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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.

 

 

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I Laced Up My Shoes and I Kept Walking … I Hung in There

14 Feb

Having someone point out your flaws and make you feel pretty crappy on a day where love is supposed to be everywhere kind of sucked.

Mornings like that should be reserved for times when you have strength overflowing and your feel good-song constantly replays in your mind.

All this love was going around, everyone exchanging flowers, and balloons and chocolate and someone was pointing out that I yelled at my kids four times to listen and follow directions … It was pointed out to me that it wasn’t a good thing to be that kind of parent, or person.

You know, I know that sometimes my patience runs out and if my life would have turned out the way I imagined maybe there’d be less frustration when things went haywire. But it’s something I’m fully aware of … I’m mindful not to yell at my kids for no reason. I grew up with unecessary yelling and scolding, so I make it a point to not do that. I’m very aware of what that does to a kid. So I know I’m not angry all the time and I didn’t appreciate someone painting me that way.

People see you in a moment of frustration and they know you’re having a bad moment and they use it against you. They lay things out there and judge you when you’re drowning. And the thing is … They know you. They knoooooow you and yet they say something like that, something that just feels like a punch in the stomach.

It was pretty sucky, having that feeling all day.

But then I went to get my kids Valentine’s Day cards and I found something that made me smile.  A valentine I could have gotten for myself, or just an everyday card. Something that my dad might have gotten for me, and I found the grace I needed to move on.

 

 

I laced up my shoes and I kept walking. One foot in front of the other.

Buen Camino my friends.

 

 

 

 

 

I Found My Peace Among the Kitchen-Aid Mixer and Melted Chocolate … Happy 70th Birthday Dad

31 Jan

70 is a big birthday. It’s a time to reflect on your life, think about vacation plans, hobbies, or things you have yet to try, dreams you have yet make real. At least that’s what I imagine it to be … a big cake, surrounded by family and friends, some chaos of course, but making an awesome wish and blowing out the candles anyway.

This, of course, did not happen.

I spent the early morning running at the park as the sun peaked out for its daily appearance. I took some time to pause for a moment and wonder what he would have been up to or what conversations we would have had that day if he was still here. I imagine I would have woken him up to take a morning walk and then possibly taken him out to breakfast.

Nothing flashy, but just time well spent hearing stories I had yet to hear.

My Dad would have turned 70 years old yesterday and as it happens every year his presence is missed even more on this particular day. Father’s Day and Thanksgiving are big ones of course, but his birthday celebrates the day he was brought into this world and the day his journey, and ultimately mine, began.

Birthdays are times for celebration and remembering the best parts of the life cut short, but I couldn’t help feel that nagging twinge of pain, the kind that never goes away when you lose a parent, or loved one. The thing is you’re not supposed to be in mourning, you’re just not. But there is a moment of sadness that grips my heart because he’s not sharing the same sunshine.

And I tried not to let it hold onto me too long, because the sadness can linger all day or all week. You miss them. You just do and you’re always going to miss them because their presence was more powerful than the butterfly effect. It directly impacted your future and your kids’ future.

It wasn’t until I was alone in the kitchen mixing up Julia Child’s chocolate almond cake with hot cocoa almond frosting that a calmness settled in. I knew he wasn’t going to be there to enjoy a hearty slice or two with his cup of coffee. I knew there would be no stories and laughter at the table.

Then why do you celebrate someone who’s not there?

I celebrate because I remember when they were here and it mattered. His imprint and voice still effects how I live my life, and how I dream my dreams. I celebrate even though I’m sad. And even though I couldn’t hear his laughter that day and see him blow out his candles I knew my kids would.  I knew they would have a couple of slices and that there would be new stories at family dinner.

My Dad on his adventure

Not many people in my inner circle know how this pulls at me in different directions. I don’t speak much about my dad’s birthday with others when they ask, hey what are you doing today?

I don’t mention the cake, or balloons, or dinner of his favorite treats. I tell the kids, of course, but I keep it pretty hush-hush which is weird because I write about him and his birthday a lot. Don’t know if that happens to other people, but writing about it feels better than talking about it. At least to adults anyway. The kids just … they just seem to get it. They get that birthdays are important. It’s simple for them. Frosting is required when things are important.

And so …

I found my peace among the Kitchen-Aid Mixer, melted chocolate, butter, flour, the egg whites, and sugar. I remembered some of the stories of him playing soccer when he was 10, or of his dream of taking his mother back to Spain, I remember his affinity for corn-beef sandwiches on rye bread with a pickle for lunch, or his cup of coffee before bedtime, or his random call just to say hello. I remembered some of the stories yesterday and thought about him as the breeze blew and I felt the wind on my face as the sun shined.

I thought maybe that was his way of blowing out the candle, while we sang Happy Birthday.

But it could have been just the wind, like my kids said. And I needed to hurry up because the candle wax was dripping and it couldn’t melt on the cake … you know … because frosting is important.

 

Buen Camino my friends.

 

The Year of Eight … A Year of Firsts And Freeze Frames

19 Jul

Cupcakes after midnight …

A buddy of mine left this awesome flair for words for me last week. Sounds accurate … on so many levels.

I find myself again … baking after midnight and preparing for the first day of being nine and reminiscing on the last days of being eight. I think about him knowing my Dad the first two years of his life only, but having good thoughts about the time spent together.

Eight was a good year, some ups and downs, but overall a good year. A year of firsts.

 

The Year of Eight we took to the ice. First time playing hockey, first time scoring goals, first time for a hat trick, first time a sport gets his complete undivided attention. First time we have to wake up at 5 a.m. to be at a sporting event at 6 a.m.

First time for Boy Scout Adventures in the Great Outdoors and earning badges. First time for Pinewood Derbies and being proud of the green roadster we constructed. First time for Rocket Academies, archery and BB guns. Rockets being the favorite as we successfully launched them into the sky.

First time for reading Roald Dahl and loving Charlie and The Chocolate Factory, first time for reading all his books. First time for exploring so many books that I lost count but he continued with science adventure books about kids being his favorites.

First time for learning tough lessons about friends in third grade, and how sometimes they’re not so friendly. First time for brushing off the disappointment and then learning to chug along.

First time I hear that he wants to slow time down because things are going too fast, so I teach him about daily gratitude and being present in the moment. First time he tries it and it works. The sweet spot of Jar of Awesome moments last longer and time slows for a moment.

First time for jumping off the diving board at the swimming pool, took the swim test and passed the first time. Best cannonball ever. First time we won our cardboard boat race, it was the Dalmatian Monster Mutt that took us to victory. First time for Sandbox List Adventures to be crossed off, like being an America Ninja Warrior for the day, trying to climb that warped wall and tackle the obstacles. The first year for The Jar of Awesome …

The Year of Eight was a great year of firsts for my kid. I’m grateful I get the chance to write that letter for him and remember these things. I try to catch them in this time capsule because even though I slow things down, slow is too fast for these moments. Freeze frame seems more appropriate.

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But it just wasn’t a year of firsts there were many seconds, thirds, fourths, fifths … I remember all the times he got lost in the world of Legos, creating cities, battles, movies, and Star Wars scenes. I remember all the mini-figures he mixed and matched to create new characters in stories. I remember him wanting to play chess and always ready to setup the Star Wars chess set. He always wanted to be the good guys. I remember his love of chocolate, all kinds of chocolate, Kit Kats, Snickers and M&Ms being some of his favorites, although he also likes Doritos and discovered the wonders of Extra Spearmint Gum. I remember him discovering Minecraft, Minion Rush, Star Wars Commnader and Fruit Ninja on the iPad. I remember him waking up before 7 a.m. on Saturday mornings just to watch cartoons, The Jungle Bunch, Lego Star Wars Freemaker Adventures, Pokemon, Wild Kratts, Star War Rebels, SpongeBob, and The Lion Guard just to name a few. I remember how he always looked forward to Shark Week every year, marking the calendar and having a countdown of his own. Great White Shark is his favorite. I remember how he still wants to be a firefighter when he grows up.

I remember dancing to his feel-good songs and him cutting loose, every time. He feeeeeeels the music and he is the best Solid-Gold-Soul-Train-dancer in the house. Michael Jackson’s Smooth Criminal and Bruno Mars are some of his favorites. Although 80s always rule in the house. 80s and The Beatles. He smiles as I watch him dance and it’s priceless. I loved the Year of Eight dance moves.

I remembered all that tonight and more …

So tonight I hugged my eight-year old one last time before going to bed, one last time before he turned nine tomorrow morning. I hugged him extra tight, and took an extra breath as he was squished between my arms. He smelled like Dove soap. I held him tighter. I was trying to freeze-frame it. I asked him how his last day as an eight-year old turned out to be and he said it was awesome …

 

I rode my bike in the morning. Played some Legos. And then went to the Ninja Gym and did some America Ninja Warrior stuff, I got to the fourth wobbly cube, the green one. And then we had ice cream for dinner. It was awesome. Tomorrow I’ll be nine. I think it’s gonna be great …

 

The Year of Eight was good and now The Year of Nine begins. It begins with me baking, not cupcakes this time, but cake … cake after midnight. Chocolate, of course.

 

 

 

 

Gratitude With Diane Lane on Valentine’s Day

15 Feb

You know, I was never one for elaborate celebrations or grand gestures of love on Valentine’s Day. Don’t get me wrong, I still liked being the highlight of someone’s thoughts and getting some chocolate, or a nice card with hearts on it. I still liked knowing that I was on someone’s mind.

And I never made a huge deal of it so as not to put added pressure on whoever I was with at the time. But a card, a nice meal, some chocolate, some laughs, and a genuine hug that expressed heartfelt connection and intimacy was all I needed.

I look back now and remember times when I was younger and felt lonely, when grandiose productions of others professing their love made the loneliness bigger. I remember the Aquatnet days wanting that candy gram and plastic flower to be presented in class, you know, from that special someone. Now they have it on Facebook or Instagram for the whole world to witness this romanticism. Some people share just to be genuine and open up their book of life, letting us read a small page of it, others do it for showboating-look-at-me reasons, cheapening the heart and romance.

When you’re younger these things seem important.

But I realized how gratitude on Valentine’s Day is just as important as love.

I may not have gotten the red-carpet treatment, but I was able to share moments of life with people I loved. Babysitting for a friend over the weekend so that they could have some kid-less alone time and feel like normal people again made me smile. Getting a card with the best kindergarten spelling and Crayola Crayons masterpiece from my daughter filled my heart. Playing Valentine’s Bingo, cupid’s arrow, making kids at school smile and being helpful in my kids’ classroom hit the spot. Eating a steak dinner, I didn’t have to cook for myself brought a smile to my face. Finishing the night with a small band, playing some good tunes, while sipping a margarita felt nice. Ending the night with Haagen-Daasz chocolate ice cream and watching Netflix a definite plus.

A day and night filled with non-Facebook worthy moments, but special nevertheless.

During all this, I was reminded of Diane Lane in that movie Under The Tuscan Sun. I love Diane Lane. In the movie she talks about how she wanted a house, a home, dinner parties with family, being with people she loved, kids running around, laughter … that would have made her happy. Fast forward to the end of the movie when someone asks her if she remembered what she wanted when she first moved to Italy. Does she remember? She smiles as it hits her. She had a house, a home, dinner parties with people who had become her family, people she loved and that loved her, kids running around, not her kids but kids that brought her joy anyway, and laughter. She realized she had it. Happiness. They both smiled.

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🙂

Valentine’s became a day of gratitude, grateful for all the small acts of kindness and love that gave the sun more shine. It could have been a regular Tuesday for anybody, but it was my Valentine’s Day adventure, and I felt love from those that mattered most.

 

 

He Knew The LOOOOOVE That I Loved

29 Aug

I know you’ve been in love, the gut wrenching, aching in your bones, 80’s Movie kind of love that blinds you into taking a leap of faith — a plunge — because when you’re young you believe in the power of teenage, college, or in-your-20’s love.

It’s unbreakable.

So when the break-up happened, by your locker, after school, or on the phone with the 50-foot curly extension chord you used to pull all the way from the avocado-green wall phone in the kitchen and into the closet for “privacy,” it blindsided you.

There you were laid out on the floor, in agony, crying the slow cry, the I-can’t-breathe-right-now cry, the ugly cry, the hyperventilating cry, the silent cry. You suffered through in an epic way. And you’re there, alone. You know “others” who had broken up, but did they really understand?

No. No they didn’t.

Phil Collins got the picture. For sure.

But, there was one guy that really understood. He was feeeeeeeeling me. He got me. This dude … Man he kneewwwwwww what I was feeling. He knew the kind of love that I loved. He knew my heartache and when I listened I was like … Yeah … He knows exactly! He knows exactly what I’m going through and it was like I was having a conversation with him.

Juan Gabriel.

 

 

Legend.

Icon.

Now if you are one of my peoples there is no need for introductions. Juanga was the man. So when he passed away on Sunday morning, I felt it. Huge loss to me and my community. I never met him, but sure felt like he knew me deeply, personally with the songs he wrote about my love life, or the songs I wanted someone to invent because of me.

However I was lucky enough to have gone to some of his concerts throughout the years, stand up in the aisle dance, clap and sing, even luckier that I went to one just a couple of months ago. Amazing.

But for those of you not familiar with him, he was the Elvis Presley, Prince, and Michael Jackson of Mexico. Sold over 100 million… Yeah million albums and wrote close to 2000 songs.

He was The Man, and he passed away unexpectedly at the age off 66 from a heart attack.

And so I’m sad about that, about losing someone so talented with such heartfelt emotion, truth, and humility. I didn’t even know him, but it hits me because I connected with him through music. Someone who understood my heartbreak, he knew, he sang about it. He testified really. He knew the loooooooooove that I loved and so it was sad to say goodbye.

So in his honor, it was a Juan Gabriel mixed tape marathon on Sunday, with multiple text message exchanges between girlfriends who were just as shocked and broken up about his death. In our disbelief we tried to comfort each other and talk through our sadness. As I listened to my favorites I thought I’d try to narrow it down to The Top Ten … I know, almost 2,000 songs. He really needs a top 100. But I tried.

So I encourage you … If you’ve ever been in looooooooooove love, click and take listen. He’s got my stories in there, probably yours too.

Rest In Peace Juanga.

 

Hasta Que Te Conoci (Until I Met You…)

 

 

Quien Como Tu (Someone Like You) Written by Juan Gabriel sung by Ana Gabriel

 

 

Siempre En Mi Mente (Always On My Mind)

 

 

No Tengo Dinero (I Got No Money)

 

El Noa, Noa

 

Inocente Pobre Amigo (My Poor Innocent Friend)

 

Asi Fue (That’s How It Goes)

 

Porque Me Haces Llorar (Why Do You Make Me Cry)

 

Se Me Olvido Otra Vez ( I Forgot Again)

 

Querida (Dear) … This one gets me every time …

 

Bonus Tracks … of course. Always need a bonus track…

He Venido a Pedirte Perdon (I Came to Ask For Your Forgiveness)

 

Buenos Dias Senor Sol (Good Morning Mr. Sun)

 

Pero Que Necesidad

 

Buen Camino my friends.

Facebook … And Why I Totally Hated It Today

13 Jun

I’m not a big fan but they seem to love it. They can’t get enough of it.

They … the masses. They post all kinds of stuff. What they eat and where they’ve been

And for the most part I’m pretty indifferent … that was until today …

Today I hated it.

There he was in portrait-style picture trying to look like a Gap commercial with his new family. Wife. Pregnant wife. And a daughter.

I couldn’t believe it..

The Facebook had made a suggestion … you know … a you might know this person type of deal and I couldn’t believe it.

I mean I wasn’t even the one who married him, but I was still so upset by it. You see one of my friends had recently split up with this dude, about four or five years ago. They had no kids and  just split up their assets and even though it wasn’t a shouting-match-I-hate-you-forever kind of divorce, it was still a divorce. One that left her feeling horrible and sad and I was sad for my friend. I saw her go through such a hard time and I’m sure I didn’t see everything, but what I saw was pretty rough.

She has someone in her life now and I imagine that because of that her ex is in her past, a past that she’s forgotten and doesn’t like to rehash. She’s in a good place, she seems happy. So I didn’t tell her about this virtual encounter. I didn’t tell her that he remarried, or that he started a family.

I didn’t know if it was going to bother her, I mean it bothered me and I wasn’t even married to the dude. I was so burned out by it.I couldn’t believe why I was so upset and angry. I guess in part it was because I knew my friend, I knew how much she loved him and wanted the marriage to work. I knew the heartache, and I guess I was so upset because he seemed to replace her so easily. Married with one kid and another on the way in four years?

Dude.

I debated on telling her this recent Facebook discovery and why I hated Facebook so much, but I thought better of it. I thought it was best to leave her past in the past. I didn’t want angry, sad, or weird feelings clouding her current state. I don’t know, maybe she already knew. Maybe she had run into them and kept it to herself because the blow was pretty big. Or maybe she didn’t even care, because she’s moved on too.

I don’t know why the death of love and the beginning of his beginning bothered me so much. I guess it was because I knew about her dream, I was aware of the future she wanted. I guess I learned that loyalty is a big thing with me. I was loyal to my friend, why couldn’t he be?

I guess I just wanted my friend to have that love without having to have gone through such a painful time. To me it was just hard to believe how quickly he had replaced her, how he seemed so happy in that happily-ever-after photo he had posted on his Facebook profile.

But then again not everything on Facebook is as it seems.

 

Lost and Found

28 May

Sometimes you give it 100% and feel like you failed anyway. It’s the Parenthood mantra.

People don’t like to admit their failures. I don’t know, they want to feel like they can be on the cover of Parents Magazine, looking like the weather chick on your local news with three kids in matching outfits, harvesting their organic produce and skipping in their garden. They want people to see them that way.

But it’s all good. I’m not one them. I’m a Failure Survivor. The gray hairs on my head are the scars that prove it. Parenthood is both a joy and a battle.

But most of the time at the end of the day you’re so exhausted that you forget about some of the joys that warmed your heart throughout the day. You forget about the small victories that took place during the day because the failures tend to overshadow such things, which is why practicing gratitude is so important when you’re a parent. Gratitude and finding the funny, those have been my compasses throughout these parenting years.

They help find things that get lost.

Whether it’s in the moment, or at night when it’s just you, Netflix and a cup of tea your compasses help you remember.

Moments of gratitude. They help when chocolate is gone.

 

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Celebrating at the finish line.

 

Like today … I remembered about the front-door parking at the stadium, the smiles of making it to the starting line for the first wave of the race, the laughter and dancing of the finish line party, and the hugs of knowing it was a good Parenthood day.

 

 

 

Morgan Freeman Knew My Name

18 Apr

The smell of Ben-Gay no longer lingers in the air and my left knee is miraculously still in tact.

Wobbly and weary, but still in tact. Like the rest of me.

I felt the same heaviness in my legs. I knew the burning in my calves very well. The tightening in my chest as I tried to catch my breath was something I remembered. I was familiar with these ailments that accosted me on the 27th floor. They couldn’t even wait until I hit the half-way mark of the race. They stalked me all the way to the top of the AON Building.

Bastards.

I was sweating and working as hard as those athletes in a Gatorade commercial, but I sure didn’t feel like one of them. I felt like a 40 year-old mom climbing stairs. I tried listening harder, but couldn’t hear Morgan Freeman narrating my journey. All I heard was the heavy breathers trying to drown out my music.

But among all the breathing and stuffiness and claustrophobic drama of the Fight for Air Climb I remembered my sister’s words.

The old man will be waiting for you at the top.

I got a little choked up as I read the text before I started the race. I was nervous, and I really don’t get too nervous before races. But I did for this one. This one wasn’t for fun or for glory or for Bucket Lists. This one was for him. It meant something more.

She was right. He was watching, probably smiling.

So I had to make it.

No matter what.

I had to.

Nervous. Exhausted. Running out of air. Ready to stop. I was feeling it all. But the stubbornness and Guatemalan will power pushed and dragged my ass to the top of those 63 flights.

I heard the bass and boom, boom, boom of  Tucanes de Tijuana, Mr. World Wide Pitbull, Venga Boys, and the Charlie Daniels Band. The rhythm took over and my body responded. The Gatorade-Commerical-Worthy Athlete was busting out of me and Morgan Freeman knew my name. As I looked up I couldn’t believe it. I saw the 60th floor sign … Dude …

I ran up those last three flights, crossed the finish line, and smiled because I had made it.

16:28.

That was it.

The toughest sixteen minutes this year. But definitely worth it.

 

 

 

Yup … It’s Worth It

2 Apr
Duuuuuuuude. There is a lot you do for the people you love.
Travel, sacrifice, work, fundraisers, sleep …the list goes on and on.
For me?
It’s stairs.
I’ll be taking the stairs. And in fact, I hate stairs, I hate the StairMaster. It produces nothing but pain. I hate whoever invented it. They should be thrown off a cliff. I’m more of an elevator enthusiast.
So it might sound strange to say that in two weeks I’m going to be scaling 63 stories 1,391 steps. The Ben-Gay and ice pack will be waiting for me.
In two weeks  it’s gonna happen … It’ll be claustrophobic. I won’t be able to catch my breath. My muscles won’t be getting enough oxygen, and I’ll feel like I need an EKG. And it will only be the 37th floor.
Everything in me is gonna be like … duuuuuuuude you need to stop. The music is not even helping. This isn’t funny. Every muscle in my body that thought it was 20 years old is gonna be like, ‘C’mon now, stop playing these games, you’re 40, this is what 40 feels like.’ My left knee will be aching and my calves will be ready to give out, just hoping for an Achilles Tendon mishap. Every part of my body will be asking … is it worth it?
I’ll close my eyes and see my Dad …
Dad

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

My best bud, and the Wingman to my dreams …
Yeah, he’s worth it.
I’d do anything to get him back. So I do this in his memory. I do this for him. I do this to help find a cure. I do this so that someone else won’t lose their Dad.
Yup.  It’s worth it.
In about 15 days I’ll be one of the masses, climbing to the top of the AON Building in Downtown Los Angeles participating in The American Lung Association’s Fight for Air Climb to honor my pops.
My yearly ritual to honor the man who rooted for the underdog, who believed in random acts of kindness, who paid it forward, who carried my pictures in his wallet and my Father’s Day cards in his briefcase,who loved his family and sacrificed so that we could have a better life.
Yup. My body will be in desperate need of Ben Gay, and my knees will be out of commission but he’s worth it.
Buen Camino, my friends.