Wednesday, December 31, 2014

A Christmas Reminder From My Daughter

The beginning of 2014 started with the mantra I will be intentional with (insert goal, priority, or loved one here.) As the year rushed to a close the mantra changed to holy crap I swear I had the best intentions with (insert goal, priority, or loved one here.) I was so sure 2014 would be the year I'd break the pattern of good-intentions-gone-awry. 

I could cough up legitimate excuses for my failed attempts at perfection. My parents' health issues, busy month of October weddings, intense family issues, etc. derailed my plans to be proactive with early Christmas shopping. As usual stress reigned supreme during the weeks leading up to Christmas. 

I don't have presents. I couldn't afford presents. What the hell is up with all these company pot lucks? 

My family said they understood. My friends said it was okay. Meanwhile, I raged inside, beating myself up for not having my shit together again! 

Until my daughter, Maricelle, called me on Christmas and dropped the knowledge. I was envious of her excitement to serve on Christmas Day. While I focused on the negative (what's new?) she reminded me what Christmas was about. Why does it have to take great lengths for my brain to crystallize into coherent sharpness? 

So on the final day of 2014, Maricelle graciously agreed to be my "guest blogger" and share her Christmas Day experience. I'm hoping I can take what I've learned and let the reason for Christmas rule my heart every day in 2015. We are all going through something, we are all broken in some way, and our situation could always be worse. 

Happy New Year and let's all make 2015 an extraordinary one! 

Maricelle's Christmas story: 

I decided to volunteer during Christmas because Ben and I weren't able to do the same philanthropy project on Thanksgiving because I was sick.  Since Ben was scheduled to work on Christmas day, I was hoping to give back to the community and plug myself in some non-profit org that I could possibly continue to volunteer for in NYC (been yearning for philanthropy since that was my drug in San Diego).

I volunteered for this organization called Project FIND.  Read their mission statement on the document that I attached.  First, we delivered hot meals to homebound seniors in the lower west side of Manhattan, near Times Square (gross touristy and lame lol) and Port Authority (port authority used to be a really ghetto area and many homeless people).  We delivered hot meals that were prepared by other volunteers.  We were all split into groups and delivered to nearby low-income housing buildings where senior  citizens and/or homeless people rented from.  The age range of volunteers were from 16 year olds-36 year olds. So we delivered to homebound senior citizens where they each had a home attendant/caregiver.  Many didn't speak English, mostly Spanish (Puerto Ricans, Cubans and Blacks). 

We split up the list of senior citizens of the building and decided to deliver individually within our group.  However, the last delivery, we decided to deliver together as a group.  We were all excited because it was our last delivery, all together in a group and wanted to sing a Christmas carol, but decided not to.  When we rang the doorbell, this old Hispanic woman answered, tears flooding down her face and she was on the phone.  

We were surprised as we didn't expect this type of reaction compared to the other deliveries, all home care attendants/senior citizens expressed gratitude and thanks.  I first assumed maybe this 50-something year old lady had been physically abused but when we asked if she was okay, she then told us that her mother just passed away.  We were stunned, didn't know what to do except deliver the meal, console her and say positive holiday greetings like "merry Christmas, I'm sorry for your loss."  Such a paradoxical statement, right?!  We all left with many emotions, sadness, realization that people have it far worse than whatever we as humans complain about. 

Then, we ended the day serving a huge luncheon to 150 homeless people ranging from 50-80 year olds.  They were not homebound judging by the way they were all doing the electric slide.  The volunteers served cafeteria based meals such as cheese, Hors d'oeuvres, turkey, chicken, corn, green beans, mashed potatoes, pie, coffee, milk.  Every homeless or low-income individual who we were serving were so cheerful, energetic, grateful and excited.  Mind you, they were shameless too!  Very diverse group, some were immigrants, one was a tarot reader, met a Vietnam War Veteran, etc. 

The best part of the experience was not only the gratification of giving back to the community, but that it exceeded my expectations of how much fun we all had.  Live singer, hilarious dance music (oldies but goodies, Macarena, salsa), they even played a song in Tagalog! 

Anyways, I was so thankful for this experience because this is the type of event that makes me feel like I have a purpose in life.  Lastly, I met a lot of really cool, interesting people but really connected with this 36 year old woman who looked 22 years old!  She was born in Taiwan and has been living in NYC for 12 yrs.  We delved deep into each others lives even though we just met haha.  Her pseudo American "mom" just passed away 2 weeks ago, but this is the mom of her ex.  Despite being separated from her ex who is dating another woman, she still kept in touch with his mom because that's how close they were.
Maricelle and a Vietnam vet
Maricelle and her group

Friday, November 28, 2014

Day 12 | 12 Days of Gratitude

While madness and chaos ensue at retail stores this Black Friday I am working. I could sit here with resentment that I chose to work today or revel in my freedom to choose. 

I purse my lips in deep concentration searching for the words to express the gratitude I feel for the unsung heroes who dedicate their lives to fight against human trafficking. I sing praises for those passionate souls who get up every day to make a difference in the world even when the outlook looks bleak. 

For those who work tirelessly without expecting accolades or recognition I salute you, not only during Thanksgiving, but every day. 

Thursday, November 27, 2014

Day 11 | 12 Days of Gratitude

I vowed to go on an early morning run this Thanksgiving to make the most of my only day off this week. Meditative runs keep me in the present moment causing my senses to be hyper-vigilant of my surroundings. Today I am filled with gratitude for simply being alive. 

Wednesday, November 26, 2014

Day 10 | 12 Days of Gratitude

There was a point in my life when I used to stand over a freeway and longed to jump. Today I'm grateful I can look at this scene and say, "I want to fly higher." 

Tuesday, November 25, 2014

Monday, November 24, 2014

Day 8 | 12 Days of Gratitude

My benediction one Saturday a few months ago. I call L.A. the city of my awakening. Because it was back in 1999 when I finally experienced freedom for the first time in my life. I won't get into the details of that season other than I'm grateful for the times I can escape to L.A. 

Wall art at Arts District Flea

Sunday, November 23, 2014

Day 7 | 12 Days of Gratitude

I've been longing for days like this lately...days when stress, worry, hurt, anger, and regret weren't nipping at my heels like rabid dogs. One day...soon. 

Thankful for images that bring me back to a carefree time. 

Venice Beach, CA

Saturday, November 22, 2014

Day 6 | 12 Days of Gratitude

There are perks to living in Southern California but sometimes I yearn for cooler weather. I've been looking down on the floor looking for signs of Fall but all I had to do was look up. 

Grateful for Fall foliage even when the days feel like Summer.

Friday, November 21, 2014

Day 5 | 12 Days of Gratitude

I have an addictive personality. Last year I stopped drinking alcohol every day limiting my drinks to "only on special occasions." I noticed middle age is unforgiving and won't let me eat whatever I want. My efforts in working out hard were sabotaged by my nightly wine glass or two or three. Add Blue Moon beer to the mix on weekends and forget it. I might as well have skipped the exercise regimen altogether.So I stopped buying bottles of wine and cases of Blue Moon. 

Then I tried Kombucha. 

What is Kombucha? I found this blog informative so you can click here if you're so inclined.

Before reading the label on GT's Kombucha I took a sip. I was done for. 

I felt A-L-I-V-E...and healthy. 

Thankful for what Kombucha does to my mind, body, and soul: 







                                reclaim                                                                    restart

Kombucha and Peanut B Acai Bowl from Birdie Juicery
The Oc Mix Mart

Thursday, November 20, 2014

Day 4 | 12 Days of Gratitude

She was sitting there in all her glorious beauty. Without her master she was lifeless and inanimate. 

His fingers slowly caress her awake and the sensual notes she emits makes everyone heady with pleasure. 

Grateful for melodies that bring life to forgotten memories. 
Taken at a wedding I shot at Orcutt Ranch

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Day3 | 12 Days of Gratitude

A friend recently compared me to a flower growing between the concrete and my initial reaction was, "Say whaaaaaaaaaaaat?" After she explained what she meant I've been on the hunt for flowers growing in the concrete. In this case, I found them looking up. Thankful for friends who have quirky visions of urban blossoms. 

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Day 2 | 12 Days of Gratitude

I don't take for granted the steps that propelled me forward to the place where I learned no one and nothing can make me happy except the ONE who "makes beautiful things out of the dust." 

Monday, November 17, 2014

Day 1 | 12 Days of Gratitude

Thankful for child's play and imagination; for simple times without the intricacies and distractions of technology; when a dinosaur's demise is caused by the union of intergalactic good guys and bad guys. 


Monday, September 15, 2014

The Day I Ran For The Bling As Brace Face Ernest | Disney Half 2014

We were stuffing ourselves with prosciutto wrapped salads, sippin’ on some Arnold Palmers, and trying not to shove slices of authentic Italian Margherita pizza down our throats. Fuoco Pizzeria was the scene of our carb loading crime because girl gab is better when carbs are involved. 
Throw in a couple of rapturous cannoli, mix in my good friend’s quirky humor, and I almost forgot I was running my second half marathon of 2014 in three days. My friend is an endless resource of funny Internet material and I knew laughter was imminent when she shared The Oatmeal’s comic with me: The Dos and Do Nots of running your first MARATHON. If you’re a runner clicking on that link is a MUST. Click it now!

Their definition of marathon had me laid out on the restaurant booth cracking up!

Marathon: (noun)
A popular form of overpriced torture wherein participants wake up at ass-o-clock in the morning and stand in the freezing cold until it’s time to run at which point they miserably trot for a god-awful interval of time that could be better spent sleeping in and/or consuming large quantities of beer and cupcakes.

See also: masochism, awfulness, “a bunch of bullshit,” boob-chafing, cupcake deprivation therapy.

Don’t tell me that didn’t just rock your world? Brilliant, right? Okay, I know, what you’re going to say---I guess you have to be a runner to get it.


When my cousin, Ernie, asked if I would run the Disney Half Marathon for him my brain, body, and mouth were at odds with each other. My mouth said yes, but my brain was flashing red alerts, while my body tried to say hold up, wait a minute, you’re running the La Jolla Half in April! As usual, my brain and body were ignored.

This is me at 5 a.m. two Sundays ago waiting in Corral J, incessantly yawning and almost falling asleep standing up. I am NOT a morning person. Waking up before the sun IS masochistic, I agree.
Photo credit: Marathon Foto

Let’s back up to when I said I was in Corral J. That’s the tenth, I repeat, the TENTH letter in the alphabet. Corral J was the last which meant there were thousands of masochists waiting in nine corrals in front of me. I swear I stood there imagining it to be like the time the Red Sea parted for the Israelites. Except, we were slaves not running away from but toward our own insanity.

If you can't wrap your brain around the image of multitudinous masochistic souls waiting in nine corrals take a look at the picture I pilfered from Ernie's Instagram. (Sorry, Ernie.) The bright lights on the horizon marked the starting line. 

While I stretched my limbs my inner thoughts were rampant with self-deprecation.

Girrrl, you’re getting too old for this shit.

Okay, Nannette, why did you say yes to Ernie again? You could be sleeping in on Labor Day Weekend!

Ray was right, you ARE a crazy Rambo wannabe!

WTF, dumb a$$, it’s not like you haven’t run the Disney Half before! What the hell are you trying to prove?!

C’mon is this about posting a cool pic on Instagram?

I get that you want a picture with Darth Vader but for reals, this is death.

Admit it, you didn’t agree to run this race for Ernie out of compassion and kindness, your covetous dark side wants that Disney medal!

Duuuuuude, you just RAN the La Jolla Half in April you really are effing stupid!

I swear if old ladies run past me again this is going to be the last half marathon I run in my life.

Somehow the emcee’s booming voice crashed through my thoughts. I heard her announce the oldest runner joining us on the racecourse was 82 YEARS OLD!!!! Not only was she in her eighties, it wasn’t the first time she ran the Disney Half.

Awwwww hellllllllllll nawwwwwww!

So I did what I used to tell my kids when they were younger.  I shut up and BUCKED UP!

Why put myself through 13.1 miles of “overpriced torture” and “miserably trot for a god-awful interval of time?”

Sure, there’s some madness involved but for me, it’s simple.

Running is...feeling A-L-I-V-E.

I’ve spent almost my entire life numbing myself. It’s a coping mechanism I tried to perfect believing I’d be one bad mama jamma like Black Widow. Yeah, yeah, I know, I’m not a hot superhero. I’m the typical story of a moody, depressed kid, starved for love and affection longing for a connection with my father. As most daughters whose fathers are emotionally absent I turned to the usual modes for analgesic benefits---Drugs, alcohol, sex, rebellion.

It was better to feel dead inside than face the truth of my inadequacies. Because that’s the message an emotionally absent father sends: you’re not good enough, you’re not worthy, you just pretty much suck.

I started training for a 5K in 2003 after I caught my then boyfriend, the master of duplicity, doing what he did best---lying, cheating, betraying. After the nasty break up I refused to go back to my self-destructive numbing ways. I was two years sober from drugs and didn’t want to go down that rabbit hole again.

I’ve written this before in my other blog posts but I HATED running. So much so I would forge letters to my P.E. teacher instructing him/her to excuse me from running that day because of “menstrual issues.” It helped that I was asthmatic so I’d wheeze something fierce on the days the dratted P.E. teacher decided running was better than playing volleyball. My scrawny legs couldn’t even carry me over half a mile.

In 2003 I was 35 years old and sick of feeling devoid of all emotion. Not a damn thing. After I broke up with that deceitful boyfriend running became my lifeline.

Something magical happened. 

I got injected with a superhero serum---endorphins. There’s something about endorphins that clear the bullshit from your eyes crystallizing the truth of your worth. For the first time in my life I felt empowered. No one could take my fitness away. Never again would I allow a lying, cheating, fool to have power over my worth. 

It’s true what Brene Brown says in her book The Gift of Imperfections…”We cannot selectively numb emotions, when we numb the painful emotions, we also numb the positive emotions.

I wasn’t so much addicted to Endorphins as I was to feeling alive for the first time. Running long distances, especially half marathons, were the only times I connected to the panoply of emotions: Joy, Doubt, Fear, Pain, Exhilaration, Anger, Determination, Hope, Courage, Passion, Shame, Sadness, Victory. I would be lying if I said I wasn’t chasing a high but it’s not what y’all think.

My endorphin high plugs me into God in more ways than any drug (legal and illegal) has ever achieved. Crossing the finish line means you’ve crossed the threshold of your promised land.

In my last blog post I wrote about the ways I’ve managed my depression. As I fell in love with running I discovered its power in abating the darkness that threatened to overtake me. Empowered by the changes, not only in my physical body but in my mental health as well, I weaned myself off of the substances (legal and illegal) I took to numb myself.

Getting high on endorphins amplified my weaknesses that I couldn’t pretend they didn’t exist any longer; pushing me to accept them with grace and helping me break through the psychological logjam I was trapped in.

When I push my body to its limit I fine-tune my mind to focus on what’s important. Sometimes I’m shielding myself from truths I’m scared to face. Like how I need to figure out a way to stop wasting my life doing what makes me miserable. Or how I’ve made myself readily available for people who don’t give a damn about me.

Running placed a bullshit mirror in front of me, reflecting my own deceitful soul. When I was unfaithful in my second marriage I justified my actions with all kinds of self-righteous nonsense. It was during one of my runs when I realized I had become one of the hypocrites I vehemently judged at church, giving me the balls to divulge the truth to my spouse and face the ugly consequences.

So on that downer note let me take you back to that morning I was stretching in Corral J waiting for nine corrals of adrenaline-pumped human bodies to be set free. Before each corral was let loose the emcee asked if they were running for the bling.

I laughed to my sleepy self. I’m not into expensive jewelry, okay wait, I take that back. Unless it’s this Star Wars Tie Fighter ring, OMG, please I die every time I see it! I don’t give a flying flip that it’s an “engagement” ring. Engagement, shmengagement, I would wear it regardless.

There is no denying that Disneyland’s medals are pretty blingy. They’re one of the best ones I’ve had wrapped around my neck and right there at 6 a.m. I let that bling dangle like a carrot to get me through to the finish line. In my defense I offered it to Ernie beforehand but he declined. God bless his pure soul.

I told myself this would be the last half marathon I’d run. [Read about the brutality I put myself through in the La Jolla Half Marathon last April.] But maybe for the right bling I’d torture myself again.


My pre-run paraphernalia. My new red Halo visor, new red
Pro Compression socks, and Doterra Deep Blue & Breathe
essential oils. I'm never running a race without these again! 

When I took this picture with Maleficent the
Disney "gestapo" rode up on their bikes
and yelled, YOU'RE BEHIND PACE!"
30 seconds and I would've been shut out of the race. 

Move over, Luke! He's my Daddy now!
(This picture was the reason I fell behind pace. I waited in a LONG line
but man, it was worth it.) 

On Facebook I wrote that I had to stop and take a picture
in front of California Screamin'.A couple of years ago when we had
annual passes Ray had me ride it twice in a row and I threw up afterwards. 
Good times.

The entire 7th mile was lined with souped-up classic and muscle cars!
I couldn't stop to take pics but my dream car was there! A 1965 cherry
red Pontiac GTO!

Victory at the Finish Line! Photo cred: my son Tristan

Not sure why long runs bloat me to Humpty Dumpty
size and swell my arms/hands but
seeing my son, Tristan and honorary daughter, Becca,
made me tear up. 

The bling I tortured myself for and it was worth it. 
Thank you again, Ernie!!!! 

Tuesday, September 9, 2014

Depression, Positivity, and Untold Stories

If I decided to run away like I did when I was a teenager it wouldn’t be hard to find me. My home away from home is the Cerritos Library and there’s never a time that I go in there without fantasizing about living on one of the three floors.

I’ve sat in my chosen space lost in daydreams about being alone in the library after hours having all those books to myself. It’s like that Ben Stiller movie in the museum except I don’t want anything coming to life other than the stories waiting to be read.

My visits to the Cerritos Library have become ritualistic; walking between the shelves with curiosity propelling my steps, wondering about the stories nestled in each book. It’s a slow, meditative stroll that allows me to read the titles on the book spine, completely in the moment. I try not to let the book cover cloud my judgment because how many of us are guilty of that?

And I’m not just talking about books.

Every day we walk past people judging them by their outward appearance. I’m raising my hand up high because hello, I’m guilty. At the cube farm, in the grocery store, picking up a coffee at Starbucks, fueling at the gas station, in the Sams Club parking lot, I walk by plenty of humans without making eye contact. Or if I do I shift my gaze away without smiling.

I’m in a hurry, I tell myself, always in a damn hurry.

We're so lost in a cyclone of noise and busyness we miss the pain in the young woman's eyes broken over infertility and a recent miscarriage; or the young wife who longs for connection with the husband who's forgotten her captivating beauty; or the grumpy man who's still reeling over his grief of losing his mother; or the defeated single mom who left behind her dreams to raise her children; or the affluent businessman who is addicted to pornography as a result of child abuse; or the pretty girl with the big smile who endured years of abuse as a sex slave and is now helping others; or the beautiful model who is surrounded by an entourage of admirers but feels so alone. 

The stories swirl around us every day. 

When Robin Williams committed suicide last month the Internet was pummeled with tweets, status updates, articles, and blog posts about depression. Most of what I read infuriated me.

So many posts published on how to deal with depression as if there were one formula to cope with the debilitating condition. Others straight up denigrated those who suffered from depression suggesting they had no reason to because they lived a “blessed life.” These people attempt suicide for attention, some said. Or what about the writers who claimed Jesus was THE one and only cure?

Let me put it out there: I have suffered from depression and still do. Weekly counseling and therapy sessions for almost a decade failed to drive my mental condition away. Add a handful of anti-depressant and anti-anxiety medications to the mix and I turned into a depressed zombie.

My depression, I realized, is like the imaginary friend I couldn’t outgrow. I came to a point where instead of fighting it and pretending it wasn’t there I acknowledged its daily presence in my life. In doing so I found a way to manage its onslaught. 

I’m not here to write another list on how to deal with depression, what not to say to people who are depressed, or how depressed people just need Jesus. This isn’t what this blog post is about.

It’s about knowing that every person is embedded with a unique blueprint of their untold story within them. Never assume someone has their shit together just because they exude it. Conversely, the nondescript and unassuming types have powerful stories if you take the time to listen.

I’ve attempted suicide three times but if you met me now you wouldn’t know. The first time was in my teens and that one was for attention. I needed my parents to listen. Taking my mom’s pills backfired because those were my pre-pharmacy technician days so what I ingested didn’t have the desired effect. The second time I tried slicing my wrists because I wanted to hurt my parents.  But my aversion to blood overpowered the conviction to off myself. Until next time, I vowed.

The third and last time happened when I was married to an abusive man. My youngest child was only three-years-old but in my deep despair I felt nothing but a pervasive numbness. Hanging and shooting myself were too much work; too messy. Sitting inside a car with the engine running in an enclosed garage was the easiest choice

My memories of that night are nebulous. Disjointed scenes flashed through my mind of being light-headed and dizzy while I slowly lost consciousness. I remember thinking wow, it really does work and later, okay this is it, I’m finally doing it. I don’t know how long it took for me to begin losing consciousness but my sister’s audible voice pierced through the fog. Like a megaphone next to my ear her voice scared me awake.

I think I coughed while I switched off the ignition wondering if maybe, just maybe, I succeeded and stepped into the dimension of purgatory. But when I pressed the remote to flip the garage door open my doubts were soon doused. I was alive.

That was the last time I tried to take my own life. And by the way, my sister never called my name that night as she was sound asleep upstairs. 

I wish I could say my life turned around after that but it headed straight for the rockiest bottom fate would find. It’s taken years to climb back up with the hardest lessons as footholds to the summit of my betterment.

Instead of fighting off my depression I acknowledge its existence knowing I can now recognize the triggers. Sometimes I lurch in the borders of its darkness because life can suck. But there’s always a choice. That gift called free will. I can stay in bed paralyzed by the mental torment that constantly plagues me or I can run my ass off fueling endorphins to puncture the pervading blackness with light.

Sure I need Jesus and he’s the primary reason I choose to leave the sanctuary of my bed every morning. But in addition to him I employ an array of ammunition to help me get through the day without depression controlling my every waking thought.

When I smile at co-workers, laugh at their jokes, hug my friends, or run the streets, depression is skulking below the surface. Some people I’ve confided in question me: what do you have to be depressed about? You have a man who loves you, three beautiful kids, and a precious granddaughter, a great job, a roof over your head…

What they don’t understand is happiness isn't grounded on external circumstances and the demon of depression takes advantage of that. I’ve forgiven my imperfections, accept my flaws. I discovered my purpose in life and combat the gloom with acts of kindness because kindness trumps all.

Please note, my methods of managing depression work for me. I can’t speak for others whose struggles differ from mine. When life spirals beyond my control and negativity abounds I can only focus on those who bring positivity into my realm.

My daughter, Maricelle, is the best example of setting positivity into motion. I learn so much from that kid. During one of her last visits before moving to New York she told me of Jerry, the supply stocker at the La Jolla VA, where she worked as a RN. When most people would dismiss an elderly man working in the custodial department, Maricelle made a point to say hello to him every night. The graveyard shift was grueling and some days were worse than others but Maricelle never missed a day acknowledging Jerry.

The weeks leading up to Maricelle’s last day were busy but she delved deeper into Jerry’s life when she told him she was moving to the East Coast. Jerry lives in San Francisco but was laid off. He works in San Diego during the week and goes home to his wife on the weekends.

Jerry’s story filled me with shame for the daily complaints of my hour-long commute to work. This is an elderly man who commutes to a city over six hours away if he traveled by car and returns home on the weekends to be with his wife.

Below is the picture of Jerry’s handmade card  for my daughter. I cried when I read it. It’s a beautiful example of how an act of kindness can uncover a meaningful story living inside someone. It reminds me of the power of a simple hello or smile---keeping depression at bay while making a difference in someone’s life.

When the internet was stirred into frenzy after Robin Williams’s suicide, writer Anne Lamott’s impactful words about the famous comedian emerged from the chaos.

 “Live stories worth telling! Stop hitting the snooze button. Try not to squander your life on meaningless, multitasking bullshit.”

Amen, Anne, Amen!