Today she turns 40- that second sister of mine. My favorite childhood memory of her is that time as a toddler when she was crawling around the patio during a summer backyard BBQ. We had this very slippery patio you see. As pre-teens, on a hot summer day, we’d throw our swimsuits on- altogether us sisters and cousins too, run the garden hose over it and slip-n-slide. At the end of a good session, our knees would be rubbed red and bruised. We didn’t care- fun was all we knew. There were no plastic slip-n-slides and if there were- our parents didn’t have the money to buy one. We did what we could and played with what we had. What we lacked in money we made up with in creativity. But I digress.
Back to my sister. She was crawling all over that slippery patio while Dad BBQ-ed some type of delicious meat. I remember we had those windows in the kitchen that opened up to the patio and we’d pass the carne asada raw and cooked back and forth through that window. The meat always marinated in this giant, mint green tupperware bowl. Man, every time I saw that bowl- I just knew it was going to be on. So there went my sister – maybe 18 months old and she’s crawling around that slippery patio and hardly anyone is paying any attention to her until- PLOP!– she picks up a nice, juicy slug of a snail and just throws it in her mouth. I’m not quite sure who noticed first that she seemed to be crunching away on something not right. Next thing you know- they ran right over to her and took it out of her mouth or what remained of that little insect and washed that mouth out with water and Lord knows what else.
I couldn’t look at my sister in the same way for a few months after that. Every time I thought of her- I thought- there she goes- a snail snacker. The only way Mom and Dad explained it was you know your sister- she’s always getting herself into something- she can never sit still- that one.
And so she remains to this day. Mother of four, husband to one, full-time working momma with a side business – making homemade, personalized sugar cookies, cupcakes and party planning. She planned her own 40th birthday bash a few weeks ago and it was spectacular- tequila shots, 90’s music in a cottage along the beach. She just finished baking personalized cookies/cake pops for our niece’s 15th birthday party. She always goes over the top and she can never stand still- constantly moving and plotting her next move. She gives her entire heart to her others. I worry about her sometimes as I do with all of them in different ways- that she gives too much, does too much and not enough time is spent on herself.
She is brilliant, talented, and full of life and love. I hope she remembers that today- a celebration of her 40 years on this earth- and always. As her big sister, I will try to remind her of that. Love you Mel. Sisters forever.
You might be wondering where I’ve been in the last month. Long story short. We moved back to California, moving company was 2 weeks late in delivering our stuff and all 3 kiddos began a new school year while my husband transitioned to a new work setting. As for me? A million crazy, outlandish things happened and at a certain point all I could do was laugh. So many great stories to share and I will at a certain point. For now, I am relishing in being home where I belong and creating my new normal. Work has picked up and I’m really grateful for the opportunity to do meaningful work with nonprofit organizations that are changing lives.
On this Labor Day, I’m thinking about my husband and one of the greatest journeys I ever embarked on- getting married 18 years ago. I literally had no idea what I was doing but in a way I think that’s the way it should be- that’s life- stepping off the ledge- hoping for the best and knowing you’ve got to prepare for a little turbulence. So- here’s to new beginnings- that we never grow so comfortable that we are afraid to step off that ledge. I’m off to push my family into joining me for a hike in our beloved canyons this morning. In the meantime, while I catch my breath- I leave you with this piece written during my last week in St. Louis. Many blessings to you all…
The cicada’s song has returned and serenades us upon dusk. The out of nowhere monsoon thunder and lightning storms have resumed as well.We chase the fireflies around the yard and marvel at their lights. The ground smells strong after a good storm and the birds and bunnies remind us of how much life there is in the world.
I’m not scared anymore.
One year ago we landed in St. Louis, ready for an adventure and yet so sad to leave California. Also scared because I knew this move would bring so many changes and I was afraid of how those changes might affect us.
The past few years had caught up with us. My father-in-law’s stage IV cancer diagnosis and subsequent passing along with the aftermath. Ever watched a person die before your eyes? It’s a frightful thing and as you watch the horror unfold in front of you, control is slipping out of your hands and you realize this is how we all end. Life and marriage and kids and problems had turned us into shells of what we had been in our younger days, we found ourselves scrapping through, with no gusto for life- our feet heavy upon waking and hitting the hardwood floor most mornings. And then out of nowhere- poof- we were moving to St. Louis! Everything you thought about your life and what you knew about gone in that instant.
Although we didn’t know it at the time- we had just hit the re-start button for our lives. What an incredible gift. People entered our lives that we didn’t even know we needed. Experiences were had that we didn’t even know we needed to experience. But most importantly- our most valuable lesson is that we learned to laugh and find the joy in life and in each other again.
It is time for this family to go home back to California. We will pick up where we left off but from a different place. Continue our adventure we will- seeking out those people who are a bit different- the outsiders if you will- realizing how hard it is to be the person that no one talks or relates to, the person that doesn’t quite fit the narrative. Always looking for new places to discover, new journeys to travel, new experiences to have so we can continue to learn about ourselves. We will challenge ourselves to be more empathetic, caring, loving and open. We will try our hardest to protect our sacred family time and space amidst the crazy of life and not overburden ourselves with outside commitments.
I’m not scared anymore.
This week’s book is a bit different because I have spent the last three days attending graduations for my two sons- one for middle school and another for elementary school. Needless to say I have been a mixed bag of emotions. That is how I came across The Prophet– by a Lebanese poet named Kahil Gibran. It is a book of 26 poems published in 1923 that reflect all of life and the human condition- everything from love and marriage to friendship, life and death. I’ll admit to not fully reading it in its’ entirety- rather- I stumbled upon it just yesterday and plan to order it- but I am so touched by his words. His work is influenced by his religious upbringing as a Maronite Christian but also by other world religions and of course a reflection of the time period in which he lived in- war-torn Lebanon. An animated film based on the book was produced by Salma Hayek in 2015.
Yesterday morning- sitting in the 5th Grade promotion ceremony- the school principal read to us a poem by Kahil Gibran that really resonated with me. I listened and thought- yes- this is what I’ve been wanting- these are the words that somehow put how I’m feeling in perspective. Letting go is not letting go because they were never ours to begin with. Thinking of our children as they hit these milestones in life in this way makes the pain a little less.
Your children are not your children.
They are the sons and daughters of Life’s longing for itself.
They come through you but not from you,
And though they are with you yet they belong not to you.
You may give them your love but not your thoughts,
For they have their own thoughts.
You may house their bodies but not their souls,
For their souls dwell in the house of tomorrow,
which you cannot visit, not even in your dreams.
You may strive to be like them,
but seek not to make them like you.
For life goes not backward nor tarries with yesterday.
You are the bows from which your children
as living arrows are sent forth.
The archer sees the mark upon the path of the infinite,
and He bends you with His might
that His arrows may go swift and far.
Let your bending in the archer’s hand be for gladness;
For even as He loves the arrow that flies,
so He loves also the bow that is stable.
Me and my Momma, sometime in the late 1970’s. As we get older, I realize how much I need her more and more. When I think of her from childhood – I remember the scent of her Estee Lauder perfume, her platform heels, her style and bling. Thank you Momma for always loving me unconditionally. So grateful for that love.
Big Boy was confirmed last weekend. My sister Melina flew out from Southern California to be his sponsor and visit St. Louis for the first time. So very grateful for the time she spent with us as she is in the middle of a move from the house she’s lived in for the past 15 years to a house closer to where our parents live. The weekend flew by much too fast and was filled with lots of sunshine, love, and all-around happiness.
I took her to Bikram Yoga with me on Sunday morning and then we squeezed in two lacrosse games around Big Boy’s confirmation. We were also lucky enough to have the honor of Big Boy being confirmed at the Cathedral Basilica of St. Louis on a gorgeous, 81 degrees blue sky day. For Big Boy’s confirmation gifts, we bought him his first NSV bible along with a book of prayers for young men. He has been reading his book of prayers every night since. I am so glad that the words he is reading there are resonating with some part of his soul. His confirmation marks the official end of Sunday School – a journey he has been on for 9 years. Our parish has a teen youth group he will now move into and hopefully create some great memories there.
Afterwards, we had ourselves some down-home BBQ at SugarFire Smokehouse BBQ. Dang- the veggie lover in me licked every bit of sauce off my fingers. Along with Pappy’s BBQ, these are some serious BBQ St. Louis institutions you must visit if you are ever in the area. Still thinking about those baby back ribs… mmmm. Enjoy your weekend friends!
Our dearest Amelia-
Exactly one year ago today we said goodbye to you Birdie. But you are here- we know that you are. In our dreams. You are the sky. You are the birds that fly in the sky- ever so gently and cautiously flittering from branch to branch. You were of this earth for 2 short years and yet you left a significant impact on every single person that came across your path. Did you know you left behind a legacy of strength and grace and pure love?
You were the 9th person in the world diagnosed with a rare metabolic disorder called Acyl-dehydrogenase 9 deficiency. No one could figure out what was wrong for so long. No doctor, no specialist, no surgeon, no one in the whole world. Your parents and family were puzzled. You had been born a perfectly healthy baby girl, yet within hours they realized something was not right.
Finally the diagnosis they had been waiting for came. It was the worst possible news that a parent could get- their worst nightmare- come to life.
But your parents, dear Amelia- well- you already know. They are two of the bravest, most courageous people I have ever known. It didn’t matter that the doctors couldn’t say exactly how long they could expect you to live. They didn’t focus on how much time you had left, never felt sorry for themselves, that they had been dealt a cruel hand. Instead, they praised and thanked God for you and focused on loving and inhaling you and living each precious moment that they were given with you.
They loved you in a way that was beautiful to witness. Everyone did. For a brief moment in time you were always there. At the beach on a summer’s night- bundled up in your stroller- sitting on the sand next to us- around the bonfire. At birthday parties like the Frozen party- where you stole the limelight from the birthday girl. At every family gathering and holiday- always smiling- filled with an inner radiance and light.
You never knew a life without shots, frequent hospital stays in and out of the emergency room, doctor’s visits, hooked up to your port- yet your soul seemed unencumbered. You emanated love and grace – not sorrow- not pain- not despair- not sadness. Instead, you knew love every single minute of your life- each one of us made sure of that and love you dearly we did- showering you with gifts, directing all of our attention to you, we’d pass you around from arm to arm and talk to you- “hello Mamas!” You learned to clap and wave and throw “besitos.” Continue reading “Our Little Birdie”
The leaves keep falling off the trees. The wind twirls them round and round. There are piles of them everywhere I look- they are orange, bright red, olive green, yellow and brown. The trees look naked now- simple wood stumps whose scraggly branches poke you in the head if you don’t watch where you are walking. Fall has officially arrived in St. Louis.
Team Jackson has been here for almost 4 months. It feels longer than that and we feel just like the trees – we’re changing and we are not sure of who or what we’re becoming. Some days it feels like we are suffocating under this gray, cold sky. Losing our sunshine and vibrancy. Other days, we think- yes, we can do this. We can build new friendships, take risks we never thought we would, live outside our comfort zone and be okay.
I’m beginning to meet my people. Many of them are St. Louis transplants. We are a merry band of misfits in this town where outsiders aren’t necessarily welcomed with open arms. I plan to grow this lovely group to create the boldest, most kick-ass women you are ever going to meet in St. Louis.
L and I explore and eat out at a new breakfast place every week. Together, we are working with the middle school to see how we can create a more welcoming environment for new families. L pushes me constantly to go beyond what I know and feel comfortable with. “Let’s go bike-riding to the other side of the city! Let’s go here and here! We have extra tickets to Six Flaggs- here you go!” Oh, L- “don’t you know that I just want to sit inside my warm home and watch TIVO or read a book? But, L won’t have it.
Key and I have a weekly walking date. We share our life story and how we arrived here and our daily struggle on how we might be able to get by in this town as outsider women of color. Key pushes me too- she forces me to attend elementary PTO meetings- “They expect us to not show up and because of that we must show up.” I like Key’s boldness- “I am completely comfortable with who I am and I don’t need to pretend to be someone I’m not. I really don’t.” Key is like my reality check in this environment. Hold fast and strong to who you are and don’t you dare doubt yourself for one moment. Continue reading “Fall”