Thursday, February 22, 2018

Perseverance

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 of 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.

Wednesday, November 8, 2017

Must Write Words

November 8th

Seven years ago, I knelt as a black puppy made her way over to us. She sat, then licked Aviana's bare feet. This morning I thanked that black puppy for taking such good care of us, then gave her too many kisses to count.

I ate my favorite oatmeal: with flax seeds, a mix of mostly flame and a couple thompson raisins, chopped pecans, a ridiculous amount of cinnamon, a dash of nutmeg, a bit of clove, a shake of salt, a 1/4 cup of almond milk, and just under 3/4 cup water. Heaven in a bowl!

Rainey and I hiked to the lookout behind our house. It's cute; she thinks she can catch a chipmunk. With pockets of sun, the trees were swaying and the air was cold and crisp. Come on snowflakes!

While working on Aviana's Elves, my principal sent a text about a family in urgent need. The day's plan changed. A trip to Reno moved to the front. On this third day of shopping for the week, Reno and I had a bit of communication breakdown. Things didn't turn out right. Four huge bags is still okay though, right? Because we'll shop more this weekend, I told myself it was okay.

After shopping, I could eat my dashboard. I wanted a Flat White coffee. I parked, even opened my door, but it didn't sound good. Until I got back to Tahoe, I wanted the apple riding next to me. Did you know I have a year round obsession? Envy. Opal. Lady Alice. Fuji. Apple. Apple. Give me another apple, please. Do you love apples?

On the way to Reno and home, it snowed over the top of Mt. Rose. Glittery white on my windshield 

I got home and smothered Rainey in more treats, love, and kisses.

I booked a trip to meet my friend, his wife, and son. He and I met in 6th grade. Because his and my last name started with W, we sat next to each other in class. We then connected after Aviana's accident and became best friends. You just never know when you'll meet your life long best friends, do you? 

I thought and did, ate and drank some coffee, then pulled my computer onto my lap and typed, "Must Write Words."

I hope you're November 8th has been filled with all that makes you feel good and fall-ish.

Sunday, June 11, 2017

In Her Own Time

Sarah's a friend I rarely see or speak to, but hold as a best. Our daughters were best friends too. Lily and Avi are both from Guatemala. Did they sense this somewhere deep inside? We'll never know. Although the two ran parallels, they differed in ways. Where Avi sprang, Lily hung back. The spark of their existence continued after the accident, but in reverse.

Sarah gifted us a book she and Lily loved called, "Ruby in Her Own Time." A story of ducks tells of a little one named Ruby who does everything last and in her own time, but when she does, she does brilliantly and beautifully!

Dave and I spent many nights reading this book to Aviana. We too, loved Ruby. The story was a continual reminder of how Avi's recovery and life wasn't in our time, but in hers alone.

When coming to Tahoe, things that once took moments suddenly turned into days, weeks, and sometimes months.

Never had I been so unsure.

Tiny tasks became insurmountable.

Because of my heart, I almost lost my mind over a single sheet of paper. Aviana became my life's work, so my resume caused an upheaval.

I sat, staring at the computer.

"Without Aviana, what's the point of my resume." Tears dripped at the thought of sitting across from a stranger answering questions about my "experience." Because I wasn't ready, the cursor gobbled seven years of warmth, love, pain, life, and death.

I sat, staring at the computer.

To spare my heart, I left her off. I felt as empty as the page looking back at me.

My mind waffled on what my soul knew.

With soul decisions there's one answer for me. No matter how hard, I'll never deny Aviana's existence. So with a burst of energy the best, hardest, most worthwhile years of our lives went back on my resume.

With Aviana here, it seemed I could do anything. With her gone, I wasn't sure where I belonged.

After how far we'd come, I was shocked by how deeply I'd fallen away from functioning in normal life.

I got through the resume, but because Dave knew I was struggling with the interview process, he suggested I substitute teach. With substitute teaching, I'd speak of Aviana only if I chose and felt comfortable.

I wondered if I could work with kids, but knew Dave was onto something good. I started slow, taking only high school and continuation, which quickly spiraled into middle, special day class, resource, and elementary. I soon found my sweet spot in any class 4th grade and above.

Before Aviana, I never had interest in working with kids. Because of her, the kids and schools have given me reason to get up in the morning.

The spirals continue, but just as Ruby, Lily, and Aviana the same goes for me. To the places of this world... I'll get there, but with patience and in my own time.



Monday, May 8, 2017

Golden Slumbers

For reasons I'm aware and those I'm not, I must get what's in, out. But where? I thought and decided here's the place. So I'll start. Or pick up. I actually have no idea where I'm going with this story. All I know is, in the end, I'd only just begun.

I once lived a fairly normal existence. Scars were later worn proudly. Overnight, exterior ache bore inward and back into the normal flow of life I fell.

Others worried about me. I shrugged it off, until later seeing what they saw. I grew to understand survival and struggled with the transition back into everyday life.

If I wasn't the before me, or the me who cared for Aviana. Who was I? I kind of had a good idea of who, but hadn't a clue where I belonged or how to get there.

I fumbled, wandering the forest. I was grateful to be back at the lake, but struggled with what to do with myself. What could be as important as taking care of Avi? To focus and because figuring took all my energy, I turned in. The last I wanted to speak of was more of this, so I either kept my mouth shut or saved it for Dave, Rainey, Aviana, God, or nature. They carried me through... but at times, this was a lot of weight for (Dave) few to carry.


Wednesday, October 26, 2016

The One I Love

Not long ago, Dave came home and said he had a song to play for me. The song was us. And she and me. As tears spilled, Dave asked if the song made me sad. No, the song is much more than sad. It feels like our story. Don't you love that about music?


During the song, a memory flashed. One I'd forgotten. Not too long before the accident, we took Aviana to our friend's birthday party. Avi was happiest surrounded by food and people, so a big Mexican get together with homemade tamales, refried beans, and Spanish rice had her by the heart. As usual, she was all smiles while being fed and passed from one grinning guest to the next.

When she made her first loop, I pulled her into my arms and onto the dance floor. We spun rounds and dipped dips. On the party crowded floor, it felt like she and me only. And in the song, she and me again.

Listening a couple times without crying took months. But today, on the day I closed my eyes and watched her go...who knows.

Sunday, October 9, 2016

Dear Diary

There was a time I couldn't speak, but to you I could.

Back and forth I'd go, home and to the seven-floor building.

Stuffed and stored,

To you, I'd empty my day.

While most slept, you were awake for how alone, but alive I felt.

You understood how both could exist in the same breath.

You held my hand through the worst,

And smiled at our best.

But then we lost her.

And I clung.

"If she's okay, then I am too."

But that only carried me so far.

And losing her became losing her again.

I wondered how both could exist in the same breath.

I was full of words,

Yet none at all.

I tired of my own voice,

So I lost it.

And myself too.

To figure my life out,

I turned in.

While my nephew was recently back in Portugal I said,

"Sometimes you have to go away to find yourself, Ash."

Hmmm.

Funny how when talking to him or students,

I'm often speaking to myself.

Yes, I had to go away.

Have I found myself?

More than before,

But still taking each day as it comes.

My Dearest Diary,

I've missed you.

How are things, love?

Wednesday, June 17, 2015

And in the End...

It was a Wednesday, six years ago today. I watched those purple plaid shorts walk out of my life for the very last time. That day, I wanted to crumple over, but that was the first in a long string of days where something larger came, showing me that we can take far more than we ever thought possible.

Aviana had seven years. At times I count them. One, two, three, four, five, six, seven... An awfully small number. But then I think, I can safely say two things with absolute certainty, I had never learned more up until I met her, and won't ever learn as much until I die. I can also say that what I accomplished before Aviana and anything from here on out will pale in comparison to looking deep into her eyes and respecting her wish to exit this life and move on to another. I know, bold statements. But they're true. I look at Dave and have never been more proud of the two of us, for listening, being her voice, and for honoring her.

As I watched her walk out the door six years ago, I thought I knew a thing or two about difficult things. I was wrong. In teaching us, we were not only given a whole different perspective, but also released. We were freed from fear. I'm sure some who've lost tremendously can relate. In losing Aviana, the mystery was unraveled. Before I was a fraidy cat, too scared to speak of death, too terrified to hear the words about or from my parents especially, or to go sit or visit with people who've lost a loved one...I'm embarrassed to say, I wanted to run the other way. But because of Aviana, I'm more comfortable. She shows me that death is a part of life. Soon after the accident, we made sure to have a will and trust. Amongst other things, we made sure to clearly outline our own wishes should something as catastrophic occur. Because of her, I can now sit, visit, talk (to even my parents (!), listen, think about everyone close to me dying, and have completed my training to be a hospice volunteer - all with our girls at the forefront. On my way home from here or there, I sometimes cry, because one little girl made her momma grow up. She made it possible for me to do things I couldn't in the past. She made me understand that no matter how bad or sad a situation, we'll (I'll) somehow get through. And as bad as anything is, there's beauty somewhere. Thankfully in our time of need—family, friends, perfect strangers, and the small wonders of this earth were just above all that was awful and felt bad.

In recent years, I'm forever grateful that through God—Aviana and Kama have shown me this isn't the end.

***

I opened six years ago to avoid having to continuously speak about what happened to our family. My intention was to close soon after. Little did I know, a blinking line on a blank screen would become my saving grace, pulling me in and grounding my broken heart. For years I left my hopes and dreams for Aviana, fumbled my way through an 'anything but normal' life, and slathered the deepest depths of the beast known as brain injury.

I've decided to say goodbye. I want to especially thank each of you for caring for Aviana the way you have. You are truly some of the most loving people. You may never know how much you mean or have helped me through the years. I want to especially thank you for holding us through the holidays with Aviana's Elves. From my heart to yours...always.

If ever you'd like to say hi, our contact information is in the Aviana's Elves link.

We wish you peace and love,


Dave, Jen & Rainey



And in the end,
the love you take is equal to the love you make.

~ The Beatles

Monday, June 15, 2015

I Dreamed A Dream

I dream of her often, hurt and well. Within these dreams, I'm often times on the brink of waking, but fighting to stay.

During the adoption process, we were allowed to send four care packages. Everything had to fit within a one gallon sized ziploc bag. I wish you could have seen ours (and I imagine every adoptive family sending one of these). Dave has a reputation of maximizing every millimeter of space within a storage unit or U-haul, but in my eyes, this would be his actual greatest feat.

We'd go shopping for our girl, pick the sweetest and most adorable, and then I'd cycle through the arduous task of narrowing and laying out the most precious of all for him. I'd then beg, "Honey, please make them fit." With a plastic bag and a cozy litter of tiny onesies, a super soft blanket, plush animal shaped rattle toys, and a never to forget disposable camera, he'd sit in front of the game and let the folding and unfolding begin. I'd come and go, sometimes catching glimpses of a big poof with an odd rattle out. I'd be somewhere in the house and around the corner he'd come with the "thank God for a good zip on that bag" and nothing in hand. I'd laugh and cheer as if it were the happiest day. And it was, because this one-gallon plastic bag was our only tangible connection, the only real way for us to share all our love for a girl who felt a zillion miles away.

So in my dream this morning, we were at the airport, filling out forms with our puff of a care package. The man took out a list of cities in Guatemala. He asked where we were traveling? In unison and without looking at the paper, we answered, "Guastatoya."

We arrived in the town where Aviana was from; her foster family is in the home. Her foster mother, Gladys, tells us she's in the back room.

By this time, in my dream and in real life I could hear Dave getting ready in the bathroom. This has happened many times before, so I try and stay calm, but beg...Please let me stay. I need to see her.

Dave and I both have all the knowledge of everything that's happened to her, to us. We give one last look to each other and open the door. Aviana is lying on the bed. She's healthy, happy, and smiling. We run to her side. We hug and smother her in kisses. We both tell her how much we love her. We can't stop looking at her, touching her hair, and feeling her soft skin.

The clanking from the bathroom is demanding. It's pulling me from her. I try desperately to stay, to keep holding her, but I can't. I have no choice. I give in and open my eyes.

All ready for work, Dave walks out from the bathroom. He's used to my dreams. Although I'm sure he should be going, you wouldn't know it. I begin to tell him, once I get to a certain part, I break. He comes and sits on the edge of the bed. He rubs my legs, and listens. We sit in silence for a little, letting it all soak in.

He says, "If only we could have one more day." I admit that I don't think I'd want one. He asks, "Isn't that what your dream was about? Just having one more?" I'm unsure, but say one would never be enough. It would be a tease. I'd only want more.

We talk some more about Aviana and then he asks if I'm okay. I know it must not be easy for him to leave after I wake from these dreams, but I'm happy to have them. I'd rather feel her, than nothing at all.

I tell him I'm okay, and it's true. I am.