Because the important moments in life just don’t fit in a status update! I started this blog when I was training for my first ½ Ironman, (70.3 miles) to record what I hoped would be growth and progress but ended up being a huge learning experience. Although fitness is one of the key ingredients to a happy life, it certainly isn't the only ingredient. My blog has evolved to document growth, progress and setbacks in other areas too. From my surprise proposal in Rome and wedding in the fall of 2013, to Mom's devastating stage IV cancer diagnosis and death 2 weeks after I found out I was pregnant. Who knows what shape it will take, but thanks for being along for the ride.

Saturday, January 24, 2015

Wait, it's a Boy!? Becoming Foster Parents

Before our baby girl arrives at the end of May, we're having a boy! A teenage boy.

As I was about to leave work on Tuesday, I received a call that a student I had been working with was placed at an emergency youth shelter, Orangewood. I can't discuss any of the circumstances surrounding why he was placed there not just because of confidentiality, but because it is his story. None of us would like our stories shared, and there is always misinformation and another side to things. Suffice to say, he was now in "the system" and would be looking at at least two months there (usually closer to eight or nine) before hopefully being placed with a foster family. 

That is, unless someone who was related to him or knew him stepped forward. I already knew that he had no one. I thought of how he had attended school every day the prior week, a first for the entire school year, and how he was just starting to smile and feel connected. I spoke to our campus police officer who has been instrumental in helping get him clothing, shoes and school supplies, and he said he was searching his mind for someone who could take him in. He said he would take him himself, except that he has four boys, and I knew he meant it. Everyone likes this kid. Right away, I wanted to say "We'll take him!" but knew I needed to talk to Nathan, who would probably tell me it wasn't good timing.

Without hesitation or even a whole lot of information, my husband was all for it said we should help. We were being called to do so. I was surprised by his response, but I probably shouldn't have been. On one of our first dates, he told me he believes service to others is his main purpose in life. He said that although he has never met this boy, he trusts my judgement. This means a lot to me, especially in light of the fact that I routinely loose my cell phone inside my own house and just the other day put the ice cream away in the fridge, overnight. We decided to move forward.

The first step was to speak to his social worker and give her all of the information needed on both of us to complete a criminal background check. She also asked the student if he would want to live with us, and his answer was yes. On Wednesday night, we spoke to him and set up our our first visit for the following day.

The fact that we are flying to Italy on Valentine's Day presented a problem because we can't very well leave him unattended for 10 days while we ride gondolas and eat lasagna. At first, the social worker said that we would just wait until the end of February, when we return. But that didn't seem right, and I searched for someone willing to take him while we were gone. I was amazed to find out that one of his teachers was willing to take him for the entire time we are gone. The social worker was in support, and they are moving forward with that background check as well.

Every day, Nathan and I have been talking about this and giving it careful consideration. Can we really commit to having him stay with us for six months to a year, possibly more? What if behavior problems arise? What will it be like with a newborn? With our backgrounds and experiences I feel that we are fairly well equipped to handle whatever is thrown our way. I told my husband that I love him more for being so open to doing this, and he said he is so happy he found someone who is willing to take this on. Being 5 months pregnant, it may not be the best timing, but its as good a time as any. We don't choose when we're called to serve, and the timing for something like this is probably never perfect.

We had our first meeting with him Thursday night and it could not have gone any better. He hit it off with my husband, talking about video games and baseball. We tried to get to know him, asking what his favorite things to eat are and what he likes to do. All three of us were a bit nervous. He smiled a lot, very shyly, while looking down. He seemed excited. When we asked him if he had any questions, he wanted to know what time he would need to go to bed, and if he could drink soda. If he was allowed to drink soda, how many could he have in a week? Rather than having set answers, we told him that we would all talk and figure out what was best with his input.

Toward the end of our visit, I told him that we are just here to help, and that he didn't choose to be in this situation and that it wasn't fair, or his fault. His response astounded me so much that I had to ask him to repeat himself. He said "Better me than someone else." We ended the visit on a positive note and told him we would be back to see him on Saturday.

This time, we were able to take him out of Orangewood for two hours. We walked around the Block at Orange and had lunch at TGI Fridays, a place he had never been. Again, it went really well and I think we can both now see ourselves in this role.

Our home visit is scheduled for next Wednesday, where they will open every drawer and peer into every cabinet. It's supposed to last two hours. They will also be asking us some pretty interesting questions I assume, because she already front-loaded us and told me not to be offended, "They're just questions we ask everybody."

The clothes that were given to him a few weeks ago did not make it with him to Orangewood, so we are in the process of contacting some people who may be able to help. While there eventually will be some funding that comes with him for clothing and food, it does not kick in for 6-8 weeks and his birthday is less than two weeks away. My friend Delia asked her friend Dave who has already made contact with some people at Hurley, Oakley and Vans.

We are both so excited about the possibility of making a difference, even a small one, in this young man's life. So many people care about him - more than he knows - and their caring and concern motivated us to take this leap. 

Saturday, January 17, 2015

14 Days of Love - DIY with Printables

((This repost is from The Dating Divas who reposted from Six Sisters Stuff.))

I'm excited to do this for Nathan! Last year, I did a scavenger hunt for him on Valentine's Day. You can view that posting here. I like that this is for two weeks leading up to Valentine's Day, so it helps build the excitement while taking a little pressure off of the gift. I plan to leave these by the coffee pot or in his car in the morning, since I leave before he does. Or, around the house if it's something he won't be taking to work (like the sparkling cider). The printables are found here. I've made my shopping list, and have started picking up a few items each time I go to the store.

One or two of these could be used instead of the whole 14. You could also use some of them for children, friends or co-workers. "You are the apple of my eye" is great for a child, and "You are soda-mazing" could be given to just about anyone.

You are the “apple” of my eye!
You could also use apple juice, candy apple rings or actual apples.

“Honey, comb” you’re hair, because we’ve got a date tonight!
If you’re not into cereal you could just use a regular comb.

You are one “hot tamale!”
You could also use Red Hots or any other cinnamon candy.

I’m “nuts” about you!
You could use any type of nuts, a Nutrageous candy bar, or Nutter Butter cookies.

I wouldn’t “chews” anyone but you!
You could also use Starburst fruit chews, Charleston Chews, or Chewy granola bars.

I think you are “soda” amazing!
You could also use Soda Candies or Soda Crackers.

We were “mint” to be together!
You could also use York Peppermint Patties, Butter Mints, or a mint flavored dessert.

We make a great “combo!”
These were my husband’s favorite growing up so I just had to use them!  They are found right by the checkout.
You could also use a combination flavored pizza or PB and J combo jars.

Thanks for “stick”ing by my side!
We lose chapstick as soon as we get it around here so this works well for us.
You could also use Chic-O-Sticks, Orange or Raspberry Sticks or super glue (or anything else sticky for that matter).

I’m “bananas” for you!
You could also use real bananas or banana flavored candy.

You have o”fish”ally stolen my heart!
You could also use gold fish crackers.

I would be so “mix”ed up without you!
You could use any flavor of Chex Mix, trail mix or other snack mix.

Life would be un”bear”able without you!
You could also use a honey bear or Klondike Bars with the bear on the front (just be sure to keep them in the freezer). :)

You make my heart “bubble” over!
You could use any type of carbonated beverage, Bubble Tape, or Bubble Yum.

Print your 14 day tags here!

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Linked up at: 
Blooming Homestead

Saturday, January 10, 2015

Christmas Gifts, From Mom

One of the reasons I blog is for the documentation and archival aspects. I've already gone back and reminisced reading Autumn Weekends with Mom, trying to assure myself that I made the most of our year together post-diagnosis. And I like imagining that our daughter will one day read this blog. She may not be interested until she's older, but if I had something similar written by my Mother or Grandmother, I certainly would. 

In doing so, I hope she will have just a glimpse into the planning and effort that went into trying to have her, and all of the excitement and anticipation surrounding her arrival. After IVF failed the first time, Mom told me "I'm going to hold that baby!" I want Autumn, as we have taken to calling her, to know how loved and wanted she was, even before we received that positive test. And how overjoyed my Mom was when I told her I was pregnant, both of us silently knowing and wishing that she could be here for more. 

A few weeks before Christmas, my Dad told me he asked Mom what to get me. My heart skipped a beat. Then he said "When you've been married as long as we have, you know what the other person would say." He wanted me to know that the gifts I was going to receive, for our baby girl, were from both of them.

Christmas Eve came, and traditionally we open one present. Dad knew the package, and handed me one wrapped in paper different from everything else under the tree. Inside were the most darling pink leather baby booties, with roses for Mom.

On Christmas morning, I did my best to cook up some sausages like Mom did, but they weren't as good. There was an emptiness in the air and in our hearts. The first holiday without a loved one is something to get through, not enjoy. But we did our best, as Mom would have wanted, and having this baby girl to look forward to helped. In my darkest days of grief, she is a bright spot.

I feel like the gifts that Dad picked out and had imported from England really were something Mom would have chosen. I will pack these away when she outgrows them, and like to imagine that Autumn may pass them on to her girl one day.

The mittens, booties and cap from Bonnie Baby are Cashmere, and super soft. She's all set for her baptism with the christening shawl and bonnet, which has intricate bead work on it. She will wear my gown, which Mom saved.

Another Christmas tradition in our family is that after all of the gifts have been opened, there's a special one, the best of all, from Santa. Sometimes it's hidden, or in another room. One year, a bike was left up on the roof, because Santa couldn't fit it down the chimney.

As in years past, this last gift was the most special. "Santa" had developed 15 rolls of film on disposable cameras that all belonged to Mom. When I switched to digital cameras around 2003, Mom's complaint was that the photos were never printed. So when we had an event or special occasion, she bought a disposable camera. It was amazing to look through the hundreds of pictures, most of them taken by her. Here are a few of few of my favorites. 

Her favorite Saint, Blessed St. Martin

I received that Tiffany anchor necklace that year, along with a note I saved that said I was the anchor of the family.
This was a dirt field when she started. Avenue G, Yucaipa.
Joking about having a double chin in photos. I miss her laugh, but can almost hear it when I look at this.

Friday, December 19, 2014

Husband ≠ Dancing Monkey

Excerpt from: Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn
APRIL 21, 2009
– Diary entry – Poor me. Let me set the scene: Campbell and Insley and I are all down in Soho, having dinner at Tableau. Lots of goat-cheese tarts, lamb meatballs and rocket greens, I'm not sure what all the fuss is about. But we are working backward: dinner first, then drinks in one of the little nooks Campbell has reserved, a mini-closet where you can lounge expensively in a place that's not too different from, say, your living room. But fine, it's fun to do the silly, trendy things sometimes. We are all overdressed in our little flashy frocks, our slasher heels, and we all eat small plates of food bites that are as decorative and unsubstantial as we are.
We've discussed having our husbands drop by to join us for the drinks portion. So there we are, post-dinner, tucked into our nook, mojitos and martinis and my bourbon delivered to us by a waitress who could be auditioning for the small role of Fresh-faced Girl Just Off the Bus.
We are running out of things to say; it is a Tuesday, and no one is feeling like it is anything but. The drinks are being carefully drunk: Insley and Campbell both have vague appointments the next morning, and I have work, so we aren't gearing up for a big night, we are winding down, and we are getting dull-witted, bored. We would leave if we weren't waiting for the possible appearance of the men. Campbell keeps peeking at her BlackBerry, Insley studies her flexed calves from different angles. John arrives first – huge apologies to Campbell, big smiles and kisses for us all, a man just thrilled to be here, just delighted to arrive at the tail-end of a cocktail hour across town so he can guzzle a drink and head home with his wife. George shows up about twenty minutes later – sheepish, tense, a terse excuse about work, Insley snapping at him, "You're forty minutes late," him nipping back, "Yeah, sorry about making us money." The two barely talking to each other as they make conversation with everyone else.
Nick never shows; no call. We wait another forty-five minutes, Campbell solicitous ("Probably got hit with some last-minute deadline," she says, and smiles toward good old John, who never lets last-minute deadlines interfere with his wife's plans); Insley's anger thawing toward her husband as she realizes he is only the second-biggest jackass of the group ("You sure he hasn'd even texted, sweetie?").
Me, I just smile: "Who knows where he is – I'll catch him at home." And then it is the men of the group who look stricken: You mean that was an option? Take a pass on the night with no nasty consequences? No guilt or anger or sulking?
Well, maybe not for you guys.
Nick and I, we sometimes laugh, laugh out loud, at the horrible things women make their husbands do to prove their love. The pointless tasks, the myriad sacrifices, the endless small surrenders. We call these men the dancing monkeys.
Nick will come home, sweaty and salty and beer-loose from a day at the ballpark, and I'll curl up in his lap, ask him about the game, ask him if his friend Jack had a good time, and he'll say, "Oh, he came down with a case of the dancing monkeys – poor Jennifer was having a “real stressful week” and really needed him at home."
Or his buddy at work, who can'd go out for drinks because his girlfriend really needs him to stop by some bistro where she is having dinner with a friend from out of town. So they can finally meet. And so she can show how obedient her monkey is: He comes when I call, and look how well groomed!
Wear this, don'd wear that. Do this chore now and do this chore when you get a chance and by that I mean now. And definitely, definitely, give up the things you love for me, so I will have proof that you love me best. It's the female pissing contest – as we swan around our book clubs and our cocktail hours, there are few things women love more than being able to detail the sacrifices our men make for us. A call-and-response, the response being: "Ohhh, that's so sweet."
I am happy not to be in that club. I don't partake, I don't get off on emotional coercion, on forcing Nick to play some happy-hubby role – the shrugging, cheerful, dutiful taking out the trash, honey! role. Every wife's dream man, the counterpoint to every man's fantasy of the sweet, hot, laid-back woman who loves sex and a stiff drink.
I like to think I am confident and secure and mature enough enough to know Nick loves me without him constantly proving it. I don't need pathetic dancing-monkey scenarios to repeat to my friends, I am content with letting him be himself.
I don't know why women find that so hard.
When I get home from dinner, my cab pulls up just as Nick is getting out of his own taxi, and he stands in the street with his arms out to me and a huge grin on his face – "Baby!" – and I run and I jump up into his arms and he presses a stubbly cheek against mine.
"What did you do tonight?" I ask.
"Some guys were playing poker after work, so I hung around for a bit. Hope that was okay."
"Of course," I say. "More fun than my night."
"Who all showed up?"
"Oh, Campbell and Insley and their dancing monkeys. Boring. You dodged a bullet. A really lame bullet."
He squeezes me into him – those strong arms – and hauls me up the stairs. "God, I love you," he says.
Then comes sex and a stiff drink and a night of sleep in a sweet, exhausted rats" tangle in our big, soft bed. Poor me.

Imagine how different her night would have been if she were upset with him for not showing up. How different both of their nights would have been.

My husband and I just celebrated our first year of marriage last month. Newly pregnant (read: hormones) and grieving the loss of my Mom, I recently fell into a bout of self-pity that lasted a few hours, after my husband received a phone call and rushed off to complete a task. He left abruptly and (I do hope you're sitting down) didn't kiss me goodbye or (gasp) ask me if I needed anything while he was out or before he left. And yes, the task he had to complete was Christmas shopping for me, but still!

Sulking, I picked up this book and happened to read this chapter. It took me awhile, but I realized that I could have reacted very differently. Instead of being upset with him, I became upset with myself for almost asking him to be my dancing monkey. It kind of scared me, because I have seen wives make their husbands do things the husbands obviously did not want to do, even (or, especially) in front of others. I have always sworn that I would not be that way when I finally landed a husband. Yet, there I was.

Before you start to think I'm being sexist, imagine the reverse scenario: a husband telling his wife to dress a certain way for his friends, fix her hair or make-up a certain way before they go out, or complete tasks for him in front of others, just so they could see how much she cares. Imagine him telling her that no, she cannot go spend time with her friends after work, or skip something they had planned because something else came up. Women-libers would be all over that, and he would be viewed as a controlling husband. So why is it okay when women ask their husbands to do the same?

Before we were engaged, my husband and I were going out to dinner with a few people. Right before we left, he came over and asked me if what he was wearing was alright. The question was so foreign to me, and my response was that he looked fine, and could wear whatever he wanted to wear. I seriously cannot imagine asking him to dress a certain way based on our company or the setting.

When I think of how my Mom would have handled the rushing-off scenario, I realize I have a lot of work to do. Mom would not have batted an eye, and would have been warm and welcoming when my Dad returned home. Just as in other areas of my life, I am still learning and improving, and still figuring out what type of wife I will be. Certainly not the demanding, emotional coercion kind that invents tasks for him to do as a test of his love. Instead, I want him to do things for me because he wants to, and because I do things like that for him. How much more meaningful is it when our partner - guy or girl - does something for us because they feel like it, instead of because they are afraid of our reaction or don't want to upset us?

Thursday, December 11, 2014

What's in a Name?

What's in a name? A lot. Some believe it can shape a child's self-esteem and identity, influence how they're treated by others and even affect their future professional success. It will be written on her first job application, said by her husband when she gets married, and printed on her business cards. How common will it be? Will she have five others in her kindergarten class with the same name or will she be the only one?

Of course we started talking about names well before I was pregnant, but have started giving her name more careful consideration every day since our gender reveal party. A few years ago, we "chose" the name Sophia on a drive to Oregon and loved how Sophia Swanek sounded. We were all set on that name, until we realized it was number one in almost every state for the past several years. To check how common a name is, you can search the Social Security's database here.

There's too common, which isn't good and then there's too obscure, which could be even worse, according to people who study this kind of thing. For awhile, I had "decided" on the name Adira (ah-deer-ah) which is a Hebrew name meaning strong, the same meaning as my name. But then my husband made a good case for why he didn't like it, pointing out that no one has ever heard of it, and that people would be forever mispronouncing it as Ad-die-rah. And that is too close to ah-diarrhea. So back to the drawing board we went.

For the past week or so, Audrey, Julia and Autumn have been in the running, with Autumn slightly ahead of the competition and favored by Nathan. We are still in flux though, because just yesterday, I heard Madeline on the radio and fell in love with it. I haven't really wanted a name that can be shortened (I love Charlotte but do not like Char) but have to admit that I do like the nickname Maddy.

Officially in  my 2nd trimester, my pregnancy is going well; I still don't have any symptoms. The only cravings I've had are for sushi rolls (cooked, of course) and phở. I am tired more, and often feel a bit slower, as if my IQ has dropped by at least 10 points. 

I'm looking forward to fixing up her nursery with a chandelier, french doors, chair rail and crown molding. Picking out a color scheme (pink and brown!), decorations and looking at different furniture options on-line. I have imagined this time in my life for all of my life and now that it is here, its even better than I imagined it would be. Enjoying every moment, especially the fact that I'm starting to show.

Tuesday, November 25, 2014

It's a ... GIRL!

We had a small gathering of twenty or so friends this past Saturday at our gender reveal party. Gender reveal parties are relatively new thing, much more low-key than a shower. Sometimes, the parents-to-be know what they are having and throw the party to inform friends and family. But in our case, neither of us knew. As people arrived, I greeted them and asked them to cast their vote for either TEAM PINK or TEAM BLUE, wear a pin showing their vote, and put a raffle ticket into the corresponding jar.

We had pizza, visited, and caught up, but to me, it was all just passing time until the main event: the cake-cutting. As the time drew near, I became more and more excited and...nervous. It's customary for the parents-to-be to say "We just want a healthy baby!" But I didn't. I wanted a girl as our first child more than anything in the world.

One hour to go!
Nathan and I stood behind the cake table with everyone watching us. As much as I had been wanting to know, I hesitated in cutting it. Someone called out asking if I was ready, and I responded "I don't know." Cautiously, we made one slice, and I could not see any color at all. Then slowly, we made the second slice.

It is impossible for me to sum up the elation I felt after the second cut in our cake revealed a bright pink cake color, but the video below does a pretty good job. I actually screamed when I first saw the unmistakably pink cake. It will always remain one of the happiest moments in my life.

My Mom's first child was a girl, and her Mom's first was also a girl. And now, my first will be a baby girl too. As strange as this may sound, when I was in my Mom's womb, the egg that would become my little girl was there with both of us. From this week's development update at 13 weeks:
Fingerprints have formed on your baby's tiny fingertips, her veins and organs are clearly visible through her still-thin skin, and her body is starting to catch up with her head — which makes up just a third of her body size now. If you're having a girl, she now has more than 2 million eggs in her ovaries. Your baby is almost 3 inches long and weighs nearly an ounce.
It is comforting for me to remember that even before my Mom was born, the very egg that would become me was there. And when I was in my Mom's womb, this new baby girl I am going to have was also there with me, and with my Mom. This simple developmental fact takes on a whole new meaning right now for me. I have been trying very hard these past few weeks to still feel close to her, and remind myself that instead of her being gone, she is with me, in everything I do and all that I am.

Monday, November 17, 2014

First Trimester ✓

As my first trimester comes to an end, I'm anxiously awaiting the results of the chromosomal abnormalities blood test and, almost as important: the gender results! I was a bit over-zealous and took the blood test a few days shy of being 10 weeks. So instead of calling me with the results last Tuesday, my doctor's office called to inform me that I needed to repeat the test.

Due to the delay in receiving the results, I had to push back my gender reveal party which was planned for this past weekend. It is now taking place this Saturday, the day before our one year anniversary. When the results are in, I'm going to have my doctor's office write them down instead of telling me. I'll drive to their office, pick up the (sealed!) envelope, and take it to our favorite bakery that made our wedding cake, Rockwell's.

I will find out what we're having when everyone else does. Do I dare write my preference here? Of course! I really, really want a girl. Maybe because I just lost my Mom, I long for a girl more than ever. Someone I can take shopping or go to tea with. This doesn't mean I don't want a boy, of course. Especially because our boy will be the only one to carry on the Swanek name. I am grateful for, and will cherish, whatever baby we have, be it a boy or a girl.

There just aren't any guarantees we'll be able to have another one, and I so treasured the relationship I had with Mom. But I know that can never be replicated or replaced, and I can always take up dirt bike riding instead of sipping tea, which can be kind of boring anyway.

The entire first trimester has come and gone without any real symptoms. When people ask how I'm feeling, my usual response is "I wouldn't even know I'm pregnant." I'm probably more tired, and likely more emotional, but with having just lost Mom, my barometer is off.

I've had three sonogram appointments in which we've heard the heartbeat, and that's the only time it feels real. The last one (at 10 weeks) was especially amazing, because I saw baby Swanek kicking and punching and moving about, all 2 inches of him/her. I just cannot wait until I can actually feel movement, which should be in the next month or so.

In the mean time, I'm doing everything I can to make sure this baby has the healthiest start. I'm eating healthier, sleeping a lot, and started swimming again. I swam 800 yards last week, and today I did 1000 after work. I'm also dreaming a lot about decorating the nursery, what the first year will be like, and beginning to look into daycare or nanny services.

Saturday, November 1, 2014

Mom's Obituary & Eulogy

Dad's eulogy at Mom's remembrance mass exceeded any expectations I had. His delivery was heartfelt and he managed to get through it, something I would not have been able to do. Mom was smiling down. 

Paula was ever calm and serene in her faith. From her childhood forward she had a special place in her heart for Blessed Saint Martin, and for Saint Padre Pio, and she prayed to them both, often.
Paula, I met you when you were seventeen, the world before you, with an unbounded potential. With your light hearted spirit, strong intellect, and the looks of an angel, you could have gone anywhere with anyone, but you chose me.  You gave me 45 years of joy, support, and love, just as you gave to our children. Always caring, always kind, you will live in our hearts forever. 
Paula loved children, and had mother’s special love for Megan and Glen.  Always supportive and encouraging, always wise and kind, she was so proud of them both.In our family, when we had a decision to make, and she was not there, we had a saying, “What would mom do?”
Paula never complained and always looked to a better future. She always saw the good in every person, and in any situation. When her daughter was only two, and I first lost a good job, and then our home, she did not respond with anger or hurt, but love and compassion.  At her spurring we moved to Seattle, and created a life focused on family, and our new little girl Megan.  When our son Glen was born, she was overjoyed, and she raised him with an equal amount of love, always encouraging, always supportive. 
Paula loved her friends, and enjoyed their times together. While every one of Paula's friends were special to her, I would like to mention two of her friends who are not able to be with us today. A school friend from her childhood in England, Jeanette Sansum, corresponded with Paula for since she left at 18. And Lucinda Lewis ever faithful in their lasting friendship, and a friend she made thirty-seven years ago, while working together in New York City, Lucinda was there for Paula when she had her first child, Megan, and later she came to California for Megan’s wedding. While both are not able to be here today, they are here in spirit, and send their love for Paula, and her family and friends.
As a homemaker, a wife, and a mother, she was strong, capable and tireless, always striving to make everything better. She enjoyed to knit and to crochet, these she learned as a child from her grandmother. She loved to paint and to decorate our home, and whenever we moved to a new place she worked quickly to make our new residence more than a roof over our head, but a warm inviting place, proper for taking care of a family. Once I came home to find that in one 9 hour work day Paula had wallpapered the kitchen, and included fancy borders made from a wallpaper sample book, and everyone who saw her work commented on how nice it looked.  Another time she surprised me by transforming a rocky patch of land in front of her kitchen window into a wonderful garden, where her love of plants comforted me on a daily basis as I would ready myself for work. 
Paula’s character and temperament can best be shown from the time she was diagnosed with stage four cancer back in August of 2013 until her passing into heaven.    Paula had every right to cry, be mad, throw things, or even fall into depression after her diagnoses.  But that was not our Paula, for she was graceful always, until God called her.
She never felt sorry for herself.  She only commented on how bad she felt for all of those souls who contracted cancer as a child or young adult, and in doing so pushed sympathy, sorrow, and concern for her unto others.  Up until the end she always thanked those who helped her, and was eager to share news of her children.  Paula loved and lived with every moment she was given, neither hard times nor cancer would rob her of who she was. 
Paula gave a lot to many, to her friends, by volunteering at schools for twenty years, but by far she gave the most to me, and to her children. As she held all of us in her heart, she will live in a special place in all of our hearts forever, as an extraordinarily loving wife, mother, and friend. May God Bless Paula.
Flowers on the alter were a surprise from Andrea and her Mom Jeri.
A reception at our house followed the mass. It was a tea-party theme, something Mom would have loved. Everything was organized by my amazing friends Margie and Delia who also had the help of Patty, Ann-Marie, Tamara and Monet. They came over the night before to start setting up, and Margie was there the morning of.

Paula Mary DeWitt was born Paula Mary Mangan in Reading, England on June 28th, 1951. Her parents were Irish immigrants, and she was the eldest of six (Julie, John, Mark, Anna and Michael). She helped care for her younger siblings and sometimes spent summers in Ireland with her favorite Aunt Annie who worked for the Bridewell in Dublin. She met her would-be husband, Phillip DeWitt, an American, who was training with the British paratroopers while she was at a pub in 1969. Very quickly, she knew that he was the one because he was "such a good person, and we talked about children and how we wanted to put their needs before our own." Six months later, they wed at Christ the King Catholic Church in Reading, England and moved to America a short time after.

Once in America, they had 8 years of adventures and lived in San Francisco, St. Paul Minnesota, and New York before settling down in Yucaipa after the birth of their first child, Megan in 1977. Although she loved her job as an executive secretary in Manhattan, Paula chose to become a homemaker because she "couldn't leave her child with someone else." Glen was born in 1985 and she relished being a new Mom all over again, getting very involved in his classes and volunteering with his PTA through high school. Her children can attest to the fact that she had "the patience of a saint" and never lost her temper with them or even raised her voice. Yet still, they minded, because they were so close to her and did not want to disappoint or displease her.

She loved cooking, gardening, crocheting, music, taking care of her family and a good laugh over coffee with friends. Always sacrificing her needs for the good of her family, Paula will be remembered as a selfless, altruistic wife and mother who always had a smile, even when times were tough. She had a quiet strength. She never complained, and was always in a cheerful mood...even throughout her year-long battle with brain cancer. Quite honestly, most people complain more over having the flu. She was able to receive the news that her first grandchild was on the way just one week before she passed, and she was thrilled. She is survived by her husband, Phillip DeWitt, son Glen DeWitt and daughter Megan Swanek of Tustin. (Similar version published in the Yucaipa News Mirror)

Mom babysat two of the four beautie

Dad's friend flew in from El Salvadore. They were paratroopers 50 years ago.  

My flower girls 
Friends since grad school