Leila Chiaravalle's blog

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I actually can’t remember when it was said to me, even though it’s been the last two weeks, that’s how blurred my life actually is as of late. It was either at The Living Desert while volunteering in The Butterflies, although that context doesn’t actually work out. Or it was as I was attempting to […]



It’s always hard for me, the broken. I am a fixer, an incredible fixer. Like most women I am often impressed at my ability to take on, organize, handle, multi-task beyond reason, accomplish and complete any responsibility that I take on. Well other than having an organized pantry… I fail here, but then no one can see that.

It’s been a few years now that I have been taught, through life, that I can not always fix brokenness. And brokenness, it tends to break me.

Unfortunately as of late there is so much of it going on around me. I have a family member that can not stand me and I have no idea why. I have a darling cousin that is in the depths of loss and can not seem to find any rest from the pain. I have a daughter who lost one the the brightest stars in her life, leaving his own wife financially burdened beyond belief. I have loved ones who’s life has been imploding for months and the depth of pain and darkness only grows. Then there’s the state of our politics… It’s been a rough last few weeks for me personally.

Thankfully I have a mentor. I have zero comprehension as to how I have become so fortunate as to have this mentor because she is a great woman. As I shared with her yesterday, she thoughtfully listened and then she told me. Your on the other side of life now, it’s the side past those amazing years of 30 -55, it’s the side where all that life experience and learning sets into reality and ease. The hard things, the burdens, they become normal and you grow to roll with them more clearly. The worry, the stress of it, the burden of it, it becomes less and it’s just life.

At the end of a day of overwhelming concern and worry and the crashing reality that I could not only not fix the broken, I couldn’t even offer any help. I dawned on me that I was okay with that, it didn’t cause me to fret much at all. I heard this quote in a speech last night and was impressed by it. Impressed because it was another illustration to me. The broken, they need to carry their own in order to get through it and grow into their own personal strength and peace.

“You carried your own burdens and very soon, your symptoms of creeping privilege disappeared.”  ~ Seamus Heaney

I’m so sorry I can not fix all that is broken. But then I am so sorry that I’ve tried to for so long. I’m thankful to be realizing, to be fixed, we must bear our own.

Love and Peace, Leila

Blackbird singing in the dead of night
Take these broken wings and learn to fly
All your life
You were only waiting for this moment to arise

Blackbird singing in the dead of night
Take these sunken eyes and learn to see
All your life
You were only waiting for this moment to be free

Blackbird fly
Blackbird fly
Into the light of the dark black night

Blackbird fly
Blackbird fly
Into the light of the dark black night.

Blackbird singing in the dead of night
Take these broken wings and learn to fly
All your life
You were only waiting for this moment to arise
You were only waiting for this moment to arise
You were only waiting for this moment to arise.

for heidi


I almost didn’t renew my blog, I haven’t written in over a year, but Bill said, “it’s $26 just renew it” so I did. Thankfully I haven’t written because I find life incredibly busy. I’m thankful because I do believe that idleness is a great cause for depression. Having been an empty nester for years now, I’ve thus far succeeded with remaking myself/life and adjusting to the changes that I face. Actually right now I should be composing meeting minutes because it’s a responsibility that I hold at one of my volunteer positions. The hilarity in that is my inability to edit or even write well with my hands. Regardless of my shortcomings, I’m thankful for the little things that add purpose and meaning to my daily life. Depression is awful and I’m thankful not to be living in it. That said, that’s not what this blog post is about at all.

It’s about grief. I am struggling with deep grief this morning and I don’t know where to put it. Therefore I write my heart.

Someone died last night. No one told me that this person died but I knew because I saw the sketch that you see above on Facebook. I am really sad about this someone leaving our world too soon. He was good, so very very good. I barely knew him, I wasn’t even friends with him on Facebook, he probably wouldn’t know me if he saw me. Yet the impact he has on my heart is immense. It’s because he knew my daughter Heidi, so well. My grief is for the pain that I know she has, I know her heart is broken into a million little pieces.

Jack was the most incredibly talented singer, songwriter, storyteller, fiddle picking banjo player to children, that I personally believe every existed. The man exuded love, joy and fun. Then there was another side to him, the deep side, the introverted side, the brilliant side. Having worked together for years with side A, he and Heidi connected profoundly on side B. This is where the broken heart lays.

I believe that Heidi loves Jack almost as much as she loves Joe and just as much if not more than she loves me her own mother sometimes. Jack new Heidi, he got Heidi, he understood Heidi. I imagine that he actually understood her deep soul even better than I at times. Heidi is a deep, passionate and brilliant human being, I’ve often marveled at how that came out of me. For all of these I appreciate this man so sincerely but more than even that, it’s what he’s taught her.

It’s not that Jack proposed his life to teach my daughter. It’s that he did so by the remarkable human being that he was. His grasp on people, the history of the world, insight into the ancient scriptures joined with his humility and grace through incomprehensible times. This man Jack, as I said, he was a really good man. So good. I am entirely indebted to him for the goodness and gifts he gave to my daughter. Their friendship was unique and exceptional and I am so grateful that she knew him and he knew her so very well.

Heidi drew the star above, she draws really good, she’s so talented it’s crazy. Yet this star is one of the most powerful images that I known her to compose because of what it says.

My only pieces of ease in all of this are:

He was too good for here, his heart and life were so pure therefore he had to leave.

That he’s met up with your Aunt Bea in that place that those of us that choose to believe in called heaven and the two of them are there and they are Waltzing With Bears.

I’m so sorry Heidi. I love you.

~ Mom

“every piece represented”



I’m not sure if I can find the words to express what is inside of me right now. Yesterday I experienced something that was beyond my comprehension and filled with beauty that I’ve not seen in a while. My Laura’s Baby Shower. My goodness where do I even begin?


When you find out that your daughter, who is in the early stages of addiction recovery and had agreed to not date, is pregnant; it literally floors you. It’s not the news you’re wanting to hear. Thanks to a fantastic counselor, meeting Ryan, Madeleine’s dad, a kind and thoughtful young man and a daughter in law’s response of, “God does miraculous things with babies” my head and heart were turned completely. I choose to embrace and celebrate my daughter who I adore and her child, my newest ‘little’ that she is carrying.

L & R

Henceforth after weeks of praying and planning pulling off my first baby shower, with the small challenge of it being 800 miles away. Hoping with the deepest of hopes that others would too choose to celebrate and show unconditional love rather than judge. As I write this sitting on my flight home, I’m fighting tears because my heart is so touched and full with the incredible outpouring of love I witnessed yesterday.


Heidi said to me as I drove her to the airport last night, “mom, every piece of her was represented.” It hadn’t dawned on me but she was so right and the beauty in that is simply amazing.


From the physical presence of, best childhood friend since year one of life, to best high school friend, to the deepest young adult girlfriends from ‘the Portello Girls’ years, to Grandma, to sister and both sister in laws, to Maddie’s other Great Grandma, Grandparents and Great Aunt, to my closest friend during Laura’s growing up years and her daughter who’s always loved on my girl. These people all traveled very far to be present and remind Laura how much they love her.


Laura’s dad, my great husband. Simply making the trip to help his mom get from the airport to said Baby Shower. Literal days of sacrifice to make sure his mom could attend.


And then there’s that community. It’s something that most people don’t have a clue about and your fortunate if you don’t. At the same time you are missing one of the greatest things that actually exists. It’s called ‘the sober community’ they are people in ‘recovery’ and they are fabulous and they have and continue, to help save my daughters’ life. The amount of these amazing women was so overwhelming that I was actually tripping over them all. I only wish that I had more time to know them and thank them for all that they are. To me they are a field of sunflowers in bloom. Turning to follow the goodness of the light and make this world a more beautiful place.


Then there was the long reach of love from afar. The Aunts, sweet Cousin and other Grandma that made the effort to get a note, a gift, a book, a hug from miles to far. The texts the day of pouring out words of love and support, even one from my dear friend that hosted my own Baby Shower for Laura! Along with thank you gifts coming all the way from Cambodia and  the huge pile of wrapped baby goodness to help our Laura give Madeleine the home she desires for her.


And finally the graciousness to take over a home of total strangers, a sponsor that spread her self so selflessly thin I thought she might burst, three other beautiful sets of hands of help that gave me the ability to actually pull it together, along with Heidi (I would not have accomplished this if it wasn’t for these five girls). They put up with my stress, my issues with detail and an overwhelming event with incredible grace and kindness and tons of physical help. Then there’s the Sis in law and her handsome hubby hauling pounds of far away gifts a couple hundred miles and the other Sis in law literally driving hours to pick up the catered brunch from one of the top caterers in Portland, who squeezed in my order on an already too busy day and total me in the end, “it’s comp, a gift to Laura.” Ending with the best and cutest strawberry cake ever created by a sweet friend of Laura’s.


Why am I telling you all of this? I’m am so flipping thankful I could simply pop. In this age of political upheaval, hate crimes that bring more hate and unrest between peaceful people, people that think addicts are losers and worthless humans that “just need to get their crap together” (they are entirely wrong). There is so much beauty, love, togetherness and support in our world and new life continues, people come together to celebrate the broken, the hard and the blessing.


Thank you, thank you, thank you, all so very much. Thank you for loving on my daughter Laura. This Nona can’t wait to “Say Hello to Madeleine Jo.”


I completely failed at photos, I was just too overwhelmed with it all! I can’t even believe I didn’t get a picture with Laura, myself and Maddies’ Aunties. #momfail.


Heidi and Bill both always tell me, “Laura knows that you champion for her always.” Yesterday I saw that I am not alone in this at all.


The delight is in the details!



cute 2






candy bar 1


candy bar




yummy food



I am a somewhat hopeless one


I think I’m growing weary to tears of the pride, resentment, anger, hate, judgment, condemnation, disrespect, scorn, complete meanness that I constantly see on Facebook. We all know that it goes from one extreme to the other and that it will never end. Could we just once in awhile strive to pull our heads and hearts out of the mire of self and look at the great big world around. Just maybe we would see that the attributes that I list above actually accomplish zero good ever.

It’s my uneducated guess that haters are going to hate what they hate, haters are going to love what they love, lovers are going to love what they love and lovers are going to hate what they hate. So in the end we are all haters somehow and all lovers. The truth is: And it’s clear enough, isn’t it, that we’re sinners, every one of us, in the same sinking boat with everybody else . Romans 3.19 paraphrase Eugene Peterson

Why, just why, with this the case are we always so busy looking at each other. We are all wrong and messed up. I know I am, the building blocks of bad decisions, wrong thinking and selfish behavior never seem to end in my life; my tower is high. I wonder what Facebook would be like if we each were working and focusing on ourselves in a, ” I want to be a better person way.” I have two people that I follow that actually do this consistently. It’s amazingly refreshing, encouraging and freakishly beautiful. FOR REAL


I know I’m ranting just like everyone else. At times the hopeless moderate in me gets riled, gets saddened by the fighting and just wants it to end for one day. Sad thing is disasters / human tragedy used to make this happen. It seems anymore these also just bring more fighting. sigh….

I know a lot of people make fun of it, it’s song, the repetition, the simplicity and such. For me today I think I’d simply like to plop myself in the boat and glide through the gentle waters and see the images that remind my soul, “It’s a Small World.”


Sorry for the rant, I’ll probably delete it before it’s ever read much, not that many read me anyway. (o: BUT if you do. I beg you to read this book. Read it past your anger of the first couple of chapters, plug through, listen to what this man is attempting to share with us, read it to the end. It’s a story I need to hear so desperately, to be reminded. There’s a much bigger picture that is really important. That picture is called humans and they are hurting.


And I know, I’m a simple thinker. I get that opinions and thoughts matter. Being a simple thinker though, my heart is burdened that people matter, all people. They all deserve what each of us hope and long for, everyone of us.

me golden’s golden

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I’d never heard of a Golden Birthday until I had children. They’d always be excited when it came up, that once in a lifetime opportunity for that special day. I think I did very little to acknowledge their golden days actually. I suppose it’s simply because it occurred when they were quite young. You’ve got 31 solid years for it to happen. For my three oldest that day arrived well before they were even teens, their mom had a blog that she finds things to write about to share with all of humankind and by golly it was even before the wondrous connector of all things, our foe and our friend Mr Facebook. So I apologize HWM no Golden Birthday Blog for you.

But then there’s my baby, she is golden, look at the hair. It is her golden and I have now have a blog, so I’m writing this post for her and to honor that Golden Birthday!

Scan 5

Circa 17 years old

For your Golden Laura Elizabeth I’ve decided to send 8 Birthday Wishes to you. I came up with this magic number plainly by taking the two digits from your golden day and adding them together. 2 + 6 = 8. So here you go my 26 year old baby daughter. Birthday Wishes from me to you.

Wish #1

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Circa 1989 | Your first trip to The City, San Francisco on the Ferry

I wish you travel to lands that are unknown and fascinating. I hope you find the courage and have opportunities that abound to see this world beyond our great Nation one day. To touch and know others that share this planet with you, that are so incredibly different yet so very much the same. It’s a fantastic World out there and it’s my wish that someday you get to see and experience that in real life.

Wish #2


My guess: Circa 1992 | The beach at Lake Tahoe

I wish you to know how deeply I love and adore you. Your complete breathtaking beauty, that fierceness that dwells within you at every level, your desire to be known, understood, accepted and loved for exactly who you are; who you and I know God made your to be. And your brokenness, I’m grateful how it’s stretched you, grown you and blessed you even in all the hurt and pain. I love you so much.

Wish #3

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I think Circa 1993, your brother’s 5th Birthday Party

I wish you cake! I wish you this because I always wish for cake on my own birthday. It’s so yummy, it’s so fun and so special and it usually comes with friends. Along with this wish I add wishes for occasions and opportunities to arise in your life where you get to bake cake for others and cook a meal for them as well. I know you love blessing people with your cooking abilities and I wish you to have more times like that in your life.

Wish #4

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Circa 1995 Grandma & Grandpa C’s backyard

I wish you eyes that will see much of what we all keep missing. I wish for you love for humanity. I wish for you arms for the broken-hearted and a heart for the ones forgotten. I you wish these because I look at your big beautiful eyes in this picture and I see that depth, that inner person, that knows love and desires to pour it out. I believe this is where pure love is found, by giving it to those in need.

Wish #5

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Circa 1995 or 1996 | I think…

I wish you a life filled the friendship of your siblings. I personally know how much you all love one another and although life’s circumstances of distance and time bring separation, I wish you to know one another and always have each other’s back. You are four amazing people, y’all need one another for good.

Wish #6

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Circa 2003, maybe…

I wish for you a home of your own someday, a place that you call home. I actually pray this for you quite often. I deeply desire for you Laura, my young adult daughter to have a home, a real home, that you share with your true love. I wish one day you’ll have that crazy joy that comes from caring for your home and that you’ll will be able to invite friends in and share good times with others in your very own home.

Wish #7


Circa 2011

I wish that somehow, someway, someday we could continue this tradition every five to ten years or so. With our crazy differences and our wonderful likenesses. To continue to enjoy each other, all together, for a weekend just having very good wholesome fun.

Wish # 8

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Circa 2 days after your 18th Birthday

I wish for you to know and love your beauty inside and out, to believe in you, the gifts you’ve been given, the heart that’s so good, the brain that is uniquely made and supremely aware, that power that’s down so deep and is true and perfect. I wish you to know the Love of God that surpasses all understanding and I wish you to have exactly what I hope is wrapped up into all of these wishes together; truth, beauty, purpose and meaning in your life. As you enjoy this Golden Birthday and go forward toward that that waits before you, may these wishes come true. You’ve got so much to live, you’ve only just begun.

And lastly, I will end with this. Wanting to write about this golden birthday I needed inspiration to help get started and my thoughts flowing. Therefore, of course I turned to the other big brother out there, the one we all truly do love and adore, Goggleisciousness.

It’s a must that I close with what you end up with when you google ‘golden’ images. This I believe will make your birthday have one more added smile.

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Happy Birthday Sweet Pea, may it be Golden.

Love Mom

25, 30 and secret obsessions


I don’t know what it is… I suppose it could be the 25 plus saved episodes of Say Yes to the Dress that I’ve been watching over the last two weeks, my boss telling me he was approached by Top Chef to renew his vows for the show but his partner was out of town so they had to turn down and then mainly my baby sister having a surprise renewal of vows last weekend to celebrate the 25 years she’s been married to the love of her life.

I have a secret obsession, well it’s not super secret but it is one that my husband does not understand at all. I am a sucker for weddings. Wedding shows, wedding dresses, wedding vows, wedding rings, wedding ideas, the whole wedding shebang, I love it all.  The dreaming behind it, the beauty before it, the story inside of it and the family, friends and love that bind it all together.

I started watching wedding shows many years ago, back then it was the ones that showed the planning to fruition of the big day. The ideal weddings little and big. A day to celebrate two becoming one, family extending, growing and moving forward in the great big world. Back then I was pretty enamored with the idea of ‘Fairy Tale Weddings’ simply because it brought two of my favorite things together, the ‘Magic’ of that ‘Land’ and the joy of ‘That’ day!


Remarkably we have recently been invited to one! Bill’s warmhearted cousin who I consider a kindred was kind enough to include us in the invites to her sweet daughter’s wedding at Disney. Being unaware of my secret obsession, I am sure they most likely assumed that the West Coast cousins would not take such great pains to make the trip for a young lady they’ve not even met. Hah, you can bet I’ve done all in my power to celebrate this long distance family affair with them face to face. As well as with Mickey and his dear Minnie! This could actually be the fourth reason for my recent dreaming… Looking forward to this special event that I am delighted that we get to attend.


So thirty, what a landmark that is in life don’t you think? Turning 30 years old, a crosspoint of making it through the last three decades and heading forward to adulthood regardless if we are ready for it or not.  Yet with marriage it’s twenty-five, it’s such a great thing to reach when it comes to a holy union. My parents had a lovely 25th Wedding Anniversary Celebration. I remember it so well, it was a beautiful day filled with much laughter, love, tears and an amazing cake. Then my Sis this weekend, I wasn’t there but thanks to FB I was able to absorb the same things as I witnessed at my Mom and Dad’s Celebration. The emotion, the thanks, the pride and love that they shared that day warmed my soul. I’m so happy for them and her dress was amazing, she looked stunning.

With all this surrounding a wee pang came. Bill and I shared it together actually. With my secret obsession, I’d always dreamed of our 25th. We’ve been the loves of each others life from the day we met, we share true love, romantic love, great friendship, we have fun together, we are entirely committed to this thing that’s given us a life that we can not even believe at times and a family that we are so proud to call our own. When we got engaged after the 6 weeks of dating, we were warned of the probability that our relationship most likely would not succeed. There were many that were not thrilled about our upcoming nuptials in the least bit. Yet with the unyielding Grace of God and a uniting of two individuals deeply committed to the love that they know, we’ve done well.

If anyone ever wanted to renew her vows after 25 years, by golly it was me. I began the planning, I was even able to secure the Pastor who’d married us way back when to officiate our ceremony once again. That was back in 2011 and sadly someone significant couldn’t make it and I felt I needed to let it go. So I did, it broke my heart and again this week I am feeling that buried little hurt that we did not get to re-live that joyous occasion for a second time.


Henceforth my dilemma. Is it realistic to reach for that dream day again? To celebrate three decades of married life together, so full, so well and so blessed? Nobody does 30, it’s 25 that’s the real deal. Although… The traditional for 30th Anniversary being pearl, the modern is diamond. Such significant messages don’t you agree? Being cultured, molded and created over time into perfect beauty and the rock, stronger and more beautiful than any other. Sigh….. the loveliness.

As for that dream. It’d be beachy, somehow, someway there would be water involved. (You grow up on a boat & water it brings something.. life, peace, serenity..)

The dining would be like this because there is nothing more perfect than everyone gathered around a long Tuscan Style table sharing fantastic food and wine together.


Our girls would attend me and our boys would attend Bill. I’d probably have one more by my side but I’ll keep that one in my heart for now. Bill would be dressed in a fitted linen suite and the boys in khaki and white. As for my girls, I think blush would be involved.

Bill would love me to wear something like this I am certain. I admit it’s quite perfect.


Although he tends to forget my age, my short stature and that in reality I can’t pull this off. This however would be the dress I’d say yes too, sans veil completely. Flowy, simple and flawless.


and my shoes.


So many more details for dreaming… I suppose the healthy thing to do is to stop recording Say Yes to the Dress, to be happy for all the weddings I’ve been able to attend and be a part of and dream about the future of people coming together and hope and dream that their lives will be as wonderful as my last 28.5 years have been.

Okay yes I always say my husband is a dreamer, maybe he’s not the only one…


Lastly for your pleasure, a classically quintessential wedding photo, Bill’s grandparents. Anthony and Francis Chiaravalle. So enchanting.


I will close with the most romantic song ever, just because it’s so good. https://vimeo.com/25559229

Say, “hey”


My youngest daughter was a cheerleader in High School, I should have an adorable picture of her here…, she was actually incredibly good at it. Her dad and myself would cringe during games as she was the ‘thrown’ being the 4’11” less than 100 lbs. in the group. We would watch with jaws dropped as she did dance moves on the football field, realizing her talent did not come from me (she’s an awesome dancer). Our Laura, she’s great at whatever she sets her mind to, I look very forward to seeing where her great gifts lead her in life. Cheering to… Whatever she grasps onto to she gives 200% and shines, just as she did with cheering!

What I took away from her years of cheering, other than great mom pride was, “say hey.” It seems when you cheer, along with dance or whatever public performances you need to learn how to smile. We all grew up being told to say, “cheese.” Think about it really though, look in a mirror, does that bring your desired smile? Well if not, say, “hey” it works! I learned it years ago when Laura was in High School and that being the dawn of the Facebook era, it’s brought me through hundreds if not thousands of selfies and photo ops.

At The Living Desert Zoo & Gardens today, I ended up with a different/new assignment. I tend to spend my mornings greeting buses filled with beautiful kiddos, that I did do. My afternoons I work a ‘cart’ interpreting information to guests, in hopes of teaching them a thing or two that they didn’t know before they visited us. This afternoon there was a last minute sick call and I was asked to assist with the Giraffe Feeding.

I was delighted, excited, intimidated yet quite happy with this new challenge. I’m always up for a new experience. I encouraged adults and children alike as I handed them their carrots, “don’t be afraid, they are docile gentle animals.” Knowing full well, I personally have no fear of giraffes.

Truth is my son Wil collected giraffes and had a African/Giraffe themed bedroom through High School years. Because of Wil I’ve always admired their unique beauty. The other truth is, as I’ve taken friends and family to the zoo, I always urged them to feed the giraffes. How can you pass up an up close and personal animal encounter. Creation at it’s finest, closest and real. It’s always very special. Yet as for me, I’d never fed the giraffes.

Getting through the afternoon and thousands of carrots later, things slowed down and visitors dissipated… The kind ladies I was working with found out I had never actually fed a giraffe encouraged me that I should have the experience in which I was selling. Therefore I gave it a try.

It was a very good and lucky day for us because not only “daddy” who always shows to dine, but “mama & baby” came down as well. It was one of those WOW moments that we always hope for for our guests at the zoo. I tentatively faced each of the creatures of this fantastic family and fed them carrots, with the baby being through the fence since he’s a short little guy, only 12 feet or so. Their purple tongues gracefully grabbed each little orange stick out of my hand and I was thrilled, not being able to get enough of that cute baby (that happens to look just like Sophie the giraffe that Siah and Vivi had as the cutest baby toy).

I was such a pro by now, my comrades and I agreed that this was good enough for a new FB profile pic. So the pros at this have a trick, it’s what we have all the guest do, you feed the long necked guys backwards to get a great shot of them and yourself. Great idea and all, but when you do that, you really can’t see what’s coming. And said giraffe, they can, it’s a carrot and they see it and they want it, so they snatch it. Bam. I’d yet to feel the sensation of the giraffe tongue at this point, even though I had described it to guests, I was not quite ready for my photo op when he got me and this is a true blue classic shot of a wild animal encounter sensation and fear. I couldn’t help but crack up when I saw it.

Therefore the need to know when to say, “hey” for our photo opportunities. These are so much better don’t you think? But as we are all wanting it to kept real on FB . Yes 99.9% of my photos, I am saying, “hey”, today I got caught looking what I normally look like!


A couple Giraffe facts:
If a giraffe is 18 feet tall, his tongue is 18 inches long, if they are 12 feet tall, 12 inches long and so on…

Giraffes tongues are purplish black and that is an adaptation to protect them from the sun because they are always out eating leaves and such (carrots at TLD).

A baby giraffe is six feet tall when it is born and our baby here turns one year old this Saturday!

Warmly & God Bless,
~ Leila the not so brave

I love how he sticks by his mama.



It’s a Zoo out there, for real.

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As the first group of the 363 school children that were set to arrive this morning stepped off the bus and I was directed (my very first real day) to lead them up the path and on into The Living Desert, my heart leapt to my throat. I was working hard to hold back the tears that were coming right along with the emotion that I felt. “I’m this fortunate, I really get to do this, it’s really happening.”

After 10 weeks of education on all things desert from; the amazing plant life, to rock hard geology, the magical desert oasis, to the tiniest of critters those bugs, to birds, ecology, North America to Africa, to learning the skills of interpretation and all those fantastic animals in-between, I am a certified docent at The Living Desert and I could not be more thrilled.

I questioned over and over if I was doing the right thing with my time, I’ve never been very good at understanding conservation efforts and am not the best fit for a learning environment. I’ve always wondered how it was I actually made it through school with an actual diploma. A book learner I am not. Also my heart has always been and will always beat the strongest for underprivileged children.

Bill and I’s very last trip, before we decided we were going to REALLY move to the desert, we visited The Living Desert Zoo and Gardens. I said to him that day, “I wonder if they have a volunteer program?” I was stuck, the beauty and peace of this corner of creation did something to my spirit. I felt drawn to dig deeper, so I did. I barely made it in applying only two days before the cutoff date for the year and having no idea if I’d make it through the interview process. Thankfully they are pretty accepting and delighted to have just about anyone help do the job of sharing this place with others.

I was most certainly the shy girl in class, once again feeling that new kid in town vulnerability that I did at 15 years of age in Napa, something I really never recovered from. (Seriously what is it about flipping High School?) Never raising my hand, rarely asking a question knowing I was with, retired teaches, flight attendants, lawyers, a semiconductor designer/engineer, a broadcaster, deputy sheriff… basically 16 brainiacs who love and know a lot about the desert outdoors. Come to find out, they are a group of amazing people and after several weeks of shyness I was urged to come out of my shell and enjoy and absorb it all to the fullest. So I did. Thank God.

The 2015 Docent Graduating Class, I’m pretty sure I’m the only one that remembers everyone’s name. (:


You see, we moved here because Bill and I both are obsessed with being outside. We are not outdoor enthusiast/sporty type people in any way shape or form (henceforth the lack of fitting in in Bend) but we will do all we can, at all times to be out of doors. Quickly into my docent training I realized, this is a job outside in the amazing beauty of creation, there are exotic animals surrounding and I get to guide people around and answer questions about it all. For years now I’ve told my husband I need to work at an information booth because I love giving people helpful guidance and understanding. This zoo thing is a hysterically perfect fit for me!

The Grevy’s Zebra. Yep, they are endangered. How’d you like to wake up one day and find your species being wiped out?

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Then there was the day I did my first test/presentation. As I was setting up to present to my peers and share with them what I had learned about Endangered Species, before the 16 of them arrived, up the path I could hear the very loud and joyful chatter of a classroom of children. They walked right up to me and their teacher prompted them to ask what I was there to talk about. I melted like butter and the heart in the throat, it began this very moment. I realized, there was a hand in this fit, that was so much greater than I ever even thought possible.

Bill and I literally fell madly, passionately and deeply in love serving in Mexicali Mexico for a week doing mission/humanitarian work. We were on separate teams and as the group reconvened in the evenings we would share with one another the things about these beautifully brown-skinned children that we fell in love with each day. We’d argue over who had the cuter little girl in their group and share the joys of what loving on these kids did to our souls. It was an extremely rich week camping in the middle of an enormous dirty desert field and having no showers to cleanse that dust. We were hooked, we loved each other by the end of it and we’d gained a tenderness for Mexico that’s never departed and more specifically for its children. Every time we’ve visited since I’m not sure what we’ve enjoyed more, gazing at the beautiful ocean or loving on the beautiful little faces that are filled big huge eyes of hope.

It dawned on me that day, with those 26 first graders, as I did all I could to make their day a wee bit more special, “oh my gosh, I get to do this, this perfectly fabulous place is daily filled with Mexican school children.”

I was bursting today. As my leader asked which area I’d like to be posted in throughout the day I emphatically told her, “I will do anything you want, I’ll learn any area you need help, but please in the morning, can I please be on the team that meets the buses?” Even as I write this I am so overcome with joy, I am so incredibly thankful for this time in my life. Here I was so afraid of doing something that wasn’t making the difference in the life of a human in anyway. I’ve now come to realize that loving my classmates, knowing them and just being their friend is a priceless touch. I know that because they’ve done it for me. And these children, just wow, they make it so easy.

The Living Desert Zoo is filled with hundreds of animals that are adapted for the desert, they are beautiful and each unique and special in their very own way. We have a plethora of Endangered Species that I would personally love to share with you and why this matters. There are gardens galore that are full of plants that’ve helped us live since the dawn of time.

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If you ever visit, take the time to interact with the docents, your experience will be 100 times richer for it. There is more education that you could ever want to learn available and you might be surprised by some of it. I urge my guests to look up, look around and breathe it in. I do it every day that I am there, never wanting to take for granted this wonderful opportunity.

Again, I am now an official Certified Docent at The Living Desert and I praise the creator for the beauty of this unique part of his creation. I humbly thank Him, that I am a lucky one, I get to love on people and children every single day that I am there and share with them what a Fossa actually is.

As I said, that heart for underprivileged children, it’s been there a very long time, it’s 29 years now since Bill & I fell in love in Mexicali. Then I went and read this book, yes it messed me up, in a good way. It solidified that heart for the children of this world, they matter, they matter so very much.

I consider it a great blessing that I get to touch a few once a week in a crazy beautiful place.

January 6th

Yep, this one is a true brag.

I’ve an offspring who’s not fond of people knowing when his birthday is. I’m confident that the whole bashfulness about the thing is much my fault. Unfortunately when your day of birth falls on January 6, your celebrations as a child can be a bit lack-luster. I really did make an effort to do birthday honor but with post-holiday everything, it was often somewhat of a challenge.

Because of this reserved birthday attitude, I really can’t write on his FB wall or even tag him in this post, because then it would be out, the date of his birth revealed for all the world to know.

At the same time, when your first born son turns 30 years old, your heart does a large amount of flip-flopping, pondering, remembering and surging with pride and such. And since I can’t be with said son to celebrate the move on from his 20s and into the day that marks three decades of life, a blog post it is.

As you can see this son was an adorable little boy, he shined with skill of organization and intent for life from the time he was two. Yes two and it has yet to wither. From the lined up EVERYTHING running through our flat to the mind that always needed to know, “what are we doing next” it’s no surprise this son of mine has accomplished so much in the few years of adulthood that he’s had. He’s been my go to when I need help coordinating just about anything there is and he was that kid who wanted to learn how to do everything, always.

I guess that’s how you buy one of these off of Craigslist:

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and make this out of it:

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And since they’ve now outgrown this one, he is currently refurbishing a vintage trailer he bought for something like $250.

This young son met a very bright and cute girl he liked when he was 13, patiently waited till he was 18 to date her. I’m sure he always new this beauty was the woman of his dreams. It’s amazing actually, they are such the prefect match, complimenting one another so well and as a young married couple, now they’ve been kindreds over half their life times. I personally think that’s very cool.

Senior Picture, too cute.

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This son has a tremendous commitment to his family, all of it and it’s a big one. Between his dad, I and his in-laws, he has five siblings, six siblings-in-law, three sets of grandparents to his own children and and 11 nieces and nephews. He makes a conscious effort to devote time to all of them.  As a mom, I have heard him tell his siblings face to face, knowing he means it from the bottom of his being, “I’m always here for you.” I’ve witnessed that promise out loud in his life over and over.


I secretly want to talk about this son’s accomplishments, I know he’s going to be a bit bothered by this blog because he is truly humble. But this guy, he is so amazing. A mom should be able to say, right?! It’s not simply the leadership all through High School, the participation in Band, the playing piano by ear, the Jazz drummer, the choir singer, the wakeboarder and boat driver, the faithful long distance friend, the youngest Starbucks manager at the time, the young homeowner, the guy who went back to school to pursue a dream, working the awful hours that the food industry brings and making the plans and taking the leap of faith and beginning a business of his own (that’s a success already after just one year of operation.) He is genuinely gifted and talented in a bazillion areas and I’m crazy proud.

Yet above that, it’s this man’s integrity that touches me the most. The words I’ve heard him speak, the life I’ve watched him lead, the people I see him touch, the conviction he has on running a small business, the private acts of kindness I’ve witnessed him practice, the commitments I’ve watched him keep, the aid I’ve seen him bring, the love I’ve felt him share, the thoughts I’ve heard him contribute. This son of mine is a man of true integrity and I’ve been blessed to observe him grow and grow more deeply in that each year of his life.

This is my son Wil. He’s 30. Isn’t he handsome! He such a good, good guy. I’m so delighted that I get to me his mom he makes my heart swell with great pride.

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And this is his beautiful family, they are wonderfully adorable and fantastic!

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Happy Birthday son, I love you so very much.

~ Mom