Dear Dad… (or, Hey, Joe…)

dad 1Phase 2 of Eat A lot, Pray a Lot, Love A Lot, Drink A Lot, Then We’ll See…

This weekend I’m going to L.A. for 24 hours, for the one and only celebration of life for my father Joe Lopez, since he passed away nearly a year ago. I was asked to collect my thoughts and say a few words about my dad. This is what I put together.

Dear Dad,

I think about you all the time.

Sometimes it’s about how much you loved to laugh and make others laugh.

Sometimes my thoughts are about how dark, though funny, your humor could be, especially when you made fun of yourself. Or you made fun of the ridiculousness of, life is stranger than fiction, life.

You loved to poke fun at the absurdities and not take everything so seriously.

I think about your practical view on time, circumstance and change.

Staying positive: “Just keep moving ahead.”

“One door closes, another one will open.”

“It’s a numbers game.”

On tenacity: “Don’t give up.”

For disappointment: “Well, what are you going to do?”

I think about your allergies to shellfish.

I think about what an amazing cook you were and how easy you made it seem to cook a gourmet meal for 30 people. You LOVED to host and entertain.

I think about how you’d cook all those meals and hardly eat anything yourself.

I think about how the kitchen was your kingdom and I guess, in the end, that if it had to be any way, I’m happy your kitchen was your final resting place.

I think about how I’d call you sometimes, if I was going to cook a meal for guests and needed preparation advice.

I think about how much I envied your sense of interior style and artistic tastes; colors, patterns, and how things flowed together.

I also envied your amazing knack for finding the coolest pieces of art and objects from around the world, from obscure locations, and you seemed to be at the swap meets, dumpsters or demolition sights at the perfect times to procure a fabulous find!

I think about how you cherished and utilized your trusty Thomas Guides, until those pages we curled, ripped, and worn, and kept them by your driver’s side tucked away.

I smile when I think that the 1957 Triumph you had, which was art, was your pleasure and your pain. You spent a lot of time, headache and heartache to get and keep that car running so you could take it out for an occasional spin.

I think about what a speed demon you were on the road whether it was the corvette or astro van. Not as much in the later years, but driving with you was always a heart-pumping adventure.

I think about how well you knew and loved L.A.

I think about the kick ass neon signs you had.

I think about how you exposed me to art and culture when we were kids. When I was about 7 or 8, you took my brother and I to the Nisei parade in little Tokyo. The visuals of those dancing dragons and learning how to use chopsticks for the first time, are still with me.

I remember our sometimes Monday night dinners at Katzu.

I think about your warmth towards others; your compassion, kindness and desire to always be there and help others, no matter what they needed, yet never asking for help for yourself.

I think about how in spite of the years of nicotine and alcohol abuse, your body seemed invincible, like a well-worn clock that kept on ticking.

I think about the mystery that is your past, your childhood, your teen years, your early life, and that whole side of your family, my other grandparents, I never knew.

I imagine the loneliness you might have felt as an only child, with the emotional and mental troubles your own parents had, and that you ultimately compensated for, through the attribute of self-reliance.

I admired and appreciated how there was nothing you couldn’t fix, build, breakdown or remodel by yourself.

If I were to give you an alternative or new middle name, it would have been “resourceful.”

I appreciate that you tried to show your love for me, and that I could count on a gorgeous bouquet of flowers sent for my birthday every year.

I think about the salsa music playing on your little radio.

I think about how envious I was you got to travel all over the world and wished, other than the Mexico trip we took when I was 9, that we could have had at least one international trip together.

I think about how many of your friends deeply loved you, appreciated you, counted on you.

I think about how cautious and protective you were over yourself, your heart, and yet when you finally opened it, when someone earned your trust, you gave it your all.

I would bet people say you were one of the kindest most thoughtful people they’ve met.

I take comfort that you exited this time and place in the way that you hoped you would.

I think about how much you are missed and sad that you might not even have known how appreciated and loved you were by so many.

I think about how I will honor you, in my own way and over time, as I begin to say so long.

I miss you Dad. I wish I could pick up the phone and tell you.

I wonder if your life was fulfilled in the ways you hoped.

I wonder what would you have done differently, if you could have?

I wonder what parts of you am I?

Eat A Lot, Pray A Lot, Love A Lot, Drink A Lot, Then, We’ll See….

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I sometimes shake my head in disbelief at what’s become my life. It’s not that I didn’t want, strive for, or work hard for the accomplishments I’ve achieved, it’s just that sometimes the circumstances and opportunities that arrive as a result, are humbling. As publisher and owner of a magazine, I get comped tickets for lots of shows, meet tons of amazing people, get VIP treatment at charitable events, receive lots of free products for review and get invites for press events and trips that are indeed pretty awesome. I hear people all the time say, “You have such a cool life!” What’s funny is that I consider myself a relatively small fish in a vastly huge media pond and I still have fantastic access to many great  perks. I can’t imagine what the big girls and boys of national platforms receive…

As timing turns out, I have at least seven opportunities for travel that are going to occur over a rather condensed period of time. A few are personal, several are business. For some people travel is part of their professional life and thus, not that big of a deal. For me, travel has become something of an ambivalent endeavor. I get anxious about leaving home, especially my children. I am afraid to fly and need xanax to get on a plane. The thought of being far away prompts a lot of pre-emptive nervousness. Coordinating the logistics of leaving home for any length of time takes an organizing craftswoman precision, (which I don’t really have), between making sure my kids, their schedules, the pets, my house is protected and that my business dealings are in control and flowing in my absence. I’m working feverishly to get two issues of the magazine done at once over the next few weeks because I will be traveling nearly the entire month of May. Sure, there is email and internet, but it’s not as easy to run a business when you’re out of range. Besides, some of these trips are intended to keep me out of range. And of course Mark, my boyfriend, will be here at home for most of the time to help out with kids when they are not with their father, and protect the fort.

But here I am, with a slew of travel and opportunities to do some pretty cool things about to commence starting next week. What I am struggling with, and what I hope to document, is how to balance the fear with the excitement, the art of being in the present without trying to anticipate or project my discomfort, and hopefully unravel what it is that seems to follow me around when it comes to being afraid of life. I believe the older I get, the more vulnerable and raw I feel. I will soon be 47 and the last few years have upended my sense of security or certainty about emotionally or metaphorically having my two feet planted firmly on the ground. I get overwhelmed by uncertainty, and generally, I’m not at internal peace when it comes to life’s big mysteries.

In my head I know all the cliches: you never know what’s going to happen; life’s short; enjoy the moment; take one thing at a time… Some people have religion to fall back on for their answers. They just know. I don’t yet have, or I’m not in touch with, that soulful, internal, quiet comforted form of knowing. I’m not sure how I feel about God. Or death. Or why terrible things happen to good people, and their time is cut off way too soon, as soon as the best of them was becoming to be. Why everything that happens is seemingly so chaotic and random and yet, looking at the succession of some people’s life events, things did in fact fall into place just as they should have.

All the while, I’m hard on myself. I have circular conversation loops in my head. ‘Round and ’round the words and judgements go. Why can’t I relax and let go? Why can’t I let things just happen? Why do I feel like I’m holding my breath? Why can’t I cut myself some slack? Where do I land within myself that is ok with not knowing? Why can’t I be more patient with the process of a life unfolding? Is it the middle-age stage I’m at? Is this the pivotal developmental point where I’m supposed to be at in terms of the questioning struggle and search for answers and at last, internal acceptance and peace? Is this in fact the precipice between the life I knew, and had, and the second phase of life that will soon become–the older, wiser, more accepting version of myself?

This is where the travel ties in.When I was younger I used to LOVE to travel. Now, the idea of leaving home, adventuring out into the unknown, away from what I know and love, and my semblance of “safety” brings all this anxiety up. I’m grateful for the opportunities that have presented themselves, believe me. And to some degree, it’s almost an embarrassment of riches because in less than three months time, I’ll be going to some places people have never been and only dream of going. The part of me that says “go for it”  realizes that I’m young enough, healthy enough and because of my professional circumstances which are merely a fortunate place in time, I need to take advantage. There is some joy-filled beauty and memories ahead.

Over the next few months this schedule is a condensed version of opportunity and on the other hand, anxiety on steroids. I think, “What if something happens to me?” “What if all these good things are going to happen in my life and then something bad happens in the midst?” “What if all the traveling put me in the path of tragedy?” Unrealistic visions of plane crashes, title waves, the nutty stuff the news proliferates. None of it’s likely and it definitely comes from a place of irrationality. Without further ado, here is the upcoming travel schedule and what I fear/anticipate:

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April 11-13Rockaway Beach: This weekend I’m taking a photography workshop. I have been toying with photography for years, and I’m quite an amateur with a lust for taking pictures. I’m excited for this trip because I will have a chance to be among two professional women and have some time with the camera to learn what the hell I’m doing. I also get frustrated when I can’t grasp the technological aspect of photography. I have promise when it comes to the art and composition, but the technical aspects intimidate me, which of course is needed to truly become adept at taking kick-ass pictures. So I view this weekend as a first step in taking my passion seriously, acknowledging to myself that I might have a gift for this, and perhaps embracing photography as a future professional endeavor.

IMG_9787April 17 – 21Los Angeles: I will be driving down to L.A. with Mark and the kids for the occasion of my father’s “memorial.” He died last year on May 16th, suddenly from a heart attack, and we dropped everything and drove to L.A. and per Connie, his wife, and what she says were his wishes, my father Joe was cremated, there was no funeral, no memorial, no gathering, no celebration of life. I felt so aimless and lost as a result. I had no place to grieve, no place to mourn, no way to start the process of letting go. We left L.A. four days later and I felt like a true orphaned child. About a week later after I got home I asked Connie if I could have some of my father’s ashes, and for her own reasons and reasons she believed my father would have agreed with, she said, “no.”

I spent the last year ruminating over those series of events and have vacillated between being understanding and angry. My dad was the kind of man that wouldn’t have wanted a “fuss” over him. He was nondescript in that as a result of years of loss and disappointment with those around him, as a child and as a grown-up, he never asked anyone for help but was the first to offer a hand when asked. My relationship with my dad was a source of complexity and confusion. He and my mom married at 18, divorced at 22, and I spent the years with him as a familiar stranger. In my 20’s that turned, and we became closer for the past 20 years, but I’ve always held that innocent 8-year old desire for an authentic closeness that would elude me. I know for a fact my dad loved me and was proud of me. I know for certain we managed to heal some of our parent/child wounds, but the suddenness of his death, the lack of capacity to say goodbye in any real way, was par for my feelings of being adrift when it came to him.

I knew that I wanted to honor him, his life, and somehow acknowledge his passing with some sort of ceremony. Not to discredit Connie or what she believes to be best for him, I went ahead and contacted his cousin Lorraine, who lives in L.A. and asked her what she thought of having some sort of gathering in his honor. We would invite his side of the family, whoever was still alive and which I never knew, and perhaps a few of his friends, my brother and his kids, and my family, and create a celebration of his life. We set the date for this April 19th.

I have no idea what to expect. I’ve not really begun the process of grief–partly because there was nothing tangible to begin that process, and partly because I’m still so angry that this part of our life together will not be healed in the way that I hoped. His death, saying goodbye, and how I hoped to feel like a priority, left me feeling how I’ve always felt when it came to him, sort of as an afterthought. I am going to stay open to this experience, this form of memorial, because it is the only one I’ve got.

IMG_4149 April 27 – May 1Maui: I’ve been invited to be a guest on a press trip by the Ka’anapali Beach Resort Association. The story for Portland Family I will be doing, and the purpose of this trip, will be to highlight the “Farm to Fork” aspect of Maui. I’m bringing, Alayna and Evan, my two kiddos along. We will be visiting several farms to meet the farmers and touring the gorgeous agricultural side of Maui, then doing meets and greets with some of Maui’s hottest chefs to see how the local ingredients are incorporated into their amazing culinary scene. This is a fabulous opportunity to learn about the thriving agricultural life on Maui and to go behind the scenes with some top-notch chefs. This is exciting because my kids are totally into Chopped, the Food Network show, and are into learning about fresh ingredients and the art of cooking. I feel pride for being able to expose my kids to this kind of hands-on experience. I think this will be a great  feature story, particularly because Portlanders are into the local and organic farm to fork food scene. I’ve not brought my kids to Maui since right before I got divorced four years ago. I’m looking forward to spending some one-on-one time with them.

Hotel_Santa_Fe_New_Mexico May 8 – 12Santa Fe, New Mexico: This is another press trip, all expenses paid. I’m going by myself and was invited by the Santa Fe Tourism commission for a fantastic art and cultural experience. They are hosting a behind the scenes look at the Georgia O’Keeffe  Museum as well as the Museum of Indian Arts & Culture. They want to share the message of the artistic and cultural happenings of Santa Fe so I’m sure they will pull out all the stops to wow us media folks. I haven’t been to Santa Fe since I was in my late teens so this will be like a first time. I adore the desert and Native American culture so this should be special. May 12th happens to be my birthday.

fiji May 18 – 28Fiji: Indeed, how crazy, I come back for a few days, only to be whisked away for an all-expenses paid, once-in-a-lifetime luxury media trip, to Fiji. I’m super excited and humbled that I was only one of five people to be selected by Fiji Airways and Tourism Fiji, for this media trip. The PR push is to celebrate the relaunch and rebranding of Fiji Airways and their direct flight from L.A. — it’s only a short 11 hours now, non-stop. The days of at least 18 hours to schlep there, are apparently over. Fiji has been # 2 on my life’s bucket list as a destination. But with the time, expense, now having kids, etc, doing this seemed like an out-of-reach option. I will be visiting three luxury resorts over the 10 days, and one of them is it’s own island, called Yasawa Island Resort.

This trip while the most amazing and humbling and exciting, is also the one causing me the most anxiety. I’m super nervous about being so far away from home.  I think it’s something like 9 time zones difference and nearly 6,000 miles. The mere thought of this fills me with fear. Picturing myself so far from my kids, on an island, alone from everything I love, on a plane for that long, over the ocean…. well, you get the gist. I can also picture the warm water, the solitude, and at this point in my life, I think having some time to myself, to be alone with my spirit, is a good thing. I work hard, I’m under stress most of the time. I can imagine taking pictures of a serene sunrise, feeling the sand, snorkeling and seeing hundreds of colorful fish. Maybe I can find some inner peace. Maybe some clarity will be discovered. But wow, the stress of being so far away, rational or not, seems to overtake me.

small world June 5 – 7 – Disneyland: I’ll back for barely a week, then it will be time to pack up for a weekend for a nearly all expenses paid press trip (except airfare) to Disneyland. I will be going with Mark and the kids, we will be flying direct to Orange County, and staying at the Disneyland Resort. We will get park hopper passes for both Disneyland and California Adventure. Evan has never been to Disneyland, Alayna hasn’t been since she was four. I’ve never stayed at the Disneyland Hotel myself, and have been wanting to take them to Disneyland forever, but every time I go to L.A. it’s to see family and friends so we never have the opportunity. This way, a designated focus, it’s about Disneyland only and we can have a few days to enjoy it. I will be writing a feature story about the whole experience to be published in August or September.

New-York-1nite June 26 – 30 – New York: Capping off the whirlwind, will be a relatively short jaunt to the Big Apple for a fabulous personal gathering of tequila aficionados donned, “DentonFest II.” Some of the country’s most passionate, avid collectors will converge for a weekend to honor two esteemed, revered mavericks of the tequila export world, Robert Denton and Marilyn Smith. Why is this exciting? Let me count the ways. First, there will be some rare, KICK ASS tequila to sample. I mean, it’s not that often one has the chance to be in front of and sample some of tequila’s spirits royalty. At least not us. Mark and I are so new into this world, we’ve been learning and sipping for 4 years, and yet, we are barely scratching the surface. We never profess to know more or be more in this regard than we are, we always admit that we are novices eager to learn.

Given that Mark and I as a couple want to build teaching others about tequila into our future life, and we are both passionate about the culture, flavors and integrity of tequila, this will be a very important, educational adventure. Sure, great contacts can be made, but we are excited about the learning. In addition, we’ve gotten the generic opportunity, through Facebook, to get to know many of these people on a very superficial level. I can honestly say that I genuinely appreciate and like the seemingly warmth and authenticity of nearly everyone I’ve interacted with from this tequila circle. I completely look forward to meeting everyone in person, particularly Robert and Marilyn (because of a very strange serendipitous connection to them that makes me super happy). These kinds of authentic connections and conversations that result from people gathering from all parts of the country, because of a shared passion, are the ones that last a lifetime. Mark and I will be mostly immersed into this gathering and will have two days to enjoy the city.

IMG_4590 There it is. I pray for the physical energy and emotional strength to enjoy it all, the willingness to be open to what comes, the self-love to cradle the fear. I’ll be excited to share with my friends who know and appreciate where I am and where I’ve been, the delicious random tidbits that comes from these crazy opportunities I’ve been blessed with, and the well-worn experiences from being fully alive.

Being In The Me

This season of the year can be a ticking time bomb. Expectations are high to have the “perfect” quintessential postcard holiday. Emphasis on financial and material allocations are magnified. Family members, sometimes those we don’t see very often or have strained relations with, are thrust into our emotional spotlight.

And often times, things are not so ideal. Life is messy. Circumstances of death, sickness, being broke, heartache or strife don’t give a damn that it’s December 25th or the 31st. People struggle. People leave us. People die. Change is eminent and prevalent, often before we even have time to integrate them. Uncertainty is the very nature of being alive.

An ongoing theme and mantra I’ve practiced throughout my existence is that it’s not what happens to us in life that matters as much as what we do with what happens to us that matters…(more on this in a moment).

For 46 years, two kids, a divorce and handful of devastating losses later, this type of thought and approach has served me well. In the confusing, twisted face of change and adversity, I am pliable. I am adaptable. I am self-reliant and self-sufficient in many ways. All-in-all, I’m grateful for these strengths which have lead to me pleasant levels of success and accomplishment.

But deep inside, some key aspects of my life have been missing. I realized that in a lot of ways, I had stopped growing. I’d reached a pinnacle of identity as far as my experience could take me.  There are pressures around my job, (the details of being an owner/publisher of a magazine are daunting at times), due to my position, being in the public eye so-to-speak (people have expectations of who and what you are), financially and emotionally supporting my two children as a single mother, navigating a multi-faceted relationship with my boyfriend Mark, reflecting on the physical manifestations of aging, trying to maintain meaningful connections with my many friends, take care of my health and maintain sanity. I often asked myself, “Where the hell am I?”IMG_9165

2013 was one of the most difficult years I’ve had. In May, my dad died unexpectedly a few days after my birthday. The smell from the flowers he had sent me to celebrate still permeated the air when I picked up the phone and received the call that he had a heart attack. Only two weeks later, Mark and I split up for almost 4 months. I was in the midst of the major pressure of repairing and selling the house I’d been in for 13 years and finding another before the school year started.

With all of these changes in barely a few months, I was stressed out, alone and emotionally destitute. Now referring back to my point above, in the past, I had always fallen back on my actions—the what I did—in response. But there was too much change at once, and only one of me; Only so much “doing” time and resilience ability that I was capable of.

I am not too proud to say that I sought the support from a compassionate counselor named Raphel Cushnir. Several months prior I had been to a workshop of his at a local bookstore titled “The One Thing Holding You Back: Unleashing the Power of Emotional Connection” and was fascinated with all he had to say. In that short two hours of Raphael’s workshop I’d gained a lot of insight into the potential of where I had to grow.

The next phases of my life, of my identity, of me, it seemed, would not come from what I did with what happened to me, but rather, how I felt about what happened to me. Living life from, through and in tandem with an emotional posture was such a strange concept. As children, we’re not raised or encouraged to merely sit with how we feel.

According to Raphael, “An emotion is a message from your brain, delivered to your body as a physical sensation. Emotions are essential in reaching the greatest possible understanding of who we are and what we want. The more attuned we grow to our emotions, the wiser and more discriminating we become.

He adds, “Whenever we’ve grown stale, emotions reawaken us. Wherever we’ve grown stuck, they get us moving. With just the simple ability to notice and experience our feelings, daily existence becomes fascinating and vibrant. We shift from lethargic to motivated, from passive to energized.”

IMG_9156 The inner conflict for fully embracing this is because emotions have so many unspoken negative mores and associations attached to them. Women have a propensity to be deemed, “too emotional.” Men are just not supposed to have emotions at all. Emotions are awkward, inconvenient, uncontrollable and don’t generally jive with our mental or ego’s need for control and measure.

The simple truth is that emotions make us uncomfortable. Once they arise, particularly feelings of sadness, disappointment or grief, they make us edgy and the sooner we “deal” with them (i.e. ignore or displace them), the better. Yet, Raphael’s stated notion about being with our emotions—that is accepting them, and immersing yourself within them— as the key/conduit/vestibule to our truest selves and our lasting, ongoing happiness, made sense.

I’d become a master of managing, controlling, navigating and directing my thoughts but when it came to my feelings, my emotions, I was an illegal alien on extremely foreign soil. This past year I had read many books about grief and loss and a common thread in them is that when it comes to pain, you can run, but you can’t hide.

The only way to get beyond grief is to be in grief; to go through it, the full spectrum of it and all that icky, unpleasant, confusing, angry aftermath grief beholds. As in the laws of physics, emotions are energy and once they’re created, they never really go away. Displacement of emotions due to discomfort often shows up through addiction, self-harm or denial of things that make us truly happy in life.

As Raphael has taught me in our work together, this same principal holds true for all the other emotions we feel. He proclaims that emotions are like waves, and rather than thrashing against them or getting sucked under by them, that the anchor of safety and inner peace derives from learning how to appropriately and whole-heartedly surf them.

Raphael explains, “When surfing your emotions, the ‘wave’ is your constantly shifting inner experience. The ‘surfer’ is your attention, following the wave up close, in matching motion. There is absolutely no attempt to control the wave or otherwise alter the experience. It’s strictly ‘Whither thou goest, I shall go.’

He adds, “In this, however, is a wondrous paradox. The very act of surfing your internal waves without trying to change them is precisely what does change them. Your attention facilitates flow. It creates additional inner space. These two results of emotional surfing – flow and space – allow turbulent waters to storm freely and calm quickly. They also allow you to keep your balance no matter how enormous the swells.”

Though I believe the paradox of actually moving towards feelings allows them to be free, I also recognize that to fully embrace this view means to fully embrace this view. We can’t pick and choose which emotions we want to feel and which ones we don’t. I can’t choose to only feel joy and not ever feel sorrow. Life doesn’t exist without death. Accomplishment doesn’t occur without failure. Endings don’t happen without beginnings. IMG_8914

Either I’m in or I’m not.

As I stated, 2013 has been a painful year in many ways, wrought with loss, change and unwanted turns in unexpected directions. Gratefully, thanks to Raphael and our work, and this latest, distinct way of looking at my life, and discovering new ways of being in my life, the ocean feels a bit scary, foreign, and dare I say, a tad more grown up.

Sometimes the way things go in life feel unfair. It’s accurate and honest to say we will suffer, especially if we truly love. Or truly hope. Or truly dream. This is the path of being alive and being human.

I can also say however, these veracities, these realizations, are perhaps life’s most gratifying endeavors. If we are in it, truly swimming and drinking in the waters of our emotional beings, we will also entirely love, and fully laugh, and feel that total overwhelming sense of purpose at those precious, fleeting moments when we know who we are, and where we’re floating towards in this gift called life.

My Fire, Fly…

firefly

Before November’s dusk,
of the 25th day
I drifted
upon the dimless wings
of an empty firefly.
to glow, if only…

perhaps life’s load too heavy
to truly twinkle free.
perhaps drenched sparks
of fear
of desire
of rugged roads to bear
of innocence
could never ignite the fire.

spinning alone
with dimless wings
in a whirlwind
of perpetual lonely nightfall.

A sweet misstep of chance and change
landed to light me.
a sly smile, deviant, wide,
blindingly wicked green eyes
and lightening lips as brilliant as flame.

a kindered firefly;
a heart hollow of spark.
a chilled soul thirsty for heat.
another dimmed soul seeking light.

I whispered towards tomorrow,
come illuminate the night, beside me

with so many empty spaces to dazzle
let’s go….
that infinite glow,
you and me.

I whispered towards the abyss of rising serendipity:
brighter I shall be,
when the light derives from us as “we.”

I’ll Embrace The First Blossom…

Sabine and me

Sabine and me

I sit here on an unseasonably beautiful Sunday, admiring the glowing light of the sun, thinking of my dear friend Sabine, who is at this moment breathing her life’s final breaths. She had been diagnosed with Lou Gehrig’s disease less than a short year ago. The symptoms progressed rapidly. Sabine was losing much of her ability to function at a landslide rate.

Eventually, she was unable to walk, use her hands, talk or swallow food, water, or take medications. The insertion of a feeding tube only caused her more pain and discomfort. Knowing the indignant and physically painful end that would be sure to follow, Sabine spoke with her physician about the options before her.

She then chose to enter the hospice phase of her disease and voluntarily withhold food and water so she could die in a way that preserved her dignity. On her terms. To allow people to remember her for who she is and was. To spare her husband Kelley and her daughter Olivia further pain and heartbreak. This decision was made and represents the grace and love of who she is. Today is day seven of her journey.

To see someone your own age, so young, and that you care about, respect and appreciate go through indignity or pain is heartbreaking. Well, it’s more than heartbreaking, though we’ve all been or will be here, loss of all forms is inevitable and necessary; it’s just impossible to find any words to describe the experience.

I had tried to connect with her over the last few months and communication was getting tricky. I realize she had many people that wanted to see her. She had family from Germany that were coming to say their goodbyes. Sabine’s energy levels were waning with very limited waking windows of time. I suppose she might have been slightly embarrassed over her diminishing physical capacity.

Knowing her, I am sure she was mentally, emotionally, spiritually trying to sort out what the remainder of her life would be, spending time with her daughter, husband and other immediate family and having to get her own human head into how to accept the inevitable premature end.

these were taken from a bouquet in her house

these were taken from a bouquet in Sabine’s house from our last visit…

Her daughter Olivia is 13, my daughter’s age. This is the bigger stake to my heart. I think about all the hopes, regrets, lessons and life that were left to share. The little things of first dates, report cards with A’s, walks in the rain. And all the bigger life events like graduation, wedding, and being the guide and support I, as a mother, had been designated to be. Caring for our kids and being strong and alive for them is how it’s supposed to be. As imperfect and idyllic the notion is, anything else is inconceivable.

Yes, none of us really know…

What we do know is that love is real and always flourishing when we allow it, especially when we’re raw during crossroads like these. The moment is now and I want to share my joy and love for the privilege to be touched by Sabine’s warm smile and generous laughter.

Sabine, you are authentic and kind. You are a loving mother to Olivia whose grace is apparent by all that you teach her. You are courageous to fully accept the juxtaposed strength and frailty of life and immerse your spirit into the flow of what is…

Thank you for your sharing your beautiful light in my life. You are a true friend and kindred spirit. When the springtime arrives, your favorite time of year, I will greet the first blossom I see with an embrace and a smile because I will feel you and your hope there beside me.

Everybody (who’s grown up) Wants Some…

Bobby Pallotta of Beyond the Eye DV productions and moi

One of my favorite things to do is to talk with others, learn more about people’s passions and share their stories. A few weeks ago I was asked by a friend of mine who does video production, Bobby Pallotta of Beyond the Eye DV, if I’d be willing to interview some guys on Saturday night who were performing for a tribute band show the Hawthorn Theater. The Portland media world is small, and he and I have worked together in the past. He was familiar with my

Sonic Temple Cult Tribute

Sonic Temple Cult Tribute

broadcast background. Bobby was going to film all three bands – Sonic Temple (The Cult), Unchained (Van Halen), and Poison’us (Poison). He was going to capture concert footage and wanted to intermingle it with interviews. Since I have friends in a few of the performing bands, I was going to be at the show anyway, so I said yes.

I do love the tribute band scene. It may seem cliche, trying to relive some sort of youth to music that has carried on through the many decades, but I can’t help it. It makes me happy to hear the music, feel the crowd, admire the gumption a fella like Brad Halleck has to even attempt portraying Eddie Van Halen, and soak up the energy of nostalgia’s belonging. It’s kind of cool in a way to swept up in a time and place, as a grown adult with some sense and wisdom, without youth’s effects of too much alcohol and recklessness to destroy the opportunity. Everybody (who’s now grown up) wants some, I want some too….

I appreciated the chance to interview all three bands and even the fans. Everyone is having such a great time, including the boys in the bands who have a chance, if even for a night, to rock the socks and bras off those aspiring throwbacks in the crowd like me. (watch interviews below!)

Brian Grant’s Shake It ‘Till We Make It Fundraising Gala

Last night I had the honor of attending Brian Grant’s Shake It ‘Till We Make! celebrity gala to benefit the Brian Grant Foundation. The court at Moda Center was transformed into the most gorgeous evening wonderland of class and glamour. Before sharing about the evening, you should know about Brian Grant’s work on behalf of those with Parkinson’s. Brian himself was diagnosed in his prime at 36 with young onset Parkison’s disease. Since then, he alongside his foundation, raises funds and awareness for programs, services, support and research to improve the quality of life for those who have it. The goal of his event last night was to raise both funds and awareness so this meaningful necessary work can continue and thrive.

The celebs showed up on the red carpet to begin the night. Though the list is long, notable guests included NBA player Antonio Harvey, comedian Bill Bellamy, Bill Schonley, musician Brian McKnight, Jerome Kersey, golfer Allison Hanna and many more….including pro athletes from the NBA and NFL, sportscasters, entertainers. Everyone looked beautiful.

Center court of the Moda Center was decked out in stunning candlelit glamour. Portland Taiko, Bill Bellamy, Brian McKnight, Mike Phillips, singers from SEI and Cascade chorus opened the evening with lovely music and song. Guests then had the pleasure of watching a short film about Brian’s trek up Mt. St. Helens with a group of friends and colleagues who also have Parkinson’s disease. The message of powering forward, in spite of adversity, was inspirational. How many of us can imagine the impact–physically, mentally, emotionally–of having a progressively debilitating disease? Parkinson’s is like the neurological wild west in terms of it’s effects. Many things can change and happen to one’s body and mind overnight with little warning–including tremors, difficulty swallowing, depression, anxiety, sleeplessness. Sadly, there’s ultimately nothing that can be done to “fix” the disease. Therapies and medications assist in abating some of the symptoms, but for the most part, a lot of mystery still surrounds to whom, the why, and how, Parkinson’t occurs. 60,000 people are diagnosed each year.

The night then progressed with an exciting live auction with some dazzling items up for bid including trips to Bali to a luxury spa, World Cup excursion to Brazil, and an exclusive outing with Brian for a day of golf. Last year over $500,000 was raised from the live auction. To learn more about Parkinson’s disease, and how you can help the Brian Grant Foundation, visit www.briangrant.org.

 

What People Like

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Me and my good friend Trista

One of the coolest aspects about last night’s photography exhibit was to chat with everyone and hear what specific images they liked. I was surprised by people’s tastes, which of my images they were drawn to. There were a few images that a lot of people pointed out over and over again. (The one above got the most comments)

Something I hadn’t counted on or ever experienced before was how happy I was to see other people happy over my photographs.  They were excited to take home the specific images they chose and give them a place in their own surroundings where they could look at them and admire them from time to time. In people’s personal spaces from bedrooms, to kitchens and living rooms, my photos would grace a new environment. THAT is very cool!

My friend Justin holding up his piece he bought that he said reminded him of his mom...On my right is Paul, a talented photographer!

My friend Justin holding up his piece he bought that he said reminded him of his mom…On my right is Paul, a talented photographer!

Many of my friends showed up to last night’s photo show to offer support and I was extremely grateful. I guess part of the experience for me in showing my photography, is sharing the creation, the creativity itself of art, to integrate and inspire that place within people where expression, perception and interpretation intersect in a very heart-felt way. I was inspired myself to see that come to life.

Today’s A Big Day

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Over the years I’ve dabbled in photography. It’s a passion, still, borderline hobby, with full intentions of someday soon immersing myself. Over time, people have commented on how much they’ve liked what they’ve seen. I can admit that I have a knack, or an eye for capturing details. I would like to develop the camera-using skills.

Through the years, I’ve fantasized about what it would be like to publicly show my work. About 4 months ago an opportunity showed up to do exactly this. Cupcake Jones, a prominent bakery in town, has a beautiful event space in the Pearl District and each month for the First Thursday art gallery walk (that many local galleries participate in) they feature an artist. In May they reached out to the community looking for artists. For the hell-of-it I sent Shannan at Cupcake Jones some images, she liked them, and we scheduled my photography to be featured 4 months later at tonight’s showing. So here we are.

I spent some time over the past few months going through thousands of images trying to pick what I felt best represented my broad range of styles. I don’t take one particular type of image so selecting a single theme like most photo shows have was a challenge. Since my talent tends to gravitate towards capturing life’s often overlooked details, that’s the theme I decided to go with for the presentation: “Life’s Details.”

I chose a few images from each category that I’ve taken over the years, sought the help of two photographer friends in terms of selecting and narrowing down, made a bunch of prints, and voila! a photo show will be born! I’ve got numerous print sizes from 5 x 5’s all the way up to 18 x 24. I’ll be displaying infrared photos, hispta prints, travel photos from Italy, Hawaii and some local iconic representations of Portland. When the images were all put in frames, and I looked at the collection I curated, I admit I felt a sense of pride for my true passion and capacity for photography. I wouldn’t call myself a photographer, not yet anyway, but I can see the possibilities. Taking photographs makes me happy in a way that nothing else really does. It seems pure, at least at this point. There are no financial or professional expectations tied to it.

For tonight I invited about 600 friends and colleagues to come check out the merchandise. It’s a one-night-only show. Yes, the images will be for sale but more importantly, I will accomplish a pretty cool goal of publicly showing my work. A feat I once dreamed of.

Just Do it Like Diana

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What have you accomplished? I mean really accomplished? During these immediate gratification instant narcissistic times, setting and reaching goals is a novelty. We barely have the endurance to avoid our iPhones for more than five minutes, let alone swim over 100 miles in shark and jellyfish-infested waters for 54 hours, at 64, no less, after four previous failed attempts. Diana Nyad has been such an inspiration in her conviction, humility and grace throughout the entire journey and to see her step onto the beach that she’d only dreamed of reaching, was an accomplishment that few of us will ever experience.

In one of her interviews today, she talked about the strength of a human mind and the endurance of human will; that we can all achieve amazing things. And she’s right. We’ve all got the gifts. How to flex that accomplishment muscle slowly…. what are those far-off hard-to-imagtine accomplishments just waiting to spiritually, physically and mentally materialize? Thanks Diana for prompting me to wonder….