Happy and bright

disney thanksgiving 300x214 Happy and bright

From our family to yours, have a very merry Christmas!


p.s. I haven’t been here much lately but I’ve got plans and schemes a-plenty to share, so stay tuned.

Why I’m not sleeping -OR- My life as a crazy person

I have an extra cat staying with us for a few weeks. C had Dixie-cat while she was at Davis and we couldn’t find a rescue/foster agency up there that was willing to take her so she came home with us temporarily. She’s having her “lady parts” surgery today and once she’s sufficiently recovered, she’ll hopefully go to the wonderful Helen Woodward Center to await adoption. She’s a gorgeous cat, so I’m sure she’ll find another home quickly. She and C are living behind a closed bedroom door in the meantime, a fact which adds just a little stress to the household (both human and feline).

Mick is leaving for Indianapolis this weekend. He’s a delegate to the American Legion national convention and he’ll be gone five nights. Yes, this means I’ll have the bed to myself and not come home to clothes strewn about apparently without thought, but it also means logistical considerations such as how will he get to the airport for his (6:00 am) flight and how back from his (9:00 pm) return? Also no one to take care of Alouysius the wonder pug before I get home from work. Or a Junior League committee meeting.

Speaking of Junior League committee meetings,, I have my first such of the new League year on Tuesday. I’ve christened this my “League Year of Fun” because it will most likely be my last active year before changing my status to Sustaining (the League equivalent of retirement, in essence) but leading a committee will still be quite a bit of work. Before Tuesday I need to put together seven binders with dividers for each month’s meeting and the materials for Tuesday’s meeting need to be created, duplicated, and inserted into the binders. On Tuesday – a day that I have 9:00 am to 5:00 pm mandatory training at work – I have to pick up dinner for eight (pre-ordered if I remember) before embarking on the 45 minute odyssey through rush hour traffic to arrive at the League House by 6:00 pm. Let us most fervently hope that I do not forget the two bottles of wine – one white, one red – that I won at the Junior League spring event silent auction! And, of course, I’ve got to create an agenda and post it to the JLSD website prior to the meeting.

My parents arrive bright and early Wednesday morning. (Yes, directly after my late night in San Diego at my committee meeting.) They will stay with us for three nights and I am truly looking forward to their visit. I don’t see enough of them and I love waking up to have coffee with Mummy every morning. (Daddy prefers to stay at a hotel and we’re all happy that way, so he’ll come over in time for breakfast.) This does mean, however, that C and Dixie will have to vacate their bedroom retreat so that Grandma has somewhere to sleep. (Don’t worry, they’re moving into the Office of Doom – my name for the wasteland that Mick has created in our third bedroom – but I’ll clean it over the weekend and I’m sure Dixie won’t puncture the air mattress that will be their bed for six nights.) Wait, Denise, why would they be in there for six nights? I thought you just said your parents were only staying for three???

5675535427 bcd09abd1f z Why Im not sleeping  OR  My life as a crazy person

My mother in law has invited herself for a visit commencing as soon as my parents are out the door. (Considerate, isn’t she?) This is the hyper-critical of my housekeeping, my (lack of) cooking, my recreation options (that do not include camping unless camping means staying at the 5-star spa resort in Austin). and basically my life in general. She finds my reliance on a cleaning service to be self-indulgent and lazy. Actually, I’m pretty sure she finds ME, in general, to be self-indulgent and lazy. Of course her timing means that I’ll have to rush to change the sheets on C’s/my mom’s bed before we drive 45 minutes on a Saturday morning to get her from the airport. Yay for us!

A little glimpse into why I might be a little stressed right now. The good news for you – or maybe not? – is that I’ll probably be writing more than usual because I’ll need an escape from the mother in law’s constant harping.


We spent this weekend first driving to Davis (about 500 miles north of us) on Friday, then packing her things into Timmy the Prius, then bringing everything home. She’s coming home for a year to work and go to school while saving some money so that she can go back to the University of California at Davis without having to worry about paying her rent. It was a tough weekend for her, I think, because it felt a little like a failure instead of just a temporary retreat; I understand that feeling all too well.

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Road Trip! by -Snugg-, on Flickr

Anxiety and the obsession with perfection can lead us to think that anything less than the top spot on the podium – like the Olympic reference? I’m already starting on my withdrawals! – is failure. It’s all or nothing, literally. Those who have been reading my blog for a while will certainly recognize that theme since it’s been woven through nearly everything I’ve written since 2003. My treatment options since then, however, have been totally focused on my accompanying depression, which has certainly had a huge effect on my enjoyment of life, and it’s only been very recently that a new therapist started talking to me about the effect my anxiety and perfectionism on my life.

As it turns out, the perfectionism is just a coping mechanism or outlet for my extreme anxiety. Since learning this, I’ve been working at recognizing when I feel compelled to run around straightening my already-clean house up and then digging for what’s really going on; it’s been enlightening. Most of the time, it’s just me internalizing things that are totally unrelated to me or pinning motivations on other people’s actions – “they hate me” – that I have no justification for. Once I call myself out on that junk, the accompanying anxiety quickly dissipates.

We’re all adjusting to the new normal around here – the 20 year old trying to make all of her worldly possessions fit into her tiny bedroom, Mick & I breathing deeply and remembering that it’s going to take time for her to unpack everything – and it’s a great opportunity to flex my new (mental health) muscles. This, too, shall pass, and none of it is specifically directed at me. Sometimes, life is just complicated because it’s complicated, and we just need to breathe our way through it.

Preparing for the worst

Having lived most of my life in southern California, I’m no stranger to wild fires. When I was 10 years old – the year we moved to Anaheim – we had to evacuate to my aunt’s house a few miles away when I fire got within a mile of our house. Our house was safe but it was really terrifying for me because my mom was at work when the police officer drove by the house and yelled at us to get out of our houses because the fire was coming. We had a dog and two cats at the time and I had no clue what to do for myself, much less for them. Fortunately I was able to get in touch with my mom at work (long before the advent of cell phones made that much easier) and she told me to get the cats into their carriers and get the dog on his leash then stay in the house with all of the windows and doors closed until she got home.

Many years later, as an adult, I faced another situation where I was facing the threat of wild fire engulfing my condo and this time there was no one to tell me what to do (or to come and pick me up, for that matter). I watched the fires closing in on me by using the street names from the reporters on the television and a paper map of San Diego. I drew a one-mile circle around my house on the map with a pencil and decided that once the fire breached that circle, I was out of there. In preparation, I began to pack my little Saturn with everything that she could fit, which wasn’t much. I pulled the hard drive from my computer, grabbed the photo albums and important papers from my spare bedroom, packed in some pillows and blankets in case I had to sleep in my car, and then I realized I needed to make room for two cat carriers for my (then) cats, Dave & Abby. I unpacked everything and started over with the cat carriers snugly nestled beneath my bedding and clothing on the back seat. I set everything up so that I could grab each cat and shove them quickly in the carriers if I only had a few minutes to get out of there. I put their food, litter, a makeshift litter box, and three gallons of water for them next to the front door, ready to grab at a moment’s notice. I sat on the couch, cats lying next to me, and prayed that I wouldn’t have to leave.

Thankfully, my condo was spared that day. And the next. In fact it’s still safe and sound with some nice tenants living there now. We have a beautiful, new townhouse now which almost burned down in 2007 before we closed escrow on it, but it, too, was spared. Living in southern California, though, we are painfully aware of the ever-present risk of wild fires. Just this week CalFire issued a red flag alert which indicates that the risk of wild fires is extreme due to very high temperatures and very low humidity and that residents should review and revise as necessary their personal wild fire preparedness plans. While we’ve discussed what to do in case of a fire in very general terms, we do not yet have a written plan of action should something happen, so I am working on one as we speak.

Here are the three primary reasons I’m so motivated:

Alouysius 300x225 Preparing for the worst

Alouysius the Wonder Pug

harry photo 300x225 Preparing for the worst

Harry, Mama’s baby boy!

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Princess Sally


A great resource for creating a family emergency preparedness plan that includes your furkids is the Humane Society of the United States’ website (see information below). I can tell you from personal experience that your plan will not be nearly as detailed as it ought to be if you wait until you actually need to evacuate your home to decide what you need to bring for you and your pets, so consider going over there today to check it out.

Do you and your family have an emergency preparedness plan already in place? If so, does it include provisions for taking your pets with you?

HSUS small Preparing for the worst
Now is the time to think about disaster preparedness for you, your family, and your animals. Please visit the Humane Society of the United States for advice on disaster planning for pets, horses, and farm animals and make sure you’re ready for an every day emergency.

(I was not compensated in any way for this post and all of the opinions expressed here are my own.)

The family that serves together

Mick and I have always had our own volunteer work. I volunteer with the Junior League of San Diego and Just in Time for Foster Youth, focusing on issues of emancipating foster youth, while Mick focuses on helping veterans through his work with the American Legion. It’s not that we don’t both feel passionately about both causes, it’s just that we started that way and it’s always been easier to stay that way.

Recently, I joined the American Legion Auxiliary. Mick spends so much time traveling and working with the Legion that we don’t spend much of our leisure time together now, so I decided to take a “if you can’t beat then, join them” approach. So now we’re both in Redding, California for the California conferences of the American Legion and American Legion Auxiliary and I’m remembering how well it used to work when we each focused on our own things. He’s a rising star in his organization and I am a newborn baby, figuratively speaking, in mine.

This is not what I’m used to and that’s a good thing. New experiences, especially those that push me into an uncomfortable place, always make me feel stronger afterwards. Doing things as a couple will strengthen our relationship. Etcetera, etcetera. It’s tough and I’m nervous but I know that I want to be a part of this organization and I’m going to make this work.

Have any of you recently struggled with not being “the best” at something? I’ve forgotten how to be OK being vulnerable in new situations, so any wise words you’d like to share would be really helpful.

Memorial Day: A solemn responsibility

Memorial Day is not a happy day, nor is its primary purpose to give everyone a three day weekend – it is a day for a grateful nation to stop our daily lives for just a few seconds and remember those who paid the ultimate price for the freedoms we enjoy every day. So, while you are preparing your barbecue or packing up for your trip to the local park or beach, give me just a moment of your time.

Below is the speech my husband – Commander, American Legion Post 479, Poway, California – will give at Dearborn Park cemetery today. The audience he will address includes two remaining World War II veterans who will stand to attention for the entire service in homage to the many friends they lost. It will include, too, veterans from Korea, Vietnam, Lebanon and Grenada, plus – like my husband and his buddies – Iraq and Afghanistan. Together, at 11:00 am local time, we will all pause and remember those who sacrificed their lives as well as those they left behind – the widows, widowers, and children who struggle every day to rebuild lives devastated by the real cost of war.

Memorial Day, originally called Decoration Day, is a day of remembrance for those who have died in our nation’s service. Memorial Day was officially proclaimed on May 5, 1868 by General John Logan, national commander of the Grand Army of the Republic, in his General Order No. 11. The first observance of this sacred holiday occurred on May 30, 1868, when flowers were placed on the graves of Union and Confederate soldiers at Arlington National Cemetery. The first state to officially recognize the holiday was New York in 1873. By 1890 it was recognized by all of the northern states. The South refused to acknowledge the day, honoring their dead on separate days until after World War I (when the holiday changed from honoring just those who died fighting in the Civil War to honoring Americans who died fighting in any war).

Traditional observance of Memorial Day has diminished over the years. Many Americans nowadays have forgotten the meaning and traditions of Memorial Day. At many cemeteries, the graves of the fallen are increasingly ignored and neglected. Most people no longer remember the proper flag etiquette for the day and, while there are towns and cities that still hold Memorial Day parades, many have not held a parade in decades. Some people even mistakenly believe that this day is for honoring any and all dead, not just those fallen in service to our country.

For those who have forgotten, or who perhaps never knew, and for all of us assembled here, too, I would like to end my remarks with a portion of General Logan’s proclamation from 1868 – a reminder of our duty to our fallen service members which rings as true today as it did all those years ago:

“Let us, then, at the time appointed, gather around their sacred remains and garland the passionless mounds above them with the choicest flowers of spring-time; let us raise above them the dear old flag they saved from dishonor; let us in this solemn presence renew our pledges to aid and assist those whom they have left among us – a sacred charge upon a nation’s gratitude: the soldiers’ and sailors’ widow and orphan.”

Thank you for your participation today. May God bless the United States of America and the families of her fallen heroes.

tomb unknown soldier picture Memorial Day: A solemn responsibility

Will you please take a minute today, just 60 seconds, to stop and remember our fallen war dead for all of the wars that the United States has fought, starting with the Revolutionary War that created this country? And if you have friends or neighbors who have lost family members, whether in our current war or in some previous conflict, will you take a moment of your time today to remember their sacrifice?

I now return you to your regularly scheduled three day weekend.


It’s been a crazy few months. Travel. (Fun.) Holidays. (Mostly fun.) New volunteer opportunities. (Exhilarating, exhausting, and fun.) Making changes around here. (Fun. Scary, but fun.)

In the midst of all of that fun, it was also our busy season at work, which is not always fun but it’s required and I work with amazingly talented, dedicated people, so it’s not so bad. For better or worse, that part of our work year ended Tuesday night and now we’re all sort of hungover and want to find a dark, quiet place to nap. Once upon a time, a very LOOONG time ago, we would take at least a month off from doing anything significant, to recover from the insanity, but that practice is long gone and instead we’re jumping into next year’s development efforts with vigor. It’s a good thing because it’s how we stay on top of our games, but a day or two of rest wouldn’t go amiss.

I bring this up because I got a bit sidetracked – OK, it was more like a complete derailment – from Project HealthFirst, the healthy eating initiative intended to improve my diabetes outcomes. The backsliding must stop now and renewed focus and energy will be applied in the coming days to ensure I’m back on track as quickly with my health as I am with my work commitment. I wouldn’t slack off there and I can’t slack off when it comes to avoiding a heart attack or stroke due to high blood sugar!

6893721504 1672934fe1 Aftermath

I share this picture of me with my mum and dad earlier this month because it’s a reminder for me of what’s really important: friends, family, love, life. None of those things will be possible without my health, so it’s simply got to be a commitment for me  there are no other good options.