Lessons from my Mom and Son/#34-infinity

Dear GB, Dear Mami,

I decided to do a hybrid blog to both of you because the two of you share this quality of spaces in my heart that I didn’t know I had, until I had them. I’m sorry it has been so long since I’ve written. I’m sorry Mami that my Lessons from you have stayed mostly in my head. I’m sorry Jonah that these beautiful, wonderful, special almost 5 months of your life have gone by without many written documentations. Mostly, though, I am sorry to myself, because I am the one at the disadvantage when I don’t do this; when I don’t sit down and capture THIS MOMENT, then I am the one who loses it. Truly, the art of capturing a moment is the most difficult thing to do, because once you’ve paused to enjoy it, it has passed. A photo, while a wonderful contributor to this, can’t always do this. At least not when I take the picture… that was never one of my strengths. But here. Here is where I do my very best to put down the magic that will no longer be one day. I reread my letters to my Mom and I am instantly taken back to the instant they happened. I can never have those moments back, not even in my dreams—though I try—this is as close as I can come. I can’t not take advantage of that.

I’ve learned so much from my Mom watching Jonah grow up these past months. More than anything, I’ve learned to trust myself. Those first few weeks of his life, I felt so scared of every decision I made. Something so strange and sad, yet wonderful, to me, was this parallel that I felt between losing my mom and having my baby. Life, being a cycle, has remarkable similarities on each end. Jonah learning to move his limbs, taking in his new world, unraveling from fetal position into being not just a baby, but a little boy. I constantly thought of my Mom, losing the ability to freely move her limbs, reflecting on a world going dark, becoming so dependent. That sounds so sad, and sometimes it was, but it was also amazing. I can’t explain why I felt so moved and impacted by the similarities. Perhaps that contributed to my fear: remembering my loss. I didn’t want to not have you, Jonah. But every day you grew stronger and I got to know better and better. Now, we feel in sync. We get each other. You hugged me when I struggled to make it through the 26th of this month, thinking about losing my mom. You call to me, in your own type of words, and I understand it just as if you spoke. I trust in own intuition to know how to take care you. That is something I was given by my Mom, despite her not being here to speak to me, in a similar way to my conversations with Jonah, I know she’s helping me in some greater, indescribable way. Through memories, through years of growing up under her guidance.

Now today, I lay down with my gummy bear, and his chubby little arms wrap around me while he sleeps. He is no longer in my belly, but he is still a part of me, in a parallel to my still being a part of my mom. He wakes up, and his little hands travel up to my face, exploring my nose, my mouth, my breath with tiny extremities and curious faces. It sounds simple and ordinary, but this exact moment, I needed to write down. Because it is life. This is what my mom has given me. What I hope to give Jonah. What I wish to all my friends and family. This moment needs to stay ever present in my heart.

Something a little different

I will still be posting here, and will as always keep this as strictly a memorial blog for my beautiful mom. In fact, I have been wanting to update on her past birthday spent with family.

Until then, I am sharing with you a new part of my life that will be documented here: http://hellogb.wordpress.com/2014/09/25/first-comes-love/

Please enjoy, this will be kept to mostly “family and close friends” for now, until we make our “official statements.”

Lesson 33: How to Achieve Your Happily Ever After

Almost exactly a year ago, I sat at the foot of your couch massaging your feet. You always told me I had a very special way of massaging the perfect pressure points that no one else could seem to match. I assumed you were Mami-how-do-you-make-pancakes-ing me, but I was happy to play along. Your feet were so small in comparison to mine.

We sat on the couch and watched “Mamma Mia.” Dancing and singing through the songs and then we cried as they prepped for the wedding, as we slowly slumped closer and closer together. It occurred to me, as the credits rolled, that “Thank You for the Music” was the perfect song to sing to you for your birthday. Your big 60th. Your only wish from me was that I sing to you at your party.

I hadn’t seen you so happy in such a long time, and maybe that was where I was thrown off… you were so happy planning your party, I didn’t see the pain you were in. You wanted such a big celebration. “I want everyone to be there to celebrate that I’m alive!” you told me with the widest, glittering eyes. My heart still warms and then breaks when I remember the look on your face when we talked about it.

If our life were a musical I would have broken into my epilogue right after that moment. The audience would have seen our plight over those preceding 6 months, and though left hanging about our outcome, they would have visions of that potential celebration in their minds. A remission.

But you taught me that life doesn’t always go my way. It shouldn’t. Somehow those words coming from you were always so comforting. Words that now hollow in my mind and make me feel cold.

Life is a never ending story with plot twists and villains, but hopefully along the way, you find your heroines and true love. But the happily ever after comes not from Prince Charming’s kiss, but from picking yourself up and carrying on when you thought you couldn’t on your own.

Sitting in my own room a year later, wishing I were in your company, I can’t help but worry about how I will spend your birthday. I know you’d be angry at me if there wasn’t some sort of celebration. A commemoration of how amazing of a Mom you were. That your impact is so imbedded in my life that every single day I discover something new I had no idea I learned from you.

I think I’ll be watching “Mamma Mia” and reminding myself of all the ways I carry you with me.

Lesson 32: You may not realize it, but she is the strongest one.


As daughters, we all developed a very special and individual relationship with my mom. Settie, for example, had a strong friendship with her, unlike the rest of us. Perhaps that stemmed from being the oldest and having a birth-order responsibility to look after us. Whatever the case, it was so unique to her and Mami, that as much as I observed it I could never relate to it. This is something I hold so valuable and admirable about my mom. She knew us—each of us as only she could and that dictated how she raised us.

I will, normally, stand by my statement that I was the most loved, of course, out of us four. But today, I reflect and I appreciate that my mom didn’t have favorites. She had relationships. All different. All beautiful. All important. When you spoke with my mom about any of us, she defended us from her perspective of who she knew us to be.

My focus on this much overdue blog is on the second oldest of the four of us: my sister Nettie.

I was inspired to write this after reading an entrepreneurial blog: http://joshkaufman.net/resilience-survive-anything/. It is worth the read, but for the short-cutters, essentially it is about the traits that many in society have been trained to perceive as weakness and how those qualities can actually help you be more resilient in the long run. We (my sisters, brother-in-laws, and I) often tease Nettie by telling her she has “turtle-like” qualities. When we are meeting somewhere and Nettie is running a little late, I like to shout “Turtle Speeeeeeeeeed” as though it is her superhero mantra.

Yeah, I tease her a lot, and that probably says more about me than it does about Nettie.

She is the nice one, who will take being the punchline if it brings others happiness. Seriously, she admits to this. She is TOO NICE which makes me feel guilty for not being that nice, so then I make fun of her and she just laughs too, and then I am defeated. She is a cunning minx, that one. I digress, though. This is an excerpt from the above mentioned blog:

“Turtles aren’t the sexiest creatures in the animal kingdom. They can’t run fast. They can’t fly. They don’t have big sharp teeth or claws. They can’t puff themselves up to look menacing. Compared to the raw power of a tiger or a falcon, turtles are kind of lame.

What turtles do have is a variety of protective strategies – swim away quickly, use camouflage, snap with jaws, and if all else fails, retract into the shell and wait. Creatures elsewhere in the animal kingdom are pretty much screwed if they’re cornered by a predator. Turtles have a fighting chance – they win because they’re the armored tanks of nature. They can also eat many different things and go into hibernation when times get tough. That’s why they tend to live so long.

Tigers, on the other hand, rely on their strength, power, and speed to chase down their prey. When times are good, tigers are the kings of the jungle. If prey becomes scarce or they lose their hunting prowess due to age or injury, death takes them quickly and mercilessly – no second chances.”


My mom never defended Nettie when we would tease her, sometimes she would even laugh and join in. Our house was kind of a if-you-can’t-take-the-heat-get-outta-the-kitchen type environment. Nettie always stayed in the kitchen. In quieter moments, though, when reflecting on all of us, my mom would boast about Nettie’s internal strength. Mami identified that resilience in Nettie that other’s overlooked. My mom knew that Nettie was quiet, but determined. Slow, but thorough. Non-menacing, but if you attack someone she loves… you experience the snap of her jaw. It was not a question in my mom’s mind that when the going got tough, really tough, Nettie would be the strong one.

I think at this point, we’ve all realized this to be true, except maybe Nettie.

Nettie is the reason I survived the past 9-ish months. Beginning from the moment my mom went into emergency surgery, something clicked in my sister. I had breakdowns. Almost immediately after I would leave my mom’s room, rushes of emotion would overtake me as a paralytic force. Nettie reminded me to first and foremost to remain hopeful. As much as people say that hoping for the best will make dealing with anything, other than the best, harder, that wasn’t true for me. Hope was all I had, and I was grateful for it–I still am. This was Nettie swimming quickly underwater and holding me by her side to keep up. The deeper we went, the more I struggled, but she never faltered. In those depths I was reminded of everything Mami would tell me about Nettie. She told me that when Nettie was in labor with Gavin, she had never seen more strength in someone’s eyes. She told me that when Nettie was sitting in the NICU next to Dylan, that she knew everything would get better simply because of Nettie’s determination. I saw all those same things and more in my sister. She lives her life un-harmfully and quiet, knowing when to stand her ground.

I am thankful for the turtles. We could all learn quite a bit from them.

Is it the human condition to constantly look ahead without grounding themselves in the present? I read a quote today:

“Even if you fall flat on your face, you’re still moving forward.” –Victor Kiam.

I smiled when I read it. I’ve recently acknowledged the fear within myself of failing, causing a stagnation that results in an instant forfeit. That isn’t unique to me, though, I simply muse on it, maybe more than others. This creates a glaring lag in time, while simultaneously speeding it up, so that your perception is that you can never complete what you aim to do, but instead, are constantly waiting for a better opportunity to do it.

I don’t know the answer to how we avoid this or if it is worth it to avoid. I do know that a daily, conscious appreciation for where you are and what small (or big) pleasures we find in unexpected moments, is better than a lifetime of looking to fix our inadequacies.

Lesson 31: You ARE the architect of your own destiny.



Mother’s Day approaching has felt a little like a ticking bomb that may or may not detonate. My guess has been as good as yours as to my reaction. My instincts, right now, tell me to tell you to love your mother more. Hug her more. Take pictures. Share stories.

I think that it is an understandable emotion to wish to redo moments. It’s okay to wish to go back in time to hug a little longer. That fleetingness of life and love—that’s what makes it so perfect.

When I was little, it’s no secret I used to wake up in the wee hours of the night to scurry to my mom and dad’s bed. I never feared the dark, per say. Rather, I feared the partial moonlight that would cast into my room and create shadows on my wall. I would look at them and see the silhouettes of trees and know they were trees, but I was always a little worried one day I’d open my squinty eyes and see something else. So I’d jump out of bed with my eyes closed and run directly to my mom’s side of the bed. She must have just expected me by that point because there was always a spot open for me. While I’d climb into bed with little grace, my mom would open her eyes and ask in a shallow awareness if it was me. I’d respond in a whisper “Mami, can I sleep in your bed?”

No answer was needed, I was already snuggled up to her.

My favorite moments were Saturday or Sunday mornings. I’d wake up but lay still with my eyes closed. My mom and dad would be awake and my mom would quietly talk to my dad about me while gently stroking my hair. I’d pretend to sleep as long as possible, but eventually, I would open my eyes and smile.

“Mami? How do you make pancakes?”

She’d laugh. “Do you want to make pancakes? Or do you want me to make you pancakes? You’ll make a mess! I’ll just make them today.”

Those moments will live infinitely in my mind. Each time I think of them I will smile and tears will collect in my eyes. I’ll never have those moments again, but I’m so beyond happy I had them when I did.

My mom would always say “I am the architect of my own destiny.” This came from a very favorite poem of hers titled “At Peace” by Amado Ruiz de Nervo. I never knew that until after she passed away, at which point we used the poem for her memorial. It was strikingly apt:


At Peace

Very near my setting sun, I bless you, Life
Because you never gave me neither unfilled hope
Nor unfair work, nor undeserved sorrow/pain

Because I see at the end of my rough way
That I was the architect of my own destiny
And if I extracted the sweetness or the bitterness of things
It was because I put the sweetness or the bitterness in them
When I planted rose bushes I always harvested roses

Certainly, winter is going to follow my youth
But you didn’t tell me that May was eternal
I found without a doubt long my nights of pain
But you didn’t promise me only good nights
And in exchange I had some peaceful ones

I loved, I was loved, the sun caressed my face

Life, you owe me nothing, Life, we are at peace!



What I’m reflecting on for Mother’s Day is how beautiful a philosophy that is, and how beautiful my mom was for loving and living this. I’ve thought about my part in my life—in constructing something sweet and good. In harvesting only roses.

My mom was extremely good at being the architect for not only her destiny, but for mine, as well. (I won’t speak on behalf of my Dad and sisters, but I imagine the feeling is similar.) She could draft up a destiny on a whim. In fact, occasionally she would toss her blueprints in the air and only visualize what she needed. She laughed, she loved, and she LIVED. Then near her setting sun, she slowly began to pass me the drafting paper, little by little, but continuously. Eventually all the tools were in my possession: instructions learned over the course of 27 years. While that was not enough time for instruction (it will never be enough time), she made sure I was fully prepared to take over as architect.

Tomorrow I will clutch my “blueprints.” I will clutch them in my arms as tightly as I can and be grateful for what she left me and the memories I will always have because of the beauty she had in her. I will spend my time celebrating that and allowing myself the responsibility to take over and create something wonderful for the future. MAYBE I’ll even try to make some pancakes.

That is my choice for tomorrow. Tomorrow WILL be a Happy Mother’s Day.


<3 Meet you on the beach someday, Mama.

Old Thoughts Week

I came upon some old journal entries of mine from the spring before I moved to Tucson. I thought I’d share a few of them over the next days for some insight into what went through my mind. Going through them was surprising even for me, now.


It recently occurred to me that everyone else is the constant in my life. You would think that I would be the constant, because no matter who I’m with… I’m the only person that continues to be the same. But I am not the same. I am a new person with everyone. This is why I lack perception of myself. I don’t know which self to perceive myself as regularly.
I’m comfortable with that right now, but I shouldn’t be.




This time of year sparks my memory of summers at my Grandma’s house. They were always fun because the pool would be filled and my cousins would come over. I’d wake up early and change into my bright green swimsuit, I’d stick out my baby fat belly between the pieces and I’d forget to comb my hair. I was 6. I’d stand in front of Marllette’s bed and my short stubby legs would propel me through the air on top of my sister and she’d scream.

“Hey, wanna go swimming before everyone else comes?”

“No. I want to sleep.”

“Can I sleep with you?”

“No! Your bed is 3 feet away!”


I’d lay down and pretend to snore. My swim suit smelled like old pool water and Marllette would be irritated until she’d finally get up and change. She’d stomp outside and drop 2 towels on the floor and lay down on the pool deck. I’d lay down next to her with my legs crossed and sunglasses on, and by noon the cousins would come and Marllette would find her energy. We’d tire ourselves out and wave good bye until the next day. I’d wipe my nose with my hand and touch Marllette. Why was that gross? Watermelon stained suit and all, she’d shove me in the shower and remind me to put shampoo in my hair. We’d eat popscicles, watch I love Lucy and go to bed. At 2 AM I’d move to her bed. I don’t know why it was safe, or why she was any more able to protect us at 10 than I was at 6, but her bed seemed softer and warmer and farther from the shadows of trees on the wall.



I’ll see you and you’ll smile, confused as to what I’m thinking. But I will know what’s on your mind. I’ll prepare for the silence once again, and when you do speak, I won’t reply, because you won’t want my answer.