Sunday, December 12, 2004

My Mom's Death

Just 5 days after putting our house up for sale, we decided to take a trip to Bakersfield for a few days. Our intention was for me to hunt for houses and check out neighborhoods (with the kids) while Chris tried out the commute from my mom's house. We arrived on Sunday evening (Nov 21st) and planned on leaving on Thanksgiving Day to spend Thanksgiving at Chris's parents' house in Whittier and return home from there.
Little did we know that God had other reasons for the timing of our spontaneous trip. We spent several hours with my mom on Sunday night, then the kids and I awoke on Monday morning (Nov 22nd) to find that she'd died in her sleep. She'd been having health problems for a few months, but none of us anticipated that her life would end so suddenly. Over the summer she'd been experiencing difficulty breathing and a lack of energy. After extensive tests, she was put on oxygen and was allowed to return to school this Fall to her teaching position at Longfellow Elementary. Of course, she was very head-strong and stubborn and refused to take the oxygen to school. Her plan was to take sick leave from that Monday Nov 21st through the end of the semester in December, then do her best to make it through the remainder of the school year. She was considering retirement after next summer (when she would have turned 60 years old).
Instead, we had our last conversation that Sunday night. Thankfully, she appeared to have died in her sleep (on her living room couch) and it was likely very peaceful. The kids and I found her the next morning when we woke up, but she'd been gone at least a few hours. I tried to wake her, but I could tell by her appearance that it was too late. The kids spent much of the morning in the car (while the firemen and/or police watched over them) while I contacted the paramedics and coroner, spoke to the police officer and coroner for their reports, etc. My brother Alan and my Aunt Cimarron, Uncle Joe, and cousin Victorio all came by and saw her before she was transported to the coroner's office. Needless to say it was a very difficult day for everyone.
We spent the rest of that week moving her belongings out of her apartment and into a storage unit, and preparing for her memorial service. We took a break on Thanksgiving Day. Chris went home to be with our kids (his parents had picked them up on Monday afternoon and taken them back to Whittier) and my family met for Thanksgiving at Alan's house. Even my sister Victoria was there, because we flew her out from Texas (I hadn't seen her since I was pregnant with Cassidy).
We had a small memorial service for my mom on Saturday, November 27th. Thirteen family members attended. We scattered her ashes near pine trees (her wish) in the Tehachapi mountains, adjacent to the Cesar Chavez Monument area. We played a Santana song (one of her favorites), then scattered the ashes. I handed out roses to each attendant and we all took turns laying them down near the ashes and speaking about my mom. Then I read her philosophy of education and a poem she'd written about herself (both projects from her time at Cal State Bakersfield) and we played a Native American song. We then built a small monument of stones atop the ashes. It was an emotional and heartfelt service, and I think it reflected my mom and her interests well.
I wish I could say with certainty that she is in heaven now, but I cannot. She lived her life in a way that synchronized a lot of different religious beliefs and traditions (Catholicism, New Age, etc.) so I don't know exactly what she chose in the end. What I do know is that she and I recently had several lengthy discussions about faith. I feel that I said everything I could to her about my own beliefs, and of the importance of the Bible and the authenticity of Jesus. I just don't know what conclusions she reached after those discussions.
I will miss her greatly. No matter what she believed or how imperfect our relationship may have been, there is just nothing in the world that can take her place in my heart.
We're still moving to Bakersfield, but it won't be quite the same there without her.

Our Next Move

Yes I know it's been awhile since my last blog post. We've had a very eventful last few months. Here's why:
I have big news to share with all of you.... my family and I have very recently decided to relocate to Bakersfield, CA. The decision actually began as a joke after we visited Bakersfield in October. While at a restaurant with my mom, we happened across one of those "Home Preview" magazines. That started a discussion about the difference in home prices (and pace of life) in Bakesfield compared to the L.A. area. When we returned home, we couldn't quite get the idea of moving out of our heads and began to discuss it more seriously. Shortly thereafter (in early November) we decided to take the leap.
You may be wondering why we have decided to make this move. Well, first of all I was born and raised in Bakersfield and the majority of my family is there. They are all non-Christians, so it will be a chance for Chris and the kids and me to see my family more often and hopefully be good examples and witnesses to them. We will also be able to buy a lot more house for our money in Bakersfield, so we'll be saving quite a lot on our monthly budget (approx. $1000 a month!) and also eliminating our debt in the process. We also feel that it will be good to make this transition before Brienna begins school next Fall, and we look forward to a more small-town atmosphere and slightly slower pace of life than here in LA.
Chris will still be commuting to work for LAPD. His drive distance will be quite a bit longer but, thanks to LA traffic, his commute time will actually not change much (it already takes him over an hour to/from work one-way- although we're just over 25 miles from his office). He's putting in for a transfer back to patrol in one of LAPD's Valley divisions, but until that comes through he's still in the Haz Mat Unit.
Finally, we look forward to the opportunity to find a new church home and build new relationships there. Our ties here have recently loosened, since we aren't very involved in our current church and also recently dissolved our bible study group. And of course, this is a great opportunity to re-start my personal CM business and still benefit from having all of my favorite former customers now as part of my downline! I will be distributing the rest of my CM customer base (roughly 300 people) to my downline and re-starting my personal business in Bakersfield. Well, that's it! I hope you'll keep my family in your thoughts and prayers as we prepare for this major transition.

Sunday, September 12, 2004

Kids are a natural wonder

I'm continually amazed at how unique and individual are two kids are, being that they have the same family gene pool. One is very social (meaning she doesn't know a stranger and always wants a companion by her side) and the other is very physical (meaning she is constantly climbing, grabbing, falling, hugging, running, etc.). One is very imaginative (making up songs, telling stories, having "a great idea" for a craft or activity), the other is a constant observer and mimicker. Both are active kids that sleep little and play a lot, but one is more awkward and hesitant about learning new skills while the other is naturally flexible, has great balance, no fear of new things, etc. One is always looking for a way out of cleaning up, the other is a little "helper" that is always looking for a way to be neat and orderly. Isn't it amazing that siblings can be so different from one another? It's amazing that even at 2 and 4 years old their personalities just come through in all that they do.
Some things that they do have in common though are their love of swimming and all forms of water play, their drama and creativity, their love of books, their natural musicality (really, I mean do all 2 and 4 year olds constantly sing, make up their own songs, and continually put on "shows"?), their generally propensity to be well-behaved, and of course their adorableness.
I just love my kids! I mean, I knew I would love whatever kids I had, but I just couldn't love these two more. They are certainly not always easy (especially given their respective ages at the moment) but they are truly great little people. I thought I'd post a little more about each of them:
Favorite Color: Brienna- Pink, purple and Cassidy- Orange (an unusual choice, I know)
Favorite Characters: Brienna- My Little Ponies, Nemo & Dory, Sleeping Beauty (and all other Disney Princesses) and Cassidy- Elmo, The Little People, Dora and Backpack
Favorite Songs: Brienna- According to her, she likes the ones she makes up the best, and Cassidy- currently Jesus Loves Me, Deep and Wide, The B.I.B.L.E., and Elmocize
Favorite Foods: Brienna- PB & J sandwiches, all soups, cheese and crackers, and Vanilla milk (milk with a shot of my Vanilla Coffeemate in it) and Cassidy- French fries, butter (she'll eat it by the stick if we'd let her!), eggs, cottage cheese, and plain milk
Best Friends: Brienna- Miriam C (who recently moved away) and Ethan D (also her future husband) and Cassidy- Brienna and Allyson W (her cousin and favorite playmate)
Future Occupations: Brienna- Fire fighter, singer, ballet dancer, doctor, and CM Consultant like mommy. She's been told that this is a busy line-up but insists she can do them all:) and Cassidy- Engineer, gymnast, dancer, and singer (from what we can tell of her, she hasn't made any personal choices yet).

Kids are truly a trial and a blessing at the same time! We have one more year until Brienna begins kindergarten, so I'm doing all that I can to enjoy this time while it lasts. We're having lots of park days, swimming time, playdates, trips to Disneyland, the bookstore, etc. It's a bit exhausting at times, but so much fun to watch them grow up and see them enjoying childhood! That is, when they aren't whining or taking a "time out" for not listening, or being mean to each other, etc. But then again, that's another blog!

Thursday, August 12, 2004

The Land of 10,000 Lakes..... and even more scrapbook albums

Well, it's already been two weeks since I started my blog. Time flies. The highlight of that time for me was spending three and a half days in Minneapolis, Minnesota for the Creative Memories National Convention. This was my first time traveling to Minnesota, and I must say I was pleasantly surprised. I expected it to be much more, how shall I say it...... "midwestern". Perhaps it's because I flew directly to Minneapolis and stayed downtown, but I didn't get the "I'm in the middle of nowhere" feeling I'd expected. It was a very nice Convention Center and hotel (Hilton) and I really enjoyed walking and shopping in the downtown area. I went with another Consultant in my Unit, Theresa. We even had a little time to walk to the Sculpture Garden and to see the Mall of America.
The Convention was fantastic! The enthusiasm and positivity was totally contagious. It's amazing how loudly people can clap and cheer for a new organizer or paper pack:) But really, I felt that I got a great mix of information and ideas for my own albums, for my Unit, and for my customers. And, Creative Memories really knows how to put together an event. Great speakers and performers, nice dinners, terrific awards, etc. Very worthwhile event. I'm really looking forward to their new Unit Leader training (also in Minneapolis) next year after my promotion, and I really hope to also earn a 2005 incentive trip (either to Florida or Arizona). I can completely and honestly say that I love my job. In fact, I had a workshop tonight, I have a Class this weekend, and then another workshop and two more events next week. I look forward to them. But first, I have to condense all of my meeting notes and speak at our next Unit meeting for other Consultants (an audience of usually 40 or so). Hey, come to think of it I'm actually doing work that relates to my college major (Applied Communication Studies). How many people can say that?

Thursday, July 29, 2004

Our incredibly fun sleigh ride in Tahoe, March 2004! Best family vacation so far. Posted by Hello

Easter 2004 Family Picture (Before Weight cut me some slack!) Posted by Hello

Creating A Scene

Yes, I've decided to join the crowd and start a blog. I suppose it was inevitable.......So here is the first topic that crosses my mind......Chris and I have been entertaining the notion of using some Home Equity to landscape our back and side yard. You'd think that planting some grass and flowers would be a rather straight-forward and simple task, but it seems that creating scenery is a bit more complicated (and expensive) than we first thought.
Our first phone call was to a place in the Entertainment Book called Landscape Locators. They informed us that they only give referrals for projects over $10,000. Okay, so we aren't worthy of the "big leagues". Then we tried a referral from a local nursery. After an hour long appointment with a designer (in which I talked about what style and features we wanted while she took endless measurements), she returned a week later with something that strongly resembled a piece of childrens' art (we should have just put Brienna to work on it).  She forgot to include several features we asked for (a lemon tree, plants for the patio area, etc.) and then informed us that our first step in this process would be to decide on what we wanted. Huh?!?
So, now we've turned to a college friend of ours in the landscaping/maintenance field. He lives out in Pomona but has agreed to come out and draw a plan for us. In the meantime, we're busying ourselves by drooling over Landscaping magazines and books from the library. I'm sure we won't be able to afford the exact "woodland garden" retreat that exists in our imaginations, but we'll see what our meager budget can create.  A place for me to sit and read in the shade while the kids play and Chris BBQ's something to perfection........ or at least I can dream:)