Thankful for Pies and Non-Turkey Trot Early Morning Runs

23 Nov

So there I was feeling all the feels as I made my pumpkin pies in the morning. Remembering the early morning run and being grateful for the fresh air after a good night’s rain.

I was one of the few in the city probably not participating in a Turkey Trot that was up that early. And the quietness of the Thanksgiving morning was a peaceful blanket I was happy to wrap around myself.

I felt the feels and tried to keep that moment with me the entire day … when my mother came over and started her normal mothering observations that immediately make your eyes roll and take deep breaths … when the kids  just lost it because the ever so important golden string was pulled out from the ever so important LEGO Palm tree outdoor set and they couldn’t put it back the “right” way and the arguing felt like forever … when I couldn’t find parking on my own street and had to park three blocks away … when there were too many people in the kitchen and opinions were everywhere … when it felt like we were having a Costanza Festivus Thanksgiving Holiday Extravaganza instead of the Hallmark moments I imagined everyone posted on Facebook, which is why I don’t check it often anymore.

I closed my eyes and felt the feels of the early morning and remembered the crisp air filling up my lungs. I remembered feeling good just breathing. I remembered my Dad.

I remembered it being my Dad’s favorite holiday and the day I definitely think about him the most. The Diestel turkey was bought in part because we sold hundreds of them every year at the shop and remembered it being my Dad’s preference. Remembered all those long days at the shop when he was alive and the ginormous refrigerator where I was the inventory champ, but still complaining about why I’d always be the one in the freezing temperatures. He’s just smile and say I was younger and should be able to handle it. I remembered the hard days. The long days. The endless paperwork. The stress. And then the relief of sleeping in on Thanksgiving morning.

I remembered driving in his gray Nissan truck, picking up pies, and listening to jazz on the radio as he tapped the steering wheel.

I remembered the pies, and so when I pulled them out of the oven, I knew.  He would have smiled and asked to taste-test it before everyone … you know … just to be sure. I’d probably argue and reason with him, but eventually taste-testing would be an important reason.

And so on the chaotic day where the good, the bad, and the ugly show up at varying levels and different times during the day, I was grateful for moments remembered, moments with pies, moments of loudness with family, and moments of morning quietness in my Non-Turkey Trot run.

I held onto those moments as I remembered my Dad, and I took a deep breath because I missed him. I missed him with everything I got. Then I closed my eyes and sent him some light and love.

And pie.

Hope you had a good Thanksgiving.

Buen Camino, my friends!

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Motivation Mondays: Don’t Steal the Sunshine

12 Nov

 

A good friend of mine recently shared this feel-good video and it was something that made me smile …

 

 

 

You see I desperately try not to steal my kids’ sunshine, their spirit, their juice, their rainbow of colors that brings them to life. I try to keep my neurotic parenting to a minimum as I’d like my kids to have some sense of awesomeness still radiate like the sun on ocean waves. As a parent I’ve seen this happen and in truth I did it myself a when they were younger, and I caught myself feeling crappy and ugly for it as I saw the immediate brightness dim itself a bit.

It was just water.

Jumping in puddles. What kid doesn’t want to do that? I was so worried about the car seats and rugs getting soaked that I forgot it’s just water. Mr. Clean Erasers work like magic and the moldy smell would eventually go away if I just aired it out.  I totally let the air out of the balloon.

That was me.

I deflated the little spirits when they were 6 and 3. The crazy mom just trying to get through the day, the “getting through” part was what I was missing. I was all about keeping on schedule so breakdowns wouldn’t happen later on. I was just trying to get through it, when I should have been present. Parent fail. Big time.

But I learned.

The person that helped me turn the corner was someone I hadn’t even met. Randy. I remembered Randy Pausch and his Last Lecture … and I remembered splashing in puddles was definitely worth it. Remembering Randy Pausch and his message helped me shift gears. Galoshes and raincoats were in full effect, and I was happy to see the energy and light come back.

I promised myself I wouldn’t steal their sunshine after that and to the best of my recollection I haven’t. I’ve done other crazy mom things, for sure, but that … that is promise I kept.

This touching short film, Alike, was another reminder of that, a reminder of what I could lose if I’m not paying attention, what I could lose if I try to mute their vibe, what I could lose if I forget they need encouragement even if I don’t have it. It also reminded me of what someone else can lose because of me.

It was a good reminder … and I was grateful.

Buen Camino my friends!

Hill Street Blues, Peachy Pancakes, and a Blue Camero Remembered …

3 Nov

Most people tell stories on birthdays, Thanksgiving, or Christmas. Sometimes a story springs up when there’s a flashback moment on a random Tuesday and that sends you back in time to relive the laughter or joy you had with family. These are all good ways to connect with family or friends that have passed away.

In our family we have one more additional day that’s set aside every year in order to remember the life stories and unfinished journeys of those who passed away. My Dad, my Uncle Erick, and my Grandma Julia … I celebrate their lives on Dia de los Muertos. For most people, it’s a two-day celebration with music, art, altars, prayers, and stories used to remember family and friends. We had our private moments at home and at the cemetery on Day 1, and then celebrated at the festival on Day 2.

 

Stories about My Dad’s hardworking-dreamer mentality, love of Guatemalan coffee, and all things of a Hill Street Blues-The Shield-and-The-Wire nature were told. Memories of My Uncle Erick focusing on the importance of education, his blue Camero in the 1980’s that used to take me to the beach, his big-brother persona toward my sister and I, and his enjoyment of family gatherings on three-day weekends flooded back into my present day. My Grandma Julia’s resilience and strength, her sense of humor in her 90’s, her relationship with my Dad, and her love of my Saturday morning peach pancakes with Log Cabin syrup was remembered.

 

 

 

I shared my thoughts and tried to keep them alive through conversations with my kids. Each them had something to do with how I grew up. They impacted my journey on the yellow-brick road, and I wanted them to still matter to someone other than me.

So, on Dia de los Muertos it’s especially important to share these memories and celebrate their lives. So we took to the cemetery with decorations, flowers and prayers. I took time to think about the positives given to me by my Dad and Uncle Erick, and how grateful I was and am to them. Thought about how they’d probably be enjoying a cup of coffee together and chatting away with my Grandma. I thought about them and sent them light, love, and hugs.

The sad part was that before passing away, all three of them had conversations with me about death and not wanting to die. It’s gut-punching-deep-in-my-heart hurt when I think about it. So it’s hard on anniversaries of their death or on birthdays to feel like celebrating, but Dia de los Muertos spins perspective around and folklore helps change the narrative from death to life.

And so … I celebrated my Dad’s love of laughter and dream-chasing-you-can-do-it encouragement, my Uncle Erick’s perseverance and love of family conversations and of the dance floor even though he wasn’t a Solid Gold kind of dancer, and of my Grandma Julia’s faith, love for her family and ability to still joke around in her late 90’s.

The festival brought about a collective love for family and the importance of celebrations strengthening my faith. With everyone sending out positive vibes for their own loved ones it made me feel better to be part of a community who not only mourned their loved ones passing, but encouraged life and celebrating their spirit at the same time.

Hoping for celebrations of life to you all.

Buen Camino, my friends!

 

Chocolate Treats, Pumpkin Seeds, and Charlie Brown

31 Oct

Halloween parades, superhero costumes, toasting pumpkin seeds, trick-o-treating, and It’s The Great Pumpkin Charlie Brown filled the day. I was suffering from the Blues after the World Series, so I took a couple of days off and decided to come back to life on Halloween.

This holiday always reminds me of my Uncle Erick and his pumpkin carving escapades with his kid. He liked to start his own family traditions and give his kid the things he never had growing up. So when it came to Halloween I remember him going all out, pumpkin patches, hayrides, Halloween decorations and toasted pumpkin seeds. He had the spirit and his kid, who is all grown up now, remembers those days and thinks about those pumpkin carving sessions at our house. She recently asked me for a picture of her seven-year-old self atop a ginormous Jack-O-Lantern she created with her dad, and it made me think of how much joy he liked to bring to holidays and celebrations.

I often wonder what kinds of celebrations and family hangout sessions we would have had if he had survived his battle with cancer years ago, but thoughts like that make me angry and sad, so it takes me a minute to turn things around. I try to remember what we had and not so much what we’re missing, and Halloween is one of the things I’m able to hold and keep.

I talk about my Uncle Erick with the kids and remind them of his toasted pumpkin seed recipes and how I never would have known to do that if it weren’t for Uncle Erick. I try to remember to do the fun things even if they’re messy, even if they make me tired, because hopefully in the end the kids will look back on those days and smile, just like his daughter … smile at the buckets filled chocolate treats, making Jack-O-Lanterns, and Charlie Brown.

Buen Camino my friends!

 

 

Learning From Mistakes …

20 Oct

One of the best parts of sports I enjoy, aside from awesome shows like Friday Night Lights and movies like Hoosiers and Miracle, are the teachable moments that happen often throughout the season and in the playoffs.

We pay attention to the hardworking players who let their game speak for itself and point out that being flashy might not be the best avenue. This whole dabbing thing drives me up the wall.  I enjoy celebrating goals, 3-pointers, home runs, and awesome defensive plays, but dabbing … ugh … it’s in poor form. It’s really for the other person, not so much for yourself. I know there’s going to be all kinds of trash-talkers and show-boaters on teams, giving kids bad examples to follow. They’re always there. Most of the time, though,  jumping and fists up in the air are instinctual forms of celebrating. That big YEAAHHHHH yell is genuine exuberance. You can’t contain your happiness so you just soar.

I’m trying to teach my kids to soar. Not be flashy just soar. But I found out they don’t need lessons in soaring, just in learning from their mistakes so they can soar again.

As I’ve mentioned before … this is a House of Sports and all games involving our favorite teams are on our television. Watching the NLCS playoffs and cheering for our Boys in Blue during the postseason is something we do every chance we get. I remember cheering for them back in the day with my Dad hoping for El Toro, Fernando Valenzuela, to earn the win.  You see we had Fernandomania and continued to bleed Blue ever since. It happens with everyone in their own city with their own team, I imagine.

And as with any playoff series mistakes happen, over, and over, and over again. The only point I can make after my frustration subsides is  … What do you think they learned from that there? What would you have learned?

Don’t beat yourself … let others try to beat you … let them earn their win.

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Los Angeles Dodgers

 

 

This was the common theme for the most recent series. It’s something I often put out there to my kids … the whole “you better empty out your tank when you’re out there, give it everything you got and don’t let anybody out-try you.”

That’s my thing … don’t let anyone out-try you. They may be faster, they may be able to throw the ball farther, they may score more goals, but they better not out-try you. You need to Ninja-Warrior Up! No matter what mistakes you’ve made, learn from them and get back out there. And that’s something my kids pointed out during the series. Mistakes and getting out-tried. It happens. But if you learn from it, you can make a comeback and so our team did.

I’m all out about comebacks and the underdog. I’m all about Cinderella stories and defense winning championships. I’m all about earning the win. I’m glad my kids got to see the ugly parts of losing and winning, as well as the good parts of trying. I’m glad they got to see what can happen if you get it together, even if it took seven games.

You can make it to the next round … and see what happens next.

Buen Camino, my friends.

 

 

 

Nature’s Hideouts

13 Oct
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During a hike I had to take a minute and appreciate nature’s hideouts.

The rejuvenating powers of nature work its magic when you’re hiking, biking, or running the trails. Probably why I’m a big fan of Bear Grylls and his adventures. They inspire the exploration of the Great Outdoors.

Granted you don’t have to jump out of helicopters or rappel down cliffs as Grylls does to appreciate the beauty and magnitudal effect nature can have on you.

Living in the city, I’m still able to find nature’s hideouts and be wowed by its effect.

Sometimes the experience is so great that I end up in the moment and forget to snap the shot. Other times I catch up and I’m lucky enough to remember.

Photographer Louie Schwartzberg’s short Tedx Talk Gratitude speaks about his project Gratitude Revealed. He captures these breathtaking shots of nature as well as the connection and gratitude he feels being surrounded by it. These time lapse captures took time and patience. When he put them together in the film with the older gentleman’s narrative  the reaction, including my own, was a collective appreciation of the day and its possibilities.

It connected you with parts of the world that made you mindful that you’re part of something much bigger. Reminding you of the blessings that come with the day was the backdrop of the landscape.

Living in a big city, it’s important to find nature’s hideouts and escape in the early morning before I tackle the day. Watching Schwartzberg’s talk reminds me of the importance of mindfulness and the place that helps me get to that frame of mind faster is within nature and any of its hideouts within the city.

 

Buen Camino, my friends.

 

 

Writer Wednesday’s: Storytellers at Their Best

10 Oct

The good ones are found in the nooks and crannies if you look hard enough, and I found one today. A good one.

You see most people think they can tell a story, and some can. But only a few are really good storytellers, the kind you get curious about, the kind you want to get to know. Chris Stapleton for instance. He hit the country scene a few years ago and people were wowed with his songs and ability to tell it with heart and soul. Paulo Cohelo and Laura Esquivel weaved journeys into epic stories that captured my attention and inspired. Kurt Sutter with his Sons of Anarchy and Vince Gillian with Breaking Bad imagined worlds with deep, complex, strong and flawed characters in powerful stories that humbled me as a writer.

You get stories in songs, books, TV shows, and movies every one of them requires a special something. I like it when I discover or remember one. I see them and it inspires me to get off my ass and be better.

And that’s what happened today.

As I mentioned in previous posts, I recently was gifted a Hulu subscription, and found a new treasure chest of stories. Some good, others not really my style. And in this search to find the good I rediscovered my interest in documentaries. I watched a couple great ones, but the one that stood out today was Page One: Inside the The New York Times. I imagine it may be similar to the one I have yet to see, The Fourth Estate, but focuses on different parts of the journalistic world.

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Page One: Inside the New York Times

In this story I found the great storyteller I had forgotten about I had lost. David Carr is a gritty, humble, and staunch defender of journalistic integrity and the freedom of the press. But beyond that he was a great storyteller, based in truth, and I was reminded of that after watching the film, and inspired to continue my journey no matter how difficult it may be at times.

It’s a difficult period for the press, especially when it’s being attacked by people who don’t like being called out on their lies and who fail to take responsibility for their actions in addition to those complicit in their behavior or cover-up. The press, when it’s at its best, acts as a mirror and uncovers the truth behind the dark corners of what people are hiding. Some people confuse news stories with columnists and that at times is the problem. There is a difference. One is news, one is opinion. People forget. The press itself  is a good check and balance for those in power. And I’m glad that this documentary reveals the hard work that goes into being a reporter.

I especially admired Carr, who at one point in his life hit the ultimate low personally and professionally, but was able to turn the corner and find something he was passionate about: storytelling. He not only asked questions, but he asked the right questions. And that’s when you know you have a good one, because not only are they passionately curious and smart, but they’re in this invested in this quest for truth.

When you witness someone bring that sense of integrity and honesty to storytelling, it gut-checks you and makes you wonder, where’s your story?

And so I find myself getting back to it.

 

Buen Camino, my friends!

 

 

Finding Your Ninja Warrior Strength

5 Oct

You ever feel like that slow-motion action sequence in a film, where there is impending danger and the camera takes it frame by frame to capture your reaction and record your sense of urgency that equals the speed of an explosive Bourne Identity car chase?

Yeah. I had that moment today.

Now I normally don’t get lit up with anger by other kids at an elementary school pickup. Most of the time I’m just annoyed with the moms who show up an hour early to take up all the parking, leaving me to park two football-field-lengths away. But anger was a good description for today. You see, when one kid decides to grab my daughter by the shirt with a kung fu grip as she’s minding her business playing hide and seek with her other friend, I got a little fiery.

However by the time I walked over there, the kid had disappeared into the crowd of blue and yellow shirts, and I was left with a confused 7-year old wondering why this kid scrunched up her Ninja Warrior shirt.

Maybe as some people would put it, he’s just a kid, messing around, he doesn’t know better. Maybe he didn’t like Ninjas. I don’t know, if you’re old enough to play Fortnite or use Pokemon strategies to earn more cards, I think you know better, you just don’t do better. Otherwise he wouldn’t have run away.

But regardless, I’m not in the habit of having my kid be messed around with in that manner no matter what the reason. I’m in the habit of teaching my daughter that no one puts their hands on her. So, I investigated the situation. Apparently she stopped her hide-and-seek play to stare at the kids wrestling by the tree. Some kids don’t like being stared at I guess, thus the unnecessary roughness and my quest to find the offender.

I didn’t find the kid or his mother, but when I asked my daughter if she would be able to  remember what he looked like, she told me if she saw him on Monday she’d point him out. And so I would have words with this kid’s mom. Lots of them.

But what I didn’t understand was how my very vocal daughter who defends her Legos to the death remained silent as this transpired. She didn’t yell. She didn’t push him off.  She didn’t punch him. She stood still. Quiet. Looking confused.

I was like … what happened to you?

Surprised. She said she was surprised, sort of shocked that someone would do that. She didn’t expect it. She didn’t know the kids and she says she was staring at him because they were wrestling. And that’s when the kid stood up and grabbed her by the shirt ready to rumble.

So I wondered where that confident girl who spoke out at home against the injustice of losing in Connect 4 or Battleship had disappeared to … the girl that likes Muay Thai boxing and is fearless on adventures … I was like what happened? Were you scared?

I was just surprised. Maybe embarrassed.

That’s what she kept saying.

I explained to my daughter that sometimes you’re shocked when people behave aggressively or in an abnormal fashion. But she needed to snap out of the shock as quickly as she could so that she could defend herself and not let anyone hurt or disrespect her again. She had nothing to be embarrassed about, the boy was the one in the wrong and there was no way this kid was going to turn this around and play the victim.

As a mother you don’t want your kids getting roughed up, or worse, beat up, or assaulted, and you want them to set boundaries and find a balance. You want to make sure they stand strong and find courage, when someone is trying to hurt them, demean them, or make them feel weak.

I wanted to make sure my daughter knew that she didn’t do anything wrong and that the kid shouldn’t have done what he did, and that this boys-will-be-boys mentality is a cheap excuse that will never be a justifiable reason for misbehavior. Ever.

Speaking up is not tattle-telling, especially when someone is getting hurt.

She was worried that if she defended herself, his mom would get mad or yell at her. I was like you Rocky Balboa your way out of that situation any time and I will handle who ever comes your way. No one has the right to put their hands on you. Don’t ever be afraid to stand up for yourself. Don’t be afraid to be strong.

Who are people you think are strong?

She answered … Ninja Warriors.

So then Ninja-Warrior yourself, I said to her.

She smiled and we hugged it out.

Now even though she left feeling like she could conquer Stage 4 of the most Ninja-est obstacle courses I was still on a mission to find this kid and his mom. Don’t know if I’ll find them on Monday, but at least my daughter is better prepared for this kid if he tries anything again.

 

Buen Camino, my friends.

 

 

 

Feel Good Friday

28 Sep

I didn’t expect this Polaroid moment from my youth to bring about the Feelgoods on a Friday.

During an after-dinner walk with the kids I discovered a small comic book shop my son wanted to explore. We cruised the scene and then at the end of our looky-loo session, I discovered the back room which was a quaint little take-you-back-in-time place featuring Star Wars, Wonder Woman, and Batman goodies. And in an unassuming corner of the room, there it was … a piece of cool … waiting for me to claim it.

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The awesomeness of Bruce

I was having a John Cusack-High Fidelity moment and enjoying the rediscovery of records.

You see,  I was one of those kids loving the Glory Days and Dancing in the Dark, trying to record the Top 40 Countdown on my boombox and make an awesome mixed tape without being interrupted by Casey Kasem.

I remembered my Trapper Keeper, locker days, and the Jake Ryan of my life. I remember my Uncle Erick’s record player and hearing the vinyls on Friday nights, sitting on my brown shaggy rug, with headphones. I remembered a piece of my childhood I had tucked in a corner and it made me smile.

Bruce was a good find and I think I’ll be visiting my secret record finding place next week, just to see what else is waiting for me.

Buen Camino my friends!

I Found My Little Moment With Anthony and Korean BBQ Tacos

26 Sep

So during my unintended hiatus I rediscovered my checks and balances, as in what I needed to do in order to turn things around for my own peace and sanity after a tough day of parenthood, rejection letters, or run-ins with everyday jackasses. I rediscovered the limits of my tolerance level for elementary school-parent drama, or people trying to take the spring out of my step.

Aside from my need of morning runs, walks, or swims to attain a Zen-like state of my mind, I found that hanging out with Anthony helped me remember. You see during this hiatus I caught up on some storytelling and was able to catch Anthony Bourdain’s travels new and old. His fearless spirit for journeys through Parts Unknown was a great way to connect with people and their stories. He did it through food and the awesome way in which he weaved words together in order to make a connection, to help you gain perspective of other worlds.

And so when I ran into one of the culinary discoveries he had featured, I felt the need to dive right into the cultural fusion. Most people might have just seen a good meal, but for some reason I felt the connection to this amazing world traveler and discoverer, who ultimately lost his battle with depression this year.

Storytellers are complicated people, filled with layers of emotions and when you can find a moment of Zen, of peace, even in a simple meal you should take a moment to appreciate it and enjoy the feeling and so I did, as he did many times on his show.

I found my moment with Korean BBQ tacos in the middle of the city, and I sat there enjoying the fusion of flavors between two cultures.

 

I sat remembering the story of this chef and how he got started, and of Bourdain’s interview and the spotlight he shown on the possibilities of a vision, of what can happen when you believe in an idea that nobody else thought of and you go for it. I remembered my spotlight. I re

I sat there, eating my tacos, feeling glad to have found that Anthony Bourdain episode during my sabbatical, feeling glad that I had found my little moment of the day, feeling glad that those tacos were so good, soooooooo good. I felt so filled with Zen that I had enough good vibes to lift me up until the stars came out at night.

Here’s hoping you have your own little moment.

Buen Camino, my friends!