Our Beautiful Blended Bunch

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These are the people that everyday fill my heart with so much joy, keep me going when I feel I can’t go on, keep me smiling, fighting, laughing out loud and are the reason I can smile through the uncertainty. Michael and I are so fortunate that our family blended together so nicely and our kids love each other, enjoy one another’s company and seek each other out. This post was supposed to take place sooner and I was hoping for an updated family photo but my plans were a bit derailed the past few weeks so here goes this beautiful collage.

These people are what makes our home, HOME.

MICHAEL - “Handsome”

Michael in our living room, watching Dodger Opening Day.

Michael in our living room, watching Dodger Opening Day.

The realities of life may have hit a bit prematurely in our relationship but my loving, devoted and dedicated husband has been by my side living out our marriage vows, our promise to be there in sickness and in health and so much more that we promised each other nine years ago. This cancer journey has been just as much his as it has been mine. The ups and downs, the countless doctor visits, hospitalizations, treatments, adjustments all have been endured together in love. But there is so much more to my loving husband.

He keeps me laughing through it all. No, really. He is really, really funny! Great comedic chops in this one. We have the same sense of humor which can be dangerous and needs to be reeled in at times. Luckily, we are adults and nobody can tell us what to do. He does the best impersonations and you can find him performing daily random skits in our kitchen and living room. Don’t ask him to do it though, it doesn’t go over well. You just have to be ready for it and appreciate it when it does happen. It’s pure gold!

This last time I was admitted to the hospital we had a nurse that was clearly breaking some major patient care rules as she insisted on sharing her life story with us. Things that you don’t share with patients, especially ones in critical care. She spent 45 minutes in our room, sharing her unwise choices in life with men yet also telling us how she doesn’t lie because she is very religious, made a vow and is a “good girl”. It was obvious this lady had a past. There were moments where I wasn’t sure if she was going to take my vitals or give me a tattoo. I kept asking for water and ice, but she had no time for that. All the while, Michael is trying to get some work done on his laptop, I on the other hand am attached to oxygen, IV’s in both arms, trying to rest and this nurse is rambling on and on about her man “Smiley” who can’t seem to end it with his ex. 

This is the text Michael sends me while the nurse is standing at my bedside retelling her tales. He recaps her entire story, quoting her in just a few lines. I had to try and hold it together and not burst out laughing as I tried to give her my somewhat undivided attention; empathizing with head nods and mmm-hmmms’.

Michael’s Text:

I don’t lie, I took a vow. But I did lie that one time. But because of my morals, I cannot lie. But that right there was a lie. Like that, I’m the best person and a good girl.” – Nutty Nurse at USC

ARTURO “ARTIE”

The top of Mt. Whitney, after I told him on several occasions to train a bit more.

The top of Mt. Whitney, after I told him on several occasions to train a bit more.

My oldest son and the one who motivates me to keep at it, keep fighting, keep creating and helps me to get outside of my head when I start to feel overwhelmed. He is a natural-born leader and has been since he was very little. We used to joke that the party didn’t start until Artie walked in the door. Nothing has changed, “Artie is the one-man party.” He is very talented and is pursuing a career in film production. He’s off to a great start working at Warner Bros in Burbank and does freelance video production and editing as a side hustle. When he is not working on filming he is busy planning his next outdoor adventure or recruiting others to assist him with his chores, otherwise known to him as “teambuilding”. He is also very good at reminding me that my responsibilities as a parent are not yet done. He is an astute negotiator and likes to push the envelope (meaning my buttons) and challenge me in every sense of the word. If I say it’s black, he says “check again”.

Artie promises to first acknowledge and thank me when he wins his first Golden Globe and Oscar. Actually, he never said this but now I know where he gets it from.  

He is going to make an excellent husband, which means he is going to be a great dad someday. He’s been training to be a family protector since age 4 when I became a single mom. Artie is the first one to text me when he feels I am pushing it too much or getting lazy at caring for myself. Like for instance yesterday I tried riding a bike for the first time in a long time. He saw a video of it and quickly texted to reprimand me and gave me an ear full when he came home. My, have the tables turned.

MICHAEL “MIKEY”

The photographer becomes the subject.

The photographer becomes the subject.

God certainly made my job too easy with this one. Maybe because God knew the older brother would be a full-time gig. Mikey parents himself with only a little sprinkle of guidance here and there. But this is just mostly me trying to keep busy. We both know it’s unnecessary so he goes along with it and placates me. His nickname should be “Military Mike”, yet he is also a hybrid mini version of Larry David. Funny too! He is the most organized, disciplined and structured one in our family. Yes, including the parents. I’ve never had to tell Mikey to do his chores, homework, get ready for school, go to bed, save money, or clean his room. He self-governs and this is just fine by me. There is so much more to Mikey besides all of the inside jokes or his orderly personality. He is the most loyal, caring, kind and generous young man I have ever known. His morning greeting to me every day is “How did you sleep mom?” “Were you in any pain?” Right? 

My friend recently reminded of a good Mikey story that reveals what kind of heart this kid possesses. Mikey was 9 at the time. It was right around Valentine’s Day and he bought a beautiful rose for a little girl he had a crush on at school. She unfortunately turned him down and he came back home with his rose in hand and rejected heart. He was so sad when I picked him up from school. I told him to keep the rose and give to another girl, a friend, teacher, anyone else who would truly appreciate it and be deserving of his gift. You know where this story is heading, don’t you? 

The next day I walked into work to get the disturbing news that the company I worked for was downsizing and I unfortunately was amongst the casualties. As I was packing up my personal belongings trying to assess what just happened, I opened my briefcase to find the rose neatly placed inside one of the pockets. She cried all the way home.

SERINA - “MY SERONA”

Oh hey, I didn’t know you were there, quick take a photo!

Oh hey, I didn’t know you were there, quick take a photo!

It is going to be tough to package Serina up into just a few paragraphs but I’ll try. Serina is wise beyond her years and is such a great example of how 13-year old girls should behave or carry themselves, especially when the world is bent on encouraging just the opposite. Serina marches to the beat of her own drum, doesn’t do drama, isn’t easily swayed or convinced and has spot on intuition about people. She has the same sense of humor as her dad so no need to explain things to her, she gets it. We get each other with just an eye glance alone I know that we are in sync and thinking the same thing. Serina has been such a gift to me and such a beautiful and gratifying experience of what it’s like to have a daughter. She is very humble, selfless, compassionate towards others and is keenly aware of what truly matters in life more than most teenagers I have known. She is so good at expressing herself, organizing her thoughts and acting where she knows action is required. She is a brilliant thinker and no doubt that God is going to do amazing things through her. He already has.

She is very determined and pours her heart into everything she does. She invests in her relationships, even at such a young age and knows where her identity is fastened. She cares more about what God thinks about her and this is how she gauges situations she encounters in life. She is very good at getting people to open up and could very well be the next Oprah. She is very good at conducting interviews and has been a pro since she was a little girl. Her claim to fame has been Family “Con-fuh-ences” (Conferences) in car rides. Her interview style has evolved since but we still look back at those “awkwoood” yet fun moments. 

I run a lot of my ideas by Serina…so far she has been spot on. 

Luvia - “LUVITA”

Makeover days for Luvia! She looks great doesn’t she?

Makeover days for Luvia! She looks great doesn’t she?

The world got an extra dose of true beauty (inside and out), nobility, compassion, selflessness and integrity when Luvita was born. She has been such a sweet, patient and loyal caretaker for the past 4 years since my diagnosis. Even before I became more limited in what I could manage at home, Luvita would be in my kitchen preparing salads, juicing, helping around the house or keeping me company on my off days. More recently she has helped out with so much more. Errands, laundry, accompanying me to my treatments and blog photographer. This girl does it all!

Luvia is Artie’s girlfriend and does not live with us but she spends a lot of time in our home during the day and on hours when the others are out and about working, so she’s practically family. I just have no words to thank this beautiful soul but I’ll spend the rest of my days doing so. I am so thankful for everything God has given me in my Luvita---he truly gave her an extra dash of everything that defines virtuousness. 

HOPE - “HOPIE”

Accompanying her Tia at the LA Museum.

Accompanying her Tia at the LA Museum.

This past summer we invited our niece to live with us while she finishes her senior year in High School. With Luvia working and going back to school full-time, we decided the added help and company would be good for me and a nice add-on to our existing blended family. Hopie has brought with her such an amazing spirit of newness, honesty and yes, like her name describes Hope. 

You want an honest opinion about make-up, hair, wardrobe, blog idea, photo, pop culture, you ask Hope. This one does not beat around the bush and is happy to give you her opinion.  I’d like to think that she’s learning a bit more about her Mexican roots during her time here. She has been exposed to more Mexican food, television and music since she arrived. Yesterday she learned the meaning of the lyrics to La Chona by Tucanes de Tijuana and I believe I spotted her shrugging her shoulders to the joyful beat. I couldn’t be more proud of Hopie as her Tia. She has also been my pseudo content manager and has corrected my social media mishaps on more than one occasion, texting me from her bedroom “Tia, you can’t link websites on Instagram posts, everyone knows that.” We love our Hopie and we are so glad she is here to liven up our home. 

SCULLY - “SCOLIOSIS”

Striking a pose. Showing off her spot on eyeliner.

Striking a pose. Showing off her spot on eyeliner.

A few months ago, Artie challenged our family to a poem-off to see who could write a poem about Scully. These words say it best how I feel about our Scully so I decided to share it here.

SCULLY

The new character in our story, 

Our sweet, four-legged friend

How is it you already rule in our hearts?

Scully, it's like you have always been.

So this is what adoption feels like

When someone takes you in as their own

Claims you as part of their family and

makes their home your home.

We love you, even when you act unruly,

chew on our things or bite on our ———

Or when you contaminate the air by

Unashamedly letting out your pungent gases. 

No doubt you came just in time 

To turn our world upside down

You were meant to be in our family

Crazy like us, only a furry-shade of brown. 

You are the best at greeting us,

so lovingly at the door

Nobody else comes charging the way you do

Certainly not the German Shepherd in you, means you must be half-Labrador. 

You may think you're Artie's Dog

But you're really, truly mainly mine

I handpicked you from the other mutts

Spotted the perfect eyeliner on you, I knew it was a sign.

Thank you for being so loving

when I'm feeling a bit under the weather

When you break the rules, hop on the couch just to be next to me

That alone helps me feel better. 

We are overjoyed to have you in our family

so I am declaring April 25th your day to be celebrated

That's the day our hearts were stretched for this four-legged friend

That's the day our blended family was officially upgraded.