Our miracle RAINBOW BABY BOY arrived 8/2018

1st IVF = BFN
2nd IVF = Baby A, born May 2015
3rd IVF = Miscarriage at 14 weeks
4th IVF = BFN
After we paid for 5th IVF, positive pregnancy without IVF!

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, May 1, 2024

The Mysterious Man at Dad's Gravesite Service

We didn't inform anyone of Dad's funeral Mass beyond his friend, Sergeant Beverly, from his military days. The Mass was just family: the children and I, my husband and my brother, Glen. Mom had a small crowd at hers, but I wanted people there. Many people had been a part of her journey. I remember my friend, Jennifer, showing up with a lot of cleavage and saying, "Mom wouldn't expect anything less!" We had a nice tea reception afterward at our home (thanks, Margie!). I was newly pregnant, and so, along with the immeasurable sadness, there was the juxtaposition of hope and promise of new life.

But Dad's ending was more abrupt, and we thought he had more time. Heck, we even thought he might gain weight and come home. When he took a turn for the worse, it was so sudden. Although I am not generally this way, I wanted it to be more private for some reason. I did not want people to go out of a sense of obligation, and I didn't want to have to be "on" or make small talk. Also, with the passing of Mom, Dad's social circle had dwindled. He had a few life-long friends, but two of them were in other countries; El Salvador and England. The radical shift in how I approached Mom's service versus Dad's shows that not only is the process of grief different for everyone, but the process of grief can even be different for the same person, depending on the time and space in their life as well as a whole host of other factors.

So, for the gravesite service that followed at Riverside National Cemetary, I knew Beverly would be there, as well as a few friends of Glen. But that's all I was expecting. I was not expecting Richochet Rico (alias, for privacy purposes).

I was surprised to see that there were two men there about my age. I learned that they served in the military with Dad and found out that one of them actually lived really close to us, in a community just up the hill. The older I get, the less I believe in coincidences, and so we exchanged numbers, with the hope on my part of getting together and finding out more. Then suddenly, we found ourselves with 14 puppies and unable to host, followed by my husband's family scheduled to come and then my family flying from England to stay with us. This would be followed by a trip to Oregon for all of us and then our summer travels. All this while planning for her 1st Holy Communion and 9th birthday party. I began to realize that the earliest we could meet with this man and his wife would be August!

And so, I decided to ask him via text why he cared enough to show up at Dad's funeral. This is his response, which brought tears to my eyes:

Hi Megan, I guess the short answer is I realized after both my parents passed away that the people you care about aren’t going to be here forever, and when they leave us the least you can do is show up one last time and pay your respects. The longer answer is that Phil always treated me with kindness and compassion; when I was at the Aviation unit at Los Alamitos I was making my way through college, working at least one part time job and doing the weekend soldiering thing as well, so needless to say I was a little stressed. Then to top things off I got my girlfriend pregnant and became a dad well before we’d planned to. He could see and knew the pressure I was under, so would take the time to checked in with me to see how I was doing and offered words of encouragement. He’d even cover for me and get me out of busy-work duties so I could get away for a few hours and go study if I had a midterm or final coming up. Little things like that made a huge difference to me and I was always grateful for that and never forgot. Hope this helps 🙏🏽

What an amazing impact Dad made in this man's life through small actions. Dad likely never knew about the impact he had. Ricochet Rico's unexpected presence at my father's funeral was deeply moving and served as a poignant reminder of the impact of simple acts of kindness. Learning about the significant role my father played in Rico's life through his simple yet supportive gestures was both humbling and heartwarming. It underscored the importance of cultivating meaningful connections and leaving behind a legacy of compassion. This experience has left a lasting impression on me, highlighting the power of even the smallest gestures to touch the lives of others in profound ways.

We should all live our lives with that goal in mind: to impact someone enough that they take the time out of their busy life to show up at our funeral. We should all strive to have a Richochet Rico show up at our funeral, to have made an impact, whether we realized it at the time or not.

Wednesday, April 3, 2024

February AND March, 2024

Well, it finally happened. After over a decade of blogging at least once a month, I finally fell behind, and here I am, writing my February and March updates in April. I have a few valid excuses, I promise. I'm in my very last class for my doctoral program; my last class before starting my dissertation. And, of course, I was reeling from Dad's death, which was extremely rough there for a while. Yep, life happened, and boy, did it hit hard. But I'm happy to report that I am on the other side of it and no longer feeling "dicey" on a daily basis. I am attending church more regularly than ever before, which is so healing and comforting. I'm harnessing the feeling that life is too short and fleeting and using it to enhance my life rather than hinder it. Most days. I'm trying to use the realization that life is short as a catalyst for having fun, being silly, and enjoying the heck out of the kids and my hubby, rather than lamenting the fact that I am presently older than my dad was when I was in high school. 

One day as I headed out for a run, I remembered my Dad heading out for runs before work. I was reflecting on his influence in my choice to become a runner, and hoping it could have the same effect on my children. Then, I did the math, and realized that when my father was my age, I was a high school student.  When my mother was my age? I was 21 years old. Yet my children are only 5 and 8, and both of them are no longer here with us. That means that in the blink of an eye, I'll be gone, too. But it's not what happens to us that matters, it's what we do with it; how we respond. I am choosing to capitalize on this realization that life is way too short and use it to my advantage to become an even better Mom, wife, sister, counselor, and friend. I'm also using it to try and be healthier than ever before. We lost Mom far too soon, at only 63. I'm continuing with my running and lifting weights to build muscle mass. Being in shape is not just about looks (which do boost our self confidence and mood) but also about being in a good mood from the endorphins of working out as well as longevity. I want to be in shape to enhance both my quality and quantity of life. 

Without further adieu, here's what we've been up to!

Aut enrolled in a cooking enrichment after-school class one day a week. She loves it, and often comes home and teaches Cha how to cook! A disaster of a mess is usually made which is totally fine. Life is too short to worry about that.

Our beautiful girl started her headgear, which, thankfully, she only has to wear at night. Curious why kids are wearing braces in 2nd and 3rd grade, not middle school like when we were kids? I was, too! I learned that it is important to take them in before their bones fuse in adolescence because changes can be made much easier at this time. If we had waited, her pallet expander and headgear might not have done the trick, and she may have needed surgery! Her headgear was very painful at first, but she has since adjusted. It's pretty cute and pitiful when she is angry or upset and wearing it. Sweet girl.

We celebrated Valentine's Day with prime rib at orange mining company and went to February for our week off, known as ski week in our district. It was amazing to have some down time. When I'm at home on vacation, there's always something that needs to be done. But up there, it is much more relaxing. We flew and my hubby drove up with all of the dogs and their new go-kart. 

My mother-in-law bought a weeping willow, which I planted by the lake in honor of Dad. He planted one for me as a child because it was my favorite tree, but it died because it was too dry there.

Both kids finished their winter basketball, and Aut's team went to playoffs and won first place. We also worked in another Legoland trip and a few trips to Disneyland.

Aut is nearing the end of her two years of religious education classes in preparation for her first Holy Communion. Although she had her first reconciliation at the top of the Scala Sancta in Rome, she attended with her class and sweet cousin, who gave her a pair of cross earrings for the occasion.

My best friend surprised me with tickets to a murder mystery dinner show, something I have wanted to do for a while. But the real surprise was that she paid extra to make me one of the suspects! It was way more inappropriate and raunchy than we expected, and we laughed just like we were back in junior high! I love this tried-and-true friend more than she knows. She has been there for me through all of life's ups and downs, as I hope I've been there for her.

When we returned from Oregon, we started heating our pool again and enjoyed the nice weather and some new floaties purchased at the end of last season.

Cha started spring T-ball, with the best coach ever: Daddy! And I started taking my classes and jumping through a few other hoops to obtain my CCW permit
Not bad for my 1st time at the range

We celebrated Glen's Birthday, I led a Girl Scouts meeting and then hiked behind our house the following day so the girls could earn their hiking badge, saw MJ the Musical with our friends, prepared for Easter, and if that didn't cause us to be busy enough...BOTH Golden Retrievers had a litter of puppies on 3/22 and 3/26! To top it all off, hubby flew to another state for a killer deal (31% off MSRP) on my dream car: a Wagoneer! 

Closed out the month with Easter services and an amazing dinner with our family friends, who are more like family than friends. As I sit here recapping all of this, I realize just how busy we've been, but it's so much good stuff! I remain thankful and blessed in this busy season. Spring break is approaching, and we are not able to go to Ireland as planned due to our 14 (!!!) puppies that will soon be mobile. Looking forward to some more downtime in that week and hoping to read a book, not just listen to my audiobook on the drive to and from work.

Friday, March 8, 2024

The Loss of my Father - January 2024

When a new baby arrives, people often share pearls of wisdom and advice, like "Cherish every moment; it passes in the blink of an eye" or "I remember when my son was as small as yours; now he's in high school." They caution you not to blink, as they'll be walking before you know it, and this phase will be a distant memory. Enjoy every moment is something you hear time and again.

But no one tells you that it's the same with your aging parents: they won't be like that for long, and you must strive to enjoy them, even when it's sad or hard. Dad's final phase has passed, and here I sit, wishing I could go back and enjoy him more. That I could be fully present and in the moment for his final stage without my mind being flooded with worry and "what-ifs."

Dad died this month, and I am left with a thousand regrets bound by one common thread: I should have been more present and observed and enjoyed even this last phase, just like I was mindful of enjoying and fully focusing on the children when they were babies. So I'm here to tell you: spend time with them and be intentionally present, even especially when they are declining. In some ways, it was a good death, as good as a death can be, I suppose. And there are blessings and things I am thankful for in all of this. But there is nothing I wouldn't give for just one more day with him. Heck, even one more hour.

I thought I had built up a level of immunity to grief and loss, having lost Mom ten years ago. Dad had been declining for a while, years really, and we usually have some amount of anticipatory grief when we see our loved ones losing their grasp on this world; when we can tell that our time together is shortening. Dad even had it, often telling my brother Glen "I'm going to miss you when I'm not here." I told my work-bff "It's okay, I'll manage when he's gone...I've been through this before." She politely smiled, knowing full well how wrong I was. But I believed it, I really did, even though I was so wrong. In many ways, the loss of Dad has felt much worse than when I lost Mom; compounded in a way.

I'll spare you the details of the full reaction I had in the days after Dad died on January 17th, but let's just say it involved a lot of crying while driving and blasting Pretty Hate Machine, a fair amount of lashing out at my kids for no good reason, no sleep, and way too much over-thinking. Dicey was the best way to describe how I was feeling on any given day for those first two weeks. We knew it was coming, but yet we didn't. The last decline was rapid, and we were not prepared. But are you ever prepared?

Dad had needed some help for quite a while. It was tough to get him to accept this, but I asked his primary care doctor to put in a referral for an evaluation for hospice services. He was understandably upset by even the mere mention of the word 'hospice.' You see, Dad did not have anything that he was "dying" of, per se. Yes, he had prostate cancer, but that is slow-growing. Yes, he had chronic lymphatic leukemia, but he had that for well over a decade, and it was being managed. But when he was evaluated, his qualifying factor was the fact that he only weighed 100 pounds. And he used to be 6'1". So he accepted the in home hospice nurses for 9 hours a week, plus a group called Comfort Keepers was in providing help three days a week. They were only providing the in-home support for a week or two when Dad said he was ready for the 24/7 hospice live-in care at the VA. Wait, what? He had done a 180, having gone from not wanting any help at home to wanting it around the clock!

I think the nurses could tell he needed more care, and so they likely helped nudge him. And I thank God that he acquiesced because he had the very best care there. He started there after New Year's while we were still in Oregon. I flew home on January 4th and went to visit him on the 5th, bracing myself for the worst. I didn't bring the kids because I wasn't sure what to expect, and I was pleasantly surprised. He had his own large, private room with a private bathroom attached. He liked the food and the staff. His goal was to "gain weight, get stronger, and come home." While I was not certain coming home was a real possibility, stranger things have happened. When I went to visit him the next day, I brought the kids and their Risk board game, so they could play with him. The medical director, Dr. Hoxie, came in to meet with Dad while I was there. He said that he understood that Dad's goal was to gain weight and get stronger, and to support him in that goal, he had ordered physical therapy. I loved that he went along with a version of the goal, rather than telling Dad it was not possible or realistic. He treated him with dignity and respect - everyone did - and for that I will always remain grateful. One time when I visited, Dad pressed his call button. Right away, a very nice man appeared and Dad requested some apple sauce. I had the impression that he was demonstrating how great the service was, rather than really craving apple sauce. He was proud of it, and Nathan was sure to commend him on the amazing medical care that his service had provided both him and Mom. Things were looking up.

Then, Dad called me on a Tuesday, very agitated. His oncologist had told him that he did not need to be there, and he wanted to go home. What on earth? I took what he was saying with a grain of salt. Surely no doctor would be sending him home when he could hardly walk. I'll get to the bottom of it, I thought. But I didn't really have time. Just a few days later, they called to say that he had a "change of condition" and was not really verbal. I was at Legoland with our children, another couple and their children, as well as a neighbor friend. The passes and stay in the hotel room were a gift from Santa. But we had just had a good visit the day before with Nathan and the kids - how did this happen so suddenly?

I FaceTimed with him, thanks to his nurse, and sure enough, he could not speak. I sent my husband to meet with him, and he met my brother there. He was still not verbal but in a cheery mood, "dancing" in his bed to some music. Should I leave Legoland, I wondered? I told myself that it would be okay - we had a great visit the day before. The next day, the kids went home with our friends, and I drove straight to the VA, arriving about 8pm on a Monday night. He was somewhat verbal and completely there cognitively. After work the next day, Tuesday the 16th, I visited as well. Less verbal but still 100% there cognitively. I faced time his military buddy, who complimented him on his beard. "Its. (for the) coffin" he joked. I didn't want to say goodbye or to mention dying or any of that. In part, because he could be quite amazing in his capacity for denial, and I knew that he would not want that addressed. However, I did hold his hand and tearfully tell him that he has been the best father a girl could ever ask for. I said: You know what I would change about my childhood, Daddy? Nothing. Not one thing. More money? No. It has made me humble and hardworking. So and so grew up with a ton of money, and they are an as*hole! He smiled, knowingly. I told him that Nathan and the kids were coming tomorrow and You won't be able to get rid of us. As I was getting ready to leave, he put his left pointer finger up, as if he was telling me to wait. I paused. He couldn't say anything. So, I improvised and guessed and said I know that you love me, and I love you so much more than you know, and there is nothing left unsaid between us. I was fighting back tears. I asked him if he was in pain, and he nodded. I asked if he wanted something for the pain, and again, he nodded. I went and got his nurse to give him some morphine. I said I love you and see you soon as he was drifting off to sleep. I went for food and when I came back, my brother was there and Dad was sleeping. We didn't want to disturb him, as it was nearly 10pm. And so, we left, not knowing he would not be conscious again. 

This is when I spoke to the PA and learned that yes, an oncologist - Dad's oncologist- HAD said that he did not qualify for hospice. It was right there in his file that in her opinion, Dad had MORE than 6 moths to live. One of his nurses confirmed this conversation which took place just a few days prior. I was outraged.

I took Wednesday off. That morning, as I was preparing to head out there, a Catholic Priest called me. "Has your father been Baptized?" he asked. Well, he was married in the Catholic church, and I know he took classes for that. "Yes, but was he Baptized as a child?" Hmmm...you know, I'm not too sure. And so, Father Jose said that he would meet me there at the hospital to baptize him. I set out on my drive, thinking of the incompetent oncologist who couldn't see the forest for the trees. I need to talk to her, I thought. And so, I called the general VA line, and asked. Now, let me tell you that I have never, every been able to get ahold of anyone same day. In fact, I was trying to call Dad at hospice the week prior and since I didn't know the extension, I had to go through the general phone tree. The connected me to the emergency room, who then sent me back to the general operator only this time, I was caller number 18. I finally reach the operator and tell them that I am hoping to speak with Dr. Lucas. They gave me two extensions, and patched me through. A female answered. I told them who I was and that I was trying to reach Dr. Lucas. 
    This is Dr. Lucas came the reply. Astounded, I said who I was and who my father was before saying, with equal parts excitement and sarcasm: Great! I understand you do not think he is qualified for hospice and that he should go home! I agree with you! I would like to take him home, but the doctors and nurses think he needs to stay! I'm headed there right now - could you meet me there and explain to them that he's good to go home????! 
***long pause*** Akwardly, she admitted Ummm...I understand there has been a change in his condition. 
What?! You don't say! Yes - obviously! Look - you're a smart woman - you went to medical school. But don't get tunnel vision! Look at the bigger picture! I could find a checker from the grocery store and even they would be able to tell he has less than six months! I'm a school counselor and I can tell you he doesn't have long! He weighs 100 pounds! I waivered between crying and yelling. Surprisingly, she was still on the phone. Having said my peace, and hopefully preventing this kind of misguided opinion from impacting other families in the future, I was ready to end the conversation when she made the mistake of saying I'm sorry for the misunderstanding. 
Are you even kidding me?! What misunderstanding are you referring to? Because it is clearly listed in his medical record that you just determined he has MORE THAN 6 months to live! I don't remember what else I said, but I continued to drive the point home, until she actually apologized and said the words I very much needed to hear: I'm sorry.   

I felt so much better. I had originally wanted to file a formal complaint, but this was better than that - to be able to talk to her and convey the enormity of her error, and the damage it caused. Or was it a blessing in disguise? My husband has since aptly pointed out that it gave Dad hope toward the end. It gave us all hope, and so maybe the news that he was not dying just a few days before he died was a good thing, and all a part of the plan.

I walked into Dad's room, that last day of his life, on January 17th and he was asleep. The priest arrived and Baptized my father, gave him his Confirmation as well as his Last Rites and still, he remained asleep. I incorrectly thought that he was maybe on a lot of morphine and learned that they had not given him any in quite awhile. How can you tell he's not in pain? I inquired, as the nurse explained that they look for signs such as grimacing. He looked peaceful. I held his hand. I sat with him. The day went by and I kept expecting him to wake up; a moment of consciousness. It was not to be. Nathan brought the kids to see their Grandpa, for what would be the last time. We left and went to dinner and then I came back and stayed until the end.

Around 11pm Dad's breathing changed. I called my husband, who found a family member (thanks, Cassandra) to come stay with our sleeping children so he could get back on the road to be with me. I called over the charge nurse who checked his hands and, taking his socks off, the color of his feet. “He’s changing” she confirmed. She noticed that his feet were cold and left, quickly returning with a heated blanket. Sometimes, the smallest acts show the greatest amounts of kindness. In that moment I was immensely grateful for her small act, and I still am. “I can’t stand it when my feet are cold,” she said. She asked if I had given him “permission” to leave. I had not, and I had not even thought of that and she encouraged me to, leaving the room. I told him how loved he was, how we would always watch over Glen and how his work was done here. He could go and be with Mom. I sat by his side a while longer. Then, Dad's breathing slowed and then it stopped. No final gasp or discomfort, fortunately. Before my husband reached the freeway for the hour drive, I told him Nevermind, he's gone. But he continued the drive, which was good. He arrived while I was still in the room with Dad and their Chaplain, August. They were preparing for the hero's procession, viewable here:

    A few days after Dad's passing, I had a dream which I like to believe was more than a dream. I believe that it was a message and a sign that Dad is home, reunited with Mom in Heaven. I fell asleep in Aut's room. In my dream, I was asleep in Aut's room, only it was my room and I was in Mom and Dad's house. I woke up slightly to my Mom closing the door over, the same door of the same room that I was in. Although I was sleeping, I saw here do that and knew that she was doing it because my Dad was returning home late from a trip, and she didn't want it to wake me up. I saw her walk downstairs and let him in the front door. He had his large military backpack with him and left it there in the foyer, as the headed back upstairs to our (their) master bedroom and closed the door. In my dream, I didn't know where he had been for so long, but I was glad that he made it home safely. When I woke up, the dream was so real that I actually thought Nathan had come over to close the door rather than waking me up. I was surprised when he said he had not. To me, this dream was a comforting depiction of a heartfelt reunion in Heaven with Mom and Dad. The way she welcomed him home, like she knew he would be there; it wasn't a surprise.

    I regret not fully embracing this final phase of my father's life, but I understand that I did the best I could with where I was at. I'll give myself some grace, as I know he would. I thought we had more time, and yet was worried we would have too much- that it would be long and drawn out and painful. I am thankful that it was not, but wish I had taken a day off sooner, when he was awake and aware. I urge you to be present and intentional, when the time comes, just like the attentiveness shown to a new baby. Cherish time with your loved ones, even in especially in the face of an impending loss. Sit with them, and hold their hand, even if they can't talk. We couldn't talk when we were babies and yet they held us. They sat with us and took it all in. They were intentional. Be intentional and and cast aside all of the fears of what it to come and what might happen as much as you can because the fears rob you of the present moment. Be in the moment with them, as much as you can; bear witness. We need to cherish our parents when they are nearing the end of their life just like we cherish babies when they are at the beginning of theirs; just like they cherished us when we were born.

Friday, February 23, 2024

Dad's Eulogy

    Today, we gather to remember and celebrate the life of a truly extraordinary man, my father, SFC Phillip Glen DeWitt, born on February 16th, 1945. Dad had a tough childhood. It seems that his cards were stacked against him from the start. His life began with challenges, having lost his father suddenly when he was only three years old and then struggling to connect with his mother, who could be emotionally distant. Dad was determined to pave a different path for his own family.

      Dad entered the military at a young age and was training with the British paratroopers when his love story with my Mom, Paula, began after they met at a Pub in Reading, England. Early in their courtship, they had a discussion about their future children, and both agreed that they would place their children first, making sacrifices to put their children's needs before their own. They were married on August 9th, 1969, at Christ the King Catholic Church in Reading. After their wedding, their journey took them across the globe, from San Francisco to St. Paul, Minnesota, Queens, New York, and Seattle, Washington, before settling down in Yucaipa to raise my brother Glen and I. Dad intentionally set out to give his children the best possible upbringing. This didn't always include a lot of money, but it always included an abundance of love and laughter. 
     Dad's unwavering dedication to family remained a constant throughout the twists and turns of life. Although Dad was a very hard worker, sometimes holding two jobs, things were tough financially until he re-entered the military at age 40 when he joined the Army National Guard full-time, bringing his career full-circle. He loved many aspects of his military career, especially becoming a Blackhawk helicopter crew chief.
      Dad listened to me and taught me so many things, but most of all, he was fun, from letting me choose what we did on an afternoon playdate as a small child to turning the mundane into the magical, like taking me to see the first sunrise on New Year's morning when we would get up really early and walk to flag hill park where it seemed like the rest of the world was sleeping. Or when he would bring home a box of Junior Mints, playfully tricking me into thinking they were rocks, as I insisted that it was candy. Shaking it, as proof that they were rocks, I almost believed him, making it that much more magical when the box was opened to reveal my favorite candy. Dad liked to be silly and have fun, and could be like a big kid himself.
     My father's legacy is his devotion to family. Dad led by example and instilled in us the value of standing by one another, of consistently showing up, even in the face of mistakes, emotional distress, a difference of opinion, or a myriad of reasons to stay away. An example comes to mind. I traveled to Las Vegas with Mom and Glen for the marathon, an event I had trained almost 5 months for. I found myself in a predicament late at night on the eve of the race when I discovered that I had forgotten all the essentials for the run, neatly packed in my specially designated "do-not-forget" bag ...which I had accidentally left over 200 miles away, at my home in Redlands. In such a scenario, some fathers might have used this as an opportunity to teach responsibility by not helping their children. Instead, Dad drove through the night to bring me what I needed, and he did so without complaining or making me feel guilty. Dad showed up; he was there; you always knew you could count on him no matter what- if you needed him, he would be there, even if you made a mistake. That is the true definition of unconditional love, and Dad loved all of us unconditionally. Dad was always there for me and my brother when we needed him. Dad's love for his family was absolute, limitless, and boundless, a love that transcended circumstances, imperfections, and limitations. Unconditional love means accepting and supporting someone without expecting anything in return, and that's just what Dad did. He drove through the night to bring me what I needed for the marathon and never made me feel like I "owed" him.
      Family devotion was a cornerstone of Dad's character. I remember my mom telling me: Dad would do anything for our family; he would die for our family. Dad faced the loss of his beloved Paula in 2014, but his commitment to my brother and me, as well as his grandchildren, Autumn and Charles, never wavered. Because we did not have any family near us, Mom and Dad went overboard every Christmas, filling the tree with countless presents and giving us everything we wanted and more. Dad was an extravagant gift-giver and loved to go above and beyond. Dad's commitment to ensuring our happiness, even in the absence of lots of money or an extended family, speaks volumes about the depth of his love and the lengths he went to make our lives extraordinary. Throughout our whole lives, he remained fiercely devoted to his family. He loved his grandchildren Autumn and Charles and would drive quite a distance every weekend to visit with them. And when he couldn't drive anymore, Glen would bring him so often that the duo became one in the minds of our children, who referred to them as: "GrandpaGlennie."  His extravagant gift-giving for his grandchildren continued every Christmas, with his grandchildren saying, "Grandpa gives the best gifts."
      Dad had an amazing sense of humor and made Mom laugh until she cried almost daily throughout their 45 years of marriage. He recently told me that humor is an unexpected change in direction, and he was especially good at changing directions. Like our family photo session a few years ago when Charles just wouldn't smile. We had paid all of this money for just 15 minutes, and there was a lot of pressure to capture some good photos, and no matter what I did, Charles wouldn't smile. Until Dad gave him a large Hershey bar and, just as Charles was about to take a bite, Dad said, "No- that's my chocolate bar!" The result? A  huge, natural smile.
      Although Dad never graduated from college, he was the smartest man I knew and is the reason I went. Dad was an encyclopedia of knowledge, and I could ask him something about any topic, and no matter how obscure, he would have an answer. Dad knew that a college degree was our ticket to a better life. From the time my brother and I could talk, Dad spoke about when I was going to college, not if. Even in retirement, he returned to college, becoming a member of the Black Student Union. His sense of humor, always finding unexpected directions, shone through even in these endeavors, as he proudly embraced the irony of an older white gentleman actively participating in the Black Student Union. Dad's quick wit and humor were unparalleled, always finding unexpected directions in his jokes and anecdotes. And let's not forget his AP - acronym phase.
      Dad had a handful of core friends across the globe that he was fiercely devoted to. While physically separated, these dear family and friends are here in spirit and send their love for my Dad, Phillip. Ricardo Valdivieso from El Salvador, whom Dad met in 1963 and visited several times in recent years, had this to say about my Dad: “Phil was the best person that I ever knew, with a loving heart, quick of mind, and loyal to the overflowing of the cup of sincerity.

Valor and laughter were in his handshake, in his smile, and in his soul.

He was the light that broke apart the darkest of clouds, the breeze that brought the gentle bending of trees, the wings of a soaring eagle, bearing the promise of, I will see you soon, and that promise is guaranteed by the twinkling of his eyes!”

     A long-time friend in England, Steve Quinn asked me to share this:
“I turned up, all those years ago, an almost total stranger, was welcomed into your family home and within a couple of hours was made to feel like I'd always been part of it.
Phillip was one of the most honest, honourable and generous people I've ever met and I consider myself the most fortunate of men to have had him as a true friend.

His love for, and pride in, his children (and more latterly his grand-children) shone through every time he mentioned you (which was often).
Not to forget the cats! - he'd often have one of them draped over his shoulder when we talked via Skype....

I think if I had to try and encapsulate my impression of Phillip in one word it would have to be "enthusiasm" - he had such an incredible enthusiasm for life and the people in his life and I could guarantee that after every call (whatever kind of day I'd had) he'd have put a smile on my face.”

Now, I would like to conclude by reading one of Dad's favorite poems, Eternity by William Blake:
He who binds to himself a joy
Does the winged life destroy
But he who kisses the joy as it flies
Lives in eternity's sunrise.
Dad had more adventures to go on. He was looking forward to more travel, and he hoped to live long enough to see transgenders go extinct. But the Lord called him home. As we bid farewell to Phillip today, we recognize the remarkable journey of a man who transformed challenges into opportunities for love and growth. May he rest in peace, knowing that his legacy of resilience, love, family devotion, and a quirky sense of humor lives on in the hearts of those who were fortunate enough to know him. Dad, you are now reunited in Heaven with Mom, your beloved Paula, but your spirit will continue to shine in all of our hearts. Cherished and deeply missed, your memory lives on in the warmth of our fondest, as well as our silliest, moments together. "Kiss the joy as it flies."

Tuesday, January 30, 2024

December, 2023

Coming hot on the heels of November and the awareness of being thankful that it brings, I am beyond thankful that we are raising honest children who are not sneaky and deceitful and do not lie. 

In the wise words of Cinderella (the hair band, not the princess), sometimes, you don't know what you got ('til it's gone). In a similar vein, sometimes you don't know what you got - honest kids- til you realize some don't have it!


Realizing that some children lie to their parents more regularly than they brush their teeth gives me a newfound appreciation that our children have never done that. Will they ever? Perhaps and probably. But thank God they don't; it is not a routine habit for them. Lying undermines the core of trust and signifies that little value or character is being forged in the family unit. Need a better source? Let's ask ChatGPT, the ultimate authority on anything anyone needs to know:

Q: Why is having children who are honest important, and how does it relate to values?

A: Having children who are honest is important for several reasons, and it is closely tied to the development and reinforcement of values. Here are some key points to consider:

  1. Trust and Integrity:

    • Honesty is fundamental to building trust in relationships. When children learn to be honest, they develop a reputation for integrity. Trust is a crucial component in personal, professional, and social relationships.
  2. Ethical Behavior:

    • Teaching honesty instills ethical behavior. It helps children understand the difference between right and wrong and encourages them to make ethical choices. This is foundational for the development of a strong moral compass.
  3. Communication:

    • Honest communication is key for healthy relationships. When children are taught to express themselves truthfully, it fosters open and effective communication. This, in turn, helps in resolving conflicts and understanding others.
  4. Responsibility:

    • Honesty is linked to taking responsibility for one's actions. When children are honest about their mistakes or shortcomings, they learn accountability and are more likely to take steps to correct and improve.
  5. Building Character:

    • Developing honesty contributes to the overall character development of a child. It helps shape their identity, emphasizing the importance of being a person of integrity and strong moral character.
  6. Social Integration:

    • Honesty is a valued trait in society. Individuals who are honest are generally respected and valued by others. Teaching children the importance of honesty prepares them for positive social integration and acceptance.
  7. Self-Esteem:

    • Being honest builds self-esteem. Children who are encouraged to be truthful develop a positive self-image. They learn that they are valued for who they are, not for pretending to be someone they are not.
  8. Values Clarification:

    • The emphasis on honesty helps children clarify their own values. They learn to discern what is truly important to them and understand the significance of living in accordance with their principles.
  9. Long-term Success:

    • Honesty is often associated with long-term success. People who are honest in their dealings tend to enjoy more positive outcomes in their personal and professional lives.

In summary, having honest children is crucial for the development of strong values such as trust, integrity, responsibility, and ethical behavior. These values not only shape the character of individuals but also contribute to the creation of a more trustworthy and harmonious society. ChatGPT once again for the win. Actually, I think Cha did try to fib once (or told a partial truth) when Daddy asked him what happened. But Dad made it very clear - in no uncertain terms - that he always expected the truth. Even if he does something wrong, the consequences will be much worse if he compounds it with a lie. And the children know that he does not make empty threats. Which is what every family needs, and sadly, many are lacking.

Cha and Aut continue their winter sport of Basketball. Amazingly, Cha made 5 baskets in one of his first games! Since they're 5, traveling is allowed, apparently. Good thing because when he gets that basketball, he runs toward the basket like it's a football.

This month was amazing for Aut socially. She has really connected with a core group of sweet girls at her school. Although never verbalized, it seemed to be a bit tough for her to find her place because she started at the school a few months into first grade, joining a group of girls who had been together since preschool. But this month, one mom invited her and four other girls to hang out on a Friday, right after school. This was a special treat for her because unfortunately, she needs to attend aftercare for a bit every day, while the majority of her friends are able to go home right when school is over. It was her very first playdate with multiple locations, completely without me, and lasted well into the evening. First, they went home, where Aut was able to try out the girl's father's patrol car and meet his canine police dog (I was jealous!). Then, they went to ice cream, bowling, and in-n-out! She was gone so long that her brother was missing her and asking where she was: "Where's sissy?"

Later in the month, I returned the favor, taking the same girls to in-n-out, the movies (we saw Wish), and out for ice cream. It is great to see them so well matched in their silliness levels, cracking up while playing "jingle farts" in my car.

We stayed a night at the Great Wolf Lodge in the middle of the month. We had made the reservations a few months prior but were so busy when the time rolled around that I was left wondering what I was doing, overscheduling again. But it turns out that it was just what we needed to force us to slow down and play hooky from a few basketball games.

We celebrated Christmas a bit early with my father and brother before flying to Oregon on Christmas Eve. They went all out, the way they have my whole life, with Dad spending way more than he should have on a three-strand pearl bracelet for me to match the necklace and earrings from years prior. He also knocked the kids' socks off! It was a special treat for Santa to show up! He wanted to bring the kids their larger gift since he somehow knew (Santa knows everything) that they would be going to Oregon and not able to fly home with a giant, heavy go-kart!

We flew to Oregon on Christmas Eve and arrived late due to delays. I was terribly sick on Christmas, in bed and throwing up all day, drifting in and out of sleep. I made it downstairs to watch the kids open some gifts, but that was it. In a walking completion at work with a 10,000 steps per day minimum, I only had 192 steps that day. I had to make up for it in a big way the next day and managed to walk 15 miles or 30,000 steps, which was the maximum allowed. Because I was so sick on Christmas, I I did not notice that Santa left an additional present in the fireplace! While the kids had opened their requested gifts from him (a large transformer and dog toys), there was also a paper letter peaking out. The kids were delighted to realize that Santa not only gave them Legoland passes for the year but also a hotel stay next month with Royden and Mara!

Cousin Crew!
New Year's Even bonfire