Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Sunday, December 7, 2008

Thanksgiving on the beach

This year I was thankful for spending the day with the people I love: Mom, dad, my boys, my man, my little girl, sister, brother, sister in law, cutie nephew, Jesse, lauren, Conrad, Frank, sharon, Izzy, Nicole, Steve, and their boys. I have a lot to be thankful for this year!

pictures:








Wednesday, December 3, 2008

Seven

This is Jake's 7th birthday letter from me!

Jacob,

This week you turned seven; seven whole years old! It's unfathomable that my little man is not so little anymore. You requested a rip stick for your birthday. After attempting to ride it for a good thirty minutes you stomped inside red faced and outraged demanding that "We take it back to the store immediately!" Let me tell you how ecstatic your dad I were after shelling out the $80 bucks for your 30 minutes of rage. You'd think by now we'd have learned our lesson about the expensive birthday stuff. Dad and I have brains the size of walnuts.

Currently you are in first grade and take more pleasure then your average kid on turning your school work in before everyone else. During a recent visit to your classroom I witnessed the pure joy you receive upon completing an assignment first. You don't just hand it in, oh no, you yell very loud "done!" and high tail it up to your teachers desk as fast as you can so that your paper is the very first one in her hands. You then look around the room triumphantly as if to say to the other kids "in your face!" I don't think your teacher finds this insanely competitive action nearly as hilarious as I do. She lets out a little sigh and says "thank you Jacob." I think instead of that frustrating rip stick we should have bought you a big shiny silver bell for your desk that way you wouldn't have to waste all that energy shouting and running when you completed your work. A simple ring of the bell is all you would need to do!

You are a perfectionist through and through. You like things to be done correctly and efficiently. If you can't reach your idea of perfection your go to the ugly place! It must be frustrating for you to have me as a mother, as I am the queen of imperfection. I think that God has a terrific sense of humor about these things; some how we work together perfectly. I adore you so very much. You make me laugh daily. You're always smiling and have been that way since babyhood. You have an effortless way about you that works to your advantage when you weasel out of punishments. You have mastered the art of charm. You are your father's son, that's for sure! Like you Dad you go through phases of obsessing over things. At this moment you are into skateboarding. Every morning you rush through breakfast so that you can have time before Mrs. Love picks you up for school to squeeze in some skateboarding. Apart from the skateboarding you are oddly very much into the "hobby" of snowflake making. After dinner you get our big jug of coffee out of the cupboard and trace its outline on some blue paper. Neatly you cut it, fold it a few times, and begin carving little pieces out with your scissors. I have to say your Martha Stewart like love and commitment to snowflake making slightly disturbs your father but I chalk it up to creativity! I can't wait to see what other hobbies you pick up this year!

Even though you are seven you still love to cuddle. When I tuck you into bed at night you still hold on tight to my neck and tell me how much you love me. I cherish that moment everyday because I know that very soon you will be too old to do that. I love you so very much,

Mom

baby jake and daddy

Jake with baby Amelia

partners in crime

Monday, December 1, 2008

2/14/46-11/30/08

My dad died on Sunday afternoon at 1:35 pm. my parents were married for 35 years so the time of his passing (1:35) was very fitting and extremely romantic. I will write more when I am operating on more then 3 hours of sleep. for now here are a few dad pictures that I pirated from my moms computer.


2 years ago on my dads 60th birthday my brother, sister, and I surprised my dad by flying out to Chicago for the occassion. Some one took this photo the moment he spotted all three of us (plus little amelia) I love how happy he looks



This is a photo of my dad and grandpa. At my sister's wedding my dad and grandfather played a fierce ping pong match against My uncle michael and aunt Rose. It was fun to watch my dad and his brother behave like little boys!


Happily married for 35 years


My dad with little Anthony


This is the last park visit the kids and I took with my dad back in June.



My dad always got a big kick out of Amelia. The three weeks we spent in Chicago with him he spent most of his time with Amelia. They just kind of got each other. Here they are in the driveway playing a game of hop scotch.

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Why my kids should not be around the grieving

My dad is in the hospital only it’s not a real hospital it’s a hospice center. I had never heard the word Hospice until recently. It reminds me of a spice, like I should be asking for someone to please pass me the hospice. It’s actually a hospital for the dying. Everyone there is one second away from croaking. My dad is in way better shape then any of them. He was having a hard time swallowing his food so his nurses suggested the hospice center for a few days so that he can be surrounded by doctors while he stabilizes.

The first day I showed up to visit, my mom cleary told me that they were in room 104. Leave it to my mom to give us the wrong room number! Although the door to room 104 was closed, Amelia and I loudly made our entrance only to find the oldest woman I have ever seen snoozing rather loudly in what I had thought was my dad’s bed. “Is that a person?’ Amelia asked in a very terrified voice.

Amelia has become very obsessed with the old patients at the hospice center. None of them come out of their rooms but often their doors are left open and she likes to peek in, point, and yell loudly about how old they are. It’s like she is playing slug bug, but instead of yelling slug bug she screams “Another old man, or look at that Old lady.” I have pulled her aside more then once to comment on her rudeness. I am starting to worry that she has a mild case of tourettes.

There is a really cute playground and walk way that wraps around the building. There ia breathtaking view of the city and lots of colorful flowers. Amelia spends a lot of time at the playground on the tire swing located just outside my dad’s room. Often Amelia sees the spouses of the dying patients walking around the beautiful grounds near the playground. Loudly she will yell “look at that old person mommy.” “Look mommy that one has a cane!” She acts as if they are the colorful mechanically characters on the stage at chuck e cheese there for the sole purpose to wow her with their oldness. She gets such a kick out of the existence of the elderly!

There is a large open community area that the kids like to hang out in, last night I made a big dinner and the kids ate it in the community room. Per Amelia’s request I placed her plate on the small round table near her favorite pink chair. She sat and ate happily until she got up to use the bathroom. When she came back a very distraught woman had taken her seat and was sobbing on her cell phone to someone. Amelia situated herself in front of the poor woman and started pointing at her “look mama, she stole my seat.” “That lady right there stole my seat.” I am afraid my daughter has absolutely zero social grace!

There is always someone crying in the community room, there are groups of sobbing families clutching onto each other. My kids stare at them. They find it fascinating. I am not a crier. I cannot think of a single moment that I have cried in front of my kids. I think this display of emotion terrifies and perplexes them. They become highly uncomfortable and fidgety when confronted with criers. Amelia always wants to know how they hurt themselves. “Did they get a boo boo? Or my favorite “do they need to see the doctor.” When I explain that they are crying because they are sad Amelia always says “oh, they just need hugs.” “hugs will stop the crying.” I love how very simple everything is to Amelia.

Monday, November 17, 2008

Taking things for granted

For the last week I have dreamt about high school every night. They have not been fun easy going keg party in the woods kind of dreams. They have been intense, wake you up in the middle of the night, kind of dreams. One involved my friend Stacey and I driving around in her grandfather’s boat sized car and running over a person who was crossing the road. Another took place at my friend Anne’s house and involved a screaming baby that no one could find. Yet another involved me being busted for smoking cigarettes in my parents back yard and my dad forcing me to eat the enitre pack as punishment. Something about having my parents around casues me to revert back into a teenager.

This week has been the toughest week of my life. I wasn’t expecting my parents move here to be so intense. When I tell people that my parents have moved to San Diego everyone says how great it is, how lucky I am to have babysitters. While I am so very lucky to have them here at the same time there is a terrible sadness intertwined with the happiness. I don’t feel like explaining that they are here so that my parents can be surrounded by family when my dad passes. The truth is my dad is dying which is not easily said during polite conversation.

When we picked them up at the airport I could barely recognize my own father. He doesn’t look like himself. When I left them with their bags to pull the car around I was gulping back tears. He cannot walk on his own anymore; it’s hard for him to speak. Sometimes he doesn’t know who I am. I had to help my 63 year old father use the bathroom. I think that was the hardest moment so far because he was so humiliated. I was not prepared for this. The first couple of days of their arrival were the hardest because I couldn’t recognize my own father inside his body; he just didn’t seem like him. He seemed like a stranger. Now I can carefully shove past, layer by layer, and see underneath the sickness and his confusion and find him there as always with the same dry sarcastic sense of humor. He is different but at moments his personality is back and he jokes and laughs as much as always. There are brief moments daily when I see the old him again. Those are the moments I cherish most of all.

What kills me the most is that I spent three weeks in Chicago this summer and I took for granted every moment. I wish I had realized then that in a few months he would be unable to walk to the park with us, That I would no longer have the pleasure of long leaisurely conversations with him, that He would no longer be able to thoroughly kick my ass at ping pong, nor would Amelia be able to demand that he play hop scotch with her in the back yard. Even though I spend everyday with him I miss him so much.





Wednesday, November 12, 2008

I love my family!









My brother an his family came for a short visit last week. We all had such a great time. My kids adore taking care of and playing with their cousin Anthony. We spent a lot of time at the ocean enjoying our local beaches. We went snorkeling one day and to the tide pools another. I wish we lived closer to one another!

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

Obama!


I am so very excited that Barack Obama is officially our new president. I have such hope for the next four years. I am so happy to be around for such a monumental moment in our countries history. I only wish I could been back home in Chicago to have taken in all the excitement at Grant Park!

Here is a transcript of his amazing and inspirational speech from last night:

If there is anyone out there who still doubts that America is a place where all things are possible; who still wonders if the dream of our founders is alive in our time; who still questions the power of our democracy, tonight is your answer.

It’s the answer told by lines that stretched around schools and churches in numbers this nation has never seen; by people who waited three hours and four hours, many for the very first time in their lives, because they believed that this time must be different; that their voice could be that difference.

It’s the answer spoken by young and old, rich and poor, Democrat and Republican, black, white, Latino, Asian, Native American, gay, straight, disabled and not disabled - Americans who sent a message to the world that we have never been a collection of Red States and Blue States: we are, and always will be, the United States of America.

It’s the answer that led those who have been told for so long by so many to be cynical, and fearful, and doubtful of what we can achieve to put their hands on the arc of history and bend it once more toward the hope of a better day.

It’s been a long time coming, but tonight, because of what we did on this day, in this election, at this defining moment, change has come to America.

I just received a very gracious call from Senator McCain. He fought long and hard in this campaign, and hes fought even longer and harder for the country he loves. He has endured sacrifices for America that most of us cannot begin to imagine, and we are better off for the service rendered by this brave and selfless leader. I congratulate him and Governor Palin for all they have achieved, and I look forward to working with them to renew this nations promise in the months ahead.

I want to thank my partner in this journey, a man who campaigned from his heart and spoke for the men and women he grew up with on the streets of Scranton and rode with on that train home to Delaware, the Vice President-elect of the United States, Joe Biden.

I would not be standing here tonight without the unyielding support of my best friend for the last sixteen years, the rock of our family and the love of my life, our nations next First Lady, Michelle Obama. Sasha and Malia, I love you both so much, and you have earned the new puppy that’s coming with us to the White House. And while she’s no longer with us, I know my grandmother is watching, along with the family that made me who I am. I miss them tonight, and know that my debt to them is beyond measure.

To my campaign manager David Plouffe, my chief strategist David Axelrod, and the best campaign team ever assembled in the history of politics - you made this happen, and I am forever grateful for what you’ve sacrificed to get it done.

But above all, I will never forget who this victory truly belongs to - it belongs to you.

I was never the likeliest candidate for this office. We didnt start with much money or many endorsements. Our campaign was not hatched in the halls of Washington - it began in the backyards of Des Moines and the living rooms of Concord and the front porches of Charleston.

It was built by working men and women who dug into what little savings they had to give five dollars and ten dollars and twenty dollars to this cause. It grew strength from the young people who rejected the myth of their generations apathy; who left their homes and their families for jobs that offered little pay and less sleep; from the not-so-young people who braved the bitter cold and scorching heat to knock on the doors of perfect strangers; from the millions of Americans who volunteered, and organized, and proved that more than two centuries later, a government of the people, by the people and for the people has not perished from this Earth. This is your victory.

I know you didn’t do this just to win an election and I know you didn’t do it for me. You did it because you understand the enormity of the task that lies ahead. For even as we celebrate tonight, we know the challenges that tomorrow will bring are the greatest of our lifetime - two wars, a planet in peril, the worst financial crisis in a century. Even as we stand here tonight, we know there are brave Americans waking up in the deserts of Iraq and the mountains of Afghanistan to risk their lives for us. There are mothers and fathers who will lie awake after their children fall asleep and wonder how they’ll make the mortgage, or pay their doctors bills, or save enough for college. There is new energy to harness and new jobs to be created; new schools to build and threats to meet and alliances to repair.

The road ahead will be long. Our climb will be steep. We may not get there in one year or even one term, but America - I have never been more hopeful than I am tonight that we will get there. I promise you - we as a people will get there.

There will be setbacks and false starts. There are many who wont agree with every decision or policy I make as President, and we know that government cant solve every problem. But I will always be honest with you about the challenges we face. I will listen to you, especially when we disagree. And above all, I will ask you join in the work of remaking this nation the only way its been done in America for two-hundred and twenty-one years - block by block, brick by brick, calloused hand by calloused hand.

What began twenty-one months ago in the depths of winter must not end on this autumn night. This victory alone is not the change we seek - it is only the chance for us to make that change. And that cannot happen if we go back to the way things were. It cannot happen without you.

So let us summon a new spirit of patriotism; of service and responsibility where each of us resolves to pitch in and work harder and look after not only ourselves, but each other. Let us remember that if this financial crisis taught us anything, its that we cannot have a thriving Wall Street while Main Street suffers - in this country, we rise or fall as one nation; as one people.

Let us resist the temptation to fall back on the same partisanship and pettiness and immaturity that has poisoned our politics for so long. Let us remember that it was a man from this state who first carried the banner of the Republican Party to the White House - a party founded on the values of self-reliance, individual liberty, and national unity. Those are values we all share, and while the Democratic Party has won a great victory tonight, we do so with a measure of humility and determination to heal the divides that have held back our progress. As Lincoln said to a nation far more divided than ours, We are not enemies, but friends, though passion may have strained it must not break our bonds of affection. And to those Americans whose support I have yet to earn - I may not have won your vote, but I hear your voices, I need your help, and I will be your President too.

And to all those watching tonight from beyond our shores, from parliaments and palaces to those who are huddled around radios in the forgotten corners of our world - our stories are singular, but our destiny is shared, and a new dawn of American leadership is at hand. To those who would tear this world down - we will defeat you. To those who seek peace and security - we support you. And to all those who have wondered if Americas beacon still burns as bright - tonight we proved once more that the true strength of our nation comes not from our the might of our arms or the scale of our wealth, but from the enduring power of our ideals: democracy, liberty, opportunity, and unyielding hope.

For that is the true genius of America - that America can change. Our union can be perfected. And what we have already achieved gives us hope for what we can and must achieve tomorrow.

This election had many firsts and many stories that will be told for generations. But one that’s on my mind tonight is about a woman who cast her ballot in Atlanta. Shes a lot like the millions of others who stood in line to make their voice heard in this election except for one thing - Ann Nixon Cooper is 106 years old.

She was born just a generation past slavery; a time when there were no cars on the road or planes in the sky; when someone like her couldn’t vote for two reasons - because she was a woman and because of the color of her skin.

And tonight, I think about all that shes seen throughout her century in America - the heartache and the hope; the struggle and the progress; the times we were told that we cant, and the people who pressed on with that American creed: Yes we can.

At a time when women’s voices were silenced and their hopes dismissed, she lived to see them stand up and speak out and reach for the ballot. Yes we can.

When there was despair in the dust bowl and depression across the land, she saw a nation conquer fear itself with a New Deal, new jobs and a new sense of common purpose. Yes we can.

When the bombs fell on our harbor and tyranny threatened the world, she was there to witness a generation rise to greatness and a democracy was saved. Yes we can.

She was there for the buses in Montgomery, the hoses in Birmingham, a bridge in Selma, and a preacher from Atlanta who told a people that We Shall Overcome. Yes we can.

A man touched down on the moon, a wall came down in Berlin, a world was connected by our own science and imagination. And this year, in this election, she touched her finger to a screen, and cast her vote, because after 106 years in America, through the best of times and the darkest of hours, she knows how America can change. Yes we can.

America, we have come so far. We have seen so much. But there is so much more to do. So tonight, let us ask ourselves - if our children should live to see the next century; if my daughters should be so lucky to live as long as Ann Nixon Cooper, what change will they see? What progress will we have made?

This is our chance to answer that call. This is our moment. This is our time - to put our people back to work and open doors of opportunity for our kids; to restore prosperity and promote the cause of peace; to reclaim the American Dream and reaffirm that fundamental truth - that out of many, we are one; that while we breathe, we hope, and where we are met with cynicism, and doubt, and those who tell us that we cant, we will respond with that timeless creed that sums up the spirit of a people:

Yes We Can. Thank you, God bless you, and may God Bless the United States of America.

Monday, November 3, 2008

Madonna!


Today while picking up the kids from school my friends Shannon and Heather were talking about the free box seats they scored for the upcoming Madonna concert. While they excitedly discussed the concert I had to literally contain my full fledged jealousy. You know when people get that fake overly peppy sound in their voice; that's exactly how my voice sounded. All of my syllables were over accentuated and I started speaking like a cheerleader on meth to contain my pure and utter disappointment over the fact that I did not have box tickets for Madonna.

At dinner I announced to Aaron that Shannon and Heather were going to see Madonna and how I had always wanted to see her live in concert. I went on and on about how my cousin Sharon and I used to sing "true blue baby I love you!" at the top of our lungs while wearing fake pearls and white gloves. How we would parade around the house with teased hair putting on lip synced shows for our parents. I went on and one over how truly and utterly envious I was! Poor Aaron just wanted to eat his chicken in peace with out all the talk of Madonna!

To my surprise Heather called me about an hour ago to see if I wanted to join them! Apparently I didn’t do the best job covering up my disappointment with my transparent peppiness, but hey at least I get to go to the show. When I hung up the phone I ran around my house screaming about how I was going to see Madonna, no one was impressed other then Andrew who is always highly amused when I behave like an idiot! Tonight I will raid my closet for something worthy of the Madge!

Friday, October 31, 2008

Halloween








Parents

My parent’s are flying out to San Diego next Thursday. I am excited but at the same time very nervous about them coming. Due to a new round of Chemo and the progression of his tumors, my dad is now unable to walk on his own and he has lost all of his hair.

The last time we visited Andrew was concerned about grandpa's appearance. He commented on how different he looked. This time his appearance will be a ton more drastic. I am worried that the kids will be scared. I know it sounds silly but I remember the way children would look at him after his first round of chemo years ago. When we would go to the grocery store little kids would stare or get a look of panic on their faces when they would see him. I just don't want my kids to treat him differently or be afraid. Other then my fear of the kid's reaction to my dad, I cannot wait to spend time with my parents. Their plan is stay for good. My mom is having a hard time caring for my dad on her own and needs help. They are going to rent an apartment nearby. My mom tends to flip flop when it comes to decision making so I wouldn’t be surprised if she changed her mind and moved back to Chicago. I refuse to get my hopes up!

In response to my stress levels over my parent's upcoming visit, I rewrote an old journal entry I found on my computer about the first time we found out about my dad's cancer. My method of dealing with stress is to write, it saves money on shrink bills! Here it is (it's very long!):

My first experience with cancer occurred at the age of 18. After my sisters 4.0 grade point average startlingly plunged down to a 2.0, she decided to take a year off of college and head to Kansas to live near her boyfriend. Just graduating from high school, and not ready to enter head first into years of school and books, I decided to go with her. Our plan was for a year of relaxation and freedom. We lived in a small college town. Michelle and I were just about the only people in town who didn’t attend the university. We lived in a tiny yellow apartment that housed our vintage furniture. We both got jobs together at the Nordstrom outside of Kansas City. Michelle outsold everyone in our department. All the other sales girls gossiped constantly about her. Due to her ability to always overachieve, the two of us were basically shunned by our coworkers.

My sister managed the bills and I tried my best to have enough money to party and pay for my half of the rent. I drank too much and stayed out too late. Most of the time Michelle and I lived together she hated me. I found her to be bossy and judgmental. She found me selfish and irresponsible. We avoided each other at all costs. In the beginning we laughed a ton and eat dinner together but after a couple of months we could barely stand the sight of each other. She spent a lot of time at the kitchen counter, calculator in hand, tallying how much I owed her on recent bills. When I wasn’t at work I spent all my time avoiding our apartment. Apart from work we were living very separate lives. While our sisterly bond was deteriorating, unbeknownst to us, so was our father’s health.

In April our mom called. She had a tone of urgency and panic in her voice that was frightening. “You need to come home,” she said, “get on the first flight. Your father is very sick. Don’t drive here you have to fly, we are at LaGrange hospital.”

It’s amazing how slowly time ticks away while operating in a panic mode. Everyone moves at a snails pace. I wanted the cars to speed up and for people to speak in quick short sentences. Instead, everything seemed so drawn out. I just wanted to get home.
I can remember every detail from that night. I can visualize entire hours down to the chipped fingernails of my dad’s nurse. I remember the stillness of my apartment, and stuffing dirty clothes off the floor into a backpack. I remember how quietly Chris, my boyfriend at the time, stood by watching me. I wanted him to say something, anything to break the awful silence but he didn’t. He was wearing his dirty Nike basketball shoes, the ones with the red stripe. I hated those shoes and had told a friend that if it hadn’t been for his sense of humor, I would have never spoken to him due to those god awful shoes! Before leaving he hugged me tight and kissed my forehead. We were standing on my porch. Across the street some kids were playing basketball. He promised to call me everyday. I wished he would come with me.

I remember driving to Nordstrom’s before our flight. Michelle and I stopped in to tell our boss that our dad was seriously ill and we weren’t sure when we would be back to work. I remember the escalator we took down to the parking garage. That matt, Michelle’s boyfriend’s, shoes were untied. I imagined that they would get sucked into the escalator. He kept shoving his hands into his pockets as if there was a lost penny somewhere inside. When we got in his car he played a Big Head Todd tape. Michelle sang along. I remember thinking that no one should sing in a moment like this. I expected all cheerfulness to come to a halt.

On the flight we sat next to a woman who wouldn’t stop talking. Her face was familiar, like we had always known each other, as if she had been a neighbor or one of the lunchroom monitors at my elementary school. She had short cropped brown hair and red lipstick. She wore a white sweater and her presence was oddly comforting. I wanted her to hold my hand and tell me that everything was okay. Instead she told us about her daughter’s prom dress and college plans for the fall.

It was late at night when we arrived in Chicago. Stacey, my best friend, picked us up with her dad. I had only met Stacey’s dad one other time despite being friends with her since the 6th grade. Since we lived in a predominantly white neighborhood, he thought our friends wouldn’t want to hang out with Stacey if we knew she had a black dad. He always kept to himself and shut his bedroom door when her friends were over. When we got to the hospital he drove over a curb and came to a screeching halt in front of the ER. I decided right then and there that I loved him for his sense of urgency. Michelle and I thanked them for the ride. We braced ourselves with the heavy reality of our situation.

When we got to the waiting room we were surprised to see it filled with relatives and friends of my parents. Irish people know how to gather the troops! My mom was on the phone trying to a book a flight for my brother from Spain. She told us they were unsure what was wrong with Dad but the doctor doubted he would survive the week. I was told which room to find him in. Michelle and I headed in his direction. I wasn’t prepared for what I found. He was connected to tubes and his skin was a weird color. He looked half dead. The tears came quick. Before I knew it I as sobbing. Michelle stood stoic, as still as a statue. For a moment I wasn’t sure if she was even in the room with me. I bolted. I couldn’t stand to see him like that. I collapsed outside the waiting room, not wanting everyone to see me crying. My aunt Claudia came out and sat with me. She hugged me tightly while I cried. Before long she was making fun of the nurses and my dad’s friend with the long nose hairs. The two of us were laughing madly and inappropriately outside the waiting room. Due to that moment, To this day, I love my aunt Claudia more then any other aunt.

Later that evening Michelle and I were told to go home for my mom’s phone book, we shared an elevator with my dad’s best friend. Matter of factly he stated, “That man is not going to make it through the night.” That was the one and only moment in my life that I have ever felt complete hatred toward another human being. I wanted to punch his face or spit or scream at him. To this day when I see, or think, of Tom I get angry. I’m not sure why. I think perhaps all the fear and anger I felt that night transferred to Tom. I know it’s not fair but no matter how hard I try to forgive Tom every time I see him, I picture him in the elevator saying those words. In his defense years later when my dad was laid off due to his severe memory loss Tom gave him a job when no one else would. He worked as a bartender in Tom’s pub. He was a terrible bartender but Tom didn’t care. He has always been a great and loyal friend to my dad.


It was interesting to see the way everyone else handled their grief. My mom was constantly on the phone speaking with doctors or speaking with family and friends. She turned her grief into action. My brother never cried. He was the one that would announce to strangers at the grocery store that our dad might die. I remember on the way to the hospital one morning we were stopped at a red light next to our elementary school principal. Rog rolled down the window and waved hello, and shouted, “We are all home visiting our dad. He’s dying!” Mr. Alpalter was stunned and at a loss for words. When he drove away we were all cracking up. “Did you see the look on his face!?” rog laughed. As weird as it was, Roger’s mode of grief was making other people uncomfortable for a good laugh. It was his way of trying to be okay. Michelle was strong as always. She did her best to comfort everyone else. She made sure everyone had enough food to eat and that we picked people up on time from the airport. Most of all she was the only one capable of soothing my mom. I was the most scared and outwardly emotional. I was prone to crying and hated that I behaved that way.

After about week my dad was diagnosed with a brain tumor. When they told him he cried. That was the second time in my life I have seen my father cry. The first being the day he learned his mom passed away. When they operated to remove the tumor I was in the waiting room the entire time with my mom and my sister. We were unsure if he would live through and what kind of man he would be afterward. We were told that he may be a completely different person. We were uncertain if he would be able to speak or see or even walk after the surgery. Afterwards he was the same only a little bit more sentimental and his memory was a bit off. He had staples running down his scalp and his face was swollen. He looked like someone out of a horror movie. I remember the day he was released from the hospital. He was wheeled into the elevator and there was a small boy in there with his mother. My dad loves children so he was making jokes with the child and the boy hide his face because he couldn’t bare looking at my dad. That was one of the saddest moments in my life because I saw in my dads eyes that he knew he would never be the same again.

My dad’s sickness changed everything. Oddly I felt that in some ways the changes were for the better. It was as if everyone in our family woke up. We rallied together and became stronger. Through his tumor we learned to love each other more. We talked openly and deeply. Months before we discovered his tumor we were a broken family. I barely spoke to my parents and truthfully felt a lot of animosity towards them. Roger had moved all the way to Spain to escape us and rarely spoke or wrote to the rest of our family. Michelle and I could not stand the sight of each other. All of that changed. Not only were my bonds with my family stronger but I also came to realize who I could count on. Tragedy shows the character of those around you. I was able to revaluate some unhealthy relationships. Chris, the first boy with whom I had ever loved, called me just once while I was home with my family. When I had arrived back to Kansas he had found a new girlfriend. This is the guy I had spent every day of the last 8 months with. He officially broke up with me over the phone in an awkwardly short conversation. His explanation was that he had been lonely while I was away and met someone else at a party. While it was devastating at the moment, I am thankful I did not waste any more time on someone who clearly did not care about me.

While my dad’s sickness had been extremely rough on all of us, oddly there has been a lot of happiness as result. He has inspired strength and compassion in everyone who loves him. At moments I see his cancer as a gift. While I would rather a healthy father I know that we have learned and loved more then we could have ever imagined if cancer hadn’t entered our lives.

Friday, October 17, 2008

The coyotes

Before moving to San Diego I had only seen a coyote one time. It was on a camping trip in New Mexico. On a whim my mom had decided to take a cross country road trip from Chicago to San Francisco bringing along my sister, brother, our cousin Tara, and me. I think I was around 8 at the time; my sister was 10, Tara 11, and Roger 12. How she managed on her own with 4 young kids packed into a station wagon traveling cross country, I have no idea. My mom is a pretty amazing woman.

I vividly remember our stop off in New Mexico. We stayed somewhere near the city of Gallup. I only remember that because the name fascinated me. It made me think of an energetic horse on the beach. In reality it was dusty and populated with truckers as opposed to horses. After our whirl wind trip ended I always remembered the 24 hours we spent in New Mexico. I can still picture the camp ground we stayed at. We were surrounded by mountains. Michelle, Tara, Rog, and I spent the afternoon exploring and hunting for lizards. By the evening we were exhausted. The sky appeared to go on and on forever. I had never seen so many stars. The people in the trailer next to us had all sorts of strange instruments like washing boards, ukuleles, and harmonicas. They jammed most of the night. One of the old guy’s made an inappropriate comment towards my mom, something about her boobs. I could feel her embarrassment. I think that was the first time I realized that outside of being my mother she was also a real live woman. They were a nice friendly group otherwise. They shared some home cooked food with us. After dinner my mom sent me to throw away the trash in one of the dumpsters. When I opened up the lid and threw in the trash, a strange creature came skittering out of the dumpster. I nearly fainted! With my heart racing I turned around to head back to the camp site when I noticed something standing in front of me. It appeared to be half wolf half dog. I froze, not wanting to move a muscle, trying to blend in with the landscape, hoping to go unnoticed. I had always loved dogs but there was something really frightening about this one. I could tell it was wild. I can remember being completely terrified. Luckily within a moment it ran off. And that was the first encounter I've ever had with a coyote. Luckily there was lots of food at the campsite so I think the coyote was more interested in what was in the dumpster then me.

Where I live now is surrounded by canyons. There are loads of coyotes in our neighborhood. I have only had the pleasure of seeing two as of yet. One Sunday morning we saw one standing in front of the high school near our home. They are such beautiful animals. It knocked the breath right out of me. About a month ago, Aaron and I saw one at a local park. After the sun had sunk into the sky, it came out from the canyon sniffing around for food. It was so skinny and sickly looking that Aaron and I left most of our picnic dinner behind for it.

Within the last few weeks I have been awoken mid sleep twice to hear the coyotes howling outside. It's such and eerie sound. It sounds like there are hundreds of them. They seem so close, like I could open my window and see them right there on our back porch. I imagine in reality they could be miles away. They almost sound like a group of heartbroken women crying their eyes out. Last night I woke to them again. The sound is so spooky! I didn't go back to sleep. There is something so beautifully tragic about their howls. I couldn't stop listening. I worry that with all the development in San Diego we are pushing the poor coyotes out of their homes. I hope they have enough land and enough food!

This is one of my favorite blogs: http://dailycoyote.blogspot.com/

Sunday, October 12, 2008

Missing the man

Aaron has been gone for nearly a week and I miss him. I can’t sleep. I have been sleeping on our little red coach for the last 6 days. I keep thinking that there is going to be a home invasion in the middle of the night and that my children will be stolen. It is irrational. Nonetheless, it keeps me on the coach near the boys were I can hear their breath bouncing against their pillows. I have a Sociology test in two days. I have yet to study. If Aaron were home he would be hounding me to crack a book. Instead, this weekend, I allowed the boys to have a sleepover; we hung out at the Lettows, we watched movies, and made cupcakes. We bought Halloween costumes at the store (Indian Jones and prince Caspian, Amelia plans on being a bumblebee again!) We made a big ethnic dinner full of rich tasting Greek food. I have been ridiculous about procrastination. Everything else is just so much more pressing and fun then learning about conflict theory and social problems. Sometimes I need Aaron to keep me on course. He is the ying to my yang. Have I mentioned just how much I miss him, how I can’t wait for him to get back?

What we have been up to this weekend:
Sports!

Jake is #11


Pole vaulting in the backyard

waiting for his turn!

Amelia singing at school