Tuesday, February 22, 2011

A Year Of Mourning

Dear Lois,

Over the past twelve months, I have become more in-tune to my spiritual beliefs – that is to say, I didn’t become religious or spiritual in light of the recent misfortunes in our lives, but I have reconnected with by base beliefs. Being the only one in our family that wasn’t christened in the Catholic faith (long story…), I’ve been a so-called member of many of the Christian denominations out there. Baptized Southern Baptist at the age of 9, I stayed in that faith until my early teens, then switched between the Lutheran and the Methodist churched until I was about 15. Then when I entered a four year relationship with, what would become my fiancĂ©, my high school/early-college sweet-heart, I dabbled in the LDS (Mormon) religion. Since meeting Chris, I’ve gone to two reformed protestant churches; the Episcopal Church and the United Church of Christ.

Since then, I have exposed myself to one of the original faiths, Judaism. Judaism, with its long history of dealing with the soul of man, its intimate knowledge of man's achievements and foibles, his grandeur and his weakness, has wisely devised a system of graduated mourning periods. During this time, the mourner may express his or her grief and release, with calculated regularity, the built-up tensions caused by bereavement.

The Jewish religion provides a beautifully structured approach to mourning which is divided into five stages. Aninut, Lamentation, Shivah, Sheloshim and a Year of Mourning.

The fifth stage is the twelve-month period during which things return to normal, and business once again becomes routine, but the inner feelings of the mourner are still wounded by the rupture of relationship with the loved one.

The observance that most affects the daily life of the mourner during the twelve-month period is the complete abstention from parties and festivities, both public and private. Participation in these gatherings is simply not consonant with the depression and contrition that the mourner experiences.

This was not meant to look like a shrine,
I just moved the candles
closer for the picture.

It borders on the absurd for the mourner to dance gleefully while his parent lies dead in a fresh grave (or in our case, separated into several boxes and thrown in the ocean, hanging from a necklace, buried with her father, sitting on a shelf, and in my house, hanging out in a Japanese Urn on the liquor cabinet - exactly where she would have wanted to be).

At the close of this last stage, the bereaved is not expected to continue his mourning. So with that being said, No More Sadness. Period. [I so wish it was as easy as typing the words and the actions will follow. Unfortunately, it's not. I don't know how one can expect it to go away.]

While today is a day to remember Mazha’s life that passed away a year ago today, it’s also time to celebrate the new life that came into the world today. Kensi’s uncle Kyle and Auntie Cathy had a baby girl today - Kayla. While I have pictures of her in the hospital nursery, I’ll ‘allow’ the newbie parents to post the first photos of their princess before I do so. I will also let them share the story of Cathy falling asleep during labor (that woman falls asleep at the drop of the hat), and how what she desired the most was to have her eye lashes curled (if people were going to take pictures, she wanted to look flawless). It’s not my place to tell that story, or share with you the uncomfortable conversation I witnessed where Kyle stood in the hallway with his mother-in-law discussing her daughter’s cervix. It’s just not my place. Sorry folks :)

In honor of Mazha’s life, I wanted to share the video that we played at her funeral. It had to be split up into two videos because of YouTubes time limit on video uploads.

Part 1

Part 2

Sunday, February 20, 2011

Post 9/11 Foundation Ride For Heroes

The ‘Follow The Flag” campaign began at Ground Zero on September 11, 2010 with the raising of several flags by the actual heroes of 9/11 over the fallen World Trade Center Towers. The same flags have flown over several battlefields in Iraq and Afghanistan and all of the major military academies. These flags will be on tour of across the country from one year, returning to its final resting place at the National 9/11 Museum on the 10 year anniversary of the attack.

Fazha (with Mazha in tow), along with cousins Billy & Marla (their bikes can be seen below), followed the flags and the NAVY New Orleans Full Steam Brass Band, from the beach, through The Strand and down to Pier 21.

She sells sea shells by the sea shore

Murdoch's Bathhouse is one of Galveston's most historic locations. Originally built in the late 1800's, the wood structure was constructed directly on the sand. Without the protection of a Seawall , the 1900 storm destroyed the bathhouse. Although the structure was rebuilt in 1901, the storms of 1909 and 1915 were so violent, that reconstruction was required after each.

Bathhouses such as Murdoch's, which were located on the shore, rented bathing suits and provided showers for the Island visitors. When Murdoch's reopened in 1910, it had 542 rooms, 251 for women and 291 for men. The cost at the time to rent the bathroom services were .25c. After numerous hurricanes hitting the island through the years, only a portion of the original building remains today. In 2008, Hurricane Ike destroyed Murdochs, and in 2009, miraculously, a brand new, sparkling Murdochs returned in its place.

Looking for sand dollars

This past November, we traveled down to Galveston to take part in the 2010 Lone Star Bike Rally. Not only was this a chance to get the family together, but it was time to have the third memorial for Mazha and to spread her ashes in the Gulf.

The riding around the Lone Star motorcycle rally is one of the attractions. Going over the Causeway that gets you over the water to Galveston Island lets you see the water, riding along the beach once on the island, and riding on Strand Street through the middle of the rally are all part of the Galveston TX motorcycle experience. Fazha built a special holder that allowed for her urn to sit, one last time, in their trike, Dragon’s Breath, so she could experience these things one last time.

Here are a couple of the pages from a scrapbook that I put together from our trip.

Kensington loved walking the beach, which was right off from where our hotel was stationed, looking for sand dollars and seashells. Her auntie Simone and cousin Jordan were the lucky ones, finding prized possessions on the beach. I wasn't so lucky :(

Case of Mistaken Identify

This is the story of my life; one that has been a little burdensome at times. No, its not like I get mistaken for someone famous like Matt Damon…. though there was that one time - it’s the nose (and I think it’s more like the ripped Jason Borne version of MD than some of the other characters he’s played). Unfortunately, I get mistaken for retail workers. It doesn’t matter where I am or what I’m wearing, if I’m in a store, someone is going to ask me for assistance. Chris loves it when this happens. I could be in Target - where the employees wear red shirts and khaki pants – sporting black pants and a blue button down shirt and tie, and someone will ask me if I can check the stock on something in the back. “Sorry, I don’t work here.” is my normal response if it’s something along this nature. If they ask me where something is, and I actually know, I’ll point them in the right direction. If it’s someone older and they ask me what the price of something is, I’ll either go to the price scanner for them, or go to a register and ask a real employee for the information. I’ve been to weddings where I’ve taken off my jacket during the reception and would be headed to the bar or to the bathroom and someone will mistake me for a waiter. If I’ve had enough drinks, I’ll play along; once I cleared a table’s plates and walked them into the kitchen and another time I went and got a pitcher of water and filled someone’s glass. When they find out that I’m a guest like them, they’re mortified.

I’ve been in department stores wearing shorts and a t-shirt and have been asked if I could open up a fitting room. I’ve been in shoe stores trying on shoes and someone will ask me if I have a certain size or if what they are looking for comes in a different color. I have been a guest at a hotel and someone will ask me if I can have someone come unlock their room because they left their key inside. I have been shopping for cars at a dealership and someone will ask me what the mileage is on a specific model vehicle. This is not a lie. I get mistaken everywhere I go. One time someone told me I looked, “extremely knowledgeable” and that is why they asked for assistance. I didn't buy it.

Unfortunately, I haven’t always been kind in my tone or response. Chris and I were rushing to a wedding once and stopped in at a drugstore to pick up a card. Someone came up to me with a weekly ad circular in their hand and started to ask me questions. What was meant to be an inquisitive, “does it look like I work here?” sounded more like, “Open your eyes lady. Is anybody else in this entire store wearing a Giorgio Armani suit? How can you be so stupid?!?!?” She was humiliated, and so was I after the words came out of my mouth. I apologized profusely, but it didn’t help. Not only did I feel bad for my tone, but the look of disappointment on Chris’s face the entire night made me feel even worse.

Yesterday while shopping at a children’s classic store Janie & Jack, it happened again. I was wearing blue jeans, sneakers, an American Cancer Society Relay For Life top with the word “RELAY” printed down the sleeve holding a large cup of tea I just bought at Teavana. A woman was shopping with what I’m assuming was her daughter and new granddaughter. They were browsing the sale rack and she got my attention. Holding up a light pink ruffled yoke top and a rose colored cardigan, she asked, “Do these two go together?”

“Um… not really.”

“well, what goes with this piece?”

Shuffling through the rack, I pull out a grey knit top and a white cropped cardigan. “I would suggest these two pieces.”

“What other pieces are part of this collection?” I realize she thinks I’m an employee.

“Oh, I’m just a dad offering up his fashion advice.”

“I’m so sorry, I thought you worked here.” and then gave me a puzzled look. Not a look of embarrassment, but one of ‘why are you helping me then’.

“I’m just a gay dad offering up my fashion advice. I would never put my daughter in those two pieces you have,” said in a jokingly and somewhat flamboyant way.

Are you in I.T.?”

Where in the world did that come from? If I’m not a retail employee I’m a computer geek? That’s a far stretch.

“Nope. Just a gay dad.” Again, trying to play it cool.

“Do you work with computers?”

Okay, now I get it. I’m wearing my glasses. Is that what she’s going for? I’m starting to get confused here, and normally it’s the other way around.

“I work on a computer, but I not on computers.” Referencing my shirt (I’m always the walking billboard for Relay), “I work for the American Cancer Society managing their signature event, Relay For Life.”

“Nope. That’s not it. Do you do something creative on the computer?”

Now I’m at a total loss. What is this woman talking about? I just look at her.

“Are you creative on the computer? Do you create anything on the computer? Graphics? Designs? I see that you are creative on the computer. I just can’t see it.”

“Um. I guess so. I mean I do some design, but it’s not part of my job.”

“Well, whatever it is, you’re going to be famous. Famous, I tell you. You are going to be very famous for your creative outlet.”

I have a blank look on my face.

“I’m a professional charlatan. I know these things. You’re going to be famous.”

And with that, I walked away. All I could think was, “isn’t a charlatan a swindler? That isn’t a good thing, right?” And then I felt stupid. Am I thinking of something else? She didn’t say clairvoyant, because I would have been all up in that. So I then went back and hovered a little in the area that she was in, hoping that we would make eye-contact so I could start the conversation again. I didn’t happen. Chris had by now checked out and we went outside the store to meet with Kyle and Cathy who had munchkin sleeping in the stroller. After telling the story, Cathy wanted to go back to see if the woman could tell her if she was having a boy or a girl. We turned around but realized neither one of us where going to ask her the question. Both of us were too chicken to do it [this part is for Cathy…It hit me when we got in the car, Cathy you don’t need a charlatan or a clairvoyant to tell you what you’re having. You could simply ask your doctor instead of driving everyone crazy. You’re due in eight days and you refuse to find out the sex if baby “P”. I’m tired of buying yellow outfits for when he/she comes.]

All I have to say is Ted Bundy, Bernie Madoff and "Squeaky" Fromme were all once called ‘creative’ before they became famous, and no one thinks the type of fame that they have is a good thing. I can live without the predication.

Unless… (smile)

Here is another case of mistaken identity.

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

"One more time, papa!"

Here in the Poconos - well, the Northeastern coast is more like it  - it has snowed like crazy for the past two evenings; causing both schools and offices to be closed.

Rescheduling meetings and turning face-to-face interactions into conference calls, we've bundled up in our long johns, robes and slippers and have tried to avoid going outdoors. That's is until our munchkin screams, "Snowman, papa, snowman!"

Layering ourselves up, we head outside (during our lunch hour... I have co-workers reading this:) with sled in hand and all the supplies we need to build a snowmanchuy. It wasn't our best attempt to create our own Frosty, but it was our first. The snow was more powder the first day and then turned into more icy / crunchy last night, which is when we should have built it. 30 seconds after building it, the head fell off. Poor thing. Hopefully we'll have better luck next time (and if the weather stays as planned, that day won't be that far away).

Here is a short vid of us headed down the drive way. We're still trying to figure out the video aspect of our new Canon. [Has issues uploading the snowman vid, so I'll work on uploading that one tomorrow]

Here's a quick page that I did with some of my favorite pics.

To download this QP (Christmas's Angels by Thaliris), click here. I love her work and am constantly going to her site to buy her kits. Because I wanted additional pictures in my piece, I added a winter wonderland frame that can be downloaded here.

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

The futures so bright...

She's gotta wear shades!

Little Miss Kensington loves playing with her Mr. Potato head characters. Actually, she likes playing with the accessories more than she does the potato. There isn't a day that goes by that she's not wearing his glasses or has a set of lips in her mouth (which we would take over her binky. We said the moment she turned 2, we'd wean her off of it... its been a challenge). And when there is a camera around, she begins to ham it up. She's just like her papa!

Who do you think you are?

(Music that inspired this post: Bruno Mars; Grenade. Hit play to listen to a great cover of the song while you read. Think of it as mood-music)

While sitting in an off-site meeting, I saw my blackberry’s red alert light going off, followed by a vibrating pulse. The pulse kept coming so I grabbed my phone and hit silent. Knowing how rude it is to be checking email while in a meeting, I waited until the break to scroll through the list of work and junk emails. I saw that I had a message on our It’s Daddies site referring to our A sad ending to 2010 post, and the author of the comment was Anonymous. This isn’t the first time someone left an anonymous message. Some people leave them so they don’t have to log-in to the system, but they identify themselves in the message. Mazha would do that all the time. I decided to read the post before heading back into the meeting since 99.9% of them put a smile on my face, (and because of the subject matter of the meeting I was in, I needed a little pick-me-up). This is what I read:

Now, my initial thought was to walk (okay, more like run) through the hallway to see if someone left their computer on in their office so I could log into the site and delete it immediately. This is just one more reason why I can’t stand the Blackberry. It’s impossible to go onto websites when you’re connected to a company’s server. Then, I decided it wasn’t worth reacting to and I should just laugh it off. The next four hours I wish I would have heeded my own advice. I sat behind the table in a board room fuming with disgust. Knowing that this wouldn’t be the best time to add my input into any conversation, I sat in my chair, head looking down at my notepad, and took copious notes so I could follow up with people after the meeting.

When I got home I read the post to Chris and told him I planned on responding to it. Being the clearinghouse for my post, he suggested that I just delete it and forget about it. After 13 years, he should have known better (and Chris, when you finally do read this, don’t you even think of asking me to take this down). While I deleted it, I haven’t forgotten about it. Not one bit.And every time I hear Bruno Mar's Grenade, I can't stop thinking about writing a response - and so here it is.
You see, with today’s technology, NOTHING is Anonymous. When I first created the blog, I had no clue as to what I was doing. But through this process, I’ve learned a little bit about the hundreds of enhancements that are available to me as a blogger, such as the great FEEDJIT Live tool that I subscribe to (seen on the right toolbar), that not only tells me when people visit the site, but also their city/state/country. I liked it because of the great visual of the map… but it does something else. It provides me with that little thing called an IP address. Fortunately for me, when our fan “Anonymous” visited the site and left a message, they were the ONLY one that happened to be on the site, which made my investigation quite simple. You see, within 5 minutes of logging in through the back end, I was able to get “Anonymous’s” IP address, which lead me to another search feature of pulling the registered location addressing. Entering that information into Anywho.com (Thanks AT&T) and pulling a reverse look-up told us exactly who left this message.

The reason for this blog is so we can share our experience with others (what was meant to be just for the adoption process, and now our journey into parenting). Not to be rude - but I think after your post, I have every right – but no one asked you to check out our blog, or to continue to return to it, or to be a part of our lives. You’ve chosen to go the route you’ve gone.

For clarification, our daughter (no quotations needed, thanks), didn’t lose anything, but instead she had gained the world. She has been given opportunities, which unfortunately she would have never been exposed to. This is why so many birth parents take the courage step and choose to place their child for adoption.

When it comes to Kensington’s family tree, she will always know her roots, but her newly extended branches have lifted her up to the sky so she can reach for the stars. If you would look at this situation through the lens of reality instead of through the lens of cynicism, you would understand that. Because others have accepted this, she has a relationship with her paternal aunt, grandmother, great aunt, and great-grandmother and her maternal aunt, uncle, cousins, great aunts & uncles, great grandmother and many others. She knows her heritage and continues to learn through each family gathering.

And, just for your understanding, our daughter (again, no quotations needed) does have two daddies on her birth certificate. We were there the day she was born and have been there with her every day since. We are her parents and you need to accept it. We’re the ones wiping her snotty nose and taking her to the emergency room at 2 in the morning when she has a fever. We're the ones she is shoving 'already chewed up food' into (our mouths, that is). We’re the ones that have changed thousands of diapers (I posted the amount in one of our earlier blogs, but we stopped counting months ago) and attended parent/teacher conferences with her school. We are the ones using flashcard every day to increase her vocabulary and the ones instilling in her respect for others (something someone needs to assist you with). We’re the ones tucking her into bed each night and helping her say her prays for ALL of those that love her. She has a bio-mother and -father that are in her life, AND she has a daddy and a papa that bend over backwards to give her everything she wants and everything we’ve never had. S&S are not the only ones that have made great sacrifices, as all birth-parents do. We too have put our lives on hold for a great purpose… the purpose of raising a princess that will marry William and Kate’s first born (whether they have a son or a daughter). It’s our daughter’s birth-given right to marry true royalty.
“Guess it's okay for you to want to live an honest, open life” … honey, you don’t know me. My life, because of this blog, is an open book. Before Kensington, we had learned to live only half a life, and now you want to diminish the better half that we’ve built. Who do you think you are? Leaving comments like that, with the meaning of really leaving scars. So, "shame on me"? [that's the right use of qoutations] No thank you… shame on you! I feel bad for you. You're gonna catch a cold from the ice inside your soul. Again, who do you think you are?

To download the digital frame created by az_cosmos, click here
To download the green journaling digi, click here or visit trixie scraps to get the entire kit. Its part of their birthday bash collaboration.