Friday, July 26, 2013

ALE's Girls

Months drag on, as September looms closer,my birthday draws near. On my birthday, it will mark one year since I spoke with my dear tweep Just4ALE.  I am dreading the fall and the anniversaries it will bring reminding me that ALE is gone. I am one who loves deeply, a friend is a friend for life, and when they leave this life before me, that changes nothing for me. Thankfully, I am not floating along on this sea of grief alone, I have a lifeboat filled with beautiful women.  ALE's Girls were drawn together in a supernatural way that really only we understand.

 Anna-Lisa was a beautiful woman who I had come to know from reading her stories, then meeting on Twitter which graduated to exchanging emails. When she was diagnosed with Ovarian Cancer, she started emailing a select group of her Twitter followers and friends. For me, I didn't know any of her other Twitter friends except for one, I didn't know the rest of the group and really couldn't talk to anyone.

The day ALE found her ''soft place to land'', ( this is a poem and term she clung to while battling cancer, something that gave her hope and her wish for the future)  I was a wreck, I didn't know who to turn to or talk to. The one friend I did know, Perry was really struggling with her own grief. Having tweeted with ALE for some time, I knew her close friends on Twitter's handles, so I started tweeting them randomly. I felt so alone, floating along in a sea of grief, drowning in something that nobody else around me understood.

These wonderful women, started tweeting me back. Her dear Twitter friend 1Lavishone was a rock, she took ALE's followers under her wing in her own time of grief. She was my rock in those very early days and started bringing all of ALE's girls together. Somehow, a group of women formed, a life boat in a raging sea of grief.

For me, I feel that ALE herself orchestrated this group. It was her friendship, spirit and personality that drew us together. Those first tenuous days of grief, we started picking up members one by one. There were lengthy DM sessions, sharing our memories and feelings. We all loved this dear women, who made us each feel special and one of a kind. An amazing women had built herself a network of amazing friends and left behind a grief support group like no other.

My tweeps grew tired of hearing about my grief, at one point I even lost a follower over it. One friend told me I did kind of drag it out. They didn't know this wonderful women, they wouldn't understand the gravity of losing a friend to cancer at a young age.  I don't fault them, they just didn't know her and it really didn't matter to them.

Thankfully, ALE's girls formed and have stuck together. I love that when I hear a song that reminds me of ALE, I can tweet the girls and mention it. This past week, one of ALE's dear follower Lipca tweeted 1Lavishone that hearing about Comic Con reminded her of ALE. I jumped in and was able to share how I felt the same way. We all miss seeing Twitpics of food, her dogs Maya and Riley, her take on the Twilight fandom, watching her play TwiFicTuesday, her calling us ''cutie'', and her love of classic Rock. We can share the little nuances of grief, things about ALE that we miss and grieve. In our own way, we are still keeping her on Twitter with us.

This morning, I woke up to a group tweet sharing the love of being ALE's girls. 1Lavishone said, ''I want to keep us all together forever.'' I know we will be, we have become each others ''soft place to land'' a safe place to share our feelings safely and freely. We don't judge the weird way our grief affects us, we understand in a way others wouldn't. For me, I am so thankful that I haven't had to navigate this alone and have had several shoulders to lean on.

It has been wonderful to make new friends. I was able to meet up with 1Lavishone and PerryMaxed to eat breakfast at ALE's favorite place, and celebrate her friendship together. One of our members even made necklaces for us to wear. I often wear my leather strand with peace,love and music represented, those were ALE's twitter avatar and saying. It is such a comfort to all of us that wear them proudly.

Me with my ALE necklace

I am so thankful for these women, I have come to love them all dearly and now they have become friends as well. They are my lifeboat in the sea of lonely grief and I hope that I am part of their's as well. Thank you ladies for being wonderful and allowing me to be a part of your group. Not one of you turned your nose up to a stranger, instead everyone took everyone else in and accepted them immediately. It is an amazing thing to share in and be part of. I know we are honoring our amazing friend and somewhere in her soft place, she is smiling brightly.

Much love to 1Lavishone our beautiful leader, PerryMaxed, MooSpot, Lipca, Mostlyalurker, Dreamweaver, and Milk402. You've all become very dear to me and I am so grateful to be a part of this group. We didn't have a choice in losing our friend to the effing cancer, as ever with her giving spirit in the end our beautiful ALE gave us a lasting gift, seven new friendships none of us expected. Like 1Lavishone said today, ''It gives me such a warm feeling to think of her and all of us.'' that is exactly how we all feel. What a wonderful blessing, I hope someday that we call all meetup in one place at the same time. What a dream come true that would be.

 Thank you ALE for the last precious gift, we all miss you so much and always will. You may have gone too soon but you are still a part of Twitter with this precious group of friends.

Sunday, July 21, 2013

Happy Birthday Friend Series: Joyeux Anniversaire Fanette

In 2009, I read the Twilight Series of books. Originally coerced by my bowling partner to read them, I had major reservations until I read the first book. I quickly read the rest of the books in seven days and then waited for the first movie to come out on DVD. During this time, I met fellow fans online on Twitter ( as with everything else in my life). Long story short, I was introduced to Fanette, a fellow fan in France.

We immediately hit it off and started chatting on a daily basis. We talked about our kids, pets, books and movies. Then we started Skyping on a weekly basis sharing little bits of life. Fanette sent our family a package with goodies from her region of France. We sent her American goodies that she loved and so on.

Last year, Fanette brought her boys David and Vincent to visit California. They came to stay with our family, we took them sight seeing. Introduced them to our friends, spent the fourth of July together and went to Disneyland. It was a magical time together.

Gifts from Fanette!

Fanette loves Conner and Elizabeth. She is like an aunt to them, always wanting to do nice things for them. She has offered for them to come stay as exchange students with her someday. They love her just as much and her boys even more.

Fanette et Elizabeth

We are lucky to know Fanette and her family. We miss seeing them and really want to go visit them within the next couple of years. I love that she knows my friends and mom, she even exchanged packages with my friend Matt and Tammy! She is making Matt's famous tri tip for her ''American Birthday BBQ'' tomorrow.

Fanette, We are so lucky to know you. Funny how small the world becomes with the internet.  We love you, David, and Vincent. You're a blessing to us all. I admire your strength being a single mom and raising the boys on your own. You're an amazing woman who I look up to and admire. A very happy birthday to you!

Friday, July 19, 2013

Jules Loves Cycling: My Random Frenchie Riblon

It's July and as you well know, that means one thing in our house; Conner and I,  watch the Tour de France for four hours everyday, I don't call people, I don't sleep much, we are consumed by the race. A few years ago, as you know, I started a twitter account so Conner and I could meet other cycling fans.

It was through this account I met my friend Anita, ( you're totally becoming the new Andrea and Di wracking up the blog mentions) she introduced me to all of her cycling friends and told me about something called TourChats . It was a live chat happening during the Tour de France, so I joined up and started making friends myself. ( shoutout to Vera, Naomi, Lei and Ronda)

During this chat everyone kept talking about their ''random frenchie'' or ''random rider'' a rider that wasn't well known that they cheered for. Well, never one to be left out, I set search for a random rider of my own. I was trying to learn the pro-continental riders at the time and get away from only focusing on the big name riders.

It was during that tour, an AG2R rider named Christophe Riblon took off in a breakaway, I watched him ride his heart out that day and decided, he was my random frenchie. It was completely random!

As you well know, I am nothing but completely over zealous and so I threw myself into learning about my random frenchie. He is a puncheur, which I've now changed to puncher after he hit a fan back on the road yesterday.  A puncheur specialized in short, steep climbs often sprinting there way up in a way, they are usually the one's in the break away.

Having a random rider means you often will hear nothing of them all season. AG2R being a french team means they really don't come to US races. So the chances of meeting him like the rest of my favorites was highly unlikely. So I cheer and hope that he will make a break for camera time. Usually this only happens in July during the tour, he had previously won a stage in 2010. ( which factored in my choosing, I remembered that win from the year before when I picked him)

Last year as the teams were announced for the ATOC, I was hoping Mark Cavendish would come back to California with his team. Sadly, he wasn't on the list but then...I spotted a team name...AG2R!!! I quickly searched around and found a roster, whose name was on that list?........Christophe Riblon.

The morning of the Time Trial in Bakersfield, I ditched my friend Jen at the start and set out with my other friend Heidi and Conner to try to meet some riders. Of course, I had met all of my favorites except two by that point. I went looking for the AG2R bus, I walked around in the blistering heat and then it happened.

As I walked around, I spotted the AG2R RV with an easy up outside. Under the easy up, a rider was on a TT bike warming up. They had a table sitting there and I asked about Christophe, then I was him on the bike! The lady at the table said, '' You're his fan, just go up to him!'' now, I may be crazy but I have limits, I wasn't going to walk up to a rider warming up. She started shoving me over there excitedly and telling him I was his fan!

As I walked up, he started smiling this amazing smile and laughing. He was so happy to have a fan there, shocked and amazed he had a fan! It was the sweetest moment!

Heidi was laughing because the lady kept saying, '' Just go touch him, you can hug him, it's okay'' now like I said, I may be crazy but I am not that crazy. I timidly walked over and asked for a picture together. Now mind you, it was over 100 degrees that day, I had been sunburned the day before and so I look like a complete dork covered from head to toe. But it is a precious moment, I will remember forever.

Notice, I am NOT touching him in the picture. Heidi assures me to this day, the AG2R people loved me and were so excited by my support. It was such a thrilling moment.

He rode a great ride that day, made a couple of breaks in the tour last year and then I heard nothing about him. All season this year, his name has alluded me. I check their website to see what races he is in and none have been televised.

So you can imagine my excitement when he made a break in the tour this year. Then day by day this tour, he has been in the break, time and time again. I knew early on, he was looking for another stage win for his team. He has been out there, riding hard every day. As a fan, this has been so exciting and my tweeps have been cheering with me. Last week, he came so close one day riding very far by himself only to be caught. Then he placed second on a stage, I told my friend mmmaiko, if he won, I would lose my mind. ( ha ha, I know what you're thinking)

So yesterday, my favorite stage of the tour the Alpe d'huez loomed before the peloton. I love this stage along with other cycling fans. A steep climb lined with fans from countries around the world. It is always an exciting moment when the riders hit the ''Dutch Corner'' bathed in a sea of orange. Imagine my excitement when my random frenchie Riblon took off in a break? I was thrilled.

Imagine when my other favorite rider Tejay, a amazing young American from BMC also was in the break. Imagine when Christophe took off with Tejay and my friend Heidi's distant cousin Moser in the break? I lost my mind completely. I was so excited, screaming, cheering and then bawling. It was a wonderful moment, a moment no matter the outcome, I knew would be with me forever.

Tejay dropped his chain on a descent, then Christophe went off the road on a slippery corner. They both started fighting back to Moser. It was truly exciting and I was on the edge, finally they caught back up. Then they took off on their own. I was completely unglued, my tweeps who don't follow cycling were laughing at me. The cycling fans were laughing at and with me.

I was torn, I am an American, so Tejay has to be cheered for first and foremost. I was cheering Tejay and cheering Christophe. I would've been overjoyed with either winning. Tejay was fighting and trying to hang on, Christophe got his legs and fought, fought to win the stage that has been alluding him.

When he crossed the line, he was crying, I was crying and it was truly a joyful moment! He won, he won on the Alpe d'huez none the less! His hard work had paid off!

For me, as a fan, who not only loves this rider but loves this stage. It will go down as one of my favorite stages in history. Right now, it is my favorite stage in history. A day that I will always remember where I was, who I was with and how I felt!

Cheering my random frenchie again this morning, excited to see him in the break fighting for the polka dot jersey. Maybe he will get the points he needs? I am not sure, no matter what, I will be a fan! He has been my hero this tour. I will always love this year of the tour because it has been the year of Christophe!

Thursday, July 18, 2013

Happy Birthday Friend Series: Happy Birthday Di

Today is the third member of the Breakfast Club's birthday, I am the outcast with a September birthday. Di is a wonderful friend that I met via Andrea who introduced me to Di's blog. She had two teenagers and two children under five at the time. She was suffering the tragic loss of her father. I loved reading about this amazing family, soon we became each others readers and blog buddies. As the years have gone by, we became friends and then an online family of sorts.

Do you follow me on Twitter? The sole reason I am on Twitter is because my friend Di asked me six years ago, she and her husband Eric are very knowledgeable on the newest social media trends. There was this new microblogging service called Twitter. Di needed me to ''follow her'' and I just shook my head. I joined up along with our friend Andrea. Eric, Di, Andrea and I have spent six years talking every day about life in general. So if you like talking to me on Twitter and reading this blog, be sure to tweet @cucsmom a happy birthday and thank you.

Di is hilarious! She is someone I admire and look up to, she doesn't care what anyone thinks of her. She is who she is, she is proud of that and doesn't worry about what others think! She has lived through many difficult things, been a single mom, raised four kids and worked full time with all of that!

My favorite memories of Di are her driving her green VW van up to our breakfast dates. Her hair flowing out the window with music blaring wearing an orange shirt. She is famous for her love of Journey ( well at least in my book) I cannot hear a Journey song and not think of her. She loves music.

Every year since 2007, she has talked me into doing NaBloPoMo with her in November. It has kind of become our month. Di doesn't blog much anymore but she at least keeps it up in November, if only for me. Truly this blog would not exsist without her and Andrea. For the longest time, they were the two biggest readers of this blog. Their long term support has really meant the world to me and I wouldn't be here without them.

The Breakfast Club circa 09. Shocking that Di is wearing something other than orange!

The Junior Breakfast Club: Felicity, Siobhan and Elizabeth

My favorite times are when her and her husband Eric verbally spar back and forth on Twitter. I have dubbed their funny hijinks '' The Cucsmom and Elpocho Show'' They are the Ricky and Lucy of Twitter, anyone else who claims that are frauds. Eric and Di were there first!

Friday or Saturday nights, Di will usually make herself some Tequila and Squirt, sit down and tweet as she goes. Some of my favorite tweets are the one's where she has gotten a bit tipsy!

Our first meeting of the Breakfast Club

She has adorable children and it is no secret I love her husband Eric. He has become my hermano from another mama. He was my first cycling fan friend and taught me much about what races and riders to watch. I know about the Alpe D'Huez because of him. ( That climb is today and I had to mention it, sorry Di)

When Marty was sick, Di was there for me. She would let me call her and talk, when Marty got the call, she got on my social media and updated them all for me. She is my social media emergency contact of sorts! She was one of the first people I called after Marty got the call!

She is my older sister ( note the older part), she will put me in my place, listen, give advice and just be a fun friend when needed. So many of our breakfast club meetings have been more for me than Andrea or Di. Of course, our last meeting was a favorite. We finally got to have a drink together, something we had never been able to do in person! Anyways, she and Andrea have been there for me many times over. One of the saddest goodbyes was my goodbye to them.

 Di, I am so thankful for your friendship. You've been a wonderful sounding board, older sister and friend. I admire you more than you know. There aren't many people that I look up to and I definitely count you as one of them.  Wishing you a wonderful birthday ( I won't tell them how OLD you are today, you are the older sister..right?) and a wonderful year. Hopefully, someday the breakfast club will meet again, I am thinking we need to make an annual meeting. We still need to go to Blogher together too!

If you want a fun follow on Twitter, be sure to follow @cucsmom
Her handle is the name of her beloved dog Cucui who passed away last year. If you want great tech advice, love soccer, you should follow @elpocho as well. Together they make a funny Twitter duo!

Wednesday, July 17, 2013

Finding Purpose in the Pain: Right on Time

Finding Purpose in the Pain: Right on Time: Right on Time by Julie Timms For several months, I’ve been sharing the journey of my family’s decision to trust God and follow his ca...

Thursday, July 11, 2013

Leap Taken, Wings Grown

A couple of weeks ago, while shopping I saw a adorable leather cuff with a quote engraved in metal. The quote said, '' She took a leap of faith and grew wings on the way down.'' That has become my mantra during this past month. We've taken a leap of faith and we've grown wings on the way down.

This move was bold and courageous, one we knew had to be made but weren't sure it would work out? People have been angry, mad, disappointed and upset that we would make such a bold move.  Suddenly there are many people not speaking to me. We moved and left them behind for seemingly no good reason to them.

Three years ago, Marty was sick, I was putting fluid into his stomach every four hours. He was having horribly low blood sugars which would result in me fighting him to sit still and eat glucose until it came back up. I once stood in the middle of our living room, holding him up until the paramedics got there. We didn't know if he would live or die? We faced many tough realities that so many of you will never understand. We planned for two futures, the better of the two was moving across country and starting anew.

We dreamed until his transplant came, then we started researching our option, traveling to see if we really liked it  and then planning our move. During the planning, we never realized that God had another plan for us that wasn't our own!

Last summer, when Marty suddenly changed moving locales, I was upset and fought him tooth and nail. Then we got the call that changed everything. Suddenly our plans went out the window and God's plan came into place. This plan has provided for our every need out of seemingly thin air.

Money to move, just appeared. Housing, just came about. Job for me, in one phone call. The actual move date, missed all of the major winter storms and tornado season! The list goes on and on.

We know now why we've ended up here. The last key was a job for Marty, we knew with his line of work it would take time for him to find a job. Funny enough, when Marty was sick we had several conversations about the future. One of them was about potentially adopting in the future, we have great kids and in Marty's words ''We have a lot to offer a child'' and another was maybe him working with Special Olympics or children.

For those who've never witnessed it, Marty is a wonderful dad. My friend Jen commented on that when camping with us a couple of months ago. She loved the interaction between Conner, Elizabeth and Marty, it is truly great to watch.  They have fun together, yet they know Dad means business and you better toe the line.

So when the call came for Marty to work in our local school district as a resource officer. We knew this is why we came. This is a far cry from the area he was working in before, polar opposite in fact. Before his job was a very dark job with ugly realities, he worked with the worst of the worst. Now he gets to work with kids and make a difference. We are thrilled, truly something he has been dreaming about and I dare to say, called for.

We knew coming, we would be taking pay cuts but the cost of living is less. I actually gained pay but true to our knowledge, Marty will lose pay. We were happy with the benefits, our cost of living is less, thanks to being debt free, we have no worries.

But guess what? We found out the first day of his new job, he will make more than we thought. He may be called for a promotion right away, there is overtime available, he gets a uniform allowance etc. Over all, we will be making what we made in California with a lower cost of living. Can you believe it?

We took a leap of faith and our wings grew on the way down.

The best part of this move has been the reaction of others. We've had so many people come to us and say they've been inspired to make a bold move. Our kids have seen true faith in action and answered prayers. We've all grown together and individually from this move.

We are thankful for the continued support. Especially grateful to our friend Anita who told me about the job opening for Marty, one day over lunch. Blessings have been poured out, God has faithfully shown us his love and mercy. It has been amazing, I cannot wait to update you more as things move along. We are hoping to buy a house before the end of the year. Next year, we are looking for me to carry out the next part of the plans for this journey.

Hoping you will continue to follow along on our adventures!

A/N: We've decided since our kids are nearly grown, we will happily wait until we are grandparents someday. There won't be anymore little T kids. So don't get all excited!

Conner has made so many new friends. Used to be he only had a few friends and E had a bunch. The shoe is on the other foot now. E is longing for her friends at home and a new friend here. Please keep her in your thoughts and prayers.

Wednesday, July 3, 2013

Happy Birthday Friend Series: Happy Birthday AB!

  This is one of the hardest blogs I have ever written, how do you write a blog about someone everyone thinks they know? Did you know the entire reason this blog exists is because of my friend Andrea? Today is her birthday, and as you know, each year I select a group of friends to write about. This year Andrea is a part of that group; she is one of my dearest, best friends and chief sister of the heart. 

 When I was fourteen years old, my friend Christena asked if I wanted to go see her friend Andrea at work. Andrea had a really cool job that required us getting a ride from my Dad into L.A. on a Friday night.  We went and hung out, watching Andrea work; she showed us around her workplace and introduced us to her co-workers. I remember thinking she was so cool and nice, but did not really know what to say to her? We hugged goodbye and I remember wanting to be her friend but was not sure how.

I went to a different school so I never really got to get to know Andrea. Life went on and so did I until an article in a magazine, a mutual friend and a little bit of fate brought us back together.  It’s a really long story that I won’t bother to explain. Basically, Andrea and I are connected by six degrees of separation in so many different ways…we could never stop being friends even if we wanted to!

We bonded over motherhood, being NKOTB fans, growing up in the same hometown and knowing the same people.  Her brother is even a hero in my family for saving my grandparents’ estate!

Andrea is an incredible writer.  Years of reading her amazing writing has been an inspiration. I credit her with helping me to become a better writer myself – or even a writer at all!.  I owe her big-time for reading my horrible writing all these years. She probably has a permanent twitchy eye from suffering through my early blogs.

We are the queen’s of social media; Thanks to our mutual friend Di, we have been Twitter addicts from the very first year of Twitter. We have communicated daily through blogging or social media for nine years now.  NINE YEARS!!! That is a scary thought.

I will never forget our first meet up as adults; we took our kids to Chuck E. Cheese and bonded over crappy pizza while the kids played. Felicity was just a baby and Andrea carried her in a Moby wrap. I remember Felicity animatedly chatting with me across the table; I told Andrea that she would be a talker. Andrea laughed at me…who’s laughing now, sister?

What a great day!

After that first meeting we started meeting for breakfast with our friend Di every time I came home to L.A. to visit. Those meetings of the ‘’breakfast club’’ carried me through some difficult times.  We could solve the world’s problems sitting at a table drinking coffee and eating Swedish Bacon.

The Breakfast club. This meeting AB gave me a giant NKOTB button

Throughout Marty’s illness Andrea was one of my rocks. She listened, worried, prayed and gave me encouraging words.   She and I excitedly shared the reunion of New Kids during this time: she wanted me to go to a show with her but I wasn't able to travel.  She asked me to do many things during this time and my answer was always, “No. Maybe. Someday.”

When Marty got the call, Andrea was one of the first to know. I will never forget the first time really talking on the phone was the day after Marty’s transplant.  I think she was just as excited as we were and she knew how much it meant.

AB playing a game with the breakfast club juniors

Last year we (finally) got our year of fun.  It was during this time that I realized Andrea was a blessing who filled a huge hole in my heart. She and many other friends fill the role of sister for me -- something that really only matters to me, but they willingly take on the role anyway.  I got to watch Andrea run a marathon, go on a crazy trip to Hershey,PA together and watch her embrace her past. I must say that 35 was a great year for us both.

Hollywood Marathon 2012. This day changed our lives forever

NKOTB Town Hall. Meeting these two ladies changed our lives as well

Thirty-six has been a year of personal growth for both of us. We've both gone on unexpected journeys as women and friends: lots of lessons learned, opportunities seized and realities faced.  I love that she is my friend even when I am not very fun to be friends with.  I love that we both have wacky senses of humor; we both are Joe girls and understand the nutty things each other does.

I've learned many life lessons being Andrea’s friend, my favorites being her ability to carry herself with grace, to show kindness to strangers, patience and mercy. She never says a bad word about anyone, she has the BEST sense of humor, and she is smart, beautiful and kind.  She is also an amazing mom. Any kid lucky enough to be in her kids’ class will get the best party and holiday treats.  Just this past week she stayed up until some crazy hour making sea creations for F’s preschool class!

AB, we were meant to be friends and sisters of the heart. You've changed my life in so many unintentional ways I am grateful to be your friend, thankful that you've allowed me to go on this crazy journey of life with you. I look forward to being old ladies in the home, flowered wallpaper, pictures of Joey Mac on the wall, dancing to the Remix.  Here’s to 37; I hope it is a wonderful year for the both of us. I’m glad you’re older and go first. Let me know how it feels. 

I love you, friend, happy birthday!

Airport on the way to Mixtape

This is one of my favorite pictures of us. Watching Joe sing PDGG together for the first time ever!


I would like to thank Lily for editing this blog for me. Andrea loves perfect grammar and I wanted this blog to be grammatically correct. So Lily took this on in her busy schedule as a favor. I know our friend thanks you as well.