This One’s for You Oreo

Almost exactly two years ago, my family sent me on a scavenger hunt on my birthday. It was after we had eaten dinner, and my brother slipped me a paper. This paper sent me to various spots around the house, where each sat objects needed to maintain a pet guinea pig. A bag of food in the bathtub, a toy behind a chair, a water bottle under the table… until finally it all ended behind the couch in the great room, a cage. I was beyond giddy, squealing and jumping up and down. All that was missing was the guinea pig.

“Can we go now? CAN WE GO NOW?!”

I pleaded with my mom.

“Sure we can go tonight, or we can go in the morning if you-”

“NO! RIGHT NOW!”

I grabbed her purse for her and sprinted to the door.

•••

We pulled into Petco at about 7:30. It was dark and I was humming with that birthday buzz and itch for a sweet baby gerbil to take come.

My 13-year-old nose was pressed against the glass. Three sets of rodent eyes blinked back. One belonged to a black guinea pig, little and black is all I remember. You don’t see many black guinea pigs floating around on chain emails or google images. They’re all brown and white- spotted but too much blow-dryer.

guinea pig hurley gforce brown white crazy hair
Some even make it to Hollywood

So I think that’s why I picked Oreo… she was so different.

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Not very photogenic but… different.

Oreo came home that night in a cardboard box on my lap with Petco’s logo on the side, and was put in a freshly made-up cage and pristine water bottle.  That night, I watched her royal cuteness sniff things as I lay on my bed, the happiest 13-year-old in the world.

It’s been two years and in that time. She’s put on a little weight and gotten a sister, Chewbacca. (Yes I did say sister) Chewbacca’s a little different than Oreo. She bites and doesn’t like people. But I didn’t realize until just recently how much she really loves her sister.

Two days ago Oreo got a boo-boo. You might call it a wart or a bubble but I think that’s all disgusting to we’ll just call it a boo-boo. The Boo-Boo started out very small and then became a big problem yesterday. Poor Oreo. We called a Veterinary friend, who highly recommended that we go to an actual clinic and get some antibiotics. So I put my little cookie into a basket, covered her up in a towel and gave her some hay to calm her fluttery little nerves.

There was a poodle with an earache, Finding Nemo in the corner, and Nurses that were larger than life. Gosh I love those ladies. They came over and googled at Oreo but then winced at the Boo-Boo.

We sat in a room with the Doc who basically said,

“This is a pretty serious boo-boo. We’ll use medicine, which might work, or we’ll do an operation which might work a little better. ”

Behind his words I heard, “She’ll just die one way or another.”

We chose the medicine route and Doc took Oreo in the back to clean up the Boo-Boo.

We went back out to the living waiting room and waited. Nemo was still on. One of the Nurses went out to check on Oreo, and came back with a bent frown.

“Poor little Oreo… what a sweet wittle Guinea Piggy!”

She was sweet. Why do you think I named her after a creme-filled-cookie ?

The managing nurse came over to talk to us about the medicine. Doc came out with my basket and my trembling critter under her towel.

Doc told me that she was one of the best guinea pigs he’s ever worked with.

That was a hammer to my heart. I never realized this, but Chewbacca’s a normal guinea pig apparently. Let that sink in.

I lifted the towel.

She had a shaved little bottom with the exposed Boo-Boo, nasty stitches, and yet, she was the sweetest thing. She looked up at me and said, “Mommy, it hurts. I wanna go home.”

I cried the whole way home because if it get’s too bad, the $800 operation might just stop her little heart, so we’ll have to…

I have experienced death passively but I’ve never once held a little life in my hands. I suppose this is what it’s like being a mother. Providing life and love for another who would be nothing but a whisper in the wind without you. It’s incredibly hard to watch that life suffer and sit in the hands of fate instead of in yours. Your loving and protective hands.

She’s a guinea pig. Not a child of someone’s in Iraq or an at-risk-youth in the streets. But I get it now. Why it must be so hard for mommies to let go, because things like this might happen if you leave and then I’ll never be able to forgive myself. All children are sweet to their mothers. And it’s that sweetness that delivers a blow to the heart.

Chewbacca and I have three more weeks with Oreo. But that’s not all. My whole family does too, they love the pigs very much. (Yes dad including you somewhere deep down!) Tonight my little brother made a make-shift hut out of a cardboard box for Oreo because she has to be quarantined away from Chewbacca and the wooden hut they already share. My own mommy shredded paper and cleaned away the boo-boo germs for, as she calls them, her “grand-piggies”.

You, my dear dear reader have got a mommy too and other people who love you almost as much as she does. So please, do your best not to get hurt, whether it be staying away from drugs, designating a driver, or just walking away from the fight. “You’ve only got one life so make sure you live it right.”

This one’s for you Oreo.

13th Birthday

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Mommy loves you Oreo. <3

-SydneyJoTo

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Volunteering at a Soup Kitchen

My mom signed us up. At first everyone whined, including my dad. But then we accepted facts as the time came for us to leave the house. I told my youngest brother, “Tonight’s Christmas Eve Eve, and so all of Santa’s little elves are spying on us just checking to make sure that we still deserve to be on the ‘Nice List’. Christmas Eve Eve is very important so you have to be really good at the Soup Kitchen. Okay?” He nodded at a violent speed.

We had close to no information about how the runnings of the soup kitchen worked, like who we would be feeding and how. All we knew was the address, and to bring pulled pork on buns and tell our friends that we had invited to bring salad and dessert. Approx mouths to feed: 55

We pulled into a sketchy, warehouse part of downtown and unload our haul. It was pouring and our crock-pot dripped while we stood outside, knocking on the glass doors of the building we thought was the Soup Kitchen.

I really didn’t know what a soup kitchen looked like. A large cafeteria perhaps with ladies in hair nets and men with beards holding out bowls?

” ‘Naught ‘a th’ sort. “

A woman opened the glass doors with a grin larger than the country called China.

“HELLO! Welcome, Welcome, Come on in! We weren’t expecting you tonight because HQ forgot to tell us you were coming, but here you are!” She ushered us into the kitchen, her big blue eyes were gleaming behind her petite landlady glasses. She began to clear away what looked like thawing frozen meals and then pointed to the tantalizing aroma coming off our crockpot, “And what you have there looks so much better than the frozen sandwiches we keep in stock!” We smiled at each other and at her, then we rolled up our sleeves and got to work; no hair nets required. (Score!)

Salad was tossed, brownies were cut, and well, pulled pork sat there looking amazing; all in a little room that close to nothing like what I had imagined.

There were two long tables, each as long as an olympic ping-pong table. They were surrounded by blue plastic chairs. A christmasy centerpiece was plopped at the end of each table, complete with smiling snowmen and mini plastic Douglass firs set on one end of each. Booster seats hung low on the walls, available for reach. Thank-you cards and hand-drawn pictures were taped in an arch around the entry-way. It was no Best Western, but it was build by love.

As we set up shop, we learned a few things about this Organization,

1) They are an application-based Women and Children’s home for the Homeless. The people we would serve had earned their place here, the goal is to help these families through food, education, safety, comfort, and self-reliance.

2) There’s a learning center for the kids who live here and are tutored there by high schooler kids who need community service hours!

3) Random Drug tests.

4) We would actually be feeding half the number of people we had prepped for because during the holidays, many of these families leave to be with family.

(And a few other neat things which I will remember and slip in later)

We were ready and the doors opened. That room was more full with appreciation and Merry Christmases than oxygen. People ate. I sort-of taught the two little girls who were also volunteering how to toss a salad. Lots of people who had never tried pulled pork before came back for seconds. Almost everyone in the room was smiling, except for the ones with their cheeks full. We made faces at the babies and talked with their mothers. We took shifts eating with the families or behind the counter dishing up. Nothing was scary anymore, and we were all really enjoying ourselves.

Then, those little girls I tossed salad with? One opened up her little violin and played in the corner all three songs she had memorized, including the Can Can. It was adorable. Especially when she messed up and paused, her bow in mid strum, with a stumped and concentrated look on her face. “Oh yeah!” Continue she would. The families who remained clapped to the rhythm, and a few poked their heads in to see where the curious sounds were coming from. One little girl in particular who had long dark hair and huge brown eyes, probably the same age as the girl playing, stood very close and watched intently. I left to do something in the kitchen, but when I came back, the violin was on the dark-haired girls shoulder, and my little salad girl was teaching her how to play. Dark-hair was ecstatic, closing her eyes and playing short little screeches to her heart’s content.

Christmas is about that rosy red thing called love. I pray for you and your family that you find some tomorrow and all the days to follow. And if you can’t find some, give some. Don’t worry, you have this love generator thing called a human heart. It’s very useful when serving soup in a kitchen, which I strongly suggest you try sometime. Musical instruments optional but highly looked upon.

Merry Christmas Guys :)

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I Left My Heart @ Camp Ritchie

sound of music mountains are big had

So last post, I was ready to leave for Girls Camp, and now I’m home and exhausted. Allow me to fill you in on the Oreo filling :) (Ah! Quickly before sleepy Sydney falls asleep on the couch!)

We left in cars. I with my mommy and three friends. All crammed in our little civic and making friendship bracelets.

 

We got there unpacked, boring boring boring. Well here’s what happened on Tuesday and what I wrote in my journal;

July 24th

Today I got tired of people. People are tiring sometimes, especially teenage girls, I’m tired tonight from archery and BBs, plus rappelling but also I started to get annoyed at people’s imperfect-ness. Then we had devotional. It was about a story about a town of wooden people called “Wimmiks”, who judged one anthers actions and appearances using stickers. Kinda mean huh? We do that too shockingly enough, just in a more subtle and mental way. And I realized I had been a Wimmik by thinking that my ways of sinning were somehow more acceptable than the other girls ways of sinning. Just because you sin differently from others doesn’t give you the right to judge them or get tired of them. That’s god’s job. I was humbled and bummed out. Realizing your wrong and being chastened will do that to you… but it makes us better people. But I was still left with a dry, dusty feeling that reminded me of Rango. I just prayed for some intimate inspiration. Hopefully I’ll find it tomorrow but it’s dark in our cabin and Sarah’s complaining about my headlamp light. We’re all exhausted. Thanks for listening.

-JoTo

P.S. Happy 12th Birthday Tyler!!! xoxo :)

July 25th

I’m sitting in my friend’s car on our way back from our 4th year hike. In  a car? I thought you were supposed to be oblivious to all forms of civilization for a week! Yes indeed a car. So you drive down 88, past Kirkwood Ski Resort and Caples Lake, and turn into the El Dorado National Forest parking lot. Past the bathrooms, there’s a 2.5mi trail, that brings you to Winnemucca Lake. The lake could give a Polar Bear hypothermia, but it’s the journey there that makes the journey worth it. We hiked through the prettiest woods you’ve ever seen. Brother W. said, “It’s like we’re walking through a painting”, and seriously, Monet should have checked this place out. Wildflowers outnumbered grass blades and ferns sat scattered like leafy watchmen. Pine trees aren’t exactly Cherry Blossoms, but they looked really good with colorful Indian Paintbrush gathered in bushels around their roots. Fallen logs, ancient and a soft white, lie dappled with sunshine falling from the canopy. As we trekked up and up the uphill, the Pines thinned and we were in an open meadow, aka Poppy-Town. Flowers galore covered the grassy hill like a little city of colorful people. Instead of busting places in little cars and taxis, they all stood static until alternating breezes urged them to dance. We heard running water, and to our delight ran a good-sized summer stream, running the way we would take home. It ran happily over rocks and through small granite formations creating baby waterfalls. Framing the whole stunning picture stood something entirely muting. Mountains patched with icy snow, straight out of the sound of music, or even a dream. sound of music winnemucca hikingsound of music mountains are big had

It was all uphill though, and the girls were tired. I however was high on beauty.

“This is SO Pretty! Look, BUTTERFLY! Augh, I could just live in a SHACK here! Appreciate! Appreciate! Appreciate!” I would squeal pointing to a cluster of flowers or a pool of glossy water. As I was gleefully sharing my feelings, Brother W. stopped me.

“You think THIS is cool? Imagine heaven, and the kingdoms in heaven. No one can even imagine.”

I almost cried when he said that. I’m such a marshmallow. If God could craft such a beautiful place as this, Earth, then what has he crafted for us AFTER this? This is just the Basement!!! Although I may melt my marshmallow-self by just thinking about this, I have been inspired. My soul has drunk from the well of happiness. This was the answer to my prayer. This WAS the answer to my prayer.

Tonight at our fireside I learned that before you go to bed, put on your “PJ’S”.

P- Prayer

J- Journal

S- Scriptures

Cute huh?

July 26th 

Today, the boy-scouts appeared like strapping young specks on the beach across the lake and the girls turned into boy-deprived banshees. We had been at waterfront, basking, swimming, paddle boarding, and kayaking when it looked as if boys started to appear across the waves. We went mad, yelling out “BOYS!” to those unaware. We began paddling in circles, or at least trying to stay in line of sight of the boys camp, without going so far as the speedboat would have to come over and embarrassingly scold us. Turns out, the boys hadn’t sat out just to watch our girly youthfulness or wondered which of us were old enough to date… they were too busy waiting for us to GET OUT! We realized this once our final whistle to get out blew and we scrambled in shivers to the rocks for our towels and shoes. We sat on the rock overlooking the lake, cold, sad, and wet as we watched the strapping specks do cannonballs into the water and tear away on sailboats. To our dismay, scout masters don’t approve of co-ed swimming. Dang.

My journal goes on into hardly legible entries about BB guns and Crafts that clearly display my exhaustion. However, the last night, Friday night, ended on one of the best notes of my life so far. Testimony meeting. It was more than a genius’ idea to end camp with such a spiritually strengthening activity. But again it was more than even that, to another-worldly extent.

Testimony meeting was incredible.  My heart swelled with not pride, but sisterhood and daughterhood, being a daughter of God and a sister to all of these wonderful people here. I’ve never felt so close to God before, but I’m sure the altitude is a contributing factor (; It’s so easy to feel so so so spiritual at camp, because all distractions are gone. The Media, Social Networks, material possessions, CARS are all irrelevant for six days. All that’s left is kindness and love  in the form of delicious food, under the stars and in clean air that provides for the very best of thoughts. It’s more than beautiful, it’s of God. The trick is, (and it’s VERY tricky) is to bring those same thoughts home. Like maybe… in the form of a Journal.

It’s hard to believe until you’ve felt God. If you don’t know where to find him, look to little children or the wilderness. You’ll feel his embrace in the form of Life. I know this to be true. Every last syllable.

-Sydney

Oh and on the way home we stopped at the Ghirardelli Factory. (AKA the place where they make the best Hormone Replacement)

 

The Season of Happy

This is what happens when I’m on a sugar high and my pondering juices are flowing, the result is unorganized and random; sometimes funny. Enjoy!

For the last two weeks it’s either been “Happy Christmas!” (In England) or “Happy New Years!”

So what’s with all the Happy?

Happy, meaning that these have been the two happiest weeks of the year! (Ignoring the fact that it’s 2012 now.)

‘Cmon it’s common sweet knowledge! Ever since Kindergarten the same anticipation awaits the third week of December. A little kid shudders with glee at the thought of Santa, presents, and candy galore. The 25th eventually arrives and they’ll toss and turn all night with glee, straining in the dark to hear that distant HO HO HO, (Or the Polar Express). Words can’t express the euphoria of christmas morning to a small child. So I’ll just skip that description and let you ponder you’re own memories.

happy, Happy, HAPPY!

The “Christmas Hangover” on the 27th, leaves small children to play with their happy new treasures and adults to check finances then happily hitting the treadmill.  We descend from the climax of Christmas, go on a hike and eat sugar cookies (Contradictory I know). Dry douglas firs are thrown to the curb and lights are wrapped in a “Griswold Ball” and stuffed in the attic with all the other Christmas frippery. We vacuum our houses and get Martinelli’s on sale at Lucky. We’re still happy. Muy feliz.

New Years comes… with hardly a climax as high as Jesus’ Birthday, but keeps the spirit happy all the same as long as we’re still on vacation. Why do we say “Happy New Years”? Simply, we’re too lazy to say “Have a Happy New Year”. Plus, it’s uncomfortably sincere to tell  a stranger, “I hope you have a Happy New Year!” .*Whatever happened to George Bailey’s days, when you could in fact, wish a sincere Happy New Year on a stranger? What’s the word… not chivalry… not courteousness… CIVILITY. Where’s that American Civility guys? Some people might say it’s back in the 50’s or 60’s. Now I’m not saying it’s jumped off the face of the earth, just that Civility isn’t in fashion anymore. But that’s the funny thing about fashion, and why I’m not a beauty/fashion blogger… many people don’t heed what the designers say and there are fashion Rebels. Proof? Mullets. Mullet-headed men are a rare and awesome species. Needless to say, Mullets won’t be around forever so if you have a mullet, I SALUTE YOU!

We’re all fashion rebels at heart because fashion doesn’t just cover clothes. (No pun intended) Fashion is in the way we speak and talk to people. Lingo over the years changes and so do human behaviors. Civility sadly, is one that was put on the chopping block a while ago. You fashion rebels out there who still celebrate and practice civility, I salute you especially.

WOW. Off topic much Syd? I went from childhood holiday memories to Civility on the chopping block of urban existence. Well this is why I’m writing a blog, and not a book. (Knock on wood!) May I start over?

We’ve taken “Merry Christmas” and “Happy New Year” and dulled their distinction into something that one could shout to the world aimlessly. Last night when 11:59 flicked to 12:00 I could have easily ran outside, stood in the middle of the street and shouted to the world “Happy New Year” and nobody in the neighborhood would have thought that extremely weird. If you think about it… “Happy New Year” doesn’t really make sense to someone as weirdly philosophical as I. (If this doesn’t make sense, remember it’s the sugar high talking)

“Happy New Year”. “Happy Christmas”. What are you trying to say?! It’s gonna be a happy new year? I hope that you have a happy new year? This Christmas should be a happy one?!

happy, Happy, HAPPY! 

My conclusion? We’re just so happy during this season of happiness, it would take a monkey brain to put the word “happy” in front of everything!

(Which also makes sense because people who are not happy during this season, the “Bah-Humbuggers”, hardly wish anyone a Merry Christmas! See? Monkey Brain!)

So the spirit of Happiness and Mullets, me and my sugar high wish you a Happy New Year for you and yours. Not only that it’ll be a Happy one but one of civility and uncomfortable sincerity. You should try it sometime!

Sincerely,

-SydneyJoTo

The Golden Rule.

                                                                                                                                              (Norman Rockwell)

Matthew 22:35

Okay so we’ve all heard the saying since kid-hood. And it’s always made sense.

But as we were discussing it at church today, in my Young Women’s class (the teen girls group) this old and familliar theory got a new twist.

“Do unto others as you would have them do unto you”.

You would never bring yourself down, disrespect yourself or hurt your own feelings right?

Is it possible to hurt your own feelings?

You bet.

And how do you respect yourself? Well I respect my parents and elders by backing off, and not gettig too pushy. Right?

So “Respect” requires two people.

So I’ll use my spirit and my physical body. I can respect my body by say… Dressing decently. Where I can feel cute in what I’m wearing but still cover up. I love modesty. But that’s a whole ‘nother post (;

It’s a mormon belief that there was a war in heaven between God and his children and Satan and his followers over should inherit the earth. And we beleive that even if you are walking on this earth today, or have and ever will, that you fought on God’s side. And you fought to have a physical body.

Even if you don’t share my beliefs, it’s still a cool story. We fought a WAR for these bodies! That makes me want to treat mine like a prized posession!
Don’t you?!

And to wrap this up, because tomorrow’s Monday, I just want to exclaim to the world: WE ARE SUPPOSED TO LOVE IMPERFECT THINGS!

We love our families right? They aren’t perfect!
Our friends and neighbors?
PETS?!

So how come we can’t just love ourselves, just the way we are, because we aren’t “perfect”?

I swear I see these people all the time at school, they fry the hair, slather on the makeup, pull over the hood because they don’t love themselves! They desperatley try to acheive perfect, when that isn’t possible! “PERFECT” is a word that shouldn’t exist because nothing on this planet can acheive it. Not even IBM’s Watson is perfect guys!

So please, love yourself enough to be humble. And I promise you’ll find something that wasn’t there before.

-SydneyJoTo