Monday, December 28, 2015

Farewell 2015

Every year has it's ups and downs, life is bound to bring challenges and we've certainly had our fair share. Looking back to 2011, it seemed like things were as bad as they could get, we were facing the fact that we had to short sale our house, our glove business was not going to fly, we had exhausted our savings and it just all felt so unfair. I'm not going to recap the whole painful scenario, but suffice it to say, some things take longer to resolve emotionally than others.

It's been just over three years since we moved out of the Aeolia house and have lived in two rentals since. That story is another bit of "life's not fair," but whatever. During Christmas 2014, Dave's mom's health took a turn for the worse and that set in motion a whole other set of stressful circumstances that had to be dealt with. What I'm trying to say is 2015 was a very uncomfortable culmination of some old wounds that never quite healed mixed with new, raw emotions and our family was put to the test. Look back through this blog and you will see, our life has been pretty darn good, Dave and I have had an easy go of being married (at least as I can tell from hearing people talk about how hard marriage is - I haven't had that experience). Some of you have noted that I must sugar coat much of what I post here because, "Who can have it that good so much of the time?" We do!

For the two of us, Dave is not as optimistic as I am and he doesn't move on and bounce back from adversity as quickly as I do. It takes him more time to process what has happened, why or why not, and I've found he typically decides how he feels and stays with that decision. He was mad as hell that we had to short sale our house in 2012 and he stayed mad. Maybe I should analyze things more, but I live in the camp of what's done is done, if I can't change it, why sit and ponder it? Sure, I've looked back and wondered if I could have done things differently, or should I have taken this chance or that chance to see a different outcome, but I don't spend much time in those scenarios. I'm more likely to look ahead at what I want to be creating and manifesting for our futures. All the stress that came with Dave having to take care of his mom forced his hand to confront some longstanding feelings that had not been resolved. We had some explosive moments, we said things we didn't mean, Mason learned what it was like to see and hear his parents really fight, and he even shouldered some harsh words that really weren't aimed at him at all.

I'm sharing all of this for a number of reasons, but most noteworthy is that this blog is the story of my life and I always want to look back and know it is my real life that is written here. 2015 was a really hard year for our marriage & family and we have some work to do to get back to who we were, if that's possible. Maybe it's not necessary, maybe we go forward stronger because we weathered the storm. We made amends and continue to work to rebuild trusts that were damaged. Mason saw us fight and more importantly, he saw us make up, say we were sorry and share (as was appropriate) with him why some of our reactions were bigger than it seemed they should have been. I think that is the most valuable thing to come out of trying times, understanding the importance of saying you are sorry, admitting you were wrong or that you over reacted, and sincerely taking responsibility for your part in the pain. We've done that as a family and I hope Mason sees that difficult times come and when they do, how to get through them and resolve them so all parties feel safe speaking their piece, feel like they have been heard, and hopefully understood.

Of course, 2015 was not all bad, we vacationed in Texas as a family, Dave got to take a solo east coast vacation, Mason and I got to go on a New York adventure where you all know he won Chopped Junior, Mason did 23 live cooking demos in 2015, all three of us got to appear in an episode of Carnival Eats (out in May 2016), and before the year was out, we had our offer accepted on a house we will be moving into in January of the new year. See, I can't focus only on the bad, there was too much good to ignore.

I wish you all love, joy, and happiness in the coming year, but when strife arrives, work through it, try to be kind, and take responsibility when making amends. We are all imperfect beings, feeling safe and understood are two of the greatest gifts we can offer each other, don't you think? Welcome 2016!

Monday, December 21, 2015

Mason Won Chopped Junior!

Mason won Chopped Junior last Tuesday night on Food Network!
As you may know Mason, he's the kid who raised $26,052 to put a culinary sciences lab in his elementary school in Auburn and along that journey got the school district to update the school kitchen and hire a lunch lady who cooks hot, real food lunches. They also put in a school garden as part of his efforts.
He's also the kid who does live cooking demos at fairs, festivals, home shows, private events, and on television. Now add to his CV, at only 12 years old, Chopped Junior Champion!
He won $10,000 (more than half went into a trust for later) that he spent on a few special toys, some new clothes, and he started his own business, Mason Made Products, it's a line of marinades and sauces.
I can't wait to see what 2016 will bring for this bright young man, but I'll be sure to share his journey with you. You can also follow along on Facebook at Mason Made.
I took copious notes and lots of personal photos and video that I want to do a whole post or series of a couple of posts about our trip to NYC and the Chopped Junior experience. I usually just write from my perspective, but this time I plan to include Mason and his perspective as well. I'm excited to share some of the behind the scenes things about the show and some of the footage that didn't get aired.
I will say, when your kid wins $10,000 before Christmas, it sort of takes the magic out of the shopping experience for mom and dad. Most of the toys that Mason wanted that would have been great "Christmas morning surprises," he bought for himself. Oh well, I suppose there are far worse problems we could have, right? Mason was frustrated that I made him put $6,000 in his trust, but in reality, he will thank me later. Us Partaks know how to make fun and I'm pretty sure Dave and I will find a way to make Christmas magical, for me, it will have nothing to do with material gifts.
Merry Christmas friends, we wish you love and laughter today and every day.
Here is the link to Mason's recent ABC10 appearance yesterday morning

Monday, December 14, 2015

'Tis the Season to be Busy

Yes, we are all so, so busy with preparations for Christmas and for me, work is crazy. I have four transactions in different states of progress so there is little time for anything else. I'm done shopping but I need to wrap gifts and finish decorating the few cookies I baked.

In other news, Mason's Chopped Junior episode airs tomorrow night on Food Network. It's on at 8 PM east coast time so check your listings so you can watch or set your DVR to record it for when you can watch.

I will leave you with what I call Kathy's Curls of Wisdom "Wouldn't the world be a better place if instead of just making love, we put more effort into making love last? With family, friends, lovers, coworkers - make love last!"

Monday, December 7, 2015

Festival of Lights Parade

Happy Monday!

Last week was a bumpy ride for sure. As you all know, Dave and I are house shopping and really trying to find that perfect place we can be excited about buying and living in. We are feeling pressured because we need to move out of this house. You can't buy a house under pressure. We may end up having to move twice (rent for a while longer until we find our next, real Home Sweet Home), although neither of us wants to do that and in fact, I'm not even sure we could find a short term rental. 

We found a house that was great, nearly new, all new amenities, a gorgeous kitchen, on almost an acre, but the location is darn near on Hwy 49. We thought, we can fence it, we can do this, we can do that, and we wrote an offer. They accepted it but we weren't excited. I didn't sleep all that night, I was worried, what if Spencer gets out and finds his way on to Hwy 49? Mason can't come and go as he gets older, who let's their kid ride a bike on a Hwy? Dave got up to go to drill the next morning and as soon as I knew he was awake, I told him I was worried. He paused and said, "We're on the same page. I have been awake all night feeling a sense of foreboding about this house. What if Spencer gets out and runs onto the Hwy?" Boy, those intuitions can sure come on strong when one is trying to sleep. I emailed the other agent and told him we can't buy this house. Back to the drawing board.

Saturday night was Auburn's annual Festival of Lights parade and I have to say, it may have been the best one I've ever seen. We were invited to a party at a friend's home who lives right on the parade route, it was awesome, good food, lots of people and front row seats. 

Sunday was work, work, work! I showed houses to some of my clients who recently accepted an offer on their house. It's a tricky dance to sell and buy, and this one is a little more so as their adult daughter is helping them in preparation for what may be down the pike with her having to help them as they age and eventually likely sell the property. As tough as it can be to have so many cooks in the kitchen, I applaud them for thinking ahead and taking action to try to make things easier later. As you all know, Dave and his sister are dealing with his moms declining health and it's harder than hard. They feel like they don't know what to do, or who to call for answers. It seems as if every one who might have answers has an agenda or an interest in how or who they refer us to. It's awful to feel so helpless and know that you absolutely have to take action at the same time, what is the right thing to do? And for Dave, each time he's set forth a plan that would seem to be the right road, something happens and the plan gets nixed...back to square one, what is the right thing to do? I'm not in their shoes but I can only imagine that I would trust that I was making the best decision possible with the information I had and do my best to keep my faith that it will all work out along with my sense of humor. 

This is the last week of school and I'm ready to be done. You all know I love being a student, but the last few weeks with my work schedule being so busy, have been a real challenge. It's by no means what Dave is facing, but it's stressful nonetheless. I hope your holidays are shaping up nicely and you are feeling the magic of the season and not the stressors of other life events. Happy Holidays!

Monday, November 30, 2015

Happy December...almost!

Happy December! Okay, it's November 30, but I won't be writing tomorrow to wish you a Happy December so I'm doing it today. It's funny how some years we are more in the spirit than others. This has been a really trying time with trying to buy a house while getting a notice to vacate during December, but for some reason, I'm really feeling the Christmas spirit. 

Our Thanksgiving was a mixed basket of awesome and awful. We typically skip the official Thursday celebration and relax while preparing for a feast on Saturday with our friends. This year we hosted both days, Thursday with Dave's family who came to stay with us and then Saturday with a handful of our dearest friends. Thursday was lovely, we had a great dinner and took family photos which Dave's mom Mary noted that she really wanted. All was well until Friday morning when Mary collapsed and had to be rushed to the ER. She spent two nights in the hospital and Dave ended up spending his Sunday driving her home to San Jose. Many of you have gone through caring for an aging parent, it's not easy. It's not easy in the physical sense and it's even harder emotionally. Add fuel to the awful fire, our septic system backed up again (less than 30 days from the last fiasco!). Even though a late night call from the septic service was not ideal, I was so grateful that we had the resources to write a check to have it handled. There have been plenty of times in my life that has not been the case. With Dave having gone through this all day Friday and again most of the day on Saturday, I was really glad we had our friends over to lighten the mood. We enjoyed another lovely dinner, good wine, and most importantly, lots of love and laughter. I know Dave wanted to spend Sunday putting up his Christmas decorations and an all day trip to and from San Jose was not on the original plan, it all worked out and we got Mary home safely. 

Now it's back to work and school. My real estate business is booming! Whoever said Nov, Dec, and Jan are a bad time to buy or sell do not know the business. I have two houses in escrow and we are shopping for a third home for one of my clients. It will be awesome to have paychecks in December and January. I hope you all had a less eventful Thanksgiving than we did, but rest assured, we all have so much to be thankful for, starting with each other. Happy Holidays!

Oh, if you moved recently (last 2 years), please send me your address. 

Monday, November 23, 2015

Television, Festival, Contests, Oh My!

What a wild ride this last week/weekend was. Whew! The weekend before Thanksgiving is the Mountain Mandarin Festival in Auburn every year, and as you all know, we all participate. This year we all had way more to do than just making a recipe for the recipe contest. 

The Cooking Channel's show Carnival Eats came to town to highlight the festival and the fun food we have. Dave was asked to be a production assistant as we are local and he knows his way around town. He worked show biz hours all day Friday and Saturday and he is positive that all he shared with them for the production will make our festival and town shine. All three of us also filmed bits as "Streaters" - the people they stop on the street eating the food they want to talk about. The show should air in May of next year so I'll be sure to let you all know in case you want to tune in.

I was asked this year to run and manage the cooking stage. Mason and I have done cooking demo's but to be in charge was a whole different experience. I loved it! I did a couple of demos while Mason did one each day. We had Good Day Sacramento do a spot with Mason and Chef Rachel from Polkadot Dinners early Saturday morning where Mason launched his new business Mason Made Products. He has a line of sauces and marinades (and a caramel sauce) that he is selling at fairs and festivals when he does his live cooking demos. He has created some delicious recipes with these sauces and they will be available next week to ship for Christmas gifts. If you decide to order 3 bottles and are willing to pay for a flat rate shipping box (medium box), we will include a jar of our homemade mandarin marmalade or apple butter and some fresh Placer Grown mandarins. I'll share more about flavors and prices for those of you who are interested. The money Mason raises from the initial sales of his new business will go toward his 8th grade field trip to Washington D.C., after that, he will be a for profit business. I have to tell you how proud of him I am. He worked that booth like a seasoned sales professional. He set his intention to sell out of 17 cases of product and on Sunday he had 59 bottles left to sell - he sold his last bottle 45 minutes before the show closed. I also want to note that in 2015, Mason did 23 live cooking demos. Pretty cool, huh?

With all of this said, I didn't enter the recipe contest as the person who runs it approached me and noted that I typically win, and if I win and I appear to be part of the team that runs it (I'm not), it could appear to be a conflict of interest. I was flattered that they noted I usually win and agreed to not participate. Dave and Mason did and sadly, we did not win anything this year. I would say we just can't do all we were doing and really give our best work. Although, Mason's mandarin milkshake with cranberry whipped cream and Dave mandarin ribs were delicious!

Now we are headed into Thanksgiving and this year we are hosting two dinners. Dave's family is coming for Thursday dinner and our friends are coming for Saturday Thanksgiving. Can you say, "Still very busy"? Laughing! I see it as making great things happen and how can we be stressed when we have so many wonderful people around us? It's not stressed, it's blessed. Happy Thanksgiving!

On another note - Mason's episode of Chopped Junior got moved from the 12/15 air date to a not yet determined air date in January or February. It's a bummer but that is how showbiz goes. I'll keep you posted once we know a new air date.

Monday, November 16, 2015

Fall and Winter Collide

Happy Monday,
The storms have passed but boy were they fun. Dave and I took an opportunity to get away for a few days and headed to Lake Tahoe Thursday and Friday nights. We stopped at Apple Hill on our way up and took in some of the flavors of fall. It didn't take long to start seeing snow along the side of the road and it was just what I needed to feel some holiday spirit. We checked in to our condo (we were offered a friends timeshare) and made a reservation to have our belated anniversary dinner. We gambled a little bit and made our way back to snuggle up in front of the fireplace. On Friday, we slept in, Dave until 10 (unprecedented!) and then we spent the day tootling historic towns in Nevada. One of our favorites was Genoa where we really enjoyed The Genoa Bar, Nevada's oldest Thirst Parlor, Thirst Parlor! Don't you just love that? It was exactly as you imagine, old timey to the hilt! We made our way back to Tahoe, browsed the shops in South Lake, played some cards and then headed back to the condo to sit in the hot tub under the stars, we ate dinner in and watched a movie. It was a lovely two nights in Tahoe but we didn't finish our time quite yet. We took Hwy 88 home and stopped in Amador County to taste a little wine and bottle a case of our own and have lunch. It was so interesting to go from lots of snow to fall colors and green pastures. It really did seem like we drove off one winter wonderland movie set and on to a fall day in the country. It was just what this old married couple needed to recharge our batterie. 

On Sunday, Mason cooked on ABC 10 morning news for the Mandarin Festival that is coming up this weekend. He is cooking all three day in addition to working his own Mason Made booth. It will be here that he will launch his new line, Mason Made Products. It is a line of marinades and sauces that he has been developing recipes with. The two that he will be cooking with at the Mandarin Festival is the organic Ginger Citrus with a Kick sauce and one of his favorites, Asian Fusion Grilling Goodness. Now he can do a cooking demo, share the recipe and sell some of the products for people to take home and make themselves. He's not so sure about the business accounting, but that is what I am most excited about (for him). What to buy, how much it costs, how to price it, sell it, figure out taxes and then profit. He is initially earning money for his 8th grade field trip to Washington DC, that way we don't have to do all the fundraising at the same time all the other 8th graders will be working on it. I'm either going to be very proud, or sorry I agreed. Laughing!

After the tv stuff, Mason went to a birthday party and while it stormed outside, I made 43 jars of mandarin marmalade, I made mandarin fig (20 jars), mandarin pepper (9), and mandarin pepper with all the seeds (14) because Dave says he wants more heat. I'll let you know if leaving all the seeds in gives him the heat he is looking for. Now it's time to enjoy the Mandarin Festival and get ready for Thanksgiving, we absolutely have plenty to be thankful for. 

Monday, November 9, 2015

Happy Anniversary and So Thankful

Happy Monday!

It's a glorious day, it's finally raining, really raining. This weekend was jam packed, what else is new? On Friday night we got to go see Elf the musical in Sacramento. Our local newspaper ran a contest for kids to write a short essay about what they are thankful for. I encouraged Mason to enter so we talked about what he would write about. He told me that he loves that he gets to decorate for halloween and Christmas with his dad and that he and I cook and bake together. I noted that it sounds like he is thankful for our family traditions and he agreed. He wrote the essay and he won first place! He won not only two tickets, they gave him four. We went as a family and took one of Mason's friends from football, we had dinner out and then enjoyed the show. The seats were great and all in all, it was an awesome night out. 

Saturday Dave and I spent the day looking at more houses and still have not found something we like as much as the house we are waiting on approval for. It was fun to look, but it's still stressful to not have a firm plan while the clock is ticking on our move-out date. I have faith it will all work out. We joined my good friend Jen for dinner and drinks for her birthday before coming home to cuddle up and listen to the rain. Sunday I did homework while Dave watched football. The fun thing about Sunday was my radio show aired on a Sacramento classic rock station, 96.9 the Eagle. Earlier in the week I was contacted by one of the DJs at the station about coming in to guest host the Sunday show. Having listeners in is part of the stations 25 year anniversary and an attempt to get their listeners involved in what they do. I recored the show on Wednesday and can I say, IT WAS SO FUN!! My next career will be in radio, for real, it will. 

Today is Monday, November 9 and that means it is our 14th wedding anniversary. I love being married. When I hear people say marriage is hard, it takes work, lots of work every day, I don't understand that. I can only surmise that if marriage is hard every day, it must not be the right combination of people. Or maybe Dave and I are just really lucky to have a pretty easy time being married. Sure, we have had some challenges in 14 years, but not daily difficulty and strife. 
We were advised before we got married to always be respectful, to not make jokes at the other's expense, and before we act, to always think with,"Is this kind? Is what I am about to say or do loving?" I've found this to be the very best advice I've ever received and it may be the secret to our happily married life. I love you Dave, and I don't just love being married, I love being married to you! Happy Anniversary.

Monday, November 2, 2015

Halloween Fun

Despite our current housing issues and the struggle to buy a house, we had a blast over the weekend for halloween. As much as Dave loves Christmas, I believe he loves halloween more. This year we dressed with a circus theme, he a fortune teller, inspired by Zoltar from the movie Big and I went as the circus ring master. Mason made his costume, he did not follow the circus theme, instead he dressed as one of his video game characters. We had friends in town, Steve and Ro and we went out both Friday and Saturday nights.

Friday night we attended James and Lisa's annual halloween party and let me assure you, they leave nothing to the imagination when in comes to decorations, their house looked amazing! After their party, we popped into our local bar to do some more dancing and before we called it a night, Dave won 3rd place in the costume contest!

Saturday night was actually halloween and while Mason was off trick or treating with friends, Dave, Steve, Ro and I sat out on the deck and had dinner while enjoying all the halloween decorations and a roaring fire in the pit. Having rocked our Friday night costumes already, we pulled together new costumes from our massive stash (yes, it's massive!) and I wore my witchy woman costume and Dave pulled together a witch hunter get up. Steve wore our King Tut get up and Ro went as a kitty cat. Wouldn't you know it, as we were getting ready to go out, the septic system backed up and created a mess that had me on the phone trying to see how soon someone could get here to figure it out. Of course I called our landlord and of course she noted we clearly did something wrong. I'm not going to belabor that point, but suffice it to say, this put a bit of a damper on Saturday night. Here we are on Monday and the plumber said there was no clog and it must be something with the septic system - and those guys can't be here until tomorrow. My landlord has instructed us to not do laundry, no paper in the toilet, no dishwasher, and to go easy on #2. How do you "go easy"? When you gotta poo, you gotta poo!

So that's it, our halloween was mostly fun, until shit happened!

Monday, October 26, 2015

Difficulty with Landlords

It's almost Halloween and I'm excited!! I don't know about you, but some years I am more in the holiday spirit than other years, this year I'm feeling in the mood. Dave, Mason and I have been working on our costumes for several weeks now and it's looking good. I'll post photos next week.

In other Partak family news, we are feeling in a bit of a pinch these days as we have not had such good luck with landlords. When we short-sold the house on Aeolia the woman who rented to us asked if we wanted a two or three year lease, we told her two. We went on to explain that at two years, our lease would be up on 8/31 and we would be eligible to purchase again on 9/24 - just 24 days. We noted that we would like to go month to month and we would start house shopping over the summer. She said that would be fine. Come May of the second year, Dave and I were getting our ducks in a row for our loan and thinking it was time to start shopping when we got the call from our landlord letting us know they would like us to break our lease so they could sell the house they were in and move into the house we were living in. I reminded her of our situation and she said she was sorry, but they were afraid if they didn't put their house on the market before we were ready in the fall, they would miss out on the prime listing/selling season. There was no offer of paying us to break our lease (which is the deal, if we break, we have to pay for the remaining months and if they break, they pay the remaining months), and we didn't play hard ball and require it - being the nice guys that we are. So here we are, so close to being able to purchase again and now we have to be out July 1st...fat chance we will find someone to rent to us month to month.

As it just so happened a house down the street from where we had to vacate was coming available to rent. I asked the owner if they would rent to us month to month, explaining the situation of what had just happened and she said no, she would require at least a one year lease. We reconciled that we would just get through the holidays and again, start shopping in the spring for a summer purchase. Here we are again in March of the following year and our landlord proposes that we talk about the possibility that we purchase the house we are living in. Though we don't love this house, I propose to her that we pay $20K over the high comp, I will handle the paperwork and the money that she will save in commissions will put it at value. She dragged her feet and basically came back to say that she felt she could get more for the house and that decision priced us out (we wouldn't have paid what she thinks she will get anyway). Back to house shopping, we found a house that is a short sale and though it is not in Auburn, it is just outside of Auburn and the house is pretty awesome. We put in our offer and let the negotiations begin! While we work on this and knowing it will take some time, I let her know where we are and what we hope will happen. To my news, she countered with that they found something they want to purchase and their offer was accepted so she has to give us a 60 day notice to vacate. WHAT?! Are you kidding me, you want us to move out a week before Christmas? So here we are, waiting on an acceptance or counter offer from the bank on our short sale and our landlord is calling almost daily with, "We need to meet the painter" or "We plan to remodel the backyard, can you please keep Spencer in?" and "Can I just come in for a minute to look with...?" It may not be intentional, but it's pressure and it's uncomfortable. The first landlord did not want to miss out on the hot selling season and for some reason, this landlord thinks Christmas week is a good time to list. Maybe it is, inventory will be low, but I think buyers will be sparse as well.

In any case, this has been difficult. I am 100% sure we will be able to purchase the house we are wanting, it's just a matter of timing. This compounded with Dave's moms declining health and pressure at work (for Dave) it's not always easy to see the bright side. I try to stay positive and be understanding but it seems we should have asked the first landlord to pay to break the lease and in this case, I have informed my landlord that we have no where to go and if our escrow does not close before 12/15, she will have to issue us another 30 day notice to vacate and we will do the best we can.

On a super bright note, because you know I have to have one, check out Chopped Junior on Food Network this Tuesday at 5 PM (PST). Mason was selected to compete and though tomorrow's episode is not his, it's the premiere of the series and all these kids are amazing. I don't know what date Mason's episode will appear but I will let you all know as soon as I do. Isn't this the best news? Have an awesome week and help me remember, "I can't always control what happens to me, but I can absolutely control how I react to and handle it."

Monday, October 19, 2015

It's My Life

Happy Monday! This week has been trying on a number of levels, mostly because we are trying to buy a house and as we navigate the short sale process and how long it takes, we got a 60 day notice to vacate our rental. Doh! Nothing like having to be out a week before Christmas. This is all compounded by the fact that Dave has military obligations for a week in December as well. I know it will all work out because so far in my life, it's always worked out. Some things have had better outcomes than others, but hey, that's just life and we're still in it together. 

Speaking of life, more often than not, mine is pretty magical. Tomorrow one of the brightest spots in our lives is turning 12 years old, 12 years old! Where did 12 years go? So many people tell new parents, "Don't blink, they will be gone before you know it." It's true. With that, I want to share what I love about our son Mason. Most of all, I love that Mason has such a strong sense of self, at only 12 years old. Mason knows who he is and he is not afraid to be that quirky kid. Mason will wear wacky clothes, color his hair blue, red, green and gold, he will speak up and ask questions - in depth intelligent questions, he has an unusual confidence for such a young man. Another thing I admire about Mason is his courage, he will take on a challenge and put himself out there in situations that would terrify most adults. Mason has accomplished so much in terms of public speaking and presentations and already overcome some really embarrassing public situations. He has a natural way of keeping his cool under pressure and pulling off an amazing performance no matter what obstacles come his way. This isn't to say he doesn't sometimes lose his cool and cry, he does, but he will pull himself together and get back on track to accomplish what he sets out to do. Mason is a mix of strong willed, pain in the ass, and a leader who will step in and stand up for the kid who is being picked on. Dave and I are both incredibly proud of the young man Mason is becoming and we certainly attribute some of that to our united front as his parents. With that said, we can't take credit for the person he chooses to be each day, those are choices he has to make in a world where we can't always be with him and so far he is doing a great job. I can't wait to see what this year holds for Mason, I know it will be an adventure and I am not going to miss a single minute of it. Our family song is, "You're Gonna Miss This" by Trace Adkins, it's a reminder to not shrug off the annoying kissy face, pass up the chance to sit out by the fire even if he has nothing to say (which is rare), or get too caught up in all the drama that is a short sale and a notice to vacate a rental. I love my life and I feel totally grateful to be able to be Mason's mom and still so in love with Mason's dad. It's my life, and it's a really good one. Happy Birthday Mason!

Monday, October 12, 2015

Are You Ever Going to Answer Me?

After last weeks post about embracing a slower pace and the way technology is affecting us, I was asked what my thoughts were on people not responding to a message, text or email, considering with most forms of technology, we can see when they've been received/read.

My immediate thought is that from a technical communication viewpoint, good communication would be a reply to minimally acknowledge the communication. We all lead busy lives and there are times when a communication comes in and it's not a good time to send a well thought out reply but does it take any time at all to write, "Got it, I will reply when I get home" or something like that. The trick with this is that then you must follow through and remember to write that well thought out reply.

We can all speculate what it means when someone doesn't reply to a message, but it's important to note that you are communicating volumes by not communicating at all. If people you are reaching out to are not responding you have a number of ways you could respond; you could reach out again asking if they received your initial message (you know they did), or you could note, "Hey, I see you read this on (date), I'm sure it just moved off your radar, so what do you think..." If there is still no reply, it would occur to me that they do not want to communicate with me.

I'm a firm believer that more communication is better than less in most cases. As I get older, I am also learning that there are times when saying nothing is the better course of action. If someone I care about is not responding, I would likely reach out via a phone call and see what's up, if something is wrong between us or just in general. Beyond that, there isn't much you can do except realize you need to do what you need to do with or without the input of this other person. I would also note that their unwillingness to communicate speaks volumes about who they are and that would be noteworthy for me moving forward in future interactions with them. What are your thoughts? Is there an acceptable time frame for someone to reply to a communication? I tend to think within 24 hours...but maybe you think longer is okay. Do tell!

Monday, October 5, 2015

Working to Embrace a Slower Pace

There is so much going on in our world today that seems so far away from real life. I understand that real is relative and perception is reality, but with all the technology, immediate gratification, a super fast way of life and mega stimulation, life is getting away from us. It just seems so far removed from a time where we grew our own food, cooked at home, kids played outside without a parents fear of them being did we get here?

Our society has seen dramatic increases in mental illnesses and medicating adults and children alike with prescriptions that alter who we are as beings. We have become so politically correct, it is nearly a crime to say what you see, certainly if you are not cited, you are absolutely judged. All the gadgets and technology that were touted as the answers to our problems, that were suppose to make our lives easier are ultimately hurting us. Social media has opened the floodgates to reuniting people and allowing people who we would have not otherwise had an opportunity to meet to become "friends." The stress and pressure of maintaining so many relationships is just too much. I'm not saying this is all bad, what I am saying is we may all have too much on our plates. At some point, we have to make a choice about what is most important to us and unplug from all the rest.

When I want to speak up and share my opinions on big issues like gun control or immigration, I'm stalled. I'm finding that I get stuck in what feels like a spider web sticking to me from all sides. What will he/she think? Say? What will the reaction be? Will my truth be seen as more or less serious than I see it? Will a dialogue be had or will judgment be cast without understanding? If judgment is cast, what will that mean? Will I lose my power if I'm perceived as weak or broken, say in the workplace? All of this is plain and simple fear, but at what point is fear healthy and sane? It's easy to advise someone else that no matter what the fallout might be, that honesty is the best policy. Would you tell your boss you had a prescription drug addiction or even that you were on medication that is controversial? Ultimately I ask myself, does my opinion really matter? Sure, it may be that I want to engage as I find these conversations stimulating, but in the end, I typically skip it - it really isn't that important.

The trouble with the truth is it can be dangerous. This all goes back to what I said a number of years ago about public persona versus what's real. Is it better to simply deal with what is real and do what you can to make right what is wrong - getting really honest personally? Seeking help and confiding in trusted sources may be better than opening Pandora's box for the world to see. From my perspective, once the world sees it, each person is forced to do something with it...from simply dismissing the knowledge (who cares?) to being rocked with fear not knowing what will happen next (something ones young children might feel). I suppose it all depends on what needs confronting and only the individual person can decide what the right thing to do is. I'm feeling that getting honest is a good thing, but doing it in a responsible way is equally important. Addressing issues with only the people who need to be involved and working to feel less fear and shame is really the goal anyone who wants to come clean is looking for, don't you think? I really do want to know what you think of this topic.

In the meantime I am working to embrace a slower pace, to spend more time unplugged with Dave and Mason and our friends in close proximity to where we live. Yes, I want to see all of you  who don't live near me, but again, focusing on the here and now. 

I'm feeling like we all need to embrace a slower pace, look around at where you are right not and enjoy it. If you are at work at a job you dislike, enjoy that you are employed. If you are at school dreading a test, enjoy that you are getting your education. I bet wherever you are and whatever you are doing, there is something there that is worthwhile, just look and see if you can find it. Happy Monday!

Monday, September 28, 2015

After a Rough Week

This last week was a doozie! I muddled through my week with a nagging tension headache that wound't respond to any amount of Tylenol or Motrin. On Friday night all that headachy nonsense culminated in what appeared to be an anxiety attack. Talk about crazy! I've known people who suffer with this kind of condition on a regular basis and I simply can not fathom that. In any case, I am fine but losing a number of days of full productivity will have me playing catch up all week. So off I go, I have homework to do, work work to do, house work to do and any number of other to do things to do.

Monday, September 21, 2015

I Love Texas!

Happy "almost" first day of fall! Yeah, it's not until Wednesday the 23rd, but I'm celebrating now. I love, love, love this time of year! All y'all who know me, know this, but I can't help it, everything about this time of year lights me up. I love that the days get shorter, the evenings smell like wood fires, the weather cools off and we can wear cute clothes with boots and scarves, and for the most part, we just all seem to slow down a little bit and come back together as a family. 

Last week we were in Texas and can I just say, I could live in Texas! I loved the history, the love the Texas people have for their state, how green the state is, and all in all, the people were just so friendly. We spent a few days in San Antonio and played at the River Walk, we visited The Alamo, ate really incredible food - no, REALLY incredible food, visited the Natural Bridges Caverns, traveled to The Presidio at Goliad, and I got to meet some friends who I have been communicating with via Facebook for more than 5 years. These friends, Rhonda and Stephanie run a rescue for cocker spaniels and well, you know my heart gets soft for a cocker spaniel. 

Rhonda has been following Mason on his cooking journey and wanted to cook with him so on Friday night he taught her how to throw pizza dough and we made homemade pizzas. On Saturday, they had a party and Mason and Rhonda grilled up Mason's spicy street tacos using both chicken and beef. Not only did they have a total blast, the chow was good, too! So For those who think social media is a time suck and not worthwhile, let me assure you you are wrong! I have met amazing people through social media, and Gulf Coast Cocker Spaniel Rescue is one such group - these women do amazing work. 

This is Sir Coffee, he came to them at 12 years old and incredibly sick, he's 16 now! I came to Texas to meet him and totally expected a dog that was old and slow moving. I couldn't have been more wrong, he is in great health and greeted me (us) with a smile. I'm so proud to be a part of this group known as Coffee Nation! 

We also ate a restaurant called Gwendolyn. The concept of the restaurant is entirely old school, using what they had and doing as they did before the break of the industrial revolution: approximately 1850. This was the last time that food was honest.There are no blenders, mixers, choppers, ice cream machines, deepfryers, burr sticks, nor anything else with a motor--nothing with a plug. Food machines with motors made possible an imbalance of diet that had never occurred before: we could suddenly fry enough food to make ourselves sick, we could preserve food longer than its last dangling vitamin. Refusing food-enabling machines is another way to keep the food honest, and in reasonable balance. No perishable ingredient may travel further than a good, strong horse.The menu will move absolutely in lockstep with the seasons, as okra and eggplant taper off and leafy greens move in, we must change ourselves to suit the product--not the other way around. What is outside is inside. 

Mason LOVED every bite of this meal, he even enjoyed goat cheese! "Mom, this was the absolute best meal I have ever eaten!" Mason. Chef Sohocki took Mason to his other restaurant, a Japanese Ramen joint, we ate there the following day for lunch. Amazing fresh food, super flavors, great service and atmosphere and all in all, we had a top notch night in San Antonio, TX. 

So that was our trip to Texas, lots of history, amazing food and awesome people, what more could we ask for!

Monday, September 14, 2015

Cooking at the Gold Country Fair

Last week I wrote about what a busy week I had ahead of me and why it stresses me a bit when I have so much on my plate. This last weekend was the Gold Country Fair and I was asked to run the cooking stage and host all the cooking demos. This is super cool because we have never had cooking demos at this fair before. The gentleman who runs the cooking demo program for the home shows and the Mandarin Festival asked me to do it in hopes it will become an annual part of our local fair. I agreed to do it and it was a great success!

Basically, what the job entails is decorating the cooking stage, arranging for chefs or local celebrity type people to come cook, planning and shopping for groceries, and being there for all hours of the fair to make sure times are kept, health and safety rules are followed and that fairgoers have a good time and hopefully learn something new. I love that local events are embracing the foodie culture and allowing us to help educate them and share our love of home cooked food. We had a couple of really fun demos this weekend but my favorite was Mason cooking with one of his football coaches. They made a Green and Gold Apple Crisp and the two of them had a ball playing off each other. Green and gold are the teams colors so they used green Granny Smith apples and gold Golden Delicious apples. Coach Jim had never done a live cooking demo and Mason really rose to the occasion walking him through each step until, through the magic of television they had a gorgeous apple crisp for everyone to taste. My other favorite demo was the one Dave did on Saturday night. Dave has been coaching Mason on his demos so he decide to get up and show Mason how it is done! Dave did a great job, but frankly, he doesn't hold a candle to Mason's entertainment ability!

In addition to a busy fair weekend, I am working on three real estate transactions and we are preparing to head out of town to Texas this week. San Antonio and the River Walk have been on my bucket list for a long time and Dave wants to share some of the historical sites with Mason. The high point for this trip for me is to meet my friends at Gulf Coast Cocker Spaniel Rescue. We have become good friends via social media over the last 4 or 5 years and we are finally going to get to spend a couple of days really getting to know each other - and I can't wait to meet Sir Coffee and Sweet Bucket, two of their spokes-dogs. Have a great week and next Monday will be all about how everything is bigger in Texas!

Monday, September 7, 2015

Let the Mayhem Begin!

I am heading into one of those weeks that I wonder if I'm going to get everything done. When life gets busy like this, I have mixed emotions, I love being involved and being a part of different things but I also get nervous that I won't be able to perform to the levels people expect of me, that I expect of me.

Maybe I shouldn't care what people expect, but I do. I care that I do my very best, I care that others experiences with me are favorable and I care how things turn out. I want my contribution in life to be memorable and noteworthy, not just a matter of a check in a box for attendance. I know what I am capable of and at this point in my life, I have not achieved my greatest accomplishment yet, at least I don't think I have - how do you know when you've done that one thing that will be the best you will ever do? I wonder if I'll know when I get there?

I do care what people think and I care that their time with me feels like time well spent when it's over. Of course, I can't can't control how other people think or feel, but I can do my best to be my best and when this week is done, I will know I showed up, gave it my all and completely followed through. Happy Monday!

Monday, August 31, 2015

What About Being Proud of Someone?

Over the weekend I had dinner with friends and while we were talking about different relationship issues, something came up that has my brain working overtime trying to "get it" or at least understand  what she understands about pride and feeling proud.

Here's how this unfolded, the three of us were having dinner, a lovely dinner by the way, sitting outside by candle light and a full moon. We were discussing some of the challenges of balancing jobs, family, kids, friends, and extracurricular activities in a relationship. One of the biggest things is effective communication and understanding how we as individuals communicate and in turn, how our partner communicates.

She told a story of something her spouse did that made her extremely proud and I immediately asked her if she told him she was proud of him. He chimed in that that when he did it, he felt like she was upset that he had chosen to help this other person instead of spend time with her. I asked again, "Did you tell him you were proud of him?" She said no, she didn't feel she had any right to be proud of him. Huh? Even as I type this, I don't get it. Of course I asked, "Why would you feel you need a right to feel proud of your spouse?" She replied that she didn't have anything to do with who he is. Sure, his mother could be proud and tell him she is proud, after all, she raised this fine man to be who he is today. This still did not make sense to me. I don't think I can only be proud of people and their accomplishments if I have a direct hand in making whatever it is happen. I can be proud of Dave for serving our country and for being a great dad. I am proud of many of my friends for taking charge of their lives, going back to school to get a degree or even my mom and my aunt for writing (and completing) their book about our family's history. Other than being born into this family, I had no hand in that awesome project, but I sure am proud of my mom and my aunt for finishing it.

I went back to him and asked him why he thought she was mad at him. He replied that because she said nothing, he took that to mean that he should have chosen to spend his time some other way, likely with her. Because that was his interpretation of how his spouse felt, he never went back to help this person again. Here is the irony, the act of helping the person made his spouse feel that he was the kindest, most generous man - more than any other man she's ever known but she did not feel like she could tell him that she was proud of him because she had/has nothing to do with his evolution to this point as a person. When she said nothing, he felt he'd done something wrong or at least not to her liking, so he never did it again. Talk about a moment that required a moment of deep thought!

I still don't understand her mindset or belief that she needs to have some kind of vested interest in someones success to be "allowed" to feel proud and actually tell them. The bigger shame is that all this time passed and he didn't know how she really felt (feels) - she is proud of this guy, even if she thinks it's not allowed, her heart knows something different. I hope she listens to her heart more and enjoys how good it feels to be proud of the people we love, it really does feel good, but not better than it feels to hear that someone we love is proud of us!

Monday, August 24, 2015

Where Can You Go?

Happy Monday!

It's starting to feel like fall with cool nights, but it still feels a lot like summer with warm, long days. I love this time of year and I love when the days start to get noticeably shorter and cooler.

I start school this week and as you all know, I love being a student. I love learning new skills with regard to design and digital media and even more than learning new skills, I can't wait to start creating awesome pieces of art for work and just for fun.

Mason is really liking middle school, I had no doubt he would. He was nervous and told me numerous times prior to school starting that he wasn't sure how it would go. I just reassured him that he would be fine and I thought he would really like having more subjects and two teachers, actually three. The sixth graders in middle school have two primary teachers and another who teaches their elective(s). Mason's elective is band and he is learning to play the trumpet. I love that he is learning to play an instrument and read music, as creative as he is, this will only compliment his skill and knowledge base int he arts. In addition to school, Mason is really enjoying football and of course, he has a busy fall cooking season coming up. Stay tuned, I'm sure I will have lots to share in the coming weeks.

Speaking of Mason and cooking, today is the day three years ago that Mason was practicing for his very first live cooking demo ever. It was scheduled for the TomatoFest at the fall Auburn Home Show. I bring this up because as adults we say, "someday," or "When I have time, I'll start..." If you look at what Mason said he wanted to do, took action and started practicing, look at where he has gone in just 36 short months. Look at the image that is a screen shot of the memory from Facebook and ask yourself, where do you want to be in one month, 6 months, one year, or three years from now? Start, take some small action and if you keep doing something small that moves you forward, you will get there! Start! Happy Monday and it's getting closer to when I can say, "Happy Fall!"

Monday, August 17, 2015

We Love New York!

We made it back and boy did we have a great trip! I’ve never taken a trip to New York that I didn’t have a great time, but this one was pretty cool. Mason and I did some things we haven’t done before. Oh, we did the usual stuff like visit Times Square to watch the crazy street performers, we went to my favorite bakery supply store where I bought supplies for Christmas cookies, and we shopped from a few of the street vendors. The new experiences were awesome, Mason got to go shopping at Dylan’s Candy Bar, otherwise known as, “The Ultimate Candy Store” and indeed, it is ultimate! It is three floors of everything candy and if you’ve ever wondered what the literal meaning of a kid in a candy store looks like, you should have seen Mason check out every square inch of that place. We also had a great time exploring Eataly, a mall-like shopping experience that is several restaurant and specialty shops all under one roof. The restaurants are sectioned off by displays of unique products specific to that restaurant or cafe. It is something that you must experience in NYC if you are a foodie. Finally, we can’t visit NY and not stop in Central Park. We rented bikes and rode through the whole park, it was gorgeous and the wether could not have been more beautiful. We stopped to play and it was so much fun to find that so many of the playground in the park have water features. It’s not as if they are water parks exactly, it is just that each play ground has some sort of fountain or water castle for the kids to play in and cool off - without actually swimming. And speaking of swimming, the north end of the park has a community pool that is ginormous!!! This pool is gorgeous and it is absolutely huge, and not only that, it’s free! The bike ride was worth every penny it cost to spend two hours exploring parts of the park I’ve never seen before. The only thing that could have made this trip any better was having Dave with us. Dave couldn’t come because he had to be in central California for work and there was no getting out of it. Hopefully next time we can all go together. 

So now that we are home, Mason is back to school - middle school! Can you believe that, he is in junior high school. As much as I see time just flying by, I am loving that he has the same sense of adventure that Dave and I do. He is an awesome traveler and is only getting better as he gets older. I hope he still wants to travel with me and us when he’s grown, and when he has a serious girlfriend or wife, I hope she loves us as much as Mason does. I’ll do my best to facilitate and foster the best relationships possible - yes, I’m setting my intention! Have a great week and make magic happen, you can do it, I know you can. 

Monday, August 10, 2015

On the Road Again!

Oh happy, happy Monday! Yes, I’m happy today as Mason and I are in New York for a few days. We had an opportunity to participate in a little cooking competition and decided to jump in with both feet. The details can’t be revealed just yet, but suffice it to say, we are having a blast and as soon as I can share all about it, I will!

We will be here until Thursday and then it will be back to reality, school will have started for Mason and my classes will start shortly after his. I’ve been working while I’ve been out of town, but hey, I’m a Realtor, we never stop working! I’ll share all the details of our trip next week.

Monday, August 3, 2015

Cecil the Lion

For those of you who want to say Cecil was "just" a lion and you don't understand the mass uproar, you are completely missing the mark. Cecil may have been "just" a lion, but he was also a majestic animal that many loved. He had a pride and 24 young cubs. He was a living creature who several humans shamelessly lured out of safety, shone a spotlight on for a man who paid two men $55,000 dollars to shoot with an arrow. I don't know a hunter alive who would let an animal suffer after being shot for 40 hours, do you? Then to behead and skin? When you hunt, do you pay someone to bring you an animal and shine a spotlight on it for you? That is not hunting.
This uproar is about serious lack of judgement and sensibility of some humans. If it weren't Cecil, it would have been any other animal who was tortured for no good reason whatsoever. Your dollars and or your ego do not entitle you to torture another living creature. I am glad there is an uproar and I would like nothing more than to see hunting for mere sport illegal worldwide. There, I said it. Love me or hate me, that lion did not deserve to die like that to be a prize on some piss ass dentist's wall. Tell me again that my sweet Riley Ro was "just" a dog.

Monday, July 27, 2015

Another Successful State Fair in the Books

We wrapped another successful year at the California State Fair. Mason did three demos instead of two as someone cancelled and they called to see if he could step in. It worked out! Mason did his first demo from the outdoor kitchen in the garden and the last two from the kitchen stage inside.  The impromoptu demo was especially fun because nothing about it was planned. Mason got to go into the State Fair kitchen and just find some ingredients to whip something up. He made a mixed berry and waffle parfait. His scheduled demo later that day was the same recipe he did for his very first cooking demo, Funky Spaghetti. All in all, it was a fun time.

On Saturday, Dave and I had the opportunity to go see the 1980s band 38 Special at the fair, it was really a fun date night. Sunday was a get-caught-up on all the stuff around the house day. It's almost time for Mason to go back to school, and not just any school, but the start of middle school. But before we get back to school, we have a few more summertime adventures coming up. I'll share more later! Have a great week.

Monday, July 20, 2015

When Things Settle Down a Bit...

Have you ever said that, "When things settle down a bit I'll be able to..." I don't know about you, but things rarely settle down enough for me to plan some whatever thing I think I can't do now. The fact of the matter is, if I want it to happen, I just need to put it on my calendar and there you are, that is why I'm so busy.

Mason asked me the other day what a mid-life crisis is, it went like this:
Mason: "Mom, what is a midlife crisis?"
Me: "When people get to the mid part of their lives, they start to feel like they didn't do what they wanted to do and maybe they feel like their time is running out to do what they dreamed they would do with their lives. Usually there is plenty of time if they would just get creative and take action."
Mason: "I think I am having a young life crisis."
Me: "Really, why?"
Mason: "It feels like 2015 just started and now it's half way over. I feel like I'm not doing enough to make my life the way I want it. What if I run out of time?"
Me: (laughing!) "Mason, you are only 11. Though none of us know when our time will come, just live life like you have your whole life ahead of you and I bet you will reach your dreams and far beyond."
Mason: "I don't know mom, 2016 is coming up fast."
Who the heck is this kid? I'm still shaking my head at how deep he is sometimes, because most of the time he his laughing about the word "erector" - you know, it sounds like...

My point to all of this is that Mason is so much like me, I want to say yes to everything, too. I want to learn new things, try stuff that looks like fun, go places I've never been and in general, I want to experience everything, well, almost everything - the fun stuff for sure! I'm glad he has that same sense of adventure but at the same time, I'm not sure feeling like you are running out of time at just 11 years old is so good either. Busy really is a choice, but for me, I choose to be involved, I choose to make a difference, and I choose to live every day to the fullest. So if we are overdue for a coffee, lunch or night out, let's get it on the calendar, there is no sense in waiting until things settle down a bit - they won't!

Monday, July 13, 2015

It's State Fair Time!

It's Monday again...not that that's a bad thing, it kind of just is what it is, right? Actually, us Partaks have a busy next couple of weeks coming up. Mason is cooking at the CA State Fair tomorrow and the following Tuesday, Dave is headed out of town to the east coast for vacation and I am busy with real estate and all of Mason's antics. In addition to a busy cooking demo season, Mason is wrapping up his swim team experience and football is starting practice tonight. I love the physical conditioning football provides so I told Mason I would train with him, while he is at practice from 6-8 each night, I will take my yoga mat and do sit ups, push ups, stretch and walk the pond. Maybe with can both get in better shape.

I had one of the best real estate experiences of my career yesterday. I have a couple who are retired and looking to relocate form S. CA to our neck of the woods. They have made it known that they do not text or have smart phones so we have been building an awesome relationship via the telephone. I have been looking at properties and sending them photos and I commented that I wished I had an extra phone that I could send them so we could video link via FaceTime. Not 2 hours later I got a call that the wife looked up how to do it on her Mac and in one more hour I was in Nevada City walking them through a prospect real time! They felt so empowered and I was tickled to show them how awesome technology can be. Now they can "see" the homes they want to look at all from the comfort of their living room. Isn't this the coolest story?

Now I'm off to set my week up so little to no tasks fall off my plate. Have a dynamite week and Happy Monday!