Choose Life

A few weeks ago I posted my “one and only” statement regarding the upcoming election. I don’t consider Facebook (or any other social media outlet) the best location for the sharing of serious issues.  However I felt compelled to share the video I had discovered. I knew that I was inviting criticism but I didn’t care.  The message was too important.  Besides, I know “Blessed are the those who are persecuted because of righteousness” so bring it on!

What I didn’t expect (but should have realized sooner) is that I would be censored by Facebook for the subject of the content I shared.  I cannot prove it the fact, but I am convinced that Facebook has limited the amount of people who actually saw what I wrote.  Yes.  That happens.  There are complicated algorithms which decide who sees what content (and not just on Facebook.)  Sometimes those “decisions” are influenced by the agenda that the media agency wishes to promote.  Don’t kid yourself.  Whatever you see or read in the media has a purpose of influencing your thoughts and eventually your behavior.  You must decide to whose voice you will listen.

“As for me and my house, we will serve the Lord.”

So here it is again.  This is too important to ignore.  Please choose life and defend the unborn with your vote in the upcoming election.  God bless this priest for his courage.

I am embedding this video into the permanent archive of my blog.  Facebook will probably still block the posts but that will not stop me from hearing and sharing this message.

Fr. John Lankeit of Sts. Simon and Jude in Phoenix, Arizona.

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Hey Kid: Rough Draft

Hey Kid,

I have a confession to make and it’s not going to be easy to admit this but owning your problems is the first step to resolving them… Right?!  (That’s a rhetorical question… OF COURSE IT IS!)  These letters to you are to give you advice, not ask you for answers to life questions.

I haven’t written for a long time.  I was a daily blogger for many years, but I haven’t written consistency since 2014.  I didn’t make a decision to stop… it just happened.  A few skipped days turned into a few skipped weeks.  At several points I tried to go back and catch up but even that became overwhelming and I decided I must need a break.  It may have been an excuse and you know what they say about excuses… everyone has one.

Maybe I did need a break… but I’ve known for a while that I need to get back in the saddle and it terrifies me. 

There.

I said it. 

I’m afraid to write again… and I think the reason is that I’m afraid that I might be wrong. 

I’m a Granny now for heaven’s sake.  I’m supposed to have it all together.  I’m supposed to know exactly what to say, how to fix things and make everything wonderful.  Isn’t that what grandparents do?  I’ve written over 370 letters to you dispensing my wisdom (because I thought then I really had some wisdom to share.)  Now… I’m not so sure.  You’re almost here and I feel like I’m beginning again.

So… I had a thought.

What if we did this whole “grand-parenting” thing together?  What if you and I work through the details as them come to us?  After-all, I’ve never been a Granny before, but you’ve never been a Grandson either.  I know it won’t always be easy.  We’ll make mistakes, but we just might get it right once in a while too.

So you… My little “Jim Bob Cooter” are going to be my rough draft.  We’re going to write this scrip as it comes to us; always knowing that we can go back and edit it later.  We (you and I) have a story to tell and no one else can tell it as well as we will.  I’m sure you’ll feel like you drew the short straw once in a while (when your siblings and cousins come along) because I’m bound to get better at being a Granny.   But keep in mind, no one else will get to be my first grandchild either.  When you arrive, you will have my undivided attention.  Until then, I’m going to work on being the brave one and get ready for you.  We have a lot of things to learn.

Love,
Granny

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BOY or GIRL

girl-or-boy

Sierra is scheduled for a sonogram on May 21st. We’re hoping to learn the sex of lil’ baby Olive(r.)  People ask me all the time what I think… Well, the answer is simple (I don’t know) to complicated. Since Sierra is my daughter (feminine) and I only know how to relate to her as a female, when I think of the baby (now a part of Sierra) I think female… but that’s only a guess. Not even a hunch.  If you consider “Wives Tale Gender Predictions” the results (are below…)

    1. Heart Rate = Girl
    2. Sweet/Salty/Sour = Boy
    3. Chinese Birth Chart = Boy
    4. Morning Sickness = Girl

So what’s your guess?  Vote in our poll!  We’ll post the answer as soon as we know!  (Hopefully, sometime on Sunday, May 22nd.)

 

 

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Hey Kid: Ready, Set, Go!

1 ultrasound

Hey Kid,

About three and a half years ago (Fall 2012) I realized that I had reached a different stage of life.  It didn’t happen overnight… and I’m not sure when the transition actually started to occur, but I understood that my role and my calling were changing.  With age comes wisdom and I knew that embracing change would be a lot easier (and a lot more fun) than fighting against it.

One of the most striking epiphanies was that I was actually looking forward to becoming a grandparent.  So weird.

I’ve always heard from friends and family how awesome it is to have grandchildren.  My brother Curtis once told me that if he knew how much fun grandkids were he would have had them first!  I myself had terrific grandparents and watched my parents and my in-laws enjoy the grandkids too.  But until 2012, it was an inconceivable role for me.

And then suddenly, it wasn’t.

That’s when I decided to dedicate my blog to writing letters to my future grandkids. There are important things you need to know and life is short.  At that time I wasn’t convinced (and I’m still not) that I’d be around to teach you all I wanted you to know.  So I got a head start.  I wrote to you every day in 2013 and a few times after as well. This is my 371st letter to you and there are more to come.  To read the rest of the letters, click the “Hey Kid” category on the blog’s home page.

But today’s post is different… because you’re on your way. (Well, at least the the oldest is on the way.)

On my 48th birthday I received the best gift ever… Sierra and Joey told me that I am now, officially, a Granny.  (Due November 2016.)  I can’t begin to describe how thrilled we are with this news.  I’ve imagined it for so long, but nothing compares to the reality.  I’ve loved you for a very long time and now I get to act on that emotion and I am counting the days.

We have a lot to do to get ready for your arrival. Your grandfather (previously known as “Chief” in the blog posts) has decided to go by the name of “Grandpa” so I’ll be calling him that from now on in my letters. (It took him a little longer to get used to the whole “grandparent” idea but he’s on board now!)  I like “Grandpa.”  It suits him.  And when he’s grouchy, we’ll call him “Grump-pa.”

I’ve started calling you Olive(r) because “it” or “the baby” seems so impersonal.  I don’t think your parents are going to stick with it (Olive or Oliver Oliveira is a little redundant) but I think it’s a fine name in the mean time.   I pronounce it Olive…er.  That way it works for either a boy or girl.

This is your first picture… and I think you are beautiful (even if you look like a blob.)

I love you more,

Granny

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Hey Kid: Wallet Size

To read more about my “Hey Kid” posts (letters to my grandchildren) click here.

Hey Kid —

It’s been a long time since I’ve written to you, but that doesn’t mean you haven’t been on my mind.  On the contrary.  You’ve been on my mind A LOT lately.  Oh the plans I’m making for us!

Many, many, years ago… long before you came along, we used to carry around wallets.  A “wallet” was not just an app on your phone.  It was a small, compartment style device that would hold our identification, credit cards, money… and for a while it even carried pictures.  This is the way we would show off our family and loved ones when we met up with friends and family.  (Before phones had cameras and pictures and way before Facebook.)  Photos were specifically printed in “wallet” size so that they could be easily carried and displayed on the go.

For Christmas (2015) Chief got a new wallet.  A new, physical wallet.  This version (because there have been many over his lifetime) is a scaled down model and much thinner to fit easily in his pocket (if necessary.)  He decided that he no longer had the need or the room to carry around the pictures that he had transferred, year after year; wallet after wallet for the last 30+ years.  (Yes 30 years… The photo I gave him when we first started dating was in there too!)

Today (February 2016) Chief gave these pictures back to me for safe keeping.  I had to laugh.  I couldn’t believe that he had kept them for so long… (And for what purpose?  NONE of us look like this in 2016.)  I guess hold habits die hard.   The captions are from the back of the photos  (Yeah… we used to do that too when we were super organized.  Sure glad I was in that habit.)

(Photos in post below.  If you’re reading this via email, please click on the link to see the images.)

These photographs still make me smile and bring a flood of wonderful memories of when your parents were young (and Chief and I were young too.)

Well… We’ve come a long way baby!  I thought you’d enjoy seeing these photos.  I’ll save them for you.

Love, Granny

 

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Ending Football

I’ve written about a lot of things over the years, but one of the most common themes is high school football. This is no surprise to anyone who knows me.  But what you  may not know is that I’ve written A LOT about the END of high school football too.

Because it sucks.

There is no other way to say it.  The end of a high school football season (to those who love the game and the team) is just awful.  And each and every year I watch families endure the same mourning that we went through so many years ago.

I recently came across an article that gave a good perspective.   Click here to view.

And to read my previous posts, (in chronological order) click the links below.  I don’t know if they’ll help you cope, but at least you’ll know  you’re not alone.

Shared Grief

Don’t Know Much About Football

Still Don’t Know Much About Football

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Wedding Vendors

I’ve had the idea for this post for several weeks.   As we participated and experienced all of the “events” during the wedding, I just kept thinking that we were surrounded by the best people.  Yes, that does include my family, but I wanted to specifically mention the vendors that Sierra and Joey chose to help make their day.  My daughter is an organized and thorough planner (and yes, I take all of the credit for that trait) and she did an extraordinary job of choosing all of the vendors for the wedding.  Below is a full list (I think) of the wedding vendors we worked with and some notes about each.

Ceremony Venue: St. Stanislaus Catholic Church (209) 524-4381

This is our home parish and not just a pretty church.  This is home. The celebrant was a personal favorite too.  Bishop Myron Cotta (Auxiliary Bishop of Sacramento) is my Godfather.  Everyone told me he wouldn’t be able to celebrate the mass, but I decided to ask anyway… and I’m sure glad I did.

Reception Venue:  The Century (209) 451-2292 Events@DowntownCentury.com

We first visited in January 2015 and it was under construction.  I have no vision so I had to trust Erin and her staff when they said it would look beautiful.  It did and we couldn’t have been more pleased.

Photographer: Jody Atkinson Photography (209) 678-7805 Email: info@jodyatkinson.com

I knew she was good from looking at photos from other events she had shot, but I had no idea how much I’d appreciate her talent.  As a bonus, she was WONDERFUL to work with on the day of the wedding.  She blended in and was never intrusive.  I forgot she was even there, but I’m sure glad she was.

Videographer: Rumble Cinematography/White Raven Productions (209) 614-3178 info@whiteravenproductions.com

This was Sierra’s “must have” for the wedding of her dreams.  Charlie was the first vendor she booked and I can’t wait to see the results.  Like the photographer (above) Charlie was delightful to work with and was in no way a distraction.

DJ: Sounds in Motion (209) 522-5999

Their prep work (on timeline and reception schedule) was awesome.  The dance floor was never empty.

Make-Up: Blush Make-Up and Beauty Lounge (209) 596-0740

Christa has become our go-to esthetician and is (and certainly was the day of the wedding) a talented makeup artist.  As a bonus to her mad skills, she is simply delightful and always kind and cheerful.  I have a new fondness for false eyelashes.

Hair: Hair by Jordan Segna (209) 620-6009 jordanp_2@hotmail.com

Of course I did my own hair the day of the wedding, but all of the other “ladies” were attended to by Jordan and her assistant and they all looked beautiful.  Jordan (her assistant as well as the Christa from Blush and her assistant) were on-time and on-task during the morning.   We were so appreciative of their organization and professional manner (and so were the photographers.)

Wedding Dress: Trudy’s Brides (408) 377-1987

This is an event by itself.  The staff at Trudy’s were wonderful and made the whole experience a joy.

Alterations: Monika’s California Apparel (Facebook)

Only 1 fitting… and Sierra’s wedding dress fit like a glove.  Literally one fitting.  She’s worth the trip to Pleasanton.

Rings: Gabriel Fine Jewelers (209) 529-2110

This was Joey’s choice and he did well.

Tuxedos: Men’s Wearhouse

Florist: And Two Shall Become One  wedfloraldesigner@sbcglobal.net (209) 402-2036

Fatima Bettencourt-Mendes is an artist… and will become a part of your family as soon as you meet her.  She’s like your favorite aunt and I knew from the first time we met her that she would be a wonderful addition to the team.  Not only did she take care of all of the flowers for the wedding party, ceremony and reception, she also created all of the beautiful centerpieces for Sierra’s bridal shower in August.  She is a wonder and a delight.  If/when I ever need flowers again, she will be my first choice.

Caterer: Greens on Tenth 209-524-7336

Ann Endsley and her team are extraordinary.  The food was not only delicious, it was beautiful too.  We’re still dreaming about the antipasti.

Limo: Luxury Limousine (209) 537-5466 ladylimo@gmail.com

If you ever find yourself in need of a limo, call this company and ask for Demetrius.  He was WONDERFUL (and we can be a crazy group!)  He was prompt, courteous and always helpful.  I think he had a good time too.  (I even gave him a hug!)

Cake: Cristina Dos Santos (Facebook)

There is nothing this girl can’t do.  Not only do the cakes (cookies, cake pops, etc. look good, they are delicious too!)

Sweets: Maria Mendes (family friend) – Unbelievable!  They were delicious and beautiful!

Sweetbread: Doralice Rocha (Sierra’s grandmother.)  – The stuff is world-famous.

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Pregnancy Update

Whoa!  That title got your attention, didn’t it!  No.  This is not an actual pregnancy update. I just wanted a title you’d notice.  Since I’ve already poked the hornet’s nest (with my Doing Christmas Right post) this week, I figured I might as well get something else off my chest before I move on to other topics.

I am asking politely (for now, I may get irritated later) for everyone to please refrain from asking my daughter and son-in-law (and any other newlywed couple) when they are going to have children.  (Or if she’s already pregnant.)  And please don’t ask ME either!  (As if I would know anyway!)

I expected Sierra to be bombarded by these questions.  (People actually watch which beverages she’s drinking  for some kind of a sign!  “Is that a glass of wine or is she only drinking water?”)  But I have to admit I’m a little shocked at the barrage of questions that have come my way.  I cannot believe the number of people who have approached me since the wedding (it’s only been a few weeks) asking if “it’s” happened yet (these things do take time.)

I know these questions come with the best of intention (even with a sense of teasing) but when we do this (and I say WE because I have been guilty of it in the past) we may be adding stress and strain to an already personal subject.  There are clearly three main reasons not to do it and they make perfect sense:

  1.  The couple may not be able to HAVE children.  Maybe they’re trying and it just hasn’t happened yet. (For whatever reason.)  Our asking certainly isn’t going to help matters move along more quickly.
  2. Maybe the couple doesn’t WANT children!  (Yes, sometimes that happens.)
  3. It’s none of your damn business.  (And it’s not mine either.)

A friend (who struggled with infertility) told me that she announced at a family dinner that they had decided NOT to have children.  (She surprised her husband with this proclamation because she didn’t trust his reaction if he had tried to play along.)  The best part is that it WORKED!  No one ever asked about the issue again.  (Sound advice for anyone who is facing the same kind of scrutiny.)

Now… A word to those of you reading this blog who HAVE said something to me in the last few weeks.  I am NOT offended and it is not necessary to try to explain or apologize.  Like I said, I’ve done this myself.  I just have a new awareness of how intrusive it can be and I’m asking everyone else to be aware too.

NOTE:  This blog post is strictly my own opinion and was not written on the request of my newlywed daughter and her husband.   The picture is pulled from a free Google download.

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Doing Christmas Right

I usually don’t do this (and never on social media) but I need to vent a little. WARNING: The following blog post is a bit of a rant!

It makes me sad when I hear someone say they hate Christmas… or the Christmas season. It’s frustrating to me to hear people complain about “the stores putting out Christmas stuff already” or “I hate this time of year.” If I had a choice, it would be December all year around. I certainly do not want to diminish the importance of Thanksgiving. It just might be my favorite holiDAY. For me, Thanksgiving is the official start of the “most wonderful time of the year.”

Wouldn’t it be awesome if ALL things began with giving thanks (as they should?)

And although I acknowledge my faith as the source of all of my Christmas spirit, I don’t think that’s the only way to enjoy the season. For some the “reason for the season” is a simple celebration of love and who wouldn’t want to join in on that experience? There is always something or someone to love. If you’re struggling in your faith, you need to fix that first and everything else will fall into place. Don’t blame God for your crappy attitude.

This might make someone mad, but I’m going to say it. If you don’t like Christmas, it’s because you’re not doing it right.
There, I said it.

If Christmas is depressing, frustrating, or a financial burden, you’re not doing it right. If the season makes you sad, homesick or even angry, stop doing what you’re doing and rearrange your thinking.  Start doing Christmas right!

All of these things are going to seem logical, but sometimes we need to see things in black and white to get ourselves back into perspective.

  1. If you are worried about finances, stop spending so  money. Yes, the media might be amping up the commercialization of the holiday, but you can choose not to participate. If you buy for more than you can afford, change your list and stick to your budget. If you buy for lots of people, make a prioritized list. Chances are some the people that exchange gifts with you can’t afford it either. Have a conversation and make a different plan. Share a meal together. Plan time together or simplify the process by drawing names.
  2. If you get melancholy for “days gone by” or “wish things could be the way they used to be” get over it. Life moves on and things change CONSTANTLY! That’s the way it’s supposed to be. Most of the people I know that fall into this trap are so busying reminiscing about the “good old days” that they fail to see (and experience) the good day that is right before them.
  3. You are the only one that can “ruin Christmas.” I’m a big fan of tradition (blog post to come on my favorite Christmas traditions) but sometimes, we need to be flexible. If you’ve ALWAYS opened gifts on Christmas Eve, but can’t this year because a family member has to work… Oh well. If this is your big tragedy, you have a pretty great life. Try to get back to it next year or better yet… make a new tradition. I promise, you’ll live through it. This is especially important to remember for anyone with a growing or transitioning family.
  4. And most important of all, if you are being called into a more spiritual experience, answer the call and JUST DO IT! For people of faith the spirit of the season can be enjoyed all year-long, but you DO have to participate. Admitting that your faith is lacking is the first step to doing something about it.

I try not to give my emotions too much credence. I’m well aware that my ever-changing emotions can be governed by my diet, hormone level or even my lack of sleep. They are subject to change… constantly. That doesn’t mean that I’m not overcome once in a while. I remember the first Christmas after my mom passed away. When we went to Leroy’s grandma’s house that night NO ONE had made lasagna. (In my mind, there had ALWAYS been a lasagna for dinner.) Well, that year, no lasagna and I lost it. I was devastated. (I really like lasagna, but it wasn’t about the food, it was about admitting that my holiday would be forever changed with the physical absence of Mom.) I cried and cried. I was inconsolable. Leroy (bless his heart) wanted to make me feel better. Since I complained that I was hungry (because I refused to eat anything other than lasagna… I’m a little dramatic like that) Leroy drove around trying to find something that I would eat. Jack In The Box is the only fast food restaurant (near us) that is open on Christmas Day, so we found ourselves in the drive-thru. We ordered Monster Tacos and I slowly began to regain my composure. Now… Jack In The Box drive-thru is a Christmas tradition for us. Every year (since 2004) we make a trip into town and order Monster tacos. And we laugh at ourselves every single time. (See suggestion #3.)

If you’re not happy with the way you experience the Christmas season, change your perspective. Make a different choice. I would suggest making a list of the things you enjoy and the things you don’t. Do more of the things you like and less of the things you don’t. (I know that sounds too simple, but it’s the only thing that works.) Don’t get caught up in what others (including the media) say it should be like. Ask yourself what you want it to be and then make it happen.

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Flower Project

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We’re coming off of the high of Sierra’s wedding festivities. Before I start telling the stories (and there are lots of wonderful stories to tell) I want to take a moment to thank EVERYONE who has taken time to call, text, email (whatever) all of the kind words and well wishes that we’ve received. It truly has been an extraordinary time in our family and we are still floating on the love surrounding us.

There were lots of memorable moments from the experience, but the story I’m about to tell you will have a lasting impact on us all.

Sierra read about a lady (on the East Coast) who collects donated wedding flowers and re-arranges them into bouquets to deliver to hospital-bound patients to brighten their day. Basically, the bride/groom donate the flowers they used for their wedding day and separate volunteers do the rest of the work. Sierra commented that she wished there was a program out here (local) that did the same thing and I told her “We can do it!” And so we did.

Sierra made a phone call to the Alexander Cohen Hospice House and asked permission to bring the flowers. The facility agreed. Leroy and I brought home all of the flowers the night of the wedding. It was cool enough to leave them in the bed of Leroy’s truck (covered) overnight. On Sunday morning, we unloaded the flowers and friends and family began the work of removing them from the vases provided by the florist and rearranging them into smaller vases that Sierra purchased from the dollar store. When it was all said and done, we had almost 40 arrangements.

Leroy and my brother-in-law John delivered the flowers (as Sierra and Joey needed to get ready to leave on their honeymoon) and the staff at the facility were astonished at the generosity. As fast as Leroy and John could unload them, staff members were delivering the flowers to the patients.

I still can’t believe how simple and yet impactful this project was and I’ve decided to start doing it on a regular basis.  We’re calling it the “Flower Project” (at least for now.)  I’ve learned (from the various vendors that we worked with for Sierra’s wedding) that there is a wedding “season” and not much will happen until February or March so I have some time to plan. I’m going to start an organization that will collect, reorganize and distribute donated flowers. I won’t be able to do it alone so I’m asking for help. If you’d like to help with pick up, delivery, arranging, vases… whatever… We’ll take it.

More to come!

PS — If you are viewing this post in email, you can’t see the pictures attached.  (And there are always pictures.)  To see the images, click on the source link.  (And you can see the very cool snow falling on the blog during the month of December.)

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