Thursday, October 4, 2018

Through the Years

Hi All -

I hope you are loving fall! Please tell me all about it! I'm surrounded by bats, cobwebs, skeletons and rain, so couldn't be happier. 

I wrote an entire email about this year's Aviana's Elves, then pulled pictures from the past. In attaching a few, I realized my stories rang just as true then as today, so erased all that I wrote.

Now I'm finished and whoa! is this post verbose (can you tell I've been practicing vocabulary with the students : ). 


We delivered to Kaiser and UC Davis today!

Ninety gift boxes were given, with thirty more for Sutter to go :o)


Sometimes you can pinpoint a moment in time. This was it. This was the exact moment that changed Aviana's Elves for this year. It was on this crisp, cold Christmas Eve night. It was this man, with this dog, wearing his cute little red and green striped sweater, on this corner. He was so sweet and thankful for the bag of doughnuts he just received.

I've given food, money and dog bones to many homeless - but there was something about this interaction that stayed with me throughout the entire year. Something that pulled at me. I saw something in him, in them...

I don't know what's in store for the future of Aviana's Elves, but what I do know is this - it will always be drawn in the design of helping those most in need. It makes perfect sense. If you look to Aviana's Guatemalan background combined with the ways in which I've always felt compelled to give, all the pieces fall into place.

We will follow where the need is greatest...always.


 I decided to order a bunch of pizzas and have them sent to the local firehouse on Halloween because I knew that day was her favorite. My husband is a fireman, so they hold a special place in my heart. I included a letter of why the pizzas were being sent along with Avi's blog address so they could see how special Aviana was. 

Alex Infante


The purpose of Aviana's Elves is to bring those who may be going through a difficult time a sliver of light. If only for a moment, we want to let them know someone is thinking of them.  


I know each donation holds personal meaning. One may be in honor of a mother who's missed in not just every inhale, but exhale too. Another may represent a father who passed all too suddenly. For another, this gift may represent a sister who's thought of and remembered in every phase of life, or for a son who was the very center of a family's world. We understand these donations are multifaceted and for the single or many reasons you've gifted us/them - we thank you.


Aviana's Peeps

For all the years of Aviana's Elves, it's been you holding and lifting us through the holidays. And now because of you, we've been given this opportunity. A trifecta of helping, sharing our girl, and healing.

Aviana's Elves

With a host of issues in their homes, I witness the struggle. I feel their pain. I understand that hard mixes with happy, and love has the ability to carry, but still, don't parents intrinsically want the best and most for their children?

Basic needs come first. When hungry, students aren't able to concentrate as well. When cold, they're less communicative. The need is here - for food, for warm clothes, for someone to understand. In my opinion, the kindness and love from others will lift and carry them further than we'll ever know.


And in their names, we find solace in why we give.  Whether it's in honor of the one we miss. Because it feels good. For those we're grateful to be with now. For our families, plain and simple. For your own reason, thank you for joining with ours and making this a truly meaningful time of year.


By way of clothing, games, gift cards, holiday meals, urgent or unexpected requests, acts of kindness, and cash donations - thank you for many years of LOVE!

Need, it never goes away. It's abundant, so we give, but boy are we ready to give BIG! 

If you are too...

 Packages can be sent to:

Aviana's Elves
c/o Dave or Jen Hodder
4150 Robert Ave. #4
Carnelian Bay, Ca 96140

Gift cards or cash donations can be mailed to:

Aviana's Elves
c/o Dave or Jen Hodder
P.O. Box 4
Carnelian Bay, Ca 96140

If including a cash donation, you can make the check out to: 
Aviana's Elves or David or Jennifer Hodder.

If you have any questions or would like to donate through Paypal, 
you can contact us directly at -

For delivery shopping and delivery purposes, if you can please send donations by 
the end of November!

 Thank you for thinking of us once again! 


Our first family is from Guatemala! They arrived recently and include a single mother and two daughters. I worked at a summer program the girls attended and they are a dream. They're sweet and smart. One is in first grade and the other fifth. I have so much to say, but for now - Guatemala and my heart is full 💗
More to come on sizes, etc.

Our love to you all!

Dave, Jen & Rainey

Sunday, June 17, 2018


Long before Aviana knew Dave, 
he loved her.  

After meeting, 

he soon gained her trust.

From then on... they were inseparable.

Dave was enamored by his little.

If they weren't watching basketball or a show about woolly mammoths, 
they were making up their own games.

Then nine years ago today, life changed. We changed. 
But the love did not, and only grew.

Our roles changed.

And life became more about survival,


and quality.

With deeper meaning, 


and appreciation.

 Even if only for a small amount of time, I'm grateful to have seen Dave with Aviana. Through our best and most challenging days, he rose and shined for our girl. I'll forever love and respect his devotion to Aviana, Kama, Rainey, my family, and me.

To dads who are here and those who've lost - my love today and always.

And to my dad and Gary...


Tuesday, April 24, 2018

♥️ Rainey ♥️

We opened our eyes to Rainey's birthday! Our morning was filled with kisses, stories of the night she was born (to us ; ), and a breakfast of scrambled eggs with Canadian bacon, mushrooms, and cheese for she and Dave. And we still have the afternoon and night to love on our love.

Isn't my mom strange; she thinks Dave and I are over the top, to the point of annoying Rainey. We say no way.

She's our world,

And deserves to be treated as such.

♥️ ♥️ ♥️

Sunday, April 22, 2018

Happy and Sad

Written: Late 2012

As we walk into your room and find you just the way we left you from the night before.

As we cover your sweet face with too many kisses to count.

As we change your diaper.

As we pull a cute shirt over your head and add some adorable shorts to match.

As we comb your hair into side by side buns atop your head.

As we support your wobbly neck, while carrying you down the hall for breakfast.

As we feed you bite after bite by hand.

As we clean your face, remove your bib, and position you so as not to tip or fall.

As we pick you back up and carry you to your room.

As your teeth are brushed and your braces are 1, 2, 3 strapped to each leg.

As you are carried to the garage (careful to avoid hitting your long body on walls and doorways ; )

As each strap is pulled over you and buckled into the wheelchair, off we go to the park.

As day turns to night and you are calmed, your face wiped from each seizure.

As you are bathed.

As your hair is carefully (your head is more fragile by the day) washed and dried.

As any remaining moisture is dried from each finger, toe, and crease to prevent skin breakdown.

As the pillow pet is strategically placed between your legs to prevent crossing in the night.

As books are read and twinkle turtle and little lady are illuminated.

As kisses and kisses keep coming.

We are happy to care for your every need.

While at the very same time...


Saturday, April 21, 2018


Written: 2011

Do you think she'll ever talk? Walk? Smile? What do you think her future will look like? What will happen to Aviana if you and Dave die before her?

People wonder. It's natural to ask questions.

In the beginning, I'd tumble night after night down the same dark and desperate rabbit hole. With Maggy's help, I learned to push these thoughts to "if" they happen. I try and do the same with any questions.

The exception is Aviana outliving us. Legally and logistically, our plans are in place, but the thought terrifies me. In those moments, Maggy's face and voice find and dry my eyes. Instead, I concentrate on my coffee, making the next sound for Aviana, or Rainey resting on her paw. Anything, but what may never happen.

In my former life, I planned and worried, as if they were hobbies. Through trial and error, Maggy, and a ton of practice, I plan and worry only if necessary, then live.

Life, people, and priorities shift, so my time and energy are better spent on who and what's in front of me.

As it turns out, this way of living is so much better for me. Who would've thought; definitely not me!

It's interesting, what started out of survival is how I live today. The issues are now smaller, but the skill set's in place.

Thursday, April 19, 2018


I'm guessing the file called "drafts" has always been accumulating nine years of my (not so) random thoughts. I never saw these thirty-nine posts until last night. Now that I have, I want to (from oldest to newest) make them part of the actual blog.


Written: December 20, 2010

I finally understand why people do the things they do.

I understand why some turn to alcohol.

Or gamble.

I understood why there are drug addicts.

Excessive shopping is no longer a mystery.

I understand why people cut to dull internal pain.

I understand walls so high no one can reach inside.

Grabbing a blanket and pulling it over makes perfect sense.

Isolating is understandable.

Saturday, March 31, 2018

Long Live

Did you hear about the rose that grew
from a crack in the concrete?
Proving nature's law is wrong it 
learned to walk without having feet.
Funny it seems, but by keeping its dreams,
it learned to breathe fresh air.
Long live the rose that grew from concrete
when no one else ever cared.

- Tupac Shakur

Thursday, February 22, 2018


My cousin, my first best friend. She's the one I fell out of my dad's truck for and ran through the forest to. Together we built elaborate forts, jarred pollywogs and caterpillars, then watched as they turned to frogs and butterflies.

My cousin held me soft, but strong when Aviana was hurt. When Avi died, Erin created the perfect tribute.

When my cousin's mom died, I tried to hold her back.

My cousin's a dreamer, but not the kind who stores them in her head or the sky. She brings them to life.

My cousin, the keeper of the best in my childhood. My "Murder in the Dark" playing, raft toting, crawdad catching, wave and winter partner in life - yep, she authored her way to a three book deal.

My cousin, my first best friend - the one who set the bar for friends to follow - let me count the ways I admire you. Oh no! I ran out of fingers and toes.

Thursday, January 18, 2018

The Odds

It was two Christmases after Aviana died. Maybe three. I'd been substitute teaching for almost three months. For the last day before holiday break, a one on one with a resource student sounded perfect. And he was.

For the grieving, a paper plan can unexpectedly smack. And on this day, it did.

Middle schoolers are my sweet spot, but while in jammies, exchanging gifts, and watching Rudolf, they became too much. My head swirled, then split. My heart broke. Sad, because December had been pretty good, but here I was with not one of my "go-to" saves (think of the good - running water, transportation, heat, health, a good family, husband, Rainey... Think of those who have it worse...) working.

I was stuck in a minute by minute of what I waited for and wanted to do with Aviana. An hour by hour of what I wished for her to experience.

I wanted to leave, but two live inside me; love and pain. Love usually wins, so instead I walked the movie lit classroom, asking the kids if they wanted more cookies, cake, or juice. 

At lunch, I breathed in and out, hoping to calm my head and make it through the rest of the day. On my way out of the break room, a card caught my eye. Pinned to the wall and above a sweet girl's face was the very same quote on my blog and underneath Aviana, "Life isn't about waiting for the storm to pass, it's about learning to dance in the rain." I unpinned and read the back of the card. The family thanked the school for their support and remembrance of their daughter.

Who was this girl? Who was this family who lost their girl? For whatever happened, my heart hurt. I wanted to know, but the day was much too festive to ask.

After break I was in my friend Liz's office. There again was the card, but with a hand written Oct. 26th. I asked. Liz cried. She told me sweet stories about this smart girl. Because we'd just finished The Elves, Liz knew about Aviana. We spoke of the penciled date. That's when I told her that both our daughters died on the same day, same year. October 26, 2013. We stood, hugging each other in disbelief.

Liz asked if it was okay if she connected me with the girl's mom. I said yes, but wondered because grief coupled with grief can work well or be a little awkward.

This mom and I spoke, met, and became fast friends. Same with the four of us, and their son. Did you know Rainey's particular about her friends too? Well she's in love with a beagle. 

Whether this mom and I, the four of us, or all together... I believe we were placed here for each other, because while in conversation, on a trip, or sharing dinners, there's a spoken or unspoken knowing. An understanding. It's a comfort I rarely feel and am eternally grateful for.

In life, I'm unsure of the odds or balance, but what I have noticed, is when certain things are taken, others appear. This family is one of our greatest gifts, and was given at the perfect time.  

Thursday, November 30, 2017

In Between

Sitting beside Aviana, I learned about silence. Since, I prefer the space between.