Saturday, December 7, 2013

Letter to my Mom on (what would have been) her 93rd Birthday

Happy Birthday Mom!
 It has been four years since you have been gone and it seems like just yesterday. I suppose I don't need to tell you how much I miss you! There have been so many times that I have some bit of news to tell you and for a instant I think about calling you. I think my drive home from work is the hardest, because that was when I would call just to check in.

There has been so many things that have happened since you left. First, did you know your "mijo's" have really been playing some excellent football? Dad was able to see some good games last year, but this year they were on a terror as well. Although they did not come in first in the Pac 12 South, we did beat USC in good fashion. Even I had some doubts before the game because SC had just come off a huge upset when they beat Stanford. We were on a 2 game losing streak and playing in the Coliseum. The cards were stacked against us, but we prevailed. And as always Mom, there were people in our family that seemed to take it a bit too personal. After all those Christmas's when USC was a powerhouse and "certain" family members would tease and torture you. Showing up to your house and making fun at the bowls UCLA was invited to. Who is laughing now, right Mom?  Funny how you were right about "them". Dad came to see that as well and one day he admitted that you had been right all along. He had not seen it before and sadly he came to find out on his own.

But  I can see you now shrugging your shoulders and saying "Oh well, what are you gonna do?". Just a silly game. And I was very proud of you that in the end you were a good sport by accepting Steve's invitation to watch the SC game at his house. That is showing you can be the bigger person and showing all of us that family comes first. Oh Mom,  you would be loving the team right now and loving Coach Mora. Finally we've got our Donahue back!!

Speaking of family, there have been some additions since you left. I believe Aiden was born the month following your passing. Then there's Miles. You would love Miles. I don't get to see him too often, in fact I think I have only seen him twice. But Jesse does a great job of posting pictures on Facebook and so I feel as if I am watching him grow up. Kristen has also had two more added to her small brew and so that would have made you a Great Great Grandma five times!  Mom, you should see Lorraine's boys. Andrew is playing varsity football at St. Paul. Camy is an excellent athlete of his own but he is still quite young. I love watching Camy play baseball. You can see how focused he gets. Love it! Gentry finished college and she is teaching children with special needs and Jeremy graduated from the firefighters academy. He wants to finish school before he joins any department but he is doing some volunteer work with a couple of local stations. Sidney has become an excellent soccer player and she is a wonderful little artist. And that Dylan of Tim & Debbie's is so smart. Both he and Noah are characters. Tim and Deb say that Dylan isn't focused on school, but I think he is just bored and is actually a lot more intelligent than they know! Some kids just learn differently. Same story with Steve's little one Jack. He hates school but he is no dummy. I think for most the part, all of your great grand kids are bright all in their own way.

Our family has not been the same since both you and Dad left. I think Dad was the last thread barely keeping us together! I try to stay in touch with some of my nieces and nephews and I've been in touch with all of my brothers. Ray had cancer and I believe he is done with his treatments. I have not seen him since his surgery but I have been getting glowing reports. I think he is going to beat it. I hear he is an excellent patient and follows his doctors orders to a "tee". And Joe is living in China. I can hear you now "Why would he want to live there?".  But you know Joe, never lets an opportunity slip away. I know he wishes you could have come to visit him in China. And Eric has been dating a lovely young lady. Everyone likes her and she has an adorable little boy named Roman. You would love him. She is a good Mommy and I know you would have noticed that right away. I remember the compliments you would give Debbie and Corrine about what good little Mommy's they were. And Kyle is still at the Sheriff's Department and he moonlights as a DJ. He loves it and seems pretty good at it. You would be pleased.

But it seems Mom you were the glue that kept us together. I understand this happens to a lot of families. It is a shame. But I promise to do the best I can to stay in touch with some of the kids. I also see my cousin Gloria from time to time. When I was not working I would drive out to her place and we went to the movies, lunch and even did some gambling. Shocking I know. I never thought I would be estranged from my own sisters. But I suppose it happens. I can only take care of myself and my family now and any extended family that wants to have a relationship with me. I'm sure you would agree.

Aw Mom, I miss you so much. I had no idea it would be like this when you left. I promised myself I would do my best to remember the things you and Dad stood for and to try and keep your legacy alive. Times are different now but I do try my best. Last Thanksgiving I was thinking about you and how you'd cook for the whole family (of course the girls would all bring the sides!). But I do not ever remember you complaining about it. It seemed like it was just accepted as part of your job. Of course, as you got older and your children started having Thanksgiving dinners of their own, you did not mind when we went out for dinner on Thanksgiving or even went to Puerto Vallarta!

I won't even get into the political mess our country is in. However, you would have a field day with the crazy right wingers. There have been multiple shooting incidents around the country and there is this huge gun debate going on right now. The country is very divided. I am not sure where this country is headed but so far it looks like it is hell in a hand basket. I have not lost hope that we can turn it around. There is so much junk and trash out there now. Kids are not raised to respect others, there is so much entitlement out there and the things that young people value is sad to see. But I have not lost hope and I know all I can do is do my best to help others. I haven't forgotten how much you would help the poor. As feisty as you were you always had a soft spot for the poor.

Has Dad found you? I believe he had a tough time passing over. I just think he was not ready and felt he still had "stuff" to take care of. But I know you are happy and I appreciate your visits to me. I have heard your words and I try to keep them close in my heart. I am waiting for Dad to visit so I will know he is at peace. I did see the hawk that flew over my head on the day he passed away and I know that was him. Strange coincidence, my friend Aileen gave birth to a little girl the same day Dad passed away. Isn't that awesome? Give my Dad a hug for me.

 I know you are with me and I can feel you sometimes. Most of the time it is when I am cooking. But I also see you in other places.Especially when I wear the gloves you gave to me. How did you know I would need them so badly now!  I also pay homage to you when I am taking care of my little garden. I still have one of your plants! I almost lost it but was able to bring it back to life. I am just waiting for a bloom to come but it has been four years now!

Happy Birthday Mom. I know your life's journey was not easy but I know you are at peace now and have found the love you wanted for so long.


Sunday, October 6, 2013

Brunchin with the ladies....

Bloody Marys, Mimosas, frittata, croissants, fresh fruit, samosas, coffee, apple, pear and berry tarts, whole grain with chickpea salad, muffins, basil sausage and bacon.

Talked about kids going to college, mistakes we think we made as parents, first marriages, how no one is currently doing anything remotely close to what they studied in college, dating after fifty, our elderly parents and our take on Breaking Bad. Trips to Spain, riding our bike through Europe. Someone was celebrating 35 years of marriage and someone was soon to be celebrating 5 years of being cancer free. Someone talked about the challenges of having a child with autism and another told us a story about how she just kicked her son's girlfriend out of the house. Someones daughter sings opera music and some are looking for their next career move.

Ten ladies together on a Sunday afternoon in La Crescenta and the only thing that tied us together was Madeleine. This was how all conversations began: "How do you know Madeleine?".  Some of us worked with her, some of us met her through other mutual friends. The question was asked and answered and then we were off to the races! One story leading to the next. Chatting over delicious food, some with a little buzz others preferring just juice or water. Ten ladies, not all over fifty but all intelligent and alive.

It may seem strange and you may not be able to relate, but I do yearn for women friends close to my age.

Do not get me wrong, I love my younger friends. The youngest of my friends is just twenty-seven years old, and yet she is wise beyond her years. I love the time we spend together and it seems like we can talk for hours upon hours from everything from finances to healthy recipes. I would not change a thing from my friendship with her. I actually learn from her.

But there is something so wonderful about sharing with "seasoned" women.

There is a certain acceptance that happens after turning fifty. Acceptance about each other and more importantly about ourselves. It is nice if you still wear make-up, curl your hair or wear high heels. But it is really okay if you don't. It's okay if you color your hair and it's okay if you want your beautiful gray to shine. The important thing is knowing who you are and being comfortable with that.

Yes, I am quite sure there are plenty of younger women who believe they are comfortable with who they are. However, you really don't know who you are or what you are made of until you have the experience. The experience that comes with life and all that life has to offer. Sometimes life hands you pain and sometimes it hands you joy.

Does everyone need trials, tragedy or experience  in their life in order to have self realization?
Perhaps not always. But that experience always makes the journey so worthwhile.

And while it may not feel so wonderful, one of the great things about being fifty (or over) is  that so many of us are still hungry. Not necessarily ambitious....but hungry. Striving. And while it might seem like a struggle and honestly who wants to struggle...the beautiful thing about struggling is there will be a release. And when you find that you can let go and stop the struggle is when you can really begin to live again. It is taking that huge, deep breath of clean fresh air and feeling so alive. You will stop asking "what do I want to do now?" or even "Can I do this?" and then,  you will just "do it". It might take baby steps, but you will take them.

I believe I learned the most since I turned fifty.

 The most important thing I've learned is that I still have a lot to learn. I can take the experiences I have had and learn from them. I might make some of the same mistakes again. Maybe again and again. But I will learn. Deep breath. Release. Now move on. Learn some more. You think to yourself  "If I only knew then what I know now". But you don't ever want to go back. You've come to really know the phrase "spilled milk".

Then you take another deep breath. Enjoy. Smile. Cry. Laugh. Hug. Buy that new lipstick or those new shoes you don't really need. Wear your Chuck Taylor's. Read that book or watch that old movie and vacuum tomorrow. Shrug off the time you cried at work.  Have lunch with a friend. Ride your bike and think of the times you skinned your knee when you were six. Take that  Tylenol to ease life's aches. Sometimes you take them with a glass of cool white wine (life's pain not the Tylenol). Cook something your mom or grandma used to make. Cry some more. Laugh some more. Take care of business. Think about dreamy kisses. And when you turn off the light and lay your head down on your pillow, think about those babies you used to hold in your arms.

A few years ago I had one of my many revelations. When this happened I adopted a song and every time I hear this song I am reminded that life is good. I am reminded that I survived. I did it and I am ready to do some more.

When I turned fifty my friend Julie said to me "You have arrived"!

 And it was true. I had arrived.



When explanations make no sense 
When every answer's wrong 
You're fighting with lost confidence 
All expectations come 

The time has come to make or break 
Move on don't hesitate 

Don't stop to ask 
Now you've found a break to make at last 
You've got to find a way 
Say what you want to say 

When situations never change 
Tomorrow looks unsure 
Don't leave your destiny to chance 
What are you waiting for 
The time has come to make your break 

Don't stop to ask 
Now you've found a break to make at last 
You've got to find a way 
Say what you want to say 

Don't stop to ask 
Now you've found a break to make at last 
You've got to find a way 
Say what you want to say 

Some people stop at nothing 
If you're searching for something 
Lay down the law 
Shout out for more 
Breakout and shout day in day out 

Monday, September 30, 2013

OK, so THAT happened!

And by "that" I mean I finally set up my website and now my little business is on a roll.

I had been thinking about setting up a little studio for my art. I got my DBA "Watercolors on the Blvd", a Federal I.D. (which apparently any Joe Schmo can do!), I opened up a business bank account and my last step was to set up a website.

Originally, since I had my blog I was not going to have a website. But it seemed like any independent artist that I would meet would ask "What is your website name?"  Gulp. OK...get to work again. And brother it was work! Especially for a computer illiterate like me!!  Now I know why people hire other people to set up their sites. Mine is simple...which works for me.

If you have another minute, please visit!

Next stop...paint, paint, paint!

Thursday, August 15, 2013

My apologies to you, Mr. Hanks!

I must tell you Mr. Hanks, I completely disagree with you. There is crying in baseball, and plenty of it!

In fact, I can tell you specific times when I have not only cried but have completely balled my eyes out!  In baseball there is so much emotional going on, I don't know how there isn't more crying.

Yes, yes I know, it is a "guy" thing and men don't like to cry in public. Especially baseball players. It is such a gritty and psychological  game that baseball players actually cannot allow themselves to be seen as vulnerable. There is a code.  I get it. I will give you that much. But what I know, is that I do cry and there is crying in baseball.

Why? When? Where does this crying take place?

There are many times that crying is involved but I do know of  three specific times when crying in not only involved, but it is very very appropriate!

Here are three times where crying is involved in baseball:

Opening Day:   If you live in Los Angeles and have never been to Opening Day at Dodger Stadium you do know what you are missing. It is the essence of being an Angeleno and of being a baseball fan. I admit I did not attend my first Opening Day until later in life and now I'm hooked.  I think I have attended about 8 Opening Day games. The first few games I attended were with my son Eric and my niece Candice. Candice normally rents a limousine for the day and we plus a few of her friends pile into the limo and arrive at the stadium for a little tailgating before the game. I haven't joined them now for a few years and the Stadium has been a little more restrictive about tailgating. However, I believe it is very important to arrive to the game when the gates open, which is usually 2 hours prior to game time.
Our view from our seats Opening Day 2013
  Since it is normally in April, the chances that the weather will be picture perfect are quite high. You get your Dodger Dog, grab a beer and head for your seats. I personally prefer being in my seat early. For one, I don't have to deal with the crowd and secondly I feel like I am part of the action. What I mean, is I feel like I am not just a spectator but part of the whole show. It is a similar feeling when you are performing before a crowd. When I was in school and played the flute in the orchestra we were always instructed to be in our seats an hour before the performance was to begin. We (the orchestra) would get into our seats, polish up our instruments, warm them up a little, maybe do a little chatting with fellow musicians or maybe practice some of the more difficult pieces. I was in my element and I knew that was what I was destined to become.  So for me, being at the game early is almost the same feeling. 

Eventually, after both teams have come out to stretch and warm up, the pre-game festivities begin and so does my crying.

Every year the Dodgers put on different pre-game festivities. One year they set up a sort of  "Field of Dreams" event.  They would display the younger picture of a retired Dodger on the screen and then the actual player would come out to the field. It was beautiful. Eventually there was a group of about 20 or more old timers out on the field. Then they announced the current line-up and all players were out on the field. My description is not doing the moment any justice but it was an experience I will never forget. Tears were appropriate.

Every Opening Day is different and I always look forward to what the pre-game festivities will be.
One event that always takes place is a fly over. Normally it is the Stealth Bomber which always gives me chills. One year they had both LAPD and LAFD helicopters fly over in honor of fallen officers.  Right before every flyover there is the display of the flag.
Opening Day Dodger Stadium 2013

Due to the government budget cuts, there was no flyover in  2013. But these moments still bring on chills and tears. 

Pre-game Honors:  Before every game the Dodgers have special guests come out to the field for various reasons. Sometimes it is a corporate sponsor, sometimes it is an actor or some other performer. For Hello Kitty Blanket day they had a big Hello Kitty throw out the first pitch. If it is a certain nationality day they might have a singer from that particular nationality come out. Some games they have military personnel. In fact, this season they now have a "military person of the game" that is honored.

For me, the most moving honors are the heroes of the LAPD and LAFD. They will have the honored officer or officers come out and stand on the baseline. Then the announcer goes one by one to introduce each officer and explain what action the officer took in a particular situation. This always brings on the flood gates. If you know me you would know I am a staunch supporter of the police and fire department, but especially the police. And the stories and actions these particular officers have taken are extraordinary. All have risked their life to save another person.

There is one officer and story in particular I will never forget. Her name is Kristine Ripatti,  I knew of her story before they honored her at Dodger Stadium because I happen to read the article of the incident she was involved in when it happened.

She was attempting to arrest a man who had reportedly just robbed a gas station. He shot at her, hitting her in the upper torso and twice in the arm. The bullet lodged behind her bullet-proof vest. Her partner, shot and killed the suspect and was credited for saving Kristine's life by blocking the blood flow from her wounds. I remember the story because it seemed so senseless and tragic. I recall reading about how her husband, another LAPD officer, was informed of the incident and his reaction. It was gut-wrenching.  I followed the story through the newspaper and after a while it wasn't news anymore and I lost track of her. I knew she survived but I never knew what became of her. The incident took place in 2006.

Then, a year or so ago, there she was. Dodger Stadium, pre-game honors. She looked great and she was in a wheel chair, paralyzed from the waist down. I could not believe my eyes. What a moment. I was happy to see her and so sad to see her in a wheel chair. I thought about how she probably loved being a cop. I thought about what kind of strength she must have to be able to sit there and smile and wave at all the fans. It made all of my complaints and problems seem so trivial.  I cried then and I am crying as I write this.

She is now a motivational speaker, a body builder and she and her husband own and operate an officer safety product business. She also had a child since the incident. She and her husband had a daughter before she was shot.

Here is a link to her story:

World Series:  Yes, World Series. I cry at World Series games. No matter the winner. I know I shouldn't. These guys make millions of dollars and why should I be happy for them? They don't care about me! Right? Besides, it is not like they are saving lives.

But, it's baseball. Our National pastime. These guys who hit a ball with a piece of wood, who chew tobacco and spit and scratch themselves. I am happy for them and I cry when I see how full of joy they are. Because with all of the wars, the street killings, the world turmoil, we have these guys to transport us to another place. Because their joy is not about making the big bucks, it is about working hard and focusing on your work and seeing all that hard work come to fruition. And isn't that a great feeling? I cry because I know that for seven months these men have lived with each other, men of different ethnic backgrounds, some not even knowing any English, and yet they did something a team....through thick and thin. They may not be heroes like Ofc. Kristine Ripatti...not even close. But they are my heroes.

I remember for so many years I could never figure out why a team, when losing a game by a lot would not just yell "uncle"? Why bother? You are already down 10 to 0, bottom of the ninth, why bother? I asked one of my sons, Kyle, and he said "Mom, you NEVER give up. NEVER.". It took me some time but eventually it sunk in. Never give up. Never stop trying. Never stop trying to help others. Never stop helping your team. And when you's okay to jump and down......and it is definitely okay to cry.

Saturday, June 15, 2013

Sam I am

Sam at my Dad's Birthday Celebration

Sam is married to my niece Laura and Laura is the daughter of my brother David. Together, Sam and Laura have 2 children.  Sam is a successful entrepreneur and optometrist owning his own optometry business in Simi Valley. To say Sam is a likeable person is an understatement.  He comes from a lovely family and after you get to know him it is obvious that he was raised right.  And aside from his good nature and good manners, the guy has a killer sense of humor.  I always say he is the Justin Bateman of our Arrested Development family. He is the straight guy with that wickedly dry sense of humor.
When my father passed away, Sam wrote a letter about my dad and sent it to his in-laws (my brother and his wife).  My brother then forwarded the letter to the rest of his siblings.  To honor my father for this upcoming Father’s Day, I have copied the letter here to share.  (with Sam’s permission)
To Sam:  Thanks for being “real” and for speaking from your heart. 

Dear David,
I wanted you to know what your father meant to me.  Joe Aguilar was a quiet, humble man; a true gentleman.  There are few men I have admired more.  Though we were not blood relations, I was honored he allowed me to call him Grandpa.
It has been over 25 years since I met Laura and entered into the Aguilar Family.  From the beginning, I always knew who the Patriarch was.  Grandpa never demanded respect, especially from the grandkids, it was always given. Grandpa always welcomed me: he made me feel like I was a part of His family.
In the later years, he would come and stay with you.  I so enjoyed sitting and hearing his stories, his life.  Like many men of the Greatest Generation, he told stories of himself grudgingly.  Never one to boast, his stories were of the struggles he endured.  One thing about all his stories, family was always first.  Grandpa taught me 2 great lessons; love of Our Lord and Love of spouse and family.  Funny how those two lessons are so related.  I can not think of Grandpa without Grandma, the two will always be together.  They remind me of this verse:

Genesis 22:17   I will bless you abundantly and make your descendants as countless as the stars in the sky and the sands of the shore.

A man born with little, leaves so much. I will always be proud to call Joe Aguilar my Grandpa.  God Bless You!



Thursday, June 6, 2013

Memorial visit

On Saturday, May 25th, I was on the freeway going to the home of one of my nieces to deliver some Dodger tickets. I had just had a lovely breakfast with my dearest and oldest friend Caren and the breakfast was over a little earlier than expected. As I was just about to get on the Pomona freeway I had the notion to stop and visit my parents grave site.  I had not been to visit the site since my dad's funeral and I cannot really tell you why. Denial? Perhaps.

But there I was, just about to the approach the exit and I made an instant decision to to take the exit. It seemed like a pretty natural feeling and so I went with the flow. I had a few dollars in my purse so I thought I would buy flowers from the lady who sells them illegally on the street corner. Just the same way my dad and I  would when coming to visit my mom.  After buying the flowers I stopped at a local florist and picked up a little flag in honor of my dad's service in the military.  

I arrived at the cemetery and as I drove towards my parents location I thought about my other family that were at this same cemetery; My grandmothers, both Juana and Ramona, I believe my Dad's birth and step fathers' are here, my aunt Helen, Julia and I think my aunt Emily is here, my uncle "Pauncy" and my uncle Jess is here. It was a rather odd feeling when I realized how many family members were here. I felt a little claustrophobic!

I parked the car and made my way up the little incline to the site. As I was walking I noticed a gentleman tending to a grave site. He was down on his hands and knees and seemed to be clipping or edging along the grave marker or stone. I had seen this man before. In fact, when my dad I would come to visit my mom we would see him here often.  One time the man had a water hose connected to a faucet and was watering the site he was attending to. My dad made some sort of comment about how the man really worked hard on his task at hand. My dad was always impressed with physical work done by others. I always imagined it was something he learned from one or both of his parents. He rarely talked about either of his fathers. I know his birth father passed away when my dad was young and his mom later remarried. I often wondered if his step-dad bullied him or mistreated him because my dad seem to have some sort of rage inside. Even though the last 20 or so years of my dads life he might have seemed like a softy, I had witnessed times where his rage was out of control. Sometimes towards us kids, and sometimes towards my mother. I guess you could say I am a survivor of domestic abuse. But I have long since forgiven him. Something I will write about soon.

So I made my way to the grave site. And there it was. My dad's name and the years 1919- 2013 engraved on the marker. It almost took my breath away and my system got a little jolt. Up until my dad's passing the marker only had his name and his birth year beside my mother's name and dates. Now that story is complete. They are both together again. In peace and in love. It was a strange, unknown feeling to be standing there....almost like I was standing on "history"...of times gone by.

I stayed standing there a few minutes. I thought about when I would bring my dad, he would always pray in silence and when he was finished he would make the sign of the cross. While I stood there alone I heard my dad say "well Mija, now I don't have to walk all that way over the hill to get here...because I am already here!". 

It brought a smile to my face and I had such an enormous feeling of joy and peace. I knew at that moment I would need to come back again. Often.

So I started my way back to my car and when I glanced over at the man he looked up and waved. I waved back and that prompted him to get up and start walking towards me. I made a remark about all the work he put into keeping the grave site clean. Then, we just started talking.

He told me that particular site was his grandmothers and his parents were on the other side of the cemetery.
He asked about my father and said he had too noticed the two of us at the cemetery in the past. I explained my dad had just passed away in February and the man seemed genuinely shocked and sad. He was even surprised when I told him my dad was 93 years old.

We continued on to discuss our parents and how they passed. When he told me about his dad his eyes began to tear up and I have to admit, mine did too. Here we were, two strangers, sharing our grief with one another. He told me his dad went out to move the trash bins from out in front of his house to the back yard. He said his dad had not really wanted to go out because it had been raining, but his mother insisted that he go and take care of this task. So as his father was bringing the trash can up the driveway somehow the bin got away from him, he tried to grab it, missed the can and fell. He didn't break anything, but he hit his head pretty hard. I do not remember if they rushed him to the hospital or that he seemed ok and so they waited a few days. This part is a little fuzzy. All I remember is that after a while, days, maybe weeks, his father began to  walk sort of funny. The man said he walked as if he were drunk. So, they took him to the hospital and they did see some bleeding (or bruising) in his head. He said his dad felt fine but they kept him in the hospital for observation. Then as days continued his heart began to fail. As the doctor explained, while his father's health was good, his heart could not take the shock of the fall and of the result of the fall. In a few days he fell into a coma. The man said it became time to say "goodbye" and that all of their family came to see him, cousins, uncles, you name it. The man told me he was so glad that he was able to say "goodbye" to his father. I wasn't sure if my tears were for him or for me. Maybe a little of both mixed together.

As we continued to chat  we discovered 2 major coincidences; we both had the same last name and we both lived about 2 blocks from each other when we were really young. Our families went to the same church, the same market and the same butcher. His mother was from that Lincoln Heights neighborhood as so was my dad. His father was from El Paso and so was my mom. It was very funny!!  I am going to dig around and ask my other brothers and some cousins if they remember his family.  What a strange and small world.

We continued our conversation a little longer. We shared our occupations and a little about our lives.  I believe we must have talked for well over an hour and I wasn't sure if I was over staying my welcome. So I told him I needed to get along, we shook hands again (we shook hands when we first introduced ourselves) and we said that maybe we would see each other the next time we were at the cemetery.

As I drove away I thought about some of the things we talked about. I thought about how there really are nice people in the world. I wondered if this meeting had any significance and about the rare coincidences.

I decided that there are always significances when two or more people come together in a place of calm and peace. Two people who share a common grief about two different people. I accepted nothing else but this because I know someday the real answer will be revealed. But for now I accept that this meeting just "was" and I would treasure the short time I had with this stranger and know that it was our parents, our history and our grief that brought us together, for maybe no other reason but to reach out and be friendly strangers . 

Friday, May 31, 2013

My own Gran Torino moment
I live in Mid Cities Los Angeles. It does not matter whether you are from Los Angeles or not.....nobody knows where this is. It is the land of the forgotten. In between Hancock Park and South Los Angeles and just east of Culver City, 5 miles west of Downtown. It is famous for it's Roscoe's Chicken and Waffles and on La Brea Ave. there is a company, Grey Goose Framing, that has the exact replica of Gort the robot in it's storefront window. We are also home to La Maison Du Pain, where you can get the most delicious, the most flakey and most buttery croissants this side of the Mississippi. OK, that might be a slight exaggeration on my part....but trust me, they are THAT good.

Aside from Roscoe's and the croissants and Gort, Mid Cities is a rather "mixed" neighborhood. Yes, mixed racially, but also mixed in income levels. There are pockets of neighborhoods within this area that have very nice middle class homes with the neatly mowed lawns and all. And then we have little areas where the homes and/or the occupants are less than desirable. In fact, there are 2 blocks of motels that rent rooms out by the hour. This of course lends itself not only to prostitution, but to drugs and "street" people. There also happens to be a couple of "half way" houses or rehab places within two blocks of my place. Not exactly a high crime neighborhood but most people have wrought iron on their windows. I have an alarm system, wrought iron and a dog. However, I do find the majority of the people in my "hood" to be friendly. It is not unusual for me to get lots of "hellos" or "good mornings" when I am out walking my dog.

The other thing I do not care for especially are all of the gas stations and automotive shops. The automotive shops especially make the place look "dingy" or "dirty". But there is not a lot I can about it and I suppose I should be happy that the owners still have their businesses to operate. Perhaps their customers patronize the markets or shops in the neighborhood and then that becomes a win-win for everyone involved.

There is one gas station just down my street that I do patronize frequently. It is run by a couple of Asian-American gentlemen. It is a nice station. It is a "76" station in fact. The owners keep it nice and clean and during the Christmas Holiday they put up a huge Christmas Tree on the corner. I really like the tree and  I think helps to make that little area brighter amongst the wino's, gangsters and street people that usually occupy that area.  I have taken my previous car to the mechanic at this station and they have always treated me very nice and have always been reasonable. In fact, whenever I go to get gas or to have my car washed there (they have one of those drive thru car washes) either one of the owners always greets me with a kind smile or simple nod of their head.

One morning last week I stopped to put gas in my car before heading out to work. When I stepped out of my car a young Hispanic male approached me. He looked like he may have been in his late teens or early twenties. His hair was cropped rather short and I couldn't tell if it was a gangster look or that he was just let out of jail. His clothes were rather baggy on him but there was something about them that told me they weren't really his clothes. By that I mean, they looked like they belonged to someone else at one time and "donated" to him. But other than that, he appeared clean.

He approached me, put his hand out and said "Ma'am, is there anyway you could possibly help me...." and I didn't hear the rest because I immediately shook my head "No".  He replied "OK, thank you". 

I make it a rule never to give people on the streets money. Although I have helped people on the street in the past, maybe by giving them food or clothing, I never give them money. Having said that, I have to admit there is always this little voice in my head (or is it my heart?) that says to me "what if he is really hungry or needs bus money"? Then then my better sense says "that is what you wish, but you know they are going to either buy drugs or booze".

So, the kid walked away and went over to the bus stop. There always seems to be a crowd at this bus stop and most of the people that stand there look a little down on their luck. I often wonder if they come from the rehab places. I went on with my business of putting gas in my car. I noticed one of the gas station owners at the cashier booth and he waved "hello" to me. I smiled and waved back and finished up with my purchase.
As I got back into the car I heard some shouting and when I turned to see what it was I saw the nice Asian owner yelling at the kid. At first I thought maybe he was telling him to stop bothering his customers, which I was rather grateful for, but as I continued to watch, the owner was becoming extremely angry. I could hear what he was saying to the kid, but the kid was replying "F--- You" and other nice things like that!  Then it seemed the owner was accusing the kid of doing something with the trash can or the window wiper that is held on the side of the can. The kid just kept yelling back.

Then the owner picked up the trash can and threw it at the kid. All the while he continued to yell at him. The kid was now saying to him "you better leave me alone or I will kick your ass". The owner never relented. I noticed now the owners hand were clenched and he was becoming more and more angry. I also noticed the kid was now off the property and standing only on the sidewalk. A few more words were said and then one of the mechanics came over to calm the owner down. The mechanic picked up the trash can and both he and the owner began to walk back towards the station. But the owner kept his eye on the kid. Meanwhile, the kid was yelling a few nice things at the owner and pleading his case to the other junkies at the bus stop.

While this was going on my first instinct was to call the police. My fear was that someone was going to get hurt and I didn't want to see my nice neighbors (the gas station owner) get hurt. But I talked myself out of it. In Los Angeles, unless someone has a gun, the police normally take 2 to 4 hours to arrive. Especially if it's a non-emergency. So, I buckled up and headed out.  As I drove away I was still a little shaken up at what I witnessed. Mostly, I was shocked to see the owner behave so violently!  As I let the feelings pass I started to wonder if perhaps there has been some history of people vandalizing the station and the owner reached his breaking point?  Maybe he knew who that kid was? But, then I had the thought of "what if this nice man who ran a nice little business in this rough neighborhood knows that his is the only way to deal with these types of people"?  Because the more I thought about what took place I realized that while the kid threatened to hurt the man, he kept backing away. Then, the kid stepped off the property. You see? This kid was not new to the rules. He knew it was smarter for him to go to a public area. He knew he was wrong. And the owner, having this business for as many years as he has, knew the only way to protect his business was to stand up against this kid. He was not going to let the kid bully him. In fact, he turned the table on the kid and went on the attack.

Why?  To survive. We are a world attached to "things".  We want things, we have things and sometimes other people want our things. So we have to protect our things. We have to stand up against the evil in this world and protect our things. And while I am against violence I cannot hardly blame the owner. Because I am of this world too. Attached to my things. I suppose the owner could have simply done nothing. Maybe walk over to see what damage the kid had done and smile...walk away. I do not have an answer. I cannot answer for him.

There have been times when I have had to stand up to protect my families' property. Sometimes I have looked the other way. I too, have had to learn when to fight which battles. But I always remain vigilant, noticing my surroundings when I get out of my car to open the gate, looking out the window when my dog barks at a passerby. This is not to just protect my things but to be wise about my life. To learn from the past and from others. While, my world inside is calm and full of love, the world outside is not always on the same level.

As I continued my drive to work I was overcome with sadness.

Sadness with a sprinkle of reality.

Then I remembered once seeing a bumper sticker that read "Trust in God, but lock your car". 

Wednesday, May 15, 2013

Peace, Love and all that jazz

Thought is so cunning, so clever, that it distorts everything for its own convenience. Thought in its demand for pleasure brings its own bondage. Thought is the breeder of duality in all our relationships: there is violence in us which gives us pleasure but there is also the desire for peace, the desire to be kind and gentle. This is what is going on all the time in all our lives. Thought not only breeds this duality in us, this contradiction, but it also accumulates the innumerable memories we have had of pleasure and pain, and from these memories it is reborn  . - Freedom from the Known,101

This is one of my favorite readings from Jiddu Krishnamurti.  If you do not know anything about Krishnmurti I recommend you Google his name and read about him. I did and I was fascinated about this man. I had already heard of him and his followers. There is a center in Ojai that teaches his philosophy and I was always curious about him. So, recently, I Googled his name...and well the rest is history.

I would prefer not telling you why (at this time) I am so interested in his way of thinking because I would rather you read about him and come to your own conclusion. I feel that it is not my place to try and persuade you. 

Recently, I got into a sort of heated exchange with a family member. This person said something towards me and I first put my guard up and did not allow that person to upset me. Then when the attack became vicious, I retaliated.

I was bothered about this for a while. Perhaps I still am. I did not like that I responded the way I did and I see now that has been the way I have responded to other attacks in my past. And, it did not sit well with me.  A few days after the heated exchange I took some time to reflect on why I was upset. It was rather difficult because the more I thought about what took place I just got angrier! I just kept coming up with more reasons to be angry.

 So, I took a different approach. I began to read. I began to read from Krishnamurti and I began to read from various blogs about what it meant to be true to myself.....what it means to be genuine.

When you hear the word "genuine" you might think of "genuine leather" or "genuine thought".  You might think about things that are "real".  So, putting into a different does a person become "real"? 

I am sure you have heard people say about other people "He is a real person" or "Hey man, keep it real".  I've said it before and the funny thing is I did not really know what I was saying! 

What does it mean to be real?

To answer that you first have to know a little about yourself. What do you like? What makes you comfortable?  Do you do things because everyone else is doing it? Do you act out of fear? Are you afraid of what someone will say about you? Do you say or do things that are truly in your heart or are you acting out from some other place? A need for power? A need to hide?  Do I always need to be right? Do I think if I act tough people will think I'm strong?

And so it seems the answer is different for everyone. Now..that does not mean if you rationalize your behavior you are keeping it real. And by rationalize I mean making excuses for your behavior. That is not being real. So many of us lie to ourselves about why we do things and the truth to the matter is that we aren't fooling anyone.  Because really, you cannot change the truth.

And so I let these thoughts float around for a while and I continued to read and learn.
The next thing I did was to stop thinking. I moved those thoughts outside of myself and I quieted my mind.

The next day, at one moment I sort of woke up! Almost like that little light bulb came on over my head.  Aha!  That's it! I am not being real. I am making this situation about me and it isn't about me. It is about something outside of me that I seem to have a need to control and that is what is making me angry. There is this negative energy I have allowed to enter into my space and I continue to feed nourish it. I need to let it go. I need to stop making things about me. Stop bringing my thoughts to my center and let them just be.

When I realized this notion the next thing I felt was this beautiful unconditional love. I felt it all around me and it was so calming. I immediately began to see what was really important to me. I began to see that what I needed to do was cherish the love around me and not allow what I cannot control to consume me. I cannot allow those who do not love me or wish harm to me to be in my thoughts.  Perhaps I have done something to them that has caused harm? And if that is true, I suppose I owe it to them to talk to them about it and to apologize. Once I apologize I must leave it. I must accept my part in it, apologize if I caused harm and then leave it. 

A day later I heard my Mother speak to me. And for you scientists, I suppose I felt her energy within me.  But I distinctly heard her speak to me. It was her voice but she sounded so loving. She said " It's true Mejia. Just have love in your heart and nothing else will matter.  I have found it and I am so happy".

I suppose in some ways I am grateful for the conflict. Conflict is struggle and once I got away from the struggle I was embraced with love. Love in my heart. Love all around me.  Where there is love there is no struggle.  There is no thought. There is only pure love. Love for my sons. Love for my sons' wife. Love for those who love me and love for those who despise me. 

So, does that mean I will never feel pain or hurt?  Of course not. I am not perfect and I will need to practice this exercise of living in the moment...of calming my mind. And when I stop is when the conflict enters.  Oye vey.....I have a long, long way to go!

However, with love my mind is world is joyous and my heart is full.  

Tuesday, April 9, 2013


I'm  always hearing people proclaim "I have no regrets". Which seems like a very well balanced kind of thing to say. So you have no regrets?  You never say "oh darn, I wish I hadn't done that"? Or perhaps, is it that at some point you may have regretted something you have done, but have been able to shrug it off and move on? And if so, I applaud you.

I like to think that I have regrets, but for most of them, I do not allow them to run my life. I have learned something from most of them. And some, well not really regrets, more like a bad decision that may have had some spectacular results. For instance, perhaps a poor decision was to get married so young, but I would not change the fact that I have two great sons that were a result of that marriage.

Some regrets are easy to shrug off. I regret not staying in college. But I made a choice and I made the most of out my job/career. I could go back to school, but I do not really see that happening. It is not that important to me now. So I have moved on! Easy peasy right?

I regret taking my health for granted when I was younger. Now I am paying for it but I am also doing what I can to restore it. Not so easy, but still workable.

But what about those regrets you have that concern a lost loved one? What do you do with those? Ahhh...not so easy. You cannot change things once the person is gone. So, do you just shrug it off and throw it into the pile of other "mistakes" or "bad decisions"? What happens to them after that?

Before my Mom passed away, I had a chance to really get to know her. I'm glad that I was able to embrace who she was, the good and the bad. I came to learn that most of her criticisms about me had more to do with her issues and not mine. And, it just made me love her more. It was great to have a real Mom and let myself be a real daughter to her. I used to look forward to spending time with her and my Dad and I cherished every moment we had together. When she passed I had no regrets. I felt that she and I made amends and my conscience was clear.

With my Dad, I felt the same...somewhat.

Although he was not able to be the same kind of Dad he had been to me as when I was younger, he was still my Dad. He couldn't make repairs on my car or fix some darn thing that was broken in my place. (note: he did once clean my filthy oven on one of his last visits!) But he was able to share stories with me now. He had slowed down and was taking the time to talk to me.  I always looked forward to seeing him and I never felt that spending time with him was a burden. I tried to get him to live with me but circumstances were not ideal. The times he did spend with me were always enjoyable and I'm happy that we both made amends to each other and became so close during his last year.

 We used to have some interesting conversations. Once, a couple of years ago while we were sitting at my dining table we were discussing a family issue. He said "Me-jia, don't worry about it. You and I know the truth and nothing else matters. Let's just agree to that and never worry about it again". I loved that he and I had this special bond.

I will never forget leaving his apartment on Super Bowl Sunday. It was the night before he fell ill and went into the hospital, exactly a week before he passed away. We had spent a good day together. He was a little more tired than usual that day. But at some point after the game he said, "I had a good day today. We watched a good game and had some good food".  When it was time for him to go to bed, I got him all tucked in. He asked me to rub a little lotion on his back and then he wanted a pillow to prop him on his side a little. I turned out the lights and just as I was about to close the door I could see his face in the light, he said "Careful driving home Me-hija, I love you". To which I replied " I will and I love you too Daddy".  That was the last coherent conversation we had with each other.

But I still have regrets.

I know I should be saying to myself "you did what you thought was best" or "How were you to know"? and then move on. Besides, all the worrying in the world is not going to change anything. So brush it off, right? Ah yes, but not so easy.

So, I did a little research on regrets and I found this nice little blog on Wikihow.

  To summarize the blog, here are the highlights:
  1. Determine what the regret really is
  2. Ask for forgiveness and make amends
  3. Accept the circumstances
  4. Deal with toxic relationships
  5. Grieve for your regrets
  6. Recognize what you have learn or gained
  7. Write out a plan or agreement for yourself that identifies how you could avoid having this sort of regret in the future

For most the part, I have gone thru steps #1 thru #4. This is what I do for most of my mistakes. But with my recent issue,  Step #5 is a tough one. I still have not had that good cry. I'm sure it will come and I know I need to before it wears on my physically. 

Number #6, yes, this is how I normally handle mistakes or regrets. I ask myself what did I learn and then I can normally turn that ugly thing into something positive. Boy, I've had so many. And I'm not talking about those silly regrets we have all done at some time in our life. (insert smiley face)

You see, what I did was I broke a promise to my Dad.  Oh yes, he and I discussed it and he said he forgave me, but I can't help feeling badly about it. I wish I had never broken that promise. I thought I had time to make it up to him....but time seemed to slip away fast.

One day he told me something and asked me not to repeat it. It was something that pained him so much that he had tears in his eyes. I hated to see him like this. It wasn't right. He was so old and fragile and it killed me that he was in this pain. It wasn't a physical pain.....but an emotional one.

I didn't know what to do. And then, I broke my promise and repeated what he said to me. I repeated it to another sibling because I thought it was the right thing to do. Our dad needed help and I thought we could help him. Well, that person told another person (with good intentions) and they told another person and that person confronted my dad with the information. You see, the "information" was about that last person. Then, finally, my dad came to me with it. It was ugly. Of course as the game "telephone" works, by the time it had gotten back to my dad the information was completely distorted.  On top of that, additional "stories" were told to him about me that were completely false. I tried to tell him I did it because I was trying to help.  Isn't there a quote about good intentions? It was of no use, the damage had been done. I broke my word and now my dad was embarrassed and hurt, not so much that I had broken my word, but that this ugliness was out there. He felt he was the cause.  I am not concerned that the person harming my father was exposed. And quite frankly I do not want to spend any more energy on them. I only regret that I did not keep my word to my father, and as time went on I came to realize the outcome would have been the same regardless of whether I tried to help or not.

As far as the false stories told to my dad about me, well, as I explained to my dad, it is a good battle techinique and it is called creating a diversion. From all the war movies he has seen he knew exactly what I was talking about. In fact, we had a little chuckle about it. I will never forget the day we talked about it. We were having a late breakfast at El Camino Restaurant in Whittier. I looked at him and said "Dad, let us pretend for one second that what you heard about me was true" To which he agreed. Then I said, "Does it change anything? Does it make up for how you have been treated?". To which he sadly shook his head and replied, "No". 

I do not blame anyone else. Although I question the motives of the last person confronting my dad, that is not for me to deal with at this time.  I should not have broken my word. Which brings me to #6 and #7. What did I learn and what could I do in the event I'm faced with this again.  I suppose there are many things I learned but for one I learned I don't want to be a person of promises. When I am gone from this earth, I want people to remember that my word meant something.

"It is not the oath that makes us believe the man, but the man the oath.  ~Aeschylus

So, what would I do if ever in this type of situation again? .

In the situation with my father, I could have simply asked his permission to repeat what he told me in hopes of helping him. If he said "no" then I would have needed to respect his answer. I could have asked my sibling to go talk to our dad in hopes our dad would also spill the beans. Then, I could have just stepped out it. I do not always have to fix everything.

I have also learned that sometimes things have a way of working themselves out. I do not always have to intervene. But what if someone is being harmed? What if that person is someone you love? What if that person is a child or an elderly person? 

It is a tough one and there are many answers.

Maybe I need to go back to #5 and have that good cry and see what happens after that.

Friday, March 29, 2013


My father finally came to visit me in a dream. I was not expecting him so soon. In the event you do not know, my father, Joe, passed away at the age of 93 on February 10th, 2013. My mother, Esther, passed away on November 14th, 2009.

It is a strange is just me now.

Yes, I have my sons, but I don't have any parents. And even though the last 5 years has been more about helping them, they were still there for me. When I really think about it, for most of my life I rebelled against them. I was always fighting with them. That idea is so funny now. Then, later in life, with the help of a therapist I came to understand them. I learned to forgive them and also to appreciate them. I learned that I didn't need to be afraid of my dad anymore and that all my mom really wanted was to be loved.  I understood why some of my siblings harbor bad feelings for our parents and it still makes me sad for them because they will never have a chance to make amends with them. But that's another blog!

I discovered my mom yearned to be creative, but she had such low self esteem that she would always second guess herself. She finally found a way to be creative as well as finding purpose when she began to get involved at her church. She made beautiful drapes for the altar.At my dad's funeral, one of the priests made a remark about how she had left her impression there at the church and how when they put up her drapes they are reminded of her. One year she made childrens costumes for a little dance recital I was organizing. The childrens costumes represented different countries and she made them with no patterns. No one could believe the costumes were hand made. How sorry I am that I let the kids keep those costumes.

I was never good at sewing. I desired it, but I didn't have the patience. But that's ok, anytime I need to hem a pair of pants or darn something, I bring out her little sewing box.

When I open the box my senses are filled with her.

 In the last 10 years of her life I grew to love and know my mom. We had this funny love/hate thing going. We'd argue about the silliest things for about 5 or 10 minutes and then we would just forget all about it in an instant. At first I could not stand to let her win the argument, but then as I realized I could lose her soon, I started to let her win. But it didn't matter. Because we both knew how stupid we both were being.

My mom liked my late husband Jerry immediately upon meeting him. She knew something I didn't. Well, I didn't come to discover it until right before he passed. Her liking Jerry told me mountains about the kind of person she really was. You see, Jerry was a good guy. The kind that are hard to find. And she knew it as soon as she met him.

My mom has visited me a few times in my dreams. The first one she came to show me that she had found her parents. She was a young girl, maybe 6 or 7 years old. She was holding both of their hands and she was so happy. I was so glad that she had found her peace.

I am certain I will be writing more about her....

Back to my dream with my dad! 

In the dream I was dating an African American man. And while that might not be big news, it would be something my parents would not exactly approve of. So, my boyfriend and I were home when we get this surprise visit from my dad. In my dream he is a young man, most likely in his forties. The more I thought about I realized he was around 37 years old when I was born. Maybe this was my first recollection of him...just like in the picture below. He is very happy and calm. And while I thought he was going to be upset when he meets my boyfriend, he is quite the opposite. My dad is very nice to him and he seems genuinely happy for me. Go figure.

The dream sort of took this strange turn and my dad wanted me to help him move some his junk out of the garage. But then he leaves and I am stuck to clean it out myself. Hmmm....funny thing is that almost true to what happened in real life! My dad was a pack rat and when he and my mom moved from their first house they left all their junk! Yikes that was a job....especially for my sons. Oh's all good right?

The other odd thing about the dream is that I asked my dad about mom and whether he had found her. In the dream he didn't seem very concerned about her. Almost a little indifferent. The only thing I could conclude was that perhaps this was a message to me about their individualism. That he loved her but he was his own person. I am not sure about this message. Hopefully time will tell.

I am just so relieved that he came to visit me. I had been a little worried about whether he was at peace yet. I felt bad for him when he was dying. I know he lived a long and good life, but it seemed that he was just beginning to enjoy his bachelorhood and he was talking about things he still wanted to do. Hah! We should be so lucky. In my heart and soul I don't believe he was ready to go. I was worried that he would be lost for awhile until he accepted his passing.  But now, I'm glad he is on his new journey.......

Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Baseball Rules!

Yes, "BASEBALL" does rule. However, in this case I'm talking about "rules" as in things one should not do in a given situation. Now, if you know anything about baseball you know there is most likely a huge book with all of the rules. Only because there are so many! Not to mention there can be different scenarios for every given rule. Heck, the rules are even different when it comes to softball, slow pitch, Little League and even T-ball. All of which I'm not going to get into now. But what I am going to get into are the "unwritten" rules of baseball.


But if they are unwritten, why are they still considered rules?

Because, baseball is considered a "gentleman's game". Which comes into suspect when you see a bench clearing brawl. However, these bench clearing brawls are just what I'm talking about. Have you ever wondered why anytime a couple of players get into a riff both teams jump into action?  Because it's one of the unwritten rules. I swear it's true. Whenever a player gets into an argument or fight with an opposing player, you must get up and protect your teammate or teammates. I swear it is true. There have even been books written on the subject. Which I will list at a later time since I only have an hour for lunch.

Here are some of the other unwritten rules:
  • Running Across the Diamond
The pitchers mound is consider to be sacred and it is considered to be rude if an opposing player enters the mound area or walks across it
  • Tipping Your Cap
When a player has had a great game or has hit a home run, a player is expected to come out of the dugout and tip his cap to the crowd if and when they are cheering or giving him an ovation.
  • Showing Up the Umpire
I don't believe this is really an unwritten rule, because plate umpires can throw a player out for arguing a pitch call. But it was said to be an unwritten rule.

  • Running Out Ground Balls and Fly Ball
Ever wonder why a player will run as fast he can to first even if it's a given that he is out? The is because baseball is a game of hustle. Even when it's near certain a player won't reach first base safely, he's expected to run hard until the out is recorded.
  • Stealing Sign

  • Yes it's rude, but it seems to happen a lot. I just don't understand how it can't!. But you really aren't supposed to be stealing signs.
    • Breaking Up Double Plays
    Again, it's a rude thing. While it's OK to run into a second baseman or shortstop in an effort to keep him from throwing to first base and completing a double play. But an unwritten rule says you don't slide into the base with your cleats high in an effort to injure the opponent.
    • Brawls

    • Sometimes a bean ball can lead to a fight, usually at the pitcher's mound. While fighting is discouraged in the rulebook, the unwritten rule says that when a fight does flare up, you must race in to protect your teammates during the brawl.
      • Don't Rub It

      • I love this one. We all know getting hit by a pitch hurts like a son of a gun. But did you know it's considered a sign of weakness to rub the area in order to soothe it? Yeah, this will divide the boys from the men..
        • Don't Show Up Your Teammates

        • To me this has to be hard. Whenever your teammate makes a fielding error, the pitcher is expected to keep it inside and not show up his teammate via either verbal or nonverbal expressions of frustration. Ouch!
          • Home Runs  
          When a team hits back to back home runs, the next hitter to come to bat should not swing at the first pitch. To do so is consider rude and showing off.