Thursday, October 23, 2014

Forever Your Elf

Pack this, unpack that.

Disconnect that, connect this.

Load this, unload that.

Break it down, set it up.

Move it here, it looks better there.

In the busyness and excitement of our move, one important thing keeps appearing in the back of my mind. Aviana's Elves. As I stare at this house full of boxes, I know. I want to somehow, someway, make it happen. I can never let it go. Ever.

I flash. We were them. They are us. They will experience some of their worst days this year. All the holiday happiness. The people smiling, drinking their steaming hot chai lattes, or whatever it might be. The others, driving around with trees tied to the tops of their cars. Many going through the holiday season as normal, while we were in the fight of our lives. I can't shake the feeling, nor can I shake these families. Never do I want to.

From the back, to the sides, to the front - the shift in focus occurs while placing the contents of each box. With Aviana above, and us below - I begin to narrow in on what's most important to us as a family.

Two places swirl my every thought. The families on hospice, and the ones at Tahoe Forest Hospital. More specifically, the ones in the Gene Upshaw Memorial Cancer Center. Both, near and dear to our hearts.

The friends we carry along from hospice mean everything to us. I hold the people who work in this field in the highest. Having recently been a family on hospice, we now understand what it feels like to be in that final chapter - the love, the care... all the while knowing where it leads. There's nothing more I want than to wrap these families in my arms and never let them go, so much so, my plan is to volunteer for hospice and possibly go back for my master's - but for now - my wish is to provide them with an amazing care package over the holidays. My hope is to let them know someone is thinking of them.

I'm not sure if the Gene Upshaw Memorial Cancer Center sounds familiar, but a long time ago I posted, because Dave provided the engineering so this is definitely a full circle moment. I picture these people, but more specifically, people like my friend Cameo's sister, Trina, going in during the holidays for infusions. I can't even begin to imagine what that must feel like, or the domino effect it must have on the entire family. I would love to also give them a sliver of love - some kindness - anything to let them know we are thinking of them during their time of need.

Many times throughout this past year, some are afraid to say Aviana's name, but others are upfront in asking how to honor her, especially on our upcoming one year anniversary. I know grief is specific to each individual, but for us - we never want to stop hearing Aviana's name. If I could skywrite her name - I would. We think of her all day, every day. We not only welcome any talk about her, but it makes my soul sing. It keeps her memory alive, and from two parents who've lost their girl, all we truly care about in this life is keeping her as alive as possible. We might cry, but it's okay. I cry all the time over her. I think of it as a good thing. I tell people, just as I laugh and feel happiness over her, I'm good with feeling the pain too. I would rather feel pain, than nothing at all. The pain keeps her just as close to me as any other emotion.

As far as how to honor our girl - I always say however makes you feel best! Whatever you saw in her, is what she would probably want put back into the world! More often than not, people want more specific ways of honoring her ; ) So if you're still wondering - we would love nothing more on this upcoming one year anniversary than to provide our local families on hospice, and at Tahoe Forest Hospital with as many care packages as our hands can handle!

As we speak my mom is out pounding pavement. She called me bright and early this morning and said, "Good Morning! I'm ready and about to start ____!" I said, "Baking? What are you about to bake?" Even louder she said, "No!! Not baking...I'm about to start begging!! I laughed! My mom helps us every year. Her specialty - going around to businesses for our gift baskets! She's magical! Much better than I ; )

If you would like to join in our efforts, we would appreciate the love! 

Here are some ways you can help...

You can donate magazines, inspirational quote books, movies, unscented anti-bacterial soaps and lotions, cards, etc. If you choose to help in this way, I hope you don't mind me asking that all of these items are new.

You can also make a cash donation and I will put it towards the purchase of the above items or anything else we think might be of comfort.   

If you include a cash donation, you can make the check out to David or Jennifer Hodder. You can send any and all items to:

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

If you have any questions or would like to donate through Paypal, you can contact us directly -
our e-mail address is ~

  I appreciate your consideration in helping us once again! We have been shown so much kindness over the many years. We're always amazed when someone goes out of their way to think of us. We vow to keep this going year after year, as it's simply the most gratifying way of giving back to families who might be going through one of the worst times of their lives.

We are planning on starting deliveries around the middle of December!

Our love to you all!

Meek and me.


 ~ forever your elf

Tuesday, October 7, 2014

Sent Away With Love

Aviana's birthday couldn't have been a more perfect day in and on Lake Tahoe. With our combined ashes we set off to our three chosen destinations. 

Our first stop was in front of our new house. We wanted to be able to look out our sliver of window, off our back deck, or drive down the road and know Kama and Aviana were with us always. 

We decided to release the little sea turtle, which contained a combination of the two first.

Next, we decided to place them in front of my dad's house, and for all of the very same reasons. I grew up there so his house and the entire surrounding forest have a complete hold on my heart.

Aviana Reese Hodder

Sent Away with the Words of a Love Song

August 16, 2006

October 26, 2013

We couldn't help but laugh and joke because the Aviana one would not sink. Dave was saying things like, "Avi do it!" We were also joking and saying how it's all in her time, and by her own agenda - not ours.  To this day, we still can't make her do anything!

I think the funniest part was at the previous stop we spent a good amount of time because it was our first. There was a real lull towards the end, kind of like we weren't sure when to go. We had rented the boat, so I finally said, "Come on guys, let's go, time is money!" So when this one wouldn't sink, Roger yelled out, "Come on Avi, time is money! " We couldn't stop laughing : ) 

Avi sure has a way about her and we love everything, even her extreme stubborn streak.


Our last remaining place was Lakeview Beach. This is the beach I spent my entire childhood. We would take the boat out every weekend and this was the place we would pull in and spend most all of our time. 

Our dog Baxter would pull us around on our rafts for hours. We would walk across to Lakeview Pizza and often times order food and bring it back to the beach. Lakeview is where my dad hung out the majority of my life. It's also where I worked from the age of 13 to the time they closed down when I was about 20. We all miss them terribly. It's now Old Range Steakhouse and is the place pictured with the green roof. 

From a very young age, my cousins and I would carry our rafts down to this beach and spend the entire day in the lake or catching crawdads from the pier with string and a little piece of raw bacon (eww)!

While Aviana was well, we took her down there a few times, and Kama many in her life.

There wasn't a question about wanting Aviana and Kama intertwined with our past, present, and future lives with Lakeview Beach. 

It was perfect how the Kama Girl one (although both ashes were contained) was being placed here as our dog Baxter sadly passed away crossing the street from Lakeview to this beach.

Kama Girl

The Reason Why

November 16, 2002

October 26, 2010

The three of us had the most enjoyable, peace filled day on the lake. It was full of everything I'd hoped for: reflection, happiness, living, light, love and especially calm.

* * *

We reserved just a little of the combined ashes to bury at both our and my dad's house on the 1 year anniversary. Our friends and neighbors Jen and Scott just so happened to give us the perfect going away gift - one of my very favorite trees - a Dogwood. I have left an open invitation to my mom and Gary. If they so choose - they are welcomed to come up and be a part of that day with us.  

* * *

We returned the boat and decided to walk over for a nice lunch overlooking the lake. Uncle Roger, Dave and I thoroughly enjoy each other's company. We always have the best laughs and great conversation - whether light, extremely in depth, or anything in between. This day in particular was nothing but light, as hoped for : ) 

After lunch, we stopped by Skylandia Beach and took Rainey for a swim. 

I don't know, do you think she likes Tahoe?

After the beach, it was our plan to go out to dinner to further celebrate Aviana's birthday. Dave and I decided we'd rather stay home and cook a nice dinner. I opened Pinterest and had my dad and his friends pick whatever they were in the mood for. We shopped, cooked and had a really nice night together. 

Since the accident this day has previously been indescribable. The culmination of incredible love and knowing otherwise in your heart of hearts is a pain which can't be explained. On this day, of this year, I felt the most overwhelming peace. Aviana was with me the entire day. It's as though we are one - as though we have an understanding. I don't know if that makes sense, but it makes perfect sense to me. 

Our girl was here for the exact time she was supposed to be, and now she's gone. And while at times it can be desperately difficult to live without her - at the end of the day, we know she's where she's supposed to be and wasn't here for one moment longer.

I always find solace in that deep down knowing, and ultimately that's what carries me through each and every day. 

Friday, October 3, 2014

August 16

Dave started his new job in Tahoe a month before we were to move into our new house. Although he was living with my dad, he was in many ways into our new life. I was in our old - packing box after box - tying loose ends. With the exception of one, he came home on the weekends to power pack.

We knew we wanted to cremate Aviana and place her in Lake Tahoe, but in light of how everything happened last October - we felt our girls should continue on together.

For us, there's no other place than Tahoe for our final resting place. We thought we'd be able to visit my dad and stare off over them during our many visits. We figured sometime in the future, we'd find ourselves living there as well - closer to Kama and Aviana. Little did we know, bigger and better plans were already in the cosmic works for us.

My heart would quadruple in size when the everyday thought would descend of surrounding this beautiful body of fresh water in which our girls would so lovingly be forever placed.

Aviana's birthday always seemed the perfect day to combine their ashes and release them. Many months ago our plan was to make a bigger day of it, but as the date neared, we decided differently.

As everything was winding down with our old house, Dave looked my way and said, "Hon, Aviana's birthday is coming, we need to decide what we're going to do?" I said, "I know. . . I know. . . "

I put a lot of thought into her day, and came back to Dave. Every birthday since the accident had been without a doubt one the most difficult days of the year for me. This year was different. I felt peace. Resolve. Comfort. And. . . calm. I wanted these very same feelings to continue throughout her day. As we placed our girls into the lake, I was hoping for happiness, love, and light. I didn't want for the day to be emotionally charged, and logistically chaotic. More than anything, I wanted ease. Dave completely agreed.

On a late night drive into the mountains and with our three girls, I drove up to Tahoe the night before.

The next morning, Dave and I needed to combine their ashes, but where?

I looked around and it became simple. The best place to make two one was under a tree and next to one of my very favorite dogs growing up,

which was also right next to. . .

My uncle soon arrived and we were on our way. 

Just the three of us!

It was the most perfect day on the lake that day.  


I have so many beautiful pictures to share, so I'd like to separate this post out in order to give it the time and attention it so deserves. 

Thursday, October 2, 2014


I'm ecstatic! My pictures have been found and are ready for use. After hours on the phone this morning with Apple, I believe I'm officially fixed. . . at least for now! 

This is cause for some random acts of stuff ; )

Of course I have to start with Rainey. Last month, she rounded the corner with her ear like this.

"Hellooo mommy!"

I honestly have at least 27 pictures like this and a video too. She finally got sick of my laughing and left the kitchen - ear still at attention.

I decided on a great canned response to the general 'getting to know you' question. I like! What do you think? Ha Ha!

One of my favorite restaurants (cannot for the life of me spell that WORD!) up here. It is the neatest, and has the BEST food. This was the day! Our anniversary. The day it all happened for us. The day TAHOE began.

Gosh, there were so many land mines as we packed everything to move. I was grateful with every one that we were onto something more positive. If not - I can't image what it all would've felt like!

Does anyone recognize this?

Travel packets!

At times Dave likes to tell me about his particular Crossfit workout for the day. One day, I turned my head towards him from the computer, and then as he was speaking, pointed to this.

In June I was lucky enough to meet Robin Zander of Cheap Trick and hang out beforehand for sound check. I have loved them forever and been to more shows than any of the other bands I love.

In fact, I brought my picture from my first show for him to sign.

Well after we met him, Amy and I were both pulled over for speeding. We were just kidding in this picture. We are the furthest thing from disrespectful, just goofy!

I actually got another ticket soon after : ( And broke two screens on my phone in less than a month. I had a lot going on...

Cheap Trick will be here at the lake next month, but Amy might be out of state...I am laying it on thick in an attempt for her to make her plans around them ; ) 

She has to come, we have good luck together! That was us last year at Kip Moore!

Love this.

These are some of our very favorite neighbors. This little girl is eerily identical to what Aviana was like before the accident. I love her so very much. She has the personality and many of the very same idiosyncrasies of our love. For us, it's really nice being around her and seeing it all, but it can also be heartbreaking at times 

Isn't she a doll!

My friend Jen sent this and said she thought of me right when she saw it. I can't love it anymore. It's perfect and exactly way I feel.

I saw this plate yesterday, I love the spelling.

I've been cooking and baking my brains out for months. I had this revolutionary idea a number of months ago, why don't I start baking things I'd love and eat?!? What a concept! So it's been on! 

What have you been making lately? Once the season changes, I just can't handle it.

I'm really excited. I brought some samples into the coffee shop I posted the other day, and they liked them! So I'll have some of my baked goods for sale there sometime soon : ) 

Today I made some Blueberry and Almond Poppyseed Muffins at their request. Tomorrow I'm going to make Apple Cinnamon. Of course, I've got some Pumpkin Spice ones up my sleeve too : )

One of the most important parts of the year for me is Aviana's Elves. I wasn't sure if everything would be in place enough this year, but I figured - why not! All else can fall. I have a plan and started making phone calls up here last week. It looks good so far : ) : ) : ) 

Well, I better go. Dave's sister Dinah and her husband Sean are coming tomorrow and Amy will be here on Saturday. We have a ton to do tonight.

One more thing - can you float some random my way, maybe what your Halloween plans might be! I'd love to hear anything and everything!