Saturday, December 29, 2018

31

Mario and I last night



Marriage:

Four open books, two spiral notebooks, the year-end issues of The New Yorker, The Sun, The Paris Review, a cup of tea gone cold, a bottled water mixed with microgreens, and two new coasters I got for Christmas are part of the clutter on my desk, all of which distract me as I type.  I look across the room at Mario’s workspace, neat and organized. His daily planner and a sharpened pencil lay next to his marble-base desk lamp. I need his help. Tonight, exhausted with a bit of writer’s block, I call out to him across the hall.

“Babe?”

“Yeah?” he answers from our bedroom, then comes into our office.

I raise my eyebrows at him. “What should I write for our anniversary blog?”

He thinks, then walks to the vertical files next to his desk—where manila folders are sorted alphabetically—and grabs a book—made from letter-sized printer paper and separated with tabs—that he gave me last year on our Anniversary: The Unique Marriage of Janet and Mario. 

“Here,” he says. “Why not look at this and get some ideas?” 

He hands me the book and kisses me, encouraged by my enthusiasm.

“Where did you get that?  I didn’t know you kept it there!”

He gave me this book last year at this time, but in the busy-ness of the holidays and the exhaustion of graduation, I forgot where we put it. He created the book for me—for us—with his whole heart. It’s half-memory album, half-statistical research that mathematically proves how we are unique and special as a couple.  

I can’t stop smiling. It has been two hours since I started this blog; I’ve been looking at the book ever since.

The Book

Mario is now relaxing outside, bundled up in winter clothes, drinking a hot cup of raspberry tea (with a scotch chaser), smoking a good cigar, and playing a mindless game.  I am supposed to be blogging in here, but I am remembering why I love him.  I am not supposed to be this distracted—but I love this 30th Anniversary Notebook.  I wish Mario was here sitting with me so we could look at it together.

The book is divided into eight sections: 1. Brazen Princess (a commemorative blog I published on the day we celebrated 30 years); 2. By the Numbers (my favorite section—I’ll tell you why soon); 3. 30 Years Ago (What was happening in the world in 1987, the year we married); 4. Tested (trivia quizzes that test how much I know about our time together); 5. Marriage (articles and letters from and about couples who have endured); 6. Over the Years; 7. Unique Utterances (We love to quote each other); 8. Where Do We Go From Here? (a challenge to us to continue adding to the book).

As I read The Unique Marriage of Janet and Mario, I remember falling in love with Mario, more than 32 years ago. 
***


30 Years Ago:  What was happening in the world in 1987, the year we married?

In 1986 I had just come out of a turbulent, destructive relationship. I needed a job so that I could support my new baby (Vince) who had just turned one-year-old. Since I didn’t have a college degree, my job-options were limited.  I took a job at a local State Park as a Park Aid—Mario was the supervising State Park Ranger.

Mario was a very good boss and recognized that I was a good employee—able to do more than work the entrance kiosk and perform low-level office duties. One day, Mario handed me two large books—DOS Manuals—and told me to learn everything and explain it to him. I did. Later that week, after learning Multi-user DOS commands, I taught Mario and all the other Rangers about the new PC, including what prompts and commands were.  I didn’t know then, but this knowledge of DOS would later help me build a quasi-career.  

Mario genuinely liked me and believed in me. We were both single parents and had guilt about failing our former partners, and ultimately our children.  Nevertheless, I didn’t really think of him romantically.  He wasn’t really my type—even though he was incredibly gorgeous and hilarious—an athletic, Republican, introverted, logical, moustache-cop.   He was also much older than me (I was 23, he was 32). By the time I realized I was falling in love with him, I also had to admit that he was way out of my league.

Then, after work one night, I asked Mario for advice on a parenting matter.  He offered his opinion as a friend, not my boss.  The subject matter led us into deep conversation, and when it was time for me to go, he walked with me back to our cars.

“Alright, Goodnight,” he said, then added: “Can I give you a hug goodbye? Hugs are cool between friends, right?”

I almost said no. I knew I was in love with him and I knew if we hugged he would be able to tell.  But we were drawn together like magnet and steel.  I fell into him, my face against the warm glow of his neck, our bodies fitting together like puzzle pieces. It was like heaven opened and the skies parted and angels came down and drenched us with stars and music.

When we let go—about two minutes later—Mario looked at me, stunned.

“Um, yeah.  Hugs are cool.”

I smiled broadly.  

This is still one of my favorite “unique utterances” of Mario’s.


Us in 1987



***

Tested:

After the hug, we had to rethink everything, including our workplace.  We had chemistry that was unlike anything I had ever experienced, and it was very hard to ignore.  I had hope that our relationship was something more than just physical attraction.  We worked well together, knew each other’s values, and most importantly, we had already seen our long-term relationships fail and we didn’t want to repeat the past. Thoughts of Mario constantly danced in my head.

One day, not long after we had agreed to take our new relationship seriously, I was cleaning the office and thinking about how much I loved Mario. We had already told each other “I love you” and were still in that blissful state of newness and realization.

Because the office was quiet and the other ranger was out in the field, I decided to cross a major boundary and go into Mario’s office and tell him I loved him—again.  When I stood in his doorway, he didn’t look up, but continued typing on his desktop PC.  Because I was so 23, and believed every Cosmopolitan article I ever read about a woman’s ability to derail her man with body movements and innuendo, I wasn’t discouraged.

“Hi,” he said, suddenly, looking up from his work. “How can I help you?”

“Um,” I said, trying to look coy. “I was curious about something.” I walked over to his desk and knelt down next to him, an action which made him uncomfortable.  Nevertheless, I persevered. 

“I think of you all the time,” I whispered.  “How much do you think about me?”  I was smiling, excited to be close to him like this at work—it felt forbidden and dangerous.  Instead of the Cosmo reaction I was hoping for, Mario looked up to the office ceiling.

“Hmmm,” he said. “That’s an interesting question. Can I get back to you?”

Mario’s businesslike answer was clearly meant to sober me up, which it did.  I stood up, feeling foolish, and started to leave the room.  He stopped me.

“I’m serious,” he said.  “I’ll think about it and get back to you.” Then, he returned to his work. 

I tried to keep busy the rest of the day, as Mario continued to type away in his office. I chided myself for my immature behavior. Mario and I had agreed to keep our work environment professional and our relationship on the down-low. That afternoon, I  was too embarrassed to say goodbye.

“Wait,” Mario called from his office when I tried to sneak away. “Are you leaving?”

“Yeah,” I said, keeping my hand on the doorknob. “I didn’t want to disturb you again, and…”

“But I’ve been thinking about your question,” Mario said.  I heard him stand up and then he appeared in his doorway. By now, all of our coworkers had gone home, so he seemed less guarded. 

“You asked how much I thought about you, and I was thinking it’s pretty close to ten per cent of the time.”  He smiled triumphantly.

Because I was already embarrassed, I didn’t feel like joking around. From the way he was watching me, like he was waiting for my reaction, I suddenly realized he was serious.

“You think about me ten per cent of the time?” I asked, letting go of the doorknob.  The door closed behind me.

Mario nodded, but he seemed to notice that his answer offended me. “That’s a lot!” he said, ready to defend his answer. “Ten percent of the time is a big chunk of my day.”  He looked in the office cubby holes for new messages or mail, almost nervously. I had never before seen Mario nervous.

“Really?” I asked, my face reddening. “Because to me, that seems like…not a lot.”

I left, and he didn’t try to stop me.  I made the long drive home, crying big, hot tears that I couldn’t stop. I knew that Mario didn’t love me like I loved him—the kind of love that makes you want to marry that person.  By the time I picked Vince up from the babysitter, I was a mess—and this whole thing was breaking my heart.




***

By the Numbers:

I walked in the door and my Mom told me that Mario had called, very concerned about me.

“He asked me to give you the message to call him back as soon as you get home.”

I called him.

“I don’t know what I was thinking,” Mario said. “I know you’re upset, but I want to apologize.”

“Okay,” I said, relieved, but still mournful. “I shouldn’t have done this at work.”

“Yeah,” Mario said, and I could tell he was relieved I said this. “We have to be professional at work, even if we’re alone.”

“I know.”

“But I’ve been thinking more about your question, and I realize now that I think about you at least twenty per cent of the time.”

I froze. Was he joking? There was silence on the other end of the phone.

“Really?”

“Because I was thinking that I sleep about a third of my life, so that’s thirty-three per cent right there.”

I wasn’t sad anymore; I was angry.

“Mario, listen,” I said.  “I’m going to save you a lot of heartache and grief here.  The next girl you date, just tell her you think about her all of the time.  That’s all you need to say, Okay?”

He sighed.  “But that would be a lie.”

“Just say that.  Girls like hearing that.”

Then, I hung up.

I went to work the next day, accepting that Mario and I were not meant to be.  When I got to work at 8:00, Mario was already there—he wasn’t scheduled to arrive until ten.

“I need to talk to you after you hang the flags,” he said, authoritatively.  He stood up straight, looking a little like Chuck Norris.

“Alright,” I said, casually.

After I hung the flags, I went into his office.  He shut the door and asked me to sit down.  When I did, he took a manilla file folder and handed it  to me—inside was a pie graph.  


The pie graph was literally drawn in pencil and crayon, since Mario had young boys with their coloring stuff at his house.  He had color-coded the graph to show how he saw the division of his time.

“When I say I think about you twenty percent of the time, this is what I mean,” he said.  "Do you see this? That percentage is you and this is how much I think about you and to me that’s a whole hell of a lot.  Here’s where I sleep, and I don’t consciously think of you, even though sometimes I do dream about you…”

I smiled, which relaxed him.

He pointed to each piece of the pie graph, showing me how logically minded he was.  As he spoke, I wondered about something: what if Mario was serious?  What if twenty percent of the time is a whole lot?  What if I have a logical man who will not lie to me just to make me feel like the heroine in a romantic comedy?   I wasn’t sure what I was going to say, but I suddenly wondered if this man in front of me, showing me a crayon pie graph that took a lot of time to think about, measure, and present to me… what if he really did love me?

That would be the best thing ever.

So,  you see, "By the Numbers" is my favorite section because only Mario can make numbers soothe me.  This section shows me that even statisticians can learn how to schmooze a woman, after years of living with her. 







Friday, December 28, 2018

56



Taken tonight--on the eve of my 56th Birthday


Today I am 56 and I will love this year.

A friend once asked me why I write.  I told her that there are two reasons. 1: I have to, or I’ll explode; 2: It’s the only thing I know how to do. I’ve done it since I was in second grade, and have consistently written all of my life.

Then she asked me this: “If you had to write one thing before you die, what would it be?” I thought long and hard about my answer. I thought about all of the things I should say, but I had a funny feeling this friend would see through all that. She knows me well.

Then it came to me—if I had only moments to live, I would write this: I have loved and been loved so much more than I ever thought was possible.

I was born into a family who waited for my arrival—my parents and grandparents loved me. They named me and cared for me and held me until I could walk, which I did, in safe quarters. I have four siblings—an elder sister, a younger brother, and two younger sisters—who I love and love me with the turbulent sibling love of continuous change and growth. Our family is a tree whose branches stretch for miles in opposite directions. I love them so much; we all love each other—despite our differences. 

After my bumpy adolescence, I fell in love with a man who gave me a son. Despite love, the man and I split up, but I had custody of our baby—a son who I loved more than anything in the whole world.
Then I met Mario. That sentence…that phrase is the understated bliss of true love. He is my truest true, the man who loves me more than any human on this earth.  Mario had two young sons, so when I fell in love with Mario, they were swept up into it. My love for Mario came with such pure passion that I was sure he’d never love the same way, but he did—and we got married (thank God). We became a family—my son, his sons, and a baby daughter we had together—and we became happy together. 

Any mother can attest to that kind of crazy mother love—the moving ocean of bleeding love that swells out of you—it’s almost painful. I drowned in this powerful love, until I became a mermaid, a dolphin, a shark, an octopus, and an underwater volcano. This mother love is so vibrant that it scares me sometimes.

As we’ve grown, Mario and I have built friendships with people who have loved us and sustained us through drought and hardships.  They have laughed and feasted with us during times of celebration. We have friends who’ve prayed with us, grieved with us, buoyed us up with their love when we were drowning, and celebrated with us when the disaster was finished and the sun came out.  Friendships and love and encouragement…much more than I deserve.

And then there’s God, who is over all of this, my God who is faithful when I am faithless.  His banner over me is love.

And this, as I look at it, is a simple offering.  This is what I’d write about if I were dying.  Look at me—I am the most ordinary person you could ever meet, and in my lifetime, I have loved and been loved more than one human being should be.  And this is why—at 56—I will love this year.  It will be a year of even more love.

Each time I blog, I start on a blank page, selecting “Blank” page from the selection that Microsoft WORD gives me.  This suggestion shows a white page that I fill with characters like the ones you’re reading now.  I call this writing. It’s what I like to do because from nothing comes something—a way to reach out and touch you! Here I am. I enjoy writing and these blogs are more than just a post or a share, they’re a piece of me, shared with you.





When I am afraid, I put my trust in you.
   
 In God, whose word I praise—
in God I trust and am not afraid.
    What can mere mortals do to me?~Psalm 56:3,4

Thursday, November 1, 2018

Lilli


Lilli in my heart...

Lilliana Grace through the years.


Liliana Grace is our grandchild who takes everything in—like an artist.  I am her Abuela who takes everything in—like a writer.  I see Lilli when she doesn’t think I’m watching her, and vice-a-verse.  I like to think we understand each other, artist to artist, in a way that is unique and special.

Lilli has always been extremely artistic, winning awards for her paintings and drawings, but recently her art is taking on its own new, independent style.  She is almost to the point of not wanting to share something that isn’t ready, rather than sharing it too early.   She is a rather private person, thoughtful and pensive, with a wit that can rival anyone’s.

Today is Liliana Grace’s birthday! I will post this at two in the morning in California—after everyone has cleaned up the Halloween paraphernalia and gone to sleep—around the time she’ll be waking up, near Kansas City. 

About ten minutes before midnight (just before we were going to bed) our internet server went down.  Nothing in the house was working and I started panicking.

“Of course, this happens now,” I said to Mario. “Just before Lilli’s birthday! I have to post her birthday blog!”  

He looked at me and raised his eyebrows. It occurred to me that Lilli will probably not jump out of bed, grab her phone, and head over to Brazen Princess just to read this.  She might not even read it at all today—she’s now at the age where homework and YouTube commandeer most of her time.  

“Remember her as a little kid?” Mario asked me, smiling.  “Remember how I used to joke that she was my favorite?”

We remembered her together—our blonde, blue-eyed little girl who loved to draw and think of beautiful things in deep thoughts.  She screeched when she wrestled around with her siblings and built crazy things out of Legos.  She enjoyed stories I made up from scratch, and always wanted butterflies and unicorns in them.

The last time we were with her she told me all about twenty-one pilots (a band—who doesn’t capitalize their name because they’re too cool to do so—that is named after an obscure line from the Arthur Miller play, All My Sons) and Panic at the Disco (who actually writes really clever songs). She still drew and painted, but often worked in a book she didn’t show me. She was still the same, pensive, beautiful Lilli—but I longed to French-braid her hair and cuddle with her on the couch, like old times.

Lilli and her parents--with one of her award-winning paintings


Tonight, after I read in bed for a while, our internet connection was restored and I went to my computer to post this.  I added our memories of her—and realized that in less than a month I’ll see her again and we’ll make new memories. This makes me happy.

Today, Mario and I will call Lilli on the phone, sing happy birthday and hear all about how her Halloween was.  We will count our blessings, and talking on the phone to a grandchild is a huge blessing to a Grandparent!

So...today, my beautiful Lilli...you are another day older, not another year!  Love knows no boundaries—especially when the beautiful bridge of art can hold our hearts together. Our love has the power to skip over natural barriers as easily as stones skip over water.  Lilli, you are my grandchild, so I think of you every day, pray for you constantly, and carry you with me wherever I go.  Because you are so valuable to me, I want to learn more about you and find new reasons to love you.  So, when I see you, show me something you made with your new markers.  I can’t wait to see!

I love you!
Abuela

Thursday, October 4, 2018

David


On his birthday! October 4, 1979


On the day David was born, Mario drove his then-wife, Cathy, in his patrol vehicle—red lights and siren-- to the hospital for the birth of his first-born son.  Mario couldn’t stop taking pictures of the baby’s face.  He was wet, wrinkled, and astoundingly perfect. To this day, we call those pictures “the face pictures” –a whole roll of 36 pictures he took with his new camera.

Mario with his father, Chev, David and Joe - 1987

David is Mario’s first-born son, only five years old when Cathy and Mario separated.  Cathy moved to Kansas—to be near family—and Mario stayed in California—being a state employee and rooted in California.

I met David at the tender age of six, and we hit it off right away.  Since I’d been working for Mario at a State Park, the first time I saw David—and Joe—they were with Mario, all dressed in shorts and polo shirts.  They were on their way somewhere, but Mario had to take care of an important piece of business, and walked through the front door of the State Park dressed in civilian clothes and two little boys in tow.

“Do you guys want to color at my desk?” I asked them, after Mario introduced us.  I was really trying not to laugh—David looked like Mario so much—and I finally had to say something.

“Hard to tell this is your son,” I said to Mario, who was sorting through his mail. 

“They’re both mine,” Mario said, smiling at Joe and David. “That one just looks more like me.” 

“Joe looks more like our mom,” David said, pointing at his brother’s hair.  “See? Light hair like Mom and I have dark hair like Dad.” As he continued to tell me what Mom was like, the boys and I drew a turtle on white paper, using crayons I found in my desk—probably left there by the previous secretary, who had kids. 

On a family vacation 1991

Eventually, Mario and I blended our families together, a trend becoming more common in the eighties. David and Joe were part of Mario’s family, just as Vince was a part of mine.  Soon, we had a baby girl, Alicia, who made our boys band together and become big brothers. We made our home in California, while David and Joe grew up in Kansas with their mother, Cathy.  We would talk on the phone often, and write letters—by hand!—but mostly we lived in a strange state of grief at the distance between us.  We looked forward to the summers, when they would fly out and we would take family vacations.  That day at my desk, as David told me about Kansas and Mom, and all of the things that he was planning to do in the summer, I couldn’t have seen this all coming.  

Joe waiting his turn patiently 

David was introduced to computers at a young age—his father's Kaypro, with only two or three games to go with its word processing capabilities—and seemed to understand the inner workings and basic language well.  Back in those days, we limited the boys to half-hour slots, and it makes me laugh to think of David now, who spends so much of his time on computers.  Behind his work desk, with two or three screens going at the same time, spending hours on end with computers, he knows more about hardware, software, and language better than most people in the world.  I couldn’t see that happening either.

When David graduated from high school, he came to live with us for the summer.  Ready to break free of his life in a small town, David prepared himself for college, where he was planning to study astrophysics and pledge to the frat that threw the best parties.  Somewhere along the way, David learned UNIX, an international language that changed his life.  He immersed himself in the growing technology of the day, learning the ins and outs of hardware and software and soon was comfortable moving in the professional world.  He had found his niche in the world of technology—and he was on his way.


After a series of crazy girlfriends, David finally met his wife, Lennae, who was a perfect match for him.  They have three children, who were our first grandchildren.  These babies who stole our hearts are now teens and pre-teens!  The same heartache I felt being separated from David and Joe, I now feel for their children. Here we are in California, and there they are in Kansas. 

Today David turns 39, which I figured out with my calculator because my brain is in denial. I thank God for David because he is more than a step-son—he is a son to me: a wonder and a beautiful part of my heart. Thank God he is not riding bulls anymore. Thank God he found Lennae.  Thank God I love his mother and we are friends.  Thank God he loves me as his step-mom and always has.

HAPPY BIRTHDAY, DAVID!!  You are one of the greatest blessings of our life, and we love you!





Thursday, September 27, 2018

Harmony


Harmony is nine today, which is very hard to believe!  It's also real and true.

Because we enjoy reading aloud together, especially nonsense rhymes that are easy and fun to say out loud, I decided to place her tribute in a fun, frolicky nonsense rhyme.  

Happy Birthday, my dear Harmony!



Birthday Wishes!



Harmony, oh Harmony—you’re NINE by my clock!
So here are some wishes I wrote on my sock:
I wish you could fly in a seagull-y flock—
With a wingspan so large it would give us a shock.
You could translate the way these birds speak when they squawk!
Then come back and teach us the way seagulls talk.
Harmony, oh Harmony—I love you! You rock!

I wish we could camp on the back of a bear
And make roasted marshmallow fires in his hair.
He’d snore and pass gas, but we wouldn’t much care—
If anyone found us, we’d invite them up there…
“Have a birthday S’more, stranger—and roast if you dare!”
Harmony, where did those NINE years go? Where?

I wish you a birthday with towers of cake
I wish you the joy of a long summer break
I wish you some French fries, fried chicken and steak
With sparkling pictures of life that you take --
The blessings of laughter when you make a mistake,
I wish you the patterns of every snowflake,
I wish you the power to dream, wide awake—
And love—when life fails us—that no one can break

And so, as my silly-sock wishes come true,
You’ll see they’re much more than just one wish (or two)
I wish you the world in a beautiful hue,
To seek out the One who both knows and loves you!
Happy Birthday, Harmony!  I am so proud of you!!




Friday, August 31, 2018

Callen

Dearest Callen~ 
I hope you appreciate this poem from my heart to you!  I love you, Abuela




Because of you I have celebrated
the once abandoned wheelbarrow—
danced alongside of dangerous birds,
resurrected cherished, sacred dreams:
blue and purple, larks and lonely,
captured, taken, spent, forsaken.
All the things that once were
glued down have floated
up.  Now because of all the
tender, brokenhearted echoes
of my ulnar nerve I reach beyond
the sky.  Fear no longer resides in
my dangerous loneliness, can’t haunt
my sullen, awkward imagination.
Instead, it left through the
Window, chased by the cheers
I felt to cry out when the rest of me
Saw you running swiftly—
so Greek and Roman—
made me switch routines:
Vespers in the morning,
Lauds in the evening.
Because of you I have leapt
from boulders, darting over
icy meadows of doubt
because I had to had to had to
if I wanted to believe
in you. Because of you my
faith has meaning.  Life.
And all the things that
Once were marbled taboo
Now are truth and beauty.
Because of my love for you
and you. Because of you.

Wednesday, August 8, 2018

Alannah

Through the years!  Alannah In many stages of cuteness


Alannah sings with Alexa at Alicia's Birthday Party
July 2018

Alannah is going to start second grade soon, and this year she’s learned to read well.  In her room, a bookshelf of her favorite books—mostly Princess related—is also decorated with stars, hearts, stuffed unicorns, and miniatures.   She is our sparkling, princess granddaughter, so filled with joy and sparkles that she glitters wherever she goes.  Just like her mama!  

Seven years ago, I appealed to friends on social media: “My daughter, Alicia, is scheduled to be induced tomorrow early in the morning.  Please pray that all will go well!!”  Between the lines, I can still feel my anxiety and concern for my daughter.  When she was eight years old, Alicia was diagnosed with type-1 diabetes, and though she managed diabetes as best as she could, childbirth is always complicated, and doctors openly called the pregnancy “high risk” for mother and baby.
Alicia had given birth to Harmony just two years before, but that labor was long and hard, and her beautiful baby was born in distress, struggling to breathe in the first six minutes of her life.  None of us wanted a repeat of that scare, even though Harmony had recovered completely, showing no signs of any birth trauma as she exited the hospital.
In 2011, when Alicia was pregnant with Alannah, Mario and I lived in South Africa.  We regularly SKYPED with Alicia, and got to see our daughter’s tummy grow month by month, all via webcam.
“I think this baby’s going to be larger than Harmony,” she told us. “I might not make it to my due date of August 1.”
“Should I change my flights?” I asked her.  “Should I come earlier?”
Alicia smiled.  “Yeah, I think so.”  

Arrived in Chico--July 2011

I changed my flights and traveled to the USA in time to celebrate Alicia’s birth (July 28) but Alannah didn’t arrive until August 8.  Even she was born after another long, hard labor, Alannah came out kicking and screaming.  I had never been so grateful for loud cries in my life.  Mario was with us via SKYPE hookup, and we both celebrated the mercy of God!

Just after birth


Yes, you're reading that right--9 lbs 4.9 oz
Alicia was incredibly exhausted afterward, and had lost so much blood that they talked about arranging for a transfusion.  The good news was that the baby was delightfully healthy—Alannah Litney Vosburg was 9 lbs, 5 ounces and 21 inches long.  She was pink and beautiful—lots of noises came from her. We all rejoiced in her beauty.  I got to hold her almost as soon as she came out.

Our first contact!  10 Minutes old

The next day came the sad reality: I had to leave only one day after Alannah was born. Because I had rearranged my flights thinking the baby was coming earlier, the return flight (two weeks after arrival) was also earlier.  International flights can’t be rescheduled like domestic flights can be—and I felt a strange mixture of gratitude and grief.  Alicia said she understood, but I knew she wished I could stay. Our goodbyes were tearful, but we smiled for photographs with the new baby, a granddaughter that I would see four months later, at Christmas. 
 
Just before saying goodbye - August 9, 2011


Today, Alannah is SEVEN years old!  And yet, all of this feels like it happened last week.
Now living in the USA, Mario and I are regular fixtures in the lives of our children and grandchildren.  Every Friday, I make the trip to Chico and see Harmony and Alannah, many times with Scarlett, who adores her cousins.
At Caper Acres Spring 2018

Alannah has grown into a beautiful girl.  She is kind, affectionate, loving, creative, has a beautiful singing voice and a great imagination.  She is also tender-hearted and empathetic—with a beauty and warmth that is rare in human beings.
Reading at Chico's The Bookstore

When I asked Alannah what she wanted to do for her SEVENTH birthday, she answered without thinking. 
“Grandma, I’m going to have friends over for a unicorn birthday party and you’re invited!”
“Am I?” I asked. “Can I bring Grandpa?”
“Yes, Grandpa, too!”  She said, sparkling with excitement.  “My whole family and all of my friends are coming and we’re going to have so much fun!”  Unable to contain any more excitement, Alannah jumped off the couch and started jumping up and down.  
“What do you want for your birthday?” I asked her.  She stopped jumping for a moment and thought. 
“I want you to come to my party.”
I smiled. 
Alannah's Unicorn Costume she swore she was wearing to the party

The best thing about returning to your home country after several years of meaningful, rewarding work in the mission field, is family.  In the middle of familial reward, there are grandchildren, the best beings in the whole world—especially when you have one like Alannah.
Happy SEVENTH Birthday, dear Alannah!  We love you!! 

Alannah wears my glasses after a bath