Make the Ordinary Extraordinary


One morning when I left the house, I was greeted by a street full of large trucks, heavy equipment, and San Diego Gas and Electric workers everywhere. They were busily working on telephone lines and—with not a lot of room on our narrow street—they were blocking my driveway entrance.

Since we hadn’t gotten any notice of their work, I walked over to ask what was going on. As I approached, one worker turned toward me with a look of dread as if to say, “Oh no, please don't yell at us!”

His reaction made me realize he didn’t want to inconvenience me any more than I wanted to be inconvenienced. I made an effort to relax my shoulders and smile as I inquired about the situation. 

“We’ll be here a few days for maintenance,” the worker explained, “but we can move our trucks for you.”

I thanked him and walked back to my car as they did so. I knew the work was necessary, but nevertheless still wasn’t thrilled about their presence.

Over the next couple days, as I came and went, I watched the workers bustling about in their specific roles. They were all business trying to finish the job. For them, another ordinary day. There seemed to be no happiness in their mission.

So one afternoon, I baked a batch of my favorite chocolate chip cookies and wrapped them in a bag that they could store on one of their trucks. I also made some iced tea and included a few paper cups and cute, colorful napkins with the cookie bag.

As I approached with the snack, again one of them looked weary of my intentions. 

I smiled wide. "Hi", I said, “I thought you might enjoy a bite of homemade chocolate chip cookies and some iced tea." 

The man’s eyes widened. “We would love that.”

The other workers’ faces lit up one by one as they thanked me and accepted the treat.  All the tension diffused into a feeling of camaraderie. In one simple gesture, they had transformed from workers on my street to a part of the neighborhood.  

Now, when I run across anyone working on the street, I try to at least wave, smile, and maybe stop to chat for a minute. It’s such a simple way to make an ordinary day more extraordinary!

Giving Back to Those Who Give Their Lives


On this National Firefighters Day, I want to give a big thank you to our firefighters, paramedics, and ambulance drivers. For all the times they appear when we least expect it and yet need them most.

When my girls were about six and eight, they came to my rescue.

It was the week before Halloween and we had just left the barn behind my dad’s animal hospital where the girls spent the sunny morning horseback riding. The day was warm and breezy, and the girls fidgeted in anticipation of the special stop we were about to make on the way home—to their favorite pumpkin patch for our yearly pumpkins that would end up carved for Halloween night.  

To save time, I drove us through the closest fast food restaurant so we could eat lunch in the car on the way. Little did I know how that decision would change the course of the whole day.

The girls were in the back seats, with their seat belts on, enjoying their carefully chosen hamburgers. I juggled a rice bowl in my lap, taking bites at each stop light. 

Suddenly I noticed I was having difficultly swallowing. I drank some water and thought nothing of it. The light turned green and slowly I inched my way up the slight hill.  

The next thing I knew, I heard screaming. 

I thought the girls were arguing, until I looked up to find a tree branch pierced through the windshield, just a couple inches from my face. I turned around to see the girls were crying, their hamburgers overturned on the floor below them.

What I found out later from the woman in the car behind me me was that my car veered across the center lane divider, nearly hitting an oncoming car head on before rolling down a hill and hitting a tree.  

I couldn’t believe it: I had passed out at the wheel.

Neighbors in the area and passengers of the cars who had been around us came to help. They called 911 and this is when I met our first responders. They arrived and assessed me and my girls. Since they were wearing their seat belts, the girls were okay. 

My parents arrived and I was taken to a local hospital where they determined I had an allergic reaction to my meal. Swallowing the rice had stimulated my vagus nerve, causing me to black out. 

One little bite of rice had caused all of that! 

I thought of how much worse things could have been, and how well taken care of I was in that ambulance on the way to the hospital. 

When all was back to normal, I found out which fire house came to help; I wanted to thank them for being there for me and my girls. 

I put together a to-go party meal that they could enjoy: a bag of color-coordinated paper goods and decorations with a basket full of homemade food, set up so they could enjoy the meal at their leisure and not rush in between calls. 

I hoped the gesture would show them how much they were appreciated, not just by me and my family, but by every person they had ever helped and would ever help again. 

A simple joy in their oftentimes hard workday, a simple joy for me to give.

I will never forget them. 

What Does Green Mean?


As a kid, wearing green on St. Patrick’s day seems as important as turning in an assignment on time, if not more important for fear of being pinched at any given moment. Yet as an adult, wearing green holds less stakes. It’s more a way to be festive than a tactic to outrun pinch-happy peers. 

My mom always loved to celebrate holidays. In her last year of life, as her illness progressed, she was especially adamant about being involved in as many celebrations and events as she could. This particular St. Patrick’s day, her friends were throwing a party. My dad agreed they could stop by for a few minutes, for as long as she felt good.

To be in the spirit of the holiday, she wanted a green shirt to wear, but did not have one in her closet. At the time there was no online shopping, so we took a ride to a nearby strip mall that had a large department store. Walking took Mom a lot of energy so I parked in a handicap parking spot and ran in while she waited in the car. 

I never thought finding a green shirt would be so important to me, but as I walked into the store’s large entrance doors and began looking for the women's clothing section, I prayed for any speck of green. I weaved in and out of racks and aisles, my chest tightening as the minutes passed. I thought of Mom waiting in the car, restless and tired. 

Finally, way in the back of the store, I found a few green shirts. Suddenly I realized I didn’t know what size to choose, since Mom had been steadily losing weight. I grabbed three different sizes and styles and zoomed through the checkout counter. 

Mom’s face lit up when I settled back into the car. The choices made her feel like she’d gone shopping herself and helped her feel in control of her life. 

Sometimes I think back of that day and giggle at how silly I must have looked, scanning those aisles with a look of panic—all for a green shirt! But even simple traditions can carry an abundance of meaning, bringing cherished memories and joy to you and your loved ones! 


When I was a little girl, trick or treating was simpler. My sister and I would throw on our homemade halloween costumes—always something we could move freely in—grab a pillowcase from my mom, and run around the entire neighborhood until our bags were bursting with candy, popcorn balls, cookies, gum or whatever treats the household we approached chose to give away that year. My parents felt no concern over our safety, or that harm would come to anyone who wondered the sidewalks and streets that night. They never had to look for open candy that might have been tampered with, or worry that someone would give us anything dangerous.

Unfortunately, times have changed. The concern of safety is on every parent's minds. So we adapt and create a safe environment in which to have trick or treat fun. 

When my girls were young, I would have pre-trick-or-treating parties at my home, inviting all our friends to wear costumes and come by for a halloween themed dinner and treats. After the meal, kids and parents could trick-or-treat around our neighborhood and then come back to eat more treats and play some games.

One year my husband and I decorated our house like a haunted house, which suited the grey, Cape Cod style. I bought a gigantic spider to sit on the porch bench beside the front door with cobwebs all around. My husband carved and painted foam gravestones with silly sayings (i.e. here lies Bird Rock Betty who took a long walk off a short jetty). And while everyone trickled into our home, we played scary music. Both parents and kids laughed and enjoyed the evening while trick-or-treaters knocked at our door. I responded with a bowl of various candies for their picking. 

Behind the trick-or-treaters came a cheerful family with Australian accents. After yelling "Trick or Treat,” they walked in and joined our party. The night went on, everyone enjoying themselves, I noticed this family nibble on the scattered snacks and use our restroom so they could continue their journey comfortably. After the party ended and I was picking up the house, I asked my husband who the family with the accent was.  He said, he had no idea and thought I knew them. And I told him I thought he knew them! What else could we do, but laugh that perfect strangers had indulged in our home at our party.

Years went by, and my husband and I were grocery shopping. A lady approached us and said, with an Australian accent, “You are the people who had the wonderful halloween party. We had so much fun. Thank you for it.”  Then she walked away. My husband and I looked at each other and just started laughing. I couldn’t help, but wonder how many other parties they went to...


As a little girl, I loved to go shopping with my mom and help her pick outfits to wear to upcoming parties and events. Every morning she woke up and, before she left her bedroom, applied her make up, perfected her hair style and put on an outfit that matched to a tee. Whether that particular day called for working in her office, helping my dad with his business, volunteering at a hospital or our local aquarium, doing household chores and caring for my sister and I, or a fun once-in-a-while lunch date and golf with her girl friends, she always had the perfect outfit.

When I think back about my mom’s outfits, one in particular has stayed with me. One afternoon she took me shopping at our local indoor shopping mall, at a store called Judy’s. I was about seven years old, so I was too small to wear any of the clothes, but because it was my mom’s favorite store, it was also mine. The walls and floors were covered with clothing in a variety of colors and prints. Fun pants, tops, dresses, purses, shoes—Everything a girl could want!

On this day my mom had a dinner party to attend, so she was searching for a cute dress and, of course, we found it; a white sixty’s style number with bright orange polka dots. The sleeves were short, barely covering the top of her shoulders and it was layered with one inch pleats that ran from the dresses neckline to its hemline. It was a mini dress and my mom looked great in it. 

I remember that dress hanging at the end of the rack in her closet for years after. After mom’s passing I went looking for our favorite dress, but could not find it. So it I cherish the memory of finding it with her, a favorite dress now a favorite memory.



When my daughters were young, my mother-in-law gave me a very important piece of advice: always keep a bag of emergency items in the trunk of the car. Everything from diapers and towels to protein bars and water bottles—items that may come in handy during bad traffic, a car breakdown, an unforeseeable sleepover at a friend’s house, or even a spontaneous trip to the beach. The mother-in-law bag ensured my family and I were always prepared.

Over the years I have encouraged my husband and daughters to do the same, and have extended this preparedness to include stocking up on any medications we may need day-to-day. I keep them in a coin zipper purse and either carry it with me in my larger purse or keep it in the center console of my car. I continually update these medications, everything from vital prescription medicine to over-the-counter pain killers. The drug store sells tiny ziplock bags, about an inch wide, that you can use to separate each type of medicine and then label so there’s no confusion over which white capsule is which. No matter where you are or what may happen, this is an easy way to ensure you have what you need to care for yourself and others, if necessary.

While I use my mother-in-law bag in some capacity every day, there is one day that I was beyond thankful I had it in my trunk. My oldest daughter and I were driving through our neighborhood, not far from home. As we came around the bend we passed a young teenage boy sitting over an elderly man in the middle of the street. Upon second glance, we realized the man had been on his bicycle and the boy had run over him in his truck. I pulled our car over to the curb and my daughter and I ran over to them. The boy was so upset he could not think and the man was in shock. 

I asked if the boy had called 911 and he hadn’t, so that was first on the list. Then my daughter ran to our trunk and retrieved my mother in law bag. I rolled up the man’s pant leg, which revealed an awful break in his lower leg with the bone showing through his skin. I wrapped above this area with first aid gauze from my bag to help stop the bleeding. We carefully moved him onto one of our blankets and covered him with another. 

While we did all this, my daughter and I talked to both the boy and the man, trying to keep them calm. I attempted to get information, like who the man was and where he lived. My daughter consoled the boy and had him call his parents. 

As the paramedics came to the scene, I gave them the information we had and what had happened. Then we stepped back and let them do their wonderful work, so grateful for the items from my mother-in-law bag.



Almost all of us have had a family vacation that, in the end, you just have to laugh at. I like to call it a simple memory.

My dad and mom had made friends with another young veterinarian in Los Angeles and his wife. They had four kids, two boys and two girls.  Our family was Mom, Dad, my sister and me.  With time, we began taking joint family vacations.

One summer our parents decided that we would leave California and visit Florida. They made the plans and booked all the flights and hotel rooms. 

With four adults and six kids in tow, all under the age of ten, we made it to our destination: Orlando. I am positive no one wanted to sit next to us on the plane ride there. (haven’t we all experienced those people?) Our friends definitely were not quiet or under much discipline.  

I remember us renting two cars and driving down south toward Miami. Our family’s car was usually leading the way. A couple hours into the drive, our friends car got a flat tire. Luckily, we saw it happen, so we pulled over on the side of the road and began searching for a phone and someone who may know where we could get their tire fixed. We were in an unfamiliar little town, and I do not remember if there was a spare tire in the car or if the tire was beyond fixing, just that we could not fix it ourselves. 

Dad found a Seven Eleven type store with a phone booth and phone book. Back then there were no cell phones. Dad found a tire store made a plan—he would take the car to be fixed and the rest of us would pile into the good car and go to a motel we had seen down the street to rent a room, to hang out in while we were waiting.  Six kids on the loose in any area was not a good thing.  We all hopped in the car and off we went.  Even with this delay we were all having fun. There was a lot of laughing.  We pulled up into the parking lot of the motel and parked in front of the office.  With a vacancy sign hanging on the office window, our friends' dad went in to rent a room.

After a few minutes, the manager of the motel looked out the door of his office and into our car.  He saw two women and six children under the age of ten years old. Another few minutes went by and their dad came out of the office. He got into the driver’s seat of the car stating the manager would not rent us a room.

Cleary this manager saw one man, two women, and six young children in the car and thought the worst! I can only imagine. We headed to a diner around the corner instead and spent a few hours there eating ice cream and drinking cokes very slowly. Their dad used the diner’s phone to call Dad at the tire place and let him know where we were.

We did not care where we were, we had fun no matter what the circumstances, even if those around us were not amused. That was the kind of people we were.

Dad, armed with a new tire and a spare, arrived at the diner.  We all separated into our own cars and again off we headed south for the rest of our trip.

Its a silly, happy memory from my childhood. One of my simple memories.


Mom was determined that my sister and I experience and learn as many different things as we possibly could in life.  One of these experiences was oil painting lessons. One of our neighbors was a painter, and word got out that she was going to teach lessons on oil painting. So mom signed me up.

So up the hill I walked to my lessons.  I do not remember how often I went or for how long I took these lessons. But it was long enough to have painted at least two paintings that Mom proudly hung in her dining room.  I now have them in a storage box in my garage.

I’ll tell you why they are not my favorite childhood creations and what I learned about art and creativity. It’s a lesson I’ve carried over in raising my girls.

While learning to paint was a good thing, how I learned was disappointing and gave me a negative attitude toward it.  As you would think, my teacher was a good painter. The problem was she did not think that I was a good painter. So, everything I painted she touched up to her standard.  Now, as adult, when I look at these paintings I do not feel proud of them. I do not know where I ended painting the objects and where she started painting on my painting.  I do not think my mom understood what a big deal that was to me.

With my girls, what they create is what they create and as a mom I give my encouragement. The first time you do something is never going to be perfect, but most of the time imperfect is better! It’s the enjoyment in the practice, not the perfect end result. 

The other thing my art teacher did was tell us what to paint. As my girls grew older, I realized many of their art teachers also did this. I understand that in a class there is a curriculum, which means guidelines and techniques to enhance it. But since the arts are about exercising creativity, I wish students could choose what they want to create so the expressions are fully theirs, whether abstract or traditional.

The way I was taught steered me away from wanting to paint throughout my life. I would rather my artwork not be perfect, but be fully mine.


Me with my Bluebird troop and Mrs. Bartlett, our leader.

Me with my Bluebird troop and Mrs. Bartlett, our leader.

Growing up, I was joined to a group called the Bluebirds, which as I got older, became the Camp Fire Girls.  I had a wonderful group of friends from our neighborhood that made up our troop.  Similar to the Brownies and Girl Scouts, we did all kinds of activities and outings.  We learned about many different subjects and earned beads and badges.

This group taught me a lot about ethics, morals and values.  It also taught me about relationships.   Not only the relationship with those in my troop but also the women who were my leaders.  My mom helped a lot with running and organizing what our group did.  But our main leader, Mrs. Bartlett, was our backbone.  She was one of my favorite people.  She was so kind and put so much effort into leading the troop.  Throughout the years of our group, she was always cheerful.  

Never would I have imagined she would be diagnosed with Leukemia. I am not sure how long she fought the disease.  I remember seeing how it changed her body, but it never changed her good attitude. I was friends with her daughter, who was also in this troop.  I can’t imagine what she felt when her mom, my troop leader, lost her battle with this awful disease, but I will never forget how I felt when, one night, my parents woke me up and gave me the news that Mrs. Bartlett had died.  This was my first loss in childhood life and a sadness I will never forget.

It taught me at a young age that we must enjoy everyday we are here.  I have tried to do this throughout my life, especially by appreciating the simple things.

I think of Mrs. Bartlett often, a special lady who lives on in my memory, and I’m sure, the memories of those whose lives she touched.


Me at the Red Barn

Me at the Red Barn

I was so lucky as a young girl to have a wonderful place to ride horses.  It was called The Red Barn.  This barn was literally painted red.  It was a story book place.  My father took care of many of the horses that lived at this barn and stable.  Dad and mom bought me a pony horse and off I went. My mom would drop me off and I would spend many hours at this barn, some days after school, weekends or summer days when school was out of session.

I took many riding lessons and enjoyed showing my pony horse, King Louie.  Though this barn was not fancy, it was filled with loving people and animals.  I learned how to take responsibility for a life and for myself.

This barn is a favorite childhood memory of mine.  Unfortunately, in the past years it was torn down and made into a land fill, which now has a housing development built on top of it.

As an adult, I have driven by the exact spot the barn was built on.  It was a sad feeling for me, but the simple memory of The Red Barn will always bring me happiness.


My sister and I circa 1966 on Easter

My sister and I circa 1966 on Easter

We were settled into our first real home. I was in first grade and my sister preschool.  We did not care if our home was not filled with furniture.  The few pieces of furniture from our old apartment was fine and plenty.  My mom and dad worked hard and well together.  At this age, they had already given my sister and I more than they ever had growing up, and not just financially, but also emotionally.  So there my sister and I were on Easter morning in 1966, with the biggest Easter basket we had ever laid eyes on, bigger than both of us put together! 

It was really two baskets in one. Each side of it was filled with the same items, so all was fair and square. There were two stuffed bunnies and lots of chocolate, which mom was good at dividing up over time since I was known to get sick from eating excessive amounts of sweets in one sitting—my eyes were definitely bigger than my stomach!

The cellophane that surrounded the basket stopped us from immediately tearing through all the goodies inside.  To this day, I have never cared for that wrapping paper around Easter baskets you see in stores. I realize it has a dual job: keeping things in the basket and keeping kids out.

As an adult, I wonder where my parents hid this huge thing. There was no furniture it would fit behind or under and we were in and out of the garage and car all the time. But I guess that was just part of the marvel of it! 

Wishing you the best Easter and springtime.



While we lived in Anaheim, in the two-bedroom apartment, Dad and Mom saved as much money as they could. They had their eyes set on buying their first real house. They found one that was new and in a central location for Dad to make veterinary house or barn calls in an efficient amount of time. He would use his truck that had a veterinarian pack on the back of it, filled with all the medical supplies needed to give the appropriate care to each animal.

He again went to the bank for a personal loan and used the cash as a down payment on their new house. Off we went to Palos Verdes Peninsula!

It was a beautiful hill that over looked the ocean, set on a little cul-de-sac street. To me, as a kid, this street was so steep and a mile long. We were a couple of blocks away from the local high school and below the local shopping mall. The junior high school I would soon attend was on the other side of the shopping mall.  The entire hill offered a wonderful lifestyle.

The home was not large, but it did have four bedrooms. In the middle of the house was an atrium. We used this area for our desert tortoise that Dad had found walking across a busy street. He didn’t want it to get hit by a car so he stopped, picked it up and brought it home. We have had this tortoise, Touché, for over forty years.  He is a simple, loving being. Calm yet filled with personality. We are lucky to have Touché in our lives.

Mom decorated this home very minimally since they did not have a lot of money to furnish it. We had a phone radio system in the family room so Mom could radio any horse calls to Dad.  People who needed veterinary care would call our home’s business line.  Dad would be out and about in his truck and Mom would radio the call to him.

One of my childhood memories is in Dad’s truck. The main box for the radio rested between two bucket seats. It became the third seat in the truck for me. On weekends, especially on Sundays, Mom, my sister and I would pack into the truck with Dad driving. My sister would sit on Mom’s lap and I would sit on the phone box, with dad driving and no seat belts! The box would overheat as I sat on it so the warmth made me fidget. I sat so high on this box my head hit the top of the roof.  We would take off to our destination barreling down the freeway. Our family’s life began to grow in a fun, exciting but simple way.


Me circa '64 or '65 in my Sears Catalog dress, bag, shoes, socks and bow!

Me circa '64 or '65 in my Sears Catalog dress, bag, shoes, socks and bow!

When I was a little girl, one of my past times was to look through the good old Sears catalog. Every year, I could not wait for the new catalog to come out. It was around 8 inches wide, 11 inches long, and a good two to three inches thick. I would carefully look at each page, which was filled with any and every thing you may need, or not need, in your life.  I would look at all the pictures and read their descriptions, reviewing them over and over again throughout the entire year, then marking each page that had an item that I wanted to own.

This catalog is what I used to make my Santa Christmas wish list. Of course, throughout the year this list would change and so would all the tab markers or bent corners made to mark where all the special items were. All the time I spent enjoying this catalog is, in today's age, called shopping online. Who would have known? If you get a catalog in the mail and it's contents interest you, take a moment and thumb through its pages and remember what it was like with no computers, a simpler time. 


Me and my sister circa 1965 - That is the photo Coco thought was a window!

Me and my sister circa 1965 - That is the photo Coco thought was a window!

When Dad graduated veterinary school, he decided to get a job in warmer weather. From Colorado we moved to Los Angeles, California. We found a cute little two bedroom, one bath apartment in an area named Anaheim. We were in the big leagues now with a giant place to live. In a real city and, most importantly, no more snow!

This was in the mid 1960's when Anaheim was not like it is today. It was literally acres and acres and miles and miles of flat grassy dairy land. The perfect place for a young veterinarian, and it was affordable.

I have a few great memories about this time and can still envision the apartment to a T. As you entered the front door, you walked straight into the living area complete with a couch, coffee table and television. Next to the living room sat a round four-person table that led into the cute little kitchen. A narrow hallway led to the two bedrooms and one bathroom that we all shared. It was just enough for our family of four, and our boxer Coco, too.

Coco loved the couch and when we left the apartment she would sit on top of the couch and look out the window, waiting for us to come home. The only problem was that there was no window. It was a large picture that we kept finding smudge marks on. She thought it was a window so no one told her otherwise. This was verified by my dad when he walked in one day and caught her nose pressed into the painting. 

My favorite part of this apartment was the car port and the driveway leading up to the complex. Dad used to let me sit on his lap, take the steering wheel with my hands, and drive his truck in or out of the driveway, whichever way we were going. I thought I was so big!

Just down the street from our new home was a berry farm. It was a large farm with a yummy fried chicken and boysenberry pie restaurant. We went to this restaurant almost every Sunday. The farm had an adorable strip of restaurants and shops called Fiesta Village, which is still there to this day. One year I had a birthday party there. It also had an old fashioned car ride that circled the entire parking area. This little berry farm has now grown to be the large Knotts Berry Farm theme park. It is amazing how much a place grows in 50 years...

While living in this apartment, another fun place to go was the Nabisco cookie warehouse. The building was gigantic, tall and long. I would love to see it today--it probably isn't quite as big as I remember it! As you walked inside, there were aisles and aisles of boxes and bags of every possible kind of Nabisco cookie available. This warehouse was used to sell all of the damaged cookies, so they cost almost nothing to buy. I remember picking out anything I wanted. YUMMY! A box of cookies was such a treat. Of course Mom wouldn't let me eat them all at once. One man's damaged goods is another man's prize.

I loved this apartment and have been back to visit the area with my kids. My husband and I would take them to the amusement park for fun growing up and I used to tell them these stories of what Knotts Berry Farm used to be. 


While Mom, Dad, our boxer Coco, and I lived in our 20 foot trailer, and Dad was at school, Mom studied her Betty Crocker cook book to a T. She became a wonderful cook. In my parents' fifty years of marriage, almost every night Mom made full meals for dinner. Always a salad to start, then a main course with a side dish, and finally, a homemade desert.

You would think these meals cost a lot of money, but my parents did not have much money to spend. So, the Betty Crocker cook book did its job. It has hundreds of recipes for all different kinds of food and desserts.

To this day my family uses this cook book and its recipes. We have taken a few of these recipes and added our own touches to them. Recently my daughter and I made Betty's homemade donut recipe, but substituted brown rice flour and whole wheat pastry flour for the white flour. 

Now, it is hard for us to eat some types of food out because we can make them at home even better. I hardly ever eat dessert out because Mom spoiled me with magnificent homemade cakes and pies growing up.

I like to give these cook books as gifts to our friends and family members in hopes that they will enjoy it as much as I have.

Just a simple thing.