Monday, July 30, 2012

Small Town Hero

Lately there have been many stories that I've carried exceptionally close to my heart. This is definitely one of them.

Gemily West and her boyfriend, Harison Long- Randall, were just about home from playing fetch with her 4 beautiful dogs. They were crossing the street to their house when a car going 80mph came out of nowhere and struck them. Harry took the brunt of the impact, as he stepped in front of his girlfriend, Gemily, to shield her from the car.

My heart immediately broke into a million, little pieces as I read that all four dogs were killed instantly. I know how it felt to lose one, so I can't even fathom how Gemily must be feeling to lose all four of her babies at once?

Harry's leg was severed at the scene, and his pelvis broken. Gemily suffered a compound fracture in her right leg.

Unbelievably, the car...never even slowed down or stopped. I know. He never even had the decency to stop. Luckily, they found him driving around within hours of the accident. He told his family he thought he hit a garbage can?

We have been following this story, and today a text from Dave came across my phone. My heart dropped, and I had to tell myself to exhale. Harry passed away from his injuries last night. He was 21 years old. He was a hero.

I ache for this family, all of them.

Gemily was out with her boyfriend, walking her four beloved dogs, just steps away from the safety and security of her home. Were they about to make something to eat? Maybe watch a movie? In the blink of an eye, they are gone. All of them. Life as she knew it is completely different now.

If you are interested, they listed an address for donations -

Make checks payable to Harison Long-Randall/Gemily West Fund

Pam Dinsmore
The Sacramento Bee
2100 Q St.
Sacramento, Ca

Sunday, July 29, 2012

You Cracked Her Code

Our goal was to break this stallion, but we didn't know did!

Not too long ago, I posted about our feeding problems and asked for your help. I wanted to thank you for your suggestions! I implemented a few right away and they worked!!

My friend Jessica's husband sustained a brain injury and said - 
"Another thought is that when Jimmy had his brain injury he lost his sense of smell, with that his sense of taste has diminished A LOT. So he doesn't enjoy food as much and depends quite a bit on texture. But I do try to spice up his food as much as possible, I over flavor his stuff compared to ours and sometimes he will get flavors. He has described it like having a cold when everything tastes bland and you could care less about eating. If you think this could be the case you might want to see if she responds to more pugnent flavors, for instance squeezing lemon (a good amount) on pastas or rice."

This made perfect sense on so many levels. I thought this would make all the difference in the world, as before the accident Aviana always loved really spicy, flavorful food. After all, this was a little girl who used to beg for whole cloves of garlic from me, and then would chew them up and eat them. She would also down all the ginger when we went to sushi. While she was eating her Cajun Shrimp, she would look at me all wide eyed, with a huge smile on her beautiful, little face and say, "P-I-C-Y Mommy!!!" She wasn't able to quite say her s' at that time. She was unbelievably cute : ) I should have known...

Since the accident, we have been seasoning her food with natural spices like cilantro, basil, dill, arugula, etc, but for our little Guatemaly these aren't quite cutting it anymore!

Right after reading Jessica's comment, we started adding hot sauce, pepper, garlic, lemon, capers, dill, ginger lemongrass sauce, sweet chili sauce, sometimes a little ketchup, a little tarter sauce, and anything else along these lines. 

Wouldn't you know it - the Meeki Mooko's mouth started to open! Hallelujah!

I wanted to grab Jessica and kiss her!!

We not only added that, but Avi has always loved music. I play music She loves when I sing to her, so this next comment made perfect sense for feeding as well -

The Garland Family said, "I was a behavioral therapy feeding therapist for 7 years. If you can find something she likes (music, videos, a special toy), then every time she takes a bite you give her the reinforcer for a few seconds. That continues for the entire meal. Eventually, she would have to take more bites to get the reinforcer. The key is finding a good reinforcer and only using it for meals. Good luck!!"

After she would open wide, and take a good bite, I would make a really big deal and then sing part of whatever song was playing at the time. Aviana's sweet little eyes would get bigger and become focused straight on me. I can tell she loves when I do it. I think it makes her want to try harder.

Because of these two changes, feedings have become so much more enjoyable!! We still have some challenges here and there, but nothing like before. 

Because of the differences in her food, her seizures are much more exaggerated and sometimes last longer. But, what are we to do, it's a trade off. We need for her to open her mouth, and we all deserve to enjoy the food we eat, right? Right. So we will continue with it, as seizures have never really bothered us. To us...they just go with the brain injury territory. They don't hurt her, or cause her any harm, so we will take the increase in them any day of the week if it means better, more enjoyable feedings.

Feeding has always been our biggest struggle. When I wrote that previous post, I was literally at the end of my rope. I wanted to thank you so much for your help. You truly have eased much of our burden. 

Kaiser had promised us the world with help, and after Aviana's failed liver biopsy, they basically lost our phone number. I started to go after them, like I always do, but for me...there were too many bad memories of all that had just happened for it to be worth it at the time. For my heart's sanity, I decided instead to turn to you for help. I thank you for being there for us.

Summer Sun, Had Us Some Fun

Dave and I were originally going to just go up to Tahoe for the ribbon cutting ceremony, go to dinner with my dad, and drive home. We asked my mom if she, and Gary could watch Aviana since there weren't going to be any kids at the ceremony in Truckee.

My dad asked us to stay the night, and since Dave didn't have too much going on at work the next day, we decided to take Rainey to the beach, go to lunch and take our time coming home the next day.

Aspen trees are one of my absolute favorites. My dad has quite a few of them around his property, but this one is my very favorite, because of this little birdhouse he put in it. 

The dogs were in unison as my dad was making their gourmet dinner that night.

I only put two, but I have about 12 pictures of their heads going back and forth. Snoozer is spoiled. My dad buys him Costco rotisserie chicken every time he goes to Reno. He puts some dry dog food in his bowl, then warms up some chicken, with beef broth, and even some wet food sometimes too, he then mixes it all together and there you have it...Snoozy's dinner, every single night! 

It's no wonder their heads were bobbing back and forth ; )

We laid a towel out for each of us, Rainey was doing her best to be a good girl and stay on hers.

She was watching the birds...

but really, she couldn't fully relax until she slowly made her way over to comfortably be between the two of us. First she sat between us, then she laid, then she loved.

We didn't mind ; )

This next progression of pictures was one of my favorite ever. I am so happy I was able to capture it!

This was her waiting patiently to go back in the lake one more time before we left. We took her, and on our way out...the sand was so hot, she was tap dancing. I wish I could have gotten some video of that, but I was too busy trying to get her to some shade : )


This beautiful little trip to the beach ended up costing us a pretty penny, as we forgot her ball and the sticks weren't big enough at this beach. She kept chewing them up on the way back and kind of inhaling them. She was hacking and slowly stopped barking a few days after we got back, so I set her a vet appointment as I was worried she had some sort of splinter caught in her throat.

Whatever was there, dislodged, but it had irritated her tonsils, they were super red, and swollen and she needed a steroid shot and a round of antibiotics : (

Moral of the story, don't forget the Chuckit! when your going to the beach : )

So Happy Together

The families we have met along the way are some of the very best things to have come from the accident.

Shana and I have been in contact from the very beginning. She, and her family live in Texas, and had originally been doing The Institute program as well. They recently started doing the Anat Baniel Method, and have been traveling here to California.

We recently drove down to meet their family. It was so nice to finally see them in person. They are definitely some of the most beautiful people we will ever come to know in our whole lives. Below is David. He is one of the most precious, little, pumpkins!! He has a twin brother named Donny, who I am kicking myself for not taking a picture of, as he too, was an absolute sweetheart.

When we brought these two together, David was instantly reaching for Aviana.

They had an undeniably deep connection. We so desperately wanted to capture it on camera, but we couldn't do the interaction justice. David was grabbing Aviana's cheeks (who doesn't go after those chipmunks, right?!) chin, and lips, and Aviana was responding to him in ways I have never seen! 

Aviana honestly doesn't respond to very much at all, so I couldn't believe how much she was reacting to David. Her eyes her wide and alert.

I think she may have had a crush on him. 

They were so beautiful together.

She was so taken by him, and he, her. As you can tell, we were trying desperately to capture every moment : )

As I was looking at these pictures, reflecting back on the two of them, and trying to think of a title for this post - this song popped into my head...

Me and you
And you and me
No matter how they toss the dice
It had to be
The only one for me is you
And you for me
So happy together
We're happy together

- The Turtles

Friday, July 27, 2012

Live and Learn

 When we were at our absolute worst and Avi was originally in the hospital, life was so out of control and unstable. We didn't know if we were coming or going. I remember the strangest thing happened, we were driving, and the clouds had never looked so puffy and white, the sky - so blue, the trees quite so green. I could hear the birds senses so heightened. For the life of me, I couldn't understand. I have always taken notice of nature, the mountains, the moon, the stars, the wind, the lake, animals, the world around me, but at such a time, shouldn't everything have seemed dead

I was grasping, grasping to whatever beauty I could. And I still do to this day. I think it's about taking notice in whatever simple, everyday things you find interesting or intriguing. Things that captivate your soul. Things that, when you see them, stir your spirit and make you feel alive. Whatever these things are, that make you feel at peace and bring you a sense of calm, I it, see it, or be it!


When things are good, and we are having an amazing time, I try to be fully mindful in those moments. Like a bloodthirsty mosquito, I suck every ounce of our time and bottle it up. I make sure to save it all up, and take it all out again to help carry me through the not so good times. 


Be present with yourself and others. If you're there, try and be fully there.


Life is too short to let people continuously hurt you. For some strange reason, family seems to think they have a free ride on this one? So decide if those certain people are hurting you more than helping, and make a decision accordingly. If they are leaning far more on the hurting side, maybe one day they can learn to treat you respectfully and re-enter your life again. If not, they don't deserve to be a part of your life anyway.


On any given day, think about the energy you have, as it changes daily. Try to visit sad, trying or difficult decisions in times when your spirits are higher. Try not to spend too much energy in the future, or on things you can't change or have no control over.


Always remember ~ what works, and is good for you, is not necessarily good for everyone.


This accident has truly opened our family's eyes to the pain of so many in our community, and around the world. Everyone, to some degree, is touched by hurt of some sort whether it be an accident, illness, death, infidelity, infertility, unemployment, deployment, mental illness, rape, divorce, and much, much, more. We all wander this earth daily - some scars are in plain sight, and some are hidden deep within. Either way - it's important to slow down and be kinder than necessary.


In that very same vein, but on the antithesis, in regard to these various battles we all fight - they are never a good enough reason to treat others horribly, hatefully, or with rudeness and disrespect (that is unless someone deserves it, or has it coming ; ). No one needs or deserves that in their lives, whether while roaming around in public, or within their own family.


Take risks, they have a way of making you feel most alive.


Are your end of life affairs in order? Are your wishes known?

You like how this one was after the one before?

There are no coincidences in this life ; )


You are what you say you are. Listen carefully to your inner and outer voices, and words. Check the broken records you have on repeat every once in a while. Are they still accurate? Do they need to be re-evaluated? Maybe, just maybe, you are missing out on something you might now like, because you're telling yourself you don't like it. 

I'm famous for previously doing that ; )

Yep, I'll admit it, I'm a recovering broken record!


If you're in a predicament, or a place you're currently not too wild about...always remember ~
This too shall pass! It always does. It's truly a beautiful saying, one of my personal favorites : )


Be as honest with yourself as possible. The only person your hurting by not, is yourself.


Objectively evaluate yourself from time to time, make positive changes accordingly.


You can't take it with you, so you may as well enjoy it.


Don't wait until tomorrow, do it today!
Plan and book that trip.
Take a day off work for no reason.
Buy that gift you've always wanted to buy him.
Take your kids to wherever it is you want to take them.
Gather the family, make the time capsule, and bury it.
Get the shoes you've been eyeballing the last 4 times at the mall, will it matter in 2 years? NO!
Don't put it off, adopt a dog.
Just do it.
Do it all.


Now. Now. Now. 
As that is the only moment we truly have.


Someone, somewhere, always has it worse than you, so as bad as you think you have it - always be thankful for your own personal journey.
You are blessed.


Always laugh. 
Be silly. 
Never take yourself too serious. 
For this is what has gotten us through best of all. 


Enjoy every single moment of your life and every single person in your life, hold them close to you and your heart, because in the blink of an eye, it can all be over. Never hesitate to tell them how much you love them and how much they mean to you!


What are your best life lessons?

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

In the Blink of an Eye

Lately I have found myself in a flux. A flux of free moving positive, with some not so positive particles moving within, and without me. We have been enjoying the summer, taking some overnight trips to here, and there, but then certain things keep happening that affect me deeply. More deeply than I would have expected.

They are all things that change our lives, and happen in the blink of an eye. I am no stranger to this sort of thing, as one of them happened to us. But after I wrote a recent post, a friend and I were talking and we agreed, even if you have gone through something earth shattering - it's funny how easy it is to lose sight of the fragility of life.

These are the things that have been weighing heavily on my heart...

For those who don't know, Dave is a Structural Engineer and when Aviana's accident happened, he happened to be at a kick off meeting for the Tahoe Forest Cancer Center. As he was speeding down the freeway to the ER, we were unfortunately having to make life and death decisions for Aviana.

This passed Tuesday, the main portion of the center was finally finished and we went to the ribbon cutting ceremony. It was already kind of emotional for obvious reasons, but there was a whole other element I was unprepared for. The facility was named after Gene Upshaw. His family had a  second home in the area for 30 years and in August of 2008, they went up to vacation. Gene wasn't feeling well so they checked him in at the Tahoe Forest ER. He was diagnosed with Pancreatic Cancer and died three days later on August 20. His wife, supported by her two sons, stood up and spoke. It was absolutely heartbreaking.

As I looked at Terri Upshaw, a flood of emotion washed over me. I felt I just might be able to read her thoughts that day, "Why am I here? Why do I have to be the one up here speaking in front of all these people? Why is my husband's name on that stupid building and all of these brochures? Why do my boys have to go without their father? Three days? Three days was not enough time to say all the things I wanted to say to him. Why do I have to be the one to cut the ribbon? And, with this plastic smile on my face. A smile? All I want to do is scream....not smile! Why can't it be someone elses' wife that has to cut the ribbon? Why do I have to be the strong one? Why can't I be the weak one? Why can't other people learn lessons from someone else? Oh wait...I'm supposed to be grateful, that's right. Count my blessings, the ones I still have, ok. But still! This sucks! Blessings. Blessings. Blessings. Let me think of them, now! Hurry before I become a bitter mess! Ok....breathe, breathe, breathe." I don't know, maybe I'm completely wrong.

What a paradigm of emotion that day was, as it was one of my proudest moments of and for Dave, but it was also laden with such great sadness, for this is a building where people come when they are at their very lowest. Some make it, some don't, for some it returns, and then for all of the other reasons above. It was surreal, and for that reason it will stay with me forever.

Overall, I was so proud that Dave could be part of providing a beautiful, comfortable, place for people to come to, at what I imagine to be, one of the worst moments of their entire lives.

If I have one fear in life, it's cancer!

If I have to get that ugly, nasty, ravenous beast, at least take me somewhere that doesn't look like a sterile hospital.

The infusion center has all radiant flooring and a fireplace for the winter.

Highlight of my day, Jack - the therapy dog.

This is the area outside the Infusion Center. Anytime the weather is good, they can be done outside.

Dave...are you sure it's structurally sound?


The other thing that has been weighing so heavily on my mind is Tameka's son and Usher's stepson. For some reason, I couldn't seem to stop myself from following that story. It literally broke my heart into pieces. Here today, gone tomorrow. One day you are out on an inner tube having fun in a lake, and just like that, you are suddenly brain dead and soon to be gone from this earth. It can all end so swiftly and suddenly.

My heart not only went out to him, his mother, and family, but my gosh did it ever go out to the family friend who was driving the jet ski. Everything in me felt for that man. I instantly wanted to reach out to him, hug him, hold him. 

Too much. Too close to home.


And lastly, what we have all been experiencing so greatly this past week...Colorado. My goodness, Colorado.

In the blink of an eye.

As the news and stories keep coming through,

I find myself at a loss.


My whole heart to you.

❤ ❤ ❤ 

I have a running list of lessons learned through our experience. I stayed up until 2:30 adding a few more. I have only posted some over the past years. I think this is as good a time as any to share these. Gosh it is so important to always keep these at the forefront of our minds, isn't it? In an instant, we could be gone.

Some I have learned, most are a work in progress.

I have to run for now, but I'll be back soon with those!

Friday, July 13, 2012

What's Been Going On

Avi and Rainey have been lounging around a little bit, but very cutely I might add.

Why hello my sweet little pumpkin pie.

I love you.

You complete me.

No, you complete me.


Yes, when you're in a house all day with two that don't talk, you create dialog on your own.

It's an art form, what can I say?

Dave and I went out for my cousin's 40th birthday party.

My cousin original partner in crime. She and I were inseparable growing up, so many of my best childhood memories in Tahoe were with this girl.

I love her with all my heart.

Forty? I think not! We are still two kids running through the forest, building forts together.

My Hottie Hodder Husband and Erin's husband, the sweetest dude you'll ever know! 

Hmmm...maybe I should've turned my flash on?

My favorite baker blog is Brown Eyed Baker, she is the best in pretty much everything she touches. I decided to make her Colossal Reese's Cookies since it's Dave's favorite candy and Reese is Avi's middle name ; ) They were a huge hit. 

So I made them again two nights ago when my dad was visiting.

I always put half the chips any cookie recipe calls for though...

I have also always wanted to make one of those, Better Than Anything I decided what the heck. Bring on the fat, and junk. The front door was revolving with neighbors, too : )

You can use any combo you want. I did mine in yellow cake, and used sweetened condensed milk, hot fudge and Butterfinger.

I looked at many recipes and found this one to be the most detailed and helpful.

We also made an unbelievably good Asparagus Pizza. If you happen to want to try this one, here is where I found it. She also has lots of other good looking recipes on her blog!

Rainey has been doing her part in melting my heart.

I've been spending a lot of time as Avi's personal stylist. As you can tell she just kicks back and puts me to work.

This night we were getting ready to go to Dave's brothers for a BBQ to celebrate both our niece Zelbee and Dave's dad's birthday.

Auntie Amy got Aviana this beautiful new dress! I think it's more than time to take her to a tropical location. 

Hint Hint Hodder.

Avi says, "ho hum, l'm all dressed up, but I've got nowhere to go...."

We'll get ya there Miki Feek : )

Avi long legs in effect!

Uncle Roger took her and Rainey to the park today. It's been really hot here this week.

Avi says she's tired of living on the surface of the sun.

P.S. You happy Mom? Hello Kitty on the head ; )

Who is That Doggy in the Window?

Pretty much every pie night, we pick everything up, or so we think, at the store that day. Amy and I always have to make at least one midnight run for something we forgot that night. 

As we were driving away one night, this was what we saw.

Oh my...

Those ears...

This was our most recent creation.

A crust made out of shredded coconut, chocolate ganache with chopped up macadamia nuts inside and atop : )

This one had almond extract inside and sliced almonds on top.