Tuesday, December 1, 2015

Beautiful Distractions

The last two months have been filled with the most wonderful, needed, beautiful distractions.

Things like...

Birthday/Costume Parties

Family adventure to Bob's Pumpkin Farm at Half Moon Bay


The kids as Dr. Seuss' The Lorax and Jurassic World's Indominus Rex

Solon and I as Diego Rivera and Frida Khalo

A day trip to Sonoma to visit Lucy, Bob, and Uncle Ralph

Visits from 3 of our best friends

Holly (and Makena)

Marsielle (a.k.a. Uncle Bone)

Becky (and Gracyn)

Family Photos taken by Liz!

And a wonderful Thanksgiving weekend spent in our new home with Grandma Sasa & Tony, and Aunt Alynsia

We have loved having QUALITY TIME with family and friends!

These visits have been much-needed, soul-filling distractions that have gotten me through week to week, despite my ever-so-broken heart. I have consistent happiness for most of the week, and then I will be driving down the CA-24 and Bridge Over Troubled Water (one of my Dad's favorites) will come on the radio, and I will be a sobbing mess. Or after a grocery run that is done in under 2 hours, I will be feeling like I just accomplished the impossible (if you live in California, you know what I mean), and Charlie Puth's song comes on the radio, and I am stuck at the longest red light, a sobbing mess.

"Why'd you have to leave so soon, yeah,
Why'd you have to go,
Why'd you have to leave me when I needed you the most,
'Cause I don't really know how to tell ya that I'm feeling much worse,
I know you're in a better place but it's always going to hurt,
Carry on,
Give me all the strength I need to carry on.

So let the light guide your way, yeah,
Hold every memory as you go,
And every road you take will always lead you home, home

It's been a long day without you my friend,
And I'll tell you all about it when I see you again
We've come a long way from where we began,
Oh I'll tell you all about it when I see you again, when I see you again."


If you want me to really have a good cry, put on Luther Vandross' Dance With My Father, while I am assembling Christmas Cards. Yes, that happened. Not familiar with this beautiful song? You can watch the video below:

"If I could steal one final glance, one final step
One final dance with him
I'd play a song that would never ever end
'Cause I'd love, love, love to dance with my father again

Sometimes I'd listen outside her door
And I'd hear how my mother cried for him
I pray for her even more than me
I pray for her even more than me

I know I'm praying for much too much
But could you send back the only man she loved?
I know you don't do it usually
But dear Lord she's dying to dance with my father again

Every night I fall asleep and this is all I ever dream"

And it's true... every night I fall asleep wishing for the same dream.

Last week, Forrest and I were taking a walk, and I had a quiet 20 minutes to myself to clear my head, and think. Sometimes 20 minutes is all I have each day for that. But it is in those 20 minutes that my thoughts immediately turn to my dad. I think of all the things I would tell him about if we could talk again. I try to hear his voice. I try to feel his hugs. I feel like its all I have been able to think/talk about for the past three months, but at the same time, it doesn't feel like I have released enough.

I have gone through all the stages of grief (I think), and some of the stages seem to circle back a few times.

Denial and Isolation - Yeah, living in a new place is kind of like living in a bubble so it can make it feel like the death never happened. Like I know it's real, but there are times when I call my parents' number and just expect my dad to answer. So I get the denial part. And isolation... for someone like me who everyone knows is a social butterfly... I have isolated myself in ways. Maybe because it's so hard for me to not give all of myself to others, and when meeting new people, that beginning can be so superficial until you invest the time and energy to really get to know someone. But I haven't had that energy (see Depression/Sadness), and I don't want to start off the conversation with, "Sorry if I get randomly sad on our play-date, but my dad died 5 days after we moved to this beautiful place, and the tiniest thing can set me off."

Anger - You bet I have been angry. I feel robbed. For myself, for my kids, for my brother, for my nephews, for my mom. For my dad. I am angry that we didn't get more time with him. I am angry that his heart was so weak, that he suffered internally so much. I am angry that he was so stubborn and didn't like doctors therefore had zero medical history by the time he actually got diagnosed with Congestive Heart Failure (back in 2002), therefore it had already escalated inside him, therefore it shortened his life by 20 years. I am angry about that. And I am angry about being angry about that.

Bargaining - The "If only..." stage - enough said.

Depression/Sadness - I am in and out of this stage most of the time. I cry at the drop of a hat. I am still my usual positive/friendly self, but when something triggers the tears, they flow instantly, and freely. Like I have two personal levees that are about to break. See above RE: songs on the radio.

Acceptance - This Christmas break (when we are in AZ for 10 days) will force the beginning of this phase for me. When we go to my parents' house, I won't see a full glass of fresh-brewed Lipton Tea sitting on the kitchen table as I walk in the door. Walking into the living room, I will see Dad's chair, but the dogs won't be at his feet while he sits in it, wearing one of the many graphic tees he received from us as gifts. It's inevitable that I am going to have to face this stage very soon, and I guess I will approach it the same way I have, every day since August 8. One day at a time.

In the meantime, I am preparing for two family visits before we head back to AZ for the holidays - my brother's family this weekend (I can't wait to celebrate Natan and Larel's birthdays, and hug and kiss my nephews who I miss so much), and my mom next weekend. Aside from FaceTime, I haven't seen my mom in person or hugged her in over 2.5 months, which is the longest we have ever gone. It will be so wonderful to finally show her our home, where we live, and just be... with her. I am so excited I can hardly stand it!

I continue to be so grateful for my family, and this beautiful place we live in. I never tire of seeing the spectacular Golden Gate Bridge, or driving over the many suspension bridges in the Bay Area. We have been to Wine Country three times already, and have seen magnificent redwood and eucalyptus forests, and the sparkle of the ocean all in the same day. We are getting some good use of our jackets, and umbrellas, and I just stocked up on mittens! Such a crazy accessory for this AZ girl. But we are not taking one second for granted.

Please take some time to slow down and enjoy your family and friends this holiday season. Don't waste a chance to hug someone you love dearly, or better yet, tell them individually what they mean to you (look them in the eyes), and how much you love them.

We love and appreciate each of our family and friends (SO MUCH!), and wish you bountiful blessings this holiday season and for the New Year.


Monday, September 21, 2015

Piedmont, California

This is Piedmont, CA.

It is a great neighborhood to live in. The community is very much like the one we left behind in Phoenix. I feel like we lucked out in finding this gem. Quincy and Paloma look forward to playing in the cul-de-sac with the neighborhood kids every evening after dinner. Paloma loves all the beautiful flowers that line the sidewalks around us.

Our neighbors are awesome. They have brought us dinner, taken me to coffee, kept an eye on my kids when Solon was out of town and I had a meeting at preschool, they have shared their treats with us, and even hired me to bake cupcakes for their son's birthday. We are getting to know them, and are already so grateful to be in the middle of a great group of neighbors.

The schools are fabulous. Forrest, Paloma, and I walk Quincy to school every day. And when we pick him up in the afternoon, he tells me how today was even better than the day before. In first grade he is only in school until 1:45pm, and instead of 5 days a week, Paloma's preschool only offers 3 days a week, which is a bit challenging for me, because I was so used to a fuller schedule for both kids. But we are working on it, and will soon be in a groove with that.

We are close to everything (15 minutes to the airport, 25 minutes into San Francisco, 10 minutes to Berkeley, 20 minutes to Costco, less than 30 minute drive to National parks, etc). And we are about a 30 minute drive from my dear friend Liz who (along with her husband Sean) helped us out TREMENDOUSLY during those first couple horrible weeks of this transition. Coming home to a house that was more than half unpacked (thanks to them) was seriously such a blessing. (Thank you Meltzers!!!)

I have been inspired to cook even more out here. With so many unique ingredients readily available, and so many specialty stores to choose from, my love of reading cookbooks, and watching Food Network has been reignited, and we have been eating well. And wine... the wine selection alone in California is enough to make you want to move here!

Honestly, now that we have had a month to really get settled in the house, I can say with certainty that I do like it here, very much. The only thing that would make it even more awesome is if the rest of our family was here too. =)

I have good days, and bad days. I miss my mom like crazy. I thought FaceTime would make the distance easier, but honestly, it makes it harder, because I can see her face, but I can't hug her. And she can see the kids, but I can't drop them off at her house for weekend sleepovers. And Quincy misses his Grandpa. He doesn't understand that Grandpa can't come back. He woke up the other morning asking me if it was just a dream, or was Grandpa really gone? He asked me who we could ask to help us bring my dad back. Were there "Heaven Helpers" that could retrieve him for us? I asked him if he dreamed that, and he said yes, and that he dreamed about Grandpa every night. In his dreams, they were mostly sitting together watching Godzilla movies, but also, sitting at the table eating pancakes, and going for long walks around the block (clearly, Quincy's fondest memories of times spent with my dad).

It still doesn't feel real to me. It all happened so fast. But it still doesn't feel fair. My quiet thinker, tender-hearted Quincy reminds me every day how unfair it is (if Grandpa REALLY CAN'T come back). And we've been talking a lot about death lately. A lot. We are just taking it one day at a time.

We are looking forward to Fall in California. Apple-picking, Pumpkin Patches, Harvest Festivals, exploring the surrounding nature, and the Bay's cooler temperatures. I am taking time out each day to ask God to continue to carry me through this time as I experience the many stages of the grieving process, all while trying to be my authentic, happy self, every day, and doing my absolute best to take care of my husband and children as well through this new change in our life. I am looking forward to this weekend when (my wonderful mother-in-law) Lisa and Tony come to town - it will really start to feel like home when I can entertain. =) So visitors are welcome!!
It already feels like home to Forrest.

P.S. Thank you to all our family and friends who have continued to show us support and love through this transition, and with the loss of my dad. I wish I could thank each of you individually (and I hope to eventually), but please know that your cards, calls, emails, poems, etc have truly helped us through every day. Thank you for loving us so much. Seriously. You rock. And we love you.

Saturday, August 22, 2015

This Wasn't How It Was Supposed To Be

The plan was: we move to California, we get the house ready, and then we open our doors to family and friends for visits. Simple. Easy. That was the plan.

The plan wasn't supposed to be: Pack up your life, your kids, your dog, and lose your father. But that is what happened.

Two weeks before we were set to leave for the Bay Area, my dad's heart started acting up again. Having had Congestive Heart Failure for 13 years now, I didn't think much of it. "This is just routine," I thought to myself. He had to get an ablation every few years. Yes, it was an uncomfortable surgery for him, but he always bounced back in a few days following the procedure. This time was different. One of the many needles he had poked in his arms, caused a blood clot, so huge that it started at his elbow and went all the way to his heart. A blood clot on top of a blood clot, which required more surgery to remove. Then there was an aneurysm near the entry site of the ablation surgery. One thing after another, after another. TWELVE days later, my daddy got to go home.

That next morning, the kids and I went to go check on him again, and help him acclimate back to home life. I helped him organize his pills that he had to take. So many pills. He hated it. He didn't want to die, but he said, "This is no way to live." I could see the frustration on his face. My daddy loved life, and all the people in his world, and he wanted to live for all of us. His mind wished he was more physically able than his body actually allowed him to be.

I am so grateful that, the Sunday before we left, my brother and sister-in-law opened their home for us to say our "see-you-laters" to my side of the family. My dad didn't have much energy, but he came. He felt pretty miserable, and I reminded him what his doctor said. For every day he was in the hospital, it was going to take 5 days to recover. That's 60 days. He was on Day 4 at this point, and had a long way to go.

I sat with him, and held my hand in his. I was immediately transported back to being a little girl. I always felt so safe in my daddy's hands - so big, soft, warm. They provided such comfort to me. Something in me pushed me to tell him everything that was in my heart that night. I looked him in the eyes, and told him how much I loved him. How much I was going to miss him. I told him to take it easy, and take his time to recover, so that he could come visit us in California. We had plans to drop him off at City Lights Bookstore in the city all day, and then once he had his fill of a world of books, we would drive to Carmel for the weekend. That's what he wanted, and that's what he was to be working/resting for. I told him that my kids WORSHIPPED him. That they absolutely adored him. I told him that he was my husband's best friend. That we couldn't wait to see him again. He rallied a bit that night. Long enough for me to snap a few pictures, and hug him so tight several times.

The kids, the dog, and I arrived Tuesday to our new home in Piedmont. Our moving crew showed up Thursday with the boxes. Late Thursday night I got the call that my dad had collapsed. Friday morning I was an anxious mess catching a flight back to Phoenix.

This wasn't how it was supposed to be.

Our biggest fear had come true. That we would leave, and something bad would happen. I know we couldn't control it. But it was absolutely the worst feeling I had ever experienced.

I knew as he lay in "critical condition" that his soul had already left this place. I knew it the second I walked in the ICU. But how do you let your daddy go? How do comfort your mother as she weeps uncontrollably because the love of her life isn't coming home with her this time? How do you have strength for your brother who is always the strong one and is unable to hold it in anymore? What do you say to your 92-year-old grandma who is shaking her head in disbelief, that she was there when he took his first breath, and now his last? How could I comfort my husband who loved my dad so dearly, but was a whole state away? We were in pieces.

In my moment of absolutely ugly, wailing, pleading sobbing, I placed my hand in his again. His warmth comforted me and in my heart, I knew he suffered no more.

He died at 12:15pm on a Saturday, surrounded by family. It was the worst 36 hours of my life.

Just when I thought it couldn't get any harder, I realized I had to tell my children. What was I going to say to my kids? Would they understand what it meant? Of course they wouldn't. Maybe in time. They knew he had a sick heart. They had visited him many times in the hospital. Paloma said, "He's with Papa Ray now, and Jesus." Tears came to Quincy's eyes as he said, "You mean he's not coming back? I won't get to see him again? Why can't he come back? Who's going to watch Godzilla movies with me?" My heart was breaking all over again.

The next few days were an absolute blur. We got through by the grace of God, and with the love that surrounded us by family and friends from all around. (Thank you for your messages, meals, hugs, tears, flowers, etc - it all meant more to my mom and our family than you could ever know.)

His "Celebration of Life" brought people together from all corners of his life, many that I hadn't seen in years. We (my mom, brother, Grandma, Aunt Nancy, Uncle Bill and I) planned it in 2 days. We didn't know who would be able to come with that short notice. But to see those faces in that beautiful church overlooking the mountains... Old and current neighbors, old and new friends, fellow movie-lovers, Natan's and my friends (their spouses, kids, and parents, too), kids my dad coached in little league, and family members who loved my dad so much. There were at least a dozen people there who had never even met my dad, but care for my brother or me so much that they just wanted to be there to support us and learn more about the man who helped mold their friend into the person they are today. It was incredible.

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *

His Obituary:
Thomas Henry Jacobs, 67, of Phoenix, AZ, passed away Saturday, August 8, 2015.

"He was born with a gift of laughter and a sense that the world was mad." (From Scaramouche, by Rafael Sabatini)

Tom was born January 6, 1948, in Lakewood, Ohio, to Ray and Miriam (White) Jacobs. He attended DePauw University in Indiana, and graduated from Michigan State University in 1969. In his youth, baseball was his greatest passion. During school, he was a writer and an actor. His travels to Europe after graduation left him with some of his fondest memories, shaping his love for the arts and history. Shortly after moving to Phoenix in 1973, he met the love of his life. Tom and Alicia Nieto were married in Mexico City in 1974 and shared 41 wonderful years together.

Tom was a poet, journalist, actor, an avid collector of music and books, and a world traveler. He loved raising his children and being surrounded by family, his wolf-huskies, watching movies, harvesting chili peppers, and exploring nature.

Tom is survived by his mother, Miriam, wife, Alicia, son, Natan Jacobs and his wife Larel, daughter Candida Bell and her husband Solon; his sister Nancy Shaffner and her husband Bill of Pittsburgh, PA, four adoring grandchildren, two nieces, and a large extended family. He was preceded in death by his father, Ray, in 2008.

A celebration of life will be held promptly at 4 p.m. Tuesday, August 11, at Shadow Rock United Church of Christ, 12861 N. 8th Ave., Phoenix, AZ 85029. Doors open at 3:30 p.m. In lieu of flowers, please send a donation in his honor to the Wolf Conservation Center, the National Park Service, or the Heard Museum. - The guest book will be online until 9/10/2015 - please feel free to leave a message or favorite memory of my dad by clicking here.

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Every day I am reminded of him. The beautiful thunderstorm the night after his service, the dozen of original poems I found in a box at the bottom of my old closet that he had written and never told us about, the random Coca-Cola bottle I grabbed for Solon at the airport that said "Share a Coke with Tommy," the hummingbirds that seem to follow me everywhere I go, the daddy-long-leg spiders that watch over me in the highest corners of the rooms in my new house, the earthquake that jolted me out of bed the morning after I came back to California (very funny, Daddy), the first friend that Quincy met at his new school named Thomas - my dad is everywhere.

And I miss him every day. Every single second of every single day. And I will love him always, and forever.

Friday, July 17, 2015

Summer 2015: Part 1

May was a month of roller coaster emotions. Excitement for the unknown. Sadness for the beginning of the goodbyes. Oh man, so many good-byes. So many endings.

There are two things I learned about my life in the month of May.

1. You never realize just how much your life is on cruise-control until you decide to move out of state.

2. You never realize how many wonderful people you have in your life, whether they are subtle acquaintances or dear, dear friends, until you start counting the "good-byes", or as I like to call them, "see-you-laters".

Yep, May was emotional. Cathartic. Filled with blessings and discoveries.

These wonderful women that I served on the preschool board with. They are part of my tribe - we cared for each other, our families - we supported one another. It's amazing how motherhood can bond people who have very different backgrounds, interests, political beliefs - it's amazing. I love these women and am grateful to have spent one last fun night with them. My favorite moment of this night was right before my new friend Jamie (not pictured) left. She and I connected this year over our shared love of party planning and making things beautiful. She is a Christian woman from Texas who can rock a sundress and cowgirl boots better than anyone, and she introduced me to Rudy's BBQ which is the bomb. We were fortunate to have some heart-to-hearts over the year, and as she's leaving she says to me (I'm paraphrasing b/c my memory is a little shot), "I am going to miss you so much! I just couldn't believe I could enjoy the company so much of someone who voted for Obama! I have been wanting to say that for so long!!!" It was a riot. We got a great laugh out of it.

Paloma's final celebration as a Bluebird (the greatest class ever!)
Saying goodbye to this wonderful preschool community a year earlier than expected was definitely the root of many of my tears. I will sing the praises of Shadow Rock Preschool until the day I die. This amazing place made a HUGE difference in our family's life. Our children absolutely thrived there. The teachers and staff are some of the best people I have ever met. That place is pure magic.

Quincy's Kindergarten year coming to a close
The transformation this kid had in 9 months blew us away. He started the year a little quiet, still into his own thing (at the time dinosaurs, mainly), and ended the year with tons of friends, super-outgoing, laser-focused on his writing and reading skills, and also emerged as quite the artist! He got so much out of that first year, I am certain he could thrive now no matter where he goes. His fabulous teacher, in one year, laid an immense foundation in this kid. He was so happy to have been a "Goldfish"!

(You'll need a Flash Player to see this video)

So after that was done... we packed the car up and headed to San Francisco for a 3-week stint that would help us discover the city as more than just a 3-day tourist, and hopefully determine a location to reside for the next few years.
We took a few days to get Forrest acclimated to city-life, and began to explore.
We lit sparklers on the roof; discovered playgrounds in surrounding neighborhoods;
visited Solon at his new office;
tried ice cream made on the spot with local, fresh ingredients and liquid nitrogen;
ate some life-changing Lasagnetta at Il Borgo, the Italian Ristorante cross-corner from our apartment (layers of thin homemade lasagna noodles and prosciutto, rolled into spirals of heaven and smothered with the most UH-MAZING red sauce);
made friends with the owners at the local corner market (Nick's) who still remember the importance of customer service; walked 12 blocks to the nearest movie theatre to watch Jurassic World when Grandma Sasa was in town;
drove ever-so-slowly down the world-famous Lombard Street, which was lined with hundreds of hydrangea flowers;
saw the sea-lions sun-bathing at Pier 39;
had a play-date with my friend Liz and her kiddos, Dominik and Maksim;
played in the sand and water near Hyde Street Pier;
stocked up on Ghirardelli chocolates from the factory; Quincy tried 5 different types of seafood (!) which is huge for my kids who doesn't like to try new things;
I tried 5 different flavors of French Macarons which were to-die-for!;
cooked a couple meals for Solon's co-workers;
first time on the Cal-Train (subway);
all while looking at neighborhoods in the East Bay where we felt was the best fit for our family.

The Saturday before we left to return to Phoenix, we attended the Genentech Gives Back concert event. On top of the innovative cancer-fighting medicines that Genentech creates and sells, they also give back extensively to their community. The week leading up the concert, employees go out into the community and help clean up playgrounds, schools, etc and in Solon's case, painted a U.S. map on a basketball court. Then on Saturday, the company rents out AT&T Park (home of the SF Giants) and treats the employees and their families to a day of food, drinks, and live entertainment from national recording artists. This year's line-up was Jason Derulo, Imagine Dragons, and KATY PERRY!
It was an awesome experience, and what a cool 1st concert for the kiddos. Paloma kept singing "Roar" the whole way home, and for the rest of the night for that matter!

We spent our last day, which happened to be Father's Day, driving around the East Bay looking at homes to rent, in the neighborhoods we liked.
After 6 homes, we finally found one that fit the needs of a family of 4 with a dog. We submitted our application, a dog resume (yes, that's right), credit report, and a picture of our family, and waited for the call. At 8pm the night before I left, our application got accepted.

So we did it! We accomplished practically everything that I wanted to while we were there. That three weeks was jam-packed and super-productive. Not to mention extremely exhausting with pockets of stress here and there.

I am so proud of our kids and our dog. I had a blast road-tripping with all three of them; the kids were helpful and up for anything. They were able to simply enjoy each other's company for 2/3 of each drive while coloring, making up songs, enjoying the scenery, and only used the iPad for one movie per 6-hour stretch. It can be done! And when they slept, I was able to listen to songs on my iPod that only I can appreciate. (ie: Counting Crows) =)

I am also really proud of my husband. He has been working his butt off while we are apart, and has already been recognized for his growth in this new role. He is loving his new position. That makes this all worth it! We will all be so happy when we are back together as a complete family.

The next 2 weeks consist of me purging the house some more, and getting everything ready for the movers. We will officially be out of AZ the first week of August!