Friday, April 25, 2014

Give and Take

My mom and Gary had an opportunity to fly home on October 30th. If not, they would catch the next boat on November 1st, and arrive home November 19th.

With our single conversation, the depth of her deep was obvious. So much was said, but all of this was most telling. "Do you think you'll be continuing on, or coming home?" Right away I could tell my mom was feeling around to see if they could carry on. Without hesitation, I let her know it was completely fine with both of us and we understood if they needed more time. She jumped on my response. "We think the additional days will be good for us. I think we need time to 'cry it out' before we come home." I too, thought it was a good idea.

I let her know we would use the extra time to relax and carefully plan Aviana's service. She agreed without talk of food, or details. This was yet another glaring example of where the mind of my mom was. If you know her, you know she is event central. She's all about the food, planning, people, how it should be, be sure not to forget so and so, this, that, the other. My mom is quick to act, jump, help, and just plain orchestrate. She would never - not ever - miss the chance of being by our side in support of anything, especially something such as this. So after I said we would have everything ready for them once they arrived back home, she agreed, and then - silence. I knew, this was beyond.

The remainder of her voice was resolved, yet defeated. Her words were simple, yet full of love. "Are you sure you and Dave can handle all this?" I answered back, 'Yes, we are good.


Since they've been home, we've heard the same sort of sentences from both Gary and my mom. They sound something like this, "We abandoned you during that time. We left you during the most difficult days. We took off. We ran away. We couldn't handle any off what was going on here - with Aviana, Roger, we left. We left you and Dave to deal with everything. We know what we did and we're so sorry. We feel so bad." It goes on and on. We've continuously told them that's not at all how we see it and wish they would stop.

We wanted them to go on their trip. We were hoping they would. We honestly thought it would be best for all of us. The last thing we want is for them to feel they abandoned us. I believe everyone who knows us, or reads here, knows we are completely at peace with how everything happened.

A few months after, while gathered around their kitchen island - they laid it on once again. After saying my usual, I soon left. As I was driving home, I got to thinking and it finally all came together. It's funny how some things need time to simmer.

In relationships, sometimes each person happens to be in a good place. But other times, we need to help each other along. Isn't that always what any true relationship is about - give and take? At times, one is strong, and the other...not so much. Where one just can't, the other can. Where one is lacking, the other is able. Isn't that what makes something average into something extraordinary? Isn't that what helps pull us through the years?

The thoughts were flowing. In our first year or so after Aviana came home from Guatemala, I just wasn't in sync with her. Every time I needed, my mom and Gary were there. They were just a call away. Soon after the phone was cradled, their car was on rails, 'round that corner. They would scoop that brown-eyed beauty for hours, days, sometimes (if things were really difficult) even three. Whatever was needed was done. Those were some extraordinarily trying times, and they knew it. They were sad for me, for her, for them, but we did what we had to - we did it the best way we knew how and above all - we tried our best to always do it with love and respect for each and every one of us.

So yes, I've talked extensively about those days on here and to everyone I know, but the truth is - I never felt I was abandoning Aviana, just as I don't like to hear them say they abandoned us! I was doing what was best for our situation at the time. I did have guilt at the time, and after the accident, but not anymore. Guilt is useless.

The way I see my mom and Gary leaving on their trip is the very same way I view my earlier days with Aviana. We came together as a family and placed Aviana in the most loving and capable hands at the time. When I couldn't before, they could and very much so wanted to. They were able and willing. In those moments, adding me to the situation would only have adversely affected an otherwise harmonious situation. When they recently couldn't, we could and very much so wanted to. We were able and willing. The way I saw it, in those moments, adding them to the situation would only have quite possibly adversely affected an otherwise harmonious situation.

I hoped explaining this to them would put it to bed. I don't remember hearing anything since : )


My mom keeps some things to herself. Months after their return, she and I were driving and ever so nonchalantly she said, "You know our second boat, the one we took from Europe to New Orleans. It was called the Sunshine. It just became the Sunshine halfway through last year." Instant tears rolled down my face as I realized we were being taken care of in our own unique way here, just as they were being taken care of there.

My mom always called Aviana her Sunshine. True to her name, she was carrying them through for all their remaining days at sea.

Monday, April 21, 2014

Roger Rabbit

Lately we've been severely bit by the baking bug. We decided to try our hand at a carrot bunny cake for Easter this year. Many have asked me to post a picture on here. 

This year we went to my uncle and aunt's house for dinner. When we took the bunny out for dessert, my Uncle Roger asked what his name was? Dave and I were too busy making him to even think of a name. Without missing a beat, Dave said "Roger. Roger Rabbit." 

I hope you all had a great Easter. Ours was really nice : )


Our baking lately hasn't been limited to just bunnies though...

Peanut Butter Pie

Grasshopper Pie

(this was one of the best we've ever made...ever! And, it was super easy!)

French Silk

Banana Bread Bars

Bread Pudding
(We'd never made this, but my mom and Gary love it! It was really good!)

After posting all of these, I want to go make a pie...

Friday, April 18, 2014

Going Back

Today I want to thank you  - for the love, the well wishes, and every single beautiful word you string together. Thank you for just plain being here. I truly appreciate. 

It's been interesting lately. Writing about then can sometimes be challenging, because we are now in a different place. Many times, in order to change it up, I wish to weave in the now! I refrain though. I am finally able to share it all here, so I'd love to finally place what's been inside - out. I understand the alternative, and it caused me to become seriously stuck, writing wise. When I start to wiggle about these then posts, it's important for me to stay focused and remember that within a journey - where we are - can be better understood by knowing where we came from. Thus, the essence of order. 

I sometimes slip. While at lunch with my uncle, I explained how at times this, writing in retrospect instead of real time, could be frustrating. It would be different if I were all caught up. But since I'm not, it can be difficult to go through once again, but with new details. The posts are awfully heavy and can sometimes linger because, often times, I'm feeling so much lighter. There isn't a break in the process, but by choice, of course. He brought me back, as he so often does. He told me it could be a good thing because I've had some time and distance and can now reflect on everything. He's right. It's something I chose to do. Something that is crucially important to me. Something I wouldn't have any other way, albeit difficult at times, but necessary in sharing Aviana's story. I have since relaxed into the process and however long it takes, it takes.  

So today, I want to thank you for being patient with me. For going back with me, for letting me share some parts again, while adding much more. Thank you for being here to help me process all that's inside. Thank you especially for every word in support of my mom! 

I'm not so sure she believes any of my recent dagger posts are helping though? After every one, my phone is sure to beep. I brace myself for her text, "tears, tears, tears...just too hard to go through it again. My heart is like STONE...." or "CRYING...TOO DIFFICULT." I call her and that sweet voice asks, "Are you done with me yet?" She doesn't know all that happened. And what she does know, she's either forgotten much of, or has blocked it out. I know it hurts my mom incredibly. It hurts me too. It leaves a lasting effect sometimes. It's not my intention to inflict more pain. I wouldn't continue through if I didn't think it would help in the long run. In my heart, I think it's best to walk through it, to understand what happened, and to know what it was really like. I just think to know is better than to wonder, or not know at all. Your imagination can be your worst enemy, especially on a sleepless night. I also think to know is better than to forget. I don't think you ever truly forget. I believe it all comes back to you in one form or another. 

I personally want to remember as much as possible. I feel I've already forgotten too much. It makes me sad. I honestly didn't want to miss a thing - the good, the not so good, the sad, all of it. Yes, it was hard, but I knew it was going to be over soon. I knew it was all I had left.

I think the end of Aviana's physical life was just as important as every other part. There was beauty in every single stage, and to deny any portion is denying a piece of her. And for me, her life isn't over, nor will it ever be. She lives on in every moment of my life today. I feel her in everything I do, and everywhere I go. She's a large part of many decisions we make. She's right here with me. I'm grateful too for the ways in which she lets me know. We were attached, and she let's me know I am not alone. She was one of the most beautiful things I will ever have known. As tragic as her story could be at times, in knowing all, I believe chronicling her life also brings about a sense of peace. It's a story of loss, yes...but above all, it's one of love. True love. And my mom, well - she was by far one of the main characters.

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

It Was a Saturday

When I walked in, I knew. I could tell by the sound, by the stillness. You were gone. Finally, you were at peace. For you, that's all we ever wanted. From the moment I laid eyes on you, I knew. As hard as anything could ever be, it would never be as hard as it was.

Peace in knowing. Those are simple words to say, to write. But to feel them is an entirely different experience. At that very moment a whole new life began for all of us - albeit separate, always together. Yes, it was going to be a different kind of life, sometimes difficult, but overall for the better.

It was a Saturday. Our baby died on a Saturday. It was dark outside. We still needed to tend to things we never thought we would. It was okay though. Luckily we were handled with such care beforehand.

As Aviana lie in her bed, and we waited for Hospice, I made a few calls to my Uncle Roger, my dad, my brother. Through all the calls and in the back of my mind, I wondered, "Could I catch my mom and Gary in Croatia? They are nine hours ahead. Would my email reach them on land? What am I going to say? How can I possibly find the words to accurately convey this feeling?" I really couldn't tell many until they knew, so I was hoping the email would find them. The last thing I wanted was for them to hear the news from anyone other than me. While we were waiting for my mom and Gary to find out, I remember Beverly from Hospice advising us to enjoy the time we had together. She really understands everything important about this life. She's a true gift. They all are, really.

Dave and I walked around. We hugged. We talked. We walked some more. It was honestly surreal with Aviana in her room, yet in our eyes and beliefs, not at all.

The sun had risen. Hospice arrived. She pronounced her.


From "The Dress"

"Dave and I believe once someone dies, their spirit is gone and their body is a body. We respect that body though, but just as we thought, it was more difficult to change her back into the dress afterwards. It was okay though.

We wrapped her in her soft, polka dot blanket, handed her to the two gracious men in our front entry and watched them lovingly carry her down our walkway. They got into their van, one holding her while putting his seat belt around the two of them, and the other in the driver's seat. Down our road they drove.

We were lucky enough to have a wonderful Hospice social worker who made a request for a two person transport and a mortuary who had never once heard of this, but wanted to do anything and everything to make it easier for a family who was about to lose their 7-year-old little girl. The people who make the world go 'round never cease to amaze and inspire me.

And the way we chose was like the day of the accident. I felt it would provide closure for hearts which could never before truly find any. I watched Aviana's vibrant being toddle down that walkway and drive out of my life once before. And now, we watched her leave our lives for the second and very last time…at least physically. But this time, she was off to once again be that spunky, sweet, glowing, grinning girl she was meant to be!"


After, we weren't sure what to do on a day such as this. Dave asked if I wanted to take Rainey to lunch and for a hike in Auburn. Nothing sounded better than getting out and away, especially the three of us, together in nature.

Everything felt indescribable. Leaving our house without Aviana. Driving without her, but forever this time. I kept looking back, attempting to grab those little feet, only to realize - never again. That day it wasn't sad, just strange. There was actually a good feeling along with the realization. As we drove, our surroundings seemed amplified, the colors much richer. The sights and sounds, as though they had a pulse.

We decided to first walk down to the Auburn Dam. The sun was shining, the sky blue, and the clouds - perfect. The forest was alive. The birds, with their outstretched wings, were gliding up above us. Everything was beautiful. As the wind blew, I could actually feel Aviana's spirit dancing on the breeze - so light and free.

As we walked our path, I suddenly wanted to sit down on the ground and take it all in for a little. I looked to see what pants I had on before finding a seat. I stopped dead in my tracks, my eyes staring in disbelief "I never wear these pants - not ever." But this day and without thinking, I had pulled them on, almost the very same ones, but with the pink stripes. I looked at Dave and said, "There are no coincidences."

The day we put Kama to sleep (exactly three years before) I had wore the same pants, but with the white stripes down the side. The pants have never been washed and still sit folded on my top closet shelf, covered in her fur. Because I was so out of my mind that October 26th day, I didn't even realized they were up there. I was going through my closet to gather for Goodwill a few years later and wondered what on earth those pants were doing up there. I pulled them down, and saw Kama's fur all over. My face hot with tears, I immediately lost my breath. I was easily in one of the worst ways possible.

Never had I really believed in signs before Kama died, but thankfully they came fast and furious after she passed. I was almost hyperventilating at the sight, the feel, and the thought of that day. I instantly remembered all our last pictures together in those black with white striped pants. I remembered all our last moments. And as my music always is - blaring - this song immediately broke through, just for me. From her, from whomever is up there, from both of them.

Flash forward three years to the day. When I looked down and saw the black with pink stripes, I couldn't believe it. But then again, I could.

As we made our way to the dam, we came across a few of my very favorite little guys. I was afraid we would never be able to move past them because I kept following them with my camera. They were really tolerant of my antics. I think they knew what had happened that morning.

We went to downtown Auburn afterward for lunch. One thing we didn't account for was the courthouse which is in the heart of downtown. This is the place we took Aviana to become a U.S. citizen. It was a very happy day after all we had been through with infertility and the adoption process. Even though we'd been around it plenty of times, and since the accident, it seemed odd to be right there on a day like that. 

Overall, it felt kind of like we were in a secret world of our own, yet surrounded by everyone. As we waited for a table, interesting didn't even begin to describe listening to normal, everyday conversations on the day our daughter had passed on. What I found most fascinating was - if they were listening in on our conversation, they would think nothing of it either. I decided to go shop in some stores while Dave and Rainey waited for a table. Everything felt strange. At lunch, when the hostess and server asked how we were and how our day was going? The real answer was, "Good." But, in secret and in the car later, we laughed at if they only knew, or how strange it was that Hospice and the mortuary were just at our house that morning. 

Throughout my entire time with Aviana, but especially since the accident, what always stirs about is how I really don't have a clue what's going on with anyone. Whenever I look around, I often wonder what people in passing are going through, have been through, or even...will go through in the future? It's always something for me to feed on.

My Aviana pants. 

Once home, I folded my Avi pants and placed them over Kama's. I stood back and thought to myself, a physical representation of the beauty that happened today.

That Saturday morning Dave had one picture in mind, one he had to find, one that meant so much to him. This picture still sits on my desk every day, right in front of my keyboard...

It was a Saturday, and for you...we couldn't have been happier.


Tuesday, April 8, 2014

Dear Mom & Gary -

October 26, 2013 - 8:01am

There are things that happen in this life that are much larger than us. I've seen these on a smaller scale, but what I've just witnessed leaves me almost speechless. A plan for our family was meticulously orchestrated, and we were merely the characters playing the parts. The question is was it by Aviana, God, or both? I believe the latter. These words are some of the most difficult for me to say to you through this medium, but I must. Aviana is gone from her broken body here on earth and is now up above doing all of the things we so loved to think of, remember, or wish she could do. She is no longer bound by that body which couldn't. She can. She is free to do all she once could.

Aviana increasingly refused more meals until she stopped altogether. I wish I could accurately express to you how peaceful of an experience this was for us, but I never will be able. Our time was sacred with her. She was so relaxed and no longer the tight, tense ball we knew her to be. She was free of the 4+ years of seizures as well. We spent all our times wrapped up in her; reading, loving, laying, walking, and taking her to the park. It was the most beautiful time I've ever experienced. She was attentive, focused, and alert all the way until yesterday. That is amazing in itself! Her entire journey has been amazing. I wish so much you could feel an ounce of what I feel. Not just hurt... but peace for her.

Why am I in such awe and wonderment about everything around me though? Because when she refused at a steady pace, my thoughts were of Kama, her best friend. The one who was there for her always, even when I couldn't be. Is Aviana trying to join Kama on the anniversary of the day she left us, October 26th? No, that can't's way too far away. I brought it up early on to Hospice, and they agreed - too far away. But no one should doubt our little girl when she makes up her mind should they? Anyone who knows Aviana knows that. As we know, Aviana has her own agenda, so she had been planning and proving everyone wrong along the way. 

Today she has gone to be with her best friend Kama. They both left us at the age of 7, both on October 26th. She is running, smiling, jumping, and playing with her, just as she used to. She is free, free to be who she's meant to be.

Please come together now. You need each other. Be good to each other. Keep your minds on all the reasons why Aviana needed to be set free. Why we needed to respect her wishes. Why it was selfish for us to keep her here. We no longer will have to put her through anymore surgeries. Please support each other through this. Stay calm, breathe deeply. Think of Aviana. She would want you to be well.

We don't know why some people are here only for a short time, but what I do know is her life must be used to teach. I have learned a million lessons from her and will never stop. Let's be grateful we had her here while we did. She's a true blessing to everyone she touches. I was not kidding when I said all was fine and still is over here. She, God, whomever, has brought a sense of peace and a state of calm to our household. We are okay and you don't need to worry. I have been praying the same be extended to the two of you.

Please let me know when you get this. I want you to hear it from me first, I will then tell others. You can FaceTime me on wifi if you want. Open the app. on your iPad and dial my CELL phone number. It's free. I'm sure. Or just call if you need. Who cares right now, right?

I love you both so much and we will be okay, I promise. We can make it through anything and this will make us stronger. Mom, especially you (I have a feeling Gary knows) we can begin to heal now. Our girl is FREE... she is FLYING!!

Our Love,


P.S. When you look up at the sky tonight, the stars and the moon, and the can think of Aviana! She's everywhere! She's free! 

Monday, April 7, 2014

Across the Wavelengths

Some things are good in theory, but are definitely more difficult in reality. 

Our last days with Aviana were some of the most challenging our lives would ever see. But at the very same time, we were making a conscious effort to be present and enjoy every moment we had left. 

The emails from my mom, and in regard to Aviana, were superficial. We understood why. She would tell us about her trip, and then, always made sure to let us know just how much she missed her baby. She sealed every one with a big kiss, and a "Nana loves you!" My mom made absolute sure though to never include a question mark anywhere near Aviana's name. We followed her lead and responded in kind. We understood. They were guarding their hearts, and bracing for the worst. 

Suddenly we realized Aviana was really going to die. Later came another realization - I had glazed over the "how" in how I was going to tell my mom and Gary. No matter which way I sliced or diced, all I came up with was an email! I would repeat it out loud. AN EMAIL!! How the hell did this happen??!? How did I let them leave without a better plan? I hadn't thought it through. Nope, not even close.

I had no other choice than email. I needed a chance to get everything out in written form. I couldn't chance a bad connection. I couldn't chance getting the main words out, and then, being disconnected without them having details. It was time to know. They had to know just how peaceful everything was. They had to know Aviana wasn't in any sort of pain! They had to know in death, just how beautiful she was. They had to know just how perfect our time was together. They needed to know that we were okay; Aviana was much more than okay, and that it was going to finally be okay. They needed to know there was beauty. Yes, beauty! Most of all, in that moment, they needed to feel the love of their family, even if it was across the wavelengths. I needed them to feel the warmth. I needed them to have something tangible. Something they could read and re-read over and over again. A disconnected phone call, or even a frantic one would too easily be forgotten and they would be left with nothing, nothing but broken, incoherent thoughts. Once they had the email, and in their own time, a phone call, which could then run the risk of being severed, was fine. 

But suddenly, a colorful vision stuck in a loop. These two grandparents, who just recently learned the ropes of somewhat navigating a foreign country, hop off the boat for the day, find a cramped Internet cafe, open their email (surrounded in tons of other people), and read words they wish never to have read. I wanted to be there. The thought of them alone, in a foreign country... made me sick. I could actually see them in front of the computer, crying in front of all those people. And then, walking out dazed and confused. I felt sick to my core. 

I tried to think of every way around, to soften the blow, but there was nothing. In one of my deepest moments, the phone rang. It was Beverly from Hospice. I explained, "better in theory, than in reality. I feel sick that not one of us will be there to catch them when they fall." Beverly is pure heaven on earth. She appeared when I needed her most. She said something I will never forget and also revert back to and will for the rest of my life, "Jen, maybe for the first time they won't have anyone else there. And maybe for the first time they will have to catch themselves and each other." We talked for a while after. She always had a way of clearing and making a path for everything that had previously been cluttering my way.

 I hope that when I die, I have Beverly, or someone exactly like her. Our Hospice team was the absolute best. From our conversation forward, I was once again able to fully concentrate on Aviana... until.

Wednesday, April 2, 2014

And They're Off?

My mom called around noon on October 6th. They were to be picked up by an airport shuttle at 3am on the 7th to meet Roger and Rella. When I answered, she said "Roger was in an accident. He's in the emergency room." I went cold, but tried to stay calm. "What happened? Is he okay?"

My uncle's son was running a half marathon called the Urban Cow. My uncle is a life long athlete. He's one of the most active people I know. You may remember he and my aunt walked the Camino de Santiago last year. Yes, all 500 miles. It was nothing for him to ride his bike to the race and follow the pack of runners in support of his son. At the end, he congratulated him, stayed and talked for a little while and then, left for home.

The day before had been exceptionally windy. As Roger was on his way home, a branch of some sort caught in his spokes, and immediately caused his bike to stop. He went over the handlebars - landing on his head, neck and back. Thankfully, he was wearing a helmet, which after protecting his head, cracked open. But in addition to a bruising his head, he fractured three ribs, and broke his back.

We were in disbelief, stunned really. It was a freak accident, given the fact that my uncle rides in the dark, on levees, at high speeds, and all over the place. We weren't strangers to this kind of accident at all. We were very familiar actually. We knew they could happen anytime, and any place, but we were shocked that he was hurt, and just hours before they were supposed to leave.

So many thoughts flooded at once. I remember feeling so very sad my uncle was in an accident, but grateful he was alive. I remember feeling sad for his back injury, but beyond thankful he wasn't paralyzed or brain injured. I remember feeling conflicted - wanting to leave and go to him right away, but also realizing I needed to stay where I was. The worst feeling of all came next. I thought of how my uncle had always been there for me, for us, and knowing I wasn't going to be able to reciprocate. This was truly one of the most unsettling feelings. It's a feeling I've come to know, and often times, begrudgingly and to some degree, have had come to terms with since Aviana's accident. But in that moment, it all came full force, and it was excruciatingly painful. I knew though, of all people, my uncle would understand and this was entirely on me.

In the meantime, my mom and Gary had to make a quick decision - whether to stay or go to Europe without my aunt and uncle. They had never been, hadn't planned the actual trip, and didn't know much about traveling, especially in a foreign country. If you know them, the thought of the two together (without a buffer) on a boat for 44 days is humorous in itself. Dave, my dad and I had a similar thing happen with our trip to Paris and Amsterdam and it all worked out. And we were on foot, so we were all for it. Pretty quickly, they decided they were going for it! I thought they were quite brave, especially in spite of everything : )

After a crash course of Euro 101 with Rella, we wished them love, good luck, (a don't kill each other) and they were off!

My aunt was amazing in caring for, and updating us about my uncle too. We continued to hear he was doing well, of course he was. My Uncle Roger is one of the most inspiring people I've ever known. A broken back, cracked ribs... I don't think so. They couldn't keep him down. As we were trying to find a day to visit, he was already adding up the miles in his back brace. While the miles were nice, the back brace was most certainly not! He was to wear the body brace for three months! He was only allowed to take it off when he slept. In addition to the heat trap, he had to wear a soft neck brace whenever he was moving, like in a car.

There were definitely things to be down about - the overall accident, and all its ramifications, missing out on my mom and Gary's first trip to Europe, knowing Rella missed the trip as well, knowing he wouldn't be there to help my mom and Gary through with Aviana, and a host of other things - but in true Roger fashion and the quality I find most admirable about my uncle is, he always finds a way through and quickly. He doesn't dwell. I love that! And, the times we are with him, we're always greeted with positivity, a healthy attitude, and never a complaint. I say it often, in many ways he's a living, breathing example for me. Thank you Roger. I love you and I'm grateful you were saved that day!