Saturday, February 26, 2011


My newfound optimism was sorely tested on Friday.  My 39-year-old cousin passed away Friday morning after a 2 year battle with cervical cancer.  We grew up together like sisters.  When I was about five my parents were in a very bad boating accident (which I was blissfully unaware of), and I lived with my cousin for an entire summer while they were in recovery.  Then from the time I was seven to my tweens I spent almost every weekend at her house.  I remember how we used to fight over her one pair of roller skates.  My aunt, in an attempt to keep the peace, would have us each wear one roller skate.  She would flip a coin to figure out who would get the undesirable left skate.  However, once the unlucky one finished grumbling about having to get stuck with the left, we would strap them on and spend our afternoons “skating” up and down the sidewalk.  Once we hit our tweens and outgrew the “one skate” form of entertainment, we would spend our days together carefully choreographing and memorizing the lyrics to every Menudo song… “Súbete a mi moto.  Nunca he conocido una moto mejor!”  It was good times.

When my cousin was about 16 or 17 years old her father passed away.  It changed her life and, unfortunately, we grew apart.  Over the intervening years we found ways to stay in touch – Christmas cards, weddings and baby showers, once-in-a-while phone calls, MySpace, Facebook – but we were never able to regain the closeness we once shared. 

For the past few months, since her disease took a turn for the worse, I have been struggling with deep feelings of anger.  Anger at myself for perhaps not being the person she wanted me to be.  Anger at her for not taking better care of her health.  Anger at this horrible disease that seems to sneak up the unsuspecting and suck the life out of those affected and their loved ones, equally, and with no mercy.  So on Friday morning, I have to say, it didn’t feel like it was the best day of my life.  I raged silently and wept openly for the senseless loss of life and the grief of her husband, mother, and brother who would never hold her or kiss her or hear her voice or see her smiling face again.  And in my grief I turned to my one remaining connection with her – Facebook.  I clicked on her page, posted a message to her, scrolled through old posts, looked through her photos, and as I did this so many memories came flooding back…of times spent and moments shared.  I spent the day remembering her with my husband and my mother.  I relived countless events that made me smile and even laugh out loud.    All of this made me realize something very important.

When I reminisce about my childhood it is impossible not to mention her name or relay an anecdote of our shared time together.  We were inseparable, and as such my childhood memories will always include her.  I think I will always harbor some guilt that I didn’t make more of an effort to spend time with her and get to know her as an adult.  Hindsight is a bitch.  However, I will forever feel blessed that I was able to spend the most innocent and pure times of my life with her…that every memory will be one of laughter, mischief, and growing up.   Despite our lack of closeness in our adult years, those childhood moments contributed greatly to the person I am today.  I know I will never forget her because to forget her would be to forget myself, and her memory will not only live in my heart, but will be shared with others throughout my lifetime. 

So I guess Friday was not the best day of my life…to say that would be over reaching…but it was a good day because I spent it with my cousin...even if only in my heart.

Thursday, February 24, 2011

My Revelation...

Last time I posted I expressed my desire to slow my life down this year.  I talked about the importance of savoring every moment – the everyday moments we often ignore, view as tedious, or take for granted.  For the past few months I have been reading, researching, and reflecting, trying to find the key to slowing down.  I have made an effort to plan less and allow life to happen more.  I have found myself staring at my children as they do an activity or relay a story, letting those simple actions burn into my memory – what they said, how they sound, the emotion that passes over their features.  I have found seemingly quite moments to lay my head in my husband lap as he is reading or watching TV and allowed myself to feel the simplicity of the moment. 

In these past months, I can’t say I haven’t read some good articles or found some fascinating websites and blogs.  I also can’t say I haven’t felt instances of peace and joy and complete happiness.  However, I find myself wondering more often than not if my active pursuit of stillness isn’t in some ways defying the purpose of the whole exercise.  Now instead of constantly thinking of ways to stay busy and be active, I am constantly searching for ways to be happy in my inactivity.  Consequently, I still often feel harried and pressured and anxious.  Am I taking advantage of this moment to the fullest?  Am I really looking and listening to what is happening right now?  Have I turned my mind off enough so as to savor this moment?  Have I extracted the most I can out of this day…this hour… this minute?

The hardest part about slowing down your life and taking more time to enjoy the everyday is that the world keeps moving at a brisk pace around you no matter your best intentions.  To balance the need for doing with the desire for not doing is more difficult than simply allowing the fast pace of life to drag you along.  My husband would say that balance is the key – that it is both impossible and necessary to do nothing.  That real contentment comes when we learn to accept the things we have no control over and take joy in the simple pleasures of life.  I agree, but how do I achieve balance? 

 The answer has come to me recently from the lips of my 7 year old daughter.  On Valentine’s Day the kids were home from school so I stayed home with them.  Since I was home, I decided to make a Valentine’s Day dinner.  As I cooked pasta and baked cupcakes, Isabella cut out hearts for a heart garland and heart mobiles to decorate our dining room.  My son, Julian, chipped in by helping with household chores.  When Luis came home we had a great dinner and I passed out small Valentine gifts.  We all wore heart crowns and ate cupcakes for dessert.  It was a terrific evening.  Later that night, as I was snuggling with Isabella in bed, she turned to me a said, “Today was the best day of my life.”  I chuckled and thought how sweet.  I didn’t think about her statement again until several days later.  It was her birthday and we had spent months planning a Red Carpet Hollywood theme party for a few of her school friends.  The girls had a blast and we had fun making it all happen for them.  That night Isabella once again told me, “Mommy, today was the best birthday of my life.”  I smiled and brushed off the comment again thinking to myself, “Yeah…until your next birthday.” 

This past Tuesday Isabella stayed home with dad.  She had caught a cold over the long weekend and Luis wanted to take her to the doctor and give her an extra day to rest at home.  When I got home from work dinner was ready and they were playing The Game of Life.  She seemed to have enjoyed her time home with dad.  At bedtime I asked her if she had a fun day with her daddy.  She answered, “Well, we didn’t really do anything.  He shopped for groceries and he cooked and I played in my room and we played Life.  It was the best day of my life!”  And that’s when it hit me.  This was the best day of her life because it was the present.  Isabella doesn’t dwell on yesterday or live for tomorrow.  Every day is the best day of her life because she is living it!   At this stage in her life she lives in perfect balance.  There are good things that happen in her day and maybe sometimes bad things.  She sometimes has active days, and sometimes more boring days.  However, none of that is important because at the end of the day she has had the best day.  No matter what she has done that day, the important thing is that she did it!

After having this revelation I have found myself murmuring at odd times, “This is the best day of my life.”  And you know what?  It is.  No matter what happens in my day – if I’m busy or bored, if I had a good day or a bad day, if someone made me angry or made me laugh – it is the best day because I have lived it and shared it with those I love.  And so, my commitment remains the same; however, the path has shifted.  I will endeavor to do as my husband says and learn to accept what I have no control over and take joy in the simple pleasures in life and, like my daughter, every day will be the best day of my life.  And it is in this spirit that I have decided to change the name of my blog and refocus my time here to sharing the best days of my life with all of you!