Wednesday, January 29, 2014

Hurry Up and Slow Down...

We've always been a household of overachievers - but this is getting ridiculous.  It feels like we've done more in the last 6 months than we have done in years. And just as we were just getting over the strain of the holidays, my entire family is gearing up to embark on a new set of transitions. More change - more to get used to.

I've been completely engrossed with a story about a 23 year-old girl who was brutally murdered outside of a club in Santa Ana.  Kim Pham was in line with her friends - then somehow got involved in a verbal altercation with a separate group of women.  According to local news, the exchange quickly escalated to a scuffle that ultimately led to her untimely death.  Within minutes, a light that took 23 years to develop was extinguished at the angry hands of 5 heartless strangers who senselessly beat her to death. Adding insult to injury, a crowd was present - but very few came to help. 

As someone who's recently experienced a battle between a loved one and an unfair opponent, I can only imagine the sense of loss that her death has left with the community that was built around her. As a parent to 2 little girls, I ached deeply for her family - especially her parents and siblings.  And though I could try to speculate on what her loved ones must be feeling, I know that whatever I come up with would only amount to a small fraction of what their pain is really like.  There is nothing worse than having to bury your child. Period.

This public loss brings much of my private anguish to the surface.  And if I let myself, this could take me to a place that I'm not ready to deal with yet.  So instead - I've decided to reset my expectations.  I am going to try to move forward with whatever lies ahead knowing that I cannot control everything.  I can only continue to love my family and give them all that I can, for as long as God will allow.     

Thursday, January 23, 2014

And Down Came the Rain...

(written Dec 10, 2013- Post Jailyn's 10th bday)



Dad,

We watched the most beautiful fireworks show tonight. Each spark magically danced with purpose in the night sky.  The skyline was breathtaking.  And as familiar Christmas song medleys played, booming colors ignited approving gasps throughout Disneyland. You would have been over the moon! I also know that you would have insisted on carrying Jolie in your arms the whole time - just so that she could have the best seat in the house. Tonight she had to settle for second best and sat on my lap.  Like you, she also missed the show. Your little princess was sound asleep from a full day of celebrating Jailyn's 10th birthday.

(Can you believe Jailyn is TEN?!!!)

I closed my eyes and listened intently to the crowd.  Somehow I was convinced that if I honed in hard enough,  I'd hear you laughing and screaming in the background. If focused enough, I'd find your face in the crowd - your signature smile lighting the way. 

The moment brought me back to our last 4th of July together. 7/4/2013 - It was such a windy night. I remember how disappointed you were that we didn't buy our own sparklers for the girls.  You even threatened to stop by one of the stands - but mom and I wouldn't have it bec. in spite of your efforts to hide it - we knew that you weren't feeling well that day. Thankfully Jon arrived later that evening with fireworks in-hand.  I could tell that you were relieved.

Once nightfall came, we all stepped out to watch your silly neighbors load up illegal fireworks on their makeshift stands. I love how much we laughed that night. I also loved watching you with my Kimchix. I still recall trying to film the moment until I noticed how yellow your skin looked in the light. My camera seemed to only intensify your skin's tawny hue. I decided focus on your smile instead and it immediately put me at ease. The look on your face did all but say, "It will be ok....one day." 

***
Back in Disneyland, I saw dads, grand dads and even great-grand dads everywhere. They were with their families and happily watching the same fireworks show. It just didn't seem fair. You are one of the good guys, Dad. If anyone deserved to be with their loved ones, YOU surely did.  And though I know you were with us in spirit - I needed more. MUCH more. It just hurt so much to think about you. Soon a tear rolled down my cheek...followed by another.  Before long, I was unable to stop.  I suppose that one can only weather an emotional storm for so long.  I really didn't want to upset mom or wake up Jolie but I just couldn't stop crying.  Suddenly I felt someone sit beside me, resting their hand on my back. It was big sissy.  She sat quietly looking away from me - but it was clear that she wanted me to know that she was there.

"I'll be Home for Christmas" began to play in the background while fireworks continued to thunder above us - increasing in cadence. All that I could do was lower the brim of my hat, cover my face and allow the rain to fall. Then just as I reached the peak of my breakdown, I felt something land on my hand.

Wait... was that a snow flake?

I looked up and watched a million little, white flecks floating downwards.  And as each speckle landed on top of me, a sudden surge of comfort fell upon me, too.  You were there...weren't you?  You knew that I needed you - and like big sis - you chose to comfort me in silence. You didn't miss the fireworks show. You heard the beautiful music. You were holding Jolie the whole time. And as the snow trickled down, you were promising me that it will be ok… one day.



Tuesday, January 21, 2014

Much Ado About Nada

It seems wrong that I have neglected to post anything on this blog for over two months. I can't even say that it's bec there's nothing to report. The fact of the matter is, there has been A LOT of amazing moments that should never have gone unmentioned. Yet somehow...I have been unable to find the motivation to do it. And though I have allowed the idea that it could all be due to writer's block - I know the truth.

I haven't written about any of it bec all of the wonderful experiences that I've been blessed with has been difficult to genuinely embrace. I'm sad and tired and don't want to put forth the effort to pretend that I'm not. I also don't have the energy to wax poetic on gloom that I've touched on before.

Not here. Not this entry. Not today.

I've opened this post over a dozen times but only end up closing my browser - feeling utterly overwhelmed. I know that I should have written about Thanksgiving, Jailyn's wonderful 10th bday, my bday, Christmas, dad's bday and the New Year. And though I do have - what appears to be -the meager beginnings of an entry for each event; but they are still sitting in my drafts folder. They're all waiting to have some semblance of completion. Waiting for me to muster the inspiration to speak about them.

The good news is my family is doing ok  We are still going day by day.  We still miss dad immensely, but find comfort in the circle that he helped built.  And still trying to figure out what this "new normal" is all about. In spite of the difficulties we are facing, we are carrying on together. That's what counts, right?

Saturday, November 9, 2013

Jogging for Joe

On November 9, Team Jogging for Joe walked in honor my dad - joining thousands of others during the 2013 Purplestride OC.  I really had to mentally prepare myself for that day - knowing that it would be an emotional moment for my entire family.





It's hard to explain what it feels like to be in the midst of a sea of people who have traveled down similar paths - families that endured the same painful losses. To walk side-by-side with those who managed to beat their cancer - thanks to successful whipple procedures. To try to stifle pangs of envy while survivors bravely shared stories about their well-deserved triumphs. To see my mom's face when we saw dad's picture displayed on the "Path of Heroes."  To watch her sob uncontrollably then fall straight to her knees.  To miss dad in such a profound way that all I could do was crouch down and cry beside her.

 THAT was the hardest part. Dad is our hero.


 Mom asked me to make customized t-shirts for our entire team. Determined to stand out, I opted for yellow shirts and purple font. Ironically our colors also represented dad's passion for a basketball team that he loyally supported since our family arrived in U.S. many moons ago - but I digress...


3.1 miles later, our team crossed the finish line screaming.  My cousin, Mark, even managed to exchange high-fives with a very friendly bear. Lol.


What an on-rush of emotions! I was so proud of all of us. We came out, pledged our support and did our best to show the world that nothing - not even cancer - can ever take away what dad helped build within the crevices our hearts: a family united.




I want to thank everyone who participated in the walk and to all of the generous donors who helped our team nearly DOUBLE our original goal. The final magic number? $1,360.  It's humbling to know that in spite of our late start, we were able to rally such awesome support behind our cause.  I pray that we will have an even more successful walk next year...and the year after that....and, again, the year after that.... until pancreatic cancer finally get the funding and attention that  it so desperately needs.

Dad, I KNOW that you were with us that day.  I hope that you watched us with pride because God knows how proud we are of you.


#KNOW IT. FIGHT IT. END IT. 

Saturday, October 5, 2013

Sad Days

It's funny how moments of sadness seem to hit me at random intervals. While laying in bed with Jolie, she woke up with THE biggest smile. My baby was OVER THE MOON about finding me by her side.  You know the laugh that begins at the under side of one's belly that resonates straight to your heart? Jolie was laughing like that. And for a split second, I actually thought, "I should call dad so that he can hear her laughing like this." --- How does that happen? I'm a reasonably sane person (most of the time.) All that I could come up with is that once unconditional love is imprinted on the heart, it supersedes the mind - even for a moment.

Just 10 minutes ago, I was sitting on my couch - feverishly working on my company's newsletter.  One of the articles I was working on was about an associate's daughter who died a few days before her 3rd birthday due to Acute Myeloid Leukemia or AML.  I looked at her daughter's young face - and wondered how something so tragic could ever happen to that beautiful angel. Her brown eyes were so vibrant, so innocent. I can only imagine the suffering that she's seen through them.  At nearly 3, it was probably near impossible to comprehend what leukemia was doing to those eyes.

And, of course, I began to think of our dad and HIS brown eyes.  I'm certain that, even with all of the wisdom he's acquired in life, nothing could have prepared him for cancer.

It was all too much. I began to weep. I wept for little Isabella. I wept for my dad. I wept for me - bec. I can no longer read about anything sad without being reminded of my own personal loss.

I've stopped writing about my grief bec. I hear the same type of well-meaning statements:
- Time heals all wounds.
- He's in a better place now.
- At least he is no longer suffering.

And don't get me wrong; I really do appreciate the sentiments... but.....

Yes, I 'm sure time will help me somehow. Yes, he IS at heaven now. And, no, at least he's no longer suffering ----- BUT I MISS HIM. I don't miss what he did for us - but who he was to us. He was my dad. And my kids... they miss him in ways that I never thought they could. I have to endure watching my mom walk around looking lost everyday. My sister and brother mourn him deeply. My niece is always sad. THIS SUCKS. I don't want to hear anyone tell me how it doesn't BECAUSE IT REALLY, REALLY DOES.

The day will probably come when the pain isn't this intense - but that's not today.

And most likely won't be tomorrow either.  :(

Monday, September 9, 2013

FOURTH GRADE - AND STAYING PUT ----- FOR NOW.

I love that Jailyn is in the 4th grade.  And though she's considered to be an upper grader - she is still my goofy, silly, lovable my baby girl. 

In an effort to curtail the effects of the many transitions we've gone through over the summer, Jon and I agreed to keep Jai at her old school...for now.  The good news is that Jailyn appears to have a pretty good teacher. Mr. Beyer seems enthusiastic, warm and has a passion for teaching. (Imagine that!)  Thank GOD for that bec. he'll need all of that to mitigate through teaching a class of THIRTY-FIVE kids.

Jailyn seems to enjoy his class and I'll take what I can get. :)  

Sunday, September 1, 2013

40 Days

Some Catholics believe that the soul remains on the earthly plane for forty days before entering the afterlife - recalling how Christ ascended to heaven forty days after his Resurrection

Today marks the 40th day since dad passed away. 

We visited his grave to deliver multicolored gladiolas and roses. When we arrived, the 3 vases were already brimming with flowers and decor that my sister left just a few days earlier.  The combination was nothing short of amazing:



After church, we went back to his grave ... and sulked some more. 



Cali's unrelenting heat wave forced us to keep our visit short. We retreated to my Uncle Flor and Tita Mercy's house to celebrate dad's life with our extended family. Lots of food. Lots of family. Lots of laughter. Yet in spite of everyone's best efforts - the festivities were dwarfed by the painful fact that dad wasn't there to eat, laugh and BE with us. 

Not gonna lie - it really f&^*ing sucked. 

Only adding salt to the wound, Jolie displayed the first obvious sign of grief. I will never forget how her face lit up after seeing my Uncle Flor (who could pass as dad's twin) walking around wearing a salmon colored t-shirt. Jolie ran up to my uncle SO fast. She grabbed both of his hands and looked up at him. I could see her big, brown eyes searching for a glimpse of returned recognition.  That's when she began to hop in place - waiting for Uncle Flor to do what my dad used to do. Dad used to joyfully clasp hands with Jolie and jumped around in dizzying circles until they both fell down laughing.  Jolie kept staring - waiting. And as the seconds ticked by, I could see sad realization enter her expression. He was not going to jump. Though smiling, Uncle Flor was not overjoyed at the sight of her - not the way dad always was. He was not going to do any of those things bec. he is not the grampa she was hoping for.  In spite of that, I painfully watched as Jolie trailed behind my uncle. Still waiting - still hoping. It was really more than I could bear. I left the room in tears. I realized - only then - that Jolie was NOT too young to feel his loss. In fact, her sense of loss was a lot deeper than I could ever even imagine. 







Monday, August 26, 2013

Painful Firsts

Mom and Dad celebrated their birthdays in the same manner every year: they'd wake up early, quietly eat breakfast, go to church then grab a quick lunch together - always together. Then when the weekend came along, our entire family would gather together and commemorate the day in a special way.

This year, mom welcomed her bday like this:


And as much as I wish that she was able to happily celebrate another year of life, I know that the fact that she was able to muster getting up is pretty darn remarkable in itself. But the truth is - my mom is a pretty remarkable lady. 

We ended the night at home with cupcakes and cuddles. Our puffy-eyed mom put on a happy face for the sake of her grandkids and smiled for pictures.


The truth is nothing outside of having dad around again could have changed her sadness. It is simply not what is not meant to be. So all that we can really do is to continue to go day-by-day and pray for the day when these moments will feel less excruciating. One day...

Happy Bday, Mommy. We love you always.

Saturday, August 24, 2013

Bless This Mess

As a working mom, the challenges of keeping a home intact is nothing short of a freaking miracle.  Thankfully my hubby is a laundry extraordinaire so we do have clean clothes most of the time.... but they're often stored like this on my bedroom floor:


Ok ... more like this:



At least they're clean, right?

Then there's the rest of the house... Oy.   I'd post a picture but I actually do have a little bit of shame left.

The good news is that my house is definitely filled with love. (...and dust...and crumbs and dirty dishes and stains.) My Kimchix are happy and my husband adores me. That trumps tidy any day.







Accepting Change