One Sprightly Old Lady and a Whole Bunch of Assholes

Isn't it amazing when we stumble upon life lessons in the unlikeliest of places?

Joe has suffered from abdominal pain -- ranging from dull to severe -- on a daily basis for several years now. Two and a half years ago he had his gallbladder removed and, just yesterday morning, I drove him to get an endoscopy as well as a colonoscopy. They were long overdue and we both knew it.

Joe has always strived to be proactive about his own health and continuously encourages me to do the same. And truthfully, I'm not as diligent as I should be. He has always preached the benefits of preventative measures when it comes to a healthy lifestyle. He even went so far as to get a second opinion when, just a few months back, a physician told him he was "too young to need a colonoscopy."

We arrived early and stepped into a waiting room scattered with, not surprisingly, much older patients. While waiting we couldn’t help but notice an attractive, boisterous, older woman chatting loudly with her much older friend. She was kindly reassuring her that “everything would be over soon,” and that the “worst part of the whole thing was over with,” as one of the requirements was not eating for 24 hours prior as well as drinking a concoction that preps the intestines for viewing. No fun. Her friend was called in shortly after we arrived so Joe and I made some small talk with her while thumbing through magazines.

Her name was Mary.

After about 15 minutes Joe was called back. I kissed him, said all would be fine and, introvert that I am, immediately averted my eyes away from Mary's glances.

This was not an effective strategy.

She was having difficulty with her new, “way-too-high-tech” iPhone and I offered help. We eventually started browsing through her photos...

She excitedly showed me several photos of her expansive doll collection. Dolls she had bought for “a steal” at antique shops, dolls she had ordered on ebay from Europe, dolls she had refurbished. You name it. Fascinating stuff.

We got to a photo of a man looking very dapper in a barbershop quartet get-up. It was Hal, her much older than her but young-at-heart 93 year old husband. I shared with her about my girlies and the genetic disposition for twins that runs in my family. She explained that Hal was a twin as well. But that his identical twin “looked his age,” and that at one point in his life he “just gave into what society told him he should act like.” I will admit, with the jubilant smile exuding from the photos, Hal did not look a day older than 70. Seriously.

She explained that Hal and her kept things fresh and exciting by going on dates regularly, being spontaneous and (gulp) “talking sexy” to one another. Too much information? Perhaps, but I’ll take it as well-intentioned advice.

She swiped to a photo of a strapping young man. It was clearly a photo she had taken from another old photo in an album. It was her son. He had passed away several years earlier. Her demeanor wasn’t sad in any way, so I asked what had happened. She quickly responded that he had died in a bad car accident, continued scrolling through pictures, and then went on to sharing sordid gossip about her next door neighbors.

I eventually worked up the nerve to ask Mary her age and, expecting to hear maybe 60 at the oldest, was visibly surprised -- jaw dropped to the floor -- when she told me she was 73. When I asked her, in all sincerity, what the trick was, so said, “You know what? It all about having a positive attitude!”


Roughly 90 minutes after Joe walked into the procedure area I was called back to see him. He was groggy but feeling good (almost too good from the anesthesia that was administered),  he even joked that he'd gotten to sneak in a nice nap in the middle of the day and that he was going to schedule another colonoscopy for the following week.

The doctor came in to chat with me. Pretty routine I assumed. He said all went great but that he found a polyp where his small and large intestines meet. At that my eyes shot up to those of the doctor's. "This procedure could have very well saved his life." He explained that in a matter of time the polyp could have developed cancerous cells. My eyes welled up as I shook his hand and thanked him profusely.

Nothing has ever quite stricken more sudden fright or shock in me than the thought of losing Joe; my amazing husband, the love of my life, my best friend, the father of our beautiful daughters, my rock.

Joe, in a daze.
I don't think his anesthesia had quite worn off yet because Joe just looked up at the doctor with glossy eyes and said, arms outstretched, "I don't know if you're a hugger, but..." He gave him a quick hug then shouted as he strutted away "I’ll be watching USA vs Portugal! Go USA!" Joe hollered back in approval.

That evening I was surprised to see just how well Joe was feeling. We took a nice walk through our neighborhood, grabbed some sushi for us and a piece of salmon for the girls to try for the first time (very exciting for this Northwest girl). We went to a local park to enjoy dinner, then took turns pushing the girls in the swing, watching Ruby kick her legs in pure delight and listen to Vera sheepishly giggle at our silliness, and simply being grateful to have our health and, more than anything, have one another.

I was reminded of a couple things yesterday; a couple lessons that perhaps I had forgotten over time:

The first was that no matter how young you are, it's never too early to think seriously about your health and your future. The second was that no matter how old you are, it's never too late to reclaim and enjoy your youth.


I was pregnant for exactly 37 weeks and 4 day. In this photo I am entering the hospital to have the girls. 

Today, May 27th, the girls have been OUT of me for exactly the same amount of time as they were growing within me: 37 weeks and 4 days. 

I've enjoyed the latter much MUCH more! ;) Now on to the next 37 weeks. 

Papa Lew

I thought about you yesterday. Which isn’t rare in any way. Though, yesterday was extra special. You would have been 85 and I’m sure you would’ve somehow summoned your ever-expanding family together to celebrate; whether meeting around a massive banquet-style table at BJ’s Kountry Kitchen for a family breakfast or trekking to Javier’s for the umpteenth time, it would have been a memorable celebration indeed.

You were always there for us. So deep and profound was your influence in my life that, to this day, I continually reflect on the lessons you taught simply by being. Like the time you came up to Washington to surprise Aunt Sheila for her birthday. You hid behind the laundry room door practically trembling from your giddiness, then when she turned the corner and you (not ever a man to speak in a hushed tone) boomed, “surprise!” Your daughter’s face lit up with a joy and love for her father that, only until recently, I have begun to understand. Thank you for showing me that example.

During that trip you were waiting on a call from a man who was finishing up a purchase on one of your refurbished cars. I was sitting at the computer playing Tetris (I was so cool) and you angrily hung up the phone. When I asked what happened you huffed that the man did not have all of the money that he promised he would get to you. I will never forget. Less than 30 seconds later you called the man back and, you apologized, and told him that whatever he could afford, you would be okay with. When I asked you why you had had such a change of heart you said, “Life is too short to not turn the other cheek.” You were helping someone out in their time of need and, while maybe not best for business, you acted as a kind, gentle man. Thank you for showing me that example.

Thank you for teaching me...

... That whether dressed in your Sunday best, or traipsing around in your BVDs, you should always feels comfortable and confident in your own skin.

... That even when the weight of loss and grief feels like the world is collapsing upon you, we all have the capacity to be an unweilding pillar of strength for those that have, and always will, rely upon us.

... That addressing someone as darlin’ can pretty much put a smile on that anyone's face.

... That I should allow myself a layered, rich existence lined with paths that lead to crossroads of risk, confidence, heartbreak, pure joy, creativity, ingenuity and, above all, an abiding love.

... That you should never be ashamed to belt out a song at the top of your lungs.

... That we should always express how proud we our of our children, even in the little things. 

... That children should be treated as children; cuddled and loved and have their ears *biten* off and their noses *stolen* from time to time.

... That adolescents should be shown what is it to work hard with your bare hands; even in the blazing heat of the summer sun.

... That the love we show to our friends, family and community is reciprocated when it is genuine.

Thank you for showing me these examples in my life. I love you and miss you very much Papa Lew.

Happy (belated) birthday. I hope I see you up there one day.

Cinco de Mayo

A few short years ago Joe and I would've been celebrating Cinco de Mayo with some tacos and margaritas. Yesterday we popped on some music and got down in a whole new way!

Today, on Cinco de Mayo itself, the girls got decked out in their festive onesies from their grandparents (whom we'll be going to visit in THREE DAYS). I couldn't resist sharing. Have a great time celebrating!

Easter 2014

This Easter we decided to stay here in Berkeley and join our friend, Rich, in his (very large) family's annual picnic (complete with delicious food and a game of football) at Redwood Regional Park right down the street in Oakland. Our buddy, (Uncle) Cannon, came with us as well, to make it an even more enjoyable day for our family! 

This year the girls were decked out in adorable dresses that are very near and dear to my heart for two reasons: 

1. They were hand-made by their incredibly gifted Great Grandmother, Helen (with little sewn-in tags that say "made with love for Ruby/ Vera," but, the girls are napping now so I don't dare sneak in and attempt to take a picture).

2. Some of the fabric used to make them was from dresses (also hand-made by Grandma Helen, of course) that my sister, Michele, and I had when we were Ruby and Vera's age. Can it get any sweeter than that?! 

Here are some pictures of the girls first Easter!

My beauties and me

"Look Uncle Cannon, I can fly!"

Vera loves her pretty dress!

Rich's mom, Isabel, was smitten!

Ruby will hate me for this one day

"Hold me closer, Tony Danza"

Rich and Vera

Daddy's girls

Ruby got the memo!

No one could resist this bunny!

Girl talk

"Oh no she didn't!"

Shake Well

This morning the unthinkable happened. Okay, that might be a little dramatic. You be the judge.

After changing the girls’ diapers, getting them dressed for the day and nursing them, I finally put them down to play while I made a mad dash for the kitchen to toast a piece of bread and guzzle a quick cup of coffee. The moment I stepped into the kitchen my nose was assaulted with the scent of natural gas. I immediately checked the nobs on the stove and, sure enough, one was turned just slightly left of of the “off” position. “Fuuuuuuuuuuuck!”

Visions of “Fight Club”-esque explosions danced through my head as I slowly backed away from the kitchen, quickly threw on clothes acceptable to the general public, got the girls packed up, opened up every single window of the apartment, and bolted.

With Vera on me in the Ergo and Ruby in the stroller I hoofed it to the nearest corner, and proceeded to text Joe angrily:



Tail squarely between my legs, I stubbornly did not text back. I knew it was my fault yet, here I was, perfectly poised to blame Joe for his mistake. He called a few minutes later to cool me down and reassure me that everything would be okay. I was ready for an earful, though not surprised when he said, calmly, “It’s beautiful out. Why don’t you take a nice walk with the girls and get some breakfast? There is no reason to point blame; we’re a team; we’re in this together. ” I believe my exact response was an unintelligible “Hmmph” (I’m not a morning person these days).

Being that it was early, and I was too terrified to even think of going near the kitchen, I walked to a local donut shop to take a few deep breathes and enjoy a sinfully delicious glazed old-fashioned and some orange juice. I finagled the stroller to the counter, got my goodies, sat down at the outside table, inhaled deeply and upon exhale opened my eyes to this:

Shake well. Separation is natural. Separation is natural? Hmm. I thought back to several years earlier when philosophy professor (go figure) stated that, in some way or another, -- whether through death or separation-- all relationships end. Separation is natural. Unless, of course, shaken well.

Shaken well. Mixed. Incorporated. Interwoven. Blended. Fused. Brought together.

Our relationship most certainly is, especially right now, is a joint effort. Joe has a great way of clearly understanding that. And, at time, I do to. Other times, like today, it takes a few reminders we’re always better as a team and, sometimes, a little shaking up is a good thing.

Vera and Her Daddy

This past week or so the girlies have had horrible colds. At first I thought Ruby was coming down with allergies because of the quick onset of sneezing, coughing and runny nose. But, when Vera woke up on Saturday morning with gunk all over her little nose we knew it was officially a cold for both love bugs. 

On Monday night, amidst the continuing efforts to clear up these girls' colds -- humidifiers, steamy bathrooms, baby Vicks all over their little feet, me sucking snot out of their nose with the nosefrida (is it weird that I actually kind of enjoyed doing that?), etc. -- I got food poisoning from a tuna melt I had eaten (and not even really enjoyed!) for lunch earlier that day. Joe, without hesitation, not only got up to take care of all three of us all night, he stayed home yesterday (Tuesday) to take the girls to the pediatrician to make sure all was well with them (which it was). His comment to me (once I felt better) was, "That's why tuna, mayonnaise, and heat are NOT your friend." Words to live by. 

This morning the girls were still feeling a bit groggy and sick. Joe sent this photo for me to show the them: 

Here is what happened:

How lucky are we to have such a great husband and daddy to take care of us? We love you!
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