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Monday Moments … Duct Tape Adventures

6 Sep

I don’t have many of these opportunities left.

I remember the veteran parents letting me know, it’s gonna be quick. Happen in a blink. Before you know it they’re gonna be going to college.  At times it didn’t feel quick. The long days when I was struggling by myself, sometimes I got help, other times I did most of the heavy lifting. So it didn’t seem to be going quickly. The tough days lasted so long and the fun happy ones seem to be so short.

Perspective was difficult to find until I was able to slow days down with gratitude and find pockets of time that stood still throughout the day.

Now I feel it slipping bit by bit again. I still got a ways to go until the empty nest days, I know I’ll be a wreck, but I got time. And until then, I try my very best to have patience, but whenever I ask for the ability to have more, it just backfires and I get situations where I lose it and frustrations bubble over the top. There’s no patience. Zero.

And then I feel bad.

I breathe. 

I hit reset.

And start over again.

I realized I need to stop asking for more patience, because all that gives me are situations that require more patience than already have in the tank. The universe gives me situations, not patience itself. Instead of giving me more I’m just overwhelmed. So now I ask for other things.

Times that I can remember when I’m older and having my kids remember good times when they look back. I hope for that, for them to look back and remember the Kodak moments with smiles and feel good vibes. Good-Time-Noodle-Salad moments.

That brings me to our Duct Tape Adventures. Ever since I found out about it, I got the kids jazzed up about the cardboard boat race and went all out. Every year since my son was six, we’ve ventured into the chlorine-filled pool and done our best to splash our way home in the Hannah Barbara Wacky Races inspired adventure. I always enjoyed those races and the personalities of each car as it zig-zagged its way toward the finish line hoping to be first. These are some of the times I hope they enjoy and remember when they got gray hair.

It takes one to two weeks to build and create a floating vessel of some kind, where I do most of the building and they put in the details or add some rows of tape. Each year the kids alternate and get to choose what the theme for our boat will be, and they look forward to the big day. The excitement of the race, will we finish first or last, what other boats will be there, what will people create, which boats will float and which ones will sink.  The day is something we all look forward too.

After a year of hiatus, you know, because the pandemic was attacking Earth, we were able to come back. Vaccinated and masked up people created and participated, and I was able to bring some Wacky Races fun back into our household. Thank you duct tape.  I was a little worried as my son, who is a lot older now had that competitive edge driving him forward, while my daughter just wanted make it to the finish line without flipping over and having to swim across, dragging the boat to the end. I had to remind my son that this day was about fun, about enjoying the moment and not getting burned out if his sister wasn’t an Olympic caliber member of the crew team. I also had to remind my daughter that she had to work as a team with her brother and that competition is part of the fun.

Balance. They both just needed to see the other side. 

In the end they both enjoyed the day of sunshine, with smiles, splashing, intense rowing, cheering, and hugs as they won their consolation bracket. High-fives all round as the boat remained one of the last ones still afloat.

Gorilla Duct Tape … You. Are. Awesome.

Sunday Morning … Remembering Your Pops…

20 Jun

Most of the time he would not take the day off. My dad used to work seven days a week for months on end. Then years later he realized that was bad for his health.

Workaholic. Part of the working-class mentality is having that drive, that work ethic to do the hard labor, to show up and take pride in what you do, and provide for your family.

But every once in a while he’d take a vacation though. Day trip, road trip here and there. Take a plane to Guate to visit his mom. He’d call her all the time but didn’t make a regular yearly trip to see her until I was in college. After years and years of hard work he learned that taking a day off was good for his mental well-being.

Monday’s and holidays. Those were his days off, the days he’d sleep in, maybe go to the driving range and hit a few. Go to the movies with my cousin, call to hang out with me, visit my uncle at the cemetery. Eat fried fish at the Marisco place down the street, the one that unfortunately is no longer there. I think the owner sold it a few years back and now it’s just something called a bistro, and the last time I heard of one of those was when Jack Tripper opened up one of his own after working at Angelino’s.

He’d still work on Sunday’s though, even if it was Father’s Day. So if I wasn’t working, I’d make the drive just to hang for a bit at the shop. Told him I’d buy him a cup of coffee. Talk about life. He’d laugh at the thought of his daughter talking about life over a cup of coffee, seeing how I did t drink coffee. But I’d do it anyway.

I’d tell him I’d see him later for dinner, which usually involved a steak, sometimes Italian food, but most of the time steak followed by Lakers game, Dodgers game or HBO.

Today’s the day to think of that. To think about the conversations I had but can’t quite remember, but knew I had them. Time to remember his smile and the feeling of hanging out, to remember his laughter, the smell of his musk aftershave, white collared shirts, and butcher’s coat. Time to remember the times he didn’t wear white, like when we used to go to plays and talk during the intermission, to remember the hard times and the good times, because there were both. Time to remember that 11 years ago, Father’s Day was the last time I had a conversation with my friend in a hospital room, that last time he’d talk back. I remember leaving the television on and telling the nurses not to change the channel because the World Cup was on and he loved watching it. He might not have been able to see it, but maybe he’d be able to hear the famous GOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOL! GOOOOOOOOOL QUE GOLAZO!

Most definitely.

It’s the day to celebrate and remember your dads. The ones that you were born with, the ones that saw you in diapers, and the ones who acted like your dad, encouraged you and supported you even if you weren’t related, they were still family. To brothers and uncles that had your back, to teachers and coaches that helped you when you needed it.

It’s tough being a good dad. Pressures weigh heavily on the shoulders of a family man, and not everyone is strong enough to fill that role. Not everyone can handle that. Now with raising my own family, I realize that. So it’s important to highlight the ones that do. To the ones that pay the bills and show up to soccer practice, and basketball games before beer with the guys, to the ones that are there for Saturday morning cartoons, even if they’re just sleeping next to you on the couch, to the ones who read The Very Hungry Caterpillar and other bedtime stories, to the ones who teach you how to drive and change a flat tire, to the MacGyver’s and the remote control masters who cross wires and eventually fix the DVD-VCR-Cable connection, to the ones that high-five you when you succeed or pat you on the back when you don’t, to the ones who snore so loud they can inhale the wallpaper if you had any, to the ones that tell you to chase your dreams, to the ones who have a cup of coffee with their daughter and talk about life … today’s your day.

Happy Father’s Day

Buen Camino …

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Feel Sort of Good Friday … 5

29 Jan

Even though I’m baking a cake tomorrow I’m still heading to the pie place.

It’s got one of those rectangle signs that spins, looks like a vintage diner now, but would be rocking it during the bell-bottom era. A coffee place where Flo probably worked the counter.

I made a promise … but never got a chance to keep it. We’ll have a piece of pie, coffee and pie, and talk about life.

I found out they got 24 kinds of pies.

I’ll have some trouble choosing just one. I’m sure I’ll know it when I see it.

We were supposed to try some, but he never made it out of the hospital. So even though I’ll be making a special birthday cake, I’ll start with a slice of pie to celebrate what would have been his 73rd birthday, because I made a promise. And that’s the kind of stuff you remember, the little things that don’t seem so little now.

73.

That’s a pretty hefty number. The kind that comes with wisdom and life. I imagine the Big 7-0 comes with that too. You get to a point where you don’t care and you live your life with the lessons that got you there. Plus coffee. I imagine he’d be retired, or work less by now. He’d probably have more baseball caps.

73.

I get stuck between being sad and celebrating his life. I imagine it hits a lot of people like that, you miss your friend, but you’re glad he’s not in pain because of a stupid random disease. Celebrating life … I remember his aftershave, still have his last bottle. It’s small, made of glass, with white letters spread across the front. It’s got only about a quarter left. The orange liquid swirls as I pick it up and hold it to the light. The musky smell reminds me of his morning shaves with his blue Gillette razors. Don’t remember him cutting himself shaving, but I imagine he did. All guys do, at least once. But I never saw him with toilet paper on his face, trying to stop the bleeding. Come out fresh. Style his hair with mousse and a black comb, the kind you’d get a barber shop.

He’d walk down the stairs and struggle to put his shoes on, to which I’d say, c’mon ol’ man, to which now I completely understand considering my back injuries and how really difficult putting shoes on is when your body doesn’t fully cooperate. White collared shirt. White pants. Black shoes. Baseball cap. Samsonite briefcase. And two Parker Pens in his front shirt pocket. I need to get me some Parker Pens.

Breakfast?

Sometimes.

Running late. Sometimes not enough time for eggs, scrambled or sunny side up. Not enough time for black beans. For bagels and cream cheese. For oatmeal with raisins. For coffee. But never cereal.

He’d say bye and drive off in his truck. For a long time it was a gray Nissan pickup … stick-shift. Not many people know how to drive one of those now, I’m glad to say I learned, I messed up his clutch a couple of times, but eventually I got the hang of it and shifting between first and second got easier. He’d listen to jazz on the way to work and never honk his horn at the jerk that cut him off. He’d just shrug his shoulders and keep going.

Even after he left the house, the smell of his after shave filled up the space.

Daily routines of the working class man. Morning routines.

I see them at night when I’m sleeping and in the morning when I’m putting on my own shoes.

I try to fill my kids with stories about Papa and little details, like baseball hats and musk aftershave, like trouble putting on shoes because of his back, his laughter after one of my bad jokes because I didn’t want to get out of bed. These morning routine details stand out most. The details matter more, when you’re trying to remember someone. They help fill the picture with the missing pieces. So I paint the landscape of my dad’s life, with attention to the detail so they can really see him up close. They help me remember too. Celebrating his life, his moments. Got to hold on, to even the simplest of things … like a promise for pie.

So birthday cake and pie.

Buen Camino my friends …

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Miles Davis — Freddie Freeloader

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Happy Birthday Donald Duck

Juan Gabriel — Buenos Dias Senor Sol

Mavis Staples — The Weight

Vince Guaraldi Trio — Linus and Lucy

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Feel Good 5 Friday …

4 Dec

Sometimes you say the truth and it’s too strong for people. You make a mental note and then remember the next time around. Some people enjoy telling you like it is, but don’t enjoy it when you return the favor. The opinion they’ve asked for is no longer welcome.

You know anyone like that?

It can be emotionally and mentally exhausting dealing with that in your life. No matter how many times you let the words slide off your back some of them scrape your skin on the way down and leave a mark. Building strength to deal with that when you’re trying to avoid it is tough. Deep breaths don’t always come to mind but getting away, taking a walk, and turning your phone off, that’s something. That’s a moment that can build.

During a recent escape I found myself trying to think of a happier place. After the run, I remembered multiple flashbacks when the kids were younger. I shifted my attention and emptied the space this frustration was taking up and filled it with these memories of toy cars, bubbles, Crayola squiggly art, squishy hugs and tiny hands.

I sighed because the peoples were right.

I blinked and now they’re much bigger.

But it didn’t feel like a blink though. I felt some of those days. They were long and I was grateful when the moon came out. I got the gray hairs to prove it. But they’re bigger and it feels fast now. Although the pandemic is definitely making the days last longer than anyone would have thought.

I watched old videos of Monster Trucks and book festival outings, of inflatable pool splashing, little league baseball games, Play-Doh creations and first days of school. I filled my heart with these memories and a strong urge to preserve it radiated. And then it came to me … instead of dealing with people who aggravate me with their one-sided courtesies and spite, I should fill my space with more talks, movie nights, and board game sessions so in a couple of years I don’t feel like the blink was too fast.

It’s not that easy, of course. We’re you’re in the middle of it, you feel like there’s nothing else that you can see. So another mental note, give more space and more compartments in my mind so that what matters and what’s positive can sneak in instead of the anxiety inducing conversations I replay in my head.

I mean I know I can’t turn it off instantly, but as soon as I feel it coming on, definitely activate the force field so that I can give even more time to people and moments that fill you up instead of making you create invisible barriers to help protect yourself from anxiety and bad vibes. As my girl Tabitha says … That’s just not in my spirit. So I’m hoping to continue to focus on the switch and this week the tunes from my past help jumpstart that pathway. I don’t know what it is, but the tunes from the past keep making me feel good. Don’t get me wrong the music is good today. I mean there’s The Zac Brown Band, right? But something about the growing up tunes that always produce the good vibes that create the smile and boost I need.

Buen Camino my friends!

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The Greatest American Hero Theme Song — Believe it or Not

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Tiffany — I Think We’re Alone Now

DeBarge — Rhythm of The Night

Claridad — Menudo

Tears for Fears — Everybody Wants to Rule The World

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Words on Wednesday …

26 Aug

Needing to escape the funk and keeping my vision board promise to myself I filled up the gas tank, packed the car, and went off on a RainMan road trip adventure with the kids.

Never been there before, but it was on the list, see this majestic being. And I stood there and soaked it in. From all angles I took my time to just sit there and appreciate it.

The Great Outdoors

The air. We just took a little extra that day and it filled me with peace.

But I guess a lot of people were looking for the same kind of wonder because for a middle-of-the-week escape there were quite a few people. Everyone was tying to get a nature makeover and Sequoia National Park was the place to make that happen.

We still enjoyed ourselves, masks and all. It was good to escape the city and make it all the way to the sequoias. Something about being in that giant tree forest helped me forget about all the excess, even if it was for a brief moment.

I was in it, I was present and I felt that reset button hitting itself. I was even more grateful that it happened for the kids too.

I was grateful I could give them the escape and views that helped rejuvenate their spirits. Being restricted by Covid has minimized our summer adventures but I was so appreciative for this one. Glad we got to see General Sherman and all of his awesome giantness. It was definitely worth the drive.

My jar of awesome got another note and our family spirit got that boost we needed before school started. Hoping you find yours …

Buen Camino!

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Weekend Moments on Wednesday

22 Jul

When I saw the crowds I thought this was a terrible mistake. We should have woken up earlier, we should have gone to some remote beach at daybreak.

But we wanted something different, something a little special. Nowadays little special somethings go a long way. The Great Outdoors has always afforded me an opportunity to do that, but because of the current pandemic situation, life has been limited.

Crowds are something that isn’t, unfortunately.

When you’re at a concert or game they’re great! You feel the vibe and energy. But when I was trying to find peace. Not so much. Even before the pandemic. Crowds burned me out. The beach. The Park. Morning runs. Lakes. I avoided them. Or at least tried.

So I was grateful for the long hike up the mountain, even though I wasn’t a fan of hiking, it proved to be a good step back, for a positive forward move. You see, not many people managed that. Most of the crowd walked a couple yards and stayed close to the road or parking. Half a football field, I guess. Their lack of exercise was my gain. As most people didn’t want to hike up the mountain and venture further up. The fact that they weren’t socially distancing or wearing masks was concerning. I thought this outing was going to be a disaster. But turns out the more we hiked the less people we found. The hidden nature escape appeared.

The Outdoors became the Kodak moment that made the day better. A recharging station for when your depleted spirit needed it most.

Something about nature turned it around. Especially when we discovered a surprise…

Waterfalls bring smiles. Especially on a 12th birthday.

The entire adventure helped bring about some wonderful firsts, like first time fishing in a river, first time losing the fishing pole and swimming against the current in the cold deep to retrieve it, first time hiking to a waterfall, and first time cooling off underneath it.

First time bucket list adventures with the kids stayed with me and granted us moments of gratitude that still linger.

Buen Camino, friends!

Too Many Words on Wednesday

15 Jul

I felt the weight of it.

Took 18 weeks, but I felt it.

The weariness of it.

After managing through distance learning with two kids and one computer, summer and the beginnings of a heat wave with no weekend beach trips, and the worst was yet to come. I felt the weight of it.

Coronavirus.

I’m not sick. I’m one of the lucky ones, but going through this finally got to me.

I was strong for about 18 weeks and just the foul mood of it all got to me and the day ended on a crappy note. I think it’s a matter of space. Being quarantined with your mother while trying to raise your kids and keep them on the positive tip, taxes every part of your being by dinner time. I have found that space is of the utmost importance.

Crucial.

Night time has become a welcomed friend to gather my thoughts or just rest from the anxiety of being with someone that’s not on the same page as you.

Yoga and meditation provide some needed Zen Moments when the goodness of the morning runs has worn off. But today it all got to me and I snapped. The headache came and my patience was lost as I yelled what all moms yell after a long day.

Go to bed!

And then some …

And so …

It was quiet and the guilt of yelling before bed hit me and of course I realized I needed more patience but had spent it all dealing with my mother and her ways.

So I remembered to breathe and allowed myself a little grace.

It was a rough beginning of the week, and it caught up with me on hump day.

Celebrating my daughter’s birthday, trying to find that special moment for her and all the vibrancy, creativeness, joy, and strength in her, while at the same time mourning my dad on the anniversary of his death makes for an epic emotional roller coaster weekend.

The mix of emotions spiraled.

And I knew it. I felt it.

I realized how fast my daughter was growing one day, trying to slow it down as I saw her smiling and how much I missed my father at the cemetery the next. Celebrating with S’mores Icebox cake, tide pool discoveries, unwrapping paints, canvases, sketch pads and a new bicycle with welcomed happiness and laughter one day, and then tears, heartbreak, and childhood memories the next.

Missing him on days like that weaken my spirit.

And then I realized why I snapped …

I know the days are one after the other. They’ve always been that way and I prepare myself but it just hit extra harder this year.

Having no space of my own makes an impact on emotional well-being.

But I was able to revisit a place that helped me find some Zen, some place to breathe.

Gonna be able to reset and do better tomorrow. Hope you do too.

Buen Camino my friends!

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Feel Good 5 Friday

10 Jul

He owned a dark blue Camero and rocked to songs of the 70s . I knew him my whole life. Since I was in pampers… there he was with bell bottoms. Uncle Erick.

It wasn’t easy growing up the way I did and where I did. But having Uncle Erick there made a difference. He was the brother I never had, and he died when he was 44 years old. Rare form of cancer.

His daughter was 10.

Damn cancer.

Heartbreaking when I think about the circumstances. Could happen to anyone and it sucks. I’m 44, and my son is 10.

It hardened me, as it was the first time someone in my inner circle had died so young. Not at 98 after a long and well-lived life. His was unfinished.

But I find pieces of him every now and then. My Dad and Uncle Erick are probably hanging out, drinking a cup of coffee somewhere out there in the universe because coffee was big in my family.

I heard one of his favorite jams and I hadn’t heard it in a while and it made me smile. I knew all the words and I raised the volume. It made me remember his dance moves.

Every time I hear Bill Joel I think of my Uncle Erick. He was a Billy Joel guy and any time this particular song made its way through the airwaves he got his Elvis dance moves twist and shake. He passed his love of 70s music and Billy Joel onto me.

Billy Joel’s got so many awesome tunes, Piano Man being in the top, but these in particular tunes make me think of my Uncle Erick, jamming in his Camero, busting out his dance moves on our brown shag carpet, or watching Bossom Buddies on TV. It makes my heart feel good and we need some of that today.

And while I was jamming to these tunes this week, I also rewatched one of my favorite movies, one I saw with Uncle Erick. This epic parade scene needed to be included in the Feel Good 5, it was a must if you’re an 80’s kid.

Billy Joel

It’s Still Rock and Roll To Me

Billy Joel

You May Be Right

Bill Joel

My Life

Billy Joel

The Longest Time

Ferris Bueller’s Day Off Parade Scene

Buen Camino my friends!

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I Got Words on Wednesday

24 Jun

You got faded Polaroids of bellbottoms tucked away in albums, collared shirts still hanging in the closet, and his favorite Robert DeNiro DVD’s on your bookshelf. But there’s still a hole and something is still missing.

That never goes away. The “missing them” part. It doesn’t. Sometimes it grips you so strong you want to hug the picture but worry you’ll crumple it. Sometimes you can’t breathe when you cry and other times you crack up in the middle of the day at a memory that tears make their way to the corners of your eye.

Father’s Day.

Got a roller coaster of ups and downs this weekend but I managed through with stories from my childhood and his. This time I found myself at the empty driving range. Something I haven’t done in years, something we enjoyed doing together. Gold balls never making it passed the 200-yard mark but I didn’t care, was just hanging out and swinging away. Sometimes we didn’t have to talk. We were in the friend zone. Smiling in silence, or laughing at the ridiculousness of the shot shanking to the left. We didn’t even like watching golf on TV or cared who won The Masters. It was us. Hanging out.

Then driving home in silver Tacoma, listening to jazz and retelling stories. Sometimes there’d be a stop at 31 Flavors, just because. There were no Ben & Jerry’s. So rocky road was my jam. But he was more of a Haagen Dazs guy. Still he got ice cream. Sometimes he’d pick strawberry. Sometimes chocolate. He’d try something different. He’d say there are 31 but none of them tasted like Haagen Dazs.

And so this month, for my friend, and in his honor, I did the race. Normally I’d be scaling one of the tallest buildings downtown. 63 stories. 1,393 steps. Do it every year for him, raise money for the American Lung Association to help people with lung disease. But with Covid-19, it was postponed, then postponed again, then onto a virtual platform.

So without my racing bib, crowds of fellow climbers, and the claustrophobic staircases I made my way to The Great Outdoors, with an epic playlist and purpose. The gasping for air. The heart pounding. And the legs involuntarily shaking when I got to the tippy top and end of my climb. All of it was still there and so was my reason.

1,831 steps.

1,831 reasons why my dad was worth the effort.

Hope your Father’s Day was blessed with kids, BBQ, and Hallmark cards of dad on couches.

Buen Camino my friends.

Finding The Moments Adds Space

25 Apr

So in all this togetherness I’m beginning to realize that there’s not a lot of space left. Space for a breather, space to take a minute. Like to exhale. That only comes at night when everyone else is asleep. But the sun is gone and the mosquitoes are out so there’s no outdoor anything happening, not even to the small patio.

I can’t imagine what a family of five must feel like. Not any one … A working-class family of five. Oof. Or maybe just three kids under the age of five. Dude.

Parents out there … I feel you. I feeeeeel you. You have to tag out sometimes just for sanity’s sake. But what if you have no partner? What if you can’t just leave when you need to?

That’s a rough one, that’s when the grays start popping up and you immediately try to remember how to take deep breaths so as to prevent a heart attack, because you feel it rising up inside of you. The frustrations of parenting in this tight environment gets to you. I mean it makes the small space you inhabit even smaller.

Quiet always feels good to parents after sustained chaos. But I also hear that loneliness takes its toll if you’re single and don’t have the loudness surrounding you 14 hours a day. Company and conversation are missed as you can only take so much alone time or online meetings. Connection is missed. And your space feels small.

Everyone’s struggle is different. Sometimes someone else’s plate looks better. But that’s for everyone.

Hang in there parents …

So you just try to find a moment … something that made you laugh or something that ended up right after a whole lot of wrong. Dude.

Listening to good poets slam their beats and touch a heart string to create a smile. That felt good, even if it was just a couple minutes while the kids played Legos. Finding a funny sign and it making you laugh, not just smile, but laugh.

Planting a garden from scratch for Earth Day felt like an accomplishment. It will be a while before I see any results but we still took steps in the right direction.

Talking to friends on the phone in a video chat gave a few of them a very needed outlet of expression and relief.

Finding the little moments add up at the end of the day, or week … Homeschooling distance learning week three went well as all work was finished by Friday and the kids continued to learn something new not just go through the motions. Sparta and Athens. Fractions and order of operations happen in real life, like when measuring and baking banana nut bread muffins, and step two needs to happen before step 4. Clouds have names, like cumulus, and they mean something to the weather. Learning to play the Star Wars theme song on your saxophone. Recycling old crayons was the best surprise moment as it was something new and in the process we created art for Earth Day.

Baseball was still the funnest lesson as Abbott and Costello informed them on who was on first.

Finding the moments helps expands your space.

Buen Camino my friends!

🙂