Missing my friend who died too early

One of my closest friends from childhood passed away unexpectedly two and a half years ago. Saturday was her birthday and while I was swamped with moving, I couldn’t get her out of my head. I miss her so much.

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Rebecca with my baby girl.

I learned via Facebook that my dear friend Rebecca had passed away.

She had a huge personality, was fearless, beautiful and brilliant. I received private messages from her on Facebook constantly, and I noticed I didn’t reply to the last one which I received on a Saturday afternoon—the day she died.

I wonder if she knew she was leaving us? I had no idea that she was ill, but I’ve since learned that she had diabetes and died from DKA (Diabetic ketoacidosis).

The first time I met Rebecca was at my childhood house. Her older brother Paul had been hanging out with our family for a few weeks that summer before seventh grade. One day, Rebecca decided to come over to our house with him because she wanted to meet me. We went to different elementary schools but for junior high the town’s elementary school students would all attend the same school. I was shy and wouldn’t leave my bedroom to meet her. Finally, my mom coaxed me out to meet Rebecca Coombs and our friendship of a lifetime began.

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The last photo she sent me of herself. “When my baby grand wants a kiss, I oblige. Sir-Mix-Alot this as good as I can get! lol.”

She was the opposite of me in so many ways. She was bold, outgoing and not afraid of anyone or anything. Her long straight black hair hung past her waist and she had a huge smile. Some of my fondest memories were her introducing me to Taco Bell—which I still love today. I got a burrito supreme today in her honor. Also, because of Rebecca, our entire high school won the local radio station KJR top 40 competition for a free concert—which was the first rock concert I ever attended, “WAR.” I went with her to see Natalie Cole at the Paramount in downtown Seattle, too. She introduced me to so much music and laughter. I remember always laughing with Rebecca and her sister Mary. Mary became as close of a friend to me as Rebecca.

Rebecca was one of a few students from our high school that went to the University of Washington with me. I remember spending the first night in the dorm, with Rebecca in a sleeping bag on my floor.

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Me, Rebecca and my baby girl.

My sophomore year Thanksgiving weekend, I was home and I went with Rebecca and Mary to a concert at a local Grange. I was going to ask a family friend who was there to a Tolo (a dance where the girls ask the boys for the date). We were crossing the street on the Bothell Highway when I panicked at the oncoming lights of cars. I froze in the middle of the street. I grabbed onto Rebecca’s parka hood and she wasn’t able to escape the oncoming pick-up truck either. I shattered my pelvis and Rebecca lost a kidney. We became connected by that one experience forever.

Later on, she married the family friend who I was going to ask to the dance. The marriage didn’t last that long and she did find someone she said was the love of her life, who sadly died a few years ago. Also, her brother Paul died years ago as well as Mary’s husband. Her life had so much tragedy, yet she stayed positive and filled with joy. Near the end, she moved to Hawaii to be close to her son Jake, who she was so proud of. She posted pictures of her new life and her grandchildren whom she called “the grands.”

I will admit she was much better at reaching out and staying connected. Throughout our lives, she’d call me and during the last few months send me private messages on an almost daily basis. One funny story I remember about Rebecca was she called me up and asked who Bill Gates was. She had attended the Microsoft Christmas Party with a friend who worked there and met Bill Gates. She had no clue who he was. It was well known in Seattle that Bill was looking for a wife. He had asked her to Sunday Brunch and she said no. She told me that he was kind of a geek and she was felt awkward and made up an excuse why she couldn’t go.

I miss my dear friend and how full of life she was. God bless you and RIP, Rebecca.

 

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Rebecca, her husband Andrew and son Jake plus my kids.

 

Good News: A Birthday for the 🐕


robert

 

It’s my son’s birthday on Thursday. I wrote this story a few years ago when he was still in college and Spring Break aligned with his birthday. It was always a treat that he could be home and we’d all celebrate. 

I can’t help but get sentimental and nostalgic for when he was a young boy. He called me “sweetheart” because he thought it was my name. When we went to “Mommy and Me” at the Palm Springs Pavilion, there was a “good-bye” song at the end of each session. When his name was called, he’d toddle to the teacher and plant a kiss on her cheek. He was so sweet. Still is.

robert 1In honor of his birthday, I’m posting a story I wrote when he invited 50 kids to his second grade party. Originally published in the Los Angeles Times Kids’ Reading Room, it’s about Angus our yellow lab of 15 years, who shared my son’s birthday.

A Birthday for the Dogs

“MOM, I’m inviting 50 kids to my party.”

“What, Robert?” Mom said. “That’s too many. Do you know 50 kids?”

I sat in the back seat while Mom drove home after school. My eighth birthday was in two weeks. 

“There’s my class, plus Cub Scouts, and playgroup.”

“I can’t afford to take 50 kids skating or bowling. And I don’t want 50 kids in my house. What about the city pool? It’s heated, open year-round, and it’s only 50¢ a kid,” Mom said.

“A swim party, that’s cool!” I said.

“I’ll say yes to the party, but no to presents. Fifty presents is too much for one 8-year-old. It’s decadent.”

“What’s decadent?” I asked. Mom used words I didn’t know.

“Self-indulgent, corrupt.”

I sat silently and thought I’d be sad with no presents. Then I remembered Angus. Mom got him for me as an early birthday present. We were on a waiting list for two years with Guide Dogs of the Desert. He was being trained as a companion dog for people who couldn’t see. We got him because he had poor hips and couldn’t be a working dog. Angus was big, yellow, and I loved him. We shared the same birthday.

“I have a great idea!”

“What?” Mom asked, glancing at me in her rearview mirror.

“I’ll ask for money for Guide Dogs of the Desert.”

“Ah?” Mom made a weird swallowing noise.

“It’s Angus’s birthday, too.”

Angus5

In the rearview mirror I watched Mom dab at the corner of her eyes with a tissue, and nod her head in agreement.

Two weeks later, I had a great birthday. Fifty kids came with bathing suits, towels and money. Instead of opening presents after cake, we counted dollars they had stuffed into a large jar decorated with photos of Angus. 

Together, we raised more than $1,600 for Guide Dogs. Mom called me a “philanthropist” – whatever that is.

Angus8Happy birthday, son! We miss you, Angus!

Missing My Angus and Birthday Boy


robert

 

It’s my son’s birthday is in less than two weeks. I wrote this story a few years ago when he was still in college and Spring Break aligned with his birthday. It was always a treat that he could be home and we’d all celebrate. This year, I’m going to visit him in the Bay area and celebrate his birthday with him there.

I can’t help but get sentimental and nostalgic for when he was a young boy. He called me “sweetheart” because he thought it was my name. When we went to “Mommy and Me” at the Palm Springs Pavilion, there was a “good-bye” song at the end of each session. When his name was called, he’d toddle to the teacher and plant a kiss on her cheek. He was so sweet. Still is.

robert 1In honor of his birthday, I’m reposting a story I wrote when he invited 50 kids to his second grade party. Originally published in the Los Angeles Times Kids’ Reading Room, it’s about Angus our yellow lab of 15 years, who shared my son’s birthday.

A Birthday for the Dogs

“MOM, I’m inviting 50 kids to my party.”

“What, Robert?” Mom said. “That’s too many. Do you know 50 kids?”

I sat in the back seat while Mom drove home after school. My eighth birthday was in two weeks. 

“There’s my class, plus Cub Scouts, and playgroup.”

“I can’t afford to take 50 kids skating or bowling. And I don’t want 50 kids in my house. What about the city pool? It’s heated, open year-round, and it’s only 50¢ a kid,” Mom said.

“A swim party, that’s cool!” I said.

“I’ll say yes to the party, but no to presents. Fifty presents is too much for one 8-year-old. It’s decadent.”

“What’s decadent?” I asked. Mom used words I didn’t know.

“Self-indulgent, corrupt.”

I sat silently and thought I’d be sad with no presents. Then I remembered Angus. Mom got him for me as an early birthday present. We were on a waiting list for two years with Guide Dogs of the Desert. He was being trained as a companion dog for people who couldn’t see. We got him because he had poor hips and couldn’t be a working dog. Angus was big, yellow, and I loved him. We shared the same birthday.

“I have a great idea!”

“What?” Mom asked, glancing at me in her rearview mirror.

“I’ll ask for money for Guide Dogs of the Desert.”

“Ah?” Mom made a weird swallowing noise.

“It’s Angus’s birthday, too.”

Angus5

In the rearview mirror I watched Mom dab at the corner of her eyes with a tissue, and nod her head in agreement.

Two weeks later, I had a great birthday. Fifty kids came with bathing suits, towels and money. Instead of opening presents after cake, we counted dollars they had stuffed into a large jar decorated with photos of Angus. 

Together, we raised more than $1,600 for Guide Dogs. Mom called me a “philanthropist” – whatever that is.

Angus8Happy birthday, son! We miss you, Angus!

Celebrating a birthday at the beach

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Carpinteria State Beach.

We had a great weekend and I loved every minute of it. We went to one of my favorite places, Carpinteria, to celebrate a dear friend’s birthday. I was asked to bring a veggie platter and was shocked to find out how many people would be attending the party. But, when I think about how wonderful my friend is — and the close call she had in August — it makes sense that everyone in her life would want to be there.

I enjoyed meeting her mom and sister plus reuniting with the sister I’ve known. They flew out from the East coast. I also enjoyed talking with all the people in her life and marveled at how many friends she has and how they’ve known her for years and years. She’s a good friend to have and I’m honored to be in her number of friends.

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She made a joke before blowing out her candles that she knew everyone at the party was afraid she wouldn’t make it to her birthday this year. That is so true. She had passed out while at the gym the last time we were in Santa Barbara. She had a blood clot lodge in her carotid artery and a stroke! She was so fortunate to be here to celebrate this birthday a few short months later. And guess what she did for her birthday? She drove to Las Vegas to ride in an 80-mile bike ride! One of her sisters met her there and after the bike ride, they drove back to Santa Barbara in time for the party!

In addition to spending time with friends, I was able to spend a little time doing my most favorite thing which is sitting on the beach reading a book. Also, we found a cute condo we rented on VRBO that was great. I hope to be back for my friend’s birthday next year, too!

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Waffles with the beach dogs where my friend had her birthday party. Photo above is of my dear friend and my daughter, sailing in Santa Barbara.

Bring Tissues to My Big Fat Greek Wedding 2


MV5BNTA1MjMzNDM2M15BMl5BanBnXkFtZTgwNTg3NzQ1NzE@._V1_SX214_AL_Last weekend, my husband and I went to see My Big Fat Greek Wedding 2. It’s the second movie about the Portokalos family, written by and starring Nia Vardalos.

It was the first time we were alone after enjoying two separate spring breaks. First, our daughter had driven from Salt Lake City to So Cal to spend a few days with us. I delighted and luxuriated in the little moments I spent with her. Whether it was getting pedicures, or lounging in the back yard, I just wanted to drink her in, sit next to her, be near her.

I was pleasantly surprised that she allowed me! She seemed to enjoy our company and wasn’t embarrassed to have us hang out with her and teammate Maryssa. Evenings, we went to the pool, sat with the current crop of swim parents and watched Piranha practice. Just like the good old days.

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My daughter and her teammate during Spring break. Honestly, I’m not that short!

The following week, my son spent most of his break with his girlfriend. Oh well. We did spend his birthday weekend with him in one of the most beautiful cities ever, Santa Barbara. He’ll be graduating from UCSB soon, and we may not have the pleasure of visiting him there more than once or twice more. Our friends live there, so we’ll be back. I’m sure I’ll feel a hollowness in my heart my first visit to Santa Barbara knowing he’s moved on.

Back to the movie. This past weekend, once again kidless, we went to see the second installment of My Big Fat Greek Wedding.

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My son’s birthday celebration with our good friends in Santa Barbara. Homemade Black Forest cake by Debbie.

We’d seen the first one as a family, bought the DVD, and it was a favorite with all of us. Michael Constantine, who plays Toula’s father Gus Portokalos reminds us of my husband’s Uncle Luciano, from Sicily. When we mentioned it to him he said, “I’m nothing like him!” I don’t think he took it as a compliment.

We laughed so hard at the first movie. The second one, not as much. It was a good movie, don’t get me wrong. It had the same quirky, awkward moments for Nia Vardalos, the writer and star. There were laugh out loud moments with all the characters in Toula’s family. I felt reunited with close friends that I’d missed for far too many years. 

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Santa Barbara Mission with my son and husband sharing a laugh.

It hit too close to home. The aging father, the teenage daughter ready to leave home. Toula, having to rediscover and find herself after years of taking care of others. Going out to dinner with her husband, swearing she wouldn’t talk about their child.

The hardest part for me, sitting through the movie, was the tears. How much I miss my kids smacked into the center of my brain. I kept dabbing at my eyes. My husband would look over at me. I wiped my eyes some more. Finally I gave into the tears. That’s all I’ll say. Go see it for yourself and let me know how you like it compared to the first movie.

Warning. If you’re new to an empty nest, bring tissue!

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Sunset at Carpinteria State Beach during a picnic dinner.

“A Birthday Day for the Dogs” and Other Reasons to Celebrate Today

robertIt’s my son’s 22-year birthday. I’m having a hard time wrapping my brain around that fact. On the bright side, Spring Break allows him to come home to celebrate. This year he brought his girlfriend, too. This is all overwhelming and exciting at the same time.

I can’t help but get sentimental and nostalgic for when he was a young boy. He called me “sweetheart” because he thought it was my name. When we went to “Mommy and Me” at the Palm Springs Pavilion, there was a “good-bye” song at the end of each session. When his name was called, he’d toddle to the teacher and plant a kiss on her cheek. He was so sweet. Still is.

robert 1In honor of his birthday, I’m reposting a story I wrote when he invited 50 kids to his 2nd grade party. Originally published in the Los Angeles Times Kids’ Reading Room, it’s about Angus our yellow lab of 15 years, who shared my son’s birthday.

A Birthday for the Dogs

“MOM, I’m inviting 50 kids to my party.”

“What, Robert?” Mom said. “That’s too many. Do you know 50 kids?”

I sat in the back seat while Mom drove home after school. My eighth birthday was in two weeks. 

“There’s my class, plus Cub Scouts, and playgroup.”

“I can’t afford to take 50 kids skating or bowling. And I don’t want 50 kids in my house. What about the city pool? It’s heated, open year-round, and it’s only 50¢ a kid,” Mom said.

“A swim party, that’s cool!” I said.

“I’ll say yes to the party, but no to presents. Fifty presents is too much for one 8-year-old. It’s decadent.”

“What’s decadent?” I asked. Mom used words I didn’t know.

“Self-indulgent, corrupt.”

I sat silently and thought I’d be sad with no presents. Then I remembered Angus. Mom got him for me as an early birthday present. We were on a waiting list for two years with Guide Dogs of the Desert. He was being trained as a companion dog for people who couldn’t see. We got him because he had poor hips and couldn’t be a working dog. Angus was big, yellow, and I loved him. We shared the same birthday.

“I have a great idea!”

“What?” Mom asked, glancing at me in her rearview mirror.

“I’ll ask for money for Guide Dogs of the Desert.”

“Ah?” Mom made a weird swalloing noise.

“It’s Angus’s birthday, too.”

Angus5

In the rearview mirror I watched Mom dab at the corner of her eyes with a tissue, and nod her head in agreement.

Two weeks later, I had a great birthday. Fifty kids came with bathing suits, towels and money. Instead of opening presents after cake, we counted dollars they had stuffed into a large jar decorated with photos of Angus. 

Together, we raised more than $1,600 for Guide Dogs. Mom called me a “philanthropist” – whatever that is.

Angus8Happy birthday, son! We miss you, Angus!