For the first time since my dad died in 2013, his birthday falls on a Wednesday. To say I’m obsessed with anything but his memory today would be absurd.
I’m grateful to have an understanding boss and team so I could work from home and sort my feelings away from a cubicle. I had plenty of meetings to keep my mind occupied, but it inevitably drifted many times today to how he would be celebrating.
Slick Rick was larger than life in many ways. He was not the most patient or affectionate father, but the values he instilled in us were exactly what we needed (even if we didn’t know it then). My brother and I inherited his work ethic, commitment to community, quick temper and affinity for wrestling. Our mom loved him throughout 33 years of marriage and countless ups and downs.
Dad’s stroke in 1995 changed our world overnight. He wasn’t expected to live, let alone recover. He took that prognosis head-on and regained his ability to talk, walk, write and drive — while being permanently paralyzed on his dominant right side.
Growing up with a handicapped father taught me a lot about how cruel the world can be and how much life can change in an instant. We didn’t always get along, but I’ve lived every day of adulthood trying to make him proud and see the result of his parental guidance.
It hasn’t gotten easier to keep his memory alive these past 5.5 years but I’ll keep honoring him in big and small ways as long as I can.
143 always, Big Guy ❤️
At my brother’s wedding, November 2012
As you already know, my family has been at the forefront of my mind while Hurricane Irma whipped her way across the state. On top of that, September brings a slew of family birthdays (we’re already through three of the five!), and today itself marks four years since my dad’s death. Oh, and I’m due to be back in Florida next week to celebrate a friend’s birthday and cancer-free diagnosis with a cruise around the Keys and Cozumel.
Shall I state the obvious? My emotions are on overdrive. I’m exhausted, while ever-grateful for the people who’ve shown constant love, support and thoughtfulness. Particularly today, as I think about the four years we’ve had without my dad, I am humbled by outreach from others.
I don’t always post or share how I’m feeling about that loss. It’s not because I’ve forgotten or because I’m “over it” or because I’m not hurting. Quite the opposite. I think about him multiple times a day and fear I’ll always be hurting. And oh, how I hate people to feel sorry for me.
Just this morning, I struggled with the way someone responded to my mom’s sentiments about my dad. We’re told there’s nothing wrong you can say when someone is grieving, but in the past four years, I’ve learned there are absolutely insensitive and thoughtless comments, which turn my grief into anger and take my energy away from what’s important.
And what’s important, to me, is reflecting on the many years we had him here. Looking back through our shared emails, texts and Facebook posts. Doing what Slick Rick loved to do: Cracking open a cold beer and watching The Weather Channel (because he loved it, with or without a hurricane to track). Listening to golden oldies and complaining about kids today. Typing in ALL CAPS and caring for others any way I can.
This beer and post are for you, Big Guy. I hope you’re getting a kick out of watching over us each day.
Images courtesy of family archives
I’m happy to report that after two weeks in two states, six airports, three Publix subs, countless giggles with my nieces and loved ones — and a patridge in a pear tree — I’m back in SF. To say I’m exhausted is an understatement. But, I’m fortunate to have the week off from work to recover and reenergize.
- A Starbucks Iced Chai: First things first, I’ve needed constant caffeine to keep up with my friends, family and the crazy-fun kiddos. Whether hitting the Epcot spot during an 18,000-step day or the drive-thru (twice) during a shopping marathon, the iced chai with almond milk is just what I need. Side note: Oprah’s Cinnamon Chai was my jam, but they’ve since discontinued it. How dare you fail me, girl?
- Exercise!: As counterintuitive as it sounds — and believe me, it’s taken years for me to believe it — getting more activity helps rejuvenate you when weary. Remember the wise words of Elle Woods? “Exercise gives you endorphins. Endorphins make you happy! Happy people just don’t shoot their husbands. They just don’t!” I’m not quite ready to run this week, but some morning walks (and last week’s Epcot trip) have lifted my spirits.
- RIP Carrie Fisher and Debbie Reynolds: I’m nowhere near a “Star Wars” fan, but I can certainly sympathize over yesterday’s loss of Carrie Fisher. Adding to the tragedy, her mother, Debbie Reynolds, died today. And while I don’t think a broken heart can be claimed as the official reason for death, I can only imagine the pain a mother feels losing their child, and how devastated their entire family must be.
- And, George Michael: Adding to the “2016 is the worst” movement, musician and AIDS activist George Michael was found dead in his home on Christmas. Between his iconic hits and outlandish appearances, he was an all-out entertainer who knew how to put on unforgettable performances.
What a roller coaster of a week it’s been. Just when you think things are good and settled, life has a funny way of knocking you down from your ivory tower. (Cue “Low Places” by Garth Brooks.) In any event, here we are, and here’s what’s on my mind:
- Remembering GAM: My dad’s Aunt Merlyn lived a full life into her late eighties, but passed peacefully over the weekend. She was the last strong connection we had to his family, and known throughout the family tree as our go-to genealogist. I’m comforted knowing my dad and her siblings were there to welcome her with open arms, and that she’ll be remembered for many years to come.
- A Working Radiator: It only took about five months of complaining to my HOA for them to realize I wasn’t just an idiot who couldn’t figure out the radiator. And, after four unsuccessfully scheduled appointments with the plumbers, the fifth time was the charm! It’s been about 36 hours with a noiseless radiator, and I don’t believe I’ve ever heard such beautiful silence.
- Target Decor FTW: In the spooky spirit of the upcoming bewitching hour, I found myself on Target’s mobile app, adding to cart like it’s my damn job. Among other fun finds, I was especially psyched for this Dia de Los Muertos wreath and marquee sign. Safe to say, the sign won’t be the only thing lit this Halloween 😉
- Allison Weiss: I revisited the days of “10 Things I Hate about You” with a friend last week and saw Letters to Cleo perform in SF. They absolutely rocked it, and I was completely taken aback by their opener, Allison Weiss. Her voice is captivating, her stage presence is comedic, and her talent is undeniable. Please, enjoy.
My dear friends, this week’s post is not for the faint of heart.
A friend of mine in Tampa, who battled an inoperable brain tumor for nearly two years, died Sunday. Michelle brought so much light and love and positivity to everyone she met — long before her fight and all throughout it — so it’s no wonder she took her final breath on Valentine’s Day.
I’ve struggled to put coherent sentences together to express how deeply saddened I am for her devoted husband, Ryan, and the entire Fighter community. In ~23 months, Michelle and co. raised nearly $200,000 for brain cancer research and awareness. Petite as she was, her spirit could not be contained.
We met in 2012 through a volunteer organization, High Hopes in High Heels. She was already a Board Member and quickly inspired me to join its leadership. One of my first memories with Michelle had us both snort-laughing and crying over ridiculous stories and inappropriate jokes. She then led our team to reinvent the Children Cancer Center’s Teen Prom, an event celebrating the brave adolescents battling various forms of cancer. This was years before her own diagnosis, and still, Michelle gave countless hours and effort to make the event a huge success.
Whether we were cuddling puppies at a Yappy Hour for adopted canines, toasting with rummy bears on the beach or crashing a wedding, Michelle’s presence was always warm, wacky and welcoming.
Michelle’s network of family and friends around the country have posted continuous messages of hope and positivity. If you’re able, consider donating or purchasing from the Fighter store. In any event, Michelle’s spirit will continue to live on as we aim to BElieve THEre is GOOD in the world.
Rest in peace, sweet angel.
Images courtesy of Facebook & Kaylin Amabile Photography
I’ve refrained from commenting publicly about last week’s Paris attacks, in large part because I am speechless. The resulting debates about terrorism, gun control and refugees are sickening, to say the least.
Here’s hoping these bring a little comfort and solace to your day.
- Only Love Can Protect Paris: This now-viral video of a little boy and his father will bring happy tears to your eyes. Watch as he tries to process the magnitude of the attacks — and then, comes to the realization that flowers and candles can protect one’s heart.
- How to Process Grief: “Not knowing how to deal with grief is a common problem for humanity,” this article begins. Taken from an elderly man’s perspective, this is absolutely one of the best explanations of the grieving process I’ve seen. If nothing else, it humanizes and normalizes how we all cope with loss.
- USF Wins Big: On the lighter side of things, my alma mater had an incredible win last Saturday, making us bowl-eligible for the first time since 2010. Taking down a ranked team and securing our spot in a bowl? I’m not mad about it.
- “Stitches” – Shawn Mendes: I’ve been toe tapping along to this song for quite some time. Mendes’s voice reminds me of a hybrid between Justin Timberlake and Adam Levine… it sounds funky, but trust me, it’s all good. Plus, he’s adorable!
I woke up thinking it was Friday, if that’s any indication of where my head’s at this week. After a fantastic weekend visiting a friend in San Jose, I’m positively pooped and can’t wait to kick back and relax this weekend. Here’s what’s getting me through the next few days:
- Dad’s Birthday: I’ve always loved the number 13 and been superstitious (in a good way) about this day. But then my dad passed on a Friday the 13th … and this month it also happens to be his birthday and exactly a year and a half since his death. I still struggle with grief and loss, but I know he’s at peace so I’ll be raising a glass in his memory.
- Zoolander & Hansel Walk the Runway: It’s officially official — “Zoolander 2” is happening! Ben Stiller and Owen Wilson reprised their roles and stomped to the death at Paris Fashion Week for Valentino. It could have only been topped if they’d duked it out in a breakdance fight.
- Sea Lions in Santa Cruz: Speaking of models, look at this little ham posing for the paparazzi. My friend and I made the quick trip from San Jose to Santa Cruz last weekend, and these sea lions were just the cutest and best part of the day.
- “Wake Me Up Before You Go-Go” – WHAM!: I just can’t help myself. The announcement of Zoolander and Hansel’s return means more ridiculous montages like this one. February 2016 can’t come fast enough.