Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Scattered Resolutions

After two weeks of car trouble drama, my dad's stint in the hospital, and everything else in between, Christmas did a drive-by this year. Before I could comprehend its existence I was left reeling in the wake of trailing dust redolent of reindeers' hooves and swaths of shredded Christmas wrap at my feet. For the first time in three weeks and a few nights before the birth of a new year I finally had my solitude. Tonight was MY night. The night I greedily and lustily coveted with unabashed fervor. 

I read, I wrote, I envisioned, I rested, I relaxed, I cried, I sighed, I dreamed, I hoped, I prayed, I planned, I created, I sang, I danced, I laughed, I enjoyed. It became a free-for-all where I was the solo partaker. Tomorrow is not guaranteed and I know not what it brings. I had one night to create tangible 2011 resolutions and instead of writing them, I visually created my new year. Ironically, my laptop was untouched and my phone turned off. The picture above portrays the spoils of my scattered resolutions and I hope the winds of the new year will blow them into the right place at the right time. 

Monday, December 6, 2010

For Maricelle, A Birthday Benediction

Life is a great miracle and you are the embodiment of that. When I learned I was pregnant with you I was ignorant of my immaturity and arrested development. I was only 19-years-old and the only thing I was sure of was making the decision to bear the consequences of having you. Despite the severe opposition I faced I knew I could not terminate the living being I did not know at the time. Twenty-three years later I have no misgivings about having the courage to go against the grain because knowing you has made me become a better person. 

Through my children I have gained a treasure of inestimable wisdom. You continue to teach me the gift of forgiveness. I marvel at your ability to forgive those who have wronged you and let go of the transgressions that I love to hoard. Unlike me, you are not poisoned by the toxic waste of unforgiveness and bitterness. I admire how you don't hold people liable for a wrongdoing when I force others to pay for mistakes they've made. One day I hope to be like you in this area of struggle in my life but I thank you for forgiving me of my own infractions. 

The fearlessness you exhibited as a toddler has spilled over into your adult life and I salute you for retaining it. You shun conventionality without excuses, make choices that others don't approve of, and don't allow others to project their issues on you. Bravo! Safe choices are always good but taking risks will widen your tunnel vision. Stay true to yourself and your journey will always be fraught with adventure. 

Remember to find time for yourself and protect it like a mama bear with her cub. Your pockets of solitude with God will rejuvenate, recharge, and replenish you like no human being or substance can. Your vibrant energy will always draw people to you but be vigilant of those whose negativity and weakness consume them. They will be your kryptonite. You can only help them as much as they want to help themselves. 

It goes without saying that perfectionism is a curse. Keep in mind that it is okay to fail as long as you pick your arse up and learn to do it better next time. You have a knack for accepting the limitations of others so please do the same for yourself. My three kids have taught me to love people through their mess instead of condemning them with judgment. 

Your caring heart has healed and brightened the lives of many including myself. I am proud of you for looking beyond your world and extending your love toward the suffering and needy. Wherever your dreams and goals take you, my prayers will sustain you through the highest and lowest valleys.  

On your twenty-third birthday I bring you a bouquet of wisdom and blessings fragrant with a mother's love. May you continue to thrive and flourish where you are planted. Thank you for making my life richer and fuller with who you are and the woman you're becoming. God knew what he was doing when he created you to be my daughter. 

I love you Maricelle, happy birthday! 
Love, Mommy

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Saturday, November 27, 2010

Blessed Friday

I am a self-proclaimed hermit every year the day after Thanksgiving. I refuse to venture outside and lose myself in the frenzied mayhem of Christmas shopping. To be honest, I am a menace to society as I don't do crowds very well and lose my composure and temper quickly. My mind is unable to wrap around the chaos and melee that evidently occurs every year and I question why? Why do humans resort to this? And for what? The meaning of Christmas has been bastardized and lost. I have to remind myself that it isn't about the killer sale on a 42-inch 1080p television or the discounted Coach purse a coworker told me about. I don't watch t.v. and couldn't care less about designer purses. I'm not knocking those who have the balls and gumption to brave the elements of the Friday after Thanksgiving. (I refuse to acknowledge it as Black Friday.) To each his own. What I AM disturbed about is the absence of humanity during this time. As I recall, the story of Christmas is woven with the threads of humanity's altruistic nature. 

I happened to overhear a news report while my mom was watching t.v. A man in a Buffalo New York Target was trampled and seriously hurt. Again I ask, why and for what? Was it really worth it waiting in a long line only to be hurt and almost killed in the process? The same news report also dropped statistics on how many people were actually shopping for themselves. Most of them were. Like I've said before, to each his own. I have no problem with people triumphantly securing a good deal on something they've saved up and longed for. I'm always on the hunt for savings on the latest photography gear so I totally get it. But the money I save shouldn't be at the expense of my or someone else's sanity and well-being. 

In stark contrast to the news of the trampled man in the New York Target, I was captivated by the CNN Heroes 2010 tribute.  Finally! The t.v. was finally engaging me with stories of people personifying the Christmas spirit every day, impacting the world through their selfless commitment and dedicated service. From a 74-year-old grandmother providing health care in a dangerous Mexico city, to a Scottish man providing thousands of meals to hungry children, then to a Nepalese woman who has dedicated her life in rescuing girls from sexual slavery. These stories were gaily wrapped presents dropped at my feet! I wonder what the world beyond America thought when they viewed images on their t.v. screens of people lined up in front of a store waiting for hours, then pushing and shoving, to acquire the latest HD t.v., video game console, or 12 mega pixel camera? Conversely, I hoped that there were hundreds of Americans affected by the images of hungry children and orphans roaming the streets in earthquake-ravaged Haiti. 

On my Blessed Friday, I spent the entire day in contentment. I didn't have to push or shove or stand in a long line shivering from the cold to receive the best present in the world. What I received that day was more valuable and precious than anything I could have bought on sale at Target, Macy's, or Wal-Mart. I didn't have to argue over who was next in line or if someone cut in front of me. All day I was rich with the innocent, unadulterated glee of my 2-year-old granddaughter, Rylee, playing cars with my boyfriend, Ray. She showered us with slippery sweet kisses and  Kung-Fu death grip hugs. Rylee was so amazed by her peek-a-boo toe in her too small sock that we didn't have the heart to remove them. Money could buy her new socks but her concentrated wonderment was priceless. 

The toy that gave us an hour of good-natured competitive fun wasn't on sale at Best Buy or Target. It wasn't accompanied by a confusing controller and didn't require batteries or electricity. Our merriment came in the form of a simple 1972 game called Rebound that Ray dusted off and set up for us. Having no kids of his own he's kept it in pristine condition for over 38 years. It was girls versus big boy and although we lost pretty badly we gained invaluable time with little Rylee.

More power to all the brave souls who dared to roam the jungle of the Friday that shall not be named. I hope they all found what they were looking for. 

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Grateful on Track 1

It never fails. Every year I have this strong conviction to slow my roll before the holidays. I tell myself to breathe in and out with cleansing breaths and meditate on the blessings of the past year. Instead, I'm rushing to and fro, unconsciously holding my breath until the very last second before my lungs send a message to my brain to inhale.

This year was no different. Yesterday afternoon I was fighting to stay awake in the office when my phone's red light blinked. The caller I.D. told me it was my older daughter Maricelle who was coming home from college that evening on the Amtrak.  Upon answering she nonchalantly said, "Hi Mommy! I'm at the train station now. I got out of school early because they had to evacuate us due to a bomb threat." In the following nanoseconds I went from alarm to relief because she was obviously safe but before my brain could fully register the thread of emotions, the call waiting alert interrupted. Grrr. It was my middle daughter Chloe, totally exasperated. "Mom! What are you doing? Could you pick Rylee up because I have to work late." I believe I managed to muster a faint, "Uhhhhh what? I. AM. SO. FREAKIN'. TIRED."

When the train deposited my daughter in one piece on the Fullerton station platform I was simply thankful. For EVERYTHING and EVERYONE. I'm grateful for the obvious: my life, my family, my 3 grown kids, my granddaughter Rylee, my boyfriend Ray (whom I haven't scared off yet), my close friends who are incredibly patient and understanding of my wackiness, my job, my photography business, my health, etc. The list can go on and unfurl like an ancient scroll. I send a prayer of thanks for:
  • the unsung heroes, the people, "family", and friends who work toward the success of My Refuge House. The ones who do something in the face of evil instead of turning away. (If I listed all of you I'd have to write 2 blog entries.)
  • the caregivers of this world, like Ray, who is a shining example of working a thankless job while managing to be MY best friend, my partner, and the one who keeps both of my feet planted firmly on the ground. 
  • my "train station platform" friend (hi bean) who walks through the detritus of my arrogant pride and resulting lessons in humility. She exhibits grace and mercy toward me when I know she wants to smack me upside my head sometimes.
  • my girlfriends who have stuck by me all these years patient with my ongoing peccadilloes. (You gals deserve your own blog entry!)
  • the photographer friends who selflessly guide, correct, and teach me in my business venture. 
  • my fellow warriors, Derrick and Kat, for fighting injustice alongside me. 
  • the young girls rescued from the sex trade and child labor, who have walked over the threshold of My Refuge House, finding love, solace, and sanctuary in their otherwise dark existence. 
Last night, as I watched the train depart and saw my daughters and granddaughter walking toward me, my heart distended with gratitude for second chances, redemption, reconciliation, and forgiveness. My mind couldn't extend to the needy or suffering in the world because my world is comprised of the females facing me. I continue to marvel at my good fortune--to be good friends with my daughters despite the ugliness we experienced for so many years. 

On this Thanksgiving 2010, I wish all of you in blogger world a day filled with much gluttony, imbibing, and clear revelations of gratitude knocking you upside the head! 

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Pockets of Solitude

Solitude can be a much-to-be-desired condition. 
In silence we listen to ourselves, 
and in quietude we may even hear the voice of God. 
~~Maya Angelou~~

I saw that framed quote hanging on a wall in a coworker's office last week and it created a resounding gong in my heart. For the past few months I've felt off. Prickly. Tense. Irksome.  I almost convinced myself that my lack of exercise and running were unleashing the beast I've reined in for some time. Or my hormones were wreaking havoc on my inner serenity. I blamed it on everything and everyone hoping it would right itself in due time. Instead, my equilibrium continued to lean on one side then sway haphazardly in every direction. When I read that quote I discovered what was lacking. Solitude. Alone time. Nannette time. God time. 

It's been over a month since I deactivated my Facebook, Twitter, Yelp, and LinkedIn accounts. The decibels in my head decreased to a deafening silence and I felt free. Well, almost. My life rarely allows me a moment of peace let alone quiet. If I'm not at work, I'm at the gym. When I'm done at the gym, I'm either surrounded by Ray, my kids, parents, sister, grandchild, brother, sis-in-law, nieces, nephews, friends, strangers, coworkers, etc. When I'm editing photos of a recent shoot there is music, or background t.v. noise. If I'm not working on my photography I'm fulfilling my volunteer duties for My Refuge House. And if I'm not doing all of the above I'm scrambling to spend quality time with the friends I've neglected in the past year.  I fail to notice I've stepped into the danger zone until it's too late. The dreaded zone where the beast is unleashed and whoever is standing the closest gets the swipe of my claws. Why do I always wait until I draw blood? 

It's a vicious cycle and my triggers should be obvious but the busyness of my life causes me to be blind, deaf, and quite dumb. Spending quiet solitude with God centers me like no one or nothing can. My Nannette and God time allows me to hear his voice. It is in these moments that the muck and mire coagulating the smooth flow of living water are revealed to me.  It is the reason for my imbalance and no one can unclog the obstruction unless I make a conscious choice to plug myself into the source of tranquility.

If I were diligent in spending daily quiet time with the One who loves me I would not lose control. I could easily forgive, speak with grace, and act with love. I wouldn't denigrate myself for perceived failures and self-imposed perfection. I would pay close attention to what God has tried to tell me about the heavy burdens I've carried for so many years. The baggage of past wounds I've hauled into every relationship I've had. But those revelations are for another blog entry. In the meantime, I steal pockets of solitude throughout my day and refuse to be apologetic about it. Hopefully, the peace and serenity I seek will transform the putrid waters of my soul to run like a fresh stream. 

Sunday, November 7, 2010

Life without my iPhone-Day 2

Yes, I have no phone. Not even the brilliant employees at the Apple store Genius Bar had the power to resurrect my phone. I think my swollen eyes and tear-stained face scared them enough to do their best to run diagnostics and whatever else they do. It wouldn't even turn on for them. No pulse, no heartbeat, no life. With reluctance and trepidation the poor guy at the Apple store delivered the dreaded news. I can turn it in and pay big bucks to get it fixed or buy a new phone. I think my bottom lip started quivering and quickly bit it to stop myself from shouting, "Do you know what kind of night and day I've had?! You're just like every guy out there! Can't deliver for sh*t!"  Ummm, I don't think that psycho outburst would have fixed my iPhone. Either way, I don't have the funds to buy a new iPhone at the moment. Call me crazy, call me spoiled, call me insane or call me what my friend Jessica called me, "dramatic", but I would rather do life without a phone if I can't buy a new iPhone. 

Now I embark on a new adventure--life without a phone. My friend Lina called it "unplugged from all distractions" and she's right. A secret part of me, the part I squelch because I don't like the secrets it harbors, admits that it's almost nice not to receive texts, deal with crappy reception, and dropped calls. I'm almost relieved that I'm not easily accessible. I almost want to retreat from the entire world for a while as I am pulled in so many directions. Conversely, as I spent quality time with my daughter this weekend I lamented my broken phone because I couldn't use my camera to document our time together. I had to hear through the grapevine that my sister ran into Channing Tatum and he smiled at her! I couldn't text my friend Lina that I was on my way to San Diego and couldn't make the event we planned on attending together. There was no way to reach my granddaughter to hear her high-pitched voice and cheer me up.

My distorted vision resembles the picture above. Ironically, I uploaded it days before my phone broke. I can only communicate via e-mail and I lug my computer everywhere searching for a strong wi-fi spot. Pathetic. How did people survive before phones were invented? I suppose I will soon find out.

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

To Chloe, with love

I began to write you a birthday blog last year but my health issues took precedence. I prayed that I would be granted another chance to honor and bless you on my blog. That day has come and despite my new batch of health issues nothing is stopping me from writing this entry. When your Auntie Elna passed away and we were at her funeral reception, I thought as we watched her video,"We should have done this when she was alive." I vowed that I would always honor my children on their birthdays from that day forward.

You already know I'm not the best at affection and affirmation but I refuse to staunchly declare, "This is how I am, take it or leave it." That applies to most people in my life but for my children I am willing to yield, to change, to become more aware of your need to hear blessings from your mom. You are never too old for blessings.

As the middle child, with only ten months separating you and your sister, I know you felt overshadowed. Dare I say, second best? You have to know that you were never second best with me but I also know I wasn't the greatest at displaying my emotions. I apologize for the myriad of mistakes I've made in the last 23 years. I don't live in regrets but I can tell you that my biggest regret is placing work and my selfishness ahead of my own kids. Thank you for forgiving my parental transgressions. I'm grateful that stoning is outlawed in our country. :)

Those many years of darkness we experienced as mother and daughter never detracted from the pride I have always held for you. We've hurled words of destruction at each other that I wish I could recall and erase, just like in my Outlook e-mails. Unfortunately, life has a way of teaching you lessons that you either learn from or repeat again. 

My biggest regret of all is not having the love of Jesus in my heart as I was raising my kids. You had to witness your crazy and wacked out agnostic mom desperately searching for peace in all the wrong places. Had I known the peace that I do now I hope to think that our lives would have been different. But you know what? Those dark, traumatic years made us the strong females we are today. Those days have equipped us with the wisdom to love, forgive, and fiercely protect each other. I am able to remove myself from the selfishness, look in the mirror, and say, "Your kids need you to listen and see them for who they are. Get over yourself!" 

So today, on your twenty-second (ouch!) birthday I will shower you with love and blessings that come from a mother's heart. That is the gift I present to you, wrapped in my brightly colored words and tied tightly with my heartstrings. 
  • I am proud of the person and mother you have become. I know the life you chose is a struggle but it will also bring abundant joy. You chose Rylee's life and her spirit has brought happiness to many people. I know she will continue to spread her sunshine. Nurture and encourage her to follow her dreams.
  • No matter what you've done, you can always change the person you will become. I believe in you, Chloe, and know you will make a huge difference in your child's life. 
  • People will judge, make assumptions, and create incorrect perceptions of you. Stay true to who you are and the truth will prevail. 
  • Expand your vision to the world beyond yours and teach your child that there are people who are going through worse. Be an example of a woman with integrity. Fight for those less fortunate. Be a voice! 
  • No matter how exhausted and drained you are, don't let the day end without kissing Rylee and blessing her. 
  • I recognize the struggle you have with worth and value because I have a similar battle. Do not place your value in others' hands but discover within yourself that you are ALWAYS worthy of God's best! Nothing less! 
  • If you haven't already, you will find yourself walking with a cavernous hole in your chest that no one or nothing can fill except the love of Jesus. Trust me, I know. Once you tap into that, you can love others. (Even the difficult ones.)
  • A mother's role is a prestigious role bestowed by God. Don't squander it. You make me proud of how you're caring for Rylee. Do your best, despite the mistakes. 
  • You will succeed in everything you put 100% into. Don't let anyone tell you otherwise. 
  • I know you made a decision and chose Rylee's life but don't allow your dreams to die. Keep them alive in your heart until you can make them come to fruition. You can do it, Chloe. You are my child. 
All my love and then some, Mom

Monday, October 18, 2010

Through the eyes of Lomo

I woke up this morning to the sound of rain and smiled at the staccato beats that drummed on the roof. My commute to work was not marred by rain or gloomy skies. I had my iPhone with my Lomo camera application and the world took on a new dimension. I often lament about the hassle that comes with lugging a heavy and expensive camera to work because I have the best scenic route.  Driving south on Pacific Coast Highway for over 5 miles my eyes mentally click and freeze my perfect shot. Today I was undeterred and set my phone to my Lomo camera app. I did my best to photograph what I thought was beautiful on a rainy day in Southern California. Rain or shine, driving or stopped at a light, I clicked away...

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Saturday, October 16, 2010

Lomography & Drivin' Ms. Brokeback

I couldn't wait for this week to be over but I wasn't looking forward to the weekend. I had this burning desire to project the Bat-Signal across the night sky and hoped Batman whisked me away to his Bat Cave. I wanted to hide out from everyone and everything, pretending the 2 races I was supposed to run on Sunday weren't happening. Selfish, I know. My week consisted of mind numbing lower back pain, 2 trips to the doctor, x-rays, Flexeril, Thermacare, Motrin, steroids, ice pads,  dismissal from work, and a dragging gait that rivaled the Hunchback of Notre Dame. It hurt to walk. It was excruciating to drive. If not for the soporific side effects of the muscle relaxant, Flexeril, I wouldn't have slept. I was operating with a very short fuse and poor Ray bore the brunt of it. He tried to take care of me but every word or action he made was met with a hiss and snarl. I was grateful for being allowed to work from home because it was draining to smile and be cordial to my coworkers.

Although my x-rays showed I didn't have a herniated or bulging disc (thank God) it didn't change the fact that I severely strained my lumbar when I picked up my sick grandchild. I hear it all the time, "You're too young to be a grandma!" But careless lifting does not have age limits and I felt like an ol' hunchback granny! 

A few weeks ago my fellow running buddy, Janice, made plans with me to do some carb loading the Saturday before my race. When I sent her a text about my back injury she checked up on me every day, gently chastised me for overdoing it AGAIN, told me to stop crying, and said she would still take me carb loading on Saturday to cheer me up. When I spoke to my doctor on Friday she advised that I do some light walking because 2 days of bed rest was enough. My back needed to heal not weaken. I didn't feel like socializing in the real world but I had no cave to hide in. Janice pretty much "kidnapped" me, said she'd be driving since I'm brokeback, and would drop me off in front of the restaurant. I've learned never to argue with Janice when she meant business. 

On a normal day when my body is whole I usually have my monstrosity of a camera attached to my hip. Although I woke up this morning with the ability to walk I wasn't going to be stupid and lug my heavy camera around. My disappointment lasted only a few minutes when I remembered I had a Lomo application on my iPhone! I prefer it over the Hipstamatic camera application and don't use it enough. 

I LOVE, absolutely LOVE Lomography! Number 1 on my wish list this Christmas is the Diana + Meg edition Lomo camera! It's called the Meg in honor of the White Stripes. I want it! I have to have it! 
My friend and fellow photographer introduced me to this funky red camera because she knew my favorite and signature color is red. We also share a love for Lomography and film cameras. It looks like a silly plastic toy camera but if used properly it produces the most fantastic artsy images. Check out the photos on their website 

The thought of carb loading at C & O Trattoria in Marina Del Rey and using my Lomo app bolstered my spirits and I forgot about the Long Beach Half-Marathon and Nike Women's San Francisco Half-Marathon tomorrow. I was grateful that Janice didn't mention running or races or injuries. The words pasta, mimosa, hibiscus, and garlic butter bread rolls were music to my ears.  Once we were seated I pulled out my iPhone and clicked away on the Lomo app. 

These garlic butter bread rolls were heavenly! By heavenly I mean you hear angels singing once you bite into them. 

My hibiscus and Janice's mimosa aided in gorging ourselves with MORE bread rolls. 

The poor bread guy. He kept dropping bread rolls but I wanted to make him my best friend. 

Our entrees! She had a seafood linguini pasta thingy and I had the Rosemary chicken ravioli. Janice toasted, "To carb loading!" I added, "that I won't lose but gain tomorrow!" 

We decided to walk off the food and cocktails by heading toward the pier. The overcast weather was perfect and Janice couldn't get enough of the sailboats. 

Mr. Seagull I adore you for posing for me! 

We LOVE the beach! 

And love the sights, sounds, and smells associated with beach living. 

"Create a beautiful day!" 

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Harsh Realities

I am back where I started one year ago: devastated, inconsolable, and disconsolate over the limitations of my body. One week before the Long Beach Half-Marathon I picked my sick grandchild up by hooking my arms under hers and ran for the bathroom. In my haste I failed to handle my back with care and have been in excruciating pain for 4 days. Driving to work was no easy task but my high threshold for pain kept me going. I sat at my desk with a huge pillow behind me but nothing alleviated the back spasms radiating from my back to my lower legs. My hubris is a natural pain killer because I repeated, "I will not succumb to the pain, I will not succumb to the pain, I will not succumb to the pain," and truly believed I could survive a full day at work. Why do I always think the rules of pain do not apply to me? 

My doctor's prognosis--nerve impingement! Hmmm, I've heard THOSE words before. When I first heard them last year it felt like the guillotine blade slammed down and ended my life. But last year it was my neck and this year it's my lumbar. I've ignored the words "degenerative spine" for a year and was grateful for each mile I ran during training with my team and by myself. October 17 was looming in my future and I was filled with anticipation to run the Long Beach Half Marathon. Only my runner friends understand my love, the need, the frenzy, and the addiction of running towards the finish line. I refuse to discuss running with my non-runner friends because I silently seethe at their ignorance. 

For me, running is so much more than a goal, an endorphin high, an addiction, or a crazy whim. When I run I am transformed into an empowered woman--a woman who found the natural remedy to ward off the lifelong depression that has tormented her, a woman whose spirit refuses to be broken by her circumstances, a woman who knows pleasing others is a formula for disaster, a woman whose fear does not hinder her from loving life and living it, a woman who will continue to pursue a healthy lifestyle despite what genetics dictate, a woman who believes beauty emanates from within after forgiveness and acceptance have taken place. To take running away from me is like severing the lifeline of my womanhood and independence. 

So today and maybe tomorrow I will allow myself to grieve, to cry, to mourn, and to wallow in woefulness for not being able to run the race I worked so hard to train for. Last year I was bleeding to death (literally, not figuratively) but I managed to complete the Nike Women's San Francisco Half Marathon in 3 hours. This year I cannot walk a few feet without hunching over in pain. There will be no finish lines to cross or medals I can proudly display. Yet, I am certain that grief will fade in the dawning of a new day. Borrowing the words of Ray's friend, Chris, "Create a beautiful day." 

To cheer myself up I searched for a few beach pictures I've taken in the past 2 years. I love the beach and it has always been a place of solace. God whispers his comforting words through the musical concert of the wind and waves. 

Sunday, October 10, 2010

Village People

My Saturday schedule was a done deal; or so I thought. I prepared myself to photograph the fun and spunky Fox family then spend the rest of the day taking care of my grandchild, Rylee. But the night before, my lovely friend Lina sent me a text that the hubby will be working until 2 p.m. and shortly after another text from my daughter Chloe flashed on my iPhone screen asking if I could watch Rylee in the morning. I've become a master at juggling people and appointments so within minutes I rearranged my schedule. Instead of shooting a family session, I would hang out with Lina, her cute dog Crosby, my grandchild Rylee, and catch up on each others' lives. I've missed my friend Lina and desperately needed my Lina fix. Done deal, right? Wrong! 

Rylee woke up with a fever but I disregarded it because Gramma Nette's needs were top priority. I HAD to adhere to my schedule, HAD to check off my to-do list, HAD to spend every hour of my Saturday in worthy ways. She acted fine except for the fact that her skin was emanating some intense heat so what did the wise ol' Gramma Nette do? Give her Tylenol? Bathe her in tepid water? Oh, no! Gramma Nette dressed Rylee up real cute and brought her to IHOP with Auntie Lu so we could partake in breakfast before we headed to Lina's house. 

While we waited for our table Rylee exclaimed, "Gramma Nette! SEE! I want those!", as she pointed to a picture of IHOP's October kids special--Scary Face Pancakes. No sooner were we seated when my sister froze as she looked at Rylee's face. "Rylee! Are you going to throw up?!" Before my sister completed her sentence, a geyser of milk continued to spew forth from Rylee's mouth, drenching the seat, the table, her dress, and Gramma Nette! I heard silence in the restaurant, then laughter from the teenage girls at the table behind me. I hooked my arms under her and sped to the bathroom where more laughter ensued from the tables I passed. I had visions of turning Rylee in their direction so she could baptize them with some holy vomit but that only happens in the movies. Surprisingly, I didn't gag from the smell but remorse was hard to swallow. Poor Rylee was whimpering, "My dress is messed up, Gramma Nette!" To say my heart shattered is an understatement. I could have kicked myself for making MY way happen instead of heeding the obvious face of illness staring back at me. As we walked out of IHOP Rylee cried, "I don't wanna go home!" And when we drove into my parents' complex she whined, "I don't wanna go home! I'm so hungrrrrryyyyy! I want my scary face pancakes!" 

The unhappy camper in the backseat of my car. Will she ever forgive Gramma Nette? I had a feeling she wanted to take my iPhone and hurl it out the window.

I called my daughter Chloe to let her know about her sick, vomiting child, and she left work as soon as she could. After dumping Rylee in the "rain" (her expression for the shower), she was ready to eat so Rylee was ecstatic to see her mommy. 

Chloe prepared chicken star noodle soup and although it paled in comparison to IHOP's scary face pancakes it put a smile on my grandbaby's face. She insisted on feeding herself. 

When my mom jumped in the mix to give Rylee her Tylenol it reminded me of what my ex-husband said a few years ago about my family. He was upset that I wasn't going to kick Chloe out after discovering she was pregnant and was adamant about it. I told him there was no way in hell that I could live with myself knowing I kicked my daughter and grandchild out on the street. Rylee's daddy wasn't self-sufficient and knew he was unable to provide for both of them. My ex-husband, who always needed his dad for back-up, informed me that my father-in-law believed Filipinos are like a village and it took a village to raise a child. At the time, I was supremely offended, and the glaring difference of opinions was one of the many reasons my second marriage ended. 

But watching my mom and daughter rally around this incredible blessing during her illness made me proud of the village that cares for one another with selfless love. There are 4 generations under one roof: my mom, myself, my daughter Chloe, and Rylee; all doing life together, forever bonded by solid family ties. 

Rylee was so proud of the apple that she bit into a masterpiece. "Look! I bit my apple into the Disney Channel!" 

Despite the high fever, vomiting, and malaise, Rylee managed to muster up a smile for my camera. I suspect her mommy's presence made it all better. 

I am grateful that my error in judgment didn't cause long-term ill-effects and next time, Gramma Nette will know to leave a feverish child at home. (You'd think I never raised three kids.)

It does take a village to raise a child and I am a proud member of the village people.