#31 from the list….CHECK!

February 6, 2012 § Leave a comment

I have been remiss in checking off items on my “List”.  I do have a lot going on, but what can be more important that making sure that I am making progress in life?  I am happy to say that I recently learned how to make my mom’s wonderful, delicious, amazing and delightful cheesecakes.  Growing up, watching my mom bake cheesecakes was a normal occurrence in the household.  Holidays were led by my mom asking my brother and I what flavor of cheesecake we would like to have, which was then proceeded by my brother fighting over which flavor to have (I know, middle class white kid problems).  My mom could turn out handfuls of cheesecakes with ease and assured me that they weren’t easy to make. They were seemingly a laborious 2 day process of equal parts care and finesse to avoid the pitfalls of dryness, cracking, sinking or flat out just failing.

Over Thanksgiving my mom ran through the recipe, walked me through each step and then sent me home with the recipe to try on my very own.  I will say that I was quite impressed with how the first ones turned out.  Seems as if Cheesecake making is a passable gene.

Before you go asking, “What is the recipe.” Let me tell you that part of the teaching process of cheesecake making included my mom telling me in no uncertain terms that the recipe is a secret. And while I can’t share the recipe with you, I will tell you that there is one other who knows the recipe as he watched the entire process….but I don’t think he is telling either.

Joy and Pain

December 28, 2011 § 2 Comments

There is a story that talks of a young Buddhist who, on his journey home came to the banks of a wide river. Staring hopelessly at the great obstacle in front of him, he pondered for hours on just how to cross such a wide barrier. Just as he was about to give up his pursuit to continue his journey he saw a great teacher on the other side of the river. The young Buddhist yells over to the teacher, “Oh wise one, can you tell me how to get to the other side of this river”?

The teacher ponders for a moment looks up and down the river and yells back, “My son, you are on the other side”.

Simply put, life is perception.

Reality is or isn’t based on what your expectations are, what you perceive to be a good or bad situation.  If you ask me, my first perception of 2011 is that it’s been a horrific year.  Quite possibly the hardest of my life thus far.  Filled with letting go, death of those I love; three times over, death of what I hoped would be my future, and a great deal of pain.  This year, I said goodbye to my beloved dog Jack, who was part of my life for 13 years.  I said goodbye to my Grandfather, who left this earth as I was holding his hand and telling him how much I loved him, and I said goodbye to my Father, forcing me to accept my relationship with him, with no choice but to embrace the permanency with no chance to ever improve or better it.

2011 brought about opportunities for me to stretch myself, to learn to love someone even when drowning in fear.  To embrace the idea that I have never been in control of my life, or anyone else’s.  2011 has taught me that there is comfort in finding faith in the things you cannot see, and the things you can.  Like an unexplained white hummingbird crossing my sight line on the days I asked for a sign that things would be okay.  2011 has taught me humility, as I learned that my way is not always right, and there is more dignity in allowing others to find their own path.

Through all the pain this year, there have been countless blessings in return.  As a practicing “worse case scenario” person, I learned the freedom of letting go.  Where once, when life went smoothly, I waited in anticipation for the inevitable tragedy that waited in the midst.  I have begin relearning how to live in the moment.  How tragic to live a life where when something great happened, I braced myself for the moment I would be robbed of it.  Like when I told my in-laws the amazing news of my pregnancy, I fought the urge to ask them not to get too excited because I was only 6 weeks along-sure that something would go wrong with the pregnancy.  My inability to live in the moment may have been a safe place for me to feel in control, but it was robbing me of so many moments that I deserved to find joy in.

In 2012, I don’t have any resolutions, ask any person in a crowded gym on January 2nd waiting in line for a treadmill how they feel about resolutions.  Instead, I resolve to live my life differently, to set on a path of lifelong change, no matter if it takes me until the end of 2012 or 2027 to complete.  I resolve to live my life without feeling the need to control it.  To have faith that I am strong enough to deal with any situation that may come my way, without the need to be in constant preparedness for it.  I resolve to give up control, realizing life isn’t mine to control.  I will forgive myself when things don’t work out as I  planned, I will allow myself to say no to things without it being a direct reflection of me being a bad person or not caring.  I will take care of myself, as well as I care for others, I will be kind to myself and forgive myself quickly, I will enjoy life in the moment and will stop anticipating despair.  I will live life on life’s terms and embrace the never-ending changing landscape of life, trusting that it is all part of the plan.  I will find hope in the unknown.

In 2012, I will focus on all the things I am grateful for, and will soak up every moment of joy that comes my way, which I know will be in abundance.

Happy New Year everyone, may your 2012 and beyond be filled with joy in abundance and the wisdom to see it for all it is.

xo

My Baba- Paul Morton Stevens / Luap Snevets

September 27, 2011 § 1 Comment

I am never ready to let go, even when the end is inevitable.  These past five days have been beautiful and painful.  Exhausting yet fulfilling, but mostly these last few days have been heartbreaking.  Last night, at 9:50 pm, my Grandfather, who I called Baba exhaled his final breath and left us.

Over the past 10 years, my grandfather, once a brilliant engineer for Aerospace, slowly began fading away mentally.  Alzheimer’s was taking his memories and his ability to properly address men and women as “he and she”.  It made him forget that he rented The Italian Job on Netflix so he ended up renting it 25 times in a row.  Slowly he forgot I was his granddaughter, that my mom was his daughter, that my family was his family.  But he remembered the important things.  Although he didn’t know who we were or the role we played in his life, he knew he liked us, and we knew too because any time we walked into the room he would light up. He knew he was in the Navy, knew that he graduated from Berkley.  He knew that he worked two jobs; one in the doughnut shop and the other at a gas station all while attending college and supporting his wife and two young daughters.  My grandfather knew he was married, he knew that he loved his wife immensely and he knew he missed her.  As did we.  We knew because many nights, after my Gammie passed, my grandfather would anxiously walk the halls of the nursing facility trying to find her, determination that was heart wrenching to watch.

My grandfather loved his photo and every time he would see the one in his room, a young bright blue-eyed smiley teenager in a naval uniform, he would light up and proudly say, “That’s me!” My grandfather never suffered from a poor self-image, and always thought he was such a handsome, good-looking guy.  I must say that I would have to agree.

On Thursday, my family gathered in his room at the nursing facility, my grandfather lay in his hospital bed, his jaw slack; his eyes closed.  Every once in a while he would moan or open his eyes, each of us hoped that maybe, just maybe, he would be able to see well enough to know that he was surrounded by his family.  With each passing minute, I grew more and more scared that he would pass in the middle of the night.  Worried that he would leave and no one would be here to see him off.  So I decided to stay on the couch and sleep beside him, hoping that if he decided to go, he would know it wasn’t alone.  I also hoped, that maybe my grandmother would be the one to pick him up, and that if she did,  she would be proud of how much I loved my grandpa.  These past few days I spent with him were wonderful.  At night, as I sat next to his bed in the dimly lit room, holding his hand and listening to Charlie Parker on the radio, I felt like I was home.  The room felt warm, much like their house did when my mom, brother and I lived with him.  I felt my grandmother close by – it was the first time since she has passed that I have been able to feel her.  I talked to my grandpa, told stories about what I remembered about him and things he use to do, how he use to tweak my nose; often too hard.  How I loved when he would sing, “From night to night you’ll find me,” at the top of his lungs late at night.  How he used to make my grandma squeal every Christmas when he would hide money in all her presents.  How he helped me to answer questions on an exam in college about famous Jazz musicians, how he always knew most of the answers on Jeopardy and how every Friday night, he would buy lottery tickets and all of us would scratch them off together, and after scratching off the tickets, we were still not millionaires.

My grandpa taught me the importance of learning to love early. From what I know, he and my Gammie had some tumultuous years early on in their marriage.  As time settled them they learned how to love one another better.  By the time I was older, I saw my grandparents and how they doted on one another.  I know how deeply my grandpa loved my grandmother by the way he would take care of her.  How he would sit beside her for hours in the hospital and just stare at her unwilling to leave her side.  He loved surprising her, taking care of her and believed so strongly in working hard so she would be well taken care of.  I often think about how, in their 60 plus years of marriage, if they had only figured out how to love each other so selflessly sooner, they would have shared so many more years together of happiness.  This is by far the most important lesson he could ever teach me.

He showed me the importance of working hard and going to school.  I knew how proud he was that I went to college and got a degree; something he always held in high regard.  And, over the past few days, my grandpa has taught me that in the past few years, he was loved more than I could ever imagine.  The caregivers who have looked after him and my grandmother since they moved to the nursing home were there with my grandpa every step of the way.  They looked after him, combed his hair, made sure he was eating, but most important, they truly cared for him.  Each of them came by many times throughout the past few days, often late at night after they had finished working with their other patients just to sit with me and my grandpa.  We talked about little things he would say that would make us laugh and we remembered all the things that were so very lovable about him.  It brought me so much peace knowing that these past few years, not only was my grandpa looked after, but in the many moments that my family and I could not be there, he was loved.

Last night, as my cousin Evan and I sat next to my grandpa, holding his lifeless hand and stroking his shoulders and head, his breath began to slow.  Evan told him how much he loved him, I told him how much I loved him.  We talked with each other about the time my grandpa’s dog, Sam was dying and my grandpa slept on the floor all night next to Sam as he slowly passed away.  I hoped that my grandfather knew in that moment, he was surrounded by people who loved just as fiercely and just as unrelenting as he did.  We said I love you many more times and with that, my grandpa let out one last final breath and was gone.

Baba, my hope is that you are now in heaven, with Jazz music wafting through the air, a huge bowl of vanilla ice cream at your fingertips and Gammie sitting next to you.  I already miss you but am so thankful that now, you have peace.

xo

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