Tuesday, November 29, 2016

The Star Up There

I have always been a firm believer in the one holiday at a time rule. I don't particularly like seeing Christmas decorations and gift wrap in the stores when I am out searching for the perfect pieces to our family's Halloween costumes. One holiday at a time. I always wait to put the Christmas decorations up at least a couple days after Thanksgiving. I don't even like to hear Christmas music on the store radios until the day after Thanksgiving - it kind of really bugs me. And I don't get bugged easily. Now don't get me wrong, once Thanksgiving is over, and we've enjoyed turkey leftovers for a few days, I am ready to listen to Christmas music 24/7 and start getting into the Christmas spirit.

Christmas has always been a magical time for me. My favorite time as a kid for sure. My mom always had the most beautiful decorations around  our 1200 square foot house. Garlands on the walls, adorned with lights and Mexican wicker ornaments, a natural straw color with red trim, alongside wooden nutcrackers with the string down the middle that raises the arms and legs when you pull down. Those were later replaced with shiny tin ornaments that we began to collect over the years, but I still remember how they looked. Thanks to my mom, the house always smelled of mulled cider, or posole, and tamales... so many tamales. Natan and I would have our Christmas Lists on the refrigerator by the first day of December, usually no more than a handful of things. As we go older, we added the word "MONEY" to the bottom of the list. I wonder when my kids will start doing that. I don't remember my parents ever doing any "Black Friday" shopping. Mom would purchase a special outfit or two for us, and Dad would be carefully shopping for all of us throughout the year - for a new book, and that one perfect gift. We usually got a couple small things, and one big present. It's all we needed. To be honest, I was more excited about the little things in the stockings than what was under the tree. Some Christmases were more plentiful than others, but never extravagant. The house was filled with the sounds of "A Music Box Christmas" - one of my favorite of daddy's purchases from Tower Records.

Last Christmas was the first without Dad. I don't remember much of it, to be honest. It was something we just needed to get through, I wanted to be strong for my mom, and luckily I had my kids to help me keep the magic of Christmas in me. I had a hard time even turning the Christmas music on this year. I just wasn't ready to face another one without him. The music fills me with great joy, yet so much sadness at the same time. All it takes is one freakin' song to set the tears free.

This one does it every time:

"The lake is frozen over
The trees are white with snow
And all around reminders of you
Are everywhere I go
It's late and morning's in no hurry
But sleep won't set me free
I lie awake and try to recall
How your body felt beside me
When silence gets too hard to handle
And the night too long
This is how I see you
In the snow on Christmas morning
Love and happiness surround you
As you throw your arms up to the sky
I keep this moment by and by
Oh I miss you now, my love
Merry Christmas, Merry Christmas
Merry Christmas, my love
Sense of joy fills the air
And I daydream and I stare
Up at the tree and I see
Your star up there
This is how I see you
In the snow on Christmas morning
Love and happiness surround you
As you throw your arms up to the sky
I keep this moment by and by"

This was my "go-to-for-a-good-cry" Christmas Song, I discovered, when my Papa Ray had died in 2008. I was extra pregnant with Quincy, therefore fully-hormonal, and setting up the tree a week before Quincy was born. The song came on, right after Joni Mitchell's "The River", and I was a mess. Losing my grandpa was the first real loss I had as an adult. No one in my family had died since I was 12 before that, and when you're 12, it's sad, but the connection is definitely stronger the more years you put into it. So, every year from 2008 until 2015, the Christmas Blues were a reflection of my love for my grandfather, and they were an icy turquoise blue. Now, add the layer of sadness that is my dad's passing onto that, and my Christmas Blues are a deep midnight blue. But I cry because I loved. And I cry because it's my therapy. With every ornament I put on the tree, with every memory that is attached, I think of how they brought me joy, how much they added to my life, and how their love carries me. I will keep them alive by sharing those memories with my kids, while we create new memories as a family, as we learn how to celebrate in our new normal. But man, oh man, what I wouldn't give to feel my daddy's warm, soft bear hug just one more time.
That's my Christmas wish.

Here's some happiness...


The Superhero
The Villians
(Catwoman, Poison Ivy, Two Face)
We had a blast...
 and scored a lot of candy!


Thankful for family...


Wishing you and yours a very happy and healthy holiday season, filled with peace, love, joy, and all the wonderful memories that came before.

Tuesday, October 11, 2016

Round Here

The past 8 weeks have left me in a whirl. Most of it has been good, but I would be lying if I said it was all good.

I have been using inspiration from my all-time favorite band (Counting Crows) since my last post, in an effort to really reconnect with myself. To use my memories to heal me, and to remind myself of the important things in my life.

"Gonna get back to basics I guess I'll start it up again"

I have been thinking about what I really want to accomplish in life. There is so much that I want, and sometimes life seems so fragmented that it's hard to get all my ideas out of my head on onto paper, so I can track them - making tangible goals out of them. I want to write every day. About motherhood, about childhood, about cooking, about travel, about this freaking election, about loving, and growing, and moving on through all the stuff that life throws at you. But I bottle the thoughts up one by one, until I have more time to devote to them, and before I know it, my bottle is so full, nearing explosion, and I can't articulate ANYTHING the way I want to. I need to work on that. First goal: Keep a journal - write things down right after they happen.

"We only stay in orbit for a moment of time 
And you're everybody's satellite I wish that you were mine"

Death seems to be a common theme in my life for the past 14 months. It seems like every few months, I am having to sit my children down and explain to them that someone we know has died, or is going to die soon. It's a conversation that I never really had with my parents until I was like 12. So the fact that I have had this conversation with my 5 and 7-year-old SO MANY times in a little over a year... I mean I don't even know how to explain it. From my dad, to my great-uncle, to my mom's dog, to my great-aunt... and most recently to my best friend's 3-year-old daughter... I feel like seeing their mom sad is the current norm in our house. Through the moments of grief, I am working my butt off to remind them of, and expose them to THE GOOD in our lives, and in the world. We talk about the lessons we learned from the example of our lost loved-one. We do things that we enjoy, that makes us happy. We have adventures, we learn things together.
"Where we make a lifetime commitment to recovering the satellites" I am not going to shield them from the pain, because I do think kids need the honesty of what we have been going through, but I have to find a delicate balance because I don't want them to be hardened, or numb. I don't know if they need to be as emotional as I am, but I don't think it's a bad thing either. My emotion comes from the way I love so deeply. Especially when it comes to my given family, and my chosen family.

"She sees shooting stars and comet tails
She's got Heaven in her eyes"

I will forever be grateful that I got to see this little angel in August before she left this Earth for the Heavens. Her story is not mine to tell, but I will say this: This little girl had more personality and fight in her pinky finger than most adults walking this planet. She has taught me to not be afraid. She has reminded me to ALWAYS dance in the rain, and to BE AMAZED by the little joys that life brings - to NEVER take them for granted. Her parents have shown me how important it is to follow your gut, and who cares what others think of your choices where your children are concerned - you have to do what works for you. Their family has shown me that LOVING HARD does so much GOOD in your life, even when it's difficult to breathe, even when the end comes sooner than expected. Love hard and deep, and find the GIFT in what makes you different.My promise to Makenzie Rae is that her light will always fuel my heart. I will live life to the fullest, continuing to love fearlessly, and conquer challenges that lie ahead, with her smile and laughter in the back of my mind. One of my favorite aspects of sharing this journey of motherhood with my very best friends is the relationships that I get to have with their children. I am especially grateful for this one.


Here are some of the good moments in photos to bring us to current:

Huntington Beach



School starts

Final Ultrasound (2 years later, ALL CLEAR)

My godfather Chuck came to visit!

I welcomed in 37 with a birthday lunch at Chez Panisse in Berkeley 
(crossed off the Bucket List!)

Girls weekend to see Counting Crows and Rob Thomas!

I participated in a commercial shoot for the Women Voter Project 
(representing propositions on the CA ballot)

Community Fun

Reconnecting with childhood friends in Petaluma

Fun with my mother-in-law!

Chuck E. Cheese to celebrate our friends, Maksim and Dominik

Fall fun with old friends near Sacramento

Live fully, love hard, and enjoy the Fall!

Monday, August 1, 2016

One Year Down... My Lifetime to Go

On August 8th, it will be one year. One year since my life changed in multiple ways. One year since my Dad left this earth. One year since I laid my head on his chest and hugged him for the last time. One year since I held my hand in his. I can still feel it. I just can't believe it's been a year.

I miss him for a myriad of reasons.

I miss him for my kids, who still talk about him all the time, ending each statement with, "But he's in Heaven now".

I miss him for Solon, who's Friday nights get a little lonely, longing for the impromptu get-togethers. He usually calls my mom to check in when he's missing Dad.

I miss him for my nephews, who are so freaking cool right now. They just get funnier and smarter every day.

I miss him for my brother - my dad would have loved to watch him help coach Kellan's little league team, as well as the Camelback HS baseball team.

I miss him for my aunt, my uncle, and my little cousins who would have loved to have him there as his niece said, "I do."

I miss him for me, because we would be talking EVERY. SINGLE. DAY. about the election right now. He would have understood my deep respect and admiration for Bernie Sanders; he would've been "Feeling the Bern". And while I channel my political passions through Facebook most of the time, educate my children about it a little, and talk Solon's ear off the second he gets home, it's not the same as talking politics with Dad. (Solon is pretty apolitical and most of the women in my family have a deep love for Hillary Clinton, and have been waiting for me to feel the same.)

I miss him for my grandma, who has lost her son, her brother-in-law, and her sister all within the same year.

I miss him for my mom - all she ever wanted was to grow old with him.

There's a verse from a song that says,
"Sometimes those memories
Can be hard to take
We all remember the times
Before you ever felt your heart break
You never were the same"

This is true for all of us who loved my dad. It's hard to remember what it felt like before my heart was broken like this. My dear friend Aaron says it doesn't get easier, and I think when you lose a parent who still deserves so many more years to live - to see their children age a little, to watch their grandkids grow up - it's terribly hard, and certainly doesn't feel fair.

This year has been filled with highs and lows, for my family (nuclear and extended), and for some of my very best friends. And it's in those moments that you receive clarity, and very quickly, the "who" and "what" that is most important in your life shines through, being revealed, fighting with you to help you move through the hard moments, and into your new space in life. I am grateful for all those bright lights in my life that fought for me, and with me, because one year later I am still standing. And for my friends who are also experiencing the hardest year of their life up to this point, for whatever the reason, know that when you hurt, I hurt, and I will fight for you when you feel like you can no longer stand.

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

Since my last post, our summer has been filled with activities (basketball camp, KinderCamp, swim lessons), reading, music, dancing, teaching the kids new responsibilities (how to do chores, etc), a little bit of travel, and visits from friends and family.

After a wonderful day in Wine Country on Memorial Day Weekend, Lucy and Bob took us to visit Uncle Ralph's space at the Veteran's Memorial Garden in Sonoma.

Paloma completed preschool

Quincy completed 1st grade and filled my heart with a year's worth of beautiful artwork

These were my favorites...

We were able to see my little cousin Kerry get married to her James in Pittsburgh, PA. Delicious meals were consumed, wonderful memories were made.

My mom visited for Independence Day Weekend

We finally tried Tommy's in honor of my dad
Best tequila selection I have ever seen. Dad would have loved it.
The kids (and Mom) participated in the Annual Piedmont Community Parade
Mom made the front page of the local paper!

We had an unforgettable 48 hours with the Reese family!

The Phillips family included us on their visit from London - and I'm grateful the distance of the Atlantic Ocean has only made our friendship stronger!

A LONG-OVERDUE trip to Seattle to see Grandma Sasa, Alynsia, and Tony!
Celebrated Bastille Day!

Took in a Mariners game at beautiful Safeco Field


Solon returned to Iowa for his 20-year High School Reunion

I can't believe we are just weeks away from the beginning of the new school year. It seems like I was just wondering to myself how I was going to keep these kids of ours occupied for the entire summer... and somehow, we managed to make it happen, learning new things, seeing familiar faces, and finding the magic and JOY along the way.

This week we will be celebrating my Daddy, and toasting his memory. One year down... my lifetime to go...