My Heart

Maiz: “Mommy, how do you take your heart out?”

Me: “You don’t bug, it’s something that stays right there in your body.”

Maiz: “But how do you take it out?”

Me: “You don’t sweetheart. It’s inside you and it’s what keeps you going.”

Maiz: “But how do you take your heart out and give it to Jesus? How do all the kids take their hearts out and give them to Jesus?”

Me (dying inside, but playing it cool): “Oh Maiz, that’s so sweet. You give your heart to Jesus by praying and loving him, it’s more of a feeling than something you physically do.”

Maiz: “So do you go in through your stomach and take it out that way?”

Thoughts from Inside

Right after my dad died I wanted the world to stop. For everything to be put on hold and for everyone to feel what I was feeling. Breaking News on every channel of the TV: My dad died.

1.5 years later, the world seems to be slowing to a halt. That fictitious thought I had now coming dangerously close to reality with the COVID-19 pandemic.

We are all in this collective experience together (though greatly varying degrees), sharing similar emotions of sadness, fear, anxiety and pain.

And while we’ve never seen this pandemic before, these feelings we are experiencing are ones we have lived over and over. With experience we know that fear, anxiety and pain are companions of love, kindness and gratitude.

Nasdaq is plummeting, but compassion is skyrocketing with daily reminders that steady mental health, weekly grocery store runs, physical and emotional comfort, and quality medical care are absolute luxuries.

Parents are always talking about the rapid speed at which our kids grow and the clocks tick. We are living in a rare blip of history where time is all we’ve got on our hands right now (and excessive amounts of craft particles).

We raced a leaf boat down the gutter in the rain yesterday. Maiz introduced me to “Cousin David”, the plant on our side yard. And a bird flew into the house just as the girls went to bed.

Surely someone’s flying over the cuckoo’s nest around here.

It’s March 18, 2020, another day and a new opportunity to practice living with uncertainty of the future, finding safety in ourselves despite a lack of control, letting anxiety move through us, and revealing that seed of calm within amidst the storm.

(Please seek God for more information on how).

The world is turned upside down, but we’ve seen her underbelly before and we know we will get to the other side.

First Impressions

When I first saw her she was all stick and bones.
Her thin trunk, merely the keeper of weathered branches.
Had she just lost everything or was she just about to bloom?
I couldn’t see her whole story, I just knew she had one.
She didn’t seem worried, confident it was just a season; fruitful days ahead.
Unattached to what she had lost or what was to come.
Rooted in abundance.
When I first saw her I longed for greenery to cover her naked limbs.
Then a bright yellow finch stopped by to relax on her narrow branch.
Stubbornly alive and whole she was.
And always is.
Nothing is wasted in the resting place.

For the Books

Twas’ the night before Christmas eve and I was sitting in my room sorting and getting ready to wrap each of the girls’ presents I had thoughtfully collected over the last month. As Ryan, Maisley and Coura rushed into the house with dinner, I threw a blanket over the gifts and went to join them. 

After dinner, Ryan and I got to talking about car trouble or something interesting, when we noticed that a silence had fallen over the house. I ran into my room to find Maisley playing with her tea set from Santa Claus, Coura with her Christmas jammies in hand and every present overturned. 

All Christmas season I had been hearing about how it’s not about the gifts. The priest left us with, “I hope your Christmas is REAL this year”. The Grinch lays it out pretty clear – it ain’t about the gifts people. I know this, I preach this, I believe this!

So in good Christmas spirit, I scream-cried my brains out on the floor for the next 30 minutes. Christmas is ruined, my irrational small-mind kept repeating. 

I’m learning so much right now – in therapy, in my writing, in my own personal experience of grief and motherhood and life. There have been so many shifts in my head and my heart, but only smaller, less noticeable ones in my actions.

I’m hoping my insides match my outsides more in 2020. I’m also giving myself a break because it seems healing happens in moments, that it’s not linear and not all at once. 

In the reruns of our early days, this Christmas will simply be: the one where they accidentally saw all of their presents. And more appropriately: the one where we shared our first Christmas morning together at home. 

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Christmas Present

As I was on my usual walk through the eucalyptus trees, I noticed an abandoned play structure in a backyard, overgrown with weeds and sticks and leaves. It made me think about that family whose kids are now running around soccer fields, texting their friends and rolling their eyes at the people who gave them life. The once beloved play structure now just a keeper of memories from the wonder years, a symbol of time flying by.

This time of year always makes me feel like I’m not doing enough. I get paralyzed by the fast pace and overwhelm. Instead of embracing it, I want to run away. Every year we end the holiday season saying, “We’re not doing that again!”. Our hearts begging for boundaries and for us to take control of our time. 

I’ve been feeling a little down since Thanksgiving, tired and ready for life to slow down or for me to catch up. This year is especially off since the holidays are highlighting the alternate universe we are living in, the one where my dad wasn’t the one to put up our Christmas lights or straighten the tree. The one where he’s not sitting in his office, leaning back in his chair and enjoying the extra-hot chai tea latte we surprised him with. 

While making Christmas traditions with our kids this year, I am remembering all of the magical seasons of my childhood. Shopping for a tree with my dad, carefully mounting Rudolph on the second story, and making candy cane shaped cookies with my mom. As I pause to remember more clearly, I can also see us shoving the tree through the front door with my dad covered in sap as he sneezed uncontrollably from allergies. Oh and the time he fell off the ladder right in front of me. Or how mad my mom would get when our candy cane cookies looked more like penises (who am I kidding, we are still not mature enough to make normal candy cane cookies). 

Memories are funny that way, often shinier than they were in the moment. The reason older women always tell you to enjoy every second with your precious babies. (I will never be one of those women.) 

If things are going to look better than they really are a few years down the line, I might as well lighten up a bit. Lessen the expectations I carry around like a scarlet letter on an ugly Christmas sweater. What if the biggest boundaries I need to set are within myself, changing my perspective and doing some good old fashioned positive thinking with a sprinkle of gratitude. Give equal air time to the good things and not just focus on the challenging. 

In this moment, my babies are just two slippery, delicious butter balls in the bathtub. When that tub and these years become just a flash of memories, what will I remember?

Love, Mom

Please get off your sister.
I’m so proud of you.
Come cuddle with me.
Give me a minute please.
No, one more minute. 
No one’s tougher than the sun.
What just happened here?
Markers are for paper only.
What do you see?
Can I do mermaid hair?
One show.
Did you hear what I just said?
Good question.
What do you need?
You just had a snack.
When did you get so big?
Let’s read a book.
Do you know how much I love you?
I love you more than you’ll ever know.

The Kind of Mom

She’s the kind of mom who looks like the sister.
More energy than a jukebox.
Loves the song, “You shook me all night long.”
And the Bible verse, “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.”
Best known for napkin notes, Cheesy Noodle Fridays and marathon finish lines.
Always there, takes the heat, true to who she is.
Grades papers till one in the morning and hits beer bongs better than a college student.
She speaks her mind and writes her heart.
A friend to all.
Things she will take down: a task list, a pile of laundry and a perfect piece of filet.
Countless books read, park dates and dinners fed;
super-mom now super-nonni.
The heart of our home.
60 years; a compilation of fun, hard work, resilience, loyalty, slap-happy laughter and love.

Birth and Death, Breath by Breath

My knees met the floor at the side of my bed in desperation, exhaustion. Ironically, the same place I bowed down to birth, I found myself surrendering to grief.

In anger and tears, I had lost all strength. The pain was too much.

As time recklessly and graciously ticked on, the swell passed.

When I got to my feet, I was surprised to uncover that giving birth had taught me how to survive grief. 



As goes birth so does death,
breath by breath. 

Waves of intensity build to a first breath,
from a last.

Every swell comes crashing with a purpose.
Feel it, don’t fear it.
Welcome it, don’t fight it.
Dance to it, flow with it and let it move through you.

But don’t let it take you away.
Feel your feet on the ground,
your gaze on the wall,
the breath in your lungs.

Deep inhale.
Full exhale.

Determined minds present an endless Q and A:
What just happened? What’s next?
Why him? Will she ever come?

Deep Inhale.
Full exhale.

When your limit is near, the wave knowingly retreats:
Sweet relief.
Find your balance.
Brave a smile, an effortless laugh.
Reach for hope, a glass of water, connection and gratitude.

But how will I get through that intensity again?

Deep Inhale.
Full exhale.

You were made for this.
Cut from the same cloth as the sea and trees,
made to be two things at once.
Living and dying,
ebbing and flowing. 

Birth and death,
a tug-of-war of fear and hope.
Compassion, anxiety, resilience, resistance.

Tucked beneath comfort blankets and glossy eyes,
new life has unearthed.
Everything forever changed. 

What’s left? What’s next?
What’s always been:
Nothing but love.

Deep Inhale.
Full exhale.

The Ocean’s Faithful Student

The breath is where it all begins and where it all ends. It comes naturally some days and others like an unwilling daughter at nap time. It’s where we find our peace and it’s the safest path to our intuition. It’s our first responder when shit hits the fan. The breath both reveals when we’re out of touch and is the way we come back home. It fuels our voice and our fire. It’s our pause and fast forward. It’s the last stop home for the wind and it’s the ocean’s most faithful student; in and out, in and out. It’s reliable and forgiving, there’s always a next one as long as we’re living. The way we get by is breath by breath. 

It’s our road map – through birth and through death.

We are MORE

When we got home from the hospital on day one, the 8×10 mirror that had been hanging in our family’s living room for 20 years had fallen off the wall and shattered into a million pieces.

Our hearts a reflection of the remnants on the ground.

I remember desperately wishing that day for time to fast forward to a year from now. To have some distance from the trauma of it all. Knowing that we would all be different, but not knowing how.

Time is reliable like that.

365 days later I walked through the same front door. Underneath the fresh coat of paint was the familiar scent of home; coffee grounds mixed with the smell of clean carpet and years of memories. A new mirror hung on the wall.

As my mind quickly scanned the time passed, I remembered the year in its simplest form: impossible (month 1), hopeful (months 2-3), hard and dark (months 4-5), lighter and full of growth (months 6-8), disbelief and sadness (months 9-10), happy and stable (month 11), then anticipatory, sad and surreal (month 12).

We – my sisters, my mom and I – have all changed over the last year, after losing one of the most important people in our lives – Dadio. I don’t know that better is the right word, but I do know that we are all MORE than we have ever been.

Here’s my expansion story in a snapshot.


More connected. There’s a reason they say it takes a village (or is that motherhood?). Friends, our nanny, therapists, strangers, preschool teachers and spiritual guides made up the angel army that helped me navigate grief and lighten the burden of this year.

More fearful. It’s frustrating when parts of you change without your consent. Many things that used to be easy have felt more challenging, like taking trips, making new friends and being alone with my daughters (being alone, period).

More social. I’ve never been a huge extrovert, but I have found that my outlook and attitude are exponentially better when I have connected on a walk with a friend. After spending so much time in my head, it’s refreshing to be in someone else’s.

More creative. Creativity has been my way home; the part of me that comes alive when I’m not sure where my feet are. Drawing in my journal, writing and creating have all been the antidote to grief.

More overwhelmed. There is a delicate balance between being a mother to young kids and a person who is grieving. As I stumble my way through both, I am learning how these roles both battle and strengthen one another.

More healed. While processing my grief, I uncovered many other uprisings in my soul asking to be heard; the pain of past relationships, anxiety, childhood moments, spirituality, insecurities, etc. Grief has a way of revealing all of you.

More natured. The ocean, mountains, trees, sunshine, desert, trails – mother nature has been my greatest source of inspiration and soul fuel.

More spiritual. I have questioned, expanded, resisted and ultimately found the most peace in my relationship with God. It’s a simple formula that takes a lot of work; praying unceasingly and finding the stillness to receive.

More anxious. Anxiety shows up for me as a cover for hard emotions, emotional un-safety, loneliness and fear. I’m learning how to change my relationship with this energy I’ve struggled with in the past, but have really been forced to face this year. Anxiety is my reminder that I need to reconnect with my true self and find my feet in the present moment (some days easier said than done). And I’ve collected a large tool box of actual things I do when anxiety shows up (see previous post).

More spongey. Remembering it’s just as important to release negative feelings and emotions as it is to fill up on joy and the things I love.

More loved. Even though we have all grieved in our own ways, my sisters and my mom (the five tough cookies) have been my ultimate source for comfort, motivation, humor, solidarity and truth. We have all shown up for ourselves and each other in every way.

More, more loved. Ryan, Coura, Maisley and Me – we have loved more, fought more, have grown closer together, then further apart and then back together. They are my “why” and have been there for the big moments and the in-between moments that we won’t remember, but have stamped somewhere on our hearts.

More compassionate. It’s incredible that people all over the world, all the time, grieve the loss of people they can’t live without. I understand grief only in my experience, but I have a new level of compassion for the impossible challenges of this life.

More grateful. Life is for the living. I am so thankful for this day, this breath, these daughters, this husband.  Once you’ve experienced that phone call, it’s hard to find peace in the uncertainty of life yet simultaneously easy to find gratitude in normalcy.

More buoyant. There is an innate and undeniable pull inside the human spirit to lift up and to keep treading water.

More brave. It takes a lot of bravery to step into the shoes we are given and face the thoughts and moments head on. Especially on the tougher days, stuck under the grip of sadness that makes it hard to breathe and function. Even though hard days felt like they would never end, there was always at least a moment of grace, a smile from a baby and bare feet on the concrete. It takes just as much bravery sometimes to enjoy the beautiful moments and days we are equally given.

More grace. Somedays, survival was the only threshold – Netflix, easy meals and laying in bed was all she wrote.


Our story, growing and healing doesn’t end here. There is no finish line, no 365-day medal. However, a lot of hard work has brought us to today, and that deserves to be celebrated.

Thank you, Dadio, for the undeniable gift of more.