Monday, June 30, 2008

Our First Anniversary

Today is Hubs' and my first wedding anniversary. I can't believe how quickly this year passed!

To celebrate, we decided to take a weekend getaway to Dana Point and Disneyland/California Adventure. 

It was fun and very relaxing. On Sunday morning, we had breakfast on the patio of our hotel that overlooked the ocean, and it made us reminiscent of our breakfasts at the Princeville Hotel in Kaua'i overlooking Hanalei Bay.  Not quite the same, but a very nice reminder, nonetheless.

As we sat, we reflected on our first year together. Our first year has been a mix of joy and sorrow. We have had a lot to celebrate and to grieve. While the joyful times are great, it is in trying times when you see what your marriage is really made of. I'm so thankful for my husband. My biggest hope in finding a husband was that he would be a man of character and integrity, and is Hubs ever made of sturdy stuff! He has been a rock of support for me, a compassionate ear to listen, and a safe place of refuge. 

I love you, sweetie! Happy Anniversary! 

This year has been quite a ride, but there's no one else with whom I'd rather journey through life.

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

I Heart Connecticut, too!

Is it just me or is it so much fun to say "Connectthedot" instead of "Connecticut"? After our time in NYC, Hubs and I took the train up to CT to visit his birth mother and her family. We had a wonderful time!

Just to give you a little background, Hubs was adopted as an infant by his wonderful mom, "J". Several years ago, she encouraged him to consider finding his birth mother. Long story short, his adoption agency found her after only a couple hours of searching! As Hubs says, he feels like he won the adoption lottery. Not only was adopted by a great family, he now has a fantastic relationship with his birthmother, "A"! (Hubs has written a little bit about his adoption story here.)

He likes to tease me about getting not one but two mothers-in-law when I married him. I'm just so blessed that I love them both and they both love me so much! This is a picture that Hubs always wanted--him with his adoptive mother (on left) and his birth mother (on right). It was taken at our wedding.

"A" has been married her loving husband for years and they have four children together. So when Hubs found "A", he also learned that he has a step-father, "H". When "H" met Brian for the first time, he threw his arms around him and welcomed him to the family. His family calls him "The Toasted Marshmallow"--crusty on the outside, but a big softy on the inside!

"A" and "H" have 4 children and 8 grandchildren, which means that Hubs found himself with 4 half-siblings and a whole slew of nieces and nephews!  No one really uses the "half" terminology, though. They all refer to each other as brothers and sisters. It is a really wonderful story that just keeps unfolding.

Here are some pics of Hubs with some of his siblings:

The day that we arrived in CT, most of the family was at the house, including the newest member of the family, our 3 day old nephew (the son of Hubs' youngest brother pictured below).
Here are a couple pics of us with our nieces and nephews. It warmed my heart hear all those little voices calling me "Aunt" and "Auntie". I don't think I'll ever get tired of that!

Though we were only there for three days, it was enough to reconfirm what I have known since the first time I visited New England: I am in love with the state of Connecticut. The New England architecture, the green lawns in front of saltbox style homes, and the Rockwellian feeling I had when I was there were enough to make me want to go back again soon! I'm so glad we have family that we love in a place that I just adore! 

I Heart NY

At the end of May, Hubs and I took a vacation to the Big Apple! 

We went to the top of the Empire State Building, like proper tourists...

We rode the Staten Island Ferry to see Lady Liberty (and ate yummy hotdogs while on board).

We saw this show on Broadway, which was silly fun.

And we saw Broadway legend Patty LuPone in this FABULOUS show!  If you have the opportunity to see this production of Gypsy before Patty leaves the cast, I implore you to GO SEE THIS SHOW! Patty LuPone was born to play this part, and she does it wonderfully! 

Then the real fun began!  Our reason for going to New York was to attend the 10-year class reunion of my acting school. About 14 of us showed up, and had a ball! People flew in from England, Sweden, France and all over the US for this, so it was so amazing to be together again!

It was fun to introduce Hubs to a chapter of my life for which I have endless nostalgia.

These are my girls!  
Your kids might recognize my friend Donovan Patton as "Joe" from Nickelodeon's "Blue's Clues"!Of course, we crazy theatre people had to be a little artsy with our photo opps!

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

A Time to Weep and and Time to Laugh

My mother once told me many years ago that she never worried about my being happy because I would even laugh in my sleep! I think it is fair to say that I am a pretty happy person. But I don't think I laugh as easily as I once did. My spirit isn't as light as it once was. While I am still joyful about life, I think my happy-factor has been knocked down a few notches. I don't think I've giggled in my sleep for a long time.

Looking back over the past five years, it isn't really hard to see why. This July will mark the five year anniversary of my stepdad John's passing. He, too, died of cancer. Two and a half years ago, my grandmother died at the ripe old age of 95. A month after that, my dog Honey died at the ripe old age of 17. Two years ago, my Dad (who has fought several battles with cancer over many years) called to tell me that his cancer was back and the prognosis was grim. Needless to say, there has just been a whole lot of loss over the past five years. (There has also been a lot of joy, and I don't want it to seem like I'm ignoring all of the good in my life--my marriage to Hubs and the birth of my sister's baby being two of the many very big bright spots along the way!)

The last two years, with my Dad's courageous fight, have been particularly difficult. The hard thing about terminal illness is that you live in a certain tension that never goes away. As much as you want your loved one to live as long as possible, there is this menacing sense that tragedy is looming on the horizon, and it never really goes away. You can ignore it, you can distract yourself from it, but at the end of the day, it is there. And it is absolutely exhausting. 

Even though I am now mourning the loss of my Dad, my grief is accompanied by a sense of relief. For the first time in a long time, when I look out on the horizon of my life, I don't see tragedy looming. It's not that the sun is shining oh so bright. It's more like that time right after a thunderstorm. The last drop has fallen from the sky, and everything is quiet and still.

I don't know if my sleeping giggle will return. As the Teacher in Ecclesiastes so wisely wrote:

"There is a time for everything, 
and a season for every activity under heaven:
A time to be be born and a time to die...
a time to weep and a time to laugh,
a time to mourn and a time to dance...."

I have come through a season of dying and death, and now now I am in a season of mourning and weeping. While I am in no hurry to rush through the grieving process, it's comforting to know that there will be a change in the weather.

Monday, June 23, 2008

Good Grief

When I got the call that my Dad had passed away, I immediately went into shock. I didn't immediately break down into tears. Instead, I spent the next few hours repeating over and over to Hubs, "I can't believe he's gone."

The next day, we went immediately into task mode. Hubs made airline reservations for us. We packed suitcases. I wrote and called people to let them know that my father passed away.

Then came an airplane flight, a funeral, another airplane flight, another funeral, the burial, and another flight home.

It was a whirlwind, to say the least. And while I felt a veil of sadness hovering over that week, there wasn't a lot of room for grieving. The only times I really cried were at both funerals when I got up to speak about my Dad. 

Hubs has been such an loving husband and a wonderful resource for me during this season. He lost his Dad to cancer 15 years ago. When I asked him what his grief was like, he described it as a process much like peeling away layers of an onion. It happened over time.

Yesterday, after we dropped Mom, Jilly and Sam off at the airport, I got in the car and cried. The sadness of seeing them go coupled with the grief I feel of losing my Dad finally came to a head and a wave of grief washed over me. It seemed to last throughout the day--on and off teariness. It was cleansing and necessary.

Having gone through this before with the loss of my stepfather, I know that there are no real rules to grieving. Everyone grieves in their own unique way. Sometimes my grief sneaks up on me...I'll be driving along, thinking about my loved one, and the next thing I know I've got tears rolling down my cheeks. And I realize, there must have been another layer to that onion.

With my Dad, I think I've been grieving for the past two years, as I've watched his slow decline. Even so, there is a whole new stage of grieving ahead of me now that God has called him home. A new onion to be peeled, as it were. 

Last night, our small group from church (7 of us) gathered in our home. After I caught everyone up on the events of the past few weeks, they sat me down in a chair and gathered around me to pray for me. One of my friends prayed that the Holy Spirit would be my Comforter. That made me smile. At the end of my Dad's life, that is the same thing I prayed for Him. While my grief is very real, and a valley I must walk through, I know it is finite. The same God Who comforted my Dad in his last days is comforting me now. He is also the God Who has welcomed my Dad to his Heavenly home, where we will be reunited in glory!

Thursday, June 19, 2008

Enjoying time with Family

My Dad's California funeral and burial were on Tuesday in San Francisco. It was comforting to be there with his side of the family and some of his old friends who were there to mourn his loss.

Yesterday, Hubs and I flew back to LA. After the tumultuousness of the past few weeks and all of the traveling that involved, it feels so good to be home. My mom, sister and baby Sam are also staying with us for four days, which thrills me to no end! Cuddles with Sam are the best!

I received a very sweet sympathy card from my mother-in-law today that had a beautiful poem. I thought I'd share it here:

What God Hath Promised

God hath not promised skies always blue, 
Flower-strewn pathways all our lives through; 
God hath not promised sun without rain, 
Joy without sorrow, peace without pain. 
God hath not promised we shall not know 
Toil and temptation, trouble and woe; 
He hath not told us we shall not bear 
Many a burden, many a care. 
God hath not promised smooth roads and wide, 
Swift, easy travel, needing no guide; 
Never a mountain, rocky and steep, 
Never a river, turbid and deep. 
But God hath promised strength for the day, 
Rest for the laborer, light for the way, 
Grace for the trials, help from above, 
Unfailing sympathy, undying love.

By Annie Johnson Flint

Saturday, June 14, 2008

A Eulogy for my Dad

Today was my Dad's funeral in Texas. It was at his little country church in his hometown, and it was really nice. My sister and I gave eulogies for our Dad. This is mine:

When my Dad called me a little over two years ago to tell me that his cancer had spread and that the prognosis was grim, a number of thoughts and feelings surfaced in me. Tears gave way to denial, which was followed by reminiscence, gratitude for his life, what ifs, and whole lot of hope for healing. Part of the mix of this emotional journey has been the joy of remembering some of the great memories I have of life with my Dad over the years.

There are so many stories I could tell you about my Dad: 

Of how I loved hearing him tell stories of his rodeo days as a bull rider and seeing pictures of him on bucking broncos.  And how the real fun would start when my sister and I would gleefully run around our backyard as kids, laughing and howling as our Dad would rope us with his lariat.

Stories of going dove and deer hunting with him. Going hunting together involved long road trips out to the country, listening to old school country songs of the Mel Tillis variety on the radio. I would quietly accompany Dad on his hunts, enjoying nature and learning about hunting. It wasn’t long before I was begging him to let me try! I’m so thankful that my Dad was happy to share his passions of hunting and fishing with my sister and me, teaching us how to shoot a rifle or how to reel in a fish. Most of our girl friends can’t even comprehend such experiences!

Stories of how he taught me the Texas two-step in our kitchen and dancing with me at The Texas Tumbleweed.

Stories of pitching and batting practice.

The story of when he came to visit me when I was doing a show in Utah and we both agreed that autumn was our favorite season of the year, as we took in the multi-colored foliage at Zion State Park.

There is the story of when he got me my favorite WWF wrestler’s autograph. My Dad had a lot of moxie when it came to getting autographs. He also got me tennis great Virginia Wade’s autograph at and airport, and he breezed right by the secret service to get President Ford’s autograph!

There’s the story of when he took Jill and me to Las Vegas for the weekend and ordered us all room service for breakfast, and the three of us ate our Belgian waffles with fresh strawberries, as we sat around the table in our fluffy white hotel bathrobes, feeling very much like royalty!

There was the time I called him, heartbroken, after my first painful breakup, and he opened up to me about his first heartbreak, and assured me that I was not the first person in the world to feel such wretched emotions.

I could tell you about my wedding day, when he wisely told me to relish my walk down the aisle, just as we heard the music swell. And how after the wedding, our father-daughter dance at the reception was to “I’m Just a Coca-Cola Cowboy”, one of the great Mel Tillis songs that we used to listen to on our hunting trips.

And I could tell you about the first time he met his new grandson, my sister’s baby, Sam.

But the memory I will most cherish of my Dad was the last time I saw him. It was just six days before he died. My sister and I drove out to the ranch and had a wonderful visit with him. We read some of his favorite scriptures together, talked and prayed together. He told us about the Christian faith he had come to embrace during the recent years of his adult life. He told us about a clarifying conversation he had with a hospice minister who came to visit him (at his request)--they talked about how he could be sure he was going to Heaven. Dad told us that he was trusting in Jesus for that. It was so great to see him at peace with God and to see joy in his life in the midst of his suffering. He was even surprised himself at how he could be so happy in spite of his difficult circumstances. It was a visit we will treasure in our hearts for the rest of our lives.  Knowing my Dad was at peace, that he was sure of his salvation, gave my sister and I peace. Though we are sad he has died and will miss him dearly, we are full of joy that Dad has been welcomed into the presence of our Loving God.

I love you, Dad, and we'll be seeing you soon!

Thursday, June 12, 2008

My Dad

I am sad to tell you that my Dad passed away yesterday evening around 9:00 pm at his home in Texas. As many of you know, he had been fighting a long and valiant battle with cancer for years. 

My sister and I had a wonderful visit with him last week. We read some of his favorite scriptures together, talked, and prayed together. He told us that a hospice minister came to visit him (at his request), and they talked about the assurance of his salvation. Dad told us that he was trusting in Jesus to save him. He seemed at peace, and even surprised at how he could be so happy in spite of his circumstances. It was a visit we will treasure in our hearts for the rest of our lives.

Thank you very much for your love, support and prayers. I so appreciate your prayers, and my Dad did, too. God heard them and He answered--my Dad walked me down the aisle at my wedding almost a year ago, and he lived to meet his new grandson (my sister's baby), Sam. 

Funeral services will be held in Texas this Saturday and in San Francisco, CA sometime next week, where he will be buried.

God is faithful, and I am grateful for the gift He gave me in my Dad.

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

Sign of the Times

Tonight, we got together with some friends for dinner to celebrate Hubs' birthday.  The first 8 of us to arrive (four couples--2 married, 2 dating) sat around the table and realized that we all met our partners on internet dating websites.  It was a wild realization...I guess that what was once considered unconventional has become mainstream!

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

Happy Birthday, Hubs!

When I look into these blue eyes, I'm so happy that I get to celebrate every birthday with you for the rest of our lives! 

Saturday, June 07, 2008

Hi, it's me.

Well, where do I begin?

We had a fabulous time in New York for my reunion followed by a few days in Connecticut visiting Hubs' birth mother and family, which was also a wonderful time.

Shortly before leaving on our trip to NYC, my Dad told me that hospice would be starting to come to his house the next day. At the end of our trip to the Northeast, Hubs flew back to California, and I flew directly to Texas to spend some time with my Dad. Jilly and I had a very meaningful visit with him, which we will treasure in our hearts for the rest of our lives.

I'll write about all of these things soon, but wanted to let you know what's been up and where I've been. I'm flying back to CA on Monday, in time to be with Hubs for his birthday on Tuesday.

Lots of love,