And I thought Phoenix was hot …

We send our children off to school to learn how to read and to write, but where do they learn how to blend their reading and writing with whom they are?

I believe it’s blended through a whole lot of trust, a coat of confidence and a mix of life experiences –

This morning I received a text,

“idk how i want to write [my blog] it, i might do it more like informative and less like a story because I don’t write that creatively you know” – senoritasloane

my response:

“you are so creative – do this —just start talking, in your voice, with your thoughts – be true to YOUR voice and it will be a masterpiece. A blog is actually for you – don’t worry about others’ critiques – just express yourself with your humor and wit. This is your life – it’s your story to tell”

And she did just that – – – (this mama is crying)

This being my first post, I will preface it with the fact that if you know me well, you know that I am brutally honest, always saying the first thing that comes to my mind, typically with some sort…

Source: And I thought Phoenix was hot …

So-n-so

In 1971, on my parents’ 9th wedding anniversary, my mother readied for a celebratory dinner with my father.  In the front hallway closet, I was peacefully playing dress-up in my older brother’s winter coats.

Needing to shower, my mother peeked her head into the closet, telling me she was headed upstairs to shower and instructing me to not play with a particular older girl from our neighborhood,

“If s0-n-so should come by, do not play with her.”

Well, sure enough, while the shower sounded from upstairs, So-n-so showed up at our front door. I can vaguely remember So-n-so’s face, but I distinctly remember she was always taunting me.

I cracked the front door and peeked outside. There she stood, her “grown-up” self,  waiting for me to answer.  She summoned me with a plastic baggie,

look what I’ve got

I still remember the sight of that plastic baggie – a sandwich-sized bag full of bright red, gum ball sized red hots.

My mother’s words filled my head –

don’t play with so-n-so, she’s trouble

but those red hots were just that – red hot – and boy, did I want some.

So-n-so opened up the baggie and in went my hand – Pop! into my mouth went one of those glorious gum ball sized red hots and instantly, I choked, gasping for air!

My mother came running downstairs, dripping wet in a towel – her bare skin still wet from the shower – she picked me up, turned me upside down and shook me until the red hot dislodged from my throat. She scolded the girl, telling her to leave and not to come back!

Boy, who’d think after all these years, with memories of such a dramatic scene, I wouldn’t have learned that when someone hurts me, I shouldn’t open the door and allow them inside to repeat the abuse.

– Avoid temptation – no matter how fun-loving, adventurous or red hot a person may seem – if we allow dark, shady, negative people into our lives, they will feed us with toxicity , pain, and torment.

Fact.

Listen to the warnings, and at every age, stay away from red hot So-n-so and gum balls – they cut and suffocate you.

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“Red Hot”

Cascarón

Street vendors lined State Street in Santa Barbara for Fiesta! weekend, but the vending wasn’t like anything I’d seen earlier this month in Mexico City.

In Mexico City, the streets vendors primarily sell food and drink. Vendors set up mini-taco shops with grills on the curb – scooping corn tortilla mix out of a 5 gallon paint bucket with a sand shovel – jalapeño, chorizo, cilantro, cotija cheese, carne asada, pollo fundido, taquitos – you name it, they sell it – most often with an orange soda or a bottle of Coca-Cola.

But in Santa Barbara, California, where food licenses and food handling permits are required, the vendors sell mostly cascarones, which I, before now, knew nothing about.

A cascarón is a confetti egg.  With either a pin or a knife, an opening is made in the bottom of an egg, so the egg may be poured out.  The inside of the shell is then cleaned and dried, and the outside of the shell is decorated with paint or markers.  Then, the inside of the egg is filled with confetti or a small toy, and the hole is sealed with glue and tissue paper.  The cascarones are crushed over people’s heads to shower them with confetti.  It’s considered good luck to have a cascarón broken over one’s head.

During Fiesta weekend, the downtown Santa Barbara sidewalks are covered with confetti – multi-colored specks of tissue are strewn everywhere – many shops have window signs prohibiting the breaking of confetti eggs inside the businesses, yet somehow it seems no space is without a confetti dusting.

On Saturday morning, we waited on State Street for the Salt Caves to open. The Annual El Desfile de Los Niños (Children’s Parade) was scheduled to begin in a hour, and parade goers were setting up their chairs along the route. The cascarones vendors were open, busy readying for a day of selling their cascarones.

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Pink Panthers, Ernies, Berts, emoji faces, Winnie the Poohs, Pirates, Mexican wrestlers, Diamante Azuls, Buzz Lightyears, Chicks, Tony the Tigers, American, Mexican and British flags, flowers, initials – you name it, it’s a confetti egg.

The cascarones vendor who was selling in front of the Salt Caves spoke to us in Spanish.  She asked if we were looking for a particular style of cascarón. What do you like, I may have it? I couldn’t answer, so I asked LCP to translate.

“She says it takes 4 families a full year to make the cascarones they sell.  She says, they expect their children to work for the project, since they believe in discipline.  They don’t want their children in the streets or watching TV or playing video games.  Making Cascarones keeps them busy and out of trouble.”

After hearing her story, I reached into my backpack, pulling out a J⁴ Angel.  LCP gave the angel to the cascarón vendor, explaining we love her story and we want her to have an angel for the good she is doing in the world.

The vendor took the angel in her hand and lifted it to her lips.  She kissed the angel, held it to the sky and then held it to her heart. Gracias, gracias.

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The beauty of humanity –

showering down on us like confetti

from a cascarón.

 

 

Rojo Fuego

“Let’s, together, make a birthday dinner for my mom.” – Phillip

Phil did the lobster tails and salad. We did the green beans, Julie’s Potato Pie and dessert, salted caramel milkshakes.

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boiled at fire-hot temperatures and now the color of fire-hot red

J⁴’s birthday, July 27th, fell less than a week after her video-assisted thoracoscopic surgery (VATS), July 21st, and she was still struggling with recovery – the fatigue, as she described, is “unlike anything I’ve ever felt – like I was hit by a Mack Truck.”

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By candlelight, J⁴ and we sat at her “Daddy’s table,” in the dining room, celebrating her birthday.  I sat next to her.  On her arm, she had a tender spot where her surgery’s IV had bruised her. During dinner, she rested her hand on my forearm, mentioning how soft my sweatshirt’s fabric felt.

After dinner, we hugged to say goodbye, and J⁴ a pulled away, saying, “I love your sweatshirt – it feels so cozy and nice.”

Without a second-thought, I pulled my sweatshirt over my head and put it over hers –

“here, it’s yours.”

Home from dinner, I got online and bought a matching sweatshirt to replace the one I’d given to J⁴.

The next morning, I received a text,

Thank you for your sweater. Now I can say that you gave me the shirt off your back. 💕 ❤

Three months before, in May, J⁴ was diagnosed with malignant pleural effusion, a complication from the lung cancer. Her doctors had mentioned, “3 months,” and that night after she heard those words, we were together at a charity event.  It was the first time, during all her months of “whacking moles,” that I’d seen her mad.

“I’m not done.

If you’re going to tell me I have only 3 months,

then I want to go to the beach.”

Honoring J⁴’s wishes, Cal, her loving husband and primary caregiver, booked a week-long house rental in Santa Barbara, California, Aug 2nd – August 9th.

So on the heels of her birthday dinner, we had reached the 3 month mark and were headed to the beach, Santa Barbara, to the rental home that we now endearingly call, The Palace.

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The Palace

Cal & J⁴ flew, and I drove J4’s fire-hot BMW X5. During the drive, a road trip that normally J⁴ and I’d have taken together, I had waves of thoughts – what music would we’ve have listened to had we been together, what inside jokes would’ve come from our long distance time side by side and how fast would we’ve been clocked getting to SB?  Cal’s and her entrusted care of her car and the understanding that such a drive would’ve been so rough on J⁴ helped me see the good in my solo journey.

After a 7+ hour drive, I arrived at The Palace around 8 PM and was greeted by Cal at the front door –

“She’s been getting sick since 6 PM and she wants to see you.”

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I followed Cal into The Palace’s foyer, climbed the wooden, iron-railed staircase, and tip-toed across the glossy wooden floor to the Master Suite. Inside the suite, dimly lit by the remaining day’s light, J⁴ reclined in an upholstered chair with her feet propped on an ottoman.  Her head rested on the top of the chair’s cushion and she held a goose-down comforter to her neck.  With her eyes barely opened and her cheeks fire-hot red, she took my hands and said,

“I’m so glad that you’re here with me – I’m so sick. I guess I’m not in the best shape to start my party.”

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We left J⁴ alone to rest and to drink her Pedialyte. By 11 PM, she was regaining her strength and the nausea had subsided. She even rallied, eating some of the chocolate chip cookies that she’d baked, with her limited energy, for her week-long party before leaving for Santa Barbara.

Blaming the violent stomach sickness on food poisoning from possibly her shrimp lunch the day before, J⁴ felt much better in the morning.

Wearing our matching sweatshirts, we did a mini-outing to celebrate J⁴’s overnight recovery and to lift her spirits . We went to lunch at Montecito Cafe, with her youngest son and his wife, and then checked out a close-by clothing boutique.  The shop owner noticed our matching sweatshirts and asked what had brought us to Santa Barbara.

J⁴ gave her the short version of what had brought us to town – stage 4 lung cancer and a desire to be at the beach with “my family and my friend, who is my family.”

Moved to tears by J⁴’s story, the shop owner told J⁴ about her best friend who’s been living with advanced lung cancer for 9 years, don’t ever give up hope! J⁴ began to cry – I did, too. I purchased a Love Heals dog tag necklace, and the shop owner insisted that J⁴ pick out a dog tag necklace, compliments of her and the store.

We wore our Love Heal tags and our matching sweatshirts all week. Solidarity, it’s what we do.

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While J⁴ took a nap Monday afternoon, I went out on my own to photograph the Mission Santa Barbara. The mission has a self-guided tour, with directional signs and chained walkways leading visitors through the grounds.  I’d completed the walking tour and had arrived back at the starting point, adjacent to the mission’s center courtyard.  At the beginning of the tour, I’d admired some waterlilies floating in a water fountain in the courtyard’s garden, but the courtyard was closed and off-limits to visitors. I imagined J⁴ napping at The Palace but awaking to coax me – climb over the iron chains, unlock the gate, and  ignore the signs, Courtyard Closed for Maintenance.  She’s ornery like that – (if this were her blog, she’d argue that I’m the ornery one.)

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I behaved, exiting the mission through the gift shop and headed toward the parking lot. I noticed some chalk drawings on the pavement. Sidetracked, I wandered around the exterior of the mission.

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On the mission’s front lawn, there was another fountain with waterlilies – another chance to photograph waterlilies don’t ever give up hope! And even better, these waterlilies, outside the confines of the mission’s interior, were fire-hot red – the same color as our matching sweatshirts!

I’m reminded of the childhood game, Hot & Cold.

To play the game:  

Select one household item for hiding. Player 1 closes his eyes while Player 2 hides the item somewhere in the room. Once the item is properly hidden, Player 2 searches for it slowly and deliberately while Player 1 assists with verbal clues. If Player 2 is not at all close to the item as he searches, Player 1 says, “You’re cold,” but as he gets closer to the hidden item, Player 1 responds, “Getting warmer…” When Player 2 is very close to the item, Player 1 says, “You’re hot!” The verbal temperature indicators aid in finding the item.

When we were young, my sister and I played the game, and when Player 2 was right on top of the hidden item, we’d say, “you’re fire hot.”

At times, when I’ve wondered, where are we headed? Are we getting warmer, getting colder, hot, or fire-hot? I listen for the verbal cues and always seem to get them. I’ve found assurance that we’re close – fire-hot close – always adding warmth to each other’s lives, like those birthday centerpiece candles on Daddy’s table.

We have a friendwhoismyfamilyship that’s willing to give the shirts off our backs –

anytime and anywhere.

We’ve got each other covered –

it’s what we’ve built, it’s what we do.

We’re not going anywhere without the other.

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“Rojo Fuego,”

the fire-hot name of our matching sweatshirts.

 

 

Freestyle

“I was a train wreck. I was just like a time bomb waiting to go off…I had no self esteem, no self-worth, yeah, there were times that I didn’t want to be here…it was just not good.” – Michael Phelps

“This is when we fight, this is when real character shows up, don’t shut down” – Ray Lewis

“Pain builds compassion.” – Mark Salvato

“I related to his [MP’s] story, everything except the 21 gold medals” – EPB

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When we’re hurt, we don’t throw in the towel –

we dive in,

we fight.

It’s not about perfection, it’s about evolution –

a gradual process –

of becoming who we’re intended to be.

We go the distance.

Reach for the side, stability, get out of the suffocating waters, breathe,

and stand on our own, work

toward personal growth,

cherishing the personal medals earned

from humility and perseverance  –

Humility driven, not ego driven, we stand on a private platform,

recognizing the defeats that inspire the triumphs.

We discover the remedy lies within us.

Ripping off the dirty, old barely-holding-on band-aids that are pulling away from our wounds, we uncover a new skin –

one  adorned with

honor, righteousness, virtue, and

Goodness.

Defuse the time bomb, avoid the train wreck

Go for the Good –

that’s where the invaluable golds are found.