Friday, November 25, 2011


A few months ago I wrote this post and today I decided to reread it to see if my view on gratitude had changed or stayed the same.   The words I wrote then I thought I meant, but as I read it and remembered how I felt, I don't think I really meant what I said back then.  I wanted to mean it, I was desperate to mean it, but I just didn't.

Now, I do.  I mean every word of it.  I wrote that, "[Gratitude is] learning to live your life as if everything were a miracle, and being aware on a continuous basis of how much you've been given . . . shift your focus from what your life lacks to the abundance that is already present."  I truly believe this and DO feel lucky for my life.   Everything we've been through has taught us something and we have grown from our experiences.  And, we've survived, that's the most amazing part.  Life WILL throw you curve balls but it's how you get past them that counts, you HAVE to survive and keep going, that's what makes us human.   We don't give up.

After starting the morning off in bed watching the parade, we shared a lovely, relaxing day with my Dad who I hadn't seen October and who hadn't been home since June.  I miss him so much when he's away and worry about him being all alone in Oregon, I like when he's here, when he's close.  So, spending Thanksgiving with him this year, and every year, makes me so happy.

(Gorgeous AZ day!)

I ordered food from this place a week ago and we picked it up one day after school.  The place is really scary and hard to find, and after trying the food yesterday - we weren't impressed by that either.  I wanted to find some gluten free sides I could eat without having to make anything, but I think we could have done better.  The pumpkin pies were too small for $9.99 (for 2), the stuffing was bland, the pumpkin chocolate chip cookies were gross and the rolls were just ok.  It was fun not cooking, but the food was just so so.  Usually we go out to dinner but this year, being gluten free, I was afraid I couldn't eat anywhere so it was a nice change (even though we had to clean the house!).


We don't have a dining room table, just a breakfast bar, so we borrowed a table from Ian's parents and set up a nice table to eat our meal at.  Ian wasn't feeling good (too many beers the night before) but my dad and I ate all the food and it was delicious.   He made green beans an mashed potatoes and along with his food and the turkey, the gf bakery stuff wasn't so bad. Thanksgiving is always hours of prep work (cooking, cleaning, heating, frying, etc) and then just minutes of eating - it goes by way too fast.  I was happy we didn't have to cook very much this year but I missed going out, it's just SO much easier!

The best part about our dinner was the turkey that Ian fried.  We borrow a fryer from school every year (not sure why the Special Education Department even has an electric turkey fryer) and it works super fast to make our turkey delicious!  This year we injected it the night before with cajun butter seasoning and coated it with gf flour before putting it in, and then Ian and my dad pulled it out at just the right time, it was so moist and yummy!   During the frying we had to ladle out some of the oil because it was too full and we put it in a pan next to the fryer. We found out later that Linus drank some of it and he ended up being sick all night!  Silly, stupid dog.

(Ian dropped a turkey liver on his phone!  Gross!)


(Poor little guy was sick all night.)

(A totally gluten free Thanksgiving!)

I missed seeing my mom because it was the first Thanksgiving without my Nani, but she was in Kentucky with my step-brother, sister-in-law and nieces having a blast.   Ian's parents went to Tucson to see his sister and his brother went with his wife and son to her family's house - so everyone kind of did their own thing.   It was low maintenance and oh so much better than the days of driving all over town, seeing all of our family in one day.  Things definitely get easier the older you get when you figure out the holidays.

We ended up on the couch at 8pm watching Elf and relaxed the rest of the night.  It was a busy but fun day with my two favorite men.   I am truly grateful for them in my life, and all of our family and friends.  Today, I DO feel like every day is a miracle and am happy for all that we have.  I am happy to have Ian, a wonderful family and amazing friends, and feel so much gratitude for all of them and the life that we have together.

(My favorite way to eat turkey, the next day!)

(Julie even came out later that night to say hello!)

Earlier this week my yoga students got together and laid on each other's bellies and told me what they were thankful for this week too.  It was awesome to hear what they cherished most, and it made me feel so special that I was there to hear them share it.  I hope you had a wonderful Thanksgiving too and that you found a moment to be thankful amidst all the craziness. 

So often during the holiday season we are so busy rushing around that we lose sight of what this season is really about - gathering together with family and friends.  Take a moment and remember to breathe during all of the madness and take a moment to practice gratitude . . . and really mean it. :)

Monday, November 14, 2011

Remembering Lucy

Two years ago last night our dog, Lucy, died.  We had just come home from my mom's house and I took a shower and was on the computer when my phone rang, multiple times, with an unknown number.  I didn't answer the phone calls and then thought, about 10 minutes later, that I should check the messages since it was 10 at night. 

The woman on the phone told me that our dog had been hit by a car.  I was confused because I thought I saw all of the dogs in the house (we had four at the time).  I frantically ran around and found the two rat terriers, Zipper and Zoe, and then went looking for the schnoodles.  I remember secretly hoping it was Linus who got hit because he was so stand-offish, so uninterested in humans.  But, I found him just sitting on our bed and knew who it was - Lucy.  Our chubby, loving, stupid, silly, dopey little girl - Linus' sister.

I told Ian and he rushed out to where they lady said she was - streets and streets away - how did she get so far so fast?  I called the emergency animal hospital and told them we'd be bringing a dog in that had been hit and gave them all of her details.

But then, Ian walked through the door with Lucy in a plastic bag.  She was already gone and I did not understand it.  I cried so hard I could barely breathe, I had never cried so hard in my life.  I was so upset, I didn't understand, I was confused and had no idea how we didn't see her slip out the door when we came home.  And how did she run so far?  Was she chasing something?  Why would she leave our front yard?  Why didn't I answer my phone sooner so she could have seen us there before she died?  Did the person who hit her stop?  Who was this woman who looked at a dog's collar, who had been hit, just to call the owners?  How amazing was that?

So many thoughts and emotions, it was one of the saddest nights of our lives.  We were so surprised and it was so sudden, it was incomprehensible.  And, she was so young, only almost 5 years old.  And her brother, having to live without her?  And him looking just like her, torturing us so that we didn't even want to look at him?!  It was horrible.

I know that many people have lost pets and some have lost them suddenly, like us, and some have gotten to say goodbye.  I wish I would have been there to hold her, I wish it was my face that she last saw, I wish she wouldn't have been scared and alone and I wish I would have just been more careful and known that she was gone.  I still blame myself for lots of things today, even though I know it was an accident.

Lucy has been gone two years but it seems like longer.  She brought our house together and made all the dogs actually get along.  Things changed after she died, the rat terriers started not liking each other and Linus got really bored.  No one plays anymore and the energy is just different - there seemed to be no fun amongst the dogs without her.  She was a childlike presence that would get scared when the TV was too loud (and her chubby butt would run into the other room) or would get too hot while laying on you and have to move.  She would put her head under your hand to make you pet her and put her face right in your face to make sure you saw her before any of the other dogs.  Things are different now.

We miss you Lucy.  I hope that there is a place where dogs and humans go together, after they die, just so I can see my Lucy again.  I still remember the night before she died, laying with her, her face in mine, petting her and telling her how much I loved her.  I still see shadows at home out of the corner of my eye and think it's her, or see Linus laying a certain way so that he looks like her - she was hard to forget.

She was hit by a car outside of a Denny's a couple of major streets from our house.  So, the first month we went to the spot, lit a candle, said some words and sat and remembered here.  A year after we did the same and ate at Denny's in commemoration.  This year, since the day fell on a Sunday and she died sometime around 9-9:30, we just went there, lit our candle, hung some solar lights in a tree by the spot (hoping they will go undetected for a bit), reflected on her passing and then left.  I cried, still, 2 years later.

These past two years have been hard for us.  I could have used her around to cheer me up so many times.  I hope she's watching over us, cheering us up from wherever she is.  I hope she knows how much we loved her, and still do.  I hope she forgives me for not being there or not realizing she was gone.  I hope she knows just how much we miss her. 

Losing a dog is different than losing a human.  Even in death we can remember the good and bad about someone but dogs aren't like this.  Dogs love you unconditionally and are there just to make you happy, it's harder when a dog dies, in some ways.  They are around ALL the time, they live with you and follow you everywhere, so you feel their loss so much more I think.  I know many of you can relate - if you are pet people.

Here's to you Lucy, 2 years later.  We love you.

(Ian's camera took grainy pics for some reason.)

(Never mind my Marth Washington hair!)

(Lucy loved skittles!)

(Last year.)

(I can't eat at Denny's anymore so we skipped it this year.)

(We leave a candle lit and then I assume someone picks it up because it disappears.)

(When she was a pup, wearing a moostache.)

(Brother and sister.)

(They would jump to catch water thrown from the pool, it was amazing!  See video below!)

(And, the last picture I took of her little face, in October of 2009.)

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Superman Banana!

Yoga started last week with the kids and we had about 25 show up.  Not the 90 from last year but 25 will do.  This week, we had about the same, maybe even 30 and I'm definitely happy with that.

I thought I'd post this cute video of everyone doing Superman Banana - it was too funny not to share!

Monday, November 7, 2011

A Piece of My Heart

On Friday, October 21st, my favorite, and only, grandmother died - my Nani.  

I am sorry I haven't written until now, usually I try to post once a week and feel bad that I haven't posted in a bit.  This post was just a tough one to write, and I sat down to write it many times but couldn't find the words.  I still have a hard time with what I want to say, I type and then I delete and then I type again and then delete.  I think I will just post what I spoke at her funeral so that you know what she meant to me, to all of us, and a bit about her life.

This will have to do because again, I have no words.  But, I do have some pictures (eulogy to follow):

(This is my favorite picture I've seen of us.  I am sure there are more but I've got to go through my mom's old picture albums to find them.)

(At my bridal shower in March 2009.  Nani and her two older sisters, Annette and Virginia.)

(My mom, Nani and me.) 

(Odds are that if you were laughing in pictures with Nani it's because she said something dirty right before the picture was taken.  This was on Mother's Day in 2010 and she made some comment about grabbing Ian on the inside of his leg.  She was always cracking us up, always making jokes and usually they were filthy ones!)

(The night, last year in December, that I told Nani I was pregnant with the blueberry.  This is the reason I am so angry now, that I lost blueberry, because my Nani could have had two months with her before she died.  Why do things like this happen?  It just doesn't make any sense.)

(Taken in September of a sign I made Nani for outside of her room at the home she was in.)

(The last picture I took with her, in September, playing bingo.)

(My step-brothers, Kevin and Joe and one of my nieces, Amanda, came into town for the funeral.  It was the first time all of us had been together in years.  It was so nice that they came.)

(Nani had all of these carts at her home and at my Uncle John's.  So, we decided to have some races in her honor!)

Angeline Spini’s Eulogy 
Funeral:  October 25th, 2011 

Hello, I am Angeline’s granddaughter, Allison.  4 years ago my Nani, grandma in Italian, entrusted me with writing my grandfather’s life story, and today I am proud to share hers, because I know she would have wanted me to.  To my Nani, everyone was family. Some of the people in this room are my Nani’s actual family, but I know that everyone in this room were made to feel like family by my Nani.  That’s just how our family is, and how we’ve always been since I can remember.  I am sure she is so thrilled to have all of you here today, celebrating her life together.   

My Nani, and I were one in the same, two peas in a pod, and her heart was my heart.  She was my most favorite person and taught me everything I know today.  She taught me always to have a secret stash of money hidden, just in case, that my husband doesn’t know about.  She taught me that the makings of macaroni and cheese should always be at your disposal and that everything tastes better with lots of butter in it.  She taught me that a deck of cards could bring everyone together, and that it was ok to help your granddaughter win when no one was looking.  I learned, when I was little, that money and gum sometimes grew on trees, that movie titles were always interchangeable (Love on the Rocks instead of Romancing the Stone) and that naps were a required part of your day.  I also learned that family was most important and that love lasted forever.  The bond between a mother and daughter was taught to me by example – through my mom and Nani.  I am thankful to share that same connection with my own mother today, she is my best friend, just like her mom was hers.  

Nani was so much fun.  My favorite moments with my family were when we were all together at my Nani’s house – playing cards, cooking and watching movies.  We would gather around the kitchen table and she would tell us stories, stories of her and grandpa, stories of her childhood, stories of when I was little, or stories of my aunts and uncle growing up.  Sometimes her stories were true and sometimes they were a bigger version of the truth, but that’s what made my Nani so special.  You never knew what you were going to get. Recently, we found one of my Nani’s own journals and so some of this story comes right from her. 

I remember when my Nani used to visit us in Oregon when I was little.  One day she forgot to pick me up from school so someone had to bring me home.  When I got there, the house was locked and I didn’t have a key.  I saw her, on the couch taking a nap, and so I knocked and knocked on those glass doors so she would wake up and let me in.  She finally did and we laughed about it, she sure did love to take naps. 

She tells a story in her journal about when she was little and would go to her Aunt Katie’s house with her sisters - Virginia and Annette.  Her Aunt knew they were coming and would always leave dishes in the sink because she knew their mom would volunteer them for the job.  Uncle Dominick, Aunt Katie’s husband, loved his walnuts and to get back at their Aunt and Uncle the girls ate all of them and just put the shells back in the bag.  Nani was always quick on her feet and knew just how to get you when you least expected it. 

Another story she told in her journal was when her sister Virginia tied her to a chair so she could wash and set her hair when she was 10 years old.  She still remembers the red and white dress she wore that day.  They were going to take pictures and her mom wanted to make sure she looked good.  But Nani wrote down, “I already did,” and even underlined it.  She tells us that she was always the one who just put on a hat or a scarf and went, she never really fussed with herself much.  That’s just how she was, naturally beautiful. 

Nani loved her family so much.  She would always hold my hand and tell me how lucky she was to have all of us.  In her words, “Karen, John, Donna, Virginia and Kathy are my life lines.  What a family I have, I have the most wonderful children on the planet.  They love each other so much, nothing stands in their way when it comes to each other.  I don’t think there is another family with so much heart and love as mine.  To them, their mother and dad are the world and they too love so deeply.”  She spoke of this deep love when talking about who her kids chose to spend their life with:  “Not only do I have five children, I have love and respect from their loved ones.  Joe has been here every day taking care of us.  Lisa has been wonderful, she makes sure we don’t need or want for anything.  And, Sonja has been with us every day cooking, cleaning and shopping.  Boy I’m the luckiest woman in the world.  I’m so rich with my family.” 

Nani definitely proved that love is stronger than death, my Nani loved her husband more than anything else.  She writes, “It’s 4am in the morning, I can’t wait to start the day with them all.  I sit at the table and turn on the TV, a little later in walks the one who means the most to me.  His hair is gray and stands up a bit.  He is a little shaggy and walks slowly towards me to sit.  Without his love and my love for him, I’d have no reason to glow.  The years together just passed so fast, but our love that has held together was made in Heaven to last.  So, earthly and heavenly we will be together, young and old.”  We are happy she is with grandpa now, watching over all of us with the one she loves. 

Finally, in her own words, Nani tells us about death.  She says, “This is a phase of life everyone never wants to happen to their loved ones, but somehow God gives us the strength to survive and go on with our lives.  They say God is a fearing God, so maybe when someone passes, God just wants a little of our family’s love and he is telling us to share.”  We could all take this advice from her today.  She wouldn’t want us to be sad; she would, instead, want us to open a deck of cards and just deal her in.