Saturday, September 23, 2017

The Shift

I've noticed a major shift in life as I approach the end of my 30s. In my late teens I completed high school, went off to college and embarked on the beginning of adulthood. In my early-mid 20s, I met and fell in love with Solon. The year before and the year after Solon and I got married, we attended about a dozen weddings, and a few years after that, most every couple we knew (us included) were starting to grow our families. My early 30s were filled with new beginnings with our kids and the experiences that they added to our life. But as I started to move through my 30s, I became acutely aware just how short life is, as I (and the people around me) started to experience the loss of loved ones.

When I first created this blog in 2008, it was because I was expecting the birth of Quincy any day, and I wanted to create a record of our life to share with friends and family who didn't live near us, or who we didn't get to see a lot of. And I also created it to preserve our memories in digital form, for our kids to look back on the beginning of their life - a digital scrapbook of sorts. The first 6 or 7 years of my entries featured a majority of celebrations, holidays, vacations, and happy adventurous memories, but there has been a definite shift in our life in the last two years, and I know my most recent posts reflect it. As much as I would love to keep this digital scrapbook a happy place - a record of just the good times - I would be doing my children a disservice if we did not mention the struggles and the painful moments as well. Because we will all face them, eventually. And we all fear the idea of not being able to get through them. I want to show my kids that we can, and that we did.

In the last two years, our family has suffered profound loss. It started with losing my dad in August 2015. THE MOST HEARTBREAKING MOMENT OF MY LIFE SO FAR. Since then, we lost our Great Uncle Ralph (11/15), my mom's dog Che (who I had to put down) (4/16), my Great Aunt Eleanor (7/16), young Makenzie Rae (10/16), and this summer, our dear family friend Larry Vipond (7/17), and while I was back in AZ, we said goodbye to my Aunt Georgina - the first of my mom's siblings (8/17). Peppered in between these personal family losses, were the shocking deaths of many musicians and others who had influenced our lives. It has seemed, that as common as weddings were to us in the years 2004-2006, and babies in the years 2008-2012, that 2015-present day seems to be where our family is experiencing profound loss. The next big loss will come when we have to say goodbye to our Forrest, who is slowing down at a rapid pace. I cannot imagine what our life will be like without him, and believe me when I say that we are cherishing EVERY SINGLE MOMENT that we have with him.

I understand that this is all a part of the "Circle of Life". I get it. And I wouldn't change the amount of people (or creatures) I love, or the deepness that I love them, for fear of the heartbreak I will experience when their moment is gone. (And we're only here but for a moment, aren't we?) But that doesn't make it any easier. My children have been exposed to more death (or "real life")  by 6 and 8 years old, than my brother and I had experienced by the time we were teenagers. In some ways, I guess I'm grateful for their maturity and understanding of death, because I was terrified of it until I was much older. These sad occurrences are what drives me to fill their lives with joyful moments, new discoveries, fearless (okay, semi-fearless), sometimes spontaneous, adventures. I have to. This is probably the most bittersweet part of all of it. LIFE GOES ON. Whether we are ready or not. We have to allow ourselves to grieve the losses, cherish the memories, and keep moving forward. WE OWE IT TO OUR BELOVED ONES TO DO JUST THAT.  We keep living, one day at a time, with their memory in our hearts.

In my iPhone, I have a few voicemails saved from the last three years. Two are joyous messages. Two are painful. They are a constant reminder to me about the preciousness of life. I listen to them when I need perspective on what is important. They remind me to continue to love fiercely, and unconditionally.  They remind me to live each day to the fullest. They remind me that I MATTER to someone, even if I haven't physically seen them (or hugged them) in years. And one of them is just an everyday message from my Grandma, that I save because I love hearing her voice, and at 94-years-old, she continues to live her life with class, and grace, and she never leaves the house without lipstick.

While there is always heartache hidden in the corners of life, there is most definitely love and happiness bursting through the seams. If I give love, I will receive it. If I choose to be happy and radiate positive energy, it will come back to me tenfold. I hope I convey that in the day to day, even through the moments I pause to grieve. And if you are someone reading this right now, who has gone through a bunch of shit (for lack of a better word), and you are suffering alone, or having a hard time seeing through it to the good that awaits, please trust that you ARE NOT alone, and that GOODNESS awaits, and that YOU MATTER TO ME, and to others. If you are reading this, you matter to me. Reach out to someone if you need to talk. And if you're someone on the flip side of everything I've just mentioned, check-in with people in your life who have just been through something heavy. Chances are... they will need to release something. You don't have to have any answers, you just need to offer an ear.  Life can be HEAVY, sometimes. Having someone there... or BEING that someone, is a gift we all need. Let us be gifts to one another.

Here are some of the bright moments since my last post... it was a very full summer:

Snuggles with Forrest

A visit from Aunt Shelley

Dog-sitting Miss Maisy Mayflower

Much-needed Mommy's weekend off 
with Christina in Las Vegas

Impromptu visit to the California Railroad Museum in Sacramento

The four of us visiting Sean in Benicia

Post-game beers with our co-ed softball team "Beach Bums"

 Henna tattoos at the company picnic

Human bowling at the company picnic

 A visit to Lucy & Bob's in Sonoma

 Seeing Paloma's prize-winning drawing at Zachary's Pizza in Oakland

 Dinner with our cousins in Huntington Beach
Visiting with Morgan

Lunch at Grandma Chacha's
 Dinner with AZ family
 Much needed pool time

Getting my Frida fix!!
 Paper Flowers at The Heard Museum - Phoenix

 Dinner with Gaga

 Snuggles with Aunt Shelley

Bunny & Breezy! Big H.S. Seniors!

AZ Family

 Much-needed Scrabble Night!

Our godsons have girlfriends now!!!

Friends since the womb

 My "big brother" bookends!

Extended family

Cousin love

Cousin Diego! The new architect in the family!

One last hug from my Grandma, Mama Mimi 

Aunt Nancy and Uncle Bill

 I want to be like her when I am 94

Saying goodbye to my Mom is always hard - 

These pictures were filled with smiles, despite the loss that hit Tío Raul, my Mom and her siblings that week we were in Arizona. We maximized time with family, so we could be there for each other, sharing many memories, laughter, and tears.

In loving memory of my Tía Georgina...
Cancer may have taken you from our presence, 
but we will always carry you with us in our hearts.

Friday, June 9, 2017

The Importance of Filling Our Souls

There are some mornings when you wake up and just know that it's going to be a good day. Where a bunch of simple joys are revealed consecutively, and you can feel your soul filling up a little at a time.

This morning, my day started with Paloma asking me to give her "Unicorn Hair" - a YouTube tutorial given by an animated Barbie and her little sister Chelsea. Seeing my daughter's desire to be creative within moments of her eyes opening to a new day warmed my heart. That is an energy that I want to encourage for sure.

Moments after said Unicorn Hair was complete (and then collapsed, and then stabilizing changes were made), I opened my Facebook memories to see my blog post from three years ago this day, when I wrote about my trip to New York City. To relive those memories through pictures and words, made me feel like I was still on high from that spectacular trip. It was easily one of the Top 3 favorite weekends of my life, behind getting married to Solon, and something else that right now I can't think of because I have only had one cup of coffee.

After making my way downstairs, and getting my morning coffee brewing, (still on Facebook) I see a video of one of my FAVORITE singers, India.Arie, posted by an old high school friend who shares thoughtful, inspirational posts, and encourages the people in his life. The performance of this song was so simplistic, and so beautiful - I had to listen twice - before ultimately sharing it on my page.

Then, as I am sampling the awesome granola that I made yesterday (using a modified version of my friend Kristine's recipe), I scroll through my newsfeed to discover my FAVORITE writer Anne Lamott has just posted her recent TED Talk. Happy Friday to me! Just when I think my soul is filled enough, I sit down with my delicious dark roast, vanilla-coconut-milk-infused cup of coffee in my favorite mug (Thank You Jenni), and I listen to my favorite writer talk about the 12 truths she has learned from life and writing. I am laughing out loud, smiling, and simultaneously getting the urge to write. All before 9:30am.

At this point, I should add that Wednesday and Thursday were recovery days,  from what I have dubbed the "Almost Complete Summer of Soul-Filling Tour". It started 3 weeks ago with a 4-day visit from Larel (my sis-in-law) and my nephews, continued with an almost 2-hour conversation with Charissa, continued with a 3-day visit from Becky and her family, and then continued with a 5-day visit from Holly and Makena. And it's not over yet, because this weekend, my amazing Mom-in-law is taking the kids and Solon and I will head up to Healdsburg (one of my favorite NorCal towns) to help my friend Allison G. celebrate her 40th birthday. And next month, I am having a one-on-one trip to Vegas with Christina, all before coming back to AZ at the end of the summer for a family visit. See what I mean by the "Almost Complete Summer of Soul-Filling Tour"? It shaping up to be a full summer.

In her TED Talk, Anne Lamott said several things that resonated with me. One of which she says is the secret to life - "go outside and LOOK UP. The happiest person on earth is the one who learns from nature, the lessons of worship." The kids and I have been spending a lot of time in nature these last few weeks. Soaking in the essence of the Eucalyptus and Redwood trees that surround us. Feeling the gentle mist of the Pacific sea breeze, with the sand beneath our toes. It's free to experience, and it does WONDERS for my breathing and my sanity. You also realize how small you are in the grand scheme of things, which prompts me to not worry so much about what is out of my control, but rather focus my energies on the people and things that are really important to me.

She also says "that when the people we love the most in our lives die, we will never get over these losses, and despite what society says, we're not supposed to. The person will live on fully in our hearts if we don't seal them off."  She says the people we lose to death, will also make us laugh at the most inopportune/random times. This happened to me yesterday in Wendy's when I took the kids for an impromptu lunch before our first summer visit to the Public Library. Quincy was sitting down, with his "Son of Baconator" in his hands - and for a brief few moments, I saw my Dad. The way Quincy held the burger perfectly symmetrically, the weight of the 2 small patties and 4 strips of bacon supported equally by his 8-year-old hands, as he raised it to his mouth, took a BIG bite, smiling simultaneously as his eyes somewhat rolled to the back of his head. It was as if that bite was the most decadent morsel he had EVER tasted. It was as if I was watching my Dad, and I literally LOL'd. Even telling the story to my mom late last night, we laughed and cried, because even though we are a state away, she could picture it perfectly.

One of the "truths" that Anne speaks about is our perceptions of each other. She says, "Everyone is screwed up, broken, clingy and scared. Even the people who seem to have it most together." I want us all to remember that - it's so important. In this day and age of Social Media, where there are literally dozens of photo-editing apps, and we have the ability to post and edit the things we say until they're perfect, I try to remember that the only thing I can control is how true I stay to myself. Anne says "we should not compare who others are on the outside to who we are on the inside." That is a major disservice to yourself. I am HAPPY 95% of the time - it's a choice that I consciously make every day - and you will see my joy and zest for life in the things I share. I'm a silver-linings, glass is half-full, spread the love and the positive kind of person. But that doesn't mean that the 5% doesn't hurt. It hurts immensely. And thus, I choose to share that too. Because it's real. And some days, and some moments, hurt more than others. But the release of it all into the universe helps me heal. In her talk, Anne says that "every single thing that happens to you is YOURS, and you get to tell it. You're going to feel like hell, if you wake up some day and you never wrote the stuff that is tugging on the sleeves of your heart. Your truth, in your own voice." That is all we really have to offer. This is part of my self-care, which coincidentally is another point that she spoke about.

Emotional self-care is something I have down pat. I write, I paint, I cook, I bake, I take long walks with Forrest, and I have deep and meaningful conversations with my husband and my best friends. Physical self-care is something I could definitely put a little more effort into. I certainly love how I feel after working out, and exerting myself, but it is challenging for me to make it a top priority. This is something that I pledge to myself to improve on. I am excited to start playing softball again, this time in a community co-ed league that begins next week. Solon and I need this, and I think it will be great for our kids to watch us play, as I have the fondest memories of watching my Dad in his Pop's League all those years ago. It will fill our souls, revive our spirit - which is so important(!) - and create memories for all involved.


Highlights from the last few months include:

2nd Grade - Surfin' USA (watch video here)

Kindergarten - This Land Is Your Land (watch video here)

A's Baseball

Mermaids Softball

Saying "See You Later" to our friends Emi and Yaari 
who are moving away

Visit from Larel and the nephews/cousins

 Visit from Becky, Scott, Noah and Gracyn

Saying "See you later" to Maksim and Dominik (not pictured)
at the park (this was the only picture sent via text before my phone 
fell out of my pocket, and then got stolen)

A visit from Holly and Makena

 It has certainly been a full couple months! Somewhere in the middle of these last few visitors, the kids finished 2nd Grade and Kindergarten, and summer is now in full swing. We are grateful for the time spent with family and friends, the adventures we took, and the memories we made. I'm looking forward to experiencing whatever else this summer may bring, and in August, I CAN'T WAIT TO SEE MY MOM!!

Until next time...