During my grief after losing Major,  I started searching for Golden Retriever breeders online. On the quiet drive home after saying goodbye to Major the first words I spoke to the boys were, "We'll get another Golden someday."

Through Major's illness, I learned a lot about the health of Golden Retrievers and what you wanted to look for when looking for breeders. My thought was that maybe I could find a breeder that was expecting a litter later in the summer. Maybe by then we'd be over our grieving and ready to welcome a new guy into our home.

After hours and hours spent looking, I found a breeder who checked off all of the boxes for all of the things we were looking for. She had an online questionnaire to complete for those interested in a puppy. I quickly filled it out, including the story of everything we had just gone through with Major. Yes, that's right. I was using the heart wrenching story of our dead dog to try to get a puppy.

Before I knew it, there was an email response from the breeder. She had read our application and was touched by our story. They actually just had a litter and had one male puppy left. She was going to keep him for herself, but after hearing our story knew that we would give him the loving home he deserved. He would be turning 8 weeks old the following week and after his next vet visit would be ready to come home with us. Then she attached this picture...

As if I'm going to open this picture and say, "Yeah, no thanks. I think we'll pass."

We took it as a sign. Of course, I immediately felt guilty. Like I was being disloyal to Major. But I also knew that this little guy would help us in our grieving process. Okay...he would help me in my grieving process. Truth is, I had woken up several nights in the middle of the night only to start crying a deep, ugly, it's dark and no one's looking, cry when I realized that Major wasn't in the room with us. Forget about the kids. I was the one who needed this little guy.

We made arrangements to pick him up on a Friday. We didn't tell the boys. We had surprised them with Major on Christmas, so we decided to continue the tradition minus the Christmas part. Driving down to Long Beach, I had butterflies in my stomach. It might have been March, but it felt like Christmas morning to me.

Our new puppy was ready and waiting for us, sitting on his blue blanket from the picture. We met the puppy's Mom and the Dad who weren't sure why we were holding their baby boy. He smelled like puppy shampoo, having just had a bath to meet his new parents. He whined as his mama strained to sniff him and I felt bad for them both. It suddenly seemed terrible that I was taking her baby away from her. She didn't know what a fantastic life this little boy was about to have.

With our puppy care package and new puppy wrapped up in his blue blanket, we pulled away to head home. He sat in my lap and snuggled me the whole way. I cherished the moment, knowing this puppy's time in my lap would be short lived. He looked just like his dad and his dad that weighed 90 pounds. The whole drive we talked about names. We were struggling. We wanted to honor Major in some way, but nothing was sounding right. We wanted to have some choices to give the boys, so they could feel like they were naming him. And also so we didn't end up with a horrible name like Vader or Lego.

By the time we got home, it was time to pick the boys up from school. Derek went to pick them up while I played with the new puppy in the backyard. When they got home, Derek would tell them to head to the backyard.

After the excitement died down and after vetoing the name Oswald (yes, that was one of the suggested names) we quickly decided to name him Bleu. Bleu the Golden. Very UCLA of us, blue and gold being UCLA's colors. But spelling it B-L-U-E was much too traditional for us. The boys thought the spelling B-L-E-U was much cooler. So it was settled. Bleu it was.

Bleu has been everything we needed to help us get over our loss. He is 8 months old now and is not so little any more. It was hard at first not to compare him to Major, but he has his own special personality. He loves swimming in our pool and often comes to the back door sopping wet. He sneaks up on our bed in the middle of the night and slowly snuggles up to us like a furry toddler. He loves to eat ice just like Major did, but doesn't carry around stuffed animals in his mouth like his big brother which actually makes me sad. Other than ripping out a patch of wool from my living room rug and eventually ripping holes in Purple Dinosaur, he has been a very good boy. 

This puppy's love has healed our hearts. We hope and pray he gets to live the long, healthy life that Major missed out on.

Goodbye Purple Dinosaur

Our #GoodBoyMajor with his beloved Purple Dinosaur

Purple Dinosaur is in pieces. Bleu and Bevie, our two puppies, had their way with him and now we must say goodbye. I know that he is just a stuffed dog toy, but having to put him in the trash was heartbreaking. Those of you who are my friends on social media, you have seen lots of pictures in the past of our sweet boy, Major, with his much loved Purple Dinosaur. Last March, after a long illness, we had to make the horrible decision to put him down.

I realize that some of you might still wonder what happened and how he got sick. There were times while it was happening that I considered blogging about the whole thing. I wasn't writing much of anything at the time. Emotionally I was too all over the place and my worry and concern for Major had zapped most of my creative juices.

It was a rough 8 months that started with a simple limp. Major had been limping for a couple of weeks and it only seemed to be getting worse. We headed to our vet who then referred us to a specialty vet. Little did we know we would get to know all of the doctors in multiple departments at Animal Speciality Group (ASG) very, very well.

First diagnosis was bilateral hip dysplasia and cranial cruciate ligament tears (like an ACL tear in humans.) Both are common in Goldens and for Major his issues were with both of his hind legs. Surgery would be required. Multiple surgeries. We debated and worried. These surgeries would cost a small fortune. But Major was only 2 years old and these kind of issues were common and very fixable. The CCL issue was worse than the hip dysplasia, so we opted to go with that first. His first surgery was set for the end of August.

Surgery went well. I knew that the recovery of a 80 pound Golden Retriever wouldn't be easy, especially since once he recovered from the first it would be followed by a second. His recovery seemed to be going slow, but surely that was normal.

Then one Sunday night while we were eating dinner, I glanced over at Major laying on the living room rug. I noticed a big black spot on the carpet near his nose. I got up to check it out and sure enough, his nose was bleeding. I've owned dogs my entire life and this was a definite first. We couldn't get the bleeding to stop, so at 10PM I decided to head over to the 24 hour emergency vet.

Long story short, they couldn't find anything wrong. They shot a steroid up his nose to stop the bleeding and told us to come back if it started again. Went home somewhat relieved.

Two days later he was bleeding again. This time it was coming out of the other end. I panicked, not sure what was happening but knowing whatever it was, it wasn't good.

Long story even longer, we ended up back at ASG. Major was diagnosed with an autoimmune disease called Immune-mediated Thrombocytopedia (ITP). Basically, his immune system was attacking his platelets. If it isn't caught in time, dogs can bleed to death. Hopefully we had caught his in time. No one knows what causes ITP. It's just something that...happens. It had no relation to his knee and hip issues, by the way.

We battled his disease for months, traveling to ASG in Glendale (a 30 minute drive in L.A. without traffic, which of course in L.A. never happens) every other week for blood work and medication. It was getting extremely expensive and emotionally exhausting. At any minute, he could relapse and start to bleed again. And don't forget, we still had the hip and knee issues, but know with having an autoimmune disease he would never be able to have surgery. At least not easily. And we also discovered that the spot in his knee, where he had surgery, had not only developed an infection but the screw was actually in the wrong place. The whole thing was becoming a huge veterinary cluster you-know-what.

Side note: His surgery was not done at ASG, by the way. We opted for a cheaper surgeon, clearly a huge mistake on our part. A mistake that still hurts my heart to think about.

We were on such a daily up and down with his health. I had grown abnormally attached to this dog and his illness had only made that bond stronger. I was the one at every vet appointment. I was the only one who knew exactly what medications he needed and when. I have personally never fought a major illness, but I felt the responsibility to do all of the fighting for him. I was going to do whatever was needed to keep him alive so I spent a good amount of time researching online, trying to learn all I could about ITP. Really what I was searching for was hope.

Dogs can live a long life with ITP, but there would always be issues of one kind or another. We loved Major so much we would do anything for him and obviously we were. But there comes a time when you have to consider quality of life for everyone involved. And Major's quality of life and his future didn't look happy or healthy. He had a lot of different issues. I mean, a lot. Physically he was a total mess. It's hard on any dog to have hip dysplasia. Hip dysplasia and CCL is really rough. Hip dysplasia, CCL and ITP? Forget it. But like any Golden, you'd never know it. We had to ask ourselves the hard question if we were fighting to keep him alive for his sake or for ours.

He was only getting worse. He had aged so much and the illness was wearing on him. He was miserable even though he would never, ever let you know it. After much discussion and tears and heartache, we decided to say goodbye.

We all went to ASG to say our goodbyes. He was on some good pain meds that made him pretty loopy which actually made it better on all of us. If he had been his happy Golden self, I'm not sure we could've made it though the whole thing. We took our time loving on him. Bentley wanted to take pictures with him. Palmer wanted us to all hold hands so he could say a prayer. Then Derek and the boys left the room and I stayed with my Major until it was all over. It was horrible and gut wrenching and so incredibly peaceful. And that is all I'm going to say about that.

But that's not the end of the story.

To be continued...

Post Script: I have to take a minute and mention how wonderful the entire staff at ASG was during our 8 months there. Even though it wasn't the outcome we had hoped for, I will always be grateful to them. They loved Major almost as much as we did and it showed. They were professional and loving and took the time both on the phone and in person to answer all of questions and concerns. And after it was all over, through my tears I smiled and said, "I mean this in the best way possible, but I hope I never have to see you guys again." They laughed and hugged us goodbye one last time.

Boring Halloween decor is my specialty.

When you live far away from the majority of your friends and all of your family, you tend to say "What's the point?" to a lot of things. Decorating for Halloween for example. I mean, no one but the four of us will ever see it. Well, I guess that's not entirely true. The UPS driver who comes to my house 2 to 3 times a week (give or take) gets to see them. And Derek's players who come over for a home cooked meal might notice them. But really...Derek doesn't care about Halloween decorations. The boys think our decorations should be a gigantic spider climbing over the roof of our home toward a humongous web blocking our front door and obviously that's not happening. They think my decorations are boring. So...what's the point?

But honestly, it's near impossible to have a major holiday like Halloween roll around and not put up a toothy pumpkin or two. I do have cute Halloween decorations that in the end serve no other purpose but to change up my regular decor. I guess that's reason enough to put them up.

I try to keep it simple. Nothing too fancy. Nothing too elaborate. Nothing bleeding. Nothing scary. No gigantic spiders. No humongous webs. Sorry kids. Mama ain't got time for that.

The two pictures below are a must every Halloween. The one on the left is of 2 year old Bentley, dressed as a Gap teddy bear at the McFarland pumpkin patch in Norman. This pic was snapped at the end of a photo shoot with my mom. The bear was totally over it.

The pic on the right was Palmer's first Halloween. Both boys spent their first Halloweens dressed up as Dalmatians (we had two Dalmatians at the time.) Bentley was a fireman to go with Palmer's Dalmatian. By this time the following year, we were living in Southern California and I was the one who was totally over it.

Just a classy, somewhat boring, Halloween display outside. The drought has done a number on the pumpkin crop this year. Normally, you would find large bins of pumpkins at every grocery store, making it quite easy to purchase a pumpkin or two. Not this year. Even our local, longstanding family owned pumpkin patch didn't open this year. This drought is now screwing with the holidays. This is a real problem, people.

Decorating with past holiday family pictures is my holiday decor fallback. This one is another favorite, featuring the cutest Storm Trooper and Yoda you've ever seen. And our sweet Freddie did such a good job posing for the picture when all he really wanted to do was get away from everyone and find a quiet place to lay down.

Let me reiterate, I like decorating with pictures. Wouldn't you if you had a picture like this one? I mean, look at how cute this little pumpkin was! His Aunt Gee had given him a pumpkin onesie from Gymboree for his first Halloween. He's so stoic, sitting there holding his little hands together, I can't get over it.

And that is the end of my Halloween home decorating tour. Short and sweet, just like me. (Although I'm not really that short, and very few if any would use the word sweet to describe me.) It's not much, but it is less to clean up. And as the queen of holiday decorating Martha Stewart would say, that is a very good thing.

Post Party Stress Disorder

thanksgiving feast (i.e., PPSD creator)

I have an issue I haven't talked about before. I have PPSD. Post Party Stress Disorder. It's real. I have the mental and emotional scars to prove it.

I spent the past couple of weeks getting ready to host a Halloween party for kids at our church. A small party, just for kids in the 5th and 6th grade. A 2-hour party with tacos, queso, cupcakes and games. Simple, easy and fun. No big deal.

I started stressing about planning this party early. I made lists. Multiple lists. Made lists of my lists. I took way too long creating a simple invitation. I spent hours on Pinterest looking for just the right games, fun party food and decor. I didn't get any of my regular responsibilities done for the week because I spent so much damn time planning this party. It was borderline ridiculous.

Finally last weekend, I woke up and realized that I was giving this simple party way too much time and attention. Our church has events for these kids every two weeks. It might sound like a lot, but it's meant to be a way for these to get together socially in fun and safe ways. Parents take turns hosting the outings. I chose the date closest to Halloween thinking a Halloween party would be an easy one to do. But I was being obsessive about making it perfect when it didn't need to be. These kids weren't going to care one bit about how cute the decor was or what the photo booth was like. (Yes, I was planning on having a photo booth.) I needed to stop caring so much.

I blame it on my PPSD. My Post Party Stress Disorder. I haven't always had this problem. I have hosted a lot of parties in my adult life and have always taken pride in throwing a great party. It is one of the many gifts that my mother has given me. But last year around Thanksgiving, something happened that changed the way I will approach a party forever.

Last year I served as homeroom mom for my youngest son's class. I had done it previously for my oldest son (twice actually) and I felt obligated to do it for my youngest even though after doing it the last time I had uttered the words to my husband, "I am NEVER doing that again." Mom guilt is a powerful thing and in the end I couldn't help myself. I was approached about being the homeroom mom and before I knew it, I was saying yes.

One of the responsibilities of the homeroom mom at our school is planning the Thanksgiving Feast. It is a half day of school with nothing but eating, crafting and partying. The school serves a huge feast and the homeroom moms have to plan a craft and for the older kids, a service project.

Last year, the administrators asked us to not serve a huge breakfast to the class because it keeps the kids from eating the feast that is served for lunch. In previous years, homeroom moms have served huge breakfasts (some actually catered from local restaurants, and no I'm not kidding) and the kids are so full they don't end up eating any of the lunch which, of course, ends up in the trash. It is a horrible waste, especially when there are so many in our own city who are hungry. We were asked to keep whatever we serve the classrooms for breakfast--if we serve breakfast at all--small and simple, something like milk boxes and donut holes. Which is exactly what I did.

Side note:  I had been communicating with these parents for weeks prior about the day's festivities. I had made it perfectly clear that we were only having donuts and milk when the kids got to school. Just needed to throw that out there.

The day of the feast was going great. The kids had enjoyed donuts and milk when they got to school. We made a cute Thanksgiving craft with terra-cotta pots, popsicle sticks, and leaves. We counted all of the cans that we had collected all week long for our local food pantry. The kids were enjoying the day and before we knew it, it was time to go outside and enjoy the Thanksgiving feast.

For the first time that day, I finally got to sit down. I purposely sat down next to another parent to thank her for some cute things she had made for our feast table. If I had known what was coming, I would never have sat down. After thanking her, she started to lay into me. She was PISSED OFF that I hadn't served a hot breakfast. She was angry that I had not provided her child a real breakfast, but only a snack. A sugary snack at that. She went on and on and on. I couldn't believe it. I tried my best to remain calm speaking to her with patience, but that didn't matter. She treated me like I was the shittiest homeroom mom ever. EVER. I was crushed.

My best friends now refer to her as Hot Breakfast.

Hot Breakfast gave me PPSD.

Unfortunately, I still had two more parties to plan for the year. And now, because of my PPSD I stressed out for WEEKS about planning the party perfectly as to not piss off anyone. Stressed out enough to give me diarrhea for weeks. HOW CRAZY IS THIS?!?! I mean, we are talking about parties for 10 year olds. Kids who are fired up just to have a party. Kids who could give two shits about having a hot breakfast.

When the last party of the year was finally over and started to come down from the stress induced adrenaline I had been experiencing all day, I breathed a sigh of total and complete relief that I would never have to plan a homeroom party ever again. But I now realize that even though my time serving as a homeroom mom is over, the effects of PPSD still remain. At least now I am aware that I have a problem. I'm dealing with my anger issues brought on by the feast incident, although I still find it hard to be friendly to Hot Breakfast.

I've come to realize that there are a lot of people out there who lack graciousness. They lack the ability to simply say thank you. Thank you for doing a job that no one else wants to do. Thank you for spending your own money and time to do something special and fun for my child. I appreciate you. Thank you for all you do.

Graciousness would help cure my PPSD, I'm almost certain.

In the meantime, so does wine.


We've lived in California for over 9 years now. That is 9 years longer than I ever thought I would live in California.

Don't misunderstand. We are happy here. California has become home. It took me 8 1/2 years to get there emotionally, but California feels like home.

Except when it doesn't.

There are so many things that differ from living in Oklahoma to living in California. Plenty of material to fill many a blog post. There are lots of times that I find myself homesick. OU game days are the worst. Social media is a blessing and a curse. I love seeing everyone's pictures on game days. I also hate seeing everyone's pictures on game days.

The Fridays of OU/Texas weekend suck. I want to be there, stuck on I-35, headed south to Big D with the rest of the Sooners. This year, I felt even worse when Bentley came home from school Friday informing me that a friend of his here in California was headed to Texas for the game.


"Yeah, his parents are Sooner fans so they are headed to the game. Why won't you and Dad take us to the game? When are we going to go?"

"Maybe next year, bud."

"Yeah. That's what you said last year."


So I spent most of last Friday feeling sorry for myself. While moping I discovered something. There's A LOT of Oklahoma in my house. My home state pride is evident throughout.

At my desk...

In our entry way...

In my utility room...

When I go to the local farmer's market...

Near the back door...

In the kitchen...

By the pool or in the car...

In the living room...

Yes, we've become Californians but we will always be Oklahomans. We are what I like to call Oklacalihomans. Just look around.

Pretty damn magical.

{photo credit here

Sometimes memories become so distant that you start to wonder if they were ever real in the first place. Was it really as magical as I remember? Did it really happen? When it comes to my early childhood, I no longer trust my own memory.

Many memories of my childhood seem idyllic. Unreal. The cynicism of adulthood has made me question the magic. My brain whispers that something that beautiful, that magical, couldn't possibly be true. Surely my little 7 year old mind made it up, but my little 7 year old mind wasn't that creative. I could never have thought up something this magical on my own.

And yet, maybe I did.

I was in the 2nd or maybe the 3rd grade. I'm not sure exactly what that day involved, there is nothing else about the day that I remember. Beyond the back of our school, beyond the playground, beyond the field was a grove of trees, trees that I'm sure look much smaller today than they did then. Through the trees lay a small park named for my great grandfather. Beyond the school and the trees and the park, next to a small creek was my home. My grandparents lived one block to the west. My aunt, uncle and cousins one block to the east. My life was in a 1-mile radius. A normal life that was simple, easy, protected.

I spent plenty of time at that park, playing amongst those trees. I have quiet memories there; memories with no sound like old silent movies. Memories of metal jungle gyms and tornado slides and best friends from the neighborhood. This particular memory, my magic-filled memory, included my classmates. Kids named Mitchell, Issac, Amy, Angela, Todd and Jodi. Kids that I haven't seen in over 30 years and wonder if they have this memory too.

Is it as real to them as it is to me? Do they remember?

I don't recall walking through the field or stepping into the grove of trees, but our teacher took us out there with clear intention. We stood amongst the trees, my classmates and I, all of us looking up into the afternoon sunlight streaming through the trees. Everywhere around us, on the trees and the leaves and in the air were thousands and thousands of monarch butterflies, the trees absolutely covered. They were migrating south I'm assuming, taking a rest in our part of the world before heading on their way to a fabulous winter vacation south of the border. For a little girl around 7 years old, thousands and thousands of butterflies covering everything around you is pretty damn magical. A memory that you never forget.

It wasn't long after seeing those butterflies that I left that school, that park, and that home, leaving me with little magic to hold onto. Parents divorcing and being moved away from your simple, easy and protected life tends to do that. My memories of living there are varied and vast--some painful, some joyful, even idyllic at times--but nothing compares to or can compete with my memory of the monarchs.

I believe in the magic of the memory. I believe that those butterflies were real, that God and Mother Nature were in that moment together, giving us a small taste of the beauty and wonder and magic that exists in the world. A perfect moment when everything was okay.

My youngest keeps asking me if Santa is real. Once or twice a week I get the question. He presses and looks at me hard, waiting for me to confess. Instead I respond with my own question:

"Do you believe in the magic of Santa?"

To which he replies, "Yes."

"Well then, that's all that really matters. Right?"

I never asked my mother if Santa was real. I wanted the magic. I needed it in my life. Santa and monarch butterflies were a way to believe that amongst heartache, there was still magic in the world. I still need magic in my life.

If my memory of the monarchs wasn't real, don't tell me. I don't want to know.