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You Still Make The Cake …

30 Jan

I woke up knowing he’d be the first thing on my mind.

Brown eyes, black and silver wavy hair, usually covered by a hat. The very same blue Dodgers hat I wore all day today. Go Blue.

Tired and exhausted from the night before, the night of thinking of tomorrows and tomorrow already here, as evidenced by the sun peeking through the blinds. Staring at the ceiling, knowing that the closest I’d ever get to him today was just a memory or two. Pictures, left over voicemails, hats hanging on hooks, shirts folded in the closet, and half a bottle of Jovan Musk  in the cabinet. They were all waiting for me this morning, like every morning.

But today was different.

Today was his 69th birthday and the cologne smelled a little different. I think it was losing its strength, but I could still smell that aftershave scent. It still lingers in the air, reminding me of how I wished I had more memories.

It’s always a tough day, knowing someone isn’t going to blow out the candles anymore. But you still make the cake, you make it anyway. Today I made it with my daughter, who’s named after him. Listening to jazz as we measured and stirred the flour and sugar, dancing to his favorite tunes in our aprons as the smell of chocolate filled our small kitchen, I smiled. I thought he’d be watching and smiling as we twirled around to his favorite trumpet and piano tunes.

Jazz was on all day today. Running through the park this morning. At the stoplight. In the kitchen. And as I write this piece. His calming happy music surrounded me as I remembered him driving his silver Toyota Tacoma, with the station tuned into KJAZZ and him strumming his fingers on the steering wheel.

Yup. It was on all day. Reminding me, giving  this purpose, making the baking experience a little better.

And for some reason, during the taste-testing process perhaps, we didn’t have enough frosting to cover the entire cake this year, and that was O.K. It wasn’t a disaster. We made a head pastry chef decision and thought layers upon layers of frosting would be just fine. Like a chic bakery.

He’d probably get a kick out of it, and we’d make our own story about it. In fact we probably already did. I’ll probably think back , when all my hair has that silvery fox color, and remember how we baked the chocolaty chocolate cake with vanilla buttercream frosting and chopped almonds, how we danced in the kitchen thinking about my Dad turning 69 and how he’d enjoy a piece of cake, or two, along with a cup of coffee.

We took our picnic and visited him. I told stories as my daughter had one piece and my son two. Large cups of milk, and one cup of coffee for pops. Sitting there talking about life and wishing he was there to blow out the candles and make one more wish.

My Dad … the Dreamer, the Adventure Seeker, my HBO-Watching-Buddy, the Owner of Over 70 Baseball Caps, the Jazz-Listening-Beep-Bopper, Pay-It-Forward-Patron, Awesome-Date-to-Opening-Plays at the local theater, Spirit of My Spirit, Heart of my Heart, Laugher of My Jokes, and friend … turned 69 today. I wish him well, send him light, love, and laughter.

And I miss him.

 

Dad

My Dad … talking about dreams … me trying to listen.

 

 

 

Dia De Los Muertos Inspires A New Conversation

1 Nov

I think about the clicking-clocking sound he used to make when his tongue would hit the roof of his mouth. NUK! He’d knock-knock-knock my forehead simultaneously … you know during one of my McFly moments. My Uncle Erick.

And I think about my Dad and how he used to call me Canela  and how he’d start smiling even before I told the joke.

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My Dad and Uncle Erick back in the 70s

The two most important dudes in my life growing up, with the exception of the tallest Texan I know, he hails from Lubbock and has his own story, which I’ll share later. But today … today I talk about My Dad and Uncle Erick, today I talk about their stories because Dia De Los Muertos celebrates their spirits and everything they brought to my life.

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They’re on my mind every day, especially when I feel how life could have been so much better if they were still around. And after surviving my Halloween Hangover (why was Halloween on a Monday anyway … KitKat overload) I took a moment to celebrate their lives by sharing some vintage Polaroids and Kodak moments with my kids, accompanied by the stories and adventures behind those pictures.

Whether it was hiking waterfalls in Guatemala, road tripping that had multiple detours, watching SC football on Saturdays, toasting pumpkin seeds on Halloween, or listening to the Bee Gees, Billy Joel, or KC & The Sunshine Band, each adventure added something to my life.

And I miss it, I miss them. I miss the conversations and the reminiscing that brought laughter.

As always it hit me in the pit of my stomach. I celebrated them, and talked about their lives, but was also sad in the end. So I was glad to have come up with a new story about them. A piece based on their lives, inspired by my Uncle Erick.  It’s a conversation. My piece is about a conversation they probably had while my Uncle Erick was growing up. It’s about the advice my dad would have given him and the interesting way he’d go about doing it.

It’s a comedy, of course.

And although this conversation never took place I can totally see it happening because I can hear their voices. I can totally imagine them going through this exchange.

So, on this very special Dia De Los Muertos celebration, I was inspired to write a piece about the two men in my family who I learned from the most.

I’ve even submitted it somewhere … so hopefully their conversation, their story, their journey continues and makes other people laugh in the process.

I’ll keep you posted on that.

.

 

In Search of Jason Bourne And The Great Pumpkin

26 Oct

In order to get away from my latest saga, the Twilight Zone episode of The People’s Court, I decided The Guats needed a change of scenery. Luckily The Harvest Festival and Halloween were just a few days away and The Farm seemed like a nice escape.

Surrounded by goats, pigs, cows, ponies, a giant ox, and plenty of chickens took my mind off the situation. Enjoying the country with activities such as pumpkin bowling, corn cannons, whip cracking lessons, pig races, tractor rides, green tomato sling-shooting, corn mazes and country western shows made for a great family outing.

Overall things seemed to be on point with no kid craziness or whining. We had just the right amount of snacks and prizes to avoid any meltdowns and then I overheard something that made this outing to The Country even better.

Jason Bourne.

Yeah. Matt Damon himself was somewhere on this ginormous farm. So, in the middle of our search for The Great Pumpkin I was also on the lookout for Matt Damon. Now I don’t’ really get star struck too often, but there are a select few … Robert De Niro, Al Pacino, Charlie Hunnam (a.k.a. Jax Teller), Jack Nicholson, Robert Redford, Tom Hanks, Meryl Streep, Julia Roberts, Leonardo DeCaprio, Oprah, Jon Stewart, and JACK BAUER.

If I were to ever see those at the beach or in this case at The Farm, they would freak my freak. And these are just actors I haven’t even mentioned rock stars like my man Bruce.

These are the kinds of people that I would probably go up to apologetically (sorry for invading your personal space on this awesome family outing but I am a huuuuuuuge fan and I think you’re amaaaaaaaazing I just had to stop by and say that and shake your hand) be a fan for a minute, and then go about my business.

Matt Damon happens to be on this actors’ list and I would have totally approached him had I gotten the chance. And as I understood it Cristina Aguilera was also on the premises but my entire focus was more on Matt Damon, if I happen to run into her, that would have been cool, but I don’t think I would have stopped. I was on a mission. I was in search of Jason Bourne and pumpkins. I was ready to get my freak … freaked!

However, during this five-hour field trip I didn’t see him. But we did manage to have fun even without seeing Matt Damon. My kids won four pumpkins, which was a Guat record. So there were high-fives all around. And then I did run into a friend, which was pretty random, seeing how there were hundreds of people on this ginormous farm. We said our hello hugs and I was happy to see her … then I found out about her corn maze adventure being pretty awesome. Not just because she got to the end and climbed the elusive finish line pyramid, but because she saw him.

She happened to run into Jason Bourne in the corn maze.

Me?

No Bourne. Just the finish line pyramid and a total of six pumpkins.

Still a pretty successful outing.

 

 

 

 

America Ninja Warriors On The Playground

17 Sep

Feeling inspired by all the American Ninja Warrior madness, I decided to take my kids out for Worldwide Day of Play! Not that the Guats needed an official excuse to go outdoors, but having a Day of Play celebrated across all Nickelodeon Channels … well that just had Playground America Ninja Warrior written all over it.

I can’t tell you how inspired and addicted my kids are to that show. I feel grateful that they get pumped up after watching stuff like the Olympics, Spartan Races and America Ninja Warrior. As they watch, they’re leaping, running, climbing, and stretching across their kid-made pillow infused obstacle course in the living room. I like that they feel like they can come out in their own Gatordae commercial and that they push each other through these imaginary obstacles and time limits.

I used to wonder what kind of kids I would have when they were still in diapers. Whether they would be avid sports fans and enjoy the Saturday college football rituals, volleyball at the beach, 5K mini runs, Olympic TV watching marathons, or catching a game at the stadium. I was hoping they would be, but you never know.

So when they cheered on athletes during the Olympics that made me smile, when they root for the Kings on the ice it feels good, when they  raise their arms in the air and scream as our team scores a touchdown it warms my heart, but when they created their own obstacle racing adventures on the playground and crowned themselves champions because they  conquered Mount Midoriyama I was high-fiving them all day. When they fell off the course and splashed in the imaginary pool, I enjoyed hearing their post interview, explaining what they think went wrong and how they were going “to try harder next year”. However I will say that the monkey bars still leave me with tiny calluses … My badges of honor.

So … regardless of whether we had an invitation, The Guats celebrated Worldwide Day of Play the America Ninja Warrior way. Hope you guys got out too.

 

 

Memories, Monster Mutt, and Duct Tape

5 Sep IMG_5779

“You’re making some great childhood memories.”

That’s what someone told me, when I mentioned our recent Guat Adventure. I wasn’t purposely trying to make memories, I was just trying to have a good time and do something with my kids. The fact that someone saw it that way made me smile, because maybe when my kids look back on their childhood, they’ll remember our trips to the beach every weekend during the summer, our Staycations, book festivals, adventure races and this …

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Our annual cardboard yacht regatta that often reminds me of my own childhood wish to build something and enter a wacky race. Maybe they will look back at growing up with me and it will make them smile.

We came off of this year’s race victorious, beating Minecraft and a Piece of Cherry Pie. We won our heat and it felt awesome to get to the finish line without tipping over. Many boats didn’t seem to make it to the half way point. But we built a seaworthy vessel and it wouldn’t have been possible without duct tape, and multiple trips to our neighborhood Do It Yourself Center. But not just any duct tape … Gorilla Duct Tape … It’s pretty powerful stuff … 9 rolls … had to be right?

I liked the fact that with a little bit of imagination, and a lot of patience and duct tape we turned a measly cardboard box into something pretty awesome. Last year my son decided on Optimist Prime, this year my daughter decided to choose one of her favorites …

 

Monster Mutt Monster Truck.

And just like last year, every part of the process was fun, from the duct tape, to the coloring, to the anticipation of the race, to the spectators judging your boat, to the actual race. Every part of the journey was felt and enjoyed. Those memories were happening and I had no idea because we were just in the moment.

Just like every one else I imagine …

 

 

Memories, Monster Mutt, and duct tape. They made for a great weekend, hopefully one that they’ll want to put away in one of those memory mason jars I keep talking about.

 

 

Buen Camino my friends …

 

 

Starting This Year on a Good Note … The Justin Timberlake Kind

24 Aug

And so it begins …

 

Another year of firsts …

The older kids playground and then entering kindergarten. Two kids, two sets of Ticonderoga No.2 adventures and I felt both excited and little anxious about this new season. As you all know last year’s academic year with Miss Viola Swamp was a challenging one filled with bite-your-tongue-and-pick-your-battle moments so we’ll see how this year pans out. New teachers, new experiences but I’m not so much worried about teachers this time around as something different came up.

Not a bad concern, just a parenthood observation.

As a parent you know they’re getting older because their pants and shirts and socks don’t fit them quite right anymore, getting a little snug. So you make a trip to Target. You notice their little faces and the expressions are still the same, but they’re not so little anymore.

And you realize the season is about to change. Granted it’s not a giant step into middle school, high school, or college and you’re not balling your eyes out, but it’s still a step ahead and you pause because you’re actually feeling it. You’re feeling the step and the growth right in front out you. Not in a slow motion, but just right in front you and you caught it. The kind of moment you want to save in those mason jars.

Pride and smiles because they seem to be on the good path. You’ve done a good job … so far. They know when to act crazy silly and when it’s serious Crayola Crayon time. So as always, first day of school love-you-you-can-conquer-the-world-notes in their Star Wars and Minions lunchboxes and a great feel good song to start the day, the kind that rocks you into a good mood and good grove. Ready for anything that third grade and kindergarten can throw your way. Starting this year on a good note …

 

The Justin Timberlake kind. It was a unanimous decision, we’ve been listening to it all week. Buen Camino my friends.

 

 

 

Discover Challenge: Shared Journeys

1 Aug
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🙂

 

 

 

 

 

Discover Challenge via The Daily Post

 

Extra Cherries …

16 Jul

It never gets any easier, people say it does. But it doesn’t. It hurts just as much today as it did six years ago and you just have to live with it.

It’s been six years since my Dad passed away and it’s always a tough week as I celebrate my daughter’s birthday one day and remember my Dad’s passing the next. I try to celebrate his life instead of agonizing about his death and why he got sick, but I end up just missing his presence everywhere I go that day.

In smelling his last bottle of cologne he left on the bathroom counter, or hearing the few messages he left on the answering machine, I still feel a sense of closeness. But most of the connection I get is from the stories and adventures we had together.

Like when I used to visit him at work back in my elementary and junior high school days. I’d have to sit in a booth, or at the counter while he was picking up his check or something. He worked two jobs a lot of the time. This one seemed more fun to me since I was able to eat all the cherries I wanted.

I’d wait for him, checking out the tiki torch lamps, totem polls,  the pink, green, and yellow drink umbrellas hanging out by the green olives, and the rest of the Hawaiian decor that filled the dimly lit room.

 

 

Their specialty was the the Hawaiian-style spare ribs, which were pretty awesome but not my favorite.

I’d sit down and look at the menu pretending I was a customer. I’d say hi to the manager and everyone setting up, and he’d ask me … “You want something to drink? A Shirley Temple?”

I’d smile.

“Yeah,” I’d say.

He’d smile and then walk behind the bar to fix it up. It’s a simple drink really, but I’d always thought it was super special concoction he had created just for me. He’d bring it out in a tall glass, with an umbrella. He’d put a small napkin on the counter, place my drink on it, and then tap the counter.

I’d smile when I saw it.

Extra cherries.

He’d always put extra cherries in it. We’d talk for a minute while I sipped my drink, and most of the conversations escape me at the moment. I don’t remember whether we talked about my day, his day, or if I needed money for sneakers. I don’t remember if he gave me any advice or if we cracked jokes, but we must have because it feels that way.

But the one thing I do remember were all the Shirley Temples and Roy Rogers I shared with him.I remembered the Hawaiian shirts he had to wear as part of his uniform and how he hated them years later, how he never wore a Hawaiian shirt ever again. Even when we went to Hawaii. He said he had worn enough of those to last him a lifetime. I thought they were cool though, I still have one of his in my closet.

We’d sit at the counter or in the booth and it felt cool just to hang out with my Dad for a minute.

When I finished my drink and we had to be on our way, he’d ask if I wanted another.

I’d smile because I knew extra cherries were part of the deal.

That was my Dad, he was an extra cherries kind of guy, and these were the things I thought about all day, and a sadness and hurt filled up my heart that night because he was gone and things would have been so different if he were still here, and my kids missed out on getting to know their grandpa.

But I guess that would mean that I would have to be the extra cherries kind of person in their life.

My Dad was great at it. Me? I’m working on it.

Buen Camino …

 

 

The Sandlot Moment, Fireworks, and Gas In The Tank

5 Jul

Sometimes it’s about the fireworks, about checking them out, about being able to see great ones, about being wowed, about barbecues and pie.

Most of the time it’s about getting together.

We forget about George Washington and those other cats and all the drama they went through, unless we’ve been watching TURN on AMC. Then you think about the significance of the 4th weekly. But for the most part you catch glimpses of it in between the hot dogs, carne asada, and the Yankee Doodle Dandy song while the fireworks explode into the night.

That’s what I caught — a couple of good Sandlot moments throughout the day. Sandlot. I love that movie.

We caught a baseball game last night and managed to eat overpriced hot dogs and popcorn with our lemonades and enjoy our home team beat The Orioles 7-5.  And we’d been to baseball games before but it was the first night both kids had seen fireworks on the baseball field. We’d seen fireworks before but nothing with Ray Charles singing O’ Beautiful in the background.

And while I was sitting there next to my kids I felt grateful. A sense of gratitude just covered me up like a blanket, being there at peace. Even with all the everyday drama and weekly failures that life brings me, breaking me down at times, wallowing in pints of Ben & Jerry’s or raging in frustration at my punching bag, right there and then, I was grateful for that moment. Grateful that I was able to have the freedom to hang out with my kids, at a ballpark, watch a baseball game, and enjoy fireworks. Simple stuff, I guess. I felt like I was having a small-town moment.  It was a Sandlot moment, actually.

And I tried to breathe it in. If I had a mason jar I would have tried to capture it and hold onto to it for a while, you know for the days where you can’t find anything to be grateful for. I would have held onto that one for sure.

 

 

And I was sitting there in parking lot traffic after the game, just trying to get out onto the freeway, the craziness of the scene didn’t bother me. Most drivers were honking, frustrated, and angry – building up road rage. 38 minutes will do that to you.  I was just sitting there listening to John Cougar Mellencamp, The Go-Go’s and the rest of the 80s lineup, thinking about my Sandlot moment. I had no worries … the kids were asleep, no one had to go to the bathroom, and I had gas in the tank.

Introducing Me To Clint Eastwood

18 Jun

On quiet nights like this I miss seeing his briefcase by the door, his white butcher coat and shirt laying on the armrest, and the smell of the coffeemaker percolating the night’s brew. Night time coffee and HBO on a Saturday night. That was him.

Tonight it’s quiet, no briefcase, no white coat, no baseball caps, no coffee percolating and no HBO talk. Just me and some laundry.

I passed by the CVS the other day and saw all the Star Wars Father’s Day cards, I saw the funny ones with pets, the ones with fishing poles, golf clubs, and cartoons. I still read them, but it hurt. It hurts to buy cards he’s not going to read or keep in his briefcase. It hurts missing out on conversations about life and Father’s Day dinners.

dad over me fathers day

At times like this when breathing becomes hard because you miss someone so much, I find comfort in storytelling. Story remembering, really. I try to write as much as I can now so that my kids will be able to see how I saw my father and how I felt. So that my kids will know their grandfather had a good heart, that he had problems too, but that he tried. He tried and he kept his heart in tact during the process.

He suffered the loss of his Dad too, just when he was 10, and his life couldn’t have been easy, but he tried his best. He battled depression during my youth and adulthood, and often felt like giving up, but he still tried.

Adventures. Staycations. HBO marathons. Superbowl games. Boxing matches. Supermarket trips. Baskin-Robbins outings. Movie discussions. Costco adventures. Theater excursions. Joke telling stories. And talks. Lots of talks.

Sometimes the missing out is the worst part … my kids missing out on him, missing out on creating their own adventures with grandpa. So I’m hoping the storytelling will create a good picture. I’m hoping they’ll get to know him through my stories and through their grandpa’s adventurous and humorous spirit that lives inside of them.

He liked Westerns. He liked Clint Eastwood. So I found it interesting that Clint would be on TV the night before Father’s Day.

I found it comforting to know that I was watching one of his favorites, while folding laundry in the night time quiet. I figured he might be having a cup of coffee. Black. Two sugars. And remembering stories about me, remembering my dreams, remembering my laugh, remembering all the Father’s Day cards in his Samsonite briefcase, remembering how he introduced me to Clint Eastwood.

Clint Eastwood … he turned out to be all right.

Happy Father’s Day …