Thursday, December 2, 2010

Today's Gratitudes

Here is my gratitude list for today.

1. My mom who made me coffee today even though she no longer drinks it. It's coffee we brought back from Spain and I love it...but can't make it as well as my mom does. What a great way to start the day!

2. For my aunt, Dorita, who inspired me in so many ways and still does. If it weren't for her, I never would have had the chance to go t Dartmouth. Through the years, she sent my countless care packages and other gifts simply because she thought of me. She gave to so many without ever expecting anything in return. She was funny and loving and so much more than an aunt to me. I am so very blessed she was a part of my life for 18 years.

3. For my friend, Angela, who is my favorite book buddy...even if I make a horrible book buddy in return. Her friendship means more than I could ever put into words. Angela, thank you for sharing Christi and Shayla with me. I adore them both and am inspired by their generosity and love every single day (And yours too!)

4. For my friend, Christine. My very first friend I met at Dartmouth. (Christine, I still remember the exact moment I met you when we were walking to Convocation.) Her latest blog entry touched my soul. If you have a moment, you should visit her site and read it too:

5. For books. My "friends" that keep me company on my long commute to work and back. For The Economist magazine that give me a great way to keep in touch with world events when I am crunched for time and has great reporting. For the BBC news and Television Espanola because they make me feel like I am in Belfast or Spain, respectively when I watch them.

5. For Ylaria, who I get to see this weekend. And for her family. Like all of my other friends and family, they have changed my life and I can't wait to give them all a really big hug.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

The Gratefulness Project

I've been meaning to write an update for awhile but it's been difficult to find the right combination of words and time. When I am nowhere near a computer, the words just pop in my head and I hear myself saying what I want to share with you. And other times, I have come to this site and it feels as if the words are hiding under the covers and refuse to wake up from their nap.

But there is something I have been wanting to share (or more correctly, re-share) so I am here hoping the words do justice to the intention. As I have mentioned previously, I have been working on being more grateful and in incorporating gratefulness more fully into my life. I recently recruited my family in this endeavor and we now share daily emails which list our gratitudes for the day.

I absolutely love it. Not only does it give me a way of keeping in touch with my very favorite people, but it also gives me-- it makes me-- take time to really reflect on my own life and it's many gifts. I am so very lucky and so richly blessed. I want and need to take more time to honor the bits and pieces of my Day and my Self that makeup my life-- my "scraps of magic".

When I started sharing my gratitudes with a friend, I found it hard to think of something new every day. And on the days when I was in a bad mood, I found it difficult to share much of anything at all. Now, I find myself sharing paragraphs. I'm not just grateful for my bed, but I am grateful for how soft it is and for my new pillow and for the way it can feel cool when I get in and for the blankets that keep me warm on these chilly nights. I am grateful for the rest it gives me so that I can wake up refreshed the next morning for more Christi runs and chats in the car with Sara and mom and for a productive day at work. I've found myself acknowledging moments of gratitude to myself throughout the day as well. I am grateful for how my heart feels after a good run, for the chilly fall air on my face as I walk outside, for sound of my shoes as they hit the pavement, for the way water refreshes me when I am thirsty, for the sky and the way it makes my soul happy. Gratitude is incredibly humbling. Because I know that I did nothing to deserve any of this-- my comfortable home, good job, access to clean water, amazing family and friends. I can only be grateful for these blessings and take moments (however brief) to honor them.

And for someone who has struggled for several years with bouts of depression, I can say without hesitation that this gratitude project has given so much more in happiness. My glass is full. So very full.

Here's my gratitude list for today.

1. My mom and Sara for a great car conversation this morning and an awesome new song to listen to.

2. My job because it gives me an opportunity to contribute to the field of education in some capacity. And, I love the families I work with.

3. Sweet potatoes & broccoli rabe. I adore them. They are incredibly tasty AND so good for you!!

What's on yours?

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Recommitting to the Commitment

Some of you may remember my motto for 2010 from a previous post. I have to be honest, I had forgotten it for a while. But, the other day, I suddenly remembered the words and vowed to recommit to them for the remainder of the year.

"I have been waiting for so long to finally admit to myself that I am amazing, and I really am. Everyone is beautiful in their own way and they get even better when they decide to be powerful and they decide to rock." ~Girls Rock Movie

I hope you have a most amazing, beautiful and powerful day.

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Message to Muslims: I’m Sorry

The article below was in the NY Times recently. I just had to share it.

Message to Muslims: I’m Sorry

Many Americans have suggested that more moderate Muslims should stand up to extremists, speak out for tolerance, and apologize for sins committed by their brethren.

That’s reasonable advice, and as a moderate myself, I’m going to take it. (Throat clearing.) I hereby apologize to Muslims for the wave of bigotry and simple nuttiness that has lately been directed at you. The venom on the airwaves, equating Muslims with terrorists, should embarrass us more than you. Muslims are one of the last minorities in the United States that it is still possible to demean openly, and I apologize for the slurs.

I’m inspired by another journalistic apology. The Portland Press Herald in Maine published an innocuous front-page article and photo a week ago about 3,000 local Muslims praying together to mark the end of Ramadan. Readers were upset, because publication coincided with the ninth anniversary of 9/11, and they deluged the paper with protests.

So the newspaper published a groveling front-page apology for being too respectful of Muslims. “We sincerely apologize,” wrote the editor and publisher, Richard Connor, and he added: “we erred by at least not offering balance to the story and its prominent position on the front page.” As a blog by James Poniewozik of Time paraphrased it: “Sorry for Portraying Muslims as Human.”

I called Mr. Connor, and he seems like a nice guy. Surely his front page isn’t reserved for stories about Bad Muslims, with articles about Good Muslims going inside. Must coverage of law-abiding Muslims be “balanced” by a discussion of Muslim terrorists?

Ah, balance — who can be against that? But should reporting of Pope Benedict’s trip to Britain be “balanced” by a discussion of Catholic terrorists in Ireland? And what about journalism itself?

I interrupt this discussion of peaceful journalism in Maine to provide some “balance.” Journalists can also be terrorists, murderers and rapists. For example, radio journalists in Rwanda promoted genocide.

I apologize to Muslims for another reason. This isn’t about them, but about us. I want to defend Muslims from intolerance, but I also want to defend America against extremists engineering a spasm of religious hatred.

Granted, the reason for the nastiness isn’t hard to understand. Extremist Muslims have led to fear and repugnance toward Islam as a whole. Threats by Muslim crazies just in the last few days forced a Seattle cartoonist, Molly Norris, to go into hiding after she drew a cartoon about Muhammad that went viral.

And then there’s 9/11. When I recently compared today’s prejudice toward Muslims to the historical bigotry toward Catholics, Mormons, Jews and Asian-Americans, many readers protested that it was a false parallel. As one, Carla, put it on my blog: “Catholics and Jews did not come here and kill thousands of people.”

That’s true, but Japanese did attack Pearl Harbor and in the end killed far more Americans than Al Qaeda ever did. Consumed by our fears, we lumped together anyone of Japanese ancestry and rounded them up in internment camps. The threat was real, but so were the hysteria and the overreaction.

Radicals tend to empower radicals, creating a gulf of mutual misunderstanding and anger. Many Americans believe that Osama bin Laden is representative of Muslims, and many Afghans believe that the Rev. Terry Jones (who talked about burning Korans) is representative of Christians.

Many Americans honestly believe that Muslims are prone to violence, but humans are too complicated and diverse to lump into groups that we form invidious conclusions about. We’ve mostly learned that about blacks, Jews and other groups that suffered historic discrimination, but it’s still O.K. to make sweeping statements about “Muslims” as an undifferentiated mass.

In my travels, I’ve seen some of the worst of Islam: theocratic mullahs oppressing people in Iran; girls kept out of school in Afghanistan in the name of religion; girls subjected to genital mutilation in Africa in the name of Islam; warlords in Yemen and Sudan who wield AK-47s and claim to be doing God’s bidding.

But I’ve also seen the exact opposite: Muslim aid workers in Afghanistan who risk their lives to educate girls; a Pakistani imam who shelters rape victims; Muslim leaders who campaign against female genital mutilation and note that it is not really an Islamic practice; Pakistani Muslims who stand up for oppressed Christians and Hindus; and above all, the innumerable Muslim aid workers in Congo, Darfur, Bangladesh and so many other parts of the world who are inspired by the Koran to risk their lives to help others. Those Muslims have helped keep me alive, and they set a standard of compassion, peacefulness and altruism that we should all emulate.

I’m sickened when I hear such gentle souls lumped in with Qaeda terrorists, and when I hear the faith they hold sacred excoriated and mocked. To them and to others smeared, I apologize.

Sunday, September 19, 2010


Today marks four years since Christi gained her wings. I can't believe it's been that long. And while I talk/write/think about Christi often, I wanted to take a moment, on this day especially, to honor this remarkable soul, Christi Thomas.

I "met" Christi in the winter of 2003, a few months after she had been diagnosed. I adored her from the start. Can I be honest? One of the very first things I loved about Christi was her love for school. I remember her mom talking about how much Christi loved school and learning and reading. And I thought to myself: "Oh my goodness!!! There is someone else out there in the world like me!!! She just gets it!!!" (And yes, the exclamation points are no exaggeration. I was that excited.) There was also the little fact that her birthday was the day before mine. And that was just the beginning.

It took only a short time to realize that Christi had not only a brilliant mind, but she also had a most beautiful soul. Christi was known for saying, "I'm not sick, I just have cancer." She held lemonade stands to benefit Alex's Lemonade Stand Foundation, blood drives to raise awareness about the importance of blood/platelet donations and she always comforted the other children undergoing cancer treatment-- by reading them stories, giving them homemade gifts or helping them decorate their hospital rooms. Christi lived with a mind full of wonder, a heart full of love and a soul full of faith.

I was inspired. I still am. A friend said to me today, "I hope you're having a very Christi day!" And as I was sitting here trying to figure out how best to honor Christi on her "angelversary", I realized that every day is a Christi day. Knowing Christi changed my life and shaped so much of what I do and who I am. I wake up (almost) every morning to go for a "Christi" run. My 4:30am madness where I get myself out of bed and on the treadmill and imagine her next to me as I prepare for my next Christi Thomas Memorial Run. On mornings when I am feeling particularly lazy, I picture her whispering into my ear: "You need to get up NOW! You can do this." And, she's always right. If she, and so many other brave warriors, could wake up each day and fight childhood cancer, then I can get up every morning to train for a race to raise money in her honor. Because of Christi I am now a regular platelet donor at MSKCC and I started volunteering at the Ronald McDonald House as well; it's where I met Ylaria. Through Christi I have met the most beautiful people who are now some of my dearest friends-- her family, Jennifer, Traci, Lisa, Irene, Shirley, Ylaria.

My life has been deeply blessed because of Christi. And while I have said bits and pieces of this in some way, shape or form in the past, I felt the need to honor Christi here today, to share her here with you, to put into words all that she means to me. And to thank her, for all of the moments she has inspired.

Thursday, September 16, 2010


Ok, I know I have been delinquent lately. I sort of forgot I had a blog (or more to the point that I need to post on it) and I sort of didn't know what to write about.

I have been doing well. It's starting to feel like Fall here in NYC and I am so excited. I love the Fall. I love feeling the cooler air on my face and the way the leaves crunch under your feet and how everything just feels so much crisper. Not to mention the yummy foods like pumpkin and squash and apples and lentil stew. Tasty! I also love how Fall, for a reason I can't quite put my finger on, makes me feel a little more like a kid. Maybe it's the Halloween thing. And the "the holidays are coming" thing. The point is, I love Fall.

And this Fall is full of fun things! I am running in my 4th Annual Christi Run which will raise money for one of my very, very, very favorite organizations: Kids Cancer Crusade. I have been training a lot for this run and really trying to get in good shape for it. I know you'll think I'm nuts when I tell you that I get up at 4:30am to run on the treadmill, but I love it. I call it my "Christi time" and having that perspective really does make all the difference. I couldn't ask for a better running buddy at 4:30am.

I am also SUPER (and I do mean SUPER) excited about my Halloween weekend plans to visit my friend, C. A weekend with one of my best friends is always great and I am looking forward to our NCIS discussions, baking, outdoor hikes/walks and haunted prison adventure. We're even planning on going trick-or-treating! Could a girl really ask for more?? (C. has young siblings, so it's completely acceptable to trick-or-treat. When you're little you need adult supervision. Apparently, I qualify.)

And, of course, the Fall would not be complete without the annual Nunez family apple-picking trip.

I've got loads to look forward to. I hope you're all doing well and making some fun Fall plans of your own!

~ Olivia

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Be Happy

I absolutely love this video. What a beautiful message. I've watched it over and over today and every single time it feels like a giant hug.

Sunday, August 29, 2010

Because September is a month for GOLD

September is the month of the gold ribbon. September is childhood cancer awareness month.

Did you know that?

46 children are diagnosed with cancer each day in the US. Forty-Six.

Seven children die from cancer every day. Seven.

In the US, cancer is responsible for more deaths among children than any other disease; more deaths than asthma, diabetes, cystic fibrosis and AIDS combined.

Did you know that?

I have to be honest, I didn’t.

Not until my brother became one of the 46. And later, one of the seven. Since Manny died, approximately 251,000 children have been diagnosed and 38,000 have died. 251,000 children whose lives have been forever changed. 38,000 children who will never get to blow out birthday candles, or wish on stars, or hug their parents. 38,000 empty spaces at the dinner table, 38,000 dreams undreamt.

Since Manny died, childhood cancer awareness has become a cause which I care about deeply. It’s why I am here today. Once again, asking you for help.

In recognition of this month, of the children lost and those still fighting, my cousin, friends and I are going to be holding on fundraiser on Friday, September 24th at the West 5 Supper Club in Hoboken, NJ (505 Madison Street) from 9-11pm. There will be a $40 cover charge, 50% which will be donated to Kids Cancer Crusade. KCC provides a network of much needed support and love for children with cancer and their families. All children in treatment (& siblings) receive care packages full of cute hats, clothes and fun games. Parents are sent gas and food gift cards to help them with their expenses while their children are in treatment. Kids Cancer Crusade is simply an amazing organization that helps bring in the sunshine in some of the darkest moments. (

By raising funds and awareness, we can let these families know that they are not alone. Let’s make September a time for action. Because there is simply no more time to wait.

Please join us on Friday, September 24th if you can! There will be open bar, a raffle, and a great time for an amazing cause. I hope to see you there!

As always, thank you so much for all of your amazing support!

With love & hope,


PS- If you can't come, but would like to make a donation, please visit my fundraising page at: (It's for my October Christi Memorial run but all funds go to KCC too.)

Thursday, August 12, 2010

Leaving on a Jet Plane...

I am leaving for Spain today. To Tebra, specifically. A small village where my dad was raised.

It means 10 days of no cell phone, internet, or mail. I am really looking forward to the unplug.

See you all soon!


PS- Please continue to keep Ylaria in your thoughts and prayers. Today they meet with the doctors to discuss her latest scans. Let's hope for some good news. Because, without hope, there is no hope.

Monday, August 2, 2010

Saying Manny's name

Yesterday was Manny's birthday. He would have been 30. Thirty. I can't even imagine it. I can't picture Manny at any other age than 14. I'm always 11. He's always 14. My brain can't wrap itself around 30. At. All. I'm not sure it ever will.

Every time Manny's birthday rolls around, I always want to do something to honor him. Something special to mark his day. In years past I've made banana milkshakes (he taught me) or baked his favorite cake (chocolate with vanilla frosting). This year, I could think of only one way to best celebrate him-- I spent the afternoon stringing the sky onto lanyards. I think he approved. He was, after all, the artist in the family. I pictured him up in Heaven stringing the sky blue and white and pink and gold with Erin. It was comforting to imagine us engaged in the same activity, even if we were so far apart.

I mentioned my lanyard afternoon to Vickie, and she responded with a question that has left me thinking all day. "When did it get easier to talk to my friends about Manny?"

The truth is I struggle with talking about Manny (out loud or in my head). As I said to a friend late last night (as I lay in bed unable to sleep, my mind still busy trying to wrap itself around 30) if I have to be really honest, I don't let myself think about Manny too much. Most of the time, I just can't, I just don't, let him become too real. I can write about things he did, or talk about his illness, I can picture his smile in my mind but only for a short while. And then, I have to make myself stop. Because when I don't stop, when I keep remembering, he becomes more than just the words I am saying or the moments I am recalling. He becomes my Manny. He is then so real that it's almost like I can see his face directly in front of mine, and I can hear his laughter in my ear, and I can feel the way he used to hug me all soft from his baggy clothes and strong from the bear hugs we'd share. And then the moment is gone and I feel like I've lost him all over again. And my heart breaks just the littlest bit.

And saying out loud: "I have a brother. His name is Manny and he died when he was 14 of AML" leaves me feeling so much more vulnerable. Saying the words out loud makes the loss more real. The words hang in the air and I wait for whomever I am speaking them to to catch them and do something with all of their weight. To be honest, conversations about my brother never go much beyond that sentence. After the awkward pause where my brain is screaming to fill the silence whomever I am speaking to will say they are so sorry and we'll move onto more "acceptable" topics like the weather or last night's episode of Glee. No one likes to linger on death. Especially the death of a child.

I am however, blessed with friends who don't mind the silence. Who take the time to ask me about Manny. They ask me what he was like and what I miss most. I appreciate those questions. When it's not about how he died, but how he lived.

I am most comfortable sharing Manny out loud with friends who have experienced the pediatric cancer world and who have lost loved ones too. Maybe it's just because we're all (against our will) part of the same very crappy club, but I feel less vulnerable (and alone) when I say: "I have a brother. His name is Manny and he died when he was 14 of AML" because I know they have their own version of the same sentence to share.

And I am more certain that when I tell them that he died 15 years ago they'll understand that I don't mean I've spent most of my life without a brother, but rather that I've spent most of my life missing my brother and trying endlessly to carry him with me into the world.

Sunday, August 1, 2010

Happy 30th Birthday, Manny

Here's to...
listening to crickets at dusk,
big wet kisses & warm bear hugs,
a stuffed monkey named James,
banana milkshakes,
chocolate cake with vanilla frosting,
rolling a 1 every time it's your turn at Clue,
BonJovi's "Always" & Mariah Carey's "Hero",
playing basketball in the backyard after school,
hearing footsteps in the attic late at night,
running out of chocolate covered "critters",
finding the best Christmas tree,
breaking a plate as you set the table,
a mouth full of foamy toothpaste,
decorating the Halloween pumpkin,
walking back from the bus stop,
leaving cookies in the oven for two days,
bandanas & baseball caps,
an old closet door that means something,
simply coming home.
Here's to Manny.

Written by me (~2004)

Friday, July 30, 2010

Running for Christi 2010

As I have done in years past, I will once again be running in memory of Christi this October.

Running has become somewhat of a therapy for me, a refuge of sorts. The last few months have been difficult. Running has helped me deal with some of my stress and sadness. And since I've started these Christi runs four years ago, it's also something that I do very much with Christi in mind (and heart). I carry her spirit with me in this way.

I run for Christi because it's a way I have found to share her name with others, to keep her memory alive in the world, and to thank her. I owe Christi so much. If it hadn't been for her I wouldn't have been so persistent about volunteering at the Ronald McDonald House (and as a result would never have met Ylaria), I would never have gotten to know Jennifer, the founder of Kids Cancer Crusade, or Christi's family who I now count among my dearest friends. I would never have really known what neuroblastoma was or become so passionate about raising awareness of this devastating disease. I would never have found the courage and comfort I have now to talk as openly about my brother. In many ways, Christi brought me closer to Manny. For this most especially, I am incredibly grateful.

All of the money raised in this year's run will be donated to Kids Cancer Crusade, an organization created in honor of Christi. KCC provides a network of much needed support and love for children with cancer and their families. KCC currently serves 111 children and their families. Of the 111, 30 have earned their angel wings. Thirty. All children in treatment (& siblings) receive care packages full of cute hats, clothes and fun games.Parents are sent gas and food gift cards to help them with their expenses while their children are in treatment. Jennifer even accompanies some of the children in her area to their chemo appointments. Through KCC's work, Jennifer is ensuring that Christi is never forgotten. Kids Cancer Crusade is simply an amazing organization that helps bring in the sunshine in some of the darkest moments.

Whatever amount that you give, if anything at all, just know that in giving you are giving a piece of Christi to someone else. Someone who may have never even known her. And in sharing her spirit in this way, she lives on. (You can donate here:

To learn more about KCC's amazing work, please visit:

Thank you so much for all of your support, it is greatly appreciated!

I love you,


Tuesday, July 27, 2010


Did I tell you I read The Help recently and absolutely loved it?? Well, I did.

Now, I am on the search for more great summer reads. Any suggestions??

Thursday, July 22, 2010


I saw this on Facebook today and just had to share it here.

Because, if you're not aware, it's time to be. There is no more time to wait.

That's 46 kids in the picture. They were chosen totally randomly today. We don't know why.

All happy, healthy, athletic, having fun, goofing around, innocent. They will be diagnosed with cancer today. Forty-Six.

And tomorrow. And the day after. All through next week. All month. All year. Ad infinitum.

Until we stop it.

Look again. Totally randomly, pick 7; black, white, boy, girl, 2 years old, 20 years old. It doesn't matter. That's the number of children who will die from cancer today. Seven.

And tomorrow. And the day after. All through next week. All month. All year. Ad infinitum.

Until we stop it.

When you read the statistics, when you see the numbers, NEVER EVER forget that those numbers have NAMES...faces full of love, moms & dads, brothers & sisters, friends & families, hopes & dreams...futures.

Help us stop it. Now.

Join PAC2.

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

About an update

I keep thinking I should update but I can't seem to find the words (or energy) to find anything meaningful to say these days. It's not to say that there is nothing meaningful to write about because there is but the words elude me. Part of it, I know, is because there simply are no words for it all. For Manny and Christi and Kayla and Matty and Liam and Erin and Sydney and the so very many angels we've lost.

But I don't want this to be a depressing update and I don't want to just focus on the sadness here. Because, as we know, in times like these, that doesn't help. We need to verb. So I am training for a 10K run in October to raise funds for Kids Cancer Crusade and I'm lanyarding with my mom to help support the Children's Neuroblastoma Cancer Foundation through Erin's Lanyards. I'm also planning on volunteering at Camp Sunshine this fall/winter. If you're interested in joining me for any or all of these events, please let me know! I'll be sharing more information on the 4th Annual Christi Run soon.

It's all about the verbs really. They are keeping me sane and giving me hope.

Friday, June 18, 2010


Today, if you are reading this blog, I ask that you take a minute to stop by Kayla's website and offer a message of comfort and love to Kayla's family as she nears the end of her journey.

Kayla, I love you.

Thursday, May 13, 2010

Poof!!..Another 365 days

"Life places another year in your hands and poof! You are granted 365 more sunrises, 52 more Sunday afternoons, one big, beautiful year filled with opportunities to eat ice cream, smile for no reason, take a day off, [& see the beauty in the sky]. One more year of the simple, the satisfying experiences that make a life. May it be a good one"

I found this quote on a birthday card I sent my sister one year when I was in college (I added the sky part). I loved it so much that I wrote it down and kept it for myself too. Because it's important to remember to appreciate the "poof!" Life is beautiful and wonderful and awesome and amazing and full. If we let it be. I think I do a pretty good job if loving my life. It can be hard. It can be sad. But the sorrow is what makes us appreciate the joy. The joy is what causes our sorrow. In the words of the great Khalil Gibran,

"Your joy is your sorrow unmasked. And the selfsame well from which your laughter rises was oftentimes filled with our tears. And how else can it be? The deeper that sorrow carves into your being, the more joy you can contain. Is not the cup that holds your wine the very cup that was burned in the potter's oven? And is not the lute that soothes your spirit the very wood that was hollowed with knives? When you are joyous, look deep into your heart and you shall find it is only that which has given you sorrow that is giving you joy. When you are sorrowful, look again in your heart, and you shall see that in truth you are weeping for that which has been your delight."

My heart is full of love. I had the most amazing day. It's nothing I did exactly. It's just the way it was spent-- with people I love, laughing, reading, relaxing, eating chocolate, being, smiling. It was a good day, a great day.

Thank you to everyone for sharing it with me in some way. You are amazing. I am who I am because of you. Because at one point or another our paths crossed and you changed me. Here's to another 365 days of all of the love and laughter and living my heart can hold.


Tuesday, May 11, 2010


Ylaria left NYC today. It was hard. Really hard. Part of me knows that she's on her way to Vermont and there is still hope. (Without hope there is no hope, right?)

But most of me was so terribly sad. And here I have to shamefully admit that I was sad for myself. because I didn't get to say goodbye. I saw Ylaria on Saturday and we had a great time. There was a puppet show that wasn't, checkers, pictures, cereal, band aids, laughs. It was great. I loved every minute. But, I didn't realize it would be the last time. And so today, when I read they were leaving for Vermont and I realized there was no way for me to see her just one last time here, my heart hurt. But that's how the heart works, I suppose. It always just wants one more hug, one more moment, one more love. Always. I know that too well.

I'm not saying I'll never see Ylaria again. I know I may. I am not giving up hope of a miracle, but I have to admit that today, the darkness was heavy and I didn't see this light until now. It was just so very hard. I'm not apologizing for that. I'm not even asking anyone to understand how I felt. How much it hurt. I can't apologize for any of it.

But I am breathing a little easier now. I watched my favorite episode of Grey's with Laura (the Christmas one in season 2, if you must know), ate some ice cream and took a warm bath. My heart is feeling more hope than pain at the moment.

Tomorrow is going to be great. It's going to be magical. Because it would have been Christi's 13th birthday and I plan on honoring her spirit as only she would want me to-- with love and laughter and hope. And lots of books, of course.

Saturday, May 8, 2010


I can't promise this update is going to make sense. I doubt it will because I started reading Ylaria's update and I got up to the part about the scans being worse and my brain stopped working. Completely. And right now I am in that space where I feel nothing and I think nothing.

Well, that's not entirely true. I have a confession. A really, really painful one. I feel guilt. And I think that I could have done more, but I didn't. Sometimes I was too tired or there was too much work or I wasn't feeling well. But when I suddenly realize the end might be nearer than I think, I start wondering why I didn't just suck it up and get less sleep, or leave work earlier or maybe that I wasn't sick and it would have been ok. People think I am nice and caring and giving. The reality is that I am selfish and I do what I want when I want to. And there were times when I could have done more and I didn't.

I want to be this better version of myself and so many times I fail. So very many. And I don't even really know what Ylaria's update even means because my brain can't process so many words but all I can think is that I didn't do enough for her while she was here in NY. And now she's going to Vermont or to California, I don't even know, and I am so incredibly sad. There's a chicken bone in my throat and I can't breathe. I feel so lost. I feel so nothing.

Friday, May 7, 2010

Congrats, Jennifer

My very amazing friend, Jennifer, is graduating from nursing school today. She was inspired to become a pediatric oncology nurse because of Christi.

While in high school, Jennifer started Kids Cancer Crusade, a nonprofit organization that helps children with cancer and their families. Jennifer sends care packages to the children, hosts amazing fundraising events and outings for the children and provides a vital network of support for families facing their worst nightmares. If you're looking for a worthy organization to contribute to, Kids Cancer Crusade is certainly worth it. Recently, I hand delivered a KCC package to Ylaria and the smile on her face was priceless.

In addition to her incredibly giving spirit and loving heart, Jennifer is one of my best friends. Jennifer, I honestly don't know without the daily texts, IMing, and girly gossip. Who else understands my OTH obsession?? All kidding aside, I can't tell you how much your friendship has meant to me since we were first "introduced" by Christi. You've helped keep my brother's spirit alive. And you were there to let me cry and remember on so many occasions. I'd be lost without you.

So, congratulations today. I know you'll be one of the most amazing pediatric oncology nurses. Ever.

Just stay clear of those Wal-Mart, psychos, k? (I'm working on my boxing skills, but I'd rather not have to use them.)

Until the next text,

Thursday, May 6, 2010


OK, it's May. I am excited. Why? Several reasons.

1. May means Spring. I love Spring.

2. It's my birthday month!! I can't get into how I am going to be 27 in exactly a week. (Most of the time I still feel like I have the maturity of a 17 year old!) But I love birthdays. And what's a better birthday to honor than your very own!?!?!?!

3. May also holds loads of other awesome birthdays. Christi (May 12), Ylaria (May 14), Lisa (May 24) and Belen (May 29) to name but a few.

4. I am going to Shenandoah on my birthday weekend to spend a few days in the National Park with my awesome, amazing, wonderful friend C. We'll hike, horseback ride, eat cookies, read books and have a generally amazing time.

5. I am participating in a Mother's Day Run on Mother's Day with my mom and sisters to raise funds for babies in medical emergencies. A great cause, good workout and special time with my favorite girls.

That's all for now. More later. I promise! I hope you are doing well and enjoying the sunshine. The sky has been beautiful lately. Don't forget to stop and watch the clouds go by.

Thursday, April 29, 2010

A really awesome update

I have to keep this short because I am at work and have so much to do it's kind of insane. BUT, I had to share some great news with you!

It looks like Ylaria has responded well to the chemo. She is out of the hospital now and back at the Ronald McDonald House. The doctors still have to scan again to see what exactly is going on with the disease, but she is up and walking with the help of a walker and is no longer complaining of constant leg pain. I have to be honest, I don't really know what this means for her prognosis, but it's been an awesome (and I'll say, miraculous) change from only three weeks ago. For more info, you can visit her website. Thanks so much again for all of your support, I can't tell you how much I appreciate it and how much I love all of you. You are awesome!!

Work is going. We're in our busy season now so I am working a lot. (Can I just say that a 6 day work week is no fun?) Though, I was just told I don't need to come in this Saturday so I am completely excited. I have no idea what I am going to do just yet, but I am trying to think of something!

In one of my last emails, I mentioned Erin's Lanyard project. My mom's school student council (She is a teacher in a middle school) has gotten involved and will be selling lanyards for the rest of the school year to benefit childhood cancer research (specifically, neuroblastoma-- the cancer Erin and Christi had and that Ylaria is currently battling). How awesome is that??? There are also some plans in the works for a bigger event next September. (September is pediatric cancer awareness month). I am making lanyards at home and it is super, super fun. (Well, minus the one time I was finishing one up (ie- tying it up) and ALL of the little clear glass beads fell all over the floor. I was not deterred however, and spent a good hour picking them up and redoing the lanyard. But it's all for a good cause, right? And it taught me patience, not to mention testing my vision. All good.)

And, this is a bit short notice-- I am so sorry, I have been horrible at keeping up with email these days! If you're free tomorrow and want to go to a Happy Hour for a great cause, please see below. (I plan on going so let me know if you can join me! And, no this is not the fundraiser I mentioned in an earlier email. But, you can never have too many happy hours, am I right?) Also, if you want to volunteer or participate in the Walk on Saturday, May 8th, please let me know. I'll be there! :p

Come to Happy Hour at The Turtle Bay (52nd & 2nd Ave) on this Friday, April 30th, from 6-9 pm, to help raise money for "Kids Walk for Kids with Cancer" and support pediatric research at Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center! Enjoy 1/2 priced drinks and food specials 6-9 pm with the purchase of a $10 wristband, and we'll also raffle off several great items -- 100% of wristband and raffle proceeds will be used for research to help kids with cancer. On arrival just tell the host you are there for the Kids Walk or give the name Michelle, and you'll be directed to our area. All are welcome, so please spread the word!!

PS- see for all info about the Walk, which is on Saturday, May 8

Sunday, April 25, 2010

Today's Top Five

1. I made my very first Erin lanyard. It was soooo fun. My mom and I are planning a trip to the crafts store tomorrow for more supplies. Yay!

2. I cleaned my room. Full out spring cleaning. It feels great to be so organized. And strange as it sounds, I love cleaning.

3. I relaxed. After a very busy, busy week at work, it was nice having a day where I didn't have to set an alarm and I could just do whatever I wanted.

4. I spent time with my family. While we didn't do anything out of this world, I enjoyed talking, catching up, watching "Say Yes to the Dress" and making lanyards together.

5. I woke up!

Sunday, April 18, 2010

Weekend Update

My weekend went by way too quickly. (This happens most especially when I have to work on Saturday.) Saturday was a busy, busy day from the moment I woke up. (Can I add here that I wake up to my ipod-- I have one of those nifty ipod radio thingys that you can use as an alarm and I wake up to my favorite song "Bloody Nose" by Earlimart. It makes getting up more fun when your favorite tune is playing.)

For those of you who read my Facebook page, I DID get up at 4:30am (well, it was probably more like 4:45am by the time I stopped hitting snooze...) I ran on the treadmill. It was awesome. I have to say that it really changes why I do things when I put them in the right terms. Running at 4:45am for example. Anyone else would say this is insane (and it very well might be). And when the alarm goes off playing my favorite song, sometimes I just want to shut it off and sleep for another hour. But then I think to my Self, "I am running for Christi." And suddenly, it's nothing at all to get up at 4:45am. Because Christi is there with me and that makes all the difference.

After my run, I got ready for another day at work. (For those of you who may not know, I work for a small academic and social service nonprofit in NYC called the GO Project. During the school year, we run programming on Saturdays-- thus the going to work part. I put together a small bagel and coffee breakfast to thank our volunteer tutors for all of their hard work this year. And, despite the early hour it was a lot of fun getting to talk to them about fun things like Celia Rivenbark (if you have not read her work, you MUST. Her weekly humor column is the best start to my Monday), magazines, living in NYC (Shayla and Angela, we did not talk about the financial part of it, just who lives where.) Jennifer, we also talked about North Carolina because it turns out one of our volunteers is originally from there. And, OF COURSE, I had to be a complete dork and mention OTH. Duh.

After work, I went to donate platelets at MSKCC. I love donating platelets there. When they let me. See, I have this thing with my iron being horrible. (Your iron level needs to be 12.5 in order to be eligible for donation. I can't tell you how many times they've had to tell me I can't donate. If there were an award for most deferred donor, I would totally win. Every year. I am anything if not persistent.) Being a vegetarian-- or quasi as I say, since I do on very rare occasions eat meat and I still eat fish, it's been a little tricky keeping my iron and especially my B12 levels up. But, I am trying. It's a good thing I like broccoli and broccoli rabe and spinach so much! (Popeye would be proud.) Anyway, back to my platelet story. As Angela, can attest, my last donation did not go well. At. All. Basically, I moved my arm and the needle in my arm did something funky and the blood was no longer going where it needed to but pooling in my arm. Gross. Needless to say, I passed out. Embarrassing. So, given my last visit to the MSKCC donor room, I was a little (or a lot) nervous. Fortunately, my iron level just made it coming in at 12.5 and it all went rather well from there.

From the MSKCC donor room, I went up to the pediatric inpatient unit to visit Ylaria. It made my day to see her. She was up and walking with her walker for the first time in nearly a month. She was happy and chatty. She even read one of her school books to me (She is four and reading, how amazing is that?!?!). We watched some Disney movies (Aladdin and Beauty and the Beast. Beauty and the Beast is my favorite solely for the library. I adore that library.) I chatted with Belen, Ylaria's mom. I spent a great 5 hours with them. It was the best way to end my Saturday.

People have asked me why I do "this" (whatever "this" is). Why I visit Ylaria now that the prognosis is so bleak. And my answer is this: They are my family. I've known them since 2007 when they first arrived in NYC shortly after Ylaria was diagnosed. I can't leave now. I won't leave now. You don't get to pick and choose the people you fall in love with. The people that come into your lives. It just happens. They just do. God works magic and your paths cross. Our paths crossed and I've embraced the magic.

If you're reading this, I hope you had an amazing weekend. I hope you filled it with verbs and love and magic. Those are the best days. I know because I've lived them.

(Ylaria with her book. No wonder we're such great friends!)

Friday, April 16, 2010

Kids Cancer Crusade: Get Inspired

I took a Kids Cancer Crusade care package to Ylaria yesterday. After a day of tough therapy and feeling "yucky" it really brought a smile to her face. She looooved opening all of the gifts and deciding which were for her and which she would share with her sisters. It was amazing to see what a little love in a box could do to brighten her spirits. Are you looking for a way to make a sick child smile? Visit for more information!

I am in the process of putting together some exciting projects to support Kids Cancer Crusade. Once I have more information, I promise to share. :o)

For now, I leave you with some pictures. Jennifer, thank you so much for all that you do. You've brightened so many dark days with your love.

Thursday, April 15, 2010

Lanyards (& Manyards)

So, if you've been following this blog at all lately, you know that I've been a little down (or a lot). But as with most things, what goes down must, at some point, come up. (At least that's my view and I am sticking to it.) I'm on my way up.

I can let myself feel the sadness, but at some point, I have to pick myself back up, dry the tears and DO something. As Vickie would put it, I have to verb. What brought on this need for action, you ask?

It started on Friday. I was sitting in my basement watching TV (and possibly eating chocolate) when my mom came down and said, "Olivia, can I ask you about Erin and her lanyards? I think it would be a great project for my student council." It took me a minute. A long minute. "Erin? How did you hear about her and her lanyards?" I asked. And she replied that she had been on my blog and seen the links on the side and decided to click on Erin's link. I was awed. (I had never talked to my mom about Erin.) I looked at my mom and I said, "That is so strange! Today is exactly one year since Erin passed away and you just happened to be on my blog and to click on her site and read about the Lanyard project." And we both stood there and I swear Erin was in that basement with us. And I couldn't help but smile and laugh. It seemed so very "Erin". I was down and she pushed me back up. It was her own special way of saying, "You need to VERB."

I can be mad at neuroblastoma and pediatric cancer in general. I can be sad at the little lives that are lost and the families that are left hurting. I can allow myself to feel that; it's impossible not to. But in the end, I need to verb. I need to act. Because after all, it is through actions that more awareness will be gained, more funds will be raised, and more lives will be saved.

So, this weekend I'll be making my own lanyards. Vickie, I am going to be starting my own Odd Friday Lanyard group. (Even if it is only one person strong.) If you're reading this in the NYC area and you want to join me, please let me know.

Erin and Christi and Sydney and Ylaria and oh so many, many more deserve to have the world know. It's time to act. To verb. There is no more time to wait.

Thursday, April 8, 2010

Thank you.

I wanted to send a quick thank you to all of you who have contacted me lately, sent messages to Ylaria and her family, sent prayers, positive thoughts and love of all kinds. It means so much, so very much.

Some of you have kindly listened as I've cried rivers of tears. You've let me cry, let me text you at 1am, understood when I told you I can't talk about it and that I can't let you hug me because I just cry more. I am sorry I haven't responded to your emails and messages yet. It's been a really rocky two days for me. But I'm doing better today. I was finally able to get some sleep last night which has helped.

Thank you for the love, for the space, for the kind words and for all of the hope you've given me. I'd be so very lost without you.

Thank you.

I love you,

Monday, April 5, 2010

There are no words for this.

This isn't going to be a happy post today. I can't apologize for that. My friend, Ylaria, has been given 2 months to live and I have to be honest, the news has broken me a little. Not completely, but enough.

I am not new to the cancer world. I am not naive to the statistics. I knew she wasn't doing well, but when I heard the news today, I fell apart. Completely. After a good cry, I picked myself back up, but it's been hard. I've been trying to sleep and I can't. So I'm writing. I can't promise this will make sense, but writing helps. So, here I am.

I'm not even sure what to write about.

What can I say?

There's nothing to say.

I could try to tell you what Ylaria means to me. She's my sunshine, my little best friend, my Dora band aid buddy. You can't put a person into words and do them justice. Ylaria is so many things. Words don't exist for all that she is. All that she means to me. Can you picture a world without sunshine? I can't. And today, someone told me a piece of light would be leaving soon.

So, I'm a little broken. A little lost. But, I am hanging on. Because tomorrow I'm going to visit Ylaria and even though she can no longer walk, she has life like few I know. She'll bring the giggles and I'll bring the band aids. The darkness won't be here very long. Ylaria is the sunshine, after all.

I love you,

PS- Please leave a message of support for Ylaria and her family, if you can. They could use the love.

Wednesday, March 31, 2010

On Hope.

It's been a difficult few weeks for me. To be honest, it's been a difficult month. March is never without its emotional moments and Ylaria and Kayla's recent news has really hit me hard. Kids Cancer Crusade has gained one too many angels as well. It's been hard.

I am not without hope. I believe in miracles. But my hope has been harder to find these days. And today, as I was sitting here trying to summon up my hope and stop the sadness, I remembered sweet Shayla's words. "Easter is about HOPE and Easter is coming." Such wise words. So very true. And, so very comforting.

Deep breath. Easter is almost here.

Monday, March 29, 2010

[insert clever title here]

So, I was supposed to be updating more regularly, but clearly, that has not been the case.

For those of you wondering, my sugar-free test was an EPIC FAIL. *Sigh*. What have I learned? It's a lot easier to give up sugar in theory. (If you've tried it and been successful please let me know!) I'll keep trying, though. And I'll keep you posted.

This last week has been an up and down one for me. I've had some good days and some great moments but I've also had my share of downers. I'll be ok. I keep reminding myself that I just need to breathe. To breathe and let go and breathe again and I'll be ok. It will all be ok.

I took this week off from work so I'll be at home, puttering around because the weather is miserable and it's not conducive for anything really.

I'm waiting for March to end. April will be better, right?

C, we need to talk soon. I miss our chats.

Monday, March 22, 2010

Where in the World

My friend, C., posted this question on her blog and I love it so I thought I would post it here too. I would love to hear your answers!

If you could choose to be born again as a citizen of any country in the world, which country would you choose, and why?

My answer should be obvious. I would want to have been born in Northern Ireland. I think it would have been fascinating to have lived in Northern Ireland during that time. Belfast, obviously. And then I would also have the benefit of EU citizenship (well, I technically have that already with my Spanish passport). And to boot, I would also have an amaaaaaaaazing accent.

I'd still want my parents to be where they are from (Spain and Cuba) but I would have loved to have been born in Belfast. And yes, I've actually thought this out before.

Your turn!

Friday, March 19, 2010

Food Matters

I've been doing a lot of healthy-eating reading lately. What have I read? Well, it started with Skinny Bitch, then I progressed onto Food Matters and now I am in the middle of the Omnivore's Dilemma.

This reading has really made me think about what I eat, where my food comes from, what I can do to be better to my body and the environment.

I also realized just how addicted I am to sugar. I eat it. A. lot.

So, I'm giving it up for a bit. I'm on a challenge to eat as naturally as possible. (Which, I am beginning to realize is much more difficult than one would think!)

Posting it here, will mean: 1. I am accountable to you on this new "endeavor" and 2. I'll be writing on a more regular basis! :p

But, in all seriousness. I would highly recommend these books. It's important to know what we're eating. (And what the government agencies aren't telling us.) And if you only have time for one of these books, I'd nominate Food Matters. It's shorter than Omnivore's Dilemma but gives the same information.

It'll be a challenge, I'm sure but I'm up for it. :o)

Thursday, March 11, 2010


My sister asked me last night to update my blog. She claims people actually want to read about me and my happenings on a more regular basis. I am not entirely sure that I believe her, but her request did make me think about what I would choose to write about when I posted my next entry. And, I decided that I could really only write about one thing. Kayla.

I was first introduced to Kayla through Christi and Kids Cancer Crusade. Kayla is an amazing young girl from Tiffin, OH. She was diagnosed with a DIPG brain tumor in the summer of 2005 when she was only 5 years old. At the time, doctors gave her a 10% chance of surviving 9 months. Through faith and grace, Kayla thrived for 4 1/2 years, largely symptom free. In January, Kayla's condition worsened and it was discovered that another tumor is growing. She is once again in the fight for her life.

I was fortunate enough to meet Kayla and her family when I was in Ohio for a friend's wedding in July 2007. They are truly inspirational and their friendship has meant so much to me through the years. If you have a moment today, please visit Kayla's site and let her family know they are not alone.

Kayla, I am thinking of and praying for you. You are a light for so many. May you feel the warmth of our love for you now.

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

North Carolina Love

I was in North Carolina this weekend. I love North Carolina. Love. And you should too. Here are my top 5 reasons why North Carolina is amazing.

1. My friends. I have amazing friends. While in Durham, I got the chance to catch up with some good friends from Dartmouth (Thanks, Kim, Katie, Krystal and Carolina!) It was so nice to be able to spend so much time with such special people who know how to make me laugh and who make everything from car rides to science museums more fun simply by being there to share them. I also got to spend time with some new friends as well. I "met" Kristen, over at One Safe Place for the first time in person last Friday. I started following her blog when I saw it on Jennifer's blog list and I was hooked. Kristen is one of those people that actually lives the words "be the change you want to see in the world". She introduced me to Learning to Love You More, a website with fun, interesting and, at times, deeply personal projects that help you to discover more about your Self. So, here's my first gift to you from North Carolina: One Safe Place. Visit, if you can, I promise you'll be inspired. (OSP counts because Kristen is currently residing in NC).

2. Southern Gothic Productions (aka SoGoPro). For those of you who don't know, SoGoPro is Hilarie Burton's production company that is "devoted to the mastery of storytelling" (particularly promoting the arts in North Carolina). I love SoGoPro because it is a company so dedicated to its audience. It's new and fun and full of life. And the blogs (and vlogs) always make me laugh. And I love to laugh. I've gone into more depth on SoGoPro in a previous post, so I don't want to repeat too much here. Follow SoGoPro's journey. I promise it's worth it.

3. Celia Rivenbark. Celia Rivenbark is a writer and columnist who lives in Wilmington. I was first introduced to her through SoGoPro's book club (yet, another reason to heed my advice in point 2). In one vlog, Hilarie read an excerpt from her newest book You Can't Drink All Day if You Don't Start in the Morning and from the moment I heard it, I knew I had to have this book. I promise you that it's as funny as the vlog promises. As you may know, I love reading on my commute to work (all lovely 1.5 hours) but I had to stop reading this one because the first time I tried, I was laughing so hard that I was shaking. And in NYC, this is generally considered a sign of mental instability. The day I sprained my back and was in so much pain I could not sit up on my own, let alone stand or walk, I read this book in the ER and was still laughing out loud. (To the point where my mom suggested I stop lest the doctors think I wasn't in need of attention and keep me waiting.) In the airport, I stopped into one of the bookstores (surprise, surprise) and purchased another one of her books because I wanted a good laugh and because I felt that it was the most appropriate NC souvenir for me to take home. Bless Your Heart, Tramp is another favorite. I am now also following her weekly column (conveniently posted on her website). You must, must, must read some of her work. I promise, you'll love it and laugh a whole lot too.

4. Foster's. For my first meal in Durham, my friend Kim took me to Foster's Market for lunch. If you are ever in the area, you must go. Foster's has great food and the people are super friendly. They have tons of outdoor seating which my friend and I enjoyed immensely.

5. One Tree Hill. (Yes, Jennifer, I had to add it to my list.) The last reason I will share for loving North Carolina is because I am addicted to OTH. (Though, in my defense, my addiction has improved dramatically since last season.) OTH is filmed in Wilmington. And while I didn't actually get to visit the town or see any of the show's actors (though I really did look!), watching OTH makes me remember how beautiful North Carolina is. So, here's my last tip for today: watch One Tree Hill. As Jennifer and I can attest, it makes Mondays better. And the music is awesome.

So, there we have it. Loads of reasons to love North Carolina. Now you know to not be surprised if I ever tell you I'm moving there.

Thursday, February 4, 2010


So, as many of you know, I have been working on making this year a powerful one for myself. I didn't expect to wake up on January 1st to the sounds of trumpets and butterflies. I didn't expect to wake up every morning ready to conquer the world. If it were that easy, it wouldn't be such a struggle. It's a work in progress. And, I'm making progress.

I have come to realize, rather recently, that the power I want is the power to be happy. And, even more recently, I realized that happiness is really just about being grateful. It's about being grateful for waking up, and beautiful skies and nerdy books and amazing family and wonderful friends. I am rarely conscious of how grateful I am. As a friend shared, "If your just replace the word "happy" with "grateful"..., it can really make a difference. 'I'm grateful to see you!','I'm grateful to be here!', Or how about simply 'I'm grateful.'" Words of wisdom. Gratefulness. It brings everything into perspective. Another friend of mine and I have begun a mini gratefulness project. We text each other daily and share three things for which we are grateful. I have been grateful to everything from my mom, to my sisters, to my friends, to my books to my warm bed to my plans to my healing.

The other day, a friend of mine shared this link with me: and I fell in love with gratefulness. Head over heels. Please take a moment to listen to it. I try to listen to this in the morning. It's a reminder of how I need to be grateful for waking up. For the sky. For the moment.

So, today, I want you to know that I am grateful for you. So very grateful.

Sunday, January 10, 2010

The Last Lecture

I read The Last Lecture. It's an inspiring read. If you haven't had the chance to read it yet, I recommend it.

At one point, the author, Randy Pausch, shares the following quote which I thought was so beautiful, I simply had to share it.

I heard from a man...He wrote to tell me about Krishnamurti, a spiritual leader in India who died in 1986. Krishnamurti was once asked what is the most appropriate thing to say to a friend who was about to die. He answered: "Tell your friend that in his death, a part of you dies and goes with him. Wherever he goes, you also go. He will not be alone."

The words were such a comfort to me. That pieces of my Self and my Heart are with those that I love. They never really leave us. And we, never really leave them.