Sunday, February 23, 2014

Honey Girl

Happy Nina Day!!!

Today, while our Honey Girl celebrated her 9th birthday in Heaven we spent the day remembering the beautiful, amazing, sassy, loving miracle she continues to be! Whomever said "it gets easier with time" clearly never lost a part of their soul. It does not get easier with time. What happens is you learn to live simultaneously with your pain and the moments of happiness that surround you. Everyday we live with the ache that we miss our precious girl and every day we are thankful for the blessing and gift she continues to be!

Her brave and incredible big brother takes our breath away every day. In him we see so much of her. For him we strive to live with gratitude and love for all that life is.

Nina has changed us all! There is not doubt about that. Our hearts were warmed throughout the day by all the messages of love we received from those celebrating Happy Nina Day around the world. In keeping with our tradition of Happy Nina Day, we are proud to announce the launch of The Honey Girl Project. 

The Honey Girl Project is our way of honoring and remembering our precious girl. Specifically, the project has been designed by me and Nina's big cousin, Adelae Fredeen. Each year we will honor 1-2 under-privileged little girls by throwing them an amazing Nina-esque princess party, just like Nina had when she turned 5 years old. Participating girls will receive a little inspirational gift on Nina's birthday each year, reminding them to work hard in school and always pursue their dreams. When participating girls graduate from high school, we would like to provide them with some form of college scholarship. To help fund the scholarship money, we will be organizing annual fundraisers. 

Nina's spirit was beyond incredible and The Honey Girl Project just feels right. It feels like Nina!!

We know that all of Nina's friends and supporters around the world will want more information. Adelae and I will have that available shortly on The Honey Girl Project blog. Once we have the blog up and running, we will have more details and information for those who wish to participate and support the project. 

In the meantime, we would like to introduce our very first Honey Girl Project participant, Miss Jamie. 

Miss Jamie is a talented, loving, smart, beautiful and kind-hearted girl who just turned 7 years old. Jamie loves to read, play with her friends and little sister Gisselle, sing her favorite song "Let it Go" from Frozen, and is always ready to learn at school. For her surprise Princess Party, Jamie, her little sister, her cousins and friends got to spend the afternoon playing dress up, being pampered and having a delightful tea party that Nina would be proud of! 

What a wonderful afternoon spent celebrating such a sweet girl and honoring our very own Nina by sharing her love for all that is glittery, fluffy, fun and fantastically magical! I especially want to thank Jamie's family for being willing to participate in The Honey Girl Project and to my darling friend Sharon who helped me make this all possible!!

We love you Nina!!! More than words or actions can ever explain!!! Thank you for being our light!!

Saturday, February 23, 2013

Happy Nina Day!!!

Our honeygirl celebrated her 8th birthday in Heaven today, this time while holding her darling Vovo's hand. While we know that Nina had the most glorious birthday in Heaven, we miss her terribly here on Earth and to this very second wish she were here by our side! 

We love that so many people across the country joined us in celebrating Happy Nina Day by doing something to make another person happy and giving beautiful fun dresses to underprivileged little girls.

We spent our Happy Nina Day remembering our miracle, doing some of her favorite things, giving Nina Day dresses to two very sweet little sisters, and releasing 8 balloons to the gorgeous, albeit extremely windy Santa Barbara sky.

We love our Nina with we every fiber of our beings and miss her forever!

Thursday, February 21, 2013

Two Too Many

Two years today, but it might as well be two minutes ago. I still see Nina's precious face as clearly as the last time I kissed her goodnight, and I still catch myself waiting to hear her laugh. Two years too many without our honey-girl and yet not a single day goes by without us remembering and being thankful for all the joy she brought to our lives.

And now, our darling angel is no longer alone in Heaven (as her remarkable brother used to worry about). On February 1st, 2013 my loving father, Estevao "Steve" Matos, passed away in bed without warning and after spending the most wonderful afternoon working along side the love of his life on their Nina memorial garden.

Two too many, yet we thrive on the love, joy, and wisdom we received from our angels!

Empty shoes can never ever be refilled but their footsteps should be followed forever!!

Thursday, February 23, 2012

Happy Nina Day!!


Nina at preschool a few months before the diagnosis

Today is Nina's 7th birthday!!! My friend Tash sent me the above photo yesterday and it took my breath away!!! What an amazing gift to be reminded of the joy and happiness that radiated from Nina on the heels of the 1-year Anniversary of her going to Heaven. 

To say this week and the month leading to February 21st was painful does not begin to describe the agony we live each day since losing our angel. However, receiving this new photo of Nina was like getting a kiss from my precious honey girl. How I wish that kiss was happening right now, cuddling in bed with her and waking her up with my goofy-sounding rendition of Happy Birthday. I got to do that for 5 glorious years! Today and here on out I will settle for her kisses from Heaven!

This morning I looked up the "meaning" of Nina's name and this is what I found:

In Portuguese, Spanish, Russian and French it means Little Girl.

In Native American it means Strong & Mighty.

In Hebrew it means Gracious, Affable, Beautiful Eyes.

And in English it means With Favor and Grace.

How perfectly do these meanings describe our Angel!

Nina was and IS forever our Little Girl, Strong and Mighty, who is Gracious, Affable with Beautiful Eyes and who above all is With Favor and Grace!!!!!!!!!

Today, Teddy started a new tradition in Nina's honor. From now on, we declare that February 23rd is Happy Nina Day, a National Day of Happiness where we bless someone with a bit of happiness. As such, each year we are going to celebrate Happy Nina Day by giving a bit of happiness to an underprivileged little girl. This year, Teddy picked a couple outfits for a sweet little baby girl named Ruby and this afternoon he took her his gift and a little gift for her big brother Erick. We encourage everyone who reads this blog to do the same thing every February 23rd! Nina was very proud of her big brother today, as she always is!

In her short life here on Earth, Nina taught us all how to live beautifully and seize happiness in every instance! 


Nina's true heart made her this card today

Beautiful Angel!

Sunday, August 21, 2011


August 21, 2011

Six months.

Six months without Nina.

One year.

One year after the diagnosis that changed everything.

It feels like yesterday, but then a lifetime ago. 

I have spent the past six months rebuilding the remnants of a fractured life. Step by step, hour by hour, minute by minute I am constantly reminded of the beauty, strength, courage, sass and happiness of the little angel I had the privilege of loving for almost 6 glorious years. Not a single day, nor single hour passes by where I am not drawn to a memory of my precious girl. Sometimes these memories bring a smile to my face and add a spring to my step. Other times, these memories release a penetrating pain so powerful that it seems almost impossible to breathe. But just when I feel like I cannot possibly take another breath, Love comes and holds me up. Even in the midst of horror and tragedy, life still blesses us. I cling to this truth most of all!!!

To say that life has changed is an understatement. Life will never be the same. However, the pain of nursing and loving Nina to death has transformed me and my life in the deepest and most profound of ways. Gratitude, Compassion and Happiness is how Nina transformed her mama and for that I am eternally thankful!

Gratitude is how I begin and end each day. We are all living on borrowed time. I always understood that sentiment but now it is a truth that runs through my veins and that I feel with each beat of my heart. As such, I am grateful for every blessing, every smile, every tantrum, every hug, every kiss, every snotty retort, every annoyance, every bit of courage, every success...... every single bit of the entire "bowl full of cherries" or "bowl full of shit" (all depending on what is going on at that specific moment). I have learned that the "shit" is just as big a blessing as the "cherries" because it means we are here and that we have each other. Bottom line, life, in all its iterations, is a blessing and worth being grateful for! That does not mean that life is pain-free. On the contrary, it is through pain that true gratitude can be born.

Compassion is a choice I make daily, sometimes on a minute by minute basis. The pain of losing Nina has taught me that there is no room for hatefulness in life, only compassion. However, I have also learned that compassion does not mean that you sacrifice yourself to unkindness, pain or injustice. Quite the opposite. It simply means that you can simultaneously take care of yourself and choose to treat others with kindness and dignity, even in the midst of hateful behavior. 

Last, but definitely not least, Happiness, is the "Nina theme" I claim as the soundtrack to my life. Life is literally too short and too precious to not insist on building happiness, even in the smallest of ways. Nina's life was a beautiful and powerfully vibrant testament to happiness and how it is each and every one of our responsibility to make our lives count!!! Happiness is not over-rated. It is what we must strive for. We are blessed by life and therefore we are obligated to bless those around us by creating happiness!!!!!

Rebuilding is not easy! Far from it!!!! However, I am blessed by love and I am blessed by Teddy.

Teddy is doing extraordinary!!! I cannot even believe that I am able to say that, but it is the truth. If someone had told me a year ago that after the worst possible year, Teddy would be stronger, braver, and solidly happy, I would have told them that they were lying. However, Teddy is. He is the most amazing person I know!!!! This past week, he just spent 4 days with his best-friend Niels in Irvine. As I drove him down to the Dawson's  I asked him again if he wanted me to stay with him. "No mom, I can do this all myself. I've got it!" And boy did he do it! Teddy has never been away from me or his dad at the same time, and to finish his summer, after the most disastrous year a child could experience, this way is nothing short of a miracle!!!! As I write this entry, I am convinced that Nina is in Heaven giggling at all of the antics her brother, Niels and Sander got into!!!!

For the past six months I have avoided posting this final blog entry. It was too painful to think about, much less actually do! However, at the heels of the 1-year anniversary of the diagnosis and the first 6 months of life without Nina, it feels appropriate to thank everyone for their constant love and support and to remind everyone how Nina has transformed us all!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! Nina leaves a tremendous legacy and it is up to us all to never forget it!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Thursday, March 24, 2011


This morning I met with Joanne Singer, one of the loveliest and tenderest people I know and a brilliant researcher and academic I have admired for well over a decade. As I was leaving her office, Joanne reminded me that thousands of people are praying for me and my family. As I walked down the stairs in the education department, the truth of her comment began to resonate with me.

By the time I had buckled myself in and drove off of USCB, tears were streaming down my cheeks. Joanne was right. She was so right!!!!

For 7 months, thousands upon thousands of people across the globe have been praying for Nina and the rest of her family. Christians, Jews, Buddhists, Muslims, Hinduists, Agnostics and even Atheists have been praying in unison. Through this process my faith has been transformed. I struggle with the heaviness I feel of being abandoned by the God I love........but truth be told (when I'm not being stubborn and allow myself to reach beyond the pain) I understand that God has never abandoned me. On the contrary, I have been blessed continuously and Joanne's words reminded me of that truth. The reality is that my faith is palatable now. It does not fit a box or a name or a creed but it is truer than prior to August 19th, 2010. My suffering has transformed my faith permanently.

Today, a Mass in Nina's memory and honor was celebrated at the Vatican. My precious Linda has been working on this gift for the past month with her dear Italian friend Elisa who lives in Rome. Below is the email that Elisa sent describing the mass. When I read this, I had just dropped off Teddy at karate. I stood outside in the rain but it was my tears that poured!

March 24 2011,S Pietro 7, 35 am 
The square is beautiful as well as the light, today is a fantastic sunny day. Very few people, just thirty-four at the security gate. The going through the main entrance is like arriving at the waited final destination. Josè is already inside, close to the sagresty where a lot of priests are changing their clots with those for celebration. Josè does the same. Our chappel is that of St Joseph altar (n46 in the map! Don't worry Nina Dolores, we're all in the same boat and I'm sure now you're really very happy within His arms. Your mom is here with me, I know it, it's night in LA but she's not sleeping, she's talking with you! Josè says you're an angel now, so we've to pray to you , not for you...anyway, I'm really happy today being here with you and for you with all the people loving you...forever

Nina's life, suffering and death has moved people to pray and strive to live better lives. That is something to rejoice about!!!

Wednesday, March 23, 2011


This past Monday was a hard day. A very, very hard day. It has been a month since we lost Nina. On my ride back from Mammoth, I was petrified with grief. All I could do was sit quietly and cry, hoping that Teddy and his buddy Niels would not notice. I did not want to panic the boys. Lucky for me, they were captivated by the majesty of the falling snow and the Ansel Adams breathtaking mountain scape surrounding us.

The beauty around us, pristine and ethereal, made my pain deeper. It made my ache for Nina soar because I longed for her to be beside me, enjoying the beauty surrounding us :(

In Portuguese there is a word that I have known since childhood but whose meaning did not penetrate my soul until I lost Nina. The word is Saudade. There isn't a direct English translation but it means a deep and voluminous longing that is marked by great sadness. 

How I long for Nina!!!

As we drove home from an incredible weekend in Mammoth, I longed to laugh with Nina, to see her play in the snow and learn to ski or snow board like her brother. I longed to hold her hand and watch snow flakes fall onto her precious button nose. I longed to hear her call out for me and she tried to put on her snow pants, frustrated that she couldn't get them fully on by herself. Most of all, I longed to kiss her beautiful face and feel her warm arms wrapped around my neck.

I longed.

I longed.

I longed.




As I write this entry, I am curled up in Nina's room, wrapped up in her comforter, surrounded by her toys, books and clothes. I recognize that she is always with me, loving her mama from afar but tears plummet as my heart silently breaks........

I long!!!

I long!!!!!!

I LONG!!!!!!!!