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Nature’s Perspective

9 Jan

It just felt like the right place to start something, to catapult the new year. Not a huge dynamic turn of events, but a small shift that helped steer things in a new direction for positive change.

The Great Outdoors brings on a surge of rejuvenation and hope and so I thought climbing the tippiest of the top would be an inspiring goal for our little family. We are usually beach people and head to the warm sand and big waves with our boogie boards. We love how the ocean makes us new again.

But we tried something a little different this time.

We explored a different part of nature. It’s nothing we haven’t done before, we’ve been hiking. It’s just a new mountain and a new path.

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I thought it would be best to tackle something with a beautiful view and we could still see the ocean if the air was clear enough. It wasn’t the most excruciating uphill battle but it wasn’t easy either. Still a challenge for my little ones, but they were up for it. I was proud that they made it to the top. Not many kids enjoy climbing long windy roads, but they felt like reaching their goal was an important way to start 2019. They pushed themselves and raced the last 20 yards.

The view put things in perspective … there’s always something out there bigger than yourself, and it’s calming when you’re that far away. You see the beautiful that you can’t focus on when you’re up close.

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I’m not an avid hiker, but I enjoyed this adventure. Being out there and knowing we were starting the new year together felt good. Something to think about and smile when they got older … remember the time we hiked to the sign with mom? I’d like to think they’d call each other when they’re older and talk about it. It was easy hanging out with them. No pressure. No rushing. No arguing. Just hanging out, admiring the view, and appreciating the company.  The calm in-between conversations was a reassuring silence.

Everyone was out there that day, from big group of tourists, to a few friends, to couples, and dog lovers. We all had the same idea for this new 2019 beginning. Perspective from the tippy top to help our own state of mind. Nature is powerful in that way.

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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!

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!

 

 

Jar of Awesome Memories, Wacky Races, And Feeling Good … Cartoon-Good

31 Aug

It’s something I look back on and smile because there was so much laughing.

Now granted, there were multiple setbacks leading up to this adventure, which included missing cardboard pieces, multiple duct tape purchases, and the awesome Megalodon shirts I bought for this event getting trapped in my Whirlpool Washer and never being worn. Incidentally, the Sears Repair person has not shown up yet. He missed the appointment and rescheduled days later. My clothes will have been in the washer for 10 days, marinating in water that probably smells like mold, and Sebastian from Sears did nothing to help rectify the situation. I’ve come to the conclusion that Sebastian from Sears sucks. Big time.

But I digress …

Through all the crappy obstacles, the day was rescued by the shark hats we found at Party City. We may not have had the cool shirts, but we were rocking the The Great Whites and Blue Fin Foam Hats.

We brought our feel-good vibe to this event. It was a must! Our fifth year at the cardboard yacht regatta and we needed to show up the only way we knew how, with energy and team spirit.

We were so proud of our shark and Jaws music background:)

You know, I like the fact that it’s become our tradition. I stumbled upon this cool event and as a kid I’d always wanted to participate in a race like this, but there wasn’t anything like this when I was growing up, or at least no where near my neighborhood. So I just woke up in the mornings and watched Hanna Barbara Wacky Races Cartoons and dreamed of one day doing something fun like that. And now I have … five times. Five times with the people I love the most. It felt just as good as I thought it would. I felt cartoon-good.

I’m glad to have discovered this bucket list adventure and that five years later, we’re still going on strong.  This year, the kids, inspired by Shark Week, decided on a Megalodon boat and so I did my best to make it work.

Cardboard, imagination, and the amazing powers of Gorilla Duct Tape. I can’t begin to tell you how amazing this stuff is, but if you’re ever in need to keep something secure and unsinkable. Gorilla Duct Tape is a must!

We stayed afloat, and as I paddled with great vigor and speed, the boat on our right lost control and pushed us into the other lane, but even though it messed us up we kept going. My son did his best as did I, but we came up short. And that was all right, because we smiled and laughed until the end. Winning is fantastic. Flipping over and sinking is memorable. Paddling to the finish line with your son and cracking up as you do it, definitely an Awesome Jar moment.

I mean even though we lost in the end, we enjoyed every minute of it, and I don’t like losing. Neither of us do. But we were o.k. about. We had won the year before and the year before that so we knew how that felt, so losing wasn’t something that burned. The fact that we did it, is what mattered. The building, the taping, the measuring, the mingling with other boat builders during the viewing session, voting on your favorites, and participating in the race itself. All of that is what mattered. We were enjoying the moment. We were in it and that felt good.

My favorite spicy boat

This little piggy surprised everyone and survived multiple races

The winner of fanciest boat. I loved the yellow submarine

Some people worked to the very end. This one was super creative, engineering A+

It was something cool to do with the kids and they always enjoy it. I hope it’s an adventure they’ll remember years from now when they’re older and think back about their childhood and say … ‘remember the times we did the cardboard boat races … maaaaaaaan that was fun … we had fun with mom.’

I hope they feel cartoon-good.

Buen Camino, my friends.

Celebrating With Napoleon-Dynamite-Soul-Train-Solid-Gold Dances on Cloudy Days

15 Jul

So I stood there with my chocolate cupcake and chocolate frosting stopping time. Thinking about a day filed with tropical fish, jelly fish, penguins and sharks thinking about the seven years this amazing person has been in my life, mixed in with the eight-year anniversary of an awesome person leaving.

My daughter’s 7th birthday and my Dad’s passing.

It’s not a fun thing to feel a twinge of sadness on a day marked for happiness. It helped to remember that he liked to celebrate life on birthdays. My Dad enjoyed the sweetness of chocolate cake and frosting. He battled depression, but enjoyed laughing and feeling good. He didn’t like sadness and wanted to feel good, so he did what he could to make that happen. And that hard. He had his ups and downs, but he tried and succeeded on most days. Any chance at smiling he took it.

And so … on my daughter’s 7th birthday I did just that.

Any chance for smile and I took it.

Turning seven … that was something to smile about. The adventures of this little Ninja Warrior take me beyond smiles and go deep into laughter. She’s been the Rainbow Brite of my life during cloudy days.

On the last day of being six she mastered the blue and green water slides at the pool and cannon-balled her way to the 4 1/2 feet section of the pool.

“You don’t need to catch me,” she says.

On the last day of being six I didn’t catch her. But on the first day of being seven, I gave her the squishiest hug and the funkiest dance as we listened to the Beatles sing Today is Your Birthday.

I celebrated her contagious laughter and her impromptu Napoleon-Dynamite-Soul-Train-Solid-Gold Dancer caliber happy dances after something good happens to her. I celebrated the awesome softball player she grew into. I celebrated the love she has for art, painting, drawing, coloring, and anything in the Bob Ross world. I celebrated her love for Multi-Grain Cheerios as her favorite breakfast meal, Mortadella and Salami sandwiches as her favorite snack, and black beans any time of day. I celebrate her enjoyment of baking cakes, cookies, and cupcakes, and laugh when she doesn’t want to eat them and just taste the frosting. I celebrated her adventurous spirit and willingness to give any kind of rollercoaster a try, as long as she meets the height requirement. I celebrated her love for hugs, that part I think was passed down to her from my Dad. I celebrated her love for the If You Give A Mouse a Cookie series of books and TV show. I celebrated her for being a caring sister who loves her brother so much that sometimes she bursts his personal space bubble. I celebrate her for being smart, strong, and sensitive at the same time. I celebrated her love for penguins at the aquarium and her first time touching baby sharks.

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We celebrated turning seven with a Napoleon-Dynamite-Soul-Train-Solid-Gold Dancer caliber happy dance and that made any twinge of sadness disappear. I laughed and felt joy and I knew if my Dad was watching that day he would be cracking up too and feeling joy. His spirit still lives in me and in his granddaughter.

 

Buen Camino my friends!

 

 

 

 

Alternate Universes with The Wire on Father’s Day

17 Jun

I haven’t been able to perfect the superpower of fending off jackasses with magic bracelets or a golden lasso. I’m not on the Wonder Woman level yet.

But I get plenty of practice without asking.

I knew Father’s Day was going to be hard, but it was a rough one today. On all levels from the early morning, until the moment I started typing this post. It’s been a day I wish would end. And the sad thing is I actually practiced some positive thinking and positive vibes this morning, but the universe sent me different energy.

Apparently I needed to brush up on those superhero skills. But instead all I felt was anger, frustration, and emotional exhaustion.

Random strangers being complete jackasses at the cemetery, the cemetery of all places! I thought at the very least since we’re all grieving people would respect the sanctity of the cemetery. But instead it ended up in a cage match battle of words with a no-holds-barred level of intensity and aggression. Then on top of that, people close to you just say the ugliest things that bring you down, knowing full well that this is a tough day.  I mean it’s no wonder we’re distant, friendship suffering and all. The toxic level is so high that I just can’t go through that again and I’m on the verge of just giving up on them.

All this negative energy and nastiness leaves me feeling teary-eyed about all the ugliness I went through today. I mean, I’m too old for this crap.

And of course, the worst part … it’s Father’s Day and I know that my day would have been completely different if my pops were here. I know it. I’m stuck in an alternate universe and have to keep figuring out how this ride is gonna end up without him here. I guess it’s the unfinished life and all the missed opportunities that really bother me. That feeling always increases on holidays like this.

In an effort to keep him around this week, I had a Season I and Season II binge-watching session of The Wire just to remember  what it was like hanging out with him, his commentary on Omar, McNulty, and Lester. I still think about him often, but days like this, my thoughts are extra heavy. You see about eight years ago on Father’s Day was the last time we spoke. I mean I talked to him every day in the hospital when I was on night shift, but Father’s Day was the last time we had a conversation.

It wasn’t a life talk, or lessons he had yet to teach me, or anything like that. It was about how he was feeling. And about The World Cup, that’s something that really had him excited. His prediction and his favorite teams. He had me record some games, so he could catch up when he got out. It was a to-be-continued conversation, really. Not a good-bye, more like a see you later. You see I didn’t think he was gonna die, I just didn’t. Not my Dad. But he did. So I was left with about a month-long of one-sided late-night conversations. Him listening to me, but not being able to respond. Those were the heartfelt life talks, for sure. So much was said, and I was glad I said it. And the thing is, I never wondered whether or not he heard me, I knew he heard me as I held his hand night after night.

And so I find it so difficult to get passed these days without him by side. I have no regrets because I told him everything I needed to, but I definitely wish he was still here. I wouldn’t need superhero power training and all, to fend off bad guys at the cemetery if he were around.

But he’s not.

So I keep things that he enjoyed close by and I hear his voice when I can … and so now I’m off to dreamland to dream a dream I hope he is in. Maybe we’re having a cup of coffee and talking about life, me drinking tea of course, him with his coffee, black two sugars. Or maybe we’re just watching the The Wire. I’ll let you know how it pans out.

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Happy Father’s Day everyone.

Buen Camino …

 

 

 

Hugs and Moments of Silence

10 Jun

He never knew who Michael Jordan was, but learned more about him this week.

You see, my son had to once again learn a life lesson, but this time it came through the world of sports.

Now not everyone is a superstar, but everyone has something to bring to the table. Some are offense, some defense. Everyone thrives in a different environment. But hearts can be broken no matter what side of the ball you’re on.

He loves hockey and baseball, and does really well in both. In fact, he often practices during the off-season, and while the big selection process took place this week, he’d been practicing his drills, skating, and watching videos online.

He was ready. He felt ready. He took the ice, just like Andre Agassi would take the court. A monster on defense. Now as a parent, I know many inflate their kids’ achievements and spread it on pretty thick. However, I know my kid. I know he’s not Wayne Gretzky  … he’s still a work in progress. But he falls in the upper levels of the spectrum there. So when he was not selected to the top shelf team and was chosen for what was considered the JV Squad, it was a serious burn. His spirit deflated, and his confidence crushed. He had worked so hard.

It was difficult to watch  …

I had to step up my parent game. This was when I needed my cape and superpowers in tact.

Keeping your head up when disappointment punches you in the stomach is hard. I’ve felt it plenty of times in life, so I knew what he was going through. I put my arm around his shoulder and we just sat there for a minute.

I had to bust out my best Friday Night Lights Coach Taylor Speech. But I waited until we  left.

I’m proud of you. I think you gave it everything you had and I saw it. Your old coach saw it. You saw it yourself. You walked off the ice knowing you had no regrets. And that’s how it should always be no matter what. You’re  a good hockey player.  And you’re an even more amazing person. Sometimes we just have to work a little harder because people don’t see what we see. They missed it. You know who Michael Jordan is, right? …”

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Everyone had this amazing picture made into a poster up on their wall … I was still  Magic Johnson fan. Always. But for the purposes of this story I needed Jordan.

 

We sat on the bench, outside the pizza place, for a little while longer. He listened to Jordan’s origin story, and how when he was a kid he got cut from the team. He wasn’t even picked. But that didn’t stop him from making a monster comeback. He knew they had missed it.

There wasn’t much to say after that. Sometimes as a parent, I’ve learned that hugging works well during moments of silence.

Buen Camino my friends …

What Matters Most

16 May

I’m not gonna lie … While everyone smiled and said things were good or great with enthusiasm and shared happy faces on social media, it was just all right for me.

Not a 24-hour marathon of spectacular. But I did have moments, and at the end of the day, when other people had tried to bring me down during the day, or made backhanded comments, or strangers were just rude, irritating, or projecting their negative attitude onto me, I still was able to remember those feel-good moments.

I settled in for the night and realized it wasn’t really a failure of a day, if I had moments like these.

You see most Mother’s Days are supposed to be stress free. They’re the one day you’re not supposed to do stuff. No dishes. No chores. No stress. All day something good, to know … Hey … I know what you do is hard and you’re appreciated. And at the end of the day when I found the cool side of my pillow, I realized the most important people in my life gave me moments like that, so it didn’t matter what other people said or did. My kids gave me something genuine and I stopped long enough to realize it, and that felt good.

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In the midst of things not falling into place this weekend and it not being a Facebook worthy adventure (even though I don’t post anything on there to begin with) I was grateful for the bowl of awesome Honey Nut Cheerios that was fixed up for me by my Nick Jr. Squad here. I was thankful for the cards created out of paper and crayon, written in their best fourth and first-grade writing. I was happy to see the ceramic purple and turquoise uneven masterpieces that melted my heart. I was glad it stopped sprinkling and the sun came out just as we got to the baseball field, just in time to enjoy Plan B and watch the players take the field.

These were the moments that I thought about at night. They might have seemed small to other people but turned out to be Big Time for me. I hope moms out there were able to find something in their day to hold onto, even if it was just one thing. It’s hard to find it sometimes, especially when you’re surrounded by everyone’s spectacular, amazing adventures caught online.

But don’t worry about what you see out there, sometimes, not all the time, but sometimes it’s just for show. It’s all flash and no substance. Thinking about what you’re grateful for and finding the moments that made you smile or pause throughout the day will be what fills you up. It will be what matters most, and what you remember.

So Buen Camino my friends! I hope all the moms out there had a good weekend.