Sunday, December 22, 2013

Seeking A Samaritan


At 11:00 this morning, still in my pajamas, I was sitting down to start blogging when the door bell rang.  It was my neighbor's daughter. (I will call her Jeana.) She was locked out of her house and her phone battery was dead. I invited her in. First things first, we found a phone charger and then I offered Jeana the healing balm of a Ghirardelli brownie. Now, this doesn't sound like an out of the ordinary event for a late Sunday morning, but to me- it was extraordinary. I've only met Jeana a few times. However, I feel I know her. I know her because her life's situation mirrors my sisters'. Jeana is a single mother and struggles with addiction. My sisters are single mothers and addicts as well. I felt so much love for Jeana as we talked about our commonalities; love, fear, guilt, shame and hope.

My kids were heroes--allowing me to indulge in conversation while they got ready for church on their own. Natalie reminded me it was 12:30 and I had a short time to get ready for church. I excused myself from Jeana and went and took a shower. I told my kids to go on to church without me. Sarah volunteered to take the kids on her own. I continued to get ready as Jeana kept checking to see if her parents had returned home. With still no way into her house, I asked her if she wanted to walk with me to church. With a good charge on her phone, Jeana agreed to walk with me. A mile and a half later and sweating (thank you California December weather!!) Jeana and I walked into the chapel. The Christmas program was lovely- but all I could think about was Jeana and her openness and vulnerability in trusting me enough to knock on my door and then to walk with me...

After the Christmas program was over, Jeana asked if I could take her home. She said her parents would be home shortly.  I got the van keys from Scott and drove her back the mile and half we had just walked. Jeana expressed her gratitude for our time together. I told her she had made my Christmas. Earlier in our conversation, I shared with Jeana that I am unable to help my sisters in a physical way because of my living in a different state. And yet, I pray that if I extend a hand to someone--that maybe God will guide someone to my sisters and they will invite my sisters in and "charge their batteries."



In the parable of the good Samaritan, we often think of the Samaritan as the hero because of his good deeds. But I believe there is something more in "helping" our neighbor than in the described actions of the Samaritan. I believe the Samaritan felt humbled that God had placed someone in his path that he could love. Someone that he could serve to show his love for his brother and as an extension--his God. I can not claim the highest level of loving my neighbor--I invited Jeana in my life today in hope that someone will invite my sisters in, love them and maybe- just maybe walk with them.






Sunday, December 8, 2013

Cowpoke Cafe vs. The Griddle


Over the Thanksgiving break, we took our first road trip from Nor Cal to Boise, ID. (I know, I know- can you say: Holy Sciatica?!) We did take a break for "Linner" on the way to Boise and on the way back home. To pass the time, I interviewed the kids to see what restaurant they liked best. We used the rating system similar to the reality TV show "Four Weddings". (Yes, it is evident that when we stay in a hotel, cable channel TLC has my teenagers' full attention--scary!!) On the way to Boise, we ate at the Cowpoke Cafe in Lovelock, Nevada. On the way home, we ate at The Griddle in Winnemucca. According to the Fabulous Five, the results are as follows: Cowpoke Cafe: Venue-16pts,  Food-22pts,  Uniforms-16pts,  Overall-20pts. The Griddle: Venue-14pts,  Food-17pts,  Uniforms-16pts and Overall-18pts. The Cowpoke Cafe wins!! So, if you are ever traveling through Lovelock, tell 'em the Fab Five sent ya!

I also asked Scott and the kids what were some of their memories of our Boise Thanksgiving. Before I share Max's memory, let me preface by mentioning Max gets car sick. He attempts to sleep as much as he can- Dramamine induced or by sleep deprivation. On our way home from Boise, Max woke up as we stopped for a break and said: "I had the MOST AWESOME dream about a never ending fig newton!" Hilarious, right?! Sarah's favorite memory is of the guy at the hotel cocktail hour (sprite and root-beer for us) offering his free drink tickets to us. Sarah quoting the guy at the bar: "Hey, the free drinks are on me!" Natalie loved babysitting her second cousin, Grace and free Wi-Fi access at the hotel! Scott glowed with pride when the guy offering us the free drinks told Scott he sensed our children's goodness. Anna's favorite activity was watching Dr. Who on grandma's i- pad and hangin' with April. Sadie loved hanging out in the hot tub and swimming with her cousins. Fab Five consensus: seeing the movie Frozen rocked! One of my favorite activities was listening to my kids. Here are some of the funny things they said: "Stop that or your legs are gonna become pretzels!"  Another good one:  While we were waiting for our food at The Griddle, Sadie was making some strange sounds. I thought she was about to throw up! Annoyed, Sarah asked; "What are  you doing!?" Sadie replied, "I'm pretending to sleep with my eyes open." Oh! my goodness- kids are the best!!



Speaking of the awesomeness of kids...this is a picture of confetti that Natalie made for me. I had out-patient surgery a couple of months ago and when Scott and I returned home at 3:00 AM from the hospital- we were greeted with confetti a la Natalie style!








Continuing the "Awesome kid happenings" theme, Sadie wrote her "Bucket List" a couple of weeks ago:
1. Make a puppet  2. Make some gloves for Emma 3. Make some gloves for me 4. Ride in an airplane 5. Ride in a hot air balloon  6.Go to Hawaii 7. Get a car  8. Get a puppy  9. Make a company 10. Make a robot 11. Have three children 12. Make a friend 13. Tell everything to come true on this list

My Bucket List: see Sadie's.

Thursday, November 21, 2013

A Few Of My Favorite Things

1. Education: In the book; I Am Malala, Miss Malala Yousafzai shares the story of her memories growing up in Swat Valley, Pakistan. She shares the events that lead up to her being shot by the Taliban because of her advocacy for girls education. I've always been drawn to books concerning the middle east, because of  the time my family lived in Iran in the late 70's. And when the book/story involves the middle east and the perspective of a strong willed girl- I'm on it!!

In comparison, this week I read something from our church literature addressed to the youth: "Education will prepare you for greater service in the world and in the Church. It will help you better provide for yourself, your family, and those in need. It will also help you be a wise counselor and companion to your future spouse and an informed and effective teacher of your future children." What a huge differences in paradigms! My heart was pricked as I reflected on the opportunities that have been mine regarding education. And not just formal education, but as I continue to read and have the freedom to explore my life around me.The Taliban will never be successful in the long run, if they suffocate education, especially education of women


2. People that love my kids: I heard a lady once say: "The nicest thing you can do for me is to love my kids." I say, AMEN to that!! As my children continue to grow and the apron strings of their home and mother become thin as they stretch a bit further every day, I am so grateful for those that touch my children's life for the better. I'm grateful for the teachers that have praised Sarah and handed her access to her potential. The women at Boundary Gate Stables that have taken Anna under their wing and set her sitting tall on a horse and a dream. The friends that have embraced Max and infused confidence as he navigates his ever changing world. The coaches and friends that have recognized Natalie's talents and reminded her with shout-outs and bursts of "Way to GO!" My extended family that love Sadie and remind her of her angelic beginnings. Thank you for loving my kids.

3. Scott's skill set: Scott was 47 when we made the decision to go back to graduate school. Admittedly, life had to get a bit painful for all of us before agreeing  to leave our comfortable living situation in Boise, ID. Living below poverty income standards for six years and sitting next to students that are 20 years younger and 40 times quicker than you- Scott had to sense there was a method to the madness of returning to school in your late 40's. I remember one particular day when Scott was discouraged, he said: "I'm walking to class in the rain and everyone else my age is driving their Mercedes to work!" I am grateful for his determination to jump through the hoops and lower his expectations of living standards to build his skill set and glean new information for the continuing years of madness outside of graduate school and the bubble of Provo, UT. I'm grateful for Scott's financial sense as well. We graduated debt free.

4. The Love of God: C.S Lewis once said: "I believe in God like I believe in the sun, not because I can see it, but because of it all things are seen." One of my most treasured gifts is the the knowledge that I have always known God was aware of me. In my minds eye, I remember a time sitting in my dad's orange VW Bug, He asked: "Why are you always smiling?" I heard no audible words, but at that moment, I felt God's love.

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Monday, November 4, 2013

Chillin'



The last two weeks of October have been anything but chillin'-especially for the fabulous five in our household. The week of the 21st of October was Homecoming week at Sarah and Anna's high school. It is a new high school and they are small in numbers. Although, with a new energetic principal in place, the HS started Homecoming week traditions. Monday was dress-up fancy day. Anna decided to dress up as an aristocrat. Forget the ballroom dresses! Anna went with a top hat, ascot, and of course a mustache!!








At the end of the week, LVCP had a Homecoming dance. Anna isn't old enough to date. (Our kids have to wait until they are 16 to date.) So she went to the dance with friends. Sarah opted out of the dance and went to the homecoming football game the night before.
 Those dark curls and bold striped dress make this momma's heart proud!




The following week was Halloween. In all honesty, Halloween is not my favorite day. But the kids love Halloween and I love my kids so I just go with it. I do have to say, my kids are low maintenance when it comes to Halloween costumes. They are creative and their costumes are definitely their idea! This is Natalie, aka: "Bling Bling" The Rapper.


I know!! I can't stop smiling when I see this photo!

The softer side of our Rapper; Bling Bling



Duuude.

Max went as...what else- a MAD scientist! You can't see it, but Max has on his NASA shirt underneath his lab coat.


The Mad Scientist and his posse.



















Sadie was Dorthy from the Wizard of Oz. Toto, Dorthy's dog, must be in the pillow case.



Anna and BFF Janna, went as "Camp Half-Bloods" from the Percy Jackson book series. Anna used her ninja iron-on skills and created the shirts.
Minion, Sarah joins the trick-or-treaters
















Sarah made her own Steampunk glasses for her minion costume from shower curtain rings and a couple of pieces of elastic. P.S. If anyone is in need, we do have an excess of silver shower curtain rings!
A close-up of the creative work of Sarah
























 
Score! Natalie was the first to make it back home with her treasures. Yep. Lucky for me too.

Today, I'm home writing this blog, with all of my kid's Halloween candy. Just chillin'!

Sunday, October 20, 2013

Kabul Homeslice



Yesterday, Scott and I took a trip down to the Peninsula for a day trip in honor of our 18th wedding anniversary. I would like to say our trip to Stanford University was purely for academic enlightenment, but in all honesty--I have SO wanted one of those rockin' Stanford hoodies!!


We did attend two lectures while we were there. In turns out, yesterday was homecoming and the lectures were a part of the activities offered for alumni. Our kids think we couldn't have picked anything more boring than attending lectures for an anniversary. But then they saw my hoodie and understood.

The first lecture we attended was presented by Dr. Maya Adam, lecturer in Human Biology. She teaches classes on child nutrition and health. Dr. Adam was brilliant, strikingly beautiful and demonstrated ninja presentation skills. (All the while rockin' stilettos!) After stalking her bio on the web, I discovered she was a professional ballet dancer in Dresden, Germany before receiving her medical degree at the University of British Columbia in Vancouver, Canada. I have suspicions, she must be a super-hero. After the lecture, I went up to meet Dr. Adam and confessed my two youngest children had eaten corn dogs for breakfast.


Our second lecture was delivered by Dr. Justin Du Bois, associate professor of chemistry. Hmmm...they have some purrty smarty-pants type people up there at that fancy Stanford!! (said like a cast member of the Beverly Hillbillies.) Dr. Du Bois' lab researches methods, development and synthesis for new pain medications. I was hesitant in asking a question because I didn't want to reveal my lack of chemistry/science knowledge. But with Scott beside me, I was confident, if I messed up too horribly,  Scott could jump in and say: "What she is trying to say is..." At the end of the lecture, Scott wanted to go up and ask Dr. Du Bois a couple more questions. I told Scott, "Hey, maybe I can answer your questions." He tried not to smile.




After devouring dinner and a massive piece of chocolate cake at the University Cafe, we attended a film that was a part of the United Nations Association Film Festival. We Came Home was a film narrated by musician, activist, Ariana Delawari. Ariana shares her vision of peace through music for her father's homeland- Afghanistan. I loved this film. Not so much for the artistry of the film, but for the beautiful story of family; an American mother, Afghan father and their daughters all pursuing their dreams with the love and support of each other. If I were the producer, I would have titled the film: Kabul Homeslice! Of course.

Our first date was was July 28, 1995. Scott proposed two weeks later. Before we took our official engagement photos, we wanted to document Scott's full-on facial hair. I had to include this photo because don't you think we both look a bit-
Afghan?!

Khodahafez.

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

Start Spreading The News

I graduated from the University of Utah in 1990 with my MFA in dance performance. For my graduation gift, my dad gave me $1,000 to make my way in NYC. "If you can make it there, you can make it any where!" (Liza Minnelli 1977, Frank Sinatra 1978). I studied at the Nikolais/Louis Dance Lab in SoHo. My goal was to audition and become a member of The Nikolais/Louis Dance Theatre. I studied at the dance lab for a year, auditioned-and didn't make it. One of the dancers that did make the cut couldn't fulfill her obligation to the company. She quit. I auditioned again. I made it. Long story short (and another story for another blog entry)- I lived in NYC for two years. Dancing with the Nikolais/Louis Dance Company for the second year of my time in New York. However, my musings today are not about dancing in NYC. My thoughts are about "making it".

Darla was my roommate in New York. We had other single friends we met in our church congregation, Marlayna and Cherlynn. We went to the Macy's Thanksgiving parade together, ate in Greenwich village together, worshiped together and shared our dreams with each other. I think it is not a coincidence that the four of us, once living in SoHo and Greenwhich village in New York, now live on the west coast in California. Three out of the four of us live in Nor Cal and Marlayna lives with her husband and two sons in San Diego. Cherlynn came to visit me yesterday. She lives about 25 minutes from my front door. We talked for over an hour sharing our challenges, our hopes, our sorrows. And then Cherlynn shared something with me that touched me deeply and reminded me why I love these girls- profoundly.

Cherlynn has been teaching the four year-olds in her local church congregation. I asked her how she liked it. She said: at first, she really didn't understand why she was there.  For the reader to understand, Cherlynn worked on Wall Street on the east coast for 10 years; eight years in Manhattan and two years in Boston. She continued her work with her Financial institution while she and her husband, Ned lived in Japan. Cherylnn has been engrossed in an adult professional world for most of her working years. Cherlynn has four children of her own and admitted that she would have understood her assignment if she were to teach her own children in church, but why these children? And then her Ned reminded her; "You have a testimony of Jesus Christ. They need to hear it." While she sat on my grey sofa, Cherlynn explained- "I don't bring table cloths, cookies, snacks or treats. But I do have a strong belief of Jesus Christ and Heavenly Father and that I can share." Wow.  I'm just a bit over four years old- but those words stirred me. I felt Cherlynn's faith and conviction.

I believe God let our paths cross again to strengthen each other. If we can make it here, (insert change of local) we can make it anywhere.

Another story of faith and conviction that I have read about recently is that of Elizabeth Smart. If you were around in 2002, you'll remember the horrific crime that gripped the nation--the kidnapping of 14 year old Elizabeth Smart. I won't go into detail concerning the story. You can read the book. But I did want to share my learning experience. In all honesty, after reading the book. I was extremely disheartened. Reading her story gave me a glimpse of the true evil in the world. For several years, I've been working on not giving into fear. I even started limiting checking on my kids at night because I want to nurture faith and not fear. But after reading Elizabeth Smart's book, I started checking the windows, checking the kids once again. Arg. Not the feeling I wanted after reading her book. I've thought about it and even asked Heavenly Father about it, not on my knees but in my heart. And then on Sunday, I had some enlightenment.

The Bishop of our congregation spoke in our Sacrament meeting about Heavenly Father's plan for us. He used the metaphor of a parent sending a child to school. Of course, the parent doesn't want the child to fail, He sends the child out into the world for growth and experience. The parent knows the child will have struggles and hardships but to become an adult- like the parent, like our Heavenly Father, we- the child must go out from the parent and be schooled. With the child's best interest at heart, the parent will provide a way for the child's success in school. And like our earthly parents, our Heavenly Father has provided a way to overcome the hardships, sadness and evil in our "schooling". God did not abandon Elizabeth Smart. Yes, He could have struck David Mitchell dead. But God allows ALL of His children to choose, good OR evil. If He stopped them, we- the children would not realize our capacity of becoming like our Father or becoming more like our adversary. Elizabeth Smart made a choice and so did her captor. She chose to survive and find the good among the evil. David Mitchell chose his pathway to hell. He was not forced, he was not predestined to fail, he chose.And so did Elizabeth Smart. I believe her maiden name is not a coincidence. "If she can make it here, she can make it anywhere!"

I hope I will continue to choose the good, to survive, to enjoy life and find the divine among the corrupt. Frank Sinatra and Liza Minnelli were right!! "Start spreading the news...!!"





Thursday, October 3, 2013

Star of the Week



















Dear Mrs. O's ROCKIN’ Third Grade Class,

Sadie was born in Boise, ID. She is a real Idaho potato girl! However, at 10 months old she left her beloved Idaho potato fields for the mountains and snow of Provo, UT. 

In Provo, Sadie started growing things on top of her head! Not just the normal things a child may grow out of their head such as hair and the like, but Sadie grew Kitty ears, Bunny ears and one day even a pair of swim goggles appeared on top of her head!!

Sadie’s family was perplexed and couldn’t understand why on earth Sadie would start growing ears and goggles out of the top of her head. Was it because it was cold in Utah? Did she think we were cats? Did she have a hard time hearing and needed an extra pair of ears? What could it be?!

One time, during Christmas in Provo, when Sadie was about 4 or 5 years old, she opened a gift and it was a stuffed black kitty-cat with a red ribbon around its’ neck. Sadie named her new friend, Lexi. It wasn’t long after Lexi came to join our family, we noticed the kitty ears growing out of Sadie’s head!
In a different year and a different holiday, Easter to be exact; we noticed Sadie’s hair seemed to be growing longer and longer at a very quick rate. However, this quick hair growth didn’t follow the normal hair growth of a child. Instead of hair growing down her head, her hair was growing UP! And that’s when we noticed her hair wasn’t just hair-it was bunny ears!

Another time, it wasn’t Christmas or Easter or any other holiday, we were just out for a family hike. We were hiking Mt. Timpanogos in the Utah Mountains. We were excited to see the stalactites and stalagmites in the caves found at the top of Mt. Timpanogos. When we came out of the dark cave, Natalie, Sadie’s older sister shouted: “Look Mom! It’s happened again!” I looked over at Sadie and saw a pair of goggles right on top of her head! The goggles were a bit big for Sadie’s head so they kept slipping down over her eyes. Sadie walked down the mountain wearing swim goggles like they were sun-glasses!

 
After moving to Livermore, we reflected on the past years of the events that proceeded Sadie’s unusual ear and goggle growth. We remembered how Sadie was always asking for kitty everything, kitty pillow cases, kitty toys, kitty purses and one day she exclaimed: “I just LOVE kitties!” But that didn’t solve the ear/goggle mystery quite yet.  Several years before Sadie was in your third grade class, she would dress-up like a bunny. She would wear a bunny tail, hop around the house like a bunny and even wiggle her nose like a bunny. She even asked: “how do you spell bunnies?” “Oh, I just LOVE bunnies” Sadie would say as she hopped down the stair case.

I also remember Sadie exclaiming: “Come look at me mom, I’m a mermaid!” when ever she took a bath. I would find Sadie in the bath tub floating and smiling while trying to stay under water. This past summer, Sadie joined the Rhonewood swim team and after winning a trophy for the most improved swimmer, Sadie cheered, “I LOVE swimming!”

Sadie’s dad came to me the other day and said: “I think I know why Sadie has been growing kitty ears, bunny ears and goggles out of her head.” I pleaded, “Please tell me.” Sadie’s dad replied, “Whatever Sadie enjoys, adores or LOVES starts to grow out of her head!” “Oh no!” I replied. “Tonight, Sadie told me she LOVES to do cartwheels!”

Be on alert, Room 18!! Sadie LOVES donuts too!!


The End.







Sunday, September 22, 2013

WatsonsWoodwardsWrides.Liddicoats@Ptown.byu

You are smiling right now, right?! Yep, happened to me too.

As soon as I saw this photo, I knew I wanted to blog about some of the incredible families we loved while experiencing graduate school. Of course, there are more families and individuals that touched our lives and smoothed the bumpy road of our BYU journey-but hey, these peeps had photos!

This photo is of the Wonderful Watson family. They are making their home in Germany right now, while the only male in this throng of beautiful women is finishing up his PhD in computer science. Our kids, will always remember carving pumpkins at the Watson home. I will always remember the warm pleasant feeling that was ever abundant in their cozy, cottage home. (And the home-made bread and chicken soup stands out pretty well in my memory too!)

The Woodwards in the woods!!
The Woodwards out of the woods!


Not only have the Woodwards won every tournament, scholarship and contest there is in both north and southern hemispheres,  they won our hearts too! Gary, affectionately called Gaz, was awarded a scholarship from a Tasmanian Educational Trust to study for a year at any University in America and he chose BYU. Lucky us!! Lisa always "championed" me. And when you're not feeling much like a champ, which can be the case when you are living in student housing and cooking fish sticks, having someone to cheer you on is priceless. The Woodwards even came to see us in our Nor Cal home on their way home to Tasmania! P.S. Today is Lisa and Gaz's 17th wedding anniversary.

Honorary members of the state of Utah!

 

Amazing, right?! Yep, this radiant family are the Wrides. They are one of the first, if not the first family we meet in Wyview Student housing. Joseph, their oldest was in kindergarten and so was my Max. When we first met, they had five kids-five years old and under. I was in awe of Tiffanie then- and now, four more kids later, I idolize this woman even more. This picture is missing their latest angel addition: Natalie. Tiffanie is on my list of people who "get it". She is supportive of her adventuresome husband, loving and patient with her gaggle of cherubs and has unwavering faith in her God.


Walking back to our apartment from the children's activities sponsored by the student housing committee,  I heard a familiar dialect. I stopped and asked, "Are you from New Zealand?" Esther flashed that movie star smile and kindly responded, "No, Australia." Standing there with my foot in my mouth, I knew straight-away we would be friends. The Liddicoats lived in the Wymount building to the North of us. David was working on his MBA. Esther and I would talk for hours in the stairwell or on the "hill". There is something beautiful and disturbing about student-housing living. I would look outside to the parking lot and if I didn't see the Liddicoat's van- I would think: "where could they be?" A bit troublesome, don't you think? When the Liddicoats graduated and moved, I would see a van that looked similar to the Liddicoats and think: "Oh, they came back!" for a brief moment and then reality would return. And yet, this obsession with the Liddicoat van has a  happy ending- along with their van, the Liddicoats made their home in the Bay area!!


My friend, Keiko took this photo of our family the spring before we graduated in 2011. When Scott and I made the decision to return to school, I was under the impression that it would be a three year stint. Those three years stretched into six years. I remember nearly hyperventilating when I realized that we were in this for the long haul. Looking back, I nearly hyperventilate from the tears and strong emotion I feel from leaving our beloved student housing family. Long live fireproof steel doors and indoor/outdoor carpet! Go Cougars!!

Friday, September 13, 2013

Who Are The People in Your Neighborhood?


This charming prince, sits watchful outside the entrance of our neighborhood library.

 Living in Northern California ROCKS! The weather is unquestionably beautiful, the people- exceptional and our neighborhood- simply delightful. These are some photos of people and places in MY neighborhood.
The Prince's Princess!
 Jennifer, the teen librarian and Joyce, the supervising librarian showing us the latest acquisition in our neighborhood library.
 Sisters Bassett and Schank are the sister missionaries in our neighborhood. These sister missionaries represent The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. And BTW- if you see them wandering the streets of our neighborhood, looking famished, they LOVE crepes with Nutella.


Right- this beautiful structure is not really in my neighborhood. But, it is 32.5 miles from my neighborhood and it reminds me that "goodness will prevail." This is a sacred place of worship. The Oakland Temple sits majestically on the hill tops of Oakland, CA. It is owned and operated by The Church of Jesus-Christ of Latter-day Saints.
Another photo of the temple, standing on Lincoln Avenue

 








 If you have wondered why Mormons build temples watch this video.


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Another place of refuge in our neighborhood is Fire Station number six.

 Bob M. and Joel F. are two of our finest firemen.


Last year, seven of these fabulous firemen came to my aid when I shut my finger in the van door at the community center. I wasn't able to talk because I was honing all of my mental energy trying not to faint. The employees at the community center didn't know what had happened, they just saw blood dripping, hence the phone call to 911. Can you imagine seven of these Fab-O firemen looking down at you and all you can say is: "I hurt my finger". Do I hear a Halleluiah for our tax dollars hard at work?!!!

Who are the people in YOUR neighborhood, in your neighborhood in your Neigh-bor-hood?!