My Obsession with THE Mouse!

I like to think that I am a non-commercialism, non-materialistic kind of person.  We don’t have real cable, so the girls only watch PBS.  They only see commercials during the football games Mark watches on the weekends.  We don’t eat fast-food and I cringe every time my little ones sing that awful song “McDonald’s, McDonald’s, Kentucky Fried Chicken and Pizza Hut.”  I rarely buy them stuff, so in turn they rarely ask for stuff.

With all that being said, I must now admit I am obsessed and a wee bit addicted to Disney World-that place that SCREAMS commercialism and consumerism.  I love that place in a way I just can’t even explain.  Every time I get the opportunity to witness one of those opening shows at the parks, I get chills all over.  The first time we took the girls to Magic Kingdom, I totally teared up when those performers came out and did the song and dance before the rope dropped.

Before we moved to Florida, I had been to Disney World about 3 or 4 times.  Once we got here and I discovered the Florida resident discounts on resort stays and tickets, I was sold.  We took our first trip as a family when Bella was 2 and Callee was 5 months.  It wasn’t extremely successful.  Bella had a bad cold and Callee was just a contrary baby in general.  If I’m remembering correctly, Mark cursed the place but I wasn’t ready to give up on it.

I’ve managed to talk him into going back at least twice a year since.  As the girls get older it keeps getting better and better.  Bella and Callee are super tall so they’ve been able to ride all the roller coasters (except for the Aerosmith ride which only Bella is tall enough for) for over a year now.  The girls agree that their favorite ride is Big Thunder Mountain at Magic Kingdom.  When I try to think of my favorite ride, I can’t really come up with one.  What I love is the feeling of being there.

There truly is something magical about the place.  Walt Disney must have had an amazing soul to plant the seed for a place that transformative.  When I was driving Lissa through Orlando on I-4 and passed all the exits to Disney World, I swear I could feel the energy.  Every cell in my body does a happy dance when I get close to the property.  Even Mark, who I once had to drag kicking and screaming to the place, gets excited these days about going.

Once again a Disney World adventure is closing in on us.  I am doing all I can to stay in the NOW moment, but frankly all I can think is Disney, Disney, Disney!!  For the time being, it’s our one major splurge.  It’s the gift we give to our family, the gift of time spent together, adventure, and of course MAGIC!

The Wizard of Oz

“There’s no place like home.” -Dorothy

I’m home from my adventure with Lissa Rankin!  It was great, I’ll tell you more about it throughout the week.  Most of all though, I realized how much I love being with my family…they are truly my HOME.  Wherever Mark, Bella, and Callee are is where I want to be.

Also today is mine and Mark’s 12 year anniversary!  Happy anniversary to the best husband in the world!!!

Simone’s Click

Simone is a fellow Owning Pink Blogger and Pink Posse member.  She and I have been connecting here and there through the world of Owning Pink for over a year now.  I love her energy and enthusiasm.  I was so excited when she agreed to write a “click story” for my comeback week!!  I know there are so many people out there struggling with the same decision she writes about and her story is an example of the many ways guidance arrives in our lives.  Here are some other places you can find Simone’s writing: Advice Blog-Good Witch, Bad Witch; Pop culture living for Carnal Spiritualistas blog-Pop Smarts Zen; Our self-paced online de-stress program-Still Sitting; Facebook.

When I was asked to write this article, I felt honored and relished the thought because writing is like breathing to me. Lately and persistently, I’ve been going through a lot in my personal life, a click shouldn’t be hard to recall. I rarely if ever feel blocked creatively, but suddenly realized I didn’t have a thing to write, as I’d recently been experiencing so many “clicks” that they were beginning to run together and I didn’t know where oneendedandthenextbegananymore. That clicking sound was getting loudly indistinguishable to the point of nearly negating itself. I needed some settle-out time just to stop the ringing in my ears.

A lot of my recent personal experiences have to do with family and duty. My cutie-patootie dad and I were talking and I stated that I had consciously and actively struck the word “obligation” from my vocabulary and actions at least 20 years ago. Plus I’ll believe in the Tooth Fairy before I believe in being “guilted” into anything. Even if I didn’t actually want to do a thing, I would willingly do it if I could muster up some legitimate (for myself) intention and reason that was sustainable. Nice words. Now in recent times, I found myself (a very caring but non-maternal woman) faced with the business end of caregiving for a family member who doesn’t (and can no longer) realize how much help she needs doing most everything. This sort of lengthy (coming up on Year 5), daily, ongoing task has started hitting me as a duty and I noticed I’d begun to resent it. If you met me even once, you’d know I’m not a shy and quiet person. How I’ve been expressing that simmering anger and frustration externally is snappiness at slower others. Unattractive…and not accurately reflecting what’s actually eating me. I had to really search to reconfirm/-affirm, if possible, my own legitimate intention, and exactly how sustainable it really was.

I did what I’ve done for decades: I meditated in bed, and asked my guides for signs and messages. “C’mon, babies! Talk to me. I am willing to shut the eff up and listen.” Immediately the next morning, dyed-in-the-wool night owl-me, sprang awake naturally at 5:00 a.m., made a beeline to the kitchen table where the 25-page Care facility documents were lounging lazily, procrastinating, and attacked them with a vigor that woke us both up. All business, all business, all business, eh!, no big deal, then…BAM! “List patient’s likes and dislikes” showed up. This question is an effort for the caregivers to help a patient re-engage as well as handle them with more customized personal attention. I wrote that she had once drawn and painted a lot, but no more, yet is still a very creative person. (Yikes, what a recipe for disaster that is!) I listed she likes natural objects including leaves and feathers. I noticed this line did slow me down for some reason. I even inexplicably started feeling warm and fuzzy about her again.

Later, I went out into the world. All day long, I ran into feathers. Feathers on the street, feathers in the cool store I discovered. I would have to be sleepwalking to not be knocked over by them. …And suddenly I remembered: the day before, we heard a vibratingly loud Thud!, and thought our full-of-life cat had knocked something over downstairs. It literally shook my house. Yet we could find nothing. Then after all the feathers showed up, we saw a huge moss clod on our front stairs. Obviously a large bird (to pick that thing up airborne!) had dropped it (probably while building a new nest). I often get messages from birds (symbolically the messengers) and knew “moss” was going to mean something really, really good. I could just feel it. The Book of Google said it represented “luck” and “money” both of which I have no conflict about.

I don’t think there’s no reason that this building block moss, meant for a new nest, dropped on my freshly painted house’s doorstep, as I am in the process of making a new home for a loved one. I don’t think the quieting of my anger and frustration and suddenly recalling how creative she is (too!), and all the feathers that kept flitting into the picture before me (did I mention my signature jewel feather necklace I wear?) are all just mere coincidences. I think I found my sustainability in recognition, in (re-) connection, in the flow of creativity and on the supportive hands of winged guides. I think when I think of her…there but for the grace of god, go I. My level of capability in this world is a gift, and gifts are best honored when shared.

If a feather “clicks!” and no one is around to hear it fall, has its message been delivered?

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Catching Up

Aside from what  I wrote for Owning Pink, this is my first blog post after returning from our trip to visit family.  After three years we finally made it back up to Maryland to see my mother-in-law.   I have to admit I resisted the trip with everything in me.  As much as I wanted the girls to spend time with Grandma, it came down to me just NOT wanting to drive up there.  Three years ago we flew, but this time that just wasn’t in the cards.  In May,  after a lot of “flip-flopping” I made the final decision that we were NOT going to go.  I told Mark it was my decision and I would call his mother to inform her.  I knew she was going to be upset but I rationalized it all.  (There were a few more issues a long with the drive.)  Before I made the call I meditated and got very peaceful.  I set the intention to be open and loving and for our conversation to go smoothly.  It turned out to be one of the best conversations we’ve had in years.  We talked for an hour and a half and when I hung up the phone, I told her we couldn’t visit in August but we’d try our best to visit.  I listened to her with an open heart and she changed my mind.  Once we found out she wasn’t working in June we began to plan our trip.

We left on Wed. the 23rd at 4:15am and arrived at her house at 8:15pm.  We traveled with the girls and our two mini dachshunds and amazingly enough there were no problems at all.  I never imagined the drive could possibly be that peaceful, but it was.  The trip was great.  We went to Assateague Island one day.  The waves were rough and cold, but once I got used to it I tried out the boogie board.  To my surprise I was pretty good at it and as we were packing up a woman approached me and said she and her family had voted me “best wave rider” of the day.  Another day we went to the nearest zoo, which will be a whole other not-so-cheery blog post.  The girls reveled in their time with grandma and I did some reading and relaxing.

On the way back home we stopped in NC and stayed at my parents’ house for one night.  My sisters, one brother-in-law,  and nieces were all there to greet us.  We had a wonderful few hours of catching up before going to sleep and waking early to hit the road once more.  We made it home in the evening of the 29th.

Since we got back I spent the week preparing for a big event on July 4th.  Some of you may remember a blog post I wrote where I was considering volunteering to speak at Unity Eastside (my church).  July 4th was the day I chose for my talk.  I chose that day assuming everyone would be out of town, but to my surprise most people were in attendance.  So, I gave my first morning message to a full house and it went pretty well.  I learned that I can handle public-speaking just as well as public-writing.  Since the topic of my talk was “living the questions” I’m not going to try to figure out what will become of my new found ability.  Instead I’ll just peacefully wait to see what unfolds…

Thank you guys for sticking around while I was away.  I hope “fiction week” was entertaining enough.  I’ve got a few post ideas brewing, so hopefully I will get them out over these next two weeks!

Summer Changes for the Blog

Hey everyone!  Last Tuesday I had an epiphany that I should take the summer off from blogging.  I started planning how I would make this coming week my final week for the next 3 months or so.    I came up with some reasons and excuses for doing this, two of them being the most important.  The first is that my girls will be out of school for the summer.  They are enrolled in no summer camps or programs so that we can spend lots of time together.  Lately Callee has become a bit of a mischief maker and I’m pretty sure it’s because she’s growing tired of entertaining herself while Bella is away at school.  I hope to provide them with lots of fun activities and attention this summer!  The other reason is that quite simply I’ve become too attached to my online life and I really need to reconnect with my real life.  I want to be better and do more for the people that I can see, touch, and talk to.  I also want to create and maintain a spiritual practice that will connect me more deeply to the “Something Within”.

So after coming up with the idea and the reasons I began to share with friends.  Most of them advised me to do whatever felt right, but one of them simply said it was a bad idea.  He pointed out that he thought my postings lately have been really good.  He reminded me that I have built a community.  He said the magic word: BALANCE.  “You just need to find a balance.”  With that I was sold.  I don’t need to quit blogging, I just need to create balance.

As of right now my plan is this:  Friday, June 4th will be the last day of the current 7-day-a-week posting schedule.  For the summer I will begin a 3-day-a-week schedule Monday, Wednesday, and Fridays.  I will not solicit any new click stories, but any I receive will be posted on Wednesdays.  I will also be writing for Owning Pink so after their new site launches in June if you really want to read more from me, you should be able to find something there.

Jenny’s Click

If I let myself I could write an entire blog post introducing Jenny and her story.  We first connected on Twitter maybe 6 months ago.  Because of something I wrote she decided to become a vegetarian and sent me an email to let me know.  For months most of our conversations took place in tweets but lately we have connected at a deeper level.  Jenny is positive, loving, and inspirational.  I am honored to call her a friend and spiritual companion.  The following is something she wrote after gazing at the night sky from her home in Las Vegas.  You can follow her on Twitter here and read her blog here.

Strangers in Flight

Where are you going to? What are you running from?
Are you coming to Vegas for that crazy Bachelorette party where life long secrets will be made?
Are you coming back to the city from a weekend back East in the gorgeous mountains?
Are you traveling to see your Mother for the last time? Are you missing your Mother who passed years ago?
Are you the honeymooners dozing quietly in the back row knowing you’ve finally found true love?
Are you the guy in the bathroom line coming back from a weekend affair watching that couple wondering how you and your wife drifted so far away from that place?
Are you lost in peaceful dreams?
Are you buying more games on Family Feud?
Are you typing up your first draft of a long overdue amends letter?
Did you just spend your Mother’s Day weekend saying goodbye to a dying loved one?
Are you wishing that crying baby would just stop wailing?
Are you the lonely Mom that would give anything to have her baby back after they were ripped from your life last year due to an illness?
Are you having another over priced drink wondering if that drink is having you?
Are you holding your sleeping toddler praying the plane will stay in the air for their sake?
Are you putting together last minute details to a kick-ass presentation that your career depends on?
Are you a teenager dreading that you have to spend part of the summer with your grandparents?
Are you a soldier heading off to war? Are you the hero returning for a two week reprieve?
Where are you going to? What are you running from?

As I lay in my ultra cozy, warm bed while my 5 year old sleeps soundly next to me without a care in the world, I watch your flight from my bedroom window. I wonder these things and more about each person on your plane, especially you.

I send up a prayer for all of you, to be able to find perspective in your trials, to find the serenity that has been bestowed upon me. I lay here in the dark watching the night sky for the next plane so I can do it all over again.

I smile and it clicks. It clicks with each blink of the planes lights. Everyone has a story. Everyone is fighting some kind of personal battle, no matter if it’s self inflicted or the cause and effect of life itself.

The Click – be kind to everyone more than you want to as we are all connected somehow. We are all here for a purpose, even if it’s just to learn kindness and tolerance for others, for yourself.

It’s about time.

RowdyJRT’s Click

RowdyJRT found me and my blog through Twitter.  She commented on a post and sent me the following click story.  I really enjoyed reading her story and it speaks to the idea of “when God closes a door, he opens a window.”  (Or however that goes.)  You can follow RowdyJRT on Twitter here and visit her website filled with cute products honoring her furry friend here.

I always enjoyed the thoughts of being a Grandmother, never once did I associate the idea as being old.  I never pictured it to be as dysfunctional as it has been for me.  It wasn’t the story book tale that I always pictured it to be.

My first Grandchild was born in Sept 2004, we didn’t know about her until March 2005.  In fact we didn’t even know her Mother as it was just a one night fling between our son and this girl.  I didn’t get to bond with her as most Grandparents get to experience.  Her Mother kept her away from us, claiming she just couldn’t be separated from the child. I could understand her Mother’s point, especially since we lived 2 hours away from her. I know I wouldn’t have been able to send my own child that far from home, and that is what kept me from harboring a lot of resentment.

I still felt robbed because I didn’t get to experience the “hey Mom I’m going to be a Daddy” and follow the pregnancy until birth.  That feeling of being robbed continued for the next 5 years, always being told that our G-Daughter would be allowed to come for a visit only to have the Mother back out.  It was always one let down after another.  I finally just stopped communicating with the Mother and figured if it was meant to be we would have the child in our lives at some point.

I remained out of the picture from March 2008 until April 2010.  Her Mom emailed me and said that she now realized it was wrong to keep her away from this side of her family and that it wasn’t fair to any of us.  We arranged a date for her visit, Easter weekend.  Finally, at long last I was going to get to enjoy my sweet little Granddaughter.  I started thinking it wouldn’t happen and that it was just a repeat of all the other times that she changed her mind.  However, much to my surprise they actually brought her here.  She climbed out of the vehicle with 2 backpacks full of clothes, toys etc.  It was so funny watching her drag them across the drive and up the steps. The excitement on her face will remain engraved in my mind forever.   As I had mentioned, the last time she was here was in 2008 and it was a few hours, she was just 3 yrs old at the time.  I was very surprised that she remembered us, as well as our home. but she is one smart cookie.  Plus I’m sure God had worked his magic on her so that she wouldn’t forget us.

Finally, after 5 long years, she was mine to love on, to play House with and most of all start our bonding process.  She didn’t cry after her Mom, it was as if she had been coming here all her life, I know God had a hand in it all.  She was here for the entire weekend, the first night she kept me up until 3 am and although I was super tired and having a Lupus Flare, I didn’t regret a moment of it.  When sleep finally came I cuddled up to her the entire night, every so often waking up to check on her.  I would then lay there thinking how wonderful this was,  yet still in a semi state of shock that it was really happening.  I thought perhaps I was just dreaming about her and none of this was real, but when I laid my hand on her little chest and felt her heart beating I knew it was real.  Oh and does that child ever SNORE, that right there should have been enough to tell me it was real 🙂

As for her Daddy, my youngest son.  He has been in and out of the picture since she was born.  He managed to get into enough trouble and ended up in prison.  She will be 7 before he is released.  I have a picture of her and my son on my monitors desktop.  It was from her last visit here in 2008, she saw the picture and said I know him, he is my Daddy, again more of Gods wonderful work.

When school is out she will be coming here to stay a week at a time on a monthly basis.  I’m looking forward to these longer visits with her.  I’ve started  a “what we will do list” so I can keep us busy.  On that list is quite a bit of baking so I expect both of us to gain 10 pounds per visit.

I really wasn’t completely robbed of being a Grandmother, I do have 2 other Grandchildren, both boys, from my oldest son. I got to experience the “we are pregnant” and followed both pregnancies through birth.  It was exciting to be there for the birth of my Grandsons.  The boys are 1 year and 3 days apart in age.  The youngest one came as a huge surprise to all of us.  My son and his wife were already having financial problems and a second child, although a blessing, made their matters worse.  I kept their youngest baby for 8 months so they could get back on their feet.

I was lost when he went back home. Letting him go home was probably one of the hardest things I could ever do, but I knew at some point it was going to happen. I had him 1/2 his life, I got to see all the “firsts” the teething, crawling and those wonderful first steps.  My world as I knew it was rocked.  I had nothing to manage my time, other than my fur-kid, a spoiled Jack Russell. Again I felt as though I had been robbed. I wondered why being a Grandmother had to be so dysfunctional.  I sank into a very deep depression, started feeling sorry for myself.  I thought life was over for me and all that stress allowed the Lupus flares to take control of me.  Not once did I ask God to help me through my difficult time.  I guess I just forgot about God and let the Devil control my issues.

I only mentioned my Grandsons because the little girl came back into my life when I was at my lowest.  It was just a few days after my Grandson went home that my Granddaughters Mother emailed me.  She asked if I wanted to start having my Granddaughter on weekends.  It was God’s miracles at work, he didn’t wait for me to ask him.  That is how God works, he takes on our problems, he is always working in the background, even if we forget to ask him to help us.

Toby’s Click (4)

I am sorry to say this is number 4 in our Toby Tuesday series!  The following definitely touched my heart and had me reaching for the tissue box!  Remember you can read Toby’s blog here and follow her on Twitter here.

I visited some friends a few nights ago that sparked the idea for this letter.  My friend and I worked together at a restaurant.  We both lost our jobs over a year ago when the restaurant closed down.  It has been a struggle in this economy for both of us since then.  I was seven months pregnant when I was laid off, and my friend has a felony charge.  It has been difficult, but not impossible to find work.

My friend, on the other hand, has been unemployed for a year.  She is not trying as hard as she could, and unfortunately her situation has plummeted.  She has lost her home, and has been staying with her thirty year old daughter and her two granddaughters.  My friend also has custody of her seventeen year old son and sixteen year old granddaughter.  She is also taking care of her eighty year old father, and all four of them have moved in with my friend’s daughter.

The two teenagers were angry when I went over to visit the other night.  They wore angry, frustrated expressions on their faces, never smiling.  These are not the teenagers I had experienced several months earlier.  I cannot blame them for being angry.  As parents, we are supposed to provide stability for our children.  These two teenagers are being failed, and they are forced into an uncomfortable situation because of their parents own irresponsibility.  I cannot blame them for being angry, and I believe I would feel angry in that situation as well.  I can only hope this adversity helps them strive to be self sufficient as soon as they can.  I can only hope they use this experience to stay driven to succeed beyond this lifestyle.

When I got home from there the other night, I was inspired to write this letter to my own son.  I am at a crossroads in my life, and I have made mistakes in the past.  Since my son was born, my life has changed so much.  I am now striving to make the best life I can for my son.  I know I will make some difficult decisions, but I know that everything I do for the rest of my life will be with my son’s best interest in mind.

Dear Lucien,

You are the best thing that has ever happened to me.  A year or so before you were born; I was drowning in a sea of confusion.  I had made so many bad decisions that my life had become a mess.  As I started to pull myself out of the mess, I got pregnant with you.  I want you to know that you have saved my life.  You have given me hope again.  For the first time in many years, I see a world of possibility.

And all those possibilities lie within you, my son.  It is now my job to make those possibilities a reality.  I want to provide you with everything you will need to be happy and successful in anything you do.

I am starting my life over, going back to school to provide a life for you.  I know that I want to be able to provide for you all by myself if I have to.  I promise you that you will be given every opportunity to be the best you can.  You are so smart and already have so many talents, I promise to nurture those.  I promise to always be a constant in your life.

I promise to keep you from harm.  I will not take you to places that may not be safe for you, such as a house where people smoke inside.  I will not take you to a place where there may be dogs that could bite you, or where you cannot play safely.  I promise to provide you with good company, so that your friends are good influences.  I promise to keep you away from guns and drugs and violence.

I promise to provide you with stability.  You will always live in a place with no danger of being kicked out.  I promise to buy a house as soon as I can, so that you will grow up in a nice neighborhood with good schools nearby.  I promise to keep the water and the electricity on.  And I promise you will always have enough food, and we will sit down to dinner together as much as humanly possible.

I promise to help you with your homework, and nurture the importance of education.  I will teach you to read voraciously, and hopefully you will inherit my love of books.  I will help you to get good grades, and will provide money for college.  I promise to instill in you how important a good education is to one’s future.

I promise to provide enough for you to be able to play sports, go to summer camps, and take whatever kind of lessons you want.  If you are musical, I promise to buy you the instruments you want and the lessons you need.  If you are an athlete, I promise to provide you with uniforms and the chance to play sports competitively.  If you are into science, I will provide you with all the equipment to conduct your own experiments and the chance to attend Space Camp if you want.  I promise to provide for you with the opportunity to explore any interest you have.

I promise to make a big deal of your birthdays, for that is a day to be celebrated…the day my life changed forever…the day I was given the greatest gift…the day your precious life began.  I will save for months to get you the gifts you want.  And I promise we will have parties for you.  You can guarantee your grandparents will be a part of the celebration as long as they are with us.

I promise to give you the opportunity to have your family close.  I want you to be as close with your grandparents as I was with Pop.  I want you to know that you have so many people who love you to pieces.  You will never be denied the opportunity to know our family.  I promise we will visit your grandparents who live farther away as often as we can.  I promise that your grandparents and aunts and uncles will be as much of a constant in your life as I am.  I promise you will be surrounded and supported by a loving family.

I promise to provide a positive atmosphere that a child can flourish in.  I do not want you to grow up around negativity or prejudice.  I want to surround you with people who are constantly learning and growing.  I promise to keep you from people who are stagnant or who may be involved in dangerous situations.  I promise to do my best to help you become a happy, successful young man one day.

I know that there will be times you will not be happy with some of the decisions I make.  But, I want you to know that I make all of them with your best interest at heart.  We may not always agree on things, but I will always love you and want what is best for you.  There will be times when you will just have to trust me, and I know a time will come when I will just have to trust you.  I pray that you and I will always be as close as we are right now.

I also know that you will grow up, and soon you will not be reliant on me for everything.  As your first birthday approaches, you are becoming more and more independent.  As much as I sometimes wish you could stay this little and precious, I am excited for you to start growing up.  I cannot wait until you can talk or to read.  I cannot wait to see you play in your first soccer game, or ride a bike.  I am excited for the days when you may win the science fair or start your first band.  There are so many things we have to look forward to, and I want you to know I will be right here cheering you on.  I will always be your biggest fan.

My mother, your Maman, has always given me unconditional love.  There were many times we did not get along and I was sure her intentions were just selfish.  As I have finally grown up, I look back and see that she always had my best interest at heart.  I was just too young and stupid to understand or listen.  I pray we do not go through that, but I know every parent and child goes through this on some level.  I promise to love you unconditionally, and to always be there for you.  I promise that no matter how big you become, you will always be my son.  I promise to always love you.

Son, you are so beautiful as you lie next to me right now, peacefully sleeping.  You have so much potential, and you have renewed my life.  I promise, my dear son, your momma will always do right by you.  Your momma will always be here for you, and I will provide everything you need.  I promise, my son, you will be kept from harm as long as I can.  You will be raised in a safe and nurturing environment.  Son, I promise to be the best mother I can possibly be.  The lord has blessed me with such a beautiful gift, I promise to cherish you always.

Love, Your Mother

Allison’s Click

I have connected with Allison through Twitter.  I was grateful to receive the following story in my inbox  over a month ago.  I read it and sobbed.  It is a story of love and grief and a reminder to live life to the fullest.  You can read Allison’s blog here and follow her on Twitter here.

I Can’t Think of a Title

My last memory of them was the day my beautiful boy came into this world.

My husband and my mom left the hospital to grab a bite to eat. I was alone in the room with my new baby, trying to figure out the whole feeding him with my boobs thing, when I heard a soft knock coming from the other side of the door. In walked the four most beautiful people I have ever had the pleasure of loving.

Susie floated in the room, her three musketeers in tow, her smile and presence lighting up the room, as it always did. As they always did.

Scooping Luca out of my arms, she quickly swaddled him and held him to her chest.

“I’m your Tia Susie, Luca”, she whispered to him in her soft voice.

Luca was then passed down the Jacomini receiving line, each of them holding him, welcoming him into our family. Our new, tiniest member.

Still way loopy from my c-section meds, I slurred, “Sue, how the fuck am I supposed to be feeding this kid.?”

She shooed the two boys behind the curtain and handed Luca back to me.

“Do you mind, Ali?”

Before I had time to answer, she whipped my right boob out, grabbed hold of it, and shoved it in Luca’s mouth. That was just like her. Never shy.

Vivi watched from the foot of the bed, so ADORABLY curious.

Is that how you used to feed me mommy?”

How could I have known how special this moment would turn out to be? How could I have know this would be the last time I would see them?

Oh sweet, sweet, beautiful Susie-Q. My cousin. My mother’s sister’s, oldest daughter. The cousin who had always been more of a mother figure to me. You see, there was a big enough age difference between the two of us that she did not consider me annoying, much like my other cousins and sister did at the time. She always made me feel more special than anyone I had ever met. I worshiped her. I wanted to be her.  I always thought that she was the coolest person I’d ever met. I still feel this way. She was.

One day, after kissing a few frogs not worthy of her, Susie met her Tommy. Soon after, they had their Vivi and Thomas, tiny replicas of each of them. The family was complete.

This is where I get stuck when I try and write about them. In my heart, I can go on and on about how wonderful they were, but when it comes time to articulate this,  I am never able to find words that do them justice. How can I possibly express how amazing and special they were as individuals, and as a family, with stupid fucking words?

True beauty, inside and out. No words are worthy of them.

So, I’ve stopped trying.

I will never forget where I was when I got the frantic phone call from my mother. Luca had been in this world for exactly 10 days. It was a peaceful morning. Just the three of us Zapata’s hanging out, getting to know each other as a family.

I answered the phone and my mom told me to sit down.

I sat.

The words came through the phone and punched me in the gut.

Susie, Tommy and the kids are missing.

Missing? I had no idea what she meant. Someone took them?

Panic started rising inside me and I asked her over and over, “WHAT DO YOU MEAN MISSING? WHAT DO YOU MEAN THEY ARE MISSING?!!!!”

They had taken a final summer trip to Steamboat Springs, before the kids went back to school.

They flew up in their airplane, with Tommy in the flier’s seat, as they often had. The four of them together, in their small plane, loving every second of it.

They were expected back in Houston on August 15, 2008, as school started the following week.

That horrific call from my mom came early in the morning, on the 16th.

They had not come in. No one had heard from them. They were missing. All four of them.

The next 24 hours are a blur. So many feelings.

Hope, that Tommy had to land the plane somewhere and that they were all okay, waiting to be found.

Dread, that the worst had happened.

And it had. The worst thing in the world had happened.

The wreckage of the plane was found on the side of a mountain, not too far from where they took off.

No survivors. No survivors. No survivors.

To this day I cannot stop hearing those two words. They changed our world forever.

Left behind to try and make sense of something, that will never make sense, are two mothers, two fathers, a brother, sisters,  aunts, uncles, cousins, best friends, tiny classmates, and strangers who loved them, if only from their pictures  splashed all over the news.

I. Am. Mad.

A year and a half later, this still makes no sense.

This was God’s plan, is what most people say.

If this is true, then I don’t like this God.

Can God feel the hurt in Susie’s only sister’s, heart? Can he comprehend how wrecked he has left my aunt and my uncle and the rest of us that were left behind?

Because, if so, that doesn’t seem very kind or loving to me.

My beautiful and brave cousin said to me, “I can choose to be angry or I can choose to be grateful for the time we had with them.”

Some of what I feel when she says this is anger that she has to be saying this at all. Angry that she has to go through this and so sad that I can do nothing to make it better.

I am so pissed that the world keeps turning without them in it. I am furious that someone else is living in their house. I am pissed off that this story cannot have a happy ending. That there is nothing or no way to fix this, makes me panic.

So, yes, I am so grateful for the time we were privileged to have with them.

But, less angry? Not really.

I want them back.

Ask Yourself This (3)

Last week in my book group, we discussed chapter three in this book.  It was the “Ask yourself this to grow personally” chapter.  The last question in that chapter was:

Am I willing to let go of the size of the life I’ve known to have a bigger life?

I grew up in a very average middle class family.  My father was a mail carrier and my mom worked for years at a place that prepared movie reels to be shown in the theatres.  We lived in a 3-bedroom house with 3 kids.  I shared a room with my sister up until I was 10, when my oldest sister got married and moved out of our house.  When I was little we went on one vacation a year, almost always to Myrtle Beach.  By the time I was a teen, we had a little trailer in Garden City (outside of Myrtle Beach) and were able to go for weekend get-a-ways more often.  I had everything I needed and wanted.  The size of my life was perfect.

So when I went to college, I imagined my life just as I’d always known it.  I got a degree in Elementary Education because teaching children was something I knew I would be able to do quite easily.  I didn’t care about the money, I liked the idea of the schedule and busyness involved in that career.  I also went in with the mindset that I would get married and my teacher’s salary would ultimately be the supplementary salary in my family.

Mark and I have been married now for 11 years.  Despite how much has changed over the years, I still live a life that is the same size as I’ve always known.  In a lot of areas, this is good.  We live very simply and I appreciate that.  What I don’t appreciate is that for too long I have categorized myself as “average.”  I put myself into a mold that doesn’t exactly match with my progressive mind set.  In a lot of ways you could call me a feminist, yet all my life I only ever imagined myself in stereotypical roles that women are famous for.  Wife, teacher, mother.  Of service to my students and my family, but unable to make a difference beyond that small world.

Over the past few years I have learned so much about what we humans are capable of.  I’ve learned a lot about what I am capable of.  I’ve expanded from a college student to an unemployed wife, from a wife to a daycare employee, from a daycare employee to an elementary school teacher, from a teacher to a stay-at-home-mother, from a mother to a writer, from a writer to a novelist, from a novelist to a blogger.  I am still expanding and as I grow, all those roles remain within me and in some cases are a huge part of my daily routine.  My life is getting bigger and I am willing to let it.  I am willing to go with the flow and see where inspiration leads me.  I am willing to scale the walls, face the dragons, and overcome the challenges.  Believing is seeing and I can do anything I set my mind to.  So YES God, Universe, Spirit, and friends, I AM WILLING to let go of the size of the life I have always known to have a bigger life!!!

What about you??