Sunday, June 5, 2016

Hot Sauce turns 4

Zoë Sass Pot June, 

Do you see this itty bitty container of Tabasco sauce? It's nearly as tiny as you. Do you know where I got it? I'm going to tell you. 

After two sleepless nights in the hospital after you were born (mommy had a major breakdown and panic attack), my final hospital meal was sent up to our room and this precious little bottle of hot sauce stood perfectly balanced on the edge of my food tray. 

The nurse who first cleaned you off and bathed you was a redhead and she was delighted to see a fellow ginger welcomed into the world. I wasn't sure if you were REALLY a red head or not. I couldn't get used to the idea. (Not to mention I was so out of it and when I finally did start drifting off to sleep one night the woman in the room next to mine was screaming in labor pains and woke me up). 

But the point is, when I saw this adorable little jar of hot sauce on my tray something told me not to open it. I asked Vic to put it in my purse because I wanted to keep it. If you really were a red head, I knew I would need this little bottle as a token of your sass.  Call me a prophetess, because you live up to everything about this...the cutest, toughest little package of spice and fire. I'm going to keep this little bottle for always. 

I will never forget how my heart changed the SECOND you were placed in my arms. Having your brother come into our empty lives 11 months after Lucy died was wonderful...AND SO HARD. As you know, Peter is not the most easy going, even tempered child. Mommy was exhausted in every way possible. There was something about you, Zoë...I don't know if it was the timing, your gender, your birthday being so close to Lucy's--I think it was just you, your amazing spirit that INSTANTLY changed the shape of my broken heart. You changed the entire dynamic of our family and the second you were placed in my arms was when my real healing began. 

I associate the start of my true healing so strongly with the day of your birth that I actually audibly gasped this morning while brushing your hair when I realized it's been 4 whole years since I have felt functional and "normal". 

You taught me that grief is just love squaring up to its enemy. But love is up to the challenge. 

I love you more than tongue can tell. Daddy turned to me the other day and said, "I realized that Lucy broke me, but Zoë yoked me." He is firmly tied to you and we are both madly in love with you. It is my greatest honor to watch you and your brother grow in the light of love. Thank you for always remembering your big sister. Thank you for your smile that explodes rays of blinding light. I didn't think I could know such beauty again in my life. 

Happy, Happy birthday Zoë June. 

Love you for ever and ever more, spice and all...


Sunday, May 22, 2016

A Poetic Life

After meeting a darling blog reader the other night (at Peter's thoroughly enjoyable First Grade musical performance), it dawned on me that many of you who aren't connected with me on social media might not be aware of the incredible experience we had last week. 

I've mentioned before that our dear friends are writing a musical based on this blog,  Lucy's death, and the power of social media called "Luz Y Amor". What you may not know is that one of the songs from the show was submitted into a very prestigious competition in London as part of the Stephen Sondheim Society and chosen out of more than 100 songs to be performed on a West End stage. (The West End is England's equivalent to America's's a huge deal). 

Spencer and Shenelle (our friends and composers) were unable to attend so they strongly encouraged us to go represent them and the show and experience the first live performance of this beautiful song about our daughter. (Specifically, this song was inspired by the blog post when we had to clean out Lucy's room and put away all of her bedding, books, clothing, etc.) 

Due to the last minute nature of the trip, we scrambled to figure out how to get everything in order, including finances, and Spencer started a Go Fund Me account to get us there. We have a generous and lovely friend who works for Delta that got us discounted buddy passes (which helped greatly!) and so many friends and even strangers donated to get us to London.

It was an incredible experience. We couldn't have done it without Vic's parents. (They watched the kids). We couldn't have done it without Tokako's buddy passes. We couldn't have done it without our dear, dear friends, the Hill/Bigwood/Wheeler family in London who hosted us (SUCH A TREAT). We couldn't have done it without Spencer and Shenelle. We couldn't have done it without Lucy. 

I thought for a long time that I couldn't do life itself without Lucy. But life (and Lucy) have proven me wrong. Our life is full of so much love and light. Our life is full of so much meaning. 

There is no way to thank each of you who made this possible. Not just this trip to London, but this life we are living now. We're trying our best, like each of you. Sometimes it all feels awfully poetic.

8 years ago today is when it all ended, and it all began.

Thursday, April 21, 2016

Parenting in the Digital Age

If you follow me on Facebook you might remember the brilliance I was struck with a few weeks ago. I was upstairs cleaning the kitchen and listening to my beloved podcasts --but the fact that I'd asked my children to clean the basement a good 3 or 4 times and it still hadn't happened was really chapping my hide. (hyde?--I've never said that phrase out loud before but I'm just going to roll with it right now).

P and Z were downstairs watching Netflix via our Chromecast, (the little Google device that will stream anything from the internet onto your television) sitting amidst piles of blocks, Legos, Hot Wheels, and who knows what else. And that's when the idea came to me. The mommy heavens opened and showered me with pure inspiration.

I pulled out my phone, made a quick video, uploaded it to YouTube, and cast it from my phone down to the basement television.

Guys, it totally worked. I paused what they were watching, flashed my snazzy face up on the screen instead, and poked my head around the corner to see how they would react. Zoë stood up immediately and began putting her blocks back in their bag and looking at the TV in total amazement (and fear). Also, I blink a lot.

I headed back up to the kitchen and made sure to replay the video a few more times. Eventually, Zoë joined me in the kitchen, laughing and talking about her silly mom on the TV and Peter stayed down in the basement cleaning and farting around.

But the point of this post, surprisingly, isn't just to brag about my Youtube/crazy mom/lazy mom skills, it's to tell you what happened next. I decided to continue playing family videos from my Youtube channel onto the television for Peter. Specifically, I played all the Lucy videos I have uploaded. He was down there for a good 10-15 minutes while Zoë colored on the floor and I swept.

Before long, I heard Peter coming up the stairs. He entered the kitchen, heading straight for me with tears STREAMING down his face.

"What is it?? What's wrong?", I said.

"It's like she was right there! I felt like I could reach into the TV and get her. She was so real. I miss her."

Then he buried his head in my lap and continued to cry.

I'm not kidding. It was the sweetest thing. These were genuine tears of sadness. Like he was mourning for the first time the death of the sister he never met.

I started to cry as I held him, stroking his head and telling him that yes, she was very real. And she will always be his big sister.

Almost all of the other angel moms I've met since Lucy died had other children to care for and grieve with and worry over after their child died. I always wondered what it would be like to still have to get up in the morning and care for your living children when you yourself felt like dying. I especially wondered what it would be like to see your living children suffer at the loss and separation from one of their siblings. Grief on top of grief.

I got a small taste of it that day with Peter and it did 2 things at once to me. It broke new splintering and painful pathways in my heart, but it filled and healed older broken passages. To see the longing on Peter's face and hear of his love for his sister--it was jaw-dropping and astounding.

I just realized that the insanely awesome idea I had to create that silly mom video may have had two purposes. I'm thankful I got my clean basement out of those little shitlins, but I'm far more grateful that it led to such an incredible bonding experience with me and my son...and my little Lucy.

Tuesday, March 22, 2016

In the wake

I woke up expecting it to be just another Tuesday. Get the kids to the bus stop, workout, clean the house, get a few other things done, take the kids to swimming, blah blah blah. But today was WONDERFUL. Dare I say, MAGICAL.

I had to write down what I experienced today. All of these beautiful little gifts kept being dropped in my lap and I was filled with such gratitude. I was patient with my kids, managed to shower and do my hair and makeup, and I didn't even let the crappy weather bother me.

First of all, the kids made it to the school bus on time. Victory! (Zoë has been wearing diapers to preschool...STILL...but that is another story. Whatevs. At least she made it). I met a few new friends (mom's from Zoë's preschool who are just RAD) at the gym for a workout class, which I really enjoyed. Then home for a healthy breakfast and shower.

I checked my Facebook and saw that my friends, Spencer and Shenelle Williams, had posted a demo from Luz Y Amor,( the musical we've been working on) and it was being received warmly. This made me feel so good. I've known the song for months now and it brightened my soul to finally share it with others and take a moment to honor my Lucy as I got ready for the day. Reading all the positive and supportive comments was pure icing on the cake.

After stepping out of the shower, I noticed I had a missed call from my dear friend, Cathy. Cathy lives in L.A. and I was her nanny years and years ago when her twins were in 5th grade (they are now graduating from college!) She called to invite me to her Hebrew school graduation ceremony in May because she is reading a paper at her ceremony and the paper is about ME. Whaaaa?? I was not expecting this. She went on to tell me that the day she was at a trade show in NYC and received my call about Lucy's accident was a day that has really stuck with her. In her words, "Your faith has really effected me. I've always struggled believing in a higher power and you've shown me that there is more to hope for." I could hardly believe it. Then she told me the dates of the weekend she wants to fly me out...the same weekend in May when Lucy had her accident and died. We decided this for sure needs to happen. It's meant to be.

I hung up the phone feeling so grateful. So filled with light and love. Life is ALL ABOUT the connections we have with others.

Next, I picked Zoë up from a playdate (she was at the home of one of the rad preschool moms I worked out with earlier) and we headed to the dentist so I could get a small cavity filled. As I entered the waiting area, a beautiful African woman (who had just finished her appointment) was heading to the front desk to pay her bill. We were the only two people in the dental office and I smiled at her and wondered about her story. I overheard the receptionist telling her her total would be $520. (Her TOTAL bill is $8,000!!! But her payment that day was around $520). I could tell she was struggling to communicate with the receptionist but she reluctantly handed her credit card over.

Zoë was happily playing with toys on the floor and I just kept pacing back and forth trying to decide if I was really going to do it or not. What the heck..."Excuse me. You might think I'm crazy, but can I pay for some of your dental bill?"

Guys...Seven hugs. In the next 5 minutes she hugged me 7 times. I kept thinking about the bombings in Belgium. This woman was from Rwanda. She'd been in a car accident (her husband was driving. Please tell me he wasn't drinking) and her teeth were mangled. She had broken English and as far as I know she has never been to Belgium or has any association with it. But for me, helping her and learning some of her story had everything to do with Belgium. I texted Vic through my tears and told him about my new friend, Agathe.

After the dentist we headed home and I had a moment to FaceTime with my dad. I told him about what an uplifting and unexpected day it had been thus far and his response, as always, was "Days of Plenty". (I reference this phrase and song a lot. You may remember it is the song from the musical "Little Woman" that Marmee sings after Beth dies). Indeed, today was a day of plenty.

Peter arrived home, headed across the street to play, and I got to fit a little nap in. The kids and I then headed to swimming lessons, which happens to be in the same building where the Democratic caucus is held. Once the kids were with their teachers in the pool, I got to duck out and vote. I always get emotional when I vote. I'm so proud and grateful to live in this country. Being surrounded by so many upstanding citizens is so empowering and just plain inspiring.

I headed back to the pool and noticed a text from my new friend, "Hello, this is my nomber my name is Agathe am happy for what you doing for me, tanks." Guys. This is as good as it gets. 

Then it was home for dinner and a little homework while daddy is at his Tuesday martial arts class. Peter started reading a paper on the counter, which I thought was a menu list Vic wrote up last week, but it was a list of affirmations to me from Vic. I was so surprised. They'd been sitting on the kitchen counter all day and I didn't notice them. He must have written it before he left for work...


You are a Child of God
You are Beautiful
You are Funny
You are Captivating
You are More than Enough
Your Body is in Perfect Balance
You are Healthy and Strong
You are Sexy
You are Wonderful
Everything you touch Prospers
you are Always Taken Care of
You Fully Accept Yourself
Everything Works Together for your Good
You are of Infinite Worth
When People are in your Presence They feel their Worth
Heavenly Father has a Purpose for you
You are loved!

And with that, I tucked my little ones in bed and began writing this blog.

Who am I to have this much love and support in my life?

There is love in this world. There is goodness. There is kindness. There are miracles. There is much to be grateful for. I am grateful. I think I'm doing what the song from Luz y Amor says--I'm flying. At least for today, I'm flying. In the wake of tragedy and hardships, somehow we can fly again.

*Editor's note: I just re-read this post and I cringed a little. I sound like I'm tooting my own horn a lot and that bothers me. I need to learn to just keep some things to myself as gifts and not tell anyone. I heard through the grapevine that people stopped reading my blog because it became self-serving and a few other negative things. That hurt. A lot. I never want to come across that way. It still stings when I think about it. So...just pretend you and I just sat down together for frozen yogurt or a drink and I told you about my day. Sigh. 

Sunday, February 28, 2016

It may not be broadway but...

Guys, on our flight home from San Diego I got a call from our local library (we are total book nerds. Vic is even on the Library Board) asking me if I would sing the National Anthem for a G.E.D ceremony. The woman explained to me that these people have been working very hard for well over a year to earn their G.E.D. 

7th or 8th grade was the highest education many of these amazing people were able to finish in their home countries. When Daisy, the community education coordinator, told me about past ceremonies, and how the students cried during the National Anthem, I just couldn't keep it together. I hung up the phone and told Vic. Both of our eyes were wet as I told him what an honor it felt like to be asked to do this. 

A few days after getting back to Park City and back to the stress of our everyday lives, I got a little dressed up and headed to the library for the ceremony. It was just as powerful and emotional as I expected. I introduced the song and shared a few thoughts about how brave these students were for committing to education and not giving up. I had to pause a moment to keep it together before starting the song and  I made sure to look slightly upward toward the back wall during the song. (I couldn't look anyone in the eyes because I knew I'd lose it). 

On top of all this, a sweet friend from my ward was one of the graduates. I had no idea! She was also asked to be the student speaker and did an excellent job. One of the men (on the far left) was a doctor in his home country of Cuba, yet, here he was in his broken English earning his high school diploma. 

I was reminded of all the opportunities I've been given and was so inspired by the sacrifices these members of my community have made to improve themselves and the lives of their children. It was no Broadway performance, but it filled my soul with such sweetness. 

I'm truly not where I always dreamed I'd be (living in NYC performing), but I love where I am. We are all brave in so many different and unique ways. 

Tuesday, February 23, 2016

Letter to a Newly Grieving Mother

Dear Newly Grieving Mother,

You just buried your child. It's unthinkable, I know. It's unimaginable, yet it is your reality. I'M SO SORRY.

You will never be the same person again. Your brain has and is literally changing. The nightmares and post traumatic stress are absolutely, positively unbearable at times. I know. I know. It takes every energy you can muster just to breathe. I'm so sorry.

I want you to know a few things. I want you to hold on to my words and let them sink deep into your bones. Find hope in these words.

1) IT SUCKS. BIG TIME. What you are going through is one of the hardest things a human being on this planet earth can endure. Why it happened, how it happened, I don't know...but it happened. It is happening to you and your family and it's very, very difficult. It is absolutely OK, more than OK, to feel overwhelmed, scared, shaken, mad, shocked, dysfunctional, crazy, mental, and absolutely out of your mind.

2)BUT PLEASE KNOW that you are not alone. Mothers and fathers have dealt with the loss of their precious children for centuries. There is an army of women waiting to buoy you up, give you hope, and hold your hand while you cry and talk as much as you want about your incredible child. YOU ARE NOT ALONE.

3)Also, listen to me...YOU CAN DO THIS. I PROMISE YOU CAN DO THIS. One day at a time, one breath at a time, one prayer at a time, one walk around the block at a time, one phone call to your sister or friend or therapist at a time, one yoga class at a time, one meal at a time...YOU CAN DO THIS. I know you want to die. I know you feel like the pain will never go away. I know you wonder how on earth you will continue to live with the overwhelming pain you are feeling, but you can. You will. IT JUST TAKES SO MUCH TIME. Be patient with yourself.

4)Little by little, light will creep back into your life. Yes, you will deal with the financial burden of losing a child, you will deal with the toll it takes on your marriage and other relationships, people will say stupid things and offend and hurt you. But there will be light. TAKE CARE OF YOURSELF. Get medication. See a therapist. For Pete's sake, SEE A THERAPIST. Eat well. Rest. Ask for help with house cleaning and cooking from close friends if you can.

And though your path and your family and your journey are different than mine, there will be a day that you will smile with your whole soul. It might be 3 years from now, it might be 7, it might be 2, or 15...but it will come. Stay open, be open to the love shown you, take risks, share your heart when appropriate, serve others, make mistakes, LIVE.

Just don't give up. Please don't give up. Small victories, one at a time.

You will never be the same. You will never physically see your child again in this life. But you will see them live on in unexpected and profound ways. You will experience so much beauty like never before. The happy moments in your life will mean so much more to you now.

You can do this. YOU CAN DO THIS. It's been over 8 years since my Lucy died, and while on our recent trip to San Diego, I kept getting the feeling over and over that I wanted to write to you and tell you that I have faith in you, in every single newly grieving mother. (and father!) As we played at the beach, rode bikes and rollercoasters, went sailing and ate ice cream--A desire burned within me to comfort and encourage you.  I needed this letter desperately after Lucy left. I was broken, lost, afraid, and grasping for something to hold on to. I want you to hold onto this. You will heal. You will survive. You will never forget your child. You will laugh and love life again.

Sunday, February 14, 2016

Love Is

Love is-

A family that accepts and loves you, flaws and all. 

A delicious home-cooked meal of salmon, quinoa, and asparagus. 

Fruit pizza as your birthday cake--Made by a loving husband. 

Doggie piles on the living room floor and family tickle fights. 

FaceTime with your parents (today is Papa Bice's birthday)

Snuggling in bed with your little princess while she falls asleep. 

Sitting around the dinner table talking about why we love each other. 

Remembering our Lucy Sweet and thanking our children for always including her. 

Pillow talk with your husband at the end of the day. 

Sharing hugs and conversation with friends at church. 

Singing beautiful music. 

Forgiveness. Crying with someone over their heartaches. 

Laughing with loved ones. (Like the text my mom sent me today asking me "How did you take this shit?" when referring to a photo I sent her. She meant to write "How did you take this shot?")

Love isn't--

Being disrespectful to your body by purposely gorging yourself and eating too much sugar and feeling sick and bloated and tired and guilty and wanting to stop the madness. So then you eat more. 

I should really stick to the advice Zoë gives us when she talks about "Balance Times" Day (as talked about in Vic's latest Instagram/Facebook post). 

The End. 

*Other than my lack of control with sugar consumption, today (and this entire birthday week of mine) was absolutely wonderful. 

Sunday, January 24, 2016

It never goes away

Husband crying. Husband hurting. 

He drives. Not knowing where. 

The car takes him here. To his buried heart. 

She feels closer. Why does she feel closer?

Her tombstone. It looks like a coffin. 

Is she in the pure white snow? 

Can I still touch her body?

Can I hold her?

He aches to hold her. 

To feel whole. 

To have direction and light and peace. 

He snaps this photo instead and sends it to you. 

He tells you her body feels closer because it looks like her white coffin. 

It breaks your heart. 

Maybe the two halves of your jointly broken hearts can fit together as one. 

Maybe she is closer. 

Knitting you back together. 

Never leaving you alone in your grief. 

Never leaving you alone. 

Monday, January 18, 2016

Ninjago- Peter's first Blog Post

First part of Ninjago-

First we have Kai, Zane, umm, Kole and Jay. And also Nia, but she's not a ninja but she's a samurai. And their master is Sensai Woo. Hiya!

So first their enemy was Lord Darmagon. And there was this clock with this helmet that controls the army. And he was attacking Ninjago City. The people were in danger and he had a secret weapon and it turns people bad. And then he turned into a dragon. And once he was big and he was a dragon he can BLOW purple dark thing at people. And it got Kole and Jay. And Kai and Lloyd were the only ones left.

And Kai had to beat his sister because she got zapped by some goo that makes her turn bad. And so Lloyd also had a broken leg but once he go to the top he was going against Lord Darmagon when he was the dragon. He had no weapon and he could still beat him. And he turned into the gold ninja with a dragon. Then the dragon went around and around and made a ball and the dragon with Lloyd on it was tiny eensy weensy. And ate the dragon and Lloyd but they were still alive. And the dragon was saying, "No, NO, NOOO!" and everything turned back to normal.

Then Lord Darmagon turned good and it was Lloyd's father and he also had his mom. And all the ninjas had weapons that are all golden. Also, they can make vehicles. And Kai's was a motorcycle and Kole's was a car that can go on each side (use hands to show this). And Jay's was a jet. And Zane's was this big car that's like it's different and looong and has big huge wheels and it can fit lots of guys and the top can launch off and fly.

Second part of Ninjago-

Then their was this guy that had this bone thing and it had a snake and he had an army that was attacking. But Kai, once they first came to the base, they had this big huge thing that has this secret base. It's a car and a secret base. And it has shooters and there's lots of stuff to navigate. And it did have bad guys. It had a white (and it had a Lego set of it), it's white. There's a white snake and a purple snake. And the army is kiiiind of different. They have lion bones on their heads. And, uh, on their face, they had half white, half purple. And then purple tiny lines on the white and white lines on the purple.

The master that controls them, there is a Lego set with him. The Ninjago team got a new Ninjago master. And she was the orange ninja. And didn't I mention that Kai is red, Kole is black, Jay is blue, and Zane is white.  And so the battle begun. (And Lloyd's dad was also a master)

And then we have part three--

So they fought the guys. At the end, Sensai Woo turned into bad and then there was this other guy that looked like the green ninja, but wasn't. He was the bad guy. He was black and green. And there was these blades that he wanted to destroy something. And the ninjas thought he was bad but he was really good he was just in his bad suite since he got turned bad. And then he was killed and then the ninjas put a grave and they put all their powers down to him and Zane was the master. He turned and he was the master.

That was the end.

Thursday, January 7, 2016

Holiday Hooligans

Christmas was pretty great. Not perfect, (is anything in life?) not tantrum or stress free, but wonderful. I shared a lot of thoughts and stories (and photos, of course) on my Instagram account (@smallyspice), but wanted to share some photos from my nicer camera here. As well as a fun little movie I put together. (iMovie is my new favorite hobby). 

I think what stands out to me most is Christmas Eve. We were invited to spend it with the Hale Family. Brad and Susan are very close family friends of ours. We had originally planned on hosting dinner at our home with a few friends who are single and who were alone for the holidays. I LOVE eating our traditional roast lamb with cous cous, sautéed mushroom and onions. Instead, we joined forces and all of us went to the Hales. It was superb. The food and the company.

Their home is so inviting and warm. After dinner, we sat in the living room and listened to their daughter, Maggie, (a music major at the U) play Christmas songs. The fire was crackling, the kids were playing on the floor, and the prime rib was resting nicely in my tummy. I took a seat next to my dear friend, Michelle. She had her seat reclined due to a foot injury and her eyes were closed as she took in the beautiful music with her soul. 

Michelle has had an extremely bumpy road the last 7 years or so. She went through a very ugly divorce, joined the Mormon church (where I met her), and is desperately trying to find peace amidst the chaos of her life. Unique, LOUD, outspoken, beautiful, and with a heart of gold, Michelle and I really connect with one another. 

At some point during the song, she reached over and squeezed my hand. After her gentle and meaningful squeeze, eyes still closed, with tears running down her cheeks, we continued to hold hands through the remainder of the song. 

It dawned on me that that form of love, that feeling of absolute connection, unbridled by anything sexual, no expectations or disappointments, just the joy of being together, being there FOR each other, is my very favorite form of love. It feels better than anything I've ever experienced. No words, no awkwardness, just two humans who love and care for one another soaking in the spirit of the season while listening to beautiful music. It was heaven. 

That was one of my favorite Christmas highlights. 

But we can't forget about all the sugar (TOO MUCH) and fun. The cousins and the sledding and the magical snow. You may have seen this video on Facebook, but here it is again for your viewing pleasure. (As well as some photos of people I love too much to put into words).