Monday, February 28, 2011

Photo Project Day #30

Day #30: A picture of someone you miss.

"It's hard when you miss people. But you know, if you miss them it means you're lucky. It means you had someone special in your life. Someone worth missing." ~OTH

Today's theme couldn't have come at a better time. I have been missing a lot of people lately. Some were away on vacation and are back now (or on their way back.) It's such a good feeling-- when you can miss someone but know that you'll meet again soon. It's a comfort that isn't always possible.

Sometimes you miss people and they don't come back. And your heart hurts from missing them so much for so long. The empty spaces these souls leave behind when they fly away will always be there-- reminders, both painful and gentle, of the love and the laughter and the moments shared together.

It's really impossible to list just one person I miss. With March 1st so very close, I miss Manny more than ever. I miss Dorita when I think of her laughter and the way she would scrunch up her nose. When I remember Sunday afternoon lunches from my childhood, I miss Titi and Duche. When I smell toast or think of how much I loved to hold his hand, I miss Abuelo. I miss Christi with every Christi run and trip to the bookstore. I miss Kayla when I remember the day we met and how her faith always inspired me. When I bead or choose a new verb, I miss Erin.
I miss so many people.

But today, I think most of all, I miss Ylaria. It started out small, this new wave of missing her. I injured my foot yesterday and needed band aids, so (of course) I put on some Dora band aids. Carefully and precisely, just like Ylaria would have. I thought of how these were different Dora band aid designs from the ones I had always bought for her and it bothered me. It's stupid, I know, but it made me sad to think that I couldn't bring her these new band aids and share them with her. Personally, I like the old ones better. I wonder what Ylaria would think.

Then, late last night, I couldn't sleep. It was 11pm and then 12:15am and then 2am. No sleep. And, for some reason, I thought of this picture of Ylaria and how much I love it. I thought of how I miss her. I miss her amazing wit and the way she would look at me when she thought I was being ridiculous. I miss the sound of her voice and her contagious laughter. I miss her strong hugs and the feeling of her hand in mine.

And then, I thought of all the things I did with her in mind-- walking to the Ronald McDonald House, going into CVS for band aids or pretzels or anything she might like, booking a flight to Vermont for the weekend, listening to songs on my ipod I had heard her sing along to, writing "YLARIA" in my planner when Belen would tell me the dates they would be in NYC. The list is endless. Ylaria became so much a part of my life in our short time together; there are so many empty spaces now that she is not here.

I know she is in a better place now with Manny and Christi and Kayla and Erin. But I am selfish. (Is it ok to admit that?) I wish she was still here. I miss having Ylaria with me in the world.

Sunday, February 27, 2011

Photo Project Day #29

Day #29: A picture that can always make you smile.

I love this picture. Absolutely love it, and it always makes me smile.

In this picture, I am hugging my cousin/big sister, Sonia. Sonia has always been there for me. Always. When we were younger, we'd play "house" together and she was always my "mom" and I was always her "daughter". After a sleepover, I would cry when she had to go home. Goodbyes have always been hard for me, I guess-- even if I knew they were only for a little while. Sonia was the first person I called when Ylaria relapsed in March of 2009. She let me cry; it's not often you can find someone you can really cry with and still feel safe. Within hours of speaking to her, Sonia called me back to see if we could do something for Ylaria and her family. In less than a day, Sonia, Aly and I had organized a fundraiser. I went from feeling helpless to hopeful. I am so very fortunate to have Sonia in my life. She's always there to give a hug whenever I need it most.

I love hugs. The really strong kind that make you feel so incredibly loved and special and safe and happy. It's the kind of hug I am sharing in this picture. People have told me I give really good hugs. My "Olivia hugs" started years ago, right around the time my brother was diagnosed. I remember one time, shortly before Manny went in for his transplant-- the last hug I ever remember giving him-- Manny was walking through the dining room into the kitchen and I was walking from the kitchen through the dining room. I am not sure why I did it,I don't think I had a reason beyond just wanting to give him a hug, but, I stopped as he was passing me and gave him a huge, long, strong hug. He laughed and hugged me back and said: "You're going to have to hug me really hard for all those times you're going to miss." At the time, we both knew he meant that I wouldn't be seeing him for a long time because he was going in for his bone marrow transplant and I wouldn't be able to visit him for a while. Now, those words have taken on so much more meaning. My brother died shortly after his transplant. I never did get to hug him again. You never realize how much those small moments mean until you lose them entirely. It's been nearly 16 years since Manny died and I would give anything to hug him just one more time.

Now I can only hug him in my dreams. A few years ago, I had such a dream. It was brief, but Manny was there. When I saw him, I ran up to him and hugged him, just like I used to. And, he hugged me back. I can't remember what we said, if we said anything at all, but I remember the hug. And, I remember thinking that despite all of the time that had passed without him living in the world with me, our love was still in the same. It was such a comfort to know, even through just a dream, that death could only take so much. Love (and hugs) were beyond its grasp. I woke up still feeling his hug.

And on days, like today, where I miss him so much the tears come, I remember that dream and that hug, and I feel comforted again.

Saturday, February 26, 2011

Photo Project Day #28

Day #28: A picture of something you're afraid of.

I am having some trouble sleeping tonight so I thought I would spend some time posting the picture for today. This was another tough one because what I am most afraid of can't be depicted in a picture, really.

I'm most afraid of failure. In every aspect of my life.

My self-doubts have always done a good job of holding me back at things. I have managed to overcome some of them with time and patience and some degree of self-love, but it's an endless battle-- trying to figure out what my "purpose" is and if I am doing it right, (And, what, exactly, is "right" anyway?)

I'm afraid of failing at my own life, which seems pretty impossible, now that I put these thoughts on paper (so to speak). I mean, it's my life. Whatever I chose to do with the minutes and moments I am given, however many they are, they are all mine. I need to embrace this reality. It's a tremendous responsibility-- this living thing. At least living with dignity and honesty and courage and faith and love and fullness. It's a tremendous responsibility to live the life I dream for myself, the life that I verb for myself.

But this fear, if it can be called a fear, is what keeps me going. It keeps me questioning myself and my choices. I am slowly learning to work through it and not against it. Life is, after all, a work in progress. And for those fortunate enough, we get to wake up in the morning and give it all another shot. What a gift.

Friday, February 25, 2011

Photo Project Day #27

Day #27: A picture of yourself and a family member.

Ana is one of my sisters-- and one of my best friends. She is the younger sister who taught me how to walk-- really. She is always there to remember Manny with me; she reminds me most of him. And, she was there last year in Grixo, when we went to get our signature beverage. Who could ask for a better sister or a better friend??

And, Ana, you need to come to Grixo again this summer....

Thursday, February 24, 2011

Photo Project Day #26

Day #26: A picture of something that means a lot to you.

Kids Cancer Crusade is an organization that means a lot to me. More than I could ever really put into words. And, Jennifer, it's founder, is one of my dearest friends.

KCC is an amazing example of the power one person can have to bring beauty, joy and love into this world. Jennifer does just that through her work with Kids Cancer Crusade.

I love Kids Cancer Crusade. I love how KCC honors Christi's amazing spirit. I love how the care packages, so thoughtfully put together, can bring the biggest smile to a child's face. Ylaria had such a smile when I brought her KCC package-- she just loved it. I love how KCC remembers the children who have earned their angel wings. Manny is one of their honorary angels. It's such a comfort to know others remember him too, and that they honor his legacy.

Kids Cancer Crusade brings families together in their darkest hour so that they know they are not alone. It's a light of hope when we might feel most hopeless. Through the work of Kids Cancer Crusade, Manny and Christi and Sydney and Ylaria and Erin and Kayla and Ty will never be forgotten. There is no greater gift to the grieving heart than this-- knowing that those we miss most and hold dearest live on in love and hope and joy.

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Photo Project Day #25

Day #25: A picture of your day.

This picture was not taken today and it was not taken in New York but it's a picture of one of my favorite days--- and one of my favorite ways to start the day.

I was going out for a Christi run one morning in Spain this past summer. And as I was leaving, I noticed the sunrise, so I had to run back into the house, grab my camera and snap this picture.

My morning Christi run. A beautiful sunrise sky. Relaxing time in Spain with the family. There's no better way to spend my day.

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Photo Project Day #24

Day #24: A picture of something you wish you could change.

I wish I could make everyone see that love is love. Love is what the world needs more of-- not hate and ignorance. Just love.

Monday, February 21, 2011

Photo Project Day #23

Day #23: A picture of your favorite book.

This one was easy. If you know me, you know I love reading. Reading is an essential part of m life-- almost as essential as breathing. I love books. Lots of books. Yet, despite my complete inability to walk into a bookstore or a library without hyperventilating, I have a favorite book.

Pride & Prejudice wins. Hands down. I read it at least once a year, after all. And every year, I fall in love all over again. Every year Mrs. Bennet makes me laugh, Wickham makes me want to scream, and Elizabeth makes me appreciate the art of wit. Every year, I wait anxiously for the moment when Elizabeth arrives at Pemberley.

I want to be Elizabeth Bennet (and not only because she ends up with the dashing Mr. Darcy, though that is certainly a perk.) Elizabeth Bennet is my literary hero for her strength and intelligence and wittiness. A woman who won't conform to society's "standards"; I love it!

What's your favorite book?

Sunday, February 20, 2011

Photo Project Day #22

Day #22: A picture of something you wish you were better at.

I was trying to figure out what picture would best illustrate what I wish I were better at and, last night, as I was visiting Vickie's blog, I remembered this picture of Erin. I love this picture; it's one of my favorites. And, in the world of pictures, I would say it's one of the best. Ever.

Now, you might be wondering, why I chose this picture for today's theme. (No, I don't want to be better at cannonballing into the water.) For you to understand why I chose this picture, you need to know Erin. Erin lived her life in verbs. She read. She laughed. She played. She loved. She verbed.

I wish I were better at verbing.

I do things but I spend way too much time thinking them over, before, during and after. I am cautious and careful and thoughtful. All good things, I know, but these adjectives can also hold me back. They prevent me from taking risks and cannonballing into my own life.

So, I dedicate today's entry to Erin. Who continually inspires me to live. And, to verb. Every single day.

Saturday, February 19, 2011

Photo Project Day #21

Day #21: A picture of something you wish you could forget.

I don't want to forget anything. However horrible, or sad or painful or ridiculous or whatever the moment was, it is part of what shaped who I am today. I have learned from the mistakes, been made humble by the failures and given too much of myself in my living. Forgetting would be giving up a part of my Self. I have only recently started really loving me. I'll keep all of the pieces, big and small, that make me who I am. Thanks.

Friday, February 18, 2011

Photo Project Day #20

Day #20: A picture of somewhere you'd love to travel.

Today's photo had to go to my favorite place. Ever. Belfast. I know I have been there before and that I should be able to think of somewhere more exotic or exciting or whatever. And all I can say is that in my book, Belfast will win. Every. Single. Time. (With the exception of Tebra during Grixo.)

This picture is of the Linen Hall Library in Belfast. Because in my favorite city ever, it's my favorite building ever.

Can I please go back now?

Thursday, February 17, 2011

Photo Project Day #19

Day #19: A picture and a letter. (I wrote this letter a few weeks ago, but it'll work for today's theme, I think.)

Dear Ylaria,

I was thinking about you a lot last night. Well, to be honest, I think about you all of the time, most especially at night when I'm trying to fall asleep. It's so quiet at night that it's easier to hear my hear
t. I think this must be why. Because you live in my heart and I can hear you when I'm still and quiet and waiting for the dreams to come.

I was missing you so much. I talked to your mom and it helped. A lot. Your mom is awesome like that, but you know that-- you had to learn your magic from someone, after all.

That's when it happened. When I heard you. Really heard you. It's when I realized that it was ok to be sad and to miss you and to cry. It's ok to have my feelings as long as I use those feelings to live my life like you would want me to. I can't just be sad. How can I share you with the world if all I am is sad?

You were-- you are--my sunshine. My life needs to be full of sunshine so that when people meet me they see joy, and when they see joy, they see you. And when they ask why I use Dora band aids or why I wear pink with yellow or why I see the rainbow in the clouds, I can tell them that my little best friend taught me about sunshine. You were a great teacher. (And we both know you were smarter than me-- duh.)

So, thank you. I promise to keep my heart open to more of your messages.

I love you,

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Photo Project Day #18

Day #18: A picture of your biggest insecurity.

Since I started this project 18 days ago, I have gotten really into it. Can you tell? Today's theme is one I have been dealing with forever, really. But I have to start off with saying that this post is not going to be sad or pitiful or anything negative. It's going to be honest.

I have cerebral palsy. I have always been terribly self-conscious about my legs and about the way I walk. I had thought about running for several years but didn't have the courage to try it because I was so afraid of what people would think when they saw me run and they saw how my leg turned in and they saw how slow I was. (I can be a real master at the negative mind games.)

Then, in July 2005, I had a revelation. I realized that it didn't matter what anyone thought. I remember thinking to myself that no one would notice me running and if they did, they'd never remember anyway. I was "safe". I wanted to run and I was going to do it. I have been running ever since. I absolutely love it.

It was because of Christi that I took the biggest "risk" in running. I wanted to do something to honor her memory and so I signed up for my first race in December 2007 to raise money for the Christi Thomas Memorial Fund and Kids Cancer Crusade. I was so worried that 1. I wouldn't be able to finish 2. I would fall and 3. everyone would stare at me. I took a deep breath and pictured Christi by my side throughout that first race. It made such a difference. And guess what? I did finish (with great time!), 2. I didn't fall, and 3. no one stared. I now run annual Christi Thomas Memorial races and when I wake up at 4:30am for my regular "Christi run" (as I call my morning run), I still picture Christi running next to me. It still makes all the difference.

And that's the funny thing about my biggest insecurity. It's become a source of strength for me. And while I can still, at times, feel self-conscious about my limp, running has helped me love my legs. They are what get me to the finish line, after all.

(This picture is from the First Annual Christi Thomas Memorial Run, December 2007.)

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Photo Project Day #17

Day #17: A picture of something that has made a huge impact on your life recently.

When Jennifer first sent me this Photo Project info and saw the theme for Day #17, my heart literally sighed and I thought: Ylaria.

I met Ylaria on November 10, 2007. Yes, I remember the date exactly. It was my first night ever volunteering at the Ronald McDonald House in NYC. The group I was volunteering with had prepared dinner and some of us were walking around and chatting with the families. At one point, I walked over to Gino and introduced myself. He introduced himself and said "and this is Ylaria". At which point, I, like any other sane person would, said (in a louder voice than I should have, but it's me we're talking about. Normal has never been my style.): "Ylaria!?!?!??! I was on your caringbridge site!" I can say with a fair amount of confidence that they both at that moment most likely thought I was insane, and getting to know me more could really only confirm that, but they loved me in spite of (or perhaps because of) my little bit of crazy.

Whenever Ylaria was in NYC, I would run to the RMH after work and we would spend hours playing together. We did anything she wanted: watched movies, did arts and crafts, played in the pretend kitchen, read books. I always brought band aids. She'd always cover my hands in them. I would leave them on until I got home. I can't even begin to imagine what people thought when they saw me walking through Manhattan with my hands (and sometimes arms) covered in colorful Dora band aids, but I never cared. I'd get home and place a few of the band aids on objects throughout my room. They are still there.

Once, Gino got tickets to a Yankee game and at the very last minute Ylaria refused to go. She would have none of it and she quite frankly couldn't have cared less who the Yankees were. So, I offered to stay with her at the RMH while Gino went to the game. We played hide and seek in the room, played with play-doh, and just generally had fun. Everything was going so well.

And then, it happened.

To this day, I still can't remember what I did, but whatever I did, it was NOT good. At. All. And, Ylaria made sure I knew it. I was quickly put on a time-out. Literally. I sat in a corner on the floor with Ylaria giving me a stern look, shaking her finger saying : "No talking." I said: "OK" and laughed. (Cut me some slack, it was funny.) She got even more serious and said: "No laughing." At which point I, again, said, "OK" and laughed even harder. It went on like this for a while. With Ylaria saying "No laughing", "No talking" and me just agreeing and cracking up until there were tears falling down my face. Eventually, Ylaria gave up and let me go. Just like that. I was no longer in time-out and we went back to playing with play-doh or watching whatever show was on Nick Jr. This memory still makes me laugh. This is how it always was between us. Ylaria ran the show and I was her trusty (err...ridiculous...) sidekick. I wouldn't have it any other way.

I can honestly say that I loved Ylaria from the very beginning. I loved everything about her. I loved her laugh. You couldn't help laughing with her because it was just contagious. I loved how she would jump up and down when she got excited and how she just wanted to share that excitement with you. I loved how when she was younger, she would call me "blah blah" because she couldn't pronounce my name. I loved how she would concentrate with so much intensity when she was working on a project and how she would love to read together with me. I loved how she would knock me over with the strength of her hugs. I loved how she would always make sure I was coming back to see her the next day when I left the RMH for the night. And, that I would remember to bring more band aids, of course.

To say Ylaria had a huge impact on my life is an understatement. She is part of so much of what I do and who I am that it's impossible to remember my life without her in it. I miss my little best friend. So very, very much. Ylaria, thank you for all of these memories and the many, many more that I hold in my heart. I love you.

Monday, February 14, 2011

Photo Project Day #16

Day #16: A picture of someone who inspires you.

There are a lot of people who inspire me: Ylaria, Christi, Kayla, Erin. And so many more. But if I had to pick one of my inspirations to share with you today, it would have to be my brother Manny. It is through Manny, after all, that I met Ylaria and Christi and Kayla and Erin. It is because of him that I care so deeply about pediatric cancer and want to raise awareness for this important cause. It is because of him that I take more time to tell everyone how much they mean to me whenever I can. I learned through Manny that you should never wait to tell someone that you love them. There's never enough time to tell someone how much they mean to you.

My brother was the first person to really show me how to be strong when you're feeling weak, how to appreciate every moment, how to fight until the very end. Manny was the first one to make me realize that your body can only get you so far-- it's your soul that houses your strength. Manny was the first one to point out how beautiful the crickets sound on a warm summer night. And, he was the first one to really make me understand that just because you die, it doesn't mean your life ends. It's why I look for him in the sky, and it's why I smell his scent when I am walking down the street, and it's why I still see him in my dreams. He's not gone at all.

If you heard his story, it would be easy to think he "lost" his battle to leukemia. But he didn't lose. He won. He didn't finish his work or his purpose. He's continuing it through the people that love him. The ones who wake up every day missing him and loving him and carrying his spirit into the world. He lives in me and in the love I share with him and for him and because of him.

Sunday, February 13, 2011

Photo Project Day #15

Day #15: A picture of something you want to do before you die.

Before I die, I want to drive cross-country with a car full of great friends. I haven't decided on an exact route yet, but I would definitely have to include a visit to Alaska. (And, if Jennifer were with me, a stop in Wilmington, NC). We would totally have to do nerdy historical stuff. And visit as many friends as possible along the way.

Anyone want to join? I promise to bake a lot of tasty treats for the journey. And to keep you entertained with my amazing sense of humor....

Saturday, February 12, 2011

Photo Project Day #14

Day #14: A picture of someone you could never imagine your life without.

Sara is my best in basically everything. She is one of my best sisters and one of my best friends.

Sara and I have shared just about everything together...we've lived together practically our entire lives, after all. The few times we weren't "dorm buddies", we'd still manage to keep in touch regularly. We'd write snail mails and emails when I was in Hanover and Dartmouth. The years that Sara dormed in Manhattan, we'd make sure to meet up on a regular basis for coffee or dinner or to walk through the Union Square Farmer's Market. I need a fairly regular does of "Sara time".

Sara really "gets" me like few people do. She puts up with me when I'm grumpy. She makes me laugh like no one else can. She comforts me when I am sad. She gives me space when I need to be alone. She understands that music is best when listened to at a very high volume and she is my favorite singing-in-the-car partner. Sara makes every moment better just by being a part of it. She's pretty amazing like that.

I've said it before and I'll say it again. Sara, my life would suck without you.

Friday, February 11, 2011

Photo Project Day #13

Day #13: A picture of your favorite band or artist.

I don't really have a favorite band. I go more for the song than the person singing it. And the song always depends on my mood. Right now I am listening to my "Spain mix" because yesterday's post has me missing Spain terribly.

But if I had to choose a group that came close to my favorite, it would be Snow Patrol. They are from Northern Ireland, after all.

Thursday, February 10, 2011

Photo Project Day #12

Day #12: A picture of something you love.

I love a lot of things. But, I'd have to say, my family tops the list. It should be clear by now from previous posts that my family is awesome, hilarious, fun, and-- in more cases than we care to admit-- completely out of control (in an awesome, hilarious and fun kind of way).

In thinking about what I really love about my family, I decided that I was going to focus on one of my very favorite-- it not my absolute favorite-- time with them: In Tebra, Spain. For Grixo.

What is Grixo, you ask? Good question!

Grixo (the x is pronounced like an "sh". It's Galician!) is (allegedly) a religious festival. Some time a really, really, really long time ago (it almost sounds like a fairy tale, huh?), it was said that the Virgin Mary appeared on this mountain (Grixo). So every year on a Sunday in August, the village my dad is from (Tebra) honors this event with a hike up to the mountain. Once there, we do what all good Spaniards do-- eat, drink, dance and raffle off things like whiskey, cigarettes and, as of last year, live chickens.

It's a lot of really crazy fun. (Just ask, Cristina! Or any of my other awesome family members for that matter.)

I've always been very proud of my Spanish heritage (yes, Belen, the conqueror heritage.) I love that I grew up speaking Spanish. I loved going to Spanish school for 10 years on Friday nights (Really, I did. I mean it was school, duh! Even if my sisters always copied my homework.) I love that I have dual citizenship (It came in handy for a certain eight-year period not so long ago, cough, cough.) I love that I have family in Spain that I keep in touch with regularly and that I get to visit often.

I mean, let's be honest, what's there not to love? What with our tasty food (yay pork!), our amazing wine (albarino is delicious!), our siesta time (naps are essential!), and our inherent belief that we have to honor historical and/or religious events with a combo of the aforementioned food, wine and siestas? I am proud of Grixo.

Today's picture was taken at last year's Grixo and is quite possibly the only time ever in my entire lifetime that my father has looked directly into a camera and smiled for a picture. Two of my sisters, Ana and Sara are also in the picture. My cousins Cristina and Silvia were at Grixo as was my mom. My sister Laura and cousin Sonia couldn't make it and were missed greatly.

So there you have this rather long love post. I love my family. I love Grixo. And I especially love celebrating Grixo with my family. I'm already saving up for this year's trip. And I can't wait!

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Photo Project Day #11

Day #11: A picture of something you hate.

I hate cancer. Childhood cancer specifically.

I hate it for Manny and for Ylaria and for Christi and for Kayla and for Erin and for Sydney and for Liam K. and for Samantha and for Whitney and for Mary and for Liam W. and for Morgan and for Jensen and for so many, many more. I hate childhood cancer for the hearts it has broken (and will continue to break), for the empty seats it has left at the dinner table (and will continue to leave), and for the families it has robbed of sons and daughters, brothers and sisters (and will continue to rob).

I hate how cancer makes children wise, and brave, and thoughtful, and generous beyond their years. And how it makes things "normal" that should never, ever be normal-- radiation, chemo, hospitals, needles. Children should not have to wish to go to school or to have hair or to feel well enough to run outside. It's simply not acceptable that 46 children are diagnosed every day and that 11 die-- every single day. It's just not acceptable.

I absolutely hate childhood cancer.

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Photo Project Day #10

Day # 10: A picture of the person you do the most messed up things with.

Please note, before I begin this post, that when I read "messed up" I think funny or ridiculous or a little crazy-- all mixed with lots of laughs and fun times and sisterly love.

This said, Day #10 goes out to my cousin/big sister, Cristina. (Cris, is on right in the picture.) I am sure Cristina, knows why. But just in case you're reading this and wonder why Cristina is my partner in all sorts of "messed up" adventures, let me share some of my favorite Cristina moments:

1. Cristina was the one who came up to me in Aeropostale that time a few years ago and said to me in Spanish: "Pero Olivia, que haces aqui?? Cuanto tiempo sin verte!" (Translation: Olivia, what are you doing here?? It's been so long since I've seen you!") while I was paying for socks. When the cashier heard this, he asked his Hispanic coworker to please translate for me that there was a sale going on for other socks. Cristina did her best to not burst out laughing on the spot and walked away. I was left to pretend that I couldn't speak English because I felt so awkward I couldn't think of another response. (Please don't ask why Cristina came up to me randomly and pretended we hadn't come to the mall together. That's not the point. At. all.) This memory cracks me UP. Every. Single. Time.

2. Cristina and I took a trip to London and Paris a few years after event #1. While in Paris we wanted to go see the Arc de Tripomphe. We could not find the underground passageway. (Again, please don't ask why.) So we, of course, assumed you could only get there by running across the round-about/traffic circle. Because it makes complete sense to risk your life and run across 4 lanes of ongoing, nonstop traffic to see the Arc de Triomphe. Clearly. (We found the underground passage later.)

3. After posting somewhere close to 100 family wedding pictures on FB last June, Cristina and I proceeded to spend more time than I care to admit, "LIKING" the overwhelming majority of them. Because it's what we do.

4. Cristina and I love to karaoke. (It doesn't matter that we're no good...we try and that's what counts!). On the same day as the event just mentioned, we decided to practice "Find Your Love" so that we could perform it for the family the next day as after-dinner entertainment. We're just classy like that. Hey, hey, hey.

5. And then there was that time years ago that we cleaned that apartment in Spain with the...ummm... animal carcass on the balcony. Cris, I publicly apologize for chickening out at the very, very, very last moment and dropping the garbage bag. In the future, I will be the one to sweep up the bones.

6. On the trip to London/Paris, Cristina was with me when we learned that Covent Garden is, in fact, NOT a garden....

7. While not alone in creating the Chrana sign (see picture above), Cristina was a critical member of the Chrana welcome committee in the Vigo (Spain) airport last August. We know how to welcome visitors in style. Even if it calls a ton of attention and makes the entire airport stare at us.

Cris and I have an amazing ability to make the most mundane tasks more exciting. Travel? I guarantee that even if you think you have a ton of time, you're going to be running through what seems like the entire airport at the last call moment. Hiking? You'll do a long one on some hot August day only to make it to the very top in heavy fog. The view is just awesome when you can't see it. That's what your imagination is for after all. Thanksgiving dinner? Never complete without a suckling pig that we take multiple pictures with. The list is endless really. It's amazing how much we can do without even trying.

Cris, thanks for the laughs. I can't wait to see you again soon so that we can continue our tradition of crazy.

Monday, February 7, 2011

Photo Project Day #9

Day # 9: A picture of the person who has gotten you through the most.

I have the best mom. In. The World.


My mom is one of my best friends. She's always been there for me. When I was little (and by little, I mean younger), she would put sweet notes in my lunch box. I still have them. When I would call her from Dartmouth crying hysterically because I was convinced I was going to fail all of my finals, she would remind me to breathe and that I was too much of a nerd to fail. When I was feeling homesick in New Hampshire or Belfast she'd send care packages full of cute cards, sweets, pictures and other essentials. More recently, she took care of me at midnight when I was so sick I couldn't move. She helps me up when I fall and is my very best cheerleader at all of my Christi runs. She held me while I cried rivers of tears for Ylaria. She's always there for me.

My mom is also just plain fun. Brunches, Sunday tapas (with albarino, of course), move nights, shopping, summer trips to Spain; they're all better with her there-- and funnier too. I think I got my sense of humor from her side of the family tree.

And today, when I saw that the photo project was about the person who has gotten me through the most, I could think of only one response. My mom has gotten me through life. She's been there through the baby years when someone needed to take care of me constantly. She has helped me through my cerebral palsy and making me realize that even though I have a disability, it's nothing to hold me back. She was the first one to show me that I am just like everyone else and I can do anything I set my mind to. She was the first person to tell me that I was beautiful and smart and good. She's taught me to believe in myself and my worth. Few people are as blessed to have someone like that in their lives. I am so lucky.

Sunday, February 6, 2011

Photo Project Day #8

Day #8: A picture that makes you laugh.

This picture makes me laugh. Every. Single. Time.

The story behind it?

After I graduated from Dartmouth, I spent a year in Belfast, Northern Ireland pursuing a Masters in Comparative Ethnic Conflict. It was, without a doubt, one of the very best experiences of my life. As many of you, I am sure, know by now Belfast is my favorite city. Living there, even if it was only for a year, was a dream come true.

While there, I not only got to study a subject area which I still find incredibly fascinating, I also met many amazing people who quickly became some of my dearest friends. One of these friends was Andrea. We lived on the same floor and I can honestly say I would have been very lonely if I had not had her as a floor-mate. We went food shopping together, cooked meals together, studied together, went to the movies together, and laughed together. A. Lot.

In January 2006, during a break in classes, we decided to go down to Dublin for a few days. For some reason I can't remember-- though I am pretty sure I was the one with the brilliant idea-- we went into one of those cheesy Irish souvenir shops to look around. And that's when I saw it: the leprechaun hat with bead attached. Being me, I just had to put it on. Then I called out to Andrea. She turned around, took one look at me, and we both lost it. Completely.

I love laughing like that. Sharing a ridiculous moment with a friend, laughing so hard you can't quite catch your breath. Andrea and I had quite a few of those moments throughout the year. Like the time I lost two umbrellas in two days (I never went anywhere without an umbrella in Belfast), or the time the security guard on the other side of town saw me and and asked about my morning runs (My running fan club started in Belfast), or the time we (and by we I mean-- I) labeled our food in the communal fridge with signs that said: "Eat and die" because we were sick of people eating our stuff. The list is endless.

And here we have the picture. I was laughing so much I was red-- and I'll bet not breathing. The picture is fuzzy because Andrea was laughing so hard, the camera was shaking. It's a one of a kind, really. All class. Just like us.

Saturday, February 5, 2011

Photo Project Day #7

Day #7: A picture of your most cherished item.

Today's photo project was a little challenging for me. It took me a while to think about what item I valued most. After some thought, I realized that my photos. I know this may not count as "one item", but I'm ok with cheating a little on this one.

I love the way photographs can help me remember a moment so clearly. They can make me laugh when I remember something funny or comfort me when I am missing someone I love. Photos bring some of my most cherished memories back to life. For all of these reasons and more, they are my most cherished item.

Friday, February 4, 2011

Photo Project Day #6

Day #6: A picture of a person you'd love to trade places with for a day.

If I could switch places with someone for a day, I would pick Shayla. I've said it before and I'll say it again-- I want to be like Shayla when I grow up. Some people ask, WWJD?, but I usually just think to myself-- what would Shayla do? You should try it; it's a huge help when you're stuck on a problem or trying to decide between several options.

Shayla is one of the kindest, most giving, compassionate, funniest and smartest people I know. I'd learn a lot by spending a day in her shoes. Plus, she's still in school and we all know that if I could live in a school (or library), I would. While I can guarantee that Shayla's life is more exciting than my own, by switching for a day, she'd get to see what it's like to live in NYC (and find that apartment overlooking Central Park that we're going to share one day).

So, Shayla, if you're up for the switch, just say the word!

Thursday, February 3, 2011

Photo Project Day #5

Day #5: A picture of your favorite memory.

If I had to pick my most favorite day ever, it would have to be this one-- Christmas Eve 1994. It was my brother's last Christmas with us. On his request, we decorated like crazy. You could see our house from about a block away it had so many lights on it. We picked the very best (and possibly biggest) tree in the lot-- everything had to be just right.

I don't remember everything exactly but I remember moments. And, I remember feelings. The house was full of family we loved. As always, we ate way too much and we laughed even more. My sisters, brother, cousins and I played up in the attic for hours-- possibly our standard "house" before running down at midnight to open the gifts. Dorita cut the turron and made jokes as she always did. We sang "Happy Birthday" to Abuelo at midnight. (I always thought it was so cool that my grandfather was born on Christmas Day.)

This memory is the reason why Christmas reminds me so much of Manny; he just loved it. And that last Christmas with him was so very special, even if we didn't know it then. It's the reason why Christmas lights (especially the colored kind) make me cry at least once each year. For these reasons and for all the others I could never put into words, December 24, 1994 is my most favorite memory.

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Photo Project Day #4

Day #4: A picture of your night.

So I don't have anything really exciting to share about my nights. Getting up at 4:30am, I'm usually in bed by 10pm. See, I told you-- nothing exciting. Most of my college friends will be shocked to know I love sleeping these days and really appreciate a good night's rest. So here we have it. My bed.

On the wall there's a Northern Ireland poster along with a framed photo of my brother and of my great-aunt Dorita. You also get a glimpse of the bear that I made with Ylaria on our Build-a-Bear trip a few years ago. (I thought he'd be good at demonstrating what it looks like to sleep.) I love that bear because I always think of that time with her when I see him. He's just another reminder that Ylaria really is everywhere.

Missing Ylaria

Below is part of a note I wrote to Belen. I am posting it here for me. This blog is really a diary of sorts for me and in years to come, I want to remember these moments with Ylaria.


I miss Ylaria so much. I miss the way she would knock me over with hugs when she'd see me; she always made me feel so very loved. Ylaria was wonderful with everyone that way. She made you feel so special.

This is selfish, I know, but I miss seeing her in New York. You'd tell me the dates she was going to be coming for treatment or scans and I would take out my planner and write a huge "YLARIA" across those days. It's how I made sure I got in as much "Ylaria time" as possible. I would leave work and race over to the Ronald as quickly as I could. We would do arts and crafts (she loooooved decorating pages with stickers) or play in the pretend kitchen where she'd cook me all of these super tasty (plastic) foods. Later, we'd eat dinner in the dining room and then go up to the room for more fun watching TV, playing hide and seek or decorating my hands with Dora band aids. When she was younger, she would get upset when I had to leave and she would make sure I was coming back the next day. Gino would try to tell her that I couldn't come every day and I would always say something like, "Don't worry, I'll be here. And I'll bring more band aids!". I am pretty sure I was more excited about those visits than she was, to be honest. She was such a good friend to me.

I miss how Ylaria would cover my hands in band aids. She would adjust any band aid that wasn't just right and make sure they were placed *exactly* the way she wanted them. I would leave the RMH with my hands literally covered in Dora band aids and I would keep most of them on for the 1.5 hour commute home. I am pretty sure people who saw me thought I was ridiculous but I never cared. It was like having a bit of Ylaria with me. I'd come home and the band aids that I could save, I would place on objects throughout my room. There are still quite a few left now-- little reminders of Ylaria to keep me company while I sleep.

I miss the way she would read to me. She loved reading and sharing her little books with me. She'd point to the appropriate pictures and make sure I was paying attention. If I was ever laughing or talking to you, she'd stop and get that serious face on and only continue when I was fully paying attention. She was the best teacher.

I miss how Ylaria would make me feel. I can't explain this part or put it into words really but there's a way she would make me feel when I was with her. There was a way my heart would feel after spending time with her. I would always feel happier and the night would seem more magical and the world would always seem more beautiful. I miss feeling that. I miss Ylaria.

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Photo Project Day #3

Day #3: A picture of the cast from your favorite show.

Ok, I don't really have a favorite TV show. What I watch depends on my mood.

And, if you know me at all, you know:
1. that I don't like OTH after season 6 (hence the picture),
2. that I watch it now for the music only (Despite it's ridiculous plot-- watch out for those bridges!-- I love the soundtrack.)
3. And even though I know (and acknowledge) that it's pretty horrible, I can't stop watching it.

Besides, since I am doing this little photo project with Jennifer, this seemed like the most appropriate choice for today.