Oct 24, 2012 | posted in Baby Gavin, Inspire, Personal | 36 comments

I woke with trembling hands.

It was the first thing I noticed. “I’m shaking, why am I shaking?” I thought.

No sooner had I peeled the sleep from my eyes, than they brimmed with hot, knowing tears.

I don’t know what I expected on a day like today. Not much. Certainly not this.

I sat up in bed, still trembling softly through my tears. “Happy third birthday, son,” I silently breathed.

I had known today was coming. She didn’t sneak up on me the way these kinds of days are prone to do. No, Today announced her arrival from down the street and around the corner. I spent the entirety of last week in anticipation.

Anticipation of what, exactly, I’m sure I don’t know.

“One week from today, he’d have turned three.”
“Once the weekend is over, there will only be three days to go . . .”
“The day after tomorrow. . .”
“Tomorrow is the day. . .”

Even then, you still wake up with trembling hands.

And so it goes.

I got the kids off to school (2 hours late), and settled in to cry the day away. You know, like you do on your dead son’s birthday.

Then, there was a knock.

A few deep breaths (and a quick wipe of the nose) later, I cautiously cracked open the front door.

I stared into loving, albeit somewhat reluctant and unfamiliar eyes. A moment later, all propriety fled, and I fell uncontrollably into safe, generous arms.

“I didn’t know what I could do,” she said, eyes wet with tears, “so I brought you the ocean.”

In her outstretched hand she held a candle, deep blue as the California coast.

On a day like today. . . this new friend brought me the sea.


And that’s what it’s all about.

Surely, if nothing else, that’s what my son taught us to do. That was Baby Gavin’s legacy. . . bring the sea.

When we bring the sea. . . we give the best of ourselves to the people around us.

We reach to the depths of who we are and offer unconditional love, freely and without requisite.

We give.

We smile, we laugh, we dance, we sing.

We respect and treasure what we have right in front of us.

We let go.

We forgive.

We don’t get carried away by tomorrows or pulled under by yesterdays.

We cry. . . deep, harrowing sobs. . . that crash over us without remorse.

We change.

We connect.

We feel.

We rejoice.

We share.

We serve.

We care.

We embrace.

We reach.

We strive.

We dream.

When we bring the sea, we LIVE, today, because we know that it is the only day that we are truly guaranteed. . .


Son, I love you more today than ever before. Loving you taught me how to live. In grief, I have learned more of life than I ever knew I could live.

“Grief turns out to be a place none of us know until we reach it. We anticipate (we know) that someone close to us could die, but we do not look beyond the few days or weeks that immediately follow such an imagined death. We misconstrue the nature of even those few days or weeks. We might expect if the death is sudden to feel shock. We do not expect this shock to be obliterative, dislocating to both body and mind. We might expect that we will be prostrate, inconsolable, crazy with loss. We do not expect to be literally crazy.”

There has been much “obliterative” hurt, I have been “inconsolable” and quite “literally crazy.” Missing you has been “dislocating to both body and mind.” I have prayed for your return. I have begged, bargained, pleaded with the Lord . . . to do for me as he did for Lazarus. . . for Martha.

And yet. . .

And yet.

This is my life. There are unique lessons to be learned. Grief has been a mighty teacher, cruel and kind in almost the same breath. And I could never have learned in any other way.

This is my time to LIVE, to laugh, to cry, to connect, to give, to dream. . . this is my time to bring the sea. But YOU taught me that, little boy. Not grief. You.

Until that blessed moment when you are again in my arms, I love you with all of me. . . no, more.


The quotes in this post are from Joan Didion’s extraordinary exploration of grief, The Year of Magical Thinking. I recommend it to anyone who has ever experienced great loss.

I love having family close. It is something we rarely experienced over our 12 years in Hawaii.

We have pseudo-family there—you know who you are, and we love you just like the real deal! And (not “but”) it sure has been fun to get to know our blood. . . especially now that they are all grown up and making babies of their own.

These two became parents a few weeks ago. . . remember perfect baby Hadley? It has been a dream to watch Chelsea become a mom. She’s a natural—it’s beautiful to watch. And I’ve been absolutely inspired watching Ben become a daddy. He dotes. It’s breathtaking the way he cares for his girls (yes, Chelsea included), while still kicking butt in medical school. We are so proud of you “Red.”

Here are some images of the two of them—about a year before Hadley Girl came along—doing what they still do best, being blissfully in love.


Above: Chelsea was only 16 when Richie and I tied the knot, and look at her now!

Oct 19, 2012 | posted in Family Portraits, Personal | 20 comments

We spent the last week in San Diego with these crazy kids.  It was wonderful. (Eh hem . . . yes, these are pictures from our trip in . . . um. . . MAY—just add an inch or so to the babies and warm up the ocean by a few degrees, and you’ve got the idea.)

I miss the ocean fiercely. FIERCELY. I can’t find words for how it felt to smell that salty air. . . or for how it ripped at my heart to leave.

(I think I’m really a mermaid. Mom?)

Pictured (L to R): Racquel Marvez, moi, Manjula Varghese

My episode of The Generations Project won an Emmy last night in the Human Interest category. Pardon the above screen shot of someone else’s cell phone picture, but metaphorically, it’s the perfect example of how last night felt— a blurry moment in the middle of someone else’s dream. It was surreal to say the least.  Wonderful, yes, and totally surreal.

This morning, I woke up to this face. I woke up to real life, and that moment wasn’t blurry and surreal. It was perfectly clear. . . and exquisitely beautiful. . . and filled with real life joy—real life joy that is at least a thousand times more wonderful than all the pretty shoes, fancy dresses and yes, even Emmy awards, the world over.

Over the last 8 weeks, I’ve been really sick. I mean very, very, ill. (No, I’m not pregnant, promise). Because of this, I’ve had to retract from nearly every facet of my life that doesn’t require my absolute presence. Essentially this equates to every ounce of my available energy being focused solely on breathing in and out and loving on my children—there hasn’t been any time left for blogging, shooting, writing, (cleaning, eh hem) . . . or running around like a glorified chicken with her head detached and tucked pridefully under her wing.

And guess what? I finally remember.

I remember that life isn’t about anything except for what’s right in front of you. Oxygen—breathing it in and out, all day long. People—loving them with every last beat of your heart. God—trusting his will and timing, even and especially when it’s confusing and seemingly unfair. Everything else is merely peripheral to what matters most. No, everything else MUST exist solely to SUPPORT the things that matter most.

None of this to say that Emmys (and fancy shoes) aren’t amazing! Last night really was a dream, not to mention an incredible honor! But waking up to that drippy, freckle faced, little boy reminded me, for the trillionth time, that if I want to not only survive but THRIVE in this thing called life, I have to turn down the volume on the things that matter least and emphatically embrace the things that matter most, for therein lies real life joy.

PS. Speaking of fancy shoes, I couldn’t walk in mine. I may be the only person in history ever to walk up on stage to accept an Emmy. . . in bare feet. (Just keepin’ it real.)

Sep 23, 2012 | posted in birth photography, Personal, Portraits | 32 comments

On Friday morning, Richie’s little sister, Chelsea, and her wonderful husband, Ben, welcomed their first child—beautiful Hadley Michelle—into the world. We are all SO THRILLED over this new addition to our family. She is perfectly perfect in every way. We can’t wait to love all over her and watch her grow into a generous, playful and kind-hearted woman, just like her mommy with a wise, committed and happy heart, just like her pop. We love you, sweet Hadley girl. Welcome to our family.