Friday, October 30, 2009

friends for all

today --

McK got to go ice skating with Jenny.

Av got to spend the whole day playing with Kharese.

Ian and I got to have lunch with Linda, a very dear friend that i have known since 4th grade.

tonight --

McK & Av invited their friends to join them at a Halloween party at my cousin's place.

Ian stayed home to play with Grammy and Grampy.

i got to have a yummy Thai dinner and then Coffee Bean & Tea Leaf with two dear friends.

today was a good day filled with friends, tears, laughter and sharing.

thank you, God, for providing us with good friends. may we continue to nurture our relationships with others and not take them for granted. amen.

"journeying in community is like walking with a safety net." --me

Thursday, October 29, 2009

the significance of bees

i said i would share this, so i guess now is as good a time as any to do so.

what is the big deal about bees?

on September 23, Brian's mom, dad, two brothers, sister and i went out on a boat from Marina del Rey to spread brian's ashes at sea. though we never talked about our burial arrangements [i guess we thought we were too young?], i knew immediately that this was where Brian's final earthly resting place should be.

so, under deep cover of fog with only about 100 foot visibility, we went out from the marina. when putting Brian's ashes in the ocean, which made a perfect serpentine in the water, Mom and Katie threw sunflowers and carnations into the ocean as well, which perfectly aligned themselves with the visible trail in the water. when our ceremony was complete, the fog suddenly lifted and we were ready to head back in to the docks. at that point, i noticed three bees hovering within the bounds of the boat. after pointing them out ["look! bee -- for Brian!], we watched as one landed on Mom's shirt, right over her heart; one landed on Dad's hand; and one was cruising on the mast. the three bees stayed with us all the way to dock and our captain said that once he got back to the slip, they stayed in the cabin and wouldn't leave [sounds like Brian and his love for the ocean and boats!]

afterward, we had lunch with all the family at The Cheesecake Factory and a singular bee visited our table [we were seated outdoors] and stayed with us most of the time.

since this time, bees have landed on me or been very nearby at significant moments in time: during a sad moment at a venue that we always went to together; selling his vehicle to someone very dear to his heart; picking up and putting away 1644; moving out of our home; playing with our son; our daughters' birthday parties; walking our dog; and others that escape me at this moment. i can say that never before has a bee ever landed on me. now, without fear but with great comfort do i [the girls and his family too] welcome these little creatures that nurture, pollinate and "spread the word" about the goods in the garden 'hood. they are God's way of bringing us comfort in difficult moments and reminding us of the one who is with us only in spirit.

so therein lies the significance of bees.

life's a hard road...

... and it feels like anyone who says God won't give you more than you can handle is full of crap!

my dad's tumors are growing, others are showing up and the chemo doesn't seem to be working anymore.

Brian's dad has bladder cancer that seems to have metastasized in his right lung [most of which he had removed two weeks ago]. bladder surgery no longer seems to be an option, according to his docs.

i am emotionally wrenched. i mean, seriously? seriously.

please be praying for these men.

please be praying for us. my mom and mother-in-law included.

Avery's birthday - 28 October 2009

my baby girl is 7... yup, 7! i can't believe it.... seems like not that long ago i was turning around in our kitchen ready to go get a classic b/w film for Brian and i to watch and my water broke. 7 hours later, i had a sweet replica of myself in my arms full of Brian's personality. what a girl. i love her dearly. she has heart, courage, sensitivity, need, want and a heart for Jesus so big that it can't stay within her. it shows.

today, a dear friend threw her the best doggie themed party any little girl could hope for. pin the nose on the dog, a huckleberry hound treasure hunt, a pinata as big as every kid there, dogs on the cake, paws and bones on the windows and tables.... even hot dogs for lunch! most of our homeschool park day friends came and wow... Av had a blast hanging with them and letting the whole day be for her.

after the party we went out to dinner at Islands with the folks and had fish tacos, a birthday tradition for Av. every year, Brian made his special fish tacos just for her because she loves them. i will tell you that these tacos do not hold a candle to Brian's... really, this just seems like a reflection of the fact that he is not here to celebrate with us. it makes my heart so sad and heavy. little things like this seem so much bigger now. he was meticulous as to how the batter tasted and how creamy and flavorful the sauce was and that the right undertones were in the salsa. now, those things are lost. well, maybe not totally lost but just not the same as we carry them out.

admittedly there was and undertone of sadness to the day, especially since Av didn't see any bees -- a symbol of Brian's presence with us. but i saw one. it flew out of the tree toward me, but then the strong winds we were having blew him away. Thank you, God, for that singular bee. like i said before, little things seem so much bigger now in our Life After.

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

panic, irony, and comfort

panic -- my experience at the social security office was leading me to believe that Brian's and my marriage license was invalid and therefore our marriage was not recognized by the state. what a horrific feeling! thankfully, i was gravely mistaken. i merely had a complimentary COPY from the registrar recorder of the actual certificate. whew! i was a wreck for most of the day.

irony -- in helping my mom clean out some stuff, we came across He Still Moves Stones by Max Lucado. in it, he wrote about Lazarus being raised from the dead and Jesus' response -- that which i wrote about last night. i love how God works, bringing things in our paths that allow us the comfort of knowing we are doing right and well, giving glory to Him who is able to do and be all.

comfort -- this from a devotional by Corrie Ten Boom:
Cast your burden on the Lord. Don't try to solve the world's problems with your mind. You cannot unscramble scrambled eggs.
I want you to be free from anxieties. I Corinthians 7:32 RSV

Crisis always demands spiritual qualities. None of us can refuse to face the storms. The tree on the mountain takes whatever the weather brings. If it has any choice at all, it simply puts down its roots as deeply as possible, getting ready to withstand.
That is why you need to put on God's full armor. Then on the day of evil you will be able to stand strong. And when you have finished the whole fight, you will still be standing. Ephesians 6:13 NCV
and that is what i am doing: trying not to solve problems that are bigger than i am or claim to know fully God's plan, but i am trusting God will care for me if i just take each moment as it comes and stand, ready to face this Life After.

John 11:35

the verse i reference here is one of the most famous verses in the Bible. most people do not consider it to be terribly profound, but i do. so profound that it compelled me to read the circumstances surrounding it. i never knew, but now i do. i am writing about it today because this verse represents how i felt today [by now what would be yesterday].

Jesus wept.

the circumstances surrounding this verse are thus: Lazarus has become terribly ill and when Jesus hears of it, he proclaims that there will be glory to God through it. he does not go to Lazarus, whom he loves very much, but stays where he is, trusting in God the Father. finally when they do go to Jerusalem where Jesus is hated and where Lazarus is laid to rest, they are told that Lazarus has been dead four days in the tomb.

he speaks to Mary and Martha, the sisters of Lazarus. both sisters tell Jesus that if he had been there, their brother would not have died. his response to each is different: to Martha he says: "your brother will rise again.... I am the resurrection and the life. he who believes in me will live, even though he dies; and whoever lives and believes in me will never die. Do you believe this?"
to Mary, as he sees her and her fellow Jews weeping and becomes deeply moved and troubled. he says, "where have you laid him?" as they take him to the tomb, he weeps.

most know the rest of the story. when he gets to the tomb, the fellow Jews - full of doubt - roll away the stone and Jesus calls Lazarus out. he comes, alive and well, still wearing grave clothes and goes on his way. after this event then, Jesus was plotted against to be killed.

this fascinates me. my Savior, who I call Lord, wept over the death of a man he loved. he grieved unashamedly with the family and his friends. my Jesus knows grief and he knows MY grief. he knows how i feel; and, in turn, i know a bit how he felt. wow.

today was a very difficult day. the hardest one yet [i think]. thoughts of Brian swirled about me. his voice on my phone telling me he loves me. his sweet smile beaming in photos. the reality of his death printed repeatedly on pieces of paper in front of me, bluntly tying up business matters. it was overwhelming and somewhat emotionally crippling to where i got very little accomplished, at least from the outside perspective. but the inner perspective is different. i allowed my emotions to come out... i cried in front of my kids... i took the girls to a grief group for kids... I wept. and i am beginning to understand the implications of those two words and how healthy the action can be more so in this Life After.

*Jesus Wept by James Tissot (1836-1902)

Sunday, October 25, 2009

birthday trio

today after church we went over to Brian's mom's house to have a family birthday party for all three kids. i had a tough time getting my act together to throw Ian a party in July and both girls' birthdays have happened after all the craziness so i decided to make it easy on myself and do a three-in-one party... yay! McKenna picked the cake flavor -- vanilla with strawberry; Avery chose the design -- a sunflower with bees hovering around it; Ian just ate it up -- yum!

it was a really great party, though i wish we would have talked about Brian more. he was so missed by me, the girls, his mom.... everyone, i think, missed his laughing, teasing and joking. i know i did. wow, these are going to be difficult times. but we go on, right?

breathe in. breathe out. blow out the candles and make a wish. i wish you were here.... it's a birthday.

note to self...

never watch videos that friends send to you in the middle of the night. you end up drowning in a pool of tears.

Saturday, October 24, 2009

story time

today was a lazy day... we just stayed at home and rested. we really need that sometimes. i rather liked it. it does allow the mind to wonder and wander though; i found myself thinking about Brian a lot. my thoughts and questions ran the gamut -- from "why?" to beautiful memories of time spent with him to many difficult moments together. i am often surprised at what i find myself thinking about or wondering...

this evening we ventured to a story time in Pasadena with Melea Brock. we invited friends to join us. it was a wonderful time of storytelling, one that i think Brian would have enjoyed -- he always loved a good story. again i found myself thinking about him as a few of the stories touched on points of commonality of experience or situation. the thoughts were good and welcome; i let myself go to the place of remembering. and it's okay. this Life After requires me to move on and continue placing one foot in front of the other to go forward, but i can stop along the way and relish the moments of the past.

Friday, October 23, 2009

birthdays galore

today we stayed at home and did a few things around the house. what we were really looking forward to was tonight -- Lorelei, Clara, the girls and i went out to BJ's for our annual birthday dinner. all of our birthdays are within a month of each other -- from September 22 to October 28. so we decided a few years ago to do an annual dinner, celebrating all of us at one of our favorite places with delectable food -- yum -- especially that pizookie!

if you don't know what that is, well it's a yummy cookie [choose chocolate chip, white chocolate macadamia nut, peanut butter, oatmeal, chocolate chocolate chip, or cookies n cream] baked in a deep dish mini pizza pan served fresh from the oven with a big scoop of yummy vanilla ice cream on top. okay, my mouth is watering again....

it was a wonderful celebration with good friends. the girls love spending time with Clara and i always enjoy my time with Lorelei. we have always said our lives paralleled each other's in so many ways [both English teachers, married in the same year, bought homes in the same neighborhood in the same year, daughters born within days of each other, birthdays so close], but we laugh when we tell people because others don't necessarily think that's parallel. Brian always thought it a little funny of us to make that connection, too. oh well, we like it and have comraderie. that's all that matters, right?!

tomorrow is Lorelei's actual birthday, so i will say it here: happy birthday, dear friend!

yesterday -- Oak Glen

yesterday we ventured to Oak Glen with Brian's younger brother and his family, some other friends meeting us there too. what a fun time.

we took the old colonial tour at Riley's Farm and we - parents included - got to do some fun activities: churn butter; learn etiquette; weave on a loom; dip candles; press cider; play old-fashioned games; and eat caramel apples. the girls loved spending time with their cousins and friends too. afterward we picnicked together and then went to the cafe to enjoy a wonderful apple crumb pie that i purchased from Riley's bakery for us to share... yummmm.

Av was sad today. she said, "Daddy would have liked it here." there were lots of bees around; both she and i felt comforted by that. [i haven't shared the bee story yet, but someday i will. there is great significance in honeybees.] she is on my heart all the time. she stuck close by me today. she is often who i am most concerned about in this Life After.

Thursday, October 22, 2009

a few words about our dog Lucy

she is sleeping in my room...

she is snoring loudly...

she is passing gas (the new food she tried tonight)...

anyone know what i am getting at here????

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Venice Beach

today we went out to Venice Beach to our old neighborhood. it was so nice to be back where we had lived for a little over 5 years. when we moved there Av was only a month old. now she is (almost) 7... her birthday is coming up! :)

we went out to lunch with two dear friends, neighbors of ours whom we have stayed in touch with since moving. we occasionally visit the area just to have lunch with them and play with their doggies -- the girls used to be fellow dog-walkers with these wonderful ladies! anyway, it was fun to visit there today. we went to Islands* for lunch and celebrated Av's birthday a little early with an ice cream sundae after our meal [it reminded me of another dear friend who celebrates her birthday for the 8 days prior to the actual date -- kind of like Channukah]. later we walked down to the pier and ventured to the end of it. the Pacific Ocean is Brian's final earthly resting place, as we knew it was the only place he really wanted to be; it is a wonderful memorial for his children to visit and remember him by: anytime the kids go to the beach and play in the water, they will be playing with him; when they learn how to surf, he'll be there teaching them; whenever we have our family photo taken by the water, he'll be in it.

it really was a great day. two things happened on the way home: 1/ i received a photo text from a friend. it was a picture of his daughter tending the sunflower seedlings grown from the sunflower seeds given out at Brian's memorial service. so sweet! and 2/ we were listening to the local christian radio station and i felt like God was speaking to me -- really about Brian being in heaven with our loving and merciful Savior who protects us and shelters us from the storms that life brings. one song in particular brought tears to my eyes [not a good thing while driving!]

Wish You Were Here - Mark Harris

[you don't need to sign up to listen... just press the "pause" button behind the sign up page]

words from a dear Father letting me know that Brian is well and well taken care of... as i and my children will be in this Life After.

*click the link to hear the waves lapping upon the shore ;)

Tuesday, October 20, 2009


i miss my love's smile and his funny idiosyncrasies.

tonight at dinner i could hardly stand it. ian did "cheers" with his cup and the memory came rushing in. and i didn't stop it. i let the tears roll at the dinner table and everyone was clearly uncomfortable. but what i felt was natural, normal and real. it's healthy to allow myself to feel. so i did. the strangest and most unrelated things happen and a completely unrelated memory will occur.

at this point, i need to acknowledge a book i have been reading that a dear friend, who also lost her husband, gave to me. it's called The Grief Recovery Handbook by John W. James and Russell Friedman. amazing. i highly recommend it. what a tremendous help it has been to me in helping me to be more comfortable in the Life After.

i am tired today. trying to help my folks create "space" for us takes a lot of effort and energy. tomorrow we are taking a break from it all and heading to the beach. more on that tomorrow...

Monday, October 19, 2009


...was a tough day because all three kiddos were clingy.
a friend of mine used a good word: barnacle.

this term has played itself over in my mind more than once in the last few days. whatever -- i love them. it's a season. it's all a part of the process. but it doesn't mean it isn't still difficult for me. i do have to say that God has given me a special measure of grace for them, though.

Av is the deep feeler and today... wow. the tiniest little things set her off and she just wept every time. but that's good, as it's been a bit of a struggle for her. again, she is a deep feeler and often times those feelings just don't come out with words. they are acted out. dramatically. guess she'll do well in APU's A Christmas Carol this december.

Sunday, October 18, 2009

pumpkin patch & friends

today, the kids and i headed out to cal poly pomona's pumpkin festival with some friends. the sea of people was unbelievable, but it was worth traversing it in order to see the beauty of a sea of pumpkins! for someone who's favorite color is orange, it was amazing to see those beautifully plump orange balls strewn over the hills and fields near the Farm Store with the upright sunflower soldiers as a backdrop standing guard over them and the people that were there. the gazebo was center stage for the kids to bring their goods over and narrow it down to the best pumpkins of the bunch they had chosen.

our family did not take any pumpkins for ourselves from the immense patch [though we did buy a spaghetti squash] because we have between 6 and 9 pumpkins already here at home. these beauties in our possession were grown in our very own garden, the one brian lovingly tended. in fact, these pumpkins [as well as many other fruits, veggies, and flowers from his garden] decorated the dais at brian's memorial service.

the girls and i are excited to carve a few for halloween and bake a few for some yummy homemade pumpkin pie! i have never done this before but am excited to try as baking is a tradition handed to me from all of my grandmothers, who were excellent bakers, each with their own specialties.

anyway, after taking way too many photos of sunflowers, chasing the boy around the patch for a bit, and then stuffing ourselves full of warm kettle corn [one of our favorite things], we headed over to Matt & Sharon's place for burgers and the fixin's [with our Dee-Licious meat, of course!]. it was wonderful, in more ways than one. the burgers were fabulous, the company divine and, really, the greatest part was that these friends freely spoke about brian, his memorial service and his life while the kids were there listening and participating in conversation. it's the first time that i can recall in the recent past that the girls have felt comfortable talking about their dad with other adults who knew him. they were comfortable sharing memories and good things about him because these friends felt comfortable talking about brian in front of them. it's difficult to put into words a worthy explanation of what happened/what i experienced, but it just felt.... good.

it was a great day -- being present with friends and hearing God speak to my heart in small ways, showing me he is there and that brian is with us in spirit.

1644 -- Dee-Licious!

last night, we went over to our dear friends' home in Pomona and had a delectable meal. i must tell you that there was something about this meal that made it extra special, for it had been a year in the making.

a little more than one year ago, the above mentioned friends proposed an idea to brian and me. "do you want to go in on an investment together and buy a red angus bull? it will be organically fed with no hormones administered and then butchered and wrapped for us to enjoy?" almost immediately brian gave an emphatic "yes! let's do it" as we had been talking previously about how awful the concept of hormones in livestock is and the fact that we, as consumers, ingest that stuff in to our bodies. we had come to agree in the belief that it leads to the premature development of young girls. so, we invested, along with two other families, in 1644 [otherwise known as Dee-licious!], the red angus steer raised at Amy's Farm in chino, ca.

on october 3, the three families headed over to the Pomona Food Locker to pick up our butchered and packaged 1644. this cow was something that brian truly believed was the right thing in which to invest. the thought of being able to have wonderfully healthy organic beef to prepare for our family meals was exciting to him because he was passionate about cooking.

this experience was really difficult for me because this was his "dream" - so to speak - and he was unable to see it truly realized. i cried telling the butcher's wife about it. it's really hard to even put here into words how i felt at that moment. but really, i was proud -- proud of the fact that my husband wanted healthy food for his kids and because of his excitement and commitment to excellence in this area, he has been able to provide that for us, even after his death.

anyway, tonight was the first night i have tasted that yummy meat. truly, the best meat i have ever eaten. it was accompanied by mashed potatoes [with onions from brian's garden], green salad with beets, pomegranate seeds, and feta cheese, and wonderfully sauteed shiitake and oyster mushrooms. for dessert, danae's delectable homemade turnovers [apple, peach and butternut squash with raisins].

of this meal, brian would have been proud! a wonderful reminder of him in our Life After.

Saturday, October 17, 2009

i have begun a Life After

after thinking much about writing and my intense need to do it, i have decided to keep a blog of life... Life After my dear husband's death just 38 days ago. am i counting? not really, but it still seems surreal. seconds turn in to minutes, minutes to hours, hours to days, and so on. life goes on... there is Life After. breathe in, breathe out.

i imagine that he will call me any moment as he so often did. how i long to have a conversation with my best friend. i keep thinking that i must remember what friends have said or done because their words and/or actions have been so amazing and comforting and loving towards me and the kids -- really because they love him so much and that has been extended to us. he would want to know. i want to tell him. i want to share with him the exciting things that God is doing because of the life he lived and his obedience to God despite his struggles. did he know how many people he affected? really, do i? i don't think anyone ever does realize the impact we make on the people we meet, know and develop relationships with, whether in years past or in recent days.

so, herein lies the documentation of Life After. Life After a tragedy where my husband, the father of my children, no longer dwells physically but only in spirit and memory as we, the ones left behind, go on. i wonder how the world can go on while i am wondering what went wrong or what i must do now. but we must; therefore, to help heal my broken heart, i will faithfully document the life of my family after this life altering event.

Here begins Life After.