An Overdue Update

It’s been about two, almost three months, since I’ve written anything of substance. I’ve made small updates to my personal journal, but not much else. As much as I want to blame this on my currently broken Macbook, I can’t put all the responsibility on that fact. That is largely the reason why I haven’t taken the time to update my WP, since typing on a laptop is much more efficient than on an iPhone. But I’ve also let other things — family, health,  video games — get in the way as well. For that reason, I’ll probably write a few entries about the happenings since November and backdate them.

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Herberger Theater Festival of the Arts

Today Andrew and I went on an adventure to partake in the festivities at the annual Festival of the Arts put on by the Herberger Theater. There was live music, performances, children’s activities and food/shopping — oh, and of course, lots of art!

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I’m Angry at Lyle

Well, it has been one heck of a day. Ups and downs for sure…

I had an appointment this afternoon to do some follow-up testing. (I completed a similar set of tests at the onset of diagnosis.) The tests were extensive and focused on various brain functions. I’ll tackle each area one at a time.

Physical
The good news is that I did well physically, so I won’t be requiring physical therapy. I did have a few minor balance issues, but my team of doctors (neurologist, neuro-oncologist and radiation specialist) recommended a few exercises that I can do at home to help with my balance and vertigo episodes. They did say that I am not allowed to swim or hike and suggested that I keep my driving to a minimum if possible. If I’m feeling up to it, I should take a short walk daily, and I am allowed to continue my bike rides so long as they don’t last longer than 20 minutes in one sitting.

Memory & Attention
I apparently have a short attention span. According to the tests, I lose a lot of details and larger concepts. After around 30 minutes of focusing on something (conversation, for example) I get exhausted and get head pains. If there are a lot of things happening at one time, I get confused and lose focus. This is all a decrease in my memory and attention from where I was scoring back in July because I was always very good at focusing — not just on one thing but multiple things. I was a very efficient multitasker. I’m not anymore, and that is a very hard fact to accept.

Speech Portion
So this was the worst part of it all. I went from very high, almost perfect scores back in early July to scoring in the high 40 percentile. The tests were eye-opening. We did reading comprehension, and I had a 50% success rate. We also did object recognition, and it was very weird to see pictures but not recognize it, yet know in the back of my head that at some point I knew what it was. It was so hard to wrap my mind around. When I had to listen to an audio portion and also read a paragraph and tell them what I read, I only had half of the details and concept. It’s totally wild that I only understand half of what I’m reading because when i read silently to myself I thought I was understanding 100% of it. I had to read aloud and while I see all the words, I don’t read all the words on the paper, and I insert words that aren’t there. It’s just weird to think that I’m not getting everything when I’m reading on my own since there is no one there to tell me what I’m missing (or adding). Ignorance is bliss.

Anyway, I have to start speech therapy to basically re-learn words and reading skills. No guarantee since the cancer is killing the brain cells that control those cells, but we have to fight on and try. Apparently there will be homework involved.

Logic, Reasoning, Math
I did well! Haha. Math. Why math? I loathe it so much. I would trade my math skills for my reading/comprehension any day. Such is life.


I think that the hardest thing to swallow today was the fact that I went into the test confident and trusting that I would do better than I did. I really focused, gave it my all and expected better results than what I got. That is what defeated me. That is what discouraged me. That is what made me breakdown and cry.

My family was very encouraging. They keep reminding me to trust God — no matter what. I will never give up, even when I want to. I won’t give up for them. They care so much, and I would never want to let them down. I will always fight for them.

That it is the worst part of all of this. When Mosha and I discussed how serious this all is and how badly my brain functions have declined in such a short amount of time, Mosha said he didn’t like to even talk about it because it gave him knots in his chest. When I called and spoke to my parents, my dad tried to tell me to be strong but his voice cracked, and then my mom got on the line, sobbing and telling me that he walked out onto their porch and was breaking down in tears. I can’t stand that they hurt, even though I know that its natural. My mom says I should be worried the day that they stop being worried and hurt over me. I know she’s right, but it doesn’t make this any easier.

Besides all this, they’ve ordered blood work (to be done at my leisure) and an EEG which is currently scheduled for 12/02. I’ll be starting new medications to hopefully manage the physical pain of the headaches better, but they informed me that it could take up to 6 weeks for it to have worked its way into my system. My team is also pushing for round two of chemo to start next week, rather than later this month, but I’m on the fence about it at the moment since I have the women’s conference on 11/18 that I want to be present for. I’ll have to talk things over with my family more and also my team for the women’s conference to see if its feasible for me to miss the conference, even though I really do not want to. I know that my health comes first though, so it’s a path I may have to take…

Well, I am exhausted, so I’m off to rest.

[A/N: Lyle is the name of my brain tumor for those of you who didn’t know. I have a habit of naming everything, and this tumor is no exception!] 

10.29.16 Recap

Man! It’s been one heck of a day, and I know the next three days will be pretty busy, too.

Last night mom and I spent time together talking and watching our favorite cooking shows (Chopped, Beat Bobby Flay & Halloween Wars). We ended up staying up until 3am before we decided we should head to bed before we got chastised by our honeys.

This morning, I was awoken by my pops at around 7am with breakfast in bed. That guy can cook, and he spoils me so much when he’s around! I love it. After my tummy was good and full, I ended up falling back asleep (probably not the best idea after eating) until almost noon when I finally decided that I needed to get up and be productive. I was sluggish from being full of noms and from being up late, but I knew I had work that I needed to get done.

This Monday our church is having a Harvest Festival for Halloween, and I decided to help out by taking pictures the night of the event as well as helping Mosha with our booth that we will be running. In preparation for the festival I also volunteered to help make the signs for the various booths. Of course, in my natural fashion, I waited until today to finish them up. I started them a few weeks ago, but I just hadn’t motivated myself enough to get back to them. So I spent the majority of my day doing that. The poster-sized marker were ginormous and kept hurting my hands, so later in the evening I recruited Mosha to help me with the last two signs. His signs are so much better than mine — he has the best script writing while I took the easy route and used stencils. Anyhow, they are all complete and ready for the festival. (I’ll be sure to post pictures from the Harvest Festival later this week.)

Around 9pm mum and I decided to head to Wal-mart to grab the ingredients I need to make the breakfast burritos for the burrito sale I helped organized for tomorrow after church. Two of my ladies from church suggested it as a fundraiser to raise funds for our conference in November, and since everyone at our church loves to each I agreed that it would be a great idea. So after morning’s service tomorrow, our burritos will be for sale to anyone who is hungry.

Anyway, mom and I got carried away in the store looking at all the things we don’t need. It didn’t help that I needed to get Andrew a birthday present — he turned three today — and I couldn’t decide on which toys to buy him. He loves TMNT, The Avengers, Spongebob, Finding Nemo…so it was hard to decide on what to get him when I really wanted to buy him all the things I saw that I knew he would love. Then, after I had decided, I found the section with the learning toys and ran across a little tablet/laptop thingy for kids aged 3-9 years old, and it teaches them to write and learn their alphabet and all that good stuff. Being the academia nerd that I am, I was definitely conflicted about whether I should put up the toys I got him and get him that instead. I decided against it, only because I figure that kids probably want fun things on their birthdays, not something that resembles schoolwork. Needless to say, he was extremely happy with the gifts we chose (as you can tell by the pictures below). Tomorrow we will surprise him with his ice cream filled cake after we get home from church. For now, it’s time for this gal to get into bed!

Medical Update

I received a call from my doctor’s office this morning. They were calling to schedule some preliminary diagnostic tests to test my brain functions such as my memory, comprehension, word recall, etc. Then, depending on my results, I will be sent to specialized therapists to begin sessions. My diagnostic testing is scheduled one week from today — Thursday, 11/3 in the afternoon.

I’m also currently scheduled to start chemo again on Monday, 11/21, but I realized that that is Thanksgiving week. I would hate to be feeling crummy and having to watch everyone enjoy Thanksgiving dinner without me, so I think that I’m going to try and push back chemo to the following week. I also have a tradition of decorating my house for Christmas the day after Thanksgiving, so I think that if I can get the doctors to reschedule me, it will be for the best.

The Scars of Battle

It was a pretty lazy, uneventful day for me. I’ve been dealing with a horrible headache since Sunday. Honestly, it’s rather frustrating that no matter what I do or what remedies or medications I try, the pain doesn’t ease up. I’ve take Tylenol, ibuprofen, Excedrin, and the Vicodin I was prescribed. I’ve slept, made sure I’ve been eating regularly and healthy. I tried my essential oils, had Mosha massage my neck and head, used my head cold pack, and throughout all these things, I’ve pleaded and prayed to God. For whatever reason, I’ve not received any type of relief from the pain. As a result, I’ve been completely unproductive since Sunday.

Oddly enough, I experienced a moment of relief, not from the physical pain but a mental moment of relief, from one of the most unlikely places: a fictional world called Eorzea, the setting of my favorite game.I’ve been playing FFXIV for about two years now. It’s been such an experience, and my life has changed in so many ways since I started playing. I’ve made long-lasting friendships with other gamers through this particular game. Looking at how close I’ve become to some of them, I simply cannot imagine my life without them. They’ve gone beyond strangers behind fictional characters and become an integral part of my day-to-day life. Despite the distance between us, we are close, and they are genuine people. They care for me just as I care for them, and I’m grateful for all the times that they’ve been there for me.

This may sound silly to most, but in-game there is the ability to purchase housing. It’s something I always aspired to do, but I was never able to do so because of availability and pricing. However, today, I was able to purchase an apartment. Then the fun began: decorating.

I ended up bankrupting my character’s bank account (a little less than $2 million) in one day by purchasing and furnishing my place, but it was worth it. I’m sure you’re probably wondering what this has to do with my real life struggles, and here’s why it matters: it made me happy, happy enough to momentarily place my physical pain at the back of my mind.

I know that in the scheme of reality, this game doesn’t matter, and some would even call it a waste of time, but this game allows me to escape my daunting reality, however briefly, and experience a world where there is no cancer and wounds can be healed by others instantaneously. I’m able to spend time with my friends, create and modify my character and surroundings and partake in a mesmerizing story. So call me crazy, laugh at me, or roll your eyes, but I had a grand ol’ time today in my fictional world.

I was slightly disappointed in the size of my apartment at first (there are no size options when you purchase your place), but after I started furnishing it, it became my space, and my love for it grew. The cherry on top was when one of my previously mentioned in-game friends presented me with a housewarming gifts: an orchestrion and an armoire.


I have been wanting an Orchestrion for such a long time because there is one song that I am obsessed with called The Scars of Battle but you can only hear it in a specific dungeon. But now, with this Orchestrion, I can listen to the song whenever I want!

I tell you, it’s the little things in life that make me happy. ❤️

Icepick Stabbing Pains

I talked to the neurooncologist today. She said that my head pains are normal because of the pressure that the tumor is creating. She had her assistant email me a list of questions that I should fill out whenever I have the head pains, almost like a headache log for us to go over when I see her next. She said that my caretakers need to pay attention to two areas: my cognitive functions and my emotions. She says that it’s possible for me to have bad pains, and then instantly lose my ability to read or comprehend or write or even my memory. 

She told me about a patient she had who had a bad headache one day, and then he went to bed and when he woke up the headache was gone. He sat down in the morning to read the newspaper and he realized he didn’t understand any of the words on the paper. When his wife came out, he didn’t know who she was. It took putting him through different types of therapies for him to start re-learning and remembering things.She said everyone is different, but that the more headaches I have, the greater the risk that I can suffer a bad episode like that guy. But it could also happen gradually. Everyone is different and everyone has different results based on their unique situation, but she wants us to be vigilant.

She said emotionally, I can start becoming agitated for no reason, so that family should pay attention to that, and of course if I have an “episode” and try to hurt myself or anyone else to call 911 right away. But any other changes, if they become a concern we can call their office.

They’re going to try another round of steroids to try and reduce the swelling and pressure, but that unfortunately there’s no guarantee that it will alleviate my pain. Here’s to praying for the best possible results!

Just one of those days

I’ve been sick in bed all day today. This morning when I woke up, Pops took me to Urgent Care, and I was told that I have the tummy flu. So I’ve pretty much spent all day either in bed or in the bathroom. I woke up around 9pm and went to sit in the living room with mom, Lisa and Andrew, and we watched a little bit of TV. I just came back into the room to take my medicines and lay back down, and Andrew accompanied me and started playing with the pups. Here area few snapshots I took of him while he played with them.

Costume shopping!

Tonight mom, Lisa and I went to the new Goodwill that was recently built down the street. I wanted to go to look at their costumes, since I still haven’t decided what I want to dress up as for the Harvest Festival.
I had never been inside a Goodwill store before, but I was surprised at how clean it was and also how many things they had. The first thing I noticed was the bookshelves in the front of the store, which housed tons of books, many of which are on my wishlist. The best part of all is that they each cost between $2-4.
After prying myself away from the bookshelves, we proceeded to go to the Halloween section in the middle, where my mom tried on a bunch of hats. We had lots of laughs as we perused the aisles before I decided that I would be an angel this year. I bought a few items to make my DIY costume before we left to head to Walmart to get some things that I was missing. I’ll update later with pictures of my completed costume and trial makeup runs.

Taking one for the team

Lots of thoughts swirl through my mind throughout the day. The most encouraging concept is the feeling that I’m taking a hit for the team. 
Statistically, people get tumors. It’s what happens. I’m grateful that it’s happening to me, instead of the people I love. I’d take this over my family, friends, acquaintances and even strangers. I mean, what if because I’m a notch the brain tumor list, someone else’s name is removed? And it should be me. I have a security net of lots of people, from my innermost circle to long-distance family and friends. There are people praying, lending support, sending love, and filling me with strength so that I can break through and conquer this adversity. 
I’m serious about what I’m saying. I’m not a martyr. I don’t regret any of this situation. I’m not angry anymore. I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t scared though. I like my personality. I like my ability to adjust and adapt and grow as a wife, sister, daughter, friend and as a human in general. If I change completely because of this and my loved ones have to grieve for the Holly they lost, I hope I can at least evolve into a wonderful new Holly with determination, tenacity and soul. Only time will tell if I’ll come out of this with the same cognitive abilities, memory, language and movement. The outcome is out of my hands. 
For now I just thank everyone for all their continued support. It means so much more than so many people realize. I’m constantly overwhelmed by the amount of love I have been shown. I have been moved beyond words by the kindness of family and friends, friends of friends, and friends of friends of friends.

Just thoughts. 

I don’t feel like a good person. I wanted to open with that because once the truth is stated, there’s nothing left to hide. I could have done so much more with my life up to this point. I didn’t. I’m selfish. I always have been. Some regrets we carry until the day we die.


I feel numb…numb to reality, numb to the stagnant air of refuse discarded by society. I have brain cancer. There’s a destructive cell in my brain that is supposed to spread through my system, attacking me, killing me from the inside. 

No matter what I do, the numbness stays. Day by day, it grows. It grew as my hair disappeared. It grew as I lost weight. It grew as I clung to hope.

Sometimes it feels like I’m watching myself from a distance, like I’m watching myself die from a vantage point, a safe point lost within my insecurities and fears. There are so many questions I want to ask myself but I’m afraid if my answers might be. 

Am I afraid of dying?

Do I hate God for this?

Sometimes the numbness is apathy. Other times it’s denial. But mostly, I think it’s sadness. Sadness and fear. 

People continue to say: “Live your life!” It sounds like the right thing to say, but how do you explain to people what this burden feels like? How do I explain my bouts of random crying or sudden onset of melancholy? Already this has become “old news” for most people I know. The calls and visits dissipated already. I understand that even though my life has been halted by cancer, that doesn’t mean that my friends’ and family’s lives have stopped moving forward. I didn’t (and don’t) expect pity forever. I suppose that it’s just a bit harder to cope on the days when I don’t hear from anyone. I’m grateful for the few who still reach out. They don’t know how much means when I feel surrounded by darkness. 

At the request of my family, I have a doctor’s appointment to see my primary physician about how I feel. I’m tired of feeling the way I do, so anything that will help is welcome. I’ve been praying and reading my bible, and Pintresting all the inspirational things I can find, but I don’t feel any less of a shell of my former self. I just hope that the restless nights and unhappy days go away soon.

Learning As You Go

Having cancer is one of those things that you improvise, sort of like playing a made up game where you’re making up the rules as you go along. Living with cancer is not one of those games that comes with a 5-page booklet full of step-by-step instructions. While there’s an industry worth billions of nothing but self-help books, it’s unlikely that any one of those books is going to fit your individual situation. No matter how much advice you get or how many self-help books you read, the bottom line is that living with cancer is a journey that you ultimately end up trekking on your own.

Yes, it definitely helps to have family and friends who can offer advice and encouragement, but no matter how much they try or care, there is still a lack of specific instructions that we (the patients) feel we need when we’re seemingly thrust into the uneven and arduous terrain of such a drastic life change. There’s so much stress, upheaval and fear that accompanies cancer, and it’s not something that anyone is ever prepared for.

This road is filled with unexpected twists and unwanted turns and setbacks, but one baby step at a time, you learn to find your way. You begin to design a new life, remembering where life has brought you, honoring what you’ve experienced and learned along the way.

Creatures, Part Two

Part two!

Operam

Meelo stood apart from the children with his arms tucked over his chest. They sat huddled around a small fire hanging on the every word of the tribe elder. The tale he was telling, the tale of the creature, had been passed down in the tribe for as long as anyone could remember. No one in the tribe could tell you where the story came from. Everyone just knew it and accepted it, except for Meelo.

There had been a time when he believed, when he woke up soaked in sweat with tremors running through his body in fear of the creature, but those beliefs died with his mother. His father walked through the door of their hut that day drenched in rain and blood and fell to his knees. Meelo raced to his father, “Ni’nah! What happened?”

His father started to weep, Meelo looked around for his Mother, “Where…

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Creatures, Part One

Part one of a collaborative short story that I’m writing alongside three dear friends.

Operam

Legend has it that when temptation forces out the carnal instinct within, when greed begins to overtake charity, when desperation crosses the line of man and animal, your soul regrows into that not of a human being, but a creature: a beast of the darkest evils, an animal whose heart is made of malice and avarice intertwined.

Gods and devils alike are akin to this foul beast, and although he is lower in his power and position than either entity, he will still relentlessly consume and conquer with the forest as his kingdom.

His hunger is endless. Every fleeting second of the constantly moving day, he is searching, hunting, scavenging for his next meal. And what does such a filthy being have for his nourishment? Nothing other than his mortal counterpart — the human being.

The flesh and blood of his hominid brethren is how this revolting monster sustains himself…

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Mortality.

I can’t sleep. It’s not one of my better moments. I keep thinking about how it is already week four into chemo and how fast time is going…It just reminds me that life is fleeting, and I feel like I’m quickly approaching this deadline of life that I’ve been handed, this death sentence, and I can’t do anything to stop it…

The Battle I Didn’t Choose

Today is the start of my fourth week of chemo, and sometimes it’s still surreal that I have brain cancer. It just doesn’t seem real. In so many ways I feel the same as always, almost like nothing is different except for the fact that I get sick a lot, have lost some hair and sleep more than my cat. But there are these fleeting moments when I feel…well, normal, just like my old, healthy self, and it’s hard to believe that I’m battling an illness as big as I am.

Now, I know a lot of people who tell me not to claim cancer, which I don’t. One thing that I think others fail to realize is that it’s not easy when you have reality staring directly at you, and you’re trying to take God’s Word and His truth and place that over reality’s truth. It’s not easy. So no, I do not claim this — but that doesn’t mean that I’m naive or oblivious to the very real lecherous disease that is attacking my brain.

In the beginning of this, I had so many people praying over me and telling me that perhaps my scans were wrong or that I would go back to see another doctor and that they would say that there’s been a miraculous healing, and I genuinely believed that. It was extremely rough for me to believe with every fiber of my being that I was already healed, only to find out that the cancer was still there, and my prognosis remained the same: 2-3 years to live, maybe 5 if I’m “one of the fortunate 20-25%.”

I tried my hardest not to cry or show any kind of negative emotion regarding my illness. I felt that if I cried or was scared that it somehow meant that I was expressing unbelief in God and my healing. I didn’t realize how wrong I was. It took many talks with my honey and my parents to realize that it’s incredibly normal, even as a Christian, to have a range of emotions that bounces up and down, especially when facing such a serious, life-threatening battle.

It seems like that seems to my everyday life since the diagnosis. I bounce back and forth from feeling super-confident in God to feeling scared and fearful of the future. Last Monday was my 28th birthday, and no matter how much I tried to remain positive and just enjoy my special day, in the back of my head I kept wondering, “How many more do I have left?”

I’d love to be that one who beats the odds and ends up with an amazing testimony of healing that inspires and encourages so many others, but it’s hard when I’ve already known three Christians who believed just the way I do, and each of them has lost their battle to cancer within the last two years. That’s what I mean when I talk about reality’s truth vs. God’s truth. No matter how much I believe, nothing will change the fact that I don’t know what God has in store for me. I don’t know what He is doing with my life. I don’t know how or when this ends.

What I do know is that through it all, regardless of it all, I will love God and trust Him as much as I am possibly able to.

Holly Marie - Small

My 500 Words — Day One

A/N: I decided yesterday that I need to write more. Not just more, but daily. I know that this is something that I’ve told myself to do plenty of times, and clearly, I have never stuck to those goals long-term. So what makes this day any different? Honestly, I don’t even know if I have an answer for that. I don’t know that I won’t quit someday, but at least I’m still trying. That’s the most important part.

For now, just to get into the habit of writing daily, I’ve decided to start by writing at minimum 500 words per day. Ambitious start, I know. But honestly, any writer knows that most times, once we are in the metaphorical zone, we can knock out 500 words fairly easy.

Now I don’t have any particular guidelines for myself other than the word count requirement. I didn’t want to box myself in by setting too many parameters, so I figure that my choice of topics and styles will vary depending on what is happening in life at that particular moment on that particular day. When I decided to start this, I found tons of places where prompts where offered, but I can get picky when it comes to writing, and sometimes prompts are stifling rather than liberating, and in my opinion writing is all about liberation. We (or I) write to be free of ourselves and our world. It’s an opportunity to explore other worlds, or even our own, without judgment. With all that has been going on in my day-to-day life, mental freedom is exactly what I need, so don’t expect this journey of mine to follow a particular set of rules. You’ll probably end up getting a mix of poetry, stories, rants, thoughts, and basically anything else that you can think of.

So now that that’s out of the way, onto what’s on my mind at this particular moment in time…

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My favorite athlete.

Words cannot express how grateful I am for my family. Throughout this trial in my life, they have come through for me like I never could have imagined they would. Today, I was supposed to be in NM with my nephew @ben.morfin watching him race in the Junior Olympics. I couldn’t be there because of my treatment, but I woke up to this picture, and was filled with even more pride, joy, and love for this young man who is such an anomaly and force for God. I love you so much, nephew, and thank you for thinking of me! Now run, Forest, run!

“I want daddy.”

“I want daddy, I want daddy, I want daddy!” was all 15 year old Cameron Sterling could say between sobs as his mother, Quinyetta McMillon, addressed the media: “The individuals involved in his murder took away a man with children who depended on their daddy on a daily basis.” (Read the story here.)

There are no words that I can come up with for the horror of what happened, what keeps happening, what has ALWAYS happened in this country.

All I can say is this: White people, get off your butts. Stop making excuses. Stop tolerating this. Don’t you dare pretend this is only a problem for other white people, other towns, other police departments, etc. Either it’s a problem for YOU, or you’re a willing accomplice. Which side are you on?

Black people, I’m sorry for the world you’re forced to live in. I’m sorry that I and other people have done so much to create this system, and so little to fix it.

Finally, let’s not forget: While we are, and should be, talking about the specific brutality against Black people, our policing problems go beyond that. Indigenous people are, I believe, comparably likely to be killed by police, and other people of color are killed disproportionately often. And, even when you take racism out of the equation and only look at white victims, we still have a police violence problem.

Politics.

I want to talk about politics.

I know I’ve had difficult conversation about racism, including with friends and family whom I greatly respect, but who don’t necessarily see eye to eye with me on this. I know this Democratic presidential primary has been more emotionally-charged than any recent ones I remember. I know Clinton supporters who’ve felt attacked and beat down over their position. I know Trump supporters who’ve felt insulted and condescended to. I want to say two things about this:

  1. I think it is right that politics are emotionally-laden. Political decisions are among the most fundamental determinants of how our society, and the world, works. People literally live and die by who we elect and how they govern. Every election is a referendum on who is allowed what kind of life, and who is allowed to live at all. It is right to feel a stabbing, life-or-death urgency about them.

    Some of us are comfortable enough to believe that we personally will be OK no matter how any particular vote or election turns out. Lucky us. We should still care fiercely, because the less lucky people are people too. Their children are as beautiful, as infinitely valuable and deserving, as ours are. Listen to the people who could be hurt the worst, or are currently being hurt the worst, and act with the same urgency as if it were you. If the world (and the discourse around its future) is not regularly bringing you to tears, I suggest that perhaps you are not paying it the attention it deserves.

  2. I also want to be kind and compassionate with all of you. If you are my friend or follower, it is because I respect and value you and your ideas. I want to truly hear you, and I want you to truly hear me, and I want both of us to be changed by what we learn. If the way I’m talking about the things I believe in is hurtful to you, is pushing you away, please tell me that. I cannot promise to solve it, but I do promise to try.

The story we tell about poverty isn’t true

“I am the exception because of luck and privilege, not hard work. And I’m not being modest or self-deprecating — I’m amazing. But most people work hard. Hard work is the common denominator in the equation. And I’m tired of the story we tell, that hard work leads to success, because that allows — because that story allows those of us who make it to believe we deserve it, and by implication, those who don’t make, don’t deserve it.”

The story we tell about poverty isn’t true.

An experiment.

I have come up with an idea that I think will yield interesting results. So, my birthday is approaching quickly and inevitably, I know that people will ask what I want. Well, I’ve decided that I would like my friends and family to buy me a copy of their favorite book, and if they choose, they can write on the inside cover why it’s their favorite book. It doesn’t matter what type of book it is, so long as it’s not the Bible. I want to be able to read their favorite books because I feel like there is a connection between people and the literature that they read. I think this will be promising. 

Aleppols Burning

I don’t know how much good an awareness profile pic does, but it’s something. The Syrian government is carrying out attacks against Aleppo that are on par with the bombing of Gaza or the shelling of Sarajevo.  They are war crimes and almost certainly crimes against humanity. I honestly don’t know what the action should be for the US to take here, but at the very least, people should be aware.

Prompt: The American Dream

Part one of a short story that I wrote for this week’s prompt in a writing group that I am a part of. Enjoy and feel free to comment!

Art by Flow

Old Glory’s High (Part 1)

It’s late, the stars create cookie-cutter light impressions in a tattered pitch sky as the neighbor’s Golden Retriever howls off-key to the seductive pull of the blossoming full moon outside.

She’s here, as usual, her hair a bit more tangled and greasy, her amber waves slowly ebbing away to dirty bleach blonde like sand being stolen over the years by an ever-hungry sea. Her hands are thin and nervous, tangled together like a fish in a net, dancing like spiders in their silken webs as she shuffles from foot to foot, rubbing her arms in a vain attempt to keep warm down here in her condition.

The air is cold, stifling, a touch too sterile, in a worrisome contrast to her unpleasantly hopeful expression.

“I can’t keep doing this,” I say, and her puppyish look, almost pathetic in that blatant begging, sours like curdled milk…

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In memorium 

It’s been 5 years since my Tata Chon passed away. Well technically it was 5 years to the day on March 8th, three days ago. However, I was reminded of the anniversary when I logged into Facebook this morning, and an old post from today in 2011 appeared, one where I provided a link for others to view and sign his guestbook.

I clicked the link, curious as to whether or not the content would still be available, and it is. I read through the obituary, one that I wrote if I recall correctly, and then browsed the 39 pictures that I had posted in his book. I decided to screenshot one of my mom, nana and Tata lying on the grass at a picnic in the park, and I sent it to my mom. It will probably make her cry, but she would still appreciate seeing it.

I miss him. He was a cultured man, with a unique sense of humor. Always optimistic, and devilishly mischievous. I see him in my own personality, which isn’t surprising considering how much time I spent with him and my nana growing up.
Here, for memory’s sake, is his obit:

ASENCION CABRAL (1931 – 2011)

Jose Asencion Cabral Herrera, 79, passed away on March 8, 2011 at 11:15pm in Tucson, Arizona. He lived in Nogales, Sonora, Mexico, with his immediate family residing in Phoenix, Arizona. Ascencion, known as Chon, was born in Jerez, Zacatecas, Mexico, on August 15, 1931. He was married to Guadalupe Cabral in September of 1953 in Fresnillo, Zacatecas, Mexico. He then legally immigrated to the United States by his employer’s sponsorship along with his wife, brother Simon, sister-in-law Amelia, a nephew and his eldest daughter, Melanie Cabral.

From 1953 to 1976, Chon was a farm worker in Texas, Colorado and California. He performed as a lead person for several crews at a time and had vast knowledge of harvesting fruits and vegetables. In 1976, he moved to Arizona and worked in landscaping, possessing an excellent green thumb. After suffering a stroke on February 14, 1982, he became disabled. His wife, Guadalupe “Lupe” Cabral, died in January 2001 in Phoenix, AZ. Survivors include three children: Melanie Cabral, Gloria Cabral (Nicknamed “Georgie” by her dad), and Arturo Cabral; two siblings: Ismael Bermudez and Margarita Herrera Cabral; four grandchildren: Cynthia Mendoza, Daniel Figueroa and Lawrence and Holly Gutierrez; and four great-grandchildren: Zinnia and Sofia Figueroa and Victor and Victoria Mendoza.

Tata Chon was a believer in Jesus Christ, and will have everlasting life, for Christ says, “You don’t have to wait for the end. I am, right now, resurrection and life. The one who believes in Me, even though he dies, will live.” (John 11:25).

On loss

In the past 6 months, I have been to three vastly different funerals. It should have been four funerals, but due to circumstances, I wasn’t able to attend my uncle Bob’s services. It’s fascinating to me how people from different walks of life handle loss and mourning. You can learn so much about people from how they grieve. You see them at their most vulnerable.

The first funeral I attended was late last year just before thanksgiving, for a brother from our church whom I have known since I was 12. He was white, and his wife Liz is Mexican. They were Christians, non-denominational, but similar to Pentecostals. The service was short and sweet. There was beautiful singing of fairly modern songs, all uplifting and pointing all attention to Jesus. The service was quiet, each person peacefully paying their respects. The casket was closed, even though there was no reason for it to be. It was more because Liz didn’t want a spectacle of people lining up to view him. I remember Liz saying, “I was this short. I want it to be done and over with…not drawn out.” A few spoke kind words about Don. I remember his brother getting up to talk, and it was so hard to watch him. First, he broke down during his eulogy, unable to continue on. Second, he bore the image of Don; they could pass as twins. I had never met him before. When I looked up and saw him at the podium, I couldn’t look away. That’s when tears started to roll down my cheeks.

Immediately after the service, we walked to the gravesite and he was interred. The entire process took maybe an hour at most from start to finish.

The second funeral I attended was for D’s granddaddy CJ. He passed in December. D and his family are African-American, also Christians, but more along the lines of baptists. We had the viewing in the evening, and it was like nothing I’ve ever seen before. There was no pastor, no speakers, nothing. Just granddaddy in the front, with tons and tons of family in the pews and standing in the aisles, all of them talking and laughing so loudly that it was difficult to hear the person in front of you. I don’t remember seeing anyone cry. Later I told D that it was more of a family reunion to me than a funeral. So many people had come from out of state, his kids and grandkids, family D hadn’t seen in years. I felt somewhat out of place – the only non-black person there. It made me a bit self-conscious but everyone loved on me and treated me so well, like one of them. The whole viewing took hours, around 2-3 if I’m not mistaken. Even when it had ended, family lingered and huddled in the cold outside, talking and catching up. Eventually we left, with people still mingling in the parking lot as we drove away.

The following morning we had to drive to a church for the actual services. D was instructed to sit in the front row, since he was an usher along with his cousins. I say with his aunts and cousins, in the second row on the other side of the church. Again, the church was so full of people that it quickly became extremely hot to the point of discomfort, people shifting in their seats and fanning themselves with what they could find. The service was full of laughter, singing, and vocal responses to the pastors from the people in the pews. There was a time for family to share thoughts, with a line of members telling their stories about granddaddy CJ. Most of the stories caused outbursts or laughter or loud “mmhmms” of agreement from family and friends. I remember at one point, there was spontaneous singing of old hymns. When the pastor spoke, every few lines there would seem to be a unison of outward vocalizations, sometimes people standing up and speaking in tongues, moved by the Spirit of God. There was no feeling of sorrow but rather a peaceful joy about the life Grandaddy lived. That was remarkable to me. It was a party, a celebration of his life.

After this, granddaddy was loaded into an old hearse, majestic in its antiquity. Family piled into their cars, and proceeded to follow each other in a traditional processional, escorted by police officers who stopped traffic at each signal all the way to the burial site. I was familiar with the burial site; my Nana and Tata were both buried there, not far from Grandaddy. The internment didn’t actually take place while we were there. The grandsons carried Grandaddy from the hearse to the internment site, but he wasn’t lowered while family was still there. The family lingered for quite some time, seizing the opportunity to take family pictures, not knowing when so many of the clan would be together again all at once.

Above: The grandsons carrying granddaddy to the internment site.


Above: just a few of the cousins, aunts and uncles.

 Above: my Nana and Tata’s headstone. We decided to get them flowers and a Christmas wreath before we left.

The final funeral was more recent: yesterday and today. I was able to attend last night’s viewing of my Uncle Rudy, but not today’s burial service. My uncle Rudy is Italian/Mexican, as is my pops. He was also Catholic, so that guided the flow of the service. It was small, not packed at all. The services seemed limited to close family and friends. The viewing lasted 2 hours total, almost down to the minute. It was punctual, not wasting time for anything. There were several rosaries that were performed, which seemed mundane after the third time of hearing “Holy Mary, mother of God, pray for us sinners, now and at the hour of our death amen.” I remember feeling like I was sitting amongst a group of drones, mindlessly repeating words in unison, with no significance behind them. I don’t mean to blaspheme against Catholics; I just remember feeling zero sense of peace. I couldn’t wrap my head around how repeating a prayer over and over again could possibly be comforting to someone. I just don’t understand.

Overall, there are aspects that I enjoyed and appreciated from all three experiences. You never know what things you can learn about people and their culture or when/where you might get the opportunity to learn them.

Early morning thoughts

It’s funny, we came to the cabin so I could rest, and I still was wide awake in the middle of the night and up early. There is a difference though; I feel more rested than I do at home. It’s still early, and I don’t have to be up for a few more hours for church with the rellos so I could go back to sleep. I’ll probably try that after this entry. 
My folks were so excited when we came. They were playing cards at the kitchen table when we arrive, and they were so surprised to see us. They were especially surprised to see that we brought Andrew. That was the icing on the cake. 
We sat down with them at the kitchen table and began catching up on what’s been going on in everyone’s life. Almost immediately, probably by default reaction, during the course of our conversation we startled couting decks of cards and setting up to play Hand & Foot. Right away my mom disappeared into the kitchen only to return to us with freshly baked chocolate chip cookies and coffee and hot chocolate. That’s my mom for you: always cooking and making sure everyone is comfortable and taken care of. 
We only managed to get through one round of Hand & Foot. It’s different having around around. All four of us were busy trying to keep an eye on him so our focus was split. Nobody was bothered by this though. We love Andrew, and he is such a hoot. 
My dad ended up retiring upstairs first. The rest of us stayed downstairs, and I ended up having a tickling way with Andrew followed by a few games of tag around the living room. Mosha jumped in to the tickling war and also had his own fun with Andrew by teaching him how to box. Between the both of us we wore him out, so my mom took him upstairs so he could sleep with her and pops. Mosha fell asleep downstairs, so I laid on the other twin bed reading through old photos and journal entries before shelling in to read a few pages of *The Other Typist* before falling asleep. It wasn’t anything spectacular, but in my life, any time with loved ones is time well spent. 

TGIF

Man, what a hectic day.

Fridays are the one day when I don’t have to be in the office until 2pm. Normally I have my women’s get- togethers, but a few weeks ago there were two weeks in a row when none of the women showed up, so I decided to cancel it until further notice. So I was relieved to have some time at home, away from the office. I had already planned on working on some pending files that I had, but I knew I could work from the comfort of my home office, with a backyard view of the golf course. I figured a change of scenery would be nice, especially after the week that I’ve had. Well, I ended up waking up early, so I got up to use the restroom and get started on work. Lo and behold, I dropped my phone on the floor. It cracked really bad, to the point of being unusable for anything. So, I ended up getting ready and heading to Arrowhead Mall, which has the nearest Apple store. There was a long line there, so I ended up waiting for about 45 minutes to be seen, then they said it would be another hour to replace it (it ended up being longer than that), so by the time I finished there, I was cutting it close to the time to go to work.

Once I got the phone, I headed home to pick up Milo. Just before arriving at home, Mosha called me and told me that my 2pm appointment cancelled so that I didn’t need to be there until 3pm. That was a relief since I hate to feel rushed. I also managed to weasel in a 20-minute power nap before leaving to go to the office.

When I got to the office I had appointments back to back until we closed around 8:30pm. I used the time in between appointments and the time I spent staying after hours to get almost completely caught up on my work, which is a huge relief. I had over 50 files for this week alone, and now I’m down to 4. I’m grateful that I was able to get caught up before tomorrow because I decided to close the office at 3pm and head up to the cabin to surprise my folks. I feel relaxed up there, and we miss them. I’m looking forward to getting away from the office and the city to enjoy the great outdoors.

Robert F. Guglielmo (07/10/1929-01/30/2016)


Robert “Big Bob” F. Guglielmo, 86 years old of Tucson, AZ died on Saturday 7:11 p.m., January 30, 2016. Bob lived large. He was gregarious, living a life full of love and adventure. He died peacefully of natural causes in the comfort and care of his wife, Ramilda “Millie” Guglielmo and his children.

Bob is survived by 62 direct descendants, including six children: Margret Ann Guglielmo, Susan Elda Guglielmo, Robert Guglielmo, Paul David Guglielmo and his wife, Sandra Timmons Guglielmo, Cynthia Marie Palma and husband, Daniel Palma, Daniel Albert Guglielmo and his wife, Ann Burke Guglielmo; three brothers, Frank, Rudy and Oscar Guglielmo, as well as his good friend, Bill Bush, and his business partner and brother-in-law, Armando Delgado, also survive him.

Born on July 10, 1929 in Globe, AZ to Frank and Vickie Frias Guglielmo, Bob lived most of his life in Phoenix. Bob met Millie at Saint Mary’s High School in Phoenix, Arizona. Bob retired when he was 47 from a prolific business career that spanned restaurants, agribusiness, and real estate development and investment.

Bob loved adventure. He was an avid traveler, hunter, speedboat enthusiast, photographer and pilot. He was also a lover of beauty in its many forms, whether visual, culinary or performance art, a sunrise or sunset, or simply a good read.

The words summing-up Bob’s life include: fun, adventure, passion and love.

The end of our family challenge

Well, the 21-day challenge came to an end with the setting of the sun yesterday. It went by surprisingly fast, and I must say that I do feel a sense of accomplishment knowing that not once did I cheat and give in to drinking soda or logging onto Facebook.

I didn’t miss Facebook at all. I logged into my account early this morning when i couldn’t fall back asleep, and I feel as though the site has lost its appeal. I did upload two pictures of my latest sketchbook drawings, to share them with family/friends who may not have seen them. Other than that, I cleared all of my notifications and haven’t been back in all day. I guess I got used to not having it, and there’s not much on there for me anyway. Instead, during my rare breaks today at work I picked up the new book I started yesterday entitled The Other Typist by Suzanne Rindell. The book is quite captivating so far. It’s already piqued my curiosity, and I’m only partway through Chapter Two. I sense a shift in my taste for books in that I’ve primarily stuck to e-books as of late, but have been shifting to purchasing physical books. I’ve always loved the smell of a physical book, but have enjoyed the convenience that comes with e-books. I think that part of this shift is due to the fact that I spend 12+ hours staring at a screen at work each day, so my eyes appreciate and welcome the chance to look at paper for a change. Anyhow, all this just to note that this 21-day challenge seemed to create a rather healthy habit of spending my time doing other things rather than wasting away whilst staring at Facebook multiple times a day.

I also saw a change in my drinking habits. I’ve been complaining quite a bit about missing soda because I’m obsessed with the taste of brown pop, and I was quite positive that I would jump at the chance to drink one today. However, I found myself drinking water all day long…Not quite the way I thought my first day would go after the challenge. Now I’m definitely not saying that I’m never going to drink soda again because I know for a fact that at some point it will happen. But I’m hoping that I can learn control and limit my intake of the sweet, sugary liquid from here forward.

Well, its already thirty plus minutes since when my last client was supposed to show up, and since they haven’t arrived by now, I’m going to treat my self to a trip to the craft store on my way home. I shall pack up early and head that way now.

My heart breaks for you.

Tonight my uncle Bob, my dad’s eldest brother, passed away. I called and spoke to my pops, and he was so broken on the phone. It was hard to hear his voice cracking, to hear him at a loss for words…I kept trying to reassure him that with time, it won’t hurt so much, and that no matter what, he has me by his side through it all. I know my words won’t heal his pain but I hope that they bring some comfort.

21-Day Challenge

So my family and I have decided to do a 21-day challenge together, where we each give up something(s) and replace them with something healthier, and set a goal for what we would like to accomplish by completing this challenge. Today was our first day.
For my personal challenge, I decided to give up soda, since I know it’s unhealthy and I drink quite a bit of it. I’m hoping that this will help me to drink more water and encourage me to limit my soda intake after this challenge is over. 

I also decided to give up social media (minus my blog, since I don’t necessarily consider that “social media” as its more my personal journaling outlet). I plan on taking the time I normally spend on social media doing other things like reading or spending time with family. We are a media-driven society, and sometimes it can turn our attention from the things in life that are truly important. So I think it’ll be a good thing to take a break from it and focus on the more important things in life. 

Day one down, twenty more to go!