You Don’t Know Me

You don’t know me. I’ve thought about that line so many times these past few weeks. It’s true. I’m not the same person at all. I mean, we all change through time, that’s inevitable. Losing your husband at 39 years old unexpectedly changes you to your core.

I went to bed a wife and walked out of the emergency room a widow. I was still a mom, a daughter, a sister, a friend, but not the same one as before. The woman who lived on September 21, 2017, died alongside her husband on September 22, 2017. Who this new woman was to become was decided through the course of time.

In an instant I was thrown into a life of single mom. No partner to bounce ideas off of. A woman who lost her friend since 8th grade, soul mate, father of her children. My life was defined by the love and partnership we had created over time. In one moment those years of slowly changing me went flying away.

A woman who became empty, hardened, devastated, and lost walked out of that emergency room. Somewhere in this journey I had to decided how I would let this catastrophic turn in life change me, good or bad.

Three children. That was my decision. The three children who still had so much life to live made me choose good. I had to turn this negative time and find any inkling of light to pull through. Many of you have followed me in this journey and have seen the good and the bad.

As a woman I found my way as well. Through learning how to date again, I learned so much about myself. Through being single, I learned a whole lot more about myself. Today I listened to Sara Bareilles’ “She Used To Be Mine.” It’s crazy how you can listen to song a ton of times before but all of a sudden you really hear the lyrics. I mean feel each word of the song. That was me. Imperfect but tries, hard on herself, broken and won’t ask for help, messy but kind… and through it all still standing. So it really is no offense to people who knew me years ago but the reality is, you have no idea who I am now. Standing is a woman who is completely different from two years ago. The moment that changed me overnight has slowly changed me into a no BS, love and appreciate every moment we live, love like there’s no tomorrow kind of woman. Don’t get me wrong, don’t mess with me or take advantage of this outlook because there is still a woman at the base who knows how to look a storm straight in the face and say you can’t take me down.

Even when life throws those curve balls at you, hit it out of the park and get your home run. As hard as it is, don’t let life completely harden you so you stop feeling. Instead learn how to see life differently, come from a place of gratitude for even the smallest of things. Never stop believing in love because life will give you that second chance at happiness. Magic exists in our everyday life if we never stop believing. Above all, always have faith. Faith that God will see you through even the darkest of times to live a life that shows your strength and resilience. Above all, truly love and live.

Maybe Because It’s The 22nd

Even as I start writing this I notice the time and realize you are still very much here. 4:28, your birthday. Also the time our first daughter was born. You are so so very much a part of her and everyone can see you in her daily. As if her birth time destined her to be linked even more to you than simply being her father.

I’ve been noticing a lot this afternoon. As I left the doctor’s office something was drawing me to the cemetery where your niche is. I parked the car, got out and noticed the beauty of the valley you always and will eternally call home. I walked towards the niches and could smell the incense burning. Just then I heard an ambulance go by and flash-backed to the night one took you away and you never came home. Something triggered in me and the tears started to fall.

I wiped each one away and made it to your niche. I could feel the cool, crisp air and saw the flowers moving but couldn’t feel the breeze. All I saw was your picture and urn in the glass front niche. I thought what a beautiful and peaceful setting this was. Then the real tears started.

Nope, not the gentle trickle type but the “I can’t breathe ugly cry” type. Then I realized the date, it’s the 22nd. Another 22nd. Not the month of your heavenversary but the date God called you back. I couldn’t stop the tears. I thought of all the things that have gone on since your passing. The birthdays, soccer games, holidays, the list goes on and on.

I also thought of us. My partner, best friend, and love was gone forever. I have since dated and found someone. I go through the guilt of being happy and being in love again. I know no one could ever replace you in my heart, rather the heart just grows to find room for more. The tears subsided. I held my hands close to my chest in prayer and thanked God for you. I prayed you were resting in peace, love, and happiness. I thanked God for sending a man who honors and respects you into our lives. I will struggle with guilt. I call it widow’s guilt, somewhat like survivor’s guilt.

Yet, somehow I know all goodness taking place in the lives of the children and I are partially your doing. For it is true, love knows no boundaries. You are here in spirit, in love, and in much of what we do. For this I give my 20 seconds of gratitude on the 22nd. The greatest honor and legacy we can give you is to continue to live, love, and smile that smile that touched the heart of many and always will.

That’s All We Are Promised

It’s been a while since my heart has wanted to write. Life has been happening. The children are all going through growth both physically and emotionally. This morning I sit here in a quiet living room and reflect over the past few months and thank God for the growth that has been helping to transform my life.

With every success there have been failures that became lessons, heartbreak, and building that muscle of resilience. I still don’t know how to answer when people say, “I don’t know how you do it.” Truly, I don’t know either but I know I wasn’t given the choice. Life has to go on or I would’ve died that same morning Mark did. There were days I wished I had trust me.

Something happens one day, usually in those moments of silence, when you realize the deluge of tears has stopped. It just did. Why? The grief is still very much there, but less intense and not as frequent. Why did the daily loneliness, sadness and tears take a detour?

Life. Refocusing on life. It is true. You start to attract what you believe, what you become and what you feel. I wanted so much to be happy again and to feel what it was like to really laugh and smile and that feeling of being in love again. I started finding joy in the little moments that make up a day and then they became bigger moments. It became contagious!

I felt strong so I started dating… remember the whole “It’s been 18 years” entry? As anyone in the dating pool can say, it ain’t easy! Yes, I had my heart broken and I also learned so much about myself in the process. I learned I really had to figure out what was important both to me and the children. I wasn’t the same person I was in my 20s. To say the least, my priorities were very different too. The biggest difference, my outlook on life.

No one knows any better than a widow how life can turn. I went to bed one night as someone’s wife and woke up the next morning a widow. As a healthcare professional I’ve seen life change in the blink of an eye but no one can really understand it until you go through it yourself. I pray you never have to. Yet, here I am, having lived it. Wait, still living it. So now what?

Now there is a woman who truly lives life. Who finds the joy in a bear hug. Can tell so much by someone’s eyes. Knows the true value of life is in the time we share with others. Life is short and if everyone is taken care of, the rules are thrown out the window to find happiness. When you find it, you appreciate it, share it, and thank God everyday for giving you a second chance at love. I thought I’d never love again. Let alone someone who has the same priorities and accepts my life and the people in it completely. It’s true, it’s like loving your children. One isn’t replaced when another comes but rather your heart expands to fit more. Mark will always be in my heart, and the happiness and love now found fills the cracks that have been caused and have expanded it more. Is the love guaranteed to last forever? Nothing in life is, but at some point you just have to let go at what you thought should happen, that choice was taken away. You start living in what is happening now, that’s all we are promised.

To see happiness and hear belly laughs again, pure magic. To know I’m surviving whatever life has thrown at me, thankful. To have earned the ability to unapologetically live life, priceless.

Never Go To Bed Angry

People always share their words of wisdom. You listen to what you want and let the rest go in one ear and out the other. There is one piece of advice I’ve always taken to heart, never go to bed angry. It doesn’t just have to be a spouse, it can mean friends, children, and significant others in your life.

As I was starting to write this, Billy Joel’s “Tell Her About It” started playing. Irony? Nah, God’s way of saying I’m on the right path. I find that if something is really bothering you, you never really rest well and wake up more tired than before even. Plus, it’s something that just sits over you. Mainly though, you never want to have a regret.

When I was married we always believed in never going to bed angry. This sometimes meant for some animated evenings as we talked out what was going through our heads but it always ended with, “I love you,” and the occasional, “I may not agree still but I see where you’re coming from… and yes, I love you too.” Communication always a thing at our house. So whoever I end up with, sorry not sorry in advance.

Well it was that communication that left me without one major regret. My last words to Mark. That night it ended up being my last words to him ever. We never got that chance to say good morning to each other but I know our last words to each other were ones of love.

This life experience lived is why these words of wisdom will always be ones I take with me and carry close to my heart. Never go to bed angry or with unresolved issues. You see the last words we say before we close our eyes at night is what will be in our thoughts as we sleep and first thoughts in the morning. So make them positive because sometimes you won’t get that second chance to make things right.

Never Underestimate You

Leaving my comfort zone. This has been my mantra lately. There have been so many opportunities that have been opening up and I have had to decide what to take and what to leave behind. At the start of this year I created a vision board to focus on what was important to me. The words Family, Love, Boss Babe, Friends, Home, Travel/adventure, Fitness and Justice are prevalent on my board.

The words were chosen carefully for each word we choose in life gives power to our actions. Family, no doubt important and the foundation of why we do what we do. Love, yes love not romance. For romance can be fleeting but the vision of a love that endures good and bad and goes deeper than just romance is what really makes your heart find purpose. Boss babe is how I want to be in life, a woman with a career and making decisions to create change, positive change. Friends are what has pulled me through so much and many of them I actually count as family. Images that depict what I think accurately represents each of these in my head correspond with it.

I wake up every day and pray before my feet ever touch the ground. I look at my vision board to remind myself that actions I take in the day should go towards working to make that vision come true. This is how I’ve been deciding what actions to take in life. Then I have to make the decision to never underestimate myself. Prayer, vision and the will and determination to make it happen are powerful. When you set your mind to something and let God guide you, you are unstoppable. The trials you encounter along the way are strengthening you for your journey.

In prayer I have also had to learn to listen. You can’t just talk to God and not listen for a response. That gut feeling or sensation you get to your very core are ways he talks to us. Be receptive. He sometimes times thinks more of us than we do of ourselves and has bigger things in store for us. The projects I have been accomplishing I would’ve never imagined on my own. The people he has place in my life are more than what I could’ve even hoped for. Believing in something and someone bigger than me, and believing in me has made life meaningful.

I still doubt myself sometimes and have insecurities but I also know that God will take that away when the moment is right. Sometimes those doubts and insecurities are there to slow me down for a minute to gain a clearer perspective. Then the vision board becomes clear again and I keep moving. Never ever underestimate the power God, the power of a vision, and the power and strength within you. Amazing things happen when you believe.

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Savor the Flavors of Life

A rare afternoon of pure me time with no where that I needed to be. The weather outside is chilly, windy, and occasional sprinkles of rain, a perfect blustery day to cozy up on the couch. That is exactly what I’m doing in a pair of yoga pants and a comfy tee sipping a cup of raspberry and rose tea. Every little flavor of the tea infused with a hint of sugar soothes more than just my palette, it soothes a part of me that is easing into this journey of even more life discoveries.

Life is ever changing. Each day and moment presents with new possibilities and choices. Each with its own pros and cons, risks and possibilities, fear and excitement. Today I chose to start my day with my pilates and yoga routine to refocus myself. Yes, some Frank Sinatra and warrior three position and the mind wanders. Frank was a great inspiration, along with a little bit of Etta, Ella, and Louis. There is something so magical about that time. Lyrics filled with hope, love, and the realness of life.  I wouldn’t necessarily say a simpler time because let’s face it, life is life, no matter what era it is life is filled with complexities. The one difference is how much we pack into our schedules nowadays with appointments and places to be.

During my workout I would take deep breaths and further refocus. Each breath in filled with peace, hope, and possibilities and every exhale sent anxiety, tension, and fear out with it. Piko breathing at its finest. I felt so much lighter after my session, and not just because I sweated a ton. I started noticing more around me with each breath as well, like the scent of gardenias I have sitting on my dining room table and the sound of the the wind blowing through the trees outside my window. Even the music took on new meaning. I could hear new instruments in songs I’ve heard before. Savoring that moment and living.

A very late lunch ended being more me time with a movie. My choice was “Eat, Pray, Love.” Seemed like a great choice and given my realizations of the morning, it was! I noticed lines in the movie I haven’t before too. “Select your thoughts like you select your clothes.” “The meditation room is within, decorate that.” “The only way to heal is to trust.” All telling of ways to pay attention to life and see what is truly important. We look for so many answers externally but really have what we need to answer life’s questions within our own chest, each beat gives life purpose and meaning. A great reminder for me.

I loved watching the part of the movie that takes place in Italy. It inspired my late lunch of caprese salad and a small glass of chocolate infused wine. With each bite and sip I took a moment to taste each flavor and savor it. Not just eat for nourishment but eat to enjoy that moment and how each ingredient made up a delicious meal, just like life. Life is made up of many ingredients and some go together for a delicious moment, some might feel like they just make us gassy, some are combinations of ingredients we will never put together again. It’s those ingredients that come together to form something not only good for your palette but also for your soul that you need to savor.  So take a moment today and pay attention to what is around you and savor those flavors of life.

Moving Forward

I’ve learned the fine art of waking up every two hours. Nope, not just from having three children but also having your mind go into overdrive many nights. When life tragically changed I would wake up hourly and just keep thinking how was I going to get through everything. Tonight, I woke up at 1 am, then 3 am and haven’t been able to go back to sleep. This time my thoughts are ones of the life that has lead me to this moment.

I thought back to my first year of college. Before virtual tours were a thing, email was pretty new, and you picked colleges based off of the best pictures they posted in a pamphlet. Well that was me. We never had money to do college tours like many of my friends did. Yet at 17 years old here I was leaving Hawai’i and getting off the plane in Los Angeles to go to a school I had only seen in pictures. The unknown was exciting.

Those 4 years were filled with lots of adventures. Freshman year alone I got bit by a black widow and couldn’t walk for a day, had a severe allergic reaction to a yellow jacket sting, and still made it through. The unknown, still exciting to this bright eyed now 18 year old.

Clinicals for nursing were all over parts of Los Angeles that I would hear people talk about back home like, “I can’t believe you have to go there.” Watts, Inglewood, downtown LA to name a few. I still loved it. Scared at times, definitely. What was driving me besides the fact that I was assigned to these locations. Making a better life.

You see, I started realizing if your not happy with your current circumstances or situation, change it. It doesn’t matter how you do it, just keep moving forward. That drive led me to look at what could’ve scared me to make it something better. I learned a lot of street smarts and found so much beauty and courage in the process. It even landed me my first job in Long Beach where my apartment for work was… you guessed it, in the Long Beach/Compton border. More fun times and lots more stories there.

Well fast forward 19 years later to this sleepless night. I’ve realized all those moments of just getting through some sketchy but character building moments led me here. I still firmly believe that going into the unknown can be exciting! My kids don’t ever believe me when I tell them stories of my college adventures but I say, “Mama cleans up well, still don’t mess with me.” They laugh but then give me this look like maybe she’s for real.

Life is full of unknowns. No matter what if you want something more out of life you keep moving forward. That’s where some of life’s greatest adventures are. I am far from being that naive 17 year old, but proud of the 40 year old woman who, when people look at me never really guess my story. Is life scary? Most definitely at times. Is life beautiful? Absolutely! Yes, even through tragedy and not ideal circumstances beauty is found. That is where our true stories are told.