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!!!!!!!!




Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Sweet Wish

Today after school Teddy had a play date with his buddy Jake. It was blazing here in Santa Barbara and by the time I picked up the boys from school they were sweaty balls! Consequently, we went and got smoothies at Blenders in the Grass. The rest of the short play date was spent playing XBox.

Yesterday, we had a beach play date yesterday with Jake and his mom Holly. Both boys had complained after the beach that they wanted to come over and play video games. Unfortunately, there wasn't enough time then because of homework. So today....Holly and I made sure they boys had some time to hang out and play their video games :) They are both precious boys and have earned a bit of goofing off time!

After the wonderful play date with Jake, I asked Teddy if he wanted to go on a bike ride and adventure. He beamed and said yes. Practically every afternoon, Teddy and I do something fun together. It is essential that I model how life, even in the midst of tremendous heart break, continues and that we are still suppose to cultivate happiness. I take this responsibility incredibly seriously!!!

We rode our bikes to a nearby park, where Teddy immediately called a game of Tag. I maybe Teddy's mama but I still can give him a run for his money in a good old fashion game of tag :)

After tag, Teddy suggested we go on a hike to see if we could spot any wild bunnies. As we walked over to the meadow he wanted to take me to, I handed him a gorgeous dandelion I had found by the side of the road. He took the dandelion, closed his eyes and said, "I wish Nina is having a good time in Heaven!" He then puckered his perfect lips and blew the tiny white puffs away.

Teddy is spectacularly sweet and I know that Nina is smiling because she knows how much her big brother adores her!!!

Monday, March 14, 2011


I put Teddy to sleep tonight. He had an amazing day. My folks came to visit and we took him to the beach where he ran around like a mad man, chasing Molly, screaming and having a total blast.

Needless to say, he passed out fairly quickly. Although I had some work and chores to do, I just lay next to Teddy and listened to him breathing. I know it's a bit creepy but I love to hear him breathe!!! I love the sound of him inhaling and exhaling and I love seeing his chest move up and down. Most of all I love to smell his smells like Teddy!!!!! I hate that I can't hear Nina breathe anymore; it tears my soul to shreds!!!

The thing is that I videotaped Nina sleeping because I knew I would desperately miss this, but I'm not ready to watch yet!!! I just want my memories of her sleeping for now!!!

Sleep has always been beautiful to me! I have always loved watching my kids sleep. They always looked so peaceful, so angelic, so perfect (regardless of how rascally they had been during the day!). But now when I think of Nina sleeping, all I can see is her not breathing.


Teddy is doing marvelously. If someone would have told me a couple of months ago that 16 days after Nina passed away Teddy would be back in school full time, having play dates and asking to enroll in karate I would have told them they were just falsely trying to comfort me. However, the reality is that Teddy IS a MIRACLE!!!

He is back in school full time without any support from me. He is having multiple play dates a week and informed me last Monday that he wants to try new things in his life: first he wants to concentrate on sports then music :) More importantly, Teddy continues to talk about Nina. Most of the time he calmly talks about missing her and chats about favorite memories. Every once in a while he tears up and cries. I remind him that it is okay to cry and miss her. He frequently reminds me that her true self is alive in Heaven and I concur but explain that what saddens me is that I can no longer touch her body, hug her, kiss her.....and that it is OKAY to be sad, that it is normal.

Yesterday after school, Teddy had a play date with his buddy Jake. He had a great time, as always! When we got home I asked Teddy if he wanted a snack of sliced pears and he happily nodded yes. Then he asked if we could have our snack on the roof top :) Ever since Nina passed away, Teddy has loved crawling out the bedroom window and sitting on the roof top. He always asks for permission and I insist he have an adult present. I think he is looking for some way of reaching for independence, being a big boy. As long as he reaches for these opportunities safely, I'm all for it! I remember being his age and yearning for the same thing.

As we sat on the roof top, I asked if he wanted me to play some music on my iphone. He nodded happily and I put on one of his new favorites....Fireflies by Owl City. For about 30 minutes we sat on that rooftop. He chatted in between bites of pear and told me about his buddies, how he like the view from up there, how he and the cousins and Niels had tried to ambush the grownups, etc. His eyes lit up with each word he said. Periodically I couldn't resist anymore and would kiss his cheeks or nose or forehead. He didn't mind! Just smiled :)

Then he said the most magical thing ever.....he turned to me and said, " isn't whose blood you carry, it's who you love and who loves you."

He said those words so matter of factly. I was left speechless!!!

He then added that his buddy Niels was his family and how thankful he was for all his friends.

I pulled Teddy into my lap and told him he was exquisitely wise and that I adored him. He wrapped his arms around my neck and said, "I love you too mamacita!"

Roof Top Love 

Thursday, March 10, 2011


On Tuesday, Eileen and I went to visit Nina's grave at 10am. We also went Monday at 10am, a week after her funeral. I hate saying I'm visiting my daughter at the cemetery, although that is exactly what I am doing. I realize that she is in Heaven but her body, her precious body, is buried under concrete and dirt and it makes my own soul scream in agony!!!!!!!!!

As we were pulling into the cemetery, I had my iphone plugged into the stereo and a song from Madagascar 2 was playing. The song is "I like to Move It" by and it was one of Nina's favorite songs. Almost on a daily basis, her preschool would play this song during the drop off and pick up periods. More often than not, Nina would be in the middle of the preschool room dancing along with her girlfriends. She was so stunning, always smiling, sweet legs hoping along the rug, and arms rhythmically flowing through the air. As I write this, I clearly see Nina dancing in that school room.....she is so alive, so happy, so carefree and I swear I can almost touch her. But then again, it's all in my head.

All in my head is exactly what happened Tuesday morning. As I was pulling into the cemetery, Eileen was speaking to me and I got lost in listening to the song. I don't know how this happened. It was like I was in an alternate universe. My mind was not present in reality. I was in another place, another time, a time where Nina was healthy and alive. As I rounded the corner into the cemetery, my eyes saw the rows of graves to my left and my mind SHOUTED at me: YOU'RE IN THE WRONG PLACE!! YOU SHOULDN'T BE HERE!!!!!! YOU NEED TO GO PICK UP NINA AT PRESCHOOL!!!!!

I literally GASPED!!! I gasped so loud that it startled Eileen and she asked me what was wrong. I told her my mind had slipped. Like someone who suffers from PTSD, I was back in another place and time and my soul had been rocked by indescribable pain. I told her how my mind had told me to pick up Nina at preschool and to leave this horrible place. But just as quickly as that thought struck my mind, reality took over. The cold, horrible truth was that I was in the right place. I would never pick up Nina at school again. This awful place would be the only place I could ever come "visit" her.

Eileen took my hand and then rubbed my back as we parked the car near Nina's grave. I was so shocked  that I couldn't stop shaking my head.

I realize that the rest of my life will be filled with such moments. Moments where a sound, a smell, a touch will transport me to a long gone memory of my precious honey-girl. But the greatest cruelty is that reality will always kick back in and I will have to own all over again that she is gone!

Thursday, March 3, 2011

Hearing Her

It has been over a week since Nina went to Heaven. I am taking it one step at a time, stepping forward toward the blessings in my life, focused exclusively on Teddy and helping him return to life. We are living happy moments that are intermittently interrupted with extreme sadness and heartache. It is sounds strange to say that we are living happy moments but we are, truly we are. For 6 months I jammed this mantra into Teddy's head but in fact what I was doing was pressing into my own soul!!!

Nina was sunshine in my life, in all our lives. Therefore, we must press forward with the same gusto that she had and seize sunshine wherever we can. It is not easy!!!! That doesn't even begin to describe the internal battle I am constantly waging!!

In the beginning I was worried I would crumble and that this journey would leave me an animal I did not even recognize. I did not crumble but I have been transformed. I am no longer the woman that I was on August 18th. I was consumed by this journey, by protecting my children, and I am a different person all together. I am no longer shackled by fear, no longer trapped by worry. I am now acutely aware of how precious life is and am determined to help the children in my life (Teddy, Sosie, Addie, Silas, Teague....) learn to recognize this and live life to the fullest!!!

Teddy has returned to school. I have been systematically attending school with him each day this week, adding a bit of time each day and fading myself slowly. Everyone at his school has been magnificent and willing to have me slowly reintroduce him to the safety and stability that school. He has not shed a tear about going to school. I told him life is now about communicating. That he needs to communicate to me what he needs and that I will help him. As I write this, he is sitting at the front of the class, happily participating in a math lesson, whispering into his buddy Will's ear when the teacher is not looking his way. This fills me with the utmost gratitude and happiness.

And in the middle of all of this.....I still hear Nina.

As I showered this morning, I swear I heard her squawking for me. I actually looked up toward the bathroom door to see if she was really calling. Then reality hit. She will never call for me again.

As I walked Teddy to his classroom, I saw the spot Nina would love to sit at and wait for me to return during morning drop off. I heard her say, "Mama I'm too tired to walk. I'm a gonna wait here. Promise!"

I hear her every where. But then again, I don't :(

Day 188: A Boy After God's Own Heart

Eleven years ago I participated in a Bible study that was entitled: David, A Man After God's Own Heart

Today, I lived an even greater story with my very own son.

Today, the study I lived was entitled: Teddy, A Boy After God's Own Heart!

For 6 months I ached for the pain Teddy was going to suffer. I thought and planned and tried to diligently work in preparing him. It never felt like enough!!!!!! I would do anything to take this pain away from Teddy!!! He is my sacred treasure, my first born, my first love, my lovebug, my peanut, my precious son!!!
His greatest fear was that one of us would die and now his fear was going to become reality. This made me cry just as deeply as the pain and suffering Nina went through.

From the moment I recognized Teddy's anxiety, I have worried and toiled to help him develop adaptive skills. Too many people around me are crippled by anxiety and I was determined to help my son. What worth did my Ph.D. have if I did not pour everything into helping Teddy. For years and years Teddy has worked hard to overcome his anxiety. Family and friends, especially school teachers, cannot believe that he is the same little boy. He is so strong now and his strength never shone so brightly as today!!!!!

After the kids had breakfast, I asked Todd if he wanted to stay with Nina or take the boys with Robert and Joe to the beach. I felt like the boys needed to be able to run around and process their grief in a child-centered way. Todd decided to take the boys. They were gone for almost a couple of hours. When they returned, they came into the living room. I was sitting next to Nina. Teddy came and plopped himself on my lap. We had the Tinkerbell soundtrack on and I watched him look over to the cd player when her favorite song came on. I was rubbing Nina's arm. I didn't urge him to touch her, just kissed him and asked what they had done. Slowly, he moved closer to her and then started to touch her hand with his index finger. He just quietly tickled the top of her hand, then moved to tickling her pointer finger. Before I knew it, he was holding her hand. His eyes were glued to her, as if he was trying to make sure she was really gone and not just sleeping. He leaned his head into the crook of my neck, like so many other times, but never like this!!! I whispered in his ear that Nina was now his angel and that she was right there beside him, loving him, so happy he was loving her. Tears came to his eyes and he asked if we could go outside.

We went outside and were immediately joined by Silas and Niels. We walked over the Lauers and sat in their living room. I asked the boys how they were feeling. Silas and Niels said they were sad and Teddy just tucked himself into my lap. We talked about how it was okay to be sad and to cry. That it was normal to do so. But I also reassured them that it was okay to be happy and laugh and to smile about all the wonderful memories we had of Nina. Silas shared his favorite story about her snorting. Teddy sat quietly and declined having lunch. After a while, we turned on the tv so the boys could eat and hang out. Teddy whispered in my ear that he wanted to go to his room and cuddle.

We left the boys and went upstairs. As we climbed up the stairs, he looked behind him at Nina. Tears started falling out. By the time we reached his room he was sobbing!!!!! He crashed onto his bed and started wailing, "Not my sister!! Not my little sister!!!!! Who is going to be my sister now??? I don't want to be an only child!!!!! Oh my God!!!!! Who is going to get me in trouble and take time outs with me???? I don't want Nina to be dead!!!! I want her to live!!! There are so many things I want to do with her!!! She is so little!!!!!! Who is going to be my sister!"

He literally flayed across his bed, intermittently crawling into my lap for comfort. I just let him talk, rubbed his back and when he would calm down for a bit, I would tell him how much we loved him, how much Nina loved him and that she was never going to really leave him, that she was his angel forever and right by his side for the rest of his life. "But I don't want her to be my angel, I want her to be next to me. Who am I going to cuddle with when I watch a movie?" I tried to comfort him, that we would cuddle with him, that his cousins and friends would be with him, and most importantly that even though he couldn't see or touch or hear Nina that she was right by his side.

His face was red, covered in tears. The only thing his precious beautiful face said was PAIN!!!!! He was living the pain of Nina's death just like the rest of us!!! I would have given my life to take away that pain from him!!! I just held and kissed him, over and over again. There is nothing worse, even Nina's pain, than the torture of watching your child grieve excruciating heartbreak. I firmly believe that we have lived through HELL on all levels, with both Nina and Teddy!!!

Eventually he calmed down and asked, "Can we just cuddle and watch a movie?" He didn't want to play with his cousins or friends. He was sad and didn't want to go outside and have fun. I reassured him that was a great plan and that it was okay to be sad, to cry, to scream, to shout. I told him I had been doing it all day and that we would continue to do it together. "Can Nina cuddle with us too?" he asked with the most innocent face. "Of course honey! She is right here and she is so happy that you talked about feeling sad and now want to do something fun! She is proud of you just like she always is!!!" I explained, kissing those perfect cheeks over and over, so glad that for once he wasn't wiping them away!

Todd came in at that point and Teddy started sobbing again. His grief was palatable, so thick it filled his bedroom, almost making it hard to breathe! He cried in his dad's arms and Todd loved him, reassuring him that Nina was always with him.

Teddy ended up deciding that he wanted to cuddle and watch Suite Life of Zack and Cody with Todd. He asked for goldfish crackers and the two of them climbed up onto the top bunk. My feelings weren't hurt. Teddy had been longing to spend more time with his dad for a very long time and he needed to feel secure with his father. I left the two of them together and they hung out for about 1.5 hours.

After a while, I returned and Teddy was ready for some mama time. As I climbed up the bunk bed, Teddy told me he wanted more goldfish, then he looked to his right and said, "Is that okay Nina?" I smiled as I looked at him and he explained, "Nina is right here with me. I can't see her but she's here." "You're right buddy! She's with you all the time, never forget." I kissed him and then went out for my goldfish run.

As I was climbing back up the stairs I ran into Todd and asked how Teddy had done and he said well, that he had asked a lot of questions about getting to see Nina again, what she was doing in Heaven, who was taking care of her, if he could talk to her, etc. I asked how the beach hike had gone and Todd got chocked up as he pulled out his iphone and showed me the following photo. He explained that as they were walking through Campus Pointe, he noticed that Teddy was walking with his arm slightly extended out and his right hand cupped. When he asked Teddy what he was doing, Teddy told him he was holding Nina's hand. I was left breathless!!! This most tender little boy has the heart of a wise old man. He is astounding, he is exquisite, he is amazing, he is a MIRACLE!!!!!

I cuddled with Teddy for a while and then asked him if he was ready for Silas and Niels to come up and play with him. The boys had been asking when they could see Teddy repeatedly. They were worried about him, sad for themselves, but especially sad for their best buddy. Teddy nodded that they could come up. The boys were elated and the three of them played for the rest of the afternoon. Periodically, I would go sit next to Teddy, feed him bites of banana and chips (if ever there was a time to spoil him....), rub his back, kiss his head, anything that would reassure him that I loved him, that his family adored him, and that we would always be here for him. Teddy was so affectionate, constantly tucking his head on my lap, nuzzling, and never once balking about my kisses. He needed loved poured on him and that is exactly what we all did!!!

After I returned from the funeral home later that evening, I found Teddy and Todd alone in our bedroom watching the Suite Life of Zack and Cody and eating the Habit. I cuddled next to Teddy and asked how his burger was and he said, "Tasty!" We munched on fries and watched the remainder of that episode. When the next one started, Teddy asked if I could leave, that he wanted to have alone time with Todd. I kissed him and said I was glad to do so. I knew that he wasn't trying to be exclusive or retreat away from me. Fact of the matter was that Teddy spent the majority of his time with me, that we did activities together all the time. More importantly, Teddy missed spending time with his dad, and today he had suffered the biggest loss of his life. Even though he loves me dearly, he is a little boy and little boys crave time with their fathers. I was glad that they were spending time together.

Not long after I left, Teddy came to find me and invited me to return. He gave me the biggest hug and I told him that he could just have alone time with dad, that it didn't hurt my feelings. He insisted I join him and so I did. In the past, I have found myself complaining about watching the same episodes of his favorite television shows. Tonight, I was thankful for something familiar, something normal, something constant. After a few more minutes, Teddy asked Todd to get him more goldfish :) The boy was the goldfish king! As Todd ran his errand, Teddy and I talked about how Nina love Zac and Cody, remembering our favorite stories and memories of Nina. Out of the blue, Teddy turned to me and said, "Mama, Nina isn't really dead. Her body is dead but her true self is alive, it lives forever!" I was speechless!!! All I could do for a few seconds was hug him and kiss him. Then I cupped his precious face with my hands and told him he was the most incredible and wise person I knew, that he was my hero!!!! Teddy beamed!!! I explained to Teddy that God had given him the heart of a warrior, that his capacity to love and understand was beyond comprehension and a flat out miracle!!!! Teddy just nuzzled into my arms and loved me in return.

Todd returned with goldfish and the three of us hung out. After a few more episodes, Teddy and I cuddled. He fell asleep in my arms. I don't remember falling asleep myself but I do remember that for the first time in a very long time I reached out to God in happiness and thanked him for the Miracle of Teddy!!!!