01/30/12: Went for a hike with the kids. As always, they were being silly.

01/31/12: Another hike...glad we caught the sunset!

02/01/12: I realize that I take a crazy number of picture of my dogs. But this was so cute, I had to include it. We went to the park and were playing fetch. I loved the way the setting sun was reflecting off his coat!

02/02/12: It was my precious boy's birthday...can't believe he's 12! His one desire was to go co-karting. I couldn't get many good pics, because the lighting was not very good! But...here's an attempt.

02/03/12: Some cattails poking through the fence. I just thought this looked kinda cool.

02/04/12: Spent the day at the high school while Garrett had baseball camp. I was just amusing myself trying new shots. I liked the color contrast in this picture.

02/05/12: Was at my parents' house for the Superbowl...but was not entertained. So I took some pics of my dad's Harley.


The Week in Pictures

Hello, again! Not a lot to say this week. No play off games, no vacations…pretty uneventful. The weather was gorgeous, making for some lovely days and beautiful sunsets. It certainly doesn’t feel like January.

I could go on about the things that irritate or amuse me – but I don’t want to think that hard. LOL. So, rather than forcing you to read while I drone on…please enjoy this week’s pictures!

01/23/12: Crazy beautiful sunsets this week!

01/24/12: Yet another gorgeous sunset...and another reason to love 5 p.m.!

01/25/12: Days like this are why I love Southern California: clear blue sky, fresh snow on the hills, and 75 degrees. Fabulous!

01/26/12: One more sunset. This street is not too far from my house. I'm not sure if they got a deal on palm trees...but, no matter the reason for all of them, it makes for a cool picture.

01/27/12: Such great weather, I rode the Harley today. Lunch with my daughter was a good excuse to get outside at lunch time! I was parked and saw this beautiful church in my mirror.

01/28/12: Had to spend most of Saturday at a USA Baseball Academy clinic for Garrett. So we took our chairs and relaxed in the sunshine. This is my beautiful stepdaughter, Hailey, soaking up the sun.

01/29/12: Even the dog likes to soak up the sunshine. He was watching the kids play catch in the street.

Fanatical Fans

What is it about professional and college sports that draws people in? Is the competitive drive so innate that we choose a team and go to battle, whether we really have any personal stake in the game or not? What inspires grown men to paint their faces and bodies and brave freezing temperatures (sometimes shirtless) to show their allegiance to “their” team? I mean, don’t get me wrong. I am a sports fan. I love a good, competitive, entertaining game as much as the next person. But I don’t really have “a team.” Unless it’s a school I went to, or a school a friend’s child goes to, or I am in some way connected to the team…I don’t really care who wins or who loses. I root for the Angels in baseball because that’s the team closest to where we live. We don’t have a pro football team anywhere near – the closest one is in San Diego. As for basketball, we have the Lakers. But, I am kind of anti-Lakers. I dislike the Lakers for a much the same reason I have always disliked the Yankees. I’ve never been one to jump on a bandwagon. But, that’s a whole other post!

I appreciate the beauty of sports…a graceful leap to catch a ball, a runner so smooth they look like a gazelle, footwork that would rival a dancer’s. I marvel at it the same way I marvel at the ballet dancers in Swan Lake, or the figure skaters in the Olympics. But I don’t think I’ll ever understand real fans (which is short for fanatical, you know).

So I asked my husband: what is the deal about professional sports? Why the craziness? His answer? Humans are born with a competitive drive; if you’re not talented enough to actually play, then you watch. If gives people something to take pride in, and it unites them. It gives them something to be loyal to. And when some guy beats the odds and experiences a moment of greatness? Maybe we can’t do it ourselves…but we can witness it. We can experience it with him. And that’s the next best thing. There are always going to be rotten apples but, for the most part, sports bring out the good things in people: strength and drive and sheer will to win. Sports give people something and someone to believe in. I don’t know about you, but that answer satisfies me. I guess I married a pretty smart guy.

As for this week’s pictures…I’ve been slacking. I had already posted up to Wednesday, January 18th. So here are the ones for Thursday – Sunday, most recent first. Enjoy!

01/22/12: Brandon tattooing on a friend...

01/21/12: This is another photo from Florida, since I didn't take a pic today. I thought it was cool how this woman was standing there painting, and the man in the chair had no idea she was painting HIM. LOL.

01/20/12: Well, I slacked again today. No picture from today. But, we were *supposed* to go to Disneyland - so I made today's pic one I took a couple of weeks ago. Loved the way the setting sun lit up the Matterhorn and showed the colors in the leaves.

On Friendship

“No distance of place or lapse of time can lessen the friendship of those who are thoroughly persuaded of each other’s worth.” – Robert Southey

Have you ever thought about what the word “friendship” means to you? What, exactly, constitutes friendship? Webster’s dictionary defines a friend as someone who is “known well to another and regarded with liking, affection, and loyalty.” It further states that a friend is “an ally in a fight or cause; a supporter.” I don’t know about you, but those words seem so inadequate when trying to describe how I feel about the group of women I just spent the past weekend with. There were eleven of us, total. (Although that was only part of the group that wished they could be there. Several more were stuck at home.) Our group included women from New York, Florida, Minnesota, Connecticut, Iowa, California, Tennessee and Canada. We have all known each other for years. The kicker? For many of us, this past weekend in Florida was the first time we had ever met.

Many years ago, America Online had message boards: places where you could go and communicate with people on specific topics. Not a chat room, exactly, because it wasn’t “live.” There were groups for animal lovers, scrapbookers, parents of multiples, gay people – you name it, there was a message board group for it. I’m not sure how I stumbled on this particular group. But the board was titled Stay at Home vs. Working Moms. The format was a debate board, and some of the posts were pretty adversarial. I decided one day to stick my toe in the water and opine. I was very quickly (and not very politely) asked to back up my opinion – I can’t even remember now what it was – and elaborate on the few sentences I had worked up the nerve to type. I remember thinking at the time what a bunch of opinionated, bossy bitches these women were. But, the next day, there I was again. Reading. Learning. Joining in. I was required to articulate my opinion – which, in turn, forced me to really think about what that opinion was. These women were well-educated, smart, and so witty that I often found myself giggling hysterically in front of my computer. (Which, at the time, was a huge, clunky, desk top unit. This was 2001, after all.) Since that first post eleven years ago, the knowledge I have gained from this group is incredible.

Some “posters” on that debate board came and went, but there was a core group that hung around. We all went through periods where we posted less frequently – life has a way of getting in the way sometimes. But, until the board was finally shut down for good a few years ago, we could always find each other there. Then, along came Facebook. We all reconnected and formed our own “private” group. There are a little over thirty of us in the group. And that group ended up being the beginning of what has developed into friendships with some of the most extraordinary women I’ve ever known. We began to share things about ourselves more openly. The knowledge that it was just us – no lurkers out there in cyberspace – gave us the freedom to really talk. To really open up and share without fear of some crazy person stalking us or doing weird things with our family photos. Over the course of the past several years – but, especially the past few – we have formed a bond that some people would find odd. We come from so many different walks of life: stay-at-home mothers, teachers, lawyers, writers. Some Republican, some Democrat – but most somewhere in between. We are people who, in our day-to-day lives, would probably never cross paths. I’m pretty sure that I – the Harley-riding, gun-toting probation officer – would not have the opportunity to form a friendship with a church secretary or a high-level financial analyst. But all of those external things don’t matter in this group. What does matter is our loyalty and sincere devotion to one another. We have seen each other through the roller coaster that is life: illnesses, divorces, marriages, remarriages, and deaths. The level of support and love I, personally, received after my son died surpasses anything I’ve ever imagined was possible. A group of remarkable women who live thousands of miles away from me managed to give me more support and friendship than most of the people I see every day.

After the absolute success of this past weekend get-together, we have decided it needs to be a regular thing. There was no awkwardness or discomfort. It truly did feel like a bunch of long-time friends getting together for a few days of relaxation. Everyone is just as articulate and intelligent and funny in person as they are online. I came away from the experience feeling empowered and loved. These beautiful women managed to make me feel completely accepted. I hope I did the same for them.

In a 2002 study at UCLA, researchers studied female friendships and the effect those relationships have on our lives. They found that our emotional and physical health improve when we have close female friends. According to the study, “Women are a source of strength to each other. We nurture one another. And we need to have unpressured space in which we can do the special kind of talk that women do when they’re with other women. It’s a very healing experience.” Well, this is not surprising to me. I have just spent four days “healing” with ten of my closest friends!

This week’s pictures are from my trip to Florida. The days that I haven’t managed to take a picture, I’ve filled in with ones taken on my trip. I hope you enjoy them!

01-09-12: Jumping rope in the parking lot, waiting for Dad. I'm still trying to master action shots!

01-10-12: Grandma's (my mom's) 69th birthday dinner.

01-11-12: This was actually taken in Florida...but I didn't have a pic for this day. I was too busy packing!

01-12-12: Leaving Los Angeles! Florida, here I come!

01-13-12: My first time touching the Gulf Coast water!

01-14-12: This was the first time I've seen an alligator not at the zoo! I thought this little dude was cute, with his snaggle teeth. 🙂

01-15-12: This was Bowman's Beach on Sanibel Island. The amount of shells just lying there on the beach was amazing to me. We don't have many shells in Southern California!

01-16-12: I took this in the butterfly house at the Naples Botanical Gardens. Love the colors!

01-17-12: Another pic from the Naples Botanical Gardens. I thought this was a really cute idea for old purses! Quirky and artsy!

01-18-12: I think this is my favorite butterfly picture - yellow is my favorite color!

Forward March!

I’ll come right out and say it: I really have nothing interesting to write about. I think I’m a fairly interesting person in real life. But here? No so much. Oh well. I committed to it, so I’m doing it.

Today I accomplished something very difficult. Something I have been putting off for more than two years. I gave away some of Ian’s things. I haven’t done it for many reasons. Mostly because 1) it is so painful to go into his room and see the things we picked out just for him that he never had a chance to use and 2) I didn’t want those lovingly-chosen things to end up somewhere “unworthy.” My best friend in the world – a woman who has been absolutely unwaivering in her support of me – is due to give birth to a baby boy in March. I can’t think of someone I would rather give Ian’s things to. It’s odd how attached we can get to “stuff.” Well – not odd for me, really. I’ve always been somewhat of a pack rat: I hyperventilate a little when I throw away shirts with holes in them. You never know when you might need that, right? I’m the one whose heart starts pounding when faced with throwing away a little drawing one of the kids did on a napkin at a restaurant. “Stuff” holds sentimental value to me. So you can imagine how it made my insides feel to be giving up possession of the blankets and pajamas and onesies that held my precious angel. But it had to be done. Still, it felt a little like saying goodbye to him all over again. My friend and I we went through Ian’s room together – not sure I could have done it alone. I held it together pretty well until I started going through the toiletries. I was proud of myself…I was feeling melancholy, but not devastated like I would have a year ago. That is, until I got a whiff of the Mustela baby shampoo I always used on Ian. Then the tears came out of nowhere. Fiercely and quickly. What is it about smells that can evoke such strong memories and emotions? So, once again, my best friend comforted me. And we moved on. Hurdle cleared…forward march!

Here are this week’s pictures, from oldest to most recent:

01/02/12: Walking in the woods with Loki.

01/03/12: Our crazy dog, Freya, loves to try to eat the spray of water coming out of the nozzle. She doesn't care if she gets nailed in the face - she tries to bite it. Makes for some pretty good free entertainment!

01/04/12: Sunset in the suburbs.

01/05/12: Sunrise in the city. I was practicing slow shutter speeds.

01/06/12: My handsome son, Garrett. We went to Disneyland for the day, and I was practicing my portrait photography!

01/07/12: Baseball evaluations for Spring season. Can't believe another busy season is about to start - but looking forward to watching the kids play!

01/08/12: Mother nature at work! I am starting to figure out this shallow depth of field thing.

What is it about a brand new year that encourages people to make grand proclamations, set lofty goals, and feel totally on top of the world again (even if it’s only for a few weeks)? Is it the prospect of starting with a clean slate? Is it the opportunity to not necessarily get a “do over”, but a “start over”? I, for one, am all for that. One of my favorite quotes is from Mary Ann Radmacher: “Courage does not always roar. Sometimes courage is the quiet voice at the end of the day saying, “I will try again tomorrow.” Ms. Radmacher is onto something there. It takes courage to keep on going. In that vein, I’m taking this long-neglected blog in a different direction this year.

First, let’s take a look back for those who haven’t read this blog in the past: 2009 was one of the most exciting and heartbreaking of my life. I got married for the first time, gave birth to a gorgeous baby boy, and then lost him to a brain tumor eight weeks later. 2009 is one of those years that will always seem almost surreal to me. 2010 and 2011 have been a blur of heartaches, disappointments, depression, and transitions. Despite my best efforts, both of those years were mostly sadness and turmoil, strung together by occasional happiness. To put it bluntly, 2010 and 2011 sucked. I can say goodbye to those years with no melancholy whatsoever.

So here we are with a chance to start again. To start new and fresh. I feel that, in the last few months, I have made enormous strides to get back on track. To get back to the “me” I have missed so much. I am actually excited to start a new year. I have plans. The biggest thing I have planned is weight loss surgery. After Ian (our son) died, I slowly gained 45 pounds. I think, subconsciously, I was trying to kill myself with food. My blood pressure got high, I had swollen ankles and painful joints, my hips have started hurting. I just kind of checked out of life. So I am taking the required classes and am looking forward to surgery some time in late Spring. I’m excited about having that tool to help me get healthy and active again. I can’t wait to snow board again next winter. I can’t wait to look and feel good again!

Another thing I have planned is to work harder on photography. It’s always been an interest and hobby of mine. I’ve always had a “good eye” for the setup of a picture, but I’ve never taken the time to learn about the mechanics of photography. So, that’s on my agenda for 2012. To that end, I am starting my own “Project 365” (although, since it’s Leap Year, it will be a Project 366). I will be posting a picture a day for the next year. It could be of something I did that day, or a pic of something interesting I saw, or of something completely meaningless that caught my eye. The goal is to make sure I really look at the world every day, and find something to appreciate every day. As part of the project, I’ll post a blog entry every Sunday. The topic could be almost anything. There will be a lot going on in my life, so prepare for some schizophrenic posts. Ha ha. So – I’ve committed: 366 pictures, 52 posts. And here’s today’s:

I'm learning about "depth of field" and experimenting with the settings on my camera. These poinsettias are left over from Christmas and on the porch awaiting their fate. I loved the way the color in the flower caught the sunlight!


Another Halloween…

I can’t help but remember last Halloween. The bone-crushing grief. The depression. I tried so hard to make it a fun time for Garrett – but I just couldn’t get into it. I would not go back to that time for anything in the world. It’s when I think about that time – and read last year’s Halloween entry – that I realize how far I’ve come in this journey. I will admit that I had a really hard day two days ago. Not for any particular reason other than that I just felt sad. I think about Ian every day – but some days it just grips me and I almost can’t breathe because I miss him so much. And I’ve learned to just accept it when I have those days. I don’t make myself feel guilty about staying in bed half the day. I don’t apologize for letting the kids make their own frozen dinners. I just roll with it. What else can I do? As long as I just accept it, and let myself grieve, and cry when I want to, that paralyzed feeling seems to pass more quickly.

Garrett as "Hercules" and Hailey as "Aphrodite."

This year I have actually dressed up twice for Halloween, and gone to two parties. I even put some effort into the kids’ costumes, rather than making Garrett wear a “retread” like last year. So we had Hercules and Aphrodite in our house last night. They looked great! We went to a fantastic party at my friend’s house. Lots of kids dressed up, gorgeous house in the forest, fantastic food, and good company. It is so nice to be actually enjoying parts of my life again!

I still fantasize about having another child to do all this with again. I have enjoyed my kids so much. But I’m beginning to fully accept that it just probably won’t happen for us. It makes my heart ache to think that I’ll never get to hold or nurse or love on another baby. That Brandon and I won’t get to raise a child – from the beginning – together. We are not actively trying to conceive at this point – but we aren’t trying not to, either. So, if it is part of the universe’s plan for us, it will happen.

It makes my head spin to think about how fast time passes by. I remember a year ago, wondering how I’d get through the next hour, or the next day, or the next month. But here I am – over a year has passed since my world was shattered. And sometimes I can’t believe I’m here. Not just surviving – but striving to live again. I want to be the happy, outgoing, optimistic, satisfied person I used to be – but with much more wisdom. Ian would want that for his mom, I think. I miss you beyond words, my sweet Frog Face. I love you to the moon and back a gazillion times.