.

Then I made some peppermint tea and waited at my kitchen table, watching through the window. Took awhile but the finches came first. They seemed pleased with the little perch, securely eating. They are happiness incarnate, those little flighty beings. Pretty soon one of the squirrels showed up...I have a couple of them, literally, as I've seen them consummate things in my tree. This feeder is supposedly squirrel proof but we'll see. They are tenacious.

Next, our newly resident rat. Just started seeing him a couple of days ago, and I keep a pretty good eye on the feeder so I think he's relocated here from somewhere else. Or just grew up super fast. Now, I'm not sure why a rat is so much different from a squirrel but we all know it is. This one must have be living off of the spilled bird feed because he is the healthiest, fattest, shiniest haired wild rat I have ever seen. He runs, okay, waddles, along the top fence boards and hides in the vines. He also climbs right directly up the pole that holds the feeder, but since the squirrel baffle is there, he can't get in. And yes, he's kind of cute in a rattish way. I am very much hoping that he stays outside and doesn't encounter the rat bait in our attic. I'm more than happy to host him in the yard, where he's part of the wild menagerie of garter snakes, voles, birds, squirrels and one old deaf dog, but he needs to know his place.

So, Very Fat Rat, please stay outside, where all you need to worry about are threats that you understand. Rat bait is a horribly nasty thing and it's best if you steer clear.


My Start 2013 Off Right, 30 Day Blogging Challenge

I am a big believer in New Years Resolutions.  They are a reset button for me, a time to take stock, a chance to begin again, fresh and new. Sometimes I'm relaxed about them, and other times determined and detailed. Usually they don't last for a tremendously long time, but it feels wonderful to get back on track, in a groove where I feel I belong.

This year, I'm feeling mighty ambitious. Maybe it's the time off work that has cleared space in my brain, maybe it's the full and gorgeous moon, maybe it's too many desserts. But whatever, I'll take it.

And just in case my list of ten things (each with subcategories) isn't enough, I made myself a spreadsheet. Yep, color coded in Excel and everything. Type A much?

One of the things I'm determined to do is get over the voice in my head that stops me from writing. The one that says, "You aren't good enough," and "Why should you write a blog when there are a million other people already doing the same thing?" And, "Really, who cares what you have to say about your simple little life." And then I google stats like "100,000 new blogs are created EACH DAY, just on Wordpress, as of 2011." Not helpful. It gets overwhelming if I think about it too much. And then I'm paralyzed and another day goes by and I don't write.

So, one of my resolutions is to post each day for thirty days. And not worry so much about WHAT I write about, or if it's good enough, or interesting enough, but just do it.

So, if you are one of my lovely readers, please bear with me. Feel free to read or not, and if it's ridiculous I apologize ahead of time. But maybe, just maybe, it will be freeing and will bring some fun things to the surface that really are worth sharing.

And if not, at least I can check that box on my pretty spreadsheet.

How do you feel about resolutions? Please do share.


San Francisco Getaway: Gorillas, Tory Burch Bags, and Reindeer

Each year, around Christmas, we take a couple of days and head to San Francisco to enjoy Union Square all decked out for the holidays, to warm up a bit, to see the puppies in the Macy's window, and to eat way too much delicious food. The last few times, we've gone as a family, but this year, it was just Ron and I. We desperately needed a little grown up time away, and it didn't disappoint.

Intercontinental Hotel - San Francisco - Christmas Tree

When we first started traveling together, eighteen years ago, we used to argue because I'd make comments like, "I'd love to come back here, alone, and walk around the cemetery." And then I'd be grumpy because I wasn't alone and couldn't just see what stories all those headstones told. Can't really blame the guy for getting a little annoyed with me.

Somewhere along these years, we figured out that what I really need is time built in for me to wander around, exploring, by myself. It doesn't need to be  a ton of time, but it's necessary. I set out with my bag over my shoulder, my comfy walking shoes on my feet, and feel eighteen again. Free, with the possibility of anything ahead of me. It's wonderful. In reality, I just walk the city streets, shop a bit, have a nice lunch, browse a bookstore, take some photos, people watch. But I return refreshed and rejuvenated and ready to be a couple again. It's one of the things I most appreciate, now, about Ron. That he understands. That he sends me off on my adventures with a smile and is there, ready to hear my stories, when I return. 

And I also so appreciate that we enjoy the same, simple, things. A new restaurant, a walk along the water, a good movie, happy dogs chasing things. That neither of us wants to be out late, that we both like a modern hotel and a good nap. It's easy to forget how well we really do get along in the day-to-day treadmill of home-school-work-home. Of Chloe, work, and everything else coming first, and our time together way down on the list. Date nights are fine, but going away for a couple of days, just two, adds up to much more.

So, San Francisco, you beautiful city you...

A beautiful walk around Fort Mason, and a few stairs...

Fort Mason - San Francisco

This beauty...

Fort Mason - San Francisco

Sailboats. The best part was the "Dock Dog on Duty" sign (didn't get photos, darn) and the Dock Dog himself, regally keeping guard, resting in the sun on the slats. Have to settle for a photo of the boats and fill in the red and white staffy with your imagination.

Sailboats - San Francisco - NowThisLife.com

The street vendors always remind me of my dad. He and his girlfriend would drop me and her three kids off to walk around the earring and art stalls while they hung out at the Buena Vista drinking Bloody Marys. I cannot even imagine parents doing that now...probably we should! The bar is still there on the same corner, but not too many vendors in that area. These happy faces live in Union Square instead.

Street Vendors - San Francisco

Neiman's tree. Simple this year, but definitely grand. Overheard some ladies bemoaning the fact that their daughters want bags that cost more than they spend on themselves. The saleswoman directed them to the "less expensive" Tory Burch section. Apparently one daughter has earned the nickname "fancypants." Wonder where she's learned that from?

Neiman Marcus - San Francisco - Christmas Tree

Have you seen the Neiman Marcus/Target collaboration? Kinda fun. Especially this bike...

Neiman Marcus - Target - Bike - NowThisLIfe.com

A beautiful afternoon at the zoo. Vixen made a surprise appearance.

San Francisco Zoo - Reindeer - NowThisLife.com

And so did Aslan.

San Francisco Zoo - Lion - NowThisLIfe.com

Velvety Floyd. Open house at the Giraffe barn at 3:45. Close up viewing of three beauties feasting on Acacia. Such gorgeousness.

San Francisco Zoo - Giraffe - Floyd - NowThisLife.com

From a cast of a late Silverback gorilla.

San Francisco Zoo - Gorilla Hand - NowThisLife.com

And here's the current king, Oscar, keeping vigilant watch. A line of people stood behind glass directly in front of him. They watched him watch them. A standoff.

San Francisco Zoo - Silverback Gorilla - Oscar

And just because I always have to take a photo of a flower, this unidentified lady.

San Francisco Zoo - Flower

And that's not even to mention the bridges and the painted ladies and the views and the sunshine. Here's to getaways with people you love..may there be one in your near future. And may it hold many happy moments.


Who doesn't love a paisley hippy Menorah?

The first night of Hanukkah at our house means the dinner table set in blue, white and silver, a little Chinese food, and then lighting our paisley painted hippy Menorah at sunset. Being that I, the not Jewish one, am the most interested in honoring the tradition, it's an invented sort of celebration. Chloe lights the candles and then we take turns telling a short something we are thankful for. It's a ritual I look forward to each year; one of my favorite parts of the holidays.

In my vision of how things should go, this always is a lovely, heartfelt time, with all three of us connected by a moment of gratitude. Celebrating the fact that the lighter days will come again, that the winter solstice is almost here, that the sun always comes out after a dark night.

In reality, there is often joking around and choruses of "You go first, I don't want to go first" and "I'm thankful for my toys." And by the eighth day we're all a bit tired of the whole thing and get pretty silly.

Tonight, some sweetness, a candle, family, and light. A little break from the everyday. And I do love that we have the most colorful Menorah I've seen. It always makes me smile.

And then, back to American Girl dolls, the Kings game, and laundry.

Happy Hannukah!


Layers of Memory

Yesterday, in the sunniest part of the most beautiful Thanksgiving day I ever remember in Sacramento, I took a walk to enjoy the light. I am a moth to the sunlight, especially when the days are so short.

I traced my usual path, down the greenbelt from our house and then veered off a bit into the neighborhood looking for pretty things to take photos of. And the walking, and the quiet, and the familiar route, got me thinking about the layered nature of memory. How walking this route, I wasn't just seeing the beauty of fall around me today, but also seeing so many other times I've walked the same way.

With Chloe when I very first ventured out a few days after giving birth, all six pounds of her wrapped in a waffled pink receiving blanket. I could carry her in one arm and I made it all the way to the second bench before I wore out and sat down to rest before walking back home. That was the first time my friend Therese met her...driving by in her car she stopped and called out, "Chloe's finally here." And I beamed to be able to show my little bundle to her.

Later I'd walk Chloe in her front carrier, with 110 pounds of both dogs on their leashes. It's amazing I didn't kill anyone. One memory that haunts me is having all of them near one of our big square mailboxes, bending down, and almost hitting Chloe's face on the corner of the metal. I think of it every time I pass that big box. All those "almost" disasters with children. They're frightening to think of.

All of us going on family walks, taking pictures of the dogs and our girl, videos too. When I go back and watch the videos, I don't even always remember having been there.

Seasons changing, Gracie flying through the air to catch the frisbee, so beautiful, laying down to rest in the blankets of fall leaves.

Chloe finally learning to ride her bike, after much resistance, right there, right at that spot.

The way the water floods over the path in the winter when there is an especially strong series of storms. And all of us putting on rain boots and stomping through the thrill of water up on the grass and over the pathways.

Friends and family come to visit, taking walks after dinner. Children so much smaller, some friends no longer in our lives and much missed.

All the houses through their different incarnations. Well cared for, sold, gone slowly to seed, foreclosure, re-sold, painted, spruced up, beautiful again. Different colors, new trees, new flowers, new people.

Scout and Tyla and Angel. Three dogs who have passed on. Scout was a beautiful Aussie, always off leash. The most well-behaved boy with the most devoted owner. When Scout got old, his owner made a little cart and would bring him out for walks, or rides, just so he could enjoy the day. At the very end they'd lay together on a blanket and just watch the world pass by. Now Scout's owner (no I never seem to know the humans' names!) has a new Aussie, light brown to Scout's black and a new wife. Tyla, a beautiful, if not very friendly, Viszla was a puppy the same time as Gracie. They never got along, but I watched them grow up, and grow old, parallel. Tyla died a few months before Gracie did, and now there's a new Viszla on the path, Steele. Angel was so fat she could barely walk even when she was young, but very sweet; she's gone too. Now her owners walk Nero and Princess.

There are so many memories. Several for each step of this walk. All washing over me like waves, like sunlight. I don't remember feeling this way when I was younger; a place was just a place, and I never even thought of it as anything different. The grocery store on the corner had always been that and had yet to be replaced with a gym. Now I know, there are ghosts everywhere. Friendly ones mostly.

So when we're going through our days, we're here, yes. But we're also there. It makes for a richer life, I think.


In The Spirit of Thankfulness

Tomorrow, the formal feast of Thankfulness. But today, I just want to appreciate a few little things that make me happy, in the spirit of being thankful every day.

This morning I woke up to this loveliness outside my bedroom window. Overnight, she turned from green to this magnificent waterfall of color.

Okay, this one really is a little thing. But a cute mantle never hurts in my happiness department.

A berry filled fall wreath on the front door, ditto.

I always look forward to the lemons coming in. And this year brings an especially lush bounty.

Chloe and I made a Thankfulness tree. My kind of crafty project...quick, simple, and with just enough stamp action to feel a little Martha-like.

Picked up this cute little Starbucks ornament...perfect size for McKenna. But the thing I'm really thankful for here is that my girl is still young enough to love her dolls. It's a phase I am in no hurry to pass through.

My other girl can still, just, manage to get onto the bed. I was able to get a photo because, being pretty much deaf, she sleeps so soundly. Old dog, sleeping. Not so physically beautifully anymore, but her heart shines through her eyes and she still gives the world's softest kisses.

And, finally, Chloe's laughter. Because, really, what could be nicer?

Hope your Thanksgiving is full of joy.


Blondies, Gratitude and Gifts

This weekend brought my Mom's annual Halloween party complete with grownups in masks and witches hats, wild children in the haunted treehouse and screeching on the trampoline, along with way too much good food. I put a little extra effort in and edited some BH&G invitations and food labels, decorated my glass iced tea decanter with stick-on gems and a 3D skull sticker, and baked blondies and crumb cake muffins. Enjoyed making things nice and pretending for a few hours that I was Martha Stewart.

Good to see everyone too, although I really prefer a small dinner with a few friends and a chance to dig a little deeper. I'm not so great at small talk. Find myself sitting back and smiling, listening to everyone else but not really contributing too much. Some people are so good at it, telling funny stories, drawing others in, making everyone feel like a light is shining on them. I sat next to a pilot last week on Southwest and he was one of those people. He had the eighty-five year old lady on his left laughing and flirting for much of the flight and managed to chat and joke with me, on his right, as well. All while doing crossword puzzles and sudoko and texting his wife. It's a gift, that ability to connect with strangers. I wish it were something you could learn, but I don't believe it is.

The key, I think, is to appreciate our own good points and reframe it. Maybe I'm not so great at small talk, but I am very good at real conversations with someone who is close to me. You can tell me anything and I'll listen deep and true...I don't shy away from the difficult things. We each have our small gifts.

Sunday night. A good weekend behind us. Monday beckons.

But, first, a little Homeland with Ron. A little bath time for Chloe. Lunches to pack. Faces to wash. An old, loved, dog to hug.

A few moments to sit and write, and think, and be grateful, again, for the small things.

What are you grateful for this Sunday? What are your gifts?


Bloggy Boot Camp | Six Word Memoir

Drop me in a room full of bloggers in Las Vegas and what happens? My geeky, sit in the front row of the class, school girl self comes out and I'm giddily in Beginner's Mind land.

That's right, Bloggy Boot Camp. (Try to get past the name.) My head is stuffed full of learning and ideas and motivation. My business card case is filled with new blogs to check out. I met a couple of amazing women. Plus, I had a bonus day to myself to write and redesign my blog and luxuriate in a super cool bathtub. And shop a bit. And eat lobster pasta. Lucky girl, me.

My favorite part of the bootcamp was the writing workshop, and the best part of that was a little exercise called The Six Word Memoir. The classic example is

     Baby shoes for sale. Never used.

Our three minute exercise was to use this method to describe our blogs; then a few people read theirs out loud. First called on was Elizabeth, all shiny five feet nothing of her clad in a beautiful short black dress, a dazzling statement necklace, a dainty and also LARGE engagement ring, accenting the tiniest wrists I've ever seen. Her six words were a surprise...

     (T)hug Life. Part Hood. Part Good.

Well, then. Exteriors can be deceiving.

All explained later when, as the closing speaker, she led us through her personal journey to illustrate being authentic in your blogging. Working from a little stack of index cards, Elizabeth put her soul right out there in the front of the room. Authentic, honest and, most of all, wicked funny. If you are intrigued by someone who had her daughter at nineteen, married five years ago after knowing her husband for a grand total of eighteen days, who can't go five sentences without swearing, and who got huge bumps in readership from the disparate corners of Gretchen Rubin (The Happiness Project) and Tupac (yes, posthumously,) she blogs at FlourishInProgress.com. I'm not sure that I would have loved her blog without meeting her in person first, but with that talk as introduction, I'm there. This woman's got a heart under her tough girl writing style and sparkly jewelry.

So, back to the six word description. (And, yes, I raised my hand and read mine right after Elizabeth....told you I was geeky.) Here's what I came up with:

     Not a natural Mama. Trying Hard.


     Small moments yield meaning. Blog them.

And that pretty much sums it up, I think.

What would your six word memoir be? Share, please!


A Purple Bike and Found Loveliness

A perfect evening for a bike ride. When I was seven I had a purple bike with a banana seat and purple, white and yellow streamers hanging from the handlebars. Loved that bike. It even had a white basket with flowers on it for my stuffed animals. Before Chloe was born I bought myself another purple bike, a grown up one, with a very padded gel seat instead of the banana shaped one. I love this one too. When I ride it, I feel free. Happy and free, even just pedaling around Elk Grove. And I know I'm supposed to wear a helmet, but I don't.

Tonight, I took some photos of my favorite spots along my ride. I usually ride the exact same route...through the neighborhood, across Bond Road at the crosswalk, down the pathway along the creek to Waterman Park. I end up at my favorite street, Laguna Creek Drive, where the houses look like the Bradys could move right in. All low slung and shady. Railroad tracks behind them with the train shaking through fairly often. I ride slowly down that tree lined street, enjoying it. It's my own little bike ride reward.

I can always discover something new on this familiar trek. Tonight, it was two women walking forcefully, travel size cans of mace firmly grasped in their right hands. And a monk. Yes, a young, classic looking monk, robe and all, who smiled at me and said hello. He didn't carry any mace.

And always, there's Boujou. Our neighborhood mascot. This gorgeous dane hangs out in front of his house, never venturing beyond the sidewalk. He watches everyone go by, calmly, and perks up when certain comely female dogs walk by. He used to lust quite happily after Gracie. Everyone loves this gentle guy.

Another found treasure...the espalliered apple tree. I adore how it started out all perfectly coiffed and corralled and now it's growing outside the lines.

A slice of Miami. Our neighborhood being a bit schizophrenic in its housing styles, a traditional farmhouse stands next door to this beauty.

Just a shady corner of impatients and birch trees. Some years the flowers burst from the bed; this year they are a bit tame.

Therese's birdhouse tree. Gotta smile. I used to bring Chloe to sit on the sidewalk in front of this tree when she was a baby and nothing would calm her. I'm not sure that she cared about watching the birds at the big feeder here, but it certainly soothed her strung out mama.

Ah, Auntie Annie. Our one white goose in a sea of messy Canadians. She used to have a mate, before he met a sad demise at the hand of a car, only white feathers left behind for me to recreate the crime scene from. For several weeks she called for him at sunset from the middle of the lake; it was heartbreaking. But soon she crowned herself the maiden aunt of the neighborhood and now she attaches herself to goose couples and their goslings. A fierce one, Annie. Don't come near when the babies are around; she's been known to peck humans. Right in the crotch. Ouch. Lots of goslings grow into geese here, thanks to her.

A favorite little spot along the creek. Can't you picture being ten, and hanging out here all day?

An oak tree, a picnic table, shade, the creek behind. Sit for a spell.

This new bridge replaced an old rickety one a few years back. I know it's much more fashionable to like the old one, but this one is so inviting, I can't resist her. 

I love that this sign exists. I love that people really do still ride their horses here. I'm not sure if they dismount before crossing the bridge though. Did you know that before cars, horse "pollution" was a huge problem, with major battles over what to do about it? Apparently the manure was thick and deep and, I imagine, quite fragrant. And then Henry Ford came along and that problem went away.

Houses feel like people to me. This one seems like she has quite a few stories she could share.

And I always imagine the witch from Hansel and Gretel might live here. The plastic flowers in the plants make me think not...I don't believe witches do plastic.

Right here, the train is plug your ears loud. But at night, when I'm in bed, it's a lovely rumble.

Hope you had a wonderful Wednesday.
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