Archive | August, 2012

My Big Anniversary

31 Aug

I love anniversaries. I especially enjoy marking a particular date in time because it allows me to think about and feel grateful for what has come around again. I don’t usually place too much emphasis on the actual celebration of anniversaries as I’m kind of an introvert and don’t care for the idea of being the center of attention at a huge party. That being said, I would never turn down a piece of cake (or two) when celebrating any anniversary, and I sincerely believe that the person responsible for choosing cake as the symbol for celebrations is a complete genius and all I have to say to that person is thank you very much.

The reason I got to thinking about anniversaries recently is because I’m coming up on a big one—no, it’s not my twenty-fifth wedding anniversary (did that in June), and no—it’s not my fiftieth birthday (did that in July) and no, it’s not even my seven year-old daughter, Isa’s five year anniversary of being cancer-free (did that in August, and by the way, hands down, it was the greatest anniversary I’ve ever celebrated in my life.)

The BIG anniversary that is coming up next week is that I’ve been blogging for an entire year.

Now, I know—you’re thinking: Whoop-de-do—BIG DEAL—everyone’s a blogger these days! Who cares?

And it’s true—throughout the past year I’ve read hundreds of blogs out there in cyber land and I’m sorely disappointed to report (pure jealously on my part) that there are many, many good—even great—writers out there, blogging regularly and making me laugh, making me cry, and even making me curse aloud and bang my fist on the desk (this is something I do frequently and is often very gratifying—I recommend it highly.)

What’s important about marking my one year blogging anniversary is that what I’ve experienced through blogging has changed me deeply. Through  the act of working through my ideas, writing them down, editing them, and then throwing them out there for you to read if you so have the inclination, I’ve learned a little bit more of who I am. As frightening as that’s been at times, it’s finally allowed me to learn to accept myself. In turn, it’s made it that much easier for me to let go of the hurts from my past. It’s just been damn good therapy! So thank you all for allowing me to be narcissistic and self-absorbed over the past year. I take full responsibility for my utter selfishness, and for this I apologize in earnest.

I’ve learned that blogging is all about connection with others. Through blogging, I’ve strengthened the relationships I have with my friends and family. I’ve reconnected with old friends, and even made new ones. I would’ve never imagined that I could form such a strong bond with a group of women writers from a Facebook group—and that after nurturing our cyber relationships through daily encouragement and support for each other for almost a year, six of us would manage to come together (one woman came all the way from New York!) and meet in person for the first time. It was thrilling and magical—you would have thought by the way we behaved in the restaurant with all the laughing and screaming that we were long-lost sisters who had been separated at birth!

So I want you to know how appreciative I am that you’ve read my blog posts and have left me such lovely and thoughtful comments. Only my fellow bloggers know how very exciting it is to hear my smart phone ding notifying me of an email that says:

 comment-reply@wordpress.com

telling  me that someone has left me a comment on my blog. It’s like receiving a special present each time it happens.

This connection I share with all of you has made me realize just how very lucky I am to have had this blogging experience over the past year. And now that I’m finally in that place where I’ve longed to be all of my life—the place where I can say that I’m actually happy—really blissfully happy, I’ll probably never write another blog post again.

Well, all right, I will.

If you insist.

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The Last Lazy Days of Summer

16 Aug

School starts in less than two weeks and once again, I’ll have the house to myself in the mornings. Normally by the end of August, I’m more than ready to get the kids and Rene out of the house and get myself back to a more definite schedule.  But I feel differently this year.

This past summer has been the most relaxing and peaceful summer I can ever remember and I’m actually sad that it’s ending. And I don’t think it’s the summer this year that’s been different, although the weather has been more glorious than ever.

I think I’m the one who’s changed.

This past year I’ve finally reached a point where I’ve learned to be present enough to thoroughly enjoy every single moment of my life, and all along, that simple little concept is all I ever
needed to be happy.

So I’ll leave you with some new photos of my flower garden in the hopes that the incredible colors of these flowers will help inspire you to look around at the beauty that surrounds you. Join me in enjoying the last lazy days of summer!

Bald is Beautiful

2 Aug

My twenty-one year old daughter just shaved her head. When she first told me she was considering doing it, I reacted in my usual jump-to-conclusions-quick-to-disapprove mode and spoke before I took the time to think. I told her she was being impulsive and that she would look ridiculous.

“No one will take you seriously if you cut off your hair, Leah!” I yelled at her, “You just want to do it for the attention you’ll get!”

The look on her face made me want to suck those awful words right back into my mouth, but I just couldn’t bear the thought of her shaving off her beautiful chocolate brown hair that framed her lovely face and fell like silk across her shoulders. Truthfully, the thought of seeing another child of mine with a bald head was just too much for me to face.

You’d think that as her mom, I would have been more supportive of her decision to shave her head, especially after I found out why she wanted to do it, but I’m stubborn sometimes and it takes me a while to see the big picture. At first, all I could think of was how funny she would look, and secondly, what would people think, and finally, how much I would miss her long, thick hair. I’m embarrassed to say that I tried unsuccessfully to talk her out of it.

Daddy cutting off Leah’s braids

Yet, despite my lack of enthusiasm, our entire family traveled down to Los Angeles last Sunday to watch Leah shave her head in front of hundreds of people at a mall in the center of Hollywood. She recently joined 46 Mommas Shave for the Brave, a group of moms who shave their heads publicly to raise money for St. Baldrick’s, a foundation that funds pediatric cancer research. They call themselves 46 Mommas  https://www.facebook.com/46Mommas because each weekday, 46 children are diagnosed with cancer in the United States—that’s two full classrooms of children! All of these moms have had a child diagnosed with cancer, and some of them have even lost their children to this insidious disease. These extraordinary women came to Hollywood from all over the United States and Canada to tell their personal stories of survival and loss.

Now, Leah is not a mom of a cancer survivor, but she’s close to being one. She was fifteen when Isa was born, so she spent a great amount of time being a second mommy to her little sister. Because of Leah’s enthusiasm and commitment to raise money for cancer research, this wonderful organization graciously allowed her to join them as an honorary member.

I cannot remember ever experiencing a more beautiful day in Los Angeles. The atmosphere in the Mall at Hollywood and Highland was electric. Our family sat in awe as we observed  mom after mom sit on the stage and tell stories of their cancer journeys while their heads were being shaved. Many of them, like Leah, donated their hair to help make wigs for children who have gone bald from chemotherapy treatment.

When it was Leah’s turn to be shaved, my daughters, Nora and Isa, and my son, Nino and I walked tentatively up on stage. We encircled Leah, and watched teary-eyed as my husband Rene took the electric razor and began to shave her head. Rock music blared in the background and the crowd cheered enthusiastically as KTLA newscaster Lu Parker interviewed Leah about why she was there.

Lu Parker from KTLA interviewing Rene

Leah was really doing it, and I have to admit, it was spectacular! The smile on Leah’s face was radiant. I began to cry as I flashed back to a day five years earlier, when we had just returned home from spending two weeks in the hospital after Isa’s initial diagnosis of Acute Lymphoblastic Leukemia. Isa had been so very sick for two weeks, burning up with uncontrolled fevers as her anemic body tried to fight off the many infections that coursed through her blood. Even with plasma and platelet transfusions, her compromised immune system could not put up a good fight against the leukemia. It was a frightening time for all of us—knowing there was a chance that we could lose her.

That morning, tufts of Isa’s thick brown hair covered her pillow, and we realized that it was indeed happening—the chemo was making her hair fall out no matter how much we hoped it wouldn’t. We decided to shave her head because we knew it would all come out eventually.

I remember how brave my husband acted as he shaved Isa’s little head, even though he couldn’t stop the tears from rolling down his cheeks as the electric razor buzzed around her tiny head. Bunches of her long hair fell silently to the ground like downy feathers around our feet. In our minds, we all knew on some level that Isa had leukemia, but through this simple act of shaving off her hair, we finally understood in our hearts that Isa really did have cancer, and this initial realization was crushing.

Isa after we shaved her head

Yet somehow, probably because we had no choice, we made it through to the other side, stronger and more caring than we were before this thing called cancer came into our lives. I can’t believe that five long years have gone by since that terrible day in 2007. Next week, on August 6, Isa will be considered completely cured of her leukemia, and we are so grateful that she is here with us, healthy and vibrant, with long, dark hair that cascades down her back like a horse’s mane.

Changing places: now Isa is the one with long hair and Leah is the bald one!

In the end, I was correct—Leah did shave her head for the attention it would cause, but my assumptions about why she did it were completely wrong. Leah shaved her head because she is a brave soul with a huge heart who cares so deeply about finding a cure for cancer that she will go to the extreme of shaving her head in order to raise awareness about childhood cancer and thus encourage others to donate to the cause. By drawing attention to herself in this way, she knows that people will be able to put a real story and face to pediatric cancer—a story about a young woman’s tremendous love for her little sister who fought cancer so bravely and survived.

Today, we are so thankful that Isa was cured of her leukemia. We attribute her survival to the thousands of hours dedicated to cancer research over the years—research that was funded by so many wonderful organizations like St. Baldrick’s, and which gave Isa a ninety percent chance of survival instead of a certain death sentence.

The Mireles Clan supporting Leah

When “Shave for the Brave” was just about over, an invitation came out across the loudspeaker for any volunteers who wanted to shave their heads in solidarity for the 46 Mommas. All of a sudden, I heard my husband’s voice being interviewed. Rene was getting his head shaved, too—just to show his support for Leah.

It’s Leah’s turn to shave Daddy

As I discovered last Sunday, bald really is beautiful, and so are the 46 Mommas and all of their supporters who work so diligently to keep up this valiant fight against pediatric cancer in our minds and in our hearts. I’m so proud of Leah for making this selfless gesture on behalf of all children with cancer. Fight on, Leah, and fight on Brave Mommas!