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.

Wednesday, October 21, 2015

Our Stay at the St. Regis

On Saturday September 26th, Autumn turned four months old and we stayed at the St. Regis, Monarch Beach in Dana Point. This posting was to document a weekend of firsts for Autumn: first night in a hotel, first five-star resort, first beach, first pool and first time being picked on. But a few weeks after our visit, when I sat down to record it, I realized there was a bit more meaning behind our stay and our link to the St. Regis. Often times when we are in moments, we can't see the larger patterns or recognize how life has ways of bringing us back to moments, thoughts or feelings. Sometimes, there is a greater plan at work that we do not see until later.

Autumn's first trip was just meant to be a fun weekend away and to prepare her (and us) for larger trips. It was to be a new chapter, a chapter we were beginning as a family. But in hindsight, it was a continuation of a chapter already written; a chapter started by my Mom and I.

Our connection to the St. Regis first started in 2013 after Mom was newly diagnosed with brain cancer. A time when we knew of the things to come and they scared the heck out of us. Cancer was on our mind 100% of the time, and all the fear that even the word evokes, including fear of the unknown. But it was before cancer had the opportunity to rob my mom of her energy, joy and life. She had not yet started to experience all of the awful effects of chemotherapy. It had not yet taken her vision, her taste or her energy.
Our Spa Day, October 26th, 2013
Due to the kindness of a stranger, Mom and I were able to be pampered for a day at the spa. Right up until that day, it had been a whirlwind of appointments leaving us with more questions than answers. Important treatment options (whole brain radiation or gamma knife, what type of chemotherapy) were to be considered and weighed heavily on us. We had just raised money to move Mom, Dad and Glen from Yucaipa close to us in Tustin and hardly had any down time.

We did not have a lot of discretionary income because it was less than one month before our wedding. Even if we had, it would be impractical to spend it on a place as nice as the St. Regis.

That day meant so much to us both. After valeting the car and walking into Spa Gaucin, we both, without verbalizing it, left cancer at the door. It was a day to slow down and just enjoy the company and presence of each other, knowing without speaking it, that the time was now limited. We each has massages in separate rooms with a fireplace and candles, and were treated to champagne and chocolate covered strawberries.  When we left, the cancer seemed a little less present.

I thought that would be the end of the story and that day at the St. Regis and the experience there was a one-time event. But like so many things in life, larger patterns are at work and experiences that you think won't happen again come around in altered variations.

Once again, due to the kindness of a stranger, who now had become a friend, we were able to make another visit. The charges for the weekend, $1,300, were reversed once I completed my 80 page Forbes Five-Star Audit. The second visit could not include my mom of course, but included her grandchild Autumn. Knowing about my previous trip, Nathan asked "It won't be too upsetting for you, will it?" Thinking it could be, but not wanting to miss out on the opportunity, I assuredly responded with a "Nah."

I have never stayed at such a nice hotel in the United States. I say US because it cannot really compare to our pool villa in Thailand, where we were able to get 4 nights for the price of this. But, that is a place where your dollar goes much, much farther, and where I could get hour-long massages for $10, including tip. The design, grounds, restaurant and pools of the St. Regis were all very plush and of a higher quality than I am used to. But to me, the main difference was the level of service. Everyone called us by our last name and when we asked someone for directions to the elevator, for example, they walked us there instead of telling us or pointing. 


When we arrived, we took the tram to their private beach. While they have a service that will set up lounges chairs and an umbrella for you, we didn't stay long. Autumn is still too young for sunscreen, so I brought my umbrella to shade her, only casting it aside when we took pictures. This is the first time Autumn had seen the ocean, and it was thrilling for us to watch her look out at the waves. I'm not sure she knew what to make of the feel of the sand and the tide on her toes. As a reaction, she did her best starfish impression, putting each extremity in a different direction, which we found adorable.

She was much more receptive to the pool, and to lounging (like her Dad!). As soon as we entered the side that had the kids pool, the staff set up our towels for us (shade for me, sun for Nathan) and brought us over a pack-n-play.

I thought she might cry when I first put her in the water, but she didn't. That was until a little boy, 3 or 4 years old who was "playing" with her and talking to me, took her squirting fish toy and used it to squirt water directly into her face.

She was caught off guard, as was I, and started bawling. 
He came back later with an apology that seemed very sincere. Not wanting to be "that" parent, I laughed it off and responded with "It's okay, she's in a pool. It happens." But in reality, I felt terrible for awhile afterwards because I didn't see it coming. I was holding her in my arms, but still couldn't stop it. And it made me think about all the future hurt she will endure that, just like this, I will not be able to shield her from. How she will feel when she looses me, like I lost my Mom. Thankfully, I quickly realized I was spending too much time worrying about the future and factors beyond my control. Mom always said Why worry over things you can't change?, and she's right: there is no purpose to it, and it only robs you of the joy of the present moment. Autumn will be hurt in the future, and that I can't control. What I can control is how, together, we handle the aftereffects which in this case, include forgiveness.

One of my favorite parts of the weekend was when we took a bath together. The tub was giant, of course, and she was so relaxed and content She floated in my arms enjoying her bottle with her hands crossed on her chest, almost in a praying position and making continual eye contact. 

Afterwards, Nathan snapped this picture of us, as she responded to her name and smiled at him.

That's when it hit me.

This photo very much reminds me of the picture of Mom and I, also taken at the St. Regis, one month shy of two years ago. We did not set out to re-create it, and it was not even on my mind at the time. Yet here I was, slowing down and enjoying the moment with my daughter just like I had with Mom.

Remembering my time with Mom there and wishing she could be a part of Autumn's life, I started thinking about all the future memories to be created between Autumn and I. If we're lucky, a whole lifetime of them, just like Mom and I had. I sincerely hope that our relationship will be just as close, and will try to emulate all of the amazing parenting she did so that is the case. 

For example, I spoke to Mom more than once every day of my adult life, and never out of obligation. It was because I wanted to, and doing so always brightened my day. She never judged, complained or offered advice, and was always so interested in me and my life. If I can do half as good of a job at parenting as Mom did, I am confident that we will be very close.


Later that evening, we had dinner at Stonehill Tavern, their nicest restaurant, and I noticed some people gave us the look when we rolled in there with our stroller. I could sense what they were thinking: We didn't come here to pay 100 dollars a plate and hear a baby scream. And I can't say I blame them...no one wants to be next to a crying baby at a nice meal, not even people with babies!

Our reservation was for 7:30 pm, earlier than Autumn usually goes to sleep, yet she fell asleep on the short walk there, and slept the entire time. Even when a gaggle of tipsy middle-aged women were seated right next to us, with their volume turned up a bit too high. She opened her eyes just a few times, looked around, and went back sleep. They commented on how amazing she was, and we joked about giving her benedryl. How else to you explain such a remarkable baby? 

Dinner and our conversation were amazing. You know those older couples you see eating their entire meal in silence? We were the opposite of that. Not to say that won't be us someday, but this night was one of the best conversations. It's funny how just when you think you cannot love someone more, you do. I realized that my husband and I had passed a huge milestone by becoming parents. And along with that milestone, we have developed a deeper love. 

Nathan talked about Autumn and how much she means to him, our new role as parents and how he loves seeing me be such a good mother to her. It is still strange for me to view myself a Mom. He talked about family lineage, and those that have gone before us and those that will go after us. We have transformed from being the end link in a family chain to one of many links in the middle. Somehow, no longer being the end link brings us both comfort. 

Before having Autumn, we were the end and the focus was on us. All the hard work and sacrifices by our parents was for us, to provide us with a better life than they had. Every parent wants that for their child. But now, all those wishes and desires have transferred to her. Our world is no longer just about us, it is about Autumn and all that we can do to provide her with a better future and more opportunities than we had. For example, it fills me with a great sense of pride to know that while I was not on a plane until I was 18, and didn't leave the country until I was 26, Autumn is already booked for three weeks in Vienna, Prague and Budapest. 

We both recognize that the focus is no longer on ourselves and we love it. I would lay down my life for this little girl without giving it a second thought and somehow that is so comforting. My own mortality is no longer so terrifying because she means more to me. Because of her, everything we do has many more layers of meaning. We both talked, as we often do, about Autumn's future and what we hope to leave her, both tangible (jewelry, property) and intangible (values, experiences, memories). And, the imprint we hope to make on this wold through her.

I have been missing my Mom tremendously since she has been gone, and this trip did not change that. But just like checking into the spa helped us temporarily escape the worry, the time away allowed me to reflect and helped me realize that there are things I do with Autumn that will bring me back to Mom in a way. I am experiencing all of the same joys and eventually, trials, that she encountered being my mother. And that one day, Autumn will also encounter, should she choose to be a Mom. I still miss my Mom and I always will, but somehow this weekend helped me feel closer to her in our connection in motherhood. She is with me in everything I do, and every time that I love Autumn or make her smile. Moments like we had this weekend allow me to relive moments that I had with my Mom, and reaffirms the multi-generational connection that will always be there. 


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