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. 

Sunday, October 3, 2010

Nanny & the L.A. Fair

I hate the Fair...with an unholy passion! But one thing I've learned in my relationship with Ray is , "it's not about me." In fact, all my rules AND regulations AND need to be right went out the door when I made a commitment with him. What is more important to me is the juvenile glee he exhibits when he's strolling in the heat at this godforsaken L.A. Fair. His daily life as a caregiver weighs his shoulders down, robs him of much-needed sleep, and etches deep crevices in his forehead so far be it for me to deny him this one pleasure. If he could shed his troubles and the evidence of his mom's deteriorating health for a couple of hours then who am I to stomp my foot, cross my arms, and say, "No, I don't wanna!"

Off we went and his lighthearted banter and carefree laughter was well worth the heat and stink and weird people. I handed him my monstrosity of a camera and gave him free reign to shoot to his heart's content. That's one of the things I love about him, he doesn't whine or squawk when I lug my camera wherever we go. (Only an elite few understand why my camera is always attached to my hip.)

We don't ride the rides and I am JUST fine with staring at them from below. Hey, blame it on my vertigo.
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I tamed my dinosaur at the Dinosaur exhibit! 
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Frog legs?! No, thank you! 
We went into a flower exhibit to escape the heat but quickly got bored. 
Ray always stops at the food and housewares exhibit. Yawn.
See that smile? That's what makes going to the fair worth it!