Teddy's First Week

This week our house has pretty much been all puppy, all the time. Thought I might as well give in and succumb completely to the enthralled puppymamaness that is my life and make a little video. Enjoy:)

Hope you had a beautiful Easter.

NowThisLife.com - Family Photo


Gotta Love a Rescue Dog

I've had quite a few puppies, but never one like this.

NowThisLife.com - Teddy sits
Teddy, Sit.
Our last three dogs, KD, Kayla and Gracie, came right from cages at the shelter, and all of them were pretty shell shocked from their time there. They had been crammed in with other dogs, in filthy conditions, and both KD and Gracie were dirty and sick. (The shelters are MUCH better now that they were years ago, so please don't let this scare you away...the new Sacramento County Shelter and the SSPCA are beautiful, clean and inviting.)

Also a shelter dog, Teddy lucked out and was rescued by Lynn Howe from A New Hope Animal Foundation and fostered by Kay Gramm-Palmieri, a trainer who worked miracles with him. She snatched him out just before he would have been euthanized, in trouble for being "mouthy." This means he likes to lunge at you with his mouth open, with his teeth able to make contact with your face, instead of just kissing gently.  He's much better now, although he still does it and we'll have to keep working on it. He was with her for foster care for a month and she crate trained him, taught him his basic commands, and socialized him with her four other dogs. He already walks nicely on the leash, sits, stays and comes to you for treats, is learning to roll over, and has only had one little accident in the house. I've never crate trained before, but after seeing it in action with Teddy, I'd never raise a puppy any other way.

Teddy and his foster pals
He's been trained to really like his crate because he gets fed there, gets treats there, and was acclimated to it slowly and carefully so he only has positive associations. Now he's to the point where he'll run in eagerly as soon as I get his food and he goes in at night when he's sleepy and settles in with no trouble. It's always seemed to me that crates were a little cruel, but seeing this guy has changed my mind. He's in a safe, comfy environment, where he can't get into any trouble. No chewed up shoes, no digging under fences, no falling into the pool and drowning, no bathroom accidents. When he comes out of the crate, after doing a quick sit to earn it, he goes right outside and goes potty. Then it's play time. When we go to work, after tiring him out with lots of play, some fun training with treats, and a walk, he goes back in for a nap. My mom has been coming over half way through the day and taking him to her house for a play session and then he comes back to his crate for another nap until I get home.

Teddy and Julie
If you are looking for a dog, please do consider rescue. There are so many amazing dogs, who are just as wonderful as Teddy, waiting for their forever homes. With the internet, I had such an easy time searching for available dogs in the area, viewing their photos, videos and profiles. When we met Teddy, we truly did feel like we already knew him. And I'm just amazed at how different it is having a puppy who has been started out correctly...I keep shaking my head at just how easy he is to live with. Puppies are always cute, but mostly drive you crazy. He's not that way at all.

He's a good boy, super smart, a quick learner and eager to please. He's gotten such a great start...now it's our job to keep him on track so he grows up to be the dog he is so capable of being. Being a pitbull mix, we want him to be a good breed ambassador as well as a loving and well behaved family dog and good canine citizen. Puppy classes with Kay start on April 11th and we'll continue with obedience training after that.

I feel so lucky to have this beautiful puppy and am so happy that our house feels like home again. When we lost Kayla, it felt desolate and so terribly quiet. We miss her, our sweet girl, but it's hard to be sad with this happy, busy boy to take care of. I've known for awhile that another dog was going to come into our lives soon, and I look at Teddy and smile so many times each day because I know that he was the one we were waiting for.

Right now he's stretched out on the bed, napping quietly right beside me. Writing and a happy dog...my bliss.


Christmas Eve Again

The Christmas Eve when I was eleven, I desperately wanted the Barbie motorhome...the long yellow one with the shower and eating nook and super cool 70s decals. I stayed awake in bed, wishing and hoping to see it waiting for me when I came downstairs on Christmas morning, unable to sleep for the excitement.

NowThisLife.com - Barbie Star Traveler MotorHome

I'm there again, at 4 AM, all these years later, because tomorrow our new family member, Teddy, is coming home. We were planning on waiting until June, until after our New York vacation, to look for a puppy. But after just three days of a dogless house, none of us could stand it. All the happy was missing; we all were expecting that wonderful doggy greeting when we walked in the door, the sound of those scratchy toenails on the floor, the kisses. As Chloe says, "A Home is Where The Dog Is."

Forget practicality, the heart wins out.

NowThisLife.com - Teddy

NowThisLife.com -  Teddy

This guy. This beautiful boy with his soft fur and his smart as a whip personality won us over. I searched all the shelter and rescue websites and narrowed our choices down to a few lovely dogs, but ultimately, he was the one. The three of us spent yesterday visiting the gorgeous new county shelter, an adoption fair at Petsmart, and finally, going to see Teddy at his foster home where he's been living with a wonderful trainer and her own dogs and other foster. After seeing his pictures and video online, I felt like I already knew him and thoroughly melted inside when he tumbled out of the house to greet us.

The good folks who do rescue work are very careful when screening for placement and we had paperwork to fill out and a there's still a home visit to pass tomorrow morning. Then we get to drive back to Roseville and pick him up and bring him home.

It will be an adjustment, and a challenge, as puppies always are. He's already very good at sits, walking on the leash, downs, and stays, and he's crate trained. That will be new to us and we had to make a shopping trip last night to pick out a big ol' crate, a new collar and leash, and to get a fresh shiny tag engraved with his name and our info.

NowThisLife.com - Teddy Tag

Chloe felt a little emotional at the first meeting...I think just overwhelmed with the day and then finally meeting the in-the-flesh Teddy. It's a ton to take in, especially so soon after losing Kayla. But as the afternoon and evening wore on, and we got a little distance, she got more and more excited about him. Never having had a puppy, it's such a new experience for her. Puppies are exuberant and a little rough: sometimes they nip with those sharp puppy teeth. They aren't stuffed animals and don't always do exactly what you ask. But this is a wonderful boy and he's off to such a good start thanks to his foster mom. She told us she couldn't believe he hadn't been adopted yet and of course I told her, without hesitation, that was because he was waiting for us.

A big thank you to the wonderful Boxer, Jessie, for his brief stay with us, opening my heart to the possibility of a male dog. A big thank you to Kayla and Gracie, and KD before them, for teaching us how to love these canine family members so completely.

And a big, big welcome to Teddy. It truly is Christmas Eve all over again. (And, yes, Santa brought the motorhome:)

NowThisLife.com - Chandra and Teddy


Those Ten Pounds? Forget About Them.

Sitting in bed in my reading glasses and sweats, the house decidedly a mess, my suitcase not yet unpacked from my weekend away, no shower taken after my walk. I've decided that if I wait until I get everything done to write, I never get to it. We're that way too often really...we put things off that make us happy until we "deserve" them, and then, of course, we end up resentful and annoyed that we don't get to do what matters. Well, tonight, enough. The chores can wait.

NowThisLife.com - HayHouse.com

I spent the weekend in San Jose at the Ignite conference put on by Hay House. If you don't know Hay House, they're an inspirational publishing house that not only develops and publishes self help and transformational authors, but also produces live events around the world, and runs their own radio station. I hadn't heard of them until last year when my friend Therese asked me to join her for a weekend event in Pasadena. We thoroughly enjoyed everything and left feeling rejuvenated, inspired, well rested, and motivated. It's all very Oprah, Live Your Best Life-ish and makes for a great girls' getaway.

This year's conference was a little different format, in that they had several keynote speakers, including PBS stalwart and bestseller Wayne Dyer, but they also showcased many newer authors who each spoke for twenty minutes. In that short block of time, each author told their story and also a little bit about their book.

There is nothing like seeing so many people in short bursts to give you perspective.

We all make snap judgments based on our first impressions...it's the way we categorize the world and decide who to spend our energy and time with. And because we know other people are making these judgments about us, we worry about coming across well. Unfortunately, I think that this leads to believing that we aren't good enough the way we are, to trying to be someone we imagine people will like, instead of being who we really are.

This weekend really pounded one clear message into my skull: Be yourself.

Now, I know that this is not breaking news. We tell it to our children every day; we read it in magazine articles and books; it's drilled into our brains from so many sources. But we don't believe it. I don't know any woman who believes that she is good enough just the way she is. We all think we'd be "better" if we lost ten pounds, if we worked a little harder, if we were more patient, or sexier, or made more money, or had clearer skin, or did Bikram Yoga. The list of self-criticisms is endless.

I watched a whole lot of people get up on stage this weekend; they ranged from polished to brand new and nervous, from tremendously fit to decidedly overweight, from gorgeously dressed to desperately in need of a makeover. And the ones who grabbed the audience? The ones that everyone responded to with standing ovations?

They were, without an exception, thoroughly authentic.

They were so clearly THEMSELVES, whether that self was a flamboyantly swishy Angel Tarot Card reader (Radleigh Valentine), a commanding intellectual at the top of her form (Caroline Myss), or the the lesbian daughter of a Mafia Kingpin (Rita Gigante). Regardless of how far from "perfect" they were, because they were so comfortable in their own skin, we loved them.

This, more than anything, is what I took away from my weekend: Stop asking permission to be yourself; stop looking for validation from others; just be. Do what feels right for YOU. Wear what you are comfortable in, speak the way you speak, say out loud what you believe in your heart, live the life you are called to.

Be brave, be fearless, do whatever it takes to live this one precious life in a way that makes you sing.

The people who matter will love you for it. And, most importantly, you will love yourself.

The mess will wait, the suitcase will get unpacked later. And you can finally just forget about those ten pounds.


Before the World Became Real

When I was a kid, we lived next door to my best friend. There was a house in between ours, technically, but because we all had big pastures out behind our houses, we could cut across the intervening property and go back and forth on our own, which we did, all the time.

My friend's house was all kinds of fun. They had horses in their pasture to pet and feed sugar cubes to out of our flat palms, a real barn, and a friendly red Doberman named Jake who ate horse poop and then let out big, smelly gas bombs. There were loud hard core wrestling matches on the living room floor and running races on the back lawn that left me breathless. They had a big extended Italian family filled with Vanessas and Angelicas and Vivianas and a kitchen table loaded with homemade ravioli and spaghetti on Friday nights. There were apple trees with hard little green apples that we tasted over and over again waiting for the sweetness to arrive and garden beds brimming with marigolds that we pulled apart for their seeds, saving the long seed pods in glass baby food jars to plant in the spring. There were messy closets to hide in and big shady evergreen trees out front to pretend under and a big lawn with old fashioned chug chug sprinklers to run through when it got too hot to bear.

Our house held its own collection of charms, including an old spray booth room in the garage that my parents converted into a play house for me, filled with doll beds and a high chair and a little rug on the floor where we'd play for hours. Our garage was also sometimes home to deer my dad had hunted, strung up upside down from the rafters while he dressed them and us kids stared in morbid curiosity. And once, to a moving blanket full of baby snakes in shock to be shaken from their nest. We had a big billy goat, appropriately named Billy, in our pasture, who loved to be scratched between his horns. Billy came home in the backseat of our brown Mercedes when he was just five days old, on my six year old lap. There are pictures of him barely bigger than my easter basket, and I fed him milk from a glass Seven-Up bottle with a big black nipple attached. When I got the chicken pox, my mom let Billy come in the house to keep me company where he sideways jumped on the sofa and skidded over the coffee table and left brown goat pellets behind. He grew up huge, with big curved pointed and ringed brown horns, and loved to wrestle with my father and butt against his legs with his big goat head, while always remembering to be gentle with me.

NowThisLife.com - Billy
Billy & me
Our long long driveway proved perfect for tricycle rides dragging stuffed animals behind, and plenty large for learning to ride my purple two wheeler when I was seven. No training wheels, just starting again and again and again, one foot on the higher pedal, trying to get some momentum. Nobody thought to help you much back then with bike learning...it was just here you go, go try. And you did.

NowThisLife.com - Purple Bike
Always a purple bike
Our backyard, between the house and the garage, provided a home to two adorable fuzzy ducklings who grew up into mean adults that my mom had to coral into their "pen" each night, until finally they flew away and joined the wild ducks at a nearby pond. It was also home to two box turtles, Avrabell and Brother John, and finally, to my absolute delight, a golden Cocker Spaniel puppy, Dreamy, brought home right out of the pet store window. Dreamy also loved the house next door and dug tunnels under our fence so she could make a mad dash across that back pasture and join Jake and Schatzi, her daschund friend, for her own version of wrestling matches and lawn races.

NowThisLife.com - Ducklings
Quack & Splash
I loved the freedom of living in that house, the coming and going, the kids outside and parents inside, in their two separate worlds. I loved being near the horses, and eating big bowls of macaroni while our parents ate steaks. I loved playing store in the bedroom, labeling all of the little items with prices and then going "shopping." I loved laughing with our moms while they did their exercises in the living room, duck walks and leg lifts and running in place.

I loved my mom and dad inch worming me to bed each night.

But then, one day, my parents sat me down in that living room and told me that they were divorcing. My dad moved to an apartment a few miles away, complete with a waterbed for him and his new girlfriend, a pinball machine in the living room, a pillow chair, and sleeping bag weekends on the floor.

I can still remember the phone number to our little house, the ivy filled front yard, the olive green carpeting and the oven that sat on a drop down table instead of being built in. I clearly recall being so little that the doorknob in the bathroom was taller than I was. I remember when summer felt like it lasted forever. I remember my puppy growing up and my daddy moving away.

NowThisLife.com - Dreamy
We eventually sold our house and bought a new condo with a pretty brick patio and pathways for bike rides, with a different color shag carpet in every room, with a playroom inside instead of out in the garage. We made new friends and new memories.

But that first house, that house was childhood. My being was wrapped around its rooms, caught up in its pasture, sewn up in its walls. It belonged to a time before the world became real, when it only existed there, in my imagination, when I believed that everything would always remain the same...that little girls would take forever to grow up, that puppies and goats would never grow old, that daddies would always love you.

I was so very lucky to have it.

                                                                                                        This post inspired by Mama Kat's Pretty Much World Famous Writing Workshop.


Angel Dogs

There have been some enchanted dogs swooping into my life lately.

First Lottie Mae. Enough said.

Then, Daphne, a teensy chihuahua/pug mix puppy who caught my eye on an LA street. Turned out she was a rescue, from a very bad breeder, in need of a home. I had a wonderful time petting her and chatting with her foster mom, and getting my fill of puppy kisses. I do believe that puppy breath is pretty much one of my most favorite things in this world. I was scheming in my heart to bring her back on the plane with us, but my practical side, and my promise to Chloe, won out. There is no room for a six pound (at full size!) little munchkin in our rough and tumble household. That cutie pie was in caring hands and I sent her off with kisses and wishes.

NowThisLife.com - Rescue Dog - Daphne

Today, Jessie wandered into our lives. This gorgeous boxer followed one of Ron's coworkers back to the office...found dog flyers plastered up, vet visited for microchip scan (none, and no collar either), and then Jessie rode in the back seat of Ron's car to our house for the night. If it is possible to fall in love with a dog in one afternoon, we certainly did it. This boy is a love...the absolutely sweetest personality, all sloppy kisses and sit on your lapness in a body that looks so much like Gracie. As he played with Kayla, I felt like Gracie had come back home. We all had a little fantasy of keeping this charmer, and certainly would have if his family hadn't quickly claimed him. When his owner's son called him to the car, Jessie ran back into our front door and clearly wanted to stay. I think our house full of treats, dog toys, a trip to the park to meet the neighbors, Kayla, and all of our hugs must have felt pretty fine. We all got a little teary eyed as Jessie drove away.

NowThisLife.com - Jessie

I believe that these dogs are showing up because our Kayla is getting ready to leave us. She's been steadily losing weight, drinking excessive amounts of water, and having accidents in the house because of all that fluid. Last night, the vet diagnosed her with cancer. Today I took her back in to talk about options, and because of all of her other health issues, along with her advanced age, we decided to just do what we can to treat the symptoms and make the time she has left the best it can be. No matter how old they are, and Kayla is fourteen this month, it's always too soon.

Tonight, Jessie's visit was truly a gift. Kayla perked up and played with him, and in the little bit of time we spent together he gave us so much joy. We had all forgotten just how happy a young healthy dog can make us.

All of these beautiful dogs have delivered their message to us...life continues. Kayla will pass on, and we will miss her and Gracie forever, but another dog will come into our lives and we will love again, fully and joyfully. And while I want Kayla to be with us as long as she is happy and able to enjoy her life, I also look forward to opening our hearts to another in the long line of dogs that I have loved.

Whoever you are, next dog of our hearts, I can't wait to meet you.


On Reentry

Reentry is difficult.

Getting away briefly from my real life was beyond wonderful. Time to walk and shop and think and relax. Time to sleep in, to eat shrimp tacos on a sunny patio, to drink iced tea by the pool and take pictures of whatever grabbed my eye. Time to wander alone, to try on whisper soft clothing, to walk the two and half miles back to the hotel after shopping just because I felt like it and the sun was shining, popping in anywhere that beckoned along the way. Time for so many good things.

And then, too soon, whoosh, we're home again. To laundry overflowing, to Kayla even skinnier and having accidents on the carpet because her kidneys just aren't working right anymore, to skirmishes over having to take a bath and untangle hair, to rushing dinner on the table so I can fit in a walk, to my never ending list of to dos.

I stand in front of my mirror, getting ready for bed, and think, breathe, girl. You gotta gear up to get back on the treadmill, to begin again. You gotta psych yourself up to tackle the office, gird yourself for the politics, make lunches, plan dinners, motivate an unwilling fifth grader to start her science fair project, and, above all, act like you like it.

Sometimes, this wife and mama and business owner thing, I just don't want to.

But I do it anyway. All of us do. We get up in the morning, we shower and put on our brave faces, take a few deep breaths and dive in. Because that's what it takes, that's what love is, that's what life is--showing up, especially when you don't feel like it.

And then, once you are there, sometimes, in spite of yourself, the joy catches you. And whoosh, there you are, back in your life, smiling. And it's not in spite of it all, after all; it's because of it.

NowThisLife.com - Los Angeles Arboretum
Los Angeles Arboretum

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